“Do Not Sin Against the Child.”

By / Nov 8

“Do Not Sin Against the Child.”

 
“And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required.” — Genesis 42:22.

 

You know how Joseph’s brethren, through envy, sold him into Egypt; and how ultimately they were themselves compelled to go down into Egypt to buy corn. When they were treated roughly by the governor of that country, whom they did not know to be their brother, their consciences smote them, and they said one to another, “We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of the soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us.” While their consciences were thus accusing them, the voice of their elder brother chimed in, saying, “Said I not unto you, Do not sin against the child?” From which I gather that, if we commit sin after being warned, the voice of conscience will be all the more condemning, for it will be supported by the memory of disregarded admonitions, which will revive again, and with solemn voices say to us, "Said we not unto you, Do not sin against the child?” We who know what is due to children will so far more guilty than others if we sin against their souls. Wiser views as to the needs and hopes of the little ones are now abroad in the world than those which ruled the public mind fifty years ago, and we shall be doubly criminal if now we bring evil upon the little ones.

     The advice of Reuben may well be given to all grown-up persons, “Do not sin against the child.” Thus would I speak to every parent, to every elder brother or sister, to every schoolmaster, to every employer, to every man and woman, whether they have families or not, “Do not sin against the child:” neither against your own child, nor against anybody’s child, nor against the poor waif of the street whom they call “nobody’s child.” If you sin against adults, “do not sin against the child.” If a man must be profane, let him have too much reverence for a child to pollute its little ear with blasphemy. If a man must drink, let him have too much respect for childhood to entice his boy to sip at the intoxicating cup. If there be aught of lewdness or coarseness on. foot, screen the young child from the sight and hearing of it. O ye parents, do not follow trades which will ruin your children, do not select houses where they will be cast into evil society, do not bring depraved persons within your doors to defile them! For a man, to lead others like himself into temptation is bad enough; but to sow the vile seed of vice in hearts that are* as yet untainted by any gross, actual sin, is a hideous piece of wickedness. Do not commit spiritual infanticide. For God's sake, in the name of common humanity, I pray yon, if you have any sort of feeling left, do not play the Herod by morally murdering the innocents. I have heard that when, in the cruel sack of a city, a soldier was about to kill a child, his hand was stayed by the little one's crying out, “O sir, please don't kill me; I am so little!” The feebleness and littleness of childhood should appeal to the worst of men, and restrain them from sinning against- the child.

     According to the story of Joseph, there are three ways of sinning against the child. The first was contained in the proposition of the envious brothers, “Let us slay him, . . . and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” “Shed no blood,” said Reuben, who had reasons of his own for wishing to save Joseph’s life. There is such a thing as morally and spiritually slaying boys and girls, and here even the Reubens unite with us; even those who are not so good as they should be will join in the earnest protest, “Do not sin against the child,” — do not train him. in dishonesty, lying, drunkenness, and vice. No one among us would wish to do so, but it is continually done by bad example. Many sons are ruined by their fathers. Those who gave them birth give them their death. They brought them into the world of sin, and they seem intent to bring them into the world of punishment, and will succeed in the fearful attempt unless the grace of God shall interfere. Many are doing all they can, be their own conduct at home and abroad, to educate their offspring into pests of society and plagues to their country. When I see the number of juvenile criminals, I cannot help asking, “Who slew all these?” and it is sad to have for an answer, “These are mostly the victims of their parents’ sin.” The fiercest beasts of prey will not destroy their own young, but sin makes men unnatural, so that they destroy their offspring’s souls without thought. To teach a child a lascivious song is unutterably wicked; to introduce him to the wine cup is evil. To take children to places of amusement where everything is polluting, — where the quick-witted boy soon spies out vice, and learns to be precocious in it; where the girl, while sitting to see the play, has kindled within her passions which need no fuel, — to do this is to act the tempter’s part. Would you poison young hearts, and do them lifelong mischief? I wish that the guardians of public morals would put down all open impurity; but if that cannot be, at least let the young be shielded. He who instructs a youth in the vices of the world is a despicable wretch, a panderer for the devil, for whom contempt is a feeling too lenient. No, even though thou art thyself of all men most hardened, there can be no need to worry the lambs, and offer the babes before the shrine of Moloch.

     The same evil may be committed by indoctrinating children with evil teachings. They learn so soon that it is a sad thing to teach them error. It is a dreadful thing when the infidel father sneers at the cross of Christ in the presence of his boy, when he utters horrible things against our blessed Lord in the hearing of tender youth. It is sad to the last degree that those who have been singing holy hymns in the Sabbath-school should go home to hear God blasphemed, and to see holy things spit upon and despised. To the very worst unbelievers we might well say, — Do not thus ruin your child’s immortal soul; if you are yourself resolved to perish, do not drag your child downward too.

     But there is a second way of sinning against the child, of which Reuben’s own proposition may serve as an illustration. Though not with a bad motive, Reuben said, “Cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him.” The idea of many is to leave the child as a child, and then look him up in after days, and seek to deliver him from destruction. Do not kill him, but leave him alone till riper years. Do not kill him, that would be wicked murder; but leave him in the wilderness till a more convenient season, when, like Reuben, you hope to come to his rescue. Upon this point I shall touch many more than upon the first. Many professing Christians ignore the multitudes of children around them, and act as if there were no such living beings. They may go to Sunday-school or not; they do not know, and do not care. At any rate, these good people cannot trouble themselves with teaching children. I would earnestly say, “Do not sin against the child by such neglect.” “No,” says Reuben, “we will look after him when he is a man. He is in the pit now, but we are in hopes of getting him out afterwards.” That is the common notion, — that the children are to grow up unconverted, and that they are to be saved in after life. They are to be left in the pit now, and to be drawn out by-and-by. This pernicious notion is sinning against the child. No word of Holy Scripture gives countenance to such a policy of delay and neglect. Neither nature nor grace pleads for it. It was the complaint of Jeremiah, “Even the sea monsters draw out the breast, they give suck to their young ones: the daughter of my people is become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness.” Let not such a charge lie against any one of us. Our design and object should be that our children, while they are yet children, should be brought to Christ; and I ask those dear brothers and sisters here present who love the Lord not to doubt about the conversion of their little ones, but to seek it at once with all their hearts. Why should our Josephs remain in the pit of nature’s corruption? Let us pray the Lord at once to take them up out of the horrible pit, and- save them with a great salvation.

     There is yet a third way of sinning against the child, which plan was actually tried upon Joseph: they sold him, — sold him to the Midianite merchantmen. They offered twenty pieces of silver for him, and his brothers readily handed him over for that reward. I am afraid that some are half inclined to do the same now. It is imagined that, now we have School-boards, we shall not want Sabbath-schools so much, but may give over the young to the Secularists. Because the children are to be taught the multiplication table, they will not need to be taught the fear of the Lord! Strange reasoning this! Can geography teach them the way to heaven, or arithmetic remove their countless sins? The more of secular knowledge our juveniles acquire, the more will they need to be taught in the fear of the Lord. To leave our youthful population in the hands of secular teachers will be to sell them to the Ishmaelites. Nor is it less perilous to leave them to the seductive arts of Ritualists and Papists. We who love the gospel must not let the children slip through our hands into the power of those who would enslave their minds by superstitious dogmas. We sin against the child if we hand it over to teachers of error.

     The same selling of the young Josephs can be effected by looking only to their worldly interests, and forgetting their souls. A great many parents sell their children by putting them out as apprentices to men of no character, or by placing them in situations where ungodliness is the paramount influence. Frequently, the father does not ask where the boy can go on the Sabbath-day, and the mother does not enquire whether her girl can hear the gospel when she gets out; but good wages are looked after, and not much else. They count themselves very staunch if they draw a line at Roman Catholics, but worldliness and even profligacy are not reckoned as barriers in many cases. How many there are of those who call themselves Christians who sell their daughters in marriage to rich men! The men have no religion whatever, but “it is a splendid match, “because they move in high society. Young men and women are put into the matrimonial market, and disposed of to the highest bidder: God is not thought of in the matter. Thus the rich depart from the Lord, and curse their children quite as much as the poor. I am sure you would not literally sell your offspring for slaves, and yet to sell their souls is by no means less abominable. “Do not sin against the child.” Do not sell him to the Ishmaeilites. “Ah!” say you, “the money is always handy.” Will you take the price of blood? Shall the blood of your children's souls be on your skirts? I pray you, pause awhile ere you do this.

     Sometimes, a child may be sinned against because he is disliked. The excuse for undue harshness and severity is, “He is such a strange child!” You have heard of the cygnet that was hatched in a duck's nest. Neither duck, nor drake, nor ducklings could make anything out of the ugly bird; and yet, in truth, it was superior to all the rest. Joseph was the swan in Jacob's nest, and his brothers and even his father did not understand him. His father rebuked him and said, “Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?” He was not understood by his own kin. I should fancy that he was a most uncomfortable boy to live with, for, when his elder brothers transgressed, he felt bound to bring unto his father “their evil report.” I doubt not that they called him “a little sneak”, though, indeed, he was a gracious child. His dreams also were very odd, and considerably provoking, for he was always the hero of them. His brothers called him “this dreamer”, and evidently thought him to be a mere fool. He was his father's pet boy, and this made him even more obnoxious to the other sons. Yet that very child, who was so despised by his brothers, was the Joseph among them. History repeats itself, and the difference in your child, which now causes him to be pecked at, may perhaps arise from a superiority which as yet has not found its sphere; at any rate, “do not sin against the child” because he is singular, for he may rise to special distinction. Do not, of course, show him partiality, and make him a coat of many colours; because, if you do, his brothers will have some excuse for their envy; but, on the other hand, do not suffer him to be snubbed, and do not allow his spirit to be crushed.

     I have known some who, when they have met with a little Joseph, have sinned against him by foolish flattery. The boy has said something rather good, and then they have set him upon the table so that everybody might see him, and admire what he had to say, while he was coaxed into repeating his sage observations. Thus the child was made self-conceited, forward, and pert. Children who are much exhibited are usually spoiled in the operation. I think I hear the proud parents say, “Now do see — do see what a wonderful boy my Harry is!" Yes, I do see; I do see what a wonderful stupid his mother is. I do see how unwise his father is to expose his boy to such peril. Do not sin against the child by fostering his pride, which, as it is an ill weed, will grow apace of itself.

     In many cases, the sin is of quite the opposite character. Contemptuous sneers have chilled many a good desire, and ridicule has nipped in the bud many a sincere purpose. Beware of checking youthful enthusiasm for good, things. God forbid that you or I should quench one tiny spark of grace in a lad’s heart, or destroy a single bud of promise! We believe in the piety of children; lot us never speak, or act, or look as if we despised it.

     “ Do not sin against the child," whoever you may be. Whether you are teacher or parent, take care that, if there is any trace of the little Joseph in your child, erven though it be but in his dreams, you do not sin against him by attempting to repress the noble flame which God may be kindling in his soul. I cannot just now mention the many, many ways in which we may be offending against one of the Lord’s little ones; but I would have you recollect that, if the Lord’s love should light upon your boy, and he should grow up to be a distinguished servant of the Lord, your conscience will prick you, and a voice will say in your soul, “Said I not unto you, Do not sin against the child?” And if, on the other hand, your child should not become a Joseph, but an Absalom, it will be a horrible thing to be compelled to mingle with your lamentations the overwhelming consciousness that you led your child into the sin by which he became the dishonour of your family. If I see my child perish, and know that he becomes a reprobate through my ill teaching and example, I shall have to wring my hands with dread remorse and cry, “I slew my child! I slew my child! and when I did it, I knew better, but I disregarded the voice which said to me, ‘Do not sin against the child.’”

     Now, dear Sunday-school teachers, I will mention one or two matters which concern you. “Do not sin against the child” by coming to your class with a chilly heart. Why should you make your children cold towards divine things? Do not sin against them by coming too late, for that will make them think that punctuality is not a virtue, and that the Sunday-school is of no very great importance. “Do not sin against the child " by coming irregularly, and absenting yourself on the smallest pretence, for that is distinctly saying to the child, “You can neglect to serve God when you please, for you see that this is what I do.” “Do not sin against the child” by merely going through class routine, without really teaching and instructing. That is the shadow of Sunday-school teaching, and not the substance, and it is in some respects worse than nothing. “Do not sin against the child” by merely telling him a number of stories without setting forth the Saviour, for that will be giving him a stone instead of bread. “Do not sin against the child” by aiming at anything short of his conversion to God through Jesus Christ the Saviour.

     And then, you parents, “do not sin against the child by being so very soon angry. I have frequently heard grown-up people repeat that verse, “Children, obey your parents in all things.” It is a very proper text, — a very proper text, and boys and girls should carefully attend to it. I like to hear fathers and mothers preach from it; but there is that other one, you know; there is that other one, “Likewise, ye fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” Do not pick up every little thing against a good child, and throw it in his or her teeth, and say, “Ah, if you were a Christian child, you would not do this and you would not do that!” I am not so sure about that; you who are heads of families do a great many wrong things yourselves, and yet I hope you are Christians; and if your father in heaven were sometimes to be as severe with you as you are with the sincere little ones when you are out of temper, I am afraid it would1 go very hard with you. Be gentle, and kind, and tender, and loving.

     At the same time, do not sin against any child by over-indulgence. Spoiled children are like spoiled fruit, the less we see of them the better. In some families, the master of the house is the youngest boy, though he is not yet big enough to wear knickerbockers. He manages his mother, and his mother, of course, manages his father, and so, in that way, he rules the whole house. This is unwise, unnatural, and highly perilous to the pampered child. Keep boys and girls in proper subjection, for they cannot be happy themselves, nor can you be so, unless they are in their places. Do not water your young plants either with vinegar or with syrup. Neither use too much nor too little of rebuke. Seek wisdom of the Lord, and keep the middle of the way.

     In a word, “do not sin against the child,” but train it in the way it should go, and bring it to Jesus that he may bless it. Cease not to pray for the child till his young heart is given to the Lord. May the Holy Spirit make you wise to deal with these young immortals! Like plastic clay, they are on the wheel. Oh, that he would teach us how to mould and fashion their characters! Above all, may he put his own hand to the work, and them it will be done indeed!



The Head of the Church

By / Nov 1

The Head of the Church

 

“He is the head of the body, the church.” — Colossians 1:18.

 

As if to show us that this title of “Head of the church” is to be held in highest esteem, it is here placed in connection with the loftiest honours of our Lord Jesus. In the same breath the Son of God is styled “the image of the invisible God,” “the first-born of every creature,” the Creator of all existence, and then “the head of the body, the church.” We dare not, therefore, think slightly of this title, nor do we hesitate to assert that any levity with regard to it would be as disgraceful as the profane use of any other name of our divine Lord. For any mortal to assume it to himself, we conceive would be equal in blasphemy to the assumption of the mediatorial office; and we should be no more shocked to hear a man claim to be “the creator of all things,” than we are now when a mortal is designated, “head of the church.”

     What is the church? The word signifies an assembly. The church of Jesus Christ is an assembly of faithful men, the whole company of God’s chosen, and called out ones, the entire community of true followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Wherever true believers are, there is a part of the church; wherever such men are not, whatever organisation may be in existence, there is no church of Jesus Christ. The church is no corporation of priests, or confederacy of unconverted men, it is the assembly of those whose names are written in heaven. Any assembly of faithful men is a church. The aggregate of all these assemblies of faithful men make up the one church which Jesus Christ hath redeemed with his most precious blood, and of which he is the sole and only Head. Part of that church is in heaven, triumphant, part on earth, militant, but these differences of place make no division as to real unity; there is but one church above, beneath. Time creates no separation, the church is always one — one church of the apostles, one church of the reformers, one church of the first century, one church of the latter days, and of this one only church Jesus Christ is the one only Head.

     I. WHAT IS MEANT BY OUR LORD S HEADSHIP OF THE CHURCH? That shall be very briefly our first subject of thought.

     We understand this headship to be the representation of the church as a body. We speak of counting heads, meaning thereby persons; the head represents the whole body. God has been pleased to deal with mankind as a community, and his great covenant transactions have been with men in a body, and not with separate individuals. That is to say, at the first creation God did not so much deal with each particular person of the human race, as with the whole race represented in one man, namely, the first Adam. It was so ordained that the race should be bound up in his loins, to stand if he stood, to fall if he fell. Hence, my brethren, the fall , hence original sin, hence the sorrows of this life. In order to salvation, which, perhaps, was only possible because we did not fall singly (for the devils falling singly and separately are reserved without hope of mercy unto everlasting fire), God instituted a second federation, of which Jesus Christ is the Head. The apostle calls him the second Adam. He is the Head of that company of mankind who are his chosen, his redeemed, who are known in this world by being led to believe in him, and are ultimately gathered into his rest. Now, Jesus Christ stands to his church in the same position as Adam stood to his posterity. They are chosen in him, accepted in him, and preserved in him: “Saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation.” As his own words declare it, “Because I live, ye shall live also.” In the following chapters of the epistle before us, the apostle shows that the saints are buried with Jesus, risen with him, and quickened with him. Even more explicit is he in the fifth of the Romans, where the headship of Adam and of Jesus are compared and contrasted.

     Our Lord is Head in a mystical sense, explained in Colossians ii. 19: “The Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.” The head is to the body indispensable to life; it is the seat of mental life, the temple of the soul; even so Jesus Christ is the vitalising Head of all his people. “He is our life.” “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” The life of every member of the mystical body depends upon the life of the mystical Head. Through Jesus Christ every living child of God derives his spiritual life. Not one true member of the church lives by a life of his own. “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” Separation from Christ is spiritual death, “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered.” The head mystically is not merely the source of life and the seat of sensation, but it is the throne of supreme government. It is from the brain that the mandate is issued which uplifts the hand or bids it fall by the side. Man walks or speaks, or sleeps, or rises from his couch, according to the dictate of that mysterious royal something which finds a place for itself within the head. Thus in the true church of God, Jesus Christ is the great directing Head; from him the only binding commands go forth; to him all the really spiritual yield a cheerful homage. His members delight to do the will of their Head. The whole fabric of the church actuated by his life, being filled with his Spirit, most readily concedes to him that in all things he shall have the pre-eminence. In proportion as Christians are truly united to Jesus they are perfectly governed by him, and it is only because of the old nature which abideth in separation from Christ that believers offend and transgress. In so far as they are spiritual men, so far doth Jesus rule them as the head governeth all the members of the body. The head is also the glory of the body. There the chief beauty of manhood dwells. The divine image is best seen in the countenance; the face is the distinguishing glory of man. Man holds his head erect; his countenance is not turned towards the earth like the beast, it glows with intelligence, it is the index of an immortal mind. Beauty chooses as her favoured seat the features of the countenance; majesty and tenderness, wisdom and love, courage and compassion, here hang out their ensigns; all the graces choose the head as their favoured dwelling-place. In this sense right well is our Lord saluted as the “Head.” He is fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into his lips. In Jesus Christ all the beauty of the church is summed up. What were all his church without him? A carcase, a ghastly corpse, bereft of all its glory, because divided from its head. What were all the good, and great, and excellent men who have ever lived without Christ? So many ciphers upon a writing table — they count for to nothing give them until their Lord, as the great unit, is put before them to give them power and value; then indeed they swell to a mighty sum, but without him they are less than nothing and vanity. An uncomely thing would be the church of God if she were not comely with the comeliness which Jesus imparts to her? His head is as the most fine gold, his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars; he is the chief among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely — glorious is that body of which he is the crown and excellence. Well may the church be called the fairest among women, when her Head thus excelleth all the beauties of earth and heaven.

     Another figure which is used to describe the headship of Christ to the church is the conjugal. As the Lord made Eve out of the flesh of Adam, so hath he taken the church out of the side of Christ Jesus, and she is of him as Eve was of Adam — she is of his flesh and of his bones. A mysterious union has been established between Christ and his church, which is constantly compared to that of marriage: “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.” Jesus is the bridegroom; his church is his bride. They are espoused one to another; in bonds of love they are bound for ever to each other; and they are alike with sacred expectation waiting for the marriage-day, when shall be accomplished the eternal purpose of God and the desire of the Redeemer. As the husband exercises a headship in the house, not at all (when the relationship is rightly carried out) tyrannical or magisterial, but a government founded upon the rule of nature and endorsed by the consent of love, even so Jesus Christ ruleth in his church, not as a despotic lord, compelling and constraining his subject bride against her will, but as a husband well beloved, obtaining obedience voluntarily from the heart of the beloved one, being in all things so admired and had in esteem as to win an undisputed pre-eminence. Such conjugal headship is illustrated by the word of God in the old prophecy, “Thou shalt call me Ishi , and shalt call me no more Baali.” Baali and Ishi both mean lord , but the sense differs; the one is a mere ruler, the other a beloved husband. Jesus Christ’s kingdom is no tyranny; his sceptre is not made of iron; he rules not with blows and curses, and threats, but his sceptre is of silver and his rule is love. The only chains he uses are the chains of his constraining grace; his dominion is spiritual, and extends over willing hearts who delight to bow before him and to give him the honour due unto his name. These, I think, are the senses in which this word “headship” is used, but there remains one other, these former all qualifying this last, upon which I intend to dwell at some length this morning.

     Christ is the Head of his church as King in Zion. In the midst of the church of God the supreme government is vested in the person of Christ. “One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren.” The church is the kingdom of God among men. It is purely spiritual, comprehending only spiritual men, and existing only for spiritual objects. And who is its King? None but Jesus. We can truly say, as they did of old, who proclaimed the kingship of the Crucified, “We have another King, one Jesus.” To him the assemblies of the saints pay all regal honour, and at his throne the entire church boweth itself, saluting him as Master and Lord. To no other do we render spiritual obeisance. Christ only and solely is King upon Zion's hill, set there by eternal decree, maintained in that position by infinite power, and appointed to remain upon the throne till every enemy shall be made his footstool. I wish I had eloquence this morning, that I might bear worthy witness to the crown-rights of King Jesus in his church, for I know no subject which it is more necessary to insist upon in these eventful times. Let Jesus be owned as the only Head of the church, and the way out of the present political debate which agitates our nation is clear enough. Ignorance of this truth blinds many, and makes them labour with all their heart for a bad cause, under the notion that they are doing God service. To know this truth is to hold a most weighty trust, with which we must not trifle. Martyrs have bled for this truth, Scotland’s heather has been stained in ten thousand places, and her waters have been dyed crimson for the defence of this weighty doctrine. Let us not be slow with unshaken courage to declare yet again that kings and princes and parliaments have no lawful jurisdiction over the church of Jesus Christ, that it beseems not the best of monarchs to claim those royal prerogatives which God has given to his only begotten Son. Jesus alone is the Head of his spiritual kingdom, the church; and all others who come within her pale to exercise power are but usurpers and Antichrist, and not for one moment to be respected in their usurped authority by the true church of the living God. Some churches have not learned this lesson, but are held in leash like dogs by their masters; they crouch down at the feet of the state to eat the crumbs which fall from Mammon’s table; and if they are cuffed and beaten by the powers that be, well do they deserve it; and I would almost pray that the whip may fall upon them yet more heavily, till they learn to appreciate liberty, and are willing to take off the dog collar of the State, and be free from human domination. If they lose a little wealth, they will win the solid gold of God’s own favour, and the abiding power of his Spirit, which they cannot expect to have while they are traitors to King Jesus, and own not the sole and only headship of Immanuel in the church.

     II. We shall now, therefore, in the second place, come to look a little into this headship of Jesus Christ in a regal sense, as to WHAT IT IMPLIES.

     Since Christ is the Head of his body, the church, he alone can determine doctrines for her. Nothing is to be received as divinely warranted except it cometh with his stamp upon it. It is nothing, my brethren, to the faithful servant of Jesus Christ that a certain dogma comes down to him with the grey antiquity of the ages to make it venerable. Like a sensible man, the Christian respects antiquity, but like a loyal subject of his King, he does not so bow before antiquity as to let it become ruler in Zion instead of the living Christ. A multitude of good men may meet together, and they may, in their judgment, propound a dogma, and assert it to be essential and undoubted, and they may even threaten perils most abundant to those who receive not their verdict; but if the dogma was not authorised long before they decided it — if it was not written in the Book, the decision of the learned council amounts to nothing. All the fathers, arid doctors, and divines, and confessors, put together, cannot add a word to the faith once delivered unto the saints: yea, I venture to say, that the unanimous assent of all the saints in heaven and earth would not suffice to make a single doctrine binding upon conscience unless Jesus had so determined. In vain do men say, “So did the early church” — the early church has no supremacy over us. It is to no purpose to quote Origen or Augustine: quote the inspired apostles, and the doctrine is established, but not otherwise. In the church of God it is never sufficient to say, “So thinks Martin Luther.” Who was Martin Luther? A servant of Jesus Christ, and nothing more. It is not sufficient to say, “So teacheth John Calvin,” for who is John Calvin? Hath he shed his blood for you, or is he your master? His opinion is to be respected as the opinion of your fellow servant, but in no respect as a doctor or authoritative teacher in the church — for Christ alone is Rabbi, and we are to call no man Master upon earth. Suppose I have received a truth from the very man who was the means of my conversion; I am bound, in candour and affection, to give all respect to him because of the relationship which exists between us, but I must take heed lest this decline into idolatry, and I myself become nothing more than a receiver of truth as the word of man, instead of accepting it as the word of God. I am, therefore, in the most candid manner, but none the less solicitously, to bring to the test every truth which I have received, whether from my father or mother, or my minister, or from some great man of olden times, whose name I have learned to respect; seeking all the while light from above to direct me aright. Nothing is doctrine to the church of God — nothing which has not been taught in the Scriptures. To Christians it is nothing to say that certain doctrines are taught in books of common prayer, or of conference discipline, or of systematic theology; to us it is of small account that either Presbytery, or the Episcopacy, or Independency, have put their stamp upon a certain form of teaching. Authority is no more to us than the snap of a man’s finger, unless the truth thus commended derives certainty from the testimony of Jesus Christ himself, who is the Head of his body the church.

