Helps

By / Jun 22

Helps

 

“And God hath set aome in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” — 1 Corinthians 12:28.

 

IT appears, according to the apostle Paul, that, according to the diversity of gifts which proceeded from the selfsame Spirit of God, those who gave assistance to the early church, did so in different ways. He tells us that “God hath set some in the church, first apostles.” These were to go from place to place founding churches and ordaining ministers. There were next, “secondarily, prophets,” some of whom littered prophecies, and others were gifted in their explanation. Then came, “thirdly, teachers,” who were probably either pastors settled in divers churches teaching the Word, or else evangelists journeying about and proclaiming the truth. Then came, “after that, miracles, then gifts of healing;” and the apostle does not forget to mention another class of persons, called “helps.”

     Now, who these people precisely were, I suppose it would be very difficult, at this period of time, if not quite impossible, to tell. Some have thought that they were assistant-ministers, who occasionally aided settled pastors, both in the pastoral work of visiting, and also in occasionally preaching the Word. Others have thought that they were assistant-deacons, and perhaps even deaconesses, an office that most Certainly was recognised in the apostolic churches. Others, again, have supposed these helps to have been attendants in the sanctuary, who took care that strangers were properly accommodated, and managed those details which always must be superintended by somebody in connection with any gathering of persons for any public object whatever. But whoever they were, or whatever may have been the particular functions they discharged, they appear to have been a useful body of people, and worthy to be mentioned in the same verse as apostles and teachers, and even to be named with miracle-workers, and those who had the gifts of healing. It strikes me that they were not persons who had any official standing, but that they were only moved by the natural impulse and the divine life within them to do anything and everything which would assist either teacher, pastor, or deacon, in the work of the Lord. They were the sort of brethren who are useful anywhere, who can always Stop a gap, and who are only too glad when they find that they can make themselves serviceable to the church of God in any capacity whatever.

     We have a goodly brigade of “HELPS” in this church, and I want now to stir them up; and while I am speaking to them, perhaps a word or two of comfort may come, as it were, from round the corner to some who need the assistance which these brethren give, and for whose help indeed, those of whom we speak lay out their lives.

     John Bunyan, that master of Christian experience, as well as of Christian allegory, has, it seems to me, described that part of the work of these “helps” which is most valuable, and which is most required. He describes Help as coming to Christian when he was floundering about in the Slough of Despond. Just when the poor man was like to have been choked, having missed his footing in the slough, and when he found that, with all his struggling, he was only sinking deeper and deeper into the mire, there suddenly came to him a person, of whom Bunyan says nothing more throughout his whole allegory, whose name was Help, and who put out his hand, and, saying some words of encouragement to him, pulled him out of the mire, set him on the King’s Highway, and established his goings.

     There is a period in the divine life when the help of judicious Christian brethren is invaluable. Most of us who know the Lord at all, know quite as much as we wish to know about that awful Slough of Despond. I myself did lay in it for five years, or thereabouts, and I think I know pretty well every part of it. In some places it is deeper than in others, and more nauseous; but, believe me, a man may reckon himself thrice happy when he gets out oi it, for when one is in it, it seems as though it would swallow him up alive. Dear, very dear to us, must ever be the hand that helped us out of the depth of the mire where there was no standing; and while we ascribe all the glory to the God of grace, we cannot but love most affectionately the instrument he sent to be the means of our deliverance.

     On the summit of some of the Swiss passes, the canton, for the preservation and accommodation of travellers, maintains a small body of men, sometimes only two or three, who live in a little house at the top, and whose business it is to help travellers on their way. It was very pleasant when we were going through a pass in the mountains of Northern Italy, to see, some three or four miles from the top, a mail coming down who saluted us as though he had known us for years. He carried a spade in his hand, and though we did not know what was coming, yet he evidently understood better than we did what was going to occur. By-and-by we came to deep snow, and the man went to work with his spade to clear a footway, and when he came to a very ugly piece of road, some of the party were carried along on the man’s back. It was the man’s business to care for the travellers, and ere long there came one of his companions with wine and refreshments, which were generously offered to the weary ones. These men were “helps,” who spent their lives on that part of the road where it was known their services would be requisite; and when travellers reach the spot, these men are ready to give their assistance at the very nick of time. They would have been worth nothing at all down in the plains; they would have been only an incumbrance if they had met us in any other place, but they were exceedingly valuable, because they were just where they were required, and came exactly at the moment when they were wanted.

     Now, my friends, “helps” are of no use to a man when he can help himself. When he has no difficulties, an offer of assistance is an intrusion. There is just one point, such a juncture as the passing of the summit of the mountain, where help will be exceedingly precious to him. And it seems to me, that the period of a man’s experience which Bunyan describes by the Slough of Despond, is just that season when you, my dear brethren and sisters in Christ, may render invaluable aid to the Christian minister by coming to the rescue of those who seem as though they would be swallowed up.

     This brigade of “helps,” if I understand Bunyan aright, are stationed all round the borders of the Slough of Despond, and it is their business to keep watch all round and listen for the cries of any poor benighted travellers who may be staggering in the mire. Just as the Royal Humane Society keep their men along the borders of the lakes in the parks in winter time, and when the ice is forming, bid them be on the watch, and take care of any who may venture upon it; so a little knot of Christian people, both men and women, should always be ready in every church, to listen for cries of distress, and to give assistance wherever it may be required. Such seem to me to be the sort of “helps” we want. Such, perhaps, these ancient “helps” may have been.

     I. I want, first of all, to GIVE A FEW DIRECTIONS TO THESE “HELPS” AS TO HOW THEY MAY HELP POOR SINNERS OUT OF THE SLOUGH OF DESPOND.

     After some little experience I have had in helping others, I would recommend one particular course at the outset. When you meet with some one who is despairing, and thinks he cannot be saved, get him to state his case. This should always be the first thing. When Help went to Christian he did not at once put out his hand to him, but he said, “What are you doing there? How did you get there?” It does men good to state their spiritual case to others. Confession to a priest is a piece of abomination, but sometimes the communication of our spiritual difficulties to another will be in itself a most helpful exercise to ourselves. You will know how to deal with them, and they will know the better what you want, when they put their necessities into words. I have occasionally found that the mere act of stating a difficulty has been the very means of at once removing it. Some of our doubts will not bear the light of day. Many spiritual difficulties are there, which, if a man did but look them fully and fairly in the face long enough to be able to describe them, would vanish even during the investigation. Let the youngster state his case. Get that young man alone, dear brother; get him to sit down quietly with you, and say to him, “Now, what is it you are distressed about? What is the point that puzzles you? What cannot you understand? What is it that dejects and disspirits you?” Let them state their own case.

     Next to this, enter, as much as lieth in you, into their case. This may seem to you, perhaps, an unimportant direction, but, depend upon it. you will be able to give very little help, if any, if you do not follow it. Sympathy has very much to do with our ability to comfort others. If you cannot enter into their distress, you will scarcely be able to lift them out of it. Try to bring yourselves down to “weep with them that weep,” as well as to “rejoice with those that do rejoice.” Do not sneer at a difficulty because it seems small to you, recollect that it may be very great to the person who is troubled by it. Do not begin to scold, and tell the young man that he ought not to feel as he does feel, or to be as distressed as he is. As God puts his everlasting arms underneath you, so you must put the outstretched arms of your sympathy underneath your younger and weaker brethren, that you may lift them up. If you see a brother in the mire, put your arms right down into the mud that, by the grace of God, you may lift him bodily out of it. Remember that you were once just where that young sister of yours is now; try, if you can, to bring back your own feelings when you were in her condition. It may be, you say, that the stripling or the damsel is very foolish. Yes; but you were fools yourselves once, and then you abhorred all manner of meat, and your soul seemed to be drawing near to the gates of death. Now, you must use Paul’s language, you must “become a fool for their sakes.” You must put yourselves into the condition of these simple-minded ones. If you cannot do this, you need training to teach you how to be a help: as yet you do not know the way. Let them state their case, and then endeavour to feel their

 difficulties as your own.

     Perhaps, your next work ought to be, to comfort these poor brethren with the promises. Help, in “Pilgrim’s Progress,” asked Christian why he did not look for the steps, and told him that there were good steps all the way through the mire; but Christian said he had missed them. Now, you can point these poor sinking ones to the steps. Brethren, be you well acquainted with the promises of God; have them on the tip of your tongue, ready at any time. We have heard of a certain scholar who used to carry miniature copies of all the classic authors about with him, so that he seemed to have almost a Bodleian in his pocket. O that you would carry miniature Bibles about with you! or, better still, that you had all the word of God constantly with you in your heart, so that you might be able to speak a word in season to them that are weary! Whenever you come across a poor distressed soul, what a blessed thing for you to be able to say to him, “Yes, you are a sinner, it is true; but Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” Perhaps he will tell you that he cannot do anything; but you may answer that he is not told to do anything, but to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and he shall be saved. He will say, perhaps, that he cannot believe; but you can remind him of the promise, “Whosoever calleth upon the name of the Lord shall be saved;” that is, those who seek him earnestly by prayer. Some texts in the Bible are like sundry stars in the sky – those constellations in the heavens which are so conspicuous, that when the mariner once sees them, he can very soon tell where he is. He determines the latitude and longitude of his own position by gazing intently on one of these celestial bodies. Some brilliant passages of Scripture appear to be set in the firmament of revelation as guiding-stars to poor bewildered souls. Point to these. Quote them often. Rivet the poor sinner’s eyes upon them: this will be one of the best ways of helping him. Oh! if there be a poor despairing one here to-night, let me quote to him that great and mighty promise of our God, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” “He retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.” “Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.” These three texts are specimens of promises by which you “helps” can assist sinking sinners.

     After this, dear friends, try to instruct those who may want your help more fully m the plan of salvation. The gospel is preached every Sunday in hundreds of pulpits in England, and yet there is nothing so little known or understood in this country as “the truth as it is in Jesus.” Sometimes the preacher cannot, even with all his attempts, make plain the simple gospel. You, perhaps, may be able to do it, because you just happen to suit the comprehension of the person in hand. God is my witness how earnestly I always endeavour to make clear and plain whatever I say, but yet my peculiar modes of thought and expression may not be suitable to the cases of some in such an audience as this. Some one person may be able to meet cases which I cannot. If my brethren and sisters, the “helps,” will be constantly active, they may often explain where I only confuse. That which may not have been understood as the preacher put it, will be comprehended when it is stated afresh by them. If you will only put the same thing in another shape, the sinner will say, “Ah! I see it now; I could not understand it from him, but I can understand it from you!” Do, if you would help souls, point them to the Saviour ; do not bother them about any irrelevant matters, but just talk to them at once about the precious blood; that is the main thing. Tell the sinner that whosoever trusts in Christ shall be saved. Do not point to the wicket-gate as Evangelist did; that is not the way, but point the sinner to the cross. Poor Christian would never have been in the Slough of Despond if he had had a proper person to direct him. Do not scold Evangelist, bub just undo the mischief he did, by always pointing the sinner to Calvary.

     Would you supplement this? I recommend you to tell the troubled conscience your own experience. Many have been able to get out of the Slough of Despond in this way. “What,” says the young man, “ did you ever feel as I do?” I must say I have often been really amused when I have been talking with, young enquirers, to see them open their eyes with astonishment to think that I had ever felt as they did, whereas I should have opened mine with far greater astonishment if I had not. We sit down sometimes and tell our patients all their symptoms, and then they think we must have read their hearts, whilst the fact is, that our hearts are just like theirs, and in reading ourselves, we read them. We have gone along the same road as they have, and it would be a very hard thing if we could not describe what we have ourselves experienced. Even advanced Christians find great comfort in reading and hearing of the experience of others, if it is anything like their own; and to young people it really is a most blessed means of grace, to hear others tell what they have gone through before them. I wish our elder brethren were more frequently “helps” in this matter, and that when they see others in trouble, they would tell them that they have passed through the very same difficulties, instead, as some do, of blaming the young people for not knowing what they cannot know, and upbraiding them because they have not “old heads on young shoulders,” where, I am sure, they would be singularly out of place.

     Once more, I think you will very much help the young enquirer by praying with him. Oh, the power of prayer! When you cannot tell the sinner what you want to say, you can sometimes tell it to God in the sinner’s hearing. There is a way of saying, in prayer with a person, what you cannot say direct to his face, and it is well sometimes, when praying with another, to put the case very plainly and earnestly — something in this way: “Lord, thou knowest that this poor young woman now present is very much troubled, but it is her own fault; she will not believe in thy love because she says there is no evidence of it; thou hast shown it in the gift of thy dear Son, but she will persist in wanting to see something of her own upon which she may rest, some good frames or feelings; she has been told many times that all her help lies in Christ, and not at all in herself, and yet she will keep on seeking fire in the midst of water, and life in the graves of death. Open her eyes, Lord; turn her face in the right direction, and lead her to look to Christ, and not to self.” Praying in this way, you see, often puts hear the case the very cry of plainly. There is a real power in prayer – the Lord does hear the cry of his people still. As certainly, beloved, as ever the electric fluid bears the message from one place to another, as certainly as the laws of gravitation move the spheres, so certainly is prayer a mysterious but a real power. God does hear prayer. Some of us are quite as certain of this as we are that we breathe: we have tried it and proved it. It is not occasionally that God has heard it, but it has become as regular a thing with us to ask and have, as it is for our children to ask for meat at table and receive it at our hands. I should hardly think of attempting to prove that God hears my prayer, either to myself or anybody else; it has become so much the habit of my life to know that God hears prayer, that I have no more doubt of it than I have of the fact that if I lose my balance I shall fall, and that the power of gravitation affects me in walking, in sitting still, in rising up, and in lying down. Exercise, then, I beseech you, this power of prayer, and you shall often find that when nothing else will help a soul out of its difficulty, prayer will do it. There are no limits, dear friends, if God be with you, in your helping others, through the power of prayer.

     These directions – and they are not very many – I want you to keep in your memories, as you would the directions of the Royal Humane Society, with reference to people who have been in danger of drowning. I dare say some of you have already practised them so long, that you know them well enough.

     II. Having spoken thus on how to help, I shall now describe THOSE WHO CAN HELP.

     it is not everybody who can help in the way I have been describing. I want to enlist a little brigade of spiritual firemen; that is, I want to get together a company of “helps,” to assist persons who may be slipping and floundering about in the Slough of Despond.

     The first essential for a true “help” is, that he should have a tender heart. There are some people who seem to be prepared by divine grace on purpose to be soul-winners. I know a brother whom I did once venture to compare to a hunting-dog in this matter, for no sooner did he suspect that there were anxious souls than he was on the alert; and did he but hear of a number of converts, away he went. He seems dull and heavy at other times, but then his eyes flash, his heart beats, his whole soul is stirred up to action, and he becomes like a new man. Among converts and enquirers he is all alive: his soul takes fire directly; and amidst the diversities of gifts that proceed from the same Spirit, his gift evidently is to help souls. Such a man was Timothy, of whom Paul says, “I have no man like-minded who will naturally care for your state.” You know, in common life, there are some people who seem to be born nurses. Others there are, to be sure, who cannot nurse at all; if you were ill, you would never have them about you even if they would come for nothing and pay you for having them. They mean well, but somehow or other they would stamp across the room every time they moved, and would be sure to wake you up; and if there were any physic to be taken at night, it would taste all the worse if they gave it to you. But you have known a real nurse — perhaps your own wife — you never did hear her walk across the room when you were ill, and you never would even if you had an instrument to your ear like a microscope to the eye, magnifying the minutest thing; she steps so softly that you might almost sooner hear her heart beat than her footfall. Then, too, she understands your taste exactly, and always knows what to bring you. Whoever heard of a nurse more fit for her work than Miss Nightingale? She seems as if she could do nothing else, and as if God had sent her into the world on purpose, not only that she might be a nurse herself, but that she might also teach others to nurse. Well, it is just the same in spiritual things. I have used a homely illustration to show you what I mean. There are some people who, if they try to comfort you when you are distressed, go so awkwardly to work about it, that they are sure to give you a great deal more trouble than you had before. They really mean well, and try to do their best, but they cannot do what you want done. It is not their work; they are not “helps;” they take a great crowbar to do the thing which a little picklock would easily effect, and they go about everything in such a strange, clumsy style, that you can see they were not made for the work. The true “help” to a distressed soul is a person, who, though his head may not be very big, has a large and warm heart. He is a man, in fact, all heart. It was said of John, that he was a pillar of fire from head to foot. This is the kind of man the soul wants when it is shivering in the cold winter of despondency. Such men I know: may God train many more, and give us all more of the gentleness that was in Christ, for unless in this way we are naturally fit for the work, we shall never be able to do it.

     The “help,” moreover, wants, not only a large heart, but a very quick eye. There is a way of getting the eye sensitively acute with regard to sinners. I know some brethren and sisters who, when they are sitting in their pews, can almost tell how the word is operating upon those who sit near them. Some people cannot do this, others can ; and besides this, they know just what they ought to say to their neighbours in the seat when the sermon is over; they understand how to say it, and whether they ought to say it in the pew or going down stairs, or outside, or whether they ought to wait till some time in the week. They appear to have an instinct which tells them just what to do, how to do it, and when to do it.

     Oh I it is a blessed thing when God thus sets watchmen along the borders of the Slough of Despond; then, if they have quick tars, they listen, and by-and-by they hear a splash over yonder in the Slough, and though it may be very dark and misty, they go to the rescue. Nobody else hears the cry but those who lay themselves out to listen for it.

     We also want for this work, men who are quick of foot, to run. Why, there are some of you who never speak to your neighbours about their souls; you have a sitting here, and you never think of speaking a word to those who sit next you. I thank God there are some of you who will not let a stranger go out without a good word concerning Christ. I pray you persevere in the good habit, and the Lord will bless you, for while there is much to be done in such a congregation as this by the preacher, there is yet more to be done by these helps in getting to the conscience, and doing good to the soul.

     For a thoroughly efficient “help,” give me a man with a loving face. We do not make our own faces; but I do not think a brother will do much with anxious enquirers who is habitually grim. Cheerfulness commends itself, especially to a troubled heart. We do not want levity; there is a great difference between cheerfulness and levity. I can always tell a man who looks sweetly at me what I feel, far better than I can tell it to one who in a sort of official way talks to me as though it were his only business to enquire into my private concerns, and to find out all about what I am, and where I have been. Go about your work softly, gently, affectionately; let your cheerful countenance tell that the religion you have is worth having, that it cheers and comforts you, and then the poor soul in the Slough of Despond will hope that it may cheer and comfort him.

     Earnestly, too, let me recommend you to have a firm foot. If I have to go and pull a brother out of the Slough, I must know how to stand fast myself, or otherwise, while I am seeking to pull him out, I may fall in. I must recollect that hearing the doubts of others may give rise to the same doubts in my own mind unless I am firmly established as to my own personal interest in Christ Jesus. If you would be useful, you must not be always doubting and fearing. Full assurance is not necessary to salvation, but it is very necessary to your success as a helper of others. I remember when I taught in the Sunday-school, I was trying to point one of the boys in the class to the Saviour. He seemed troubled, and he said to me, “Teacher, are you saved?” I said “Yes.” “But are you sure you are?” said he; and though I did not answer him just then, I felt that I could not very well tell him that there certainly was salvation in Jesus Christ, unless I had tried him for myself and been assured of it Do try to get a firm foot, dear brethren, and you will be more useful round the edge of the Slough than as though you were constantly slipping down.

     Then, as you have to do business round this Slough, try to know it well; try to find out its worst parts, and where it is deepest. You will not have to go far to do this: you have probably been in it yourself, and therefore know something about it, but you can easily gather from one and another whereabouts it is worst. Seek, if you can, to understand the mental philosophy of despondency; I do not mean by studying Dugald Stewart and other writers on mental philosophy, but by real heartfelt experience seek to become practically acquainted with the doubts and fears which agitate coming souls.

     When you have done this, I hope the Lord will give you — for you will want it if you are become very useful — a good strong hand, in order to grip the sinner. Jesus Christ did not heal the lepers without touching them, and we cannot do good to other men by standing   at a distance from them. The preacher sometimes gets hold of his hearers; he can feel he has them, and can do almost anything with them; and if you are to be a “help,” you will have to learn the art of getting hold of the conscience, the heart, the judgment, the whole man. When you once get hold of a troubled heart, never let it go. Oh! I pray that you may have a hand like a vice, that will never let go the sinner when once you have hold of him. What! shall the child of God let the sinner fall back into the Slough? No, not while the rock on which he stands holds fast, and while he can hold the sinner by the hands of prayer and faith. May God teach you to grip men by love, by spiritual sympathy, by passion for souls, so that you cannot let them go.

     Once more, if you would help others out of the Slough of Despond, you must have a bending back. You cannot pull them out if you stand bolt upright; you must go right down to the man. There he is; he is almost gone; the mire is well nigh over his head; and you must turn up your sleeves, and go to work. “But the man cannot speak correct English!” Never mind; do not speak correct English to him, for he would not understand it; but speak bad English, which he can understand. It is said, that many of the sermons of Augustine are full of shockingly bad Latin, not because Augustine was not a good Latin scholar, but because the dog-Latin of the day suited his turn best to get hold of men. There is a certain prudery about ministers which disqualifies them for some work; they cannot bring their mouth to utter a truth in such language as fisherwomen would understand. Happy is that man whose mouth will say the truth in such a way that the persons he is speaking to will receive it. “But the dignity of the pulpit!” says one. Well, and what is that? The “dignity” of a war-chariot lies in the captives dragged at its wheels, and the “dignity of the pulpit” lies in the number of souls converted to God. Do not tell me of your fine jargon, your Johnsonian sentences, your rolling periods; there is no “dignity” in any of these if they go over the heads of your hearers. You must condescend to men of low estate; and you will sometimes meet with men and women to whom you really must talk to in a style which does not commend itself to your taste, but which your judgment and your heart will command and compel you to use. Learn to stoop your back. Do not, for instance, go into a cottage like a fine lady come to visit poor people; go and sit down on a chair, and sit on the edge, if the rushes are gone; sit close to the good woman, even if she is ever so dirty; and talk to her not as her superior, but as her equal. If there is a boy playing marbles, and you want to talk to him, you must not call him away from his play, nor look down upon him from an awful elevation, as a schoolmaster would, but begin with a few playful expressions, and then drop a more serious sentence into his ear. If you would do people good, you must go down to them where they are. It is no use preaching fine sermons to drowning men; but go to the edge of the pool, put out your arms, and try to pull them out. These, I verily think, are some of the qualifications of a true “help.”

     III. Let me now close by ENDEAVOURING TO INCITE THOSE OP MY BRETHREN AND SISTERS WHO HAVE BEEN “HELPS,” TO GO ON YET MORE EARNESTLY IN THE WORK, AND TO STIR UP THOSE WHO HAVE NOT TRIED IT, TO BEGIN.

     Perhaps somebody may say, “Why should I help others?” and my answer shall be, because souls want help. Is not that enough? The cry of misery is a sufficient argument for mercy. Souls want it: they die; they perish; they are ready to despair; help them. There was a story in the papers last week of a man being found dead in a ditch, who had been lying there dead for six weeks. It was said that somebody had heard a cry of “Lost, lost,” but it was dark, and he did not go out to see who it was! “Shocking! shocking!” say you, and yet just the very same tiling may have been done by you. There are some persons here to-night who may not cry “Lost,” because they do not feel they are lost, but they are so; and will you let them die in the ditch of their ignorance? There are others who are crying “Lost!” and who want a word of comfort; and will you let them perish in despair for the want of it? My brethren, let the needs of humanity provoke you to activity.

     Remember, again, how you were helped yourselves when you were in a like condition. Some of us will never forget that dear Sunday-school teacher, that tender mother, that Christian woman, that kind young man, that excellent elder of the church, who once did so much for us. We shall never forget their tender attention. They seemed to us as visions of bright angels when we were in the thick fog and darkness. Return the debt; repay the obligation; discharge what you owe; and you cannot do this except by helping others as you were helped yourselves.

     Moreover, Christ deserves it. There is a lamb out there that is lost; it is his lamb; will you not care for it? If there were a strange child at my door asking for a night’s shelter, humanity might prompt me to take in the poor little creature out of the snow and wind, but if it were the child of my brother, or of some dear friend, kindred sympathy would constrain me to protect it. That sinner is your Saviour’s blood-bought one, and is very dear to him; he is a prodigal, but he is your Father’s son, and consequently your own brother. By the relationship there is, though he discerns it not at present, you are bound. A moral obligation rests upon you to give him your help.

     O beloved, you would not want any other argument, did you know how blessed the work is in itself. Would you acquire knowledge? help others; would you grow in grace? help others; would you shake of your own despondency? help others. It quickens the pulse; it clears the vision; it steels the soul to courage; it confers a thousand blessings on your own souls, to help others on the road to heaven. Shut up your heart's floods, and they will become noisome, stagnant, putrid, foul; let them flow, and they shall be fresh and sweet, and shall well up continually. Live for others, and you will live a hundred lives in one. For blessedness, commend me to industry, and divorce me from idleness.

     But, if that is not enough, I think I may say, that you are called to this work. Your master has hired you; it is not for you to pick and choose what you will do; he has given you your talents, and you must do what he bids you. To-night, then, before you leave this house, try to do some practical service for your Master, for he has called you to it. If you do not, you will probably get the rod for correction. If you do not help others, God will treat you as men do their stewards who make no righteous use of the goods entrusted to them; your talent may be taken from you. Sickness may be waiting for you, because you are not active while you are in health; you may be brought to poverty, because you do not make a right use of riches; you may be brought into deep despair yourselves, because you have not helped despairing souls. Pharaoh’s dream has often been fulfilled. He dreamed that that there were seven fat bullocks who fed in the meadow, and by-and-by there came seven lean bullocks, who ate up the fat ones. Sometimes, when you are full of joy and peace, you are lazy and idle, and do not do any good to others; and whenever this is the case, you may depend upon it, that very soon the seven lean bullocks will come and eat up the seven fat bullocks. You may rest quite assured, that those lean days in which you do nothing for your Master, those lean prayers, those lean Sundays, will eat up your fat Sabbaths, your fat graces, your fat joys, and then where will you be?

     Besides all this, we are getting nearer heaven, and sinners are getting nearer hell. The time in which we can win souls by serving Christ is getting very short. The days of some here must be very few, and with none of us can they be very long. O let us think of the reward! Happy spirit, who shall hear others say, as he enters the celestial regions, “My father, I welcome thee!” Childless souls in glory who were never made a blessing to others on earth, must surely miss the very heaven of heaven; but they who have brought others to Christ shall have, in addition to their own heaven, the joy of sympathy with other spirits whom they were the means of blessing.

     I wish I could put my meaning into words that would bum their way into your hearts. I want every member of this church to be a worker. We do not want any drones, if there are any of you who want to eat and drink, and do nothing, there are plenty of places elsewhere, where you can do it ; there are empty pews about in abundance; go and fill them, for we do not want you. Every Christian who is not a bee is a wasp. The most quarrelsome persons are the most useless, and they who are the most happy and peaceable, are generally those who are doing most for Christ. We are no saved by working, but by grace, but because we are saved, we desire to be the instruments of bringing others to Jesus.

     I would stir you all up to help in this work — old men, young men, and you, my sisters, and all of you, according to your gifts and experience, help. I want to make you feel, “I cannot do much, but I can help; I cannot preach, but I can help; I cannot pray in public, but I can help; I cannot give much money away, but I can help; I cannot officiate as an elder or a deacon, but I can help; I cannot shine as ‘a bright particular star,’ but I can help; I cannot stand alone to serve my Master, but I can help.” There is a text from which an old Puritan once preached a very singular sermon. There were only two words in the text, and they were, “And Bartholomew.” The reason he took the text was, that Bartholomew’s name is never mentioned alone, but he is always spoken of as doing some good thing with somebody else. He is never the principal actor, but always second. Well, let this be your feeling, that if you cannot do all yourself, you will help to do what you can.

     Gather we not, this night, as a meeting of council, to present degrees to such disciples as through many sessions of labour have merited them? I confer upon you who have used your opportunities well, the sacred title of “Helps.” Others of you shall have it when you deserve it. Go and win it. God grant that it may be your joy to wear the holy vestment of charity, fringed with humility, and to enter into heaven, praising God that he helped you to be a helper to others.



Delay is Dangerous

By / Jun 22

Delay is Dangerous

 

“And her brother and her mother said, Let the damsel abide with us a few days, at the least ten; after that she shall go.” — Genesis 24:55.

 

You know the story of which these words form a part. Abraham was anxious to secure a wife for his son Isaac. He sends, therefore, his well-tried servant to the land of their forefathers, and takes an oath of him that he will bring a maiden from thence, who should be, by her birth and character, suitable to her future destiny. The venerable servant departs on his delicate and difficult errand. He took all precautions, and then commended his case to the wise disposal of his own and his master’s God. Success, which was in perfect harmony with hie faith, and with the divine promises, at once crowned his efforts. The maiden best adapted above all others to be the spouse of Isaac is sent to meet him. She immediately responded to his wishes, and conducted him to the house of her friends. The aged man was wise in his generation, and knew that a key of gold has the power to open the heart most tightly locked either by prejudice or pride: everything gives way before its subtle influence. He had calculated wisely, and his plans are matured at once into all he had fervently desired and prayed for. No sooner had Abraham’s servant exhibited his offerings, jewels of silver and jewels of gold, with ear-rings and bracelets of precious metal, than he at once won the consent of Laban, Rebecca’s brother, and of her mother; for what would not Laban have agreed to do for the sake of such valuable things? The good servant, therefore, when he went to his bed that night, might well have slept soundly, congratulating himself that he had found in his anxious mission an easy task, that he should be able to go back next morning to his master, taking Rebecca with him, and that the whole matter would be carried through with surprising speed. Judge of his surprise, when, the first thing Laban said in answer to the good man’s request, “Send me away,” was, “Oh no! we cannot afford to let you go just yet; we must have the damsel here a little while longer, ten days at the least.” I do not know what may have been Laban’s particular reason, but I suspect his motives were in keeping with his character. If you observe his subsequent conduct with regard to Jacob, you may rest assured that there was something in the background. He thought, perhaps, that there were more golden bracelets to be had, that he was parting with his sister rather too cheaply, that he must not let the priceless gem go out of his hands too soon, therefore he would keep the account open, and bargain over it again; or, if he could not get more out of the servant, he might at least get ten days more service

 from the maiden, for she appears to have been the keeper of the sheep of the household, and to have performed the usual menial duties attended to by the young women of the family in the East. So Laban may have thought he might as well have her for ten days longer. It was just like him; he would have as much as he ought to have, and as much more as he could get; that was his honesty. He would get all that it was possible to squeeze out of everybody; that was his generosity.

     We shall not, however, have anything more to do with Laban to-night, than to use his desire to retain his good sister Rebecca as an illustration of the way in which this wicked world endeavours to meet the invitations of the gospel, by trying to retain the awakened sinner a little longer in its grasp. I believe there are many here who have a hope that one day or other they will be saved. They have consented, in their judgment, that it is a right thing to be converted, but not yet. The world says, “Yes, these are weighty considerations; you shall go with that man; you shall have Christ; you shall put your trust in him; but not yet; stop just a little while.” Satan’s last counsel to his servants seems to have been, “Do not openly oppose the gospel; give way to it, but suggest delay; do not set men’s consciences in opposition to gospel truth, for that is a hammer, and perhaps it will break their rocky hearts to pieces; but tell them to yield to the hammer; to say, ‘Yes, yes, it is all true, quite correct; but we must wait a little longer, at least ten days; there is plenty of time; there is no need to hurry; let the damsel wait a little while, ten days at the least.’”

     I. I want to draw your attention, first of all, to THE WORLD S PRETEXT FOR THIS DELAY.

     I stand knocking to-night at the world’s door, and I say, “There is a young heart here I want for Christ;” the world replies, “All right, you shall have it one of these days, but there is time enough yet.” I say of another, “Here is a man whose strength and vigour I want for the Saviour.” “All right,” says the world, “do not DO in such a fever about it; we are all agreed with you; we all think as you do, that religion is important, but wait awhile, put it off, take time, tarry a little; there is no cause for all this hurry and this fuss.” If I ask the world what it means by talking like this, it says, “Well, you see, some of these people are so young; it is too young for them to think of giving their hearts to Christ: would you have all the boys and girls turn saints ? Would you have all the young men and women walking in the ways of Christ, and following in the footsteps of the Crucified?” I answer, “Yes, indeed, I would;” but I wonder at the world’s impudence in putting such a question as this concerning some of you, for some of you are not young. You have passed the period of youth years ago, and yet you are unconverted; and if I might hold parley with the world about some of the youngsters, I cannot about you. Why, surely the world cannot have the face to tell me that you who are thirty, forty, fifty, or even sixty years of age, are still too young! I should not wonder, indeed, but what it turns round and tells me that you are too old, and that your time of mercy is past, and that I am too late. At any rate, Satan often does play both tunes, and while to-day he says, “Too soon,” to-morrow he cries, “Too late.” Too young to be saved! Is any one too young to be happy? Too young to be a Christian! Is any one too young to get the richest treasure that can make human hearts glad? I tell you honestly, that if I knew I had to die like a dog, that that would be an end of me, and that there were no hereafter world of bliss for the people of God, I would prefer then, even for the happiness of this life, merely to have Christ in my heart, to have the possession of his love; for there is nothing that can make the step so elastic, nor the eye so sparkling, nor the heart so cheerful, as a clear conscience: and where can a clear conscience be found but in those who have washed in the fountain of the atoning blood, and thus are made clean? O young people, do not let the lying world tell you that you are too young. When our Lord was on earth, he said, “Let the little ones come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” Do not believe that it is too soon for Christ to welcome you. Your need of him begins with your life, for you are born in sin, and shapen in iniquity; as soon as ever you begin to act, you begin to sin in acting. Your first tendency is to fall as soon as ever you are on your feet. It is never too soon too have the strong arm of a Saviour put around you to hold you up, that you may be safe. What, is it too early in the lamb’s life to be carried in the shepherd’s bosom? Why, its very youth and consequent weakness form the reason why it needs him at once above all others. 0 that the very babes knew Christ, and that the boys and girls learned to lisp his name, their little hearts going with their lispings! They cannot, surely, be too young.

     Then the world says, “O stop a little longer; we should like these young people to know something about life” Well, but, base world, what dost thou mean by that? What hast thou to do with life? We, too, want the young people to know something about life: but what is life? Why, true life is to be found only in the followers of Christ, in whom is life. “Well,” says the world, “but we mean the life.” I know what you mean; you mean the death. You want the young people to know something about life, you say. I hear you; it is the voice of the same hissing serpent that said, “Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil;” and our mother Eve, in order to know evil as well as to know good, has destroyed this race. And many a young man and young woman in trying to know good and to know evil, has come to know that which has made the head to ache, and the heart to palpitate, and the nerves to tingle with exquisite pain, that which has brought the frail body to an early grave, and the doomed soul down to the lowest hell! I pray God that our young people may not know life in that aspect, but that they may know life in the true sense, and search for it where only it is to be found.  

“There is life for a look at the crucified One,
There is life at this moment for thee.”

If thou wantest the best, the highest kind of manhood’s life, come and give thy heart to Christ, constrained so to do by his Spirit.

