A Happy Christian

By / Jun 22

A Happy Christian

 

“And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones; and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.”  —Isaiah 58:11.

 

IT is very important that our preaching should sometimes give descriptions of Christians in an unhealthy and sickly state. So many are in this condition that, when we describe their symptoms, they may discover themselves, and by divine grace be led to desire escape from it. The proper remedies being pointed out, and the Christian being earnestly exhorted to the use of them, I am quite sure that such a ministry as describes the unhealthy state of the Christian’s experience, will be found useful. But I have sometimes thought — and I think you will, some of you, have noticed the same thing — that such preaching as continually dwells upon inward corruption and the innate baseness of the heart, is very apt to lead men to think that it must always be so with them. The prevalence of unbelief, depression of spirit, backsliding, and indifference to heavenly things becomes chronic, and they grow so familiar with reflecting upon it that they regard it as a state in which a Christian man may be well content. Now, when men come to think so, such ministry has done them a serious injury. When they flatter themselves that they outstrip their fellows in the humiliating experience of their own sinful passions, grow proud of those things which should cause them shame, and affect to look down upon others who talk of holy joys and gracious liberties as mere recruits in the army of which they are the veterans, then I say that the ministry has been poison to them, and the descriptions of carnal and devilish lusts they have listened to have fostered a wretched imagination. Instead of urging them to fight against sin, the sermons they have heard have only been rocking the cradle of their sloth, sewing pillows to their armholes, and saying to them, in some degree, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. It is not so popular a thing to do, but it is better in its influence, frequently to hold up before the eye of the Christian the portrait of a believer in a healthy state; to let all who belong to the church understand that it is not necessary that we should be weak in faith, or that our hands should hang down, and our bones be feeble. There is a holier , happier, and more exalted state of triumphant faith, of sweet communion, and of hallowed earnestness; and such a state is attainable, nay, it ought to be attained by all Christians, and when attained it ought to be their constant ambition never to backslide from it; having once been placed upon the high mountain by a divine hand, they should ever pray to be kept there, to the praise and glory of the grace of God.

     We cherish a hope this evening, that by means of this text, we may be able to give an humble portrait of what the Christian is in his happiest times, when the candle of the Lord shines round about him, when the visitations of the Holy Spirit refresh him, and when he rejoices in God with all his heart.

     Will you please observe in what connection this sunny sketch of prosperity occurs. It is set in a frame that excites the strong prejudice of some professing Christians. The setting is a framework of duties. You will perceive that the blessings are not promised to every Christian unconditionally, but it is fenced in with terms: “If thou doest this, and if thou doest that, then shall such-and-such blessings be thine.” We are told that the heart is to be drawn from evil, that the soul is to be purged from the love of oppression, ostentation, and hypocrisy. There is to be a true and holy fast kept before the Lord, the soul being humbled and brought down to seek the Lord according to the spirit of righteousness, and not merely after the letter of the ordinances: then, and not till then, shall the blessings here promised be enjoyed. Though salvation is of grace, the happiness of the Christian does depend upon his obedience. Our ultimate safety is of sovereign grace. No man shall exceed me in the plain declaration that in this respect works of any sort cannot touch our salvation; we are saved upon another footing than that of our personal graces. But it is quite as plainly the teaching of Holy Scripture that answers to prayer, the enjoyment of the presence of God, and a healthy state of spirit, are very much dependent upon our cautious walking and our holy obedience to the divine will. There is an “if ” here, and should any of us shall neglect and despise it, and fancy that we can still have our souls like “watered gardens,” it will not be long before we shall find out our mistake.

     Supposing, however, dear friends, that by divine grace we have been brought into communion with God ; having been clothed in the sackcloth of true penitence before him, and girded with the garments of salvation, it has been our desire, as in God’s sight, to walk as becometh the saints; supposing, I say, we have been enabled by grace — and it cannot be otherwise — to keep ourselves “ unspotted from the world,” then that same spirit who has sanctified us will, I am sure, fulfil to us the promises of the text.

     I must, therefore, address myself to those who are living in the faith, and are walking conformably to their profession, while I depict their happy state. Five distinct features of their felicity are mentioned. They are described as enjoying perpetual guidance, inward satisfaction, spiritual health, flourishing fruitfulness, and unfailing freshness of supply.

     I. These people who are thus full of G-od’s Spirit, are described as possessing CONTINUAL GUIDANCE.

     “The Lord shall guide thee continually.” There come to them, as to other men, dilemmas in providence. Walking along the road of life you may suddenly reach a turning: two roads meet. Which is the way? Is it to the right hand or to the left? Possibly both may appear to be equally right. You ask friends or neighbours; they will readily enough mislead you with the best intentions. You consult your own heart, and if you follow its counsels, you will discover yourself to be a fool. But, if your heart be true, and God’s grace be flourishing in your soul, you will not be long held in the dilemma. You will take the case before God. You will say as David did, “Bring hither the ephod,” and your Urim and your Thummim shall be with the Holy One, and you shall hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way, walk ye in it.” It may be providence will block up one of the two roads, and point to the other; or else, your judgment being further enlightened, you shall see that the one is right and the other Wrong; or, peradventure, some stress shall be put upon your soul, so that, though you hardly know why, you will feel that you must choose the right and leave the wrong. There are no dilemmas out of which you shall not be delivered if you live near to God, and your heart be kept warm with holy love. He goes not amiss who goes in the company of God. Like Enoch do you walk with God, and you cannot mistake your road.

     The path of doctrine, also, is sometimes difficult. He who understands divine truth will, I am sure, be led to confess that he does not know everything. It is only the man who knows nothing about truth that thinks he can twist the doctrines round his finger, and in a moment tell what is orthodox and what is heterodox. The true disciple of Jesus Christ often approaches a statement of the revealed word with awe and reverence, desiring to ascertain what is the mind of God about it. A truth often so nearly verges upon an error that the path is as narrow as a razor’s edge, and only the Spirit of God can lead a man there. There is a path which the eagle’s eye hath not seen, the penetration of intellect cannot discover it; the lion’s whelp has not trodden it — all the force of a man’s mind has not been able to lead him into it; but if we wait upon God, he will show us the way. I believe that a spiritual mind is an orthodox mind. There is not much fear of our embracing any serious errors in the head when the heart is not in error, for there it is that heresies are born and bred, in that witches’ caldron of our heart. Let the heart be constantly kept at the foot of the cross, and let the Holy Spirit bedew it with his sacred influence, and though we may for a little time, through our want of mental capacity, fail to understand the truth, it will not be for long. The Holy Ghost will lead us into all truth, and thus the text shall be fulfilled, “The Lord shall guide thee continually,” whether as relating to matters of providence or to matters of doctrinal instruction.

     So shall it be likewise in matters of spiritual experience. Our experience often seems to be as though it had no rule. There is method in some men’s madness, but it does appear as if there were no method in our experience. To-day we are on the mountain, blessed of God with full assurance: to-morrow we are in the glens beneath the dark shadow, wondering why, and asking if God hath forgotten to be gracious. As when a child on a slate draws zigzag lines everywhere, but straight lines nowhere, so has it seemed with our life — as if we were farther back now than when we started. Our path has been like that of Israel in the wilderness, when the Lord led them about, but yet it is added that he guided them and instructed them. Brethren, if we are enabled by grace to seek close and vital union with Christ, and to live upon him daily and continually, we may rest assured that whether our experience be gloomy or delightful, and whether our inward conflicts or joys be paramount, he will still be at the helm, and will guide us continually.

     As I turned over this sentence I could not help feeling that it was like a wafer made of honey! It is all honey! “The Lord shall guide thee.” Not an angel, but JEHOVAH shall guide thee. He said, he would not go through the wilderness before his people, an angel should go before them to lead them in the way; but Moses said, “If thy presence go not with us, carry us not up hence.” Christian, God has not left you in your earthly pilgrimage to an angel’s guidance: he himself will lead the van. You may not see the cloudy, fiery pillar, but Jehovah shall never forsake you. Jehovah shall guide you continually. Notice the word shall “The Lord shall guide thee.” How certain this makes it! How sure it is that God will not forsake us! His precious “shalls” and “wills” are better than men’s oaths. “I will never leave nor forsake thee.” In one place he puts in five negatives, “I will not leave thee; I will never, never, never, forsake thee.”

“The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul , though all hell should endeavour to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”

Then observe that adverb “continually.” We are not to be guided only sometimes, but we are to have a perpetual monitor; not occasionally to be left to our own understanding, and so to wander, but we are continually to hear the guiding voice of the Great Shepherd; and as we follow close at his heels we shall not err, but be led by a right way to a city to dwell in. You have been, perhaps, in a maze, and you know how difficult it is to find your way to the centre. But sometimes there is one perched aloft who sees the whole of the maze spread out before him like a map, and he calls out to you to turn either to the right or to the left, and if you attend to his directions you soon find the way. Even so the maze of life is only a maze to us, but God can see it all. He who ruleth over all, looks down upon it as men look down upon a map; and if we will but look to him, and if our communion be constantly kept up we shall never err, but we shall come to the goal of our hopes right speedily by following his voice.

     Now, brethren, were this the whole of my sermon, and were I now to send you away, methinks you have heard enough, if your faith can only grasp it. Never be afraid, my dear friend, if you have to change your position in life; if you have to emigrate to distant shores; if it should happen that you are cast into poverty, or uplifted suddenly into a more responsible position man the one you now occupy; if you are thrown among strangers, or cast among foes, yet tremble not, for “the Lord shall guide thee continually.” This is more than the statesman can say with all his craftiness. This is more than all the cunning men can say who use their wits to plunder their fellows. This is more than the wisest man can say who trusts in his own judgment. You have infallible wisdom to direct you, immutable love to comfort you, and eternal power to defend you. “Jehovah”— mark the word — “Jehovah” shall guide thee continually.”

     II. The second blessing promised in the text is one which I trust we have enjoyed, and which some of us are enjoying even now— it is INWARD SATISFACTION.

     “And satisfy thy soul in drought.” It is a blessed thing to have the soul satisfied, for the soul is of great capacity. The whole world, some one has said, cannot fill a man’s eye, because a man’s eye can see so much; how much more, if it be the expression of his inward perception, is it true that the world cannot fill it. The soul is like the grave, it is never satisfied; it is like the horse-leech which ever crieth, “Give, give!” Lay your money-bags to your heart, and see if they will satisfy you; but your poor soul will say, “How can I be satisfied with this dull earth? What is there here to feed the soul with?” As well bring stones to a horse, as bring gold to a soul. There is nothing for a soul to feed upon in all the pomp of kings and pride of men: these are no food for the soul! As well feed eagles upon clods, as hope to feed immortal souls upon anything that is earth-born. The soul wants more than all this, but the Christian has got what his soul wants.

     He has, in the first place, a removal of all that which marred his peace, blighted his prospects, and made his soul empty and hungry. His sin is pardoned; he is reconciled to God; he is at peace with the Most High. The soul is never satisfied till it can place its head in the bosom of the Great Father of Spirits, and this the Christian can do. He is satisfied with God’s dispensations. He believes that the present will work for his good and the future too, even as the past has done. He is satisfied with God’s love. It is a rich feast to him to know that God loves him. It is an infinite joy to the Christian to believe that he is one with Christ, that he is accepted in and through Jesus, that he is a member of his body, and is united to him, part of his flesh and of his bones. It is a satisfaction to the Christian to know that the Holy Ghost dwells in him, and that his body is a temple for the indwelling of Deity. He is satisfied with promises that can never be broken, with covenants that can never be violated, with oaths that stand fast like mountains, and with the words of God which are great as the fathomless sea. He is satisfied with his God. The consequence of such a satisfaction as this is that the Christian is as well satisfied at one time as at another, if his soul be right. You see the text says that he shall be satisfied in times of drought. Louth, I believe, translates the word, “severest droughts.” The word seems to apply to places constantly subject to want of moisture, as well as seasons exceptionally dry; yet it is in the plural, the Hebrew plural being used to intensify as well as to multiply, so that it really reads thus: “In the worst times of distress the Christian is still satisfied.” There are some houses in London which would tumble down if you were to remove those on either side that help to support them, but there are other houses which are self contained; you might pull all the houses in the parish down if you liked, but it would not hurt them. Now, the most of men in this world are like houses in a row, they lean one upon another, they are kept up by carnal comforts; but the Chrisian is self-sustained, and does not lean upon any arm of flesh. You ask, “What about his money?” Well, he is rich in faith, and if all his property were gone he would still say, “I have not lost my God!” “But what about his family?” Well, he loves them, and if they were taken away he would weep as other men weep — no, he would weep, but not as other men would weep — I may correct myself — for he would say, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” He would still feel that he had not lost his Elder Brother, that he had not lost his heavenly Father, and that he was not an orphan in the world. “Well, but how about his health?” Well, he prizes that, but if pains of body distress him, and he should be stretched upon a sick bed, he has a little secret, which he cannot tell to you, but which he knows himself, and which enables him to be more healthy when he is sick than he is when he is in health, and to sing God’s praises more sweetly sometimes in a cage of ill health than he did when he was in the open field of vigour; for many of God’s birds sing best in cages, fly best when their wings are broken, get nearest to heaven when they are rolled right down to the earth, and discern most of God, and see most of him when they have lost the tokens of his love. You know we can see many things in the dark which we cannot see in the light; I question, indeed, whether we do not see even more in the dark than we do in the light; that is to say, we can see all those starry worlds, those unnumbered orbs floating in distant space — we can see them when the light is gone, but we cannot see them by day. So, when outward lights are taken away, the Christian often perceiveth more instead of less, through the inward light and the light of heaven which God is pleased to give him. Is it not a blessed thing, dear friends, to have a heavenly constitution, a satisfaction which does not depend upon outward circumstances? To be satisfied in times of plenty, why, any fool can be that! But to be satisfied in days of drought, this is the Christian’s privilege, for he can say, “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” When the farmer walks out amongst his cattle, and sees them all in good health, and promising a good return, a fine investment for his farming, it is very easy for him to say, “Bless the Lord!” but when the cattle-plague comes and empties all his stalls, and there are great heaps out in the field to show where the cattle are all buried, and there has been no compensation for them — how now, farmer? Can you now praise God, and be satisfied in times of drought? And you, friend, when you are in good full work, and wages are high, and the house is well-furnished, and the cupboard is full, it is very easy then for you to kneel down at family-prayer and thank God for his kindness; but how about it when the husband is sick, when the funds have got very low, and when the little children look at their father wondering where the next meal will come from — to be satisfied even then that it is all right! Oh this is a grand thing! This is just the mark of difference between the Christian and the worldling. The worldling blesses God while he gives him plenty, but the Christian blesses him when he smites him: he believes him to be too wise to err and too good to be unkind; he trusts him where he cannot trace him, looks up to him in the darkest hour, and believes that all is well. O Christian, if your heart is right, you will understand this spiritual satisfaction, and your soul will be satisfied in times of drought.

     III. The next blessing is, SPIRITUAL HEALTH AND HAPPINESS. “And make fat thy bones.” Note the figure. It is not “make fat thy flesh.” I am anything but sure that that would be a blessing in any sense. Certainly it is rather baneful than blessed, understanding it metaphorically; for when Jeshurun waxed fat he kicked. Sometimes abundance in earthly things makes poverty in heavenly things. External richness and strength are often the signs of weakness in the inner man. But fatness here is to be upon the man’s hardest and most necessary part of his frame. A man is really built up when his bones, the solid pillars of the house of his manhood, have been strengthened. Vigour has been put into his constitution where it was most required. His bones have been renovated and made strong. Oh! it is a grand thing when the soul is thus in spiritual health, when the bones are made fat. Do you know what it means, Christian? It is when you take a promise and it is applied with power, and you can feed on it; when you take a precept and feel the strength vouchsafed to go and fulfil it; when you turn to God’s purpose and decree, and rejoice in them, seeing that you have a fair portion therein; or turning to God’s testimonies concerning your daily walk, you find just as much comfort in these as you did in those, and can bless God for ability given you to serve as well as for power to enjoy. I have lately read in the newspaper — I am sure I do not know whether to believe that it is true — an account of a youth in France, twenty years of age, who has been laying sleeping for a fortnight, nourished only upon a little gruel given with a spoon, and that he was in the same state a year ago for nearly a month. Whether this has actually occurred to anybody or not, I have known many cases of Christians who have hid like that spiritually, not for a fortnight only, but for a whole year; nay, and not for a year only, but it is their general state. They come on Sunday, and we have to feed them on a little gruel with a spoon, and this lasts them till the next time there is service. They live on nothing but thin liquid, and as might be expected, they have no strength. If you listen to them, you will hear them saying such words as these —

“’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?”

They have no more health than that! Oh! that they could get strong! Oh! that God would make fat their bones, and then they would be able to sing Toplady’s hymn —

“My name from the palm of his hands,
Eternity cannot erase;
Impressed on his heart it remains,
In marks of indelible grace.
Yes, I to the end shall endure,
As sure as the earnest is given;
More happy, but not more secure,
Are the glorified spirits in heaven.”

May we get out of a state of spiritual sickness, and may our bones grow fat, so that we may be strong in the Lori, and in the power of his might!

     The figure seems to me to indicate two or three things in one. There is health here, the soul is purged from its vices, sicknesses, and unbelief, pride, sloth, and such like. There is vigour here, no lukewarmness, being neither cold nor hot, no laxity nor indifference. There is growth: the man is not stunted; he does not think that he has come to perfection, and may therefore stop where he is. His bones grow fat. Inward satisfaction seems to be couched in the figure; the man is happy, perfectly happy; he is always rejoicing; he is not lean with fretting, but fattened with the oil of joy.

     Now, dear Christian brethren and sisters, I would earnestly ask you not to be content without the enjoyment of this blessing; for the more one looks upon the world, the more one is convinced that Christian joy is, after all, Christian strength: doubting and fearing cut the very foundations of Christian power. Strong faith is that which wins the victory, while unbelief deprives us of all hope of conquest, and lays us grovelling in the mire beneath the feet of our own very weakest foe. Oh, for more of this holy joy! I have told you how to get it. Fulfil the conditions we referred to in the former part of this discourse, and then you shall have your bones made fat.

     IV. The fourth blessing is this, AND THOU SHALT BE LIKE A WATERED GARDEN. This figure of a garden is a very sweet and attractive one. I need not tell you how much taste may be displayed and how much pleasure may be derived from the cultivation of such plots of ground. Our fancy is soon at work to invent a picture of flower-beds, and fruit-trees, shady walks, and pleasant fountains, laid out close to some grand mansion, and opening its fairest views to the best apartments of the palace. Such a garden needs constant care, and then, although it may be more beautiful at one season than another, it will never be like a wild heath, or totally bereft of charms. But alas! some professors of religion are not like this: there is little evidence of diligent cultivation in their character. Instead of flowers of some kind all the year round, it is hard to say that they ever show much bloom: fruits you would never expect from them. But, dear brethren, you know that it is a comely thing for every Christian church, whether it be a large mansion or a little villa, to have a garden surrounding it, so that you may look out from the windows and see the various walks and the different plants that flourish there. I have seen some gardens attached to small houses where the owner has portioned off little plots to each member of his family. And thus I believe the home has been made pleasanter and happier. But oh! it is always a good thing when every member of the church has a spot to engage his heart and hands, and when they can all look with so much more satisfaction upon the tender blossoms and the full-blown flowers because they have watched and tended and watered the plants with a ministry of love. This though is merely a hint by the way. It is not the exact meaning of the passage before us. Your own soul is to be under cultivation. The heavenly gardener shall rejoice in your bloom.

     An African traveller tells us, that he has often seen the contrast between an unwatered garden and a watered garden, and has been much surprised at it. In the case of the watered garden there may be a spring just outside of it, and the master has diligently brought in the water every morning, or every evening, poured it into the trench, and made it run along, and so the plant receives the moisture, and bears fruit, forming a pleasant contrast to the arid desert outside. But there is another garden, with similar plants, apparently selected with the same care, but as it has not been watered, the traveller says that he has frequently observed the holes where the plant should be, without a vestige of the plant that has been perceptible. There was the trench where the water should have flowed; there were the paths in the garden; there was everything save and except this — there was no life, because there was no water. O Christians, you know what this means! When the Holy Spirit visits God’s people, they are like a garden that is watered every day. They are green and flourishing, and their graces are an honour to the God who nourished them. But, if the Holy Spirit be taken away from them how different is it! If he were utterly withdrawn from us — which, thank God, he will not be— we should be just like the wilderness from which we were taken, and not a vestige of grace would remain. Christian, as all depends upon the watering of the Spirit, so make it a matter of soul concern with thee to be watered continually by God’s grace. Oh, do not trust to the stock thou hast, for it will fail thee! Do not rely upon what thy soul may find within itself as being its own wisdom and strength, or thou wilt be deceived; but go thou to the Lord, and pray that thou mayest be as a watered garden — not as a garden only, but as a watered garden. So may each one of us do.

     V. Furthermore, there is the blessing of CONTINUED STRENGTH, CONTINUED FRESHNESS, CONTINUED SUPPLY. “As a well of water whose waters fail not.” There are many wells in the East which do fail, and many apparent springs which deceive the traveller. I observe that the margin has it, “whose waters deceive not, or lie not.” When a caravan comes to a well, if there be no water in it the travellers are deceived; and if the husbandman should come to a reservoir, and find that the water is all gone, then the reservoir has lied unto him and deceived him. And how many a man who has appeared like a Christian has been but a mere deceiver! We looked into his conversation, where there should have been a savour of godliness, but we found none. We hoped that in his actions he would be like the Master whom he professed to serve, but we saw none of that Master’s likeness. We trusted that when he came into communion with the church, he would add to its comfort and its usefulness, but he has merely added to its numbers, and has been an encumbrance upon its march. He has been a deceiver; his waters have lied unto us.

     Not so God’s true people; they shall not deceive. They shall have so much grace that when a Christian friend expects to find grace in them, he shall not be disappointed. He shall be refreshed by their conversation; he shall be encouraged by their holy example. A spring of water is not dependent upon anything beyond itself. Deep down in the caverns of the earth great treasures of water have been prepared by God, and the spring subsists upon its own secret source. And so does the Christian. God has provided in the covenant a depth of living water. It is one of the blessings pronounced upon Israel’s sons. Christ himself has declared that he who drinks of the water of life shall find it in him, “a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” The reservoir must be filled at certain times, and then it gets dry, but the spring is filled from itself. So the Christian is not dependent upon the ordinances. He thrives upon them, but he is not dependent upon them. If, by Providence, he is denied the use of them, he has a spring within; nay, he has a spring in the secret depths of the eternal love of God, which wells up within him at all times, so that he becomes as “a spring of water, whose waters fail not.” I do not know how some people, who believe that a Christian can fall from grace, manage to be happy. It must be a very commendable thing in them to be able to get through a day without despair. If I did not believe the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints, I think I should be of all men the most miserable, because I should lack any ground of comfort. Certainly I should not be able to understand this text. I could not say whatever state of heart I came into, I should be like a well-spring of water, whose waters fail not. I should rather have to take the comparison of an intermittent spring that might stop on a sudden, or a reservoir which we had no reason to expect would always be full. If I speak to any brother who has not received the doctrine of final perseverance, I ask him to look it once more in the face. Do you not think that when the Saviour says, “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life,” the interpretation of the figure necessitates the belief that grace is an enduring thing which cannot be destroyed? Does not the metaphor of the text, to understand it fully, seem to require you to believe that the grace which God puts into men will continue there, will have in itself, through its divine origin, a force and a vitality which will make it continue to spring up as the well does, without any outward pumping, or without any need of fresh supply from the depths of Deity? The Christian should be satisfied, and his piety should never come to an end. Come then, let us wrap our cloak about us with a word of joy and comfort, and go our way into the cold, bleak world, rejoicing that if our hearts are right, we are resting upon the source of every precious thing. Let us go forth and rejoice that we have within us a life that can never die; that we have a something within us that can satisfy us in the worst of times; that God is with us, to be our guide and our dear companion. Being the favoured sons of heaven, and the heirs of immortality, let us eat our bread with joy; let us cheer our poverty with hope; let us make glad our times of trial with holy rejoicing. Let us rejoice in the Lord always, and shout for joy, and so may his blessed Spirit help us to live to his glory.

     I can only regret that such a text as this can have no bearing upon some of my hearers. There are some of you to whom we shall have to read the text in the negative. “You shall not be guided by God, for you shall follow your own devices, and they shall lead you down to death and to the gates of hell.” O unconverted sinner, tremble at this! You shall not be satisfied. There shall come a day of drought that shall dry up your body, though you flourished as a green herb. There shall come a time when your pleasures shall be of no use to you, when the hollow cheek and the blinding eye shall bring no comfort to you from without, but shall only work the end of all your joy. The text does not say that your bones shall be made fat: your flesh may be made fat, but only that you may be fattened for the slaughter. You may have outward good, but only that you may be more wretched when you have to go and leave it; but there shall be no inward peace, no spiritual joy. There is no promise to you that you shall be a watered garden. You will not ask of God, and you shall not have. You do not knock, and the door shall not be opened. You do not seek, and you shall not find. You shut your ear against God, and he will shut his ear against you. You refused the cross of Christ, and therefore you shall lose the crown of heaven, and shall not know joy, because you do not know heart-sorrow. You do not hate sin, you shall not therefore, enjoy the bliss of righteousness. And you shall not be as a spring of water whose waters fail not. The little joy you have, all brackish as it is, shall be denied you at the last. You shall cry for a drop of water to cool your tongue, but you shall find none. Oh! terrible is your present state, but more terrible far is the future which looms in the distance. Do you not hear the breaking of the laves of the unknown sea? You must go down into it! Do you not even now hear the boomings of its awful billows upon the cliffs of tune? What if it should be a sea of fire to you for ever? What if every billow in that sea of flame should break over you, and you be cast into it, but not drowned, shipwrecked and lost, but not annihilated? What if you must be drifting for ever across that fiery sea, with the word of divine wrath driving you on, never to find a haven? Sinner, there is hope yet. This is not the realm of despair. Not yet has the great iron key grated in the lock to shut you for ever in the dungeon! It is said of Christ that “He openeth and no man shutteth.” He can open heaven to you. Trust him with your whole heart, mourning for sin and hating it. Rest in his blood! Find a shelter beneath his cross, and he will not, cannot cast you away, for “He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him.” May you so come, and then may your Christian life be fraught with happiness, and overflowing with joy, so that you may sing in the words of David, with which I close — “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”



A Word in Season

By / Jun 22

A Word in Season

 
“When men are cast down, then thou shalt say, There is lifting up; and he shall save the humble person.” — Job 22:29.

 

ALTHOUGH we cannot take everything that Eliphaz the Temanite happened to say as being of divine authority, the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit; yet in this case he evidently gives utterance to such a great and important truth that we may regard these words of his as being the words of God, confirmed as they are by like sentiments to be found in other parts of the Scriptures of truth.

     If you read the verse carefully, you will sympathize with the perplexity of expositors, who have been not a little puzzled to know which out of three meanings is the one intended. I shall not presume to pronounce an arbitrary decision; but after mentioning the three different constructions, I shall dwell upon the last, and amplify it for practical uses.

     The first is, that this verse may be read by way of discrimination. When other men — the wicked and ungodly— are cast down, believers, resting upon their God, shall be able to say, “There is lifting up,” and instead of harbouring a thought of despair, they shall cling to the promise that God will save the humble person. The text may thus indicate the distinction there is between the righteous and the wicked. When the flood came, then the ungodly world was bowed down by fear, but Noah could say, “There is lifting up;” and as the ark began to float upon the waters, his mind was perfectly convinced that God would save the humble. When the fiery sleet began to fall upon Sodom and Gomorrah, then the wicked were wise too late, and they, too, were filled with dismay; but Lot, as he escaped out of the city, could feel that there was for him “lifting up,” and that God had saved out of the midst of destruction that “humble person,” whose ears and heart had been vexed with the ungodly speeches of the Sodomites. Let us learn, therefore, and so leave this aspect of the text, that the Lord hath put a difference between Israel and Egypt— a difference never so conspicuous as in time of trouble. He will not mete out the same measure to his friends as to his enemies. The black side of the pillar of Providence shall be turned towards the Egyptians, while the bright Bide shall shine fully and cheerfully into the faces of the Israelites. Just as the Red Sea is swallowing up God’s foes, his Mends upon the other bank shall be singing their psalms of victory, and magnifying his power to save. Humble Christian, whatever may occur, you need never fear. If all the predicted tribulations which some men delight in anticipating should be fulfilled to-morrow, it would not signify to you. If the earth should rock and reel, if the sun should be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, and the stars should fall like fig-leaves from the tree; you, if you could no longer be safe under heaven, would be caught up into heaven; but anyhow, God would be sure to preserve you. When the wicked are bowed down, you shall be able to sing, “There is lifting up.”

     Thesecond way of readingthetextisfull of personalconsolation. “ When men are cast down ” — appropriating the calamity when we ourselves are cast down, and leaving out the discrimination between the righteous and the wicked — when we, in common with the rest of mankind, suffer “byborn the to adversities trouble as incidental the sparks to fly all upward men — when” — then we find our Father out that comes we are to our relief, cheers us with comfort, and inspirits us with hope, sweetly whispering in our ears, “There is lifting up; hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him.” After all the waves and billows had gone over the Psalmist’s head, his hope rises up out of the deep, and sings, as the waters stream from her hair, “Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him;” and as her countenance glistens in the sun, and is made bright by the brine into which she has dived, she adds, “He is the help of my countenance and my God.” Christian brother, possibly you are at this very hour sorely cast down. You are reflecting upon yesterday’s ills, or foreboding worse ills on the morrow. “What shall I eat? and what shall I drink?” may be questions which are pressing grievously on your mind. Parents may be here whose dear children are sick, or it may be worse than that; perhaps there is a father, whose rebellious son is vexing his heart and making his hair turn grey. You are bowed down, many of you; some from one cause and some from another. Oh that your trials may bring your faith into exercise! You are in your Father’s hands. He is the God of hope; yea, and he is the God of patience and consolation. The Lord reigneth: all things work together for good to them that love God. You may safely conclude that there is lifting up. Though you may now feel very humble under these afflicting dispensations, yet, as certainly as God’s Word saith, “He shall save the humble person,” so certainly will he send salvation unto you. Be of good courage, then; perhaps the text is God’s message to your sinking spirits — “It is I; be not afraid.”

     The third way of understanding the text, however, is that upon which I wish to dwell. A practical obligation is here enforced. “When men are cast down” — that is, when other men are cast down, either by spiritual anxieties or by peculiar troubles of a worldly sort — then the Christian’s business is to act the part of a comforter, to step in and say to his brethren or his neighbours, “There is lifting up.” It should be his occupation to tell out this good news— this panacea for heart troubles, — God saved humble souls; there is not necessity for despair this side of hell; as long as a man is in this trial state there is hope that his sackcloth may be put off, that he may be girded with gladness, and made partaker of the fulness of joy.

     You will see then, friends, that my intention is to address myself to Christians, earnestly exhorting them to look after opportunities for usefulness, that they may tell to others the glad tidings.

     I. To this end, FAVOURABLE SEASONS, a well-timed occasion, a suitable hour, should never be lost sight of. “When men are cast down.”

     You cannot talk with some men until you do find them cast down. They are too shy and reserved, too proud and unapproachable; or perhaps too profane and blustering, to allow you to say a word to them about eternal things. But you can catch them sometimes. When sorrow has ploughed the soil, the good seed may get, perhaps, into the heart that erst was so hard. Now, brethren, as you read it, “When men are cast down,” you will do well to remember that these seasons frequently occur in the life of every man. Sometimes men are cast down because they have had losses in business, or have had sickness in the house, or death has come and taken away a child, or they are infirm in body, or the cholera has been down the street, or something or other has occurred to alarm and agitate and dispirit them. They feel that this world is not the happy world they thought it was. Now is your opportunity; now is your time. When men are cast down, then do you go to them, and say, “There is lifting up.” Tell them that there is another lamp, that was never kindled in this world, and never blown out in this world either, which will gild the darkness of their poverty, of their sickness, and of their sorrow. Be sure not to let a single providential opportunity escape you, but plunge in, now that God has made the breach in the sinner’s city wall. Haste now! dash in, ye soldiers of the cross, sword in hand!

     Sometimes men are cast down when they have been listening to a very solemn sermon. God has helped the minister to sketch their portraits, and they have sat and wondered at it; and though they have been careless before, yet now they begin to quake. Do you never find your friends leaving the house of God thoughtful and serious — not chatting about a thousand frivolities, but saying to you, when you get home, “What a striking sermon!” Why, such things occur here every day. The tear of penitence often waters this floor; and when it does not amount to that, though the sinner’s goodness may be as the morning cloud and as the early dew, yet there are frequent times when our hearers are impressed and depressed. They sit in the pew and begin to think it is all wrong with them; their soul is cast down, and they wish that they could find salvation. Now is your time, Christian; now is your time! Do not lose it! Do not let them go behind those curtains, or outside of those doors, till you have told them that there is lifting up. When the darkness is around their spirits, point them to the great Light of the world. Tell them that “there is life for a look at the Crucified One,” that there is life at this very moment for every one who casts himself upon the Redeemer’s finished sacrifice.

     These opportunities are very frequent, and if you think for a minute you will see that they are not to be despised by those of you who wish to win souls. If David would win the battle he must take care to recollect God’s advice. “When thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees, then shalt thou bestir thyself.” When thou seest the sign of an impression in a man’s mind, then shouldest thou be active to seek to bring the truth home to him, and to lead him to the cross, for at such times men are willing to hear. They would stop their ears before, but now they will give you a comparatively cheerful audience. Nay, they are often even anxious to hear, for they will send for the minister when they are sick. And at a funeral, what an opportunity the Christian minister may often have, and not the Christian minister only, but any of you! When God’s great minister, Death, comes into a house, then remember they will want to hear you. A man’s fellow workman, who chaffed the Christian and laughed at him, will be pleased enough to see him when the wife gets ill, and he will even ask him to come and tell her of the things which make for her peace. Never be slow to go, my brethren and sisters. If you can but find time never miss one of these opportunities. Now that the fish are ready to take the bait, ye Galilean fishermen, do let the nets be cast and the hooks laid, and seek if you can to catch souls.

     These opportunities, be it remembered, are sent by God for this very purpose. No doubt providence is the handmaid of grace. If Christians were but wide awake they would soon see that the wheels of providence are all working to assist the church. To an earnest Christian labourer everything is tributary of labour. He knows how to use the roughest instruments. I will venture to say that the beasts of the field are in league with him, and the stones of the field are at peace with him. For him cholera is less to be dreaded than to be turned to account; it will give him an entrance where he found none before. Even poverty, with all its drawbacks, may help the man of God who sincerely desires to bring souls to Jesus. Greatly as you dread the evils which are before you, yet may you have a holy skill to use them, as the mariner does an ill wind, just tacking about, and putting the sail so that the wind, which seemed to drive in his teeth, may help him towards his desired haven.

     At such times, then, when men are cast down, I say it to you, brethren and sisters, and especially would I say it to myself, let none of these favourable seasons be lost.