     So next, since he is the Head, he only can legislate as to the church. In a state, if any knot of persons should profess to make laws for the kingdom, they would be laughed at; and if they should for a moment attempt to enforce their own rules and regulations in defiance of the laws of the country, they would be amenable to punishment. Now the church of God hath no power whatever to make laws for herself, since she is not her own head ; and no one has any right to make laws for her, for no one is her head but Christ. Christ alone is the law-maker of the church, and no rule or regulation in the Christian church standeth for anything unless in its spirit at least it hath the mind of Christ to support and back it up. Such-and-such a thing has been thought to be right in the church, and therefore it has been laid down, and made prescriptive; the tradition of the fathers has established a certain custom the custom. What then? Why this — that if we can distinctly see that the custom and prescription are not according to the tenor of holy Scripture, and the spirit of Christ, neither of them are anything to us. But what if the custom be supported by all the good men of every age? I say that matters nought if the Lord hath not taught it. Our conscience is not to be bound. If a law were backed up by fifty thousand times as many as all the saints, it would have no authority upon the conscience even of the weakest Christian if not laid down by our King himself; and the violation of such a commandment of men would be no sin, but might indeed become a Christian duty in order to let men see that we are not the servants of men , but the servants of Jesus Christ the Lord. In spiritual things it is of the utmost importance to keep this fact clear, that nonconformity is only sinful when it refuses to conform to the will of Christ; and conformity itself is a great sin when it obeys a rule which is not of the Lord’s ordaining. When we meet together in church-meeting we cannot make laws for the Lord’s kingdom; we dare not attempt it. Such necessary regulations as may be made for carrying out our Lord’s commands, to meet for worship, and to proclaim the gospel, are commendable, because they are acts needful to obedience to his highest laws; but even these minor details are not tolerable if they clearly violate the spirit and mind of Jesus Christ. He has rather given us spiritual guidances than legal rubrics and fettering liturgies, and he has left us at liberty to follow the directions of his own free Spirit; but if we make a regulation, thinking it to be very wise, if it be contrary to the Spirit of our Lord, the rule is itself evil, and is not to be borne with; in such a case the church has trenched upon the rights of her Head, and has done what she ought not to have done; she has, in effect, snatched from his hand the sceptre, and set up a schism. Law-making in the church was finished in that day when the curse was pronounced on him who should take from or add to the word of God. Christ alone is the legislator of his church — none but he.

     But I go further, and venture to say that Christ is not only the legislator of the church, and has left to us his Statute-book, sufficient to guide us in every dilemma, but he is also the living administrator in the church. He is not here, it is true, but as monarchs often administrate through lieutenants, so the Lord Jesus administereth through his ever living Spirit, who dwells in the hearts of his people. You are not to think of Christ as of one who is dead and buried. If he were here on earth I suppose nobody would claim to be the head of the church but himself. His presence would at once overawe every pretender; and now, though he is not here in person, yet he is not dead. He liveth, he sitteth on the throne prepared for him at the right hand of the Father. In spirit he is here. “Lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” And what must the true Head of the church think when he sees another put up into his throne, and impiously called by his title! What must the living Head moving in the midst of the church feel in regard to such a blasphemous intrusion as that? He, the Holy Ghost, is the Vicegerent of Christ, the representative of the absent Son of Man. But how does this Spirit administrate the laws of God? I answer, through his people, for the Holy Ghost dwells in true believers; and when they meet together as the Lord’s servants, and ask his guidance humbly, they may expect to have it — and opening the Statute-book and seeing plain directions as to their course of action, they may be quite sure that what they do has their Master’s sanction. If they look first of all for the direction in their Lord’s Law-book, and next seek to be instructed as to its meaning by the Holy Spirit, though they be many minds, they shall be led as one man to choose that course of action which shall be after the mind of Christ. Acting humbly and obediently, not on their own authority, but in the authority of Jesus Christ, who by his Spirit still rules in his church, believers practically show Christ still to be the only Head of his church as to actual administration as well as to legislation.

     The sole authority of Jesus Christ in all respects must be maintained rigorously, but churches are very apt to be guided by something else. Some would have us guided by results. We have heard a discussion upon the question whether or no we should continue missionary operations, since there are so few converted! How can the question ever be raised while the Master’s orders run thus — “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature”? Spoken by the mouth of Jesus our ruler, that command stands good, and the results of missions can have no effect upon loyal minds either one way or the other as to their prosecution. If from this day for the next ten thousand years not a single soul should be converted to God by foreign missions, if there still remained a church of Christ, it would be her duty with increasing vigour to thrust her sons forward into the mission field; because her duty is not measured by the result, but by the imperial authority of Christ. Equally so the church is not to be regulated by the times. We are told by some that this age requires a different kind of preaching from that of a hundred years ago; and that two hundred years ago, in the Puritanic times, doctrines were suitable which are exploded now; the minister must keep abreast of the age; this is a thoughtful and philosophic period, and the preacher must therefore philosophise, and bring forth his own thinking rather than “mere declamation,” which is the learned name for a plain declaration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. But, sirs, it is not so; our King is the same, and the doctrines he has given us have not been changed by his authority, nor the rules he has laid down reversed by his proclamation; he is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever; let the times be polished or uncouth, let them become philosophical or sink into barbarism, our duty will be still the same, in solemn loyalty to Jesus Christ, to know nothing among men save Jesus Christ and him crucified. But the discoveries of science, we are told, have materially affected belief, and therefore we should change our ways according as philosophy changes. No, it must not so be. This is a stumbling stone and a rock of offence against which he who stumbleth shall be broken. We have the same King still, the same laws still, the same teaching of the word still, and we are to deliver this teaching after the same sort and in the same spirit. Semper idem must be our motto — always the same, always keeping close to Jesus Christ and glorifying him, for he and not the times, not the philosophy and not the wit of man, must rule and govern the church of God. If we shall do this, if any church shall do this, namely, take its truth from Jesus’ lips, live according to Jesus’ word, and go forward in his name, such a church cannot by any possibility fail, for the failure of such a church would be the failure of the Master’s own authority. Brethren, he has told us if we keep his commandments, we shall abide in his love. He will be with us always, even to the end of the world, and he has given to his church his Holy Spirit according to the fulness of those words which he uttered when he breathed on his apostles, “Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosoever sins ye retain, they are retained;” so that a church acting for Christ, with his authority denouncing the judgments of God upon sin, shall find those judgments follow; and opening the treasure-house of God's mercy to those who seek Jesus Christ by faith, those treasures shall be freely given according to the church’s declaration, which she made in her Master’s name. Go in her own name, and she faileth; go in her Lord’s name, and she succeedeth. Take with her his sign manual, walk in obedience to his Statute-book, and deliver herself from the lordship of men, and the church’s history shall be written in some such lines as these, “Fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.”

     I have in these words, I am afraid, rather confusedly stated what I believe Scripture teacheth with regard to the headship of Christ, namely, that he is the only teacher of doctrine, the only maker of spiritual laws, that he is the living administrator of the laws of his own spiritual kingdom, and therefore that no authority is to be yielded unto the church, but that of Christ; and when we have that authority, and are obedient to it, we need entertain no fear as to the result.

     III. Thirdly, ON WHAT DOES THIS HEADSHIP REST? Very briefly, it rests on the natural supremacy of Christ’s nature. Who could behead but Jesus? For he is perfect man, which we are not. He is the first-born among many brethren, and we are but the younger and weaker. He is God over all, blessed for ever and ever. Surely, none but he should be king in Zion, since there is no part of the church which is divine except its glorious Head. The headship of Christ is the inevitable and necessary result of his work. Hear how his members sing —

“Thou hast redeemed our souls with blood,
Hast set the prisoners free;
Hast made us kings and priests to God,
And we shall reign with thee.”

     Who could be head but he to whom such praise can be awarded? He has washed us in his blood — he must be Head. He has loved us from before the foundation of the world, he must be chief. His right hand and his holy arm hath gotten him the victory — let him be crowned King of kings and Lord of lords. That wine-press wherein he trod his enemies alone, till his garments were dyed with blood, was the guarantee to him that he should sit on his Father’s throne and reign for ever and ever.

     Moreover, the decree of God has decided this beyond dispute. Read the second Psalm, and learn that when the kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers took counsel together against the Lord and against his anointed, the Lord sitting in the heavens laughed at their conspiracy, and scorned the gathering of his foes, “Yet,” saith he, “have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the Lord hath saith unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” How gloriously the promise reads: “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” It is part of the eternal purpose which constituted the church that Christ should be made its Head; and if there be a church of the living God, it is also inevitable that of that church Christ should be the sole Head. Moreover, brethren, and but once more, is not our Lord the Head of the church by universal acclamation and consent of all the members of that church? We have never set up a rival candidate; no heart renewed by his grace can desire any other king.

“Let him be crowned with majesty
Who bow’d his head to death;
And be his honours sounded high
By all things that have breath.”

     Rivals in his blood-bought dominion? Rivals against the Son of David! Let them be swept away as the smoke; let them be as driven stubble to his bow! King Jesus! All hail! Long live the King! Bring forth the royal diadem! See you not how the angels crown him? Hark ye not to the songs of cherubim and seraphim, “For thou art worthy, thou art worthy to take the book, and loose the seven seals thereof”? Hear ye not the everlasting chant of those who have overcome through his blood, “Thou art worthy, thou art worthy, for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us unto God by thy blood”? while the church on earth joins in the selfsame solemn canticle, “Crown him, crown him, crown him Lord of all, for worthy is the Lamb that was slain.” By the supremacy of his nature, by the necessity of his accomplished work, by the decree of the Father, by the universal assent of all the bloodwashed, he is the only Head of his own church.

     IV. What then, brethren, WHAT THEN DOES THIS CONDEMN?

     What does it condemn? It condemns the villanous pretence of a Papal headship. Forsooth, a priest at Rome is the head of the church of Jesus Christ! Well, if the Pope be head of the church — if he be so — then see what, according to Scripture, he is. This Pio Nono is this — he is the head of the body, the church “ who is the beginning.” There was nothing, then, before this aforesaid Pius IX.? “The first-born from the dead!” does he claim to have risen from the dead? “That in all things he might have the pre-eminence” is this also the old Italian’s right? “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;” blasphemy dares not apply this to the tottering prince whose exchequer needs replenishing with Peter’s pence. Yet this is the description of the person who is the Head of the church, and, if Pius IX. be not all that, he is no head of the church. But perhaps he is the second head? Then Christ’s church is a monstrous being with two heads. They may make it out to be three one day, perhaps, and then we will call the thing Cerberus, and helldog, and we shall not be far off from the true idea of Popery. Nay, but he is the delegated head. What for? Why should Christ delegate authority which he can wield himself? But we need a delegation, for Christ is absent. But the Holy Spirit is that delegation, and is here. Of all the dreams that ever deluded men , and probably of all blasphemies that ever were uttered, there has never been one which is more absurd and which is more fruitful in all manner of mischief than the idea that the Bishop of Rome can be the head of the church of Jesus Christ. No; these popes die, and are not; and how could the church live if its head were dead? The true Head ever liveth, and the church ever liveth in him.

     But it is affirmed that there must needs be a visible headship, and just now we are told every day that we must choose in church matters between the headship of the monarch of England and the headship of the pope at Rome. I beg the gentlemen’s pardon, we have no such choice, for when we are asked which we will have to rule us in spiritual things, we say, “Neither — neither for a single moment.” We make no bones about the matter, kings and queens are no heads of the church to us. We will no more brook spiritual domination from an English premier than from a Romish pope; we are equally opposed to both — all human headship must go down. To our well beloved queen all honour and reverence as to one of the best of rulers in civil affairs, but in spiritual affairs in the church of Christ she has no ruling power; what she may have in the church of England is another question. To us it makes no matter whether it be man or woman, whether it be prince or priest, we will have neither czar, emperor, queen, pope, seraph or angel, to reign in the church of Jesus Christ. The church hath no lawful governor or supreme Lord but Jesus Christ himself. Our Lord, as it seems to me, puts this so plainly in the word, that I marvel men who believe in the Bible should think the state could be at the head of the church. The state-church party have placed a Bible with a crown and a sceptre upon their bills! It is suggestive that the Bible is closed, for if Englishmen were once to read it, it would be fatal to the cause which now claims it, since one of the truths they would read would be this, “My kingdom is not of this world;” and they would hear Christ say, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s” — that is, yield all civil obedience to the civil authority, “but unto God the things that are God’s.” Leave the Lord to rule in the kingdom of mind and spirit, and let Caesar keep his kingdom of civil government; let the state do its work and never interfere with the church, and let the church do her work and never interfere with, or be interfered with, by the state. The two kingdoms are separate and distinct. Broad lines of demarcation are always drawn, throughout the whole of the New Testament, between the spiritual and the temporal power, and the mischief is when men cannot see this. Christ is the head of the church, not any one who represents the state. Brethren, just think for a minute what mischief this doctrine of the headship of the state has done. Time was when men could hardly be parish beadles, without coming to take the Sacrament at the established church. Oh! the multiplied hypocrisies which were perpetrated every day by graceless men who came to qualify themselves for office by taking the emblems of our holy faith when they knew not Christ! Such things are more or less inevitable to the system. Think, again, what persecutions have risen out of this error. You cannot put any sect into a position of ascendancy but it falls into persecution; all sects have persecuted in turn when so tempted. There is not a pin to choose between one and the other, except, as I sometimes say, the Baptists have never persecuted, because they have never had an opportunity; but I will not insist even upon that. It is in human nature to do ill when the civil arm is ready to crush conscience, and therefore Christ has taken the temptation out of the way, and put it out of the possibility of his people, if they keep close to his rule, so much as to touch the carnal weapon. The weapons of their warfare, he tells them, are not carnal but spiritual, and therefore mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.

     What a degradation to the church of Christ to think of having any other head but Christ! Ah! brethren, if the monarch were the most holy and godly person that ever lived, I should tremble for him exceedingly that such a person should in any sense be styled the head of the church. How could such a person pray? How could a poor sinner — and such the best man still is— come before Christ and pray to him and say, “Lord, thou knowest I am the head of thy church”? It seems to me to be such an atrocious claim, such a horrible profanity! I would not, for twice ten thousand worlds, touch that title with so much as the tip of my finger, if I hoped to be saved. I dare not expose my friend, or even my enemy, to the awful risk he must run in assuming such a title. I judge no one, God forbid I should; but if I saw in this world a man absolutely perfect, full of divine knowledge and light, and I were asked by him, “Shall I assume that title?” I should go down on my knees and say, “For God’s sake, and for your own soul’s sake, touch it not, for how can you, with your light, and knowledge, and love to Christ, take from him one of his grandest names?” But what shall I say when the monarch is the opposite? And such cases have occurred. I need not take you far back in history. The name of George IV. has no remarkable odour of sanctity about it; and the same may be said of Charles II. — I never heard historians say that he was eminent in godliness. But yet these men were heads of the church! I shudder at being compelled to remember such an infamous fact. Men, whose character is not to be thought of without a blush on the cheek of modesty, were heads of the church of Jesus Christ! God have mercy on this land for having fallen so low as this, for I know not that heathen countries have ever blasphemed God more than we have done in allowing heartless debauchers to take upon themselves the name of “head of the church of Christ.” No, my brethren, this cannot be endured by us in any church with which we commune; we repudiate it; we shake off the abomination as Paul shook off the viper from his hand into the fire. The same rebuke is due to that which has been tolerated in many churches, namely, the headship of great religious teachers. Sometimes great teachers while yet alive have been practically regarded as the supreme arbiters of the church. Their will was law, apart from the Book; their decree stood fast, apart from the Scripture. All this was evil. There are certain churches at this day which reverence extremely the names of dead men. “The Fathers” — are they not by some thought to be as great as the apostles? and the names of John Wesley, and John Calvin, and others, I fear very often occupy the place which belongs to Jesus Christ. Let every church of Jesus Christ now declare that she follows not men but obeys her Master alone.

     Mark you, brethren, the truth which I have brought out somewhat strongly equally applies to the church itself, for the church is not her own head, she has no right to act upon her own judgment, apart from the statutes of her King; she must come to the Book — everything is there for her. She has no right to use her own judgment apart from the Master. She must go to the Master. She is a servant, and the Master is supreme. The church’s power is twofold. It is a power to testify to the world what Christ has revealed. She is set as a witness, and she must act as such. She has, next, a ministerial power, by which she carries out the will of Christ, and doeth his bidding as Christ’s servant and minister. A certain number of servants meet in the servants’ hall; they have an order given to do such work, and they have also orders given them how to do it. They then consult with each other as to the minor details, how they can best observe the master’s rule and do his bidding. They are perfectly right in so doing. But suppose they began to consult about whether the objects proposed by the master were good, or whether the rules which he had laid down might not be altered! They would at once become rebellious, and be in danger of discharge. So a church met together to consult how to carry out the Master’s will, how to enforce his laws, does rightly; but a church meeting to make new laws, or a church meeting to rule according to its own judgment and opinion, imagining that its decision will have weight, has made a mistake, and placed itself in a false position. The one doctrine which I have sought to bring forward is this, that he alone who bought the church, and saved the church, is to rule the church; and surely our hearts, without exception, bow to this.

     V. But if SO, WHAT IS THE LESSON WHICH IT TEACHES TO EACH ONE HERE?   

     Does not it make each of you enquire, “If the entire church is thus to yield obedience to Christ, and to no one else, am I yielding such obedience? I claim to be a Christian, but am I a Christian of that prejudiced sort who follow that which they are brought up to, and so acknowledge the rules of mothers and fathers instead of the rule of Christ? Have I brought what I avow to be truth to the touchstone of Scripture? Did I ever spend a quarter of an hour in weighing my cherished opinions?” I am afraid the great mass of Christians have never done this, but have sucked in their religion with their mother’s milk, and nothing further.

     Again, if I be a Christian, am I in the habit of judging what I ought to do by my own whims and wishes, or do I judge by the Statute-book of the King? Many say they do not like this and do not like that, as if that had anything to do with it! What are your likes and dislikes? You are a servant, and bound to give up your own will to the Master. If Christ gives a command, which you imagine to be hard because it does not chime in with your love of ease — my brother, will you not, as a servant of the Master, put your whims aside and endeavour to follow him? Oh, it is a blessed life to lead, to be no longer the servant of men and of self, but to go to Christ daily in prayer, and say, “What I know not, teach thou me.” Then you may laugh at Satan’s rage, and face a frowning world, for the Master will never leave those who cleave to him. If a man loves the testimonies and commandments of the Most High, Cod shall be his buckler, his shield, and his high tower; but if he turns aside to his own imaginings, his fall shall be certain. The Lord keep the church in this matter, and her day of victory shall soon come. May Christ be her only Head, and her triumph draweth near. I can see the morning breaking; yonder are the first streaks of light upon the sky: the Master is coining because the church begins to own him — and then shall her happy days begin, and the days of her mourning shall be ended for ever and ever.



Sins of Omission

By / Oct 25

Sins of Omission

 
“Yet they obeyed not, nor inclined their ear, but walked every one in the imagination of their evil heart: therefore I will bring upon them all the words of this covenant, which I command them to do; but they did them not.” — Jeremiah 11:8.

 

JEREMIAH was commissioned of God to bring a solemn accusation against rebellious Israel, and he commences by solemnly mentioning their sins of omission. Observe that neglect of the divine command is the charge brought in the text. In the next verses, the prophet goes on to mention their sins of commission, but he very properly gives the first place to their shortcomings in positive service; he reminds them of what they had not done which they ought to have done, and how constantly and persistently they had refused to render active obedience to the righteous will of the Most High. Brethren, it is well for us to have our sins brought to our remembrance. This morning we may spend a little time most profitably by looking into the glass of Holy Scripture to discover the spots upon our countenances. Perhaps some of you whose sins have never been forgiven, because you have never sought to have them pardoned, never having been sufficiently conscious of the danger in which they placed you, may be by the Holy Spirit this morning convinced of sin, and led to Jesus. While I shall be trying to speak of your great omissions, perhaps conscience may be at work, and the Holy Spirit may work through conscience, so that you may be led to repentance, and to faith, and through faith to salvation, “‘Twere a consummation devoutly to be wished.” Others here who have been pardoned, who rejoice every day in the perfect forgiveness which they have found at the foot of Christ’s cross will, nevertheless, be benefited by being reminded of their sins, for thus they will be humbled, thus they will be led to prize more the great atoning sacrifice, thus they will be driven again to renew the simplicity of their faith as they look to him on whom Jehovah made to meet the iniquities of all his people. God grant that also, for his name’s sake.

     I shall, this morning, take rather the spirit of the text than the words of it. The subject will be, Sins of omission.

     I. First, I would call your attention to THE GREAT COMMONNESS OF THESE, to their commonness in the wide world, to their frequency in our own circle of society, and to each man, to each woman, would I say, to their abundance in thine own heart.

     Here be it observed at the outset, that in a certain sense, all offences against the law of God come under the head of sins of omission, for in every sin of commission there is an omission — an omission, at least, of that godly fear which would have prevented disobedience. Our Lord has told us that the whole law is summarised in these two commands: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with -all thine heart, and thy neighbour as thyself.” Since, then, every sin must be a breach of this all-comprehensive law, every sin must, from a certain aspect, be a sin of omission. Consider, then, how multitudinous have been your omissions and mine! Have we loved the Lord our God with all our heart? Perhaps you have omitted to love him at all. You who have loved him have omitted to love him with “all your heart;” and if at any time you have loved with “all your heart,” yet you have omitted to continue in this. There have been flaggings and intermissions, and every omission of obedience becomes a distinct act of disobedience to the Most High. We have not served him with “all our mind,” any more than with all our heart; that is to say, we have not yielded up our understanding to his infinite wisdom and authority. We have even dared to re-judge his judgments, and to repine against his providences. We have not surrendered our wills to his will, but have desired things contrary to his purpose and to his truth. Neither has our strength been entirely devoted to his service. We have not done unto thee, Creator and Preserver, at all according to the benefits which we have received. Take the first four commands which make up the first table, and what sins of omission have all committed there! We have omitted to make God the chief, the first, the foremost, the only lord of our spirit; but we have too often had other gods before him. We have omitted to treat his name with the reverence which he demands; and if we have not committed profanity or blasphemy, yet that name has not always been hallowed by us as it should have been. As for his day, it has not always been sacredly guarded as a day of mental as well as bodily rest; but we have done servile work in our minds, if not with our hands, by our many cares and fretfulnesses, and so have failed to honour our God with the joyful worship which he deserves. Think, dear friends, especially you who know God, and rejoice in him, how ill you have treated the Father of your spirits! He deserved, since he has bought you with the blood of his dear Son, to be served with an all-consuming earnestness. He rightly claims the cream of our thoughts, the best of our meditations; and that our souls should always be diligent in his service; but alas! we have been sluggards and idlers; we have not spoken well of his name; we have not sounded abroad his glory; we have not been obedient to his will; we are unprofitable servants; we have not done what it was our duty to have done towards our God.

     The other portion of the law, our Saviour tells us, is contained in these words, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Which of us has done that? We must plead guilty even before we come to details. Take the command as it stands, and there is no man of woman born who shall dare to say that he has been perfect in this. Especially let me remind you of those sins of omission which daily occur in our various relationships. We have oftentimes omitted to act lovingly towards our neighbour; we have failed to do the kind thing towards the sick and the poor in relieving them; the right thing towards the ignorant in seeking their instruction. I am afraid that many of us have the blood of our neighbours upon our skirts, because we have left them in ignorance, and have not told them the gospel; and if they die in their sin they might well with their dying breath upbraid us that, having the light, we have not carried it to them. You cannot, I think, look out of your window and say, “I am clear concerning all those who abide around me. I have to the utmost of my ability done for them what I shall wish to have done when I come to die.” Brethren and sisters, have you not fallen into sins of omission against your own children? They have grown up now, some of them: did you for them in matters towards God do as you could wish now that you had done? Or your little ones are around about you: are you sure that you are always doing everything that God would have you do to train them up in his fear? Are there no omissions in the household? For my own part, I dare not think of my relationships towards this church, towards the world, towards other churches of Jesus Christ, towards my own household, without the blush and the tear. Brethren, our sins of omission are not to be numbered. Their number grows as we examine ourselves, till they are more in number than the hairs of our head; and if we had to be justified by our own works, we dare not look up, but must bow our head as guilty culprits, and submit to the sentence of God.

     Look at sins of omission in another light. How many there are who have omitted yet to perform the first and all essential gospel commands! Wherever the gospel goes it cries, “Repent, and be converted,” and yet again, “Repent, and be baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus,” and yet again, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Now, I will not speak of the neglect of baptism, though the mass of the church and the world have renounced baptism, and have adopted a ceremony of their own invention; but I will the rather speak to you of the neglect of repentance, for many of you in this house have been urged again and again to repent and consider your iniquities, but you have refused the sacred counsel. There was, indeed, room enough for repentance, and cause enough for a change of mind; but, though you have heard the arguments for penitence, your heart still remains hard towards God, and no true sorrow for sin is found within your spirit. How often have these lips declared to you that faith in Jesus Christ is both your duty and your privilege, that it alone can save you! yet, that faith you have neither sought nor desired: you know in theory what saving faith means; you could explain to others what it is to believe in Jesus, and yet you remain hearers of the word and not doers of it, deceiving your own souls. Throughout this huge city of ours, dense masses of men know the gospel, but obey it not; they have heard it, or might hear it if they would, but they have not obeyed the gospel — as Isaiah saith, it has been a hardening to them, and not a gracious means of renewal. O unbelievers, the want of faith is a sin of omission which will sink you to the lowest hell; this is the damning sin of all, and above all others fills the gates of hell, that men believe not on Jesus Christ, but love darkness rather than light.

     Again, what sins of omission cluster round religious duties! A large proportion of our fellow citizens neglect altogether the outward worship of God. God forgive them, and send a change in the manners of the people by which the houses of prayer shall be thronged. Alas! it is not with these we need to deal just now, if we would find sins of neg – lect. Are there not with you, my hearers, even with you, sins against the Lord our God? What omissions we are guilty of as to prayer! How some live as if there were no God, or as if atheistic views had bewitched them ! From morning to night multitudes forget the Most High, and call not on his name; and if perchance they do remember to bow the knee in outward supplication, how few really adore their Maker! How lax in devotion are the most of us! How ready to be excused from communion with God! How short we make our prayers, and how little of our hearts do we throw into them! And that Bible, as it lies open before us, how, with silent but solemn eloquence, it accuses us! Can you look at it, my hearers, without shame? Unread is that book from day to day, while the ephemeral newspaper, the mere record of the flying hour and its trivialities, is read with eagerness, to the neglect of the great things of God’s law. Truly, we cannot even look around upon the place where we assemble for worship without our omissions accusing us; for when we have been here we have not set our thoughts upon God, we have not sung his praises with heart music. When the time of prayer has come, our thoughts have been gadding hither and thither after vanity. Brethren and sisters, whatever part of religious worship comes under review, we must confess that we have left undone the things which we ought to have done. And so take the whole stretch of human life, from the cradle to grey old age. We failed to honour our parents in our youth; we have been slow in honouring God throughout our manhood; and at the close of life the same omission in different forms may be charged upon us. God deserveth of us that we should serve him, that we should to the utmost of our abilities contribute to the revenue of his glory; but our talents have been wrapped in a napkin; our service has been given to self; we have lived to please ourselves, or to win our fellow creatures’ applause, while our blessed God has had only the dregs of our thoughts, the remnants of our time, the refuse of our actions.

