Our Lord’s Humanity a Sweet Source of Comfort

By / Jun 22

Our Lord’s Humanity a Sweet Source of Comfort

 

“Then there came again and touched me one like the appearance of a man, and he strengthened me.”— Daniel x. 18.

 

WE are not able, as yet, to bear the full revelation of divine things. If any intellect had been strong enough, if any heart had been pure enough, to see the exceeding glory of the covenant angel, surely Daniel possessed such a head and heart; but even he fell upon his face, and was cast into a dead swoon, for he was unable to bear the sight of the man clothed in linen, whose “body was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning.” We ought to be thankful that our God has revealed no more. The word of God is as excellent in its darkness as in its brightness; had it unveiled more, its discoveries would have been no more beneficial, perhaps they had been less profitable. As it is, there is far more within this book than you and I have seen as yet, and we need not wish that more had been written. If we entertain such a desire, our loving Lord may silence us with the words, “I have many things to show unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.”

     It appears from our text that, when weighed down under a sense of the divine presence, the readiest method of consolation is found in the touch of a certain sublime, mysterious, human hand. I know it is very usual to say that the personage who appeared to Daniel was the angel Gabriel, but I cannot bring myself to believe that he is the angel of this chapter. Surely this glorious being was that uncreated messenger of the covenant who, though not born into our nature in Daniel’s day, yet took upon himself the similitude of a man for a time, as he had done before when on special occasions he appeared to others of the saints before his actual incarnation. Even if we grant that an angel was the person who touched Daniel, still the truth which I wish to bring out will be none the less clear, namely, that even if an angel should wish to comfort us, he must assume a visible human form, and he must lay upon us a sympathetic hand like our own, so that there shall be, at any rate, “the appearance of a man,” or otherwise we shall not be strengthened. If this be granted as a truth, I shall not insist upon the text immediately referring to Christ, but I shall take the general principle, and say this— that comfort is best brought to men by a man, and if we are to be strengthened, the touch of “one like the appearance of a man” is needed. Thence we may without difficulty rise to the reflection that it is ever to us the richest and highest comfort, as believers in Christ, that the Lord Jesus is a man; and when he strengthens us it is full often by laying his human hand upon us. He reveals his kinship with us, and our spirit is consoled and strengthened by a sense of his union with us. My one object is, by the Spirit’s aid, to draw water from the ancient well of our Lord’s humanity.

     The Son of God is also the Son of man. We none of us doubt his deity, and therefore we shall be able to spend all our time in this sermon in musing upon his manhood, and the joys contained in that truth. Jesus is God; but Jesus was born, Jesus lived, Jesus died, Jesus rose again, Jesus is in heaven, as a man. He is God and man in one person, but there is no confusion of natures; he is neither a deified man nor a humanized God. His Godhead is altogether Godhead, and his manhood altogether manhood. We must not divide the person, nor confound the natures. He is as truly man as if he were not God, and as truly God as if he had never assumed the nature of man. It is of his manhood that we are now about to speak; we shall not attempt to prove it, but shall simply endeavour to show how the touch of the hand of Jesus, the man, strengthens us.

     I. And, first, dear friends, does it not cheer us WHEN WE LABOUR UNDER A SENSE OF LONELINESS?

     If we are true to him, we are strangers and sojourners with him, as all our fathers were. Before his cross we find ourselves to be strangers in this land, even as he was; for as the world knew him not so it knoweth us not, and as it placed him without the camp so also does it make aliens of us. It is sweet to feel when walking the separated path, “I am a stranger with thee”— a stranger in the world as thou art, an exile as thou wast. In such solitude the manhood of Jesus is a delicious cordial.

     Some feel alone because they are the only ones of their house who serve the Lord. How you wish it were otherwise! It is your daily prayer that all your kindred may be followers of Christ, but they are not so; perhaps they openly oppose you, and make your life unhappy through their hard speeches. Well, there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. There is a brother who will hear what you have to say; nay, who knows all that is in your heart before you utter it. He is the antitype of Joseph, and he knows what it is to be separated from his brethren. Of all that ever lived he was the loneliest by far, and therefore he sympathises with the forsaken ones.

     The child of God as he grows in grace becomes more lonely under certain aspects, just as the higher mountains have fewer familiars, till Mont Blanc speaks to no equal in his awful height, but communes with himself apart. They that serve God much, and well, and draw near to his innermost presence, in that proportion draw away from men, as to deriving comfort from them. But, oh, there are no heights to which Jesus has not risen, no attainments which he has not surpassed. That glorious man is with you, with you in the singleness of heart with which you serve your God, with you in the perfect consecration which the Holy Ghost has given you, with you in the intimate fellowship of your soul with the Eternal Father. In your highest flight of ecstacy there is still a man at your right hand, saying, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God.”

     It falls to the lot of some Christians to stand alone in their contention for the faith. Mayhap there is made known to them what has not been revealed to others, or which, being revealed, others have refused to see, or seeing have been afraid to declare. In such cases true-hearted men find themselves standing very much alone, at least for a time. They have a treasure which others do not prize, and they are bound to show it, for to this end was the treasure placed in their earthen vessel. God has not committed it to them for themselves alone, but he has put them in trust with the gospel for the good of others, and they must speak it out. If when they do so they hear no sympathetic answer, but are met in the spirit of controversy and unkind rebuke, it is blessed for them to know that “the faithful and true witness” is the champion of every honest testimony.

     He stood alone as our atoning sacrifice, and into that loneliness we never intrude, but in all other work he is our companion, even he who is called “the man Christ Jesus,” and therefore we shall be cheered by his presence if we find ourselves without earthly helpers. Oh, if we had our choice between having an angel to live in our house always, and to know our secrets, or to have the man Christ Jesus to be our constant friend, we should not deliberate in our choice, but choose our Lord’s company at once. An angel would often afflict us; we should be afraid to confess our littlenesses to him, we should fear that he would think them meannesses. His unsuffering nature we should suspect of contempt, and we should be ill at ease in his presence; but such a feeling as that does not cross our mind when we have to deal with one who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. We know our Lord to be true man, and therefore we speak to him with familiarity, and make him our bosom’s dearest companion. Lonely one, take care that thou have no secrets apart from Jesus. Love thy loneliness rather than seek to escape from it, if it bring thee nearer to him. Thou wilt do well to be always ready for Christian fellowship, ay, and to seek it; but do not live on it, for fellowship with Jesus is sweeter than fellowship with saints. I know that fellowship with saints is poor stuff if it come not through fellowship with the saints’ Master. When communion comes from his hand, and we come to the feast in his company, then every brother who sits at the table adds to our enjoyment, but if we approach the table to see them, and forget him, then every brother adds to our discomfort, and forms another veil to hide the Lord. Cling to the Christ of the garden and the cross, and find, O lone one, thy sweetest joy in the thought that he is a man such as thou art. Sing thou with me those sweet lines, —

“When gathering clouds around I view,
And days are dark and friends are few,
On him I lean, who not in vain
Experienced every human pain.
He sees my wants, allays my fears,
And counts and treasures up my tears.”

     II. How sweet it is to feel the touch of the humanity of Christ WHEN WE ARE HUMBLED IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD.

     I know not, brethren, whether you are often favoured to behold the outshining of the divine glory, and to feel the inlettings of it into your own soul. This I do know: if you are so, you find it a wearing and breaking joy. If we had more of it, it might be a destroying delight, for “even our God is a consuming fire and when we come nearest to him, and best understand that he is love, the glory of that love overcomes us. We cannot eat much honey, neither can we endure much sensible enjoyment of the divine glory; I mean much comparatively, for of course it is much to us, but it is not much compared with what ho could reveal if we were able to endure it. Have you ever felt what it is to be as if you were not, to see your comeliness turned into corruption, your excellency all despoiled, and yourself not only lying low in the presence of God, but being as if you had no being at all, as if you had no separate existence in the presence of such wondrous majesty, such awe-inspiring love? You feel no dread, far from it, and no unhappiness, but the very reverse: yet you yourself seem gone, and God is all in all. A blessed extinction of self makes room for infinite love. There is not one covenant blessing but what, if we understood it, would have this humbling effect upon us. Every gift which God bestows upon his chosen, if rightly understood and truly grasped, would make us say with Abraham, “I, that am but dust and ashes;” or make us sit down with David and exclaim, “Whence is this to me? Is this the manner of man, O Lord God?” Now, at such times of self-annihilation it is strengthening to the mind, which is almost ready to expire beneath the load of heavenly glory, to feel the touch of that hand, and to perceive that he who is our God is also very near unto us. It is bliss to me to perceive that the Creator has become one with the creature, for Jesus Christ was born at Bethlehem. Jesus ate, and drank, and slept, and wept, and bled, and died, and now he sits at the right hand of the Father; and so, notwithstanding the awe which crushes me, I see an infinite condescension— nay, I perceive a near kinship, which draws me close to God himself; so that I say, “My Father,” and with the next breath, “My Brother, my Friend, my Husband, my Best-Beloved.” I wonder what we should have done if we had known so much of God, and had not known Christ! I suppose I am speaking paradoxically, and saying what I should not say, for we never could have known God except in Jesus Christ in such a way as we do know him: but if such a thing had been possible, it must have been destructive to us. But now, God in Jesus Christ, how blessed! God out of Christ we know nothing of, nor need we. Luther used to say, “I will have nothing to do with an absolute God.” Beware of attempting to deal with God apart from the Mediator, for no man cometh unto the Father but through his Son, Christ Jesus.

     Thus have we felt the touch of the human hand strengthening us when we have fallen prostrate under a deep sense of the glory of God.

     III. Thirdly, brethren and sisters, for here, perhaps, you sisters take precedence of us IN SORROW, oh, how blessed it is to feel the touch of the man’s hand!

     Pain of body is the portion of many of God’s people. They are seldom long without it. Weakness, constant weakness, keeps many of God’s precious ones tied to the bedchamber or to the house, and often the beloved means of grace are taken from them because of their inability to come up to the assembly of God’s saints. Others endure the affliction of poverty: with all their economy and industry they find it difficult to provide things honest in the sight of all men. Some true Christians are naturally of a sombre temperament, and to them even summer weather has a wintry aspect. The Lord has allotted to each one of his children a cross to carry, and his loving wisdom led him to do so. Those who are for the most part without trial are usually the weakest in the church of God, the least spiritual, the least instructed in experimental truth, and altogether the least grown in divine things. We have our sorrows, but have we not found by actual experience that the choicest consolation for sorrow is the fact that Jesus Christ knows all about it and is with us in it? How often has that verse rung through my soul like a trumpet-note to urge me onward when otherwise I should have retreated from the battle —

“In every pang that rends the heart,
The man of sorrows had a part;
With boldness, therefore, at the throne
Let us make all our sorrows known.”

     There is no abyss of grief into which Jesus has not descended. Sickness of body and pangs of soul, bereavement, poverty, scorn, slander, desertion, treachery— he knows all these things: malice, envy, contempt, and deadly hate, all shot their fiery darts against him. He has sounded the deeps of the ocean of sorrow. Did he not say that he was exceeding sorrowful even unto death; and did not the sweat of blood which encrimsoned his face show how terrible were the inward agonies through which his soul was passing? Prince of sorrow art thou, O Jesus! Emperor in the realm of woe, art thou, O Christ! Thou couldst say far more truly than the prophet of old, “I am the man that hath seen affliction.” Now, brethren and sisters, our bitter cup is sweetened, for his dear lips have touched the brim; nay, he has drained it to its dregs. Now, brethren, our hard sorrow is softened because it is only a piece from that loaf of which he ate the most himself. Well may we be satisfied to go through the valley of tears, for it is “the King’s dale,” and all along it we can track his footprints. We know them, for they show the marks of the nails! They are the footprints of the Crucified! Comrade with us in every grief and woe, he is always at our side when our hearts are heavy. He earned up to heaven the selfsame human heart which was pierced below, and there he remembers Calvary, and all the griefs he suffered on our behalf. He sympathizes with us still. I delight in that thought of one of our hymn writers, where he says,

“Yet even after death his heart
For us its tribute poured.”

After our Lord was dead his heart yielded blood and water for our sakes, so that after death he was still in sympathy with us. Still Jesus gives his heart to his people. Glory be to his name! Who among you will refuse to shoulder your cross now? Did you lay it down just now and say, “I can carry it no longer? I must give up in despair”? Why, he carries the heavier end for you. Put your shoulder to the burden which he consecrates by his fellowship. It will grow light when you think that he once carried it. When Alexander’s troops were on long marches, that which cheered them was that Alexander always walked as far as they. If they were very thirsty in the broiling sun, and if any water was to be found, of course, they brought it first to Alexander. Should they not first consider their king? But he nobly put the cooling draught on one side, and said, " As long as a sick man needs water, Alexander will go without.” This made each warrior strong, for his king fared as he fared. Let this strengthen us to-night. Jesus Christ puts his hand upon us, and says, " Fear not. I am with you in your sorrow. My heart is as your heart; therefore be of good cheer.”

     IV. I will not dwell long on any one thought, but leave you to dilate upon it. The fact that Jesus Christ is a man, such as we are, should greatly comfort us in ALL OUR STRUGGLES.

     It seems hard, this battle of life, this “contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints” this fighting against sin, this contention against inbred corruption, this warring against spiritual wickedness in high places; and we are apt to think sometimes, “Can we ever win? Is not the battle too difficult?” In such moments look at yonder man who sits upon the throne of God. He is the typical man, the representative to us of what manhood should be, nay, of what through his grace it is. He wrestled hard, as hard as you do, but he won the victory. You are tempted: does that cause you doubt? He was “tempted in all points like as we are,” yet he did not sin. Are you distressed by the contentions of godless men? " Consider him who endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be weary and faint in your minds.” The struggle is not so hard with you as it was with him, after all. You have an easier battle to fight, and you have the promise that, as your days, your strength shall be. Now, as he overcame, finding strength enough for his conflict, he is to you a living prophecy of what you shall do through him. Yes, brother, you shall trample sin beneath your foot, you shall take the strongholds of the adversary, and grace shall reign within your heart. The world, the flesh, and the devil, that trinity of evils, shall be overcome by you; you shall be a conquerer, nay, listen! “more than a conquerer through him that loved you.”

“As surely as he overcame,
And triumph’d once for you,
So surely you that love his name,
Shall triumph in him too.”

     “Did a man ever do that?” asked a bold spirit concerning some renowned achievement, “for if one man did it, another man shall.” It was a brave speech. But let us apply it to Christ for a moment. Did he, a man, live in the midst of this world amid fierce temptations, and did he come out of that scorching furnace with not so much as the smell of fire upon him? Then the eternal God can work the like in other men, and we may believe, nay, we may be confident, that the victory shall be unto us through the blood of the Lamb. Be of good courage, O sons of men, for the Son of Man has won the victory. Cast not away your confidence. Let not your swords be laid aside. Jesus, Jesus the representative man, has conquered, and therefore those who are in him, “strengthened with all might by his Spirit in the inner man,” shall conquer also. Herein is comfort.

     V. Further, brethren, in the fifth place, what a blessed thing it has been to look at the manhood of Jesus Christ AT TIMES WHEN WE HAVE BEEN DECEIVED IN OUR BRETHREN.

     Our natural tendency to idolatry tempts us to confide in man. Among religious people there always has been a tendency, much to be deplored, to lean a good deal upon men of eminence— upon ministers, leaders, and men of experience. We get a great deal of good from them, blessed be God, and, therefore, we conceive a high opinion of them, as indeed we may rightly do, if we attribute all that is praiseworthy to the God who gave it. But every now and then we pass beyond the proper confidence which a younger brother may place in an elder, and we pin our faith to the man’s sleeve, and make our hope in a measure dependent upon his sincerity. This is the peculiar sin of young Christians; but I have sometimes met with it in simple-hearted persons, even in extreme old age. The “dear minister,” the “venerable man of God” — they have looked far too much to him. Alas! there has come a discovery that man is only man, and that some men are not saints, though they talk in a saintly manner. There has been the explosion of a profession, the total casting down of an idol, and the breaking of it to pieces; and at such times the faith of many has been grievously staggered, and even those who are somewhat more established, have nevertheless received a grievous blow. We have seen Judas again, and Demas, and Hymenæus, and Philetus, and old Ahitophel, rising from the dead, and we have been filled with grief. At such times it is most cheering to remember that there is one man who will never deceive us. There is one who has not uttered a promise which he will not fulfil, nor won from us a confidence which he will not more than justify. It is such a blessed thing to see Jesus standing there: honesty, integrity, uprightness, righteousness incarnate; truth his very nature, with no sinister motives or selfish desires to make him subtle for his own gain, but altogether disinterested, living for the glory of God, and the good of his people. To get back into his bosom again, and to nestle there, and to feel— “Child, here is a heart that is ever warm with true love. Thou art safe here”— this is rest indeed. To get back to Jesus and say, “Now am I neither of Paul, nor of Apollos, nor of Cephas, but of Christ.” To hear the news of religious strife in this denomination and that, and, amidst the clashing elements of different ecclesiastical parties, to say, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity and, clinging to Jesus, to feel “But this is not vanity, this is reality, this is truth!” Oh, to keep with Jesus, brethren and sisters! — never to stir away from him, and to feel that the truth which you can trust, the integrity on which you can rely, is embodied in the man Christ Jesus. Is not man the meanest, beggarliest thing in all creation? Do you not feel him to be so when he deceives you? But, then, when you look at Jesus, how manhood rises in your esteem. After all, manhood is capable of something grand and glorious, and you bless the Lord Jesus who has by the sublime perfection of his character redeemed our nature from its frightful degradation.

     VI. Again: I hope I shall not weary you. Surely I may continue to draw out the silken threads of such a subject. Children of God will find the doctrine of Christ’s humanity to be wonderfully comfortable to them IN SEASONS OF DOUBT.

     Many of you are free from grievous doubts, and I would be the last to sow them in your minds. I love Cowper's picture of the poor woman with her pillow and bobbins, who only knew her Bible true, and left all the philosophies in the world to those who cared for them. But there is a class of disciples like Thomas, who think much, and are apt to doubt much; they do not love doubts, they hate them, yet their doubts, often go very deep, and undermine the most precious doctrines. The men are really stedfast in the faith, but it costs them many exercises and painful questionings. They ask, “How is this? and why is that?” Perhaps they have more brains than heart. I suppose many of us get into that condition, and, do you know, to me a sight of my Lord is my great security— a sheet-anchor which has held me fast in times of scepticism and doubt. I cannot doubt when I see him When I turn over the book and read his character I find it impossible to be a disbeliever. If any man invented the character of Christ, I will worship him: he must be divine to have created such perfection. It seems to me that if the life of Jesus were not a fact the very fiction would be a creation demanding perfect holiness in the inventor. Who but a perfectly holy being could have conceived a character like that of our Lord and Master? Every other character has its flaw. Man may be likened to a statue I once saw in Cambridge, which I think is in Trinity College library now— a statue of Byron. I remember looking at it from one point of view, and the gentleman who showed it to me said, “There, sir, there is the poet!” Yes, and a noble face it is, full of high thought, and rare imagination; and you admire the man. “Come round to this point,” said my conductor, “for there is the man who dared defy the Deity.” You could see at once the semi-maniac Byron, lost to all pure and devout emotion. The artist had sketched the duplicate man, the true Byron, a man both great and wicked. Now, if some artist able to exhibit the whole truth could thus set you forth in marble your friends might go to ever so many points, and say, “Beautiful! beautiful! admirable! commendable! lovely!” and so on: but when they came to some one point (and some of us may be very thankful that people do not get to that point generally) they would exclaim, “Alas,” and they would not like to say much more. They would feel the conviction that things are not altogether what they seem to be, and that flaws are discoverable in those they most admire. It is not so with Jesus. Survey him, before and behind, on the right and on the left. Come upon him at midnight; look at him in midday. Watch him as a child; see him as a man. Look at him alone; behold him in company. See him in his pomp as he rides through Jerusalem; see him in his shame as they hound him to his death. From every point he is perfect, absolutely perfect: you cannot improve upon him, you cannot hint at a fault in him. This is to candid minds a solid establishment, rendering it hard to be a doubter; and it becomes to believers who love their Lord and Master a blessed chain which holds them fast, so that they cannot give up the truth they have received, for they have not followed cunningly-devised fables. If Peter and James and John, when they saw their Lord transfigured, were established, so are we also when we view his human life on earth, for his whole career is the transfiguration of humanity: a wonderful display of how poor human nature’s garments can be made whiter than any fuller can make them— how the brightness of manhood can excel the glory of the sun at noonday. This consoles us amidst the battle of doubtful thought.

     VII. Further, dear brethren, how blessedly the touch of our Redeemer’s human hand COMFORTS US IN THE PROSPECT OF DEATH.

     Unless the Lord comes, “it is appointed unto all men once to die.” In the presence of death and the grave, when we really get to look at them, there is hardly one among us who does not begin to ask himself, “Is it all right?” Must we die? We shrink back; we cannot bear it. “Shall I rise again? If, after my skin, worms devour this body, shall I in my flesh see God? Does it seem likely? Is it possible? Can these dry bones live?” We have read the burial service many times, and heard it read over our friends, and we have thought that we believed in the resurrection; but when it comes to ourselves, and we are about to die, and sickness tells upon us, then we ask the question over again, "Shall we rise? And is it true? Is it surely true?” Often and often have I put myself through my paces over that question, and this is where I always land. I know that the man Christ Jesus rose from the dead. I am sure of that. How do I know it? No fact in human history was ever better attested, or even so well attested as this— that Jesus who was crucified did rise from the dead. The witnesses are so many. Read Paul’s summing up of the evidence in the Corinthians. He shows that sometimes Christ was seen by one disciple alone, then by twelve, and, on one occasion, at any rate, by five hundred witnesses at once. Jesus showed himself alive by indisputable proofs: we are sure that he rose from the dead. Well, then, I know that I shall do so; for the apostle, by inspiration, has put the two things together— “If Christ rose not, then is there no resurrection of the dead. But if Christ rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?” One man has broken from the prison of the grave, and therefore so will all who are like him. Brethren in the Gaza of mortality, we shall escape from this city, for our Samson rose in the morning, and took away the gates, posts and bars and all, and carried them to the top of the hill. The gates of the grave are open: pass ye through, ye redeemed of the Lord! He has rent away the bars of the sepulchre, it is a dungeon no longer. The tomb is now a bedchamber wherein you shall sleep a little while, till your body shall be prepared for the Lord’s embraces.

“What though our inbred sins require
Our flesh to see the dust,
Yet as the Lord our Saviour rose,
So all his followers must.”

     VIII. Once more. Children of God, the manhood of Christ ought to be a great comfort to you WHEN YOU ARE SEEKING TO DO GOOD AMONG YOUR FELLOW MEN.

     This is an awful world this world of human beings. If you ride along the main streets, London looks to be a very respectable city, but just go down the side streets, and from these turn into the courts and alleys. Enter Jack Ketch’s warren, or Tiger Bay. Visit those regions where the means of livelihood are sin, where drunkenness is the chief delight, where debauchery has ceased to be pleasure, and has become an occupation, where every villainy is transacted unblushingly. Oh, God! When we think of what humanity is even where Christianity keeps it within bounds, and then think of what it is when left to itself to bow down before blocks of wood and stone, and offer orgies of vice as the adoration of God, we might justly say, “Oh, it is a foul thing! Let it alone! It scarce deserves pity.” If we could but entertain the comfortable notions of the Corinthian brethren, and believe that the world is not to be converted, how easy we might be. We could sit down and care no more for this poor earth, because the Lord Jesus is coming and the thing will end, and there is nothing for us to do but to pull here and there a man off the sinking ship, for the kingdoms of this world are never to become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and he is never to have dominion from sea to sea, at any rate not by the ordinary method of the proclamation of the gospel, and we may as well go to bed and enjoy ourselves, for effort is needless where success is hopeless. So they tell us, and if I could believe them I could sleep more soundly at nights. But I believe that the world is to be converted to God, and that here on this battle-ground, and by the same weapons with which the fight began, the conflict will be fought out to the glorious end, and sin shall be trodden down by the Lord’s people, who will win the victory through his blood. Still look at fallen human nature. Whitefield used to say that it was half beast and half devil. He was very near the mark; but I question whether both beast and devil are not slandered by being compared with man when he is left to himself. Fallen man is a horrible creature, and each one of us may see a specimen in his own natural heart. But, oh, brethren, let us gird up the loins of our minds and be encouraged. Let us look beyond the fall, and see what humanity once was, and what it may yet become. Jesus took human nature upon him, and thereby did it the highest honour: an honour which has more than rolled away its reproach. Though free from sin, yet his nature was human; and in assuming such a nature Jesus showed the store which he set by our race. He thought it worth his while to live, to suffer, to bleed, to die, for such poor things as we have been speaking of. He thought it worth his while to preach to a woman who had had five husbands, and was still living in sin; worth his while to permit his feet to be washed by a woman who had been a sinner; worth his while to mix 'with tax-gatherers and sinners— the common vulgar people of the great cities, for he was a physician, and he had come to heal the sick.

     Never let us give way for a solitary moment to the proud feeling that anybody is below us, or that any human being is so mean that he is not worth looking after, and so bad that it is really of no use to hope to benefit him. Have I not heard it insinuated with regard to fallen women, “Oh, it is very melancholy work to have to do with them, and probably it would be better to let them alone”? “And these children in the streets,” say some, “these waifs and strays— would it not be better to let those eminent Christian dignitaries, the parochial authorities, instruct them in the poorhouse? Would it not be better to let the grosser evils alone? They are so hideous. Drunkenness, poverty, uncleanness— they so abound in this great city that one runs great risks and undergoes much pollution in coming near them.” Very superior beings sometimes talk in this fashion. I mean rather to say that conceited coxcombs thus speak. Is there one being on the face of the earth so degraded that you and I might not have been more degraded still if the Lord’s grace had been withheld? Does there live on the face of the earth one incarnation of wickedness that can possibly excel what we might have been if exposed to the same influences and denied the restraints of love? How, then, can we talk of sinners as being beneath us? Jesus Christ stoops indeed, but for you and for me it is almost impossible to stoop, for we are already down so low that we are near to the very lowest, and there is no great stoop possible on our part. This always cheers me. If my Master would give me a house full of convicts who had been imprisoned many times, and given over as hopeless, I should feel great confidence in preaching the gospel to them, because I should think, “Now, I am in the very place in which my Master would have chosen to fix his pulpit.” Did he not come to save us, who are convicts, under the law of God? And, if he has done that, let us never despair of the worst of felons. Never despair of a creature for whom Jesus died. Never despair of a creature the like of which you may see by myriads before the eternal throne, singing, “We have washed our robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” City missionary, Bible woman, brother, sister, you who work among the lowest of the low, let the Master’s hand touch you and afford you strength.

     Now, I have done when I have said a few inviting words to those here present who do not know much of the Redeemer, and have not yet believed in him.

     Do you feel yourselves guilty before God? Do you wish for mercy? Come, then, and come directly, for Jesus Christ, a man like yourselves, invites you. Remember, you cannot go to God without a mediator, but you may go to Christ without a mediator: you may go just as you are. You want no introduction to Jesus. I know that you can go and tell another man like yourself your sin, for some are so foolish as to do so. They confess their sins to the priests, as Judas did, but you know Judas then went and hanged himself, which was a very likely thing to do after such a confession. But if you will go and tell your sins to Jesus, who is a man, and something more than a man, he will hear your story, and it will not pollute his ear. He will listen to it, and he will do more; he will absolve you effectually. Have you not felt now that you have grown up to be big fellows, that you wished you were boys again, so that you could go at night and tell mother all that you had done wrong during the day, so that mother might kiss you, and you would go to bed feeling that everything was right again? Well, there is no mortal to whom you can go for such forgiveness now, but the Lord Jesus Christ will be to you all that your mother was to you when you were a child. Go and tell him all about it, and ask him to wash you in his blood, and cover you with his righteousness, and he will forgive you as freely as your own kind mother would have done. Jesus Christ will feel for you, for he knows all your temptations, and weaknesses. If there is any sort of excuse to be made for you, he will make it: he did that for his murderers when he said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” For that which cannot be extenuated at all he has something a great deal better than an excuse— namely, his own atoning sacrifice. He will tell you, “Simply trust me, and I will save you.” Do not be afraid to come and tell him all your case. He will not spurn you. Did he ever spurn a sinner yet? The dogs eat of the crumbs under his table, and he never drives them away. Dog of a sinner, you may come to his feet, and he will make something better than a dog of you. But you tell me, “the man Jesus is in heaven.” So much the better, for if he were here on earth in this Tabernacle, then he would not be over in Seven Dials and Golden Lane, and over in north and east London, or away there in Scotland and Ireland, or across the seas; but, being in heaven, he is within equal reach of us, wherever we may be; and whoever darts a thought after him, or a wish towards him, above all, whoever trusts him, shall find in him eternal life.

     Sinner, you have not to deal with an absolute God; you have to deal with God in Jesus, the man. Come, then, to him, for he has come to you. The ladder, Christ Jesus, you know has its foot on earth, and its top in heaven; the higher we ascend the more we shall delight to think of the glory of Christ, but our first business is to think of the foot of the ladder, and I want you to-night to know that its foot stands on earth, just in front of you. Jesus was such as you are; not sinful, that he could not be; but in all else like you— poor, and suffering, as you are. Now, put your foot on the first rung of the ladder, his manhood, and his bloody sacrifice upon the cross. Trust that, and you shall climb till you ascend where the full deity of the incarnate Saviour blazes forth; and you shall rejoice in his second advent, and all the splendours of his future reign. To-night you may leave those higher things alone. Begin at the bottom of the ladder, and commence to climb. The Lord help thee! The Lord bless thee! May he lay his hand on thee at this moment, poor sinner! That will melt thy heart, that will cheer thy spirit, that will give thee life from the dead. May he do it for his name’s sake. Amen.



The Best Burden for Young Shoulders

By / Jun 22

The Best Burden for Young Shoulders

 
“It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.” — Lamentations iii. 27.

 

YOKE-BEARING is not pleasant, but it is good. It is not every pleasant thing that is good, nor every good thing that is pleasant. Sometimes the goodness may be just in proportion to the unpleasantness. Now, it is childish to be always craving for sweets; those who by reason of use have had their senses exercised, should prefer the wholesome to the palatable. It ought to reconcile us to that which is unsavory when we are informed that it is good! A little child is not easily reconciled that way, because, as yet, he cannot think and judge; but the man of God ought to find it very easy to quiet every murmur and complaint as soon as he perceives that, though unpleasant, the thing is good. Since, my dear friends, we are not very good judges ourselves of that which is good for us, any more than our children are, and since we expect our little ones to leave the choice of their diet with us, will it not be wise of us to leave everything with our heavenly Father? We can judge what is pleasant, but we cannot discern that which is good for us, but HE can judge, and therefore it will be always well for us to leave all our affairs in his hands, and say, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Since we are quite certain upon Scriptural authority that whatever the Lord sends to his people will work out their benefit, we ought to be perfectly resigned to the Lord’s will; nay, much more, we ought to be thankful for all his appointments even when they displease the flesh, being quite certain that his will is the best that can be, and that if we could see the end from the beginning it is exactly what we should choose, if we were as wise and good as our heavenly Father is. Our shoulders bow themselves with gladness to the burden which Jesus declares to be profitable unto us: this assurance from his lips makes his yoke easy to bear.

     Our text tells us of something which, though not very comfortable, is good — “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.” The illustration is drawn from cattle. The bullocks have to bear the yoke. They go in pairs, and the yoke is borne upon their shoulders. The yoke is somewhat burdensome. If the bullock is not broken-in when it is young it will never make a good ploughing ox. It will be fretted and troubled with the labour it will have to do; it will be very hard work to drive it, and the husbandman will accomplish but little ploughing. It is good for the bullock to be brought into subjection while it is young, and so it is with all sorts of animals: the horse must be broken-in while he is a colt; and if a certain period of that horse’s life be allowed to pass over without its being under the trainer’s hand, it will never make a thoroughly useful horse. If you want to train a dog you must take him while he is young, and teach him his work. That is the metaphor. It is just so with men. It is good for us that we be broken-in while we are yet young, and learn to bear the yoke in our youth.

     If you take the text naturally as uttering a truth of ordinary life, it is still worth considering. Even apart from the grace of God, and apart from religion, it is a great blessing for a man to bear the yoke in his youth! that is to say, first, it is good for us when we are young to learn obedience. It is half the making of a man to be placed under rule, and taught to bear restraint. When young people grow older they will have to be very much a law unto themselves, there may be no father living to warn them lovingly, and no mother to guide them gently; young people will be older people, and govern themselves, and no one is fit to do that till he has learned to be obedient. The proverb is, “Boys will be boys,” but I do not think so, — they 'will be men if we let them have time, and unless they learn self-restraint and habits of obedience while they are boys, they are not likely to make good men. He who cannot obey is not fit to rule: he who never learned to submit will make a tyrant when he obtains the power. It is good that every child should be broken in, delivered from his foolish self-will, and made to feel that he has superiors, masters, and governors, and, then, when it shall come to his turn to be a leader and a master he will have the more kindly fellow feeling to those who are under him. Be you sure of this, that if he does not learn the drill of obedience he will never be a good soldier in the battle of life.

     It is good for young people to bear the yoke, too, in the sense of giving themselves in their early days to acquire knowledge. If we do not loam when we are young, when shall we learn? Some who have begun to study late in life, have yet achieved a good deal, but it has been with much difficulty. If you do not use the machinery of the mind in youth, it gets rusty; but if it is used from the very first, and kept continually in action and well oiled, it will go on easily throughout the whole of life. Our early days are favourable to the acquirement of knowledge, and every lad that is an apprentice should make the best of his apprenticeship: he will never make much of a journeyman if he does not. Every man that is starting in life, while he is yet young should do all that he possibly can to acquire a full equipment, for if he does not he will know the miss of it sooner or later. If a man starts upon life’s voyage and has left his anchor at home, or forgotten his stores, he will find out his deficiencies when he gets to sea; and when the storm begins to howl through the cordage he will wish that he had listened to the dictates of prudence, and had been better prepared for life’s perilous voyage.

     It is good for young people, too — we are now talking about the natural meaning of the passage — good for them that they should encounter difficulties and troubles when they begin life. The silver spoon in the mouth with which some people are born is very apt to choke them. There are hundreds of people who have never been able to speak out because of that dreadful silver spoon. It is not every man that is the richer in the long run, even in mere gold and silver, for having commenced with capital. I believe you will generally find that the rich men who have been “self-made,” as they call it, came to London with a half-crown in their pockets; I have noticed that thirty pence is about the amount they leave home with; and that half-crown, neither less nor more, becomes the nest egg of a fortune. Young men who begin with thousands of pounds often end with nothing at all. It is good for a man that he should have a rough battle when life begins, that he should not be lapped in dainty ease, and find everything arranged according to his will: he will never develop his muscle, he will never make a man, unless there is hard work for him to do. Those long hours, that stern thinking, those weary bones, and all that, of which young people nowadays are very apt to complain, though they do not work half as hard as their fathers, nor above a tenth as hard as their grandfathers — all these things within reason and measure help to make men, and I only hope that the easier times, which are now happily in fashion, may not breed a softer and a less manly nature among our young men. It is good for a man that he should bear the yoke of labour, trial, and difficulty in his youth, and if we could lift the yoke from every weary shoulder it would not be wise to do so. Many a man who has succeeded in life is very thankful to God that he had in his early years to bear a little poverty, and to work hard and toil, for he never would have come to be what he is if it had not been for the strengthening and educating influence of trial.

     It is not, however, my business to preach about these matters at any length; I am not a moral lecturer, but a minister of the gospel. I have fulfilled a duty when I have given the first meaning to the text, and now I shall use it for nobler ends.

