Loved and Loving

By / Jun 22

Loved and Loving 

 

“M y beloved is mine, and I am bis: he feedeth among the lilies.”— Song of Solomon ii. 16.

 

MY BELOVED,— this is a sweet name which our love takes liberty to apply to the Lord Jesus. His inexpressible beauty has won our affection, and we cannot help loving him whatever may come of it: whether he be ours or not, and whether he smiles upon us or frowns, we love him and cannot do otherwise. We are carried away by the torrent of his goodness, and have no longer the control of our affections. As long as we live we must and will love the altogether lovely One. Yes, he is, and must be to me, “My Beloved.”

     BUT SUPPOSE,— suppose for a moment that we loved and had no right to love. Many a heart that has cried “My beloved,” has been wounded even unto death, because it could not come at its choice, but was doomed never to exclaim, “My beloved is mine.” The beloved was longed for, but could not be grasped. This is often so in earthly love, since such love may be unlawful, or unwise, and in every case it is the source of grievous misery. Thank God, this is not the case with the soul enamoured of Christ Jesus; for he freely presents himself in the gospel as the object of our confidence and love. Though he be infinitely above us, yet he delights to be one with all his loving ones, and of his own will he gives himself to us. A polluted sinner may love the perfect Saviour, for there is no word in Scripture to forbid. Ay, if a sinner would be wedded to the Lord of glory there is none to forbid the banns.

     Suppose that our possession of Jesus were a matter of doubt, as, alas! it is with far too many: that would be a door of sorrow indeed. Life would be unhappy if it were soured by a question as to whether our Well-beloved is ours or no. To an awakened and instructed mind it is anguish to be dubious of our hold of Christ; about this we must needs be sure, or be unhappy. All else may be in jeopardy, but, O most blessed Lord, never allow our possession of thyself to be in dispute! It would be a poor thing to say, “My beloved may be mine,” or even “he was mine,” or “perhaps he is mine”: we cannot bear any verb but one in the indicative mood, present tense,— “My beloved is mine.”

     Suppose yet once again that, though we loved, and rightly loved, and actually possessed the beloved object, yet our affection was not returned. Ah, misery! to love and not be loved! Blessed be God, we can not only sing, “My Beloved is mine,” but also, “I am his.” He values me, he delights in me, he loves me! It is very wonderful that Jesus should think us worth the having; but since he does so, we find a matchless solace in the fact. Which is the greater miracle— that he should be mine, or that I should be his? Certainly, the second is the surer ground of safety, for I cannot keep my treasures, since I am feebleness itself; but Jesus is able to preserve his own, and none can pluck them out of his hand. The truth that Jesus calls me his is enough to make a man dance and sing all the way between here and heaven. Realize the fact that we are dear to the heart of our incarnate God, and amid the sands of this wilderness a fountain of overflowing joy is open before us.

     BUT THE TEXT IS FREE FROM ALL SUPPOSITION: it is the language of indisputable possession, the exclamation of a confidence which has made its assurance doubly sure. There are two positive verbs in the present tense, and not the smell of a doubt has passed upon them. Here is a brave positiveness which fears no controversy, “my beloved is mine and I am his,” doubt it who may; nay, if you must needs doubt it, ask himself. There he is, for “he feedeth among the lilies.” The spouse sees him of whom she speaks; he may be a mere myth to others but he is a substantial, lovable, lovely, and actually beloved person to her. He stands before her, and she perceives his character so clearly that she has a comparison ready for him, and likens him to a gazelle feeding on the tender grass among the lilies. This is a very delightful state of heart. Some of us know what it is to enjoy it from year to year. Christ is ours, and we know it. Jesus is present, and by faith we see him. Our marriage union with husband or wife cannot be more clear, more sure, more matter of fact, than our oneness with Christ and our enjoyment of that oneness. Joy! joy! joy! He whom we love is ours! We can also see the other side of the golden shield, for he whom we prize beyond all the world also prizes us, and we are his. Nothing in the universe besides deserves for an instant to be compared in value with this inestimable blessing. We would not change with the cherubim: their chief places in the choirs of heaven are poor as compared with the glory which excelleth,— the glory of knowing that I my best Beloved’s am and he is mine. A place in Christ’s heart is more sweet, more honourable, more dear to us than a throne among the angels. Not even the delights of Paradise can produce a rival to this ecstatic joy— “My Beloved is mine, and I am his.”

     YET HAS THE TEXT A NOTE OF CAUTION. The condition of fully assured love is as tender as it is delightful. The spouse in the seventh verse had charged her companions by all things of gentleness, delicacy, and timidity— “by the roes, and by the hinds of the field”— to refrain from offending her beloved while he deigned to abide with her; she had also compared him to a roe or a young hart, rather hiding than revealing himself; and here she likens him to the same roe, quietly pasturing in the gardens, so gently moving that he does not break or even bruise a lily, but softly insinuates himself among their delicate beauties, as one of the same dainty mould. This hints in poetic imagery at the solemn and sacred truth that the dearest fellowship with Jesus can never be known by the rough and the coarse, the hard and the restless, but remains the priceless heritage of the lowly and meek; and these can only retain it by a studious care which cherishes love, and guards it from even the least intrusion. A gazelle among the lilies would start at the bark of a fox, and be gone at the voice of a stranger; and therefore soft whispers of inward love must say, “Take us the foxes, the little foxes,” and nimble hands with noiseless fingers must draw up the lattice that kindly eyes may look forth at the windows, and may be seen of him who delights in love.

     The evident intent of the language is to set forth the delicacy of the highest form of holy fellowship. The Lord our God is a jealous God, and that jealousy is most seen where most his love is displayed. The least sin, wilfully indulged in, will grieve the Holy Spirit; slights, forgetfulnesses, and neglects will cause him to turn away. If we would remain positively and joyously assured that the Beloved is ours and that we are his we must use the utmost circumspection and holy vigilance. No man gains full assurance by accident, or retains it by chance. As the gentle hind wanders in lovely spots where grow the pure white lilies, and as he shuns the places profaned by strife, and foul with rank weeds and nettles, so does the Lord Jesus come to holy minds perfumed with devotion and consecrated to the Lord, and there in sacred quiet he finds solace and abides with his saints.

     May the Lord preserve us from pride, from self-seeking, from carnality, and wrath, for these things will chase away our delights even as dogs drive off the hind of the morning. Both our inward and outward walk must be eagerly watched, lest anything should vex the Bridegroom. A word, a glance, a thought may break the spell, and end the happy rest of the heart, and long may it be ere the blessing be regained. We have some of us learned by bitter experience that it is hard to establish a settled peace, and easy enough to destroy it. The costly vase, the product of a thousand laborious processes, may be broken in a moment; and so the supreme delight of communion with the Lord Jesus, the flower of ten thousand eminent delights, may be shattered by a few moments’ negligence. Hence the one lesson of our little sermon is— “I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please.”

“For I am jealous of my heart
Lest it should once from him depart;
Then should I lose my best delight
Should my Beloved take to flight.”

 

                                                                                                                                      Mentone, Dec. 10th, 1881.
     BELOVED FRIENDS,— In a few days I hope to turn my face homeward, much refreshed by laying aside the harness for a season. I beseech you continue your prayers for me— prayer which I value beyond all earthly treasures. If these sermons profit you, ask that I may have grace to continue them. Entering upon a Twenty-seventh Volume, I entreat your help to increase their circulation, that they may have a wider range of influence.
                                                                                                         Yours heartily,
                                                                                                                                                 C. H. SPURGEON.



Till We Meet Again

By / Jun 22

Till We Meet Again

 

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”— Revelation xxii. 21.

 

THE first saints could never be long without speaking of their Lord and Saviour. He filled their hearts, and therefore they must needs speak of him. How ingeniously they bring him in! When they commence an epistle the salutation will be sure to bear his name. When they are in the midst of a letter, they lay down their pen and offer a prayer; and when they begin again it is with a benediction in which his name is prominent, or with a doxology ascribing glory unto him, with the Father, and with the Holy Ghost. John’s Book of Revelation is full of Christ. Its opening verse rings out the precious name, and the closing line which is now before us repeats the heavenly music. Is not the Lord Jesus the sum and substance, the glory of every vision seen in Patmos? May I not say of the Apocalypse, as John said of the New Jerusalem, “the Lamb is the light thereof”? until he looses the seals and opens the roll, the book of John’s prophecy is so folded up that no man shall understand it.

     John could not finish his book without mentioning that name which was dearest of all names to him, As he puts aside his pen to write no more, he concludes with an invocation of blessing upon all the saints in every place; and this is the form of it: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” Paul is thought to have claimed the use of this benediction as his particular token: “in every epistle so I write.” I am not sure that it is so, for I suspect that the apostle referred to his own large handwriting, and to the signature which he put to his letters. But still, according to many interpreters, Paul used this particular blessing as his private mark, the seal of the authenticity of a letter. See the end of the epistles to the Corinthians and Thessalonians: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” Certainly Paul used the words often; but, perhaps, when Paul had been taken up, John deemed it right to adopt Paul’s motto, and with it to set, as it were, his stamp and seal upon the last book of Revelation. It was a benediction which could not be engrossed by any one apostle, nor indeed by all the apostles put together. Paul made it his own, but John had equal right to use it; and it is now all the dearer to us because both these mighties employed it.

     Brethren, the benediction before us is not only Paul’s word and John’s word, and the Bible’s last word, but it is now the chosen word of all the ministers of Jesus Christ. Is not this the benediction with which we dismiss the faithful: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all”? So shall it remain until the Lord shall come a second time. It is an expression suitable to the most gracious heart, a prayer wherewith the believer may vent his best wishes and express his most devout desires. Over you all at this time, in my own most humble but sincere manner, I would pronounce the benediction, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”

     If the Spirit shall help me, I would at this time first say, let us consider this benediction; and then, secondly, let us consider its peculiar position; for something can be learned therefrom.

     I. First, then, let us CONSIDER THIS BENEDICTION. It divides itself into three parts, under these heads,— What? How? and, To whom?

     1. What? What is this which John desires when he says,— “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all”?

     The word is Charis. I do not think any better translation could be given than “grace”: it is usually translated grace throughout the Hew Testament. Those who understand the Greek language thoroughly tell us that it has for its root “joy.” There is joy at the bottom of Charis, or grace. It also signifieth favour, kindliness, and especially love; and I might, without violating the meaning of the Spirit, read the words thus: “The love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” But inasmuch as love to unworthy creatures such as we are can only display itself in free favour— that is, grace, and we know that the term used is an accurate expression, we will let it stand as it is, only putting in a drop or two of the sweet honey of the love which lies within it. John desires that we may have the free favour of Jesus Christ, the love of Jesus Christ, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ himself is generally mentioned in our benedictions as having grace, and the Father as having love; and our usual benediction begins with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God. Is that the proper order? Should we not rather say the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? Brethren, the order observed in the benediction is that of our experience, the order in which we learn, the order in which we receive. We first receive the grace and free favour which are in Christ Jesus, and then from these we learn the love of the Father; for no man cometh unto the Father but by Jesus Christ. The order is correct to our experience, and in an instructive benediction the Holy Spirit intendeth this for our learning.

     The Father’s love is, as it were, the secret, mysterious germ of everything. That same love in Jesus Christ is grace; his is love in its active form, love descending to earth, love wearing human nature, love paying the great ransom price, love ascending, love sitting and waiting, love pleading, love soon to come with power and glory. The eternal love which, as it were, did lie in the bosom of the Father, rises up and comes into activity, and is then called the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

     This grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is therefore the grace of a divine person. We wish you, brethren, as we wish for ourselves, the grace of God himself, rich, boundless, unfathomable, immutable, divine; no temporary grace such as some speak of, which keepeth not its own, but suffereth even the sheep of its own pasture to go astray and perish; but the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom it is written, “Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end”; that grace most potent which said, “None shall pluck them out of my hand.” We wish this grace to be with you, the grace which loved you or ever the earth was made,— “I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee”; the grace which will be with you when this poor world shall have melted back into the nothingness from whence it sprang: infinite, everlasting, unchanging grace— we wish you may have that. May its divine height, and depth, and length, and breadth be enjoyed by you; may you know the loving grace of Christ which passeth knowledge; may you grasp the unsearchable riches of Christ. This is no small treasure,— this grace of a divine person.

     Yet is our Lord Jesus also human, as truly human as he is divine, and, believing in him, you have the grace of Jesus Christ the man to be with you all. May you feel his tenderness, his brotherliness, his grace. He is your kinsman, and he graciously favours his own kinsfolk. The man is next of kin unto us, and as Ruth enjoyed all the love of Boaz, so may you possess all the heart of Jesus. May he redeem your inheritance for you, and take you to himself to be his own, in blessed union with himself for ever. May the grace of the Man of Nazareth, the grace of the Son of Mary be with you, as well as the grace of “God over all, blessed for ever,” to whom be praise. The grace of that wondrous person who is God and man in one person, and whom we call Lord, is now solemnly invoked upon you.

     Read the text again, and pause a while in the middle to enjoy “The grace of our Lord” Whatever familiarity we have with him, we call him Master and Lord, and he saith, “Ye do well, for so I am.” Let us never forget that. The grace that cometh from his majesty, the grace that cometh from his headship, the grace that cometh from his divinely human supremacy over his church, which is his body— this is the grace which we desire for you all.

     Read the next word, “the grace of our Lord Jesus”: may that be with you; that is to say, the grace of our Saviour, for that is the meaning of the word Jesus. All his saving grace, all that which redeems from guilt, from sin, from trouble, all that which saves us with an everlasting salvation,— may that be yours to the full.

     Then comes the other word, “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you”; may he, as the Anointed One, visit you. May the grace of his anointing be with you, may the holy anointing which was poured upon the Head come down upon you, as the sacred nard dropped from Aaron’s beard and perfumed all his robes. May you have that anointing from the Holy One which shall make you know all things.

     I am tempted to linger over each one of these words, but I may not, for time would forbid. Yet must we tarry on that word “our.” “May the grace of our Lord.” Catch at that sweet word. It may not

perhaps be genuine in this case, for it is not in the Sinaitic manuscript, but whether it is so in this particular instance or not, it is in the Word, and stands for ever true. Jesus is our Lord,— our Lord Jesus Christ: both yours and ours. May the fulness of his grace be with you and with us.

     2. Our next division is How? “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” What meaneth this? Our first answer is the wish that the grace of our Lord may rest upon you as a matter of fact,— that he may love you truly and intensely; love you, not only as he loves the world, but as he loved his own which were in the world. May you have his redemption, not as a general thing, but according to that word, “He hath redeemed us from among men out of every kindred.” May you have the special, peculiar love which Christ hath to those whom his Father gave him, whose names are on his breastplate, and for whom he has paid an effectual ransom price, that they thereby might be delivered: may such grace be with you. As a matter of fact may it rest upon you as the chosen, adopted, called, and sanctified.

     Next, may you believe that grace, may you trust that grace, may it be with you because your faith has closed in with it, and you are relying upon it. You believe that Jesus loves you; you believe in his grace, and trust yourself to him, committing your spirit to the keeping of that hand which was pierced and fastened to the cross for you. May his grace be with you in that sense, so that you realize it.

     Still further, may his grace be with you as the object of faith, so that your belief comes to be full assurance, till you know the love which Christ hath towards you, and no more doubt it than you doubt the love of the dearest friend you have on earth. May his love be a present fact, and not a thing to be questioned, a treasure in which you glory in the secret places of your soul, saying, “He loved me, and gave himself for me.” May his grace be with you in the sense that you are confidently assured of it.

     And may his grace be with you, next, as to the favours which flow out of it May you enjoy all the blessings which the grace of Christ can yield, the grace of a peaceful conscience, the grace of a cleansed walk, the grace of access to God, the grace of fervent love, the grace of holy expectancy, the grace of self-denial, the grace of perfect consecration, and the grace of final perseverance. May the fountain and well-head be with you, that so the sparkling streams may flow at your feet.

     And may grace be with us, next, so as to produce constant communion between us and Christ, his favour flowing into our heart, and our hearts returning their gratitude. Oh, to carry on blessed commerce with Christ, exchanging weakness for strength, sin for righteousness, and trust for care. O to give love for love and heart for heart, till my best love loves me, and my best love is all his own. Oh, to come to this pass, that our Well-beloved is with us, and we enjoy sweet mutual intercourse: this is to have the love, or grace, of Jesus with us.

     May our Lord Jesus Christ thus in his grace be with us, and may be work for us all that he can work. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you, brethren, when you desire to pray; then may the great High Priest intercede for you. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you, so that when you are downcast he may say, “Let not your heart be troubled.” May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you to check you when you are likely to start aside, to guide you when you know not your way, to inspirit you when you are ready to be cast down, to confirm you when you have almost slipped with your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you when heart and flesh are failing you, when the last hour has come, and you are about to appear before God. God grant you to know always all that Christ can do in you, and for you, and with you, and by you. What better benediction could John himself utter?

     3. But, now, the third part of our discourse comes under the head of “to whom.” “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” Surely if we were to take this in the widest possible sense, and say— may it be with you all, it could not be wrong to wish that all should have the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ with them; yet I know some sound brethren are very jealous of anything that looks like a wide expression, an expression which would wish good to all. For my own part, I do not understand the nature of the orthodoxy which would limit benevolent desires. I should like to be more and more heterodox in the direction of desiring good to all that come in my way. Would to God that the best that could happen to all men did happen to them. I would without the slightest hypocrisy breathe this desire over all mankind, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” Still, there is no doubt that the connection in which it stands, and also certain versions of it, do confine this benediction to the saints, and practically it must always be confined to them, for the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is only known and enjoyed by those who have given their hearts to Jesus, and are living by him, in him, and to him. Let us wish the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ to all the saints, at any rate. Some of the saints will hardly own us; but may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with them. They would not let us preach in their pulpits; but may grace be with them. They would not partake of the communion with us; but may grace be with them. They call us sectarians and schismatics, but may “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with them all. Amen,” with every one of them, whoever they may be. If they are in Jesus Christ, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with them. Every now and then you come across a book written by one who is along way off from understanding all the truth, yet he knows Jesus Christ, and as you read the sweet words that come from his pen concerning the Master you feel your heart knit to him. Your soul feels that it is a pity that the writer was a High Churchman, but if he loves the Lord Jesus Christ we forget his errors, and are delighted with the life of Jesus which we see in him. If a man knows Christ, he knows the most important of matters, and is possessed of a secret quite as precious as any in our own keeping, for what know we more than Christ, and what hope have we but in Christ? If thou lovest Christ, give me thy hand, my friend, notwithstanding thy blunders. If Christ be all thy trust and all thy confidence, I am sorry for thine eyes that thou canst not see a great deal more, I am sorry for thine head that thou canst not think more straight, but thine heart is in the right place resting on Jesus, reposing on him, and who am I that I should judge thee? There is a life in Christ which a thousand errors cannot kill. There is a life which is the same in all that have it, however diverse they may happen to be upon opinion or outward ceremony. There is a life eternal, and that life is Christ Jesus, and to all that have that life we do with intensity of heart say, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”

     I notice Paul says this in one of his epistles to a church that misbehaved itself dreadfully. It was one of the churches that would not have any minister; a church where they all spoke as they pleased, to whom Paul said, “God is not the author of confusion.” They were so depraved a church that they allowed an incestuous person to be present at the communion, but still, after the apostle had rebuked them, he said, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” Even so must we say to those who err ignorantly, as the Corinthians did. If we differ from brethren, if we have to rebuke them, if sometimes they also rebuke us, and show temper over it, yet may this be the finale of it all, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” Should we not wish the highest degree of grace to all who are in the body of Christ? Let us not utter this benediction merely because we ought to say it, but because we delight to say it: let us not only wish well to the saints because we are bound to wish them well, but because our hearts cannot do otherwise.

     II. So now, not to detain you much longer, I ask your earnest attention for a few minutes to THE POSITION OF THIS BENEDICTION.

     First, I draw what I have to say from the fact that it is the last word of Scripture. I regard it, therefore, as being the apostle’s last and highest wish. We are glad to find that, while the Old Testament finishes with a curse— “Lest I come and smite the earth with a curse,” the New Testament concludes with a blessing, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all”: as if to show that the very life and spirit of a Christian should be blessing; and this should be to us our last and highest wish for men— that they may receive and retain the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. I wish this blessing to you all, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever you may miss, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be always with you. In whatsoever points you or any of us may fail, may we never come short of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. What if the preacher should preach to others, and himself be a castaway! Pray that it be not so. What if a deacon or elder should lead the flock of Christ, and yet the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ should not be with him! He would become another Judas or Demas. That would be dreadful. What if you should teach the little ones in the school, and yet not learn yourselves! It would be a sad thing to have come to the Lord’s Supper, and yet never to have eaten his flesh and drunk his blood: to be immersed in water, but never to have known the baptism of the Holy Spirit, nor to have been baptized into Christ with the spiritual baptism. What a thing it will be, if, after all our professions, and all our labours, and all our teachings, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ should not be with us. I pray, brethren, whatever other prayer may not be granted, that this may be, concerning every member of this church, and every member of every church of Jesus Christ, that at any rate the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ may be with us. We cannot do with less than this, and we do not want more than this. If we get grace from Jesus we shall have glory with Jesus, but without it we are without hope. Standing at the end of the Book of Revelation as this does, I next regard its position as indicating what we shall want till the end comes; that is, from now till the descent of our Lord in his second advent. This is the one thing we require, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” May it be with us daily, hourly! May it be with us, instructing us as to our behaviour in each generation! May it be with us cleansing us from all sin; enabling us to walk in the light as he is in the light! May it be with us, strengthening us to carry our daily burdens, and to bear our witness for his name under the varying circumstances of the ages. May it be with us counselling us when the trials of life distract us! With us transfiguring us from glory to glory, till we shall bear the image of Jesus Christ? May it be with us all-sufficiently! Hath he not said, “My grace is sufficient for thee”? May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all in every way in which you shall require it till he cometh! He can furnish you with the whole armour of God; he can equip you with all the necessaries of the pilgrim life. For our labour as gospel-fishermen he supplies all the nets that we shall require, for our work in his vineyard he gives us every tool. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us, and we shall be swift of foot as a young roe, and sure of foot as the hart on the mountain side, that slips not, however slippery the crags may be. Only let Christ be with us and we are complete in him; perfect in Christ Jesus. All the equipment that men shall want between earth and heaven to fight against hell, and to trample on the world, and to enter into eternal perfection, is found in Christ. May his grace be with you all. Amen.

     Placed as this blessing is at the end of the book there is but this one more thought,— this is what we shall wish for when the end cometh. We shall come to the end of life, as we come to the end of our Bibles. And oh! aged friend, may thy failing eyes be cheered with the sight of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, on the last page of life, as thou wilt find it on the last page of thy well-thumbed Bible. Peradventure some of you may come to the last page of life before you get grace: I pray that there you may find it. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Or, suppose we should not die; suppose the Lord should suddenly come in his temple. Oh! then may we have grace to meet him. I am so glad that a benediction closes the Apocalypse; for, as you stand in the book of Revelation, you hear the thunders roll, peal after peal, you see the vials poured forth, darkening the air, and sun and moon turned into blackness and blood! Earth reels beneath your feet, and stars fall like fig leaves from the tree! You are full of confusion and dismay, until you hear this holy whisper, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” Let every star of the firmament fall where it will, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is with us. Rock and reel, ye mountains, and be dissolved, O earth, and pass away; if the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us we fear not the end. We can serenely look upon the wreck of matter and the crash of worlds. Let the last august tribunal sit, and men be summoned to stand before it, to receive their final doom, we shall without trembling advance before that great white throne and stand there, if the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us.

“Bold shall I stand in that great day,
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
While through his blood absolved I am
From sin’s tremendous curse and shame.”

Oh! happy they, shrouded, and sheltered, and hidden, in Christ their Saviour; to whom his grace shall be like the white robes of Mount Tabor’s transfiguration, for they shall be accepted in the Beloved, glorified in the glory of their Master. These are they to whom the text shall be fulfilled — “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”

     Finally, brethren, farewell, and as you go out I would like just to take my place at the doorway, to offer my hand of friendship, and say to each one, “Farewell for a little while. This is my best wish for you,— The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” Will you start back and say, “Sir, I know nothing of this grace”? Then would I ask you to stay a moment while I breathe the prayer, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” May be there is only a tear of penitence in your eye, no light of faith is there as yet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you, poor broken-hearted penitent! May be you do not know Jesus yet, and you are only seeking him. His grace be with you now: may he manifest himself to you! And you, backslider, do you feel as if you cannot receive a blessing? The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be especially with you, to raise you up, and set you on your feet again, as he did fallen Peter. I would like, if I could, to say to the stranger within our gates to-night, who does not often attend the house of God, it is our heart’s desire for you that you may know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in truth. To the boys and girls here, the pastor says, “God bless you.” Little Mary, or Jane, or John, or Willie, or whatever your name may be, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you”; for he saith, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not.” As for you, grey-headed friends, you who will soon be home, I wish you this parting blessing, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” Till I see you again; “God bless you.” Till the day break, and the shadows flee away, may the Lord Jesus never be absent from you. Amen and amen.



A Hasty Expression Penitently Retracted

By / Jun 22

A Hasty Expression Penitently Retracted

 

“I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes: nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee.” — Psalm xxxi. 22.

 

THAT is a bit of genuine experience, honestly told, in the most natural manner. How glad we ought to be that David never fell into the hand of an ordinary biographer, for such a piece of weakness as this text records would have been carefully repressed, lest the good man’s reputation should suffer. It was only a hasty expression, and every friendly biographer would have felt that it ought to be taken as unspoken. Here, however, stands this piece of human weakness upon David’s life-page, and we are right glad of it: it is a comfort to us little folks to perceive the champions were men of like passions with ourselves. As a bee sucks honey out of nettles, so does faith find comfort even in the failings of David; but we must mind that we do not turn his errors into excuses, for that were to extract poisons instead of wholesome juices.

     The experience of a good man, of a great man, of a tried man, like David, is exceedingly instructive and impressive. The children of God delight in doctrinal preaching, and in practical preaching, but I believe that nothing is so sweet to them as experimental preaching, by which we are not only taught truth in the head and in the hand, but something is said of truth in the heart. This is it which endears the Book of Psalms to the whole church, and makes the explanation of that volume so important. Nothing more sweetly cheers the straggler after better things than to hear of the life-struggles of godly men. Behold, then, a written confession, dictated by the penitent heart of David, who herein withdraws the curtain from his own innermost life. I should not wonder if his experience should turn out to be very like your own; for, as in water face answereth to face, so does the heart of man to man, and this is the reason why the experience of one man is his best means of interpreting the feelings of another.

    Take heed, however, when you are reading the histories of the saints that you use them with prudence, for it is not all the experience of a Christian that is Christian experience. A believer may experience much which he does not experience as a believer, but because his believing is failing him. Sometimes we are rather to regard the experience of good men as beacons to warn us from rocks than as lighthouses to show us where the harbour may be. Rheumatism is certainly a human disease, but I would by no means recommend a person to seek after it in order to prove his manhood. We can well do without some things which were characteristic of certain eminent men, since they did not adorn or strengthen them, but rather disfigured and weakened them. In David’s case, it is well to follow David, but it is better to follow David’s son; for David sometimes went astray like a lost sheep, but David’s son was that great Shepherd of the sheep whose every step it is safe for the flock to follow. Do not let us imitate David in his speaking in haste, or in his saying, “I am cut off from before thine eyes;” but at the same time let us take care that we closely copy him in confessing conscious fault, as he here does ; in crying to God in the hour of trouble, as he tells us he did ; and also in bearing witness to the exceeding goodness of God, notwithstanding our faultiness, as he here bears witness when he says, “ Nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee.”

     For our edification we will consider the text thus: here is, first, an utterance of unbelief— “I am cut off from before thine eyes”; secondly, here is incidentally mentioned an effort of struggling faith, — he says, “Thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee”; and, thirdly, here is a testimony of gratitude, for David joyfully declares that, notwithstanding his unbelief, the Lord heard and answered his cries. O for the touch of the Holy Spirit to make this outline into a living sermon. Here are the altar and the wood: O Holy Ghost, be thou the fire!