     The roll of our omissions is very long, and if it were read by a tender conscience it would seem black with multiplied lamentations. Who among us, apart from the atonement, can endure the thought that God recordeth all our failures of duty as well as our actual transgressions? Who, I say, could dare to look up if it were not for those streaming wounds of that blessed Son of God who has blotted out our iniquities, and washed away our scarlet stains? Our omissions frown upon us and thunder at us; they lie upon the horizon of memory like masses of storm-clouds accumulating for a horrible tempest: none of us dare turn our eye in that direction until first we have seen the Lord’s appointed propitiation, and found our rest in him.

     II. Brethren, I call you to a second thought, what is THE CAUSE OF THIS EXCESSIVE MULTIPLICITY OF SINS OF OMISSION?

     Of course, my brethren, the great cause lies in our evil hearts. That we do not bring forth fruit unto God is because our depraved nature is barren towards him. Man is by nature dead in sin — and how can the dead in sin perform actions which betoken spiritual life? Can we expect to gather grapes or figs from withered trees? “Ye must be born again,” and until this inward change, this thorough regeneration of our nature has been accomplished, we remain barren and unprofitable and unaccepted of God. Want of the new nature is the great root of the matter in the ungodly, and the absence of anew heart and aright spirit; and men will never obey the Lord’s commands till the Holy Spirit takes away the heart of stone, and gives them the heart of flesh. May the Lord do that for you, 0 ye unsaved ones, and his shall be the praise. I suspect that the unnoticed superabundance of sins of omission may result also from the fact that the conscience of man is not well alive to) sins of omission. If any of you had committed theft, he would most likely feel much ashamed. If another had fallen into an act of unchastity, it would probably stick in his conscience for awhile, unless indeed habit had rendered him callous to it; but while conscience will chastise most men for direct acts of wrong, it is not in every case sufficiently alive to rebuke us for so much as one in ten of our omissions; and, indeed, even our memory wilfully refuses to file the record of duties left undone. Yet, beloved, there is as much sin in not loving God as in lusting after evil; there is as much rebellion in not obeying God as in breaking his commands. Measure for measure, put into the scales together, it may even happen that a sin of omission may turn out to be more sinful than one of commission; for a sin of omission argues a state of mind sinful and corrupt, while a sin of commission may be only occasioned by the violence of a temptation, while after all the soul is at heart right with God. Those sins of ours which we have never confessed or noticed, which have slipped away with the hours, and have gone as a dream, are recorded in the book of God; and in the day when unforgiven sinners with awakened consciences, shall be made to hear that book read out before an assembled universe, woe unto them, woe unto them, that they refused to be obedient to the Lord.

     No doubt, sins of omission are also multiplied through indolence. Some men have not enough force of character in them to be downright wicked; they are mere chips in the porridge, with nothing of manhood in them. They are so idle that they are not even good enough to be diligent servants of Satan. There be some who would if they could, I think, lie in bed and rot of slothfulness, to whom it would be their supremest bliss for ever to have nothing to do, and nothing to think of, except it may be a little eating and drinking by way of variety. Because this indolence abounds, many men sleep on and awake not to righteousness and to the service of God. To repent is troublesome; to believe in Jesus Christ -requires the exercise of thought; to be a Christian is too laborious; to watch your conduct and conversation is too much to require of them. If heaven could be reached in a sound sleep, and sleeping cars could be run all the way to the Celestial City, they would be among the best of pilgrims; but they cannot rub their eyes even to see Jesus, or leave their couch to win heaven itself. How will these simpletons wake up one day when they find that their life of trifling has brought them within the fast closed gates of hell! God is not to be trifled with. He does not make immortal beings that they may sport like butterflies from flower to flower. He does not create souls and give them lives to spend in child’s play, fashionable frivolities, and killing of time. Yet in the face of eternity, life, death, heaven, and hell, multitudes upon multitudes are ruined simply because they neglect the great salvation, and are absolutely too idle to concern themselves about eternal matters. They doze into damnation, they sleep into eternal fire! But what a waking! O my fellow men, run not the risk, run not the risk!

     Ignorance, too, is a more excusable and, perhaps, less fruitful cause of sins of omission, but still a prominent one. Some men neglect to serve God because they do not know his word, his mind, and his gospel; but with many the ignorance is wilful. In every land the subject is supposed to know the law; and though our magistrates very rightly are often lenient to prisoners who commit the first offence against a new law, yet such leniency lasts only for a case or two; and if, after the law bad been made for years, a prisoner pleaded that he did not know a law, he would be told that he ought to have known it. Especially is this the case with us who have the law here in the Bible, and who have it moreover written upon our consciences, so that when we sin we sin not as the heathen do, but sin against light and knowledge. If a man sinneth through ignorance, he is so far excusable as the ignorance is excusable, but no further; and, in this country, an ignorance of Christ, an ignorance of gospel duties, an ignorance of the law of God, is without excuse, since in almost every street Jesus Christ is preached, and the word of God is within every man’s reach, and if he be but willing and desirous to know the mind of God, he may soon discover it. Yet, I doubt not, ignorance, in many, many cases, willing, witting ignorance, doth cause many sins of omission.

     Sins of omission, again, are very plentiful, because men excuse themselves so readily about them by the pretence of a more convenient season. “I have not repented,” says one, “but then I mean to do so. I have not believed, but I shall do so ere long. It is true I neglected prayer to-day, but then I intend, by-and-by, to give myself to supplication.” So that men imagine that God is to be served by them at their own times and seasons. He is to wait until it pleases them to do his bidding; and when they have a more convenient season, then will they hearken to his word and to his Spirit again. Ah! but, sirs, the excuse of some future improvement is pitiful — it holds no water; for we are always bound to serve God at once, and the postponement of service is the perpetuation of rebellion.

     Many neglectors of God’s will excuse themselves by the prevalence of the like conduct. To omit to love and serve the Lord is the custom of the majority. Wherever custom endorses a good thing, then it becomes unfashionable as well as sinful to break through the rule, and there are thousands of people who would sooner be wicked than be unfashionable; but when a right thing is not commonly observed in society, men straightway begin to think that it is not necessary, and so they leave it undone. As if a prisoner brought before the bench should say, “It is true I am a thief, but then all the people in the court where I live are thieves too, therefore I ought not to be punished. It is true, sir, that I could not keep my hands from picking and stealing, but then none of my family ever could. They were brought up to it, and you would not have a man forsake the customs of his father and mother: my father and mother were professional thieves, therefore I cannot be blamed for their example.” But enlightened conscience warns us that custom is no excuse for sin. To your own Master each one of you will stand or fall ; and, sirs, however graceless may be the parish in which you live, you have not to account for the parish, but for yourselves; and however covetous may be the times in which your lot is cast, you are not accountable for the times, but for yourselves; and I charge you, in the name of God, let not custom ever be an excuse to your soul for sin, for custom will be no plea at the bar of God, nor will the multitude of those who are lost be any alleviation to your pain when you, too, are cast away with them into outer darkness.

     Need I multiply reasons for the commonness of sins of omission? They grow on every plot of waste land in our hearts, and their seeds are carried everywhere, as the down of the thistle, and are many as the seed of the poppy.

     III. I come now, in the third place, to say a few words by way of setting forth THE SINFULNESS OF SINS OF OMISSION.

     I wish I had the power to speak upon this subject as I would, for I long to see broken hearts among us, convinced of their innumerable shortcomings. Broken hearts are God’s sacrifices. There are some among us who complain that they cannot believe in Jesus because they do not feel their need. I only wish they might be made to feel their need while, this morning, they are reminded of what they have left undone. Now, I pray the Holy Ghost to make you feel the guilt of omissions as they are seen in the following light.

     Consider for a moment what would be the consequences if God were to omit for one minute to supply you with breath, if the Lord should omit for a second to supply you with life! Suppose the infinite God should omit his longsuffering mercy for an hour! Suppose he should refuse for an hour to restrain the axe of judgment, where were you then? Suppose that the great preserver of all should make but one day’s intermission of goodness in his dealings with the universe? The sun would forbear to shine; the air would fail to fill the lungs; life would forget to be; the world cease to exist; and the whole universe subside into the nothingness from which it sprang. One moment’s forgetfulness on God’s part would be annihilation to all his creatures. Suppose that Jesus had left an omission in the plan of salvation? If only one part of our salvation had been left unfinished, then all must be for ever accursed; then must you put your hands upon your loins this morning, and go up and down through this hopeless world in desperate sorrow, saying one to the other, “There is no hope; salvation is unfinished, and consequently unavailable; the Saviour omitted one needful item, and none of us can therefore be saved.” If you will digest these two thoughts, you may, perhaps, taste the blessedness which lies in neglect of needful things.

     Omissions cannot be trivial, if we only reflect what an influence they would have upon an ordinary commonwealth, if they were perpetrated there as they are in God’s commonwealth. Think a minute, if one person has a right to omit his duty, another has, and all have. Then the watchman would omit to guard the house, the policeman would omit to arrest the thief, the judge would omit to sentence the offender, the sheriff would omit to punish the culprit, the government would omit to carry out its laws; then every occupation would cease, and the world die of stagnation; the merchant would omit to attend to his calling, the husbandman would omit to plough his land: where would the commonwealth be? The kingdom would be out of joint; the machine would break down, for no cog of the wheels would act upon its fellow. How would societies of men exist at all? And surely if this is not to be tolerated in a society of men, much less in that great commonwealth of which God is the king, in which angels and glorified spirits are the peers, and all creatures citizens? How can the Lord tolerate that here there should be an omission, and there an omission, in defiance of his authority? As the judge of all the earth, he must bring down his strong right hand upon these omissions, and crush out for ever the spirit that would thus revolt against his will.

     Think yourself for a minute of how you would judge of omissions towards yourselves. You have said to yourself, “So long as I do not drink or swear, or curse, or lie, or steal, it is a small matter that I neglect to be devout towards God.” Now listen. There is your servant: he has never stolen your goods, he has never set your house on fire, he has never held a pistol to your ear, and yet you have discharged him. Why? Why, you say, because the fellow neglects everything about the house. I do not find that any command which I give him is carried out. He must be master or I must; and if he will not do what I tell him, of what service is he? Let him go his way.” That is how you judge your servant, is it? And is God to let you neglect his service and yet to suffer you to go unpunished? Take a soldier in the army; to commit an act of mutiny it is not necessary for the soldier to fix his bayonet and kill his colonel; but when he is ordered out on guard, he can just stop at home, or when the battle rages he may, if he choose, just ground his arms, and say, “No, I am not going out to fight;” who could tolerate such mutiny — how could it be allowed? The omission is as vicious as the commission. Your child the other day smarted beneath the rod, and why? He had not lied or pilfered. There was no direct vicious act; but you had told him to go on an errand, and he had refused to go; and when you told him again and again (and remember God has commanded you a great many more times than you ever told your child), there he stood in stolid obstinacy and would not move, and then very rightly he was made to feel that such things could not be permitted in your household. Now if in our house we cannot tolerate this from a child, much more shall the great Father not endure these obstinate omissions from us. “Ah! but,” you say, “I have not omitted towards God to go to church or to meeting regularly. I have not omitted the form of singing and prayer, and so on. All I have omitted is the spiritual matter, I have not loved him.” And suppose, dear friends, suppose you have a wife, and the only thing that she has omitted is that she has omitted to love you, what do you think of that? Well, the house and domestic arrangements may show great cleanliness and order, but she is no wife to you if she has no love for you. The omission of love you feel to be a fatal one; and so that absence of love to God is such a dreadful absence, it is such a taking away of everything, that I only wish you could feel, you who have not loved him, how guilty you must have been.

     It may also help us, if we will consider for a moment, what God thinks of omissions. Saul was ordered to kill the Amalekites, and not to let one escape. He saved Agag and the best of the cattle, and for that, though he had positively done nothing but simply stayed his hand and refused to do so, the Lord said, “I have put thee away from being King over Israel.” Ahab was commanded to kill and slay Benhadad, on account of innumerable cruelties. Benhadad was taken captive, but Ahab treated him with great leniency, and the result was, “Because thou hast let this man go, therefore thy life shall be for his life.” Nonobedience ruined Ahab. Our Lord Jesus Christ was the gentlest of all men, and yet there was one miracle which he performed which had a degree of vengeance in it; and what was that? He stood under a fig tree, and saw there leaves but no fruit, and he said, “Henceforth there shall be no fruit on thee for ever;” as if to show that fruitless things provoked his anger; not so much brambles which bear their thorns, but fig trees which ought to bear figs and do not. Remember, too, the parable which we read this morning in your hearing. The man with the one talent was condemned, if you will remember, and his condemnation was for this, not that he had squandered his Lord’s money, but that he had not increased it. So that in God’s opinion the not doing of good is sufficient to condemn men, even if they have not committed positive evil. When the Holy Spirit convinces men of sin, what is the special sin which he reveals? Of the sin of adultery? Of the sin of robbery? No, of an omission, “Of sin, because they believe not on me.” Omitting to believe in Jesus is the master sin of which the Holy Ghost convicts the world. Remember that solemn question of Paul when he says, “How shall we escape if we —” what? If we swear? If we frequent the tavern? No, “if we neglect so great salvation?” The life-long neglecting of salvation involving us in danger from which there is no escape.

     IV. Much more might be said, but time fails me, and therefore let me remind you very solemnly of what will be THE RESULT AND PUNISHMENT OF SINS OF OMISSION.

     Sins of omission will condemn us. Take the parable with which we closed our reading this morning: the king said to those on his left hand, “I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat ; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink.,, He did not say to them, “You were frequenters of evil houses, you were common drunkards, you were dishonest, you were fraudulent bankrupts, you were neglectors of the Sabbath, you were common profane swearers,” no, but “I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat.” It was the absence of virtue, rather than the presence of vice, which condemned them. “Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord.” “But, Lord, the man has no vice about him; he has not plunged himself into the kennel of open iniquity.” “Ah! but that suffices not; if there be not the positive fruits of the Spirit producing in him holiness of life, he shall not see the Lord.” O sirs, let none of us deceive ourselves. God will not accept our profession of religion because it simply keeps us chaste and decorous, and makes us civil to our neighbours: we must have wrought in us by the Holy Ghost, a righteousness better than that of the Scribes and Pharisees, or we shall by no means enter into the kingdom. There must be wrought in us as a work of grace, a deep abhorrence of sin, an earnest clinging to purity, a resolute pursuit of everything that is peaceful, and lovely, and of good repute, or else let us prate as we may we shall have no inheritance in the kingdom of God. I preach not salvation by works in any sense or degree, or shape, or form, but salvation by grace alone; yet still I hear in my ears the echo of the Baptist’s words, “Now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” Not only the tree that brings forth bad fruit is burned, but the tree which is barren and unprofitable is hewn down and cast into the fire. If we bring not forth the fruits of true saving faith, we may be sure that such faith is not in our possession.

     Sins of omission not only bring condemnation, but if persevered in they effectually shut against us the possibilities of pardon. I mean that sins of omission against the gospel deprive us of gospel privileges. “He that believeth not” — is there pardon for him? “He that believeth not” — is there rescue for him? No; he “is condemned already, because he hath not believed on the Son of God.” He that repenteth not — will grace reach him? Will the mercy of God blot out sins that are unrepented of? Nay: not so. As long as we cling to sin, sin will cling to us, as the leprosy did to the house of Gehazi. God forgiveth all sins through Jesus Christ, and he is willing to forgive the vilest of us if we come to him, trusting alone in Jesus; but if we have no faith in Jesus Christ it is not possible for us to receive from the Lord the forgiveness of sins which he promises only to those who believe in Jesus. In the marriage-feast of which we read in the gospels, there were many who would not come, and they perished because they would not come. They are not charged with having actually committed anything wrong, but they perished for not coming. There was one who came into the feast, but he had not on a wedding-garment. I do not read that he had put on rags, or had decorated himself with anything offensive to the master of the house; but he had failed to put on the wedding garment; that was the deadly sin. And what was the sentence? “Bind him hand and foot, and deliver him to the tormentors.” So I could not charge some of you to-day with anything outwardly contrary to morality, but, O sirs, if you have not — mart that point — put on the righteousness of Jesus Christ by a living faith in him, the tormentors must have you at the last. O that this truth might sink into your ears and into your hearts! There is pardon for all omission to be found in the flowing wounds of Jesus. There is life in a look at Him. Over the heads of these multiplied shortcomings, God’s mercy will come to believers. But, oh! remain not in your unbelief. May the Holy Spirit by his own mighty power give you now to repent and now to believe, and yours shall be the salvation, and God’s the glory, world without end. Amen.



All these Things—A Sermon with Three Texts

By / Oct 18

All these Things – A Sermon with Three Texts

 

“And Jacob their father said unto them, Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me.” — Genesis 42:36.

 

THE patriarch must needs use the expression, “ALL THESE THINGS. He had gone through the catalogue: there were but three items at the most, and yet nothing narrower than “All these things are against me” will suit him. Our notation of our trials is very apt to present them in exaggerated number, but when we come to count our mercies, as a usual rule our tendency is to diminish them. We magnify the hosts of our troubles, and under-estimate the armies of our benefits. It were well if it were not so, for the habit is most painful to ourselves and dishonourable to God. “All these things,” indeed! And what a little “all” compared with the benefits of God! What an insignificant “all” compared with the sufferings of our covenant Head! What a trifling “all” compared with the amazing weight of glory which shall soon be revealed in us! However, allowing the timorous expression to stand, it shall be my business this morning to show that while, according to the verdict of unbelief, “all these things are against us,” yet there are other lights in which to look upon the multitude of our griefs — lights which shall enable us to perceive their benefit to us, and even to triumph in them through him that loved us.

     I. Our first text is THE EXCLAMATION OF UNBELIEF: “All these things are against me.”

     In Jacob’s case it was a very plausible verdict. Joseph he had long lost sight of; Simeon did not return from the journey into Egypt; his sons now requested that Benjamin might be entrusted to their thriftless care; and it might well appear to the anxious father as if one by one his children were sinking into untimely graves, and that God was dealing severely with him. Even the insinuation by which he ascribed these bereavements to the malice or carelessness of his sons, “Me ye have bereaved of my children,” had an air of great likelihood thrown around it. Yet plausible as was the old man’s mournful conclusion, it was not correct; and hence let us learn to forbear rash judgment, and never in any case conclude against the faithfulness of the Lord. There may' be peculiarities in our case which look as if the Master had treated us with the harshness of a cruel one. There may be thorns of unusual sharpness in our pillow, but we must not dream that anger placed them there. We may be pining under a grief which we could not tell into another’s ear, but which makes our lot appear to be singled out and separated for peculiar misery, and hence it may seem just to conclude, “God hath forsaken me; he hath turned upon me in his fierce anger, and his lovingkindnesses have failed for evermore;” but rest assured, my brethren, that the most plausible is not always the most true, and the most natural is not the most sure. God is and ever must be love to his people; let nothing disturb you in this belief: believe not the clearest inferences from his providence, but believe him, let outward circumstances say what they may. Even if your understanding should lead you to doubt the Lord, remember that God is greater than your understanding, that his ways are past finding out, and in the end his dispensations must prove to be wise, loving, and gracious. Yet I can well imagine that souls in distress feel it almost ungenerous to dispute the verdict at which they have arrived, for the evidence appears to be so multiplied and clear. Sitting alone, silent in your sorrow, crushed out of all hope, you claim the unhappy right to declare, “All these things are against me;” and yet, beloved, it is not so.

     Jacob’s exclamation was most evidently exaggerated — exaggerated in the term he used, “All these things,” for there were but three evils at the most; exaggerated, too, in most of the statements. He said, “Simeon is not.” Now, his sons had told him that the ruler of the land of Egypt had taken Simeon and bound him before their eyes, but they gave him no reason to believe that Simeon was put to death. The old man jumps to a conclusion for which he has no warrant, and laments because “Simeon is not.” He added, “Ye would take Benjamin away.” Yes, but only to go into Egypt to buy corn; a short and needed journey from which he would soon return. You would suppose, from the patriarch’s language, that beyond all doubt, Simeon had fallen a victim in Egypt, and that Benjamin was demanded with a view to his instant execution; but where was evidence to support this assertion? We frequently talk of our sorrows in language larger than the truth would warrant. We write ourselves down as peers in the realms of misery, whereas we do but bear the common burdens of ordinary men. We dream that no others have ever passed along our rugged path, whereas the road is hard with the footsteps of the flock. We imagine that the furnace has been heated seven times hotter for us, whereas, compared with martyrs, and the afflicted in all ages, and especially compared with our Master, it is probable that our griefs are of the lighter kind.

     The exclamation of Jacob was also as bitter as it was exaggerated. It lead him to make a speech which (however accidentally true), with his information as to his sons, was ungenerous, and even worse. He said, “Me ye have bereaved of my children.” Now, if he really believed that Joseph was torn of beasts, as he appears to have done, he had no right to assail the brethren with a charge of murder; for it was little else.

     In the case of Simeon, the brethren were perfectly innocent; they had nothing whatever to do with Simeon’s being bound,, it was wrong to accuse them so harshly. In the taking away of Benjamin, though there may have been a jealousy against him as aforetime against Joseph, yet most certainly the brethren were not to blame. They told their father most correctly the message which the lord of Egypt had sent to him. It was Joseph who had said, “If ye bring not your younger brother with you, by the life of Pharaoh ye shall not see my face again.” That was no invention of theirs, and it was unjust on the part of the old patriarch to cast over his sons, who probably loved him much, and were anxious for his welfare, an accusation little short of a charge of triple murder. “Me ye have bereaved of my children.” Oh, cruel words! Brethren, when our griefs are heavy, we are apt to accuse our fellows, to be wrath with the secondary causes of our suffering, and to say things which ought not to be said by the followers of the meek and lowly Jesus. A dog will bite the stick with which you smite him; if he had sense he would see how little the secondary cause has to do with it; and so we oftentimes are provoked against the person through whom we are troubled, whereas, after all, the rod is wielded by the hand of God, and there is the true source of affliction. If you drink of the river of affliction near its outfall, it is brackish and offensive to the taste, but if you will trace it to its source, where it rises at the foot of the throne of God, you will find its waters to be sweet and health-giving. Even the waters of affliction when they are tasted at the well-head are sweet with divine love, but if you follow them along the miry channels of secondary causes and instrumentalities, you will perceive a bitterness in them creating envy, malice, and all uncharitableness within you. Jacob was, in the expression before us, even bitter towards God. There is not a word like submission in the sentence, nothing of resignation, nothing of confidence. He knew very well that all things came from God, and, in effect, he declares that God is in all these things fighting against him. God forbid that these tongues, which owe their power to speak to the great God, should ever pervert their powers to slandering him; and yet if our tongues have not spoken unbelievingly, how often our hearts have done so! We have said, “Why has God dealt thus with me? Why are his strokes so multiplied? and why are my wounds so blue? Oh, wherefore am I thus chastised? Why doth he put cross upon cross upon my galled shoulders, and crush me into the dust with heaviness of sorrow?” Peace, child of God, peace. Thy Father loves thee — love thou him in return, and let thy love assure thee that it is not possible for him to measure out to thee a drachm of sorrow more than is needed, nor a grain of bitterness more than thy soul absolutely requires for its spiritual health. The exclamation, then, of Jacob was sadly bitter, both towards God and man; if it had not been for unbelief it had never dishonoured his lips. Observe that this speech was rather carnal than spiritual. You see more of human affections than of grace wrought faith; more of the calculator than the believer; more of Jacob than of Israel. Jacob is more the man and less the man of God than we might have expected him to have been. See how he dwells upon his bereavements! “Joseph,” that dear name, as it brought up the beloved Rachel before his mind, wrung the old man’s heart. “Joseph is not.” Alas! that wound was still bleeding. Then “Simeon is not;” the wreckless, daring, valorous Simeon, is fallen in the stranger’s land. Then, worst of all, Benjamin, the dear name intertwined with the saddest of his funerals — the mother’s Ben-oni and the father’s “Benjamin:” the last and dearest must be taken away. You see it is the father all through — the loving parent thinking only of his children, the natural affections predominating; but you see nothing here of the grandeur of faith, nothing of the nobility of Job, when he said, “The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; and blessed be the name of the Lord.” Here we meet with no such question as that of the patriarch of Uz: “Shall we receive good at the hand of the Lord? and shall we not also receive evil?” But Jacob acts like a wavward child, vexed and out of temper, crying against its father; he manifests a petulant spirit, tempted by the natural promptings of the flesh to rebel against God. For awhile the work of the Spirit was beclouded and eclipsed in that venerable man of God; and so, brethren, we also must set ourselves upon our watch-tower, lest by any means we suffer even the allowable affections of the flesh to overshadow our spirit and dim the lustre of the work of grace. Jesus wept, and therefore we may weep: sorrow is licensed by the Redeemer’s example. Our Lord was no Stoic, and he would not have his people restrain natural emotion. We are bound to sorrow when we are afflicted and chastened of the Lord. But though Jesus wept, he did not murmur; though he sorrowed, yet he did not repine; there is a bound beyond which our mourning must not pass. Jacob might well have said, “ Joseph is not, Simeon is a prisoner, and Benjamin is to be taken away from me: the cup is bitter, and if it be possible, 0 Lord, let it pass from me ; nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done;” and then he might have burst into a flood of tears, and there would have been no sin in it all, but much of sacred tenderness ; but he went too far, for his natural affections, instead of taking their proper place, usurped the place in which faith should have sat supreme. He did not merely give his feelings vent, but mastery; he not only wept, but salted his tears with murmuring; and this was an evil thing.

     Notice, dear brethren, in the case before us, the patriarch’s unbelieving observation was quite unwarranted by his past history. He had been a man of troubles from his youth up. He fled from his father’s house to be an exile; he laid himself down with a stone for his pillow, and the hedges for his curtains, but with the angels for his watchers; and did he find the solitude of Luz and the desolation of that lonely place to be against him? Ah! no, he dreamed that matchless dream in which a ladder was set between earth and heaven, and the covenant God appeared to him and made a covenant with him, and sent him on his way rejoicing. Could Jacob think of Bethel, and yet say, “All these things are against me”? And when afterwards, more memorable still, he came back with his wives and those very children over whom he now grieves, did not Jehovah preserve him? Could he forget Peniel, and the place where he wrestled and prevailed at the brook Jabbok? An infuriated brother, with a band of four hundred men sworn to take his life, was come to destroy him; and a brother justly incensed, against whom he had done a great wrong, was then close upon him to smite the mother with the children: did Jacob then find that all things were against him? Did not Esau fall upon his neck and kiss him? Did not God deliver his servant? And so again at Shechem, when the nations of the land would have avenged the blood of the Shechemites who had been so treacherously slain by his sons, the Lord bade them touch not his anointed, and do his prophet no harm, and Jacob walked in safety among tribes a thirst for blood. Thus looking back upon the past, and recollecting the covenant which God had made with him, it was not consistent that Jacob should speak as he did. It was congruous with the past to have said, “Out of this difficulty I shall arise, for the Lord is with me.” It was consistent with his past experience for him to have commanded his sons, “Whatsoever the Lord doeth let us accept it at his hands, for he hath not forsaken us in the past, neither will he desert us in days to come.” That would have been faith. But oh! how often you and I forget the steps already trod, and all the mercies which attended them, and fear that God will forsake us and become our enemy. The Ebenezers which we have raised, do they count for nothing? His love in times past, has that no argument in it for the present and for the future? Will we not say with David, “Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice”? He has been with us in ten troubles; can we not trust him for the eleventh? We went through fire and water, men did ride over our heads, yet he brought us out into a wealthy place, and set our feet in a large room, and can we not rely upon him now that new difficulties obstruct our path? Yes, beloved, we will learn from the past, for the lesson of our experience is that the Lord has not forsaken them that trust in him, and they that wait upon him shall never be ashamed or confounded, world without end.

