Vanities and Verities

By / Oct 30

VANITIES AND VERITIES.

 

“We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen:
for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are
eternal.”— 2 Corinthians iv. 18.

 

THE apostle Paul was by no means a stoic. He had not conquered all human feeling, and rendered himself a stone man. On the contrary, he was exceedingly sensitive. You can see abundant evidence, not only in the Acts of the Apostles, but also in the tone of all his epistles, that he has a very tender spirit. He feels acutely any unkindness. If a friend forsakes him, he mourns it; or if friends oblige him, there is genuine emotion in his gratitude. He is sensitive, too, to poverty, sensitive to shame; sensitive to all those griefs which he has to bear for Christ’s sake. He feels them: you can see that he does. He is not an invulnerable man in armour, he is a man of flesh and blood, whom the arrow pierces and pains. Yet how bravely he sticks to his work; he faces every danger and never dreams of flinching. Never for a single moment does he seem to take into consideration what he may have personally to suffer for the testimony of Christ and the triumph of the gospel. He remembers the pangs when they are past; he looks on the scars when they are healed, and he sometimes gives a long list of the perils and privations he has had to endure, thus shoving that he was keenly sensitive; but he never tries to shelter himself from any sort of suffering if it is necessary to accomplish his life-work. Thus he pressed steadily on through evil report and good report, through honour and through dishonour, enjoying the love of the churches at one time, and at another time smarting under a cruel suspicion of his apostleship even among his own converts; now the hero of unbounded popularity when the people crowd to do him honour, and anon the victim of public hatred and frenzied riot when he is dragged out of the city to be stoned to death. “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto me,” he could well say. He seemed as if God had thrown him forth from his hand, even as he hurls a thunderbolt, and he stayed not until he reached the end towards which the power of God was urging him. He cried, “The love of Christ constraineth us.” He reckoned himself, therefore, dead to all but Christ. Well may we be curious to know what supported so noble a man under his trials, and developed such a hero under such a succession of oppositions. What kept him so calm; what made him so self-possessed and intrepid?

     How was it that when cast down he was not destroyed — that when troubled he was not distressed? What sustained him? He gives us the key to this fortitude by telling us that he counted his afflictions light because they were, in his estimation, but for a moment; and they were working out for him a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. He was calm and happy midst rage and tumult, violent prejudice, and adverse, and even disastrous, circumstances, because, in the language of the text, he looked not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen, reckoning that the things which are seen are not worth looking at, so transient are they, while the things unseen are of priceless worth, because they are eternal. That is our subject at this time: Firstly, things not to be looked at; and, secondly, things
to be looked at.

     The text wears the shape of a double paradox. Things that can be seen are, naturally, the things to be looked at. What should a man look at but what he can see? And yet the apostle tells us not to look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. How can things invisible be looked at? That again is a paradox. How can you look at what you cannot see? This is only one paradox of the Christian life, which is all paradox, and the riddle lies rather in the words than in the sense. We shall soon discover that there is no contradiction or incongruity, no difficulty whatever.

     I. First, then, let us LOOK AT WHAT CAN BE SEEN, and ask, what are we to understand by this protest: “We look not at the things which are seen”? The word for “look” is used, I think, six times in the New Testament, and is translated in four or five different ways. I do not intend to keep to those translations, but to work them into the explanation of what is meant by not looking at the things which are seen.

     It means, first, lightly esteeming both present joy and present sorrow, as if they were not worth looking at. The present is so soon to be over that Paul does not care to look at it. There is so little of it, and it lasts such a brief time, that he does not even deign to give it a glance, he looks not at it. Here he is persecuted, despised, forsaken. “It will not last long,” saith he. “It is but a pin’s prick; it will soon be over, and I shall be with the goodly fellowship above, and behold my Master’s face.” He will not look at it. He ignores it. Thus it behoves us to do if surrounded with trials, troubles, present sorrows: we should not think so much of them as to fix our attention, or rivet our gaze on them. Rather let us treat them with indifference and say, “It is really a very small matter whether I am in wealth or in poverty, in health or in sickness; whether I am enjoying comforts or whether I am robbed of them. The present will be so soon gone that I do not care to look at it. I am like a man who stays at an hostelry for a night whilst he is on a journey. Is the room uncomfortable? When the morning breaks it is of no use making a complaint, and so he merely chronicles the fact, and hastens on. He says to himself, “Never mind, I am up and away directly; it is of no use fretting about trifles.” If a person is going a long distance in a railway carriage, he may be a little particular as to where he shall sit to see the country, and as to which way he likes to ride; but if it is only a short stage— between, say, the Borough Road and the Elephant and Castle— he does not think about it. He does not care in whose company he may be, it is only for a few minutes; he is hardly in before he is out again, it is a matter not worth thinking about. That is how the apostle regarded it. He reckoned that his present joys and present sorrows were so soon to be over that they were to him a matter of indifference, not even worth casting his eye that way to see what they were. “Doth Jesus bid me go to Rome?” says the apostle. “Then I do not look to see whether I shall be housed in Nero’s hall or caged in Nero’s dungeon. It is for so short a while that if I can serve my Master better in the dungeon than I can in the palace, so let it be. My casual lot shall be my well-contented choice. It shall be a matter, if not of cool indifference, yet still of calm serenity, for it will be soon over, and gone into history. A whole eternity lies beyond, and therefore a short temporality dwindles into an insignificant trifle.” What a blessed philosophy this is which teaches us not even to look at passing, transient troubles, but to fix our gaze on eternal triumphs.

     He meant more than that, however. He meant that he had learned not to regard the things of the present as if they were at all real. He did not look upon them as substantial or enduring. Like as clouds when they float overhead assume divers shapes but change their form while we are gazing at them, so events as they seemed to be transpiring were to him no more than apparitions. When a man looks on a dissolving view, knowing that it is going to dissolve, he does not regard it as being other than an illusion. It is a shadow cast upon a sheet, there is nothing substantial in it. It may please his eye, but he will say, “The subject upon the sheet is not the real thing. The view before me is not the scene itself, and if I turn my eyes away from it, it will have melted away into nothingness in a little while, so for all its charms or its terrors I will not fret myself.” You know how Paul explains his own words in another passage when he says, “Brethren, the time is short: It remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.” That is so with the earthly joy of the best of men. He should say to himself, “This is a dying joy; this will pass away; I look at it as a shadow.” Is a child born into your house? Read across its brow the word “Mortal,” and when it dies you will not be disappointed or be anything like so sad as if you dreamed that you were parent of an immortal: such a thought must be a dream, since your little one may be taken from you as well as the child of another. When you have riches do you say to yourself, “This is a solid treasure; this is golden gain”? Ah, then it will be your god, and if you lose it the loss will eat like a canker into your spirit. But if you say, “These are fleeting things; they take to themselves wings and fly away; I will not consider money to be treasure, but only look upon it as a shadow and hold it as such—as a thing not to be reckoned with substances, because it is seen and temporal”— that is the way to do with every one of our joys. Do not look upon them as though they were substantial, for they are not. They are a part of this life-dream, this empty show: they are nothing more at their very best Oh, how often do they prove to us, painfully, that they are unsubstantial! Look in the same way upon your circumstances. Say, “Well, I am in poverty, but this is not real poverty, because it is not lasting poverty. In a short time I shall be among the angels and walk the streets of gold, and be as bravely clad as any prince among them; therefore will I not fret and worry, since my poverty will soon be over.” Aught of loss or suffering that you are called upon to endure, always look upon it in the light of time, and see what a fleeting thing it is, and bear it bravely like a man— nay, like a Christian man— because you have in heaven a better and an enduring substance. These transient things are not worthy to be considered. Look upon them as if they were just nothing at all. So the apostle did.

     Again, I find the word sometimes translated “mark.” “Brethren,” saith the apostle, "mark them that are unruly.” The word is the same as that which is here rendered “look.” Dear friends, we are not to mark the things which are seen as if they were worth notice. You know that little children, if you give them a new toy, or a new frock, clap their hands and otherwise express their delight. That is because they are children. Be not children in knowledge, but quit yourselves as men: and as to the things of this life, look on them as toys. Do not act towards them as children do, but as men. "Oh,” says the young man, “I have taken my degree at the university to-day.” How he exults. What high importance he attaches to it. He wishes to get the newspaper to see if it is recorded there. It is to him an event as great as anything in history. We peradventure are rather amused at his excitement, for we do not consider anything of this sort much worthy of marking down. Another man finds that he has made some considerable gain, and he, too, reckons as a red letter day the day in which he seized these accessions to his fortune. If thou art doing so thou art making sorrow for thyself, for as surely as joy becomes too sweet sorrow will become too bitter. If I care nothing whatever for man’s approbation, I reck little of man’s disapprobation: one getteth to be brave in that way. It is not good to be much elated or much depressed by the joys and sorrows of life. If you are overjoyed, if you mark down certain matters as the very essence of happiness, and begin to exult and revel in the things which are seen, then, mark you, when the untoward things come to you and blight your hopes, you will find that you have rendered yourself too sensitive, and you will feel the smart far more keenly than you would have done if you had exercised wisdom enough to forbear revelling in the sweets. Look at the wasps and flies in summer. They will see placed for them by your kindness sweet liquor in which to catch them: sugar or honey is employed to hold their wings. The wise fly sips a little and away, but the unwise insect enjoys the sweet and wades in farther and farther till he clogs his wings, and he it is who will suffer when you come to destroy your prey. It is a blessed thing to be able to sip of this world, and no more, for to plunge into it is death. Avoid the sweets of this world when they begin to tempt thee. Say of them, as Solomon did of wine— “Look not upon it when it is red, when it giveth its colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright, for who hath woe, who hath sorrow, who hath contention, who hath babbling, who hath wounds without cause, who hath redness of eyes?” Surely the men who make this world to be their highest joy find at the last it biteth like a serpent and stingeth as an adder. They indulge their passions to the destruction of their souls. Do not, therefore, mark carnal joy as specially to be desired.

     But are we never to have anything special to mark? Oh yes; carefully mark down the eternal things. Did the Lord appear to you? Mark that down. Did you win a soul to Christ? Mark that down. Did you have sweet answers to prayer? Mark that down. Those are things of special note, as I am quite sure Paul thought. Though he would not say much about the discomforts of the dungeon of the Prætorium, he marked down its consolations. When Onesimus came to hear him, he made a note of it. It did not matter to him whether he was assailed with stones or surrounded with applause. Whether he lodged in a palace or slept in a prison was to him no more than the incident, or say but the accident, of the hour; he made no account of such trivialities. He never marked those things down: the eternal was what he marked, but not the transient.

     Another meaning is, take heed. You must put all the translations together to get the meaning. In the gospel according to Luke this word is translated, “Take heed.” The apostle meant, no doubt, that he did not take heed of the things which were seen. He did not exercise care, thought, and anxiety about them; but his care, thought, and anxiety were about the things which are not seen. “After all these things,” says Christ, “do the Gentiles seek.” So they do. They are always seeking after the world; from early morning till late at night it is the world they are after. Well, let the Gentiles follow their pursuits; but the child of God should not, for our Lord says unto us, “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink, or wherewithal ye shall be clothed.” He bids us cast our care upon him, and cease from all anxiety. “Seek ye,” says he, “first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” So the apostle Paul tells us not to care, not to worry or trouble ourselves about things which are seen, whether good or bad, prosperous or adverse— never suffering them to eat like a corrosive acid into our spirit. We are to spend all our heed upon our walk with God, our obedience to his command, our fulfilling his will, our spreading his kingdom, our getting ready for the coming of Christ, our being prepared for judgment, our being prepared to dwell eternally with God at his right hand. About these we ought to take heed. This is our business, but, alas, our thoughts naturally drift the other way. These temporalities are wont to absorb us. There are some who not only apologise for themselves, but justify their worldly-mindedness. Fitly, therefore, doth the Lord Jesus Christ, by the mouth of his apostle, recall our thoughts from grovelling themes, and bid us take heed of the eternal, and let the secular sit lightly on our minds.

     Paul in the epistle to the Galatians uses the word in the sense of considering, “considering thyself lest thou also be tempted.” We shall dive still more deeply into the meaning if we understand how in certain conditions, the present, the transient, the things most palpable to the senses are properly left out of all consideration, and not taken into the reckoning. For instance, if the apostle knew that he should glorify God by preaching the gospel, what would it matter to him if friend or foe should say to him, “Paul, you will risk your life by attempting to do so”? Live or die, he would be bold to preach. He never took their caveat into his consideration. And if they had said, “If you state such and such a truth, or administer such and such a reproof in a certain church, you will be sure to lose their respect: you will lose caste among them,” again he would have smiled. It would have had no more influence upon him than it would have upon a merchant should you say to him, “If you go into such a district you will have to encounter clouds of dust.” He would reply “Why, if I can nett a thousand pounds, what do I care about dust or no dust.” If it be my object to ascend a mountain, am I to be deterred by a few cobwebs across my path? What are tiny obstacles to a strong man? So Paul did not consider the things which are seen to be worth a thought, though there be puny folk who value nothing else. The cost to him seemed so little, that he would let it go into the scale or not, as men pleased. “I reckon that these light afflictions, which are but for a moment, are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

     Are you not sometimes placed in this position? You know you ought to do right, but you fear that if you do so you will lose your situation. Well, now, if God’s cause be uppermost in your estimation you will not consider your loss as the first matter. You will rather say, “I can lose anything sooner than lose peace of mind, and miss pleasing God.” Or there is some duty which you know you ought to perform, and you are told, “Well, if you do that you will lose your old uncle’s love. He will strike you out of his will. You must think about it.” What is the use of thinking about it? It is only an earthly, transient thing; and what are these transient things, be they what they may, compared with the eternal weight of glory? O brothers, if men live in the light of eternity, and judged their position accordingly, how differently would they act. But instead of so doing we begin weighing those trifles which we may have to endure for Christ’s sake, and making much of them. This is playing the traitor to Christ, and forsaking him when we ought to be most firm. Shame upon us if we thus requite our Lord. Eternal contempt awaits such cowards. From this time forth may we never look upon the things which are seen as substantial, but put them down as vanity, and let the things which are not seen rise before us in all their supremacy of value.

     Perhaps you may get a still clearer perception of the meaning of the text if I tell you its full interpretation. By “not looking at the things which are seen” we may understand not making them our scope. That is the nearest English word I can find to interpret the Greek. Let not these visible objects be the scope of your life; for, alas, there are many whose whole scope of life is that they may prosper in this world. The next world may go as it wills; their scope ends here. To win the esteem of God seems a trifle to them. That they may live at ease, enjoy the comforts, and, if possible, the luxuries of this life, is their sole aim and object. As for the eternal things of heaven they seem dim and unsubstantial. Now, it must not be so with us. We should say, “The things eternal I pursue. I am no more a citizen of this world, but a pilgrim bound for the celestial city. When I passed through Vanity Fair, they asked me to buy this and that, and I said, ‘I buy the truth.’ I must go through the Enchanted Ground, but I will not sleep there, for this is not my rest. Whatever I see which is enchanting to others shall have no power over me, for the scope of my soul’s desire and life-work is eternity.” Would God we all had invisible joys for our object.

     To sum up the whole, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, look not at the things which are seen. Do not look upon your comforts as if they were enduring. Do not dote upon them. Do not think of them as if you had them otherwise than on loan, or as if you had any right to them. Be thankful to God for them; but, because they will so soon pass away, do not set much store by them. Build not your nest on any of these trees, for they are all marked for the axe, and ere long they will all come down. Say not of any mortal man, or woman, or dear child, or worldly possession, or knowledge, or pursuit, or honour, “This is much to me.” Let it be little to you. Put the gifts of God far down in the scale compared with himself. Try, when you have your comforts, to find God in all; and, when you lose your comforts, then just change the words, and try to find all in God; for, remember, “Man shall not five by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God shall man five.”

     You have not .to five on the creature comfort: you are bound to live on the living word of the living God, and you will never be fully happy until you do this. A man who goes to a town and chooses a house that is dilapidated— the foundations gone and the beams decayed— may say, “This is a very comfortable house.” But you would not think so highly of its charms. “Nay,” you would be ready to say, “I cannot be comfortable in it. The rich hangings and costly furniture do not hide the serious defects: it may come down at any time about the heads of the sleepers. This is not a house for me.” You know this is the case in daily fife and common experience. Well, it is just similar with regard to the things eternal. Say therefore to yourself, “I must repose my soul upon that which is true, real, well-founded, and imperishable: earthly things are too transient to afford me any solace or security. I dare not set my soul upon them. I cannot drink water out of these broken cisterns, I must go to the fountain whence all satisfying, trustworthy supplies flow.”

     You must do the same with regard to your sorrows: although it looks rather hard, yet it is the wiser way to take them cheerfully, rather than to exaggerate their weight by murmuring at them. If a man has grace to five above his joys, that same grace will enable him to five above his sorrows. As I said just now, when earthly joys enchant you too much, then should earthly sorrows overtake you they will make you sorely despond. Your wisdom is to five above them both, above the glee of prosperity and the gloom of adversity. Dear brother, what ails you? have you lost a child? Lost! Why, you will be where that dear one is within so incredibly short a time, that you need not worry and fret. Coming down from such a domestic grief as that to a commercial anxiety: you have had a sad loss in the City, have you? Some of your comforts will be curtailed. But if you get nearer to the heart of your Lord, and love him better, and walk in the light of his countenance more than you did, you will never know you had a loss. You will be so much richer in the fine gold of his comfort, that you will scarcely miss the silver of this poor world.

      And so, too, if you lose credit, or are discountenanced by old friends, or are deprived of aught which men are wont to make great account of here below; if you do but remember that it was only a bubble, and it has burst, you will not be broken-hearted. Say, “It never was more than a bubble, and I ought to have known that it would soon be gone. The comfort I had was never anything but a temporary loan, and I ought to have remembered that it was borrowed.” If you get into that mind you will live above the cares of this life. May God help you so to do.

     II. Now for a few minutes let us address ourselves to the second point — LOOKING AT THE THINGS WHICH ARE NOT SEEN. How can we do that?

      Well, first, realize them by faith. We believe in the resurrection of the dead, and in the judgment, and in life everlasting, according to the teaching of the word of God. Try to look at these —to look at them as present facts. Some will never do so. They will tell you that they could not see them if they tried; but that is just what we, who have been taught of God so to look at the things which are not seen, can palpably discern. Oh, to look beyond death to “the home over there,” beyond the swelling flood where souls that were loved of God from before the foundation of the world are safe with Jesus. I invite you to do so, especially if you have some dear ones there. Do you see them? Do you hear their music? Do you behold their joys? Are you going to be troubled about them any longer after having realized their certain happiness? By-and-by there cometh the resurrection, and the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised. The very body over which you wept because it was to be given to the worm shall rise in matchless beauty in the likeness of its Lord. Will you not wipe your eyes dry now and submit to the divine will, for surely the hope of the blessed resurrection makes amends for the loss by death? Then there is to come the judgment, and you and I will be there. A soldier, some time ago, was in the valley of Jehoshaphat, where, according to tradition, the feet of the Messiah will rest in the day of judgment, and he sat on a stone and said, “And shall we all be present? I will sit here in that day.” And there, absorbed with the thought, he looked up to the sky, and so distinctly did he realize the majestic vision of the day of judgment, that he fell to the ground in amazement, oblivious of everything that was transpiring around him. Ah, if all of us were living in the light of the day of the Lord, what trifles these ebbs and flows, these ups and downs of passing circumstances would seem! How lightly we should bear sorrow, and how little we should reck of earthly fortunes and misfortunes if we could actually forecast the tremendous day when with angels for witnesses and Christ for our judge we shall have to stand and be judged according to the things done in the body. Realize heaven, brothers and sisters— the heaven of the perfected manhood after the resurrection— the heaven where we shall see the Beloved’s face, and day and night extol him for ever. Oh, what is it to be poor? What is it to be sick? What would it be to go through a thousand deaths if we may but at last behold his glory, world without end? And think of hell, ye that forget God and revel in vanities; as your trembling spirit best may, think what it must be to be driven from his presence— to hear him say, “Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire in hell.” Ah! gilded world, how thou dost lose thy lustre when once I see the lurid glare of Tophet! O painted harlot, how I see thy haggard ugliness, when I hear the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth of those who chose the broad road and let the Lord the Saviour go! How I despise thee! As the vision opens before the eyes of faith what zeal it kindles in my breast! Would to God I could induce some careless person here, who nevertheless does believe the Scriptures, to sit down, if it were but for one half-hour and try, believingly, to picture these things to his mind’s eye. This sacred volume is full of pictures; pictures of things that shall shortly come to pass. Oh that ye had the discernment to see them, not as weird fancies, but as veritable facts; the true sayings of God. The real thing is what you do not see to be real. The fiction is that which you account a solid fact. We are going down each one of us to the grave, but God liveth for ever and ever. As for that body of yours in which you are sitting in this house, it is not a substance which shall abide, but it is a shadow which shall dissolve, mouldering into dust, and exhaling into water. Yet there lives within you what you cannot see — the real and true self; and that true self of yours will pass into another state, and through it into yet another, which shall be everlasting. And, oh, may God grant that your lot may not be everlasting sorrow, but endless joy. In either case the things which are not seen are eternal. Gird up your loins and look at them like a man who will have ere long to dispel the illusions of sense and confront the verities of eternity, whether he will or no.

     The Christian learns to look on these things with the eye of delight. Is it not to you, my dear brother in Christ, a delight to see God? I should not like to go to any place where I could not see my God. Yet he is not seen. Is it not a delicious thing to look forward to the heaven that is above — to the city of the blest? When the Lord indulges our faith with a view of that eternal joy— and some of us have known what it is — it has been too much for our weak capacity. We can laugh in our sleep when we dream of heaven, and we can sit down in the midst of pain and sorrow and feel as if we could not feel more joy than we possess, because our souls have looked on the pinnacles of our Father’s palace, and seen the gleaming radiance of the twelve bejewelled foundations of the eternal city where there is a house and a crown and a harp for every believer among us. The poor girl who goes home from this joyous place of worship to her own little cheerless room would feel miserable indeed if she looked at the shady side of her condition; but she says, “My Lord is in this room,” and the place glows as if it were made of slabs of gold. She settles down and begins to think of the heaven that is hers, and she sees herself to be a king’s daughter, a true princess, for she possesses in the glory-land a crown that no head can wear but hers, and there is a mansion provided for her which none can tenant but herself; happy, therefore, she well may be. O beloved friends, learn to look at these things with intense delight, because they are ours in reversion now, and are soon to be ours in possession.

      On the other hand, if you are not converted, I would urge you to look upon the eternal future— for it is all eternal— with an intense dread, for without Christ what is there for you among the things which are not seen, and are eternal, but that which will make you wring your hands for poignant grief and gnash your teeth for bitter self-reproach if you are resolved to live and to die as you now are? You see not yet the future state of woe, but like all the unseen things it is eternal. There can be no termination to the misery of an immortal soul when once banished from God. I see no “larger hope” revealed in Scripture. Let my philosophical brethren conjecture what they will, where God speaks not I am silent: but I do see the dread forebodings of a death that never dies and a fire that is never quenched. I would have every man who will not have Christ, or who dilly-dallies with salvation and runs risks with his Soul, to look at what he risks. Face your future, O you who choose your own destruction! That was a solemn morning’s work for Abraham when he went to the place where he was wont to meet with God, and he looked towards Sodom, and he saw the smoke thereof going up as the smoke of a furnace. O Christians, you do well sometimes to look that way. Such a contemplation is not pleasant to flesh and blood. No, but it will do you good and make you feel fervent emotions of gratitude for your own redemption, and intense desires for the salvation of others. But come thou here, sinner! Come thou here! I must have thee here. Look, dost thou see it? Dost thou see it — the smoke of the flame which burneth for ever and ever? That flame is for thy burning if thou repent not. Dost thou see it as it reddens the heavens? That fire burns for thee if thou believest not in the Lord Jesus Christ. Wilt thou not look? If thou wilt not, thou wilt have to feel it. Thou canst not mitigate those woes by refusing to believe in their existence. It is the silly trick of the ostrich, so they say, when the hunter pursues it, to burrow its head in the sand and fancy itself safe; and this is what you are doing, with more than equal folly. I would fain recall you to reason. Look at the things which are not seen, for they are eternal. I met with a remark the other day which struck me forcibly, — If a man had no worse pain than the toothache, if he knew that it would last for ever, he would desire to die that he might escape from it. When we have to endure any acute pain for a little while we begin to cry out for relief, and find it hard to be quiet, but were any pang to last eternally, the horror of such an expectation would even now be overwhelming! By the dread thought of eternity I implore you see to it, that your salvation is secured at once. Escape for thy life, my friend, and look not behind thee, for unless thou escape in time thy fate will be sealed for ever and ever. Those things which are not seen are eternal, and hell is one of them. Except thou escape now by faith in Jesus Christ thou never wilt escape. There is no reprieve nor respite in the world to come; pardon therefore should be sought at once.

     By looking into the things which are not seen, Paul doubtless meant that he looked to them with hope. To his view the harvest was ripe, and he was eager to reap it. I invite all believers to be looking with ardent hope for the things that are eternal. Long for the bright appearing of the Lord. Long for your translation unto the city of glory. Expect it: watch for it. It is on the way. You may be much nearer than you think. You may be in heaven before next year; indeed, you may be there before to-morrow morning. Light is fading from the earth. Dear friend, look towards heaven. Look towards eternal things. Make it a point to look unto thy future home. Should there be any young man here who is not twenty-one, and he knows that when he comes of age he is to be squire of a village, own a park, and enjoy a rich heritage, I will be bound to say he has often forestalled the time because he is sure of his title. If any one of you had a legacy left him of a large estate, he would be off this week to have a look at it. One likes to look at one’s own: Christian, be sure to survey thine own possession in the skies. Read much the book of God, which tells thee of thy future inheritance. Say to thyself, “This is all mine, Why should not I begin to enjoy it? Did not the Israelites fetch bunches of the grapes of Eshcol before they entered Canaan? And why should not I?” I hope you will full often enjoy foretastes of bliss, till you can sing with John Berridge, —

“Too long, alas, I vainly sought
For happiness below,
But earthly comforts, dearly bought,
No solid good bestow.
“At length, through Jesu’s grace, I found,
The good and promised land
Where milk and honey much abound
And grapes in clusters stand.
“My soul has tasted of the grapes,
And now it longs to go
Where my dear Lord his vineyard keeps,
And all the clusters grow.
“Upon the true and living vine
My famish’d soul would feast,
And banquet on the fruit divine,
An everlasting guest.”

What a sanctifying influence such anticipations would have upon you! “Every one that hath this hope in him purifieth himself.” Pursue eternal things with concentrated mind. You must look right on to the end of the race for the prize. The runner does not cast a glance to the right or to the left, or to the flowers which bespangle the pathway, but he keeps his eye on the prize, and that helps him to run. He stretches every nerve to reach the end, and win the prize. Brothers and sisters, make eternal things the scope of your life at all times. This I have told you is the literal sense of the original Greek. Make them that for which you plot and plan; that for which you think and consider; that for which you live and act: throw your whole being into eternal things. Are we, therefore, to neglect business, you may ask? God forbid! Serve God in business. To leave business, or to do business as if it were not a part of your religion, would be a departure from your Master’s will, and not a fulfilment of it. Sanctify your commonest action to the glory of God. “Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Have an eye always to eternity. Keep your thoughts upon that. Eat and drink as for eternity, remembering that what you eat and drink perisheth, and he that eats will perish too. It is “earth to earth” whenever we eat, therefore let us not make gods of our bellies. When thou enjoyest any earthly thing, do it as in the light of eternity, and say, “I am plucking a flower that must fade. This is not a diamond that will remain with me, always glistening; it is only a bright daisy; it looks very pretty at the moment, but it will soon fade. The children gather it, but soon let it fall, and so do I. Put not thy soul into that which is sensual at thy peril. See that thou pursuest with all thy might things spiritual. As for things transient, commit them to God’s providence. Do thy best to honour God in the use of this world’s currency, but make it not thy wealth. Look at Jonah sitting under his gourd which screened him from the scorching sun with its broad leaves. Think of Jonah as he said to himself, “How happy I am under this arbour. How cool it makes me.” He was content and comfortable, but God prepared a worm. The worm destroyed the wretched gourd. Though it seemed so beautiful before, it soon became only fit to be pulled down and cast upon the dunghill. It may soon be the same with your earthly comforts. If you make your gourd your God, it will do you no good. Gourds are well enough, but they are not good when you put them in the place of eternal comforts.

     I finish with this. Treat the things present as if they were not, and live thou like an heir of heaven’s invisible but substantial joys. Higher and better things are in store for thee. God bless thee by his blessed Spirit with blessed foretastes of the blessed hereafter. Amen.



Nevertheless. Hereafter.

By / Oct 29

Nevertheless. Hereafter.

 

“Jesus saith saith unto him, Thou hast said (or said so), nevertheless, I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Bon of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” — Matthew xxvi. 64.

 

OUR Lord, before his enemies, was silent in his own defence, but he faithfully warned and boldly avowed the truth. His was the silence of patience, not of indifference; of courage, not of cowardice. It is written that “before Pontius Pilate he witnessed a good confession,” and that statement may also be well applied to his utterances before Caiaphas, for there he was not silent when it came to confession of necessary truth. If you will read the chapter now open before us, you will notice that the high priest adjured him, saying, “Art thou the Christ, the Son of God to which he replied at once, “Thou hast said it.” He did not disown his Messiahship; he claimed to be the promised one, the messenger from heaven, Christ the anointed of the Most High. Neither did he for a moment disavow his personal deity: he acknowledged and confessed that he was the Son of God. How could he be silent when such a vital point as to his person was in question? He did not hold them in suspense, but openly declared his Godhead by saying, “I am;” for so are his words reported by one of the evangelists. He then proceeded to reveal the solemn fact that he would soon sit at the right hand of God, even the Father. In the words of our text he declared that those who were condemning him would see him glorified, and in due time would stand at his bar when he would come upon the clouds of heaven to judge the quick and dead according to our gospel. See, then, dear brethren, in a few words, the great truths of our holy religion clearly set forth by our Lord Jesus: he claimed to be the Christ of God, and the Son of God, and his brief statement by implication speaks of Jesus dead, buried, and risen, and now enthroned at the right hand of God in the power of the Father, and Jesus soon to come in his glorious second advent to judge the world in righteousness. Our Lord’s confession was very full, and happy is he who heartily embraces it.

     I intend to dwell upon three catch-words around which there gathers a world of encouraging and solemn thought. The first is “nevertheless,” and the second is “hereafter;” what the third is you shall know hereafter, but not just now.

     I. NEVERTHELESS, said Christ, “hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” This, then, is the string from which we must draw forth music. “Nevertheless,” which being interpreted by being pulled in pieces, signifies that truth is never-the-less sure because of opposition. “Nevertheless,” not one atom the less is the truth certain to prevail, for all that you say or do against it. Jesus will surely sit at the right hand of power, and come in due season upon the clouds of heaven. Let us dwell for a little time upon this important fact, that truth is none the less certain because of the opposition of men and devils.

     Observe, first, that the Saviour’s condition when he made use of that “nevertheles” was no proof that he would not rise to power. There he stood, a poor, defenceless, emaciated man, newly led from the nightwatch in the garden and its bloody sweat. He was a spectacle of meek and lowly suffering, led by his captors like a lamb to the slaughter, with none to speak a word on his behalf. He was surrounded by those who hated him, and he was forsaken by his friends. Scribes, Pharisees, priests, were all thirsting for his heart’s blood. A lamb in the midst of wolves is but a faint picture of Christ standing there before the Sanhedrim in patient silence. And vet, though his present condition seemed to contradict it, he who was the faithful and true witness spake truly when he testified, “Nevertheless, hereafter ye shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven. Despite my present shame and suffering, so it shall be.”

     He gives himself that lowly, humble title of Son of man, as best indicating himself in his condition at that time. “Hereafter ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” The humiliation of Christ did not in the least endanger his after glory. His sufferings, his shame, his death, did not render it any the less certain that he would climb to his throne. Nor did the cavillings of his opposers keep him for one instant from his place of honour. I wish you to remember this, for there is a great principle in it. There are many poor weakminded people who cannot take sides with a persecuted truth, nor accept anything but the most popular and fashionable form of religion. They dare not be with truth when men spit in its face, and buffet it, and pour contempt upon it; but it will be victorious none the less, although cowards desert it and falsehearted men oppose it. If it stand alone at the bar of the world, a culprit to be condemned, — if it receive nothing but a universal hiss of human execration, — yet, if it be the truth, it may be condemned, but it will be justified; it may be buried, but it will rise; it may be rejected, but it will be glorified, even as it has happened to the Christ of God. Who would be ashamed of truth at any time when he knows the preciousness of it? Who will tremble because of present opposition when he foresees what will yet come of it? What a sublime spectacle — the man of sorrows standing before his cruel judges in all manner of weakness and poverty and contempt, at the same time heir of all things, and appointed, nevertheless, to sit at the right hand of power and to come in the clouds of heaven.

     Nor may we think only of his condition as a despised and rejected man; for he was, on his trial, charged with grievous wrong, and about to be condemned by the ecclesiastical authorities. The scribes learned in the law declared that he blasphemed: and the priests, familiar with the ordinances of God, exclaimed, “Away with him; it is not meet that he should live.” The high priest himself gave judgment that it was expedient for him to be put to death. It is a very serious thing, is it not, when all the ecclesiastical authorities are against you, — when they are unanimous in your condemnation? Yes, verily, and it may cause great searching of heart ; for no peaceable man desires to be opposed to constituted authority, but would sooner have the good word of those who sit in Moses’ seat. But this was not the last time in which the established ecclesiastical authorities were wrong, grievously wrong. They were condemning the innocent, and blaspheming the Lord from heaven. Nor, I say, was this the last time in which the mitre and the gown have been upon the side of cruel wrong: yet this did not un-Christ our Saviour or rob him of his deity or his throne. On the same principle human history brings before us abundance of instances in which, nevertheless, though scribes, priests, bishops, pontiffs, and popes condemned the truth, it was just as sure, and became as triumphant, as it had a right to do. There stands the one lone man, and there are all the great ones around him — men of authority and reputation, sanctity and pomp — and they unanimously deny that he can ever sit at the right hand of God: “But, nevertheless,” saith he, “hereafter ye shall see the Son of man at the right hand of power.” He spoke the truth: his declaration has been most gloriously fulfilled hitherto. Even thus over the neck of clergy, priests, pontiffs, popes, his triumphant chariot of salvation shall still roll, and the truth— the simple truth of his glorious gospel— shall, despite them all, win the day, and reign over the sons of men.

     Nor is this all. Our Lord at that time was surrounded by those who were in possession of earthly power. The priests had the ear of Pilate, and Pilate had the Roman legions at his back. Who could resist such a combination of force? Craft and authority form a dreadful league. One disciple drew a sword, but just at the time when our Lord stood before the Sanhedrim that one chivalrous warrior had denied him; so that all the physical force was on the other side. As a man he was helpless when he stood bound before the council. I am not speaking now of that almighty power which faith knows to have dwelt in him; but as to human power, he was weakness at its weakest. His cause seemed at the lowest ebb. He had none to stand up in his defence — nay, none to speak a word on his behalf; for, “Who shall declare his generation?” And yet, for all that, and even because of it, he did rise to sit at the right hand of power, and he shall come in the clouds of heaven. So if it ever comes to pass, my brother, that thou shouldst be the lone advocate of a forgotten truth, — if thy Master should ever put thee in all thy weakness and infirmity in the midst of the mighty and the strong, do not thou fear or tremble; for the possession of power is but a trifle compared with the possession of truth, and he that has the right may safely defy the might of the world. He shall win and conquer, let the princes and powers that be take to themselves what force and craft they choose. Jesus, nevertheless, wins, though the power is all against him, and so shall the truth which he represents, for it wears about it a hidden power which baffles all opponents.

