The Sitting of the Refiner

By / Jun 22

The Sitting of the Refiner

 

“And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.” — Malachi iii. 3.

 

THIS is spoken of as one of the results of the coming of the Lord: he would test and try all things, destroy the false and the evil, and make those pure whom he permitted to remain. Behold, the Promised One has come! He whom Israel sought suddenly appeared in his temple as the messenger of the covenant. Glad were the eyes of Simeon, and Anna, and all those who waited for him, and glad this day are our voices as we proclaim that the Messiah has appeared. The glorious Son of God, the anointed of the Most High, has been among men, and faithful witnesses have testified concerning him, “We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” That coming, heralded by songs of angels, and prophetic of countless blessings, should have been a day of unmingled light to men; but because of hypocrisy, pride, and self, it was not so; on the contrary, it was to many a day of darkness and not of light. We have abundant historical evidence that our Lord’s first advent was a day of great trial to the Jewish people; and when we remember the siege of Jerusalem, and kindred events, we do not marvel that the prophet asked, “But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s sope.” His ministry tried the religion, the orthodoxy, and the saintship of the period, and because it revealed the hollowness of the whole of the profession of the day, it aroused all the enmity of the religious classes. Those who were the leaders of the so-called religious thought of the age were aroused to hate the Lord Jesus, and to take a delight in nailing him to the tree; for his teaching was so true and good that their word-chopping and ceremony-making could not endure it.

     Our Lord, when he came, sat as a refiner, and assayed the age then present; and ever since then his gospel in the world, his Spirit, his teaching, yea, the very fact of his life, — these all together have been a test, a trial, a sort of standard of weights and measures among men. All things are on their trial. You are constantly hearing of this time and that time as being “crises”; and the saying is true. There is always a crisis to something or other during these days of the Lord's sitting as a refiner. All things are being thrust into the furnace, and the fire is kept burning at a white heat, and nothing evil can abide the flame. Everything that is good shall be conserved, purified, made brilliant; but all that is evil, be it what it may, the whole world over, since Christ has come, shall be tried and dissolved as by fire. When our Lord comes the second time, the trial will be still more intense. “Who shall abide the day of his coming” when he shall still further be revealed, and when his purpose shall be rather that of judgment than of mercy?

     It is well for us to know that, whenever Jesus Christ draws near to a soul, he comes in utmost mercy to make it clean. Because he is in himself the incarnation of ineffable love, his coming always means that he is about to purify the soul, for the highest mercy is to rid us of sin. The grandest thing that God himself can do in the purpose of his love is to purify us into his own glorious holiness. Christ loved his church, and this is how he showed it; “He gave himself for it, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.” The Well Beloved seeks to purify his chosen by the washing of water through the word. It is the way his love takes: for true love doth ever choose the way of holiness. That love which would lead its beloved into sin is lust; it deserves not the name of love; but true love will ever seek the highest health and wholeness (which is holiness) of its object. Pure affection will grieve to see a fault, mourn over a folly, and seek to remove a blot. Perfect love seeks the perfection of the thing it loves. Such is the perfect love of Christ: whenever he comes to a soul in love he comes as a refiner. He comes with this object, — to take away the dross from the silver, and to make the fine gold purer still. In his sharpest dispensations he means no ill to us, but the divinest good; seeking not to grieve, but to lead up to the eternal blessedness, of which the root and flower are both found in absolute perfection.

     If any of you, my hearers, are seeking the Lord at this time, I want you to understand what it means: you are seeking a fire which will test you, and consume much which has been dear to you. We are not to expect Christ to come and save us in our sins, he will come and save us from our sins; therefore, if you are enabled by faith to take Christ as a Saviour, remember that you take him as the purger and the purifier, for it is from sin that he saves us. “They shall call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.” This is the particular salvation which he aims at. Though he does deliver men from hell, it is by delivering them from the sin which is the fuel of Tophet’s flame. Though he does give us heaven, yet his way of bringing us to heaven is by giving us a heavenly mind, a heart obedient to the holy and loving Father. The refinement of our nature and character is the way in which his infinite love most wisely displays itself.

     We are going to talk of this purifying process. “He shall sit as a refiner.” How is the refining carried on?

     It is carried on in part by the word of God. “Is not my word like a fire?” Wherever the gospel is preached thoroughly, out and out, it is a wonderful consumer of dross. I have known certain congregations that have been dead in worldliness, the haunts of wealthy professors, whose love to Christ is a mere pretence. Close to them I have seen another church which has been lively in spirit, and full of zeal for the Lord. Whence the difference? The reason has usually been this — that in the one case there was man’s ministry, and in the other there was the word of the Lord. Ministries of the Spirit worldly people cannot bear. They are displeased with a plain testimony. It rasps their conscience. There is no need to turn them out of the church; they drop away of themselves: it is not the place for them; it is too hot for them, I mean too holy, too spiritual, too devout. By-and-by they are offended, and murmuringly they prepare to emigrate. There are so many things that they do not approve of, they see so much that is dreadfully orthodox, narrow-minded, and bigoted; and so they trot off among their own cattle. Yes, and so they should. That is God’s way of keeping his flock to itself. Those that are rooted up by the word of God are best rooted up. We may always be practising this kind of separating the tares from the wheat, for it leaves the testing with God and a man’s own conscience, and hence no injustice will be done. It would be ill by excommunications to seek to root up the tares from among the wheat, lest we root up the wheat with them; but by the word, if it be preached in the power of the Holy Ghost, the process will be always going on. God’s furnace stands in Zion. If any of you are ever displeased by the word, I pray you be displeased: we shall certainly never alter the word for you. If the truth comes too closely home to your consciences and angers you, be angry, not alone with him that speaks it, but with him from whom it comes; and then you will see the folly of such anger, and humble yourselves before God, and accept his truth, which will live, and your sin shall die. God grant it may be so.

     Another purging operation is by causing his chosen to have more fellowship with his own blessed and glorious self. Of all the means of purging the heart none surpasses this, for when the Lord in great mercy draws his child near to him, and makes him feel his love, and know it beyond a doubt, then the favoured heart longs to be holy in all things. When the Lord fills his servant full of his love, and makes him to be joyed and overjoyed with the sweet consciousness that he is the Beloved’s, and that the Beloved is his, then a holy jealousy burns within the soul, and the heart cries, “Is there anything that can grieve the Beloved? Let it be slain! Is there aught that I think, or wish, or say, or do, that might break the sacred spell of communion, and cause him to be gone? Let it be driven out at once!” The heart institutes a diligent search that, if possible, it may put away the accursed thing, that Christ may not be grieved. Of all fires that ever burned this is one of the fiercest. Jealousy is cruel as the grave, and a holy jealousy does stern work in our hearts with sin. It hangs up the darling sin before the face of the sun, and calls upon the fowls of heaven to come and feast upon the slain. Oh, that we knew Christ better, and lived more in the light of his countenance, for then should we be purged as with the spirit of burning.

     After all, the Holy Spirit is the great fire that burns in Zion to purge believers from the love of sin. It is he that makes use of the Word, and makes use of fellowship, and makes use of everything else, to sever sin from the saint, and take away the dross from the silver. He is the immediate agent of our sanctification, all else we must regard as only the means in his skilful hand. To him be our love and our praise evermore.

     As a subsidiary means the Lord uses providence. I have no doubt that he uses very frequently gracious providences, as we call them; that is, providences which please us by gratifying our natural wishes. Some people have been sanctified by prosperity; but I do not think very many have been. Few good medicines are pleasant to the palate. If we were as we ought to be, every joy that comes to us would tend to make us grateful, and so it would make us love God; and what is that but to be more like God and more holy? But, alas, in that we are weak through the flesh, the gentler modes of love far oftener fail than her rougher processes. It remains then that, if we cannot be preserved in honey, we must be salted with fire, lest corruption should take hold upon us. Such is the stubbornness of our flesh, that the Lord uses for fuel in his furnace sharp and heavy trials of different kinds. Adversity assumes many forms, and in each and all of its shapes the Lord knows how to use it for his people’s benefit. Christ sits as a refiner when he takes away prosperity, and brings the wealthy down to poverty. He often refines men by the losses which they sustain of beloved friends. Bereavement burns like a blast-furnace; and, oh, how much of carnal love has been consumed by it!

     We have known persons greatly purified by the Holy Spirit by passing through depression of spirit, inward grief, and soul sorrow. Spiritual pain has been blessed to some, and physical pain to more. In itself pain will sanctify no man: it may even tend to wrap him up within himself, and make him morose, peevish, selfish; but when God blesses it then it will have a most salutary effect— a suppling, softening influence. Sorrow is made to act as a kind of flux upon the hard metal to make the dross separate from the precious ore.

     Yes, affliction is what most believers think of when they read such a passage as this; but I warn them not to think too much of it, for that is not the refiner’s only fire, nor is it even his best fire. Affliction is but one part of the machinery of the Royal Refinery, — one of the fluxes by which the great Lord separates the precious from the vile.

     I desire to call your attention to the text by leading you to mark three things. First, I want you to watch the attitude of the refiner. — “And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” Secondly, the object of his refining, — “He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver.” And, thirdly, the result of the refinement, — “That they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.”

     I. Notice carefully THE ATTITUDE OF THE REFINER, — “He shall sit.” The posture would not have been mentioned had it not been instructive.

     Sitting looks like the attitude of indifference. There is the metal vexed with a white heat: here is the refiner sitting down. There is the child of God upon the bed of pain, and he cries, “My Lord, come and help me”; and there the refiner sits, looks on, but does not stir a hand. The child of God is sinking in trouble; he fears, like Peter, that the next step may drown him; and there is his Lord, calm and unmoved. When the apostolic ship was out at sea, and tossed with tempest, Christ was asleep in the hinder part of the vessel Unbelief dares challenge his love because of this apparent apathy: How can he sit still and see us suffer? She mutters— “He is indifferent: he does not care.” “Carest thou not that we perish?” is the cry of unbelief; and before the heart actually utters it, it begins to think, “Where is the tenderness of Christ? Where is the gentleness of God? Am I thus to be tortured? Am I thus to be tried? Am I thus to be tossed from billow to billow without a helper?” Yet after all our crying and tears the refiner sits still! Yes, he to all appearance disregards our prayers and entreaties, and fulfils the description of the text— “He sits.”

     It is wonderful how often God seems utterly indifferent to his people, and how a Christ filled with compassion, because he has been tried in all points like as we are, yet seems to look down upon our sorrows with undisturbed serenity. I once heard a Welshman preach in his own native tongue. It was a sermon in which he got into the spirit of his subject, and spake as one inspired. He used a very simple illustration when he said, “The mother has her dear babe upon her knee. It is time for washing; she washes its face. The little one cries; it loves not the soap; it loves not the water; and therefore it cries. Here is a great sorrow! Listen to its lamentations! It is ready to break its heart! What does the mother do? Is she sorrowful? Does she weep? No; she is singing all the while, because she understands how good it is that the child should suffer a little temporary inconvenience in order that its face, all smeared and foul, should become bright and beautiful again. Thus does the great Father rest in his love, and rejoice over us with singing while we are sighing and crying.” Ours is but a child’s sorrow, sharp and shallow, of which the greatest source is our own ignorance of the great designs of the Perfecter of men. The Lord pities our childish sorrow, but he does not so regard it as to stay his hand from his cleansing work. “Let not thy soul spare for his crying,” said Solomon; and our wise Father when he is chastening us does not spare us for our crying. What if the metal that is put into the furnace should be sentient when the crucible is hot, and should cry out, “Oh, take me out; the fire is too hot; I cannot bear it. I am dissolving; I am melting; take me out.” Would the assayer regard the entreaties of the metal? Ah, no! The refiner sits still. Why should he be flurried? He knows what he is at, and he knows that his divine methods are wise and infallible. He is not hurting the silver, but doing it lasting service. He is not even putting it through a needless process. He is taking the shortest way of working when he seems to be longest in his assays. There is a haste that is not good speed, and God uses not such haste as that; he moves at the pace of perfection, and that may seem slow to petulance. He shall sit as a refiner till thou shalt say, “Does he care at all for me?”

     Carnal reason may judge as it pleases as to the indifference of him who seems to sit at ease while his people are melted in the flames, but faith is full well assured that in the attitude of the divine Refiner there is real attention. Why does the refiner sit, but because he is resolved steadily to watch the crucible? He will not go away and leave it, even for a moment, lest the heat should grow too great or a certain point should be passed over when his presence would be essential to the success of the process. I have often heard that a refiner sits and looks at the silver till he can see his own portrait in it; but, though I have heard that venerable story many times, and can see the evident moral of it, I have my suspicions as to its being a matter of fact. I certainly should not like to be the refiner who had such a task to do, for when a crucible is in the white heat of the furnace, it is almost enough to burn out your eyes to look at it even for an instant; and I do not believe that any human being could watch a mass of molten silver glowing in the furnace till he saw his own image there. Christ’s eye can bear the blaze, and he can watch us in the fires. But I use not the illustration, because I have my doubts about the truth of it. Our Lord sits as the refiner at the furnace mouth, because he is all attention. He has, as it were, given up all other cares just to sit there, and watch his treasure. He is determined that his servants shall be purified— that the sons of Levi shall be purged; and so there he is, everything else laid aside, giving his whole heart and soul to those whom he is refining. “Oh,” say you, “but you exaggerate if you talk about the Lord’s giving all his heart and soul to one of his people.” No, I do not. The Lord Jesus watches each one of his people as intensely as if he had not another. Finite minds must have a centre somewhere, and as that centre changes so our circumference of thought and action shifts; but God’s centre is everywhere, and his circumference is nowhere. Each one of us may be in the centre of the divine mind, and yet none of the redeemed may be any the less near because of it. Jesus watches each one— yon, me, fifty thousand others — all of them his chosen ones that are undergoing the purifying process. He watches each one as if there were never another for his blessed eye to rest upon. He is all attention, watching not as children gaze on soldiers in the fire, but as practical refiners watch their precious metal. Poor, bowed heart, Jesus is all attention. His sitting down is not because he forgets, but because he remembers.

“God’s furnace doth in Zion stand,
But Zion’s God sits by,
As the refiner views his gold,
With an observant eye.”

Always observing, always watching. Jesus shall sit, — “He shall sit as a refiner.”

     But we may notice more than this. I think I see in the sitting down of the refiner a settled patience, as if he seemed to say, “This is stern work, and I will sit down to it, for it will need care, and time, and constant watchfulness. This metal may need to be purified in a furnace of earth seven times, but I am set upon the perfecting of the work, and, therefore, here I place myself. I shall bear with this man till I have delivered him from his faults. I shall bear with this woman till I have made something of her— till I have got away that which weakens and injures her character. I mean to bear with this poor, petulant, unbelieving, complaining, selfish, groaning mortal; he has some lore to me, and some life in me; and, therefore, I will bear with him till his life and love shall have conquered all earthly grossness, and he shall be a lump of pure metal fit for my Father’s treasury.”

