The Gospel’s Power in a Christian’s Life

By / Jun 22

The Gospel's Power in a Christian's Life

 

“Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ.”— Phil. 1:27.

 

THE word “conversation” does not merely mean our talk and converse one with another, but the whole course of our life and behaviour in the world. The Greek word signifies the actions and the privileges of citizenship, and we are to let our whole citizenship, our actions as citizens of the new Jerusalem, be such as becometh the gospel of Christ. Observe, dear friends, the difference between the exhortations of the legalists and those of the gospel. He who would have you perfect in the flesh, exhorts you to work that you may be saved, that you may accomplish a meritorious righteousness of your own, and so may be accepted before God. But he who is taught in the doctrines of grace, urges you to holiness for quite another reason. He believes that you are saved, since you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and he speaks to as many as are saved in Jesus, and then he asks them to make their actions conformable to their position; he only seeks what he may reasonably expect to receive;“ Let your conversation be such as becometh the gospel of Christ. You have been saved by it, you profess to glory in it, you desire to extend it; let then your conversation be such as becometh it.” The one, you perceive, bids you to work that you may enter heaven by your working; the other exhorts you to labour because heaven is yours as the gift of divine grace, and he would have you act as one who is made meet to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light. Some persons cannot hear an exhortation without at once crying out that we are legal. Such persons will always find this Tabernacle the wrong place for them to feed in. We are delighted to preach good high doctrine, and to insist upon it that salvation is of grace alone; but we are equally delighted to preach good high practice and to insist upon it, that that grace which does not make a man better than his neighbours, is a grace which will never take him to heaven, nor render him acceptable before God. 

     I have already remarked that the exhortation is given in a form which is highly reasonable. The followers of any other religion, as a rule, are conformed to their religion. No nation has ever yet risen above the character of its so-called gods. Look at the disciples of Venus, were they not sunk deep in licentiousness? Look at the worshippers of Bacchus; let their Bacchanalian revels tell how they entered into the character of their deity. The worshippers to this day of the goddess Kale—the goddess of thieves and murderers—the Thugs—enter most heartily into the spirit of the idol that they worship. We do not marvel at the crimes of the ancients when we recollect the gods whom they adored; Moloch, who delighted in the blood of little children; Jupiter, Mercury, and the like, whose actions stored in the classical dictionary, are enough to pollute the minds of youth. We marvel not that licentiousness abounded, for “like gods—like people:” “a people are never better than their religion,” it has often been said, and in most cases they are rather worse. It is strictly in accordance with nature that a man's religion should season his conversation. Paul puts it, therefore, to you who profess to be saved by Jesus Christ, “Let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ.” 

     To get at this we must meditate for two or three minutes upon what the gospel is; then take up the points in which our conversation ought to be like to the gospel; and finally, utter a few earnest words to press upon professors of religion here, the stern necessity of letting their conversation be such as becometh the gospel of Christ. 

     I. THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST! WHAT IS IT? We catch at the last two words, “of Christ.” Indeed, if you understand Christ you understand the gospel. Christ is the author of it; he, in the council chamber of eternity proposed to become the surety for poor fallen man;' he, in the fulness of time, wrought out eternal redemption for as many as his Father had given him. He is the author of it as its architect and as its builder. We see in Christ Jesus the Alpha and the Omega of the gospel. He has provided in the treasury of grace all that is necessary to make the gospel the gospel of our salvation. And as he is the author of it, so he is the matter of it. It is impossible to preach the gospel without preaching the person, the work, the offices, the character of Christ. If Christ be preached the gospel is promulgated, and if Christ be put in the background, then there is no gospel declared. “God forbid that I should know anything among you,” said the Apostle, “save Jesus Christ and him crucified,” and so saying, he was carrying out his commission to preach the gospel both to Jews and to Gentiles. The sum total, the pith, the marrow—what the old puritans would have called the quintessence of the gospel is, Christ Jesus; so that when we have done preaching the gospel we may say, “Now of the things which we have spoken he is the sum,” and we may point to him in the manger, to him on the cross, to him risen, to him coming in the second advent, to him reigning as prince of the kings of the earth, yea, point to him everywhere, as the sum total of the gospel.

     It is also called “the gospel of Christ,” because it is he who will be the finisher of it; he will put the finishing stroke to the work, as he laid the foundation stone. The believer does not begin in Christ and then seek perfection in himself. No, as we run the heavenly race, we are still looking unto Jesus. As his hand first tore away the sin which doth so easily beset us, and helped us to run the race with patience, so that same hand shall hold out the olive branch of victory, shall weave it into a chaplet of glory, and put it about our brow. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ—his property; it glorifies his person, it is sweet with the savour of his name. Throughout it bears the mark of his artistic fingers. If the heavens are the work of God's fingers, and the moon and the stars are by his ordinance, so we may say of the whole plan of salvation—the whole of it, great Jesus! is thy workmanship, and by thy ordinance it standeth fast. 

     But then it is “the gospel of Jesus Christ,” and though hundreds of times this has been explained it will not be amiss to go over it. It is the "good-spell” the “good news” of Jesus Christ, and it is “good news” emphatically, because it clears away sin—the worst evil on earth. Better still, it sweeps away death and hell! Christ came into the world to take sin upon his shoulders and to carry it away, hurling it into the red sea of his atoning blood. Christ, the scape-goat, took the sin of his people upon his own head and bore it all away into the wilderness of forgetfulness, where, if it be searched for, it shall be found no more for ever. This is “good news,” for it tells that the cancer at the vitals of humanity has been cured; that the leprosy which rose even to the very brow of manhood has been taken away; Christ has filled a better stream than the river Jordan, and now says to the sons of men, “Go, wash and be clean.” 

     Besides removing the worst of ills, the gospel is “good news,” because it brings the best of blessings. What doth it but give life to the dead? It opens dumb lips, unstops deaf ears, and unseals blind eyes. Doth it not make earth the abode of peace? Has it not shut the doors of hell upon believers, and opened the gates of heaven to all who have learned to trust in Jesus’ name? “Good news!” why that word “good” has got a double meaning when it is applied to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Well were angels employed to go and tell it, and happy are the men who spend and are spent in the proclamation of such glad tidings of great joy. “God is reconciled!”—“Peace on earth!”—“Glory to God in the highest!”—"Good-will towards men!” God is glorified in salvation, sinners are delivered from the wrath to come, and hell does not receive the multitudes of men, but heaven is filled with the countless host redeemed by blood. 

     It is “good news,” too, because it is a thing that could not have been invented by the human intellect. It was news to angels!—they have not ceased to wonder at it yet, they still stand looking upon the mercy-seat, and desiring to know more of it. It will be news in eternity; we shall 

 

“Sing with rapture and surprise,

His lovingkindness in the skies.” 

 

     The “good news,” put simply into a few words, is just this, “that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”—“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” So much, then, for what is the gospel?

     II. Now I am not going to speak to those who do not welcome the gospel—I will speak to them another time; I pray God help them to believe it; but I have specially to speak to believers. The text says, we are to LET OUR CONVERSATION BE SUCH AS BECOMETH THE GOSPEL. 

     What sort of conversation then shall we have? In the first place the gospel is very simple; it is unadorned; no meretricious ornaments to clog the pile. It is simple—“not with enticing words of man's wisdom;” it is grandly sublime in its simplicity. Let the Christian be such. It does not become the Christian minister to be arrayed in blue, and scarlet, and fine linen, and vestments, and robes, for these belong to Antichrist, and are described in the book of the Revelation, as the sure marks of the whore of Babylon. It does not become the Christian man or the Christian woman to be guilty of spending hours in the adornment of his or her person. Our adornment should be “the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit.” There should be about our manner, our speech, our dress, our whole behaviour, that simplicity, which is the very soul of beauty. Those who labour to make themselves admirable in appearance, by meretricious ornaments, miss the road; beauty is its own adornment, and “she is most adorned when unadorned the most.” The Christian man ought ever to be simple in all respects. I think, wherever you find him, you ought not to want a key to him. He should not be like certain books that you cannot make out without having somebody to tell you the hard words. He should be a transparent man like Nathaniel, “an Israelite indeed in whom there is no guile.” The man who catches the spirit of his master is, like Christ, a child-man, a man-child. You know they called him “that holy child Jesus;” so let us be, remembering that, “Except we be converted and become as little children” who are eminently simple and childlike, we cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. 

     In the next place, if our conversation is such as becometh the gospel, we shall remember that the gospel is pre-eminently true. There is nothing in the gospel which is false—no admixture, nothing put in as an argumentum ad hominem to catch the popular ear; it tells the truth, the naked truth, and if men dislike it, the gospel cannot help it, but it states it. It is gold without dross; pure water without admixture. Now such should the Christian be. He should make his conversation true. The saints are men of honor, but sometimes, brethren, I think that many of us talk too much to speak nothing but the truth. I do not know how people could bring out broadsheets every morning with so much news, if it were all true; I suppose there must be a little wadding to fill it up, and some of that is very poor stuff. And people that keep on talking, talking, talking, cannot grind all meal; surely it must be, some of it, rather coarse bran. And in the conversation of a good many professing Christians, how much there is that is scandal, if not slander, uttered against other Christians. How much uncharitableness, if not wilful falsehood, is spoken by some professors; because too often a rebuke is taken up heedlessly, and repeated without any care being taken to ascertain whether it be true or not. The Christian's lips should keep truth when falsehood drops from the lips of all other men. A Christian man should never need to take an oath, because his word is as good as an oath; his “yea,” should be “yea;” and his “nay, nay.” It is for him so to live and speak that he shall be in good repute in all society; if not for the suavity of his manners, certainly for the truthfulness of his utterances. Show me a man that is habitually or frequently a liar, and you show me a man who will have his portion in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone. I do not care to what denomination of Christians he may belong, if a man speaks the thing that is not, I am sure he is none of Christ's; and it is very sad to know that there are some in all fellowships who have this great and grievous fault, that you cannot trust them in what they say. God deliver us from that! Let our conversation be such as becometh the gospel of Christ, and then it will be invariably truthful; or, if there be error in it, it will always be through misadventure, and never from purpose or from carelessness. 

     In the next place, the gospel of Jesus Christ is a very fearless gospel. It is the very reverse of that pretty thing called “modern charity.” The last created devil is “modern charity.” “Modern charity” goes cap in hand round to us all, and it says “You are all right, every one of you. Do not quarrel any longer; Sectarianism is a horrid thing, down with it! down with it!” and so it tries to induce all sorts of persons to withhold a part of what they believe, to silence the testimony of all Christians upon points wherein they differ. I believe that that thing called Sectarianism now-a-days days is none other than true honesty. Be a Sectarian, my brother, be profoundly a Sectarian. I mean by that, hold everything which you see to be in God's Word with a tighter grasp, and do not give up even the little pieces of truth. At the same time, let that Sectarianism which makes you hate another man because he does not see with you—let that be far from you! but never consent to that unholy league and covenant which seems to be rife throughout our country, which would put a padlock on the mouth of every man and send us all about as if we were dumb: which says to me, “ You must not speak against the errors of such a Church,” and to another, “You must not reply.” We cannot but speak! If we did not, the stones in the street might cry out against us. That kind of charity is unknown to the gospel. Now hear the Word of God! “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth not”—What? “ghall get to heaven some other way?”—“shall be damned;” that is the gospel. You perceive how boldly it launches out its censure. It does not pretend, “you may reject me and go by another road, and at last get safely to your journey's ’s end!” No, no, no; you “shall be damned” it says. Do you not perceive how Christ puts it? Some teachers come into the world and say to all others, “Yes, gentlemen, by your leave, you are all right. I have a point or two that you have not taught, just make room for me; I will not turn you out; I can stand in the same temple as yourself.” But hear what Christ says:—“All that ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.” Hear what his servant Paul says, “Though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you,”—what then? “Let him be excused for his mistake?” No; but, “Let him be accursed.” Now, this is strong language, but mark you, this is just how the Christian ought to live. As the gospel is very fearless in what it has to say, so let the Christian always be. It strikes me that a “living” which becomes the gospel of Christ, is always a bold and fearless kind of living. Some people go crawling through the world as if they asked some great man's leave to live. They do not know their own minds; they take their words out of their mouths and look at them, and ask a friend or two's opinion. “What do you think of these words?” and when these friends censure them they put them in again and will not say them. Like jelly-fish, they have no backbone. Now God has made men upright, and it is a noble thing for a man to stand erect on his own feet; and it is a nobler thing still for a man to say that in Christ Jesus he has received that freedom which is freedom indeed, and therefore he will not be the slave of any man. “O God,” says David, “I am thy servant, for thou hast loosed my bonds.” Happy is he whose bonds are loosed! Let your eye be like that of an eagle, yea, let it be brighter still; let it never be dimmed by the eye of any other man. Let your heart be like that of the lion, fearless, save of yourself:— 

 

"Careless, myself a dying man,

Of dying men’s esteem,”— 

 

I must live as in the sight of God, as I believe I should live, and then let man say his best or say his worst, and it shall be no more than the chirping of the grasshopper, when the sun goeth down. “Who art thou that thou shouldst be afraid of a man that shall die, or the son of man that is but a worm?” Quit yourselves like men! Be strong! Fear not! for only so will your conversation be such as becometh the gospel of Christ. 

     But again, the gospel of Christ is very gentle. Hear it speak! "Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Here is its spirit in its founder:—“He will not quench the smoking flax, a bruised reed he will not break.” Moreover, bad temper, snapping off of people’s heads, making men offenders for a word, all this is quite contrary to the gospel. There are some people who seem to have been suckled upon vinegar, and whose entire aspect far better suits Sinai than Zion; you might think that they had always come to the mount that might be touched, which burneth with fire, for they seem themselves to burn with fire. I may say to them, that the best of them is sharper than a thorn hedge. Now, dear friends, let it never be so with us. Be firm, be bold, be fearless; but be cautious. If you have a lion's heart, have a lady’s hand; let there be such a gentleness about your carriage that the little children may not be afraid to come to you, and that the publican and harlot may not be driven away by your hostility, but invited to goodness by the gentleness of your words and acts. 

     Again, the gospel of Christ is very loving. It is the speech of the God of love to a lost and fallen race. It tells us that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” It proclaims in every word the grace of him “who loved us and gave himself for us.” “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” This same mind which was in Christ Jesus should dwell richly in us. His last command to his disciples was, “Love one another.” He that loveth is born of God, while without this grace, whatever we may think of ourselves, or others may think of us, we are really, in God's sight, nothing better than sounding brass and tinkling cymbals. Is not this an age in which we shall do well to direct our attention to the flower of paradise? The atmosphere of the Church should foster this heavenly plant to the highest perfection. The world ought to point to us and say, “See how these Christians love one another. Not in word only, but in deed and in truth.” I care not for that love which calls me a dearly beloved brother, and then if I happen to differ in sentiment and practice, treats me as a schismatic, denies me the rights of the brotherhood, and if I do not choose to subscribe to an arbitrarily imposed contribution to its funds, seizes my goods and sells them in the name of the law, order, and Church of Christ. From all such sham love good Lord deliver us. But oh! for more real hearty union and love to all the saints—for more of that realisation of the fact that we are one in Christ Jesus. At the same time pray for more love to all men. We ought to love all our hearers, and the gospel is to be preached by us to every creature. I hate sin everywhere, but I love and wish to love yet more and more every day, the souls of the worst and vilest of men. Yes, the gospel speaks of love, and I must breathe it forth too, in every act and deed. If our Lord was love incarnate, and we are his disciples, “let all take knowledge of us that we have been with Jesus and learned of him.” 

     The gospel of Christ, again, is the gospel of mercy, and if any man would act as becometh the gospel, he must be a man of mercy. Do I see him? He is praying. He has been to the sacramental table, and he has been drinking the wine which betokens the Saviour’s blood—what a good man he is! See him on Monday—he has got his hand on his brother’s throat, with,—"Pay me that thou owest!” Is that such as becometh the gospel of Christ? There he sits; he will give his subscription to a charity, but he will grind down the needle-woman, he will fatten on her blood and bones; he will take a grasp if he can of the poor, and sell them, and devour them as though they were bread, and yet, at the same time, “for a pretence he will make long prayers.” Is this such as becometh the gospel of Christ? I trow not. The gospel of Christ is mercy, generosity, liberality. It receiveth the beggar and heareth his cry; it picketh up even the vile and undeserving, and scattereth lavish blessings upon them, and it filleth the bosom of the naked and of the hungry with good things. Let your conversation be such as becometh the gospel of Christ. Your miserly people, your stingy people, have not a conversation such as becometh the gospel of Christ. There might be plenty of money in God's treasury, for God’s Church and for God’s poor, if there were not some who seem to live only to amass, and to hoard; their life is diametrically opposed to the whole current and spirit of the gospel of Christ Jesus. Forgive all who offend you, help all as far as you are able to do it, live a life of unselfishness; be prepared, as much as lieth in you, to do good unto all men, and especially to the household of faith, and so shall your conversation be such as becometh the gospel of Christ. 

     I must not, however, omit to say that the gospel of Christ is holy. You cannot find it excusing sin. It pardons it, but not without an atonement so dreadful, that sin never seems so exceeding sinful as in the act of mercy which puts it away. “Holy! Holy! Holy!” is the cry of the gospel, and such is the cry of cherubim and seraphim. Now, if our conversation is to be like the gospel, we must be holy too. There are some things which the Christian must not even name, much less indulge in. The grosser vices are to him things to be hidden behind the curtain, and totally unknown. The amusements and pleasures of the world, so far as they may be innocent, are his, as they are other men's; but wherein they become sinful or doubtful, he discards them with disgust, for he has secret sources of joy, and needs not therefore to go and drink of that muddy river of which thirsty worldlings are so fond. He seeks to be holy, as Christ is holy; and there is no conversation which becometh the gospel of Christ except that.

     III. Dear friends, I might thus continue, for the subject is a very wide one, and I only stop because, unhappily for me, though perhaps happily for your patience, my time has gone. Having just indicated what Christian life ought to be, I must in a few words plead with you, that by the power of God's ’s Holy Spirit, you will seek to make your lives such. I could mention many reasons—I will only give you one or two. The first is, if you do not live like this, you will make your fellow-mem members, who are innocent of your sin, to suffer. This ought to be a very cogent motive. If a Christian man could dishonor himself, and bear the blame alone, why he might put up with it, but you cannot do it. I say, sir, if you are seen intoxicated, or if you are known to fall into some sin of the flesh, you will make the life of every poor girl in the Church harder than it is, and every poor young man who has to put up with persecution will feel that you have put a sting into the arrows of the wicked, which could not otherwise have been there. You sin against the congregation of God’s people. I know there are some of you here that have to suffer a good deal for Christ’s sake. The jeer rings in your ear from morning to night, and you learn to put up with it manfully; but it is very hard when they can say to you, "Look at So-and-so—he is a Church member, see what he did—you are all a parcel of hypocrites together.” Now, my dear friends, you know that is not true; you know that there are many in our churches of whom the world is not worthy—the excellent, the devout, the Christ-like; do not sin, then, for them sakes, lest you make them to be grieved and sore vexed. 

     Again, do not you see how you make your Lord to suffer, for they do not lay your sins at your door merely, but they say that springs from your religion. If they would impute the folly to the fool I might not care, but they impute it to the wisdom which must have made that fool wise, if he could have learned. They will lay it to my door—that does not matter much—I have long lost my character; but I cannot bear it should be laid at Christ's door—at the door of the gospel. When I said just now that I had lost my character, I meant just this, that the world loathes me, and I would not have it do otherwise, so let it, I say, there is no love lost between us. If the world hates Christ’s minister, he can only say he desires that he may never inherit the curse of those who love the world, “in whom the love of the Father is not.” Yet it has ever been the lot of the true Christian minister to be the butt of slander, and, nevertheless, to glory in the cross with all its shame. But I know, dear friends, you would not, any of you, wish that I should bear the reproach of your sins, and yet I have to do it very often—not very often for many, but for some. There are those, of whom I might tell you, even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ; and some others whom we would pluck out of the fire, hating the garment spotted with the flesh, but they bring sad dishonor upon us, upon the ministry, upon the gospel, and upon Christ himself. You do not want to do that, at least, I hope you do not; then let your conversation be such as becometh the gospel of Christ.

     And then, remember, dear friends, unless your conversation is such, you will pull down all the witness that you have ever borne for Christ. How can your Sunday-school children believe what you tell them, when they see your actions contradict your teaching? How can your own children at home believe in your religion, when they see the godlessness of your life? The men at the factory will not believe in your going to prayer-meeting, when they see you walking inconsistently among them. Oh! the great thing the Church wants is more holiness. The worst enemies of the Church are not the infidels—really one does not know who the infidels are, now-a-days; they are so small a fry, and so few of them, that one would have to hunt to find them out; but the worst enemies of the Church are the hypocrites, the formalists, the mere professors, the inconsistent walkers. You, if there be any such here—you pull down the walls of Jerusalem, you open the gates to her foes, and, as much as lieth in you, you serve the devil. May God forgive you! May Christ forgive you! May you be washed from this atrocious sin! May you be brought humbly to the foot of the cross, to accept mercy, which, until now, you have rejected! 

     It is shocking to think how persons dare to remain members of Christian churches, and even to enter the pulpit, when they are conscious that their private life is foul. Oh, how can they do it? How is it that their hearts have grown so hard? What! hath the devil bewitched them? Hath he turned them away from being men, and made them as devilish as himself, that they should dare to pray in public, and to sit at the sacramental table, and to administer ordinances, while their hands are foul, and their hearts unclean, and their lives are full of sin? I charge you, if there are any of you whose lives are not consistent, give up your profession, or else make your lives what they should be. May the eternal Spirit, who still winnows his Church, blow away the chaff, and leave only the good golden wheat upon the floor! And if you know yourselves to be living in any sin, may God help you to mourn over it, to loathe it, to go to Christ about it to-night; to take hold of him, to wash his feet with your tears, to repent unfeignedly, and then to begin anew in his strength, a life which shall be such as becometh the gospel. 

     I think I hear some ungodly person here saying, “Well I do not make any profession, I am all right.” Now, listen, dear friend, listen! I have got a word for you. A man is brought up before the magistrates, and he says, “Well, I never made any profession of being an honest man.” “Oh,” says the magistrate, “there is six months for you then:” you see he is a villain outright. And you that say “Oh, I never made any profession,” why, by putting yourselves on that ground, you place yourselves among the condemned ones. But some people make a boast of it. “I never made a profession.” Never made a profession of doing your duty to your maker? Never made a profession of being obedient to the God in whose hands your breath is? Never made a profession of being obedient to the gospel? Why, it will be very short work with you, when you come to be tried at the last; there will need to be no witnesses, for you never made a profession, you never pretended to be right. What would you think of a man who said, “Well, I never made a profession of speaking the truth.” “Well,” says another, “I never made a profession of being chaste.” Why, you would say, “Let us get out of this fellow's company, because, evidently nothing but evil can come from him, for he is not good enough even to make a profession!” Now I put that strongly that you may recollect it; will you go home and just meditate on this—“I never made a profession of being saved. I never made a profession of repenting of my sins, and therefore I am every day making a profession of being God’s enemy, of being impenitent, of being unbelieving; and when the devil comes to look for his own he will know me, for I make a profession of being one of his, by not making a profession of being one of Christ's.” The fact is, I pray God to bring us all here, first to be Christ's, and then to make a profession of it. Oh that your heart might be washed in Jesus’ blood, and then, having given it to Christ, give it to Christ’s people. The Lord bless these words of mine for Jesus’ sake. Amen. 



Are You Prepared to Die?

By / Jun 22

Are You Prepared to Die?

 

“How wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?”— Jeremiah 12:5.

 

CANAAN may be considered as a type of two states or conditions in the Christian’s life. It was the land of rest to the children of Israel after a weary pilgrimage in the wilderness. Now it is written that “we who believe do enter into rest.” A true Christian possessed of strong faith will not have a wilderness state on earth so much as a land flowing with milk and honey, because his faith will give him the substance of things hoped for, and be the evidence of things not seen. Many disciples live a life of depression, wretchedness, and discomfort, which would be completely changed if they had faith in God, and lived a higher life of devotedness and love. Canaan may be fairly considered as a type of that better state of Christianity which some enjoy. It is not altogether free from ills; the Canaanite dwells in the land, and there are wars and fightings still; but there is rest, and there is the spirit of service developing itself in the cultivation of the promised land. But Canaan is generally used to shadow forth “the rest which remaineth for the people of God” beyond the skies. Heaven is thus frequently described as corresponding to the earthly inheritance of the Jews. It is our hope, the end of our pilgrimage. It contains our Jerusalem, and the temple “not made with hands.” When this is the view taken of the type, then Jordan is not unnaturally likened unto death. Its dark waters are made to picture forth to our minds the chill stream through which we wade in the dying hour. It is a beautiful emblem, and we have all doubtless often sung Dr. Watts’s hymn with much feeling—

“There is land of pure delight,
Where saints immortal reign;
Infinite day excludes the night,
And pleasures banish pain.

There everlasting spring abides,
And never-withering flowers;
Death, like a narrow sea, divides
This heavenly land from ours.”

     Taking “the swelling of Jordan” to represent the precise time of death, the question really is, what shall we do when we come to die? “How wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?”

     I. We notice, in the first place, that this is an EXCEEDINGLY PRACTICAL QUESTION.

     How wilt thou do? is the enquiry. There are some subjects which are more or less matters of pure faith and personal feeling; and though all Christian doctrines bear more or less directly upon the Christian life, yet they are not what is commonly meant by practical subjects. Our text, however, brings us face to face with a matter which is essentially a matter of doing and of acting: it asks how we mean to conduct ourselves in the hour of death. We sometimes hear the remark made by those who object to doctrinal preaching, that we are too speculative, and utter our own opinions, which feed men’s fancies, but do not regulate the life. Now we believe that every promise leads to a precept, and every doctrine has its duty; so we will not admit the justice of the insinuation even if we did preach doctrine entirely to the exclusion of the commandments, which we emphatically deny; but here we have at any rate a topic practical enough, I am only afraid it will be a little too much so for some; they will turn it into a sentiment and a feeling, and not act upon it so as to put it into practice, and exemplify its power in after days. Christians may differ from me on some points, but I am sure that here we are united in belief—we must die, and ought not to die unprepared. There is a divergence of opinion as to what we ought to do at the commencement of Christian life; I maintain that we ought to follow Christ, and be immersed in water, “ for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness;” others oppose that as being unnecessary, inexpedient, or what not; we differ at the beginning of life, but we agree in the end; we must die; and we all want to die the death of the righteous, and to have our last end like his.

     II. We notice, in the second place, that it is UNDOUBTEDLY A PERSONAL QUESTION.

     How wilt thou do? It individualises us, and makes us each one to come face to face with a dying hour. Now we all need this, and it will be well for each one of us to look for a minute into the grave. We are too apt to regard all men as mortal but ourselves. Somehow we can see frailty of life, as well as all the other frailties which we possess in common, much more clearly in other people than we can in ourselves. We are blind to our own weakness far too much, and shall do well to ask ourselves, each of us, “My soul, how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?” The ancient warrior who wept because before a hundred years were passed, he knew his immense army would be gone, and not a man remain behind to tell the tale, would have been wiser, if he had wept also for himself, and left alone his bloody wars, and lived as a man who must one day die, and find after death a day of judgment. Each one of you must die. If I were addressing an assembly of the sages of the world, I should say, “All your combined wisdom cannot lengthen out the days of one of you even a single minute. You may reckon the distance of the stars, and weigh worlds, but you cannot tell me when one of you will die, nor how many grains of sand are left behind in the hour-glass of time, which shows the exit or each spirit from the world.” I say now to you, the wisest of you must die; and you know not but that you may die ere long. So with the mightiest, and the richest of men. Samson was mastered by a stronger than man, and the wealthiest of men cannot bribe death to stay his dart for a single hour. We all come into the world one by one, and will go out of it also alone. Loved ones come to the brink of the dark stream, but there they shake hands and say “farewell,” and we go on alone. The prophet’s companion and successor followed his master till the fiery chariot came to take his leader away; but when the messengers of God came, they left the servant behind, vainly crying, “My father, My father; the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof.” We had better therefore take the question up as individuals, seeing that it is one in which we shall be dealt with singly, and be unable then to claim or use the help of an earthly friend. I put to the young, to the old; to the rich, to the poor; to each one of this vast assembly— I put it, as if we were alone before our God— “How wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?”

     III. As a third thought, we call attention to the fact that it is one of the MOST SOLEMN questions.

     Death and life are stern and awful realities. To say that anything “is a matter of life and death,” is to bring one of the most emphatic and solemn subjects under our notice. Now, the question we are considering this morning is of this character, and we must deal with it as it becomes us, when we investigate a subject involving the everlasting interest of souls. The question is of infinite importance to all, but there are some whose case is manifestly such, that they need to gird up the loins of their minds and address themselves to its consideration, with intensest thought and care. Let me call attention to one or two cases, for while I wish to stir up all, I am bidden to have especial compassion on some, making a difference, so that I may pluck them as brands out of the fire. I have been curious enough to think that I should like to ask that question of a Jew, of one who rejects Christ as the Messiah. “How wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?” According to the law, and it is that under which every Jew is born, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them.” Now there never was, and never will be any man who did, or could “continue in all things written in the book of the law to do them,” and consequently every man becomes accursed; and it must be a dreadful thing for a man to think of dying under the curse and ban of his own religious faith; and yet every Jew is so, cursed by his own book of law, accursed for ever. What comfort will that yield him when he comes to the swelling of Jordan. I have thought too, that I should like to ask the atheist, the unbeliever, this question, “How wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?” He tells me, perhaps, that he believes in annihilation: he will want comfort when he is lying upon that last weary bed; will he get it out of that well? The dreary blank of total destruction, of ceasing to be; is there anything to help a spirit when it lies where it most wants consolation, tossing to and fro in pain and weakness? I think not. I should like also to put the question to a Roman Catholic; for how will he do “in the swelling of Jordan?” Some time ago you will remember a Prince of the Catholic Church departed: where did he go? I am not versed in such matters, and should not like to judge anybody’s soul, but on the coffin of the Cardinal we find a request that we would pray for his soul, and there have been masses said for its repose. It is evident, therefore, that the Cardinal’s soul went somewhere, where it wants praying for and to some place where it is not in repose. Now if this is to be the lot, of a Cardinal Archbishop, there is but a poor look-out for an ordinary professor of the same faith; if a prince in the Church dies, and goes not to heaven as we have been hoping, not to eternal rest, but to a place where he needs our intercession, and where he has no repose for his soul, why then it must be dreadful work to die with such a creed as that. I would sooner have beneath my head the most prickly thornbush, than have that for my dying pillow. Oh, we want something better than this, a hope more rapturous, more divine, more full of immortality than the certainty of going to a place where there is no repose, and where our souls need the prayers of sinful men on earth. But I do not know that we have very much to do with any of these, they must “gang their ain gait,” they must go their own way; and if they be found wrong at the last, we are sorry that it should be so, but our own business is certainly the first matter in hand. Therefore, forgetting them, let the question come to each of us, “How wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?”

     IV. Remember, in the fourth place, that this question was put by way of REBUKE to the prophet Jeremiah.

     He seems to have been a little afraid of the people among whom he dwelt. They had evidently persecuted him very much, mocked at him, and laughed him to scorn; but God tells him to make his face like flint, and not to care for them, for, says he, If thou art afraid of them, “How wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?” This ought to be a rebuke to every Christian who is subject to the fear of man. I do not believe that any preacher will be long in his pulpit without having the temptation to be afraid of some man or another; and if he doth not stand very firmly upon his integrity he will find some of the best of his friends getting the upper hand with him. And this will never do with God’s minister. He must deal out God’s Word impartially to rich or poor, to good or bad; and he must determine to have no master except his Master who is in heaven; no bit nor bridle for his mouth, except that of prudence and discretion, which God himself shall put there. For if we are afraid of a man that shall die, and the son of man that is crushed before the moth, how fearful shall we be when we have to talk with the grim king of terrors! If we are afraid of puny man, how shall we be able to face it out before the dread ordeal of the day of judgment? Yet I know some Christians that are very much abashed by the world’s opinion, by the opinion of their family circle, or of the workshop. Now what does it matter after all? There is an old proverb, that “he is a great fool that is laughed out of his coat;” and there was an improvement on it, that “he was a greater fool who was laughed out of his skin;” and there is another, that “he is the greatest fool of all who is laughed out of his soul.” He that will be content to be damned in order to be fashionable, pays dear indeed for what he gets. Oh, to dare to be singular, if to be singular is to be right; but if you are afraid of man, what will you do in the swelling of Jordan? The same rebuke might be applied to us when we get fretful under the little troubles of life. You have losses in business, vexations in the family—you have all crosses to carry—but my text comes to you, and it says, “If you cannot bear this, how will you do in the swelling of Jordan? If your religion is not equal to the ordinary emergencies of common days, what will you do when you get to that extraordinary day, which will be to you the most important day of your being?” Come friends, be not bowed down with these things, bear them cheerfully, since there is much sterner work to do than any that you have met with in the battle of life. And the same reproof might come to us when we get petulant under pains of body, for there are some of us, who as soon as ever we get a little unwell, become so fretful, that those like us best who are farthest from us; we can scarcely have a little depression of spirit, but straightway we are ready to give up all for lost, and like Jonah say, “We do well to be angry even unto death.” Now this ought not to be. We should quit ourselves like men, and not be perturbed with these little rivulets; for if these sweep us away, what shall we do when Jordan is swollen to the brim, and we have to pass through that? When one of the martyrs, whose name is the somewhat singular one of Pommily, was confined previous to his burning, his wife was also taken up upon the charge of heresy. She, good woman, had resolved to die with her husband, and she appeared, as far as most people could judge, to be very firm in her faith. But the jailer’s wife, though she had no religion, took a merciful view of the case as far as she could do so, and thought, “I am afraid this woman will never stand the test, she will never burn with her husband, she has neither faith nor strength enough to endure the trial;” and therefore, one day calling her out from her cell, she said to her, “Lass, run to the garden and fetch me the key that lies there.” The poor woman ran willingly enough; she took the key up and it burned her fingers, for the jailer’s wife had made it red hot; she came running back crying with pain. “Ay, wench,” said she, “if you cannot bear a little burn in your hand, how will you bear to be burned in your whole body;” and this, I am sorry to add, was the means of bringing her to recant the faith which she professed, but which never had been in her heart. I apply the story thus: If we cannot bear the little trifling pangs which come upon us in our ordinary circumstances, which are but as it were the burning of your hands, what shall we do when every pulse beats pain, and every throb is an agony, and the whole tenement begins to crumble about the spirit that is so soon to be disturbed? Come, let us pluck up courage! We have to fight the giant yet! Let us not be afraid of these dwarfs! Let the ordinary trials of every day be laughed to scorn! In the strength of divine grace, let us sing with our poet,

"Weak as I am, yet through thy strength,
I all things can perform.”

For if we cannot bear these, how will we do in the swelling of Jordan? This is what the text was originally meant to teach. We will now use it for a further purpose.