     I. Let us begin by listening to AN UTTERANCE OF UNBELIEF—“I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes.”

     Note here, first, that unbelief is generally talkative— “I said.” It had been better for him not to have thought it even, but when he did think thus wrongly it was most unwise to speak the thought. I have heard it said, “If it is in the mind it may as well come out,” but this is not true. If I had a rattlesnake in a box on this platform, I think you would none of you vote for the creature’s being let loose. Poison in a phial is deadly, but it will hurt no one until the cork is drawn, and then we cannot tell how far the mischief may go. Lions and tigers and vipers are best shut up; the wider range you give them the more you empower them to do mischief. If thou hast an ill thought, repent of it, but do not repeat it: it may harm thee, but it will not harm others if thou let it die within doors. Do as David did in another case, when he had a very ugly thought; he said, “If I shall speak thus I shall offend against the generation of thy people,” and he would not, therefore, put his thought into words lest he should offend the godly. If thou hast a hard thought of God, utter it not in the presence of his own children. Wouldst thou grieve thy brethren? Utter it not in the presence of his enemies. Wouldst thou open their mouths to speak against him? Where wilt thou utter it? Speak it not upon earth, for it is his footstool. Say it not in prayer, for thou art bowing at his throne. Say it nowhere, for God will hear it if none else should. Bury in silence that offspring of thy soul of which it has good cause to be ashamed; let it be cast over the wall as the untimely figs, and consumed upon the rubbish heap of forgotten things. Alas, unbelief does not understand holding its tongue. We read that the children of Israel murmured in their tents; they could not be quiet at home. They complained of God in their families, and very soon the murmuring in the tents became a murmuring throughout all the camp, till they gathered together in crowds against God and his servant Moses. Yes, unbelief will prattle. I have known believing men slow of speech, but when a man has anything to complain of he is fluent even to overflowing; he will go from one neighbour to another, and lament the badness of trade, how the crops are failing, how ill he is himself, what a sickly family he has, and a legion of other griefs. The gazette of sorrow has long columns, and is generally crowded with items; it is published every hour of the day, and you can get a new edition at almost any house, for unbelief must publish its inventions. The strife of the many tongues of unbelief causes much mischief in the world: its quiver is full, and its arrows are death. It would have been wiser for David to have bit his tongue than to have said what he ought not to have said: however, this much is clear, — unbelief is generally talkative.

     Our next observation shall be that the utterances of unbelief are generally hasty—“I said in my haste.” There was no reason for saying such a thing at all, and certainly not for being in a hurry to say it; for he said unto God, “I am cut off from before thine eyes.” Look at this statement well. It is a very solemn thing to make such a declaration. See if it be founded on fact. Do you think it is true? Search a little more. Set your supposed condition in another light, and see whether, after all, you may not have made a mistake. But no. Unbelief blunders it out, right or wrong: “I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes.” I suppose the reason for the hot haste is this— that when a man’s mind is much distracted and driven to and fro he wants to come to some sort of conclusion ; and, though that conclusion may be totally false, and may be as far from right as possible, yet some sort of a conclusion his troubled thoughts require. John Bunyan says of the pilgrim that he was much tumbled up and down in his thoughts. It is a forcible Saxon expression, and most of you know what it signifies. You do not know whether you are on your head or your heels, as the old saying is, you are in a horrible confusion, and countless difficulties surround you; and so it is that you blunder at a conclusion, and say in your haste what should not be said. But why in such haste to write bitter things against yourself? Why in such haste to write your own condemnation? Why in such haste to misjudge your God? Stop a bit, brother. Stop a bit! There is time enough for this when the worst has come to the worst. Wait awhile, for when the brain is heated waiting will cool the brow, and prepare a place for wisdom. Why are you so desperately eager to play the fool? Know that the utterances of unbelief are hasty; and hasty things are raw and sour, and cannot display the maturity of prudence. What a man says in his haste he generally has to repent in his leisure. If it is a good thing, say it at once; but if it be a doubtful thing, stop; then stop again; then stop again; and if the stopping should end in your not speaking there will be a little more of golden silence in the world. I have heard say that one of the greatest points in good speaking is to know when to pause. I do not know about that, but I am sure that one of the wisest things in good living is to know when to pause, to stop, to question, and to deliberate. To go blindly on as though it were neck or nothing with you is to make sure shipwreck some day or other. Do nothing till you are sure that it is right to do it, and say nothing till you know that what you say is true. Hasty deeds and hasty words make up the most horrible parts of human history: the warnings of the past forbid all recklessness. Nevertheless, when once we grow despondent this is our temptation, and it will be well to bit and bridle both mind and tongue lest we fall into the evil.

     Frequently when a man speaks in haste his expressions arc the result of his temper. “We are quick tempered,” some will say. If you are quick tempered it is very likely that you are also quick tongued, and this is a great pity. You speak in a moment what you cannot unsay in a century. Now, it is very ill when we are in a temper with God. Is that ever the case? Oh yes. I fear that often professing Christians are out of temper with God. A good woman was wearing deep mourning years after the loss of him whom she mourned; and a Quaker said to her, “Friend, I perceive thou hast not forgiven God yet.” There he hit the nail on the head. Many have not forgiven God yet: they have taken umbrage against him either because of bereavement, or loss of property, or sickness, or disappointment, or trial, and they keep on sulking because they cannot have their own way. Surely they have never heard the question, “Should it be according to thy mind?” Wilt thou sit on the throne and judge thy God? Wilt thou

“Snatch from his hands the balance and the rod,
Rejudge his judgment, be the God of God”?

This is blasphemy; and yet too often such blasphemy enters into the human heart. Who is to be master? Are we to be lords over all? Who is to order providence? In whose hands should be the issues from death? Is God to wait on us, and ask our will, and do our bidding? That is, indeed, the turning of things upside down, and it cannot, must not be. It is because we get into wayward, foolish, rebellious tempers with God that therefore we speak in our haste what we ought not even to think. Thus David penitently confesses, “I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes.”

     Again, it is very clear from the text that the utterances of unbelief are frequently exaggerated. “I am cut off from before thine eyes.” No, David; no, no. It is not so: you are cut off from the esteem of men through slander, and you are cut off from the friendship of those who once professed to love you, whose minds have been soured by an evil report ; but you are not cut off from God. It is true you are cut off from the public services of God’s house, and obliged to hide away in the rocks and caves of the earth: that is true; but you are not cut off from before God’s eyes. You know you are not, and why do you say you are? Oh, but some people always talk big about everything ; and it is a great pity, because it is so near lying that I do not know whether it is not the same thing. There must be a very narrow line, fine as a razor’s edge, between a lie and the unguarded expressions of exaggeration. Some people talk about their trials on a scale which allows a mile for every inch. Their afflictions are awful, they are dreadful, they are without parallel. There were never any like them, and there never will be again. They endure the most extraordinary pains, and the most wonderful afflictions, and they are altogether quite equal to Job and Jeremiah rolled into one. Never did any persons undergo sufferings comparable to theirs. You cannot sit down by their side to 'comfort them but they will tell you at once that you do not know anything about the great deeps whereon they are doing business : you are only knee-deep in the waters of trouble, while all God’s waves and billows have gone over them. I meet with some who are almost impossibly afflicted; their tribulations exceed that which is common to man, and that which is uncommon too; but this may be accounted for by the large organ of imagination with which they are endowed. By using this imagination to paint their spectacles they are soon able to see all manner of dreadful visions, and they talk accordingly. That is the way of our unbelief, it will talk at random about trials and troubles. This is not pretty. God does not love his children to talk in that fashion. The lips that speak truth are his delight; and if our unbelief will not speak truth—and it very seldom does, perhaps never does—then it is a great pity that it cannot hold its tongue. May I ask if any friend here has been exaggerating his trouble? Is there any sister here who is fretting out of all reason— making a great deal out of what may be much, but is not everything? Then stand rebuked at this hour. Your cup is not all gall. Your bread is not all turned to ashes. All your comforts have not fled; many a mercy is left you. Come, come, friend, we are not quite cut off from before the Lord, let us leave off exaggeration lest we be guilty of falsehood.

     Once more, the utterances of unbelief dishonour God. “I am cut off,” says David, “from before thine eyes.” He does, as it were, blame the Lord. Before thy very eyes have I suffered this; thou hast so forsaken me and given me over to the enemy, that I am cut off from before thine eyes. Why dost thou not deliver me? He spoke in his haste, as if God, at the very least, had been forgetful, even if he had not been untender and unfaithful. “I am cut off from before thine eyes.” It would greatly dishonour God if he did suffer one that could say, “In thee, O Lord, have I put my trust,” to be cut off from before his eyes. It would be contrary to his promise; for he has said that he will not suffer the righteous to perish. “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry”: there never was a godly man cut off from God yet, and there never will be till time shall be no more. All the attributes of God forbid the destruction of a soul that is resting on the Almighty arm; and yet the unbelieving heart declares that such a destruction has taken place in its own case. Oh, wondrous unbelief, to think the' Lord to be so unrighteous as to forget our work of faith and labour of love, to forget his children, to cast away his own, his covenanted ones, with whom he has entered into solemn league by oath, saying, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” He puts his promise very strongly in that passage, using many negatives in the original tongue. “I will not, not, not—never, never leave thee. I will not, forsake thee”: many times over negativing the idea that he could possibly forsake one of his own.

     Brethren, let us consider whether you and I may not have given utterance to words of unbelief. If we have, let us eat up those words to-night; let us call them back and drown them in our tears. Those cruel charges were none of them true. They were spoken in haste; they were the offspring of petulance and folly. Lord, have mercy upon thy servants, and cast these grievous words of ours behind thy back. Let them be as though they were never spoken, for we never had any reason so to speak, and what we have said we do thoroughly repent of, and pray that thou wouldst blot it but for evermore.

     II. So much, then, upon the first head— an utterance of unbelief: we are now ready to look within the sorrowing heart, and mark the signs that grace is still living there. We have not far to search; for, secondly, in the text there is mentioned AN EFFORT OF STRUGGLING FAITH.

     Though David said, “I am cut off from before thine eyes,” yet he prayed, and prayed distinctly to God. He says, “Thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee” O child of God, cry to a smiting God. Cry to God even when he seems to cast thee off; for where else canst thou go? What remains for thee but to cry to him, even if he shut his ear to thy plea? What if he frown upon thee? Still cling to him. Where else canst thou espy a hope? To whom, or whither could you go if you should turn from God? What if his providences seem hard? What if he use the rod upon thee till thy whole head is sick and thy whole heart faint? What if he even appears to put his hand to his scabbard to draw out the sword to slay thee? Even then there remains no resort for thee so hopeful as believing prayer. Say thou with Job, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” Cling to him still. Sink or swim, live or die, do not doubt thy God, but still pray. What did Jonah do when the weeds were wrapped about his head and he went down to the bottoms of the mountains? He still made supplication to the Lord God of salvation, and trusted his spirit in the divine hands. He tells us, “Out of the belly of hell cried I.” Wherever you may be drifted, and however desperate your case, yet still pray: still pray. If you can do nothing else— if your hands are bound as to any form of effort, still pray. Never cease from crying, though you cannot rise a note above the most pitiful wailing. When Banyan’s pilgrim went through the valley-of-the-shadow-of-death, he found that he had no weapon with which he could smite the fiends that surrounded him except the weapon of all-prayer. The adversaries were too impalpable for sword or spear, too mysterious for battle-axe or bow; but prayer could find them out and smite them to the heart. Believer, this is the most convenient and useful of all the weapons in our heavenly panoply. All-prayer will help you against man or devil. It will help you to bear up under trials that come from God and tribulations that mysteriously approach you from earth or hell. Long as you live should you pray, for while you can pray you cannot perish. You must under no pressure cease from prayer, my brother. It is your last resort. “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.”

     Please notice that David prayed in downright earnest, for he says, “Thou heardest the voice of my supplications,” so that he offered many prayers— prayers with voices to them, and he describes them under the term, “I cried.” His was a crying prayer. Those are the very best prayers. Our eyes sometimes light upon “prayers to be said or sung we have no wish to depreciate such compositions for others, but they are of no possible use to us who delight to tell our desires to our heavenly Father in our own broken speech. That is the prayer which is neither said nor sung, but cried: it drops from the eyes in tears, it breaks forth from the lips in moans, and from the breast in groanings that cannot be uttered. Those prayers of ours which we could not endure for any human ear to hear are among the best of prayers. A little child may begin to speak and call to its mother in words, and perhaps she will not come to it; but let it give up words and try crying, and you will see if the mother does not come. Let it cry again and again, and the mother’s ear will be caught by the child’s cry. There is no praying to God like the crying of a childlike spirit. A cry is not a very pleasant sound. No; but it is a very prevalent sound. A cry is not even articulate. No, but it is expressive. Crying is the language of pain; it is the eloquence of grief; it is the utterance of intense longing. When you use crying prayer, when you must have the blessing, and therefore cry for it— you shall have it. We do not always give our children what they cry for, but this is the rule of our heavenly Father, “The righteous cry and the Lord heareth.” Well did Isaiah say, “He will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when he shall hear it, he will answer thee.” The rule is invariable, and many are the cases which go to prove it. We know who said, “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.” Even in his despair, I say, David prayed, and that praying took the form of an earnest and passionate cry.

     Note well that God heard his prayer. We sometimes fancy that God will not hear us if any measure of unbelief is mixed with our prayers. If that were the case I am afraid that the Lord would not often hear us, for there is a measure of unbelief even our in strongest faith. It is a great mercy that even when we are lamenting, “I am cut off from before thine eyes,” yet if at the same time we can pray, our petition is accepted of the Lord. The Scripture saith, “According to your faith be it unto you.” Suppose that text had run like this, “According to your unbelief be it unto you.” Ah, me, where would you and I have been? Our unbelief would have involved us in the curse and condemnation which rest upon all who believe not in the Lord Jesus. Unbelief would sour and spoil all. God did not deal with David according to his unbelief, but he dealt with him according to his faith. We are a sorrowful mixture of natures, and if we were reckoned with according to our ill side who among us could stand? David’s faith was small, but still it was true. It was an infant faith that could cry, a struggling faith that could plead, a patient faith that could wait, and so it was an accepted faith which obtained favour of the Lord. It was a faith which, if it had not an arm to fight with, had a voice to cry with, and therefore it prevailed with God.

     My friend, thou who art in trouble, whoever thou mayest be, let me urge, persuade, entreat thee, not to listen to the voice of Satan who tempts thee to cease from prayer. Do not say, “God will not hear me because I am in this wretched condition.” Remember the words, “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.” Cry to him wherever you may be, or whoever you may be. However desperate your plight, you shall survive it if you pray; however dire your danger, a way of escape shall be made for you if you cry unto the Lord. Cannons have been styled “the last arguments of kings”; but I may better call prayers the last arguments of needy sinners. Cling to the mercy-seat when you can cling nowhere else. Cling to the mercy-seat when justice lifts her sword to slay thee. Increase your earnestness in proportion as you are tempted to cease from prayer; and may God the Holy Ghost, who is the God of grace and of supplications, intensify your desires, help your infirmities, and teach you how to pray, and what to pray for, as you ought.

     III. Our text next supplies us with A TESTIMONY OF GRATITUDE. The Psalmist says, “Nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplications.”

     Notice, that God acted in directly the opposite manner from that in which the Psalmist’s unbelief acted; for, first, his unbelief spoke and said this and that; but God did not speak. He was a listener; “Thou heardest.” Not a word came from God: there had been too many words in the business already. When we begin to grumble with anybody it takes two to make a quarrel, and if number two answers to our murmuring we soon stir up a fierce quarrel. If God were as man is, if his thoughts were as our thoughts, he would say, “Murmur, do you, when I am dealing with you so kindly? Then you shall have cause for complaining. Is my little finger heavy? You shall feel my hand. Is my hand heavy? You shall know the weight of my loins.” Well might God say to us, “What! find fault while you are surrounded with so many blessings! Tell me I have forsaken you! Say to me that you are cut off from before my eyes when I am dealing graciously with you all the day long! Talk to me so! Then I will do as you have said; I will take you at your word, and make your saying true.” But oh, the marvellous patience of God. He says nothing. There was the strength of Christ, that “as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” in the midst of his accusers; and here is a part of the marvellous power of God— the omnipotence which restrains omnipotence, so that he is not provoked, or, being provoked, speaks not in anger, and deals not with his servants in wrath, else had we long ago been consumed. Oh, how sweet to look back and think, He did not answer me according to my folly, or walk frowardly with me because I walked frowardly with him. His word says, “With the froward thou wilt show thyself froward”; but he did not fulfil that threat to me, nor walk contrary to me though I walked contrary to him. In gentleness and patience he regarded not my evil words, and answered me not according to my folly.

     You see then the difference between the quiet of God and the clamour of our unbelief. David bears cheerful testimony to the fact that he was in error when he spoke so hastily, and that God was exceeding gracious in taking so little notice of his foolish complaint.

     The next contrast is seen in the fact that though David spoke in a hurry, there was no haste in God. “I said in my haste.” Yes, but God did not reply in haste. Notice the glorious leisure of infinite love, for it is written, “Thou heardest the voice of my supplications.” God was quietly hearing while his petulant servant was fiercely complaining. We had a meeting of ministers a short time ago, at which it was agreed that for five minutes each one should relate a piece of experience. One of the brethren gave us this thought, which I shall not soon forget. He said, “It is a great thing for a minister who visits his people to be a good listener. The afflicted value this faculty above gold. Perhaps the pastor calls upon a poor woman who is in great trouble, and he sits down, and she tells him her mournful tale. Bless her heart! He has heard that tale a dozen times before, but he sits quite still and takes it all in, listening most earnestly. He has not perhaps the power to help her at all, but she feels very thankful to him because he has heard her case, and it has comforted her to tell it.” It is a great thing to be willing to sit and listen, and hear a story which perhaps is very badly told, and is not at all pleasant to hear, which even creates sorrow in your own mind as you hearken to it. Such hearing displays tender sympathy. Hence the Scriptures say of God, “O thou that hearest prayer.” Mark, it is not “answerest,” but “hearest.” Those brethren who want to be exceedingly correct tell us “God is the hearer and answerer of prayer.” Yes, that is very proper; but the Scripture is content to write, “O thou that hearest prayer.” It is a wonderful thing that God should sit down, as it were, and listen to the prayers of his people and put up with their nonsense— their complaining and their crying. David does not cease to wonder that in his unhappy condition he had yet been regarded of the Lord: “Thou heardest the voice of my supplication.” How beautiful that is! “I spoke in haste.” Ah, I poured out my bitter plaint; and all the Lord did was he heard it—quietly, patiently, listened to it all; took it all in, considered the case of his poor servant, knew what his fevered brain meant, and how far that evil haste arose out of it, and therefore forgave the sad unbelief which spoke out so audaciously in words of repining. Oh, it is beautiful, that gentleness of God which led him to give no answer to the hurried, passionate speech of David, but just to hear it and no more. Well did David say in another place, “Thy gentleness hath made me great.”

     It is delightful to see how the Lord notes always the good and ignores the evil when dealing with his saints. In David’s case he would not hear the foolish and false charges of his unbelief, but he heard the cries of his struggling faith. Remember the instance of Sarah: she doubted as to her bringing forth a child when she was old, and asked, “How shall it be, my lord being old also?” The Holy Spirit says nothing in the New Testament about Sarah’s unbelieving speech, except that he commends that one good word in it, and notes that she “obeyed her husband, calling him lord.” If the Lord can spy a beauty in his people, he fixes his eyes on it; and as for all their defilements, he washes them away, saying “they shall not be remembered against them any more for ever.”

     Let us go a little farther in our contrast between David and his Lord. There was no exaggeration with God. Unbelief exaggerates, as we have shown; but God does not. On the contrary, he diminishes the evil of his servants till it comes to nothing, putting it all away. He heard the feeble cry of faith in David’s heart, and did not allow the voice of his unbelief to drown it; he did not look upon his servant’s fault till it hid his grace; but he smiled upon the work of grace, little as it was.

     And though, as we have said, unbelief dishonoured God, yet God did not dishonour his servant's prayer for all that. No; he might have said to David’s prayer, “Go thy way, I will not hear thee. Doth the same fountain send forth sweet water and bitter? I heard David say just now, ‘I am cut off from before thine eyes.’ Am I going to hear out of the same mouth a charge against my faithfulness and a cry for help? If he thinks I have forsaken him, let it be so.” But not so our God. He will not dishonour prayer, even though prayer be very feeble, and though there be an unbelief in it which is grievous in his sight. It never shall be said that faith and prayer came back from the throne of God with blushing faces: he will maintain his memorial untouched, and the motto of that memorial is — the God that heareth prayer. “Thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee.”

     We dare not make much out of our English version by way of dogmatic teaching, and yet somehow I feel inclined to pull each little word of the text in pieces just for a minute. Look at it. “Nevertheless thou heardest the voice.” “Never-the-less,” as much as to say, Though I had spoken as I ought not to do, yet thou didst not lessen thine attention to me, but thou didst just as much hear my prayer as if I had never sinned with my tongue. Not one jot the less was thy pity or thy bounty: thine ear did not in any measure lose its readiness to hear my prayer, nor thy heart its willingness to feel for me. Not one particle the less for all my transgressing “thou heardest the voice of my supplications.” O thou gracious God, never-the-less dost thou deal out thy mercies though it seems as if ever-the-more we sin. Nevertheless dost thou love though ever the more do we err. Oh grant that ever the more we may be grateful to thee, and never, oh never, may we again grieve thee by our unbelief.

    The time has come for me to wind up with SUNDRY LESSONS IN A FEW WORDS.

     The first is, let us repent heartily of every hard thought we have ever had of our God and Father. I am forced to look back upon some such sins of thought with much distress of mind. They have come from me in serious pain and depression of spirit; and now I pray the Lord of his great mercy to look at them as though I had never thought them, for I do heartily abhor them, and I loathe myself in his sight that I should ever have questioned his tender love and gracious care. If you have similarly transgressed, dear friends, in your dark nights of trouble, come now, and bow your heads, and pray the Lord to forgive his servants concerning this thing ; for he is so good, so gracious, that it is a wanton cruelty to think of him as otherwise than overflowing with love. There is none like unto him among the sons of men; the kindest of mortals have not his bowels of compassion. There is none like unto thee, Jehovah, even among the gods, — no fabled deity, however painted in glowing colours, can be compared unto thee! Let us take back our words if at any time we have said aught against him, and make the utmost amends by magnifying his holy name.

     In the next place, let us earnestly pray that, if ever we shall be tempted again to hard, mistrustful thoughts, we may be able to put a check upon our language, and to keep our mouth as with a bridle. Oh that our tongue, which is given us to praise our God with, may never be perverted into an instrument of complaint against our greatest benefactor. O thou vile tongue, how couldst thou ever in thy hottest haste let slip an angry word against the Lord? Better far to be dumb than to dishonour a name so dear.

     The next lesson is this,—let us always continue to pray, come what will. Brethren, never cease praying. What I have said before, I say again— continue in prayer. Call upon your God. Cry to him. Cry to him. While breath lasts, and life gives power to feel a desire, never cease to supplicate the Lord.

     Last of all, let us always speak well of his mercy. If we have bitterly complained let us with equal vigour declare his goodness. I wish that you who are given to grumble would make up your minds that the time past will suffice you to have grumbled, and now you are going to growl backwards, to recall all your hard speeches, and to praise God as much as you have formerly complained against him. I should like farmers to break into a wonderful excitement of gratitude, so that all the nation would ring with it, and all men would confess, — “Whenever you meet a farmer, you meet with a man who is always praising God for the weather.” It will be a wonderful change if that should ever come to be the general remark. I wish you tradesmen would suddenly put a new leaf into your books, and become the most thankful set of men alive, so that it would be universally said, “ Whenever we meet a tradesman, we always find him praising God for his goodness to him in his business.” For many years most traders have done the other thing, and it is time they should pitch a new tune, and sing another song. There have been “very bad times— dreadfully bad times,” quite long enough. Are there no better times coming? Bad as times are these grumblers live, and live in comfort too. Do they live on their losses? They cannot well do that, and so we may suppose that they are living on the savings of former years, and it is clear that they must have had some wonderfully good times once when we did not hear much about them. They ought to praise God now for those wonderful seasons four, five, or six years ago, when things were so marvellously good that they were able to lay up store for the years of famine. It will be a blessed thing for us when all times are good, because our minds are good and our hearts are content. May we grow like the shepherd who was asked, “Will there be good weather to-day?” and he answered that there would be good weather. “Don’t you think it will rain?” “Very likely; or perhaps it will snow.” “But you said that it would be good weather.” “Yes,” he answered, “if God sends it, it cannot be anything else than good.” “But I mean, do you think there will be such weather as pleases you.” “Ay, that there will,” said he, “for whatever pleases God pleases me.”

     God give us a happy, childlike, rejoicing spirit. We have done enough murmuring to last a lifetime; let us change the tune. Suppose that you were to say, “I will make up my mind that just as much as I have ever disbelieved, mistrusted, murmured, so much will I do in the way of trusting and praising the Lord.” But suppose you were actually to do as much, that would be a poor life of which you could merely say, “There was as much praise of God in that man’s life as there was of murmuring.” Shall we be content with such a summary? No, no, no,  we must rise to something better than that. We must praise God a thousand times to every complaint. No; we must get above that; we must have done with all complaining. God deliver us from it, and lift us right out of unbelief; and when we do speak in our haste again may it only be to exclaim, “Bless the Lord, hallelujah!” If somebody sincerely remarks “That was a bit of enthusiasm,” you may reply, “Oh yes; but as I am a hasty man, and rather quick tempered, that is the way in which I show my hastiness; I bless the Lord while my heart is hot, and then keep on doing so till I have cooled down.” Lift up a hallelujah when nobody is prepared for such a word of praise. Startle your friends by crying, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name.” The Lord lift you all up to this, and keep you there, for Christ’s sake. Amen.



Truthfulness

By / Jun 22

TRUTHFULNESS.

 

“O Lord, are not thine eyes upon the truth?” — Jeremiah v. 3.

 

THE allusion is not to doctrinal truth, or truth in the abstract, but to practical truth as it should exist in the hearts and lives of men. It might be read “O Lord, are not thine eyes upon truthfulness?” or “upon faithfulness?” The Lord bade them produce a single truthful man in all Jerusalem, and Jeremiah answers that if truth were to be found the Lord himself best knew where it was, for his eyes were ever upon it.

     In this chapter you must have noticed when I was reading it that we have a fearful description of the condition of things in the days of the prophet Jeremiah. We have also a most melancholy set of pictures of untruthful men, which are drawn to the life, with a grimly graphic touch which strangely reminds me of the series of Hogarth’s sketches known as “the Rake’s Progress.” They hold the mirror up not only to the life, but to the heart of the men of the times. Jerusalem was rotten at the core: the nation was deceitful through and through. In the twenty-seventh verse we read, “As a cage is full of birds, so are their houses full of deceit.” They had schemes without number, plots without end, and tricks without limit, moving about in their minds like birds herded together in a little cage. What worse could be said? When a heart is untruthful, and crooked, when uprightness has gone from it, then is it prepared to be the seed-plot of every evil thing. Any crime is possible to a liar. He who is rotten with falsehood will rend at the touch of temptation. A man of bold, outspoken vice, is far more hopeful than a sly, cunning hypocrite.

     These untruthful people began with acting untruthfully towards their fellow-men. God challenges them to run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem and see whether they could find a man that executed judgment and sought the truth. He says that they were not even commonly honest towards those persons whose necessities generally plead for favour. “They judge not the cause, the cause of the fatherless, and the right of the needy do they not judge.” They were not upright in cases where they should have been charitable, but they cheated even the widow and the orphan: when a man has once become a rogue all

 will be fish that comes to his net, and he will as soon rob the fatherless as anybody else. Greed destroys common humanity. Cheating of men is a very common form of deceit, both in the open puffery of trade and the more quiet deceptions of daily life; traders frequently think it useless to tell the honest truth to one another, and so society becomes a network of craft and falsehood. It is a dreadful thing when men are not to be trusted, when their word is but wind, when without its being to their advantage they would as soon lie as not.

