Clearing the Road to Heaven

By / Oct 21

CLEARING THE ROAD TO HEAVEN.

 

“Gather out the stones.” -— Isaiah lxii. 10.

 

“GATHER out the stones” — that is to say, out of the King’s highway. Clear the road; make room for coming sinners; take away all stumbling blocks; make the gospel plain and simple, and come to the help of those who find hindrances and impediments in their progress to the Saviour. Such stones are there, and Satan tries to increase their number; the Lord’s servants must gather them out. That is my object. I do not intend to attempt anything beyond that. I shall only try, with great simplicity of thought and speech, to deal with those things which prevent sinners from getting to Christ, for perhaps while we are trying to do this the Eternal Spirit may bring them to Jesus, and they may find salvation on the spot. To that end let all who are already saved cry mightily to the Lord for his saving health and consoling grace.

     Beloved friends, when poor souls are coming to Jesus they are generally themselves their own worst enemies. They have a singular ingenuity in finding out reasons why they should not be saved. A strange infatuation seems to possess them, so that they ransack heaven, and earth, and hell, to find discouragements. They become inventive of difficulties where difficulties are not, and often and often the pastor, whose business it is to look after the little ones, finds himself, notwithstanding his former experience with persons of like character, utterly bewildered. He is often put to a nonplus with the strange and novel difficulties which awakened sinners will imagine, and the reasons which they invent why they should not believe in Jesus Christ. One would hardly think that the human mind could twist itself into such knots. So many sinners, so many new arguments; for each one has a logic of his own by which he labours to prove the impossibility of his own salvation. Upon consideration this will not appear very remarkable, for they have been living long in sin, and it is no wonder that when they begin to see their state they should be bewildered with fear. Who would not be full of fear if on a sudden he saw hell opening right under his feet? They have been eating nothing lately but unsatisfying husks, which may nourish swine, but cannot support men; no wonder that they are very weak, and scarce can stagger towards the Father’s house. Poor souls, their hearts are in their mouths, for they cannot tell what is to come next; only a dreadful sound is in their ears, as of the destroying angel pursuing them with vengeance. They know that God is angry with them, and they do not yet understand his great love to penitent sinners; and so they are like men who start up in the night in an upper chamber, when a cry of fire is raised, and they know not which way to turn; or I may compare them to mariners in great jeopardy at sea, when they reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end. I wonder not, I say, that they refuse the comforts which we offer them, for it is one of the effects and symptoms of great sickness that the patient refuses all manner of meat; he has lost his appetite, he is too ill to eat, and his soul draweth nigh unto the gates of death.

      Moreover, in addition to fear and weakness, seeking sinners are generally the prey to severe assaults of the great enemy of souls. When Satan sees a soul coming to Christ, he hastens to aggravate that sinner’s doubts and fears, and raise a double tempest in his spirit. It is “now or never” with the devil; he perceives that, if he does not rend poor souls in pieces now and drive them to utter desperation, they will soon be in Christ’s fold, where he will never be able to touch them again. They are just escaping from the old slaveholder’s hand, and if he does not bring them back and chain them up with fresh irons, he will lose his captives, for they will follow the morning star, and enter the land of liberty, where his whip cannot reach them; and therefore he uses double craft and cruelty to oppress and puzzle poor seeking sinners. They are in a state of mind in which they are ready to believe anything which will tell against them, and therefore upon this string the arch-deceiver plays right horribly. What with a troubled conscience, and with Satan, it is no wonder that the seeking sinner falls into a maze, and scarce knows which way to turn; he sees no ground for hope, but a thousand reasons for despair. It is therefore a holy and needful work to endeavour to remove some of the stumbling-blocks out of the poor beginner’s way. When I have attempted this good work, I shall do far better still, for I shall point the coming sinner to Him who in his own person has effectually removed every real stumbling-block, so that there is nothing now that can keep a sinner from his God, if that sinner be but ready to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

      I. First, then, by way of LIFTING SOME OF THE STONES OUT OF THE ROAD, let us begin with a very old and very common difficulty: I refer to the doctrine of election. Many will say, “Perhaps I am not one of God’s chosen. It may be that my name is not written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Unbelief hammers away at this; it is a favourite topic with doubters. And think not, my dear friends, that I am about to attempt an explanation of the mysteries of predestination, or mean to deny the doctrine of election for an instant. I believe the doctrine of election to be as certainly true as the doctrine of the existence of God. I am not about to attempt to clear up the metaphysical difficulties which could be suggested world without end by a subtle thinker; those I leave to others, and I wish them joy of their task. If I were to venture upon such a labour I should only be like Sisyphus, who rolled a stone uphill which always rolled down again. The difficulties about free agency and predestination have existed, do exist, and will exist to the world’s end, ay, and through eternity too. Both facts are to my mind certain, but where they meet none knows but God himself. But here is the way John Bunyan met the difficulty in his “Grace Abounding,” which book I earnestly recommend to every tempted soul. In that autobiography, which he entitles “Grace Abounding,” he says that he was perplexed for many days together over the doctrine, till at last this thought came into his mind— Search in the Book of God, and see whether ever there was a sinner that trusted in Jesus who was confounded. So the good man set to work and read the Book through from the first of Genesis to the last of Revelation, but he could not find an instance of a sinner that ever did come to Christ that was rejected because he was not elect; and the snare was broken, and he said, “I will even go: he will not reject me.” There is a practical, common sense way out of the difficulty. I know not any better way of practically treating the matter, than of saying, “I will go to Jesus because he bids me, and because he has said, ‘Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.’ If I go to him and he casts me out, then he has broken his promise; but that he never can do, so now I venture to rest upon his blood, and leave my soul’s salvation in his hands.” In other matters you act so: when you are ill you do not know whether you are ordained to get well, but you send for the doctor; you cannot tell whether you are predestinated to be rich, but you endeavour to make money; you do not know whether you will live through the day, but you work to provide yourself with bread; thus common sense cuts the knot which mere theory can never untie. Leave you the subtleties of argument alone, and act as sensible men. Go to Jesus and try whether he will reject you, and you will be saved.

      Another difficulty, which is very common, is a deep sense of sin. In some persons conviction of sin, and terror concerning the wrath to come, arise out of the recollection of one glaring sin. I have known persons more troubled about one atrocious offence, than about all the transgressions of the rest of their lives; the one great blot has appeared to stare them in the face both day and night, and to burn its way into their souls. In others, however, it is the whole series of their iniquities, the indefinite but most crushing weight of a life of careless unbelief. They could not count their sins, they know that, and they do not try to do so; but all their sins together surround them like raging waves of the sea, or a pack of hungry wolves, howling for their prey, or the dense clouds and fierce winds of a gathering tempest, hastening to overwhelm a half-shipwrecked vessel; so that they can hardly conceive that salvation is possible in their case. Give me thy hand, my brother, and let me say to thee, Dost thou think Christ died on the cross for nothing? There must have been some great reason for his being put to such a cruel and shameful death. That reason was great sin. If there had not been great sin there would not have been need of a great Saviour. Know assuredly that the Saviour is greater than thy sin, and his merit is greater than thy guilt: —

“If all the sins that men have done,
In will, in word, in thought, in deed,
Since worlds were made, or time begun,
Were laid on one poor sinner’s head;
The stream of Jesus’ precious blood,
Applied, removes the dreadful load.”

If the blackest sinner outside the gates of hell would believe in Jesus, in that moment all his sins would cease to be; for there is, and there must be an infinite efficacy in the blood of such an one as Jesus Christ, who “counted it not robbery to be equal with God.” Does the Son of God smart beneath the lash of justice? Then, beloved, that substitutionary suffering must have a merit in it which it is not in your power or mine to measure. Does sin trouble you? Then remember that it is written, “All manner of sin and of blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men.” Remember this again, “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” And hear yet again this word, “Come now, and let us reason together: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Do you know, I feel right happy to have to talk to you about this, and yet I feel a dart going through me lest I should not speak of it as I ought to do; for, Oh, I would that poor troubled sinners would see that sin need not deter them from coming to a reconciled God, for the blood of Jesus Christ has already removed from before the throne of justice all the transgressions of all those who come and rest in Jesus. If you believe in the Saviour sent of God, your sin is already gone, and you are accepted in the Beloved.

      Another stone in the road, in the case of some is, a fear that the day of grace has passed. Probably there may only be one or two in this place who have ever fallen under that trouble, but those one or two are precious, and I must seek them. Read again Bunyan’s “Grace Abounding,” and you will find him recording that he said to himself, “Oh, that I had given my heart to God seven years ago, but now it is certainly too late.” And then he recollected that there had been a large addition to the little Baptist church at Bedford, and he said to himself, “Now God has saved all the people he means to save in Bedford, and as for the poor tinker, he will never save him. My day of grace is over.” Now, I do not quite know where that notion of “a day of grace” came from. I am not quite sure about the truth of that doctrine, and if it means that any man who repents and believes will find it too late in this life, I deny it altogether; but without controversy I will tell you one thing for certain: there never was a sinner that believed in Jesus who believed in him too late for salvation. There never was a man in this world who cried to God for mercy through the blood of Jesus, and who had for his answer, “Your day of grace is past.” No such thing. How dare I say, how dare any man say, that a fellow creature’s day of grace is past? When the thief’s hands were nailed to the cross, and the cross was lifted up, and he hung bleeding there, soon to die, and to be devoured by the carrion crows, it did look as if his day of grace were past, and yet his day of glory had dawned, for the Saviour said, “Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” The Lord’s grace can come to a man at any time, and at any hour. It is never too late to believe in Jesus. Dear heart, it is not too late for you. Do not believe the suggestion of Satan, but come, and welcome. Mercy’s gate is not shut. Mr. Bunyan escaped from that temptation by this excellent method: lie read the Scriptures diligently, and he came upon that verse (you recollect hearing our friends, the Jubilee Singers, sing it), “Yet there is room!” “Oh!” thought he, “then my day of grace is not past.” “Yet there is room.” Lay hold on that, I pray you, you who think your time of hope is over. “Yet there is room.”

“Don’t stay away,
Brothers, don’t stay away,
For the angel says
There’s room enough in the heavens for you.”

Let not the demon of unbelief tempt you to limit God’s mercy, and set bounds to his power. Come, you, and learn the infinite compassion of your gracious God.

     Here and there I have met with persons who have stumbled at a very terrible stone in the road. It may never have occurred to some of you, and I hope it never may, but it is this: — they have a tendency to blasphemous thoughts. The more earnest a man is about religion the more likely he is to meet with this peculiar temptation, especially if there be some bodily disease about him. I should never have believed it if I had not experienced it— what intolerably wicked, atheistic, and profane thoughts will come into the minds of pure-minded people, against their will and without their consent, to their utter horror and dismay. I can recollect as a child hearing a man swear, I think it was the first time in my life I had heard such profanity, and I felt as if I had been cut by a whip. It was the only word of blasphemy I think that had ever passed my ears then, and yet, when I was under conviction of sin, seeking the Lord, thoughts that I dare not even think of now would thrust themselves upon me when I tried to get alone in prayer, and I rose astonished, as though I was scared from my knees. When I attempted to cry for mercy there would be sure to come some hideous sentence which I had never heard from anyone else, and certainly thought I could never have invented in my heart, which would well nigh drive me from the mercy-seat. Well, now, beloved, it may be you cannot grapple with these thoughts, and I would advise, you not to try. I believe they are works of Satan, who is darting his thoughts into your soul in a secret manner. They are no thoughts of yours. They should lead you to go and tell Jesus Christ about it, but they should not drive you to despair. Tell the Lord that these thoughts, if they be yours, are hateful to you, and you pray him to remove them; but if they be not yours, but come from Satan, ask him to rebuke the evil spirit, that you may have a little peace. And I will tell you another thing. If these thoughts are yours, and you are guilty of them, do Christ the honour to believe that he can pardon even these; and throw yourself, with all the defilement of your thoughts, black as you are, right down at his feet, and he will save you notwithstanding all. A little sinner can, as
it were, only give to Christ little glory by trusting him; but, now you feel yourself the greatest of sinners, give Jesus the great glory of believing that his precious blood can cleanse you— that he is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by him. O soul, let these blasphemous thoughts drive you to Jesus, and the devil will find that they do not answer his purpose, and will cease to assail you with them. Stand at the cross foot, and resolve never to depart from it, and Satan will depart from you.

     Another stone which frequently stumbles others is, the want, or rather the absence, of anything like a horrible thought, or a terror, or an alarm. I have known some who have believed in Jesus Christ as soon as ever Christ has been preached to them, and, consequently, they have found joy with but little difficulty; and then, a little while afterwards they have said, “this cannot be real conversion, because I did not suffer the terrors and distresses which some others have experienced.” There is a numerous class to whom we have preached Christ, who have replied to all encouragements, “Oh, but we don’t feel the terrors of the Lord. We are not plunged in despair, we are not haunted with horrible forebodings, and therefore we are not in the right road, and cannot expect to be saved.” Oh, my dear friend, if you are allowed to come to Jesus without being so molested by the Evil One, do not fret about that, but rather rejoice. If you have not those horrors, be thankful you have them not; be thankful to God that he brought you to Christ without your first having run into an excess of outward sin and wicked unbelief. Repentance of sin is necessary; but to doubt the mercy of God, and to run into despair, are not necessary, but are even injurious and sinful. Do you think that Christ needs the devil to prepare you for him? Unbelief cannot conduce to salvation. If you do not happen to be hunted about by the hellhounds of remorse and despondency, you quite as much need the Good Shepherd, and are quite as welcome to him. There is no need to go round by hell’s gate to get to heaven; trust in Jesus just as you are, and you are saved. Those who have those dreadful thoughts would be glad enough to be rid of them; do not you be asking for needless vexations, but come to Jesus; rest in his atoning blood even as you are, and he will give you all that is necessary to fit you for his kingdom.

      There be some, again, who are troubled because they think they have a want of sensibility with regard to their sins. They argue thus: “I understand that whosoever believeth in Jesus shall be saved, but I must feel my sinfulness. I hear you, sir, describe sometimes the deep contrition and brokenness of spirit which many have felt, and I fear I have not felt anything of the kind. May I hope that Jesus is able to save me notwithstanding my insensibility?” Our answer to that is, — & broken heart is a gift of God’s grace; it is not a ground or reason why Jesus Christ should save you, but it is a part of salvation. A man is saved by having his heart broken, and being led to cast himself upon Jesus; and if you have not yet received this part of salvation, your business is to come to Jesus for it, not to stay away till you get it of yourself, and then come to Christ with your feelings as a recommendation. If you were to come to Jesus and say, “Lord, I have broken my heart down to the right state; now I will believe that thou canst save me,” methinks he would say to you, “If thou hast done so much, go and do the rest. If thou canst make thyself fit for grace, go and make thyself fit for glory.” No, but if you have not a broken heart, come to Jesus Christ for it.

“True belief and true repentance,
Every grace that brings you nigh,
Without money,
Come to Jesus Christ and buy.”

You have not to do something for yourself, and then look to Jesus for the rest. Shame upon you for thinking of such a thing! To melt your heart in the furnace of love is a divine work, and Christ must do it. Come, thou stony-hearted sinner, come with the flint and the granite still within thee. Come, though thou canst not feel, and believe that Christ can make thee feel. Come, thou, who hast been annealed like steel in the furnace of transgression and familiarity with sin. Come thou to him, for he is able to give thee a heart of flesh and take away thy heart of stone. I am fully persuaded that those who mourn their want of feeling are the most feeling people in the world; but I will not dwell upon that truth. It is the greatest mistake for us to imagine that we are to make ourselves feel something, and then Christ will save us; feelings of contrition are as much his work as is the atonement for the remission of sin. Christ is Alpha as well as Omega in salvation. You must begin with him, and go on with him, and end with him, if end there ever can be.

      Now I hear another say, “Ah, but the stone in my road is, that I cannot believe. I have not the faith I need to have.” Well, beloved seeker, perhaps you have made a mistake about your faith. Do you think that you need to believe with full assurance before you can be saved? If so, listen. The smallest grain of saving faith will save a man. To embrace Christ in your arms like Simeon is a grand act for a full-grown saint, but to touch the hem of his garment is as surely saving as to embrace his person. If you have faith but as a grain of mustard seed, God will recognize that faith and make it grow, and that faith will save you. It is not quantity, but quality, that the Lord looks at. Do you believe in Jesus Christ? that is the point; for, remember, the whole of your salvation rests not on your believing, but on the merits of Jesus Christ. Some sinners look too much to their own faith, and not enough to the object of faith. Now, it is the object of faith we should look to, and if we did our faith would grow. You may look at faith till you think you have none; but, on the other hand, you may look at Christ till you feel you cannot help believing in him. How many a time in my little vestry behind there have I charged this truth home upon those who have said they could not believe; and I have said, “What cannot you believe? Cannot you believe God? Is he a liar?” “Ah!” say I to these enquirers, “suppose you said to me when I told you something, ‘I can’t believe you,’ should not I at once say, ‘Why not? What do you know of my character which leads you to think that I am untruthful?’” And they say at once, “Oh, sir, I should not say that to you. I should feel sure if you told me that you knew a thing to be true, that it was so. I should believe you.” “Well, then,” I have said, “how dare you tell me you cannot believe Jesus Christ, and cannot believe God the Eternal One? What reason on earth can there be why you should not believe God to be speaking the truth, and believe what Jesus Christ says? We will not have it that you cannot believe.” Awakened, quickened sinner, at the same moment that God gave you spiritual life to feel that you were a sinner, he gave you the principle in which dwells power to believe in Jesus Christ, the sinner’s Saviour; and we charge you to exercise that power, and to cast yourself once for all upon the finished sacrifice of Christ the Lord.

     Again, we have heard persons say, “But I do not think I can be saved, because I am not like so-and-so.” Well, who is that so-and-so? “Why, my dear grandmother, who died so triumphantly.” Ah, and you are a little babe, and you expect to be like your grandmother; you are only just born into the heavenly life, and yet you expect to know and to do all that an old experienced Christian would know and do. I am sure that no man who has planted an apple tree in his garden goes the next autumn and expects a crop of apples thereon, the same as if it had been in his orchard for twenty years. Besides, the Lord is not looking for fruit on you in order to recommend you to his mercy, nor ought you to be looking for it. Your fruit must grow on another tree, on that tree whereon the Saviour died; from him is your fruit found. Do you be content to have nothing good in yourself, and to be nothing good, but to take all your good from Jesus Christ. “Ah,” says one, “but you don’t know how bad I am.” No, nor yet do you. You are ten times worse than you think you are; yea, you are a thousand times worse than you think you are. You are so bad that you are good for nothing. You are neither fit for the land nor yet for the dunghill; but it is good-for-nothing people that Jesus Christ came to save; not the worthy, and the excellent, and the valuable, but those that are humble in their own eyes— those who think themselves nothing, and feel they never can be anything unless a miracle be wrought for them. These are they whom the Lord loves to look upon. “He hath put down the mighty from their seat, but he hath exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he hath sent empty away.” This is the way he always deals with men. The worse you feel yourself to be, the more you need God’s mercy, and the more likely you are to get it. Come and lay hold on eternal life, by a simple faith in Jesus Christ. May the Spirit of God lead you so to do.

     I will only speak once more about these difficulties, “Oh!” saith one, “but I never have any joy and peace; and I hear those who are saved say they are so happy and so glad.” Ah, there is the door of the house of mercy wide open, and you are outside in the frost and snow. Inside that house — (there, can’t you see through that window-pane?) — there are happy children sitting round a fire, and they are singing merrily as they eat their evening meal, and you stand out in the cold, and you murmur, “How can I ever enter in? I am so cold; I am shivering in this winter’s blast; they are so happy in there. How can I be one of the family, and yet stand shivering here?” Now, you need not ask that question. There is the door, and it stands wide open. When Christ’s hands were nailed he set that door wide open, and the devil cannot shut it; and if you enter in you shall have the same joy as those who are sheltered within; but if you stand outside, and expect to get the warmth enjoyed by those within, and hope to sing their cheerful song in the cold, you are greatly mistaken. You shall receive the joy when you exercise the faith. Oh, believe in Jesus, or, in other words, trust in him. That is the grace which enters in by the door and participates in the blessings of mercy. Trust in him wholly, solely, entirely, and in him alone; and, “being justified by faith,” you shall “have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The Lord grant it, and he shall have the praise.

      One of our friends at the prayer-meeting prayed that I might give God’s people this morning a thick slice such as he gave his hungry children. Now, that was a very quaint and suggestive prayer, and I sometimes try to act up to it; but to-night I have been trying to cut a thin slice, because I have sometime heard of schools where the slice was too thick for the children’s mouths; and therefore I have tried to cut mine thin, that if there be a babe here, he might be able to feed thereon. I would even crumb down the subject and mix it with the milk of the word that it might suit those who cannot feed upon strong meat as yet: my anxious prayer is that the Holy Spirit may help the weaklings to feed thereon and be glad.

      II. But I said that in the second part I would do better than remove the stones, and so I will, for I will POINT YOU TO HIM, WHO IS THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE, who has already cleared the stumbling-blocks out of the road. Traveller to heaven, pilgrim of the night, cast thine eye upon the Captain of our salvation, even Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Son of God, and see how he has cast up the highway in the desert and prepared a path through the wilderness. Looking unto him, the crooked will grow straight, and the rough places plain, and thou shalt see the salvation of God.

      Let me ask you to look at him, first, as he was on earth, the Son of Man. In order that men should be saved, it was needful that God himself should take into union with his Godhead the nature of the poor, feeble creature called man. Now, I must confess that had I never known by revelation that the mysterious, divine, omnipotent spirit who made all things, did actually alight upon this earth and take to himself a body of flesh and blood— had I never known it by revelation, I could never have imagined it possible; it could never have crossed my mind; and now I do know it, and am sure of it, it utterly astounds me. The angels, when they saw God in human flesh, wondered (it is a mystery that he was seen of angels), and they have never left off wondering since. Sinner, in order that you might be saved God must needs dwell here in human flesh. He has been here! He has been here! He has been here! The fact is as certain as it is strange! He slept on a woman’s breast at Bethlehem. He was swaddled as other babes have been. God has been with us; as man he worked in a carpenter's shop! He has been here; he ate and drank among men, and slept and suffered as men do! He has been here; God has become man to save sinners. Is anything impossible after that?

      It was needful that Jesus Christ should abide here for a while, and should work miracles of love. We read some of them just now in the Lesson of the evening; he healed the sick, he opened blind eyes, he raised the dead. Yes, the Saviour has been here and raised the dead. Can he not raise you? He has not lost his power. If anything, he is is greater now in heaven than he was here below. Can he not open those eyes of yours, and those ears of yours, and unloose that stammering tongue of yours, and make your lameness to depart till you leap like a hart? Yes, he can do it, can do it to-night; and from that pew, though you came into it heavy-laden, you will, I hope, go out like one who is ready to dance for ecstasy, because you will cry, “The Lord Jesus has saved me, even me.” I say that Christ incarnate and Christ working on earth are two grand sights, or two phases of the same glorious sight, and they take away the stones out of a sinner’s pathway.

      But ah, beloved, I want you most of all to give the eyes of your heart to the strangest sight of all. It was needful ere you could be saved that in the person of man the Son of God should die. I can conceive him living on earth, but who shall conceive him dying? God was in Christ as he died upon the accursed tree. He who spread the heavens and made the earth, and piled the mountains, he was here, here in the form of man; and the soldiers came and seized him in the garden as though he had been a thief, and they took him away to Pilate’s hall, and there they scourged him; there they spit in his face; there they crowned him with a crown of thorns, and then condemned him to bear his cross. They hounded him— him, the Eternal God, I say, in human flesh: they hounded him along Jerusalem’s streets, then flung him down upon his back upon the transverse wood, and drove the cruel nails through his blessed and tender hands and feet; then lifted up the cross and dashed it into its socket in the earth till all his bones were dislocated, and he cried, “I am poured out like water: all my bones are out of joint.” It was he who but a little while before had heard the songs of angels, and at whose feet the seraphim and cherubim adored. He on that bloody tree was fastened and lifted up, and there he died in infinite agonies; it were not possible to describe them, for none know their terror. God forsook him: his Father turned away his face, and in the bitterness of his anguish he said, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Thus on the tree he died, and in that death he took the punishment due on account of the sin of all who shall believe on him. He suffered in their stead an equivalent for all that they would have had to suffer had they been cast into the pit of hell. This being done, salvation is not only possible, but it is achieved. Believe in it, sinner! What stone remains now that Jesus has died? God has made atonement: the eternal God himself has put away human sin. Why doubt ye? Come, I say, hasten to the cross. Gaze upon this wondrous spectacle of divine love, and as you gaze you shall live, for “there is life in a look” at Jesus, — life for every one who rests in him.

     But I want you to see a lovelier sight than this. The other is divinely encouraging, but this is yet more encouraging still. Look ye there! Look ye there! There is the sepulchre where he lay. They took him from the cross, they wrapped him in spices and fine linen, and they laid him there. Look ye there! Christ is not there, the tomb is empty. There is the napkin, there are the grave clothes; but he is not there. Where is he? Why, he has come forth in the full glory of resurrection, and is saying, to the women, “Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended.” He died for human guilt, but he lives again for the justification of his people. Why lives he? It is because no human guilt remains to keep him as a hostage in the grave. All the guilt which he took upon himself he has put away. He has buried it: it is gone; it went from us when he died, it has gone from him now that he has risen. The risen Lord has “finished transgression, made an end of sin and brought in everlasting righteousness.” Who would not believe in a risen Christ? If God has set my Surety free, I am sure that I am clear. If Christ laid as a hostage for my sins in the cold prison of Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb, I bless him for it; but when I see him set free, I bless him yet more, for I know that my sins are gone. There remains no wreck or relic of them.

“Covered is my unrighteousness,
From condemnation I am free,”

for Christ has risen from the dead. O, sinner, I pray God to lead thee sweetly to read the mystery of the resurrection, and to give thee peace to-night.

     But this is not all. Now lift up your eyes away from the garden to the top of Olivet, and away from the top of Olivet, for, lo! he mounts the skies. His disciples gaze, and, as they gaze, he ascends. He rises higher and higher, till a cloud receives him out of their sight; but though that cloud has come between, faith’s eye can pierce it, and we can see the angels meeting him on the way.

“They brought his chariot from on high
To bear him to his throne,
Clapped their triumphant wings, and cried
‘The glorious work is done!’
“‘Hail! Prince,’ they cry, ‘for ever hail,
Whose unexampled love
Moved thee to quit these glorious realms,
And royalties above.’”

Hear ye not their song as they approach the golden gates of the New Jerusalem? They sing, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, that the King of Glory may come in!” Can ye not hear the watchers from above the gate as they challenge the cavalcade, “Who is the King of Glory?” Hear ye yet again the song of those who answer, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, that the King of Glory may come in!” He enters: his Father receives him. “Well done,” saith he; “well done.” He sits at his Father’s right hand, for his life-work is finished. No more sacrifice is needed: no other will ever be offered. But while he sits there, mark what he does; — he intercedes. He pleads! He pleads! And for whom does he plead? For sinners bought with blood. He pleads for all that come to God by him— for you, if now you trust him. Thou blackest sinner out of hell— he pleads for thee,
if thou dost trust him. Utterly lost, ruined, and condemned, dissolute, debauched, you may have been, yea, all but damned; but if you will trust him, there is infinite mercy in his heart, and in his plea there is infinite power.

      Oh, that I knew how to preach the gospel! Oh, for a great trumpet to blow such a blast that every ear should hear it! Oh, will you reject Christ. I pray you may not. At your peril you will do it. If I were called at this moment from this pulpit to the bar of God, I could dare to say that I have tried to tell you all the comforting truths about my Master that I know. If I could weep you to the Saviour, I would do it. If my arms about your necks would bring you to his feet, I would be glad, my brethren, to try the affectionate embrace, but what more can mortal do? Do you reject my Master, or will you receive him? I would do as the Roman ambassadors did to the eastern king, when they made a ring in the sand, and said, “Pass that ring, and you proclaim war, or you make peace. You must stand and decide within that circle.” I draw such a circle around you to-night, and say, “Do not stir from that pew till Christ or sin, heaven or hell, faith or unbelief, is chosen by you.” And may the Holy Spirit help you to such a gracious decision that you may say, “I will believe. Lord, help my unbelief. I cast myself now, whether I am saved or lost, upon the finished work of the risen Lord.” The Lord grant it, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.



Morning and Evening Songs

By / Oct 21

Morning and Evening Songs

 
“To shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night.” — Psalm xcii. 2.

 

IT is a notion of the Rabbis that this Psalm was sung by Adam in Paradise. There are no reasons why we should believe it was so, and there are a great many why we should be sure it was not; for it is not possible that Adam could have sung concerning brutish men and fools, and the wicked springing as grass, while as yet he was the only man, and himself unfallen. Still, at least the first part of the Psalm might have fallen as suitably from the lips of Adam as from our tongues, and if Milton could put into Adam’s mouth the language —

“These are thy glorious works,
Parent of good,
Almighty; thine this universal frame.
Thus wondrous fair, thyself how wondrous then!”

He might with equal fitness have made him say, “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High: to shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night ; for thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work : I will triumph in the works of thy hands.” The Jews have for a long while used this Psalm in the synagogue-worship on their Sabbath, and very suitable it is for the Sabbath-day; not so much in appearance, for there is little or no allusion to any Sabbatic rest in it, but because on that day above all others, our thoughts should be lifted up from all earthly things to God himself. The Psalm tunes the mind to adoration, and so prepares it for Sabbath worship. It supplies us with a noble subject for meditation, — the Lord, the Lord alone; lifting us up even above his works into a contemplation of himself and his mercies toward us. Oh, that always on the Sabbathday, when we come together, we might assemble in the spirit of praise, feeling that it is good to give thanks unto the name of the Most High: and would God that always when we were assembled we could say, “Thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands.”

     There is no doubt that in this second verse there is an allusion to the offering of the morning and the evening lambs, for, in addition to the great Paschal celebration once a year, and the other feasts and fasts, each of which brought Christ prominently before the mind of those Jews who were instructed by the Spirit of God, a lamb was offered every morning and every evening, as if to remind them that they needed daily cleansing for daily sin ; for then there was always a remembrance of sin, seeing that the one great sacrifice which puts away sin for ever had not yet been offered. Though now, in these our days, we need no morning or evening lamb, and the very idea of a repetition or a rehearsal of the sacrifice of Christ is to us most horribly profane and blasphemous, yet would we remember continually the one sacrifice, and never wake in the morning without beholding “the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world,” nor fall to sleep at night without turning our eyes anew to him who on the bloody tree was made sin for us.

     Our text, however, is meant to speak to us concerning praise. Praise should be the continual exercise of believers. It is the joyful work of heaven, it should be the continual joy of earth; and we are taught by the text, I think, that while praise should be given only to One who is in heaven, and we should adore perpetually our Triune God, yet there should be variety in our unity. We bless the Lord and the Lord alone; we have no music but for him, but we do not always praise him after the same fashion. As there were different instruments of music — the ten-stringed instrument or decachord, the psaltery, the harp, — so, too, there are different subjects, a subject for the morning and a subject for the evening; lovingkindness to be shown forth at one time, and faithfulness to be sung at another. I wish that men studied more the praise they profess to present unto God. I sometimes find, even in our own public song, simple as it is, that there is a want of thought evidently among us : for time is not maintained with the precision which would grow out of thoughtfulness, there is a tendency to sing more slowly, as if devotion were wearying, if not wearisome, and too frequently I fear the singing gets to be mechanical, as if the tune mastered you, and you did not govern the tune by making those inflections and modulations of voice which the sense would suggest, if you sang with all your hearts and with your understandings also. The very posture of some people indicates that they are going through the hymn, but the hymn is not going through their hearts, nor ascending to God on the wings of soaring gratitude. I have also noticed with sad reflections the way in which, if there happen to be a chorus at the close — a “Hallelujah” or “Praise God” — some will drop into their seats as if they had not thought enough to recollect that it was coming, and then, with a jerk, all in confusion, they stand up again; being so asleep in heart that anything out of the common way is too much for them. Far am I from caring for postures or tones, but when they indicate want of heart, I do care, and so should you. Remember well that there is no more of music to God’s ear in any service than there is of heart-love and holy devotion. You may make floods of music with your organ if you like; or you may make equally good music — and some of us think better — with human voices; but it is not music to God, either of instrument or of voice, unless the heart be there; and the heart is not fully there, the man, the whole man, is not fully there, unless the soul glows with the praise.

     In our private praise, also, we ought to think more of what we are doing, and concentrate our entire energies for the sacred exercise. Ought we not to sit down before we pray, and ask our understanding, “What am I going to pray for? I bow my knee at my bedside to pray: ought I not to pause and consider the things I ought to ask for? What do I want, and what are the promises which I should plead, and why is it that I may expect that God should grant me what I want?” Should we not pray better if we occupied more time in consideration? And so when we come to praise we ought not to rush upon it helter skelter, but engage in it with prepared hearts. I notice that when musicians are about to discourse sweet music there is a tuning-up ; there is a preparation ; and there are rehearsals, which they perform before they go through their music in public ; so our soul ought to rehearse the subject for which it is about to bless God ; and we ought to come before the Lord, both in public and in private, with subjects of praise which our thought has considered, not offering unto the Lord that which has cost us nothing, but with a warm heart pouring out before his throne adoration grounded upon subjects of thanksgiving appropriate to the occasion. So it seems the psalmist would have us do: “To shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night.” It is not mere praise, but varied praise, praise with distinct subjects at appointed seasons. Upon this we are about to speak for a little while.

     And we shall speak thus: first, here is a subject for morning worship; secondly, here is another for evening devotion; and this last, ere we close our discourse, we shall try to practice.