     V. The question may be put as A MATTER OF CAUTION.

     In this assembly there are some who have no hope, no faith in Christ. Now I think, if they will look within at their own experience, they will find that already they are by no means completely at ease. The pleasures of this world are very sweet; but how soon they cloy, if they do not sicken the appetite. After the night of merriment there is often the morning of regret. “Who hath woe? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.” It is an almost universal confession that the joys of earth promise more than they perform, and that in looking back upon them, the wisest must confess with Solomon, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” Now if these* things seem to be vanity while you are in good bodily health, how will they look when you are in sickness? If vanity while you can enjoy them, what will they appear •when you must say farewell to them all? If it was vanity to the rich man while he was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day, what greater vanity it must have been when it was said, “This night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?” How wilt thou do in Jordan when these joys shall vanish, and there shall be a dreary blank before thee? Moreover, you feel already that conscience pricks you. You cannot live without God and be perfectly easy, unless you are one of those few who are given up to judicial blindness and hardness of heart. You could not take an hour quietly to think about yourself and your state, and yet go to your bed easily. You know right well that the only way some of you can keep up peace of mind at all, is by going from one gay assembly to another, and from one party of frolic to another, or else from business to business, and from care to care. Your poor soul, like the infant which is to be cast into Moloch’s arms, cries, and you do not hear its cries, because you drown it with the noisy drums of this world’s pleasures and cares; but still you are not at rest: there is a worm in your fair fruit, there are dregs at the bottom of your sweetest cups, and you know it. Now, if even now you are not perfectly at peace; if in this land of peace wherein you have trusted you are getting weary of these things, then “how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?” Moreover, you sometimes have, if I mistake not, very strange apprehensions. I have known some of the most reckless sinners who have had fearful times, when nobody could cheer them; when a certain fearful looking for of judgment has haunted them. The most superstitious people in the world are those who are the most profane. It is a strange thing that there is always that weak point about those who seem to be most hardened. But you that are not thus hardened, you know that you dare not look forward to death with any pleasure— you cannot: to go to the grave is never very joyous work with you. Ay, and if you were certain that there could be no more death, it would be the best news that you had ever heard; whereas to some of us it would be the worst that could ever come. Ah, well! if the very thought of death is bitter, what will the reality be? and if to gaze at it from a distance be too hard a thing for your mind, what will it be to pass under its yoke, to go through its dark valley, to feel its dart, to know that the poison is rankling in your veins? What will you do? “How wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?” Well, I shall not describe what you will do, though I have seen it, and you must have seen it too. Sometimes a man dies at ease, like a sheep, because he has been dosed with the laudanum of self-confidence. At other times the man is awaked, and sees the dreadful doom to which death is driving him, and starts back and shrinks from the wrath to come, and cries and shrieks, and perhaps swears that he will not die; and yet die he must, dragged down to that place where he must lift up his eyes to see nothing that can give him hope— nothing that can take away the sharpness of his anguish. I leave that point. God make it a caution to many now present. Some of you men and women here may be nearer death than you dream of. I would you would answer the question, “How wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?”

     VI. But now I intend to use the question as EXCITING MEDITATION in the breasts of those who have given their hearts to Christ, and who consequently are prepared to die whenever the summons may come. Well, what do we mean to do, how shall we behave ourselves when we come to die? I sat down to try and think this matter over, but I cannot, in the short time allotted to me, even give you a brief view of the thoughts that passed through my mind. I began thus, “How shall I do in the swelling of Jordan?” Well, as a believer in Christ, perhaps,. I may never come there at all, for there are some that will be alive and remain at the coming of the Son of Man, and these will never die. For so says the Apostle: “Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump.” This thought we wish to keep ever before us. My real hope is the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. I would far rather see the Master return than see the messenger Death. I regulate my life as one who is looking for and hastening unto the coming of the Son of Man. I will not pay more attention to the servant than to the Lord of all. “Come, Lord Jesus! yea, come quickly,” is the prayer of our hearts continually; and as the bride of Christ, we ought to have our hearts filled with rapture at the thought of his return to claim us as his own. If he send for us, “It is well;” but best of all if he come himself again the second time without sin unto salvation. A sweet truth, which we place first in our meditation. I may not sleep, but I must and shall be changed. Then I thought again, “How shall I do in the swelling of Jordan?” I may go through it in the twinkling of an eye. Remember that good man, who some time ago was getting ready to preach as usual, but the sermon was never delivered on earth, I mean the President of the Wesleyan Conference; how speedily was he taken to his rest; and how happy it is just to close one’s eyes on earth, and open them in heaven. Such also was the death of one of God’s aged servants, Mr. Alleine, who had battled well for the truth. He was suddenly taken ill, and was advised to retire to bed. “No,” said he, “but I will die in my chair; – and I am not afraid to die.” He sat down, and only had time to say, “My life is hid with Christ in God,” and he closed his eyes with his own hands and fell on sleep. When Ananias, a martyr, knelt to lay his white head upon the block, it was said to him as he closed his eyes to receive the stroke, “Shut thine eyes a little, old man, and immediately thou shalt see the light of God.” I could envy such a calm departing. Sudden death, sudden glory; taken away in Elijah’s chariot of fire, with the horses driven at the rate of lightning, so that the spirit scarcely knows that it has left the clay, before it sees the brightness of the beatific vision. Well, that may take away some of the alarm of death, the thought that we may not be even a moment in the swelling of Jordan. Then again, I thought, if I must pass through the swelling of Jordan, yet the real act of death takes no time. We hear of suffering on a dying bed; the suffering is all connected with life, it is not death. The actual thing called death, as far as we know of, does not cost a pang; it is the life that is in us, that makes us suffer, but death gives one kind pin’s-prick, and it is all over. Moreover, if I pass through the swelling of Jordan, I may do so without suffering any pain. A dying bed is sometimes very painful; with certain diseases, and especially with strong men, it is often hard for the body and soul to part asunder.

     But it has been my happy lot to see some deaths so extremely pleasing, that I could not help remarking, that it were worth while living, only for! he sake of dying as some have died. We have seen consumption for instance; how gently it takes down the frame very often; how quietly the soul departs; and in old age, and debility, how easily the spirit seems to get away from the cage that was broken, which only needed one blow, and the imprisoned bird flies straight away to its eternal resting-place.

     Well, then, as I cannot tell in what physical state I may be when I come to die, I just tried to think again, how shall I do in the swelling of Jordan? I hope I shall do as others have done before me, who have built on the same rock, and had the same promises to be their succour. They cried, “Victory!" So shall I, and after that die quietly and in peace. If the same transporting scene may not be mine, I will at least lay my head upon my Saviour’s bosom, and breathe my life out gently there. You have a right, Christian, to expect that as other Christians die so shall you. How will you die? Why, you will die as your sainted mother did; you will die as your father did; when the time came for the “silver cord to be loosed and the golden bowl to be broken, for the pitcher to be broken at the fountain and the wheel broken at the cistern,” the pitcher was broken and the cord loosed, and their spirits went to God who gave them. How will you die? Why, as I mused on this I took down my little book of “Promises,” for I thought, I shall certainly do as God says I shall. Well, how is that? “When thou passest through the rivers I will be with thee.” And again, “Though I pass through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” And again, “He shall swallow up death in victory.” And again, “He shall make all thy bed in thy sickness;” and yet again, “Fear not, I am with thee; be not dismayed, I am thy God; I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” You know what a many dying pillows God has made for his dear people in the hour of their departure. “How shall I do in the swelling of Jordan?” Why, do manfully, do patiently, if God shall keep his promise as we know he will.

     Now let me speak to you all again— I mean you that are in Christ. “How will you do in the swelling of Jordan?” Why, you will do as a man does who has had a long day’s walk, and he can see his home. You will clap your hands. You will sit down upon the next milestone with the tears in your eyes, and wipe the sweat from your face and say “It is well, it is over. Oh how happy it is to see my own roof-tree, and, the place where my best friends, my kindred dwell. I shall soon be at home—at home for ever with the Lord.” How will you do? Why we will do as a soldier does when the battle is fought; he takes off his armour, stretches himself out at length to rest. The battle is all over. He for-, gets his wound, and reckons up the glory of the victory and the reward which follows. So will we do. We will begin to forget the wounds, and the garments rolled in blood, and we will think of the “crown of life that fadeth not away.” How will we do in the swelling of Jordan? We will do as men do when they launch for a foreign country. They look back upon those they leave behind, and wave their handkerchiefs as long as they can get sight of them; but they are soon gone. And we will bid adieu to dear ones; they shall have the tears, but we shall have the joy, for we go to the islands of the blest, the land of the hereafter, the home of the sanctified, to dwell with God for ages. Who will weep when he starts on such a voyage, and launches on such a blessed sea! What will we do when we come into the swelling of Jordan? Why methinks, dear friends, we shall then begin to see through the veil, and to enjoy the paradise of the blessed which is ours for ever. We will make that dying bed a throne, and we will sit and reign there with Christ Jesus. We will think of that river Jordan as being one tributary of the river of life, which flows at the foot of the jasper throne of the Most High. We will live in the land of Beulah on the edge of Jordan, with our feet in the cold stream, singing of the better land. We will hear the songs of angels, as celestial breezes bring them across the narrow stream. And sometimes we will have in our bosom some of the spices from the Mountains of Myrrh, which Christ shall give us across the river. And when we come to die, what will we do in the swelling of Jordan? Why we will try and bear our dying testimony.

“My joyful soul on Jordan’s shore,
Shall raise one Ebenezer more.”

Oh, that was a grand thing when Joshua said to the twelve men, “Take up twelve stones, and set them down in the midst of Jordan where the priests' feet stood still, and take up twelve other stones and set them up on the other side of Jordan, where the children of Israel first trod the promised shore.” You and I will do this, we will leave twelve stones in the midst of Jordan. They shall tell our friends and kindred here of the good words we said, the adieux we gave them, and the joyful hopes which cheered us, the song we sang when death began to stay our throat. And then we will raise another Ebenezer in heaven. There shall be twelve stones there that will tell the angels and the principalities, of the love which cleft the Jordan, and brought us through it as on dry land. This is how we will do in the swelling of Jordan. We are not looking forward to death with any fear, with any dread. When we get home to-night, we shall begin to take off our garments one by one. We shall not shed a tear. Nor shall we when we come to die.

“Since Jesus is mine, I will not fear undressing,
But gladly put off these garments of clay;
To die in the Lord is a comfort and blessing,
Since Jesus to glory thro’ death led the way.”

This is how we shall do in the swelling of Jordan. Take off our garments to put on the celestial robes. As the bridegroom longeth for the marriage day, and as the bride waiteth until she is joined unto her husband in wedlock, even so our spirits wait for God. As the exile panteth to be delivered, and the galley-slave to be separated from his oar, so wait we to be set free for glory and immortality. As she that mourns her absent lord pines for his return, as the child longeth to reach his father’s house and to see his father’s face, so do we.

“My heart is with him on his throne,
And ill can brook delay,
Each moment listening for his voice,
‘Make haste and come away.’”

I must finish, for time has gone. But I meant to have said a word or two by way of warning. I can only do so now briefly, abridging them and compressing the thoughts as tightly as I can. “How wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?" may be well used by way of warning. I think, dear friends, you ought to ask yourselves one question. Some of you never think of dying, and yet you should. You say you may live long: you may, and you may not. If there were a great number of loaves upon this table, and you were to eat one every day; if you were told that one of those loaves had poison in it, I think you would begin every one with great caution; and knowing that one of them would be your death, you would take each up with silent dread. Now you have so many days, and in one of these days there is the poison of death. I do not know which one. It may be in to-morrow; it may not be until many a day has gone. But I think you ought to handle all your days with holy jealousy. Is not that a fair parable? If it be, then let me ask you to think upon the question, “How wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?” You grant that you will die, and you may die soon. Is it not foolish to be living in this world without a thought of what you will do at last? A man goes into an inn, and as soon as he sits down he begins to order his wine, his dinner, his bed; there is no delicacy in season which he forgets to bespeak, there is no luxury which he denies himself. He stops at the inn for some time. By-and by there comes in a bill, and he says, “Oh, I never thought of that— I never thought of that!” “Why,” says the landlord, “here is a man who is either a born fool or else a knave. What! never thought of the reckoning— never thought of settling-day!” And yet this is how some of you live. You have this, and that, and the other thing in this world’s inn (for it is nothing but an inn), and you have soon to go your way, and yet you have never thought of settling-day! “Well,” says one, “I was casting up my accounts this morning.” Yes, I remember a minister making this remark when he heard of one that cast up his accounts on Sunday. He said, “I hope that is not true, sir.” “Yes,” he said, “I do cast up my accounts on Sunday.” “Ah, well,” he said, “the day of judgment will be spent in *a similar manner— in casting up accounts, and it will go ill with those people who found no other time in which to serve themselves except the time which was given them that they serve God.” You have either been a dishonest man, or else you must be supremely foolish, to be spending every day in this world’s inn, and yet to be ignoring the thought of the great day of account. But remember, though you forget it, God forgets not. Every day is adding to the score. Photographed in heaven is every action that you perform. Your very thoughts are photographed upon the eternal mind; and in the day when the book shall be opened it will go ill with you. Perhaps you will say, as one did in the Book of Kings, “Well, I was busy here and there”; “I was looking after my family and my property; I was looking after politics; I was seeing after such-and-such an investment; and my soul is gone.” Yes, but that would not bring it back again. And what shall it profit you, though you gain the whole world and lose your own soul. It is no business of mine what becomes of you, except this, that I do desire so to talk with you at all times, that if you perish it may not be laid at my door. What would you say to that soldier who should be told by his commanding officer to fight with the foe on the field of battle, and the so-called soldier were to reply “I don’t know any thing about battle or fighting; I never thought of the battle field, I can do anything but fight!” The general would be sorely amazed. He would want to know what the soldier lived for, if it were not to fight and defend his country in the hour of his country’s need. What do we live for, if it is not to prepare for a hereafter life, and for the day for which all days were made? What, are we sent into this world and told that we are to “prepare to meet our God,” and we do every thing else but the one thing: this will not be wise; and when the Lord of the whole earth shall come out of his place to judge the sons of men, bitterly shall we rue our folly. Be wise now, remember this, and consider your latter end. What words shall I use to urge you to consider the subject and take my warning. Is heaven a place you would like to enter? Is hell a place you would like to avoid, or will you make your bed in it for ever? Are you in love with eternal misery that you run to it so madly? Oh, stop; turn ye! turn ye! why will ye die? I do pray you stop and consider. Consideration does no man harm. Second thoughts here are for the best. Think and think, and think again, and oh, may God lead you, through thinking, to feel your danger, and may you then accept that gracious remedy which is in Christ Jesus; for whosoever believeth in him is not condemned, whosoever trusts in Christ is saved. Sin is forgiven, the soul is accepted, the spirit is blessed the moment it trusts the Saviour.

     Before I close the subject, I must guide your thoughts to what is the true preparation for death. Three things present themselves to my mind as being our duty in connection with the dying hour. First seek to be washed in the Red Sea of the dear Redeemer’s blood, come in contact with the death of Christ, and by faith in it you will be prepared to meet your own. Without giving an opinion upon the merit of that system of medicine which professes to cure diseases by producing an effect upon the system akin to the original malady, or as they put it, “like curing like;” we recommend it in spiritual things; come into union with Christ’s death, and that will take away the evil and sting of your own. Be buried with him in baptism unto death, and have part with him in the reality symboled in that blest ordinance, and you will not dread Jordan’s swellings, if the full tide of the Redeemer’s blood has rolled over you, so that you are washed and clean. If guilt be on your conscience, it will be as a millstone round your neck and you will sink to endless woe; but if the love of Jesus be in your heart, it will buoy up your head and keep you safe, so that although heart and flesh fail you, you will have God to be the strength of your heart and your portion for ever. Again, learn of the Apostle Paul to “die daily.” Practise the duty of self-denial and mortifying of the flesh till it shall become a habit with you, and when you have to lay down the flesh and part with everything, you will be only continuing the course of life you have pursued all along. No wonder if dying should prove hard work if you are completely unused to it in thought and expectation. If death comes to me as a stranger, I may be startled, but if I have prepared myself to receive him, he may come and knock at my door and I shall say, “I am ready to go with you, for I have been expecting you all my life.” How beautiful this expression of the Apostle, “I am ready to be offered up and the time of my departure is at hand.” He was waiting for death as for a friend, and when it came, I am sure he was well pleased to go. He tells us he had “a desire to depart and to be with Christ which is far better.” Even so may we learn to look at the time when we shall hear the summons, “Come up higher,” as to a time to be longed for rather than dreaded. Learn to submit your will to God’s will daily. Learn to endure hardness as a good soldier of the cross, so that when the last conflict comes it may find you able by the grace of God to bear the brunt of the final contest with unflinching courage. And as the last preparation for the end of life, I should advise a continual course of active service and obedience to the command of God. I have frequently thought that no happier place to die in could be found than one’s post of duty. If I were a soldier, I think I should like to die as Wolfe died, with victory shouting in my ear, or as Nelson died in the midst of his greatest success. Preparation for death does not mean going alone into the chamber and retiring from the world, but active service, “doing the duty of the day in the day.” The best preparation for sleep, the healthiest soporific, is hard work, and one of the best things to prepare us for sleeping in Jesus, is to live in him an active life of going about doing good. The attitude in which I wish death to find me is, with light trimmed, and loins girt, waiting and watching; at work, doing my allotted task, and multiplying my talent for the master’s glory. Idlers may not anticipate rest, but workers will not be unwilling to welcome the hour which shall hear the words, “It is finished.” Keep your eye upon the recompense of the reward. Lay up treasures in heaven, and thus will you be ready to cross the stream and enter the loved land, whither heart and treasure have gone beforehand, to prepare the way. Washed in the blood of Christ, accustomed to submit to whatever God wills, and to find our pleasure in doing his will on earth as we hope to do it in heaven, joined to a life of holy service, and I am persuaded that we shall be prepared with one of old to say, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith,” and with him, calmly und joyfully to anticipate the crown which fadeth not away. God bring you to this point, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.



The Church’s Love to Her Loving Lord

By / Jun 22

The Church's Love to Her Loving Lord

 

“Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?”
— *Canticles 1:7.

 

     We shall need to lift up our hearts to God and ask to be quickened in grace, or the precious truths in our text will not prove to us “as honey out of the rock,” nor the “feast of fat things, of wine and marrow, of wine on the lees well refined.” We cannot appreciate the spirituality of this book, unless God's Spirit shall help us. Many read these words and only see a proof of the imaginative power of an eastern mind. Some read to scoff and blaspheme, and others, even good people, neglect to read this book altogether, being unable to drink in its spirit because of their want of that higher life of communion with the Beloved, which is here so beautifully laid open to our view. Now I am persuaded better things of you beloved. I am sure that you believe that every word of God is precious, and most certainly we say of this book, “it is more to be desired than gold, yea than much fine gold, sweeter also than honey, or the droppings of the honeycomb.” This book of the Canticles is most precious to us, it is the inner court of the temple of truth. It seems to us to belong to the secret place of the tabernacle of the Most High. We see our Saviour’s face in almost every page of the Bible, but here we see his heart and feel his love to us. We shall hope this morning to speak of our own experience, as well as of the Church who is here speaking. You will perceive that she begins with a title, she expresses a desire, she enforces it with an argument; “Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?”

     I. We commence with the title: “O thou whom my soul loveth.” It is well to be able to call the Lord Jesus Christ by this name without an “if,” or a “but.” A very large proportion of Christian people can only say of Christ that they hope they love him; they trust they love him; but this is a very poor and shallow experience which is content to stay here. It seems to me that no one ought to give any rest to his spirit till he feels quite sure about a matter of such vital importance. We are not content to have a hope of the love of our parents, or of our spouse, or of our children; we feel we must be certain there; and we ought not to be satisfied with a hope that Christ loves us, and with a bare trust that we love him. The old saints did not generally speak with buts, and ifs, and hopes, and trusts, but they spoke positively and plainly. “I know whom I have believed,” saith Paul. “I know that my Redeemer liveth,” saith Job. “He whom my soul loveth,” saith Solomon, in the song as we have it here. Learn, dear friends, to get that positive knowledge of your love to Jesus, and be not satisfied till you can talk about your interest in him as a reality, which you have made infallibly sure by having received the witness of the Holy Spirit, and his seal upon your soul by faith, that you are born of God, and belong to Christ.

     Speaking then of this title which rings the great bell of love to Jesus, let us notice first the cause, and secondly the effect of that love. If we can look into the face of him who once sweat great drops of blood, and call him, “O thou whom my soul loveth,” it is interesting to consider what is the cause of our love. And here our reply is very quick. The efficient cause of our love is the Holy Spirit of God. We should never have had a spark of love to Jesus if it had not been bestowed upon Us by the divine worker. Well said John, “Love is of God.” Certainly it is so. Our love to Christ is one beam from himself, the Sun. Certainly a man can no more naturally love Christ than a horse can fly. I grant you there is no physical disability, but there is a moral and spiritual disability which effectually disqualifies him from the high and lofty emotion of love to Jesus. Into that dead corpse the living spirit must be breathed; for those who are dead in trespasses and sins cannot love Christ. That heart of stone must be transformed into a heart of flesh, for stones may be hurled at the Saviour, but they can never love him. That lion must become a lamb, or it can never claim Christ as its Shepherd. That raven must be turned into a dove, or it will never fly to Christ as its ark. “Except a man be born again,” we may say, he cannot see this precious sparkling jewel of the kingdom of God, love to Christ. Search yourselves then, brethren, do you love him or not, for if you love him, you have been born again; and if you do not love him, then you are still in darkness, and are not his.

“Can you pronounce his charming name,
His acts of kindness tell;
And while you dwell upon the theme,
No sweet emotion feel?”
I think some of us would have to answer —
“A very wretch, Lord, I should prove,
Had I no love to thee;
Sooner than not my Saviour love,
Oh, may I cease to be!”

This, then, is the efficient cause — the Holy Spirit. The rational cause, the logical reason why we love Jesus lies in himself — in his looks, in his present working, and in his person, besides many other little founts, which all tend to swell the river — the growing, deepening river of our love to him.

     Why do we love Jesus? We have the best of answers — because he first loved us. Hearken, ye strangers who inquire why we should love the Saviour so. We will give you such reasons that we will satisfy you and set your mouths watering to be partakers of the same reasons, that you may come to love him too. Why do we love him? Because or ever this round earth was fashioned between the palms of the great Creator — before he had painted the rainbow, or hung out the lights of the sun and moon, Christ’s delights were with us. He foresaw us through the glass of his prescience; he knew what we should be — looked into the book in which all his “members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there were none of them;” and as he looked upon us, the glance was love. He delighted to sit upon the throne of glory, and to remember his dear ones who were yet to be born. It was the great prospect which his mighty and infinite Spirit had — a joy that was set before him, that he should see a multitude that no man could number who should be his beloved for ever.

“Lov’d of my Christ, for him again,
With love intense I’ll burn;
Chosen of Thee ere time began,
I choose Thee in return.”

Oh, could you know that Jesus had loved you from before all worlds, you must love him. At least you will grant there cannot be a better it reason for love. Love demands; nay, it does not demand – it takes by almighty force, by irresistible energy, that heart captive upon whom it thus sets itself.

     This Jesus loved us for no reason whatever in ourselves. We were black as the tents of Kedar; we had much deformity but no beauty, and yet he loved us; and our deformity was of such a kind that it might meritoriously have made him hate us. We kicked against him and despised him. Our language naturally was, “We will not have this man to reign over us,” and when we heard of his loving us, we sneered at it. He was despised and rejected of men; we hid as it were, our faces from him. He was despised and we esteemed him not. We thought his love an empty tale, a paltry trifle, and yet he loved us. Nay, we were his enemies. We slew him; we confess with sorrow that we were the murderers of the Prince of Life and Glory. Our hands were stained with his gore and our garments dyed with his blood, and yet he saw all this and loved us still. Shall we not love him? Sure our heart is harder than adamant, because we do not love him more. But it were hell-hardened steel if it did not love at all. Our Saviour so loved us that he stripped himself of his robes of radiance. Listen, ye children of God, it is the old story over again, but it is always new to you. He stripped himself of his bright array, laid aside his sceptre and his crown, and became an infant in Bethlehem’s manger amongst the horned oxen. Thirty years of poverty and shame the King of heaven spent among the sons of men, and all out of love to us. Jesus the heavenly lover, panting to redeem his people, was content to abide here without a place whereon to rest his head, that he might rescue you. See him yonder in the garden in his agony, his soul exceeding sorrowful even unto death; his forehead, nay his head, his hair, his garments red with the bloody sweat. See him giving his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that pluck off the hair. See him as he hides not his face from shame and spitting, dumb like a sheep before her shearers, and like a lamb that is brought to the slaughter, so he opened not his mouth, but patiently bore it all on our behalf. See him with the cross upon his mangled shoulders, staggering through Jerusalem’s streets, unwept, unpitied, except by poor feeble women! See him, ye that love him, and love him more as he stretches out his hands to the nail, and gives his feet to the iron. See him, as with power to deliver himself he is made captive. Behold him as they lift up the cross with him upon it and dash it down into its place and dislocate his bones. Hear that cry, “I am poured out like water: all my bones are out of joint. Thou hast brought me into the dust of death.” Stand, if ye can, and view that face so full of dolor. Look till a sword shall go through your own heart as it went through his virgin mother’s very soul. Oh, see him as he thirsts and has that thirst mocked with vinegar. Hear him as he prays and has that prayer parodied, “He cries for Elias, let Elias come and take him down.” See him, as they who love him come and kiss his feet and bathe them with their tears. Will you not love him who did all that friend could do for friend; who gave his life for us? Beloved, here are a thousand crimson cords that tie us to the Saviour, and I hope we feel their constraining power. It is his vast love, the old eternal bond, the love which redeemed, which suffered in our stead, the love which pleaded our cause before the eternal throne: it is this which we give as a sufficient reason why we should love the Saviour, if needs be, even unto death.

     Moreover, we have another reason. I trust many here can say that they love the Saviour because of his present dealings towards them. What has he not done for us this very day? Some of you came here this morning heavy and you went away rejoicing; perhaps you have had answers to prayer this very week. You have passed through the furnace and not a smell of fire has passed upon you. You have had many sins this week, but you have felt the efficacy of his blood again and again. Some of us have known what it is during the past six days to have the ravishing delights of private communion with him. He has made us glad; our spirits have leaped for very joy, for he hath turned again the captivity of our soul. You have drunk of him as of “the brook by the way,” and you have therefore lifted up your head. Beloved, if there were nothing else which Christ had done for my soul, that which I have tasted and handled of him within the last few months would make me love him for ever, and I know that you can say the same.

     Moreover, we have another reason. I trust many here can say that they love the Saviour because of his present dealings towards them. What has he not done for us this very day? Some of you came here this morning heavy and you went away rejoicing; perhaps you have had answers to prayer this very week. You have passed through the furnace and not a smell of fire has passed upon you. You have had many sins this week, but you have felt the efficacy of his blood again and again. Some of us have known what it is during the past six days to have the ravishing delights of private communion with him. He has made us glad; our spirits have leaped for very joy, for he hath turned again the captivity of our soul. You have drunk of him as of “the brook by the way,” and you have therefore lifted up your head. Beloved, if there were nothing else which Christ had done for my soul, that which I have tasted and handled of him within the last few months would make me love him for ever, and I know that you can say the same. Nor is this all. We love the Saviour because of the excellency of his person. We are not blind to excellence anywhere, but still we can see no excellence like his.

“Jesus thou fairest, dearest one,
What beauties thee adorn!
Far brighter than the noonday sun,
Or star that gilds the morn.
Here let me fix my wandering eyes,
And all thy glories trace;
Till, in the world of endless joys,
I rise to thine embrace.”

When Tigranes and his wife were both taken prisoners by Cyrus, Cyrus turning to Tigranes said, “What will you give for the liberation of your wife?” and the King answered, “I love my wife so that I would cheerfully give up my life if she might be delivered from servitude;” whereupon Cyrus said, “That if there was such love as that between them they might both go free.” So when they were away and many were talking about the beauty and generosity of Cyrus, and especially about the beauty of his person, Tigranes, turning to his wife, asked her what she thought of Cyrus, and she answered that she saw nothing anywhere but in the face of the man who had said that he would die if she might only be released from servitude. “The beauty of that man,” she said, “makes me forget all others.” And verily we would say the same of Jesus. We would not decry the angels, nor think ill of the saints, but the beauties of that man who gave his life for us, are so great that they have eclipsed all others, and our soul only wishes to see him and not another; for, as the stars hide their heads in the presence of the sun, so may ye all begone, ye delights, ye excellencies, when Christ Jesus, the chief delight, the chief excellency, maketh his appearance. Dr. Watts saith —

“His worth, if all the nations knew,
Sure the whole earth would love him too.”

And so it seems to us. Could you see him, you must love him. It was said of Henry VIII., that if all the portraits of tyrants, and murderers, and thieves were out of existence, they might all be painted from the one face of Harry VIII.; and turning that round another way, we will say, that if all the excellencies, beauties, and perfections of the human race were blotted out, they might all be painted again from the face of the Lord Jesus.

“All over glorious is my Lord;
Must be beloved, and yet adored.”

These are some of the reasons why our heart loves Jesus. Before I leave those reasons, I should like to put a few questions round amongst this great crowd. O friends, would you not love Jesus if you knew something of this love as shed abroad in your hearts — something of this love as being yours? Now, remember, there is a very great promise that Christ has made, and it is this, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Now what does that refer to? Why to any “him” in all the world, that cometh to Christ. Whoever you may be, if you come to Jesus — and you know that means just trusting him, leaning upon him – if you come to him, he will not cast you out; and when he has received you to his bosom, you will then know (but you cannot know till then) how much he loves you, and then, methinks, you will say with us, “Yes, his name is ‘Thou whom my soul loveth’”

     I shall now for a short time speak on the effects of this love, as we have dwelt on the cause of it. When a man has true love to Christ, it is sure to lead him to dedication. There is a natural desire to give something to the person whom we love, and true love to Jesus compels us to give ourselves to him. One of the earliest acts of the Christian’s life is to take ourselves, and lay body, soul, and spirit upon the altar of consecration, saying, “Here I am; I give myself to thee.” When the pupils of Socrates had nearly all of them given him a present, there was one of the best scholars who was extremely poor, and he said to Socrates, “I have none of these things which the others have presented to thee; but, O Socrates, I give thee myself;” whereupon Socrates said it was the best present he had had that day. “My son, give me thy heart” — this is what Jesus asks for. If you love him, you must give him this.

     True love next shows itself in obedience. If I love Jesus, I shall do as he bids me. He is my husband, my Lord — I call him “Master.” “If ye love me,” saith he, “keep my commandments.” This is his chosen proof of my love, and I am sure, if I love him, I shall keep his commandments. And yet there are some who profess to love Christ who very seldom think of keeping some of his commandments. “This do ye in remembrance of me,” he says, and yet some of you never come to his table. May I gently ask you, how you make this disobedience consort with genuine affection for him? “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

“’Tis love that makes our willing feet In swift obedience move.”

 We can do anything for those we love, and, if we love Jesus, no burden will be heavy, no difficulty will be great: we should rather wish to do more than he asks of us, and only desire that he were a little more exacting that we might have a better opportunity of shewing forth our affection.

     True love, again, is always considerate and afraid lest it should give offence. It walks very daintily. If I love Jesus, I shall watch my eye, my heart, my tongue, my hand, being so fearful lest I should wake my beloved, or make him stir until he please; and I shall be sure not to take in those bad guests, those ill-favoured guests of pride and sloth, and love of the world. I shall tell them to be packing, for I have a dear one within who will not tarry long if he sees me giving sideling glances to these wicked ones. My heart shall be wholly his. He shall sit at the head of the table, he shall have the best dish thereon, nay, I will send all others away that I may have him all to myself, and that he may have my whole heart, all that I am, and all that I have.

     Again, true love to Christ will make us very jealous of his honour. As Queen Eleanor went down upon her knees to suck the poison from her husband’s wound, so we shall put our lips to the wound of Christ when he has been stabbed with the dagger of calumny, or inconsistency, being willing sooner to take the poison ourselves, and to be ourselves diseased and despised than that his name, his cross! should suffer ill. Oh, what matters it what becomes of us, if the King reigneth ? I will go home to my bed, and die in peace, if the King sits on the throne. Let me see King David once again installed in Zion’s sacred halls; and my soul, in poverty and shame, shall still rejoice if the banished King Jesus shall once again come back, and have his own, and take his sceptre, and wear his crown. Beloved, I trust we can say we would not mind if Christ would make a mat of us, if he would wipe his Church’s filthy sandals on us, if we might but help to make her pure; we would hold the stirrup for him to mount any day, ay, and be his horsing-block that he might mount his glorious charger, and ride forth conquering and to conquer. Say, what mattereth it what we are, or where we are, if the King have his own?

     If we love Christ, again, we shall be desiring to promote his cause, and we shall be desiring to promote it ourselves. We shall wish to see the strength of the mighty turned at the gate, that King Jesus may return triumphant; we shall not wish to sit still while our brethren go to war, but we shall want to take our portion in the fray, that like soldiers that love their monarch, we may prove by our wounds and by our sufferings that our love is real. The apostle says, “Let us not love in word only but in deed and in truth.” Actions speak louder than words, and we shall always be anxious to tell our love in deeds as well as by our lips. The true disciple asks continually, “Lord what wilt thou have me to do?” He esteems it his highest honour to serve the Lord. “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.”

“There’s not a lamb in all the flock,
I would disdain to feed;
There's not a foe before whose face
I fear thy cause to plead.
Would not my ardent spirit vie
With angels round thy throne,
To execute thy sacred will
And make thy glory known?”

     Yes, indeed, we thus can sing, and mean, I trust, every word; yea, will go forth into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature. We will tell of this love to all, and labour to win for the Master’s honour a multitude which no man can number out of every nation, and kindred, and tribe, and tongue and people. I believe in an active love, a love which has hands to labour and feet to run, as well as a heart to feel, eyes to glance, and ears to listen. A mother’s love is of the purest and intensest sort in the world, and it is the most practical. It shows itself in deeds of untiring devotion both night and day. So also should it be with us; we should let our affections prompt us to life-long labour. The love of Christ should constrain us to live, and if needs be die to serve him. Heaven is the place of purest, holiest attachment to Christ; then we shall understand most about his love to us, and of all he has done to prove it, and the consequence will be that his servants shall serve him day and night in his holy temple. We are expecting a home in glory not of idleness, but of continual activity. It is written, “His servants shall serve him,” and we are taught to pray now that we may do his will on earth as it is done in heaven. Let us, therefore, each one, be busily engaged in the great harvest-field. The harvest is great and the labourers are few. There is room for all, and each man’s place is waiting to receive him. If we truly love our Lord, we shall at once press to the front and begin the “work of faith and labour of love.” Has not the Master been wont to show his love to us in deeds? Look to Bethlehem, to Gabbatha, to Gethsemane, to Golgotha; yea, look to his whole life as he “went about doing good,” and see if all this will not stir you up to service. Listen to the life-story of the Lord, and you will hear a voice from each one of his deeds of love saying to you, “Go thou and do likewise.”

     And, once again, if we love Jesus we shall be willing to suffer for him. Pain will become light; we shall sing with Madame Guyon

“To me ’tis equal whether love ordain my life or death,
Appoint me ease, or pain.”

It is a high attainment to come to, but love can make us think ourselves of so small import that if Christ can serve himself of us, we shall make no choice as to what, or where we may be. We can sing once more —

“Would not my heart pour forth its blood
In honour of thy name,
And challenge the cold hand of death
To damp this immortal flame?”

 

 Our hearts are, I trust, so full of real devotion to Christ, that we can give him everything, and endure all things for his sake. Cannot we say —

“For him I count as gain each loss,
Disgrace for him renown,
Well may I glory in his cross,
While he prepares my crown.”

Darkness is light about us if we can serve him there. The bitter is sweet if the cup is put to our lips in order that we may share in his sufferings, and prove ourselves to be his followers. When Ignatius was led to his martyrdom, as he contemplated the nearness of his death and suffering, he said, “Now I begin to be a Christian;” he felt that all that he had done and suffered before was not enough to entitle him to be called a follower of Christ, but now as the Master’s bloody baptism was before him, he realised the truth so dear to every right-minded Christian, that he was to be “like unto his Lord.” Here we can all prove our love, we can suffer his will calmly if we are not able to do it publicly.