     Nor was it merely all the power, there was a great deal of furious rage against him. That Caiaphas, how he spoke to him! “I adjure thee,” saith he, “by God.” And after he has spoken he rends his garments in indignation, his anger burns like fire; but the Christ is very quiet, the Lamb of God is still, and looking his adversary in the face, he says, “Nevertheless, hereafter thou shalt see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” He was strong, and therefore calm; confident, and therefore peaceful; fully assured, and therefore patient. He could wait, for he believed; and his prophecy was true, notwithstanding the high priest’s rage. So if we meet with any man at any time who gnashes his teeth upon us, who foams in passion, who dips his pen into the bitterest gall to write down our holy faith, who is indefatigable in his violent efforts against the Christ of God, — what mattereth it? “Nevertheless, ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power.” “Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion,” said Jehovah; and he declared the decree though the heathen raged and the people imagined a vain thing. Well may he smile at rage who is so sure of victory.

     Yes, but it was not one person that raged merely. The people of Jerusalem, and the mnltitudes that had come up to the passover, bribed and egged on by the priests and the Pharisees, were all hot after our Saviour’s death, clamouring, “Crucify him, crucify him;” and yet there he stood, and as he heard their tumult, and anticipated its growing demand for his blood, he lost not his confidence, but he calmly said, “Nevertheless, hereafter, shall ye see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power.” Behold his perfect inward peace, and see how he manifests it by a bold confession in the very teeth of all his adversaries. “Ye may be as many as the waves of the sea ; and ye may foam and rage like the ocean in a storm, but the purpose and the decree of God will, nevertheless, be fulfilled; ye cannot let or hinder it one whit. Ye, to your everlasting confusion, shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power.”

     Beloved, you know that after he had said this our Lord was taken before Herod and Pilate, and at last was put to death: and he knew all this, foreseeing it most clearly, and yet it did not make him hesitate. He knew that he would be crucified, and that his enemies would boast that there was an end of him and of his kingdom. He knew that his disciples would hide themselves in holes and corners, and that nobody would dare to say a word concerning the man of Nazareth: he foreknew that the name of the Nazarene would be bandied about amid general opprobrium, and Jerusalem would say, “That cause is crushed out: that egg of mischief has been broken;” but he, foreseeing all that, and more, declared, “Nevertheless, hereafter ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” I cannot help harping upon the text— I hope I shall not weary you with it, for to me it is music. I do not like running over the word “nevertheless” too quickly, I like to draw it out and repeat it as “never — the — lees.” No, not one jot the less will his victory come. Not in the least degree was his royal power endangered or his sure triumph imperilled. Not even by his death and the consequent scattering of his disciples was the least hazard occasioned; but, indeed, all these things wrought together for the accomplishment of the divine purpose concerning him, and the lower he stooped the more sure he was to rise ultimately to his glory.

     And now, beloved, it is even so. The man Christ Jesus was despised and rejected of men, but at this moment he sits at the right hand of power: all power is given to him in heaven and in earth, and therefore does he bid us proclaim his gospel. There is not an angel but does his bidding; providence is arranged by his will, for “ the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” Atoning work is done, and, therefore, he sits. His work is well done, and, therefore, he sits on the right hand of God, in the place of honour and dignity. Before long he will come. We cannot tell when : he may come to-night, or he may tarry many a weary year: but he will surely come in person, for did not the angels say to the men of Galilee, as they stood gazing into heaven, “ This same Jesus shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven ” ? He shall come with blast of trumpet and with thousands of angelic beings, all doing him honour. He shall come with flaming fire to visit the trembling earth. He shall come with all his Father's glories on, and kings and princes shall stand before him, and he shall reign amongst his ancients gloriously. The tumults of the people, and the plotting of their rulers, shall be remembered in that day, but it shall be to their own eternal shame: his throne shall be none the less resplendent.

     I beg you to learn the spiritual lesson which comes out of this. I have already indicated it, and it is this — never be afraid to stand by a losing cause. Never hesitate to stand alone when the truth is to be confessed. Never be overawed by sacerdotalism, or daunted by rage, or swayed by multitudes. Unpopular truth is, nevertheless, eternal, and that doctrine which is scouted and cast out as evil to-day shall bring immortal honour to the man who dares to stand by its side and share its humiliation. Oh, for the love of the Christ who thus threw a “nevertheless” at the feet of his foes, follow him whithersoever he goeth. Through flood or flame, in loneliness, in shame, in obloquy, in reproach, follow him! If it be without the camp, follow him! If every step shall cost you abuse and scorn, follow still ; yea, to prison and to death still follow him, for as surely as he sitteth at the right hand of power so shall those who love him and have been faithful to his truth sit down upon his throne with him. His overcoming and enthronement are the pledges of the victory both of the truth and of those who courageously espouse it.

     Thus have we sounded our first great bell — “Nevertheless.” Let its music ring through the place and charm each opened ear.

     II. The second bell is HEREAFTER. “Nevertheless, hereafter.” I like the sound of those two bells together: let us ring them again. “Nevertheless, hereafter.” The hereafter seems in brief to say to me that the main glory of Christ lies in the future. Not to-day, perhaps, nor to-morrow will the issue be seen! Have patience! Wait a while. “Your strength is to sit still.” God has great leisure, for he is the Eternal. Let us partake in his restfulness while we sing, “Nevertheless, hereafter.” O for the Holy Spirit’s power at this moment; for it is written, “he will show you things to come.”

     It is one great reason why the unregenerate sons of men cannot see any glory in the kingdom of Christ because to them it is such a future thing. Its hopes look into eternity: its great rewards are beyond this present time and state, and the most of mortal eyes cannot see so far. Unregenerate men are like Passion in John Bunyan’s parable: they will have all their good things now, and so they have their toys and break them, and they are gone, and then their hereafter is a dreary outlook of regret and woe. Men of faith know better; and like Patience in the same parable, they choose to have their best things last, for that which comes last, lasts on for ever. He whose turn comes last has none to follow him, and his good things shall never be taken away from him. The poor, purblind world cannot see beyond its own nose, and so it must have its joys and riches at once. To them speedy victory is the main thing, and the truth is nothing. Is the cause triumphant to-day? Off with your caps, and throw them up, and cry “Hurrah!” no matter that it is the cause of a lie. Do the multitudes incline that way? Then, sir, if you be worldly-wise, run with them. Pull off the palm branches, strew the roads, and shout “Hosanna to the hero of the hour!” though he be a despot or a deceiver. But not so — not so with those who are taught of God. They take eternity into their estimate, and they are contented to go with the despised and rejected of men for the present, because they recollect the hereafter. They can swim against the flood, for they know whither the course of this world is tending. O blind world, if thou wert wise, thou wouldst amend thy line of action, and begin to think of the hereafter too; for, brethren, the hereafter will soon be here. What a short time it is since Adam walked in the garden of Eden : compared with the ages of the rocks, compared with the history of the stars, compared with the life of God, it is as the winking of an eye, or as a flash of lightning. One has but to grow a little older, and years become shorter, and time appears to travel at a much faster rate than before, so that a year rushes by you like a meteor across the midnight heavens. When we are older still, and look down from the serene abodes above, I suppose that centuries and ages will be as moments to us; for to the Lord they are as nothing. Suppose the coming of the Lord should be put off for ten thousand years — it is but supposition — but if it were, ten thousand years will soon be gone, and when the august spectacle of Christ coming on the clouds of heaven shall really be seen, the delay will be as though but an hour had intervened. The space between now and then, or rather the space between what is “now” at this time, and what will be “now: at the last — how short a span it is! Men will look back from the eternal world and say, “How could we have thought so much of the fleeting life we have lived on earth, when it was to be followed by eternity? What fools we were to make such count of momentary, transient pleasures, when now the things which are not seen, and are eternal, have come upon us, and we are unprepared for them! “Christ will soon come, and at the longest, when he cometh, the interval between to-day and then will seem to be just nothing at all; so that “hereafter” is not as the sound of far-off cannon, nor as the boom of distant thunder, but it is the rolling of rushing wheels hastening to overtake us.

     “Hereafter!” “Hereafter!” Oh, when that hereafter comes, how overwhelming it will be to Jesus’ foes! Now where is Caiaphas? Will he now adjure the Lord to speak? Now, ye priests, lift up your haughty heads! Utter a sentence against him now! There sits, your victim upon the clouds of heaven. Say now that he blasphemes, and hold up your rent rags, and condemn him again. But where is Caiaphas? He hides his guilty head: he is utterly confounded, and begs the mountains to fall upon him. And, oh, ye men of the Sanhedrim, who sat at midnight and glared on your innocent victim, with your cold, cruel eyes, and afterwards gloated over the death of your martyred Prince, where are ye now — now that he has come with all his Father’s power to judge you ? They are asking the hills to open their caverns and conceal them: the rocks deny them shelter. And where, on that day, will you be; you who deny his deity, who profane his Sabbath, who slander his people, and denounce his gospel — oh, where will you be in that tremendous day, which as surely comes as comes to-morrow’s rising sun? Oh, sirs, consider this word — “Hereafter!” I would fain whisper it in the ear of the sinner, fascinated by his pleasures. Come near and let me do so — hereafter! I would make it the alarum of the bed-head of the sleeping transgressor, who is dreaming of peace and safety, while he is slumbering himself into hell. Hereafter! Hereafter! Oh, yes, ye may suck the sweet, and eat the fat, and drink as ye will; but hereafter! hereafter! What will ye do hereafter when that which is sweet in the mouth shall be as gall in the belly, and when the pleasures of to-day shall be a mixture of miseiy for eternity? Hereafter! Oh, hereafter! Now, O Spirit divine, be pleased to open careless ears, that they may listen to this prophetic sound.

     To the Lord’s own people there is no sound more sweet than that of “hereafter.” “Hereafter ye shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven.” Welcome, welcome, welcome, welcome, Redeemer, Saviour! Welcome in every character in which thou comest. What acclamations and congratulations will go up from the countless myriads of his redeemed, when first the ensigns of the Son of man shall be seen in the heavens! On some one of earth’s mornings, when the children of men shall be “marrying and giving in marriage,” while saints shall be looking for his appearing, they shall first of all perceive that he is actually coming. Long desired, and come at last. Then the trumpet shall be heard, waxing exceeding loud and long, ringing out a sweeter note to the true Israel than ever trumpet heard on the morn of Jubilee. What delight! What lifting up of gladsome eyes! What floods of bliss! Oppression is over, the idols are broken, the reign of sin is ended, darkness shall no more cover the nations. He cometh, he cometh: glory be to his name!

“Bring forth the royal diadem.
And crown him Lord of all.”

O blessed day of acclamations! how shall heaven’s vault be rent with them when his saints shall see for themselves what was reserved for him and for them in the“ hereafter.” “Ye shall see the Son of man at the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”

     That word “hereafter,” my brothers and sisters, is, at this moment, our grandest solace, and I wish to bring it before you in that light. Have you been misunderstood, misrepresented, slandered because of fidelity to the right and to the true? Do not trouble yourself. Vindicate not your own cause. Refer it to the King’s Bench above, and say, “Hereafter, hereafter.” Have you been accused of being mad, fanatical, and I know not what besides, because to you party is nothing, and ecclesiastical pride nothing, and the stamp of popular opinion nothing; because you are determined to follow the steps of your Master, and believe the true and do the right? Then be in no hurry; the sure hereafter will settle the debate. Or are you very poor, and very sick, and very sad? But are you Christ’s own? Do you trust him? Do you live in fellowship with him? Then the hope of the hereafter may well take the sting out of the present. It is not for long that you shall suffer; the glory will soon be revealed in you and around you. There are streets of gold symbolic of your future wealth, and there are harps celestial emblematical of your eternal joy. You shall have a white robe soon, and the dusty garments of toil shall be laid aside for ever. You shall have a far more exceeding and an eternal weight of glory; and therefore the light affliction which is but for a moment may well be endured with patience. Have you laboured in vain? Have you tried to bring souls to Christ, and had no recompense? Fret not, but remember the hereafter. Many a labourer, unsuccessful to the eye of man, will receive a “Well done, good and faithful servant” from his Master in that day. Set little store by anything you have, and wish but lightly for anything that you have not. Let the present be to you, as it really is, a dream, an empty show, and project your soul into the hereafter, which is solid and enduring; for, oh! what music there is in it! — what delight to a true child of God! “Nevertheless, hereafter.”

     I feel half inclined to have done, and to send you out of the place, singing all the way, “Nevertheless, hereafter.” The people outside might not understand you, but it would be a perfectly justifiable enthusiasm of delight.

     III. Now, thirdly. Where am I to look for my third bell? Where is the third word I spoke of? In truth, I cannot find it in the version which we commonly use, and there is no third word in the original, and yet the word I am thinking of is there. The truth is that the second word, which has been rendered by “hereafter,” bears another meaning; I will give yon what the Greek critics say, as nearly as can be, the meaning of the word is, “HENCEFORWARD.” “Henceforward ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” “Henceforward.” That is another word, and the teaching gathered out of it is this: even in the present there are tokens of the victory of Christ. “But,” says one, “did Christ say to those priests that henceforward they should see him sitting at the right hand of power?” Yes, yes, that is what he meant. He meant, “You look at me and scorn me; but, sirs, you shall not be able to do this any longer, for henceforward you shall see for yourselves that I am not what I appear to be, but that I sit at the right hand of power. Henceforward, and as long as you live, you shall know that galling truth.” And did that come true? Yes, it came true that night; for when the Saviour died there came a messenger unto the members of the Sanhedrim and others, and told them that the veil of the temple was rent in twain. In that moment, when the man of Nazareth died, that splendid piece of tapestry seemed to tear itself asunder from end to end as if in horror at the death of its Lord. The members of that council, when they met each other in the street and spoke of the news, must have been dumb in sheer astonishment; but while they looked upon each other the earth they stood upon reeled and reeled again, and they could scarcely keep their feet. This was not the first wonder which had that day startled them, for the sun had been beclouded in unnatural darkness. At midday the son had ceased to shine, and now the earth ceases to be stable. Lo, also, in the darkness of the evening, certain members of this council saw the sheeted dead, newly arisen from their sepulchres, walking through the streets; for the rocks rent, the earth shook, and the graves opened, and the dead came forth and appeared unto many. Thus early they began to know that the man of Nazareth was at the right hand of power.

     Early on the third morning, when they were met together, there came a messenger in hot haste, who said, “The stone is rolled away from the door of the sepulchre. Remember that ye placed a watch, and that ye set your seal upon the stone. But early this morning the soldiers say that he came forth. He rose, that dreaded One whom we put to death, and at the sight of him the keepers did quake and became as dead men.” Now, these men — these members of the Sanhedrim — believed that fact; and we have clear evidence that they did so, for they bribed the soldiers, and said, “Say ye, his disciples came and stole away his body while we slept.” Then did the word also continue to be fulfilled, and they plainly saw that Jesus whom they had condemned was at the right hand of power. A few weeks passed over their heads, and, lo, there was a noise in the city, and an extraordinary excitement. Peter had been preaching and three thousand persons in one day had been baptized into the name which they dreaded so much ; and they were told, and they heard it on the best of evidence, that there had been a wonderful manifestation of the Holy Spirit, such as was spoken of in the book of the prophet Joel. Then they must have looked one another in the face, and stroked their beards, and bitten their lips, and said one to another, “Did he not say that we should see him at the right hand of power?” They had often to remember that word, and again and again to see its truth, for when Peter and John were brought before them, it was proven that they had restored a lame man, and these two unlearned and ignorant men told them that it was through the name of Jesus that the lame were made to leap and walk. Day after day they were continuously obliged, against their will, to see, in the spread of the religion of the man whom they had put to death, that his name had power about it such as they could not possibly gainsay or resist. Lo, one of their number, Paul, had been converted, and was preaching the faith which he had endeavoured to destroy. They must have been much amazed and chagrined, as in this also they discerned that the Son of man was at the right hand of power.

     Yes, say you, but did they see him coming in the clouds of heaven? I answer, yes. Henceforth they saw that also, for they began to have upon their minds forebodings, and dark thoughts. The Jewish nation was in an ill state, the people were getting disquieted, imposters were rising, and the leading men of the nation trembled as to what the Romans would do. At last there came an outbreak, and the imperial power was defied, and then such of them as still survived began to realize the words of Christ. When they saw the comet in the sky, and the drawn sword hanging over Jerusalem, when they saw the city compassed about with armies, when they marked the legions dig the trenches, and throw up the earthworks and surround the devoted city, while all around was fire and famine; when from every tower upon the walls they could see one of their own countrymen nailed to a cross, for the Romans put the Jews to death by crucifixion by hundreds, and even by thousands, — the must they begun to see the coming of the Son of man. And when, at last, the city was destroyed and a firebrand was hurled even into the holy place, and the Jews were banished and sol for slaves till they would not fetch the price of a pair of shoes, so many were they and so greatly despised, — then they saw the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven to take vengeance on his adversaries.

     Read the text as meaning, “Henceforward, ye shall see the Son of man at the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” It is not the full meaning of the passage, but it is a part of that meaning, beyond all question.

     Beloved, even at the present time we may see the tokens of the power of Christ among us. Only tokens, mark you; I do not want to take you off from the hereafter, but henceforward and even now there are tokens of the power of our Lord Jesus. Look at revivals. When they break out in the church how they stagger all the adversaries of Christ. They said — yes, they dared to say — that the gospel had lost all its power — that, since the days of Whitefield and Wesley, there was no hope of the masses being stirred, yet when they see, even in this house, from Sabbath to Sabbath, vast crowds listening to the word, and when some few months ago no house could be built that was large enough to accommodate the thronging masses who sought to hear our American brethren, then were they smitten in the mouth, so that they could speak no more, for it was manifested that the Lord Christ still lives, and that, if his gospel be fully and simply preached, it will still draw all men to him, and souls will be saved, and that not a few.

     And look ye, in the brave world outside, apart from religion, what influences there are abroad which are due to the power of the Christ of God. Would you have believed it twenty years ago that in America there should be no more a slave; that united Italy should be free of her despots? Could you have believed that the Pope would be puling about his being a prisoner in the Vatican, and that the power of antichrist would be shorn away? No, the wonders of history, even within the last few years, are enough to show us that Christ is at the right hand of power. Come what will in the future, mark ye this, my brethren, it will never be possible to uphold tyranny and oppression long, for the Lord Christ is to the front for the poor and needy of the earth. O despots, you may do what you will, and use your craft and policy, if you please, but all over this world the Lord Jesus Christ has lifted up a plummet and set up a righteous- standard, and he will draw a straight line, and it will pass through everything that offends, that it may be cut off; and it will also pass over all that is good and lovely, and right, and just, and true, and these shall be established in his reign among men. I believe in the reign of Christ. Kings, sultans, czars — these are puppets all of them, and your parliaments and congresses are but vanity of vanity. Cod is great, and none but he. Jesus is the King in all the earth. He is the man, the King of men, the Lord of all. Glory be to his name. As the years progress we shall see it more and more, for he has had long patience, but he is beginning now to cut the work short in righteousness. He is baring his right arm for war and that which denies manhood’s just claims, that which treads upon the neck of the humanity which Christ has taken, that which stands against his throne and dominion, must be broken in pieces like a potter’s vessel, for the sceptre in his hand is a rod of iron, and he will use it mightily. The Christ, then, gives tokens still of his power. They are only tokens, but they are sure ones, even as the dawn does not deceive us, though it be not the noontide.

     And oh, let me say, there be some of you present who are enemies of Christ, but you also must have perceived some tokens of his power. I have seen him shake the infidel by the gospel till he has said, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” He has taken him in the silence of the night and probed his conscience: in his gentleness and love, and pity he has led the man to think, and though he has not altogether yielded, yet he has felt that there is a solemn power about the Christ of God. Some of the worst of men have been forced to own that Christ has conquered them. Remember how Julian, as he died, said, “The Nazarene has overcome me: the Nazarene has overcome me.” May you not have to say that in the article of death, but oh that you may say it now. May his love overpower you, may his compassion win you, and you will see in your own salvation tokens of his power.

     But I must have done, for my time has fled, but I desire to add that it will be a blessed thing if everyone here, becoming a believer in Jesus, shall henceforward see him at the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven. Would to God we could live with that vision full in view, believing Jesus to be at the right hand of power, trusting him and resting in him. Because we know him to be the Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle, we ought never to have a doubt when we are doing what is right. We ought never to have a doubt when we are following Jesus, for he is more than a conqueror, and so shall his followers be. Let us go on courageously, trusting in him as a child trusts in his father, for he is mighty upon whom we repose our confidence.

     Let us also keep before our mind’s eye the fact that he is coming. Be ye not as the virgins that fell asleep. Even now my ear seems to hear the midnight cry, “Behold, the bridegroom cometh!” Arise, ye virgins, sleep no longer, for the bridegroom is near. As for you, ye foolish virgins, God grant that there may yet be time enough left to awake even you, that you may yet have oil for your lamps before he comes. He comes we know not when, but he comes quickly. Be ye ready, for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. Be ye as men that watch for their Lord, and as servants that are ready to give in their account, because the master of the house is near.

     In that spirit let us come to the Lord’s table, as often as we gather there, for he has said to us, “Do this until I come.” Outward ordinances will cease when he comes, for we shall need no memorial when the Lord himself will be among us. Let us here pledge him in the cup. That he is coming we do verily believe; that he is coming we do joyfully proclaim. Is it a subject of joy to you? If not —

“Ye sinners seek his face,
Whose wrath ye cannot bear;
Bow to the sceptre of his grace,
And find salvation there.”

God bless you for Christ’s sake.



The Trees in God’s Court

By / Oct 29

The Trees in God's Court

 

“Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; to show that the Lord is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.”— Psalm xcii. 13— 15.

 

THESE verses occur at the close of a psalm for the Sabbath over which there rests a sabbatic glory of perfect calm, of hallowed peace. Amidst the business and bustle of daily life the great trouble of the psalmist was the prosperity of the wicked, but it does not trouble him at all when he enters the sanctuary, there to keep the holy day. He then looks upon the ungodly who prosper in the world as so much flowering grass in their beauty, and he beholds them cut down and utterly destroyed. And it is meet that a psalm for the Sabbath should be calm and peaceful, cloudless and far-seeing. If on any day we see things in their right light, and our views extend farther than at other times, surely it should be on the day of sacred rest. I know a friend who wished to take a house in Newcastle. It stood on an elevated position, and the landlord, who wished to have him for a tenant, took him to the attic of the house, and said, “What a view there is from this window! Do you know,” said he, “that on Sundays you can see Durham Cathedral?” “On Sundays!” said my friend, with a look of surprise, “and why not on other days?” “Well,” said the landlord, “on Sundays there is less smoke, and so you can see farther.” And, as it is in the natural world, so it should always be in the spiritual—less of the smoke of this world—less of the dust and the care of life, and therefore a clearer vision of the things which are beyond, which God reveals to spiritual eyes. Read and sing this psalm often, and may your heart constantly be in that sweet restful state.

     David having here put aside this trouble which he so often brings up in the psalms— the frequent prosperity of the wicked, as they exult in power and spread themselves like a green bay tree, whilst the righteous are plagues all the day long and chastened every morning—after putting that aside, he dwells upon the delightful condition of the man of God, and he describes him as a tree that is planted in the courts of God’s house, growing, flourishing, and bearing fruit even in old age. It is of such we are now going to speak, and we shall call your attention to the planting of the trees, the promise that they shall flourish, the continued fertility they exhibit, and the conclusive proof they show of God's faithfulness. “Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.”

     I. THE PLANTING. It sounds oddly to you to hear of planting a tree in a house, and of its flourishing in courts; but you will please to remember that an oriental house is a sort of quadrangle. It is a four-square building, with the middle open to the sky, and generally there is a small garden, in which a palm tree, or an olive, or some other evergreen tree (for they generally prefer that sort) will be found planted: so that what seems strange to us— a tree planted in a house — was not at all strange to David or to anybody else who lived in the city of Jerusalem. And it is a very beautiful figure— this being planted within the four courts of God’s house, that we might grow right in the middle of the place where God with his family deigns to dwell.

     What, then, is it to be planted? Well, we are planted in God’s house in two respects. First, in regeneration, when we are born into the house; and secondly, at our profession of faith, which should be by baptism, when we are publicly brought into the house and planted in the likeness of Christ’s death by being buried, after his commandment, in the water.

     We are really planted in the courts of the Lord’s house by the new birth. Then we become the children of God, for “as many as received him (that is to say, him who is the Divine Word, the true Light, the Saviour), to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Every man, the world over, that has been born of the Holy Spirit, is really planted in the Lord’s house. But we become manifestly and visibly so on confessing to the world this inward and spiritual grace, for the Lord has thus put it, you know, “He that with his heart believeth, and with his mouth maketh confession, shall be saved,” so that when I come to join God’s people, and ask to be admitted to their fellowship, — when I come to the Lord’s table with them, and publicly own myself to be one of the Master’s servants — then I am in a public manner planted in the house of the Lord.

     Well, this being the fact, let us follow the figure a little more closely.

     Planting implies, first, that there has been something done for us that that we could not do for ourselves. A tree cannot plant itself. There are self-sown trees, but such are not spoken of in the text. It is “those that be planted in the house of the Lord.” And you know, there is a necessity that there should be a work of grace upon our souls, which shall come, not from ourselves, but distinctly from God, for “every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up.” It cannot plant itself, and, if it could, it must be rooted up, because it would not be planted by the heavenly Father. There must be wrought upon us, in order to our being truly in the courts of the Lord’s house, a work of grace infinitely beyond the power of the will, or all the power that dwells in human nature. We must, in fact, be new-created. We must be born again. We must have as great a work wrought upon us as was wrought upon the body of Christ when he was raised from the dead. The eternal power and godhead of the divine Spirit must put forth the fulness of its strength to raise you up from your death in sin, or otherwise you will be like sear branches and cast off pieces of wood, but never will you be trees planted, made to live and to grow in the courts of the Lord’s house. There must be something done for us, if we are planted.

     That implies, too, that there must be a great change in our position, for a tree that is planted has been growing somewhere else. It has to reach a certain height in the nurseryman’s garden, if we are speaking of England, and then it is planted where it is meant to be permanently fixed. So must it have been in the East. The tree grew somewhere else. After a time it was dug up, its roots were loosened, it was taken away from the place where it had been accustomed to stand. Many a tender rootlet was made to bleed, and it was then carried and put in another place altogether, and so, from being outside the court it came to be inside the court of the house of the Lord. So, brethren and sisters, if we are to answer the condition described in the text we must have been dug up and transplanted. This is to have undergone a great and wonderful change. Are we conscious of it? Do we know ourselves to be new creatures in Christ Jesus? If you are what you always were, you are what I pray you may not always be; but if you are new, changed, transformed, or, to come back to the text, transplanted, then I trust you may continue to thrive according to the promise, “They that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.”

     Ah me! that transplanting business is often very painful, and while it is being undergone we almost think that we are going to be destroyed. What anxiety it causes; for how is the plant to know what it is being taken up by the roots for? Perhaps it fancies— or rather if it had any intellect it would fancy— that it was taken up to be destroyed; just as when the law put a big spade down to our roots, and began to loosen all our soil about us, we thought, “Now we are going to be cut down.” But we were not; we were going to be transplanted from the field of nature into the garden of grace. Blessed be God, we know what this means.

     Planting means not only that something has been done for us that we could not do for ourselves, and that a great change has taken place in our position, but it implies that there is life in us. I suppose that if we speak of planting a post or planting a pillar we hardly use correct language. We plant a thing that has life in it, and we do not consider that a thing has been planted unless it be a living thing. Most certainly the promise of the text could not be fulfilled to any but a living tree, for it is said— “They that be planted shall flourish and they shall bring forth fruit.” God does not intend to have dead stumps standing in his court.

“That little garden walled around.
Chosen and made peculiar ground,
That little spot enclosed by grac
Out of the world’s wild wilderness,”

is not intended to be occupied by dead trees. If there be such in it he will come and say, “Cut it down! Why cumbereth it the ground?” It is a living tree that he desires to have there. Beloved, are you conscious of an inner life? Does there beat within you another pulse besides that which betokens natural life, the pulse of strong desire and love to God? Is there within you the heaving of another breath than that which keeps body and soul together? Is there the breath of prayer that keeps the soul and God together, and so keeps the man in spiritual life? Are you quickened? Have you had breathed into your nostrils the breath of the life of God? Is there within you the incorruptible seed which liveth and abideth for ever? — God’s people are a living people, and if we do not know the life of God we know not God at all. There must be a life in us.

     And then, to complete the figure, it seems to me that the fact of our being planted implies that we ourselves have taken hold of the soil wherein we have been placed. A tree that is rightly planted, so as to flourish, begins to send out its roots— to drink in moisture, to select from the earth around it those portions which are fit food for vegetable life.

     Now, beloved, are you so incorporated with the church of God that you have got a grip of the fellowship of the saints, that you have effectually laid hold of the citizenship of our Lord’s faithful disciples? Are you seeking for vital truth to sustain your soul’s vitality? Do you in the ordinances send out the rootlets of your desire, to seek after what God has prepared for you? Is there in you a living sap flowing, which sap is being fed by what you draw in from the soil in which God has placed you? Surely you know what this means. Sabbath days are often feeding times to you; and your visits to the Lord in prayer are building up times to your spirit; and when you search the word in private, and when the Holy Ghost communes with you in your quiet retirement—ay, and when, even in the midst of business, your soul breathes her swift ejaculations up to heaven, then are the roots of your soul taking hold of Christ, and drawing out of him the vital element which you need. You are of the right kind if this be the case, and you shall flourish in the courts of our God.

     You see, then, the figure, and what is meant by this planting in the house of the Lord.

     II. Now, secondly, LET US ENDEAVOUR TO GRASP THE PROMISE. “Those that be planted shall flourish.” “Flourish” they well may. Let us be sure of their welfare.

     They shall flourish because God has said that they shall. His promises are sure to be fulfilled. If he plants a tree he will cause it to flourish. There seems to be very much against the Christian, many perils to which he is exposed, when he is first planted. Indeed, in the early childhood of Christian life we undergo a world of trial. Such was our weakness, and such our exposure to the bleak atmosphere of this present evil world, the chances were all against us. But there is no chance with God. What he plants is sure to take root. If he says it shall flourish, flourish it will. Satan may seek to tear it up; the foxes may try to spoil the vines; there may be chilling winds; there may be long droughts; the sun may seek to smite it by day, and the moon by night; but God hath promised that it shall flourish, and flourish it must; therefore I invite you, young Christians, to be very hopeful. See to it that you are rightly planted, and then you may depend upon it that you will really flourish. God who hath been pleased to give you grace will bestow on you more grace, and then more grace— grace upon grace— grace for every exigence and every emergency. As your needs arise those needs shall be supplied. Just as you require spiritual health, spiritual health shall be vouchsafed to you if you seek it at his hands, knowing that it is at his disposal. You shall not be a half-starved Christian— a sort of living skeleton of a believer, but you shall flourish; you shall be peaceful, happy, strong, useful. Set your heart upon this, and ask the Lord to make you thrive, and bloom, and fructify. Your leaf shall not wither, and he will cause you to prosper if you are planted in the courts of the Lord.

     Some of you, perhaps, are Christian men who have received the Word with gladness and believed to the saving of your souls, and so far you appear to be in the courts of God’s house, but you have never joined the church, or made a profession of your faith, which, though it may be very sincere, is not very apparent. As, however, you have not gone in for the whole of the planting, you cannot reasonably expect to realize the whole of the flourishing. I like to know that I have given myself wholly up to the Lord according to his command; not having merely embraced one part of the gospel, but the whole of it. When one has sought to obey it in its entirety, then he may come and expect to have the promise in its entireness too. If you are altogether Christians, planted in his house— not merely in his garden, but in his house— then you shall flourish, for you have the promise that you shall. And flourish you well may, because of the goodness of the soil. They are quite sure to have good soil in the little garden enclosed by the house. It may be rocky outside, but when a man has built the four walls of his house in the East, he generally takes all the soil that is in the middle away. It may be very bad and poor, but then he has brought in baskets the richest soil that he can possibly get, for he must have a good tree in the middle of his house. It would not do every moment of the day to look out, or rather to look in, and to see a little scrubby tree, half alive. No, he procures the best soil he can get, and those that are planted in the house of the Lord are planted in the best soil possible. They are planted where the means of grace abound. They are planted where Christians help one another with mutual fellowship. They are planted where the ordinances of the gospel are freely enjoyed by all who dwell there. They are planted where the Holy Spirit has promised to abide. They are planted where the word of God does not return void. They are planted where the eye and the heart of Christ perpetually rest. They are planted in his church—the church that he hath redeemed with his most precious blood. The soil is good, and they ought to flourish, and they shall.

     And then they are planted in a sheltered position. You know that trees, even if they have good soil, are sometimes a great deal kept back by having a cold northerly aspect. They may be very much bitten by the frost, but a tree that is planted right in the middle of the forecourt, surrounded by the walls, is sheltered. There is the natural warmth of the house round about it, and it is sheltered from that which other trees out in the vineyard, or out in the garden, may have to endure. Oh, how sheltered some of us have been from our first profession of faith. I know that I can speak to some here who began Christian life in a class in the Sunday-school, where a loving teacher looked after their spiritual interests. There are others of you that began your Christian life in the midst of a warm-hearted, earnest church. You were no sooner seen as a member than two or three friends took hold of you, and they did all they could to encourage you, guide you, and sympathize with you. Whenever they may have observed a little lukewarmness or backsliding in your manner, they have looked after you as a mother anxious for her child, so tenderly have you been nursed by those who watched for your souls. And you cannot surely forget how, on Sabbath days, the word of God has been a wonderful shelter to you. When your feet had almost gone there has been the very word to hold you up. When you felt dispirited there has been a promise to encourage you. When you have been ready to turn back there has been an exhortation that has stimulated you once more to go forward; and so you have lived inside four walls. The cold could not get at you. You scarcely had enough of the cold of the world to do you any injury. The warm sun of righteousness was reflected upon you, not only did it come directly upon you by divine favour, but it was reflected upon you with grateful sympathy by the walls of the house of the Lord in which you had been planted. You know it has been so. Is it any wonder then that you flourish? There is a little wonder sometimes that you do not flourish more, and that you do not bring forth more fruit; for what more could God do than he has done for some of you who have been planted in the house of the Lord? Are you not like a vineyard on a very fruitful hill, which he has hedged about and walled, and in which he has put a winepress, and which he has watered every morning, and, lest any should hurt it, has kept night and day? How sour the grapes, and how few the clusters fit for the Great Vine-dresser to gather no one knows better than yourselves. Yet they ought to flourish, because they are planted in good soil, and because they are placed in a sheltered position.

     Still we might assign a better reason why they should flourish. It is because they are so near the husbandman. “My Father is the husbandman,” says Christ. They that be planted in the house of the Lord are planted in the husbandman’s house.