     I. First, then, notice MORNING WORSHIP: To show forth thy lovingkindness in the morning.”

     “ In the morning.” There cannot be a more suitable time for praising God than in the morning. Everything around is congenial therewith. Even in this great wilderness of brick the gleams of sunlight in these summer mornings seem like songs, songs without words, or rather music without sounds : and out in the country, when every blade of grass twinkles with its own drop of dew, and all the trees glisten as if they were lit up with sapphire by the rising dawn, and when a thousand birds awake to praise their Maker, making harmonious concerts, all with all their hearts casting their entire-energies into the service of holy song, it seems most fit that the key of the morning should be in the hand of praise ; and that when the daylight lifts its eyelid it should look out upon grateful hearts. We ourselves have newly risen from our beds, and if we are in a right state of mind we are thankful for the night’s sleep.

“The evening rests our weaned head,
And angels guard the room:
We wake, and we admire the bed
That was not made our tomb.”

Every morning is a sort of resurrection. At night we lay us down to sleep, stripped of our garments, as our souls will be of their bodily array when we come to die ; but the morning wakes us, and if it be a Sabbath morning we do not put on our work-day clothes, but find our Sabbath dress ready to hand ; even thus shall we be satisfied when we wake up in our Master’s likeness, no more to put on the soiled raiment of earth, but to find it transformed into a Sabbath robe, in which we shall be beautiful and fair, even as Jesus our Lord himself. Now, as every morning brings to us, in fact, a resurrection from what might have been our tomb, and delivers us from the image of death which through the night we wore, it ought to be saluted with thanksgiving. As the great resurrection morning will be awakened with the sound of the trumpet’s far-sounding music, so let every morning, as though it were a resurrection to us, awaken us with hymns of joy.

“All praise to thee who safe hast kept,
And hast refreshed me while I slept;
Grant, Lord, when I from death shall wake,
I may of endless life partake.”

     “To show forth thy lovingkindness in the morning.” We are full of vigour then; we shall be tired ere night comes round: perhaps in the heat of the day we shall be fagged; let us take care, while we are fresh, to give the cream of the morning to God. Our poet says: —

“The flower, when offered in the bud,
Is no mean sacrifice.”

Let us give the Lord the bud of the day, its virgin beauty, its unsullied purity. Say what you will about the evening, and there are many points about it which make it an admirable season for devotion, yet the morning is the choice time. Is it not a queenly hour? See how it is adorned with diamonds more pure than those which flash in the crowns of eastern potentates. The old proverb declares that they who would be rich must rise early; surely those who would be rich towards God must do so. No dews fall in the middle of the day, and it is hard to keep up the dew and freshness of one’s spirit in the worry, and care, and turmoil of midday; but in the morning the dew should fail upon our fleece till it is filled therewith; and it is well to wring it out before the Lord, and give him our morning’s vigour, our morning’s freshness and unction.

     You will see, I think, without my enlarging, that there is a fitness in the morning for praising God. But I shall not merely confine the text to the morning of each day; the same fitness appertains to the morning of our days. Our youth, our first hours of the day of life, ought to be spent in showing forth the lovingkindness of God. Dear young friends, you may rest assured that nothing can happen to you so blessed as to be converted while you are young. I bless God for my having known him when I was fifteen years of age; but I have often felt like that Irishman who said that he was converted at twenty, and he wished it had been twenty-one years before. I have often felt the same desire. Oh! if it could have been so, that the very first breath one drew had been consecrated to God; that it had been possible for the first rational thought to be one of devotion; that the first act of judgment had been exercised upon divine truth, and the first pulsing of affection had been towards the Redeemer who loved us and gave himself for us! What blessed reflections would fill the space now occupied with penitent regrets. The first part of a Christian life has charms peculiar to itself, — in some respects

“That age is best which is the first,
For then the blood is warmer.”

I know the afterpart is riper, it is more mellow; there is a sweetness about autumn fruit, but the basket of early fruit — the first ripe fruit — this is what God desireth: and blessed are they who, in the morning, show forth the lovingkindness of God!

     Or the words may be explained mystically to signify those periods of life which are bright like the morning to us. We have our ups and downs, our ebbs and flows, our mornings and our nights. Now, it is the duty, and the privilege, of our bright days, for us to shew forth God’s lovingkindness in them. It may be some of you have had so rough a life that you consider your nights to be more numerous than your days. Others of us could not, even in common honesty, subscribe to such a belief. No, blessed be God, our mornings have been very numerous; our days of joy and rejoicing, after all, have been abundant — infinitely more abundant than we might have expected they could be, dwelling as we do in the land of sorrows. Oh, when the joy days come, let us always consecrate them by showing forth God’s lovingkindness. Do not as some do, who, if they are prospering, make a point of not owning to it. If they make money, for instance— well, they are “doing pretty well.” “Pretty well,” do they call it? Time was, when, if they had done half so well, they would have been ready to jump for joy. How often the farmer, when his crop could not be any larger, and when the field is loaded with it, will say, “Well, it is a very fair crop.” Is that all? Oh, what robbery of God! This talk is far too common on all sides, and ought to be most solemnly rebuked. When we have been enjoying a long stretch of joy and peace, instead of saying that it is so, we speak as if— well, well, God hath dealt very well with us upon the whole, but at the same time he has done for us nothing very remarkable. I saw a tombstone the other day which pleased me; I do not know that I ever saw an epitaph of that kind before; I think it was for a person of the age of eighty, and it said of her, “who after a happy and grateful enjoyment of life, died,” and so on. Now, that is what we ought to say, but we talk as if, really, we were to be pitied for living, as if we were little better off than toads under a harrow, or snails in a tub of salt. We whine as if our lives were martyrdoms, and every breath a woe. But it is not so. Such conduct slanders the good Lord. Blessed be the Lord for creating us. Our life has mercies, yea innumerable mercies; and, notwithstanding the sorrows and the troubles of it, there are joys and benedictions past all count. There are mornings in which it becomes us to show forth the lovingkindness of the Lord. See, then, the season, the morning of each day, the morning of our days, and the morning of our brightness and prosperity.

     The psalmist suggests that the best topic for praise on such occasions is lovingkindness. And truly I confess that this is a theme which might suit nights as well as days, though doubtless he saw an appropriateness in allotting this topic to the morning. Verily it might suffice for all the day long. Was there ever such a word in any language as that word lovingkindness? I have sometimes heard Frenchmen talking about their language, and I have no doubt it is a very beautiful tongue; and Germans glorify the speech of the Fatherland, and I have heard our Welsh friends extolling their unpronounceable language, and crying it up as the very tongue that was spoken in Paradise. Very likely indeed. But I venture to say that no language beneath the sky has a word in it that is richer than this — lovingkindness. It is a duplicate deliciousness. There are within it linked sweetnesses long drawn out. Lovingkindness. It is a kind of word with which to cast spells which should charm away all fears. It was said of Mr. Whitefield that he could have moved an audience to tears by saying the word “Mesopotamia”; I think he could have done it better with the word “lovingkindness.” Put it under your tongue now. Let it lie there. LOVINGKINDNESS. Kindness. Does that mean kinnedness. Some say that it is the root-sense of the word — kinned-ness, such feeling as we have to our own kin, for blood is ever thicker than water, and we act towards those who are our kindred as we cannot readily do towards strangers. Now, God has made us of his kin. In his own dear Son he has taken us into his family. We are children of God — “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ Jesus;” and there is a kinned-ness from God to us through our great kinsman Jesus Christ. But then the word is only half understood when you get to that, for it is loving-kindness. For a surgeon to set a man’s limb when it is out of joint or broken is kindness, although he may do it somewhat roughly, and in an off-hand manner; but if he does it very tenderly, covering the lion’s heart with the lady’s hand, then he shows lovingkindness. A man is picked up on the battle-field, and put into an ambulance and carried to the hospital, that is kindness; but oh, if that poor soldier’s mother could come into the hospital and see her boy suffering, she would show him loving-kindness, which is something far more. A child run over in the street outside yonder, and take to the hospital, would be cared for, I have no doubt, with the greatest kindness; but, after all, send for its mother, for she will give it lovingkindness. And so the Lord dealeth with us. He gives us what we want, in a fatherly manner. He doeth to us what we need, in the tenderest fashion. It is kindness; it is kinned-ness; but it is lovingkindness. The very heart of God seems written out in this word. We could hardly apply it in full force to any but to our Father who is in heaven.

     Now, here is a subject for us to sing about in the morning.

     How shall I begin, with the hope of going through this subject? It is an endless one. Lovingkindness begins, — ah, I must correct myself: it never did begin. It had no beginning. “I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” Everlasting love, therefore, is what we must begin to sing of. And that everlasting love was infinite in its preparations, for before we had been created the Lord had made a covenant on our account, and resolved to give his only-begotten Son, that we might be saved from wrath through him. The lovingkindness of God our Father appeared in Jesus"Christ. Oh, brethren, let us always be talking about this! I wonder why it is, when we meet each other, that we do not begin at once to say, “Brother, have you been thinking over the lovingkindness of the Lord in the gift of his dear Son?” — for, indeed, it is such a marvellous thing that it ought not to be a nine-days’ wonder with us. It ought to fill us with astonishment every day of our lives. Now, if something wonderful happens, everybody’s mouth is full of it, and we speak to one another about it at once, while like the Athenians all our neighbours are greedy to hear; let our mouths, then, be full of the marvellous lovingkindness of God, and for fear we should leave ' the tale half untold, let us begin early in the morning to rehearse the eternal love manifested in the great gift of Jesus Christ. If we have already spoken about these things, and wish for variety, let us speak concerning the lovingkindness of God to each one of us in bringing us to Jesus. What a history each man’s own life is. I suppose that if any one of our lives should be fully written, it would be more wonderful than a romance. I have sometimes seen a sunset of which I have said, “Now, if any painter had depicted that, I should have declared that the sky never looked in that way, it is so strange and singular;” and in the same way, should some of our lives be fully written, many would say, “It could not have been so.” How many have said of Huntingdon’s “Bank of Faith,” for instance, “Oh, it is a bank of nonsense;” yet I believe that it is correct, and bears the marks of truth upon its very face. I believe that the man did experience all that he has written, though he may not always have told us everything in the best possible manner. Many other people’s lives would be quite as wonderful as his if they could be written. Tell ye, then, the lovingkindness of God to yourself in particular. Rehearse, if to no other ear, to your own ear, and to the ear of God, the wondrous story of how —

“Jesus sought you when a stranger
Wandering from the fold of God.”

How his grace brought you to himself and so into eternal life. And then, brethren, sing of the lovingkindness of God to yourselves since your new birth. Remember the mercies of God. Do not bury them in the grave of ingratitude. Let them glisten in the light of gratitude. I am sure that you will find this a blessed morning portion, it will sweeten all the day. The psalmist would have you begin the day with it, because you will need all the day to complete it; indeed, you will want all the day of life and all eternity; and I am half of Addison’s mind — though the expression is somewhat hyperbolical —

“But, oh, eternity’s too short
To utter half thy praise.”

What a blessed subject you have before you — the lovingkindness of the Lord. Not yourself — not yourself. That is a horrible subject to speak upon. When I hear brethren get up and glory in their own attainments and graces, I remember the words of the wise man, “Let another praise thee, and not thine own lips.” Above all things, when a man says that he has made great advances in sanctification it is sickening, and clearly proves that he has not learned the meaning of the word “humility.” I hope the eyes of our friends will be opened, and that they will come to loathe the devil’s meat which now deceives them; may we no longer see spiritual self-conceit held up among us as a virtue, but may it be shunned as a deadly evil. No, let my "mouth be filled with God’s praise, but not with my own.

     My brethren, let not our tongues be always occupied with our griefs. If you have a skeleton in your house, why should you always “invite every friend who calls upon you to inspect the uncomely thing? No: tell what God has done for you: tell of his lovingkindness. I have heard — and I repeat the story because it ought to be repeated, simple as it is — of a pastor who frequently called upon a poor bedridden woman, who very naturally always told him of her pains and her wants. He knew all about her rheumatics: he had heard of them fifty times, and at last he said to her, “My dear sister, I sympathise with you deeply, and I am never at all tired of hearing your complaints; but could you not now and then tell me something about what the Lord does for you — something about your enjoyments, how he sustains you under your pain, and so on?” It was a rebuke well put and well taken; and ever afterwards there was less said about the griefs and more heard about the blessings. Let us henceforth resolve, Great God, “To show forth thy lovingkindness in the morning.”

     Thus we have considered the time and the topic, and now we are bound to observe the manner in which we are to deal with the subject. The psalmist says we are to show it forth, by which I suppose he means that we are not to keep to ourselves what we know about God’s lovingkindness.

     Every Christian in the morning ought to shew it forth first in his own chamber before God. He should express his gratitude for the mercies of the night and the mercies of his whole life. Then let him, if it be possible, show it forth in his family ; let him gather them together and worship the Lord, and bless him for his lovingkindness. And then when the Christian goes into the world, let him show forth God’s lovingkindness; I do not mean by talking of it to every one he meets, casting pearls before swine as it would be to some men, but by the very way in which he speaks, acts, and looks. A Christian ought to be the most cheerful of men, so that others should say, “What makes him look so happy? He is not rich: he is not always in good health: he has his troubles; but he seems to bear all so well and to trip lightly along the pathway of life.” By our cheerful conversation we ought to show forth in the morning God’s lovingkindness. “Ah,” says one, “but when you are depressed in spirit?” Do not show it if you can help it. Do as your Master said: “appear not unto men to fast.” Do not imagine that the appearance of sadness indicates sanctity; it often means hypocrisy. To conceal one’s own griefs for the sake of cheering others betokens a self-denying sympathy which is the highest kind of Christianity. Let us present the sacrifice of praise in whatever company we may be, but when we get among God’s own people, then is the time for a whole burnt offering. Among our own kith and kin we may safely open our box of sweets. When we find a brother who can understand the lovingkindness of the Lord let us tell it forth with sacred delight. We have choice treasures which we cannot show to ungodly eyes, for they would not appreciate them; but when we meet with eyes which God has opened, then let us open the casket, and say, “Brother, rejoice in what God has done for us. See his lovingkindness to me his servant, and his tender mercies which have been ever of old.”

     Thus, beloved friends, I have set before you a good morning’s work; and I think, if God’s Spirit helps us to attend to it, we shall come out of our chambers with our breath smelling sweet with the praises of God. We shall go down into the world without care, much more without anger. We shall go calmly to our work, and meet our cares quietly and happily. The joy of the Lord will be our strength. It is a good rule never to look into the face of man in the morning till you have looked into the face of God; an equally good rule always to have business with heaven before you have any business with earth. Oh, it is a sweet thing to bathe in the morning in the love of God; to bathe in it, so that when you come forth out of the ivory chambers of communion wherein you have been made glad, your garments shall smell of the myrrh and aloes and cassia of holiness. Do we all attend to this? I am afraid we are in too much of a hurry, or we get up too late. Could not we rise a little earlier? If we could steal even a few minutes from our beds, those few minutes would scatter their influence over the entire day. It is always bad to start on a journey without having looked to the harness, and to the horse’s shoes; and it often happens that the time saved by omitting examination turns out to be a dead loss when the traveller has advanced a little on his journey. Not one minute, but a hundred minutes may be lost by the want of a little attention at first. Set the morning watch with care, if you would be safe through the day; begin well if you would end well. Take care that the helm of the day is put right, look well to the point you want to sail to, then whether you make much progress or little, it will be so far in the right direction. The morning hour is generally the index of the day.

     II. Now, let us turn to the second part of our subject very briefly. The psalmist says, “To show forth thy faithfulness EVERY NIGHT.

     Now, the night, beloved, is a peculiarly choice time for praising God’s faithfulness. “Oh,” says one, “we are very tired.” Well, that may be; but it is a pity that we should be reduced to such a condition that we are too tired to praise God. A holy man of God used always to say, when they said to him, “Can you pray?” “Thank God, I am never too tired to pray.” If anything can arouse us the service of Christ should do it, there should be within us an enthusiasm which kindles at the very thought of prayer. Have you never known an army on the march weary and ready to drop, and the band have played some enlivening tune which has bestirred the men afresh, and they have gone over the last few miles as they could not have done if it had not been for the inspiration of the strain. Let the thought of praising God wake up our wearied energies, and let not God be robbed of his glory at the close of the day. The close of the day is calm, quiet, and fit for devotion. God walked in the garden in the cool of the day, before man fell, and Adam went forth to meet him; Isaac walked in the fields at eventide, and there he received a blessing. The evening is the Sabbath of the day, and should be the Lord’s.

     Now, notice the topic which is set for the evening; it is faithfulness. Why? Why, because we have had a little more experience of our God. We have a day’s more experience than we had in the morning; therefore we have more power to sing of God’s faithfulness. We can look back now upon the day and see promises fulfilled. May I ask you to look over to-day, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ. Can you not notice some promises which God has kept towards you? Show forth his faithfulness, then. Provision has been given you: he promised to give it; he has given it, Protection has been afforded you: more than you know of, infinitely more. Guidance also has been given in points where you otherwise would have gone very much astray. Illumination has been granted you: comfort also in a season of depression; or upholding in a time of temptation. God has given you much to-day. If he has taken anything away from you, yet still bless his name; it was only what he had given, and he had a right to take it. Look through the day, and you will find that God has acted towards you as he promised that he would act. You have had trouble, you say; did not he say, “In the world ye shall have tribulation”? Has he not spoken concerning the rod of the covenant? Affliction only illustrates his faithfulness. Carefully observe the fulfilled promises of each day: it is a good custom to conclude the day by rehearsing its special mercies. I do not believe in keeping a detailed diary of each day’s experience, for one is very apt, for want of something to put down, to write what is not true, or at least not real. I believe there is nothing more stilted or untruthful, as a general rule, than a religious diary; it easily degenerates into self-deceit. Still, most days, if not all our days, reveal singular instances of providence, if we will but watch them. Master Flavel used to say, “He that notices providences shall never be without a providence to notice.” I believe we let our days glide by us, unobservant of the wondrous things that are in them, and so miss many enjoyments. As in nature the uneducated person sees but little beauty in the wild flowers —

“The primrose by the river’s brim,
A yellow primrose is to him, And it is nothing more;”

so we, for want of thought, let great mercies go by us; they are trifles to us, and nothing more. Oh, let us change our ways, and think more of what God has done, and then we shall utter a song concerning his faithfulness every night.

     Do you notice in the text that word “every.” It does not say, “to show forth his lovingkindness every morning,” though it means that; but concerning the nights it is very distinct. “And his faithfulness every night.” It is a cold night. Did he not promise winter? and now it has come the cold only proves his faithfulness. It is a dark night; but then it is a part of his covenant that there should be nights as well as days. Supposing that there were no nights and no winters, where were the covenant which God made with the earth? But every change of temperature in the beautiful vicissitudes of the year, and every variation of light and shade, only illustrate the faithfulness of God. If you happen now to be full of joy, you can tell of divine faithfulness in rendering love and mercy to you; but if, on the other hand, you are full of trouble, tell of God’s faithfulness, for now you have an opportunity of proving it. He will not leave you: he will not forsake you. His word is, “When thou passest through the rivers I will be with thee: the floods shall not overflow thee.” Depend upon it that promise will be faithfully fulfilled.

     Beloved friends, you who are getting old are nearing the night of life; and you are peculiarly fitted to show forth the Lord’s faithfulness. The young people may tell of his lovingkindness, but the old people must tell of his faithfulness. You can speak of forty or fifty years of God’s grace to you, and you can confidently affirm that he has not once failed you. He has been true to every word that he has spoken. Now, I charge you, do not withhold your testimony. If we, young people, should be silent we should be guilty, but we might speak, perhaps, another day; but for you advanced Christians to be silent will be sinful indeed, for you will not have another opportunity in this world of showing forth the faithfulness of God. Bear witness now, ere your eyes are closed in death! The faithfulness of God every night is a noble subject for his grey-headed servants.

     And this it is our great business to show forth. O beloved, do let us publish abroad the faithfulness of God. I wonder sometimes that there should be any doubts in the world about the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints, and I think the reason why there are any is this — those professors who fall are very conspicuous, everybody knows about them. If a high-flying professor makes a foul end of his boastings, why, that is talked of everywhere. They speak of it in Gath, and publish it in the streets of Askelon. But, on the other hand, those thousands of true believers that hold on their way, they cannot, of course, say much about themselves; it would not be right they should, but I wish they could sometimes say more about the unfailing goodness and immutable truthfulness of God, to be a check to the effect produced by backsliders, so that the world may know that the Lord doth not cast away his people whom he did foreknow, but that he gives strength to them even in their fainting, and bears them through. If there is any one topic that you Christians ought to speak about thankfully, bravely, positively, continuously, it is the faithfulness of God to you. It is that upon which Satan makes a dead set in the minds of many tempted ones, and therefore to that you should bring the strength of your testimony, that tried saints may know that he doth not forsake his people.

     III. And now, to close, I desire in the name of God s people here present, TO SHOW FORTH GOD’S FAITHFULNESS THIS VERY NIGHT.

     My brethren, as a church, let us declare how faithful God has been to us! Our history as a church has been very wonderful. When we were few and feeble, minished and brought low, God appeared for us. Then we began to prosper, and we began also to pray. And what prayers they were! Surely the more we prayed the more God blessed us. We have now had almost twenty years of uninterrupted blessing. We have had no fits and starts, revivals and retreats, but onward has been our course, in the name of God, a steady, continued progress, like the growth of a cedar upon Lebanon. Up to this time God has always heard prayer in this place. This very building was an answer to prayer. There is scarcely an institution connected with it but what can write upon its banner, “We have been blessed by a prayerhearing God.” It has become our habit to pray, and it is God’s habit to bless us. Oh, let us not flag! Let us not flag! If we do we shall be straitened in ourselves, but not in God. God will not leave us while we prove him in his own appointed way. If we will but continue mighty in earnest intercession, we may, as a church, enjoy another twenty years, if so it pleases God, of equal or greater prosperity. If ever there was a spot on earth where it became men to speak well of a faithful God, it is the spot whereon I stand, and I do speak of it to his glory. We have used no carnal attractions to gather people together to worship here, we have procured nothing to please their taste by way of elaborate music, fine dresses, painted windows, processions, and the like; we have used the gospel of Jesus without any rhetorical embellishments, simply spoken as a man speaketh to his friend; and God has blessed it, and he will bless it still.

     Now, dear friends, each one of you can say of yourselves, as well as of the church, that God has been faithful to you. Tell it to your children; tell them God will save sinners when they come to him, for he saved you. Tell it to your neighbours; tell them he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins if we confess them to him, and to save us from all unrighteousness, for he forgave you. Tell every trembler you meet with that Jesus will in nowise cast out any that come to him. Tell all seekers that if they seek they shall find, and that to every one that knocks, the door of mercy shall be opened. Tell the most desponding and despairing that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, even the very chief. Make known his faithfulness every night. And when your last night comes, and you gather up your feet in the bed, like Jacob, let your last testimony be to the Lord’s faithfulness; and like glorious old Joshua, end your life by saying, “Not one good thing hath failed of all the Lord God hath promised, but all hath come to pass.”

     The Lord bless you, dear friends, and give you all to know his lovingkindness and his faithfulness. Amen and Amen.



Let Him Alone

By / Oct 21

Let Him Alone

 

“Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.”— Hosea iv. 17.

 

To what purpose these vast assemblies Sabbath after Sabbath? Why crowd ye these aisles and galleries till every seat is occupied, and every foot of standing room is filled? Have ye all of you a zeal to worship? Do ye all thirst to hear the word of the Lord? Ah me! I am beset with fears and misgivings. My heart is troubled for full many of you. Many persons entertain the evil notion that preaching sermons and hearing sermons is a light matter. When the occasion is past, the exhortation closed, the congregations broken up and the Sunday over, they think that all is done and ended. The doors are shut, and what they have heard they no longer heed any more than if they had been at the playhouse, and the curtain had fallen, and the lights were out. To them the Sabbath is but as another day, and the preacher but an orator who helps them to while away an hour. But it is not so. Whether we look for a result from the proclamation of God’s word or not, be ye sure God looks for it. No man in his senses sows a field without looking for a harvest. No man engages in trade without expecting profit. Oh, sirs! God is not mocked. He does not send his word that it may return unto him void; neither does he think that it is enough when his servants have been as those who make pleasant music, or sing a sweet song, though the audience may repair to the sanctuary as they would go to a theatre, content to be pleased and careless about being profited. Hear ye, then, this solemn lesson. For every Sabbath day that I occupy this place I shall have to give an account before God. My fidelity to my congregation is of such solemn moment that were it not for the infinite mercy of God in Christ Jesus, I feel it had been better for me that I had never been born, than to have to render in that account. Oh, the faults of which I am myself personally conscious! they fill me with shame, though they are, I fear, but few compared with what God himself beholds in the service I attempt to render. But, then, you also will have to answer for every sermon you have heard or may yet hear. Dare any of you imagine that an opportunity of hearing the gospel is given to you that you may tread it under foot? Oh, what would dying men give to hear the gospel again! What would lost souls in hell give if they could have the opportunities of grace back again! They are priceless beyond all estimate, and, as they are so precious, a strict account will be taken of them. The hearer who went his way and said, “I heard the sermon, and I formed a judgment of the preacher’s style,” and flippantly quoted this or that, will find that another view of the service has been taken by Almighty God, and another form of reckoning will be carried out before his judgment seat. Do you suppose that the preaching of the gospel is no more than the performance of a play? Or shall men come and listen to the truth as it is in Jesus, preached earnestly to them, with less concern than to an orator in Parliament? Are death and judgment, heaven and hell, to be looked upon as common themes, which awaken nothing but a passing interest? You may judge so if you will; but neither do God’s servants dare to think so, nor does God himself so think. The text suggests these enquiries. It appears that the Ephraimites, or rather the whole people of Israel, the ten tribes, had been warned again and again and again, and because they did not turn at the warning, but refused the message of God, and continued in their sin, at last God was provoked with them, and he said to his servants, “Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone— no longer waste your powers on careless minds. On such a rock as that it is vain to plough. The case is become utterly hopeless, cease your labour. Go somewhere else where your hallowed occupation will be more remunerative, where hearts will be touched, and ears will be opened to the word. Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.”

     Fearing lest there may be some in this congregation— nay, being persuaded that there are some on the verge of being such, I shall try to speak, first, upon the sin which provoked this punishment, then upon the strange punishment itself; and thirdly, upon such practical reasoning as arises out of the whole subject.

     I. WHAT, THEN, IS THE SIN WHICH PROVOKES THIS UTTERANCE, “Let that man alone”? The sin appeared to be, in Ephraim’s case, continuance in idolatry. Israel had set up idols. They knew the Lord; but when they separated from the tribe of Judah, Jeroboam, in order to keep them from going up to Jerusalem, set up the golden calves. It was not intended that they should worship other gods, but the theory was, that they would worship God, the true God, through the representation of an ox, which represented power. It was a symbol which they conceived to be appropriate and instructive, just as they tell us now-a-days, “We do not want people to worship idols, but they are to worship Christ through a representation of a cross, or of a man hanging on a crucifix; this will teach them and assist their devotions. They are not to worship the image itself, but to worship God through this image. Now, be it never forgotten that this method of devotion is expressly forbidden in the law, and is contrary to one of the ten commands. “Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image, nor the likeness of anything which is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down to them nor worship them.” This command was disregarded, and the ten tribes became practically the representatives of the Papist or Ritualist of the present day. They worshipped God through images, and after a while they went further (as this kind of superstition always does go further)— they began to set up false gods and goddesses— Baal, Ashtaroth, and the like. Thus at length they went aside altogether from the Most High. Prophet after prophet came and said, “If you do this you will be visited with judgments for it. The Lord our God is a jealous God, and can only be worshipped in the manner which he has himself ordained. If you essay to worship him in these new-fangled ways, with these devices and superstitious ordinances of your own, he will be wroth with you, and will smite you.” They listened not to these prophets. Even Elijah, that mightiest of God’s messengers, gained but a slender hearing from them. Elisha, his successor, was equally disregarded. Servant after servant of God’s household came to them and admonished them in the name of the Lord. It was all to no purpose. They despised the message, persecuted those who delivered it, and in the sequel put many of them to evil deaths. So at last the Lord said, “They are bound to their idols; they cling and cleave to them with a morbid infatuation. Their heart is callous, their purpose stubborn, they will never give them up; let my servants, therefore, return and refrain themselves, and go no more to them. Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.” I fear the like judgment will come upon the Ritualists of our time; but I prefer to deal rather with you who hear me this day. To you, also, this bitter foreboding is addressed, or ever your ears are deaf to counsel and your conscience numb to reproof. Any vice deliberately harboured, any one sin persistently indulged, may bring about this fearful result. God will speak of you, then, not as an erring creature whom it is possible to reclaim, but as a wretched outcast whom it is necessary to abandon. A man may be overtaken with a fault. If he has been guilty of drunkenness his conscience rebukes him. Falling into that sin once or twice, he has felt (as well he may) that he has been degraded by it. Let that man continue— and I might especially say, “Let that woman continue” (for the common use or the constant abuse of intoxicating drinks exerts its baneful spell over both sexes)— let any one continue to violate the laws of sobriety, and ere long that sin will become a rooted habit. Then conscience will cease to accuse, and God will practically say, “Ephraim is given to his cups: let him alone!” Or let a man begin some practice of fraud in his business. At first it will trouble him: he will feel uneasy. By-and-by his systematic dishonesty will bring him no compunction. He will become so familiar with crime that he will call it custom, and wonder how ever he could have been so chicken-hearted as to feel any trouble about it at all. God will let him alone, and leave him to eat the fruit of his own ways. He is given to his sin, and his sin will bind him with iron chains and hold him a captive. I cannot, of course, pick out the special sin of any here present, but whatever your sin is, you are warned against it. Your conscience tells you it is wrong. If you persevere in it, it may come to be your eternal ruin. God will say, “The man is joined unto idols: let him alone!” Continuance in sin provokes that sentence; especially when that continuance in sin is perpetrated in the teeth of many admonitions. A person who continues in sin, unwarned, may, comparatively, have but little fault, compared with another who is frequently and faithfully rebuked. The child who in his early sinfulness was affectionately admonished by a gracious mother, who felt the hot drops of her tears fall on his brow, because his offence had grieved her, the child who was again and again admonished, when he had grown somewhat older, by a faithful father, but laughed to scorn paternal teaching and went further and further astray, does not sin at all so cheaply as the Arab of the streets, who has been poisoned by bad example from his youth up. Some of you who have sat under the sound of the gospel, where the word is preached in awful earnestness, will sin ten times more grievously if you despise the exhortations of the Lord, than those whose Sabbaths were wasted by listening to sermons which never touched their conscience, and never were intended to do other than lull the moral sense and charm the taste. You, young man, cannot have been warned as you have been of late by that kind friend, you cannot have been admonished as you have been lately by that book you have been reading, which has deeply impressed you, you cannot have been impressed as you have recently been by the example, and especially by the dying words, of your departed sister, and then go on as you used to do, without incurring sevenfold guilt. Continuance in sin after admonition is that which provokes God to say, “He is joined to his idols: let him alone.”

     Remember, too, that where a man becomes guilty of despising the chastisements of God, and perseveres in his wickedness after having suffered for it, there again the guilt assumes a double dye. For instance, the sailor has been profane, a common swearer, and at whatever port he has touched he has spent his time in riotous living. But the other day he was at sea in a tremendous storm, and then he cried unto God. He escaped, as it were, by the skin of his teeth, and while he was being saved from impending death, his heart trembled on account of his guilt. Now, if that man, after being saved from shipwreck, goes back to blasphemy and debauchery again, there will be sharp reckoning with him. That soldier who has been in the hospital, laid aside by sickness brought on by his own folly, who, after his life was despaired of, has nevertheless recovered, if he shall return like a dog to his vomit, every sin that he will commit will count for many times as much as those sins he revelled in before that warning. That young man who left his father’s house in the country, where he had been trained to virtue, and came to London, and plunged into its whirlpool of vice, but who in the infinite mercy of God has been snatched like a brand from the burning for a while, and is able again to come up to worship with God’s people— if he should go back, like the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire, woe be unto him! It may be that he will never have God’s rod to make him smart again. The rod will be put up, and the axe of justice will be used ere long. You know how the Roman lictors, as they went through the street with the consul, carried a bundle of rods, and when a culprit was brought before the consul, he would say sometimes, “Let him be smitten with rods,” and they began to unbind the bundle. It was a rule that the “fasces,” as they were called, should be tightly bound, so that it would take a long time to unbind them. This was to give time for the criminal to make confession, or to plead something as a mitigating circumstance. Sometimes, where the case was one of treason, which perhaps the culprit repented and confessed, he would be forgiven. They would be for a while untying the knots, and the consul would look the man in the face, to see if there were any signs of relenting, or if he were altogether stubborn. Then when the rods were unbound, it was a good thing for the criminal if the lictors began to smite him with the rods, because that might be a token that he was not to die; but if the rods were laid aside, and the axe brought forth, then it was known that he must die. So God has smitten you in mercy. Fever and disease have been God’s lictors that have used the rods upon you. By-and-by he will say, “Let him alone,” because he is reserving you for the axe of future and inevitable doom. Oh, sirs, the Lord knows all your hearts. Where are you? I may be speaking right into the face of some of you who have endured many afflictions, and been brought low by poverty and want, or by disease and sickness, so that you have come to death’s door; and all this has been the milder chastisement of God, by which he has been saying to you, “My child, do not destroy yourself!” It has been the hand of mercy put upon the bridle of that wild horse of yours, to draw him back, that he may not leap with you over the precipice; but if you spur him on in defiance of the hand of mercy, you will be permitted to take the leap to your own destruction, for God may say, “He is joined to his idols: let him alone.”