“Weak as I am, yet through thy love,
I all things can perform;
And, smiling, triumph in thy name
Amid the raging storm.”

 I pray God we may have such a love moreover as thirsts after Jesus, which cannot be satisfied without present communion with him.

     II. This brings me to the thought, which I shall only touch upon as the swallow skims the brook with his wing, and then up and away, lest I weary you; the second point of consideration is the DESIRE OF THE CHURCH AFTER CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD:, having called him by his title, she now expresses her longing to be with him. “Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon.”

     The desire of a renewed soul is to find out Christ and to be with him. Stale meats left over from yesterday ay are very well when there is nothing else, but who does not like hot food fresh from the fire? And past communion with Christ is very well. “I remember thee from the land of the Hermonites and the hill Mizar;” but these are only stale meats, and a loving soul wants fresh food every day from the table of Christ, and you that have once had the kisses of his mouth, though you remember the past kisses with delight, yet want daily fresh tokens of his love. He that drinks of this water will never thirst again, it is true, except for this water, and he will so thirst for it, that he will be like Samuel Rutherford, who began to be out of heart with the buckets and to want to get right to the well-head that he might lie down and drink, and then, if he could have his fill, he would drink the well quite dry. But there is no hope of that, or rather no fear of it: the well can never be empty, for it rises as we drink.

     A true loving soul, then, wants present communion with Christ; so the question is, “Tell me where thou feedest? Where dost thou get thy comfort from, 0 Jesu? I will go there. Where do thy thoughts go? To thy cross? Dost thou look back to that? Then I will go there. Where thou feedest, there will I feed.”

     Or does this mean actively, instead of being in the passive or the neuter? Where dost thou feed thy flock? In thy house? I will go there, if I may find thee there. In private prayer? Then I will not be slack in that. In the Word? Then I will read it night and day. Tell me where thou feedest, for wherever thou standest as the shepherd, there will I be, for I want thee. I cannot be satisfied to be apart from thee. My soul hungers and thirsts to be with thee. She puts it again, “Where dost thou make thy flock to rest at noon,” for there is only rest in one place, where thou causest thy flock to rest at noon. That must be a grace-given rest, and only to be found in some one chosen place. Where is the shadow of that rock? It is very hot just now here in the middle of summer, when the sun is pouring down his glorious rays like bright but sharp arrows upon us, and we, that are condemned to live in this great wilderness of brown bricks and mortar, often recollect those glades where the woods grow thick, and where the waters leap from crag to crag down the hill side, and where the birds are singing among the birks. We delight to think of those leafy bowers where the sun cannot dart his rays, where, on some mossy bank, we may stretch ourselves to rest, or lave our weary limbs in some limpid stream; and this is just what the spouse is after. She feels the heat of the world’s sun, and she longs to be away from its cares and troubles that have furrowed and made brown her face till she looked as if she had been a busy keeper of the vineyards. She wants to get away to hold quiet communion with her Lord, for he is the brook where the weary may lave their wearied limbs; he is that sheltered nook, that shadow of the great rock in the weary land where his people may lie down and be at peace.

“Jesus, the very thought of thee,
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far thy face to see,
And in thy presence rest.
For those who find thee, find a bliss,
Nor tongue, nor pen can show,
The love of Jesus, what it is,
None but his loved ones know.”

     Now do you not want this to-night? Do not your souls want Christ to-night? My brothers, my sisters, there is something wrong with us if we can do without Christ. If we love him, we must want him. Our hearts ever say,

“Abide with me from morn till eve,
For without thee I cannot live;
Abide with me when night is nigh,
For without thee I dare not die.”

Yes, we cannot do without Christ; we must have him. “Give me Christ, or else I die,” is the cry of our souls. No wonder Mary Magdalene wept when she thought they had taken away her Lord, and she knew not where they had laid him. As the body suffers without food, so should we without Christ. As the fish perish out of water, so should we apart from Christ. I must quote another verse of a hymn, for really the sweet songsters of Israel have lavished all their best poesy, and very rightly so, to tell for us our love-tale concerning our Beloved. I am sure that our heart’s inner voice can set to sweetest music the words: —

“Oh that I could for ever sit
With Mary at the Master’s feet:
Be this my happy choice,
My only care, delight, and bliss,
My joy, my heaven on earth be this,
To hear the Bridegroom’s voice.”

Yes! to be with Jesus is heaven; anywhere on earth, or in the skies, all else is wilderness and desert. It is paradise to be with him; and heaven without Christ would be no heaven to me. My heart cannot rest away from him. To have no Christ would be a punishment greater than I could bear; I should wander, like another Cain, over the earth a fugitive and a vagabond. Verily there would be no peace for my soul. I am sure that the true wife, if her husband is called to go upon a journey, longeth ardently for his return. If he is gone to the wars, she dreads lest he should fall. How each letter comes perfumed to her when it tells of his love and constancy, and how she watches for the day when she shall clasp him in her arms once more. Oh, ye know that when ye were children, if ye were sent to school, how ye counted till the holidays came on. I had a little almanack, and marked out every day the night before, and so counted one day less till the time I should get home again, and so may you.

“May not a captive long his own dear land to see?
May not the pris’ner seek release from bondage to be free?”

Of course he may, and so may you, beloved, pant and sigh, as the hart panteth for the waterbrooks — for the comfortable enjoyment of the Lord Jesus Christ’s presence.

     III. THE ARGUMENT USED BY THE CHURCH.

     Here is the desire. Now, to close, she backs that up with an argument. She says, “Why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?” Thou hast plenty of companions-— why should I be turned aside? Why should I not be one? Let us talk it over. Why should I lose my Lord’s presence? But the devil tells me I am a great sinner. Ah! but it is all washed away, and gone for ever. That cannot separate me, for it does not exist. My sin is buried.

“Plung’d as in a shoreless sea —
Lost as in immensity.”

The devil tells me I am unworthy, and that is a reason. But I always was unworthy, and yet it was no reason why he should not love me at first, and therefore cannot be a reason why I should not have fellowship with him now. Why should I be left out? Now I am going to speak for the poorest here — I do not know where he is. I want to speak for you that have got the least faith; you that think yourselves the smallest in all Israel; you Mephibosheths that are lame in your feet, and yet sit at the king’s table; you poor despised Mordecais that sit at the king’s gate, yet cannot get inside the palace, I have this to say to you — Why should you be left there? Just try and reason. Why should I, Jesus, be left out in the cold, when the night comes on. No, there is a cot for the little one, as well as a bed for his bigger brother. Why should I be turned aside? I am equally bought with a price. I cost him, in order to save me, as much as the noblest of the saints: he bought them with blood; he could not buy me with less. I must have been loved as much, or else, seeing that I am of so little worth, I should not have been redeemed at all. If there be any difference, perhaps I am loved somewhat better. Is there not greater, better love shown in the choice of me than of some who are more worthy than I am? Why, then, should I be left out? 1 know if I have a child that is deformed and decrepid, I love it all the more: it seems as if I had a tenderer care for it. Then why should my heavenly Father be less kind to me than I should be to my offspring? Why should I be turned aside? He chose me: he cannot change in his choice. Why, then, should he cast me off. He knew what I was when he chose me; he cannot therefore find out any fresh reason for turning me aside. He foresaw I should misbehave myself, and vet he selected me. Well, then, there cannot be a reason why I should be left to fall away. Again, I ask, Why should I turn aside? I am a member of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones, and though I am less than the least of all his saints, yet he has said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee."’ Why should I turn aside? I have a promise all to myself. Has he not said, “I will not quench the smoking flax, nor break the bruised reed”? Has he not said, “The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him; in them that hope in his mercy”? If I cannot do more, I can do that. I do hope in his mercy; then why should I be turned aside? If any should think of doing so, it should not be I, for I want to be near him; I am such a poor plant that I ought to be kept in the sun: I shall never do in the shade. My big brother, perhaps, may manage for a little time without comfort, but I cannot, for I am one of the Ready-to-Halts. I recollect how the shepherds of Mount Clear said, “Come in, Mr. Little Faith; Come in, Mr. Feeble Mind; Come in, Mr. Ready-to-Halt; Come in, Mary;” but they did not say, “Come in, Father Faithful; Come in, Matthew; Come in, Valiant for-Truth.” No, they said these might do as they liked; they were quite sure to take their own part; but they looked first to the feeblest. Then why should I be turned aside? I am the feeblest, and want his person most. I may use my very feebleness and proneness to fall as the reason why I should come to him. Why should I be turned aside? I may fall into sin. My heart may grow cold without his glorious presence; and then, what if I should perish! Why, here let me bethink myself. If I am the meanest lamb in his flock I cannot perish without doing the God of heaven a damage. Let me say it. again with reverence. If I, the least of his children, perish, I shall do his Son dishonour, for what will the arch-fiend say? “Aha,” saith he, “thou Surety of the Covenant, thou couldst keep the strong, but thou couldst not keep the weak: I have this lamb here in the pit whom thou couldst not preserve. Here is one of thy crown-jewels,” saith he, “and though it be none of the brightest, though it be not the most sparkling ruby in thy coronet, yet it is one of thy jewels, and I have it here. Thou hast no perfect regalia: I have a part of it here.” Shall that ever be, after Christ has said, “They shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand”? Shall this be, when the strong arm of God is engaged for my succour, and he has said to me, “The Eternal God is thy refuge; and underneath are the everlasting arms?” Jesus, turn me not aside, lest by my fall I grieve thy Spirit, and lest by my fall I bring disgrace upon thy name.

     Why should I turn aside? There is no reason why I should. Come my soul, there are a thousand reasons why thou shouldest not. Jesus beckons thee to come. Ye wounded saints, ye that have slipped to your falling, you that are grieved, sorrowing, and distressed, come to his cross, come to his throne again. Backsliders, if ye have been such, return! return! return! A husband’s heart has no door to keep out his spouse, and Jesus’ heart has no power to keep out his people. Return! return! There is no divorce sued out against you, for the Lord, the God of Jacob saith, “He hateth putting away.” Return! return! Let us get to our chambers, let us seek renewed fellowship; and, oh, you that have never had it, and have never seen Christ, may you thirst after him to-night, and if you do, remember the text I gave you, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Whosoever thou mayest be, if thou wilt come to Jesus, he will not cast thee out.

“Come, and welcome sinner, come.”

     God bring thee for Jesus sake. Amen.

*Song of Solomon



Two Loving Invitations

By / Jun 22

Two Loving Invitations

 

“Come and see.” — John 1:39.
“Come and dine.” — -John 21:12.

 

THE one text is in the beginning, and the other at the end of John’s gospel. There is a mystery here. Here is typified a growth which it were well for us to understand. “Come and see,” is for babes in grace: “Come and dine,” is for strong men in Christ Jesus. We must notice the order. “Come and see,” is the beginning of spiritual life, as it is the beginning of this gospel. “Come and dine,” is a high after-privilege of the spiritual life, and a blessed result of it. “Come and see,” this is the gospel’s cry to those outside its pale; it has nothing to conceal, it wears no mask, it has no most holy place into which entrance is forbidden; it has a “sanctum sanctorum,” but the way into it is open. Open and above-board in all its doings, the Truth as it is in Jesus bares its bosom secrets, and cries to every passer-by, “Come and see.” The seals of the book are broken, the darkness is rolled away, the vision is open, and with clarion note the invitation is issued, “Come and see.” Romanism may conceal its worship under the Latin tongue; difficult phraseology and polished periods may hide from the multitude the teaching of professed Protestants, but the true preacher of Christ declares, “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified; and my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” The shutters of every window are turned back, the keys put into every lock, and every door is thrown wide open. Investigation is courted upon every point; the gospel stands at her door, and says, “Come in hither, come and see.”

     You have this short sentence, “Come and see,” as, first of all, an encouragement to enquiry's. Many of you are like John’s disciples; they had heard John preach, and they believed his Word, and when they saw Christ to whom John pointed, they followed him, but not knowing him, they followed him with a question upon the tip of their tongues; “Master, where dwellest thou?” He said, “Come and see.” You also are anxious to know Christ. You have heard his word preached by some of his witnesses, and you want to know him personally for yourselves. You have a pressing question to put to-night, and Jesus encourages you to ask, nay, to come, and get your own answer with your own eye. “Come,” saith he, “Come and see.”

     There are three ways, I think, by which persons are to “Come and see.” One is by observation. We ought to give attention to the teaching of the gospel, to weigh it and prove it, if it be found false, to cast it away with decision; but if it be found worthy of our attention, to hold it fast, and never let it go. Many persons are careless; they will consider the last new novel, or they have been clamouring to get the “Life of Julius Caesar,” to see what the Emperor of the French can have to say upon that subject; but concerning Christ crucified they have no curiosity. They frequent their place of worship without feeling enough interest in the affair to ask themselves why they go. They do not expect to understand what they hear, or if they understand it, they care not whether the thing be true or not; it is nothing to them that Jesus should die. Now, surely, a theme which involves eternal consequences, a matter which deals with my immortal spirit, ought not to be put into the background, and left to careless inadvertence. I ought, at least, to give it something like the consideration which it claims at my hands. But some look at it through coloured spectacles. They are prejudiced against the gospel; they do observe it, they say, but their observation is tinctured by themselves, and by their own character. Some persons make up their minds as to what the gospel ought to be before they try to find out what it is. They do not come to the Bible, nor to the hearing of the Word in order to discover what truth is; but they sit down, and dream, and fashion in their own minds just such a sort of concoction as they imagine gospel truth should be, and everything which is contrary to this they will kick against, like the foolish ox which kicks against the goad. It would be no use for me, in astronomy, to make an hypothesis, and then go out with a telescope, and say, “That star ought not to be where it is. According to my theory, Jupiter ought not to have moved as he has moved, and therefore I do not believe in Jupiter, nor in the stars, for I do not like their goings on.” Who but madmen talk thus. I must always shape my views to facts, and regarding the Bible as the great storehouse of facts, I must take care that I go to it with a candid and unbiassed judgment. May God help me so to do. To find out what truth is, “Come and see,” but ask God to open your eyes that you may behold the wondrous things which are written in his law.

     Does any one enquire how he can come and see in the matter of observation? We invite you, dear friends, to a diligent reading of Holy Scripture, as one means of seeing. The worst-read book in England is that Bible. People read a verse of it, or half a chapter in the morning, and think they understand it. Suppose any one were to read a poet in that way. Let the world’s favoured poet, Shakspeare, be treated in such a style as that, and what man could ever appreciate his beauties? If you get a poet, say Cowper, you read “The Task” through. You do not think of snatching a line or two here and there; if you did, you would be like the Greek pedant, who carried a brick about as a specimen of a house which he had for sale. If you read Young’s “Night Thoughts,” it is true that there almost every line is noteworthy, and is as finished as a distinct proposition; but still he who would appreciate the beauties of Young must read the “Night Thoughts” through, or, at least, read a book at a time. Yet there are thousands of you who never did read one of the gospels through, never read one of the epistles through with a studious mind, desiring to catch the drift, and to understand the sense; and do you dream you will ever know what the Bible teaches by just recalling a portion here, and a portion there? Impossible! Absurd! If you have any care to “Come and see,” read the Bible in a common-sense way, and sit down with the determination that, as far as the human mind can find out what God means, you will know what he has revealed concerning his Son. I am not afraid of what the consequences will be, if you do that. If, moreover, you seek the aid of the Divine Spirit, your search cannot be in vain. You shall see Jesus, and rejoice in his great salvation.

     Then, next, I earnestly desire you to hear the gospel as well as read it, only take care that what you hear is the gospel. It is very easy to find divines of flowery speech, and flowing tongue, from whom, in a course of seven years, you would probably learn nothing whatever of the doctrines of the covenant of grace. It has been said, that if you were to hear a lecturer on geology or astronomy deliver some twelve or thirteen lectures, you would be able to pick up a pretty clear idea of the system of geology or astronomy, which the lecturer meant to teach; but I avow and protest, and will prove it by sermons printed by sundry authors, that you might hear thirteen thousand sermons of some men without knowing what system of Divinity they taught, if, indeed, they have any system of Divinity at all. What do you go to God’s house for? Is it to have your ears tickled? Do you go to the place of worship that you may admire the eloquence of man? Go to your theatre or your senate if this be your errand; such places are the legitimate arena for display; but come not to God’s house for that. There we should resort to learn to pray, we should come that we may, in the words of our text, “see;” see ourselves, and better still, see the Lord Jesus. This should be the first enquiry as we go up the steps into the place of meeting; “Sirs, we would see Jesus;” and if Jesus is not to be seen there, no matter how brilliant the display of fireworks with which the sermonizer may indulge you; that is not the proper place in which to spend the precious hours of the Sabbath day. We would see Jesus, we would know what we must do to be saved. Observe then, observe carefully, keep your eyes open, not only to the world of nature, but to the Book of God, and the lives of his people, and thus “Come and see.”

     Truly, enquirer, there is a better way of coming and seeing, and that is by believing. If thou canst at once believe God’s Word, thou shalt see far better than if thou art merely a seeker, and, surely, the revelation of God in Christ, may well demand thine implicit faith. See how true others have found it. If the proposition be, can Christ forgive sin? hear what others say who can sing of pardon bought with blood, and of promises applied to their souls with power, breathing peace and pardon to their hearts. Do you remember your mother? Do you recollect the glitter of her eye in death’s dark hour? Do you remember how she bore her dying testimony, that all that God had said concerning Christ was true, that he was able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by him? She was no woman given to deception. If I remember rightly, you can say of her that she was a common-sense, shrewd woman, not easily to be deceived, and yet in that last article of death, when every sham comes crumbling down, and all that is mere paint and tinsel is broken and dashed away, she found the solidity of her hopes, and rejoiced therein. You have other friends. In business they are not second-rate men; with regard to matters of common sense you would trust them as well as any that you know; they are not hot-headed and enthusiastic, likely to be carried away by a multitude, after some harebrained prophet; and yet steadily and solemnly they tell you that Christ has given them new hearts, and right spirits, that he has changed their lives, that he has given them a peace and a joy they never knew before. They tell you that they have answers to prayer, that whenever they spread their case before God, their heavenly Father hears them, and sends them speedy relief; they tell you that they find in religion a spring of moral action, such as was never found in the mere precepts and teachings of law and conscience. Now believe these men. If they were the worst men in the neighbourhood, if they were the felons and rogues of trade, I would recommend you not to believe them, but since they are the best in the world, and rank high in your esteem, at least trust them so far as to come yourself to a candid observation of these things, and believe that at least there is some truth in them. I would to God, dear friends, that you would believe these things to be true concerning Christ’s ability to save, because you have God’s Word for it, and if you ask me how I know it is God’s Word, I can take you in vision to Nineveh. See the excavated cities, and palaces, the winged bulls and lions buried in the rubbish, all which tell us that that Book which spake of them, when they were not discovered, must have a high antiquity, and the volume which, written in the times of their glory, yet told of their tremendous fall, must have had an inspiration in it, not belonging to common books. The best proof of this inspiration is, perhaps, to be found in this, that we know that God wrote another book, the book of nature, and that as the two works of one author are quite sure to exhibit some common points in which you may find out the author’s idioms, so every student of nature and revelation has been able to say that the two volumes bear marks of the same writer, and the more they have studied both books, the more they have said, “ We find the self-same God in the one as in the other.” The God of nature is kind and good, so is the God of revelation. The God of nature is the terrible God of the avalanche and thunderbolt, the tempest and the whirlwind, and the God of this book is terrible out of his holy place when lie comes to judge the sons of men. We find that the very same imprimatur which is set upon the book of nature, is also stamped upon the book of God. We should be glad therefore if you could believe this, and believing this you would soon “come and see;” for mark you, the best way of knowing about Christ is to try him, to experience him, and since you want to know if he can forgive sins, trust him to forgive yours. You want to know if he can change the human heart; trust him to change yours. You long to know if there be a peace that passeth all understanding, which will still the throbs of your guilty heart; try him and see. You pant to learn if there be a joy which can gild your darkest hours with sunlight, and make the dreary passage through the shades of death to be full of life and hope; try him and see. We are not afraid to stake all upon the trial. I will cheerfully be bondsman for my Lord and Master. If there can be a soul that doth sincerely trust him, that shall not find even in this life salvation, and in the world to come eternal joy, then I am content to be deceived, or content to suffer the deceiver’s doom. Beloved, if we only promised you something to be had in the next world, you could not make the test at once; but that which we hold out to you is present salvation. It is not some future joy merely, but present joy. Oh, if you trust Jesus Christ, you shall “Come and see” that sin is mastered as well as pardoned, that the guilty conscience is pacified for ever, and that your joy and peace can begin this side the grave. Enquirer, “Come and see.” Oh, pass not by; neglect not the exhibition of divine love and grace; but “Come,” oh, “come and see.” May the Holy Spirit bring you for his name’s sake.

     Very hurriedly let me notice the next point. I think this invitation may be well addressed to every beginner in the school of Christ, as well as to every enquirer. We ought not to be satisfied with merely being saved. As soon as ever we are saved, as we are the moment we believe in Christ, our next business is to learn more of Christ. You want to know the doctrines, dear friends. It is well to be thoroughly established in the faith. “Come and see:” search the Scriptures; see what God has revealed, and be established in his divine truth. Every precept as well as every doctrine cries to you, “Come and see.” Every promise says, “Come and see,” do not run short of promises. It is bad when a man is out of money; and the Christian when he is without a promise in his hand, is somewhat like a person without ready money in his purse. Study the promises. “Come and see.” As to experience, too, the Lord says, “Come and see.” Do not talk of Tabor’s height, as though you could never climb it. From the top of it there comes a voice, “Come and see.” Do not speak of Pisgah, as though your feet might never tread its consecrated summit. The voice saith, “Come and see.” If there be any point of communion, or height of fellowship as yet unreached by you, there peals forth from its excellent glory the endearing exhortation, “Come and see.” No bound is set about the mount of God; no fiery wall conceals the secret of the Eternal. “The Spirit of the Lord is with them that fear him; he will show them his covenant;” for all revelation cries with one voice, “Come and see.”

     Methinks, this is the cry of the gospel to every sinner, “Come and see.” Perhaps it is easier to use the eye than any other organ except the ear. This I know, it is more pleasing to use the eye than the ear. You can keep a set of children as happy as the birds of the air, with a picture book, when they would probably go to sleep if you were to talk to them. The eye has the greatest power of conferring pleasure. Whether it conveys truth to the heart more rapidly than the ear does, I cannot say. At any rate, it does so most pleasingly, and for this reason among others Christ bids us to use the eye. He hangs upon his cross before you, and cries, “Come and see;” and he adds this promise, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth.”

     What is there to see? God made flesh. He that made the heavens, veiling himself in manhood. Is not this something? God came down to thee, poor sinner, that he might take thee up to himself. What is there to see? There is the Son of God bleeding for human sin. His griefs are such that no tongue can tell them, and no pen can write them; but they are not for himself, for in him is no sin. “Come and see,” for if you see the griefs of Jesus, and take them to be your trust, you shall be saved. “Come and see.” Do you ask what there is to see? This same Jesus rises from the tomb. He could not have risen if he had not been God, or if he had not completed the great work of his people’s redemption. He ascends; the clouds receive him; up there in heaven he stands pleading for sinners, pleading for us, and “he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” “Come and see.” “Come and see.”

     I am often asked, “Sir, how can I get faith?” I believe that faith comes from Christ, and is his gift to sinners. Sit down in your chamber to-night when you get home, you that want to believe, and just think over this, — God made flesh! If you will think of that, I pray the Holy Ghost visit you, and then the thought will strike you: “That is wonderful! Who could have dreamed of it? God suffering instead of man, that the justice of God might be fully satisfied, and the mercy of God might have full scope!” While you are thinking of this wonder, and picturing the wounds, and looking to the blood, and thinking that you almost hear the droppings of the blood upon the Mount of Calvary, methinks you will, you scarce know how, find yourself ready to sing —

“I do believe — I will believe
That Jesus died for me;
And on the cross he shed his blood
From sin to set me free.”

You cannot make yourself believe. Faith is the gift of God, and the work of the Holy Spirit, but it comes through hearing, and hearing is principally blessed to the working of faith, because it gives you a sight of Christ in meditation, and, as some say, “seeing is believing.” Certainly such a sight as hearing gives is often made the channel by which the soul believes in Christ. “Come and see,” Oh thou wordling. Turn thine eyes hither, and see the Saviour die. Mayhap the spectacle will cool your hot blood, and drive away your fever of worldliness and care. Oh! ye giddy, careless men and women, look hither, and see your Redeemer bleed; possibly you may be sobered by the sight. Oh young men and maidens, in your early youth, since ye may soon feel the arrows of death, look here, and make your immortality secure. Ye grey-headed ones who have lost your vigour, and spent your strength in sin, yet may the Holy Ghost bring you: “Come and see.” Oh, that there is mercy yet, “Come and see.” The great sight is not withdrawn: it is no dissolving view that melts away: it is no burning bush from which you are bidden to keep off by the words, “Draw not nigh hither;” but here, over the cross, hangs the motto, and from the mount of Calvary rings the silvery trumpet-note, “Come and see, Come and see.”

“There is life in a look at the Crucified One;
There is life at this moment for thee.”

     II. The second text is, “COME AND DINE.” That is better; that is closer, nearer, dearer, more substantial than “Come and see:" that may be done at a distance, though “come” seems to invite us to make the distance less. But, " Come and dine” — that implies the same table, the same meat; ay, and sometimes it means to sit side by side, and lean our head upon the Saviour’s bosom. Here is nearness familiar and domestic — “Come and dine.” Understand that while we are sinners faith brings us into a justified state by simply looking to Christ, though the soul has had no enjoyment of him; but after believing, faith then assists us really to enjoy Christ. I know some of you are wishing and expecting to enjoy Christ first, and believe him afterwards. I would correct your error. You must take God’s mercies in their order and season; and you will not find “Come and dine” in the first chapter of John — there it is, “Come and see.” Believe Jesus first, and you shall feed on him afterwards. Certain of you seem to me to be content to believe Christ, and to say, 441 am safe,” without wishing to know the blessed enjoyment which is to be found in him. It should not be so. You are not to be content with the first chapter of John; but go on to the last, and be not satisfied so long as there is a “yet” beyond. If you have seen Christ; if you have touched Christ; if you have put your finger into the print of the nails, be not satisfied till you know the meaning of the text, 44 Except a man eat my flesh and drink my blood, there is no life in him.” 44 Come and dine,” then, implies greater enjoyment than 44 Come and see.” “Come and see” gives peace, but 44 Come and dine” gives ecstasy, rapture — what shall I call it? It gives heaven on earth, for it gives Christ. “Come and dine” must be experimentally understood before you can read the Book of Solomon’s Song with profit. “ Come and see” can read the evangelists; " Come and see” can read many of the epistles; “Come and see” may wander delightfully through the Book of Psalms; “ Come and see” may enrich itself with Proverbs; but the tree of life, which is in the midst of the garden — that is, the Book of Canticles — is not to be eaten of except by those who have heard the Master say, “Come and dine.” I would to God that all the Lord’s people were not merely delivered from the chains of sin and washed in the Saviour’s blood, but brought into the banqueting-house, where waves the banner of redeeming love. There is more enjoyment, then, in the one than in the other, and there is also more nearness. When I first believed in Christ I felt a distance between myself and him, and the only nearness that I could get to was to lay my hand upon his head and confess my sin; but I hope some of us, after a few years of believing, know what it is to sit at his feet with Mary, to lean upon his bosom with John — ay, and to say with the spouse, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for his love is better than wine.” O beloved, there is a nearness to Christ which the worldling can only laugh at if he should hear us talk of it. Read " Rutherford’s Letters,” and you get a glimpse of what it is to dine with Christ. Turn to “Hawker’s Morning and Evening Portions;” or even, if you will, wander amidst the quaint rhymes and sweet poetry of dear George Herbert: there you have “Come and dine” carried out in sweetest poesy. Oh, to get so close to Christ, that you can sing with a modern hymn-writer —

“So near, so very near to God,
I cannot nearer be;
For in the person of his Son
I am as near as he! 

So dear, so very dear to God,
I cannot dearer be;
The love wherewith he loves his
Son Such is his love to me!

This is a high attainment, but rest not satisfied till you have gained it.

     Yet, once more, “Come and dine” gives us a vision of union with Jesus, because the only meat that we can eat when we dine with Christ is himself. We do not provide the supper. When he dined on that occasion with his disciples, Peter dragged a net full of fishes out of the sea; but when they came on shore they found a fire ready kindled, and fish laid thereon, so that the fish they ate did not come out of that sea by their net, at any rate. Christ found the fish and lit the fire and found the bread, and then said, “Come and dine.” Ah! and the fire that warms our heart when we have fellowship with him comes from himself, and the fish that we eat is his own, and the wine that we drink flows from his own heart. Oh, what union is this! It is a depth that reason cannot fathom, that we eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ. Here we stand and look, and look, and look, and though the water is clear as crystal, like the sea of glass before the throne of God, yet to the bottom o fit angelic ken can never reach. One with Jesus — by eternal union one. What does this mean, believer?

“One when he died; one when he rose;
One when he triumphed o’er his foes;
One when in heaven he took his seat,
And angels sang of Hell’s defeat.”

Canst thou comprehend it?

“This covenant stands secure,
Though earth’s old columns bow;
The strong, the feeble, and the weak
Are one in Jesus now.”

“Oh, sacred union, firm and strong,
How great the grace, how sweet the song,
That worms of earth should ever be
One with incarnate Deity!”

And yet it is so; and he that has listened to the Saviour’s voice, “Come and dine,” knows it to be so, and rejoices therein.

     In this also you find an invitation to enjoy fellowship with the saints. You are not to eat your morsel alone but in company. We sit down in heaven with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, at the marriage supper of the Lamb, and no small part of the hereafter bliss is connected with the fellowship which exists amongst the saints in glory. So also with our present feasting on the fat things full of marrow which Christ spreads before his chosen ones. We enjoy the company as well as the feast, and find our happiness augmented by the society of kindred minds. The Supper of the Lord is the table of communion, not only with the Master, but also with all who love him in sincerity and truth. One of the surest ways of introducing discord into the midst of a Church is for the minister to starve the people. Hungry men are sure to be quarrelsome, and, on the contrary, to unite a flock in closest bonds of love, let the minister say, “Come and dine;” and then put before them the finest of the wheat, honey out of the rock, and wine upon the lees well refined. If you would have sweetest fellowship with each other, live on Christ, enter into the banquetting house, sit beneath the banner of love, and you will find that sacred commingling of spirit with spirit which will prove that you are one in Christ Jesus. Christians may differ on a variety of points, they may not see eye to eye on this thing and on that, but they have all one spiritual appetite, and if we cannot all feel alike, we can all feed alike on the bread of life sent down from heaven. Get nearer to Christ and eat of his flesh and drink of his blood, and you will find yourself linked more and more in spirit to all who are like yourself, supported by the same heavenly manna. We do not expect to see all Christians agreeing, but we are sure that one of the most likely plans for cultivating a brotherly spirit is to listen to Christ’s words, “Come and dine.”

     We see in these words the source of strength for every Christian. To look at Christ is to live, but for strength to serve him you must come and dine. When our Lord had raised the daughter of Jairus, he commanded them to give her meat so that she might be strengthened; and so he says to all of us, “Come and dine.” We as need much food for the soul as for the body, and unless we eat we shall be fainting by the way. Are there not many Christians who allow themselves to suffer a great deal of unnecessary weakness on account of neglecting this precept of the Master? I hold that we are bound to lift up the feeble knees and drooping hands, and in order to do this, we must live by faith on the Son of God, and listen to his voice as he says, “Eat, oh my friends, yea, drink oh my beloved.” If you want to be as Mr. Feeblemind, I can give you the receipt. Take only a small modicum of spiritual food morning and night in your closets; neglect family prayer; never attend a prayer-meeting; on no account speak about religious matters during the week, go late to the house of God, and fall asleep when you get there; as soon as you leave the place of worship talk about the weather. Confine yourself to these rules for a few weeks, and you will very soon be reduced low enough to allow Satan to attack you with every chance of giving you a severe and dangerous fall. Doctors tell us that now-a-days the classes of disease most prevalent are those which indicate a low condition of the vital forces; and I think that we are suffering in the Church from the same sort of maladies. You never hear of any one who is too zealous, too rash in venturing himself for Christ. There was a time when the Church had to censure her young converts because they courted persecution and invited martyrdom, now we need to stir up the Church and to urge on our people to more self-sacrifice for the cause of Christ. You need never fear that any one will kill himself with over work; we must rather lament that there seems so little exuberance of spirit and vital force amongst Christians. We none of us need to put ourselves on low diet; on the contrary, we ought to accumulate strength and urge every power to its full tension in the Master’s service. For this purpose, “Come and dine.” All your strength depends upon union with Christ. Away from him you must wither as a branch severed from the vine. Feeding on him, you will be like the branch which is drinking up the sap from the parent stem; you will be strong enough to bring forth fruit, and fill your post among the other members of the one great band of Christians.

     We can see, moreover, in these words, the foundation of the Christian’s growth and progress in spiritual things. To see Christ is to begin the Christian’s life, but to grow in grace we must “Come and dine.” The early history of the first disciples is by no means satisfactory. They were evidently only babes in spiritual things. How little they seemed to comprehend the Saviour’s mission; he has to say, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me Philip?” They misunderstood the nature of his kingdom, and were continually displaying a carnal and selfish spirit. It is evident that the early dawn of spiritual life is all they had then received. They had seen Jesus, they loved him and followed him even unto trial and disgrace, but yet they wore far from possessing the spirit of Christ. Now after they had reached this stage of living on Christ they became new men. It is no longer mere sight, but an inward appropriation of Christ Jesus by faith, and the consequences are manifest; they are seen developing themselves under the blessed outpouring of the Holy Ghost into workmen that needed not to be ashamed. They endured hardness as good soldiers of the cross. They fought a good fight, and they finished their course with joy. A higher order of life is clearly theirs. They have risen in the scale of spiritual existence. A clearer light shines around them, and they have manifestly grown in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Beloved, we long for your edification, we covet for you the best gifts, and therefore we say, “Come and dine.” Many Christians remain stunted and dwarfed in spiritual things, so as to present the same appearance year after year. No upspringing of thought and feeling is manifest in them. They exist but do not grow. The reason is evident, they are not taking of Christ, and they neglect to appropriate to themselves the blessing which he is waiting to bestow. Why should you rest content with being in the tender green blade, when you can go on and reach the ear and eventually the full corn in the ear? I would that all God’s servants were more in earnest to develope that good thing which has been implanted in them by the Holy Ghost. It is all very well to keep other men’s vineyards, but you must not neglect your own. Why should it ever be winter time in our hearts. We must have our seed time, it is true, but oh for a spring time — yea, a summer geason, which shall give promise of an early harvest. Now, if you would ripen in grace you must live near Christ — in his presence — basking in the sunshine of his smiles. You must hold sweet communion with him. You must leave the distant view of his face and come near, as did John, and pillow your head on his breast. Then you will find yourself advancing in holiness, in love, in faith, in hope — yea, in every godly gift. What a joy it is to see men daily living on Christ. You may watch them grow, as you have watched the flowers and trees in the gardens expanding under the genial showers and sunshine of the last few weeks. It robs a deathbed of its terrors to see the aged Christian rapidly preparing for glory, but I would rather the man grew before he was about to be taken from us, so that we might be the better for his expanded graces, and enjoy his beauty of holiness a few years here on earth. We do not grudge the saints in glory anything, but it would be a mercy to us if Christians would try and get as much of perfection and maturity as possible a few years sooner, so as to gladden our eyes with some bright blossoms, as well as the sombre green blades. It is all very well, the fresh verdure in early spring, but I like also the russet hues of autumn, and the rich clusters of the vintage, with the songs of the reaper and the shout of "harvest home.” The golden grain is a goodly and pleasant thing to see, as the field waves in the autumn breeze. So, also, I like to mark maturity in Christ’s fields, as well as in the earthly ones. It is a glorious sight, an experienced saint; a man who has been much with Jesus, and learned of him ; who has caught the Master’s spirit, and reflects it brightly to all around.