     The Lord has had boundless patience with some of us already, for we required a world of purifying, and we have been very slow to receive it. How many sermons have we heard, and yet how little have we been purified by the word? How often has the Spirit striven with us, and yet every thought is not yet brought into captivity. How often have we had near and true fellowship with Christ, and yet have again forsaken him! How frequently have we had to endure the furnace of affliction and yet our dross and tin are not removed. The Refiner still perseveres with settled resolve of ceaseless love. He will not give up his gracious task. He did not come hastily to the furnace door and shut us in, and then leave us while he minded other matters; but he has been sitting near his work ever since he began it, even as the refiner sits close to his work; and he means to stay as long as the work remains unfinished; he will not be gone till all is over. Here then faith sees divine attention and settled patience where unbelief dared to suspect unfeeling indifference.

     I find in looking at the original that the word for “sit” is one which is used many times in Scripture for the posture of a king upon a throne: it is a sort of regal sitting down. So that we have here the posture of power. “He shall sit as a refiner,” signifies, then, I take it, that he who seems indifferent, but who is constantly observant and patient, is seated on his throne possessing infinite power over all things, so that the process which he is watching can be checked or quickened according to his own will and wish. He reigns as a refiner, he has power over every coal, over every single jet of gassy flame, power over every breath of air that fans the fire, power over the furnace to its inmost centre and its utmost vehemence, power over the metal itself and its dross, and all that is excellent about it as well as all that is vile. Oh, this is a grand consolation! He that has undertaken to purify us can do it, for he sits on the throne of boundless might. Nothing short of an omnipotent Saviour could have saved me. It were ill news for me if men could show that Christ were not divine; for short of a divine Redeemer I shall never be perfected, I know. No strength but that which made me can new-make me. Only he that says, “I kill and I make alive,” can ever kill my sin and make me alive unto God. Oh, Christian, this ought to be a delight to you, that he who sits as a refiner sits on the throne while he is refining you, and exercises sovereign grace and infinite power while dealing with your soul. Jesus reigns in the work of sanctification, having all things at his disposal, and he can and will perform that which he has begun.

“Grace will complete what grace begins,
To save from sorrows or from sins;
The work that wisdom undertakes
Eternal mercy ne’er forsakes.”

     Eternal power performs what everlasting love designs. So I conceive that the text may also teach us the perfect perseverance of Christ in the work of the purifying of his people. “He shall sit as a refiner.” Might not your backsliding after you had once reached a great height of sanctity have disappointed Christ, and made him leave you? Yes, if it were not true of him, “I am God: I change not,” he would have left you to be consumed. But therefore ye are not consumed, because from his blessed purpose he will not swerve. Oh, how many times you and I have seemed to make advances towards purity, but have gone back again to folly, thus manifesting the abundance of our alloy. It did seem as if, at last, the blessed flame of grace had begun to make us bright; and yet we have dulled again back to the old state. But where is the Refiner? Has he gone? By no means. There he is! He has been sitting as a refiner, and he is sitting still. That is a blessed text: “He shall not fail nor be discouraged.” There is much to discourage him, but he is not discouraged; there is much to make him relinquish the work, but he determines not to fail in it. His mind is made up, and well it may be, for he has paid in bloody sweat and in his heart’s blood the ransom price to purchase us, and he will never leave half effected what he has spent his life to achieve. What he has redeemed he will refine. Gethsemane and Calvary have bound the refiner to his task. He undertook a stupendous labour, and he went through with it till he shouted from the tree, “It is finished,” and therefore we may rest assured that he will go on with the further portions of his great enterprise till, from his throne above, he will say, “It is finished,” as he surveys every one of us, “without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing,”— pure lumps of gold and silver, brought home by himself, without a speck of dross about us. Oh, blessed hope! where should we dare to indulge it but in the presence of an almighty Saviour, whose immutable oath has bound him to carry out the work of our perfection.

     II. Now, dear brethren, suffer a few words upon THE GREAT OBJECT OF OUR LORD S REFINING WORK. This point has come up all along. May the Spirit of God instruct us concerning it.

     The great object of his refining is that he may deliver us from all evil, and make us perfect. Recollect, the subjects of purifying are his own chosen ones, — “He shall purify the sons of Levi.” Levi was the tribe taken out of the rest for God’s service. The Lord has a people whom he has set apart unto himself, and these he will purify. Do others think that he does them an injustice by this act of choice? Would they like to be purified? Then, depend upon it, he will not refuse it to them. Nay, the quibble lies in words, and has no truth in it. Men pretend to be angry with electing love, though they have no desire for it themselves. God’s election is an election to holiness, and this is a thing which men in their heart of hearts do not desire. Sirs, if you do not wish for purification and holiness, wherefore should you quarrel with God that he gives it not to you? Yet unholy men rave at election to holiness, and call it partiality, and I know not what besides. Ye dogs in the manger, will ye always howl at God because he gives to his own sheep that which you will not care to have? If you wish for it, you may have it. Free is the gospel to every soul under heaven that desires it. The Lord proclaims, “Whosoever will, let him come and take the water of life freely;” but if men turn their backs on heaven’s ever-flowing fountain, shall they afterwards quarrel with the election of God because he causes some to come whom he makes willing in the day of his power. They may quarrel if they will; but high overhead rolls the dread thunder of that awful word, “He will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and he will have compassion on whom he will have compassion.” God is sovereign in his gifts of grace, and does after his own mind. He refuses grace to none, but yet he will have a people of his own on whom his sanctifying work shall be wrought. “He shall purify the sons of Levi.”

     The refiner begins his work by discovering to his people their need of purity. What! purify the sons of Levi? Do they want it? Surely, Reuben, Manasseh, Gad— these might want purifying; but Levi opens and shuts the door of the house of God. It is a Levite that sacrifices, that enters within the veil. Does he require purifying? Ay, that he does. “He shall purify the sons of Levi,”— the best, the very best, the holiest— those that come near to God— the true silver and the real gold. He shall purify these. Brother, sister, have you a notion that you do not need purifying? Discard it, for if we walk in the light as God is in the light, and have closest fellowship with God, yet still we need the cleansing blood. “The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son,” still “cleanseth us from all sin.” Still we need the purging Spirit, or else there remains enough of evil about the man that is nearest heaven’s gates to make a Judas Iscariot of him, if grace do not prevent. “He shall purify the sons of Levi”: the pure shall be purified, the clean shall be yet further cleansed. Did you ever notice that the branch which feels most of the knife, and gets most of the pruning, is not the dead branch? Not that withered, crooked branch does the husbandman wound with the knife. No, the best branch, that bears most fruit, is most worthy of the gardener’s visits and shall be most favoured with them. That ore which has the most gold in it, in proportion to the quartz, is the likeliest to get into the fire. He that has most of refinement is he on whom Christ will carry out his refining work. “He shall purify the sons of Levi.”

     Further, observe that he not only discovers to them their need of this purity, but he remedies their impurity. He shall actually purify them as gold and silver. The point is the thoroughness of it. This piece of wood which makes my pulpit, if it is defiled, it is dusted, and it is at once sufficiently cleansed. Your platters are washed: that is all. Your furniture may need beating, dusting, and many processes; but there is nothing thorough in them compared with the metaphor of the text, — “He shall purify them as gold and silver.” They must go into the fire. The purging that God gives his people is not the washing of the outside of the cup and platter, it is the cleansing of the soul, the heart — the purging of the inward parts of the man— a fiery purging. Fire does not merely go about the metal, but it penetrates, and passes right into it. The metal is hot; it is melted; it flows; the fire has dissolved the mass. We say in the hymn, “Refining fire, go through my heart;” and that is the nearest approximation of language: but fire does something more than go through the metal. It seems to get into the very essence and nature and character of the metal, and fuse it all, making it all feel its supreme force. The Lord’s purification of his people in order to make them fit to be with him in heaven is a fire process, mysterious, inward, penetrating, consuming, transforming. His Spirit burns like fire. His word like fire goes through and through the soul. His holy fellowship causes us to say, “My heart melted while my beloved spoke”; and his fiery trials, too, when blest by the Spirit, seem to melt the very being of the man.

     This fire-process is intended to be thorough, that it may be abiding If you get a piece of gold or silver, though it has been through the fire, it may grow dull again, but it cannot again become impure and alloyed. Silver will soon oxidize upon the surface, but for all that the bulk of the silver vessel is not injured at all: it remains pure silver after it has been through the fire. The work is done, and done thoroughly. The purifications of God will last throughout eternity. Have you ever reflected upon the fact that when Christ’s refining work is done upon us there will never be any need for it again? Blessed be God, there is no purgatorial fire. We need not dread that we have yet to pass through purging flames in another world, for Jesus has well refined the sons of Levi and they are clean every whit. Believers are taken up to heaven at once as soon as they quit this world. If we were not thoroughly purified before we entered there, we should be under a strong temptation to pride. Only think of yourself with a palm branch, my brother! You fought very badly, too. You with a harp in your hand! Is there not a temptation to strike just one gentle string in praise of what you did or suffered? Say not that you could not be thus tempted. Why, an angel fell from heaven; the son of the morning, a greater being than you, could not stand amidst the glories of Paradise. Pride dragged Lucifer from heaven, and hurled him down to the darkest deeps. Oh, joy, joy, joy, the like shall never happen to you. You will never be proud in Paradise: you will never be discontented in heaven. Say you, “I should think not”? I do not know. If you could go to heaven as you are you would be. You would be sorry to think that there is no temple there, and no more sea; and a great many things might make you dissatisfied, but you will not be discontented, for you will be purified. You will not speak sharply to your neighbour in heaven; you will not think he sings too loudly, or is too demonstrative in his worship. You will not quarrel with anybody up in heaven, for you will have nothing in you which can lead to sin. See how splendidly the refiner will do his work, then, so that throughout eternity, when this poor world shall all dissolve in smoke, and the sun shall have burnt out like an expiring coal, and the moon shall be black as sackcloth of hair, and all earth-born things shall have grown hoary and given way to corruption’s finger, you shall still be young and fresh and pure and perfect as the God that loved you, and that made you so. Oh, well may we be content to let the fire burn and let the coals glow as much as ever they will, since it can be only for a very little while, and then come the ages, the eternities, the God, the Christ, the heaven which he has prepared for us when we are prepared for them. This, then, is the object of his refining.

      III. Thirdly, and to conclude, WHAT WILL BE THE IMMEDIATE RESULT OF THIS REFINING AS CHRIST CARRIES IT ON? It will be this — “That they may offer to the Lord an offering of righteousness.”

     First, these Levites shall attend to their business. They ought to have been working at the temple, but they had forgotten their high calling. The sons of Levi had taken up their portion in the world, though their God had never given them any, for he gave no portion to Levi when the land was divided among the tribes. “The Lord’s portion is his people,” and the Lord is the portion of their inheritance. The Levites had got away from their spiritual calling, and had given themselves up to mind this and that; but it is pleasant to observe that when God purifies them, then they begin to do their own business, — “That they may offer to the Lord.” Oh, beloved, if you have been refined by the Word, if you have been refined by the Spirit, if you have been refined by heavenly joys, if you have been refined by sanctified sorrows, you wish to serve God much more than ever you did before. You now pray that if you have lived to self in any degree, you may be forgiven, for you wish to live to Christ, and to him alone. Now, as a Levite, you say, “What can I do for God? There is nothing here worth living for, but to love and serve him. Here, Lord, tell me what thou wouldest have me to do. I desire to do it at once.” Brother, thank God for every trial you have suffered, if it leads you to offer your sacrifice. I will bless God for all I have endured myself, if I am enabled to fulfil my priesthood; for are we not a nation of priests, a peculiar people, set apart to offer sacrifice to God? And this is to be the result of refinement: that we do good work and service unto God. Some of you want a little pushing on in this direction, for I know a great many Christians who live as if the main point in religion was to enjoy yourself. “I enjoyed that sermon. I enjoyed that prayer-meeting.” Yes, that is quite right. But have you done anything? Have you served the Master? Have you offered anything to Jesus? Have you brought forth fruit to his glory? Oh, it is a good thing to be watered; it is a blessed thing to stand in the warm sunlight and grow; but after the watering and the sunshine must come the fruit-bearing, or we shall be barren fig trees after all. And so it is in the text, you see— “That they may offer unto the Lord an offering.”

     But then, next, they are not only to do their work, but they are to do it well. “They must offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness,” for, oh, we may do much for God that looks very pretty, but when we get into trial and look back upon our service by the furnace light we do not think much of it. Have you ever taken a little time to look back upon your service of God, and have you not wondered at yourself that you have done it so badly? Have you not said, “Please God I may address that class again, I will be more passionately in earnest”? Have you not said, “Please God I may get out to that village to preach again, I will speak with all my soul, and nothing else but Christ shall be my theme”? Have we not often wished we could do our lifework over again, that we might do it better? I do not think that there is any use in that wish. Let us improve what is to be done in the future, rather than wish to undo the past. Let us buckle on our harness, and ask God to give us more spiritual intensity, that what is done may be a sacrifice offered in righteousness unto the Lord.

     And then another result of this purification is that they were accepted, for the next verse says, “Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord as in the days of old.” When God accepts our persons, he accepts our offerings, but if we are not ourselves accepted, then that which we do is rejected. When the Lord Jesus Christ enables us to live by faith in him, and to see that we are “accepted in the Beloved,” and when that faith helps us to work in a right spirit and serve God from a pure motive, then we ourselves and our work are pleasant unto God as in former days.

     God grant that the blessed processes of his providence and of his grace which are being carried on in his people may be carried on in you and me, that we may serve God with perfect hearts all our days.

     I think I heard somebody say, “I do not want putting through that process. I do not wish for such purifying.” You have seen the great masses of slag that they throw out from the furnace. They lie in great heaps at the pit’s mouth. Will these be a picture of you and your eternal condition? Reprobate silver shall men call them, because God has rejected them. Will you be the slag cast away? the dross left for ever? Oh, eternity, eternity, what must it be to be shipwrecked on thy shoreless sea, and drifted for ever as a waif and stray from God and hope? Eternity, eternity, what must it be to be rejected and cast away from the presence of God and from the glory of his power, thrown out upon the waste-heap of the universe, for ever given up? God save any man from that! Oh, it were worth wading through a thousand hells to obtain that which makes existence worth the having— namely, rightness with God. But, oh, if there were nothing else to lose but God’s love, nothing else to earn by neglect of things divine but to be rejected of God, I would plead with you with my whole soul that you should seek the Lord now. Cry mightily to the divine Saviour that he may now purge you with his precious blood from all the guilt of sin, that he may then go on with the second process by which he shall purge you from the power and habit and defilement of sin, and make you, like himself, immaculate before the Omniscient. God grant it, for Jesus’s sake. Amen.



Holy Longings.

By / Jun 29

HOLY LONGINGS.

 

“I opened my mouth, and panted: for I longed for thy commandments. Look thou
upon me, and be merciful unto me, as thou usest to do unto those that love thy
name. Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over
me.”-Psalm cxix.131, 132, 133.