     “Ah! then,” says the world, putting on its best smiles, “it is all very well for you to talk, but we do not want our young people to give up all their pleasure.” And what hast thou to do with pleasure, thou painted Jezebel? what hast thou to do with happiness, false deluder of souls? The World, this canting, hypocritical world, dares to utter and dwell upon that word “pleasure” and it does not know what it means — ask those who have tried its joys. Its princely minds, such as Byron, who, like an angel, flew through the hell of this world’s pleasures. Ask them what they have made of it all, and their only answer is in a groan, and with  a sign, deep heaving from their inmost spirits, they join in modern times with the verdict of the ancient royal philosopher, who said, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!” Pleasure, indeed! Happiness, indeed! Thou base world, what dost thou know about it?

“Solid joy and lasting pleasure,
None but Zion's children know.”

It is because we would have these people possessed of pleasure that we wish them to be converted, and that we desire to see them joined to Christ. It is false, as false as God is true, that religion makes men miserable. Spurious religion may do so. They who worship Moloch may adore him with shrieks and cries, but the worshippers of Jehovah bow before their God with gladness; they come into his presence with thanksgiving, and into his courts with joy. The richest joy, the noblest festivities, the most enchanting mirth that hearts can know, is that which we find at our Father’s throne when we adoringly worship him, and do him active service. When the prodigal came trembling back from the far off land to his father’s house, his misery ceased and his joy began so soon as his father had spoken. What bliss must have thrilled him with the word of his gracious parent’s lips! The best robe! The precious ring! The costly shoe! The fatted calf! All for me? Why, it seems too good to be true. But so it is to be; and not only in his case, but with us all. “Religion’s ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” Our cup has joy’s quintessence distilled into it, and it is filled to the brim. “That your joy may be full,” said the Master; and it is full, as full as God’s eternal love, as Christ’s most precious grace, and the Spirit’s blest communion can make it; yes, as full as heaven and eternal bliss can fill it. Heaped up, running over, it is measured to us from our Lord; so that we can say —

“I would not change my blest estate
For all that earth calls good or great;
And while my faith can keep her hold,
I envy not the sinner’s gold.”

     Now, I wonder what else the world has to say by way of wishing to keep these people a few more days? Oh! yes; oh! yes; I know it brings out the ledger, and puts the pen behind its ear, and it says, “A young man ought to mind the main chance, he should get on in business, and then when he has made a competence, he may sit down and think about the world to come; but his first object should be to make money.” Yes, my good sir, and if you would but speak the whole of your mind, you would say that he ought in the last place to make money too. I knew your father well. He began life as you would have these young people begin, and he plodded on, and plodded on to the end of his allotted term, never having had time to think about religion. He was such a rare sensible old gentleman, such a wiseman! “What I want, is facts and figures,” said he, “none of your nonsense; do not tell me about your opinions; I cast my books up on a Sunday — that is the way to spend your Sabbath. I dare say when I have nothing else to do, I shall have time to think about my soul.” He was a rare “fine old English gentleman,” a very wise old man; howbeit, one night he lifted up his eyes in hell, and with all his accurate bookkeeping and balance of accounts, he had to sum it up: “No profits; I have gained my wealth, but lost my soul.” And oh! if he could come back again, he would say to his son, “My son, you had better begin business at the right end; make the soul sure, and then look after the body; hook yourself fast to eternity, and make that right, and then see after the slippery things of time as best you can in subservience to that.” At any rate, let Mr. Worldly-Wiseman say what he may, that God, who knows more about us than we do about ourselves, says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all other things shall be added unto you.” So, false world, farewell, go thy way, and set thy traps elsewhere, for we do not believe that it is a good thing for awakened hearts to wait until it shall be too late. These are some of the pretexts under which this delay is desired on the part of the world.

     II. Shall I tell you now WHAT IS THE DRIFT OF ALL THIS WAITING? Ten days did not seem too long; but they might have been ten days too late. One day does not seem much; but one day more may be one day too late, and one day too late is to be too late for ever; yea, one minute too late is an eternity too late! Remember that, if thou hast missed of Christ by but the ticking of a clock, thou hast missed of Christ for ever: so that minutes and ticks of clocks may be invested with a very solemn power, if we come to look at them in that light.

     But what the world means is just this, “Ah!” says Madam Bubble, “here is a young person impressed — if we laugh at him it will deepen the impression; but we will say to him, ‘Come, come; let the impression go for a little while; this is not the fit time; when you have a more convenient season, you can bring it on again.’” This game the old tempter keeps on playing over and over again. He does it very blandly; he does not oppose religion, but “everything in its proper place,” says he, “and this is not just the time for it; wait a little longer.” lie said this to some of you ten years ago, and he is saying the same to you to-night, and if you live, he will say the same ten years hence; and again when you are on your dying bed; and so with this cunning he will cheat you out of your soul. The world says again to itself, “Every time we get this impression put off, we get the conscience more unlikely to receive it again, for no man stultifies his conscience without suffering injury thereby.” If I say to my awakened conscience, “No, I will not hear thee,” my ear gets less retentive of the sound, and Mr. Conscience himself grows less able to speak. When the knocking at the door has been heard for sometime and not answered, a man gets to be so in the habit of hearing the alarm, that he could go to sleep and let a man knock all night. I have heard that the men who make the big boilers in Southwark, when they are first put inside the boiler, are nearly stunned by the horrible noise made by those who are hammering on the outside, but after awhile they get so used to the sound that they can almost go to sleep, and let the men hammer away as long as they please. Or, as Rowland Hill has said, “Men become like the blacksmith’s dog, which goes to sleep while the sparks are flying about its ears; so there are many who, after awhile, will go to sleep under the most startling sermons. They used to hear a minister who spoke very plain English to them, and they were greatly startled, and they said, “I cannot hear him and go on in sin;” but they can hear him quietly now, and not only go on in their old sins, but wax worse and worse. Oh! there are some of you who come here who are fearful hypocrites! I can hardly comprehend where some of you have got such terrible hardness of heart from, as to be able to plunge again into sin after the very plain talk which I try to give you. I have searched my ministry through and through, to see whether I have deceived you, and as the Lord liveth, I do not know a single fault which I have not tried to expose, nor one which, if I found out, I would not seek to crush down at the first opportunity. And yet there are some of you who will go to hell, who will go over hedge and ditch to it, who will force their way from Christ, and down to the flames. If a thousand earnest men were to conjure you to escape from the wrath to come, you would still prefer evil. God grant that their souls may yet be turned, or else the heavy fate awaits them of those who, though solemnly warned, have hardened their hearts, and must therefore perish without remedy.

     Moreover, the world says, “Well, if they do go at last, yet we will exact from them as long a time of service as we can. Suppose they do leave us and engage in the service of Christ, yet we shall have had their help in the work of the devil for a good long time, and they will be poor old lame things when they go limping into Christ’s service, and they will not be good for much then.” The devil knows that Christ loves the young, and therefore he tries to keep the young from going to him. “No,” says he, “if he will have that flower, I will not let him have it in the bud if I can help it; he shall have it when it gets full blown, and much of its beauty has gone from it; I will keep it with me while in its prime as long as I can. Ay, and there is this thing in addition, that while I have it in my power, I can do that to it which it can never get rid of in this life: I will lead it into sins that shall cleave to its memory; I will teach that young man vile songs that shall some day come up in his mind when he begins to pray; I will show him scenes that shall stagger him when he grows old, and make him cry, as though his very bones were broken. “Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my former transgressions.” “Ah!” saith Satan, “if I lose him, yet I shall have spoiled him for ever becoming an eminent Christian, and through him I shall have done the King of heaven as much damage as may be.” That is what the devil says; he wants to have you altogether, or if he cannot do that, he would have you wait a little while. O may God’s eternal mercy come to your rescue, and may you be saved from him without waiting the ten days; may your hearts be brought to Jesus now! And how sad the thought, that Satan is getting service out of some who will have to spend much of their after life in trying to undo what they have in their blindness been led to perform for the god of this world! What a waste of time and talent, to build up in misery to-day what you will wish, for very shame, to pull down to-morrow! Some men have written books, or done deeds in early life, which will meet them as long as ever they live, confronting them in the path of service, and proving to be their direst foes. It will be a source of ever recurring grief to find yourself wounded by an arrow feathered thus out of your own wing — to feel yourself crushed by stones your own hands set a rolling in days gone by. And, mark you, that all the increase of your vineyard is now not only lost to your lawful Master, but Satan knows that it is sure to cause a vintage of evil even after your life is over. Your works do follow you. The echoes of your evil words will reverberate far down the ages. Your footprints will have made a track which others will follow when you are not there. The false light you hung out years back will serve to wreck souls even when you yourself, safe over life’s sea, shall be at rest in your desired haven. If heaven could find room for a single sorrow, it would have, I think, some connection with the thought that we have thus helped to ruin souls. Sow no more tares. Come to Jesus, even now.

     III. Thirdly, having exposed the pretexts of the world, and tried to show its cruel designs, OUR REAL OBJECT IS TO HAVE OUR HEARERS SAVED, AND TO HAVE THEM SAVED NOW.

     I never did come upon this platform desiring that my ministry might be blessed to you months alter you had heard the sermon; but I trust I have prayed times without number that it might be blessed at once to the salvation of souls. It is an immediate result that we must look for and labour to achieve.

     There were three reasons why Abraham’s servant wished Rebecca to go with him at once, and these move me to desire your conversion to-night.

     First, he desired it for his Master's sake. He knew that Isaac was looking forward to the happy day when he should be married to his chosen bride. And oh! the heart of Jesus is longing after sinners. It is a happy day for a sinner when he finds a Saviour, but it is also a happy day for the Saviour when he welcomes the lost ones. It is one of Christ’s wedding-days when he gets a soul to come to him. Oh! how the bells of Jesus’ heart do ring when he hears a soul say, “God be merciful to me a sinner!” You know how he suffered I See him fastened to the tree! What is to pay him for all his pangs? Nothing — nothing but the love of your hearts when you come to him with all your sins, and say, “Jesus, forgive me!” May you, then, come and trust him now, saying —

“Just as I am, without one plea,
But that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bidd’st me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come!”

Our Lord for the “joy set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame.” It is written, that he rejoices over us with joy and singing, so that he reaps the fruit of his pains and groans in our salvation. When the shepherd lays the sheep on his shoulders, he returns home rejoicing, for he has found the sheep which was lost. The joy of finding the strayed one compensates him for all his toil, he forgets the length of the road, the toilsome climb up the mountains in search of it. It is found! It is found! That is enough: that one joyful cry embodies the measure of his satisfaction and reward. How Christ delights to save! It was his meat and his drink to do it on earth, and it is his joy though now in heaven. This is how Christ is rewarded for his soul’s travail; and that Christ, then, may be made happy, joyous, and triumphant, we desire that you should be saved now.

     Abraham’s servant, too, desired it for his own sake, because he was a faithful steward, and wanted to do his business well. And how we desire your conversion for our sake! It will make us so happy! There is no bliss that can come to the soul of the Christian minister like the bliss of knowing that he has been made the means of bringing some to Christ. It is in this way that we receive at once the fulfilment of the Scripture, “In keeping his commandments there is exceeding great reward.” We get our reward while we are obeying his precept, “Go into all the world, and preach the gospel unto every creature.” Our chief reward is in heaven, but even now, whenever a lost sheep is found, and a prodigal restored by sovereign grace through us, we immediately receive a recompense. My dear brethren and sisters in the Sunday-school, your reward is on high, but do you not know what it is to have a crown of rejoicing even here? I am sure you do, if ever you have seen that some young spirits have been by you led to the Saviour. Your hearts full weary before, have been refreshed, and you have gone back to your labour with more zeal than ever. Your desire has been increased, and you long more intensely after souls. Ask our brethren the city missionaries, and our sisters the Bible-women, “What is your encouragement in your arduous work?” They would reply, that next to the Master’s presence and the hope of his commendation at last, they placed the joy of doing good, and seeing men, once as heathenish as any found in foreign lands, sitting at the feet of Jesus, all their nature changed, a legion of demons expelled, and now clothed and in their right mind — these once lost ones are found; the dead are alive again. If it were not for these encouragements by the way, it would be hard work to go on preaching the gospel. I know we ought to do so, the commission is clear, it is undoubtedly our duty, but it would be heavy work compared with our present state, where we reap as well as sow, and the goodly sheaves at once ingathered reward the reaper’s toil. We have many, many sorrows; we could not be God’s ministers without having them; but oh! the joy of knowing that through us, praying souls have been brought into the spiritual world, and that in them Jesus Christ has seen of his soul’s travail — it is the greatest bliss out of heaven, and we, therefore, desire to see you saved now.

     But the principal reason that the man wished it, was for Rebecca’s sake. He knew that Isaac would make a good husband to her. And we know that Jesus Christ will make a blessed husband to your souls. He will enrich you with all the treasure of his grace. He will clothe you with his robe of righteousness. He will comfort you with his love. He will cheer you in this world. He will take you home to dwell with him in the many mansions above. You will find him to be a precious Christ to you, and when you get to him you will say, “I never knew what happiness meant till I found him.” You will be grateful to think that you are saved; and therefore, for your own sakes, we desire that this very night you may give up your sins; that the Spirit of God may draw you by his grace, to cast yourselves upon the finished work of the Lord Jesus, trusting in him to save you, as he will do, if you put your faith in him. Think for awhile, I beseech you, how much is to be gained by your immediate seeking of the Saviour! You at once are free from the guilt and condemnation of sin; you are at once clothed with a peerless robe of righteousness; immediately “all things are yours that very moment “ all things begin to work together for your good.” You have heaven then for your home, and your citizenship is in the kingdom of glory. You shall never more lack any good thing. No evil can be all you, nor any plague come nigh your dwelling. Time would fail me to try and calculate your immediate blessedness. And then you make the eternal life sure and certain; whereas you may delay and delay, till you lose the life which now is and that which is to come. For your sakes we desire your immediate salvation. Our hearts are filled with joy and gladness, as we sit at the King’s table in his banqueting-house, and his banner over us is love; but we remember our friends outside, in darkness, poverty, and want, and we would fain call them in to our feast. There is room enough; and our hearts would be yet more filled with joy if we could see the wedding completely filled with guests. O all ye hungry ones, come and eat with us of angels food, and drink with us of cups of salvation! Here is a royal feast: oxen and fatlings are killed; all things are ready; come ye to the wedding; the Master bids you come at once. Why remain in hunger and fear outside? Enter freely. You are bidden to the feast; a right hearty welcome shall you receive now. Tarry not till the door be shut, and you left in the outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

     IV. Now, lastly, WE BELIEVE THAT THIS DESIRE OF OURS IS A VERY REASONABLE ONE, and we think we can prove it without the necessity of entering upon a long argument.

     We will put before you, with this view, two or three little pictures. Alexander conquered the world, and we should like you to do so, in the best of senses. We will ask Alexander his secret. Alexander, thou hast overcome Darius; thou hast driven the Persians before thee as a lion drives a herd of sheep; how hast thou done it? The very question was once asked of him personally, and his answer was this — “I never delayed.” Everybody admits, that in his way, Alexander was a worldly-wise man, and eminently successful, and here was the secret of it — “I never delayed.” Do you hear that, young man? You want to be great; you want to be happy. What is your ambition? Learn from Alexander. Foul-mouthed, as he sometimes was, we can pick this jewel from his lips — “I never delayed.” I think that a greater than he could have said that in his life, I mean the apostle Paul. How was it that he was able to do so much during that latter part of his life, in which God blessed him? Why, he could have said, “I never delayed.” If you would be in the kingdom of heaven, great, happy, honourable, useful, if you would have a crown that shall be weighty with many a gem, learn the lesson — “I never delayed.”

     Next, we have a little country picture. We will come from the classic to the rustic. It is a snowy day, and some boys have put a few bricks together ; they have made a sort of square box of them, and have set one up on edge on a piece of stick, and have scattered under it a few crumbs. Here comes a robin, and he picks up a crumb or two, and while he is picking, down comes the brick! “I did not wait long? says the robin, “but I am caught! I did not wait long, but I cannot get out! I did not wait long, but I have lost my liberty! I did not wait long, but it may be I shall lose my life!” All! little robin, thou shalt be a preacher to some here. They have gone a little into sin, and they are inclined to-night to wait a little while. Take care that this is not your song one of these days, “I did not wait long, but the devil caught me in his trap! I did not wait long, but I wailed too long! I did not wait long, but 1 lost my soul for ever!” God grant that this may not be your lot.

     There is another picture. A number of men are upstairs in a house, amusing themselves with a game at cards. What is that? The window is red! What is that cry in the streets? “The house is on fire!" says one. “Oh!” answers another, “Shuffle the cards again, let us finish the game; we have plenty of time.” “Fire! Fire! Fire!” The cry rises more sharply from the streets, but they keep on. One of them says, ‘It is all right, I have the key of the door on the roof, and we can get out at the last minute; I know the way over the leads — it is all right.” Presently one of them says, “Are you sure we can get through that door?” and he goes to try, but finds it locked. “ Never mind,” is the answer, “I have the key.” “But are you sure you have the key?” “Oh, yes! I am sure I have; here it is, try it for yourself, and do not be such a coward, man, try it.” The man tries the key. “It will not turn!” says he. “Let me try,” says his friend. He comes and tries, and puts it in the lock. “O God! ” he shrieks, “It is the wrong key!” Now, sirs, will ye go back to your game again? No, now they will strain every nerve and labour to open the door, only to find, possibly, that it is all too late for them to escape. So, some of you are saying, Oh, yes! what the man says is well enough, but you know, we can repent whenever we like; we have a key that can turn the grace of God whenever we please; we know the way, has he not told us to-night it is just to trust Christ, and we can do that whenever we please — we shall get out ?” Ah! hut suppose you cannot do that whenever you please! Suppose the day is come when you shall call, and he will not answer, when you shall stretch out your hand, but no man shall regard ? Suppose, suppose you should cry, “Lord, Lord, open to us,” and the answer should be, “I never knew you; depart, ye cursed!” Besides, if you think that that key will open the door, and you can repent now, why do you not repent now? You believe that you have full power to do so! O do it, do it, and do not trifle with that power, lest when the power is gone, you find too late that in one sense it never was there!

     Do you want one other picture of the folly of delay ? Ah! you heard of it some time back last winter, and I should think you must have heard of it with tears in your eyes — I mean that terrible accident on the ice in Regents Park. Why did not the people come off the ice when they could see it was rotten ? Why did they not leave it when it was beginning to be cut up into such small pieces as to be scarcely larger than paving scones? It was all very well to be on it when it was a solid cake; but why did they not flee at once when there was danger? Nobody can now answer that question ; bub there is only this to be said: it is most probable that all those who were there meant to have come off very soon. Probably nine out of ten of them may have thought to themselves — “Well, it is getting rather dangerous; it is not quite the thing to be here; just one more merry ring; let us just cut another ‘figure eight; and have just one more dash up and down the slide; it will be firm enough for that; let us stand here for two or three minutes at any rate.” They were all coming off, but – Ah! there is the end of the story; only that it is even till this day continued by other people with the sighs, and cries, and lamentations of husbands and of wives, of children and of parents, who can now only regret the fatal delay, but can do nothing to make amends. Ah! some of you are on the rotten ice of the world’s pleasures, and of your own confidence. It is all rotten: why do you not come off? “Oh,” say you, “I shall come off by-and-by.” Oh! I see you: there is something fascinating in your pleasures, and a man likes to see his neighbours happy. I see yon skating over that dangerous ice; but why do you not come off? With some of you life is getting very frail. Ah! those lungs are hardly sound: you are spitting blood. The grey hairs are getting pretty plentiful on your head. You have had a warning: you have had one fit, and the doctor has told you what will be the consequence of another. Why do you not come off when the ice is breaking up like this? You may come off; you may come off to-night. If you perish it will not be the fault of one who would act the part of a Humane Society man, and say to you, “Now, ere the last break-up comes; now, before the rising of to-morrow’s sun, which may bring the final break-up, escape for thy life! look not behind thee! stay not until thou hast reached the Saviour, and found mercy in him!”

     May God the Holy Ghost draw you, lead you, bless you, for Jesus Christ’s sake.



Seeing Jesus

By / Jun 22

Seeing Jesus

 

“We see Jesus.”— Hebrews 2:9.

 

THE apostle in this place does not claim to have seen the Lord in the flesh, although he boasts in another passage that he has done so, and asserts it as one of the proofs of his apostleship. He is not, indeed, in this text referring to any seeing of the Lord by mortal eyes at all; he is speaking of faith: he means a spiritual sight of the Lord Jesus Christ. The point to which I shall have to draw your attention this evening is, that sight is very frequently used in Scripture as a metaphor, an illustration, a symbol, to set forth what faith is. Faith is the eye of the soul. It is the act of looking unto Jesus. In that act, by which we are saved, we look unto him and are saved from the very ends of the earth. We look to him, and we find salvation.

     So far as seeing with these natural eyes of ours is concerned, it is the very opposite of faith. We have heard people speak as though they wished they had lived in the Saviour’s day, and could have seen him. It must have been a great privilege to those who were spiritually-minded, but it was no privilege (as they know now, alas! to their cost), to those who were spiritually blind; for many of those who saw our Lord, and heard him preach, rose up in wrath, to thrust him out of the synagogue, and cast him down the brow of the hill. Instead of being overawed by his sweet majesty, or won by that love which sat upon his brow, they scoffed at him, said he was a Samaritan, and had a devil, and was mad. Even the sight of Jesus Christ upon the cross did not convert the men that stood there, but they thrust out the tongue, and called him by ignominious titles, and increased the sorrows of his death by their scornful expressions. To see Jesus Christ with the natural eye is nothing, my brethren; for this shall be the lot of all men, and they shall look on him whom they have pierced, and shall weep and wail because of him. The sight of him, when he shall come in the latter days to judge the earth in righteousness, will be the source of terror to the wicked, so that there can be no kind of benefit, certainly no saving blessing, from such a sight of Jesus Christ with the eyes as will be afforded even to lost spirits.

     The apostle is speaking of the spiritual eye here. He is speaking of that mental vision which God affords to those who have had their eyes anointed with heavenly eye-salve by the Holy Spirit, that they may see, and our business to-night is, first of all, to show why faith is so frequently compared to the sense of sight.

     I. Let us, in the first place, give our attention for a few minutes to THE REASON WHY FAITH IS COMPARED TO THE SIGHT.

     Is not sight, in many respects, the noblest of all the senses? To be deprived of any of our senses is a great loss, but perhaps the greatest deprivation of all, is the loss of sight. Certainly, whatever may be the degree of pain that may follow the loss of any other sense, they who lose sight, lose the noblest of human faculties.

     For observe, in the first place, that sight is marvellously quick. How wondrously fast and far it travels! It does not take you an hour to make a journey from one part of the country to another by your eye. You are on a mountain, and you can see fifty or a hundred miles, as the case may be, and you see it by the simple opening of the eye. It is all there. Your thought is flashed far away in an instant, in the twinkling of your eye. Standing on some of the Alpine summits, you look far and wide, and see lakes spread at a distance beneath your feet, and far away, there is a range of black mountains, or of hills clothed with snows; you know they are perhaps two hundred miles distant, but in a moment you are there. So quick does the sense of sight travel, that we go to the moon or to the sun without knowing that any space of time is taken up by our eyes travelling there; and those remote stars which the astronomers tell us are so distant that they can scarcely compute how far off they are, yet mine eye travels to them in a second of time, when I gaze upon the starry firmament— so quickly does sight travel—and equally rapid is the action of faith. Brethren, we know not where heaven may be—where the state, the place called “heaven” is, but faith takes us there in contemplation in a single moment. "We cannot tell when the Lord may come; it may not be for centuries yet, but faith steps over the distance in a moment, and sees him coming in the clouds of heaven, and hears the trump of resurrection. It would be very difficult, indeed it would be impossible for us to travel backward in any other chariot than that of faith, for it is faith which helps us to see the creation of the world, when the morning stars sang together, and the sons of God shouted for joy. Faith enables us to walk in the garden with our first parents, and to witness the scene when God promised that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head. Faith makes us familiar with patriarchs, and gives us to see the troubles and trials of kings. Faith takes us to Calvary’s summit, and we stand and see our Saviour as plainly as did his mother when she stood sorrowfully at the cross-foot. We this day can fly back to the solemn day of Pentecost, and feel as if we could hear the mighty rushing wind, and see the cloven tongues sitting upon the chosen company, so swiftly does faith travel. And, best of all, in one moment faith can take a sinner out of a state of death into a state of life, can lift him from damnation into salvation, can remove him from the land of the shadow of death, where he sat in affliction and irons, and give him the oil of joy for mourning, and the garments of praise for the spirit of heaviness. O sinner, you can get at Christ in a moment of time. No sooner has your heart trusted Jesus, than you are with him, united to him. You need not say, “Where is he? I would fly to heaven if I could but find him, or dive under hell’s profoundest wave if I could but embrace him.” He is nigh to thee, so nigh that the act of faith conveys thee at once into his bosom, plunges thee into his blood, clothes thee with his righteousness, adopts thee into the family of God, and makes thee coheir with Jesus Christ, joint-heir with him in all things. See, then, why faith is like sight, because of the rapidity of its operations, requiring no time; so that a dying sinner, believing in Jesus, is saved at the eleventh hour, needing not to go roundabout to do penances, and pass through probationary periods, and I know not what besides. He may come to Jesus, weary, and worn, and sad; and the road to Jesus, though it seems long to some, is so short that one step takes you there. You have but to leave self behind, and trust in him, and you are with him. “We see Jesus” then. Faith is like sight for its quickness.

     Is not faith like sight too, in the second place, for its largeness? It is a wonderful faculty, that of sight. Your eyes and mine, take in at once the whole of this building, with all the assembled company. This eye will next, if it be placed at a point of vantage, take in the entire city of London with the whole of its populous streets. Give the eye but the opportunity, let the sun go down, and it will take in all the thousands of worlds that stud the brow of night. What is there which the eye cannot grasp, and mark you, not the eye of the great and mighty only, but of the poorest also? Yea, the little insignificant eye of the lark can take in as much, no doubt, as the big eye of the bullock; and the smallest eyes that God creates, he enables to compass greatest things. A marvellous thing is that eye, darting its shafts everywhere, sending its rays around, and embracing all things. Now, just such a power is faith. What a faculty faith has for grasping everything, for it layeth hold upon the past, the present, and the future. It pierceth through most intricate things, and seeth God producing good out of all the tortuous circumstances of providence. And what is more, faith does what the eye cannot do—it sees the infinite; it beholds the invisible; it looks upon that which eye hath not seen, which ear hath not heard; it seeth beneath the veil that parts us from the land of terror, and, moved with fear, it makes us fly to the Saviour. Faith sees through the pearly gate, and, beholding the glory of the better land, it makes us fly to Jesus, who bears the keys of paradise at his girdle. Faith seeth — I know not how to describe fully what faith seeth. What is there she doth not behold? She seeth even God himself; for though in my finite conception I cannot grasp God, and my understanding can only perceive, as it were, his train and skirts, yet my faith, with awful comprehension, can take in the whole of God, and believe what she does not know, and accept what she cannot comprehend. Oh! wondrous faculty of faith! God give it to thee, my dear hearer. God give thee more and more of it, that so it may be to thee the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen, and that all-comprehending faculty shall enable thee to say—

“All things are mine, the gift of God,
The purchase of a Saviour’s blood;
This world is mine, and worlds to come;
Earth is my lodge, and heaven my home.”

     Again, sight is a most remarkable faculty, because, in the judgment of most men, it is very sure. We believe that we are often deceived by hearing. We are inclined often, when we hear a story, to say, “I should believe that if I saw it, but I should not else; I have been so often deceived by hearing tales, that I cannot always credit what my ears tell me.” We know how by feeling we are readily enough deceived, like Isaac, who would not have given his blessing to Jacob had not his eye waxed dim, but his touch deceived him. But “seeing is believing,” according to the world’s proverb. When a man sees a thing, then he says he knows it; though, indeed, of late years especially, we have learned that even sight itself is not always to be trusted, for the most extraordinary illusions have been practised upon persons for amusement, and have become a part of the apparatus of pleasure and philosophy. You cannot believe your own eyes nowadays. You see a great many things, or think you see them, which are not there, and things which you could declare to be in such-and-such a position, turn out not to be there at all; it is merely some reflection, or some delusion, simple enough when explained, but most puzzling until it is opened up to you. However, sight is generally regarded by men to be the surest of all our faculties. If we see a thing, there it is, there is no questioning it. Now, faith has this certifying power in a much higher degree, for the faith which is of the operation of God, and which distinguishes his own elect, is infallible. The faith of God’s people will not believe a lie. It is written, that “if it were possible,” such-and-such “would deceive the very elect,” but it is not possible. Where faith takes the word of God as her basis, and rests upon it, she becomes an infallible faculty, and we may depend upon that which she reveals to us. It is a glorious thing to know certainties, such as the existence of God, and the everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure; such blessed certainties as the effectual atonement which has put away the sin of the Lord’s people; and such certainties as the enjoyment of the presence of the Holy Spirit in his indwelling power within our soul. May we have much of this faith which is like to sight for its certifying power.

      Once more, is not faith wondrously like sight, from its power to affect the mind, and enable a man to realise a thing? What I mean is this. That eminent preacher in America, Mr. Beecher, frequently used to address his audience upon negro slavery, and his touching eloquence never failed to move his people to an abhorrence of the thing, and to a sympathy with those who smarted under its power. But on one occasion, as I have been told, he wished to produce an extraordinary feeling in order to raise a large sum of money for a certain purpose. He therefore expatiated upon the sorrows of a beautiful girl, almost white, but still with sufficient African blood in her veins for her master to claim her for his slave, and she was about to be sold far south for the worst of purposes. Mr. Beecher wanted to touch the hearts of his people to purchase her liberty, that she, their sister, might be free. He had spoken earnestly, but to produce the required effect, he called her from her seat, and bade her stand up in the midst, and you may guess that that morning there was no difficulty in collecting all the needed funds to set her free. The sight of the slave-girl had moved their hearts as the preacher’s words could not do. Now, it is so usually. We talk about poverty, but when do you feel your hands go into your pockets so freely as when you have been visiting a poor family where the little ones are crying for bread, and where the parents have no means for providing for them? You feel for orphans. Many of us do very sincerely, but we never felt for them so thoroughly as when we began to deal with them and to see them and their widowed mothers. In our newly-founded Orphanage— for which 1 would bespeak your help continually— we have had already to deal with many fatherless ones, and we have come more than ever into contact with them, and we begin to feel that the fatherless are indeed objects of pity, for the sight of them and of the widows has put the thing forcibly before us. We have heard of one who, being cold in the streets, and seeing a poor shivering family, thought that winter was very hard, and that when he got home he would take care to put by some money to buy blankets ; but when he had sat down by the fire, and thoroughly warmed himself, and had partaken of his cheerful meal, he thought the weather must be changed, and that it was not so bad a thing, after all, to have a little winter ; and so the blankets were never bought, and the poor were never cared for. There is nothing like sight, my brethren, to convince, notwithstanding the moment when sight is over, feeling may depart. Now, faith has also this mighty reasoning power in even a higher degree. If it is real faith, it makes the Christian man in dealing with God feel towards God as though he saw him; it gives him the same awe, and yet the same joyous confidence which he would have if he were capable of actually beholding the Lord. Faith, when it takes a stand at the foot of the cross, makes us hate sin and love the Saviour just as much as though we had seen our sins placed to Christ’s account, and had seen the nails driven through his hands and feet, and seen the bloody scourges as they made the sacred drops of blood to fall.

“We were not with the faithful few
Who stood thy bitter cross around;
Nor heard thy prayer for those who slew,
Nor felt that earthquake rock the ground;
We saw no spear-wound pierce thy side:
Yet we can feel that thou hast died.”

Faith realises the thing, and thus becomes “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hence the glory and the beauty of faith. Now, many of you have heard about the wrath of God, but it has all been forgotten. You have heard about the judgment, and the wrath of God to come afterwards. You have heard of the atonement, and the power of Jesus to put away sin; but you have had no effect produced upon your minds, because, as the apostle puts it, “It was not mixed with faith in them that heard it.” But if you had had faith in that which was proclaimed, and had come savingly to trust in the truth which was presented as the ground of your salvation, you would have been moved, and stirred, and excited, and led to hate sin and to fly to Jesus. God grant to us, then, that we may have more and more faith.

      I have thus, I trust, at sufficient length, shown the parallel between faith and sight.

     II. And now we shall spend a minute or two upon another thought, namely, that FAITH, THE SIGHT OF THE SOUL, is HERE SPOKEN OF AS A CONTINUOUS THING.

     “We see Jesus.” It does not say, “ We can see Jesus ”— that is true enough : the spiritual eye can see the Saviour ; nor does it say, “ We have seen him;” that also, glory be to God, is a delightful fact, we have seen the Lord, and we have rejoiced in seeing him; nor does the text say, “ We shall see him,” though this is our pride and our hope, that “ when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is ;” but the text says, “ We see Jesus;” we do see him now and continually. This is the common habit of the Christian; it is the element of his spiritual life; it is his most delightful occupation; it is his constant practice. “We see Jesus.”

       Dear brethren and sisters, I am afraid some of us forget this. For instance, we see Jesus Christ as our Saviour, we being sinners still. And is it not a delightful thing always to feel one’s self a sinner, and always to stand looking to Christ as one’s Saviour, thus beholding him evermore? “As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, even so walk ye in him”— not merely sometimes coming to him as you came at first, but evermore abiding in him. “To whom coming”— always coming, constantly coming— “as unto a living stone.” I was present at a meeting of believers a short time ago, when a conversation of this kind occurred. A brother in the Lord, one of the most fervent men I know, said that sometimes when his piety flagged, and his heart grew cold, he found it a very blessed thing to go and visit the sick and the dying; and he found this to be such a sweet restoration to his faith that he recommended us all, as often as we could, to frequent dying beds. Now, another brother who was present, who preaches the gospel, but who at the same time is a butcher, said he thanked God he did not need to go to a dying bed to see Jesus, and to get his heart set right; that he had had as sweet fellowship with God in Camden Town Market, as he ever had in the house of prayer, and that he found it best always to live, as his brother wished to live sometimes, namely, always conscious of sin, and always looking to the Sin-offering. Come to Jesus, then, as you came at first. Fly to the fountain always as needing constant cleansing— not as though you had not been washed, but still abiding, continuing in blessed recognition of your present cleansing that flows from the fountain filled with blood. It is very sweet to remember that the fountain we sing about as being opened in Jerusalem, is opened “for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem” — not so much for sinners, though it is opened for them, as for saints— “for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” Let us always be coming to it; and each morning and each night, let this be the cry of our spirit, “Still guilty, still vile, still polluted, we see Jesus, and, seeing him, we know that we are saved.”

     Should not this, also, be the mode of our life in another respect? We are now disciples. Being saved from our former conversation, we are now become the disciples of the Lord Jesus; and ought we not, as disciples, to be constantly with our Master? Ought not this to be the motto of our life, “We see Jesus”? We should not regard the commands of Jesus Christ as being a law left to us by a departed Master whom we cannot see, and to whom we cannot fly. Is it not better to believe that Christ is a living Christ, that he is in the midst of his church still, observing our order, noting our obedience or our disobedience, a Master absent in one sense, but still in another point of view ever present, according to his promise— “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world”? We should

“Stay with him near the tree,
Stay with him near the tomb;
Stay till the risen Lord we see,
Stay watching ‘till he come.’”