     As the sun rises first on mountain-tops and gilds them with his light, and presents one of the most charming sights to the eye of the traveller, so is it one of the most delightful contemplations in the world to mark the glow of the Spirit’s light on the head of some saint, who has risen up in spiritual stature, like Saul, above his fellows, till, like some mighty alp, snow-capped, he reflects first of all the beams of the Sun of righteousness, and bears the sheen of his effulgence high aloft for all to see, and seeing it, to glorify his father which is in heaven. That you may thus grow in grace, listen to the Master’s voice — “Come and dine.”

     We notice one more thought, and then must conclude.

     Here is preparation for service. “Come and dine,” says the Master; but before the feast is concluded, he says to Peter, “Feed my lambs;” and again, “Feed my sheep;” further adding, “Follow me.” All the strength supplied by Christ is for service, and for use in his vineyard. When the prophet Elijah found the cake baked on the coals, and the cruise of water placed at his head, as he lay under the juniper tree, he had a commission to go forty days and forty nights in the strength of it, journeying towards Horeb, the mount of God. So also with us; we eat so as to be able to expend our strength in the Master’s service. We come to the passover, and eat of our paschal lamb with loins girt, and with our staff in our hand, so as to start off at once when we have satisfied our spirits. Some Christians are for living on Christ, but are not so anxious to live for Christ. Now I rejoice to know that I can spend and be spent for the Lord, and I find in that labour for Christ that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” I never feel so like to the Master as when I go about trying to do good. Heaven is the place where saints feast most and work most. They sit down at the table of our Lord, and they serve him day and night in his temple. They eat of heavenly food and render perfect service. Now, earth should be a preparation for heaven; come and dine, and then go and labour. Freely ye receive, freely give; gather up all the fragments of your feast, and go and carry it to Lazarus at the gate; yea, rather carry the Loaves and fishes to others, as did the disciples, when the Lord had multiplied their little store, to satisfy the thousands who were famishing for want of food. We have yet to learn more concerning the design of our Lord in giving us his grace. We are not to hold the precious grains of truth like a mummy does the wheat, for ages, without giving it a chance of growing. No, feed yourself, and then go forth and bid others come and eat and drink; go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that there may be many more rejoicing with you in the light and life of Christ. Why does the Lord send down the rain upon the thirsty earth, and give the sunshine and the genial refreshing breeze? Is it not that these may all help the fruits of the earth to yield food for man and beast? Even so the Lord calls us in to enjoyment and feasting, that we may afterwards go out to labour and service. My dear hearers, I ever seek to see you fruitful in all good works, to do his will who provides for us all things richly to enjoy. You are aware that herein is our Father glorified; if we bring forth much fruit, so shall we be his disciples. Eat, then; spare not; you are welcome to as much as you can consume, but when you have eaten the fat, and drunk of the sweet, go and tell of it to sinners round, that the starving may come and find “wine and milk, without money and without price.” You are to preach the gospel o every creature — proclaim the good news of water from the rock Christ Jesus, which flows in the midst of the world's wilderness, so that all may drink and live, Tell of the finest of the wheat on which you have feasted. Bid the prodigal leave the husks which the swine do eat and return to the father’s house, there to eat of the fatted calf, and feast at the parental board. Tell them there is room in the Saviour’s heart, and never cease till you can no longer speak, proclaiming his matchless love and power, and his willingness to say to all, “Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” “Come and dine.”

     I send you away, however, wishing to make the first part of the sermon the more telling to most of you — “Come and see.” You are black, but blackness does not blind the eye. Your righteousness is nothing better than filthy rags, but the most ragged beggar may look. Our queer old proverb says, “A cat may look at a king,” and the blackest sinner out of hell may look at Christ; and though he had sin well nigh as devilish as that of Lucifer, yet, looking to Christ, all manner of sin and of iniquity shall be forgiven him. Look, sinner — look! May the Holy Spirit now open that eye of thine, and turn it to the Saviour’s cross, and make thee live! May the best of heaven’s blessings be yours to-night and in eternity! Amen and Amen.



Consider Before You Fight

By / Jun 22

Consider Before You Fight

 

“What king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace.”—Luke 14:31-32.

 

EVERY sensible man endeavours to adapt his purposes to his strength. He does not begin to build a house which he will not be able to finish, nor commence a war which he cannot hope to fight through. The religion of Christ is the most reasonable one in the world, and Jesus Christ never desires to have any disciples who shall blindly follow him without counting the cost. We always esteem it to be a happy thing when we can get men to sit down and consider. The most of you are so full of other thoughts, so occupied with the world, ever running hither and thither about your ordinary business, that we cannot get you to think, or calmly sit down, and soberly look at things as in the light of eternity, and weigh them deliberately as you ought. And yet it is only reasonable that the Master should ask of you to do for him with regard to your own spiritual matters, what you will admit that every sensible man does in his business continually. You are poor traders if you never have any stock-takings kings: you are likely to be ere long in the bankruptcy court if there is no periodical examination of accounts; and so Christ would have you sit down sometimes, and take stock, as to where you are, and what you are, and then to figure up by some sort of arithmetic by which you may come to a truthful calculation, what you are able to do, and what not to do, and what therefore it is reasonable for you to undertake, and what unreasonable, and where your position ought, and where it ought not to be. 

     I especially invite this evening, those who are unconverted in this assembly, to some few thoughts upon the war in which they are engaged with God, hoping that peradventure if they consider a little upon it, they will send an ambassage, and desire peace. When I have spoken upon that, there will be some, perhaps, who will be running away with the idea that they will at once be at peace with God, and make war with Satan; but I shall want to pin them down a moment, and make them estimate their chances of victory in such a war as that, and see whether they are able to meet the black prince of darkness in their own strength. We will try if we cannot make it to-night the subject of a little homely talk about our souls, and a little earnest personal consideration about our future.

     I. First, then, THERE ARE SOME HERE WHO ARE NOT THE FRIENDS OF GOD, and in this case he that is not with him is against him. 

     If you cannot look up to God, and say, “My Father,” and feel that your heart beats true to him, then remember it is a fact that you are his enemy. If you could have what you wish there would be no God. If it were in your power you would never trouble yourself again with thoughts of him. You would like to live, you say, as you list, and I know how you would list to live. It would be anyhow, rather than as God commands. Now, as you are engaged in antagonism with him, just think awhile—Can you expect to succeed? Are you likely to win the day? You have entered into a conflict with his law; you do not intend to keep it; with his day, you do not regard it; you are thus at war with God. Now, is it likely that you will be successful? Is there a chance for you? If there be, why then, perhaps, it may be as well to go on. If you can conquer him, if the battlements of glory may yet see the flag of sin waved triumphant there, why, man, then try it. There will be at least an ambition worthy of Satan who desired sooner to reign in hell than to be ruled by heaven. But is there any hope for you? Let me put a few things before you which may, perhaps, make you think the conflict too unequal and thus lead you to abandon the thought at once. 

     Think of God's stupendous power l What is there which he cannot do? We see but little of God's power comparatively in our land. Now and then there comes a crash of thunder in a storm, and we look up with amazement when he sets the heavens on a blaze with his lightning. But go, and do business on the deep waters; let your vessel fly before the howling hurricane; mark how every staunch timber seems to crack as though it were but match-board, and the steady mast goes by the board, and snaps, and is broken to shivers. Mark what God does when he stirs up the great deep, and seems to bring heaven down, and lift the earth up till the elements mingle in a common mass of tempest. Then go to the Alps, and listen to the thunder of the avalanche. Stand amazed, as you look down some grim precipice, or peer with awe-struck ck wonder into the blue mysteries of a crevasse; see the leaping cataracts, and mark those frozen seas, the glaciers, as they come sweeping down the mountain side; stay awhile till a storm shall gather there, and Alp shall talk to Alp, and those white prophetic heads shall seem to bow while the wings of tempest cover them! There you may learn something of the power of God amidst the crash of nature. If you could have stood by the side of Dr. Woolfe, when rising early one morning, he went out of Aleppo, and upon turning his head, saw that Aleppo was no more, it having been in a single moment swallowed up by an earthquake, then again you might see what God can do. But why need I feebly recapitulate what you all know so well? Think of what that Book records of his deeds of prowess, when he unloosed the depths, and bade the fountains of the great deep be broken up, that the whole world that then was, might be covered with water. Think of what he did at the Red Sea, when the depths stood upright as an heap for a time, while his people went through, and when afterwards with eager joy the floods clasped their hands, and buried the foemen in the deep, never to rise again! Let such names as Og, king of Bashan, Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Sennacherib, the mighty, rise before your recollection, and mark what God has done! Who has ever dashed upon the bosses of his buckler without being wounded? What iron has he not broken? What spear has he not shivered? Millions came against him, but by the blast of the breath of his nostrils they fell, or they flew, like the chaff before the wind. Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof, but the rocks stand still, and hurl off the waves in flakes of foam, and so doth God, when his foes are most enraged, and passionate. He that sitteth in the heavens doth laugh; the Lord doth have them in derision; and he breaketh them in pieces without a stroke of his hand, or even the glance of his eye. Think, sinner, think, of him with whom thou contendest. Hast thou an arm like God's? Canst thou thunder with a voice like his? Canst thou stamp with thy foot; and shake the mountains? Canst thou touch the hills, and make them smoke? Canst thou say to the sea, “Be stirred to thy depths,” or canst thou call to the winds, and bid the steeds of tempest be unloosed? If thou canst not, then think of the battle! Attempt to do no more but hie thee back to thy bed, and there commune with thine heart, and make thy peace with him, against whom thou canst not hope successfully to contend.

     Think, again, O rebellious man, you have to deal not only with almighty, but with an ever encompassing power. Please to think how much you are in God’s power to-night as it regards your temporal position. You are prospering in business; but the tide of prosperity may be turned in a way unknown to you. God has a thousand ways of stripping those whom he aforetime seemed to clothe most lavishly. You doat upon that wife of yours: she may be smitten before your eyes, and waste with consumption or decline, or, more rapidly still, she may be taken from you at a stroke, and then where is your joy? Those children, those happy prattlers who make glad your hearth; could you hold them for a moment, if God should call back their spirits? If he said, “Return ye children of men,” your prayers, the physician, your love—what could all these avail you? You have but to buy the coffin, and the shroud, and the grave, and bury your dead out of your sight. God can sweep away all, if he will, and leave you penniless, childless, a widower, without comfort in the world. I would not contend with him who has so many ways to wound me. I am vulnerable at so many points, and he knows how to pierce me to the quick in them all. I will, therefore, make him my friend rather than my foe. I had better not strive with him who has the key of the postern, and of the front gate, and of the iron gate, and who can storm every position along my bastion whenever he shall please. 

     Think, again, how much you are personally in his hand! You are strong you say; you will do a day’s work with any man; there are few can lift a load more readily than you can perhaps, and yet one second would be enough to paralyse every limb. Your faculties are clear; you can write with perspicuity, no one can see through an intricate account more rapidly than you can, or find out a secret more speedily; and yet one tick of that clock is time enough to reduce either you or me to a drivelling idiot, or to a raving madman. A mysterious hand falls on that brain, and cools it, so that there is no longer the light of intellect within it, or else an awful breath fans its flame, till it burns like Nebuchadnezzar's furnace, and the soul walks within it a martyr, doomed to live in the midst of fire. Think of this—not many yards from here there stands in Bedlam an awful proof of what the Providence of God can do in one moment with those who seemed the most sane, the most witty, and the most able of men ; and you have not to go far in either direction, before at the gate of some hospital, you will find how soon the body may become very, very low, even to the dust, if God but will it. I would not, O sinner, I would not have God other than my friend, while I am thus helplessly in his control. If the moth is in my hand, and I can crush it at ray will and pleasure, surely if that moth had wit and sense, it would not provoke me to anger, nor seek to bring down my plagues upon it, but, if it could, it would seek to nestle near my heart, that I, so able to crush it, might use my power for its protection, and might make what wit I have to be its wisdom for its shelter and defence. 

     It is well also to remember the mighty army of the Lord of Hosts, and that you live amidst the creatures of God who all are ready to do his bidding. As the children of Israel journeyed in the wilderness, they were preserved by God from many foes and innumerable dangers which lurked around, waiting to destroy them. Once God gave the fiery serpents permission to assault the host, and what death and terror immediately filled the camp! They must have seen then, that it was no small thing to be at variance with God, when he had so many allies waiting to do his bidding. How clearly this was shown in the plagues of Egypt, when frogs, locusts, and lice, hail and fire, plague and death, flooded the ill-fated land, when beckoned on by the uplifted finger of God. He can still call to his help the forces of creation. The stars in their courses fought against Sisera, and God can still make all things work for evil as well as good, if he be pleased to command them. When Herod strove with God, he was smitten of worms and died, and God has still a countless army of servants who do his commandments, hearkening to the voice of his word. You had better wait awhile and think how you can meet them. Are your friends as numerous? Can you muster an army like unto God’s? Is the muster-roll of your hosts like unto his? Consider the heavens, for he marshalleth yon starry multitude and calleth them all by names; because he is great in strength, not one faileth. Be wise and enter into covenant with him through blood, and rush not on to certain defeat by seeking to outrival God. 

     Remember moreover what is the extent of God’s wisdom, and that his foolishness is greater than your highest knowledge. A good general is worth more than a regiment of men. When Stonewall Jackson was killed, his enemies and friends alike felt that his death was more than the loss of ten thousand men. Our Iron Duke, when alive, was a strength to our army beyond all calculation. Now mark the skill and infinite wisdom of the God who leads the army of the skies. All light and knowledge are his. He is the Ancient of days, and his experience runs back to all eternity. You are but of yesterday and know nothing. His plans are beyond your conception, but he knoweth the way you take. He is far above your thoughts and ever out of your sight; but he can see you through and through, and knoweth you better than you know yourself. Do not show your folly by weighing your wisdom against his in the scales, or by expecting to outshine him so as to triumph over him. Poor moth rushing into the flame, you will be consumed amidst the pity of good men and the derision of evil ones. 

     Yet there is another matter I want you to recollect, you that are the enemies of God—that you have a conscience. You have not got rid of it yet. You have a thief in that candle of the Lord it is true, but still it is alight. It is not put out; and God has ways of making it to become a terrible plague to you, if you do not accept it as a friend. Conscience is meant to be man's armour-bearer, beneath whose shield he may fight the battles of the right, but if you make it your enemy, then conscience often places a sword in such a way as to cut and wound you severely. You have a conscience, and that is a very awkward thing for a man to have who is an enemy of God. If I were God's enemy, I should prefer having no monitor to call my attention to the holy character and righteous law of the Most High; I should be glad to get rid of every particle of moral sense. But you have consciences, and most of you are not yet dead to all feeling of guilt and shame, you cannot, therefore, sin so cheaply as others; and if you do for the present manage to put Mr. Conscience down, yet since he is still in you, the time will come when you will find his voice grow louder, and there will be a terror in that voice which will make it a terror for you to sleep, and hard for you to go about your daily business with your accustomed regularity. Those men who serve God most faithfully, yet find that their conscience, when it can accuse them of anything wrong, though it is their best friend, is no very pleasant companion. It is said that David’s heart smote him. I would sooner have anybody smite me than my own heart, for it strikes with so hard a blow, and hits the place where one may most tenderly feel it. And it will be so with you unless you get your “conscience seared with a hot iron.” I am afraid there will come a time when you will not rest in your beds, nor be able anywhere to find peace or satisfaction. I think therefore, if I had a friend of God inside my heart, I would not like to fight with God, so long as he continued within me. Oh, that you would be at peace with him, “and thereby good shall come unto you.”

     One other reflection, for I must not keep you thinking on this point long, it is this. Remember you must die, and therefore, it is a pity to be at enmity with God. You may put it off, and say, “I shall not die yet;” but you do not know. How can you tell? It is possible that you may die to-morrow. But suppose that you live for the next twenty or thirty years; why what is that? I am only some thirty years of age, and yet I confess that I never thought time so short as I feel it to be now. When we were children, we thought twelve months a great length of time; when we were twenty, a year seemed to be a very respectable period; but now it flies, and some of my friends here, whose hair is turning grey, will tell you that whether it is fifty, sixty, or seventy years, it all seems but a mere dream, a snap of the finger, it is gone so soon. Well, just push through a little interval of time, then you must die. My dear friend, will it not be a very dreadful thing to die when you are at war with God? If you could fight this out for ever under such circumstances as those in which you now are, I could not then commend the struggle, but since it must come to such an awful pause, since there must be that death-rattle in your throat, since there must be that clammy sweat upon your brow, O you will want some better business than to be carrying arms against the God of heaven in your dying moments. They that have God for their friend, yet find death no very pleasant task, but what will you find it, who will have to strike yourselves in every blow that you are aiming against the Most High, whom you have made, and continue to make your enemy. 

     Here is this, too, to think of, there is a future state, so that when you die, you have to live again. We know very little about that next state, and I do not intend to say much about it to-night. You are launched without your body, an unclothed spirit, into a world which you have never seen. Will you find companions there, or will you be alone? Where will it be? What sort of place will it be like? I should not choose to enter upon the realm of spirits without having God to be my friend; for it were a dreadful thing to get into that mysterious unknown country, having nothing to take with me across its bourne except this,—an inveterate enmity to the King that reigns supreme in it. If I must cross the border, and go into a land I have never trodden, I would like, at least, to carry a passport with me, or to be able to say, “I am a friend of the King that reigns here;” but to go there as God's enemy—why how terrible it must be! 

     Besides, let me say, you cannot hope to succeed, all experience is against you; there never was one yet, that either in this state or the next has fought with God, and conquered, and you will not be the first; for they who contend with God all come to this one conclusion: “He comes forth in his strength, and his enemies are given like stubble to the fire, and like wax to the flame: he lifteth up his voice, and they melt away: he looks at them, and that one flash of fire withers them for ever, and out of the bottomless pit of despair they weep and wail the piteous but useless regret, that their harvest is past, and their summer is ended, and that they are not saved; for they have spent their strength against their God, and so have brought themselves where ruin is eternal, and hope can never come.” Oh that thou wouldst send an ambassage, and be at peace! 

     Methinks, I hear some say, “Well, we wish to give up the contest; but what is to be done, so as to be at peace with God?” I ask, Have you got an ambassador to go to God for you? That is the first thing. He cannot look at you. Jesus Christ is the Ambassador between God and man: can you commit your case into his hand? Will you do so? If so, your case will speed well. God cannot deny him any request. He has a right to all he ever asks the Father to give, and the Father is always well pleased in him, and delighteth to grant him whatever he desires. That Saviour is willing to plead your cause. He waiteth to be gracious. I am sent to tell you the good news of his love and mercy; to warn you of the certain doom which awaits all who turn from Christ; and to bid you and every sin-sick rebel to come at once, just as you are, to the footstool of mercy; and I can pledge the honour of God, (as being Christ's ambassador for this purpose,) that if you come, he will in no wise cast you out. And the terms of peace are very brief. They are these: give up the traitors; there can be no peace between you and God while you harbour sin. Give them up, and be willing to renounce every sin of every sort and kind, for one harboured traitor will prevent God concluding peace with you.

     Sinner, what sayest thou? Is it hard to give up thy sin? Does that condition strike thee as unreasonable? Out with the knife, man, and cut the throat of every iniquity. Why, there is no sin for which it is worth your while to be damned. A little rioting, and chambering, and wantonness—is that worth hell-fire for ever? What, to have thy giddy amusements for an hour or two, is this a due recompense for an eternity of fire unmitigated by a drop of water? I pray thee, be reasonable. Barter not away thy soul for trifles; pawn not eternity for the mere fictions of an instant. God give thee grace, sinner, not to kick at that condition, but at once cast out your enemies and gods, and then lay hold on Christ, on Jesus Christ alone, and let him stand as Ambassador for thee. Thou canst not fight it out. Let peace be made. Oh may it be made to-night, through the blood of Jesus Christ, God's dear Son. 

     Then next, confess that you deserve the King’s wrath. Bow that head; put the rope about your neck as though you felt you deserved that the executioner should lead you forth. Pray to God for pardon, and cry, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!” and then cling to the skirts of that appointed Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who on yonder bloody tree made expiation for the sin of God’s enemies, that they might thereby become God’s friends. God demands of you a confession of your guilt. He will be honoured by your humbling yourself before him. Your sin has aimed at his glory, and now he will glorify himself by your repentance. It were only just on his part if he spurned you away, and cast you out into the pit which hath no bottom, but he has said that whoso confesseth his sin shall obtain forgiveness. Go, therefore, in the spirit of the publican, smite upon your breast, and say, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Confess that you deserve hell, but ask for heaven, and you shall not plead in vain. Only honour God’s justice, and appeal to his mercy through the Lord Jesus Christ. This, surely, is not much for God to expect at your hands. If you will not submit, what can you say when God shall crush you? You refuse to bend the knee, and to bow the head; what will you do when God shall trample on you in his fury, and tread you in his hot displeasure? You must, therefore, now in the accepted time, while it is still the day of mercy, seek his face, and with weeping and supplication “take with you words, and turn unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon you; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” 

     II. And now we turn the subject, so as to look at THE SECOND CONTEST, IN WHICH I TRUST MANY ARE ANXIOUS TO BE ENGAGED. 

     Some young spirit that has been touched with a sense of its own condition, and somewhat aroused, may be saying, “I will be God’s enemy no longer: I will be his friend.” Bowing the knee, that heart cries, “Oh God, reconcile me unto thyself by the death of thy dear Son. I throw down all my weapons; I confess my guilt; I plead for mercy. For Jesus' sake vouchsafe it to me.” “But,” says that soul, “if I am the friend of God, I must be the foe of Satan, and from this day I pledge myself to fight for ever with Satan till I get the victory, and am free from sin.” My dear friend, I want you to stop. I do not wish you to make peace with the evil one, but I want you to consider what you are at. There are a few things I would whisper in your ear, and one is, that sin is sweet. The uppermost drops of sin's cup glitter and sparkle. There is pleasure in sin of a certain sort and for a certain season. It is a poisoned sweet; it is but a temporary delusion, but still the world does promise fair, its gingerbread is gilt, and though it wears nothing but tinsel, and a little gold-leaf now and then, yet it does look very much like gold. Canst thou, canst thou resist sin, when it seems so charming? The next time the cup is brought thee—thou knowest the flavour of it—oh, it is rich—canst thou turn away? Art thou certain that thou wilt be able to dash it from thy lips? Ah, man, thou wilt find it different when the trial-hour comes, to what it is now that thou art sitting in the Tabernacle and resolving, away from the temptation, that thou wilt do the right. 

     Remember, again, you may be enticed by friends who will be very pressing. You can give up sin just now, but you do not know who may be the tempter at some future time. If she should allure thee, who has tempted so well before! If he—he! should speak! He! the very word has wakened up your recollection; if he should speak as he alone can speak, and look as only he can look, can you then resist, and stand out? That witching voice, that fascinating eye! Oh how many souls have been damned for what men call love! Oh that they had but a little true love of themselves and others, and would not thus pander to the prince of hell. But alas, alas, while the cup itself looks sweet, there is to be added to it the hand that holds it out. It is not so easy to contend with Satan when he employs the service of some one whom you esteem highly, and love with all your heart. Remember the case of Solomon whose wisdom was marvellous, but who was enticed by his wives, and fell a prey into the hands of the evil one. It needs a spirit like the Master's, to be able to say, “Get thee behind me, Satan,” to the tempter, when he has the appearance of one of your best loved friends. The devil is a crafty being, and if he cannot force the door, he will try and get the key which fits the wards of the lock, and, by the means of our tenderest love and affections, will make a way for himself into our hearts; you will find it no easy task therefore to contend with him.

     Then again, remember, man, there is habit. You say you will all of a sudden give up your sins, and fight Satan. Do not tell me that; can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? If so, then he that is accustomed to do evil may learn to do well. If you had never sinned as you have sinned, there were not this difficulty with you; but he that has gone day after day, and year after year, into sin, is not so easily turned from it. As well hope to make Niagara leap up instead of down, as make human nature flow back to virtue instead of going downward to sin. You do not know yourself. Habit is an iron bond, and he that is once enveloped in it may pull and strain, but he will tear away his flesh sooner than break the links of that dread chain. We have seen men who, convinced of the error of their ways, have sought to turn from them without asking the help of God. For a time they have made some little progress in appearance, but it has only been like the retreating of the waves at the rising of the tide; their evil habits have returned upon them with a rush, and have covered them deeper than before. Read the parable of our Lord concerning the unclean spirit which went out of the man, and roamed through dry places, seeking rest but finding none, and it said, “I will return to the place from whence I went out.” It came back, and found it swept and garnished, and then took to it seven other evil spirits, more wicked than itself, so the last end of that man was worse than the first. Thus it is with those who enter upon the work of saving themselves, without looking up by faith to God for his needed help. Satan will triumph over you. You are like the fly in the toils of the spider's web, the more it struggles, the more it will be encompassed. You must cry for help as you are quite unable of yourself to escape from the snares of the wicked one. He has you bound fast, hand and foot, and you will never break his cords, nor be able to cast his bands from you. You have no seven locks of strength like Samson, but you will certainly be overcome. 

     Again, you think you will give up sin, but ridicule is very unpleasant, and when the finger comes to be pointed at you, and they say, “Ah, so you have set up for a saint, I see;” when they put it as they only can put it, in such a sharp, cutting, grating manner; when it is wrapped up so wittily in an epigram that is told all round the shop against you, and when, moreover, there is some foible of yours, some giddy weakness, and they know how to hook on your attempt at saintship to your weakness, and they bandy that all round, and there are fifty laughing faces for you, can you stand that ? Yes, it is a very pretty thing for you to come here on Sundays, and say what you will do, but it is different to do it on Mondays. To be laughed at is not really to a sensible man anything very wonderful, for, methinks, you have only to get used to it, and then you will just as much expect to hear people laugh at you, as to hear birds singing when you walk out of a morning; but at first that is a very sharp trial, that trial of “cruel mockings;” and many who have been going to fight Satan have drawn back, for they found they could not stand it. When the Jews were rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem after their return from captivity, one of the most severe tests of their zeal and devotion was the laughter of their enemies who came and looked on, and said, “What do these feeble Jews? Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall.” The words of their foes were more cutting than swords, and keenly did they feel in their spirits the derision of the scoffers. It is as painful now for the sensitive spirit as it was of old, but you must not be daunted. Heaven is worth buying, even though it should cost a life heaped full of stinging words and malicious sayings from a deriding and taunting world. Did not Christ himself show us how to endure this trial? See his foes gathered around him when he hung dying on the cross. They laugh at him even there; “He saved others, himself he cannot save,” said they as they wagged their heads, and mocked alike his dignity and his woe. “If thou be the Christ, come down from the cross, and we will believe on thee.” These sayings must have been bitterer to his spirit than the wormwood mingled with gall was to his lips. You must follow Christ here also if you would contend, as he did, with Satan. Then count the cost. Can you drink his cup, and be baptized with his baptism?

     And yet further, let me say to you, you that are for going to heaven so zealously,—gain, gain is a very pretty thing, a very pleasant affair. Who does not like to make money? You know, if you can be religious, and grow rich at the same time, that will just suit some of you. Oh yes, the two going together, that will be admirable; you will kill the two birds with one stone. Mr. By-Ends said, “Now, if a man by being religious can get a good wife who has a considerable sum of money; and if by being religious he gets a good shop, and many customers, why,” says he, “then religion is a good thing;” for to get a good wife is a good thing, and to get customers, that is another good thing, and so, he says, “The whole is a good thing put together.” But he that knows Mr. By-Ends, knows that he is an old rogue, notwithstanding that he puts it prettily. I have known him. He is a member of this Church, I am sorry to say; I never went into a Church where he was not a member. I have tried to turn him out, and did once, but there was another one of the family left inside, and however many you may expel there are sure to be more of that breed remaining. But there sometimes comes a pinch with Mr. By-Ends. Now if you should find that shutting up your shop on Sundays should ruin your business, well, what then? Would you stand it? Now there are some of you that try it every now and then when you get spasmodically godly, but it does not pay you, you find; and so you begin once more to open shop on the Lord's day. Some of you Sunday traders discover, that it gets a little hot and strong for you, when you come to the Tabernacle occasionally, and you shut up for a season, but soon you say, “Well, people must live.” Yes, and people must die, and people must be damned too, if they try to live by breaking God’s laws. Remember that it will not pay to be religious, some people fancy. We have heard of a man saying, “I cannot afford to keep a conscience, it is too expensive an article for me.” Ah, but keep in mind the saying of the Lord, “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” There is such a thing as being “Penny wise, and pound foolish,” and there is such a thing also as being “worldly wise, and eternally foolish.” Think of this then, for the trial will come to you in the shape of yellow gold, and it will be hard to keep yourself from the glittering bait which the god of this world will lay before you. 

     I am putting these things to you, so that you may calculate whether you can carry on the war against the devil with all these fearful odds against you. If I were a recruiting serjeant I should not do He puts the shilling into the country lad’s hand, and the lad may say fifty things, “Oh never mind,” says the the gallant soldier, “you know, it is all glory, nothing but glory. There, I will just tie these ribbons round your hat. There are some long strips of glory to begin with, and then all your days it will be just glory, glory for ever; and you will die a general, and be buried at Westminster Abbey, and they will play the ‘Dead March in Saul, and all that kind of thing.” Now I cannot thus deceive or try to cheat men to enlist under the banner of the cross. I do not desire to raise objections to it; all I want of you is to count the cost, lest you should be like unto him who began to build without being able to finish. That is the misery of so many. I advise you, if you are about to declare war with Satan, to see whether you are able to carry it out, and win the victory. 

     “Well,” says one, “it is hard to be saved.” Nobody ever thought it was not, I hope. What does Peter say? “If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” “It is hard to be saved,” you say. Whoever said it was not? But it is not hard to be saved, if a man is willing to be received according to the plan which God has appointed. If Christ undertakes it, then it is done, and my counsel to those of you who are about making war with Satan, is to remember that it is too much for you, and therefore do not attempt it in your own strength. Beware of this. I know Satan will tempt you first of all to believe that you need no Saviour, then if you are not convinced of this but are disquieted because of sin, he suggests that you can save yourself. He speaks of Abana and Pharpar rivers of Damascus which flow close by your own door. He says, “Wash in these home streams, and be clean. Stay where you are, and help yourself;” but if you listen to the words of the seducer of souls you are lost and undone for ever. Can the man born blind see to operate upon his own scale-covered eyes so as to give himself sight? Can the crippled man run away from his lameness, and outrun the feebleness of his feet? Can the dead man exert himself to make the life-tide de flow once more in his veins, and flush his cheek anew with the glow of health? Can he call back his departed spirit from the shades of the unseen world, and make it re-occupy its decaying habitation, and bid the marks of the mighty consumer begone, and leave no trace of Death's conquest behind, to remind the returning inhabitant that the palace had been occupied by the ruthless spoiler? We answer, no. A mighty finger must touch and open the eyes. An omnipotent arm must lift up the paralysed and impotent man into strength and power; and most evidently, if life is to be secured, the voice of God alone can speak the word which shall make the dead to live. On this point we wish to be clearly understood. You will never of yourself successfully resist sin so as to escape its thraldom; how much less can you remove its guilt? The cancer is in your blood, and you can never get it out. The black deed is done, and it is written, “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” Oh, then at once ask help of him who alone can save you from the wrath to come. 

     Remember, poor feeble one, nothing is too hard for God, and therefore ask Almighty strength to come unto your help. It is true you cannot contend with your besetting sins; your passions, your corruptions of whatever sort they may be, are much too strong for you; Old Adam is too mighty for you with your best intentions; but there is a strong one, whose hand, once pierced, is always ready and at the service of every sinner who would have Satan cast out. There is one “mighty to save” who can come to the rescue, and do for you what you cannot do for yourself. Oh that you had Christ to-night, so that at once you might cry to him, “Jesus, save me; I see the fight is too unequal for me, I cannot drive out my sins, I cannot fight my way to heaven; come and help me, Lord Jesus. I put myself into thy hands; wash me in thy blood, fill me with thy Spirit; save me with thy great salvation, and let me be with thee where thou art at the last.” 

     “No man can save himself,” says one. Yet the case is very like that of the master who sent his negro servant with a letter. The negro was, like some others, rather lazy, and came back with it. “Why did you not deliver it?” “I could not” “Could not deliver it?” “No, master.” “Why not?” “A deep river, sir, very deep river, I could not get across.” “A deep river?" said he. “Yes.” “Is not there a ferryman there?” “Do not know, sir; if there was, he was on the other side.” “Did you call across, ‘Boat, ahoy!’” “No, sir.” “Why then, you rascal,” said he, “what does it matter; it is no excuse. It is true, you could not get across the river, but then there was one there who could take you, and you never cried to him.” And so it is in your case. You say, “I cannot save myself.” Quite true; but there is one who can, and you have never cried to him, for, mark you, if you cry to him, if your heart says, “Oh, Saviour, come and save me,” and your spirit rests in him, deep as that river of your sin certainly is, he knows how to bear you safely through it, and land you on the other shore. May he do that with each of you. With God all things are possible, though with man it is impossible. May the blessing of the Most High rest upon us this night for Jesus' sake. Amen.



The Believer Sinking in the Mire

By / Jun 22

The Believer Sinking in the Mire

 

“Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink.” — Psalm 69:14.

 

MANY rivers, and especially the Nile, have on their banks deep deposits of black mud, and when any person seeks to leap on shore, if he should ignorantly or through misfortune spring upon this soft mud he would, unless speedily pulled out, be sucked under until he was utterly swallowed up and suffocated in the mire. Having no handhold or foot-hold, the more he laboured to extricate himself from the thick adhesive mud, the deeper he would descend until he would be choked in the filth, unless some one was near to help him out, and save him from destruction. True believers, beloved, are sometimes in deep mire, and in fear of being swallowed up. This was the state and condition of the Psalmist when he wrote this psalm. He felt that he was sinking and could not deliver himself, and therefore he cries unto the strong for strength in the words of the text “Deliver me out of the mire and let me not sink.” Mr. Gadsby, in his “Wanderings,” narrates an incident, which, with reflections of his own, I shall read to you at the outset. “Being brought to a stand as just mentioned, I hailed the reis to heave to, and take me on board. One of the men was, therefore, sent in the small boat, but the river near the western side was so shallow that he could not get the boat within some distance of the bank. He consequently, as is usual in such cases, jumped overboard that he might carry me to the boat on his back. No sooner, however, had he sprung from the boat than I heard him scream. I turned to see what was the matter, when I found him struggling in the mud. He was sinking as though in a quicksand; and the more he struggled the faster and deeper he sank. His fellow-boatmen were not slack: they quickly saw the dilemma he was in, and two of them dashed in and swam to the small boat. I was almost choked with terror, and I breathed, or rather gasped with difficulty. “Can they reach the poor fellow?” I said to myself. “If not, he must inevitably be swallowed up alive!” — Now they reach the boat! Now they near him! And now, praise the Lord, he grasps firmly hold — O that death-like grasp! — of the side of the boat! But this was not until he had sunk up to his bosom. Seeing him safe, I breathed more freely; and I feel that now, though only relating the circumstance, the excitement has caused an increased and painful action of the heart. How I thought of poor David! Had he really witnessed a similar scene to this literally, when, speaking of the feelings of his soul spiritually, he said, “I sink in deep mire where there is no standing; I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me?” (Ps. lxix. 2.) O what an agonizing state to be in! and yet many of my readers, I have no doubt, who never witnessed such a scene literally, know something about it spiritually, as David did, whether he had seen it with his bodily eyes or not. Well might he, in the struggling of his soul, exclaim, “Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink!” (14.) Let me grasp firmly hold of the ark, and be pulled safely on board! Well! just at the right time, just before the poor fellow’s arms (shall I say his arms of faith?) were disabled, swallowed up, deliverance came.