     God save us from that form of untruthfulness, since it leads on to something worse: for in the second verse it is said that these people were faithless even to their oaths. “They say ‘Jehovah liveth,’ but surely they swear falsely.” They dared to take that most sacred of all names upon their lips, and call God to witness to a lie. He who has gone as far as falsehood will not always stop at perjury. That which makes our blood run cold to think of may yet be perpetrated by us if we take the first steps in deceit. This being so— that they could perjure themselves— it is little wonderful that they were not faithful to their marriage vows. I need not read the strong expression in which the prophet sets forth the fornication and adultery which abounded in his day, when they did not hesitate to bring grief into their houses and the utmost sorrow and misery to their wives by indulging their passions; for he that is traitorous to God will soon be treacherous to all domestic ties. What can we expect when a man is irreligious but that he will soon be impure, if he is not that already? I have marked it often, that when men who profess to be religious decline from the ways of God it often happens that, if you track them home— not to the home of their wife and children — but to their favourite haunts, you will discover a corruption of life of which the external observer little dreamed. The judgment day alone will reveal how many hearths have been desolated, how many hearts have been broken by the cruel unfaithfulness of husbands who have crushed those whom they vowed to cherish. This is one of the meanest forms of falsehood.

     False to their marriage ties as well as to everything else, it is small wonder that they were false to the plain teachings of providence, for it is written that “they have belied the Lord and said, It is not he.” When God had been chastening they said, “It is not God. It is bad luck: it is fate: time and chance happen unto all.” They would not see the hand of God. Do you wonder that when men have corrupt and crooked hearts they should not be able to see God’s plain and truthful proceedings, or that when they do see them they deny them? “There is no God,” say they; “or if there be a God, he does not meddle with the things of daily life.” “It is cant and hypocrisy,” they say, “to talk about our troubles coming from God; he does not interfere with human affairs. The laws of matter, the principles of nature— these govern all things. God has set the world going like a clock, and left it to its own wheels and pendulum; or, better still, he has wound it up like a watch, and put it under his pillow, and has gone to sleep. How doth God know? And is there knowledge in the Most High?” These men were liars, I say, and all who talk in their fashion are liars too. These wretches hesitated not to lie against the eternal light of that thrice blessed providence which shines in all the lives of men, — ay, shines like the daylight to men who are commonly honest and are willing to see. It needs no great learning to perceive the presence of God all around us: the greatest need is an upright, candid mind.

     This being so, these men cast off God himself; the first step is to put him out of the field of action, and the next is to have done with him altogether, and to substitute other gods. According to the nineteenth verse, these people had forsaken God and served strange gods. Superstition follows on the heels of unbelief, for bad men are frequently amongst the most ardent votaries of superstition. Cast off a pure God, and you want a god of some sort, and so every man to his liking manufactures a god for himself. The earthy mind of the heathen makes a god of mud. The man whose soul is bound up in his bags makes the golden calf his deity. The dreamy thinker evolves an airy nothing out of his own imaginings. The free-liver invents a God who has no justice, and consequently takes no vengeance upon sin. Man looks for God, and thinks he sees him when he sees himself in a glass. By nature every man is his own deity, he worships his own image. It is only the man that is pure in heart that can see God, for what the man is that will his god be to him: but these men cast off God and set up superstitious beliefs of their own, and hence false gods were their choice.

     And, worst of all, if worse could possibly be, when a man once gives himself up to a deceitful heart he gets to be a destroyer of others. Notice that twenty-sixth verse. “They lay wait, as he that setteth snares; they set a trap, they catch men.” Not content with being lost themselves, they became the servants of Satan to destroy others. Oh, it is a lamentable thing to think that there are persons whose lips drop moral plagues among youth whenever they speak; whose conduct and example are such that they might well be put in an everlasting quarantine, and shut away like lepers, especially from youth, lest they should infect the rising race. I hope that I do not speak to anyone here who is a man-catcher — who sets traps to catch men, aiming to pervert, to corrupt, to mislead, to beguile. Such fiends in human form have surely reached the last stage of corruption when they not only sin themselves, but are the creators of sin in others.

     Look well at this picture of the progress of the deceitful. They begin with being dishonest to their fellow-men, and at last it comes to this— that they become Satan’s agents, trappers for the devil, fowlers who ensnare men as bird-catchers take the winged fowl.

     This was the state of affairs in Jeremiah’s time. We have not, I trust, quite such a condition of things among us to-day, as a plague universally prevalent, but we have much of the disease of deceit in all quarters, high and low, and to what a head it may come time alone can show.

     The appeal of Jeremiah was that of a holy man to God. He says, in effect, “O Lord, are not thine eyes such that thou canst detect what is truth and what is deceit? Thou spiest out the truth. That which is brought to thee as worship, thou canst tell whether it be sincere or not. Thou canst see the pretender s face through his mask, and read his heart through his outward profession. Thine eyes spy out the facts which lie beneath the covering of appearances. Thou canst discern between the righteous and the wicked.” Yes, God is the detector of shams and counterfeits, and by his infallible judgment the precious shall be severed from the vile; “for the Lord is a God of judgment, and by him actions are weighed.”

     “Are not thy eyes upon the truth?” That is, “Dost thou not discover truthfulness wherever it exists?” The prophet had bidden them go through the streets and search for an honest man; but he in effect cries, “Lord, thou knowest where he is if there be one yet remaining.” God has not to search with a lantern to find a truthful man, for “the Lord knoweth them that are his.” Lot in Sodom is like a lone bird on the mountains, but the Lord perceived him. The truthful ones are often hidden from mankind, but the eyes of God are steadfastly fixed upon them, as it is written, “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry.” The Lord can detect imposture, but he can also discover truthfulness, and we may be sure he will do it.

     The prophet also means that God approved of that which he discovered. “Are not thine eyes upon the truth?” Thou wilt not look upon hypocrisy; it is thine abhorrence, and thou wilt not turn thine eyes that way. Thine eyes burn like fire to consume those that would impose upon thee; but as for those that are sincere of heart, thou dost love them, and watch over to do them good. They are never out of thy sight. They leave not thy presence; they bask in thy smile. O Lord, are not thy eyes upon truthfulness, to approve of it, to help it, to defend it, to vindicate it even to the last?

     Let this which has gone before stand for a preface; and now let us come to the practical instructions which our text should yield us.

     I. I think that there are four lessons, and the first is THE UTTER FOLLY OF ALL PRETENCE.

     Hypocrisy is useless altogether, for God sees through it. You may by great cleverness delude your fellow-men for a while, though you will find it a poor and difficult business; but you can never deceive God. It is not that you may deceive the Lord for a little time, and then afterwards be discovered No; you cannot mislead him, even for an instant. He reads us as we read a book. He sees through us as we see through a sheet of clear glass. The instantaneous imagination which flits across the mind like a stray bird, leaving nor track nor trace, God observes it, and knows it altogether. To pretend to be other than we are before God is a hideous madness. Surely, Satan himself must laugh in his sleeve at those who come before God with words of piety on their lips when there is no devotion in their hearts: it is the comedy of a tragic blasphemy. It is utterly useless. It is a waste of time and energy. It were infinitely better that you were doing something else than dress and paint and pub on ornaments to go before God who sees you in your spiritual death to be nothing but naked corruption. May God grant that we may never play the fool in this way; for playing the fool it is, to hope to appear otherwise before him than what we really are deep down in our hearts.

     Nor is it only useless: it is injurious. For any man to hope that he can stand better with God by speaking more softly than his heart would suggest, or by using words which his soul does not really enter into, is to be doing the reverse of what he thinks to do. You spoil your sacrifice if there be any tincture of the odious gall of hypocrisy about it. Oh, if the Pharisee did but know that when he made broad the borders of his garments, and put on his phylactery, and sounded a trumpet before him in the streets, he was not pleasing God, but was actually provoking him, surely he would have sense enough to mend his ways. Everything about you and me that is unreal God hates, and hates it more in his own people than anywhere else. If in prayer we use expressions that really do not come from our hearts, or if in talking to our fellow-men we stick feathers in our caps to be a little taller and finer than we really are, it is abhorrent in the sight of God. He would sooner have us come before him in all the nakedness and shame of our first parents, and stand there and confess our crime, than dress ourselves out in the fig-leaves of formality and hypocrisy. Pretence is injurious to men as well as useless: it is not only an empty wind, but it is as the breath of pestilence.

     Moreover, pretence is deadening, for he that begins with tampering with truth will, as I have already shown you, go on from bad to worse. He may say at first, “Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this thing?” and yet, like a dog, he will go into all manner of filthiness before he has done. Let a man once begin to tamper with his conscience, to play tricks with words, and especially to trifle with the solemnities of religion, and there is no knowing what he will be. Oh, I charge my tongue, as I charge yours, never to use a word which is not true when speaking with God or for God, for falsehood before the Judge of all the earth is blasphemy. When we think of him in our secret souls we must be careful not to allow a false idea, for it is dreadful even to think untruth before God. Falsehood in common life must not be tolerated for a moment. Once begin to sail by the wind of policy and trickery and you must tack, and then tack again and again; and as surely as you are alive, you will yet have to tack again; but if you have the motive force of truth within you, as a steamboat has its own engine, then you can go straight in the teeth of wind and tempest. The man of truth is the true man. That is the man to honour God in life and death. That is the man to fear nothing and win everything. He is the man whom the Lord accepts, who feels that if the heavens fall it is not for him to prop them with a lie if that could make them stand. He is the man who is resolved to be before God and before man just what he is, wearing his heart upon his sleeve, and throwing back every shutter of his soul that the divine eye may inspect all! “Blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered, in whose spirit there is no guile:” this freedom from guile is a main ingredient of the blessedness. The conscience must be clear and honest, or it will gather dust and defilement every day, and the man will wax worse and worse.

     And there is this to be added, — that falsehood and pretence before God are damnable. I cannot use a less forcible word than that. Pretence condemns men fatally, and finally if it be continued in. I have noticed in reference to conversions one noteworthy fact. I would not wish to assert as a general rule that which happens to be the result of my personal observation; but be the rule what it may, all the world over, this one thing is a statement of my own experience, — I have constantly seen almost all sorts of people converted— great blasphemers, pleasure-seekers, thieves, drunkards, unchaste persons, and hardened reprobates, but rarely have I seen a man converted who has been a thorough-paced liar. I might have been still more correct if I had said never to my knowledge have I seen a wily, crafty man of cunning become a disciple of Jesus. The heart which is crammed with craft and treachery seems as if it had passed out of the reach of grace. You remember that the ground which brought forth fruit when the sower went forth to sow is called “honest and good ground.” There was nothing good in it spiritually, but it was honest, true, sincere, and so far “good.” Give me plain-spokenness and I have hope of a man. If a fellow can look you straight in the face you can deal with him. An open-hearted sailor, honest as the noonday sun, puts on no imitation of religion, but is evidently a bad fellow, a very bad fellow, and yet, when the grace of God enables him to listen to the gospel, how he sucks it in, and with what heartiness he responds to it. How very different it is with that clever gentleman who always attends a place of worship, and knows how to raise quibbles, and to answer texts of Scripture, and to blurt the edge of any truth that touches his conscience! You know him, do you not? He is a great sorrow to me. What a mischief-maker he is in all sorts of circles, and what a fetcher and carrier of religious gossip! He slips in and out of gospel services like a dog in a fair, and nothing ever comes of his running about. He is not good enough to be good to himself. How can you get at him? He knows all you can tell him, and yet knows nothing in truth. He is harder to handle than an eel, for he is all twists and turns. The man is shut up in armour, he is cased all over with his lying self-deceitfulness, and the arrows of truth are blunted when they touch his harness. May none of you ever grow into the like of him.

     I charge you, above all things, be true. If Baal be God, serve him, but say so, and do it in broad daylight. If the devil be your master, do not disown him; but do not be one of those mean sneaks who will serve God on Sundays, and the devil when it pays them better. Be not one who will profess to be a Christian to be respectable, and under the cover of that will indulge in the most disreputable vices. Such a man, though never out of the reach of the infinite grace of God — I never meant to say that— is usually the kind of man that the election of God does not light upon, and that the grace of God seldom visits. Amidst a very large and wide observation I have noticed the fact which I have stated, and, therefore, I bid all pretenders look to themselves lest their bands be made strong, and their death-irons be riveted on their wrists before they know of it. I would say to young persons beginning life, whatever errors you fall into, whatever mistakes you make, ay, and into whatever transgressions you may wander, be true. Wear no cloak of hypocrisy. Profess not to be what you are not; never dare to jeopardize your soul by a falsehood. Remember, no way to hell is surer than the way of deceit, for it is written, “All liars shall have their portion in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone.” He that loveth and maketh a lie shall be cast away from the presence of God and from the glory of his power.

     May the Holy Spirit of truth bless this warning as to the folly of making pretences and forging falsehoods before God.

     II. Our second lesson is, THE GREAT VALUE OF TRUTHFULNESS. O Lord, are not thine eyes upon truthfulness?”

     The great value of it is this— that it alone is regarded by God in matters of religion: his eyes are upon that which is truthful about us, and all the rest is not worthy of his notice. For instance, suppose I say “I repent.” The question is, — Do I really and from my heart sorrow for sin? Is there a change in my mind with regard to sin, so that what I once loved I now detest? Is it so? — for only that part of our repentance which is of the heart is accepted before God. Tears, sighs, groans— these are mere wind and water, and go for nothing if the heart be not broken. The same holds good in reference to faith. A man may say, “I believe,” as thousands say their creed, — “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth,” and so on. Ah, but do you trust in God with your whole heart? Are you truly and sincerely believing in God and God’s word, and God’s Son, and God’s gospel? — for, if not, all your professed faith is useless. True faith the Lord accepts and smiles upon, but it is a real thing, and dwells deeper down than the lips and the throat. As to love to Christ, you know how very easy it is to sing sweet hymns about love to Jesus, and yet how few are living so as to prove their attachment to the Redeemer. We say—

“O love divine, how sweet thou art!
When shall I find my willing heart
All taken up by thee?”

and so on. But are we knit to Jesus? Is it heart-work? Does our very soul cleave to Jesus? Do we follow after him as the thirsty hart after the water-brook, resolved to find him, and to abide by him, or to die in the attempt? Lip-love is little better than hate in the esteem of Christ. Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Christ in thy very soul tonight? — for, if thou dost not, all talk about love is but a mockery of his name. Simon, son of Jonas, hast thou real practical love to Jesus? Thou canst sing, Simon; but canst thou, wilt thou feed thy Master’s sheep, and so give evidence of thy love? Simon, son of Jonas, thou art very eager and fervent, but dost thou so intensely love Jesus as to care for his little ones and feed his lambs? This shall be the test of thy love. This is coming to the point.

     The same truth bears upon all the ordinances of religion. When we professed to worship God, how much praise was there in the song? As much as the heart made. There was no true praise of God in the noise of that set of pipes and pedals and keys and stops. I judge not those who find these noises helpful to devotion, but assuredly the sounds themselves are no part of divine worship. God does not accept praise from inanimate machinery. What cares he about what noise the air makes when it passes through pipes and valves? Even our singing is no better: it is but the sound of air as it is passing through the throat. What is there in that? No, the Lord only regards heart-singing; and the song of the soul is the amount and quantity of our song that was accepted of the Lord.

     As to prayer. “A large prayer meeting.” Yes, but the largeness of the number of attendants is not always a gauge of the quantity and power of prayer. The quantity of heart in the prayer decides its quality. The same is it with baptism and with the Lord’s Supper. The test is, How far is this done as unto the Lord? How far does the soul enter into the meaning of the outward symbols, and get at God in the use of them. A plunge in this baptistery is no better than a bath you may take in your own home; and the bread and wine on yonder table are no better than what you shall eat to-morrow at your own table, unless your heart comes to the baptism, rejoicing in being buried with Christ, and unless your heart comes to the table that you may feast upon his flesh and drink his blood. Let this stand, therefore, as the great test and gauge of all religion. We have no lack of external religion in these days. There, fill a cauldron with it! Set the great pot upon the fire! It goes in steam; see how it flies away! And what is left? Ah, so little that you may search with a microscope to discover any solid residuum. Those few grains at the bottom of the pot are, however, all that is real, and all that will remain in the day of testing. Such is the stern fact, that God values the truthfulness and the sincerity of our actions, the heartiness and the depth of them; and he does not regard what we do unless truth appears in it in all its forms.

     This is equally true of all your private worship. That daily reading of the chapter is a very excellent thing; but do you read with your soul as well as with your eyes? That morning prayer and that evening prayer, those few minutes snatched in the middle of the day— these are good. I will not wish you to alter the regularity of your devotion, but still it may all be clockwork, godliness with no life in it. Oh, for one single groan from the heart! It may have more prayer in it than an army of collects and liturgies, though there may be prayer there too if the heart uses them before the living God with sincerity.

     The value of truthfulness will be seen, because even in its lowest development God regards it. I think I might call that its lowest development which is spoken of in the first verse of the chapter, “Go and see if there be any that seeketh truthfulness”— a man who feels that he is not all he wants to be, but yet he wishes to be truthful. The man who is here sought for is conscious of many faults; ay, and he feels that sometimes he is not perfectly candid and transparent, and therefore he hates himself, and watches the deceitful tendencies of his heart, and zealously seeks to be true. Oh, my dear friend, if you really are on the right tack, if you are trying to be truthful, if you are labouring to be quite honest before God, if you can say “I want genuine conversion, and real faith in Christ; I cannot put up with shams and hollow professions,” then God accepts even that seeking after truth which is in your soul. May he keep you to that search by his divine Spirit till you come out into the clear, noonday light of the blessed truth as it is in Jesus.

     It is evident that truth is regarded by God with acceptance and with pleasure wherever he sees it in the soul. My friend, you cannot pray in public as you would dearly like to do, but the few words you ever utter are hot from your heart. You cannot pray long, even in private, but your groan is sincere. When in secret you sigh, “Oh, that!” and “Ah!” and “Would that!” you mean those ejaculations. There is no sham in such cries of the heart. Your very soul goes in them, and God is pleased with them. I would sooner have a little diamond than a block of granite; and the Lord would sooner have the least morsel of truthfulness than the hugest mass of pretentious, ostentatious religion.

     How far, dear friend, are you anxious to be right with God? Will you confess that you have sinned, and pray to have your sin blotted out by the Lord who sees it all? How far do you wish that God should know all about you? How far are you glad that there is a God? How far are you anxious to get into the very light of God through Jesus Christ? for, just so far as you truthfully wish to be like the true and living God, so far are you acceptable with the Most High. Oh, my dear brother, you may have only one talent, you may be very poor and very obscure, and to the church of God you may be almost unknown; but if your soul goes up and down these streets crying to God to bless your fellow-men, if you speak only what you feel, and if you walk before the Lord with tenderness and brokenness of spirit, striving always to be true, he accepts and blesses you. If you are resting on Jesus Christ alone, and on his precious blood, though your faith is feeble, it is true, and God will bless you and save you, and you shall be his in the day when he makes up his jewels.

     III. Thirdly, and very briefly, let us learn THE INFLUENCE OF TRUTHFUL MEN. The influence of really truthful men is too wonderful to be overlooked.

     First, it is so great with God that one of them can save a city from destruction. Jerusalem was full of every evil, and God said, “Shall I not punish such a people as this?” and yet he said, “If there be any that executeth judgment and seeketh truth, I will pardon it.” He will save a city for the sake of one man. A parallel case is that in which the Lord was ready to pardon Sodom if but ten righteous had been found there. No doubt many a state has been preserved by the godly remnant in it, whom the majority would have exterminated had it been in their power. Hence the value of good men in bad localities. When you, my dear friend, go into a hamlet or village where there is no religion, do not be so very sorry at your position, for God may have great ends to be served by you. You are a lump of salt, and we do not want to keep the salt locked up by itself in the store-room. Where should the salt be put? Why, where the corruption is likely to come, to preserve what is good, and to keep away that which is evil. I do believe that every now and then the Lord puts his hand into the salt-box of the Tabernacle and takes away some that do not wish to go; but he says, “You must go for the benefit of mankind. I have need of salt over there and over there.” In the happy church of which you are a member you would like always to remain; but you must go, or else be useless: which is your own choice? When the gospel chariot needs horses, will you for ever stand in the stall? Are the oxen to-day, as in the days of Job, to be ploughing, and the asses to be feeding beside them for ever? Let us not complain of being used, or of being placed where we can be used. All light must not be stored up in the sun; scatter it over earth’s poor lands that need it, lest all the trees of the field die in perpetual night Surely you would not have all waters in the sea; let them be exhaled, and let them return in silvery drops upon the soil to fertilize it. It must be so: God blesses us to make us blessings. One good man can benefit a whole district. Ask of God that you may be so sincere, so truthful, that he may bless those round about you for your sake.

     This influence is such that it never was attributed to any man on account of his riches. God never saved a city because there was a millionaire in it: it may be he has done the reverse. I never heard of any city being saved because there was a learned man in it, or an eloquent man in it, or because there was some great architect in it. No, no, no. The Lord is no respecter of persons, and he seeth not as man seeth. Sincerity before God is approved— true reliance upon Christ the Lord accepts: and for this he blesses us, and others through us.

     And, mark you one other thing, dear friend. If you are upright before God, and you should happen to fall among people that despise you and reject you, it is a sad thing to have to say, but it is true, and a proof of the great influence of truthful men, — your word, when you speak for God, shall be like fire, and those round about you shall be wood, and it shall devour them. If you are not a savour of life to life to men, you will be a savour of death to death to them. And, mark this, if the Christian church sends missionaries, as I trust it yet may be aroused to do, in such numbers as it ought to send them, and if they be rejected we are not to conclude that therefore they have had no influence whatever; but, solemn and dreadful as it is, it is a fact that the preaching of the gospel shall be a testimony against the nations, and this shall fulfil the eternal purpose of the Lord. This all proves how strong is the influence of a truthful man. He is never a “chip in the porridge”: there is a flavour in him. He that is sincerely right towards God is an efficient operating cause to which effects will be given; he cannot be a mere name or nullity, he must produce a result by his influence. He has force, and that force will, according to those he comes in contact with, turn to blessing, or else involve dread responsibility on those who resist it. Go, I pray you, then, dear friends, and live with God, and then be not afraid to live with men. Whoever they may be, God will make you to have power over them, and power with himself on their behalf.

     IV. To close. Let me urge upon you, in the fourth place, the last lesson, namely— THE NECESSITY AND THE MEANS OF OUR BEING TRUE AND SINCERE BEFORE HIM WHOSE EYES BEHOLD TRUTHFULNESS. My first argument is this, these times require it. This is an age of tricks and policies. Oh, the puffs— the lying puffs— you meet with everywhere in books and broadsides innumerable. Everybody who goes abroad has need to carry a discount table with him to arrive at the truth of statements that are made. Be you, therefore, the more true. At the present moment there is going through this city of ours a lying influence of the worst kind on the behalf of Popery. I do not refer to the honest Catholic priest who comes bravely before us in his true colours, but I refer to those who should be Protestant ministers, who are beguiling the people and leading them gradually away from the doctrines of the Reformation and the gospel of Christ. The land swarms with Jesuistical churchmen, who look towards Canterbury but row towards Rome. Everywhere in society you meet with this disguised influence. Are there not hospitals not far from here that are simply houses for proselytizing? Are there not sisterhoods which are more for the making of Romanists than they are for the healing of the sick? Why, we are surrounded with the givers of bribes of all kinds, whose one design is to buy the people from the gospel. Is there a house but what these sisters and brothers will enter if they possibly can, with gifts and charities so called, trying to buy the souls of the poor that they may plunge them into the darkness which surrounds themselves? The net is coming closer to us than ever, and we cannot help feeling its meshes. Truth is the way to cut the net. Truth is a straight, honest, sharp-bladed sword, and you have only to use it well, and away go the meshes of deceit. They may compass sea and land, and make their proselytes if they will, but we will preach the everlasting gospel of the blessed God, and we will pray that all who love it shall live it, and be truthful, and be straight, whoever may be dark and mysterious. I would scorn to make a convert to my persuasion by the concealment of anything that I believe, or by the putting it in a light that was not clear, or by bribery and scheming. If men cannot be saved by truth, they certainly cannot be saved by falsehoods and tricks and policies. Let us be true, then, brethren, all of us, and we may not question the result. Meet the Prince of Darkness with the light; he cannot stand against it. Our times require our sincerity.

     So does our God also require it. I have already spoken to this, and I need not repeat the solemn strain.

     So do our souls require it. Our eternal welfare demands it. Oh, there must be no mistake about our being true before God, for when it comes to dying work, nothing will stand us then but sincerity. When he comes to the light of the judgment-bar, where will the hypocrite appear? Ah, Judas, come and kiss thy Master again! Betray him again if thou darest! See how the traitor flies! He cannot bear the light; nor can men who are like him. May you never have one drop of Judas-blood within your veins. God take it away if it be there. It is an awful thing to live untruthfully. It is a sort of minor hell to go about and feel that you have not spoken the straight thing in every company. You spoke against a certain person very bitterly when he was not present to defend himself, and now you have to meet him, and to feign admiration of him in the presence of those who heard your former tirade. You are in an awkward position; a worm in a ring of fire could not wriggle more painfully. I thank God that I have learned always to say to a man what I think of him, and I do not find that I make enemies thereby; nay, those to whom I have said the hardest things are some of my best friends this day. I am sure that there is no plain path, no easy path, like that of downright truthfulness towards our fellow-men, and there is no right path for eternity like that of downright honesty before the living God. May his Spirit work this excellence in us, for he is the great author of truth in the inward parts. We are all crooked from the birth. We go astray, speaking lies from our childhood. One of the first things that a child does is to speak what is not true; and parents sometimes teach their children to be false by laughing at their little deceits; yes, and they will tell their children what is not true, as a kind of sportive childish recreation. But this will not do! We are all inclined to shuffle with God. It is hard work to bring us up to confession of sin at the first, and to make us pull off our pretty, cheating righteousness. We like to wear a rag or two of our own as long as we can. That base money of our own merit, those counterfeit farthings of supposed excellence, we do not like giving them all up. It is hard to get the last penny out of us, and make us bankrupts in the court of heaven, and yet to this we must surely come. When we do wrong, do we not feel a tendency to think that it was not so very wrong in us? The same offence in anybody else is horrible, and we go off to a neighbour to report what has been done, but in ourselves it is a venial error, not worth a censure. We hold the scales of justice, as we think, with blinded eyes; but we just wink a little beneath the handkerchief, and spy out an excuse for ourselves. We must get away from all this false judging, and yet we never shall unless the Holy Spirit— the Spirit of truth and light— shall create in us a new heart and a right spirit. He must keep us true, too, or we shall start aside like a broken bone.

     This is the sum of the matter: we must come to God as poor, weak, helpless sinners, we must trust Christ to help us, and look to the divine Spirit to purge and cleanse us, and make us truthful, and then all will be well. Let this, then, be our prayer, — “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”

     The Lord grant his blessing to these words, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.



Choice Food for Pilgrims to Canaan

By / Jun 22

CHOICE FOOD FOR PILGRIMS TO CANAAN.

 

“And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.”— Exodus xxxiii. 14.

 

MAY the inexpressibly precious promises of our text be fulfilled to every one of you throughout the whole of your lives. What could heart desire, or mind conceive beyond the heaped-up blessedness of my text? God’s presence and God’s rest— a ring of finest gold set with the choicest pearl. The benedictions arc worthy of God himself, and such as only his boundless love could have uttered. Think them over, and use them as food for your souls; with them you may well be content even if the preacher’s lips should be as a spring shut up, a fountain scaled. You do not need any sermon: only let the Holy Spirit speak these words with power, as coming directly from the great Father’s lips to you, and your inmost soul will be satisfied as with marrow and fatness.

“Enough, my gracious
Lord, Let faith triumphant cry;
My heart can on this promise live,
Can on this promise die.”

     “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.”