     I. First of all, IT IS GOOD TO BE A CHRISTIAN WHILE YOU ARE YOUNG. It is good for a man to bear Christ’s yoke in his youth.

     I shall not ask you to pardon me if I here speak as one who has tried and proved it. Surely I may do so without egotism, for it is not mine own honour, but God’s, that I shall speak of. What the Lord has wrought in me, of that I will speak. At fifteen years of age I was brought to know the Lord, and to confess him, and I can therefore speak as one who bore the yoke in his youth; and, young people, if I have never to address you again, I should like to say to you, it has been good for me. Ah, how good I cannot tell you, but so good that I earnestly wish that every one of you would bear my Master’s yoke in his youth: I could not wish you a greater blessing.

     For, see, first, the man whose heart is conquered by divine grace early is made happy soon. That is a blessed prayer in the psalm, “O satisfy us early with thy mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” Very few people, if they understood it, would wish to postpone happiness. Young hearts generally ask to be happy now. To have sin forgiven is to be unloaded now of that which is the prime cause of sorrow. To receive the righteousness of Jesus Christ by faith is to be clothed with peace now. To be reconciled to God is to have a spring of consolation within your soul now. To know yourself to be God’s child is to have the greatest joy out of heaven, and to have it now. Who would wish to postpone it? Young Christians may die, but it is of small consequence if they do, for being early in Christ, they will be early in heaven. Who would not wish to be safe as soon as possible? Who desires to tarry in the land of peril, where a point of time, a moment’s space, may shut you up in hell? To be early secured from the wrath to come — early endued with a sense of security in Jesus Christ — why surely it does not want many words to prove that this is good!

     Besides, while early piety brings early happiness, let it never be forgotten that it saves from a thousand snares. There are things which a man knows, who has lived long in sin, which he wishes he could forget! God’s grace rinses your mouth after you have been eating the forbidden fruit, but the flavour is very apt to linger, and to return. Songs which are libels upon God and upon decency, once heard, will attack you in the middle of a prayer; and words which, if you could forget them, you might be willing to lose your memory for that purpose, will invade your most hallowed seasons. It is a great mercy that if a man be seventy or eighty years of age, yet if he shall believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, he shall be saved! Eleventh hour mercies are very sweet. But what a double privilege it is to be set to work in the vineyard while yet the dew is on the leaves, and so to be kept from the idleness and the wickedness of the market place in which others loiter so long.

     It is good for a man to bear Christ’s yoke in his youth because it saves him from having those shoulders galled with the devils yoke. It preserves him from the fetters of that pitiful slavery into which so many are brought by habits long acquired and deeply seated. Sins long indulged grow to the shoulders, and to remove them is like tearing away one’s flesh. Be thankful, young people, that the Saviour is ready to receive you while you are yet young, and that he gives you the promise, “They that seek me early shall find me.” Happy they who entertain the Redeemer in the morning, and so shut out the evil spirit all day long.

     There is this goodness about it, again, that it gives you longer time in which to serve God. If I were taken into the service of one whom I loved, I should like to do him a long day’s work. If I knew that I could only work for him one day, I should strive to begin as soon as the grey light of dawn permitted me to see, and I would continue at work far into the evening, cheerfully active, so long as a glimmer remained. If you are converted late in life you can only give to our Lord Jesus the shades of evening. Blessed be his name, he will accept eventide service; but still, how much better to be able to serve the Lord from your youth up, to give him those bright days while the birds are singing in the soul, when the sun is unclouded, and the shadows are not falling; and then to give him the long evening, when at eventide he makes it light, and causes the infirmities of age to display his power and his fidelity. I think I know of no grander sight than that of a grey-haired man who has served the Lord Jesus from his youth up.

     There is this goodness about it yet further, that it enables one to be ivell established in divine things. “They that are planted in the courts of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.” A tree transplanted takes a certain time to root, but when it becomes well established it produces abundant fruit. There must be time for striking root in divine things; everything in the kingdom of grace is not to be learned in ten minutes. I bless God that a man who has believed in Jesus only one second is a saved man; but he is not an instructed man, he is not an established man. He is not trained for battle; nor tutored for labour. These things take time. When we are converted we go to school to Christ, we sit at his feet and learn of him. Now, who is the best scholar? All other things being equal, I should expect to find the best scholars in the school to be those who come early. Eleven o’clock scholars do not learn much; evening scholars, with a good master and great diligence, may pick up something, but scarcely so much as those who have been at the school all day. Oh, how blessed it is to begin to know Christ very early, because then you can go on comprehending with all saints the heights and depths of that which surpasseth knowledge. No fear that you will ever exhaust this knowledge; it is so infinitely great and blessed, that if we lived seven thousand years in the world, there would still be more to know of Christ, and we should still have to say, “Oh, the depths.” We need not be afraid, therefore, that if we are converted when we are ten, or fifteen, or twenty years of age, we shall live to wear out the freshness of religion. Ah, no, we shall love it more and understand it better, and by Gods grace practice it more fully as the years roll over us. Hence it is so good to begin soon.

     And then, let me say, it gives such confidence in after life to have given your heart to Jesus young.

     I am glad to see some boys and girls here to-night. Now, my dear children, God may spare you to become old men and old women, and when your hair is grey and you are getting feeble, and you know that you will soon die, it will be very delightful to be able to say, “O Lord, I have known thee from my youth, and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works. Now also when I am old and grey-headed, O God, forsake me not.” There will be much force in the plea, for if we have a faithful servant, we do not cast him off when he grows old. “Ah,” you say, “he cannot do much now. The old man is getting very feeble, he cannot see or hear as he used to do, and he is slow in his movements: but, then, you see, the good old fellow has been in our family ever since he was a boy, and you do not think we are going to turn him off now?” No, the Lord will not cast off his old servants. He will not say to them “I have had the best of you; I have had your young days, and I have had your middle life, but now you may go begging, and take care of yourself.” No, that is how the Amalekite or the Ishmaelite might talk, but the God of Israel never forsakes his people. He says, “Even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you; I have made; and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.” O, you who have given yourselves to Jesus through his rich and sovereign grace while you are young, I know you feel it a sweet plea to urge with God — “Now, Lord, forsake me not.” So, then, young people, if you would lay by a precious treasure of consolation when those that look out of the windows are darkened, if you would have strength for the time of weakness, if you would have comfort for the day when the mourners go about the streets, if, above all, you would be supported when you are going to your long home, yield yourselves to Jesus now. Oh, that this very night you may bow your shoulders to the easy yoke of the meek and lowly Saviour; so shall you find rest unto your souls.

     II. I shall now give another meaning to the text; may the Holy Spirit bless it. Secondly, IT IS GOOD FOR YOUNG CHRISTIANS THAT THEY BEAR THE YOKE OF JESUS. What do we mean by that?

     Two young lads were not long ago converted to God; one of them attended here, the other at another place of worship. They talked to each other about what was right way of confessing Jesus Christ: they did not quite know, but they meant to find out. They borrowed the keys of a neighbouring Independent chapel, and went inside and spent some hours day after day reading together the New Testament, and turning to every passage which refers to baptism. The result was that they both of them came and were baptized in this place. I wish that all Christians in commencing would look at that ordinance, and at every other point in dispute, and see what is God’s mind about it. Search the Scriptures and see for yourselves. Do not say, “I have always been with the Episcopalians, and therefore I ought to do as they do at church.” Or “I have always been with the Baptists,” or “with the Wesleyans.” My dear friends, these people cannot make rules for us. Here is our guide — this Bible. If I want to go by the railway, I use Bradshaw, and do not trust to hearsay; and if I want to go to heaven I must follow the Bible. There is another book which people will ask you to attend to. Well, we will say nothing against that book, only it is not the book. The book is this volume, the blessed Bible. You should begin by feeling, “My Lord has saved me; I am his servant, and I mean at once to take his yoke upon me. I will, as far as ever I can, do what he would have me do. There are some sins into which I shall most likely fall. Watch as I may, I shall sometimes make a slip, but here are some things which I can be right about, and I will take care that I am right about them.” Now, if you young people begin conscientiously studying the word, and desiring in everything to put your feet down where Christ put his feet, I am sure it will be good for you. You will grow up to be healthy Christians, and men of no ordinary stature. But if you do not begin with searching the word, but take your religion at second-hand from other people, and do what you see other people do, without searching, why, you will lack that noble independence of mind and courage of spirit, and, at the same time, that complete submission to Christ, which make up the main elements of a noble-minded Christian.

     It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth, in the next place, namely, by attaining clear instruction in divine truth. We ought to go to the Lord Jesus Christ to learn of him, not merely about ordinances and actions, but about what to think and what to believe. Oh, how I wish that every one of us had begun, with regard to our doctrinal sentiments, by presenting our minds to Christ like a sheet of clear paper for his Holy Spirit to write the truth thereon. Alas, we begin with many a line upon us written by the pen of prejudice. Dear friend, if you are converted to God, you are now to sit at the feet of Jesus, to learn everything from him — not to take your views to him. Those are common expressions, “my views,” and “my opinions,” and “I am of such a persuasion.” Beloved, be persuaded by Christ, for that is the only persuasion worth following. Take your views from him: no other views of eternal and heavenly things are worth having. “Oh,” says one, “but then they might not happen to be your views.” Just so, and I do not ask you to take my views; on the other hand I charge you before God never to believe anything because I say it, but to hearken only to my Master, and yield your faith only to the infallible book. We urge this upon you because, even if you believe the truth because we say it, you have not believed it in the right way. Truth is to be received because it is true, and because Jesus Christ’s authority proves it to you to be true, not because any poor mortal who happens to preach is supposed to possess authority to decide such questions. We have no authority to assert anything to be truth upon our own ipse dixit. We are simply the trumpets at the lips of Christ when we speak with power; and sometimes, alas, we blow our own trumpets instead of leaving Jesus Christ to blow through us, and then we are worse than useless. I charge you bear the yoke in your youth by studying hard to know what is the way, and the truth, and the life, from the lips of Jesus Christ himself, being taught of the Spirit of God. It is good for you to do this.

     It is good for young converts also to tear the yoke by beginning to serve Jesus Christ early. I like to see the mother when she brings her little one to the house of God put the penny into its hand, and teach it early to contribute to the cause of Christ; and when people are converted there is nothing like their having something to do very soon. Not that they are to attempt to do the major things which belong to the more advanced and instructed; for, concerning some of these, we should apply the rule, “Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil.” But there is work for every believer to do in Christ’s vineyard. There is work for children, there is work for young men, work for young women, and it is good to begin early. The Lord Jesus Christ, who was so pleased with the widow’s mite, is very pleased with a child’s love to him. We big people are very apt to think, “What can a little girl do for Jesus?” Oh, but if that little girl does not do something for Jesus now that she is saved, she will very likely grow up to be an idle Christian, and not serve God in after years as she should. I like to see the little trees which they put into our gardens, you know, the little pyramids, and other dwarf trees; I like to see them even from the first bear just a little fruit. I think, sometimes, that pears, when there are only one or two on the tree, are far finer in flavour than those on the big tree, which too often have lost in quality what they have gained in quantity. That which is done for Jesus Christ by young Christians, by weak Christians, by timid Christians, often has a very delicate flavour about it, precious to the taste of Jesus. It is good to begin serving him in our youth.

     “Ah,” says one, “I shall begin when I can preach.” Will you? You had better begin writing a letter to that young friend with whom you went to school. You had better begin by dropping a tract down an area, or by trying to speak to some young person of your own age. Pride will prompt you to wish to be great, but love to Jesus Mill teach you that the small things are acceptable with him. It is good for young men — good for young women — that as soon as they are converted to God they should bear the yoke of service.

     It is also good that when we begin to serve God we should bear the yoke in another sense, namely, by finding difficulties. If it were in my power to make the way of serving Christ very easy to every young Christian here, I would not do it. If it were possible to make all Sunday school work pleasant, I would not do it. If it were possible to make standing up in the open air to preach a very easy thing, I would not make it so. It is good for you that you bear the yoke. It is good that your service should involve self-denial, and try your patience. It is good for you that the girls should not be very orderly, and that the boys should not be very teachable when you get them in the class. It is good for you that the crowd should not stand still and listen very meekly to you, and that infidels should put ugly questions to you when you are preaching in the street. It is good, I know, for the young minister to encounter curious church members, and even to meet with an adversary who means to overthrow him. It is a good thing for a true worker for the devil to labour to put him down, because if God has put him up, he cannot be put down, but the attempt to overthrow him will do him good, develop his spiritual muscle, and bring out the powers of his mind. A very easy path would not be profitable to us. Consider David after Samuel had put the oil on his head, and anointed him to be the future king of Judah; it would have been a very bad thing for him to have waited in inglorious ease and slumbered away the interval. But take David and send him into the wilderness to keep the sheep: bring him to Saul's court, and let Saul throw a javelin at him: send him to fight with Goliath: banish him afterwards to the tracks of the wild goats, and compel him to live in the dens and in the caves and make him fight for his life, and by this process you will educate a hero, fit to rule Israel. He comes to the throne no longer a youth and ruddy, but a man of war from his youth up, and he is, therefore, ready to smite the Philistines or the children of Ammon as the champion of the Lord of Hosts. It is good, then, to bear the yoke in the sense of undertaking service for Jesus and finding difficulty in it.

     And it is good yet further. It is good to meet with persecution in your youth. If it were possible to take every young Christian and put him into a pious family and not let him go into the world at all, but always keep him in his mother’s lap — if it were possible to take every working man and guarantee that he should only work in a shop where they sing psalms from morning to night, where nobody ever swears, where nobody ever utters a word of chaff against him — why, I say, if it were possible to do this, I do not know that it would be wise to do it. To keep people out of temptation is exceedingly proper, and none of us have any right to put a temptation in another’s way; but it is good for us to be tempted sometimes, otherwise we should not know the real condition of our hearts, and might be rotting with inward pride while blooming with outward morality. Temptation lets us know how weak we are, and drives us to our knees. It tests our faith and tries our love, and lets us see whether our graces are genuine or not. When religion puts on her silver slippers and walks out with her golden earrings, everybody is quite content to go with her, but the honest, hearty Christian will follow Jesus Christ’s truth when she goes barefoot through the mire and through the slough, and when her garments are bespattered by unholy hands. Herein is the trial of the true, and the unmasking of the deceitful. It would not be good for us to be kept from persecution, and slander, and trial; it is good for a man that he bear this yoke in his youth. A Christian is a hardy plant. Many years ago a larch was brought to England. The gentleman who brought it put it in his hothouse, but it did not develop in a healthy manner. It was a spindly thing, and therefore the gardener, feeling that he could not make anything of it, took it up and threw it out upon the dunghill. There it grew into a splendid tree, for it had found a temperature suitable to its nature. The tree was meant to grow near the snow; it loves cold winds and rough weather, and they had been sweating it to death in a hothouse. So it is with true Christianity. It seldom flourishes so well in the midst of ease and luxury as it does in great tribulation. Christians are often all the stronger and better because they happen to be cast where they have no Christian companions, or kindly encouragements. As liberty usually favours the hardy mountaineers whose rugged hills have made them brave and hardy, so does abounding grace, as a rule, visit those who endure the great fight of affliction, and through much tribulation inherit the kingdom.

     Once more, I believe it is good for young Christians to experience much soul-trouble. My early days of thoughtfulness were days of bitterness. Before I found a Saviour I was ploughed with the great subsoil plough of terrible convictions. Month after month I sought but found no hope. I learned the plague of my heart, the desperate evil of my nature, and at this moment I have reason to thank God for that long wintry season. I am sure it was good to my soul. As a general rule there is a period of darkness somewhere or other in the Christian life: if you have it at first it is probable you will not endure it again; but if you do not have it at first it is just as likely you will pass through the cloud at some other time. It is well to have it over. “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.” Some friends seem to have found a patent way of going to heaven. If their way is the right one I am sure I am very much delighted, but I am rather dubious, for I meet with those who have tried the high-level railroad, and are greatly discouraged because the train does not run so smoothly as they expected. They have been living a whole fortnight— well, not quite without sin — but very near it. They have triumphed and conquered altogether, and gone up in a balloon for a fortnight. Of course they have to come down again— and some come down with an awful fall. The best of them come, and say, “Dear pastor, I am afraid I am not a child of God. I feel so wretched, and yet I felt so happy and holy.” I have said, “Yes, you see you went up, and so you had to come down. If you had kept down you would not have had to come down.” That going up in a balloon to the stars frightens me about some young people; I wish they would continue humbly to feel that they are nothing and nobody, and that Christ is everything. It is much better on the whole that a man should be timid and trembling than that he should early in life become very confident. “Blessed is the man that feareth always” is a Scriptural text — not the slavish fear, nor yet a fear that doubts God, but still a fear. There is a deal of difference between doubting God and doubting yourself; you may have as much as you like of the last till you even get to self-despair, but there is no reason whatever why you should doubt the Lord. “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth,” to be made to feel the weight of sin, and the chastening hand of God, and to be left to cry out in the dark and say, “Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat.” These ordeals are of essential service to the newborn believer, and prepare him alike for the joys and the sorrows of his spiritual career.

     III. I am going to finish with this last head. Practically, brothers and sisters, WE ARE ALL OF US IN OUR YOUTH. I see some grey heads and bald heads here, and yet they belong to persons in their minority. My dear brother, though you are seventy and more, yet you have not come of age yet in the heavenly kingdom; for if you were of age you would have your estates. None of us will come of age till we enter heaven. We are still under tutors and governors, because we are even now as little children. We have not come to that period in which we are fit for all the joys of heaven, for if we were we should be taken home to our Father’s house to enjoy our inheritance at once. We are still in our youth. Well, it is good for us at this present that we should bear the yoke, and continue still to bear it. It is good, my dear brother, that we who have gone some distance on the road to heaven should still have something to bear, because it enables us to honour Christ still. If we do not suffer with him, how can we have fellowship with him? If we have no crosses to carry, how can we commune with our Lord, the chief cross-bearer? Let us be glad that we are not spared tribulation, that we are not screened from affliction, but are permitted to glorify God by patience, by resignation, and by unstaggering faith. Do not ask the Lord that you may have no trouble, but rather remember you have only a little while in which you can be patient — only a little while in which you can be a cross-bearer, and therefore it behoves you to use each moment well. A few more revolving sims and you will be where there is no more cross to carry, no sorrow to bear, and, therefore, where there is no room for patience, and no opportunity of being acquiescent in the divine will. Be content to bear the yoke now, for it is but a little while, and this honour will be no longer yours.

     It is good for us all to bear the yoke, too, because thus old Adam is kept in check. A wonderfully vivacious thing is that old Adam. He has been reported to be dead a good many times, but to my certain knowledge he is very brisk still. When we are in trouble, proud old Adam often seems to be quiet, and does not so well succeed in keeping us from prayer; and, consequently, in times of trouble, we often enjoy our very sweetest seasons of devotion. By the Lord’s goodness we escape the trial, but, alas, old Adam soon lifts up his proud head again. He says, “Ah, you are a favourite of heaven, your mountain standeth firm. Your affliction has been sanctified to you, and you have grown in grace very wonderfully. The fact is, you are a very fine fellow.” Yes, that is old Adam’s way, and whenever he sees an opportunity he will return to his old game of flattery. Whenever you are tempted to be vain, say to yourself, “I know you, old Adam. I know you, and will not yield to your crafty devices.” What happens when we become self-satisfied? Why, the yoke returns upon our shoulders heavily again. We fall into another trouble, and then old Adam is up in the stirrups again, and begins to grumble and rebel. The flesh begins proudly to despair, whereas a little while before it was boasting. Trials, in the hands of the Spirit, are a great help to overcome corruptions. It is a very hard matter for a man to be rich and prospering in this world, to be at ease and have a long stretch of health, and to have everything go exactly as he likes, and yet to be a Christian. When the road is very smooth many fall, but when the way is rough there is good grip for the feet, and we are not so likely to stumble. When trials come, they whip us home to our heavenly Father. Sheep do not stray so much when the black dog is after them; his barkings make them run to the shepherd. Affliction is the black dog of the Good Shepherd to fetch us back to him, otherwise we should wander to our ruin. We are not better than David; and we may honestly confess as he did, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now have I kept thy word.” Therefore it is good for us spiritually young people, even though old as to the flesh, that we should bear the yoke while we are still in our youth.

     Besides, dear friends, it makes you so helpful to others to have known affliction. I do not see how we can sympathize if we are never tried ourselves. I know a beloved brother who is perhaps fifty years of age, who never had a day’s sickness, and he told me he scarcely knew what physical pain was except when a heavy person trod on his toes. Well, now, he is a good brother; but when he tries to sympathize, it is like an elephant picking up a pin, or Hercules with a distaff; he does do it, but it is a thing to be wondered at. If you tell him that you feel very low in spirits, he looks at you and tries to say very kind things, but he does not understand your despondency. Now, it would be a great pity for a Christian minister to be lacking in the power to sympathize — would it not? Oh, thank God for troubles, because they make the heart tender, and they teach the lips the art of consolation. You can be a Boanerges without trouble, but you never can be a Barnabas; you may be a son of thunder, but you will never be a son of consolation. As we wish to serve others, let us thank God that he qualifies us to do so by making us bear the yoke in our youth.

     Once more, is it not good to bear the yoke while we are here, because it will make heaven all the sweeter? Oh, how sweet heaven will be to that bedridden woman, who has lain these twenty years upon her weary couch, and scarcely had a night’s unbroken rest! What rest heaven will be to her! I know a good man within two miles of this place who has laid eighteen years without moving. I do not know a happier man than he is. It is a treat to see him; but still what a change it will be, from that bed from which he cannot rise, to stand on the sea of glass, and for ever wave the palm branch, and draw forth music from the celestial harp. What a transformation! How great the change for a poor Christian woman dying in a workhouse, to be carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom! What a change for the martyr standing at the stake burning slowly to death, and then rising to behold the glory of his Lord! What a change for you, dear old friend, with all those aches and pains about you, which make you feel uneasy even while you are sitting here! Ah, greybeard, you will be young soon. There will be no wrinkles on your brow. You will not require those spectacles; you will not need that staff to lean upon; you will be as strong as the youngest there. As you stand before the throne of God you will scarcely know yourself to be the same old woman you used to be, or the same sickly man you were a little while ago. You will be stripped of the house of clay, and your young soul will leap up from the old body and be present with the Lord; and then the grave will be a fining pot in which the dross of the flesh will be consumed; and by-and-by your body will rise, no longer old and haggard and worn, but full of beauty, like your Master’s glorious body. This should give joy to you at all times: it must be good for you to bear the yoke, seeing heaven will by that means be made more fully heaven to you when once you reach its everlasting rest.

“The way may be rough, but it cannot be long;
So let’s smooth it with hope, and cheer it with song.”



The Heart Full and the Mouth Closed

By / Jun 22

The Heart Full and the Mouth Closed

 

“And I will establish my covenant with thee; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord: That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God.” — Ezekiel xvi. 62, 63.

A VERY extraordinary chapter this sixteenth of Ezekiel! A minister could scarcely read it in public: he certainly would not like to explain its metaphors to a general audience, nor are we called upon to do so. To read it in private is another thing, and to have it read for you by the Holy Spirit, and to be made to see, and to feel its meaning, not merely as describing the Israelites, but as very much setting forth yourself, is a very different matter. Believe me, it is a lesson which, if it be well learned, will never be forgotten. It is a part of the Holy Spirit’s business to convince us of sin ; and when he takes a chapter like this, and puts us through our paces verse by verse, and makes us eat the bitter herbs which each verse contains, and feel as if we were drinking the water into which the dust of our idols had been cast, when they had been broken and ground down, like the golden calf of the Israelites ; when he makes us feel the grits between our teeth in every drop we drink, I say it is a lesson well worth receiving, and one that is likely to stick by us all our days.

     There are two very wonderful things in this chapter. Which is the more wonderful it were hard to tell. The first is the extraordinary sin of Israel. God speaks of it in the strongest imaginable language: he represents Judah’s sin as being greater than the sins of Sodom and Samaria, though both Sodom and Samaria had been destroyed for their abominations. He compares Judah’s backslidings to the lewdness of a woman who forgets her marriage compact, and sins egregiously with many paramours, adding filthiness to filthiness; and so he makes sin to appear exceeding sinful, as a violation of the heart’s love to God and the soul’s chastity towards the Most High. A very wonderful thing is sin; as set forth in this chapter! The other marvellous thing is God's grace: how, when he began with Israel, he found her like an infant cast out in her blood, unswaddled and unwashed, and he took her up in all her filthiness and said to her, “Live,” and washed and cleansed her, and clothed her, and hung her ears with jewels, and then when she grew to riper years she turned aside from him— turned his mercies into occasions of provocation, and made his blessings to be instruments of sin. He describes himself as pardoning her again and again, and yet she continued to invent new sins, looking down all the while upon her sisters Sodom and Samaria, and reckoning herself very superior to them, and yet behaving worse than they, and going deeper and deeper into rebellion against the Lord. Yet his mercy follows her, his love still pursues her; and he makes the chapter to culminate in mercy with such words as these — “Nevertheless I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant. And I will establish my covenant with thee; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord: that thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God.”

     Two words, if you can learn them, will teach you the deepest practical wisdom — sin and grace. No one ever measured either of them— except One, and he, when he measured them, was in a bloody sweat, and poured out his soul unto death. George Herbert quaintly sings—

“Philosophers have measured mountains,
Fathomed the depths of seas, of states, and kings,
Walk’d with a staff to heaven, and traced fountains,
But there are two vast, spacious things,
The which to measure it doth more behove:
Yet few there are that sound them; Sin and Love.”

Only our suffering lover, the Lord Jesus Christ, knows the two to their perfection. May we be helped to enter a little further into the double secret while we commune together.

     The first exercise to which I shall invite you is this: let us think of the condition into which the grace of God has brought all believers. God is pacified towards them. “When I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God.” Then, secondly, let us think of the knowledge which has been imparted thus to all believers— they know the covenant, they know the Lord, and they know themselves; and they are made to remember and to be confounded. Finally, in the third and principal place, let us dwell upon the silence which henceforth and for ever is induced in all believers. “Thou shalt never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done.”

     I. So, then, first of all, let us review THE BLESSED CONDITION INTO WHICH EVERY BELIEVER IN THE LORD JESUS CHRIST HAS BEEN BROUGHT BY THE SOVEREIGN ACT OF GOD S MERCY. He has been brought into such a condition that God can say to him, “I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done.”

     The Hebrew word which here sets forth forgiveness and pardon properly signifies to cover a thing with that which adheres and sticks to the thing covered: not with dry dust or leaves, which could be easily removed, but with glue or pitch, so that the thing hidden cannot easily be brought to sight again. The same word is used concerning Noah’s ark. “Thou shalt pitch it, or cover it, within and without with pitch.” All the planks were to be covered with the pitch; not with a filmy paint that might barely colour them, but with a thick pitch which would cover them; a sticky substance which would adhere to the substance of the wood, and penetrate it and cover it altogether. When God forgives our sin he covers us as completely as the wood of the ark was covered within and without with pitch: our sin is covered and hidden right away from his observation. Child of God, I beg you to think of this for a moment, God is pacified towards you because your sin is covered— all of it; yea, it is all gone. As far as God is concerned your sin has ceased to be. He laid it on Jesus Christ your substitute, and he took it and bore the penalty of it— nay the thing itself; he, as your scapegoat, carried your sin right away, and it is lost in the wilderness of forgetfulness. Into the depths of the sea hath he cast your iniquities. In his own tomb hath he buried your offences. What saith the Scripture? “He has finished transgression and made an end of sin.” Grand word! Made an end of it. And if there be an end of it, why there is an end of it, and it has gone. This day, O believing child of God, there is fulfilled towards you that gracious word: “In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve.” Through faith in Jesus your transgressions are all removed as far from you as the east is from the west. The depths have covered your sins; there is not one of them left. The Lord is pacified for all that we have done, so that no ground of quarrel remains.

     O believer, God is pacified towards you, for your sin is covered; it is put away, all of it, and altogether. Since you have believed in Jesus Christ your sin has not become dimly visible, neither by searching may it be seen as a shadow in the distance, but God seeth it no more for ever. He has not merely taken away some of its results, some of the fiercer judgments that might have broken forth had not Christ intervened; but he has utterly removed all the penal consequences of it. The sin is covered in the most emphatic sense. God has turned away all the fierceness of his anger, and you may say, “O God, I will praise thee, for though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortest me.” The many, the countless hosts of sin that you have committed since your childhood are all scattered as a cloud, and the one black sin, which cost you more regret than many scores of others, has been removed as a thick cloud. The one repeated sin which grew into a habit which seemed as though it mastered you completely, and brought you into utter bondage— it too has died into the tomb of the great Substitute. They are all gone— no enemy remaineth. In the sepulchre of Christ they are buried never to rise. Not one of these dead things shall live, for the efficacy of the death which slew them is eternal. They cannot rise against you from the grave; no, not one of them, while sun and moon endure, nay, while God endureth, for, he saith it, “They shall not be mentioned against thee any more, for ever.” “Who can lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” It is divinely sweet to think of this! God is pacified towards his people for all that they have done, altogether pacified, for their sins have ceased to be.

     And this is not occasionally true, but always true; not only so in happier moments, when we enjoy a sense of it, but always, whether we have a sense of it or not. The standing of a believer does not depend upon his recognition of his standing. There are times when, if he could have all the world for it, he could not read his title clear— nay, he could not spell the capital letters of that title. There are times when he sees his sin, but cannot see his pardon; yet is he pardoned for all that— pardoned while self-condemned. The Israelites, when they were inside their houses, could not see the blood sprinkled on their door-posts. How could they? By what strange process would they be able to see the blood outside the door while they sat within at the table? No, and it was not their seeing the blood that saved them; for if you turn to the Book of Exodus you find the Lord saying, “When I see the blood I will pass over you.” God always saw the blood: this was the main point in the matter, and therefore it was sprinkled where the destroying angel could see it as he flew upon his errand of wrath. Glory be to God, when I cannot see the blood of Christ myself, my God can see it. If I have ever looked, by an act of faith .to the Lord Jesus, I am saved; if I am resting in him, I am forgiven; and when my eye of faith is dim, and my sense of rest in Christ is overloaded with a yet deeper sense of my own unworthiness, yet still my standing is not altered, my security is not affected, the pacifying of the Lord towards me is not changed one jot or tittle. At all times, in the dark as well as in the light, in down-castings as well as in upliftings, the Lord is pacified towards his people.

     I would to God that the Lord’s people grasped this more fully, and lived in the power of it more completely. May God grant we may! O my soul, sinful and unworthy though thou be, there is a peace established between thee and thy God which never will be broken— a league which never will be violated. God has thoughts of peace towards thee. Does not the word so mean? “When I am pacified; when I am peace -ified “when I am made peace towards thee.” God thinks of nothing but peace towards his children. “Peace, peace,” saith he. He is the God of peace, the fruit of his Spirit is peace, the very name of his Son is peace. The heaven to which he is bringing us is everlasting peace, and even now the peace of God which passeth all understanding keeps our hearts and minds through Jesus Christ. The believer goes forth with joy, and is led forth with peace. His heart, his mind, his conscience are filled with peace towards God. There is peace, there is nothing but peace, between my soul and God. Oh, what a joyous thought this is! Grasp it, Christian, and let your spirit exult in it.

     And all this, remember, is written in our text concerning a people who had plunged into wondrous sins. I have already remarked that I could not explain all that God has said about Israel in this chapter; it would be improper. Nor do I think any man ought to try to tell another all the evil which he has seen in himself. Sometimes we talk to our fellow Christians about our own sense of unworthiness, but we are not always speaking to edification. I has happened to me sometimes that the brother to whom I have spoken of myself has not believed a word I have said. He has looked me in the face, and he has said, “You are not well, I fear. I am sorry to see you so low in spirits.” Indeed, I only spoke the truth, and did not tell him one half of the unworthiness I felt; but he did not know the wormwood and the gall, nor ought I to have wished to make him drink of my cup. That same brother, perhaps, has come to me with his story of his own failures and transgressions and sins, and then it has been my turn to wonder. I have looked at him and I have said— “Bless you! I wish I were half as good as you are, and half as faithful in my Master’s service.” Every man must bear his own burden: my friend does not know my humiliation before God, neither do I see any unworthiness in my friend, compared with what he sees and feels. We need not tell our neighbours all that we feel about ourselves, any more than this chapter can ever be explained to every carnal ear. But oh, brethren, no man living has ever exaggerated his own sin or thought too meanly of himself. There does not live beneath the copes of heaven any man whose sense of sin is as deep as the sin really is. I find when I am talking with enquirers, and they are overburdened with a sense of sin, that the only thing to say to them is, “It is all true, every bit you are saying.” not know.” “No,” I say, “nor yet do you. You are ten times worse than you think you are.” “Oh sir, but I feel myself to be utterly lost.” “Yes, and so you are; you are only feeling the truth.” “But I feel as if I were driven to despair.” “And so you ought to be, for if you are looking to yourself, there is nothing but despair for you.” Do not interrupt the young convert when he begins to say that he is distressed by a sense of sin, and if he describes sin in dreadful terms, let him go on to do so, for the more he abhors sin the better. The trembling penitent is near the truth, for his sin is indeed great and terrible. If you make him out to be a little sinner, you will next offer him a little Saviour, a little Christ, and a little gospel. No, let him go on with that sense of sin; I would even pray God to make him feel it more and more; meanwhile it is your privilege to present to him an infinite atonement and a God willing and able to forgive. Tell him that God sent not his Son into the world to save the righteous, or to call those to repentance who have no sin to be repented of— that the whole scheme of redemption is so magnificent because it deals with an infinite evil, and it is made to a grand scale, because the mischief it has to deal with is hideous beyond all conception. If a man feels sin to be unutterably horrible, so much the better. Do not try to get low thoughts of sin, but be humbled in the dust, for then Christ is glorified. The greatness of the sin reveals the greatness of the redeeming sacrifice, and the direful nature of the disease declares the infinity of that Physician’s skill who is able to put it all away.

     Child of God, return with grateful restfulness to the memory of your complete deliverance from the wrath of God due to sin. God is pacified towards you concerning all your sin, thus described in all its heinousness, hideousness, and horror. Whatever conception of it you have now obtained, and it may be a very, very alarming one, yet in all its terribleness God is pacified towards you concerning your sin. Although your conception may fall far short of the truth, yet, as far as that whole truth about sin is concerned, God is pacified towards you in the person of his dear Son. I wonder what God’s thought of sin is. He has thrown some little light upon it in this chapter, but when he hung up his dear Son upon the tree then he declared sin to be a monster indeed. When God himself bore the pangs of death that he might save his creatures from sin, when all the waves and billows of sin’s stormy deep rolled over the incarnate God, and when he said, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” what must his thoughts have been concerning sin! But God never thought worse of sin than it is. He only thought the truth, and it is as sin is in its truth, and as Jesus felt it in its truth when he bore it on the tree— it is as in that true idea of sin that he has put it all away, and he is pacified towards us to-day.

     Come, dear children, come into your Father’s bosom, he is pacified towards you. Come back, ye wanderers; come home, ye troubled ones; the great and glorious God, who is exceeding angry at sin, whose whole nature boils like a cauldron against everything that is evil— is nevertheless pacified, completely pacified, even towards the ungodly and the guilty, through Jesus Christ our Lord; and when you come believing in him who died for the ungodly, and resting in him who was a sacrifice for sinners, you shall feel that he is pacified towards you, and all is well. There is our blessed standing: God help us to rejoice in it.

     II. We pass on, secondly, to notice WHAT WE HAVE LEARNED IN THE PROCESS OF REACHING THIS PEACEFUL STANDING. We have learned three things. I do not say that all Christians have clearly discovered them, I wish they had; but I do know some Christians who have learned these very points thoroughly.