     The prayer of our text leads us to three reflections : first, that the true believer may be in the mire, and very near sinking ; secondly, that the true believer may be in such a condition that God alone can deliver him ; and thirdly, that in whatever condition the believer may be, prayer is evermore his safe refuge : if a man find that his own strength fails he can look up to Him who is an ever present help in time of trouble and cry unto Him “ Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink.”

     I. We commence with the statement, that THE TRUE BELIEVER MAY BE IN THE MIRE.   

     Let us consider for a moment what kind of mire the believer may be brought into, and why God suffers him to be brought there, and how we can prove that he is really and truly a believer in the truth, although God suffers him to be brought into the mire. The truest believer in the world may be brought into the deep mire of unbelief. Some of us who have preached the word for years, and have been the means of working faith in others, and of establishing them in the knowledge of the fundamental doctrines of the Bible, have nevertheless been the subjects of the most fearful and violent doubts as to the truth of the very gospel we have preached. Times may have occurred to the best of God’s servants, when they have even doubted the existence of the God whom they have loved to serve, when even the Deity and reality of the Lord Jesus who has rescued them from sin by his precious blood, has been a matter of grievous and horrible questioning. Little do people know, who are ignorant of the private history of God’s believing people, what struggles they have with their own base-born, wicked unbelief. It is not alone Thomas who has said, “Except I put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe,” but there have been thousands of eminent saints who have been attacked by unbelief, and have been in doubt as to things which they once received as certain verities, and which still in their heart of hearts they know to be true. They could have died for those truths one day, they could have established them beyond all cavil and question the next, and yet upon the third they are compelled through strong temptation to sit down, and with the tears streaming from their eyes, to cry bitterly unto their Strong Helper, “Oh, God, save me from this accursed unbelief which robs me of every comfort, takes the foundations away, and lays my glory in the dust! What can I do? If the foundations be removed, what can the righteous do? O settle my soul upon thy word, and establish me in thy truth, O thou God of truth.” A man may be a true believer, and yet feel that he is sinking fast into the mire and clay of unbelief as some of us know to our lamentation and dismay.

     A believer may be quite settled in his belief of the gospel, and may never doubt the inspiration of Scripture, the atonement of Christ, and all those precious truths which are commonly received among us, and yet, through sin or temptation, or some other cause, he may not have a full assurance of his own interest in those glorious and vital truths. A true believer in Christ, in fact, may often suspect himself to be a hypocrite when he is most sincere; to be an apostate when he is most diligently following the Lord; and he may set himself down as the chief of sinners, when the testimony of men and of God is, that “he is a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil.” A believer may be in a state of high spiritual health, and yet may think himself to be sick unto death. He may be clothed in fair white linen, and yet reckon himself to be naked, poor, and miserable. He may be rich with all the treasures of his heavenly Father’s kingdom, and yet may scarcely know where he can find a ready crust with which to supply his present pressing spiritual wants. There are such things as princes in rags; and there have been such things, and probably are now, as princes of the blood royal — peers of God’s own realm — sitting on the dunghill. Many a justified and accepted saint has had to moan out under a deep sense of sin, just as the poor publican did, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” I dare say, many of you think that God’s ministers never have any question about their interest in Jesus Christ. I wish they never had: brethren, I wish sincerely I never had. It is seldom that I do — very seldom: but there are times when I would change my soul’s place with the meanest believer out of heaven, when I should be content to sit behind the door of heaven, if only I might be numbered among God’s people. True believers sometimes droop into this state: whether they are God’s people or not, they cannot tell; whether their sins are forgiven or not is a matter of solemn enquiry with their souls; whether they have ever passed from death unto life or no is the great problem which they sit down and earnestly consider; and whether they be God’s people or not, is a question they have great difficulty in answering. This is deep mire, indeed; for it is woe with another woe at its heels to lose the assurance of one’s present salvation.

     In addition to this, at times, the Lord’s chosen are brought into another kind of mire, which will never swallow them up, but which may prove a matter of very severe trial to them while they are in it, I mean temporal trouble. When the soul is alarmed about spiritual things, and bodily or pecuniary troubles come also, then the sea is boisterous indeed. It is ill when two seas meet; when Moab and Ammon come against Judah at the same time; when both upper and nether springs appear to be dried up; when God, with both hands, thrusts us into the deep mire. Certain of my brethren are frequently in trouble. Their whole life is a floundering out of one slough of despond into another. You have had many losses in business — nothing but losses perhaps; — you have had many crosses, disappointments, bereavements; nothing prospers with you. Well, brother, there is this consolation, that you are one of a numerous family, for many of God’s people pass though just such tribulation. It was said by Matthew Henry, I think, that “Prosperity was the blessing of the old covenant, but that adversity is the peculiar blessing of the new.” I do not know whether that is true or not, but I do know this, that Christ has said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” It is no sign, beloved, that you are not a child of Cod, because you feel the rod, but it is rather a token of your being one of the adopted, because you are made to pass under the rod of the covenant, and to utter the prayer of David: “Lord, save me from the deep mire, and let me not sink.” You are allowed to plead against the thing you so much fear; you may cry, “Leave me not to become penniless; leave me not to dishonour my character,” but remember that none of your trials can prove you to be a lost man. Pray, brother, the prayer of that good man who asked for neither poverty nor riches; ask that you may have food convenient for you; pray, “Give me this day my daily bread.” “Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink.”

     I have not come to the blackest mire yet. God’s own people are at seasons suffered to sink in the mire of inward corruption. There are times when believers have such a sight of the little hell within their own hearts that they are ready to despair of the possibility of their being completely sanctified and made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. Our God at seasons permits the fountains of the great deep of human depravity to be broken up, and then what floods of sin come pouring forth! We little know what lies secreted in our deceitful hearts, — envyings, blasphemies, murders, lust: there is enough in the heart of any man to make a full-grown devil, if restraining grace did not prevent. To-day you may have had such enjoyments of the Lord’s countenance that you have been ready to sing: “Thou hast made my mountain to stand strong; I shall never be moved;” and, yet to-morrow you may have such a sight of self that you may exclaim, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Remember if you have the nature of God in you, you have also the nature of the old Adam. You are one with Christ, and “as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly;” but you are one with Adam, and “as is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy.” You are to be immortal, but you are to be reminded that you are mortal; you are one day to be raised in glory, but you are to remember, as long as you are here, that the time of glory is not come, for you drag about to your shame, your weakness, your dishonour, and your misery a body of sin and death. The best of God’s children know this; and I think the holier they are, the more, likely they are to feel the conflict within. It is the fashion in our country for men to wear black coats; I suppose it is because they do not shew the dirt so much as a white garment, but if we wore white garments the filth would reveal itself, and we should have to change them very often. So, my brethren, the more a Christian is like his Master, the more clearly he sees his own faults. Oh, Lord, grant us grace to see much of our sins through the tears of repentance, and to see much of the Saviour through the eye of faith; for if we see little of him, we shall get into the plight of David when he was in the deep mire, and cried, “Lord, deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink.”

     Beloved, it is painful to reflect that the best of God’s people are Buffered to fall into the mire of Satanic temptations. There is no knowing what suggestion Satan may thrust into the ear and into the soul of the greatest believer that heaven ever made. God may whisper in your ear one day, and Satan the next, and yet you may be a child of God on both occasions. Oh, beloved, I dare scarcely say in the midst of this assembly what I know on this point. If I were only to reveal my own struggles and conflicts with Satan, I might stagger some of you; but this I know, that no Christian minister will ever be able to enter into the trials and experiences of God’s people, unless he has stood foot to foot with the arch fiend, and wrestled with the prince of hell. Martin Luther was right when he said that temptation and adversity were the two best books in his library. He had never written his commentary upon the Galatians if he had not been one who was frequently tempted and tossed about by Satan. That fiery, vehement nature of his, was like a great coal fire burning up the works of Satan, and all that Satan could do only stirred up the flame and caused it to burn more brightly. Satan will suggest not merely little sins, but the worst and foulest of sins to the best of God’s chosen people. He will even venture in his baseness to urge the man of God to destroy himself when under depression of spirits; and although the saint hates the very thought, yet he may be driven to the verge of it by an influence which he feels that all his puny might is unable to resist. It is a fearful thing to fight with Apollyon. We shall sing of it in heaven as one of the greatest and most marvellous mercies of God, that “He delivered us out of the mouth of our cruel adversary.”

     2. Why is it that believers are suffered to fall into it? The answer is, they sometimes get into it through their own sin. It is a chastisement upon them. They were not faithful enough when they walked in the light, and, therefore, they are put into the darkness. If they had minded their steps when they were going down the hill, they would not have been subject to such afflictions in the valley. Rest assured that a great many of our sorrows are the foul weeds which spring up from the seeds of our own sins. If thou hadst been a fruitful tree, the pruning-knife would not have been so often used. The rod is never taken down from the shelf, except when it is absolutely wanted; and we are made to smart so bitterly under it, because we so greatly require it. God does not punish in a penal sense, but he does chastise; and he generally does it by permitting us to be filled with our own ways. We have to drink the powder of the idol calf which we have ourselves set up. We had need to walk with holy jealousy, for we serve a jealous God. O for grace to serve him well.

     Our heavenly Father sends these troubles, or permits them to come, to try our faith. If our faith be worth anything at all, it will stand the test. Gilt is always afraid of fire, but gold is not: the paste gem dreads to be touched by the diamond, but the true diamond fears no test. People who have a kind of confectionery godliness will wish to be preserved from temptations, for they cannot endure them; but the, Christian counts it all joy when he falls into divers trials, knowing that “tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” My dear friends, if your faith is only a sunshiny faith, get rid of it, for you may not have many bright days between this and heaven. If your godliness can only walk with Christ when he wears silver slippers you had better give it up, for Christ very often walks bare-foot. It is a poor faith which can only trust God when friends are true, the body full of health, and the business profitable; but that is true faith which holds by the Lord’s faithfulness, when friends are gone, when the body is sick, when our spirits are depressed, when wo are driven from the enjoyment of assurances into the desert land, and cannot see the light of our Father’s countenance. A faith that can say in the midst of the direst trouble, “though he slay me, yet will I trust in him,” this is heaven-born faith indeed. I believe in my Lord, because he is a God that cannot lie, faithful and true to his every word, and, therefore, let the whole creation go to rack and ruin, my faith shall not waver or give up its confidence.

     The Lord may also let his servants slip into the deep mire to glorify himself for he is never, perhaps, more glorified than in the faith of his own people. When an architect has erected a bridge of whose enormous strength he is well satisfied, he has no objection that it shall be put to any test. “No,” says he, “let the heaviest train pass over it which has ever been dragged by a locomotive; let the most terrible tempest come that has ever blown from the four winds, I have built my structure in a manner so substantial that, the more it is tried and proved, the more you will admire its firmness and completeness. So our gracious God, beloved, glorifies himself by permitting his people to be subjected to trials and by enabling them to endure the strain. We should never know the music of the harp if the strings were left untouched; we should never enjoy the juice of the grape if it were never trodden in the wine-press; we should never discover the sweet perfume of cinnamon if it were not pressed and beaten; and we should never know the warmth of fire if the coals were not utterly consumed. The excellence of the Christian is brought out by the fire of trouble. The wisdom of the Great Workman and the glory of his skill and power are discovered by the trials through which his vessels of mercy are permitted to pass.

     Again, beloved, trials are doubtless permitted to shew the natural weakness of the creature, that no flesh may glory in the presence of God. Men of iron nerve are raised up to face all opposition and confront the powers of darkness; their testimony never falters, their course is true and bright as the sun in the heavens, and men rejoice in their light. With faith undaunted they beard the infernal lion in his den, and in the day of battle seek the thickest of the fight. All the devils in hell cannot affright them, and all the foes upon earth cannot stir them from their divine purpose. They win souls as many as the sands of the sea, and their spiritual children are for number, like the gravel thereof. They revive the flame which lingers in the embers of the church, they set the world on a blaze with heavenly fire, they comfort many and set free thousands of prisoners, and yet, on a sudden, and it may be in the last hour, their joy departs, their assurance flees and their confidence departs. May not this be needful that men may not trace the champion’s noble bearing to the strength of his natural constitution, but discern that the eternal God was the support of his faith. We might have dreamed that the successful warrior was something different from other men, but when he is brought low, we discern clearly, that it was distinguishing grace rather than a distinguished man which is to be seen and wondered at. The man was but an earthen vessel in which God had put his precious treasure, and he makes the earthiness of the vessel manifest, that all men may see that the excellency of the power is not of us, but of God.

     There is, perhaps, another reason why God permits his people to sink for a time into deep depression, viz., to make heaven sweeter when they enter its pearly gates. There must be some shades in the picture to bring out the beauty of the lights. Could we be so supremely blessed in heaven, if we had not known the curse of sin and the sorrow of earth. Rest, rest, rest; in whose ear does that sound most sweetly? Not in the ears of the loiterers who scorn all knowledge of the word “toil,” but in the ears of those who are exhausted and fatigued by the labours of the day. Peace! Is there a man in England who knows the blessedness of that word peace? Yes, there are some. The soldier knows it. He has heard the whizz of the bullet, he has seen the smoke of the battle and the garment stained with blood, and his heart has been stirred by the din; and the shrieks and the death of the field of fight; to him peace is a peerless boon. Who will know the peace of heaven but those who have experienced the warfare of earth, and have endured conflicts with sin and the prince of the power of the air? Beloved, there must be the foil of sorrow to bring out the bright sparkling of the diamond of glory. The happiest moments of mere physical pleasure I can remember, have been just after a long illness, or some acute pain. When pain is lulled to sleep, how happy one is! I saw a brother the other day affected by the most painful of all bodily complaints. He was telling me of the sufferings he had endured, and he said, “I am so happy now it is all over.” And I suppose, my beloved, that heaven will derive some of its excess of delight, its overflowing joy, from the contrast with the pain and misery, and conflict, and suffering, which we have had to pass through here below. There will be something better to talk about than troubles in heaven; but the recollection of them may afford a flavour to our happiness, which it would have lacked without it. We shall, I doubt not, “with transporting joys, recount the labours of our feet.”

     3. These are some of the reasons why God permits his people to sink for a while in. the deep mire, where there is no standing. But the question is raised, “Are these men who are thus tossed about by doubts and vexed with the great depravity of their hearts, truly at that time God's people?” Certainly they are; for if they were not Gods people the pain of the temptation which they endure could not have reached them. This spot is the spot of God’s children, and none others are marked with it. The man who lives in sin as his element, never feels the weight of it. A fish may be deep in the sea, with thousands of tons of water rolling over his head, but it does not feel the load; but, if a man has only a bucketful of water to carry upon his head, he feels the weight of it, and rejoices to lose his burden. The sinner whose element is sin, laughs at the weight by which a believer is borne down. Conflicts and pains, such as I have been speaking of, are not possible to those destitute of spiritual life. Spiritual life is the first requisite for spiritual grief and spiritual contrition. Depend upon it, beloved, that those who suffer as I have described, are the children of God, for they shew it. They shew it by the way in which they bear their trials; for, in their worst times there is always a clear distinction, which marks them as separate from other men. If they cannot shout “victory,” they bear patiently. If they cannot sing unto God with their mouth, yet their hearts bless him. There is a degree of light even in their worst darkness; it never becomes Egyptian darkness; some one star at least gilds the gloom. There is still a candle somewhere or other for the Lord’s chosen, in the blackest night. If they get into the mire, they do not perish there; they cry for help when their woes surround them, and in the very nick of time when everything appears to be lost, their heavenly Father hastens to their aid.

     It is well known to the students of Christian biography, that the most eminent of God's saints have had to pass through trials similar to those which we have been describing. Luther was a man of the strongest faith, and yet at times of the faintest hope. He was, and he was not, a firm believer. His faith never wavered as to the truth of the cause which he advocated; but his faith as to his own interest in Christ, seldom, if ever, amounted to full assurance. The force of his faith spent itself in carrying on with fearful vigour the war against antichrist and error of all shapes. He believed the truth, and held right manfully justification by faith; but he was at times very doubtful as to whether he himself was justified in Christ Jesus. He believed in salvation by the precious blood of Christ; but, especially at the last, it became a very serious matter with him as to whether he had ever been washed in that precious blood. Roman Catholic biographers, — who, of course, if they can, will slander him, — say, that he had doubts as to everything which he preached, and that at the last, he found his faith was not in accordance with truth. Not so; no man stuck to his testimony with more tenacity than the great Reformer; but yet I marvel not that they should say so. He never doubted the truth of the things which he preached; but he did doubt his own interest in them frequently; and when he came to die, his testimony, though amply sufficient, was nothing like so brilliant as that of many a poor old woman who has died in a humble cottage, resting upon Jesus. The poor peasant who knew no more than her Bible true, was utterly unknown to the Vatican, and Fame’s trumpet will never resound her name, but yet she entered into eternal peace with far louder shoutings of joy than Martin Luther, who shook the world with his thundering valour.

     “Here lies he that never feared the face of man,” is a most proper epitaph for John Knox; and yet at the last for some hours he passed through fearful temptation. And what do you suppose it was? The temptation of self-righteousness. The devil could not charge him with sin; for Knox’s life had been so straightforward and honest, that no man could impugn his motives or deny his Christianity; and, therefore, the devil came to him in another and more crafty way. He whispered, “John Knox, thou hast deserved well of thy Master; thou wilt get to heaven well enough through thine own merits.” It was as hard a struggle as the lion-hearted soldier of the cross could well have to hold to his simple faith in Jesus Christ in his hour of peril. Now, no Christian man denies that Luther and Knox were men of faith; and yet they were men who had to pray, “Deliver me out of the mire.” I know as I look around on this congregation, that some of you can heartily sympathize in the truth before us; but if there be no other here who can, I can most thoroughly, “I know whom I have believed; and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him until that day;” but I know also that the Christian life is one of stem conflict and battle; and though we do rejoice in the Lord always, yet there are times when it is as hard work as we can possibly do, nay, harder work than we can accomplish without the help of the Eternal Spirit, to keep our faith alive at all, for our souls are brought almost to death’s door. I wished to enlarge on this matter for the comfort of those who are tossed to and fro by doubts and fears. I have been attempting to describe the case of those who, for the greater part of their lives have lived in the shade, and seen but little of the light of God’s countenance. O may the sun shine on them yet with cheering rays.

     II. I turn very briefly to the second point, — WHEN BELIEVERS ARE IN SUCH A STATE, THEY KNOW EXPERIMENTALLY THAT NO ONE CAN DELIVER THEM BUT THEIR GOD.

     The Word of God itself, if not laid home by the divine Spirit, cannot help them. You may possibly be in such a condition that every promise scowls at you as though it were transformed into a threatening. When you turn over the pages of the book once so full of comfort to you, it seems withered into a howling wilderness. Even those promises which you have been wont to offer to others in their time of need, appear to shut their doors against you. “No admittance here,” says one promise. Unbelief puts its burning finger right across another. Past sin accuses you and cries, “You cannot claim this word, for your transgression has forfeited it.” So you may look through the whole book and find nothing upon which your souls may fasten. You have noticed strong posts by the sides of rivers to which ships may be safely moored. To get the rope fairly round one of the promises of God will yield good enough moorings for a Christian; but there are times when we have great difficulty in getting the rope round so as to hold fast; the fault is not in the promise but in us. At such seasons, the preaching of the gospel is apparently without power. You say to yourselves, “I do not know how it is, but I do not profit by the ministry as I once did. It used to make me leap for joy when I heard of the precious things of God, but I come away uncomforted from that table which once furnished me a feast of consolation.” It is not the fault of the minister, he still as a good steward brings forth things new and old; it is not the fault of the Word, it is still milk for babes, and strong meat for full-grown men, but you painfully feel that you are changed, for you lament in words like these, “I go where others go, and find no comfort there.” This is a case in which the Holy Spirit must himself exercise his comforting office, it is only by the effectual application of the Word to your heart by the Holy Spirit that you can be brought out of this deep mire.

     At such times, other believers cannot aid you. Those about you can prove to you how foolish it is to be in such a state, and you can even see your folly for yourself, yet you lie there helpless to lift hand or foot. They tell you of the faithfulness of God; they remind you of the glorious future, and point to the land beyond the skies; but you only sigh, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove that I might fly away and be at rest, for there is no rest for me beneath the sky.” Human sympathy is at a non plus, and all we can do is to weep with you, for we cannot stay your tears. Why does our gracious God permit this? Perhaps it is because you have been living without him and now he is going to take away every thing upon which you have been in the habit of depending; and the second cause may be, that he wishes to drive you to himself. Oh, it is a blessed thing to live at the fountain head. While our skin-bottles are full, we are content like Hagar and Ishmael to go into the wilderness; but when those are dry, nothing will serve us but “Thou God seest me.” We must then come to the well. We are like the prodigal, we love the swine-troughs and forget our father’s house. Remember, we can make swine-troughs and husks even out of the forms of religion. Do not misunderstand me. They are blessed things, but we may put them in God’s place and then they are of no value. Anything becomes an idol when it keeps us away from God; even the brazen serpent is to be despised as Nehustan, a mere piece of brass if I worship it instead of God. The prodigal was never safer than when he was driven to his father’s bosom, because he could find sustenance nowhere else. And, brethren, I think our Lord favours us with a famine in the land that it may make us seek after the Saviour more. The best position for a Christian is living wholly and directly on God’s grace. The best position is still to be where he was at first, “Having nothing and yet possessing all things.” Not building up a wooden house on the rock, piling it higher and higher with our own faggots, and then getting up at the top and saying, “How high I am!” but having no wood and no faggots at all, but just keeping down on the bare, solid rock; this is wisdom. When the wind comes and the storm blows, we shall see that the ricketty structures which we build will give way and fall to our own damage; but if we stand on the rock which never shakes, we cannot suffer loss. I pray God that you and I may never get beyond the fountain filled with blood. Stand there brother and be happy. Sinners blood-washed, sinners pleading, sinners accepted, we would always feel ourselves to be. Never get for a moment to think that our standing is in our sanctification, our mortification, our graces, or our feelings, but know that because Christ on Calvary offered a full, free, efficacious atonement for every one that believeth on him, therefore, we are saved; for we are complete in him, having nothing of our own to trust to, but resting upon the merits of him whose passion and whose life furnish for us the only sure ground of confidence. Beloved, when we are brought to this, then it is that God comes to help us. We are sure in our poverty to turn to him afresh with new earnestness. Infants when they are among strangers, are pleased with little toys and amusements, but when they become hungry, nothing will do for them but their mother’s breast; so it is with a child of God, he may for a time be satisfied and find pleasure in the things of this world, but he only finds lasting and sure happiness in being embraced in his Father’s arms. When the boys walk out with us in fair weather, they will run in front of us ever so far, but as soon as they see any danger in the way they quickly return to father’s side; so when every thing goes well with us we frequently run a long way from God, but as soon as we are overtaken by trouble, or see a lion in the way, we fly to our heavenly Father. I bless God for the mire, and for my sinking in it, when it makes me cry out, “Deliver me, oh my God, out of the deep mire, and let me not sink.”

     III. In the last place, our text shows us that PRAYER IS THE NEVER FAILING RESORT OF THE CHRISTIAN in any case, in every plight.

     When you cannot use your sword you may take to the weapon of all prayer. Your powder may be damp, your bowstring may be relaxed, your sword may be rusty, your spear may be bent, but the weapon of all-prayer is never out of order. Men have to sharpen the sword and the spear, but prayer never rusts. There is this blessed thing about prayer, it is a door which none can shut. Devils may surround you on all sides, but there is always one way open, and as long as that road is unobstructed, you will not fall into the enemy’s hand. We can never be taken by blockade, escalade, mine, or storm, so long as heavenly succours can come down to us by Jacob’s ladder to relieve us in the times of our necessities. Prayer is never forbidden. Remember, Christian, never is it wrong for you to pray, for the gates of heaven are open night and day. Your prayer is heard in heaven in the dead of the night, in the midst of your business, in the heat of noon-day, or in the shades of evening. You cannot be in any condition of poverty, or sickness, or obscurity, or slander, or doubt, or even sin, but still it is true that your God will welcome your prayer at any time and in every place.

     Again, prayer is never futile. True prayer is evermore true power. You may not always get what you ask for, but you shall always have your real wants supplied. When God does not answer his children according to the letter, he does so according to the spirit. If thou askest for silver wilt thou be angered because he gives thee gold? If thou seekest bodily health, shouldst thou complain if instead thereof he makes thy sickness turn to the healing of spiritual maladies? Is it not better to have the cross sanctified than to have the cross removed? Was not the apostle more enriched when God suffered him still to endure the thorn in the flesh, and yet said to him, “My strength is sufficient for thee?” Better to have all sufficient grace than to have the thorn taken away. What is your condition my brother, my sister? Let me entreat you not to cease from prayer. There may be spiritual life in you, and yet the devil may tempt you to say, “I cannot pray.” But you can pray; you do pray; you must pray. If you have spiritual life, although you can scarcely bend your knee, and are almost afraid to utter words once dear to you, yet your soul desires, pants, hungers, thirsts, and that is the essential of prayer, that is the very marrow and essence of prayer. Sobs and looks are prayers; and though you say you cannot pray, you must pray, you cannot help praying if you are a Christian. “I cannot breathe,” that might be true in a certain sense; I cannot, perhaps, breathe under an asthmatic affection without great difficulty and much pain, but I must really breathe if I live; and so with you. You must breathe if you live; and you do pray, must pray, if you are truly a child of God. At any rate I pray thee by the power of God the Holy Spirit to break through those evils, those nets of the devil which hold you in bondage, and begin with your whole soul to pray. Never mind what form your prayer takes, but do pray. My dear brother, everything depends now upon thy prayer. If Satan can stop thy prayer, he has stripped thee of thy last resort, thy last hope. He will take thee by storm if thou shalt leave off praying. Pray, if it costs thee thy life, pray. Go not to thine ease, and take not thy rest until thou hast prayed. Give no sleep to thine eyes till thou hast prayed. Slumber not until thou hast had dealings with God in prayer. Not pray! are you willing to be damned? Not pray! are you willing to make your bed in hell? Not pray! shall devils be your companions? Shall heaven’s gate be shut against you? Not pray! why, my brother you must pray now. Oh, send up the prayer from the very bottom of your heart: “O God, deliver me out of the deep mire, and let me not sink. Save me, oh, my God. God be merciful to me a sinner.” May God the Holy Spirit sweetly compel you to pray! May he incline, guide, direct, and instruct you how to pray, that this very night you may offer up a prayer which God in his great goodness will hear and answer! Pray: “Lord, my soul is besieged. I am shut up by my sins. Oh, God, raise the siege, and deliver me from the enemy. Lord, help me with thine Almighty arm. Make my extremity thy opportunity. I am a foul beggar sitting on a dunghill; Lord, come and lift me up, and put me among the princes, and I will praise thy name for ever and ever.” May the blessed virgin’s song be yours. “He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble and meek; he hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he hath sent empty away;” and may you find in the goodness, and mercy, and loving kindness of God, a speedy deliverance out of the deep mire, that you may not sink! May God give a blessing to these words, to your comfort! I know some of you will say, “I am not in such a state.” Thank God that you are not. Be grateful for thy mercies, lest thou lose them. Be thankful for thy full assurance and thy comfortable hope, lest those-favours should become dim, like dying tapers and waning moons. Rejoice now, oh Christian, as the young man does in his youth, and let thy heart cheer thee in thy youthful joy; but, remember, if thou art not careful how thou walkest in these flowery paths, if thou become too confident in thine own strength or goodness, God will bring thee down, and make thee cry out as sharply and as sorrowfully as David: — “Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink.”



The Great Privation: Or, The Great Salvation

By / Jun 22

The Great Privation: Or, The Great Salvation

 

“O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.''— Isaiah 48:18.

 

FROM this verse we may learn that when God smites men on account of sin, it gives him no pleasure. The voice which speaks is not that of the seraphic prophet, but it is the voice of the Lord God of the prophets himself. The manner is not merely the majestic formula, “Thus saith Jehovah," but it is supplemented with words intended to remind us of his graciousness and his goodwill. “Thus saith the Lord, thy Redeemer,” he who rescued thee from perils past, “the Holy One of Israel,” the faithful Promiser, who hath shown thee his counsels and his statutes. Moreover, he challenges attention with more simple, touching mementoes of his kindness, when he adds, “I am the Lord thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.” As the instructor of their childhood and the guide of their riper years, he first expresses the most natural interest in their welfare, and then pitifully bewails the folly of his children. Speaking after the manner of men, to chasten his own people is a pain and a grief to his heart: “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.” John Knox said that he never chastised his children without tears in his own eyes. Jeremiah, in the bitterest chapter of his unparalleled Lamentations, bears this grateful witness to our covenant God: “He doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.” And surely if in the gentler chastisement of his hands, the Most High takes no pleasure, much less can he find delight in that withering curse which destroys the finally impenitent. Beloved, the eternal torment of men is no joy to God. The ruin of a sinner gives him no satisfaction. While the calamity is such as he only can estimate; the warnings, expostulations, and entreaties he hath spoken furnish proof upon proof of his pity. Hear his own words, nay, hearken as he swears, listen to his own oath: “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” Not vengeance, but mercy: to kiss the returning prodigal; to wash the feet of the guilty sinner; to press the rebel to his bosom, and to adopt him into his family— this is happiness to God. When, therefore, he rises to judgment and pronounces the fearful sentence, “Depart, ye cursed.” and casts down the transgressor to hell, and delivers him over unto the tormentors, though he vindicates the justice of his throne, it is “His strange work, to bring to pass his act, his strange act.” Even the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction have experience of God’s longsuffering. How tardily he puts off the time! How often he tarries before he inflicts the stroke! How he hides his power while he unfolds his patience; he refrains the fierceness of his anger, because he is “God, and not man!” “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.”

     Let me appeal to you then, my hearers, those of you who have entertained hard thoughts of God, correct them now, banish them from your breasts to-night. You may take pleasure in the damnation of your fellow men: my God hath no such pleasure; you may find gratification in your sins, but he grieves over them; for as he sees your course, he foresees your end.

     Nor is this the only lesson which lays on the surface of the text. Still speaking after the manner of men, I beg you to observe, that the Lord addresses words of poignant regret over the prize the sinner has lost, as well as the penalty he has incurred. So did Jesus Christ look upon Jerusalem. Musing on the desolation to which she should shortly come, he reflected on the preservation in which she might have safely stood. Just as little chickens cluster under the hen’s wings, nestling there in genial warmth and peaceful security, so might Israel have found prosperity in her own borders, and protection against foreign invaders under the shadow of the wings of the Lord God Almighty. Ye remember how he burst into tears; ye can never forget that cry of his,” O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” Such, too, are the words of my text— words which I pray God may rouse your thoughts, and be graven deeply on your hearts. God looks upon the “peace” you might enjoy, and the “righteousness” that would enrich you, did you hearken to his commandments, and obey his great mandate, “Believe and live.” He espies you afar off from peace; he beholds what you cannot yet discern, the clouds gathering round your head. It may be you feel in a dead calm. He utters this pathetic exclamation,” O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been like a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.”

     Sinner! the eternal God weeps over you while you are utterly careless about yourself. The infinite heart of my divine Master yearns over you. The voice which has often reproved you, now mourns your hapless state in plaintive tones. Methinks I hear the chords of his heart in notes of pity, far exceeding all that prophets, apostles, and ministers could ever utter. “O that that sinner would believe in Jesus! O that he would give me his heart! O that he would be obedient to my word! Then his peace should flow in purity and fertility like a river; and then his righteousness should roll in boundless plenty, and multiply its grand impressive witness like the waves of the sea.”

     And now, instead of giving you the order of my sermon, let me speak straight on. How great is the grace which the sinner despises! He cannot tell the loss he suffers. And what sweet figures these are by which God hath been pleased to set that grace forth! Gladly would I woo you by their charms. But oh! how terrible the consequences of Neglect. May God enable me to sound the warning faithfully in your ears this night.

     What loss thinkest thou is that which God bewails on thy account? It is not for thee, O sinner, to understand, or to appreciate such blessings as thou hast never known or possessed. We strive in vain to describe the blessing of sight to him who was born blind, or the sweetness of melody to the deaf. “Peace like a river,” and “righteousness like the waves of the sea,” are not within the limits of thy comprehension.

     Be it so, then; there is a privation which you unconsciously suffer. You are a stranger to peace. “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” David Hume used to say that Christians were melancholy people. But that was a happy retort, in which somebody observed— “David Hume’s opinion is not worth much, for he never saw many Christians; and when he did see any, there was enough to make them miserable in the sight of David Hume.” The true Christian has a peace which is totally unknown to any other man; yea, he hath “the peace of God which passeth all understanding.” There are indeed two kinds of peace into the secret satisfaction of which no unconverted person can enter— peace with God, and peace in the heart. Yet both of these are the inalienable right of the believer; for the peace which our Lord Jesus Christ made by the blood of his cross has sealed his acceptance with the Father; and the peace which is produced in his conscience as the fruit of the Spirit calms the troubled passions of his breast. He enjoys peace with God. Happy soul! He says of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.” The terrors of the Lord do not make him afraid. When he walks in the midst of God’s works, this is his joy—

“My Father made them all.”

When he is on the deep and hoary sea, he says, “The deep is in the hollow of my Father’s hand, and were I to sink beneath its surging billows, I could only drop on to his bare arm.” When the thunder is abroad, and the lightning-flashes dart across the jet-black sky, he trembles not, his lips do not grow pale, nor is his face all blanched with fear: they are but his Father’s servants that do his pleasure, why should he be alarmed? Let sickness of body, or sorrow of mind, or any providence however calamitous come upon him, he bears it all with an equanimity which faith alone can beget, because God hath done it. He has perfect peace with God which the tribulations of the world cannot disturb. Between my soul and my God, if I be a believer, there is no breach. Nay, there is friendship, love, union. The bonds which bind me to him are the bonds of his own immutability, and his covenant love. This peace of God must transcend the strife of the elements which surround me, for

“The hand that may ruffle the evening’s calm,
Bears Calvary’s print on its bleeding palm.”

So, too, the Christian is at peace with himself. Self is an ugly enemy for a sinner to encounter. It is written in the Bible, “And David’s heart smote him.” Conscience strikes hard blows. A good conscience hath a keen edge, and severely cuts those who tamper with it. Bad men are sometimes afraid of evil spirits. We have heard of people shutting their doors to keep the devil out of their houses. But so long as the thing called “Conscience” dwells in their breast, they will never be able to shut out a troublesome spirit. He carries a demon with him who has an unsatisfied conscience. Tell me not of the howling of the wolf, when, in the depths of winter, meagre, gaunt, and grim, it gets a smell of blood, and speeds on in its ravenous career: conscience is infinitely more insatiable; the deep baying of the hounds of conscience is more terrible to a man than any sound except the voice of God. But the Christian is not afraid of himself. He can sit with himself in the hours of midnight, walk with himself in the lonely road, and talk with himself in the still calm of his meditations: God hath enabled him to shake hands with his conscience, and they have become the best of friends.

 

“Oh, lost to virtue, lost to manly thought,
Lost to the noble sallies of the soul,
Who think it solitude to be alone.
Our reason, guardian angel, and our God,
Then nearest these when others most remote,
And soon all shall be remote but these.”

 

This is a peace which no man can attain unto except the man who hearkens to the commandment, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ;” but if you hearken to that commandment and believe in the Son of God, you shall have peace and that peace shall be like a river.