     Once again. This punishment may be brought, and generally is brought, upon men when they have done distinct violence to their conscience. Before sin has come to its worst, there is a great deal of struggling in men’s minds. Conscience will not be quiet; it cries out against the maltreatment which it suffers from ungodly lives. Many a young man, especially if he has been well brought up, and many a young woman, too, if she has been trained in religious ways, will have times in which they are pulled up short, and it comes to this: “I have been wrong; if I go further in this wrong I shall suffer for it. There is a way of grace; I see the door of mercy open to me.” They have stood halting, as if a hand had been laid on their shoulder, and they have felt as though they were turned from the wrong and drawn into the right way. But they have fought against mercy, and the evil spirit has set before them all the sparkle of fleshly lust and worldly pleasure, and at last, with a desperate effort, they have dragged themselves away to their sins again. Now, the next time they do that they will not suffer half the compunction, and the next time they will have less still, for every time conscience is violated it becomes less vigorous, and is more easily tranquillised. I recollect an earnest Christian man telling me how before conversion he used to spend his nights in shameful ways, and frequently would be in the streets— though the son of a most respectable man— in a state of half intoxication. As he stood under a lamp one night, with his brain confused and his mind bewildered, he put his hand into his pocket and took out a letter. By some strange impulse he was induced to begin to read it. It was a tender appeal from a loving, pious sister. Unwonted reflections cast their shadows across his breast. Taking counsel with himself he thought, “Well, what is it to be?” He was sober enough even then to feel as if he had come to a point. Revolving the matter, and deliberating upon it, it pleased God to lead him to put that letter back into his pocket, and say, “I will go home, and I will seek my sister’s God.” That resolution proved to be the first step to his conversion:—

“He left the hateful ways of sin,
Turned to the fold and entered in.”

Ever afterwards he came to regard this as the crisis of his soul’s history. He said to me, “If that night I had gone elsewhere, and God’s Spirit had not graciously led me there and then to something like decision, it may be that it would have been the very last time my conscience ever would have troubled me, and I should have gone headlong to destruction.” I wonder whether such a time as that may have come to some of my hearers! If it be so, O Eternal Spirit, throw in the weight of thine omnipotent influence to decide the will of man for that which is good and right, and let not evil win the day. Do you not see in the pictures I have drawn, and the descriptions I have given, some delineation of that aggravated guilt which provokes the withering blast of incensed mercy turned into wrath, which wails forth the woe of my text, “Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone”?

     II. Now, let me crave your earnest attention to THE SINGULAR PUNISHMENT “Let him alone.”

     Is there anything in this to excite our surprise? The calamity is so dire that we may well shudder at it; but the sentence is so just, and the issue so reasonable, that we can only acknowledge it to be such as might have been expected. What can be more natural? There is a piece of ground. Last year it was manured, and it was sown with good seed, but nothing has come up upon it. The year before the like pains were bestowed upon it. They trenched it, and it has been thoroughly drained. There could not have been better seed cast upon it than has been used. Yet nothing grew last year; no harvest rewarded the labourer’s toil. Year after year its hopeless barrenness has vexed the husbandman’s soul. Fanner, what will you do this year? “Do,” says he; “why, do nothing! What can be done with it? Let it alone.” Is he not right in his verdict? Here is a man grievously sick; the doctor called upon him, but they shut the door in his face; he called again, and he gained access to the patient, and the patient cursed him. He called again, and gave him a prescription, but he took up the prescription and tore it in pieces, and flung it away. What do you mean to do, doctor? “What can I do?” says he. “I must let him alone! What can I do? My services are rejected. I am treated with insult! What more remains to me?” And here is a sinner in danger of being lost. The Lord says to him, “Behold my Son! I have anointed him to be a Saviour. If you trust him he will save you.” This counsel is despised, it is thought nothing of, forgotten, neglected, put off, in some cases scoffed at, made a matter of ridicule, treated with hatred; and perhaps the deliverer of the message is made the subject of persecution. What will God say? Why, “That is a case in which I will let him alone! I sent his mother to him when he was a child; I sent his Sunday-school teacher to him; I sent a godly friend to him; I have sent my servant, the minister, to him, times out of mind; I have put good books in his way scores of times. It is all in vain!” Brethren, is there anything that can be more reasonable or more just than for God on his part to say, “Let him alone”? The tree never has brought forth any fruit! what need to waste any more time upon it? It seems meet on God’s part that he should say, “Let him alone.” Judge ye if it be not so!

     Well, but what happens when a man is thus let alone? Why, he is as a great many people would like to be. Liberty is given him; nay, let me correct myself, he takes license to pursue his own course, he is no more “pestered and bothered about religion;” he is no more fretted and worried in his conscience about duties and obligations. God’s people begin to let him alone, for, if they speak to him, he only growls at them and returns an answer which grieves them at the heart; so they keep out of his way, or if they do speak to him, their word, though given in earnest, is taken in jest; like water on a slab of marble, the warning does not penetrate the surface or affect his heart. He has got out of the way of being impressed. Now he has no mother to trouble him; she has long slept under the green sward. He has no poor old father now to talk to him about his sins; he has long been carried to heaven. No minister disturbs him now, for he gives the servant of God a wide berth and keeps clear of him. No books come in his way that can at all alarm him; he will not open them if they do. Give him the Sunday newspaper, that is enough for him; give him a book of science, or something that has to do with this time state; having put his faith in infidelity he fortifies his heart against fear, he takes care not to trouble himself about religion. No qualms or questionings, no doubts or disputes disturb him; no fierce temptations or fiery trials distract his peace. Everything seems to go merrily and smoothly with him. He is the man to make money; he is the jolly fellow that can indulge in sin with impunity, put his hand into the fire and take it out again without being hurt, where another would be badly burnt. He seems to wear a charmed life. God has said, “Let him alone!” Those about him envy him: but if they knew! if they knew! if they knew! if they knew that God had “set him in slippery places,” and that “his foot will slide in due time,” they would no more envy him his prosperity and peace than they would envy the bullock that is fattening for the Christmas show, or the full-fleshed sheep that is driven to the shambles. His end is destruction. Perhaps I am speaking to some who are wrapping themselves up quite complacently in the idea that the lines have fallen to them in pleasant places, that fortune smiles on them, and their reputation is in the ascendant; they would not wish to have their course altered, and yet the terrible sentence has gone out against them, “Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.” O men, I pity you from my soul, but I fear you will ridicule my sympathy. Alas! alas! I can but mourn in secret, for I see that your day is coming.

     I have shown you, then, what it is to be let alone by God. Do you ask, now, what is the general result of it? Why, let me tell you, for the most part it leads the man into greater sin than he had ever committed before; it leads him to become more defiant and more boastful than aforetime. Very frequently be becomes a scoffer and a sceptic; and not unfrequently he becomes intolerant to the poor, and a persecutor of those who fear the Lord and observe his ordinances. Restraints are taken off from him; those moral obligations which curbed him, and that respect for public opinion which induced him to practise a little decency, he has renounced; they are clean gone. Vain conceits fill the place of virtuous counsels. He violated conscience, and conscience has left him; he wearied out those who rebuked him, and they have ceased to reprove him, or if they rebuke him he turns a deaf ear to their admonitions; he has become like the adder that cannot, and will not, hear the wisest charmer. So the man goes from bad to worse, still with the full conceit that he is amongst the happiest and most highly favoured of mortals.

     But here is the evil of it! The dreadful sound is in my ears. God has said to all the agents that might do that man good, “Let him alone!” But wait a while; he will not say that to the agents which can do him harm. He has not said to the Devil, “Let him alone!” He will not say to Death, “Let him alone!” He will not say to Judgment , “Let him alone!” nor will he say to the flames of hell, “Let him alone!” He will not say to infinite misery, “Let him alone!” On the contrary, he will let loose all the destroying angels against him, and the man who was let alone in sin shall not be let alone in punishment. I cannot speak of this as I could wish. These are things to be thought of and weighed in the soul; and I pray that you may so weigh them that, if you have fallen into a state of indifference, you may be aroused out of it, and resolve that it shall not be so any longer. Oh, that you would cry out in terror, “God helping me, I will not be one of those of whom God shall say, ‘Let him alone!’”

     III. THERE ARE SOME PRACTICAL INFERENCES FROM THIS VERY SAD SUBJECT, to which I must now draw your attention. It becomes the preacher, so long as he does not know the individual— and this he never can know— to whom God has said, “Let him alone!” to try and use the utmost endeavor to arouse every careless and indifferent man within his reach.    I pray the Spirit of God to help me while I try to do so. Some of you are living in this world entirely for your own pleasure or your own gain. I do not deny either that it is right that you should seek gain, or that it is natural that you should desire pleasure; neither do I think that attention to the things of God will deprive you of any gain that is worth having, or of any pleasure that is desirable; but the sad thing is that many of you are living as if there were no hereafter. Now, do you really believe that there is no future in reserve for you? Because, if you are quite persuaded that you are no better than a dog, if you are quite certain that you are nothing but an animal, and that in due time, when you die, and the worms eat you, there will be an end of you— why, sirs, if I were of the same mind I should have but little to say to you. I should wish you to be as virtuous as may be in this life, for that is the best way to be happy yourself and to benefit the community; but I do not know that this is any particular business of mine— I would leave that matter to the policeman and the magistrate. But do you really suppose that you have no higher origin than the flesh, and no further destiny than to mingle your dust with the mould of the earth? Would you like me to speak to you as to a dog? Would you like anybody to treat you as a dog? Being, as you say, only a dog, why should you not be treated as such? Can you in your heart of hearts really believe that the cemetery, and the shroud, and the sexton’s spade will be the last of you? You do not believe it: you cannot believe it. You may try to persuade yourself that the terrors of judgment to come are merely bugbears of the imagination; but there is something within you, an irrepressible consciousness of immortality, which tells you you will live after death. God has fixed the conviction of a future state as a kind of instinct in men, so that where the gospel has never come, a future state has been conjectured, though for the most part but dimly inferred rather than distinctly expected. There has scarcely been a heathen tribe so abject but they have had glimmerings of the fact that there is another state after death. Well, my dear sir, I cannot conceive that you have degraded yourself into the notion that you are a beast— at any rate, I will not allow myself to think that you are a beast. You will live somewhere or other after your present career is closed. Does it not stand to reason that if you have lived entirely for self there must be a reckoning with you? Somebody made you! God made you! If you keep a horse or a cow you expect some service of it, and, if God made you, he must expect you to render him some service. But you have rendered him none. Though he has winked at your disobedience in this life, do you think he will always wink at it? Well, if you do think so, you are grossly mistaken: for, as the Lord liveth, there is a day of judgment coming, when the Lord Jesus Christ shall descend from heaven with a shout, and all the dead shall rise out of their graves, and all the living shall appear before his great white throne. You will as certainly be there as you are here. And when you are there, you will discover that every secret thought of yours has been written down against you, and will be read out and published before mankind, and there and then for every idle word you have spoken you will be brought into judgment. Can you think of this as possible, even though you may not admit that it is certain, and can you yet remain callous, indifferent, unconcerned? Is there not a something in your heart that says, “If this be so, it is terrible— it is terrible for me! What must I do to be saved?” I am bound to answer you (and cheerfully do I answer you), “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Whosoever thou mayest be, however far thou mayest have gone astray, trust Jesus, dying and bleeding for sinful men, and now gone into the highest heavens to plead at the right hand of the infinite Majesty— trust Jesus, and you shall live. But if you have not Christ to put away your sin, to espouse your cause, and to plead for you in that last great day, as surely as you live, whether you believe it or not, this is true, the Judge will say, “Depart from me ye cursed, into everlasting fire in hell, prepared for the devil and his angels.” And that may happen to you within much less time than you dream. Not many Monday nights ago, there came a beloved Christian sister here, who joined with us in prayer, she was taken ill, she did not leave this house conscious, she was taken home with death upon her, her disease proved to be past human aid, and in an hour or two she died. I hope there will never be another death in this Tabernacle, but more than once individuals have been thus called away from our very midst. Ere this congregation shall have broken up, some of you may have gone to the world of spirits. In all probability within this week, some one of you will be summoned before the Great Judge. If it is you, sir, or if it is you, good woman, are you ready? Are you ready? Do you feel no trouble about that question? Then methinks you may be among those whom God has given up. But if the question rings through your soul like a knell, and cuts like a sharp knife, then I pray you do not think God has given you up; and do not give yourself up, but fly to Jesus. Ay, ere you lay your head upon the pillow and fall asleep, cry mightily unto the living God to save you, so that you may be his in the day when the earth and the heavens will be in a blaze, and ungodly men will sink into perdition. That is the first practical inference— it is the preacher’s duty to continue to warn men.

     Another practical thought is— if any of you be aroused, do be obedient to the voice of conscience and the calling of the Spirit. Oh, if you have any life, do not attempt to stifle it! rather fan it to a flame! If you do but feel a little of the pain of penitence, pray God that it may deepen into true contrition and sincere repentance. If you feel anything, do not, I pray you, repress the feeling, if it is anything of a spiritual kind. I knew when I was seeking the Lord what it was to feel that. I would have given everything I had to be able to repent; when on my knees I felt that if I could but have shed a tear for sin, I would have been willing to be poor and blind my whole life long. To have a hard heart is an awful thing! It is well, however, when it can relent, and when the man can smite upon his bosom, with tears, and sobs, and groans, and cry, “God be merciful to me a sinner!” If there is any tenderness in you, oh, do not crush it out! do not despise it; look well to it, and, above all, fly away to Christ at once. With many a man it is “now or never.” Whenever you hear the clock tick, this is what it says to you, “Now or never,” “Now or never,” “Now or never,” “Now or never.” Ah, if some would hear that, it might be the means of driving them to the cross of Christ at once, where they would find eternal life. Dear young people especially, do not postpone the thought of eternal things while you are young and tender. Do not say, “When I have a more convenient season I will send for thee.”

“’Tis easier work when we begin
To serve the Lord betimes.”

Where grace comes into the heart while the heart is yet young and tender, there is less struggling against it in most cases, and it is a more cheerful task for the soul to submit itself to the power of Christ. The Lord bless that thought to you, and make it a converting power to your souls.

     And, last of all, if there should be an unhappy individual here who says, “I believe God has given me up”— let me ask thee a question, friend. Does the suggestion of such a thing make you very sad? Then the Lord has not given you up. Do you say, “I feel alarmed lest I am given up”? Then you are not given up. He is more likely to be given up of God who says, “I do not care whether I am or not! Give me my jolly companions, give me my amusements, give me plenty of money to spend, and good health and strength to enjoy myself, and you may have heaven if you like; I will run the risk of the future.” Ah, sir, though you talk big, I do not believe in your bravado, for I know that many braggadocio sinners are cowards at bottom, and I hope, notwithstanding what you say, there is something in you that answers to the appeals I have made. But there may be some who really mean down deep in their souls that they have steeled themselves against reproof, and are prepared to dare all consequences. They stand like oaks I have seen shivered from top to bottom by lightning, never to send forth a shoot again. Ghastly and grim amidst the forest they lift up their heads as though they were huge deer with antlers, glorying in their desolation. There are such withered souls, defiant in awful desperation. Oh! if there are such here, if they were friends of mine I would say, “O man, be in pain and travail like a woman with child rather than be damned! O man, better for thee that thou shouldst from this moment begin a life of torment and agony, and never look up to God’s sun again, and never see the fields, nor hear the birds sing with joy, nor ever have a hopeful thought of this world again, so that thou mayest but be saved, rather than go on with all thy mirth and jollity, and then lift up thine eyes in that eternity to come, where thou shalt be for ever, for ever, for ever lost; for, let those say what they will, who are the enemies of your soul— I speak the truth before the Lord — if you are lost, you will be lost for ever; and if God once pronounces that word, “Depart, ye cursed!” back to him you can never come, but departing, and departing, and departing into blacker night, and into denser glooms you must for ever and for ever continue. This is the dread inscription over the gate of hell:

“All hope abandon, ye who enter here!”

This is branded on their chains, and stamped upon their fetters; this is the worm that never dieth, and the fire that never can be quenched. The letters of fire that burn overhead in the dungeon of eternal despair spell out this word, “Eternity! eternity! eternity!” O my fellow men, as I shall meet you at the judgment seat, I implore you to fly away to Jesus, lest you perish eternally. When your eyes and mine shall meet again in the next state, when we have passed through the grave and the resurrection, do not say I did not tell you of sin and of punishment, and of the Saviour! You will not dare to say it; but as I, poor guilty sinner as I am, stand there, this shall not be one of the sins laid to my charge, that I was not in earnest with you, and that I did not speak all that I felt to be the truth. To Jesus Christ I fly myself on my own account, for if I be not washed in his blood, unhappiest of mortals surely am I; for I have preached to more men for a larger number of years than any other man, perhaps, that lives; and if I have played with souls, I have their blood upon me, and the most accursed of men am I. But I shelter my soul beneath the purple canopy of my Saviour’s atoning blood. My hearers, come under that same shelter, all of you. There is room enough for you. That blessed purple covering will hang between us and God, even though there were millions of us, and it will cover all. Nor can there be any fear that the dart of divine vengeance shall smite any one of us who will cower down beneath the blood-red propitiation. God save you, sirs, who are strangers here! God save you, friends, who frequent these courts! God save you all! for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.



Free Pardon

By / Oct 21

Free Pardon

 

“I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.”— Isaiah xliii. 25.

 

THIS extraordinary passage is rendered the more remarkable from its connection, for it follows a description of the sins of God’s people, a description which mentions their sins of omission in that they had neglected the service of the Most High, and their sins of commission in that they had gone so far in breaking God’s law that they had even made him to serve with their sins, and had wearied him with their iniquities. There is the charge, a thousand facts prove it, and nothing can be urged by way of extenuation. We might expect that the next utterance would be the sentence, and the next motion of the divine hand would be the execution; but, instead of that, O wonder of wonders — (who is a pardoning God like unto thee, O Jehovah?)— there comes a full remission, a complete absolution: “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions.” The verse is succeeded, moreover, by other sentences, which go on still further to convict the people of great sins. The Lord asks them to come and plead with him, if they can. If they have anything to say in extenuation of their faults, he gives them an opportunity of speaking for themselves; and then he tells them that they had sinned as a nation from their very beginning, and had continued still to sin. Though the Lord knew that he would add those words of expostulation, he made a break and a pause in the very middle of his righteous accusation, and ere he had concluded his charge against them, he had already forgiven them, and said, “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake.” The remarkable point is not merely that the absolution contained in the text is preceded and succeeded by verses of accusation, but that it breaks in upon the connection, and cleaves the sense right in the middle. The king’s messenger of mercy rides through the ranks of the men-at-arms in hot haste, sounding his silver bugle as he clears his way; he cannot linger, his message is too precious to be made to tarry. Sooner may sun and moon stand still than mercy be hindered. Such breaks as those, of which the text is a specimen, are very dear to me, because they show the intense love of God to deeds of grace, and his eagerness to perform them. I love these soft showers of grace and mercy all the more because they so abruptly interpose between the tremendous thunder-peals of well-deserved wrath.

     It will be our wisdom not only to weigh the text, but to notice the practical lesson of its connection, namely, that since God is sure to reveal his mercy when it will be most valued, we may conclude that men know and prize divine mercy most when they most feel the weight of their sins. Until a man is consciously condemned, and pleads guilty, he will not ask for mercy; and if mercy were to come to him, he would treat it with disdain. He would look upon the offer of forgiveness as an insult, for what better would it be than an insult to pardon an innocent man? As well send medicine to a man who was never sick, or alms to a millionaire. We must be proven guilty, and confess it, before we can be forgiven. We must know that we are sick, and we must distinctly recognise that our sickness is a mortal disease, or else we shall never value the divine medicine which Jesus came to bring. A sense of sin, although it be exceedingly painful, is a most blessed thing, and I pray God, if you have never felt how guilty you are, that you may be made to feel it at once. If you have never been broken down before the awful majesty of divine justice, may the Holy Spirit break you down now; for Jesus will never clothe those who are not stripped, he will never wash those who are not foul, nor will he attempt to heal those who are not wounded. Others may spend their strength in flattering human goodness, the Lord Jesus has come on another errand, and deals only with our sin and misery. If you are not poverty-stricken, you will have no dealings with the blessed soul-enriching Saviour.

     Having thus considered the connection, let us notice two points besides. The first is the nature of the pardon which is here so graciously proclaimed; and the second is the effect which this pardon produces upon the minds of those who are enabled to receive it.

     I. First, dear friends, let us carefully notice THE NATURE OF THE PARDON WHICH IS HERE SO GRACIOUSLY ANNOUNCED. “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.”

     Note, first, it is a pardon from God himself, whereupon we further observe that it is a pardon from him who is offended. Sin is mainly an attack upon God; it is an offence against his own most excellent person, it is treason against his most glorious sovereignty. God therefore feels more, sees more, and is more thoroughly affected by the evil of sin, than any one else; and the connection of the text shows that he does not treat sin as a trifle as some do— that he does not regard it as a thing which can be readily passed over, but takes solemn note of the sinful omissions and commissions of his people, and in due time calls them to account, mentioning their sins in a way which shows that he is sorely displeased. Sin is in Jehovah’s eyes exceeding sinful, an abominable thing which his soul hates. And yet, notwithstanding this, it is the very same God who has such a hatred of sin who, nevertheless, says, “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions.” We have offended God, and the same offended God forgives us. We have violated his law, and yet the lawgiver himself pardons us. We have insulted his majesty, and yet the King himself deigns to say, “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions.”

     This is the more delightful, because we know that only he could forgive. What is the use of forgiveness from one who has not been offended? How can I forgive you for a transgression which you have committed against another person? He alone whose law has been broken, and who is both the fountain of justice and the executive of the law, is able to forgive offences committed. Power to forgive resides nowhere but in the great Supreme; but then, if you obtain pardon from him, it is pardon, beyond all question. If some man, like yourself, who takes upon himself to say that he has received a commission from heaven, shall absolve you, it is not worth the breath he spends in uttering the mimic absolution, or the time you waste in listening to it: but if the Lord himself, out of his excellent glory, saith, “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions,” then, indeed, the pardon is divinely precious, and effectual. There is reality in divine forgiveness, it is no dream or fiction of the imagination. Whom God forgives who can condemn? This led the apostle Paul to say, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth?” Deep is the peace which the Lord’s own absolution brings to the soul. If he has said to the greatest offender, “I forgive thee,” what more is wanted? What is the use of adding ceremonies and rituals, and the like, if the Lord himself has spoken? One word from the lips of Jehovah, the great forgiving God, is worth millions of masses, and billions of indulgences from the Pope himself. Our conscience demands no more than pardon from the Lord, but it will never rest satisfied with anything less. O Lord, against whom we have erred, thine own sure word of grace contents us, but without that word, spoken home to us by thy Spirit, our heart continues to condemn us, and we pine away in our sins.

     Brethren, there is something about the character of God which is not always dwelt upon as it should be, which tends to make his forgiveness more full of consolation to the soul. There are many idolaters in the world besides those who worship blocks of wood and stone. There are men who would scorn to be called idolaters, who, nevertheless, are not worshippers of the true God, but votaries of a deity of their own making. They have not made him with wood, or clay, or gold, or silver, but they have fashioned him out of their own conceptions. They believe in a god such as they think God ought to be; and according to the general rule and fashion now-a-days, the god whom men invent for themselves is a being entirely devoid of justice. They say that the God of the Bible (who is the real, living, and true God, and made the heavens and the earth) is vindictive, because he severely punishes rebellion against his law; because, being at the head of all moral government, he will not suffer his law to be trampled on with impunity, and will by no means spare the guilty. The God who executes vengeance, and terribly rewards the proud doer, is not the God for men of the modern school; they want an easier deity, a far less stringent governor, a god of as easy virtue as themselves. The Lord God of Elijah will never suit the fair-spoken Ahabs of this age, who cry, “Peace, peace, where there is no peace.” He never was beloved by proud and carnally-minded men; they set up an effeminate deity of their own, who is like themselves, who cares nothing about the evil of sin, and will wink at it, and will suffer sinners to go unpunished— a god who does their bidding, for he quenches the fire of hell, or renders it only a transient punishment for a few years— a god who gives them licence to think as they like, and treat his word as a roll of cloth for them to cut according to their own fashion. The god of modern thought is not the God of the Bible, neither is he any more the true God than Baal or Ashtaroth, Jupiter or Apollo. The true God is the God who is revealed in the Scriptures, and manifested in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is known only to those to whom he reveals himself, and the rest, by their own carnal wisdom, are blinded, so that they have not seen him, neither known him. Now, I say it here, that if there were a God whose nature was nothing else but gentleness, and who, therefore, winked at sin, his pardon would never have satisfied my conscience; for when my conscience was aroused to know the evil of sin, I felt that if God did not punish me he ought. There was about my heart this feeling, that my sin ought not to go unpunished. In fact, I punished myself for my sin by the deep convictions, and fears, and tremblings of my soul; and if any one had said God blots out the sin and thinks no more of it, the assurance would have given me no peace. I should have felt that there was an injustice involved in my being pardoned, my sin would still have cried for vengeance, and therefore my conscience would have had no peace. But when I came to understand that the God of the Bible would not pass by sin without first vindicating the honour of his moral government, that he would not permit sin to be trifled with and to go unpunished, and that therefore he himself, in the person of his own Son, had suffered the penalty for my sin, then I said, this is the kind of pardon which I want, a pardon which satisfies God’s justice, and, therefore, satisfies my own instincts of right. The bearing of my sins by the Lord Jesus in his own body on the tree makes me feel perfectly content, for now God himself can bring no charge against me, since he cannot punish me for that which he laid upon his own Son. Shall he demand payment twice for one debt, or punish twice for one offence? If my sins were laid upon his Son, then is his justice abundantly satisfied, and my soul accepts the free pardon which he gives, without a fear that the strictest justice will ever pronounce my pardon null and void. Now, when God, even Jehovah, the Jehovah of this book, says, “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions; I who thundered from the top of Sinai, I who drowned Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea, I who smote Sennacherib with all his armies, I, the just and terrible God, who revengeth and is furious, and whose anger burns like fire against sin, I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions,” this is a glorious word indeed. “A just God and a Saviour.” “Just and yet the justifier of him that believeth.” Oh, here is a solid foundation for the heart, the conscience, the entire man to rest upon! This is pardon which weighs well in the scales of judgment, and is not mere wind; pardon which acts as balm to the wounds of conscience, and breathes life into hearts dying of despair.

     So, you see, there is much in the fact that the pardon comes from God: but I have not brought it all out yet; for remember, beloved, that inasmuch as it comes from God, he alone it is who knows the full extent of sin; and there can be no pardon given for a sin which has not been recognised somewhere or other. It might be that pardon would only reach to a part of the offence, through the ignorance of the person offended, supposing him to be a fallible, finite being; and though he forgave the wrong done, as far as he knew it, yet he might soon after wake up to a fuller sense of the offence committed against him, and feel new anger at the transgressor. A king can only forgive a rebel for those acts of which he knows him to be guilty. Now the Lord knows all our sins. There is not a sin that has ever escaped his eye. Those committed in the secret chamber, in the darkness of the night, those which never struggled into action— sins of the heart human and imagination, those which have never been whispered into any human ear, God has known. What doth he not see? And this is a blessed thing for us, because it causes the pardon to cover fully the whole extent of the sin. A priest once said that if we did not recollect all our sins, and confess them, they would never be forgiven. Well, then, certainly they never will be forgiven, for no man can ever recollect one thousandth part of his transgressions; but blessed be God, the pardon does not rest with our knowledge of the sin, but with God’s knowledge of the sin; and, therefore, that pardon is complete which comes from the all-seeing God. “I, even I, am he,”— the Omniscient who am everywhere present, who saw thee in the darkness, and heard thy heart in all its evil speeches against the Most High— I, the all-knowing one, “I am he that blotteth out thy transgressions.”

     Oh, this unrivalled pardon, how full of consolation it is! Every attribute of God adds to its splendour; every beam of the divine glory heightens its grandeur. When we think it is our Father himself, our Father whom we have offended, who now kisses us with the kisses of his lips, and presses his penitent children to his bosom, and says, “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions,” the pardon is rendered inestimably precious by the person from whom it comes.

     2. Notice, next, the reason why it is given, the grounds upon which it is based, for they are profoundly comforting. “For mine own sake.” The entire motive of God for forgiving sin lies within himself: “For mine own sake.” No man has his sins forgiven because they are little, for the smallest sin will ruin the soul, and every sin is great, however little it may seem to us. Each sin has the essence of rebellion in it, and rebellion is a great evil before God. No man, therefore, will have God say to him, “I have blotted out thy sins because of the littleness of them.” Never.

     Again; no man’s sin is forgiven on the ground that his repentance is meritorious. There is nothing in Scripture to warrant such an idea. Repentance precedes a sense of forgiveness in some measure, but it follows forgiveness in a larger measure, and it is not the cause, though it is the attendant, of remission. God’s motive for pardoning a sinner is not because that sinner repents, for repentance of itself is no recompense to God. There is a repentance, I think I had better call it remorse, which the lost feel in hell, but it changes not their doom; and had it not been for a Saviour we might have known the repentance which Esau felt when he went out and wept, but, nevertheless, lost the blessing— lost it irretrievably. Neither does our text tell us that God forgives men’s sins because he trusts that after they are forgiven they will do better. By his grace, forgiven men are made to do better; but it is not the foresight of any betterness on their part which leads God to the forgiveness. That cannot be a motive, for if they do better, their improvement is his work in them. Left to themselves they would do even worse after they were pardoned than they had done before, and from the mercy of God they would argue immunity to sin, as, alas! too many who hold the truth in unrighteousness have already done. No, the only motive which God has for pardoning sinners, according to the text, is one which lies within himself: “for mine own sake.”

     And what, I pray you, is that motive? Brethren, the Lord knows all his motive, and it is not for us to measure it; but is it not, first, that he may indulge his mercy? Mercy is the last exercised, but the most pleasing to himself, of all his attributes; therefore, because he is full of mercy he blots out sin. He has this motive, too, which is within himself, that he may glorify his Son, who is one with himself. His Son has made an atonement, has offered and presented it, and now, in order that he may have his full reward, the Lord delights to blot out the sin of those who come to him. It is within himself that the motive lies. And what a comfort this is; for if, when looking into my soul, I cannot see any reason why God should save me, I need not look there, since the motive lies yonder, in his own gracious bosom. According to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses will he blot out my transgressions. I may look to all my past life and not discover a solitary action out of which I could make a plea for mercy; I may look to my present condition and perceive not even a glimpse of improvement, or even a ray of hope that I shall be better in the future, but rather a dreadful fear that I shall grow worse and worse; and when I have seen these discouraging facts, I have only seen what is the truth, for in itself my case is deplorable indeed; but this is my comfort— I may look right away from myself to God, yea, it is my duty to do so. O man, if God is to save you, it will not be because of anything you are or ever will be: he must do it for his own sake. And, oh, how splendidly this sets the door of mercy open! It does not stand now upon the latch, that those may enter who are little sinners; but the great gate of grace stands wide open— what if I say nailed back to the wall? For what sinner is there whom God cannot pardon, if he pardons for his own sake and not for the sinner’s sake? What if the man were black with lusts which we dare not mention? What if he were red with murder? What if every crime in the catalogue of guilt had been committed by him? Yet if God pardons, not because of anything he sees in the man, but because of what he finds in himself, it remains a possibility for God to pardon the vilest of the vile, and the truth revealed in the Bible makes it certain that God will forgive such if they turn unto him, confess their transgressions, believe in his dear Son, and so pass from death unto life. How blessed, then, it is to look not only at the God who gives the pardon, but at the reason why he gives it— for his own sake!

     3. And now, thirdly, it is noteworthy in this glorious text how complete and universal the pardon is. He does not say, “I, even I, am he that blotteth out some of thy transgressions, and will not remember a certain number of thy sins.” No, the Lord makes a clean sweep of the whole dreadful heap of our sins. They are all driven away at once by one stroke of almighty mercy. The text includes all the sins which the Lord had mentioned before— their buying him no sweet cane with money— their refusing to attend to his sacrifices. Our sins of omission arc all gone. Beloved friends, can any of us number our sins of omission? Those arc the sins which ruin men. At the last great day the Judge will say, “I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; sick, and ye visited me not.” Those on the left hand were not condemned for what they did do, but for what they did not do; and the things which we have not done— the things which we have left undone which we ought to have done— these are the majority of our sins. Who shall count them? They outnumber the sands of the ocean. Yet the divine pardon cleanses us from them all. Nor spot nor wrinkle remains.

     And then he mentions actual sins. He says, “Thou hast made me to serve with thy sins;” but he declares that he blots them out, transgressions and sins, both forms of evil. They are both gone, all gone, wholly gone.

     Now, I know not what particular sins may have been committed by the members of this congregation. Suppose we were to begin at yonder aisle, and each one had to stand up and acknowledge his sins; well, it would take much time, and we should have sinned a great deal more before we had come to the end of the confession. What a pile of sin there would be on this threshing-floor, if every man were compelled to bring his own mass of sin, and pour it out upon the common heap. Yet the Lord docs not set bound or measure, but saith, “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions, and will not remember thy sins.” All the believer’s sins are gone: and all are gone at once.

     And this is the very joy and glory of gospel absolution. The believer knows that his sins are not in the process of being pardoned, but are actually pardoned at this moment. No remnant of our sins remains to be dealt with in the future, the whole mass is put away. However black the guilt, however aggravated the criminality, however repeated the crime, however heinous because committed against light, however enormous because perpetuated despite the Holy Spirit— they are all for ever made an end of, annihilated, and for ever gone, when we believe in Jesus. Sins against God’s law and word and day, sins against Christ’s blood, sins against his love, sins against his person, sins against his crown, sins against himself in all his characters— an infinite variety of sins— they all vanish before that gracious declaration, “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions.”