 

LAST Lord’s-day we spoke about being in the fear of God all the day long, and I am afraid some thought, “The pastor has set a very high standard before us; not too high, but still far above what we have been able to reach.” I know that many desires after holiness were excited, and many longings of heart went up to heaven. It ought to be so as soon as the truth is received into the mind. Note the context: “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple”; and then the next step is intensity of desire: “I opened my mouth, and panted: for I longed for thy commandments.” When we have light enough to see what holiness is, and how desirable it is, then we should hunger and thirst after it. To be holy is to go to the University; to have a desire for it is to go to a preparatory school for children, and to labour and agonize for it is to go to the grammar school. I want to teach the young children, and get. them ready for that grammar school, that their course may be clear for the university of actual holiness of life. I shall not take you to the grammar school of strong desire with the view of your stopping there, but that I may coach you up, by God’s good Spirit, for the university of attainment, where you will be “in the fear of the Lord all the day long.”

     Here we have David desiring, praying, pleading, and setting forth very clearly what he pants after. May you and I have the same burning desires: may we pant; may we thirst; and at the same time may we clearly know what we are panting for, so that we may the more intelligently pursue it, and thus go the nearer way to obtain it! May the Holy Spirit, the author of holiness, help us in our meditations upon these three verses!

     In the first verse you have the Psalmist longing intently after holiness: “I opened my mouth, and panted: for I longed for thy commandments.” In the next verse you have David pleading fervently for the thing that he desired, praying in this fashion, “Look thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name.” In the third verse you have the same man of God enlarging intelligently upon what it was that he pleaded for, giving both the positive and the negative side of it: “Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.”

     I. First, then, we will think of LONGING ARDENTLY AFTER HOLINESS: “I opened my mouth, and panted: for I longed for thy commandments.”

     Observe carefully that the man of God longed for the Lord' s commandments. This cannot mean anything else than that he longed to know them, longed to keep them, longed to teach them, longed to bring all around him into obedience to them. Many religious people long after the promises, and they do well; but they must not forget to have an equal longing for the commandments. It is a sad sign when a man cannot bear to hear of the precepts, but must always have the preacher touching the string of privileges. To the renewed man it is a privilege to receive a command from the Lord whom he serves, and a great grace to have the will and the power to obey it. To us grace means a power which sways us, as well as a favour which distinguishes us. To me the greatest privilege in all the world would be perfect holiness. If I had my choice of all the blessings I can conceive of, I would choose perfect conformity to the Lord Jesus, or, in one word, holiness. I do not think I should have made Solomon’s choice of “wisdom,” unless it included wisdom of moral and spiritual character, and that is holiness. I said to a young girl the other day, “Are you perfect?” She answered that it was her greatest desire to be so, though she had not yet attained it. Just so; and that hallowed desire shows which way the heart is going. No unrenewed heart ever sighed and cried after holiness. A mere passing wish is of but little worth: I am speaking of the intense and continual desire of the heart. We must strive after holiness with an agony of desire. Oh, to be rid of every sin! What is that but heaven? Oh, to clean escape from every tendency to it, and from every trace of it! This would be bliss. What more of happiness could we desire than to fulfil that word of our Lord— “Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect”? Are you conscious of great longings to escape from sin? Do you feel far less dread of hell than of sin? Is sin the worst of hells to you? Is it horrible, terrible, killing? Would it be the heaviest punishment that could be laid upon you if the Great Judge should say, “You are filthy; be filthy still. You are unholy; be unholy still”? It would certainly be the worst of deaths to some of us. The deepest prayer of our hearts is to be delivered from that inbred sin which is the tinder in which the sparks of temptation find fuel. We long to be delivered from that law in our members which brings us into captivity to sin. Oh, that we could be like him who said, “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me”! How wonderful! “Nothing in me”! Alas! the evil prince finds very much of his own in most oi us. One of the best men I ever knew said, at eighty years of age, “I find the old man is not dead yet.” Our old man is crucified, but he is long a-dying. He is not dead when we think he is. You may live to be very old; but you will have need still to watch against the carnal nature, which remains even in the regenerate. I heard one speak about feeling angry when provoked, and he said “he felt a bone of the old man moving.” Alas! there is more than a bone of it in us, there is the whole body of this death still left; and very palpable, very substantial it does seem to be at times, so that we are forced to cry out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” We need deliverance, not from the bones of it, but from the very body of it which still plagues us. In those longings you see which way the stream of your heart is flowing. These longings of your spirit that you may fully observe the divine commandments— these desires, I say, show that you have a clean heart and a right spirit, a heart which would do good, though evil is present with you. The tide is running in the right way, though the wind may be blowing against it. Being born of God, you do not commit sin as the tenor of your life; but you strive after that which is pure and good.

     Now, observe that the Psalmist, having told us what he longed for, shows the strength of those desires; for he had been so eager in his pursuit of holiness that he had lost his breath. He could not find among men a good figure to describe himself, and so he looked among animals, and he selected the panting stag as his crest. The hart has been hunted over hill and dale; the dogs have long been close behind it; it has fled, as with the wings of a swift eagle, from their murderous teeth. For a moment it has eluded them. It pauses; it longs to bathe itself in the water-brook. It is hot, and weary, and thirsty, and therefore opens wide its mouth. See how it pants! Mark how its breast heaves and its whole body palpitates while it tries to regain its breath! The poor hunted thing is exhausted with its desperate efforts. Have not we also at times felt spent in the struggle against sin? We have not yet resisted unto blood; but we have said to ourselves, “What more can we do? This fierce temptation returns: we may yet be overthrown by it. Oh, that we could take to ourselves wings and fly away! Woe is unto us, for we have no strength.” You were like a man who is out of breath: you were striving beyond yourself after “life more abundantly.” Accursed is that man who has exhausted body and mind in the race of sin: from that curse he can only escape by looking to Jesus, who was made a curse for us. But blessed is that man who has spent all the energy of his being in following after righteousness; for out of weakness he shall be made strong. When he cries, “My foot slippeth,” the mercy of the Lord shall hold him up. When, like David in the battle with the giant, he waxes faint, the Lord shall cover his head. Meanwhile he opens his mouth, and pants out his weariness; but the Lord is with him, and he will preserve him alive. Are you ready to faint this morning? Underneath are the everlasting arms. He that faints in such a pursuit as this, shall swoon away upon the bosom of his Lord. Be of good comfort.

     See, next, how resolved he was. He says, “I opened my mouth, and panted.” He is eager to go onward. Worn out by previous effort, he does not lie down to die, but is determined to be still on the move. Give up the struggle? Never! My brethren, we have drawn the

 sword against the Canaanites of sin, and we will never sheathe it until the last of them is slain. It may be a life-long battle, but we will never make truce or treaty with sin. Woe unto him who says of holiness, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed.” We must never degrade ourselves by saying, “This form of sin cannot be conquered, for it is constitutional: as it was bred in my bone it must be allowed to come out in my flesh.” Brethren, we allow no excuse for ourselves. We will not plead for the life of a single sin.

“Yes, my Redeemer, they shall die;
My heart has so decreed:
Nor will I spare the guilty things
That made my Saviour bleed.”

     Oh, for the holy fury of a sanctified iconoclast, who will spare nothing which is opposed to God! We are called to break in pieces every idol, to cast down every grove, and to overthrow every altar; that Jehovah may be God alone in the land. I charge you, never temporize with sin: abhor the idea of compromise with error and with evil. If you say, “I will only sin so far,” you might as well say, “I will only take so much poison, or stab myself a few inches deep.” Alas! you have given up the fight when you have come to terms with the foe. A hot temper may be natural, but it must be conquered. A niggardly spirit may be inborn, but it must be cast out. A proud mind may be a family heritage, but it must be laid low. Certain weeds may be indigenous to the soil of your nature, and therefore it may be doubly difficult to extirpate them; but the work must be done. Keep the hoe going; never cease from the determination to uproot the last of them. Even though you open your mouth and pant with weariness, yet keep your face set like a flint towards holiness, and let your case be that of one who is “faint, yet pursuing.”

     Note that the follower after holiness seeks renewed, strength. Why does he open his mouth and pant? Is it not to get more air, to fill his lungs again, to cool his blood, and to be ready to renew his running? When you have an hour’s retirement from the battle against sin, spend it in furbishing your shield, and sharpening your sword; for another assault will soon be upon you. We can become strong again. “He giveth more grace.” We are never, for a moment, to suppose that we have exhausted the strength of God when we have exhausted our own. We ought to be all the more earnest to draw upon divine all-sufficiency. We are to be like that fabled giant, whom Hercules could not overcome for a long while, because he was a child of the earth, and every time he was thrown down he touched his mother earth, and rose with fresh strength. Hercules had to hold him aloft in his arms, and there strangle him. Now, whenever you are thrown down and touch your God in your faintness and weakness, you will find that he restoreth your soul: “To them that have no might he increaseth strength.” When cast down we cry, “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise.” “When I am weak, then am I strong.” May we realize the truth of that Christian paradox! Brethren, we can overcome sin in the power of the Lord. The Canaanites have chariots of iron, but Christ has a rod of iron, with which he can break them in pieces. Sin is strong, but grace is stronger. Satan is wise, but God is all-wise. The Lord is on our side, therefore let us open our mouth wide and take in another draught of heaven’s reviving air; let us bathe in the water of life; let us drink from the smitten rock, and in thus waiting upon the Lord we shall renew our strength. Hath he not said, “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it”? When our desires are after the best things, we may expect the Lord to meet with us, and grant us times of refreshing from his presence. In remembrance of these visitations, and the time of intense desire which preceded them, we can say, “I opened my mouth, and panted: for I longed for thy commandments.”

     The Psalmist was dissatisfied with his attainments. Brethren, may we never be content with ourselves. We are satisfied with the Word of God; we are satisfied with the gospel of God; we are satisfied with the favour of God; we are satisfied with the Christ of God; but we shall never be satisfied with our own personal condition till we wake up in the likeness of the First-born Son. Satisfaction with self is the death of progress. He that is not content with his place in the race will push forward; but he that is proud of his position in the running will soon flag and fall behind. Like the man on the bicycle, we must keep going; to stop is to drop. On! On! On! You are only safe as the wheel spins round, and you throw the miles behind you. My text is not the utterance of one who is sitting in his arm-chair, with the motto on the wall behind him, “Rest and be thankful.” As for the man who feels as the Psalmist did, his mind is far away, in the land beyond him. His opened mouth and panting heart betoken desires which are not as yet fulfilled.

     Yet, let no tinge of discouragement mingle with your dissatisfaction: this man is hopeful of better things. He opens his mouth because he looks for something to fill it; he pants because he believes in water-brooks which will relieve his thirst. Wise men will only pant for that which it is possible to attain. We are not Quixotical; we have set out on no romantic expedition. We do not shoot at the moon, nor aim at an absurd ideal. We are not even rash, like those who seek the North Pole, and risk their lives for a dream. Brethren, God can make us holy. Few of us have any adequate idea of what we may become even here by divine grace. The possibilities of sanctification are seldom explored; but the mass of professors are content with small things in this direction. When a man asks me, “Can I be perfect?” and looks as if he would lead me into a debate upon the subject, I try to find out what manner of man he is before I answer him. If he is worldly, given to appetite, an angry man, a hard man, a proud man, or a lover of his own supremacy, I smile at the question as coming from him. I picture to myself a man who slept under a hedge last night, whose pockets are full of emptiness, whose clothes would disgrace a rag-bag, out at elbows, and beggarly; and this gentleman wishes to discuss with me the question— Is great wealth attainable by an ordinary working man? I cannot see what the question has to do with him. He of the rag-bag says, “You know, sir, we cannot all acquire ten thousand a year.” “No, my dear fellow, it would seem that we cannot all save ten pence, much less ten thousand a year. Had you not better get a pair of shoes for your feet before you talk about thousands? These are great words from a very little man.” When you are not doing what you might do, why speculate about what is possible or impossible? When a man has not enough grace to make change for a sixpence, he may waive all question about the millions of spiritual perfection. Do you cry, “Can I be perfect”? I answer, leave that question until you are much further on the way to it than you are now. Do not be distressed by the fear that you may by accident become better than you should be. I will insure against that calamity at a very low rate. Have faith in God, and say, in his name, “If perfect holiness be possible, I will have it: if it can be reached on earth, I will reach it.” All that the Spirit of God can make out of such a poor sinner as I am it is my desire that he should make. I gladly submit myself, and all that I have, to his gracious operation. Brethren, do you not say the same? I would like to have a very dissatisfied congregation at this time: I wish that everybody here would go out of this Tabernacle grumbling at himself. I would like to hear each one say, “It will not do: I must get out of this; I must rise to a higher condition: I must be more Christ-like. I must have less and less of self.” Brethren, may we be burning with an insatiable desire to be holy; and may we say with the inspired penman, “I opened my mouth, and panted: for I longed for thy commandments.”

     II. Desire, where it is real, will soon embody itself in prayer. Hence we find the Psalmist PLEADING FERVENTLY FOR THE HOLINESS HE DESIRED. Here are his breathings: “Look thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name.”

     You see, dear friends, he believes in God' s power to bless him, and hence he turns to him, and cries, “Look thou upon me.” Is that all? Is a look sufficient? Hearken to me, and I will show you that there is much in a look. Is it not written, “Look unto me, and be ye saved”? — that is our look to God. If our looking to God saves us, what will not God’s looking at us do? If there is so much power received by the eye of faith, how much will be given by the glance of love from God? Think not little of a look from God. A look— only a look! Ay, but it is from HIM. Remember what a look from Christ did for Peter. He did but look on him, and swearing Peter turned to weeping Peter in a moment. Great sinners may be grateful for a look, for it is more than they deserve. Great saints may rejoice in a look; for it means much when the eye which looks is the eye of Omnipotent Love. “Look thou upon me.” The favour of God is a choice means of sanctification. While affliction is greatly used of God to cleanse the heart, yet a very noble, soul-filling sense of the love of God is the truest sanctifier in the hand of the Holy Spirit. If you know that God loves you with an everlasting love, you will love the Lord, and hate every false way. If you walk in the light of his countenance, you will walk in the way of his commandments. If God’s love is shed abroad in your heart by the Holy Ghost, like sweet perfume, your life will be fragrant with it. It will become natural for you to please him who loves you infinitely and immutably. Blessed is that man upon whom God looks; I mean, looks with an eye of favourable regard. Lord, look on me, and say, by that look, “I have called thee by thy name, thou art mine”; and this will cause me to keep in thy way! That is what the Psalmist is here praying for. The Lord can sanctify us with a look of love. His choice makes us choice: his love fills us with love.

     Observe that the pleader appeals to mercy. Let me draw your attention to the text, “Look thou upon me, and be merciful unto me.” To be delivered from the power of sin is the greatest of mercies. Sin is a misery from which we can only be saved by mercy. “Be merciful unto me.” We have no claim upon the Lord by way of merit; our appeal is to his sovereign grace. We have no rights— these we forfeited by our treason against our King. We plead, as the courts say, “in forma pauperis,” or as the poor man seeks help from pity. Our appeal is ad misericordiam— to mercy and compassion. When you come before God in prayer, seeking sanctification, base your request upon his mercy— “Lord, thou hast done much for me; do still more, and make me holy. I have not profited by thy discipline as I ought to have done; but deal with me in patience. I am poor material for the potter’s skill; but exercise thy long-suffering, and bear with me, and go on with thy work of grace until thou hast made me a vessel fit for thy use.” It is truest, wisest, safest, for us to appeal to mercy. The best of saints are sinners still, and sinners always need mercy.

