Delivered on Sabbath Morning, June 3rd, 1860, by the
"And all things are of God."2 Corinthians. 5.18.
WOULD HAVE YOU look on this text as being a summary of all the things which we have preached to you these years. It has been my endeavour, constantly and continually, to maintain that salvation is of God's good will, and not of man's free will; that man is nothing, and that Jesus Christ is both Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. And I think I may truly say, "Now of the things which we have spoken, this is the sum""all things are of God." And oh my brethren, what a large summary it is! it contains words which grasp the compass of everything that your mind can think upon"all things;" and it proclaims him to whom all things owe their being"God." Grasp this total if you are able, "All things!" What is here omitted? Surely whatsoever the Christian can desire is to be found in those words "all things." But lest even that should not be comprehensive enough, our summary contains a still greater word, one which is supreme over all, inasmuch as all things spring from his loins, and yet he remaineth still the same, as full as ever. "All things are of God." If we be thirsty, here are streams that never can be exhausted. If we be hungry, surely here is bread enough and to spare. If we be poor, here are treasures and riches that are utterly inexhaustible, for here we have all things, and all things in God.
Through everlasting days;
It lays in heaven the topmost stone,
And well deserves the praise.'"
3. My third point upon the doctrine was to be the "Why." Why is it that "all things are of God?" How can we clearly see this? I shall use no arguments but such as would be manifest and palpable to us all.
Everything in grace must be of God because we are quite clear there cannot be anything of man. Man is in such a position that there can be nothing of him. Lazarus was laying a corpse in his tomb; he comes forth quickened; the grave clothes are taken from him; he lives, he breathes; do tell me that his resurrection was in part owing to himself? Well, sir, your mind must be strangely deluded indeed. What could that dead man do towards his own. resurrection? Surely it must be a fact in philosophy which might strike every rational man, that that which does not exist, cannot put itself into existence. And so my new nature which did not exist before God gave it to me, could not bring itself into being. And yet you say a dead man makes himself alive, or at least does something towards it. Oh, sir, you cannot mean it; you cannot mean it. To reason with you were ridiculous. You must feel that if a man be dead there is nothing he can do; it must be a work of some superior power that can give him life. So with the sinner dead in sin, what can that sinner do? Unless the Scripture be an exaggeration, unless you are prepared to cast overboard that passage where we are spoken of as being dead in trespasses and sins, I cannot see how you can dream that man is capable of doing anything in the work of grace. He may work when God sets him working, and he will; he may move when God gives him power to move, and move he will then with joyful alacrity, but till then
Unconscious of her load,
The heart unchanged can never rise
To happiness and God."
Till the stone shall of itself fly upwards towards the sun, till the sea shall of itself beget fire, and until fire shall by its own nature distil the shower from its own bowels, then and not till then shall depraved humanity breathe goodness within itself. It must be grace; it must be grace alone.
Let me give you another reason why we are quite sure that all things in the work of grace are of God. It is expressly told us that every good gift, and every perfect gift, cometh from above. Now, that word "every " is very comprehensive; it does not exclude a single case. Is there any good gift? I am not told that some good gifts, and some perfect gifts are from above, but every one; and I am quite sure this rule must apply to any good gift you haveany good gift in fact, that is in the heart of any man living upon the face of the earth. God were only in part the Father of lights, if there were light streaming from somewhere else; God were only in part the world's benefactor, if there were other fountains out of which the world could draw, and other helpers who could raise up souls to heaven.
Yet again, we are quite certain that all things are of God, because all the glory is God's. Now, if all the glory be God's it stands to reason that the work must have been his; for where the work is, there must be the merit. If man hath done it, man can claim the honour. If I have been my own Saviour, I will claim the honour and the dignity; and nothing but superior force can wrest from me the glory which I deserve. But if God hath done it, and if I must feel that I have been passive in his hands until he made me active, then must I lay all my honours at his feet, and crown him Lord of all. I am quite certain we do not differ here about God's having all the honour, and yet if we should differ about his doing all the work, we might have fair ground on which to dispute his right to take all the glory.
Oh, men and brethren, if I want argument, your own experience shall bear witness. You as Christians are compelled to feel"Thou hast wrought all our works in us." You can say, "We are his workmanship, created of God in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."Set it down then for a certaintyI have tried to explain it as best I can"All things are of God." Grasp every mercy of the covenant, and every blessing of grace, but say that all things in all senses, are wholly and entirely of God, the great giver of all.