     The metaphor is full of beauty, and not wanting in instructiveness either, by which peace is compared to a river. What does this mean? I think it may suggest several things. Peace like a river, for continuance. Look at it, rising as a little brook among the shingles of that green hill, it comes dashing down a rugged cataract; it flows along that valley yonder, where the red deer wanders, and where the child loves to play; it turns the village mill; hearken to its babblings as it flows onward, sometimes leaping adown the wheel, and at other times flinging carelessly its strength to the winds. Now it becomes broad and deep, and many a large and heavy craft floateth upon it. Then it swells its bosom, bridges with noble arches span it, and anon it becomes an estuary, like a great arm of the sea, and pours its torrents into old father Ocean. It continues; it is not a thing of to-day which is gone tomorrow, but it proclaims its own constancy.

“Men may come, and men may go,
But I flow on for ever.”

For ever, throughout all generations, the river speedeth to its destined place. Such is the peace of the Christian. He is always at peace. He has not peace like a swollen torrent which is dried up under some hot sun of adversity, but his peace is with him at all times. Do you enquire for the Thames? You shall find it flowing in its own bed in the thick black night, as well as in the clear bright day. You shall discover the Thames when it mirrors the stars or sends back the sheen of the moon, as well as when multitudes of eyes gaze upon it at midday. You shall see the Thames in the hour of tempest by the lightning’s flash, as well as in the day of calm when the sun shineth brightly on it. Ever is it there. And such is the Christian’s peace. Come night, come day, come sickness, come health, come what will, this peace which passeth all understanding will keep the Christian’s heart and mind, through Jesus Christ. Like a river it always flows on: no matter what the scenery on its banks, it does not stop. Here is a hill, and there a dale, here the dry and thirsty sand, and there, again, the fat and laughing fields, but the river is still the same. And so with the Christian. Today he abounds: to-morrow he is empty. One day he walks with manly stride, erect in health: another day he pines and tosses upon the bed of pain. To-day, men praise him, and every man extols him in song: tomorrow he is the butt of ridicule, and the subject of caricature, pointed at in the streets, and despised. To-day he lives: to-morrow he dies. But his peace is still the same. Like a river, no matter what the banks which overlook it, or what the weather which overcasts it, still it is the same; such is the deep calm which pervades the Christian’s spirit. It is a continual thing, a peace with which the world cannot endow, a peace of which the world cannot deprive, but a peace still unto which the Christian is called, and it abideth with him evermore. Since the day I learned to wear in my botton-hole the Heart’s-ease plucked from God’s garden, my soul can laugh all men to scorn who find comfort elsewhere.

     And this peace is “peace like a river” for freshness too. The water which runs down the Thames, say at Maidenhead, never was there before. It is fresh water, fresh from the hills to-day, and to-morrow it is the same, and the same the next day— ever fresh supplies from the heart of old England, to keep her glorious river swelling and abounding. Now the peace which a Christian has, is always fresh, always receiving fresh supplies. We found peace at first through the precious blood of Christ. We have sinned since then, but we have gone anew to the fountain, and have washed again and again. We have had doubts and fears; these at first were dispersed by a sight of Christ; we have fresh views of our glorious Saviour and his completed work, and so the river goes on receiving fresh supplies. The Spirit of God was our Comforter ten years ago. Ah! grey-headed man, he was your Comforter, perhaps, before I was born. Ere this babbling tongue had touched any man’s conscience, thou hadst rested on the cross of Christ, and the Spirit had said," Peace be unto thee.” The whole of these forty years thou hast had fresh anointings, fresh unction from on high, and so thy continued peace has been like a river. Do not suppose, O ye who are strangers to these things, do not suppose that the Christian gets a peace like the striking of a match, which goes out in a moment. Oh! no; it is the steady shining of a fixed star; not the blaze of a meteor in an autumn evening, but the shining of an empyrean lamp which never goeth out and never goeth down. Happy that Christian who has fresh floods of peace, peace like a river for the freshness of its streams.

     And you know, brethren, that a river increases in breadth, and its waters augment their volume. You can leap across the Thames, say at Cricklade, or Lechlade; it is so tiny a little brook, you may almost take it up in a cup. There is a narrow plank across which laughing village girls go tripping over; but who thinks of laying down a plank across the Thames at Southend, or at Grays? Who would imagine that at Gravesend it might be crossed by the tripping girls, or by the skipping lambs? No, the river has grown— how deep! At the mouth of it, I suppose, comparable to the sea— how broad! It is a sort of ocean in miniature. There go the ships, and that leviathan might play therein. Not behemoth himself, methinks, would have the presumption to suppose that he could sniff up this Jordan at a draught, for it has grown too great for him. Such is the Christian’s peace. Pure and perfect though it is at the first, little temptations seem to mar it; oftentimes the troubles of this life threaten to choke it. Not that they ever do.

“Men may come, and men may go,
But it flows on for ever.”

rue, it seems little at the point of its rise. But be not deceived. Wait. When the Christian is ten years older, and has meandered a few more miles along the tortuous course of a gracious experience, his peace will be like a broad river. Wait twenty or thirty years, till he has traversed these rich lowlands of fellowship with Christ in his sufferings, and conformity to his death, then his peace will be like a deep river, for he shall know the peace of God which passeth all understanding; and he will have cast all his care upon God, who careth for him. Thus that peace will go on increasing till it melts into the infinite peace of the beatific vision, where

“Not a wave of trouble rolls
Across the peaceful breast.”

Well, therefore, may our peace be likened to a river for its perpetual increase.

     Yet once more, the peace of the Christian is like a river, because of its joyful independence of man. We have heard the story of a simpleton who went to see the reputed source of the Thames, and putting his hand over the little rivulet that came trickling down the ditch, he stopped it, and said, “I wonder what they are doing at London Bridge now that I have stopped the river.” His idea was, that as he had stopped its flow, all the barges were high and dry, the steamers breaking their backs on the sand-banks, and nobody knowing what consequences might ensue, because he had stopped the Thames. But who knew the difference? A child takes into its hand its cup of water, and blows it, and the whole surface undulates with little waves; but where are the giant lips which could blow the Thames, and cause waves upon its bosom? Steadily, pleasantly, laughingly, the river flows on, gliding beneath the majestic castle of monarchs, and sporting past the bowers of the muses, careless altogether what men of might do, or men of intellect think. A whole Parliament could not make the Thames swell with waves, and fifty Parliaments could not lessen the body of its waters. It were well, by the way, if they could preserve its streams from the pollution of those foul and putrid sewers constantly emptied into it. The rivers would be better without the interference of men. Such, then, is the Christian’s peace. I have watched this river as it broke over the stones of adversity; and when the tide of earthly comfort ran low, it hath seemed as if the flow of peace were clearer and more transparent than ever. Some of you may have said, “I wonder whether such a brother or sister will be as peaceful when he is lying on his sick bed, as he used to be when he joined our Sabbath services.” You go, and you find his peace abounds in the hour of need. Perhaps you hardly expected that another dear friend could bear the loss of his situation, and thus come down, as it were, in the world; but to your amazement, he tells you how he is just beginning to learn Habakkuk’s song: “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”

     The devil cannot rob us of the peace which comes from God, neither can the world take it away. O Christian, what a comfort it is for you to think that if all the powers of darkness should be in arms against you, they cannot destroy your peace which is in Christ Jesus the Lord. Only let God be with you, and your peace of mind would still be like a river. It would still be like a sea of glass, which is not to be ruffled at all. Glorious in deed and in truth is the Christian’s independence. Some Christians call themselves “Independents.” I believe we are all very dependent upon God, and therefore we shall never be Independents in that respect; but, at the same time, every Christian is so entirely independent of man when he leans upon his God, that we may every one of us be Independents. We can afford to defy the world to do its best or its worst to stay the tide of our joy, when he causes our peace to flow like a river.

     What would some of you give to have such a peace as this— that you could go to bed with peace and not be afraid of sleeping your last, and wake up with peace fearing no ill; that you could go to business not afraid of evil tidings, because your heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord? What would you give to have a great lump of sunshine put into your bosom, which you might break up and sprinkle over all your days and nights? Yet such peace you shall have if you hearken to God’s commands. That you have it not is our regret to-night. Alas! alas! for you, that you have not listened to his commandment, which is, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved;” for if you had hearkened to it, then the blessing would be yours, and the sweet enjoyment thereof would tranquilize your minds while it caused a tide of pleasure to stir up every grateful emotion of your heart.

     Time flies; and I am still lingering upon the former of the two figures employed. I must pass on to notice the other figure which is used to express those good things which the sinner has missed: THY RIGHTEOUSNESS AS THE WAVES OF THE SEA!”

     Let us pause a moment, and notice how this metaphor surpasses the previous one in dignity, if not in delicacy. Now we can all see a sort of comparison, and yet at the same time a strong contrast between the water of an inland river, and the collection of waters which make up the wide expanse of the sea. One for the most part is tranquil, the other always heaving and surging to and fro. So I suppose, as the words were originally addressed to the Jewish nation and referred to their temporal welfare, the river would represent the beauty and happiness of their own land, like the garden of Eden, watered by the river of God’s pleasure; and the sea, with its waves rolling in majestically one after another in unbroken succession, would set forth that progress which is the renown of righteousness. Generation after generation would witness the rising tide of prosperity. Each chapter of their chronicles would lift its crested plume and tell of mighty acts and righteous deeds, till like the roar of ocean, the righteousness of Israel should proclaim the name of the Lord from the river even to the ends of the earth. Oh! what did that rebellious seed of Jacob lose by forsaking the Lord! This seems to me to be something like the meaning. But I want to apply this metaphor of the waves of the sea, like I have that of the flowing of the river, to the happiness of the believer. Look, dear friends, at this precious doctrine of the gospel through the glass of that Old-Testament symbol. The man who believes in Jesus Christ has the righteousness of Christ imputed to him, that is to say, the obedience of Christ is considered by God as his obedience. So, if I believe in Christ, I am as much beloved and as much accepted as if I had been perfect in a rectitude of my own; for the righteousness of Christ becomes mine. But how is this righteousness like the waves of the sea?

     Well, first, it is like the waves of the sea for multitude. You cannot count the waves of the sea, do what you will; and so is it with the righteousness of Christ, you cannot count its different forms and fashions. Let us tell •you of some of these waves. I was born in sin and shapen in iniquity, but Christ is called “that holy thing” which is born of the Virgin, and the holiness of Christ’s birth takes away the unholiness of my nativity. I have committed sins in my childhood, sins against my parents; but Jesus Christ was a child full of the Spirit, and grew in wisdom and in stature, and in favour both with God and man; so Christ’s childish perfection is imputed to me, and hides my childish sins. I have to mourn over sins of thought, because the imaginations and thoughts of my heart are evil; but Christ can say, “Thy law is my delight,” and the thoughts of Christ’s mind cover my thoughts. Sins of the tongue you have all had to lament; but grace is poured into his lips, and the graciousness of Christ’s speech covers the gracelessness of yours. You have had heart-sins; but Christ has had heart-virtues. Your heart is hard; but he could say, “Reproach hath broken my heart.” Your heart was cold; but his fervor was constant, till he could say, “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.” Your heart was proud, high, and lofty, but Christ was humble and meek; he endured shame and spitting. You have had sins in worship; but Christ purged the temple, and served the Father in perfection, ay, both in Spirit and in truth. We have sins in private prayer; but the cold mountain-tops witnessed the fervour of his supplications. We have sinned against our fellow men; but he loved his neighbour better than himself. We have many sins against God; but he loved the Lord his God with all his heart, and it was his delight to do his Father’s business. Keep on, brethren, keep on; let the list of your sins be long, but the list of Christ’s righteousness will be longer still, for it is like the waves of the sea. What are you— a servant? Well, if you have the sins of a servant, Christ has the virtues of a servant. Are you a master? Your sins as a master are covered by Christ’s righteousness as a master. I am a minister; I feel my imperfection; but my Lord was a perfect shepherd of the flock; as he was a perfect teacher, the perfection of his teachership belongs to me, and I am covered with it. Oh! what a righteousness is this! It is like the waves of the sea, manifold. All that the Christian can want to satisfy the claims of the divine law, is found in the righteousness of Christ. There is a moral grandeur in the picture here— “Righteousness like the waves of the sea.”

     The righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ is also like the waves of the sea for majesty. What an illustration of overwhelming power! There comes the rushing wave; the tide has determined to rise to such-and-such a point, who can keep it back?

      And ask now, beloved, “Who can withstand the power of Christ’s righteousness? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? Whom Christ hath justified, who shall condemn?” Rise, mighty tide of righteousness, rise on, for none can stay thee in thy course. Then it is majestic, because it is profound. Who can plumb the depth of the righteousness of Christ? — deep as the demands of the law, deep as the miseries of hell, deep as the thoughts of God. It is majestic, too, because of its ceaseless energy. Sit in the boat, and see the waves as they go rolling by, following each other in endless succession. Never will the sea stop— it boileth like a pot. Now, the righteousness of Christ has a ceaseless energy. Wave upon wave, it breaks upon the eternal shore of divine justice, fulfilling the counsels of God, while it covers all the sins of his people. Beloved, that righteousness pleads tonight for every sinner who is resting on it, and it brings to you and to me the countless mercies which we are privileged to enjoy. For majesty, then, the righteousness of Christ is like the waves of the sea.

     And the analogy may be traced still further, if you reflect on the sufficiency of the one and the other. All over the world, at low water, you will find certain muddy creeks, bays, and coves. How are all these to be covered? How will that swamp once more be made to look like a sea-bed? Who can do it? God can; and there is water enough in the sea to cover every cove and creek; and there is not a river which will have to say “We had no tide to-day.

     O careless hearer, what shall I say unto thee to commend this righteousness of Christ? You may be the vilest sinner out of hell, but there is enough righteousness in Christ to cover you. For every creek of sin, for every bay of blasphemy, for every cove of infamy, here is a flood which will cover them all. The high-water mark of complete salvation shall be gained by every child of God. You cannot measure the all-sufficiency of the wave of the sea, much less can you find a gauge by which to estimate the all-sufficiency of the merit of Christ.

     Only once more, to make four points here, as we did in interpreting the river. The righteousness of Christ is like the waves of the sea for origin. Who is the father of those waves? Out of whose womb came that mighty company? Who is the joyous sire to whom these children may lift up their voices and say, “Here we are”? “God,” let the torrents roar; “He hath made us, and not we ourselves. The holy hands of God poured us into the channels which he had digged, and here we are, sometimes as a glass, that he may mirror his awful face in tempest, but ever his willing servants and his obedient sons.” Now, the righteousness of Christ comes not from man. No one adds a jot or tittle to it, but it is of the Lord, and the Lord alone. Jehovah-tsidkenu bared his mighty arm and stretched it to the work, and with him there was no man. When he wrought out the salvation of his people, he stood alone without a helper.

     “O,” says one, “I wish I had that righteousness to cover all my sins, and to waft me to heaven!” If you had hearkened to God’s commands, you would have had it. Yes, sinner, if you had believed in Christ, your peace would have been as a river, and your righteousness as the waves of the sea. That you have it not is owing to this, that you have not hearkened to God.

     I will put it to you very affectionately, but with the utmost faithfulness. When the gospel has been preached, have you listened attentively? Do you say, “Yes”? We will go farther, then; have you hearkened in solemn earnestness, desiring that the Word might be blessed to you? Have you hearkened in prayerfulness, crying, “God be merciful to me, a sinner?” Have you hearkened with willingness, being willing to be obedient? Have you hearkened with resolve, determining to do what was commanded you? Have you hearkened with humility, feeling your own inability, and beseeching the Lord to help you? Have you hearkened with all the powers of your mind, calling upon your entire being, and saying— “Now, Lord, here is my ear, speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth?” O my friends, you have many of you listened to me, but you do not listen to my Master, and even my poor word goes in at one ear and out at the other. You will go chatting home to-night, and you will seek after your amusements to-morrow, and all that the Word might have done will be thrown away upon you. I know how some of you hear; it is always with procrastination. You mean to hear, but you do not give heed with a present anxiety. You do not hear as that clock would bid you; for every tick of it seems to say, “Now, now, now.” Do any of you remember the loss of that vessel they called the “Central America?” I suppose some of you do. She was in a bad state, she had sprung a leak and was going down, and she hoisted a signal of distress. A ship came close to her, the captain of which asked, through the trumpet, “What is amiss?” “We are in bad repair, and are going down; lie by till morning,” was the answer. But the captain on board the rescueship said, “Let me take your passengers on board now.” “Lie by till morning!” was the message which came back. Once again, the captain cried, “You had better let me take your passengers on board now.” “Lie by till morning,” was the hoarse reply which came through the tempest. About an hour and-a-half after, the lights were missing, and though no sound was heard, she and all on board had gone down to the fathomless abyss. Do not say, sinner, “Lie by till morning!” For God’s sake, do not say, “Lie by till morning!” To-night, even to-night, hear ye the voice of God! O that the Spirit of my God might come upon you and open your ears to hearken to his commandment, for “now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.” This is the commandment, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved:” “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” To believe, as you know, is to trust. It is, as it were, to fall flat down upon Christ; to let him carry you to heaven; to put yourself out of your own hands into Christ’s hands; to have done with saving yourself, and to believe that he who died upon the cross hath perfected your salvation. Trust him, and if you hearken to his commandment, then your peace shall be as a river, and your righteousness as the waves of the sea.

     The Lord grant that it may be so, for his name’s sake. Amen.



The Great Arbitration Case

By / Jun 22

The Great Arbitration Case

 
“Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both." Job 9:33.

 

THE patriarch Job, when reasoning with the Lord concerning his great affliction, felt himself to be at a disadvantage and declined the controversy, saying, “He is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment.” Yet feeling that his friends were cruelly mis-stating his case, he still desired to spread it before the Lord, but wished for a mediator, a middleman, to act as umpire and decide the case. In his mournful plight he sighed for an arbitrator who, while dealing justly for God, would at the same time deal kindly with poor flesh and blood, being able to lay his hand upon both. But, dear friends, what Job desired to have, the Lord has provided for us in the person of his own dear Son, Jesus Christ. We cannot say with Job that there is no daysman who can lay his hand upon both, because there is now “one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” In him let us rejoice, if indeed we have an interest in him; and if we have not yet received him, may almighty grace bring us even now to accept him as our advocate and friend.

     There is an old quarrel between the thrice holy God and his sinful subjects, the sons of Adam. Man has sinned; he has broken God’s law in every part of it, and has wantonly cast off from him the allegiance which was due to his Maker and his King. There is a suit against man, which was formally instituted at Sinai and must be pleaded in the Court of King’s Bench, before the Judge of quick and dead. God is the great plaintiff against his sinful creatures who are the defendants. If that suit be carried into court, it must go against the sinner. There is no hope whatever that at the last tremendous day any sinner will be able to stand in judgment if he shall leave the matter of his debts and obligations towards his God unsettled until that dreadful hour. Sinner, it would be well for thee to “agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way,” for if thou be once delivered up to the great Judge of all the earth, there is not the slightest hope that thy suit can be decided otherwise than to thine eternal ruin. “Weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth,” will be the doom adjudged thee for ever, if thy case as before the living God shall ever come to be tried at the fiery throne of absolute justice. But the infinite grace of God proposes an arbitration, and I trust there are many here who are not anxious to have their suit carried into court, but are willing that the appointed daysman should stand betwixt them and God, and lay his hand upon both, and propose and carry out a plan of reconciliation. There is hope for thee, thou bankrupt sinner, that thou mayest yet be at peace with God. There is a way by which thy debts may yet be paid; that way is a blessed arbitration in which Jesus Christ shall stand as the daysman.

     Let me begin by describing the essentials of an arbitrator, or daysman; then let me take you into the arbitrator's court and show you his proceedings; and then for a little time, if there be space enough, let us dwell upon the happy success of our great Daysman.

     I. First of all, let me describe what are THE ESSENTIALS OF AN UMPIRE, AN ARBITRATOR, OR A DAYSMAN.

     The first essential is, that both parties should be agreed to accept him. Let me come to thee, thou sinner, against whom God has laid his suit, and put the matter to thee. God has accepted Christ Jesus to be his umpire in his dispute. He appointed him to the office, and chose him for it before he laid the foundations of the world. He is God’s fellow, equal with the Most High, and can put his hand upon the Eternal Father without fear, because he is dearly beloved of that Father’s heart. He is “very God of very God,” and is in no respect inferior to “God over all, blessed for ever.” But he is also a man like thyself, sinner. He once suffered, hungered, thirsted, and knew the meaning of poverty and pain. Nay, he went farther, he was tempted as thou hast been, and farther still, he suffered the pangs of death, as thou poor mortal man wilt one day have to do. Now, what thinkest thou? God has accepted him; canst thou agree with God in this matter, and agree to take Christ to be thy daysman too? Does foolish enmity possess thee, or does grace reign and lead thee to accept Emmanuel, God with us, as umpire in this great dispute? Let me say to thee that thou wilt never find another so near akin to thee, so tender, so sympathetic, with such bowels of compassion towards thee. Love streamed from his eyes in life, and poured from his wounds in death. He is “the express image” of Jehovah’s person, and you know that Jehovah’s name is “Love.” “God is love,” and Christ is love. Sinner, has divine grace brought thee to thy senses? Wilt thou accept Christ now? Art thou willing that he should take this case into his hands and arbitrate between thee and God? for if God accepteth him, and thou accept him too, then he has one of the first qualifications for being a daysman.

     But, in the next place, both parties must be fully agreed to leave the case entirely in the arbitrator's hands. If the arbitrator does not possess the power of settling the case, then pleading before him is only making an opportunity for wrangling, without any chance of coming to a peaceful settlement. Now God has committed “all power” into the hands of his Son. Jesus Christ is the plenipotentiary of God, and has been invested with full ambassadorial powers. He comes commissioned by his Father, and he can say in all that he does towards sinners, that his Father’s heart is with him. If the case be settled by him, the Father is agreed. Now, sinner, does grace move thy heart to do the same? Wilt thou agree to put thy case into the hands of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Man? Wilt thou abide by his decision? Wilt thou have it settled according to his judgment, and shall the verdict which he gives stand absolute and fast with thee? If so, then Christ has another essential of an arbitrator; but if not, remember, though he may make peace for others, he will never make peace for thee; for this know, that until the grace of God has made thee willing to trust the case in Jesu’s hands, there can be no peace for thee, and thou art wilfully remaining God’s enemy by refusing to accept his dear Son.

     Further, let us say, that to make a good arbitrator or umpire, it is essential that he be a fit person. If the case were between a king and a beggar, it would not seem exactly right that another king should be the arbitrator, nor another beggar; but if there could be found a person who combined the two, who was both prince and beggar, then such a man could be selected by both. Our Lord Jesus Christ precisely meets the case. There is a very great disparity between the plaintiff and the defendant, for how great is the gulf which exists between the eternal God and poor fallen man! How is this to be bridged? Why by none except by one who is God and who at the same time can become man. Now the only being who can do this is Jesus Christ. He can put his hand on thee, stooping down to all thine infirmity and thy sorrow, and he can put his other hand upon the Eternal Majesty, and claim to be co-equal with God and co-eternal with the Father. Dost thou not see, then, his fitness? Surely it were the path of wisdom, sinner, to accept him at once as the arbitrator in the case. See how well he understands it! I should not do to be an arbitrator in legal cases, because, though I should be anxious to do justice, yet I should know nothing of the law of the case. But Christ knows your case, and the law concerning it, because he has lived among men, and has passed through and suffered the penalties of justice. There cannot surely be a better skilled or more judicious daysman than our blessed Redeemer.

     Yet there is one more essential of an umpire, and that is, that he should be a person desirous to bring the case to a happy settlement. If you appoint a quarrelsome arbitrator, he may delight to “set dogs by the ears;” but if you elect one who is anxious for the good of both, and wishes to make both friends, then he is just the very man, though, to be sure, he would be a man of a thousand, very precious when found, but very hard to discover. Oh that all law-suits could be decided by such men. In the great case which is pending between God and the sinner, the Lord Jesus Christ has a sincere anxiety both for his Father’s glory and for the sinner’s welfare, and that there should be peace between the two contending parties. It is the life and aim of Jesus Christ to make peace. He delighteth not in the death of sinners, and he knows no joy greater than that of receiving prodigals to his bosom, and of bringing lost sheep back again to the fold. You cannot tell how high the Saviour’s bosom swells with an intense desire to make to himself a great name as a peace-maker. Never had warrior such ambition to make war and to win victories therein, as Christ has to end war, and to win thereby the bloodless triumphs of peace. From the heights of heaven he came leaping like a young roe down to the plains of earth. From earth he leaped into the depths of the grave; then up again at a bound he sprang to earth, and up again to heaven; and still he resteth not, but presseth on in his mighty work to ingather sinners, and to reconcile them unto God; making himself a propitiation for their sins.

     Thou seest then, sinner, how the case is. God has evidently chosen the most fitting arbitrator. That arbitrator is willing to undertake the case, and thou mayest well repose all confidence in him; but and if thou shalt live and die without accepting him as thine arbitrator, then, the case going against thee, thou wilt have none to blame but thyself. When the everlasting damages shall be assessed against thee in thy soul and body for ever, thou shalt have to curse only thine own folly for having been the cause of thy ruin. May I ask you to speak candidly? Has the Holy Ghost so turned the natural bent and current of your will, that you have chosen him because he has first chosen you? Do you feel that Christ this day is standing before God for you? He is God’s anointed; is he your elected? God’s choice pitches upon him, does your choice agree therewith? Remember, where there is no will towards Christ, Christ as yet exercises no saving power. Christ saves no sinner who lives and dies unwilling. He makes unwilling sinners willing before he speaks a word of comfort to them. It is the mark of our election as his people, that we are made willing in the day of God’s power. Lay your hope where God has laid your help, namely, on Christ, mighty to save. You cannot have an arbitrator except both sides be agreed. Dost thou say ay, ay, with all my soul I choose him? Then let us proceed.

     II. And now I shall want, by your leave, to TAKE YOU INTO THE COURT WHERE THE TRIAL IS GOING ON, AND SHOW YOU THE LEGAL PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE GREAT DAYSMAN.

     “The man, Christ Jesus,” who is “God over all, blessed for ever,” opens his court by laying down the principles upon which he intends to deliver judgment, and those principles I will now try to explain and expound. They are two-fold — first, strict justice; and secondly, fervent love.

     The arbitrator has determined that let the case go as it may there shall be full justice done, justice to the very extreme, whether it be for or against the defendant. He intends to take the law in its sternest and severest aspect, and to judge according to its strictest letter. He will not be guilty of partiality on either side. If the law says that the sinner shall die, the arbitrator declares that he will judge that the sinner shall die; and if, on the other hand, the defendant can plead and prove that he is innocent, he intends to adjudge to him the award of innocence, namely ETERNAL LIFE. If the sinner can prove that he has fairly won it, he shall have his due. Either way, whether it be in favour of the plaintiff or of the defendant, the condition of judgment is to be strict justice.

     But the arbitrator also says that he will judge according to the second rule, that of fervent love. He loves his Father, and therefore he will decide on nothing that may attaint his honour or disgrace his crown. He so loves God, the Eternal One, that he will suffer heaven and earth to pass away sooner than there shall be one blot upon the character of the Most High. On the other hand, he so loves the poor defendant, man, that he will be willing to do anything rather than inflict penalty upon him unless justice shall absolutely require it. He loves man with so large a love that nothing will delight him more than to decide in his favour, and he will be but too glad if he can be the means of happily establishing peace between the two. How these principles are to meet, will be seen by and by. At present he lays them down very positively. “He that ruleth among men must be just.” An arbitraton must be just; or else he is not fit to hold the scales in any suit. Or the other hand, he must be tender; for his name, as God, is love; and his nature as man is gentleness and mercy. Both parties should distinctly consent to these principles. How can they do otherwise? Do they not commend themselves to all of you? Let justice and love unite if they can.

     Having thus laid down the principles of judgment, the arbitrator next calls upon the plaintiff to state his case. Let us listen while the great Creator speaks: may God give me grace now reverently to state it in his name, as one poor sinner stating God’s case against us all. “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.” The Eternal God charges us, and let me confess at once most justly and most truly charges us, with having broken all his commandments — some of them in act, some of them in word, all of them in heart, and thought, and imagination. He charges upon us, that against light and knowledge we have chosen the evil and forsaken the good; that knowing what we were doing we have turned aside from his most righteous law and have gone astray like lost sheep, following the imaginations and devices of our own hearts. The great Plaintiff claims that inasmuch as we are his creatures we ought to have obeyed him, that inasmuch as we owe our very lives to his daily care we ought to have rendered him service instead of disobedience, and to have been his loyal subjects instead of turning traitors to his throne. All this, calmly and dispassionately, according to the great Book of the law, is laid to our charge before the Daysman. No exaggeration of sin is brought against us. It is simply declared of us that the whole head is sick and the whole heart is faint; that there is none that doeth good, no, not one; that we have all gone out of the way, and altogether become unprofitable. This is God’s case. He says, “I made this man; curiously was he wrought in the lowest parts of the earth; and all his members bear traces of my singular handiwork. I made him for my honour, and he has not honoured me. I created him for my service, and he has not served me. Twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years I have kept the breath in his nostrils; the bread he has eaten has been the daily portion of my bounty; his garments are the livery of my charity; and all this while he has neither thought of me, his Creator and Preserver, nor done anything in my service. He has served his family, his wife and children, but his Maker he has despised. He has served his country, his neighbours, the borough in which he dwells; but I who made him, I have had nothing from him. He has been an unprofitable servant unto me.” I think I may put the plaintiff’s case into your hands. Which of you would keep a horse, and that horse should yield you no obedience? What excuse is it that though I might not use him he would carry another? Nay, the case is worse than this. Not only has man done nothing, but worse than nothing. Which of you would keep a dog, which, instead of fawning upon you, would bark at you — fly at you, and tear you in his rage? Some of us have done this to God; we have perhaps cursed him to his face; we have broken his sabbaths, laughed at his gospel, and persecuted his saints. You would have said of such a dog, let it die. Wherefore should I harbour in my house a dog that treats me thus? Yet, hear, O heavens; and give ear, O earth; God has borne with your ill manners, and he still cries “forbear.” He puts the lifted thunder back into the arsenal of his dread artillery. I wish I could state the case as I ought. My lips are but clay; and these words should be like fire in the sinner’s soul. When I meditated upon this subject alone, I felt much sympathy with God, that he should have been so ill treated; and whereas some men speak of the flames of hell as too great a punishment for sin, it seems ten thousand marvels that we should not have been thrust down there long ago.

     The plaintiff’s case having thus been stated the defendant is called upon by the Daysman for his; and I think I hear him as he begins. First of all the trembling defendant sinner pleads— “I confess to the indictment, but I say I could not help it. 1 have sinned, it is true, but my nature was such that I could not well do otherwise; I must lay all the blame of it to my own heart; my heart was deceitful and my nature was evil.” The Daysman at once rules that this is no excuse whatever, but an aggravation, for inasmuch as it is conceded that the man’s heart itself is enmity against God, this in an admission of yet greater malice and blacker rebellion. It was only alleged against the offender in the first place that he had outwardly offended; but he acknowledges that he does it inwardly, and confesses that his very heart is traitorous against God, and is fully set upon working the King’s damage and dishonour. It is determined, therefore, by the Daysman that this excuse will not stand, and he gives a case in point: — a thief is brought up for stealing, and he pleads that his heart was thievish, that he felt a constant inclination to steal, and that therefore he could not help running off with any goods within his reach. The judge very properly answers, “Then I shall give you twice as much penalty as any other man who only fell into the fault by surprise, for according to your own confession, you are a thief through and through; what you have said is not an excuse, but an aggravation.”

     Then the defendant pleads in the next place that albeit he acknowledges the facts alleged against him, yet he is no worse than other offenders, and that there are many in the world who have sinned more grievously than he has done. He says he has been envious, and angry, and worldly, and covetous, and has forgotten God; but then he never was an adulterer, or a thief, or a drunkard, or a blasphemer, and he pleads that his lesser crimes may well be winked at. But the great Daysman at once turns to the Statute Book, and says that as he is about to give his decision by law that plea is not at all tenable, for the law book has it — “Cursed is every man that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them.” The offence of one sinner doth not excuse the offence of another; and the arbitrator declares that he cannot mix up other cases with the case now in hand; that the present offender has on his own confession broken the law, and that as the law book stands that is the only question to be decided, for “ the soul that sinneth it shall die,” and if the defendent has no better plea to offer, judgment must go against him.

     The sinner urges further, that though he has offended, and offended very greatly and grievously, yet he has done a great many good things. It is true he did not love God, but he always went to chapel. It is true he did not pray, but still he belonged to a singing-class. It is quite correct that he did not love his neighbour as himself, but he always liked to relieve the poor. But the Daysman, looking the sinner full in the face, tells him that this plea also is bad, for the alleged commission of some acts of loyalty will not make compensation for avowed acts of treason. “Those things,” saith he, “ye ought to have done, but not to have left the others undone;” and he tells the sinner, with all kindness and gentleness, that straining at a gnat does not exonerate him for having swallowed a camel; and that having tithed mint, and anise, and cummin, is no justification for having devoured a widow’s house. To have forgotten God is in itself a great enormity; to have lived without serving him is a crime of omission so great, that whatever the sinner may have done on the contra, stands for nothing at all, since he has even then in that case done only what he ought to have done. You see at once the justice of this decision. If any of you were to say to your grocer, or tailor, when they send in their bills, “Well, now, you ought not to ask for payment of that account, because I did pay you another bill — you ought not to ask me to pay for that suit of clothes, because I did pay you for another suit;" I think the answer would be, “But in paying for what you had before, you only did what you ought to do; but I still have a demand upon you for this.” So all the good deeds you have ever done are only debts discharged which were most fully due, (supposing them to be good deeds, which is very questionable) and they leave the great debt still untouched.

     The defendant has no end of pleas, for the sinner has a thousand excuses; and finding that nothing else will do, he begins to appeal to the mercy of the plaintiff, and says that for the future lie will do letter. He confesses that he is in debt, but he will run up no more bills at that shop. He acknowledges that he has offended, but he vows he will not do so again. He is quite sure that the future shall be as free from fault as angels are from sin. Though it is true that he just now said his heart was bad, still he feels inclined to think that it is not so very bad after all; he is conceited enough to think that he can in the future keep himself from committing sin; thereby, you see, admitting the worthlessness of his former plea on which he relied so much “Now,” he says, “if for life I become a teetotaler, then surely I may be excused for having been a drunkard; suppose now that I am always honest and steady, and never again say one ill word, will not that exonerate me from all my wrong-doings, and for having blasphemed God?” But the Daysmen rules, still with kindness and gentleness, that the greatest imaginable virtue in the future will be no recompense for the sin of the past; for he finds in the lawbook no promise whatever made to that effect: but the statute runs in these words, “He will by no means spare the guilty;” “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.”