     Then he pleads as one who loves God. He asks God to deal with him, saying, “As thou usest to do unto those that love thy name”— implying that he is one of them. Come, dear friends, are you of the number of the lovers of the Lord? Do you love God’s name? — that is to say, his character and his revealed will? “Ay, that I do,” cries one, “God is my exceeding joy, and I delight in his law after the inward man. His holiness was once terrible to me, but now I admire it, and delight in it. Oh, that I were a partaker of it to the full!” You see the man’s character by the way in which his heart takes its pleasure. If any man truly loves God he will grow like God. The revealed character of God is to some of us a joy for ever; and this is a sure mark of grace. We are not what we ought to be; we are not what we want to be; we are not what we hope to be; we are not what we shall be; but we do love the name of the Lord, and this is the root of the matter. We shall be like him, for we love him. Thus the very fact that the Lord has filled us with love to himself, is a plea for further grace to keep his commandments.

     The Psalmist employs the grand plea of use and wont; for, says he, “As thou usest to do unto those that love thy name.” Use and wont generally have great weight in a court of law. A friend said to me, “How will such a suit go? The case has never been before a court until now?” I answered, “Are you sure that what was done is according to universal and long-continued custom? for, if so, though there be no law, the custom of the trade will stand.” Custom among men reaching far back holds good in court; how much shall the custom of the eternally unchanging God decide his future acts! The Psalmist pleads the Lord’s own custom; and this is a grand plea with him, because he is unchanging. Whatever he has done he will do; and his having done it is a pledge that he will do it again, unless there is any declaration to the contrary. The Psalmist seems to say, “Thou art in the habit of helping those that love thy name; Lord, help me. It is the way of thee to sanctify thy people; Lord, sanctify me. When saints desire to be holy, thou art accustomed to grant their desires; Lord, grant mine, for I have the same desires.” Is not this a good plea— “Be merciful to me, as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name”? If you think it a good plea, urge it at the throne.

     This involves another fact: he joyfully accepts God' s method. When you cry to God to help you in your overcoming of sin, you must consent that he shall do it in his own way. Now, if it be his will that sanctification should involve chastisement, are you willing to take it? “Oh, yes!” say you, “Lord, do unto me as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name; and if it be written, ‘As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten,’ Lord, rebuke and chasten me, so long as thou dost but love me.” We kiss the rod, because the Father who uses it deigns to kiss us. We assent to the processes of grace that we may enjoy the results of grace. It may so happen that if God sanctifies you, he may have to grind you very small: cheerfully yield yourself to the mill. If this is the way in which he deals with those that love his name, do not desire any different treatment. As the result, you may become a butt for the ridicule of ungodly men; but of this do not complain; for this has frequently happened unto those that love his name. God sanctifies his people, but not without their own effort in that direction: be you willing to make the effort too. Say, “Lord, I will breakfast with thy children, I will dine with thy children, I will sup with thy children, and I will go to bed with thy children, hoping to rise with thy children. Lord, take me into thy house, and treat me, not as a stranger or a guest, but as a child. I do not ask for the best bedroom, nor to have a special feast made for me; but I would share the daily bread of thy little ones. If thou treatest thy children so-and-so, treat me the same, and I will be grateful. I do not ask to go to heaven without enduring tribulation on the road. I would not pray to be exempted from the general description— ‘These are they that came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’” We would not have less than the family of love, and we cannot desire more. It is enough for a sheep to be fed with the flock, for a child to fare like the rest of the family. Do you see where we have come to? Our prayer is that God would make us holy— holy through his favour, holy through his own gracious working; but we leave methods in God’s hands: let him take his own way, his tried way, his ordinary way, his fixed way; only let him deal mercifully with us as he uses to do unto those that love his name. Let no one of us demand exemption from the customary tests and trials.

“Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease;
While others fought to win the prize,
And sail’d through bloody seas?”

Do you expect to be crowned without warfare? to be rewarded without labour? You expect what you will never have. Give up such idle dreams, and plead the prayer of my text: “Look thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name.”

     III. I thank you for your deep attention: it is greatly helpful to me in my feeble state. Will you bear with me while I conduct you to the third head, which is this: we see the Psalmist ENLARGING INTELLIGENTLY UPON THE FAVOUR HE SEEKS. It is a good thing to come before the Lord with a prepared prayer. “A prepared prayer!” cries one. “Would you have us write out our prayers and learn them?” I did not say, or even think of such a thing; but for a man to drop on his knees and to imagine that he can at once pray acceptably without a preparatory thought, is for him to deceive himself. The best prayer is when a man waits a little and considers, “What do I want?” If I had an invitation to visit the Queen, and was told that I might ask whatever I pleased of her Majesty, I should prepare my request. If I wished to make the most of the interview, I should reflect, and set my petition in order. I might ask amiss; I might ask for something inconsistent, or something unfit for royalty to bestow; I should therefore turn my prayer over. When you go before God, it is well to know what you are in need of. Our older brethren used to say in prayer, “We would not rush into thy presence as the unthinking horse rushes into the battle.” I suppose they would not; for, as a rule, they did not make much of a rush at anything. I do not wish to quote the old-fashioned remark so as to revive it, for I have often wished that the old horse had been put into an omnibus, and worked to death. Horses are not expected to think, and therefore the term, an unthinking horse, was needless. Still, there is something in what the expression meant: we must not go before God without thought and reverent preparedness of heart and mind.

     Now, let us see how the Psalmist puts it. His cry is for holiness, and he describes it as being ruled by the word of God. Order my steps in thy word.” The different sects have differing ideas of holiness, but the reality of holiness is only one. It is this— “Order my steps in thy word.” If we believe God’s Word we are orthodox; if we practise it we are holy. This Book is the great umpire as to conduct, and not the changing moral sentiment of passing generations. Pray God to order your life according to his Word. To this Word we must be conformed. This is our copy to write by: this is the image to which we must be modelled.

     He would have holiness in every step of his life— “Order my steps in thy word.” It is not, “Lord, order my journey as a whole,” but, “Order my steps.” We lose a great deal by lumping things: in the matter of holiness detail is all-important. Brethren, I would not only preach a holy sermon, but I desire that every word may be a holy word, every sentence a right sentence. As you believe in verbal inspiration for the Bible, so pray for verbal guidance in your speech, and minute direction in your actions. The whole book of life will be excellent when every line and every letter is ordered according to the Word of the Lord. When we are careless as to the parts we spoil the whole.

     Notice that he would have every step ordered. “Order my steps.” We wish to put the right foot foremost; but the right foot to move may not always be that which is called the right. The left foot may sometimes be the right, and we must not take things for granted. We wish to put down our right foot in the right place, at the right time, with the right degree of force, and turned in the right direction. A great deal of holiness depends upon order, punctuality, and proportion. If order is not heaven’s first law, it is certainly one of its laws; and proportion is another. Some men’s lives are out of perspective. Do you remember Hogarth’s caricature of a picture without perspective, wherein a man appears to be fishing in a river, but is really standing far away from it; a sparrow in a tree looks like a huge eagle, and a man on the top of a hill is borrowing a light from a candle held out of the window of a house down below on the other side of the river. Without perspective, good drawing is impossible; and without proportion a complete life is impossible. A man may be, in many points, a good man; you may say of him, bit by bit, “Yes, that is good, and that is good”; and yet he may have so much of one virtue, that it may become a vice, and he may have so little of another virtue that it may be a grave defect. We can never attain to the right proportion of the virtues unless the Lord himself arranges them in order for us. Do not tell me it is easy to be holy: you want not only the different graces, but all these in order due and measure fit. O Lord, help us! Order our steps.

     We remark that he would have every step full of God: he would have each one ordered of the Lord. He would receive his strength, his motives, his guiding influences direct from the Lord: “Order my steps in thy word.” Lord, when I put my foot down there, may it be at thine order; and when I move it to another place, may it still be at thy command. Whether here or there, may I only step where thou dost appoint. Let me go nowhere apart from thy divine guidance and command. “Well,” cries one, “this is difficult.” But, my brother, although obedience may not be easy it is free from the far greater difficulties which accompany self-will. A child who will do nothing but what his father commands does not find his course difficult; the difficulty comes in when he wants to follow his own will, and to have his own way. You cannot serve God and self: if you try it, the mixture is nauseous and injurious. Say, “Lord, I would consult thee about everything I think, or say, or do; for then that which I do will not have to be undone, that which I say will not be wished unsaid, and that which I think will not have to be wept over. ‘Order my steps in thy word.’ Put me under orders, keep me under orders, and never let me escape thine orders.”

     Observe that the last part of the verses is the negative way of describing holiness: “Let not any iniquity have dominion over me.” He would be wholly delivered from the tyranny of sin. Many men are violent against one sin; but the true saint abhors all sin. You are a teetotaler; I am very glad to hear it: you will not allow the sin. of drunkenness to have dominion over you. But are you selfish and ungenerous? Have you learned habits of strict economy in regard to religious donations, so that you always give a penny where you ought to give a pound? What have you done? You have only changed your idols. You have dethroned one usurper to set up another. If you were once profane, and are now hypocritical, you have only changed iniquities. It is a very curious thing how one sin feeds on another: the death of profligacy may be the resurrection of greed; the flight of pride may be the advent of shameless folly. The man who was lewd, riotous, brawling, and irreligious has killed those sins, and on their graves he has sown a handful of a poisonous weed called pride, and it flourishes amazingly. It may be London pride, country pride, or English pride, or American pride; but it is rare stuff to grow, and to grow over the rotting carcases of other sins. Unbelief may dethrone superstition, but its own reign may be no real improvement upon that of credulity. If you only throw down Baal to set up Ashtaroth, what progress have you made towards God? Little does it signify which of the false gods is set up in the temple of Jehovah, for he hates them all. The right prayer is, “Let not any iniquity have dominion over me.” Some sins are of respectable repute, and other sins are disreputable among men; but to a child of God every sin is loathsome. Sins are all what Bunyan calls Diabolonians, and not one of them must be suffered to live in the town of Mansoul.  “Let not any iniquity have dominion over me.” I can see the throne set up within the heart of man. Who shall sit on it? It cannot be empty; who shall fill it? This sin, that sin, or the other? Nay, Lord, help me to keep every intruder out of it. Whether he come as an angel of light, or in his true character as the devil, help me to treat everyone as an enemy that would seek to supplant thee in thy dominion over me. Oh, that God may reign over us from morn to eve, through every day of every week of every year!

     “Let not any iniquity have dominion over me,” is a prayer against the reign of sin. Sin will attack us, but sin shall not subdue us; for it is written, “Sin shall not have dominion over you.” You may put up “Trespassers, beware!” But the trespassers will come, do what you may; still, they shall not be allowed to acquire a right of way through our nature. If a bird flies over our head, we cannot help it; but we will not let it make its nest in our hair. So a temptation may pass by us, an evil imagination may flit over the mind; but we will not invite evil, nor patiently endure it, nor allow it to lodge in our souls. Our bosom’s throne is for the King of kings, Jesus, the Bridegroom of our hearts.

     This is our prayer: “Let not any iniquity have dominion over me.” I fear that many professors have never understood this prayer. One man is a splendid man for a prayer-meeting, a fine man for a Bible-class; but at home he is a tyrant to his wife and children. Is not this a great evil under the sun? Another man is stern and honest, and he inveighs with all his might against every form of evil, but he is hard even to cruelty with all who are in his power. One is generous and fervent, but he likes a sly drop; another is good-natured and pleasant, but he puts 'it on in his bills at’ times, and his customers do not find the goods quite of the quality they pay for. I have known a man who would not work on the Sabbath, but then he never worked on the other six days; and another who never broke the Sabbath, but he broke many hearts by his unkindness. Beware of pet sins. If you let a golden god rule you, you will perish as well as if you let a mud god rule you. Be this your constant cry— “Let not any iniquity have dominion over me.”

     I have done when I say just this. I have been describing these longings, but thus I have only been taking you to that preparatory school, of which I spoke at the commencement. Already some of you are saying, “I do not think I shall make a rapid scholar even at this preparatory school.” The first thing you have to do is to see that you have these longings strong within you. If you have them, thank God for them. To pant and pine after holiness is infinitely better than to be self-righteous. Cultivate these desires and cravings.

     But, in the next place, never rest content with mere longings. He that really longs is not content to long: he desires to have his desire fulfilled. The only way to be holy— you that have not begun— is to go to a holy God through the holy Mediator. Trust in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, and so be reconciled to God by him who alone can put away sin. Then go again to Jesus, and ask him to renew you in the spirit of your mind, and wash you with water from the power of sin, as he has washed you with blood from the guilt of it. When you are washed, take care that you keep your garments unspotted from the world. When you have once known the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, do not return again to folly. Follow on watchfully and resolutely. Seek the daily renewing of the Holy Spirit, and so shall you go from strength to strength till you shall be like your Lord, and shall see him as he is.

     May God bless my feeble words, and put power into them for your eternal good, for Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen.



Chastened Happiness

By / Dec 25

Chastened Happiness 

 

“They shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I procure unto it.” — Jeremiah xxxiii. 9.

 

GOD’S ancient people sadly provoked him with their idolatries from age to age. He was longsuffering to them to the last degree, but at length he grew weary of them, and according to his own words “he abhorred his own inheritance.” He caused them to be carried away into captivity, and their land became a desert, or the heritage of strangers, Israel became a people scattered and peeled, and on the brink of national extinction, for their iniquities had hidden the face of the Lord from them. Yet the Lord, even Jehovah, had entered into a covenant concerning them with Abraham his friend, which covenant he had afterwards, renewed with his servant David. This latter covenant the Lord is said, by the prophet Jeremiah to remember even when Jerusalem is desolate. We read in the twentieth verse and onward these words: “Thus saith the Lord; If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne.” Even in Israel’s worst, days, when her representative man was the weeping prophet Jeremiah, and when her sorrows were greater than even he could express, yet the Lord revealed his love, and promised that blessed days should dawn for the seed of Abraham. These days have not yet come, but they shall surely arrive, for God hath not cast away his people whom he did foreknow. There is yet a history for Israel; her sun is clouded, but it has not set. As surely as stands the covenant with day and night, so surely shall the chosen people return from their captivity and possess the land which the Lord has given unto them. In those days the Lord will build them as at the first, and cleanse them from all their iniquities. Then they shall not be proud or arrogant, for his goodness shall startle and astound them and they shall be amazed even unto trembling when they see what great things Jehovah has done for them. The memory of their great national offences, and especially of their long rejection of the Messiah, shall cause them to wear their high dignity without pride; they shall be subdued by love to a childlike fear of again offending, they shall tremble as they see the Lord God of their fathers glorifying all his grace in them.