     Once more upon this point. The pardon is noteworthy on account of its being most effectual. It is described as blotting out. Now, blotting out is a very thorough way of settling a thing. If an account has been standing in the ledger a long time, and the pen is drawn through it, it remains no longer. Whether it is a large account or a small one, the same stroke of the pen will do it. If you owed a creditor a thousand pounds, and another owed him only ten, the word “paid” takes as many strokes of the pen to write for the one account as for the other, and it is just as easily done if the creditor be satisfied. Whatever sin there may have been in God’s people, when they come before him he writes “Acquitted” at the bottom of the handwriting which was against them, and its condemning power is gone. What a joy it is to see the long catalogue of my sins blotted by the bleeding hand of Jesus, so that it cannot be read in the court of heavenly justice! What bliss to see it nailed to the cross of the dying Saviour! Heavy as my soul’s debts were, I doubt no longer, now that I see the grim reckoning fastened to the bloody tree.

     And then mark the wonderful expression, “I will not remember thy sins.” Can God forget? Forgetting with God cannot be an infirmity as it is with us. We forget because our memory fails, but God forgets in the blessed sense that he remembers rather the merit of his Son than our sins. Indeed, God forgets sin in the sense of remembering that it is forgiven. I think it was Augustine who had been once a great sinner, and after he was converted he was met in the street by one with whom he had often fallen into sin, and when she spoke to him and said, “Augustine, it is I,” he said, “Ah, but it is not I, I am dead, and made alive again.” Now, when God’s justice meets a man -who believes in Jesus, that man is no longer the I that sinned, for that I is dead in Christ. “Know ye not that we were crucified with him?” The believer was buried with Christ, so that, as he that is dead is free from the law which condemned him— for how shall the law arrest a dead man?— so we, being dead in Christ and risen again in him, are new creatures, and do not come under the divine sentence, and God knows us not as sinners, but only now knows us as new creatures in Christ Jesus. He knows and recognises in us the new life, having “begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” That is one of the instructive features of the ordinance of baptism. The believer there sets forth the doctrine of salvation by death and burial. That was Noah’s salvation. He went into the ark as one dead to the world, he was buried in the ark, and then he floated out from the old world into the new. “The like figure,” saith Peter, “whereunto baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” That is to say, baptism is a like figure of salvation, for it sets forth in a figure, and only in a figure, our death with Christ, our burial with Christ, our resurrection with Christ. Therefore where there is true faith, and the soul has communion with Christ, we are buried with him in baptism unto death, “that like as Jesus rose from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also may rise to newness of life.” Death has passed upon us, “for we thus judge,” says the apostle, “that if one died for all, then all died ”— (for such is the literal Greek); “and that he died for all, that they which live should not live henceforth unto themselves, but unto him that died for them and rose again.” Well, then, beloved, if we are dead, I do not wonder that God says he does not remember our sins, for we are new creatures; we have passed from death to life. We have come into a new life, and God looks upon us from a new point of view, and regards us under a new aspect as members not of the first Adam condemned and dead, but of the second Adam, the Lord from heaven, the living and the quickening Spirit. Well may he say to men who are new creatures, “I will not remember your sins.”

     Every word of the text is delightful, and I cannot attempt to go into the fulness of it. May the Lord lead each one of you into it, and especially you young people. As for those who are not converted,— oh, that they would long for the precious things here set forth! May God speak to some who came in here black sinners, and say to them, “For mine own sake I forgive you.” Oh, how you will leap for joy! What a thrill will go through your heart! You will not doubt the existence of God any more, I will warrant you. You will have no more questions and cavils. The Spirit of God will speak to your heart, and that will convince you though nothing else will, and you will go away to glorify the grace you once despised.

     II. Now I come to the consideration of the second point very briefly — THE EFFECT OF THIS PARDON WHEREVER IT COMES WITH POWER TO THE SOUL.

     Timid persons have thought that the free pardon of sin would lead men to indulge in it. No doubt some are base enough to pervert it to that use, but there was never a soul that did really receive pardon from God who could find in that pardon any excuse for sin or any licence to continue longer in it; for all God’s people argue thus “Shall we sin that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?” And again, the apostle says, “Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? God forbid!” He utters a most solemn disclaimer against the idea that the amazing mercy of God can lead the regenerate into sin.

     The first effect of pardon upon the man who receives it is surprise. The man has been lying at the foot of the cross looking for mercy, on a sudden he glances his eye at the bleeding Saviour, and he is forgiven, and he feels something like Peter when he was brought out of prison. “He wist not that it was true that was done unto him by the angel, but thought he saw a vision.”

“When God revealed his gracious name,
And changed our mournful state,
Our rapture seemed a pleasing dream;
The grace appeared too great.”

I recollect how overjoyed I was when I received pardon. I did not know how to contain myself for delight; but after a while this thought assailed me— such great mercy is too good to be true. My surprise at it staggered me. How could it be that I was actually forgiven, and through the blood of Jesus made clean in the sight of God? The goodness of God astounded me. It reminds me of an illustration I have used before, but it is a good one. If you have a dog at the table, and you throw him a scrap of meat, he swallows it directly; but if you were to set the whole joint down on the floor before him, he would turn away. He would feel that you could not mean to give a fine joint of meat to a dog. He would not think of touching it: at least, few dogs would. And it seemed to me as if the Lord could not have meant all the wonders of his love for such a dog as I was. I was ready to turn away from it through the greatness of it. But then I recollected that it would not do for God to be giving little mercy. He was too great a God to spend all his power in pardoning little sinners and granting little favours; and I came back to this— that if his grace was not too big for him to give, I would not be such a fool as to refuse it because of its greatness. You remember how Alexander told a soldier that he might have whatever he asked; the man went to the royal treasury and demanded such a vast sum, that the officer refused to let him have it, and said to him, “How can you be such an unconscionable fellow as to ask for so much?” When Alexander heard of it he said, “It is much for him to receive, but it is not too much for Alexander to give: he has a high opinion of my greatness. Let him have what he has asked for. I will not fall short of his expectations.” God is a great God, and to forgive great sins is just like him. We cannot forgive at this rate, but God can; to forgive great sin, tremendous sin, unspeakably black sin, adds to his glory and makes men say, “Who is a God like unto thee, passing by iniquity, transgression, and sin?”

     At first, then, mercy fills us with surprise, the next thing it does is to fill us with holy regret. We feel, “What, and is this the God I have been standing out against so long? Is this the God whom I have despised or neglected, whose gospel I put away from me, saying that there was time enough for me to attend to it when I grew old, and had seen a little of life? Is this the God whom I have been slighting, who has loved me at this rate, and given his dear Son from his own right hand to bleed and suffer in my stead?” It has been said— I think by Aristotle— that a person cannot know that he is loved without feeling some degree of love in return. I am quite certain that you cannot know in your soul, by the experience of pardon, that God loves you, without feeling at once, “I am ashamed that I did not love my gracious God. I am disgusted with myself that I could have acted in such a disgraceful way towards him. Did he love me before the world began? Did he write my name in the roll of his electing love? Did he ordain me to a crown of life and to a harp of gold? Did he predestinate me to be conformed to the image of his Son, and when the Saviour bled, did he think of me as he was dying, and did he specially lay down life for me; and am I one whom he hath betrothed unto himself for ever in faithfulness and love and mercy; and yet have I been foolish enough to live all this while a stranger and an enemy to him?” When a sense of dying love comes mightily into the heart, we feel that we cannot be enough revenged upon our cruel hearts for having treated so ill such a generous, such a forgiving God.

     As this sense of pardon first breeds surprise, and then intense regret, it next creates in us fervent love. “We love him because he first loved us” and we love him best of all for having pardoned us. No one loves God so much as the man or woman who has had much forgiven. Scripture tells us this in the case of the woman who was a sinner: she alone washed the Saviour’s feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Commonplace Christians have never experienced any deep sense of sin, and consequently Christ is a very commonplace Saviour to them. Ah, but when a man feels that he is a black sinner, and that he should have been in hell, and in the hottest part of it, if it had not been for sovereign grace, I tell you, sir, if the Lord lifts that man up out of the pit, and gives him a place amongst his servants, that is the man who will feel the water in his eyes when he talks about the Saviour’s grace. That man cannot speak about redeeming grace and dying love without feeling that there is charming music in those precious words, and the best of all music in their precious sense. The viler the sinner the more love has he to the Lord when he is forgiven. As he feels his sin, so he loves his Redeemer. “The burnt child dreads the fire,” but I will tell you the child that dreads the fire most: if there could be a child which had burnt itself in the fire, and then all its sores and blisters were taken off it and laid upon its mother, and that child saw its mother’s face all scarred and marred with the burning, and saw her body in pain on her dear one’s account, I am sure the child would hate all idea of playing with fire as long as it lived. Many suffer for sin in their own persons, but do not hate it. They will go back to the very sin which injured them, as moths fly again to the candle. But to see another suffering for my fault— such a one as Emmanuel, God with us — to see his hands fastened to the wood, and his feet pierced, and his heart gashed, and all his life flowing out in blood, and himself bearing agonies unutterable for my sins, it makes me feel that the very name of sin is accursed, and I abhor it utterly. We would, if we could, be perfect. We long, and sigh, and cry to be delivered from everything that has one murderous spot of the Saviour’s blood upon it. If yonder knife had killed your friend, would you hoard it up and think a great deal of the deadly instrument? You hurl it out of your sight as an accursed thing. Yet sin slew Jesus! Sin slew Jesus! Away with it, then! Away with it! Away with it! My precious Christ was murdered by sin! Henceforth I am dead to sin! This is the spirit which free grace breeds in every Christian; and the more sure he is of his pardon, the more intensely he hates his sin. Hence our gospel is a reforming gospel, a sanctifying gospel. It is a gospel that delivers men from the power of sin, and brings them through the power of love into the blessed liberty of the children of God.

     In closing, I would say to every unconverted person, here is your state before God in this picture. Many years ago in Russia a regiment of troops mutinied. They were at some distance from the capital, and were so furious that they murdered their officers, and resolved never to submit to discipline; but the emperor, who was an exceedingly wise and sagacious man, no sooner heard of it than, all alone and unattended, he went into the barracks when the men were drawn up, and, addressing them sternly, he said to them, “Soldiers, you have committed such offences against the law that every one of you deserves to be put to death. There is no hope of any mercy for one of you unless you lay down your arms immediately, and surrender at discretion to me, your emperor.” And they did it there and then, though the heads of their officers were lying at their feet. They threw down their arms and surrendered, and he said at once, “Men, I pardon you; you will be the bravest troops I ever had.” And they were, too. That is just what God says to the sinner: “Now, sinner, you have done that which deserves my wrath. Down with your weapons of rebellion! Ground arms at once. I will not talk with you until you submit at discretion to my sovereign authority.” And then he says, “Believe in my Son; trust him; accept him as your Saviour. This done, you are forgiven, and henceforth you will be the most loving creatures that my hands have made. You will love me better than the angels, for, though they never sinned, they never had a God to become incarnate, and to bleed and die for them: you know what sin is, and will hate it; and you know what goodness is, for you have seen it in my Son, and henceforth you will strive to be like him, and amongst the sweetest notes that shall come up to my throne will be your grateful songs.”

“Blessings for ever on the Lamb,
Who bore the curse for wretched men!
Let angels sound his sacred name,
And every creature say ‘Amen!’”

None will more loudly sing the praises of God than those who have been washed in the precious blood, and have had their transgressions blotted out.

     The Lord bless you, and give every one of you to know and taste all this, and that, too, at this very hour, if it be his will, for Jesus’ sake! Amen.



The Father’s Will

By / Oct 20

The Father's Will

 
“And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” — John vi. 39, 40.

 

SUCH our impertinent curiosity that we would fain peer between the folded leaves of the divine purposes. The eager thirst of man to discover secrets, to solve mysteries, to draw aside the folded curtains, and to ascertain that which is past finding out, tempts him full often to the wildest conjecture and the most adventurous speculation. To get a sight of the future how many would rush to any part of the earth were it possible to light upon a spot from which they could reconnoitre the times and the seasons. To know that which God conceals seems to be one of the depraved desires of the human heart. This presumptuous enquiry is both foolish and sinful. What hast thou to do, O man! with God’s councils? To obey him is thy work, not to attempt to know what he does not please to reveal. But let us understand that the gospel is an extract from the will of God, and such an extract that it contains the very essence thereof. Certainly there is nothing in the will of God contrary to the gospel. Among the unrevealed things there cannot be anything in conflict with the revealed things; none of the secrets can possibly contradict those truths which God has seen fit to unfold. O then, you that want to know the will of God, here is something of it for you closely to observe, and diligently to study! If you want to read that will, here it is given to you in two forms: “This is the Father's will (the will of him which hath sent Jesus, his only-begotten Son, to be our Saviour), that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” And here is that same will again opened up before you, if you have but hearts to receive it: “This is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”

     The will of God is our salvation. It was from the will of God that the very thought of salvation first arose. Had we been left to our own wills, we should have been willing to wander further and farther from God. No man originated the idea of restoration for our race; God himself willed it, and it is from the purpose of his grace that all our hopes begin; and the will which originated salvation shaped and formed it. It was God’s will that ordained salvation by faith, salvation through an atoning sacrifice, salvation by the way of the new birth, salvation by the way of perseverance up to perfection. God cast in his own mould the way and modus of salvation, and it has been his will that has shaped it; like a vessel revolving upon the wheel before him, his finger has made the form and fashion of it. According to his own will begat he us that we might be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures. It is his will that has brought those of us who are saved into the knowledge of the truth, by which will also we are sanctified, and upon which will we rely, as the motive force which shall bear us onward throughout the entire of our lives; bear us over the regions of death, and bear us into the land of the perfect, where we shall see the face of God without sin.

     Now, it is about this will of God that we are going to speak, taking the two phrases as setting forth the divine side of salvation and the human side of salvation. You know, beloved friends, that the general custom is, with the various sects of Christians, to take up one part of the Bible and preach that part, and then it is the duty of all divines on that side of the question not to preach anything but that. Or if they find a text that looks in rather a different direction, these gentlemen are expected to twist it round to suit their creed, it being supposed that only one set of truths can possibly be worth defending, it never having entered into the heads of some people that there can be two apparently irreconcilable truths which nevertheless are equally valuable. Think not that I come here to defend the human side of salvation at the expense of the divine; nor am I desirous to magnify the divine side of it at the expense of the human; rather would I beseech you to look at the two texts which are together before us, and to be prepared to receive both sets of truths. I think it a very dangerous thing to say that the truth lies between the two extremes. It does not: the truth lies in the two, in the comprehension of both; not in taking a part from this and a part from that, toning down one and modulating the other, as is too much the custom, but in believing and giving full expression to everything that God reveals whether we can reconcile the things or not, opening our hearts as children open their understandings to their father’s teaching, feeling that if the gospel were such that we could make it into a complete system, we might be quite sure it was not God’s gospel, for any system that comes from God must be too grand for the human brain to grasp at one effort ; and any path that he takes must extend too far beyond the line of our vision for us to make a nice little map of it, and mark it out in squares. This world, you know, we can readily enough map. Go and get charts, and you shall find that men of understanding have indicated almost every rock in the sea, almost every hamlet on the land; but they cannot map out the heavens in that way, for albeit that you can buy the celestial atlas, yet as you are well enough aware there is not one in ten thousand of the stars that can possibly be put there; when they are resolved by the telescope they become altogether innumerable, and so far exceed all count that it is impossible for us to reckon them up in order and say, that is the name of this, and this is the name of that. We must leave them: they are beyond us. There are deeps into which we cannot peer; even the strongest glass cannot show us much more than a mere corner of the starry worlds. Thus too is it with the doctrines of the gospel: they are too bright for our weak eyes, too sublime for our finite minds to scan, save at a humble distance. Be it ours to take all we can of their solemn import, to believe them heartily, accept them gratefully, and then fall down before the Lord, and pour out our very souls in worshipping him.

     I. Well, now we come to our two texts. The first is the DIVINE SIDE OF THE WORK OF SALVATION. It needeth to come first, such is its dignity. “This is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.”

     Mark attentively the announcement, how sovereign its character! “This is the Father’s will.” Majestic words — “This is the Father’s will.” No “if,” no “but,” no asking and requesting of men, no bending the knee to their choice or caprice, no asking them if they will please to have it so, but — “This is the Father’s will.” That is the will which is altogether absolute and independent, revolving on its own axis, the will that called creation out of nothing, the will which cannot be thwarted, for it is omnipotent, which none may stand against, for it proceedeth ever on its eternal course. It is a fixed will, for God is not fickle as we are, he doth not will this to-day and that to-morrow. “I am God,” saith he, “and change not.” He is “the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of a turning,” — a fixed, irresistible will, standing the same from everlasting to everlasting; not subject to change. Would you have it change for the better? How could that be? Can God be better? Would you have it change for the worse? Would God be God if he could be worse than he is? How can it be that perfection can change? It must ever remain perfection: a change were to bring in imperfection into that which is complete. To God’s eternal mind there is no past, there is no future.

“He fills his own eternal now,
And sees her ages past.”

Looking as he does from Heaven, he takes in at one glance all those periods of time which we are accustomed to call ages and cycles; they are all as the twinkling of an eye to him, for “a thousand years in his sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.” Let me, then, again read these words, they concern the salvation of his people. “This is the Father’s will.” I say again, how grand they are. “This is the Father’s will.” O God, I tremble at thy will, until I read those lines; I know not what thy will may be, and since I know it must be accomplished I cower down at thy feet in terror until I read that mercy is the Father’s will, that love is the Father’s will, that salvation is the Father’s will, and then my heart flies into thy bosom with ecstasy and joy, to think that thine omnipotent, unchangeable will should be such goodwill; so full of benevolence, so full of love!

     Following the current of this testimony, we are introduced to the obedient servant of that will. “This is the Father’s will, which hath sent me.” Read the thirty-eighth verse: — “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” Christ, then, is the obedient-sent servant of his Father’s will. But why doth he say, “not to do my own will”? The meaning, I doubt not, as Dr. Owen well interprets it, is first or primarily, in reply to the malicious charge of the Jews, “that he was not intent to accomplish or bring about any private purposes of his own distinct or different from those of his Father.” But more than this, “the will of God, which Christ came to fulfil, is sometimes taken for the commandment which he received from the Father.” So he saith in the fortieth Psalm, “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.” As though he should protest “all that thou requirest at my hand as mediator I am ready to perform.” Was it not to this end that he did verily “take on him the form of a servant”? And for the self-same cause did not the Father expressly call him his servant, as you read in the forty-second chapter of Isaiah — “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my Spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles”? Thus is he the servant of the Father in the accomplishment of that work for which the Spirit was put upon him. Moreover, the “will of God” may be taken for his purpose, his decree, his good pleasure, to fulfil which Christ came into the world. It is thus little by little that the full sense of the words breaks on our minds. Now, as I turn that over in my mind, “not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me,” I am prone to reflect, “It is for me to lay down my will at God’s feet.” Well, it is but fit and right for all of us to do so. For every one of us to say: “I came not to do mine own will,” seems natural and proper. But Christ, beloved, — his will is perfect, his will is as complete as the will of God himself; it is, in fact, coincident, must be coincident, with the will of God. But he speaks as God-man — mediator, and he puts it so, that he may be to ns the pattern of complete resignation and perfect obedience. “I, even I, who have no difference with God, who am God, who will as God wills, yet I came not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me.” Why, think you, was it needful that he should say that? It was needful, as I have already said, as an example to us, but further needful that every one of us may know that Christ is no amateur Saviour, come into the world to save without a commission and without authority. He has come here willingly enough, but still the reason of his coming is his Father’s will. When Christ forgives a sinner it is his Father’s will; when Christ receives a rebel to his bosom, it is his Father’s will. He does not save us clandestinely or in any manner inconsiderate of or contrary to the divine purposes, nor yet in some such way as though by the tenderness of a friend he would rescue us from the sternness of a judge. No, no, in no wise; for all that Jesus does is the Father’s will, as he would say of us, “I say not that I will pray the Father for you, for the Father himself loveth you.” The will which Christ is doing is the Father’s will. All that he is engaged to bring about is according to the will of the Father. Let us bless his name for that.

     Well now; it would appear that God in his divine will was pleased to give to Jesus, his obedient servant, a number of men out of mankind who were to be his. Is not that the plain meaning of the passage, “This is the will of him that sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing”? The Father gave to the Son, then, a number, I believe it was a number that no man can number, a number far beyond the bounds of our thought; but he did give a certain number whom he himself had chosen from before the foundation of the world, and these became the property of the Lord Jesus Christ. They were put under a different government, being placed under the mediatorial sway of the Son of God. They became disciples — not by their own natural inclination, but by his gracious calling: they became Christ’s flock, he was their shepherd; they were to become Christ’s body, he was to be the head; in due time they were to be Christ’s bride, he was to be the husband; they were to be Christ’s brethren, and they were to be conformed to him that he might be the first-born among many brethren. Now this is a great transaction full of sublimity, — let us not forget it or slight it. There was a day before all days when there was no day but the Ancient of Days, and then the Ancient of Days in his eternal wisdom transferred a number of men whom he had chosen into the hands of Jesus Christ. It is of no use cavilling at it; it is true; it was so; and it is so; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. God’s – eternal and electing purpose severed from the mass of mankind a people who were to belong to Jesus. Let us say “Amen” to the record.

     The next thing we learn here is that all these persons Jesus Christ undertook to keep. It was the Father’s will that of all who were given to Christ he should lose — what? — “lose nothing.” This is a very remarkable expression. It does not say he should lose none, that is true; but lose no thing, “nothing.” The Lord Jesus Christ, therefore, has taken all those who were given of the Father to him, into his custody. He is the Surety, he is responsible for them, and he keeps them. In what way does he keep them? Seeing they were lost he redeemed them; seeing they were far from him he fetches them back of his grace, by the power of his Spirit; seeing that they are still prone to wander he restores their souls; seeing that they are imperfect he sanctifies them; and he continues the work of sanctification, and he will make them one day to be without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.

     But the text says he will “lose nothing,” by which he means that while he will certainly not lose one that his Father gave him, he will not lose any part of one of them. For look at that child of God who died a few months ago; we laid him in the grave with many tears, and we believe his spirit is taken up to the right hand of God, but where is his body? Ah, we should not like to exhume it; it would be a terrible spectacle if we should take it out of that coffin, or open the lid and look at all that mass of putridity. Surely this is part of one of Christ’s people that has been lost! Ah, but it is not his Father’s will that Christ should lose anything of what was given him; and therefore he adds, “I will raise it up at the last day.” When the trumpet sounds, the dead shall come forth from their graves, and there shall not be left in the grave a bone, nor a piece of a bone of one of the Lord’s redeemed: they shall come again from the land of the enemy, and leave nothing behind them. When Israel came out of Egypt the great Master did not bring some of the people out and leave some behind. Oh, no! Neither did he bring all the people, and leave their property behind. Did not Moses say to Pharoah, “There shall not a hoof be left behind;” not a solitary lamb of all the flocks, there shall not one be left behind. And so out of the entire company that God the Father has given into the custody of Jesus, there shall not only not be one soul lost, but no part of any one of them; neither of their body, of their soul, nor of their spirit. Death shall yield up its captives, they shall be completely free: —

“Then all the chosen race
Shall meet around the throne,
To bless the conduct of his grace
And make his glories known.”

That is the divine side of salvation, and that is the truth which this first part of our text teaches.

     Do I hear somebody say, “I think that doctrine is dangerous”? My dear sir, who is it dangerous to but fools ? If God has taught it there can be no danger in it. At the same time there never was a truth which foolish persons could not distort and turn into mischief. Ropes are good things, but many people have hung themselves with them; and there is many a grand doctrine which men wrest to their own destruction, and we cannot be shaping God’s truth down to consult the folly and sin of man. The question is, is it in the Bible? If it is there let none of us ever say it is dangerous. “Well, but,” say you, “is it not all about secret things?” Be it so; then you need not be at all alarmed at our talking about it, for none of us can divulge anything which is secret: therefore you need not be under any concern that we shall do it. If it be secret, then so far as it is secret we cannot intermeddle with it; but we do say this, that whatever of it has been revealed is for us, and for our children, and we are not ashamed to speak of what God was not ashamed to declare.

     Moreover, we have proved it to be good, comfortable, solid, soul-sustaining, sanctifying doctrine, for if there is anything in this world that can put into a man force, life, energy, it is the belief that God has chosen him unto eternal life, has put into him an unconquerable nature which must fight against sin until it overcomes it, and that Christ is engaged to bring him safely to the right hand of the most High. Why, the gratitude of a man that believes this becomes the masterpower of his life.

“Loved of my God, for him again
With love intense I burn;
Chosen of Him ere time began
I choose him in return.”

     Slaves are whipped to the battle, but the freeman goes cheerfully to fight for the cause dear to his heart. The man that only lives a good life because he is afraid of being damned is a mere hireling in the House of God; but the man who knows that he is God’s own child, and never will be anything else, that God loves him and must love him, says now, out of no desire of reward and no fears of punishment, being saved, for ever saved, “I love my Lord with all my heart and soul and strength, and I will render to him the obedience of a child which is infinitely superior to the obedience of a slave.” I question the possibility of virtue to a man who cannot say, “I am saved.” He that does good works in order to his being saved, or in order to keep himself from the peril of being lost, acts from a selfish motive, and is serving himself rather than his God. But he, on the other hand, who feels that he is bought with a price and is delivered, is saved, is a child of God, can say, “Now I have not myself to consider but my God. Now will I live for him, now will I spend and be spent, that I may glorify his name.” The Lord grant to us to be brought into that condition in which we can understand and enjoy this doctrine, and may we then by our lives prove our gratitude for the great benefits we have received of him.

     II. Now I am going to take the HUMAN SIDE, and I think I hear somebody say, — “Though I liked the first part, I know I shall not like the second.” Dear hearer, what right have you to cavil at aught that is true? Somebody on the other hand may say, “I do not believe in this first part, perhaps I may in the second.” My dear friend, I wish you would give up that notion of picking and choosing parts of God’s word that are agreeable to our taste; but rather take the whole, from the beginning of it to the end of it, so you shall find pleasure and profit all the way through. Truly, brethren, it is shocking to think of the theoretical difficulties that people make for themselves by a kind of smart criticism that seems clever, but lacks common sense. In this very chapter, at the twenty-seventh verse, you read — “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of Man shall give unto you.” The fact is, you get here two paradoxes in one sentence. You are told not to labour for that meat which no man can procure without labour, and you are told to labour for that bread which no man can procure by labour, because it is a free gift. Howbeit, the thing needs no explanation. It is clear as daylight to every discerning heart. Here, then, is the human side of salvation: “This is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

     Observe, there is no lowering of the tone. The same august words strike us on the threshold of each announcement. “This is the will of him that sent me.” The freest proclamations of the gospel that can ever be given are as much divine as are the plainest declarations of distinguishing grace. Listen, then, with equal attention to this second part, for this has the same imprimatur, the same divine stamp upon it: — “This is the will of him that sent me.”

     Notice again that there is the same obedient servant engaged on this occasion as before. Whether you look at the divine side or the human side of salvation, the most conspicuous object is still Christ Jesus. If God looks down on men it is through his Anointed, or if men look up to God, it is through God’s Christ whom he has sent. The points of difference we will therefore dwell upon. In this second verse the persons described as partakers of the benefit of salvation are thus described: “Every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him.”

     What are we to understand by these words — “Every one which seeth the Son”? We cannot see the Son now with our natural organs of sight; for Jesus has gone up to heaven. With these optics we cannot scan his features or perceive his presence. But when we read of him in the Evangelists, and when we hear of him from the mouths of his servants, we do in effect see him evidently set forth before us. The eyes of our understanding discern him. The sense of faith recognizes him. Now if by that sight, that knowledge, that information, we are led to believe on him, then we have everlasting life. Whoever he may be — “Every one,” it says — “Every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him,” comes in for the same privilege. This includes the man with great faith, but it equally includes the babe with little faith. This includes the man of reputable character, but it equally includes the man whose character has been up till now disreputable. “Every one that believeth on him.” Does it mean that if I believe on him I have eternal life? Yes, whoever you are; you may listen to it in the dark, I do not want to look at you to discriminate between one individual and another. The assertion is wide enough for all of you. Are you a black man, or a white man? Are you a yellow man, or a brown man? it matters not. Are you rich, or are you poor, one in the higher ranks, or one obscure and despised? it matters not. Whoever you may be, every child of man that is born of woman, that seeth the Son, and believeth on him, shall have eternal life. Are there no exceptions? None whatever. Can it not be supposed that some characters maybe excluded? None are excluded hence but those who do themselves exclude. The learned and polite, the ignorant and rude, “every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life.” That is to say, to go over the same matter yet again, every man, woman, child, every one of the human race that trusts his soul with the Son of God, has everlasting life. “Well, but,” saith one, “suppose I should not have been given by God the Father to the Son?” You have no right to suppose that. If you believe in Jesus Christ you have everlasting life. I could explain, I think, a little to you, at least I have a way of explaining it to myself, how these two meet. I do not care to explain it, I do not think it is necessary at all, for it is so. There never was a soul that believed in Jesus yet but God the Father had given that soul to Christ; there never was a soul that trusted the Saviour yet but it turned out that after all that soul had been ordained to do so from before the foundation of the world. We will not attempt to answer objections. There is the truth, the plain, naked truth. This is the will of him that sent the Saviour into the world, that everyone that seeth the Son, and believeth on him, should at once have eternal life. O what a splendid gospel that is! Now, when I go out to preach I have not to say, “I am going to preach to God’s elect” — not at all: “Every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life”; nor have I to say to myself, “Now I shall pick out certain characters that I think must be a delineation of God’s chosen.” I have no right to make any picking or choosing, there is the Gospel, — “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” And this again is the gospel: “That every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life.” There let it stand, then; we will not clip its wings but we will rejoice in its simple verity.

     Now it appears that these persons who believe in Jesus, whoever they may be, are already in a present state of safety, for as soon as they believe on him they have everlasting life, they are made alive unto God, they receive a spiritual life which they never had before. The Holy Ghost comes into them and quickens them. Whereas they were heretofore dead in trespasses and sins, the Holy Spirit makes them alive unto God by Jesus Christ. And this is true of everyone that seeth the Son, and believeth on him. This life which is thus given is a life that cannot die, for it is everlasting. Everlasting life is freely and sovereignly bestowed, so that every believer has in him a vital principle which cannot be destroyed any more than God himself can. For as God’s life is everlasting life, so the life of every believer is called “everlasting life.” O see the blessedness of this, “that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life.” We do not seem to want to preach upon that; I like to roll it over under my tongue. I should like everybody here that is perplexing himself about the doctrines of the gospel, and saying, “Perhaps I am shut out from the mercy of God,” just to go home repeating these words. Therefore I will repeat them again: “that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life.” And since notwithstanding this gift of everlasting life the bodies of believers die, Jesus Christ has added here that it is the will of the Father that he should “raise him up at the last day.” It seems, then, beloved, that no believer shall be lost and nothing of a believer, for if his body must be put into the ground, corruption, earth and worms shall but refine his flesh, till at the sound of the last trumpet he shall put it on afresh. “I will raise him up at the last day.” Then it seems that if I am a believer in Jesus I may conclude that God the Father gave me to Christ to save me, and that Christ will save me and keep me until he himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, and call his own redeemed out of the graves. Thus the two truths are reconciled — may they be reconciled in our experience as well as in our faith!

     Now then, to close, let me say to any troubled person here present : Beloved friend, never fear that there is anything in the secret purposes of God which can contradict the open promises of God. Never dream, if you are a believer, that there can be any dark decree that shuts you out from the benefits of grace. Decrees or no decrees, “this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life.” Lay hold, therefore, on Christ with all your heart, poor sinner; ask not to know whether thy name is in the Book of Life; come just as thou art, by God’s own invitation, and lay hold on Jesus Christ. The woman in the press could not tell whether it was written in the book of the decrees that she should be healed, but she came behind the Saviour and touched the hem of his garment, and was made whole. The dying thief did not stop to enquire, “Was I chosen of God ere time began?” but he said, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” Now do you in like manner act upon your present exigence, and fit your prayer to the present opportunity. The doctrine of decrees never operates upon a man’s ordinary life. What hungry man would halt, or hesitate, or say, “I cannot tell whether it is the purpose of God that I should eat,” but when the provision is spread out before him he eats. Would the weary man vex his soul with misgivings, and say, “I want to know whether it is the purpose of God I should sleep?” nay, but he acts like a sensible creature and goes to his bed at the time of rest, grateful for the interval of deep repose that can renew his strength and freshen up his vital powers. Now do you go and do likewise. Do not rebel at the purposes, or deny them, but act upon the precepts, and rejoice in them; they are the guide for you. Rely upon the promises; that is the way for you to realise them: and inasmuch as the clear promise rings out from the eternal throne, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out,” do thou go and see if he will cast thee out. Come, thou black sinner, thou foul sinner, thou devilish sinner — come thou who art stained with every sin, come and see if Christ will reject thee; and recollect that the text that should encourage thee stands hard by that which may embarrass thee — close to it — where Jesus says, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” I do pray that those words may encourage many souls to come.

     And once more, fear not that if you believe, your believing will end in failure. If you believe in Jesus Christ, the text says “It is the Father’s will” that you should “have eternal life,” and be “raised up at the last day.” The question sometimes comes to one’s mind — “After I have believed in Jesus, and placed all my hope in him, may I not after all perish? Is there not something expected of me in which I may fail? If I rest upon him as a rock, yet still are there not some other props and buttresses wanted, and if I shall not supply them shall I be safe at last?” Well, I frankly confess if there be anything wanted as the ground of a sinner’s hope beyond the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, I, who preach to you, must certainly perish, for I can sing the hymn we sang this morning with all my heart —

“Other refuge have I none,
Hangs my helpless soul on thee;
Leave, oh leave me not alone,
Still support and comfort me.”