     It is instructive to remember that a very short time before this promise was given, the Israelites had greatly grieved their God by setting up an image of gold, before which they prostrated themselves, saying, “These be thy gods, O Israel.” They had seen the greatness and glory of God at the Red Sea, and during their journeyin the wilderness up to that time, and yet they were so besotted, that they bowed in worship before the image of an ox which eateth grass. We do not marvel that the living God was angry, but we are filled with astonishment that, after such wanton provocation, he should, nevertheless, turn away his wrath from them and say to them— for the promise was not to Moses only, but to them as a people— “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.” Will God, then, go with sinners, with those who have provoked him so grossly, with those who have sinned against light and knowledge in so shameful a manner? Will he put away the iniquity of great offenders, and speak comfortably unto them? Yes, he will, for he is slow to wrath, and bears with our ill manners for many a day. Here is his own word: “For my name’s sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off” (Isa. xlviii. 9). O my brethren and sisters, what a consolation it is to us, while labouring under a sense of sin, that the Lord is able to put away sin so that we shall not die; and he will come and walk with us and dwell in the midst of us, notwithstanding all our former wickednesses. You know what a righteous God he is, and how jealous he is, especially of those he loves; and yet, for all that, though he be a consuming fire, yet, so gracious is he that, passing by transgression, iniquity, and sin, he will return unto his people still, and yet again speak comfortably unto them. There is a secret, however, which must never be forgotten— namely, that Moses had made mightily prevalent intercession for the people, crying with many tears, “Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin—; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.” He had gone up into the fiery mount, even up into the eternal presence; and there he had in will— though it was not accepted in deed— offered himself as a sacrifice for the nation in that memorable sentence, “If not, blot my name out of the book which thou hast written.” Though the Lord could not accept the substitution of Moses, yet he remembered a greater one: he remembered one that was then to him as much present as if it had already taken place, for he seeth the end from the beginning, and the sacrifice of Christ was always present in the mind of God, before whom his Son Jesus is “the Lamb slain from before the foundations of the world.” If then we carefully search to the bottom of things we shall find that it was by virtue of the Mediator that this promise was given to Israel, and God thus spake to Moses and the people. Atonement had been made, intercession had been offered, and hence the Lord’s presence was guaranteed and rest was promised. This is the only ground upon which God can dwell with you and with me and give us rest: an Advocate, one of a thousand, has stood in the gap, presented his life for our life, obtained favour of the Lord, and turned away indignation by the power of his intercession. God in Christ Jesus has come down to dwell with sinful men; and that presence will never be removed from us, for he saith, “I will not leave you comfortless; I will come unto you.” He invites himself into our company; he offers to sup with us. Do not our hearts cry, “Come, Lord, manifest thyself to us, we pray thee, and let the promise which has been read in our ears be now fulfilled in our hearts by the power of thy Spirit”: — “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest”?

     It may be that I am addressing some who are about leaving this congregation for other assemblies at a distance; and, if so, I hope I may be the bearer of seasonable comforts. I have spoken to some just now whose faces we may not perhaps see again, who are going far away, to their great sorrow, and to our intense regret. I saw the tear when they bade good-bye to us, and to the house they have loved so well. Go in peace, and God be with you, my beloved. What more can I say? You are going to leave your native land: whether you shall ever return to it again is written in the decree of providence, but is all unknown to you. Little need you mind, for we are all exiles, and are journeying towards the dear fatherland, where we shall be at home for ever. Others, it maybe, are now making a very important change in life: shifting their habitation, or looking out for another occupation altogether. Many of us here who are serving the Lord are going forward to fresh work, planning new service for the Lord. At such a time this word will be peculiarly precious to all in a changing state, if the Holy Spirit will lay it home to their hearts: “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.” Come, then, ye who bid farewell to old England’s shores, ye who move to a strange family, ye who in any sense remove your tents and advance toward the unknown land— come, I say, and listen to these gentle accents, “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.”

     We will think of the subject in this way: — First, what are the benefits of this presence? Secondly, to be practical, what are the demands of this presence if we come to enjoy it? And then, thirdly, what is the choice blessing which is appended to this presence— “I will give thee rest”?

     I. First, then, WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF THE DIVINE PRESENCE WHICH is HERE PROMISED? “My presence shall go with thee.”

     The first is manifest in the chapter. It is the acknowledgment of the people as being peculiarly the Lord’s. Notice, Moses puts it thus, “Wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? Is it not in that thou goest with us? So shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.” This clearly shows that the presence of God with his people is God’s way of acknowledging them, and saying to all mankind and to themselves, “These are my people, and I am their God.” Now, my dear fellow-believer, what clearer acknowledgment of you by God can you conceive of than that God should be present with you? I think you cannot ask a surer, better seal than this; and if you have it not I cannot see what can be a token of peace to you at all. Is God never with you? Are you never conscious of his presence? Let me ask you to judge your case as if it were mine: — can I be a sheep in his fold if the shepherd never comes to me? Can I be a child of the family if I have never had my heart warmed with my Father’s love, and have never heard my Father’s voice speaking comfortably to me? The saints are married unto Christ, but that were a strange conjugal union in which there was no sort of converse or communion whatsoever. If I am unable to see my Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus, because my soul is in darkness, I must walk by faith; but I must not think the darkness light and try to be comfortable without him. I must feel that, until the daystar shines again, and Christ’s presence returns, I must be unhappy, and I must search the city and go about the streets thereof, saying, “Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?” But if never at all I have enjoyed his presence, if never once I could say, “He is near me; he is with me,” then how can it be possible that I am his? If I go forth to the business of the day and never recognize. God; if I come home at night and have never seen God’s hand with me; if I go to my bed and never, ere I sleep, have a kind word from him, then, surely, I cannot be one of his: I lack the acknowledgment which the great Father must and will give to his own children. I do not see how a man can feel at all certain, nay, how he can entertain the hope, that he belongs to the Lord, except as he enjoys his presence. Every true child of God wants his Father’s company. Every true wife desires the presence of her spouse. Our Lord’s presence is life and light, health and wealth, strength and song to us. Our prayer is, — If thy presence go not with me, carry me not up hence; for I should go forth a sheep untended to stray where grievous wolves watch for their feeble victims.

     That is the first benefit of the presence of God. It is the glory which lights up the soul of the believer, and marks it as the special property of heaven.

    Secondly, it is by that presence that we are preserved and protected. When Israel came out of Egypt the Egyptians followed hard behind them. Pharaoh was fierce to slay them or to drive them back again; but he could not touch them. They came not nigh one another all that night, because the Lord descended and like an impenetrable shield of darkness turned himself upon the enemy, while like a sun he turned the brightness of his glory upon his people. The presence of God enabled Israel to pass through the sea on dry foot, and that same presence brought down the floods upon their foes and swept them away. All through the wilderness they might have been fallen upon by the wandering tribes, especially of the Amalekites, but the camp of Israel was never stormed by an orderly army, nor even plundered by a marauding band. Never did an invader’s foot plant itself within those streets of canvas. There were no bastions and fortifications, but the presence of the Lord was a wall of fire round about his people. None could touch them so long as the Lord was there. It was true that Amalek fell upon them once upon their march, and slew the hindermost of them, but this showed that those farthest off from God are in the greatest danger, and even these would not have been overthrown had not Israel sinned. Even their hindermost would have been secure if they had walked aright with God. Who can harm those whom Jehovah ordains to keep? Who shall fight against the God invincible and omnipotent? If enemies come out against his chosen, he will utterly destroy them. Who shall break through ramparts of fire to touch the sons of God?

     I think every child of God must acknowledge how safe he has been when he has enjoyed the divine presence. When you get out of that presence you are liable to temptations which in the divine presence scarcely come to you, or, if they come, they are shaken off as trifles which have no power over you. When we dwell in God the baser passions lie still, — like the beasts in Noah’s ark, they cause no uproar; but when God is gone those baser passions rush to the front, and the inferior appetites and propensities try to get the mastery over us, and cause us all sorts of trouble. While we are in the presence of God, we may safely stand in the midst of wicked men if Providence calls us there, and we shall keep our tongue with a bridle, and baffle all their cunning. Yea, our soul may be among lions, but no lion can touch us when God is with us in the den. We may go into the furnace of Nebuchadnezzar, but the glowing coals cannot leave even the smell of fire upon us while God is with us in the flame. We are always safe in the presence of God in any place and in any work; but, if the Lord be withdrawn from us, then in his sanctuary we shall be tempted to transgress, like Eli’s sons; and in his temple the devil will meet with us and ply his horrible temptations. In the commonest transactions of life we shall blunder and transgress if we move without the Lord, for the presence of God is the sole protection of saints. Our sanctity depends upon communion with God. Like the moon, we are bright while the sun shines on us; all our glory is borrowed from our Lord. Oh, how blessed is the promise, then, if we view it in that light, for we all wish to be preserved from the defilement of the world, and this is the one golden method of sanctity, “My presence shall go with thee.”

     There is a third privilege which the presence of God brought to Israel, and brings to us: it is that of direction and guidance. Their route lay through a wilderness without a track-way, and they could not have known which way to go except the fiery cloudy pillar, which was the index of the presence of God, had gone before them. Their path was a very strange one as it was, winding in and out, backwards and forwards; but “he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation.” Such is our pathway to the skies, a maze, a tangle, to ourselves; but all plain to the All-wise. You and I know nothing of what is going to happen to us between here and heaven; nay, we cannot tell what will occur within an hour; but some amazing blessing may come: I have no doubt you, my brethren, have had in your own lifetime days of surprises. You have been jogging along the ordinary road of life pretty comfortably, you never thought of what was going to happen; but you have come to a place where the road suddenly diverged, and from that instant new scenes have opened up before you. You hardly knew whether you were to go to the right or to the left, and you were at your wits’ end as you pulled up, for there was no sign-post, and no mark to guide you. At such times, if the presence of God has been with you, you have not been left to ask the way; but that ancient promise has become true in your experience. “Thine ears shall hear a voice behind thee saying, This is the way: walk ye in it.” You could not explain to other people why you took that particular road, but you can see that if you had taken any other your whole life would have been darkened. After a fashion you explain to yourself why you did this rather than that; but if you had talked about it to your most intimate friend, it is just possible he would have replied, “Don’t you think there may be a touch of fanaticism about your action? Is there not a little superstition in your reasoning?” So it might be thought, but there is a secret something between you and your God, which is the key of the position, and accounts for acts which else were unaccountable. If God were not there, it would have been superstition; but as God was really there, and you are one with whom he has become so graciously familiar that he gives to you the Urim and the Thummim, and reveals to you his light and his truth to guide you, there was no superstition or fanaticism in it. O the soft, sweet guidances of the royal presence; they have made my life radiant; like all his other gentlenesses, they have made me great. “He leadeth me,” and yet again “He leadeth me,” is one of the most joyous notes of my song of loves.

     Ah, if the Lord be not with us, it is extraordinary what muddles we make. I have sometimes had very, very difficult things to do, and I have accomplished them with ease under the Lord’s own eye, but if I am without my Lord’s presence, I give very bad advice, and I most judiciously do very stupid things, and most prudently follow a course which everybody would say was prudent, but which turns out to be imprudent. I have noticed— and I often have to bless God for it— that when I have felt myself to be quite done over and nonplussed, I have simply asked guidance, and something has occurred to me which I had never thought of before; or something which I had thought of and rejected, but which was the best, has occurred strongly to my mind again; or somebody else has come in and taken the leadership and put me aside; but somehow or other God has been glorified, and I have been happy when I have had his presence. I am sure that every believer will find it so in daily life; wherein the first thing is not to have common sense and to be wise, as some say, but to have a sense of God’s presence, which is better than common sense, and to trust in him for guidance, which is better than being shrewd. He will make the young men wise and prudent; he will give to babes knowledge and discretion, if they are but willing to be led by his divine instruction. You will find it so if you have his presence with you; but if you have not, you will do just as the Israelites did about the matter of the Gibeonites, which seemed too simple to pray about. You will be taken in with those mouldy crusts and those clouted shoes, and those crafty rascals that say, “We come from a far country,” and without taking counsel with God, you will find yourself in fellowship with a brood of scheming Canaanites, who will entangle you and do you no end of harm. You will say, “Oh, but they are such nice old people, and it is wonderful how religiously they talk, and how nicely they persuade me to their side.” Yes, when Satan would deceive, his traps are very simple ones, such as you would never think to be traps at all. When you are quite clear about a thing, pray about it: when you are in difficulty, do as you like. I believe in that fine piece of advice— “When it is a fine day in this country, carry an umbrella with you. When it is raining hard, do just as you like.” I put it into another shape, and beg you to remember it. “Why,” you say, “the matter is as plain as the nose on my face.” Then pray to God about it, for the nose on your face may bring you trouble. He that trusts to his own understanding may turn- out to have very little understanding to trust to. Take plain matters to God. Get into the presence of God, and keep there, and see all things in the light of that presence: that will be to you instinct, common-sense, judgment, wisdom.

     We have thus seen that rich blessings are found in the presence of God — divine acknowledgment, divine protection, and divine direction; but there was another thing that Israel had by virtue of the presence of God, and that was, real worship in the wilderness. Their sacrifices could not have been presented if God had not been among them. There would not have been the tabernacle, with all its appurtenances, if God had not been there. God would not have commanded them to build him a house that he did not intend to inhabit, and he would not have instituted ordinances which he did not mean to fill up by his presence. If it be imaginable that there should be a tabernacle with all the outward gear of it, and sacrifices even until rivers of the blood of fed beasts should be poured out, yet it would have been all an empty, hollow sham if God had not himself been there. Brethren, we cannot in spirit and in truth worship God if we feel him to be absent. We must “believe that he is and it is a part of the “is” that he is everywhere present. We must believe that God is here, at this moment, or we are quite unable to pray to him. To pray to a God who is many leagues away is like the worshipper of Baal who says, “Peradventure he is on a journey, or he is hunting, or he sleepeth and must be awakened.” Elijah never thought that of Jehovah, When he stood by the altar and began to plead with the Lord God of Israel, it never entered into his head that he was sleeping and must be awakened, or that he was up among the stars and needed to be aroused by shouting. The prophet knew that he spoke right into the eternal ear, and talked right into the divine heart, for he felt that God was there. No worship will do us good, or can be accepted with God, except the Lord be present with us in it. When you live in the presence of God how delightful worship is! You can right jubilantly sing songs upon your stringed instruments when the Lord Jehovah hears your praise. The same is true of prayer. You can wrestle with the angel, and hold him when you are sure he is there; but if he is not there you cannot wrestle with him, or even hold him. You can go forth to preach right bravely when you go in the strength of the Lord God to make mention of his righteousness, even of that only; but if the Lord go not with the minister what a vainglorious place the pulpit is, and what empty stuff our talk must be. How delightful to come to the Lord’s table if the King sits thereat, and his spikenard gives forth a sweet perfume. But what is bread, and what is wine, and what is the table, if the King himself be not there? The presence of Jesus consciously enjoyed is the sweetness of our worship, and all goes awry where this is not found. Oh, that we may never attempt to do anything for God except with God, or think that we can worship at all unless the Spirit of God be in the worship, prompting and quickening it.

     Once more, if God had withdrawn from Israel there would have been no communion with him. God’s presence meant communion with God. The Israelites could speak with God through their priests when he was in the midst of them, but if he had departed all fellowship would have closed. And is not that one of the greatest enjoyments of a child of God — that he can speak to his Father whenever he desires it? No child, I think, as a rule asks leave to speak to his father, but feels an unquestioned freedom on that point. I did go some time ago into a house where I sat with the head of the family, and heard a humble knock at the door: it was his wife, who asked if she might come in, but her lord and master spoke somewhat sharply, and she went away. I heard afterwards one of the girls come to knock at the door to know whether she might come in, and I wondered at it, because it is rather unusual nowadays for a man to be lord enough, but this gentlemen was lord too much by a long way. I thank God that I have never seen more than one instance in which a wife or a child was called upon humbly to knock at the door before she could come into the majestic presence of her husband or her father. I have always enjoyed the respect of my sons, but it has never occurred to them to ask leave to speak to me. Yet many professed Christians treat their heavenly Father in that way: they are afraid of him, and dare not tell him all their hearts. But this is just the sweet privilege of a dear child, that he may turn his eye to the great Father whenever he pleases, and have a private audience with the King of kings at any hour of the day or night. Strangers may not do this; strangers must get an introduction; strangers must come with a great deal of ceremony if they want to see a king, but the little prince does not need any usher of the black rod to introduce him to his sire. The believer’s relation to his Father is a key which opens every door. We are on familiar terms with the great God, as it is written, “I will dwell in them and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” In another place he puts it thus: “They shall be my sons and daughters.” Oh sweet word— “my sons and daughters.” This is a privilege which is secured to us by the presence of God.

     If any of you have lost the presence of God, I have no doubt you have some kind of awe that makes you stand a long way off, as Israel stood at a distance from the burning mount of Sinai; but if God is with you, then no notion of standing a long way off need come to you. “In him we live, and move, and have our being.” We eat and drink and sleep eternal life. Whatsoever we do, we do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the power of his abiding presence. The presence of God comes to be as palpable to us as the air we breathe, perhaps more so; as certain to us as the life we live. We know him to be with us, and we are as much in the habit of speaking with him as with our dearest friend; yea, much more, because we must be parted from the dearest friend at times, but from our God we are never divided; but, be we where we may, and in what frame of mind we may, we can always speak with him. “When I awake I am still with thee.” I fall asleep, and he is at my bedside; I wake up at any hour of the night, and there is he. “He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” He is always ready for fellowship with his people. May you have this ever-enjoyable, always encompassing presence with you all the year round. May the Spirit of God put it to those whom I have mentioned, who are moving or shifting their place by taking a long journey, or who are about to take the last long journey, who feel that the sentence of death is written upon them— is not this presence all that your spirits can possibly crave? Even death will give you no alarm if this sweet text is fully enjoyed by you— “My presence shall go with thee.” Certainly the hardships and dangers of emigration dwindle into insignificance before this promise: — “My presence shall go with thee among strangers. My presence shall go with thee across the sea. My presence shall go with thee to the bed of sickness. My presence shall go with thee through the valley of the shadow of death. My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.”

     That is the first point.

     II. The second head shall not occupy much time, but I hope that it will be hammered out into a lifelong sermon, preached by yourselves. WHAT ARE THE DEMANDS OF THIS PRESENCE? Supposing that the divine presence shall go with us, what then?

     Why, first it is needful that we rely upon it. Beloved, if the presence of God be with us, do not let us act as if it were or as if it were not worth much although it is with us. If God’s presence is with us, what have we to be afraid of? Where is the excuse for our spirit being cast down? If God’s presence be with us, why do we talk about difficulties? That word should not be in our dictionary now that omnipotence is at our right hand. If God’s presence be with us, why should we speak about fears? Whom shall we fear? “Thou art the strength of my life. Of whom shall I be afraid?” Oh, let this presence of God be real to you, if you are enjoying it. Do not talk about it, and then speak as if you were all alone, and go forth to your work, saying, “I am not strong enough.” What, not if the Lord is with you? Do set down your God at a right figure in all your calculations; that is to say, if you can find a figure that will represent him. What is your strength? A unit. Well, if you like, you may make a cipher of it, for that is nearer the truth. But what is God’s strength? Oh, you may carry it up to the nth, as we say in algebra. You may work it out to the utmost conceivable limit, but you will never get a figure that will come near expressing the power of not with us, the presence of God. “I am with you” — “I,” and the universe echoes to the voice as the words “I AM” roll in thunder peals along the heavens. “I have formed the earth and laid its foundations, and upreared the arches of the sky. I am with you, with my omnipotence, omniscience, all-sufficiency.” Well, if that be so, rely upon it; stay yourself upon God, and do not play the fool by being dismayed and cast down. “I am with thee.” Away with melancholy! Should a little child be always trembling and sobbing out, “Mother, I am alone, and I am afraid”? Her mother says, “I am with you, dear child; I am with you.” Will she not have done with her sobbing? So does the Lord say, “How canst thou fear? How canst thou fall? I am with thee.” If we have his presence, let us treat it as a matter of fact, and be filled with rest.

     In the next place, if we have his presence, let us use it. Every now and then we meet with persons who have thousands of pounds, and yet are half starved. We have heard of two great lords who were spending the evening together at a coffee-house, and the bill came to an odd sum, and they quarrelled about who should pay the odd farthing, till one of the waiters said, “Come up here! Here are two lords worth fifty thousand a-year each, and they are quarrelling about a farthing.” That was a strange sight; but have you not seen Christian people behaving quite as inconsistently? They have the revenues of the universe to spend, and yet they starve themselves by the little enjoyment that they dare to take? Of heavenly food they live upon a crumb a day. They are just like the elder brother who said to his father, “These many years do I serve thee; neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment; and yet thou never gavest me a kid that I might make merry with my friends.” You remember his father’s answer. He said, “Thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. If you have not eaten all the goats, it is your own fault. You might have been as merry with your friends as you liked, for all that I have is thine.” And so may the Lord often reproach his people. “I am with you, but you do not use me. You do not exercise faith in me as to the mountains which lie before you, which should become plains if you left them to me. You do not leave me your sycamine trees, for me to pluck them up by the roots. I can do all things, and here you are using this poor feeble arm of yours with all its wasting, aching sinews, when there is an everlasting arm which would be made bare for your defence, and which would shake heaven and earth rather than fail to bring you deliverance.” Why, brethren? Why are we so slow to believe? Oh, if you have the presence of God, utilize it.

     And then, next, if you have the presence of God, do not grieve him: do not lose it. In the presence of a king men behave themselves. Have you never known, as a boy, when you have been up to some little trick, some one has said, “Hash, here is father coming;” and you have stopped your game at once. Oh, how reverently, how cautiously, how jealously, how holily ought we to behave ourselves who are in the presence of God!

      It is wonderful what God will do for us. He often surprises us with what he does. He seems to be inventive in the liberality of his grace. He will make our path smooth, though hitherto it has been roughness itself. Often and often does he enrich our way, as though we were like the lepers who followed the Assyrians when they threw away their silver and their gold. We are surprised to find what goodness his mercy has scattered for us. Do we not feel that we must walk tenderly towards one who deals with us so gently? Such mercy as his should make us fear and tremble, because of the great goodness of God. It must be, I was going to say, a terrible thing to be a king’s favourite; but what a terribly blessed thing it is to be the favourite of God— to be lifted up so near to him as to enjoy the light of his countenance. We ought to look at all our words before we speak them when we are in his presence, and stop our thoughts before we think them, if such a thing could be, lest any of them should vex his Spirit, and prove unbecoming in the presence of his majesty.

      And, oh, when you have the presence of God, do take care to glorify him all that you possibly can. Does he deign to dwell in you? Then lay yourself out for his honour. Seek out those who have lost his company, and go and cheer them. Find out all the daughters of sorrow, all the backsliders and wanderers, and all the poor sinners that are on the wild mountains, and seek to bring them where you are yourself— into the presence of the gracious Three in One. I think that if we do not work at any other season, we certainly should do so when we are abiding in the light of his countenance. If my soul keeps no holiday at any other time, she shall certainly be dressed in her bravest, and shine in her best when the King himself visits me. It is a grand thing to go to work for God with the glory of God about your brow, and the love of God warming your heart, and the strength of God making your spirit courageous, and the wisdom of God directing you in the choice of words. Thus shall you work to purpose, and a work shall be done which will redound to the eternal glory.

     Thus you see that the presence of God has its demands.

     III. My time has gone, and therefore I must say only two or three words about that last word of promise. WHAT IS THE CHOICE BLESSING WHICH IS APPENDED TO THIS PRESENCE? “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest”

     In this particular text we must confine the “rest” to the end of the journey, for Israel were to have their rest in Canaan; and so the promise was, “My presence shall go with you through the wilderness, and I will give you rest in the land that floweth with milk and honey.”

     Beloved, it were no narrowing of the promise if we were to limit it to that sense to-night. If God’s presence be with us here, we shall be in God’s presence hereafter, and there we shall have rest. Some of you good workpeople come in here on Thursday nights, and cannot come in quite in time. Well, never mind, you can come late. I would sooner have you for ten minutes than not at all. A piece of a loaf is better than starving. I know that to many of you the idea of rest must be very sweet. To those who work very, very hard, as some of you do, the thought of an everlasting rest is very pleasant. But perhaps some of you have never been converted. I want to put this thought into your mind: Will you rest? Will you rest at last? They will lay your bones in the cemetery, and apparently you will rest; but will you rest? Oh, will you rest? Do you think you can rest if you die with unforgiven sin? Can you rest if you die unreconciled to God? Ah, no. “There is no peace, saith my God, unto the wicked. They are like the troubled sea, which cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.” Only think if that should be your portion for ever and ever— never to rest, but to be like the troubled sea, foaming, raging, and tossed about throughout eternity! God grant, dear hearer, that such a fearful unrest may not be your portion. But oh, if you will trust in Jesus, and value his presence with you here, what sweet rest there will be above! I have heard some people speak about the rest of heaven as though it were only a bribe to lazy people. They sneer at the idea of rest, but those people who do not desire rest are unacquainted with hard work. I am persuaded of that. Your lackadaisical ladies and gentlemen, who never did a stroke of work in all their lives, and could not if they tried, may despise heaven as a rest, but to many of us that Scripture is most pleasant,” There remaineth a rest for the people of God.” The idea of service is, undoubtedly, very sweet— eternal ser- vice— very sweet to the strong, active young Christian; but I tell you that when you get older, and when your heads often ache with anxious care, and oftentimes you are worn down in the service of your Master, you will get more inclined to look upon heaven as a place of rest, and you will thank God that the Holy Spirit was not quite so hard as these fine ladies and gentlemen, but did speak to us of heaven as a place where the saints shall rest from their labours and their works shall follow them. We do not know where we shall go between now and heaven, but we shall get home at last, and then we shall rest. We do not know how much more work we have to do, we cannot tell how often the burden will press our shoulder; but we shall rest one day. “I will give thee rest.” Here is a “shall” and a “will.” “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.” Ah, poor toiler, you shall rest. O poor aching eyes, ye shall rest when ye shall see the King in his beauty. O poor aching brain, thou shalt rest when thou shalt have nothing to do but to joy in God, and praise him day and night in his temple.

     But I think that under the gospel dispensation we may take this promise in a far wider sense. “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest,” even now; for “we which have believed do enter into rest.” While we are believing we obtain rest, and this is the kind of rest. We have not the rest of inactivity, but that of peace: the Israelites kept journeying on, and yet the Lord was their dwelling-place. We have not the rest of luxury: the Iraelites had to tread the barren sand, and live in tents; but ours is the rest which is consistent with daily service and with frequent trial. We rest in this way: we are perfectly at ease about everything. As to the future, what have we to do with that”? We have not come to it yet. God arranges things to come. As for the present, we “cast our care upon him, for he careth for us.” As to our sins, they are gone, dead, buried, lost, and never will be seen again. They cannot be found, for God himself has cast them behind his back. As for the devil, he is a chained enemy. As for the world, Christ has said, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” As for the needs of the body, he has said, “Thy bread shall be given thee, and thy water shall be sure.” As for the needs of the soul, Christ is ours, and all things are ours in Christ. As for our eternal safety, “Whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” He will glorify us as certainly as he has justified us.

“All that remains for me
Is but to love and sing,
And wait until the angels come
To bear me to the King.”

     “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.”



An Indictment with Four Counts

By / Jun 22

An Indictment with Four Counts

 

“She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the Lord; she drew not near to her God.”— Zephaniah iii. 2.

 

FOUR heavy counts of a terrible indictment against Jerusalem and the Jewish people. Is it not sad to reflect that Jerusalem was the city of the great king, and yet fell from its high estate? It was the place of the temple; there the light of God shone forth, while other nations were in darkness; there the solemn worship of God was celebrated, whilst false gods were being adored elsewhere; and yet its sin provoked the Lord till he gave it up to the destroyer. It is clear, therefore, that no degree of light, and no amount of privilege, can keep a people alive and right before God. If the heart be not changed, if the grace of God go not with outward ordinances, those who are exalted to heaven may yet be cast down to hell. The putrefaction of the best produces the worst, and when a city which has been favoured as Jerusalem was becomes a den of unclean beasts, then it is a den indeed. Neither Nineveh, nor Babylon, nor Tyre, nor Sidon could equal in criminality this once chosen city of the great king. Let us not, therefore, as a nation begin to exalt ourselves because of our privileges, for if we do not prove worthy of them the candlestick will be taken out of its place, and our darkness will be all the denser because of the light we have lost. If we walk not before the Lord obediently, it may please him to make this island as great a scene of destruction as the mounds of Babel or the rock of Tyre.

     We usually take Jerusalem to be the type of a church, and it is one of the fullest types of the one church: “Jerusalem which is above, the mother of us all.” We may therefore regard the fate of Jerusalem as being a special warning to churches. In a church is God’s dwelling-place, there is the light of knowledge, there is the fire of sacrifice, out of it hath God shined. But a church may sadly decline. There is a church which is now worthy of the name of Antichrist: she went further and further astray, till she has made a man to be her head, and called him infallible, till she set up lords many and gods many, saints and saintesses, and innumerable objects of worship even to cast clouts and rotten rags. There is a church against whom this indictment might be laid to-day: “She obeyed not the voice;” — she did not hear the gospel. “She received not correction;” — when reformers came she sought their blood. “She trusted not in the Lord; she drew not near to her God;” but she went after others, and set up other intercessors than Christ, and rejected the true Head of the church.