     Thus much for the strict connection of the text. At this time we shall loosen the verse from its stall and bring it forth to our own pastures. Its primary signification is not its only teaching, for the words of the Lord are full of eyes, and look in many ways. We may use this promise in reference to all the Lord’s people, for the promise is sure to all the seed. That which is true of the Jew one way is true of all the chosen seed in the same sense or in another. No privilege of the covenant is absolutely private either to Jew or Gentile; but in its highest form, if not in its lowest, it is the common property of all the heirs of salvation. We are joint heirs with Christ Jesus, and as he inherits all blessing, so also do we. Paul, in his epistle to the Galatians, has well said, “If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Let me, then, read the text again, and let us appropriate it to ourselves: “They shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I procure unto it.” Such honour and blessing have all the saints.

     Our text suggests at the outset the remark that all the good things which make up prosperity are to be traced unto the Lord. Woe unto us if we receive good and perfect gifts, and yet forget the Father of lights from whom they come. These benefits are not from beneath, but from above; let them not be passed by in ungrateful silence, but let us send upward humble and warm acknowledgments. He who forgets mercy deserves that mercy should forget him. God grant we may never be such practical atheists as to receive daily bounties from God, and not return a daily song. As each gleaming wave of the sea reflects the light of the sun, so let each ripple of our life flash with gratitude for the benediction of heaven. All good comes from the Altogether Good, who is of good the essence, the Creator, and the Giver. Especially is this true of all spiritual blessing,— of such goodness as comes not so much from benevolence to creatures as from mercy to sinners. As a being, I am grateful that my Creator is kind to me; but as a sinner, if my Judge smiles upon me, I admire his exceeding grace. His justice had left me unblessed to perish through my sin, if his mercy had not found a way to spare and to cleanse. You who know not only your insignificance, but also your unworthiness, are held under special bonds to lift up your hearts in fervent gratitude to the Lord.

     Remark next, that temporal mercies, are always best when they come in their proper order. I have no doubt our text includes both temporal and spiritual good; but certainly the temporals are arranged in the second rank, for the eighth verse runs: “I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me”; and after this we have mention of goodness and prosperity. After pardon, peace and plenty are golden blessings; without it they might prove a curse. To an unforgiven sinner the richest enjoyments of this life are as the food which fattens the bullock for the slaughter, but when sin is pardoned, common mercies become tokens of a Father’s love, and ripen beneath the sun of divine love into an inexpressible sweetness. The children of God bless God for bread and water, because God has made these things matters of promise, and they come as covenant provisions. Cheered by grace, the child of poverty finds contentment in that which else might seem but prison fare. Much or little must depend upon the way in which you look upon it, and what to the believer is enough, might be to the worldling a mere pittance, because grace has not trained his mind to rejoice in the will of the Lord. Blessed be God if he has given to us first the fruits of the sun of grace, and then the fruits put forth by the moon of providence. The main thing is to be able to sing, “Bless the Lord, who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases,” and after that it is most pleasant to add, “who satisfieth thy mouth with good things.”

     What shall I say of the happiness of those persons who have spiritual and temporal blessings united, to whom God has given both the upper and the nether springs, so that they possess all things needful for this life in fair proportion, and then, far above all, enjoy the blessings of the life to come? Such are first blessed in their spirits and then blessed in their basket and in their store. In their case double favour calls for double praise, double service, double delight in God. Let them take for their example the Psalmist in the seventy-first psalm, who found himself increased in greatness, and comforted on every side, and then exclaimed, “I will also praise thee with the psaltery, even thy truth, O my God: unto thee will I sing with the harp, O thou Holy One of Israel. My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee; and my soul, which thou hast redeemed.”

     And yet, and yet, and yet, if we are very happy to-day, and though that happiness be lawful and proper, because it arises both out of spiritual and temporal things in due order, yet in all human happiness there lurks a danger. There is a wealth which hath a sorrow necessarily connected with it, and I ween that even when God maketh rich and addeth no sorrow therewith, yet he makes provision against an ill which else would surely come. Let me remind you of that memorable passage, “There the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams.” The Lord is all that to his believing people. But then broad rivers and streams have a danger appertaining to them, for these are waterways by which the pirates of the sea approach a city and plunder it; and hence for Zion’s protection it is added, “Wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby.” Thus the Lord gives the benefit without the danger naturally attendant upon it; he gives peace, but prevents carnal security, and he gives happiness but prevents the pride and presumption which are too apt to grow out of it. The text speaks of goodness and prosperity procured for us, and then tells us that all danger which might arise out of it is averted by a gracious work upon the heart. The Lord sends a chastened joy,— “they shall fear and tremble.” Instead of unduly exulting in their possessions, and becoming high-minded and vainglorious, the Lord’s people are kept lowly and self-distrustful, and thus their happiness brings glory to God, and the Lord’s word is fulfilled, “It shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and an honour before all the nations of the earth, which shall hear all the good that I do unto them.” This then is our subject, the sanctifying and mellowing of our joy. We shall try to see the Lord’s loving wisdom in this matter, that we may the more wisely love him, and the more intelligently estimate his prudent conduct towards us. We shall first notice this toning down of our joy; and then in the second place we shall observe the feelings by which this chastened effect is produced; and thirdly, we shall look to the measure in which most of us can enter into this experience of a joy, toned and tinted by fear and trembling.

     I. Let us think a little about THE TONING DOWN OF OUR GREAT JOYS. As I have said, we need grace in enjoying both temporal and spiritual prosperity, and therefore I shall speak upon them both. Even when we are filled with holy delight it is hard to carry a full cup with a steady hand. When most lifted up with spiritual joy we are not beyond gunshot of the enemy. We need the armour of God on the right hand as well as on the left. Even when we serve the Lord it must be with fear, and in his glorious presence we must rejoice with trembling.

     In the cup of salvation there are drops of bitterness, and so must it be, for unmixed delight in this world would be dangerous. Unbroken prosperity in worldly things has proved perilous to many Christians. It is no theory, but a matter of sad fact, that many men, as they rise as to one world sink as to another. I am even afraid that long-continued health of body is not always for the health of a man’s soul; and that to be without care and trouble, is not the readiest way to soul-prosperity. When the sea is smooth the ship makes poor sailing. Men are bird-limed by their rest and ease, and have small care to fly heavenward. We are apt to lose our God among our goods. Is it not so? If the world’s roses had no thorns should we not think it paradise, and forego all desire for the gardens above? If Israel in Egypt had dwelt luxuriously, would a cry for deliverance have ever gone up to heaven? and had Pharaoh been content to ease their burdens, would they ever have marched for Canaan? Alas, we are apt to chill in our desires for heaven when we get to the warm side of the hedge, and hear the smooth side of the world’s tongue. When the flowers of earth charm us we cast our eyes downward and forget the stars of heaven— at least, the danger lies that way.

     Wise men dare not ask for unmingled prosperity, for they are not sure they can bear it. When first we travel to the south and escape this land of fog we delight without measure in the sunshine, and are anxious to bask in it throughout the livelong day. Do you wonder? Yet before long experience suggests a sunshade, for the stranger finds that his head cannot endure the full rays of the sun. In the same way many a man has suffered a sunstroke in his mind, and heart, and character, by making money too fast and prospering too much.

     There is a danger of another kind in a spiritual experience which is all smooth and pleasant. You all remember the fate of Moab who had been at ease from his youth, and had become settled upon his lees; may it never be ours. Yet I have seen professors lose their balance while filled with delight. I am not one of those who would speak evil of excitement in religion: men get excited about politics, why should they not be excited about eternal things? Still, there is a kind of delirious religion abroad which I would have men avoid. Its joys are not calm and quiet, but fanatical and noisy. Be ye sober. Do not give up the reins of your judgment and permit your feelings to run away with you. Some Christians have been so uniformly joyous that they have grown elated and self-conceited, even as Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked. A few have even supposed themselves to be absolutely perfect while in the flesh— a mere supposition, disproved by their own want of modesty. We have seen brethren carry their heads so high that they could hardly understand a poor believer who was wrestling against sin, and in the strength of God overcoming his corruptions: they have become censorious, and have condemned their brethren as if they had been appointed to be judges in Israel to set up whom they would, and put down whom they chose. Repose of mind, caused as much by sound bodily health as by spiritual joy, has made men think uncharitably of sick and sorrowful saints, who have been very dear to Jesus, though very doubtful of themselves. Alas! a succession of excitements has, in some cases, bred self-sufficiency, and this has made men light-headed, and they have been carried away by divers heresies. Ecclesiastical history will tell you that some who have boasted of their high spiritual delights have gone far in vain imaginings, and have ended in the worst forms of immorality. It is an extraordinary fact that super-spirituality has often been found to dwell next door to sensuality, and men have turned the wine of holy love into the vinegar of lust. I need not go to ancient chronicles to prove this: a word to the wise suffices. Even spiritual joy needs a dash of salt, if not of wormwood, to be mingled with it. Holy delight needs to be coupled with sacred grief; repentance must go with faith, patience with hope, humility with full assurance, and conscious self-emptiness with a sense of the all-sufficiency of Christ.

     I would remind you next, that unmixed joy would be fallacious, because there is no such thing here below. If a man should become perfectly contented with the things of this world, it would be the result of a false view of things. This is an error against which we should pray; for this world cannot – fill the soul, and if a man thinks he has filled his soul with it, he must be under a gross delusion. What is the best thing of earth— but a bubble, tinted with rainbow hues, but unsubstantial as a dream? Every earthly joy hath within it the seeds of its own destruction? Oh man, if thou didst but know thyself, much more thy God, thou wouldst be assured that visible things can never satisfy the desires of a spiritual being.

     As to spiritual joy, I say that in no man’s experience can it be long without admixture and yet be true. Never at any moment can a Christian be in such a position that he has not some cause either for dissatisfaction with himself, or fear of the tempter, or anxiety to be faithful in service. Our streams of joy blend with currents of fear. Blessed be God, my sin is forgiven me: this joy calls up its balancing thought,— Oh that the Spirit of God may help me not to sin again. Again I sing,— Blessed be God, I have gotten the victory over an evil habit: but my song is followed by the prayer— Lord, enable me to conquer all evils, even those which as yet I know not. Thus joy and fear hang like the two scales of a balance,— I mean not the fear which love casts out, but the filial fear which love fosters. If God has preserved his servant in the day of battle, lie has no room to boast, for here comes another enemy. Temptations come wave after wave, and, having breasted one, we prepare for another. We cannot yet shout the victory, for, lo, the foes advance squadron upon squadron; their routed battalions are succeeded by new armies, and it behoves us to quit ourselves like men. We dwell where in our God we have the utmost reason for delight, but where in all things we perceive the most weighty arguments for solemnity. Rejoice evermore, but cease not to fear and tremble for all the goodness and all the prosperity that the Lord has procured for you.

     Once more, unmixed delight on earth would be unnatural. We are not in heaven yet, and perfect bliss lives not beneath these cloudy skies, nor within the pale sway of the moon. While we are in this body we groan, though we have the firstfruits of the Spirit, for we are in a creation which groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. Our years must have their winters while the world revolves. When the Dutch had the trade of the East in their hands they were accustomed to sell birds of paradise to the untravelled people of these realms. These specimen birds had no feet, for they had craftily removed them, and the merchants declared that the species lived on the wing and never alighted. There was so much of truth in the fable that had they been really and veritably “birds of paradise” they would not have found a place for their feet upon this globe. Truly, birds of paradise do come and go, and flit from heaven to earth, but we see them not, neither can we build tabernacles to detain them. While you are here expect reminders of the fact that this is not your rest. If you could attain to perfect joy on earth you might be justified in saying, “I have no longing for heaven; I am perfectly clear of sin, and care, and trouble; I may as well stay where I am. What need to go further if I can fare no better?” Let no man dream that things will ever come to this with him. Ah, ye lovely flowers of spring, this year ye have looked forth too soon. It is strangely mild weather for December, but spring has not yet arrived. Possibly it is so with some of my hearers: because the Lord is smiling upon you, it is very mild weather with your souls, and you dream that the winter of trouble is ended and that your heaven has begun. Be not deceived, you are not yet

“Where everlasting spring abides
And never-withering flowers.”

Perhaps a touch of frost may do you good by preventing your getting into an unnatural and unsound condition.

     Thus much, then, upon the first point, the toning down of our joys, which is wisely managed by our Father’s wisdom and prudence.

     II. Secondly, we are to see how this toning down is done, and observe THE FEELINGS BY WHICH THIS SOBERING EFFECT IS PRODUCED,— “They shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I procure unto it.” Why fear and tremble? Is not this in part a holy awe of God’s presence? Remember that text, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” The argument for fear and trembling is the work of God in the soul. Because God is working in you there must be no trifling. If the eternal Deity deigns to make a workshop of my nature, I too must work, but it must be with fear and trembling.

     So, then, the blessed presence of God in the believer’s joy, and the very fact that he has worked it in him, is a cause for the fear and trembling which comes over the spirit of the joyous believer, and that I think is the first meaning of our text. God has been very good to me, unspeakably good to me, and I have plainly seen the traces of his fatherly hand in my life. Yea, I have so seen them that I have cried out with adoring amazement in many a Bethel, “How dreadful is this place! It is none other than the house of God and the very gate of heaven.” So has it been with you, dear friends. When God has come very near to you in a blaze of mercy, when he has done things that you looked not for; when your mouth has been filled with laughter, and your tongue with singing because of his goodness, have you not at the same time felt overcome by the excess of his favour? Have you not been able to sympathize with Peter when, at the sight of his boat full of fish, he cried “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Have you not felt a solemn trembling like Manoah when he feared that he must die, because he had seen an angel of the Lord? I know it has been so with you. A little mercy would have made you sing, but a great mercy has made you sit in silence before the Lord, or fall on your knees in adoration. A common providence would have charmed you, but an extraordinary providence has overwhelmed you; you have lain in the dust at Jesus’ feet, feeling yourself to be but dust and ashes, and yet every particle of dust has been full of wondering love to God. This is one way in which God keeps his people right in the days of their joy: where a shallow drink might have intoxicated, he gives so deep a draught that the danger is past, and holy wonder takes the place of unholy pride.

     But next to that there rises up in the mind of every favoured Christian a deep repentance for past sin. He asks himself this question, “How could 1 have lived as I have done when God has entertained such love towards me?” When I discovered the election of God’s grace, and when I saw at what a price I had been redeemed by our Lord Jesus, I was ashamed of all my evil ways. When I read my name inscribed on the palms of Jesus’ hands, when I understood that I was united to him by a union that never could be broken, I said to myself, “What a thousand fools I have been to have lived forgetful of my highest glory, unmindful of my dearest friend!” To have lived year after year in open enmity against my Lord seemed like a grim and ghastly dream, almost too horrible to be true. Have you not felt the same? Have you not felt ashamed and confounded at the memory of your former life? Have you not felt as if you could never open your mouth any more because of all your unkindness to your heavenly friend? Such penitent reflections keep the Lord’s people right, by creating a fear and trembling in the presence of his overflowing goodness.