     II. The ACCEPTABLE TIDINGS we have to announce may now for a few minutes engage our thoughts. Do any of you say, “If we speak to these people, what are we to tell them?” You are to tell them that “ There is lifting up.” That is the best and most opportune news you can bring them after all. When men are not cast down we have to tell them that they ought to be. We have to deal out to them the law of God, as the seamstress takes the sharp needle first, and then draws the silken thread afterwards. But in this case, when a man is cast down, the needle has gone through. Men are impressed, thoughtful, anxious, and now the gospel which we have to take to them is that there is lifting up. Of all things in the world to be dreaded despair is the chief. Let a man be abandoned to despair, and he is ready for all sorts of sing. When fear unnerves him action is dangerous; but when despair has loosed his joints and paralysed his conscience, the vultures hover round him waiting for their prey. As long as a man has hope for himself you may have hope of him; but Satan’s object is to drive out the last idea of hope from men, that then they may give themselves up to be his slaves for ever. Brethren and sisters, let me just say to you who are in trouble — and I hope every faithful Christian will repeat what I say again and again — THERE IS HOPE. There is hope about your pecuniary difficulties, about your sickness, about your present affliction. God can help you through it. Do not sit down with your elbows on your knees and cry all day. That will not get you through it. Call upon God Who sent the trouble. He has a great design in it. It may be that he has sent it as a shepherd sends his black dog to fetch the wandering Sheep to him. It may be he has a design in making you lose temporal things that you may gain eternal things. Many a mother’s soul had not been saved if it had not been for that dear infant which was taken from her bosom; not till it was taken to the skies did God give the attractive influence which drew her heart to pursue the path to heaven. Do not say there is no hope; other people have been as badly off as you are; and even if it should seem as if it had come to straitness of bread, yet still there is hope. Go and try again on Monday morning, my good friend. God’s providence has a thousand ways of helping us if we have but the heart to pray. Are you in despair about your character? It may be that there is somewhere here a woman who says, “I have fallen ; my character is gone; there is no hope for me.” My sister, there is lifting up ; some who have fallen as terribly as you have done have been restored by sovereign grace. And there maybe one here who has been a drunkard, or about to become a thief — no one knows it, perhaps, but he is conscious of great degradation, and he says, “I shall never be able to look my fellow men in the face.” Ah, my dear friend, you do not know what Christ can do for you if you but rest and trust in him. Supposing you should be made into a new creature, would not that alter the matter? “Oh!” say you, “but that can never be.” Nay, say I, but that shall be, for Christ saith, “Behold, I make all things new.” “If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature.” There was an old fable about a spring at which old men washed their faces, and then grew young. Now there is a spring which welled up from the heart of the Lord Jesus, and if an old sinner wash therein, not only his face, but his whole spirit, shall become like unto a little child, and shall be clean even in the sight of God. There is hope still.

     “Ah!” says one, “but you do not know my case.” No, my dear friend, and I do not particularly desire to know it, because this sweeping truth can meet it be it what it may. “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men.” “The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” Oh! what a precious gospel I have to preach! I have not to preach a little Christ for little sinners, but a great Saviour for great offenders. Noah’s ark was not made to hold a few mites, but the elephant went in, and the lion went in, and the hugest beasts of prey went in, and there was found room for each of them. So my Master, who is the great ark of salvation, did not come into this world to save a few of you who are little sinners, but “he is able to save unto the uttermost all them that come unto God by him.” See him yonder, see him on the cross, in agonies extreme, bearing griefs and torments numberless, and sweating in agony, all for love of you who were his enemies. Trust him; trust him, for there is hope; there is lifting up. However bowed down you may be, there is in the gospel hope even for you. I seem as if I were walking along a corridor, and I see a number of condemned cells. As I listen at the key-hole I can hear those inside weeping in doleful, dolorous dirges. “There is no hope, no hope, no hope!” And I can see the warder at the other end smiling calmly to himself, as he knows that none of the prisoners can come out as long as they say there is no hope. It is a sign that their manacles are not broken, and that the bolts of their cells are not removed. But oh! if I could look in! Methinks I can, methinks I can open the little wicket gate, and cry, “There is hope!” He who said there is no hope is a liar and a murderer from the beginning, and the father of lies : there is hope since Jesus died; there is hope anywhere except in the infernal lake. There is hope in the hospital, where a man has sickened, and is within the last hour of his departure. There is hope, though men have sinned themselves beyond the pale of society; hope for the convict, though he has had to smart under the lash; hope for the man who has cast himself away. Able to save is Jesus still. “No hope” is not to be said by any one of the mariners’ life brigade while he sights the crew of the sinking vessel. “No hope” is not to be said by any one of the fire brigade while he knows there are living men in the burning pile. “No hope” is not to be said by any one of the valiant brigade of the Christian church while the soul is still within reach of the sound of mercy. “No hope” is a cry which no human tongue should utter, which no human heart should heed. Oh, may God grant us grace whenever we get an opportunity to go and tell all we meet with that are bowed down, " There is lifting up.” And tell them where it is likewise. Tell them it is only at the cross. Tell them it is through the precious blood. Tell them it is to be had for nothing, through simply trusting Christ. Tell them it is of free grace, that no merits of theirs are wanted, that no good things are they to bring, but that they may come just as they are, and find lifting up in Christ.

     III. What JOYFUL EMPLOYMENT this is. I should like to go forth enlisting to-night. I shall not require you to wear scarlet. You shall wear what you like; but if I may but enlist you I shall be very happy. Christian men and women, all of you without exception, old and young, I want you. I know many of you are already engaged, but I want you all to follow out the dictates of my text, “When men are cast down, then thou shalt say, There is lifting up, and he shall save the humble person.” I want you to volunteer in this blessed enterprise, this heavenly mission of saying to cast-down ones, “There is lifting up.”

     If you do engage in this holy adventure there are several things which you will want. The first will be observation. You must have a quick eye, to know when a man is cast down. Some people are so out of sympathy with souls that they do not know a broken heart from a hard heart; but there is a way of getting into such communion with people without even talking with them, that you know within a little who is impressed and who is not. I should like to have all over the Tabernacle a little lot of you Christian people like sentries, watching that young man who is here for the first time to-night; watching that young woman who has been here for the hast six weeks — watching your opportunity; as soon as ever you see the first wave of the Spirit’s manifestation — the face is often the tell-tale of what is going on within — to speak to them, I want you to watch, so as to say, “ Now that one is cast down I will break the ice, I will speak, and I will say, There is lifting up.” You must have keen eyes to watch for the Spirit’s work if you are to be fishers of men.

     Next to this you have need of deep sympathy. If you try to speak for Christ, and do it in a rough way, you had better hold your tongue. A person I saw only a day or two ago said that she was standing in deep thought after a sermon, under which she had been devoutly impressed, when a good friend accosted her in a gruff voice and with an uncouth manner, and said, “When are you coming forward to join the church?” It was well meant; but it was done in such a way that ever good impression melted before the repulsive tones. Speak gently and kindly, with tenderness and sympathy. You know what I mean. There is a world of difference between the putting on of a pretence of kindness and the real “kin-edness” which comes right down to a man, and makes him feel that you really do sympathize with him, and can enter into all his griefs. Ask the Lord, Christian friend, when you have got a quick eye for observation, to drop a tear with it, so that you may know how to weep with them that weep, and to speak gently.

     Another thing you will want will be knowledge. How can you tell them about the Saviour, if you do not understand yourselves how it is that he saves, or never proved the remedy you attempt to apply? Be well instructed in the faith, and seek also to be well instructed in the twists and turns of the human heart, so that you may know how to follow up these persons when they will try to escape from their own mercy, and, if possible, to put from them the comfort which you have to bring them.

     In all this you will find great help from your own experience. No man is so fitted to bring others to Christ as one who has come himself, though perhaps the means by which he was drawn may have been peculiar and somewhat different from the common course. It was said that Martin Luther was one of the best teachers for a minister. He had been so much troubled in getting peace for his own soul, that he was singularly well qualified to assist others who were struggling in the Slough of Despond. Make good use of your experience; store up lessons from it; so you will be making yourselves yet more and more serviceable as a helper to these distressed ones.

     Add to your experience assurance. The text does not tell us to say to these people, “I hope there may be lifting up;” but “There is lifting up.” Full assurance makes a man strong. The gospel is your lever; but full assurance must be the arm to work it with; ay, and the fulcrum, too, upon which the lever must rest. Know yourselves to be saved. Do not live in the misty dungeon of doubt, where “I hope so” is the only ray of light that breaks through the crevice, while “ I fear it is not so” is the reflection cast on the opposite wall. Come forth into the daylight that you may be sure of it, then you will be able to speak boldly, so will you be likely to comfort those that be cast down.

     And do let me recommend promptitude to you. There is nothing like quickness and decision in speaking when the opportunity presents itself. If you are about to seal a letter, you must bring down the seal while the wax is still hot enough to receive the impression. Do not  procrastinate, and say, “Well, I should like to speak to that young man; but I will put it off till to-morrow.” If he has the appearance of being impressible to-night, look after him now. As “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” so a present opportunity is worth unspeakably more than any precarious venture that lies beyond your present reach. Do not let the time slip.

     While, however, it becomes you to be prompt, you need not be in a hurry. Calm self-possession is very preferable to impetuous haste. I remember seeing a doctor when there was an accident in the street. He proceeded immediately to the spot; but should you think he went rushing down to the man as if he would break his neck? No: on the contrary, he walked down very quietly and demurely to the chemist’s shop where the man was lying, and I could not help thinking that this was a common-sense thing to do even in an emergency; for if he had run and got out of breath, he would not have been able to have done half so well when he got there as he was able to do by going steadily to his work. The feverish excitement of hurry you should avoid; but there must be no delay. Unseemly haste might spoil your aim, because you would not be able to speak properly; but a senseless hesitancy would miss the golden opportunity, thwart the purpose altogether, and leave you to regret that you had never spoken at all.

     Still nothing will avail unless there be much prayer. We had need pray that God may give efficacy to the counsels he has given us, and reward our obedience to them with abundant fruit. Oh, brethren! prayer is the grand thing after all for us who have no might of ourselves. It is wonderful what prayer can do for any of us. A dear friend said the other day, “Look at Jacob. In the early part of his life there was much that was unseemly in his character, and very much that was unhappy in his circumstances. Crafty himself, he was often the victim of craft, reaping the fruit of his own ways. But one night in prayer — what a change it did make in him! Why it raised him from the deep poverty of a cunning supplanter to the noble peerage of a prince in Israel!” Bethel itself is hardly more memorable in his history than Peniel. And what might one night spent in prayer do for some of us? Supposing we were to try it instead of the soft bed! We need not go to the brook; enough that, like Jacob, we were left alone in some place where sighs and cries would be heard by none but God. One night spent thus in solitary prayer might put the spurs on some of you, and make you spiritual knights in God’s army, able to do great exploits. Oh! yes; may all other gracious exercises be started in prayer, crowned with prayer, and perfected by much prayer.

     IV. I must now close by noticing some STIMULATING MOTIVES to engage in this blessed employment.

     Recollect, Christian friend, your own case. When you were troubled in spirit did anybody speak to you? Then you are bound to repay the kindness by speaking to some one who is now in the same condition. Or do you say that nobody did speak to you? Well, then, I am sure you blame them for not doing so; and you may well see to it that you do not incur the same censure yourselves. I thank God that most of you do try to look after souls; but occasionally, very occasionally, it happens that a young convert will say to me, “I have been here six months, sir, and no one has spoken to me.” I sometimes ask them in what part of the Tabernacle they sit, and yet I do not like to know when I am informed. However, I will suppose that I have forgotten it now, or, at least, I will forbear to indicate it to-night; but one of these times I shall make bold to say that there is a certain corner of the Tabernacle where nobody seems to care for souls. If I should do that, you know, it will be a cause of blushing and of shame to some of you. Do mend your ways before it comes to that. Oh! do not let there be a single spot in this place where it shall be possible for a person to sit even for a month without some one earnestly asking him about his soul. Do it wisely, prudently, gently; not rudely, but lovingly; not intrusively, but kindly. Who can tell how much good may be done by this simple means! Let it be done with a gracious motive, remembering how needful it was in your own case.

     Let it be done, moreover, with a grateful recollection of what you owe to Christ. Oh! thou owest thine own soul to him; how canst thou repay him but by bringing others? I beseech thee, prove thy gratitude, not by bringing the alabaster box, and breaking it upon his head; but by bringing sinners, whose penitence and faith shall be sweeter perfume even than the costly ointment which the woman poured on her Lord. Watch for souls out of gratitude to him.

     Let me cheer you onward by the prospect of success. Perhaps the very first person you speak to may be given you for your reward. Possibly you may meet with a repulse; if so, try again, and yet again and again, as long as you have breath. But what if you should bring only one soul to Christ? It were a rich reward for a thousand disappointments.

     Remember, dear friends, that it is for your own good. While you sleep you do not know whether you love Christ or not; but you would soon prove the sincerity of your love if you were trying to serve him. You do not know what you can do till you have tried. He who can only do a little, if he does that little, will soon be able to do twice as much. If he still perseveres, he will be able to do four times as much presently, and his labours of love will increase and multiply till I know not what extent they may reach. You cannot preach, the most part of you; you could not go out into the street and proclaim the word of life, but you can talk to a neighbour, any or all of you; and since this is a thing that you can do, do it, I pray you; it may be breaking the ice for you, and by-and-by you will be able to swim in the deep waters, and to serve the Lord right well. To make a beginning, therefore, I ask you to do this small thing. Oh, my Christian friends, shall the blood of souls lie on any of you? Would you wish to feel that you were responsible for the spiritual ruin of some person who sits next you here? I wish I could always feel that I was clear of the blood of this congregation myself; but I do seek to be. Yet I feel convinced that my own efforts for the conversion of men are so feeble, that if I do not have the assistance of you all, I cannot reckon upon a blessing commensurate to the great assembly gathered here ; but if you will help me, if you will each of you watch as some of you do, if you will each pray as some of you do, if you all catch the holy enthusiasm, and are filled with the divine fire, I know not what eternal purposes God may here fulfil, nor what glory he may bring to his name. You have, many of you, been Christians now for years. You are not young, raw recruits, that need to be trained in the very elements of our spiritual warfare. You have seen battle; you have been in the midst of its din. I speak unto you as unto veterans, serve your God now. By the blood that bought you, by the Spirit that quickened you, by the rest that is in store for you, by the hell that awaits sinners if they perish — I charge you by the living God, the Judge of the quick and dead — be instant in season and out of season! Be ye ever abundant in every good word and work! Be ye steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. And may his blessing descend upon the whole of our efforts, through his divine Spirit.



A Song, A Solace, A Sermon, and A Summons

By / Dec 29

A Song, A Solace, A Sermon, and A Summons

 

“For his mercy endureth for ever.” — Psalm 136

 

THIS one hundred and thirty-sixth Psalm was constantly sung in the Temple by appointed singers, among whom the names of Heman and Jeduthun are mentioned. These we are told, in the Book of Chronicles, were chosen to give thanks unto Jehovah, whose “mercy endureth for ever.” This continued service of song, was most fitting, for, if Jehovah’s mercy endureth for ever, our praise should endure for ever; if his goodness never ceases, our thanksgiving should never be silent. It seemed to me most appropriate to direct your attention to this text in the closing Sabbath of the year, because it is a fit accompaniment to that upon which I addressed you on the first Sabbath. You will remember that we then spake of the ever watchful mercy of the Lord our God, from the words. “The eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.” Having almost reached the close of the year, let us acknowledge that the mercy has been equal to the promise; that God has not failed to fulfil his gracious word, “for his mercy endureth for ever.” May all your hearts be full of gratitude, and the music of your spirits shall stand in stead of trumpets and cymbals which of old proclaimed the joy of Israel when they made mention of Jehovah’s name.

     I. At the outset we shall regard the text as A SONG. So it was originally intended to be used. It was a song for all singers, for it was the refrain of each verse, the chorus to be taken up by the whole assembled multitude. I suppose that the practised singers commenced thus, “O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good,” and then the entire multitude, whether they were taught in psalmody or not, chanted the chorus, “For his mercy endureth for ever.” Then would the choir again sweetly sing, “O give thanks unto the God of gods:” and a fresh burst of many voices would reply, “For his mercy endureth for ever.” In imitation of that ancient mode of singing, I shall ask the whole assembly to make a chorus with their hearts, and mentally to bless the Lord whose “mercy endureth for ever.” Let the young and the old join in the common praise; let the rich and the poor, the instructed and the ignorant, ay, let the saved and the unsaved, each take a part in the choral music; for the psalmist so words the Psalm that Sven the unconverted may claim a share in it, for he bids us praise God for common mercies common as we frequently call them, and yet so priceless that when deprived of them we are ready to perish. He bids us sing concerning the great lights whose radiance is universally enjoyed. He bids us extol the Maker of the sun and the moon, for without the cheerful light of the celestial lamps we should live in perpetual darkness, if indeed we lived at all. Let us bless God for the eyes with which we behold the sun, for the health and strength to walk abroad in the sunlight; let us praise him for the mercies which are new every morning, for the bread we eat, for the raiment which clothes us, for houses which give us shelter; let us bless him that we are not deprived of our reason, or stretched upon the bed of languishing; let us praise him that we are not cast out among the hopeless, or confined amongst the guilty; let us thank him for liberty, for friends, for family associations and comforts; let us praise him, in fact, for everything which we receive from his bounteous hand, for we deserve little, and yet are most plenteously endowed. “His mercy endureth for ever:” every morning’s light proclaims it, the beams of every moon declare it; every breath of air, every heaving of the lungs, every beating of the pulse, are fresh witnesses that “his mercy endureth for ever.”

     But, beloved, the sweetest and the loudest note in the chorus must always be reserved for those who sing of redeeming love. A few verses further down the psalmist writes, “To him that smote Egypt in their first-born, and brought out Israel from among them, with a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm, for his mercy endureth for ever.” Yes, God’s redeeming acts towards his chosen are for ever the favourite themes of praise. Many of us know what redemption means. Let us not refuse our sonnets of thanksgiving. Glory be to God, we have been redeemed from the power of our corruptions, uplifted from the depth of sin in which we were naturally plunged. We have been led to the cross of Christ; our shackles of guilt have been broken off, we are no longer slaves, but children of the living God. We can look back to the source of that redemption in the council chambers of eternity where the plan was first ordained and settled: we can look forward to the results of that redemption, and antedate the period when we shall be presented before the throne without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. Even now by faith we wave the palm branch and wrap ourselves about with the fair white linen which is to be our everlasting array, and shall we not this day give thanks to the name of the Lord whose redeeming “mercy endureth for ever”? Child of God, canst thou be silent ? Shall there be one dumb soul here this morning? Awake, awake, ye heritors of glory, and lead your captivity captive, as ye cry with David, “Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.”

     Further on our poet invites the experienced believer to join in the Psalm. Just as some among us, whose voices are deep, can take the bass parts of the tune, so the educated saint, who has been for years in the ways of the Lord, can throw a force and a weight into the song which no other can contribute. We are reminded in the Psalm that the Lord led his people through the wilderness, and smote their enemies, “and gave their land for an heritage: for his mercy endureth for ever.” Ye who are men and fathers among us, bless ye the Lord who has safely led you until this hour. The pillar of cloud, the column of fire, you have not seen, and yet you have been conducted as pilgrims in the desert, safely and well. The heavenly manna has been your food, and the water from the living rock has been your drink. Your mightiest foes have been slain with the sword of the Lord. Temptations sharp and strong have not prevailed against you. Trials incessant you have been able to bear. “Hitherto the Lord hath helped you.” What is your experience worth if it does not kindle the flames of gratitude? To what end has God manifested all this goodness to you unless you delight yourself in God in the remembrance of it? Remember all the way by which the Lord thy God hath led thee these forty years in the wilderness! Remember how he has hedged thee about, and kept off thine enemies and given thee peace within thy soul, and fed thee with the finest of the wheat! If thou be silent, thou wilt be most guilty of all the ungrateful ones. Therefore, believer, take the cymbals, yea, the high-sounding cymbals, and with all thy might dance before the ark of the Lord thy God, and praise and magnify his holy name.

     The peculiar point which is brought out in this chorus is, the enduring character of divine mercy — “His mercy endureth for ever.” By this I suppose is intended that God’s mercy, as an attribute and as a rule of his action, is continual throughout all ages. He was a merciful God to our first parents. At the fatal portal of Eden, when they were first driven forth into the world in judgment, the sweet promise came like the breath of heaven upon them, “The seed of the woman shall Bruise the serpent’s head.” Abraham and Isaac and Jacob received mercy at his hands; Samuel and David and Solomon found him gracious, and the prophets and tho6e who loved the Lord in their days, knew that he turned not his love from his people. The multitude understood the abounding mercy of the Most High when healing was given by our Lord on the right hand and on the left. In apostolic times the first champions of the faith drank deep at the fountain of God’s love, and afterwards our sires, who upheld the banner of the cross in ages of persecution, trusted in God and bore witness that his mercy endured unto them. It is the same to-day: God has not quenched the lamp of his goodness: the river of his mercy flows deep and broad as aforetime.

     I was musing upon this – God’s mercy through the ages, and I saw as before my eyes the goodness of God conquering the sin of many all along the ages. Did you ever stand upon the field of Waterloo, and see the golden harvest waving there? If so, you have seen how the mercy of God has blotted out the cruelty of man. There where man struggled with his fellow, and dyed the ground crimson with human gore, mercy came and covered all with a robe of emerald, begemmed with fairest flowers, turning Aceldama into Eden. Moreover, mercy so triumphs over judgment, that ere long men look upon the judgments as a noble form of mercy. When our ancient city was consumed by fire, and the distressed inhabitants walked among the ashes of all their precious things, the pulpits rang with the cry of the judgment of God. But what say we now? Why, that it was a most gracious visitation, destroying pestilence in its lair, and banishing the plague from the land. Thus it is seen that “his mercy endureth for ever.” If Jehovah shall shake the earth with earthquake, or dash down the dwellings of men with tornado, or make the cruel sea to engulph a navy, the after results teem with blessing to mankind, while the judgment itself vanishes, and flowers bloom amid the rifts of earthquake, and children play where the hot lava ran from the red lips of the volcano. Mercy still abideth, and judgment is but for a little season.

     Doubtless, also, the psalmist meant that mercy continues in its fulness. We make great draughts upon the mercy of God, but we do not diminish it. There are fears that we shall one day exhaust those great storehouses in which the earth’s best fuel is laid up. This may be probable, and is certainly possible — a few hundred years will make a heavy demand upon our mineral treasuries; but quarry as you will in the mines of God’s blessing, neither you nor your children, nor your children’s children shall complain of a deficiency.

“Great God, the treasures of thy love
Are everlasting mines,
Deep as our helpless miseries are,
And boundless as our sins.”

May we not also understand by “his mercy endureth for ever,” that the patience of God aboundeth? Have you ever reflected upon the infinite, longsuffering of God? Consider for a moment. The sins of men are all before the Lord. You and I can readily put up with offences which do not touch us in the quick, or actually under our own eye, but the sinner’s sin is perpetrated before the countenance of Jehovah. No word is said behind his back, no blasphemy is uttered in secret to him: and sin affects God as it does not affect us. We have grown so case-hardened that the heinousness of iniquity is little discerned by us: we take it as a matter of course. But God who is infinitely pure, is, if I may use such an expression, infinitely sensitive with regard to sin. He knows sin to be sin, and the heinousness of it, which we do not perceive, is all before his mind continually, and yet his mighty patience reigns over all, and bears with men’s iniquities.

     Remember, too, that these insults against heaven are constantly repeated. The most patient man at last yields to anger: constant dropping will wear away a stone: but here is God insulted, as I have said, to his face thousands and thousands of times a day, and yet keeps his sword in its scabbard, and bids his thunder sleep! A wish would blast the rebels into everlasting torment, but he wills it not. As the Lord liveth, he saith, he hath no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, but would rather that he should turn unto him and live. To all this you must add the reflection that all the while rebellious sinners are partaking of God’s mercy: the rebel wears God’s livery upon his back, and sits at the table of God’s providence; the breath that is in his nostrils is the gift of divine charity, and yet the wretch useth this breath against his Maker. Can you understand this? Could you bear to be insulted for a single day by one who was receiving all he had from you? Would you not by-and-by, ay, very speedily say to him, “Get you gone! If you are my enemy, wherefore should I treat you as I treat my friend”? Then be it remembered, that God is not only sparing the guilty, but is putting ways of mercy before them. Some of you are invited to repent as often as the Sabbath dawns; with some of you there are incessant movings upon your conscience; you seldom pass a day without hearing the voice say, “Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?” God is always wooing you to come to him, inviting you by his mercy and threatening you by his judgments, and yet while his longsuffering should lead you to repentance, you add sin to sin, and ripen in your iniquity.

     One thing more I would have you recollect, and I think you will admire the amazing patience of God, namely, that he is doing this with millions! Millions! perhaps a thousand millions at this moment, for I suppose — though no one can ascertain accurately — there are a thousand millions of unregenerate men upon the face of this earth at this very moment, all enemies of God; either worshipping gods of wood and stone, or else such spiritual idols as their imaginations have fashioned, and with all these God is compassed about as with bees; but he doth not destroy them: still hath he patience, and still he crieth, “Come unto me; repent; believe in my Son, and ye shall have eternal life.” Truly “his mercy endureth for ever,” if you think upon these things.

     May not the endurance of divine grace be faintly pictured in the following scene? Out yonder, just beyond those grinding rocks, there is a vessel, rolling and tossing on the jagged granite, and evidently going to pieces. See you not the mariners clinging to the masts? It is not possible that they should escape, except by help from the shore. The rocket apparatus has been used, and a rope is fastened to the vessel, and now a cradle is drawn along the rope. What joy! One man is safely landed, but the rope is weak, and it is doubtful whether it will bear the strain. Two at one time are clinging to the rope, and the ship is nearly broken up — will the rope bear them? The wind howls terribly, and the waves lash furiously — will the rope hold out? Another is venturing! Ah! see how the rope dips! The waves have gone over him. Will it be able to sustain his weight and save him? Now, we never have such anxiety concerning the salvation of souls by Christ Jesus, “for his mercy endureth for ever.” The salvation of God brings every soul to shore that hangs on it, and, when the world is gone to wreck, free grace will bring all who trust it to the eternal shore. Should the biggest sinner out of hell hang upon that rope of mercy, it will bear him up, and bring him safe to land.

     I would liken God’s mercy to a great temple which strong men have sought to overturn with their utmost might. They have laboured to overturn the two great pillars whereon the house leans. The ancient temple of the Philistines stood firm enough till an unexpected hero entered it: Samson felt for the pillars, and finding them, bowed himself with all his might, and the pillars snapped, and down came the house upon-the Philistine lords, and Samson himself perished. Many a Samson-like sinner has gone into the temple of God’s mercy, and bowed with all his might to overturn it, to see if he could not wear out the patience of God and blaspheme himself into swift damnation; and yet these bold and gigantic sinners have never been able to do this, but very frequently these very men have been subdued by grace, and have worshipped him in the temple which they once sought to destroy. Yes, Philistia’s house may bow, but the house of Jehovah standeth fast, and “his mercy endureth for ever.”

     There is but one reflection to make the subject of the song complete; namely, that the potency of God’s mercy in delivering his saints is equally immutable. He is always able to deliver his children, so that we may Bay in the language of the three holy children, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us out of the enemies’ hands.” There is no possibility that a child of God should be cast into a difficulty out of which the stretched out arm of Jehovah cannot bring him. He who brought his people of old from the brick-kilns of Egypt, and led them through the Red Sea and the howling wilderness, will surely bring all his elect ones out of all their trials safe to their heavenly rest.

     II. I now use the text as A SOLACE. We have many troubles, and we need comfort; God is willing that we should be comforted for he says, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people;” moreover, he has provided for it, for he has given us the Holy Spirit to be the Comforter.

     I shall use the text as a solace as to the past. The year is all but gone. Have we not found, up till now, that his mercy has endured for ever? If the stories of all could be told who are sitting here, I suppose a great roll of lamentation would need to be written, and around every roll we could bind the silken cord of mercy. Beloved, whether you will say it or not, I must, as the minister of such a congregation as this, involved in so many cares, with so many labours, and so much of anxiety pressing daily upon my soul, I must bless my God that up till now, to me, at any rate, his mercy has endured. It brought me to tears when you were singing just now —

“He his chosen race did bless
In the wasteful wilderness.”

Yes, it is a wasteful wilderness to us; but he has blessed us; he has made it to blossom like the rose where we expected nothing but weariness and barrenness. Blessed be God for the past. We will comfort ourselves with recollections of the past, because he will not change in his dealings. He that has helped us thus far will not forsake us. “Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.”

     But the chief solace about the past lies in this: every rightminded Christian at the close of the year looks back upon his sins of omission and sins of commission. I shall not invite you to any lengthened confessions this morning, but which of us would not blush scarlet if his sins could be known? Beloved, acknowledge them now into the ear of your God, and then remember that mercy covers all. Whatever it may have been, mercy covers all, and, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” I am no more a sinner than I was at the end of last year, and yet have I committed thousands of sins: there is no more in God’s book against me than there was then — there was nothing then, blessed be his name, for the blood had cancelled all, there is nothing now, for the same atoning sacrifice has taken all my sin away. Come to the cross, my brethren and sisters, come to the cross again, and as you look up to the wounds of Jesus which bled for you, believe that “his mercy endureth for ever.” Your sins, however innumerable, are cast behind his back, yea, thrown into the depths of the sea. Our text is also a very sweet consolation as to the present Have we at this moment a sense of present sin? Then, “his mercy endureth for ever.” Our Lord comes to us, in the language of this text, girt with the towel, and bearing the ewer, and the bason, and washes our feet yet again. From the accumulated dust of a year’s journey he cleanses us. May you have no consciousness of sin, but on the contrary, a consciousness of reconciliation in the Beloved. But perhaps you have on your mind some spiritual disability. Perhaps you have been so disquieted at home, that you cannot concentrate your thoughts, and however the preacher may try to bring you to the point, your mind is so disturbed that you cannot appreciate it: there is a fog in your soul as well as in the streets. Beloved, thank God our acceptance is not injured by our depressed state of mind: whether we are depressed or exalted, whether we are enjoying communion or not, we still stand in the Beloved all fair and glorious in the sight of him whose mercy endureth for ever.

     Possibly you have come here to-day, and brought with you too much of yesterday’s troubles. These ought not to come into the Sabbath, for this is a day of rest. Still you cannot help it; you are beset with such daily anxiety, that while sitting here you have been mentally looking into your ledger, or nursing the sick child; your mind has been in the fields of vanity when it should have been on the mount with God. Drive out your cares by remembering that “ his mercy endureth for ever.”

“Come, make your wants, your burdens known;
He will present them at the throne;
And angel-bands are waiting there,
His messages of love to bear.”

You cannot be in such a difficulty that he cannot sustain you in it, or bear you out of it. “His mercy endureth for ever.”

     As to the future. Ah! we are poor fools when we begin to deal with the future. It is a sea which we are not called upon to navigate. The present is the whole of life, for when we enter into the future, it is the present. Yet, standing here this morning, I can conceive some who feel infirmities creeping over them, trembling with the foreboding, “What shall I do when I come to extreme old age? My friends are gone: I have none who are likely to maintain me. When these fingers cannot perform their daily work, when my brow is wrinkled, and I can scarcely totter to my toil, what shall I do?” Ah! “his mercy endureth for ever.” It does not stop at seventy, nor pause at eighty: it will bear you safely over ninety, if your pilgrimage be so far prolonged. When I looked the other day upon a number of poor old men and women in the wards of the workhouse, some of whom had not risen from their beds at all for years, I thought to myself it was better far to die than so to live; and yet, if they had a good hope, I was mistaken, for if Christ should make that bed to become soft as downy pillows with his presence) there might be a glory in the workhouse, and a heaven in the midst of poverty, and they would there learn as well as anywhere, that “his mercy endureth for ever.” “Even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.” Therefore trust in the Lord, and be not afraid ye whose days of weakness are coming, for he will not fail you nor forsake you.

     We are sometimes alarmed at the prospect of the storms of life. They are not few. In the past they have been many — we may expect more. He who reckons upon smooth weather between this and the fair haven, reckons without his host; but, beloved, come what tempest there may, “his mercy endureth for ever.” There must have been some trepidation on board that mail steamer a few weeks ago, when the tornado was thundering over the West Indies. The captain very wisely put on all steam and faced the wind; but with what anxiety must they have asked the question, “Will she have force enough to face such a mighty whirlwind? Can the engines keep up speed enough to battle with the hurricane?” The engines groaned, and every timber creaked as the good ship steamed right into the teeth of the tempest, sailing as it were between the very jaws of death and into the throat of the grave. Surely they whispered to one another, “Will she brave it out? She seems but a mere cockle-shell in the midst of these huge Atlantic waves; Will she be carried on the reef and dashed to pieces as hundreds of Others have been, or will she conquer the furious blast?” When the good vessel kept her head to the wind, and pierced the waves, holding her own against such odds, there must have been great joy on board. You and I are in a nobler vessel, with her head to the tempest, Jehovah steers her, and we shall not only outlive the storm, but sail into port with all our colours flying, to the praise and glory of his name whose “mercy endureth for ever.”

     Looking forward to the future, there are some who say, “We are most of all alarmed because of far removes which we are expecting.” Out of this congregation, a considerable number emigrate from year to year, called to a distance from friends and kinsfolk. Should that be your case, dear friend, is it not a comfort to think that God’s mercy endureth for ever? Two friends agree never to go farther apart than they can communicate with one another by telegraph. One of them has crossed the Atlantic, and resides in the United States, or in the far west, but still he has only to go to the office, where a wire can be touched and a message will flash to his friend in England, and tell him his needs. This is just the compact God has made with his people: they shall never go where there is not a telegraphic communication between them and himself. You may be out at sea, or in Australia, but the communication of prayer is always open between your soul and God, and if you were commanded to ride on the wings of the morning to the uttermost parts of the sea, or if for awhile you had to make your bed in the abyss, if you were his child, still would you be able to reach his heart. Neither distance, nor time, nor eternity itself, should divide an heir of heaven from the mercy of God, which endureth for ever.

     I think I hear one say, “I am not looking forward to that, for I have no doubt I shall lay my bones among my brethren, but I have lost many friends, and others are pining with consumption, and are likely to be taken from me.” This is a grief which occurs oftener to us as we grow older. The young man may look upon his wife and children, and see his father, and mother, and friends about him, but as sure as we are men, either we must go from them, or they from us, for no unbroken families can long remain on earth; and the less of death we have had the more is yet to come. We are those who have not drunk the pup; but we must drink it even to the dregs. What a comfort to know that we sorrow not as they that are without hope. If we lose our friends and dear ones in the Lord, we part to meet, and we meet to part no more. If they die, if our best beloved ones depart, yet “the Lord’s mercy endureth for ever.”

     And this year some of us will die. As I look around here, I feel that truth most solemnly. The young may die: the old must Some of us must tread the dark valley this year. It may be the preacher: there are many more unlikely things. It may be you — you young people. It may be any of us. Do we know the mercy of God? Then God forbid we should lift our little finger to have it otherwise, for his mercy will endure when the death dews lie cold on our brow we shall find that last day to be no more dreadful than the ordinary days of life, yea, we shall perhaps be favoured with such visions of angels, and such sights of the better land, that we shall be glad for evening, to undress that we may rest with God.

     III. I wish we had time to use the text more fully in that light, but we have not; therefore, I shall come now, in the third place, and with much brevity, to use the text as A SERMON — a sermon with three heads.

     1. “His mercy endureth for ever.” Then, in the first place, let our mercy endure,. Have you, during this year, or at any time previously, offended another or been offended, so that there is any ill-will in your mind between you and any one? Then may I ask you, as this is a most fitting day, at the close of the year, to end it at once! Even if we feel we have been grossly ill-treated, grossly insulted, yet now let the token of reconciliation be given by every one of us. Recollect, you Christians must do it, or you are not Christians. You are nothing better than deceitful hypocrites if you harbour in your minds a single unforgiving thought. There are some sins which may be in the heart, and yet you may be saved, but you cannot be saved unless you are forgiving. “If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Those are Christ’s own words. If we do not choose to forgive, we choose to be damned. Now, there is a good deal of lying about this. People will say, “Yes, I will forgive it, but I cannot forget it.” You mean you do not forgive it. Everything like enmity must be renounced if you would be saved. When Mr. Wesley was going out to America with General Ogilvie, he heard a great storming and raging going on in the cabin: it was the general scolding his servant. He said, “I had so many bottles of Cypress wine put on board for me— the only wine I am allowed to drink — and that villain has drunk it all himself. I have put him in irons, and I am going to send him on board a man-of-war to be flogged, for I never forgive.” “Well,” said Mr. Wesley, “I hope you never sin.” The inference was so irresistible that the general said, “Here, you sir, take my keys. I forgive you this time.” If we would be forgiven, let us forgive.