     Methinks I hear some one say “I do not wonder that such a vine flourishes, because, you see, the Great Vine-dresser, who understands all about it, has it on the wall of his own house. He sees it every morning, and of course he pays very special attention to it.” Little do you and I know, beloved, what special attention God has paid to us personally and individually. Oh, there be some of us upon whom the Lord has been long wont to look with a tender but jealous eye. If he has seen a little wrong about us he has grieved at it, and felt, “I must put it away.” When he has seen us getting a little cold he has begun at once to rouse us up, for he has loved us too well to leave us exposed to even a little spiritual sickness. He has said sometimes, “There is my servant, and he will get proud of his service, or of his success, I must bring him down.” High looks and haughty thoughts are an abomination in his sight. Another time he has said, “Such-and-such a man is increasing in wealth; he will get worldly-minded. I must take away some of his worldly goods that he may take more account of his treasures laid up in heaven, and set his heart more on me.” The Lord thy God is a jealous God. Where there is love there is oftentimes a sensitiveness which stirs up jealousy. The greatness of God’s love makes him very zealous for us and very jealous of us. If he sees those whom he very much loves, with the slightest evil thing about them, he is quick to observe it and prompt to purge it away. You know that you do not like to see a spot on your dear child’s face. You will have it washed off as soon as possible. So will the Lord cleanse his people, both without and within. The care and the trouble he has had with us, as I have already said, none of us can tell. We ought to bring forth fruit, to the profit of the husbandman, to the glory of God. Branches that bring forth fruit he purges. Those that bring forth very little fruit he lets very much alone. If there be a man that brings forth much fruit, that man will have much trial, because it will pay the vine-dresser to prune him. Some branches will not pay for it. They will never do more than they are doing, and so there they are, and thus they are left to prove their feebleness; but those that will pay for pruning will be pruned again and again. And, truly, when the man of God is in his right mind, he will bless the Lord for the honour he puts upon him when he afflicts him with the view of making him still more useful. This is evermore our Lord’s design. Does he not say that they shall never perish whom he protects and provides for, holding them in his hands? But, as they cannot flourish if they run to wood, he will be quite sure to use his knife to take off this new shoot and that new shoot, because it is not fruit-bearing wood, and he takes it away, and he leaves the vine in such a condition that it will bring forth good fruit in due time. They shall flourish, and well they may, when they are so near to the Great Husbandman’s hand.

     Now, if any of you are not flourishing, though you are planted in the house of the Lord, I am sure it is not through any faultiness on God’s part. Let such ask him, and ask themselves, the reason why, and go to him in prayer, and say— “Good Lord, I am planted in thy house: make me to flourish according to thy word.”

     III. Well, now, as to THE CONTINUANCE OP THIS FLOURISHING, our third head is full of consolation. “They shall bring forth fruit in old age, they shall be fat and flourishing.”

     There are some that begin with a spurt, and it is soon over; and there are some trees that promise exceedingly well for fruit, but the blossoms did not knit, hence they fail to yield fruit in due season. But those whom God plants, and whom he makes to flourish, bring forth fruit, and continue to bring it forth till old age. During all their youth and all their manhood they keep fruitful, and then they bring forth fruit when their years decline and their days are numbered. When others are in the sear and yellow leaf, then are their fruits ripe and mellow. When others are decaying they are ripening. They are growing sweeter, better, holier, when others are not growing at all. They shall bring forth fruit in old age— that time when one does not expect much fruit bearing— when the strength faileth, when the capacity for projecting seems to have gone, and the power for carrying out what is projected has become very little. “They shall bring forth fruit in old age.” This is not merely a cheering promise, but it is a very gratifying fact that God’s people do bring forth fruit in old age. Very luscious fruit some of them produce. Yea, we look for the best fruit in the oldest saints. What fruit, then, you will ask, do they bring forth?

     Well, there is the fruit of testimony. I distinctly recollect hearing a blind old minister talk of the lovingkindness of the Lord when I was sixteen or seventeen, and the encouragement that he gave me has never departed from me. A young man could not have done that, because he had not attained so much experience; but the weight of years, and even of infirmities, made that venerable blind man’s testimony very, very weighty to my soul. “They shall bring forth fruit in old age.” Blessed be his name, I can tell of the goodness of the Lord to me these five-and-twenty years or more, since I have known him; but think of a man who can speak of fifty years, and there are some children of God who can do so. There is a member of this church who has been a member of it for seventy years, and she can tell you how good the Lord has been to her. And the fruit is riper, you know. There is a cumulative force of evidence, because if a thing has been true fifty years, and a person has tried it in all sorts and shapes and ways and modes and conditions and circumstances fifty years—well, who is to contradict that? It must be so, and you feel the testimony is a blessed fruit of old age.

     Saints bring forth fruit in the way of savour when they grow old. Many young ministers can rattle out some of the truths of the gospel very readily; but if you want to taste the sweetness, to feel the unction, to enjoy the savour, you must hear one that has had long and deep experience. It must be so. There is an inimitable mellowness about the Christian who has grown old in his Master’s service. If you want to hear about the sea, talk to an “old salt.” If you want to hear about war, talk to an old soldier that has been in the battle and smelt gunpowder, and knows what it is to have lost a leg. He is the man to tell you. And so, if you want to know about the real deeps, the truth, the vitality, the power of religion, you must not go to boys: you must go to those who bring forth fruit in old age, because they can speak out of the fulness of their soul. Have not we had some in this church— there are such now, and there are some in heaven— who, every time we used to hear them speak, let drop pearls and diamonds while they talked about what the Lord had done for them. Dear old Mr. Dransfield— how many a time he has electrified us when he used to stand on that platform, and talk about the blessedness of God and the sweetness of religion to his own soul. You used to think a great deal more of it because he was so old. I am sure you did. It was good in itself, but still there was the age of the man at the back of it; so in that case the age gave a power to the experience which he told out to you.

     The aged Christian ought to have, and I hope he often has, the fruit of patience. After having suffered so long and enjoyed the mercies of God so long, he ought to learn to be patient. I once heard a good Christian man say that he was confessing a fault. He said, “I am afraid that the fruit of my old age is peevishness.” “No,” I said, “that is not a fruit of your old age; it is a fruit of your old nature.” But the fruit of old age, where there is grace in old age, should be patience. And oh! what fruit some of God’s servants do show by way of patience, in poverty, in sickness, in infirmities. There used to sit here an aged woman who could not hear anything I said, but she always came because she thought it was setting a good example to the young people at home to attend the house of God. Whenever I used to speak with her there was such a charm about her conversation, because, though she was much tried, she never uttered a complaint. She could only bless the name of the Lord for everything. You remember Dr. Hamilton’s story of poor old Betty, who could not do anything but lie in bed and cough, but she said, “Well, bless the Lord, whatever the Lord has told me to do I have tried to do it; and when he said, ‘Betty, bring up your family,’ I tried to bring them up in the fear of God. When he said, ‘Betty, go to the house of God and sing my praises,’ I was delighted to do it. And when he said, ‘Betty, go up stairs and lie in bed and cough;’ well I will do it,” she said, “and bless the name of the Lord for letting me do it, so long as there is anything to be done for him.”

     Now, the promise is that if we be thus planted, as I have described, we shall be enabled to bring forth fruit in old age. Anything that we do with a sincere desire to glorify God in it, and anything that we bear with patience and quietness according to the divine will, is sweet and gracious fruit. We can bring forth that fruit in our old age.

     One of the most delicious fruits that Christians produce in their old age is calm, quiet confidence in God. John Bunyan has described this in his “Pilgrim’s Progress,” in the beautiful picture of the land Beulah. I shall not at all object to have a grey head, and eyes like lamps whose wasting oil is spent, weak shoulders and tottering knees, if I may get to Beulah. You know that he describes it as a land that was just on the verge of the river, and so near to the celestial country that the shining ones did often cross the river, and there was a pervading smell of sweet spices all over the land, because it lay so near to the city of the blessed that when the wind blew that way it wafted the spices across, and they could, in quiet places of the land, often hear the songs of the shining ones who wandered there. The inhabitants were at perfect rest. The land was called Beulah, for God’s delight was in her. They that dwelt in her were called Heph-zibah, for they were married unto the Lord; and they were sitting there, many of them, close by the brink of the river, waiting till a message should come from the king, for the king’s messengers every now and then came into the country, and they said, “The pitcher is broken at the cistern. Rise up, my love, and come away.” And so, one by one, the Beulahites crossed that river. On bright sunshiny mornings they were known to cross it singing, “O grave, where is thy victory?” Well, it is that patient abiding, that quiet waiting, that holy confidence, that divine anticipation, that sweet expectation of the coming glory, that is one of the fruits which believers bring forth in old age, and whenever we see it we prize those golden apples, and long for the time when we may bear them too.

     But now notice that the text does not speak of old age merely bringing forth fruit, but it says— “They shall be fat and flourishing,” which means that Christians, in their advanced years, shall have a fulness of savour and life in them. I have known some Christians, both old and young, that have been very dry sticks, not fat and flourishing, certainly; they had very little savour, very little unction, though they had very sharp teeth to bite the young people with; they were very critical, very ready to look harshly at them, and ask them hard questions ; and, if they could not spell the biggest word in the whole confession of faith, they have said, “Ah, the young people nowaday are not like what they used to be in my time.” We have known some of that sort. But when they are planted in the house of God, and God makes them to flourish, they are full of the juice of love; they are full of Christian kindness and gentleness; they are full of life; they are full of real vigour— not the vigour of the flesh, but the vigour of the Spirit; and they love the Lord and delight in him, and delight to help the young people, and to encourage them in the ways of the Lord. Oh, I like to see an old man thus fat and flourishing.

     And it is added, in addition to their being fat, that they shall be flourishing. It means that the aged believer shall have a special verdure. This flourishing means his profession; and how delightful is the profession of Christianity in advanced age. I do not mean that some people get exceedingly attached to the pastor whom they have heard for many, many years. One old woman used to say that she liked to hear the old minister better than anybody else. “Well, but,” they said, “he is getting very feeble.” “Oh,” said she, “but then 1 recollect what he used to be, and I would sooner see him shake his head than I would hear anybody else preach.” And I have no doubt that, though that grows to be an infirmity and folly, there is something praiseworthy in it, because you recollect the times and seasons when the Lord refreshed your soul by him: and there is a moral glory about a man as you look at him who has been, say for fifty years, living and labouring as a public professing Christian, without a stain upon his reputation— not a spot on his character. Why, the young people say, “Bless God! if he has kept him, why should he not keep me; and if the Lord has sustained him under many trials, why should he not sustain me?” It is not what the man says; it is the man that says it that gives force to all he says. It is what you know is behind the voice; it is the experience of the Lord’s goodness; it is the long-continued honourable conduct which God has enabled him to evince, and to show to others, by the abounding grace that was within him, which preaches in accents louder than the finest voice can articulate.

     Now, I do pray that every young man here— and I am glad to see so many young men— will seek to be one day amongst the old men whose profession shall be the very strength of the church, because of this consistency. I will not say to my elder brethren— because the Lord will say it to them — that they ought to remember what manner of people they ought to be, seeing that God has been so gracious to them these many years.

     IV. I close with my fourth point, which is THE MANIFESTATION THAT AFFORDS CONCLUSIVE PROOF OF THE DIVINE FAITHFULNESS. “To show that the Lord is upright.” These good folks are to bring forth fruit, and to be fat and flourishing, on purpose to manifest before the eyes of all men “That the Lord is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.”

     “That the Lord is upright.” Well, how does the fruit-bearing of an aged Christian show that? Why, it shows that God has kept his promise. He has promised that he will never leave them nor forsake them. There you see it. He has promised that when they are weak they shall be strong. There you see it. He has promised that if they seek him they shall not lack any good thing. There you see it. He has promised them, “Thy bread shall be given thee; thy water shall be sure.” Hear what they have to say, and you will see it. He has said, “Even to hoar hairs I am he. I have made and I will bear, and I will carry you as in the days of old.” There you have it. Ask them. There you see it. We put “Q. E. D.” at the end of a proposition when it is proved. So you may put that down at the end of the problem of life. God is good to his people. The old man stands up, and says, “Truly God is good to Israel. If you could hear my story, young man, you would see it before your eyes, and it would show that the Lord is upright.”

     Nor is it only that he keeps his promises, but the Lord is kind and generous towards his servants. I always think it a shameful, heartless thing to turn adrift, when he gets old, a man who has been in your service from his youth. It is one of the things that have become more common in present than in former times, to turn out old servants. Since you have had the pith of their life— the marrow out of their bones, do keep a roof over their heads; grant them a pension, or at least a pittance; supply them with a bit of bread and cheese till they die. I think it is only right that an old servant, a faithful servant, should be so treated. You know how David puts it. “O God, thou hast taught me 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.” It is not likely that he would, is it? Such a God as he turn his old servants off! You remember the Amalekite who had a master that was an Egyptian, and the master left him to perish, and David found him. Ah, well, that is how the Egyptian masters do, but that is not how our Master does. Thou wilt not leave or desert me when my age and my infirmities multiply upon me. When these eyes grow dim thou wilt look upon me; when another shall guard me, and lead me whither I would not, thou still wilt be my friend and helper, and lay thy finger on my eyelids as I close them in the hour of death. It is a faithful God we serve, and he keeps his people alive in their old age that they may show that he is a faithful and upright God.

     Now, David added at the end, “He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.” I want every one of my elderly friends to add his Amen to this sentence, and to set his seal that God is true. Come forward as witnesses, attest the deed while it is being executed, and put your names to the record and say, “I bear witness to that.” At least I want you in the silence of your hearts to come and say, “Yes, I can bear witness.” David says, “He is my rock.” My aged brethren, can you say, “God is the rock on which my hope is founded— my foundation, and he has never failed me. The rock will never shake, never move, never give way. He is the rock of my defence— the ‘rock of ages cleft for me.’ I have hidden myself in him, and I have been safe. He is the rock of my abiding. I have dwelt in him and lived in him, and I have found him my castle and my high tower. He is a rock for immutability.” Can you say that, brethren? He has never changed— never. He has been “without variableness or shadow of turning.” Every good and perfect gift have I received from him. Bear witness to it. This is what is wanted in this age— that you should bear witness that God is a rock, firm, strong, faithful, immutable— the defence of his people.

     And then “there is no unrighteousness in him.” I would have you bear witness to that. You have had some sharp troubles. Have you ever had more than you ought to have? You have had many losses. Have you really lost anything in being a Christian? You have been brought very low. Have you ever been left and deserted altogether? You have gone through fire and through water, but has the fire consumed you? Has the water drowned you? If you have anything to say against God, you old servants of his, let us hear it. No, but the older God’s people get the more they praise him; and one reason why I am sure that God must be a good God is that I always find that all his servants want to get their children into the same house, into the same family. A man is not badly treated by his master when he says, “My ambition is to have my boy follow me.” Oh, I can speak well of my Lord and Master in all that he has ever given me to do, but it is. the joy of my soul to think that my sons should follow me in the love of Christ, and the preaching of the gospel. We who are younger men, but yet who have had a good deal of tossing to and fro, can say, “He is my Lord, and there is no unrighteousness in him. No, not a flaw in him — not one unkindness, not one unfaithfulness, not one forgetfulness, not one angry word, not one thing but what has been full of love.” He has said, “I have sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, or rebuke thee,” and he has kept his promise; and up to this hour we cannot discover speck, spot, or flaw in all the transactions of his providence. Though sometimes they have been mysterious, they have always been right: blessed be his name for ever and ever.

     Oh, who would not be planted in the courts of such a God as this, to be kept even to old age, and to be blessed with such unspeakable blessings world without end? God grant you all to be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that he might be glorified.



Coming – Always Coming

By / Oct 29

COMING — ALWAYS COMING.

 

“To whom coming.” — 1 Peter ii. 4.

 

THE apostle is speaking of the Lord Jesus, of whom he had previously said, “If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious,” and he follows that sentence up with this, “To whom coming as unto a living stone.” Now, I want to call your special attention to this present participle— this act of coming— for there is much to counsel and to comfort us in the fact and the reflections it suggests.

      The Christian life is begun, continued, and perfected altogether in connection with the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a very great blessing for us. Sometimes when you go a journey, you travel so far under the protection of a certain Company, but then you have to change, and the rest of your journey may be performed under very different circumstances, upon quite another kind of line. Now we have not so far to go to heaven in the guardian care of Jesus Christ, and then at a certain point to change, so as to have somebody else to be our leader, or some other method of salvation. No, he is the author and he is the finisher of our faith. If we begin aright we begin with “Christ is all if we go on aright we go on with “Christ is all”; and if we finish aright we finish with “Christ is all.” It was a great delusion of some in Paul’s day that after they had begun in the spirit, they hoped to be made perfect in the flesh; and there are some now a days who begin as sinners resting upon Christ, but they want to go on as independent saints, resting on themselves. That will never do, brethren. It is not “Christ and Company” anyhow. The sinner knows that it must be Christ only, because he has nothing of his own; and the saint ought to know that it must be Christ only, because he has less than nothing apart from Christ. I believe that if we grow out of Christ we grow in an unhealthy mushroom fashion: what we need is to grow up into Christ in all things, knowing him more and more, and being more and more satisfied that he is what we need. This is really a healthy growth, and may God send more and more of it to us as long as ever we live. Blessed be his holy name, with us it is Christ in the morning, when we are young and full of strength; it is Christ at noon, when we are bearing the burden and heat of the day; and it is Christ at eventide, when we lean on the staff for very age, and the shadows lengthen, and the light is dim. Yea, and it shall be Christ only when the night settles down and death-shade curtains our last bed. In all circumstances and conditions we look to Jesus only. Are we in wealth? Christ crowns it. Are we in poverty? Christ cheers it. Are we in honour? Christ calms us. Are we in shame? Christ consoles us. Are we in health? He sanctifies it. Are we in sickness? He relieves it. As he is at all times the same in himself so he is the same to us. To the same Christ we must come and cling under every new circumstance. Our heart must abide faithful to her one only Lord and lovingly sing, —

“I’ll turn to thee in days of light
As well as nights of care,
Thou brightest amid all that’s bright,
Thou fairest of the fair!”

     We have not to seek a fresh physician, to find a new friend, or to discover a novel hope, but we are to look for everything to Jesus Christ, “the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.” “Ye are complete in him.” Stand to this, my brethren. Never think that you need aught beyond the provision which is stored up in him, for sanctification, for satisfaction, or for safety. Cast not your eyes around you to find a supplement to the Lord Jesus, or you will deceive yourselves and dishonour him. It is not with our Lord as it was with Moses. Moses led the people through the wilderness, but he could not bring them into the promised land: that was reserved for Joshua. Brother, the Lord Jesus has led you so far through the wilderness, and he will lead you over the Jordan, and secure your heritage to you, and see you safely landed in it: look not, therefore, for any other leader or lawgiver. It is not with Christ as it was with David: David collected the materials for the temple, but though he could gather together vast stores of great value, he could not build them up, for the Lord said that this honour should be reserved for his son that should be after him; and therefore the construction of the temple was left for Solomon. But our Lord Jesus Christ, blessed be his name, has not only gathered together his people and the precious treasures with which he is to build a living temple unto God; but he will also build it stone upon stone, and bring forth the top stone with shouting. He shall build the temple of the Lord, and he shall bear the glory. Christ in the Christian’s alphabet is A, B, C right down to Z, and all the words of the pure language of Canaan are only compounds of himself. Has he not said it, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end”?

     Our text speaks about coming to him, and I shall endeavour to expound it to you thus. This is a full picture of Christian life. I consider it to be a complete picture of a saint drawn with one stroke. It is not easy to make a portrait with one line, yet I remember seeing a somewhat famous portrait of our Lord in which the artist never lifted his pencil from the paper from beginning to end, but drew the whole of it with one continuous series of circles. So here I may say the whole Christian life is drawn in one line— coming unto Christ. “To whom coming." When we have spoken upon that, I shall answer two questions; the one— what is the best way of coming to him at first? the other— what is the best way of coming to him afterwards? May the Holy Spirit bless the whole discourse to our souls.

     I. First, then, HERE IS A COMPLETE DESCRIPTION OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. It is a continuous “coming” to Jesus.

     If you have your Bibles open at the text I want you to notice that the expression occurs in connection with two figures. There is one which precedes it in the second verse, namely, the figure of a little child fed upon milk. “As new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming.” Children come to their parents, and they frequently come rather longer than their parents like; it is the general habit of children to come to their parents for what they need. They begin with coming to the mothers when they are new-born babes. Look at the little child; it cannot provide for itself. If it were left to shift for itself it must die; but having tasted the unadulterated milk, it thirsts for more of it. When the time comes round for it to be fed, and it comes very often, it gives unmistakeable signs even before it can speak that it wants its food; it knows where to come, and it will not rest till it reaches its place and nestles down. As the child grows up it knows the breakfast hour, and the dinner hour, and knows where to come for the grateful meal and the hearty welcome. You do not want in most of your houses, I suspect, to ring a bell to call your children together to the family table: they all carry little interior bells which let them know pretty accurately when meal-times will be, and they come freely, without persuading or forcing. Some of them are now getting to be fifteen or sixteen years of age, and they keep on coming still. They come to your table just as they used to come. When first you had to lift them into their little chairs then they were coming; and now they take their big chairs as if they quite belonged to them; but they still keep on coming. Yes, and they come to you not only for bread and for meat, but they come for a great many things besides. In fact, the older they grow, the more they come for. They used to come for little shoes and little garments, and now they need them cut of a larger size, and of more expensive material, and they come accordingly. Though they cost you more they come with greater freedom, for habit has made them very bold in their coming. They do not require any entreaty or encouragement to come for what they want: they look for many things as a matter of course, and for the rest they come with all the readiness imaginable. Perhaps they let you know their desires a little sooner than you want them to do, and when you think that they might manage a little longer with what they have, they press their claims with earnestness, and vote them urgent. They very soon find out their requirements, you never have to call them together and say, “Now girls, I want you earnestly to consider whether you do not want more dresses. Now boys, I want you to lay it to heart whether you do not require new clothes.” Oh, nothing of the sort. Your children do not need to be called in such a way; they come without calling. They are always coming for something, as you very well know. Sometimes they constrain you to put your hands into your pockets so frequently and for such a variety of expenses that you wonder how long the purse will hold out, and when your resources will be exhausted. Of one thing you feel quite sure that it will be easier to drain your purse than to stop your children from coming for one thing or another.

     They come to you now for a great many things they did not come for at first. It seems that there is no end to the things they come for, and I believe there is no end at all. Some of them, I know, continue to come after they have got beyond their boyish years. Though you have a notion, I suppose, that they might shift for themselves, they are still coming for sovereigns where shillings used to suffice. When you could put them to bed at night with the reflection that you had found them in food and raiment, and house and home, you knew your expenses; but now the big fellows come to you with such heavy demands that you can hardly see the end of it. So it is; they are always coming.

     Now, in all this long talk I have been showing you how to understand the figure of coming to Christ. Just what your children began to do from the first moment you fixed your eyes on them, and what they have continued to do ever since, that is just what you are to do with the Lord Jesus Christ. You are to be always coming to him— coming to him for spiritual food, coming to him for spiritual garments, coming to him for washing, guiding, help, and health: coming in fact for everything. You will be wise if, the older you grow, the more you come, and he will be all the better pleased with you. If you find out other wants and make clearer discoveries of your needs, come for more than you used to come for, and prove thereby that you better understand and appreciate what manner of love it is— that ye should be called the sons of God. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Has he not said to you, “Open your mouth wide and I will fill it”? It is rather strange that you never have to tell your children to do that. They do it without any telling; but you have been told to do it, and yet you do not do it. He complains, “thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob.” The infinite liberality of your heavenly Father has urged you to make great requests of him, and yet you have stuttered and stammered and been afraid to ask, until he now tells you that “you have not because you ask not.” Beloved, let us learn from our children, and let it be the habit of our lives to be incessantly coming to the heavenly Father— coming oftener, coming for more reasons, coming for larger blessings, coming with greater expectations, coming in one life-long perpetual coming, and all because he bids us come.

     If you will look again at your Bibles, you will get a second illustration from the fourth verse, “To whom coming as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” Here we have the figure of a building. A building comprises first a foundation, and then the stones which are brought to the foundation and are built upon it. This furnishes a very beautiful picture of Christian life. I have read that there has been discovered beneath Jerusalem an immense cavern or quarry near the Damascus gate. Travellers who have been into this quarry say that there are niches in the live rock out of which the magnificent stones were cut with which Solomon’s temple was built. The temple is up there on the top of the rock, and then far down in the quarry you can distinctly discover where the huge stones used to be. Now there was a process of coming by which each stone came to the foundation. Some stones that were expected to form part of the building never reached it: there is one huge stone of that sort in the Bezetha cavern now. It is still there, for this reason— that, though it is squared and chiselled on the front and two sides, and also on the top and the bottom, yet it has never been cut away at the back, and so it cleaves to the rock of which it is naturally a part, and remains in its original darkness. Now, the passage that I would like you to think of is that in the fifty-first chapter of Isaiah— “Look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged.” There are many here present who have been cut off from the rock, and lifted up out of the horrible pit; since which early operation of divine grace they have been coming and coming till they have reached the foundation, and are built up as lively stones in the temple which is established upon Christ. But there are others of you who need further excavating. God has begun his work upon you, he has used sharp tools, and begun to separate you from the world: it has taken a long time to get you cut away from the rock, even in part. You used to be altogether sinful and earth-bound, and you lived in worldliness, just as the stone formed a part of the rock; God has been using his great chisel upon you, and cut you away, and separated you to a great extent from your fellow men; but still at the back, in secret, your heart cleaves to sin. You have not given up the darling lust of your heart and therefore you are not quarried yet, and you cannot come to Christ, for that is impossible till you are separated from the rock of which you naturally form a part. Oh, how I wish that almighty grace would take the saw of the word to-night, and make clear cuts right across your stony heart until you are sawn right adrift from the hard rock of sin, that you may afterwards be made to come to Christ to be built upon him as your foundation. That is how the work of grace begins, — by cutting loose the soul from the evil world of which it has been a component part. This is part of the process by which the living stones are brought to rest on the foundation, for it is clear that they cannot come to the foundation till first they are removed from their native bed in the pit of sin. Oh, may God’s grace continue to take out many of this congregation like stones divided from the quarry, that so by grace they may come to Jesus.

     Well, after they had cut out those stones in the quarry, which, with a little imagination, you can see lying there, detached and distinct, the next operation was to pull them up to the top of Mount Zion. It was a long drag up to the summit of the hill. How Solomon managed to remove such enormous masses we do not know. If he had no machinery or motive force that could supersede manual labour, and the force on which he relied was in the sinews of men, the matter is all the more wonderful. They must have pulled away perhaps many thousands of them at one single stone, hauling it out of the pit, dragging it up the zigzag roads till at last the gigantic mass reached its place. Now, there is a lifting, a drawing of the soul to Christ after this fashion, and I see among you some who have recently been drawn. You have not been dragged by men. All the men in the world could not draw a sinner to Christ. No machinery is known or will ever be invented that can ever draw a proud, stubborn will to Christ. We may tug and pull till we break the ropes, but we shall never make a soul stir one inch Christward. But there is another power which can accomplish the work impossible to us. “I, if I be lifted up,” says Christ, “will draw all men unto me.” He has such attractive power that he draws the stones out of the quarry of nature, right up to the foundation which his free grace has laid in Zion, and they are built upon him. This is the second part of the work of grace in the soul; first it separates us from the rock, and then it draws us up to the foundation, and in both it is working out our coming to Christ.

     Well, we have watched the stone as it has been carried up. What is the next process? Why, the next work is to let it down, so that it lies in due order upon the foundation. The foundation of the temple very likely was far below the adjacent soil; and so this mass of stone had to be let down to the foundation steadily and wisely that it might rest in its proper bed. What a task it is sometimes— to let a huge stone down upon the foundation, and to get it to lie square and true, so that every bit of it is in proper position with the rest of the structure. Picture the process to your mind’s eye. We have got the stone upon the base, but half of it projects beyond the foundation, and so far it has nothing to lean upon. That will never do. It must be moved till it lies plumb with the foundation, exactly square with the other stones, and till every portion of it rests firmly on its proper bed. Oh, dear hearts, this is one work which the grace of God has to do with you— to bring you to lie upon Christ, to recline upon Christ, and that wholly, rightly, and squarely. It takes a long time to bring some sinners to this; they want to be propped up with a little bit of self-righteousness, they cannot be induced to lie right square upon Christ; they want to tilt a little, have a little shoring up with their own doings, and a little dependence on themselves: but this will never do. “To whom coming,” says the text, “coming as to a living stone.” Oh, that almighty grace would constrain you all to be coming till you lie flat and square on Christ, till you have Christ at one corner, and Christ at the other corner, and Christ at all the four comers whereon your soul lies; till you are resting on the Lord Jesus Christ at all times, in all respects, under all circumstances, for everything. Other foundation can no man lay; be ye sure that ye rest wholly upon it.

     “Bless the Lord,” says one, “I know I have come as far as that. Can I get any farther?” Well, look brother, as long as ever that huge stone lies on the foundation it is always coming to the foundation. Its own weight is always pressing it down upon the foundation, and the heavier it is the more closely and compactly it lies. I do feel myself, now, to be more close to Christ than ever I was. My weight of sin helps to press me down on him. My weight of trouble, my weight of care, my weight of anxiety about the souls of my hearers, and even my weight of joy, all help me to press more on my Lord. The way to be coming to Christ, brethren, as long as ever you live, is to lean more on Christ, press more heavily on Christ, and depend more upon Christ than ever you did. In this way, you know, some stones seem, by long abiding and pressing, to cleave to one another, and unite together till they appear to be no longer distinct, but one mass. Have you not often noticed in an old Roman wall that you cannot distinguish the mortar from the stone? You cannot' tell where the stones were joined; they have grown to be one piece. And blessed is that Christian who, like a living stone, has continued so to come to the foundation till Christ and he have become one, as it were: yea, one in conscious fact, so that nothing can divide them. Thus we continue still to come to Jesus, and draw nearer to him; nearer and yet nearer still, built up into him, perfectly joined in one spirit. Then, only then, shall Christian life be perfected.

     These two figures of the babe and the stone have shown you, I trust, what the text means. I have not gone far afield to find them— they lie, as you have seen, in the immediate context. “To whom coming” is an apt description of the whole of Christian life: mind that you make it the rule of yours.

      II. But now, secondly, I have to ANSWER THE QUESTION, what is the best way of coming to Christ at first?

     There are some poor hearts among you longing to be saved. “Ah,” you say, “I hear that if I come to Christ I shall be saved; but how can I come to him? What do you mean by coming to Jesus?” Well, our reply is plain and clear, — it is to trust Christ, to depend upon him, to believe him, to rely upon him. Then they enquire, “But how can I come to Christ? In what way would you recommend me to come?” The answer is, the very best way to come to Christ is to come with all your needs about you. If you could get rid of half your needs apart from Christ, you would not come to Jesus half so well as you can with the whole of them pressing upon you, for your need furnishes you with motives for coming, and gives you pleas to urge. Suppose a physician should come into a town with motives of pure benevolence to exercise the healing art. What he wants is not to make money, but to bless the townsmen: he does not intend to make any charge or take any fees, but he lets it be known that he has come into the town to display his skill. He has a love to his fellow men, and he wants to cure them, and therefore he gives notice that as he only wishes for opportunities of displaying his kindness and skill, the poorest will be welcome, and the most diseased will be best received. Now, then, who is the man that can come to the doctor’s door with confidence, and give a good rat-tat-tat, and feel that he will be welcome? Well, there is a person who has cut his finger: will the doctor rush into the surgery to attend to him? No doubt he will look at the cut, but he will not grow very enthusiastic over it, for doctors do not get much credit out of curing cut fingers. Here is another gratis patient who has a wart on his hand. Well, there is nothing very famous about curing warts, and the physician is by no means excited over his work. But here is a poor forlorn body who has been given up by all the other doctors, a patient who is so bad that he lies at death’s door: he has such a complication of diseases, that he could hardly tell what diseases he has not suffered from, but certainly his condition is terrible enough to make it appear hopeless. He seems to be a living wonder of disease. That is the man who may come boldly to the physician, and expect his immediate attention, and his best consideration. Now, doctor, if you can cure this man he will be a credit to you. This man exactly answers to your advertisement. You say that you only wish for patients who will give you an opportunity of displaying your skill. Here is a fine object for your pity, he is bad at the lungs, bad at the heart, bad in the feet, bad in the eyes, bad in the ears, bad in the head, bad all over. If you want an opportunity of showing your skill, here is the man. Jesus, my Lord and Master, is the Great Physician of souls, and he heals them on just such terms as I have mentioned. Is there a fargone sinner here to-night? Is there a deeply sinsick soul anywhere within the range of my voice? Is there man or woman who is bad altogether? Come along, my friend, you are just in a right condition to come to Jesus Christ. Come just as you are, that is the best style of “coming.”

     Another illustration may be furnished by the common scriptural figure of a feast. A king determines to act with generosity; and, to show how liberal his disposition is, he desires to make a banquet for those who need it most. He says, “If I make a great feast to my lords and dukes, they will think little of my hospitality, for they fare sumptuously every day; therefore I will seek out guests who will be more likely to be grateful. Where shall I find guests who will most enjoy my dainties, men who will eat with the greatest gusto, and drink with the greatest delight?” Having considered the matter, he cries to his heralds, “Go ye into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in.” From among the tramps by the roadside the heralds soon gather starving wretches who exactly meet the king’s wishes. Here is a poor man who has had nothing to eat for the last forty-eight hours. Look at his eager delight at the sight of the food! If you want somebody to eat largely and joyfully, is not he the man? See how he takes it in! It is wonderful how the provisions disappear before him! Here again is a poor woman who has been picked up by the wayside, faint for want of bread. She has scarcely any life in her, but see how she begins to open her eyes at the first morsel that is placed before her, and what delight there is in her every expression as she finds herself placed at a table so richly loaded. Yes, the poorer, the more hungry, the more destitute the guests, the more honour is accorded to the king who feeds such mendicants, and receives such vagrants to his table. Hear how they shout the king’s praises when they are filled with his meat! They will never have done thanking him. Now, if I address a soul to-night that is very needy, very faint, very desponding, you are a fit guest for my Master, because you have such a fine appetite for his generous repast of love. The greatness of your need is your fitness for coming to Christ, and if you want to know how to come, come just as you are. Tarry not to improve yourself one single atom; come as you are, with all your sin and filthiness and need about you, for that is the best way to come.

      If you want to know how to come aright the first time, I should answer, come to find everything you want in Christ. Do not come with a load of your own wealth. Remember what Pharaoh said to Joseph; “Also regard not your stuff; for the good of all the land of Egypt is yours.” Do not bring your old rubbish with you. “I thought I was to bring repentance.” Do not attempt to do so, but look to Jesus for it. Jesus Christ is exalted on high to give repentance and remission of sins. Come and receive a heart of flesh, for you cannot make one for yourself. “Oh, but I thought I was to bring faith.” Faith also is the gift of Christ. It cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God; draw near then to that word to find faith. Come for everything. “Oh, but I want to feel.” And then, I suppose, after you have found a nice lot of feelings you will come to Christ, and say, “Lord, thou art now able to save me, for my feelings are right.” What self-conceit! Come to Christ for feelings; come to Christ for everything.

     “What,” saith one, “can you mean it, that I, an unfeeling, impenitent wretch, am bidden to come at once and believe in Jesus Christ for everlasting life?” I mean just that. I do not mean to send you round to that shop for repentance, and to the other shop for feeling, and to a third store for a tender heart, and then direct you to call on Christ at last for a few odds and ends. No, no, but come to Christ for everything.

“Come, ye needy, come and welcome,
God’s free bounty glorify;
True belief and true repentance,
Every grace that brings you nigh,
Without money
Come to Jesus Christ and buy.”

I heard of a shop some time ago in a country town where they sold everything, and the man said that he did not believe that there was anything a human being wanted but what he could rig him out from top to toe. Well, I do not know whether that promise would have been carried out to the letter if it had been tried, but I know it is so with Jesus Christ; he can supply you with all you need, for “Christ is all.” There is not a need your soul can possibly have but the Lord Jesus Christ can supply it, and the very best way to come is to come to him for everything.