We desire to abound in good works; we desire to destroy every vice, and forsake all falsehood and all evil; but we cannot depend on these things, we cannot mix them up with the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. Our one hope lies here, that Jesus died, and God hath said it, “He that believeth on him hath eternal life, and shall be raised up at the last day.” Now, suppose, after all, you should believe on him and find at last that you are not saved! Beloved, the supposition cannot be entertained for a moment, for it is written, “It is the Father’s will.” Is that will to be thwarted? It is written that he has sent Christ: has Christ come in vain? God must be false to all his promises, belie his oath, degrade his Son, before he can suffer a soul that seeth the Son and believeth on him to perish. Ye are all safe enough if you are resting there. Do not let a doubt disturb you. Go your way full of peace and consolation, and the Lord be with you! But, oh, if you have never believed in Jesus, may your spirits never know any rest till you do! May you never be content till you flee to him, and rest on him! The Lord grant it, for his dear name’s sake. Amen.



The Way to Honour

By / Oct 20

The Way to Honour

 

“Whoso keepeth the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof: so he that waiteth on his master shall be honoured.” — Proverbs xxvii. 18.

 

IF a man in Palestine carefully watched his fig tree, and kept it in proper condition, he was sure to be abundantly rewarded in due season, for it would yield him a large quantity of fruit of which he would enjoy the luscious taste. So, according to Solomon, good servants obtained honour as the fruit of diligent service. In those early days, when there were far better relations between servants and masters than unhappily there are nowadays, if a servant carefully waited upon his master he was sure to be honoured for his faithfulness. The Bible is full of such cases. Eleazar, the servant and steward of Abraham, met with much honour at his master’s hands. Deborah was a faithful nurse, and what sorrow there was for her at Allon-bachuth, or the oak of weeping. Elisha poured water upon the hands of his master Elijah, and became himself a prophet, endowed with a double portion of his master’s spirit. In the New Testament we read of the centurion who so honoured his servant that in his sickness he sent to the Lord Jesus, earnestly entreating him to come and heal him. There were exceptions, of course. There were faithful servants who met with ungenerous treatment; but what rule is there without an exception? The rule was that he who was faithful to his master received honour. I could wish it to be more general for there to be intimate friendly relationships between men and their servants; I would fain see a restoration of family loyalty between heads of households and their dependants, In these times servants, and persons in the employ of others, are looked upon as hands to be worked, rather than as souls to be cared for. It may be that servants have degenerated, but it may also be the truth that masters have degenerated too. I believe that every Abraham will be likely to find an Eleazar, and every Rebekah a Deborah. Good masters make good servants. Good servants make good masters. Happy is the family where, without forgetting the proper distinctions of position, all are knit together in firm friendship. Alas! the bonds of society have been too much loosened. Oppression on the one hand, and dis content on the other, have rent the commonwealth. Yet there still survive among us instances of personal attachment where servants have served the same masters from their youth up, have continued with them in sickness, and in misfortune, have remained faithful to the family when the master has been scarcely able to remunerate them for their services, and have continued faithful even unto death. I am sure when we have read such stories, or seen such servants ourselves, we have felt that they deserved to be had in honour; and there is a general respect still which is manifested by mankind to the servant that waiteth upon his master. However, I am not going to speak about the duties of masters and servants this evening. At other times we have not hesitated to speak our mind upon that matter, and we shall not fail to do so as occasion requires.

     But now we shall speak of a higher Master, who was never unfaithful to a servant yet, and never will be; and we shall speak of a superior service, which brings to those who are engaged in it the highest possible degree of honour. Blessed are they who are servants of the King of kings. Happy is he who takes even the lowest place, and fulfils the meanest office for the Lord Jesus, if any service can be mean that is rendered to our all-glorious Immanuel.

     We will begin by considering the relation of the Lord Jesus Christ to us, and ours to him; then we shall consider the conduct which is consistent with that relation; and then the reward which is promised to such conduct.

     I. And, first, the RELATION WHICH SUBSISTS BETWEEN OURSELVES AND OUR LORD. He is our Master — our Master.

     I speak now, of course, only to you who are converted, to you who are true believers and are saved by faith in Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus is to you your Master, in the sense of contrast to all other governing powers. You are men, and naturally moved by all that which moves other men, but still the master motive power with every one of you who is a Christian is the supremacy of Christ. There are some among your fellow servants to whom you render respect, just as in a large firm there are foremen set over different parts of the work, to whom a measure of deference is fitly rendered. Still, as the overseer is not the chief authority, so your earthly superiors are not in the highest sense masters over you. The highest of your fellow workmen in your Lord’s service is far, far, far below the Master; ministers and fathers in Christ are not the ultimate authorities to whom you bow, and whatever esteem you may pay even to such glorious names as those of Peter, and James, and John, you still regard them but as your fellow servants. “One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren.” In this sense we are not servants of men, yea, we know no man after the flesh. We are in subjection to the Father of Spirits, but neither to Pope in Rome, nor bishop at home; we are the Lord’s free men, and cheerfully obey those whom he sets over us in his church: but we yield to none who claim lordship over us, and would divert us from obeying the Lord Jesus only.

     The Christian man has, of course, to attend to the concerns of this life, and while he is attending to them he must throw a measure of his heart into them, or he cannot do them properly; still, the master of our heart is not our business, but our Saviour. A Christian man is thoughtful, and he studies, and read, and investigates; still, for all that, philosophy does no trule him, nor the news of the day, nor the science of the times. Christ is our Master — master of our thoughts and meditations, the great leader and teacher of our understandings. We are his disciples, and disciples of none else besides. We are affected by the love of family, the love of friendship, the love of country; but there is a love that is higher than all these — a master-love, and this is love to Jesus our Well-beloved, the Bridegroom of our souls. That text is frequently misread, — “No man can serve two masters.” The stress is not to be laid upon the word “two.” For the matter of that, a man might serve three, or half-a-dozen, or twenty; but the stress is to be laid upon the word “masters” — “No man can serve two masters.” Only one thing can be the master-passion, only one power can completely master us, so as to be supremely dominant, and exercise imperial lordship over us. No man can have two imperial master-faculties, master-motives, and master-ambitions. One is our Master, and that one is Christ. Brethren, as I have said before, we are compelled while we are in this body to yield to this impulse and to that, we are urged forward by this motive and by that, we pursue this end and that, and subordinately none of these things may be sinful, but the master-impulse must be the love of Christ, the master-aim must be Christ’s glory, and the master-power that doth possess us, as the Spirit took possession of the prophets of old and carried them right away, must be loyalty to Jesus Christ our Lord. He is our Master, and we stand before him as servants who desire to obey his bidding.

     What is, then, the reason why the Lord Jesus Christ has become to us a Master? If we were contending with the ungodly, who challenge us for calling Christ “Master,” we could give them a ready enough answer by telling them that he is the Master-man of all men. We would ask them to turn over the pages of history and find a man it was worth while to serve in comparison with the man Christ Jesus. We would appeal to his character, and ask, was there ever a character which could compel homage as his character does? Why, he is a right royal man in all respects: there is nothing about him of meanness or weakess. To know him is to become enthusiastic in his cause. We would then point to his kingdom and the nature and character of it, and ask whether there was a kingdom for which men ought to fight, for which men ought to strive and be willing to die, compared with his kingdom? We would point to the benefits which he confers upon mankind, the blessings which the faith of Jesus Christ has scattered amongst the nations, and ask if there ever was a cause so worthy of zeal as the cause of Christ, which is the cause of humanity, the cause of truth, the cause of right, the cause of God. His are the principles which alone can redeem men from their degradation and misery. We count it easy enough to answer the ungodly in this matter. Whoever their leader may be, he is not fit to loosen the shoe latchet of our Master’s sandal; whoever he may be, and however they may lift him up, he is only fit to lie in the dust beneath the feet of our Immanuel. He is so excellent, and in his nature so pre-eminent, that we defy anyone to count us foolish for choosing him to be our Master.

     But behind all this, deep down in our souls, we have other reasons for calling him our Master, namely, that we belong to him by the purchase of his blood, by the rescue of his grace, and again, by the surrender, the willing surrender, which we have made to him. Christ is our Master because he bought us. When we were sold under sin, when by the justice of God we were condemned to die, when we were utter slaves, he purchased us and redeemed us from all iniquity with a cost which sometimes has seemed to us, for his sake, to be too great. What were ten thousand times ten thousand sinful worms compared with the Son of God? Yet that glorious Son of God laid down his life for us. He loved his church and gave himself for it — a matchless price, indeed, to pay! — and now we are not our own, but are bought with a price. We feel that we should be unjust to Jesus, base to our best Benefactor, if we were to ignore the solemn obligations under which his redemption has placed us. We had been on the road to hell if it had not been for his blood; shall we not walk in the way of his commands? After what he has done for us, nothing is too great for us to do for him. Our body, our soul, our spirit we cheerfully render up to his dominion, neither count we ought of our nature to be our own. As he has redeemed us entirely, so in the entirety of our manhood we belong altogether to him; and if there be a part of our nature which has not been subdued to him, we desire him to conquer it by force of arms, for its rebellion against him is sorrow to ourselves. Jesus is our rightful Lord, his wounds attest it, and if any other lord hath dominion over any other portion of our nature, that lordship is usurped and ought to be cast down.

     I said, moreover, that Christ has won us by his power as well as by his blood. There are two redemptions, redemption by price and redemption by power; redemption by price was typified in the paschal lamb and the passover, redemption by power in the passage of the Red Sea, when the children of Israel went through it dry shod, and the Egyptians were drowned. Remember how Jacob spake to his son Joseph and said, “I have given to thee one portion above thy brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow.” Now, the Lord Jesus Christ claims us in the same way as Jacob claimed that particular portion, for we are his spoil, taken in battle. Almighty grace bowed us down when we were stiff-necked; almighty grace delivered us from our habits of sin when we were fast bound by them; almighty grace broke the iron bars of our despair and led us into liberty; let all the glory be ascribed unto the Almighty Redeemer. With a high hand and an outstretched arm he brought us forth from the Egypt of our lusts and taught our willing feet the way to the heavenly Canaan. And now we grace his chariot wheels as servants, not in manacles of iron, but in silken fetters of love.

“As willing captives of our Lord
We sing the triumphs of his word,”

and confess him to be our Master and none beside.

     Remember that I also said we are his servants and he our Master, because we have willingly surrendered ourselves to him. Recall to your memories that blessed time when you gave yourselves up to Jesus under the sweet constraint of his love. Was it not a good day in which you said —

“Now, Lord, I would be Thine alone,
Come, take possession of Thine own,
For Thou hast set me free;
Released from Satan’s hard command,
See all my members waiting stand,
To be employ’d by Thee.”

And now at this day, remembering the love of your espousals when you went after your Lord into the wilderness, would you have it otherwise? You were married to him; do you now wish to sue for a divorce against your glorious Bridegroom? Nay, but you can sing with Doddridge,

“High heaven, that heard the solemn vow,
That vow renew’d shall daily hear:
Till in life’s Latest hour I bow,
And bless in death a bond so dear.”

     Now, beloved, as I have shown that Christ had a right to be our Master from the very dignity of his character, and that we yield him service because of his love to us; it only remains for me to add that our position of servants to Christ is an irreversible one. The servant of old when he might go out from bondage, sometimes said, “I love my master, and I love his children, and I love his house. I desire to be his bondsman for ever,” and after the same manner would I speak this day. And then, you remember, they took an awl and they bored the man’s ear and fastened it to the doorpost, that he might be a servant as long as he lived. Even after that fashion would I say, “Mine ears hast thou opened, and I was not rebellious.” Who among us would not wish to bear in our body the marks of the Lord Jesus, to receive the brand which would betoken the irretrievable confiscation of all sinful liberty? Do we not wish to be for ever bound to Christ and crucified with him? This was the teaching of our baptism. When we were baptised we were buried in the water. The teaching was, that we were henceforth to be dead and buried to the world and alive alone for Jesus. It was the crossing of the Rubicon — the drawing of the sword and the flinging away of the scabbard. If the world should call us, we now reply, “We are dead to thee, O world!” One of the early saints, I think it was Augustine, had indulged in great sins, in his younger days. After his conversion he met with a woman who had been the sharer of his wicked follies; she approached him winningly, and said to him, “Augustine,” but he ran away from her with all speed. She called after him, and said, “Augustine, it is I,” mentioning her name; but he then turned round and said, “But it is not I; the old Augustine is dead, and I am a new creature in Christ Jesus.” That to Madam Bubble and to Madam Wanton, to the world, the flesh, and the devil, should be the answer of every true servant of Christ: “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. Thou art the same, O fair false world — thou art the same, but not I. I have passed from death unto life, from darkness into light. Thy siren charms can fascinate me no more. A nobler music is in my ear, and I am drawn forward by a more sovereign spell towards other shores than yours. My bark shall cut her way through all seas and waves till it reaches the fair haven and I see my Saviour face to face.” ’Tis irretrievable, then, this step which we have taken, the absolute surrender of our whole nature to the sway of the Prince of peace. We are the Lord’s. We are his for ever and for ever. We cannot draw back, and blessed be his name, his grace will not suffer us to do so. “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”

“Leave thee! no, my dearest Saviour,
Thee whose blood my pardon bought;
Slight Thy mercy, scorn thy favour!
Perish such an impious thought:
Leave Thee — never!
Where for peace could I resort?”

     II. The second point of our reflection is to be this. Seeing that we are servants to Jesus, there is A CONDUCT WHICH IS CONSISTENT THEREWITH.

     What conduct is consistent in a servant? Is it not, first, that he should own himself to be his master’s? Such a servant as is mentioned in the text does not call himself his own, or his time his own. No person who is a servant can say during his work hours — “This time is my time, I can do what I like with it.” No, he is a false servant if having sold his time for a reward, he takes it to himself. Servants of Jesus have no time at their own disposal. We have no wealth of our own, we are only stewards; we have no talents, they are our Lord’s. When we have traded with our stock, and have multiplied it diligently, we shall say to our Lord, “Thy pound hath gained ten pounds.” We dare not call the talent ours. If we are true servants, we are always about our Master’s business. If we eat or drink, or rest or sleep, we desire to do all to the glory of God. We are never off duty. A policeman may be, but we never are. A soldier may have a furlough, but a Christian never, he must wear both night and day the whole armour of God. We are always to bear the shield, and the sword is always to be in our hands. Even in our recreation we are to remember that our Master may come at any hour, and therefore we are still to be looking for his coming.

     As servants it is our duty to learn our Master’s will. I am grieved to observe that some of my fellow servants do not want to know their Lord’s will. There would not be so many divisions in the church if we all came to Holy Scripture and searched the law and the testimony to know the Lord’s will. The Lord’s will is fully set forth there, and no other book is of the slightest authority among saints. The Lord’s will is not in the prayer-book, it is in the Bible. The Lord’s will is not in the canons; the Lord’s will is not in the creed of the Baptist church, or the Wesleyan church, or the Congregational church, or the Episcopalian church; his will is in the Scriptures: and if we searched them more and more, and were determined, irrespective of anything that may have been done by the church, or the world, or by government, or by anybody else, that we would all follow our Lord’s will, we should come to closer union. We are divided because we do not study the Lord’s will as we should. Brethren, we ought to be prepared to give up any doctrine however venerable, any institution however comely, if we do not see it to be the divine will. Obedience is the path of the servant, obedience is his safety and happiness. What have I as a servant to do with anybody but my Master? I am set to do a certain thing, and if passers-by make a remark that I am not doing it according to the usual rules of the trade, what is that to me? Rules and customs are of small consequence. My Master’s will must be everything to me if I am a true servant. Somebody will sneeringly remark, “You are acting very singularly.” Well, the Master must be accountable for the singularity of conduct which he prescribes. If we are true servants we obey even in the jots and tittles, at all hazards. But we must search the word, for unread Bibles are evidences against rebels, and are unbecoming in believers.

     When his master’s will is known, every true servant is bound immediately to do it. A servant is not to say, “Sir, I will attend to that to-morrow.” If the command be ascertained, it will be as surely disobedience to postpone obedience as to reject the duty altogether. If delay be a part of the command, the delay is justifiable, but, if not, the servant must not tarry. “But surely you forget that the consequences of obedience may be costly and involve great sacrifices?” Servants have nothing to do with consequences; those belong to their masters. “But, perhaps, if I were to follow out the Master’s command, I might place myself in a position where I should not be as useful as I now am.” You have nothing whatever to do with that except as it may prove a test of your faith: it is a lame obedience which only follows the Master where carnal judgment approves. A servant of God is not to use his judgment as to the rightness of his Master’s command; he is to do as he is bidden, for his Lord is infallible. What if the heavens fell through our doing right? God does not want us to sin in order to prop them up. His throne is not rotten so as to need buttresses of iniquity. Consequences of true principles ought never to be considered. There is nothing more vicious in the world than policy; it may be admired in the House of Commons, but it should be detested in the church of God. Far from our minds be every question of policy. If an act be right, let it be done: if Christ bids it, let it be done; and let there be no hesitation in the matter.

     It is ours, also, if we are servants, to obey the Master willingly and for love of his person. The text says, “He that waiteth upon his master shall be honoured.” Suppose I, as a minister, know something to be God’s will, yet, nevertheless, attend to it with the view of serving you and doing you good as God’s church; I shall possibly receive honour from you whom I serve, but that is not the honour which a Christian minister ought to seek. The church is not his master; his Master is in heaven, and if he desires real honour, he must earn it by waiting upon his Master for his Master’s sake, Suppose any of you are children, and are doing right in order to please your parents — I will not censure the motive; you will get honour from your parents; but the right honour is gained by seeking to please God. You must labour as believers to wait upon your Master; to come to the house of God, for instance, not because it is the custom, but because you would honour the Lord in prayer and praise; you must give to the poor, not because others have given so much, but because Jesus loves his people to be mindful of poor saints; you must do good, not that others may say, “See what a zealous man he is!” but for your Master’s sake. I am afraid we sometimes serve ourselves even in our holiest things; and, in carrying out our judgment of the Lord’s will, we are often the victims of prejudice or whim, and are not so much determined to do the Lord’s will as to have our own, or to carry out what we call our “principles” in order to show that we are not to be cowed by human opposition. Ah, brethren, there must be no motive with us but our Master’s honour. “He that waiteth on his master shall be honoured.” Wait on your Master. Take care that you have an eye always to him. Do your duty because he bids you. Then you shall win the honour of which the text speaks.

     Then observe that this waiting upon the Master is to be performed personally by the servant. It is not, “The servant who employs another to wait upon his master shall be honoured,” I do not so read the text, but “He that waiteth upon his master” himself, doing personal service to & personal master — he shall have honour. Jesus Christ did not redeem us by proxy. He, himself — his own self — bare our sins in his own body on the tree. Let us not attempt to serve God by merely contributing to the foreign mission, or City Mission, or helping to support the minister, or something of that sort. We should do that, but we should not put it in the place of the other. Let us constantly give our personal service, speaking for Christ with these lips, pleading for his kingdom with this heart, running on his errands with these feet, and serving him with these hands.

     “He that waiteth on his master shall be honoured,” even though the waiting be almost passive. Sometimes our master may not require us to do anything more than stand still. But you know John, the footman, behind his master’s chair, if his master bids him stand there, is as true a servant as the other attendant who is sent upon an errand of the utmost importance. The Lord for wise reasons may make us wait awhile. Having done all, we may yet have to stand still and see the salvation of God, and find it to be the hardest work of all. In suffering especially is that the case; for it is painful to be laid aside from the Master’s service; yet the position may be very honourable. There is a time for soldiers to lie in the trenches as well as to fight in the battle. David made a law that those who tarried with the baggage were to share the spoil with those who went down to the fight. This is the rule of the church militant to this day. Some cannot march to the battle, yet are they to share in the spoil; they are waiting on their Master, and they shall be honoured.

     On the whole, summing all up in a word, it is ours to abide near to Christ. Servants wait best when they can see their master’s eye and hear his wish. We are to wait upon our Master humbly, reverently, feeling it an honour to do anything for him. We are to be self-surrendered, given up henceforth to the Lord, free men, and yet most truly serfs of this Great Emperor. We are never so truly free as when we own our sacred serfdom. We are henceforth the body servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. Often Paul calls himself the servant of the Lord and even the slave of Christ; and he glories in the branding iron’s marks upon his flesh. “I bear,” says he, “in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus; henceforth let no man trouble me.” We count it liberty to bear the bonds of Christ. We reckon this to be supremest freedom, for we sing with the psalmist, “I am thy servant; I am thy servant. Thou hast loosed my bonds.” “Bind the sacrifice with cords, even with cords to the horns of the altar.” Such is the conduct which our servitude to our Lord requires.

     III. The third point is, THE REWARD WHICH SURELY COMES TO FAITHFUL SERVANTS. “He that waiteth on his master shall be honoured.”

     You will observe that he finds his honour in waiting on his master. Now, the Christian may have other honours besides the one of waiting on his Master. He may have poor, wretched, miserable, laded honours. I am always sorry when I see a Christian making himself some great one in the world’s esteem. I knew one, and I esteemed him much. He was an earnest, Christian man, but his great ambition was to be the chief magistrate in a certain city, which I shall not name. He lived to reach that post, and his heart exulted greatly; but I noticed that the very night he attained the honour the hand of the Lord went forth against one whom he greatly loved, and in a short time he himself sickened, and went home to his Father and his God. No joy came with the honour, for he had looked at it too long, and with too keen an eye. Not I alone, but those who knew him, judged so too, and we almost thanked God that he did not suffer the child of God, whose crown was in heaven, to be satisfied with being a magistrate here. I have seen men grow very eager after gold, they have had a good business, but have clutched at more and got it, and then sought after more still; and when I have seen chastening come, and sorrow in the household, I have not marvelled at it, for I have understood that Christ meant his servant to take honour from him, and if he would look after other honour he would find it but a bitter-sweet. There isa law,I believe, that no subject of Her Majesty may take princely rank from any foreign potentate, and it is a law in the kingdom of Christ. What honour can this world confer upon a servant of Christ? I count that to be a scullion in Christ’s kitchen would be a greater honour than to be the Czar of all the Russias , or to exercise imperial sway over all the kingdoms of the earth at once. Honour! Ye confer honour upon the servant of Christ — ye worldlings! As well might emmets upon their anthills hope to confer dignity upon an angel! Already infinitely superior, it is but degradation to a saint to be honoured by the sons of men. The servant of Christ finds his honour in the service itself. The cultivator of the fig tree looks for figs from the fig tree; the servant of the Master looks for honour from the Master, and he covets no honour besides.

     Every faithful servant of Christ is honoured in his Master’s honour. If you serve Christ aright you will have to bear his reproach. You must take your share of the cross; for you have already your share of the crown. Thanks be to God, who always causes us to triumph in every place. Paul and the other apostles, when they were suffering for Christ, were always triumphing in Christ at the same time. If there be any honour in the cause of truth and righteousness, and the salvation of men, Christ has it all, but he reflects some of it upon those of his servants who vindicate his righteous cause and propagate his truth. “He that waiteth on his master is honoured” by being permitted to wait upon such a Master. The honour of the Master falls upon the servant, who is honourably distinguished by wearing the livery of the great Prince.

     He is honoured too with his Master’s approval. Did you ever feel that Christ approved of you? You did some little act of love which nobody knew of but your Lord; he smiled on you, you knew he did, and you felt superabundantly rewarded. You served him, and you were reviled for it, but you took it very joyfully, for you felt that he knew all about it, and as long as your Master was satisfied it did not signify what man could do unto you. For the true Christian his Lord’s approval is honour enough.

     Sometimes the Lord honours faithful servants by giving them more to do. If they have been faithful in that which is least, he tries them in that which is great. If they have looked after a few little children, and fed the lambs, he says, “Come hither and feed my sheep.” If they have trimmed a vine, or a fig tree in a corner, he calls them out and sets them among the chief vines of the vineyard, and says to them, “See after these clusters.” Many a man would have been called to wider fields of labour if he had not been discontented or slothful in his narrow sphere. The Lord watches how we do little things, and if great care be taken in them he will give us greater things to do. Elisha poured water upon the hands Elijah, and then the Lord says, “Elijah’s mantle shall fall upon his faithful servant, and he shall do even greater miracles.”

     God also honours the faithful in the eyes of their fellow servants. When I take down from my library-shelf the biography of a holy man I honour him in my soul; I do not mind whether he was a bishop or a Primitive Methodist preacher, a blacksmith or a peer, I do him honour in my heart. If he served his Master, he will be sure to be elevated into a position of honour in the memory of succeeding ages. There are some men whose doctrines you and I could not endorse, who yet were faithful to the light they had, and therefore we number them amongst the honoured dead, and we are glad to recollect how bold they were against the foe, how meek they were with the little ones, how faithful they were in believing their God, and how courageous in rebuking sin. If you would have honour from your fellow servants, you will never get it by seeking honour from them; you must go to your Master and honour him by waiting upon him, and then there will come to you honour in the eyes of your fellow men.

     But, beloved, the chief honour of a faithful servant comes from the blessed Trinity. “If any man will serve me, him will my Father honour.” Does it not appear too good to be true that a poor man should be honoured of God the Father, the Creator, the great I Am! I will not speak about it, but leave you to think it over.

     And then Jesus Christ will honour us; for he says, that when the master comes and finds the servant waiting for him, he will gird himself and serve him. Can you understand that? There was a certain saturnalia amongst the Romans, which was observed once a year, in which the masters changed places with the servants entirely, and the servants sat at the table and commanded their masters as they liked, while the masters served them. It has been thought by some that our Saviour has drawn the figure from that singular celebration. I hardly think that it can be so, for he would scarcely have cared to use such an illustration. To think of the great Master serving us is strange indeed; yet he has done it. He did so when he took a towel and washed his disciples’ feet, and he will do it again; he will gird himself and serve us.

     The Holy Spirit will honour us too, for the Holy Spirit often puts great honour upon a faithful man in a way that I cannot explain to you except by a figure. Moses had been a faithful servant, and the skin of his face shone when he came down from the mount. Stephen was a faithful servant, and when he stood up to confront his adversaries, he was full of the Holy Ghost, and a glory gleamed from his face. When the Spirit of God is richly in a man, and that man is faithful to his Master, some gleamings of a supernal splendour will come from him, not visible to human eyes but potent over human hearts. Believers will feel its power, for as one of our poets says, when a good man is in company ’tis even as though an angel shook his wings. You feel the influence of the man, and almost without a word from him, he has honour in the eyes of them that sit at meat with him, for the Holy Ghost is upon him.

     Now, dear brethren and sisters, I close by saying we ought faithfully to serve, for we have before us the greatest conceivable reward, a reward which grace enables us to gain. That precious blood which cleanses us, cleanses our service also, it makes us white as snow, and it makes our service white too. We and our work are both accepted in the Beloved. A Christian’s works are good works: let no one say they are not, for they are the work of the Spirit of God, and who shall say they are not good? It is an encouragement to go forward when we know that “he that keepeth the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof;” and that “the servant who waiteth on his master shall be honoured.”

     There is a black side to this, upon which suffer ye one word. He who doth not serve Jesus Christ, will not be honoured. In the day when the Lord cometh many that sleep in the dust shall awake, some to glory, but some to shame and everlasting contempt. Oh, the contempt that will be poured upon ungodly men at the last judgment! When God holds up the mirror and they see themselves, they will despise their own image; and when God holds up their characters to men and angels, revealing to all created beings their secret deeds, their evil motives, their base designs, their filthy imaginations, there will go up against such men, dying without faith in Christ, a universal hiss of general execration, to think that they would not believe God, but made God a liar; would not accept the sacrifice of Christ , but trod the blood of the covenant under foot as an unholy thing. Redeemed men will cry, “Shame!” Unfallen angels will cry “Shame!” Holy spirits from a thousand worlds will cry "Shame!” And it will be everlasting contempt. Nothing stings a man like contempt. The poorest among us does not like to be despised, however poor he may be. You do not like to be pointed at and be made the object of derision, yet, sinner, this will be your portion. If you die without believing in Jesus, you will wake up to shame and to everlasting contempt. “Shame shall be the portion of fools” — such shame! Oh, be ashamed to-day, that you may not be ashamed then! Penitent, shame will lead you to fly to Christ, and put your trust in him, and then your transgressions shall be blotted out for ever. May the Spirit lead each one of you to repentance for Jesus’ sake. Amen.



A Welcome Discovery

By / Oct 20

A Welcome Discovery

 
“God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink.” — Genesis xxi. 19.

 

You know the story of Hagar; of her being sent out from Abraham’s tent with her son Ishmael. It was necessary that they should be sent away from the child of promise. God, nevertheless, had designs of good towards Ishmael and his mother. Still he tried them. Whether we be saints or sinners, we shall meet with tribulation. Whether it is Sarah or Hagar; no life shall be without its affliction. To Hagar the affliction came in a very painful manner, for the little water that she had brought with her in her bottle was spent. She must give her child drink, or it would die, and then she by-and-bye must follow. She laid the boy down, giving him up in despair, and began to weep what she thought would be her last flood of tears. Still there was no real cause for her distress. She need not have thirsted; she was close by a well. In her grief she had failed to see it. The distraction of her spirit had made her look everywhere except to one place, where she would have found exactly what she wanted. God therefore spake to her by an angel; and after having done that he opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water, which, I suppose, had always been there. When she saw it, she went at once to it, filled her bottle, gave her child to drink, and all her sorrows were over. It seemed a very simple remedy for a very sad case. It is but an illustration of what is often happening in human life. Men and women come into sore trouble, and yet if they could see all around them they need not be in trouble. They actually come to death’s door in their own judgment, and yet there really is, if they understood all things, no cause for their distress. They will escape out of their present trial as soon as ever their eyes are opened, for they will see that God has made provision for their necessities, prepared comfort for their griefs, and made such a way of escape from their fears that they need by no means give way to despair.

     I desire to speak to persons who are in trouble. There are three things I shall bring before them. The first is, that it often happens with seeking persons, and troubled persons, that, as in Hagar’s case, the supply of their necessities is close at hand: the well is near. Secondly, it often happens that that supply is as much there as if it had been provided for them and for them only, as this well seemed to have been. And, thirdly, no great exertion is needed to procure from the supply already made by God all that we want. She filled her bottle with water— a joyful task to her; and she gave the lad drink.

     I. It often happens that when we are in trouble and distress THE SUPPLY OF OUR NEED, AND THE CONSOLATION FOR OUR SORROW ARE VERY NEAR AT HAND. There is a well close to us at our feet, if we could but see it. We miss it peradventure; yet that is not because it is far away, but because our eyes are not open. There is no necessity for God to make a well: that has been done. What is necessary is that he should open our eyes, that we may see what is there already.

     How true this often is in providence with Christian people. We have known them to be in sore alarm at some approaching ill, or in the most fearful distress on account of some troublous circumstances which already surround them. They have said, “ We don’t know what we shall do to-morrow.” They have enquired, “Who shall roll us away the stone?” They wot not that God has already provided for tomorrow, and has rolled the stone away. If they knew all, they would understand that their trial is purely imaginary. They are making it by their unbelief. It has no other existence than that which their distrust of God gives to it. While they are enquiring, “Where shall I find a friend? Who will come to the rescue?” the friend is already in the house, or, perhaps, will never be wanted at all. While they are saying, “How can I get out of this dilemma? ” God has already solved it; the riddle has been answered; the enigma has been explained. They are troubled about an enemy whose head is already struck off; they are repining about a difficulty which has already been disentangled by the divine hand. We have known persons to be utterly surprised when God has delivered them. This proves that their faith was small. With calm trust there is quiet waiting. They might well have expected that he would do it. Among the surprises such persons have expressed has been this — that, after all, he should have delivered them by a means so simple. “How could it have happened,” say they, “that I could not have thought of this; that I should actually have the boon I crave hard by me, and yet not perceive it — that I should be thirsty and crying out to God, in hope that perhaps he will rend the heavens, and send a shower of rain, and all the while there is the well bubbling up with fresh water.” We have only got to look to find it, and having found it we have only to stoop down to take and to drink thereof for our refreshment. Children of God; you that are troubled about providence, pray God to help you to trust when you cannot trace your God. Ask him to give you, not what you wish for, but resignation to his wishes; ask to have his will casting its shadow over your soul, and let that shadow be your will henceforth. O that we had learned, in whatsoever state we are, therewith to be content, basing our confidence on this sure promise — he hath said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” This is the best foundation for contentment that will ever be found. Oh, for grace to feel that if we cannot tell how God will deliver us, it is no business of ours to be able to tell; that if God knows, that is enough. God has not set us to be the providers; he does not intend us to hold the helm, and to pull the leadingstrings. ’Tis ours to follow, not to lead; ‘tis ours to obey, and not to prescribe for God. Thy deliverance is near, O child of sorrow; or if it tarry for awhile, it shall be but the richer blessing when it comes. Ships that are long upon the sea are, perhaps, the more heavily freighted; and when they do come to the port, they will bring home a double cargo of blessing. Those plants that come up quickly when they are sown in the ground last but for a little while. Perhaps the blessing that is so long in springing out of the soil of thine expectancy will last thee all thy life long. Therefore, if the vision tarry, wait thou for it with patience.

     Though this is true of providence, I prefer rather to deal with the matter of spiritual blessings. It often happens that souls are disturbed in spiritual matters about things that ought not to disturb them. For instance, a large proportion of spiritual distresses are occasioned by a forgetfulness or an ignorance of the doctrines of the Bible. We have met with young persons frequently who have made the astounding discovery that their hearts are desperately wicked. They were converted some time ago, and made a profession of their faith. They did then really repent of sin, and they laid hold on Christ, but their experience was comparatively superficial. After awhile the Holy Spirit was pleased to show them more of the hidden evils of their nature, and to permit the fountains of the great deep of their original depravity to be broken up, and they have been in perfect consternation, as though some strange thing had happened to them, and they have said, “Where is the comfort for this?” Now, if they had known at first that our nature is hopelessly bad, and that the scripture describes it as such, they would not have been surprised when they found that truth out. And had they understood that the work of the Spirit is not to improve our nature, that he never tried to do it, and never intends to do it, but that he leaves the old nature to die, to see corruption, to be buried with Christ, and gives us a new nature which comes into conflict with the old nature, and causes an eternal war and strife within the spirit : had they been acquainted with those truths when they found sin breaking loose in them, and felt the conflict within, they would have said, “This is just what I was told would happen ; this is the experience of the children of God. This is what Paul speaks of in the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, and I am, after all, in the same way as the saints of God.” Forgetting this, they think there is no comfort for them in what seems to them to be the strangest of all human experiences, but which, indeed, is an experience common to the people of God. They are looking for the well of water, when that very doctrine they have forgotten would furnish them with the refreshment they stand in need of.