     2. The second head of the sermon is this — if God’s mercy endures for ever, then let us learn the duty of hoping for everybody. You have no right to say of the poor fallen girl in the street, “Oh, it is no use looking after those outcasts, they always turn out badly before long.” God's mercy endureth for ever: if you had any of it, you would not talk so. You have no right to say of the drunken man, who has been reclaimed three or four times, but has gone back, “It is no use trying any more with him.” Brethren, “his mercy endureth for ever.” Would ye be more severe than your Maker! He bears with sinners: surely we may. Especially this ought to be so with our relatives and children. A mother’s love must never burn out, and a father’s patience never expire. Hope for the most hopeless. Till they are in hell, pray for them. Till they are in their graves, hope for them. Till they die, labour to bring them to Christ. God’s mercy ever endures: let our tenderness endure.

     3. And, in the third place, if God’s mercy endures for ever, then see the duty of hoping for yourself If you have been ever so guilty, do not say, “There is no hope.” “His mercy endureth for ever.” Away with that whisper of Satan, “Too late.” It is not too late. So long as you desire Christ, it is not too late for him to receive you. It will one day be too late, when life is over. Then will you hear those words, “Too late; ye cannot enter now;” but it is not too late for repentance and faith to be accepted. Despair is sin: hope is the duty of man with regard to God. I pray you cast not yourself away. Till God has cast you into hell, have hope, and come to Christ.

     IV. I cannot say more upon the sermon, time is gone ; but the last head is A SUMMONS: “His mercy endureth for ever.”

     Is not that a most loving and tender summons to the wandering child to return to his Father? to the backsliding professor to approach his God? to the chief of sinners to humble himself before the mercyseat? There is mercy — seek it. There is mercy in Jesus — believe in him. Bunyan tells us that the prince Emmanuel hung out the white flag upon Mount Gracious. It is there still. Surrender, man, surrender to-day, and fight no more against thyself, and thine eternal interests. Behold the white flag still. Thou hast but to trust thy Lord, and leave thy sin, and he will be merciful to thee. When that man of God, Mr. Andrew Fuller, was once preaching in Scotland, the place was very crowded, and numbers were outside. A woman, the worst woman in the town , seeing the crowd, thought she would push into the Kirk to listen to the English minister. He was preaching from the text, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” “Ah,” said she, “I have gone far, but I have not gone over the ends of the earth, at any rate, and if God says, ‘Look, and be saved, all the ends of the earth,’ he must mean me.” She did look, and became afterwards an honourable woman in that parish, converted by the grace of God.

     On this last Sabbath morning in the year, I solemnly present those same words as fresh from God’s lips to every unconverted person here, ‘Look unto Christ, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” God bring you to obey that gentle summons to come to your heavenly Father and live.

     Believers, the summons is also meant for you. It says this, “His mercy endureth for ever;” therefore let your love to souls continue; let your labour for conversions abide; let your generosity to God’s cause abound; let your endeavours to extend the kingdom of Christ endure evermore. At this season, let me say, enlarge your exertions. If you have done much, do more. If you have done little, be ashamed and begin afresh. If God’s mercy continue for ever, do not let us talk about resting and taking things easy. Hay, time is very precious, every hour has six wings, like a cherub, and flies like the lightning’s flash. Let us live and work while we may, “for the night cometh when no man can work.”



The Great Mystery of Godliness

By / Dec 22

The Great Mystery of Godliness

 

“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” — 1 Timothy 3:16.

 

THE apostle had just reminded Timothy that the church of the living God is the pillar and ground of the truth, and he had pressed it upon him to behave himself aright in the midst of those faithful men to whom the Lord had committed the gospel; and, lest by any means the youthful minister should think that the treasure committed to the church was of little value, he declares that beyond all controversy it was great and precious. Every heathenish religion had its mystery, its secret doctrine revealed only to the initiated, which was held to be the essence of the faith. The mystery of some religions was mere froth, foolish if untrue, and if true of no consequence to any one; but even those who do not believe the facts of our religion can hold no controversy with us about the unspeakable greatness of them, if they be indeed true. Be a man what he may, if he be reasonable he will admit that Christianity does not deal in trifles. Like the eagle, it does not hawk for flies, it aspires to conquer the loftiest themes of thought. Right or wrong, the subjects with which we deal are not secondary, but wear about them an awful interest which none but the frivolous despise. Jesus sits in no second place among teachers. Paul mentions what the mystery of godliness is, and declares that it concerns the manifestation of God in human, flesh, that he might save men from their sin. Now, saith he, without controversy this is a great matter, if it be received by us as true, it becomes us to act as those who are put in trust with a priceless deposit with which we dare not be otherwise than faithful. There is no room for indifference where the gospel is concerned — it is either the most astounding of impostures, or the most amazing of revelations; no man can safely remain undecided about it, it is too weighty, too solemn to be snuffed at as a matter of no concern. Foes and friends alike confess that the mystery of godliness is great: it is no rippling rill of dogma, but a broad ocean of thought, no molehill of discovery, but an Alp of revelation, no single beam of light but a sun shining at its strength.

     I shall, this morning, first take up the apostle's summary of our religion; secondly, I shall give a few notes upon it; and, thirdly, draw one or two inferences from it.

     I. First let us carefully look at THE SUMMARY OP TRUE RELIGION handed by the apostle to his son in the faith.

     1. The first article in this most authentic apostle’s creed declares that “God was manifest in the flesh this is claimed as an especially valuable part of the great mystery of godliness. My brethren, if you will carefully consider it, this is one of the most extraordinary doctrines that was ever declared inhuman hearing, for were it not well attested, it would be absolutely incredible that the infinite God who filleth all things, who was and is, and is to come, the Almighty, the Omniscient, and the Omnipresent, actually condescended to veil himself in the garments of our inferior clay. He made all things, and yet he deigned to take the flesh of a creature into union with himself: the Infinite was linked with the infant, and the Eternal was blended with mortality. That manger at Bethlehem, tenanted by the express image of the Father’s glory, was a great sight indeed to those who understood it. Well might the angels troop forth in crowds from within the gates of pearl, that they might behold him whom heaven could not contain, finding accommodation in a stable with a lowly wedded pair. Wonder of wonders! God over all, blessed for ever, became one with a newborn babe which slept in a manger where the homed oxen fed.

     “God was manifest in the flesh.” In this Paul testifies not merely to our Lord’s birth, but to the whole of the divine manifestation in his life of two or three and thirty years. He was abundantly manifest among the multitudes, and before his disciples during the latter part of his life. He was God in miracles most plenteous, but he was man in sufferings most pitiable. He was the Son of the Highest, and nevertheless, “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” He trod the billows of the obedient sea, and yet he owned not a foot of land in all Judea. He fed thousands by his power, and yet all faint and weary he sat upon a well, and cried, “Give me to drink.” He cast out devils, but was himself tempted of the devil. He healed all manner of diseases, and was himself exceeding sorrowful even unto death. Winds and waves obeyed him, every element acknowledged the august presence of deity, and yet he was tempted in all points like as we are. Our Lord’s manhood was no phantasm, no myth, no mere appearance in human shape: beyond all doubt “the Word, was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” “Handle me and see, saith he; “a Spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have.” “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.” Yet with equal certainty, God was manifest in him. As the light streams through the lantern, so the glory of Godhead flamed through the flesh of Jesus, and those who were his nearest companions bear witness: “We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” That revelation of God in the flesh became yet more extraordinary when, at last, our Lord condescended to be put to death by his own creatures. Arraigned before human tribunals, condemned as guilty of the gravest crimes, he is taken from prison and from judgment, with none to declare his generation; he is fastened to the accursed wood, and put to a death of deepest shame, and bitterest torture. O ye whose loving eyes have looked upon the ensanguined rills which gush from the wounds of your bleeding Lord, and have delighted to behold the lily of the valleys reddened into the rose of Sharon with the crimson of his own blood, you can see God in Christ as you behold rocks rending, the sun darkened, and the dead arising from their tomb sat the moment of his departure from the earth — behold in the writhing form of the Crucified Man at once the vengeance and the love of God, nor less behold divine power sustaining the load of human guilt, and divine compassion enduring such agonies for rebels so ill deserving. Truly this Son of man was also the Son of God.

     Beloved, this is a mystery surpassing all comprehension. If any man should attempt to explain, or even to define the union of the divine and human in the Lord Jesus, he would soon prove his folly. The schoolmen of the dark ages were very fond of asking puzzling questions about what they called the hypostatical union of the deity and humanity of Christ. They could not cast so much as a ray of light upon the subject; they amused themselves with enigmas and lost themselves in labyrinths. It is enough for us to know that the incarnation is a glorious fact, and it suffices us to hold it in its simplicity. God was manifest in the flesh of Jesus Christ the incarnate Word.

     Beloved, this is a great mystery — great because it treats of God. Any doctrine which relates to the Infinite and the Eternal is of the utmost weight. We should be all ear and all heart when we have to learn concerning God. Reason teaches us that he who made us, who is our preserver, and at whose word we are so soon to return to the dust, should be the first object of our thoughts. Turn ye hither, ye wayward children of Adam, and behold this great mystery, for your God is here. A bush burning and unconsumed would attract your curious gaze: what think ye of a man who was in union with the God who is a consuming fire? The truth of God manifest in flesh is great if you consider the great honour which is thereby conferred upon manhood. How is man honoured in God’s taking the nature of man into union with himself, for verily he took not upon him the nature of angels, but he took upon him the seed of Abraham! Whichever of all the creatures shall come nearest to the Creator will evidently have the preeminence in the ranks of creatureship, which then shall bear the palm ? Shall not the seraphs be chosen? Shall not the swift-winged sons of fire be chief among heaven’s courtiers? Behold, and be astonished, a worm is preferred, a rebellious child of the earth is chosen! Human nature is espoused into oneness with the divine! There is no gulf between God and redeemed man at this hour. God is first, over all, blessed for ever, but next comes man in the person of the man Christ Jesus. Well may we say with David, “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet.” Man is royal now that Christ is human. Man is exalted since Christ is humiliated. Man may go up to God now that God has come down to man. This is great, is it not? A mystery, certainly, but great in every way. See that ye despise it not, lest ye miss the abounding benefit which flows to man through this golden channel.

     My brethren, the mystery appears greatest of all because it is so nearly connected with our eternal redemption. There could have been no putting away of sin by vicarious suffering if God had not become incarnate. Sin is not removed except by an atonement, neither would any person have sufficed to atone but one of like nature to those who had offended. By man came death; by man also must come resurrection. Jesus appears as man to save his people from their sins, by taking the sins of his people upon himself, and offering a propitiation for them. What a wondrous sight was the dying Redeemer! The cross is the focus of all human history — I was almost going to say it is the centre of the life of God, if such a thing can be. All the ages meet in Calvary. Jesus is the central Sun of all events. O, gaze again, and marvel more and more that God should put himself into the place of his offending creature, and in the person of his dear Son, should offer to eternal justice a compensation for the insults which sin had cast upon law and rule! There is no greatness in heaven or earth if it be not here in the bleeding flesh of Jesus, the Son of God. All else is dwarfed into nothing in his presence.

     Beloved, the manifestation of God in Jesus crucified will appear to be great to you if you have ever drank deep into its meaning. If, standing at the foot of the cross, you have seen all your sins punished in the person of the incarnate God, and have heard the voice which saith, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus,” you cannot think lightly of the Word made flesh. If you have learned that his blood has brought perfect pardon to all believers, and that through the. rent veil of his flesh the saints have access to God and entrance into heaven, you will lay hold upon the great truth of an incarnate Deity with a grasp which neither the trials of life nor the terrors of death shall unclasp; you will hate the very thought of denying the Godhead of the Lord that bought you — you will be jealous for his great name, and bum with sacred zeal for his glory. Your heart will cry out indignantly, “Away from me, ye rejecters of the divine Redeemer; if you rob Christ of his glory. I count ye the worst of thieves. ‘Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father; and in denying Jesus ye reject the one God himself!”

     2. The apostle mentions, in the next place, the important witness by which the mission of Jesus was confirmed. He was “Justified in the Spirit” By the word “Spirit,” we understand the Holy Spirit, although it may be understood of the spiritual nature of Christ, in which he was always justified, though in the flesh he was condemned of men. It appears more natural to confine the expression to the Holy Spirit. Every religion demands our attention in proportion to the certainty of its teachings, and the value of its confirmatory testimony. How matchless is the seal which is set upon the mystery of godliness, since the Holy Spirit has been pleased himself, personally and repeatedly to confirm it! If we demand trustworthy evidence, behold the Holy Spirit bearing witness to our most holy faith, both in heaven and in earth! — “It is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.” Observe what part the Holy Spirit took in connection with our Lord. The formation of the immaculate body of the holy child Jesus was by the energy of the Holy Ghost — as the angel said to Mary, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” Afterwards, the Holy Spirit owned this same most sacred person, in whom God was manifested, by descending upon him at his baptism in the waters of Jordan. John, who was the forerunner and witness of Jesus, bore record, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him; and I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptise with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptiseth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.” The heavens were opened, and the Spirit, the voice of God, proclaimed, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” On one or two other occasions we have it upon the testimony of witnesses who were present, that an audible voice was heard out of the excellent glory, saying, “This is my beloved Son: hear ye him!” The greatest attestation which the Holy Spirit gave to Christ was the raising of him from the dead. In some respects Christ rose from the dead by his own power, but it is a scriptural doctrine that he was “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead.” The power by which we are converted is evidently the Holy Spirit, and we read in the Ephesians, “The exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead.” Moreover, let us not forget that forty days after our Master had been taken up from us, while the disciples were gathered together with one accord in one place, suddenly they heard a sound as of a rushing mighty wind, which filled all the place where they were sitting; the Holy Ghost, whom Jesus had promised, had come to make good the word of the Lord. Ye have not forgotten the miraculous flames of fire which sat upon each of the disciples, and how they spake with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance! You know how that day three thousand were converted to the faith by the testimony of those first champions of Christ! Thus the Holy Spirit bore witness with signs, and miracles, and wondrous gifts, that he who professed to be incarnate Deity, was most truly God and the Saviour of men.

     Beloved, if you complain that this attestation has now ceased, and that the record of miracles is rather a strain upon your faith than an assistance to it, I would remind you that the Spirit of God has not ceased from the midst of the church. The Holy Ghost no longer operates upon material substances, the sick are not healed, and the dead are not raised — this the we freely confess; but he still acts with equally wonderful results upon the minds of men. In this very house there have been miracles performed, which, in lasting value, put the raising of the dead to the blush. Many of us who are now present bear witness that by the Spirit of God we have been new created, raised from spiritual corruption, delivered from the dominion of Satan, and translated into the kingdom of God. The swine of drunkenness have been made lovers of holiness, the beasts of sensuality have become partakers of the divine nature; what better sign is needed ? When hearts of adamant melt like wax, and streams of penitence flow from souls as hard as flinty rocks, who will refuse to believe? Let the gospel be judged by its fruits, and we are satisfied with the trial. If it does not turn the moral desert into an Eden, transform the lion into a lamb, and raise up the beggar from the dunghill, then let it be rejected; but since it has done this, and is doing it, let its despisers beware lest they commit the sin against the Holy Ghost while they reject the solemn evidences which he daily thrusts before our eyes. Brethren, in our own souls the blessed Spirit has borne most overwhelming witness when we have been bowed in penitence at Jesus’ feet, and anon have been lifted up into loftiest joy as we found pardon in his blood. The Spirit of God is with us still, working with the word of God. See the savage casting away his weapons, the cannibal softened into the man. What philosophy could not do and did not care to attempt — what civilisation never could have accomplished alone, the cross of Christ has effectually performed. The Spirit of God is with us, and both in the holiness of the saints, and in the conversions of unbelievers, he bears witness that God was in Christ.

     3. Our apostle writes, as the next part of the great mystery of godliness, that Christ “was seen of angels” Jesus was seen of angels at his birth; they appeared to the shepherds, and bade them hasten to Bethlehem, while they themselves looked on with holy wonder —

“They saw the heaven-born child, in human flesh array’d,
Benevolent and mild, while in a manger laid;
And praise to God, and peace on earth,
For such a birth, proclaim’d aloud.”

Our Lord was watched by holy spirits in the wilderness where, after he had conquered that arch tempter, angels ministered unto him. He was with the wild beasts at one moment, and anon seraphic spirits waited in his train. An angel ministered unto him in Gethsemane, when his sweat was as it were great drops of blood. Upon Calvary they watched him too, and doubtless, as the poet says —

“Around the bloody tree they press’d with strong desire
That wondrous sight to see, the Lord of life expire:
Had dropp’d it there in sad surprise.”

Visions of angels were seen by the witnesses of his resurrection. Two clothed in white sat the one at the head and the other at the foot where the body of Jesus had lain. Angels met him at his ascension, when the clouds received him out of the sight of his gazing followers; and they attended him up to glory, crying, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.”

     The apostle mentions this to show the greatness of our religion, since the noblest intellects are interested in it. Did you ever hear of angels hovering around the assemblies of philosophical societies? Very interesting papers are sometimes produced speculating upon geological facts; startling discoveries are every now and then made as to astronomy and the laws of motion; we are frequently surprised at the results of chemical analyses; yet I do not remember ever reading even in poetry that angelic beings have shown any excitement at the news. The fact is, that the story of the world’s history in geologic times, and all the facts about this world, are as well known to angels as the letters of the alphabet are to us; all our profound sciences and recondite theories to them must seem utterly contemptible. Those august minds which have been long ago created of God, and preserved from defilement by his decree, are better able to judge than we are of the importance of things; and when we find them deeply interested in a matter, it cannot be of small account. Concerning an incarnate God, it is said, “which things the angels desire to look into.” Their views of God’s manifesting himself in the flesh are such, that over the mercyseat they stand with outspread wings gazing in reverent admiration, and before the throne they sing, “Worthy is the Lamb, for he was slain.” The doctrine of incarnate Deity, may be folly to the Greeks, and the vainglorious wiseacres of this world may call it commonplace, but to angels it is an ever flowing fount of adoring admiration. They turn from every other sight to view the incarnate Redeemer, regarding his condescending deed of grace as a bottomless ocean of mystery, a topless steep of wonder. Jesus was seen of angels, and they still delight to gaze upon him — this to the apostle’s mind was conclusive evidence that the doctrines of our faith are of the greatest importance.

     4. Then, he passes on to the next truth, Jesus Christ was preached unto the Gentiles. Was this a great thing? Is preaching a wonder? Yes. The preaching of the gospel proves conclusively the grandeur of our religion. The nearest to Christ were the angels — he was seen of them: the furthest from Christ were fallen Gentiles, who had given themselves up to the worship of the works of their own hands, to these also Jesus came. That Jesus Christ was preached to the Gentiles at all, was a wonder which it behoves us not to forget. As Paul says, “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands: that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace.” The Gentiles were brutalised with grovelling vices, and no form of spiritual faith had ever found footing among them, was then the most spiritual of all religions to be taught to them, and carried to them by no other means than that of preaching? This surprised our apostle; and what surprises me still more is this, that Christ was preached to the Gentiles by Jews — that those whose bigotry at that time was invincible, so that they could not imagine such a thing as a Gentile being in covenant with God, were the very men who with indefatigable ardour went among the Gentiles to preach Jesus Christ. If you had told an intelligent Jew that some of his fellow countrymen would become apostles to the Gentiles, to declare that the wall which surrounded the favoured nation was broken down, he would have smiled incredulously, and exclaimed, “Impossible! You may cut the Jew in pieces first. The belief that his race is peculiarly favoured of God lies in the very heart and marrow of the Israelite; he will never consent to become one with the Gentile dogs.” Yet Jesus the King of the Jews, Israel’s hope and consolation, was first published to the heathen by Jews, and chiefly by one who boasted that he was a “Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee.” Paul, the most ferocious of bigots, who counted that he did God’s service when he hunted out the disciples of Christ, became the Gentile’s friend and spiritual father. This is a startling fact. It is a most noteworthy fact in the history of our faith, that Jesus is still preached among the nations, and the church labours to make him everywhere known. What other religion spends so much energy in seeking converts? If any of you were foolish enough to wish to become Jews, you would not be welcomed among the Jewish fraternity. No Israelite ever attempts to proselyte us to his opinions. It would be a novelty indeed to hear of Jewish missionaries sent out to convert the heathen from their superstitions, or to recover Christians from their errors. No; the Jew does not want us, he prefers to keep his heritage for himself and his heirs. How far different is it with the followers of Jesus, whose very watchword is “preach the gospel to every creature!” In the case of all other religions, the preaching to the Gentiles is absent. I am not aware of any Mahometan society for the conversion of the world to the Prophet. I never saw in the streets of London a Brahmin, come from far, to convert the crowds of London to the doctrines of the Shasters; nor have I ever seen a Buddhist thrusting himself into the midst of peril to win the savage to his creed. Let any other faith than the Christian show me a man traversing alone the centre of Africa, like Livingstone, or dwelling alone with Bushmen, as Moffat has done. The fact is, that the spirit of false creeds is rather monopoly than extension; but as for the religion of Christ, it is expansive as the arch of heaven. If I could, I would have all men saved. If it were possible, I would have every one of you partakers of Christ Jesus this very morning; and we would cheerfully lay down our lives if we could extend the kingdom of Jesus Christ to the utmost bounds of the earth. What is it that keeps up this incessant preaching of Christ? Nothing but the real force of our faith. O ye heathen, if your religions be true, why do ye not promulgate them? Gods of the heathen, if ye be gods, why do ye not command your worshippers to convert the nations to your allegiance? But, no, they confess the worthlessness of their system, in that these systems are not preached among the Gentiles, and have no vitality to secure their spread. When these religions do attempt to spread themselves, which is rarely enough, how do they do it? Mahomet put a scimitar into the hand of each one of his followers, and said, “That is the strength of Islamism: use that sharp argument upon the nations.” But Christ refused all carnal weapons, and chose the simple preaching of the word. What other faith can dare to depend upon preaching — upon one man’s testimony to other men about truth precious to himself ? Surely this goes to show that the things which we believe are powerful, and worthy to be considered with attentive respect.

     5. Another great part of the mystery is that Christ is believed on in the world. I will acknowledge that I have often wondered at this sentence, and have asked why Paul should write it down as a great mystery that Christ should be believed on in the world. And yet it is a marvel of marvels. If you think how sunken the world was in vice, how darkened the understanding of man was with ignorance, it is astounding that such men should receive so holy and so spiritual a religion as that which Jesus Christ preached by his servants. We come to you who are fond of sin, and we tell you that you must give up your favourite pleasures, that cherished vices must be abandoned, that holiness which is distasteful to you must rule your life; and yet obnoxious as these things are to flesh and blood, when the Holy Spirit comes with the word, you believe them, and accept them joyfully. The apostle, in his first epistle to the Corinthians, uses the following language: “Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” Was not this extraordinary that such horrible characters should become lovers of the pure and holy Jesus? Must not a religion which can change such as these be something more than a cunningly devised fable? In another place, we are told of all mankind, “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” Is it not a wonder that such depraved minds should perceive beauties in the Lord Jesus, and yield their full confidence to him? Indeed, to every saved man, it is the greatest miracle of all that he is himself a believer. When I come to look at the truths upon which I rest, they are very simple indeed, and yet around them so many doubts are cast by the evil of my own heart, that I stand amazed that my faith retains her hold. I believe that Christ died for my sins with much more assurance than I believe anything else; no fact in history is one-half so certain to me, and yet, at times, it is so hard to believe it, that it is clear to me that true faith is not of man, but is a fruit of the Spirit. Great must be the truth which forces itself upon the conviction of minds so dark and so benighted as ours.

     The apostle winds up his summary of the mystery by reminding us that Christ was “received up into glory.” This is no small truth surely, that the Apostle and High Priest of our profession has not gone from us into obscurity, but is at this day sitting upon the throne of God! At this hour Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords, upholding all things by the word of his power. He shall shortly come to be our Judge. He shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the trump of the archangel and the voice of God, and all men shall be gathered before him to receive their final sentence. This is no small truth, but a great one to be proclaimed with zeal. Thus, throughout, the burden of our religion is far from trivial. “Great is the mystery of godliness.”

     II. I must now detain you with a few NOTES UPON THIS SUMMARY. Paul has here given us an outline of the Christian faith, and we note upon First it, as it follows is all concerning:— Christ. Out of these six articles of Paul’s creed, they all speak of Christ; from which I gather that if we are to, preach the gospel faithfully, we must preach much concerning Jesus Christ. My dear brethren, this must be the first, the midst, and end of our ministry. That man of whom it cannot be said that he preaches Christ, does not behave himself aright in the house of God; he evidently is not a messenger sent from heaven. It is all our business here to cry with John the Baptist, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” Brethren, as it is ours to preach Christ, so it is yours to receive him. If you have received a gospel, of which Christ is not the top and bottom, throw it away. If you are resting on anything beside Christ Jesus, you are resting upon a rotten foundation. Get off from it, lest you be deceived at the last. But if Christ is all in all to you, and his work and person are the sum and substance of your hope, then be of good cheer; where Jesus is honoured, souls are safely sheltered.

     I notice, in the second place, that there is not here a single word upon sacramentarianism. Now, in these days, we are perpetually told by men who are manifestly in earnest, that the great thing is the sacrament. According to their teaching, God has committed to bishops and priests the fulness of his grace, which we meekly and reverently may receive at their venerable hands. We are told that, in connection with a few drops of water, sprinkled by the successors of the apostles, children become regenerate; through the laying on of the same blessed hands, we afterwards become confirmed in the faith, and assured of our salvation. Through priestly power we are made partakers of the very body and blood of Christ, which, according to them, becomes literally present through their operation. When we come to die, they can anoint us with oil, consecrated by their power, and by this unction all our sins are forgiven us. The top and the bottom of the system is the priest, the priest, the priest. A man like ourselves, and not a whit better, but ten thousand times worse for his infamous impudence in pretending to be what he is not, this man, dressed out in as many colours as the peacock, is the divinely appointed medium of grace. If this be the truth, Paul did not know it, for, if he had known it, he would say, “Great is the mystery of godliness; God dwells in the priests, hasten and kiss their feet, for by their ceremonials you get salvation.” Paul says nothing of the kind. He has nothing to reveal about candles, and copes, and pompous processions; all he has to say is this, “God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory,” and that is all. How different this simple gospel from the complex machinery of Popery and Anglicanism!

     I want you to notice still further, that in this summary there is no exhibition of mere doctrine. I believe, most firmly, in the doctrines commonly called Calvinistic, and I hold them to be very fraught with comfort to God’s people; but if any man shall say that the preaching of these is the whole of the preaching of the gospel, I am at issue with him. Brethren, you may preach those doctrines as long as you like, and yet fail to preach the gospel; and I will go further, and affirm that some who have even denied those truths, to our great grief, have nevertheless been gospel preachers for all that, and God has saved souls by their ministry. The fact is, that while the doctrines of election, final perseverance, and so on, go to make up a complete ministry, and are invaluable in their place, yet the soul and marrow of the gospel is not there, but is to be found in the great fact that “God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit,” and so on. Preach Christ, young man, if you want to win souls. Preach all the doctrines, too, for the building up of believers, but still the main business is to preach Jesus who came into the world to seek and to save that which was lost. The apostle tells us in the Corinthians that first of all he delivered unto us as soul-saving truth, “how that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose again on the third day, according to the Scriptures.” Facts about Christ Jesus, and the promise of life through him, these are the faith of the gospel. Let me also say that I do not perceive anything in this summary tending remarkably to exalt prophecy. I would not make this remark were it not that there is a certain troublesome sect abroad nowadays to whom the one thing needful is a perpetual speculation upon prophecy. All the bells in their steeple ring out “prophecy! prophecy! Prophecy!” They plume themselves upon an expected secret rapture, and I know not what vain imaginings beside. Where prophecy is preached in connection with their shibboleth, there the gospel is preached, and all ministers beside their own, however honoured by God, are railed at by them as part of Babylon, against whom men are to be warned. They, forsooth, are wise men, and can afford superciliously to look down upon their fellow Christians as the slaves of sect and system, being, I venture to say, far more sectarian than the worst of us, and more bigoted to their system than Romanists themselves. My dear friends, if you have any time to spare, and cannot find any practical work for Jesus, study the dark places of prophecy, but do not read modern prophetical works, for that is a sheer waste of time and nothing better. Hold off as you would from a serpent from the idea that the study or preaching of prophecy is the gospel, for the belief that it is so, is mischievous beyond conception. The gospel which is to be vehemently declared is this:— “God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” So long as London is reeking with sin, and millions are going down to hell, let us leave others to prophesy, let us go with anxious hearts to seek after souls, and see if we cannot by the Spirit’s power win sinners from going down into the pit.

     You will, doubtless, have observed that this summary of the gospel is very simple. Whenever you meet with teaching which is cloudy and complicated, you may generally conclude that it is not the gospel of your salvation, for the truth of Christ is so plain that he who runs may read, and the wayfaring man though a fool need not err therein. Perhaps some of you have been thinking that conversion and salvation are dark and mysterious things, and that you have to pass through many singular operations and feelings in order to be saved. Now, beloved, the whole of our faith lies in a nutshell. He that believeth in Jesus Christ the incarnate God, is saved. These few truths if grasped by the mind, received and trusted in by the heart, will save you. It is at the cross that salvation must be found. We have not written over our religion, “Mystery, mystery, mother of harlots,” this is the sign of Babylon, but we have this to tell you, “He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned,” and the things which you have to believe are just these simplicities: Jesus the Son of God has come into this world as man to save men; he has bled and died; he is proclaimed and preached; he is to be received and believed in; he has gone up to glory to prepare a place for them that trust him, and that is all.

     III. THE INFERENCES I draw from this are just these. If this be a great gospel, then how important it is for us to receive it. If the gospel were a laborious system of ethics, there are many in this house who never could be saved, for they could not understand it; but since it is so simple, why do men refuse it? “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” O will you not lay hold upon that truth? I do pray the Spirit of God to take off your minds from all philosophies and mysteries, that you may come to Jesus only. Trust in Christ and you are saved.. Receive this simple truth. God calls it great; angels think it great; the Holy Spirit attests it to be great; we who preach it feel it to be great; they who receive it acknowledge it to be great; Christ in glory bears witness that it is great; O accept this great salvation! May the Spirit lead you to believe in the great Saviour of great sinners.

     Again, if it be so great, how important it is for us to spread it! It does not require us to go to college in order to tell of Jesus: we can each in our sphere publish his fame abroad. If this simple truth be the message of God to perishing sinners, then in the name of common humanity, and above all, in the name of the love of Christ, let us deliver it. How this text, ought to encourage us to spread the gospel. When I am preaching the gospel, many may say, “Oh, he is only telling us commonplace truth.” Just so, I know that; and yet I feel within myself as if I was wheeling up God’s great cannon, which will blow the gates of hell to pieces yet. “What! none of the venerable mysteries of Rome? What, none of the new philosophical discoveries? None of the imposing ceremonies? No, brethren, not one of them, they are all wooden guns, shams and counterfeits, and if ever they are fired off they will go to shivers. This plain truth, that “God was made flesh and dwelt among us,” is God’s great battering-ram against which nothing can stand. Never lose heart in the gospel, my brethren, but think you hear the apostle calling across the ages, “Great is the mystery of godliness.” Look for nothing greater, the gospel is great enough. Keep to it, never .think you have told men times enough about it. As Napoleon told his warriors at the pyramids, “A thousand ages look down upon you!” bleeding martyrs who from their graves, call to you to be faithful; confessors who ascended to heaven in fiery chariots, implore you to be steadfast. Hold fast that ye have received! Attempt not to mend the truth, venture not. to shape it according to the fancy of the times, but proclaim it in all its native purity. By this hammer the gods of Rome and Greece were dashed to shivers, by this lever the world was turned upside down; it is this gospel which has brought glory to God, filled heaven with redeemed souls, and made hell to tremble in all its palaces of flame. Bind it about your heart, and defy the hosts of Rome or hell to unloose its folds. Wrap it about your loins in death, and hold it as a standard in both your hands in life. This simple truth, that “Jesus Christ has come to seek and to save that which is lost,” and that “whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life,” must be your jewel, your treasure, your life.



Wanted, A Guestchamber

By / Dec 15

Wanted, A Guestchamber

 

“The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?” — Mark 14:14.

 

As far as we know, out of the many thousands who had come to Jerusalem from the utmost ends of the earth to keep the passover, none were left unaccommodated with a guestchamber except our Lord Jesus Christ. Jerusalem at the time of the passover was one great inn; the whole of the houses were occupied not only by the regular tenants, but by their friends from the country parts of Judea. Each one had invited his own friend, and all the houses were filled but there was found no one to invite the Saviour, and he had no dwelling of his own. He who received sinners, was excluded by all. The friend of man was houseless, and at the national festival be was no man’s guest. He would have been left in the streets, if by his own supernatural power he had not found himself an upper room in which to keep the feast. It is so even to this day; Jesus is not received among the sons of men save only where by his supernatural power and grace he makes the heart anew. Every pursuit has its eager followers, every art its votaries, every object its devotees, but Jesus is uncared for and neglected. Art, science, poetry, literature, mechanics, politics, wealth their minds — all these to follow obtain after a willing these; homage but to the; men natural need man no renewal the Lord of Jesus hath no form nor comeliness, and he therefore is despised and rejected. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” Like the Levite in the days of the Judges, “There was no man that took him into his house to lodging.” All doors are open enough to the prince of darkness, but Jesus must clear a way for himself or lodge in the streets. Methinks I hear him crying even to his own church, “Open to me, my sister, mv love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.”

     Doubtless one reason for this may be found in the fact that it was dangerous to receive Christ at that season. The rulers were hunting after him a thirst for his blood, and they had issued the command, that if any man knew where he was, he should tell them, that they might take him. To harbour Christ was to run the risk of being put out of the synagogue in the first place, to become the object or public contempt in the second, and perhaps in conclusion to meet with a sudden and violent death; therefore, prudent, careful men, closed their doors against him, and argued that they could not expose their families to so much peril. They might in their hearts admire him, in their souls they might lament that he was so hardly dealt with, but they could not run the risk of declaring themselves to be on his side by entertaining him at that moment of excitement. So is it at this hour, men always have a good reason, as they think, for that most unreasonable of all unkindnesses, the rejection of Jesus, their best friend. The farm, the merchandise, the newly-married wife, all these are the transparently weak excuses for not coming to the gospel supper. Pre-occupation of mind with some other pursuit, or the self-denials which Christianity would involve, or the difficulties which are supposed to beset a consistent Christian profession, any, or all of these, and worse than these, serve to satisfy the human conscience with the shadow of an excuse. Jesus Christ is kept on the cold side of the door, and our worst enemies are welcomed. Though it is the highest honour that man can have to entertain him, yet a cruel refusal is given him, and any excuse in the world is thought to be sufficient.