      The best way to come to Christ is to come meaning to get everything, and to obtain all the plenitude of grace, which he has laid up in store, and promised freely to give. Some poor souls who come to Jesus Christ seem as if they wanted a little relief from fear, a hope that they may just get saved, and a fair chance of going to heaven when they die. Pray do not come in that way, my dear friend. Come intending to obtain the fulness of love, the uttermost of grace. Some time ago, when there was a dinner given to poor people, they were told to come and they should have all they could eat. Do you know what they did, some of them? There was not to be any dinner till six o’clock. Well, that they might have a noble appetite, they did not eat any breakfast— not they. They meant to get all they could now they had an opportunity, and so they came as hungry as possible. Many years ago, I am told, it used to be the custom of the lord of the manor, in certain villages, on Christmas-day to give the poor people a basin of food, and the rule was that whatever basin was brought his lordship always filled it. It was perfectly marvellous how the basins grew, till at last, when some of the women came with their basins the lord of the manor looked at the huge bowls and wondered how they could dare to bring such capacious vessels. But if he was a man of a generous heart, all he would say to his steward would be, “These people believe in my generosity. Go and fill their bowls. Fill, and fill on till you have filled them all. As long as they bring their bowls none shall say that I denied them.” And now, when you go to Christ, take a capacious vessel of large prayer and great expectation. Enlarge your desire, and make up your mind to this— “I am not going in to be a miserable Christian, with barely enough grace to keep me from open profanity, to whitewash me with a respectable profession, and ensure me against the peril of everlasting perdition: I mean to take a higher aim, and to seek a better portion. Fain would I vie with saints and angels and be the most happy, the most useful, the most joyous, the most holy believer that ever lived, if God will help me so to be.” I wish we had some of the old Methodist fire back amongst us again. Some of those dear old people, if they did not know much, used to enjoy much, and when they went to hear a sermon they listened with a zest, for they received the word of God as a fresh inspiration; it was a lively oracle to them. The gospel as it was preached to them awoke an echo in their hearts, they were all alive to its good cheer, and they shouted, “Amen, hallelujah, bless the Lord,” as they heard it, for it went home to their souls. Now a days we are very proper and decorous in our behaviour all of us, and we are not a little critical in our taste. As we pick up a crumb of the gospel we like to know whether it is the real aerated bread baked in a tin, or whether it is the common household bread of the shops. The preacher is a “little odd,” and he does not cut the bread exactly into dice pieces, and so we do not like the manner of service, for we are rather fastidious, and we air our own conceits by fault-finding. Because the Lord’s servant does not very daintily bring us our portion on a silver salver, and hold it out to us, we curl our lip and say, “No, thank you.” Oh, may God deliver us from the fashionable stiffness and artificial nonsense. May he revive in us the reality both of nature and grace, so that we may come to his table of love with a good appetite. Modern Christians remind me of our boyish days, when we went to bathe in the sea, and used to dip our toes in the waves, instead of taking a plunge head first. I am sure that to plunge right in is the best way with religion. Throw your whole soul into it, and allow the glorious waves of everlasting love to go right over your head, and then dive and swim in that sea which is bottomless, and rejoice in the Lord with all your heart. But this mere dabbling about with goody-goody goodliness, instead of the grand old godliness, makes professors all of a shiver, and they stand in doubt, as though they hardly liked it, and would rather get back to the world and put on their old clothes again, only they are half afraid to do so. Oh, may the Lord give us to come with all our needs to him—to come to him for everything, and to come determined to have everything that is to be had, and to go in for it thoroughly by God’s grace. That is the way to come to Christ.

     III. There remains one other question— WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO COME AFTERWARDS? The answer is, — Come just as you used to come. Brethren and sisters, the text does not say that you have come to Christ, though that is true, but that you are coming; and you are to be always coming. The way to continue coming is to come just in the same way as you came at first. I have many things to say about this, but my time has gone, and therefore I will not enlarge, but I will only put them thus in brief. I am persuaded that the only happy, the only safe way for a Christian to live is to live in daily dependence upon the mercy of God in Jesus Christ, just as he did when he was a babe in grace and a stone newly drawn from the quarry of nature. I know what it is to build up a nice structure of my own experience on the foundation of Christ, and to climb upon it, instead of standing on the foundation. If you were ever on the top of Snowdon, or some other high mountain, you will have noticed that to make the standing a little higher they put up some wooden scaffold or other, some ten or twelve feet of platform, to increase the elevation, and then everybody wants to get up on that platform. Well, now, I have built my little platform on Christ. My own experience has made a very handsome erection, I can tell you. I have felt, “Well, I know this and that and the other by experience,” and I have been quite exalted. Sometimes, too, I have built a platform of good works— “I have done something for Christ after all.” The proud flesh says, “Oh yes, you really have performed something you might talk about if you liked.” Self-confidence has piled my platform up and it has been a very respectable looking concern, and I have asked a few friends up. But, do you know what has occurred? Why, I have felt my platform shake. It began to tremble. Stress of weather had rotted the beams, and the supports have begun to give way, and I have seen all my building tumble down, and I have gone down with it; and as I have gone down with it I have thought, “It is all over with me now. I am going crash down, I do not know how far, but perhaps I shall fall to the bottom of the mountain” Instead of that I alighted on the top of the mountain. I did not fall very far, but came right down where it had been most sensible of me if I had always kept, namely, on terra firma, down on the solid earth. I have noticed that a great many of my brethren have been lately building some very pretty little wooden structures on the top of Jesus Christ. I think they call them “the higher life,” if I rightly recollect the name. I do not know of any life that is higher than that of simple faith in Jesus Christ. As far as I am concerned, the highest life for me out of heaven is the life of a poor publican saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” My very good friends are not content with this position, though he who keeps it goes to his house justified more than boasters. Some friends built very high a little while ago, I thought they would soon reach the moon, but certain of them went down in a very ugly way, I have heard, and I am afraid some more will go down if they do not mind what they are at. Give up building these artificial elevations: give up resting on them; and just stand on the level of Christ’s finished work, the blood of Christ for sinners shed; the righteousness of Christ to sinners imputed. Be yours the humble plea-

“I the chief of sinners am,
But Jesus died for me.”

He that is down there will never fall, and he who keeps there is really as high up as the man who thinks he is all aloft; for all above living by faith in Christ is mere dream and moonshine. There is nothing higher, after all, than just being nobody, and Christ being everybody, and singing with poor Jack, the huckster,

“I’m a poor sinner, and nothing at all,
But Jesus Christ is my all in all.”

If you grow till you are less than nothing, you are full grown, but few have reached that stage; and if you grow till Christ is everything to you, you are in your prime; but, alas, how far short of this do most men fall! The Lord bring you to that highest of all growths— to be daily coming to Christ; always empty in yourself, but full in him; always weak in yourself, but strong in him; always nothing in self, but Christ your perpetual all in all! The Lord keep you there, brothers and sisters, and he will have praise and glory of you, both now and for ever. Amen.



Enlivening and Invigorating

By / Oct 29

Enlivening and Invigorating

 

“Quicken thou me according to thy word.”— Psalm cxix. 25.

 

You will frequently find David uttering this petition; it is a favourite prayer of his: “Quicken thou me, O Lord!” And, as David was like the rest of us — indeed, his experience is the mirror of the experience of all believers — you may depend upon it we have all great need to pray as he did: “Quicken thou me, O Lord!” If he felt a coldness and deadncss frequently stealing over him, so do we. Did he find it hard to endure such a wretched state, so ought we also to loathe and abhor it. And as he cried to the strong for strength, and knew that quickening must come from God, we ought to know— I trust we do know— the same resource under the same necessity. Therefore let it be our prayer now, and let the like prayer be repeated often: — “Quicken thou me, O Lord, according to thy word.”

     How are we to understand this quickening? It means, of course, making alive, keeping alive, and giving more life, — in a word, enlivening. He was alive: he was a spiritual man, or else he would not have asked for life; for dead men never pray, “Quicken me.” It is a sign that there is life already when a man is able to say, “Give me life, O Lord!” This is not the prayer of the unconverted; it is the prayer of a man who is already regenerate, and has the love of God in his soul: “Quicken thou me, O Lord, according to thy word.” Quickening, of course, comes to us at first by regeneration. It is then that we receive spiritual life; and as there is no natural life in the world except that of which God is the author, so assuredly in the new world there is no spiritual life except that which God has created. The first quickening is that which comes upon us when we begin to feel our need of a Saviour, when we begin to perceive the preciousness of that Saviour, and when with a feeble finger we touch the hem of the Saviour’s garment: then are we quickened into newness of life. But that spiritual life needs every day to be kept alive. It is like the life of a fire, which must be fed with fuel and supported with air. It is like our natural life, which needs food to sustain it, and needs to breathe the atmosphere in order to its continuance. We are as much creatures of God’s power in our continuing to live as in our commencing to live; and, spiritually, we owe as much to divine grace that we remain believers as that we became believers. As soon as we get spiritual life, this prayer is most proper as a sacred instinct, “Lord, continue this life in my soul, continue to quicken me; for, if thou dost not, I have no life in myself apart from thee, and I should die were I severed from thee, as doth a branch when severed from the vine. Continue therefore, good Lord, to quicken me.”

     Obviously, too, some special invigoration and excitement of life must here be implied. The trees all through the winter are alive. Their substance is in them when they cast their leaves. The vitality is not extinct, though our poet of “The Seasons” does sing —

“How dead the vegetable kingdom lies:
How dumb the tuneful choir!”

A divine act of power secretly maintains the life, hidden away till the spring-time comes. Then the chains of frost are broken, the genial warmth begins to light upon the sealed buds, the sap flows, and the trees in their reviving tints and bursting buds give such promise of returning foliage and flower that in a very special sense they may be said to be quickened. As soon as the sap begins to rise, the buds swell, the leaves unwrap themselves, and the concealed flowers gradually open: a quickening comes over what was alive, and what had been kept alive all through its dreary, wintry time. So, beloved, you see, first of all, God gives us life, then he maintains life, and then at times and seasons (would to God they were more frequent, and even without intermission!) he gives vigour to that life, so that it becomes more manifest and mighty; and then it is that in a conspicuous manner the quickening is seen. I would to God that he would lead some poor sinner to pray in the very first sense of the word: “Lord, quicken me; give me life it would be a sign that life was coming. I would that every Christian would incessantly pray the prayer in the second sense: “Quicken me, Lord” — that is, “Continually keep me faithful and true to thy word.” And then, thirdly, I would that we would all go on to the third sense, and say, “Lord, inspirit me, revive me, lift me up unto a higher life, fill me with more of thy Holy Spirit, and so make me more truthful and more like thine ever living Son Jesus, who hath life in himself.”

     Having thus introduced to you the prayer, I would use the psalm to explain it — to explain, rather, the experience which commends the prayer to our constant use.

     First, brethren, I would assign some reasons why you need quickening; secondly, I would point out some motives to seek it; thirdly, we shall mention some ways in which it is wrought; and fourthly, we will suggest pleas, such as the psalmist used, for obtaining it.

     I. THERE ARE MANY REASONS WHY WE SHOULD SEEK QUICKENING.

     You cannot overlook that confessed in the text — because of the deadening influence of this world: “My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken thou me according to thy word.” We are surrounded with dust. We are associated with dust. The best and brightest things that are in this world are made of dust; and as for ourselves, although we have within us a new and higher life that has no fraternity with the dust, there is an old life belonging to us which is brother to the dust — which saith to the worm, “Thou art my sister.” “Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return,” is true of every one of us. Yet, beloved, we cannot feed on the dust; that shall be the serpent’s meat, it may not be ours. The new life in us craves for something higher, but the old nature tries to be contented with dust. It clings to it; the dust cleaves to it, and it cleaves to the dust. You know how the care and cross, the work and worry of a busy day will often damp your ardour in prayer and disqualify your thoughts for devout meditation. You cannot think much of treasure laid up in heaven if you think a great deal of this world’s goods. Riches are often a dangerous incumbrance to those who seek after righteousness; they steal the heart away from God. Matthew Henry, in his own racy style, warns us that the care in getting, the fear in keeping, the temptation in using, the guilt in abusing, the sorrow in losing, and the responsibility of giving account for gold and silver, houses, and lands, accumulate a heavy burden for him to bear who would have a conscience void of offence toward God and toward man. And yet if you have but little of this world’s wealth you will find poverty a trying ordeal. The cares of poverty, like those of property, often break the calm repose which our faith ought to enjoy. If things go smoothly with you in business, then those smooth, deceitful streams bear you away from God; and, if they go roughly with you, then in the deep and in the storm you are too apt to forget the Lord or to murmur against his providence. There is nothing in this world to help a Christian; it is all against him. The world holds us to itself as tightly as it can: it acts like bird-lime to us. When we would mount on the wings of eagles we are often like the eagle that you see in the gardens where they keep such creatures: there is a chain to our foot, and we cannot rise. Our soul cleaveth to the dust. Now, as this is the case, and as you cannot get out of the world, do pray that you may rise superior to its influence. You men of business, you heads of families, you who guide and you who follow, you who are sociable and you who are solitary, all of you must still be in the world and mix with men of the world, therefore cry to God, yea, cry mightily, “Lord, deliver us from the deadening influence of the world in which we five! Quicken us, we beseech thee, from day to day!”

     A second reason for our need of quickening lies in the influence of vanity — of that which is actually sinful. Refer to the thirty-seventh verse: — “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.” As we go about in the world we see a great deal of that which is injurious to us. The sins of others leave some kind of stain upon the conscience. I question whether you can read a newspaper and scan the story of a murder or a robbery, or survey with more distant glance in any book of history the sin of your fellow men, without being in a degree injured therewith. Much of vanity and sin we are compelled to see in our daily callings; we do not merely read of profanity but we hear the oath. You enter into a railway carriage, and you cannot always avoid hearing conversation which is the reverse of pure: you go into your house, and, unless you are happily situated so that all are Christians, there will be a great deal of which you cannot approve, and which can be of no benefit to your soul. Besides, the whole world runneth after its own idols: men seek each man his own, and not the things of Christ, and all these things are vanity. “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, all is vanity.” Our eyes are often fascinated by the glitter and the glare of these vanities. The world puts on a very beauteous complexion; she attires her head and paints her face like Jezebel, and it is not always easy, like Jehu, to detest her, and to say, “Fling her down, and let the dogs consume her.” We have nought to do with this vain world. We are not citizens of this land. But, truly, Madam Bubble, as Bunyan calls her, with her purse and her person, continually presenting herself, is enough to make even Standfast himself to stagger, and he need to fall on his knees, and cry, “Quicken me, O Lord, and turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity.” There is thus a second good reason why we should seek for quickening.

     Sometimes we shall have need to cry for quickening because we are surrounded by deceivers. Turn to the eighty-seventh and eightyeighth verses: — “They had almost consumed me upon earth; but I forsook not thy precepts. Quicken me after thy lovingkindness; so shall I keep the testimony of thy mouth.” If you are often assailed by foes, and if those foes happen to be the men of your own household, if they jeer at your faith, if they make a jest of holiness on purpose to pain you, you will need a great deal of grace not to be ruffled. To be a dove always, to be a dove in the midst of ravens: to be a lamb always, to be a lamb in the midst of wolves, is not so easy. He must have much spiritual life who shall be able, wisely and discreetly, to behave himself in the midst of those who lie in wait to entrap him in every word that he says. Remember how David acted in the court of Saul, when Saul eyed him. Unsullied purity is the safest policy. Though Saul eyed David he could not see any fault or rake up any charge that he could bring against him. Oh that all of you young people, especially those of you who are subjected to scorn and contempt because of your fidelity to Christ, may be doubly girt with grace, — may you be, indeed, quickened to the full spiritual life, that you may stand the test of persecution and reproach, of suspicion and disparagement, of misrepresentation and slander, which is sure to come upon you. Do not pray to be rid of the grievance: rather rejoice that you are counted worthy to suffer shame for your Saviour’s sake. You may pray if you like that the distress may be lightened, because your strength is small; you may pray that your flight be not in the winter; but do not make that the special object of your petition. Rather pray for grace to endure it. Pray for life, spiritual life, that you may throw it off. I suppose that, in order to prevent disease, it is a good thing to remove the cause of the disease, and take away everything that produces ill savours in the air; but the sure thing is for the man himself to be vigorous as to his own life. I have no doubt many die in moderately healthy localities because they have no stamina, they are constitutionally weak, while the young man who is in robust health, may even pass through a pestiferous district, and be for hours in the midst of miasma, without falling a prey to its deadly influence, simply because the life that is in him resists the malaria. Your business, dear friend, if you live in the midst of those that are set on fire by hell, who pour out venom against you, is to pray, — “Lord, quicken me that I may have so much spiritual life that these deleterious influences may not be ruinous to me. Deliver me from them when it is thy will; but meanwhile let me have such a full tide of life that I may be able to endure what I must encounter without being injured thereby.”

     Another reason for seeking quickening will be found in the hundred and seventh verse: “I am afflicted very much: quicken me, O Lord, according unto thy word.” In seasons of affliction we are very apt to fall into a dark, cold, dead state of mind. We have known persons in poverty — I have often been sorely pained by it, when members of this church who have become very poor, have given over attendance at the house of God. I could understand their reasons far better than I could appreciate them. Their pride was doubtless wounded, because they could not dress as they used to do, though I am sure nobody here thinks any better of you for dressing yourselves in fine clothes. I do not think so much of you myself. As they could not dress quite so well they felt they could not mix as they did with some with whom they were once equal in circumstances. So they have gone out of the way. It is a sad thing when they do so. I am much saddened by it. I hope none of you ever will. You ought to think that you will be more welcome at the house of God when you are in trouble than you ever were before; and if you lose your earthly possessions, it is all the more reason why you should seek to hold the faster to the riches which are above. If you are in pain, too, that kind of affliction has a great tendency to distract the mind. Who can think when the brow is throbbing? Who can be calm when every vein becomes a road for the hot feet of pain to travel on? It is not easy. Well now, we have reason, when we feel weak, when we feel that the mind is suffering in sympathy with the body, to cry, “Lord, let grace triumph over nature. Letlihy Spirit have power — thy blessed comforting Spirit — to lift me up above the weight which now is laid upon me, that I may glory in tribulation also, because the power of Goa doth rest upon me.” You look upon a weight as a heavy matter which keeps you down, but mechanics know how to make a weight raise you. A little adjustment of ropes and pulleys and such like contrivances, and the weight shall lift you up. And the Lord knows how to make our afflictions minister to our quickening, as we shall have to show you directly; but in themselves they deaden us. They do not assist, but rather hinder; and so, whenever they come, then is the time for us to pray with especial emphasis, “Quicken thou me, O Lord, according to thy word.” Thus have I endeavoured to show you from the psalm itself some of the reasons why we need quickening.

     II. Now, let us pass on to describe SOME OF THE MOTIVES FOR SEEKING QUICKENING. They are very many.

     Seek it because of what you are. You are a Christian, and therefore already alive unto God. Life seeks more life; it is its natural tendency. If there is life in a tree it seeks to put forth its branches; and when it has had its spring shoot, you will notice that it then begins to seek for its midsummer shoot; and when the midsummer shoot is over, the tree always has an eye to the shooting of the next spring; and before the old leaves go there is every preparation made for the new leaves. Life is always aiming at more life. It a law of nature. There is a propagation continually progressing in which life develops and multiplies itself. Now, if thou hast the life implanted by the Holy Ghost thou wilt long for more. If thou dost not long to have more life, it surely must be because thou hast no life. The living man will be sure to cry to God that he may have life more abundantly.

     The next motive is not only because of what you are, but because of what you ought to he. Here is a question for you: I will leave you to answer it: “What manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness?” We like sometimes to work out a problem. There is one to solve. Draw a picture, if you can, of what you ought to be. I will tell you, if you draw that picture exactly, what it will be like. It will be like Jesus Christ. That is the answer to this question — “What manner of persons ought we to be?” Now Christ was full of life. Although he did not strive or cry, or lift up his voice, or cause it to be heard in the streets by way of seeking after popular notoriety, yet what life was in him. He was brimful of life. There was nothing stagnant, indifferent, or purposeless in any of his actions or in all his career. Why, the life of Christ was so full that it seemed to flow out, even on to his garments, so that when they touched his garments virtue went out of him. How full must he have been of the living force— the inward power! Obeloved, we ought so to be. As we are redeemed, as we are quickened by Christ, as we are members of his body, as we belong to him, we ought to reckon ourselves dead unto sin, but alive unto God by Jesus Christ. Above all men that live, the Christian ought to live at the most vigorous rate. We have a race to run; we must not creep and crawl, or we shall not win the prize. We have a battle to fight; should we sheath our sword, put off our armour, and go to sleep, how can we overcome our enemies? We have an agony to endure, according to his power that worketh in us mightily, and there cannot be this resisting unto blood, striving against sin, unless all our passions be aroused and all our powers be stirred for the wondrous inward strife. We ought to ask for quickening because of what we ought to be.

     Then, we ought to ask for quickening because of what we shall be. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” Brother, you are to be a pure spirit in heaven: be spiritual now. Brother, you are to sing among the angels; rehearse the music now. Brother, you are to see his face that is as the sun that shineth in its strength: let not your eyes be sealed with dust now. Let them be clear, as clear as they can be in this misty atmosphere of earth. Brother, you are to sit upon the throne with Christ, for he saith, “As I have overcome, and have sat down with my Father upon his throne, so also shall you sit with me upon my throne”: see where you are to be, and behave yourself accordingly. You cannot maintain the dignity of your high calling, or your heavenly destiny, unless you have an abundance of spiritual life, wherefore pray, “Quicken thou me, O Lord.”

     Now, to come back to the psalmist’s own confessions and reflections; he gives us another motive for seeking this in the eighty-eighth verse: “Quicken me after thy lovingkindness; so shall I keep the testimony of thy mouth.” We want quickening in order to obedience. If our life decays, then the power of sin will get the mastery over us. We cannot go in the way of obedience and punctuality and scrupulous care and inward heartiness, unless we are daily quickened. I am sure you want to be holy, brothers and sisters. I am sure you do. Well, then, pray, “Quicken me.” There is no such thing as dead holiness, it must be living holiness, and you must be made alive in order to be obedient, for there is no such thing as dead obedience. Up to the altar oi God they broughtbirds, and they brought beasts, but they never brought fish; and why? Because they could not bring fish alive there, and there must be no sacrifice presented to God but that which hath life. Ask for life, that thou mayest have obedience.

      Look at the one hundred and seventh verse and you have another reason for seeking quickening, because it will be your comfort “I am afflicted very much: quicken thou me, O Lord, according to thy word;” or, better still, at the fiftieth verse, “This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me.” Do you want comforting? Get quickening: do not so much ask the Lord to give you sweet promises, as to give you inward life, for in life there is always light. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” As the light is the life, the life is the light; and when you get the life of God within your soul, you will get the comfort of God. I urge you to seek quickening, then, if you are under any distress, because it will be the readiest means of your finding consolation in it.

     Look also at the eighty-seventh and the eighty-eighth verses, to which we have already referred, and you will see that we ought to seek quickening as the best security against attacks of enemies. We need not examine how we can meet the foe, or with what argument we can refute his sophistries, or with what weapons we can overthrow him. “Quicken thou me, O Lord,” is still the prayer, even though they threaten to consume us from off the face of the earth. We have but to keep close to the precepts of God and pray for quickening, and we shall be “more than conquerors through him that loved us.”

     The use of the word “quicken” will be seen in the ninety-third verse. “I will never forget thy precepts: for with them thou hast quickened me.” We are always in danger of forgetting God’s precepts; but to invigorate our memories, and to fortify our hearts, we must get quickening. Nothing can make a man so secure of walking rightly, and defying all the attacks of his enemies, as the reception of spiritual life. The young man can only cleanse his way by taking heed to it according to God’s word; but he cannot take heed to his way if he is not alive in the way. Life is the great thing. Look at a pool of water when it stands still — how it becomes mantled over with weed, how stagnant and defiled it is: but give it vent, and let it run down yonder brook among the stones; let it leap in little cascades on its way down to the river. It is alive now, and see how pure it gets, refining as it goes, dropping all the filthiness it had accumulated before, becoming itself sweeter and clearer, because of life. So it must be with us. We must have life; we shall forget God’s precept else, and lose the purity of life, unless quickening be given to us abundantly.

     If I wanted some one thrilling motive to rouse the reluctant, I would resort to this — the terrible consequences of losing spiritual life; I do not mean the effect of losing it altogether, but of lacking it in its manifest display. Alas that it should be so easy to give obvious illustrations! But I could tell you of many congregations and churches where there is no more evidence of vitality, growth, increase, than if they were all dead. I do not say that there is no spiritual life, but there is none in the sense in which I am using the term. They have fallen into a dead sleep, and the members of the church are cold, apathetic, spiritless. Life among them is at the lowest ebb. You cannot be sure they breathe; breathe — I mean — a breath of prayer. Some of them have not been to a prayer-meeting they could not tell when, do not know when they ever did go; and when they attend Sabbath services not a few of them literally sleep, and the rest of them sleep with their eyes open. The minister dozing, dreaming, snoring, talking in his sleep — that is what his preaching is like. There is plenty of preaching like that — an inarticulate snoring of the everlasting gospel. The preacher, perhaps, reads, or else he repeats what he has laboriously committed to memory, and says it as a school-boy does his lesson, and he is glad when it is over: for he considers that preaching twice on a Sunday wears him out, dear man! And well it may, as he does it. It wears his people out as well. They have no enterprise, the surrounding neighbourhood is not evangelized by them, they do not increase, they do not think of increasing, in fact, they get fewer as the good people go home to heaven. Any attempt to do anything there would be looked upon as “an innovation”: yet they do something, they have a disturbance every now and then. They hold what they call a “church meeting,” which means in their case a spiritual bear-garden, in which they show their life, and one minister is driven away and another and another — not that it is a fit place for anybody to desire to go to, you know, for there is very little to be had except abuse; but still that is the style of the thing, and there are hundreds of churches in England in that condition. O that the Lord would quicken them! May this place be reduced to ashes, and may the congregation be scattered to the four winds of heaven, sooner than it should become a huge mausoleum, a catacomb, of which it may be said “the dead are there.” Ah, it is ill to have “the means of grace” without the grace of the means, to have a name to live and to be dead. God save us from it. Take heed to yourselves; some of the members of this church, I fear, are getting into that condition; yet not, I trow, you that are present this evening. You would not, most likely, have been here on such a wet night as this if you had not some care for the things of God, but I refer to those that are not here. When you get home tell them so; tell them what I have said about it, and then perhaps they will say, “Well, if the pastor always speaks severely of those who are not there we had better go, so as to escape his strictures.”

     III. Now let us mention briefly SOME OF THE WAYS BY WHICH THIS QUICKENING MAY BE WROUGHT IN US.

     Of course the Lord himself must do it. In prayer it must be sought, because by his power it must be wrought. The prayer is, “Quicken thou me, O Lord, according to thy word.” He does not expect the quickening from any but a divine source. Whence can life come but from the ever living God? How can we expect that we should get life if while we seek the gratuity we totally forget the divine energy of him who alone can bestow it? In the thirty-seventh verse we are told how the Lord often quickens his people, namely, by turning off their eyes from beholding vanity. “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.” The Lord sometimes takes the vanity away of which we made our idol; or else he takes us away from the idol, and does not permit us to find any contentment in it. Oh, it is half the battle to be weaned from the creature. It is half the battle, I say, to get the eyes off the vanity, for then you are likely to get your eyes turned upon your God. May he be graciously pleased to quicken some of you in that way.

     In the fiftieth verse we find that God quickens his people by his word. “Thy word hath quickened me.” And the part of the word which he often blesses to this end is remarkable, for, in the ninety-third verse, it is written, “I will never forget thy precepts; for with them thou hast quickened me.” Promises are quickening, doctrines are quickening, but David says, “Thy precepts — with them thou hast quickened me.” If we preach frequently and earnestly the precepts of our Lord there are hearers who will complain and say, “The minister is getting legal.” Nay, brethren, it is you that are getting dead, for when you are alive you will love God’s precepts, and those precepts will quicken you. “But they pain me,” says one. That is often how people are quickened. While a person is drowning, we have heard that his sensations are often really delightful; but when he is fished out of the water, as soon as ever he begins to recover life, the blood begins to tingle in the veins, and the pain is intense. The pain of returning life is something terrible. Well, so it is with God’s precepts when he quickens us with them. These precepts pain us because they show us our shortcoming, expose to us our faultiness and humble us. Brother, that is the way to be quickened. When you are numbed, you know that is next door to being dead; but when that numbed flesh of yours begins to come to life again, — you have felt it, you must have felt it — when the blood begins to circulate by the rubbing, a sharp pain is excited in the part that was numbed and painless before. Be thankful for the pain that is an index of life. “I love thy precepts, for with them thou hast quickened me.” May the Lord apply a text of Scripture to your soul with power, or let him send a word from the minister as he speaks in Jehovah’s name with a divine force, and you will soon feel the effect. Though you appeared to be dead, you will start up and begin to live again. Have not you found it so full often? Have you not often found great revivings come to your sinking spirit? Pray the Lord to make his word always thus vivifying and inspiriting to you.

     In the hundred and seventh verse we have another means of quickening which God frequently uses, namely, affliction. “I am afflicted very much: quicken me, O Lord, according to thy word.” God frequently employs adversity as a black poker to stir us up that the flame of devotion may be brighter. When you observe the fire in your sitting room getting dull and going out, you do not always put more coals on, but you stir it; and sometimes affliction does that for us. It stirs us and makes the life which was languishing to burst forth briskly. Be thankful if God stirs your fire.

     Then, again, this quickening is sometimes wrought in us by means of divine comfort, as in the fiftieth verse: — “This is my comfort, for thy word hath quickened me.” The great flush of comfort, the sudden inflow of supreme joy, when you were much depressed — this has greatly cheered and invigorated you; at least I know it has often been so with me. When very despondent and sad at heart, I have felt a soft stream, as though it were the Gulf-stream with its warm, genial temperature, flowing into my soul, melting all the icebergs that had gathered round my heart, and I have wondered what it was. How has my gratitude turned to my gracious God and found sweet expression in that hymn —

“Thy mercy is more than a match for my heart,
Which wonders to feel its own hardness depart,
Dissolved by thy goodness, I fall to the ground,
And weep to the praise of the mercy I’ve found.”

You will often have proved, I doubt not, how God uses the comfort of his Spirit to quicken his children.

     IV. Our last point is to enquire WHERE ARE OUR PLEAS WHEN WE COME BEFORE GOD TO ASK FOR QUICKENING? What arguments shall we use? Well, brethren, use first the argument of your necessity. Whatever that necessity is, particularize it, as David does in the hundred and seventh verse: — “I am afflicted very much; quicken me.” Or take our text, “My soul cleaveth to the dust, quicken me.” Plead thus your necessities. Your wants shall be the argument for the oil and wine. Your emaciation and your hunger shall be the argument for a festival. Show the Lord what you are and where you are. Confess it before him, and this shall be good pleading. Also plead, if it be in your power to do so, the earnest desire that God has kindled in you. Read the fortieth verse: — “Behold I have longed for thy precepts; quicken me in thy righteousness.” This is as much as to say, “Lord, thou hast given me great longings after thee. Thou gavest me these cravings: wilt thou not satisfy them? Dost thou torture me with the miseries of Tantalus? Dost thou grieve me with a thirst which thou wilt not gratify? Hast thou given me a hunger for the bread of heaven only for the sake of torturing me?” Beloved, if you have got a desire, you may depend upon it the desire of the righteous shall be granted. God does not excite the appetite without providing the aliment. If he makes you hunger and thirst after righteousness, recollect the promise, “Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” They shall not have merely a little, a crumb or two to stay their stomachs, but they shall be filled. Go and plead that before God. “I have longed after thy precepts; quicken thou me in thy righteousness.” There is the second plea.

     And then you may find a third in the very righteousness of God, as we have seen in the fortieth verse. Appeal to his righteousness. Do I see you start back abashed? Do I hear you say, “Oh no; I could not appeal to that, for the righteousness of God must condemn me.” Stop a minute. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” Why, the justice of God is on the side of the man who has received God’s promise, because it were unjust of God to break it. He will not alter the thing that has gone out of his mouth. The Lord has given his word for it, that he will give his people life. The very fact of his having made them live at all is the proof that he means to continue to make them live. Go and plead it, then. Say — “in thy righteousness, oh Lord, quicken me.” David is very often harping upon that string. As I showed you in the reading, he twice appeals to God’s judgment, or his justice, that he would quicken him.

     Another, and a very sweet plea is that of God's lovingkindness. Read the eighty-eighth verse: — “Quicken me after thy lovingkindness.” Look at the hundred and forty-ninth: — “Hear my voice according unto thy lovingkindness: O Lord, quicken me according to thy judgment.” And so again in the hundred and fifty-sixth: — “Great are thy tender mercies, O Lord: quicken me according to thy judgments.” “Thou pitying God, give me more life. O thou who wiliest not the death of any, give me more life. Othou that lovest as a father loves, give me more life. O thou who hast graven me upon the palms of thy hands, quicken me; quicken me, I beseech thee.” Are they not blessed pledges to lay hold on — his lovingkindness and his tender mercies? With such promises you will be sure to prevail.

     And then what a comprehensive plea, is that of our text: — “Quicken thou me according to thy word.” You have it in the twenty-fifth verse, and you have it in the hundred and seventh. He pleads the word of God. What that word was that David had to appeal to, it would rather puzzle me to tell you. His Bible was not so large nor near so full as ours. I do not find any promise of quickening before David’s time. Perhaps, a special promise had been given to him, or, at any rate, the promise is virtually in the Pentateuch: but certainly to us there is abundant testimony to be found in the word of God, for our Lord Jesus Christ himself has told us — “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst, but it shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” “I give unto my sheep eternal life.” The Son of man hath come not only that we might have life, but that we might have it more abundantly. Plead the promises, brother; plead the promises; and, as you plead them before the Lord, you may rest quite certain that God will be as good as his word; and, if you can plead the promise the promise will be surely fulfilled to you.

     Beloved in Christ, do tenderly watch over your spiritual life, or otherwise you are hypocrites when you pray “quicken me.” Take heed lest you neglect the food of your souls. Do not go where your life would be in danger. Do not seek worldly company, do not indulge in worldly amusements. Keep out of all the deadening influences of the world as much as ever you can. Have you ever seen the Grotto del Cane near Naples? It has a deadly gas at the bottom of it, and they take a dog and throw him in, and when they drag him up again the dog looks as if he were dead; but by aid of a fresh water bath he comes round again. As they thus kill the poor dog half a dozen times a day, I do not envy him his experience. Indeed, I rather think if I were that dog I would lose no time in seeking another master. Yet there are some professing Christians that will go into bad company — get into the bad gas of temptation — and then they go and hear a sermon and get back their spiritual life again. I would advise you not to be like that poor dog, but to keep out of harm’s way. If you have life do your best to maintain it, and do not run the risk of suspended animation.

     Knowing the worth and joy of life yourself, pray very earnestly that God would give it to others. Look on the dead in sin, but not with stony eyes. Look on them 'with tears. Even if I knew that my hearers must be lost, I would pray God to help me to weep over them, because our Saviour's tears over Jerusalem, you remember, were accompanied with a distinct indication that Jerusalem would be destroyed. “Oh, that thou hadst known, even thou, in this thy day, the things which make for thy peace! But now are they hid from thine eyes.” Still he wept. We have no such terrible knowledge about the destiny of any man. We look hopefully upon you unconverted people, and we exhort you because we expect you to believe in Jesus. We sincerely trust that yet you will be saved, and therefore we pray for you in hope. May the Lord in infinite mercy lead you to feel for yourselves, and pray for yourselves. — “Quicken thou me.” Do you feel that prayer welling up from your soul? Does it rise from your heart? Then, already, there is something of spiritual life there. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt have life, for he who said, “He that liveth and believeth in me shall never die,” said also, “he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” God give you that living faith which is the token of the life divine. To him be glory for ever and ever! Amen.