     First we have learned salvation by a covenant “I will establish my covenant with thee.” He who knows how to pronounce the word “covenant” is on the road towards being a thorough theologian. Salvation by covenant! The thought is charming, for we were lost by a covenant. Father Adam stood for us, and represented us in the old covenant of works. If Adam will keep that covenant, he and all his children shall be blest. Alas, our foundation was too frail, our first parent was not able to bear the responsibility of the covenant; and therefore he fell, and we all fell in him to our fatal cost. Some have inquired, “Was this just?” Do not raise that question, because that is the loophole of your hope. The devils, when they fell, fell each one for himself, and so they could never rise again; but we fell by another in a covenant made with another. Here, then, was the way to restore us again. As we sinned representatively it was possible for us to satisfy the law by a representative. Here was the opening for the way of salvation. By a second covenant-head man may be redeemed, and therefore Jesus Christ comes, the second Adam, and God makes a covenant with him, which covenant runs thus— “If he will bear the penalty of sin— if he will keep the law, then, all that are in him shall be delivered from every sin, and the righteousness of the second Adam shall be imputed to them, and they shall be loved and blessed as if they were righteous.” Oh, matchless mystery of love! Have you ever learned this? Some of you young people who have lately been converted, have you ever learned the doctrine of the covenant? Have you seen what it is to be in Christ, and accepted in Christ, because the Lord hath made him to be a covenant for the people— a leader and commander to the people? And have you nestled down beneath our Lord’s perfect atonement, and his perfect righteousness, and said, “These are mine, for he is my Adam, and I am in him; and God saves me now, not because of what I did or am, but because of what my covenant surety was and is. I am saved through him, my standing is in him”? He who understands this covenant has learned something very full of consolation, for he knows that it is a covenant which he cannot break, for it was not made with him personally, but made for him in his great substitute and surety, Christ Jesus. Christ has not broken the covenant, and only he could do so. He kept it, and therefore the promise is sure to all the seed, and it is a covenant “ordered in all things, and sure” — a covenant from which God will never turn aside. “My covenant I will not break,” saith he, “nor alter the word that has gone out of my lips.” He hath sworn by himself, because he could swear by no greater— by two immutable things wherein it is impossible for God to lie, that he might give strong consolation to the heirs of the promise.

     Certain brethren tremble when they hear us thus discourse upon the believer’s privilege and security, but we cannot help that. Isaac lives at home and rejoices in his birthright, and if Ishmael and his mother love slavery better they must have it. Nevertheless, what saith the Scripture? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.” As for those who are the children of the promise, and inherit through the promise, their name is Laughter, as the name of Isaac was, and they shall rejoice, for they are the true heirs; neither shall they ever be driven out, for in Isaac was the seed to be called for ever. So saith the Lord, and so shall it stand. It is a blessed thing to learn the covenant of grace.

     The next thing we have learned while reaching our happy condition of peace with God is the lesson that Jehovah is indeed God. Read those solemn words, “Thou shalt know that I am the Lord.” To be saved in a way that makes us know that God is God is to be taught aright. I do believe that this is one of the lessons least known throughout the church; and in the world it is not known at all. That God is God is easy to say but hard to know. I learned it when the Lord brought me to himself, and I have been learning it more and more in many ways as he has taught me and brought me low before him. I have learned his justice, and if ever I hear men talking about the injustice of everlasting punishment for sin, I have found no echo in my conscience to that observation, because, if I could be lifted up into God’s place, I feel that the very first thing I should have to do would be to eternally condemn such a guilty thing as I myself have been and am. I feel it. As I have judged my own soul, I have had to pronounce over it that very sentence which God pronounces overall the ungodly— “Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity.” I have had to say “Amen” in my soul to all the divine denunciations of evil. I have thus in my conscience learned that he is a just God, and thus has one of the great attributes of Deity been known to me.

     I have also been made to learn his sovereignty. I remember the time when I thought that if God saved everybody in the world but me I could not blame him. I have had to come to his feet and feel, “I have no rights, and make no claims.” Shaking my hands free of anything like an appeal to what I am as his creature, or as his servant, I have felt that I have forfeited all the rights of creatureship by my sin, and I have put myself absolutely at his disposal, beseeching him to reveal his undeserved favour to me. My ear has even been tutored to find music in that awful declaration, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” But, oh, this doctrine does not seem to be known by a large number of people. They will not come to it; they cannot bite the dust nor bow so low as that. “Man is a noble creature, and his rights must be considered.” “God must deal alike by all.” Many are these proud and arrogant boastings, which to my soul read like blasphemy, and yet men calling themselves Christian ministers give utterance to them. This I know, that he is God, and doeth as he pleases with his grace. He taught me this ere he stretched out the silver sceptre, and said, “I am pacified towards thee.”

     And oh, how we have to learn his power. The power of God is seen by the natural eye in some measure in storms and tempests; but, believe me, it is never seen with the inner eye by any man so well as when the Lord overcomes his sin. He has seen his sin, and he has felt no more able to grapple with it than the sear leaf with the hurricane, and yet the Lord has suddenly stopped the fury of that sin, and delivered the man, so that he has said, “Now I know that thou art God, for who but God could have done this for me? Who but thyself could have chained my imperious passions and broken the iron yoke from off my neck?” Then has the man felt the omnipotence of Jehovah.

     Above all we learn that precious word, “God is love”; but there is no understanding it until you are actually broken down under a sense of sin, and are led to see that your sin deserves the hottest hell. Then when you hear the Lord say, “But, nevertheless, for my own sake have I forgiven thee, and through Jesus Christ my Son have I put all this sin of thine away: it shall never be mentioned against thee any more for ever”— then the eye looks up and says, “Love! I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee!” Such love! Such matchless love! Such amazing love! One cannot talk about it without longing to get away to some secret place to pour out your soul before God with tears instead of words, to think that he should forgive so freely, so richly, and so completely forgive. If you would know the Godhead, you must behold it in the person of Jesus Christ while you look up to him and see him through your tears. In him you see yourself crucified as a rebel and a traitor, deserving nothing but wrath; and then in him you see God over all exalted, dispensing mercy, not because of man’s deservings, or even because of man’s prayers or tears, or anything like goodness in man, but simply because he wills to do it, to display the majesty of his stupendous grace in passing by transgression, iniquity, and sin.

     The third lesson which is connected with our deliverance is this, “that thou mayest remember and be confounded.” We have learned ourselves. To remember and to be confounded— that is not comfortable. Who likes to remember and be confounded? Some of you good people can remember your whole lives, but you do not feel at all confounded. Why should you? With so much of your own excellence to glory in, why should you be confounded? But, remember, if the Lord is ever pacified towards you, you will remember and you will be confounded: so that no good can come from the self-contentment which you are so loth to lose. You will be confounded if ever you are pardoned. You will be confounded at being unable to discover any excuse for your sin. Once you could have found twenty excuses, and had your choice out of them; but now that the Lord has forgiven you, you cannot find one, and as you turn them all up— those old excuses of yours— those fig leaves of yours, with which you once hoped to cover your nakedness, you despise them, and think you never saw such flimsy things. You are doubly confounded to think that ever you invented such excuses— confounded to think that you could have been such a fool as to dream that there was any reason in your excuses, that what made sin worse should have seemed to you at any time to make it better. You are confounded now to think how it was that you lived all those years in sin and unbelief. I was utterly amazed to think that I had not believed in Jesus Christ long before. Was that all — to trust in Christ? Why, I had been going all round the world to do something, and feel something, and be something, and there it was: I was to be nothing, Christ was to be everything, and I was to be thus saved. I was just to take salvation freely as a gift to me. I was confounded. I could not invent an excuse for having remained in unbelief, though until the Lord was pacified with me I stubbornly said, “You know I cannot believe.” I had hosts of excuses, while I was unforgiven, but they were all gone when mercy forgave me. Have you ever tried to put two things straight before your eyes—your own life and God’s character: you before God and God before you? Have you not felt that you could not look at them both, for you were confounded and could not comprehend them? You used to say, “Oh, that sin was the result of my bringing up, that was the product of bad example.” Or you passed it off by saying, “Ah, I made a mistake that time.” Now that you are saved your conduct seems to you to have been all mistakes, all blunders, all mischiefs, all bad, all horrible. You are confounded, do not know what to say, you cannot defend yourself. Oh, what a blessed thing it is when a man is so confounded that he cannot speak for himself any more, but leaves Jesus Christ to speak for him, — when he is so confounded that all he can do is to sit still and admire, and wonder, and adore, and love, and bless, and praise, and magnify God for such unexpected mercy.

“Why was I made to hear thy voice,
And enter where there’s room,
While thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?”

Why, didst thou love me? Why didst thou bear with me so long? Why was I gently led to yield myself to thy sway? Why were my eyes opened? Why was I not left to wilful blindness as others were? I thought once I could have explained it, but now I cannot, for it is past finding out. “O God, I am confounded. Thy very love confounds me as much as my sin does. I am in a maze, I am perplexed, I am astounded. Thus is the word fulfilled. “Thou shalt remember and be confounded.”

     My brethren and sisters, I hope the Lord, when he brought you to know himself, taught you these three things— your standing in the covenant, his own glory as the God of that covenant, and your own less-than-nothingness as he utterly confounds and astounds you, both with your guilt and with his mercy.

     III. The last thing is this— THE SILENCE WHICH IS FOR EVER INDUCED. “Thou shalt never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame.” It takes a great deal to fill a man’s mouth, and almost as much to shut it. Some men’s mouths never will be filled till the sexton gives them a spade full of mould, for their greed is insatiable, and half the world would not be enough for them. Some men’s mouths never will be stopped, except by the coffin lid. Their motto is, “While I live I’ll crow”; and so they will, for boasting is bred in their bone, and will come out of them. Though they have nothing to boast of, yet as long as they breathe they will brag. But when God saves a man he takes means to end his self-exaltation most effectually, so that he will never open his mouth any more in his own praise. He stops him from all boasting about what he is and what he has been, and what he thinks he shall be. If you find any man talking about how excellently he has lived, and what a commendable person he has been, you may be sure that God has never been pacified towards him. When a man cries, “But is not our morality something? Is there not a great deal to be said in favour of those who are sober and righteous?” –you may know that God has never been pacified towards that man, for if it were so he would never open his mouth any more about his morality; he would be as ashamed of his morality as other men are of their outward sins, for he would see it to be a poor imperfect thing at best. Our morality is a very pretty thing, when people look at it who are in the blindness of nature; but when we bring our morality under the microscope, and look at it as God looks at it, what a horribly immoral thing this so-called morality is. You begin to look below the surface, and you discover that a certain man refrained from outward sin, not because he would not have delighted to do wrong, but because he was a little too shrewd, and did not want to injure his own interests. He was not such a fool as to fall into vulgar sin; that is to say, his selfishness saved him. Sometimes the man who did actually transgress, had more generous impulses than the other who did not sin, because his sneaking selfishness kept him within the lines of outward consistency. When you come to look at very much of morality, it will not bear inspection. It is a very pretty thing, like the moss and the fungus growing out of putridity: a very pretty thing until you understand where it came from. If any man who believes himself to have been moral and sinless will only begin to look at the reasons why he has been so innocent, and search himself, he will often discover that inside all that purity of his there has been a mass of pride, self-conceit, self-seeking, indifference to God, and every detestable thing. When the Lord shows the man all this, and casts him down into the ditch till he abhors himself, and then cleanses him in the precious blood till he is pacified towards him, he will never open his mouth about that matter any more.

     Neither will a man who has been cleansed in this way open his mouth any more against divine sovereignty. It seems to some minds to be a very fine thing to talk about the rights of moral agents, and rail at all idea of the Lord exercising the prerogatives of kingship. They love to go to the verge of blasphemy to show that they are not so foolish as to be Calvinistic. When the spiritual dandy hears the Biblical doctrine that he has sinned against God, and that if he is to be saved it must be all of grace, he is too fine a fellow to believe the truth; he does not want to enter heaven like a criminal, or to receive pardon like a convict; he inclines to a more genteel gospel. Now, if the Lord is pacified towards that man, you will never hear another word of that sort from him. “Oh, no,” he will say, “let the Lord live for ever, and let him be king.” He is the man above all others who loves to hear of God as absolute. He knows how gracious, how strong, how truly good he is. He has heard the language of Paul ringing in his heart as well as in his ears, — “Nay, but O, man, who art thou that repliest against God?” And he has answered, “I dare not reply, for I am less than nothing; and I would not reply if I could, for I love God and I bless his name.” One of the sweetest notes that ever falls upon that man’s ear is— “The Lord reigneth.” He loves to think that Jehovah does reign, and if it were in his power to restrict his reign and abridge his absolute authority, he would not do so. He wishes him to be king for ever, and sit as Lord upon the floods world without end. In that matter, then, the man’s mouth it shut for ever.

     So, also, dear friends, this way of salvation shuts a man’s mouth as to all murmuring and complaining against God upon any score whatever; for, saith he, “If the Lord has pardoned me, let him do what he wills with me.” Our proud flesh exalts itself against the will of the Lord, and says, “It is hard that you should always be poor when you would have done so much good with money. It is hard that you should be so often ill while you are so useful. It is hard that you should have so little talent, when God knows that if you had great abilities you would have been so zealous, and led the van in the church of Christ, for you love him so much.” Ah, dear friends, but when grace forgives us we never talk so. We say, “No, my Lord, I am so unworthy that if thou dost favour me to be a doorkeeper in thy house I will be grateful for it. If I am permitted at the last to get inside the gates of heaven to sit amongst thy children as the meanest of them, I shall be for ever grateful to thy mighty love, and bless thy gracious name. I have no quarrels to pick with thee. I have no demands to make of thee. ‘Not as I will, but as thou wilt.’ If I can glorify thee on a bed of sickness, I will lie there, and cough to thy glory. If I can glorify thee in a mud cottage, I will dwell there, and starve on a few pence a week to thy glory. If I can honour thee in rags, or in the poorhouse, so let it be. Yea, if in death it will honour thee for me to have a pauper’s funeral or none at all, so let it be. I belong to thee from this day forth. I am such a sinner, so forgiven, and so indebted to almighty grace that I can never open my mouth any more to find fault, for thou hast dealt so kindly and so lovingly with me.” May that spirit rest upon you, beloved friends.

     Now, I wish that I could nope that all of you had tasted of the grace and love of God as some of us have done; but I dare not flatter you; I fear that many of you are utter strangers to this matter. It ought to encourage every one here who has not found peace with God to hear us tell of what we feel of our own sinfulness, because, sinner, where one sinner gets through there is room for another. If there is a prison door, and that door is broken down, and one gets out, another man who is in the same prison may safely say, “Why should not I escape too?” Supposing we were all beasts in Noah’s ark, and we could not get down from the ark to the ground except by going down that slanting stage which most of the painters have sketched when they have tried to depict the scene. Well, we must go down that stage. Are you afraid? Are you, sheep and hares, afraid that the staging will not bear you up? Listen, then. I am an elephant, and I have come down out of the ark over that bridge, and therefore it is clear that all of you who are smaller than I am can come over too. There is strength enough to bear up the hare and the coney, the ox and the sheep, for it carried the elephant. The way down has been trodden by that heavy, lumping creature, it will do for you, whoever you may be. Ever since the Lord Jesus Christ saved me, I made up my mind to one thing, namely, that I should never meet another person who was harder to save than I. Somebody said to me once when I was a child, when it was very dark, and I was afraid to go out, “What are you afraid of? You won’t meet anything uglier than yourself.” Surely as to my spiritual condition that is true, I never did meet anything uglier than myself, and I never shall. And if there is a great, big, black, ugly sinner here, I say, sinner, you are not uglier than I was by nature, and yet the Lord Jesus Christ loved me. Why should he not love you too? I tell you that though Jesus Christ is omniscient, and it is saying a great thing to say what he could not see, yet I do venture to say that Jesus Christ could not see anything in me to love. What if he cannot see anything good in you? Then we are on a par, and yet I know he loves me, why not you? That he loves me I know. Bless his name, I know he loves me now, and I love him, too. If he loved me when there was nothing in me to love, why should he not love you when there is nothing in you to love? Oh, turn that ugly face towards the lovely Saviour, and trust in him. I put it in a pleasant way, and you smile, but I want to get it into your hearts: I want some poor, trembling sinner to say, “I shall recollect that. I did think myself an ugly sinner, but I will come to Christ, and trust him.” If you do so, you will never regret it, but you will bless God for ever and ever, and so shall I: and when we get to heaven we will talk about it, and we will say, “Here we are, a pair of huge, horrible sinners, we came to Jesus Christ, and he took us in, and, blessed be his name, we will praise him as long as ever we live.” That we will, I warrant you. Do you not feel sure of it? God bless you, for Christ’s sake.”



Godly Fear and its Goodly Consequence

By / Jun 22

Godly Fear and its Goodly Consequence

 
“In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge.” — Proverbs xiv. 26.

 

IN the Book of Proverbs you meet with sentences of pithy wisdom, which, to all appearance, belong entirely to this world, and pertain to the economy of the life that now is. I do not know whether it is true, but it was said that years ago our friends in Scotland had a little book widely circulated and read by all their children, which consisted of the Proverbs of Solomon, and that it was the means of making the Scotch, as a generation, more canny, shrewd, and wiser in business than any other people. If it be so, I should suggest that such a book be scattered throughout England as well, and, indeed, anywhere and everywhere. The book might have been written, in some parts of it, by Franklin or Poor Richard, for it contains aphorisms and maxims of worldly wisdom, pithy but profound, sometimes poetic, but always practical. Has it never surprised you that there should be such sentences as these in the book of inspiration — secular proverbs, for so they are — secular proverbs intermixed with spiritual proverbs — the secular and the spiritual all put together without any division or classification. You might have expected to find one chapter dedicated to worldly business, and another chapter devoted to golden rules concerning the spiritual life; but it is not so. They occur without any apparent order, or at any rate without any order of marked division between the secular and the spiritual: and I am very glad of it. The more I read the Book of Proverbs, the more thankful I am that there is no such division, because the hard and fast line by which men of the world, and I fear some Christians, have divided the secular from the spiritual, is fraught with innumerable injuries. Religion, my dear friends, is not a thing for churches and chapels alone; it is equally meant for counting-houses and workshops, for kitchens and drawing-rooms. The true Christian is not only to be seen in the singing of hymns and the offering of prayers, but he is to be distinguished by the honesty and integrity, the courage and the faithfulness, of his ordinary character. In the streets and in the marketplaces, or wherever else the providence of God may call him, he witnesses the good confession. It is easy to secularize religion in a wrong sense. There are many, I doubt not, that desecrate the pulpit to worldly ends. How can it be otherwise, if “living” are to be bought and sold? I cannot doubt that the sacred desk has been a place simply for earning emoluments, or for gathering fame, and that sacred oratory has been as mean in the sight of God as the common language of the streets. I do not doubt that many people have put religion as a show-card into their business, and have tried to make money by it. Like Mr. By-ends, they thought that if, by being religious, they could get a good wife, — if, by being religious they could be introduced into respectable society, — if, by being religious they would bring some excellent religious customers to their shop, and if, indeed, by being religious they could get themselves to be esteemed, it would be a very proper thing. Now, this is making religion into irreligion; this is turning Christianity into selfishness; this is the Judas-spirit of putting Christ up for pieces of silver, and making as good a bargain as you can out of him; and this will lead to damnation, and nothing short of it, in the case of anybody who deliberately attempts it. Woe to that man! He is a son of perdition. Better for him had he never been born. Instead of profaning the spiritual, the right thing is to spiritualise the secular till the purity of your motives and the sanctity of your conscience in ordinary pursuits shall cause the division to vanish. Why, there should be about an ordinary meal enough religion to make it resemble a sacrament. Our garments, we should wear, and wear them out in the service of the Lord, until they acquired as much sanctity as the very vestments of a consecrated priesthood. There should be a devout spirit in everything we do. “Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do it in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks unto God and the Father by him.” No, it is not a less holy thing to be the Christian merchant than to be the Christian minister. It is not a less holy thing to be the mother of mercy to your own children than to be the sister of mercy to the sick children of other people in the hospital ward. It is not a less sacred thing to be the married wife than it is to be the virgin consecrated to Christ. Wherever ye are, if ye discharge the duties of your calling as in the sight of God, ye can by prayer and thanksgiving saturate your lives with godliness and make every action drip with sanctity, till, like Ashur of old, it shall be said of you that you have dipped your foot in oil. So shall you leave the mark of grace wherever your footstep is put. Let us endeavour to be so minded, and forbear to sort out our actions, saying to ourselves, “In this thing I am to be a Christian: in the other thing I am to be a business man.” “Business is business,” says somebody. Yes, I know it is, and it has no business to be such business as it very often is. It ought to be christianized, and the Christian that does not christianize business is a dead Christian — a savourless salt, wherewith shall such salt be savoured when the salt itself has lost its savour? Mix up your proverbs. Be as practical as Poor Richard counsels, and then be as spiritual as Christ commands. You need not be a fool because you are a Christian. There is no necessity to be outwitted in business. There is no necessity to be less shrewd, less sharp. There is no necessity to be less pushing because you are a Christian. True religion is sanctified common sense, and if some people had got a little common sense with their religion, and some others had got a little more religion with their common sense, they would both be the better for it. And this Book of Proverbs is just this common sense, which is the rarest of all senses, saturated and sanctified by the presence of God and the power of the gospel ennobling the pursuits of the creature.

     Let this suffice by way of introduction. Now we are going to plunge into the text. “In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge.”

     I. WHAT IS THIS FEAR OF THE LORD? The expression is used in Scripture for all true godliness. It is constantly the short way of expressing real faith, hope, love, holiness of living, and every grace which makes up true godliness. But why was fear selected? Why did not it say, “Trust in God is strong confidence”? Has not religion been commonly described by faith rather than by fear? In legal indictments it is said sometimes of a man that he, “not having the fear of God before his eyes,” did so and so. Why is the fear of God selected? One would say that, according to the general theology of this period, we ought to have selected faith. But the Spirit of God has not given us the phrase — faith in God. He puts fear, because, after all, there is a something more tender, more touching, more real about fear than there is about some people’s faith, which faith may very readily verge upon presumption. But in speaking of fear we must always discriminate. There is a fear with which a Christian has nothing to do. The fear of the slave who dreads a task-master we have now escaped from. At least we ought to be free from such bondage, for we are not under the law, which is the task-master, but we are under grace, which is a paternal spirit, and has given us the liberty of sons. Brethren, if you labour under any dread of God which amounts to a slavish fear of him, do not cultivate it. But ask God to give you that perfect love of which John tells us that it casteth out fear, because fear hath torment. Do not be afraid of God whatever he does with you. The kind of fear commended in the text is not such as appals the senses and scares the thoughts. It is a fear that has not anything like being afraid mixed with it. It is quite another kind of fear. It is what we commonly call filial fear of God, like the child’s fear of his father. Just think for a minute, what is a child’s fear of his father? I do not mean a naughty child, a child that is obstinate, but a young man who loves his father, — who is his father’s friend, his father’s most familiar acquaintance. Thank God, some of us have children whom we can look upon as near and dear friends as well as dutiful sons and daughters, to whom we can speak with much confidence and love. What is the fear that a well-ordered, well-disciplined, beloved child has of his own father?

     Well, first, he has an awe of him, which arises out of admiration of his character. If his father be what he should be, he is to that son a real model. The youth looks upon what his father does as exactly what he would like to do, and what he aims to copy. His judgment is to his son almost infallible. At any rate, if he sees reason to differ from his father, he is a long while before he brings himself to prefer his own judgment. He has seen his father’s wisdom in other matters so often, that he mistrusts his own apprehension, and would rather trust to what his father tells him. He has a profound conviction that his father is good, kind, wise, and could not do anything, or ask him to do anything, which would not promote his own good. So he feels a sort of awe of him — a fear of him — which prevents his questioning what his father does as he would have questioned anybody else. He is prone to conjecture that his father may have got some reason behind that would explain what he does not understand. He would not give another person credit for having that concealed virtue, but he has such an esteem for his father — his dear father, that he fears to raise any questions about his father’s character, his conduct, or his conclusions. In fact, that character so rules his admiration and commands his respect, that he does not think of questioning it. Well, now, dear friends, how far higher must be our fear of God in this view of the matter. How could we question him? Nay, whatever he does, we say, “It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good.” Like Aaron, when his two sons were stricken down, and that as a summary punishment of their transgression, it should be said of us, as it was recorded of him — “He held his peace.” Aaron could not say anything against God, however severe the stroke was. So, brethren, we cannot judge God. I hope we have given that folly over. We ought to be afraid to do it. I sometimes tremble; horror takes hold upon me, when I now and then meet with a brother or sister (I hope in Christ) who will tell me that God has taken away a dear child, and they cannot forgive him. “That cannot be right, sir.” Oh, it is a dreadful thing for us once to get into such a state of heart that we question anything that God does! No: “Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?” Is it meet, think you, to imagine that our heavenly Father can do anything that is unkind or unwise towards us? It is not possible. The Lord has done it. Let that be your ultimatum. We fear him too much to question what he does. Our reverence of him makes us jealous of ourselves.

     A child, also, without any fear of his father in the wrong sense, is sure to be very deferential in his father’s presence. If his father be in the way, and if quiet be wanted in the house, he will draw his shoes off his feet and check the ebullition of his spirits, lest his father should hear, and he should disturb the unruffled calm. He watches carefully, and studiously guards his conduct, lest anything he does amiss should reach his father’s ear, and grieve his father’s heart. Now it would be very wrong for a child merely to restrain himself in his father’s presence out of respect for him, and then break the bounds with unbridled licentiousness in his father’s absence, as I fear many do. But you and I need not fall into this danger, because we are always in the presence of our heavenly Father in every place. Who among us that fears God as he ought would wish to do anything anywhere which is wrong, and offensive to him, seeing that

“Where e’er we roam, where e’er we rest,
We are surrounded still with God”?

Daring were the hardihood that could insult a king to his face, and commit a trespass in his presence. A sense of the presence of God, a conscience that prompts one to say, “Thou God seest me,” fosters in the soul a healthy fear which you can easily see would rather inspirit than intimidate a man. It is a filial, childlike fear, in the presence of one whom we deeply reverence, lest we should do anything contrary to his mind and will. So, then, there is a fear which arises out of a high appreciation of God’s character, and a fear of the same kind which arises out of a sense of his presence.

     Further, every child, of the sort I have described, fears at any time to intrude upon the father’s prerogative. When he is at home he feels that there are some points in which he may take many liberties. Is it not his own home? has he not always been there? But there are some things of which, if they were suggested to him to do, he would say, “Why, it is impossible. Only my father may do that. I cannot give orders as if I were the master. I cannot expect to govern. I am here, and I am glad to be here, but I am under my father, and I must not presume to exercise the control to which he has an exclusive right.” Now, that is one of the fears which a child of God has. “No,” says he, “how should I venture to stand in the place of God? God bids me: it is not for me to demur or to ask, ‘Shall I or shall I not?’ That were to usurp the place of ruler, to be a master to myself, to ignore the fact that the Lord is alone the ruler. Such a thing God appoints;” then it is not for me to wish the appointment different. Should it be according to my mind? Am I the comptroller? Is divine providence put under my supervision? “No,” says the child of God, “I cannot do anything so inconsistent with a dutiful allegiance.” Some things there are which he feels would be arrogating a position unbecoming altogether in a creature, and much more unbecoming in a creature that has received the spirit of fear whereby he cries “Abba, Father.” O brethren and sisters, it is well to have a fear of getting to feel great — a fear of getting to feel good — a fear of getting to feel anything that should violate your fealty, or disregard the worshipful reverence you owe to the Most High, as if you took sinister license because you were given a sacred liberty, or refused to do homage because you had received favour. Oh no, the virtuous child does not thus slight his indulgent father; neither must we ever think irreverently of our covenant God.

     Holy fear leads us to dread anything which might cause our Father’s displeasure. A good child would not do anything which would make his father feel vexed with him. “It vexes me,” says he, “if it vexes my father.” So let there be always with us a fear to offend our loving God. He is jealous, remember that. It is one of the most solemn truths in the Bible, “The Lord thy God is a jealous God.” We might have guessed it, for great love has always that dangerous neighbour jealousy not far off They that love not have no hate, no jealousy, but where there is an intense, an infinite love, like that which glows in the bosom of God, there must be jealousy. And oh, how jealous he is of the hearts of his people! How determined he is to have all their love! How I have known him to take away the objects of their attachment, one after another — break their idols, and deprive them of their precious vanities — all to get their hearts wholly to himself, because he knew it would never be right with them while they had a divided heart. It was injurious to themselves, and so he is jealous of that which injures them, and jealous of that which dishonours him.

     Let us have this holy fear very strong upon us, and we shall avoid anything which might grieve the Spirit of God. A true child of the kind I have tried to describe — and I hope there are some about — is always afraid of doing anything which might cast a suspicion upon his love and his respect to his father. If he feels that he has done something which might appear discourteous, or be interpreted as akin to rebellion, he is eager to explain at once that he did not mean it so. Or, if he has made a mistake, he is eager at once to rectify it, and would say, “Father, do not read my conduct severely. I love you with all my heart. I may have erred; I have erred; I beg to express my deep regret and repentance.” He could not bear it that his father should think, “My child has no esteem for me, no respect for me, no love for me.” It ought to go hard with every Christian when he thinks he has given God cause to doubt his love. I should suspect he has, when he finds cause to suspect it himself. When you say in your soul, “Do I love the Lord or not” — just think whether God may not be saying it — whether Jesus Christ, the ever blessed, may not feel cause next time he meets you to say to you, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Indeed, dost thou love me?” Three times he may have to put that question, because you have given him a treble cause for mistrusting you, as to whether, indeed, your heart is right before him. We know that the Lord knows all things, and he knows that we love him. We fall back on that, but still we would not so act that the action should look as if we did not. We do not want so to think, or speak, or do, that anything about us should give just cause for suspicion to the All-wise One as to the reality of our professions of love.

     Fear, then— this blessed fear— is what we must all cultivate, and the Lord grant that we may have it, fully matured and fitly exercised, for “blessed is the man that feareth always.”

     II. But, now, giving our meditation a more cheerful turn, let us follow the teaching of our text. It says that this fear has strong confidence in it. WHEREIN IS THAT CONFIDENCE SEEN? The history of men that have feared God may perhaps enlighten us a little on this matter. It is written concerning Job that he was a man that “feared God and eschewed evil.” Satan was permitted to tempt him, and he came into deep trouble, but how blessed was the confidence of Job in all his trouble. How brave a thing it was to say, “The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!” How grand it was of him to say in answer to his wife, “What? shall we receive good at the hand of the Lord, and shall we not receive evil?” Best of all, that was one of the noblest resolves that ever mortal uttered, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” A man up to his neck in trouble — nay, with the billows going over him, and yet his confidence in God is not moved — nay, not for a single moment. He declares that, if God does not set him right now while he lives, yet he believes that his God, his kinsman, lives, and that, if he dies, yet after his death God would avenge him. “I know,” says he, “that my avenger liveth, and though after my death the worms devour this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God, and I shall get right somehow.” He feels sure about that, so his confidence is strong, and it relaxes not in time of trouble. You see the like implicit confidence in Habakkuk. He draws a dreadful picture — “Though the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stall.” He foresees the full stress of the calamity, and prophecies that it shall come to pass. “Yet,” saith he, “will I rejoice in the Lord. I will joy in the God of my salvation.” That was the simple consequence of his fear of the Lord. He feared, and therefore trusted. He knew the grandeur of the divine character. He trembled to impute wrong or unfaithfulness to God; he feared him too much to have one hard thought of him, or to utter one mistrustful word about him; so in the grandeur of that fear he felt a strong confidence. Both Job and Habakkuk experienced and even tested this, and many there be schooled in the same school who have spoken after the same valiant fashion when all God’s waves and billows have gone over them.

     That confidence will not only appear in time of trouble, but it will appear in acts of obedience. The Lord calls his people to obey him, and sometimes obedience requires great self-denial. We may have to surrender what we greatly prize for Christ’s sake. It is not always easy to be confident in doing that which demands quick decision. We may be prone to parley or to do as though we were driven, yielding to stern compulsion rather than surrendering with sweet submission. But to do it with strong confidence can only come to us from having the fear of God before us. Now, Abraham feared the Lord with all his heart, and when the Lord said, “Take now thy son, thy only son, Isaac, whom thou lovest, and offer him up for a burnt offering upon a mountain which I will tell thee of” — if he had not feared God wonderfully, and dreaded to do anything that would look like rebellion against hisorders,he would havesaid, “ What! commit murder — for it will come to that — slay my own dear child!” But no, though he could not understand it, he felt sure that God had some meaning in it — that God could not be ordering him to do what was wrong — that there must be a way by which it would be made right. Besides, he remembered that in Isaac was his seed to be called, and his descendants were to come out of Isaac. How, then, can God keep his promise? How can he fulfil the covenant? This also did not distress Abraham, but being “strong in faith, he staggered not through unbelief.” Hence he rose up early in the morning and prepared the wood. I have looked with tears at the spectacle of that old man, far advanced in years, preparing the wood, and then getting up early and putting the wood upon Isaac, and then going with him, and telling the servants at the bottom of the hill that they must stay lest they should interrupt the consummation of that wondrous deed of faith. And then Isaac says to him, “My father, behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” It must have brought the heart of the father into his mouth. Still he seemed to swallow that dreadful thought, and he said, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb.” And so he takes him and lays him on the altar, and draws a knife — going through with it — right through with it, to the very last, with wondrous heroism; till the Lord stayed his hand. But for his deep fear of God he never would have had the confidence to go through with such an act of obedience.

     Although the Lord does not call you and me to such strong tests as that, yet he does try our faith. I have known sometimes when a man in order to do his duty has had before him what appeared to be a terrible dilemma — “I shall have to give up that situation. If I do that, what is to become of my children? Were I a single man I would do it without hesitation. I would face poverty; I would go down to the docks to ask for day labour. But there are the children. The children — what is to become of the children?” You see you cannot feel like Abraham, who gave up the darling child for God. You are staggered. Yes, but if your fear of God is very strong, you will say, “I cannot make a compromise with any sin. I cannot persevere with that sinful line of business in which I am engaged. Is this the ultimatum? then it admits of no alternative. If God should leave me and my little children to starve, yet I must cede all into God’s hands. It is his to provide, not mine. He does not allow me to do a wrong thing under any circumstances. So here goes for God and for righteousness.” If you have got a great fear of God, that is what you will do, but if you have not the reverence you will not have the confidence. For lack thereof you will timorously shrink back into the sin which galls you. May God give you the heroic confidence which springs of a deep fear of him.