     Yet there was one who was willing to entertain the Saviour, and the Lord knew him and where to find him, according to that ancient saying, “The Lord knoweth them that are his.” There shall never be a time in the world’s history so dark but surely the Lord will have his chosen stars shining brightly amid the gloom. Christ shall never be so much despised but what there will be found here and there elect souls, hearts that the Lord has touched, who will say, “Come in and welcome, most sweet Lord: we are rejoiced to render thee the hospitality of our loving hearts.” Be of good courage, my brethren; piety may be at a low ebb, but it shall never run dry: the lamp may flicker, but it cannot be extinguished; our ranks may be thinned, but the host shall hold the battle-field. There are a few names even in Sardis; there is one Lot at least, even in Sodom; and in the raging Sanhedrim a Nicodemus holds a seat. In the worst times of superstition God raises up witnesses for his truth. We need never fear for the church — an imperishable seed is in her, and nothing shall destroy her. The gates of hell shall not prevail against her; though her ministers may fall, and many of her professed members may apostatise, yet the Lord will keep up the succession of the saints, and Jesus shall not lack a man to bear up the standard of the cross; so long as the earth remaineth, the everlasting kingdom of the Son of David shall stand.

     I shall now call your attention to the whole incident of our Lord’s finding a guestchamber in which to keep the passover, and I shall regard the question which I have selected for a text, first, as the mighty word of the Master’s effectual grace; and next, as the affectionate enquiry of the servant’s obedient solicitude.

     I. First, the Master says, “Where is the guestchamber?” This question may be regarded as THE MIGHTY WORD OF THE MASTER S EFFECTUAL GRACE.

     Our Lord intended to celebrate the passover in the large upper room belonging to the person to whom he sent Peter and John; the message which he sent by their lips was all-powerful, the man at once yielded up his furnished parlour without difficulty or demur, because there went a power with the word which the man was unwilling and unable to resist. Viewing this as a symbolical representation of the way in which hearts are won for Jesus, we observe, in the first place, that the time and the circumstances were all appointed. Two apostles were commanded to go to the city; when they should come to the city, providence would be there working before them— they were to meet a man just at the entrance of the city; he was to be there at the very moment of their arrival; he and none but he. This man must bear a pitcher — the pitcher must be filled with water; the water carrier must proceed to a certain house, and to no other. This house must contain an upper room, large enough to receive Christ and twelve others; this room must be in the possession of a person who would be perfectly willing to receive the Master and his disciples, and the good man of the house must be at home to show the room, and give the messengers admittance at once. Here were several very unlikely things to meet together at one particular juncture, and yet they did so meet. Providence arranges that when the apostles are at the city gates, the tankard bearer is there too, with his pitcher full of water; he goes to the house, the house is the right habitation, the man who possesses it shall be the right man, and Christ shall be entertained. Beloved, there are quite as many notable circumstances to be observed in the conversion of each one of God’s people. I do not doubt that the Lord has settled, concerning every one of his elect, the exact time when they shall pass from death unto life, the precise instrumentality by which they shall be converted, the exact word that shall strike with power upon their mind, the period of conviction which they shall undergo, and the instant when they shall burst into the joyful liberty of a simple faith in Christ. It is all settled, all arranged and predetermined in the divine purpose. If the very hairs of our head are all numbered, much more the circumstances of the most important of all events which can occur to us.

     This may not seem to be a very practical truth, and yet I think it so. I may go, for instance, a journey by rail; it is left to my option at what time to start, and in what carriage I shall ride; yet I select a particular hour, and carriage, and soon a person is thrown in my way whom I have never seen before; the conversation is directed towards holy things ; that person is already anxious, and my conversation is so consoling that it seems to him that I am sent for the very purpose of relieving his anxiety. As we converse upon divine things, he is led to see what he never saw before, the way of salvation by the substitutionary sacrifice is opened up to him, and he casts himself into the hands of the Saviour. Now, who shall say but what there was an arrangement there which God himself, in his infinite wisdom, saw fit to make for the designed end? You have two ways to-day of going home from the Tabernacle: you know not why, but you select one of the two, and in that street, if you are on the alert, as you should be, and anxious to deliver souls from going down to the pit, you may meet with an individual whom you would not have seen if you had taken the other route, and it may be that you by a few words concerning eternal salvation, shall direct that person into the way of peace, and lead him to lay hold on eternal life. He who observes providence shall never want a providence to observe, and he who w itches providence with the view of discovering occasions for usefulness, will find himself surrounded with golden opportunities for soul-winning. I would have you, therefore, respect the workings of divine providence, by being upon your watch tower to avail yourselves of them. You know nothing of the secret decree of God, but you can see what the decree brings forth, and then if you are wise, you can benefit your neighbours by it. Believe firmly that God has a purpose to serve by everything that occurs, and that he would have you, his servants, watchful for all opportunities that you may bring men to a knowledge of the truth. I hope, this morning, that there are some in this house who scarcely know why they are in the Tabernacle, but the secret is that eternal purposes of grace towards them are now ripe for fulfilment. Remarkable circumstances may have wrought together to bring them here; possibly had it been finer weather, the crowd would have filled the place earlier, and they would have been excluded for want of room — this wet weather gave them a chance of admission where the gospel is preached, and so the very drops of rain may have been God’s messengers of mercy to them, indirectly working for their salvation. There may be circumstances, which I cannot pretend to guess, which revolve round some of you, concerning which God has said, “Thus and thus it shall be, that I may bring this man to the spot whereon I intend to arrest him by divine grace, and make him a saved soul.” I do trust this may be the case, and that miracles of mercy may be wrought by our Redeemer according to the counsel of his will.

     Note further a second thing, albeit the circumstances were all foreordained, yet Christ's entrance into this man's house was wrought by instrumentality. Had our Lord pleased to do so, he could have remained where he was, he could have secretly sent forth his Spirit into the householder’s mind to constrain him to lend his upper room. Certainly there was no need why Peter and John should go as pioneers, for, if the Lord had gone himself in person, at once, he would of course have obtained quite as ready admission as his servants. But he chose to work by means. So it is in conversion; the Lord could save-souls if he willed without ministers, without teachers, without prayerful parents, without even the written word, but he does not choose so to do. There are a few instances in which men have been suddenly impressed where no cause for the impression was apparent beyond the immediate operation of the Holy Ghost. Apart from instrumentality, men have been awakened and aroused in the midst of their sins, like Saul of Tarsus, who was struck down while on the road to persecute the saints in Damascus; the most obstinate have been suddenly subdued; but the general rule is, that “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” and men do not hear without a preacher, but God sendeth the preacher and the hearing ear, and then gives the willing heart by his effectual grace. So, beloved, we must never fall into the delusion that the purposes of God set aside the use of means. I have heard thoughtless or captious talkers say, “If God works out his purposes, then there is no need for preaching or any other means.” Ah, simpleton that thou art, if we teach you that God works out his purposes by means, how mad must you be to charge us with thinking lightly of the means! If God accomplishes his eternal purposes by preaching, then the more need for preaching, and the more encouragement in it, for what were the use of preaching if God had not purposed to bless it? What were the use of ploughing and sowing, if God had not predestinated a harvest by such means ? We do not believe in a decree which ordains effects without causes: the ordinance of God is comprehensive, and takes in all things; instrumentality is as much in the decree as is the result of such instrumentality. God, who determined to save, determined also to save by means: he determined to save no man without faith, and to give no man faith except through the knowledge of the truth. The means are as much in the decree as in the result, and in using the means we hope to see the result following according to the will of God.

     The apostles who were sent to the householder, afford us a few instructive lessons. Mark carefully, that all the disciples were quite willing to go. You observe it is said, “His disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover?” So every Christian should be anxious and willing to win souls to God — as well the sisters as the brethren, as well the weak as the strong, as well the babes as the full-grown men — we should all stand prepared to evangelise the world, and all be anxious to have our Master’s blessing upon our work. Let every one here this morning, who knows Christ in his heart, be saying, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” Let us each be in the spirit of Isaiah when he cried, “Here am I; send me.” At the same time, the Master did not employ the whole of the twelve in this case, but preferred to send Peter and John. So in the conversion of his people, he more frequently blesses his chosen servants, his ministers of truth: these turn many to righteousness, and bring many captives to the Captain. He chooses his Peters and his Johns who have had the most familiar acquaintance with himself, and are best adapted to deliver his gracious message, and upon these he puts especial honour, thus manifesting his sovereignty in the distribution of both gifts and graces. Let every man who seeks to preach the gospel learn to do his Lord’s work in the style of Peter and John, who went not without being sent and commissioned. No man has any right to aspire to the Christian pastorate without a call from the Most High. There must come to us a setting apart, an ordination not of man, but by the Eternal Spirit making us to be vessels of mercy unto the nations. When we obtain this anointing and appointment, we must take care that we go about our work in our Master’s way. These men were not to go blundering into the city, hurrying to knock at the first door they might hit upon; they must look out for the man with the water pot, and follow him. I think I see them. How anxiously they look around! And when they see the man, they ask no questions of him — that was not in the command — they follow blindly where he leads. I mark the holy joy in their faces as they see the water carrier halt at the door, and put down his load! How confidently they enter the house, and enquire for the landlord! The Master has given them the sign, they see the countersign, and feel that all is well.

     The story reminds you of Eleazar, the servant of Abraham, when seeking a wife for Isaac. He too had an appointed sign — the damsel shall say, “Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also;” and lo, Rebekah came, and just what he had asked she might do, she did do, and then the man lifted up his heart to God, and blessed the God of his Master Abraham for giving him good speed on his errand.

     If we would seek souls, we must follow the indications of God’s will, we must be like the handmaidens whose eyes watch their mistresses; we must be anxious to detect the first sign of grace, to observe the kindling of the new-born life in the awakened soul, to discover the first incomings of the divine light into the thick darkness of the natural heart; and then we must follow our Master’s will — not inventing this clap-trap and that excitement as new methods of revival, not fashioning new gospels of our own, but keeping close to the all-perfect gospel of our blessed God, preaching the truth simply after the apostolic precedent, believing that in this way, and in this way only, we may expect to see the revival which we seek.

     The Master’s word of power comes to men, then, by instrumentality. Dear hearers, you who are not converted, never neglect the means of grace, because it is through the means that God’s blessing will be most likely to come to you. “Being in the way, the Lord met with me.” I have heard of a young lad who was observed to be especially attentive to the sermon, and when he was asked the reason, he said, “Because I believe that if there is anything likely to do me good, Satan is sure to prevent my hearing it if possible, and therefore I listen with all my heart, in the hope that I may hear to my soul’s profit.” You will not listen long in vain, if you listen so. In the pools of the gospel, men mostly catch what they fish for, and if you come to hear the word desiring salvation, you will, I trust, soon obtain it. If you resort to the place of worship merely to pass the time away, or to hear a popular preacher, you cannot expect a blessing from God; but if you come hither breathing the prayer, “Lord, meet with me — Jesus, save me today,” I do not doubt that, whoever the preacher may be, God will visit you through him, and hear your prayer.

     In the third place, although we are now speaking of Christ’s effectual power, yet the man’s will was consulted. Peter and John said to him, “The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber?” They did not push themselves into the guestchamber, and say to the owner, “We take possession of this parlour in the Master’s name, whether you like it or not; we have come here, and we mean to stop here; our Master sent us, and we shall not go away.” Nothing of the kind. The man’s chamber was his own, and the Lord Jesus Christ owns the man’s household rights by calling him “the good man of the house” — the master, the proprietor, the landlord of it. So it is in conversion. Men are brought to God by the effectual power of grace, but grace never violates, though it subdues, the human will. They make a great mis^ take who think that God treats men as if they were logs: God knows they are not logs, and never treats them so. He has made them in his own image, to be free, intelligent agents, and he acts upon them as free agents. It is difficult for some men to understand how grace can be effectual and almighty, and yet man can still be a free agent. Now, if persons cannot see this, We are not bound to give them understandings, but the two things are consistent enough: prejudice creates the difficulty, there is none really. A man may be free enough, and yet he may be so overwhelmingly persuaded to a certain course, that he cannot do otherwise; such moral power does not at all interfere with true liberty. If we taught that men were saved against their wills, and that physical force was put upon them to make them Christians, we should deserve to be denounced as talking nonsense, or worse; but the power which we speak of is moral, spiritual, persuasive, and operates in strict accordance with the usual laws of mind. The grace of God does no violence to the will, but sweetly overcomes its obstinacy, making it a willing captive. The force that we speak of at any time when we speak of the power of grace, must be understood by you all to be a force in consistency with the original constitution of manhood; and evermore, although our Lord works upon men according to his own will, yet he always so works upon them as thinking, judging, willing men, and not as substances which are to be hammered, broken, or twisted by brute force.

     My hearers, you must not expect that you will be lugged into heaven by the ears, or whirled into salvation by the hair of your heads; if you are ever saved, the heart must be changed, and your whole being must freely consent to the rule of grace. If you are ever born again, you will be made willing in the day of God’s power. His grace will come to you to remove your prejudices, to overcome your obstinacy, and to make you willingly obedient to the divine sway. How anxiously I wish that ye had such a will this morning!, May the Lord bow your will by the divine power of his love, and may you say to-day, “Lord, I will to be saved; I am willing to renounce sin and lay hold on eternal life.” You shall never find God’s will behind yours. Where he gives a willing mind, think it to be the indication of his own merciful willingness. When grace has brought you to be willing to accept Christ, then be not afraid, but believe at once.

     But now, in the next place, although his will was consulted, yet, through a mysterious power exerted by our Lord, the householder raised no question, but at once cheerfully and joyfully opened his guestchamber. He was not compelled to give up his upper room, but yet he did it as surely as if force had been used. We do not observe the slightest hesitation. He acted as if he had said, “Come in, and welcome; I owe too much to your Master to refuse.” Perhaps this man had seen his child raised to life; perhaps he had been a leper, and been healed; perhaps he had been lame, and been restored; at any rate, he was a friend of Christ. Who he was, and what he was, we do not know, but he joyfully accepted the honour which the Redeemer proposed to confer upon him. By this shall we know to-day, who are the Lord’s chosen and who are not; for when the gospel comes to some, they fight against it, and will not have it, but where men receive it, welcoming it, and blessing God that it has come to them, this is a sure indication that there is a secret work going on in the soul, and that God has chosen them unto eternal life. Are you willing, dear hearer, to receive Christ? Are you this day content to take him and hold him to be your all in all? then there is no difficulty in the way; you may have him; his own power is working with you, making you willing, and the invitation is, “Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.”

     As for this man, I may say, in conclusion, that he had the unspeakable honour of entertaining Christ in his upper room at the last supper at which our Saviour sat before his death; and, O brethren, if you and I receive Christ into our hearts, what an honour to entertain the Son of God this, side the stars! The heaven of heavens cannot contain him, all the glories of paradise are too little for the splendour of his person and the dignity of his merits, and yet he condescends to find a house within our narrow hearts! We are not worthy that he should come under our roof, but what an unutterable privilege when he condescends to enter, for then he makes a feast, and causes our souls to feast with him upon such royal dainties as Solomon in all his glory could not spread! we sit at a banquet where the viands are immortal, and give immortality to those who feed thereon. If you have ever feasted with the Wellbeloved, I am sure you will wish the festival would never break up; you will long for the time when you may eat the bread of heaven in heaven, and drink the wine of the kingdom new in glory, and go no more out, but abide with the Father world without end. Happy, thrice happy is the man who entertains the angels’ Lord.

     Thus have I outlined the story of effectual grace. Christ’s grace comes to us while we are yet dead in sin: we are called by it; instrumentality is used; yet the secret power of God does it all, and as a result of it, we by entertaining the Saviour, are greatly honoured and eminently blessed. Now, is there not here, for believers, a theme for earnest praise? Brethren, if Christ has entered into your hearts and mine, and that entrance was effected wholly through his grace, let us magnify him exceedingly!

“’Twas the same love that spread the feast
Else we had still refused to taste,
That sweetly forced us in;
And perish’d in our sin.”

Let us extol the amazing love which has wrought in us so mightily to redeem us from our natural hardness of heart. Let those refuse to sing who have never known their obligations to sovereign grace; but those of us who feel our debt, must praise the lavish hand which has dealt so bountifully with us.

     And ought not this, moreover, to encourage every worker for God? Brethren, if the Master can thus find a banqueting-house when he seems to be altogether destitute, and find it with but a word, let us never despair of the salvation of any man; let us go forth to our labour for souls, believing that the Lord will still find himself a lodging within men’s hearts. What if nine out of ten of the unconverted here should say, “We will not admit the Saviour;” yet there is a remnant according to the election of grace who will welcome him! We may be content to be rebuffed with a hundred negatives, if but one soul be obedient to our message. If we had to preach to thousands year after year, and never rescued but one soul, that one soul would be a full reward for all our labour, for a soul is of countless price. Let us be of good courage, the Master may give us all our hearers as our hire if he wills to do so; he can subdue the most obdurate heart with a word, and make our ministry, which has been barren up to this moment, suddenly to become fruitful to his glory. God grant that many this day may learn what effectual grace is, and Christ shall have all the praise.

     II. During the second part of our discourse, we shall regard the question of the text as the AFFECTIONATE ENQUIRY OF THE LORD S SERVANTS.

     We have not, this morning, any verbal direction as to any special person in this house. I am not told to speak especially to that young man, or to yonder young woman; I am not directed to address the appeals of the gospel to those who may be sitting in the area, or to those in the galleries; I am not at all directed, as were Peter and John; still the directions to the gospel-preacher are very sufficient and plain; here they are, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” I am not called to preach to the elect alone — I do not know them. I know that my message will be of no service to any but the chosen, still, in order that it may come to these, it is our work to address it to all; we cast the net into the sea, and the Lord sends us what fish he will. To one and all, therefore, of you who have not known Christ, I have this question to put — “The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber?”

     I will explain the question first. Christ Jesus would have entertainment in the human heart. He says, “Where is the heart in which I may dwell? Where is the soul that is ready, this morning, to open its gates that I may enter in and dwell there?” Now, observe that I am not asking you this question, “Where is Christ?” for your answer would be a very distressing one — you have not found him. There are, I hope, many scores and hundreds here who have admitted him into the inner chamber of their spirits, and are now enjoying fellowship with him, but to you unconverted ones I put no question as to that matter, for you are strangers to communion with Jesus. Nor am I asking, “Where is there a feast for the Master, where will he find a festival of virtue and good works?” No; but “Where is there room for him?” He will bring the feast: the chamber is all he asks. Christ asks nothing good from you: he only asks the empty room in which he may spread the good things which he will bring with himself. The Master asks you not to prepare the feast, for you are penniless in your natural estate; you have nothing upon which he can feed, for you have not even food for your own soul; and you have spent your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth not. He asks an empty chamber — this is all. Room for the Saviour 1 Room for the Saviour! Room for the Saviour to enter and dwell! It is not your virtues, your excellencies, nor aught good of you that he asks for, but simply the empty room in which you are willing to entertain him. The question is, simply and alone, “Where is the guestchamber?” Not, Where is the guestchamber that is sumptuously decorated, and made fit for the great King? Not, Where is the chamber that is glittering with gilded panels and tesselated pavements? Jesus seeks no lofty chamber in which to lodge; nay, if there be one of you that hath a heart lofty and proud, Christ will not come to you, for all the splendours of your pretended goodness are faied and stained in his sight. He dwelleth not with the proud, nor with the great; but if you have a broken heart and a contrite spirit, “to this man will I look, and with this man will I dwell, saith the Lord.” Are you guilty? Well, that need not keep the sin-atoning Priest away. Is the guestchamber of your heart all soiled and foul? Is it full of evils? Jesus Christ does not enquire concerning that; he only asks you if you are willing that he should come in and dwell there, and if you say “Ay,” it will be his business to cleanse the chamber and fit it for himself. Only, Where is a guestchamber? Is there a heart here, this morning, that is open to Jesus? Is there a man or woman who has room for the Lord of glory?

     Still further explaining the question, let me remark that some offer Christ a room which he cannot accept as a guestchamber. Yes, they will receive Christ into their heads, they have no objection to believe the truths taught in the Bible concerning him with a notional faith. My Lord will not eat the passover there. No, you may be very orthodox indeed, and exceedingly sound in doctrine, but where Jesus comes into the house, he will have the best parlour, namely, the heart. Not here in the cold garret of the brain, but there in the warm parlour of the heart, there must Jesus dwell. Art thou willing this day to have Christ to be thy Saviour? Soul, soul, art thou willing to trust Christ with thine eternal interests? Art thou willing now to hang upon him as the vessel hangs upon the nail, having no other dependence? Art thou willing to become his servant, to do what he bids thee? Art thou willing to be his friend, to find thy best solace in fellowship with himself? Art thou willing now, all guilty and defiled as thou art, to accept his righteousness as thy righteousness, and his blood as thy cleansing? Does thy mind bring out the keys of the heart’s castle and offer them to the King, and dost thou say, “Come in, my Lord, come in! I have too long stood out against thee and resisted all the invitations of thy grace, but now lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye doors of my spirit, that the King of glory may come in”? That is all I ask of you. No merits am I sent to seek after, nothing good am I bid to seek in you; only if you be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of this land; if ye be willing to trust him, then I have found out the man with whom Christ is predestinated to dwell. God has given the will — he will surely work the way. He has made you cheerfully to be his host, he is equally willing to be your guest. Where is the guestchamber? I cannot very well come round to all of you and take you by the hand and say, “Is there a guestchamber, my friend, in your heart?” — it might take too long a time to pass from pew to pew to put to you the question, but I do desire to put it (and to press it very earnestly) to each one, “The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber?”

     Did you notice, when I read the passage in Luke just now, that it ran a little differently from what it does in Mark? — “The Master saith unto thee ) Where is the guestchamber?” I trust he saith that to some of you in the singular, and with singular power. The Master saith to thee, this morning, this day of grace, this hour of love which thou hast been spared to see, though thou mightst well have been cut down in thy sins, the Master saith unto thee, “Mary, John, Where is the guestchamber?” Take advice, and give a speedy affirmative answer to that question, and may this be the day when Jesus shall enter in triumph into your soul.

     I will tell you, in a minute or two, why it is that I feel earnest to press this question, “The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber?” I press it first for his sake: yes, all his true servants long to get him entertainment in human hearts. Sometimes I have thought upon my own ministry, and I have said, “Yes, during the time in which I have been pastor of the church, we have carried out many great works; we have built a vast house for prayer, erected houses for alms-women, orphanages for the young, and carried on the college, but what would all be if these were the only result of gathering this people together, and preaching to them from Sunday to Sunday? The only success that is worth having is the winning of souls. If we do not see souls brought to Christ to bow at his feet, and own him as King, we go back to our closet, crying, “Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” Christ must be crowned in men’s hearts or we pine with grief. We cannot be satisfied to see him stand in the street, his head wet with dew, and his locks with the drops of the night: we must have the Son of Cod entertained, for oh I it grieves us even unto brokenness of heart; it troubles us exceedingly that he should be used so ill who loved us so well; that he should be rejected who gave up heaven and all its glories that he might redeem us from going down to hell. By the wounds of Christ, and by the bloody sweat that covered him when he redeemed us from our sins, we do beseech you listen to this voice, “Where is the guestchamber?” and reply, “Lord, that guestchamber is in my soul to-day.”

     We press this upon you also for our own sake. We are afraid lest we shall be found unprofitable servants. If you can be won to Christ, so much the more joy and rejoicing to us, for what is our crown of rejoicing? Are not ye, in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ?

     But most of all, we press this upon you for your own soul’s sake. O beloved, if you do but entertain Christ, you will have entertained heaven. You will be no losers by loving Christ, but unspeakable gainers. Trust in Jesus, and your sins are forgiven you, a bright future is secured, and the black past is blotted out. Get Christ, and if you be ever so poor, or ever so full of pain, yet are you to be envied; but oh! if you live and die without Christ, we scarcely dare to picture the scene around your dying bed — imagination refuses to lift the curtain, and to view your soul in a disembodied state driven from hope for ever; but we recollect that dreadful text, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment:” we cannot bear it that you should know the eternity of God’s wrath, that you should have to feel the perpetual flame of the divine anger. Oh, for your own sake, if you have any true self-love, and would be delivered from eternal misery, open wide your heart, that Jesus Christ may enter in.

     Do you still ask, “But what do you mean by ‘Where is the guestchamber?’” I will answer it yet again. Jesus Christ deserves of you a simple, personal, immediate, undivided faith in himself. Wherever Christ comes, he comes to be trusted; you must trust him wholly, rejecting all confidences of your own; trust him at this moment, and do not postpone or put off faith to a more convenient season. If Jesus Christ is to be the guest in the guestchamber of your heart, you must now give yourself up wholly to him, for,

“Know, nor of the terms complain,
Where Jesus comes, he comes to reign,
To reign and with no partial sway —
Lusts must be slain that disobey.”

If you trust Christ, you must then obey Christ. In the power of the Spirit sin will have to be cast out, for Christ will not eat the passover with sin reigning in the chamber. All the lusts of the flesh must be renounced: he will make you to renounce them, for Christ will not feast with you while you enjoy the dainties of sin. Christ will have no fellowship with Belial: he will not sit at the same table as the devil. Are you willing now? It is all I ask. Has his Spirit made you willing by his power to give up favourite sins, to renounce secret lusts, to be moulded and fashioned by the divine hand, and made to be vessels fit for the divine use? Are you willing to have Christ for your Saviour and your Master? Where, where is the guestchamber? My Master, thou knowest. Would God some voice would say, “Here it is.”

     For, remember (and then I have done), if you entertain not Christ now, the day will come when you will wish you had, but wish in vain, in the day when you shall see him upon his throne, and he shall say to you, “You rejected me, and now I reject you. You heard the gospel — you were invited, you were pleaded with; but you had no ear to all my invitations.” In that day, when he has no ear for you, but when he deals out the thunderbolts of his just anger, you will wish that you had hearkened to him. Oh, I would to God I could make men look upon their Sabbaths and the sermons they hear as they will look upon them another day. How many there are to-day wringing their hands in torment, and crying, “O that we could hear the gospel again! O for another invitation to come to Christ! but it is past now; the hour of mercy is struck, and we have come into the eternity of vengeance, where there are no acts of pardon passed, and no hopes held out for souls to escape from their everlasting misery.” O be wise, now! “To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts;” to-day, while yet his spirit pleads with men, make your souls guestchambers for himself, and, if you admit him now, you will now rejoice exceedingly in that day when he comes in his glory. It will be no mean joy to the believer to say, when he sees his Lord in the clouds of heaven, “I have known him before; I received him into my heart when men spake evil of him; when he was rejected, I accepted him; when he walked through the streets, and they were miry, and he was clothed in rags, I took him in; he was hungry and I fed him, he was sick and in prison, and I visited him, and ministered to him.” Oh, it will be a joy unspeakable for the soul to hear him say, “Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me; ye have been with me in my temptations, ye shall be with me in my glory; you shared my tribulations and humiliations, and now you shall partake in all my triumphs; you shall sit on my right hand for ever and ever.” Be this the portion of every person within these walls, and may God be glorified in each one of us, not in his justice, but in his mercy, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.



The Rose and the Lily

By / Dec 8

The Rose and the Lily

 

“I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.” — Solomon's Song 2:1.

 

HERE are sweet flowers blooming serenely amid this wintry weather. In the garden of the soul you may gather fragrant flowerets at all seasons of the year; and although the soul’s garden, like every other, has its winter, yet, strange to say, no sooner do the roses and the lilies mentioned in the text begin to bloom, than the winter flies and the summer smiles. Outside in your garden, the summer brings the roses; but within the enclosure of the heart, the roses and lilies create the summer. I trust that we this morning may have grace to walk abroad in the fields of heavenly contemplation, to admire the matchless charms of him whose cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers, whose lips are like lilies dropping sweet-smelling myrrh. May our hearts interpret the language of our text, and sing —

“Is he a rose ? Not Sharon yields
Such fragrancy in all her fields:
Or, if the lily he assume,
The valleys bless the rich perfume.”

     It is our Lord who speaks: “I am the rose of Sharon.” How is it that he utters his own commendation, for it is an old and true adage, that “self praise is no recommendation”? None but vain creatures ever praise themselves, and yet Jesus often praises himself. He saith, “I am the good Shepherd;” “I am the Bread of Life;” “I am meek and lowly of heart,” and in divers speeches he is frequently declaring his own excellencies, yet Jesus is not vain! Scorned be the thought! Yet I said if any creature praised itself it must be vain, and that, too, is true. How then shall we solve the riddle? Is net this the answer, that he is no creature at all, and therefore comes not beneath the rule? For the creature to praise itself is vanity, but for the Creator to praise himself, for the Lord God to manifest and show forth his own glory is becoming and proper. Hear how he extols his own wisdom and power in the end of the book of Job, and see if it is not most seemly, as the Lord himself proclaims it! is not God constantly ruling both providence and grace for the manifestation of his own glory, and do we not all freely consent that no motive short of this would be worthy of the divine mind? So, then, because Christ talks thus of himself, since no man dare call him vainglorious, I gather an indirect proof of his deity, and bow down before him, and bless him that he gives me this incidental evidence of his being no creature, but the uncreated one himself. An old Scotch woman once said, “He is never so bonnie as when he is commending himself;” and we all feel it so : no words appear more suitable out of his own lips than these, “I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.” Our Lord when he thus praises himself doubtless does so for an excellent reason, namely, that no one can possibly reveal him to the sons of men but himself. No lips can tell the love of Christ to the heart till Jesus himself shall speak within. Descriptions all fall flat and tame unless the Holy Ghost fills them with life and power; till our Immanuel reveals himself within the recesses of the heart, the soul sees him not. If you would see the sun, would you light your candles? Would you gather together the common means of illumination, and seek in that way to behold the orb of day? No, the wise man knoweth that the sun must reveal itself, and only by its own blaze can that mighty lamp be seen. It is so with Christ. Unless he so manifest himself to us, as he doth not unto the world, we cannot behold him. He must say to us, “I am the rose of Sharon,” or else all the declarations of man that he is the rose of Sharon will fall short of the mark. “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona:” said lie to Peter, “for flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee.” Purify flesh and blood by any educational process you may select, elevate mental faculties to the highest degree of intellectual power, yet none of these can reveal Christ. The Spirit of God must come with power, and overshadow the man with his wings, and then in that mystic Holy of Holies the Lord Jesus must display himself to the sanctified eye, as he doth not unto the purblind sons of men. Christ must be his own mirror; as the diamond alone can cut the diamond, so he alone can display himself.

     Is it not clear enough to us all, that Jesus being God, befittingly praises himself, and we being frail creatures, he must necessarily commend himself, or we should never be able to perceive his beauty at all? Each reason is sufficient, both are overwhelming; it is most suitable that Jesus should preach Jesus, that love should teach us love. Beloved, happy are those men to whom our Lord familiarly unveils his beauties. He is the rose, but it is not given unto all men to perceive his fragrance. He is the fairest of lilies, but few are the eyes which have gazed upon his matchless purity. He stands before the world without form or comeliness, a root out of a dry ground, rejected by the vain, and despised by the proud. The great mass of this blear-eyed world can see nothing of the ineffable glories of Immanuel. Only where the Spirit has touched the eye with eye-salve, quickened the heart with divine life, and educated the soul to a heavenly taste, only there is that love word of my text heard and understood, “I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.” “To you that believe he is precious;” to you he is the corner stone; to you he is the rock of your salvation, your all in all; but to others he is “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient.”

     Let it be our prayer before we advance a single foot further, that our Redeemer would now reveal himself to his own chosen people, and favour each one of us with at least a glimpse of his all-conquering charms. May the King himself draw near unto his guests this morning, and as of old, when it was winter he walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch, so may he walk in the midst of this waiting assembly.

     I. First, this morning, I shall speak with you a little, as I may be helped by the Holy Ghost, upon THE MOTIVES OF OUR LORD IN THUS COMMENDING HIMSELF.

     I take it that he has designs of love in this speech. He would have all his people rich in high and happy thoughts concerning his blessed person. Jesus is not content that his brethren should think meanly of him; it is his pleasure that his espoused ones should be delighted with his beauty, and that he should be the King and Lord of their spirits: he would have us possess an adoring admiration for him, joined with most cheerful and happy thoughts towards him. We are not to count him as a bare necessary, like to bread and water, but we are to regard him as a luxurious delicacy, as rare and ravishing delight, comparable to the rose and the lily. Our Lord, you observe, expresses himself here poetically. “I am the rose of Sharon.” Hr. Watts, when he had written his delightful hymns, was the subject of Dr. Johnson’s criticism, and that excellent lexicographer, who wrote with great authority upon all literary matters, entirely missed his mark when he said that the themes of religion were so few and so prosaic that they were not adapted for the poet, they were not such as could allow of the flight of wing which poetry required. Alas, Dr. Johnson! how little couldst thou have entered into the spirit of these things, for if there be any place where poetry may indulge itself to the uttermost, it is in the realm of the infinite. Jordan’s streams are as pure as Helicon, and Siloa’s brook as inspiring as the Castalian fount. Heathen Parnassus has not half the elevation of the Christian’s Tabor, let critics judge as they may. This book of Solomon’s Song is poetry of the very highest kind to the spiritual mind, and throughout Scripture the sublime and beautiful are as much at home as the eagles in their eyries of rock. Surely our Lord adopts that form of speech in this song in order to show us that the highest degree of poetical faculty may be consecrated to him, and that lofty thoughts and soaring conceptions concerning himself are no intruders, but are bound to pay homage at his cross. Jesus would have us enjoy the highest thoughts of him that the sublimest poesy can possibly convey to us; and his motives I shall labour to lay before you.

     Doubtless, he commends himself because high thoughts of Christ will enable us to act consistently with our relations towards him. The saved soul is espoused to Christ. Now, in the marriage estate, it is a great assistance to happiness if the wife has high ideas of her husband. In the marriage union between the soul and Christ, this is exceedingly necessary. Listen to the words of the Psalm, “He is thy Lord; and worship thou him.” Jesus is our husband, and is no more to be named Baal, that is, thy master, but to be called Ishi, thy man, thy husband; yet at the same time he is our Lord, “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the Saviour of the body.” When the wife despises her husband, and looks down upon him, then the order of nature is broken, and the household is out of joint; and if our BOUI should ever come to despise Christ, then it can no longer stand in its true relation to him; but the more loftily we see Christ enthroned, and the more lowly we are when bowing before the foot of the throne, the more truly shall we be prepared to act our part in the economy of grace towards our Lord Jesus. Brethren, your Lord Christ desires you to think well of him, that you may submit cheerfully to his authority, and so be a better spouse to this best of husbands. Moreover, our Master knows that high thoughts of him increase our love. Men will not readily love that which they do not highly esteem. Love and esteem go together. There is a love of pity, but that would be far out of place in reference to our exalted Head. If we are to love him at all, it must be with the love of admiration; and the higher that admiration shall rise, the more vehemently will our love flame forth. My brethren and sisters in Christ, I beseech you think much of your Master’s excellencies. Study him in his primeval glory, before he took upon himself your nature! Think of the mighty love which drew him from his starry throne to die upon the cross of shame! Consider well the omnipotent affection which made him stretch his hands to the nails, and yield his heart to the spear! Admire him as you see him conquering in his weakness over all the powers of hell, and by his sufferings overthrowing all the hosts of your sins, so that they cannot rise against you any more for ever! See him now risen, no more to die; crowned, no more to be dishonoured; glorified, no more to suffer! Bow before him, hail him in the halls of your inner nature as the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the mighty God within your spirits, for only thus will your love to him be what it should.

     A high esteem of Christ, moreover, as he well knoweth, is very necessary to our comfort. Beloved, when you esteem Christ very highly, the things of this world become of small account with you, and their loss is not so heavily felt. If you feel your losses and crosses to be such ponderous weights that the wings of Christ’s love cannot lift you up from the dust, surely you have made too much of the world and too little of him. I see a pair of balances. I see in this one the death of a child, or the loss of a beloved relative; but I perceive in the other scale the great love of Christ; now we shall see which will weigh the most with the man: if Jesus throws the light affliction up aloft, it is well, but if the trouble outweighs Jesus, then it is ill with us indeed. If you are so depressed by your trials that you can by no means rejoice, even though you know that your name is written in heaven, then methinks you cannot love Jesus as you should. Get but delightful thoughts of him, and you will feel like a man who has lost a pebble but has preserved his diamond; like the man who has seen a few cast clouts and rotten rags consumed in the flames, but has saved his children from the conflagration. You will rejoice in your deepest distress because Christ is yours if you have a high sense of the preciousness of your Master. Talk not of plaisters that will draw out all pain from a wound! Speak not of medicines which will extirpate disease I The sweet love of Christ once clapped on to the deepest wound which the soul can ever know, would heal it at once. A drop of the precious medicine of Jesus’ love tasted in the soul would chase away all heart pains for ever. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, he thou within u& and we make no choice of situations: put us in Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace, if thou wilt walk the glowing coals as our companion, we will fear no evil.