The Danger of Unconfessed Sin

By / Oct 29

The Danger of Unconfessed Sin

 

“When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.” — Psalm xxxii. 3.

 

IT is well known that in ordinary cases grief which is kept within the bosom grows more and more intense. It is a very great relief to shed tears; it gives a vent to the heart. We sometimes pity those who weep, but there is a grief too deep for tears, which is far more worthy of compassion; we ought most to pity those who cannot weep. A dry sorrow is a terrible one, but clear shining often follows the rain of tears. Tears are hopeful things; they are the dewdrops of the morning foretelling the coming day. So is it also a very great consolation to tell your story to a friend: I do not know whether it would not be a comfort to speak it to a little child, even if the child could not understand you. There is something in telling your sorrow and letting it out; otherwise it is like a mountain tarn which has no outlet, into which the rains descend and the torrents rush, and at last the banks are broken and a flood is caused. Let thy soul flow forth in words as to thy common griefs, it is well for thee. A festering wound is dangerous. Many have lost their reason because they had good reason to tell their sorrows, but had not reason enough to do so. Much talk hath in it much of sin, but a heart full of agony must speak or burst; therefore let it talk on and even repeat itself, for in so doing it will spend itself.

“Sorrow weeps!
And spends its bitterness in tears;
My child of sorrow,
Weep out the fulness of thy passionate grief,
And drown in tears
The bitterness of lonely years.”

     Is it not a great mercy for us that we have the Book of Psalms, and the life of such a man as David? Biographies of most people nowadays are like the portraits of a past generation, when the art of flattery in oils was at its height. There is no greater cheat than a modern biography: it is not the man at all, but what he might have been if he had not been something else. They give you a lock of his hair, or his wig, or his old coat, but seldom the man: they make huge volumes out of a heap of his letters which ought to have been burned, and copy little scraps of pictures which he used to draw for friends, and neither the letters nor the sketches ought ever to have been published. Like burglars, they break into a man’s chamber and purloin his hidden things; they hold up to the public eye what was meant for privacy only, and expose the secrets of the man’s heart and hearth. Things which the man would never have drawn or written if he had thought that they would meet the public eye are dragged forth and brought out as precious things, and so they are, but precious nonsense. We have no biographers nowadays. When Boswell died the greatest of all biographers died, and he was not far removed from a fool. If a man lives a noble life he may well shrink from dying, because he knows what will become of him nowadays when writers of his memoirs unearth him and tear him to pieces. David’s psalms are his best memorial. There you have not the man’s exterior, but his inward soul; they do not reveal the outward manifestations of the man, but you see the man’s heart—the inner David, the David that groaned and the David that wept, the David that sighed and the David that sinned, the David that yearned after God, and the David that was eaten up with the zeal of God’s house— the man who was born in sin and groaned over sin, and was yet the man after God’s own heart. What a wonderful autobiography of a wonderful life that Book of Psalms is! David was a many-sided man, and his life was like the life of our Lord in this respect— that it seemed to comprehend the lives of all other men within itself. There is no man, I suppose, who has known the Lord in any age since David wrote but has seen himself in David’s psalms as in a looking-glass, and has said to himself, “This man knows all about me. He has been into every room of my soul— into its lowest cellar and into its loftiest tower; he has been with me in the dens of my inbred sin and in the palaces of my fellowship with Christ, from which I have looked upon the glory of God.” Here is a man who “seems to be, not one, but all mankind’s epitome.” Though we mourn over David’s sin, yet we thank God that it was permitted, for if he had not so fallen he had not been able to help us when we are conscious of transgression. He could not have so minutely described our griefs if he had not felt the same. David lived, in this respect, for others as well as for himself.

     I am thankful that David was permitted to try the experiment of silence after his great sin, for he will now tell us what came of it— “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.”

     We shall apply this first, as it should be, to the erring child of God convinced of his sin; and then, secondly, we shall remind you that the same rule holds good with the awakened sinner in whom the Spirit of God has begun to work a sense of guilt.

     I. First, LET us THINK OF THE CHILD OF GOD. Children of God sin! Some of them have claimed to be well-nigh free from it; but—I will say no more; I think they sinned when they talked in such a lofty strain. God’s children sin, for they are still in the body. If they are in a right state of heart they will mourn over this, and it will be the burden of their lives. Oh that they could live without sin! it is this that they sigh after, and they can never be fully content until they obtain it. They do not excuse themselves by saying, “I cannot be perfect,” but they feel that their inability is their sin. They regard every transgression and tendency to sin as a grievous fault, and they mourn over it from day to day. They would be holy as Christ is holy. To will is present with them, but how to perform that which they would they find not.

     Now, when the child of God sins, the proper thing for him to do is at once to go and tell his heavenly Father. As soon as ever we are conscious of sin, the right thing is not to begin to reason with the sin, or to wait until we have brought ourselves into a proper state of heart about it, but to go at once and confess the transgression unto the Lord, there and then. Sin will not come to any very great head in any man’s heart who does this continually. God will never have great chastisements in store for those who are quick confessors of sin. You know how it is with your child. There has been something broken, perhaps, by carelessness: there has been some violation of a rule of the house, but if he comes and catches you by the sleeve, and says, “Father,” or “Mother, I am very sorry that I have been doing wrong”— why, you know, while you are sorry that he should transgress you are glad to think that his heart is so right that without being questioned he comes of his own accord and tells you so frankly that he was wrong. Whatever grief you may feel about his fault, you feel a greater joy in the frankness of his confession and the tenderness of his conscience, and you have forgiven him, I am sure, before he has got half way through his openhearted acknowledgment. You feel that you cannot be angry with so frank and penitent a child. Though sometimes you may have to put on a sour look, and shake your head, and reprimand, and scold a little, yet if the little eyes fill with tears, and the confession becomes still more open, and the sorrow still more evident, it is not hard to move you to give the child a kiss and send him away with, “Go and sin no more: I have forgiven thee.” Our heavenly Father is a much more tender Father than any of us, and therefore, if we, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto our children, how much more shall our heavenly Father forgive us our trespasses. “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him,” and therefore he has compassion upon the children of men when they acknowledge their offences. We are not more ready to forgive our children than our heavenly Father is ready to forgive us. We may be quite sure of that. And so, if it be our habit — and I do trust it is— never to suffer guilt to lie upon our consciences, but to go as soon as ever we are sensible of a fault and own it before the Lord, asking pardon from him for Jesus' sake, there will be no great amount of damage done to ourselves, and the Lord’s anger will not wax hot against us, neither will severe chastisements happen to us. We may endure sharp afflictions, because they are often sent for another purpose, but we shall not have visitations of paternal wrath. Many trials are not sent for chastisements at all, but as preparations for higher usefulness; for every branch that beareth fruit he purgeth it, evidently not because of any offence in the branch, but even because the branch is good and does bear fruit, and, therefore, it is allowed the special privilege of the pruning knife that it may bring forth more fruit. Speedy and full confession will not prevent tribulations which are meant merely for instruction, but it will avert trials which are intended as severe chastisements; and this will be no small benefit. Did not David pray, “O Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure”?

     Now, it sometimes happens that God’s children, when they have done wrong— especially if they have done very, very wrong— do not go and confess it. When there is the most necessity for confession, there is often the greatest tardiness in making it. It was so in David’s case. Alas! how foully had he fallen! It is never to any purpose to try and excuse David’s sin. There are certain palliating circumstances, but he never mentioned them, and, therefore, we need not. Indeed, if David were here to-night, and we were to begin excusing his sin, he would rise with tears in his eyes and say, “For God’s sake do not attempt it. Let it stand in all its deformity, that the power of God’s mercy may be the more clearly seen in washing me and making me whiter than snow.” But David’s heart was very naughty. It was sound towards God as a rule; there was deep love to God always there, but it had become overlaid and crusted with what was always David’s great besetment — the strong passions of his impulsive nature. He had followed in some measure the ill example of neighbouring kings, in taking a number of wives to himself, and this had fed rather than checked his natural tendencies; and at length in an evil hour, he fell into a crime of deepest dye. He knew that he was doing wrong. He sinned against light and knowledge, but, alas, he did not hasten to his God and confess the grievous crime.

     I think I can see why he could not have gone straight away from the sin to confession, for the sin prevented the confession—the sin blinded the eye, stultified the conscience, and stupefied the entire spiritual nature of David. Hence he did not confess at once; but surely he felt as if he must own the fault when the time came for prayer. I have no doubt that David prayed after a sort, but he must have presented very formal and mutilated prayers so long as he refused to acknowledge his transgression. When the time came for David to finger his harp, perhaps he did so, and went through a song or a psalm; but he could never reach to the essence of true praise by pouring out his heart before God while the foul sin was hidden in his bosom. How could he? His psalms and his prayers were silence before God, whatever sound he made, for his heart did not speak, and God would not hear him. However sweet the tone or the tune, his songs were nothing to the Most High, for his heart was silent. And why was he silent when he knew that he was wrong? Why did he not go to God at once? Well, it was partly because he was stupefied by his sin. He was fascinated, captivated, and held in bondage by it. Oh, brethren and sisters, beware of the basilisk eye of sin. It is dangerous even to look at sin, for looking leads to longing. A look at sin often leads to a lusting after sin, and that soon ripens into the actual indulgence. No man even thinks of sin without damage. I saw a magnificent photograph in Rome, one of the finest I had ever seen, and right across the middle there was the spectre mark of a cart and two oxen, repeated many times. The artist had tried to get it out, but the trace remained. While his plate was exposed to take the view, the cart and the oxen had gone across the scene, and they were indelible. Often in the photograph of a fine building you will see the shade of a man who passed by, who is there represented by a sort of ghostly figure. Upon our soul every sinful thought leaves a mark and a stain that calls for us to weep it out— nay, needs Christ’s blood to wash it away. We begin with thinking of sin, and then we somewhat desire the sin: next we enter into communion with the sin, and then we get into the sin, and the sin gets into us, and we lie asoak in it. So David did. He did not feel it at first, but there he was, plunged into the evil deeps. In such a state sin does not appear burdensome. A man with a pail of water on his head feels it to be heavy, but if he dives he does not feel the weight of the water above him because he is actually in it and surrounded by it. When a man plunges into sin he does not feel the weight of the sin as he does when he is out of that dreadful element; then he is burdened by it. So David did not feel his guilt at first; he knew that he had done wrong, but he did not perceive the exceeding heinousness of his evil deed, and therefore he did not confess it.

     Next, there was much pride in David's heart. Have you a child who, when he has offended, knows he is wrong, but will not own it? If so, you talk to him, but he will not speak: he is quite silent, or, if he does speak, it is not in the right way; he makes some naughty, obstinate, strongheaded speech. You cannot bring him to say, “Father, I have done wrong but he tries to excuse himself in this way and that. Perhaps he partly denies the fault, and only mentions certain things that other people did, by way of excuse for himself. Now, what our children do to us we have often done to God. We have sullenly stood it out before him. I remember well a story of a reputable Christian man who on a certain occasion was betrayed into drinking. He was a long time in distress of mind about his sin. He had been drunk, but when he was spoken to about it, as he was, by some of the officers of the church, he said that he was “overtaken,” and added that “a very little affected him.” I think that is what he said; and he pleaded that some others had been overtaken too, and he did not see why such notice should be taken of a little slip. All this he said to leave a loophole for himself. When he had done saying that, he would add— Well, he did not know, he did not believe that he was drunk; he was sure that nobody could prove that he was, though he might have taken a little more than was good for him. His tongue talked in that way, but his heart knew better. He was a child of God, and he knew he was wrong, and he never got peace by making these shocking self-defences. He was, indeed, terribly tortured in his soul, till at last he went down on his knees, and said, “Lord, I have been drunk. There is no use in denying it: I, who am thy servant, have been drunk. Forgive me for thy mercy’s sake, and keep me henceforth from even tasting of the intoxicating cup.” He honestly confessed his transgression, and a sweet sense of pardon followed at once. It takes some professors a long time to get up to that point. We call our sin by some other name, and fancy that it is not quite so bad in us as it would be in others. Oh, the ways we have got of trying to extenuate; and, oh, the sullenness which has sometimes been put on and carried out for days and days together before the living God by God’s naughty children when they have fallen into an ill-temper.

     I have no doubt that some have been silent before God for a time as to the confession of their wrong, because of fear. They could not believe that, after all, their Father loved them. They thought that if they did confess they would receive a heavy sentence and be overwhelmed with wrath. David had often looked up into the face of God and known his love; but now that he had thrown dust into his own eyes he could not see God’s face, and he only felt God’s chastening hand, for he says, “Day and night thy hand was heavy upon me; my moisture is turned into the drought of summer.” The sun burned him up, but afforded him none of the sunshine of the face of God. Unbelief is sure to follow sin of the kind committed by David. When it has brought on sullenness of temper, then we begin to think that God deals hardly with us, whereas it is we that are dealing hardly with him. If we would confess, all would be well; but there is the hard point. It is not, if he would forgive, for he is ready to blot out the transgressions of his people, but the difficulty lies in if we would believe in his love. There is a great deal of the Pharisee in many Christians. You may question the statement, but I should not wonder if there is a good deal of the Pharisee in you, or else you would not have doubted the assertion. You are so much of a Pharisee that you do not think yourself a Pharisee. But we are prone to begin thinking, “Surely, surely, I at such a time was a worthy object of God’s love, but now I am not.” Oh, then, you were once a wonder of goodness, and marvellously worthy and excellent? Do not believe it. My dear brother, perhaps you were as bad when you had not openly transgressed as you are now, for then your disease may have taken the form of pride, and though it has now taken another shape, it may be no worse, for pride is as damnable as any other form of sin. He who says to himself, “I am righteous: I can stand before God and deserve his love,” is as surely lost as though he had fallen into gross sin. Take heed of the Pharisee that lurks within you.

     Anyhow, whatever was the reason, David was silent about his sin for some long time. The result of it was that his sorrow became worse and worse. He could not pray: he tried to pray, but as he would not confess his sin, it stuck in his throat, and till that was out he could not pray. But still he must pray; so he took to roaring. That is to say, it was such inarticulate, indistinct prayer, and there was so much of his soul in it, that he calls it the roaring of a beast instead of the praying of a man. His inward grief over his unconfessed sin was such that his bones began to wax old. They are the pillars of the house, the strongest part of the entire system, but even they seemed as if they would decay. He was brought into ill health of body through the torment of his mind. He could find no peace, and yet he would not go and confess the sin. He was still sullenly looking up to God, not as a sinner, but as a saved one, and talking to God as if he were righteous, while at the same time his sin was crushing him. All this while, I say, his grief gathered, and there was only one cure for it: he ought to have confessed it to the Lord. As soon as it was confessed he was forgiven. How quick was that act of amnesty and oblivion! David said, “I have sinned,” and Nathan said, “The Lord hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.” If pardon be so near at hand, who would linger a moment? Who among us would not at once repair to our heavenly Father, and with our heads in his bosom sob out the confession of our sin? Because he is so ready to forgive we ought to be ready to confess.

     I may be addressing a child of God, or one who thought that he was a child of God, who has grievously fallen. My brother, go thou with haste to thy Lord, and acknowledge thine iniquity. He bids thee come. Only confess thine iniquity in which thou hast transgressed against the Lord, and he will have mercy upon thee now. And oh, what a relief it is when you have discharged the load, and when the voice of mercy has said, “Thou art forgiven: go in peace.” What would I give for that, says one. Well, thou needest not give anything. Do but confess, and if thou confess into the ear of God, with faith in his dear Son, for Jesus’ sake he will accept thee, and seal thy pardon home to thy soul. Come and unburden thy spirit at the bleeding feet of the Redeemer, and leap for joy.

     Thus have I tried to encourage the Lord’s own children to own their sins. I do not know for whom these words are particularly meant, but I am driven to say them, for I labour under the strong impression that there is some child of God here who is almost despairing of the Lord’s mercy and who is well nigh ready to renounce his profession of religion because he fears that the Lord’s mercy is clean gone for ever. My dear friend, judge not so harshly of him who loves thee still. Did he not love us when we were dead in trespasses and sins, and will he not love us if now our sin has wounded us again? He never loved us because we were good, and therefore as he knew all that we should be, he will not change in his affection. He “commendeth his love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly”—died for us as sinners. If you never did come to him—if all your religion has been a mistake— do not begin to argue upon that matter, but come to Jesus now, for the first time. Many and many a score times have I done that. When the devil has said, “Your faith has been mere delusion, and your experience has been all a fiction,” and I have replied, “I will not dispute with you, Sir Devil, but I will just go to Christ as a sinner, for I know he came to seek and to save sinners, even lost ones, such as I am; and I will humbly ask him anew to be my Saviour.” That is a short cut to comfort, may the Spirit lead you into it. Be not baffled by Satanic suggestions, but come to Jesus over again, and over again, and over again, “to whom coming as unto a living stone”— looking unto Jesus— not having looked once, but continually looking and trusting in him.

     II. But now I must have a few minutes, while we use this same subject in reference TO THE AWAKENED SINNER.

     Some in this place, perhaps, have lately been aroused to a consciousness of guilt before God; but one thing they have not done, they have never made confession of their sin. They feel the burden of it in a measure, and they will feel it more, but as yet they have kept their grief to themselves: neither to God nor man have they poured out their souls. To speak to our fellow-men about our heart troubles is comparatively of little use, and yet I would not recommend persons under conviction of sin always to hide their souls’ sorrows from their Christian friends. They might often be much helped if they would communicate their thoughts to those who have gone further on the road to heaven, and know more about Christ and the way of salvation. Yet, for the most part, a wounded conscience, like a wounded stag, delights to be alone that it may bleed in secret. It is very hard to get at a man under conviction of sin; he retires so far into himself that it is impossible to follow him. Ah, you poor mourners, I know how you try to conceal your pains. I will tell you one reason why you do not like to tell your mother, your sister, your brother. It is because you think your feelings are so strange : you suppose that nobody ever felt like you; you have the notion that you must be the worst person that ever lived, and therefore you are ashamed to tell what you feel for fear your friends should scout you out of their society. Ah, poor soul; you do not know; you do not know. We have all been on your road. When you tell of your sin, you put us in memory of the way in which we talked, perhaps five-and-twenty years ago, or more, when we, top, felt sin a burden as you feel it now. When you tell us of the greatness of your sin, and think that we shall surely despise you, and never speak to you again, tears of joy are in our eyes to think that you feel as we did. We are glad to discover your tender and contrite spirit; we only wish that thousands felt as you do. Do you not remember what George Whitefield said when his brother at the dinner-table said that he was a lost soul? Mr. Whitefield said, “Thank God,” and his brother wondered.  “Why,” said Whitefield, “Jesus came into the world to seek and to save that which was lost. “The more black you think yourself to be, the brighter is our hope of you; when you poor tremblers give yourselves an awful character we know it incorrect, and we do not wish to contradict you, but we are glad to hear you say it, and to know that you feel it, because now we see in you that which will prepare you to value a precious Christ. A man who says, “I am well clothed,” is not likely to accept Christ’s righteousness. But when he cries, “How naked I am, how useless are these fig-leaves,” he is the man for Christ’s robes. When you meet with a man who says “I am full; I feast on my own righteousness,” what is the good of inviting him to the gospel banquet? You must invite him, for you are commanded to do so; but he will refuse to come. But when you meet with another who is hungry, and faint, and ready to die— ah! there is the man for your money. Bid him come where the oxen and the fatlings are killed, and all things are ready. His mouth is watering while you speak to him, and he will come with you, and sit down at the banquet of the King. We are glad, poor sinner, to hear your tale; and therefore the next time you meet with a Christian, I would advise you to tell him a little of it. But still that is not what you most want. You need to lay bare your deep sorrow before your God; and, oh, if you do it, there stands the promise, “He that confesseth and forsaketh his sins shall find mercy. “Confession before God was never sincerely offered but absolution from the Most High was sure to follow.

     Remember that, even though you do not go and tell the Lord, he knows already, and therefore concealment is in vain. He needs not your confession for his information, but for your own benefit. But if you do not confess to him, you certainly will never obtain pardon, for there is not between the covers of the holy Bible a single intimation that God will ever pardon unconfessed sin. If you cover and cloak it, and feel no repentance about it, and do not bring it to Christ, you cannot expect to receive mercy from the offended Lord.

     Now, it happens with some that, though they are conscious of sin,  they do not confess it; and what is the result? Why, it increases their misery. It is impossible that you should find peace while sin continues to gather in your soul. It is a festering wound: the lancet must be let in, there cannot be rest until it is so. I have known a sinner before confession of sin feel as if he could lay violent hands upon himself, so intense was his anguish. Well do I remember repeating to myself the words of the prophet, “My soul chooseth strangling rather than life,” for of all the tortures in this world an awakened conscience,  pressed down with a sense of guilt, is the worst. The Spanish Inquisition invented cruel racks and thumbscrews, but there is no inquisitor like a man’s own conscience, for it can put the screw upon the soul to the uttermost degree. Let a man’s conscience loose upon him, and at once the worm commences to gnaw, and the fire begins to burn. They used in olden times to ascribe the torment of hell to the devil: but we do not want any devil for that; conscience can measure out an infinite misery. Let but remorse lay its thongs of wire upon a man, and it will scarify him, and gash him to the very soul. So long as a man continues silent before God, and does not own his sin, if the Lord really has begun to deal with him, he will have to suffer more and more from the pangs of conscience.

     But, then, increase of sorrow accompanied by this silence is a very dangerous piece of business. I spoke cheeringly just now of those of you who are under a sense of sin, but it was only in the hope that you would go to God, through Jesus Christ, and confess your sin; for if you refuse to do so, your position is one of very great danger. “What danger?” say you. Why, if sin remain festering within you, and your sorrow increases, you will come to despair altogether, and that is an awful prospect indeed. You remember John Bunyan’s picture of the man in the iron cage? There is not in the “Pilgrim’s Progress” an incident more terrible. Now, you are forging the bars of a cage for yourself as long as you refuse to acknowledge your guilt before God. Those who are in the iron cage of despair will tell you that they delayed to acknowledge sin, that they refused to accept Christ, that they suppressed their feelings, and so brought themselves into bondage. They were pleased to hear ministers preach about conviction of sin, and speak of deep sorrow, and the like; but they did not care to be told that it was their duty, there and then, to believe in Jesus: they could not endure that doctrine. They liked to be comforted in the notion that there was something good in feeling a sense of sin, apart from believing; whereas, if a soul will not believe in Christ, its sense of sin may be an evil instead of a benefit to it. Nothing can be good that is unsalted with faith. “With all thy sacrifices thou shalt offer salt and if the salt of faith be absent, the sacrifice is unacceptable.

     We have known some who, through getting into despair, have afterwards fallen into utter hardness of heart. They used to be malleable; they used to feel the strokes of the divine hammer; now they feel nothing, but are as hard as the blacksmith’s anvil. They have got into such a condition that they wickedly say, if God will save them they will be saved, but they have nothing to do with it. They once were tender; now they are presumptuous. They say “there is no hope,” and therefore, on the theory of the old proverb that they may as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb, in all probability they will go on to commit worse sins than ever. Some of the biggest sinners that have ever disgraced the name of humanity have been persons who were once tender of conscience and were on the point of conversion, but they did violence to conviction, came to despair of ever entering heaven, and in the end determined that as they must go to hell they would go there with a high hand and an outstretched arm. He who has seen heaven’s gate open before him, but has not stepped in, is the man who above all others is likely to find the hottest place in hell. You may think it strange for me to say so, but I know it is so, for such persons go by the way of despair into hardness of heart, and then into the grossest transgression. Yes, and this is the back door to atheism, for when a man feels that God and he never can be at peace,— when he has made up his mind that he never will confess his sin,— what is the first thing that he does to comfort himself? He says— “There is no God.” And what does the declaration, “There is no God,” mean? It means this, that the man feels that he would be much more happy if there were no God. That is what it means, and nothing more. It is the man’s wish rather than his creed, and he wishes it because he despairs and his heart has grown hard. Oh, when God makes your heart soft as wax, mind who puts the seal upon it. If the Spirit of the living God set not the seal of deep repentance and holy faith upon the softened soul, there is another that will put the seal of despair, and perhaps of atheism and of defiant sin upon it ; and then woe worth the day to you that ever you were born. Refusal to confess is a perilous thing for your soul. I am sure that when a man begins to be awakened to a sense of sin, if he tarries long in that condition he is being entangled moment by moment in the Satanic web. The devil cares little about careless sinners. “Let them alone,” says he, “they will come to me by-and-by,” And as for very religious people who possess no true godliness, the devil does not bother them; he says, “No, let the hypocrites be in peace; they are going my way as nicely as possible. Why should I arouse them by causing them mistrust as to their state?” But the moment that souls are startled into a sense of sin the devil says to himself, “I shall lose them,” and so he plies all his arts, and uses all his craft, if by any means he may prevent their escape. Man, now is your time to flee away to the city of refuge without tarrying even for an hour, for even now all the devils in hell are after you. They did not trouble about you before, but they are after you now with sevenfold energy. Close in with Christ, then, and at once escape them all. Oh, may the Spirit of God enable you now to find eternal mercy through the confession of your sin to God and looking to Christ for mercy— the mercy which he is so willing to give.

     This is the last point. There is no hope, then, of any comfort to a bruised heart except by its confessing its guilt. I would earnestly urge upon every one conscious of sin to go with troubled heart and heaving bosom and confess his transgression to the Lord at once. I would do it in detail, if I were you. I find it sometimes profitable to myself to read the ten commandments, and to think over my sins against each one of them. What a list it is, and how it humbles you in the dust to read it over! When you come to that command— “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” “Ah,” say you, “I have never been guilty there.” But when you are told by the Saviour that a lustful glance breaks that command, how it alters all! Then you perceive that fleshly desires and imaginations are all sins, and you humble yourself in the dust. You read also, “Thou shalt not kill,” — “Well,” say you, “I never killed anyone”; but you change your note when you hear that “he that is angry with his brother without a cause is a murderer.” When you see the spirituality of the law, and the way in which you have broken all the commandments ten thousand times over, be sure to confess it all, right sorrowfully. I find it good to look all round sometimes, and think, “I am a father; there are my sins against my children. Have I trained them up for God as I should? I am a husband; there are sins in that relationship. I am a master; there are sins in that position:  how have I acted towards my servants? I am a pastor; how many sins occur in that relationship?” Why, you will not look around you, if God opens your eyes, without being helped to see what you ought to confess. Take the very limbs of your body, and they will accuse you:  sins of the brain in evil thoughts, sins of the eye in idle glances, sins of this little naughty member, the tongue, which does more mischief than all the rest. There is no member without its own special sins. There are sins of the ear— how often have we heard the gospel, but heard it in vain. On the other hand, have we not too often lent a willing ear to unholy words, and to wicked stories against our neighbours? I need not read over the calendar of our offences from this pulpit; go and write it out in the closet, and pour out a flood of tears over it. If you are willing to confess, everything will help you to confession, and there is good reason for doing it at once. May the Holy Spirit work with its tenderest influences to melt your heart into contrition.

     Remember while you are confessing, that each one of your sins has a world of evil in it. There is a mine of sin in every little sin. You have taken up a spider’s nest sometimes — one of those little money-spinner’s nests— and you have opened it. What thousands of spiders you find hanging down and hastening away in divers directions. What a myriad of them. So in every sin there is a host of sins. There is a conglomeration of many kinds of evil in every transgression, therefore be humbled on account of each one. Confess your iniquities before God, and accept the punishment as being your righteous due. There stands the block, and there is the place for your neck; put it down, and say, “Lord, I submit to my sentence, and if thou biddest the headsman strike I cannot complain.” Go before God as the citizens of Calais came before the English king, with ropes about their necks. Submit yourselves to the punishment due to your offence, and then make an appeal ad misericordiam, to the mercy of God alone, and say, “For Christ’s sake — for his blood’s sake— have mercy upon me.” There is no man, woman, or child in this Tabernacle who shall do that to-night who shall be rejected; for “him that cometh to me,” saith Christ, “I will in nowise cast out.” And this is the right way of coming—the way of confessing your sin and acknowledging the evil of it and turning to the great Substitute for deliverance. Say that you deserve to be sent to hell, and cast yourself upon the mercy of God in Christ Jesus, trusting in the great Surety and Sacrifice, and you shall be accepted in and through him. This is the way of life, and he who runs therein shall find salvation.

     May the Lord, by his Holy Spirit, lead every one of you without exception to mourn your sin, and rest in Jesus. Amen.
 



A Cheery Word in Troublous Times

By / Oct 29

A CHEERY WORD IN TROUBLOUS TIMES.

 

“Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it
was told me.”— Acts xxvii. 25.

 

THE presence of a brave man in the hour of danger is a very great comfort to his companions. It is a grand thing to observe Paul so bold, so calm, in the midst of all the hurly-burly of the storm, and talking so cheerfully, and so encouragingly, to the crew and to the soldiery and to the prisoners. You must have seen in many events in history that it is the one man, after all, that wins the battle: all the rest play their parts well when the one heroic spirit lifts the standard. Every now and then we hear some simpleton or other talking against a “one-man ministry,” when it has been a one-man ministry from the commencement of the world to the present day; and whenever you try to have any other form of ministry, except that of each individual saint discharging his own ministry, and doing it thoroughly and heartily and independently and bravely in the sight of God, you very soon run upon quicksands. Recollect, Christian man, that wherever you are placed you are to be the one man, and you are to have courage and independence of spirit and strength of mind received from God, that with it you may comfort those around you who are of the weaker sort. So act that your confidence in God shall strengthen the weak hands and confirm the feeble knees, and your calm quiet look shall say to them that are of a faint heart, “Be strong; fear not.”

     If you are to do this, and I trust you will do it, in the sick chamber, in the midst of the troubles of life, in the church, and everywhere else, you must be strong yourself. Take it as a good rule that nothing can come out of you that is not in you. You cannot render real encouragement to others unless you have courage within yourself. Now, the reason why Paul was able to embolden his companions was that he had encouraged himself in his God; he was calm, or else he could not have calmed those around him. Imagine him excited and all in a tremble, and yet saying, “Sirs, be of good cheer.” Why they would have thought that he mocked them, and they would have replied, “Be of good cheer yourself, sir, before you encourage us.” So my dear brothers and sisters, you must trust God and be calm and strong, or else you will not be of such service in the world and in the church as you ought to be. Get full, and then you will run over, but you can never fill others till you become full yourselves. Be yourselves “strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might,” and then you will be as a standard lifted up to which the timid will rally.

     At this time we are going to speak very little about Paul, but a great deal to ourselves. May God speak to us! May the Holy Spirit cheer our hearts, and lead us into the way of peace and power. If Paul was strong it was because he believed God: let us speak about that faith. Paul, being strong, spake words of good cheer to others: let us, in the second place, see whether we cannot speak words of encouragement to our comrades in distress. We will finish up with such words as God may give us.

     I. First, then, PAUL WAS STRONG BECAUSE HE BELIEVED. Faith makes men strong— not in the head, but in the heart. Doubting people are generally headstrong— the Thomas-sort of people who obstinately declare that they will not believe unless they can have proofs of their own choosing. If you read certain newspapers, journals, quarterly reviews, and so on, you will see that the doubting people who are always extolling scepticism and making out that there is more faith in their doubt than in half the creeds, and so on, are particularly strong in the upper region, namely, in the head, only it is that sort of head-strength which implies real weakness, for obstinacy seldom goes with wisdom. They are always sneering at believers as a feeble folk, which is a clear sign that they are not very strong themselves; for evermore is this a rule without exception, that when a man despises his opponent he is himself the party who ought to be despised. When certain writers rave about “evangelical platitudes,” as they commonly do, they only see in others a fault with which they are largely chargeable themselves. Anybody who glances at the sceptical literature of the present day will bear me out that the platitudes have gone over to the doubting side of the house. No people can write such fluent nonsense, and talk such absurdity, as the school of modem doubt and “culture:” they think themselves the wisest of the wise, but, professing to be wise, they have become fools, and I know what I say. It is true that the evangelical party had become flat and stale, but the other party have beaten us at that. They are more dull, more stale, and more unprofitable by far. When a man leaves faith he leaves strength; when he takes up with “liberal” views in religion, and does not believe anything in particular, he has lost the bone and sinew of his soul. It is true all round, in all things, that he who firmly believes has an element of power which the doubter knows nothing of. Even if a man be somewhat mistaken in what he believes, there is a power in his faith though it may in part be power for mischief: there is, however, in a believer a world of power for good if the right thing be believed. Paul was a believer in God, and so became strong in heartland was on board the foundering vessel the centre of hope, the mainstay of courage.

      But notice that Paul's faith was faith in God. “I believe God,” said he. Nobody else in the ship could see any hope in God. With the exception of one or two like-minded with Paul they thought that God had forsaken them, if indeed they thought of God at all. But there had that night stood by Paul’s side an angel fresh from heaven, bright with the divine presence, and, strengthened by his message, Paul said, “I believe God.” That was something more than saying “I believe in in God”: this many do and derive but slender comfort from the belief. But “I believe God, believe him, believe his truthfulness, believe the word that he has spoken, believe his mercy and his power. I believe God.” This made Paul calm, peaceful, strong. Would to God that all professing Christians did really believe God.

      Believing God, he believed the message that God had sent him, drank in every word and was revived by it. God had said “Fear not Paul, I have given thee all them that sail with thee.” He believed it. He felt certain that God, having promised it, was able to perform it; and amidst the howling of the winds Paul clung to that promise. He was sure that no hair of any man’s head would be harmed. The Lord had said the preserving word and it was enough for his servant. Has he said it, and shall he not do it? Has he spoken it, and shall it not come to pass? He believed God that it should be even as it was told him.

     And he did that—mark you, dear friends—when there was nothing else to believe in. “I believe God,” said he. He might have said to the centurion, if he had pleased, “I do not believe in the sailors: they are evidently nonplussed, and do not know what to do. We are driven before the wind, and their sails and tackle are useless. I do not believe in the men themselves, for they are plotting to get into the boat, and leave the ship and all in it to go to the bottom. We must have them onboard, but still I have no trust in them, their help is of small account compared with the divine aid.” He did not say “I believe in you, the centurion, that you can maintain military discipline, and so we shall have a better opportunity of escaping.” No, the ship was breaking up. They had put ropes all round her, undergirding her; but he could clearly perceive that all this would not avail. The fierce Euroclydon was sweeping the vessel hither and thither, and driving her towards the shore: but God he calmly said, “I believe God.” Ah, that is a grand thing — to believe God when the winds are out, — to believe God when the waves howl like so many wild beasts, and follow one upon another like a pack of wolves all seeking to devour you. “I believe God.” This is the genuine breed of faith— this which can brave a tempest. The common run of men’s faith is fair-weather faith, faith which loves to see its beautiful image mirrored in the glassy wave, but is far away when the storm clouds are marshalling the battle. The faith of God’s elect is the faith that can see in the dark, the faith that is calm in the tumult, the faith that can sing in the midst of sorrow, the faith that is brightest when everything around her is black as midnight. “I believe God,” said he, when he had nothing else to believe in. “My soul, wait thou only upon God, for my expectation is from him.” Say thou, O my soul, “Though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea, yet will we not fear, for God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

“God liveth still!
Trust, my soul, and fear no ill;
Heaven’s huge vault may cleave asunder,
Earth’s round globe in ruins burst;
Devil’s fellest rage may thunder,
Death and hell may spend their worst;
Then will God keep safe and surely
Those who trust in him securely:
Wherefore then, my soul, despair?
Mid the shipwreck, God is there.”