     The same confidence, the same loyalty to God will develop itself when persecution is involved. There are in this world men who hate true religion, and the experiences which occur to true believers are consequently often very painful. If we have much fear of God, we shall have strong confidence, but if we have not the fear of God, then the fear of man will make us waver. See yonder; Nebuchadnezzar’s image of gold on the plains of Dura. A great many people stand about the colossal figure who are of the race of Shem, monotheists — that is to say, believers in one God; not polytheists, whose creed might excuse their idolatry. Hark now! At the sound of flute, harp, sackbut and all kinds of music, the herald proclaims that whosoever will not bow down and worship the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. How quickly does this recreant race of Protestant people swallow their principles. See how they succumb, with their heads in the dust, worshipping the golden image. They had not much fear of the one God, and so they break all his laws. They have more fear of Nebuchadnezzar and his furnace than they have of Jehovah the God of Israel. But here are three young men, captives in Babylon, who stand before the king, and when asked why it is that they have not worshipped his gods and the image which he has set up, declare that they will not worship his god or fall down before his image. They speak positively. They say, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us, but, if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that wre will not worship thy gods or the image which thou hast set up.” Look at the king’s fury. See how the devil lights up his face with lurid glare, how a legion of devils possesses him. “Heat that furnace seven times hotter than its wont,” says he, “and cast these daring rebels therein.” The men are calm, unruffled by his rage, unmoved by his threats. They do not even take off their hats to him. There they stand, in their hosen, and their hats, calm and quiet. They defy the king, because who need have a fear of Nebuchadnezzar that has a fear of Jehovah? Who need fear a king that fears the King of kings? So they consent to be put into the furnace, for in the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence. It was bravely done by old Hugh Latimer when he preached before Hany the Eighth. It was the custom of the Court preacher to present the king with something on his birthday, and Latimer presented Henry VIII. with a pocket-handkerchief with this text in the corner, “Whoremongers and adulterers God will judge”; a very suitable text for bluff Harry. And then he preached a sermon before his most gracious majesty against sins of lust, and he delivered himself with tremendous force, not forgetting or abridging the personal application. And the king said that next time Latimer preached — the next 'Sunday — he should apologise, and he would make him so mould his sermon as to eat his own words. Latimer thanked the king for letting him off so easily. When the next Sunday came, he stood up in the pulpit and said: “Hugh Latimer, thou art this day to preach before the high and mighty prince Henry, King of Great Britain and France. If thou sayest one single word that displeases his Majesty he will take thy head off; therefore, mind what thou art at.” But then said he, “Hugh Latimer, thou art this day to preach before the Lord God Almighty, who is able to cast both body and soul into hell, and so tell the king the truth outright.” And so he did. His performance was equal to his resolution. However, the king did not take off his head, he respected him all the more. The fear of the Lord gave him strong confidence, as it will any who cleave close to their colours.

“Fear him, ye saints, and ye will then
Have nothing else to fear.”

Drive right straight ahead in the fear of the everlasting God, and whoever comes in your way had better mind what he is at. It is yours to do what is right, and bear everything they devise that is wrong. God will bless you therein, and you shall praise him therefore.

     Moreover, this fear of God declares itself in other things besides braving trouble and enduring. It will be a tower of strength to you when you stand up to bear witness to the truth. Have you anything to say for Jesus, you will say it in a very cowardly and sneaking manner if you have not a great fear of God; but if you fear God much, you will be like Peter and John, of whom when the council saw them it is said, “they wondered at their boldness.” The fear of God will make you bold in speaking God’s word.

     Or should you fall down in sheer exhaustion, instead of standing up in sound enthusiasm, the fear of God will prove a potent restorative. Even if you are overthrown for a time you shall overcome at the last. In the Book of Micah we read, “Rejoice not over me, O mine enemy, for though I fall, yet shall I rise again.” He that truly fears God expects to conquer, even though for a time he seems to be defeated. This fear will come out gloriously in confidence in the hour of death. If we fear God we shall, like Stephen, fall asleep, even if it be amid a shower of stones. Glorious is the confidence with which Christians depart from this life when they can depend on the God whom they fear with reverence and serve with readiness.

     III. I must hasten on to notice, in the third place, though not to dwell upon it as I could wish, WHEREUPON THIS CONFIDENCE IS BUILT. The fear of the Lord brings strong confidence, but why?

     Why; because they that fear God know God to be infinitely loving to them, to be immutable and unchangeable, to be unsearchably wise, and omnipotently strong on their behalf. How can they help having confidence in such a God? They know, next, that a full atonement has been made for their sins. Jesus has borne the wrath of God for them: how can they help being confident? They know that this same Jesus has risen from the dead and lives to plead for them, and in their ears they can hear the almighty plea of Jesus ever speaking in their favour. How can they help having confidence? They believe that this same Jesus is head over all things to his church, and ruler of providence. How can they help being confident in him? To him all power is given in heaven and in earth. They believe that everything is working together for their good. How can they help being confident, I say again? They believe that the Spirit of God is in them, dwells in them. What confidence can be too staunch and stedfast for men who know this to be true? They know that there is a mysterious union between them and the Son of God; that they are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. What confidence can be too implicit? They know that there are two immutable things in which it is impossible for God to lie — his promise and his oath, whereby he has given them strong consolation. With such strong consolation they may well have strong confidence.

“The gospel bears my spirits up;
A faithful and unchanging
God Lays the foundation of my hope
In oaths and promises and blood.”

Oh, what unwavering confidence may be based on this firm foundation which God has laid for his people. But time fails me; I cannot enlarge upon it.

     IV. Let me therefore close with a fourth reflection, How THIS CONFIDENCE AND THIS FEAR ARE FAVOURED OF GOD! Observe the promise. “His children shall have a place of refuge.” So, then, you see that those who fear God, and have confidence in him, are his children. They have a childlike fear, and then they have a childlike confidence, and these are the marks that they are his children. And what a favour is this! “To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.” Oh, dear friends, there is a heaven lying asleep inside those words — his children. There is paradise eternal couched within that word — Abba, Father. If you know how to say it with the spirit of adoption, you have the earnest of the inheritance within you: you have got a heaven, a young heaven within your spirit. Oh, be glad! To be a child of God is greater than to be an angel. Why, were Gabriel capable of envy, he would envy you who are the children of the Most High, however poor or sick or downcast you may be. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God.”

     “His children shall have a place of refuge.” Take heart, for this is a grand thought, for you that fear him and confide in him; you shall have a place of refuge. There is Noah. All the world is about to be drowned. In vain might one climb to the tops of the mountains, for the waters will cover their highest pinnacle. Must Noah be drowned, then? Is his destruction inevitable? No, but there is an ark for him. God will not pull up the flood-gates of heaven till Noah is shut in the ark. There is Lot — naughty Lot. He has been acting very badly, and he has got away there down in Sodom. Still, he is a child of God, and he is vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked, proving that he has some fear of God in his heart. Well, what does the Lord say? “Haste thee,” he says, “for I cannot do anything till thou hast come out hither.” Lot must get to Zoar. There must be a little city to shelter Lot. God cannot burn Sodom and Gomorrah till he has got Lot safe out of the way. He must find a refuge for his children. Well, there are his people down in Egypt. God is going to smite the firstborn, and he has loosed an angel to do it, and that angel is swift in his message — swift to do his bidding, and he will slay the firstborn of Israel as well as of Egypt when he goes upon his terrible errand. He will make no distinctions. Yes, but there are the bloodmarks over the door, and the angel sees that the bloody sacrifice has been offered in that house, and he passes by. God’s people must have a place of refuge, and he found them one in Egypt when the angel was let loose, and the angel of death was there. So it happened all along through Scripture history. God sent a famine into the land, and after the famine some that had fled the country came back, and, among the rest, Naomi and Ruth. What is to become of Ruth? She has been a heathen. She has come to fear God. She has put her trust under the shadow of the Almighty’s wings. What is to become of Ruth? Well, she must go and glean in the fields of him who is next of kin, and she found a place of refuge in his bosom. God takes care, you see, of those that fear him and have confidence in him. But there is another great famine, and all the country is barren for three years long. According to the word of God, there is neither dew nor rain, and there is no food, but there is one man there who fears the Lord above all the rest, and that is Elijah. Well, he must have a place of refuge. There, you see, by the brook Cherith he sits him down, and ravens, that were more likely to rob him than to feed him, come to bring him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening. I heard some time ago of a poor woman who was very hard pressed for food; but she remembered the promise of God, and she knelt down and appealed to him that he would provide her bread. Just afterwards a friend came in who brought a loaf of bread to her, saying that this loaf of bread was bought for her husband, but her husband was not well, and he was unable to eat it because they found that a mouse had been eating it, and it so turned him that he could not eat the bread. But the loaf was not hurt: “and,” said the friend, “I dare say you will eat it; I have cut away the part that the mouse touched.” Oh, yes, God can make a mouse do it, or a raven do it. His people shall have a place of refuge. When the brooks are dried up, and the ravens are gone, there is a widow woman over there who has to sustain Elijah, and that woman’s cruse is nearly empty, and her barrel of meal nearly all spent; but, still, her house is the place of refuge for Elijah, and God provides for him there. When the Lord Jesus was here he knew that Jerusalem was to be destroyed, and he knew that his disciples were to be there with the Jews; but if history is to be believed — and I suppose it is — no Christians perished in the destruction of Jerusalem; yet they were very numerous. There is no mention of them by Josephus. They were all gone away, many of them to the little city called Pella, and other places beyond the river Jordan, because Jesus told them, when they saw Jerusalem compassed with armies, they might know that the desolation thereof was nigh. So he counselled such as were in Judea to flee to the mountains. Thus when that destruction came, which was the most terrible calamity that ever happened on the face of the earth, his people had a place of refuge. And now, brethren, whatever is going to happen— and there are some that predict dreadful things — as for me, I do not know what is going to happen, and, which is another thing, I do not care — his people shall have a place of refuge. “Though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swellings, thereof. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” If it should ever come to this — that the whole earth should rock and reel, or burn and smoke and seethe, or burn, like a cauldron, into one boiling mass — if there is no room for God’s people on the earth to And a refuge, he will find a refuge for them in the clouds. They shall be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air. But, somehow or other, his people shall have a place of refuge. His children shall have a 'place of refuge. Lay hold on that. There is a refuge for you somewhere, Christian, even in the matter of ordinary providence, and there is always a mercy-seat for you to go to. There is always the bosom of Christ for you to fly to. The fear of the Lord does not drive you from him. It drives you to him, and when it drives you to him you have got a place of refuge. I find that Moses Stewart reads the text differently from anybody else, and I am not sure that he is wrong. He says the text means that the children of those that fear God shall have a place of refuge, and, if so, this is not the only passage of Scripture that proves it. There are many precious texts that speak of our children. Let us try to grasp the promise for our children as well as for ourselves, and pray for them that they may have a place of refuge. There are some believers going to be baptized to-night. I hope they have got a firm grip of that gospel promise that Paul uttered, where he says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” The jailer did, you know, and we find that it is said, “He was baptized, and all his house;” and for this reason — that he believed in the Lord, rejoicing with all his house. Oh, we can never be satisfied till we see all our house converted, and all our household baptized, and all those that belong to us belonging also to the Lord our God, for thus it is “His children shall have a place of refuge.” May God bless you, dear friends, through Jesus Christ our Lord.



Sihon and Og, or Mercies in Detail

By / Jun 22

Sihon and Og, or Mercies in Detail

 

“To him which smote great kings: for his mercy endureth for ever: and slew famous kings: for his mercy endureth for ever: Sihon king of the Amorites: for his mercy endureth for ever: and Og the king of Bashan: for his mercy endureth. for ever: and gave their land for an heritage; for his mercy endureth for ever: even an heritage unto Israel his servant: for his mercy endureth for ever.” —Psalm cxxxvi. 17—22.

 

THESE six verses iterate and reiterate the same fact; they rehearse and repeat the same reflection. Is the tautology tedious; do the chimes weary you with their monotony? Nay; but this is a veritable charm in poetry. When the poet touches upon some important theme, which, illuminates his soul and kindles his nobler passions to a flame, he is very apt to dwell upon it with enthusiasm, constrained to pursue it with avidity, to follow it up with feeling, and echo it over and over again with strong and yet stronger emotion. Nobody feels that repetition is out of place in poetry, because in weal or woe, with pleasure or with pathos we dwell on the theme which awakens our sympathy. This psalm, of which the refrain is always the same, — “His mercy endureth for ever,” has in it several instances of this repetition. “To him that made great lights” is followed by “The sun to rule by day,” and by the next, “The moon and stars to rule by night: for his mercy endureth for ever.” The repetition is natural and secures attention, the words are musical as they strike on our ears, and the style is not only allowable, but acceptable as a beautiful licence of the poetic school. For my part, I like a repetition in the tune of a psalm as well as in its language. There has sprung up a fashion in music now to cavil at repeats. I must confess I do not feel of the same mind as some who, when the psalm or hymn is given out, seem to say, “Now, let us go through it as hard as ever we can tear from beginning to end.” I prefer to chew some of the words — to have them come over again— to get the flavour of them in my mouth, or rather in my soul. For instance, an old tune like the one we have sung is none the worse because it gives us the repeat of “his loving kindness.” Such a word as that you would like to keep on repeating, if it were needful dozen times —

“His loving kindness, his loving kindness, oh, how good!”

     A repeat ought to be considered rather a beauty than a blemish in music. There is, moreover, a reason for every repetition in Scripture, for we may say of the ornaments of poetry when we find them in the sacred volume that they are never mere ornaments. The repetitions, though elegant, are not merely flowers of rhetoric: they have a design. The Holy Spirit dwells upon a theme because he has an intention in so doing. My present purpose is to endeavour to show you why there should be six verses here when one verse might have sufficed. One might have been quite sufficient, it is clear. Suppose it had run thus— “Who slew famous kings, Sihon king of the Amorites and Og king of Bashan, and gave their land for a heritage to his people: for his mercy endureth for ever.” That would have comprehended all the sense; but the Holy Spirit did not judge that to be the best way of speaking, and so he divided it into six parts. He repeated it that there might be heard six times the refrain— “His mercy endureth for ever but not, I think, merely for the sake of repeating that beautiful truth so often; but for other reasons besides connected with the truth of which he was writing. It is well to dwell long, and to dwell deliberately, upon some of God's dealings with us. This is the theme on which I want to thread a few reflections.

     I. And, first, IT IS WELL TO DELIBERATE LONG OVER THE MERCIFUL SIDE OF GOD S JUDGMENTS.

     One does not always see that he “slew mighty kings: for his mercy endureth for ever; and smote famous kings; for his mercy endureth for ever.” It would have read more naturally if he had said, “Who smote mighty kings: for his justice endureth for ever: and slew famous kings; for his vengeance endureth for ever.” The point to be brought out, however, was that there was mercy in these judgments. The Holy Spirit would have us know that there is mercy abroad in the world even—

“When God’s right arm is bared for war,
And thunder clothes his cloudy car,”

     The removal from the earth of these great oppressive kings, though it was terrible for them, was a great blessing. When tyrants die, nations have time to breathe. When great oppressors are cut off, it is as when a lion falls, or as when wolves are slain, and the deer and sheep have time to rest. Who knows how often, in answer to the tear of the slave, God has been pleased to smite his tyrant master. Mercy herself had brushed the tear from her eye, and said, “Smite, O God.” Sometimes when we have read stories of oppression and tyranny, wrong, and violence, the gentlest among us, who would not have hurt a hair of a man’s head, have been the very first to express indignation, and to marvel that God kept back the thunderbolt— that he did not pour vengeance on the adversary, and deliver the injured and down-trodden. If you read all through history and see how dynasties have crumbled and empires have melted away— could you but discern the secret history of the nations, and how much there was of robbery and oppression, injustice and cruelty, you would understand that when emperor after emperor was slain in battle, or overtaken by sudden death, and king after king was swept from the throne, it was because God's mercy endureth for ever. It was not mercy to the one man, perhaps—to Nero, Caligula, Tiberius, or the like; but was it not mercy to the millions who had grown weary of his abominable rule? The sufferings of the helpless cried to God for redress. The moans and tears of serfs and vassals, prisoners and captives, presented their wretchedness before him, till his mercy linked hands with his wrath, and he smote great kings, and slew famous kings, because his mercy endured for ever. Read the page of history, I say, with this sentiment in your mind, and you will often judge that what seemed to be a very severe retribution upon some man of eminence, may turn out, after all, only to have been an act of mercy towards those who were under his power.

     Apply the thought another way. There are huge systems of power in the world, and such there always have been— systems, like Sihon, king of the Amorites, whose force and fame have held vast hordes and populations in terror, and the defences of these systems have been strong as the walled cities of Og, king of Bashan; but since the day when Christ came into the world and gathered his twelve apostles around him, how many of these systems have been utterly destroyed? Ask, at this moment, where are the gods that were worshipped when Paul entered Athens and preached Jesus and the resurrection? Where are all the gods that held sway over Greece and Rome when Peter, and the rest of the fishermen, were telling of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the propitiation that he made for sin? They have passed away, and they are not. And, since then, there have risen up great systems and schools of thought—in which human wisdom has opposed the divine wisdom. Strong and mighty systems they have been, but student of history knows how they have all passed away one after the other. And in our own land there has passed away— I pray God never to return—the system of Popery, more terrible than Sihon, king of the Amorites, or Og, king of Bashan. And now our ruined abbeys are scattered all over the land—ruins which make our souls rejoice as we look upon them, for we say, “Come, behold the works of the Lord; what desolation he hath made in the earth.” And here is another instance of how he can put his foes to flight. At this day there are other systems still standing, crushing down the people, darkening the night of nature with a denser darkness of superstition— turning a midnight of human depravity into a darkness that might be felt, as in the plague of Egypt of old. But, as the Lord liveth, as he hath scattered falsehoods one after the other, so will he scatter all these systems, and the day shall come when we shall say, “Mahomet’s crescent is forgotten now, for his mercy endureth for ever; and the pomp of anti-Christ has passed away and all his infallibility; for the mercy of the Lord endureth for ever.” One great error after another is brought down by the strong hand of the God of Jacob, for his mercy endureth for ever; and though in each case these things seem like judgments upon the people, yet are they judgments full of mercy, for it is a blessing when God smites any system which is contrary to himself and to his truth, contrary to his Son, contrary to the liberties and the rights of man, and, above all, contrary to the gospel life and the holy purity of the church.

     Now, brethren, there are other judgments yet to come— judgments which we, surely, are to look forward to with great hope as instances of the mercy of God. The day is coming when he who is more terrible than Sihon, king of the Amorites, shall be cast out. Christ, by his death, has broken the power of Satan, but Satan still holds sway to a great extent over the sons of men. As the gospel spreads his power shall lessen, and by-and-by there shall come the time when he shall be bound — when he shall be cast into the lake of fire, and his power shall cease. It will be a judgment upon him. But what an illustration it will be of how God’s mercy endureth for ever. Then shall he lift “his brazen front with thunder scarred,” receive his sentence, and begin anew his hell; and in that day the saints shall sing “His mercy endureth for ever.” And death, too, that tenable thing, that also is to be destroyed, the last enemy it is, but it is the last enemy that shall he destroyed; and when death itself shall cease to be, and the sepulchre shall be rifled of all its treasures, then shall we magnify and bless the Lord, as Israel did when they thought of Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan; for his mercy endureth for ever. And when that last tremendous act of vengeance shall come, and death and hell shall be cast into the lake of fire; and all the hosts of evil, even all that have done iniquity and have rejected Christ, shall be cast out for ever from all hope and joy— in that dread day, while it shall be to them weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, it shall be to the righteous “Hallelujah! hallelujah! for God and goodness, the right and the Christ, have triumphed for ever.” Yea, even in the condemnation of the lost, it shall be a token of mercy to the universe that sin was not permitted to triumph, that evil was not allowed to have its sway, but that God overcame it at a mighty cost, and, at last, shut it up within its proper bounds, never to break forth again, for “his mercy endureth for ever.”

     We know not, brethren, what may happen to ourselves, but we know what has happened, and, in the light of the truth I am now dwelling upon, we may now sing unto the Lord a new song. We have had our smitings, and we have had our slayings. We have had sins within us slain that were mighty kings, and we have had corruptions that were famous kings, but they have been brought down; we have had our idols broken, and judgments have come upon our inventions. Oh, what a smashing of idols there has been with many a heart here present, how have you stood with tears in your eyes as your Dagon was made to fall before the ark of the Lord! You tried to set it in its place again, but you could not, for the Lord broke it to pieces; and he has taken away the gods wherein ye trusted and the things that your heart doted upon, and the delight of your eyes, and the joy of your spirit— he has taken these away one by one— mighty kings that swayed you, and famous kings that ruled your heart and mind, and engaged the best of your affections. These have been slain because his mercy endureth for ever, and, for my part, I would say, “O sword of the Lord, rest not: return not to thy scabbard if thou art slaying my sins, if thou art overcoming my corruptions, go through me, Lord, and smite again, and if thou breakest up the idols, break on.”

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

Still would I say of every act of idol-breaking and of king-slaying within my soul, “His mercy endureth for ever, his mercy endureth for ever.” Hence these smitings, hence these trials, hence these afflictions; they are sent, not in anger, but in his dear covenant love—not to harm us, but to bless us; not to impoverish us, but to make our inheritance wider and larger, both here and in the world to come. This is our first thought. In the midst of judgments we should wait and watch till we see the mercy side of them, for then we shall sing, “Who smote great kings, for his mercy endureth for ever: and slew famous kings, for his mercy endureth for ever.”

     II. Secondly, EACH MERCY DESERVES TO BE REMEMBERED. With what special point and emphasis each instance is put, “Sihon king of the Amorites, for his mercy endureth for ever: and Og the king of Bashan, for his mercy endureth for ever.” Why not give them in the gross— Sihon and Og? Why not, as we commonly and vulgarly say, lump them together, and thank God for them in the mass? No, no, they must come in detail— “Sihon king of the Amorites, for his mercy endureth for ever: and Og the king of Bashan, for his mercy endureth for ever.” Why should they thus come in detail?

     Because every mercy we have received is undeserved. The Israelites did not deserve that God should smite Sihon, king of the Amorites, or Og, king of Bashan. It was a mercy so rich and gracious that it deserved to be recorded. In that very chapter, from which I read to you just now, where God smote Sihon, you will find that the children of Israel murmured, so that God sent fiery serpents among them. In that same chapter we have the record of his chastening them with fiery serpents, and yet he is giving them victory over their foes. Oh, it brings the tears into our eyes, and fills us with humiliation, when we recollect that many of our choicest mercies have come to us just after our very blackest sins. It is not that the Lord gives us his mercy when we are walking consistently— when we are obedient, when we are what we ought to be; there would be great grace in that; but the crowning mercy is that when we have gone out of the way— when we have gone down By-path Meadow, when, like Peter, we have denied our Master, yet still some great mercy has been vouchsafed to set us right again. Sihon, king of the Amorites, just when we had provoked the Lord, has come down upon us to destroy us; but the Lord has said, “No, I will smite my children, but I will not let you smite them. I will chasten them and send fiery serpents, but, Sihon, you must not touch them. Get you back. If you dare lay a finger upon them my jealousy shall burn and smoke against you; for they are my children, and I will deliver them in the day of their afflictions.” Oh, bless the Lord for each mercy, because it has been so undeserved.

     Nor have we received a mercy that we could have dispensed with. Had God smitten Sihon, king of the Amorites, and then when Og came against them had said, “I have done enough for you, and I will do no more; the nation would have been destroyed. No, Sihon, king of the Amorites, is smitten. Bless the Lord for that. Yet if the Lord does not smite Og, king of Bashan, what will become of Israel? Thus each mercy is needed, why then should not each mercy have a separate song? When you are in present trouble you think much of the present mercy. My dear brother, when you have got through the trouble, why not think a great deal of the mercy afterwards? Then as it comes, a brand new mercy in a fresh dilemma, the more you need it, the more store you set by it. Why not set the like store by these mercies after you have received them, and commemorate in particular the benefits which flow out of each? Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan shall be sung of each one separately, because neither victory could be dispensed with. They were both needful that Israel might enter into the promised land.

     Moreover, there was a peculiarity about each mercy. This was sure to be the case. You never had two mercies from God that were quite alike. There were some special circumstances which made a marked difference. Pluck the leaves from a tree: commonly speaking, they are alike, yet there are no two leaves veined exactly in the same manner. So too with mercies. There is some distinction, if you look narrowly into them. Generally, when we are in deep waters, there is some peculiar feature to distinguish the trial and to identify it afterwards. I know that Monday’s mercy will not do for Tuesday, and I should be sorry if I had nothing but Tuesday’s mercy to help me through Wednesday. His mercies “are new every morning: great is his faithfulness.” Now, since they are all new, and each one separate, why should not each one be spoken of by itself? As God paints so many fresh pictures, why should we not set them in appropriate frames, saying of each one, “His mercy endureth for ever”? There is a specialty about each. Sihon is not Og, and Og is not Sihon. Well may my text assign to each one its place in the song of praise.

     But if any mercy deserves to be rehearsed more distinctly than another, it is early mercy. The children of Israel had not got their hands into fighting yet. They had not crossed the Jordan; they had not entered Canaan, where they were to be soldiers every day; they were on this side the Jordan, and they had not learned war. They offered to Sihon, and to Og, to go quietly through their land, and not so much as pluck a fruit from their trees, or drink a drop of water from their wells. But Sihon and Og were in an ill state of mind, and they would not allow them to go peaceably through. There was a battle— the first of their battles— the commencement of their warfare, and so they always looked back with happy and grateful memories to their first fights and their first victories. No doubt they recollected all about Adonibezek, and about the king of Ai, and all those other kings; but these were afterwards, their first fights were with Sihon and Og. Oh, my dear brothers and sisters, I should like you to recall your first troubles — your first labours for Christ, your first trials, and your first successes. You recollect the first soul that you brought to Jesus— you cannot forget the little room where you began to work. You remember the half-dozen girls that you collected for the first time to form a class — those two or three boys that you got into that little room down in the back-slum. Now, remember your Sihon, king of the Amorites, and your Og, king of Bashan, and how God helped you over those beginnings. It was a great thing, you know, for you were not so big then as you are now. You begin to think (I am only saying out aloud what your heart whispers to you)— you begin to think that you can do it. Why, you are a man of experience, are you not? And you, young man, why, you are a well developed minister now; you can do a great deal. We too often feel as if our experience had matured us into something far more important than we dreamed of in the first stage of our little career. It is a wicked feeling, but the vanity of our hearts will sometimes assert itself. Now, just let us revert to the time when we were little in Israel, and all unknown, some of us were, perhaps, quite boys and girls, though we truly loved our Lord. We were weak and feeble; nobody thought there was anything in us; or, if they did, we ourselves did not think so. We were all trembling, and afraid; but, glory be to God, we overcame Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, the king of Bashan, and our early victories are fresh in our memories. Let us recall them, partly to humble us, and partly to strengthen us. Let us, like David, say, “Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them.” The Lord who helped those young days will not forsake you now. Only trust him with the same simplicity; only distrust yourself as much as you did then, and a little more; only sink into the very dust of self-abasement, and rise in all the grandeur of childlike confidence in God, and as he smote Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan, so will he make all your foes as driven stubble before your face. He will make you as a new, sharp threshing instrument, having teeth, and you shall thresh the mountains and make them as chaff.

     Thus each mercy deserves to be specially remembered, for not one is deserved, not one is needless, and every one has its peculiarity, and especially the early ones, — they have a never-to-be-forgotten speciality.

     III. Thirdly, EACH MERCY DOES REALLY IN ITSELF DESERVE SEPARATE CONTEMPLATION.

     I will show you exactly why I think so. I go to visit a sick person. He has been in trouble. Let me suppose it is yourself who makes the visit, for I dare say you have done the same thing. Very soon after you enter you get an account of the trouble in pretty full details; and then you have all the special circumstances related to you. “You see, my dear sir, I should not have felt the loss of this dear child so much, only it is the second or the third I have lost; and then, you see, sir, she was such a sweet girl;” or, “It was that dear boy upon whom I had set all my hopes.” These little points are always mentioned as occasions of special grief or aggravations of a heavy sorrow. “My dear husband is taken away,” says the disconsolate widow; and, unwilling to mingle her tears indiscriminately with other weepers in like afflictions, she adds, “Ah, sir, but in my widowhood there are pangs peculiarly bitter. Just after he had been toiling and struggling with the tide against him, and we were beginning to get on more smoothly, he was taken away with a sudden stroke or a slow consumption before there was a proper provision made for these dear children. When they seemed to want a father’s care and tenderness, it was then, just then, he was smitten, and I am left with a heart withered like grass.” Then you meet another who has lost money, and you hear of the failure that is likely to come on. And then there are certain reasons about the loss — about the person that was trusted, certain circumstances about the cruel manner in which he acted, and the shameful way in which he betrayed confidence. You hear all that. Oh, I know all about it. I have heard it, and, moreover, when I have got some trouble of my own, I think I generally find myself turning it inside out, like a child does a new dress, saying, “Look here,” and showing every bit of it— every point of it— upside down, the right way up, the wrong side up, and the wrong side out, and all ways. You always do that, do you not, with all your troubles? Now then, dear friends, ought you not to do the same with all your mercies? Do you not think so? If the Lord gave you nothing but troubles, then, methinks, there might be some justification in dwelling so much upon them; but since there are so many mercies, would not it be wisdom to tell your friends, sometimes, all about those mercies with a sparkling eye, and say, “They were manifold mercies. There was fold upon fold. See the goodness of the justLord wheninI most this thing required. He it, sent audit that came mercy to mejust in such whena Ibeautiful wanted way it—, too, and it was delivered to me by the very person that made it most acceptable. The way in which the gift was bestowed so sweetened it, that I do not know how to praise the Lord enough for it.” Oh, that I heard Christians often saying one to another, “Have you heard what the Lord has done for me? Sit down a little while, and let me fill your ears with the sweet tale of his lovingkindnesses and his tender mercies.” Is not this justice? Bare justice? If you will harp on your sorrows, you should, in a better sense, harp on your joys, and bring out the best harp with all its ten strings, and touch all those strings with praise to him who has done so much for you. Tell the world not only that he overcame your foes, but say, “To him which smote great kings, for his mercy endureth for ever: and slew famous kings, for his mercy endureth for ever: Sihon king of the Amorites, for his mercy endureth for ever: and Og the king of Bashan, for his mercy endureth for ever.” “We might tire people,” says one. I am glad you are a little sensitive on that point, because you have been rather inconsiderate sometimes when you have been talking about your troubles, and I think you might be excused if you were to weary us occasionally by declaring your mercies. Oh, but the ears of saints are not tired with such themes as this; on the contrary, they are gladdened and made to rejoice. “Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will tell you what he has done for my soul.” I am sure the response of all God’s people will be— “Let us hear it. Tell it to us, for we will rejoice with you and magnify the name of the Most High.”

     IV. Fourthly, CONTINUED BENEFITS ARE A SPECIAL PROOF OF ENDURING MERCY.

     For God to slay Sihon king of the Amorites may hardly prove by itself that his mercy endureth for ever, though it does prove that he had mercy then. Hence the inspired poet wisely strikes that string, and ere the note has died away upon the listening ear he touches another. “Og king of Bashan,” says he; “for his mercy endureth for ever.” One, two, three, four, five, six succeeding stanzas— these mercies come quickly one after the other, and so they show the continuance of the mercy, while the unbroken succession of wave upon wave in ceaseless regularity gives sanction to the chorus, “his mercy endureth for ever.” Thus, dear brethren, were we in the habit of dwelling distinctly upon God’s distinct mercies, do you not think we should have in our souls a firmer faith as to the endurance, the continuity, the everlastingness of the mercy of God? Oh, what the Lord did for us when we were babes in grace! When we think of what he then did, we say, “His mercy endureth for ever.” Then consider what he did for us when we were young men in Christ Jesus. “His mercy endureth for ever.” Think of what he has done for us after we have grown to be fathers, “His mercy endureth for ever.” And O ye grey heads, tell of what the Lord has done for you, for when you put all four ages together you can say with peculiar emphasis, “His mercy endureth for ever.” I wish I had a memory strong enough to recollect all the mercies of God to me in the past year. They have been very many, very great, and taken one by one they have been very sweet. As I look at them one after the other, the evidence seems to accumulate till the argument becomes conclusive that “His mercy endureth for ever.” It has endured all through the year, it was connected with all the years that went before, it is gathering fresh force in the year that is current, so I may trust for the years that are yet to come that he who was yesterday so full of mercy, and is to-day so full of grace, will be for ever the same. Do you not see that the striking of these bells one by one— the bringing out of each mercy in its distinctness one after the other — goes to illustrate the precious and ever-blessed truth that his mercy endureth for ever. Let our hearts look forward with the calm confidence which must come to a soul that lives by faith and sings without fear —

“For his mercies shall endure
Ever faithful — ever sure.”

     V. Fifthly, THE OVERRULING OF TRIALS IS A SUBJECT TO DWELL UPON WITH DELIGHT.

     Read the verses — “And gave their land for a heritage, for his mercy endureth for ever: even a heritage unto Israel his servant, for his mercy endureth for ever.” The Israelites did not expect to have the territory of Sihon and Og. Their land was on the other side of Jordan, but since Sihon and Og assailed them as unexpected foes, they got out of them unexpected territory. You and I have had, and we do have, unexpected trials. In looking back we have suffered many trials which we did not anticipate from unlikely quarters, from persons who ought to have been our friends, our helpers, our comforters. The result has shown that we have had unexpected advantages: our perils have proved pioneers of our progress. I want you to remember this, that you may sing the more sincerely, “His mercy endureth for ever.”

     How many sins and how much unsuspected treachery of heart have we been led to discover through our troubles. Those vipers would have slept in our soul quietly: they would have bred disease there of the deadliest kind; but trouble came, and we were put in such a state of trembling that we began to search; and as we searched we found the deadliest evil, and we put it away. How many a vice has been discovered to us in the hour of trial. Whenever I hear of a brother who thinks his corruptions are dead, I feel inclined to say, “Put him half-an-hour in the furnace, and if he does not hear the dogs bark inside his soul, I am mistaken.” There they are, sure enough. Depend upon that. He is possessed of most devils who thinks he has the fewest imperfections, as a general rule. Only let us get into trouble— be thrown into the sieve, and let the devil give us an extra shake or two, and there is enough of chaff or dust in us all to blind our eyes, or to fill them with tears, when our Lord sends us repentance. It must come— this trouble, and we must be thankful for the trouble since it winnows the wheat and makes us clean before the living God.

     Besides helping to cleanse us, how many times has trouble helped to instruct us. You may read the book all through, young man, and you may think that you know all about it; but your grandfather knows the meaning of texts that you cannot spell yet. “Oh,” you say, “I have been studying the commentators; I have been looking into them for the meaning of the passages.” Yes, but there is another way of reading the commentators, and it comes from experience; experience is the grand way of getting texts written upon your heart. There are many texts that cannot be brought home to your own heart yet. A text of that sort must be brought home to you when you are in such a position as to need its application, and it cannot be understood until then. You may have learned all about anchors, sir, but you never know the value of a sheet anchor till you have got into a storm. You may read and hear on shore all about a tempest, and you may have met with beautiful descriptions of it, and think you know how it tosses the ship about; but I will warrant you that a good heave or two will let you know more about sea-sickness and the effects of those mighty tempests that rouse the billows and rock the vessels than all the books you have ever read for sound instruction or seasonable entertainment.

     And how much has the character of God been revealed to us in trouble. We do not know our friends till we fall into adversity; neither is that “friend who sticketh closer than a brother” truly prized by us till we are brought into trouble, and then we know his power to sympathize and to succour.

     Trials help to strengthen us. It is impossible for a Christian to be very strong— in certain ways, at any rate— unless he grapple with difficulties and endure hardships. There is no proving your courage and prowess in war, except you smell gunpowder, and are exposed to the dread artillery. There is no learning to be strong in the battle except you pass through trouble: depend upon it. My arm would soon weary if I had to lift the blacksmith’s hammer for an hour or two, and make horseshoes. I am afraid I should soon give up the business. But the blacksmith’s arm does not ache, for he has been at it so many years, and he rings out a tune on the anvil, so joyfully does his strong arm do the work. Practice has strengthened him. And so, when we have become inured to trial and trouble, faith is to us a far more simple matter than it was before, and we become “strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.” What shall we say then? Thanks to Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan, for teaching us war? Nay; but we will thank the Lord, who has given “their land to be a heritage, even a heritage for Israel his servant, for his mercy endureth for ever.”