     Further, our Lord would have us entertain great thoughts of himself because this will quicken all the powers of our soul. I spoke to you just now of love receiving force from an esteem of Jesus, I might say the like of faith, or patience, or humility. Wherever Christ is highly esteemed, all the faculties of the spiritual man exercise themselves with energy. I will judge of your piety by this barometer: does Christ stand high or low with you? If you have thought little of Christ, if you have been content to live without his presence, if you have cared little for his honour, if you have been neglectful of his laws, then I know that your soul is sick — God grant that it may not, be sick unto death! But if the first thought of your spirit has been, how can I honour Jesus? if the daily desire of your soul has been, O that I knew where I might find him! I tell you that you may have a thousand infirmities, and may even scarcely know whether you are a child of God at all, and yet I am persuaded, beyond a doubt, that you are safe, since Jesus is great in your esteem. I care not for thy rags, what thinkest thou of his royal apparel? I care not for thy wounds, though they bleed in torrents, what thinkest thou of his wounds? are they like glittering rubies in thine esteem? I think nothing the less of thee, though thou liest like Lazarus on the dunghill, and the dogs do lick thee; I judge thee not by thy poverty: what thinkest thou of the King in his beauty? Has he a glorious high throne in thy heart? Wouldst thou set him higher if thou couldst? Wouldst thou be willing to die if thou couldst but add another trumpet to the strain which proclaims his praise? Ah! then, it is well with thee. Whatever thou mayst think of thyself, if Christ be great to thee, thou shalt be with him ere long.

     High thoughts of Jesus will set us upon high attempts for his honour. What will not men do when they are possessed with the passion of love! When once some master thought gets hold of the mind, others who have never felt the power of it, think the man to be insane; they laugh at him and ridicule him. When the grand thought of love to God has gained full possession of the soul, men have been able to actually accomplish what other men have not even thought of doing. Love has laughed at impossibilities, and proved that she is not to be quenched by many waters, nor drowned by floods. Impassable woods nave nevertheless been made a footway for the Christian missionary; through the dense jungle, steaming with malaria, men have passed, bearing the message of truth; into the midst of hostile and savage tribes, weak and trembling women even have forced their way to tell of Jesus; no sea has been so stormy, no mountains have been so elevated that they could shut out the earnest spirit; no long nights of winter in Labrador or in Iceland have been able to freeze up the love of Christ in the Moravian’s heart: it has not been possible for the zeal of the heir of heaven to be overcome, though all the elements have combined with the cruelty of wicked men, and with the malice of hell itself. Christ’s people have been more than conquerors through him that hath loved them, when his love has been shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Spirit, and they have had elevated thoughts of their Lord.

     I wish it were in my power to put this matter more forcibly, but I am persuaded, brethren, that our Lord in commending himself to us, this morning, in the words of our text, does so with this as his motive, that by the power of his Spirit we may be led to esteem him very highly in the inmost secret of our heart. And shall he speak to us in vain? Shall he stand in this pulpit, this morning, as he does in spirit, and shall he say, “I am the rose of Sharon”? and shall we reply, “But we see not thy beauty”? Shall he add a double commendation, “I am the lily of the valley”? and shall our cold hearts reply, “But we admire not thy spotless purity”? I trust we are not so utterly abandoned to spiritual blindness and ingratitude. Far rather, although we confess before him that we do not admire him as we should, we will add humbly, and with the tear of repentance in our eye —

“Yet we love thee and thee adore —
O for grace to love more.”

II. Whatever may be the commendable motive for any statement, yet it must not be made if it be not accurate, and therefore, in the second place, I come to observe OUR LORD’S JUSTIFICATION FOR THIS COMMENDATION, which is abundantly satisfactory to all who know him.

     What our Lord says of himself is strictly true. It falls short of the mark, it is no exaggeration. Observe each one of the words. He begins, “I am.” Those two little words I would not insist upon, but it is no straining of language to say that even here we have a great deep. What creature can, with exact truthfulness, say, “I am”? As for man, whose breath is in his nostrils, he may rather say “I am not,” than “I am.” We are so short a time here, and so quickly gone, that the ephemera, which is born and dies under the light of one day’s sun, is our brother. Poor short-lived creatures, we change with every moon, and are inconstant as the wave, frail as the dust, feeble as a worm, and fickle as the wind. Jesus saith, “I am,” and blessed be his name, he can fairly claim the attributes of self-existence and immutability. He said, “I am,” in the days of his flesh, he saith, “I am,” at this hour: whatever he was he is, whatever he has been to any of his saints at any time, he is to us this day. Come, my soul, rejoice in thine unchangeable Christ, and if thou gettest no further than the first two words of the text, yet thou hast a meal to stay thine hunger, like Elijah’s cakes, in the strength of which he went for forty days. “I am” hath revealed himself unto thee in a more glorious manner than he did unto Moses at the burning bush, the great “I AM” in human flesh has become thy Saviour and thy Lord. “I am the rose.” We understand from this, that Christ is lovely. He selects one of the most charming of flowers to set forth himself. All the beauties of all the creatures are to be found in Christ in greater perfection than in the creatures themselves.

“White and ruddy is my Beloved,
All his heavenly beauties shine;
Nature can’t produce an object,
Nor so glorious, so divine;
He hath wholly
Won my soul to realms above.”

“Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report,” all are to be found stored up in our Well-beloved. Whatever there may be of beauty in the material world, Jesus Christ possesses all that in the spiritual world, only in a tenfold multiplication. He is infinitely more beautiful in the garden of the soul and in the paradise of God than the rose can be in the gardens of earth, though it be the universally-acknowledged queen of flowers. But the spouse adds, “I am the rose of Sharon” This was the best and rarest of roses. Jesus is not “the rose” alone, but “the rose of Sharon,” just as he calls his righteousness “gold,” and then adds, “ the gold of Ophir” — the best of the best. Jesus, then, is not only positively lovely, but superlatively the loveliest —

“None among the sons of men,
None among the heavenly train,
Can with Sharon’s rose compare,
None so sweet and none so fair.”

The Son of David takes the first place as the fairest among ten thousand. He is the sun, and all others are the stars; in his presence all the feebler lights are hidden, for they are nothing, and he is all in all. Blush for your deformities, ye beauties of earth, when his perfections eclipse you! Away, ye pageants, and ye pompous triumphs of men, the King in his beauty transcends you all! Black are the heavens and dark is the day in comparison with him. Oh, to see him face to face! This would be a vision for which life would be a glad exchange. For a vision of his face we could fain be blind for ever to all joys beside.

     Our Lord adds, “I am the lily,” thus giving himself a double commendation. Indeed, Jesus Christ deserves not to be praised doubly, but sevenfold, ay, and unto seven times seven. Heap up all the metaphors that express loveliness, bring together all the adjectives which describe delight, and all human speech and all earth-born things shall fail to tell of him. The rose with all its redness is not complete till the lily adds its purity, and the two together are dim reflections of our glorious Lord. I learn from the text that in Christ Jesus you have a combination of contrasted excellencies. If he be red with the flush of courageous zeal, or red with triumph as he returns from Edom, he is the rose; but he is a warrior without sinful anger or cruel vengeance, he is as pure and spotless as the timid virgin who toys with the dove — he is therefore our snow-white lily. I see him red as the rose in his sacrifice, as

“from his head, his hands, his feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;”

but I see him white as the lily as he ascends on high in his perfect righteousness, clothed in his white robe of victory, to receive gifts for men. Our Beloved is a mingling of all perfections to make up one perfection, and of all manner of sweetness to compose one complete sweetness. Earth’s choicest charms commingled, feebly picture his abounding preciousness.

     He is the “lily of the valleys.” Does he intend by that to hint to us that he is a lily in his lowliest estate, a lily of the valley? The carpenter’s son, living in poverty, wearing the common garb of the poor, is he the lily of the valleys? Yes; he is a lily to you and to me, poor dwellers in the lowlands. Up yonder he is a lily on the hill-tops, where all celestial eyes admire him; down here, in these valleys of fears and cares, he is a lily still as fair as in heaven. Our eyes can see his beauty, can see his beauty now, a lily to us this very day. Though we have not seen the King in his beauty, yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like Jesus Christ in our eyes, as we see him by faith in a glass darkly.

     The words, having been opened up one by one, teach us that Christ is lovely to all our spiritual senses. The rose is delightful to the eye. but it is also refreshing to the nostril, and the lily the same. So is Jesus. All the senses of the soul are ravished and satisfied with him , whether it be the taste or feeling, the hearing, the sight, or the spiritual smell, all charms are in Jesus. Often when we have not seen the Anointed, we have perceived his presence. Travelling on the Lake Lugano, one morning, we heard the swell of the song of the nightingale, and the oars were stilled on the blue lake as we listened to the silver sounds. We could not see a single bird, nor do I know that we wished to see — we were so content with the sweetness of the music: even so it is with our Lord; we may enter a house where he is loved, and we may hear nothing concerning Christ, and yet we may perceive clearly enough that he is there, a holy influence streaming through their actions pervades the household; so that if Jesus be unseen, it is clear that he is not unknown. Go anywhere where Jesus is, and though you do not actually hear his name, yet the sweet influence which flows from his love will be plainly enough discernible.

     Our Lord -is so lovely, that even the recollection of his love is sweet. Take the rose of Sharon, and pull it leaf from leaf, and lay by the leaves in the jar of memory, and you shall find each leaf most fragrant long afterwards, filling the house with perfume; and this very day we remember times of refreshing enjoyed at the Lord’s table still delightful as we reflect upon them.

     Jesus is lovely in the bud as well as when full blown. You admire the rose quite as much when it is but a bud as when it bursts forth into perfect development: and methinks, Christ to you, my beloved, in the first blush of your piety, was not one whit less sweet than he is now. Jesus full blown, in our riper experience, has lost none of his excellence. When we shall see him fully blown in the garden of paradise, shall we not count it to be our highest heaven to gaze upon him for ever?

     Christ is so lovely that he needs no beautifying. When I hear men trying to speak of him with polished sentences, which have been revised, and re-revised upon their manuscripts, I would ask them why they need to paint the rose of Sharon, and what they can be at in seeking to enamel the lily of the valleys? Hold up Christ crucified, and he himself is beautiful enough without our paint and tinsel. Let the roughest tongue speak sincerely of him in the most broken but honest accents, and Jesus himself is such a radiant jewel that the setting will be of small consequence, he is so glorious that he is “Most adorned when unadorned the most.” May we ever feel thus concerning him, and if we are tempted to display our powers of oratory when we have to speak of him, let us say, “Down, busy pride, and let Christ rule, and let Christ be seen.” He needs no help from thee. 

     He is so lovely, again, that he satisfies the highest taste of the most educated spirit to the very full. The greatest amateur in perfumes is quite satisfied with the rose, and I should think that no man of taste, will ever be able to criticise the lily, and cavil at its form. Now, when the soul has arrived at her highest pitch of true taste, she shall still be content with Christ, nay, she shall be the better able to appreciate him. In the world’s history, we are supposed to have arrived at an age of taste, when colour and form are much regarded. I must confess I think it a gaudy, tasteless age, and the fashion of the day is staring, vulgar, childish, and depraved. Bright and glittering colours, and antique, grotesque forms, are much run after; and men must need introduce their chosen fineries and fopperies into their worship, supposing that it is comely to worship God with silks, and laces, and ribbons, and gilt, and tinsel, and I know not what of trumpery besides. Just as the harlot of Babylon arrayed herself in pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, even so do her imitators adorn themselves. As for us, my brethren, the beauty of Christ is such that if we go into a barn to worship, we are quite as satisfied as though it were a cathedral, with groined arches and glowing windows; such is the beauty of Christ in our eyes, that we are quite content to hear of him without the pealing organ and the swell of Gregorian chants; and we are even satisfied though there should be no display of taste, nothing sensuous and scenic, nothing to please the eye or charm the ear. Jesus alone affords our mind all that delight architecture, poetry, and music could profess to give, and when our soul getteth near to him, she looketh upon all outward adornments as mere child’s toys, fit to amuse the rattle-brains of this poor idiot world, but vain gewgaws to men in Christ Jesus, who by reason of use have had their senses exercised, and learned to delight in nobler things than those in which the swine of this earth delight themselves. God give you to know that if you want beauty, Jesus is Sharon’s rose; if you want spotless charms to delight your true taste, he is the lily of the valleys.  

     Dwelling for another minute on this subject, let me remark that our Lord Jesus Christ deserves all that he has said of himself. First, in his divine glory. The glory of Christ as God, who shall write upon it? The first born sons of light desire to gaze into this vision, but feel that their eyes are unable to endure the excess of light. He is God over all, blessed for ever. Concerning Christ, I may say that the heavens are not pure in his sight, and he charged his angels with folly. Nothing is great, nothing is excellent but God, and Christ is God. O roses and lilies, where are ye now? Our Lord deserves these praises, again, in his perfection of manhood. He is like ourselves, but in him was no sin. “The prince of this world cometh, but hath nothing in me.” Throughout the whole of his biography, there is not a faulty line. Let us write as carefully as we will after the copy, we still blot and blur the pages, but in him there is no mistake. His life is so wonderfully perfect that even those who have denied his deity have been astounded at it, and they have bowed down before the majesty of his holiness. Ye roses of ardent love, and ye lilies of purest holiness, where are ye now when we compare you with this perfect man? He deserves this commendation, too, in his mediatorial qualifications. Since his blood has. washed us from all our sins, we talk no more of the red roses, for what can they do to purify the soul? Since his righteousness has made us accepted in the Beloved, we will speak no more of spotless lilies, for what are these? He deserves all this praise, too, in his reigning glory. He has a glory which his Father has given him as a reward, in the power of which he sits down at the right hand of God for ever and ever, and shall soon come to judge the world in righteousness, and the people with equity. Beloved, when I think of the pompous appearance when he shall descend a second time in splendour upon the earth, I say again, ye roses, your radiant beauties are utterly eclipsed, and ye lilies, your snow-white purity is forgotten, I can scarce discern ye; O fair flowers of earth, ye are lost in the blaze of the great white throne, and in the flames of fire that shall go before the Judge of all to prepare his way. View the Lord Jesus in any way you please, all that he himself can say concerning himself he richly deserves, and therefore glory be unto his name for ever and ever, and let the whole earth say, Amen.

     III. I shall now conduct you to a third consideration, namely, THE INFLUENCE OF THIS COMMENDATION UPON US.

     Christ desires our loftiest thoughts of himself, and his desires are for our good. O my beloved, I wish time would stay its wing a moment or two, that I might urge upon you, with all your hearts, to second the endeavours of Christ, to labour after holy elevated thoughts concerning himself, since he desires them for you. And if ye ask me how you are to attain unto them, let me aid you a minute. Think of the ruin of this world till Christ came into it! Methinks I see in vision a howling wilderness, a great and terrible desert, like to the Sahara. I perceive nothing in it to relieve the eve, all around I am wearied with a vision of hot and arid sand, strewn with ten thousand bleaching skeletons of wretched men who have expired in anguish, having lost their way in the pitiless waste. O God, what a sight! How horrible! a sea of sand without a bound, and without an oasis, a cheerless graveyard for a race forlorn! But what is that I see? Upon a sudden, up springing from the scorching sand I see a root, a branch, a plant of renown; and as it grows it buds, the bud expands — it is a rose, and at its side a lily bows its modest head ; and miracle of miracles! as the fragrance of those flowers is diffused in the desert air, I perceive that wilderness is transformed into a fruitful field, and all around it blossoms exceedingly, the glory of Lebanon is given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon. Call it not Sahara, call it Paradise. Speak not of it any longer as the valley of deathshade, for where I saw the skeletons bleaching in the sun, I see a resurrection, and up spring the dead, a mighty army, full of life immortal — you can understand the vision. Christ is the rose which has changed the scene. If you would have great thoughts of Christ think of your own ruin. Yonder I behold you cast out an infant, unswathed, unwashed, defiled with your own blood, too foul to be looked upon except by beasts of prey. And what is this that has been cast into your bosom, and which lying there has suddenly made you fair and lovely? A rose has been thrown into your bosom by a divine hand, and for its sake you have been pitied and cared for by divine providence, you are washed and cleaned from your defilement, you are adopted into heaven’s family, the fair seal of love is upon your forehead, and the ring of faithfulness is on your hand — a prince unto God — though just now you were an orphan, cast away. O prize the rose, the putting of which into your bosom has made you what you are!

     Consider your daily need of this rose. You live in the pestilential air of this earth: take Christ away, you die. Christ is the daily food of your spirit. You know, believer, that you are utterly powerless without your Lord. O prize him then in proportion to the necessities you have for him! As you cannot even pray or think an acceptable thought apart from his presence, I beseech you press him to your bosom as the beloved of your soul. You are like a branch cut off and withered, thrown outside the garden gate to be burnt as are the noxious weeds, apart from him ; but when you are near him you bring forth fruit unto the glory of God. Praise Christ, I say then, after the rate of the necessity that you have for him.

     Think, beloved, of the estimation that Christ is had in beyond the skies, in the land where things are measured by the right standard, where men are no longer deceived by the delusions of earth. Think how God esteems the only begotten, his unspeakable gift to us. Consider what the angels think of him, as they count it their highest honour to veil their faces at his feet. Consider what the blood-washed think of him, as day without night they sing his well-deserved praises with gladdest voices. Remember how you yourself have sometimes esteemed him. There have been happy hours when you would freely have given your eyes, and felt you cared no longer for the light of earth’s brightest days, for your soul’s eyes would serve you well enough if you could for ever be favoured with the same clear sight of Christ. Have there not been moments when the chariots of Amminadib seemed but poor dragging things, compared with the wheels of your soul when Jesus ravished your heart with his celestial embrace? Estimate him to-day as you did then, for he is the same, though you are not.

     Think of him to-day as you will think of him in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment, when none but Jesus can avail to keep your soul alive. The great King has made a banquet, and he has proclaimed to all the world that none shall enter but those who bring with them the fairest flower that blooms. The spirits of men advance to the gate by thousands, and they bring each one the flower which he has thought the best ; but in crowds they are driven from his presence, and enter not into the banquet. Some bear in their hand the deadly nightshade of superstition, or carry the flaunting poppies of Rome, but these are not dear to the King, the bearers are shut out of the pearly gates. My soul, hast thou gathered the rose of Sharon? Dost thou wear the lily of the valley in thy bosom constantly? If so, when thou comest up to the gates of heaven thou wilt know its value, for thou hast only to show this, and the porter of the gate will open, not for a moment will he deny the admission, for to that rose the porter openeth ever. Thou shalt find thy way with this rose in thy hand up to the throne of God himself, for heaven itself possesses nothing which excels the rose of Sharon, and of all the flowers that bloom in paradise there is none that can rival the lily of the valleys. Get Calvary’s blood-red rose into thy hand by faith, wear it; by communion preserve it; by daily watchfulness make it your all in all, and you shall be blessed beyond all bliss, happy beyond a dream. So be it yours for ever.

     IV. Lastly, I shall close by asking you to make CONFESSIONS SUGGESTED BY MY TEXT.

     I will not make them for you, and therefore need not detain you from your homes. I will utter my own lamentation and leave you every one apart to do the like. I stand before this text of mine to blush, this morning, and to weep while I acknowledge my ungrateful behaviour. “My Lord, I am truly ashamed to think that I have not gazed more upon thee. I know, and in my heart believe, that thou art the sum total of all beauty, yet must I sorrowfully lament that my eyes have been gadding abroad to look after other beauties; my thoughts have been deluded with imaginary excellencies in the creatures, and I have meditated but little upon thyself. Alas! my Lord, I confess still further that I have not possessed and enjoyed thee as I ought. When I might have been with thee all the day and all the night, I have been roving hither and thither, and forgetting my resting place. I have not been careful to welcome my Beloved and to retain his company. I have stirred him up by my sins, and have driven him away by my lukewarmness. I have given him cold lodgings, and slender hospitality within the chambers of my heart. I have not held him fast, neither have I pressed him to abide with me as I ought to have done. All this I must confess, and mourn that I am not more ashamed while confessing it. Moreover, my good Lord, although I know thy great sacrifice for me might well have chained my heart for ever to thine altar (and O that thou hadst done so!) I must acknowledge that I have not been a living sacrifice as I should have been. I have not been so fascinated by the lustre of thy beauty as I should have been. O that all my heart’s rooms had been occupied by thee, and by thee alone! Would God my soul were as the coals in the furnace, all on flame, and not a single particle of me left unconsumed by the delightful flames of thy love. I must also confess, my Lord, that I have not spoken of thee as I should have done. Albeit I have had many opportunities, yet I have not praised thee at the rate which thou deservest. I have given thee at best but a poor, stammering, chilly tongue, when I should have spoken with the fiery zeal of a seraph. These are my confessions. Brethren and sisters, what are yours? If you have none to make, if you can justly claim to have done all that you should have done to your Beloved, I envy you; but methinks there is not a man here who will dare to say this. I am sure you have all had falls, and slips, and shortcomings, with regard to him. Well, then, come humbly to Jesus at once. He will forgive you readily, for he does not soon take offence at his spouse. He may sometimes speak sharp words to her, because he loves her, but his heart is always true, and faithful, and tender. He will forgive the past, he will receive you at this moment; ay, this moment he will display himself to you. If you will but open the door to him, he will enter into immediate fellowship with you, for lie saith, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and sap with him, and lie with me.” 0 Christ, our Lord, our heart is open, come in, and go out no more for ever. “Whosoever believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” Sinner, believe and live.



Sermons from Saintly Death Beds

By / Dec 1

Sermons from Saintly Death Beds

 

“And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto hid people.” — Genesis 49:33.

 

JACOB did not yield up the ghost until he had delivered the last sentence of admonition and benediction to his twelve sons. He was immortal till his work was done. So long as God had another sentence to speak by him, death could not paralyse his tongue. Yet, after all, the strong man was bowed down, and he who had journeyed with unwearied foot full many a mile, was now obliged to gather up his feet into the bed to die. His life had been eventful in the highest degree, but that dread event now came upon him which is common to us all. He had deceived his blind father in his youth, but no craftiness of Jacob could deceive the grave. He had fled from Esau, his angry brother, but a swifter and surer foot was now in pursuit from which there was no escape. He had slept with a stone for his pillow, and had seen heaven opened, but he was to find that it was only to be entered by the ordinary gate. He had wrestled with the angel at the brook Jabbok, and he had prevailed: at this time he was to wrestle with an angel against whom there was no prevalence. He had dwelt in Canaan in tents, in the midst of enemies, and the Lord had said, “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm,” and therefore he had been secure in the midst of a thousand ills; but now he must fall by the hand of the last enemy, and feel the great avenger’s sword. It was appointed to the patriarch to die as meaner men must do.

     From the wording of the text, it appears very clearly that Israel did not dispute the irrevocable decree, nor did his soul murmur against it. He had long before learned that few and evil were his days, and now that they came to an end, he joyfully accepted their conclusion. He was not like a bullock dragged to the slaughter, but he gathered up his feet by a voluntary act of submission, and then, bowing his head, he yielded up the ghost; like a man weary with a long day’s toil, he was glad to rest, and therefore most cheerfully he attended to the great Father’s summons, and was peacefully gathered unto his people and his God. As this is to be our lot by-and-by, we may contemplate in our meditations the departure of this mighty man, and ask that our death may be like his, that we also may finish our course with joy. May we

“So live, that when our summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan that moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His place appointed by the just decree,
That thou, sustained and soothed, approach thy grave
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
Around him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.”

     It is remarkable, my brethren, that the Holy Spirit has given us very few death-bed scenes in the book of God. We have very few in the Old Testament, fewer still in the New, and I take it that the reason may be, because the Holy Ghost would have us take more account of how we live than how we die, for life is the main business. He who learns to die daily while he lives, will find it no difficulty to breathe out his soul tor the last time into the hands of his faithful Creator. If we fight well the battle, we may rest assured of the victory. If, enlisted under the banner of truth, resting in Jesus Christ, we finish our fight and keep the faith, we need not fear but that our entering into rest will be a blessed one. Peradventure, the Holy Spirit would also show us that it is not so much to our profit to have our feelings harrowed by recitals of dying experiences. Certain preachers in their sermons are very fond of extorting tears from their hearers by dragging before them the funerals of friends, painting the death-bed scenes of parents, unwrapping the winding sheets of little infants, and exhibiting the skeletons of buried relatives. This may be of some avail: preachers may have used these scenes to work through the natural affections to something deeper; but this is not the way the Holy Spirit has selected. If the teachers of the gospel will study the Holy Spirit’s model, they will learn that we are to strike at conscience rather than at the natural affections, and teach men holy principles rather than remind them of their sorrows. From the great reticence of the Holy Spirit in this matter, I learn that he would not have us be abundant to superfluity in such things. Moreover, it may be suggested that the Holy Ghost has given us few of these death-bed scenes on paper, because being present with us, he presents them to us frequently in actual flesh and blood, visible to our eyes and audible to our ears. We are to look upon the presence of the Holy Spirit in the witness of dying men, as in some sense the continuance of the Holy Spirit’s instructive authorship. He has finished yonder book written with paper and ink, but he is writing fresh stanzas to the glory of God in the deaths of departing saints, who one by one are taken from the evil to come singing the Lord’s praises as they depart. If this be not so at any rate it is true that we nave abundant testimonies to the faithfulness of God in the departure of those who, having lived by faith on earth, are now gone to see with their own eyes the King in his beauty, and the land which is very far off.

     During the past week, as most of you know, God has seen fit to remove from the midst of his church a great man, and a prince in Israel, a man greatly beloved, one of the excellent of the earth, an amiable, zealous, talented, godly, and valiant man, esteemed personally wherever he was known, and honoured officially wherever his ministry was enjoyed. Dr. James Hamilton was one of the most fragrant flowers in the Lord’s garden of sweet flowers to which the Beloved so often comes to gather lilies. He was not a Boanerges — not after the quality of Knox and Luther, but a Barnabas, a son of consolation, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost. He had a singular elegance and refinement of style, in which metaphors the most novel and charming abounded, like golden grains in Afric’s sunny fountains; in his utterances he gave forth a pleasant sound, as of one that playeth well upon a goodly instrument: he was always musical with harmony of poetic illustration, but always musical with the notes of Christ, always sweet with the perfume of the atoning blood. He was a cedar in our Lebanon — alas! the axe has laid low his glories: he was a gem of purest ray serene, but he shines no longer in the coronet of the church below. He was a nursing-father to full many of the Lord’s little one’s, and now we mourn because they lack his help: may they find in God’s Spirit an abundant supply of all-sufficient grace. Well, he is gone from us — and while men are sad, there is joy beyond the skies; the loss of earth is the gain of heaven, and if the church has somewhat less below, she has more above. I think I see him at this moment borne upward to his final resting place as a stone squared and polished, to be builded in the wall of the Temple of the New Jerusalem; hear ye not the shoutings of “Grace, grace unto it”? There is a fresh jewel this moment in the Redeemer’s crown; heaven is lustrous with the beauty of another blood-washed robe; another voice is added to the everlasting song, another shout to the hallelujahs of those who feast at the eternal banquet. The church has lost nothing — she has only seen one of her valiant captains pass through the flood to join the triumphal band upon the other side; but as surely as the church is one, she loses none of her members and militant, so certain — as is certainly it that Christ as it is loseth the same none church of his triumphant people, and the church really none of her strength by death. The decease of our friend James Hamilton, in connection with another circumstance of a different character which has happened to me this week, led my meditations very much to saintly death-beds, and I have therefore fastened upon this occasion to talk with God’s people concerning their passage out of this world unto the Father. “’Tis greatly wise,” says the poet, “to talk with our last hours.” Sacred prudence bids us be familiar with the winding-sheet and the grave, which must soon be our most intimate acquaintances. Let us sojourn awhile upon the borders of the laud unknown, to be sobered at least, if not sanctified.

     First, let us consider the departure of great saints, and of God’s ministers in particular – what do these teach us? Secondly, the various modes of their departure – what do these teach us also?

     I. First, THE DEPARTURES OF GOD’S SAINTS, AND ESPECIALLY OF THIS MINISTERS – WHAT ARE THEIR LESSONS?

     The first that  lies upon the surface, is this, “Be ye also ready : for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” When in the forest there is heard the crash of a falling oak, it is a sign that the woodman is abroad, and every tree in the whole company may tremble lest soon the sharp edge of the axe should find it out. We are all mortal, and the death of one should remind us that death lurks hard by us all. I trust we do not, by often hearing of death, become callous to it. May we never be like the birds in the steeple, which can build their nests when the bells are ringing, and sleep quietly when the merry marriage or solemn funeral peals are startling the air. May we regard death as the most solemn of all events, and be sobered by its approach. In the old wars of the Danish kings, there is a legend that, when Harold was contending with his brother Harequin, an arrow was seen flying in the air, quivering as if it scarcely knew its way, and was searching for its victim; then on a sudden it pierced the leader’s forehead. A little imagination may picture us as being in the same position as the Danish lordling: the arrow of death is flying for awhile above us, but its descent is sure and its wound is fatal. It ill behoves us to laugh and sport while not life hangs on a thread. The sword is out of its scabbard — let us not triffle; it is furbished, and the edge sparkles with fearful sharpness – let us prepare ourselves to meet it. He who does not prepare for death is more than an ordinary fool, he is a madman. When the voice of God is calling to us through the departures of others, if we do not listen to the warning, we may expect him to follow the rejected word of counsel with a blow of wrath; for he often strikes down right terribly those who would not listen to his reproving messages. Be ready, minister, see to it that thy church be in good order, for the grave shall soon be digged for thee; be ready, parent, see that your children are brought up in the fear of God, for they must soon be orphans; be ready, men of business, you that are busy m the world, see that your affairs are correct, see that you serve God with all your heart, for the days of your terrestrial service will soon be ended, and you will be called to give account for the deeds done in the body, whether they be good or whether they be evil. O may we all prepare for the tribunal of the great King with a cafe which shall be rewarded with the commendation, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

     Secondly, the deaths of righteous mm should teach as their value. According to the old saying, we never know the value of things till we lose them. I am sure it is so with holy men. Let me urge young people here to prize their aged godly parents, to treat them kindly, to make their last days happy, because they cannot expect to have them long on earth to receive their tokens of affectionate gratitude. Those who have Christian parents, little know how great is the privilege they enjoy until they become parents themselves, and learn the cares and sorrows of the mother’s office and the father’s state. Are any of you favoured with friends who have given you instruction in the faith, whose goodly words and holy examples have helped you on the way to heaven? thank God much for such good company; be much with them, treasure up the pearls which drop from their lips. They must soon be gone, value them to-day as you will do when they are departed. Are you privileged with an earnest, faithful, ministry? Do you hear the gospel lovingly and honestly proclaimed? Then bless God every day of your life for that faithful ministry. All ministry is not such — all people are not in such a case. Be grateful, then, and show your gratitude by giving earnest heed to the things that are spoken, lest by any means you should let them slip, and so should miss the great salvation through want of earnestness. I do beseech you, dear friends, value the Christian ministry. I ask no honour for men, but I do ask honour for the office which Paul said he would magnify; and wherever you see that God has sent an ambassador, and that his ambassador is praying you in Christ’s stead to be reconciled to God, turn not away from his entreaties, close not your ear to his persuasions, but honour the man’s office, pay homage to the King who sent him, by yielding up your heart in obedience to the word which is delivered to you.

     Furthermore, I think the departures of great saints and those who have been eminent, teach us to pray earnestly to God to send us more of such — a lesson which, I am quite certain, needs to be inculcated often. There is sadly little prayer in the church for the rising ministry. You pray for those who are your pastors, and rightly so. “Brethren, pray for us,” you cannot do us a better favour. But there is so little prayer that God would raise up ministers! Know ye not that, as surely as the blood of Christ bought the redemption of his people, as surely as the resurrection of Christ was for the justification of the saints, so surely the ascension of Christ was for the distribution of ministry among the sons of men? Know ye not the passage, “He ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men . . . . . and he gave [these were the gifts] some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists ; and some, pastors and teachers”? Now, you plead the precious blood when you would obtain pardon; you plead the resurrection, and you receive justification; but how seldom do you plead the ascension, so as to obtain a faithful ministry! Parts of Christendom are becoming terribly deficient in ministry. I have been told, and I have read in the literature of America, that in many parts of the United States, one-third of the churches are devoid of pastors, believers are struggling and striving after ministers, but cannot find them. There must have been in that case a failure in the prayer, “Lord, send forth labourers into the harvest.” And I should not at all wonder if such a case should happen to England, for I see a dreadful lethargy in the hearts of many of God’s people as to the work of praying for preachers, and assisting in training them. In olden times, if any men showed the slightest ability in speech, the saints sought such out and tried to instruct them, as Aquila and Priscilla, when they found Apollos a man eloquent and mighty in the Scriptures, they took him and instructed him further; and Paul, when he saw that Timothy was an apt scholar, instructed him further in the faith; while our blessed Lord not only preached the gospel, but founded a college in which he had twelve students (and more than that), who constantly went about with him, learning from his example and ministry how themselves to become teachers of others. But now, forsooth, there are wiseacres who talk about “man-made ministers,” and despise all attempts to assist our youth to become qualified in the testimony of the truth. The Lord teach them reason and give them common sense, but let no Christian give one single particle of heeding to their prattling. Let it be our earnest endeavour, both by prayer and every other means, to seek to obtain from God a succession of earnest , faithful, qualified ministers, for, say what you will, it is upon the ministry that God shall send you that much of the success of the church must depend. Those sects which pretend to do without a special ministry (for it is usually a transparent pretence), may prosper for a little while: their setting up every disciple to be a teacher suits the natural pride of the human heart, and Christian men, being grossly deceived, yield to it for a little while, but I wot that not one single one of these communities can endure throughout a generation in vigorous existence. With a spasm of excitement, and a flush of zeal, they grow awhile, fattening upon those whom they can decoy from other churches, and then they dwindle away to nothing, or divide into little knots, each one agreed in hating the other most fervently. What is everybody’s business is nobody’s business; and since there is no man set to see after souls, no man does see after them; and the whole flock become scattered for want of a shepherd, who, in God’s hand, might have kept them together. Faithful servants of the living God, as ye prize the church and its ordinances, strive with God that as he takes one by one of his servants away, he would send us others, that the church may never lack her standard-bearers, and the flock of God never be destitute of pastors after God’s own heart. Pray ye seven times each day that God may keep alive the name and glory of Christ in the land by faithful teachers of the truth.