     Let me ask you another question. Has not your deepest sense of unworthiness come upon you when you have been conscious of superlative mercy? When the Lord has scourged and chastened you, you have seen your sins in your sorrows, and have been ashamed: but, by the memory of his great goodness, you have been far more corrected and humbled. When our secret sins are set in the light of God’s countenance, it is a light indeed! Oh, the shame my soul has known when the Lord has caressed me, when he has kissed me with the kisses of his mouth. Then I have said, “Ah, Lord, whence is this to me? What am I that thou dost deal thus lovingly with me?” It was when Jehovah came and showed himself to Job, not in chastening, not with fire of God, or whirlwind, nor with sore boils and blains, but as his own dear covenant God, it was then that Job said, “Now mine eye seeth thee, therefore I abhor myself in dust and ashes.” Love makes the crimson of sin more red than ever. Blood-bought pardon makes sin look black as sackcloth of hair. I tell you, sirs, it is not the flames of hell, but the glories of heaven, that most of all fill us with trembling before the Lord. Nothing touches the heart like undeserved and unexpected love. Love’s glance flashes to the very core of the heart, and makes the offender, like Peter, go forth and weep bitterly. Do we not each cry, “Would God I could never sin again. Oh, that I could perfectly serve my God without a slip, even to my last day, because of his great love to me.” We tremble and are afraid, because of the unutterable grace which has met our utter unworthiness, and rivalled it, until grace has gotten unto itself the victory.

     Have you never noticed how the Lord brings his people to their bearings, and keeps them steady, under a sense of great love, by suggesting to their hearts the question, “How can I live as becometh one who has been favoured like this?” Did you ever feel that the glory of the palace of love made you afraid to dwell in it? When you have put on your best apparel, those garments which are whiter than any fuller on earth could make them, the matchless righteousness of God, have you not felt fearful of defiling your robes? Did you ever see yourselves adorned as a bride for her husband in all the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, and have you not said to yourselves “What manner of people ought we to be?” You have scarcely known which way to turn, or how to move. You feared to walk lest you should defile those silver sandals and those feet so newly washed; you did not know what to touch for fear you should stain those hands which Christ had jewelled with his love and made white as ivory with his effectual cleansing. Have you not felt as if you dared not speak till you had prayed, “Lord, open thou my lips.” You have been afraid to look for fear your eyes should glance on evil; and therefore you have prayed, “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity.” There has been such a fear, such a caution, such a holy jealousy upon you that, instead of being uplifted by favour, you have been humbled thereby. Grace never makes a man vain. When a soul is adorned with glory and beauty, and made to shine like the star of the morning, it owns its borrowed comeliness and brightness, and is mildly radiant with reflected rays. When raised up by the special favour of our God into communion with himself, we are afraid of trespassing against the decorum of almighty love, fearful of violating the propriety of sovereign grace. The Lord our God is a jealous God; and he will be had in reverence of those who are round about him. This fact has made us feel like those apostles who were filled with fear as well as with great joy. To know how to behave ourselves in the house of God has been our anxiety. We have felt like a poor countryman, bred and born in the wilds, who finds himself in a court, and feels strange in such a place. Thus have we been clothed with humility as we have worn the garments of praise. Exalted to be kings and priests, our kingdom and priesthood have called forth our careful thought, and vainglory has thus been banished.

     And have you never felt a fear lest God’s goodness should he abused by you? I have been smitten to the very heart as with a secret blow in moments of delight, when I have thought, “And suppose, after all, I should not serve God faithfully in my favoured position, and should not be approved of him at the last? What if I should seem to be an apostle, and prove to be a Judas? What if I should speak of Christ, and yet be nothing better than a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal?” That heart-piercing fear will wound pride if anything will. Have you never been thus put to the question by your conscience? Have not other questions arisen of a similar character? You have seen your children around you, and you have been happy with them, but have you not thought, “How if I should not train them aright, and they should grow up to be a sorrow to me, and a dishonour to the church of God?” When prospered in business, have you never said to yourself, “What if I should become a worshipper of the golden calf? What if covetousness should eat out the heart of my devotion? What if, when my Master calls me to account for my talents, he should cast me away for having hid them in a napkin?” Have you never been tried by such thoughts? If you have never thus examined yourself, you had better do so at once. He who has never questioned his own condition had better make an immediate enquiry. He who has never felt great searchings of heart needs to be searched with candles. It is idle to take things for granted, for all of us must be tried by fire, and even “the righteous scarcely are saved.” No man’s hell shall be more terrible than that of the selfconfident one who made so sure of heaven that he would not take the ordinary precaution to ask whether his title-deeds were genuine or no.

     One more thought may also occur to the most joyous believer. He will say, “What if after rejoicing in all this blessedness I should lose it?” “What,” cries one, “do you not believe in the final perseverance of the saints?” Assuredly I do, but are we saints? There’s the question. Moreover, many a believer who has not lost his soul has, nevertheless, lost his present joy and prosperity, and why may not we? The good man has shone as a star of the first magnitude, but suddenly he has dwindled into darkness: he has been unwatchful, and in consequence by the dozen years together he has had to go softly in the bitterness of his soul. We have known fathers in Israel who have stepped aside, and though they have by deep repentance found their way to heaven, they have gone sorrowing thither. Look at David’s history. Who happier all the early part of his life? Note that one sin with Bathsheba, and ask who more tried and troubled than David throughout the rest of his pilgrimage? The doctrine of final perseverance was never intended for the comfort of any who are afraid of self-examination, or who are not watchful; for it is by no means at variance with the other doctrine that many who made sure of heaven in their own minds will never enter there, because Jesus never knew them. Great joy may be only a meteor, great excitement may be a mirage of the desert, great confidence may be a will-o’-the-wisp luring to destruction. The highest seats in the synagogue do not secure for their occupants a place among the shilling ones above. Many rejoicing professors will yet discover that their spot was not the spot of God’s people, and their song was not the new song which God doth put into the mouth. And what if that should be your case and mine? So, when I stand upon my high mountain, let me pray, “Lord, hold thou me up.” Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall, for he is the man who is most in danger. He who is fullest of holy delight is still to watch, for did not Jesus say, “What I say unto you I say unto all, watch”? God grant that we may be helped to watch against the arrow which flieth by day as much as against the pestilence which walketh in darkness.

     Thus you see how the Lord, by working upon our innermost feelings, sobers us in the hour of joy, even as the text hath it,— “They shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I procure unto it.”

     III. By way of practical application, let us now consider THE MEASURE IN WHICH YOU AND I CAN ENTER INTO THIS EXPERIENCE. I thought to myself, if I begin to make individual applications I shall have before me a never-ending task, because every man has had a distinct experience of this truth if he has safely stood upon the high places of joy. We have hundreds of us perceived the benefits of the dark lines and shadings of life’s picture, and we see how fit and proper it is that trembling should mingle with transport. As the fruit of experience I have learned to look for a hurricane soon after an unusually delightful calm. When the wind blows hard, and the tempest lowers, I hope that before long there will be a lull; but when the sea-birds sit on the wave, and the sail hangs idly, I wonder when a gale will come. To my mind there is no temptation so bad as not being tempted at all. The worst devil in the world is when you cannot see the devil at all, because the villain has hidden himself away within the heart, and is preparing to give you a fatal stab.

“More the treacherous calm I dread
Than tempests thundering overhead.”

     This general statement may suffice, and as I cannot make an application to each one personally, I think I will apply the truth to this church as a whole. When this building was not yet ready for opening we held a meeting in it, and I remember among the speakers there was one who is now with God, Mr. Jonathan George, of Walworth, and he made use of this text in a little speech that he made:— He said, “It would be well for us all to remember, when God blesses us with any measure of prosperity, that prosperity is very hard to bear. How is that? Cannot Christianity or the grace of God bear it? No, it is because of the extreme carnality and pride of our hearts. Here is a portion of Scripture we should all recollect: ‘They shall fear and tremble for all the prosperity that I send.’ It is a blessing when God has succeeded our poor efforts, and poured out a blessing upon us, if we are jealous of our own hearts, and fear and tremble. Oh God, how rich, how beneficent thou art! Let us not lose thy full blessing by our own pride; by pointing to some second cause, and saying, ‘It was I; it was ourselves; it was our ministers.’” Verily I say unto you the words of the man of God have been fulfilled. How I have feared and trembled because the Lord’s mercy to us has been so extraordinary. As a church we have enjoyed so many years of growth, and prosperity, and unity, and happiness, that one is apt to fear that it cannot last much longer. Certainly it cannot be perpetuated except by fresh power from the Lord who is wonderful in working. One begins to think, “Must not something happen to spoil our concord? Will power always continue with the word preached? Will not the candle burn low in the socket? Such holy jealousy, if faith be also active, will help to keep us right. Evils may be prevented by the foresight of them. Through grace, by our fear of falling we may be helped to stand.

     Brethren, we are just now in a critical time of our life as a church. Whatever of novelty there was about our movements has long since vanished, and those who came among us from curiosity know us no more. Your pastor’s ministry cannot be expected to be as fresh and vigorous as it used to be, for upon his head the grey hairs far outnumber the darker ones, and perhaps grey hairs are stealing over his preaching too. If natural vigour fails, now is the time to see whether the power which has sustained us be of God or no. We know what the answer to the text will be— out of weakness we shall be made strong.

     Besides, my brethren, certain invaluable helpers who were with us in the beginning— and rare men they were— are going home; one by one our leaders are being called away: will more be found?  Will they be of equal worth and weight? I know they will; yet, these are solemn questions; We are in the middle of the river now, and in the middle the river is deepest and hardest to ford. Now we need that underneath us there should be the everlasting arms. I am weaker than ever, you also are weaker than ever; but the eternal God fainteth not. We have the same old gospel, and you will not grow tired of it, though it is preached by the same old Spurgeon. The Holy Spirit will abide with us, and that will make up for the weakness of our spirit. You who have been earnest at prayer will not, I hope, lose your zeal, for the mercyseat is still accessible.

     To persevere is the difficulty. It would be easy to burn at a stake for five minutes; but to be surrounded with smouldering faggots of green wood, and to burn by slow degrees, would be torture indeed; yet such is the patience of saints. Keeping up your burning zeal, your personal holiness, your evangelizing efforts, and all your spiritual works after twenty-seven years is no mean test of your faith. He that endureth to the end the same shall be saved. Yes, brethren, these are the thoughts that come into my mind, and prevent my ever saying we have done well, and may rest on our oars. Far from anything like exaltation or self-congratulation, I feel more than ever inclined to lie low at the feet of my Master and kiss the very dust he stands upon. I feel more disqualified, more unsuitable, more unable for my Lord’s work than ever, and yet I am glad in the Lord, and find joy in his name. Since there is an everlasting arm that never can be palsied, since there is a brow that knows no wrinkle, and a divine mind that is never perplexed, we go forward in hope, and cast ourselves upon our eternal helper once again. You have heard of the ancient giant Antæus, who could not be overcome, because as often as Hercules threw him to the ground, he touched his mother earth, and rose renewed. Such be your lot and mine, often to be cast down, and as often to rise by that downcasting. “When I am weak then am I strong.” Let us glory in infirmity, because the power of Christ doth rest upon us. Let us be content to decrease that Christ may increase; to be nothing that Jesus may be all in all. If we do fear and tremble for all the goodness that God has procured for us, it is not a fearing that he will change, or a trembling lest he should be defeated. The fear and trembling are for ourselves, and not for him. I have no fear and trembling about the gospel. I have preached it many years in this place, and its attractive perfume is undiminished. I read the other day of a grain of musk which had been kept for ten years in a room wherein the air was perpetually changed; it scented that chamber from year to year, and yet when it was weighed by the most delicate scales no diminution of its bulk was apparent. So the gospel continues to be as ointment poured forth, savouring the thousands that come hither year by year, and yet it is as full of fragrance and freshness as ever, and so shall it be even if for a thousand ages it should be our theme. Come we then with comfort back to the unalterable gospel, to the undying Spirit, to the unchanging God: here is room for joy unspeakable and full of glory. Up with your banners, then! Forward to new victories! In the name of the God of Jacob let us be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. Amen.



The Main Matter

By / Nov 6

The Main Matter

 

“Many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that, believing, ye might have life through his name.”— John xx. 30,31.

 

THE public life of our most blessed Lord Jesus Christ was brief; few suppose it to have exceeded three and a half years; but yet what a full life it was. It had in it not only enough to compose the four gospels, each one of which contains sufficient to lead men to saving faith, but so much remained over and above that the apostle John makes this remarkable statement:— “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” Our Lord’s life was as ample as his own festivals; it feeds thousands, and with the fragments that remain many baskets might be filled. A man may complete a great and fruitful life in two or three years, while another may have existed as long as an antediluvian and yet his life may be poor and powerless.

     Not only did the Lord Jesus speak and do great things as to number, but there was a world of power in each word and work. He did not display a multitude of feeblenesses, but each individual outcome of his life was grand enough to have been a marvel if considered by itself alone. As was the doer, in whom “dwelt all the fulness of the godhead bodily,” such were the deeds; they also were full of grace and truth. There was a fulness of divine wisdom, grace, and power about each act of Jesus. Hence the apostle here speaks of the Lord’s acts as signs— “many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples.” There was a mass of instruction in all our Lord’s movements; nothing about him was trivial. He preached by his entire life, preached a marvellous array of truths, and. preached them with living freshness. Never is he twice the same, though always the same. When we find him repeating his discourses, as we sometimes do, if the Sermon on the Mount sounds very like the Sermon on the Plain, yet a different drift, and aim, and tone create a singular variety. Each separate act of the Lord is a sign of something beyond itself, and the whole of the acts put together display an ocean of doctrine without bottom or shore. What a Christ was this! Oh that his Spirit may dwell in us, that our lives also may be rich and full; rich to the glory of God, and full to the blessing of our fellow-men.

     Yet, dear friends, though the whole of Christ’s life has not been written, we perceive in our text that what has been recorded is the most useful part of it, and that it was preserved for our benefit. The inspired record was written with a purpose: the facts were wisely culled and collected out of the entire mass on account of their bearing upon the desired object, and sufficient has been preserved to effect a design which, above all others, is most important to us: “these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that, believing, ye might have life through his name.” May our reverence to the inspired gospels lead us to give earnest heed to their design and object, for it would be profane to baffle their purpose by refusing their testimony.

     First, this morning, let me speak a little with you upon the design of all Scripture, which is faith; secondly, upon the great object of true faith, which is Jesus the Christ, the Son of God; and then, thirdly, let us further commune together upon the true life of the soul which is linked and wrapped up with the name of Jesus Christ, in whom we are led to believe by the testimony of the things written concerning him.