     Still keeping to Jacob’s exclamation, let me observe that it was altogether erroneous. Not a syllable that he spoke was absolutely true. “Joseph is not.” And yet, poor Jacob, Joseph is. Thou thinkest the beasts have devoured him, but he is ruler over all the land of Egypt, and thou shalt kiss his cheeks ere long. “Simeon is not wrong again, good father, for Simeon is alive, though for his good, to cool his hot and headlong spirit Joseph has laid him by the heels a little. He had been much too furious in killing the Shechemites, and in other deeds of blood, and Joseph knows this, and is doing his brother a service that may change his character through life by keeping him a little while in ward. And as to Benjamin, whom thou sayest they wish to take away, he is to go and see his brother Joseph, who longs to embrace him, and will return him to thee in peace. Not one of all these things is against thee. Joseph is sent to Egypt to feed thee in the famine, and to cherish thee in thy old age, so as to make thy last days thy best days, and to keep the house of Israel, and, in fact, all the nations of the earth, alive. As for Simeon, good cometh out of that, and that is not against thee; and as for Benjamin, he shall be preserved to thee, and thou, too, shalt go down and dwell in the land and rejoice exceedingly. Everything is for thee. Now, usually, our unbelief is a great liar. Our best things are reckoned by unbelief to be our worst. God sends his mercies to us in black envelopes, and we sit down crying over their dismal covering, and dare not open the letter and read the heavenly news written within. The Lord sends his blessings in rumbling wagons, and we are so frightened at the sound as almost to lose the choice contents. Well does the hymn put it: —

“Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.”

Our best days have been those which we thought our worst. Probably we are never so much in prosperity as when plunged in adversity. No summer days contribute so much to the healthy growth of our souls as those sharp wintry nights which are so trying to us. We fear that we are being destroyed, and our inner life is at that moment being most effectually preserved. Oh, if we read them aright, all things are for us. We are a thousand fools in one to be cavilling at the divine dispensation, and saying, “All these things are against me.” Jacob was wrong in every jot and tittle of what he said, and so usually are we.

     Being wrong in judgment, the good old man was led to unwise acting and speaking, for he said, “My son shall not go down with you.” He would not yield to his sons; he determined that Benjamin should not leave him. Simeon he seemed content to leave in prison, although he ought to have sent his sons back in the hope of bringing their poor brother out of bondage; and he ought to have been willing to run the risk of losing Benjamin rather than to have all the rest of his family die of starvation. But the old man resolutely sets his face, and perhaps stamps his foot, and tells them, “No; never with his consent should Benjamin be trusted with them;” and to this resolve he stands until they are nearly starving, and then he says, “If I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.” The unbelieving generally do stupid things. We conclude that God is against us, and then we act in such a way as to bring troubles upon ourselves which otherwise would not have come. To stand still and see the salvation of God is a grand position for a believing soul, but to run headlong, cloud or no cloud, guide or no guide, is to fall into the ditch, to lose ourselves in the dark woods, and to bring upon ourselves unnumbered ills. Let us take heed of unbelief, since it confuses the judgment and dishonours God.

     And notice, once more, that good old Jacob lived to find in actual experience that he had been wrong from beginning to end. We do not all live to see what fools we have been, but Jacob did. I wonder, when the wagons came, and he was quite sure they came from Joseph, what he thought of that speech, “All these things are against me!” And when he came to Egypt, and Joseph came to meet him, and they fell upon each other’s necks, I wonder whether it did not half choke him to think, “I once said, ‘all these things are against me!’” When the old soul went tottering about the land of Goshen, leaning on his staff, with his mind full of all the glory of his darling Joseph, enjoying a brilliant old age at last, when he saw day by day how Joseph was honoured, and how great he was, I think he must often have sought out a little corner to weep in, and to confess, “Lord, how wicked was I to say, ‘All these things are against me,’ when I have lived to see thee dealing with me with a Father’s tenderness, and with the wisdom and lovingkindness of a gracious God.” If we are not in this world permitted to see the good results of all our troubles, at any rate we shall behold them in the next; and if such things as tears of joy will be allowed on the other side of the river, some of us will shed abundance of them. Oh! if regrets might mingle there, how we shall regret that we rashly anticipated the results of divine action, and were so unwise as to misinterpret the Master’s mind. At any rate, we will string our harps to noble tunes, and this shall be the part of our celestial minstrelsy, “The Lord liveth, and blessed be our Rock who out of much tribulation hath brought his servants, and through their tribulation hath helped them to obtain the victory, and to enter into their eternal rest.” Thus much upon the exclamation of unbelief: higher themes await us.

     II. Turn now to the thirty-eighth chapter of Isaiah, and the sixteenth verse, where you have THE PHILOSOPHY OF EXPERIENCE.

“O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit.”

     Unbelief saith, “All these things are against me;” enlightened experience saith, “In all these things is the life of my spirit.” The passage is taken from the prayer of Hezekiah after he was raised from his sick bed. He describes the bitterness of his soul, and his chattering like the crane or the swallow, but he comes to the conclusion that all these trials and afflictions, and approaches to the gates of the grave, made up the life of mortal men, and that by them the life of their spirit is subserved. Beloved, this is a great and instructive truth. Our spirits, under God, live by passing through the sorrows of the present; for first, let me remind you, that by these trials and afflictions we live, because they are medicinal. There are spiritual diseases which would corrupt our spirit if not checked, kept down, and destroyed as to their reigning power by the daily cross which the Lord lays upon our shoulders. Just as the fever must be held in check by the bitter draught of quinine, so must the bitter cup of affliction rebuke our rising pride and worldliness. We should exalt ourselves above measure, and provoke the Lord to jealousy against us, were it not that trouble lays us low. None of us shall know until we read our biography in the light of heaven, from what inbred sins, foul corruptions, damnable uncleanliness, and detestable lusts we have been delivered, by being driven again and again along the fiery road of affliction. Adversities are the sharp knives with which God doth cut from us the deadly ulcers of our sins; these are the two-edged swords with which he slays our enemies and his own which lurk within us. He must prune us and trim us as the gardener his trees, otherwise we shall bring forth no fruit. Hence, by all these things which Jacob declared to be against him, we find the life of our spirit wisely protected.

     Afflictions, again, are stimulative. We are all apt to grow slothful. I know not whether it be so with all believers, but we of gross and bilious temperament find ourselves oppressed by the spirit of slumbering; but personal sickness, or relative grief (which is sharper still), or serious pecuniary losses, these things stir our sluggish blood, and make our hearts beat at a healthier rate. There is an old story in the Greek annals, of a soldier under Antigonus who had a disease about him, an extremely painful one, likely to bring him soon to the grave. Always first in the ranks was this soldier, and in the hottest part of the fray; he was always to be seen leading the van, the bravest of the brave, because his pain prompted him to fight that he might forget it; and he feared not death because he knew that in any case he had not long to live. Antigonus, who greatly admired the valour of his soldier, finding out that he suffered from a disease, had him cured by one of the most eminent physicians of the day, but alas! from that moment the warrior was absent from the front of the battle. He now sought his ease, for, as he remarked to his companions, he had something worth living for — health, home, family, and other comforts, and he would not risk his life now as aforetime. So when our troubles are many, we are made courageous in serving our God, we feel that we have nothing to live for in this world, and we are driven by hope of the world to come, to exhibit zeal, self-denial, and industry; but how often is it otherwise in better times? for then the joys and pleasures of this world make it hard for us to remember the world to come, and we sink into inglorious ease. Master, we thank thee for our griefs, for they have quickened us. We bless thee for winds and waves, for these have driven us away from treacherous shores. Before we were afflicted we went astray, but now have we kept thy word.

     Trials and troubles touch the life of our spirit because their endurance is strengthening. They have the same effect upon the spiritual man as athletic exercises upon the wrestlers of old. If men would win honour in the Greek games, they denied themselves all luxuries, and passed through severe ordeals, by which their sinews and muscles Were developed; and so the Lord puts his children through severe training that he may develop their manhood, that their patience may learn to endure hardness, that their faith may learn steadfastness. Rough winds root the oaks, so our afflictions confirm us in the promises of God. We had been babes for ever, and never have been able to walk alone, if the Lord had not put us on our feet and allowed us to fall again and again, but each time to rise stronger, acquiring the art of walking by our bruises and broken knees.

     Our troubles are a great educational process. We are at school now, and are not yet fully instructed. What little we know we scarcely know, and what we have learned is so little that we are most of us only in our A, B, C, yet; we cannot read words of one syllable, and it is right that we should continue at school till we be made meet to enter into the loftier company beyond the stars. Now, who learns so well anywhere as on the sick bed, or in the midst of tribulation? I tell you, sirs, there are days in a man’s life when he learns more in an hour than in seventy years of ease. I shall not give instances, but there have been such days to some of us of late, and may the Lord make us wiser thereby! Blessed is the man who is thus corrected and instructed; to whom the Master opens up the word, and the heart, and the promise, by fire-light shed from the furnace. The rod is a great teacher. I do not know whether boys always need the rod to make them learn, but I am sure men do; and some of us have skins so thick that we need be smitten every day. As David puts it, “All the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning,” as if he never begun the day without his whipping, and never passed through without a repetition of the scourging. We must take up our cross daily if we would be disciples of Jesus.

     So, too, trials and tribulations are the life of our spirit, because they are preparative for that higher life in which the spirit shall truly live. Jacob would hardly have been fit for the luxury of Egypt if he had not been trained by his griefs. That happy period before his death, in which he dwelt in perfect ease and peace, at the close of which, leaning upon his staff, he bore such a blessed testimony to the faithfulness of God— he would not have been fit to enjoy it, it would have been disastrous to him if he had not been prepared for it by the sorrows of Succoth. So we shall be made meet to be partakers in the inheritance in light by traversing the wilderness before reaching the promised land. This is the place for washing our robes — yonder is the place for wearing them; this is the place for tuning our harps, and discord is inevitable to that work; but yonder is the abode of unbroken harmony. We fret and grieve and vex ourselves to-day, but by-and-by we shall rest in happiness unbroken. Let us have courage; the end will more than repay us for the toil of the means, and the rest shall make up for the labour of the way. Be of good comfort, and instead henceforth of concluding that outward trials are against you, agree with Hezekiah in this wise sentence, “By these things men live.”

     Let me only detain you one minute, to ask you whether, in looking back upon your life, you are not compelled to feel that the best parts of your character have been produced in you by your troubles? Have not your noblest actions been wrought by you in adversity? You had not been to-day what you are, nor where you are, nor on the road to heaven as you now are, if you had not been afflicted. How much we owe to the anvil and the hammer! Would you alter your trials now if you could? You would have arranged your lot very differently sometime ago, but would you now? Even at this distance, too short to get the full perspective, and to understand it thoroughly, would you have your life changed? I know you say devoutly,” Goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life; every dark and bending line has met in the centre of immutable love.” Well, then, if it hath been so until now, do you think the Lord is about to change? Do you imagine that he gives his best first? Is it not always his rule to keep the best wine until the last! Oh, how it has cheered and comforted me of late to think that I have always found my God to be most good to me; and if possible, amid many sharp trials, he seems to have been better, and more kind and gracious to me of late than at the first; and so it shall be to the end. He cannot alter. He cannot deny himself. So let us sweep the furrows from our brow, and wipe the tears from our eyes. Jesus goes before us, and the Spirit is with us. All things shall not be against us, but in them all shall be the life of our spirit, and our lasting good shall be the outgrowth of all.

     III. I close with my third text, and I think you may almost guess it, it tells of THE TRIUMPH OF FAITH.

     Turn now to the eighth chapter of Romans, and the thirty-seventh verse.

“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”

     “All these things are against us.” Very well, we could not conquer them it they were not against us; but they are the life of our spirit — and as Samson found honey in the lion, so we, though these things roar upon us, shall find food within them. Trials threaten our death, but they promote our life. I want you to be sure to notice the uniform expression, “All these things are against us.” “In all these things is the life of my spirit,” and now, “In all these things we are more than conquerors.” The list is just as comprehensive in the best text as in the worst. Nay, poor Jacob’s “All these things” only referred to three; but look at Paul’s list: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword — the list is longer, darker, blacker, fiercer, sterner, but still we triumph — “In all these things we are more than conquerors.” Observe then, that the believing Christian enjoys present triumph over all his troubles. It is not, “We shall be more than conquerors,” but “We are” “We are to-day.” As afflictions come we conquer them, and before they come we overcome them. Over anticipated trouble faith wins a glorious victory. She believes that when trial comes it shall work her good, and so the bitterness thereof is gone for ever, swallowed up in victory. When the trial comes she meets it as a conquered enemy, and after it is over she looks upon it as what she did foreknow, for she counted it not a strange thing when the fiery trial overtook her. We are conquerors, brethren and sisters, at this very hour. We often talk of the crown which we are to wear, but we are kings and priests unto our God even now. He hath crowned us with lovingkindness and tender mercies. We say, “One day, thank God, I shall be able to rejoice in these troubles,” but faith rejoices in them now. We rejoice in deep distress, leaning on all-sufficient grace. To come out of the furnace and walk calmly is nothing, but to walk in the furnace with the Son of God, this is the miracle. To sing after you have left the bed of pain is nothing, but to sing God’s highest praises on the bed of sickness is the music that glorifies him, and by faith we mean to excel in it. It is no small thing to see the dearest one you have on earth smitten before you, and yet to bless the Lord; and when adversity comes, still to praise him; and when sickness follows, still to let the note rise higher; and when death draws near, to lift the song yet more on high, and be more exultant still. “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” I tell you the praise God receives from his poor bereaved or sick children is much sweeter than anything which ascends from angels, from cherubim and seraphim. Who would not praise the Master when he scatters liberally his daily favours? The devil found an opportunity for speaking against Job from that very thing. He said, “Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast thou not set a hedge about him and all that he hath? But put forth now thine hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.” And God is so pleased with the praise he gets from his children when their bone and flesh are touched, that he said, “He is in thine hand, only save his life.” What glorious music it was when Job said, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” It rolled up into Jehovah’s ear with a sweetness such as cherubim and seraphim never could have yielded. What a glorious conqueror Job was in the very midst of his worst griefs! It was not that he received twice as much as before — that was not the greatest triumph. The triumph was that while in adversity he said, “The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away, and blessed be the name of the Lord.” May we have such faith as that, to be now “in all these things more than conquerors.”

     What does Paul mean by saying that believers are more than conquerors? Is it not this, that with the conqueror there is a time when his triumph is in jeopardy? But it is never so with the believer; he grasps the victory at once by an act of faith. No “ifs,” “buts,” “peradventures,” for him. He is conqueror at once, for God is on his side. A conqueror, too, who wins by a battle, and suffers by the battle. He has to endure wounds, and toil, and faintness, but by all our troubles we are not sufferers but gainers. It is not merely the reward of the suffering which is good, but the suffering itself worketh patience, and patience experience. Brethren, if a wise Christian had his choice, he would not choose the silken joys of prosperity and uninterrupted happiness, because such a thing is poverty; but our sufferings and griefs, and losses, and crosses, bring with them inevitably through divine grace an abundant wealth. I hear some brethren rejoicing that perhaps the Lord will come, and that therefore they will not die. I would sooner die, had I my choice. I see no comfort in the hope of not dying. “They that are alive and remain shall not prevent them that are asleep,” they shall not have preference over them that die. And indeed it is written, “The dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” So that some kind of priority is even allotted to the dead in Christ. If I die not I shall have lost what thousands will have who die, namely, actual fellowship with Christ in the grave. Let me have it, let me have it, my sweet Lord; let me wear the clay-cold shape of death that once was thine, and sleep within the sepulchre as thou didst. To die and rise again, and be with thee for ever, is to complete the circle of the perfect. Those who think that to be alive when he cometh will be so great a glory, will perhaps find it no such great thing compared with death and resurrection in the likeness of the Lord Jesus. As the warrior of the olden time dreaded peace and longed for the garment rolled in blood; so may the believers rejoice in afflictions. As before the engagement the captain stimulates his soldiers by reminding them that “the sterner the warfare the greater the honour;” even so may we nerve our spirits. “Gentlemen in England now abed will think themselves accursed that they were not here, and hold their valour cheap that went not with us on this glorious day” — so spake the hero; and so let us also welcome persecution and tribulation. we should look upon ourselves as being so far impoverished for eternity in being spared affliction upon earth. Up yonder to relate the triumphs of grace in us; to tell of the faithfulness of God in poverty and affliction; to make known to principalities and powers for ever the wonderful and eternal love of God, as we have discovered it in the furnace and amidst the flames; this will be everlasting wealth, for which we may be grateful now that God is putting us in the way of gaining it. So that in these things we are more than conquerors, since to the conqueror it is a disadvantage to fight, but to us even the fight itself is an advantage over and above the victory.

     But see how this last text of mine opens up the great source of comfort. “We are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” Did you notice, Jacob said nothing about him that loved us? No, he could not have been unbelieving if he had thought of him; and the life of our spirit in trouble very much lies in remembering him that loved us. It is through him we conquer because he has conquered. Methinks I see him at this instant wearing the crown of thorns, his hands still ruby with the marks of the nails, and his heart all opened with the spear gash, and he saith to me and to his servants, “Children, I am with you. Ye are filling up in your bodies that which is behind of my sufferings for my body’s sake, which is the church. Be conformed to me. Ask patience, and I will give it you; ask the Spirit’s help, and you shall receive it; and after you have suffered awhile you shall be with me where I am, to behold my glory.” Brethren, here is our joy indeed. Now the furnace grows cool, for he is at our side. The lake of trouble tossed with tempest becomes a sheet of glass, for he walks the billows, and we hear him say, “It is I.” The winds are hushed, and the coolest, softest zephyrs fan our cheeks while yet again he saith, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.” “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” The Lord bless you, my tried brethren, in all these things, for his name’s sake. Amen.



Sown Light

By / Oct 11

Sown Light

 

“Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.” — Psa. 97:11.

 

THIS appears to be the doctrine of the entire Psalm, and the verse which follows, “Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous,” is intended to be the practical inference drawn from the whole of it. God would have his people believe that better times are in store for them, and, in the faith of the coming good, he would have them even now rejoice and be exceeding glad. If you will read the Psalm you will notice that every verse may give us some strengthening of our faith as to the future blessedness of those that fear the Lord. The first verse declares that “the Lord reigneth.” Shall so righteous a one sit upon the throne, and shall not those that fear him have their reward? If he be King, will he suffer his loyal subjects to endure damage? Will he not ultimately come to their rescue? The second verse tells us that “clouds and darkness are round about him,” and this explains why for the present the upright in heart may seem to be forgotten. God’s dispensations are not always clear. It is his glory to conceal a thing. He wraps himself about in mystery, for the brightness of his glory is dark with excessive light. If his way is unsearchable, and his design deep beyond human understanding, we need not be surprised if we find it so in the dispensations of his providence towards his people. But still, as the second verse tells us, “righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne we may be certain, therefore, that he will not be unrighteous to forget our work of faith and labour of love, and that in dealing out judgment, both to his saints and to the ungodly, he will neither forget to reward the first nor to condemn the second. The third verse, which describes the glory of the divine power as displayed in deeds of vengeance, when the enemies of God are burnt up by fire, goes to prove that he will with equal certainty reward his people, for he who is stern to punish, surely will not be unrighteous to forget the gracious service of his saints. If he has promised, he will be as certain to keep his promise as he has been to fulfil his threatening. He will not be true on the black side towards the undeserving, and then be false on the bright side towards those who are made meritorious Nos. through the righteousness of his dear Son. He who keeps the thunder, and by-and-by will launch it from his hand, also reserveth mercy for his chosen, and favour for his people. Indeed, the sixth verse declares that the very constitution of the universe proves this – that every star twinkling in the sphere proclaims the righteousness and wisdom of God, and therefore, since for him to be righteous is for his people ultimately to be blessed, we conclude that “light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.”

     With no other preface than this, I shall take you at once to this very singular text, dwelling first, upon the remarkable metaphor here used — sown light; and then, enlarging upon that metaphor, taking you to see the sowing; and thirdly, to survey and measure the field; and fourthly, to take an outlook upon the harvest in the future.

I. First, then, the metaphor is a rather singular one, and yet full of poetry— LIGHT IS SOWN. We can very soon catch the idea if we follow Milton in his speaking of the morning.

“Now morn, her rosy steps in th’ eastern clime
Advancing, sowed the earth with orient pearl.”

The sun, like a sower, scatters broadcast his beams of light upon the once dark earth. Look up at night upon the sky bespangled with stars, and it seemeth as though God scattered them like gold-dust upon the floor of heaven in picturesque irregularity, thereby sowing light. Or if you want a fact which comes nearer to the sowing of light literally than anything which our poets have written, think of our vast coal-beds which are literally so much sown light. The sun shone upon primeval forests, and the monstrous ferns grew and expanded under the quickening influence. They fell, as fall the leaves of chestnut and of oak in these autumns of our latter days, and there they lie stored deep down in the great cellars of nature for man’s use; so much sown light, I say, which springs up beneath the hand of man in harvests of flame, which flood our streets with light, and cheer our hearths with heat. Sown light, then, is neither unpoetical nor yet altogether unliteral. There is such a thing as a matter-of-fact, and we may use the expression rightly enough, without grotesqueness of metaphor. Understand then that happiness, joy, gladness, symbolised by light, have been sown by God in fields that will surely yield their harvest for all those whom by his grace he has made upright in heart. Sown light signifies, first, that light has been diffused. That which is sown is scattered. Before sowing, it was in the bag, or stored up in the granary, but the sowing scatters it along the furrows. There was happiness always in the mind of God. He is unspeakably blessed in himself. We cannot dissociate the idea of Godhead from that of infinite delight. But all this happiness was nothing to us; we could not reach it; God might have been infinitely blessed, but we might have been shut up in hell, gnawing our iron bonds in the desperation of unutterable agony. But in due time, according to the eternal purpose, God sowed happiness for his people, took it, as it were, out of himself, and cast it broadcast in the fields of his eternal purposes, and in the decrees of his divine providence, that there might be a harvest, not for himself, for he was happy enough, but for all those whom he gave to Christ, who are made righteous in his righteousness, and upright through his Spirit. Thank God, you who love Jesus and are resting upon his atonement, that God’s happiness is not kept to himself, but is diffused for you and the whole company of his elect; and that the pleasures which are at God’s right hand for evermore are not kept within their secret springs, but made to flow like a river; that you with all the blood-bought may drink thereof to the full.

     Seed that is sown is not in hand. After the husbandman has scattered his wheat he cannot say, “Here it is.” It is out of sight; gone from him. You may walk over the fields for the next few weeks and see no trace of it, and fools might say, “Ah! now so much wheat is gone from him; he is so much the poorer; he has it not.” So the gladness which belongs to the righteous is not to be regarded as a thing of the present. Their great store of pleasure is yet to come; it is light that is sown, not light that now gleams upon their eyes; it is a gladness that has been buried beneath the clods for a special purpose, not a gladness which is now spread upon the table as bread that has been baked in the oven. The believer’s greatest happiness is not like bread ready for food, it is seed buried by the sower. Brethren, let us remember that this world is not our rest.

“We look for a city that hands have not piled,
We seek for a country by sin undefiled.”

     To look for happiness here were to seek for the living among the dead. Christ is not here, for he hath risen; and our joy is not here, for our joy has risen with him. Seed sown then is not within sight; and the great bulk of the Christian’s happiness is not a thing of present enjoyment, not what he can see with the eyes, and hear with the ears, and touch with the hands; it is a matter of faith; it is not to be feasted on to-day, but for a purpose it is withheld until patience has had her perfect work, and seen her joy blossom and bud, and open and ripen under ‘the smile of the Lord her God.

     As seed sown is not visible, so it is not expected that it shall he seen or enjoyed to-morrow. “The husbandman waiteth for the precious fruits of the earth.” Only little children put their seeds into the ground and then turn up the mould to discover whether the seeds are growing on the morrow. It was said of the northern nations, near the pole, and said truthfully, that they sowed their barley in the morning and reaped it at night, because the sun goes not down for four months at a time; but in sober truth we must not expect to have the rewards of grace given to us immediately we believe. This is the time for running, not for tarrying to gaze upon the prize. This is the hour for the battle, not yet may we rest on our laurels. There must be a trial of our patience and our faith. God delights that his servants should be put through many exercises and ordeals, in order that the praise of the glory of his grace may be manifest in them and through them, to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. Wait, then, Christian; be content to wait. The Bridegroom cometh quickly; rest assured of that; and if you think he lingereth, ask for greater patience, that you may patiently work on, continuing steadfast and unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. Expect not your full reward of joy to-morrow; your lot is on the other side of Jordan; the bells of your wedding day shall ring out in another world, and your coronation will be received in the ivory palaces, upon which the sun hath never shone. You are espoused to a Husband who is not here; you look for a kingdom far above these changeful skies. Have patience, then, till the great hour shall come, and the King shall descend to take his own.

     But while seed sown is not in sight, and is not expected to be seen to-morrow, yet it is not lost. No one but a person without sense would say that the farmer has lost so much of his capital when he has cast it in the form of seed-corn into the furrows. Nay, sir, he reckons that he has gained when he has sown, for the seed in the granary was worth so much, but that in the furrow is worth so much more on account of the labour expended in the sowing. The husbandman counts it gain to have sown his corn. He has transferred his treasure from one bank into another. He does not reckon that any of it has been lost. So with the happiness of a Christian. We may to-day seem less happy than the gay worldling who flaunts himself in the sunlight of human approbation, but it is not a loss to renounce such inferior joys. The postponement of our joys, our waiting, our letting joy lay by at interest, our tarrying for a moment that our position may be the richer, when we come into our estate, is no loss. Joy self-denied is not lost. Lost, my brethren? Lost, the happiness of a single hour in which we have wept for sin! Lost, the happiness of a single moment in which we have suffered affliction for Christ’s sake, through persecution and slander! Nay, verily, it is put to our account, and the record of it remains in the eternal archives, against the day when the Judge of all the earth shall measure out the portions of his people.