     Yet there is a valuable truth on the other side. We desire always to look at both sides of a question. The taking away of eminent saints from among us should teach us to depend more upon God, and less upon human instrumentality. I was reading, yesterday, the dying prayer of Oliver Cromwell, and one sentence in that man of God’s last breathings pleased me exceedingly. It was to this effect, I think, I have copied out the words, “Teach those who look too much on thy instruments to depend more upon thyself.” Brave old Oliver was a man upon whom the whole nation rested; he could say with David, “The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved: I bear up the pillars of it.” In a time of terrible anarchy, when men had become fierce with fanatical prophesyings, and wild with political passions, Oliver Cromwell’s iron hand restored peace, and kept a tumultuous land in order; and now, when he would be worst missed, and could very ill be spared, he must depart, and this is his prayer, “Teach them to depend less upon thy instrument, and more upon thyself.” You may have observed that frequently when a man is in the zenith of his power, and people have said, “That is the man who of all others we could least afford to lose,” that very man has been taken away, that special light has been quenched, that particular pillar has been removed. The Lord would have all the glory given unto his own name. He has said it, said it often in voice of thunder, but men will not hear it, “All power belongeth unto God.” He will honour and bless an instrumentality, for that is his mode of working, but he will not divide the crown with the most honoured agency, he will have all the glory redound unto himself; and by frequently breaking up his battle axes and weapons of war, he teaches his church that he can fight with his own bare arm, and win the victory to himself without an instrument of warfare.

     Coming back, however, to the old thought, do you not think that the departure of eminent saints should teach each one of us to work with more earnestness and perseverance while we a/re spared ? Ono soldier the less in the battle, my brethren: then you must fill up the vacancy; you who stand next in the ranks must close up, shoulder to shoulder, that there be no gap. Here is one servant the less in the house: the other servants must do the more work. It is but natural for us so to argue, because we wish the Master’s work to be done, and it will not be done without hands. If we do not preach the gospel, angels will not preach it. If we do not win souls for God, we must not expect cherubim and seraphim to engage in this divine employment. Somebody must do it, and, since we would have all done that can be done, you and I must do the more when helpers are removed. There is a hand the less: we must stretch out our hands the oftener to execute the sacred work. Behold, a reaper falls in the comer of the field, and all the harvest must be gathered in before the season is past! brethren, sharpen your sickles, gather up your strength, toil more hours in the day, throw more strength into your toil; above all, pray for a greater blessing upon what is done. If there be less bread, then we must have a larger benediction to multiply it, to make it sufficient for the tens of thousands. If there be fewer labourers, we must ask the Master to give those labourers the more strength, that the work may still be done, and nothing be marred for want of effort.

     I wish I had the strength, this morning, mental and physical combined, to urge this upon you as I have striven to urge it upon myself. I have sought before the Lord that he would teach me to live an active, earnest, laborious, heavenly life. Very few of us understand what life is. Baxter at Kidderminster, from morning to night spending and being spent for the Master’s service: Whitfield, all over England and America, toiling and labouring without the thought of rest, instant in season and out of season: these are the men we should emulate. But, alas! we do a little, and then we fold our hands, with ridiculous self-satisfaction. Now and then we arouse ourselves to something like seal, and then we fall back into a state of carelessness. It ought not so to be, but with diligence and perseverance we ought to live as having death in view, and the near approach of the time when the night cometh wherein no man can work. I must leave those lessons with you: I cannot enforce them; the Holy Spirit can.

     II. Come with me to the second part of my discourse. Much may be learned from the MODES OF DEPARTURE of God’s servants.

     All believers fall asleep in Jesus, and in him they are all saved; the precious blood hath washed them, the hand of Christ keeps them, the earnest of the Spirit is with them, and the everlasting gates are opened to receive them; but unto them all there is not ministered the same abundant entrance into the kingdom, neither do all their faces shine with those gleams of glory which rest upon the highly favoured. To some of God’s own children the dying bed is a Bochim, a place of weeping. It is melancholy when such is the case, and yet it is often so with those who have been negligent servants: they are saved, but so as by fire: they struggle into the port of peace, but their entrance is like that of a weather-beaten vessel which has barely escaped the storm, and enters into harbour so terribly leaking as to be ready to founder, without her cargo, for she has thrown that overboard to escape the waves, sails rent to ribands, masts gone by the board, barely able to keep afloat. Thousands enter into glory as Paul and his companions in peril landed at Melita, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship; all come safe to land, but it is as it were by the skin of their teeth. In the dying beds of some believers that text is sadly illustrated, “If the righteous scarcely be saved.” We have known them lying on the brink of eternity, bemoaning themselves after this fashion: “God has forgiven me, but how can I forgive myself? I am saved; but, oh! that I had made a profession of religion more plainly and boldly! Would God that I had not been so dilatory in serving my Master! I have prayed so little, given so little, done so little, I am a most unprofitable servant. Woe is me, for I have been busy here and there, and have forgotten my life’s work; I have, made money, but have won no jewels for Christ; I have taken care of my family, but alas! I have done next to nothing for the cause of Christ. I shall have no means of serving the cause of God when I enter heaven; I cannot then succour the poor, feed the hungry, or clothe the naked, or send the gospel to the ignorant. I might have done much when I was in health and strength, but now I can do little or nothing, for I am weak, and languishing upon this bed. Would to God that my Sabbaths had profited me more, and that I had walked more in nearness to God.” Such dolorous heart-breaking confessions have we heard, varied occasionally by the lament, “Would to God I had brought up my children better, for now I am obliged to say with David, “My house is not so with God,’ though I know that he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure.” Many a dying pillow has been wet with the penitential tears of saints, who have then fully seen their formerly unobserved shortcomings and failures and laxities in the family, in the business, in the church, and in the world. Brethren, it is beautiful to see the repentance of a dying saint: travel far as you may, you will not readily behold a more comely spectacle. I have seen it, and have breathed the prayer, “Lord, give me a humble and contrite spirit, like that which I see before me, and help me now to feel the like brokenness of heart.” Yet at the sight of such instances it has struck me that the fruit though precious was scarcely seasonable: it must be acceptable to God, for he never rejects repentance anywhere, but yet a brighter state of soul would have glorified him more in dying moments. We regret to see mourning of soul as the most conspicuous feature in a departing brother, we desire to see joy and confidence clearly manifested at the last. We are glad to see contrition anywhere, because it is evermore a lovely work of the Spirit; but we should have preferred to see it sooner, when regrets would not have been unavailing, when the repentance would have brought forth practical fruit in a change, of life. I say, thank God if there be a deep repentance on the dying bed, but this is not the highest or best thing: to enter into life halt or maimed is not the grandest or most comely mode of departing out of this life into another. To die in the dark with Jesus is safe, but to have light at the last is better. We remember reading of a popular minister (and the reading of it has struck through our heart), who, when he was dying, said to those about him, “I die in great bitterness of mind, for I have been one of the most admired trees in God’s vineyard, and yet when I lock back upon ray past life, I fear I have brought forth many blossoms and many leaves, but very little fruit unto God’s glory.” Ah! it will go hard with us, ministers, if we have to sorrow thus in our last hours. You Sunday-school teachers, and other beloved labourers for Christ, I trust you will not have to cry at the last, “ Our harvest is past, and our summer is ended, and none of our children are saved. Oh, that we had talked to our boys and girls more solemnly! Oh, that we had entreated them with tears to flee from the wrath to come! I pray God that such may not be your dying lamentations, but that each one of us may live for God at the rate which eternity will justify. When Zeuxis, the old painter, was taking much pains with his painting, pausing over every tint and touch, they asked him why he wrought so carefully. He answered, “I paint for eternity.” So let us take good heed in all that we do for God, not offering to him that which costs us nothing, nor going out to his service at random, without prayer for his blessing and fitness for his work: let us take earnest heed to ourselves that we live for eternity, for so shall we wish to have lived when we come to die.

     It has not unfreqnently occurred that the dying scene has been to the Lord’s departing champions a battle, not perhaps by reason of any slips or shortcomings — far from it, for in some in cases the conflict appeared to arise by very reason of their valour in the Lord’s service. Who among us would assert that Martin Luther failed to live up to the light and knowledge which he had received? So far as he knew the truth, I believe he most diligently followed it; beyond most men he was true to conscience, he knew comparatively little of the truth, but what he did know he maintained with all his heart, and soul, and strength; and yet it is exceedingly painful to read the record of Luther’s last few days. Darkness was round about him, thick clouds and tempest enveloped his soul. At the last the sky cleared, but it is very evident that, among all the grim battles in which that mighty German fought and conquered, probably the most tremendous conflict of his life was at its close. Can we not guess the reason? Was it not because the devil knew him to be his worst enemy then upon the earth, and therefore hating him with the utmost power of infernal hate, and feeling that this was his last opportunity for assaulting him, he gathered up all his diabolical powers, and came in against him like a flood, thinking that mayhap he might at the last overcome the stout heart, and cow the valiant spirit! Only by divine assistance did Luther win the victory, but win it he did. Is this form of departure to be altogether deprecated? I think not. It is to be dreaded in some aspects, though not in others, for is it not a noble thing for the knight of the cross to die in harness? a blessed thing for the Christian soldier to proceed at once from the battle field to his eternal rest? The like was the case with John Knox, the Scottish Luther, whose bold spirit feared the face of no man; he was beset with a temptation which seemed a strange one to trouble him, namely, a temptation to self-righteousness. He had always denounced all trust in works, and yet that error assaulted him at last, and he had a long and bitter conflict, though it ended in joyful victory. It has been quaintly said that, “Sometimes God puts his children to bed in the dark.” When our heavenly Father sends the rider upon the pale horse to fetch us home from the school of this life’s tribulation, he comes riding down the street making such a clang our with his horse hoofs that we are alarmed, until we come to know that he is sent by our Father, and then we are glad. God permits the Jordan to overflow its banks when some of his best children are passing through, for he designs to magnify his grace in the last trial of their faith, and thus to show to men, and angels, and devils, who are looking on, how he can triumph in his servants when flesh and heart are failing.

     Beloved, I think these instances are rare compared with others which I am now to mention. To many saints their departure has been a peaceful entrance into the fair haven of repose. The very weakest of God’s servants have frequently been happiest in their departing moments. John Bunyan, who had observed this fact, in the description of Mr. Feeble mind’s passage of the river, “Here also I took notice of what was very remarkable; the water of that river was lower at this time than over I saw it all my life. So he went over at last not much above wet shod.” Heaven’s mercy tempers the wind to the shorn lamb, and gives to babes no battle, because they have no strength for it: the lambs calmly rest on the bosom of Jesus, and breathe out their lives in the Shepherd’s arms. What encouragement this ought to be to you who are the tender ones among us! what cheering tidings for you who are weak in faith! Like Mr. Ready-to-halt, you shall cry, “Now, I shall have no more need of these crutches, since yonder are chariots and horses for me to ride on.” There died a few weeks ago one who may be known to some of you by name, Mr. James Upton, late pastor of the church in Cotton Street, more than twenty-five years laid aside from the ministry by a most terrible depression of spirit, which caused him one long unbroken night of soul. He could not engage in any form of devotional exercise, so frightfully was he depressed in spirit, doubtless by some form of mental derangement; but during the last few hours of his life, when he was speechless, and could therefore give no verbal testimony, the gloom which had always been manifested in his countenance was removed, and he was evidently at the last enjoying profound peace of mind. If God does not take away melancholy from the believer till the last, he will at the last. If he suffer his people to live for years in winter, their summer shall begin at the last hour. When the death damp is heaviest, then shall the light burn the brightest, and, as the body decays and weakens, the soul shall arise in her strength.

     Many of the saints have gone farther than this, for their death-bed shave been pulpits. Not to all of them was it so given, for Mr. Whitfield desired to bear a dying testimony for Christ, but did not do so, somebody remarking to him, “You have borne so many living testimonies to so many thousands, that your Master wants no dying testimony of you.” If you have read Brainerd’s Journal, what wonderful things he speaks of there, when all his last thoughts were delightfully fixed upon eternity and the world to come! Thus he wrote in his diary, “Oh I how sweet were the thoughts of death to me at this time! Oh! how I longed to be with Christ, to be employed in the glorious work of angels, and with an angel’s freedom, vigour, and delight.” At another time he wrote, “’Tis sweet to me to think of eternity; but oh! what shall I say to the eternity of the wicked! I cannot mention it or think of it. The thought is too dreadful!” His thoughts, however, were all taken up with the joyful eternity belonging to believers, into which he entered with holy triumph. Then there was that dear man of God, Mr. Payson. His last expressions were weighty sermons. He says, “I suppose, speaking within bounds, I have suffered twenty times as much as any martyr that was ever burnt at the stake, through the painfulness of my disease, and yet frequently, day after day, my joy in God has so abounded as to render my sufferings not only tolerable but welcome.” When Mr. Matthew Henry was dying, Mr. Illidge came to him, and he said, “You have been used to take notice of the sayings of dying men: this is mine, ‘A life spent in the service of God and in communion with him, is the most pleasant life that any one can live in the world.’” Well spoken! Our pulpits often lack force and power; men suppose that we speak but out of form and custom, but they do not suspect dying men of hypocrisy, nor think that they are driving a trade and following a profession. Hence the witness of dying saints has often become powerful to those who have stood around their couch: careless hearts have been impressed, slumbering consciences have been awakened, and children of God quickened to greater diligence by what they have heard. Brethren, do you never find dying beds become thrones of judgment? Have you never seen the hoary saint stayed upon the pillows, prophesying like a seer concerning the things of this world and of the world to come? Have you never heard him deliver sentences as weighty as the Verdict of a judge? “What,” says he, “what are all these earthly things to me now, now that I am about to leave them? They are all bubbles and emptinesses. Solomon in his life could not moralize with such force as holy men do in their deaths: and then, as they point the finger to eternity, and tell of worlds to come, and of the need of being prepared for the tremendous day of the great assize, they appear as if, clothed in their white raiment, they were performing a rehearsal of the last dread judgment. Many who care not for the voice of the ministry, nor even for the witness of God’s written word, have felt the power of the speeches of men standing on the borders of eternity.  

     And, brethren, to bring this to a close, lest I should weary you, we have known not unfrequent cases (nay, commonly this is the case), when the dying bed has become a Pisgah, from the top of which the saint has viewed his inheritance, while anon his couch has glowed on a sudden into the chariot of Amminadib, aflaming chariot such as that in which Elias was borne away to dwell with God. Saints have frequently been in such triumphant conditionsof mind, that rapture and ecstacy are the only fit words in which to describe their state. “If this be dying,” said one, “it is worth while living for the mere sake of dying.” Dr. Payson, in his dying hours, wrote to his sister, “Were I to adopt the figurative language of Bunyan, I should date this letter from the land of Beulah, of which I have been for some weeks a happy inhabitant! The celestial city is full in my view. Its glories beam upon me, its odours are wafted to me, its sounds strike upon my ears, and its spirit is breathed into my heart. Nothing separates me from it but the river of death, which now appears but as an insignificant rill, that may be crossed at a single step, whenever God shall give permission. The Sun of Righteousness has gradually been drawing nearer and nearer, appearing larger and brighter as he approached; and now he fills the whole hemisphere, pouring forth a flood of glory, in which I seem to float as an insect in the beams of the sun ; exulting, yet almost trembling, while J gaze on this excessive brightness, and wondering, with unutterable wonder, that God should deign thus to shine upon a sinful worm. A single heart and a single tongue seem altogether inadequate to my wants: I want a whole heart for every separate emotion, and a whole tongue to express that emotion.” It has been sometimes said these excitements are produced by delirium or caused by drugs, yet there are multitudes of clear cases in which men have had no delirium, and have been altogether untouched by drugs, as in the case of Halyburton, who said, “I know that a great deal from a dying man will go for canting and raving; but I bless God, he has kept the judgment I had, that I have been able to reflect with composure on his dealings with me. I am sober and composed, if ever I was so. * * * You may believe a man venturing on] eternity. I have weighed eternity this last night— I have looked on death as stripped of all things pleasant to nature; * * and under the view of all these, I have found that in the way of God that gave satisfaction, a rational satisfaction, that makes me rejoice.” Halyburton, indeed, broke forth into such ecstatic expressions, that I fear to quote them, lest I should spoil them; among his words were these, “If ever I was distinct in my judgment and memory in my life, it is since he laid his hands upon me. My bones are riving through my skin, and yet all my bones are praising him. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? * * I am now a witness for Christ, and for the reality of religion. * * I have peace in the midst of pain; and oh! how much of that I have had for a time past! — my peace has been like a river — not a discomposed thought. * * Strange that this body is going away to corruption, and yet my intellectuals are so lively, that I cannot say there is the least alteration, the least decay of judgment or memory; such vigorous actings of my spirit towards God and things that are not seen.” When drawing near his end, one remarked to him, “Blessed are they that die in the Lord.” He replied, “When I fall so low that I cannot speak, I’ll show you a sign of triumph if I am able.” And when he could no longer speak, he lifted up his hands, clapped them as in token of victory, and in a little while departed to the land where the weary are at rest. Oh, it is grand to die thus, to get heaven here below in foretastes; to partake of dainty dishes brought from off the tables of immortals, to stay our souls while lingering here! This shall be your portion, and this shall be my portion, if we be faithful unto death, continuing diligent in service. I have already told you, if we believe in Christ, we shall die safely, but we may not necessarily die in this triumph: this blessing is given to those who are faithful, earnest and diligent, a special reward which God reserveth to some men who, like Daniel, are greatly beloved, or who, like John, are indulged with special visions of the New Jerusalem, before entering upon the scene! Brethren, as I close my sermon I can but utter the present yearning of my ardent spirit—

“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 passed.”



Saving Knowledge

By / Nov 24

Saving Knowledge

 

“Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.” — John 4:10.

 

THE matter will turn, this morning, upon those few words, “If thou knewest the gift of God.” The woman of Samaria, who was met by our Lord at the well, was an object of electing love, but she was not yet regenerated. One difficulty alone lay in the way: she was an honest ingenuous spirit, willing to receive the truth, perfectly willing to be obedient to it; but ignorance lay like a stone before the door of her sepulchre. “If thou knewest the gift of God,” says Christ, “then thou wouldst have asked, and I would have given.” There was the one barrier; if that could be removed, she would be a saved soul. The impediment which lay so much in her way was ignorance concerning the Lord Jesus himself. She was not an uninstructed woman. She was evidently acquainted at least with portions of Biblical history: she could speak of “Father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle.” She was versed certainly in the peculiarities of her sect: “How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.” She was equally well acquainted with the hopes which were common to her people and to the Jewish nation: “I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.” She was not, therefore, kept out of the kingdom on account of ignorance. In these matters she was better instructed. I am afraid of there are some of you —for, alas! in this age there are hundreds of people who are educated in everything except their Bibles — who could answer questions upon most sciences, but concerning Christ crucified, they know not even so much as the very elements. But the point which kept this -woman, I say, out of the kingdom was this, that she did not know Christ; she knew not “the gift of God,” and who it was that said unto her, “ Give me to drink.” And this, indeed, is enough to keep any of us out of peace, and life, and joy, for, until we know God in human flesh, we cannot find peace and comfort. The great riddle of “What must I do to be saved?” remains unsolved till we know Christ and are found in him. We may go about, and we may study this, and that, and the other, but we shall remain fools in the matters of eternal salvation until we come and sit at the feet of the great Teacher, and know him, and are known of him.

     I shall essay, this morning, as God may help me, to speak with you upon spiritual ignorance, upon what would follow if that ignorance were removed, hoping that I may be allowed to say a few stirring things to some of you, to induce you to get rid of any ignorance which now bars you out of peace, and that others of you who know the truths of Jesus Christ, may be more earnest to tell to the unenlightened what you know yourselves, lest they should perish and their blood should be required at your hands.

     I shall commence, then, this morning, by some few remarks upon the gift of God and the knowledge of it; and then, secondly, I shall turn to the  “if” of the text, and what then? and, thirdly, I shall take up the “if” of the text once more, and show what it has to do with the believer.  

     I. First, our text speaks of A GIFT, AND OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF IT.

     The latter half of the verse informs us that the gift of God is no other than the Man who spoke to the woman and said, “Give me to drink.” In fact, Jesus Christ is “God’s unspeakable gift,” for whom we should daily and hourly lift up our hearts in gratitude to God. Christ was God’s gift to the fallen seed of man. Long ere this world was made, he ordained in the eternal purpose that Christ should be the covenant Head of his elect, their Surety, and their Redeemer: he gave Christ to us before he spread the starry sky: he was the Father’s goodly gift when the fulness of time was come. Many promises had heralded the Master’s coming, and at last he appeared, a babe of a span long in his mother’s arms. His holy life and his suffering death were the gifts of God to us, for “He spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all.” To the whole company of God’s elect, Christ Jesus is the priceless boon which the Father’s love has bestowed upon them. And when you and I receive Jesus Christ into our heart, he evermore comes as a gift. The faith by which we receive him is a gift: the gift of God is faith, but Jesus Christ himself never comes to a soul that has faith, as a reward. No man ever received Christ by the works of the law or the deeds of the flesh. It is not possible, my brethren, that the highest and most perfect obedience should ever deserve such a reward as the gift of the Son of God. Conceive of any virtue, and you will not dare to blaspheme so much as to think that it could deserve the death of Christ. Nay, the price is too great to be a recompense for any of our exertions. It is the spontaneous boon of heaven, given to us, not on the footing of the law, but on the grounds of the sovereign grace of God, who giveth as he wills to the unworthy sons of men. If you come to God with a price in your hands, you shall not have Christ; if you come to God thinking to force your way to heaven, or supposing that you could even contribute towards your entrance there, you shall find the gates of the law shutting you out for ever; but if you come humbly penitent, confessing your soul-poverty, and plead with the Father that he would give to you his Son, you shall receive the gift of God into your soul most freely. “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life.” “We are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Man is dead in sin, but Christ is a gift bringing life to the dead.

     The text uses the definite article, “If thou knewest the gift of God,” setting Christ as God’s gift beyond all other gifts. True, the light of the sun is the gift of God to us. There is not a piece of bread we eat, nor a drop of water we drink, but what it may be called the gift of God; but the gift which comprehends, excels, and sanctifies all other gifts, is the gift of Jesus Christ to the sons of men. I wish I had the power to speak as I should do of this gift, but I am reminded by God’s word that it is  “unspeakable.” “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” I can comprehend God’s giving the earth to the children of men, giving to Adam and his seed dominion over all the works of his hands; I think I can understand God’s giving heaven to his people, and permitting them to dwell at his right hand for ever and ever; but that God should give the only begotten, “very God of very God,” to take upon himself our nature, and in that nature actually to be “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,” this we cannot understand, and even the angels with their mightier intellects cannot grasp it fully. They look into it, but as they gaze they desire to see more, for even they feel they cannot search this out to perfection. A depth unfathomable of divine love is there in the condescending lovingkindness which gave Jesus Christ to die for us when we were yet sinners.

     Beloved, it is an unrivalled gift. God has given to us such a treasure, that if heaven and earth were melted down, the price could not buy another like to him. All eternity cannot yield such a person as the Lord Jesus. Eternal God, thou hast no equal! and becoming Son of man, thy condescension has nothing that can rival it. Oh, what a gift! Thou canst not conceive of anything that thou canst put side by side with it. It is a gift, beloved, which comprehends all things within itself. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Get Christ and you have the pardon of sin, the justification of your person; in the bowels of that redemption you shall find sanctification, adoption, regeneration. Every covenant gift is wrapped up in Christ Jesus. “A bundle of myrrh is my well beloved unto me;” not one sprig of it, but a whole bundle. All things that can possibly be needed for the Christian for time and for eternity, are given to him in the person of the Lord Jesus.

     And as this gift comprehends ally so it sweetens all Temporal mercies without Christ are like ciphers without a figure; but when you have these temporal mercies, and Christ stands in front of them, oh, what an amount they make! Temporal mercies without Christ are unripe fruit; but when Christ shines upon them, they grow mellow and sweet. Temporal mercies without Christ are the dry rivers — Christ fills them to the brim. They are like trees with leaves only, but Christ comes to give them fruit upon which we may live. Brethren, what are all the mercies of this life to us without Christ? Would they not make our souls hunger? “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.” The full wine vat, or the bam that needeth to be enlarged, what would these be without a Saviour? O God, take them all away if thou wilt, but give us more of Christ. Fill our hearts with the love of Christ, and thou mayst empty the cupboard and purse if thou wilt. Mercies are blessed when we have Christ with them, but if Christ be gone, they are but empty vanities. Our Lord Jesus Christ is a gift most precious moreover, my brethren, because he who gets it is sure that he has the favour of God. Other mercies do not necessarily bring with them God’s favour. God gives the most of this world full often to wicked men. He pours the husks out to the swine; as for his children, he often wrings out to them a full cup of bitterness. This world is not our portion, as we know right well. The wicked have their portion here, and they are full of fatness; their houses are full of store, and they leave the rest of their substance unto their babes. But get Christ, and you have God’s favour — you are sure of it. This is “The blessing of the Lord that maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.” It is a right-hand and a left-hand blessing. Get Christ, and it is all blessing and no curse whatsoever. If thou hast Christ, as Bure as thou livest, God loves thee, for there never was a soul that had Christ’s name written upon its forehead but what eternal love had inscribed it there, and in that writing had given a sure evidence and pledge of love that could not end.

     If thou hast Christ, again, thou must prize the gift, because this is a token of thine everlasting salvation. Hell never did enclose within its gates a single soul that rested on the cross of Christ, and it never shall. If thou hast Christ, for thee are the melodies of heaven, for thee the goodly land that “floweth with milk and honey;” thou shalt never bear the wrath of God, Christ has borne it for thee; thou shalt never hear it said, “Depart, ye cursed,” for Christ has said it, “Ye are blessed for ever and ever,” yea, and ye shall be blessed.

     We shall now turn to the further thought which stands linked to the one I have thus tried to lay before you.

     In the text, knowledge is put with the gift: “If thou knewest the gift of God.” Yonder woman in the wilderness is sore vexed, her heart is ready to break; she has left the abode of her master, and journeyed far; she is faint herself, but a far greater trouble depresses her: her child, her only boy, lies under yonder shrubs to die for want of a drop of water. Do you see the anguish depicted on her face? Do you hear her bitter cries? Ah, woman, thou mayst well wipe thine eyes, thy distress is causeless; thou hast room for thanksgiving, and not for sorrow; yonder is a spring of water, dip thy pitcher and refresh thy child. But, beloved, what was the use of the spring of water to her if she could not see it? Till her eyes were opened, Hagar could not see that God had provided for her: she must suffer and her child must die till she could perceive the supply. It is so with the gift of God. Beloved, until we know Christ, we famish for him, but we find no relief. A sense of need is a very blessed work of grace, but it will not save you; you must get beyond knowing your need, you must perceive, accept, and enjoy the supply, or else assuredly you will perish, none the less because of your knowledge of your need. Now, a knowledge of Christ is the gift of God. No man ever knew Christ experimentally and truly, except by the operation of the Holy Spirit upon his heart. In vain for those who are the advocates of free agency and human power to talk, but wherever you meet with a gracious spirit, you will be sure to find the confession that it was as much the work and gift of God to give us faith as to give us the object of faith: —

“’Twas the same love that spread the feast,
That sweetly forced us in;
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perish’d in our sin.”

If God did nothing more for men than provide a Saviour, and leave it for them to accept, if he never operated upon their souls and affections by his holy Spirit, not one of Adam’s race would ever enter into eternal life. If thou wouldst have a knowledge of Christ, thou must have it through the Holy Spirit, for this cometh not by the works of the law, nor by the efforts of the flesh. That which is born of the flesh is still flesh; and only that which is born of the Spirit is spirit, and can make thee acquainted with spiritual truth.

     A saving knowledge of Christ is always personal. The man does not take it at second hand, he does not catch it up from what his mother told him. She may be the instrument, the happy instrument, but the man learns for himself, or else he does not know savingly. Beware, beloved, of copying your religion out of other men’s books. It must be written with the pen of the Holy Spirit upon the fleshy tablet of your own heart, or else you know nothing aright. Observe also, that as his knowledge is spiritual, so, as it is spoken of in the text, it immediately concerns Christ. All other knowledge, whatever it may be, will fail to save unless we know the gift of God, unless we are clearly acquainted with the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. I say, with the person, for let me insist upon it, it is necessary for you and me to rest wholly upon the person, work, and righteousness of Jesus. You may know a great deal about his offices, you may have read much about what he did, but you must pass through all these, and get to himself: “Come unto ME, saith he, “all ye that labour and are heavy laden.” At his feet your soul must cast itself down, kissing the Son lest he be angry. Before him, the Great High Priest, you must present yourselves, desiring to be sprinkled with his precious blood, and to be saved in him. Remember he is a man like yourselves. Though “God over all, blessed for ever,” yet is he man of the substance of his mother. Let your soul advance to him in thought, this morning, lay hold upon him! If you cannot put your finger into the print of the nails, and your hand into his side literally, with Thomas, yet do it spiritually. Remember, it is to know Christ and his cross, which is the saving knowledge; and everything short of this will leave you short of eternal life. Brethren, it must be spiritual knowledge. Any acquaintance with Christ that can be derived from pictures, or that may come to us through the use of outward symbols, will be all valueless. We must know Christ, not after the flesh, by the eye and ear, we must comprehend him by our inmost souls being acquainted with him. Our heart must trust him. Put away the crucifix! Let your soul wear the cross, not your body. Hang not up the image of Christ on the wall, hang it upon the waifs of your heart, there let his image be stored. Bear about you the marks of the Lord Jesus Christ in your life and character, and let your contemplations and thoughts be continually exercised about him. This is the kind of knowledge of Christ — heart knowledge, spiritual fellowship, the knowledge of the most vital part of the man, his soul, his newborn spirit. Now, such knowledge as this, when God has once given it to us, becomes very operative upon the entire man; he has found the great secret, and he feels inclined to tell it; he has learned a great mystery, and it at once affects all the parts and passions of his nature, making a new man of him. This knowledge he never loses: he may forget much, but he never can forget Christ if he has once known him. Like the dying saint who had forgotten his wife, forgotten his children, forgotten his own name, and yet smiled sweetly when they asked him if he remembered Christ Jesus. This is printed on the believer’s heart: the warp and woof of his being bears this, like a golden thread, right through its centre. Jesus, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, and let my right hand forget its cunning, but never shall my heart forget thee who hast given thyself for me! This is the knowledge which we should desire, the knowledge spoken of in the text. Desire it, I beseech you, above gold, yea, seek it above much fine gold.

     O you that have it not, open your mouths and pant after it! Hunger and thirst to know Christ, and take no rest, and get no satisfaction till you do know him! If you ask me how this can be, I remind you that God alone can reveal him to you, but yet you are to use the means. “Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life,” and these are they which testify of Christ. Attend a Christ honouring ministry! If you have been sitting under any minister who does not extol Christ, and lift him up before you, however eloquent and intelligent he may be, leave his ministry, it is not fit for poor dying souls to listen to. You that need salvation can only find it in Christ. Seek, therefore, a ministry that is full of Christ. Christ is the first, and Christ the midst, and Christ the last, and without end. Depend upon it, as men would think it folly to deal at a shop where the bread (so called) was not bread, where the food that was given was so adulterated as to yield no nutriment, so is it a sin on our part if we do not seek out the pure unadulterated milk of the word, and endeavour to grow thereby. Oh, how many souls are poisoned by listening to a ministry that is not full of Christ! But oh, if you do get a ministry that savours of the Lord Jesus, hear with both your ears, drink it in; be like the thirsty furrows that do not refuse a single drop of heaven’s rain; receive with meekness the living word. Add to this an earnest prayer for illumination. Wait upon God each day, and say, “Show me thy Son; lo, I would know Christ: I would know him so as to be saved by him,” and remember, “He that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened,” “Ask and it shall be given you.” They that seek the Lord shall in due time be found of him. “ He that calleth upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

     II. The first word of the text is “If.” “If thou knewest the gift of God.” IF, AND WHAT THEN?

     The “if ” seems to me to wear a black side. It supposes that there are many who do not know “the gift of Ged.” Alas! no supposition, but a fearful fact. Dear hearer, may I ask you to look to your own soul now! You are a church member: you have been considered to be a Christian from your youth till the present time; at least, you have reckoned yourself to be so. But ask thyself if thou knowest now the gift of God. Is Jesus Christ all in all to thee? Dost thou rest on him as the unbuttressed pillar of thy confidence? Dost thou love him? Is he thy Master? Art thou conformed unto his image? Hast thou ever spoken to him? Has he ever had communion with thee — supping with thee, and thou with him? As the Lord my God liveth, before whom I stand, if thou knowest not Christ, thy high profession is but a painted pageant to go to hell in, thy fancied experience is a will-o’-the wisp leading thee to destruction, and all thy fond hopes shall come tumbling about thine ears, like a house that is founded on sand, which totters in the day of storm. I pray you, then, dear hearers, as you would be right at the last, make heart-searching enquiries now, and let this be the question: Whether thou knowest the gift of God in thy soul or no?

     But we will deal better with the bright side, knowing that there are many here who do not know the grace of God at all, it is a mercy to think that they may know it, for the “If thou knewest” implies that some who do not know it yet may know it before they die; and, thank God, some of you shall know it, and glorious results will follow at once. “If thou knewest the gift of God,” my dear hearer, thou who art not yet converted, what a change would come over thee! Let me single thee out. Thou art here, this morning, quite uninterested in religion; thou hast come here this morning out of curiosity to look at the large assembly and hear the strange preacher, but religion has no interest in it for thee. Life and death, and all the problems that connect themselves with time and eternity, are nothing to thee. Thou art a butterfly, flying from flower to flower. Thou hast no deeper sense of things than a man of the world, who thinks to live and die, and so to come to his end. Ah! but if thou knewest Christ, it would soon be different with thee; that vain mind of thine would soon be full of thoughts; these worldly toys which are now so engrossing would then be put into their proper places. Thou wouldst become thoughtful, and, let me tell thee, thou wouldst become infinitely happier than thou art now, for thy present ease is a hollow thing. Thou art afraid to try it. Thou darest not sit down and think for an hour of thine own state and future — thou knowest thou darest not. But, oh! “if thou knewest the gift of God,” thou couldst endure sober thought, yea, it would be thy the delight. And as for the future, thou wouldst dare to look into it; yea, it would be thy greatest comfort to anticipate the glories which God has prepared for them that love him. As I think on some of you indifferent ones, I could fain weep over you, not merely because of the hell which will be your portion, but because of the heaven which you are losing even now. A heaven below it is to know Christ, and you are missing this. Man of pleasure! Christ is pleasure. Men who would have ease and peace! Christ is the time ease, and if you knew him, you would find true peace.

     Possibly there may be some few in this assembly to whom religion is not even a matter of indifference, but worse: they have persecuted it: they are accustomed to vent their sharpest wit upon anything religious. To them, godliness is always known by the name of cant, and if a man be known to be a professor of religion, he is at once the butt of every sneer. Ah, but if thou knewest Christ, thou wouldst not do this. Saul of Tarsus sought much the destruction of the people of God, but when once Christ had said to him, “Why persecutest thou me?” and he understood that Christ was no other than the God over all, the Redeemer of men, than he said, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” Ah, persecutor! you would be just as warm for the cause as you are hot against it if you did but know Christ. Man, you would not have the heart to spit into the face of the Crucified; you would never crucify him afresh who died for his enemies; you would never be so cruel and barbarous as to trample on the members of Christ when you know that Christ, out of pure love, suffered for the sons of men. “If thou knewest the gift of God,” persecutor, it would be otherwise with thee than it is now.

     Ay, and there are some here who would not persecute, but nevertheless they trifle with religion. Many more belong to this class than to the two I have just mentioned. I know many of you are impressed when we are delivering truth earnestly, and you vow what you do not pay, and you promise reformations which are never made. Ah, you triflers, you who halt between two opinions, who, like Felix, would wait for a more convenient season, “if thou knewest the gift of God,” this morning would be the convenient season. Oh, if God did but give thee an understanding of the preciousness and sweetness of Christ, thou wouldst not delay. Who delays to be crowned when the time has come for him to receive a kingdom? What heir would ever postpone the day in which he should enter into the heritage? Doth the bridegroom put off the hour of his marriage? Do men wish their happiness to be removed far away? Oh, no! and if thou knewest what Christ would be to thy soul, and what joy and blessedness thou wouldst have in receiving him, thou wouldst say, “Now is my time as it is God’s time. O God, I give myself to thee!” Trifler, may you yet know the gift of God!