     Since the apostle Paul believed God thus truly and really, he was not ashamed to say so. He said openly to all those around him, “There shall not a hair of your heads perish, for I believe God.” Now, it is not so easy to thrust out your faith and expose it to rough weathers, and to the hearing of rough men. Many a man has believed the promise but has not quite liked to say so, for there has been the whisper in his soul, “Suppose it should not come true, then how the enemy will rejoice! How those that listened to me will be saddened when they find that I was mistaken.” Thus does the devil cause faith to be dumb, and God is robbed of his honour. Under the name of prudence there lurks an unbelieving selfishness. Brother, lend me your ear that I may whisper in it— “You do not believe at all.” That is not the legitimate sort of believing. Genuine faith in God speaks out and says, “God is true, and I will stake everything on his word.” It does not swallow its own words and keep its thoughts to itself; but when the time comes, and others are in difficulty and doubt, it cheers them by crying out, “I believe God.” It is not ashamed to say, “The Lord Jesus, whose I am and whom I serve, stood by me this night, and spoke with me, and I avow it.” I would to God all Christians were prepared to throw down the gauntlet, and to come out straight; for if God be not true let us not pretend to trust him, and if the gospel be a lie let us be honest enough to confess it. But if it be true, wherefore should we doubt it and speak with bated breath? If God’s promise be true why should we distrust it? What excuse is there for this hesitancy? “Oh,” says one, “but that might be running great risks.” Risks with God, sir? Risks about God’s keeping his word? It cannot be. “Let God be true and every man a liar.” Let heaven and earth return to chaos and old night, but the Most High cannot break his word or run back from his promise. Therefore, O ye Pauls, if ye receive a message from the Most High, publish it abroad and let your faith be known.

     I should like that little word to drop into the ears of some of you who think you love Christ, but have never told your love— you that are hiding in the background there. Come out and show yourselves!

      As for you who have long avowed your Saviour, do it more and more, and

“Speak his word, though kings should hear,
Nor yield to sinful shame.”

     II. Now, if we have any measure of the faith of Paul, let us try whether we cannot CHEER OTHERS AS PAUL DID. Let the language of the text be on our tongues, “Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.”

     First, you will meet with seeking souls. They have not found Christ yet, but they are hungering and thirsting after him. They are saying, “Oh that I knew where I might find him!” You that believe God are bound to speak comfortably to them, and say, “Sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.” There is one that is sorrowing for sin. Go and tell him that sorrow for sin is sweet sorrow, and that no man should ever regret that he mourns his faults, but should be glad that God has enabled him to feel a holy grief, a penitential pain. Gotthold tells us that he was called one day to see a man who, when he entered his chamber, burst into many tears; and it was a long time before the good divine could discover what made him so unhappy. At last the man broke out, saying, “Oh, my sin, how I hate it! My sin, how I sorrow over it!” Whereupon Gotthold, who had been sad at the sight of his sadness, smiled and said, “Friend, thy sadness is my gladness. I never behold a happier sight than when I see a man sorrowing for his sin.” “Oh,” said the other, “say you so?” “Yes, indeed,” said he; “there are many mourners who mourn for others, but blessed are they that mourn for themselves. There are many who are sorry because they cannot have their own will; but,” said he, “there are few enough that sorrow because they have had their own will, and have disregarded the will of the Lord. I rejoice,” said he, “for such as you are those for whom Jesus died. Come and trust him, for when there is sorrow for sin there will soon be joy for pardon.” Now, whisper in the ears of those who are penitent. Tell the mourner that God has promised to turn his night into day, and his sackcloth into beauty.

     Perhaps you will meet with another whose condition is that he is pleading daily for mercy. “Oh,” saith he, “I have been praying, and praying, and praying. I cannot let a day pass without asking for forgiveness; but somehow my prayers seem to come back to me. I get no favourable replies.” Brother, to a man in this plight you should speak up, and say, “Be of good cheer, friend, for I believe God, that it shall be even as he told me, and he told me this— Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and ye shall find: knock, and it shall be opened.’” Tell the praying soul that praying breath was never spent in vain, and that in due time “he that asketh receiveth.” To withhold your testimony will be cruelty to the seeking one, and a robbery of God, to whose honour you are bound to speak.

     Possibly you will meet with another who is saying, “I am beginning now to venture myself upon Christ. I am desiring to believe; but oh! mine is such a feeble confidence. I think I trust him, but I am afraid I do not. I know there is no other Saviour, and I do give myself to him; but still I am jealous of my heart, lest mine be not true faith.” Tell that soul that Jesus has plainly said, “Him that cometh to me I will in nowise cast out,” and then say, “Be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as he hath told me.” Tell the trembling heart that Jesus never did yet reject one believer, however trembling might be his trust. Whosoever believeth in him is not condemned. Let the comfort you feel in coming to Christ yourself thus be handed on to other seekers, even as the disciples passed the loaves and fishes among the hungry multitudes.

      Perhaps you will find one who says, “I desire the renewal of my nature. I am so sinful. I can believe in Christ for pardon, but my heart is terribly deceitful, and I feel such strong passions and evil habits binding me that I am sore afraid.” Go and say to that soul, “His name is called Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.” Tell that anxious one that the Lord can take away a heart of stone and give a heart of flesh. Say that Christ has come to bring liberty to the captives, and to set men free from the bonds of sin; and tell them that you believe God, that it will be even as he has told you; and he has told you, and you know it is true, that he will purge you from sin and sanctify you wholly. Any soul and every soul that comes trustingly to Jesus and rests in him shall find sanctification in him, so that sin shall be hated, avoided, and conquered.

     I do not know how I shall manage it, but I wish that I could in two or three words say something that would make every Christian here look out after poor seeking souls with tenfold eagerness. I do not know what to say, except this. There is a brother the less in this house to-night. There was one here two Sabbaths ago who never needed me to tell him to sympathize with anxious souls. He was always up here in the great congregation looking out, and then down in the prayer-meeting below on the same errand. Many persons have been invited from this upper service to go down below, and have there been spoken with by him concerning the Lord Jesus. It was our dear brother Verdon, who was a mighty soul-hunter before the Lord, and he lived to seek after souls. He is gone, and my heart mourns him. Alas, my brother, when shall I ever again see such an one as thou wast? Now, I want each one of you to try to fill up his place. Keep your eye on any who seem to feel the power of the word, and then step up with an encouraging word, somewhat like that of the apostle, “Sirs, I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.”

     Now, there is another set of people who are saved, but they are Little-faiths, and I want you strong-faith people to encourage them, by telling them that you believe God that it shall be even as it was told you. Some of these Little-faiths are conscious of very great inward sin. They thought when they believed in Christ that they would never feel any more conflicts: their notion was that they should be saved from the assaults of sin the moment they were born unto God. But now they discover that the old viper within is not dead. He has had a blow on the head, but he is not dead; they see lusts and corruptions moving within their hearts, and they cannot make it out. Go and tell them that you feel the same, but that, thanks be to God, he giveth you the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. The poor young soul that is just struggling out of darkness into light, and beginning to contend with inward corruption, will be greatly comforted if you thus state your experience, and declare your faith in the ultimate issue.

     In the case of some others of these Feeble-faiths, the trouble is that they are vexed with outward temptation. Many a young man says, “It is hard to be a Christian where I work.” Many a young woman has to say, “Father and mother are against me.” Others have to complain that all their associations in business tempt them to that which is evil, and that they have few to help them. Go and tell them of the Lord all-sufficient. Remind them that “He keepeth the feet of his saints.” Tell them to pray day by day, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Tell them that there is strength enough in Christ to preserve his own. Bid them hide under the shadow of his wings. You have done so, and found a happy shelter, and therefore you may confidently say to them, “Sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.”

     You will find others whose lamentation is, “I am so weak. If I am a Christian yet I am good for nothing. I have little liberty in prayer, or power to edify anybody. I think I am the most useless of all the family.” Tell them that “He giveth power to the weak, and to him that hath no strength he increaseth might.” Tell them that the Lord does not cast away the little ones, but he “carrieth the lambs in his bosom, and doth gently lead those that are with young.” Tell them of the faithfulness and tenderness of the Good Shepherd, and say, “Sirs, be of good cheer: weak as you are, the Lord’s strength will sustain you; and as he has promised to preserve his own, and has evermore preserved me, do not doubt, for it shall be to you even as the Lord has told me.” Perhaps they will say, “Ah, but I am beset by Satan. Blasphemous thoughts are injected into my soul. I am driven to my wits’ end.” Then tell them that the Lord enables his people to cry, “Rejoice not over me, O mine enemy, for though I fall yet shall I rise again.” Tell them that when the enemy cometh in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him. As they feel their danger, point them to their great protector, the Lord Jesus, who has come to destroy the works of the devil, and say, “You will conquer him, you will conquer him yet. The Lord will bruise Satan under our feet shortly. Sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as he has told me.”

      There is much work for happy believers amongst the Feeble-minds, and the Miss Much-afraids, and the Mr. Despondencies, and the like; I earnestly hope that they will set about it.

     Now, if you have performed these tasks, I commend to your attention a third class of persons, namely, those who are greatly tried. God has a very tried people abroad in the world. I learned a lesson the other day which, I think, I never can forget. I was asked after preaching a sermon to go and see a lady who suffered from rheumatism. Now, I know by bitter experience what rheumatism is, but when I saw one whose fingers and hands had all lost their form through pain, so that she was incapable of any motion beyond the mere lifting up of her hand, and the letting it fall again, — when I saw the pain marked on her countenance, and knew that for two-and-twenty years she had suffered an agony, then I said, “You have preached me a sermon upon patience, and I hope I shall profit by it. How dare I be impatient if you have to suffer so?” Now, if you go and see sick folk— and I suppose you do, and if not sickness comes to your own house— say to them, “Sirs, be of good cheer, for it shall be even as God has told me;” and what has he told me? Why, that he will support his people in the severest afflictions. “In six troubles I will be with thee, and in seven there shall no evil touch thee!” Tell them that the Lord will bless his people’s troubles, for “all things work together for good to them that love God.” Tell them that God will bring his people out of the trouble some way or other, for he has said, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.” And if you will tell them these precious things, believing them yourself— for that is the main point— having experienced the truth of them yourself, your testimony will comfort them. You will meet with some that have been bereaved, who have lost the light of their house, and have seen the desire of their eyes taken away with a stroke. Cheer them, and tell them of the sweet things that God has said concerning the bereaved. He is “the Judge of the widow, and the Father of the fatherless,” and do you make a point of declaring your belief that he is so. You will meet with godly folks who are under testing trials. Many young people have to go through severe tests. I mean trials like this “Will you take this situation, young man? The wages are sufficient, are they not?” “Yes, sir, I should be well content, I do not think I shall get a better situation as far as money goes.” “You understand that you will not have the Sabbath day to yourself and that we want no religion here.” Now, young man, what do you say to that? Do not think twice about it, my friend, but say, “No; ‘what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?’” Speak right straight out, and do not be afraid to throw up the tempting offer. Many Christians can tell you, “to be of good cheer,” for if you do this God will bless you. You shall have even in this life your recompense, as well as in the life to come, if you can be decided and steadfast to stand for God and keep his way. I could mention many Christians who would tell you that when they were tested the Lord helped them to stand fast, and that they have to bless him for it every day of their lives; whereas certain others have temporized and given way a little, and they have got out of God’s ways, and have had to run from pillar to post all their lives long, and though they are still Christians yet they never enter into the joy of their Lord. O sirs, be of good cheer when you have to suffer for Christ’s sake, for he is able to give you much more than you will ever lose by him, and above all he will give you peace of conscience, which is worth all the mines of California. Should you come under persecution, any of you, I hope you will be met by your fellow Christians who will tell you not to be afraid, for the Lord can make you increasingly to rejoice the more you are despised and calumniated. Believe you that, and you shall find it true.

     And, O ye tried people of God, ye that have lost the light of his countenance, those of us who rejoice in God would come to you and bear witness that he has only forsaken you for a small moment, but he will return to you in the fulness of his mercy. We believe God that, whether the season be dark or light, and whether the road be rough or smooth, his heart is still the same, and he will not turn aside from the salvation of one of his chosen people.

     Thus, dear friends, you have good scope for your faith to exercise itself in comforting others. Lay yourselves out in this delightful service.

      I have yet another set of good folks to speak to. We have some Christian people about who tremble greatly for the ark of the Lord. I occasionally meet with good brethren, very good brethren, who are tempted to commit the sin of Uzzah— to put forth their hand to steady the ark because the oxen shake it; as if God could not protect his own cause. Some say that the good men are all dying: I have even heard that they are all dead, but I am not quite sure of it; and they ask as the fathers fall asleep, and one after another of the pillars of the house of God are taken away, what will become of the church? What will become of the church? “My Father! My Father! The chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof!” What will become of the truth, the cause, and the church? You know the good Methodist woman’s outcry at the funeral sermon when the minister said, “Now that this eminent servant of the Lord is departed we know of no one to fill his place. The standard-bearers are removed and we have none left at all to be compared with them. It seems as if the glory were departing and the faithful failing from among men.” The worthy mother in Israel called out from the aisle. “Glory be to God, that’s a lie!” Well, I have often felt inclined to say the same when I have heard a wailing over the absence of good and great men, and melancholy prophecies of the awful times to come, “Glory be to God, he will never let his church die out for want of leaders; he has a grand reserve somewhere.” If all the men who preach the gospel to-day were struck down in the pulpit with apoplectic fits to-morrow, the Holy Spirit would still qualify men to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are none of us necessary to him, nor is any mere man necessary to God. Do not get into that state of mind which makes you attach undue value to men or means. The salvation of souls is God’s work, and if it be God’s work it will go on. Be quite sure of that. There is no fear of any work falling to the ground which has Jehovah for its builder. In this church of ours at the Tabernacle we gradually lose our leaders, and I have heard it said, and I must confess that I have almost thought, “If So-and-so were gone nobody would ever fill her place or his place.” Such earnest and holy individuals seem to be essential, and we feel that their removal would be fatal. Yet it is not so, dear friends; it is not so. Others arise, and God’s work still goes on. Christians ought to be as confident as the heroic Spartans. The old men advanced in procession, and they said, “We have been brave,” and they showed their scars: and then the strong men in the prime of their days followed and said, “We are brave,” and they bared their arms for war. Then if anyone wondered what would happen when the old men were gone, and when the strong men were slain in battle, there came the boys and the striplings behind, and they said, “We will be brave, for we are Spartans!” I see my grey-headed brethren going off the stage, and I bless God that, though they do not say it, I can say it of them— “They have been brave.” Blessed be God, we have also a good staff of active workers of whom I may say, though they must not say it, “They are brave.” And yonder are the young soldiers coming on— the young men and the young women. I see in their very faces that they are smiling at the thought of being numbered with the hosts of Christ, and I am persuaded they mean to be brave, and to stand up for the good old cause, and for the bloodstained banner of Christ, even as their fathers have done. Instead of the fathers shall be the children: God make them far better soldiers than we have been. Brethren, do not let us be discouraged, for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me; “the Lord hath been mindful of us, he will bless us.”

      Many minds are in a state of great distress about the spread of error. I do not know what is going to happen to England according to the weeping prophets. The signs of the times are very bad, and the would-be prophets say that a dreadful storm is coming on. My barometer does not indicate anything of the kind, but theirs stands at “much rain,” or "stormy.” Not long ago I walked with a very excellent man, whose name I will not mention, because I think he must have been ill that morning. He told me that he believed that he should live to see the streets of London run with blood, on account of the unbridled democracy, the atheism, and the radicalism of the times. In fact, he thought that everything was out of joint, and we were going— I do not know where. It is not long ago, and I remember that I pulled him by the sleeve, and said, “But, my dear friend, God is not dead.” Now, that is my comfort. God is not dead, and he will beat the devil yet. As surely as Jesus Christ won the victory on the cross, he will win the victory over the world’s sin. It is true it is a hard time for Christianity, and infidels are fighting us with new arguments; but when I think of them I feel inclined to say what the Duke of Wellington said at Waterloo to the generals "Hard pounding, gentlemen! hard pounding! but we will see which will pound the longest.” And so we say. It may be “hard pounding” for the Christian church, but we shall see who can pound the longest. Hitherto— these eighteen hundred years or more—the gospel gun has gone on pounding, and has neither been spiked nor worn out. As for our opponents, they have changed their guns a good many times. Our gospel cannon has blown their guns and gun carriages and gunners all to pieces; and they have had to set up new batteries every year or two. They change their modes, their arguments, their tactics, but we glory in the same cross as Paul did, and preach the same gospel as Augustine, and Calvin, and Whitefield, and the like. All along the testimony of Jesus Christ has still been the same. The precious blood has been exalted, and men have been bidden to believe in Jesus. Pound away, gentlemen! We shall pound the longest, and we shall win the day. If we believe God in that fashion, let us turn round to our discomfited brethren, and say to them, “Sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.”

     The last class that I shall notice will be our brethren and sisters who are labouring for Christ. Sometimes workers for the Lord get cast down. "I have taught a class for years,” says one, “and seen no fruit.” “I have been preaching at the comer of the street for months but have never heard of a conversion,” says another. "I have been visiting the lodging-houses, but I have never met with a convert.” Well, dear brother, do you think that you have preached Jesus Christ, and nothing has come of it? If you do, you must be a very unbelieving brother. I do not believe it for a moment. I believe God, that it shall be even as he has told me, and he has said, “My word shall not return unto me void, but it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” Perhaps you preach unbelievingly. Now, an unbelieving word is not God’s word. If you preach confidently, and teach trustfully, believing in the power of the Spirit of God, and so exhibiting Jesus Christ to your children and to your hearers, there are sure to be results. The raindrops return not to heaven, and the snow flakes climb not back to the treasure-house, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud: and even so shall God’s word be. It must prosper in the thing whereto he has sent it. Beloved brother, do not give up. Dear sister, do not be discouraged. Go on! Go on! If you do not see results to-day you must wait and work on, for the harvest will come. “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” Be not so cowardly as to say, “I will leave the work.” You are not to win a battle in a moment, or reap a harvest as soon as you sow the seed. Keep on! “Be stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” We say this to you because we are confident ourselves, and would have you confident also. Sirs, be of good cheer. God has been true to us, and given us success; and we believe that it shall be to you even as he has told us.

     III. Now, I have done the sermon, but I had intended, if time had held out, to give ONE OR TWO WORDS OF PERSONAL TESTIMONY TO THE FAITHFULNESS OF GOD by declaring that the Lord has always acted to me as he has promised me. I will give one or two.

     When I was converted to God, as I read the Scriptures I found that believers ought to be baptized. Now, nobody around me saw things in that light: but it did not matter to me what they thought, for I looked at it carefully for myself. Parents, friends, all differed, but believers’ baptism seemed to me to be scriptural, and, though I was a lad, God gave me grace to be honest to my conscience, and to follow the Lord in that respect as fully as 1 could. Have I had any cause to regret it? It seemed then that I might soon have grave cause for doing so, but I have had none: it has, on the other hand, often been a great comfort to my soul to feel that I did not trifle with my convictions. And I should like to urge you, young people, whether on that matter or any other, if you have received light from God, never to trifle with it. Follow the Lord fully, and I can say, as the result of actual experience, “Sirs, be of good cheer. No harm will come to you if you are faithful to God and to your consciences.”

     Again, when I came to London as a young minister, I knew very well that the doctrines which I preached were by no means popular, but I for that very reason brought them out with all the more emphasis. What a storm was raised! I was reading the other day a tirade of abuse which was poured upon me about twenty years ago. I must have been a horridly bad fellow, according to that description, but I was pleased to observe that it was not I that was bad, but the docrines which I preached. I teach the same truths now; and after having preached them these four-and-twenty years or so, what can I say of the results? Why, that no man loses anything by bringing the truth right straight out. If he believes a doctrine, let him speak it boldly. Mr. Slapdash, as Rowland Hill called the bold preacher, will after all succeed. Let no minister say, “That is too Calvinistic, and Calvinism is at a discount; that is too nonconforming, and if you dare to speak against the Church of England somebody will be very vexed. Now, trim your sails. Preach smoothly. Whenever you have anything to say, polish it, and put it in such a neat way that nobody can object. As the great goddess Diana now a days is unsectarianism, try and be unsectarian, and all that is sweet and soothing and velvety and treacly, and you will succeed.” Now, how has it turned out with me? I wish to bear this witness, not about myself, mark, but about the truth which I have preached. Nothing has succeeded better than preaching out boldly what I have believed, and standing to it in defiance of all opposition, and never caring a snap of the fingers whether it offended or whether it pleased. Young man, if you are beginning life now, I charge you begin so that you can keep on, with a straightforward, honest reliance in God, for be sure of this, the truth will reward those who love it, and all who lose for its sake are great gainers. Be steadfast in following your convictions. I cannot help saying it, because some of you, perhaps, are beginning to temporize a little. I would say to you, “Stand up straight, and tell out out the truth, and then be of good cheer, for I believe God, that it shall be even as he has told me.”

     May God grant that this little personal testimony may tend to put backbone into certain Christians, for we have a molluscous company of professors about, who do not believe anything, but shape their creed according to the mind of the last person they meet. Go, dear brethren, and pray God to cleanse your hearts of that evil if you have ever indulged it. Believe God. Take every letter of his Book and hang to it as for dear life, and in little as well as in great things keep to the statutes and precepts and ordinances and doctrines of the Lord, as they are committed to you. As surely as you do this the Lord of Hosts will bless you. First rest in Jesus by a simple faith in him, and then treasure up his every word, and keep his every command. So shall the blessing of God be with you henceforth and for ever. May his Holy Spirit work this in you! Amen.



A Family Sermon

By / Oct 29

A Family Sermon

 

“And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark…. And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood.”— Genesis vii.1 and 7.

 

GOD in infinite grace had entered into covenant with Noah that he would preserve him and his family alive. The tenor of that covenant you will find in the 18th verse of the 6th chapter. “With thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee.” There was a positive foretelling of Noah’s coming into the ark and finding safety. The thing was fixed, and ordained so to be, and yet, when the time came, Noah was not carried into the ark by force, nor lifted into it against his will by a benevolent violence. He was bidden to come into the ark in the most natural manner possible; and he entered it voluntarily and cheerfully. He and his family left their houses to find a home in the ark, and so they were saved. The covenant promise and purpose were fulfilled, but Noah acted in perfect freedom, as much choosing to go into the ark as others chose to keep out. Now, beloved, there is a decree in heaven ordaining the salvation of the Lord’s chosen people. It is useless to deny that decree, for even if it were not so, yet no difficulty would be withdrawn, it would only be shifted to another place. Some of us, instead of denying predestination, like to think upon it, and find rivers of consolation springing from the everlasting purpose of the living God. But, albeit that God hath purposed and decreed the salvation of his elect, yet this by no means prevents our speaking in the Lord’s name to all men; nor does it set aside the necessity that those men should cheerfully accept the gospel of God, and arouse themselves to obey its command, by the power of grace. My hearer, I cannot tell whether thy name is written in the Lamb’s book of life from before the foundation of the world, but I can assure thee that to thee is the word of this salvation sent, and that it bids thee believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, with this assurance— that if thou doest so thou shalt be saved, for so hath the Lord most solemnly declared. The method of the divine arrangement involves an active consent on our part and a willing obedience to the gospel command. The purpose is sure, but it is unknown and unrevealed till the gospel is made known and brought home with effectual power so that the heart accepts it, the spirit obeys it, and the man is saved — saved as a free agent, saved as a voluntary being, yet not saved apart from the secret, almighty purpose of the Most High, nor without the effectual working of his grace. And so we come here, at this time, believing that there are some in this house concerning whom the Lord hath purposed that they shall be Christ’s in the day of his appearing. We address you all hoping that the Spirit of God will apply the word with special power to the chosen, that they may see that they themselves must believe in Jesus, — that they must be actively awakened to repentance, to prayer, to a change of life, to confidence in Christ. When this shall happen, then shall the covenant purpose be known to them, and fulfilled in them, for they shall be saved from the wrath to come. Not knowing, therefore, who is to come into this net, we cast it into the sea, believing that Christ knows every fish in the sea and what fish will come to the net. We do not wish to know this ourselves, for it is quite enough for us to know how to cast in the net and to be fishers of men. The practical work belongs to us, and the result we leave with the Lord.

     There are two things in the two texts. The first is the call, — “The Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark.” The second is the obedience to the call, — “And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the ark.”

     I. First, then, THE CALL.

     We remark, at the outset, that it was a call from the Lord. “The Lord said unto Noah.” You see Noah was familiar with other forms of calls, for he had been the instrument of many. For many years he was a preacher of righteousness, and the principal office of a preacher is to herald his Master, to make proclamations, and to call upon men in the name of the Lord to obey the Lord’s word. “To you, Omen, do I call, and my voice is to the sons of men.” But it was not by such calls as Noah could give that men were to be brought into the ark. For albeit we cannot doubt that he was a faithful minister, and an earnest preacher, and pleaded with the people day and night, yet, sad to tell, not one beside his own family entered into the ark through Noah’s labours. Perhaps his preaching may have been useful to his wife and to his sons’ wives. If so, he had no mean reward for his pains; but to all outside of his family his word seems to have been powerless, as to delivering them from death by the devouring flood. But now he was to know something of another call, differing in many respects, a call from the Lord of heaven and earth whose word is with power. The preacher can only give the general call, and it is his duty to give it to all around him. He is to stand in the streets and lanes of the city, and bid men come to the feast of grace; yea, he is to go into the highways and hedges, and, as far as he can, to compel them to come in. But men do not come upon our compulsion, or upon our call, unless a secret something goes with our pleadings— a mysterious power, quiet, silent, omnipotent, making the voice of man to be the voice of the Holy Ghost, and hiding within the shell of the outward call the kernel of the inner call.

     When the Lord said to Noah, “Come thou,” he did come. He did not put it off, and say that surely it was meant for others; he felt it to be a personal call. It was “Come thou.” He knew that it was for himself. God the Holy Spirit speaks home to the inmost soul when he speaks to save: there is no putting off his voice as though directed to another. Noah did not feel inclined to controvert, or plead for delay, or object, or make excuses, or say he could not, for when the Lord said to Noah “Come thou,” Noah did come. The call was effectual, and resistance was out of the question. It is true the Lord had, in a measure, spoken to the rest of mankind by Noah’s ministry, but that form of the Lord’s speaking in common pleadings and invitations can be resisted to men’s destruction. They could close their ears against the common call, and they did, for it was true then as it is now, “many are called, but few are chosen.” Myriads go to destruction with the honest call of God ringing in their ears which they wilfully reject.

“The worldlings wilfully went on
Rebellious, till their day was past;
They forc’d the lingering deluge down
And perish’d in their sins at last.”

When that silent call comes, which we are accustomed to speak of as “effectual calling,” then, if there be resistance, it is sweetly overcome. The will finds itself no longer headstrong and obstinate; the judgment, darkened before, becomes light; and the soul, aforetime motionless, cries “Draw me, I will run after thee.” Happy are the men to whom such a call comes from God himself. I ask you, my dear hearers now present, whether you have ever had God dealing with you in this powerful, this inward, this spiritual manner; for, if not, I am sure you have never come to Christ. If you have received no call but such as I can give you, such as my brethren who aid me can give you, such as the most earnest evangelist can give you, you have been called in vain, and are yet in your sins. If you are, indeed, the people of God you must know that a voice in your souls, mysteriously persuasive and overpowering, has spoken to you, and said, “Come to Jesus,” and you have yielded to it. Happy are you to-night if you have been so called, for it is written, “Whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”

     Now, note that this call from God was of such a tenor, that Noah was bound personally to come; it was a call to personal action. Noah must come. “Come thou.” It was not a call of this kind— “Now, Noah, sit where you are, and you will be right quietly wait, and see what God will do.” But, no; it said to Noah, “Come thou.” Noah must come, and he must come to the ark too. For him there was only one way of salvation, any more than for anybody else. He must come to the ark which God had bidden him prepare as the instrument of safety: and he must come into it. It was of no use his coming near it, but he must come into it. Within its wooden walls he must hide himself; within its vast chambers he must find a dwelling. And so, dear soul, when God calls thee he will make thee feel that thou must come to Jesus—not wait and delay, but come by a distinct act of the soul to be immediately performed; and you must come to Christ too; for believing in anything else will destroy rather than save you. Your faith must come and place her whole reliance upon the great sacrifice of Christ. You must come into Christ too— so near to him as to be in him, to make him your hiding place and your refuge from the storm. You must have an inward faith which takes you into the very inwards of Christ, hides you in his wounds, conceals you within himself. When God calls Noah it is, “Come into the ark;” and when God calls any sinner to himself it is, “Come to Christ; be hidden in Christ that you may be preserved as the Lord’s choice treasure.” Come, make the Lord Jesus your refuge, your deliverance, and your habitation.

     Now, it would have been of no use for Noah to have gone on making preparations for his dwelling in the ark: that he had done long enough. He had gathered all sorts of food for all the creatures that were to be lodged in that marvellous menagerie; and now that he is bidden to enter the ark he does not say, “I must gather more hay, and store up more corn and fruits.” No, “Come thou into the ark” finished all his labours, he must have done with preparing, and actually enter the refuge. I know some of you have been thinking about your souls, and praying, and reading good books, and attending meetings, and trying to get instruction. Well, so far, so good; but that is not the way by which you will find salvation, the call of God to your soul, is “Come into the ark,” or, in other words, come now to Jesus, and distinctly and finally commit yourself to him, just as Noah put himself in the ark, to sink in the ark or swim in the ark; to live in the ark or die in the ark He committed his whole future to the ark, and that is what you have to do: commit yourself, and all that is about you, entirely to the Lord Jesus Christ. Considerations, resolutions, and preparations must come to an end and you must in very deed “come into the ark.”

“O Jesus, Saviour of the lost,
Our ark and hiding place,
By storms of sin and sorrow toss’d
We seek thy shelt’ring grace.

“Forgive our wand’ring and our sin,
We wish no more to roam;
Open the ark and take us in,
Our soul’s eternal home.”

     Neither would it have done for Noah to go round the ark to survey it again. No doubt he had examined before that ark of gophir wood, and been pleased to think its timbers were so sound. No insect could eat that bitter wood. It was a tree that would not rot. No doubt he was pleased with the architecture of the vessel, for he had built it with no surveyor there but his God, and it was therefore well built. God was the great Master of Noah’s navy-yard, and had given him plans and specifications. It was quite right that Noah should go and look the huge vessel up and down, and see to the caulking, and make sure that it was well pitched within and without with pitch, and so on: but now he must give up surveying and come to inhabiting: he must come into the ark to remain in it. And so I like you, my dear hearers, to take an interest in the person of Christ, and in the way of salvation. It is a very hopeful sign when you survey the Ark of salvation and say, “How stoutly built, and how thoroughly well caulked it is; never were timbers better put together, there is no fear of a leakage here; she will live out every storm that will ever beat upon her; she is a true life-boat upon a stupendous scale.” I like to hear a sinner say “Christ is a great Saviour: I perceive that he is able to save to the uttermost, and I wonder at the wisdom and the goodness of God that he has devised such a way of salvation.” So far, so good, dear friend, but all your admiration of Jesus will not save you. You must come inside his ark. By a simple faith you must at once give yourselves up to Jesus to be saved in him. No longer look at Christ externally, nor survey him even with a grateful eye for what he has done for others, but come now and commit yourself to him. There stands the door, and you have to go through it, and enter into the inner chambers, or you will find no safety.

     Neither would it have been of any use for Noah to go up to the ark and stand against the door and say, “I do not say that I am not going in, and I do not even say that I am not in already; I have got one foot in, but I am a moderate man, and like to be friendly with both sides. I am in and yet not in. If the door was shut I do not know but that it would cut me in halves; but, anyhow, I do not want to be altogether out, and I do not want to be quite in. I should like to stand where I could hurry in as soon as I saw the water coming up; but, still, while there is another opportunity of taking a walk on the dry land I may as well avail myself of it. There is no hurry about it, is there? You see, if a man keeps his finger on the latch of the door he can pop in as soon as ever he sees the first drop of rain descending, or the water coming up anywhere near him; but is there any reason for being so decided all at once? Everybody likes his liberty, you know, and does not want to be shut in before he needs to be, at any rate.” No, that would not do for Noah. God said to him, “Come into the ark,” and he went in at once. Noah must not hesitate, or linger, or halt, but in he must go: right in. And, O dear souls, you that linger, you that are of two opinions, if you were wise, and did but know the danger of being outside, and the bliss of being inside, instead of hesitating you would want to penetrate into the ark’s inmost recesses, and to take your place in the very centre, just as I desire to go right to the heart of Christ, into the very centre of his inmost love, for there only shall I be perfectly at rest. Do not hesitate! Decide! Decide at once! May the Spirit of God lead you so to do. I know you will not delay if the effectual call is now being given; you will be obedient to the heavenly vision at once.

     Now, go a little further. It is God that calls, and Noah mast in very deed, personally and actually come. It is said, “Come into the ark.” Now, notice that word, for it teaches us that in entering the ark Noah would be coming close to his God. “Come thou”—Why did it not say, “Go thou?” Why, because God was inside and meant to be inside, in the ark, along with Noah, and therefore he said, “Come thou.” Oh that blessed “come”! We had it the other night, you know when we preached from, “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden.” “Come that is the grace word; but, oh, it is the glory word too, for Christ will say at the last, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from before the foundation of the world.” “Come.” “God is in Christ Jesus, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them;” and he that comes to Christ comes to God. If you find rest in Christ you will only do what the great God has done before you, for he rests in Christ Jesus. He smells a sweet savour of rest in the Redeemer’s sacrifice. If you delight in Christ you will only do what God has always been doing, for he delights in his Son: “This is my beloved Son,” said he, “in whom I am well pleased.” There is no coming to the Father but by Christ, but he that comes to Christ hath come to the Father, and he hath seen and known the Father. Coming to Christ is coming to God.

     Now observe that what is meant here is this — that dwellers in Christ are dwellers with God. To live in the ark was to live with God. Dwellers in Christ are under the protection of God, for to dwell in the ark was to have God for a guardian. Noah did as much as say, when he passed into the ark, “God is here, and I have come to live with him. God is master and protector here, and I am come to be protected by him.” O soul, when thou canst say, “I trust in Christ,” then thou mayest go on to say, “Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.” You may " joy in God through Jesus Christ, by whom also we have received the atonement.” Ah, how near to God that man is who dwells in Christ! When Christ is all in all to thee, the Father himself loveth thee, and thou mayest rejoice in a consciousness of communion and fellowship with him.