     VI. Lastly, THE HAPPENING OF ALL THIS TO THE SAME PERSONS IS A FURTHER ILLUSTRATION THAT HIS MERCY ENDURETH FOR EVER. These six verses tell of great things done for Israel, all for Israel. That last verse is very sweet to me— “Even an heritage unto Israel his servant.” What are the kings slain for? For Israel. What does Sihon die for? For Israel. Why does Og fall? For Israel. For whom is the heritage? For Israel. And who is Israel, and what has Israel done, to have all this? What have they done? Brethren, it is a sad but gracious story. Israel! Israel! Why, that is the nation that made the golden calf, and said, “These be thy gods, O Israel.” Israel! Why, these are the people who said, “Because there were no graves in Egypt hast thou brought us into this wilderness to destroy us.” Israel! Why, these are the people that took the daughters of Moab and committed lewdness with them. Israel! Why, these are the people who provoked the Lord, so that he said to his servant Moses, “Let me alone! Let me alone, that I may destroy them,” for they provoked the Lord to jealousy. Israel! Why, these are the people of whom God sware in his wrath that they should not enter into his rest. Yet is it the same nation. Their children have followed them; it is Israel still, and God has done all this for Israel. Now, while you are thinking about Israel, just begin to think about yourselves. For whom has God done all this— turned judgment into mercy, fought great battles on their behalf, and given them a great inheritance of mercy and lovingkindness and favour? Who is it for? Well, I will not mention anybody’s name, but I will mention my own to myself; and as I mention it I think—

“O grace, it is thy wont
Into unlikeliest hearts to come.”

How singular that thou shouldest do all this for such an one as I am. Brother, sister, I can better understand God’s mercy to you than I can his mercy to me. I know one who has, in distress, sometimes doubted the lovingkindness of the Lord. I know one who has been proud, envious, and worldly. I know one whose heart has been cold, dead, callous, careless, when it ought to have been tender, and full of pity and full of love. I know one that is all imperfections, all faults. He seems to himself to grow worse instead of better every day: at least he loathes himself more a hundred times than he used to do. And yet I know that the Lord loves that man; but why I do not know, except “even so, Father, for so it seems good in thy sight.” And if you tell your own story truly, and know your own hearts and your own lives, you will wonder and be astonished to the extreme of wonderment that the Lord should give a heritage to Israel— to you, his servant— truly his servant, but a poor, faulty servant to have such a heritage given him out of the abundance of the grace of God. And why does he do it, but that his mercy endureth for ever? Is there one of us who might not justly be in hell before the clock ticks again, if it were not that his mercy endureth for ever? The brightest saint here has no brightness but what God lends him, and he only lends it to him because his mercy endureth for ever. Oh, bless his name, ye children of his that live near to him— you that have climbed to the highest stage of communion. Remember, you do not stand there because of anything in yourselves, but because his mercy endureth for ever. If you have conquered your sins— Sihon king of the Amorites— it is because his mercy endureth for ever; and if to-day you put your foot upon the neck of Og, king of Bashan, it is not because you are strong, but because his mercy endureth for ever. If you have grown in sanctification, and begin to possess the land which God has given to be a heritage to his people, it is still because his mercy endureth for ever; and when death itself is dead, and you have passed beyond the gate of pearl, and taken possession of the throne reserved for you with Christ at God’s right hand, the only reason why you shall get there will be because his mercy endureth for ever. This is the song of every saved soul in this tabernacle, as it shall be in the temple -above, from henceforth even for evermore.

     I think it ought to be a great encouragement to those of you who are not God’s people, if there be any such present, and there may be. Oh, how it ought to ring in your ears, “His mercy endureth for ever.” You are very old, but his mercy endureth for ever. You are very sick and near to die, but his mercy endureth for ever. You have gone to the utmost extreme of sin, but his mercy endureth for ever. You have resisted his Spirit, you have stifled your conscience, you have been disobedient to Christ, but his mercy endureth for ever. You have indulged every evil passion, you have broken loose from every bond that ought to have held you to the way of right, but his mercy endureth for ever. The last day of your life is almost come, but his mercy still endureth, and will endure till you die. If death comes, we have no gospel for the dead, but as long as you live that mercy still endureth.

“While the lamp holds out to burn,
The vilest sinner may return.”

The returning prodigal trusting in Jesus Christ shall find mercy. If you say, “Oh, but, Lord, my sins are strong, how can I master them?” the answer I shall give you is in the words of my text, “He slew great kings, for his mercy endureth for ever: yea, slew famous kings, for his mercy endureth for ever.” Cannot God slay your sins? As for Satan and the world, he slew Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan, for his mercy endureth for ever. If you say that you never can be holy, and never can grow like his children, I know “he gave their land to be a heritage, for his mercy endureth for ever, even a heritage unto Israel his servant, for his mercy endureth for ever,” and why should he not even thus enrich you with sanctifying grace? May God of his rich mercy abundantly bless you, that you may sing his praise for ever. Amen.



Unconditional Surrender

By / Jun 22

Unconditional Surrender

 

“Submit yourselves therefore to God.” — James iv. 7.

 

THIS advice should not need much pressing. “Submit yourselves unto God”— is it not right upon the very face of it? Is it not wise? Does not conscience tell us that we ought to submit? Does not reason bear witness that it must be best to do so? “Submit yourselves unto God.” Should not the creature be submissive to the Creator, to whom it owes its existence, without whom it had never been, and without whose continuous good pleasure it would at once cease to be? Our Creator is infinitely good, and his will is love: to submit to one who is “too wise to err, too good to be unkind,” should not be hard. If he were a tyrant it might be courageous to resist, but since he is a Father it is ungrateful to rebel. He cannot do anything which is not perfectly just, nor will he do aught which is inconsistent with the best interests of our race; therefore to resist him is to contend against one’s own advantage, and, like the untamed bullock, to kick against the pricks to our own hurt. “Submit yourselves unto God”— it is what angels do, what kings and prophets have done, what the best of men delight in— there is therefore no dishonour nor sorrow in so doing. All nature is submissive to his laws; suns and stars yield to his behests, we shall but be in harmony with the universe in willingly bowing to his sway. “Submit yourselves unto God”— you must do it whether you are willing to do so or not. Who can stand out against the Almighty? For puny man to oppose the Lord is for the chaff to set itself in battle array with the wind, or for the tow to make war with the flame. As well might man attempt to turn back the tide of ocean, or check the march of the hosts of heaven as dream of overcoming the Omnipotent. The Eternal God is irresistible, and any rebellion against his government must soon end in total defeat. By the mouth of his servant Isaiah the Lord challenges his enemies, saying, “Who would set the briars and thorns against me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them together.” God will be sure to overthrow his adversaries: he may in his infinite patience permit the rebel to continue for a while in his revolt, but as surely as the Lord liveth he will compel every knee to bow before him, and every tongue to confess that he is the living God. “Submit yourselves unto God.” Who would do otherwise, since not to submit is injurious now, and will be fatal in the end? If we oppose the Most High, our opposition must lead on to defeat and destruction, for the adversaries of the Lord shall be as the fat of rams, into smoke shall they consume away. For the man who strives with his Maker there remains a fearful looking for of judgment and the dread reward of everlasting punishment. Who will be so foolhardy as to provoke such a result?

     “Submit yourselves unto God” is a precept which to thoughtful men is a plain dictate of reason, and it needs few arguments to support it. Yet because of our foolishness the text enforces it by a “Therefore,” which “Therefore” is to be found in the previous verse, – “He resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God.” His wrath and his mercy both argue for submission. We are both driven and drawn to it. The Romans were wont to say of their empire that its motto was to spare the vanquished, but to war continually against the proud. This saying aptly sets forth the procedure of the Most High. He aims all his arrows at the lofty, and turns the edge of his sword against the stubborn; but the moment he sees signs of submission his pity comes to the front, and through the merits of his Son his abounding mercy forgives the fault. Is not this an excellent reason for submission? Who can refuse to be vanquished by love? Who will not say as our hymn puts it—

“Lord, thou hast won, at length I yield;
My heart, by mighty grace compell’d,
Surrenders all to thee;
Against thy terrors long I strove,
But who can stand against thy love?
Love conquers even me.”

If resistance will only call forth the omnipotent wrath of God, but true submission will lead to the obtaining of his plenteous grace, who will continue in arms? I shall not tarry to carry the argument further, but aim at once to press home this precept upon you as God the Holy Ghost may enable me. I believe it to be addressed both to saint and sinner, and therefore I shall urge it home first upon the child of God, and say to all of you who love the Lord, “Submit yourselves to God and then we shall take a little longer time to say in deep solemnity to those who are not reconciled to God by the death of his Son, “Submit yourselves to God” if ye would be saved.

     I. To THE PEOPLE OF GOD, Submit yourselves unto God.” He is your God, your Father, your friend, yield yourselves to him. What does this counsel mean? It means, first exercise humility. We do well to interpret a text by its connection: now the connection here is “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble,” and therefore the submission here meant must include humility, even if it be not the chief thing intended. Brothers and sisters, let us take our right place before God. And what is that? Is it the highest seat in the synagogue? Is it the place of those who thank God that they are not as other men are? I scarcely need reply, for you who are the children of God will not dream of occupying such a position. If by reason of temporary foolishness you ever boast, I am sure, my dear friends, when you think over it in the watches of the night you are very much ashamed of yourselves, and would be glad to eat your own words. A pardoned sinner boasting! A debtor to sovereign grace extolling himself! It is horrible. Nothing can be more out of place than boasting upon the lips of a child of God. If I heard Balaam’s ass speak I should impute it to a miracle that it should use the language of man, but that a man of God should use the braying of vanity is a miracle another way, not of God but of Satan. Is it not one of the fundamental truths of our faith that we are saved by grace? And what says the apostle? “Where is boasting then? It is excluded.” The word “excluded” means shut out. Boasting comes to the door, it knocks, it pleads for admission, but it is excluded. Possibly through our unwatchfulness it gains a momentary entrance, but as soon as ever the grace of God within us ascertains that the intruder is within our gates it ejects him, shuts the door in his face, and bars him out, and in answer to the question “Where is boasting then?” free grace replies, “It is excluded, by the law of grace.” If all the good we have has been given to us freely by divine favour, in what can we glory? If we possess the highest degree of spirituality, if our life be perfectly clear from any open fault, and if our hearts be wholly consecrated unto the Lord, yet we are unprofitable servants; we have done no more than it was our duty to have done. But, alas, we fall far short of this, for we have not done what it was our duty to have done, and in many things we fail and come short of the glory of God. The right position of a Christian is to walk with lowly humility before God, and with meekness towards his fellow Christians. The lowest room becomes us most, and the lowest seat in that room. Look at Paul, who knew far more of Christ than we do, and who served him far better. It is edifying to notice his expressions. He is an apostle, and he will by no means allow any one to question his calling, for he has received it of the Lord; but what does he say? “Not meet to be called an apostle.” What can be lowlier than this? But we shall see him descending far below it. He takes his place among the ordinary saints, and he will not give up his claim to be numbered with them, for he has made his calling and election sure; but where does he sit among the people of God? He styles himself “less than the least of all saints.” There is no small a descent from “not meet to be called an apostle” to “less than the least of all saints but he went lower yet, for at another time he confessed himself to be still a sinner, and coming into the assembly of sinners where does he take his position? He writes himself down as “the chief of sinners.” This is submission to God, the true surrender of every proud pretension or conceited claim. If, my brethren, the Lord has called us to be ministers, let us ever feel that we are not worthy of so great a grace: since he has made us saints, let us confess that the very least of our brethren is more esteemed by us than we dare to esteem ourselves; and since we know that we are sinners, let us look at our sins under that aspect which most reveals their heinousness, for in some respects and under certain lights there are evils in our character which make us guiltier than the rest of our fellow sinners. The stool of repentance and the foot of the cross are the favourite positions of instructed Christians.

     Such humility is not at all inconsistent with believing that we are saved, nor with the fullest assurance of faith, nay, not at all inconsistent with the nearest familiarity with God. Listen to Abraham: “I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, I that am but dust and ashes.” He has drawn very near to the Lord, and speaks with him as a man speaketh with his friend, and yet he says “I am but dust and ashes.” His boldness did not destroy his humbleness, nor his sense of nothingness hinder his near approach to the Lord. My dear brethren, we know that in Christ we are accepted, we know that we are dear to God and loved with an everlasting love, we know that he hears our prayers and answers us continually, we know that we walk in the light of his countenance; but still our posture should always be that of deep humiliation before the Lord, and in the attitude of complete submission we should sit at the Master’s feet and say, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” May the Holy Spirit work this gracious submission in every regenerated soul.

     Let us next observe that our text bears a second meaning, namely, that of submission to the divine will: that of course would strike you in the wording of the verse— “Submit yourselves therefore to God.” Beloved Christian friends, be willing to accept whatever God appoints. Let us each pray to be

“Simple, teachable and mild,
Awed into a little child;
Pleased with all the Lord provides,
Wean’d from all the world besides.”

Is it indeed so with us? Are you not some of you very far from it? Are you quite sure that you are submissive to the divine will as to your rank in society? Have you accepted your position in the scale of worldly wealth? Are you satisfied to be sickly, obscure, or of small ability? Are God’s appointments your contentments? Too many professors are quarrelling with God that they are not other than they are. This is evil, and shows that pride is still in their hearts, for were they conscious of their own deserts they would know that anything short of hell is more than we deserve, and as long as we are not in the pit of torment gratitude becomes us. It is a happy thing when the mind is brought to submit to all the chastisements of God, and to acquiesce in all the trials of his providence.. Knowing as we do that all these things work together for our good, and that we never endure a smart more than our heavenly Father knows to be needful, we are bound to submit ourselves cheerfully to all that he appoints. Though no trial for the present is joyous, but grievous, yet ought we to resign ourselves to it because of its after results. Even the beasts of the field may teach us this. I read the other day of an elephant which had lost its sight: it was brought to the surgeon, and he placed some powerful substance upon the eye, which caused it great pain, and of course the huge creature was very restless during the operation. After a while it began to see a little, and when it was brought the next day to the operator it was as docile as a lamb, for it evidently perceived that benefit had resulted from the painful application. If such a creature has enough intelligence to perceive the benefit, and to accept the pain, how much more should we! Since we know that we owe infinite blessings to the rod of the covenant we ought to be willing to bare our own back to the scourge, and let the Lord do as he wills with us. Yea, I go beyond this, even if we did not know that good would come of it, we ought to submit because it is the Lord’s will, for he has a right to do whatever he wills with us. Can you subscribe to this? As a true child can you make a complete surrender to your Father’s good pleasure? If not, you have not fully learned the mind of Christ. It is a great thing to have the soul entirely submitted to God about everything, so that we never wish to have anything in providence other than God would have it to be, nor desire to have anything in his Word altered: not one ordinance of the church of God, not one doctrine of revelation, not one precept or warning other than it is. We shall never be at rest till we come to this. It is essential to our happiness to say at all times, “Nevertheless, not as I will but as thou wilt.” Brothers and sisters, ought it not so to be? Who ought to rule in the house but the Father? Who should govern in the body but the Head? Who should lead the flock but the Shepherd? We owe so much to Jesus, and so entirely belong to him, that even were it put to the vote, all of us would give our suffrages so that the Lord Jesus should be King, Head and Chief among us; for is he not the Firstborn among many brethren? Submit, then, my brethren. Beseech the Holy Spirit to bow your wills to complete subjection. You will never be happy till self is dethroned. I know some of God’s children who are in great trouble only because they will not yield to the divine will. I met with one, I believe a good sister, who said she could not forgive God for taking away her mother; and another friend said he could not see God to be a good God for he had made him suffer such terrible afflictions. Their furnace was heated seven times hotter by the fuel of rebellion which they threw into it. So long as we blame the Lord and challenge his rights, our self-tortured minds will be tossed to and fro. No father can let his boy bend his little fist in defiance, and yet treat that child with the same love and fondness as his other children, who submit themselves to him. You cannot enjoy your heavenly Father’s smile, my dear brother or sister, till you cease from being in opposition to him, and yield the point in debate; for he has said that if we walk contrary to him he will walk contrary to us. It will be wise for you to cry, “My Father, my naughty spirit has rebelled against thee, my wicked heart has dared to question thee; but I cease from it now: let it be even as thou wilt, for I know that thou doest right.” So the text means first humility, and then submission to the Lord’s will. Lord, teach us both.

     It means also obedience. Do not merely passively lie back and yield to the necessities of the position, but gird up the loins of your mind, and manifest a voluntary and active submission to your great Lord. The position of a Christian should be that of a soldier to whom the centurion saith “Go,” and he goeth, and “Do this,” and he doeth it. It is not ours to question, that were to become masters; but ours it is to obey without questioning, even as soldiers do. Submission to our Lord and Saviour will be manifested by ready obedience: delays are essentially insubordinations, and neglects are a form of rebellion. I fear that there are some Christians whose disobedience to Christ is a proof of their pride. It may be said that they do not know such and such a duty to be incumbent upon them. Ay, but there is a proud ignorance which does not care to know, a pride which despises the commandment of the Lord, and counts it non-essential and unimportant. Can such scorn be justifiable? Is that a right temper for the Lord's servant to indulge? Can any point in our Lord’s will be unimportant to us? Can the wish of a dear friend be trivial to those who love him? Has Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” and shall I treat them as matters of no moment? No, my Lord, if it were the lifting of a stone from the road, if it were the moving of a sere leaf, or the brushing away of a cobweb, if thou ordainest it, then it becomes important straightway,— important to my loving allegiance, that I may by my prompt obedience show how fully I submit myself to thee. Love is often more seen in little things than in great things. You may have in your house a servant who is disaffected, and yet she will perform all the necessary operations of the household, but the loving child attends to the little details which make up the comfort of life, and are the tests of affection. Let your love be shown by a childlike obedience, which studies to do all the Master’s will in all points.

     I am afraid there are some who do not obey the Master because they are proud enough to think that they know better than he does; they judge the Lord’s will instead of obeying it. Art thou a judge of the law, my brother? Art thou to sit on the judgment-seat and say of this or that statute of the law, “This does not signify,” or, “That may be set aside without any loss to me”? This is not according to the mind of Christ, who did his Father’s will and asked no questions. When next you pray, “Thy will be done in earth, even as it is in heaven,” remember how they do that will before the throne of God, without hesitation, demur, or debate, being wholly subservient to every wish of the Most High. Thus, dear brethren, “Submit yourselves to God.”

     The expression, however, is not well worked out unless I add another explanation, and perhaps even then I have not brought out its meaning fully. “Submit yourselves to God” by yielding your hearts to the motions of the divine Spirit: by being impressible, sensitive, and easily affected. The Spirit of God has hard work with many Christians to lead them in the right way; they are as the horse and the mule which have no understanding, whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle. There is the stout oak in the forest, and a hurricane howls through it, and it is not moved, but the rush by the river yields to the faintest breath of the gale. Now, though in many things ye should be as the oak and not as the rush, yet in this thing be ye as the bulrush and be moved by the slightest breathing of the Spirit of God. The photographer’s plates are rendered sensitive by a peculiar process: you shall take another sheet of glass and your friend shall stand before it as long as ever he likes, and there will be no impression produced, at east none which will be visible to the eye; but the sensitive plate will reveal every little wrinkle of the face and perpetuate every hair of the head. Oh, to be rendered sensitive by the Spirit of God, and we can be made so by submitting ourselves entirely to his will. Is there not a promise to that effect?— “I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.”

     Sometimes the Spirit of God whispers to you, “Retire to pray.” At such times enter your closet at once. Remember how David said, “When thou saidst unto me, Seek ye my face, my heart said unto thee, Thy face Lord will I seek.” The Spirit of God will sometimes impel you to a duty which involves self-denial, which will take up much of your leisure, and will bring you no very great honour as a reward. Be not disobedient to his call, but go about your work speedily. Say with the Psalmist, “I made haste and delayed not to keep thy commandments.” The Spirit will at times urge us to deep repentance on account of faults in which we have been living, he will rebuke us for some ugly temper which we have indulged, or for some hard word which we have spoken against a brother, or because of the worldliness of mind into which we have fallen. Oh, brother, bestir thyself at such times, and examine and purge thy soul. Let a hint from the Holy Spirit be enough for thee. As the eyes of the handmaiden are towards her mistress, so let your eyes be to your Lord. The handmaid does not require the mistress to speak: it will often happen when she is waiting at table, and there are friends, the mistress nods or puts her finger up, and that is enough. She does not call out “Mary, do this or that,” or speak to her loudly a dozen times, as the Lord has to do to us, but a wink suffices. So it ought to be with us; half a word from the divine Spirit, the very gentlest motion from him, should be enough guidance, and straightway we should be ready to do his bidding. In this matter it is not so much your activity as your submission to the Holy Spirit which is needed; it is not so much your running as your willing to be drawn by him. There is to be an activity in religion: we are to wrestle and to fight; but side by side with that we are to yield ourselves to the Spirit’s impulse, for it is he that worketh in us to will and to do of his own good pleasure; he striveth in us mightily, and if we will but resign ourselves, and no longer be obstacles in his divine way, he will carry us to greater heights of grace, and create in us more fully the likeness of Christ. “Submit yourselves unto God.” Learn the sweetness of lying passive in his hand, and knowing no will but his: learn the blessedness of giving yourselves up entirely to his divine sway, for in so doing you will enter into heaven below.

     II. Now we come to that part of our discourse in which we must earnestly pray God the Holy Spirit to help us doubly. I desire now to address myself TO THOSE WHO ARE NOT SAVED, but have some desire to be so. I am thankful to God that there should be even the faintest wish of the kind. May it grow at once into an impetuous longing; yea, may that longing be fulfilled this very morning, and may you go out of this house saved. You tell me that you have been anxious about your soul for some time, but have made no headway. You have been putting forth great efforts, you have been very diligent in attending the means of grace, in searching the Scriptures, and in private prayer, but you cannot get on. It is very possible, my clear friend, that the reason is this, that you have not submitted yourself to God; you are trying to do when the best thing would be to cease from yourself, and drop into the hand of the Saviour who is able to save you, though you cannot save yourself. For a proud heart the very hardest thing is to submit. Do you find it so? “No surrender” is the stubborn sinner’s motto. I have known men who would give their bodies to be burned sooner than yield to God. Their high stomach has stood out long against the Most High, and they have been little Pharaohs till the Lord has brought them to their senses. “Must I yield, must I bow at his feet?” — they could not brook such humiliation. If the gospel had tolerated their pride and given them a little credit they would have rejoiced in it; but to be tumbled in the dust, and made to confess their own nothingness they could not bear. “Submit” is wormwood and gall to haughty sinners, yet must they drink the cup or die. Hear then, ye stout-hearted, you can never be saved unless you submit, and when you are saved one of the main points in your salvation will be that you have submitted. I desire to whisper one little truth in your ear, and I pray that it may startle you: You are submitting even now. You say, “Not I; I am lord of myself.” I know you think so, but all the while you are submitting to the devil. The verse before us hints at this. “Submit yourselves unto God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” If you do not submit to God you never will resist the devil, and you will remain constantly under his tyrannical power. Which shall be your master, God or devil, for one of these must? No man is without a master: some power or other is paramount within us, either good or evil is supreme in our hearts; and if we will not be mastered by the good, the evil has already gained the sway.

     “How then am I to submit?” says one: “To what shall I submit, and in what respects?” Well, first, submit thyself, if thou wouldest be saved, to the Word of God. Believe it to be true. Believing it to be true, yield thyself to its force. Does it accuse thee? Confess the accusation. Does it condemn thee? Plead guilty. Does it hold out hope to thee? Grasp it. Does it command thee? Obey it. Does it guide thee? Follow it. Does it cheer thee? Believe it. Submit thyself to him who in this blessed page proclaims himself the Saviour of all such as will throw down the weapons of their rebellion and end their futile war by relying upon his power to save them.

     Yield thyself, next, to thy conscience. Thou hast quarelled with thy conscience, and thy conscience with thee. It- persists in speaking, and thou desirest it to be quiet. After dissipation, in the lull which comes after a storm of evil pleasure, a voice is heard saying, “Is this right? Is this safe? Will this last? What will the end of this be? Would it not be better to seek some better and nobler thing than this?” God speaks often to men through the still small voice of conscience. Open thine ear, then, and listen. Thy conscience can do thee no hurt; it may disturb thee, but it is well to be disturbed when peace leads on to death. He was a fool who killed the watch dog because it alarmed him when thieves were breaking into his house. If conscience upbraid thee, feel its upbraiding and heed its rebuke It is thy best friend; faithful are its friendly wounds, but the kisses of a flattering enemy are deceitful.

     God also sends many messengers. To some of you he has sent the tenderest of monitors. Hearken to their admonitions and regard their kind warnings, for they mean good to thy souk Is it hard, O son, is it hard to submit when the message comes by a mother’s loving lips, when her tears bedew each word she speaks? It must have been difficult for some of you in your young days to stand out against a mother’s entreaties when she not only pointed you to heaven, but led the way; not only spoke of Jesus, but reflected his love in her daily walk and conversation. You have a sister, young man, whom you love and respect: you could hardly tell how much an object of admiration she is to you. How, that letter of hers, which you turned into a joke; you did feel it, after all. Yield to its pathetic pleadings, yield to its tender entreaties. Remember, God has other messengers whom he will send if these loving ones do not suffice. He will soon send thee a sterner summons. If thou listen not to the gentle word, the still, small voice, he can send to thee by the rougher messengers of disease and death. Be not so foolish as to provoke him so to do.

     Moreover, submit yourselves to God, since he has, perhaps, already sent his messengers in sterner shapes to you. It was but a few days ago that you lost your old friend. Many a merry day you have spent together, and many a jovial night too; he was in as good health as yourself, apparently, but he was struck down, and you have followed him to the tomb. Is there no voice from that new made grave to you? Methinks your friend in his sudden end was a warning to you to be ready for the like departure! You have also yourself suffered from premonitory symptoms of sickness; perhaps you have actually been sick, and been made to lie where your only prospect was eternity; a dread eternity, how surely yours. You trembled to gaze into it, but the very tones of the surgeon’s voice compelled you to do so. You feared that you would have to leave this body, and you could not help saying to yourself, “Whither shall I fly? My naked spirit, whither must it go when once it leaves the warm precincts of this house of clay?” It is not my business one-tenth as much as it is yours — but I charge you, hear the voice of these providences; listen to these solemn calls. The angel of death has stood at your bedside and pointed to you and said, “Young man, it is the fever this time and you may recover, but the next time you will never rise from the bed on which you lie: or, you have been rescued now from a dreadful accident, but the next time there will be no escape for you. Because I will do this, prepare to meet thy God.”

     Above all, I pray you submit yourselves, if you are conscious of such things, to the whispers of God’s Holy Spirit. God’s Holy Spirit does not strive with every man alike. Some have so grieved him that he has ceased to strive with them, or does so very occasionally and then they so resist his strivings that they are never very long continued. The worst man that lives has his better moments, the most careless has some serious thoughts; there are lucid intervals in the madness of carnal pleasure. At such times men hear what they call “their better selves.” It is hardly so. I prefer to call it the general reprovings of God’s Spirit in their souls. He says to them, “Is this right? Is this wise? This trifling, this time-killing, this depraving of the soul by allowing the bodily appetites to rule, this lowering of the man to the level of the brute, can this be right? Is there no eternity? Is there no immortality, no God, no judgment to come?” The Holy Spirit sometimes opens the man’s eyes as he did the eyes of Balaam, and makes him see the certainty of the judgment day and the nearness of its approach. The man is led to anticipate the trumpet’s sound which heralds the assize, the coming of the Judge upon his great white throne, the gathering of the multitudes of quick and dead, the opening of the books, the dividing of the throng, the driving away of the goats to their everlasting punishment, and the reception of the righteous to their everlasting joy. Oh, when you are made to feel all this, I pray you submit yourself to it. It costs some men a great deal of trouble to be damned. Many a man who blasphemes and talks infidelity, merely does so to conceal his inward struggles. Like the boy who whistles as he goes through the churchyard to keep his courage up, they talk blasphemy to divert their mind from its own fears. He who is most fierce in the utterance of his disbelief is not the greatest disbeliever. When the heathen offered children to Moloch they beat their drums to drown the cries of the victims, and even so these men make a great noise to drown the voice of conscience. The man knows better, and I charge him to let that better knowledge come to the front and lead him to his God and Father. It will be a blessed thing for him if it shall be so even this day. “Submit yourselves to God.”

     If you ask me again, “In what respect am I to submit myself?” I answer as briefly as I can, first submit yourself by confessing your sin. Cry peccavi. Do not brazen it out and say “I have not sinned.” You will never be pardoned while that is the case. “He that confessed his sin shall find mercy.” Sinner, choose between one of two things; judge yourself, or be judged of God. If you will judge yourself and put in a plea of guilty, then will the Great Judge grant you forgiveness, but not else. Condemn yourself and you shall not be condemned. Confess the indictment to be true, for true it is, and to deny it is to seal your doom.

     Next, honour the law which condemns you. Do not persevere in picking holes in it and saying that it is too severe, and requires too much of a poor fallible creature. The law is holy, and just, and good. Put thy lips down and kiss it, though it condemn thee, and say, “though it charges me with guilt and convicts me of deadly sin, yet it is a good law, and ought not to be altered, even to save me.”

     Next, own the justice of the penalty. Thy sins condemn thee to hell: do not say “God is too severe; this is a punishment disproportionate to the offence.” Thou wilt never be pardoned if thou thinkest so, but God will be justified in thy condemnation: the pride of thy heart will be a swift witness against thee. Confess with thy heart, “If my soul were sent to hell it is no more than I deserve.” When thou hast confessed the guilt, and honoured the law, and acknowledged the justice of the penalty, then thou art nearing the position in which God can be merciful to thee.

     Submit yourself, sinner— I pray you do it now— submit yourself to God as your king. Throw down your weapons; lower your crest and cast away those robes of pride. Surrender unconditionally and say, “Lord God, I own thee now to be king; no longer like stout-hearted Pharaoh will I ask, ‘Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice?’ but like one brought to his senses I yield as reason and grace suggest.” It will go well with you when you make a full capitulation, an unconditional surrender. Fling wide the gates of the city of Mansoul, and admit the prince Emanuel to rule as sole sovereign in every street in the city. Dispute no longer his sovereignty, but pray to be made a loyal subject, obedient in all things. Thou shalt find grace in the sight of the Lord if thou wilt do this.

     Furthermore, submit yourself to God’s way of saving you. Now God’s way of saving you is by his grace, not by your merits; by the blood of Jesus, not by your tears and sufferings. He will justify you by your simply trusting Jesus now. Your proud heart does not admire the Lord’s way of salvation; you stand up and say, “How is this consistent with morality?” As if you were the guardian of morality, as if the King of Heaven and earth could not take care of the moralities without assistance from you. Who are you to be all on a sudden the champion of morality? How dare you dream that the thrice holy God will not take care of that? He bids you trust his Son Jesus; will you do so or not? If you will not, there is no hope for you; if you will, you are saved the moment that you believe,— saved from the guilt of sin by trusting Jesus.

     You must also surrender yourself at discretion to his method of operating upon you. One says, “I would believe in Jesus, sir, if I felt the horror and terror which some have experienced on account of sin.” What do you demand of God that he should drag you through horrors and terrors before you will believe? Submit yourself to be saved in a gentler way. “But I read of one,” says another, “who had a dream: I would believe if I saw a vision too.” Must God give thee dreams? Must he play lackey to thee, and save thee in thy way? He tells thee plainly, “If thou believest on the Lord Jesus Christ thou shalt be saved.” Wilt thou believe or no? For if thou dost not, neither dreams, nor visions, nor terrors, nor anything else can save thee. There is God’s way, sinner: I ask thee, and perhaps thy answer will settle thy fate for ever, wilt thou follow that way or not? If thou wilt not, thou hast chosen thine own destruction; but if thou wilt have it, and wilt submit thyself to be saved by believing in Jesus Christ, it is well with thee. I know there are some in this place who feel ready to burst, for their broken hearts are saying, “I yield at once. Oh, if he would but save me.” How glad I am to hear you say so, for “he giveth grace unto the humble.” I recollect the time when I have stood and cried to God, “O God, if I must lie on a sick bed till I die, I care not if thou wilt but have mercy on me; if thou wilt but conquer my proud will, and make a new man of me, thou mayst do whatever thou pleasest with me; only save me from the guilt, the power of sin.” It was when the Lord brought me down there that he enabled me to see life and salvation in Jesus Christ; and if he has brought you down to that point, sinner, then you have nothing to do but simply trust the Lord Jesus Christ, and you are assuredly saved. When he brings you to submit he has given you his grace. Submission to his divine will is the essence of salvation. Now, who will yield? Who will yield at once? The Master has come among us, the King himself is here, your Maker, your Redeemer: see the marks of his wounds, see the scars in his hands and feet and side! He asks of you, “Will you yield to me? Will you throw down your weapons? Will you end the war? Will you surrender at discretion?” If so, he gives you his hand and says, “Go in peace; there is peace between me and thee.” Kiss the Son lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, while his wrath is kindled but a little. I prayed the Lord to give me many souls, and I believe I shall have them this morning. I feel sure of it. Grant me this favour: if you submit yourselves to Christ let me hear of it, and do not delay to unite yourselves with those who rejoice to be led in triumph as the captives of his grace.



Christ the Conqueror of Satan

By / Sep 6

Christ the Conqueror of Satan

 

“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”— Genesis iii. 15.

 

THIS is the first gospel sermon that was ever delivered upon the surface of this earth. It was a memorable discourse indeed, with Jehovah himself for the preacher, and the whole human race and the prince of darkness for the audience. It must be worthy of our heartiest attention.

     Is it not remarkable that this great gospel promise should have been delivered so soon after the transgression? As yet no sentence had been pronounced upon either of the two human offenders, but the promise was given under the form of a sentence pronounced upon the serpent. Not yet had the woman been condemned to painful travail, or the man to exhausting labour, or even the soil to the curse of thorn and thistle. Truly “mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” Before the Lord had said “Dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return,” he was pleased to say that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head. Let us rejoice, then, in the swift mercy of God, which in the early watches of the night of sin came with comfortable words unto us.

     These words were not directly spoken to Adam and Eve, but they were directed distinctly to the serpent himself, and that by way of punishment to him for what he had done. It was a day of cruel triumph to him: such joy as his dark mind is capable of had filled him, for he had indulged his malice, and gratified his spite. He had in the worst sense destroyed a part of God’s works, he had introduced sin into the new world, he had Stamped the human race with his own image, and gained new forces to promote rebellion and to multiply transgression, and therefore he felt that sort of gladness which a fiend can know who bears a hell within him. But now God comes in, takes up the quarrel personally, and causes him to be disgraced on the very battle-field upon which he had gained a temporary success. He tells the dragon that he will undertake to deal with him; this quarrel shall not be between the serpent and man, but between God and the serpent. God saith, in solemn words, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed,” and he promises that there shall rise in fulness of time a champion, who, though he suffer, shall smite in a vital part the power of evil, and bruise the serpent’s head. This was the more, it seems to me, a comfortable message of mercy to Adam and Eve, because they would feel sure that the tempter would be punished, and as that punishment would involve blessing for them, the vengeance due to the serpent would be the guarantee of mercy to themselves. Perhaps, however, by thus obliquely giving the promise, the Lord meant to say, “Not for your sakes do I this, O fallen man and woman, nor for the sake of your descendants; but for my own name and honour’s sake, that it be not profaned and blasphemed amongst the fallen spirits. I undertake to repair the mischief which has been caused by the tempter, that my name and my glory may not be diminished among the immortal spirits who look down upon the scene.” All this would be very humbling but yet consolatory to our parents if they thought of it, seeing that mercy given for God’s sake is always to our troubled apprehension more sure than any favour which could be promised to us for our own sake. The divine sovereignty and glory afford us a stronger foundation of hope than merit, even if merit can be supposed to exist.