     Alas! there are some here who are not exactly triflers. They have serious thoughts, but they have some sin which they cannot give up. I cannot particularise cases, but there are such here. There are men here who would be Christ’s, but the habit of taking intoxicating drink to excess clings hard to them. Have I not talked to some of you, who have with tears confessed the sin, and longed to be delivered from the snare, but you could not? Your besetting sins are too dear to you for you to give them up. With some it may be filthier vices still. With others it is the thought, “Religion is too severe. To follow Christ is to give up so much; I must have a little more indulgence; I must for a little at any rate drink of the wine of Satan’s banquet.” Ah, “if thou knewest the gift of God,” thou wouldst give up the sweetest thing earth ever knew, to know the greater sweetness of Christ. What! will ye put my Lord and Master in comparison with the painted harlot of this wicked world? Will ye put the solid gold of heaven’s kingdom in contrast with the filthy draft and dross of this world’s merchandise? O my Master, thou art no more to be compared to the riches and enjoyments of life, than the sun is to be likened to a glowworm. Let Christ arise in thy soul, and all thy starry joys will be gone. You will find tills one great joy fills your spirit to the brim and overflows, so that there is an exceeding and eternal weight of glory too great for thy spirit to be able to compass. If thou knewest the grace of God, voluptuary, thou wouldst turn from thy tables to feed on him: thou wouldst leave thy gilded couches of pomp and vanity, and all the world calls good or great; thou wouldst leave it all, turning from ashes to feed upon angels’ food, even upon Christ the Lord, and the Redeemer of men.

     There is another class here present, represented by some few, who would fain be saved, but, they fear they are too bad. They think that they could never be saved after delaying so long and sinning so foully. “If thou knewest the gift of God,” thou wouldst never think that, for my Lord Jesus loves great sinners. “This man,” it is said, “receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” When the woman that had been a sinner washed his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head, he did not utter an upbraiding word. The Lord is gentle, and full of compassion and tenderness and truth. He came not with a sword to slay, but he came to be slain himself, that we might not die. You have only to come to him, and let this encourage you. He has said it, “Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.” He cannot cast you out; he must receive you; his word binds him to it; he cannot deny himself, and therefore he cannot refuse you.

     If it were proper for us to prolong this addressing of separate characters, I think there would be in this suggestion, “If thou knewest the gift of God,” something for everyone. I am sure if any of us who are now at enmity to God did but know what Christ is, if they could but know, as with the knowledge I have before described, the person of the Lord ‘Jesus, faith would follow immediately; we should trust our souls to God, and feel safe in the hands of God’s appointed, propitiation. Faith would be sure to be followed by prayer: we should cry to him whom we now know, and prayer would be followed by his blessing. At the heels of that would come holy love to him; holy love would prompt us to serve, service would be followed by increasing strength, increasing strength would augment daily joy, till we should go up Jacob’s ladder, gaining virtue after virtue by the power of the Son of God, till we were meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. Each point in Christ’s character, if known, would work good to us. For instance, “if thou knewest the gift of God,” that he came to save the vilest of the vile, how couldst thou doubt or despair because of thy sins? If thou knewest that the salvation of Christ is finished by himself, and not by us, how couldst thou dream of adding thereto, or think it necessary to bring thine own feelings, and frames, and doings, to make the salvation complete which Christ has finished altogether apart from thee? If thou knewest that Christ never forsook his people, wouldst thou be trembling and fearing lest in the hour of temptation he should fail thee? If thou knewest how suitable Christ is to thee, how ready he is to receive thee, how full of love he is to all his people, how he feels in his heart all your pains and all your groans, how his honour is bound up in your salvation, how he has pledged himself to bring every one of the saints to the Father’s right hand — if thou knewest all this, Christian, thou wouldst live above thy doubts, and fears, and frames, and feelings; thou wouldst live a heavenly life, like one who has seen Christ, and then has been made like unto him.

     Beloved, if we were to take a walk, this morning, through the streets of London, how many cases we should see where we might say sorrowfully of the persons we looked upon, “Alas for thee! if thou knewest the grace of God, what a difference would come over thee!”

     Perhaps at this very hour you will find the great mass of the working men in London in their shirt sleeves. It has not struck them at all that going to a place of worship is desirable. They will be lounging about; the penny paper has been taken, and they have begun to read that; but as yet the public house is not open: they feel as if there was nothing in the world to do but just lounge about and let the time run on. Ah! stepping into such a house you might say, “If thou knewest the gift of God, thy Sabbaths would assume quite a different appearance. Thou wouldst not talk about pharisaic Sabbatarians, and the strictness of shutting up the house of drink, and only opening the house of worship, but thou wouldst feel the Sabbath a delight, and the holy of the Lord honourable. Instead of wasting thy time, it would seem to thee as though Sabbaths were too short, and opportunities and means of grace too few. If thou knewest the gift of God, it would be otherwise with thee, working man.”

     Step into the next church or chapel, I do not care which, and observe the multitudes of the people going through the worship with mere formality, confessing what they never felt, and professing to believe what they know nothing of. Ah, we might look into the face of each worshipper and say, “If thou knewest the gift of God, thou wouldst give up this formalism, and worship God in spirit and in truth.” We need not go far; there are many of you here in that state. May you know the gift of God, and forget formalities, and worship God in truth.

     At some places you may step into the church or meeting house, and listen to the minister — an eloquent address, but altogether Christless: no care about the souls of men, no dealing with human consciences. Pompous sentences, sounding periods, high flights, climaxes, and I know not what oratorical flower, but nothing concerning the weighty matter of eternity, about the undying soul, and the precious cleansing blood, Ah! preacher, “if thou knewest the gift of God,” if thou hadst in thy soul any sense of the preciousness of the salvation of Christ, thou wouldst preach after another fashion.

     Step in where the Ritualist has dressed himself in all his gaudy apparel, flaunting like a peacock before God himself, and you may well say to him, “If thou knewest the gift of God,” thou wouldst lay aside these fooleries and come before God sooner in sackcloth than in thy tag-rags, humbling thyself before the Most High as a poor, guilty sinner, most accursed of all the human race for having dared to call thyself a priest; for priest thou art not for thy fellow men, for one is priest, even Christ Jesus, and no other is priest, save only that all saints have a common priesthood which some cannot usurp to themselves alone, unless they dare to bring upon themselves the vengeance of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, who called themselves priests and were not. “If thou knewest the gift of God,” poor simpleton that thou art, thou wouldst doff that priestly array, and bow before the great High Priest of our profession, and worship him alone. I might knock at that door yonder going down the street, after leaving that ritualistic mass house, and might find the merchant in his counting house. He looks a little disconcerted that I should call upon him on the Sabbath morning and find him with his pen behind his ear; but he says he has no time to cast up his accounts at any other period. Ah, but “if thou knewest the gift of God,” thou wouldst find other time, and find other occupation for this time than spending upon thyself what God claims to be his own.

     I pass on into the chamber of sickness, and I see on the bed of death a sinner full of fears and dread about the world which lies before him. Listen to his groans. He has no hope. He has lived without Christ. The world has been his portion, and now he has to leave it, and he is unprepared to meet his Judge. All is dark as the pit whither he is going. How miserable his state as he feels he is parting with all he has loved, and for which he has lived, and that there is nothing before him but a dread unknown existence in another world. Ah! if he only knew the gift of God, what a change there would be at once! What light, joy, and peace would come into that chamber! All its gloom would pass away, and in the place of it would come such rapture as would lead men to say, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his.”

     I shall not detain you longer. We might go down one street and up another for many a day, and we should find thousands to whom we should say, “If thou knewest the gift of God, thou wouldst be another and different man from what thou art.”

     III. And now, lastly THE IF OF OUR TEXT, AND HOW DOES IT CONCERN BELIEVERS?

     It seems to me to concern believers this way. Evidently there are tens of thousands who do not know the gift of God. Enquiry, then, of the most solemn kind should at once be made, “Has this ignorance of theirs been my fault? These men know not the gift of God: how can they know it unless there be some one to teach them? How shall they hear without a preacher? Is this ignorance to be laid at my door? Beloved, in the name of Jesus Christ, I ask you seat-holders and members of this place who know Christ yourselves, is there a person sitting next to you in the pew who does not know Christ, and have you done your best to tell him about Christ ? I pause, that conscience may give its reply. And you who do often speak about Christ in the school or in the street, preaching or not preaching, let me ask you, do you so talk about Christ that people can understand you? Believe me, I do try to use very simple words, but I often hear of words I have uttered which have not been understood by people present. I am always grieved when such is the case. God knoweth I would speak the most vulgar words I could find if people could understand them better. To me the finery of language is less than nothing. I would sooner preach Christ’s cross in the tongue of Billingsgate if all would understand, than speak in the most polished tongue so that the poor could not comprehend me. My dear brethren, that a soul should go to hell lost through our fine sentences, who shall be accountable for this? The watchman is not to speak in Greek to those who only know English, or even in good English to those who do not understand the language if it be well spoken, Augustine, I believe, frequently preached in exceedingly bad Latin. because it was the common talk of the people, and if he had spoken classic Latin he would not have been understood. And so must we do. If any man does not know Christ, have you told it to him in all the ways which you can find out of making it plain and clear? If you have not, then some responsibility lies with you. Then next, suppose you have not, will you, my brethren, for the future resolve in God’s strength that if any man perisheth for lack of knowledge, it shall not in the future be your fault? Make no rash vows, but do solemnly put it to your heart. But if you cannot speak as you would, yet you will distribute such publications, and give away such tracts as may tell the gospel simply. If you cannot do what you would, O resolve, dear brethren, to do what you can, that none here may be without the knowledge of Christ.

     But though a professor, I shall venture to say to you, that the text does seem to say to you, Dost thou know the gift of God thyself ? When I asked you whether you told others about it, I think a question might have been raised — if you have not told others, it is very questionable whether you know it yourself. If you never weep for other men’s sins, and never desire their salvation, you are not a saved soul. One of the first instincts of the saved soul is to say, “What can I do that others may be saved also?” Now, if you have done nothing, let a suspicion arise ; and to us all, I think, there may be this query put: judging by my efforts, judging by my actions, judging by my inward feelings, may I not often ask myself, Do I know this gift of God? And may I not come, this morning, just as I did at the first, as a sinner, and look up to the wounds of Jesus, and cast myself again upon him? If I never did believe before, Lord Jesus, I trust thee now. Up till now if I have been a deceived one, here I am—

“My faith looks up to thee,
Thou Lamb of Calvary,
Saviour divine:
Now hear me while I pray;
Take all my guilt away;
Oh let me from this day
Be wholly thine.”



Christus Et Ego

By / Nov 17

Christus Et Ego

 

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” — Galatians 2:20.

 

IN great ranges of mountains there are lofty peaks which pierce the clouds, but, on the other hand, there are, here and there, lower parts of the range which are crossed by travellers, become national highways, and afford passages for commerce from land to land. My text rises before my contemplation like a lofty range of mountains, a very Andes for elevation. I shall not attempt, this morning, to climb the summits of its sublimity; we have not the time, we fear we have not the skill for such work, but I shall, to the best of my ability, conduct you over one or two practical truths, which may be serviceable to us this morning, and introduce us to sunny fields of contemplation.

     I. At once to our work. I call upon you to observe very carefully, in the first place, THE PERSONALITY OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION as it is exhibited in the text before us.

     How many personal pronouns of the first person are there in this verse? Are there not as many as eight? It swarms with I and me. The text deals not with the plural at all; it does not mention some one else, nor a third party far away, but the apostle treats of himself, his own inner life, his own spiritual death, the love of Christ to him, and the great sacrifice which Christ made for him. “Who loved me, and gave himself for me” This is instructive, for it is a distinguishing mark of the Christian religion, that it brings out a man's individuality. It does not make us selfish, on the contrary, it cures us of that evil, but still it does manifest in us a self-hood by which we become conscious of our personal individuality in an eminent degree. In the nocturnal heavens there had long been observed bright masses of light: the astronomers called them “nebulae;” they supposed them to be stores of unfashioned chaotic matter, until the telescope of Herschell resolved them into distinct stars. What the telescope did for stars, the religion of Christ, when received into the heart, does for men. Men think of themselves as mixed up with the race, or swamped in the community, or absorbed in universal manhood; they have a very indistinct idea of their separate obligations to God, and their personal relations to his government, but the gospel, like a telescope, brings a man out to himself, makes him see himself as a separate existence, and compels him to meditate upon his own sin, his own salvation, and his own personal doom unless saved by grace. In the broad road there are so many travellers, that as one takes a bird’s eye view of it, it appears to be filled with a vast mob of men moving on without order; but in the straight and narrow way which leadeth unto life eternal, every traveller is distinct; he attracts your notice; he is a marked man. Having to go against the general current of the times, the believer is an individual upon whom observant eyes are fixed. He is a distinct individual, both to himself and the rest of his kind. You will very readily see how the religion of Jesus Christ brings out a man’s individuality in its very dawn; it reveals to him his own personal sin and consequent danger. You know nothing about conversion if you merely believe in human depravity and human ruin, but have never felt that you are depraved, and that you yourself are ruined. Over and above all the general woes of the race, there will be one particular woe of your own, if you have been by the Holy Spirit convinced of sin; you will cry, like that shrill-voiced prophet of Jerusalem, in the days of the siege, “Woe unto myself also;” you will feel as if the arrows of God were mainly aimed at you, and as if the curses of the law would surely fall upon you if upon none else. Certainly, beloved hearer, you know nothing about salvation unless you have personally looked with your own eye to Jesus Christ. There must be a personal reception of the Lord Jesus into the arms of your faith, and into the bosom of your love; and, if you have not trusted in the Crucified while standing alone in contemplation at the foot of the cross, you have not believed unto life eternal.

     Then, in consequence of a separate personal faith, the believer enjoys a personal peace; he feels that if earth were all at arras abroad, he would still find rest in Christ, that rest being peculiarly his own, independently of his fellows. He may talk of that peace to others, but he cannot communicate it; others cannot give it to him, nor can they take it from him. Wherever the Christian religion is truly in the soul, it soon leads to a personal consecration to God. The man comes to the altar of Christ, and he cries, “Here I am; O most glorious Lord, I feel it to be my reasonable service to give spirit, soul, and body, unto thee. Let others do as they will ; as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” The renewed man feels that the work of others does not exonerate him from service, and the general lukewarmness of the Christian church cannot be an excuse for his own indifference. He stands out against error, if need be, as a lone protestor, like Athanasius, crying, “I, Athanasius, against the whole world,” or he works for God m the building up of Jerusalem, like Nehemiah, being content to work alone if others will not assist him. He has discovered himself to have been personally lost, and to have been saved personally, and now his prayer is, “Lord, show me what thou wouldst have me to do; here am I, send me.” I believe that in proportion as our piety is definitely in the first person singular, it will be strong and vigorous. I believe, moreover, that in proportion as we fully realise our personal responsibility to God, shall we be likely to discharge it; but, if we have not really understood it, we are very likely to dream of work for God by proxy, to pay the priest or the minister to be useful for us, and act as if we could shift our responsibility from our own shoulders to the back of a society or a church. From its dawn up to its noonday glory, the personality of true godliness is most observable. All the teaching of our holy faith bears in this direction. We preach personal election, personal palling, personal regeneration, personal perseverance, personal holiness, and we know nothing of any work of grace which is not personal to the professor of it. There is no doctrine in Scripture which teaches that one man can be saved by the godliness of another. I cannot discover anything like salvation by sponsorship, except in the one case of the sponsorship of the Lord Jesus Christ. I find no human being placed in the stead of another, so as to be able to take another’s burden pf sin, or perform another’s duty. I do find that We are to bear one another’s burdens in respect of sympathy, but not in the sense of substitution. Every man must bear his own burden, and give an account for himself before God. Moreover, the ordinances of the Christian religion teach us the same. When a man is typically buried with Christ by the public act of baptism, he cannot be dead for another or buried for another, nor can he rise again instead of another. There is the personal act of immersion to show forth our personal death to the world, personal burial with Christ, and personal resurrection with him. So also, in the Supper of the Lord, the distinct act of each man eating and drinking for himself, most manifestly sets forth that we stand as individuals before the Lord our God in our connection with the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, I feel earnest that nothing should ever spoil the effect of this truth upon our minds. It is so simple a truth, that when I make the statement, you perhaps wonder that I should repeat it so often; but simple as it is, it is constantly being forgotten. How many church members shelter themselves behind the vigorous action of the entire community! The church is being increased, the church opens schools, the church builds new houses of prayer, and so the church member flatters himself that he is doing somewhat, whereas that very man may not have, either by his contributions, or his prayers, or his personal teachings, done anything at all. O idle church member, I beseech thee, shake thyself from the dust; be not so mean as to appropriate other men’s labours. Before thine own Master, thou shalt stand or fall upon thine own individual service or neglect, and if thou bringest forth no fruit thyself, all the fruit upon the other boughs shall not avail thee. “Every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away.”

     Common enough is it, also, for persons to shelter themselves behind a society. A small annual contribution has often been a cloak for gross indifference to holy effort. Somebody else is paid to be a missionary, and to do your mission-work: is this the Lord’s way? Is this the path of obedience? Does not our Lord say to me, “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you”? Now, the Father did not send Christ that he might procure a proxy and be a nominal Redeemer, but Jesus gave himself for us in personal service and sacrifice: even so does Jesus send us forth to suffer and to serve. It is well to support the minister; it is well to pay the city missionary that he may have his time to give to needful work; it is well to assist the Bible-woman that she may go from house to house, but remember, when all the societies have done all that is possible, they cannot exonerate you from your own peculiar calling, and however large your contributions to assist others to serve the Master, they cannot discharge on your behalf one single particle of what was due from you personally to your Lord. Let me pray you, brethren and sisters, if you have ever sheltered behind the work of others, stand forth in your own proper character, add remember that before God you must be estimated by what you have felt, what you have known, what you have learned, and what you have done.

     The worst form of the mischief is when persons imagine that family piety and national religion can ever be available in lieu of individual repentance and faith. Absurd as it may seem, yet a very common thing it is for people to say, “Oh, yes! we are all Christians — of course, we all Christians – every Englishman is a Christian. We do not belong to the Brahmins or Mohametans: we are Christians.” What grosser lie can a man invent than that? Is a man a Christian because he lives in England Is a rat a horse because it lives in a stable? That is just as good reasoning. A man must be born again, or he is ho child of God. A man must have living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, or else he is no Christian, and he does but mock the name of Christian when he takes it upon himself without having part or lot in the matter.

     Others say, “My mother and my father always professed such a religion, therefore I am bound to do the same.” Glorious reasoning, fit for idiots most surely! Have you never heard of that old Pagan monarch who professed conversion, and was about to step into the baptismal font, when, turning round to the bishop, he said, “Where did my father go when he died, before your religion came here, and where did his father go, and all the kings that were before me who worshipped Woden and Thor? Where did they go when they died? Tell me at once!” The bishop shook his head, and looked very sorrowful, and said he was afraid they were gone to a very dark place. “Ah! then,” said he, “I will not be separated from them.” Back he started, and remained an unwashed heathen still. You suppose that this folly expired in the dark ages! it survives and flourishes in the present. We have known persons impressed under the gospel, who have nevertheless clung to the false hopes of superstition or human merit, and have excused themselves by saying, “You see, I have always been brought up to it,” Does a man think because his mother was poor, or his father a pauper, that he himself must necessarily remain a beggar? If my parent was blind, am I bound to put out my own eyes to be like him? Nay, but if I have beheld the light of the truth of Jesus Christ, let me follow it, and not be drawn aside by the idea that hereditary superstition is any the less dangerous or erroneous because a dozen generations have been deluded by it. You must appear before God, my dear friend, on your own feet, and neither mother nor father Can stand in your stead, therefore judge for yourself; seek for yourself eternal life; lift up your eyes to Christ’s cross for yourself, and let it be your own earnest endeavour that you yourself may be able to say, “He loved me, and gave himself for me” We are all born alone: we come as sorrowful pilgrims into this world to traverse a path which only our own feet can tread. To a great extent we go through the world alone, for all our companions are but vessels sailing with us side by side, vessels distinct and bearing each one its own flag. Into the depth of our hearts no man can dive. There are cabinets in the chamber of the soul which no man can open but the individual himself. We must die alone, friends may surround the bed, but the departing spirit must take its flight by itself. We shall hear no tramp of thousands as we descend into the dark river, we shall be solitary travellers into the unknown land. We expect to stand before the judgment-seat in the midst of a great assembly, but still to be judged as if no other man were there. If all that multitude be condemned, and we are in Christ, we shall be saved, and if they should all be saved, and we are found wanting, we shall be cast away. In the balances we shall each be placed alone. There is a crucible for every ingot of gold, a furnace for every bar of silver. In the resurrection every seed shall receive his own body. There shall be an individuality about the frame that shall be raised in that day of wonders, an individuality most marked and manifest. If I am condemned at the last, no man can be damned for my spirit ; no soul can enter the chambers of fire on my behalf, to endure for me the unutterable anguish. And, blessed hope, if I am saved, it will be I who shall see the King in his beauty: mine eyes shall behold him, and not another in my stead. The joys of heaven shall not be proxy joys, but the personal enjoyments of those who have had personal union with Christ. You all know this, and therefore, I pray you, let the weighty truth abide with you. No man in his senses thinks that another can eat for him, or drink for him, or be clothed for him, or sleep for him, or wake for him. No man is content nowadays with a second person’s owning money for him, or possessing an estate for him: men long to have riches themselves; they wish to be personally happy, to be personally honoured; they do not care that the good things of this life shall be merely nominally theirs, while other men grasp the reality; they wish to have a real grasp and grip of all temporal goods. O let us not play the fool with eternal things, out let ns desire to have a personal interest in Christ, and then let us aspire to give to him, who deserves it so well, our personal service, rendering spirit, soul, and body, unto his cause.

     II. Secondly, our text very plainly TEACHES US THE INTERWEAVING OF OUR OWN PROPER PERSONALITY WJTH THAT OF JESUS CHRIST.

     Read the text over again. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Here is the man, but here is the Son of God quite as conspicuously, and the two personalities are singularly interwoven. I think I see two trees before me. They are distinct plants growing side by side, but as I follow them downward, I observe that the roots are so interlaced and intertwisted that no one can trace the separate trees and allot the members of each to its proper whole. Such are Christ and the believer, Methinks I see before me a vine. Yonder is a branch, distinct and perfect as a branch; it is not to be mistaken for any other, it is a branch, a whole and perfect branch, yet how perfectly is it joined to the stem, and how completely is its individuality merged in the one vine of which it is a member! Now, so is it with the believer in Christ.

     There was one parent man who threw his shadow across our path, and from whose influence we never could escape. From all other men we might have struggled away and claimed to be separate, but this one man was part of ourselves , and we part of him — Adam the first, in his fallen state: we are fallen with him, and are broken in pieces in his ruin. And now, glory be to God, as the shadow of the first man has been uplifted from us, there appears a second man, the Lord from heaven; and across our path there falls the light of his glory and his excellence, from which also, blessed be God, we who have believed in him cannot escape: in the light of that man, the second Adam, the heavenly federal head of all his people — in his light we do rejoice. Interwoven with our history and personality is the history and personality of the man Christ Jesus, and we are for ever one with him.

     Observe the points of contact. First Paul says, I am “crucified with Christ;” what does he intend? He means a great many more things than I can tell you this morning; but, briefly, he means this: he believed in the representation of Christ on the cross; he held that when Jesus Christ hung upon the tree, he did not hang there as a private person, but as the representative of all his chosen people. As the burgess in the House of Commons votes not for himself alone, but in the name of the township which has sent him to Parliament, so the Lord Jesus Christ acted in what he did as a great public representative person, and the dying of Jesus Christ upon the tree was the virtual dying of all his people. Then all his saints rendered unto justice what was due, and made an expiation to divine vengeance for all their sins. “I am crucified with Christ” The apostle of the Gentiles delighted to think that as one of Christ’s chosen people, he died upon the tree in Christ. He did more than believe this doctrinally, however, he accepted it confidently, resting his hone upon it. He believed that by virtue of Jesus Christ’s death, he had himself paid the law its due, satisfied divine justice, and found reconciliation with God. Beloved, what a blessed thing it is when the soul can, as it were, stretch itself upon the cross of Christ, and feel “I am dead; the law has killed me, cursed me, slain me, and I am therefore free from its power, because in my Surety I have borne the curse, and in the person of my Substitute the whole that the law could do, by way of condemnation, has been executed upon me, for I am crucified with Christ.” Oh, how blessed it is when the cross of Christ is laid upon us, how it quickens us I Just as the aged prophet went up, and stretched himself upon the dead child, put his mouth upon the child’s mouth, and his hands upon the child’s hands, and his feet upon the child’s feet, and then the child was quickened, so when the cross is laid upon my soul, it puts life, power, warmth, and comfort into me. Union with the suffering, bleeding Saviour, and faith in the merit of the Redeemer, are soul cheering things: O for more enjoyment of them! Paul meant even more than this. He not only believed in Christ’s death and trusted in it, but he actually felt its power in himself in causing the crucifixion of his old corrupt nature. If you conceive of yourself as a man executed, you at once perceive that, being executed by the law, the law has no further claim upon you; you resolve, moreover, that having once proven the curse of sin by the sentence passed upon you, you will not fall into that same offence again, but henceforth, being miraculously delivered from the death into which the law brought you, you will live in newness of life. You must feel so if you feel rightly. Thus did Paul view himself as a criminal upon whom the sentence of the law had been fulfilled. When he saw the pleasures of sin, he said, “I cannot enjoy these: I am dead to them. I once had a life in which these were very sweet to me, but I have been crucified with Christ; consequently, as a dead man can have no delight in the joys which once were delights to him, so neither can I.” When Paul looked upon the carnal things of the world, he said, “I once allowed these things to reign over me. What shall I eat? what shall I drink? and wherewithal shall I be clothed? These were a trinity of questions of the utmost importance: they are of no importance now, because I am dead to these things; I cast my care upon God with regard to them; they are not my life; I am crucified to them.” If any passion, if any motive, if any design should come into our mind, short of the cross of Christ, we should exclaim, “God forbid that I should glory in any of these things; I am a dead man. Come, world, with all thy witchery; come, pleasure, with all thy charms; come, wealth, with all thy temptations; come, all ye tempters that have seduced so many; what can you do with a crucified man? How can you tempt one who is dead to you?” Now, it is a blessed state of mind when a man can feel that through having received Christ, he is, to this world, as one who is utterly dead. Neither does he yield his strength to its purposes, nor his soul to its customs, nor his judgment to its maxims, nor his heart to its affections, for he is a crucified man through Jesus Christ; the world is crucified unto him, and he unto the world. This is what the apostle meant.

     Notice next another point of contact. He says, “Nevertheless I live” but then he corrects himself, “yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” You have seen the dead side of a believer: he is deaf, and dumb, and blind, and without feeling to the sinful world, yet he adds, “Nevertheless I live.” He explains what his is — his life is produced in him by virtue of Christ’s being in him and his being in Christ. Jesus in is the source of the Christian’s life. The sap in the vine lives even in the smallest of the tendrils. No matter how minute may be the nerve, the anatomist will tell you that the brain-life lives in its most distant extremity. So in every Christian; though the Christian may be insignificant, and possessed of little grace, yet still, if he be truly a believer, Jesus lives in him. The life which keeps his faith, his hope, his love still in existence, comes from Jesus Christ, and from him alone. We should cease to be living saints if we did not daily receive grace from our covenant Head. As the strength of our life comes from the Son of God, so is he the ruler and moving power within us. How can he be a Christian who is ruled by any but Christ? If you call Christ “Master and Lord,” you must be his servant; nor can you yield obedience to any rival power, for no man can serve two masters. There must be a master-spirit in the heart; and unless Jesus Christ be such a master spirit to us, we are not saved at all. The life of the Christian is a life which springs from Christ, and it is controlled by his will. Beloved, do you know anything about this? I am afraid it is dry talking to you about it unless you feel it. Has your life been such during the past week? Has the life which you have lived been Christ’s living in you? Have you been like a book printed in plain letters, in which men might read a new edition of the life of Jesus Christ? A Christian ought to be a living photograph of the Lord Jesus, a striking likeness of his Lord. When men look at him they should see not only what the Christian is, but what the Christian’s Master is, for he should be like his Master. Do you ever see and know that within your soul Christ looks out at your eyes, regarding poor sinners and considering how you may help them? that Christ throbs in your heart, feeling for the perishing, trembling for those who will not tremble for themselves? Do you ever feel Christ opening your hands in liberal charity to help those who cannot help themselves? Have you ever felt that a something more than yourself was in you, a spirit which sometimes struggles with yourself, and holds it by the throat and threatens to destroy its sinful selfishness – a noble spirit which puts its foot upon the neck of coveteousness, a brave spirit that dashes to the ground your pride, an active fervent spirit that burns up your sloth? Have you never felt this? Truly we that live unto God feel the life of God within, and desire to be more and more subdued under the dominant spirit of Christ, that our manhood may be a palace for the Well-beloved. That is another point of contact.

     Further on, the apostle says — and I hope you will keep your Bibles open to follow the text — “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God.” Every moment the life of the Christian is to be a life of faith. We make a mistake when we try to walk by feeling or by sight. I dreamed the other night, while musing upon the life of the believer, that I was passing along a road which a divine call had appointed for me. The ordained pathway which I was called to traverse was amid thick darkness, unmingled with a ray of light. As I stood in the awful gloom, unable to perceive a single inch before me, I heard a voice which said, “Let thy feet go right on. Fear not, but advance in the name of God.” So on I went, putting down foot after foot with trembling. After a little while the path through the darkness became easy and smooth, from use and experience; just then I perceived that the path turned: it was of no use my endeavouring to proceed as I had done before; the way was tortuous, and the road was rough and stony; but I remembered what was said, that I was to advance as I could, and so on I went. Then there came another twist, and yet another, and another, and another, and I wondered why, till I understood that if ever the path remained long the same, I should grow accustomed to it, and so should walk by feeling; and I learned that the whole of the way would constantly be such as to compel me to depend upon the guiding voice, and exercise faith in the unseen One who had called me. On a sudden it appeared to me as though there was nothing beneath my foot when I put it down, yet I thrust it out into the darkness in confident daring, and lo, a firm step was reached, and another and another, as I walked down a staircase which descended deep, down, down, down. Onward I passed, not seeing an inch before me, but believing that all was well, although I could hear around me the dash of falling men and women who had walked by the light of their own lanterns, and missed their foothold. I heard the cries and shrieks of men as they fell from this dreadful staircase; but I was commanded to go right on, and I went straight on, resolved to be obedient even if the way should descend into the nethermost hell. By-and-by the dreadful ladder was ended, and I found a solid rock beneath my feet, and I walked straight on upon a paved causeway, with a balustrade on either hand. I understood this to be the experience which I had gained, which now could guide and help me, and I leaned on this balustrade, and walked on right confidently till, in a moment, my causeway ended and my feet sank in the mire, and as for my other comforts, I groped for them, but they were gone, for still I was to know that I must go in dependence upon my unseen Friend, and the road would always be such that no experience could serve me instead of dependence upon God. Forward I plunged through mire and filth and suffocating smoke, and a smell as of death-damp, for it was the way, and I had been commanded to walk therein. Again the pathway changed, though all was midnight still: up went the path, and up, and up, and up, with nothing upon which I could lean; I ascended wearily innumerable stairs, not one of which I could see, although the very thought of their height might make the brain to reel. On a sudden my pathway burst into light, as I woke from my reverie, and when I looked down upon it, I saw it all to be safe, but such a road that, if I had seen it, I never could have trodden it. It was only in the darkness that I could have performed my mysterious journey, only in child-like confidence upon the Lord. The Lord will guide us if we are willing to do just as he bids us. Lean upon him, then. I have painted a poor picture, but still one which, if you can realise, it will be grand to look upon. To walk straight on, believing in Christ every moment, believing your sins to be forgiven even when you see their blacknes, believing that you are safe when you seem in the utmost danger, believing that you are glorified with Christ when you feel as if you were cast out from God’s presence — this is the life of faith.

     Furthermore, Paul notes other points of unity. “Who loved me.” Blessed be God, before the mountains uplifted their snow-crowned heads to the clouds, Christ had set his heart upon us. His “delights were with the sons of men.” In his “book all our members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.” Believer, get a hold of the precious truth that Christ loved you eternally — the all-glorious Son of God chose you, and espoused you unto himself, that you might be his bride throughout’ eternity. Here is a blessed union indeed.

     Observe the next, “and gave himself for me;” not only gave all that he had, but gave himself; not merely laid aside his glory, and his splendour, and his life, but yielded up his very self. O heir of heaven, Jesus is yours at this moment. Having given himself once for you upon the tree, to put your sin away, at this moment he gives himself to you to be your life, your crown, your joy, your portion, your all in all. You have found out yourself to be a separate personality and individuality, but that personality is linked with the person of Christ Jesus, so that you are in Christ, and Christ is in you; by a blessed indissoluble union you are knit together for ever and ever.

     III. Lastly, the text describes THE! LIFE WHICH RESULTS PROM THIS BLENDED PERSONALITY.

     If you will have patience with me, I Will be as brief as I can while I go over the text again, word by word. Brethren, when a man finds and knows himself to be linked with Christ, his life is altogether a new life. I gather that from the expression, “I am crucified, nevertheless I live.” Crucified, then dead; crucified, then the old life is put away — whatever life a crucified man has must be new life. So is it with you. Upon your old life, believer, sentence of death has been pronounced. The carnal mind, which is enmity against God, is doomed to die. You can say, “I die daily” Would to God the old nature were completely dead. But whatever you have of life was not given you till you came into union with Christ. It is a new thing, as new as though you had been actually dead and rotted in the tomb, and then had started up at the sound of the trumpet to live again. You have received a life from above, a life which the Holy Spirit wrought in you in regeneration. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, but your grace-life did not come from yourself: you have been born again from above.

     Your life is a very strange one — “I am crucified, nevertheless I live.” What a contradiction! The Christian’s life is a matchless riddle. No worldling can comprehend it; even the believer himself cannot understand it. He knows it, but as to solving all its enigmas, he feels that to be an impossible task. Dead, yet alive; crucified with Christ, and yet at the same time risen with Christ in newness of life! Do not expect the world to understand you, Christian, it did not understand your Master. When your actions are misrepresented, and your motives are ridiculed, do not be surprised. “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” If you belonged to the village, the dogs would not bark at you. If men could read you, they would not wonder; it is because you are written in a celestial language that men cannot comprehend you, and think you worthless. Your life is new; your life is strange.

     This wonderful life, resulting in the blended personality of the believer and the Son of God, is a true life. This is expressed in the text, “Nevertheless I live” — yes, live as I never lived before. When the apostle declares himself to be dead to the world, he would not have us imagine that he was dead in the highest and best sense; nay, he lived with a new force and vigour of life. It seemed to me, brethren, when I woke up to know Christ, that I was just like the fly newly burst from the chrysalis, I then began really to live. When a soul is startled by the thunder claps of conviction, and afterwards receives pardon in Christ, it begins to live. The worldling says he wants to see life, and therefore plunges into sin! Pool that he is, he peers into the sepulchre to discover immortality. The man who truly lives is the believer. Shall I become less active because I am a Christian? God forbid! Become less industrious, find less opportunities for the manifestation of my natural and spiritual energies? God forbid! If ever a man should be like a sword too sharp for the scabbard, with an edge which cannot be turned, it should be the Christian; He should be like flames of fire burning his way. Live while you live. Let there be no drivelling and frittering away of time. Live so as to demonstrate that you possess the noblest form Of life.