     Corn sown is not lost, but is actually in possession still. If a farmer had to sell his field, he would of course ask much more for that in which the seed was sown than for one which was remaining fallow, because he counts that seed sown is still his own property. He cannot see it, but he knows it is there among those crumbling clods. He reckons that sown wheat, and puts it down in every inventory of his property. That seed which is under the soil is as certainly his as that which remains in the stack, or bound up in the sacks; and so you may reckon the joys of the hereafter as your own, and you ought so to reckon them; they are the best part of your estate; they are yours, though you do not enjoy them. Yours to-day the seraph’s wing and the angel’s harp, yours to-day the cherubic song and the bliss of the immortals, the presence of the Lord, and the vision of his face. Come, count upon the resurrection, it is yours; upon the glory that follows it. it is yours; upon the millennium with all its splendour, it is yours; upon eternity with its unutterable joys, all these things are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. You cannot see the heavenly light; you expect not to see it as yet; but, so far from being lost, it is yours this very day, and you only need by faith to write it down upon the tablets of hope, and to-day rejoice that you are rich in infinite possessions.

     Sown seed is in the custody of God. Jehovah is the farmer’s banker. Who can take care of those bags of wheat which have been thrown out from the hand during the last few weeks? Who, indeed, but the covenant God, who hath said, “While the earth remaineth, seed-time and harvest, summer and winter, shall not cease”? There may come the rotting under the clods, the worm, the bird, the mildew, the blast; there may come the long drought or the too plenteous moisture, but the farmer has scarcely a hand in the future destiny of his wheat and barley; the crop remains with God. You merchants may fancy you can do without the Lord, but the man who has to till the soil is obliged to feel, if he hath any sensibility, his entire dependence upon the God of the rain-cloud and the Lord of the sun. So, beloved, here is our comfort. The light that is sown for the righteous is in the custody of God. Our future happiness, our eternal bliss, are kept by the great guardian of Israel, who doth neither slumber nor sleep. Be not afraid, therefore, that you shall lose your heaven, for Christ keeps it for you. He has gone to take possession of it in your name, as your representative, and he will not suffer any to rob you of your entailed heritage. He will come a second time to take you to himself to enjoy the portion which he has prepared for you. Oh, blessed fact, that the joys of the hereafter are in such keeping! Brethren, we have not to fight to maintain our rights in the eternal land; we have not to dispute in courts of law in order to maintain our claim to the everlasting inheritance. He is at the Father’s side, the Man of love, the Crucified, and he takes care that all shall be safe and well for the people of his eternal choice. Light is sown for the righteous; that is to say, it is put into the custody of heaven, where it will be infallibly safe.

     A thing that is sown is not only put into God’s custody, but it is put there with a purpose, that it may come back to us greatly multiplied. The believer gives up in this life his self-seeking; he suffers some degree of self-denial; he yields up his own boastings to trust in Christ’s righteousness; and he makes a good bargain thereby. What if he should be made poor by being honest, or if he should have to suffer through following Christ, yet the return, the reward, the recompense — these are so exceeding abundant , that the present light affliction is not worthy to be compared therewith. We suffer for a moment that we may reign for ever. We stoop for a second that we may be lifted up world without end. We shall get back the seed-corn multiplied ten thousand times ten thousand, and we shall bless and magnify for ever and ever the glorious Sower who sowed such a harvest for us. The drift, the whole drift, and meaning of this sown light is just this — that the righteous have their best things yet to come. God has begun very graciously with some of us, indeed, so well, that our loudest music falls flat compared with the praise which he deserves. And you are afraid, sometimes, that God will be worse in the future than he has been in the past! O think not so hardly of him! You know what kind of feast the great Master makes. He does not bring forth his best wine first and then afterwards bring forth the worst. Oh, no! but he puts upon his table the worst, if so I may say, first, good as that is, and then we may say of him afterwards, “Thou hast kept the best wine until now.” The summers of our God do not begin with fervent heat and end with cold. God is not one who flatters us at the first to deal sternly with us at the last; but we shall go from strength to strength, from good to something better, and until life’s happiness culminates in heaven’s, we shall see more and more of the lovingkindness of the Lord. Our best is yet to come, and the mercy that is to come will be always coming, until life’s end. There is a story told of Rowland Hill, which I have no doubt is true, because it is so characteristic of the man’s eccentricity and generosity. Some one or other had given him a hundred pounds to send to an extremely poor minister, but, thinking it was too much to send him all at once, he sent him five pounds in a letter with simply these words inside the envelope, “More to follow.” In a few days’ time, the good man had another letter by the post, and letters by the post were rarities in those days; when he opened it there was five pounds again, with just these words, “And more to follow.” A day or two after there came another, and still the same words, “ And more to follow.” And so it continued twenty times, the good man being more and more astounded at these letters coming thus by post with always the sentence, “And more to follow.” Now, every blessing that comes from God is sent in just such an envelope, with the selfsame message, “And more to follow.” “I forgive you your sins, but there’s more to follow.” “I justify you in the righteousness of Christ, but there’s more to follow.” “I adopt you into my family, but there’s more to follow.” “I educate you for heaven, but there’s more to follow.” “I have helped you even to old age, but there’s still more to follow.” “I will bring you to the brink of Jordan, and bid you sit down and sing on its black banks, on the banks of the black stream, but there’s more to follow. In the midst of that river, as you are passing into the world of spirits, my mercy shall still continue with you, and when you land in the world to come there shall still be more to follow.” Light is still sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.

     II. Secondly, having opened the metaphor of sown light, let us now speak of the SOWING itself.

     When were the happiness and security of the righteous sown for them? Answer; there are three great Sowers, the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit, and all these have sown light for the chosen people. First, the Father. Long ages past, or ever the world was, it was in the Eternal mind to ordain unto himself a people who should show forth his praise. In his august mind it was determined that although his loved ones should fall in Adam, they should be raised in Christ, should be chosen over and above all their fellows, and in spite of their sins should be loved with an everlasting love, should be kept in time, should be glorified in eternity. Now all those great decrees of God, of which he has revealed some inklings in his word, were so much sowing of light for the righteous, so much provision of gladness in the future for the upright in heart. Yea, I venture to say that there was not a decree of God which in some way or other did not promote the happiness of his people, not a single covenant provision, not a single purpose of eternal wisdom but was intended and adapted to bring joy and peace to them. As all the rivers run into the sea, so all the purposes of God wrought together for this great central purpose of his, that he might have an elect people in whom his name should be glorified. Think now for a moment, beloved, of the thoughts of God to you. Long, I say, before the sun began to shine, what thoughts of love were in the bosom of the Father! Trace up the mercies of the present to those grand projects of the past, and praise and magnify the name of God that such unworthy sinners as we are should be the objects of such infinite conceptions. When the covenant at length was formed between the Father, the Son, and the blessed Spirit, when the decree began to take shape and to be revealed, when in the volume of the book covenant mercies were written down for us, all the tenure of that covenant, every line, and jot and tittle, was so much sowing of light for the righteous; for throughout the whole of that mysterious transaction in the cabinet chamber of eternity, when the Father pledged the Son, and the Son pledged the Father, and they entered into covenant engagements one with the other in their mysterious wisdom, every part of those stipulations, every grain of those engagements was made for a sowing of light for the righteous. And so, beloved, when time had come, when man had fallen, the first promise that was ever spoken sowed light for the righteous. When Jesus Christ was given of the Father, his unspeakable gift, indeed it was a sowing time of light for the saints, for in him was light, and the light was the life of men. When the Father begets again unto a lively hope his people by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, when he adopts them into his family and calls them his sons and daughters, when he receives the wanderers into his bosom, and feasts them at the table of his love, then, in all that, light is being sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart. Ay, and in the steering of the courses of the stars, in the ruling of the winds and tempests, in the government of nations, even in their crash, and in their fall, in the changes of events, and in all that cometh from the right hand of the eternal God, light is always being sown by the great Father for the righteous whom he loveth.

     A second great Sower was God the Son. He sowed happiness for his people when he joined with the Father in covenant and promised to be the substitute for his saints. But the actual sowing took place when he came on earth and sowed himself in death’s dark sepulchre for us. Well did he himself say, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone, but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit.” He dropped himself like a priceless seed-corn into the tomb, and what fruit he has brought forth let heaven and all the bloodwashed company declare. The flower that springs from his root is immortality and life. Jesus Christ has brought all manner of heavenly things unto his saints, and made them rich to all the intents of bliss, by the sowing of himself as the life of his people. Nor must you think that he served us alone, and promoted our happiness only by his stripes and wounds, and bloody sweat and death; no, beloved, when he rose from the dead, the fact of his resurrection was a preparing and storing up of future blessedness for his redeemed. When he ascended up on high, leading our captivity captive, did he not then scatter gladness for us? And when he received gifts for men, yea, for the rebellious also, did he not accomplish a boundless sowing of light for the elect people! At this moment, standing as he does the High Priest of our profession, pleading before the Majesty of heaven, what are those pleadings but a sowing of happiness for us, a laying up of bliss which we possess to-day in measure, and shall enjoy hereafter without measure in his presence before the throne? Beloved, let me remind you that in the government which Christ exercises as Mediator, even as Joseph governed Egypt for the sake of Israel, so doth the Lord Jesus govern the world for the sake of his people. In everything that he doeth he hath a design towards his elect ones. He may pause and wait with much longsuffering, bearing long with the ungodly, but in that delaying there is a sowing of light for the elect; every hour of delay shall have its recompense. And when he cometh, when the clouds of heaven shall make him a chariot, and the doors of eternity shall be opened that he may go forth in all the pomp of his glory to judge the earth, then in that day light shall still be sown, and for ever and ever while Jesus Christ liveth, the friend and patron of his chosen, he shall for ever be preparing fresh joy for them that love him, such as eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man to conceive.

     Once more, the Holy Spirit is a third great Sower, sowing in another sense, sowing in a sense that comes nearer home to our experience, Light is sown for the righteous by the Holy Spirit. In the hour when he brought the law home with its terrors, and laid us, broken and mangled at the feet of Moses, he was sowing light for us. Out humbling was the preface to our exultation; and we have already proved it so. In that moment when we were subdued, humbled, made to loathe our own righteousness, trampled into the very mire under a sense of weakness and death, he was sowing light for us. We did not know it: we thought that our destruction was near at hand, but oh I those precious drops of penitent tears, those blessed heartaches, what if I had said those priceless broken bones! — out of them has come through Jesus Christ our present joy and peace. It needed that we should be weaned from self; it was necessary that we should make the terrible discovery of our soul’s depravity, and as we passed through all that darkness and gloom of heart, the Holy Ghost was sowing for us our future perfection and glory at the right hand of Christ. To-day that Blessed Spirit continues his sowing in us. Every gracious thought; every stroke from the whip of affliction when sanctified; every down-casting of our proud looks; every discovery of our utter insignificance, worthlessness, and death; everything in us that harrows us, cuts us to the quick and wounds us, but yet brings us to the Good Physician that he may exercise his healing art; all these are sowing for us a blessed harvest of light for which we must wait a little while. Be thankful, brethren, for painful inward experiences; when they are most severe they are often most beneficial. Be grateful to God that thus by his Spirit he is making you meet to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light, and in one word is sowing gladness for the upright in heart. Thus I have as well as I could shown you the Sowers.

     III. Now I shall occupy a few minutes by inviting you TO GO TO THE FIELD.

     God has sown happiness for his saints; but you must recollect it is only sown. You are not to expect to see it grown up while you live this side the moon. Now where are the fields that we may well say are sown by God’s grace with happiness for us? Here is one field — the field of his word. Ah! you may almost see the happiness here. We say the pearl is hidden in this field, but really it gleams upon the very surface. Every promise of God has a secret meaning beyond what we as yet have learnt, and that hidden sense is full of happiness for the children of God. Every page here is intended to be for their comfort, for their lasting good, either in the form of instruction, rebuke, or edification. The whole book as we pass from field to field, and, as it were, climb over one stile and another, lies before us as so many broad and fertile acres, all sown with secret light for believers. So it is with providence. Every event which can occur is sown with light for the faithful. It does not so appear; far rather the fields just now are very unpleasant to look upon; the water stands deep in those broad furrows; you cannot imagine there will ever be a harvest in a land so flooded with trouble, but wait awhile. Providence may look very dark to-day, but it is full of light — latent light — light which must flash forth as the noonday for brightness. All circumstances are teeming with benefit to you if you be in Christ. Ships with black hulls are bringing you bright gold. Ravens shall bring you meat, and even devils shall be slaves to your service. There is not a dying child or an ailing wife, there is not a dishonoured bill, there is not a wrecked vessel, there is not a burnt house, there is not a single diseased bullock but what you shall see at the last, and perhaps before then, to have been full of real blessedness for you. There is not only mercy in God’s dealings with his people in the gross, but in the detail. All the providence of God, far reaching as it is, and extending from our cradle to our tomb, is full of the divine intent that his children shall be blessed, and blessed they shall be. You have sometimes read, I daresay, with wonder, that instance of Balaam trying to curse the people of God. He offered his seven bullocks and his seven rams, and went first to one hill and then to another, to look at them from different quarters, that he might be able to say a word against them, but every time that mouth of his was compelled to utter a blessing. And it is so with the great enemy of our souls. Sometimes we are tried with poverty, then he tries to curse us with envy; then we are tried with wealth, and he would curse us with pride; but from whatever quarter of the compass he may endeavour to bring an imprecation upon God’s people, the only result shall be their greater blessing, for “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man that he should repent; hath he said. and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” Beloved, the field of the word and the field of providence are both sown with light. There is one little field called “God’s Acre,” which to some here present appears to be sown with much darkness, but is really sown with light — that sleeping place, the cemetery, where your loved ones lie beneath the sod. Yes, but they shall rise again, and so light is sown for you, even in the mouldering bones of your beloved children and friends. You would not have it otherwise, would you? Would you lose that seed? Imagine for a moment that it should never come again up from the sepulchre? Would not that grieve you beyond measure! It is your comfort to feel that these dry bones shall live, and all the band of those you loved so dearly who have gone from you for awhile, are not lost, but gone before. “Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the Lord; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy.” And what a happy meeting, what joyous greetings, what blessed reunions, when they meet to part no more! In that, “God’s Acre,” then, in the many burials we have attended, light is sown for the righteous.

     Beloved, light is sown for the righteous, even upon earth. I mean there is a glory promised to the church of God even upon this earthly globe. Time shall speed its flight, and the day shall come of the Master’s ultimate triumph. The millennial age is certainly foretold, and faithfully covenanted by the promise of God; then the martyr’s blood shall be rewarded, then the ashes of the saints shall prove to have been good seed-corn scattered to the winds, but vital in every atom. The day is coming when the monarchs of the earth shall yield their thrones to Jesus, and the gods that now do reign over mankind shall be cast away as ignoble things to the moles and to the bats. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the glory of their Father. What will be the bliss of a faithful servant of God at his Master’s coming! It is not mine to give you fancy pictures, but to remind you of those words of the Master, that if we have been faithful in few things, he will make us ruler over many things. We shall be on earth kings and priests unto our God, and shall reign with him. In the very land of persecution and rebuke, and of slander, and of scorn, the righteous shall put on their crowns, and shall walk in white with their Lord, for they are worthy. Light is sown for the righteous.

     But I must ask you now to look beyond your cemeteries, and to look beyond this poor narrow world. What is this earth but a mere speck? Look into eternity. Can your minds conceive it? Eternity! Duration without boundary! The whole of that boundless region is sown with light for you. Think of a prairie in America, a sea of grass; think of it all ploughed and tilled, and sown with wheat, and all yours! How rich would you be! But what are the prairies compared with the plains of heaven? And what the finest corn compared with heaven’s light? All far away through all the ages of ages, when this world has been consumed with fervent heat, when sun and moon have passed away, like lamps blown out because the night is over, there shall still be an up-springing of never-ending blessedness for you. Eternity is sown with light for you. The Godhead shall be yours with all its infinity ministering to your delights. The Lord himself shall be your portion; the God of Israel shall be your endless heritage. Brethren, what more can I say? We cannot possibly measure the great fields that are sown for us; so let us thank God and take courage, and go on our way believing that everywhere we have fields already sown, and we must wait awhile and we shall reap the harvest.

     IV. The last head is the FUTURE, but it shall occupy only a second or two, as I must close with a practical application.

     The future. That is always in the farmer’s eye when the teams go out to plough, and when the sower’s baskets are filled with corn; he thinks of next July or August, and the “Harvest Home,” and the going to market with the yellow grain. So ought we always to have our eye upon the future, having respect unto the recompense of the reward. Today is all sowing; but we do not know how soon the reaping will begin. “As the Lord liveth,” said one, “there is but a step between thee and death.” And it may be only a step to any of us, for the Lord may descend from heaven with a shout, with the trump of the archangel, and the voice of God, and may at once begin to reap. But what a reaping! O my soul, what an eternal satisfaction to thee to be for ever with the Lord! One glimpse of his dear face on earth has ravished thee, but what must it be for ever without a veil between to gaze into that beloved countenance, and to feel his love shed abroad in thy heart, and thy heart plunged as into a sea of that love ineffable! Beloved, it is but a mere film of time that divides us from our expected portion. Those of us who are still young and in hale health should remember, and remember with great satisfaction, that if we are spared for forty years, yet they are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night; while you who are getting grey and have reached your threescore years and ten, may be glad that with you it can be but a few more revolving moons, the passing away a few more Sabbath-days, and you shall be for ever with the Lord. Come, come, murmur not, if the inn be not so comfortable as flesh desireth, you are not to tarry long in it, you are on your journey home, and the cry is “Up and away.” What if the way be rough, your face is turned Zionward. The road cannot be long, so smooth it with hope and cheer it with song. You are not like those unhappy creatures, some of whom are present here, whose life has been a sowing of darkness. They have leagues of thistles to reap, acres upon acres of briers and thorns of which they will have to make their bed for ever. They have been sowing the wind, and they will have to reap the whirlwind, which will carry their guilty souls for ever in its dreadful tornadoes. O you who have never had light sown for you because you have never sought mercy through Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit has never renewed your hearts and made you righteous, think of what your fate will be! You will be like the farmer who sowed not in the seed-time, and therefore reaps not in the time of harvest. Naked, and poor, and miserable, destitute and forsaken, you will beg in harvest, but you shall have nothing. You will ask God then to have mercy upon you, but he will refuse you. You shall clamour for the benefits of his grace, but they shall be denied you, for he will not hear you when once life is over. If we hear him not to-day, neither will he hear us tomorrow. O for grace to have a seed-sowing here, that we may have a reaping for ever and ever!

     I shall close by observing that the doctrine of our text ought to be very, very comforting to all of us who are in Christ. Sufferer, your pains are sharp; bear them manfully and repine not, for there is light upspringing for you. “The inhabitant shall not say, I am sick: the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity.” Poor man, working hard for a little, with many wants and sufferings, light is sown for you. You shall soon dwell in the city of the many mansions, you shall walk the golden streets of the pearly-gated city, where poverty is banished for aye. “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.” Slandered one, whose name is cast out as evil for Christ’s sake, bear it with rejoicing; light is sown for you. Amidst the martyrs and the throng of the chosen who suffered for righteousness’ sake, you shall reap the sheaves of glory — reap them world without end. And you who have to suffer more than slander, who lose friend and home for Christ’s sake, rejoice ye, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you: those ancient witnesses have reaped the light, and are reaping it, and even so shall you when worlds shall pass away. The Lord give us to forget the present, to rejoice in the future, and to count the reproach of Christ greater treasure than all the riches of Egypt.



The Universal Remedy

By / Oct 4

The Universal Remedy

 

“With his stripes we are healed.”— Isaiah 53:5.
 

RECEIVED, one day this week, a short communication worded on this wise: “Wanted, a cure for a weak and doubting faith, especially when Satan disinclines to pray.” Anxiously desirous to prescribe cures for such maladies, and for any others which may vex the Lord’s people, I began to turn over in my mind what were the sacred remedies for such a case, and I could only remember one, “The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” Our Lord Jesus is to us a tree of life, and by the leaves I suppose the Holy Spirit, means the acts, words, promises, and lesser griefs of Jesus, all of which are for the healing of his people. Then my mind reverted to this kindred text: “With his stripes we are healed.” Not merely his bleeding wounds, but even those blue bruises of his flesh help to heal us; not alone the work of the nails and the spear, but the cruel handiwork of the rod and the scourge. Out of all this throng of believers, there are none quite free from spiritual diseases: one may be saying, “Mine is a weak faith;” another may confess, “Mine is distracted thoughts;” another may exclaim, “Mine is coldness of love;” and a fourth may have to lament his powerlessness in prayer. One remedy in natural things will not suffice for all diseases; and the moment that the quack begins to cry up his medicine as healing all, you shrewdly surmise that it heals none; but in spiritual things it is not so: there is a catholicon, a universal remedy, provided in the word of God for all spiritual sicknesses to which man can be subject, and that remedy is contained healed.” in the few words of my text — “With his stripes we are

     I. I shall invite you, then, first of all, this morning, to consider THE MEDICINE ITSELF WHICH IS HERE PRESCRIBED — the Stripes of OUT Saviour; not stripes laid upon our own back, nor tortures inflicted upon our own minds, but the grief which Jesus has endured for those who trust in him.

     By the term “stripes,” no doubt the prophet understood here, first, literally, those actual stripes which fell upon our Lord’s shoulders when he was beaten of the Jews, and afterwards scourged of the Roman soldiery. But the words intend far more than this. No doubt with his prophetic eye Isaiah saw the stripes from that unseen scourge held in the Father’s hand which fell not upon the flesh of Jesus, but upon his nobler inner nature when his soul was scourged for sin, when eternal justice was the plougher, and made deep furrows upon his spirit; when the lash fell with awful force again, and again, and again, upon the blessed soul of him who was made a curse for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. I take the term “stripes” to comprehend all the physical and spiritual sufferings of our Lord, with especial reference to those chastisements of our peace which preceded rather than actually caused his sin-atoning death: it is by these that our souls are healed. “But why?” say you. First, then, because our Lord, as a sufferer, was not a private person, but suffered as a public individual, and an appointed representative. Your sins, in a certain sense, end with yourself; but the sins of Adam could not do so, for Adam stood before God as the representative of the human race, and everything that he did brought its dire effects upon all his descendants. Now, our Saviour is the second Adam, the second federal head and representative of men, and all that he did, and all that he suffered, goes to the behoof of all those whom he represented. His holy life is the inheritance of his people, and his suffering death, with all its pangs and griefs, belongs to those whom he represented, for they did in effect suffer in him, and offer in him a vindication to divine justice. Our Lord was appointed of God to stand in the stead of his people. A divine decree had gone forth sanctioning his substitution, so that when he stood forward as the representative of guilty men God accepted him, having foreordained him to that very end. So then, beloved, let us never forget that all which Jesus endured came upon him not at all as a private individual, but fell upon him as the great public representative of those who believe in him. Hence the effects of his griefs are applied to us, and with his stripes we are healed. His blood, his passions, and his death, make atonement for us, and deliver us from the curse, while his bruises, smarts, and stripes, make up a matchless medicine to allay our sicknesses.

“Behold how every wound of his
A precious balm distils,
Which heals the scars that sin had made,
And cures all mortal ills.”

Be it never forgotten, too, that our Lord was not merely man, or else his sufferings could not have availed for the multitude who now are healed thereby. He was God as well as man; and it is the most mysterious and marvellous of all facts that God should be manifest in the flesh, and seen of angels, and that in the flesh the Son of God should most really and certainly die, and be buried, and lie for three days in the tomb. The incarnation with its after train of humiliation is to be believed, and accepted as an ever memorable display of condescension: from the highest throne of glory to the cross of deepest woe the Saviour stoops; neither cherubim nor seraphim can measure the mighty distance, imagination wearies its wing in attempting the tremendous flight. In every stripe that falls upon our Emanuel you are to consider that it falleth not merely upon a man, but upon one who is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father. Though the Deity Buffered not, yet was it in so intimate a connection with the humanity, that it infused supernatural power into the human frame, and no doubt superadded wondrous merit to all his bitter human foes. Oh! what a rock have we to rest upon — a substitute covered with stripes — a substitute appointed and accepted of God, and that substitute himself God over all blessed for ever, and therefore able to bear for us what we could never have borne except by lying for ever in the lowest pit of hell.

     Brethren, we all believe that our Saviour’s sufferings heal us of the curse by being presented before God as a substitute for what we owe to his divine law. But healing is a work that is carried on within, and the text rather leads me to speak of the effect of the stripes of Christ upon our characters and natures than upon the result produced in our position before God. We know that the Lord hath pardoned and justified us through the precious blood of Jesus, but the question of this morning rather is how these griefs and pangs help to deliver us from the disease of sin which aforetime reigned within us. It was necessary however, that I should mention first, the justifying power of Jesus’ blood, because apart from our belief in Jesus as a substitute, and as divine, there is no power in his example to heal us of sin. Men have studied that example and admired it, but have remained as vile as before. They have criticised his beauty, but have not been enamoured of his person. It is only when they have rested in him as divine that they have afterwards come to feel the potency of those wondrous cords of love which his example always casts around forgiven spirits. They have learned to love Jesus, and then their admiration has become a practical thing, but mere admiration, apart from love to him and faith in him, is a cold barren moonlight which ripens no fruit of holiness. Beloved, the stripes of Jesus operate upon our character, principally because we see in him a perfect man suffering for offences that were not his own; we see in him a glorious Lord, who, though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor; we behold in him the paragon of perfect disinterested affection; we see in him a fidelity never to be excelled when through the pangs of death he followed on to work out the purpose of his heart, the salvation of his people; and as we look at him and study his character as it is revealed by his griefs, we become moved thereby, and the spiritual evils which had rule over us are dethroned, and through the power of the Spirit the image of Jesus Christ is stamped upon our natures. Jesus dying justifies us; Jesus smitten sanctifies us. His cruel flagellations are our refinings; his buffetings are blows at our sins; his bruises mortify our lusts. Thus much then upon the medicine that heals us, it is the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ, as understood in our intellects and beloved in our hearts, and especially those incidents of ignominy and cruelty which surrounded that death with deeper gloom, and revealed the patience and love of the substitute.

     II. I shall ask you now for a brief moment to behold THE MATCHLESS CURES WROUGHT BY THIS REMARKABLE MEDICINE. Look at two pictures.