My brethren, should we be so frequently cold and careless if we could always see Jesus? Would our hearts be so hard towards perishing sinners if we always saw that face which was bedewed with tears for them? Do you think we could sit still, or grow worldly, or spend all our energies upon ourselves, if we could see the Crucified, who though “he saved others, himself he could not save”? I wish I could always come here to preach Jesus “seeing” him by my side, and feeling in my heart that I was preaching in my Master’s presence. I would that you could always come into this place, both at prayer-meetings and at all other times, feeling “The Master is there; let us bow as in his sight; let our worship be given— not to one who is blind, and who will not see us, but to one who beholds us all, and sees our inmost thoughts.” As disciples we should be more punctual in our obedience, more consistent in our imitation of Jesus, if we had him always before us. The Romanist puts up the crucifix before his eyes: well, let us put up Christ in our spirits. He wears the cross on his bosom: let us carry Christ on our heart, still thinking of Jesus, seeing him at all times.

     Would it not also, dear friends, be very much for our comfort if we were to see Jesus always as our Friend in our sojourn here? “Henceforth,” saith he, “I call you not servants, but I have called you friends.” You are very poor, my dear brother; do you see Jesus? He was poorer than you. You have somewhere to go to sleep in to-night, but he could say, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head.” Are you racked with pain to-night? Let it help you to see Jesus. You are not “exceeding sorrowful even unto death,” nor are your griefs to be compared with his. Have you been deserted and betrayed? See Jesus kissed by Judas! Have you been denied by some friend who promised to be faithful? Look into the face of Jesus as he turns upon Peter! Does death itself stare you in the face? Remember him who, “being found in fashion as a man, humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” We should never be alone if we could see Jesus; or at least, if we were, it would be a blessed solitude. We should never feel deserted if we could see Jesus; we should have the best of helpers. I know not if we should feel weak if we always saw him, for he would be our strength and our song, he would become our salvation. The bitter waters of Marah, the afflictions and troubles of the day, would all be sweet if this tree were cast into the flood for us, and if Jesus were brought, in solemn meditation, into contact with our spirits. Oh! to see Jesus. You have seen him as your Saviour: you desire to see him as your Master. Oh! to see him as your Friend, upon whose bosom you can still lean your aching head, into whose ear you can ever pour your tale of sorrow. Through the wilderness you may continually come up leaning on your Beloved, and with him you may have perpetually such sweet enjoyments, that earth, desert as it is, shall seem to blossom like a garden of roses, and your spirit shall enjoy heaven below.

     Again, would it not be much better for us, dear friends, if we were to see Jesus as our Forerunner? I do not know whether it is so with the most of you, but while some of us rejoice in the prospect of heaven, yet the thought of death is sometimes surrounded with much gloom. It cannot be an easy thing to go down amidst the chill darkness of the river, and there to be separated, the soul from the body, and to leave this earthly tabernacle behind, an inheritance to worms: it has a hideous appearance to us sometimes. Even the apostle himself shuddered a little at it when he said, “Not that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon.” Death seemeth a bitter pill to us all; and unless it is swallowed up in victory, and the victory takes away the sting of death, the hour of dissolution will be too bitter. But do you not think that our thoughts of gloom about death sometimes arise from a forgetfulness that Jesus will be with us? If our faith could see Jesus as making our bed in our sickness, and then standing by our side in the last solemn article, to conduct us safely through the iron gates, should we not then look upon death in a very different light? You know how Watts’s hymn puts it—

“Oh! if my Lord would come and meet.
My soul should stretch her wings in haste,
Fly fearless through death’s iron gate,
Nor feel the terrors as she pass’d.

Jesus can make a dying bed
Feel soft as downy pillows are,
While on his breast I lean my head,
And breathe my life out sweetly there.”

     My dear brethren and sisters, gathering up all I should like to have said, but cannot say, into one, it is this: if we see Jesus, being always with us, from morn till eve, in life and in death, what noble Christians it will make us! Now we shall not get angry with each other so quickly. We shall see Jesus; and we cannot be angry when that dear loving face is in view. And when we have been affronted, we shall be very ready to forgive when we see Jesus. Who can hate his brother when he sees that face, that tender face, more marred than that of any man? When we see Jesus, do you think we shall get worldly? Would you have spoken as you did across the counter to-day, brother, had you seen Jesus? My dear friend, would you have been as you have been to your work-fellow? would you have spoken as you did to your servants? would you have acted as you did to your master, had you seen Jesus? They say “a master’s eye doeth much;” certainly the presence of Jesus would do much. “The master’s eye doeth more than both his hands,” they say. Oh! for that consciousness of the eye of Jesus, which shall be like the hand of Jesus, moulding us according to his will. “We see Jesus.”

     Now, I hope you do see Jesus, as you sit in the pews there. Sometimes on Sabbath days, when the Lord helps the preacher, and Christ is evidently set forth amongst you, you have seen Jesus; but will you see him after you have gone down those steps? Will you see him when you get home to your houses? Will you see him next morning in the workroom, or at the business, or in the market? This is not quite so easy, and yet I hold that, if we had more grace, we should see Christ just as well in the market, among the baskets of fruit, as we can at the Tabernacle sitting in our pews. We should see him quite as well if we were driving a horse, or walking along Cheapside, as when we are in our closets, bowing the knee; for that is true grace which is with us always, and that is the presence of Jesus which abides with us for ever, and that is true piety which shines the fairest in the midst of worldly cares. May we each one of us have this, and may it be the expression of our life— “We see Jesus;” and then we shall be able to go farther and say, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

     III. I shall detain you just a minute or two longer, for a third point about our sight of Jesus, namely: we have said that faith is like sight, and that our faith should be a present grace, in active operation; but there may be this reflection about our present sight of Christ, that SOMETIMES OUR FAITH, LIKE OUR SIGHT, IS NOT QUITE CLEAR.

     You do not always see, I suppose, equally well. There are many things that affect the optic nerve, and we know that in fair weather we can see a longer distance than we can in cloudy weather. I was at Newcastle some time ago, in a friend’s house, and when I went up to the top window and looked out, he said, “There is a fine view, sir, if you could but Sunday.” “On a “Well, you see all that smoke down see it; we can see Durham Cathedral from here on a Sunday!” I said, “how is that?” there, all those furnaces, and so on; they are all stopped on a Sunday, and then, when the air is clear, we can see Durham Cathedral.” In a moment, I thought—ah! we can see a great deal on a Sunday, when the smoke of the world is gone for a little time; we can see all the way to heaven then; but sometimes, what with the smoke we make in business, and the smoke the devil makes, and the smoke that sin makes, we can scarcely see anything at all. Well, since the natural sight has to undergo variations, both from itself within and from the smoke without and from the state of the weather, we must not wonder if our faith, undergoes variations too. It ought not to do so, but sometimes it does. There are seasons when we realise that Christ is ours. Glory be to his name, if all the devils in hell should speak to the contrary, yet we know that our Beloved is ours, and that we are his. We are sure of it. Though all the angels in heaven should come and deny it, we would face them out, and say, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” But there are other times when the same believer sings Newton’s hymn, but whenever he does, he ought to sing it alone, for fear anybody should catch the contagion of it—

“‘Tis a point I long to know,
Oft it causes anxious thought:
Do I love the Lord or no,
Am I his or am I not?”

There are hours when some of us would be glad to creep into a mousehole or hide ourselves in a nutshell. We feel so little, so insignificant. Our faith is at so miserable an ebb, that we know not what to do. Well, let us not be astonished, as though we were not the children of God, because of this. Everything that has life has variations. A block of wood is not affected by the weather, but a living man is. You may drive a stake into the ground, and it will feel no influence of spring, summer, autumn, or winter; but if the stake be alive, and you drive it into the soil where there is moisture, it will soon begin to sprout, and you will be able to tell when spring and winter are coming by the changes that take place in the living tree. Life is full of these changes; do not wonder, then, if you experience them.

     Again, faith, like sight, is not only subject to variations, but it has great growth. Our children, in a certain sense, see as truly when they are a day old as when they are grown up to be twenty years old; but we must not suppose that they see as accurately, for they do not. I think observations would teach us that little children see all things as on a level surface, and that distant objects seem to them to be near, for they have not yet received experience enough, to judge of the relative position of things. That is an acquired knowledge, and no doubt very early acquired, but still it is learned as a matter of mental experience. And let me say, though you may not have noticed it, all our measures of distance by the eye are matters which have to be gained by habit and observation. When I first went to Switzerland, with a friend, from Lucerne we saw a mountain in the distance which we were going to climb. I pointed out a place where we should stop half-way up, and I said, “We shall be there in about four hours and a half.” “Four hours and a half!” my friend said, “I’d undertake to walk it in ten minutes.” “No, not you.” “Well, but half an hour!” He looked again, and said, “Anybody could get there in half an hour!” It seemed no distance at all. And yet when we came to toil up, the four hours and a half turned into five or six, before we reached the place. Our eyes were not accustomed to mountains, and we were not able to measure them; and it is only by considerable experience that you get to understand what a mountain is, and how a long distance appears. You are altogether deceived, and do not know the position of things till you become wiser. And it is just so with faith. Faith in the Christian when he first gets it, is true and saving; but it is not in proportion. The man believes one doctrine, perhaps, and that is so delightful that it swallows up every other. Then he gets hold of another, and he swings that way like a pendulum; no doctrine can be true but that one. Perhaps in a little time he swings back like a pendulum the other way. He is unsteady because, while his faith perceives the truth, it does not perceive the harmonies of truth: his faith, for instance, may perceive the Lord Jesus Christ, but as yet it has not learned the position which Christ occupies in the great economy of grace. He is half-blind, and cannot see far. He has sight, but it is not the sight which he will yet receive. Like the blind man who, when our Lord healed him, saw men at first as trees walking. He came in due time to see clearly, for grace always goes on in its work— it will never halt half-way; but at first all was obscure and confused. Just as when you pass from darkness into light, you are unable to bear it, you are dazzled, and need a short time to accustom the eve to the brilliance; but in due time the eye is strengthened, and you can bear more and more light, till we again see with comfort. Let us ask, then, of the Lord, that he will increase our faith till the mental eye shall become clear and bright, and we shall be made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, to be with Christ, and to see him as he is. If you have but little faith, remember that that will save you. The little diamond is as much a diamond as the Koh-i-noor. So little faith is as truly the faith of God’s elect as the greatest faith. If you do but see Jesus, though it be but by the corner of your eye, yet if you see him, you shall be saved; and though you may not see as much of Christ as advanced saints do, yet if you see enough of him to trust him, to rely on him entirely, your sins which are many are forgiven, and you shall yet receive grace for grace, until you shall see him in his glory. However, always be praying, “Lord, increase our faith.”

     The last thing I have to notice about this true faith in Christ as sight, is, that it is at all times a very simple thing to look. Look! No one needs go to a grammar school or to a university to look. Look! The smallest child, as we have said, can look; the most illiterate and untaught can look. If there be life in a look, glory be to God for such a provision, because it is available for each one of us! Sinner, if thou wouldst be saved, there is nothing for thee to think upon but Christ. Do thy sins trouble thee? Go to him, and trust in him, and the moment thou lookest to him thou art saved. “Oh,” says one, “but I cannot do that; my faith is so weak.” Well, when I walk about and see a beautiful sight, very seldom do I think about my own sight; my mind is occupied with the sight, and so let it be with you. Never mind that eye; think more about the vision to be seen. Think of Christ. It would be a pitiful thing if, when there were some great procession in the streets, all you thought about was your own eye; you would see but very little. Think less about your faith, and more about Jesus.

“Weary sinner! keep thine eyes
On the atoning sacrifice;
View him bleeding on the tree,
Pouring out his life for thee."

Cast thy guilty soul on him,
Find him mighty to redeem;
At his feet thy burden lay;
Look thy doubts and fears away.”

Turn over and over in your mind the great transaction on the cross. I have sometimes said to young seekers, Go home and spend an hour deliberately in reading about the death of Christ, and then in picturing it to your mind’s eye, for it is in that way that faith comes. Through the Holy Spirit’s power, we come to believe that story by thinking upon it, seeing Jesus in it, and then following on, and giving it the full credence of our spirit. Go to the cross for faith if you cannot go with faith, and the Lord grant that you may find in Jesus

“True belief and true repentance,
Every grace that brings us nigh.”

so that you, too, may say with us, “We see Jesus.” What is there in this world which is worth looking at in comparison with him? All else is like the mirage of the desert, which appears but to fade away, deluding the weary traveller with hopes of rest and refreshing, and leaving him sick at heart, because all has passed as the baseless fabric of a dream, leaving not a wreck behind. Can you gain ought by watching the bubbles on the stream of time? Will they shake your death-thirst and cool your brow in the article of death? Is there aught of healing in the uplifted images of earthly gold, and honour, wisdom, and power? You have tried them— well, how do they answer? I know of one who, travelling over a pass in Italy, one evening, secured a light to help him over a dangerous and difficult part of the way further on. It was not needed till the narrow steep descent was reached, in fact, it was in the way till then, but just as the traveller came to the very spot where it was required, it went out and left him in utter darkness. So it is full often in the sinner’s experience, who travels in the dark, his lights go out when most needed. Oh! far better then to walk in daylight, using the eye of faith, in the clear sunshine of gospel light from the Sun of Righteousness. Walk in the light. Come to the light, and live seeing Jesus.

“’We would see Jesus’, for the shadows lengthen
Across this little landscape of our life;
‘We would see Jesus,’ our weak faith to strengthen,
For the last weariness, the final strife.
‘We would see Jesus,’ the great rock foundation,
Whereon our feet were set by sovereign grace;
Nor life nor death, with all their agitation,
Can thence remove us if we see his lace.
‘We would see Jesus’— sense is all too blinding,
And heaven appears too dim, too far away;
We would see thee, to gain a sweet reminding
That thou hast promised our great debt to pay.
'We would see Jesus:’ this is all we’re needing—
Strength, joy, and willingness, come with the sight;
‘We would see Jesus,’ dying, risen, pleading;
Then welcome day, and farewell mortal night!”

The Lord send you away with, his blessing, for Jesus’ sake.



The Water of Life

By / Jun 22

The Water of Life

 

“The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water.” — John 4:15.

 

You will remember that our Saviour had been speaking to the woman of Samaria concerning living water. He had endeavoured to catch her attention by using a metaphor to her work and her position. Water was uppermost in her thoughts, and Jesus sanctified the element to his own gracious end. Sitting at the well’s mouth, I think I can see his earnest face, and note the woman’s wondering eyes while he talked to her as she had never been spoken to before, concerning water which caused a man never to thirst again. At first the woman raised questions: the sceptical part of her nature took its turn, and cavilled, and carped, and argued. “Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep,” and so on. Do you not see all the elements of the infidel in her? But she is in good hands, and soon she has passed from the period of questioning into that of petitioning, and she cries this time, “Sir, give me this water.” She was still, I am afraid, very ignorant. She did not even understand her own petition. That is clear from the words which follow the text, “That I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.” She was giving a material meaning to a spiritual utterance. She was thinking of the water that could moisten the lips, when Christ was speaking of that living water, his own grace and love, which touches the heart, and the heart only. Her eyes were dark, but her face was turned the right way; and, best of all, Jesus was there, who can lead the blind in a way which they know not. It will be all well with her, you may leave her alone, and think of yourselves. I hope I am now conversing with some here who have got clear of this woman’s ignorance, and have passed away also, as she did, from the period of questioning; you know best who you are and where you are, but I hope you are desirous to partake of the grace which saveth. You have got away from raising difficulties. You have had enough of that unprofitable hair-splitting and cobweb-making. You feel that you get no good by constantly insinuating doubts as to the possibility of your salvation, and questioning whether Christ is a Saviour or not, and so you are about to leave the sceptical business, and try another line of things. You are now arrived at the point of desiring, not, I hope, the terminus of the line, but only the first or second station. Glad am I that you have come so far. If there be grace to he had, you are saying, “O that I might have it!” If there be pardon, peace, eternal life, you believe all that Jesus Christ says of it, and you want to possess it. You are stretching out your hands, like the drowning man who is ready to catch at the plank. Your desires are awake; your better thoughts are no longer slumbering. You have broken away from indifference and obstinacy, and you are now anxious and desirous to obtain salvation by Jesus Christ. It is to you that I wish to speak this evening, and I shall first take the text, and try to use it to excite four desire still further by a description of the water spoken of in the text; secondly, I shall try to assure your hearts by some remarks upon the likelihood of your obtaining this water; and then we shall close by urging you not to leave this house until the prayer has been registered in heaven, “Lord, give me this water; give me this water to-night!”

     I. To begin, then, I am TO TRY TO EXCITE YOUR DESIRE BY A DESCRIPTION OP THE WATER SPOKEN OF IN THE TEXT. Water is an essential element in the natural world. There is a spiritual world, in describing which, we are obliged to use analogies taken from the natural world; and the grace of God in the mental and the spiritual world, is just what water is in the natural World. You want water as a man; you must have it; on certain occasions it becomes an imperative necessity: you must drink or die. You want grace as a man, not for your body, but for your soul, and it is imperative that you should have it, or else your soul will first be in pain here, and at death the pangs of remorse will seize it, and afterwards an everlasting thirst, an unsatisfied want, will be the second death to you.

     The grace of God is like water in no less than eight senses. But let me not alarm you. I will not weary you; be sure of that, for I long to win you, and weariness will not serve my purpose. I shall only mention the eight parallels with a few remarks, and pass rapidly on from each one.  

     1. Water, first, is thirst-removing, and so is the grace of God. The man who drinks water, thirsts not, his bodily want is removed; the man who receives the grace of God in his heart, gets that which his nature is wanting, and his painful longings are over. Man by nature is so foolish that he does not know what his nature wants, but he feels that it wants something. Awakened men talk to themselves in this fashion, “I want — I do not know what I want — but I know I want something which the world cannot give me, which I cannot find within myself, which my fellow men cannot bestow upon me; I want a something: O my God, what is it? Tell me what it is T Friend, if you are in this condition, the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is just the thing for you, for in it the Lord not only tells you what you want, but he presents it to you. He tells you that you need his love; that if his grace be shed abroad in your heart, and your sin be pardoned, and you be made to be his child, and accepted through Christ Jesus, then will your soul say, “Now I have what I wanted; now I want no more; I can sit still and say, Blessed be God that my desires are full. The aching void which the world could never fill, is now filled to overflowing; and my soul has what it was always wanting, though it did not know what it really wanted. I can sit down now perfectly content!” It is a grand thing for a man to be able to say, “I am satisfied,” but the genuine believer in Christ can say that. “Thou hast satisfied my mouth with good things; so that my youth is renewed as the eagle’s.” Believers in Jesus carry the pearl of content in their bosoms. Jesus takes away the restless spirit, and gives us rest. Jesus is the door that fits the heart, and when he is near to us he shuts out the world’s cold and heat, and gives us sweet content. O ambitious man, thou that runnest after something, and thou canst not tell what it is that can gratify thine immortal spirit, turn to the cross, for at the foot of it there springs a sacred fount of soul-satisfying delight, and if thou wilt but stoop and drink, thine ambition shall be over, and thou shalt want no more. There is satisfaction for the deepest longings of heart, and head, and conscience, in the fount which springs from the wounds of Jesus. Faith is the silver cup. Dip it into the overflowing stream and drink. O Holy Spirit, put the cup to my poor thirsty brother’s lip!

     2. Secondly, water is also life-preserving. In the wilderness, where there is no water, the lip becomes chapped ; the skin is dried; the tongue is like a firebrand, and the mouth is like an oven; and the weary traveller must drink or die. O for a draught of water there! A bag of diamonds could not buy a flagon there I Priceless is the lifedraught. And far out on the salt, salt sea, with

“Water, water everywhere,
But not a drop to drink,”

the mariner, though he may seek to satisfy himself with the brine around him, feels that it will be death sooner or later to him unless he can get some pure, clear, refreshing drops of water to drink. Drop, ye heavens in pity, or let some friendly bark espy the castaways. Such is the grace of God to the soul of man. The whole world over, there is nothing that can save a soul apart from the grace of God. Your good works can no more save you than the salt sea can give the sailor drink. Ceremonies can no more fill your heart with peace and give it life, than the hot sand of the wilderness can quench the thirst of the weary traveller. God must lead you to the river of eternal life flowing out of the Rock that was smitten. You must get grace through Jesus Christ, or hope shall never dawn upon you, but despair's midnight shall be your everlasting portion, where lost spirits wail out their undying lives in one endless death. O soul, if thou gettest God’s grace, thou shalt never die! Believest thou this? If that grace of God shall come flowing into thy soul, thou shalt possess eternal life, an immortal principle which shall bid defiance to the grave, and make thee sing in the very jaws of death, for he that drinketh of this water, shall live in Christ for ever. “He that liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” “He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” This grace of God, then, is life-preserving, as well as thirst-quenching: Have you found it so? for, friend, I cannot afford to let you hear me, and yet escape a squeeze or two. If you forget this sermon, it shall not be because I did not press you to remember it.

     3. Water, in the third place, is filth-purging. Man seeks no more than to get to the stream to wash when he is defiled. Many and many a time in passing through a country, the poor traveller comes to a brook so clear that he can see his face reflected in it, and he stoops down and laves his brow again and again, and takes his bath, and goes his way all bright and shining, as though he had exchanged sorrow for gladness, and received the oil of joy for mourning. Now, the guilty sinner, and such are we all by nature, however foul he may be, has but to stoop down at the river of eternal grace and wash, and he shall be clean. This stream can take out spots which nothing else can remove. Our sin is of such a crimson dye, naturally, that it might incarminate the Atlantic before it should be washed away, but this water of life can do it; it takes away the stain of blasphemy and lust; it removes the pollution of theft and murder. All manner of sin shall be forgiven unto that man who comes to the cross and trusts in Jesus. Whosoever believeth in the world’s great Redeemer, shall find full and complete pardon for every offence that he has committed. O try it, thou blackest of the black, if thou be here! Thou who hast gone to the greatest extent of sin, cast thy guilty soul into this fountain, and see if thou dost not rise from it with thy flesh like unto that of a little child, clean and pure, and not a spot remaining on thee. This filth-removing is the grace of God streaming from the cross, where Jesus suffered in our stead the wrath which was due to us for our transgressions.

“Calvary’s wonders let us trace,
Justice magnified in grace;
Mark the purple streams, and say,
Thus my sins were washed away.”

Friend, can you do this by faith, trusting for pardon to the blood of God’s dear Son?

     4. Water, again, is well known very frequently to be softening. There are some things which, when laid in water, soon lose their hardness, and are soft and pliable. This water of the grace of God; which it is my longing desire to commend to you, has a marvellous softening power. Adamant, millstone, ay, the nether millstone, northern iron and steel, have been melted when laid asoke in this fount. The hardest heart yields before the power of the love of God revealed in Christ Jesus. I think I hear one of you exclaim, “That is good news for me; I know that Christ can pardon me, but I cannot feel my sin as I ought: I am such a stiff-necked sinner, so hardened, so perverse, I cannot feel my need as I would wish to.” Soul, if the grace of God shall flow upon thy heart, it shall turn the stone, by a wondrous transformation, into flesh at once. There is no stubbornness which the grace of God cannot overcome. What a blessed thing it is for the preacher that he has not to give his hearers soft hearts, nor even to find tender hearts in them to begin with; how delightful it is for him to remember that he preaches a gospel which works wonders, wonders even greater than the rod of Moses; for when with the gospel we smite even a rock, penitential streams gush forth, and yet more, the rocky soul is itself dissolved under a sense of sin, O that some Saul of Tarsus might be washed by this stream now! He would no longer be the enemy of God’s church, but would seek out some poor disciple to ask him what he must do to be saved. It is a heart-softening water. May the Lord give It to every one of us who have hard hearts remaining; fain would I bathe in it anew, that I might the more tenderly feel for you. Friend, will you never feel for yourself?

     5. In the fifth place, this water has the property, like earthly water, of being fire-quenching. There is nothing like water after all, with all your new inventions, for putting out fire. We run for the engines, and turn on the main, what can we do better ? But there are fires that burn within the human heart, deep volcanic fires fed from the depths of hell, furious flames which roar within the inner man, and anon roll over in torrents of sin-lava in his daily life — these are fires which never will be put out except by heavenly water. Oh, that fire of lust! How many a man has been consumed by it! It has devoured him as the fire devoureth the stubble. But when the grace of God comes, how soon that fire is damped, and even quenched for ever! And there are other fires which burn in the soul — the fire of envy and of malice, the flames of anger and of unholy desire — how these will rage and glow until the grace of God comes! I know it puzzles many a man to know how he could live without such-and-such sins. “Oh,” says he, “I could not live without them, I have fallen into the habit of them, and I must have them.” Ah! but you shall be made a new man, such a new man, that if you were to meet your old self, you would avoid the wretch or struggle with him in deadly hand to hand encounter, out of sheer hatred to so mean a thing. Let me tell you you will never be on good terms with your old self so long as you live. You will hate that old self of yours, and it will be your daily desire to kill him. You will try to drive the nails through his hands and feet, and crucify him upon the cross of Jesus; and you will not be content unless you can kill him daily, mortifying him with his affections and his lusts. Oh, mighty grace of God that can put out the flames of sin! O sinner, the very flames of hell are put out by this grace of God; I mean so far as the saved soul is concerned: for the soul that is washed in this fountain, there is no hell in which God can punish it. How can he punish a pardoned sinner? How can he that is in Christ Jesus be cast into the flames ?

“No condemnation now I dread,
For justice smote my Surety’s head.”

“Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect ?” He that has Christ to be his substitute is beyond all fear of hell. He can look down into that dread abyss, and feel that there is not a burning coal there for him, and that whoever may perish, yet he, being in Christ Jesus, can never die. Friend, have the fires in your soul met with this glorious antagonist? Are the engines of grace casting their floods upon thy soul? Let conscience give its reply, and let it have thine ear.

     6. A sixth property is one that is not found in ordinary water, and that is, that it is a spring-creating water. Wherever the water of life falls, it makes a new spring, which begins to bubble up directly. By this I mean that if the grace of God enters into a man’s heart, it is an immortal principle, and, as the Saviour says, “Out of the midst of him shall flow fivers of living water.” “The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” What a great difference there is between a pool and a running spring! Frequently in crossing the Alps, when one has been very faint and thirsty, it has been a sweet rest to sit down by a running spring, and wash one’s face and feet, or bathe one’s self in it. You may have walked till you are very footsore — you sit down to bathe your feet, and if you have found a mere pool, you will stir the bottom of it, and it will soon be very filthy; but when it is a running spring, you can sit and wash, and wash, and wash again, and if you do stir the sand at the bottom, the earth is all gone in a moment, because the water still comes bubbling up fresh and fresh, and therefore it is always clean. So it is with the grace of God in a Christian: it never gets flat, and dull, and dead; and the daily pollutions, and washing of our feet, do not stain it, because it is a living spring, and arises from those “fresh springs” which David sings about which he rejoiced to find in the Lord his God. It is very hard work to play the part of a Christian if you have not a spring within you. For a man to have to keep up year after year a profession without life, why, it must be slavish work. Do you think that I would come and take a seat in this place, or in any other place of worship, and occupy it merely because it was respectable to do so, if I had no care for it? I would as soon be a slave! Base is the man who even in his religion is the serf of tyrant fashion. To come up to the house of God because you love to be there, and to sing because you cannot help singing, and to unite with God’s people because “birds of a feather ” must. “flock together,” and you love to be among them — why there is something in that, something which tastes of reality and sincerity. He who has no great deeps of godliness in his soul makes a bondage of religion, he lives the life of a dog, and does not even get the crumbs from under the table as his portion. Mark you, brethren, it is harder to preach without this spring than it is to hear without it, because if you have not a spring in you, you may go foraging this dead man’s books, and that other dead man’s stores, to find a subject, but you will soon run dry; but if God the Holy Ghost is a spring within you, you may remain full of precious truth, and pour it out so long as God shall give you utterance, and you shall not run dry. What a blessing it is when the living water makes a spring within the Christian! What a curse to be one of the stagnant ponds of formality exhaling the putridity of hypocrisy. Friend, where are you, I must have my hand on you again, what are you in this matter as in the sight of God?

     7. Seventhly, it is fruit-producing water. What fruit would there be upon the trees, what pasture in the meadows, what harvest in the field, if it were not for the rain? Everything would be barren without water, and even where there is fruit, if there be not also a fair share of water, what poor stuff it is I When I was in the country in June, and there were some heavy showers, I could not help thinking what good they were doing. There was the wheat just wanting plumping out, and the- rain came to fill it, and to make the ears full. It might have been wheat of course without it, but the ear is likely to be more full of grain when the drought is gone. So, brethren, we may produce some little fruit when we have but little grace; but if we had more grace, how that fruit would plump out! how would our fruit be more rich, and fat, and mellow I How would our service to God be improved and perfected if we had more of this fruit-producing water! You cannot serve God without his grace. You cannot give him true praise, nor true prayer, nor true service, nor anything that is acceptable, unless he first shall give you of the rain of his grace, grace for grace. “By their fruits shall ye know them:” friend, what fruit have you? O that grace may turn the barren fig-tree into a good fruit-bearing tree!

     8. And, lastly upon this point; it is heaven-ascending water. You know there is a rule of this sort in hydrostatics, that water will rise toits own level. Not long ago, I thought such things were gone out. I was riding along where the road was in a little cutting, and a spoilt was actually taken over the road to carry water from one field to the other, it was dripping fast upon the passengers, and making an ugly place in the road. Now, they might easily have taken the little stream under the road, and up again in a pipe; but, I suppose, when the spout was made, it was not known to those who made it that water will rise as high as its source. Now, the grace of God will rise as high as its source. If you and I have grace that began with us, it will never get higher than we are. If you have grace that the priest gave you when you were christened, it will never get higher than the priest; but if you get the true grace of God which descends from heaven, it will take you as high as the New Jerusalem, from which it came. High up in the throne of God are the everlasting springs of divine mercy; at the foot of divine sovereignty it wells up a spring, clear as crystal, pure without a stain, and it flows down to earth, leaping down by the way of the cross. And it will ascend as high as its source. It will go up to the throne again, that is where it came from, and it will rise to its own level, and it will float you up there with it. If, by the grace of God, you have been taken up by the stream of Jesu’s dying love, it will take you up to its own source, and where G od is, there you shall be. Because you have been made to taste, to feel, and to be saturated with the grace that came from God, from a divine source, you shall also have a divine portion for ever. The rivers go to the sea because they originally came from the sea. Did not the sun kiss the sea, and make it ascend to him in clouds, that it might descend in rain? And so, all the rivers of grace in us shall flow into the sea, whence they came, the bottomless, shoreless sea of everlasting love, because that is the eternal source and fountain of them all. Clouds of suffering went up from the heart of Jesus to return to earth in showers of mercy for poor sinners. Friend, do you know anything about this in your very soul?

     Now, I have thus spoken of the grace of God which is revealed in Jesus Christ. I only hope that some one here may say, “I wish I were washed in it! I wish my thirst were satisfied with it! I wish that my soul were made to overflow with it! I wish that I might be lifted up to heaven though its energy!” Oh! then, soul, I am glad you have the desire. Turn it into a prayer, and let the prayer be the text, “Give me this water!”

     II. And now, with great brevity indeed, we shall take the second point, that is, TO CHEER YOUR HEARTS WITH SOME REFLECTIONS UPON THE LIKELIHOOD OF YOUR GETTING THIS LIVING WATER.

     I am supposing now that you really want it. If you say, “Sir, give me this water,” you will have it; and I will tell you why I think you will have it – because, in the first place, I do not think that an ordinary man would -deny another water; If I stood by a well, and-you approached me, and said, “Sir, give me this water,” I should say, “As much as you like of it” Who would not give water? It is the very commonest of gifts. Even in the East, with all the value that is attached to water there, the Saviour mentions that as one of the most ordinary acts of benevolence. “ Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, He shall in no wise lose his reward.” Who will deny another a glass of water? Then note, that according to our text, the giving of saving grace is to the great Redeemer no more than the giving of water to you! Grace is a priceless boon for you to receive, but to Jesus it is a delight to give it. If you give-water, you have a little less water left, but if Christ gives grace, he has not any grace the less. He still has as much grace in the inexhaustible fulness which dwells in bis adorable person. As the sun is just as bright for all its shining, and the ocean still full notwithstanding all the clouds exhaled from it, so Jesus is as abundant as ever in pardoning mercy and saving power. I tell you that for Jesus Christ to be gracious, is as much according to his nature as it is for you arid for me to be generous enough to give away water. The blessing of poor needy souls is no labour with Jesus, no loss to him, no tax upon him; all the pain and cost he has borne long ago, and now to save the guilty is his reward in which he sees the recompense of his travail. Now, if in this place the grace of God had been compared to gold, that metaphor would have suited well to express its value; but you would have said, “Who gives gold away?” But here it is compared with water, water which man freely gives, and which our. Lord Jesus never denies to those who seek it of him. I do not believe, then, if an ordinary man will give away water — and Christ -compares his grace with water, that he will let you say, “Sir, give me this water!” and then send you away without it. Friend, be not so unbelieving as to think that the Lord Jesus is ungenerous and unkind, but ask for the living water, and it shall be given you.

     Again, if you would refuse water to some persons, I am very sun that you would not refuse it to a thirsty person. If you 6aw him panting, and the hot sweat starting to his brow, and if he could scarcely speak, but had only strength enough to gasp out, “Sir, if you would but give me a cup of water, I would bless you ‘for it with all my heart,” why, you would run and bring out the sparkling crystal, and feel a great pleasure in seeing him drink. Would you not? I am sure you would. Now, if you are a thirsty soul, I am quite sure Christ will give you the water of life. He will give it to any that ask, for he refuses none; but 'to you he will give it so quickly, that he will seem to give it twice over. He will not let you thirst in vain, for has he not promised, “When the poor and needy seek water, arid there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.” “Oh,” says one, “how I desire to be saved! How I long to have Christ!” Thou mayst have him then; for Jesus Christ never did deny a thirsty sinner, never did refuse to give of bis substance to the poor, his clothes to the naked, or his medicine to the sick. He came on purpose to bless such. I say, there are all likelihoods that you shall have the blessing if you will but pray earnestly, “Lord, give me this water nay, more, there is a certainty of it.

     Another reason gives me comfort for you, and that is — there certainly is a plenty of it, for the apostle John says he saw “a river of the water of life.” Now, nobody is afraid, when there is a deep, broad, flowing river to draw from. Who fears to exhaust the Thames or drain the Danube by his thirst? Moreover, as John Bunyan reminds us, a river is free to everybody to drink. The source of it is private. Many rivers rise in a park or private grounds, but the river itself is public. As soon as it. becomes a considerable stream, it becomes a public highway, and a universal water-supply. It is free, it flows the way it wills. Rivers possess a sort of sovereignty, you cannot bid them flow in a straight line, or order them by rules oi geometry; they will have their own sweet will. If the river chooses to go by one town and not by another, it will have its way, try to stop it who may? But while it is sovereign in its course and direction, yet it is free for public use; the cattle come to drink, and even a poor dog is not refused when he gets to the river’s brink; if he wants to lap and cool his feverish tongue in the dog days, who shall say him nay? And you, poor sinner, you shall find the grace of God free to you, for there is enough of it; it is up to the banks; nay, it overflows the banks; there is a flood of it, such a flood that there never can by any possibility be any lack, though all men should come. Though ten thousand times ten thousand should come, there would still be found sufficient grace in Jesus to meet the case of all, for whom the Lord brings, the Lord can provide for in Christ Jesus. The grace of God is sovereign in its choice, and discriminating in its course,, but still it is free to all thirsty ones who long to partake of its everlasting fulness.