     We meet with others whose trouble is about their perseverance. They believe they are the people of God, but they tremble lest they should fail to hold on and maintain the good profession. Their trials are so severe, and they feel their own weakness to be so extreme, may they not one day slip with their feet to a foul and final fall, and be utterly destroyed? Ah, if they understood what I feel sure is the indisputable truth of God, that “the righteous shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall wax stronger and stronger,” they would not have been troubled about that question, provided they could answer the other one — are they righteous? Do they belong to those made righteous in Christ? “I give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall any pluck them out of my hands.” What a magnificent assurance of the safety of all the sheep of God! If I be but one of them, may I not feel a perfect confidence that Christ, who cannot lie, will make good his word? There are, besides this, innumerable other promises to the same effect, and oftentimes a man distressed about that might relieve his anxieties at once by the knowledge that it is a perfectly unscriptural apprehension that is agitating him. We are all too prone to judge by our feelings rather than to take counsel at the fountain head and rely on the oracle of inspiration. I used to know an excellent Christian woman whose trouble was of a somewhat queer character, for she said she knew she loved the Saviour, and I think all who knew her felt that she did; but though she knew she loved the Saviour, she was afraid that the Saviour did not love her; nor was it easy to comfort her about that. Now, truly, if she could have grasped the thought that, “We love him because he first loved us,” the snare would have been broken. Had she perceived that all that is in us must be first put into us if it be of any good; that the grace of God prevents us (goes before us); that it is the root and origin of any good thing in us; that the everlasting and eternal love of God is the fountain out of which our love to God must flow — had she known that, she would not have been troubled on that head. I wonder sometimes how those friends who do not receive what is commonly called Calvinistic doctrine manage to be comforted. I certainly never have any quarrel with those on the other side of the opinion, for if the tenets of Arminianism have any sweet ness to them, I am delighted to hear that any have tasted it. I am always glad that everything in the world should be eaten up, and if anybody can find any food and comfort there, I am glad to hear it. I could not, and therefore I do not envy them. I would not wish to deprive them of any comfort they could find there, as I have never been able to find any myself. If I believed that my own final perseverance rested with myself — if I thought that I might have a love to God that sprang up because of my own will rather than as a work of grace — I do not know, but I might be driven to utter distraction. Some persons need solid food, and must have it, or their health would fail. So the firm belief that salvation is of grace from first to last, and that where God begins a good work he will carry it on, is essential to my Christian existence, and therefore I cannot give it up. Those who can do without it, let them, but as for me, I cannot. I have not any comfort left me if any one shall prove that these things are not the truth of holy scripture. They are the truth of scripture, however, and let any who are distressed remember them. May God open their eyes to see them and they need to be thirsty more.

     Sometimes, beloved, holy scripture has its well near to the troubled heart, not so much in the form of doctrine, as in the form of promise. There was never a trouble yet in human experience among God’s people, but what there was a promise to meet it. You have only to look long enough, and you shall find the counterfoil; you shall discover that God has in his book that which exactly meets your case. “Oh,” said Christian, in Bunyan’s “Pilgrim,” “what a thousand fools have I been to lie rotting in this stinking dungeon all these weeks, when I have a key in my bosom which, I am persuaded, would fit the locks of all the doors in Doubting Castle. Come, good brother, let us try it.” And so Christian plucked up courage, and he found his key of promise, though it grated a little; and Bunyan says that one of the doors went, as he puts it in his old edition, “damnably hard.” He did not know how to put it strong enough until he used that word. Yet the key did open every single door, and even the iron gate itself, the external gate of the castle, opened by the help of that key. O, dear hearts, some of you have laid, fretting and worrying yourselves about things which God has dealt with already in his own word. You have said, “‘Would God he would do that!” and he has done it. You have asked him to give you something, and you have got it. I have used sometimes the simile of a man in the dark dying of hunger, and yet lie is shut up in the pantry. There is the food all round him, if he could only put out his hand and take it. Did he know it to be there, and would he grasp it, there is just what he wants. I am persuaded, beloved, if you search the scriptures well, there is not one child of God here that need despair of finding that the Master has opened a well of promise for him.

     At other times the well appears in the form neither of a doctrine nor of a promise, but in the shape of an experience of some one else. Perhaps nothing more effectually comforts, under the blessing of God, than the discovery that some undoubtedly good man has passed through the same state of heart in which we are found. When we see the footsteps of the flock, we hope that we are in the Shepherd’s path. Now, if you are in deep trouble, may I invite you to read the Eighty-eighth Psalm. What a psalm that is — that prayer of David’s. Was ever man so cast out from God’s sight, and banished from all hope, as he? Yet there was no brighter saint in the olden times than that renowned sufferer. If you have deep castings down of spirit, I would invite you to consort with Job. Read that book through. See how terrible are some of his utterances, yet who shall doubt that Job was not only saved from his sins and redeemed from all adversity, but that he holds a name among the most illustrious of those who by faith have overcome the world? Turn, if you need other examples, to the sighs of king Hezekiah, or to the lamentations of Jeremiah the Prophet. Surely there you shall find your own case in some chapter or another. And if it be a matter of inward contention, read the Epistle to the Romans, especially that part where Paul, in wondrous paradox, describes himself as doing that evil which he would not, and not doing that good which he would, and yet that which he did, he did not allow, — till he cries, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” You would find, my dear Christian brother or sister, that instead of your present pinch and trial being a strange thing, you are only suffering what God’s children have the most of them suffered. You imagine yourself to be sailing over unknown seas, when you are but following the ordinary track-way of the saints around that cape of storms which, when it is better known, will be to you a Cape of Good Hope. Be of good comfort; be of good cheer; for the experience of others may refresh thee, as well as the promises and the doctrines which abound in the word of God.

     And, beloved, sometimes it pleases the Holy Spirit to open a well of living waters for us in the person, and work, and life, and sympathy, and love, of our Well-beloved, the Lord Jesus Christ. Full often when I have found myself depressed in spirit, I have challenged my soul, as it were, with this question — “Why art thou cast down? did not Jesus feel this?” and the depression has vanished. The thought that Christ has sympathy in this particular trial is an inexpressibly sweet one. When the Holy Ghost brings it home to the soul, we can bless the Saviour’s name that he did not merely carry our sins, but that he carried our sorrows; that he was not merely a substitute, which is the greatest of all consolations, but a sympathiser, which is also inexpressibly delightful to us. Jesus suffers with thee, O thou child of God, — suffers in thee. Thou art a member of his body, and therefore he endures in thee. Thou art making up that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ for his body’s sake, which is the church. There is so much of suffering allotted to the entire mystical body of Christ, that there is some of it left behind as yet, and thou wilt have thy share of it. Be thankful when thou hearest it that it is a part of the suffering of the body of Christ. And, oh, to look into his face by faith, and to feel that he is not hard or pitiless, whatever others may be! To look into his face when we are distressed by reason of the wrongs of others and the dishonour done to Christ’s church, and to feel that he knows it, notices it, and has sympathy with us in our sorrow over declining zeal, or over the worldliness of his people, — why that nerves us with new strength. Does Jesus feel what we feel? Does he sympathize in it? Are we bearing it for his sake? Then we will take the trouble with welcome, and be glad to bear it, that he may be honoured thereby. Beloved, if you have forgotten your Lord — (and perhaps some of you may, during this week, have been forgetting him, — it is no unusual thing) — think of him again, and you shall find a well of water close to you.

     Besides, once more, our sorrows often arise from our not observing the Holy Spirit. He is in us, and he shall be with us for ever. We are troubled about the little progress of the kingdom of God in the world, but if we believe in the Holy Ghost we shall soon get our courage back again. There is no reason why the simplest sermon, preached in the humblest place, should not at any time be the commencement of a great revival. There is no reason known to us why the simple preaching of Jesus Christ, on any one Sabbath day, should not prove to be the conversion of all the hearers, and, through the hearers, very speedily of an entire nation. We do not know as yet — we have none of us, probably, any notion of— the great power of the Spirit of God. Some years ago there left this coast a convict vessel full of the lowest class of men that could be got together — convicts sent out for long periods of exile. On board that vessel was a surgeon superintendent who loved the Saviour, — who believed in the gospel and prayed mightily. He called the convicts together, stated to them that he had an intense desire for the good of their souls, — that he intended during the time of their voyage that such and such rules for their good should be observed, — that he particularly wished that they should all learn to read that they might be able to read the scriptures, — that he should hold meeting each day, — that he should pray for them individually. Within a very short time a few convicts were converted to God. There came a storm in which a companion vessel containing two hundred men went to the bottom, and this alarmed and aroused the consciences of the ungodly on board this vessel, made them more susceptible of impression, and rendered the task of teaching them the gospel much more easy than it had been before. Of course, the terror was transient, and being but a natural shock, wore away. Still, in the meanwhile, the good man had availed himself of the opportunity. There suddenly broke out in that vessel a divine work, and all over it might have been heard, at almost any hour of the day or night, hardened men, criminals exiled from their country, crying out, “What must we do to be saved?” When they landed there was not one man or child out of all on board who did not profess to have found the Saviour, for the Spirit of God had wrought strangely among them. They had become, before they reached the distant clime of their destination, instead of a nest of swearing beings, whose very talk was profanity, and whose breath was blasphemy, a church of the living God. Such results were produced by the power of God’s Spirit in answer to prayer. And if the Spirit of God were to come upon any one here, be he who he might, a like transformation would be wrought. Though he were the most abandoned character, though his infidelity might have entrenched itself, as he imagines, behind a thousand arguments, the Spirit of God would pull these down, convince him of sin, renew him and change his heart at once. Oh, would to God the church could say, “I believe in the Holy Ghost,” for today she is like Hagar in the wilderness crying, and the angel saith, “What aileth thee, Hagar?” and she says, “I want more ministers, more missionaries; I want more zeal, more earnestness.” Good God, open her eyes, I pray thee. Were her eyes opened she would see that in the possession of the Holy Ghost there is a well of water close to her hand, and all she craves is there, — more, indeed, than she craves— a great deal more than she yet knows that she needs. Oh, for faith in the eternal Spirit, and the griefs we feel for the church of God would come to an end.

     II. But I must pass on. I think I hear some one say, “I have no doubt, sir, that God has provided a supply for necessities, but may I partake of that supply? may I participate in the provisions of divine love? I will answer thee by saying, in the second place, that THUS SUPPLY IS FOR YOU.

     Need I remind you that there are passages of scripture which lay the provisions of the gospel singularly open? There are invitations in the word which are not confined to any spiritual character. “The spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” If there be any limitation there, it is “whosoever will” Well, but you “will.” O poor soul, you would give your eyes to have Christ; you know you would. You, poor troubled seeking one, if you had a thousand worlds you would freely forfeit them, if you could but say, “I am pardoned: my sin is blotted out.” What, then, doth hinder thee? What keeps thee back? “Whosoever will, let him come;” and thou wiliest: therefore come. We are told to “preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Art thou a “creature”? If so, if thou believest and art baptized thou shalt be saved. That is God’s own word to thee. Prove that thou art not a creature. Then I cannot speak to thee. But if thou art a creature, to thee as a creature is that gospel sent. “Ah,” I hear some say, “I was reading the other day —

‘All the fitness he requireth
Is to feel your need of him;’

and I don’t feel my need as I ought; so I have not got the fitness.” My dear friend, do you ever like to be interrupted in the middle of a sentence? “Oh,” say you, “no; that makes me say what I did not mean. Let me finish my sentence.” Well, then, let that good poet, Hart, finish his verse without your interrupting him. He says —

“Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness he requireth
Is to feel your need of him.
This he gives you;
’Tis the Spirit’s rising beam.”

     There is another passage that has often yielded comfort to the downcast. “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” You are “labouring,” are you not? Why, you have been labouring self-righteously to make a righteousness of your own. Give up that labouring and come to Christ “heavy laden.” You are loaded, are you not? Loaded with troubles, loaded with sins, loaded with weaknesses, loaded with doubts. Jesus says, “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Does not that describe you? The water is for you, then. You “labour;” you are “heavy laden;” you are “willing;” you are a “creature.” “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Not long ago I tried to show you that there could not be a case of sin and misery that could not slip in there. “Lost, lost.” Is that what you say of yourself? The Son of Man is come to seek and to save such. If we were to open to-morrow a free dining house, I believe it would be necessary to put up at the door before long some kind of prohibition to prevent everybody’s coming. We should have to draw a line somewhere. But I am quite certain that there is no poor man in London that was hungry who would refuse to go in if he saw no prohibition there. He would say, “If there be no special invitation for me, yet I mean to go in and try it on till there is a special prohibition against me.” I am sure that is the way with most of us. If there were a distribution to be made of gold and silver, I think most of us would go and begin to take some until there was a special order that we were not to have any. I wish that any sinner who is troubled about election, for instance, would wait till God tells him he is not elected, or, if he has any misgiving about whether he may come to Christ, he would wait till he finds a passage which tells him that he may not come. If he would find that, then there might be some cause for disquiet. Will you also find somewhere in this world a sinner that did try to come to Christ, yet Christ would not have him. If you have ever found one of the sort, bring him here; for we have been boasting here very loudly that none ever did come to Christ whom he cast away. If you will find one who did come, and to whom Christ said, “No, no; you are not one of those I died for, not one of those I chose:” if you will find us one of the sort, we shall be sorrowfully glad to see him, — glad because we would be glad to know the truth, but very sorrowful to think that that should be the truth. Nay, we defy Satan to find one in hell that cried to Christ for mercy, and cast himself upon the Saviour, and yet was rejected! All the demons of the pit, if they search to all eternity, cannot find such an instance. There never was, there never shall be one. Stand not back, then, thou who art athirst. When thou seest the water, the living water, stand not back, but freely come and take; for whosoever taketh of it God will make him freely welcome, and the angels will rejoice concerning him. The water is for you, — assuredly for you.

     III. Now to our last point. IT IS AVAILABLE WITHOUT ANY EXTRAORDINARY EXERTION. Hagar went and filled her bottle with water, and she gave her child to drink. No hydraulic inventions were required; no exceedingly difficult pumping, no mechanical contrivances to obtain the water when the spring was perceived. She did a very simple thing: she held her bottle in the water till it was full, poured out into the child’s mouth, and the dilemma which had perilled life was over.

     Now, the way by which we get a hold of Christ is faith. A great many questions are asked about what faith is, and there are large books written about it. If you want to study the philosophy of faith till you are bewildered, read a book about faith; but if you really would know its latent power and its potent charm, put now your trust in Christ, and you have got all the faith that is wanted, and that too in vital energy. There are some who hold that the intrinsic virtue lies in the personal appropriation; so they say that faith is to believe that Christ died for me. These same persons tell us, “He died for everybody; consequently he must have died for me.” I do not see anything of a saving character in that belief at all. That does not appear to me to be in any degree the faith of God’s elect. Properly, faith is a belief of God — what God saith and what God promises. Its practical outcome is a reliance upon the ipse dixit of the Almighty. “Thus saith the Lord” is the warrant of faith. What is it? It is trust; and whosoever trustcth Christ is saved. I am leaning here now, all my weight, and if this rail gives way I must go down; I am leaning here. Well, now, that is like faith in Christ. Lean right on him; lean on him with all your weight: lean hard; have no other confidence; throw yourself on him. It is not faith to put one foot on Christ as the angel put one foot on the land, and then to put the other foot on our works as the angel put his other foot on the sea. To rest loth feet on Christ that is faith. It is to do as the negro said he did: he fell right down flat on the promise; “and den, massa,” said he, “when I am down there I can’t fall not no lower.” Nor you, if you are fiat on the promise. God has said it: that is truth, and I believe it; and I expect him to fulfil it. This is the testimony that God has given concerning his Son — that we have everlasting life in him, and if we trust him we are saved. “But I cannot believe,” says one. “Cannot believe” what? Dost thou say thou canst not believe God? Nay, but man, when has God ever lied? Find me once when he has forfeited his word; find me once when he has broken his promise? If thou sayest, “I cannot believe him,” dost thou not see that in that incredulity of thine thou hast maligned God? Thou hast blasphemed him: thou hast made him a liar. That is exactly what the scripture saith; “He that believeth not hath made God a liar.” “But it seems too good to be believed,” saith one, “that God for Christ’s sake forgives men simply on their trusting Christ.” Yes, it is good. But then we have a good God, a great God. Canst thou not believe it when God says it? Dost thou feel in thy heart, “Why I must believe it if God says it.” Then, beloved, if thou trustest on Christ because God has said it, thou hast the faith which is the gift of God, the faith which is the work of the Holy Spirit; for this is the work of God, the greatest work that he does in us, that ye believe in Jesus Christ whom he hath sent. “It is so simple,” says one: yes, and that is the reason why it is so hard. If it were hard, people would do it; but because it is so simple they won’t have it. It was a very hard thing to Naaman to go and wash in the Jordan; and why hard? Because it was so easy. If it had been a difficult thing it would not have been hard; he would have done it. “If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldst thou not have done it?” But when he saith, “Wash, and be clean,” oh, that is hard: and so it is here, because we are proud; that is the hardness of it. It is hard to trust Christ, because we are self-righteous; because we want to have a finger in this ourselves. But, oh, when the Spirit of God cuts us down to the ground, takes away all power, and strength, and merit, and boasting, and glorying, then it seems a blessed thing to have nothing to do but just to put the bottle in the water, and let the blessed water of life go gurgling into it till it fills up to the brim. I think I hear another person say, “Well, but surely there is repentance: we must repent if we would be saved.” Truly so, but I would put it rather thus — he that is saved always repents: repentance and faith go together; they are born at the same time; they will accompany every Christian as long as he is in this life; but take care that you do not make a mistake about what repentance is. There is a law-work which some believers feel, but that is not repentance; it is quite another thing over and above repentance. There are dark thoughts and horrid forebodings, but those are not repentance; they may or they may not be of advantage to the Christian after he has passed through them, but they are not repentance. Repentance is simply the consciousness of sin, and the loathing of sin; and if thou hast these — and they are the gift of God, always the gift of God — then do not chastise thyself because thou hast not all the dark feelings of all the good men that ever lived. Why shouldst thou want more midnight? Thou art dark enough, poor soul, without fretting for more darkness. Better far that thou pray for more light. Thou hast already, I will take leave to say, the repentance thou art sighing after, for I know thou hatest sin, and thou dost loathe thyself to think thou shouldst be a sinner at all, and thou wouldst do anything to be rid of sin— to escape from it. Would not you be glad to suffer anything if you could be perfect? I know you would. Well, that is repentance: that is the sign of repentance within your soul. “Well,” says one, “but we must pray, you know.” Yes, granted. Every saved soul prays. But look here: dost thou know what prayer is? Do you think that prayer consists in the attitude of the body, or the ordering of the speech, or the utterance of petitions for a quarter of an hour, as I may have done in the course of the present service? I grieve to say that I may have done all that custom required in that fashion, and not have prayed at all; but it is true prayer if thou canst only look up to God and sigh, or if thy heart does but groan before him. Do not think that it is needful to use fine expressions; far from it. “God be merciful to me a sinner” was the prayer that brought justification to the publican; and some of the best prayers that have ever reached God’s ears are the shortest prayers that ever escaped man’s lips. Do not measure prayers by their length, I beseech you. God will help you to pray; prayer is his gift. If thou dost cast thyself on Christ, sink or swim, throwing everything away, even thine own prayers, and thine own repentance — if thou dost come and rest on what Christ is, and what lie has done, thou canst not perish. Look not within thee; there is nothing but blackness there. If thou dost look within thee, expect to despair; but look yonder to that cross on Calvary. There is life in a look at him. O, my dear hearers, how I wish we all looked at him this moment! I have no hope but what I find there in those dear wounds, and in that head bowed down with anguish. “All my hope in thee is stayed, O Christ of God, made sin for me, my Substitute and Ransom! and every eye that is now looking to that Christ, and every heart that is trusting in that Christ, hath salvation. There is salvation in none other. “There is none other name given under heaven whereby ye must be saved;” but there is life for a look at him.

     God grant you grace to look at him. “The word is nigh thee,” on thy lip and in thy heart. “If with thy heart thou dost believe in the Lord Jesus, and with thy mouth thou dost make confession of him, thou shalt be saved.” Oh, that God would open the eyes of many a Hagar; let her see that there is the water, that the water is free to her, and that she has but to dip in her bottle and fill it to the full. I have used an illustration here before, but I cannot think of a better one. At the risk of repetition therefore, I will give it to you again. It just illustrates the case of many persons here present. I heard that a vessel, after having crossed the Atlantic, had arrived in the mouth of the great river Amazon without being aware that it was there. The water was all spent, and they were ready to die of thirst. They sighted another vessel, and ran up the signal, and when the vessel came within hail of them she said, “What do you want?” The answer went back, “Water! We are dying for water.” And you may imagine their surprise when there came across the waves this sound — “Dip it up. You are in a fresh-water river.” They had nothing to do but to throw the bucket overboard, and get as much as ever they would. So likewise there is many a sinner crying, “What must I do to be saved? Oh, what hard thing shall I bear? What sharp thing shall I feel? What expensive thing shall I give? What tedious work shall I do?” God’s answer is, “Throw the bucket of faith overboard, man. It is all round you. It is nigh you. You are floating on a stream of mercy. You are in a shoreless river of grace. If thou believest that Jesus is the Christ, thou art born of God. If thou trustest thyself with Jesus, thy sins, which are many, are forgiven thee. Go in peace, and God grant thee grace to give to him the glory through all thy remaining days.

     May God bless these wandering words of mine to the consolation of some of his mourners, and my heart shall give him praise, and your hearts shall overflow with gratitude! Amen.



A Holy Celebration

By / Oct 20

A Holy Celebration

 

“It is a night to be much observed unto the Lord.” — Exodus xii. 42.

 

OF course you will understand that our text relates to the Passover. This is its first meaning. The Israelites were enjoined never to forget that they were once slaves in Egypt, and that God with a strong hand brought them forth. To help their memories an ordinance was instituted, which was to be celebrated every year by every person in the nation; and the young children were to be taught the meaning of that ordinance, so that never to the latest time should it be forgotten that God passed over his own people when he smote his enemies in the land of Egypt. To this day, the Israelites continue to hold this epoch in their national history among their most cherished traditions; and although the rites with which they observe the Passover are so distorted that we might well say they cannot sing the Lord’s song in a strange land, yet the Passover is still Israel’s celebration; and so long as there exists a Jew, there will not lack a man to tell how his lathers came out of Egypt in that night which is to be much observed.

     But, dear friends, the Passover was a type of our Lord’s passion. He is the Lamb of God’s Passover. It is by his blood that we are preserved; it is by virtue of his sacrifice that God passes over us who through faith have received the sprinkling of that blood. Never let us forget that night which is to be much remembered, —that night when the Lord was taken from prison and from judgment, —when there was none to declare his generation, — when, for the transgression of his people, he was smitten. It was a dark night when he arose from the table where he had supped for the last time with his disciples, and went to Gethsemane, there to begin to suffer, and in the very beginning to be sorrowful, even unto death; then to be taken off to Pilate, and to Herod, and to Caiaphas, and to be condemned to die; to be lifted high upon the cross, to bleed, to suffer physical pain, and mental anguish, and spiritual grief, unknown sufferings never to be estimated by us. It was a night to be remembered in all our generations. Let it never be forgotten. Whatever we do not know, my brethren, let us know the cross; whatever subject may have a second place in our estimation, always let the ransom-price paid on Calvary be first and foremost. I would have you study much the four records of the evangelists. Dwell upon them. Christians ought to be familiar with every little incident of their Saviour’s death: there is teaching in every nail; the sponge, the vinegar, and the hyssop all have a meaning in them, and the spear that pierced his side is full of instruction. We ought to study them— study them again, and again, and again. Here is the very essence of our confidence; this is the pillar upon which our souls lean. If there be any hope for sinners; if there be any consolation for sufferers; if there be any cleansing for the guilty; if there be any life for the dead, it is here. In thy words Emmanuel, —it is here, and only here. O, dwell at the cross, then. Whatever your minds may forget to consider, let them never lose the savor of this, or leave the meditation of Christ crucified. Keep to this. Remember, that to help our frail memories, God has given us an ordinance. Even as he gave to Jews the Passover, he has given to us the Lord’s Supper. “This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.”

     It is important beyond everything that you should remember a bleeding Saviour. Therefore gives he you the wine-cup to symbolise his blood, and that blood separated from the flesh; and, therefore, he gives you the bread as the emblem of flesh without the life-blood in it; — that the two together might be the ensigns to you of a violent death suffered by your Lord on your behalf. Instructive are the symbols: do not miss the main intention of them, namely, to draw you with cords of love, and bands of a man, to the person of your vicarious sacrifice—Jesus Christ bleeding for you.

     And while ye harbor this much in your own thoughts, speak much of it to others. Let your testimony be full and frequent. If ye be ministers, preach much about the “Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.” If ye be teachers of others in the Sabbath-school, or anywhere else, make this the main head and front of your teaching— Christ in the sinner’s place; Christ bearing the sinner’s sin; Christ smitten with the sinner’s stripes; and by his stripes healing sinners and putting away their sin. Insist upon this again, and again, and again. Make it plain to all, so that if they reject it they may reject that which was evidently set forth before them. Unveil the mystery, the sacred mystery of the incarnate God bleeding in the sinner’s place. Yea, should men upbraid you as foolish because you have nothing else to teach but this; keep on, and be thus foolish still. Let them say that you have nothing but a monotony to repeat concerning the blood; let them have that monotony again sounded in their ears. To that, to that, to that bend all your strength: to that direct all their attention; for, surely, the night of the passion— of call it day if you will, for though it was day naturally it was more nearly night in many senses— surely, that “is a night to be much observed unto the Lord for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of the Lord to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations.”

     This however is not exactly the subject to which we propose to direct your meditation this evening. It is the night of our regeneration; it is the night of our conversion— (night or day, it matters not which); the time in which we actually received salvation, and were made partakers of this Passover, that we would just now admonish you to remember.

     At that particular time important events transpired for us. The most important events, to us, that ever occurred in our history, happened on that occasion. There was a point in our life up to which we were dead: then we were made alive. There was a point up to which we were condemned: then, in an instant, we were acquitted. There was a moment up to which we were enemies to God by wicked works, and at once, by an act of God’s grace, we were reconciled, and were made to be God’s children, and were God’s enemies no more! I want to look back upon that. Our first birth would have been a hurt to us, if it had not been for this second birth. Our being in this world would be a calamity; it had been better for us that we had never been, if it had not been for this second creation, which gives us our wellbeing. O, it was a night to be observed before the Lord, in the which we came out of Egypt, passed from death unto life, and were saved!

     Now, what events transpired on that occasion?

     Well, the first was, it pleased God then to show us the blood of Jesus, and to apply it to our souls. Do you remember it? I remember well when this came to my heart. You had heard the doctrine of the cross before, but you felt it then. You knew that the blood could save, but at that moment you had faith in that blood, and it did save you. It was applied to you by the hyssop of faith, which sprinkled it upon the lintel and doorposts of your house, and you were saved thereby. Dost mind the place— the spot of ground? Some of us recollect it, and never can forget it. O, happy day that brought us to the Saviour’s feet, took all our guilt away, and banished all our fear; removed the enmity, and made us friends; prostrated, conquered, and subdued us; then cheered, and comforted, and blest us! No man has anything in the incidents or the records of his life that can compare in importance with that moment in which the, blood was applied to his guilty conscience. “Well,” saith one, “I think nothing of it.” No, because you never felt it; but, if you had ever felt it, you would. He that has ever felt the weight of the law’s great whip upon his conscience— has ever had those lashes laid about him till he hated his very life, and longed to die— he will know what it is to have that whip taken away, to have oil and wine poured into those wounds, to have them healed in a moment, and to find himself ready to leap for very joy, because of the wondrous things which God has done for him! They that know it not, ought not to say anything about it; they are strangers to it. I know some who are constantly prone to speak lightly of conversion. Why should they? If they do not know anything about it, let them hold their tongues until they do. But those that have been converted and know it — those that have been regenerated, — if they be honest men, and I believe they are accepted as such in other matters, let them be believed here also, when they declare that there is nothing like it under the sun for joy to a man’s soul. This application of the blood of sprinkling is the thing above all others to be remembered. Whatever else happened that night, let us remember this, that the old leaven was purged out of our hearts. At once, as soon as ever we believed in Jesus, we found ourselves hating the things we loved before. We did not hear the law which said, “Thou shalt not do this, and thou shalt do that but we felt our heart changed, so that we did not want to do the evil, and we longed to do the right. And now, though since then, we have found another law in our members, warring against the law of our mind, and causing a frequent conflict, — yet the true man, the I, the real I. longs after holiness; and it is no sorrow now to be obedient. It is bliss to obey. And it is no joy now to be sinful, but it brings a thorn into the eyes, a palpitation to the heart, and a trembling into the soul, to stain the hands or defile the conscience with sin. That is a thing to be remembered. Where such a thing as that has happened, it never can be forgotten. And, thank God, this has not occurred merely to those who were amiable before, and honest before, but it has occurred to some of the very worst of mankind. O, we could tell stories to-night, which have come under our own observation, of some of the most abandoned transgressors who have become some of the purest characters, full of “sweetness and light,” from the very moment of their conversion. The more they were formerly wont to delight in sin, the more they have subsequently humbled themselves before God; and the more they had lent themselves to do iniquity, the more they have addicted themselves to works of righteousness, seeking to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord. O beloved, it is a night to be observed of the Lord in which the leaven is put away, and we are made to keep the feast in godly sincerity.

     That night, too, or that day, whichever it may have been, we do remember that we enjoyed a feast upon our Saviour. The blood was sprinkled, and so we were saved; and then we sat down at the table, and began at once to feast upon the precious things stored up in the person of Christ. I remembered one thing that troubled me, it was that it did seem too good to be true. That I was absolved for ever from all my sins, I did believe, for God said it. “The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” But this used to stagger me, “Am I really now in the condition of a child of God, as much a child of God as I am a child of my own father? And has he loved such an insignificant worm as I am; and will he surely bring me into the promised rest, and give me a place and a name amongst his beloved, at his right hand?” O, how I revelled in such thoughts as that, when faith was strong, when first I knew the Lord! Do you recollect it. dear brethren? I want you to let your souls fly back to those early mornings with Christ, when the dew was upon your soul, when the birds began to sing in your hearts, and their notes had not yet grown stale to you. O, the delicacies of the first days with Christ! O, the sweetness of the love of our espousals! Do you not remember how you fed upon Christ to the very full, and did rejoice in him? Well, look back, and say it is a time to be observed before the Lord.

     And then it was that for the first time in your life, dear friends, you felt that you were free. Israel in Egypt was free from that night. They were slaves and brick-makers, but the moment that blood was over the door, and God had sent forth the angel to smite the Egyptians, the Israelites were free. They were even pressed to go away. O, do you recollect how free you felt? You could sing with John Kent—

“Now free’d from sin, I walk at large,
The Saviour’s blood’s my full discharge,
At his dear feet my soul I lay,
A sinner saved, and homage pay.”

You remember how you rejoiced in the liberty wherewith Christ had made you free. You wanted to tell other people about it. You could not hold your tongue. You could have sung as we have been singing to-night—

“Now, oh joy, my sins are pardoned,
Now I can, and do believe.”

     You were free; but finding yourself free, you also discovered, for the first time, that you were a pilgrim; for the Israelites, as they ate that paschal supper, had to do so with their loins girt and staves in their hands, like men that were to leave that country. You found that now you were a stranger. If you had an unconverted parent, you could not talk to him or her about your soul. If you bad old companions, you felt you must bid them farewell, for they would not understand you; if you did not know you were a pilgrim before, you found it out the very next day, when you began to talk with them. Your speech betrayed you, and they began at once to scoff and jeer at you, as a Presbyterian or a Methodist, or by some other name they called you; thus soon you found that because you were not of the world, therefore the world would hate you. Perhaps you were surprised at it, but you plucked up courage, and you took up Christ’s cross, and you have carried it till now; at length you begin to love it, to esteem it an honour, and to count it to be greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt which you have left behind you. O! it was a time to be remembered, and I want you to remember it now— those blessed days when we began to live! I think we might date our existence from that time When we count up our birthdays, we ought always to reckon that amongst them. To leave that out seems to be leaving out the one that makes all the others worth having. I remember a man’s tombstone on which was inscribed “Here lies one who died a child three years old at the age of eighty.” You are only as old as the number of years you have lived unto God. All the rest you might wish to be wiped out— ay, and the blood of Christ has wiped them out, and you are alive from the dead, new-born souls. O, let the time of your second birth be a season to be remembered before the Lord.

     Important results will flow to you from the preservation of this memorial.