     Other churches may fall into like sin unless they are guarded by spiritual power. Remember Laodicea, and how she was spued out of the mouth of Christ, because she was neither cold nor hot. Remember Sardis, which had but a few names in it that were undefiled Where are those cities and those churches now? Let desolation answer. It might be said of them as of Gilgal, of which the Lord said, “Go ye there to the place where my name was at the first, and see if there be one stone left of it upon another which hath not been cast down.” Oh that we as a church, and all our sister churches, may walk before the Lord with holy jealousy as to doctrinal correctness, practical holiness, and inner spiritual life; for, if not, our end will be miserable failure. If the salt of grace be not in a church, it cannot be an acceptable sacrifice to God, nor can it long be kept from the corruption which is natural to all masses of flesh. What are one people more than another? and what is one community more than another? We are men by nature, prone to the same evil, and we shall fall into the same transgression unless the Lord that keepeth Israel shall keep us; and therein is our confidence, that he doth neither slumber nor sleep.

     This text is not only applicable to a nation and to a church, but to individuals among God’s own people, though of course only in a degree. Some of God’s people follow Christ afar off, their spiritual life is better seen in their fears than in their confidences; they are trembling always, their hands are slack, their hearts are faint. We trust they are alive unto God, but that is all we can say. I fear it may be said of them, “She obeyed not the voice:” the gentle whisper of divine love falls upon a deaf ear. Oh, how often, brethren, has God spoken and we have not hearkened so as to obey his voice. I fear, too, that there are times when we have not “received correction,” when affliction has been lost upon us. We have risen from a sick-bed worse than when we went to it. Our losses and crosses have provoked us to murmuring rather than to heart-searching. We have been bruised as in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, and yet our folly has not departed from us. And this is a very provoking thing, when we despise the rod and the hand that uses it, and turn not at the smiting of the Lord. Yet it is so with some of God’s people: they obey not the voice, they receive not correction, and therefore it comes to pass that at times “they trust not in the Lord.” They try to bear their trials themselves. They go to friends for advice and they inherit a curse, for it is written, “Cursed is he that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm.” They get into a withered state; like the heath in the desert, they see not when good cometh, because they trust in man. Must not some of us plead guilty here?

     To add to our faults, whenever we have backslidden we have “not drawn near to the Lord our God.” The joy and the strength of the Christian life are found in living near to God, living like sheep close to the shepherd, wandering never, but lying down in green pastures to which he leads the way, himself better than the pasture, our joy and our delight. But, alas! it may be said of some, “Thou hast restrained prayer before God.” “Are the consolations of God small with thee? Is there any secret thing with thee? ” Your transgressions and your iniquities have hidden your God from you. He walks contrary to you because you walk contrary to him. This is too, too often the case, with even those who do trust in Jesus, and have passed from death unto life; and whenever it is the case it means sorrow. He that is no child of God, but a hypocrite, may wander as far from the path of integrity as he chooses without having to suffer for it till the last day; but a child of God cannot sin without smarting for it. Is it not written, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for your iniquities”? Our Father whips his own children. The boys in the streets may do as they please, but our great Father is sure to chasten those he loves. “As many as I love I rebuke and chasten: be zealous, therefore, and repent.”

     At this time I do not intend to use the words of our text in any of those ways, but to take it as it may refer to unconverted persons, for it very clearly, without the slightest strain, describes many who are living far away from God, and I shall want you to give me your attention for a little time while I notice four great sins. When these are mentioned I shall try to dig into the text, to bring out of it four hidden consolations: — they are not apparent on the surface, but when faith applies the microscope and looks into the centre of the text, it discovers four things by which the penitent sinner may be encouraged to come to Christ.

     I. First, here are FOUR MANIFEST SINS.

     I wonder whether the fact that my text is in the feminine is intended in the providence of God that this sermon may be especially adapted to a woman: I cannot tell, but I should not wonder. I may have been moved to this text on purpose that some poor wandering sister may feel as if God specially directed it to her sex. It says she— “She obeyed not the voice.” Whatever belongs to any of our race may be taken by all, since in Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female. However, I point out the fact, and pray God that his word may be directed as he wills by the Holy Spirit.

     The first sin is not hearkening to God's voice. Many have never hearkened to God’s voice throughout a long life. They have heard it, — they could not help that; but they have never given heed, they have never lent an attentive ear, saying, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.” He has spoken to many here present in warnings. He has said, “My daughter, if thou doest this, it will lead thee to grief and sorrow; if thou remainest hard, and careless, it cannot end well. Nothing can be right at the last which is not right now; wrong must bring woe with it.” Sometimes this warning has come home into the heart, but the person of whom I am speaking has stifled it and said, “No, but I will go after mine own way and follow my own pleasure.” That warning has come, perhaps, in the silence of the night, or in the very midst of the sin, a something that checked, a pulling of the rein, but the sinner could not be held in, nay, not with bit nor bridle, but he has taken the bit between his teeth, and dashed on in sin. Oh, remember, you that have neglected divine warnings; you may have forgotten them, but God has not. When you who love your children have spoken to them and warned them, they may have gone their way and quite forgotten “what mother said,” but mother recollected it: her tears flowed, and wrote the memorial of her rebukes upon her face. And God forgets not warnings he has tendered to the sons of men.

     I address some, however, who have not only received warning and rejected it, but they have received much teaching. You were in a Sabbath school class while yet a girl; you knew the plan of salvation very early in life, and you know it now, but still you have not obeyed the voice. There is Christ, but you have not touched his garment’s hem. There is the fountain filled with blood of which you have been accustomed to sing, but you have never washed therein: there is the bread of life, but you have never fed thereon, and in consequence you live not unto God. Oh, it is a sad thing when it can be said, “She obeyed not the voice.”

     To some who are here present God’s voice has come by way of ex postulation. There are many expostulations in the word of God such as this — “Turn ye, turn ye; why will ye die, oh house of Israel?” “Come now, and let us reason together: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” “Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.” “Say unto him, take away all iniquity, receive us graciously, and love us freely.” Some of you had many such expostulations addressed to your heart and conscience, but you have not obeyed the voice.

     And then at the back of this have come invitations, sweet invitations. In the Bible you have read them, in hymns you have sung them, from the pulpit you have heard them, from kind friends you have received them. Oh, how sweetly doth Jesus bid the hungry and the thirsty come to him; the heavy laden and such as are bowed down, to come and find rest in him. You used at one time to feel as if you would yield to these invitations; but you did not, and this sin lieth at your door, a stumblingblock in the way of your peace, —“She obeyed not the voice.” When men fail to do right, they usually commit the wrong which is the reverse of it. You have listened to other voices, the siren voice of temptation has enchanted you, the voice of flattery has puffed you up, the voice of Satan has beguiled you, the voice of the flesh has fascinated you, the voice of the world hath wooed you and hath held you captive.

     While we lay this indictment before you some of you cannot help saying, “He means me: it is even so with me.” The Lord give you repentance, and open your ear: for is it not written, “Incline your ear and come unto me; hear, and your soul shall live, and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David”? Oh divine Spirit, let not men be deaf any longer, but touch them with thy finger, that they may hear the voice of God and live.

     That is the first count of the indictment, and the second one is like unto it and growth out of it—“she received not correction.” When men refuse god’s voice they soon become more hardened still and reject his correction, like a horse which does not answer to the rein, and by-and-by even kicks at the whip, and will not be ruled at all. The Lord’s correction comes to us sometimes from his word, when he speaks in anger and reminds us that his wrath abideth on the man that believeth not in Christ. Oh, there are heavy tidings from the Lord for you that are impenitent. This book is net a book to play with, it is full of the terrors of the Lord against such as go on in rebellion against him. Perhaps you have been made to tremble as you have read your Bible, and have seen how the Lord pronounces a solemn curse against the man that goeth on in his iniquity.

     But the correction may also have come to you from your own conscience, quickened by the Word of God. You have come to be uneasy, you start in your sleep with dreams that alarm you. If you are as I once was, everything you look upon seems to have a mouth to accuse you. I remember when the Lord’s corrections were very heavy upon me. I could not see a funeral but what I wondered when I too should be carried to the grave; I could not pass a churchyard without the reflection that I should soon be there; and when I heard the passing bell, it seemed to tell me that I should soon be judged, and condemned, for I had no hope of pardon. These are corrections of God, and I pray you regard them.

     Possibly, however, you have endured affliction. You are not well; you have been made to look into eternity through death’s door. Peradventure one or another of your friends has been taken home. You wear the garb of mourning now. God has corrected you. You have had a loss which you thought you could scarce survive, it was so severe.  “Despise not thou the chastening of the Lord,” but hear his rod, and listen to what he has to say to you in it. Remember, God may smite you worse than he has done; for these few aches and pains he can send something more sharp and smarting. If one child has gone, he can take another, even from your breast; if one relative has died, another may follow, for the great archer hath many arrows in his quiver, and when one sufficeth not he speedily wings another in its painful flight. I pray thee beware, and let it not be said of thee, “She received not correction,” or, “He received not correction”; but may you be willing to listen while God is thus dealing with you.

     This leads to a third count, in which lies the very essence of deadly sin: “She trusted not in the Lord.” She would not come and trust in Christ for salvation; she would believe in her own righteousness. She would not trust in Christ to help her to overcome sin, she said she was quite able to purify herself. Oh, many a young man has started fair for heaven to all appearance, but it has been in his own strength, and, like Pliable, he has no sooner stumbled into the Slough of Despond than he has turned his back on the heavenly city, and returned to the place from which he set out. Beware, I pray you, of having anything to do with a hope that is not based upon trust in God in Christ Jesus. Your religion is vanity, and an insult to high heaven, unless it be based on the atonement of Jesus Christ. Where there is no faith in Jesus peace is presumption. He that dares to hope till he has believed in Christ hopes in vain. But ah, there are some who are driven to do many apparently gracious things, but yet this one thing they will not do, they will not trust in the Lord; and I have known this to be sadly the case with some in great affliction. She did not trust in the Lord:  she was a widow, but she did not trust in the Lord. She had many little children, she knew not where to find them bread, but she did not trust in the Lord. She was sick and ill herself, but she trusted not in the Lord. She was laid at death’s door, she was in the infirmary, in the hospital, but she trusted not in the Lord. Her heart was very heavy, and she said she wished she could die, but she trusted not in the Lord. Her friends did not help her: those who ought to have been kind were cruel, but she trusted not in the Lord: she was driven into a corner, and yet she did not trust in the Lord.

     Ay, but this is a great sin, for surely God takes away our props and dependences on purpose that we may throw our whole weight on himself; but there are some who will have nothing to do with this trusting, neither for time nor for eternity, neither for body nor for soul. Woe unto any man, be he even a child of God, if he once gets off the pathway of faith, for when we walk by sight we shall see things which shall make us wish we were blind, and only when we trust shall we have to say, “I am not confounded nor ashamed, nor shall I be, world without end.” This is sad— “She trusted not in the Lord.”

     The fourth crime was, “She drew not near to her God.” There was no prayer. There was much talk about her trouble, much talk about what she would like to do, but there was no asking of God, no going into the chamber and spreading the case before him, and pleading his mercy. There was no thought of God; the mind did not get near to him. The desires rambled round in a thousand devious paths, but did not come to God. Oh, it is hard to get some of you to think of God. I try and preach as best I can, and try to find striking words to make you think of God, but, oh, how often do I fail! The choicest ways I use defeat themselves. May it not be so now! Let it not be said of you any longer that “she drew not near to her God.” We ought to think of him, we ought to seek him, we ought to come to him, as little chicks, when there is a hawk in the air, and they hear the call of the mother hen, soon hide away under her feathers. We ought to run in prayer, that it might be true of us, “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.” If you had a child that in its troubles ran out into the street, and when its little heart was heavy went away to strangers, and never told father or mother its sorrow, you would feel much hurt. This is God’s quarrel with his rebellious people, that they will go to Satan himself before they will come to him. Nay, think not that I run too far, and use an extravagant expression, for Saul did this; when God answered him not, he offered no penitent petitions, but resorted to a witch for help. Many would penetrate into the recesses of the unseen world, and tamper with spiritual mysteries sooner than they will go to God. Silly women will believe a fortune teller, but will not trust the Saviour.

     Is it so with any of you? Then let this word of accusation sink deep into your spirits, and confess your transgression unto the Lord.

     Putting the four sentences together: “She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the Lord; she drew not near to God,”— what then? Why, “woe unto her.” Read the first verse of the chapter, and there you have it. As I was coming here that word “woe,” “woe,” “woe” seemed to ring in my ears, and I wondered where it came from. I will tell you. It is a word that goes to be made into a worse word. Let me pronounce it for you— woe; and that leads to something woe-erse— worse; and to the woe-erst— the worst of all. It is bad, lamentable, destructive, ruinous, painful, wretched, miserable woe, worse, worst. I wish I could pronounce the word as my Master did when he said, “Woe unto thee, Bethsaida; woe unto thee, Chorasin: woe unto thee, Capernaum.” I should hardly like to say as he did, for he had a right to judge which I have not— “Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites,” and so on. But that “woe” as he pronounced it must have sounded terribly, softly, sadly, sternly piercing to the heart. Ah, how will the angels sound it at the last? Hear it now, lest ye hear it at the last. “ One woe is past, and behold another woe cometh,” when the Judge of all the earth shall break the seals and pour out the vials, and the ungodly sons of men shall see the star Wormwood, and shall drink of the bitterness of the wrath of God. Woe. It means sorrow here! No rest! No satisfaction! Woe, woe, even at this day unto the man that trusteth not in God. But what it meaneth in the next world — to be driven from the face of Christ, to be followed with a “woe ” which shall have eternal echoes, Woe, woe, woe! I could fain stop and cry with Mr. Whitefield, “The wrath to come! The wrath to come!” Escape from it while yet life lasts and Jesus pleads with you, for otherwise this shall fall like a thunderbolt from the hand of the angry Judge, — “Woe to her. She obeyed not the voice, she received not correction, she trusted not in the Lord, she drew not near to God.” Then all this will turn to woe, the voice disregarded will ring again, “Son, remember! Son, remember! Woe, woe.” As for the correction which was disregarded, oh how light and gentle it will seem compared with the strokes that will then fall upon the rejecters of Christ! Every correction will then turn to woe. And the not trusting in the Saviour, the unbelief, what woe that will bring! The not drawing near to God, what woe that will cost, when we shall see ourselves afar off, and between us and God a great gulf fixed, so that none can come to us, no, not so much as to bring a drop of water to cool our tongue, neither can any go from us, or escape from the place of woe.

     II. To help any who would escape from this woe, I shall spend a minute in noticing THE FOUR HIDDEN CONSOLATIONS WHICH LIE IN THIS TEXT.

     I do not intend to enlarge upon them, because I want the previous part of this discourse to abide in your mind: but there are four hidden consolations. The first is, if I have not obeyed his voice yet, it is plain he does speak, he speaks to me. My soul, my soul, God is not dumb;  canst thou be deaf? Still doth he invite thee, still doth he call thee, still doth his good Spirit strive with thee. This voice of mine to-night I hope will be God’s voice to some of you. Be encouraged; he has not given you up, but still calls. When the sentence of death is pronounced there are no warnings given, and since you are having another call, I would encourage you to hope.

     The next is, “She received not correction,” then all my troubles and afflictions are meant to bring me to Christ. They are all sent in love to my soul, and I ought to look at them as such. My friend, where are you? I do not know where you are, or to whom I am speaking, but I do pray you see that God, who seemeth to have dealt very hardly with you, is only driving you to mercy. His voice has been harsh, and his hand has been heavy, but in love he corrects you. Oh listen to him, come to him. A judge does not correct a criminal doomed to die. God does not correct a soul, with a view to its reclamation, if he has given it up altogether.

     Notice the next sentence. "She trusted not in the Lord.” Is it a crime, then, that I did not trust in the Lord? Then I may trust him, and I will, for that which it is a sin not to do I must have a right to do, and if it be laid to my charge, “She trusteth not in the Lord,” oh, sweet mercy, sweet mercy, I may trust! This is why the Scripture saith, “He that believeth not shall be damned,” as if to assure you that you certainly may believe, because you will be damned if you do not. Come, then, and let even the black side of the text wear a smile to you, and lead you to trust your God, since he blames you for not doing so.

     Then there was the last crime. “She drew not near to God.” What, then, does God make it a fault, that I do not draw near to him? Oh, I wish the Spirit of God would put it into your heart to say, “That shall not be my fault any longer.”

“I’ll to the gracious King approach,
Whose sceptre pardon gives;
Perhaps he may command my touch,
And then the suppliant lives.”

     “I thought I might not come,” but now I see I am condemned for not coming; then I will come. I will delay no longer, I will come to Jesus, determined that if I perish I will perish at his feet. Have hope,  my friend, for none did ever perish there. May God set his seal to this word of expostulation, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.



Roads Cleared

By / Jun 22

Roads Cleared

 

“Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumblingblock put of the way of my people.” — Isaiah lvii. 14.

 

WHAT is the way, the way of salvation, the way to heaven? Jesus Christ says, “I am the way.” He is the Son of God, and he left the glories of heaven and took upon himself our nature and lived here. In due time he took upon himself our sin, and made atonement for it, and now he has gone up into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God, even the Father, whence he will shortly come to judge the quick and the dead. The way to be delivered from sin, the way to heaven, is simply to trust in Jesus Christ. God has set him forth to be a propitiation for sin, and whosoever believes in Jesus Christ has his sin put away at once, whatever he may have done. Before Christ went to heaven he said to his disciples, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” This is the way of salvation which we preach, unaltered and unalterable, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” In other words, trust him and you are saved.

      This is the entrance into the way of salvation, and this is the track of that way even to the end: trust in Christ “Are not good works needed?” says one. They always flow from faith in Christ. The man that would be saved from sin trusts Christ, and his nature is changed, and so he hates the sin that once he loved, and endeavours to honour the Christ who has saved him; but in the matter of our salvation, the ground and bottom of it is not our works, or tears, or prayers, but simple reliance upon the finished work of Jesus Christ. He is A and he is Z in the alphabet of grace. He is the beginning and he is the ending. “He that believeth in him hath everlasting life.” “He that believeth in him is not condemned,” and never shall be, for he has passed from death unto life. Such being the way, it is very simple. Straight as an arrow, is it not? And yet in this way there are stumblingblocks.

     I. First, LET US SHOW WHY THIS IS.

     The first reason is that the way of believing is such an uncommon way. Men do not understand the way of trusting. They want to see, to reason, to argue ; but to trust in “God made flesh,” dead, buried, risen, gone into heaven, they do not like that. Man says, “I cannot trust.” How very difficult it would be for a cow, that has always lived by the day the short life that can be fed on grass, if it had to live by reason, as men do. It would be a new, strange way for the poor beast. And when man has to live by faith he is as awkward at it as a cow would be at reasoning. He is out of his element. What, am I to do nothing but trust the Saviour, and will he save me? Is that to be the top and bottom of it? It is so. “Then,” saith the man, “I cannot get at it; there are stumblingblocks in the road.”

     Another reason is that men, when they are really seeking salvation, are often much troubled in mind. They are conscious that they have done wrong. Conscience pricks them. They feel that if God be just he must punish them for their wrong-doing. They are well aware that he knows the secrets of their hearts, and this alarms and distresses them, and when they are told that if they believe in Jesus Christ all manner of sin and of blasphemy shall be forgiven, they wonder how it can be? If we put it very plainly, and say, “However great your guilt, however black your sin, wash in the fountain filled with blood, and you shall be clean,” — it looks plain enough, but they cannot see it. A sense of sin blinds them, and they grope in the noonday, like blind men, for the wall; stumbling over this and that which has no existence except in their own fears. Conscience makes unbelievers of us all; and stumblingblocks are created by our trembling condition. I do not know how it is to be otherwise.

     Besides this, men are often ignorant of the way of salvation. I am not speaking now as though I blamed them. I was brought up myself to attend the house of God regularly. I do not suppose that on any Sabbath day, except through illness, I was ever absent. Yet when I began to seek the Lord, I did not know the way of salvation. I knew the letter of it, but not the real meaning: how can a man know it till the Spirit of God reveals it to him? The sun itself may shine, but a man will never see till his eyes are open. Until Christ comes, who is the light of the world, men will roam in darkness. Why, in this London of ours, the bulk of people are still without the knowledge that salvation is entirely of grace; that it is an act of divine mercy that saves a man; that a man is never saved by his zeal, or his prayers, or his tears, or anything that he does, but is saved entirely by the mercy of God in Jesus Christ. The gospel is not believed or accepted in its real meaning, and so men meet with stumblingblocks.

     Satan is always ready to prevent souls from finding peace in Christ. He will inject all sorts of thoughts into men’s minds: blasphemies infernal, thoughts incredible he will make to pass through the minds of men who are seeking Christ. He does not meddle with some people; he knows they are his, and will be his at last, but when a man once shakes himself up, and flees for his life, then the evil one raises all hell about his ears, and by his efforts many souls are made to stumble in a way which is smooth enough to the feet of faith.

     II. Thus have I shown why there are so many stumblingblocks. Now, by God’s help, I am going to TRY TO LIFT SOME OF THEM OUT OF THE WAY.

     The text says, “Take up the stumblingblocks.” Now for a dead lift at some of them.

     Here is one of them. One man says, “I would fain believe in this Jesus Christ of whom you tell me, but if I were to come to God through Christ, would he receive me?” Ay, that he will. Here is a text: “Him that cometh to me I will in nowise cast out.” In all the history of the human race there never has been found a man that came to Jesus Christ whom Christ rejected yet. If you will seek to God in Christ with all your heart, and he shuts the door of mercy in your face you may turn round and say, “I am the first man that Christ refused to help, and now his word is broken, for he said, ‘Him that cometh to me I will in nowise cast out,’ and he has cast me out.” Oh, my friends, some will not come because they are afraid of being rejected; but there is no sense in that fear. Christ cannot, will not, reject a single soul that comes to him, so, out of the way with that stumblingblock!

     “But,” says another, “I am a very peculiar person. I could very well believe that any man in the world who trusted Christ would be saved except myself; but I cannot think that he would save me, for I am so odd.” Ah, my friend, I am odd myself, and I had me same feeling that you have. I thought that 1 was a lot left out of the catalogue. I always had the notion that my brother and my sisters could readily enough find mercy, but I— I could not see how I could be forgiven. I knew more about myself than I should like to tell; and I knew this about myself— that there was a peculiar guilt about me, besides many odd ways that I could not well shake off. Since then I have been the minister of a church that numbers nearly six thousand souls, and that for many years, and I have found out that nearly all of them are about as odd as I am; and so I have cast off the idea of my being so singular. If you knew other people you would find that there are other strange people besides yourself; and if God saves so many strange people, why should he not save you? “I should be a wonder,” says one, “If I were saved.” Then he will save you, for he delights to do wonders. He will crowd heaven with curiosities of mercy. Heaven will be a museum of prodigies of sovereign grace; and if you are one of that kind, be encouraged. You are the very man that is certain to be received. Go boldly to the gate, it shall not be shut in your face. Look to Jesus and live.

     But I hear another say, “Sir, I have such a horrible sense of sin; I cannot rest in my bed! I cannot think that I shall be saved.” Wait a bit there, my friend; wait a bit; let me speak to this person over here. What is your trouble? “My trouble is, sir, that I have no sense of sin. I know that I am a sinner, and a great sinner; but I do not think that I shall be saved, for I have no horrible thoughts.” Will you change with the other man? Will he change with you? I should not advise either of you to make any change; for, in the first place, despairing thoughts are not necessary to salvation; and, in the second place, so long as you know yourself a sinner, and are willing to confess it, such thoughts are untrue. Where is it written in Scripture that we are to despair in order to be saved? Is not the whole gospel “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”? Where shall you find it recorded in God’s word that you are to be driven to remorse in order to find Christ? Repentance is quite another thing. To be sorry for sin, to hate sin, to wish to escape from it— this is a gospel blessing; but remorse — that threatening to destroy yourself, those tortures of mind — this is not desirable; and you may neither wish for it, if you have it not, nor yet despair because you have it, for salvation lies in Christ. Despairing one, look to the cross and live; and thou who dost not despair, look to the same cross and live; for there is salvation for every eye that looks to Jesus crucified.

     I see another stumblingblock. A trembler cries, “I am afraid to come and trust Christ, because I do not know whether I am one of the elect.” Well, I cannot tell you. I have never been to heaven to search the roll. A young friend over yonder is starting in business. He opened his warehouse last Monday, and he is in hopes that he may prosper in the world. My dear young man, why did you open your shop? Why did you not sit down in idleness and moan, “I would open a shop, but I do not know whether I am predestinated to prosper.” If you do not try you will never prosper: that is quite certain. As to secret things we act upon the rule of common sense. When this service is over you will go home, will you not? But if you sit still and say, “I shall not go down the aisle because I do not know whether it is predestinated for me to get home,” you will not get home, and some will think that you are predestinated to be a fool. Any man who talks about predestination as if it could be an excuse for living in sin and refusing the Saviour is acting like a fool. If you trust Jesus Christ I will tell you then that you are God’s elect, to a certainty; for whosoever believes in Christ is called by the Spirit of God, and none are called in that way but those whom God has chosen from before the foundations of the world.

     “Ah,” says another person, “I think I have committed the unpardonable sin.” Pray, sir, will you tell me what it is, because I have read a large number of books to make that discovery, and I have come to the conclusion that nobody knows what it is. Yet, though I am not sure as to what the crime may be, I can tell you whether you have committed it or not within a little. Do you desire to be saved? Do you long to be delivered from the power of sin? Then you have not committed the unpardonable sin, because it is a sin unto death, and after a man commits it he never has a living wish or desire after God from that moment. His conscience is seared as with a hot iron; and he learns to defy God, or to be utterly indifferent with regard to eternal things. But as long as there beats within your breast a desire after God, as long as you can heave a sigh of regret because of a wasted life, as long as one tear of penitence can bedew your eye, be not dismayed with the idea that you have committed the sin which is unto death, for you have done nothing of the kind. Let us lift that stumblingblock out of the way altogether.

     “Oh, but,” says another person, “my stumblingblock is this: that the whole thing seems too good to be true— that I, by simply believing in Jesus Christ, shall be saved.” I confess that it does seem too good to be true, but it is not. It is good, infinitely good, that your sin should be effectually pardoned, in a moment, freely and without price; but good as it is, it is like our God. God in Christ Jesus is clearly capable of marvellous deeds of grace. Treat God like God, and remember that his ways are as much above your ways, and his thoughts as much above your thoughts, as the heavens are above the earth. All the sins of a whole life he can strike out, as a man cancels a debt in his accountbook. With one single mark of red ink he can write “receipted” at the bottom of the tremendous bill, and it is all gone, and gone for ever. There is none like thee, O God! there is none like thee! As Creator, none can make heavens and earth like thine; as Redeemer, none that can fetch a soul up from the pit as thou hast done it; and none can hurl sin into the depths of the sea as thou didst hurl it from the cross. Only trust the Saviour, then, and you shall see his great salvation. This stumblingblock about its being too good need not remain a moment.

     I will not stay upon any more of these things, but will just say that there are some stumblingblocks that I cannot remove; they must always stand there, I am afraid.