     I am comforted, also, by another thought, namely, that this river flows on purpose for the thirsty. I am sure I do not know what there is mercy in the world for, unless it is for those who want it because of their sin and misery. What could Christ have made an atonement for, except for sinners? It is not possible that the beloved Physician came all the way from heaven to heal those who were well and needed no medicine. It is not likely that he opens his great granaries to feed the nations who have a harvest of their own; it must be that our Joseph has stored up the wheat for hungry perishing ones. O ye that need, come and welcome, for the fountain is opened especially for you; it flows, that such as you may come and drink. Friend, shall our invitations have no power with you? O Holy Spirit, make men willing in this the day of thy power!

     I feel sure, too, that you who seek the Lord, will find his grace, because there never has been one refused yet A dear brother, who, I believe, is now present, told me that he owed his conversion in early life to hearing a sentence or two of a sermon from a man whose name he never knew, but whom he heard preach standing on a log of wood on a village green. He. had never gone to listen to the gospel anywhere, but happened to be straying through the village, and he heard the man say that there never was a soul that sincerely sought God through Jesus Christ, but what ultimately, sooner or later, it was brought into a state of peace. And let me say to you all — it may sink into some heart, and one day yield it comfort — it shall not be said by you in eternity, that you sought the Lord and he would not hear you. I recollect what comfort this gave to me when I heard my mother say, that she had heard many wicked things in the world, but she never heard a man wicked enough to say, that he had sincerely sought God through Jesus Christ, and yet had been refused. When I heard that, I thought I would say it, for I was confident that I had sought the Lord, but I had had no comfortable answer. But I have never said it, I have never had cause to say it, for before I could be driven to that state of despair, I looked unto him and was lightened, and so I am persuaded it shall be with you. There never was one refused who said, “Give me this water,” and you shall not be the first.

     To close this point, it is to Jesus Christs glory to give of his saving mercy, and therefore be certain that he will not withhold it. It cannot make Christ more glorious to deny a poor sinner his mercy. It cannot be to his profit to shut his door in a seeking sinner’s face. It is impossible that the bleeding Lamb should cease to be pitiful to poor bleeding hearts. By everything that can make the name of the great Physician glorious, by every pang of his soul on account of sinners, I am persuaded that he will not deny you. Why, the more a physician cures, the greater is his fame; the more the Saviour saves, the higher is his honour; the more Jesus Christ can bless, the more lofty will be the praise, and the more exalted that mighty shout of “Hallelujah!” that shall go up from ten thousand times ten thousand of sinners, who have been washed in his blood. Come, then, seeking sinner, come thou now, and by humble faith trust in the Mediator’s sacrifice. Wipe those eyes of thine. Be of good- cheer. Be bold in heart. He calleth thee. There is room at his table. The door is open. There is room in his heart, he died for those who rest in him. If thou wishest for Christ, he wishes for thee. If thou longest to go to the feast, he wants guests as much as thou wantest the feast. Only trust thou him! God help thee to trust him by his Spirit, and thou shalt live.

III. The last thing was to be this: to urge you to-night, before you leave this house — but my urging will be of no service unless God the Holy Spirit own it – TO URGE YOU TO PRAY THE PRAYER OF THE TEXT.

     A desire is like seed in the bag, but prayer sows it in the furrow. A desire is like water in the bottle, but prayer drinks thereof. Now, I commend to you the prayer of my text – “Sir, give me this water.” Begin, then, your prayer by honouring of my text Christ — Do not call him “Sir,” but call him “Lord” She gave him the highest title that her respect could accord. She did not know him in – any other capacity, but she called him “Sir.” Now, call Jesus “Lord-,” for thou wilt get no mercy if thou dishonourest Christ. Think thou of him as God’s only Son Buffering for sinners. Call him “Lord.” Canst thou do that? If thou rejectest his divinity, thou dost shut thyself out of his kingdom. He must be owned as Lord and God as well as Saviour. Oh!” sayest thou, “I have long ago called him Lord, I know him to be divine; I rejoice in the thought of his eternal power and Godhead; I would honour him with all that I have.” Well, then, thou hast well begun, but may grace make thee go further.

     Now, in the next place, if thou wouldst pray this prayer aright, notice it, and confess thine undeservingness. It is not, “Sir, sell me this water,”1 but, “Sir, give me this water.” Confess that it is a gift. Thou shalt never have it otherwise. Away with thy merit-mongering. Away with thy trusting in thy prayers, and thy tears, and thy sense of need. Mercy must be given, or else thou shalt never have it. “Sir, give me, give me, give me this water. O Lord, give me grace, or else I die; give it me of thy free mercy, because thou hast promised to save the chief of sinners; give it me, Lord. I have done with boasting; I have done with the Pharisee’s thanking thee that I am not as other men arc; I come empty-handed!; come naked, poor, and miserable;- give it me; I have nought to buy it with. Oh! give me, without money and without price, thy salvation.” Friend, does your pride kick at this? Be wise, I pray thee, and bow thy neck to the yoke of grace.

     Take care, too, that you make it a personal prayer — “Lord, give it me” Never mind your neighbours just now. Care for them when you are saved. Look after their salvation when your own is secure; but just now you have first to do with yourself. Your children? Ay, pray for them. Your relatives? Yes, consider them. But, meanwhile; now it is yourself, your own proper self that is concerned. Do not think of the whole congregation. Think now personally of your own soul, and say, “Lord, give me this water.” I mean you, Mary, and you, Thomas, and you, John, let the prayer come from your own lips, as distinctly being from yourself. As you sit or stand now in this house, silently breathe the petition — “Lord, give thy grace to me, even me.”

“Pass me not, O gracious Father,
Sinful though my heart may be;
Thou miglit’st curse me, but the rather
Let thy mercy light on me,
                                               Even me.
Pass me not, O tender Saviour!
Let me love and cling to thee;
I am longing for thy favour;
When thou contest, call for me,
                                                      Even me.”

     Once more, I want you to offer this prayer in the present tense not “Give me this water to-morrow;” but “To-night give it me; Lord, save my soul now.” The worst of most of men is this: they would be saved, but it must be when they die. You would serve the devil all your life, and then cheat him of your soul at the last! Mean, miserable thought! If God be God, serve him, serve him now; and may the Lord have us in life, as we hope he may have us in our death. “Give me this water” But you are going out next Wednesday; that will be awkward! “Yes,” said some young woman at a revival meeting, who was in much concern, “but I am going to a ball to-morrow;” and so everything good was put off for that; but she dropped down dead at the ball! God grant there may be no such cases of postponing here, lest we postpone ourselves into eternity, where there are no acts of pardon past. May we have Christ now. We may not live to see to-morrow’s sun. Albeit that the sun is well-nigh gone down, yet the light of this evening may not have gone before our life may be ended. How near to death we stand, and yet we scarcely think of it! Right on the edge of our graves sometimes we are, and yet we sport and laugh as though we had a lease of life! You forget death, most of you. The cemetery is so far out of town, but still you should not quite forget, for the hearse goes to and fro with awful regularity, and the church-bell that tolls is not rusty, and those words, “Earth to earth, dust to dust, ashes to ashes,” are still familiar to the ears of some of us. It will soon be your turn to die. You, too, must gather up your feet in the bed, and meet your father’s God; God grant that you may then be found right with him. Little do I know for whom these sentences may have a special bearing; but they may have a bearing, dear friend, upon you. I see some of you dressed in black; you have had to go to the grave mourning because of others: that black will be worn by others soon for you, and the place that now knows you shall know you no more for ever. Oh! by the frailty of life, by the near approach of the Master, or by the certainty of death, I pray you see to it that you breathe the prayer, “Lord give me of thy grace.” The Lord help you to pray it. Amen.



A Prayer for the Church Militant

By / Jun 22

A Prayer for the Church Militant

 

“Save thy people, and bless thine inheritance: feed them also, and lift them up for ever.” — Psalm 27:9.

 

LET me direct your attention to the verse before the text, and then let us read the text in connection with it, “The Lord is their strength, and he is the saving strength of his anointed. Save thy people, and bless thine inheritance: feed them also, and lift them up for ever.” You have in the eighth verse, the church militant reviewed; and in the ninth verse, the church militant prayed for. With regard to the Psalmist’s review of the militant church, it is summed up in two sentences: “Jehovah is their strength;” “Jehovah is the saving strength of his anointed.” The people of God are strong, then; for their strength is spoken of. They are weak in themselves, yea, they confess themselves to be weakness itself, yet by faith, when they grasp the power of the Almighty, they are no longer feeble, but they venture to say with the apostle, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me.” The power of the army of the Lord does not lie Lord in connection is with any strength. They may differ in many respects, but this is true of every single warrior in the host of the Lord, that the Lord is his strength. He has no strength in the flesh, he cannot find anything there which can assist him; all his springs are in his God, and he draws all his supplies for power in spiritual conflicts, from God and from God alone. If you were to review the Prussian army, you might very properly say that the needle-gun is their strength – and years ago we used to feel quite sure that the Armstrong gun was our strength; but if you examine the ranks of the Lord’s people, you will perceive that they rest in no chariots, nor horses, nor weapons of war, whether carnal or spiritual, but the Lord Jehovah is the strength of the whole company. Can you not picture David reviewing his troops, looking along the ranks of the king’s mighties, who had been with him in the cave of Adullam, and had done good service in his attacks upon the Philistines, and in various skirmishes and battles in their youth, and their riper years? Can you not hear him say, “The Lord is their strength”? Can you not hear him, as he points adown the line of his heroes, declaring that in every case they were made mighty by the God of Jacob? David adds that the Lord is his own strength too. The confidence of the soldiers was also the confidence of the captain. “He is the saving strength of his anointed.” The margin has it, “He is the strength of salvation to his anointed;” for David had many salvations, many remarkable escapes and deliverances; and these he does not attribute to his own agility, foresight, wit, or wisdom, much less to the valour of his brave right hand, but he confesses that the Lord who was the strength of the soldiers, was also the saviour of their anointed monarch.

    Put in David’s place to-night, before the eye of your faith, the Lord Jesus Christ himself, and he will say the same. He, in his day of feeble flesh, fought and overcame by the power of the Spirit, with which he was anointed. He fought the battle for us in the strength of the Most High; and now, looking all along the ranks of those whom he leads to battle and to ultimate victory, he testifies to-night, “The Lord is their strength; he is the strength of salvation to his anointed.”

     I do not intend, however, to dwell upon that verse, but shall take you at once to the text, which is a prayer for the church militant, a prayer divided into four parts. We ought to pray constantly for the people of God, they always need it; it is always our duty to remember their necessities. It is always our privilege to pray for one another, prayer is always useful to the church, and therefore we should delight to exercise it. The fire upon the altar of intercession should never go out, neither by night nor by day. Our prayer for the Lord’s people should be comprehensive. The church of God needs many things, and we must not be content to ask for one thing when the church needs many. We must be thoughtful about our prayers, so that, like David, we may say much in little. Some people’s prayers have very little in them, they much abound with the chaff of utterance, and have but one grain of the wheat of meaning. We must not rush into God’s presence and there offer any words that may come to hand, but we should direct our prayer unto God, and meditate upon it, so that when we utter it, there may be something in it, some meaning; not asking for a shadowy something, but pleading wisely for what we intelligently desire. I make that remark because this prayer of David’s is peculiarly rich, eminently suggestive and full of meaning: “Save thy people, and bless thine inheritance: feed them also, and lift them up for ever.” Here are four choice blessings; let us take them one by one” I. The first is, “SAVE THY PEOPLE. In how many ways may this be desired for the elect of God? It may be offered, first, in reference to their conversion from their natural estate of sin, darkness, and death. Brethren and sisters, we who are saved should never cease praying, “Lord, save the chosen who as yet are uncalled! Save those who are redeemed by blood, but who are not yet redeemed by power; save thy people!” If you do not pray for sinners, I am afraid you are a sinner yourself, and know nothing about prayer. The old proverb is, “He that would go to heaven alone, shall never go there at all;” and he who never has any melting of his heart towards the lost sheep who as yet are not gathered into the fold, is most probably a wolf himself. I am sure that one of the first instincts of the new nature is to begin to agonise for others. Our prayers we may make as wide as we will, but still we must at times make them discriminating and peculiar; and while we say, “Let thy saving health be known among all nations,” it becomes us also to recollect the doctrine of discriminating grace, and to say, “Save thy people, O Lord! thou hast ordained them to eternal life; fulfil thy purpose! O Lord Jesus, thou hast paid the price for them; rescue out of the jaw of the lion, and from the paw of the bear, thine own precious sheep!” We may plead here with mighty arguments. We may besiege the throne with irresistible weapons when we come with such a plea as this — “Lord, save thy people — some of them know nothing about thee; some of them know more than they have ever practised; some of them are sodden in the crimson dye of sin; some of them have grown grey in vice; some of them, despite of warnings, have hardened their necks, and seem as if they would be suddenly destroyed without remedy; but, O Lord, we come in as intercessors for them; in the name of Jesus, we plead for them as he pleads for them; Lord, save thy people! By some means, by any means, by our means if it may please thee to honour us with such an honour, save thy people, those whom thou lovest, but who as yet love not thee!” It is well oft to pray —

“If some poor wandering child of thine
Have spurn’d to-day the voice divine,
Now , Lord, the gracious work begin;
Let him no more lie down in sin.”

     But the words may be applied, also, to the carrying on of the work of sanctification in those who, in a certain sense, are saved. All who have believed in Christ are saved from the guilt of sin, but they are not all as yet completely delivered from the power of sin; nay, we believe that none of them are, so that we may daily pray, “Lord, go on with the work of saving thy people; if thou hast brought them up out of Egypt, Lord, lead them through the wilderness till they enter into the Canaan of perfect holiness and rest. Some of thy people have very weak faith, save them from their unbelief, for it is a great sin, and at the same time a great sorrow to them; some of thy children have hot and angry tempers, Lord, save thy people from being passionate; many of thy children are desponding, they give way to it, Lord, save them from unbelief; others of them are proud and high-minded, Lord, save them from that folly; numbers of them grow inactive, Lord, save them from lethargy; and others are slothful, Lord, save thy people from idleness.” It should be our object ourselves to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,” and after that, we should seek our brethren’s good by the use of edification, and by the use of this prayer, “Lord, carry on the work of the saving of thy people.”

     The text may also be very very much used in our prayers in reference to backsliders. I am afraid we often forget that very numerous class of people, backsliders; but when we think of them, we should evermore cry, “Lord, save thy people.” Some of them have been such dreadful hypocrites, and have brought such dishonour on the cross of Christ, that we can hardly pray for them as the Lord’s people, let us then plead for them as sinners. On the other hand, there are some even among the grossest backsliders who have the vital spark in them. They are the people of God; they are God’s sheep, even though they have sadly gone astray, and for these our prayers must be constant, incessant, fervent, believing. “O Lord, save thy people.” I exhort you who are walking in the light of God’s countenance, to pray for your poor brethren and sisters who have been allowed to fall into sin. They are often despised by those who are at ease, but if you despise them, you may at some time fall into the same case yourself. “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.” Meanwhile, you that are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of weakness. Let the prayer go up for that very, very numerous band of sadly-broken hearts who, like David, have gone astray and brought shame upon themselves. Let us say, “Lord, save thy people; let them be as brands plucked out of the burning, and though we hate the garment spotted with the flesh, yet, Lord, save thy people.”

     And do you not think that the prayer should be frequently put up by us in our privacy for those of God's people who are much tempted? There are some who go on the road to heaven with finer weather than others, but there are not a few who always seem to have temptations dogging their heels. They are, perhaps, themselves, like Mr. Fearing, of whom John Bunyan writes, that he did get from the Slough of Despond, “but, somehow, he seemed to carry the Slough about with him.” He had got the Slough in his own heart. There are some such still. They not only sometimes get doubting and fearing, but their constitutional temperament is such that it keeps on doubting. Or there may be some other besetting sin, and you may be constantly tempted by it. Let us pray for such. And, again, some of God’s people are placed in positions in life where they are more tempted than others are. You good people, you children of godly parents, you husbands and wives who live in happy family circles, perhaps scarcely know the miseries of some who are placed where ungodly people can domineer over them. It is a sad thing when the red of the wicked rests upon the lot of the righteous, and the temptation is lest the righteous should put forth his hand unto iniquity. Let us pray for such. They are plants of God’s own right-hand planting, but they seem to be planted in a bleak soil — not house-plants, as some of you are, who can go often to the house of God and hear the gospel, but, perhaps, they are living in some country town where there is no gospel ministry, or where there is a mere make-shift pulpit; with somebody in it who knows nothing about the gospel. Now, these people are just like plants that are pinched by the frost. Pray for them, that the great Husbandman may shelter and protect them. Pray for these shorn lambs, that the good Shepherd may temper the wind to them, and let this be the prayer in every case, “Save thy people.”

     And, beloved, this prayer may also he applied to the whole church. The church of God at this day is said to be in great danger from a form of Popery. Certainly a form of Popery is very rampant just now in this land, and has a great deal of force about it, so that it is not to be laughed down, but is to be met with sterner weapons than mere arrows of raillery. But we can cry for the church, “Lord, save thy people; and whether it be philosophical speculation or superstitious error which may put thy church, as some men may think, in danger, do thou be pleased to keep the gates of Zion, so that the gates of hell may not prevail against her; save thy people.” Let us not tremble for the ark of the Lord, as if strange things were happening to us, and the church should be overcome by these delusions. Many false professors will fall, but the elect are safe. “Christ’s sheep will hear his voice and follow him; a stranger will they not follow, for they know not the voice of strangers.” We believe that if for awhile they turn aside to cunningly devised fables, they will soon discover that it is not the pasturage they desire, and he who restoreth our souls, will bring back his wandering ones. We are not afraid for the church, but still it becomes us to fence her around, to ward off the foe, and to protect God’s chosen; therefore we must use all means, and none are better than this petition to the Great Shepherd to preserve his flock. I trust that so long as ever we live this will be one of our morning and nightly prayers, “O Lord, save thy people!”

     Before I leave this point, however, let me observe that if we pray this prayer, we must take care that we also carry it out in practice. To pray to God for that which I am not willing to promote by my own personal activity is to mock God. If, then, I say, “Lord, save thy people,” what ought I to do? Why, to put myself constantly on the alert to be the instrument of saving God’s people. For instance, if I meet with sinners, I should try to talk with them about Christ; if I meet with the ignorant, I should try to instruct them in the way of salvation: I should, whenever I go to the house of God, try, if possible, to get a word with somebody. How can I say, “Save thy people,” and yet not try to do something to save a soul from death, and hide a multitude oi sins? If I mean what I say, I shall help the sanctification of my brethren who are believers; I shall try to reclaim the backslider; I shall endeavour to strengthen the tempted ones, and I shall, so far as possible, bear my witness against the errors of the times, or else how can I go to God and say, “Save thy people,” when I have not myself in any way contributed to that desirable result? And how can some of you pray this prayer who have never cared for sinners? How can you say, “Save thy people,” when you only go up to a place of worship to get fed yourselves, and have no thought, and no care, about the dying sons of men; when you neither give to God’s cause, nor speak for Christ’s name? How can you dare to pray a prayer which must freeze upon your lips, or rise up in judgment against you to condemn you for your hypocrisy? O dear friends, let us take care that our prayers do not become swift witnesses against us to condemn us. Our bad example has a tendency to destroy others: can you and I pray, “Lord, save thy people,” when we are doing our best to lead them astray? Our mere silence has a tendency to make men think that truth is not precious, and how can we pray, “Save thy people,” when, through our own slothful ignorance, we help to lull men’s consciences into a slumber which should end in their everlasting destruction? Lord, burn this prayer into our souls as with a hot iron, but at the same time help us to feel its practical force in all the actions of our life: “Lord, save thy people;’ help us to save them through thy Spirit.”

II. And now we come to the second prayer, BLESS THINE INHERITANCE.”

     After men are saved, they have still many wants. We should not be satisfied with being saved. Some people are. They are thankful for it, and they are satisfied with it, but we should not be so. There is a wreck yonder. The ship is going to pieces. Some brave men enter the life-boat: they tug over those mountainous billows: they return in safety from the ship: they bring a half-drowned mariner on shore. He is saved! He is saved! let us be thankful, but is that enough? Certainly not. Kind hands are preparing dry garments. Food is being procured. A cordial is ready for the man to drink; and if he has lost his all, a subscription is made for him, that he may start anew in his business, and begin life again. That the man should be sent back to his friends and to his country saved is a blessing, an unspeakable blessing. If only on broken boards and broken pieces of the ship, we all get to land, it will be a great mercy; but when Paul and his crew got to shore in that way, it was not thought to be enough; they began to light a fire, and Paul gathered sticks. And so, saved men want comforts after they are rescued; and, consequently, the prayer of the text is not superfluous How, what — “does Bless this thine prayer inheritance mean?.”

     Now, what does this prayer mean? It means a great deal more than I can tell you to-night. I should want to preach twenty sermons on such a text as this, but I will just mention two or three points upon which, I hope, we pray that God would bless his heritage.

     The first thing is, that he would Mess his church with greater unity. The church of God is too much divided. I thank God there is a real and hearty love amongst the Lord’s people in many places, and in this district I am sure there is no lack of it. Our being in this very Surrey Chapel to-night is a direct answer to the calumny of those who say that there is no love among God’s people. We do love each other, and we seek each other’s good. But it is not so everywhere. There are some places where Ephraim envies Judah, and where Judah vexes Ephraim. We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that there are some who are a great deal fonder of the tribe than they are of the nation, and much more earnest for the prosperity of a regiment than for the victory of the army. It must not be so amongst us; we must pray, “Bless thine inheritance! Unite their hearts, O God; give them to know ‘one Lord, one faith, one baptism;’ take away every thing which divides them, every error which splits them into sections; bring them to be one in truth, one in Christ, one in love to each other.”

     With this we ought to pray that they may be more earnest. Truly, this is the prayer that is wanted, “Bless thine inheritance; bless them with a drop or two of the Saviour’s love in their hearts; bless some of them with a little heavenly fire.” This is the great want of the times. The church of God is well organised. Perhaps never in the history of the world has the church of God been so potent in its organisations and possessions as it is now; but it wants the first fire, the pristine zeal and energy which the apostles and their immediate successors had. We want to have again the spirit of revival, not merely as we have it now, I trust, in a measure, but with sevenfold energy. O that the Lord would bless his people in this way, knitting them together in one, and then sending the holy fire down upon the entire church. The church stands too often like a train made up at the station, waiting for the steam to be got up. We need the fire which shall create the impetus to carry us forward in our onward career. It is not enough to have right forms and orthodox creed, we want the holy zeal to make all these things instinct with life and power. Now, we can never work ourselves up into this state, we may pray ourselves into it, however. I do not believe in getting up a revival by the methods which some adopt. If we are to have a true quickening, it will be by the Holy Ghost given to us in answer to fervent prayer. Hence, I say pray to God, “Bless thine inheritance,” and he will give us the sacred zeal which is now so much needed. God grant us it for his Son’s sake.

     I believe that many of God’s people also want blessing in another respect, and that is, with more happiness. It really is lamentable to see how, in certain quarters, misery is common among the people of God. They are a feeble folk in some places. Mr. Ready-to-Halt, whom John Bunyan speaks of, must have been the father of a very large family. I should say that the manufacture of crutches will never die out altogether; and really, in some places, it must be a most lucrative business, for many of the Lord’s people never get beyond, “I hope so,” or, “I trust so,” and no hymn in the hymn-book is so sweet to them as —

“’Tis a point I long to know.”

I did not put that hymn in “OUR OWN HYMN BOOK. I had a debate with myself about it. I thought to myself, “Ah! well, they will know all about that without my putting it into the hymn book, and I thought that if any of you wanted to sing it, you could sing it alone at home, but it did not seem to me to be a hymn that a whole congregation should use. It is a blessed hymn: I have to sing it myself sometimes , I am sorry to say. It is an excellent hymn, as expressing the feelings of some of God’s people, but it will not do for a whole congregation to get into that state. It is very well for the good wife to have a little black draught at hand when the child wants it sometimes, but to give the whole family the same, might be a great deal more injurious than beneficial. And so it is with regard to that class of hymns. It is suitable to a certain case of diseased spiritual condition, but it would be wrong to suppose or to insinuate that all the people of God, at any one time in one congregation, could be found in exactly the same condition of sad decrepitude of faith. Brethren, we must pray for the entire church of God that it may be happier. May we have more faith in the promise ; more reliance upon the “immutable things wherein it is impossible for God to lie;” more confidence in the power of the Holy Spirit; more dependence in the abounding presence of Jesus Christ to be the succour and the help of his people, that so, setting up her banners, the church may not creep along under mists and clouds, but be “Fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.” Lord, bless thy people; bless them with unity; bless them with earnestness; bless them with happiness; bless them with confidence! And, indeed, there might be made a list so long that you might never cease prayer; and when you had completed it, you might begin again, and your supplications would be an endless chain of blessings. “Bless thine inheritance.”

     Would it not be well, dear brethren, for us to select some out of God’s inheritance when we are praying the prayer? In order to make this distinction, and pray especially for them, it is not a bad habit of mentioning some persons in prayer before God in private by name; only do not do that in the way in which a man I used to know did it. Whenever he was offended with anybody, he used to threaten them that he would pray for them, and really such prayer as that, which was rather offered out of a sort of gracious malice, is to be avoided. But do it without saying anything to anybody about it, and not making a boast of it. Put down some of God’s people who need certain blessings. For instance, there are certain ministers who need to be helped; say, “Lord, bless thine inheritance.” There are certain workers in the Sabbath-school and elsewhere; certain Christians you know to be weak; certain others yon perceive to be in peril. Put up the prayer for such, that special blessings may come to them. Remember how that our Lord said to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” We know that he prayed for all, because we have this prayer in the gospel of John; but here he prayed for Peter by name, apart from the others, because he needed it. So must we particularise at times our prayer for the church, and plead for some by name. I am sure that Christians can never err if they pray for their own pastors, and plead with God on behalf of those who watch over them as those that must give an account of the souls of all their hearers. The apostle says, “Brethren, pray for us;” and all God’s servants ever since have felt the need of the church’s prayers. Pray for me, my hearers; and you who worship here, pray for your esteemed pastor; and all of you pray much for those who minister to you in holy things.

     And before I leave this point, let me add, take care that you practically prove the genuineness of your prayer. “Bless thine inheritance.” Take care that you bless them. So far as is in your power, seek to confer blessings upon all your fellow Christians. There are some of you who are always grumbling at the church of God. You pretend to say, “Lord, bless thy church,” and yet you curse it. Why should you go and spread abroad the faults and follies of your own brethren? Remember what Noah’s sons did with their father. Do you imitate them, and not bring upon yourselves the curse of Ham. True, there is much that is mischievous in the church of God, and, among other mischiefs, there is the habit of always finding fault with Christian people. Pray, “Bless thine inheritance.” Bless that inheritance yourselves; and it be in your power, by conveying to others any spiritual or temporal gift, to confer a blessing upon any of the purchase of the Saviour’s blood, be not slack to do so, lest your prayer should be a witness against your niggardliness and your forgetfulness of the Lord’s people. “Bless thine inheritance.”

     III. The third prayer is, “FEED THEM ALSO. God’s people want, after they have life, to have that life sustained. They must have food, or they will become faint with hunger; food, or they will become weak from want of nourishment; food, or they would actually die for want of the staff of life.

     In order that God’s people may be fed, I believe that it is his usual appointment to provide them ministers. When you pray, therefore, “Feed them also,” do not forget to ask for those disciples to whom Christ gives his bread, that they may break it to the multitude. When you, are praying for the sheep, ask God to send those under-shepherds, whose business it is to lead the flock, into the green pastures in their Master’s name. Do not forget to pray for students to be raised up and guided into the ministry. I remind the church of this, for ought we not to pray that the Lord would send forth labourers into his harvest? Is not this a prayer that is constantly forgotten ? When Jesus Christ ascended up on high, we are told he received gifts for men, and those gifts were apostles, evangelists, and pastors. I am afraid we do not plead for these ascension gifts. We do not use the office of an ascended Saviour as we should do, but let us try to do it henceforth, and never forget to say, “Lord, send pastors after thine own heart, who shall feed thy people with knowledge and with understanding.

     This prayer includes not only the agent by which they are to be fed, but the very food with which they are to be fed. Pray, therefore, that the Lord would give his people a clear insight into the truth, that they may not be mistaken, and so feed upon pernicious herbs, instead of the sweet and tender grass by the still waters. Ask the Lord to illuminate his people’s minds as to the doctrines of covenant grace, that they may see into the ancient things, that they may get to the depth that lieth under and that rolleth beneath, and may reach to the precious things of the everlasting hills. Why, half of the Lord’s people do not feed because they do not believe that that is bread which God puts on the table. They are afraid of some truths, because they have been told, “Oh! they are “so high; it is such high doctrine:” “Savoury meat,” say I, “such as my soul loveth!” O that these people had but an appetite to feed upon these things from which they are kept back, not because the things are not good, but because they have been warned against them, though, whatever is in this Book is fit for their souls to live upon. If God has revealed the truth, O believer, be not ashamed to accept it, and to make it the nutriment of your soul.

     Still, even if we had the prayer answered as to good pastors and sound doctrines, that is not all we want — the soul’s food is to really feed upon Christ himself. Jesus Christ is received by the heart through communion with him; and it is only by fellowship with Jesus that, after all, we get the marrow and the fatness of the gospel; for “the truth as it is in Jesus” is the only truth which really nourishes the spiritual man. Talking this day with a brother in the ministry, one who has been many years a preacher, he was telling me that he had been to the British Museum library, looking after sermons upon Christ, and in turning the books over, he said, he thought he had found pretty well five hundred upon any other subject to one upon the Lord Jesus! Perhaps he was wrong in his estimate; but even supposing he had found but five upon other subjects to one upon the Lord Jesus, would not that account for the fact of the lamentations that are made about the leanness of the pulpit? Leave Christ out? O my brethren, better leave the pulpit out altogether. If a man can preach one sermon without mentioning Christ’s name in it, it ought to be his last, certainly the last that any Christian ought to go to hear him preach. If I saw a notice in the Blackfriars Road that there was a baker there who made a loaf of bread without any flour in it, I should not deal with him. He might say, “Well, I only did it that once.” Never mind, sir; if you did it once, that is enough; if you could do it once, you have a fatal faculty that renders it impossible for me to confide in you. And if you can get through a sermon without Christ, my dear friend, you may get whom you like, I shall not help you at your place, at any proclamation rate. No, we must have the Lord Jesus Christ preached; and even the proclamation of Christ is not enough unless the Holy Spirit brings Christ home to the soul, opens up the spiritual faculty to receive him, gives us a heavenly appetite, and then enables us to assimilate Christ, to take him into ourselves, into our inward parts, and make him part and parcel of ourselves by a holy appropriating faith. Unless this comes, we cannot be fed; for though it seems a strange thing to say, yet I believe this prayer, “Feed thy people,” has a literal meaning about it in spiritual things. God himself must absolutely put the spiritual food into our mouths, or else all the pastors with the best doctrines, and the best preaching of Christ, will not accomplish the purpose. We are babes; we must receive our nourishment from our God, and from nowhere else; and if he be not pleased to convey it to our souls, we shall hear the word, and see the word, but feed upon the word we never shall. Now, what a good prayer this will be for next Sunday morning when you go to your places of worship, “Lord, feed thy people,” and as soon as ever the minister is seen, “Lord, feed thy people.” As soon as ever he opens his mouth, and you begin to enjoy the word, do not stop short, but say, “Lord, make it real food to me, and to all my brethren; feed them also; for thou alone canst do it.”

     I think I ought to say before I leave that last point, that if you pray, “Feed them also,” you must remember that you 'practically carry it out, just as Peter, did, to whom the Lord said, “Feed my sheep; feed my lambs.” If you know anything, tell it; if you have had any experience, declare it; if you have had any illumination, reveal it. Do not eat your honey alone, or it will turn sour; give it to others. If the Lord has given thee but a crust, go and share it with some other hungry soul. If thou wouldst have God’s people fed, feed them with what God has given thee. “Oh!” saith one poor widow woman here, “how can I feed any of God’s people? I know -so little.” Ah! you are like the woman of Zarephath, who said, “As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it and die.” Ah! but still that woman fed the greatest prophet, that was in the land, and with that very handful of meal! So it may be with you. A simple word which you may speak to some of God’s greatest servants may be a comfort to them for many a day. Do not despise in your soul the day of small things. Thank God for a little experience of his grace, and tell that little experience out; for God can make your barrel of meal so that it shall not be exhausted, and your cruise of oil so to be multiplied as never to dry up.

     IV. And now the last prayer is, “LIFT THEM IJP FOR EVER. God’s people want lifting up. They are very heavy by nature. They have no wings, or, if they have, they are like the dove that lies among the pots; and they need divine grace to make them mount on wings covered with feathers of silver, and of yellow gold. By nature sparks fly upward, but the sinful souls of men fall downward. “Lift them up for ever.” David himself said, “Unto thee, O God, do I lift up my soul,” and he here feels the necessity that other people’s souls should be lifted up as well as his own. There are three ways in which God’s people want to be lifted up. They want to be elevated in character. “Lift them up; O Lord, do not suffer thy people to be like the world’s people; lift them up for ever. The world lieth in the wicked one, lift them out of it; the world’s people are looking after silver and gold, seeking their own pleasures, and the gratification of their lusts; but, Lord, lift thy people up above all this; keep them from being ‘muck-rakers,’ as John Bunyan calls the man who was always looking after gold; keep them from having their eyes always downwards; spare them from becoming carnal and sensual, lest they also become like others, devilish. O let thy grace lift thy people up, so that in whatever neighbourhood they may be found, they may be lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.” O my brethren, this is a prayer for which we might all go down on our knees ten times a-day for ourselves and for our fellow Christians, that God would elevate the general tone of true religion, that Christianity might become more powerful. I am not saying it is a fact, but I sometimes am afraid that the greatest mischief that there is in the world at the present time is an abundance of religious profession which is not genuine. You know very well how bad it is for trade when there is a great quantity of paper money about, and not enough sterling bullion to back it up with; there is sure to come a panic and a crash. I am afraid that the Christian church issues a great deal of paper religion, and has not enough bullion to back it up with. After all, in God’s sight, it is nothing but the solid gold that is worth having, and the paper profession will be burnt to ashes in the fire. May God “lift up” his church, and make her a truly golden church; that her piety may be a true bullion piety; that the circulation of the church may be a truly golden medium, and not a mere bill and paper piety. Elevate thy people in character.

     In the next place, “Lift them up for ever;” that is, prosper thy people in conflict In the battle, if they seem to fall, yet be pleased to give them the victory. If the foot of the foe be upon their necks for a moment, yet help them to grasp the sword of the Spirit, and eventually to win the triumph; Lord, encourage thy people. Do not let them sit in the dust, mourning for ever.