II. And now I am proposing in the second part of my subject, briefly, to show THE EXCELLENT TENDENCIES OF THIS DOCTRINE.
There is one thing about the doctrines of the gospel which to my mind always commends them, they always enlist the attention of men, and rouse them to think. If you hear a sermon in which God's grace is magnified, you are perhaps offended you are angry because the doctrinal sentiments are not in keeping with your own carnal pride. For you to be angry is one of the healthiest things that can happen to you. Do not imagine that the sermon has been wasted when it has made you 'Vexed; conceive not that it has been lost upon you when it has made you angry with it. Perhaps there was but that joint of the harness through which the arrow could reach you, namely, your own anger against the truth. I have known many who have frankly confessed, that after they have been to this place, they felt disturbed; they could not sleep. They hated the preacher, and they hated the subject, yet, in about a month's time, they felt they must come again; they disliked it so much they were compelled to hear again of this matter. They could not quite see it, in fact, they would not; they would still hold to their own opinion, but they said within themselves, "I never thought so much about religion in all my life." There is a something in these doctrines that drives right into the soul of man. Other forms of doctrine run off like oil down a slab of marble, but this chisels them, cuts into the very quick. They cannot help feeling there is something here, which if they kick against, it has nevertheless force, and they must ask themselves, "Is the thing true or not?" They cannot be content with buffing it, and making themselves easy; It takes hold of their thinking powers, and wakes them up to enquiry whether these things are so or not. And it is remarkable that wherever the doctrine, that salvation is of God, and God alone, has been revived; it has always happened that God has sent a revival of true religion. To give you a practical illustrationon the Continent I have been informed, by many who have had good reason to judge, that the Lutheran church is to a very great extent, fallen from its faith, and becoming Unitarian or Neological and the like, but the Calvinistic churches never,there they stand just the same. There is a salt in these doctrines which preserves truth; there is a savouriness and pungency about them which keeps the constitution of men right. It is a great big sheet anchor; it may seem cumbrous, and in these modern times it may be said to be rather rusty, but in days of storm, that great big bower anchor will have to be thrown out into the sea again. The more I preach the more am I concerned not to give a double testimony about this matter, but to lay it down clearly and distinctly that salvation is of God; that all things, in fact, in the new creation of grace, are of God, and God alone.
And oh! what enthusiasm these truths will stir up in the minds of those who believe them. I have heard them preached by simple, uneducated, unlearned men, and the congregations have been bathed in tears. There has been no stolidness upon the countenances of the hearers. They have heard as if they were hearing the very Word of God and felt the power of it. I have preached during this week in the simplest manner I could these truths to somewhere about twenty or thirty thousand Welsh people in one congregation, and such a sight I never saw, when all as one man they kept crying out, "Aha! Amen! AmenGogoniant ;" the whole sermon through, carried away with enthusiasm because they heard again the good old truths that Christmas Evans used to thunder out to them, and which the Welsh still bold intact, even though the English may choose to reject and scorn them. There is something in them that would nerve men on to do mighty deeds. Cromwell's sword was so sharp and his arm so strong, because he knew the Lord of hosts and trusted in his mighty power, and believed in God's overcoming grace. This made the Ironsides invincible; there were never such men as they. The Calvinist's arm is always strong; he that is of God and knows not man, he who looks to God's purpose and grace and gives him all the glory, is not a man to bow before a tyrant, or to lick the feet of any being. He knows himself chosen of God, and he stands upright, and yet while standing he is full of a fire, of an enthusiasm that makes him work, and compels him to serve the cause of God and truth.
That, however, perhaps, is but by-the-bye. I have other tendencies to mention concerning this doctrine. The fact, that conversion and salvation are of God, is an humbling truth. It is because of its humbling character that men do not like it. To be told that God must save me if I am saved, and that I am in his hand, as clay is in the hands of the potter, "I do not like it," saith one. Well, I thought you would not; whoever dreamed you would? If you had liked it, perhaps it had not been true; your not liking it is an indirect evidence of its truthfulness. To be told that "he must work all my works in me," who can bring me so low as that? Where is boasting then! It is excluded. By what law? the law of works? No, but by the law of grace. Grace puts its hand on their boasting mouth, and shuts it once for all; and then it takes its hand off from the mouth, and that mouth now does not fear to speak to man, though it trembles at the very thought of taking any honour and glory from God. I must sayI am compelled to saythat the doctrine which leaves salvation to the creature and tells him that it depends upon himself, is the exaltation of the flesh, and a dishonouring of God. But that which puts in God's hand man, fallen man, and tells man that though he has destroyed himself, yet his salvation must be of God, that doctrine humbles man in the very dust, and then he is just in the right place to receive the grace and mercy of God. It is a humbling doctrine.