     Now, notice that when Noah came to the ark he must come there to find his all in it. All the food he wants he must find in the ark. Mistress Noah cannot go out to market any more, her daughters can no longer go to the shops and the stores. Noah’s sons cannot farm or trade, or hunt or dig for gold. Houses, lands, treasures, will soon lie deep at the bottom of the flood. All Noah has is in the ark, it is his sole possession, his all, for which he has suffered the loss of all things and rejoices to have so done. From the time of his entrance he is to find all his pleasure in the ark. There are no outdoor amusements for himself or his family; he cannot even find pleasure in the scenery, for that is blotted out by the deluges of rain; the valleys have vanished and even the hills have disappeared as the deluge has increased. If he is to find any pleasure, he must find it inside the ark. It was a melancholy prospect, indeed, if he could look out from the window, but his joy and delight lay within the chambers of the ark, for there was he saved, and there he dwelt with God. All his food also to supply his necessities he must find inside the ark. He had no bam nor warehouse to look to, and there was no port at which he could touch to take in cargo. Whatever need might arise it must be met by the stores within the ark, for there was nothing outside but death. All his work was inside the ark too. He had nothing to do now except within that vessel, no fields to plough, no shops to keep, nothing to do but what was inside the ark. Now, when a soul comes to Christ, it commits itself to him for everything: Christ must feed it; you must eat no longer for your soul anything but the bread of heaven, Jesus must become meat and drink to you, for “his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood is drink indeed.” Now you are to find your pleasure in him— your choicest delights, your sweetest joys, all in Christ Jesus, who is our hope, our crown, our delight, our heaven. And now, henceforth, your service must be to him only. “You are not your own, you are bought with a price,"""" and all that you have to do in this world now lies within the circumference of Christ’s will. The commonest duties of life are now to be brought within the sacred circle. You have nothing to do outside in the waters of sin and self and Satan. You need neither fish in the waters of sin, nor go boating upon the waves of worldliness; you are in danger if you do. You are inside the ark, shut in with God, dead to the world, and only alive in Christ Jesus, that you may be floated in him out of the old world into “the new heavens and the new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.”

     Thus, you see, Noah in coming into the ark left everything and found everything, even as by us the world is forsaken and Jesus becomes our all.

“Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave, and follow thee;
Destitute, despised, forsaken;
Thou, from hence, my all shalt be:
Let the world despise and leave me;
They have left my Saviour too:
But my Lord will not deceive me;
And in him my all I view.”

     Again, Noah must come into the ark never to go out again. “Come thou,” saith God, “into the ark.” He is not to make a visit, but he is to be shut in. As far as that world was concerned, Noah was to be in the ark as long as it lasted. When the new world came, then he walked out in joyful liberty. But you and I, dear brethren, are in Christ, not to be there for a time, but to abide in him for ever and ever. If any man thinketh to get any good by a transient profession of Christ, that man is grossly mistaken. If you imagine that you can take up religion and put it down again— that you can be believers to-day and unbelievers to-morrow, you know nothing of the grace of God; for the grace of God begets a life, and that life is incorruptible and abideth for ever: nothing can destroy it or remove it. He that is really in Christ is like Noah in the ark, he is shut in by God’s own hand. “None shall pluck them out of my hand,” says Christ, and, truly, none shall ever take a soul out of the grip of Jesus Christ who is once within it. Ye come to Christ to be married to him. Ye take him, to have him and hold him from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, and death itself shall not part you. “Who shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord?”

     Noah, according to the Lord’s command, must come in at once. “And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou into the ark” — come at once, “for yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth.” There was a door to the ark, and that door was open, indeed we are not told that it had ever been shut since it had been made. There it stood, wide open. We never hear of anybody that ever went in and was driven out, never hear of a single beast or bird, or even creeping thing, that ever went in there and was cast out. So long as the door was open whosoever came was welcome, but longsuffering was drawing to an end. The time was now come for Noah to go in, and the time was also near when the door must be shut. And so, when the Spirit of God comes to persuade men sweetly in effectual calling, it is always in the present tense. The Lord never called any man by effectual grace to believe in Christ next week. He calls them to believe in Christ directly, and one of the ways by which the effectual call may be judged is its presentness and its pressing character. It is “now, now, NOW. Oh, may the divine Spirit be pleading in some heart at this hour, and saying, “Come to Jesus now, ere the next word has left the speaker’s mouth. Put thou thy trust in Jesus ere this service ends, and thou shalt go thy way to thy chamber and to thy bed justified and saved.” The Spirit of God sweetly puts it, “Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation;” even as he did with Noah, who never dreamed of delays, but, when bidden to come, came there and then.

“Come to the ark: the waters rise,
The seas their billows rear;
While darkness gathers o’er the skies,
Behold a refuge near.

“Come to the ark, all, all that weep
Beneath the sense of sin:
Without, deep calleth unto deep;
But all is peace within.

“Come to the ark, ere yet the flood
Your lingering steps oppose;
Come, for the door which open stood
Is now about to close.”

     And now notice, once more— and that is a sweet part of it— that the Lord said, “Come thou and all thy house into the ark.” How good it is of the Lord to think of our children! That he should save us, oh, we must always bless him for that! But that he should have a word for our wife, a word for our son, and a word for our daughter— this is overflowing mercy! I have heard of a man who was unkind enough to say that he married his wife, but he did not intend to marry all her family; and it sometimes happens that your love to a person is a good deal tried by that person’s relatives and friends: but when the Lord Jesus Christ takes to his heart the master or the mistress of a house, he is willing to take all the household. He came to the jailor’s house at Philippi, and he looked on him with love, but he did not stay with him only, he blest all his household— so blest them that they were all brought to believe in the Lord, and they were all baptized there and then. There have been other households upon which the Lord has looked in the same way. “Come thou and thy house,” is it not? Am I reading correctly? Look at the passage; look at it. It is not merely, “Come thou and thy house.” We will read it again. “The Lord said to Noah, come thou and all thy house into the ark.” ALL. Oh, that blessed comprehensive word, “all.” Then Ham was not left out. Japhet the elder, as he is called in Genesis x. 21— I know not much for him or against him, but he had faith enough to enter the ark, and he was saved like the rest. Shem, the second of the household, if I may judge from his descendants, was always a religious young man, devout, and attached to the worship of the true God: he also entered the ark, and was saved. As for Ham, the scapegrace of the family, it might have been feared that he would not come in; but notwithstanding all that the Scripture tells us against him, he was assuredly saved in the ark. And here was the mercy— that to Japhet, the elder, and to Shem and to Ham, the promise extended. “Come thou and all thy house into the ark.” My dear brother, when you are converted yourself it is a blessing that you have so far a hold of the gospel, but go on to grasp more of it. “What must I do to be saved?” said the jailor; and Paul replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” Many cannot get to the second part of the promise. They seem satisfied if they themselves are saved; but oh for that faith which takes all that the gospel is prepared to give, and pleads with God that not only I may be saved, but my house, ay, and all my house, without exception.

     II. Here is the call, then; the Lord called effectually Shem, Ham, and Japhet, and their wives, so that they all came into the ark. Of that we are going to speak for a few minutes on the second head, which is THE OBEDIENCE. Noah came into the ark and his wife, and his sons and their wives. Their obedience was unquestioning. We do not find them asking anything at all about the reason for the command; but they came as they were bidden. They passed through the doorway, and they were all in the ark. Fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and their wives, daughters and their husbands, and all of you, oh that the blessed Spirit would put you now into such a frame of mind that you should at once yield to the divine precept which says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Have you not asked questions enough? You have had some of them answered, but every answer has only helped you to invent another dozen questions. Oh, those questions! these quibbles! those debates! those doubts! those cavillings! They are ruining thousands. Have you ever heard of the man who sat at the table and could not eat till he knew the pedigree of the bullock from which the joint was cut; and then he must needs know how it was cooked, and comprehend the influence which fire has over flesh to make it eatable. Next he must understand anatomy, and know how the stomach acts upon the food, and what the gastric juice is made of, and how food is assimilated; unless he could get plain answers to every enquiry he would not eat. He said, “Plain answers, mind, plain answers to all my questions, or I will never put a mouthful between these lips again.” Now, there was a poor countryman who came out of the field, and saw the meat and potatoes, and he ate them all up while the man was asking the questions; and very wise he was too. I suppose it was his hunger that made him so sensible. May the Lord give you a hunger after the gospel, and if you have it, you will fall to feeding upon it, and receive it into your soul. You will just take what is set before you by infinite love, and leave quibblers to their own folly. I myself have a lot of questions, for the questions I have been asked by sceptics I have put away along with a lot more of my own which are far more difficult than theirs. I mean to bring them out one day, but not until I get to heaven myself, and carry all I can with me. We shall have light enough there to see by; it is like reading in the dark down here. We will leave these questions till we get into the blaze of glory, and perhaps they will then answer themselves. Noah and his wife and his sons and their wives did not worry themselves about mysteries, but obeyed the plain command and went into the ark and were saved.

     They went in directly, but I will not dwell upon that. The whole eight of them passed in at once! To get eight people of a mind to go anywhere is a difficult thing; but here they were, all of a mind, and all ready to start, and they all went into the ark there and then. It is wondrous that Mistress Shem did not say that she could not leave all her acquaintances, and forsake her father and all her relations at once. How could she tear herself away? Good Mistress Japhet might have felt bonds which hold her to her bosom friends. But so it was: the effectual call went through all the family, men and women, and they took up their separated position, coming out of the world at once when the command came. O, blessed Spirit, give such a call as that to whole families!

     All these eight people came away once for all. They could each say, —

“Farewell, vain world, I must be gone,
Thou art no home, no rest for me;
Henceforth my heart must dwell alone,
And have no fellowship with thee.

Farewell, poor world, for thou must die,
E’en now the floods begin to rise.
I die to thee without a sigh,
Save that I mourn thy blinded eyes.”

There was a closed door between the family of Noah and all the rest of the world. They went in to be the minority, and turned out, before long, to be the majority. Oh, that men would be willing to be the minority in a wicked world, and to be counted fools. People say, “If you join that church, you just shut yourself out from all society: nobody will ever know you any more. You might as well be dead and buried.” But, truly, when a soul gives itself to Christ it feels itself to be dead and buried to the world, and says to it “Adieu, we are henceforth strangers.” The regenerate pass straight away from communion with this world, to hold all their communion inside the ark— to have all their fellowship in connection with the Lord Jesus Christ.

     Now to Noah and to his wife and to all the family this was the most important event that ever happened to them. When all of them passed out of the world together to find their refuge where God had provided it—it was the great day with Noah’s household. What a glorious day it is with men and women when they come to Christ! Their birthday is noteworthy, but this is better. They were only born to sorrow and death at first: now are they born to heaven and eternal life. Their marriage-day! This is better. They were but joined to a mortal in bonds that death will sever, but now are they married unto Christ in everlasting wedlock.

     Moreover, simple as the act of going into the ark may seem, it was one of the most remarkable events in human history. When Noah and his family entered into the ark it was a more important day than when empires rise or fall, for there would have been an utter end of the human race if it had not been for their decided action on that memorable day. So, when men give themselves to Christ, they do not know what mighty things they are doing for their posterity and for those immediately around them. Time and eternity quiver with the force of their deed. These converts will be a blessing to the town in which they live, a blessing to the society in which they move. The salvation of that woman will be the salvation of her grandchildren, and of their children and right on. Who knows, when a man is born to God, but that there shall spring from him in future years a godly seed that shall become ministers of Christ and missionaries of the cross? It is a grand event when a family is saved. I heard some music in the street just now, and it seemed to me to be playing in good time to keep tune with the joy we ought to feel when father, mother, sons, and daughters enter the ark of Christ and find salvation there. Oh, if households enter into Christ, the very bells of heaven may ring again and again and again with a joy that hath many joys within it.

     Now let us go into details. The first fact is that Noah went in. This was right! Noah was the leader. The husband is the head of the household, or ought to be, and he should go to Christ first. Whether his wife comes in, or Shem, or Ham comes in, whoever will come in, or stay out, Noah goes in first, for he would obey the Lord. Head of the house, are you in the ark? Are you in Christ? You are a father, you have sons grown up around you, are you decided? You wish your family to grow up in the fear of God; I hope you do. But how can you expect it if you are not saved yourself? If Noah had not gone into the ark, I should not expect to read that Shem and Ham and Japhet went in. O you that are heads of households, your position is very responsible. You will have to bear much blame if your children go astray. Unless your example is decided for the Lord, they will be able to say at the last great day, “Our father was half-hearted, and how could we be expected to give our hearts to God?”

     Next his sons are mentioned. “Noah went in and his sons” — three fine fellows. A happy father is he who has sons that will go with him in the things of God. Sons are called in Hebrew “builders,” because they build up a man’s house; may the Holy Spirit build them into the church. I would to God there were more young men joining the church — that more sons were decided! You cannot expect, can you, to see the sons’ wives brought unless the sons are on the Lord’s side? But, I am sorry to say, they are often opposers; and, when the women are brought to Christ, there are the husbands standing back, and even acting as a hindrance to the religion of their wives. God grant it may not be so in any case here! O son of Noah, go into the ark with your father. O child of a godly parent, follow your father to Christ, that you may follow him to heaven. Let Abraham’s son be an Isaac, and Isaac's son be a Jacob, and Jacob’s son be a Joseph; and so may it go on from generation to generation.

     The next person who is mentioned is the old lady—namely, Noah’s wife. I give her that name because she was, no doubt, somewhere about six hundred years old, and she was assuredly an eminent woman. We usually describe persons who have grown up sons by that name in our family circles. The wife of the father of three sons comes into the ark. I think of her as of a queenly dame with her sons and their wives, coming boldly forward with a quiet grace and firmness to go with her beloved husband to sink or swim with him, casting in her lot with him, not only because he was her husband, but because he had cast in his lot with God. Oh, beloved woman, advancing into years, with a grown-up family about you, if you have not come to Christ I trust you may, that in your family the saved ones may be as Noah and his sons and his wife.

     Last came the sons' wives, and what a happy circumstance for them! I was thinking, as I turned over the subject, how painful it would have been if one of the boys had not come in, and then how grievous it would have been if one of the wives had not come. If Noah had been obliged to know that one of them should be left out, and he had to have the dreadful selection, whom do you suppose he would have left out? I cannot imagine. I have heard of the Irishman with his seven or eight children, and someone was willing to adopt one; but the question was — which was it to be? One is to be taken out of the family and they are not to see it again, it is to be brought up and taken care of by a stranger: the father and mother could never agree which it should be. I hope, dear fathers and mothers, you will never agree to have one of your children lost. Make it your daily and nightly prayer, your incessant effort, your hourly desire, that not only Shem and Ham and Japhet may be brought, but their wives too, till not one shall be left behind, but the whole family shall be saved in Christ Jesus.

     Now, all this was done by the sweet, effectual calling of the Divine Spirit; and let us pray to-night, each one, that the same call may be given to all our friends, and kinsfolk, and all assembled here, that we may be all in Christ, both now and in the last great day. Amen.



Work for Jesus

By / Oct 29

Work for Jesus

 

“Son, go work to-day in my vineyard.”— Matthew xxi. 28.

 

I AM not going to confine myself to the connection of these words, nor to use them strictly after the manner in which they were first spoken. I may, perhaps, explain the parable very briefly at the close; but I take leave to withdraw these words from their immediate context, and use them as a voice which, I believe, sounds often in the ears of God’s people, and sometimes sounds in vain. — “Son, go work to-day in my vineyard.” It is certain that God still speaks to us. He has spoken to us in his word. There are his precepts and promises; his statutes and testimonies. He that hath ears to hear let him hear these sacred oracles. But beside this open revelation there are counsels and rebukes more closely and personally addressed to the conscience; voices— soft sometimes as whispers, at other times loud as the thunders that pealed from Sinai. The Lord has a way of speaking to men when “he openeth the ears of men and sealeth their instruction,” as Elihu said. Thus he speaks when he calls them effectually by his grace in conversion. So he once called “Samuel, Samuel,” till the child answered. So he said, “Matthew, follow me.” So he called out, “Zaccheus, come down.” So he cried out, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” So he bid some of us till the divine accents were clear and irresistible. In like manner we have, many of us, heard him say, “Son, give me thy heart and we have given him our hearts: we could do no otherwise. That voice exerted such a charming spell and swayed us with such a divine power that we were subdued by it, and we yielded our hearts to the God of love. Since then you who know the Lord must often have heard a voice speaking to you and bidding you seek his face in prayer. Perhaps you have been busy with the world, but you found an impulse of a mysterious kind coming over you, and you have been fain to withdraw yourself for a few minutes to the closet that you might speak with God. You know how it has been when you have been meditating alone, and yet not alone. One whose presence you knew, whose face you could not see, was with you. You felt as if you must pray. It has not been any effort on your part. The exercise has been as easy as to breathe and as pleasant as to partake of your daily bread. You felt the Lord drawing you to the mercy-seat and saying in your soul, “My son, ask what thou wilt and it shall be done unto thee.” You must have been conscious of such a voice as that.

     And have you not at times, in the silence of your mind, heard the Lord call you to a closer communion with himself? Has not the sense, if not the words, of the spouse in the canticle been heard in your soul, — “Come, my beloved, let us see if the vines flourish. Come with me from Lebanon my spouse, with me from Lebanon”? You have been up and away. You have gone into the secret places where Christ has shown you his love, till you sat under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit has been sweet to your taste. Our experience makes us know that there are heavenly voices that invite prayer and call to communion. And probably some of you have also been conscious of another voice which I earnestly desire we may all hear to-night, namely, the more martial and stirring call to service for the Lord Jesus Christ. Some of you have been obedient to the call these many years, and it calls louder and louder and louder still. You have been reaping, and bearing the heat and burden of the day, but you cannot throw down your sickle, your hand cleaves to it. Yea, rather do you take more gigantic strides and sweep down more of the precious corn at every stroke you take. You feel that you can never cease from it till you do

“Your body with your charge lay down,
And cease at once to work and live.”

A voice divine seems calling thee and saying, “Follow me, and I will make thee a fisher of men. Behold I have made thee a chosen vessel to bear my name unto the Gentiles.” You have heard that voice, and you are striving to obey it more and more.

     Others either have never heard it, or hearing it have forgotten it. There are none so deaf as those who will not hear, and there are some who have a very deaf ear to any admonitions of this kind. They are like Issachar— a strong ass crouching down between two burdens, but yet lifting neither. I fear lest upon them should come the curse of Meroz, because they come not “to the help of the Lord— to the help of the Lord against the mighty.” Now, mayhap this evening there are some Christian men or women here that shall feel as if the hand of the Crucified were laid upon them, and they hear him say to them, “Ye are not your own. Ye are bought with a price; wherefore glorify God in your bodies and in your spirits, which are his. Awake thou that sleepest and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.”

     The text, I hope, may be blest of God to be such a voice as that. Listening to it, we notice four things. First, the character under which it calls us, “Son”; secondly, the service to which it calls us, “go work”; thirdly, the time for which it calls us, “go work to-day”; and fourthly, the place to which it directs us, “go work to-day in my vineyard.”

     I. First, then, THE CHARACTER UNDER WHICH IT CALLS US.

     It appears to me to be a very powerful selection of terms. “Son, go work to-day in my vineyard.” It puts work on a very gracious footing, when we are bidden to work for the Lord, not as slaves, nor as mere Servants, but as sons. Moses speaks to us, and he says, “Servant, go and work for thy wages.” But the Father in Christ speaks to us, and he says, “Son, go work to-day in my vineyard.” No more as a servant, but as a son, shalt thou serve the Lord. The returning prodigal said, “Make me as one of thy hired servants.” That was not an evangelical prayer, and was not answered. The father said, “This my son was dead, and is alive again,” and so he received him, not as a hired servant at all, but as a son. Oh, dear people of God, I trust you always draw the distinction very clearly between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. When you work for God you do not work for life but from life. You do not try to serve Christ in order that you may be saved, but because you are saved. You do not obey his commands that you may become his children, but because you are his children, and therefore are imitators of God as dear children. You say “Abba, Father,” because you feel the spirit of adoption within you, and you endeavour to obey the commands of your Father for the selfsame reason. I do not, therefore, say to anyone here, “Go and work for God that you may be saved.” I would not venture to put it on that footing. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” But turning to those who are saved, the gospel exhortation is put after a gospel sort— “Son, go work to-day in my vineyard.”

     And it has all the more strength on this account, because, in addressing us as sons, it reminds us of the great love which has made us what we are. We were by nature heirs of wrath even as others, but, beloved, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” Think of the love which chose us when we were still aliens and enemies; the love which adopted us, and put us into the family, itself wondering while it did it, for the Lord is represented as saying, “How shall I put thee among the children?” –as if it were a strange thing that such as we are should ever be numbered among the children of God. The love which adopted us did not stay there, but having given us the rights of children, it gave us the nature unto a lively of children hope, by wherefore the resurrection we were of regenerated Jesus Christ — “Begotten from the dead again; born, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which liveth and abideth for ever.” Now, just think of election, adoption, regeneration, and when the Lord addresses you by that term of “son,” think of all that and say, “I owe to God an immeasurable debt of gratitude for having enabled me to become his son: giving me power and privilege to become a child of God. Therefore do I feel the claims of obligation, and I would endeavour to work in the vineyard because I am his child, his son, his daughter, made so by his grace.”

     This you see, dear friends, engages us to work in the vineyard all the more cogently, because we may reflect not only on the grace which has made us sons, but on the privileges which that same grace bestowed upon us in making us sons; for, if children of God, the Lord will provide for us, will clothe us, will heal us, will protect us, will guide us, will educate us, will make us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. Remember, too, that precious passage, “If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” If heirs of God, how large is our inheritance, and if joint heirs with Christ how sure that inheritance is; and we have been brought now, beloved, to such an estate as this that the angels themselves might envy us, for I venture to apply a passage of Scripture to this case—I hope without wresting it— “Unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son?” But he speaks thus to us poor worms of the dust, and when he is bidding us serve him he comes to us under this character, and addresses us in this relationship, and he says, “Son, daughter, go work to-day in my vineyard. I have given thee privileges boundless in making thee my child. I have given thee this world and worlds to come. Earth is thy lodge, and heaven thy home. And therefore, because I have done all this for thee — and what could I have done more for thee than have made thee my child? — therefore I say, Go, work to-day in my vineyard.”

     In appealing thus to us under the name of son, it is supposed that we have some feelings within us correspondent to the condition to which our heavenly Father has called us. He says, “son.” If any of you, being a son, hath a father, and if that father wished you to do something for him, and he addressed you as “my son,” you would feel at once that whatever you could do you were bound to do because you were a son. It would awaken in you the filial feeling which is swift at once to yield obedience and love. And when the Lord looks upon thee, my brother, and says to thee “Son,” it is supposed that there is in thy heart a child’s nature given by his grace, and that this filial instinct prompts the quick response, “My Father, what dost thou say to me? Speak, Lord, speak, Father, for thy son heareth thee. I long to do thy will. I delight in it, for to me it is the greatest joy I know that thou art my Father and my God. Therefore, Lord, my heart stands ready now to listen to whatever thou hast to say, and my hand is ready to do it, as thy grace shall enable me, only strengthen me in thy ways.” Son, daughter, go work to-day in my vineyard.

     By the use of that term “son,” also, it is supposed that you have something of the qualification that will fit you to do what he bids you. A man who has a vineyard naturally supposes that his son knows something about vineyards. The boy will have learned something through his sire, and you that know the Lord are the only people that can serve him in his vineyard— that is to say, in winning souls for Christ none can do this but those who are won themselves. If there be a lost child to be reclaimed, he shall be brought in by one of the children who has himself been found. Unto the wicked God saith, “What hast thou to do to declare my statutes?” but to you who are his sons and daughters he entrusts the gospel, putting you in trust with it that you may bear it to others and bring others to know and love his name. Oh, dear friends, it must be a dreadful thing to be trying to save the souls of others while you yourselves are lost; and what an unhappy mortal must he be who has to preach the gospel that he never knew— to tell of promises that he has never believed, and to preach a Christ in whom his soul has never trusted! But when the Lord speaks to you as his son and his daughter, the very fact that you stand in that relationship to him proves that you have some qualification for the service; and, therefore, dear brother or sister, you must not back out of it. You must not wrap your talent in a napkin, for you have got some talent in the very fact of being a child of God — a son or daughter of the Most High.

     Thus have I tried to open up the character to whom the Lord speaks, but I cannot do it so as to interest those who are not his people. But I do say this to those of you who are a people near unto him, to whom he stands as a Father, that this fact has strong claims upon you. If I be a Father, where is my honour? If ye be my children, where is your fear? If indeed the Lord has put you into his family, do you not owe to him the obedience and the love of children, and what can be more natural that if there be a household work to do— vineyard work to do— your Father should look to you to do it, and turn to you whom he has loved so long and loved so well, and say, “Son, daughter, go work to-day in my vineyard”?

     II. Well, now, secondly, let us turn to the next point, and that is, THE SERVICE TO WHICH THE LORD CALLS US— “Go work.”

     I know some Christians who do not like the name of work, and they look very black in the face if you say anything about duty. As for the matter of that, I do not mind how black they look, because there are some people who very much expose their own disposition by black looks and sullen moods; and when they turn sour they only manifest what is in their own nature. He that quarrels with the precept quarrels with God. Let him mind that. And he that does not like the practical part of Christianity may do what he likes with the doctrinal part of it, for he has neither part nor lot in this matter. The language of the true child of God is, “I delight myself in thy precepts”; and, as David put it, “Thy precepts have been my song in the house of my pilgrimage.” He would even sing about the precepts of the gospel. And now the text says, “Go work.” That is something practical, something real. Go work. He does not say, “My son, go and think and speculate, and make curious experiments, and fetch out some new doctrines and astonish all thy fellow creatures with whims and oddities of thine own.” “My son, go work.” And he does not here say, “My son, go and attend conferences one after another all the year round and live in a perpetual maze of hearing different opinions and going from one public meeting and one religious engagement to another, and so feed thyself on the fat things full of marrow.” All this is to be attended to in its proper proportion, but here it is “Go work: go work.” How many Christians there are that seem to read, “Go plan;” and they always figure in a way with some wonderful plan for the conversion of all the world, but they are never found labouring to convert a baby— never having a good word to say to the tiniest child in the Sunday-school. They are always scheming, and yet never effecting anything. But the text says, “My son, go work.” Oh, yes, but those who do not like to work themselves display the greatness of their talents in finding fault with those who do work, and a very clear perception they have of the mistakes and the crotchets of the very best of workers, whose zeal and industry are alike unflagging. Howbeit the text does not say, “My son, go and criticize;” what it distinctly says, is, “Go and work.” I remember that when Andrew Fuller had a very severe lecture from some Scotch Baptist brethren about the discipline of the church, he made the reply, “You say that your discipline is so much better than ours. Very well, but discipline is meant to make good soldiers. Now, my soldiers fight better than yours, and I think therefore that you ought not to say much about my discipline.” So the real thing is not to be for ever calculating about modes of church government, and methods of management and plans to be adopted and rules to be laid down, which it shall be accounted a serious breach to violate. All well in their place, for order is good in its way. But come, now, let us go to work. Let us have something done. I believe the very best working for God is often done in a very irregular manner. I get more and more to feel like the old soldier of Waterloo when he was examined about the best garment that could be worn by a soldier. The Duke of Wellington said to him, “If you had to fight Waterloo over again how would you like to be dressed?” The answer was, “Please, sir, I should like to be in my shirtsleeves.” I think that is about the best. Get rid of everything superfluous, and get at it and hack away. I would to God that some Christians could do that, just strip to it, get rid of the superfluities of orderliness and propriety, and everything else which hampers them in trying to get back poor souls. There they are, going down to hell, and we are stickling about this mode and that, and considering the best way not to do it, and appointing committees to consider and debate, to adjourn and to postpone, and to leave the work in abeyance. The best way is to arise and do it, and let the committee sit afterwards. God grant we may. My son, go work to-day. Let it be something practical, something real, something actually done.

     And by good work is meant something that will involve effort, toil, earnestness, self-denial, perhaps something that will want perseverance. In right earnest you will need to stick to it. You will have heartily to yield yourself up to it, and give up a good deal else that might hinder you in doing it. Oh, Christian men and women, you will not glorify God much unless you really put your strength into the ways of the Lord, and throw your body, soul, and spirit— your entire manhood and womanhood — into the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. To do this you need not leave your families, or your shops, or your secular engagements. You can serve God in these things. They will often be vantage grounds of opportunity for you, but you must throw yourself into it. A man does not win souls to Christ while he is himself half asleep. The battle that is to be fought for the Lord Jesus must be fought by men who are wide awake and quickened by the Spirit of God. “My son, go work to-day.” Do not go and play at teaching in Sunday-schools. Do not go and play the preacher. Do not go and play at exhorting people at the corners of streets, or even play at giving away tracts. “My son, go work.” Throw thy soul into it. If it is worth doing it is worth doing well; and if it is worth doing well, it is worth doing better than you have ever done it yet; and even then it will be worth doing better still, for when you have done your best you have still to reach forward to a something far beyond; for the best of the best is all too little for such a God and for such a service. “My son, go work.”

     Well, now, such a claim as this may, perhaps, you think, sound rather hard; but I could tell you of many who would be very glad indeed if the Lord would say that to them. I might tell you of some who seldom leave their couches, some who can seldom sit upright through their weakness, to whom the nights are often full of pain, and the days are spent in weariness. They have learned, by God’s teaching, to be content to suffer; but sometimes they cannot stifle an ardent wish; they wish the Lord would let them serve him. They do not envy, but yet there sometimes crosses over their mind the shadow of something like envy when they recollect what opportunities some of you have, who are full of health and strength. I have seen my brother minister laid aside, the voice perhaps gone, the lungs feeble, the heart prone to palpitate, and, oh, how he has wished that he could preach. With what fervour has he said, "Oh, if I had but those opportunities over again, how I would try to use them better than when I was favoured with them! I tell you there are thousands of God’s servants who would kiss the dust of his feet if he would only say to them, “Go work.” I remember reading of a minister who had been labouring in America till he had fairly broken down. He had to take a tour for his health. He had not been away many days before he wrote in his diary, “There may be some ministers who count it a pleasure to be relieved from the duty of preaching, but I count it a misery. I would sooner preach as I have done in my own pulpit continually than I would see all the kingdoms of the world.” And, indeed, there is no pleasure in the world like that of serving God. You will soon get tired if you have a vacation, but you will never get tired of a divine vocation, though you may sometimes grow tired in it. Now, think that the Lord might have said to you, “Now, go and lie on that bed for ten years. Go and pine away in consumption. I have nothing much for you to do. You have got to bear my will.” Are you not very glad that you are full of strength, or that you have some share of it, and that now your heavenly Father says, “Son, go work. I have given you strength: go work”? Lord, we thank thee for so kind and gentle a command.

     Besides, there is a great deal of honour in this work. You know how much your little boy wants to be a man. All boys do. When he first wears stick-up collars he congratulates himself upon the sign of anything like being a man. How proud he is of it! And if you, being a father, were to say to your boy, “My son, you are now of such an age that I can trust you to do some work for me”; see how the little man would begin to lift himself up: he is glad of it. And I am sure that if we look at it rightly, we who are the children of God ought to feel honoured by our heavenly Father saying to us, “You may do something for me.” We must be very humble, for, after all, we cannot do anything except as he worketh in us to will and to do. But it is really very gratifying and ennobling to a poor mortal spirit to be allowed to do anything for God, ay, and to do what perfect saints above and holy angels cannot do; for oh, dear brother, there is no glorified spirit that can go down that back street and up that blind alley, and up those staircases that seem as if they would tumble down under your feet. Go and talk to that dying woman about Christ. You have a privilege which honoured Gabriel has not got: be thankful that you have it. There is no angel that can take that little child in the Sunday-school class and tell it of "Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,” and carry the little lamb for the Good Shepherd. The Lord sends you to do it. And it should be a point of thankfulness with us all that he has counted us worthy, and put us into the ministry— into any part or parcel of that ministry— to do something for his name’s sake. Well, we are always receiving—always receiving, and it is very blessed; but still in this, as in other things, it is more blessed to give than to receive; and when we can give back to God some little trifle of service, stained with our tears because it is no better than it is, oh, it is a happy and a blessed thing. How grateful you ought to be that the Lord does say to you, “Son, go work to-day.”

     And remember, once more, on this point, that the work to which the Lord calls us is very varied, therefore there is a great deal of change in it; and, besides that, it suits the different temperaments, constitutions, dispositions, and abilities of his people. He says, “My son, go work today in my vineyard.” But he does not give you to do my work, and he does not give me to do your work. Dear sister, you would like to do the work of such and such an excellent Christian woman, would not you? Yes, but that is naughty of you. Be satisfied to do your own. Suppose your housemaid always wanted to do the cook’s work, the house would soon be in bad order. Better keep to your own place, dear sister. Ah, there is a brother here who says, “I think I could preach if I only had such and such a congregation.” Very likely, brother, but you had better preach to your own and do what good you can there. Very likely I should do better with my own congregation, and you will do better with yours than I should. Every man had better keep to his own work in his own place. And how thankful we ought to be that if one can preach a sermon, yet another can offer a prayer, — that if one can go and speak to thousands, yet another can speak to ones and twos. There is work in the school; there is work in the family; there is work in the street; there is work in the workshop; there is work everywhere for Jesus if thou wilt but stretch out thy hand to find it and follow Solomon’s good advice, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.”

     III. Now, THE TIME is the next thing. “My son, go work to-day” That means directly — now.

     Brother, sister, I will not say a word about what it is your duty to do to-morrow. Let the morrow take care of itself. I will have nothing to say about what it will be right for you to do in ten years’ time. If you are alive, grace will be given to you for that. But what I have to say to you in God’s name is, “Go work to-day,” and as the sun has gone down, let it be, “Go work to-night in my vineyard,” if there be opportunity, even to-night, ere another day’s sun has dawned upon the world. “And why to-day?” Because, brother, thy Father wants thee to be at it at once. “Why stand ye here all the day idle?” If thou hast done nothing for Christ thou hast wasted enough time. Do not rest to-day, but be at it now. He wants thee to do it now, because the vines are in a certain condition that just now require work. There is somebody in the world who is in a tender state of mind, to whom thou mayest speak successfully. There is a mourner here who wants comfort tonight. There is one struggling against his conscience, who wants urging on to-night in the right way. If the case be neglected to-night it will be like neglecting to trim the vines just at the proper time for taking away the superfluous wood. Now canst thou do it. Thou canst not do it on any other day. Therefore, “go work to-day.”

     “To-day,” because there are certain dangers to which those whom thou art about to bless are just now exposed. The devil is tempting them: it is needful that thou go and help them against that temptation. They are just now in despair; it is needful that thou step in with the word of comfort from thy Master’s mouth. They are, perhaps, this very night, before they go to their rest, about to commit a great sin. Mayhap the Lord means thee to interpose just now, ere that sin be done. Son, go work to-day; thou art wanted. There are very few labourers just now: many of them have gone. Son, do thou go to-day, while the others have gone out for their recreation— while the others are asleep and grown idle. There is a gap just now: it is at this moment. Many a brave deed of valour owed its success to being done at once. If Horatius had not kept the bridge just in that same moment when the enemy endeavoured to pass over, we should never have heard of him, nor of the brave deeds of old. There is a time of dearth— of want: there is an urgency. Son, God saith to thee, “Haste thee now, even now, and go work to-day in my vineyard.” “To-day mark that.

     It means work all the day: work as long as ever you live. Son, if once thou get into that vineyard do not come home again until the day is done. I am always sorry when I hear of Christian people beginning to give up some of their work before the infirmities of old age come on; although I think that many a minister, when he gets old, had better give up a charge for which he is not equal and take one smaller for which his strength would avail. But I know that some give up this work and that, and they say, “Let the young people come and take their turn.” Yes, yes, but suppose the sun were to stop shining and say, “There is a star over there; let him have a turn and shine instead of me.” Suppose the moon were for ever to give up shining in the night watches, and say that she has had enough of being out at night; and suppose the earth were to say it has had enough of yielding harvests. “Why should I yield any more? Let the sea take its turn and grow corn.” And so, dear Christian friends, keep on as long as you can. Who can blame dear old John Newton? When he got too feeble to get up the pulpit stairs of St. Mary Woolnoth, he was helped up, and then, leaning on his pulpit Bible he poured out his soul. A friend of his said to him, “Dear Mr. Newton, don’t you think you ought to give up preaching?” “What!” said he, “shall the old African blasphemer ever give up praising the grace of God as long as there is breath in his body? Never.” And so he went to his work again. Oh, for more of that spirit to persevere in the Master’s service.