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

Suffer not the adversary to vex them sore and make them afraid; but if they have been, like Hannah, persecuted, let them, like Hannah, sing to the mercy of a delivering God, “Lift them up for ever.”

     And then, thirdly, lift them up at the last. Lift them up by taking them home; lift them up for ever by bidding them dwell in thy presence, where there is fulness of joy; lift them out of that sick bed; lift them out of the tomb; lift them up from the worm, and from the rottenness of the grave; lift them up at the last blast of the archangel’s trumpet, not their souls alone, which thou dost lift up as soon as they die, but their bodies also, which are the temples of the Holy Ghost; lift them up in both their natures, the spiritual and the material; lift them up for ever and cause them, as complete men, made perfect in Christ Jesus, for ever to rejoice in him; lift every one of them up

“From beds of dust and silent clay,
To realms of everlasting day.”
“Feed them also, and lift them up for ever.”

     O my brethren, that you and I may but get home at the last! How I love that desire of David’s, in the twenty-seventh Psalm, where he says, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord.” That one desire sucked all the others up, and this is the one desire, I trust, which we have —

“Jerusalem! my happy home!
Name ever dear to me;
When shall my labours have an end,
In joy, and peace, and thee?”

Oh! to see the king’s face at home in his own land! To see him here in this exile through the perspective glass of faith is rich delight; but when this cheek shall lie upon his bosom, and these lips shall feel the kisses of his love, oh! what ravishment, what infinite delight, what perfection of bliss to our complete manhood! Courage, my brethren and sisters! Set your faces against the steep; go up the hill-side with Christ in the rough weather, for the top of the hill and the Palace Beautiful will make amends for it all, in that land where the windows are agates, and the gates carbuncles, and all the borders are of precious stones, where the saints shall be lifted up for ever. Oh, it will be joy and bliss to be there indeed! Till then, we will put the prayer together, and say, “Save thy people, and bless thine inheritance: feed them also, and lift them up for ever.”

“Pray that Jerusalem may have
Peace and felicity:
Let them that love thee and thy peace
Have still prosperity.
Therefore I wish that peace may still
Within thy walls remain,
And ever may thy palaces
Prosperity retain.
Now, for my friends’ and brethren’s sakes,
Peace be in thee, I’ll say;
And for the house of God our Lord,
I’ll seek thy good alway.”



The Echo

By / Jun 22

The Echo

 

“When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.”—Psalm 27:8. 

 

THIS ready response to a divine call may be looked at in three ways. It may be said of it, first, that it is the natural duty of man to God, such as his responsibility to his Creator demands. I should not like to think it necessary to prove that statement in this assembly. Surely, when God creates a man, it is but a matter of right that the man created should answer to the call of his Maker. When the Creator saith, “Seek ye my face,” it is the natural duty of the creature to reply, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” And the more is this so, because our Creator renew news our obligations hourly, by exercising his sustaining power, and maintaining our existence. In a certain sense we are “created” every day, because the creature would go back to its native nothingness, our bodies would return to the dust, and our spirits would expire, if it were not for a continued action of divine omnipotence, by which we are retained in being. Being, therefore, every day, dependent upon the Preserver of men, it is but an every-day obligation that when God saith, “Seek ye my face,” the daily debtor should cheerfully reply, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” If any should say that this is not a duty on such grounds, I would reply that the commands of God are always so good, and so reasonable, that it must be the duty of man to obey them. If it were possible for the Most High to command anything unrighteous, or unreasonable, the question of his claims might be raised; but since what the word of God commands is always most to our interest, at once the wisest and the best thing that we could possibly do, it becomes the duty of a rational and an intelligent being to follow the wise, loving, and tender counsels of the great God; and when his heavenly Father bids him seek his face, he should readily answer, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek.”

     But, while I am quite sure that this is the case, and dare never say otherwise, yet, although prompt obedience be a duty, wherever it exists, it is a work of the Holy Spirit. There never was a mere man in this world, since the days of Adam, who ever did heartily make the reply mentioned in the text unless the Holy Ghost made him willing so to do in the day of God's power. We do not excuse those who are disobedient; but if any be obedient, the glory of their obedience must be given to the Holy Spirit, who worketh all our works in us, and maketh us both to will and to do of the Lord's good pleasure. We are quite certain that in our own case this was so, for the Lord said unto us, “Seek ye my face,” hundreds and thousands of times, in our infancy, in his own word, both when we read it, and when we heard it preached, but we would not reply to the demand of God, but set our faces, like a flint, and went on after our own devices; but when he spoke effectually, with that still small voice of the Holy Spirit, which penetrates the soul, enlightens the understanding, sweetly bows the will, constrains the affections, and changes the nature, then it was, but never till then, that we said “Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” We heartily join in Mr. Bonar's sweet verses— 

 

"All that I was, my sin, my guilt,

My death, was all mine own;

All that I am, I owe to thee,

My gracious God, alone.

 

The evil of my former state

Was mine, and only mine;

The good in which I now rejoice

Is thine, and only thine.

 

The darkness of my former state,

The bondage—all was mine;

The light of life in which I walk,

The liberty—is thine."  

 

     And, therefore, in the third place, we may always view such a spirit as our text indicates as being an evidence of election, an evidence of a saving interest in divine grace. How can we tell the Lord's people? They are discovered by the Lord’s call. The call is general, and put in the plural, “Seek ye my face;” but the response to it is personal, put in the singular, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” This becomes, sooner or later, the answer of every chosen soul. Every one ordained unto eternal life receives, in due time, the new nature, and this living and incorruptible seed, hearing the gospel of its great Author, responds to it as an echo to the voice.  

     There is a very excellent image which is sometimes used to illustrate this truth. When our brave King Richard was shut up in prison, far away in Germany, you know how he was found out by Blondel, a troubadour. The king and the minstrel had composed a song between them. First the minstrel sang one verse, and then the king sang one, and no other man the whole world over knew what the verses were except the king and the minstrel. So the minstrel wandered through many realms, and sang the first verse of his song, sang it at all kinds of castle gates and dungeon doors, but there came no response, for the king was not within; but at the last, as providence would have it, he sang it in the right place, and faintly from within he heard from the deep dungeon the voice which knew, and could sing, the second verse, and as he sang the third, and the fourth came through the iron bars, he knew that the king was there, for the verses could have been sung by no other than he. I am sometimes occupied in preaching the gospel, and I preach it to thousands who give no response: there is no evidence of the Lord's having chosen them. But another time there is a heart that saith, “Thou sayest, ‘Seek ye my face;’ my reply is, ‘Thy face, Lord, will I seek.’” Then I have found out the hidden ones, discovered as many as were ordained unto eternal life, for their believing is the response to God's gospel, and the evidence of their being the favourites of heaven. They, and they alone, thus believe. As for those who believe not, they perish in their sins; “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” 

     Look, then, at the text, in these three ways. I should be happy if I felt that you would all accept it in these lights, for I find too much of chopping and choosing among Christians between this truth and that, and, by the Lord's help, I am determined, so far as I know it, to pander to no man or set of men, but to hold myself ever free to preach every truth that I find in my Master's book. You may call it Arminianism, or Calvinism, or whatever ism you like, yet, if it be in this book, you shall have to account for it at the last great day, whether you receive it or not. I say, again, then, that the obedience of the text is but the natural duty of man, but wherever it is carried out, it is by the work of the Spirit alone, and wherever it exists, it is an evidence of election, a proof of the indwelling of the grace of God in the soul. 

     But I intend to handle the text in another way, and shall endeavour to speak of the spirit of loving obedience to God's word which this text breathes. I shall first say something upon the absence of that spirit; then upon the cultivation of that spirit; then upon a special outlet for that spirit; and, lastly, upon a reward for that spirit. 

     I. First, then, let me make a few remarks upon THE ABSENCE OF THIS SPIRIT IN SO MANY PERSONS.

     Ah! my dear friends, it is mournful to think how few there are who can say, “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek,” for the great mass of men, if they spoke honestly, would have to confess, “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice? I know not the Lord, neither will I be obedient unto him.” With some of you now present this has mournfully been the case. There has been in your heart a total absence of every response to the divine word. It has come to you in all sorts of ways, till it might be asked, “What further can be done to you?” You heard it from a mother's tender lips, and she spake it as no one else ever could have done. You had it after that in your own flesh, when through sickness you tossed on your bed. You had it afterwards from kind teachers, from earnest ministers. Some of you get a good word almost every day. The very glance of your wife is a loving, constant sermon. Some of you are not without sharp prickings of conscience—the stabbings of that sharp little dagger within your soul that would fain slay your sins. But, for all this, there has been no answer to God's call. You have lived for vanity, if not for sin. You are neglecting the great salvation. He saith, “Seek ye my face.” It is the cry of all these houses of prayer which are open every Sabbath, “Seek ye my face;” but your answer has been, “I will seek anything but the face of God.

     And this has been continued with some of you. Oh! that I should have to put this so seriously l You have done this, not a week—a week is a long time for a sinful creature to hold out against God—but you have done this, not for a week, but for months, ay, and—even for years. A year is a long time for a child to hold out against its father. How few monarchs can keep their patience with a besieged city for twelve or fourteen years: “No,” say they, “we will drag each stone from its place, and hang every burgess in the city by the neck.” Their patience soon grows cold, and their wrath waxes hot. But God has laid siege to some of you by the instrumentality of the gospel, for thirty, forty, fifty, sixty—did the little bird say seventy years?—and all the time you have continued to give God the negative. And while the demands of friends, and the requests of kindred, have been complied with, that wonderful word, “Seek ye my face,” has received from you nothing but the cold reply, “With God I will have nothing to do.” “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.” Oh! wonder of deep ingratitude—man, year after year turns a deaf ear to the sweet commands of grace! 

     Now, in some of you, this cold negative has been disturbed a little, but not broken. Perhaps, from this very pulpit, some of you have heard appeals which have considerably shaken you. Many of us, before conversion, were frequently the subjects of impressions, and some of you unconverted ones are not long without them. Christ has knocked at your door, and you have heard his voice again and again. You are not long without such knocks. Christ has often knocked. He stands at the door and knocks, as the Scripture says. He does not knock and walk on, but he stands at the door and knocks. The knocks have been repeated and continued, and you have frequently but falsely said, “I will open.” You have vowed that you would change and turn. Shall all those vows be registered against you, and those resolutions help to increase your doom, being evidence of your trifling with God, and attempting to deceive the omniscient One? O sinner, how much has been done for thee? What more can be done for thee, vain man? What more shall be done for thee, careless woman? It is useless that you should be stricken any more—you will revolt more and more. You have suffered and you have smarted, till your whole head is sick and your whole heart faint, and God's rod has made you to smart till you are full of wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores; but still you do not turn. I have this much to say to you, and then I shall have to leave you to go to another part of the text. There is in this Book a very terrible passage, which I commend to you who have hitherto declined to accede to the divine word: you will find it in the first chapter of the Proverbs, at the twenty-fourth verse, “Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: for that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord: they would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.” That is the voice of God to you, sinner, you who have said, “I will not serve the Lord.” Take that bitter morsel and masticate it. Roll it over again and again, till you have got the very quassia and bitterness out of it. O may God make your sins as bitter as the judgment upon your sins! May the blessed Spirit lead you to the cross of Christ, for you never will yield to the cross of Christ unless the Holy Ghost constrains you. O that you may “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way”—the worst place to perish in—to perish in the way and from the way, “when his wrath is kindled but a little.” Now, I will read the text again, and if any of you feel that its ready obedience is not found in you, that its joyful conformity to God does not in any way describe you, you need not listen to the rest of the sermon, but just cover your faces, and may God help you to pray, and then, I trust, before the sermon is done, you will get an answer to your prayer. “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” Lord, if I cannot say that, break my heart now with thy great hammer, and help me to yield myself up to thy will, that I may be thine now and thine eternally. 

     II. Now, leaving that—not forgetting it in our hearts though, for I trust we shall continue praying God to bless that short word to the Unconverted—I now come to talk to the believer about THE CULTIVATION OF A CONSTANT SPIRIT OF OBEDIENCE TO THE LORD’S WILL.

     My dear friends and brethren in Christ, will you please to notice in the text two or three points which I want you to attend to, and will you labour, by the help of God's Spirit, to get your spirits up to them? The first point is, notice the universality of this spirit of obedience in the text David says, “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face.” He does not mention any time. Notice, “When thou saidst.” If it was early in the morning, his heart said, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek; I want thee, for I have the day before me.” If it was at midday, and the Spirit of God said, " Seek ye my face,” David’s heart said, “O Lord, I will seek thee; I want thee now that the sun is scorching.” If it was towards evening, and the voice said, “Seek ye my face,” he said, “Ah! Lord, the day is far spent; I may well seek thy face now.” And if it were in the dead of night, when he awoke, his heart was still with God, and still ready to hear the divine word. “When thou saidst, then I said; when thou commandedst, I obeyed; when thou calledst effectually, I yielded cheerfully.” Oh! what a mercy it would be if every believer's heart were in this state, so that we should not be sometimes obedient, and sometimes have our own way—sometimes respond to the divine voice, and at other times put our fingers in our ears; but to be in so sanctified a frame of mind that whenever the Master comes to us, whether at cock-crowing, or at the evening-watch, he may find us with our loins girt about, willing to go forth in his service. The text, you see, breathes the true spirit of service. It shows a mind that was constantly under divine influences, perpetually subject to the divine will. The magnetic needle always desires the pole: the Christian's heart should always desire communion with God. The rivers run into the sea—their water continually flow into the mighty ocean; so let our souls, by the stress of their new nature, continually be seeking conformity to the divine will. Oh! it is easy to say it, but it is hard to do it, when it comes to the pinch. To say, “Thy will be done," on the top of Tabor, is as easy as possible, but to say it in the gloom of Gethsemane, is so difficult, that none but God himself can enable us to say it. And yet, it may be attained: entire resignation is within reach—for all things are possible to him that believeth. Let us seek it with the fulness of intense desire.

 

“Jesus, spotless Lamb of God,

Thou hast bought me with Thy blood,

I would value nought beside

Jesus—Jesus crucified.  

 

I am thine, and thine alone,

This I gladly, fully own;

And, in all my works and ways,

Only now would seek Thy praise.” 

 

     Next to the universality, I would draw your attention to the promptness of the spirit of obedience expressed in the text. “When thou saidst, then I said.” He did not ask questions. He did not stop to say, “Lord, when shall I do it? How shall I do it? Where shall 1 do it?” No, but “Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” Beware of a questioning spirit in plain matters of duty—to delay to fulfil a conviction is to abide in sin; the Lord’s command is not to be caviled at, but to be obeyed at once. We find not cavilling here, much less do we find any objection. There are no objections about himself, the work, or its difficulties, but at once, and on the spot, he acts as with the prompt movement of a soldier when commanded by his officer. The word is no sooner heard than the mind is swayed by it, when the mind is under the sweet influences of divine love. The gospel according to Mark is regarded by some students as being peculiarly the gospel of service. It is said that in the early church, the emblem for Mark was an ox, to signify service; and it is very singular, whether that be so or not, that the evangelist Mark uses the word eutheos, or “straightway,” more frequently than any of the other evangelists when he is speaking of Christ. If you will notice, Mark always says, “Straightway,” or “immediately;” as, for instance, in the very first chapter, “And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: and immediately the spirit driveth him into the wilderness. . . . And when he had gone a little farther thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets. And straightway he called them.” This is the very mark of the true servant— when he knows his Lord's will, he gives himself to it at once. As the centurion said, “I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it,” so should it be with us. There should be a prompt response at once to the divine will. Do you always find it so? Does not God have to speak to some of us many times, and to put a bit into our mouth, and a very sharp and cutting one too, and tug at the reins a long while? ay, and take to the whip, too, before he can get us to be as we should be? “Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit an bridle;” but seek, my brethren—this is what I am driving at—seek to cultivate a spirit of prompt obedience to the Lord’s will. Take the advice of Mary, which she gave to the guests at Cana’s feast, “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.” Whatever be the word, follow it in the strength of God at once, and without delay. There is a little story told of an infant class being examined by its teacher. The text to be thought about was, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” and the teacher said to one little girl, “How is that, my dear? How do they do God's will in heaven?” One said, “They do God’s will in heaven always, sir.” “That is well, but what next?” “They all do it; they all do it cheerfully, sir.” The next one said, “Please sir, they do it directly,” and the next, “They do it without asking any questions.” Good answers certainly, and that is how we should do the Lord's will; and so make a heaven of this poor earth. O that our lagging feet were winged with sanctified alacrity, our obstinate necks made pliant with hallowed submission, our wavering hearts confirmed in constant holiness 1 This is one of the noblest works of the Spirit of holiness—may he make our nature the seat of so transcendent a miracle, so glorious a change! 

     Observe, that next to universality and promptness, we are bound to note the personality of David's reply. “Thou saidst, Seek ye my face;” that was the command to all thy people, but, “Thy face Lord will I seek,” was the personal reply of the waiting servant of God. Egotism is, no doubt, a very bad thing when it means self-conceit, self-seeking, self-confidence, self-laudation; but egoism in the sense of realising one's own individual responsibility is a most desirable virture. We need two words—egotism to signify that vice which admires and loves itself, and is thoroughly detestable; and then egoism, which determines that self shall be obedient, and pure, and firm, whatever others may be: this to be cultivated daily. Look at good old Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Oh! it is a grand thing to see a man forcing his way up the stream, struggling with manful vigour against the general current, swimming as live fish will do, against the stream, not floating down it as the dead fish does, but saying, “Let the world take its way; I take mine.” “I, Athanasius, against the world,” said that brave old confessor; and so must we say sometimes, “I, I will seek thy face, Lord—let others do as they will.” Let us not be so attentive to other people’s vineyards that our own vineyard is not kept. Whatever else we neglect, let our own personal godliness be the object of our sedulous care. Let our heart be sound in the statutes of Jehovah, let us see that our own garments are kept unspotted from the world, and that in our pilgrim life we keep the very centre of the road. True religion must begin at home. Unless we ourselves are in good condition, our Christian efforts cannot be healthily conducted. Depend upon it, the worm at the root of our usefulness is bred amidst the decay of our personal piety. When you and I lose power in the family, power in the church, power in the world, it is because we have lost power with God in private. The Lord give us the habit and spirit of close, consistent, careful, conscientious personal obedience

     Then, too, the heartiness of David's obedience demands our attention. “My heart said,” not my lips only, but my very heart said it; my soul was stirred to its depths, and moved to its centre by the voice of God. Men who have great hearts are the men for power; they are fall of force, because their inmost nature is on fire. There have been some men in this world who have had little else to recommend them except that by which they have attracted their fellow men to yield them homage—like Napoleon Buonaparte, for instance, when he said to his soldiers at Austerlitz, “Soldiers, this battle must be a thunder-clap; we must hear no more of the foe.” And the men, filled with eagerness by his passionate energy, did his bidding, and made it such a thunder-clap lap that all Europe shook beneath the march of those men-at-arms t arms. He had the power, somehow or other, of making men yield to him, as if they were all machines, impelled by the force of his personal will. They were not dragged into battle, but rushed with enthusiasm to the fight, longing to win glory or death. Now, the voice of God should be to the Christian a voice that speaks to all his soul, wakes up his dormant faculties, and stirs the enthusiasm of his noblest nature, so that his heart says, “I will indeed seek thy face.” As the British sailor, when Nelson said to him, “Ready?” replied, “Ready, ay, ready,” and fired red-hot shot at the foe, so should our hearts respond to God, “Seek ye my face.” “Lord, blessed be thy name for telling me to do that, for thou and I are of one mind here; thou lovest me to seek thy face, and I love to seek thee; my heart responds—not my lip, not my body, dragged slavishly into the form of obedience—but my heart says, ‘Thy face, Lord, will I seek.’” Dear friends, do get, do hold, do live out a hearty religion. Depend upon it, that the religion which has not your heart in it, is best left alone. I scarce can recommend you to go through religious performances if you look upon them as a dull routine. Do let your souls be in the ways of God. If ever you have happy feast, let it be on the Sabbath; if ever there is a delightful walk, let it lead up to God's house if ever there is a sweet song, let it be one of the songs of Zion; if ever there is a choice, retired, happy moment, let it be the moment which you spend in your closet in communion with God. O for more heart-work k in our devotions! 

     Once more, cultivate the spirit of resolution in this matter. “Lord, thy face will I seek;” not “I hope I shall; I trust I may; I desire to; I sometimes think that one day I shall.” No, but “My heart said, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” Men do not grow much better in this world by hoping that they will. If a man does not get so far as resolution, he may reckon that he has not started upon his journey. The Christian man resolves in his soul—

 

“Through floods and flames, if Jesus leads,

I’ll follow where he goes.” 

 

And if he cannot always carry out his resolution as he would, yet often-time times his Master accepts the will for the deed. To use John Bunyan's homely metaphor, “You send your servant for a doctor, and put him on the horse: the horse is but a sorry jade, and cannot go fast; but if the man tugs at the bridle, and uses the spur, and kicks and strains aa if he would go if he could, you set the pace down as what the man would have it to be. You do not blame him for not going faster, because you clearly perceive that he would go fast if he could. So the Lord often looketh upon his servants, and regardeth them.” But what shall I say to those who would not go if they could, who do not say, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek; ” but who hope, and who trust, and so on? which means that they will give God the go-by with mere hopes and fears, and trusts, instead of the strong resolution—“Thy face, Lord, will I seek;” in the teeth of all my natural sluggishness, in the face of all my business cares, I am resolved and set on this, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” Cultivate, then, a spirit of universal response to the divine word—prompt, personal, hearty, and resolved. 

     Before I leave this point—and then I will not detain you long with the rest—I cannot help thinking on an image which keeps starting up to my mind while I am speaking. In the usual route which everybody takes in going through Switzerland, there is a long tract of country where there are innumerable beggars and people trying in various ways to get money from the traveller; and one way which generally succeeds, is that of blowing an enormous horn just opposite to certain rocks. As soon as this horn is blown, the rocks resound on either side, repeat the note exactly, and then again, and again, and again; sometimes, perhaps, twelve or twenty times the echoes take up the notes and prolong them, producing some of the sweetest effects that ever charmed the human ear—“Linked sweetnesses long drawn out.” You want the boy to blow again; and as he blows another blast, and give intonations and notes to it, the rocks begin to sing again. Those rocks reminded me, as I stood and listened to their sweet notes, of God's people. Ah! I thought, you could not sing if it were not for the horn; you could not make any of these sweet notes if it were not for the living breath that is here; but you are so placed by God in his arrangements, that so soon as the sound is made by the living mouth, it is taken up and repeated, sweet, and sweet, and sweeter still each time. Thus should all the people of God be, so that when the Lord speaks, all the Lord's people should take up the echo, and repeat it again and again by practical obedience to the divine command. As the echo to the voice, so should your heart and mine be to the voice of God.

     III. But, now, thirdly. We have spoken of the absence of this spirit, and the cultivation of this spirit, and now a word or two upon THE SPECIAL OUTLET FOR THIS SPIRIT SUGGESTED IN THE TEXT.  

     The outlet suggested is seeking God's face, which I shall interpret to mean meditation, and especially the private and public worship of God. Now, you who love the Lord, you are all day long hearing God say, “Seek ye my face.” When the morning light awakens you, it is God saying, “Up, my child; the light natural streams from the sun: come and seek the light spiritual; seek my face.” If you wake to abundant mercies, why, all the provisions on the table ought to say to you, “I am God’s gift to you; seek the face of the Giver;” go to him with a note of praise; be not ungrateful, and suppose that you are in want, and have to say, “What shall I eat, and what shall I drink,” while all your wants say to you, “Seek the Lord's face; he has provision, go to him.” Your abundance or your necessity may equally be a sign-post to point you on the road to God. Suppose your child comes and asks you for something: it is God teaching you to do the same—to go like a child to your heavenly Father. If you are full of joy, should not your joy be like the chariots of Amminadib, to bear you to Jesus’ feet? And if you are full of grief, should not your sorrow be as a swift ship that is blown by the winds? Should you not get nearer to God thereby? During the day, perhaps you hear of the fall of some professor: what does that say to you? “Seek God's face, that you may be held up.” Perhaps you hear a sinner swear: what does that say to you, but “Pray for that sinner”? All the sins we see other men commit, ought to be so many jogs to our memory to pray for the coming of Christ, and for the salvation of souls. In this way you may go through the world; and the very stones in the street will say to you, “Seek ye the Lord's face” If you meet a funeral, what does that say? “You will soon be dying; seek the Lord's face now.” And when the Sabbath comes, what a call is that—“Seek ye my face!” Brethren and sisters, I wish that we responded to each one of these invitations of our heavenly Father. His likeness is stamped in some of its lineaments on all his works. By the visible things of God the invisible things are to be discovered. Go forth, like Isaac, and meditate at eventide, and you will find the heavens declaring his glory, and the firmament showing forth his handiwork. The lilies of the field will tell you of one who has hidden his wisdom in the raiment which decks them more brilliantly than Solomon in all his glory. As the Master himself often retired for meditation and prayer to the mountain side and the garden's shade, that alone with his Father he might seek the face of his God, so let us leave awhile the busy scenes of life and the haunts of men, to spend a still hour in quiet meditation over the works of God's hands, and in pouring out our hearts into his ever-loving ng breast. How much we lose by not noticing a God in nature, and the presence of our Father besetting us behind and before! I would we were more in prayer. I long for it for myself—I desire it for you also. I wish we were more in praise too. Well would it be for us if the blessings of God, poured out upon us so lavishly, excited in us true gratitude at all times. Happy would that man be who responded to each touch of God's beneficent hand, like a well-made de instrument answers to the fingers of the player. If our whole life were thus vocal with praise, the music of our grateful souls would come up with acceptance before God, and we should find in our joyful spirits a continual feast; this joy of the Lord would be our strength—we should have a meat to eat which the world knoweth not of. O that our days were more filled up with what will be our heavenly occupation, namely, adoring love, grateful wonder, thankful praise. As God is so continually saying to us, “Seek ye my face,” let our spirit find vent for itself in this, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek.”

     IV. And, now, the last thing is, WHAT WILL BE THE REWARD OF SUCH A SPIRIT?

     Have you a marginal Bible with you? If so, kindly read the margin. It runs thus, “My heart said unto thee, Let my face seek thy face.” Ah! there is a new meaning there, and a blessed meaning too. Let me read it again, “My heart said unto thee, Let my face seek thy face.” I suppose that is the more literal, probably the more accurate rendering; and I gathered from that, the thought of the reward of those whose spirits yield to the will of God, that is to say, they enjoy communion with God. It is the long-lost -lost blessedness of Eden restored to us, with greater sweetness added to it. In paradise God came and talked with Adam as a man talketh with his friend. Our first parents had communion with God, which they lost by sin, but it is now more than restored to us in grace. Heaven will be the place of perfect fellowship; but we may antidate much of the bliss of the future world, and eat of the grapes of Eshcol, before ever we tread the green fields of the better land. Yes, it means lost blessings restored, and future ones realised, when we can set ourselves face to face with God, and hold blest communion with him. Now, is this the life we are leading? Many Christians contrive to live without getting into the heart of Christianity at all. In the wilderness the children of Israel dwelt round the tabernacle, each tribe marching or resting in its appointed place. Now, they were all under the protection of the cloud, and followed the guiding pillar, and enjoyed the divine blessing; but this was not enough—they might enter, and were bound to do so, the precincts of the tabernacle, and there witness the worship of God, and, bringing their sacrifice, take part also in the homage paid to their God and King. Beyond the outer court of the people, was that of the priests, and there the favoured few might go, and present the incense before God on the altar of gold, spread before him the shewbread, and light the seven-branched lamp. These enjoyed nearer fellowship with God: emphatically they were called the “servants of the Lord.” There was, however, an inner place, shut out from eye of priest and people alike, where once a year the high priest entered alone, with blood, and he of all men living, drew nigh to God who dwelt between the cherubim in the holy place. Now, we are a royal priesthood, and through the rent vail we have boldness of access to the very mercy-seat in the holiest of holies, and we ought to realise and enjoy daily our high privilege. Far be it from us to remain in the camp outside the tabernacle. It is true we may be safe there, and enjoy many mercies, but it is not living up to our blessings. Go into the court and present your offering of prayer and praise; go as a priest and enter the inner place, and stay not till you have trodden the secret place of the Most High, and lace to face with God upon the mercy-seat at, had real dealings with him himself. This is your right, and to neglect it is to despise one of the choicest blessings conferred by God on fallen, but now in Christ redeemed ones. Let your hearts ever cry:— 

 

“Lord, let me see thy beauteous face!

It yields a heaven below;

And angels round the throne will say,

’Tis all the heaven they know.

 

“A glimpse—a single glimpse of thee,

Would more delight my soul

Than this vain world, with all its joys,

Could I possess the whole.”

 

But we find in the text another thought of blessedness. On our face is reflected the likeness of God, so that men see our good works and glorify our Father which is in heaven. We by communion with God may become manifestly like him, partakers of the divine nature. As men, we were made in God's likeness: we fell and lost it; but by grace we are restored. How shall I illustrate this? Why, there is Moses. Moses on the Mount for forty days sees God, and when he comes down, the result, as shown in his face, is, that his face shines. How could it be otherwise? God had been shining right into his face, and he could not but reflect that delightful glory. That is the meaning, I suppose, of the passage, “Being changed from glory to glory, as by the image of the Lord.” It is our looking upon God, producing sanctification—the light of God shining into our faces till our faces also shine with the reflected glory. “Let my face seek thy face.” 

     Ah! beloved, I could say some things I scarcely like to say about that text; for it looks not only as if the saints said to God, “Lord, look at me, and let me look at thee; show me thy face, and do thou look at my face; Lord, let us spend our time and our eternity in lovingly looking at each other;” but I wish the saint to understand that there is another way in which our face seeks Christ's face. It is thus expressed by the spouse, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine”—when the soul of the saint and the heart of the well-beloved fall into such visible union with each other that the conjugal kiss is given, and they come into the fullest, nearest, ripest, richest, and most celestial fellowship that can be known this side heaven. 

 

“Like some bright dream that comes unsought,

When slumbers o'er me roll,

Thine image ever fills my thought,

And charms my ravish'd soul.”

 

And again, as Dr. Watts has well put it,

 

“The smilings of Thy face,

How amiable they are!

’Tis heaven to rest in Thine embrace,

And nowhere else but there.

 

“Thou art the sea of love,

Where all my pleasures roll;

The circle where my passions move,

And centre of my soul.”

 

May you and I often have in our hearts that panting, that longing, that sighing, that crying after fulness of fellowship with Jesus, our hearts always saying, “Lord, let my face seek thy face; let my face never be satisfied till it sees thy face; let my love never be satisfied till it is lost in the ocean of thy love; let myself never be content till self is wholly lost in the all-absorbing -absorbing love of divine Immanuel.” O so may it be! Then so shall it be, if your heart now says, in answer to God's voice, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek.”   

     I hope you have not forgotten the first point, however, and what I said about the unconverted. Let them take their portion. God grant that by getting their portion to-night, they may not get their portion in the flames of hell. Then you believers get your portion also. Remember, the Lord's portion is his people; and, on the other hand, “The Lord is my portion, saith my soul, therefore will I trust in him.”

     The Lord bless you for Jesus’ sake. Amen. 



Believing to See

By / Jun 22

Believing to See

 

“I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” — Psalm 27:13.

 

I HAVE taken the whole verse for my text, but I am not sure that I shall keep to it. The words in it at which I catch are these, “Unless I had believed to see.” Most people see to believe, but in David’s case the process was reversed, and put into gospel order: he believed to see; and this is the key-note of our discourse. The prayer of my heart is, that some may be led to believe to see, and that those who have been trying to see in order to believe, may now come and trust in Jesus, and believe and see the grace of God.

     Here we have in the words I select for the text, a doctrine stated, many difficulties removed, and some directions afforded for the Christian life.

     I. We have here before us a fundamental truth and DOCTRINE of our faith, that the great act by which a man is saved, so far as he is concerned, is the act of faith. That is to say, he gives up all other righteousness, and casts himself upon the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The moment he does that, he is saved; his past sins are forgiven him; his future is secure. That one simple act of confidencc in Jesus, insignificant as it may appear to be, is the dawn of spiritual life, the evidence of security, the token of eternal salvation. And here is the reason for this, namely, that faith is God’s appointed mark which he sets upon his favoured ones, and by this may a man know whether he is saved or not, whether he is ordained unto eternal life or not, by his answer to this one question, “Dost thou believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?” Or, in other words, “Dost thou trust in the Son of God?”

     The case is ordered in this wise: we have sinned; we have broken God’s law — God’s law must be honoured. Sin cannot be committed without a penalty being inflicted. The Lord Jesus Christ determined and stipulated in the covenant of grace, that he would take upon himself the form of man, and that he would suffer for the chosen many, even for his people, what they had deserved to suffer themselves on account of their sins, or a punishment that would be equivalent to that suffering. In due time the Lord Jesus Christ appeared. True to his word of promise he went up to Calvary — there he received at God’s hands that which was due from his people to the great offended Judge. There he paid their debts. There, once for all, he took the handwriting of ordinances that was against them, and put it away, nailing it to his cross. Now, virtually, all for whom Christ died were then saved; their debts were then paid; their punishment was then discharged. The debt due to the sovereign justice of God was then altogether borne, and Jesus Christ there and then “finished transgression, made an end of sin, and brought in an everlasting righteousness” for his people. This man, by his one offering, hath perfected for ever them that were set apart. Once yielding his soul unto death, and giving himself up a sacrifice for men, he there and then saved his people as before the bar of God. These saved ones are known by their being brought to trust in him; as their once dead but now ever-living Lord. Without faith in Christ, my hearer, you have no share in his blood; you have no interest in his righteousness. What he did upon the tree will have nothing to do in saving you. All his griefs, and groans, and pangs, you will have no share in. Your debts remain unpaid. Your punishment has not been borne for you. You will have to endure the wrath of God for ever. In the prison-house you will be for ever bound in chains of fire. Inasmuch as you have not believed, you have no share in the atonement of Jesus Christ. But if thou hast come and trusted thyself with Christ, if, fully convinced that there is salvation nowhere else, thou dost believe in him, then thy debts are paid. The punishment of thy sin has been endured. Thou canst never suffer, for God cannot punish two for one offence. Thou canst never be summoned to God’s bar to be tried for thy life. Thou art clear. Through Jesus’ blood thou art ransomed. Thou art justified, accepted, adopted, saved. Who shall lay anything to thy charge, seeing that Christ hath died for thee, and made a propitiation for thy sin?

     Now, the whole of this hinges upon a man’s believing. If he believeth, then the great gospel truth is, that he is saved. Throughout all the Bible this is the one line of light that comes out of the darkness to poor troubled man. “He that believeth on him is not condemned.” “He that believeth on him hath everlasting life.” “He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved.” These assertions occur over, and over, and over again, so that I may safely say that this is the gospel — that he that believeth is saved, and that the faith by which he lays hold of Christ, is to him proof positive that he is saved. He has God’s word for it that he is redeemed in Christ.

     II. We have now briefly stated the doctrine, but the main part of my subject will be to try and remove those many DIFFICULTIES which people newly awakened and quickened are sure to raise. The doctrine is, that he that believeth is saved; but men ask a thousand questions about it, and see as many more difliculties — let us therefore try to meet and answer some of them.