     Now we must note concerning this first gospel sermon that on it the earliest believers stayed themselves. This was all that Adam had by way of revelation, and all that Abel had received. This one lone star shone in Abel’s sky; he looked up to it and he believed. By its light he spelt out “sacrifice,” and therefore he brought of the firstlings of his flock and laid them upon the altar, and proved in his own person how the seed of the serpent hated the seed of the woman, for his brother slew him for his testimony. Although Enoch the seventh from Adam prophesied concerning the second advent, yet he does not appear to have uttered anything new concerning the first coming, so that still this one promise remained as man’s sole word of hope. The torch which flamed within the gates of Eden just before man was driven forth lit up the world to all believers until the Lord was pleased to give more light, and to renew and enlarge the revelation of his covenant, when he spake to his servant Noah. Those hoary fathers who lived before the flood rejoiced in the mysterious language of our text, and resting on it, they died in faith. Nor, brethren, must you think it a slender revelation, for, if you attentively consider, it is wonderfully full of meaning. If it had been on my heart to handle it doctrinally this morning, I think I could have shown you that it contains all the gospel. There lie within it, as an oak lies within an acorn, all the great truths which make up the gospel of Christ. Observe that here is the grand mystery of the incarnation. Christ is that seed of the woman who is here spoken of; and there is a hint not darkly given as to how that Incarnation would be effected. Jesus was not born after the ordinary manner of the sons of men. Mary was overshadowed of the Holy Ghost, and “the holy thing” which was born of her was as to his humanity the seed of the woman only; as it is written, “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.” The promise plainly teaches that the deliverer would be born of a woman, and, carefully viewed, it also foreshadows the divine method of the Redeemer’s conception and birth. So also is the doctrine of the two seeds plainly taught here— “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed.” There was evidently to be in the world a seed of the woman on God’s side against the serpent, and a seed of the serpent that should always be upon the evil side even as it is unto this day. The church of God and the synagogue of Satan both exist. We see an Abel and a Cain, an Isaac and an Ishmael, a Jacob and an Esau ; those that are born after the flesh, being the children of their father the devil, for his works they do, but those that are born again— being born after the Spirit, after the power of the life of Christ, are thus in Christ Jesus the seed of the woman, and contend earnestly against the dragon and his seed. Here, too, the great fact of the sufferings of Christ is clearly foretold— “Thou shalt bruise his heel.” Within the compass of those words we find the whole story of our Lord’s sorrows from Bethlehem to Calvary. “It shall bruise thy head”: there is the breaking of Satan’s regal power, there is the clearing away of sin, there is the destruction of death by resurrection, there is the leading of captivity captive in the ascension, there is the victory of truth in the world through the descent of the Spirit, and there is the latter-day glory in which Satan shall be bound, and there is, lastly, the casting of the evil one and all his followers into the lake of fire. The conflict and the conquest are both in the compass of these few fruitful words. They may not have been fully understood by those who first heard them, but to us they are now full of light. The text at first looks like a flint, hard and cold; but sparks fly from it plentifully, for hidden fires of infinite love and grace lie concealed within. Over this promise of a gracious God we ought to rejoice exceedingly.

     We do not know what our first parents understood by it, but we may be certain that they gathered a great amount of comfort from it. They must have understood that they were not then and there to be destroyed because the Lord had spoken of a “seed.” They would argue that it must, be needful that Eve should live if there should be a seed from her. They understood, too, that if that seed was to overcome the serpent and bruise his head, it must augur good to themselves: they could not fail to see that there was some great, some mysterious benefit to be conferred upon them by the victory which their seed would achieve over the instigator of their ruin. They went on in faith upon this, and were comforted in travail and in toil, and I doubt not both Adam and his wife in the faith thereof entered into everlasting rest.

     This morning I intend to handle this text in three ways. First, we shall notice its facts; secondly, we shall consider the experience within the heart of each believer which tallies to those facts; and then, thirdly, the encouragement which the text and its connection as a whole afford to us.

     I. THE FACTS. The facts are four, and I call your earnest attention to them. The first is Enmity was excited. The text begins, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman.” They had been very friendly; the woman and the serpent had conversed together. She thought at the time that the serpent was her friend; and she was so much his friend that she took his advice in the teeth of God’s precept, and was willing to believe bad things of the great Creator, because this wicked, crafty serpent insinuated the same. Now, at the moment when God spake, that friendship between the woman and the serpent had already in a measure come to an end, for she had accused the serpent to God, and said, “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” So far, so good. The friendship of sinners does not last long; they have already begun to quarrel, and now the Lord comes in and graciously takes advantage of the quarrel which had commenced, and says, “I will carry this disagreement a great deal further, I will put enmity between thee and the woman.” Satan counted on man’s descendants being his confederates, but God would break up this covenant with hell, and raise up a seed which should war against the Satanic power. Thus we have here God’s first declaration that he will set up a rival kingdom to oppose the tyranny of sin and Satan, that he will create in the hearts of a chosen seed an enmity against evil, so that they shall fight against it, and with many a struggle and pain shall overcome the prince of darkness. The divine Spirit has abundantly achieved this plan and purpose of the Lord, combating the fallen angel by a glorious man: making man to be Satan’s foe and conqueror. Henceforth the woman was to hate the evil one, and I do not doubt but what she did so. She had abundant cause for so doing, and as often as she thought of him it would be with infinite regret that she could have listened to his malicious and deceitful talk. The woman’s seed has also evermore had enmity against the evil one. I mean not the carnal seed, for Paul tells us, “They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.” The carnal seed of the man and the woman are not meant, but the spiritual seed, even Christ Jesus and those who are in him. Wherever you meet these, they hate the serpent with a perfect hatred. We would if we could destroy from our souls every work of Satan, and out of this poor afflicted world of ours we would root up every evil which he has planted. That seed of the woman, that glorious One, — for he speaks not of seeds as of many but of seed that is one, — you know how he abhorred the devil and all his devices. There was enmity between Christ and Satan, for he came to destroy the works of the devil and to deliver those who are under bondage to him. For that purpose was he born; for that purpose did he live; for that purpose did he die; for that purpose he has gone into the glory, and for that purpose he will come again, that everywhere he may find out his adversary and utterly destroy him and his works from amongst the sons of men. This putting of the enmity between the two seeds was the commencement of the plan of mercy, the first act in the programme of grace. Of the woman’s seed it was henceforth said, “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”

     Then comes the second prophecy, which has also turned into a fact, namely the coming of the champion. The seed of the woman by promise is to champion the cause, and oppose the dragon. That seed is the Lord Jesus Christ. The prophet Micah saith, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah; though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth.” To none other than the babe which was born in Bethlehem of the blessed Virgin can the words of prophecy refer. She it was who did conceive and bear a son, and it is concerning her son that we sing, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” On the memorable night at Bethlehem, when angels sang in heaven, the seed of the woman appeared, and as soon as ever he saw the light the old serpent, the devil, entered into the heart of Herod if possible to slay him, but the Father preserved him, and suffered none to lay hands on him. As soon as he publicly came forward upon the stage of action, thirty years after, Satan met him foot to foot. You know the story of the temptation in the wilderness, and how there the woman’s seed fought with him who was a liar from the beginning. The devil assailed him thrice with all the artillery of flattery, malice, craft and falsehood, but the peerless champion stood unwounded, and chased his foeman from the field. Then our Lord set up his kingdom, and called one and another unto him, and carried the war into the enemy’s country. In divers places he cast out devils. He spake to the wicked and unclean spirit and said, “I charge thee come out of him,” and the demon was expelled. Legions of devils flew before him: they sought to hide themselves in swine to escape from the terror of his presence. “Art thou come to torment us before our time?” was their cry when the wonder-working Christ dislodged them from the bodies which they tormented. Yea, and he made his own disciples mighty against the evil one, for in his name they cast out devils, till Jesus said, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.” Then there came a second personal conflict, for I take it that Gethsemane’s sorrows were to a great degree caused by a personal assault of Satan, for our Master said, “This is your hour, and the power of darkness.” He said also, “The Prince of this world cometh.” What a struggle it was. Though Satan had nothing in Christ, yet did he seek if possible to lead him away from completing his great sacrifice, and there did our Master sweat as it were great drops of blood, falling to the ground, in the agony which it cost him to contend with the fiend. Then it was that our Champion began the last fight of all and won it to the bruising of the serpent’s head. Nor did he end till he had spoiled principalities and powers and made a show of them openly.

“Now is the hour of darkness past,
Christ has assumed his reigning power;
Behold the great accuser cast
Down from his seat to reign no more.”

     The conflict our glorious Lord continues in his seed. We preach Christ crucified, and every sermon shakes the gates of hell. We bring sinners to Jesus by the Spirit’s power, and every convert is a stone torn down from the wall of Satan’s mighty castle. Yea, and the day shall come when everywhere the evil one shall be overcome, and the words of John in the Revelation shall be fulfilled. “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.” Thus did the Lord God in the words of our text promise a champion who should be the seed of the woman, between whom and Satan there should be war for ever and ever: that champion has come, the man-child has been born, and though the dragon is wroth with the woman, and makes war with the remnant of her seed which keep the testimony of Jesus Christ, yet the battle is the Lord’s, and the victory falleth unto him whose name is Faithful and True, who in righteousness doth judge and make war.

     The third fact which comes out in the text, though not quite in that order, is that our Champion's heel should be bruised. Do you need that I explain this? You know how all his life long his heel, that is, his lower part, his human nature, was perpetually being made to suffer. He carried our sicknesses and sorrows. But the bruising came mainly when both in body and in mind his whole human nature was made to agonize; when his soul was exceeding sorrowful even unto death, and his enemies pierced his hands and his feet, and he endured the shame and pain of death by crucifixion. Look at your Master and your King upon the cross, all distained with blood and dust! There was his heel most cruelly bruised. When they take down that precious body and wrap it in fair white linen and in spices, and lay it in Joseph’s tomb, they weep as they handle that casket in which the Deity had dwelt, for there again Satan had bruised his heel. It was not merely that God had bruised him, “though it pleased the Father to bruise him,” but the devil had let loose Herod, and Pilate, and Caiaphas, and the Jews, and the Romans, all of them his tools, upon him whom he knew to be the Christ, so that he was bruised of the old serpent. That is all, however! It is only his heel, not his head, which is bruised! For lo, the Champion rises again; the bruise was not mortal nor continual. Though he dies, yet still so brief is the interval in which he slumbers in the tomb that his holy body hath not seen corruption, and he comes forth perfect and lovely in his manhood, rising from his grave as from a refreshing sleep after so long a day of unresting toil! Oh the triumph of that hour! As Jacob only halted on his thigh when he overcame the angel, so did Jesus only retain a scar in his heel, and that he bears to the skies as his glory and beauty. Before the throne he looks like a lamb that has been slain, but in the power of an endless life he liveth unto God.

     Then comes the fourth fact, namely, that while his heel was being bruised, he was to bruise the serpent's head. The figure represents the dragon as inflicting an injury upon the champion’s heel, but at the same moment the champion himself with that heel crushes in the head of the serpent with fatal effect. By his sufferings Christ has overthrown Satan, by the heel that was bruised he has trodden upon the head which devised the bruising.

“Lo, by the sons of hell he dies;
But as he hangs ’twixt earth and skies,
He gives their prince a fatal blow,
And triumphs o’er the powers below.”

Though Satan is not dead, my brethren, I was about to say, would God he were, and though he is not converted, and never will be, nor will the malice of his heart ever be driven from him, yet Christ has so far broken his head that he has missed his mark altogether. He intended to make the human race the captives of his power, but they are redeemed from his iron yoke. God has delivered many of them, and the day shall come when he will cleanse the whole earth from the serpent’s slimy trail, so that the entire world shall be full of the praises of God. He thought that this world would be the arena of his victory over God and good, instead of which it is already the grandest theatre of divine wisdom, love, grace, and power. Even heaven itself is not so resplendent with mercy as the earth is, for here it is the Saviour poured out his blood, which cannot be said even of the courts of paradise above. Moreover he thought, no doubt, that when he had led our race astray and brought death upon them, he had effectually marred the Lord’s work. He rejoiced that they would all pass under the cold seal of death, and that their bodies would rot in the sepulchre. Had he not spoiled the handiwork of his great Lord? God may make man as a curious creature with intertwisted veins and blood nerves, and sinews and muscles, and he may put into his nostrils the breath of life; but, “Ah,” saith Satan, “I have infused a poison into him which will make him return to the dust from which he was taken.” But now, behold, our Champion whose heel was bruised has risen from the dead, and given us a pledge that all his followers shall rise from the dead also. Thus is Satan foiled, for death shall not retain a bone, nor a piece of a bone, of one of those who belonged to the woman’s seed. At the trump of the archangel from the earth and from the sea they shall arise, and this shall be their shout, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” Satan, knowing this, feels already that by the resurrection his head is broken. Glory be to the Christ of God for this!

     In multitudes of other ways the devil has been vanquished by our Lord Jesus, and so shall he ever be till he shall be cast into the lake of fire.

     II. Let us now view OUR EXPERIENCE AS IT TALLIES WITH THESE FACTS. Now, brothers and sisters, we were by nature, as many of us as have been saved, the heirs of wrath even as others. It does not matter how godly our parents were, the first birth brought us no spiritual life, for the promise is not to them which are born of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but only to those who are born of God. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh”; you cannot make it anything else and there it abides, and the flesh, or carnal mind, abideth in death; “it is not reconciled to God, neither indeed can be.” He who is bora into this world but once, and knows nothing of the new birth, must place himself among the seed of the serpent, for only by regeneration can we know ourselves to be the true seed. How does God deal with us who are his called and chosen ones? He means to save us, and how does he work to that end?

     The first thing he does is, he comes to us in mercy, and puts enmity between us and the serpent. That is the very first work of grace. There was peace between us and Satan once; when he tempted we yielded; whatever he taught us we believed; we were his willing slaves. But perhaps you, my brethren, can recollect when first of all you began to feel uneasy and dissatisfied; the world’s pleasures no longer pleased you; all the juice seemed to have been taken out of the apple, and you had nothing left but the hard core, which you could not feed upon at all. Then you suddenly perceived that you were living in sin, and you were miserable about it, and though you could not get rid of sin yet you hated it, and sighed over it, and cried, and groaned. In your heart of hearts you remained no longer on the side of evil, for you began to cry, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” You were already from of old in the covenant of grace ordained to be the woman’s seed, and now the decree began to discover itself in life bestowed upon you and working in you. The Lord in infinite mercy dropped the divine life into your soul. You did not know it, but there it was, a spark of the celestial fire, the living and incorruptible seed which abideth for ever. You began to hate sin, and you groaned under it as under a galling yoke; more and more it burdened you, you could not bear it, you hated the very thought of it. So it was with you: is it so now? Is there still enmity between you and the serpent? Indeed you are more and more the sworn enemies of evil, and you willingly acknowledge it.

     Then came the champion: that is to say, “Christ was formed in you the hope of glory.” You heard of him and you understood the truth about him, and it seemed a wonderful thing that he should be your substitute and stand in your room and place and stead, and bear your sin and all its curse and punishment, and that he should give his righteousness, yea, and his very self, to you that you might be saved. Ah, then you saw how sin could be overthrown, did you not? As soon as your heart understood Christ then you saw that what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, Christ was able to accomplish, and that the power of sin and Satan under which you had been in bondage, and which you now loathed, could and would be broken and destroyed because Christ had come into the world to overcome it.

     Next, do you recollect how you were led to see the bruising of Christ's heel and to stand in wonder and observe what the enmity of the serpent had wrought in him? Did you not begin to feel the bruised heel yourself? Did not sin torment you? Did not the very thought of it vex you? Did not your own heart become a plague to you? Did not Satan begin to tempt you? Did he not inject blasphemous thoughts, and urge you on to desperate measures; did he not teach you to doubt the existence of God, and the mercy of God, and the possibility of your salvation, and so on? This was his nibbling at your heel. He is at his old tricks still. He worries whom he can’t devour with a malicious joy. Did not your worldly friends begin to annoy you? Did they not give you the cold shoulder because they saw something about you so strange and foreign to their tastes? Did they not impute your conduct to fanaticism, pride, obstinacy, bigotry, and the like? Ah, this persecution is the serpent’s seed beginning to discover the woman’s seed, and to carry on the old war. What does Paul say? “But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.’ True godliness is an unnatural and strange thing to them, and they cannot away with it. Though there are no stakes in Smithfield, nor racks in the Tower, yet the enmity of the human heart towards Christ and his seed is just the same, and very often shows itself in “trials of cruel mockings” which to tender hearts are very hard to bear. “Well, this is your heel being bruised in sympathy with the bruising of the heel of the glorious seed of the woman.

     But, brethren, do you know something of the other fact, namely, that we conquer, for the serpent’s head is broken in us? How say you? Is not the power and dominion of sin broken in you? Do you not feel that you cannot sin because you are born of God? Some sins which were masters of you once, do not trouble you now. I have known a man guilty of profane swearing, and from the moment of his conversion he has never had any difficulty in the matter. We have known a man snatched from drunkenness, and the cure by divine grace has been very wonderful and complete. We have known persons delivered from unclean living, and they have at once become chaste and pure, because Christ has smitten the old dragon such blows that he could not have power over them in that respect. The chosen seed sin and mourn it, but they are not slaves to sin; their heart goeth not after it: they have to say sometimes “the thing I would not that I do,” but they are wretched when it is so. They consent with their heart to the law of God that it is good, and they sigh and cry that they may be helped to obey it, for they are no longer under the slavery of sin; the serpent’s reigning power and dominion is broken in them.

     It is broken next in this way, that the guilt of sin is gone. The great power of the serpent lies in unpardoned sin. He cries “I have made you guilty: I brought you under the curse.” “No,” say we, “we are delivered from the curse and are now blessed, for it is written, ‘Blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven, and whose sin is covered.’ We are no longer guilty, for who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? Since Christ hath justified, who is he that condemneth?” Here is a swinging blow for the old dragon’s head, such as he never will recover.

     Oftentimes the Lord also grants us to know what it is to overcome temptation, and so to break the head of the fiend. Satan allures us with many baits; he has studied our points well, he knows the weakness of the flesh: but many and many a time, blessed be God, we have foiled him completely to his eternal shame! The devil must have felt himself mean that day when he tried to overthrow Job, dragged him down to a dunghill, robbed him of everything, covered him with sores, and yet could not make him yield. Job conquered when he cried, “Though he slay me yet will I trust in him.” A feeble man had vanquished a devil who could raise the wind and blow down a house, and destroy the family who were feasting in it. Devil as he is, and crowned prince of the power of the air, yet the poor bereaved patriarch sitting on the dunghill covered with sores, being one of the woman’s seed, through the strength of the inner life won the victory over him.

“Ye sons of God oppose his rage,
Resist, and he’ll be gone:
Thus did our dearest Lord engage
And vanquish him alone.”

     Moreover, dear brethren, we have this hope that the very being of sin in us will be destroyed. The day will come when we shall be without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; and we shall stand before the throne of God, having suffered no injury whatever from the fall and from all the machinations of Satan, for “they are without fault before the throne of God.” What triumph that will be! “The Lord will tread Satan under your feet shortly.” When he has made you perfect and free from all sin, as he will do, you will have bruised the serpent’s head indeed.

     And your resurrection, too, when Satan shall see you come up from the grave like one that has been perfumed in a bath of spices, when he shall see you arise in the image of Christ, with the same body which was sown in corruption and weakness raised in incorruption and power, then will he feel an infinite chagrin, and know that his head is bruised by the woman’s seed.

     I ought to add that every time any one of us is made useful in saving souls we do as it were repeat the bruising of the serpent’s head. When you go, dear sister, among those poor children, and pick them up from the gutters, where they are Satan’s prey, where he finds the raw material for thieves and criminals, and when through your means, by the grace of God, the little wanderers become children of the living God, then you in your measure bruise the old serpent’s head. I pray you do not spare him. When we by preaching the gospel turn sinners from the error of their ways, so that they escape from the power of darkness, again we bruise the serpent’s head. Whenever in any shape or way you are blessed to the aiding of the cause of truth and righteousness in the world, you, too, who were once beneath his power, and even now have sometimes to suffer from his nibbling at your heel, you tread upon his head. In all deliverances and victories you overcome, and prove the promise true, — “Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet. Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.”

     III. Let us speak awhile upon THE ENCOURAGEMENT which our text and the context yields to us; for it seems to me to abound.

     I want you, brethren, to exercise faith in the promise and be comforted. The text evidently encouraged Adam very much. I do not think we have attached enough importance to the conduct of Adam after the Lord had spoken to him. Notice the simple but conclusive proof which he gave of his faith. Sometimes an action may be very small and unimportant, and yet, as a straw shows which way the wind blows, it may display at once, if it be thought over, the whole state of the man’s mind. Adam acted in faith upon what God said, for we read, “And Adam called his wife’s name Eve (or Life); because she was the mother of all living” (verse 20). She was not a mother at all, but as the life was to come through her by virtue of the promised seed, Adam marks his full conviction of the truth of the promise though at the time the woman had borne no children. There stood Adam, fresh from the awful presence of God, what more could he say? He might have said with the prophet, “My flesh trembleth for the fear of thee,” but even then he turns round to his fellow-culprit as she stands there trembling too, and he calls her Eve, mother of the life that is yet to be. It was grandly spoken by Father Adam: it makes him rise in our esteem. Had he been left to himself he would have murmured or at least despaired, but no, his faith in the new promise gave him hope. He uttered no word of repining against the condemnation to till with toil the unthankful ground, nor on Eve’s part was there a word of repining over the appointed sorrows of motherhood; they each accept the well-deserved sentence with the silence which denotes the perfection of their resignation; their only word is full of simple faith. There was no child on whom to set their hopes, nor would the true seed be born for many an age, still Eve is to be the mother of all living, and he calls her so. Exercise like faith, my brother, on the far wider revelation which God has given to you, and always extract the utmost comfort from it. Make a point, whenever you receive a promise from God, to get all you can out of it: if you carry out that rule, it is wonderful what comfort you will gain. Some go on the principle of getting as little as possible out of God’s word. I believe that such a plan is the proper way with a man’s word; always understand it at the minimum, because that is what he means; but God’s word is to be understood at the maximum, for he will do exceeding abundantly above what you ask or even think.

     Notice by way of further encouragement that we may regard our reception of Christ’s righteousness as an instalment of the final overthrow of the devil. The twenty-first verse says, “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” A very condescending, thoughtful, and instructive deed of divine love ! God heard what Adam said to his wife, and saw that he was a believer, and so he comes and gives him the type of the perfect righteousness, which is the believer’s portion— he covered him with lasting raiment. No more fig leaves, which were a mere mockery, but a close fitting garment which had been procured through the death of a victim; the Lord brings that and puts it on him, and Adam could no more say, “I am naked.” How could he, for God had clothed him. Now, beloved, let us take out of the promise that is given us concerning our Lord’s conquest over the devil this one item and rejoice in it, for Christ has delivered us from the power of the serpent who opened our eyes and told us we were naked, by covering us from head to foot with a righteousness which adorns and protects us, so that we are comfortable in heart, and beautiful in the sight of God, and are no more ashamed.

     Next, by way of encouragement in pursuing the Christian life, I would say to young people, expect to be assailed. If you have fallen into trouble through being a Christian, be encouraged by it; do not at all regret or fear it, but rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy, for this is the constant token of the covenant. There is enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent still, and if you did not experience any of it you might begin to fear that you were on the wrong side. Now that you smart under the sneer of sarcasm and oppression rejoice and triumph, for now are ye partakers with the glorious seed of the woman in the bruising of his heel.

     Still further encouragement comes from this. Your suffering as a Christian is not brought upon you for your own sake; ye are partners with the great seed of the woman, ye are confederates with Christ.

     You must not think the devil cares much about you: the battle is against Christ in you. Why, if you were not in Christ, the devil would never trouble you. When you were without Christ in the world you might have sinned as you like, your relatives and work-mates would not have been at all grieved with you, they would rather have joined you in it; but now the serpent’s seed hates Christ in you. This exalts the sufferings of persecution to a position far above all common afflictions. I have heard of a woman who was condemned to death in the Marian days, and before her time came to be burned a child was born to her, and she cried out in her sorrow. A wicked adversary, who stood by said, “How will you bear to die for your religion if you make such ado?” “Ah,” she said, “Now I suffer in my own person as a woman, but then I shall not suffer, but Christ in me.” Nor were these idle words, for she bore her martyrdom with exemplary patience, and rose in her chariot of fire in holy triumph to heaven. If Christ be in you, nothing will dismay you, but you will overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil by faith.

     Last of all, let us resist the devil always with this belief, that he has received a broken head. I am inclined to think that Luther’s way of laughing at the devil was a very good one, for he is worthy of shame and everlasting contempt. Luther once threw an inkstand at his head when he was tempting him very sorely, and though the act itself appears absurd enough, yet it was a true type of what that greater Reformer was all his life long, for the books he wrote were truly a flinging of the inkstand at the head of the fiend. That is what we have to do: we are to resist him by all means. Let us do this bravely, and tell him to his teeth that we are not afraid of him. Tell him to recollect his bruised head, which he tries to cover with a crown of pride, or with a popish cowl, or with an infidel doctor’s hood. We know him, and see the deadly wound he bears. His power is gone; he is fighting a lost battle; he is contending against omnipotence. He has set himself against the oath of the Father; against the blood of the incarnate Son; against the eternal power and Godhead of the blessed Spirit, all of which are engaged in the defence of the seed of the woman in the day of battle. Therefore, brethren, be ye steadfast in resisting the evil one, being strong in faith, giving glory to God.

“’Tis by thy blood, immortal Lamb,
Thine armies tread the tempter down;
’Tis by thy word and powerful name
They gain the battle and renown.

“Rejoice ye heavens; let every star
Shine with new glories round the sky:
Saints, while ye sing the heavenly war,
Raise your Deliverer’s name on high.”



The Great Birthday

By / Dec 24

The Great Birthday

 

“The angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”— Luke ii. 10.

 

THERE is no reason upon earth beyond that of ecclesiastical custom why the 25th of December should be regarded as the birthday of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ any more than any other day from the first of January to the last day of the year; and yet some persons regard Christmas with far deeper reverence than the Lord’s-day. You will often hear it asserted that “The Bible and the Bible alone is the religion of Protestants,” but it is not so. There are Protestants who have absorbed a great deal beside the Bible into their religion, and among other things they have accepted the authority of what they call “the Church,” and by that door all sorts of superstitions have entered. There is no authority whatever in the word of God for the keeping of Christmas at all, and no reason for keeping it just now except that the most superstitious section of Christendom has made a rule that December 25th shall be observed as the birthday of the Lord, and the church by law established in this land has agreed to follow in the same track. You are under no bondage whatever to regard the regulation. We owe no allegiance to the ecclesiastical powers which have made a decree on this matter, for we belong to an old-fashioned church which does not dare to make laws, but is content to obey them. At the same time the day is no worse than another, and if you choose to observe it, and observe it unto the Lord, I doubt not he will accept your devotion: while if you do not observe it, but unto the Lord observe it not, for fear of encouraging superstition and will-worship, I doubt not but what you shall be as accepted in the non-observance as you could have been in the observance of it. Still, as the thoughts of a great many Christian people will run at this time towards the birth of Christ, and as this cannot be wrong, I judged it meet to avail ourselves of the prevailing current, and float down the stream of thought. Our minds will run that way, because so many around us are following customs suggestive of it, therefore let us get what good we can out of the occasion. There can be no reason why we should not, and it may be helpful that we should, now consider the birth of our Lord Jesus. We will do that voluntarily which we would refuse to do as a matter of obligation: we will do that simply for convenience sake which we should not think of doing because enjoined by authority or demanded by superstition.

     The shepherds were keeping their flocks by night; probably a calm, peaceful night, wherein they felt the usual difficulty of keeping their weary eyelids still uplifted as sleep demanded its due of them. On a sudden, to their amazement, a mighty blaze lit up the heavens, and turned midnight into midday. The glory of the Lord, by which, according to the idiom of the language, is meant the greatest conceivable glory as well as a divine glory, surrounded and alarmed them, and in the midst of it they saw a shining spirit, a form the like of which they had never beheld before, but of which they had heard their fathers speak, and of which they had read in the books of the prophets, so that they knew it to be an angel. It was indeed no common messenger from heaven, but “the angel of the Lord,” that choice presence angel, whose privilege it is to stand nearest the heavenly majesty, “’mid the bright ones doubly bright,” and to be employed on weightiest errands from the eternal throne. “The angel of the Lord came upon them.” Are you astonished that at first they were afraid? Would not you be alarmed if such a thing should happen to you? The stillness of the night, the suddenness of the apparition, the extraordinary splendour of the light, the supernatural appearance of the angel— all would tend to astound them, and to put them into a quiver of reverential alarm; for I doubt not there was a mixture both of reverence and of fear in that feeling which is described as being “sore afraid.” They would have fallen on their faces to the ground in fright, had there not dropped out of that “glory of the Lord” a gentle voice, which said, “Fear not.” They were calmed by that sweet comfort, and enabled to listen to the announcement which followed. Then that voice, in accents sweet as the notes of a silver bell, proceeded to say, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” They were bidden to shake off all thoughts of fear, and to give themselves up to joy. Doubtless they did so, and amongst all mankind there were none so happy at that dead of night as were these shepherds, who had seen an amazing sight, which they would never forget, and now were consulting whether they should not haste away to gaze upon a sight which would be more delightful still, namely, the Babe whereof the angel spoke.

     May great joy be upon us also while our thought shall be that the birth of Christ is the cause of supreme joy. When we have spoken upon this we shall have to enquire, to whom does that joy belong; and thirdly, we shall consider, how they shall express that joy while they possess it. May the Holy Spirit now reveal the Lord Jesus to us, and prepare us to rejoice in him.

     I. THE BIRTH OF CHRIST SHOULD BE THE SUBJECT OF SUPREME JOY. Rightly so. We have the angelic warrant for rejoicing because Christ is born. It is a truth so full of joy that it caused, the angel who came to announce it to be filled with gladness. He had little to do with the fact, for Christ took not up angels, but he took up the seed of Abraham; but I suppose that the very thought that the Creator should be linked with the creature, that the great Invisible and Omnipotent should come into alliance with that which he himself had made, caused the angel as a creature to feel that all creatureship was elevated, and this made him glad. Beside, there was a sweet benevolence of spirit in the angel’s bosom which made him happy because he had such gladsome tidings to bring to the fallen sons of men. Albeit they are not our brethren, yet do angels take a loving concern in all our affairs. They rejoice over us when we repent, they are ministering spirits when we are saved, and they bear us aloft when we depart; and sure we are that they can never be unwilling servants to their Lord, or tardy helpers of his beloved ones. They are friends of the Bridegroom and rejoice in his joy, they are household servants of the family of love, and they wait upon us with an eager diligence, which betokens the tenderness of feeling which they have towards the King’s sons. Therefore the angel delivered his message cheerfully, as became the place from which he came, the theme which brought him down, and his own interest therein. He said, “I bring you good tidings of great joy,” and we are sure he spake in accents of delight. Yea, so glad were angels at this gospel, that when the discourse was over, one angel having evangelized and given out the gospel for the day, suddenly a band of choristers appeared and sang an anthem loud and sweet that there might be a full service at the first propounding of the glad tidings of great joy. A multitude of the heavenly host had heard that a chosen messenger had been sent to proclaim the new-born King, and, filled with holy joy and adoration, they gathered up their strength to pursue him, for they could not let him go to earth alone on such an errand. They overtook him just as he had reached the last word of his discourse, and then they broke forth in that famous chorale, the only one sung of angels that was ever heard by human ears here below, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Thus, I say, they had full service; there was gospel ministry in rich discourse concerning Christ, and there was hearty and devout praise from a multitude all filled with heavenly joy. It was so glad a message that they could not let it be simply spoken by a solitary voice, though that were an angel’s, but they must needs pour forth a glad chorus of praise, singing unto the Lord a new song. Brothers, if the birth of Jesus was so gladsome to our cousins the angels, what should it be to us? If it made our neighbours sing who had comparatively so small a share in it, how should it make us leap for joy? Oh, if it brought heaven down to earth, should not our songs go up to heaven? If heaven’s gate of pearl was set open at its widest, and a stream of shining ones came running downward to the lower skies, to anticipate the time when they shall all descend in solemn pomp at the glorious advent of the great King; if it emptied heaven for a while to make earth so glad, ought not our thoughts and praises and all our loves to go pouring up to the eternal gate, leaving earth a while that we may crowd heaven with the songs of mortal men? Yea, verily, so let it be.

“Glory to the new-born King!
Let us all the anthem sing,
‘Peace on earth, and mercy mild;
God and sinners reconciled.’”

     For, first, the birth of Christ was the incarnation of God: it was God taking upon himself human nature— a mystery, a wondrous mystery, to be believed in rather than to be defined. Yet so it was that in the manger lay an infant, who was also infinite, a feeble child who was also the Creator of heaven and earth. How this could be we do not know, but that it was so we assuredly believe, and therein do we rejoice: for if God thus take upon himself human nature, then manhood is not abandoned nor given up as hopeless. When manhood had broken the bonds of the covenant, and snatched from the one reserved tree the fruit forbidden, God might have said, “I give thee up, O Adam, and cast off thy race. Even as I gave up Lucifer and all his host, so I abandon thee to follow thine own chosen course of rebellion!” But we have now no fear that the Lord has done this, for God has espoused manhood and taken it into union with himself. Now manhood is not put aside by the Lord as an utterly accursed thing, to be an abomination unto him for ever, for Jesus, the Well-beloved, is born oi a virgin. God would not so have taken manhood into union with himself if he had not said, “Destroy it not, for a blessing is in it.” I know the curse has fallen upon men because they have sinned, but evidently not on manhood in the abstract, for else had not Christ come to take upon himself the form of man and to be born of woman. The word made flesh means hope for manhood, notwithstanding its fall. The race is not to be outlawed, and marked with the brand of death and hell, and to be utterly abandoned to destruction, for, lo, the Lord hath married into the race, and the Son of God has become the Son of man. This is enough to make all that is within us sing for joy.

     Then, too, if God has taken manhood into union with himself, he loves man and means man’s good. Behold what manner of love God hath bestowed upon us that he should espouse our nature! For God had never so united himself with any creature before. His tender mercy had ever been over all his works, but they were still so distinct from himself that a great gulf was fixed between the Creator and the created, so far as existence and relationship are concerned. The Lord had made many noble intelligences, principalities, and powers of whom we know little; we do not even know what those four living creatures may be who are nearest the eternal presence; but God had. never taken up the nature of any of them, nor allied himself with them by any actual union with his person. But, lo, he has allied himself with man, that creature a little lower than the angels, that creature who is made to suffer death by reason of his sin; God has come into union with man, and therefore full sure he loves him unutterably well, and has great thoughts of good towards him. If a king’s son doth marry a rebel, then for that rebel race there are prospects of reconciliation, pardon, and restoration. There must be in the great heart of the Divine One wondrous thoughts of pity and condescending love, if He deigns to take human nature into union with himself. Joy, joy for ever, let us sound the loud cymbals of delight, for the incarnation bodes good to our race.

     If God has taken manhood into union with himself then God will feel for man, he will have pity upon him, he will remember that he is dust, he will have compassion upon his infirmities and sicknesses. You know, beloved, how graciously it is so, for that same Jesus who was born of a woman at Bethlehem is touched with the feelings of our infirmities, having been tempted in all points like as we are. Such intimate practical sympathy would not have belonged to our great High Priest if he had not become man. Not even though he be divine could he have been perfect in sympathy with us if he had not also become bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. The Captain of our salvation could only be made perfect through suffering; it must needs be that since the children were partakers of flesh and blood he himself also should take part of the same. For this again we may ring the silver bells, since the Son of God now intimately sympathizes with man because he is made in all points like unto his brethren.

     Further, it is clear that if God condescends to be so intimately allied with manhood, he intends to deliver man, and to bless him. Incarnation prophesies salvation. Oh, believing soul, thy God cannot mean to curse thee. Look at God incarnate! What readest thou there but salvation? God in human flesh must mean that God intends to set man above all the works of his hands, and to give him dominion, according to his first intent, over all sheep and oxen and all that pass through the paths of the sea and the air; yea it must mean that there is to be a man beneath whose feet all things shall be placed, so that even death itself shall be subject unto him. When God stoops down to man it must mean that man is to be lifted up to God. What joy there is in this! Oh that our hearts were but half alive to the incarnation! Oh that we did but know a thousandth part of the unutterable delight which is hidden in this thought, that the Son of God was born a man at Bethlehem! Thus you see that there is overflowing cause for joy in the birth of Christ, because it was the incarnation of the Deity.