     Look at man without the stricken Saviour; and then behold man with the Saviour, healed by his stripes. I say, look at man originally and apart from the Saviour. Naked, he is driven out of Eden’s garden, the inheritor of the curse. Within him lies concealed the deadly cancer of sin. If you would see that evil which dwells in every one of us from our very birth developing itself upon the surface, you might soon behold it in all its horror near at home, a street or two would conduct you to sin’s carnival; but perhaps it were better that you should not gaze upon a scene so polluting. In the gambling hells, in the haunts where drunkards congregate, where thieves assemble, amidst oaths and blasphemies, and language lewd, and acts lascivious — it is there that sin stalks forth as a full-grown monster. In the moral and educated natural man, sin apparently sleeps like a viper coiled up; a thing in appearance little to be dreaded, quiet and powerless as a poor worm; but when man is allowed to have his own way, ere long he feels the viper’s tooth, the poisoned fang envenoms all his blood, and you see the proof of its deadly poison in overt and abundant sin: men become covered with the visible blotches of iniquity, so that the spiritual eye can see in their character the leprosy full upon them, and all manner of abominations, worse than the rottenness of the deadliest of fleshly diseases, constantly exuding from their souls. If we could see sin as it appears to the all-discerning eye of the Eternal, we should be more shocked at the sight of sin than by a vision of hell; for there is in hell something which purity approves, it is the vindication of righteousness, it is justice triumphant; but in sin itself there is abomination, and only abomination; it is a something out of joint with the whole system of the universe; it is a miasma dangerous to all spiritual life; a plague, a pest full of dangers to everything that breathes. Sin is a monster, a hideous thing, a thing which God will not look upon, and which pure eyes cannot behold but with the utmost detestation. A flood of tears is the proper medium through which a Christian should look at sin.

     If you would see what sin can do, you have but to look into your own heart with an illuminated eye. Ah, what mischief lurketh there! You hate sin, my brother, I know you do, since Christ has visited you with the day-spring from on high; but with all your hatred of sin you must acknowledge that it still lurks within you. You find yourself envious, you who hate envy; you find yourself thinking hard thoughts of God, you who yet love him and would lay down your lives for him; you find yourself provoked to anger on a sudden against the very friend to whose call you would cheerfully yield your all. Yes, we do the thing we would not, through the power of sin ; and sin degrades and debases us — we cannot look within without being shocked at the meanness to which our mind in secret descends. If you anxiously desire to see sin at the full come hither, and gaze adown the fathomless abyss. Listen to those blasphemous execrations. If you have the courage, hearken to those mingled cries of misery and passion which come up from Tophet, from the abodes of lost spirits. Sin is there ripe; here it is green. Here we see its darkness as the shades of evening, but there it is tenfold night. Here it scatters firebrands, but there its quenchless conflagrations flame on for ever and ever. Oh! if we have but grace to be rid of sin now, the riddance will save us from the wrath to come. Sin, indeed, is hell, hell in embryo, hell in essence, hell kindling, hell emerging from the shell: hell is but sin when it has manifested and developed itself to the full. Stand at the gates of Tophet and understand how fell the disease for which heaven's remedy is provided in the stripes of the Only Begotten.

     Now, beloved, I said I would show you the cure, and I have but feebly talked of the disease itself to let you see the greatness of the change by contrast. Observe, beloved, you who have believed in Jesus, observe already what a change the stripes of Christ have made in you; since the dear hour that brought you to his feet, what different men have you been! Indeed, in your case instead of the thorn has come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier has come up the myrtle tree. You who were once the blind slaves of Satan are now the rejoicing children of God. The things which you once loved, though God abhorred them, you now also detest right heartily; God’s mind and yours are now agreed as to darkness and light; you no longer put the one for the other. How changed are you! You are a new creature; alive from the dead. And what has done it? what indeed but faith in the Crucified and contemplation of his wounds? Yet in you, dear friend, the healing is very far from being perfect; if you would behold perfect spiritual health, look ye yonder to those white-robed hosts who jubilantly stand without fault before the throne of God: search them through and through, and they are undefiled; let even the all-seeing eye rest upon them, and they are without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. How is this? Where washed they these snow-white garments, once so much defiled? They answer with joyful music, “We have washed our robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Ask them whence their victory came over indwelling sin —  

“They with united breath
Ascribe their victories to the Lamb
Their conquests to his death.”

They will all tell you that the perfect healing which they have received, and which to-day they enjoy before the throne of God, is the result of the Saviour’s passion. “With his stripes,” say the ten thousand times ten thousand, with a voice that is loud as thunder and as sweet as harpers harping with their harps — “with his stripes we are healed.”

     III. I want now for you to note, dear brethren, in detail, and yet so briefly as not to weary you, THE MALADIES WHICH THIS WONDROUS MEDICINE REMOVES. I shall not attempt to read you a full list, for they are more than I can count, but be they ever so many, there is not one which the stripes of Jesus cannot heal.

     I would you, first, that the great root of all this mischief – the curse which fell on man through Adam’s sin – is already effectually removed. Jesus took it upon himself, and was made a curse for us, and now there can fall no curse upon any of those for whom Jesus died as a substitute. They are the blessed of the Lord, yea, and they shall be blessed, let hell curse them as it may. The curse has spent its fury; like a thunder-storm, which once threatened to sweep all before it, but is now lulled to calm, divine wrath has passed away, and showers of mercy are now following it, making glad the thirsty heart. Brethren, Christ has cured us already, most effectually, of the curse of God upon us. But I am now to speak of diseases which we have felt and bemoaned, and which still trouble the family of  God. One of the first which was healed by the stripes of Christ was the mania of despair. Ah, well do I recollect when I thought there was no hope for me. How was it possible, my heart asked, that my sins could be forgiven consistently with the justice of God? That question I propounded to my soul again, and again, and again, but no answer could I find from it be within most; clearly and even there when I read the word I perceived not – though it be most clearly there — the answer to that great question. But, beloved, when I first understood that Jesus Christ stood in the place of all those that believe in him, and that, if I trusted him my sins were all forgiven, because they had been already punished in the person of my blessed substitute, then I had no longer occasion for despair; then I listened to the word of the gospel, feeling, “There is hope for me, even for me.” When I understood that there was nothing expected from me in order to salvation, but that all must come from Jesus; that I was not to be wounded, nor to be made to smart, but that he had been smitten and had been made to bleed on my behalf; and that my life must be found in his death, and my healing in his wounds, then hope and her sprung up – bright-eyed hope – and my soul turned unto her Father and her God with loving expectations. Was it not so with you? Beloved, did you ever have a comfortable confidence in God until you had seen the stripes of Jesus? If you are wrapped up in a peace that did not come from Christ’s stripes, I implore you be rid of it, for it is a presumption which will surely destroy you. The only sure, solid, everlasting peace that can ever come to a palpitating human bosom, heaving painfully under the pressure of sin, is that which springs from looking at that blessed Son of God who on the tree poured out his life-floods that we might be saved by him. For the mania of despair the stripes of Christ are the true remedy.

     Then if we suffer afterwards from any hardness of heart, and there is a complaint of the soul well-known as the stony heart, there is no obtaining tenderness except by standing long, yea, remaining always at the cross-foot. When I feel myself insensible to spiritual things (and I blush to say that it is no unusual feeling), when I would but cannot pray, when I would but cannot repent, when, “If aught be felt ’tis only pain to find I cannot feel,” I have always found that I cannot flog myself into feeling by the threatenings of God, nor by the terrors of the law ; but when I can come to the cross, just as I did years ago, a poor guilty one, and believe that the Redeemer has put all my sins away, black as I am; and that God neither can nor will condemn me, hardened as I feel myself to be, ah! then, the sense of blood-bought pardon soon dissolves a heart of stone. I do not believe there is anything that can so effectually make the ice within us melt, and so speedily thaw the great glaciers of our inner nature, as the love of Jesus Christ. Oh! but that will touch you, man. It will create a soul within the ribs of death. There is a secret spring within the heart upon which the finger of the crucified hand is placed, and the soul arises from its deadly slumbers. Christ has the key of the house of David, and he can open the door so that neither man nor devil can shut it; and out of that opened heart shall proceed godly thoughts, heavenly aspirations, sacred passions, and heaven-born resolves. The best cure for indifference will be found in the stripes of Jesus. See the bloody sweat drops, O believer, and will you not melt? See Jesus kissed of the traitor, led away with a rabble guard, slandered by deceitful witnesses, tried by cruel adversaries, buffeted by soldiers, defiled with spittle; see him afterwards hounded along the streets of Jerusalem, and then fastened to the transverse beam; behold him bleeding out his blessed life for love of us who were his enemies, and if this tragedy does not melt you, what will? O God of heaven, if we feel no tenderness in the presence of thy dying Son, of what hell-hardened steel must our souls be made!

     At times believers are subject to the paralysis of doubt, and as my friend has said just now in his request for a remedy, that paralysis may be attended also with a stiffness of the knee-joint of prayer; and when these two complaints go together, we suffer under a complicated disease for which it is not easy to prescribe; and yet it is easy for the Lord to do so, see here the remedy, “With his stripes we are healed.” The blood of Christ is a deadly thing to unbelief. A sight of the Crucified strikes unbelief dumb, so that it cannot mutter a single questioning word; while faith begins to sing and to rejoice as she sees what Jesus did, and how Jesus died. Who would not pray as he sees Jesus’ blood upon the mercy-seat? The consideration of the new and living way which Christ has opened by his blood, a view of the veil of the Saviour's body rent by his death, will, if anything, induce men to pray. I think I could use arguments which might be blessed to drive men to their knees, such as the danger of a prayerless spirit, such as the enriching influence of the mercy-seat, such as the delights of communion with God, and many other things, but after all, if the cross do not draw a man to his knees nothing will; and if a contemplation of the sufferings of Jesus do not constrain us to draw very near to God in prayer, surely the chief remedy itself has failed.

     There are some saints who have numbness of soul: the stripes of Christ can best quicken them; deadness dies in the presence of his death, and rocks break when the Rock of Ages is seen as cleft for us.

“Who can think, without admiring?
Who can hear, and nothing feel?
See the Lord of life expiring,
Yet retain a heart of steel?”

Many are subject to the fever of pride, but a sight of Jesus in his humiliation, contradicted of sinners, will tend to make them humble. Pride drops her plumes when she hears the cry, “Behold the Man!” In the society of one so great, enduring so much scorn, there is no room for vanity. Some are covered with the leprosy of selfishness, but if anything can forbid a man to lead a selfish life it is the life of Jesus, who saved others self-seekers, love — not himself the Saviour he could, for not his save whole. Misers conduct, and gluttons, and self-seekers, love not the Saviour, for his whole conduct upbraids them. Upon some the fit of anger often comes; but what can give gentleness of spirit like the sight of him who was as a lamb dumb before her shearers, and who opened not his mouth under blasphemy and rebuke? If any of you feel the fretting consumption of worldliness, or the cancer of covetousness — for such rank diseases as these are common in Zion — still the groans and griefs of the Man of sorrows, the acquaintance of grief, will prove a cure. All evils fly before the Lord Jesus, even as the shadows vanish before the sun. Lash us, Master, to thy cross; no fatal shipwreck shall we fear if fastened there. Bind us with cords to the horns of the altar; no disease can come there: the sacrifice purifies the air. Through hell itself might we go, Saviour, all unharmed with its pestilent vapour, if we could but have thy cross before our eyes. It were not possible that all the blasphemy of devils and of the vilest of men could pollute our spirits for so much as a moment, if thy blood were always sprinkled on the tablets of our hearts, and thy deep humiliation always present in our minds. Forgetfulness of the stripes lands us in disease; but the sweet remembrance of the passion and a blessed absorption in the mystery of the Master’s death, will surely cast out all evils from us, and keep us from returning to them again.

     IV. I must now pass on to yet a fourth point. Observe carefully THE CURATIVE PROPERTIES OF THE MEDICINE OF WHICH WE HAVE BEEN SPEAKING.

     You have heard of some of the diseases in detail as well as the cure on a large scale; now observe the curative properties of the medicine; for all manner of good this divine remedy works in our spiritual constitution. The stripes of Jesus when well considered arrest spiritual disorder. The man is brought to view his Lord as suffering for him, and a voice saith to his rising lusts, “Hitherto shall ye come, but no further. Here at Calvary shall your proud waves be stayed.” My feet had almost gone, my steps had well-nigh slipped, had not my Master’s cross stood before me, as a most effectual barrier to stay me in my fall. Many a man has gone post haste onward unchecked by any power until a vision of the Man, the crucified Man, has appeared before his eyes, and he has been brought to a blessed halt. Read the memorable life of Colonel Gardiner, for what happened to him literally has happened to tens of thousands spiritually — they have been enlisted to sin, and sold to Satan, but a sight of the Saviour slain for sinners has made them pause, and henceforth they have no longer dared to offend. Now, it is a great thing for a physician to find a remedy which will hold the disease within bounds so that it reach not the direst stage of malignity; and this the cross of Christ does, it binds in chains the fury of unhallowed passion. What a miraculous power the griefs of Jesus have upon the believer! Though his corruption is still within him yet it cannot have dominion over him, because he is not under the law but under grace. It is a happier fact still that sin shall ere long be utterly abolished, but to stay it meanwhile until it is eradicated is no small thing.

     This medicine, in the next place, quickens all the powers of the spiritual man to resist the disease. “By his stripes we are healed,” because a sight of Jesus Christ quickens our newborn nature. It forbids us to live at the poor dying rate so natural to our sluggishness. We cannot have Christ before our eyes and yet go slumbering on to heaven as though spiritual work were but a dream, or a mere child’s play. He that has really gone into the hall where Christ was scourged, and seen the streams of blood as they poured down his furrowed shoulders, and felt that they were all for him, has had his spiritual pulse quickened and his whole spiritual life stirred. This fire has helped to burn sin out of its nest. This power within the soul has set up a counter-action and pushed back the advancing powers of iniquity.

     The stripes of Jesus Christ also have another curative effect; they restore to the man that which he lost in strength by sin. There is a recuperative power in this sacred medicine. He brings my wandering feet back to the ways which I forsook, and the way back is by the cross. He restoreth my soul, and the food he gives me to feed upon is his own flesh and blood. After sin has brought us into sickness, and sickness into weakness, there is no restorative under heaven that is equal to living in a constant daily sense of the vicarious sufferings of Jesus Christ. His sweet love so clearly shown in his torments at Golgotha encourages us; we feel that with such a Saviour ever caring for us, we have no need to be alarmed.

     This medicine also soothes the agony of conviction. Anguish of heart vanishes when Jesus is seen as bearing the chastisement of our peace. He who gets to Christ’s cross and trusts in him feels that sin is still present in him, and mourns over it, but yet he rejoiceth because he understands that Christ has overcome his enemies, and led them captive at his chariot wheels. “I shall overcome,” saith he; and the sharpness of the present struggle is not felt. “My sin is for ever put away,” saith he, for Jesus died, and there is no room for remorse, or terror, or despair. Drink of the spiced wine of atoning love, and remember thy misery no more, O thou sin-burdened heir of immortality.

     But best of all, the stripes of Christ have an eradicating power as to sin. They pull it up by the root; they destroy the beasts in their lair; they put to death the power of sin in our members. I know not how near to perfection in this life a believer may be brought, but God forbid that I should set up some low degree of grace as being all that a saint can reach this side the grave. I dare not limit my Master’s power as to how far he may subdue sin even in this life in the believer, but I expect never to be perfect till I shuffle off this mortal coil; yet the grand result is none the less glorious; absolute perfection is our heritage; we shall be freed from the least tendency to evil; there will remain in us no more possibilities of sinning than in the person of our Lord himself. We shall be as pure as the thrice holy God himself, as immaculate as the ever-sinless Saviour; and all this will be through our Master’s stripes. Sanctification, after all, is by the blood of Christ. The Holy Spirit works it, but the instrumentality is the blood. He is the Physician, but the sufferings of Christ are the medicine. Sin is never destroyed except by faith in Jesus. All your meditations upon the evil of sin, arid all your shiverings at the punishment of it, and all your soul-humblings and prostrations will never kill sin. It is at the cross that God has set up a mighty gibbet upon which he hangeth sin for ever, and putteth it to death; it is there at Golgotha, but only there. The great execution ground, the Tyburn of our iniquity, is there where Jesus died. Wrestling believer, you must go to your Lord’s agonies, and learn to be crucified with him unto sin, for else shall you never know the art of mastering your evil passions and being sanctified in the spirit. I have thus tried to open up the healing force which dwells in the stripes of Jesus.

     V. Now just a moment or two in the fifth place — I am afraid you will think my divisions are very many and very dry, but still that I cannot help — I want you to review for a minute THE MODES OP THE WORKING OF THIS MEDICINE.

     How does it work? Briefly, its effect upon the mind is this. The sinner hearing of the death of the incarnate God is led by the force of truth and the power of the Holy Spirit to believe in the incarnate God. The cure is already begun. The moment the sinner believes, there is the axe laid at the root of the dominion of Satan. He no sooner learns to trust the appointed Saviour than his cure has certainly commenced and will shortly be carried on to perfection. After faith comes gratitude. The sinner saith, “I trust in the incarnate God to save me. I believe he has saved me.” Well, what is the natural result? The soul being grateful, thankful, how can it help exclaiming, “Blessed be God for this unspeakable gift!” and “Blessed be this dear Son who so freely laid down his life for me!” It were not natural at all; it were something less even than humanity, if the sense of such favour did not beget gratitude. The next emotion to gratitude is love. Has he done all this for me? Am I under such obligations? Then will I love his name. The very next thought to love is obedience. What shall I do to please my Redeemer? How can I fulfil his commandments and bring honour to his name? See you not that the sinner is getting healed most rapidly? His disease was that he was altogether out of unison with God, and resisted the divine law, but now look at him! with tears in his eyes he is lamenting that he ever offended; he is groaning and grieving that he could have pierced so dear a friend, and put him to such sorrows, and he is asking, with love and earnestness, “What can I do to show that I loathe myself for the past, and that I love Jesus for the future.” Now he goes a step farther and he burns with hatred against the sins which slew the Lord. “Did my sins slay Christ? Was it my iniquity that nailed him to the tree? Then I will have vengeance upon my sins: there is not one that I will spare. Though it nestle in my bosom I will tear it out, and if it shall entrench itself so that I cannot drive it forth except by losing an eye or an arm, it shall come forth; for not one of this accursed crew will I harbour within my spirit.” Now the man’s sacred zeal and burning indignation is issuing a search warrant, and he is going through and through his nature to search for sin, crying meanwhile, “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.” Now, beloved, do you not see that all the healthy faculties of the new-born nature are by the griefs of Jesus set strongly at work, and even though sin may still remain within, there is a vitality about the new-born nature which will certainly cast out those baser powers, and, by God’s grace, make the man meet to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light?

     VI. It is scarcely necessary for me to say any more, except to remark, in the sixth place, that this medicine deserves to be commended to all of you this morning, because of ITS REMARKABLY EASY APPLICATION.

     I have shown you how it works, and what it cures, and whom it cures. Now, there are some materia medica which would be curative, but they are so difficult in administration, and attended with so much risk in their operation, that they are rarely if ever employed; but the medicine prescribed in the text is very simple in itself, and very simply received — so simple is its reception that, if there be a willing mind here to receive it, it may be received by any of you at this very instant, for God’s Holy Spirit is present to help you. How, then, does a man get the stripes of Christ to heal him? Why, thus. First, he hears about them. Now, you have heard often of my Lord’s stripes. Next, faith cometh by hearing; that is, the hearer believes that Jesus is the Son of God, and he trusts in him to save his soul. Then, having believed, the next thing is, whenever the power of his faith begins to relax, he goes to hearing again, or else to what is even better, after once having heard to benefit, he resorts to contemplation; he resorts to the Lord’s table that he may be helped by the outward signs; he reads the Bible that the letter of the word may refresh his memory as to its spirit, and he often seeks a season of quiet, such as David had when he sat before the Lord, closing his eyes and shutting up his heart to all beside the things of heaven; he views Christ groaning in the garden, pictures him upon the bloody tree, sees him suffering, and so acquires for himself all the benefit which can be drawn from the stripes of the Crucified. All thou hast to do, poor sinner, is simply to trust and thou art healed; and all thou hast to do, O backsliding saint, is but to contemplate and to believe again. Beloved, we must let the old image be stamped afresh upon our soul, we must have the picture cleaned as it were — it has been turned with its front to the wall, turn it round and sit and study it again. Renew thy old acquaintance with the sweet lover of thy soul, return to the love of thine espousals, repair to Calvary, tarry in Gethsemane, live with Jesus wherever he may be; in retirement, considering, meditating, reflecting upon what he hath done for thee. This is the simple mode of application.

     VII. All I have to say in conclusion is, since the medicine is so efficacious, since it is already prepared and freely presented, I do beseech you

     TAKE IT. Take it, brethren, you who have known its power in years gone by. Let not backslidings continue, but come to his stripes afresh. Take it, ye doubters, lest ye sink into despair: come to his stripes anew. Take it, ye who are beginning to be self-confident and proud. Ye need this to bring you on your faces again in prostration before your Lord. And, O ye who have never believed in him, on this morning of clear shinings after the rain may the Lord give you also to come and trust in him, and you shall live. “Oh,” writes one to me this week, “I have believed that Jesus died for me, but it does not keep me from sinning in any way whatever. Our minister says that if we believe that Jesus died for us we shall be saved.” No, no, but that is not the gospel, and such a belief is not faith at all. I did not wonder that a poor creature should have tried such a gospel and found it fail. Do not these men say that Christ died for everybody, and then declare that if you believe he died for you (which he must of necessity have done if he died for everybody) then that will save you, and yet there are scores and hundreds who are proofs to the fact that it does not save them, but that they can believe this universal redemption and live as they did before? This is faith, namely to trust Jesus Christ. It is the only saving faith. You cannot rely on him and remain unhealed; you cannot take Jesus for your confidence and remain just as you were, for there is a potency about Christ, as applied by faith, which changes the character, and makes the sinner a new man to the praise and glory of God. May my Lord bless you for his own sake. Amen.



The Lord’s Name and Memorial

By / Sep 27

The Lord's Name and Memorial

 

“Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” — Isaiah 55:13.

 

THESE words are a poetical description of great moral changes which the gospel works wherever it comes. It transforms human nature and makes society to become as though a desert suddenly blossomed into a cultivated field. At the same time, the words of the text are not solely and alone poetical, for it is a great truth that wherever the spiritual change comes the physical change is almost sure to follow. As men are elevated the earth yields her increase more largely. The earth was cursed for man’s sake; and in proportion as man forsakes his sloth, his drunkenness, his savageness, the ground rewards his diligence with plenteous harvests. Look at the field of the sluggard, and the garden of the industrious! Look over the wild wastes of Africa, and then see the fertility of the same soil when tilled by the missionary’s converts! The surest way to benefit men in their outward circumstances is to bless them spiritually; for as they draw near to God in obedience to his will, he will, as a rule, bless and prosper them. England will always flourish while she honours the word of God. If she departs from the gospel to follow after Popery, she may expect her prosperity to decline. If we desire our land to maintain her eminent position among the nations, we must go on to do everything which is just and right towards all classes; we must break down every old abuse, and build up the good and the true: doing this and upholding the word of God,, we may expect that this land will inherit a future brighter than the past.

     The text certainly does touch upon changes, in the soil, yet it has mainly to do with the great moral world. The gospel transforms the whole state of man, so that instead of the thorn of sin comes up the fir tree of grace, and instead of the brier of lust comes up the myrtle tree of holiness.

     I. I call your attention to THE EFFECTIVE AGENCY here spoken of, and I beg you to refer to your Bibles, and read the chapter with me, for it gives a very full and minute description of the gospel.

     I do not find in this fifty-fifth chapter of Isaiah that the cause of the spiritual miracles of my text is a gospel of forms and ceremonies, of altars and priests, genuflexions and processions, images and incense, millinery and mystery. I find not a single word concerning any of these throughout the whole chapter. Nor do I find here a gospel of dogmas and orthodoxies, of rigid creeds, and infallible statements, of which it is said that he who believes them not “shall without doubt perish everlastingly;” but I learn a gospel of quite another sort, more divine, more glorious by far.

     We perceive in the chapter before us a gospel revealing divine;'provision for man’s necessity, and earnestly inviting man to partake of it. Look at the first verse: observe its earnest Ho!” and note the repetition of the entreaty “Come.” The soul has a longing, fitly described as thirst, for this thirst the Lord provides abundant water: and if man thirsts for a drink more nourishing, here is milk; or, if he requires a draught more comforting and cheering, here is wine; and, inasmuch as the soul has hunger, and must needs receive spiritual food, here is provision whereof the man is bidden to buy and eat. The Lord has fully provided for man’s needs. The gospel of Jesus says to man, “Man, all that you can possibly need Jesus Christ has prepared for you. Do you want sin forgiven? behold a fountain filled with blood — wash in it and you are clean. Do you want sin conquered in you? behold the Holy Ghost willing to dwell in you and to subdue inbred sin. Do you desire to grow in grace and to be made in the image of holiness? look unto Jesus; behold the Spirit waiting to work the image of the Son of God in you, changing you from glory to glory as by the presence of the Lord.” What are the cravings of your nature, what are the deep woes and longings of your unresting spirit? “Behold,” said Jesus, “Only come to me, and I will give you satisfaction, and that satisfaction shall lead to rest.” The gospel does not come to upbraid man, or say to him, “You ought not to have these needs,” or, “You ought by your own efforts to supply them,” but it saith, “Poor, abject, poverty-stricken man, come to me; God hath loaded both my hands with supplies for your great necessities; only come and take what God freely presents to you without money and without price.” The gospel, then, which is to turn the thorn into the myrtle, is one which declares that God had made provision for the necessities of man, and which then heartily and earnestly invites man to partake thereof. I cannot understand the gospel of some of my brethren who never dare to say to a sinner, “Come,” and are afraid to bid him repent and believe the gospel. I know why they are so afraid, because they believe that man is not able of himself to repent and believe (in which belief I fully agree with them); and therefore they will not bid men do what is beyond their power. Yet if preaching be the word of God, it should of right be something more than any and every simpleton might accomplish. Now, any fool has faith enough to tell a man to do what he knows he can do, but it needs a man to be full of faith, and to be sent of God, to command men in God’s name to do things far beyond human reach. When a man dares to, speak as God would have him, the Holy Spirit puts force into the command, and the hearer is enabled to do what he would not otherwise have attempted. The gospel which cries, “Awake, thou that sleepest, and rise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee life;” this is the power of God unto salvation! We prophesy upon the dead, and cry,  “Ye dry bones, live!’ Any man in all Israel could have said to the living bones, “Live,” but only an Ezekiel could say, “Ye dry bones, live.” This is one of the tests of the true servants of God, that they dare to bid men do what of themselves they cannot do, speaking in their Master’s name, believing that the power of God himself goes forth with the word of gospel command, and that God’s commanding's are God’s enablings to his elect when listening to his truth.