     An objector says to me, “I would believe in Jesus; I have no fault to find with him, but then, look at his followers, many of them are hypocrites.” Yes, we do look at his professed followers, and the tears are in our eyes, for the worst enemies he has are they of his own household. Judas kissed him and sold him. Many are like Judas still. Look here, my friend: what have you to do with that? Suppose Judas does betray Christ, is Christ any the worse for that? You are not asked to trust in Judas, you are asked to trust in Christ. “Oh,” says one, “but they are all hypocrites.” No, no: that will not do. A man takes a bad sovereign— takes half-a-dozen of them in the course of his lifetime. Does he say that all sovereigns are bad? If there were no good ones the bad ones would never pass. The reason why it pays to make bad sovereigns is because good ones are so valuable; and that is why it pays certain people, as they think, to pass themselves off as Christians. If there were no real Christians, there would be no pretenders to that name. How then can you make the excuse that because there are some hypocrites you will refuse Christ himself? “Ah,” says one, “but I know a little about revival meetings and conversions. Don’t you know what a lot were converted, and what became of them?” I know what you are thinking about, but I heard a friend tell a good story in reference to that matter. He said that, notwithstanding that we have to strike off a discount from our converts of those that are not genuine, yet the revivals are worth having, for there is a real gain in them; for, said he, the objection is something like that of an Irishman who had found a sovereign which was short in weight, so that he could only get eighteen shillings for it. The next time he saw a sovereign lying on the ground be would not pick it up, for, he said, he had lost two shillings by the other. Everybody laughs at him as acting ridiculously. So it is with objectors to revivals and special services. Suppose you do have to strike off the two shillings’ worth, yet the eighteen shillings are clear gain; and why should you be the bad two shillings, my friend? Why should you? I dare say you know yourself better than I do, and probably you may be the bad two shillings; but I did not say that you were, and I do not wish that you may be. Why should you not be a real convert, a true gain to the church of God? Because there are imposters in the world, is that a reason why I am not to come to Christ? I made you smile just now. It was that you might laugh to scorn this foolery which is so much talked of. Am I to refuse to eat bread because there are bad bakers? Will you never drink milk again because some milk has been adulterated? will you never breathe the air you live in because some air is tainted? Oh, talk not so. That stumblingblock ought not to want moving. If it be any hindrance to you I cannot help it; there it must be.

     “But,” says another, “here is my stumblingblock: if I were to believe in Christ, and become a Christian, I should have to alter my whole life.” Just so. I do not dispute that assertion. There would have to be a turning of everything upside down; but then he that sits upon the throne says, “Behold, I make all things new.” Perhaps, my friend, you would have to give up your trade, for there are some trades that cannot be followed by a Christian man; and, if yours is such, it is better to give it up than lose your soul. Or you might have to give up the tricks and dodges of your trade. You must give them up, then. If anything you do would keep you out of heaven, it is better that you should become poor than that you should prosper in business by doing wrong and ruining your soul. “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” That is putting an extreme case, for nobody gains the whole world. It is only a few fourpences or shillings that men get by cheating. What profit can there be in that, if the soul is to be lost for it?

     “Oh, but,” says one, “I should have to run the gauntlet in my family if I became a Christian.” Run the gauntlet, my friend. It is better to go to heaven under all opposition than to go to hell with the flatteries of God’s enemies sounding in your ears. If you see a fish floating down the stream, you may know that it is a dead fish. Which way does a live fish go? Why, up-stream; and that is the way a man must go to heaven. “But I could not bear to be laughed at,” says one. Poor soul. I have had, upon the whole, about as fair a share of ridicule as anybody living, but I do not recollect that one of my bones ever ached a minute about it; and I think that if I can bear my share, which is tolerably large, you ought to be able to bear yours without being quite overcome by it. Which is the better thing do you think— to be sneered at for doing right or to be commended for doing wrong? Surely it is manly and honourable to say, “I will do the right and follow Christ, whoever may sneer.” What matters it? Dogs bark, — let them bark; but in God’s name let us not give our souls away to find sops for them. “But my own brethren would be against me.” Yes, Christ tells you that. He says, “He that loveth son or daughter more than me he is not worthy of me: a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” You will conquer them yet by kindness and love; but I know there will be a wrench. In the higher classes a Christian man gets the cold shoulder, and among the lower orders our working men who talk of liberty are the biggest tyrants alive. The moment a man becomes a Christian they point him out in the workshop; they jest and jeer at him from morning to night; and then call themselves true-born Englishmen. They may swear as much as they like, and use filthy talk, till you can hardly go down a street without feeling sick at the language you hear ; but if a fellow workman chooses to go to a place of worship, and behave himself decently, then he is to be the butt of the workshop. This ought to come to an end, and would if men were men. But, my dear friend, I hope you are not to be cowed and kept down by opposition. If they laugh you into hell they cannot laugh you out again: recollect that. And if to win a few poor smiles, and escape a few silly sneers, you sell Christ, how will you answer for it when you have to stand before him, and he sits upon the great white throne, at last? Look at the martyrs— how they died for Christ. Think of Bunyan when he is brought before the judge, and the judge says, “You! a tinker! to go about preaching! Hold your tongue, sir.” “I cannot hold my tongue,” says Bunyan. “Then I must send you back to prison unless you promise never to preach again.” “If you put me in prison till the moss grows on my eyelids I will preach again the first moment I get out, by the help of God.” There is some grit in that man. Oh, that is the man that God loves; the man who against the whole world will do the right, and stand true to his Master. That stumblingblock I would not move away if I could: it is good for us to meet with opposition. I think that even now I see the King upon his throne at the last great day; and as he sits there, surrounded by his courtiers, and the blazing seraphim and mailed cherubim in all their brightness, he rises from his throne and looks afar, and cries, “Who cometh there? That is a man who suffered for me. When I was despised and rejected of men, he was despised and rejected for my sake. Make way, angels; make way, cherubim; make way, seraphim; stand back, and let him come. He was with me in my shame, he shall be with me in my glory. Come and sit even here, at the right hand of God, with me, for thou didst dare to be despised for me; and now shalt thou be with me in all the splendour of my reign.” Oh, methinks we can leap over this stumblingblock, and be glad to think that it is there, for it will bring honour and glory and immortality at the last great day.

     The last stumblingblock which I cannot move is this. A man will say, “But all this seems so new and strange to me. You want me to lead quite a new life. I do not comprehend it yet. I am to trust Christ whom I never saw!” Yes, that is where you are to begin. “And I am to see God whom I cannot see?” Yes, that is what you are to do. You are to live as in the daily consciousness of God’s presence; and that you will do if you begin trusting Christ. “But I cannot see what effect my trusting Christ would have upon me.” No, you cannot see it, but it will have a most wonderful effect upon you. You will not be the same man after you have trusted the Saviour; the Spirit of God who gives you faith will change your whole nature. You will be as though you had been born again. “I don’t see it,” says one. No, but you might see it in this way. Here is a man that has a servant, and that servant believes his master to be everything that is bad; consequently, he does all that he can to annoy him. The master tries to mend the servant. He has spoken to him, and chided him; but he goes on worse and worse. Now, suppose that I could go into the house and say, “My dear man, I beg you to believe in your master. He wishes you well. You have misunderstood him.” Suppose that I could induce the servant to believe in his master, — why, my friends, he would be an altered man altogether. Do you not see that the moment he believed in his master he would try to please him? If he said, “My master is a noble man. I love him.” From that moment the whole tenor of his life towards his master would be changed. Hence the great power of believing the Lord Jesus. The moment you trust him, you obey his commands, you imitate his example, and you give yourself up to his service.

     Thus have I put before you, as best I can, the way of salvation. I thank you for coming on this special occasion. I may never see your faces again; and if I never do, this one thing is true— you have heard the way of salvation, even if you do not follow it. I shall be clear of the blood of every one of you in that great day of account when preacher and hearers will have to answer for how this Sunday night was spent. I have thought that, if I could have been clearly told the way of salvation when I was anxious about my soul, I should have gained peace long before I did; and so I have resolved that I will never let the Sunday pass without preaching the way of salvation; and it is this that for six-and-twenty years and more has held the multitude of people listening to me. I tell nothing but the old, old story. Why do people come? Do we deal in spiceries and nicknacks? No, but in bread; and people always want bread. I have given you to-night no fineries or niceties, but the plain word of salvation. Will you have it, or not? God grant you grace to receive salvation. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you are saved, and you may go on your way rejoicing in everlasting life.

     God grant it, for Christ’s sake. Amen.



Taught That We May Teach

By / Jun 22

Taught That We May Teach

 

“And the man said unto me, Son of man, behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, and set thine heart upon all that I shall shew thee ; for to the intent that I might shew them unto thee art thou brought hither: declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel.”— Ezekiel xl. 4.

 

WE learn from this text something concerning Ezekiel himself. He was certainly one of the greatest of the prophets; his visions remind us of those of John, both for their brightness, splendour, and number, and yet this eminent prophet was, nevertheless, styled “son of man.” He is continually called by that name. The title is used over and over again throughout the book of his prophecies— “ Son of man”— to remind him that even the seer, the prophet, the inspired, the man who was indulged with vision upon vision, was still only a man. The best of men are men at the best. Those eyes that are strengthened to behold the cherubim, and to gaze upon the stupendous wheels of providence, are still only the eyes of a son of man. The title was used to teach him humility, and also to remind him of the condescension of God towards him, and to fill him with awe and wonder that he should be chosen from the rest of mankind, though no more than they, to see such wondrous sights, withheld from other eyes. To us this wears a very promising aspect, for if God can reveal himself to one “son of man,” why not to another? And if God can speak, as he did speak, so wonderfully through Ezekiel, one son of man, why not through you? why not through me? for we, too, are sons of men. We have no worthiness or fitness; neither does Ezekiel claim any. He is reminded of his descent: he is still one of the sons of men. Oh, be of good comfort, you who think that God can never use you— you who are poor in spirit, and wish to serve him, but deeply feel your own insignificance. Remember that God is able to do for you exceedingly abundantly above what you ask or even think. He can yet reveal his Son in you, and himself to you, and by you, after such methods as you have never dreamed of; and, possibly, the painful experience through which you are passing even now may be preparing you to stand upon yet loftier mounts, and to behold visions of God, which in happier days you shall tell out to the house of Israel, by which multitudes shall be blessed through you.

     This is our present subject: we will speak upon the manifestations with which God favours certain of his servants. Then, secondly, we will dwell upon their responsibility while they are enjoying such manifestations: they are bound to behold with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and set their heart upon all that God shall show them. And then, thirdly, we will speak upon the object which God has in giving these manifestations to his more favoured people. It is that they may declare all that they see, that the whole house of Israel may, as it were, see by these favoured eyes, and hear by these chosen ears, and may set their hearts upon the word of the Lord because another has first done so.

     I. First, I shall have a little to say upon THE MANIFESTATIONS WITH WHICH CERTAIN OF GOD S SERVANTS ARE FAVOURED.

     The Lord Jesus Christ does draw near in a very special manner to some of his people. He did to Ezekiel: for I take it that the man, mentioned in the chapter, whose appearance was like the appearance of brass, is none other than our divine Lord, who, though a man, yet exceeds all men in the brightness of his wondrous person. It was he, doubtless, who appeared to Ezekiel. Long before Christ came on earth to die he appeared to his servants in different ways. He sojourned with Abraham as a wayfarer, for such he found the patriarch to be. He wrestled with Jacob at the brook Jabbok, for Jacob was wrestling with a sore trial. It was he that revealed himself to Moses when the bush was burning; and it was he that stood by Joshua’s side as the man having a drawn sword in his hand. In divers ways and forms he proved that his delights were with the sons of men. Or ever the Word appeared in actual flesh and blood, he communed here and there with his chosen servants. He will show himself to any of you who seek him. He will unveil the beauties of his face to every eye that is ready to behold them. There is never a heart that loves him but he will manifest his love to that heart. But, at the same time, he does favour some of his servants who live near to him, and who are called by him to special service, with very remarkable manifestations of his light and glory.

     These revelations are not incessant. I suppose that no man is always alike. John was in Patmos I know not how long; but he was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s-day” on one occasion, and he specially notes it. I do not suppose that Daniel or Ezekiel saw visions every night, or beheld the glories of God every day. Humanity is scarcely capable of the incessant strain of a perpetual manifestation of God. These things are, as we shall see, “like angels’ visits, few and far between.” There is a fellowship that can always be kept up, but the flood tide of manifestation—a noon-day revelation—will not last on continually. Ezekiel enjoyed a special manifestation, and he tells us when it was; for men do not see God’s face without recollecting it. He knew the date, and recorded it. “In the five and twentieth year of our captivity, in the beginning of the year, in the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after that the city was smitten.” Days of heavenly fellowship are red letter days, to be remembered so long as memory holds her seat.

    Yes, and it is noteworthy that the occasion of these manifestations was one of great distress. Five-and-twenty years of captivity must have been enough to wear down the spirits of God’s servants. Hence, he whose feet are as fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace, comes and manifests himself to his people, burning like brass in a furnace, giving them their times of comfort after twenty-five years of captivity. He says, too, that it was fourteen years after the city had been smitten, after it had been laid as a ruinous heap. Then God appeared. Oh, beloved, when you have been long sorrowing you may expect bright days. The coal-black darkness will brighten after all. Nights do not last for ever. Whenever you have much joy, be cautious; there is a sorrow on the road. But when you have much sadness, be hopeful; there is a joy on the way to you; be sure of that. Our blessed Lord reveals himself to his people more in the valleys, in the shades, in the deeps, than he does anywhere else. He has a way and an art of showing himself to his children at midnight, making the darkness light by his presence. Saints have seen Jesus oftener on the bed of pain than in robust health. There were more manifestations of Christ in Scotland among the heather and the hills in the days of bloody Claverhouse than there are now. There was more seen of Christ in France, I do believe, in the days of the Huguenots than ever is seen now. I fear me that our Master has come to be almost a stranger in the land in these days, compared with what he was once, when his people wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, afflicted, tormented; for then he was meeting them at every turn and corner. Let us hope that, if days are gloomy now, and we ourselves are in trouble, our Beloved will come and manifest himself to us as he does not to the world.

     It appears, in this case, that the manifestation to Ezekiel was made when he was put into an elevated condition. He says, “In the vision of God he brought me into the land of Israel, and set me up upon a very high mountain.” God has ways of lifting his people right up, away, away, away from mortal joy or sorrow, care or wish, into the spiritual realm. And then, when the mind has been lifted above its ordinary level, and the faculties are brought up by some divine process into a receptive state, he reveals himself to us. These times come not always, but blessed are they to whom they come at all. When on the mount alone with God their spiritual nature asserts supremacy over the body, till they scarcely know whether they are in the flesh or not, then the Lord reveals himself to them.

     When he had elevated him thus it appears that he conducted him to certain places, for he says, “For to the intent that I might shew them unto thee art thou brought hither.” God’s children are brought in experience to unusual places, on purpose that they may get clearer sights of the love and grace and mercy of God in Christ than they could obtain elsewhere. I have sometimes been puzzled to know why I underwent certain states of mind. I have found out the reason occasionally: perhaps as often I have not. I remember preaching to you one Sabbath-day from the text, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” and if ever a minister preached from that text fearing that it was true of himself I did. I was under an awful darkness all the while, and I could not tell why. But on the Monday evening there came to me one who, by his very appearance, I could see was not far from madness; his eyes were starting from his head, his face was full of terror — and when he was in the room with me alone, he said, “You have delivered me from self-destruction. I am a man that God has forsaken, and no one has ever spoken to my soul or my experience till last Sunday night.” By God’s great grace and infinite bounty we were able to pilot that brother into smoother waters, and I hope that he now lives to rejoice in God. I felt thankful to the last degree that I had been dragged through all my depression, because I was able to help him. Sometimes our experience is for the good of others, and sometimes it is for our own good. You cannot see the beauty of certain gems unless you place them on black velvet. When you have something black behind, then you see their lustre. So there are promises of God in which you never will discover their very brightest meaning except they are set against some dark soul-trouble. Much of faith’s education may be called black-letter learning. Very black the letters are, too, and very ugly-looking, but they must be spelt over. You cannot see the stars in the day-time; you must wait till the sun has gone down. Many promises of God you cannot see till you are in the dark; and when the soul is in gloom it may be that the Lord allows it to get there, that it may gaze upon the starry promises, and value every ray of light that streams from them. So you see, dear friends, God leads his people from one place to another of Christian experience, along hills and dales, ravines and precipices— all in order that, their minds being elevated, they may be prepared to see bright visions of himself, and know him better, love him better, and serve him better.

     However, it is not outward circumstances that can affect the divine purpose, there must always be a movement of the divine Spirit. In the third verse you read, “He brought me there.” When you get home just look through the chapter, and see how this is repeated. “And he brought me to the inner court, and he brought me to the north gate, and he brought me” to this and to that. We never learn a truth inwardly until God brings us to it. We may hear a truth, we ought to be careful that we do not hear anything but the truth; but God must bring that truth home. No truth is known well until it is burnt into us as with a hot iron. Some doctrines we can never doubt. “Oh,” said one to me, failing to convince me of some new theories, “no one could get a new idea into your head except with a surgical operation.” That witness is true if the new idea be contrary to the old-fashioned gospel. The things I preach are part and parcel of myself. I am sure that they are true. “Are you infallible?” say you. Yes, when I declare what is in God’s word. When I declare God’s truth, I claim infallibility, not for myself, but for God’s word. “Let God be true and every man a liar.” It will not do to be saying, “These are our views and opinions.” Why, if the doctrines of grace are not true, I am a lost man; if they are not the very truth of God, I have nothing to live for: I have no joy in life, and I have no hope in death. May God bring you, dear friends, into a truth, and I will defy the devil to bring you out of it. If God brings you to it, if he writes it as with his own finger upon your soul, you will know it with solemn certainty. People may say, “Where is your logic? and how does this consist with the progressive development of human thought?” and all that. I reply, “You can go and fiddle to what tune you please; as for me, these things are part and parcel of myself, and I have made them my own.” I have gripped them, and they hold me fast: I have no choice about them: I do not choose to believe in free grace, I believe it because I cannot help it. When one was asked whether he held Calvinistic doctrine he answered, “No.” “Oh,” said the other, “I am glad to hear that.” “Ay,” said he, “but Calvinistic doctrine holds me.” There is a great difference between holding truth and truth holding you. You will not hold truth aright unless you can say of it, with all your heart, “The Lord brought me into it;” “He brought me towards the south; he brought me into the inner court; he brought me forth into the outer court; he brought me to the temple.” He did it all. “All thy children shall be taught of the Lord”; and there is no teaching like it, for he that is taught of God is taught infallibly.

     Thus I have spoken upon the manifestations with which God favours certain of his people.

     II. Now, secondly, let us notice THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THESE CHOSEN MEN WHILE THEY ARE THUS FAVOURED.

     “The man said to me, Son of man, behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, and set thine heart upon all that I shall show thee.” Did he not mean this— “Use all your senses, all your faculties, all your wits to understand divine truth”? When the Spirit of God favours you with light, mind that you see; and, when there is a sound of grace, mind that you hear. Be not one of those forgetful hearers who behold their likenesses in a glass, and then go their way and forget what manner of men they are. Oh, how much more we should understand of God’s word if we gave our mind to it. We tell our children to learn their lessons “by heart.” If we put the full meaning into that expression, that is the way to learn the things of God. Learn them all over; take them into yourself by every faculty you possess; strive as God shall help you by his Spirit to get at their innermost meaning by every power that is given you.

     First, he says, “See with thine eyes.” What are the eyes for but to see with? He means this, — look, pry, search with your eyes. Do not let the truth flit before you and then say, “Yes, I have seen it.” No. Stop it. Hold it by meditation before the mind’s eye, and see with your eyes. Look, look, look into it. Remember what is said of the angels:  “Which things the angels desire to look into”; not “to look at,” but “to look into.” Looking to Christ will save you, but it is looking into Christ that gives joy, peace, holiness, heaven. Look into the gospel:  let your eyes be intent and steadfastly fixed upon every truth, especially at choice times when God favours you with the noontide light of his face. Then be doubly intent upon his word.

     And then he puts it, “Hear with thine ears.” Well, a man cannot use his ears for anything else, can he? Ay, but hear with your ears. Listen with all your might. You are to spy out the meaning with the mind’s eye; but, besides that, try to catch the very tone in which the promise or precept has been uttered. Treasure up the exact words, for though cavillers call it folly to speak of verbal inspiration, I believe that we must have verbal inspiration or no inspiration. If any man shall say to you, “The sense of what your Father said is true, never mind his words;” you would reply, “Yes, but I would like to know precisely what he said, word for word.” I know that it is so in legal documents. It is not merely the sense that you look to, but every word must be right. God’s word, as it came from him, came in such perfection that, even to the syllables in which the sense was clothed, there was infallibility about it. When I get God’s word I would desire to hear it with my ears as well as see it with my eyes, — to see its sense and then to love the expressions in which that sense is conveyed to me. He cares little for the sense of the words who is not jealous over the words which convey the sense. Oh, brethren, whenever God does, by his word, open his heart to you, do not lose anything; do not lose a sound—a syllable.

     The Lord. demands something more. “Set thine heart upon all that I shall shew thee.” Oh, but that is the way to learn from God— by loving all that he says— feeling that, whatever God says, it is the thing you want to know. It is well when your whole heart comes to know the truth, and, when it knows it, encompasses it about with warm affections, so that it may be like a fly in amber, the word in the midst of your heart, encased there, enshrined there, never to be taken away from you. Set your whole heart on the word. Some people like to read so many chapters every day. I would not dissuade them from the practice, but I would rather lay my soul asoak in half a dozen verses all day than I would, as it were, rinse my hand in several chapters. Oh, to bathe in a text of Scripture, and to let it be sucked up into your very soul, till it saturates your heart! The man who has read many books is not always a learned man; but he is a strong man who has read three or four books over and over till he has mastered them. He knows something. He has a grasp of thoughts and expressions, and these will build up his life. Set your heart upon God’s word! It is the only way to know it thoroughly: let your whole nature be plunged into it as cloth into a dye.

     The Lord bids us do this towards all that he shall show us. “Set thine heart upon all that I shall shew thee!” We are to be impartial in our study of the word, and to be universal in its reception. Brothers and sisters, do you pick over God’s Bible? I pray you, give up the habit. I have known professors who would not read certain chapters. Never read another till you have read that passage which now displeases you. Learn to love it; for, if there is a quarrel between you and a Scripture, it is you that is wrong, not the Scripture; and if there is any part of the word of which you can say “I differ from that,” the word will never alter: the party to alter is yourself. Try to follow the Lord fully, even though it should cause the revision of cherished sentiments, and even the alteration of your denominational connections. “Are we to be so particular in little things?” says one. Ay, it is in little things that loyalty comes out. A loving and obedient child obeys his father without saying, “This is a great thing, and this is a little thing.” “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.” The habit of trifling with little duties grows very soon into a seared conscience about larger matters. “Oh, but we need not be so particular,” says one. Indeed we must be. “Why are you so precise?” said one to a Puritan. “Sir,” said he, “I serve a very precise God.” “The Lord thy God is a jealous God,”— mind that; and he would have us to be a jealous people as to all his word, whether of doctrine, or of precept, or of promise. Oh, for grace to be willing and ready to see all that he would have us see, and to hear all that he would have us hear, and to receive into our heart all that he would have us receive.

     Thus, I have spoken upon the manifestations which God gives to some of his servants, and the responsibility under which they are placed by them.

     III. But now, thirdly, what is the practical design of all this? WHAT IS GOD S REASON FOR MANIFESTING HIMSELF TO HIS SERVANTS?

     The object is this, — “Declare thou all that thou seest to the house of Israel.”

     First, see it yourself, hear it yourself, give your heart to it yourself, and then declare it to the house of Israel. I have lately heard of a minister who said in the pulpit, “The doctrine of atonement, — I have heard a great deal about it, but I do not understand it.” He is going to take a holiday that he may solve some of his doubts. If he does not solve his doubts soon I should recommend him to extend that holiday for the term of his natural life. He who does not understand the doctrine of the atonement, should read “The shorter catechism,” and pray God to enlighten him. That is a book written for the young and ignorant, and it might be useful to many ministers. God grant us grace that we may know what we do know, and not attempt to declare to others anything but that which we have seen and heard and taken into our own hearts.

     But that being done, we are to tell the truth to others, especially to those whom it concerns. He had seen the form and vision of a temple and a city; he was to speak of this to the house of Israel. Dear brother, you cannot tell who it may be to whom you are to speak, but this may be your guide: — speak about what you have seen and heard to those whom it concerns. Have you been in gloom of mind, and have you been comforted? The first time you meet with a person in that condition, tell out the comfort. Have you felt a great struggle of soul, and have you found rest? Speak of your conflict to a neighbour who is passing through a like struggle. Has God delivered you in the hour of sorrow? Tell that to the next sorrowing person you meet. There is such a thing as casting pearls before swine: that can easily be done by an imprudent talkativeness; but when you find people who are hungry, give them bread; when you find people that are thirsty, offer them water; when you find that they want a blessing from God, tell them of that which has been precious to your own soul.

     Ay, but still this is not all your duty. God has shown us his precious word that we may tell it to the house of Israel. Now, the house of Israel were a stiff-necked people, and when Ezekiel went to them, they cast him aside, they would not listen. Yet, he was to go and teach the word to them. We must not say, “I will not speak of Christ to such a one; he would reject it.” Do it as a testimony against him, even if you know he will reject it. Go you, my brother, and sow your seed, and recollect that in the parable the sower did not only cast a handful on that fair spot of ground that was all ready for it, but he sowed among thorns and thistles, and he cast seeds even on the highway, from which the birds of the air soon removed it. “Give a portion to seven and also to eight.” “In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thy hand, for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, this or that, or whether it shall be alike good.” Do thou go and tell what God tells thee. Remember what we read just now.  “What I shall show you in secret that reveal ye in the light. What I have spoken to you in closets, that reveal ye upon the housetops.” “Are we all to be preachers, then?” Yes, all that have been taught of God are to teach. “Are we all to stand up in public?” says one. I did not say that; but somewhere or other— perhaps in the pew where you now sit, or on the steps as you go out, or by the roadside, or in the shop to-morrow morning, you can all put in a word edgeways for Jesus Christ. Drop a sentence or two for the honour of his dear name. “I do not know what to say,” says some one. Do not say it, then, brother. I would recommend you not to say anything if you do not know what to say; but if you have seen with your eyes and heard with your ears, and received into your heart, then you know what to say, and the first thing that comes to hand will be the best thing to say, for God, who knows the condition of people’s minds, knows how to fit you to their condition, and make your experience as a Christian to tally with the experience of the man who wants the aid of your light. Go, and the Lord be with you.

     If there are any here who have never seen the Lord, if they have any desire after him, if they have any sense of sin, if they have any wish for the eternal light, let them remember that gracious word, “Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out,” and that precious invitation, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

     May the Holy Spirit bring you to trust in Jesus at once, and to the name of the Lord be the praise for ever and ever. Amen.



Sin Subdued

By / Jun 22

Sin Subdued

 

“He will subdue our iniquities.”— Micah vii. 19.

 

BUT lately I tuned my harp to the music of forgiven sin, and we sang of pardon bought with blood, finding our key-note in the words of David, — “Who forgiveth all thine iniquities.” It was a sweet subject to all our hearts, for we all have a portion in it, seeing we are all sinful, and have need to be forgiven: therefore did our souls dance to the high-sounding cymbals as we rejoiced in the complete pardon which our gracious God has given to all who believe in Jesus. But, beloved, the pardon of sin is not enough for us: we have another equally urgent need. If the Lord would forgive us all our sin we could not be happy with that alone. “Who forgiveth all thine iniquities” is not perfect music till we add to it the next note, “who healeth all thy diseases.” We feel that we have within us a tendency to sin, and that tendency is our misery: from this tendency we must be emancipated, or we are no more free than the captive who has had the manacles removed from one wrist but feels the iron eating into the other arm. We wish to be delivered from every propensity to sin: ay, to be rescued altogether from its power. God has now given us a new life, and this will never be easy till the last link of the chain of sin is utterly removed. Since our new birth there remains no rest for us short of being perfectly like our God in righteousness and true holiness. The heavenly seed within us must and will grow, and as it increases in the soul it will expel the power of evil, for it cannot endure the least particle of it. We may now be called “the Irreconcilables,” for we can never be at peace with evil. We cannot tolerate sin. The thought of it pains us; and when we fall into a sinful act we are cut to the quick. We thirst to be pure, we pant to be holy, and we shall never be satisfied until we are perfectly so.