     I. First, then, dear friends, THE DESIGN OF ALL SCRIPTURE IS TO PRODUCE FAITH. There is no text in the whole Book which was intended to create doubt. Doubt is a seed self-sown, or sown by the devil, and it usually springs up with more than sufficient abundance without our care. The practice of reading sceptical works is a very dangerous one; we have enough tendency to sickness in our own constitutions without going to fever hospitals to test the atmosphere. Holy Scripture is no mother or nurse of doubt; it is the creator of a holy confidence by revealing a sure line of fact and truth. It has been thought by many expositors that John here refers only to the things which Jesus did after his resurrection— “Many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples;” but I think there are abundant reasons, with which I need not trouble you just now, to show that John must have referred to the whole of our Saviour’s life, and to all the acts of it, and that the book which he speaks of is his own book, the evangel which contains his own life of Christ. John includes the whole story of Jesus of Nazareth in the reference of the text. I venture to go much further, and to say that the statement that John here made, though it must refer to his own gospel, is equally true of the entire Scriptures. We may begin at Genesis and go on to the Book of Revelation, and say of all the holy histories, “These are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” Though this Bible is a wonderful library of many books, yet there is such a unity about it that the mass of the people regard it as one book, and they are not in error when they do so: this one book has but one design, and every portion of it works to that one end. Of the whole canon of inspiration we may say, as we read every detail, “These are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.”

     Observe, then, no part of Holy Scripture was written with any wish to magnify the writer of it. Many human books are evidently intended to let you see how profound are the thoughts of their authors or how striking is their style. Self-consciousness is full often apparent, and the man is seen as well as the fruit of his mind. If some authors can at any time introduce themselves they do not hesitate to do so, even though they have to go out of their way to do it: but you shall never detect the least degree of this in any of the writers of sacred Scripture. True, they did not set that foolish fashion of certain “brethren” in modern times who call attention to their own modesty by placing their initials on their title-pages instead of their names. We have no prophet of the Lord named D. N. J., or M. C. H., and those who bear such initials in these days are by no means veiled writers, but are as well known as if their names were written out in full. The inspired authors freely write David, Job, Israel, John, Matthew, and why should they not? Having given their names, how very little of themselves will you ever find in their books. They lose themselves in their theme, and hide themselves behind their Master. A most striking instance of this is found in John’s Gospel. John was a man above all others fitted to write the life of Christ. Did he not know more of Jesus both by observation, by intimate fellowship, and by hearty sympathy with him than any other of the evangelists? and yet he has left out many interesting facts which the others have recorded,— others, mark you, who did not actually see the facts as he did.   Speaking, others after, mark the manner you, who of men did, this silence is very wonderful. Can you guess how much this abstinence cost the apostle? The other three evangelists received much at second hand, though, truly, by the Spirit of God; but John literally and personally saw these things, and beheld them with his own eyes, and yet he gives us fewer incidents in the life of Christ than the other evangelists. What self-forgetfulness was this! He is silent because his speech would not serve the end he aimed at. And the most striking point is this,— he omits, as if of set purpose, those places of the history in which he would have shone. He and James and Peter were frequently selected by the Master to be with him when others were excluded, but of these occasions he says nothing. At the resurrection of the daughter of Jairus it is said of the disciples, as well as of the relatives and the multitude, that the Lord put them all out, and only suffered the three to be with him. This was a singular honour, but John does not say a word about the raising of the daughter of Jairus. What self oblivion! I should not have omitted it if I had been writing, nor would you. If we had been writing apart from the inspiration of the Spirit, we should have treasured up those special incidents of favour, and we should not have thought ourselves egotistical either, but should have considered ourselves as specially called to record a miracle which was witnessed by so very few. The Spirit of God in moving John to write, took such full possession of him that he wrote only that which wrought towards the one great design. No matter how interesting the event, ha leaves it unrecorded if he judges it to be aside from his design.

     Notice, next, that three only were with our Lord in his Transfiguration, and John was one of them. John does not mention that august event except it be that he says, “We beheld his glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,” in which there may be a reference to it, but it is by no means clear; at any rate, he does not narrate the circumstance, but leaves it to other pens. This is a moral miracle! What uninspired man could have left out such a vision from his page? Even more striking is the fact that the Master when he took with him the eleven to the garden, left the major part of them at the gate, but he led the three further into the garden, and bade them wait at about a stone’s-cast distance, where some of them heard his prayers, and observed his bloody sweat. John, who was one of them, says nothing about it. Had he forgotten it? That was impossible. Did he doubt it? Certainly not; but the omission shows you that these incidents were not written with the view of honouring John, but that the reader may be led to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. He leaves out that which would have brought John into the front, in order that he may fill up the whole foreground of his canvas with the portrait of his Lord. Everything is subordinated to the one grand end “that ye should believe that Jesus is the Christ.”

     What a lesson is all this to us who write or speak for God! Let us labour for this one thing, that we may lead men to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. If any sort of preaching would exalt ourselves, let us choose another, lest we hide the cross of Christ. If we can occupy the space with something more forcible, let us omit the choicest piece of oratory. Let us prune the vine of our speech that all its sap may go to fruit, and let that fruit be the bringing of men to believe that Jesus is the Christ.

     Further, notice that Holy Scripture was not written with the mere view of imparting knowledge to men by presenting them with a complete biography of Jesus Christ. The one intent of Scripture is that ye may believe on Jesus Christ. It was not the aim of either of the evangelists to present us with a complete life of Jesus Christ. Observe the difference between such a writer as John and an ordinary biographer. Usually when you see a biography advertised it will be your wisdom to save your money, for scarcely ever is there a biography written that is fully worth the money asked for it. I can point you to biographies stuffed full of letters which might just as well have been burned, and commonplaces which might as well have been forgotten. The good man never did anything in his life, except that he married a wife, and took a holiday and travelled through Switzerland, and went to Venice and Rome. Every scrap that he wrote home about the commonest incident of travel is secured, and inserted as if it were a priceless gem. It is just the same that every Tom and John and Mary would have said, and yet it is paraded as something heavenly. The book must be swelled out, and so the biographer gives us every bit of sense or nonsense that he can find. There must have been great searching of drawers, great writing to first cousins, and uncles and aunts, to know if they have an old letter anywhere of the dear deceased. All manner of small talk is inserted because, to speak the truth, our lives are mostly so little that if we do not blow them up with wind there will not be enough to make a volume for the book-market. How different is the biography of Jesus of Nazareth. The signs and wonders which he did are not written to make a book; they are not even written that you may be informed of all that Jesus did; these are written with an end, an aim, an object,— “that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” Matthew when he writes of “Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham,” leaves out everything that does not bring out Christ in connection with the kingdom: he paints Messiah the Prince, and he will not be taken off from his work. Luke brings forth Jesus as the man, and you see how wondrously he keeps to that one line of things. But when you get to John, and he is about to bring forth the Lord Jesus as the Son of God, he omits numbers of details that show our Lord in other lights and other aspects. Here Jesus is not so much the King in his kingdom— he leaves that to Matthew, he sticks to his own point which is indicated by his opening sentences “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” He desires to set forth our Lord’s glorious Messiahship, and personal Sonship, and Deity, and he adheres to that, and to that alone. The evangelists do not attempt merely to increase our knowledge, but they aim to win our understandings, and to conquer our hearts for Christ.

     Notice yet again, dear friends, that the gospels and the other books of Scripture were not written for the gratification of the most godly and pious curiosity. Truly, I would have liked to have acted to our Lord as Boswell did to his friend Dr. Johnson. I would have thought it an honour to have noted down every choice word he dropped, and every act he did. I would have recorded the very colour of his hair, and you should have known whether his eyes were blue or hazel: I would have left on record every incident about the very fabric of that hem of his garment which the woman touched. Would not any of you have done so? Do you not love him so much, and prize him so greatly, that you would have thought the smallest trifle about him to be a gem of knowledge. Our love ennobles everything that has to do with our adorable Lord. But the writers inspired of the Holy Spirit were not led astray by this feeling; they knew their object and gave their whole strength to it. The Holy Ghost did not send his- servants to gather up interesting details and preserve curious facts. None of them wrote to gratify your curiosity, even about the things which concern your Lord and Master. You shall be told that which shall lead you to believe him to be the Son of God, but you shall be told no more; for had all been written you might have spent all your time in trying to know Christ after the flesh, but now he hath preserved only that which by his blessing shall teach you to know him after the spirit. It is not to gratify curiosity but to beget faith within the soul that the memoirs of our Lord are written by the evangelists.

     Again, the Scriptures are not even written with the view of setting before us a complete example. I want you to notice that. It is true that the gospels set before us a perfect character, and we are bound to imitate it. It is true that when we read the life of Christ we may learn how to live, and how to die; but that was not the first and chief design of the writers: they wrote that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that, by believing, we might have life through his name. Good works are best promoted, not as the first, but as the second thing. They come as the result of faith, and he that would promote that which is pure and honest and holy, had best promote faith in Jesus Christ, the Saviour. The Scripture does not go in for flowers first, nor even for fruit, but it plants roots, and hence it aims at implanting faith in Jesus Christ, for when we have believed in him, the faith that worketh by love will be sure to produce a sacred imitation of his most beloved and perfect character. Yes, let the truth stand as I have put it, “these are written,” first and last, with no other end and object but this, “That ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God.”

     Open his gospel and see how John all through keeps to his design. It would be worth while to spend the whole morning, and a half a dozen other mornings, in showing you that John never takes his eye from this one point. You will soon perceive that his Book contains a series of testimonies borne by persons led to faith in Jesus as the Christ. John in the first chapter teaches the truth which he was about to prove; read the seventeenth and eighteenth verses, “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ”: here you see that Jesus is the Christ. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” There is “the only begotten Son,” and the two verses show us that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. John had been convinced of this at our Lord’s baptism by the descent of the Holy Spirit upon him; and therefore he bore this witness at the commencement. Almost immediately after follows the conversion of Andrew, and what does Andrew witness? He says to his brother Simon, “We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.” Close on the heels of that comes Nathanael’s testimony, and he says, “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.” Directly after follows the changing of the water into wine at the marriage of Cana in Galilee, one of the seven miracles which John mentions, and he never mentions any more than that seven, and of this, the first of the seven, he says, “This beginning of miracles did Jesus In Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.” The miracle was intended to produce faith, and did produce it. At the end of each record of a miracle, John tells us that some believed in him, and generally that they came to believe that he was the Christ, the Son of God. That memorable third chapter concerning Nicodemus, shows us how that enquiring master of Israel came to believe in him; and how the Lord was revealed to Nicodemus as both the sent one and the Son, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but ‘have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” In the fourth chapter you get to the well at Sychar, where the Lord manifests himself to a poor fallen woman, and she is convinced, and hastens to toll her friends, and they by-and-by know that this is indeed the Christ the Saviour of the world. In the case of the raising up of the nobleman’s son in the same chapter, you are reminded by John that the father was led to faith in Jesus, and the natural inference is that you ought to be led to display alike confidence. In the fifth chapter the healing of the impotent man at the pool is narrated in order to introduce the statement “But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me” When five thousand had been fed, we read, “Those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.” In the sixty-ninth verse of the sixth chapter you find Simon Peter saying, “We believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God,” and so in the seventh chapter, “others said this is the Christ,” being convinced by that which he had spoken. To the man born blind Jesus said, “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” and the man’s practical answer was an avowal of faith and an immediate act of worship. But I am afraid you would soon grow weary if I were to dwell upon every incident which would prove my point. The whole Book is made up of modes of reasonings by which men have been led to believe in Jesus: it might have been written for the sake of the Unitarians of our own time. It contains repeated declarations that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and a series of testimonies of persons brought to see this by the signs that Jesus wrought amongst them. Study John’s gospel with that view, and you will see how the Lord brings one to believe on him by a call which came with divine authority, a second by unveiling the secrets of her life, another by answering his prayers, another by enlightening his mind. Of the whole of his disciples our Lord gives the secret reason of their discipleship in his matchless prayer, “For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.” Throughout the whole book the strain is the same, for it begins with Andrew’s confession, “We have found the Messias,” and ends with Thomas, to whom Jesus said, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands.” Thomas cries in ecstasy, “My Lord and my God,” and this is almost the topstone of the confessions and achievements of faith, but not quite, for here is the crown of all, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”

     You Bible readers, who have never believed in Jesus as the Christ, have read in vain: you have read to your own condemnation, but not to your salvation. Oh, you that are afraid that you may not be allowed to believe in Jesus, dismiss that foolish fear, for this holy book is written on purpose that you may believe, and therefore it is clear that you have full liberty to do so. Every time John dipped his pen into the ink he breathed the prayer, “Lord, bring men to believe in Jesus by that which I have written,” and he closed his gospel by declaring the innermost longing of his living soul, “These are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” My dear hearer, your immediate conversion to faith in the Lord Jesus is the object of this book. God grant it may be fulfilled in you!

     II. We turn, in the second place, to a subject which is a step further on— THE GREAT OBJECT OF TRUE FAITH IS CHRIST JESUS. The text does not say, “These are written that ye might believe the Nicene creed,” for, good as that creed is, it was not then composed, and is not the chief object of faith. It does not say, “These are written that ye might believe the Athanasian creed;” a very good creed, but rather savage, and also not then devised. No, no: “These are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name.” That is to say, the faith which brings life to the soul is faith in the person, offices, nature, and work of Jesus; and though you may be in the dark about a thousand things, and may make mistakes about ten thousand more, yet if you believe in the Messiah, the Son of God, you have eternal life.

     First, I am to believe in Jesus that he is the Christy that he is the promised Messiah, anointed of God to deliver the human race. I must believe that this is he whom God promised at the gate of Eden, when he said, “The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head.” This is the sent One, who is come to seek and to save that which is lost: in him we are to believe, for it is written, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.”

     Next we are to believe that he is the Son of God— not in the sense in which men are sons of God, but in that higher sense in which he is the only-begotten Son of God, one with the Father, eternally and indissolubly one. “The Word was with God;” but more than that, “the Word was God.” Now, this is to be believed if we would live unto God. “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” A Jesus who is not divine could give us no power to overcome the world; but in his Godhead we find our strength.

     Put the two together, that he, the divine One, became man, and was sent into the world to redeem us, and we have the right idea of Immanuel, God with us. Will this belief save us? Assuredly it will, but listen while I explain.

     First, believe this to be a matter of fact Having believed it to be a matter of fact, go on to look into the record concerning him till you are undoubtedly sure of it; for these are written that ye might believe with the fullest confidence that Jesus is God and Saviour. When you are sure of the fact, the next thing is to accept it for yourself: agree that Jesus shall be your anointed, through whom you will get the anointing which comes upon him as the Head, and descends to you as the skirts of his garment. At the same time unfeignedly consent that he shall be your God, and cry with Thomas, “My Lord and my God.” You are getting on now to complete faith; go one step further. Yield yourself up to the grand truth which you have received, for that is saving faith, the submission of yourself to the truth. Acting upon the conviction of its truth, I must say,— since Jesus is now my Saviour he shall save me. Since he is the Christ anointed for me I will trust him, and share his anointing. Since Christ is the Son of God I will rest in him, that I also may become in him a child of God. That is the point. “He that hath the Son hath life: and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” Accept Jesus as he is set forth, for to “as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” The faith which receives Christ as he is revealed as the Messiah, and as the Son of God, is the faith which hath eternal life, and the Scriptures are written that you may have this faith.