     1. And, first, how often do we hear it said, “I cannot think that I am saved; I do not trust in Jesus Christ — I am sure of it, and fear I am not saved, because I feel no worthiness in me” This is a difficulty which we can slay at once. If you did feel any worthiness in yourself, then you might rest assured that you were not saved; because nothing is more clear in God’s word than the fact that salvation is not by merit but by grace. The apostle Paul is very clear upon this point. He says, “It is not by works, but of grace;” and if any say, it may be partly of each, he says, “No; if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” Salvation is altogether, from first to last, a gratuitous act of grace; hence you do not need to look for any merit in yourself.

     The case is parallel with this: It is sometimes the custom, when a new king attains to the throne, for a general amnesty to be proclaimed, and for all the prison doors to be opened. This is done, of course, not on account of the merit of the prisoners, but to do honour to the great mercy of the king. Now, I think I see you, troubled one, sitting as a prisoner in the cell, and the door is opened to you, and you are told that you are set free, because the king would honour the day of his coronation; but you reply, “I cannot believe that I am free, for I do not feel that I deserve it; the sentence which was passed upon me was one which I richly merited and according to justice; I cannot, therefore, walk out of that prison door, because I know that I have done nothing to merit my discharge.” But, man, if the ground of thy discharge be not in any degree thy merit, but only to the honour of the king, how simple-minded thou art to sit on that stone slab any longer! Up with thee, man! walk abroad; take thy liberty, and do honour to the king’s bounty! O sinner, thou hast no merit: that is true; but God forgives thee, to the praise and glory of his grace, to the honour of his dear Son, to give him a coronation. Come, then, walk thou out at liberty!

     Or it is as though this should happen: Some one who is in a consumption has applied for admission to enter, say into Brompton Hospital. By-and-by this person obtains the order, but no sooner does she get it than she is afraid to use it. She does not dare to go to the hospital, and why? “Because,” she says,  “I am not in good health.” Now, we answer at once, “But if you were in good health, you would have no need of an hospital; it is, in fact, your sickness and your bad health which give you any sort of congruity in entering there.” So, when you tell me that you have no merit, my reply is, but if you had any, you would not want a Saviour. Your demerit renders yours a suitable case to be met with by the merit of the Saviour. It is your sinnership which, if there be any fitness, is your fitness. Not your righteousness, sinner, but your guilt must be your plea when you wish to be pardoned. If money is to be given away, men do not urge their being possessed of riches as a reason why they should receive the charity, but one cries, “I am exceeding poor,” and another says, “I am poorer still.” It is their poverty, not their substance, which is their plea with the generous heart. And so it is between God and you. Not your fulness, but your emptiness; not your goodness, but your badness; not your merit, but your demerit; these you must plead before God, seeing that salvation is by grace.

     Now, then, what sayest thou, sinner? God tells thee that if thou believest in Christ, thou art saved. Is God a liar or not? I must push that with thee. Does God speak truth or no? As for this trumpery objection of thine, that thou hast no merit, I have shown thee that it is without a foundation, for if thou hadst any merit, then why shouldst thou come to God for mercy? But, meritless, worthless, altogether without any goodness, still the text says, “Blessed is he that worketh not, but believeth in him that justifieth the ungodly.” What sayest thou — wilt thou take God at his word, and believe what he says to be true?

     2. But I hear another objection, one which is very frequently made indeed. Some one says, “But I want to see in myself the evidences of salvation; I know that when a man is saved, there very soon appear in his character certain signs and tokens which mark the work of the Holy Spirit, and I cannot believe that I am saved on the mere word of God; I want to see the evidences of it.” I will tell you a story then. When the Emperor Napoleon the First, was one day reviewing his troops on what is now called the Place de la Concorde, sitting on his horse, and thinking of other things, he let go the bridle, and in a moment his high-spirited charger galloped away with him. A private in the ranks saw the danger, rushed from his place, seized the bridle, and saved the life of the emperor, who said to him, “Thank you, Captain” and went on. “Of what regiment, sire?” asked the soldier. “Of my guards,” was the reply. Now, it was a strange thing that the emperor should in a moment make him a captain for so small an act as that, and stranger still that the man should so simply and fully believe him as not to doubt for a minute, but ask at once of what regiment he was to be the captain. Now, what do you suppose the soldier did? Going back to his regiment he put down his gun, and said, “Whoever likes may take care of that,” and walking across the review ground up to the staff, he joined with them. A general looking round at him said, “ What does that fellow want?” “That fellow is a captain of the guard,” said the man, and gave the military salute. “You are mad, friend!” “I am not mad; I am a captain of the guard.” “Who said so?” “He said so,” pointing to the emperor riding along. “I beg your pardon,” replied the general, and recognised him at once in his new office. The man took the emperor at his word. He wore no epaulettes; he was not adorned with any gold lace ; he had not received any of a captain’s pay; he had passed through no formal ceremony; but the emperor had simply called him “captain,” and that was enough for him. Now, I want to know whether the Lord Jesus Christ’s word is not as well worth taking as the word of the Emperor Napoleon, and when he says to you, “Believe; he that believeth has everlasting life,” the proper way for you to act, is to feel and say, “That is true; I have everlasting life; although, as yet, I have not a jot of evidence of any other kind ; yet if he has said it, that is enough for me. Though I may have come in here an ungodly, unconverted sinner, yet, since I have learned to trust the Saviour this night, and do trust him, then I am saved, I will try to get these evidences, by-and-by.” I have no doubt that that soldier I told you of very soon began to look after his regimentals. He would not like to continue dressed as a private after that, but would want an officer’s uniform, and to appear in the army as a captain should appear. And so will it be with you by-and-by; but at first, my dear friends, your faith must be grounded on the word of Jesus Christ, and on nothing else. Perhaps the devil will say to you, “What does that fellow here?” Tell the devil and all his angels, HE said it who died on the cross I HE said it who reigns in heaven, that ‘Whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.’” Stand to it, that if he said it that is enough. You have the King’s word for it; the imperial word, the word of the blessed and only Potentate, who cannot lie.

     So, then, it is sufficient evidence to the believing heart that it has God’s word to rely upon. Let me point you to the thirty-sixth verse of the third of John: “He that believeth on the Son, hath everlasting life;” and to the eighteenth verse of the same chapter, “He that believeth on him, is not condemned.” Are not these words quite sufficient, though as yet no other evidence can be seen? But sometimes I have heard persons saying, “Well, but we must have evidences; we cannot trust Christ without them and consequently they try to manufacture signs of grace, whereas, be it never forgotten, that evidences are the product of faith, and not the cause of faith. You go into a room at winter time, and you say to yourself, “There is not heat enough in this room; I must try to make more heat;” and you set to work, by some plan or other, to do this. You say there is no evidence of there being a fire because there is no heat; true, but you will never make the heat produce the fire. Would it not be much better to go and look to the fire at once? and then you would get the heat which is the result of a fire. So you say, “I am not so earnest, so reverent, so prayerful, so penitent. as I should be, therefore I cannot believe.” Now, would it not be better to say, “If I believed more, I should have more of these evidences; therefore let me go to my faith, which is the cause of the evidences, and not go to my evidences to get faith out of them”?

     It is as though you had a piece of ground, and you said to yourself, “Well, now, here are these trees; they produce very little fruit — if I could secure a large crop, that would be evidence that the soil is good. I must put fresh fruit on the trees, and then that will prove that the ground is fertile.” Not at all so. Make the soil good, and then the fruit will come naturally. So with your faith. Faith is the soil in which the fruits of faith must grow. Do not be thinking about the evidences. Think about the faith that will grow the evidences. Seek to go to Christ, and trust in him, and you will get the signs of grace soon enough. Your main business is with Jesus, not with evidences. Rest in him – his finished work and ascension power – and, if you depend there, without evidences, you will soon have plenty of them; but, if you look to external or other signs, in order to get faith, you look, as I have already told you; in the wrong quarter, and reverse the order of grace. To use an old proverb, you “put the cart before the horse.” You do not go logically and properly to work. Trust in Christ for evidences, and you will have plenty of them in due time.

     3. Commonly enough we hear people say, “I want to have a deeper repentance, and then I could Relieve that I am saved” Christ says, “He that believeth is saved.” You say, “Well, that is what Christ says; but I am not satisfied with that.” Oh, atrocious thing! to make Christ a liar, and suspect his word! Still, you say you want a deeper repentance. Now, you are very like a man who is in a high fever, and delirious, and he cries out, “I want to feel that I am in this fever; I want to know the top and the bottom of this typhus; I want to know when it goes, and how it will go.” But the doctor says, “Never mind, my dear friend; never mind the typhus; just trust to me; take the medicine.” He calms the man’s mind by reminding him that if he had not the typhus, he would not want the doctor; but now that the fever is there, it is not for him to know the disease so much as to trust the remedy; and when he gets well, he will understand about it better. So, poor sinner, till you have come to Christ, your repentance is not worth a farthing. If you had a ton weight of it, your repentance would be of no value till you trusted Jesus. We must get you well first, and then you shall know about the disease. Trust Jesus, and believe his word, and do not, in your delirium, be looking for those dark experiences which would not comfort you, though you think they would.

     There is a man who has written a very offensive letter to a very kind friend who has often obliged him. This friend, when he received the letter, said, “Well, it was very wrong of you to write this letter, but I freely forgive you.” But the other said, “I do not think my friend has forgiven me, because I do not feel regretful enough; if I felt more repentant, then I should think that he had forgiven me.” As if his friend’s forgiveness were not quite well enough assured to him by his friend’s word! But now, supposing that man should bring himself to believe that his friend had forgiven him? Why, then he would find it an easy matter to repent, because he would say to himself, “Has my friend been kind enough to overlook so great a fault? Then how wrong it was of me to have written so against him! How grieved, how shocked I am to think that I should have fallen into such an offence against so generous a friend!” My dear hearers, you cannot get repentance by refusing to believe Christ’s word. Trust him! trust him, and believe that you are saved, and then the sluices will be drawn up, and you will repent. You will see Jesus Christ dying that you might live, and you will say, “Did I slaughter that blessed Saviour? Did I wound him? Did I scourge him, and put him to death? Then, ye monstrous sins, away with you, away with you!” You must first believe, and then repentance will come — not look to repentance as being the evidence, but look to Jesus, and to Jesus only, and, looking to him, repentance will follow as a matter of course.

     4. Then, running to the other extreme, we have heard many troubled ones say, “I cannot think that I am saved because I do not feel great joy; if I had greater joy, then I should know that I was forgiven.” Somebody has left you a large estate, and you say to yourself, “Well, I have just read the letter in which the lawyer tells me that I am left a large estate, but, somehow or other, I do not believe it, for if it were true, I should feel greater joy about it.” Why, you talk like a fool, sir! If you believed it, you would feel joy. It is because you do not believe it that you do not have joy. You turn the thing upside down, and want your joy to help your faith, whereas your joy must flow from your faith, and cannot possibly contribute to it. So, may, if you will come and trust my Lord’s word, and believe that you are saved because you trust him, then you will have joy. You cannot be without joy. If you believed to-night that your sins were pardoned, would you not be glad? Certainly you would. Well, then, do believe it. If you are trusting Christ, if you are resting wholly upon Jesus, he tells you that you are saved. Do not begin to say, “I have not the bliss I hoped to have.” You shall have that joy when you have looked for it, and have looked alone to Christ.

     5. Then, I have known others who have said, “I could believe that I am saved if I had more sanctification” That also is the wrong way to go to work. In a sweet little book which I have read lately, the writer well remarks, “Suppose you were in Brazil, and you were in some of those brooks where diamonds are occasionally picked up, and you found a large one unpolished ; no matter how rough it might be, if you knew it to be a diamond, you would get it polished; but if you had any suspicion about it, you would not be likely to incur the expense and trouble of polishing it. It is your assurance of its being a diamond that would set you to work to take it to the lapidary to have it put upon a seal, and set.” So we find salvation, and when we get it, it is a rough, uncouth thing. We want to have it, as we say, sanctified. Now, if we believe it is a diamond, if we believe that it is really and truly salvation, we shall then be in earnest to get that salvation perfected, to have the diamond’s facets all made to glitter in the light of heaven. But so long as we have any doubts about the matter, we shall not think, nor be troubled, about perfecting our salvation. The fact is, that strong faith is the great sanctifying agent through the power of the Holy Spirit, and the application of the precious blood of Jesus. Thou wilt never overcome thy sins by doubting Christ. Thou wilt never get sanctification by putting thy holiness into the place of Christ’s righteousness. It is no faith to believe that I am saved, being sanctified; but it is faith to believe that I, being sanctified, and with all my sins about me, am still saved through the precious blood of Jesus. O sinner, do not be looking to sanctification to back up the testimony of God’s Word. God’s Word is enough. O take it; rest upon it. Remember, thou dishonourest God when thou wantest any other evidence except his naked word. What would you, dear friends, think of this in your own case? You promise your child a present, and he wants evidences. You tell him that you love him, and he wants you to call to him somebody else to bear witness to it. Shame on your naughty child, or else there must be something ill about yourself. Now, as we cannot lay the blame on our heavenly Father, who is too wise to err, too good to be unkind, shame on us that we should be saying we want something else to make us believe God’s Word. O beloved, let us believe him when we cannot see it; and if we do not feel that we are saved, let us believe the word which says we are, seeing it is the word of Christ. I like that in Martin Luther. He says the devil said to him once, “Martin, do you feel that you are saved?” “No, I do not,” said he, “but I am quite as sure of it as if I did; get thee behind me, Satan!” And that is the true way to do. Do you feel that you are saved? No, I do not expect to feel it; it is a matter of belief. I trust my Lord and Master. It is very sweet to get feeling; but Mr. Live by-feeling, as you well remember, according to John Bunyan, was a Diabolian, and got hanged. I wish he had been hanged to better purpose, for he still lives about these parts. If you live by feeling, it is miserable living. It is poverty sometimes, and riches at others. But if you live by faith upon the Son of God, who loved you, and gave himself for you, that is blessed living! O for grace to do this, not to see to believe, but to believe to see I Put believing first, and repentance, sanctification, evidences, and all else, will come afterwards.

     6. I shall not weary you, I hope, if I mention that there are some who say they cannot trust Christ, cannot believe his affirmation that they are saved, because they do not feel more love to him. They are like a child who should say, “I do not believe my father’s word, because I do not feel so much love to him as I ought to do.” Oh! but, my child, if you believed your father’s word, a true and good love would come as the consequence. And, sinner, whilst thou art saying, “I cannot believe because I cannot love,” thou art putting things altogether out of gear. That is neither God’s method nor the way of wisdom at all. Go thou, and believe thy Father, and then thou shalt feel a flame of love within thy heart which thou hast never known before.

     7. But another one says, “I could believe that I was saved if I had more of likeness to Christ about me” Here again, you see, Christ has said, “He that believeth hath everlasting life;” and you say, “No, Lord, I do not agree with that, I believe that he that is like Christ hath everlasting life, and I cannot see that I am like him, though I once hoped I should be; and therefore I cannot think that I am saved.” That is to say, Christ and you differ in opinion, and you set your “No” up against Christ’s “Yes.” Oh! down, down, down with your proud “No,” and just take this sweet assurance, that “He that believeth on him is not condemned.” Now, here is a man who has been cutting a seal and making your crest, but when you come to stamp your letters with it, you find that the impression is very bad, that it is not your crest at all. You cannot make out what it is. It may be a griffin, but it is not at all like one. Well, what will you do? Will you try to polish up your wax, and so make the impression like what you wanted it to be? Would it not be a great deal wiser if you were to get the seal altered? Would not that set it all right directly? If you were to send the seal back to the man who cut the die, and get him to make the seal properly, would not the stamp then be right? Now, how do we get likeness to Christ? Why, it is faith which puts the stamp there, and instead of saying, “The impression upon my character is not like Christ, therefore I must try to alter it,” my dear friend, think about your faith; go to Christ, and through him get your faith altered; and when the stamp is set to rights, then the impression will be perfect. There is no holiness, no true holiness apart from faith. It is not by doubting that we come to be holy. I never could overcome a sin by saying, “I a m afraid I am not a child of God.” The devil knows this, and consequently whenever he can get us alone, he always begins with this, “If thou be the Son of God.” He did this with our Lord, and if he could have led our Lord to doubt whether he was God’s Son, we know not what might have come of it, for certainly when he gets us to doubt whether we are children of God, then we very soon glide into other sins. But when we can say to him, “Now, Satan, I am not ignorant of thy devices; I know thou art about to tell me of my unfaithfulness and of my great sin; I know all that, but the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s dear Son, cleanseth me from all sin; thou mayst paint me as black as thyself, and blacker too, if so it pleases thee, and I will stand out that it is true; but then I will remind thee that Christ has said, ‘I have blotted out thy sins like a cloud, and like a thick cloud thy transgressions’” Why, you are more than a match for the devil then!

     O brethren, let us take Christ’s word as we find it. I bring you back to the story I told you about the emperor and the soldier; and seeing he has said that we are saved, let us believe we are. If we have nothing else to prove it, let us stand to it before angels and devils, the assembled courts of heaven and of hell, all joined together, and say, “I have God’s word for it, and I would put God’s word even before an angel’s word; if Christ has said I am saved, then I am saved; if he has declared that the believer hath eternal life, I do believe; I do trust in Jesus, and therefore I have eternal life, and I cannot perish; neither can any one pluck me out of Christ’s hands.” Now, that is the gospel of Jesus Christ. I would to God you had grace to receive it! I pray that every one of us may be brought to depend upon the veracity of God and the merit of Jesus, and then, believing to see, instead of seeing to believe, we shall be sustained, and comforted, and greatly blessed.

     III. And now I have a FEW DIRECTIONS TO GIVE TO MORE ADVANCED BELIEVERS upon the same subject.

     Beloved in the Lord, the whole course of the Christian's life must be believing to see. We walk by faith, and not by sight. I hope the day may soon come when the noble example which has been set by our esteemed brother, Mr. Muller, of Bristol, will be more constantly followed in all the Lord’s work; for, rest assured, that if we will but believe to see, we shall see great things. I cannot forbear mentioning to you to-night what God has enabled us to see of late as a church. We met together one Monday night, as you will remember, for prayer concerning the Orphanage, and it was not a little remarkable that, on the Saturday of that week, God should have moved some friend, who knew nothing of our prayers, to give five hundred pounds to that object. It astonished some of you that, on the following Monday, God should have moved another to give six hundred pounds! When I told you of that at the next prayer meeting, you did not think, perhaps, that God had something else in store, and that the following Tuesday another friend came with five hundred pounds! It was just the same in the building of this house. We were a few and poor people when we commenced, but still we moved on by faith, and never went into debt. We trusted in God, and the house was built, to the eternal honour of the God who hears and answers prayer. And, mark you, it will be so in the erection of this Orphan House. We shall see greater things than these if only our faith will precede our sight. But if we go upon the old custom of our general societies, and first look out for regular income, and get our subscribers, and send round our collectors, and pay our percentages – that is, do not trust God, but trust our subscribers – if we go on that rule, we shall see very little, and have no room for believing. But if we shall just trust God, and believe that God never did leave a work that he put us upon, and never sets us to do a thing without meaning to help us through with it, we shall soon Bee that the God of Israel lives, and that his arm is not shortened that he cannot save, neither is his ear heavy that he cannot hear. Brethren, let us recollect Israel when they came to the Red Sea. There it was a roaring, billowy sea; but they were bidden to march through it, and they did march; and though the waters roared before them fiercely, yet so soon as the priests’ feet touched the flood, the depths stood upright on a heap, and the waters were congealed in the heart of the sea. And so shall it be with you, brethren, and with your faith. Believe in God, and face your difficulties, and they shall fly before you. Then, recollect the Egyptians. They essayed to do the same thing. They thought, “Oh! that is all right; we will do as these have done before us.” But notice, they said this because all their difficulties had been cleared away. There was the Red Sea all dry before them. Any fool could march through there! But, unfortunately, while faith can march through a sea dry-shod, unbelief only begins to march when it is all dry, and presently, unbelief gets drowned. Unbelief wants to see, and God strikes it blind. Faith does not want to see, and God opens its eyes, and it sees God, ever present to help and deliver it. Now, you who are working for Christ, and you who are troubled in your business, you who are in any way exercised, remember the life of faith. Remember that you are not called to walk by sight, but by faith. Like David, believe to see, and great shall be your joy.

     Now, beloved Christian brethren, the same thing must happen in our inward conflicts. If we want to grow in grace, we shall not do so by humbling ourselves, as we call it. The way to make advances in divine life, is to believe that you can only grow in grace by God’s Spirit; to believe that since Jesus Christ is yours, all things are yours. My brother, have you a bad temper? You will never overcome that temper by saying, “I cannot overcome it;” but if, by faith, you are able to say, “I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me,” you will overcome it yet. No sin is ever slain by your saying, “Oh! it is my disposition; it is natural to me.” I know it is, and all manner of wickedness is natural to us, but you have to rest upon a supernatural arm; you are a twice-born man. You are a new creature, and you must not sit down in peace in any form of sin, but believe that you can overcome it by the power of your faith, and of the Holy Spirit that is in you. Believe, in order to see yourselves growing in grace; believe, to see yourselves conquering sin, in the name of Christ, and you shall do so.

     And again, with regard to our perplexities in doctrines and matters of faith, you must apply the same rule. Believe first, and then you will see the truth as it is in Jesus. How often the Christian comes across a passage of Scripture which seems to be dark and mysterious. He cannot for a time understand its preciousness, nor behold its beauty; but though he cannot see the golden ore, he knows that it is there; and, like one that searches for gold amidst the nuggets of quartz where it is embedded, in due time he will be enriched. It will not do to cast it away because nothing at present is seen; for ere long the full value of it shall be known. The Christian drinks water from a well which is deep, and nothing but Faith’s long line can reach down so as to draw the living water. It is no surface supply which will do for us: down deep in the depths of God’s spiritual truths, where no hand of reason can reach, we can let down our faith, and the clear, fresh water will be drawn up to refresh our thirsty souls. If ever you are in a difficulty, bring faith to bear upon the truth first, and you will understand and see afterwards. It depends upon which end of the telescope you use first and put to your eye, how much you will see of the landscape; and the lengths and breadths of truth are only discovered when faith is first of all brought into exercise.

     Remember, moreover, my beloved brethren, that our only safeguard in times of prosperity is to exercise faith beforehand. Our text says, “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Expect great things from God, work for them, and believe that God intends to do good to you. David was not taken by surprise when he saw God’s goodness. He had always believed in it; and when the full tide of divine beneficence met his view he was not overcome, for he always, by faith, comprehended it. You, my brother, now high up in the mount, still let your faith lead your eye upwards, and you will not grow giddy and fall. Walk by faith, and you will find yourself safe alike in trouble and in joy. In the night of adversity it will be as a pillar of fire to give you light, and in the day-time it will refresh you with its sheltering shade all through the wilderness. Believe, and you shall see, without fainting, “the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

     And once more, beloved, we are on our journey to the skies. We are on our way to heaven, and if we want to have a foretaste of it, how shall we get it? We must not believe in heaven only because we have had enjoyments on the road-we must believe that there is a heaven because God has promised it, and we must go after it because the Word declares there is a great reward; and there, if we believe to see, we shall, even in this life, soon see something of that which we have believed.

     Brethren and sisters, we are to-night like Columbus in search of the New World. Eye hath not seen it, ear hath not heard it; but we believe in it, and in our frail vessels we have launched, leaving the world behind us. Unbelief sometimes tells us that there is no goodly country, no land of life-unending, no city of the blessed, no haven of peace, no “Jerusalem the golden.” We have never seen it, but we believe in it. God has said it in his word — “There remaineth therefore a rest for the people of God.” Therefore, up with all sail! Steersman, hold to the wheel 1 We are bound for another and a better land. We have no abiding city on that shore which we have left. If we were mindful of it, we might return to it; but we have left it once for all, and we are now steering for the land which eye hath not seen. And you know what happened to Columbus. It is happening to some here – to some of my grey-headed brethren and sisters. Ah! and young as I am, I also know something of that which I am about to describe. When Columbus was drawing near to the shores of America, though he could not see the laud, yet he marked the land-birds flying round and round the masts, and lighting upon the cordage of the vessels, and he pointed up and said, “That is a bird that is not seen far out at sea; there is land somewhere!” His companions had been ready to throw him overboard, and make back for Spain; but they thought better of it now. And by-and-by there came floating along weeds and branches, of land produce, and they said, “Ah! after all, the old fashioned navigator is right. We shall come to the land of gold!” Now, sometimes God gives us blessed foretastes, happy earnests, delightful tokens, that there is a better land, till some of us, having believed to see, are almost come to see. I envy some of my dear friends who have been long in the divine life, and are getting grey, because I know that the angels often bring them bundles from the hills of myrrh, and make glad their spirits with tastes of the wines on the lees well refined, which are reserved for the feasts of the immortals when they sit down in the banqueting halls of the Eternal, and see the King in his beauty, and bask in the vision of his glory. Oh! let us go on, we who are younger, who have scarce begun the voyage, knowing that all is well. Storms may toss us about; waves may dash against our prow; the billows may seem as if about to swallow us up. But our fathers have gained the beach. Their caravels, like those of Columbus, are drawn up on yonder shore. They are safe and blessed. Hark! We can almost hear their song. Their “Hallelujah! hallelujah! hallelujah! for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!” might almost be heard even here, were not this earth so full of noise, were not the whirl of the wheels of business so incessant. Let us, then, O let us believe to see, and we shall soon see it, and glorify him who taught us so to believe. May God bless you, dear friends, very richly in this believing to see, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.



Grace—The One Way of Salvation

By / Jun 22

Grace—The One Way of Salvation

 

“But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.” — Acts 15:11.

 

You who are conversant with Scripture, will recollect that these are the words of the apostle Peter. Paul and Barnabas had been preaching the gospel among the Gentiles with great success, but “certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed,” could not get rid of their old Jewish bigotry, and vehemently urged that the converted Gentiles ought to be circumcised, or else they could not be saved. They made a great clamour over this, and there was no small dissension and disputation. The children of the bondwoman mustered all their forces, while the champions of glorious liberty arrayed themselves for the battle. Paul and Barnabas, those valiant soldiers of the cross, stood, out stoutly against the ritualistic brethren, and told them that the rite of circumcision did not belong to the Gentiles at all, and ought not to be forced upon them; they would not yield their free principles at the dictation of the Judaisers, but scorned to bow their necks to the yoke of bondage. It was agreed to bring the matter up for decision at Jerusalem before the apostles and elders; and when all the brethren had assembled, there seems to have been a considerable dispute, in the midst of which, Peter, speaking with his usual boldness and clearness, declared that it would be wrong to put a heavy yoke upon the necks of the Gentiles, which neither that generation of Jews nor their fathers had been able to bear, and then he concluded his address by saying, in effect, “ Although these people are not circumcised, and ought not to be, yet we believe that there is no difference between the Jew and the Gentile, but by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.” Herein Peter was not to be blamed, but to be greatly commended, for he spake under the influence of the Spirit of God.

     I. We shall use the text as concisely as we can for three important purposes; and in the first place, we shall look upon it as AN APOSTOLICAL CONFESSION OF FAITH.

     You notice it begins with, “We believe” We will call it, then, the “Apostle’s Creed,” and we may rest assured that it has quite as clear a right to that title as that highly esteemed composition which is commonly called the “Nicene, or Apostle’s Creed.” Peter is speaking for the rest, and he says, “We believe.” Well, Peter, what do you believe? We are all attention. Peter’s answer is, “We believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.” There is a great deal of talk in our day — foolish, vainglorious, idiotic, senseless talk, as we think, about apostolical succession. Some persons think they have the direct line from the apostles running right at their feet, and others believe that those who make the greatest boast about it, have the least claim to it. There are clergymen who imagine that because they happen to be in a church which is in open alliance with the state, they must necessarily be ministers of the church of which Christ said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Now we think that their union with the state is in itself a conclusive reply to all such claims to apostolical succession; and, moreover, we remark many fatal points of difference between the apostles and their professed successors. Whenever did Peter or Paul become state-paid ministers? In what state church did they enrol themselves? What tithes did they receive? What rates did they levy? What distraints did they make upon the Jews and the Gentiles? Were they rectors or vicars, prebends or deans, canons or curates? Did they buy their livings in the market? Did they sit in the Roman House of Lords dressed in lawn sleeves? Were they styled Right Reverend Fathers in God? Were they appointed by the prime minister of the day? Did they put on gowns, and read prayers out of a book? Did they christen children, and call them regenerate, and bury wicked reprobates in sure and certain hope of a blessed resurrection? As opposite as light is from darkness were those apostles from the men who pretend to be their divinely-appointed successors. When will men cease to thrust their arrogant pretences into our faces? Only when the common sense, to say nothing of the religion of our country, shall have rebuked their presumption.

     One thing is clear from this “Apostle’s Creed” which we have before us — it is clear that the apostles did not believe in ritualism. Peter — why, they make him out to be the head of the church! Do they not say that he was the first pope, and so on? I am sure if Peter were here he would grow very angry with them for slandering him so scandalously, for in his epistle he expressly warned others against being lords over God’s heritage, and you may be sure he did not fall into that sin himself. When he is asked for his confession of faith, he stands up and declares that he believes in salvation by grace alone. “ We believe.” O bold apostle, what do you believe? Now we still hear it. Peter will say, “We believe in circumcision; we believe in regeneration by baptism; we believe in the sacramental efficacy of the Lord’s Supper; we believe in pompous ceremonies; we believe in priests, and altars, and robes, and rubrics!” No; he does not utter a syllable concerning anything of the kind. He says, “ We believe that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we who have been circumcised shall be saved, just like those who have not been circumcised; we believe that we shall be saved, even as they.” He makes very small account, it seems, of ceremonies in the matter of salvation. He takes care that no iota of sacramentarianism shall mar his explicit confession of faith; he glories in no rite, and rests in no ordinance. All his testimony is concerning the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. He says nothing whatever about ordinances, ceremonies, apostolical gifts, or prelatical unction— his theme is grace, and grace alone; and those, my brethren, are the true successors of the apostles who teach you that you are to be saved through the unmerited favour and free mercy of God, agreeing with Peter in their testimony, “We believe that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved.” These are the men who preach to you the gospel of salvation through the blood and righteousness of Jesus; but those pretended ministers who boast of their priesthood, preach another gospel, “which is not another; but there be some that trouble you.” Upon their heads shall be the blood of deluded souls. They profess to regenerate others, but they will perish themselves; they talk of sacramental grace, and shall receive eternal destruction. Woe unto them, for they are deceivers. May the Lord deliver this land from their superstitions.

     Another thing is very clear here. The apostle did not believe in self-righteousness. The creed of the world is, “Do your best, and it will be all right with you.” To question this is treason against the pride of human nature, which evermore clings to salvation by its own merits. Every man is born a Pharisee. Self-confidence is bred in the bone — and will come out in the flesh. “What,” says a man, “do you not believe that if a man does his best, he will fare well in the next world? Why, you know, we must all live as well as we can, every man according to his own light; and if every man follows out his own conscience, as near as may be, surely it will be well with us?” That is not what Peter said. Peter did not say, “We believe that through doing our best, we shall be saved like other people.” He did not even say, “We believe that if we act according to our light, God will accept that little light for what it was.” No, the apostle strikes out quite another track, and solemnly affirms, “We believe that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved,” not through our good works, not through anything that we do, not by the merit of anything which we feel or perform, or promise to perform, but by grace, that is to say, by the free favour of God.

“Perish each thought of human pride,
Let God alone be magnified.”

We believe that if we are ever saved at all, we must be saved gratis — saved as the gratuitous act of a bountiful God — saved by a gift, not by wages — saved by God’s love, not by our own doings of merits. This is the apostle’s creed: salvation is all of grace from first to last, and the channel of that grace is the Lord Jesus Christ, who loved, and lived, and died, and rose again for our salvation. Those who preach mere morality, or set up any way except that of trusting in the grace of God through Christ Jesus, preach another gospel, and they shall be accursed, even though they preach it with an angel’s eloquence. In the day when the Lord shall come to discern between the righteous and the wicked, their work, as wood, hay, and stubble, shall be burnt up; but those who preach salvation by grace through Jesus Christ, snail find that their work, like gold, and silver, and precious stones, shall abide the fire, and great shall be their reward.

     I think it is very clear, again, from the text, that the apostles did not believe in salvation by the natural force of free will. I fail to detect a trace of the glorification of free will here. Peter puts it, “We believe that we shall be saved;” through what? Through our own unbiassed will? Through the volitions of our own well-balanced nature? Not at all, sir; but “we believe that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved.” He takes the crown from off the head of man in all respects, and gives all glory to the grace of God; he extols God, the gracious sovereign, who will have mercy upon whom he will have mercy, and who will have compassion upon whom he will have compassion. I wish I had a voice of thunder to proclaim in every street of London this glorious doctrine, “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” This is the old reformation doctrine. This is the doctrine which will shake the very gates of hell, if it be but faithfully preached. O for an army of witnesses to publish abroad the gospel of grace in its sovereignty, omnipotence, and fulness. If you are ever to get comfort, believe me, dear hearer, you must receive the doctrine of salvation by free grace into your soul as the delight and solace of your heart, for it is the living truth of the living God. Not by ritualism, not by good works, not by our own unaided free will are we saved, but by the grace of God alone.

“Not for the works which we have done,
Or shall hereafter do,
Hath God decreed on sinful worms
Salvation to bestow.

The glory, Lord, from first to last,
Is due to thee alone:
Aught to ourselves we dare not take,
Or rob thee of thy crown.”

     Were I now to take this apostle’s creed to pieces, and look closely at the details of it, it would be easy to show that this creed contains within it many important truths. It implies, most evidently, the doctrine of human ruin. “ We believe that we shall be saved." That statement assuredly implies that we need to be saved. The apostle Peter, as well as his brother apostle Paul, was sound in the faith concerning the total depravity of human nature, he viewed man as a lost creature, needing to be saved by grace. He believed in those three great “r’s” which Rowland Hill used to talk about— ruin, redemption, and regeneration. He saw most clearly man’s ruin, or he would not have been so explicit upon man’s salvation. If Peter were here to preach to-night, he would not tell us that man, though he is a little fallen, is a noble creature still, who needs only a little assistance, and he will be quite able to right himself. Oh, the fearful flattery which has been heard from some pulpits! Anointing corruption with the unction of hypocrisy; besmearing the abomination of our depravity with sickening eulogiums! Peter would give no countenance to such false prophets. No; he would faithfully testify that man is dead in sin, and life’s a gift; that man is lost, utterly fallen and undone. He speaks in his epistles of the former lusts of our ignorance, of our vain conversation received by tradition of our fathers, and of the corruption which is in the world through lust. In the verse before us, he tells us that the best of men, men such as himself and the other apostles, had need to be saved, and, consequently, they must have been originally amongst the lost, heirs of wrath even as others. I am sure that he was a firm believer in what are called “the doctrines of grace,” as he was certainly in his own person an illustrious trophy and everlasting monument of grace. What a ring there is in that word GRACE! Why, it does one good to speak it and to hear it; it is, indeed, “a charming sound, harmonious to the ear.” When one feels the power of it, it is enough to make the soul leap out of the body for joy.