     Only there is this thought: it is only a day. “Son, go work to-day.” It will only be a day. The longest life is no more, and then the shadows of death will gather: but there will be no night, for instead thereof the day shall break and the shadows shall flee away, and then life’s service here below will all be over. There will be no troublesome children to teach, no hard-hearted sinners to rebuke, no backsliding, lukewarm Christians to reprove, no deceivers to encounter, no sceptics to answer with the testimony that cannot be shaken, no scoffers to put up with, patiently bearing their contumely. It will be all over then; and then shall those who have served their Master behold him gird himself and sit down and serve them, and they shall feast at his table and enter into his joy. “My son, go work to-day,” for thou shalt rest to-morrow. Work on, for there is rest enough in heaven: work on, for eternity shall well repay thee for the toils of time.

     IV. Then; as to THE PLACE WHERE THE LORD CALLS US TO THE WORK. “My son, go work to-day in my vineyard.”

     I like to think of this special sphere of labour, because it must be a pleasure to work in our Father’s vineyard, for there everything that we do will be done for him. I trim this vine; it is my Father’s vine. I dig this trench; but it is my Father’s ground I turn. I gather out these stones; it is my Father’s vineyard that I am engaged in clearing. I repair this fence; it is my Father’s soil that I am thus hedging about. It is all done for him. Who would not do all that he could for the dear Redeemer, dying Lamb, and for the blessed Father of our spirits? “Go work to-day in my vineyard.”

     Then what interesting work it is, for it is our own vineyard because it is our Father’s vineyard. All that belongs to him belongs to us. We are sons working in our Father’s vineyard; so we can say, “This vine; why, I have an interest in it, for I am the heir of my Father’s property. This ground that I endeavour to dig about and manure; it is my ground, it is my Father’s. And this wall that I try to mend; it is mine, it is my Father’s.” It is always pleasant to work for ourselves, you know; and, in a blessed sense, when we are working for God we are working for ourselves. Ye are labourers, ye are God ’s husbandry, ye are God’s people; and when ye are working for the Lord ye really are taking shares with him.

     And what a work it is, too! “Go work to-day in my vineyard.” One likes working in a vineyard, because it pays. Working in a desert may be thankless toil; but working in a vineyard where there will be clusters is very different. One can think already of those juicy grapes that will be ready for the winepress, and for the festival, when the ruddy juice comes freely forth— when they make merry and joy in the vintage. And you will have the new wine, and the wine on the lees well refined. All sorts of pleasures await the man who serves the Lord.

     “Go work in my vineyard.” Does it not mean that the work is plentiful? There is always something to be done in a vineyard. If you ask those who keep vines they will tell you that there is much labour required. From one part of the year right on there is something still to be done, many dangers to be averted, and many enemies to be kept off from the vine; so there is plenty to do, brother. Go work in the vineyard, where there will be need of all thy hands. It is close at hand; hard by you; for the heavenly Father did not say, “Son, take a ship and go to Tarshish, or to Ophir.” He said, “My son, go work in my vineyard”; and the vineyard was just out of the back door there. Now, your heavenly Father's vineyard is close to you. Those streets where you live— the very house in which you dwell— perhaps the very chamber in which you sleep—is God’s vineyard, where you are to work for him. It is your heavenly Father’s own work, to be done by you in your heavenly Father’s own strength. Oh, if I might to-night set one young man on fire with love to Christ I should be glad. If I could but be the humble means of inspiring some Christian woman with the high mission of being useful in her day and generation, how much would my soul rejoice! There came into this Tabernacle one evening a young gentleman who was well known as being a great hand with his cricket bat. He was a Christian and full of earnestness in laying hold upon the great truths of revelation; but he had never served his God. He thought it right to spend his leisure time in manly exercises, and in such pursuits he sought recreation. But while I spoke a fire kindled within him, and he went home to begin to preach the gospel in the street of the city where he lived, and now he is the pastor of a large and influential church which he has gathered together. Since then he has preached more than once in this place the gospel of Jesus Christ. Oh, that some other believer who may happen to be in that condition— some young man of ability who is spending all his strength on the world without going into anything grossly wrong, but simply wasting his talent—might hear a voice saying to him to-night, as he goes down that aisle, “My son, go work to-day in my vineyard.”

     After dwelling so long upon the practical admonition, I have but little time left for that brief explanation of the parable, or more properly the parables of the vineyard with which on the outset I promised to close. The occasion on which they were spoken is memorable. Assailed “while he was teaching,”— rudely interrupted by the legal sanhedrim of the Jews with the high priest in the forefront, they confronted our Lord as it were with a warrant and propounded to him two questions; — one as to the authority or title by which he acted— the other as to the source from which his authority was derived. You all know how skilfully he evaded his unscrupulous antagonists. “I also will ask you one thing,” he said. Therewith he put to them a question that proved a poser, and left them to a ridiculous parley, for “they reasoned among themselves,” went aside to whisper, and then drew back in sheer timidity declining an answer, for “they feared the people,” or as you may read it, they were afraid of the mob. The advantage our Lord thus gained he quickly followed up with a parable— in fact, with the parable we have been talking about. He opened it thus, — “What think ye?” — putting a query about two sons, the one forward in profession, yet utterly disobedient, the other sullen in appearance though afterwards penitent in spirit and diligent in labour. The thing was so obvious that they answer without hesitation with a reply that nailed the censure to their own breasts. “Whether of these twain did the will of his father?” They say unto him, “the first.” Read it, read the parable for yourselves. Realize the force of it if you can. The penitent harlot and the obdurate high priest are put in the scales. “In the way of righteousness” — according to the truthful caricature— the chief priests and elders themselves admit that “the first” of these twain did the will of our heavenly Father. Digest this parable, I pray you. Almost without a break the vineyard supplied him yet again with another parable which he insisted on their hearing— a parable that brought out the character of the dispensation and “the signs of the times” so distinctly, that they could not fail to read it in the light of their own prophets, and at the same time it so exposed the treachery of their counsel and conspiracy that they recognized their own portrait at once and perceived that he spake of them. “The vineyard,” you are all aware, was the constant symbol of the Jewish nation as a theocracy. The men that sat in Moses’s seat were the stewards in charge of that vineyard which was Jehovah’s special property. They, like the perverse rulers of every age, sought to shelter their evil designs under cover of syndicates and conferences. But the words and warnings of Jesus, his proverbs and parables, were keen enough to probe all their subtleties, and leave them to stand abashed without an excuse for the guile of their hearts or the guilt of their conduct. Now remember that the kingdom of God was taken from them and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. To what nation is it given? Is it not to the church which is called “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light”? The vine is the express symbol of our Christian life, as all believers are incorporated with Christ. Well then, there is a vineyard of God’s own planting; you believe that. He has let it out to husbandmen; you believe that. He will come seeking fruit of this vineyard; you believe that. You are, dear brethren, the children of the husbandmen; you believe that, or else you would not presume to sit at his table and drink of his cup. He says therefore to you, “Son, go work in my vineyard.” What answer do you give with your lips? What answer do you give with your life?

     Thus far I have not been speaking to unconverted people. I have not said a word to them. To them, however, I have this word to say, and I have done. I shall not ask you to work for Christ. I cannot exhort you to do anything for him. You are not in a state of mind to do it. You must first believe in him. Oh, let it be a sorrow to you tonight that you are incapable of serving Christ. Till you get a new heart and a right spirit you have no capacity to serve him. You have first to trust Christ, and to prove in your own souls that this gospel is the power of God to your salvation. Your eyes must be opened; you must be turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that you may receive forgiveness of sins and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith in Jesus, before you can do anything for him. Then, not till then, will ye be meet to be made witnesses both of those things which ye shall have seen and of those things in the which he will hereafter appear unto you. You must be born again yourselves before ye can travail in birth for others, till Christ be formed in them. You cannot testify, those of you by whom the testimony of Christ has not been received and in whom it is not confirmed. Your unskilled labour would be mischievous. Hands off such holy work till those hands have been washed clean by Jesus Christ. Come ye unto him, and trust him, and believe in him, and when he has saved you, then he will say to you, “Son, go work to-day in my vineyard.”



Idols Abolished

By / Oct 29

IDOLS ABOLISHED.

 

“Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols?”— Hosea xiv. 8.

 

IDOLATRY was the great sin of the ten tribes represented by Ephraim: indeed, it is the sin of the entire human race. When we speak of idolatry we need not think of blocks of wood and stone, and black men bowing down before them; for our native land swarms with idolaters. Neither need you go into the streets to find them: stay where you are, and look into your own hearts, and you shall find idols there. This is the one easily besetting sin of our nature—to turn aside from the living God and to make unto ourselves idols in some fashion or another; for the essence of idolatry is this— to love anything better than God, to trust anything more than God, to wish to have a God other than we have, or to have some signs and wonders by which we may see him, some outward symbol or manifestation that can be seen with the eye or heard with the ear rather than to rest in an invisible God and believe the faithful promise of Him whom eye hath not seen nor ear heard. In some form or other this great sin is the main mischief in the heart of man; and even in saved men this is one of the developments of remaining corruption. We may very easily make an idol of anything, and in different ways. No doubt many mothers and fathers make idols of their children, and so many husbands and wives idolize each other, and we may even make idols of ministers, even as there were idol shepherds of old. Equally is it certain that many a thoughtful man makes an idol of his intellect, and many another makes an idol of his gold, or even of that little home wherein he enjoys so much content. The ignorant papist holds up his crucifix and worships that, and that is his idol; but men who are better instructed often take the Bible and read that, and failing to get through the letter into the spirit, they trust in the mere act of Scripture reading and make even the word itself to become an idol to them through their resting in a mere creed, or in bare Bible reading, and not pressing through it to spiritual hearty worship of God himself. Anything, however holy, which comes between us and the personal dealing of our soul with God, as he is revealed in Christ Jesus, by faith and love and hope, becomes an idol to us.

     There are idols of all sorts, more or less intrinsically valuable. Just as in material substances one idol is made of wood and another of stone, and another of silver, and another of gold, so that these idols differ in value, and yet they are all idols, so may men, according to their different grades of mind, make an idol of this or of that or of the other, every man according to his own fancy. Many of these idols may in themselves be considered good enough, but when they are made into idols they are none the better for that. A golden idol is just as obnoxious to God as a wooden one; and so the dearest and best thing on earth, if it be allowed to come between us and God, as an idol, it becomes an abomination in the sight of the Most High. O brother, when you cannot trust the providence of God, but feel as if you must have something of visible substance to lean upon, you idolize your savings, or the money you covet. When you cannot take the bare promise, and dare not risk everything for God, but want something over and above the word of God to rest in, you idolize your own selfishness. When you must have marks and signs and evidences of the things which God has plainly declared, and will not believe God unless you have corroborative proof, you are playing the idolater’s part. Yet human nature continually craves for more than God All sufficient, because it is so carnal that it will not trust the Invisible One. It is, therefore, a supreme work of grace when God brings any man to say, “What have I to do any more with idols?”

     I ask your attention to four points.

     I. And the first is this: I want you to notice THE SOVEREIGNTY OF THIS PREDICTION. “Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols?”

     God speaks of Ephraim as if Ephraim would do and must do what he declared he should do. “Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols?” But who was this Ephraim? If we look at him as an individual he represents the ten tribes of Israel at the time when they were wedded to strange gods, Ephraim is a man, and therefore he has a will of his own; he is a depraved man, and therefore he has an obstinate will: and yet God speaks about Ephraim as positively as if he had no will, and states that he shall say, “What have I to do any more with idols?” It would be very hard to say what the wind shall do— very hard to say what the waves shall do; but man’s will is more changeable and uncontrollable than the winds and the waves. Yet God speaketh as if Ephraim were absolutely in his hand, and he tells us what Ephraim shall say, and, in fact, what Ephraim shall feel. It is wonderful— is it not? — that God who knows human inconstancy and wilfulness, thus speaketh about the mind of man and declareth what he shall say and what he shall feel.

     How, in all this it is to be observed that there is no violation of the human will. Men are not blocks of wood: nor lumps of unconscious clay. God has made man a creature that wills and determines and judges for himself; and he deals with him as such. There are persons who seem to fancy that, whenever we speak of God as being omnipotent in the realm of mind, and speak of his declaring what men shall do and feel, that we therefore deny free agency. By no manner of means. We are never prepared for the sake of one truth to deny another, and we do as heartily believe in free agency as we do in predestination. It has never been our custom to murder one truth in order to make room for another. There is room enough for two truths in the mind of the man who is willing to become as a little child. Yea, there is room in a teachable heart for fifty truths to live without contention.

     God treats men as men, and as intelligent creatures. Having granted them power of judgment and will, he treats them as such, and he does not use that force upon the soul which it would be legitimate to use upon a piece of metal, if it had to be bored or to be melted, nor even such force as it is legitimate to use upon “an ox and an ass which have no understanding, whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.” No, no. Under heaven there is no man whose will God has ever violated. He has made the saved man’s will all the freer by the constraints which grace has put upon it. Grace does not enchain the will, but frees the will; and when a man sincerely says, “What have I to do any more with idols?” though that speech be clean contrary to all the intent of his former life, yet he saith it with the full consent of his heart; nay, he never said anything more willingly than he says this, when God by divine power has “made him willing in the day of his power.”

     I wonder whether you are able to grasp, dear brethren, and lay hold of these two great truths— first, that man is made a creature responsible for all his actions, and a free agent, so constituted that God himself will not violate that free agency, and yet this other truth which we will maintain with all boldness — that God is as omnipotent in the region of mind and free agency as he is in the realm of mere matter. He looketh upon the hills and they smoke, he toucheth the earth and it trembles, the sea obeys him, and pauses where he bids it stay; yea, earthquake and tempest are entirely under his control. Nobody who believes in an omnipotent God doubts these things; but it is equally true that the dark understanding God enlightens with a flash of his Spirit, the iron sinew of the obstinate will God removes; as to the affections— when the heart is like stone, cold, dead, heavy, immovable, he has a way of turning the stone to flesh. He can do what he wills with men; and when his Spirit putteth forth all his power, though men may resist, yet there is a point beyond which resistance absolutely ceases, and the soul is led in joyful captivity to the conquering Spirit of the blessed God.

     Now, somebody will again say, “But- how do you make this consistent? You talk now contrary to the statements you made before.” No, my dear brother, I do not so. They are both true; man is free, yet God is a sovereign in the world of free mind, working his own way, and speaking thus positively, without if or but or an. Know ye not that he will have his will, and man’s will shall willingly bow to his will for he is Lord alone? Let me read you God’s wills, God’s wonderful wills, as they stand in this chapter, “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him. I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon. Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols?” God speaks about men as if they were absolutely puppets in his hand, and yet at the same time in other places he puts them upon their personal responsibility: both the doctrines are true. Be it not yours or mine to ask how they are to be reconciled, much less to cast either of the truths away, but let us hold them both fast, for these two shall be a clue through many a mystery of intricate doctrine, and lead us into the light of God on many a dark saying. I rejoice to hear the almighty Lord speak thus divinely of what man shall do, and I adore the amazing wisdom and power which can rule over free agents.

     II. But now, secondly, in our text we see A MARVELLOUS CHANGE. “Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols?”

     Who is this Ephraim? Why, if you read the book of Hosea through you will find him turning up continually. Ephraim— Who was he? Who is this that says “What have I to do any more with idols?” I will tell you. It is that same Ephraim of whom the Lord had said “Let him alone: he is given unto idols.”

      This is different talk, is it not? At one time he is “glued” to his idols, for that is the word used in the original— glued to them as if he stuck to them and you could not get him away at all. Now here he is saying “What have I to do any more with them?” What a change it is! Is that the same man? Yes, the same man. But mark what the grace of God has done for him. See also how resolute he is. He speaks plainly and positively, “What have I to do any more with idols?” Is this the same man that we read of in a former chapter, “Ephraim is a silly dove without heart”? Yes, he was “a silly dove without heart,” and now this same Ephraim is saying, “What have I to do any more with idols?” speaking as if he had received a new, enlightened, bold, and decided heart. This is a change, is it not? The man who was glued to his idols and full of vacillation whenever better things came before him, is now clean separated from his former trusts, and made to hate them, and no longer vacillates and hesitates, but takes his stand and asks with glorious promptitude, “What have I to do any more with idols?” It is a great change; but it is such a great change as many of us have undergone, and such a change as everybody here must undergo, or else they shall never see the face of God with acceptance. Conversion, which is the first fruit of regeneration, makes such a difference in a man that it is as though he had been dead and buried and were now raised from the dead into newness of life. It is as much a change as if the man were destroyed and then were made again a new creature in Christ Jesus.

     I wonder whether you have all felt such a change as this. I sometimes meet with persons who claim to be Christians and believers and all that, but they have never experienced any change that they can remember from their babyhood. Well, dear friend, there must have been such a change if you are a Christian. I will not say that you ought to know the day and the hour, but, depend upon it, if you are now what you were when you were born, you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity. If there has not been a turning you are going the wrong way; every man must be turned from the way in which father Adam set his face, for our face is towards sin and destruction, and we must be turned right round so as to have our faces towards holiness and everlasting life. Where there is not such a turning there is the most solemn cause for heart searching and humiliation and for the seeking of salvation. Have you undergone a great transformation? The necessity for it is no make-up of mine, remember. It is that most solemn word of the New Testament— “Ye must be born again.” There must be a complete and total change in you, so that the things you once loved you come to hate, and the things you hated you are made to love, — as great a change as there was in Ephraim, who was formerly glued to his idols and then came to abhor them. I pray you all to search and see whether such a difference has been made in your hearts by the Holy Ghost, for a mistake here will be fatal.

     If you have never undergone such a renewing, let the prayer be breathed that the Holy Spirit may now renew you in the spirit of your mind: and if you hope that such a change has taken place upon you, then may God grant it may be a real abiding conversion, that so you may remain in grace, and go from strength to strength, till the idols shall be utterly abolished, and your whole nature shall, become the temple of the living God.

     Thus, then, we have two remarks— a sovereign prediction and a marvellous change.

     III. Thirdly, there is in our text AN IMPLIED CONFESSION. “Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols?” “Any more with idols!” Then, Ephraim, you have had a good deal to do with idols up till now? “Ay,” saith he, with the tears in his eyes, “that I have.” Hypocrites mean less than their language expresses, but true penitents mean much more than their bare words can convey. The confession of the text is all the more hearty because it is tacit, and as it were, slips out unintentionally.

     Attend earnestly dear hearers, for, perhaps, some of you may be worshipping idols now. We will go into the temple of your heart, and see whether we can find a false god there. I go into one heart, and, as I look up, I see a gigantic idol; it is gilded all over and clothed in shining robes: its eyes seem to be jewels, and its forehead is “as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires”; it is a very lovely idol to look upon. Come not too close, do not examine too severely, nor so much as dream of looking inside the hollow sham. Within it you will find all manner of rottenness and filthiness, but the outside of the idol is adorned with the greatest art and skill, and you may even become enamoured of it as you stand and gaze upon it. What is its name? Its name is self-righteousness. Well do I remember when I used to worship this image which my own hands had made, till one morning my god had his head broken off, and by-and-by I found his hands were gone, and soon I found that the worm was devouring it, and my god that I worshipped and trusted in turned out to be a heap of dross and dung, whereas I had thought it to be a mass of solid gold, with eyes of diamonds. Alas, there are many men to whom no such revelation has been given. Their idol is still in first-rate condition. True, perhaps, at Christmas-time it gets a little out of order, and they feel that they did not quite behave as they ought when the bottle went round so freely, but they have called in the goldsmith to overlay the idol with new gold and gild the chipped places afresh. Have they not been to church since then? Did they not go on Christmas morning to a place of worship, and make it all right? Have they not repeated extra prayers, and given a little more away in charity? So they have furbished their god up again, and he looks very respectable. Ah, it is easy to tinker him up, my brethren, until the ark of the Lord comes in, and then all the smiths in the world cannot keep this god erect. If the gospel of Jesus Christ once enters into the soul, then, straightway, this wonderful god begins to bow himself, and, like Dagon, who was broken before the ark of the Lord, self-righteousness is dashed to pieces. But there are thousands all over this world who worship this god, and I will tell you how they pray to it. They say, “God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are,” and so on, not exactly in the Pharisee’s language, but after the same style. “Lord, I thank thee that I pay everybody twenty shillings in the pound, and have brought up my children respectably. God, I thank thee that I have been a regular churchgoing or chapelgoing man all my life. God, I thank thee that I am not a swearer, nor yet a drunkard, nor anything of that kind. I am far better than most people; and if I do not get to heaven it will be very bad for my neighbours, for they are not half as good as I am.” In this manner is this monstrous deity adored. I am not speaking of what is done in Hindustan, but of an idolatry very fashionable in England. The god of self-righteousness is lord paramount in millions of hearts. Oh, that every worshipper of that god may be led to say, “What have I to do any more with this abominable idol?”

     Another sort of god I have seen in the human heart, is the idol of darling sin. A person not long ago said— “Well, I suppose there is a good deal in religion; but, you see, I am on the turf, and I could not leave it. How could I? I could not, of course, become a Christian man, and yet be known to be a betting man.” Yes, the betting-ring was his god. The running horse is as favourite a deity as were the calves of Bethel.

     Another man says, “Yes, yes. I should be glad to be a Christian, but you see I love the bottle, I must occasionally enjoy a drop too much; not often, you know, but now and then at convivial meetings, holidays and bonfire nights. A man must be drunk sometimes, must he not? And where’s the harm? I could not give it up.” They do not say so in actual words, but that is what they mean, thousands of them. They must still keep Bacchus for their god, and offer him their sacrifices. And, ah! what sacrifices they make. How they ruin health and destroy life itself, beggar their children, make their wives wretched, and all to worship this dunghill god of drink.

     Others have some other darling sin. I need not mention all; in fact I could not, for the cheek of modesty would tingle if we were to mention certain of the vices which men and women feel that they could not cease from. They would fain be saved in their sins, not from their sins. They would worship God after a fashion, but the first place must be given to this darling lust of theirs. O sir, I care not what idol it is, but if there is anything in this world that thou lovest better than Christ, thou canst never see the face of God with joy. If there is any sin that thou wouldst persevere in, I beseech thee change thy mind about it, and cut it off, though it be a right hand, and pluck it out though it be a right eye. It were better for thee to enter into life maimed and with one eye than having both hands and both eyes to be cast into hell fire. Darling sins must be abjured if Christ is to be enjoyed.

     Behold how idolaters disagree: one adores righteous self, and another worships sinful self; but both idols must be utterly abolished.

     In some men’s hearts I see the love of pleasure. That god is seated on the throne of many hearts. They are overcome not so much by the grosser sins as by their natural levity and trifling. They cannot think, they do not want to think. They say they are “dull” it they have to be quiet for awhile. They like to be always amused, gratified, excited. Now, there is a measure of recreation which is as good as medicine both to body and soul, and there are proper recreations to be had. God has provided innocent pleasures, and we shall do well to accept them with gratitude from our heavenly Father; but to be a lover of pleasure rather than a lover of God is to be dead while you live. To make your belly your god, to live to eat and drink, to be just meat-digesters and wine-strainers, to be living here merely to enjoy yourself— butterflies flitting from flower to flower, gathering no honey, but merely seeking pleasure— this is evil. Sirs, this is a god that will not be worshipped by one who knows the love of God, for his God is his pleasure, and pleasure is not his god. He casts aside full often things that he might otherwise have allowed himself to enjoy, that he may honour and glorify his Saviour the more.

     Many worship the golden calf. They indulge no vice, and pursue no pleasure, except their one vice and their one pleasure, which is their greed of gold. If you want to arouse all their energies, jingle a guinea near them. This they pursue as the hounds pursue the fox, hot foot, and never resting. For fear they should be poor when they are old, they make themselves poor when they are young; and, lest they should be starved at last, they starve themselves to the last. We have known some to whom honour, love, uprightness, integrity, religion, have all been nothing whatever, so long as gain could be had by sacrificing them. The great fabric of their fortune has rolled along, like the car of Juggernaut, crushing everything that has been in its way. Widows might weep, and orphans might lament, the groans of those whom they oppressed might go up to heaven, and the iniquities which they have perpetrated might go before them unto judgment; but it was nothing to them. They were adding field to field and house to house, and getting richer and richer: for that they lived, and for that they seemed content to die. O God, convert the man who worships gold! Milton, you know, describes the demon of greed as

“Mammon the least erected spirit that fell
From heaven; for even in heaven his looks and thoughts
Were always downward bent, admiring more
The riches of heaven’s pavement, trodden gold,
Than ought divine or holy else enjoyed
In vision beatific.”

This vice is very degrading, and well does Milton place Mammon in hell, and say,

“Let none admire
That riches grow in hell; that soil may best
Deserve the precious bane.”

Now, when the Lord delivers a man from the power of the devil he cries, “What have I to do any more with making wealth my idol?” he grows content, becomes the Lord’s steward, and uses his substance in the service of Jesus.

     We must go round these temples as quickly as we can, and not stop long in any one of them, for they are not very sweet— some in the temple of their hearts have set up unlawful attachments. They form connections which are forbidden by the word of God. For instance, I have known some who profess to be Christians— God knows whether they ever were or not who have put altogether out of court the command of our Lord not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers, and have followed the dictates of the flesh by joining in marriage with the ungodly. It is a dreadful thing to be married to one from whom you know you must be soon separated for ever, one who loves not God, and therefore can never be your companion in heaven. If that is your case already, your prayers should day and night go up to heaven for the partner of your bosom, that he or she may be brought to Christ; but for any young person wilfully to form such a tie is to set up an idol in the place of God. Weeping and wailing will come of it ere long.

     Any form of love which divides the heart from Jesus is idolatry, and alas, I fear the idols are as many as the trees of the field. Lord, remove them far from us.

     A great number of persons worship an idol called the praise of men. They speak after this fashion, “Oh, yes, you are right enough, but you see I could not do it.” Well, why not? “Why, I do not know what my uncle would say about it, or I could not tell how my wife would like it. I am not sure how my grandfather might be pleased with me.” The fear of relatives and the dread of public opinion hold many in mental and moral bondage, and the fear of men holds many more. I pity those who dare not do what they believe to be right. It seems to me to be the grandest of all liberties, the liberty wherewith Christ makes us free, the liberty to do and dare anything which conscience commands in his name. But numbers of people have to ask other people to allow them to breathe, to allow them to think, to allow them to believe anything; and there is nothing they are so frightened of as Mrs. Grundy. The little society in which they live is all in all to them. What will So-and-so think of it? The working man dares not go to a place of worship because the carpenters in the shop would be down upon him. The men that work with him would be saying to him, “Halloa! What, are you one of those methodistical fellows?” Many men who are six feet high are cowards, and are afraid of some little body half their height. They are afraid that some worthless fellow would make a joke at their expense, and to be joked at seems to be something dreadful. O poor souls! Poor souls! All the jokes they are likely to get will be very lukewarm water compared with the scalding hot cauldron into which some of us have been plunged from year after year, when we could not speak a word without having it misinterpreted, and could not utter a sentence without being belied; yet they shrink from their little persecutions as if they were a great martyrdom. We are alive after all the assaults which were made upon us, and not much the worse for them; and so will you be, too, dear friends, if you have the heart and the courage to do and dare for the Lord Jesus Christ. This idol of the fear of man devours thousands of souls. This is a bloodthirsty idol, as cruel as any of the idols of the Hindus— this “fear of man which bringeth a snare.” Some of you know that you are altogether mean in spirit and dare not do what you know you ought to do, for fear somebody or other should make a remark about how strange and how odd you are. God help you to have done with that idol.

     Thus we have considered the implied confession that we have had most evil dealings with idols.

     IV. The last point is to be THE RESOLUTE QUESTION, “What have I to do any more with idols?”

     Let us put it this way, “What have I to do any more with them? I have had enough to do with them. What have my sins done for me already?” Brothers and sisters, look at what sin has done for us and all our race. It made that beautiful Eden, which was our garden of delight, to be a wilderness, and made us to be the children of toil and sorrow. What has sin done for us? It has stripped us of our beauty, it has put us away from God, it has set the flaming cherubim with the drawn sword to keep us back from coming near to God, as long as we live in sin. Sin has wounded us, spoiled us, killed us, corrupted us. Sin has brought disease into the world, and digged the grave, and bred the worm. O sin, thou art the mother of all the griefs and groans and sighs and tears that ever befell men and women in this world. O wretched sin, what have we to do any more with thee? We have had more than enough of thee.

    And have not you and I, personally, had quite enough to do with our idols? I had enough to do with my self-righteousness, I do boldly say; for, oh, how I loathe to think that I should ever have been such a fool as to think that there was anything good in me, — to think that I could ever have dreamed of coming before God with a righteousness of my own. Oh, how I abhor the thought! God forbid for one single moment that I should ever be other than ashamed of having boasted in aught that I could do, or feel, or be. Do you not feel yourselves humiliated at the remembrance of such pride and presumption? What have you to do any more with the idol of righteous self? Nothing. We can never bow down before that any more.

     With regard to other idols, have you not smarted enough about them? The convert who was once a drunkard will say, “I have had enough to do with the cup of intoxication. Who hath woe? Who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine. The men of strength to mingle strong drink.” The wine-bibber has had enough to do with that. He has paid heavy smart money, and now he has done with rioting and excess for ever. The man who has plunged into vice will often have to say, “It has injured me in body, mind, and estate. What more can I have to do with it?” “Ah,” said one to me the other day, “when I lived in sin it was so expensive to me that it will take me years to recover what I have wasted upon the devil and myself. I am not the man for the service of God that I should have been if it had not been for that.” Ah, we have all had enough of it — more than enough of it. There is no cup of sin, however sweet it was in the day of our unregeneracy, but we feel that we want no more of it, not even with all its beaded bubbles sparkling on the brim when it moveth itself aright. We are sick of it— sick to the death, and the very name of it causes nausea in our soul. What have I to do any more with idols when I consider what idols have done for me?

     But there is another view of it. “What have I to do any more with idols?” Do you see, and can you bear to look upon, that strange sight yonder: three gibbets set upon a hill, and on the centre one a wondrous man, in fearful agony, nailed to the cross. If you look at him you will see that there is such a mixture of majesty in his misery that you discover him at once to be your Lord. Lo, it is the Bridegroom of your soul— your heart’s best Beloved, and he is nailed up there like a felon gibbeted to die. Who nailed him there? Who nailed him there, I say? Where is the hammer? Whence came the nails? Who nailed him there? And the answer is — Our idols nailed him there: our sins pierced his heart! Ah, then, what have I to do any more with them. If I had a favourite knife and with it a murderer had killed my wife, do you think I would use it at my table or carry it about with me? Away with the accursed thing! How I should loathe the very sight of it. And sin has murdered Christ! Our idols have put our Lord to death! Stand at the foot of the cross and see his murdered, mangled body, bleeding with its five great wounds, and you will say, “What have I to do any more with idols? The vinegar and gall, the bloody-sweat and death pangs have divorced my soul from all its ancient loves and wedded my heart for ever to the Well-beloved, even the King of kings. What have I to do any more with idols?” Nothing separates a man from sin like a sense of the love and the sufferings of Jesus. Redeeming grace and dying love — these ring the death-knells of our lusts and idols.

“Soon as faith the Lord can see,
Bleeding on a cross for me,
Quick my idols all depart,
Jesus gets and fills my heart.”

     Now, you may recollect again that we must have no more to do with idols, for the same sins which put our Lord to death will put us to death if they can. O child of God, you never sin without injuring yourself. The smallest sin that ever creeps into your heart is a robber seeking to kill and to destroy. You never profited by sin, and never can. No, it is poison, deadly poison to your spirit. Do not, therefore, tolerate it for an instant. What have you to do with it? You know it is to be evil, only evil, and that continually. You know that it injures your faith, destroys your enjoyment, withers up your peace, weakens you in prayer, prevents your example being beneficial to others; and for all these reasons what have you to do any more with idols?

     Moreover, what have you to do any more with idols, now that you are a child of God — now that you are an heir of heaven? A poor boy sits down and plays with bits of platter in the street, and makes dirt-pies with his little friends. One day there comes up a king’s messenger, who has discovered that this is a lost child from a palace, and the child is taken home and washed, and clothed in royal apparel, and is told that he is a prince, and that he is heir to a kingdom. Will he go back and play with the dirty boys in the street again and be a gutter-child, a street arab? No, not he! He will be trained to something nobler, and more befitting his estate. And though you and I once loved the sin that others love, and found amusement where others find it, we have now by faith received power to become the sons of God, we are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. What have we to do any more with idols? What manner of people ought we to be whom the Lord has adopted into the royal family of heaven?

     Within a few months some of us will be in heaven, perhaps within a few weeks. What have we to do with idols? Even while we are here the Lord has raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenlies in Christ. What have we to do any more with idols? This day are we accepted in the Beloved, the elect of God justified by faith, with our names written on the palms of Jesus’ hands. What have we to do any more with idols? Truly the question answers itself. We have nothing to do with them except to loathe them, and whenever they are set up in our hearts even for a moment to break them down by the power of the Eternal Spirit.

     Now beloved, if God has wrought a great work in you and changed your hearts so that the idols you once worshipped you now detest, I would ask you to keep away from the idols all you can. If you have nothing to do with them do not go into the places where they are had in honour. “What have I to do any more with idols?” If I knew that a street was infected with small-pox I should not go out of my way to ride down it; I had rather go round about to avoid the plague. Let it be so with your once darling sin. Get as far away from it as you can, even as you would keep clear of a leper. You have nothing more to do with idols, therefore do not enter their temples or make a league with their worshippers. It is an old Rabbinical tradition with regard to the Nazarites that as they were not to drink wine so they were bidden not eat the grape, nor go through a vineyard. The old proverb was, “O Nazarite, go about, go about, but go not through a vineyard lest thou be tempted to eat of the grape and afterwards to drink of the juice thereof.” There is a great spiritual and moral lesson here for us. Keep as far off from sin as ever you can. If you have learned to say, “What have I to do any more with idols?” avoid the very appearance of evil, and all those communications which corrupt good manners. The ale-house, the dancing saloon, and the theatre are not for you. I loathe to hear Christian people say, “What do you think of this and that foolish amusement? Do you think I might go as far as that?” Well, my dear friend, if you enjoy anything that has any filth in it, I question whether you know anything about the love of God at all. You remember Rowland Hill’s observation to the person who said he liked to go the theatre. The person said, “Well, you know, Mr. Hill, I am a member of the church, but I do not go often, I only go once or twice a year, just for a treat.” “Ah,” said Mr. Hill, “you are worse a great deal than I thought you were. Suppose it were reported commonly that Mr. Hill fed on carrion and was very fond of eating rotten meat. And suppose somebody came to me and said ‘I hear, Mr. Hill, that you are very fond of eating carrion.’ ‘Oh, no,’ I say, ‘Not at all. I do not regularly feed on it, I only eat a dish of it once or twice a year for a treat!’ Then everybody would say, ‘You are fonder of it than we thought. For if poor creatures have to eat it every day because they cannot get anything better, their taste is not so vitiated as yours who turn away from wholesome food, and find rottenness to be a dainty dish.’” If you can find your pleasure and delight where sin of the worst kind is always very near at hand, where religion would be out of place, and where Christ your Master could not be expected to come, you have not learned to say with Ephraim, “What have I to do any more with idols?” Run away from anything which has the least taint of sin, and may God help you so to do even to the end. Is this in order that you may be saved? God forbid! I am only speaking to you who are saved already. If you are not saved, the first thing is to have a renewed heart by faith in Jesus Christ, and after that we lay no bondage on you, and exact no tax from you by way of duty, but it will be your joy, your delight, your privilege, to keep near to your Master and to say, “What have I to do any more with idols?” God bless you for Christ’s sake.