     Clear is it, also, that the new life which Christ brings to us is a life of Self-abnegation, for he adds, “I live, yet not I.” Lowliness of mind is part and parcel of godliness. He who can take any credit to himself knows not the spirit of our holy faith. The believer when he prays best says, “Yet not I, but the Spirit of God interceded in me.” If he has won any souls to Christ, he says, “Yet not I; it was the gospel; the Lord Jesus wrought in me mightily.” “Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name be all the praise.” Self-humiliation is the native Spirit of the true-born child of God.

     Further, the life which Christ works in us is a life of one idea. Is the believer’s soul ruled by two things? Nay, he knows but one. Christ liveth in me. Two tenants in the chamber of my soul? Nay, one Lord and Master I serve. “Christ liveth in me.” An old divine desired that he might eat and drink and sleep eternal life. Do you thus live I Alas! I mourn that I live too much in the old life, and too little does Jesus live in me; but the Christian, if he should ever come even to perfection, and God grant we each may come as near to it as possible even now, will find that the old “I live,” is kept under, and  the new Christ-life reigns supreme. Christ must be the one thought, the one idea, the one master-thought in the believer’s soul. When he wakes Id the morning the healthy believer enquires, “What can I do for Christ?” When he goes about his business he asks, “How shall I serve my Lord in all my actions?” When he makes money he questions himself, “How can I use my talents for Christ?” If he acquires education, the enquiry is, “How can I spend my knowledge for Christ?”

     To sum up much in little, the child of God has within him the Christ life; but how shall I describe that ? Christ’s life on earth was the divine something mingled with divine the about human — such is the life of the Christian; there is something divine about it: it is a living, incorruptible seed, which abideth for ever. We are made partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption which is in the world through lust, yet our life is thoroughly human life. The Christian is a man among men; in all that is manly he labours to excel, yet he is not as other men are, but wears a hidden nature which no mere worldling understands. Picture the life of Christ on earth; beloved, and that is what the life of God in us ought to be, and will be in proportion as we are subject to the power of the Holy Spirit.

     Notice again, keeping close to the text, that the life which God worketh in us is still the life of a man. “The life that I now live in the flesh,” says the apostle. Those monks and nuns who run away from the world for fear its temptations should overcome them, and seclude themselves for the sake of greater holiness, are as excellent soldiers as those who retire to the camp for fear of being defeated. Of what service are such soldiers in the battle, or such persons in the warfare of life? Christ did not come to make monks of us: he came to make men of us. He meant that we should learn how to live in the flesh. We are neither to give up business nor society, nor in any right sense to give up life. “The life I live in the flesh,” says the apostle. Look at him busy at his tent-making. What! An apostle making tents? What say you brethren to the Archbishop of Canterbury stitching away for his living? It is too low for a state bishop certainly, but not too low for Paul. I do not think the apostle was ever more apostolic than when he picked up sticks. When Paul and his companions were shipwrecked at Melita, the apostle was of more service than all the Pan-Anglican synod with their silk aprons, for he set to work like other people to gather fuel for the fire; he wanted to warm himself as other men, and therefore he took his share at the toil. Even so you and I must take our turn at the wheel. We must not think of keeping ourselves aloof from our fellow men, as though we should be degraded by mingling with them. The salt of the earth should be well rubbed into the meat, and so the Christian should mingle with his fellow men, seeking their good for edification. We are men, and whatever men may lawfully do, we do; wherever they may go, we may go. Our religion makes us neither more nor less than human, though it brings us into the family of God. Yet the Christian life is a life of faith. “The life which I live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.” Faith is not a piece of confectionery to be put upon drawing room tables, or a garment to be worn on Sundays; it is a working principle, to be used in the bam and in the field, in the shop and on the exchange; it is a grace for the housewife and the servant; it is for the House of Commons and for the poorest workshop. “The life which I live in the flesh, I live by faith.” I would have the believing cobbler mend 6hoes religiously, and the tailor make garments by faith, and I would have every Christian buy and sell by faith. Whatever your trades may be, faith is to be taken into your daily callings, and that is alone the truly living faith which will bear the practical test. You are not to stop at the shop door and take off your coat and say, “Farewell to Christianity till I put up the shutters again.” That is hypocrisy; but the genuine life of the Christian is the life which we live in the flesh by faith of the Son of God.

     To conclude: the life which comes out of the blended personality of the believer and Christ is a life of perfect love. “He gave himself for me.” My question is, therefore, What can I do for him? The new life is a life of holy security, for, if Christ loved me, who can destroy me? It is a life of holy wealth, for, if Christ gave his infinite self to me, what can I want? It is a life of holy joy, for, if Christ be mine, I have a well of holy joy within my soul It is the life of heaven, for, if I have Christ, I have that which is the essence and soul of heaven. I have talked mysteries, of which some of you have not understood so much as a sentence. God give you understanding that you may know the truth. But if you have not understood it, let this fact convince you: you know not the truth because you have not the Spirit of God; for the spiritual mind alone understands spiritual things. When we talk about the inner life, we seem like those that dote and dream to those who understand us not. But if you have understood me, believer, go home and live out the truth, practise that which is practicable, feed upon that which is fill of savour, rejoice in Christ JeBU8 that you are one with him, and then, in your own proper person, go out and serve your Master with might and main, and the Lord send you his abundant blessing. Amen and Amen.



The Secret Spot

By / Nov 10

The Secret Spot

 

“Their spot is not the spot of his children.” — Deuteronomy 32:5.

 

THERE are frequently great difficulties in identifying the persons of  men, even when they have been distinctly seen. Our police courts have  given us, during the last few weeks, most serious evidence that men  may be utterly deceived as to the identity of individuals. They may  be prepared, and honestly I believe, to take oath that such-and-such a  person is the man whom they saw discharging firearms or throwing  stones, and yet that person may have been many miles away. A slight  change of dress, another colour in the necktie, or a different shape of  the hat, or some trifling alteration of the hair, may throw a witness  entirely off his guard. It was said to be almost dangerous for persons  of a certain height, and of a certain colour of hair, to be passing the  police courts, lest they should be arrested, and marched in with others  to be identified by witnesses who were extremely anxious to identify  somebody or other.. This fact seems very clearly established, that the  judgment of men, even with regard to the identity of their fellow  creatures, is very far from being infallible.

     Turning to the moral universe, identity there is far more difficult to  be made out, for both the moral and religious world swarm with pretenders. You cannot know to a certainty who among your acquaintances  is a Christian and who is not. This is known to God, and may be  revealed to each man for himself; but deception is so easy, and is  nowadays practised in so masterly a manner, that I wot it is difficult to  know a son of God from a son of Belial; you may sit down and commune with an apostle, and find he is a Judas; you may walk side by  side with one who seemed to be a Simon Peter, and prove him to be a  Simon Magus; yea, what is worse, you may be deceived about yourself,  and whereas you may have thought your body to be a temple of the  Holy Ghost, you may suddenly discover it to have been made a den of  thieves. Yet this is a very important matter, for if men are not right,  and cannot clear their consciences that they are right, they live in a  state of perpetual unrest, never at any moment possessing safety. We  ought to know — we should never be at peace till we do know — whether  we are the children of God or not; and since the outward aspect so  often deceives, and visible signs are not to be relied upon, it becomes imperative upon us that we should search deep, and look for signs that will not deceive us, prying into the very core and marrow of our being, till we have resolved the weighty question, whether we are the children  of God or the heirs of wrath. 

     You see the text talks about certain secret spots. These are tokens  in which men cannot so readily deceive as to their identity. The  mother will be able to tell whether this is her child or not by the  spot which is known to none but herself. The pretender may be very  like her child: the voice may be the voice of Jacob, and the hands  may not be dissimilar, and he may be able to relate many things concerning his youth which it would seem that none but the real child  could know; but the mother recollects that there was a secret spot,  and if that be not there, she turns aside the pretender — but if she  discovers that private token, she knows the claimant to be her child.  I want, this morning, for us to recollect that there are secret marks  upon every Christian, and if we have not the spot of God’s child too,  it will little avail us how fairly in our outward garb and manner we  may conform ourselves to the members of the heavenly family.

     We have before us a whole host of persons who profess to be the  children of the Most High. They are exceedingly confident because  they come before us in the garments of God’s people, but their robes do  not deceive us, at once we tell them that we cannot judge by the outward appearance; for a religious profession is very easily procured:  the very brightest colours may be flaunted, and a man’s garments may  be outwardly spotless and fair to the eye, and yet for all that he may  be the basest of pretenders. None wash their hands more often than the  Pharisees, and yet they are sepulchres full of rottenness; none say  longer prayers than the Scribes, and yet none more ready to devour  widows’ houses. The outward garb of religion is no criterion by which  to judge a man in an age so full of deception as the present, which has  been fitly called the era of shams. If a devout exterior will not satisfy  us, these professors then address us in the language of piety; they  use the holy speech which is thought decorous amongst the people of  God; but we straightway tell them that albeit if we lived with them,  we have no doubt their speech would betray them, when the old brogue  of Babylon would come out unawares, yet still their outward public speech can be no rule of judgment to us, for those often talk loudest who  know least. The bell rings men to church, but says no prayers itself:  there may be the sign of the angel hanging over the inn door, but the  devil may be the landlord within. That sepulchre which is most  whitewashed may be fullest of dead men’s bones. Should both garb  and language fail to convince us, those who would make a fair show  in the flesh, point us to their actions, and “In this” they say, “surely  we cannot deceive, for ‘by their fruits ye shall know them.’” We confess that it is even so, we can only judge men by their fruit, and  we are not allowed by God’s word to judge any further; but men  must judge themselves otherwise than by their merely outward acts,  they must examine their motives and the design and scope by which  those acts were dictated and directed, for otherwise they may only  possess that superficial morality which is deceptive, because it springeth  not from the depths of the heart, but is a mere stagnant pool, and not the clear crystal living water welling up from the inmost soul  of the man. Men may be externally washed, but not internally  quickened; they may be covered with the flowers of righteousness,  but those flowers may have no root, and by-and-by may wither away  because the heart is not right in the sight of God. Sirs, we will not be  content, this morning, with examining your garments, nor listening to your speech, nor even with touching your hands, for all these signs may  deceive you, if they do not deceive us. We ask you to come with us  into the stripping room, and let us search for the spots, the secret spots,  without which you cannot know to a certainty that you are the true  children of the living God. 

     This morning, as we may be helped by God the Holy Ghost, in  solemn downright earnest we mean if we can, first of all, to take you to  the examination of the secret spots; secondly, to make a declaration from  God’s word of what the true spot is; thirdly, to discriminate amongst  men as to those public and defiling spots which, alas! are to be found  in us all; and, then, fourthly, an exhortation upon the whole subject.

     I. First, then, at the mention of private spots which are to be the  insignia of the regenerate, there are thousands who say, “We do not  shirk that examination. Truly the signs of saints are in us also! Are  others Israelites? so are we. We bear in our bodies the marks of the Lord Jesus: we challenge an investigation.” Be it so, then! LET US  COMMENCE A MINUTE EXAMINATION. 

     I am not now to deal with anything that is public. We are not  speaking now about actions or words, but concerning those secret  things which men have judged to be infallible marks of their being  saved. 

     Here is a friend before us, and as he lays bare his heart, he indicates  to us the spot which he thinks proclaims him to be a child of God. I  will describe it. This man has embraced sound doctrine; he has  managed by some means to become thoroughly Calvinistic; he holds  the doctrine of election in all its length and breadth; he would fight to  the last moment of life for any one of the five points of the Calvinistic  confession. You cannot find a man more determinedly orthodox; he  abhors all teaching which he judges to be uncertain in its sound; and  within his heart he believes that he is therefore saved. “Surely,” whispers his vain heart, ‘‘surely a man with such a sound creed cannot  be cast into hell!” He delights to hear the preacher deal a heavy blow  at Arminians, or Ritualists, or any other people who differ from him,  because he feels then that the privilege which he has monopolised in  his own conceit is thus defended and preserved from all intruders.  “Ah!” saith he, “I am saved; I have received the truth, and hold it  with all my might.” Everywhere wherever he goes, his whole talk is  of his favourite Shibboleth, “The truth! The truth! The truth!”  Not that the aforesaid truth has ever renewed his nature;, not that it  has ever changed his moral character; not that it has at all made  him a better husband or a kinder father; not that it influences him in  trade; not that you could perceive any sanctifying effect proceeding  from his creed if you lived with him ; but still this is it, orthodoxy,  thorough orthodoxy, holding the truth and holding it firmly too, and  denouncing all others, this is his balm of Gilead to heal all diseases, his crown of rejoicing in life, and his passport to the skies. Now, sir,  we do not hesitate to say concerning you, although you will not be best  pleased with us for it, that your spot is not the spot of the children of  God. It is a good thing to be sound in the faith, but that virtue may  belong to the vilest sinner out of hell. There have been some men who  have been orthodox to the core, and yet they have been detestable  hypocrites, and not one atom better, as their outward life has shown. No form of doctrine, however scriptural, can ever save the soul if it be  only received by the head, and does not work in its mighty energy  upon the heart. “Ye must be born again,” is the Saviour’s word;  and unless ye be born again, your carnal nature may hold the truth in  the letter without discerning its spirit; and while the truth shall be  dishonoured by being so held, you yourself shall not be benefited thereby.

     But here is another waiting for the searchers. He also believes that  he has discovered in himself the spot of God’s child. It is this — not  so common a spot, I believe, in this congregation as in some — a knowledge of inward corruption. “Ah,” saith one, “I know that I am an  heir of heaven because I am aware of the sinfulness of my nature. I  know my heart to be horridly depraved; I believe my nature to be  detestable and vile, and sometimes I am the subject of frightful blasphemous thoughts, and I have inclinations towards the most horrible  iniquities. Surely I am a quickened child of God, or I should not  have so vivid a conviction of indwelling sin! I should not feel that I  was so bad as I am if I had not been first of all quickened and awakened!”  Now, believe me, there are thousands who are under the delusion that  this spot is the spot of God’s children, but let me assure them very  affectionately that it is no such thing. God’s children do have a sense  of sin, they groan because of the body of this death, they daily lament  the plague of their own heart, but a frill persuasion of their own sinfulness may be found in thousands who are not God’s children. It is a preposterous assumption that for a man to know himself to be a  sinner, proves him to be a saint. Let me ask the physician whether a  sense of sickness proves a man to be cured. Let me ask a drowning  man whether a sense of sinking proves that he is rescued. Let me  ask a bankrupt debtor whether a sense of being penniless proves that  he is rich. You know better; common sense teaches you better. It  is not a discovery of your sin that will save you, but hearty faith in the  Saviour; and if you have not gone further that a mere conviction of  sin, which may be nothing but a ,legal conviction, and a natural alarm  at the awful punishment of sin, if ye have not gone farther than mere  alarm or remorse, ye have not the spot which marks you out to be a  child of God; you may be a Judas crying, “I have sinned,” and you  may even hang yourself through terror of conscience, and be none the  less, but rather all the more, a son of perdition. A cutting truth is this,  but it must be told, lest any be misled. 

     I see before me at the door of the stripping room a third class of persons,  who say, “We have this spot surely, for we are full of confidence that  we are saved; we believe that we are saved — firmly believe it. We are  not among those sinful people who indulge in doubts and fears. We  know that we are saved. We have known it for years, and we have  never had a mistrust about it. If ever a question is raised, ‘Do I love the Lord or no? Am I his or am I not?’ we cast the question out — we  believe it to come from Satan to mar our peace and spoil our comfort.  Self-examination we have long ago given up as an unnecessary disturbing of the peace of our spirits. We have made up our minds that  we are saved, and it gives us great peace to believe that we are.” Yes;  but, my hearers such a spot is not the spot of God’s children, for after this  fashion the foolish cry, “Peace, peace, where there is no peace.” Remember how easy it is to daub with untempered mortar, how readily you  may build upon a sandy foundation, and how the superstructure may be  run up with marvellous celerity if you build with wood, hay, and stubble:  much more fair show may you make with perishable materials than if you  waited till you had gold and silver, and precious stones, slowly to build  the edifice withal. But, remember that for you to believe that you are  saved does not prove that you are saved: the poor lunatic in Bedlam  believes himself to be a king, but no man owns his sovereignty. Your undisturbed conscience may be no evidence of grace, but rather a token  of reprobation, for there are some who have received a strong delusion  to believe a lie, that they may be damned. They are befooled by Satan  into the delusion that they are the people of God, whereas they are in  the gall of bitterness, and in the bonds of iniquity. Hope is our anchor,  but what is the use of an anchor if it has nothing to lay hold upon? “I hope,” said one, when he heard of his neighbour’s death, “I hope  he is all right.” He knew that he died drunk. Now, if that man had  said, “I wish that there may have been found a way by which it is possible for him to be saved,” I could understand it, but to say “I hope,”  where there was no ground and foundation for hope, was to speak as  the foolish speak. You and I ought not to have a hope which will not  bear the test. Oh! instead of shirking self-examination, practise it  daily; ask for the strong wind from the wilderness to come and smite  the four corners of your house, for if it be built upon a rock it will not  fall; but, oh! if it be but a sand-built house, it will be better far that it  should come down now, than that you should dwell in it for awhile  with groundless comfort, and find it fall about your ears to all eternity. No, the self-confident assumption that you are saved is not the spot of  God’s children.

     Not unfrequently do I meet with others who will say, “We certainly  have the private mark of gracious souls, for weave so happy; we have  such happy feelings when we are worshipping God; we feel so delighted  with going up to the assemblies of God’s people. Sometimes at the  prayer meeting we get so happy and excited we hardly know what to  do, and when we sing those delightful revival tunes, we do feel so  exceedingly blessed.” Now this may or may not be from the Spirit of God. God’s children are made glad in the house of prayer, but  remember, others are made glad beside God’s children, for doubtless there have been thousands who have received the word with joy,  as our Saviour tells us, who are like the seed sown on stony ground,  which sprang up rapidly, because it had no depth of earth, but afterwards when the sun had arisen, it withered away. Beware of being  stony-ground hearers, and above all, let me say to you, beware of placing  the slightest dependence upon your frames and feelings. The most  desponding feelings do not prove that your soul is in peril, for some of those who before God were surest of heaven, have been the least assured  of it in their own feelings. The highest and most rapturous feelings of delight do not prove us to be the children of God, for some have  had no bands in their death, but their strength has been firm; they  have not been in trouble as other men, neither have they been plagued  like other men, and yet for all that their end has been destruction.  Moab was settled upon his lees, and was not emptied from vessel to  vessel, but how terrible was his end! Never henceforth put any dependence upon your frames and feelings, let them be what they may;  go deeper than the froth of feeling, search in the depths of principle  for the priceless pearl of infallible evidence. This spot is not the spot  of God's children.

     There are others, and many too, who will say, “But at least we  can bring a mark which is not to be counterfeited, a sure and certain mark of conversion: there was a happy day when we experienced  most extraordinary things.” As soon as some people of an excitable  temperament begin to narrate their treasured story of marvels, you may  anticipate that they are going to tell you that they heard a voice, or  saw a vision, or were impressed with this, or saw that; all which may  be true or may be imagination, according to the truthfulness and  common sense of the speaker. And all this may have a connection with  their being saved, for there is no doubt that many have been impressed  in dreams, and I will even venture to say by visions and voices. Many  men’s first religious thoughts have been awakened in them by strange  impressions; and, therefore, these things are not to be laughed at:  whether they are freaks of the imagination or not I care not, so long as  men’s minds are aroused, the mode matters but little; but if anybody  shall say that the experience of singular impressions or remarkable  emotions proves men to be believers, I must most gravely and solemnly  demur, for alas! there have been thousands who profess to have seen  angels who are now with devils, and I do not doubt there are tens of  thousands who have fought with devils who are now with angels of light. It is not what you see with these eyes, nor hear with these  ears, nor feel with flesh and blood; our religion is spiritual, and is  spiritually discerned — not a thing of rhapsody, excitement, and imagination, but a matter of sober thought and meditation; and if you have  not something more than a mere day or night of singularities to look  back upon, your evidences of grace are worthless. I do delight to look  back upon the day when I was converted to God. Many of you do, and  I hope you always will, look back upon that happy hour with pleasure when  you first turned unto the Lord. But I have known what it is to feel, that  if I had no reason to believe that I was saved except the remembrance  what I felt that day, I should have no solid ground at all. The fact is,  brethren, the spot of God’s children is not a thing of yesterday, but  an abiding and continual token. The true spot is far more than any  memory of the past, as I shall have to show you, and if you have not  that, you may have all that you can imagine or invent, but God will  repudiate you at the last, saying, “I know you not whence ye are;  depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.” 

     II. We now come to the second head. WHAT IS THE TRUE SECRET  SPOT WHICH INFALLIBLY BETOKENS THE CHILD OF GOD ?

     Beloved, it were vain presumption, blasphemous arrogance, for me to  set myself up as able to tell you this of mine own judgment; but God’s  word reveals it to us, and therefore we may tread surely where we have  revelation to be our guide. Now, we are told in the Gospel according to  John, concerning our Lord, to “As many as received him, to them gave the power [or privilege] to become the sons of God, even to them that  believe on his name.” Here it is, then, if I have received Christ Jesus  into my heart, then I am a child of God. That reception is described in  the second clause as a believing on the name of Jesus Christ. If, then, I  believe on Jesus Christ’s name — that is, simply from my heart trust  myself with the crucified, but now exalted, Redeemer, I am a member  of the family of the Most High. Whatever else I may not have, if I  have this, I have the privilege to become a child of God; but if I have  not this, I may have all the other spots I have been speaking of, this  morning, which may seem to some to be very great beauty spots, but  they are not the spots of the children of God. To strengthen the text  we have already given you, let us remind you of another: “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.” That is, whosoever  takes Jesus to be to him his anointed Priest, anointed to offer sacrifice  of atonement for him, such a soul is born of God. He who takes  this man or that to be his priest, or sets up to offer sacrifice for himself,  is no child of God, be he what he may ; but he who takes the Most  High Lord, once slain, but now ever living, to be an anointed Priest  unto him, may conclude at once that he has the spot of God’s child  upon him. Our Lord Jesus puts it in another shape. “My sheep  hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Here is the  matter in a nutshell. Christ appears as a Shepherd to his own sheep,  not to others. As soon as he appears, his own sheep perceive him;  they trust him, they are prepared to follow him; he knows them, and  they know him — there is a mutual knowledge; he guides them, and  they follow him —there is a constant connection between them twain. If to put this truth positively be not enough, let me remind you how our Saviour puts it negatively. When the Jews were rioting around him, instead of listening to his earnest voice, he turned to  them and said, “Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I  said unto you.” As much as to say, it is because I have not chosen you,  and my grace has never looked upon you, it is because the life divine has  never throbbed in your bosoms, that you do not believe on me; for if  you had the life of God, and were God’s children, you would accept me  at once. This is the one mark, the sure mark, the only infallible mark,  a hearty faith in the appointed Redeemer. My dear friends, I doubt  not many will say, “That is very simple.” My reply is, “Glory be to  God, it is simple!” The more simple the plan of salvation, the more  evidently it is of God. Are we not told that Babylon, the mother of  harlots has written upon her the brow, “Mystery”? — mystery is the mark of the Romish faith, and the sure symbol of Antichrist. That gospel which is so plain that he who runs may read it, that the wayfaring  man, though a fool, need not err therein, this gospel which is preached  Unto the poor, this gospel which may be understood even by a child,  this is the gospel, the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which is committed to our trust. What saith the apostle? “Seeing then,” he says, “that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech.” Here is  the root of the matter, and if you trust Jesus Christ with all your heart,  if you rely upon him to save you, and if your reliance is such that it  touches your heart, and makes you love the Man who shed great drops  of blood for you, if your faith is such that it operates upon your moral  character, constraining you no longer to be an enemy to your good and  generous God, then you are saved, for you have the spot of God’s  child. But “without faith it is impossible to please God.” I tell  you solemnly that all your generosity, your almsgivings, your Sabbath  keepings, your repentance, your prayers, your tears, are all nothing  without faith in Christ. Go heap them up till they make a pyramid  great as that which casts its mighty shadow far down the Libyan desert,  but they are as nothing, things of nought. All human excellencies  without faith, will fly as chaff before the wind when the trial-hour shall  come; if trusted in, they are as smoke in the nostrils of the Most  High, because they rival the cross of Christ. Go humbly to the cross, look up to him who suffered there, rely on him and you shall live; but  gad ye about as ye may to this shrine and to that, and scourge yourselves and deny yourselves this and that, and practise all the austerities  you please, you shall be further still from God than at the first if  you despise the salvation of Jesus Christ. Going about to establish  their own righteousness, they have not submitted themselves unto the  righteousness which is of God by faith, and therefore their spot is not  the spot of God’s children, but coming simply to Jesus, and resting  alone in him, they have glorified God, and they are themselves proved  to be the children of the Most High. 

     III. I shall now, in the third place, turn to another view of the  subject, which concerns THE DISCRIMINATION OF DEFILING SPOTS. 

     The term “spot” as used in the text, will not be read usually as we  have read it this morning. It will, no doubt, to most readers suggest  the idea of sin, and very properly so — then the text would run thus:  the sin of the people mentioned here is not the sin of God’s people. There is a difference between their guilt and the offences of the Lord’s  chosen. This brings me to the point — there is a discrimination to be  made, even as to sinful spots. When God’s children are mired and  bespattered with filth, still there is a difference between them and  others. An unhappy thing it is, we cannot mourn too much over it, that evil doth remain even in the hearts of the regenerate, and that the  much fine gold sometimes becometh dim, and the glory departeth.  God’s people are a holy people, but they are not a perfect people.  They aspire after perfection, but they have not yet attained it. Sometimes, alas! they fall. We believe they never fall finally nor totally,  but they often fall sorrowfully and foully. But yet the ungodly may  not take comfort from the sins of God’s people, for their spots are not  the spots of God’s children.

     Let us very briefly — we cannot enter into the subject in fall this  morning — show that there is a difference between the sin of God’s  people and the sin of others. God forbid that you should imagine that I wish to excuse the sins of believers. In some views, when a believer sins, his sin is worse than that of other men, because he offends  against greater light and knowledge; he revolts against greater love and mercy; he flies in the teeth of his profession; he does despite in a  measure to the cross of Christ, and he brings grievous dishonour upon  the name of Jesus, whom he professes to serve. Believers cannot sin  cheaply. The very least speck on a Christian is more plainly seen than  the foulest blot on the ungodly, just as a white dress shows the dirt the  sooner. The more clean the paper, the sooner is the mark perceived;  but if the paper be black, there may be many marks and stains, and  yet they may not be perceptible. Cod forbid that we should palliate,  excuse, or extenuate the faults of God’s people. Sin is a horrible thing,  and it is above all things detestable when it lurks in a child of God;  yet the sins of God’s people do differ from the sins of other men in  many important respects they do not sin with deliberation and with  cool determination, meaning to sin and sinning for its own sake. The  ungodly man knows a thing to be wrong, and therefore does it; he  plans it upon his bed; he taketh counsel with himself when he shall  enjoy this pleasure or indulge that lust, knowing at the same time that  the pleasure is evil, and the lust is iniquity. The believer possibly  falls into the same sin as the unbeliever, yet not through evil aforethought,  but through force of a strong and violent temptation. Had he paused awhile he would have eschewed the evil, and turned from it with  hatred; but there came upon him on a sudden a rush of diabolical  power, and he seemed borne away by it, to his own intense grief, a grief  which makes him go with broken bones for many a year afterwards. We  do not sin wilfully nor deliberately; we do not love the way of transgression — blessed be God, we could not run it in with all our heart,  for if we saw the evil distinctly before us as such, our spirit in calm  consideration would recoil from the mere shadow of it. The child of  God does not sin with the pleasure and gusto of other men. When the  sheep stumbles, as it may do, into the mire, it is up again and on; but  if the swine should fall there, it rolls over, and wallows as in its  element. A sinner in his sins is a bird in the air, but the believer in  sin is like the fish that leaps for awhile into the air, but must be back  again or die. Sin cannot be satisfactory to an immortal spirit regenerated by the Holy Spirit, it is poison to it; very soon that poison must  be thrown out of the system, for the living child of God cannot endure  sin to fester within him. If you sin, you “have an advocate with the  Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;” but if you sin and love sin, then  you are the servant of sin, and not the child of God.

     Again, the child of God cannot look back upon sin with any kind of  complacency. The ungodly man has this spot, that after the sin he  even boasts of it; he will tell to others that he enjoyed himself greatly  in his wicked sport, and he will gloat over its sweetness, turning the  morsel over an1 over, and rolling it under his tongue like an epicure  delighting in a dainty dish. “All,” saith he, “how sweet it is!” As  for its being contrary to God, it makes it all the sweeter to him, or  else, “God is not in all his thoughts.” But no man of God ever sins  without smarting. Very soon conscience wakes, and, as the word of  God puts it, “David’s heart smote him.” It is a horrible knock that  the heart gives when it begins to smite. All the men in the world may  say what they please so long as my heart does not speak against me;  but when conscience says, “It is true; thou didst it, and thou hast played the fool exceedingly,” then a man hangs his head, and retires  into the shades to hide himself awhile, for he is ashamed. If you can  sin and not weep over it, you are an heir of hell. If you can go into sin, and afterwards feel satisfied to have done so, you are on the road to  destruction. If there are no prickings of conscience, no inward torments, no bleeding wounds; if you have no throbs and heavings of a bosom that cannot rest; if your soul never feels filled with wormwood and gall when you know you have done evil, you are no child of God; but if your sins plague you, and your soul abhors them, and takes them  with weeping to the cross of Jesus, then the sins which you hate shall  never destroy you; that which you loathe shall not be brought against you to condemn you; this shall be set down to the account of your Surety, and not to you, seeing that he was delivered for you offences, and is raised again for your justification.

     The child of God also has this difference in his spots from others,  that when he knows the spot, and is led to repent of it, it makes him  more careful for the future, especially in that respect in which he has erred. Have ye not seen him afraid to put one foot before another for  fear he should do wrong? He had a fall the other day, and he goes very tenderly, very softly. He is almost afraid to open his mouth now, because he spoke so unadvisedly the other day, and his prayer is, “Lord, open thou my lips! I dare not open them.” He used to be very fast and confident, but notice him now, he has a broken spirit, and speaks  with bated breath. He does not hold his head up loftily as he used to  do; he thanks God that he is forgiven, feels that he has peace, and he  blesses God for it; but he is jealous of himself with holy jealousy. You will not find him mingling with that company which led him  astray; he is a burnt child, and dreads the fire. You will see him  much more precise with himself than he used to be. He used to be precise with other men and lax with himself; now it is different — he can  make excuses for others, but he makes none for himself. His heart now pants to be eminent for that very grace in which he failed, and he gives particular attention to keep watch and ward over that part of the wall  through which the invader found entrance.

     But I need not enlarge. You who are the children of God must have  noticed a difference between your sins now and your sins as they once were; and you cannot but observe, day by day, if you look within, that  grace has made a change even in those sins in which our evil nature  exercises most dominion. But, beloved, the best thing we can do is to  keep as far away from evil as possible. We have no right to say, “I may be a child of God, and yet do so-and-so.” Nay, but the heir of  heaven does not desire to approach the appearance of evil. I am much afraid for some of you who are asking, “Is this wrong and that wrong?” Do nothing about which you have need to ask a question. Be quite sure  about it, or leave it alone. Know you not that inspired word, “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin” – that is, whatsoever you cannot do with the confidence that you are doing right, is sin to you? Though the deed may be right to other people, if you have any doubt about it yourself, it is evil to you. God grant, dear friends, that we may not be “conformed to the world,” but be “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” If I knew that  there was a pest-house anywhere in the country, I do not think I should want to build my house near it; I should not send for the physician and  say, “Sir, how far do you think the effect of pestilence might spread? I should like to get as near as I could without actually catching the  pest.” “No, no,” say you, “if there is a plot of land to be bought where  there is no disease in the neighourhood, there let my tent be pitched.  It is best to dwell far off from evil.” O may God separate us from  evil in this world, as we hope to be separated from it in the world to  come! There will be a great gulf fixed between it and us in the next  world, may there be a wide line of demarcation now. 

     IV. My close is AN EXHORTATION, an exhortation to myself and to  you to make sure work for eternity, and to make it clear to your own  consciences that you are indeed the children of God.

     Ah! my dear hearers, it is not possible for me to be earnest enough in  this matter. I wish I had a tongue like the pen of a ready writer, that I might speak to you with power this morning. Yet, perhaps, feebleness of words may give but the greater power in spirit if God the Holy  Spirit will press upon the conscience of you all the need and duty of an  earnest heart-searching self-examination. A famous case is now pending,  in which a person claims to be the son of a deceased baronet. Whether  he be or not I suppose will, ere long, be decided by the highest authorities; meanwhile the case is pending, a very weighty case for him, for  upon the decision will hang his possession or non-possession of vast  estates and enormous property. Now, in your case you, many of you,  profess to be the children of God, and heaven hangs upon the question  of the truthfulness of your profession. Heaven I nay, there is a dread  alternative, heaven or hell must hang upon the truth or the falsehood of your profession: yea, moreover about those two things there  is flung a golden chain of eternity, making each of them more weighty  than they otherwise would be. A child of God! Then your portion  is eternal life. An heir of wrath, even as others! Then your  heritage will be eternal death. For a moment, conceive that you are passing into the next world. What will be the trepidation of your spirit if it be a matter of question then? With what alarm will you  await the decisive ordeal ? “Shall I ascend on wings of joy up to the  realms where angels dwell, or must I sink with devils as the companions  of my woe, to dwell for ever in hell?” What horror to have that question still unanswered! Is it uncertain now, my hearer, is it uncertain  now, whether you are a child of God or not? Is it uncertain whether  your spot is the spot of God’s children? Then let not an hour pass  over your head till you have said, “Search me, O God, and know my  heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked  way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” Trifle not here, I  do adjure you! If you must trifle anywhere, let it be about some  secondary matter; your health, if you will, or the title deeds of your  estates; but your souls, your never dying souls, and their eternal  destinies, I beseech you be in earnest here, for you will be in earnest  soon, earnestly praising God in heaven, or earnestly moaning out your  never ending dolor in the pit where hope can never come. God grant  us wisdom, then, since so much hangs upon it, not to play the fool by  taking things at second hand, but to search to the very roots and  foundations of the matter to know whether we are saved or not.

     This duty is much more easy to explain than to enforce, and more  easy to enforce than to practise. We all shun it. The preacher naturally says to himself, “Hast thou not preached to others? Thou  mayst surely excuse thyself.” The old member of the church who  has long maintained an honourable outward profession, whispers to him self, or Satan whispers to him, “Thou art an old experienced Christian, why needst thou go back to the beginning and do thy first works?” The young professor in the heyday of his zeal, says within himself. “I know that it is right with me.” But ah! I pray you remember, he  who takes things too quickly as being what he desires them to be, will be deceived in the end. “The heart is deceitful above all things,” says  the prophet, “and desperately wicked,” and wilt thou believe it? Examine it and cross-examine it, for it is a lying witness. Believe it to be dishonest and try to prove it so, and if haply thou shouldst be unable,  then what a comfort to thee! but to believe thy heart to be honest and  sound, why this is to begin where the fool doth, at the wrong end of the  chapter. Suspect thyself, and go to Christ this morning as a sinner. Doubt thyself, and go to Jesus. Never doubt him. Confess thyself  now to be undone and ruined if so it be, but go to him who is still  the Saviour, able to save to the uttermost. Still guilty, still lost, still  defiled, go still to the “ fountain filled with blood;” go still to the openhanded Saviour, and ask him to press thee to his bosom and to save  thee now. This is the quick way, the sure way, the blessed way of finding out the secret spot, to go at once to Christ. If I never came  before, O bleeding Saviour, now I come, and if I have often come and  put my trust in thee, I come again — accept a guilty sinner who casts  himself alone on thee, and save him for thy mercy’s sake. Amen.