     You would think that the defendant would now be fairly beaten, but he is not: he asks leave to step across the way to bring in a friend of his. He is allowed to do so, and comes back with a gentleman dressed in such a queer style, that, if you had not sometimes seen the like in certain Puseyite Churches, you would suppose him to have arrayed himself for the mere purpose of amusing children at a show, where a merry-andrew is the presiding genius. The defendant seems to imagine that if the case be left to this gentleman in the white shirt and ribbons, he will settle it with ease. He has with him a little bottle of water, by which he can turn hearts of stone into flesh, making heirs of wrath into “members of Christ, children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven.” He has a certain portion of mystical bread, and magical wine, the reception with which he can work wonderful transformation, producing flesh and blood therefrom at his reverence’s will and pleasure. In fact, this gentleman trades and gets his living by the prosecution of magic. He has occult influences streaming from his fingers, which influences he derived originally from a gentleman in lawn; and he now pretends to have ability derived from the apostles, most probably from Judas, by marvellous manipulations — how I cannot tell you, but by a kind of sleight of hand — to settle the case. But the Daysman, with a frown, hurls a thunderbolt from his hand against the impudent impostor, and bids him take himself away, and not again deceive poor sinners with his vain pretensions. He warns the defendant that the priest is an arrant knave, that whatever professions he may make of being a “successor of the apostles,” he knows nothing about apostolical doctrine, or else he would not have intruded his sinful, silly self, between men’s souls and God. He bids him advise the man to dress himself like a person in his right mind, who was about honest work, and not as a necromancer or priest of Baal, and give himself to preaching the gospel, instead of propagating the superstitious inventions of Rome.

     What is the poor defendant to do now? He is fairly beaten this time. He falls down on his knees, and with many tears and lamentations he cries, “I see how the case stands; I have nothing to plead, but I appeal to the mercy of the plaintiff; I confess that I have broken his commandments; I acknowledge that I deserve his wrath; but I have heard that he is merciful, and I plead for free and full forgiveness.”

     And now comes another scene. The plaintiff seeing the sinner on his knees, with his eyes full of tears, makes this reply, “I am willing at all times to deal kindly and according to lovingkindness with all my creatures; but will the arbitrator for a moment suggest that I should damage and ruin my own perfections of truth and holiness; that I should belie my own word; that I should imperil my own throne; that I should make the purity of immaculate justice to be suspected, and should bring down the glory of my unsullied holiness, because this creature has offended me, and now craves for mercy? I cannot, I will not spare the guilty; he has offended, and he must die! ‘As I live, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but would rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live.' Still, this ‘would rather’ must not be supreme. I am gracious and would spare the sinner, but I am just, and must not unsay my own words. I swore with an oath, ‘The soul that sinneth shall die.’ I have laid it down as a matter of firm decree, ‘Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.’ This sinner is righteously cursed, and he must inevitably die; and yet I love him. How can I give thee up, Ephraim? how can I make thee as Admah? How can I set thee as Zeboim? And yet, how can I put thee among the children? Would it not be a worse calamity that I should be unjust than that earth should lose its inhabitants? Better all men perish, than that the universe should lose the justice of God as its stay and shield.” The arbitrator bows and says, “Even so; justice demands that the offender should die, and I would not have thee unjust.”

     What more does the arbitrator say? He sits still, and the case is in suspense. There stands the just and holy God, willing to forgive if it can be done without injury to the immutable principles of right. There sits the arbitrator, looking with eyes of love upon the poor, weeping, trembling sinner, and anxious to devise a plan to save him, but conscious that that plan must not infringe upon divine justice; for it were a worse cruelty to injure divine perfections than it were to destroy the whole human race. The arbitrator, therefore, after pausing awhile, puts it thus: “I am anxious that these two should be brought together; I love them both: I cannot, on the one hand, recommend that my Father should stain his honour; I cannot, on the other hand, endure that this sinner should be cast eternally into hell; I will decide the case, and it shall be thus: 1 will pay my Father’s justice all it craves; I pledge myself that in the fulness of time I will suffer in my own proper person all that the weeping, trembling sinner ought to have suffered. My Father, wilt thou stand to this?” The eternal God accepts the awful sacrifice! What say you, sinner, what say you? Why, methinks you cannot have two opinions. If you are sane — and may God make you sane — you will melt with wonder. You will say, “I could not have thought this! I never called in a daysman with an expectation of this! I have sinned, and he declares that he will suffer; I am guilty, and he says that he will be punished for me!”

     Yes, sinner, and he did more than say it, for when the fulness of time came — you know the story. The officers of justice served him with the writ, and he was taken from his knees in the garden of Gethsemane away to the court, and there he was tried and condemned; and you know how his back was scourged till the white bones stood like islands of ivory in the midst of a crimson sea of gore; you know how his head was crowned with thorns, and his cheeks were given to those who plucked off the hair! Can you not see him hounded through the streets of Jerusalem, with the spittle of the brutal soldiery still upon his unwashed face, and his wounds all unstanched and bleeding? Can you not see him as they hurl him down and fasten him to the accursed tree? — then they lift the cross and dash it down into its socket in the earth, dislocating every bone, tearing every nerve and sinew, filling his soul as full of agony as this earth is full of sin, or the depths of the ocean filled with its floods? You do not know, however, what he suffered within. Hell held carnival within his heart. Every arrow of the infernal pit was discharged at him, and heaven itself forsook him. The thunderbolts of vengeance fell upon him, and his Father hid his face from him till he cried in his agony, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” And so he suffered on, and on, and on, till “It is finished” closed the scene.

     Here, then, is the arbitration. Christ himself suffers; and now I have to put the query, “Hast thou accepted Christ?” O dear friend, if thou hast, I know that God the Holy Ghost has made thee accept him; but if thou hast not, what shall I call thee? I will not upbraid thee, but my heart would weep over thee. How canst thou be so mad as to forego a compromise so blessed, an arbitration so divine! Oh! kiss the feet of the Daysman; love him all thy life, that he has decided the case so blessedly.

     III. Let us now look at THE DAYSMAN’S SUCCESS.

     For every soul who has received Christ, Christ has made a full atonement which God the Father has accepted; and his success in this matter is to be rejoiced in, first of all, because the suit has been settled conclusively. We have known cases go to arbitration, and yet the parties have quarrelled afterwards; they have said that the arbitrator did not rule justly, or something of the kind, and so the whole point has been raised again. But 0 beloved, the case between a saved soul and God is settled once and for ever. There is no more conscience of sin left in the believer; and as for God’s Book, there is not a sin recorded there against any soul that has received Christ. I know some of our Arminian brethren rather think that the case is not settled; or they suppose that the case is settled for a time, but that it will one day come up again. Beloved, I thank God that they are mistaken. Christ has not cast his people’s sins into the shallows, where they may be washed up again, but he has cast them into the depths of -the sea, where they are drowned for ever. Our scape-goat has not carried our sins to the borders of the land, where they may be found again, but he has taken them away into the wilderness where, if they be searched for, they shall not be found. The case is so settled that in eternity you shall never hear of it again except as a case which was gloriously decided.

     Again, the case has been settled on the lest principles, because, you see, neither party can possibly quarrel with the decision. The sinner cannot, for it is all mercy to him: even eternal justice cannot, for it has had its due. If there had been any mitigation of the penalty, we might yet fear that perhaps the suit might come up again; but now that everything has been paid, that cannot be. If my creditor takes from me, by a settlement in the Court of Insolvency, ten shillings in the pound, I know he will not disturb me yet; but I cannot feel quite at ease about the other ten shillings; and if I am ever able, I should like to pay him. But, you see, Christ has not paid ten shillings in the pound, but he has paid every farthing.

“Justice now demands no more,
He has paid the dreadful score.”

For all the sins of all his people he has made such a full and satisfactory atonement, that divine justice were not divine justice at all if it should ask to be paid twice for the same offence. Christ has suffered the law’s fullest and severest penalty, and there is now no fear whatever that the case can ever be revived, by writ of error, or removal into another court, because it has been settled on the eternal and immutable principles of justice.

     Again, the case has been so settled, that loth parties are well content. You never hear a saved soul murmur at the substitution of the Lord Jesus. If ever I get to see his face, I’ll fall down before him and kiss the dust beneath his feet. Oh! if ever I see the Saviour who has thus delivered me from ruin; if I have a crown I will cast it at his feet, and never, never wear it; it must, it shall be his. I feel like the good woman who said, that if Christ ever saved her, he should never hear the last of it; and I am sure he never shall, for I will praise him as long as immortality endures, for what he has done for me. I am sure that every saved sinner feels the same. And Jehovah, on the other side, is perfectly content. He is satisfied with his dear Son. “Well done!” he saith to him. He has received him to the throne of glory, and made him to sit at his right hand, because he is perfectly content with the great work which he has accomplished.

     But, what is more and more wonderful still, both parties have gained in the suit. Hid you ever hear of such a law-suit as this before? No, never in the courts of man. The old story of the two oyster-shells, you know, awarded to the plaintiff and defendant, while the oyster is eaten in court, is generally the result; but it is not so in this case, for both the plaintiff and the defendant have won by the arbitration. What has God gained? Why, glory to himself, and such glory as all creation could not give him, such glory as the ruin of sinners, though so well deserved, could not give him. Hark how

“Heaven’s eternal arches ring
With shouts of sovereign grace!”

Angels, too, as well as those who have been redeemed, strike their harps, which they have turned afresh to a nobler strain, as they sing, “Worthy is the Lamb, and blessed is the eternal God!” And, as for us, the poor defendants, why, what have we not gained? We were men before; now we are something more than Adam was. We were “a little lower than the angels” before, but now we are “lifted up far above all principalities and powers.” We were God’s subjects once, but this arbitration has made us his sons. We were at our very best only the possessors of a paradise on earth, but now we are joint-heirs with Christ of a paradise above the skies. Both sides have won, and both sides must therefore be blessedly content with their glorious Daysman.

     And, to conclude, through this Daysman loth parties have come to le united in the strongest, closest, dearest, and fondest lond of union. This law-suit has ended in such a way that the plaintiff and the defendant are friends for life, nay, friends through death, and friends in eternity. How near God is to a pardoned sinner,

“So near, so very near to God,
Nearer we cannot be;
For in the person of his Son,
We are as near as he.”

What a wonderful thing is that union between God and the sinner! We have all been thinking a great deal lately about the Atlantic Cable. It is a very interesting attempt to join two worlds together. That poor cable, you know, has had to be sunk into the depths of the sea, in the hope of establishing a union between the two worlds, and now we are disappointed again. But oh! what an infinitely greater wonder has been accomplished. Christ Jesus saw the two worlds divided, and the great Atlantic of human guilt rolled between. He sank down deep into the woes of man till all God’s waves and billows had gone over him, that he might be, as it were, the great telegraphic communication between God and the apostate race, between the Most Holy One and poor sinners. Let me say to you, sinner, there was no failure in the laying down of that blessed cable. It went down deep; the end was well secured, and it went down deep into the depths of our sin, and shame, and woe; and on the other side it has gone right up to the eternal throne, and is fastened there eternally fast, by God himself. You may work that telegraph to-day, and you may easily understand the art of working it too. A sigh will work it; a tear will work it. Say, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” and along the wire the message will flash, and will reach God before it comes from you. It is swifter far than earthly telegraphs; ay, and there will come an answer back much sooner than you ever dream of, for it is promised — “Before they call I will answer, and while they are yet speaking I will hear.” Who ever heard of such a communication as this between man and man; but it really does exist between sinners and God, since Christ has opened up a way from the depths of our sin to the heights of his glory.

     This is for you who are at a distance from him, but he has done more for us who are saved, for he has taken us right across the Atlantic of our sin and set us down on the other side; he has taken ns out of our sinful state, and put us into the Father’s bosom, and there we shall dwell for ever in the heart of God as his own dear children.

     I would to God that some might now be led to look to the Saviour that some would come with weeping and with tears to him, and say,

“‘Jesus lover of my soul,
Let me to thy bosom fly.’

Take my case, and arbitrate for me; I accept thine atonement; I trust in thy precious blood; only receive me and I will rejoice in thee for ever with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”

     May the Lord bless you evermore. Amen.



Prevenient Grace

By / Jun 22

Prevenient Grace

 

“When it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me.”—Galatians 1:15.
 

You all know the story of the apostle Paul; he had been a persecutor, and went armed with letters to Damascus, to hail men and women, and drag them to prison. On the road thither he saw a light exceeding bright above the brightness of the sun, and a voice spake out of heaven to him saying, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” By this miraculous interposition he was converted: three days he spent in darkness; but when Ananias came to tell him of the gospel of Jesus Christ, there fell from his eyes as it were scales. He was baptized, became the most mighty of all Christian teachers, and could truly say that he was “not a whit behind the very chief of the apostles.”

     Paul's conversion is generally considered so very remarkable for its suddenness and distinctness, and truly it is; yet, at the same time, it is no exception to the general rule of conversions, but is rather a type, or model, or pattern of the way in which God shows forth his longsuffering to them that are led to believe on him. It appears from my text, however, that there is another part of Paul’s history which deserves our attention quite as much as the suddenness of his conversion version, namely, the fact that although he was suddenly converted, yet God had had thoughts of mercy towards him from his very birth. God did not begin to work with him when he was on the road to Damascus. That was not the first occasion on which eyes of love had darted upon this chief of sinners, but he declares that God had separated him and set him apart even from his mother's womb, that he might by-and-by be called by grace, and have Jesus Christ revealed in him.

     I selected this text, not so much for its own sake, as to give me an opportunity for saying a little this evening upon a doctrine not often touched upon, namely, that of PREVENIENT GRACE, or the grace which comas before regeneration and conversion. I think we sometimes overlook look it. We do not attach enough importance to the grace of God in its dealings with men before he actually brings them to himself. Paul says that God had designs of love towards him even before he had called him out of the dead world into spiritual life. 

     I. To begin, then, let us talk for a little while upon THE PURPOSE OF GOD PRECEDING SAVING GRACE, AS IT MAY CLEARLY BE SEEN DEVELOPING ITSELF IN HUMAN HISTORY. 

     You generally judge what a man's purpose is by his actions. If you saw a man very carefully making moulds in sand, if you then watched him take several pieces of iron and melt them down, and if you further noticed him running the melted iron into the moulds, you might not know precisely what class of machine he was making, but you would very justly conclude that he was making some part of an engine or other machinery—a beam, or a lever, or a crank, or a wheel, and according to what you saw the moulds in the sand to be, you would form your idea of what the man was intending to make. Now, when I look at the life of a man, even before conversion, I think I can discover something of God's moulding and fashioning in him even before regenerating grace comes into his heart. Let me give you an illustration of my course of thought. When God created man—we are told in the book of Genesis—he made him “out of the dust of the earth.” Mark him beneath his Maker’s hand, the framework of a man, the tabernacle for an immortal soul; a man made of clay, fully made, I suppose, and perfect in all respects excepting one, and that soon followed: for after God had formed him out of the dust, then he breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul. Now it strikes me that during the early part of the history of the people whom God means to save, though they have not received into their hearts any spiritual life, nor experienced any of the work of regeneration, yet their life before conversion is really a working of them in the clay. 

     Let us endeavour to bring this out more distinctly. Can you not perceive God’s purpose in the apostle Paul, when you think of the singular gifts with which he was endowed? Here was a man, a rhetorician, so noble that there are in his works passages of eloquence not to be equalled, much less excelled, by Demosthenes and Cicero. As a logician, his arguments are most conclusive as well as profound. Never had man such an eagle-eye to pierce into the depths of a matter; never had man such an eagle-wing to mount up into its sublimities. He argues out questions so abstruse, that at all times they have been the battle-grounds of controversies, and yet he seems to perceive them clearly and distinctly and to unfold and expound them with a precision of language not to be misunderstood. All apostles of Jesus Christ put together are not equal to Paul in the way of teaching. Truly he might have said of them all, “You are but as children compared with me.” Peter dashes, and dashes gloriously, against the adversary, but Peter cannot build up, nor instruct; like the great apostle of the Gentiles, he has to say himself of Paul's writings that they “contain some things hard to be understood.” Peter can confirm, but scarcely can he understand Paul; for where intellect is concerned, Paul is far, far above him. Paul seems to have been endowed by God with one of the most massive brains that ever filled human cranium, and to have been gifted with an intellect which towered far above anything that we find elsewhere. Had Paul been merely a natural man, I do not doubt but what he would take the place either of Milton among the poets, or of Bacon among the philosophers. He was, in deed and in truth, a master-mind. Now, when I see such a man as this cast by God in the mould of nature, I ask myself—“What is God about? What is he doing here?” As every man has a purpose, so also has God, and I think I see in all this that God foreknew that such a man was necessary to be raised up as a vessel through whom he might convey to the world the hidden treasures of the gospel; that such a man was needful so that God might speak his great things by him. You will say, probably, that God reveals great things by fools. I beg your pardon. God did once permit an ass to speak, but it was a very small thing that he said, for any ass might readily have said it. Whenever ever there is a wise thing to be said, a wise man is always chosen to say it. Look the whole Bible through, and you will find that the revelation is always congruous to the person to whom it is given. You do not find Ezekiel blessed with a revelation like that of Isaiah. Ezekiel is all imagination, therefore he must soar on the eagle's wing; Isaiah is all affection and boldness, and therefore he must speak with evangelical fulness. God does not give Nahum's revelation to the herdsman Amos: the herdsman Amos cannot speak like Nahum, nor can Nahum speak like Amos. Each man is after his own order, and a man of this masterly order of mind, like the apostle Paul, must have been created, it seems to me, for no other end than to be the appropriate means of revealing to us the fulness and the blessing of the gospel of peace.

     Mark, again, the apostle's education. Paul was a Jew, not half Greek and half Jew, but a pure Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, speaking still the Jews’ native tongue, and not a stranger to the ancient speech of Israel. There was nothing in the traditions of the Jews which Paul did not know and understand. He was educated at the feet of Gamaliel. The best master of the age is selected to be the master of the hopeful young scholar, and the school in which he is placed must be a Rabinnical one. Now, just observe in this the purpose of God. Paul's life-long struggle was to be with Jewish superstition. In Iconium, in Lystra, in Derbe, in Athens, in Corinth, in Rome, he must always be confronting the Judaising spirit; and it was well that he should know all about it that he should be well schooled in it; and it does strike me that God separated him from his mother’s womb on purpose that he might go forth to proclaim the gospel instead of law, and shut the mouths of those who were constantly abiding by the traditions of the fathers, instead of the gospel of Jesus Christ. All this, remember, was going on while as yet he was unconverted, though he was even then, as we see, being prepared for his work.

     Then observe, the spiritual struggles through which Paul passed. I take it that mental struggles are often a more important part of education than what a man learns from his school-master. What is learned here in my heart is often of more use to me than what can be put into my head by another. Paul seems to have had a mind bent upon carrying out what he believed to be right. To serve God appears to have been the great ambition, the one object of the apostle's life. Even when he was a persecutor, he says he thought he was doing God service. He was no groveller after wealth; never in his whole lifetime was Paul a Mammonite. He was no mere seeker after learning—never; he was learned, but it was all held and used subject to what he deemed far more highly, the indwelling grace of God. Even before he knew Christ he had a sort of religion, and an attachment, and an earnest attachment too, to the God of his fathers, though it was a zeal not according to knowledge. He had his inward fightings, and fears, and struggles, and difficulties, and all these were educating him to come out and talk to his fellow-sinners, and lead them up out of the darkness of Judaism into the light of Christianity.

     And then, what I like in Paul, and that which leads me to see the purpose of God in him, is the singular formation of his mind. Even as a sinner, Paul was great. He was “the chief of sinners,” just as he afterwards became, “not a whit behind the very chief of the apostles.” There are some of us who are such little men that the world will never see us; the old proverb about the chips in porridge giving one pleasure either way, might apply to a great many people, but never to Paul. If there was anything to be done, Paul would do it; ay, and if it came to the stoning of Stephen, he says he gave his vote against him, and though he was not one of the actual executioners, yet we are told that “the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul.” He would do all that was to be done, and was a thoroughgoing man everywhere. Believing a thing to be right, Paul never consulted with flesh and blood, but girded up his loins and wrought with the whole powers of his being, and that was no mean force, as his enemies felt to their cost. Why, as I see him riding to Damascus, I picture him with his eyes flashing with fanatic hate against the disciples of the man whom he thought to be an impostor, while his heart beat high with the determination to crush the followers of the Nazarene. He is a man all energy, and all determination, and when he is converted, he is only lifted into a higher life, but unchanged as to temperament, nature, and force of character. He seems to have been constituted naturally a thorough-going, thorough-hearted man, in order that when grace did come to him, he might be just as earnest, just as dauntless, and fearless, in the defence of what he believed to be right. Yes, and such a man was wanted to lead the vanguard in the great crusade against the God of this world. No other could have stood forward thus as Paul did, for no other had the same firmness, boldness, and decision, that he possessed. “But,” I hear someone say, “was not Peter as bold?” Yes, he was; but Peter, you remember, always had the failing of being just where he ought not to be when he was wanted. Peter was unstable to the very last, I think; certainly in Paul's day, Paul had to withstand him. He was a great and good man, but not fitted to be the foremost. Perhaps you say, “But there is John: would not John do?” No; we cannot speak in too high terms of John, but John is too full of affection. John is the plane to smooth the timber, but not the axe to cut it down. John is too gentle, too meek; he is the Phillip Melancthon, but Paul must be the Luther and Calvin rolled into one. Such a man was wanted, and I say, that from his very birth, God was fitting him for this position; and before he was converted, prevenient grace was thus engaged, fashioning, moulding, and preparing the man, in order that by-and-by -and by there might be put into his nostrils the breath of life. 

     Now what is the drift of all this? A practical one; and to show you what it is, we will stay a minute here before we go on to anything else. Some of the good fathers amongst us are mourning very bitterly just now over their sons. Your children do not turn out as you wish they would; they are getting sceptical some of them, and they are also falling into sin. Well, dear friends, it is yours to mourn; it is enough to make you weep bitterly; but let me whisper a word into your ear. Do not sorrow as those who are without hope, for God may have very great designs to be answered, even by these very young men who seem to be running so altogether in the wrong direction. I do not think I could go so far as John Bunyan did, when he said he was sure God would have some eminent saints in the next generation, because the young men in his day were such gross sinners, that he thought they would make fine saints; and when the Lord came and saved them by his mercy, they would love him much, because they had had so much forgiven. I would hardly like to say so much as that, but I do believe that sometimes in the inscrutable wisdom of God, when some of those who have been sceptical come to see the truth, they are the very best men that could possibly be found to do battle against the enemy. Some of those who have fallen into error, after having passed through it and happily come up from its deep ditch, are just the men to stand and warn others against it. I cannot conceive that Luther would ever have been so mighty a preacher of the faith if he had not himself struggled up and down Pilate's staircase on his knees, when trying to get to heaven by his penances and his good works. O let us have hope. We do not know but that God may be intending yet to call them and bless them. Who can tell, there may be a young man here to night who will one day be the herald of the cross in China, in Hindostan, in Africa, and in the islands of the sea? Kemember John Williams wishing to keep an appointment with another young man who committed a certain sin. He wanted to know what time it was, and so just stepped into Moorfield’s Chapel; someone saw him, and he did not like to go out, and the word, preached by Mr. Timothy East, who still survives amongst us, fell on his ears, and the young sinner was made a saint; and you all know how he afterwards perished as a martyr on the shores of Erromanga. Why may there not be another such a case to night? There may be some young man here who has been receiving a first-class education, he has no idea what for; he has been learning a multitude of things, perhaps a great deal which it would be much better if he did not know, but the Lord is meaning to make something of him. I do not know where you are, young man, but O, I wish I could fire you to night with a high ambition to serve God! What is the good of my being made at all if I do not serve my Maker? What is the use of my being here if I do not bring any glory to him who put me and keeps me here? Why, I had better have been a piece of rotten dung strewn upon the field, and bringing forth something for the farmer’s use, than to have been a mere consumer of bread and meat, and to have breathed the air and lived upon God’s bounty, and yet to have done nothing for him. O young man, if such an army of you as we have to night, could all be led by divine grace to say with the apostle Paul, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,” why, there would be hope for Old England yet. We would yet fling Popery back to the seven hills whence it came. Oh that God would grant us this blessing; but if he should not be pleased to call all of us by his grace, yet may some here live to prove that they were separated from their mother's womb to God's work, and set apart that they might have the Son of God revealed in them, and might proclaim his gospel with power. We will now leave this point, but shall continue the same subject in another form. 

     II. You would, perhaps, say that all I have talked about as yet has been providence rather than grace. Very likely, but I think that providence and grace are very near akin; at any rate if providence is the wheel, grace is the hand which turns and guides it. But I am now about to speak of GRACE PRECEDING CALLING IN ANOTHER SENSE. 

     It strikes me that it is impossible to say, concerning the elect, when the grace of God begins to deal with them. You can tell when the quickening grace comes, but not when the grace itself comes. For know, in one sense, grace was exercised upon the chosen 

 

"Before the day-star knew its place,

Or planets ran their round.” 

 

I should say that there is what I cannot call by any other name than formative grace, exercised upon the vessels of mercy at their very birth. It seems to me to be no small mercy that some of us were born of such parents as we were, and that we were born where we were. Some of us began right, and were surrounded by many advantages. We were cradled upon the lap of piety, and dandled upon the knee of holiness. There are some children who are born with a constitution which cannot escape sin, and which at the same time seems as if it inevitably led them to it. Who can deny that there are some whose passions seem naturally to be so violent, that, notwithstanding almost any and every restraint, they run headlong into sin! and often those failings may be distinctly traced to their parents. It is no small blessing when we can look back and thank God, that if no blue-blood d of nobility flows in our veins, yet from our very childhood we have not heard the voice of blasphemy, nor strayed into the haunts of vice, but that in the very formation of our character, divine grace has ever been present with us. This formative grace many of you, I have no doubt, can trace in the examples and influences which have followed you from the cradle through life. Why, what a blessing to have had such a Sunday-school teacher as some of you had! Other children went to schools, but they had not such a teacher, or such a class as yours. What a privilege to have had such a minister as some of you had, though perhaps he has fallen asleep now! You know there were others who went to places where there was no earnestness, no life; but that good man who was blessed to you was full of anxiety for your soul, and at the very first, before you were converted, his preaching helped to form your character. Why, it strikes me that every word I heard, and everything I saw while I was yet a child or a youth, had a part in the formation of my after-life. Oh! what a mercy it is to be placed where a holy example and godly conversation tend to form the man in a godly mould. All this may be, you know, without grace. I am not speaking now of the work of effectual calling, but of that prevenient grace which is too much forgotten, though it so richly deserves to be remembered. Think, too, of the prayers which brought tears to our eyes, and the teaching that would not let us sin so deeply as others, of the light which glowed in us, even in our childhood, and seems to have dispelled something of our natural darkness. Think of that earnest face that used to look so steadily on us when we did wrong, and of that mother's tear which seemed as if it would burn itself into our hearts, when there had been something amiss, that made that mother anxious. All this, though it did not convert us, yet it helped to make us what we now are, and unto God let us give the glory.  

     Furthermore, while there was this formative grace, there seems to me to have gone with it very much of preventive grace. How many saints fall into sins which they have to regret even after conversion, while others are saved from leaving the path of morality to wander in the morass of lust and crime! Why, some of us were, by God's grace, placed in positions were we could not well have been guilty of any gross acts of immorality, even if we had tried. We were so hedged about by guardian-care, so watched and tended on every side, that we should have been dashing our heads against a stone wall if we had run into any great or open sin. Oh! what a mercy to be prevented from sinning, when God puts chains across the road, digs ditches, makes hedges, builds walls, and says to us, “No, you shall not go that way, I will not let you; you shall never have that to regret; you may desire it, but I will hedge up your way with thorns; you may wish it, but it never shall be yours.” Beloved, I have thanked God a thousand times in my life, that before my conversion, when I had ill desires I had no opportunities; and on the other hand, that when I had opportunities I had no desires; for when desires and opportunities come together like the flint and steel, they make the spark that kindles the fire, but neither the one nor the other, though they may both be dangerous, can bring about any very great amount of evil so long as they are kept apart. Let us, then, look back, and if this has been our experience bless the preventing grace of God. 

     Again, there is another form of grace I must mention, namely, restraining grace. Here, you see, I am making a distinction. There are many who did go into sin; they were not wholly prevented from it, but they could go as far into it as they wanted to do. There is a young man here to-night—he will say how should I know—well, I do know—there is a young man here to-night who wants to commit a certain sin, but he cannot. Oh! how he wishes to go, but he cannot; he is placed in such a position of poverty that he cannot play the fine gentleman he would like. There is another; he wants to be dancing at such-and-such a place, but thank God he is lame; there is another, who, if he had had his wish would have lost his soul, but since his blindness has come upon him there is some hope for him. Oh! how often God has thrown a man on a sick bed to make him well! He would have been such as he was even unto death if he had been well, but God has made him sick, and that sickness has restrained him from sin. It is a mercy for some men that they cannot do what they would, and though “to will is present” with them, yet even in sin, “how to perform that which they would they find not.” Ah! my fine fellow, if you could have had your own way, you would have been at the top of the mountain by now! So you think, but no, you would have been over the precipice long before this if God had let you climb at all, and so he has kept you in the valley because he has designs of love towards you, and because you shall not sin as others sin. Divine grace has its hand upon the bridle of your horse. You may spur your steed, and use the lash against the man who holds you back; or perhaps it is a woman, and you may speak bitter words against that wife, that sister, or that mother, whom God has put there to hold you back; but you cannot go on, you shall not go on. Another inch forward and you will be over the precipice and lost, and therefore God has put that hand there to throw your horse back on its haunches, and make you pause, and think, and turn from the error of your ways. What a mercy it is that when God's people do go into sin to any extent, he speaks and says, “Hitherto shalt thou go, but no further; here shall thy proud sins be stayed!” There is, then, restraining grace. 

     We shall get still further into the subject when we come to what Dr. John Owen calls the preparatory work of grace. Have you ever noticed that parable about the different sorts of ground, and the sower of the seeds? A sower went forth to sow, and some of the seed fell on stony ground; you can understand that, because all men have stones in their hearts. Some fell on the thorns and thistles; you can comprehend that, because men are so given to worldly care. Another part of the seed fell on the beaten path; you can understand that—men are so occupied with worldliness. But how about the “good ground”? "Good ground”! Is there such a thing as “good ground” by nature? One of the evangelists says that it was “honest and good ground.” Now, is there such a difference between hearts and hearts? Are not all men depraved by nature? Yes, he who doubts human depravity had better begin to study himself. Question: If all hearts are bad how are some hearts good? Reply: They are good comparatively; they are good in a certain sense. It is not meant in the parable that that good ground was so good that it ever would have produced a harvest without the sowing of the seed, but that it had been prepared by providential influences upon it to receive the seed, and in that sense it may be said to have been “good ground.” 

     Now let me show you how God’s grace does come to work on the human heart so as to make it good soil before the living seed is cast into it, so that before quickening grace really visits it the heart may be called a good heart, because it is prepared to receive that grace. I think this takes place thus: first of all, before quickening grace comes, God often gives an attentive ear, and makes a man willing to listen to the Word. Not only does he like to listen to it, but he wants to know the meaning of it; there is a little excitement in his mind to know what the gospel tidings really are. He is not saved as yet, but it is always a hopeful sign when a man is willing to listen to the truth, and is anxious to understand it. This is one thing which prevenient grace does in making the soul good. In Ezekiel’s vision, as you will recollect, before the breath came from the four winds the bones began to stir, and they came together bone to his bone. So, before the Spirit of God comes to a man in effectual calling, God's grace often comes to make a stir in the man’s mind, so that he is no longer indifferent to the truth, but is anxious to understand what it means. 

     The next mark of this gracious work is an ingenuousness of heart. Some persons will not hear you, or if they do they are always picking holes and finding fault, they are not honest and good ground. But there are others who say, "I will give the man a fair and an honest hearing; I will read the Bible; I will read it, too, honestly; I will really see whether it be the Word of God or not, I will come to it without any prejudices; or, if I have any prejudices I will throw them aside.” Now, all this is a blessed work of preparatory grace, making the heart ready to receive effectual calling.

     Then, when this willingness and ingenuousness are attended with a tender conscience, as they are in some unconverted people, this is another great blessing. Some of you are not converted, but you would not do wrong; you are not saints, but you would not tell a lie for the world. I thank God that there are some of you so excellent in morals, that if you were proposed to us for Church-membership, we could not raise any objection to you on that ground, at any rate. You are as honest as the day is long: as for the things of God, you are outwardly as attentive to them, and as diligent in them, as the most earnest and indefatigable Christians. Now, this is because your conscience is tender. When you do wrong you cannot sleep at night; and you do not feel at all easy in being without a Saviour—I know some of you do not. You have not come to any decision; the grace of God has not really made you feel your thoroughly ruined state; still you are not quite easy. In fact, to go farther, your affections, though not weaned altogether from earth, yet begin to tremble a little as though they would go heavenward. You want to be a Christian: when the communion-table is spread, you dare not come downstairs, but I see you looking on from the gallery, and you wish you were with us. You know you have not believed in Jesus Christ, and the world keeps you back from doing so; but still there is a kind of twitching in your conscience; you do not know what it is, but there is a something got into you that makes you say at times, “O God, let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his;” yes, and you even go farther than this, and ask to live the righteous man's life too. Now, remember, this will not save you: “Ye must be born again.” But for all this the Church of God should feel deeply grateful, for they have seen in themselves that this is often God's preparatory work—clearing away the rubbish and rubble, and digging out the foundations, that Jesus Christ might be laid therein, the corner-stone of future hope and of future happiness. 

     Another work of grace is the creation of dissatisfaction with their present state. How many men we have known who were consciously “without God and without hope in the world.” The apples of Sodom had turned to ashes and bitterness in their mouth, though at one time all was fair and sweet to their taste. The mirage of life with them has been dispelled, and instead of the green fields, and waving trees, and rippling waters, which their fevered imagination had conjured up in the desert, they can see now nought but the arid sand and wasteness of desolation, which appal their fainting spirits, and promise nothing; no, not even a grave to cover their whited bones, which shall remain a bleached memorial that “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” Multitudes have been brought to see the deluge of sin which has covered even the high places of the earth, they find no rest for the sole of their foot, but as yet they know not of an ark, nor of a loving hand prepared to pull them in, as did Noah the dove in olden time. Look at the life of St. Augustine, how wearily he wanders hither and thither with a deaththirst in his soul, that no fount of philosophy, or scholastic argument, or heretical teaching could ever assuage. He was aware of his unhappy estate, and turned his eye round the circle of the universe looking for peace, not fully conscious of what he wanted, though feeling an aching void the world could never fill. He had not found the centre, fixed and stedfast, around which all else revolved in ceaseless change. Now, all this appetite, this hunger and thirst, I look upon as not of the devil, nor of the human heart alone, it was of God. He strips us of all our earthly joy and peace, that, shivering in the cold blast, we might flee, when drawn by his Spirit, to the “Man who is as a hiding-place from the storm, a covert from the tempest, and the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.”

     Of course, I have not gone fully into this doctrine of prevenient grace, but I trust I have said just enough to waken the gratitude of all the saints who have experienced it, and to make them sing with greater emotion than they have ever done before— 

 

“Determined to save, he watched o'err my path,

When, Satan's blind slave, I sported with death.” 

 

     III. And now we come to the last point, which is, PAUL S ACTUAL CALLING BY DIVINE GRACE. 

     All preparatory work of which we have spoken, was not the source or origin of the vital godliness which afterwards distinguished that renowned servant of God—that came to him on a sudden. Beloved, there may be some here to-night, who cannot discern anything in themselves of God's work of grace at all. I do not wonder at this. I do not suppose that the apostle could discern it in himself, or even thought of looking for it. He was as careless of Christ as is the butterfly of the honey in the flowers. He lived with no thought of honouring Jesus, and no desire to magnify him: but with the very reverse passion, glowing like a hot coal within his soul; and yet in a moment he was turned from an enemy into a friend! Oh! what a mercy it would be if some here tonight night, were turned from enemies into friends in a moment: and we are not without hope but that this will be the case. 