     It will humble you and foster the grace of humility. Have you become an old experienced Christian, my brother? Go back to the hole of the pit whence you were digged. While I stand here to-night preaching to a great many of you, I feel brought down to my proper bearings when I recollect how I sat, at about the age of fifteen, a poor trembling sinner, under the galleries of a Primitive Methodist meetinghouse, and heard Christ preached, and came to him. O, that ever I should live to preach the gospel to you! I feel humbled at the very thought of it. Get back, you great professors— get back to the cross again! There is nothing about which to vaunt yourselves after all. Look to the hole of the pit whence you were digged: remember what you were when God met with you, and recollect what you would have been if he had not met with you. Israel must have died like the Egyptians, if it had not been for the blood; and you might have been dead and damned at this hour, instead of sitting here to praise God, if it had not been for special grace. It was no goodness of yours that made you God’s child. You know it; for when the Lord cast an eye of love on you, he could not see anything in you to love. You were all unholy and unclean; you were according to Isaiah’s description: “From the sole of the foot to the crown of your head you were all wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores and yet he looked upon you. Remember that, and be humbled within you. Recollect your conversion also, and let your faith be refreshed. It does us good to remember— especially some of you, my dear brothers and sisters, that are now a long way on the road — it does you good to recollect what peaceful hours you had at first. O, what lively joy you had then! Well, I daresay you have purer joy now, deeper peace, more unruffled calm. There was a good deal of flash about you then; but still, for all that, as a man never will forget the honeymoon, so can we never forget that honeymoon with Christ: there was a certain exquisite sweetness in it that lingers on our souls still. We have the flavour of that honeycomb in our mouths up to this moment, and we shall never get it out. Well, it will revive our faith to recollect it, and it will bring back our love too. We shall begin chiding ourselves, and saying, “Why haven’t we done more for his dear name?” O, what we thought we should do when we first began to serve Jesus! We have not been true to those vows and promises, but yet what a mercy that, if we have not been true, he has! He has never failed us, but has kept every promise, and never left us in any emergency. We have been upheld till now, and who could have held us up but our Lord? We have sometimes been in a very perilous condition; temptation has almost overcome us, but

“We know the arm on which we lean,
The name in which we trust,”

and we will bless that name. I am sure if we were to live in recollection of our conversion, we should have our zeal kindled for the conversion of others. Ah! you get altogether away from your first standing-point, some of you. You used to be willing to run anywhere to talk of Jesus, and if you had half a hope of impressing anyone, you had no fear about speaking to him. Now, perhaps, you have been so familiar with the gospel, that, though it ought to have more charms, through the hardness of your heart it has fewer charms with you than it had. Oh, be ashamed, and be confounded about it, and get back, get back, to the first love, and you will feel the first zeal come again! I sometimes wonder what old churches would do, if it were not for new converts. The new converts put fresh blood into the veins of the church. The church would die of sheer imbecility were it not that great sinners come in with their great love; and they do what Simon would not do: they not only wash the Saviour’s feet and perform the common acts of piety, but they begin to anoint his head with an extraordinary zeal and set the church an example of doing great things, and in this way keep us somewhat alive. But I would like to be a young convert always. I would like to be green in old age with young love to Jesus; and would not you, brothers and sisters? Well, if you would have it so, go back to the night to be observed, and recollect it this evening with tears of gratitude. Cannot some of you picture that young man— (ay, you have got boys as old as you were then)— cannot you recollect the young man that dropped into Park Street and heard the word of God there? Don’t you recollect your experience at that time, young woman? You do not call yourself a young woman now, — but do you recollect when you sat and wept, and your heart broke, and when the very thing happened that we have been singing of in our hymn— that first look and that second look from him that hung upon the cross? You have not forgotten that. Many days have passed over some of you, and you are getting near to the end of life; but will you not recollect and lift now a new song for the old mercies, and magnify God whom you have tried and proved this score of years, and so tried him that you can speak well of his name?

     May be there is a question which will naturally arise in some people’s minds.

     Do not I hear some one say, “I trust I am a Christian; I believe I have experienced a great change of heart; but I do not remember the time?” Beloved friend, there is an old legal maxim that “possession is nine points of the law,” and as long as you have got Christ, I am not going to raise many questions about when you got him. Surely, if the hold you have be equivalent to nine points of the law, it represents all the points of the gospel. If you have got Christ, he will never be taken away from you. If you are resting upon his blood and righteousness, it is well enough; and, if you are producing the fruits of the Spirit, and your life is what it should be, by your fruits you are to be known. We shall ask you no more questions. “But I should like to know exactly when I was converted,” saith one. Well, I do not wonder that you should; but suppose you do not know, and cannot ascertain, what then? Suppose there is a person here who does not exactly know his age, and he wants to find the register of his birth, and he has tried and cannot find it. Now, what is the inference that he draws from his not being able to tell the day of his birth? Well, I do not know what the inference may be, but I will tell you one inference he does not draw. He does not say, therefore, “I am not alive.” If he did, he would be an idiot, for if the man is alive he is alive, whether he knows his birthday or not. And if the man really trusts in Jesus, and is alive from the dead, he is a saved soul, whether he knows exactly when and where he was saved or not. At the same time, do not let me be misunderstood. “Ye must be born again.” There is, and must be, in every man that will enter heaven, a time— a point and a place, too— in which he did pass out of the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. I believe that in many cases it is not easy to tell the precise point, for with them it is like the rising of the sun. Sometimes the sun is up before you know whether he has risen or not, because a long morning twilight precedes his actual appearance above the horizon. So it may be that spiritual life begins by slow degrees, before we quite perceive it there; but there is a time when it begins: there is a point— there is a place— in which the unsaved become saved, and the unregenerate become regenerate; and there is a broad line between the two characters. A great gulf, indeed, is fixed between them, which only the supernatural grace of God can enable any one to cross. Do not doubt that, do not imagine that I call it in question: for I would not deceive you. I believe there are many people who think they have been converted, who are not — who have experienced a change, but not the change, — who have made a change of life, and a very good change too, but still it is not being born again. A man may change from a drunkard to a sober man, and that is a noble thing, but that will not save him. He may change from being a thief to being honest, and that is a grand thing; but that will not save him. He may change from being a habitual violater of the Sabbath to being a constant attendant upon the means of grace, and that is a good thing; but that will not save him. It is not the washing of the skin; it is the washing of the soul that is effected in regeneration. The man’s love must be different: the man’s whole affections must run in another channel— in the direct opposite channel from that which they pursued before. In a word, “Except a man be born again from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” There must be a time of your new birth, or else, as the Lord liveth, you shall never see his face with joy. You must pass under the hand of the Holy Spirit, and nothing short of that will enable you to enter heaven. “It troubles me,” says one. Does it? I am glad of that. It is a great mercy, when there is enough life to be troubled— a real blessing when that trouble leads to Christ; for if you have ever been to Christ, you have found the Saviour, and if you are now looking to Christ you are saved. Do you say, “But how about that great change?” I reply, that every believer must have experienced that change, for the greatest of all works is faith. What saith Christ: “This is the work of God (or the Godlike work), that ye believe on Jesus Christ whom he hath sent.” To believe in Jesus is the climax of virtue, and the surest evidence of a new heart that can possibly be given. Have you that evidence? If you have not, be troubled. The Lord trouble you more and more, lest you be troubled in the world to come with a grievous trouble from which there is no relief!

     To full many here present the personal enquiries we suggest are momentous and urgent. Say ye that our preaching is inquisitorial. Be it so, but ye yourselves are the sole inquisitors, each one of you into his own estate and his own pedigree. Murmur not therefore if I press you to be strict and rigid. Whatever verdict you pass, it will be referred to a higher court, there to be affirmed or annulled. 1 felt, before I came into this pulpit, that I might never speak to you again, or that at any rate, some of the hearers, now present, would, before my return, be sure to be in another world. We do not speak to a peradventure, because, from long familiarity with this great congregation, we note how regularly some die each week. Of our membership, we lose so many in the year as to make a weekly item of names to be removed from the roll, because they have joined the church triumphant above; and, in the congregation, we know that it is a rare thing that ever there should pass a week without some one, who has been our hearer, being transferred to stand before the judgment-seat of Christ. Now, if I never speak to you again, or you shall never hear this voice again, I would like to put it to you, my dear friend, might not this night become to you a night to be observed unto the Lord for bringing you out of the land of Egypt? — might not this be a night much to be observed with you as long as ever you should live? “Oh,” saith one, “I do not know. I am hopeless about ever being saved.” Where does the hopelessness lie? It does not lie in your character, for have we not told you a thousand times over, that, “though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as wool,” if you will but believe in Jesus. I know that you are not tied up with the notion that you have got to do some works to save yourself. If so, I must have spoken very strangely, or you must have listened to me very oddly; for have we not every Sabbath-day told you that it is “not by works, lest any man should boast,” but by the grace of God and the free favour of God towards the most undeserving of men. God saves no man for his goodness. However bad you are, God is willing to forgive and to accept you, and receive you as his child. “No,” say you, “it is not that, but still I despair of ever being saved. I cannot come up to the point.” Then whose fault is that, I want to know? Whose fault is that? I will ask you. You say, “I have tried to be saved, and I am not.” Did you ever go to God in the silence of your chamber, alone, and confess to him that you were guilty? Did you ever lie at the foot of his throne, and say, “O God, I deserve thy wrath. I have broken thy law; I justly deserve thine anger.” Have you done that? Now, he has said, “He that confesseth his sin, shall find mercy.” If you have not confessed the sin, whose fault is it that you have not got the mercy? Well, then, have you ever believed in Jesus? — that is, have you trusted in him who being God became man that he might suffer instead of you what was due from God on account of your sins? “Ah, that is the point: I break down there,” says one. “I cannot believe.” In what can you not believe? Cannot you believe what God tells you? Do you believe the Bible to be God’s word? “Yes!” Then, I ask, how dare you say “I cannot believe it?” In believing that Book to be true, you believe what it contains to be true; and God’s own testimony concerning his Son is this— that “he is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by him,” and that whosoever trusteth in him is saved, and his sins are forgiven him at once. “Oh, but I do not feel that I am forgiven.” Who says you are to feel yourself forgiven? God says you are sinful, and admonishes you to confess your sins, to renounce your sins, to supplicate pardon for your sins, to believe in the remission of your sins by the atonement once offered. It is enough for you that the witness of God is what you are to believe. It is not your feeling that is to furnish the rule of your faith. You shall feel happy by-and-bye— you shall feel a change of heart by-and-bye; but the first thing is to believe God’s witness concerning his Son. “But, oh! somehow or other I cannot attain to faith.” Stay, have you ever tried? “Well, I have sat down and tried to believe." Now, be a reasonable man. Were I to tell you a something that had occurred to your immediate advantage, you would sit down and try to believe it, looking at the possibilities of its being true with many a wishful thought. Or suppose you were compelled to doubt it, and thought that I was mistaken, yet if you had an interest, you would go and look at the papers— you would go and inquire at offices where there are telegrams of fresh news; you would ask persons who were likely to judge whether such an event was at all possible; and in that way you would never rest till you could satisfy yourself about the truth of the statement. Did you ever search God’s word in that way? Have you read the story of the four evangelists, to see whether it be so? Have you gone to hear sermons with this in your mind— “I desire to hear in order that I may believe?” Have you been really anxious to try and believe it? I speak to you as a believer in the Bible; and to me it seems monstrous that I should believe what is in the Bible, and yet not trust in Jesus Christ! But have you ever sought to trust him? “Well, I don’t know.” No; but I do know, a little. You are not in earnest. There is the point. You are earnest sometimes, if you are stirred up; but you go to sleep again. The fact is, there is some private sin you don’t like to give up, or else there is some old companion that you like to keep on with, and you know you cannot go with him and enjoy his conversation, and yet be a Christian. Ah! there is something that keeps you back, for when the Lord makes a man resolute to be saved, all the devils in hell cannot daunt his resolution. When once the soul saith “I must be reconciled to God; I must have peace; I must have the Saviour; I must be cleansed by the precious blood;” — who is there to stop him? Will God stop him? He delighteth in mercy. Will Jesus stop him? His flowing words invite him. Will the Holy Spirit stop him? It were blasphemy to suppose it. Who is to stop him then? “Why, Satan.” But is Satan by force or fraud to be a match for Christ? “Well, his own heart will stop him.” Ay, but God is greater than his heart, and is able to withstand his temptations and to help his infirmities. I charge thee, soul, if thou wouldst be saved, get thee to thy chamber, and tell God so. Go and speak to him in the simplest language, thus: — “My God, I have offended thee. Have mercy upon me. I have followed my own will, but now I desire to be obedient to thee. Change my heart; give me thy Holy Spirit. I have no merits of my own, but thou hast given Jesus to die for sinners. Lord, I am a sinner. I put my child-like trust in thee. Save me, Lord.” Do you think you will ever be cast away? Why, you will be the first sinner that ever was, who sincerely came to Jesus that way. It cannot be. Do not be afraid, soul. If thou castest thyself on Christ, thou canst no more be sent to hell than Christ can. If thou hast cast in thy lot with Christ, and hast linked thyself to him by faith, because he lives thou shalt live also. Perhaps you know how Mr. Ryland put it? When his wife was dying, and she was deeply desponding, though she had been for years a Christian, he said to her— “Well, where are you going, Betsy?” She had been saying to the nurse that she felt she was going to hell, and she said to her husband, “Oh, my dear, I am going down to hell.” “Betsy,” said he, “what do you mean to do when you get there?” “Oh, John, don’t talk so,” said she. “But do you think you will pray, Betsy, when you get there?” “Pray? Yes,” said she, “I will never leave off praying.” “And do you think you will praise God when you get there?” “Ah, yes, I will never, never leave off praising God, whatever he does to me.” “Why,” said he, “they would say, ‘Here is praying Betty Ryland here, and she is beginning to praise God; turn her out: we can’t bear to have her here.’” Of course, if any soul were sent there that really believed in Jesus, it would make a revolution in heaven and hell.

     It cannot be. God must change before he will let a sinner perish who trusts in Christ. O, it is wonderful what power faith has. I recollect standing at the Mansion House one day waiting to cross over to the other side when the omnibuses were coming from all the corners of the compass, and I was looking for an opportunity to run in and out between them. A blind man came up and said, “I am sure you will lead me across; I am sure you will lead me across.” I am sure I did not want the job; but I was quite sure that, if the blind man was sure I would do it, I could not decline to do it; and I did it accordingly. I did not like to have a blind man’s confidence thrown away. It seemed as if his confidence was my compulsion. And, oh, blind sinner, lay hold upon the skirts of Christ to-night, and say, “Jesus, I believe thou wilt lead me into heaven. At any rate, I mean to trust thee to do it. I have done with saving myself, and I mean to rely on thee, and thee only.” I tell you, your faith will compel him: your trust shall hold him fast. He will do anything for faith. Was he not overcome at the brook Jabbok by Jacob’s faith? Did not faith in the woman that touched the hem of his garment win a cure? And when he spoke to the Syro-Phœnician woman, and called her a dog, did she not win healing for her daughter by the brave stand she made by her faith? The Lord waiteth to be gracious! Trust him, sinner. The Lord help you to do so; and he shall have the glory, for ever and ever!

     And let me just add here that it is a night to be much observed among saints in their fellowship one with another. It does us good to listen as well as to talk when the mighty arm and the gracious hand of God stretched forth on our behalf furnish the theme of conversation. There seems to me somehow or other to be a bias given to the whole life by the first call a man receives, as though it tinted the character with a purer hue than most of the subsequent incidents that belong to individual experience. Besides, dear friends, in recalling the circumstances there will spring up a tender sympathy as well as a devout gratitude, like that to which Paul bears witness God in me." What love feasts those are in which — “and we commemorate they glorified the dawn of spiritual life! How free from conflicting opinions and turbulent passions! As Cowper sings—

“Hearts may be found that harbour, at this hour,
The love of Christ in all its quickening power;
And lips unstained by folly or by strife,
Whose wisdom, drawn from the deep well of life
Tastes of its healthful origin, and flows
A Jordan for the ablution of our woes.
O days of heaven, and nights of equal praise,Serene and peaceful as those heavenly days
When souls drawn upward in communion sweet,
Enjoy the stillness of some close retreat;
Discourse, as if released and safe at home,
Of dangers past and wonders yet to come,
And spread the sacred treasures of the breast
Upon the lap of covenanted rest.” Amen.



Good Cause for Great Zeal

By / Oct 20

Good Cause for Great Zeal

 

“Now because we have maintenance from the king’s palace, and it was not meet for us to see the king’s dishonour, therefore have we sent and certified the king.”— Ezra iv. 14.

 

THE facts of the case were these. Under Zerubbabel, the Jews, who had returned from Babylon, commenced to rebuild Jerusalem. There were in the land certain half-and-half persons, somewhat like the Samaritans, who were neither Jews nor Gentiles; and they asked at first that they might join in the building of Jerusalem. This was refused, the Jews determining to keep themselves pure from all association with the heathen or semi-heathen. So indignant were these people at this that they wrote to Artaxerxes, the king, to tell him that he was very little aware of what was going on in Judea, for the Jews had always been from time immemorial a troublesome people, and now they were beginning to build their city again; and as soon as it was built they would, in all probability, revolt against King Artaxerxes, and give him much trouble, as their fathers had done to kings aforetime. Now, in writing that letter they showed themselves wise in their generation, for they told the king in the words of our text that they were moved by gratitude to write to him. It was false: but hypocrites often use the best of words and employ the best of sense to cover their deceit. They said that they themselves were sustained from the king’s palace, and, therefore, they could not bear that the king should be dishonoured; for this reason they had written to tell his majesty that the Jews were building this wall, and they trusted that for his own honour’s sake and for his subjects’ sake he would stop them.

     Now let me take these words right out of those black mouths, and put them into my own and into yours. They will suit us well if we turn them to the great King of kings. We may truly say, “Now because we have maintenance from the king’s palace, and it was not meet for us to see the king’s dishonour, therefore have we sent and certified the king.”

     The text will enable me to speak on three points. First, here is a fact acknowledged: “we have maintenance from the king’s palace.” Here is, secondly, a duty recognised: “it was not meet for us to see the king’s dishonour;” and, thirdly, here is a course of action prescribed: “therefore have we sent and certified the king.”

     I. Now, beloved fellow believers, the words of our text may be used by us while we acknowledge a very gracious fact— WE HAVE MAINTENANCE FROM THE KING S PALACE. How true this is of all God’s people, in all respects, you will be abundantly ready to acknowledge. Both the upper and the nether springs from which we drink are fed by the eternal bounty of the great King. Hitherto we have been supplied with food and raiment. Sometimes we may have been reduced to a pinch, no doubt, and the question has arisen through the infirmity of our nature, and fermented with the irritability of our unbelief, “What shall we eat, and what shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed?” but we have dwelt in the land, and verily we have been fed; and I have no doubt that to many of you it has been peculiarly gratifying to receive the loaf, as it were, immediately from your Father’s hand. You have known what poverty has meant; and then there has been to you a peculiar sweetness in the daily bread which, in answer to prayer, has been sent to you. Although we do not drink of the water from the rock, or find the manna lying at our tent-door every morning, yet the providence of God produces for us quite the same results, and we have been fed and satisfied; and at any rate many of us, in looking back, can say, “My cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life.” Hence, we have thus, even in things temporal, been made to feel that we have been maintained from the king's palace.

     But it has been in spiritual things, beloved, that our continual experience of the king’s bounty has been most notable. We have a new life, and therefore we have new wants and new hunger and a new thirst; and God has maintained us out of his own palace as to this new life of ours. O beloved, we have had great hunger at times after heavenly things, but he has “satisfied our mouth with good things,” and our youth has been “renewed like the eagle’s.” We have had huge wants; bottomless deeps of need we have had. And yet, great God, the treasures of thy grace have been everlasting mines, deep as our helpless miseries were, and boundless as our sins. Why, sometimes we have been drawn aside from our steadfastness, and we have wanted mighty grace to set us on our feet again, and to make us once more “strong in the Lord and in the power of his might,” and we have had it; have we not? We have sought it, and we have found it. Our shoes have been iron and brass, and as our days so has our strength been. Up till this moment we have found that underneath us are the everlasting arms. In looking back upon all the way wherein the Lord our God has led us, we can sing of the beginning of it, we can sing of the middle of it, and we believe we shall sing of the end of it; for all through we have been maintained out of the king’s palace. This is matter of fact both as to things temporal and things spiritual.

     Beloved, it is a great mercy that you and I have been maintained out of the king’s palace as believers; because, where else could we have been maintained? Where else, I ask you? As to spiritual things, to whom could we go but unto him who has been so good to us? What empty wells ministers are, if we look to them! If we look to their Master, then “the rain also filleth the pools,” and we find that there is supply in the preached word for our consolation. But have you not often known what it is to find that even God’s servant under whom you have been fed, does not meet your case? He is meeting the case of hundreds of others, perhaps, but somehow he misses you: there is no food for your soul. Ay, and the books you once read with so much comfort appear to have lost their flavour, their aroma, and their sweet savour, and, I may add, even the word of God itself, though it is unchanged, appears to be changed sometimes to you. But God, the God of Israel, your God, oh, how graciously has he still supplied you! “All my springs are in thee,” my God; and had they been elsewhere they long ago had failed. Who else could supply our needs but Jehovah? As the king of Israel said to the woman in the famine of Samaria, “If the Lord do not help thee whence can I help thee, out of the barn-floor or out of the wine-press?” There is no help for the child of God if his heavenly Father should shut the granary door. If out of the king’s palace there came no portions of meat in due season, we might lay us down and die of despair. Who could hold us up but God? Who could guide us but God? Who could keep us from falling into perdition but God? Who could from hour to hour supply our desperate wants but God? Is it not, then, right well for us— abundantly well— that we have had our maintenance from the king’s palace?

     While we turn over this very sweet thought, we may remember that our maintenance from the king’s palace has cost his Majesty dear. He has not fed us for nothing. We do not know what was the expenditure in gold of King Solomon every day, to supply all his court with wine and oil, with meal and fine flower, with sheep and fat oxen, harts and roebucks, venison and fatted fowl; but we do know that Solomon’s cost was nothing at all compared with the vast expense at which we are sustained by the munificence of God. It cost him his own dear Son at the very first. We should not have begun to live if he had spared his Son and kept him back from us; but the choicest treasure in heaven, the Koh-i-noor of God’s regalia, he was pleased to spend for our sakes that we might live; and ever since then we have been fed upon Jesus Christ himself. No other food would be adequate to our necessities. His flesh is meat indeed; his blood is drink indeed. This is the most royal dainty conceivable, for a soul to feed upon the Son of God. And yet we have fed upon him these many years. Let us bless and magnify our bounteous God, whose infinite favour has thus supplied our wants. But while he spares nothing for us, but gives everything to us, let us not meanly keep back anything from him. With such a generous God, generosity seems to be so natural that it ought to be spontaneous. The highest— the most ardent— form of service would seem to be but a trifling recompense for the immense expense which the Lord hath been at in supporting us these many years.

     May I ask you to think over the kind of portion and maintenance you have had from the king’s palace? Such thoughts will stir your gratitude. Beloved, we have had a bountiful supply. God has never stinted us. As the sun throws out his wealth of heat and light, and does not measure it by the consumption of men, but throws it broadcast over all worlds; even so does God flood the world with the sunlight of his goodness, and his saints are made to receive it in abundance. If you have ever been stinted it is not by God; you have stinted yourself. Our receptive faculty may be small, but his giving disposition is abundant. Floods of mercy, oceans of love, has he poured out for us. O, what a bountiful maintenance have we had! Enough and to spare. Our imagination could not have conceived greater wealth than is ours in the covenant of grace: for all things are yours— the gift of God. God being ours, the infinite is ours; the omniscient is ours; the omnipotent is ours. O, what a bountiful portion we have!

     And we have had an unfailing portion. As there has been much of it, so it has always come to us in due season. Times of need have come, but the needed supply has come too. If there be any believer here that has aught to testify against his God, let him do it. Hast thou ever rested on him, and found him fail thee? Didst thou ever trust him in vain? Are his promises false? Has he left thee in the deep waters? When thou passedst through the fires did the flames kindle upon thee? Hast thou found thy God a wilderness? Has he been barrenness in the day of thine extremity? No, beloved, our God has been bountiful, and he has continued his bounty, —not good by fits and starts, but ever gracious to us. I am fain, if this were the proper place, to stop and tell what I know of this; but then, surely, many older saints here might interrupt me, and say, “Let me speak of it.” I remember once trying to speak of the great goodness of God in the pulpit, when my venerable grandfather, who is now in heaven, was sitting behind me, and he pulled my coat tail and bade me stop, for he thought he could talk upon that better than I could; and, indeed, he could, because of his deep experience of the faithfulness of the living God. It is a great delight and benefit to younger men to hear their grey-headed sires stand up and say what they have known, and what they have proved of God’s eternal goodness. But I think we can say, whether young or old, if we have known his name a few years: —

“When trouble, like a gloomy cloud,
Has gathered thick and thundered loud,
He near my soul has always stood,
His lovingkindness, oh, how good!”

He has been a faithful friend to us: we have been right well maintained from the king’s table.

     While the supply has thus been bountiful and continuous, it has ennobled us. For consider how great a thing it is to be supported from a king’s palace; but it is the greatest of all privileges to be living upon the bounty of the King of kings: “Such honour have all the saints.” Even the feeble Mephibosheths that are lame in their feet shall eat at the king’s table. The Lord Jesus, the good Shepherd, makes all his little ones to be like the ewe lamb of the parable, which was fed out of the man’s own cup, and did lie in his bosom. Even those that are weakest and meanest have this high honour— to be supplied by royalty itself with all that they need. Lift up your heads, ye that hang them down. Ye poor desponding saints that think yourselves less than the least of all, you are, everyone of you, king’s sons; you are all gentlemen commoners upon the King of kings. Your diet is better than that of the angels. God will sooner let Gabriel starve than you:

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

Yet that is your daily bread, your morning meal and evening feast. Be glad. Hast thou little of temporal good? Well, but thy Father sends thee it. Dost thou mourn that thou hast so little spiritual good? Bless him that thou hast any, for it is God that sends thee it. Thou wouldst have had none if it were not for his infinite grace; therefore praise him for what thou hast, and confidently ask him for more.

     And there is reason for good cheer, in this, dear friends, that we have such a soul-satisfying portion in God. A soul that gets what God gives him has quite as much as he can hold, and as much as he can want. He has got a portion that might well excite envy. If the world did but know how happy and blessed Christians are, they would count them up in the royal family, and they would envy them beyond all others. There is nothing in the worldling’s estate to envy. The more he has the worse it will be for him to leave it. His fine gardens and lawns and parks will make it hard to die. The greater his earthly honour the worse will be his eternal dishonour. It must be to him a horrible thing to have had a high soar, and then to have all the greater fall because of it. “Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious because of the prosperity of the wicked.” What after all becomes of him that prospereth in his way? “I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree; yet he passed away, and lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found.” The place that has known the ungodly, and the lands they have called by their own name, soon become oblivious of their memory. Their record has perished quickly, and they, themselves, have gone back “to the vile dust from whence they sprang.” But thou hast eternity to be thy heritage! Thou hast heaven to be thy portion! The few drops of gall that are in thy cup to-day shall soon be rinsed out, and it shall be full of the nectar of celestial thrones. Be thou content now with thy brown bread and hard fare a little while, for thou shalt eat the delicacies of angels. Yea, and by faith thou dost even now feast upon the fat things full of marrow and the wines on the lees well refined, which thy God sends to thee from the king’s palace. Let us rejoice, dear brethren, if we are any of us downcast to-night, for our maintenance is from the king’s palace, and what can we want more?

“Father, I wait thy daily will:
Thou shalt divide my portion still.
Grant me on earth what seems thee best,
Till death and heaven reveal the rest.”

Thus we acknowledge the fact with lively interest and devout gratitude— “We have maintenance from the king’s palace.”

      II. Now, secondly, here is A DUTY RECOGNISED: “It was not meet for us to see the king’s dishonour.”

     No doubt you will see the force of the argument without need of much explanation. It is good reasoning: If they were fed from the king’s palace it was not meet that they should stand by and sec the king dishonoured. The reasoning comes home to us. If we are so favoured— we, who are believers— with such a choice portion, it is not meet for us to sit down and see our God dishonoured. And here I will notice some things which dishonour God, and which we are bound not to put up with.

     By every sense of propriety we are bound not to see God dishonoured by ourselves. It is well to begin at home. Art thou doing anything that dishonours thy God, professor— anything at home, anything in thy daily avocation, anything in the way of conducting thy business? Is there anything in thy conversation, anything in thy actions, anything in thy reading, anything in thy writing, anything in thy speaking, that dishonours God?

     Seeing that thou art fed from the king’s table, I beseech thee let it not be said that the king got damage from thee. If there be a traitor let him be found somewhere else, but not among the Lord’s own chosen. Thou art bought with blood: wilt thou trample on that blood? The Crucified One died for thee: wilt thou crucify him afresh and put him to an open shame? Thou wilt soon be where Jesus is. Wouldst thou blush to see his face and to stand in his presence? What, and shall it ever be said that thou dost bring dishonour upon Jesus? God has given thee a portion above the angels: and wilt thou fill the devils’ mouths with laughter, and cause them to have whereof to glory against God? That be far from thee, my brother! The Lord grant us grace to feel that if we are maintained from the king’s palace it is not meet for us to cause the king dishonour!

     Perhaps that dishonour may come from those who dwell under our roof, and live in our own house. I charge you that are parents and masters to see to this. Do not tolerate anything in those over whom you have control that would bring dishonour to God. Remember Eli: he did not restrain his sons, and they behaved shamefully. They were the minister’s sons, and because they were not restrained, therefore God overthrew Eli’s house, and did such terrible things that the ears of him that heareth thereof might well tingle. Joshua said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” We cannot impart to our children new hearts, but we can see to it that there shall be nothing within our gates that is derogatory to the religion of Jesus Christ. I charge you see to it. But you cannot control your children, you say. Then the Lord have mercy upon you! It is your business to do it, and you must do it, or else you will soon find they will control you; and no one knows what judgment will come from God upon those who suffer sin in children and servants to go unrebuked. No, if we are maintained from the king’s palace, let us not see the king’s dishonour.

     Let the same holy jealousy animate us among those with whom we have influence— as for instance, amongst those who wish to be united with us in church fellowship. It is the duty of every church to try, as far as it can, to guard the honour and dignity of King Jesus against unworthy persons, who would intrude themselves into the congregation of the saints, of those who are called, and chosen, and faithful. We are deceived, and always shall be, for the church never was infallible; but still let no negligence of our practice supplement the infirmity of our judgment. Because ungodly men will creep in unawares, we are not, therefore, to connive at their entrance. To allow persons to come to the communion-table who do not even profess to be born again, is a clear act of treason against the King of kings. To receive into our membership persons of unhallowed life, unchaste, unrighteous— of licentious life and lax doctrine, such as know not the truth as it is in Jesus — would be to betray the trust with which Christ has invested us. That must not be; and every church member is bound to do his best to guard the church against that which would render her unclean in the sight of God. If you are maintained from the king’s table, it is not meet that you should see the king’s dishonour.

     Under what sacred obligations do we stand to maintain the statutes and testimonies of the Lord. And, oh, how the king is dishonoured by the mutilation and misrepresentation of his word! Therefore, dear brethren, we are always bound to bear our protest against false doctrine. I am sometimes accused of saying sharp things. The charge does not come home to my conscience with very great power. If anybody said I spoke smooth things I think it would oppress me a great deal more. As long as there are evils in this world, God’s ministers are bound to protest against them. That man who, as he goes through the world, can say, “Hail, fellow, well met!” with everybody, and extol the modern Diana of charity— universal charity, false charity, charity towards the false— that man, when he comes to stand before his Maker, will find it hard to give in his account. In these days, when nobody believes anything, when everybody has subscribed to the belief that black is white, and white black, and colours are nothing at all but imaginary distinctions, it is time that somebody should believe something; and a little sharpness of speech might not only be excused, but commended, if we had but men who spoke what they did know, and testified honestly to the truth which they had received. Everyone here present, who is maintained from the king’s palace, is bound to fight against every doctrine which insults the king. When I see a man pretending to be a priest, and assuming that he has power to forgive sins and to dispense pardons and indulgences, were I not to do my best to unmask the deceiver and to speak against his imposition, I might be accounted accessory to his crime, chargeable with his guilt, and be made partaker of his condemnation. Therefore, let every Englishman, let every Protestant, and, above all, let every Christian, denounce priestcraft of every sort, and in every church, whether among Romanists, Anglicans, or Dissenters. Down with it! There is only one Priest, and he is in heaven; and none of us have any power to offer any sacrifice for sin, or any power to absolve our fellow-men. Whether ye accuse us of being censorious or not, the profanity appals us, the duplicity that is taken in by it amazes us; and the sincerity with which we love the gospel inflames us to make our protest heard. If we do not speak out about this crying perversion of the truth, we ought to be ashamed of ourselves! Then there be some in these days who deny the divinity of Christ; and there can be no terms of peace between us and them. I remember a remark of a Unitarian doctor, which I thought eminently correct. He said of a certain Calvinist, who was accused of speaking sharply against Unitarians, “Quite right; and so he ought, because if the Calvinist be right the Unitarian is not a Christian at all, but if the Unitarian be right the Calvinist is an idolator, because he worships one who is a man and is not the Son of God.” If what we hold be true, it is not possible that the man who denies the deity of Christ can be a Christian, nor can there be for him a hope of salvation. He deliberately refuses the only way of escape from the wrath to come. I can understand a man getting to heaven as a Roman Catholic, notwithstanding all his errors, because he believes in the divinity of Christ and relies on the expiatory sacrifice of his death, with whatever superstitions his creed may be overlaid; but I cannot understand, nor do I believe, that any man will ever enter those pearly gates who, in doubting or discrediting the deity of our blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, renounces the sheet-anchor of our most holy faith and dares to face his maker without a Counsellor, without an Advocate, without a plea for mercy ! It is time we said so, and spoke out plainly. This is no theme for trifling. Courtesies are thrown away upon antagonists whose cause is treason. Nor are we the men who should practise reserve; for if we are maintained from the king’s palace, we are cravens if we do not stand up for our king. Then there have been attacks made in modern times upon the doctrine of substitution. If the doctrine of substitution be not true, I am a lost man; therefore, tooth and nail, will I fight for it. No other hope beneath the skies have I, except in the expiatory substitution of the Lord Jesus Christ. If he did not suffer in my stead, the just for the unjust, then the flames of hell must be my portion. Therefore I can never give up that truth, for it is giving up my own salvation. But it has been revealed, and I cling to it with the most implicit credit. Do you tell me that “modern thought” assails it. How, and with what weapons, I ask? Is it with argument, with proof, or with any counter-suggestion? Oh, no, it is merely met with vague questionings, idle quibbles, and impertinent sneers— a style of answer that affects much, though it affirms nothing. I pray you, brethren, wherever you are, defend this fundamental doctrine of our most holy faith—that the Lord Jesus Christ has laid down his life to make atonement for the sins of his people. Or should we be confronted with any other form of false doctrine, or should we be haunted with any kind of scepticism — (scepticism! an anomalous thing, which is without form and void)— are we to stand with mealy mouths, and say, “Yes, brethren, you arc of that opinion, and I am of the other.” Nay, but opinion is light as a bubble, when judgment is pronounced by the supreme court from which there is no appeal. What, think ye? Is there no fact? Is there no truth? Is the word of God “yea” and “nay”? Has it come to this, that it is to be shuffled like a pack of cards, or shaped like a nose of wax, as every man may please? Oh, no! By the ever-living God there is truth somewhere, and that truth we will find out if we can; and, having found it, we will hold it fast. Let us, in the day of battle, use our standard; and if our arm be smitten off, we hope the standard will not fall, but that others will be found to hold it up as there were in the brave days of yore— when our fathers burned at the stake for these things, or went to the galleys, or perished amidst the Alps, sooner than the truth of God’s own word should be without witnesses among the sons of men! Bear none of these things in your hearts with tolerance; but hold fast to the things which ye have been taught, and hold them fast in faith and love to Christ Jesus.