     But further, the angel explained our cause for joy by saying that he who was born was unto us a Saviour. “Unto you is born this day a Saviour.” Brothers and sisters, I know who will be gladdest to-day to think that Christ was born a Saviour. It will be those who are most conscious of their sinnership. If you would draw music out of that ten stringed harp, the word “Saviour,” pass it over to a sinner. “Saviour” is the harp, but “sinner” is the finger that must touch the strings and bring forth the melody. If thou knowest thyself lost by nature and lost by practice, if thou feelest sin like a plague at thy heart, if evil wearies and worries thee, if thou hast known of iniquity the burden and the shame, then will it be bliss to thee even to hear of that Saviour whom the Lord has provided. Even as a babe, Jesus the Saviour will be precious to thee, but most of all because he has now finished all the work of thy salvation. Thou wilt look to the commencement of that work, and then survey it even to its close, and bless and magnify the name of the Lord. Unto you, O ye who are of sinners the chief, even unto you, ye consciously guilty ones, is born a Saviour. He is a Saviour by birth: for this purpose is he born. To save sinners is his birthright and office. It is henceforth an institution of the divine dominion, and an office of the divine nature to save the lost. Henceforth God has laid help upon One that is mighty, and exalted One chosen out of the people, that he may seek and save that which was lost. Is there not joy in this? Where else is there joy if not here?

     Next the angel tells us that this Saviour is Christ the Lord, and there is much gladness in that fact. “Christ” signified anointed. Now when we know that the Lord Jesus Christ came to save, it is most pleasant to perceive in addition that the Father does not let him enter upon his mission without the necessary qualification. He is anointed of the Highest that he may carry out the offices which he has undertaken: the Spirit of the Lord rested upon him without measure. Our Lord is anointed in a threefold sense, as prophet, priest, and king. It has been well observed that this anointing, in its threefold power, never rested upon any other man. There have been kingly prophets, David to wit; there was one kingly priest, even Melehisedec; and there have also been priestly prophets, such as Samuel. Thus it has come to pass that two of the offices have been united in one man, but the whole three,— prophet, priest, and king, never met in one thrice anointed being until Jesus came. We have the fullest anointing conceivable in Christ, who is anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows, and as the Messiah, the sent One of God, is completely prepared and qualified for all the work of our salvation. Let our hearts be glad. We have not a nominal Saviour, but a Saviour fully equipped; one who in all points is like ourselves, for he is man, but in all points fit to help the feebleness which he has espoused, for he is the anointed man. See what an intimate mingling of the divine and human is found in the angel’s song. They sing of him as “a Saviour,” and a Saviour must of necessity be divine, in order to save from death and hell; and yet the title is drawn from his dealings with humanity. Then they sing of him as “Christ,” and that must be human, for only man can be anointed, yet that unction comes from the Godhead. Sound forth the jubilee trumpets for this marvellously Anointed One, and rejoice in him who is your priest to cleanse you, your prophet to instruct you, and your king to deliver you. The angels sang of him as Lord, and yet as born; so here again the godlike in dominion is joined with the human in birth. How well did the words and the sense agree.

     The angel further went on to give these shepherds cause for joy by telling them that while their Saviour was born to be the Lord yet he was so born in lowliness that they would find him a babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. Is there cause of joy there? I say, ay, indeed there is, for it is the terror of the Godhead which keeps the sinner oftentimes away from reconciliation; but see how the Godhead hath graciously concealed itself in a babe, a little babe,— a babe that needed to be wrapped in swaddling bands like any other new-born child. Who feareth to approach him? Who ever heard of trembling in the presence of a babe? Yet is the Godhead there. My soul, when thou canst not for very amazement stand on the sea of glass mingled with fire, when the divine glory is like a consuming fire to thy spirit, and the sacred majesty of heaven is altogether overpowering to thee, then come thou to this babe, and say, “Yet God is here, and here can I meet him in the person of his dear Son, in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” Oh, what bliss there is in incarnation if we remember that herein God’s omnipotence cometh down to man’s feebleness, and infinite majesty stoops to man’s infirmity.

     Now mark, the shepherds were not to find this babe wrapped in Tyrian purple nor swathed in choicest fabrics fetched from afar.

“No crown bedecks his forehead fair,
No pearl, nor gem, nor silk is there.”

Nor would they discover him in the marble halls of princes, nor guarded by praetorian legionaries, nor lackied by vassal sovereigns, but they would find him the babe of a peasant woman, of princely lineage it is true, but of a family whose stock was dry and forgotten in Israel. The child was reputed to be the son of a carpenter. If you looked on the humble father and mother, and at the poor bed they had made up, where aforetime oxen had come to feed, you would say “This is condescension indeed.” O ye poor, be glad, for Jesus is born in poverty, and cradled in a manger. O ye sons of toil rejoice, for the Saviour is born of a lowly virgin, and a carpenter is his foster father. O ye people, oftentimes despised and downtrodden, the Prince of the Democracy is born, one chosen out of the people is exalted to the throne. O ye who call yourselves the aristocracy, behold the Prince of the kings of the earth, whose lineage is divine, and yet there is no room for him in the inn. Behold, O men, the Son of God, who is bone of your bone, intimate with all your griefs, who in his after life hungered as ye hunger, was weary as ye are weary, and wore humble garments like your own; yea, suffered worse poverty than you, for he was without a place whereon to lay his head. Let the heavens and the earth be glad, since God hath so fully, so truly come down to man.

     Nor is this all. The angel called for joy, and I ask for it too, on this ground, that the birth of this child was to bring glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will toward men. The birth of Christ has given such glory to God as I know not that he could ever have had here by any other means. We must always speak in accents soft and low when we talk of God’s glory; in itself it must always be infinite and not to be conceived by us, and yet may we not venture to say that all the works of God’s hands do not glorify him so much as the gift of his dear Son, that all creation and all providence do not so well display the heart of Deity as when he gives his Only Begotten and sends him into the world that men may live through him? What wisdom is manifested in the plan of redemption of which the incarnate God is the centre! What love is there revealed! What power is that which brought the Divine One down from glory to the manger; only omnipotence could have worked so great a marvel! What faithfulness to ancient promises! What truthfulness in keeping covenant! What grace, and yet what justice! For it was in the person of that newborn child that the law must be fulfilled, and in his precious body must vengeance find recompense for injuries done to divine righteousness. All the attributes of God were in that little child most marvellously displayed and veiled. Conceive the whole sun to be focussed to a single point and yet so softly revealed as to be endurable by the tenderest eye, even thus the glorious God is brought down for man to see him born of a woman. Think of it. The express image of God in mortal flesh! The heir of all things cradled in a manger! Marvellous is this! Glory to God in the highest! He has never revealed himself before as he now manifests himself in Jesus.

     It is through our Lord Jesus being born that there is already a measure of peace on earth and boundless peace yet to come. Already the teeth of war have been somewhat broken, and a testimony is borne by the faithful against this great crime. The religion of Christ holds up its shield over the oppressed, and declares tyranny and cruelty to be loathsome before God. Whatever abuse and scorn may be heaped upon Christ’s true minister he will never be silent while there are downtrodden nationalities and races needing his advocacy, nor will God’s servants anywhere, if faithful to the Prince of Peace, ever cease to maintain peace among men to the utmost of their power. The day cometh when this growing testimony shall prevail, and nations shall learn war no more. The Prince of Peace shall snap the spear of war across his knee. He, the Lord of all, shall break the arrows of the bow, the sword and the shield and the battle, and he shall do it in his own dwelling-place, even in Zion, which is more glorious and excellent than all the mountains of prey. As surely as Christ was born at Bethlehem he will yet make all men brothers, and establish a universal monarchy of peace, of which there shall be no end. So let us sing if we value the glory of God, for the new-born child reveals it; and let us sing if we value peace on earth, for he is come to bring it. Yea, and if we love the link which binds glorified heaven with pacified earth,— the goodwill towards men which the Eternal herein manifests, let us give a third note to our hallelujah and bless and magnify Immanuel, God with us, who has accomplished all this by his birth among us. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

     I think I have shown you that there was room enough for joy to the shepherds, but you and I, who live in later days, when we understand the whole business of salvation, ought to be even more glad than they were, though they glorified and praised God for all the things that they had heard and seen. Come, my brethren, let us at least do as much as these simple shepherds, and exult with our whole souls.

     II. Secondly, let us consider TO WHOM THIS JOY BELONGS. I was very heavy yesterday in spirit, for this dreary weather tends greatly to depress the mind.

“No lark could pipe to skies so dull and grey.”

But a thought struck me and filled me with intense joy. I tell it out to you, not because it will seem anything to you, but as having gladdened myself. It is a bit all for myself to be placed in a parenthesis; it is this, that the joy of the birth of Christ in part belongs to those who tell it, for the angels who proclaimed it were exceedingly glad, as glad as glad could be. I thought of this and whispered to my heart, “As I shall tell of Jesus born on earth for men, I will take license to be glad also, glad if for nothing else that I have such a message to bring to them.” The tears stood in my eyes, and stand there even now, to think that I should be privileged to say to my fellow men, “God has condescended to assume your nature that he might save you.” These are as glad and as grand words as he of the golden mouth could have spoken. As for Cicero and Demosthenes, those eloquent orators had no such theme to dwell upon. Oh, joy, joy, joy! There was born into this world a man who is also God. My heart dances as David danced before the ark of God.

     This joy was meant, not for the tellers of the news alone, but for all who heard it. The glad tidings “shall be unto all people.” Read “all the people,” if you like, for so, perhaps, the letter of the original might demand. Well, then, it meant that it was joy to all the nation of the Jews; but assuredly our version is truer to the inner spirit of the text; it is joy to all people upon the face of the earth that Christ is born. There is not a nation under heaven but what has a right to be glad because God has come down among men. Sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem. Take up the strain, O ye dwellers in the wilderness, and let the multitude of the isles be glad thereof! Ye who beneath the frigid zone feel in your very marrow all the force of God’s north wind, let your hearts bum within you at this happy truth. And ye whose faces are scorched by the heat of the torrid sun, let this be as a well of water unto you. Exult and magnify Jehovah that his Son, his Only Begotten, is also brother to mankind.

“O wake our hearts, in gladness sing!
And hail each one the newborn King,
Till living song from loving souls
Like sound of mighty waters rolls.”

     But brethren they do not all rejoice, not even all of those who know this glorious truth, nor does it stir the hearts of half mankind. To whom, then, is it a joy? I answer, to all who believe it, and especially to all who believe it as the shepherds did, with that faith which staggers not through unbelief. The shepherds never had a doubt: the light, the angels, and the song were enough for them; they accepted the glad tidings without a single question. In this the shepherds were both happy and wise, ay, wiser than the would-be wise whose wisdom can only manifest itself in cavilling. This present age despises the simplicity of a childlike faith, but how wonderfully God is rebuking its self-conceit. He is taking the wise in their own craftiness. I could not but notice in the late discovery of the famous Greek cities and the sepulchres of the heroes, the powerful rebuke which the spirit of scepticism has received. These wise doubters have been taken on their own ground and put to confusion. Of course they told us that old Homer was himself a myth, and the poem called by his name was a mere collection of unfounded legends and mere tales. Some ancient songster did but weave his dreams into poetry and foist them upon us as the blind minstrel’s song: there was no fact in it, they said, nor indeed in any current history; everything was mere legend. Long, ago these gentlemen told us that there was no King Arthur, no William Tell, no anybody indeed. Even as they questioned all sacred records, so have they cast suspicion upon all else that common men believe. But lo, the ancient cities speak, the heroes are found in their tombs; the child’s faith is vindicated. They have disinterred the king of men, and this and other matters speak in tones of thunder to the unbelieving ear, and say, “Ye fools, the simpletons believed and were wiser than your ‘culture’ made you. Your endless doubts have led you into falsehood and not into truth.”

     The shepherds believed and were glad as glad could be, but if Professor (never mind his name) had been there on that memorable night he would certainly have debated with the angel, and denied that a Saviour was needed at all. He would coolly have taken notes for a lecture upon the nature of light, and have commenced a disquisition upon the cause of certain remarkable nocturnal phenomena, which had been seen in the fields near Bethlehem. Above all he would have assured the shepherds of the absolute non-existence of anything superhuman. Have not the learned men of our age proved that impossibility scores of times with argument sufficient to convince a wooden post? They have made it as plain as that three times two are eighteen that there is no God, nor angel, nor spirit. They have proved beyond all doubt, as far as their own dogmatism is concerned, that everything is to be doubted which is most sure, and that nothing is to be believed at all except the infallibility of pretenders to science. But these men find no comfort, neither are they so weak as to need any, so they say. Their teaching is not glad tidings but a wretched negation, a killing frost which nips all noble hopes in the bud, and in the name of reason steals away from man his truest bliss. Be it ours to be as philosophical as the shepherds, for they did not believe too much, but simply believed what was well attested, and this they found to be true upon personal investigation. In faith lies joy. If our faith can realize we shall be happy now. I want this morning to feel as if I saw the glory of the Lord still shining in the heavens, for it was there, though I did not see it. I wish I could see that angel, and hear him speak; but, failing this, I know he did speak, though I did not hear him. I am certain that those shepherds told no lies, nor did the Holy Ghost deceive us when he bade his servant Luke write this record. Let us forget the long interval between and only recollect that it was really so. Realize that which was indeed matter of fact, and you may almost hear the angelic choir up in yonder sky singing still, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” At any rate, our hearts rehearse the anthem and we feel the joy of it, by simply believing, even as the shepherds did.

     Mark well, that believing what they did these simple-minded shepherds desired to approach nearer the marvellous babe. What did they do but consult together and say, “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which has come to pass”? O beloved, if you want to get the joy of Christ, come near to him. Whatever you hear about him from his own book, believe it; but then say, “I will go and find him.” When you hear the voice of the Lord from Sinai draw not nigh unto the flaming mountain, the law condemns you, the justice of God overwhelms you. Bow at a humble distance and adore with solemn awe. But when you hear of God in Christ hasten hither. Hasten hither with all confidence, for you are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, but ye are come unto the blood of sprinkling, which speaketh better things than that of Abel. Come near, come nearer, nearer still. “Come,” is his own word to those who labour and are heavy laden, and that selfsame word he will address to you at the last— “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from before the foundation of the world.” If you want joy in Christ come and find it in his bosom, or at his feet; there John and Mary found it long ago.

     And then, my brethren, do what the shepherds did when they came near. They rejoiced to see the babe of whom they had been told. You cannot see with the physical eye, but you must meditate, and so see with the mental eye this great, and grand, and glorious truth that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. This is the way to have joy to-day, joy such as fitly descends from heaven with the descent of heaven’s King. Believe, draw near, and then fixedly gaze upon him, and so be blest.

“Hark how all the welkin rings
Glory to the King of kings!
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.
“Veil’d in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with men to appear,
Jesus our Immanuel here.”

     III. My time has fled, else I desired to have shown, in the third place, HOW THAT JOY SHOULD BE MANIFESTED. I will only give a hint or two. The way in which many believers in Christmas keep the feast we know too well. This is a Christian country, is it not? I have been told so often that I suppose it must be true. It is a Christian country! But the Christianity is of a remarkable kind! It is not only that in the olden time “Christmas broached the mightiest ale,” but nowadays Christmas keepers must needs get drunk upon it. I slander not our countrymen when I say that drunkenness seems to be one of the principal items of their Christmastide delight. If Bacchus were born at this time I do think England keeps the birthday of that detestable deity most appropriately, but tell me not that it is the birth of the holy child Jesus that they thus celebrate. Is he not crucified afresh by such blasphemy? Surely to the wicked, Jesus saith, “What hast thou to do to keep my birthday and mention my name in connection with thy gluttony and drunkenness?” Shame that there should be any cause for such words. Tenfold shame that there should be so much.

     You may keep his birthday all the year round, for it were better to say he was born every day of the year than on any one, for truly in a spiritual sense he is born every day of every year in some men’s hearts, and that to us is a far weightier point than the observation of holy days. Express your joy, first, as the angels did, by public ministry. Some of us are called to speak to the many. Let us in the clearest and most earnest tones proclaim the Saviour and his power to rescue man. Others of you cannot preach; but you can sing. Sing then your anthems, and praise God with all your hearts. Do not be slack in the devout use of your tongues, which are the glory of your frames, but again and again and again lift up your joyful hymns unto the new-born King. Others of you can neither preach nor sing. Well, then, you must do what the shepherds did, and what did they? You are told twice that they spread the news. As soon as they had seen the babe they made known abroad the saying that was told them, and as they went home they glorified God. This is one of the most practical ways of showing your joy. Holy conversation is as acceptable as sermons and anthems. There was also one who said little, but thought the more: “Mary pondered all these things in her heart.” Quiet, happy spirit, weigh in thy heart the grand truth that Jesus was born at Bethlehem. Immanuel, God with us;— weigh it if you can; look at it again and again, examine the varied facets of this priceless brilliant, and bless, and adore, and love, and wonder, and yet adore again this matchless miracle of love.

     Lastly, go and do good to others. Like the wise men, bring your offerings, and offer to the new-born King your heart’s best gold of love, and frankincense of praise, and myrrh of penitence. Bring everything of your heart’s best, and somewhat of your substance also, for this is a day of good tidings, and it were unseemly to appear before the Lord empty. Come and worship God manifest in the flesh, and be filled with his light and sweetness by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.



Christ the Destroyer of Death

By / Dec 17

Christ the Destroyer of Death

 

“The last enemy that shall he destroyed is death.” — 1 Cor. xv. 26.

 

DURING four previous Sabbaths we have been following our Lord and Master through his great achievements: we have seen him as the end of the law, as the conqueror of Satan, as the overcomer of the world, as the creator of all things new, and now we behold him as the destroyer of death. In this and in all his other glorious deeds let us worship him with all our hearts.

     May the Spirit of God lead us into the full meaning of this, which is one of the Redeemer’s grandest characters.

     How wonderfully is our Lord Jesus one with man! For when the Psalmist David had considered “the heavens the work of God’s fingers,” he said, “Lord, what is man that thou art mindful of him, or the son of man that thou visitest him?” He was speaking of Christ. You would have thought he was thinking of man in his humblest estate, and that he was wondering that God should be pleased to honour so frail a being as the poor fallen son of Adam. You would never have dreamed that the glorious gospel lay hid within those words of grateful adoration. Yet in the course of that meditation David went on to say, “Thou madest him to have dominion over all the works of thy hands, thou hast put all things under his feet.” Now, had it not been for the interpretation of the Holy Spirit, we should still have considered that he was speaking of men in general, and of man’s natural dominion over the brute creation, but behold while that is true, there is another and a far more important truth concealed within it, for David, as a prophet, was all the while chiefly speaking of the man of men, the model man, the second Adam, the head of the new race of men. It was of Jesus, the Son of man, as honoured of the Father, that the psalmist sang, “He hath put all things under his feet.” Strange, was it not, that when he spake of man he must of necessity speak also of our Lord? And yet, when we consider the thing, it is but natural and according to truth, and only remarkable to us because in our minds we too often consider Jesus and man as fan removed, and too little regard him as truly one with man.

     Now, see how the apostle infers from the psalm the necessity of the resurrection, for if all things must be put under the feet of the man Christ Jesus, then every form of evil must be conquered by him, and death among the rest. “He must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet.” It must be so, and therefore death itself must ultimately be overcome. Thus out of that simple sentence in the psalm, which we should have read far otherwise without the light of the Holy Spirit, the apostle gathereth the doctrine of the resurrection. The Holy Spirit taught his servant Paul how by a subtle chemistry he could distil from simple words a precious fragrant essence, which the common reader never suspected to be there. Texts have their secret drawers, their box within a box, their hidden souls which lie asleep till he who placed them on their secret couches awakens them that they may speak to the hearts of his chosen. Could you ever have guessed resurrection from the eighth Psalm? No, nor could you have believed, had it not been told you, that there is fire in the flint, oil in the rock, and bread in the earth we tread upon. Man’s books have usually far less in them than we expect, but the book of the Lord is full of surprises, it is a mass of light, a mountain of priceless revelations. We little know what yet lies hidden within the Scriptures. We know the form of sound words as the Lord has taught it to us, and by it we will abide, but there are inner store-houses into which we have not peered; chambers of revelation lit up with bright lamps, perhaps too bright for our eyes at this present. If Paul, when the Spirit of God rested upon him, could see so much in the songs of David, the day may come when we also shall see still more in the epistles of Paul, and wonder at ourselves that we did not understand better the things which the Holy Ghost has so freely spoken to us by the apostle. May we at this time be enabled to look deep and far, and behold the sublime glories of our risen Lord.

     To the text itself then: death is an enemy: death is an enemy to be destroyed: death is an enemy to be destroyed last:— “the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”

     I. DEATH AN ENEMY. It was so born, even as Haman the Agagite was the enemy of Israel by his descent. Death is the child of our direst foe, for “sin when it is finished bringeth forth death.” “Sin entered into the world and death by sin.” Now, that which is distinctly the fruit of transgression cannot be other than an enemy of man. Death was introduced into the world on that gloomy day which saw our fall, and he that had the power of it is our arch enemy and betrayer, the devil: from both of which facts we must regard it as the manifest enemy of man. Death is an alien in this world, it did not enter into the original design of the unfallen creation, but its intrusion mars and spoils the whole. It is no part of the Great Shepherd’s flock, but it is a wolf which cometh to kill and to destroy. Geology tells us that there was death among the various forms of life from the first ages of the globe’s history, even when as yet the world was not fitted up as the dwelling of man. This I can believe and still regard death as the result of sin. If it can be proved that there is such an organic unity between man and the lower animals that they would not have died if Adam had not sinned, then I see in those deaths before Adam the antecedent consequences of a sin which was then uncommitted. If by the merits of Jesus there was salvation before he had offered his atoning sacrifice I do not find it hard to conceive that the forseen demerits of sin may have cast the shadow of death over the long ages which came before man’s transgression. Of that we know little, nor is it important that we should, but certain is it that as far as this present creation is concerned death is not God’s invited guest, but an intruder whose presence mars the feast. Man in his folly welcomed Satan and sin when they forced their way into the high festival of Paradise, but he never welcomed death: even his blind eyes could see in that skeleton form a cruel foe. As the lion to the herds of the plain, as the scythe to the flowers of the field, as the wind to the sere leaves of the forest, such is death to the sons of men. They fear it by an inward instinct because their conscience tells them that it is the child of their sin.

     Death is well called an enemy for it does an enemy’s work towards us. Por what purpose doth an enemy come but to root up, and to pull down, and to destroy? Death tears in pieces that comely handiwork of God, the fabric of the human body, so marvellously wrought by the fingers of divine skill. Casting this rich embroidery into the grave among the armies of the worm, to its fierce soldiery death divideth “to every one a prey of divers colours, of divers colours of needlework and they ruthlessly rend in pieces the spoil. This building of our manhood is a house fair to look upon, but death the destroyer darkens its windows, shakes its pillars, closes its doors and causes the sound of the grinding to cease. Then the daughters of music are brought low, and the strong men bow themselves. This Vandal spares no work of life, however full of wisdom, or beauty, for it looseth the silver cord and breaketh the golden bowl. Lo, at the fountain the costly pitcher is utterly broken, and at the cistern the well-wrought wheel is dashed in pieces. Death is a fierce invader of the realms of life, and where it comes it fells every good tree, stops all wells of water, and mars every good piece of land with stones. See you a man when death has wrought his will upon him, what a ruin he is! How is his beauty turned to ashes, and his comeliness to corruption. Surely an enemy hath done this.

     Look, my brethren, at the course of death throughout all ages and in all lands. What field is there without its grave? What city without its cemetery? Whither can we go to find no sepulchres? As the sandy shore is covered with the upcastings of the worm, so art thou, O earth, covered with those grass-grown hillocks beneath which sleep the departed generations of men. And thou, O sea, even thou, art not without thy dead! As if the earth were all too full of corpses and they jostled each other in their crowded sepulchres, even into thy caverns, O mighty main, the bodies of the dead are cast. Thy waves must become defiled with the carcases of men, and on thy floor must lie the bones of the slain! Our enemy, death, has marched as it were with sword and fire ravaging the human race. Neither Goth, nor Hun, nor Tartar could have slain so universally all that breathed, for death has suffered none to escape. Everywhere it has withered household joys and created sorrow and sighing; in all lands where the sun is seen it hath blinded men’s eyes with weeping. The tear of the bereaved, the wail of the widow, and the moan of the orphan— these have been death’s war music, and he has found therein a song of victory.

     The greatest conquerors have only been death’s slaughtermen, journeymen butchers working in his shambles. War is nothing better than death holding carnival, and devouring his prey a little more in haste than is his common wont.

     Death has done the work of an enemy to those of us who have as yet escaped his arrows. Those who have lately stood around a new-made grave and buried half their hearts can tell you what an enemy death is. It takes the friend from our side, and the child from our bosom, neither does it care for our crying. He has fallen who was the pillar of the household; she has been snatched away who was the brightness of the hearth. The little one is torn out of its mother’s bosom though its loss almost breaks her heartstrings; and the blooming youth is taken from his father’s side though the parent’s fondest hopes are there by crushed. Death has no pity for the young and no mercy for the old; he pays no regard to the good or to the beautiful. His scythe cuts down sweet flowers and noxious weeds with equal readiness. He cometh into our garden, trampleth down our lilies and scattereth our roses on the ground; yea, and even the most modest flowers planted in the corner, and hiding their beauty beneath the leaves that they may blush unseen, death spieth out even these, and cares nothing for their fragrance, but withers them with his burning breath. He is thine enemy indeed, thou fatherless child, left for the pitiless storm of a cruel world to beat upon, with none to shelter thee. He is thine enemy, O widow, for the light of thy life is gone, and the desire of thine eyes has been removed with a stroke.

     He is thine enemy, husband, for thy house is desolate and thy little children cry for their mother of whom death has robbed thee. He is the enemy of us all, for what head of a family among us has not had to say to him, “Me thou hast bereaved again and again!” Especially is death an enemy to the living when he invades God’s house and causes the prophet and the priest to be numbered with the dead. The church mourns when her most useful ministers are smitten down, when the watchful eye is closed in darkness, and the instructive tongue is mute. Yet how often does death thus war against us! The earnest, the active, the indefatigable are taken away. Those mightiest in prayer, those most affectionate in heart, those most exemplary in life, those are cut down in the midst of their labours, leaving behind them a church which needs them more than tongue can tell. If the Lord does but threaten to permit death to seize a beloved pastor, the souls of his people are full of grief, and they view death as their worst foe, while they plead with the Lord and entreat him to bid their minister live.

     Even those who die may well count death to be their enemy: I mean not now that they have risen to their seats, and, as disembodied spirits, behold the King in his beauty, but aforetime while death was approaching them. He seemed to their trembling flesh to be a foe, for it is not in nature, except in moments of extreme pain or aberration of mind, or of excessive expectation of glory, for us to be in love with death. It was wise of our Creator so to constitute us that the soul loves the body and the body loves the soul, and they desire to dwell together as long as they may, else had there been no care for self-preservation, and suicide would have destroyed the race.

“For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressors wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin?”

It is a first law of our nature that skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life, and thus we are nerved to struggle for existence, and to avoid that which would destroy us. This useful instinct renders death an enemy, but it also aids in keeping us from that crime of all crimes the most sure of damnation if a man commit it wilfully and in his sound mind; I mean the crime of self-murder.

     When death cometh even to the good man he cometh as an enemy, for he is attended by such terrible heralds and grim outriders as do greatly scare us.

“Fever with brow of fire;
Consumption wan; palsy, half-warmed with life,
And half a clay-cold lump; joint-torturing gout,
And ever-gnawing rheum; convulsion wild;
Swoln dropsy; panting asthma; apoplex
Full gorged.”

None of these add to the aspect of death a particle of beauty. He comes with pains and griefs; he comes with sighs and tears. Clouds and darkness are round about him, an atmosphere laden with dust oppresses those whom he approaches, and a cold wind chills them even to the marrow. He rides on the pale horse, and where his steed sets its foot the land becomes a desert. By the footfall of that terrible steed the worm, is awakened to gnaw the slain. When we forget other grand truths and only remember these dreadful things, death is the king of terrors to us. Hearts are sickened and reins are loosened, because of him.

     But, indeed, he is an enemy, for what comes he to do to our body? I know he doeth that which ultimately leadeth to its betterness, but still it is that which in itself, and for the present, is not joyous, but grievous. He comes to take the light from the eyes, the hearing from the ears, the speech from the tongue, the activity from the hand, and the thought from the brain. He comes to transform a living man into a mass of putrefaction, to degrade the beloved form of brother and friend to such a condition of corruption that affection itself cries out, “Bury my dead out of my sight.” Death, thou child of sin, Christ hath transformed thee marvellously, but in thyself thou art an enemy before whom flesh and blood tremble, for they know that thou art the murderer of all of woman born, whose thirst for human prey the blood of nations cannot slake.

     If you think for a few moments of this enemy, you will observe some of his points of character. He is the common foe of all God’s people, and the enemy of all men; for however some have been persuaded that they should not die, yet is there no discharge in this war; and if in this conscription a man escapes the ballot many and many a year till his grey beard seems to defy the winter’s hardest frost, yet must the man of iron yield at last. It is appointed unto all men once to die. The strongest man has no elixir of eternal life wherewith to renew his youth amid the decays of age: nor has the wealthiest prince a price wherewith to bribe destruction. To the grave must thou descend, O crowned monarch, for sceptres and shovels are akin. To the sepulchre must thou go down, O mighty man of valour, for sword and spade are of like metal. The prince is brother to the worm, and must dwell in the same house. Of our whole race it is true, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

     Death is also a subtle foe, lurking everywhere, even in the most harmless things. Who can tell where death has not prepared his ambuscades? He meets us both at home and abroad; at the table he assails men in their food, and at the fountain he poisons their drink. He waylayeth us in the streets, and he seizeth us in our beds; he rideth on the storm at sea, and he walks with us when we are on our way upon the solid land. Whither can we fly to escape from thee, O death, for from the summit of the Alps men have fallen to their graves, and in the deep places of the earth where the miner goeth down to find the precious ore, there hast thou sacrificed many a hecatomb of precious lives. Death is a subtle foe, and with noiseless footfalls follows close at our heels when least we think of him.

     He is an enemy whom none of us will be able to avoid, take what by-paths we may, nor can we escape from him when our hour is come. Into this fowler’s nets, like the birds, we shall all fly; in his great seine must all the fishes of the great sea of life be taken when their day is come. As surely as sets the sun, or as the midnight stars at length descend beneath the horizon, or as the waves sink back into the sea, or as the bubble bursts, so must we all early or late come to our end, and disappear from earth to be known no more among the living.

     Sudden too, full often, are the assaults of this enemy.

“Leaves have their time to fall,
And flowers to wither at the north wind’s breath,
And stars to set— but all,
Thou hast all seasons for thine own, O Death!”

Such things have happened as for men to die without an instant’s notice; with a psalm upon their lips they have passed away; or engaged in the daily business they have been summoned to give in their account. We have heard of one who, when the morning paper brought him news that a friend in business had died, was drawing on his boots to go to his counting-house, and observed with a laugh that as far as he was concerned, lie was so busy he had no time to die. Yet, ere the words were finished, he fell forward and was a corpse. Sudden deaths are not so uncommon as to be marvels if we dwell in the centre of a large circle of mankind. Thus is death a foe not to be despised or trifled with. Let us remember all his characteristics, and we shall not be inclined to think lightly of the grim enemy whom our glorious Redeemer has destroyed.

     II. Secondly, let us remember that death is AN ENEMY TO BE DESTROYED. Remember that our Lord Jesus Christ has already wrought a great victory upon death so that he has delivered us from lifelong bondage through its fear. He has not yet destroyed death, but he has gone very near to it, for we are told that he has “abolished death and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” This surely must come very near to having destroyed death altogether.

     In the first place, our Lord has subdued death in the very worst sense by having delivered his people from spiritual death. “And you hath ho quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins.” Once you had no divine life whatever, but the death of original depravity remained upon you, and so you were dead to all divine and spiritual things; but now, beloved, the Spirit of God, even he that raised up Jesus Christ from the dead, has raised you up into newness of life, and you have become new creatures in Christ Jesus. In this sense death has been subdued.

     Our Lord in his lifetime also conquered death by restoring certain individuals to life. There were three memorable cases in which at his bidding the last enemy resigned his prey. Our Lord went into the ruler’s house, and saw the little girl who had lately fallen asleep in death, around whom they wept and lamented: he heard their scornful laughter, when he said, “She is not dead but sleepeth,” and he put them all out and said to her “Maid, arise!” Then was the spoiler spoiled, and the dungeon door set open. He stopped the funeral procession at the gates of Nain, whence they were carrying forth a young man, “the only son of his mother, and she was a widow,” and he said “Young man, I say unto thee arise.” When that young man sat up and our Lord delivered him to his mother, then again was the prey taken from the mighty. Chief of all when Lazarus had laid in the grave so long that his sister said “Lord, by this time he stinketh,” when, in obedience to the word, “Lazarus come forth!” forth came the raised one with his graveclothes still about him, but yet really quickened, then was death seen to be subservient to the Son of man. “Loose him and let him go,” said the conquering Christ, and death’s bonds were removed, for the lawful captive was delivered. When at the Redeemer’s resurrection many of the saints arose and came out of their graves into the holy city then was the crucified Lord proclaimed to be victorious over death and the grave.

     Still, brethren, these were but preliminary skirmishes and mere foreshadowings of the grand victory by which death was overthrown. The real triumph was achieved upon the cross,—

“He hell in hell laid low;
Made sin, He sin o’erthrew:
Bow’d to the grave, destroy’d it so,
And death, by dying, slew.”

     When Christ died he suffered the penalty of death on the behalf of all his people, and therefore no believer now dies by way of punishment for sin, since we cannot dream that a righteous God would twice exact the penalty for one offence. Death since Jesus died is not a penal infliction upon the children of God: as such he has abolished it, and it can never be enforced. Why die the saints then? Why, because their bodies must be changed ere they can enter heaven. “Flesh and blood” as they are “cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” A divine change must take place upon the body before it will be fit for incorruption and glory; and death and the grave are, as it were, the refining pot and the furnace by means of which the body is made ready for its future bliss. Deaths it is true thou art not yet destroyed, but our living Redeemer has so changed thee that thou art no longer death, but something other than thy name! Saints die not now, but they are dissolved and depart. Death is the loosing of the cable that the bark may freely sail to the fair havens. Death is the fiery chariot in which we ascend to God: it is the gentle voice of the Great King, who cometh into his banqueting hall, and saith “Friend, come up higher.” Behold, on eagle’s wings we mount, we fly, far from this land of mist and cloud, into the eternal serenity and brilliance of God’s own house above. Yes, our Lord has abolished death. The sting of death is sin, and our great Substitute has taken that sting away by his great sacrifice. Stingless, death abides among the people of God, but it so little harms them that to them “it is not death to die.”

     Further, Christ vanquished death and thoroughly overcame him when he rose. What a temptation one has to paint a picture of the resurrection, but I will not be led aside to attempt more than a few touches. When our great Champion awoke from his brief sleep of death and found himself in the withdrawing-room of the grave, he quietly proceeded to put off the garments of the tomb. How leisurely he proceeded! He folded up the napkin and placed it by itself, that those who lose their friends might wipe their eyes therewith; and then he took off the winding sheet and laid the graveclothes by themselves that they might be there when his saints come thither, so that the chamber might be well furnished, and the bed ready sheeted and prepared for their rest. The sepulchre is no longer an empty vault, a dreary charnel, but a chamber of rest, a dormitory furnished and prepared, hung with the arras which Christ himself has bequeathed. It is now no more a damp, dark, dreary prison: Jesus has changed all that.