     You have hated Christ, my friend; you have hated him boldly and decidedly; you have not been a sneaking sort of adversary, but have opposed him frankly and openly. Now, why did you do it? I am sorry for your sin, but I like your honesty. What is there in the person of Christ for you to hate? Men hated him while he was on earth, and yet he died for them! Can you hate him for that? He came into this world to gain no honour for himself—he had honour enough in heaven, but he gave it up for the sake of men. When he died, he had not amassed a fortune, nor gathered about him a troop of soldiers, nor had he conquered provinces, but he died naked on a cross! Nothing brought him here but disinterested affection; and when he came, he spent his life in deeds of holiness and good. For which of these things can you hate him? The amazing lovingkindness of Christ Jesus towards sinners, should in itself disarm their animosity, and turn their hatred of him to love. Alas! I know that this thought of itself will not do it, but the Spirit of God can. If the Spirit of God once comes in contact with your souls, and shows you that Christ died for you, your enmity towards Christ will be all over then. Dr. Gifford once went to see a woman in prison who had been a very gross offender. She was such a hardened reprobate, that the doctor began by discoursing with her about the judgments of God, and the punishments of hell, but she only laughed him to scorn, and called him opprobrious names. The doctor burst into tears, and said, “And yet, poor soul, there is mercy for you, even for such as you are, though you have laughed in the face of him who would do you good. Christ is able to forgive you, bad though you are; and I hope that he will yet take you to dwell with him at his right hand.” In a moment the woman stopped her laughing, sat down quietly, burst into tears, and said, “Don't talk to me in that way; I have always been told that I should be damned, and I made up my mind to be; I knew there was no chance, and so I have gone on from one sin to another: but oh! if there is a hope of mercy for me, that is another thing; if there is a possibility of my being forgiven, that is another thing.” The doctor at once opened his Bible, and began to read to her these words, “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s dear Son, cleanseth us from all sin;” the greatest brokenness of heart followed. In subsequent visits the doctor was gratified to find that she was brought to Christ; and though she had to undergo a sentence of transportation for many years at the time, yet in after days the godly man saw her walking honestly and uprightly as a believer in Jesus Christ. 

     Sinner, I wish that thought would bring thee to Christ! O that thou wouldst know that he hath chosen thee, that he hath separated thee for himself, and to be his even from thy mother’s womb! Ah! thou hast played the harlot, but he will bring thee back; thou hast sinned very greatly, but thou shalt one day be clothed in the white robe, and wear the everlasting crown. Oh! blush and be confounded that thou shouldst ever have sinned as thou hast done. Thou hast been a thief, and a drunkard; thou hast brought thy mother's grey hairs with sorrow to the grave, but her prayers are going up even now to heaven, and thou shalt be brought in yet. O stubborn sinner, my Master means to have thee. Run as thou wilt, thou wandering sheep, the Shepherd is after thee: yield thee, yield thee, yield thee now. O prodigal, thy Father's heart is open, arise, go thou to thy Father. Thou art ashamed to go, art thou? Oh! let that shame make thee go the faster; let it not keep thee back. Jesus bled, Jesus wept, Jesus lives in heaven. “Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, let him buy wine and milk, without money and without price.” “Whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely.” There is no sinner too black to be forgiven. There are no iniquities that can damn you if you believe in Jesus. All manner of sin and iniquity shall be forgiven unto him who puts his trust in the shadow of Jehovah-Jesus. Look to him, he dies, he lives; look, he rises, he pleads above! “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.” I trust that the whole of your past mysterious life, my dear fellow-sinner sinner, will be explained to you to-night, by your believing in Jesus. That will be the golden key which will open the secret, and you will say, “Now I see it; I could not tell what that mysterious hand was that kept me back from doing a certain thing; I could not understand why I was led into such a path, but now I know that it was to take me to the feet of the blessed Saviour, where I might be happy for ever.” As you look back, and think of all the dealings of divine grace and providence with you throughout your life, you will sing—

 

“Ah! who am I, that God hath saved

Me from the doom I did desire,

And crossed the lot myself did crave,

To set me higher!”

 

     I must give one word of warning to those who are afflicting themselves selves with a notion that in order to true, real conversion, they must have a long course of agonising soul-conflict. You must mark, that I am not teaching this, the new birth was instantaneous, at once. Saul of Tarsus calls him Lord, and it is only three days that darkness rests upon him. This is the longest case recorded in the Bible—and how short a time in darkness and anguish that is, compared with the experience of some, whom you are regarding as models on which God must act in your case. Remember, that God is not the God of uniformity, though he is of union and peace. He may lead you at once into joy and peace, as Nathanael, who said as soon as he saw Christ, “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.” God may, and doubtless has been blessing you through his grace from your birth; but he needs not to plunge you many days in the cold, dark waters of conviction, to wash away your sin: the blood of Christ at once can cleanse from all sin, if you confide your soul to him. Believe, therefore, and you are at once justified and at peace with God. 

     May the Lord bless you all, for Jesus' sake. 



Simeon

By / Jun 22

Simeon

 

"And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the
same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy
Ghost was upon him.”— Luke 2:25.

 

WHAT a biography of a man! How short, and yet how complete! We have seen biographies so prolix, that full one half is nonsense, and much of the other half too vapid to be worth reading. We have seen large volumes spun out of men’s letters. Writing desks have been broken open, and private diaries exposed to the world. Now-a-days, if a man is a little celebrated, his signature, the house in which he was born, the place where he dines, and everything else, is thought worthy of public notice. So soon as he is departed this life, he is embalmed in huge folios, the profit of which rests mainly, I believe, with the publishers, and not with the readers. Short biographies are the best, which give a concise and exact account of the whole man. What do we care about what Simeon did— where he was born, where he was married, what street he used to walk through, or what coloured coat he wore? We have a very concise account of his history, and that is enough. His “name was Simeon;” he lived “in Jerusalem;” “the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.”      

     Beloved, that is enough of a biography for any one of us. If, when we die, so much as this can be said of us— our name— our business, “waiting for the consolation of Israel” — our character, “just and devout” — our companionship, having the Holy Ghost upon us— that will be sufficient to hand us down not to time, but to eternity, memorable amongst the just, and estimable amongst all them that are sanctified.

     Pause awhile, I beseech you, and contemplate Simeon’s character. The Holy Ghost thought it worthy of notice, since he has put a “behold” in the sentence. “Behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon.” He doth not say, “Behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was king Herod he doth not say, “Behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, who was high priest;” but, “Behold!”— turn aside here, for the sight is so rare, you may never see such a thing again so long as you live ; here is a perfect marvel ; “Behold,” there was one man in Jerusalem who was “just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel ; and the Holy Ghost was upon him.” His character is summed up in two words — “just and devout.”  “Just” — that is his character before men. “Devout” — that is his character before God. He was “just” Was he a father? He did not provoke his children to anger, lest they should be discouraged. Was he a master? He gave unto his servants that which was just and equal, knowing that he also had his Master in heaven. Was he a citizen? He rendered obedience unto the powers that then were, submitting himself to the ordinances of man for the Lord’s sake. Was he a merchant? He overreached in no transaction, but providing things honest in the sight of all men, he honoured God in his common business habits. Was he a servant? Then he did not render eye-service, as a man-pleaser, but in singleness of heart he served the Lord. If, as is very probable, he was one of the teachers of the Jews, then he was faithful; he spoke what he knew to be the Word of God, although it might not be for his gain, and would not, like the other shepherds, turn aside to speak error, for the sake of filthy lucre. Before men he was just. But that is only half a good man’s character. There are many who say, “I am just and upright; I never robbed a man in my life; I pay twenty shillings in the pound; and if anybody can find fault with my character, let him speak. Am I not just? But as for your religion,” such a one will say, “I do not care about it; I think it cant.” Sir, you have only one feature of a good man, and that the smallest. You do good towards man, but not towards God; you do not rob your fellow, but you rob your Maker. “Will a man rob God?” Yes, and think far less of it than he would if he robbed man. He who robs man is called a villain; he who robs God is often called a gentleman. Simeon had both features of a Christian. He was a “just man,” and he was also “devout.” Mark, it does not say he was a just man and religious. A man may be very religious, and yet he may not be devout. Religion, you know, as the term is used, consists very much in outward observances; godliness and devotion consist in the inward life and action arising from the inner spring of true consecration. It does not say here that Simeon was a religious man, for that he might have been, and yet have been a Pharisee, a hypocrite, a mere professor. But no; he was a “devout” man. He valued the “outward and visible sign,” but he possessed the “inward and spiritual grace.” Therefore he is called “a just man and devout.” “Behold!” says the Holy Ghost. “Behold!” for it is a rarity! Come ye here, ye Christians of the present day! Many of you are just, but ye are not devout; and some of you pretend to be devout, but ye are not just. The just and the devout together make up the perfection of the godly man. Simeon was “a just man and devout.”

     But now, leaving the character of Simeon as a man, we shall endeavour to expound his blessed hope as a believer. To this end we ask your attention, first, to the expectation— he was “waiting for the consolation of Israel;” secondly, the fulfilment; that which he waited for, he saw; and when he found Jesus, he said, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace;” and thirdly, the explanation of that fulfilment, or how it is that the Lord Jesus is the consolation of Israel.

     I. First, then, SIMEON S EXPECTATION. He was “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” This was the position of all the saints of God, from the first promise, even to the time of Simeon. Poor old Simeon had now become grey-headed; it is very possible that he had passed the usual period allotted to man’s life; but he did not wish to die; he wished for “the consolation of Israel.” He did not wish that the tabernacle of his body might be dissolved, but he did hope that, through the chinks of that old battered tabernacle of his, he might be able to see the Lord. Like the hoary-headed Christian of our times, he did not desire to die, but he did desire to “be with Christ, which was far better.” All the saints have waited for Jesus. Our mother Eve waited for the coming of Christ; when her first son was born, she said, “I have gotten a man from the Lord.” True she was mistaken in what she said: it was Cain, and not Jesus. But by her mistake we see that she cherished the blessed hope. That Hebrew patriarch, who took his son, his only son, to offer him for a burnt offering, expected the Messiah, and well did he express his faith when he said, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb.” He who once had a stone for his pillow, the trees for his curtains, the heaven for his canopy, and the cold ground for his bed, expected the coming of Jesus, for he said on his death-bed— “Until Shiloh come.” The law-giver of Israel, who was “king in Jeshurun,” spake of him, for Moses said, “A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you, of your brethren, like unto me: him shall ye hear.” David celebrated him in many a prophetic song— the Anointed of God, the King of Israel; him to whom all kings shall bow, and all nations call him blessed. How frequently does he in his Psalms sing about “my Lord”! “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” But need we stop to tell you of Isaiah, who spake of his passion, and “saw his glory”? of Jeremiah, of Ezekiel, of Daniel, of Micah, of Malachi, and of all the rest of the prophets, who stood with their eyes strained, looking through the dim mists of futurity, until the weeks of prophecy should be fulfilled — until the sacred day should arrive, when Jesus Christ should come in the flesh? They were all waiting for the consolation of Israel. And, now, good old Simeon, standing on the verge of the period when Christ would come, with expectant eyes looked out for him. Every morning he went up to the temple, saying to himself, “Perhaps he will come to-day.” Each night when he went home he bent his knee, and said, “O Lord, come quickly; even so, come quickly.” And yet, per adventure, that morning he went to the temple, little thinking, perhaps, the hour was at hand when he should see his Lord there; but there he was, brought in the arms of his mother, a little babe; and Simeon knew him. “Lord,” said he, “now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.” “Oh,” cries one, “but we cannot wait for the Saviour now!” No, beloved, in one sense we cannot, for he is come already. The poor Jews are waiting for him. They will wait in vain now for his first coming, that having passed already. Waiting for the Messiah was a virtue in Simeon’s day: it is the infidelity of the Jews now, since the Messiah is come. Still there is a high sense in which the Christian ought to be every day waiting for the consolation of Israel. I am very pleased to see that the doctrine of the second advent of Christ is gaining ground everywhere. I find that the most spiritual men in every place are “looking for,” as well as “hastening unto,” the coming of our Lord and Saviour. I marvel that the belief is not universal, for it is so perfectly scriptural. We are, we trust, some of us, in the same posture as Simeon. We have climbed the staircase of the Christian virtues, from whence we look for that blessed hope, the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

     Besides, if we do not believe in the second coming, every Christian waits for the consolation of Israel, at times when he misses the sweet consoling experience. I speak to some of you, perhaps, who are feeling that you have lost the light of the Lord’s face lately. You have not seen his blessed countenance; you have not heard his love-speaking voice; you have not listened to the tender accents of his lips; and you are longing for him. You are like Simeon, waiting for the consolation of Israel. He will come; though he tarries, he will come. Christ does not leave bis people entirely. What, though he hide his face? He will come again. The child saith the swallows are dead, because they skim the purple sea. Wait thou, O child, and the swallows shall come back again! The foolish one thinketh that the sun has died out, because he is hidden behind the clouds. Stop for a little season, and the sun shall come again, and thou shalt know that he was brewing behind dark clouds the April shower, mother to the sweet May flowers. Jesus is gone for a little while; but he will come again. Christian! be thou waiting for the consolation of Israel!

     I hope, too, I have in this place some poor seeking sinner who is waiting for the like consolation. Sinner! you will not have to wait forever. It is very seldom Christ Jesus keeps poor sinners waiting long. Sometimes he does. He answers them not a word; but then it is to try their faith. Though he keeps them waiting, he will not send them away wanting; he will be sure to give them mercies, sooner or later. “Though the promise tarry, wait for it,” and thou shalt find it yet, to thy soul’s salvation. Child of God -! has not thy Father come to thee yet? Cry for him! cry for him! Thy Father will come: Nothing fetches the parent to the child, like the child’s cry. Cry, little one, cry! Thou who hast but little faith. “Ah! but,” thou sayest, “I am too weak to cry.” Did you never notice that the little one sometimes cries so very low, that when you are sitting in the parlour with the mother, you do not hear it? Up she gets; there is the dear child crying upstairs; and off she goes. She can hear it, though you cannot; because it is her child that cries. Cry, little one; let thy prayer go up to heaven. Though thy minister doth not hear it ; though unbelief says no one can hear it, there is a God in heaven who knoweth the cry of the penitent, who “healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” Sweet posture! to be waiting for the consolation of Israel!

     II. This brings us to the second point— TIIE FULFILMENT OF THIS EXPECTATION. Did Simeon wait in vain? Ah! no; he waited for consolation, and he had the consolation for which he waited. Oh! I can picture Simeon’s frame! How altered it was that morning! He went probably an old man limping up to the temple, his face sad with disappointment; his eyes dark with distress, because he had not found that for which he looked. He wanted to see, and could not see; he desired to know, and he did not know; sometimes, in his unbelieving moments, he thought that, like the prophets and kings, he should wait long, and seek, but never find. Do you not think you see him, when he held the babe in his arms? Why, the old man did not then want His staff to lean on; down it went, and both his arms grasped the child. He may have trembled a little; but the mother of Jesus was not afraid to trust her child to him. How young he felt! As young as when ten years ago he walked with light foot through the streets of Jerusalem. Scarce in heaven did old Simeon feel more happy than he did at that moment when he clasped the babe in his arms! Do you not think you see him? Joy is flashing from his eyes; his lips speak sonnets, which burst out like the chorus of immortals, when he says, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.”

     Ask now, Was he disappointed in the object of his search? Was Jesus equal to his expectations, “the consolation of Israel”? Yes, we answer. We dare any person here, or in the wide world, to deny what we now assert — there certainly is sweet and blessed consolation in Jesus, for all the people of God. I do not know whether any have ever been fools enough to say the gospel is not comforting. I do not think they have. Most of them have said, “It is a very good religion for old women and imbeciles, for sick people and death-beds.” The worst of men admit that religion is a very comfortable thing. Or if they do not admit it, they have the lesson to learn. Come, deist or sceptic, whichsoever thou art, let me point thee to believers in the time of persecution. Look thou upon that face of Stephen, already lighted up with heaven’s own glory, whilst they are stoning him. Let me bring thee down through the ages of the rack and the wheel, the times of stocks and inquisitions; let me tell thee of martyrs who clapped their hands in the flames, and while their limbs were burning at the stake, could yet sing a carol, as if it were Christmas-day in their hearts, though it was Ash-day to their bodies. How often you find those who are foremost in suffering, foremost in joy! When men laid iron chains on their arms, God put golden chains of honour on their necks. When men heaped reproaches on their names, God heaped comforts on their souls. The peace-cry, like the blood-cry, let it never be hushed. The Christian race, by our martyrs and confessors, show the wide, wide world, that there is a joy in religion that can quench the flame, snatch torture from the rack, the torment from the wheel, that can sing in the prison that can laugh cheerfully in the stocks, and make our free and unimprisoned hearts burst through the bars of the dungeon, and fly upwards, chanting paeans to our God. Behold the consolation of Israel! But the infidel replies, “These are excitable moments. At such times persons are stimulated beyond their wonted strength. Your examples are not fair.” Come thou here, unbeliever, and let me show thee Christians in ordinary life— not martyrs, not confessors, not men with blood-red crowns on their brows, but common men like thyself. Seest thou that husband? He has just returned from the funeral of his wife. Dost thou mark his countenance? He says, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Couldst thou do that? Seest thou that mother? Her child lies dead; and looking on it she says, “He hath done all things well. It is hard to part with it; but I will resign it to my God.” Couldst thou do that, infidel? Seest thou yonder merchant? Ruin has overtaken him in moment: he is reduced to poverty. Mark you how he lifts his hands to heaven, and cries, “Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” Couldst thou do the like, infidel? Nay, thou couldst not; but there is consolation in Israel. I am half ashamed of some of you, my brethren, who do not bear trouble well, because you are not an honour to your religion, as you ought to be. Ye should learn, if possible, to say, like Job— “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” “Alas!” say you, “it is easy enough for you to tell us so, but not quite so easy to practice.” I grant you that; but then it is the glory of the gospel that it makes us do things that are not easy. If it be a hard thing, so much the more honour to God; so much the more virtue in the Scriptures: that by their blessed influence, and by the aid of the Holy Ghost, they enable us to bear trials under which others sink. But a little while ago I heard of an ungodly man who had a pious wife. They had but one daughter, a fair and lovely thing; she was laid on a bed of sickness: the father and mother stood beside the bed; the solemn moment came when she must die; the father leaned over, and put his arm round her, and wept hot tears upon his child’s white brow; the mother stood there too, weeping her very soul away. The moment that child was dead, the father began to tear his hair, and curse himself in his despair; misery had got hold upon him; but as. he looked towards the foot of the bed, there stood his wife; she was not raving, she was not cursing; she wiped her eyes, and said, “I shall go to her, but she shall not return to me.” The unbeliever’s heart for a moment rose in anger, for he imagined that she was a stoic. But the tears flowed down her cheeks too. He saw that though she was a weak and feeble woman, she could bear sorrow better than he could, and he threw his arms round her neck, and said, “Ah! wife, I have often laughed at your religion; I will do so no more. There is much blessedness in this resignation. "Would God that I had it too!” “Yes,” she might have answered, I have the consolation of Israel.” There is— hear it, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish! — there is consolation in Israel. That dear sister, whom I mentioned at the beginning of this service, was one of the noblest pictures of resignation I have ever seen. When I went to see her, I could only describe her position like this: she was sitting on the banks of the Jordan, singing, with her feet in the water, longing to cross the river. “Ah! pastor,” she said, when I came in, “how have you fed my soul, and made my young days come over again; I did not think the Lord would give me such blessed seasons just before he took me home; but now I must bid you good-bye, for I am going up to my Jesus, and I shall be with him for ever.” I shall not forget how placidly she looked. Ah! it is sweet to see a Christian die; it is the noblest thing on earth—the dismissal of a saint from his labour to his reward, from his conflicts to his triumphs. The georgeous pageantry of princes is as nothing. The glory of the setting sun is not to be compared with the heavenly coruscations which illumine the soul as it fades from the organs of bodily sense, to be ushered into the august presence of the Lord. When dear Haliburton died, he said, “I am afraid I shall not be able to bear another testimony to my Master, but in order to show you that I am peaceful, and still resting on Christ, I will hold my hands up;” and just before he died, he held both his hands up, and clapped them together, though he could not speak. Have you ever read of the death-bed of Payson? I cannot describe it to you; it was like the flight of a seraph. John Knox, that brave old fellow, when he came to die, sat up in his bed, and said, “Now the hour of my dissolution is come; I have longed for it many a-day; but I shall be with my Lord in a few moments.” Then he fell back on his bed and died. We have many others, of whom I might tell you; such as that blessed Janeway, who said, “O that I had lips to tell you a thousandth part of that which I now feel; you will never know the worth of Jesus till you come to your death-bed, and then you will find him a blessed Christ, when you want him most.” O unbeliever, stand where death is at work; and if thou lovest not the righteous in their life, thou wilt say none the less like Balaam, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his.” Such is our holy religion— a sweet and blessed consolation.

     III. And this brings us to the third point, which is THE EXPLANATION OF THIS FACT: to show to all men, and to show to you especially, that there is consolation, and to explain how it is.

     In the first place, there is consolation in the doctrines of the Bible. I like a doctrinal religion. I do not believe in the statement of some people, that they have no creed. A man says, for instance, “I am not a Calvinist, and I am not an Arminian, I am not a Baptist, I am not a Presbyterian, I am not an Independent.” He says he is liberal. But this is only the license he claims for his own habit of disagreeing with everybody. He is one of that sort of people whom we generally find to be the most bigoted themselves, and least tolerant of others. He follows himself; and so belongs to the smallest denomination in the world. I do not believe that charity consists in giving up our denominational distinctions. I think there is a “more excellent way.” Even those who despise not faith, though they almost sacrifice it to their benevolence, will sometimes say, “Well, I don’t belong to any of your sects and parties.'’ There was a body of men once, who came out from all branches of the Christian Church, with the hope that everybody else of true heart would follow them. The result, however, has been, that they have only made another denomination, distinct alike in doctrine and discipline. I believe in creeds, if they are based on Scripture. They may not secure unity of sentiment, but on the whole they promote it, for they serve as landmarks, and show us the points at which many turn aside. Every man must have a creed if he believes anything. The greater certainty he feels that it is true, the greater his own satisfaction. In doubts, darkness, and distrust, there can be no consolation. The vague fancies of the sceptic, as he muses over images and apprehensions too shapeless and airy to be incorporated into any creed, may please for awhile, but it is the pleasure of a dream. I believe that there is consolation for Israel in the substance of faith, and the evidence of things not seen. Ideas are too ethereal to lay hold of. The anchor we have is sure and stedfast. I thank God that the faith I have received can be moulded into a creed, and can be explained with words so simple, that the common people can understand it, and be comforted by it.

     Then look at the doctrines themselves — the doctrines of the Bible. What well-springs of consolation they are! How consolatory the doctrine of election to the Israel of God! To some men it is repulsive. But show me the gracious soul that hath come to put his trust under the wings of the Lord God of Israel. “Chosen in Christ,” will be a sweet stanza in his song of praise. To think that ere the hills were formed, or the channels of the sea were scooped out, God loved me; that from everlasting to everlasting his mercy is upon his people. Is not that a consolation? Ye who do not believe in election, go ye and fish in other waters; but in this great sea there be mighty fishes. If ye could come here, ye would find rich consolation. Or come ye again to the sweet doctrine of redemption. What consolation is there, beloved, to know that you are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ. Not the mock redemption taught by some people, which pretends that the ransom is paid, but the souls that are ransomed may notwithstanding be lost. No, no; a positive redemption which is effectual for all those for whom it is made. Oh! to think that Christ has so purchased you with his blood, that you cannot be lost. Is there not consolation in that doctrine — the doctrine of redemption? Think, again, of the doctrine of atonement that Christ Jesus has borne all your sins in his own body on the tree; that he hath put away your sins by the sacrifice of himself. There is nought like believing in full atonement; that all our sins are washed away and carried into the depths of the sea. Is there not consolation there? What sayest thou, worldling, if thou couldst know thyself elect of God the Father, if thou couldst believe thyself redeemed by his only begotten Son, if thou knewest that for thy sins there was a complete ransom paid, would not that be a consolation to you? Perhaps you answer, “No.” That is because you are a natural man, and do not discern spiritual things. The spiritual man will reply, “Consolation? ay, sweet as honey to these lips; yea, sweeter than the honeycomb to my heart are those precious doctrines of the grace of God.

Let us pass on to consolatory promises.

     Oh! how sweet to the soul in distress are the promises of Jesus! For every condition there is a promise; for every sorrow there is a cordial; for every wound there is a balm; for every disease there is a medicine. If we turn to the Bible, there are promises for all cases. Now let me appeal to you, my friends. Have you not felt how consoling the promises are to you in seasons of adversity and hours of anguish? Do you not remember some occasion, when your spirits were so broken down that you felt as if ' you never could have struggled through your woes and sorrows, had not some sweet and precious word of God come to your help? Minister of the gospel, dost thou not remember how often thou hast feared that thy message would be of no effect? But thou hast heard thy Master whisper, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Sunday-school teacher, have not you said, “I have laboured in vain, and spent my strength for nought”? And have you not then heard Jesus say, “My Word shall not return unto me void”? Mourner, you have lost a near relation, have you not heard Jesus then say, “All things work together for good”? Softly wipe that tear away, O widow: would not thy heart have broken if it had not been for the assurance, “Thy Maker is thy husband”? Fatherless child, what would have become of you if you had not turned to the consoling promise, “Leave thy fatherless children, and let thy widows trust in me”? But why need I tell you, Christian, that there are consoling promises in the Bible? You know there are. I would not sell a leaf of the Bible for a world, nor would I change a promise of it for stars made of gold.

“Holy Bible, book divine; Precious treasure! thou art mine.”

     No such comfort can I find as that I derive from thee! Thou art heaven on earth to me, blessed Bible! Verily, if we wait for Christ, we shall find that in his gospel there is consolation for Israel.

     Not only have we consolatory promises, and consolatory doctrines, but we have consolatory influences in the ministry of the Holy Spirit. There are times, my friends, when all the promises in the world are of no use to us — when all the doctrines in the world would be of no avail, unless we had a hand to apply them to us. There lies a poor man; he has been wounded in battle. In yonder hospital there is a bundle of liniment. The blood is flowing; he has lost an arm; he has lost a leg. There are plenty at the hospital who can bind up his wounds, and plenty of medicines for all that he now suffers. But what use are they? He may lie forlorn on the battle-field and die unfriended: unless there is some one to bring the ambulance to carry him to the place, he cannot reach it himself. He lifts himself up on that one remaining arm, but he falls down faint; the blood is flowing freely, and his strength is ebbing with it. Oh! then it is not the liniment he cares for; it is not the ointment; it is some one who can bring those things to him. Ay, and if the remedies were all put there by his side, it may be, he is so faint and sick that he can do nothing for his own relief. Now, in the Christian religion, there is something more than prescriptions for our comfort. There is one, even the Spirit of truth, who takes of the things of Jesus, and applies them to us. Think not that Christ hath merely put joys within our reach that we may get for ourselves, but he comes and puts the joys inside our hearts. The poor, sick, way-worn pilgrim, not only finds there is something to strengthen him to walk, but he is borne on eagles’ wings. Christ does not merely help him to walk, but carries him, and says, “I will bind up your wounds; I will come to you myself.” O poor soul, is not this joy for you? You have been often told by your minister to believe in Christ, but you say you cannot. You have often been invited to come to Jesus, but you feel you cannot come. Yes; but the best of the gospel is, that when a sinner cannot come to Christ, Christ can come to him. "When the poor soul feels that it cannot get near Christ, Christ will be sure to draw him. O Christian, if thou art to-night labouring under deep distresses, thy Father does not give thee promises and then leave thee. The promises he has written in the Word he will grave on your heart. He will manifest his love to you, and by his blessed Spirit, which bloweth like the wind, take away your cares and troubles. Be it known unto thee, O mourner, that it is God’s prerogative to wipe every tear from the eye of his people. I shall never forget hearing John Gough say, in his glowing manner— “Wipe away tears! That is God’s prerogative; and yet,” said he, “I have done it. When the drunkard has been reclaimed, the tears of a wife have been wiped from her cheeks.” O beloved, it is a blessed thing to wipe others’ tears away; but “Lo, these things worketh God oftentimes with men.” He not only gives you the handkerchief, but wipes your eyes for you; he not only gives you the sweet wine, but holds it to your lips and pours it into your mouth. The good Samaritan did not say, “Here is the wine, and here is the oil for you;” but what did he do? He poured in the oil and the wine. He did not say, “Now, mount the beast” but he set him on it, and took him to the inn. Glorious gospel! that provides such things for poor lost ones— comes after us when we cannot come alter it — brings us grace when we cannot win grace here is grace in the giving as well as the gift. Happy people, to be thus blessed of God! Simeon “waited for the consolation of Israel,” and he found it. May you find it too!

     Two short addresses to two sorts of people; and then we shall have done. To you, ye followers of Jesus, let me speak. I have one thing to ask of you. With such a Father who loveth you — with such a savior who hath given himself for you, and doth give himself to you — with such a good Spirit to abide with you, and comfort you — with such a gospel— what now doth bow you down? What mean those wrinkled brows? What mean those flowing tears? What mean those aching hearts? What means that melancholy carriage? “What mean they?” say you; “Why, I have troubles.” But, brother, hast thou forgotten the exhortation of the Lord? “Cast thy burden on the Lord; he will sustain thee;” “He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” Do, brethren, do try to be as glad as you can. Rejoice evermore. A cheerful Christian recommends religion. We usually look in the window of a tradesman’s shop to see what he sells; and persons very frequently look into our faces to ascertain what are the thoughts of our heart. Alas! that they should see any of us looking habitually sad. Some persons think that sour faces and sombre garments are fitting emblems of sanctity. They would count it wicked to laugh, or if they were to do such a thing as smile in chapel, they would think that they had committed an unpardonable sin, though I never saw any law against that yet. All that is in us should bless his holy name, from the most playful fancy to the sublimest reverie. Ye need not emulate those who, to appear righteous, disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Let me beg of you, Christian, when you fast, to be of a cheerful countenance, that you appear not unto men to fast. Be you never so sad, try and keep your sadness to yourself. Do not let people hear you murmur, lest they should say, “Look at that Christian, he is weak as we are.” You have heard the old fiction, that Jesus Christ never laughed or smiled. It was brought forward at a friend’s, where I was once staying. There was a litle child in the room, who when she heard it, ran up to her father, and said, “Papa, that gentleman did not tell the truth.” Of course every one looked at her, and waited for her explanation. “I know that Jesus did, papa,” she added, “for the little children loved him; and I don’t think they would have loved him if he had never smiled. Did not he say, ‘Suffer little children to come unto me,’ and he took them up in his arms and gave them his blessing?” Do you think any good Christian could take up a little child without smiling; and if he did not smile, do you think the child would go to him? Jesus Christ did smile. A cheerful face wins honour to religion; a cheerful deportment glorifies God, for he has said, “Let the saints be joyful in glory; let them sing aloud upon their beds: let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.” Be joyful, Christians! Be joyful!

“Why should the children of a King,
Go mourning all their days?”

     And now, ere I close, let me appeal to those who have not this consolation Men and brethren, give heed. For Israel there is consolation But for you— what is to become of some of you who have not this consolation at all? Worldly men! whence do you draw your bliss? From the polluted ditches of a filthy world? Soon, alas! will they be emptied; and what will you do then? I see a Christian. There he is! He has been drinking all his life out of the river that makes glad the city of our God. And when he gets to heaven, he goes to the same stream. He drinks, and says, “This water is from the same fountain that I drank on earth. I drink the same bliss, but draw it nearer the fountain-head than I did before.” But methinks I see you who have been drinking out of the black dark, filthy reservoirs of earth, and when you get into eternity, you say, “Where is the stream at which I once slaked my thirst?” You look, and it is gone! Suppose you are a drunkard. Dunkenness was your happiness on earth. Will you be drunk in hell? There it would afford you no gratification. Here the theatre was your pastime: will you find a theatre in heaven? The songs of foolish lasciviousness were here your delight: will you find such songs in eternity? Will you be able to sing them amidst unutterable burnings? Can you hum those lascivious notes when you are drinking the fearful gall of eternal woe? Oh! surely, no; the things in which you once trusted, and found your peace and comfort, will have gone for ever. Oh! what is your happiness to-night, my friends? Is it a happiness that will last you? Is it a joy that will endure? Or are you holding in your hand an apple of Sodom, and saying, “It is fair, it is passing fair,” when you know that you only look on it now, but will have to eat it in eternity? See the man who has that apple in his hand; he puts it to his mouth; he has to masticate it in eternity; and it is ashes — ashes in his lips— ashes between his teeth— ashes in his jaws — ashes that shall go into his blood, make each vein a road for the hot feet of pain to travel on, his heart an abode of misery, and his whole frame a den of loathsomeness!

     Ah! if you have not this consolation of Israel, do you know what ye must have? You must have eternal torment. I have often remarked that the most wicked men hold the doctrine that there is no torment for the body in hell. Biding some time ago in a railway carriage with a man who seemed to have no idea of religion, he said, “I'm as cold as the devil,” and repeated the observation several times. I said to him, “He’s not at all cold, Sir.” “I suppose you are a believer in hell, then?” he replied. “Yes, I am,” I said, “because I am a believer in the Bible.” “I don't think there is any fire for the body, I don’t; I think it is the conscience — remorse of conscience, dismay and despair, and such like; I don’t think it has anything to do with the body.” And strange enough, many other ungodly men with whom I have spoken on the subject, all seem to be partial to the hell that only deals with the conscience. The reason is this. They do not feel for their soul. They are natural men, who have a natural care about their body, but they think that so long as their body gets off, they will not care for hell at all. Hear this, then, ye ungodly men! Ye care not for the torture of the soul. Hear this — and let there be no metaphor or figure; hear it, for I speak God’s plain language. For the body, too, there is a hell. It is not merely your soul that is to be tortured. What care you for conscience? What care you for memory? What care you for imagination? Hear this, then, drunkard! hear this, man of pleasure! That ' body which thou pamperest shall lie in pain. It was not a figure which Christ used, when he said, “In hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried, and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” It was a tongue, sir; it was a flame, sir. It was not a metaphorical tongue, and it was not a metaphorical flame. It was not metaphorical water that he wanted. Real, positive, actual flame tormented the body of that rich Dives in hell. Ah! wicked man, those very hands of yours that now grasp the wine cup, shall grasp the cup of your damnation. The feet that carry you to the theatre shall lie in brimstone for ever. The eyes that look on the spectacles of lust — it is no figure, sir — those selfsame eyes shall see murderous spectacles of misery. The selfsame head which has oftentimes here throbbed with headache, shall there beat with pains you have not yet felt. Your heart, for which you care so little, shall become an emporium of miseries, where demons shall empty the scalding boilers of woe. It is not fiction. Read the Bible, and make a fiction of it if you can. There is a fire which knows no abatement, a worm which never dies, a flame unquenchable. As ye go down those stairs, think there is a hell. It is no fiction. Let the old doctrine start out once more, that God hath prepared Tophet of old; the pile thereof is wood and much smoke: the breath of the Lord, like a flame of fire, doth kindle it. There is a hell! O that ye would flee from it! O that by grace ye would escape it! Sodom was no figure: that was real hail of fire from heaven. “Haste,” said the angel, “haste!” and put his hand behind the timely-warned fugitive. Man! I am come as an angel from heaven to you to-night, and I would put mv hand upon your shoulder, and cry, “Haste! haste! look not behind thee; stay not in all the plain; haste to the mountain, lest thou be consumed!” If though knowest thy need of a Saviour, come thou and trust him. If thou feelest thy want of salvation, come and have it, for it is said, “Whosoever will, let him come, and take of the water of life freely.” None are excluded hence, but those who do themselves exclude. None are taken in but those whom grace takes in, through the sovereign mercy of our God.

     May God receive you to his arms! May sinners be delivered from the pit! May those find, who never yet have sought the consolation of Israel! Brethren in Christ, I ask your prayers, that God may bless this sermon to the souls of men.