“Grace! how good, how cheap, how free,
Grace, how easy to be found!
Only let your misery
In the Saviour’s blood be drowned!”

How it suits a sinner! how it cheers a poor forlorn wanderer from God! Grace! Peter was not in a fog about this; his witness is clear as crystal, decisive as the sentence of a judge. He believed that salvation was of God’s free favour, and God’s almighty power; and he speaks out like a man, “We believe that we are saved by grace.”

     Our apostle was also most decided and explicit concerning the atonement. Cannot you see the atonement in the text, sparkling like a jewel In a well-made ring? We are saved "through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” What does the apostle mean but the grace which came streaming from those five wounds when on the cross the Saviour hung? What does he mean but the grace which is revealed to us in the bleeding Sufferer who took our sins, and carried our sorrows, that we might be delivered from wrath through him? O that every one were as clear about the atonement as Peter is! Peter had seen his Master; nay, more, his Master had looked at him and broken his heart, and afterwards bound it up, and given him much grace; and now Peter is not content with saying, “We believe that we shall be saved through grace,” but he is careful to word it, “We believe that we shall be saved through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” Dear hearers, never have any questions upon the vital point of redemption by blood. This is a fundamental truth; he who is in darkness upon that subject, has no light in him. What the sun is to the heavens, that the doctrine of a vicarious satisfaction is to theology. Atonement is the brain and spinal cord of Christianity. Take away the cleansing blood, and what is left to the guilty? Deny the substitutionary work of Jesus, and you have denied all that is precious in the New Testament. Never, never let us endure one wavering, doubtful thought upon this all-important truth.

     It seems to me, too, that without straining the text, I might easily prove that Peter believed in the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints. They were not, in a certain sense, it seems, perfectly saved when he spoke, but he says, “We believe we shall be saved.” Well, but Peter, may you not fall away and perish? “No,” says he, “we believe that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved” How positively he speaks of it! I do wish you, dear friends, to get a firm and intelligent hold of the doctrine of the safety of the believer, which is as clear as noonday in the Scriptures. Upon the whole, you have learned it to purpose, and can defend it well, but all of you should be able to give a reason for the hope that is in you. I have known one of our people met by those who do not believe this doctrine, and they have said to him, “You will fall away; look at your own weakness and tendency to sin.” “No,” said the man, “I know I should if I were left to myself, but then Christ has promised that he never will leave me nor forsake me.” Then it is sometimes said, “ but you may be a believer in Christ to-day, and yet perish to-morrow;” but our friends generally reply, “ Do not tell us that falsehood: God’s saints shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of Jesus’ hand; as for your doctrine of the final falling of the Lord’s blood-bought ones, if that is the gospel, go and keep it to yourselves; as for us, we would not go two inches to listen to it; there is nothing in it to lay hold of; it is a bone without marrow ; there is no strength, no comfort for the soul in it.” If I know when I trust Christ that he will save me at the last, then I have something to rest upon, something worth living for, but if it is all a mere “ if,” or “ but,” or “perchance,” or “peradventure,” a little of myself, and a little of Christ, I am in a poor case indeed. A gospel which proclaims an uncertain salvation is a miserable imposition. Away with such a gospel, away with such a gospel; it is a dishonour to Christ; it is a discredit to God’s people; it neither came from the Scriptures of truth, nor does it bring glory to God.

     Thus, then, have I tried to open up the apostle’s creed, “We believe that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.”

     II. And now, having used the text as the apostle’s confession of faith, I shall take it as THE CONVERTED MORAL MAN S STATEMENT.

     Let me show you what I mean. Observe and admire the way in which Peter puts the case. A company of Jews have assembled, to discuss a certain matter, and some of them look very wise, and bring up certain suggestions that are rather significant. Say they, “Well, perhaps these Gentile dogs may be saved; yes, Jesus Christ told us to go and preach the gospel to every creature; therefore, no doubt, he must have included these Gentile dogs — we do not like them, though, and must keep them as much under our rules and regulations as we can; we must compel them to be circumcised; we must have them brought under the full rigour of the law; we cannot excuse them from wearing the yoke of bondage.” Presently, the apostle Peter gets up to speak, and you expect to hear him say — do you not? — to these gentlemen, “ Why, these ‘Gentile dogs,’ as you call them, can be saved, even as you” No; he adopts quite a different tone; he turns the tables, and he says to them, “ We believe that you may be saved, even as they.” It was just as if I should have a company of persons here now who had been very bad and wicked, who had plunged into the deepest sin, but God’s grace has met with them and made them new creatures in Christ Jesus: there is a church-meeting, and when these persons are brought before the church, suppose there were some of the members who should say, “Yes, we believe that a drunkard may be saved, and a person who has been a harlot may, perhaps, be saved too.” But imagine, now, that I were to stand up and reply, “Now, my dear brethren, I believe that you may be saved even as these” what a rebuke it would be! This is precisely what Peter meant. “Oh!” said he, “do not raise the question about whether they can be saved — the question is whether you, who have raised such a question, will be saved; we believe that, through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we shall be saved, even as they.” So he seems, in this dispute, to take the objectors aback, and to put the Gentile believers first in order, to cast out the bad, proud, wicked, devilish spirit of self-righteousness.

     Now, brethren, some of us were favoured by providence with the great privilege of having Christian parents, and consequently we never did know a great deal of the open sin into which others have fallen. Some of us never were inside a theatre in our lives, never saw a play, and do not know what it is like. There are some here who, perhaps, never did frequent the tavern, do not know a lascivious song, and never uttered an oath. This is cause for great thankfulness, very great thankfulness indeed; but, O you excellent moralists, mind you do not say in your heart, “We are quite sure to be saved,” for, let me tell you, you have not before God any advantage over the outward transgressor, so as to entitle you to be saved in a less humbling manner. If you ever are saved, you will have to be saved in the same way as those who have been permitted to plunge into the most outrageous sin. Your being restrained from overt offences is a favour for you to be grateful for, but not a virtue for you to trust in. Ascribe it to God’s providential goodness, but do not wrap it about you as though it were to be your wedding garment, for if you do, your self-righteousness will be more dangerous to you than some men’s open sins are to them; for do you not know how the Saviour put it, “Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you!” You moral people must be saved by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ — saved even as they, the outcasts, the wanderers. You will not, you cannot, be saved in any other way, and will not be saved at all if you do not submit to this way. You will not be permitted to enter heaven, good as you think yourselves to be, unless you come down to the terms and conditions which sovereign grace has laid down, namely, that you should trust Christ, and be saved by grace, “even as they.”

     To prove to you, dear friends, that this must be the case, I will suppose that you have picked out twenty people who have been good, in a moral sense, from their youth up. Now, these people must be saved just the same as those other twenty over yonder, who have been as bad as bad can be from their earliest childhood, and I will tell you why — because these amiable persons fell in Adam just as surely as the outcasts did; they are as fully partakers of the curse of the fall as the profane and drunken; and they were born in sin and shapen in iniquity just as the dissolute and the dishonest were. There is no difference in the blood of humanity, it flows from one polluted source, and is tainted in all its channels. The depravity of human nature does not belong merely to those who are born in dirty back courts and alleys, but it is as certainly manifest in those of you who were born in the best parts of the city. You dwellers in Belgravia are as altogether born in sin as the denizens of Bethnal Green. The west end is as sensual as the east. Hyde Park has no natural superiority of nature over Seven Dials. The corruption of those born in the castle at Windsor is as deep as the depravity of workhouse children. You, ladies and gentlemen, are born with hearts as bad and as black as the poorest of the poor. You sons of Christian parents, do not imagine, because you spring of a godly ancestry, that therefore your nature is not polluted like the nature of others. In this respect, we are all alike; we are born in sin, and alike are we dead by nature in trespasses and sins, heirs of wrath, even as others. Remember, too, that although you may not have sinned openly, as others have done, yet in your hearts you have, and it is by your hearts that you will be judged; for how often a man may commit adultery in his soul, and incur the guilt of theft, while his hand lays idly by his side! Do you not know that a look may have in it the essence of an unclean act, and that a thought may commit murder as well as a hand? God takes note of heart sin as well as hand sin. If you have been outwardly moral, I am thankful for it, and I ask you to be thankful for it too; but do not trust in it for justification, seeing that you must be saved, even as the worst of criminals are saved, because in heart, if not in life, you have been as bad as they.

     Moreover the method of pardon is the same in all cases. If you moralists are to be washed, where must you find the purifying bath? I never heard of but one fountain — that

“Fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins.”

That fountain is for the dying thief as much as for you, and for you as much as for him. There is a robe of righteousness that is to cover the best living among professors— that same robe of righteousness covered Saul of Tarsus, the bloody persecutor: if you, of unspotted outward character, are ever to have a robe of righteousness, you must wear the same one as he wore; there cannot be another nor a better. 0 you who are conscious of outward innocence, do, do, humble yourselves at the foot of the cross, and come to Jesus just as empty-handed, just as broken-hearted, as if you had been outwardly amongst the vilest of the vile, and through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, you shall be saved, even as they. O may the Holy Spirit bring you to this. I do not know whether anybody here has ever fallen into such an unwise thought as I have known some entertain. I met with a case of this sort only the other day. A very excellent and amiable young woman, when converted to God, said to me, “You know, sir, I used almost to wish that I was one of those very bad sinners whom you so often speak to, and invited to come to Jesus, because I thought then I should feel my need more: that was my difficulty, I could not feel my need.” But see, dear friends, we believe that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we who have not plunged into black sin, shall be saved even as they who have done so. Do not make a difficulty about this. Others make a difficulty on the opposite side; they say, “Oh! I could trust Christ if I had been kept from sin.” The fact is, that you unbelieving souls will not trust Christ whichever way you have lived, for from some quarter or other, you will find cause for your doubtings; but when the Lord the Spirit gives you faith, you big sinners will trust Christ quite as readily as those who have not been great offenders openly; and you who have been preserved from open sin will trust him as joyfully as the great transgressors. O come, come, come, ye sick souls; come to my Master! Do not say, “We would come if we were worse,” do not say, “We would come if we were better,” but come as you are; come just as you are. Oh! if you be a sinner, Christ invites you. If you be but lost, remember Christ came to save the lost. Do not be picking out your case, and making it to be different from others, but come, and welcome: weary and heavy laden sinner, come, and welcome; come, even now!

“Just as thou art, without one trace
Of love, or joy, or inward grace,
Or meetness for the heavenly place,
O guilty sinner, come!

Come, hither bring thy boding fears,
Thy aching heart, thy bursting tears;
‘Tis mercy’s voice salutes thine ears,
O trembling sinner, come.

‘The Spirit and the Bride say, Come;’
Rejoicing saints re-echo, Come;
Who faints, who thirsts, who will, may come:
Thy Saviour bids thee come.”

     III. The text would not be fairly treated if I did not use it as THE CONFESSION OF THE GREAT OUTWARD SINNER WHEN CONVERTED.

     I will now speak to those here present who, before conversion, indulged in gross sin. Such are here. Glory be to God, such are here! They have been washed; they have been cleansed. My dear brethren, my dear sisters, I can rejoice over you; more precious are you by far in my eyes than all the precious gems which kings delight to wear, for you are my eternal joy and crown of rejoicing. You have experienced a divine change; you are not what you once were; you are new creatures in Christ Jesus. Now, I will speak for you. “We believe that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.” What do we mean? Why, we believe that we shall be saved, even as the best are saved. I will split that thought up, as it were, into individual instances. Yonder sits a very poor believer. We are very glad to see him at the Tabernacle. I know he had a thought that his clothes were hardly good enough to come in, but I hope none of you will ever stop away because of your clothes. Come, come anyhow; we are always glad to see you, at least, I am, if others are not. But my poor friend is very badly off indeed; he would not like anybody perhaps to see the room where he lives. Yes, but my dear brother, do you expect to have a poor man’s salvation? Do you expect that when you get to heaven, you will be placed in a corner as a pauper pensioner? Do you think that Jesus Christ will only give you the crumbs which fall from off his table? “Oh, no!” I think I hear you say, “oh, no! we shall leave our poverty when we get to glory.” Some of our friends are rich, they have an abundance of this world’s goods, and we rejoice to think they have, and hope that they will have grace to make a proper use of this mercy ; but we poor people believe that we shall be saved, even as they. We do not believe that our poverty will make any difference to our share in divine grace, but that we shall be as much loved of God as they are, as much blessed in our poverty as they are in their riches, and as much enabled by divine grace to glorify God in our sphere as they are in theirs. We do not envy them, but on the contrary, ask grace from God that we may feel that if we are poor in pocket, yet we are rich in faith, and shall be saved, even as they.

     Others of you are not so much poor in money as you are poor in useful talent. You come up to chapel, and fill your seat, and that is about all you can do. You drop your weekly offering into the box, and when that is done, you have done all, or nearly all in your power. You cannot preach; you could not conduct a prayer meeting; you have hardly courage enough to give away a tract. Well, my dear friend, you are one of the timid ones, one of the little Benjamins, of whom there are many. Now, do you expect that the Lord Jesus Christ will give you a second-hand robe to wear at his wedding feast? And when you sit at the banquet, do you think he will serve you from cold and inferior dishes? “Oh, no!” say you; “oh, no! Some of our brethren have great talents, and we are glad that they have ; we rejoice in their talents, but we believe that we shall be saved, even as they : we do not think that there will be any difference made in the divine distribution of lovingkindness because of our degree of ability.” There are very proper distinctions here on earth between rich and poor, and between those who are learned and those who are unlearned; but we believe that there is no distinction in the matter of salvation — we shall be saved, even as they. Many of you would preach ten times better than I do if you could only get your tongues unloosed to say what you feel. Oh! what red-hot sermons you would preach, and how earnest you would be in their delivery. Now, that sermon which you did not preach, and could not preach, shall be set down to your account, while perhaps that discourse of mine will be a failure because I may not have preached it as I should have done, with pure motives and zealous spirit. God knows what you would do if you could, and he judges, not so much according to what you do, as according to your will to do it. He takes in this case, the will for the deed, and you shall be saved, even as they who with the tongue of fire proclaim the truth.

     Most likely there is some doubting brother here. Whenever he opens “Our Own Hymn Book,” he very seldom looks to “The Golden Book of Communion,” but he generally turns to hymn No. 590, or thereabouts, and begins to sing “Contrite Cries.” Well, my dear friend, you are a weakling; you are Mr. Much-afraid, or Mr. Little-faith; but, how is your heart? What are your prospects? Do you believe that you will be put off with a second-rate salvation, that you will be admitted by the back door into heaven instead of through the gate of pearl? “Oh no!” say you; “I am the weakest lamb in Jesus' fold; but I believe that I shall be saved, even as they; that is, even as they who are the strongest in grace, most useful in labour, and most mighty in faith.” In a few hours, dear friends, I shall be crossing the sea, and I will suppose that there shall be a good stiff wind, and that the vessel may be driven out of her course, and be in danger. As I walk the deck, I see a poor girl on board; she is very weak and ill, quite a contrast to that fine strong, burly passenger who is standing beside her, apparently enjoying the salt spray and the rough wind. Now, suppose a storm should come on, which of these two is the more safe? Well, I cannot see any difference, because if the ship goes to the bottom, they will both go, and if the ship gets to the other side of the channel, they will both land in security. The safety is equal when the thing upon which it depends is the same. So, if the weakest Christian is in the boat of salvation — that is, if he trusts Christ — he is as safe as the strongest Christian; because, if Christ failed the weak one, he would fail the strong one too. Why, if the least Christian who believes in Jesus does not get to heaven, then Peter himself will not get to heaven. I am sure of it, that if the smallest star which Christ ever kindled does not blaze in eternity, neither will the brightest star. If you who have given yourselves to Jesus should any of you be cast away, this would prove that Jesus is not able to save, and then all of us must be cast away too. Oh, yes! “we believe that we shall be saved, even as they.”

     I have nearly done; but I will suppose for a moment that there has been a work of grace in a prison — Cold Bath Fields, if you like. There are half-a-dozen villains there, thorough villains; but the grace of God has made new men of them. I think I see them; and, if they understood the text, as they looked across the room, and saw half a dozen apostles — Peter, James, John, Matthew, Paul, Bartholomew, and so on — they might say, “We believe that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they, even as those apostles are.” Can you catch the idea, and make it your own? When artists have drawn pictures of the apostles, they have often put a halo round their heads, very like a brass pan, or something of that kind, as if to signify that they were some particular and special saints; but there was no such halo there — the painter is far from the fact; we say it, and say it seriously and thoughtfully, that twelve souls picked from the scum of creation who look to Christ, shall be saved, even as the twelve apostles are saved; halo or no halo, they shall join in the same hallelujah to God and the Lamb.

     I will select three holy women: they shall be the three Marys that we read about in the Evangelists, the three Marys whom Jesus loved, and who loved Jesus. These holy women, we believe, will be saved. But I will suppose that I go to one of our Refuges, and there are three girls there who were once of evil fame: the grace of God has met with them, and they are now three weeping Magdalens, penitent for sin. These three might say, humbly, but positively, “We believe that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we three reclaimed harlots shall be saved, even as they — the three holy matrons who lived near Christ, and were his delight.” “Ah, well!” says one, “this is the grace indeed! This is plain speech and wonderful doctrine, that God should make no distinction between one sinner and another when we come to him through Christ.” Dear hearer, if you have understood this very simple statement, go to Jesus at once with your soul; and may God enable you to obtain complete salvation at this hour. I do pray you to come in faith to the cross — I pray my Master’s grace to compel you to enter into a state of full dependence upon Jesus, and so into a state of salvation. If you are now led to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, no matter how black the past may have been, “the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s dear Son, cleanseth us from all sin.”

“Here’s pardon for transgressions past, it matters not how black their cast;
And oh! My soul, with wonder view, for sins to come here’s pardon too.”



The Relationship of Marriage

By / Jun 22

The Relationship to Marriage

 

“Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you.”—Jeremiah 3:14.  

 

These be dainty words—a grateful anodyne for a troubled conscience. Such singular comfort is fitted to cheer up the soul, and put the brightest hue on all her prospects. The person to whom it is addressed hath an eminently happy position. Satan will be very busy with you, believer in Christ, to-night. He will say, “What right have you to believe that God is married to you?” He will remind you of your imperfections, and of the coldness of your love, and perhaps of the backsliding state of your heart. He will say, “What, with all this about you, can you be presumptuous enough to claim union with the Son of God? Can you venture to hope that there will be any marriage between you and the holy One.” He will tell you as though he were an advocate for holiness, that it is not possible that such a one as you feel yourself to be, can really be a partaker of so choice and special a privilege as being married unto the Lord. Let this suffice for an answer to all such suggestions: the text is found addressed, not to Christians in a flourishing state of heart, not to believers upon Mount Tabor, transfigured with Christ, not to a spouse all chaste and fair, and sitting under the banner of love, feasting with her lord; but it is addressed to those who are called “backsliding children.” God speaks to his church in her lowest and most abject estate, and though he does not fail to rebuke her sin, to lament it, and to make her lament it too, yet still in such an estate he says to her, “I am married unto you.” Oh! it is grace that he should be married to any of us, but it is grace at its highest pitch, it is the ocean of grace at its flood-tide, that he should speak thus of “backsliding children.” That he should speak in notes of love of any of the fallen race of Adam is “passing strange—‘tis wonderful;” but that he should select those who have behaved treacherously to him, who have turned their backs to him and not their faces, who have played him false, although, nevertheless, his own, and say unto them, “I am married unto YOU; this is lovingkindness beyond aught we could wot or ween. Hear, O heaven, and admire, O earth, let every understanding heart break forth into singing, yea, let every humble mind bless and praise the condescension of the Most High! Cheer up poor drooping hearts. Here is sweet encouragement for some of you who are depressed, and disconsolate, and sit alone, to draw living waters out of this well. Do not let the noise of the archers keep you back from the place of the drawing of water. Be not afraid lest you should be cursed whilst you are anticipating the blessing. If you do but trust in Jesus, if you have but a vital interest in the once humbled, now exalted Lord, come with holy boldness to the text, and whatever comfort there be here, receive it and rejoice therein.

     To this end let us attentively consider the relationship which is here spoken of and diligently enquire how far we are experimentally acquainted with it.

     I. IN CONSIDERING THE RELATIONSHIP WHICH IS HERE SPOKEN OF, you will observe that the affinity of marriage, though exceedingly near of kin, is not one of birth.

     Marriage is not a relationship of original consanguinity. It is contracted between two persons who may, during the early part of their lives, have been entire strangers to one another; they may scarcely have looked each other in the face, excepting during the few months that precede their nuptials. The families may have had no previous acquaintance, they may have lived afar off as the very antipodes. One may have been opulent, and in possession of vast domains, and the other may have been indigent, and reduced to straitened circumstances. Genealogies do not regulate it: disparities do not hinder it. The connection is not of natural birth but of voluntary contract or covenant. Such is the relationship which exists between the believer and his God. Whatever relation there was originally between God and man, it was stamped out and extinguished by the fall. We were aliens, strangers, and foreigners, far off from God by wicked works. We had henceforth no relation to the Most High; we were banished from his presence as traitors to his throne, as condemned criminals who had revolted against his power. Between our souls and God there could be no communion. He is light and we are dark. He is holiness and we are sin. He is heaven, and we are far more akin to hell. In him there is consummate greatness, and we are puny insignificance. He filleth all worlds with his strength, and as for us, we are the creatures of a day, who know nothing, and who are crushed before the moth. The gulf between God and a sinner is something terrible to contemplate. There is a vast difference between God and the creature even when the creature is pure, but between God and the fallen creature—oh! where is the line that shall measure the infinite leagues of distance? Where was there a means of ever bridging so terrible a chasm except the Lord Jesus had found it in his own person, and in his own passion? How could we have ever perceived the infinite design, unless it had been revealed to us as an accomplished fact, by which he has reconciled us and brought us into communion with himself, that we should be married unto him? Now, Christian, just contemplate what you were, and the degraded family to which you belonged, that you may magnify the riches of his grace who espoused you in your low estate, and hath so bound himself with all the pledges of a husband that he saith, “I am married unto you.” What were you? That is a black catalogue of foul transgressors which the apostle gives in the first epistle to the Corinthians (vi. 9, 11), I forbear a recital of the filthy vices—at the end of which he says, “But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified.” In those crimes he enumerates, many of us had a share, nay, all of us! What was our father, and what our father's house? What was our aim? What was our practice? What were our desires? What were our tendencies? They were earthly, downward, hellward. We were at a distance from God, and we loved that distance well. But the Lord Jesus took upon himself our nature: upon him the Lord did lay the iniquity of all his people. And why? Not merely to save us from the wrath to come, but that we, being lifted up out of our degradation by virtue of his atonement, and being sanctified and made meet by the power of the Spirit, should have a relationship established between us and God which was not formed by nature, but which has been achieved and consummated by astounding grace. Unto the Lord let us give thanks this night, as we recollect the hole of the pit whence we were digged, and call to mind the fact that now we are united to him in ties of blood and bonds of love.

     Marriage-union is the result of choice. Any exceptions to this rule that might be pleaded, are void in reason, because they arise from folly and transgression: there ought to be no exception. It is scarcely a true marriage at all where there has not been a choice on each side. But certainly if the Lord our God is married unto us, and we are married unto God, the choice is mutual. The first choice is with God. That choice was made, we believe, before the foundation of the world:— 

 

“Long ere the sun's refulgent ray

Primeval shades of darkness drove,

They on his sacred bosom lay,

Lov’d with an everlasting love.”’ 

 

God never began to1 love his people. It were impossible for the spiritual mind to entertain so unworthy a thought. He saw them in the glass of his decrees; he foresaw them, with his eye of prescience, in the mass of creatureship, all fallen and ruined; but yet he beheld them, and pitied and loved them, elected them and set them apart. “They shall be mine,” saith the Lord. Here we are all agreed; and we ought to be all agreed upon the second point, namely, that we also have chosen our God. Brethren, no man is saved against his will. If any man should say that he were saved against his will, it would be a proof that he was not saved at all; for reluctancy or indifference betrays an entire alienation of all the affections of the heart. If the will is still set against God, then the whole man is proven to be at enmity with him. By nature we did not choose God: by nature we kicked against his law, and turned aside from his dominion. But is it not written, “My people shall be willing in the day of my power”? Do you not understand how, without any violation of your free agency, God has used proper arguments and motives so as to influence fluence your understanding? Through our understanding our will is convinced, and our souls are spontaneously drawn. Then we throw down the weapons of our rebellion, and humble ourselves at the footstool of the Most High; and now we do freely choose that which we once wickedly abhorred. Do not you, Christian, at this very hour, choose Christ with all your heart to be your Lord and Saviour? If it could be put to you over again to make an election whether you should love the world or love Christ, would you not say, “Oh! my Beloved is better to me than ten thousand worlds! He fixes all my love, engrosses all my passion: I give myself up to him most freely; he bought me with a great price; he won me with his great love; he enraptured me with his unspeakable charms, so I give myself up to him”? Here is a mutual choice. I wish that some of our friends would forbear to make such a stand against the doctrine of God's choosing us. If they will but read Scripture with an unprejudiced mind, I am quite sure they will find it there. It always seems inexplicable to me that those who claim very boldly for man, should not also allow some free will to God. I suppose, my brethren would not like to have to be married to somebody whom they had not chosen, and why should Jesus Christ not have the right to choose his own bride? Why should he not set his love where he will, and have the right to exercise, according to his own sovereign mind, that bestowment of his heart and hand which none could by any means deserve? This know, that he will have his own choice whether we impugn the doctrine or not; for he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and he will have compassion on whom he will have compassion. At the same time, I wish that those friends who believe this truth, would receive the other, which is quite as true. We do choose Christ in return, and that without any violation of our free agency. Some people cannot see two truths at one time; they cannot understand that God has made all truth to be double. Truth is many-sided. While divine predestination is true, human responsibility is also true; while it is true that Christ chooses us, it is also true that the unrenewed mind will not choose him: “Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life.” This is the sin and the condemnation of man, that “light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” Settle it, however, in your minds, that when God says, “I am married unto you,” it implies that there is a blessed choice on both sides; and so it is a true marriage.

     3. Our third reflection is, that marriage is cemented by mutual love. Where there is not this mutual affection, it deserves not the name of marriage. The dark shadow of a blessing they cannot realise must be a heavy load for either heart to bear; but where there is true and genuine love, it is the sweetest and happiest mode of living. It is one of the blessings of paradise which has been preserved to us after the fall. Without love, wedded life must be a very purgatory above ground. In the solemn contract which has brought our souls this night to God, the marriage is sustained, cemented, strengthened, and made delightful by mutual love. Need I talk to you of the love of God? It is a theme we are scarcely competent to talk of. You need to sit down and weep about it for very joy, joy which fills the heart, and makes the eyes overflow, but well nigh chains the tongue, for it is a deep, profound, and inexpressible. “He loved me, and gave himself for me.” “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us.” “As the Father hath loved me, even so have I loved you.” Oh, the love of God—it would surpass the powers of an angel to set it forth. Sure, sure, it shall be the blest employment of eternity's long ages for us to comprehend it; and, perhaps, when myriads of ages have rolled over our happy souls, we shall still be as much struck with wonder with it as we were at first. The marvel doth not diminish on inspections familiarity cannot make it common. The nearer we approach, the deeper our awe. It will be as great a surprise that God should love such cold, such faithless, such unworthy beings as ourselves, at the end of ten thousand years as it was at first, perhaps more so. The more thoroughly we shall know ourselves, the more frilly we shall understand the good of the Lord; thus will our wonder grow and swell. Even in heaven, we shall be lost in surprise and admiration at the love of God to us. The rapture will augment the reverence we feel. Well, but, brethren beloved, I trust we also love him in return! Do you never feel one soft affection rising after another as you muse on the Christ of God? When you sometimes listen to a sermon in which the Saviour's dear affection to you is set forth, do you not feel that the unbidden tear wets your cheek? Does not your heart swell sometimes, as if it were unable to hold your emotions? Is there not a "joy unspeakable and full of glory” that comes over you? Can you not say— 

 

“Jesus, I love thy charming name,

'Tis music to mine ear;

Fain would I sound it out so loud

That earth and heaven should hear”? 

 

I hope you do not need to sing to-night—

 

“’Tis a point I long to know.” 

 

but, I trust, that in the solemn silence of your souls you can say, “Thou knowest that I love thee;" grieved that the question should be asked, but still ready to answer, with Peter, “Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee.” Now, it is impossible for you to love God without the strong conclusive evidence that God loves you. I once knew a good woman who was the subject of many doubts, and when I got to the bottom of her doubt, it was this: she knew she loved Christ, but she was afraid he did not love her. “Oh!” I said, “that is a doubt that will never trouble me; never, by any possibility, because I am sure of this, that the heart is so corrupt, naturally, that love to God never did get there without God's putting it there.” You may rest quite certain, that if you love God, it is a fruit, and not a root. It is the fruit of God's love to you, and did not get there by the force of any goodness in you. You may conclude, with absolute certainty, that God loves you if you love God. There never was any difficulty on his part. It always was on your part, and now that the difficulty is gone from you, none whatever remains. O let our hearts rejoice and be filled with great delight, because the Saviour has loved us and given himself for us. So let us realise the truth of the text, “I am married unto you.” 

     4. My fourth observation is, that this marriage necessitates certain mutual relations. I cannot say “duties,” for the word seems out of place on either side. How can I speak of the great God making pledges of faithfulness? and yet with reverence, let me word it so, for in my vocabulary I have hardly words to set it forth. When God becomes a husband, he undertakes to do a husband's part. When he says, “Thy Maker is thy husband,” you may rest assured that he does not take the relationship without assuming (well, I must say it) all the responsibilities which belong to that condition. It is the part of God to nourish, to cherish, to shield, to protect, to bless those with whom he condescends, in infinite mercy, to enter into union. When the Lord Jesus Christ became the husband of his church, he felt that he was under an engagement to us, and inasmuch as there were debts incurred, he paid them. 

 

“Yes, said the Son, with her I'll go,

Through all the depths of sin and woe;

And on the cross will even dare

The bitter pains of death to bear.” 

 

He never shrunk from the doing of any of those loving works which belong to the husband of his chosen spouse. He exalted the word “husband,” and made it to be more full of meaning than it had ever been before, so that the apostle could see it glittering in a new light, and could say, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Oh, yes! dear friends, there is responsibility arising out of this relationship, but he of whom we speak has not departed from it; you know he has not. And now, what upon our side? The wife has to reverence her husband, and to be subject unto him in all things. That is precisely our position towards him who has married us. Let his will be our will. Let his wish be our law. Let us not need to be flogged to service, but let us say—

 

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

 

O Christian, if the Master condescends to say, “I am married unto you,” you will not any longer ask, “What is my duty?” but you will say, “What can I do for him?” The loving wife does not say, “What is my duty?” and stand coldly questioning how far she should go, and how little she may do, but all that she can do for him who is her husband she will do, and everything that she can think of, every thing she can devote herself to, in striving to please him in all things, she will most certainly do and perform. And you and I will do the same if we have realised our union with Christ. 0 beloved, do not grow sentimental and waste your energies in drivelling fancies as some have done. Speak ye of a wife?—where the family is large, the work is heavy, and the responsibility great. I could fain remind you here, did time permit, of the words of King Lemuel, and the prophecy that his mother taught him. Bear with me at least while I admonish you to such a one, that the heart of thy husband may safely trust in thee. Let it be thy care to give meat to thy household. Lay thy hands to the spindle; suffer not thine industry to fail; eat not the bread of idleness. Stretch out thine hand to the poor, and reach forth both thine hands to the needy. Open thy mouth with wisdom, and in thy tongue be the law of kindness. Yea, and consider this with thyself, that in thy regard for all the duties of thy station, thou art fulfilling thy bounden obligations to thy Lord. Short words, but mighty, matchless deeds have told how Jesus loved us. Be it ours to carve our song of love to him on the hearts of some tender nurslings who are cast in our way, and committed to our care. 0 that the life I now live in the flesh, by faith in the Son of God, might become a poem, and a grateful response to him that loved me, and gave himself for me. I hope we do know, then, that when God says, “I am married unto you,” it necessitates mutual relations. 

     5. Fifthly, it also involves mutual confidences. How shall we call that a marriage where the husband and wife are still two persons, maintaining individuality as if it were a scrupulous condition of the contract? That is utterly foreign to the divine idea. In a true marriage, the husband and wife become one. Henceforth their joys and their cares, their hopes and their labours, their sorrows and their pleasures, rise and blend together in one stream. Brethren, the Lord our God has said it, “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will shew them his covenant.” “Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?” There was the secret, because there is a union between Christ and his people which there is not between Christ and the world. How joyously do the words sound— they have a silvery ring in them—“Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” Christ keeps nothing back from you. Remember another word of his: “If it were not so, I would have told you.” Oh, how delightful! He says, “I go to prepare a place for you.” He tells them that he is going to prepare a place for them, and then he says, “If it were not so, I would have told you—I keep no secrets back from you; you are near me, my flesh and my bones. I left my Father's house in glory, that I might become one with you, and manifest myself to you, and I keep back nothing from you, but reveal my very heart and my very soul to you.” Now, Christian, just see: you stand in the relation of a spouse, and you must tell your very heart out to Christ. No, do not go and tell it to your neighbours, nor your friends, for, somehow or other, the most sympathising heart cannot enter into all our griefs. There is a grief which the stranger cannot intermeddle with; but there never was a pang into which Christ could not enter. Make a confidant of the Lord Jesus—tell him all. You are married unto him: play the part of a wife who keeps no secrets back, no trials back, no joys back; tell them all to him. I was in a house yesterday where there was a little child, and it was said to me, “He is such a funny child.” I asked in what way, and the mother said, “Well, if he tumbles down and hurts himself in the kitchen, he will always go up stairs crying and tell somebody, and then he comes down add says, “I told somebody;” and if he is upstairs he goes down and tells somebody, and when he comes back it is always, “I told somebody,” and he does not cry any more. Ah! well, I thought, we must tell somebody: it is human nature to want to have sympathy, but if we would always go to Jesus, and tell him all, and there leave it, we might often dismiss the burden, and be refreshed with a grateful song. Let us do so, and go with all our joys and all our troubles unto him, who says, “I am married unto you." I know the devil will say, "Why, you must not tell the Lord your present trouble: it is too little, and besides, you know you did wrong, and brought it upon yourself.” Well, but you would tell your husband, would you not? and will you not tell your Lord? You could not tell a master, but you can tell a husband. Oh! do not go back into the old legal state of calling Christ Baali, but call him Ishi, “My man, my husband,” and put that confidence in him which it is expected that the wife should place in a husband who dearly loves her. 