“’Tis now a cell where angels use
To come and go with heavenly news.”

     The angel from heaven rolled away the stone from our Lord’s sepulchre and let in the fresh air and light again upon our Lord, and he stepped out more than a conqueror. Death had fled. The grave had' capitulated.

“Lives again our glorious King!
Where, O death, is now thy sting?’
Once he died our souls to save;
‘Where’s thy victory, boasting grave?’”

     Well, brethren, as surely as Christ rose so did he guarantee as an absolute certainty the resurrection of all his saints into a glorious life for their bodies, the life of their souls never having paused even for a moment. In this he conquered death; and since that memorable victory, every day Christ is overcoming death, for he gives his Spirit to his saints, and having that Spirit within them they meet the last enemy without alarm: often they confront him with songs, perhaps more frequently they face him with calm countenance, and fall asleep with peace. I will not fear thee, death, why should I? Thou lookest like a dragon, but thy sting is gone. Thy teeth are broken, oh old lion, wherefore should I fear thee? I know thou art no more able to destroy me, but thou art sent as a messenger to conduct me to the golden gate wherein I shall enter and see my Saviour’s unveiled face for ever. Expiring saints have often said that their last beds have been the best they have ever slept upon. Many of them have enquired,

“Tell me, my soul, can this be death?”

To die has been so different a thing from what they expected it to be, so lightsome, and so joyous; they have been so unloaded of all care, have felt so relieved instead of burdened, that they have wondered whether this could be the monster they had been so afraid of all their days. They find it a pin’s prick, whereas they feared it would prove a sword-thrust: it is the shutting of the eye on earth and the opening of it in heaven, whereas they thought it would have been a stretching upon the rack, or a dreary passage through a dismal region of gloom and dread. Beloved, our exalted Lord has overcome death in all these ways.

     But now, observe, that this is not the text:— the text speaks of something yet to be done. The last enemy that shall he destroyed is death, so that death in the sense meant by the text is not destroyed yet. He is to be destroyed, and how will that be?

     Well, I take it death will be destroyed in the sense first that, at the coming of Christ, those who are alive and remain shall not see death. They shall be changed; there must be a change even to the living before they can inherit eternal life, but they shall not actually die. Ho not envy them, for they will have no preference beyond those that sleep; rather do I think theirs to be the inferior lot of the two in some respects. But they will not know death: the multitude of the Lord’s own who will be alive at his coming will pass into the glory without needing to die. Thus death, as far as they are concerned, will be destroyed.

     But the sleeping ones, the myriads who have left their flesh and bones to moulder back to earth, death shall be destroyed even as to them, for when the trumpet sounds they shall rise from the tomb. The resurrection is the destruction of death. We never taught, nor believed, nor thought that every particle of every body that was put into the grave would come to its fellow, and that the absolutely identical material would rise; but we do say that the identical body will be raised, and that as surely as there cometh out of the ground the seed that was put into it, though in very different guise, for it cometh not forth as a seed but as a flower, so surely shall the same body rise again. The same material is not necessary, but there shall come out of the grave, ay, come out of the earth, if it never saw a grave, or come out of the sea if devoured by monsters, that selfsame body for true identity which was inhabited by the soul while here below. Was it not so with our Lord? Even so shall it be with his own people, and then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting! O grave where is thy victory!”

     There will be this feature in our Lord’s victory, that death will be fully destroyed because those who rise will not he one whit the worse for having died. I believe concerning those new bodies that there will be no trace upon them of the feebleness of old age, none of the marks of long and wearying sickness, none of the scars of martyrdom. Death shall not have left his mark upon them at all, except it be some glory mark which shall be to their honour, like the scars in the flesh of the Wellbeloved, which are his chief beauty even now in the eyes of those for whom his hands and feet were pierced. In this sense death shall be destroyed because he shall have done no damage to the saints at all, the very trace of decay shall have been swept away from the redeemed.

     And then, finally, there shall, after this trumpet of the Lord, be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, for the former things have passed away. “Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more, death hath no more dominion over him and so also the quickened ones, his own redeemed, they too shall die no more. Oh dreadful, dreadful supposition, that they should ever have to undergo temptation or pain, or death a second time. It cannot be. “Because I live,” says Christ, “they shall live also.” Yet the doctrine of the natural immortality of the soul having been given up by some, certain of them have felt obliged to give up with the eternity of future punishment the eternity of future bliss, and assuredly as far as some great proof texts are concerned, they stand or fall together. “These shall go away into everlasting punishment, and the righteous into life eternal”; if the one state be short so must the other be: whatever the adjective means in the one case it means in the other. To us the word means endless duration in both cases, and we look forward to a bliss which shall never know end or duration. Then in the tearless, sorrowless, graveless country death shall be utterly destroyed.

     III. And now last of all, and the word “last” sounds fitly in this case, DEATH is TO BE DESTROYED LAST. Because he came in last he must go out last. Death was not the first of our foes: first came the devil, then sin, then death. Death is not the worst of enemies; death is an enemy, but he is much to be preferred to our other adversaries. It were better to die a thousand times than to sin. To be tried by death is nothing compared with being tempted by the devil. The mere physical pains connected with dissolution are comparative trifles compared with the hideous grief which is caused by sin and the burden which a sense of guilt causes to the soul. No, death is but a secondary mischief compared with the defilement of sin. Let the great enemies go down first; smite the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered; let sin, and Satan, the lord of all these evils, be smitten first, and death may well be left to the last.

     Notice, that death is the last enemy to each individual Christian and the last to be destroyed. Well now, if the word of God says it is the last I want to remind you of a little piece of practical wisdom,— leave him to be the last. Brother, do not dispute the appointed order, but let the last be last. I have known a brother wanting to vanquish death long before he died. But, brother, you do not want dying grace till dying moments. What would be the good of dying grace while you are jet alive? A boat will only be needful when you reach a river. Ask for living grace, and glorify Christ thereby, and then you shall have dying grace when dying time comes. Your enemy is going to be destroyed, but not to-day. There is a great host of enemies to be fought to-day, and you may be content to let this one alone for a while. This enemy will be destroyed, but of the times and the seasons we are in ignorance; our wisdom is to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ as the duty of every day requires. Take your trials as they come, brother! As the enemies march up slay them, rank upon rank, but if you fail in the name of God to smite the front ranks, and say “No, I am only afraid of the rear rank,” then you are playing the fool. Leave the final shock of arms till the last adversary advances, and meanwhile hold you your place in the conflict. God will in due time help you to overcome your last enemy, but meanwhile see to it that you overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. If you live well you will die well. That same covenant in which the Lord Jesus gave you life contains also the grant of death, for “All things are yours, whether things present or things to come, or life or death, all are yours, and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”

     Why is death left to the last? Well, I think it is because Christ can make much use of him. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death, because death is of great service before he is destroyed. Oh, what lessons some of us have learned from death! “Our dying friends come o’er us like a cloud to damp our brainless ardours,” to make us feel that these poor fleeting toys are not worth living for; that as others pass away so must we also be gone, and thus they help to make us set loose by this world, and urge us to take wing and mount towards the world to come. There are, perhaps, no sermons like the deaths which have happened in our households; the departure of our beloved friends have been to us solemn discourses of divine wisdom, which our heart could not help hearing. So Christ has spared death to make him a preacher to his saints.

     And you know, brethren, that if there had been no death the saints of God would not have had the opportunity to exhibit the highest ardour of their love. Where has love to Christ triumphed most? Why, in the death of the martyrs at the stake and on the rack. O Christ, thou never hadst such garlands woven for thee by human hands as they have brought thee who have come up to heaven from the forests of persecution, having waded through streams of blood. By death for Christ the saints have glorified him most.

     So is it in their measure with saints who die from ordinary deaths; they would have had no such test for faith and work for patience as they now have if there had been no death. Part of the reason of the continuance of this dispensation is that the Christ of God may be glorified, but if believers never died, the supreme consummation of faith’s victory must have been unknown. Brethren, if I may die as I have seen some of our church members die, I court the grand occasion. I would not wish to escape death by some by-road if I may sing as they sang. If I may have such hosannas and hallelujahs beaming in my very eyes as I have seen as well as heard from them, it were a blessed thing to die. Yes, as a supreme test of love and faith, death is well respited awhile to let the saints glorify their Master.

     Besides, brethren, without death we should not be so conformed to Christ as we shall be if we fall asleep in him. If there could be any jealousies in heaven among the saints, I think that any saint who does not die, but is changed when Christ comes, could almost meet me and you, who probably will die, and say “My brother, there is one thing I have missed, I never lay in the grave, I never had the chill hand of death laid on me, and so in that I was not conformed to my Lord. But you know what it is to have fellowship with him, even in his death.” Did I not well say that they that were alive and remain should have no preference over them that are asleep? I think the preference if anything shall belong to us who sleep in Jesus, and wake up in his likeness.

     Death, dear friends, is not yet destroyed, because he brings the saints home. He does but come to them and whisper his message, and in a moment they are supremely blessed.

“Have done with sin and care and woe,
And with the Saviour rest.”

And so death is not destroyed yet, for he answers useful purposes.

     But, beloved, he is going to be destroyed. He is the last enemy of the church collectively. The church as a body has had a mass of foes to contend with, but after the resurrection we shall say, “This is the last enemy. Not another foe is left.” Eternity shall roll on in ceaseless bliss. There may be changes, bringing new delights; perhaps in the eternity to come there may be eras and ages of yet more amazing bliss, and still more superlative ecstasy; but there shall be

“No rude alarm of raging foes,
No cares to break the last repose.”

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death, and if the last be slain there can be no future foe. The battle is fought and the victory is won for ever. And who hath won it? who but the Lamb that sitteth on the throne, to whom let us all ascribe honour, and glory, and majesty, and power, and dominion, and might, for ever and ever. The Lord help us in our solemn adoration. Amen.



Christ the Maker of All Things New

By / Dec 10

Christ the Maker of All Things New

 

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” — 2 Corinthians, v. 17.

 

WE shall try to preach this morning of Christ as the Author of the new creation, and may we be enabled by the Holy Spirit to speak to his glory. To create all things new is one of his most famous achievements; may we not only gaze upon it but be partakers in it.

     What says Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes? Does he not tell us there that “the thing that hath been shall be, and that which is done is that which shall be done, and there is no new thing under the sun”? No doubt Solomon was correct in this declaration, but he wrote of this world and not of the world to come whereof we speak; for behold, in the world to come, that is to say, in the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, all things are new. To the wisest mind, if unrenewed, there is nothing new, but to the humblest of the regenerated ones all things have become new.

     The word “new” seems to harmonize sweetly with the name and work of our Lord Jesus, inasmuch as he comes in after the old system had failed, and begins anew with us as the father and head of a chosen race. He is the Mediator of the new covenant, and has come to place us in a new relationship towards God. As the second Adam he has delivered us from the old broken covenant of works wherein five lay under the curse, and he hath placed us under the new infallible covenant of grace wherein we are established by his merit. The blood of Jesus Christ is said to be “the blood of the new covenant”; there is thus a connection with newness even in the most vital point of our dear Redeemer’s person. The blood is even to him the life thereof, and apart from that blood he can bestow no remission of sin; thus there is a newness about that essential life flood, for when he gives us to drink of his cup of remembrance he says “this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” “Now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the Mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.” The old covenant, the old ceremonial law, the old spirit of bondage, and the whole of the old leaven Jesus has purged out of the house, and he has admitted to a new dispensation wherein grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life.

     When our Lord Jesus came into the world his birth of a virgin by the power of the Holy Ghost was a new thing, for thus had the prophet Jeremiah said of old in the name of the Lord, “How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter? for the Lord hath created a new thing in the earth, a woman shall compass a man.” Unto us a child is born who is the virgin’s son, in whom we do rejoice because he cometh into the world without taint of original sin, after a new fashion, as never man was born before. Coming thus into the old world, he publisheth new doctrine, for his doctrine is called gospel, or good news. It is the freshest news that an anxious heart can hear; it is the most novel music by which a troubled breast can be soothed. Jesus Christ’s teaching is still the best news of these days, as it was centuries ago. Though the world has had nearly 1900 years of the glad tidings, the gospel hath the dew of its youth upon it, and when men hear it they still ask, as the Greeks did of old, “What new doctrine is this?” Our Lord Jesus has come to set up, by the preaching and teaching of the gospel, a new kingdom, a kingdom having new laws, new customs, a new charter, and new riches, a kingdom which is not of this world, a kingdom founded upon better principles and bringing infinitely better results to its subjects than any other dominion that hath ever been. Into that kingdom he introduces only new men, who are made new creatures in Christ Jesus, who therefore love his new commandment and serve him in newness of spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. Moreover, Christ hath opened for us an entrance into the kingdom of heaven above, for now we come to God “by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh.” When in days to come we shall meet him again there will still be novelty, for he has said, “I will not drink henceforth of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” Indeed, concerning our Lord and Master everything is new, and was it not so prophesied? For did not Isaiah say, in the forty-third chapter, eighteenth verse, “Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it?” And to the same effect was his prophecy in the sixty-fifth chapter, seventeenth verse: “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.” This newness of everything was to be a leading feature in Messiah s reign, and it has already been so; but far more shall this be seen in the latter days. Doth not John in Rev. xxi. 5, say, “He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.” Foretold in former ages as the Creator of new heavens and a new earth, our Lord shall at last, in the summing up, be plainly seen to be the Maker of all things new. Do you wonder, beloved, that if a man be in Christ he is a new creature? If everything that Christ touches is made new, if he refreshes and revives, if he re-establishes and re-edifies, and new-creates wherever he goes, are you at all astonished that those who live nearest to his heart, nay, are in vital union with his blessed person, should also be made new? It would be very astonishing if it were not so.

     Let us direct our attention then to the teaching of the text, “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature.”

     I. We shall first consider with brevity THE GROUND OF THE NOVELTY which is here spoken of. It is, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature,” not otherwise. No man cometh to be a new creature by any process apart from Christ. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature,” but if any man be not in Christ he is not a new creature, nor can he become so except by connection with him of whom it is written that he is “the beginning of the creation of God.” As in the old creation “without him was not any thing made that was made,” so is it in the new. He maketh all things new, but the things that are apart from him have waxen old and are ready to perish, neither can they renew their youth. As well might the face of the earth hope to be renewed with spring apart from the sun, as for a soul to hope for spiritual renewal apart from Jesus. The wonderful newness produced by regeneration and new creation is the work of the Holy Ghost and his operations are all in union with the Lord Jesus and aimed at his glory. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.”

     But how cometh it that a man is indeed a new creature if he be in Christ? I answer, first, it cometh necessarily from the representative character of Christ towards those who are in him. If you wanted a man to be made a new creature, and were omnipotent, what process would suggest itself to you? I think a double one. To make an old creature into a new creature there must first be the stroke which ends him, and then the touch which begins him anew: to put it more plainly, there must be death and then life. Now, has that taken place upon those who are in Christ? Of course it has, if it has taken place upon Christ himself, because he is the Head, and represents the members. As Adam acted for the seed in him, so Christ hath acted for the seed in him. See, then, beloved, Christ hath died; he came before the judgment seat with our sins upon him, the representative of those of whom he is the head; and in him death, which was the penalty of sin, was fulfilled to the letter, its bitterest dregs being drunk up. Jesus died. We are certain that he died, for the executioners brake not his legs because they saw that he was dead already, but one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. We know that he died, for the jealous eyes of his enemies would not have permitted him to have been taken down from the cross unless the life had assuredly departed. He was laid in the grave, assuredly dead, under the dominion of death for the time being; and you and I who are in him, at that time died in him. “If one died for all then all died.” Such is the proper translation of that passage. We died, for he died in our name. Our sin, was punished in him by the death which he endured. See ye, then, brethren, we are dead, dead by virtue of our federal union with Jesus Christ. I mean not you all, unless ye are all in Christ Jesus. Judge ye whether it be so with you or not. But I mean as many as the Father gave to Christ, as many as Christ in his intent did specially redeem by becoming their substitute: these were in him, and in him they died, being crucified with him. In him also all his people rose again when he rose. On the third day he burst the bonds of death and left the grave on our behalf. See how the Holy Spirit, by his servant Paul, identifies us with all this. “Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” As far as he was our representative he was a new man when he rose. The law had no claims upon him: he had been dead, and so had passed out of its jurisdiction. The law never had any claim upon the risen Christ: it had a claim upon him when he came under the law, but when he had satisfied it to the last jot and tittle, by death, he was completely clear. Hath the law of our country any claim upon a man after he is dead? If a dead man can be raised again all his past offences are done with, he beginneth a new life, and is not under the old law. And so with Christ and so with us, for here is the point of union, we are risen with him by faith of the resurrection of Christ. We have been dead and buried, and now we are risen, and thus this, which is the very best and surest process for making a person a new creature, has been undergone by all God’s elect, by reason of the representative and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ and his glorious representative resurrection on their behalf.

     But, beloved, there is another meaning. We are made new creatures by an actual process as well as by the legal process which I have described, and here also the same thing is done. We are made vitally one with Jesus Christ when we believe in him, and then do we spiritually die and are made to live again. Our faith apprehends the dying of Christ, and we feel at the same time the sentence of death in ourselves. We see how we deserve to die for sin, and we accept the sentence, confessing our guiltiness before the Most High, and there is proclaimed throughout the powers and passions of the soul a decree from God that the flesh shall die, with all its lusts. We write down sin as henceforth dead to us, and ourselves as dead to it. We labour to mortify all our evil desires and the lusts of the flesh, and all that cometh of the flesh. When we believe in Jesus a sword goeth through the very loins of sin, and the arrows of the Lord stick fast in the hearts of the King’s enemies that lurk within our spirit. There also cometh a new life into us as we behold Jesus risen from the dead. When we believe in Jesus we receive from God a new vital principle, of superior and heavenly character, akin to Deity: there droppeth into our soul a sacred seed from the hand of the eternal Spirit, living and incorruptible, which abideth for ever, and for ever bringeth forth fruit after its kind. As we believe in Christ living we live in Christ and live after the fashion of Christ, and the Spirit of him that raised up Christ from the dead dwelleth in our mortal bodies, making us to live in newness of life.

     Now, beloved, do you know anything about this? Have you been made new creatures by death and resurrection? If you have been baptized you have professed that so it has been with you. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.” In the ordinance of baptism, by burial in the water, and uprising from it, there is a setting forth as in a type and figure of our Lord’s burial and resurrection, and at the same time it is an emblem of the process by which we become new creatures in him. But is it really so in your souls? Are you now henceforth dead to the world, and dead to sin, and quickened into the life of Christ? If you be so, then the text will bear to you a third and practical meaning, for it will not merely be true that your old man is condemned to die and a new nature is bestowed, but in your common actions you will try to show this by newness of actual conversation. Evils which tempted you at one time will be unable to beguile you now because you are dead to them: the charms of the painted face of the world will no longer attract your attention, for your eyes are blind to such deceitful beauties. You have obtained a new life which can only be satisfied by new delights, which can only be excited by new objects and constrained by new principles suitable to its own nature. This you will continually show. The life of God within you will make your actions instinct with holiness, and the end thereof shall be everlasting life. Your faith in Christ clearly evinces you to be a new creature, for it kills your old confidences and makes you build upon a new basis: your love to Christ also shows your newness, for it has slain your old affections, and captured your heart for Jesus only: and your hope, which is also a gift of the blessed Spirit, is set upon new things altogether, while your old hopes are things whereof you are now ashamed.

     Thus it is that first by the headship of Christ you are legally dead and alive again; next by your vital union with Christ you are dead and alive again as a matter of experience, and now it is practically proven in your life from day to day that you are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God: in all these three ways you are new creatures by the double process of dying and quickening. You are under a new Adam, and so start life afresh as new creatures; you are under a new covenant, and commence to act under different principles, and so are new creatures: you are quickened by a new Spirit, and so in thought and word and deed are seen to be new creatures. But all this is in Christ, and if you are not in Christ you are still in the old world which must shortly be destroyed. As “by the Word of God were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth,” so have you been created by Jesus, the Eternal Word, and quickened by his Spirit, or else you still abide in death. If your faith has never laid her hand upon Christ’s sacrifice for sin then your soul has never felt the regenerating influence of the Holy Spirit, and all the baptismal regeneration and all else of human invention that may now comfort you is but a vain deceit. Ye must be born again, but it can only be in Christ Jesus, for to “as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” O that we may all believe in him, and enter into the new life.

“Author of the new creation,
Come with all thy Spirit’s power;
Make our hearts thy habitation,
On our souls thy graces shower.”

     II. I shall in the second place lead you to consider the ESSENCE OF THIS NOVELTY. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.” Read, and the reading will be accurate, “He is a new creation.” This is a very sweeping statement. A man in Christ is not the old man purified, nor the old man improved, nor the old man in a better humour, nor the old man with additions and subtractions, nor the old man dressed in gorgeous robes No, he is a new creature altogether. As for the old man, what is to be done with him? Can he not be sobered, reformed, and made to do us useful service? No, he is crucified with Christ, and bound to die by a lingering but certain death. The capital sentence is passed upon him, for he cannot be mended and therefore must be ended. “The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” You cannot change the old nature, it is immutably bad, and the sooner it is put away as a filthy and unclean thing the better for us. The believer, so far as he is in Christ, is a new creation: not the old stuff put into a new fashion, and the old material worked up into an improved form, but absolutely a new creation. To create is to make out of nothing, and that is precisely how the newborn life came into us; it is not a development, or an outgrowth, but a creation, a heavenly something called into being by a power from above. The new man in us is made out of nothing that was in us before, for nature does not assist grace but is opposed to it. Christ has not found light stored away in our darkness, nor life amid the corruption of our spiritual death. The new birth is from above, and the life produced thereby is a new creation, and not the goodness of nature educated till it becomes grace. They are getting up a notion in certain quarters that the children of pious parents, if not of all mankind, are the children of God by their first birth, and only want certain training and influences to be brought to bear upon them and then they will develop into Christians as they grow up into manhood and womanhood. One divine says that our children ought not to need conversion. This theory is false throughout, for the best of children are by nature heirs of wrath even as others. The grace of God in the soul is a new creation, and not the natural development of a pious education and training working upon the innate goodness of men: indeed there is no such goodness there at all; it is a dream altogether. The new man in Christ is not the old creature washed and put out to school, and elevated by “modern thought and culture.” No; the Ethiopian cannot change his skin, nor the leopard his spots; do what you will with him he will be an Ethiopian and a leopard still; but the new man in Christ is another creature altogether.

     Mark you, it is not said that the man has something new about him, but he, himself, is new. It is not merely that in a spiritual sense he has new eyes, new hands, and new feet, but he, he, he, he, himself, is a new creation. Mark that. Do you not see then that salvation is the work of God? You cannot create yourself, and you cannot create anything at all. Try and create a fly first, and then you may dream of being able to create a new heart and a right spirit in another person, but even then it would be quite another matter to new create yourself. Is not the very idea an absurdity? Shall nothing create something? Shall darkness create light? Shall sin create holiness? Shall death create life? Shall the devil create God? None of these questions are more absurd than the idea of the sinner’s being able to new create himself.

     No, beloved, regeneration is an extraordinary work, demanding omnipotence to accomplish it; it is, in fact, a divine work, for it is the supreme prerogative of God to create.

“Know that the Lord is God alone,
He can create, and he destroy.”

     If any man be in Christ it is not only said that he is a creation, but a new creation, and the word here translated “new,” as has been well observed, does not signify recent, but something altogether different from that which previously existed. A book may be new, and yet it may be only a fresh copy of some old work; but that is not the case in this instance. The creature is not a new specimen of the same kind as the old, but another and different creation. We might almost read the text as if it said, “If any man be in Christ he is a fresh creation, a new kind of creature altogether.” The new creation differs essentially from the old, although the first is an instructive emblem of the second. The first creation was the work of physical power, the second a work of spiritual power: the first created for the most part materialism in its various forms, but the new creation deals with spiritual things, and manifests the sublimest attributes of the divine character. God in nature is glorious, but in grace he is all glorious. The second is a creation nearer to the heart of God than the first creation was; for when he made the world he simply said it was good, but when he makes the new creation, it is written, “He shall rest in his love; he shall rejoice over thee with singing.” So gladdening to his heart is the sight of the new creature which his grace hath made, that he sings a joyful hymn.

     Furthermore, we must note that if any man be in Christ he is a new creature, and the creation of him bears some resemblance to the creation of the world. I have at other times gone through that wonderful first chapter of the Book of Genesis, which is a Bible in miniature, and I have shown you how it sets forth the spiritual creation. Behold by nature we lie like chaos: a mass of disorder, confusion, and darkness. As in the old creation so in the new, the Spirit of God broodeth over us and moveth upon the face of all things. Then the word of the Lord comes and says within us, as aforetime in chaos and old night, “Let there be light,” and there is light. After light there comes a division of the light from the darkness, and we learn to call them by their names. The light is “day” and the darkness is “night.” So to us there is a knowing and a naming of things, and a discerning of differences in matters which before we confounded when we put light for darkness. After a while there cometh forth in us the lower forms of spiritual life. As in the earth there came grasses and herbs, so in us there come desire, hope, and sorrow for sin. By-and-by there appeared on the globe fowl and fish, and beasts, and living things, and life beyond all count. So also in the new creation, from having life we go on to have it more abundantly. God by degrees created all his works, till at last he had finished all the host of them, and even so he works on till he completes in us the new creation and looks upon us with rejoicing. Then he bringeth to us a day of rest, blessing us and causing us to enter into his rest because of his finished work. We could draw a very beautiful parallel if we had time, but you can think it out for yourselves.

     Now, notice very carefully that if any man be in Christ he is a new creature, and this certifies that a new creation has taken place upon every man who is in Christ, whether by nature he was a Jew or Gentile, a moralist or a rake, a philosopher or a fool. When a man is converted and brought to Christ he has invariably become a new creature. If he has believed in Jesus only three minutes yet he is a new creature; and if he hath known the Lord seventy years he can be no more. A new creation is a new creature, and in this matter there is no difference between the babe in grace and the father in Israel.

     As this creation is common to all the saints, so is it immediate and present. “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature”; it is not spoken of as a something that is to happen to him in the last article of death, wherein some seem to hope that many wonderful changes will be wrought in them; but he who is in Christ is a new creature now. “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision availeth anything, but a new creature”: and that new creature is now possessed, and I may add consciously possessed too: for albeit that there may arise occasional doubts upon this question, yet in a man’s inmost self he finds cause to know that there has passed upon him a marvellous change which only God himself could have wrought.

     This change is universal in the man; the new man is not full grown in every part, nor in fact in any part, and yet in all the portions of his regenerated nature he is a new creature. I mean this, if any man be in Christ it is not his mental eye that is a new creation merely, but he himself is a new creation. He has a new heart according to the promise, “A sew heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.” He hath new ears, hearing what he refused to hear before; he has a new tongue, and can pray with it as he never prayed before; he has new feet, and these delight to run in the ways of God’s commandments. I refer of course only to his inner man, that is altogether new, and not any one part of it only. If a man be merely enlightened in understanding, what is that? It is good, but it is not salvation; a new brain is not all that is wanted to make a new man. A new man is spiritually new-created from head to foot. Though but a babe in grace, and not fully developed in any one part, yet he is new, “created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

     Thus have I tried to show you the essence of the novelty.

     III. Let us next consider THE EXTENT OF THE NOVELTY. “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold all things have become new” It seems then that not only is the man a new creature, but he has entered into a new creation; he has opened his eyes in a new world. Imagine Adam falling asleep at the gates of Paradise just under the cherubim’s flaming sword, with the thorns and thistles springing up before him, and the serpent’s trail behind him: and then further picture him lying there in a deep sleep till the Lord touches him, makes him open his eyes, and causes him to find himself in a better paradise than the one he had lost. It was not so in reality, but can you imagine such a thing? If so, it may serve as a symbol of what the Lord has done for us. We are made new, and find ourselves in a new world.

     What about the old things? The text says they have passed away, and the Greek word gives the idea of their having passed away spontaneously. I cannot liken it to anything that I know of better than the snow which melts in the sun. You wake up one morning, and all the trees are festooned with snowy wreaths, while down below upon the ground the snow lies in a white sheet over everything. Lo, the sun has risen, its beams shed a genial warmth; and in a few hours where is the snow? It has passed away. Had you hired a thousand carts and horses and machines to sweep it away it could not have been more effectually removed. It has passed away. That is what the Lord does in the new creation: his love shines on the soul, his grace renews us, and the old things pass away as a matter of course. Where are your old views about which you used to be so positive? Where are those old opinions for which you could freely have knocked a man down? Where are those old sneers against God’s people? Where are those old pleasures which you took so much delight in? Where are those old engrossing pursuits? Had you a hard tug to get away from these bonds? Where are those old joys, those old hopes, those old trusts, those old confidences? Was it difficult to shake off these? Ah, no! Beneath the power of the Holy Spirit they have passed away. You hardly know how it is, but they have gone, and gone completely. As a dream when one awaketh you have despised their image, and your heart knows them no more. It is marvellous in this new creation how the Lord makes confusion and old night to fly. You may call for them and say, “Chaos, where art thou?” and no answer comes back, for old things are passed away. Our Lord Jesus Christ causes all this. Where his blessed face beams with grace and truth, as the sun with warmth and light, he dissolves the bands of sin’s long frost, and brings on the spring of grace with newness of buds and flowers.

     But when you remove the old what is to take its place? Do you not observe that new things have come, “Behold all things are become new.” Now the man has new views, new notions, new ambitions, new convictions, new desires, new hopes, new dreads, new aims, new principles, and new affections: he is led by a new spirit and follows a new course of life; everything in fact about him is as if he had come fresh from the hand of God. Even as with the cleansed leper, his flesh came again to him as the flesh of a little child, and he was clean, so is it with the heart renewed by grace.

     Beloved, it is delightful to read in the Book of the Revelation and anticipate the things which are to be hereafter. How full that book is of novelties which illustrate our subject, for there you read of a new name which the Lord bestows upon those who overcome. Perhaps some of you used actually to be known by some nickname or vulgar epithet while you lived in the world and were a lover of it. Now in all probability you are called by quite a different name among your Christian friends. Saul the persecutor is called Paul when he becomes an apostle. Moreover, there is a new name which the mouth of the Lord shall name, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it. You have been named with the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and you wear henceforth that name by which the whole family in heaven and earth is named. Grace also has taught you a new song, “He hath put a new song into my mouth and established my goings.” You are rehearsing the music of that glorious band of whom it is written, “They sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book and to open the seals thereof.” Now are you a citizen of a new city, the new Jerusalem which cometh down out of heaven from God, which shall be established among the sons of men, in the last days as the world’s metropolis, concerning which they shall say, “The temple of God is with men and he doth dwell among them.”

     Beloved, each one of you has now become part of one new man. Do you know what I mean by that? There were once the Jews and the Gentiles, but now, saith Paul, Christ “hath broken down the middle wall of partition; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace.” The mystical body of Christ is the one new man, and we are members of that body. Henceforth we have communion with all saints, and to us “there is neither Greek nor Jew, bond nor free, but Christ is all, and in all.” Even now we have commenced to live in a new heaven and walk upon a new earth, and we are anticipating the time when literally on this very earth whereon we have struggled there shall be set up a new condition of things, for the first heaven and the first earth shall have passed away and there shall be no more sea. Rolled up like a scroll shall yon blue heavens be, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; nevertheless, we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, to which in expectation we are always drawing near, and pressing forward with inward yearning, for already in Christ Jesus we are a part of that new creation which is more fully to be revealed.

     IV. Fourthly let us consider THE RESULT OF THIS NOVELTY. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.” Well, the result of this novelty is, first, that the man is already a great wonder to himself. You know the Pythagorean doctrine of the transmigration of souls, the soul passing first into one body and then into another, and so existing under different conditions. We do not believe that fiction for a moment, but if it had been true, the memories of such souls must have been stored with varied information, surpassingly strange to hear. Ours is another transformation, it is death and resurrection: the old passing away and the new being created: but how remarkable are the experiences of the men who have been so transformed! Here is a man who is a new creature, and he has a very distinct recollection of the time when he was something far other than he now is. What a change he has undergone! Suppose a swine could suddenly be turned into a man and yet recollect what it did when it was one of the herd; what an experience it would have to tell! If you could take a hog from the trough and turn it into an emperor, that would not be half so great a change as is accomplished when an unregenerated sinner becomes a saint; but I warrant you the emperor would not find much cause for glorifying in his former swinish state; he would be silent and ashamed when others mentioned it. If he alluded to that state it would always be with the blushes of humiliation and the tears of gratitude. If anybody began to talk about it, and he knew that there might be others about him that might be helped by hearing what the Lord had done, he would begin to tell in a gentle, modest way how the Lord transformed him from a swine into a monarch, but he would never, never boast: how could he? In such a case the poor swine would have no responsibility, and could not be blamed for wallowing in the mire, but this cannot be said of us; for when we acted as swine we knew better, and sinned wilfully. Still, what a change it is! How I wonder at myself! How I marvel at the goodness of my God! How I adore that sacred power which has made me the child of two births, the subject of two creations: he first made me in the fashion of a man, and then made me in the image of the man Christ Jesus. I was first born to die, and then born to live eternally. Let us bless God and be full of lowly wonder this morning.

     The next result of this new creation is, however, that the man does not feel at home in this present evil world, for this is the old creation, and the new man, the twice-born man, feels as if he were out of his element and not in a congenial country. He dwells in a body which is nothing better than a frail, uncomfortable, easily removed tent, in which he groans, earnestly desiring to enter his own house at home, the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Wherever he goes things seem out of order with the rule which is set up in his soul. He loves not the world, neither the things in the world; the world’s glories do not charm him, and its treasures do not enchant him. Earth’s music grates upon his refined ear, which is tuned to heavenly harmony; its dainties do not delight the taste, which has learned to enjoy the bread of heaven. The new creatures pine to be in the new creation. And beloved, while we are pining we are preparing: the Spirit of God is working us to this selfsame thing, and filling us with groans and pangs of strong desire, which indicate that we are becoming more and more fit to be partakers with the saints in light, who see the face of the Beloved without a veil, and drink in ever new delights.

     Mark you once more, while the new creature is thus watching and waiting for the new creation he is meanwhile extending an influence more or less unconscious over the old world in which he dwells. Just as our Lord has gone to heaven to prepare a place for us, so we, his people, are stopping here to prepare a place for him. We are winning men from the world to Christ, we are raising the tone of morals, we are spreading light and truth on all sides by the power of the Spirit, and so we are helping to make the world readier to receive the great King. We are seeking out his jewels, we are bringing his rebellious subjects to his feet. The life that is in us seems out of place in this mortal frame, for the body is dead because of sin, and therefore we groan, being burdened. As for the world itself, it is not our rest, for it is polluted. It seems a dreadful thing for the living Spirit to be dwelling in this graveyard of a world, but there is a necessity for us to be here. We are linked with a creation made subject to vanity, because it was thus subjected, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope that the creation itself also “shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” We are here as links between the spiritual and the material, and we are working out divine purposes for the fuller display of the divine glory. Wherefore comfort one another with these words, and as new creatures in Jesus Christ look for the new heavens and the new earth, and for the coming of your Lord and Saviour. Know ye not that when he shall appear then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Let us even now bow before him and salute him with the language of our hymn.

“To thee the world its treasure brings;
To thee its mighty bow;
To thee the church exulting springs;
Her Sovereign, Saviour Thou!
“Beneath thy touch, beneath thy smile,
New heavens and earth appear;
No sin their beauty to defile,
Nor dim them with a tear.”