     From the same verse it is most clear that this gospel is as free as the air, for do we not read over and over again, “Buy without money and without price,” and are not those invited to come who have no money? The meaning of this must be not merely that men cannot purchase salvation with gold, but that they cannot merit it any way. Gospel blessings must be received gratis. The Lord stops not to bargain and chaffer with sinners. You are not to dream of deserving mercy; you are not to think of making yourself fit for salvation; you are to come to Jesus just as you are. If you have no good feelings, you are to come to Christ to get them; if you have no graces, or virtues, or right emotions, you may come to Jesus for all things. If you are so bad that if you were sifted there would not be found a grain of goodness in you, yet, nevertheless, he that hath no money let him come, let him come and freely take what God provides. The gospel of Jesus is as free as the air we breathe: our lungs receive it without let or hindrance, and there is no toll or tax upon it. Grace is as free as the water gushing from the rock, whereof every thirsty traveller may partake; free, I say, to every man of woman born who is led by grace to long for it. “Then why do they not take it?” say you. Because their wills are perverse towards Christ, and it needs an act of sovereign grace to make men willing to receive him; yet remember if they will not receive the grace of God, the fault lies wholly with themselves, their eternal ruin is of their own procuring.

     Further observe, that it is a gospel of hearing and not of doing. See the second verse, “Hearken diligently.” Notice the third verse, “Incline your ear;” and yet again, “Hear and your soul shall live.” Death came to us first through the eye, but salvation comes through the ear. Our first parent, Eve, looked at the fruit; she “saw that it was good,” and so she plucked, and so we fell. But no man rises to eternal life by signs and symbols appealing to the eye; it is by the use of the ear that the joyful news is communicated. The soldiers of Emanuel would fain carry Eye-gate by storm, but it is not to be done. Ear-gate is a far more accessible point of attack for the gospel warrior. There we must sound the silver trumpet, and there we must keep the battering-rams of the gospel continually beating, for faith cometh not by seeing, but it cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Dear hearer, if you desire eternal life, you have not now to perform a dreary penance, or to pass through tormenting horrors of mind, or to live for years a meritorious life; you have but to listen to the gospel with attention and faith; listen to it and receive it into your soul, and that gospel will do for you what you never can do for yourself — it will change your nature; and when your nature is changed, then good works will follow as a result. If you seek good works as a cause of salvation, you will make a gross mistake; but if you will take the gospel to be in yon, the cause and root of holiness, then all manner of good things shall spring up to your comfort and to God’s praise. The first business of a sinner is to hear the gospel. Note how it is over and over again, “Hearken,” “Incline your ear,” “Hear, and your soul shall live.” I charge you, frequent a gospel ministry; I beseech you, search the Scriptures; be diligent in seeking to know what the gospel is; for while you are waiting at the posts of Jesus’ doors, you shall hear the good word which saith, “Thy sins, which are many, are forgiven thee.” Down with those gospels of gazing and staring; they will damn men, but they cannot save them. The gaudy idolatries, which every day are flaunted in our faces, are enough to make the martyrs start from their graves to curse their craven sons that they tolerate such worse than fooleries. The land must surely groan at its heart, to see that here again, on English soil, the pollutions of crucifixes, and cross-bearings, and altars, and shaveling monks, and I know not what besides, are to be multiplied in every corner. The gospel saith, “Look to Jesus and live;” it saith not “Look to crucifixes;” its message is, “Incline your ear, and come unto me;” not “Turn your faces and gaze upon a priest, acting like a fool in a pantomime.” The gospel heard by the heart and believed in by the soul, is the great transforming agency of which Isaiah speaks.

     Furthermore , running your eye down the chapter, you will notice that the great means God makes use of for turning deserts into gardens is the gospel founded on a covenant, a covenant made with David’s Lord and Son. “ I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.” We were all lost through a covenant. God made a covenant with Adam, a covenant of works. It was on this wise: “This do, and thou shalt live. Abstain from eating of the forbidden tree, and thou, and those whom thou representest, shall live in my favour.” Adam broke the condition of the agreement, and there and then, you and I, and all of us, fell down and perished by the fatal act of our first parent. The Lord has now arranged a new covenant, of a different character; it is made with Christ Jesus, the second Adam, and with all whom he represents. It is on this wise: “Thou, Jesus, thou shalt keep the law, and thou shalt also suffer a penalty for all the breaches of my law by all who are in thee. If thou doest this, all those who are in thee shall live eternally.” At this hour this covenant never can fail us, because our Lord Jesus has fully and completely obeyed the law, and has suffered the penalty due for our guilt; the conditions of the covenant of grace have been fulfilled, and the covenant of grace is henceforth unconditional, and consists only of promises on God’s part to us, and not of legal obligations on our part to God, for Jesus Christ has fulfilled the obligations of his people towards God so far as the law of works is concerned. The everlasting and sure covenant stands on this wise: “I will bless you; I will save you; I will be your God, and ye shall be my people.” Now, if there had been an “if ” in the covenant, turning upon something to be done by us, it could not have been called, as it is in the chapter, “an everlasting covenant,” for it would have been quite sure to break down sooner or later; but Jesus the Lord, having kept, to the utmost jot and tittle, his part of the covenant of grace, and fulfilled the conditions, the eternal Father is now engaged to fulfil his portion of the covenant towards Jesus Christ, and all who are represented in him. This is the rock on which rests the blessed gospel. Wherever a covenant gospel is preached, it will work wonders; but it must ever be a gospel based upon the covenant of grace, even the sure mercies of David.

     Still proceeding in our investigation of the chapter, notice that Isaiah describes a gospel whose success is guaranteed. See the fifth verse, “Thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not.” But you may call often, and men will not come; in this case, however, they shall come. “Nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee.” And again, in the tenth and eleventh verses, “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” The gospel of Jesus Christ is an agency adapted to produce the results which God designed, and with the accompanying Spirit of divine grace, the ordained results are always produced. It is no haphazard as to whether the preaching of the word this morning shall be useful or not. God has determined and settled its results from before the foundations of the world. What a consolation this ought to be to all of you who are serving your Lord Jesus! As far as you are concerned, everything depends upon your earnestness and fidelity; but, so far as God is concerned, he has decreed and determined all results, and you may go in confidence that God shall not be disappointed, and the eternal purpose shall not be frustrated. Brethren, come what may, the gospel shall ultimately be triumphant; even in our own land the gospel will yet, like a blast from the Lord, sweep cardinal, and priest, and monk, and all the Popish crew, adown Albion’s white cliffs, and sink them in the sea. The day shall come when the ranks of superstition shall be broken like thin clouds before a Biscay gale. The gods of the heathens, shaking even now, shall fall from their pedestals. Celestial light shall scatter the infernal darkness once for all. Only be of good heart, ye soldiers of the cross. The voice of Christ shall call the nations, and, uprising from their bondage, the nations shall come to him! The eternal Father shall send his quickening power into the hearts of myriads of men, and as though it were but one man , they shall throw their idols to the moles and to the bats, and shall turn to the Lord and live. In this is our comfort; let this be the encouragement of every fainting labourer.

     One other remark only. The gospel which Isaiah speaks of is one which is very full of gracious encouragement. Were there ever more inviting words written than these, “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon”? Those eighth and ninth verses — what drops of honey they are! how they must delight the trembling sinner! Yes, and when we preach Christ, we are to preach him in this spirit. Jesus did declare the judgment of God, and warn men of hell — nobody ever spoke more solemnly than he concerning the world to come and all its woes; but still it was all in gentleness, tenderness, and pity. Men are saved not so much by threatening them and making them to tremble with physical fear, as by gently wooing them with Jesus’ mighty love, and reminding them of the great Father’s pity, and the Holy Spirit’s condescension. How tenderly the Lord deals with unbelieving, faint-hearted sinners! he puts language into the Bible which is so loving as almost to make fear impossible. The Holy Spirit searches for metaphors and illustrations, if I may so say, that shall by some means calm the perturbed spirit of poor tremblers, “Look,” saith he, “your thoughts are very dark and despairing, and you conclude that you must be lost; but my thoughts are not as your thoughts. You know not how kind a God I am; you have no idea how ready I am to forgive the past, how willing to restore my rebel child to all that he has lost through offending me.” You slander the great Father who is in heaven; you dream of him as a tyrant, you fancy that he bears always the sword in his hand; but know that, like the father in the parable, he sees returning prodigals a great way off, and when they come towards him he runs to meet them, his bosom yearning over them, and his tongue ready to speak words, of peace. Let us, dear friends, whether we preach in pulpits, or preach in parlours, or preach in kitchens (and I hope we preach somewhere if we know the gospel experimentally), let us always talk encouragingly to those we meet with. “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord” — what says the apostle? — “we 'persuade men.” That is a very unexpected word, “persuade.” You expected the passage to be, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we thunder at men, we threaten men.” It is not so, but “We persuade men.” With all those terrors heavily pressing our minds, we still adopt the soft, tender, and gentle method, and tell meu of the great mercy of God, of the preciousness of the blood of Jesus, of the power there is in the atoning sacrifice to take away human guilt, of the readiness with which a sinner at hell’s gate may yet be lifted up to heaven. It is the gospel of encouragement which after all wins the day.

     We have spent time enough in noticing the efficient agency which produces the results spoken of in the text, and must pass on to another point.

     II. Secondly, observe THE BENEFICIAL RESULTS OF THE GOSPEL. The change depicted in this verse is very radical, for a little observation will convince you that it is a change in the soil. The verse does not say, “Instead of the thorn God shall plant the fir tree,” no, but as the thorn coming up naturally by itself indicates such-and-such a condition of soil, so fir trees shall spring up by themselves spontaneously, indicating an altogether radical change in the earth beneath. Instead of the thorn shall come up, shall spring up naturally, the fir tree. The results and outgrowth of the soil are different, but it is clear from the use of the words, “shall come up,” that the soil itself is different too. I passed by a piece of common yesterday. They had been enclosing it, as those rascals always will if they can, to rob the poor of their rights, and filch every morsel of green grass upon which we may freely put our feet; but I noticed that they had only enclosed it, and had not dug it up, nor ploughed it, nor planted it; and though they had cut down the gorse and furze, it was coming up again — of course it would, for it was a common still, and a bit of fence or a rail could not alter it; the furze would come peeping up, and ere long the enclosure would be as wild as the heath outside. It is not so in the text. When God encloseth a heart that has laid common, does he cut down the thorns and the briers, and then plant fir trees? no, no, but he so changes the soil that from the ground itself, from its own vitality, there spontaneously starts up the fir tree and the myrtle. This is a most wonderful result. You take a man and leave him at heart the same godless man, you mend his habits, you make him go to church, or to the meeting-house, you clothe him, you break his wine bottle, you rinse his mouth out so that he does not talk so filthily, and altogether you say, “He is now a respectable man” ah! but if these respectabilities and rightnesses outwardly are only skin deep, you have done nothing. At least, what you have done is no great wonder; there is nothing in it to be proud of. But suppose this man can be so changed that just as freely as he was wont to curse he now delights to pray, and just as heartily as he hated religion he now finds pleasure in it, and just as earnestly as he sinned he now delights to be obedient to the Lord; ah! then, this is a wonder, a miracle which man cannot accomplish, a marvel which only the grace of God can work, and which gives to God his highest glory.

     Note the poetic metaphor which describes the outward change. Originally the natural heart yields thorns. A thorn is the conspicuous emblem of the curse. Upon many ungodly men there is very evidently the curse — while upon all it really rests— they toil hard but are yet impoverished: the curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked. Drunkenness, gambling, and uncleanness always carry a curse with them. You cannot enter some men’s houses without seeing on the dirty walls and the bare floor the mark of the curse. Listen to them, hear them talk, and their speech bewrayeth them; they can hardly get through a sentence without some word which indicates the curse of sin. Or, sojourn among another class of society, and you soon find the curse-mark either in the shape of discontent, or weariness of religious exercises, or fear of death, or hatred of the gospel, or some other form. But when grace displays its marvellous transformation, how different is the scene! Instead of the thorn there comes up the fir tree, a tree chosen to be used in the building of the house of God, where beams of cedar and fir were abundantly to be seen; the man blesses and magnifies now the Most High God, and though he feels (and mourns as he feels it) some of the effects of the curse in his own corrupt nature, yet the longings of his soul are in the opposite direction, and the bent and bias of his spirit are towards the hearty and loving service of the Most High.

     Observe, again, the man originally brought forth a thorn — that is, a fruitless thing — look at it and see how barren it is. God gets neither prayer nor praise from the ungodly man. Throughout his whole life the God who made him is forgotten. He never seeks to glorify his Maker; he looks upon that, perhaps, as cant. His great god is his money, and if he can increase his wealth he is satisfied: but, O thou good God! from this unconverted man thou gettest nothing — he is a thorn, and bears no fruit. Now, as soon as he is changed by the grace of God through the hearing of the gospel, he becomes like a nr tree. The tree here described is one of the most useful growing in the East; and so the converted man becomes useful to his God, useful to his fellow man, useful to the church, useful for spiritual things, useful to eternity.

     A thorn, too, is a repulsive thing — there is nothing inviting about it; nobody would choose to make it a pillow or a companion. An unconverted selfish man is frequently most repulsive. I say not so of all, for some Christless persons are naturally amiable; but many and many a man, especially when sin has come to a head with him, is a thorn-hedge, a churl, an unsympathising, selfish being. Sinners are as bad company for true saints as thorns and briers would be for a naked man. “Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men,” says the Psalmist; as if he felt their company to be too irksome to be borne. But when changed, sinners become beautiful and attractive, like those stately firs which delight our eyes. Happy is that man, who though he was once like a thorn, pushing aside all Christian communion, standing in solitary rebellion by himself, has now become one of those who fear the Lord and speak often one to another, even as the pine trees of the forest speak often to one another in their sacred solitude, when the wind sounds through their pillared shade.

     Again, the thorn is a rending thing, offending, noxious. Pass over it with naked feet, and what laceration you receive! see how your garment is torn, and the beauty thereof marred by the thorn! So has it been with ungodly men, when unrestrained by grace. Like Saul of Tarsus, they breathe out vengeance against God and his people. Persecutors are rending and tearing thorns, but when saved of God, they are not the same men. That which they once pulled down, they now seek to build up, and they are now as earnest to extend the kingdom of Christ as once they were to blaspheme his name.

     As for the metaphor of the brier used in the text, it was always the emblem of desolation. The brier came up on the desolate walls of Babylon and Nineveh; the brier covered the land of Israel, when the inhabitants were carried away captive. In how many human hearts where the gospel has not come is there desolation, sadness, despair! They want they know not what; their cries are like the cries of the dragon and the owl amidst the broken palaces of kings: the heart is deserted of its God, and therefore deserted of all happiness.

     The brier, too, is a thing that cumbers the ground; it occupies the place of the palm or of the fig; and so ungodly men cumber the ground; they do no good; they occupy spheres in which others might have served God; they are altogether wasters, they rob God, they bring him no revenue of glory.

     The brier is soon to be cut down, and when cut down no use can be made of it; it is burnt; it is put away. Such is the future history of the unconverted man. His sin will bring him sorrow, the halls of his soul shall be desolate; his life is a cumbering of the ground, and his end shall be to be utterly destroyed amongst the refuse things which God casts away. Blessed is such a one when God transforms him into the comely myrtle, nurtured and tended and cared for by the Lord, and made to celebrate the victory of all-conquering grace. All this the gospel does; it enters a man’s heart, and finds him like a wild heath overgrown with thorns; it ploughs him through and through, and cross-ploughs him; sin is made a bitter thing to him; in the sight of the cross of Christ he is made to detest himself, that he should have treated divine love with such infamous and insolent ingratitude. And then, after the ploughing comes the sowing; living truth is cast into the furrow; up it springs, first the blade, then the ear, and then the full corn in the ear, and God is glorified where once Satan ruled and mischief alone was wrought. There are many such cases of glorious transformation in this house this morning. It is our comfort to know that if we wanted proofs of our ministry, or seals to the power of the gospel, here they are. Oh, how clearly can some of us testify what grace has done for our souls! Blessed be the name of our God, it was not priestcraft that saved us; but we heard the good news that Christ came into the world to save sinners — it exactly suited our case — we came to Jesus just as we were, and we cast ourselves on him; and now being saved our great concern is to show forth his praise who has called us out of darkness into his marvellous light.

     III. Our last exercise is to notice THE GLORIOUS ISSUE. “It shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

     Jehovah might, if he willed, have taken other names; he might have selected other works of his hands to be the ensigns of Ids glory, but he has chosen the results of the gospel to be his proudest honours; he has, if I may use such a term, staked his eternal majesty upon the effects of gospel grace. With the heathen their gods took names from what were thought to be their most glorious work. We read of Jove, the thunderer, because they imagined that he launched the bolt from his hand. They spoke of the far-darting Apollo — the rays of light flashing from the sun. They talked of the cruel Juno in the wars of Troy. Each god and goddess was allotted some particular name as indicating its individuality. If Jehovah, the one only true God, had chosen, he might have been “Jehovah, the Thunderer;” we might have read of the far-darting God; we might have had him constantly portrayed in Scripture as the terrible and avenging Lord; but he hath not chosen such a name; he hath not been pleased to select anything that is terrible as his peculiar glory, but that which is full of melting mercy and tender pity. The gospel of mercy to guilty sinners, the gospel of abounding mercy for abounding sin, shall be his name — the gospel of hearing and living, the gospel of inclining the ear and being saved. Now, observe that the Lord was by no means necessitated to choose this to be his distinguishing sign, escutcheon, and glory. See what his arm hath done in days gone by, where he made the heavens and the earth, and stretched out the firmament, and filled the channels of the great deep: might he not have said, “These shall be unto me for a name,” when he spake, and it was done, he commanded, and it stood fast? Or if the things of earth were too insignificant, lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created all these things, these ponderous orbs which move in majesty — hath not he made them all? If he had willed it, as he made those stars whose distances and magnitude are utterly inconceivable by us, might he not have said, “These shall be unto the Lord for a name”? We are told by astronomers, and we do not doubt it, that the whole of the fixed stars visible by the telescope may be possibly nothing more than a little group somewhere in an obscure corner of the universe; occupying a space perfectly inconceivable for immensity, they may yet be as the small dust of the balance compared with the whole of God’s works. If it be so, and God has made worlds without number filled with countless inhabitants, all of which sound forth his praise, he might have said, “This creation, which I have finished, shall be to me for a name.” But it is not so; the Lord has not chosen creation to be his distinguishing glory. Beloved, there is the world of providence, and in that providence there are wheels within wheels, evolving marvels of manifold wisdom ; surely, these might have been to the Lord for a name, and for an everlasting sign, but it is not so declared. Those mighty acts which we read of in sacred story — surely these might have been unto God for a name — when he laid bare his arm and crushed the pride of Pharaoh! Hear ye Miriam’s timbrel? Can you not even now catch the exulting strains of Israel’s song, “Sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he cast into the sea”? Surely, this might be to Jehovah for a name, but it is not so recorded. The leading of his people through the wilderness, when he fed them with manna dropping like dew from heaven; or the destruction of the inhabitants of Palestine; when he made the heathen kings to flee before the Israelites; or the overthrow of Sennacherib; or those ten thousand mighty wonders wrought by him whose mercy endureth for ever, surely these might have been called his name, but it is not so.

     Turn your thoughts for a moment from that which we have seen with our eyes and heard with our ears, and think of another world. There is a land of spirits, where weeping rules the day; nay, let me amend my speech, where lamentation rules the night, unbroken by glimpse of light. There lie the enemies of God, defeated and bound in chains. Deep in the awful dungeons lie the princes and kings who said of the royal Son, “Let us break his bands asunder.” Behold the boasters, they are abject slaves in the lowest hell! There lie the cruel persecutors of the church — wicked popes, proud cardinals, lascivious monks, and lying priests; what a goodly heap of fuel for the fire! There, too, are the nations that forgat God, and the myriads who hated and despised him.  See how Jehovah has conquered! how all his enemies are overthrown! how his foot falls heavily upon them all, crushing them eternally! how terribly he tears them in pieces, and there is none to deliver! An Alexander or a Napoleon might carve their names in conquest, and write up their glory in crimson lines of blood, and shall not the awful Jehovah, who will by no means spare the guilty, shall he not make this to himself to be a name? Not so, saith the text, not so. Mercy is his name, pardon is his glory, forgiveness of men is his everlasting sign. Brethren, observe that there is nothing material which God takes to be his glory, because, although he made materialism, it is far beneath him, and not to be gloried in. God is a spirit, and his highest glory must always come from the spiritual world. To find Rome built of brick and leave it built of marble is a fit triumph for mortal man; but there is nothing in the loftiest material work worthy of an immortal spirit. What is the difference between stone and marble after all? Both shall pass away: and when the desolating wave rolls up, marble and brick shall alike be overthrown by its shock. God has made fairer things than these, and wrought mightier miracles than all the pomp of kings can imagine, or the skill of art can execute, but he delights not in material things; his name rises from a spiritual conquest — the gospel reigning in men’s hearts. Observe, further, that out of spiritual things God has selected as his special fame a very peculiar case. He has not made unfallen spirits to be to him for a name. There are probably many orders of beings who were never tempted; they are unconscious of anything like evil, they are always holy, they cannot be otherwise than pure; and while these spotless beings honour and glorify God, he has not selected them to be to him for a name. Pure, untried, untempted virtue is fair, but there is something nobler yet. There are angels that have been tempted but did not fall; these are the elect angels, who when Satan fell, preserved their integrity, faithful amongst the faithless found. They did well not to sin; they did better than Adam, who did sin; and yet these ever-faithful servants are not called a name unto God nor an everlasting sign. But see, he has selected creatures who know good and evil, know them both by experience; and he has selected these fallen and defiled beings, and has entered into the arena of their hearts, and in them has fought foot to foot the battle of love against moral evil, and his love has conquered; and henceforth to have won that creature once so enslaved to evil, to have overcome sin by the power of love, to have brought his creature back by his grace to perfectness, he reckons as a greater honour than even to have upheld an angel or made a world. The Lord has given evil a great opportunity; he has thrown down the gage of battle to it, and said, “Do thy worst;” he has suffered it to intrench itself in the very nature of man, has suffered man to be a prey to the machinations of Satan, and a slave to his own lusts, and yet he has delivered him and brought him to his feet. The Lord has ceded to the hosts of evil for ages all the wisdom of the world, its riches, its pomp and greatness, and he has put down in the world a humble Man, despised, and rejected, and nailed to the cross, and has sent out, as followers of that Man, feeble men with no weapons but their tongues and their hearts, and no power except the force of truth and the aid of the Holy Ghost; and yet the Lord has overthrown Satan, utterly worsted and destroyed him, and the archangel of truth has put his foot upon his neck. Moral evil has been defeated by the love of God. In the hearts of tens of thousands of men who believe in Jesus, evil has had the fullest sway, but it has been dethroned, it has been cast from its royalty, its hands have been bound, it has been lashed to the chariot wheels of Christ, and he has led its captivity captive. Now, this is what is “unto God for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

     The Lord has acted wisely, as he always does, in selecting such a matter as this to be his name, to be a display of himself, because it is everlasting. God might have made materialism everlasting if he had chosen to do so, but he has not done it. It follows then, if this world had been God’s name, since it will be destroyed and burnt up, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the Lord would have been dishonoured. If the sun, moon, and stars had been the grandest illustrations of Deity, since they all shall pass away, where then were the glory of God? The sun shall grow dim with age, and the whole universe shall shrivel up like a scroll that is burnt in the flame; but God has selected immortal men who cannot die, and in these he has wrought a work which they never can forget, a work which has plunged them under solemn obligations to him which they never can discharge, bound them to himself by grateful ties of affection which nothing can dissolve. He has plucked us out of the horrible pit, and put us into such a place that throughout eternity it shall be our delight, our very life, to praise and magnify his name. Oh, how will we tell angels what he has done I How will we show forth in every street to the sacred inhabitants what grace has done for us, and how the love of God accomplished a mighty triumph over our sins! We will tell the cherubim and seraphim what God has done, and make them think they never saw God before till they beheld him working in men. Long adown the ages, when the morning star is laid asleep, we will tell our fellow immortals, of Golgotha, of Calvary, of Jesus and his love; we will repeat the story of the cross; we will publish abroad the story of the God that loved and died, and of the triumph of the pierced and crucified One when he entered the doors of our hearts and captured us by the force of his love. This then will be an everlasting sign unto the Lord our God.

     Let this encourage Christians. If it is God’s glory to save man, expect to have them saved and go to work to save them. Get to your knees, this afternoon, with great courage and confidence. Go out with tracts, my good brethren and sisters, expecting God to bless you. Preach in the streets, young men; engage in all sorts of holy work, my brethren; for your labour is not in vain in the Lord. A man always likes to do what will honour himself ; God also delights in that which will glorify him. Expect him then to save sinners.

     To you who are unconverted, this last word. How this ought to encourage you to come to God in Christ Jesus! Is it to his glory to save you? Oh! then he will do it. There is nothing in you that could be a motive for grace — you do not deserve his pity; but then the greater your present sin is, the more the mercy of God will be seen in pardoning you. Come then with your sin. If you are the biggest sinner that ever lived, then God’s mercy will be seen better in you than in any before; so come now, even now. Come to Jesus as you are, and let the infinitude of his mercy cover the vast extent of your sin.

     As for you who have been saved, let the text encourage you to tell it to others. Do not be backward to profess your faith. If it glorifies God, you owe him so much that you must not rob him of his praise, but be bold at once to come forward and tell what God has done to your soul. May his blessing rest upon you, for his love’s sake. Amen.



The Altar

By / Sep 20


Grey Hairs

By / Sep 13


The Perfuming of the Heart

By / Sep 6

The Perfuming of the Heart

 
“And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” — Romans 5:5.

 

THE apostle sets before us a ladder like to that which Jacob saw, the foot whereof resteth upon the earth, but the top ascendeth to heaven. Tribulation is the foot, but we mount as we see that it worketh patience; and we climb again, for patience worketh experience; and we ascend yet once again, for experience sustaineth hope; and hope that maketh not ashamed climbs up to the very heart of God, and the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us. I might compare these verses to those songs of degrees which were sung by the people as they went up to the temple: as they halted at each stage of the pilgrimage they sang a fresh Psalm, and so David said, “They go from strength to strength ; every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.” The pilgrim setteth out from the dull and desolate vale of tribulation, he journeys on to patience, and lifts up his Psalm under the shadow of the rock ; he removes his tent and journeys on to experience — beneath its wells and palm trees he refreshes himself ; soon he marches on again from experience to hope, and never stayeth till the love of God is shed abroad in his heart, and he has reached the New Jerusalem, where he worships the ever blessed God and drinks full draughts of his eternal love.

     In this text it seems to me as though our great Melchisedek, the Lord Jesus, came forth to refresh his warfaring and wayfaring people with bread and wine. You read of tribulations : these are the battles of the faithful , and in them they overcome even as Abraham overthrew the kings, and made them as driven stubble before his bow. The Lord’s warriors are often faint and weary in them, but the love of God is graciously shed abroad in their hearts; and this is that sacred bread and wine that stayeth the Lord’s people in their time of hunger, and becomes a sweet morsel to refresh them by the way, and keep them in good case till they eat the heavenly bread and drink the new wine all fresh and sparkling at the table of the marriage banquet, where they shall sit for ever and ever with the glorious Bridegroom.