     We, dear friends, who have been awakened by the Holy Spirit, find that we are by nature under the power of sin. It will not be an easy thing for us to escape from the terrible tyranny of sin; not without the putting forth of great power can the iron yoke be broken. What little experience we have had in the divine life leads us to see that there is an immense difficulty before us, making our upward progress one of conflict and labour. A dreadful power has our nature in subjection, and that power cannot easily be overcome. Ever since the Fall sin has taken possession of us. This flesh of ours lusteth to evil: the propensities of our nature which are not in themselves sinful are made by our depraved hearts to be the occasions of concupiscence and transgression. We cannot eat, or drink, or talk, or sleep, but what there is a tendency to sin in each of these conditions. Out of the simplest movements of our being evil can arise. Actions which are incidental to the very fact that we are men— actions which are neither morally good nor morally evil— yet nevertheless become the nests in which sin lays its eggs and hatches them, so that every propensity of ours, even that which is in itself natural and fitting, readily becomes polluted and depraved through the indwelling of sin in our nature. Sin poisons the well-head. Sin is in our brain; we think wrongly. Sin is in our heart; we love that which is evil. Sin bribes the judgment, intoxicates the will, and perverts the memory. We recollect a bad word when we forget a holy sentence. Like a sea which comes up and floods a continent, penetrating every valley, deluging every plain, and invading every mountain, so has sin penetrated our entire nature. How shall this flood be assuaged? This enemy so universally dominant, so strongly entrenched, how shall he be dislodged? It has to be driven out somehow, every particle of it, and we shall never rest until it is; but by whom shall iniquity be subdued? How satisfactory the assurance of our text, “He will subdue our iniquities.”

      We find that our inward enemies are assisted by allies from without. The world which lieth in the wicked one is ever ready to assist his dominion within us. We cannot walk down a street but we hear language which pollutes us; we can scarcely transact business in our own counting-houses without being tempted. If we stay at home there is temptation there, and if we go abroad it is the same. The most retired are not free from sin, nay, their very retirement may only be a sinful selfishness which shirks imperative duty. We cannot do good to others without running some risk ourselves, and if we cease from godly endeavours because we would not hazard our own spiritual comfort, we are already taken in the snare. We cannot mix in politics in any degree, with the purest desire for our country’s welfare, without breathing a tainted air; we cannot try to curb the social evil but we feel that we are on treacherous ground: yet we may not flinch from duty because of its perils. We shrink like the sensitive plant that is touched by the finger; we fold and furl up' all the feelings of our being, because of the sin which touches us when we mingle with men. We often close up all the gates and windows of the soul because we are conscious that the enemies without are calling to the enemies within, and saying, “We will conquer him yet.” Moreover, that mysterious spirit, the devil, is always ready to excite our flesh, and to urge on the world. I have heard that some people doubt his existence. Very likely they are so friendly to him that they would not like to betray him, and so they deny that he hides in their hearts; but those who are his enemies do not try to conceal him, but own with sad humiliation of heart that they are very conscious of his power. A wind from him will come sweeping through our spirit in the calmest hour of devotion, and in a minute we are disturbed and distracted. We have had our thoughts all going up towards heaven, and in a moment it has seemed as if they were all sucked down into the bottomless pit, merely because that evil spirit has spread his dragon wing mysteriously over us, and created a horrible down-draught which our poor brain could not at once resist.

     We have to fight, then, not only with sin, but with the flesh, which, like a Gibeonite, has become a hewer of wood and a drawer of water for the devil: we have to fight with the world which “lieth in the wicked one,” steeped up to the throat in sin; and we have to fight with Satan himself. “We wrestle not with flesh and blood,” or else we would gird on the sword, and go in for knocks and blows, and cuts and thrusts, and have the battle out; but we wrestle with “principalities and powers and spiritual wickednesses in high places;” and what is to become of such poor, frail, feeble, weak creatures as we are? Who can subdue these great and mighty kings? With so many in league against us what can we do? What is to become of us? My text is the answer to that question: “He will subdue our iniquities.” That same blessed God who has pardoned our sins will conquer them. They may fight against us, but he will be more than a match for them: their fighting will end in their destruction. Omnipotence has marched into our hearts to trample down the power of sin. Eternal faithfulness has called in invincible strength and divine majesty to do battle against the serried hosts of darkness, and we shall overcome. “Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

     I am going to speak briefly upon seven points, if time shall hold out for me to do so, and each of these seven points will show phases of the energy of evil which God will subdue.

     One of the first powers of evil which a man perceives when the heavenly life begins to breathe within him is THE FASCINATING POWER of sin. When grace in the soul is only like a little spark, and has not come to its brightness, yet the man discovers with alarm that he is held under the enchantment of evil. I do not know any other word which quite gives my idea except that one. Satan casts a spell over men. They come and hear the gospel, and they are impressed by it, and they see the reasonableness of the endeavour to escape from sin; they perceive the beauty of holiness, and they see that the way of God’s salvation is a very glorious one, namely, by faith in Jesus Christ, and they begin to yield; but yet they neither flee from their sins nor lay hold on the salvation of Christ, but remain as persons besotted, who act contrary to reason. In some cases one sin, in some cases another, seems to fascinate men like the eyes of the fabled basilisk. As certain snakes paralyse their victims by fixing their eyes upon them, so do certain sins paralyze those who are under their influence, so that none can arouse them to escape. Sin makes men mad. Against their reason, against their best interests, they follow after that which they know will destroy them. They are slaves, though they wear no fetters of iron; captives, though no walls enclose them. The magic arts of evil have taken them in a net, and wrapped them about with invisible bonds, from which they cannot escape.

     In many cases Satan exercises over men a kind of soporific power. He puts them to sleep. I do not know whether there is anything in mesmerism or not, but I know that there is a devilish sleep-creating charm which Satan casts over men. They are no sooner a little awakened, and startled, and persuaded to escape for their lives, than suddenly they fold their arms again, and crave a little more sleep. They are nodding over a prospect which, a few hours ago, made their hair almost stand on end. They go back to do the deed which they dreaded, and which they know to be evil and destructive. They forget the Saviour whoso charms began to tell upon them, and renew their covenant with Satan from whom they had almost escaped. In the matters of the soul you have not merely to get men awake, but to keep them awake. Over the arctic traveller there comes a tendency to sleep in the cold— a tendency which he cannot resist. He may be awakened by his fellow and shaken out of his torpor, but by-and-by he is anxious to sleep again; they march him on between two, perhaps, and try to keep him awake, but still he cries, “Let me sleep.” He begs to be allowed to lie down and slumber. Such is the power of Satan over some of you who are present here: you wish that we would let you be quiet, and go on in your sins, without worrying you with our warnings. I have shaken you sometimes; at least, I have tried to do so; and then, after all, you have gone to sleep, and still you are asleep, nodding with hell beneath you, with the wrath of God abiding on you. It seems as if you could not be decided, — you could not be resolute, — you could not run away from sin, but were held by mysterious bonds— held, worst of all, by a dreadful indifference which makes you slumber yourselves into ruin. Do you think one ungodly man in his senses would remain what he is and where he is while there is a hope of being renewed, if it were not for some strange enchantment which is exercised upon him by sin? What art of wizard can equal the magic of sin? What other witchery can cast men into such insensibility? If I were to cry “Fire! fire!” in this place to-night the most of you would rush to the first door or window; but yet when we tell you of what is infinitely worse— namely, of the wrath to come, and the anger of Almighty God, you are in no great alarm, nay, you sit at your ease and hear all about it. The story of your future destiny is heard and heard, till men think no more of it than of an old wives’ fable, but still sleep on in their sin.

     I have known this witchery to enthral men who have been somewhat awakened. By the month and by the year together they have been aroused, and have been apparently very earnest; and after all sin has charmed them with its siren song, and they have returned like the dog to its vomit, or the sow which was washed to her wallowing in the mire.

     Now, I am rejoiced .to think that, if there is any life in you, if the Lord enables you to look to Jesus Christ, his Son, for salvation, he will subdue your iniquities. Man, he will help you to escape from the magician’s wand. Sin shall no longer delude and ensnare you. He will so set eternal things before you by the power of the divine Spirit that you will not dare to sleep any longer: he will so convince you of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment to come, that he will slay the enchanter, break his spell, and free you from his black arts. May the Lord set every fascinated one free at this good hour. May he pronounce the word which will unbind the enchanter’s charm, and we shall then have one fulfilment of the text, “He shall subdue our iniquities.”

     A second form of the force of sin in most men is ITS DEPRESSING POWER. When men are really awake, and no longer under the witchery of sin, then Satan, and their flesh, and the sin that dwells in them, conspire to make them think that there is no hope of salvation for them. The evil ones mutter “It is no use your trying to be saved. You do not stand the smallest chance.” Jeeringly the tempters cry, “Look at your sins! Look at your sins!” Satan, who aforetime did not want us to look at sin, becomes all on a sudden eager that we should take to self-examination and confession. He who is the father of lies sometimes finds truth answer his purpose so well that he uses it with terrible effect; but even then he uses it to support a lie. He suggests to the heart the thought," If you had not sinned so much you might have been forgiven, but you have piled on the last ounce that has broken the back of mercy; you will never be saved.” Then comes the second suggestion, “You know you have tried already. You did keep yourself pretty steady for a time, but it all broke down. There is not the slightest use in venturing again upon this hopeless business. Depend upon it, there is a divine decree against you: you are one of the reprobate. There is no hope for you at all. Don’t you see how false you are? You never make a resolve but you break it You made an awful failure of it last time, and so you will again.” Then there comes up again in the soul the depressing thought, “Perhaps it is not true after all that there is any mercy for sinners. It is very possible that there is no such power in the blood of Jesus as the preacher wants you to think.” Once get a man upon the rails of doubt and you can draw him on as far as you please. It is interesting to see a man go on doubting in the style I once followed. I doubted everything till at last I doubted my own existence. Now I have at least a little bump of common-sense, and I laughed outright at myself when I got as far as that, and the ridiculousness of the situation brought me back again to believe. To run right on to a reductio ad absurdum and prove the absurdity of your own unbelief is a very useful method of bringing a doubting spirit to a measure of belief Yes, I know that this is the way of sin. It depresses the man. “I would, but cannot believe,” says he. “I would have a hope, but I cannot believe that my name is amongst God’s elect ones. I cannot think that the blood of the atonement was shed for me”; and so on. What is to be done when you feel this, and wish to conquer it? What is to be done but to fly to a promise like this in the text, “He will subdue our iniquities”? Yes, this despondency of yours the Lord Jesus will subdue. Believe that he is able to cut off Giant Despair’s head, and dismantle his castle, and set his prisoners free. Some have almost gone to the knife and to the halter in their despair, and yet the Lord Jesus. Christ has restored them to joy. Many a despairing soul have we had to deal with, and we have seen the Lord vanquish its misery and chase away its sorrow. Satan did his best to keep the soul from the joy which it might have had there and then; to keep it from the feast which was spread for it, from the blessing which God had prepared for it; but he could not prevail, for the hour of hope had struck. O, cast-down one, be comforted, the Lord will subdue your iniquities in this respect. If you will but look to Jesus Christ he will say to you, “Be of good comfort.” He will tell you that your sins are forgiven, and breathe hope into your soul.

     This is a second blessed way in which God subdues our iniquities: by casting out their depressing power. This he does by showing what a glorious Saviour Christ is: how he is divine, and therefore equal to any emergency, how his atonement is of a value that never can be limited, how he is “able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him.” This he does by applying the precious promises to the soul by his own Holy Spirit, who leads men to believe in God despite their despair, hoping against hope, and thus the snare is broken, and their iniquities are subdued. O glorious victory of all-conquering love, sin’s iron yoke of dark despondency is broken, and the captives lead their captivity captive. Hallelujah!

     But now, thirdly, the Lord has power to subdue sin in another form of its force, namely, ITS DOMINEERING POWER.

     What a domineering thing sin is over men. Any one sin will lord it frightfully over a man. I know a man in his senses: at any rate, he has never been in Bedlam yet: in business he is as sharp and cute a man as can be, and yet he drinks himself into foolishness, into madness, and even into delirium tremens. He has done this several times, and owns to the madness and wickedness of the deed, and yet he will repeat his insane and suicidal course. He has drunk away all his estate; from a man of property he has descended to become a very inefficient working-man. He has drunk away all his wife earns, for he does not earn much himself now, and he is mean enough to let the poor woman kill herself to find him with food. He drank a horse and cart a fortnight ago. He went out of the house upon a business errand for his wife, pulled up at a drink-shop, drank till his money was gone, and so he sold the means by which his wife has kept him out of the workhouse. I dare say he is here: let him take it home to himself, he knows that it is true. He never went home again till the last ear of that horse had been drunk. And yet he would not like anybody to say that he is a fool, though I beg leave to have my doubts. His sin domineers over him. Only let drink come to him and say, “Go and do a mad thing,” and he does it directly. Expense, pain, disgrace, disease, poverty, and an early death— all these are demanded by the drink demon, and his victims cheerfully pay the tax. Why, now, if I were persuaded that it was the duty of any one of you to go and spend every penny that you have, and starve your own children, in order to support a child at the Orphanage, you would not see it, I dare say. I should be a very long while before I could persuade you to such a thing as that. I am sure I should not wish you to do so; but even if it were right I could not get you to do it. Yet things far more preposterous are done greedily at the bidding of drink. This devil of drunkenness comes to a man, and he says, “Come along with me. Leave your fireside, and your wife and little ones, and associate with the lowest of the low. Come and spend everything you have upon stuff that will muddle your head, harden your heart, and destroy your character. Sell your household furniture, and drink till all your comrades call you a jolly good fellow Pawn your children’s shoes, so that the little ones cannot even go to Sunday-school.” The man goes along as meekly as a lamb. And he has done that scores of times. He knows what a fool he is, and yet he will do it again if he gets a chance. Oh, the domineering power of sin! It is not the one sin of drunkenness only, for there are other men who are domineered over by their lusts. It is a delicate question to talk about, but I dare say there are some here who are slaves to the vilest of lusts, and it becomes me to be plain with them, and assure them that persons living in fornication or adultery cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Then there is anger, which carries men away as with a flood; they cannot restrain themselves; the least thing sets them off boiling with passion. They say they cannot get the mastery in this respect, and it is perfectly true; but there is a stronger power than ours which can be brought in, by which the victory can be won. Sin in some form or other has bound us hand and foot, and made us slaves. Do you wish to be free? Do you wish to be delivered from the tyranny of sin? Then I do not advise you to do anything in your own strength in the hope that you can accomplish deliverance; but cry to Christ at once, whose precious blood can blot out the past, and change you for the future. Give yourself up to him, and be made a new man in Christ Jesus. Oh, you did try to mend, you say. One of our kings used by way of swearing to say, “God mend me”? That was his regular expletive till somebody said that he had tried that oath long enough; he thought that God could more easily make a new one than mend him. That is just the truth about you. There is no mending you. You need to be made new creatures in Christ Jesus. It will be by far the easier work of the two, though in itself it will be impossible to you. The Lord can do it, he can make you such a new man that you will not know yourself the next time you meet yourself; you will be so entirely new that you will begin to fight against your former self as your worst enemy. Oh for an earnest cry at this good hour, “Lord, save me! I am sinking in the depths of my sin. Jesus, stretch out thy hand as thou didst to sinking Peter. Save me, or I perish.” Jesus will lift his royal hand, and cause both winds and waves to lie still before him; for it is written, “He will subdue our iniquities.” The domineering power of sin is readily broken when Jesus enters the heart, but never till then. We refuse to obey our lusts when we bow our necks to the pure and holy Savour. What a change he works! Speak ye, who best can tell, ye who have felt it! Ah, Lord, we bless thee that it is even so “thou wilt subdue our iniquities.”

     Now, fourthly (for I must be brief on each point), there is another power about sin, namely, ITS CLAMOURING POWER. I do not know any other word just now which so nearly expresses what I mean. Some of us know that we are forgiven, and we know that the domineering power of sin is broken in us, and our old sins have been long washed away by the blood of Christ, so that God does not know anything about them. You say that is a strange expression. It is no stranger than the Scriptures warrant, for the Lord says of our sins that he will remember them no more for ever: and I believe that he means what he says. But as for my transgressions, I recollect them when God does not, and they come up before me, and they howl at me. “You be saved?” says one of my sins: “You?” “Remember what you did while yet a youth.” Sometimes a thousand of them at once make an awful din, and howl out, “Guilty, guilty, guilty, and doomed to die.” Then one or two bigger sins than the rest take the lead, howling with a deep bass, “Condemnation! condemnation! condemnation!” I have tried to argue with these memories of sins. When the dogs have barked in that fashion I have tried to put them down. Conscience has come out with his big whip, and he has whipped them till they howled more than ever. Conscience has said “Why, even now that you are a Christian you are not what you ought to be. You still fall short of your own standard. You condemn yourself while you are preaching. You know you do.” Then all the dogs have howled again, as if they were only now beginning their horrid music. You have never heard, perhaps, a whole kennel full of sins all howling at once, but it is a most awful noise at night. If you listen to the voice of these clamorous dogs you will wish that you had never been born, or could cease to exist. No voice that I know of, short of the one in the text, can make them lie still. But the Lord Jesus can subdue our iniquities, and when he steps into the middle of these dogs they lie cowed at his feet. As he speaks with gracious words of pardon the hell-hounds vanish; and instead of their baying you hear the sweet voice out of heaven: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” Did you ever experience this delightful change? It is something like the case of a new comer at a court of law, who one day went with a magistrate and sat on the bench. A prisoner was brought up, and evidence was given, and the counsel against the prisoner spoke; and this person said to his friend, the magistrate, “You may as well end it, the man is clearly guilty. Wind the case up, and let us go to dinner.” But the magistrate said, “You must listen and hear the advocate on the other side, and the case will look very different.” When he listened to the advocate on the other side, he began to whisper, “I have my doubts about that now.” As he listened further, he said, “I am glad you did not condemn that man. What a mistake I made; he is as innocent as a new-born babe. That advocate has done his work wonderfully.” The prisoner was acquitted. It is so with us. When our sins plead against us we readily allow that we are hopelessly ruined. But, oh, when our blessed Advocate takes up his brief, when the Wonderful, the Counsellor urges his plea, and pleads that our sins were laid on him, what a change comes over the face of things! The sin is owned and then covered, lack of righteousness is acknowledged and then supplied, condemnation is recognized as just, and then seen to be with equal justice put away for ever. Picture yourself in court. There are the bills, and they are put in evidence against you. “Do you owe those bills?” “Yes.” “Have you anything to say why you should not be treated as a defaulting debtor?” “No.” But when the man is able to reply, “Yes: the charges are all paid:” that settles the matter. So when the believer can say, “ Lord Jesus Christ, thou hast paid all my debts for me”; and when Christ shows his wounds, and says, “I have put them all away, for I bore them in my own body on the tree,”— oh, then the case is ended, and the clamour of our iniquities is subdued; and so the text is again true “He will subdue our iniquities.”

     But I shall have my time gone, otherwise I wanted to say that this text is true as to THE DEFILING POWER OF SIN. DO you know, brothers and sisters, that after we are quite forgiven, and after the domineering power of sin has gone, yet the defiling power of sin is a great affliction to us? Our experience is embittered by the corruption of sins long ago dead, which send forth a dreadful rottenness, and make our thoughts a terror to us. Some of you were converted late in life, and you have very much, I am sure, to trouble you about in the influence of evil upon your memory. Perhaps this very night while I am speaking there has come up into your mind—though you cannot bear to think of it—some wretched scene in which you played a guilty part. Even the holiest words when you are in prayer will sometimes suggest to you a loose song that you used to sing, and a casual expression which has no special meaning to others will arouse a thousand vile remembrances in you. This is what I mean by the defiling energy of sin: it is a great plague to many believers, especially to those converted after years of gross sin. In addition to that, many of you may have experienced the defiling power of sin in another form— when Satan has suggested blasphemous thoughts and abominable ideas to you. You cannot bear them. You are ready to fly to the ends of the earth to escape the venom of these hornets, but still they buzz around you, and will not be quiet. You could almost tear your heart out of your body if you could thereby expel these vile suggestions, but they will not go. They descend in perfect floods, they are mud showers, or worse than that, fire showers, and they fall upon your poor brain, and there is no getting out of the diabolical tempest. Ah, I remember when words I never heard from human tongue rushed through my ear, filling my heart with blasphemies which I never thought of—profane suggestions which made me tremble like a leaf as they poured through my poor brain; I could have died sooner than they should be there; and yet they were rushing through my mind, and bearing all before them. Many of God’s people are tried in that way. What is to be done? If old memories, and if Satanic suggestions come upon you to defile you, what is to be done but to fly to this text— “He will subdue our iniquities”? Let us plead this in prayer. Lord, conquer my memory, and wash it from the filth which clings to it: put away its pollution from me. Lord, chain up the devil, and rebuke his suggestions. Let thy poor child have space for breath, and time to sing, and opportunity to pray; and do save me, I beseech thee, from the infernal suggestions which now torment me.

     Some of you know nothing about this, and I hope you will abide in happy ignorance of it; but those of you who do know it will perceive whereabouts I am, and you will triumph in this priceless promise, “He will subdue our iniquities.” Look to Jesus Christ for power over infernal suggestions, and over evil memories, and he will give you that mastery; and it may be you shall never again be tried in that way as long as you live; for frequently the Lord gives such sudden and decisive deliverance that, between that one battle and heaven, the Christian pilgrim pursues his way and never meets Apollyon again.

     We have now reached sixthly. The Lora our God will subdue sin in ITS HAMPERING POWER. I am speaking, of course, to Christians in these latter points. There is a hampering power about sin. I will just hint at some instances of it.

     Many believers might do a great deal of service for Christ and his church, but they are hampered by shame. They are ashamed, afraid, alarmed, where there is nothing to be troubled at. They indulge a foolish distrust of God. Their fear may once have been modesty, but it has grown rank, till it is not now the kind of modesty which is wholesome. They might serve God, but they are ashamed to make the attempt: ought they not to be ashamed of such cowardice? Some, again, are hindered in their joy and their peace by unbelief. They are always doubting, inventing fears, planning suspicions, compiling complaints. This cometh of evil and leadeth to no good. It is a dreadful thing to be hampered from doing good, and hampered from glorifying God, by an inveterate tendency to unbelief.

     Others are hampered by frivolity. Many of us have merry spirits, but some are all levity. They were cradled in a bubble, and made to ride upon thistle-down. It is a pity when a man has no solidity of character, and runs to froth, for this sin dwarfs his manhood and dries up his vigour. Oh that the Lord would subdue this form of iniquity.

     Some I know, too, are very unstable: they are never the same thing two days together. They might have borne fruit if they had kept where they were, but they have been transplanted every week, and so have never taken root. They have undertaken a dozen works, but they have done nothing. Unstable as water, they shall not excel.

     Some, again, are hampered by pride. There is no use in denying it. The natural tendency of many persons is to a silly pride. When they were children they could not have a new frock but they gloried in it; and since then they cannot have twopence more than their neighbours but they become almost unbearable. I know some who I hope are Christians, but they have a dreadful tendency to swell; they will grow before jour very eyes if any one will but favour the process. They have always looked upon the many— the multitude— as being far inferior to them because their grandfather’s grandfather was either a knight, or a baronet, or a foreigner of unknown degree: they feel that they are superior sort of people. This is a great drawback to godly workers, especially when it makes them feel that they could not go amongst poor people. Those who do go to visit the sick poor are often quite unable to reach their hearts, because of their stiffness of manner.

     Some professors are slothful. They have a torpid liver, and are always afraid of doing too much. They are lethargic, Dutch-built, broad-wheeled-waggon sort of Christians, and slow are all their movements in the work of the Lord. They do not move at all by express; indeed, they are distressed by zeal, and disgusted by enthusiasm. The Lord subdue these iniquities for us.

     Others are hampered by a quick temper. They cannot take things calmly; they snap and snarl, and scarcely know why. They boil over so soon; they are very sorry for it directly afterwards, but that does not cure the scalds. There is no use in breaking the tea things because you can rivet them afterwards: they are not much improved by it. Some must be for ever fighting, for peace is stagnation to their burning spirits.

     I have given a long list of these hampering sins. What is to be done with them? “Well,” says one, “I do not think we can do anything, sir; these are our besetting sins.” Now, do not make any mistake about it, if there is any sin that gets the mastery over you, you will be lost: you are bound to conquer every sin, mind that. You may call it a besetting sin or not, but it must be either overcome by you, or it will be your ruin. A man may plead that a certain fault is his besetting sin; but I am not so sure of it. A sin that you wilfully indulge, is that a besetting sin? Certainly not. If I had to cross Clapham Common to-night and three stout fellows beset me to take away what- ever I had got, I would do my little best in self-defence. That is what I call besetting a man. A besetting sin is a sin that sometimes surprises a man; and then he ought to show fight and drive the besetting sin away. If I were to walk over the common every night, arm-in-arm with a fellow who picked my pocket, I should not say that the man “beset” me. No, he and I are friends, evidently, and the robbery is only a little dodge of our own. If you go wilfully into sin, or tolerate it, and say you cannot help it— well, you have to help it or you will be lost. One thing is certain— either you must conquer sin or sin will conquer you, and to be conquered by sin is everlasting death. Well, what is to be done? Fall back upon this gracious promise— “He will subdue our iniquities.” They have to be subdued: Jesus will do the deed, and in his name we will overcome. If we are slothful, we will, in God’s strength, do ten times as much as we should have done had we been naturally of an active turn. If we are angry we will school ourselves till we become meek. Some of the most angry men that ever I have known have come to be the meekest of men. Remember Moses, how he slew the Egyptian in his heat, and yet the man Moses became very meek by the grace of God. You must overcome your sin, my dear hearer, be that sin what it may. Whatever else you forget of this evening’s sermon I want to leave that in your heart: you must overcome sin. By the blood of the Lamb it is to be done. By the power of divine grace it must be accomplished. Up! slay this Agag that you thought to spare. Hew him in pieces before the Lord, or else the Lord will hew you in pieces one of these days. God give you grace to get the victory.

     Now, the last and seventh point, God will deliver you from THE INDWELLING POWER OF SIN. Sin nestles in our nature. Its lair is in the jungle of our heart, and if we are believers in Jesus Christ we must hunt it out. The first thing the Lord does with this indwelling sin is to neutralize it. He puts in his indwelling Spirit to subdue it and overcome it. Next, he begins to drive it out. He said of the Canaanites, “By little and by little I will surely drive them out.” Thanks be to God, he has driven out certain of our sins already. I know that I speak to some who are not tempted now to vices that once ruled them with a rod of iron. You have conquered the grosser shapes of sin. Brother, the day will come when there will not be one Canaanite left in the land; when, if you should search through and through, there will be no tendency to sin, no wandering of heart, no error of judgment, no failure of righteousness, no inclination to transgression. You will be as perfect as your covenant head, Jesus Christ. Where will you be then? Not here, I trow. I notice that God always puts his jewels into fit settings, and the proper setting for a perfect man is the perfect joy of heaven. In a pure region the pure heart shall dwell; and you, believer, shall go on towards that sacred height, till, one of these days, your Lord will say, “Dear child, you have fought long enough with corruption and sin; come up hither; the conflict is all over now.” You will look back when you get up to heaven, and you will say to yourself, perhaps— if you can have any such regrets— “I wish I had conquered those sins earlier, fought against them more earnestly, watched against them more vigilantly. Oh, that I had honoured and glorified my Lord more.” However, forgetting all about regrets, what a song we will raise when we find ourselves quite free from the power of sin! What a song! O, you bad-tempered brother, when that anger is all gone, and you will never be angry again, will you not sing? Ah you, brother, a little inclined to laziness, when you find that you can serve God night and day, will you not sing? And some of us who are inclined to despondency, when our gloom is all gone, and life becomes everlasting joy and sunshine, will not we sing? Yes, I was going to say—

“Then, loudest of the crowd I’ll sing,
While heaven’s resounding mansions ring
With shouts of sovereign grace”;

I did utter that resolution once in the pulpit, and when I came down the stairs an aged woman said to me, “You made a mistake in your sermon to-night.” “Dear soul,” I said, “I dare say I made a dozen.” “Ah,” she said, “but you made one great one. You said that you owed more to God’s grace than anybody, and therefore you would sing the loudest. But,” she said, “you won’t, for I shall.” I find all my fellow Christians, both men and women, are resolved that they will sing the loudest to the praise of grace divine. This shall be heaven’s only contest. There shall be a grand contention among the birds of paradise which shall sing most sweetly of free grace and dying love. What a heaven there will be, and what music there will be in heaven, when our iniquities are subdued. How will the Lord look down with joy upon us all when he shall see us all made like his Son, perfect, faultless, glorious. Then we will sing, “He has subdued our iniquities. Oh, come let us sing unto the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously, and all our iniquities has he cast into the sea.”

     Anticipate that joy, and begin to sing to-night, and let this be the matter of your song, “Thanks be unto God which giveth us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord.” May that victory be yours and mine. Amen.



The Throne of God and of the Lamb

By / Jun 22

The Throne of God and of the Lamb

 

“The throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it.” — Revelation xxii. 3.