     Those who have their maintenance from the king’s palace, ought not to allow the Lord to be dishonoured by a neglect of his ordinances. Brethren, I charge you who are believers, the Lord Jesus has given you only two symbolic ordinances. Take care that you use them well. Follow him in what he did, when he said, “Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.” Be baptised in his name. Follow him to the communion table. He said, “This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.” Be obedient, I pray you, to his gracious word, and suffer not the King’s precept to be trifled with.

     Again, if we are indeed his courtiers, let us take care that he be not dishonoured by a general decline of his church. When churches go to sleep— when the work of God is done deceitfully— for to do it formally is lo do it deceitfully; — when there is no life in the prayer-meeting— when there are no holy enterprises afloat for the spread of the Redeemer’s kingdom: then the world says, “That is your church! What a sleepy set these saints are!” O, let not the king be thus dishonoured. Brethren, bestir yourselves! May this church never settle upon its lees, or fall into slumber as it grows older. May God grant it may grow more earnest! May there be ever here regiments of stalwart men who shall fight for King Jesus, and not be ashamed; and may the church be full of life and vigour till Christ himself shall come. When we sleep with our fathers, may there be others found better than we are to maintain the cause and crown rights of King Jesus.

     And oh, dear friends! how can we tolerate it that so many should dishonour Christ by rejecting his gospel. We cannot prevent their doing so, but we can weep for them; we can pray for them; we can plead for them; we can make it uncomfortable for them to reflect that believers are loving them, and yet they are not loving the Saviour. If you are fed from the king’s palace it is not meet that you see the king’s dishonour with dry eyes; if you hear a man swearing in the streets, mourn and lament it; if you see the Sabbath desecrated, grieve over it; if you behold drunkenness, do not laugh at it; if you hear lascivious songs, do not smile at them. Everything that is evil should be painful to a believer, and it ought to be an incessant sorrow to us that souls are perishing.

“Did Christ o’er sinners weep,
And shall our cheeks be dry?”

Privileged as you are, beloved, you ought to love your Master, so that the slightest word against him should provoke your spirit to holy jealousy.

     III. Our last point is this, — A COURSE OF ACTION PURSUED “Therefore,” says the text, “have we sent and certified the king.” How shall we do that? Doubtless we act as it well becomes us, when we go and tell the Lord all about it? “Certified the king”! — but does he not know? Are not all things open to him from whom no secrets are hid? Ah, yes; but when Hezekiah received Rab-shakeh’s blasphemous letter he took it and spread it before the Lord. It is a holy exercise of the saints to report to the Lord the sins and the sorrows they observe among the people— the griefs they feel, and the grievances they complain of— to spread before him the blasphemies they have heard, and appeal to him concerning the menaces with which they are threatened. Yea, ye may report to the Lord the false doctrine that is preached, and the foul sophistry that is printed in these days. Such plain statements might become mighty pleas with God that he should arise, assert his cause, and do his own work. Lord, thou knowest that this day the deity of thy Son has been insulted: the inspiration of thy word has been denied; the power of thy Holy Spirit has been ridiculed; thine eternal love has been denied; thine infinitely blessed sovereignty has been scoffed at; the atoning blood has been made a subject of contempt. Arise, O God, plead thine own cause! Behold, all over the world men are mad upon their idols! They give themselves to this falsehood and to the other lie. O God of truth, arise and avenge thyself! Hast thou not said, “Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries”? Do this, then. Give glory to whom glory is due, and let not the name of Jesus be for ever cast out as evil by ungodly men. This ought to be the constant pleading of the church: “Shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him?” O, it ought to be. Day and night cry about all this. The sin of this London, oh, if we felt it, it would weigh us down; — the drunkenness of London, the lust of London, the oppression of London, the wickedness of every shape that reeks, as from a dunghill, from this great city! O God, wilt thou always bear it? Wilt thou not rise and change all this? Wilt thou not give power to thy gospel that a gracious reformation may be made? Tell the Lord about it! Certify the king!

     After those people had certified the king, they took care to plead with him. As I have already told you, they apprized him that the city of Jerusalem was a very troublesome city, and therefore it ought not to be rebuilt. Plead with God: plead with God: plead with God! That praying is poor shift that is not made up of pleading. “Bring forth your reasons,” saith the Lord. Bring forth your strong arguments. O, what prayers were those of John Knox, when he seemed to say to God, “Save Scotland for this reason— for that reason— for another reason— for yet one more reason,”— the number of his motives still multiplying with the fervour of his heart. So did he labour with God as though he pleaded for his life, and would not let him go until he had gained his suit for Scotland. Why, Scotland’s knowledge of the truth is due doubtless, beyond everything else to John Knox’s prayers, which even now are ringing in heaven. He “being dead, yet speaketh.” O, for men of that calibre and that mind in this country, thus to plead for London! O, what a gem would London be in Christ’s crown! If Christ had but London, surely out of this great city, which is the very heart of the world in many respects, there would go streaming forth rivers of health and life and blessing to the utmost ends of the earth. Spread London’s case, then, before God, and plead with the Most High. And when you have done it, do not go away and make your prayers into a lie by contrary actions, or by refraining from any action at all. He that prays hard must work hard, for no man prays sincerely who is not prepared to use every effort to obtain that which he asks of God. We must put our shoulder to the wheel while we pray for strength to put it in motion, All success depends upon God; yet he uses instruments, and he will not use instruments that arc useless and unfitted to the work. “And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves. But our sufficiency is of God, who hath made us able ministers,”— therefore let us be up and be stirring, for if we are maintained from the king’s palace, it is not meet that we see the king’s dishonour, but it is due to him that we should seek his glory.

     Now, I would that every one of you knew what it was to be maintained from the king’s palace; but alas! there are some here that have never eaten the king’s bread, and will be banished from the king’s presence if they die as they are. But, O remember, the king is always ready to receive his rebel subjects, and he is a God ready to pardon. “Kiss the Son lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way when his wrath is kindled but a little.” “Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” That is the way of reconciliation— to put your trust in him; and if you do put your trust in his dear Son, you arc reconciled to him; you shall be maintained out of his palace; and then, I trust, you will live to his glory. Amen and amen.



Royal Homage

By / Oct 20

Royal Homage

 
“And cast their crowns before the throne.” — Revelation. iv. 10.

 

THERE are a great many things we should like to know about heaven. Our curiosity has been excited full often to ask a vast number of questions, but after being excited, it has never been gratified, for God’s word has told us little about the details of that happy realm. I suppose the Lord thought it better to leave the future shrouded in mystery that we might think more of the common every-day duties of the life that now is. Hence the revelation he has made directs our faith to himself and to his dear Son, and does not distract our attention with descriptions of scene and circumstance into which our imagination would fondly rise. He has thus saved up the details about the next world until we get there, to make surprises of them, so that heaven might be all the brighter because it so infinitely exceeds anything that we had conceived. We are not told, for instance, where heaven is. There have been very learned conjectures about certain stars and constellations, which are supposed to be the centre of all the celestial system, and therefore may be the centre of the universe; and, therefore, the place where the throne of God is absolutely located, and the presence of God peculiarly revealed. When all is said, it is only “it may be,” and it is just as unlikely as it is likely. I regard such speculations as star-gazing to be idle and unseemly, impertinent and unprofitable— a pure waste of time, and perhaps worse. We are not told anything even about the social communion of heaven. We do know, or at least, we think we have abundant reason for believing, that saints know each other, that they are not like men in a great mass, indistinct and undistinguishable, but that there is fellowship among the saints, that Abraham is Abraham, and Isaac is Isaac, and Jacob is Jacob, and the redeemed ones from among men sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as such, in the kingdom of God. The New Jerusalem is said to have its streets, and streets imply intercourse, but there is little said about that — just an outline, as it were, such as an artist might make with charcoal — none of the filling up and the bright colours. We are told little of the food of heaven, or whether there is any — whether the bodies need aliment to feed on for their nourishment, and nectral draughts for their refreshment; albeit, when the manna once dropped from heaven men did eat angels’ food. And we are told little of the celebrations of heaven, whether the worship will be uniform, or whether there will be certain days joyous above the rest, high days, feasts and festivals, jubilees, and glorious times of the unveiling of God’s presence in sevenfold splendour, when the harps shall pour forth more melodious tunes! Of all these things we should like to have known something, but our heads cannot hold much. One thing would have pushed out another. Passages like this we could not spare — “The Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost.” Concerning such a sentence I will venture to say every single syllable in the verse is worth more than whole volumes about heaven might have been, though the Spirit of God might have inspired them — worth more for present and practical purpose to us who are yet among the sons of men. Are there any dear brethren who understand the Book of Revelation, the Book of Ezekiel, and the Book of Daniel? I am pleased to hear it. But if the Lord will help me to understand Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, I shall be perfectly satisfied to go on preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, for I think I shall get up to them by-and-by in their knowledge of prophecy and mystery, when I come into clearer light and see the Master face to face. Meanwhile, there are sinners to be saved. We must go about doing this soul-saving business in his name, with the simple means put before us in the gospels and epistles, which we are enabled to understand by the Spirit of God through our own personal experience of the truth revealed.

     Now, to-night, let us take a glimpse, just a glimpse, within the veil, such as our text affords us. We find the twenty-four elders (who, without straining the passage, we might conceive to be, and who doubtless are, the representatives of the church), sitting on their thrones before the august Majesty of God, with crowns upon their heads; and they are represented as casting those crowns before the throne of God.

     From this sublime picture I gather two things: — first, that these representative men, representatives ' of the church of God, will all be crowned — they are crowned heads; and secondly, that they all cast their crowns before the throne. When we have talked of these things, we will gather a few lessons of practical moment for this present life.

     I. Brethren, THE SAINTS IN HEAVEN ARE ALL CROWNED. I say, “all,” for these represent the whole. The four-and-twenty elders are represented as saying, “Thou hast redeemed us out of every people, and language, and nation,” so that they represent all. It may be that there are degrees in glory. It may be that there are none. I do not attempt to solve the question. But if there are, yet there is no degree below a crowned head in heaven. All the saints have their crowns. — “A crown of life that fadeth not away” is the very lowest portion of the very least saint who is admitted into glory.

     Now, how is it they come to be crowned? Our answer will be six-fold.

     They are all kings Dei Gratia. You know how our monarchs like to put it on their coins, “Dei Gratia” — “by the grace of God,” though I don’t know with what propriety; for on the whole about as graceless a lot of individuals as are to be found anywhere are kings and emperors and all hereditary rulers. If one were to take promiscuously half-a-dozen kings and half-a-dozen paupers, I think in respect to moral character the paupers would probably not have the most cause to blush. And I am sure there is a larger per-centage of the poor on earth than of the richest among men who are heirs of the kingdom of heaven. But what they take for themselves as being by the grace of God, everyone in heaven may say of himself truly. They are all kings by the grace of God. Ah! ask them and they will tell you it was the sovereign will of God alone that set them apart; it was the Lord, their heavenly Father, who chose them from among the sons of men that they should be his sons and daughters; and it was the grace of God which first led them to know anything about reigning with Christ. Grace came and enlightened their understanding; grace influenced their wills; grace changed their affections; grace made them to be heirs of heaven, and they will tell you it was grace that kept them where grace brought them; that they did not merely begin in the spirit to be afterwards made perfect in the flesh, but that as grace was Alpha, it was Omega. The Spirit of God which wrought in them mightily, made them diligent in every good word and work, and willing to be and to do according to God’s good pleasure. And every crowned head there will tell you that the very last act of faith before he entered into fruition, was as much based upon grace and as much the fruit of grace as was the first act of believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is not a king in heaven that has his crown on any other terms than this, “by the sovereign grace of God.”

     But, though it may seem astonishing, in the second place they are all kings by hereditary descent. “How?” say you, “They were born in sin and shapen in iniquity; they are of the fallen Adam, heirs of eternal misery.” Quite so, but they have been born again, and it is in their new nature that they are before the throne of God. They have been “begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” “Beloved, know ye not that they are the sons of God,” and though “it doth not yet appear what they shall be,” yet are they truly God’s sons, and, therefore, when Christ shall appear they also will appear with him in glory. There are none in heaven but God’s sons. The angels, it is true, are there, and they are his ministering servants; but there are none of the human race there that are merely servants. They are all sons. Some were prodigal sons, and some at times had got into the bad temper of the elder brother in the parable; but they are all sons, and they are there because they are sons. They have come to their crown by inheritance, as much as any Prince of Wales ever succeeded in this country to his crown. There is born in the image of God’s Son a new and peculiar race with heaven entailed upon them, an entail which hell can never spoil. They are kings, then, by hereditary descent.

     But, thirdly, they are kings by another right. They are kings by marriage alliance. There are some that come to royal dignity by being affianced and betrothed to kings. There is many a crowned head that would not have been so by descent, but has come to be so by being given in wedlock to a royal consort. Now the Church of God is the Bride, the Lamb’s wife, and, because he is crowned, therefore he will have it that his church shall be crowned too. He gave her himself; he gave her everything that he had; he relinquished heaven for her sake. He suffered on earth for her, bled on the cross for her, went into the grave for her, and now he will make her partaker of all he has. As he took all her shame, so she shall take her share in all his glory. He went to the cross for her, and she shall come to the crown with him. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple, because they are one with Jesus. Because he lives they live also; and because he as the only begotten Son stands ever in his Father’s love, therefore do they stand in the same.

     But fourthly (and you will think surely that all the rights in this world meet in these crowned heads, and so they do), they are kings by right of conquest and of victory. A crown should signify, and did signify in the olden times, struggling, battling, and contending. The first crowns, I suppose, were given to those who were the strongest men and had fought best in the day of battle. Well, we have already said that the crowns in heaven are all the gifts of grace, and yet at the same time it is true that those who have the crowns have fought for them: “These are they that came out of great tribulation.” It was not that tribulation procured them their crowns; still it seems to be a rule — the usual rule in God’s church— that those of his servants who are to be rewarded should work, and those who are to be crowned should fight. At any rate, if you and I suppose we shall get the crown without contending for it, we shall find ourselves mistaken. Canaan belonged to the Israelites: it was theirs by a covenant of salt; but they had to fight for it, and dispute every inch with the Hivite and the Canaanite and the Jebusite, and so must we. We shall get to heaven by God’s grace, but we must go on pilgrimage to get there. There is no chariot to carry us all along the road; we must foot it; we must climb the Hill of Difficulty, and go down to the Valley of Humiliation, and he that endureth to the end the same shall be saved. Master Bunyan’s picture of the bright spirits on the top of the palace who sang, “Come in! Come in! Eternal glory thou shalt win” — would not have been complete if he had not pictured the armed men at the bottom of the stairs who stood there to keep back any who sought to enter the house — would not have been complete without the description of the man of the grave countenance. The man with the ink-horn said, “Set down thy name,” and when he had put down his name, lie drew his sword and fought desperately until he seemed to die, yet by-and-by he was seen on the top of the palace for he had won the day.

“Lord, I must fight if I would reign,
Oh bear me safely through.”

They are kings then, because they have fought with sin and with temptations. They are not crowned without having contended for the victory; and you know how sharply some of them have had to contend, even unto blood have they resisted, striving against sin. Yea, the brightest and fairest of them have had to bear the brunt of fiercest persecutions, to fight with lions, to die at the stake, and through sufferings that cannot be told have they entered into rest.

     Then, fifthly, the crowned heads in heaven have their crowns, and their crowns befit them well, because of the nobility of their character. If honours were fairly distributed among men, we should not so often see the meanest spirit in the loftiest place. It is ever one of the hardships of this life. Of this the wise man complained — that he had seen servants on horseback and masters walking in the mire — the great spirits in the world in rags and the mean spirits clothed in scarlet — the men that deserved well lying at the gate licked by dogs, and the men that deserved ill faring sumptuously every day and clothed in scarlet and fine linen. Now it is not so in heaven. There, in heaven, nobility is given to the noble, and to the upright in character the reward of the righteous; for though it is not of debt, but of grace, yet the pure in heart shall see God, and they that are undefiled in the way shall inherit the blessing. O how bright those spirits are that are crowned! The crowns do well demean them: they are without fault before the throne of God. There is no infirmity about their character or imperfection about their constitution. If you should dwell with them a thousand ages you would never hear them speak an idle word, and if you could inspect their hearts with omniscient eyes you would not read therein one godless thought. They are sanctified perfectly, delivered from every taint of corruption, and now they are like their Lord himself in holiness of character. Well should they be crowned whose character has thus been made glorious by the work of the Spirit of God within them!

     And, once more, they have another right to their crowns, because those crowns represent real possessions. There are little princes in this world whose principalities are about as large as ordinary kitchen gardens, and they account themselves very great indeed. The man of great esteem is like John R. in English history, who had not a foot of ground. The less the man’s possession, often the man’s greater self-possession. But in heaven there are no pauper princes. There they are rich to all the intents of bliss. They have their crowns, but they have their kingdoms. All things are theirs — the gift of God — and God is theirs and Christ is theirs. They are clothed with honour and majesty — not outwardly only but inwardly — and they have all the concomitants that should go with royal dignity. Secmeth it not, however, like a dream, as one thinks it over and tries to realise it! Let us pause one moment and follow the reverie, to which a well assured faith gives substantial reality. You and I, if we believe in Jesus, will soon sit with Jesus, where we shall be crowned! We are poor to-day, obscure, and ignoble: we have no influence, it may be, and possibly are of little account among our fellows; but within a short time, perhaps ere this year or even this month shall have run out its anxious days, we shall be with crowns upon our heads spiritually. We shall be before the throne in spirit, and then by and by when the Lord shall come, we shall in body as well as in spirit sit there raised from the dead and made perfect for ever, enjoying the rank of kings and priests unto our God, for we shall reign for ever and ever! Can you conceive of it? Bunyan represents Mercy as laughing in her sleeve. Truly, as we think this over, one feels inclined to laugh for very joy of heart. Shall I wear a croton? Those who were despised and rejected of men and counted fools — will they be kings? Those saints that were made to lie in prison for their Master’s sake, and no names of ignominy were thought base enough for them — will they be kings? Will the angels be courtiers, while these humble ones, raised and changed, but yet the same, sit as kings in the midst of the courts of heaven, there to abide for ever? It will be even so! Come! If the head aches tonight, let the reflection that it will soon be crowned be a consolation to you. Come! If you have had much to worry you throughout the day, let the sweet thought that you will soon be where not a wave of trouble shall ever cross your peaceful breast, be a rich consolation to you. There is a throne in heaven that no one can occupy but you, and there is a crown in heaven that no other head can wear but yours, and there is a part in the eternal song that no voice can ever compass but yours, and there is a glory to God that would be wanting if you did not come to render it, and there is a part of infinite majesty and glory that would never be reflected unless you should be there to reflect it! Wherefore comfort one another with this, that ere long you shall be there! Because the grace of God has elected you, you have an hereditary right through the new birth; you have a marriage right by reason of union with Christ; you have rights of conquest as a warrior; you shall have the rights of character, for your character will be perfect ere long; and you have the rights of possession, for God has given you all that which goes with the crown.

     II. Well, now, secondly we come to a department of our subject which seems more easy to believe. Though they all have crowns, THEY ALL CAST THEM BEFORE THE THRONE. We Can well conceive that; for to many of us that would be the first impulse of our minds. If ever we get to those sacred heights we will do adoring homage, and if ever we receive any honours we will present them to him to whom all the honour is due. Why, then, ask ye now, do they cast their crowns at the foot of the throne? There are four answers which may very properly be given.

     The first, no doubt, is for the reason of solemn reverence. They see more of God than we do, therefore are they more filled with awe and thrilled with admiration. From what we — who worship, as it were, in his outer courts, and get but distant glimpses of his majesty and his mercy — from what we at present know of God we should be constrained to say, “Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory for thy mercy and thy truth’s sake.” But where God more gloriously reveals himself, and where his attributes are more clearly seen, no doubt there is more overwhelming emotion, and more intense reverence; hence at once, and of spontaneous impulse, the soul pays all the homage that it can before the throne of God. Methinks it would seem to them as though it could not be that they could sit with crowned heads in the presence of the King of kings. That head that once was crowned with thorns, when we see it adorned with the royal diadem, surely we should not bear to be crowned in the presence of such an one! For what are we, and what is our Father’s house? God has done all he can for us, yet what shall we be as compared with him, the infinite and eternal! and as compared with Christ, the ever-blessed who died for us? O, our reverence will always make us feel in the lowliest state of self-abasement at the foot of the throne!

     Moreover, they are no doubt actuated by sincere humility. Reverence to God always brings a humble opinion of one’s own self. Here below, beloved, we sometimes murmur at the divine will when his appointments cross and foil our inclinations. Were we more humble and less self-opinionated we should utterly distrust ourselves, and put implicit confidence in him. We should at once cast our wills at the Lord’s feet. Here we set up our own opinion in opposition to the revealed will of God. We should not do that if we knew ourselves, but we should lay our judgment at the foot of the throne. But up there they judge righteous judgments, and, knowing God and beholding his glory, they shrink into nothing and lay themselves at his feet — much more do they renounce their will. They feel, they know, they confess, that any honour or desert they have has been obtained through the grace of God — that they must fully, heartily, unreservedly ascribe to that grace that which they dare not arrogate to themselves.

     Doubtless, also, they do this for another reason, namely, because of their profound gratitude. They bless God that they are where they are, and what they are. If you ask those before the throne, they will tell you that not only do they owe their crowns to grace, but every single gem in their crowns. They have not one single star in their diadem but what the Lord put there; and there is not a single sparkle of any crystal sapphire that is in their coronet but what they may trace the flashing gleam to the sovereign grace of God. Therefore, how could they keep anything to themselves? Gratitude constrains them to lay their crowns where their crowns came from.

     And, above all, they are actuated by intense affection. They love their Lord, and loving their Lord they do anything to adore him. Self-denial is the name we give on earth to that grace which not only ignores but consumes one’s self in the fervor of zeal, in the passion of love. What word would answer for the like? — though the greater vehemence of those in heaven I cannot tell. They are glad to fling their richest goods, their choicest trophy, their most cherished treasure, at his feet: they love him so. Here we love ourselves, and cherish some fond attachment to our fellow-creatures also, and our hearts are stolen away by some earthly object, but there they love God intensely, continually, undividedly, without a flaw, and consequently they cast everything down before him, and they lay their crowns at his feet.

     As we see what they do, let us consider what we should do, and anticipate what we shall do when we join that august assembly. I would like to have a bright crown, bright with many gems of souls turned to righteousness, for they that turn many to righteousness shall shine as stars for ever; but I think the sweetness will be to have a bright crown to lay at his feet, not for the sake of wearing it but giving it, if thereby a saved one might give honour to his Saviour. You will notice they do not attempt to put the crown upon the Lord’s head. No, we cannot add to his splendour! He is infinitely glorious! Without creatures, without servants, without saints, he is glorious: we cannot add to his glory; we can but lay our crowns at his feet. We cast them at the feet, though we cannot put them on the monarch’s head. And would not we wish to have as bright a crown as possible, for the sake of placing it there. 0, fight, thou soldier of Christ, and bear hardness that thy crown may be a precious one. Pray, minister of God, that you may preach with all your heart and soul and strength, that your diadem may be a sparkling one. Dear sister in your tent, or dear brother out in the battle, be valiant for God; for we all agree in this, that, whatever the crown shall be, at his dear feet we cast it.

     III. Now I come to the practical lessons which these simple facts should teach us.

     There is at first sight a simple, obvious reflection, which will readily occur to the thoughtful hearer. By this text, we can know whether we are on the way to heaven or not; because no man goes to heaven to learn for the first time heavenly things. We must be scholars in Christ’s school here, or else we cannot be taken into Christ’s college above. If you and I should walk into some great cathedral where they were singing, and ask to be allowed to sing in the choir, they would ask whether we had ever learnt the tune, and they would not let us join unless we had. Nor can we expect that untrained voices should be admitted into the choirs above. Now, dear brothers and sisters, have you learnt to cast your crowns at the Saviour’s feet already? Have you been professors of religion for some years, and been honored in the Sabbath-school class, or in the ministry, and have you been enabled to maintain an upright character? Well, in some measure, you have a crown. Are you in the habit continually of casting that at his feet? Let me put it to you: — have you anything that you call your own to boast of? Have you some good things that you have done that you could speak of? Could you say, like one of old, “Lord, I thank thee that I am not as other men”? Have you been very good and industrious, very consistent and persevering, and do you feel you deserve a good deal of esteem and honour as an acknowledgment of your distinguished services? My dear friend, I am afraid you are learning a music that will never answer in heaven. There is no one in glory that ever says — “I have done well: I deserve credit and honour.” Quite the reverse. There the one music is, “Non nobis Domino!” “Not unto us, Lord! Not unto us!” Have you learnt that? Is that your spirit every day? O, I think I hear one say, “Yes, indeed it is; for I have nothing whatever that I can boast of. I cannot say that I lay my crown at his feet: I do not seem to have any.” Yet, very likely, the person who is saying that is the one who is serving God more zealously than any of us; for, it is the mark of God’s children that the more beautiful they are the more uncomely they think themselves; they that are very lovely themselves, all unconscious of their own attractions, can see a loveliness in others, while they perceive nothing to recommend their own character. When you yourself are mourning and lamenting that you are so deformed or so deficient, it is a mark that you are better than you think. The spirit that gives all glory to God, and takes no glory to itself, is the spirit that is on the road to heaven. May you judge yourselves by that!

     The next lesson, beloved, is a lesson of unanimity. Our text says they all cast their crowns before the throne. There are no divided opinions in heaven, no sects and parties, no schisms there. They are all in perfect harmony and sweet accord. What one does, all do. They cast their crowns, without exception, before the throne. Let us begin to practise that unanimity here. As fellow Christians, let us get rid of everything that would divide us from each other, or separate us from our Lord. I do not read that there was a single elder who envied his brother’s crown, and said, “Ah, I wish I were such an one as he is, and had his crown.” I do not read that one of them began to find fault with his brother’s crown, and said, “Ah, his jewels may be bright, but mine have a peculiar tint in them, and are of greater excellence.” I do not read ought of dissension; they were all unanimous in casting their crowns at Jesus’ feet. They were all unanimous in glorifying God. And it is high time we gave over congratulating ourselves, or censuring our fellow Christians. Rest assured there is something in the man you condemn, if he be a child of God, which condemns you, and you might do well to become a scholar of his in some respects. If any honourable rivalries occur among brethren, let both cast their crowns at the foot of the cross, or at the foot of the throne, and ascribe all to him who gave them. Those that have obtained the prize are unanimous in their ascription of praise. Do you ask the reason? I suppose, first, it is because their understanding is alike transparent. Here our understandings are divided: one cannot see this, and another cannot see that. There are a great many differences of opinion, though there is only one truth after all. The fault must be in our perception; and, doubtless, the blame may be distributed among us; but none the less does our allegiance to truth demand that we stand by our own convictions, or rather by God’s revelation. We cannot all be right: it is no use our professing that we are. When a person says, “You must give up this, and you must give up that, for the sake of charity,” they do but ask us to practise benevolence at the expense of honesty. What right have I to give up a truth? Truth is truth, and we must fight for it, and die for it, if need be. Every effort to promote union among Christians by compromise is treachery to the Most High. If you are right and I am wrong, contradict me; or if I am right and you are wrong, I will contradict you. Yet I will not outrage charity, I will rather cherish it. Is my opponent poor, I would supply his need without regard to his creed? Be he a Jew or a Papist, give him his civil rights. Let them benefit by our good works; but let us never connive at their evil. The way to unity is to find the truth out, and acknowledge it together. When we come to the word of God all of us, we shall come together; but any patching up, making this compromise and that unwarrantable concession, is all wrong. If it did lead to a unity, the unity would be worse than a division. In heaven the understandings are clarified and purified; they understand that their salvation is of grace, and they all cast their crowns at Jesus’ feet. Wesley does it; so does Toplady. The Arminian that preached doctrines that sounded like the will of the flesh, casts his crown as freely as the Antinonian who was wont to say, “It is of grace; it is of grace alone.” There are no differences there. They have come to see eye to eye, because they see with the eyes of the pure in heart who have been made to see God.

     But then they are all agreed in heart as well as in understanding. They love each other, and they love God: all their affections flow in one channel and in one direction. Hence unitedly they cast their crowns before the throne. Brethren, let us stick together closely in unity of judgment and heart. We have done so many a year to my marvel and astonishment. May the same Spirit of God who has made us a three-fold cord in our unity with Christ, keep us so in years to come, if it please him to spare our lives. May we in this church be like the four and twenty elders, always casting our crowns before throne.

     Once again, these redeemed ones in heaven teach us the true way of happiness. They set before us what perfect bliss is. You observe, it does not consist in selfishness. Never believe that possible. If a man says, “I shall make myself happy,” he will rather mar than make happiness for himself; but when he seeks the glory of God, he will be happy in the pursuit as well as in the attainment of his object. Did you ever go out for a day to enjoy yourself? If you went out with that intent I am sure you would find yourself hard to please; but if you went out to enjoy the society of other people, or to help them to enjoy themselves, you will most likely have been very well rewarded. There is no happiness beneath the clouds like the happiness of unselfishness. Strip yourself, and you clothe yourself. Throw money away, and you grow rich — I mean in a spiritual sense. To scatter is to gather; to give is to grow rich. It is a hard lesson for some minds to learn, but it is a lesson which Christ taught us. He saved others, but himself he could not save; and yet he has glorified both himself and his Father by that very sacrifice of himself.

     Happiness, again, consists in adoration, for these blessed spirits find it to be their happiness to adore God. The happiest days you ever spent are those in which you worshipped God most. If you are doing a great deal, but have your minds far off from God, your labour will be irksome, your spirits will flag, and you will lack the stimulus of his approbation. Mary was happy at her Master’s feet, because she was there adoring him. Mind you have much of Mary’s spirit, and adore God all day long, for that is the vestibule of heaven.

     But then they were not merely happy because they were self-denying and adoring, but because they were practical. They took off their crowns and laid them before the throne. And our joy on earth must lie in practically carrying out our principles. The best religion in the world laid by will be of no good. You shall only get joy out of it when you throw it into the wine-press in clusters and tread it in practical service. Cast your ability to do and to suffer, as well as the crown of your labour and patience, at the foot of your God; serve him with all your heart and wisdom and strength, and thus, thy self-denial and adoration being mixed therewith, you shall realise on earth as much as possible a foretaste of what the joy of heaven may be.

     O, that our souls may be always aspiring towards this blessed place where we are to dwell, proving the sincerity of our faith by fighting under God’s banner for the crown — by living in the spirit of adoption, whereby we prove our right to our crown by cultivating daily communion with Christ, whereby we prove our union with him by always ascribing all honour, power, and blessing to the Lord our God, whereby we anticipate the homage of heaven. Brethren and sisters, be not slack in worship. I am afraid we are. We are sometimes told that in the Church of England the most prominent thing in worship is prayers, and that we do not come together so much to pray as to hear a sermon. There may be some truth in the charge that is thus preferred against us, and if there be truth in it, do not let it be so any longer. But I hold that hearing a sermon is worship. If it be practically heard it is worship, and if it be applied to the soul, there is no higher adoration on the part of the entire man than listening to the truth which God will speak through the minister to our ear and heart. It is a part of worship, and a very blessed part too. But mind you make it so, and let it be so to us that while some worship within walls we worship everywhere, live worshipping, live adoring. Recollect, sermons are as it were but the wet block, but adoration is the great end of preaching. “Praying is the end of preaching,” says Herbert. So it is; but praising is the end of praying — the result which is to come out of it all. It is that for which praying exists, that God may be glorified. Pray God to help you to do so in every breath you draw, in every act you do. Let your common actions be a part of your holy, priestly life, and be priests and kings in your doings in the house, in the shop, in the bam, and in the field. The Lord bless you, dear friends.

     And as to those here present who know not Christ, ye will never be crowned, if ye abide in ignorance of Him, or in enmity against Him. Oh, that the Lord would change your hearts and lead you to the Saviour! May you see him crowned with thorns and trust in him, and then you shall come to be crowned with the royal diadem hereafter. The Lord grant it for his name’s sake. Amen!