Again, this doctrine gives the death-blow to all self-sufficiency. What the Arminian wants to do is to arouse man's activity; what we want to do is to kill it once for all, to show him that he is lost and ruined, and that his activities are not now at all equal to the work of conversion; that he must look upward. They seek to make the man stand up; we seek to bring him down, and make him feel that there he lies in the hand of God, and that his business is to submit himself to God, and cry aloud, "Lord, save, or we perish." We hold that man is never so near grace as when be begins to feel that he can do nothing at all. When he says, "I can pray, I can believe, I can do this, and I can do the other," marks of self-sufficiency and arrogance are on his brow. But when he comes to his knees and cries,
My strength is at thy feet to lie,"
then we think that God has blessed him, and that the work of grace is in his soul. O sinner! think not that thy own unaided arm can get the victory. Cry unto God, and beg him to take your soul in hand, for you cannot be saved unless he doth it for you. Bless him for the promise which says, "Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out." Oh ! cry to him, "Lord, draw me by thy grace, that I may run after thee; work all my works in me, and bring me to thyself and save me!" Not to yourself do we bid you look, nor to your prayers, nor to your faith, but to Christ and to his cross, and to that God who is "able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by him."
And there is in this doctrine some consolation for the troubled heart. If all things be of God, my soul, let not thy spirit be ruffled and affrighted by the tempest. "All things are of God;" if there were one thing of me, I were a lost man. If you were about to build a great bridge, and would let me have the placing of one stone, you shall build it as you please, and it will fall. Let me have the management of the keystone, and I will undertake that it shall not stand. So if in the work of salvation there is one thing left dependent upon myself, it must all fall; but if everything be guaranteed and settled by Eternal wills and shalls, then it stands fast and rests secure. Oh! joyous thought to the Christian, his soul is safe, he has given himself up into Christ's hand to be kept, and now the keeping rests with Christ, he has surrendered himself to his Lord and Master to be preserved, and now he knows that come what may, Christ is his bluckler and his shield, and nothing will hurt him. because Jesus keeps daily watch and ward, and will preserve him safely to the end. I do not know where our Arminian brethren get their consolation from. I know, if I believed their doctrine, I should be driven to distraction; but believing as I do, that those whom God begins to save, he will completely save, and that there is not a single stone in the entire building that can ever fail or give way, my soul can sing,
Though earth's old columns bow;
The strong, the feeble, and the weak
Are one in Jesus now."
I have one more thing to say about this doctrine. It encourages the sinner. Sinner, sinner! come to Jesus; for "all things are of God." You are naked; the robe in which you shall be dressed is of God. You are filthy; the washing is of God. Come, and be washed. But you are unworthy; your worthiness must be of God. Come as you are, and he will cleanse you. You are guilty; your pardon is of God. Come to him, and his pardon shall be freely given. But you say, you are hard-hearted; a new heart is of God. Come to him; he will give you the heart of flesh, and take away the heart of stone. But, you say, "I cannot pray as I would." True prayer is of God; he will pour out upon you the Spirit of supplication. But you say, my very coming must be of God. Ay, blessed be God for that. And, therefore, if now you feel something saying to you, "Let me go and trust in Christ," that is of God. Oh ! come with cheerfulness; for there is nothing wanted of you, everything is of God. Is your heart barren? Fruitfulness is of God. Is your heart stubborn? Obedience is of God. Can you not repent? He is exalted on high to give you repentance. Repentance is of God. Do you say, " I cannot believe?" Faith is of God ; it is one of his unspeakable gifts. But do you say, "I am afraid I shall not be able to persevere! Perseverance is of God. All you are bidden to do is simply to be a receiver. Come with your empty pitcher, and hold it now to the flowing fountain; come with your empty lap, and receive the golden store; come with a hungry mouth to feed, and with thirsty lips to drink. You are asked to do nothing; you are asked to be nothing. Cease from thyself, O man, and begin with God. Leave off now to do, and feel, and be, and come and trust in him who did, and was, and felt for you ; and then afterwards, being saved, you shall begin to be, and to feel, and to act, through a new energy, leading to a new life. To live to Christ, you must first die to yourself. Every hope of mortal nurture must be killed before you can receive a divine hope within you. Come, bruised and mangled, crushed and broken, come and take Christ to be your all in all; and if thou canst not stretch out thine hand of thyself, as indeed thou canst notI speak in my Master's name, in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, by his Spirit's power, believe. It is the duty of God's servants not only to exhort, but with divine authority to command. Man with the withered hand! in the name of Jesus, stretch out thine hand. Thou who hast never believed or repented! "God commandeth all men everywhere to repent." Dost thou receive the command? The power goes with it. Art thou willing to obey it? That will is God's gift: the power is with the will. Believe Christ; trust Christ; take him to be everything, and you are saved; your sins are washed away; you are an heir of paradise, and you may rejoice. Clap your wings ye angels; tune your harps anew ye seraphs, ye redeemed! louder, louder, let your strains of music rise toward heaven. O, ye cherubim and seraphim! sing loud unto his name, of whom, and to whom, and by whom are all things, unto whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.