 

WE shall take these words as referring to heaven. Certainly it is most true of the celestial city, as well as of the millennial city, that the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it. This theme of surpassing interest intimately concerns all of us who are believers: for to the rest eternal at the foot of the throne we are constantly looking. Were it otherwise, I fear there would be little prospect of our ever passing the heavenly portals. We do not suppose that a man is shooting at a target if he does not look that way; nor can we imagine that a man’s ambition is fixed on heaven if he has no heavenward thoughts or aspirations. The pilgrim turns his steps towards the place he is desirous to reach. What though he cannot catch a glimpse of the distant spot which is the goal of his hope, yet his eyes are in that direction. Let him climb a hill on a clear day, and you will see how he strains his eyeballs to catch a glimpse of tower or spire, minaret or battlement, of the city he is seeking. When he descends the valley, and the outlook is dreary, he solaces his soul with songs in the night that tell of “a day’s march nearer home.” The anticipated greetings of friends gladden his heart. After a noble fashion the prospect of heaven lights up our sad days with gleams of glory; while our happy Sabbaths here below have often made us long for the sanctuary on high. In the crowded courts of this Tabernacle our fancy has pictured the Temple above of living stones and countless worshippers. Bunyan speaks of Mount Clear from which with aid of telescope the celestial city might be descried in the distance. We have enjoyed intervals when no clouds or mists have obstructed our outlook, and these have usually come to us on the Lord’s days. A friend of mine when he went to reside in Newcastle-on-Tyne was looking over a newly-built house that was to let; and as he looked out of the window in the top room, the landlord said to him, “You can see Durham cathedral from here on a Sunday.” My friend, failing at first to catch his meaning, said, “Why on Sunday more than any other day?” “Well,” said he, “the furnaces are not going, and the smoke is not rising to darken the atmosphere.” I was not surprised to hear that the passing incident supplied my friend with a parable the next time that he preached. On special Sabbaths we peer into the city of which our text says, “The throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it.” God grant that our meditations may stir your upward longings, and that our discourse may excite your desires towards heaven.

     Come, then, let us think upon the throne of God, and of the Lamb, and of the place where it is. But stop a moment; I want you to look round and take a preliminary survey of the scene. Do you notice that this throne is the “throne of God and of the Lamb”? Doubtless you know where John got that phrase, that title for Christ— “the Lamb.” It is almost peculiar to himself. You catch the note in Isaiah; Jesus is celebrated as a lamb in his prophecies. You hear the name in an epistle of Peter, and in the Acts of the Apostles as a quotation from the evangelical prophet. But with John it is a most familiar term. John, the best beloved of all the disciples of Jesus, loves this sweet symbol, and delights to speak of his Lord as “the Lamb.” This John had been a disciple of that other John, the Baptist, whose chief and choicest sermon, which lingered most in his mind and memory, was couched in words like these — “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” John the Baptist struck a note which vibrated throughout the whole life of John the Divine. In Patmos John recalls his early impressions, for old men delight in the scenes and sayings of their youth.

     When John began his gospel, he was absorbed in “the Word;” now that he unfolds the wondrous scroll of vision he portrays “the Lamb.” As the key-note of Redemption the name recurs frequently in his writings, and in his closing book the name comes back to him with all its music, and he dwells upon it with evident delight. The word “arnion,” as used in the book of Revelation, might be translated “a little lamb.” It is a diminutive in the Greek text, expressive, as Dean Woodhouse observes, of tenderness and love; and in such sense our Saviour himself used it in addressing Peter, after his resurrection — “Lovest thou me? feed my lambkins.” I refer to the idiom without any wish to see the common rendering altered; but it seems to show a marvellous degree of familiarity in John’s mind with his blessed Master, when he looks upon him as the little lamb to be loved, for you know how wont we are to express affection in diminutive terms. “My little dear,” or “my little darling,” are expressions that trip sweetly from our tongues. On the other hand, were we to say, “my dear big daughter,” or “my dear tall son,” the words would sound awkwardly. We naturally give diminutive names to our favourites. Thus you will observe, dear friends, that while our divine Lord has names of infinite majesty which appeal to our loftiest homage, he has also names of pure simplicity, like “the holy child Jesus” and “the little lamb,” when he appears to us innocent as a babe, or suffering as a sacrifice.

     I. The sublime adoration of the heavenly host is offered to the Lamb that was slain and hath redeemed us to God by his blood out of every kindred and tongue, and people, and nation. In order to behold the throne of God, and of the Lamb, you must first of all get a sight of the Lamb. I invite you, therefore, in the words of John the Baptist, to “BEHOLD THE LAMB of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” Look at him in the dawn of his ministry, when first he comes within the range of mortal vision — a man, a lowly man, one chosen out of the people. About him there is neither form nor comeliness to make him at all remarkable; he is one who did not strive, or cry, or cause his voice to be heard in the streets; not a pretentious, nor an ambitious man, but one who could say of himself, and nobody could gainsay it, “I am meek and lowly in heart.” He was born in Bethlehem; he grew and waxed strong in spirit; he increased in wisdom and stature. I suppose that when he was a child he spake as a child, understood as a child, and thought as a child: I know that he abode with his parents, and was subject to them. In his mature years, when he was manifested to Israel, we behold him, the sinless One, endowed with the common faculties and afflicted with the common infirmities of our mortal race. He suffered the breath of slander, he wept with mourners; he groaned beneath the burden of care, and smarted under the pangs of pain. He lived and he died in the presence of many witnesses: what further evidence could be desired that Jesus was a man and not a myth, a lamb-like man, and none of your pretenders to greatness?

     His character, too, is so purely natural that the example of excellence he sets needs no explanation. The gentle disposition that drew little children around him, the kindly temper that bore reviling without anger, the love he showed to the poor and destitute, the respect he paid to the outcasts of society, and above all his kindly notice of publicans and harlots, as sheep gone astray who were capable of being restored, claim our gratitude, and cause us to regard him as the model of goodness for all generations. Such is the man whom all the kindreds of this earth must ultimately acknowledge as “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” How lamb-like he is!

     Thus you see the Lamb of God among men: will you track his footsteps still farther on till he becomes the Lamb of sacrifice, and actually takes the sin of man upon himself, that he may bear its penalty? What an extraordinary night that was when he rose up from the supper table and said to his disciples, “Let us go hence.” He went to a certain garden where he had been accustomed to spend nights in meditation; he went there to pray. And oh, what a prayer it was; such surely as heaven never heard before nor since. In an agony he prayed more earnestly, and yet more earnestly, till “he sweat, as it were, great drops of blood, falling to the ground.” He cried to the Father, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” Then did the heavy cloud of human sins overshadow his soul, and the ghastly terrors of all his people’s guilt brood over his spirit. He proved the hour of dread and the power of darkness. Arrested by one who had eaten bread with him, he was betrayed into the hands of conspirators. By an apostle who turned apostate he was sold for a few paltry pieces of silver. From the place of private retreat, and of secret prayer, he was hurried off to prison and to judgment. Before Herod and Caiaphas, and then before Pontius Pilate, was he arraigned. All through the night he was falsely accused and foully mocked, scourged, spit upon, and treated with the utmost contempt. So was his heart broken within him because of the reproaches of them that reproached God which fell upon him. Deserted by his disciples, denounced by the priests, despised by the populace, he was at length delivered up to the malice of his foes, and, sentenced by Pilate, he was led away to be crucified: still his patience was conspicuous, and when he was led as a lamb to the slaughter he opened not his mouth.

     Now you shall see the full weight of sin pressing upon “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” Every morning and every evening there had been a lamb sacrificed in the tabernacle as the type and emblem of this Lamb of God who was yet to come. A pretty little innocent lamb that a child might fondle was brought up to the priest, and its warm blood was made to flow in pain, and it was offered as a sacrifice upon the altar. But now he comes— the last of all lambs, the first too— the real lamb, the Lamb of God, of which the others were but types. Him they took, silent, passive, submissive, and nailed him to a cross. There he hung in the glare of the sun till the torture of tender nerves in his hands and feet produced such fever in his flesh that he said, “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws, and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.” Such was the dissolution of his entire frame it seemed as if he had no longer a solid body: it was melted with bitter pain. There he hung, men jeering him, till at last the sun could bear the sight no longer, and veiled his face; the earth could no more endure to be the stage for such a tragedy, and began to rock and reel; the very dead were stirred as though they could not slumber in their graves while such a deed was done, so tombs were opened and many arose. Oh, it was a wondrous spectacle. Those that saw it smote upon their breasts, and went upon their way. It was the Son of God “bearing, that we might never bear, his Father’s righteous ire.”

     Behold him, bruised between the upper and nether millstones of divine justice in thy stead and mine, that God, without the violation of his holy law, might turn to us in infinite mercy and blot out our transgressions and quench the devouring fire of his wrath. Say, then, beloved, have you ever seen this sight? Have you so seen it as to sing with our poet—

“My soul looks back to see
The burdens thou didst bear,
When hanging on the cursed tree,
And hopes her guilt was there”?

Do you trust him? Are you believing him? His cry from the cross is “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” Have you so looked? If so, then you have had the preliminary sight: and I pray God so to strengthen the eyes of your understanding that you may gaze more intently on this vision of the Apocalypse— “The throne of God and of the Lamb.”

     II. BEHOLD THE THRONE. Let us see it first from the Lamb’s side of it. Of course there is only one throne: God and the Lamb are not divided. The Lamb is God, and the interests of God and the Lamb are one. The one kingdom of God, even the Father, is identical with the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Acknowledging the oneness of the throne, we proceed to inspect it from the point of view in which the Lamb chiefly challenges our notice. You will remember that he is portrayed to us as “the Lamb in the midst of the throne.” So John beheld him, as you read in the fifth chapter of the Revelation and sixth verse. But I would not have you make any mistake about the meaning of that phrase. Dr. Watts constructed a poor paraphrase of the passage when he said—

“Our Jesus fills the middle seat
Of the celestial throne.”

There is no such idea in Holy Scripture. The midst of the throne means the front of the throne, according to the Greek. The Lamb was not on the throne in that vision, but standing immediately before it. That is a position in which our Lord Jesus Christ would have us see him. I will show you presently that he is on the throne according to our text, but not according to the passage which I have just now quoted. In the previous narrative of the fifth chapter, where the Lamb is said to be in the midst of the throne, means in the front of it, in the centre, standing there that we might draw near and approach the throne through him. To the awful throne of God there could be no access except through a Mediator; he stands therefore in the front of the throne between us and the invisible, sovereign God, an interposer and interpreter, one of a thousand, the daysman who can lay his hand upon both. This is a beautiful thought. Jesus, according to the former vision of this revelation, is in the front of the throne where God always sees him before he sees us. I cannot endure the sight of God until I see him in Christ; and God cannot bear the sight of me till he sees me in Christ. Wonderful is that text in the book of Exodus, “When I see the blood I will pass over you.” He does not say, “When you Israelites see the blood I will pass over you.” Why, they were not in a position to see it; for they were inside the house, and the blood was outside, on the lintel and on the two side-posts. It is true, they had seen the Lamb as it was slain, for you remember that the whole assembly of the congregation was to kill it between the two evenings; and they also saw the sprinkling of the blood: but their safety did not depend so much upon their having seen it as upon God’s continually seeing it,— “When I see the blood I will pass over you.” In like manner the covenant security of the saints arises rather from God the Father looking to his Son Jesus Christ as their surety and sacrifice, than from the constant exercise of their faith. Hence we rightly plead in our hymn: —

“Him and then the sinner see:
Look through Jesus wounds on me.”

There, then, our Lord Jesus stands in front of the throne interceding for us, interposing for us, opening the way for us to approach to God, even the Father.

     I have drawn your attention to this previous vision as a preliminary to that of our text, in which the position of Jesus Christ is upon the throne reigning there, clothed bodily with all the power of the Godhead. Do not forget that it is even so. The Lamb is on the throne. Co-equal and co-eternal with the Father, very God he is, very God he always was. We do not forget the glory which he had with the Father or ever the earth was, but it is as God-man Mediator that he is now, in his complex person, invested with heavenly honours.

“This is the Man, th’ exalted Man,
Whom we unseen adore.
But when our eyes behold his face,
Our hearts shall love him more.”

     The full glory of his Person as Son of God and Son of man shall be manifested when he shall be beheld upon the throne of God. He who once appeared as the sacrificed and slaughtered Lamb shall reign with supreme authority; the blessed and only Potentate, King of kings and Lord of lords. It is the throne of God and of the Lamb.

     The power thus conferred upon him the Lamb not only possesses by right. and title, but he exercises it in deed and in truth. “All power,” said our risen Redeemer, “is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” He ruleth now with unlimited sway: and the sceptre of his kingdom is a right sceptre. As Joseph was exalted in Egypt, and Pharaoh said, “See, I have set thee over all the land ; and the people cried before him, Bow the knee; and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt”: even so we read of Jesus, “God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord in the glory of God the Father.” The rebellious are not exempted from his rule. What though they conspire against him, they shall be utterly confounded. One might fancy that there was a slight strain of language in Pharaoh’s fiat, that “without Joseph no man shall lift his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt”; but there is no exaggeration if we apply the words to Christ, for it is a fact that every man living is responsible to Jesus for the thoughts and imaginations of his heart. He is King for ever. The throne of heaven is the throne of God and of the Lamb. His dominion over nature always appears to me a delightful contemplation. I like to think of the sea roaring and the floods clapping their hands in his praise. He it is who makes the fields joyful and the trees of the forest glad. His pencil paints the varied hues of the flowers, and his breath perfumes them. Every cloud floats o’er the sky wafted by the breath of his mouth. Lord of all the realms of life and death, his providence runs without knot or break through all the tangled skeins of time. All events, obvious or obscure, great or small, are subject to his influence, and fostered or frustrated by his supremacy. The Lord reigneth, and of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.

     Thy royal prerogative, O Lamb of God, extends over all the realms of grace. Thou, O Lord Jesus, dost dispense mercy as seemeth good in thy sight. As the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickens whom he will, even so he has given to the Son to have life in himself, and to quicken whomsoever he pleases. As head of the church, his benign control is absolute amongst the members of his body. In the bestowment of spiritual gifts, and in the appointment to sacred offices, he rules and regulates, and nothing is too minute to escape his notice. How pleasant to my poor heart to think that he who bowed his head to shame is now exalted, as God over all, to such a seat of honour. I feel that no odium I could incur, no injury I could sustain in preaching his name and publishing his fame, could be of any account in comparison with my joy in seeing him exalted. Let me starve in a garret or die in a ditch if only Christ be glorified. The old soldiers of Napoleon, rank and file, revelled in the triumphs of their general. When they fell on the battlefield, with shouts of victory ringing in the air, they seemed to think light of death so long as the emperor had won renown, and the eagles of France were in the ascendant. Live for ever, royal Lamb! Reign for ever, victorious Lord! As for us, who or what are we? Brethren, let us follow him in the tribulation of the hour while the fight is fierce, so shall we find ourselves in his train when his triumph is trumpeted forth before the assembled universe. “Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.”

     What lowly reverence we owe to him who occupies such a throne of boundless empire! Approach him then with profound humility; but mingle therewith the most childlike confidence. Beloved, we see before us the grandeur of God and the gentleness of a Lamb. The infinite Creator and the innocent creature are linked together in lovely union. He who is God over all, blessed for ever, has resources amply sufficient to meet your utmost wants. You do not come to a finite helper when you draw near to Christ. In trusting to the merit of his blood, you have an all-prevalent plea and full security for pardon, peace, and acceptance. You come to the throne of the Lamb, and that throne of the Lamb is the throne of God. “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” There is no stinted provision in such a treasury. All the riches of the glory of God are treasured up in Christ Jesus, and Christ has all this wealth to bestow it all upon his redeemed family. I do not know what hope and expectations the Socinian can cherish with a Man-Christ, or an Angel-Christ, or a semi-divine Christ, as a guide to immortality. They may honour Jesus of Nazareth for the purity of the life he lived on earth, but I want God in human flesh to save my soul, the death of the Son of God to wash away my sin. I find the fight of life so fierce that no right hand but that which made the heavens can ever give me the victory. I stay myself on the incarnate God who bled and died, and is gone into the excellent glory, and sits down there upon the throne, Lord over all: I trust his saving strength to bear me through. Let me challenge you, my hearers. Are you trusting him and staying yourselves only and wholly upon him? Could you be content with any one less than a divine Saviour? If you are born from above you could not. Magnify his name then, and worship him in the quiet of your hearts at this good hour.

     Well, that is the aspect of the throne from the side of the Lamb. Let us now take another look and behold the throne of God. The throne of God is the throne of the Lamb. The throne of God, if we view it as sinners, with a sense of guilt upon our conscience, is an object of terror, a place to fly from. Our poet was right when he said—

“Once ’twas a seat of burning wrath,
And shot devouring flame:
Our God appeared, consuming fire
And vengeance was his name.”

     I recollect when I had such terrible apprehensions of God, and I know that they were founded upon truth, for the Lord is terrible to unforgiven men. Now I do not disdain, as some do, to sing “Though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me.” Not that there has been a change in God. It is the view of God which the sinner is able to take which has been changed, and that change has been effected by Christ. From everlasting to everlasting Jehovah is the same: in him there is no variableness. Jesus did not die to make the Father love us, or to melt his aversion into affection. Nay, blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, he loved us with an eternal love and chose us in the person of Christ before the foundation of the world. Still his justice was outraged by the transgressions we committed: and as a holy and just Sovereign his anger was kindled against us as sinners; and that anger was no less justly appeased by the death of Christ, when he put away our sins by the sacrifice of himself. By his precious blood a full atonement was made. Henceforth, eternal praises to his name, the throne of God is the throne of the Lamb. It is a throne of righteousness, but no less a throne of grace. There, on the throne of the Almighty, mercy reigns. According to the merit of the sacrifice and the virtue of the atonement all the statutes and decrees of the kingdom of heaven are issued. The altar and the throne have become identical. From that throne no fiery bolt can ever again be hurled against the believer, for it is the throne of the Lamb as well as the throne of God. Oh, what comfort there is for suffering saints in this conjunction of majesty and mercy on the throne of the Highest.

     The sovereignty that is signified by this throne must certainly be unlimited. The throne of God is the throne of an absolute monarch who doeth as he wills among the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of this lower world. From that throne the proclamation comes like a peal of thunder, “The Lord reigneth; let the people tremble.” God’s throne of sovereignty is not a throne of arbitrary power, for the Lord is perfect and holy, and his will is just and right. In acting according to the purpose of his own will he abounds towards us in all wisdom and goodness. The sternness of law is linked with the sweetness of love; because while the throne of heaven is the throne of God, it is still the throne of the Lamb. I fear that I fail to find the words that will express my thoughts; but this empire of God and the Lamb endears itself to our hearts. There is about it a kingly kindliness, and a majestic mercy most charming to the mind. Do any ask, What throne is that? To whom does it belong? We answer, — it is the throne of the great and glorious God, and it is the throne of the lowly lovely Lamb. The glorious Lord is gentle as a child; the lamb is lordly as a lion. Referring to the Book sealed with seven seals, described in the fifth chapter, St. Bernard said, “John heard of a lion and saw a lamb; the lamb opened the book and appeared a lion.” But, behold, here it is, “the throne of God and of the Lamb.” Put off thy shoes from thy feet, O seer; the place whereon thou standest is holy ground, for God is here. Come, little children, there is charm enough to entice you; for the Lamb is here. It is the throne of God, therefore fall down before it with awe and self-abasement; but it is the throne of the Lamb, and therefore you may stand up before it without fear. Does not a rich blend of splendour and tenderness dawn on your apprehension? Are you not sensible of some present effect on your souls? Do you not feel the charming sweetness and the overpowering light? John tells us in the first chapter what his own sensations were, when the Son of man appeared to him in the midst of the seven candlesticks, vested with the insignia of Priest and King. First, he says, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead.” Then he adds, “And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am”—. Ah! when you recognize who he is, fear gives place to faith, and trust succeeds to trembling. Be of good courage, then, ye faint and timid disciples. Why do ye come creeping with bated breath to the throne of heavenly grace? Will ye always cry in the same strain, “Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable sinners”? Such ye were, but ye are not so now. You are washed in the blood of the Lamb. You are his dear children. You have received the spirit of adoption. When ye pray, say, “Our Father which art in heaven.” Let it be your pleasure, as it is your privilege, to hold nearer intercourse with God than Israel did, for no bounds are set about the mount. They had to stand at a distance; they dared not draw near lest they should die; they did even entreat that the terrible words might not be spoken to them any more; but you are a people near to him and dear to him, and the throne to which you owe allegiance is the throne of God and of the Lamb.

     I am painfully conscious, as I proceed, that the subject is too much beyond my grasp to mould it into a sermon. This is not preaching. I have been merely holding up the text, and trying to suggest thought after thought, as the glory of my Lord’s kingdom occurred to my mind. But what can any of us say in the presence of God and of the Lamb? Our proper position is to fall down upon our faces and worship. Isaiah saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphim: pure and sinless as they were, their homage was lowly and obeisant. Each one had six wings: with twain he covered his face, with twain he covered his feet, and with twain did he fly. In the presence of the Eternal, language fails us except the one adoring cry, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. The whole earth is full of his glory.” The only other exclamation appropriate to utter would be, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory and blessing.”

     One fact remains to be noticed— it is this: the throne of God and of the Lamb is in heaven. BEHOLD THEN THE THRONE IN HEAVEN. We must pass beyond this earthly region, and join the company of those who people the celestial realm before we can see the throne of God, so as to obtain a complete view of it. Is not this among the chief joys of heaven?

“I’d part with all the joys of sense,
To gaze upon thy throne.
Pleasures spring fresh for ever thence,
Unspeakable, unknown.”

There are many ideas of heaven, and I suppose, according to each man’s character, will be the prospects he cherishes, and the answer he gives when the question is asked— “What must it be to be there?” There is ample scope for imagination, so abundant are the joys which the Lord hath prepared for them that love him. There is the great wall, with its twelve glittering foundations, and there are the twelve gates, and the twelve several pearls; there, too, is the tree of life, with its twelve manners of fruits. Who shall ever tell forth all the meaning of the symbols used by holy men to set forth the Paradise of God?

     Nor are the Scriptures our only source of information, for our sighs below are prophecies of the blessings laid up for us. The toil-worn labourer thinks of heaven as a land of rest, and he shall find it so. On the other hand, the relish that we have for religious worship, and the delight we take in Christian work, leads us to think of heaven as a sanctuary where the servants of God can serve him day and night: we shall find it so. For my part, I sympathize with both expectations; for though they sound contrary, they need not clash. The rest of glorified spirits, so far from being a sort of suspended animation, will rather consist of a joyous refreshment in enthusiastic service; and the ministry of ransomed hosts, instead of wearying them, will arouse them to fly more swiftly, to sing more loudly, and to serve God more diligently as they see his face. Are there not tempted ones among you who smile as they think that there shall be no sin in heaven? To Paul, when in prison, knowing that the hour of his departure was at hand, after a life of preaching the word and enduring persecution, the crown of righteousness which the Lord the righteous judge should give him was just then the most welcome anticipation. As the warriors look for a crown, so on the other hand friends look for communion. To loving hearts great is the bliss of heaven’s unbroken fellowship of saints: it will indeed be a great joy in heaven to see all who loved the Lord below. How happy we shall be when these blessed reunions take place. Still, I think that all of you will agree with me that the heaven of heaven is that we shall be “with Christ, which is far better”—that we shall behold his face and partake of his glory. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be the centre of our delights. To have reached home in the heavenly Father’s house, to have seen our Elder-brother, and to be sure that we shall abide with him and go no more out: oh, that is what we pant for! We long to hear his voice welcoming us to our new abode.

“Come in, thou blessed, sit by me;
With my own life I ransomed thee;
Come, taste my perfect favour:
Come in, thou happy spirit, come;
Thou now shalt dwell with me at home;
Ye blissful mansions, make him room,
For he must stay for ever.”

     Beloved, our song will be to him who loved us; and yet we shall want to tell out to others our love to him. You cannot wash his feet with your tears, because he will wipe all your tears away; you cannot honour him with your substance there as you can here, for there will be no widows and orphans whom you can relieve, no poor and needy ones whom you can feed and clothe and visit, doing to his disciples as you would do unto him. But oh, to fall before him, and then to gaze upon him! He looks like a lamb that has been slain, and wears his priesthood still. Oh, for a sight of him! One said, “See Naples and die.” But oh, if we could only see Christ, even on earth for a minute, we would be content to die and go home with him straightway; nor ask leave first to go and bid them farewell which are at our house.

     What hallowed communion with him we shall there enjoy. In his church below he has given us some pleasant foretaste of his sweet converse; but there the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall always feed them, and shall lead them to living fountains of water. There is a text that I have been turning over in my mind for many years. I want to preach from it, but I cannot understand it clearly enough at present. I hope to preach from it one day before I go to heaven. If not, I will preach from it up there when I shall have realized its full significance. Ah! do not smile. Some opportunities we shall have in heaven to testify of Christ; for we shall make known unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places the manifold wisdom of God. It is difficult to imagine that we ever can be able to explore the whole of the unsearchable riches of Christ. The passage I am referring to is that in which Jesus says, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” Like Thomas, I am prone to ask questions. What is there to be prepared, and in what respect does heaven as a place need to be made ready? I do not like to think of heaven as a half-built habitation, or as fully built, yet only partly furnished. What means this preparing of a place for us? Perhaps our Lord’s going there made heaven ready, and its mansions meet for the occupation of his disciples. Heaven would hardly be a home for saints in the absence of the Saviour. As I do not know the angels, and never was acquainted with any one of them, I doubt very much whether I should feel at home in their company if Jesus were not there too. There are a few saints up yonder whom I once knew and dearly loved. But one wants to be introduced to the whole of the residents, to the general assembly and church of the first-born in heaven. How can this happy familiarity be brought about? Now that Jesus is there we have a friend on high whom we have known, and who has known us, who can introduce us to all its inhabitants and acquaint us with all its joys. His presence is the light and the glory of the celestial city. My place will be prepared when I am safe in his arms, leaning on his gentle breast. There may be much work for the builder before all the plans and purposes of the eternal Architect are completed. Of that I do not know: of that, therefore, I cannot speak. Jesus has gone to prepare a place for his people; and we very distinctly perceive that he is preparing his people for the place.

     Listen ye now; lend me your ears, and hearken to this concluding word that I have to say to you. Heavenward now we are hastening our steps. We long to reach the happy plains, because there is not only a rest to be enjoyed, but a festival to be celebrated. The marriage-supper of the Lamb draweth nigh. His church shall be prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. We that are with him, following in his train, called, chosen, and faithful, are only espoused to him as yet, but we are going to that place where the voice shall be heard, “The marriage of the Lamb is come, and his bride hath made herself ready.” I halt. I dare not advance a step farther. I bring you to the margin of this blessed ocean of infinite delight. Oh, for a plunge into it— into the Godhead’s deepest sea of love. Is there a more intimate relation into which our Lord Jesus Christ shall hereafter take his beloved people whereby we shall be for ever united to him? Shall we know the fulness of his love in a communion of which it were not lawful for a man to speak? Was this one of the unspeakable words which Paul heard when he was caught up into Paradise? Can it be that this marriage scene is the last act of the new creation, as it was of the old creation, when the Lord God found and formed a helpmeet for Adam? “This is a great mystery. I speak concerning Christ and the church.”

     Till the day break and the shadows flee away, let us wait for the Bridegroom’s appearing, and the home-bringing of the bride. As virgins that look forward to the marriage day let us keep our lamps trimmed, and see to it that there is oil in our vessels, lest when the cry is heard, “The Bridegroom cometh” any of us should need to nurse the dimly-burning spark, or despairingly cry, “Our lamps are gone out.” Let us all be ready that we may go in through the gates into the city.

     Some of you, alas! are not able to feel the joy which this subject excites in our breasts. You cannot take delight in the throne of God and of the Lamb. God grant you may. Come, now, to the throne of grace with open confession and secret contrition. It is the throne of God, who knows the nature of your sin; it is the throne of the Lamb, who bore the penalty of sin, and can put it away. Come to the throne of the Lamb that was slain. I entreat you to come now. So shall you find peace and reconciliation, and you shall be made meet to enter into the joy of your Lord. I pray God to bless this whole congregation, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.