     This morning, if we may be so helped of the Holy Ghost, we shall, first of all say a little upon the love of God: then upon the love of God shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost ; and then upon the confirmation which this gives to our hope, since the apostle tells us that our hope is not ashamed, for this reason, that the love of God cheers and sustains us, being shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost.

     I. First, then, some little upon THE LOVE OF GOD; a theme for breadth and depth like unto the vast Atlantic, whereon my little skiff loses itself, as a mere speck on the infinite expanse. How shall I profess fully to express truths so vast that the greatest divines might lose themselves, and the most eloquent of speakers might fail ? The love of God — how shall I attempt to speak of it? I must but skim the surface; to dive into its depths were impossible to me.

     Think for a minute, first of all, of what it is — the love of God. Now the pity of God towards the suffering I can understand, because of the goodness of his nature. The kindness of God towards the needy I can comprehend, because of the liberality of his character. That he should have compassion upon such as are ignorant and out of the way ; that he should look constantly with tenderness upon those that are sore broken and ready to perish is easy enough for me to believe ; but this is not what is spoken of in the text. It is not compassion, nor tenderness, nor pity, but it is love, which is something more than all these. You pity the beggar whom you could not love; you have compassion upon the villain in whom you could have no complacency ; you look with tenderness upon sufferers who have nothing in their character or in their persons to attract your affection. Men usually think that they have gone far enough when they have rendered kindness, even if the heart glow with no affection, and they, as a rule, take this to be the rendering of love towards their neighbour; when they have permitted their compassion and tenderness to exhibit themselves, they feel that all is done that is demanded of them. But the text speaketh not of this, but of love, direct attachment and affection, and of the love of God. I beseech you, my brethren, as you sit here, lift up your souls, bid your understandings stand on tiptoe, and endeavour fully to grasp the idea of divine love. If ye be in Christ Jesus, this day God loves you, but whereunto shall I liken love as it streams from the heart of Jehovah ? We try to guess at what God’s love to one of his people may be by our love to our own children, to our spouse, to our friend. Now in a far higher degree and sublimer sense, and after a loftier sort, even so God loves the people of his choice. Consider this believer and be astonished, that love should come from God to such a one as yourself. The Lord loves you. He has a complacency and a delight in you. You give him pleasure ; he watches for your good; you are one of his household ; your name is written on his heart. He loves you ; can you catch the thought ? If so there is no praise that can express your gratitude. Solemn silence will perhaps be the only vehicle that shall seem fitting for your soul’s adoration. Revolve the personal thought again and again in your soul! He that made the heavens and the earth loves me! He whose angels fly as lightning to obey his behests, the tramp of whose marching shakes both heaven and earth, whose smile is heaven, and whose frown is hell, loves me! Infinite, almighty, omniscient, eternal, a mind inconceivable, a spirit that is not to be comprehended; but he, even he has set his love upon the sons of men, and upon me. Let each believer say in his heart, “Upon me among the rest.” Oh, but this is astounding, this is marvellous! He hath said to us what he never said to angels, for unto which of the angels said he at any time, “Thou art my son”? to which of all the glorified spirits hath he said, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee”? Where read you that he shed his blood for angels, or poured out his heart for seraphim and cherubim?

“Never did angels taste above
Redeeming grace and dying love.”

God’s dearest love has been hoarded up for worms, saved for the creatures of a day, reserved for us poor ephemera who are and are not, that we should be favoured above all that live. It is not for tongues to tell out this wonder, but spiritual minds helped from on high may feel in solemn stillness what a mystery is here.

     If you would have, this morning, this love shed abroad in your hearts, I must ask you to consider carefully who it is that loves you, namely, the Most High God. To be loved I have already said is a sublime thought, but to be loved of him is a right royal thing, surpassing thought as far as the heaven is above the earth. A courtier will often think it quite enough for him if he hath the favour of his prince. What means that favour? It means riches, it means pleasure, it means honour. All that the courtier wants is wrapped up in the royal smile. And , believer, what means the love of the King of kings to you? If you estimate it rightly, not only all that you now want, but all that you ever can need, all that the flights of fancy or the conceptions of understanding can bring before you are contained in that one fact, that the Lord loves you. For when Jehovah loves he brings his power to help his love, his infinite wisdom to contrive ways for delighting the objects of his choice, and every other attribute of his transcendent nature works and co-operates with love for the good of the chosen ones. Thou hast all things if thou hast thy Father’s love, O child of God. Thou hast no ambition surely. Here all thine aspirations may sit down content — to be loved of God is enough and more than enough for the largest wish. Caesar's imperial couch is hard compared with the bosom of God. Caesar’s sceptre is a cumbrous thing compared with the ring of love which surrounds our finger. Give us but the Father’s love, and who will may have the Indies. Ay, let the worlds be given to whom God may please, as men give husks to swine, if we have his love it is enough, our soul is filled to the brim, and floweth over with satisfaction. Consider, I say, who it is that loves you, and surely your heart will leap at the very sound of his name, and feel it to be a matchless thing to be loved of Jehovah, the only living God.

     Think yet again of what he is who so loves you. Very much of the value of affection depends upon the object from whom it comes. It would be a very small thing, certainly, to have the complacency of some of our fellow creatures, whose judgment is so perverted that their praise might almost be considered censure. To have the love of the good, the holy, and the excellent, this is truest wealth ; and so to enjoy the love of God is an utterly priceless thing ! No mention can be made of coral, and as for rubies they shall not be mentioned in comparison therewith. God, the thrice holy One, who cannot love that which is unholy and defiled, cannot take complacency in that which is contrary to himself — yet looks on us through his Son, and, viewing us in Christ Jesus, seeth no sin in Jacob, neither iniquity in Israel, and, therefore, can love us with complacency and delight. Oh, how this exalts us! We are nothing in ourselves ; but how this makes us feel the gentleness of the Lord in making such base things to be so great by merely loving them. See ye not how graciously the Lord can fit a man to be loved, and then can shed abroad within his heart an abundance of love, which must have been an unknown thing there unless grace had changed and renewed it. To be loved of God! O sirs, some think it a great thing to be applauded of the crowd ; but watch the breath of the multitude — how soon it is blown aside! from men upon whom it was most lavished, from them it is soon taken. What think ye of the approval of the wisest and best of men ? What is their wisdom but folly in the sight of God? and what is their approbation often but a mistake ? But to be approved of him before whom the heavens are not pure, and who charged his angels with folly ! Beloved, this is such a thing as might make you sit down and lose yourselves in blissful meditation, even until ye found yourselves in heaven.

     Still further to lead your minds into this love of God, let me remind you of the remarkable characteristics of that love. The love of God towards his people is a heaven-born affection; it sprang from no source but itself. God loves his people because he will love them, and for no other reason known to us. Divine love is not caused by any excellence in the creature, either created or foreseen; its springs are within itself. We do not believe in the eternity and self-existence of matter, but we do believe in the eternity and self-existence of divine love. The Godhead seeks no reason for love to fallen men beyond its own determination and purpose. The Lord chose his people at the first in the exercise of his sovereign will. He loved them then because “he will have compassion on whom he will have compassion.” He then united them to Christ, and viewing them as Christ’s bride, beholding them as members of Jesus’ body, he loved them with divine complacency: the love not springing from anything in them, but altogether from that which is within himself and in his own dear Son; a causeless love, so far as outward causes are concerned, caused only by the fact that God in his nature and essence is love.

     As this love was uncreated, so it is self-sustaining. It is like the Deity itself. It borrows nothing from without, it bears its life and strength within its own bowels. The Lord loves you not to-day, Christian, because of anything you are doing, or being, or saying, or thinking, but he loves you still, because his great heart is full of love, and it runneth over to you. I do rejoice to think that this love sits on no precarious throne, nor borrows leave to be. It lives, and shall live as long as God lives. None shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, and so long as God exists, this fire of love , fed upon its own fuel, unsupplied by any human hand, shall continue still to flame forth towards the chosen seed.

     This love too, it is sweet to remember, is utterly unbounded and altogether unequalled. You cannot say of God’s love it has gone thereto, but it shall go no further. It is impossible to conceive a point beyond its glorious tide; but if there were such a point, it would yet reach it, for the love of God glories to be without limit of any kind towards his people. He loves us much better than we love our children, for we often love them so badly that we bring them up to evil, and we tolerate them in sin. He loves us better than we love ourselves, for self-love it is that ruins us; but God’s love it is that saves us, and lifts us up to heaven and to perfection. There is no love that can any more be compared with God’s, than the faint gleam of a candle can be likened to the blaze of the sun at noonday. He loves his people so much that he gives them all that he hath. Earth, with all its providential arrangements, he consecrateth to them, that all things may work together for their good. Heaven itself he gives them, and since he wills it so, they shall even sit upon the throne of Christ, to reign with him. As for his own Son, his choicest and greatest treasure, a treasure the like of which heaven and earth could not match, “God spared not his own Son, but freely delivered him up for us all; how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” The divine love has no shore. Enterprising mariner, thy thought may spread its sail and catch the favouring wind of the eternal Spirit, but if thou shalt fly on, and on, for ever and for ever, over ceaseless waves of new discovery, yet shalt thou never find a limit either to the infinite God, or to his infinite love, for the two are as one. As the Father hath loved Christ, even so hath he loved his people, and herein let them rejoice, for they rest. A love without a parallel ! Blessed be God for it.

     So , beloved, let us reflect too, that this love is unvarying and unsleeping. He never loves them less, he cannot love them more. God loveth each one of his people as much as if there were only that one created being in all heaven or earth, and as if there were no other object for him to set his love upon. For the multiplicity of the saints doth not diminish the infinite love which each one enjoys. The Lord would not love better the one only redeemed one, if but one had been bought with blood, than he loveth each one ransomed from the fall. A greater excess of love there cannot be; God loveth his people with all his heart : diminution of love there shall not be, for he hath said that there is neither variableness nor shadow of a turning with the Father of lights. He changeth not, therefore the sons of Jacob are not consumed. Brethren, how sweet it is to think that though a mother’s love towards a child cannot, when her weariness has worn her out, keep her awake every night when the child is sick — and perhaps the little one may be in want while the mother necessarily is asleep — yet this can never happen to our God. No fatigue, no exhaustion, no faintness, can ever make a pause in the Lord’s loving oversight of the saints. Never for a single moment does he forget his church. His heart always beats high towards his chosen, and at every moment he showeth himself strong for the defence of those that trust him. If there were a minute in which God left you, child of God, you might indeed be wretched ; but since there is no such period, rejoice exceedingly in the daily presence of your heavenly Father, and endeavour to walk worthy of it. Let every day be a holy day bright with the light of this constant love. Put on your garments as though they were priestly vestments; go forth to your daily labour as to sacerdotal service; go to your house as to a temple; come hither to the assembly of God’s saints like a great congregation of priests, who come together on the feasts of the Most High to offer sacrifices to their ever present God. Well may you into whose eyes this love has gleamed, and upon whose hearts the divine warmth of this love is perpetually streaming, live after a nobler fashion than the common herd of men.

     Lastly upon this matter of the love of God, we triumphantly believe that it is undying and unfailing. God will never cease to love the objects of his choice. They shall grow grey with age, but not his love. They shall live on when this poor earth has melted, and the elements have dissolved, but his love shall remain with them; it shall not perish in the conflagration, nor shall the covenant of his grace be consumed. They shall live on when the universe has gone back to its original nothingness, if so the Lord ordaineth it, but in the eternities to come still shall that love of God be ever fresh and ever new. To my mind, it always seems to be the very sweetest part of the gospel, that when the love of God has once been shed abroad in a man’s soul, and he has really enjoyed it, and known by the witness of the Holy Ghost that he is the object of the divine affection, there is no fear that he shall ever be driven from the divine presence, or become an outcast and an apostate; for whom Jesus loves he loveth even to the end. He keepeth the feet of his saints; none of those that trust in him shall be desolate. He gives unto his sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of his hand. “ Because I live ye shall live also,” saith he. Oh, precious truth, the very marrow and fatness of the word of God ! May you have the grace to feel it, as well as believe it, to rejoice in it as well as understand it, and so may the love of God be shed abroad in your heart by the Holy Ghost which he hath given unto you.

     II. THE LOVE OF GOD IS SHED ABROAD.

     Shall we try to illustrate these words by common things? Here is an alabaster box of very precious ointment, it holds within the costly frankincense of the love of God: but we know nothing of it, it is closed up, a mystery, a secret. The Holy Spirit opens the box, and now the fragrance fills the chamber wherein the ten thousand times ten thousand of the elect are sitting, for now the love is shed abroad; every spiritual taste perceives it, heaven and earth are perfumed with it. Frequently at the great Roman games the emperors, in order to gratify the citizens of Rome, would cause sweet perfumes to be rained down upon them through the awning which covered the amphitheatre. Behold the vases, the huge vessels of perfume! yes, but there is nought here to delight you so long as the jars are sealed ; but let the vases be opened, and the vessels be poured out, and let the drops of perfumed rain begin to descend, and every one is refreshed and gratified thereby. Such is the love of God. There is a richness and a fulness in it, but it is not perceived till the Spirit of God pours it out like a rain of fragrance over the heads and hearts of all the living children of God. See, then, the need of having the love of God shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost!

     Observe that no one can shed abroad the love of God in the heart but the Holy Ghost. It is he that first puts it there. Men live in neglect of this love till he first impresses them with a sense of the value of it; and they continue to seek after it in vain till he opens the door and introduces them into the secret chamber of its mystery. It is the Holy Ghost who educates us in the art of divine love. Not a letter can we read in God’s love-book till we are taught of the Holy Ghost. He is the great Master of the house, the great Steward bringing forth the precious things of God to our souls. No man can say that Jesus is the Christ but by the Holy Ghost, much less can a man be assured that he is the object of eternal love but by a revelation made to him by the Holy Spirit who makes this delightful truth clear to his mind.

     Do you enquire in what way is the love of God shed abroad? I reply, that to the best of my knowledge and experience, the gracious operation is somewhat upon this wise. The Holy Spirit enables the man to be assured that he is an object of the divine love in the first place. The man comes to the cross as a guilty sinner, looks up to the five wounds, those dear founts of pardoning grace, trusts himself in the living Saviour’s hands, and then he cries, “I am saved, for I have God’s promise to that effect. Now, since I am saved, I must have been the object of the Lord’s love; there must have been a marvellous love which gave that blessed Son of God to bleed for me.” The man does not doubt it, he is assured of it in his own spirit, and then the Spirit of God, whose operations are far beyond all our knowledge, confirms the testimony of his conscience. We need not attempt to comprehend the working of the Holy Spirit, for as we know not even how the wind bloweth, much less shall we know how the Comforter works; but this we know, that he adds a confirmatory testimony to the witness of our own hearts, he beareth witness with our spirits that we are born of God, and so we become infallibly and beyond all possibility of mistake assured that the love of God is ours, and that we have a part and an interest in it.

     Then, the next thing the Spirt of God doth, is to make the man clearly understand what kind of love this is which God giveth to him. He leads him not all at once, perhaps, but by degrees, into all truth. He takes of the things of Christ and reveals them to the believer’s heart, till the believer understands that this love of God to him is such a love as I have been describing just now. He clearly perceives Jehovah’s love in its length, and breadth, and height, and wonders at it for all the marvels which it has wrought. This admirable enlightenment is no small part of the shedding abroad of the love of God. A man must know before he can enjoy, and in proportion as the eyes of his understanding are opened will he be able to enter into the delightful experience of the secret love of Jesus.

     But then comes the point — the essence of the matter — the Holy Spirit enables the soul to meditate upon this love, casts out the cares of the world, lifts it up above doubts and fears, and temptations, makes a blessed quiet, a divine Sabbath within the heart, and then the man , while he meditates, finds a fire begins to burn within his soul. Meditating yet more, he is as it were carried off his feet, lifted up from the things of earth. Meditating still, and considering, and weighing, he comes to be in an amazement, he marvels, he is astonished, and then he is filled with strong emotion. He is devoutly grateful.

     “Blessed be the Lord,” saith he, “who hath remembered my low estate, and hath loved one so unworthy.” He breaks out into a song like that of the Virgin, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.” Then while gratitude is still within his soul, a divine resignation to all the Master’s will keeps rule within him. Jehovah loves me, then what matters though every bone should ache, and the heart should throb, and the head be heavy? What matters though the cottage wall be bare, and the table be but scantily furnished? my Father, do thou as thou wilt. Then follows a rapturous leaping over this devout calm, a joy unutterable, next akin to heaven fills the heart; and this joy sometimes takes the character of ecstasy, until whether the man is in the body or out of the body, he cannot tell, God knoweth. Then if he be alone perhaps time flies and he seems to anticipate eternity, forgetting the lapse of hours; and if he be in company with others, his lips teach many, his words are better than pearls, and his sentences than strings of coral. The Master’s love makes him to wear a brightness about his countenance and a transfiguration glory about his character which others who have tasted of the like understand, but which to the worldling seemeth to be the effect of madness or of drunkenness with new wine, like that of the famous Pentecostal morning. Yes, brethren and sisters, if you know what it is to have the love of God shed abroad in your hearts by the Holy Ghost, you will perhaps wonder that I cannot paint it better, but I would like any of you to try. You shall find it far easier to enjoy it than to depict it, for this seemeth to me to be one of those things in its heights and depths which it were almost unlawful for a man to utter. This master-thought of Jehovah’s love to us, beareth us as on eagles’ wings, takes us up beyond the smoke and din and dust of this poor world, sets us in the heavenly places at the right hand of Christ, enthrones us, puts a crown upon our head, ennobles us, wraps us about with the white linen that we are to wear for ever; makes us, while yet we are poor, to be as angels in the midst of the sons of men. The Lord give us this soul-elevating influence more and more. May this transcendent experience be our constant and daily enjoyment, so shall we be ripening for heaven, and it will not be long before the gates of pearl shall open to admit us into the presence of God, for which this experience is a most fitting preparation.

     III. Lastly, this inexpressible sweetness of which we have spoken becomes THE CONFIRMATION OF OUR HOPE.

     Hope rests itself mainly upon that which is not seen; it builds itself upon the promise of God, whom eye hath not beheld. Still it is exceedingly sweet to us while we are in this body, if we receive some evidence and token of divine love which we can positively enjoy even now. You recollect Master Bunyan in the Pilgrim, how he writes the dialogue which took place when the Pilgrim was met by Atheist. Atheist snaps his fingers, and he cries, with jeer and laugh, “Ye fools, ye are seeking for a New Jerusalem; there is no such place. I have been seeking this city these twenty years, but find no more of it than I did the day I first set out. I tell you there is no such thing as a world beyond the stream, there are no harps of gold, no brightness — you are deceived men.” “But,” said Hopeful, “how say you so, did we not see the gate of the city from the Delectable Mountains?” He might have added, “I do remember when I stood with the shepherds on the top of Mount Clear that I saw the city, I looked through the telescope, and I saw it, and therefore I am not deceived, but I follow after that which mine eyes have gazed upon.” See you then how the present enjoyments of divine love in the soul become to us arguments for the reality of the things which we are hoping for, and our hope is not ashamed, because God gives to us, even here, such emotions of spiritual delight, that we anticipate the raptures of the hereafter, and confidently press forward to reach the promised rest. Why, blessed be God, there are some of us who do not want Butler’s Analogy, or Paley’s evidences, to back our faith; we have our own analogy and our own evidences within our own souls, written by the Holy Spirit on the day when we tasted that the Lord is gracious. No Jesus Christ! with whom then have we spoken all these years, and upon whose bosom have we leaned? No Holy Spirit! what mysterious agency then is that which strings the chords of our soul, and fetches superhuman music from them, causing us to delight in sublime and celestial themes to which once we were strangers? What is that power which casts us down to the earth in solemn awe of the Great Invisible, and then again bears us out of ourselves up to the seventh heaven? No Father God! Tell not his children so barefaced a lie! It was not long ago, I am informed, that a certain infidel lecturer gave an opportunity to persons to reply to him after the lecture, and he was of course expecting that some young men would rise to bring the general arguments for Christianity which he was quite prepared to overturn and laugh at. But an old lady, carrying a basket, and wearing an ancient bonnet, and altogether dressed in the antique fashion, which marked both her age and her poverty, came on the platform. Putting down her basket and umbrella, she began, and said, “I paid threepence to hear of something better than Jesus Christ, and I have not heard it. Now let me tell you what religion has done for me, and then tell me something better, or else you you’ve cheated me out of the threepence which I paid to come in. Now,” she said, “I’ve been a widow forty years, and I had ten children, and I trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ in the depth of poverty, and he appeared for me and comforted me, and helped me to bring up my children so that they have grown up and turned out respectable. I was often very sore pressed, but my prayers were heard by my Father in heaven, and I was always delivered. Now you are going to tell me something better than that; better for a poor woman like me! I have been to the Lord sometimes when I’ve been very low indeed, and there’s been scarcely anything for us to eat, and I’ve always found his providence has been good and kind to me. And when I lay very sick, I thought I was dying, and my heart was ready to break at leaving my poor fatherless little ones, and there was nothing kept me up but the thought of Jesus and his faithful love to my poor soul, and you tell me it was all a mistake. Now, tell me something better, or else why do you cheat us of these threepences? Tell us something better.” Well, poor soul, the lecturer was a good hand at an argument, but such a mode of controversy was novel, and not readily met, and therefore he gave up the contest, and merely said, really the dear old woman was so happy in her deception, he should not like to undeceive her. “No,” she said, “that won’t do. Facts are facts. Jesus Christ has been all this to me, and I could not sit down in the hall and hear you talk against him without coming and saying this, and asking you whether you could tell me something better than what he has done for me. I’ve tried and proved him, and that’s more than you have.” Ah! it is that; it is the testing and proving of God; it is the getting the love really shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost which affords us an argument which cannot be answered. Experience is the iron file against which the viper breaks his teeth, but cannot prevail. God gives us even here a foretaste of heaven’s supernatural enjoyment, in the forms of peace, calm, bliss, exultation, delight. This may seem fanatical talk to some, and a mere dream to others; but, sirs, we are as honest men as you are, and we as much claim to be believed when we assert that we enjoy these things as you claim our credence when you make an assertion. And if this convince you not, and you still doubt us, rest assured that it convinces us, and that shall suffice. The love of God shed abroad in the heart makes our hope, so that it is not ashamed.

     See, brethren, the love of God is often shed abroad in the heart when we are very sick. When pain is most severe, joy has often been at its fullest. This love has come to paupers in the union house, and turned the workhouse into a palace. It has come to the dying in the hospitals, and made the wards to ring with heavenly music. It has come to some of us in nights of the deepest depression through which the human mind could pass, and it has lifted us right up out of the mist and the cloud, and set us in the sunlight of God. Now, these things coming at such times tend greatly to make the child of God feel that his hope is as sure in the dark as it is in the light, and that he can trust his God though all things should seem to belie the promise. These things are of such an elevated nature that they help to maintain an elevated hope. If our comforts were gross and carnal, to be received by the mouth or by the ear, of what service would they be to that high and holy hope which comes from God himself? But the enjoyments of which I have been speaking in the reception of the divine love in the heart, are so elevating that they precisely suit the character of our hope, and our hope is confirmed thereby. For, beloved, a sense of the love of God confirms everything that we hope for. For, if God loves me, then I am forgiven; if God loves me, then I am secure; if God loves me, then my circumstances are well ordered ; if God loves me, then be will bear me through my trials; if God loves me, then he will keep me from the touch of sin; if God loves me, he will not suffer temptation to overcome me, but he will keep me pure and holy, and receive me to himself at the last; if God loves me, then the heaven which he has prepared for his people must be mine, and with those that have gone before, I shall see his face, I shall drink draughts of his love, and be with him for ever and ever. Like a master-key that locks up every lock in the house, so does the sense of the love of God lock up every treasure in the covenant of grace; and if we have it within us it affords us admission to every blessed thing, so that we may take at our will, and rejoice in God on account of it.

     Now I have no more to say upon this point, upon which I have spoken so exceedingly feebly to my own consciousness, but I would to God that you all knew even the little that I can tell you spiritually. To hear of divine love with the ear is nothing, it is like the rattle of the dishes in the ear of a hungry man when there is nought given to him to feed on. To understand this theoretically is nothing, it is like being able to cast up thousands of pounds upon the slate, but having not a farthing in the purse. My dear hearer, what is your hope? What are you resting upon? Has your hope anything to do with the love of God shed abroad in your heart by the Holy Ghost? Depend upon it, if your hope is founded on anything that you have done for yourself, or that any man may do for you, it will not excite in your soul a sense of the love of God. The thought of it, if it be a mere ceremonial hope, will excite no such emotions as those I have described. But if your hope be true and genuine, fixed on the Rock of Ages, built on the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ, then the thought of that hope will make you love God, and a sense of God’s love to you will sway you to obedient service. Such a hope will endure the trial hour, but no other hope will.

     And what will you do if your hope shall fail you? if at last you are made ashamed of your hope? O see then, sirs, see then the overwhelming downfall which awaits you! The house was hastily built, it was fair and lofty, with many coloured windows, and fine gables and rare ornaments. But the floods are out, the rain descends, the wind blows, and where is the palace now? Its foundation was on the sand, and it is gone like a dream. See the fragments of it floating down the torrent, while the owners are washed away and lost. And so shall it be with your fine hopes, O self-righteous or careless. O build on the rock, on the rock of what Christ has done: build with a humble faith, build with an earnest love: build not with wood, hay, and stubble, but build with gold, and silver, and precious stones of love, and trust, and holy fear. And when the deluge comes, you shall laugh at it and sing in the midst of storm, for God is your preserver, and under his wings shall you trust.

     Ah, I would that everyone now listening to this voice could enter into so bright a hope, and enjoy such a love. And if they long to do so, behold the open door! The entrance into a good hope is by the door of divine love; and would you see divine love, there it shines in its

resplendence on yonder cross where the Son of God, made flesh, gave his hands to the nails, and his feet to be fastened to the wood. There where every nerve is a road for the hot feet of pain to travel on, where his whole body is tortured with pangs unutterable, and the soul pressed as beneath the feet of Deity, in the winepress of eternal wrath, there, sinner, there is your hope. Not your tears, but his blood; not your sufferings, but his woes; not your penance, but his agonies; not your life nor your death, but his life and death. O look to him! “There’s life in a look at the crucified One.” Guilty one, depraved one, thou all but damned one, look through the mists of Satan’s temptations, and the dews of your tears, look to Jesus dying on Calvary, and thou shalt live this day. God help thee of his blessed Spirit so to look — thine shall be the salvation, and his the honour of it. Amen and Amen.