     6. We must go on to a Bixth point. This marriage implies fellowship ship in all its relations. Whatsoever a husband possesses becomes his wife's. She cannot be poor if he be rich; and what little she has, whatever it may be, comes to him. If she be in debt, her debts become his. When Jesus Christ took his people, he gave them all he had. There is nothing which Christ has which he has not given to us. It is noteworthy that he has given his church his own name! “Where?” say you. Well, there are two passages in Jeremiah that most remarkably ably illustrate this (chap. xxiii. 6, and chap. xxiii. 16). In the one it says, "This is the name whereby he shall be called,” and in the other, "This is the name wherewith she shall be called.” In both, the name is identical. "Jehovah Tsidkenu, the Lord our righteousness.” What "She shall be called”? Yes, as though he said, " She shall take my name, and with the name, of course, the entire open acknowledgment of his interest in her and her interest in him. As such she is partaker of all his glory: if he be a king, she is a queen; if he be in heaven, “He hath raised us up together, and made us to sit in heavenly places with him;” if he be heavenly, she also shall bear the image of the heavenly; if he be immortal, so shall she be; and if he be at the right hand of the Father, so shall she be also highly exalted with him. Now, it is saying but very little when I add, that, therefore, whatever we have, belongs to him—oh! it is so little, so very little, but one wishes it were more. “O that Christ were not so glorious as he is”—I have sometimes thought. It was half a wicked wish, but I meant it well, that I might help to glorify him. O that he were still poor, that one might ask him to a feast! O that he were still in this world, that one could break the alabaster box of ointment and pour it on his head! But thou art so great, most blessed Master, that we can do nothing to increase thee! Thou art so high, we cannot exalt thee! Thou art so happy, that we cannot bless thee! Yet, what am I saying? It is all a mistake! He is here still. He calls every one of his people "Members Of his body;” and if you wish to enrich him, help the poor; if you want to feed him, feed the hungry. They that bind garments about the naked, put vestures upon the Lord himself. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” I hope we can sing without falsehood that Terse of Dr. Watts’s:—  

 

"And if I might make some reserve,

And duty did not call,

I love my God with zeal so great,

That I could give him all.”  

 

     7. A seventh observation, and then I shall refrain from dwelling longer on this point. The very crown of marriage is mutual delight and complacency. The wife of a Persian nobleman, having gone to a feast which was given by the great Darius, was asked by her husband whether she did not think that Darias was the finest man in the world. No, she said, she did not think so; she never saw any one in the world who was comparable to her husband. And doubtless that is just the opinion which a husband forms of his wife and a wife of her husband where the marriage is such as it should be. Now, certainly Christ sets a very high store upon us. I recollect turning over that passage in Solomon's Songs, looking at it and wondering how it could be true—believing it, and yet not being able to comprehend it—where Christ says, “Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee!” Oh, what eyes he must have! We say that love is blind; but that cannot be true in Christ's case, for he seeth all things. Why, this is how it is: he sees himself in us. He does not see us as we are, but in his infinite grace he sees us as we are to be, as Kent sings:—

 

“Not as she stood in Adam's fall,

When sin and ruin covered all;

But as she’ll stand another day,

Brighter than sun's meridian ray.”

 

The sculptor says he can see a bust in a block of marble, and that all he has to do is to chip away the extra marble, and let the bust appear. So Christ can see a perfect being in every one of us, if we are his people; and what he is about with us day by day is taking off the excrescences, making ns to be like himself. He can see us as we shall one day be before the throne of God in heaven, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. Ah! beloved, he sets great store by us. His delights are with the sons of men. He loves to hear our praise, and to listen to our prayer. The songs of his people are his sweet perfume, and communion with his people is like the beds of spices, the beds of lilies, where he feedeth. And as for us, who are his people, I am sure we can say that there is no delight which can equal communion with Christ. We have tried other delights—shame upon us!—we have tried some of them, but after having done so, we find that there is nothing like our Lord. “Vanity of vanity, all is vanity, saith the preacher;’ but when we come to Christ, we find no vanity there, but can say:— 

 

“Where can such sweetness be

As I have tasted in thy love,

As I have found in thee?” 

 

The Christian's heart is like Noah's dove: it flies over the wide waste, and cannot rest the sole of its foot until it comes back to Christ. He is the true Noah, who puts out his hand and takes in the weary, fluttering dove, and gives it rest. There is no peace the whole world over but with Christ.  

 

“There’s no such thing as pleasure here,

My Jesus is my all;

As thou dost shine or disappear,

My pleasures rise or fall.”  

 

     Thus much, then, by way, as it were, of skimming the surface of this delightful word, “I am married unto you.”

     II. Two or three sentences only upon the second point. How FAR DO YOU AND I EXPERIMENTALLY UNDERSTAND THIS?   

     I am afraid some of you think me half crazy to-night. You are saying, “Well, I do not comprehend this; whatever is the man talking about? God married to us! Christ married to us! I do not comprehend it!” God have mercy upon thee, my poor hearer, and bring thee to know it! But let me tell thee, if thou didst but know it, there is a secret here that would make thee a thousand times more happy than all the joys of the world can ever make thee. Thou remindest me of the cock in the fable, who found a diamond on the dunghill, and as he turned it over, he said, “I would rather have found a grain of barley.” That was according to his nature. And so with you. This precious pearl of union to God will seem to be nothing to you: a little worldly pleasure will be more to your taste. One could weep to think there should be such ignorance of true joy and true delight! Oh! blind eyes, that cannot see beauty in the Saviour! Oh! stone-cold hearts, that can see no loveliness in him! Jesus! they are besotted, they are mad, who cannot love thee! It is a strange infatuation of the sons of men to think that they can do without thee, that they can see any light apart from thee, thou Sun of Righteousness, or anything like beauty in all the gardens of the world apart from thee, thou Rose of Sharon, thou Lily of the Valley! 0 that they knew thee!

 

“A thousand sorrows pierce my soul,

To think that all are not thine own.”  

 

     Do I address any to-night, who, while they pretend to be religious people, hold loosely by their allegiance to the Lord? There are many such, and we occasionally meet with them here. They cannot appease their conscience without some show of profession, so they join with us as hearers and spectators in the solemn assembly; but they never unite with the church, because they have not devoutedly yielded up their hearts to Christ. Ask them the reason, and their answer sounds modest, and yet the reserve it implies is anything but chaste. Do you tell us that you are afraid you should not walk consistently? Would it not be more true to admit that your relationship with the world, your service of mammon, your ordinary pastimes, and your occasional revels, harmless as you try to persuade yourselves they are now, if viewed in the light of espousals to Christ, most be accounted a very shame? So far as the principles of Christianity are concerned, you endorse them with your private creed, and you are “Protestant” enough to prefer the most evangelical doctrines; but the reserve in your conduct is a clear index to a most fatal reserve in your character. You might admit God to be the supreme, but not the exclusive Lord of your heart. You would give the Lord's altar more honour than any other altar, but still you would not remove the high places which desecrate the land. Your opinion is that there is no god in all the earth but the God of Israel, yet your practice is to bow down in the house of Rimmon. You wish to have all the promises of God vouchsafed to you, but you decidedly object to make any vows in his sanctuary. It is to such as you that these delicate appeals are most distasteful, “Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you.” Nothing in your experience responds to this. You stand aloof as if you were aggrieved. I must warn you, therefore, that God can be your God only in these bonds of covenant union. But, Christian, I speak to you. Surely you know something about this, that God is married to you? If you do, can you not say with me, “Yes, and he has been a very faithful husband to me”? Now, there is no one of you who can demur to that! Thus far he has been very faithful to you, and what have you been to him? How kind and tender has he been; how faithful, how generous, how sympathising! In your every affliction he has been afflicted, and the angel of his presence has saved you. Just in your extremity he has come to your help. He has carried you through every difficulty, even until now. Oh! you can speak well of him, can you not? And as for his love, Christian, as for his love, what do you think of that? Is it not heaven on earth to you? Do you not reckon it to be— 

 

“Heaven above

To see his face, to taste his love”? 

 

Well, then, speak well of him, speak well of him! Make this world hear his praise! Ring that silver bell in the deaf ears of this generation! Make them know that your Beloved is the fairest of the fair, and compel them to enquire, “O thou fairest among women, what is thy Beloved more than another beloved?”

     As for you who do not know him, I should like to ask you this question, and do you answer it for yourselves. Do you want to be married to Christ? Do you wish to have him? Oh! then, there will be no difficulties in the way of the match. If thy heart goes after Christ, he will have thee. If, when thou gettest home to thy bedside, thou sayest to him, “Dear Saviour, here is my heart, take it, wash it, save me,” he will hear thee. Whoever thou mayst be, he will not refuse thee. Oh! he seeks thee, he seeks thee! And when thou seekest him, that is a sure sign that he has found thee. Though thou mayst not hare found him, yet he has found thee already. The wedding-ring ring is, ready. Faith is the golden ring which is the token of the marriage-bond bond. Trust the Saviour! Trust him! Have done with trusting to thy good works. Have done with depending upon thy merits. Take his works, his merits, and rest alone upon him, for now doth he say unto thee, “I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the Lord.” So may he do unto every one of you, and may Christ's name be glorified for ever. Amen. 



A Troubled Prayer

By / Jun 22

A Troubled Prayer

 

“Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins.” — Psalm 25:18.

 

IF this Psalm were indeed written by David at the time when his son Absalom had raised the rebellion against him, we can readily understand the distinction which he draws between his 44 affliction” and his “pain.” It is a great “affliction” to have a son become a rebel, and that subjects who owed so much to their monarch should become traitors against his gentle government. “Pain” was the acute sensation which David’s own heart experienced as the result of such calamity. He knew

“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is
To have a thankless child.”

None of us can guess the “pain” which David must have felt from the “affliction” of having such a son as Absalom; and the “pain” of mind, again, which he felt in being betrayed by his familiar counsellor, Athithophel, and in being forsaken by his subjects who in former days had honoured him and rejoiced in him. He asked the Lord, therefore, to look, not only upon the trouble, but also upon the misery which the trouble caused him. “If needs be,” says the apostle, “we are in heaviness through manifold temptations” — as if not only the temptations were to be observed, but also the heaviness consequent thereon. So here, we may bring before God’s notice, not only our trial, but the inward anguish which the trial occasions us.

     I can understand, also, why David should add, “And forgive all my sins,” because he knew that the revolt of Absalom was mysteriously connected with the divine purpose as a chastisement, for his sin with Bathsheba. He recollected how Nathan had told him that he should have war all the days of his life, and now he remembered it all; the bitterness of gall sickened his soul as he revoked that sin which had once been so sweet to his taste. He went back to the fatal day, and the tears stood in his eyes as he thought of all the filthiness and guiltiness of his conduct — what a traitor he had been to Uriah — how he had dishonored the name of God in the midst of the whole land. Well might he have said, “Lord, when thou lookest upon this well-deserved affliction, and when thou seest the pain with which it wrings my soul, then, though it will bring my sin to thy mind as it does to my mind,

yet let forgiveness blot it out; yea, not for that sin only, but for all others that have preceded or followed it, grant me a gracious pardon — forgive

     I. It is, well for us, dear my friends, WHEN OUR PRAYERS ABOUT OUR SORROWS ARE LINKED WITH PRAYERS ABOUT OUR SINS — WHEN, BEING UNDER GODS HAND, OUR SOUL IS NOT WHOLLY TAKEN UP WITH OUR PAIN, BUT WE ALSO REMEMBER OUR OFFENCES AGAINST GOD.

     I do not think it would have been worth one’s while to have preached from the text if it had only said, “Remember my affliction and my pain,” but when it is “Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins,” the two things put together are very instructive; let us seek to get some edifying counsel from them. Our sorrows are profitable when they bring our sins to our minds. Some sorrows may do this by giving us time for thought. A sick-bed has often been a place of repentance. While the man was occupied with his daily work, and the active labour of his hands, or could be from morning till night at business, sin escaped his notice; he was too busy to care about his soul; he had too much to do with earth to remember heaven. But now he cannot think of business, or if he does, he can get no profit or satisfaction from all his thoughts; now he cannot go to his work, but must lie upon his bed until his health be recovered; and oftentimes the quiet of the night, or the stillness of the day which once was given up to the toil and moil of drudgery, has been blessed of God to work a solemn stillness in the soul in which the voice of God has been heard, saying, “Turn unto me! turn unto me 1 why wilt thou die?” Some of you do not often hear God’s voice. You are in the midst of the clitter-clatter of this great city, and the roar and din of it are so perpetually ringing in your ears, that the still small voice of your heavenly Father you do not hear, and it may, perhaps, be a great mercy to you if, in your own house, or in the ward of an hospital, you may be compelled to hear him say, “Turn unto me I turn unto me! for I will have mercy upon thee!”

     Other afflictions remind us of our sins because they are the direct result of transgression. The profligate man, if God should bless those scourges of the body which have even sprung from his own vices, may find the disease to be a cure for the misdemeanours which produced it We ought to thank God that he will not let us sin without chastisement. If any of you are sinning, and find pleasure without penalty in the self-indulgence, do not congratulate yourself upon the apparent immunity with which you violate the laws of virtue, for that is the badge of the reprobate. To sin and never smart, is the mark of those who will be damned; their smart, like their doom, being in reserve and stored up for sorer Judgment. But if any man among you here is now smarting for the sin he has committed. I will not say, let him be hopeful, but I will say, let him be thankful; let him remember that evidently God has not quite given him up — he has touched him with the rod, but he has not thrown the reins upon his neck; he has put a curb in his mouth, and he is pulling him up sharply. God grant that it may be blessed to turn him from his wild career. The extravagant man who has spent his money, and finds himself in rags, ought to look upon his sins through his rags: his present poverty may well remind him of hi B previous prodigality. The man who has lost a friend, through ingratitude, and now needs a friend but cannot find one, may thank himself for it, and be reminded of his baseness by his bankruptcy. There are many other sins, though we have not time to mention them, which are evidently the fathers of sorrow; and when you get the sorrowful offspring, you should think of the guilty parentage – and if you would be rid of the child, go to God and ask him to deliver you from the sin, and divorce you from the transgression that produced it.

     Other sorrows likewise remind us of our sins because they bear their likeness. It has been well remarked that oftentimes when God would punish us, he just leaves us to eat the fruit of our own ways. He has nothing more to do than to let the seed which we have sown ripen, and then allow us to eat of it. How often in reading the Holy Scriptures may you observe the quality of men’s sins in the nature of their punishment! Jacob deceived his father, and what then? Why, he was always being deceived all his life long. He was a great bargain-maker, so everybody cheated him, of course. He would use his wily artifice. As he would be clever and supplant, he had to become a dupe and be supplanted; that was the misery of his life, because it was the besetting sin of his character. Now, when a man loses money, loses it continually, notwithstanding all the skill and efforts he can employ, I would have him ask himself whether there may not have been some sin in connexion with his money which has brought the punishment on him. He may have loved it too much; he may have obtained it in an ill way; he may not have used it when he had it in a proper spirit; it may have been dangerous for it to remain with him lest it should have corroded his heart by its own cankering. The losses a man suffers in business, I doubt not in many cases, and I am sure of it in some cases, ought to make him look earnestly at the way in which they came upon him. When we have heard of some who have gained wealth by one speculation, and have lost it again by another speculation, I think it ought to be made the subject of enquire with them how far their dealings were lawful, if indeed it were lawful for them to have entered upon such traffic in any way or shape; and whether God may not have had a controversy with them in their counting-house. Is this an obligation with money? Surely it often is so with the rearing of your family. If your affliction should come through your children turning out ill in life, or think through it what so is a far lighter affliction — though perhaps you may not — through your children dying in infancy, you may say to yourselves, “How have I behaved towards those children?” Is my child wilful and disobedient? Then how about the training and the management that I have observed? Is my child perverse, vicious, gay, worldly? How about my example as it was seen at the family hearth? May not my boy’s sins be only a reproduction of my own? — the fledglings that I have hatched, roost in my family, disturb my peace, and bring me sorrow. May not my daughter’s stubbornness of heart be only my own obduracy that breaks out in the girl? Might I not hear the voice of God saying to me, “See how you treated me, and is it not meet yon should eat the fruit of your own ways? You are a father, and how do you like to be thus treated — to be slighted in your discipline, and your affections set at nought?” So I might continue ,passing from our households to our respective positions in society. We sometimes find ourselves unable to maintain our station. With chagrin and mortification we have to take a lower place, and may we not then ask, Did we acquit ourselves before God in all that we might have done in our former standing? Did the rank we held elevate us, and puff us up with vanity? At any rate, we may bring ourselves to great searchings of heart. When sorrow takes any particular shape, it suggests its own particular questions. The problem must be studied to get at the solution. With regard to sickness, I am not certain whether the chastening hand of God for sin ought not to be more immediately recognised than is now for the most part common among us. In one sense, God never punishes his people for sin. There is nothing vindictive in the rod he uses, and nothing expiatory in the sufferings they endure; for God’s redeemed people were punished in Christ, and it cannot be therefore that the penalty of the law is exacted of them a second time. Yet there is a sense in which the church of God under paternal discipline, is continually exercised with chastisment. Do you remember the apostle’s words about the Corinthian church? They had fallen into a very lax method of receiving the Lord’s Suppers they brought every one his own bread and wine, some of them were frill, and others were hungry; beside which, other breaches of church order were rife among them; and the apostle says, “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.” Hence I gather that sickness at any rate in the early church was wont to be sent by God upon the members for ecclesiastical offences. I am not sure whether in like manner sacred corrections, though in a way not so easily discoverable, may not still be in exercise among the members of the Christian church. I see that in ordinary providence, God visits men; and as there is a special providence for his people, surely there is nothing harsh or unwarrantable in attributing a strong flood of adversity, as well as a refreshing stream of prosperity, to the hand of the Lord! When a Christian, therefore, finds himself chastened in his body, he should go to God with this question, “Show me wherefore thou contendest with me? Why dost thou lay thy rod upon me, my Father? Thou dost not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men. It is not from the heart, as though thou hadst ceased to love; it must be from thy unerring judgment whereby in measure thou dost rebuke; tell me, therefore, my Father, what is the cause? If thou seest a need-be, tell me what that need-be is.

“The dearest idol I have known,
Whate’er that idol be,
Help me to tear it from thy throne,
And worship only thee.’”

Our sins, then, may sometimes be discovered by the very image of our Borrows.

     What a great blessing it is to us when our sorrows remind us of our sins by driving us out of an atmosphere of worldliness! There is our nest, and a very pretty, round, snug nest it is; and we have been very busy picking up all the softest feathers that we could find, and all the night prettiest bits of moss that earth could yield, and we have been engaged night and day making that nest soft and warm. There we intended to remain. We meant for ourselves a long indulgence, sheltered from inclement winds, never to put our feet among the cold dewdrops, nor to weary our pinions by mounting up into the clouds. But suddenly a thorn came into our breast; we tried to remove it, but the more we struggled the more it chafed, and the more deeply the thorn fixed itself into us. Then we just began to spread our wings, and as we mounted it would seem as though the atmosphere had changed, and our souls had changed too with the mounting, and we began to sing the old forgotten song — which in the nest we never should have sung — the song of those who mount from earth and have communion with the skies. Yes, When God is pleased to take away our health, our comfort, our children, our friends, it very frequently happens that then we think of him. We turn from the creature with disgust; we leave the broken cisterns because they hold no water, and begin to look out for the overflowing fountain; and so our sorrows, driving us to God, make us, in the light of his countenance, to behold and to grieve over our sins. This is a great blessing to us.

     Sometimes, again, our sorrows remind us of our ingratitude. You are unwell: now you recollect how ungrateful you were for your health. You are poor: “Ah!” you think to yourselves, “I used to grumble once over a good meal that I should be glad to have now.” “Ah!” say you, “those garments that I used to think so shabby, how much I should prize their warmth now!” It is said that we never know the value of mercies till we lose them. It is a great shame that such a proverb should be true. We ought to be grateful to God without needing the bitter teaching of adversity. Our sorrow thus administers a rebuke, and kindles in us a remembrance of the goodness that we had never welcomed with our praise till the shadows fell upon us, and the night hid it from our view. No crime among men is accounted more base than ingratitude, but few sins we less bewail before God. Bunyan has well said, that he who forgets his friend is ungrateful to him, but he that forgets his Saviour is unmerciful to himself. And I remember some other author who says, that we are never surprised at the sunrise of our joys, as we always are at their sunset; on the contrary, when storms of sorrow burst upon us we are sore amazed, but when they pass away we take it as a matter of course. You all know how sad a blemish it was upon the character of Hezekiah that he rendered not again unto the Lord according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up. The provocation of a thankless heart to a merciful God is no light matter. AB the guilt is heavy, let our repentance be sincere.

     Sometimes, again, Borrow reminds us of the sin of want of sympathy with those in like sorrow. “Ah!” says one, “I used to laugh at Mrs. So-and-So for being nervous; now that I feel the torture myself, I am sorry that I was ever hard upon her.” “Ah!” says another, “I used to think of such-and-such a person that he must be a fool to be always in so gloomy a state of mind; but now I cannot help sinking into the same desponding frames, and oh! I would to God that I had been more kind to him!” Yes, we should feel more for the prisoner if we knew more about the prison ; we should feel more for the poor if we understood more of the pangs of want. Our Borrows may often help to remind us of our harshness towards some of the best of God’s afflicted ones.

     And I think also that affliction may be sent to admonish us of our neglect of divine teaching. “Why that rod?” “Why that whip and that bridle?” Because I have been like the horse and the mule, which have no understanding. Had I listened to the voice of God that I heard from the pulpit; or had I hearkened to the counsels given to me in the pages of Scripture; or if I had even noticed the dictates of my own conscience; yea, had I been more jealous of the motions of the Holy Spirit in my soul, I might never have entailed all this trouble upon me. You know the old fable we used to read in our school books about the boy in the apple-tree, who would not come down when the good man with soft words admonished him. Then the man took to throwing turfs at him, but still he would not heed, and at length the man betook himself to stones, and compelled him to come down. Oh! when God betakes himself to stones, and we get cut with them, we might well say to ourselves, “Ah! light afflictions, ye would not do: we laughed at the kind words; and even the turfs, which struck our conscience without wounding our flesh, would not do, and now he has come to blows with us. God is always loath to use the rod. He is an unwise father who never chastens, but a much worse father he who chastens for nothing. God will chasten his people, but it takes him a long time to bring himself to use the rod. He does not wish to smite his children; he delights in their happiness, and not in their sorrow; and when at last he does come to it, it is — if I may use such an expression in reference to him — because our ill manners force him to it. O Christian, in these thy sorrows, be thou humble before the Lord thy God; but still use Job’s enquiry, “Show me wherefore thou contendest with me?”

     I wish that some here, who have not the fear of God before their eyes, would look at it in this light. If you are inclined to pray about your troubles, do take your sins into consideration too. If you do feel that you must go to God under the particular trial which is vexing you at present, do go to him about your besetting sins as well. Make the two into one bundle, and go to him, and say, “Look upon my affliction and my pain, and forgive all my sins.” This, then, is our first remark. It is fit that our sorrows should bring our sins to remembrance.

     II. Secondly, IT IS WELL WHEN WE ARE AS EARNEST ABOUT OUR SINS AS WE ARE ABOUT OUR SORROWS.

     This is the mark of a genuine penitent. I think you will have noticed in the late “Report ” of the chaplain of Newgate, the remark that many of the prisoners will pretend very great repentance when the chaplain is talking to them about spiritual things; but the chaplain can very readily discover those who are not truly penitent, by their constantly trying to bring him round to tell them something about their punishment; before the trial they frequently ask for information as to what term of imprisonment — how many months or years — they are likely to get. Then, when they are undergoing punishment, they frequently try to get some trifling favour through the means of the chaplain, showing that they think more of the punishment than of the theft; like the unhappy wretch in the condemned cell, who often repents of the gallows that is to end his career, but does not repent of the murder that cut short his victim’s life. There are many such. So, if I go to God and only ask to have my sorrows taken off from me, what is that? I am no true penitent; I am like the child who cries bitterly because he smarts, but when the smart is over, he goes back to the offence again. If we were true children of God, and had a truly repentant spirit, we should feel the rod to be less than nothing compared with the sin. We should say, “Lord, strike me; if thou hast but forgiven me I can bear the strokes; strike, Lord, strike as hard as thou wilt, for my sin is forgiven.” A good child will say, “My father, thou hast forgiven me the offence; ah! well, if I must be chastened, I will cheerfully bear it, for my sorrow is, not that I smart, but that my sin should have caused thee to be angry, and to make me smart.’ This, then, is the mark of a genuine penitent, that he is as earnest about his sins as he is about his sorrows. Your trials have never wrought in you what they were meant for until it is so. God sends thy trial to make thee see thyself — thy weakness, thy folly, thy sinfulness, thy distance from him; and when those sins, those sweet sins of thine, become bitter, when thy soul nauseates and loathes them — then, probably, thine affliction will be taken from thee; but if thou still yieldest to thy sins with thy left hand, and wouldst fain lay hold of God’s mercy with thy right, there is need that the rod be laid on thy back again, and again, and again, for thou hast not yet feared the rod nor him that hath appointed it. Let any of you who are in trouble here, mend your prayer to-night. If you have been saying, “Lord, take away the sickness from my dear child,” you should say, “Lord if it be thy will, heal my child, but forgive my sin.” Or, if any of you are very poor to-night, or, if you are not well, and you have a sense of sin, I pray you, I adjure you, as you kneel by your bedside which I trust you all will — while you ask God to restore your health, or to remove your poverty, do be quite as earnest about the forgiveness of your sins, or else it will betoken two things: that you are not a genuine penitent, and that, therefore, the affliction has not wrought in you its great design.

     III. But, thirdly, IT IS WELL TO TAKE BOTH SORROW AND SIN TO THE SAME PLACE.

    It was to God that David took his sorrow: it was to God that David took his sin. Observe, then, we must take our sorrows to God. Ah! my dear sister over yonder, where do you take your sorrows? Why, to your next-door neighbour, to Mrs. This and Mrs. That! We are very, very fond of pouring out our tale of woe into the ear of some earthly friend. That may be a slight relief if discreetly done, but I think the verses of the hymn is not wrong which says —

“Have you no words ? Ah! think again;
Words flow apace when you complain,
And fill your fellow-creature’s ear
With the sad tale of all your care.
Were half the breath thus vainly spent
To heaven in supplication sent,
Our cheerful song would oftener be
‘Hear what the Lord hath done for me.’”

Some children run and tell mother, or tell father; do yon the Barnet Go and tell your Father; you can tell your brethren afterwards if you will, but you had better let your Father know first. I think we should often hesitate to mention our troubles lest we should depress our fellow creatures. I am sure we should hesitate to mention them to men, if we made it a rule first to bring them before our God. Tour little sorrows you may take to God, for he counteth the hairs of your head: your great sorrows you may take to God, for he holdeth the world in the hollow of his hand. Go to him, whatever your present trouble may be, and you shall find him able and willing to relieve you.

     But we must take our sins to God too. Possibly this is a more difficult point. The sinner thinks that he must fight this battle for himself, wrestle with his own evil temper himself, and he himself must enter into conflict with his lusts and his besetting sins; but when he comes into the fight, he soon meets with a defeat, and then he is ready to give it all up. Take your sins to God, my brethren. Take them to the cross that the blood may fall upon them, to purge away their guilt, and to take away their power. Your sins must all be slain. There is Saviour only one place where they can be slaughtered — the altar where your Saviour died. If you would flog your sins, flog them with the whip that tore your Saviour’s shoulder. If you would nail your sins fast, drive the same nails through them which fastened your Lord to the cross; I mean, let your faith in the great Surety, and your love to him who suffered so much for you, be the power with which you do conflict with evil It is said of the saints in heaven, “They overcame through the blood of the Lamb.” That is how you must overcome. Go to Jesus with your sins; no one else can help you; you are powerless without him. You may confess all your sins to him, with a view of leaving them all with him. He receiveth sinners, he receiveth their sins too when they are brought to him in penitence; for God has made to meet upon him the iniquity of all his people, and you may take your sins and leave them in the hands of Jesus, who will counter-plead them with his merits, and put them away in his mercy, so shall you come away rejoicing.

     And, as we have remarked that we are not to take up the battle with our sorrows alone, nor with our sins alone, we may further say that the most sorrowful and the most sinful are welcome to the Lord Jesus. The most sorrowful may come; I mean those in despair, those who are at their wits’ ends, those poor souls who, through superabundant difficulty are ready to do the most unreasonable things — ready, it may even be, to give way to that wicked, Satanic temptation of rushing from this present life into a world unknown by their own hand. Go, sorrowful one, go now to Jesus, whose tender heart will feel for you. Has your friend forsaken you? Have your lover and your acquaintance become your enemies? Seek no human sympathy just now, but first and foremost, in a flood of tears, reveal your case to the great invisible helper. Kneel down and tell him all that racks your spirit and fills your tortured mind, and plead the promise that he will be with you, and you shall find him true though all else be false. And, as the most sorrowful, so the most sinful are welcome to Christ — the sinful certainly, but the most sinful especially. If your sin has become so outrageous that it were wrong for me to mention it here; if it has become so tremendous in its power, that, like the chain and ball at the convict’s foot, you cannot escape from it, yet still come with all your sins to Jesus. Thou blackest sinner out of hell; thou who art nearest to the gates of perdition; thou who hast had fellowship with devils till thou hast become almost a devil thyself; thou who hast lain steeped in the scarlet of sin till it has ingrained and entered into the very warp and woof of thy being ; thou who art all over black within and without, go thou to the Saviour, and take these words in thy mouth: — “Look upon my affliction and my pain, and forgive all my sins.” And suppose the two conditions should have met in your heart, that you are at once the most sorrowful and the most sinful, still go, for the gates of mercy are very wide. When Christ opened the holy of holies, he did not make a little slit therein, but the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, so that the hugest sinner that ever lived might come through it to the blood-besprinkled mercy-seat. Oh, the amazing mercy of God! “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are his ways above our ways, and his thoughts above our thoughts.” Sin is, after all, a thing of the creature, but mercy is an attribute of the Creator, and the Creator’s attribute swallows up the creature’s fault. Thus saith the Lord, “I will take away their iniquities and cast them into the depths of the sea.” The most sorrowful and the most sinful may go.

     And let us add that God can with equal ease remove our sorrows And our sins. It is wonderful how difficulties fly when Omnipotence encounters them! The sick man who has been given up by the physician has often recovered; and it has been, perhaps, his mercy that the physician gave him up, for where man has come to an ending, God has come to a beginning. The old proverb saith that, “Man's extremity is God’s opportunity,” and most certainly that is true. God has but to will it and fevers fly, and diseases disappear. As the soldier goes at the captain’s bidding, so doth God say to Death, “Go,” and he goeth, or “Come,” and he cometh. Thus is it in our circumstances How very often a day which opened as black as gathering clouds could make it, has ended with a bright sunset! How frequently the beggar has found himself lifted up from the dunghill, and made to sit among princes! I should not wonder but what some of you, in looking back, and remembering the circumstances you are now in, are quite surprised to find yourselves where you are. This very morning I was talking with a gentleman who said to me, “I cannot bear waste in my household, and one reason is this: if ever there was a poor wretch who could live on hard fare once, and envy the very dogs a piece of bread, I am just that one; but God has been pleased to prosper me, and I often look back upon that season of poverty and of want, and thank him for having helped me through it.” Well, you see, dear friends, that God can turn the wheel, and make the bottom spoke to be the uppermost one, and he can do it all in a few days. Come, then, though sin and sorrow rest like a double burden upon our body and soul, let us go to him and say, “Look upon mine affliction, and my pain, and forgive all my sins.”

     IV. Perhaps our last observation is more strictly to the text than anything else. It is that WE ARE TO GO TO GOD WITH SORROWS AND WITH SINS IN THE RIGHT SPIRIT.

     You notice that all that David asks about his sorrow is, “Look upon mine afflictions and my pain but the next petition is more express, definite, decided, plain— “Forgive all my sins.” Some people would have put it, “Remove my affliction and my pain, and look at my sins.” But David does not say so; he says, “Lord, as for my affliction and my pain, I do not say much about that — Lord look at it; I will leave that to thee; I should be glad to have it removed; do as thou wilt; look at it; consider it; but as for my sins, Lord, I know what I want there. I must have them forgiven; I cannot bear them.” A Christian counts Sorrow lighter in the scale than sin; he can bear that his troubles, should continue, but he cannot endure the burden of his guilt, or the weight of his transgressions. Here are two guests come to my door, both of them ask to have a lodging with me. The one is called Affliction; he has a very grave voice, and a very heavy hand, and he looks at me with fierce eyes. The other is called Sin, and he is very soft-spoken, and very fair, and his words are softer than butter. Let me scan their faces, let me examine them as to their character, I must not be deceived by appearances. I will ask my two friends who would lodge with me, to open their hands. When my friend Affliction, with some little difficulty, opens his hand, I find that, rough as it is, he carries a jewel inside it, and that he meant to leave that jewel at my house. But as for my soft-spoken friend Sin, when I force him to show me what that is which he hides in his sleeve, I find that it is a dagger with which he would have stabbed me. What shall I do, then, if I am wise? Why, I should be very glad if they would both be good enough to go and stop somewhere else, but if I must entertain one of the two, I would shut my door in the face of smooth-spoken Sin, and say to the rougher and uglier visitor, Affliction, “Come and stop with me, for may be God has sent you as a messenger of mercy to my soul.” “Look upon mine affliction and my pain, and forgive all my sin.” We must be more express and explicit about sin than we are about trouble. Take the two expressions together, use them, and whether you blend or contrast them, either or both will prove to be full of instruction.

     Before I close my sermon and dismiss this assembly, it maybe necessary to notice some among you who have no affliction or pain. In too many instances I am afraid you have sin, so the latter part of the text will well suit your case. But oh! and if you have not any affliction or pain, nor yet any cause of fear because your sins are forgiven, let me then suggest to you that you should be exceedingly happy. Your cup should overflow with joy. I do not think, brethren, that you and I rejoice enough. When engaged this morning, seeing enquirers coming in one after another, I thought within myself, “I have known the time, when I first began to preach the gospel, t' at one soul God had given me as a fruit of my ministry, made me so happy that I was ready to leap out of the body. Truly it is a happy thing to be the means of bringing one soul to Christ.” The poet says that —

“A thing of beauty is a joy for ever.”

But a thing of grace is much more truly so, for the things of beauty here on earth may be consumed, but a work of grace is everlasting. To be the means of saving one soul ought to set a silver bell ringing in your hearts that will never leave off. You will say, “I am very poor, and very sick, but I have not lived for nothing, there will be one gem in the Redeemer’s crown that came there through my instrumentality; there will be one voice in the orchestra of the skies, which, humanly speaking, would not have been there if the Lord had not enabled me by his grace to be the means of bringing that soul to Christ.” This ought to make us joyful. But then I thought, here have I been seeing thirty to-day, and most of them owed their conversion to the preaching of the gospel here, and I have seen, perhaps, in my little lifetime, several thousands of souls, and know of many others whom I never saw, who have been brought to Christ through our instrumentality. What! and down-hearted, and sometimes wretched, and distracted with care after this? I thought to myself, what a fool I am! And I suspect that if you and I, or any of us, were to consider the goodness of God to us, the fact that our names are written in heaven, that Christ is ours, that heaven is ours, that we are the children of God, and that we are justified by faith — we should say, “Why, what am I at to be moaning and groaning about these light afflictions, which are but for a moment, and which will work out for me a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory? Come, my soul, take down the harp, and let thy fingers roam among its strings. Say with old Herbert —

“My God, my God,
My music should find thee
And everything shall have its attribute to sing.”

So, if we cannot go to God, asking him to look on our affliction, let us ask him to look upon our joy, and to help us to increase it, and to grow in it, and then to keep us from sin in the future, and to lead us in the paths of duty and of blessed service, to the honour of his name and the comfort of our own souls.

     May the Lord give you, in parting, his own blessing.