     I want you to notice one thing more, and that is, we are to receive Jesus of Nazareth as being the Christ and the Son of God on the ground of the written word. See— “these are written that ye might believe”; from this it is clear that the ground of acceptable faith is the written word of God, and it is vain to look for any other. “Oh,” says one brother, “I could believe, but I do not feel as I ought.” What have your feelings to do with the truth of the statement that Jesus is the Messiah the Son of God? I read in the newspaper such and such a statement about affairs in Europe. I may have sufficient cause for doubting the news, but it certainly would not be a good reason if I were to say, “I do not believe the telegram because I do not feel that it is true.” How can our feelings affect matters of fact? They are either true or not, altogether apart from the condition of the hearer. Now, here is a testimony concerning Jesus borne by John and three other evangelists. If these things are true, then they are true whether your heart dances for joy or sinks in despair. Whatever becomes of our changeful feelings, facts are stubborn things, and alter not. Experience cannot make a thing true; and frames and feelings cannot make a thing to be a lie which is in itself true. Over the head, then, of all the storms, and turmoils, and changes of my poor, weak, silly nature, there rises a rock that is higher than I, higher than all things, a rock which cannot be moved, let the storm rage as long as it will— Christ Jesus, the anointed Son of God died in the room, place, and stead of all who trust in him; I trust in him, and I am saved. If he be indeed commissioned of God to save believers, and if he be himself God, pledged to save believers, then I, as a believer, am as safe as the throne of God, or the presence-angels which surround it. Whatever I feel or do not feel, I am a saved man since I heartily believe that which the Book was written to teach me, namely, God’s gospel to men, embodied in Jesus Christ, who, being the Son of God, is anointed of the Lord to save his people.

     III. So I come to the third point, which is this, that THE TRUE LIFE OF A SOUL LIES IN CHRIST JESUS AND COMES TO THAT SOUL THROUGH FAITH IN HIM. I understand by the life of a soul only one thing, and yet for the sake of clearing it we must divide it a little.

     First, when a man has been found guilty of death, if by any means that sentence is removed from him, he may be said to obtain life, life in its judicial form. Suppose that a person who is condemned to die is by some just and lawful means acquitted; in that fact he finds life. That is the first form of life that every man has who believes that Jesus is indeed the Christ. He is acquitted, pardoned, justified, and therefore he lives. Through the righteousness of Jesus Christ he is made just in the sight of God; and being covered with perfect righteousness he lives, and must live for ever. He is absolved, for he hath believed in Christ Jesus, and by that act he has accepted the righteousness of God and escaped from death. The guilt has been removed, and therefore the penalty cannot be inflicted.

     This judicial life is attended with an imparted life. God the Holy Spirit is with believers, breathing into them a new, holy, heavenly life. They are dead to the world, as we said last Sunday morning, and buried with Christ, but they live unto God, never more to be slain by sin. The life of Christ is infused into them by the Spirit of the living God, even as the Lord Jesus hath testified. “Verily, verily, I say unto you he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”

     Observe that this life grows. It continues to gather strength, and as it increases it is spoken of by John as life “more abundantly.” That life never dies; it is impossible that it should ever be destroyed; it is a living and incorruptible seed which abideth for ever. The life of saints on earth is, in fact, the same life as that of saints in heaven. There is no change in the substance of the new life when we enter glory, only it grows and developes and reaches perfection in heaven. The believer’s life on earth is Christ; his life in heaven is the same. As far as our spiritual nature is concerned we have undergone the resurrection, and are raised from the dead, and the life that we here live is the resurrection life; yet the resurrection has not passed already; for as to the body, it must be changed, and if it dies and is buried it shall be raised again at the sounding of the last trump. We are waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body from the power of death, waiting in the full assurance of hope. The soul even now lives in newness of life, for we are quickened by the Spirit of God.

     The new life enters the soul in and through believing, and is the same life which we shall exercise for ever at the right hand of God, even as Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me hath everlasting life.”

     I want to enlarge a little upon the fact, that this life comes with believing, because I want it to be noticed that it really comes with believing, apart from any other necessary circumstances. One person complains to me, “Sir, I cannot tell exactly when I was converted, and this causes me great anxiety.” Dear friend, this is a needless fear. Turn your enquiries in another direction,— Are you alive unto God by faith? Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God? Are you resting and trusting in him? “Yes,” say you, “with all my heart.” Well, never mind about when you were converted; the fact is before you,, and its date is a small matter. If a person were to say to you, “You are not alive,” how would you prove that you are alive? A good plan would be gently to tread on his toe, or do something to make him feel that you possess life. I do not think it could be necessary for you to find your certificate of birth, because if you held it in your hand and said, “That document is conclusive,” it would not be half so convincing a proof of life as some distinct act of life. If I thought that I knew the very moment in which I was born again I might be mistaken; indeed little reliance can be placed upon our judgment or our memories. I would sooner believe to-day than be quite sure that I began to believe thirty years ago. Perhaps very few of you know the exact minute at which the sun rose this morning, and yet you do not doubt, that he has risen for at this present moment your are enjoying his light Some mornings you can tell the instant of the sun’s rising, but frequently it is so cloudy that the sun is up before you know it. A man would, be an absolute lunatic who should say, “I do not believe that it is daylight, for I do not know when the sun rose.” Date is a very small and unimportant matter compared with certainty and fact. Do you believe it Jesus Christ, then you are alive unto God, and life is the evidence of birth.    

     “Well,” says another, “but I hardly know how I was converted.” That, again, is another minor matter. Some of us can trace the way in which the Lord led ns to himself, and we are very grateful to the instrument by whom we were brought to a knowledge of the truth; but our text does not state that the Bible was written that you and I might trace our faith in Christ to John, or to anyone else. No, it was written that we might believe in Jesus Christ as the result of testimony: and I care not one farthing by what testifying agent you were brought to do it, so long as you do but believe because of the witness of the word of God. I am sure whatever the outward means of your faith the Spirit of God must have wrought it, for there is no living faith apart from his sacred working upon the mind. If you believe sincerely, the mode in which you gained your faith need not be enquired into.

     “Well,” says one, “but I want to know that I am alive unto God by my feelings. I feel often so sad and full of pain.” Listen: is not pain as good a proof of life as pleasure? If anybody said to me, “I know I am alive because I feel so well,” I should reply, “And I sometimes know that I am alive because I feel so ill.” Rheumatic pain is as sure a proof of life as a thrill of delight; and so anxiety about your state, and hatred of sin, and grief over your imperfection are just as sure signs of spiritual life as the highest joy or the liveliest energy. Do not worry yourself, therefore, about that; if you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and are resting in him, it is well with you.

     “But,” saith one, “I change so much. I feel sometimes as if I must be a Christian; at other times I feel as if it was out of the question that I could be saved.” Yes, and do you not change a great deal as to your bodily life? I do, I know. Why, this heavy, damp, thick atmosphere half poisons me. Lift me up a few thousand feet on a mountain side, with a good stiff breeze blowing, and I feel quite another man. Are these changes reasons for questioning my being alive? Nay, nay. Quite the reverse. The reason why I feel these changes is because I am alive, for I reckon that if I were a broomstick or a brick wall the atmosphere would not matter much. If you have no spiritual life you will know few changes, but because you are alive these variations must and will occur to you. I make you smile; I wish I could smile away some of those fears which hang like a nightmare over certain of the best of you.

     “But I have such conflicts within,” cries one. Ah, dear friend, there are no conflicts in dead men; there would be no warfare between faith and unbelief if you were not on the Lord’s side. If our whole being remained in its natural death there would be no inward fighting, but inasmuch as there are two minds within you, depend upon it one of those minds is the mind of God. This inward conflict should not cause you to doubt, but rather lead you to cling the more tenaciously to your conviction that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Saviour of men.

     Faith in Jesus begets life, and this life will flourish or decay very much in proportion to our faith. Believe firmly, and your life shall be vigorous; believe tremblingly, and your life will be faint.

     Yet all depends upon “the name.” Is not that a blessed word, “that believing you might have life through his name.” The name means the whole character of Christ,— all his offices and relationships, all the work he has done and is doing,— we “have life through his name.” We have no life anywhere else but in that name. Jesus Christ said to Lazarus, “Lazarus, come forth,” and why did he come forth? Why,, because at the back of the word which called him there was the name of Christ, who quickeneth the dead. Why were demoniacs cured? Was it not because unclean spirits knew the name and trembled at it? The devil and death, sin and despair all yield to that name. When some began to exorcise in another name, the devil leaped upon them, and cried, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are ye?” That name hath power in heaven, hath power on earth, hath power in hell, hath power everywhere; and if we trust in that name, and live to the glory of that name, we have life through that name.

     I come back to my beginning, and there I close: the one thing, the main thing, the only thing is that we do hold on to Jesus Christ, through thick and thin, through foul and fair, up hill and down dale, in the night and in the day, in life and in death, in time and in eternity; that we do steadfastly believe that Jesus of Nazareth who died upon the cross is the Messiah of God, yea, the Son of God, sent to cleanse away iniquity and bring in perfect righteousness. Whether we see him on his cross or on his throne, all our hope, all our trust must be fixed in him, and so we shall live when time shall be no more. Verily, I say unto you, those who thus trust him shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of his hands, for he hath said it, “I give unto my sheep eternal life.” Stay you there, O true believers, and let none entice you from your steadfastness! If any of you have never exerted this faith, may the Lord bring you to Jesus at once. This sacred Book was written on purpose to make you believe; the Spirit is given to lead you to believe; the object of every preaching of the gospel is that you may believe; therefore come and welcome, and at this hour believe on the one saving name, and live thereby. God grant it for his name’s sake. Amen.



Baptism- A Burial

By / Oct 30

Baptism- A Burial

 

"Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."—Romans 6:3-4.

 

I SHALL not enter into controversy over this text, although over it some have raised the question of infant baptism or believers’ baptism, immersion or sprinkling. If any persons can give a consistent and instructive interpretation of the text, otherwise than by assuming believers’ immersion to be Christian baptism, I should like to see them do it. I myself am quite incapable of performing such a feat, or even of imagining how it can be done. I am content to take the view that baptism signifies the burial of believers in water in the name of the Lord, and I shall so interpret the text. If any think not so, it may at least interest them to know what we understand to be the meaning of the baptismal rite, and I trust that they may think none the less of the spiritual sense because they differ as to the external sign. After all, the visible emblem is not the most prominent matter in the text. May God the Holy Spirit help us to reach its inner teaching.

     I do not understand Paul to say that if improper persons, such as unbelievers, and hypocrites, and deceivers, are baptized they are baptized into our Lord’s death. He says “so many of us,” putting himself with the rest of the children of God. He intends such as are entitled to baptism, and come to it with their hearts in a right state. Of them he says, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” He does not even intend to say that those who were rightly baptized have all of them entered into the fulness of its spiritual meaning; for if they had, there would have been no need of the question, “Know ye not?” It would seem that some had been baptized who did not clearly know the meaning of their own baptism. They had faith, and a glimmer of knowledge sufficient to make them right recipients of baptism, but they were not well instructed in the teaching of baptism; perhaps they saw in it only a washing, but had never discerned the burial. I will go further, and say that I question if any of us yet know the fulness of the meaning of either of the ordinances which Christ has instituted. As yet we are, with regard to spiritual things, like children playing on the beach while the ocean rolls before us. At best we wade up to our ankles like our little ones on the sea shore. A few among us are learning to swim; but then we only swim where the bottom is almost within reach. Who among us has yet come to lose sight of shore and to swim in the Atlantic of divine love, where fathomless truth rolls underneath, and the infinite is all around? Oh, may God daily teach us more and more of what we already know in part, and may the truth which we have as yet but dimly perceived come to us in a brighter and clearer manner, till we see all things in clear sunlight. This can only be as our own character becomes more clear and pure; for we see according to what we are; and as is the eye such is that which it sees. The pure in heart alone can see a pure and holy God. We shall be like Jesus when we shall see him as he is, and certainly we shall never see him as he is till we are like him. In heavenly things we see as much as we have within ourselves. He who has eaten Christ’s flesh and blood spiritually is the man who can see this in the sacred Supper, and he who has been baptized into Christ sees Christ in baptism. To him that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundantly.

     Baptism sets forth the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and our participation therein. Its teaching is twofold. First, think of our representative union with Christ, so that when he died and was buried it was on our behalf, and we were thus buried with him. This will give you the teaching of baptism so far as it sets forth a creed. We declare in baptism that we believe in the death of Jesus, and desire to partake in all the merit of it. But there is a second equally important matter, and that is our realized union with Christ which is set forth in baptism, not so much as a doctrine of our creed as a matter of our experience. There is a manner of dying, of being buried, of rising, and of living in Christ which must be displayed in each one of us if we are indeed members of the body of Christ.

     I. First, then, I want you to think of OUR REPRESENTATIVE UNION WITH CHRIST as it is set forth in baptism as a truth to be believed. Our Lord Jesus is the substitute for his people, and when he died it was on their behalf and in their stead. The great doctrine of our justification lies in this, that Christ took our sins, stood in our place, and as our surety suffered, and bled, and died, thus presenting on our behalf a sacrifice for sin. We are to regard him, not as a private person, but as our representative. We are buried with him in baptism unto death to show that we accept him as being for us dead and buried.

     Baptism as a burial with Christ signifies, first, acceptance of the death and burial of Christ as being for us. Let us do that at this very moment with all our hearts. What other hope have we? When our divine Lord came down from the heights of glory and took upon himself our manhood, he became one with you and with me; and being found in fashion as a man, it pleased the Father to lay sin upon him, even your sins and mine. Do you not accept that truth, and agree that the Lord Jesus should be the bearer of your guilt, and stand for you in the sight of God? “Amen! Amen!” say all of you. He went up to the tree loaded with all this guilt, and there he suffered in our room and stead as we ought to have suffered. It pleased the Father, instead of bruising us, to bruise him. He put him to grief, making his soul an offering for sin. Do we not gladly accept Jesus as our substitute? O beloved, whether you have been baptized in water or not, I put this question to you, “Do you accept the Lord Jesus as your surety and substitute?” For if you do not, you shall bear your own guilt and carry your own sorrow, and stand in your own place beneath the glance of the angry justice of God. Many of us at this moment are saying in our inmost hearts —

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

Now, by being buried with Christ in baptism, we set our seal to the fact that the death of Christ was on our behalf, and that we were in him, and died in him, and, in token of our belief, we consent to the watery grave, and yield ourselves to be buried according to his command. This is a matter of fundamental faith — Christ dead and buried for us; in other words, substitution, suretiship, vicarious sacrifice. His death is the hinge of our confidence: we are not baptized into his example, or his life, but into his death. We hereby confess that all our salvation lies in the death of Jesus, which death we accept as having been incurred on our account.

     But this is not all; because if I am to be buried, it should not be so much because I accept the substitutionary death of another for me as because I am dead myself. Baptism is an acknowledgment of our own death in Christ. Why should a living man be buried? Why should he even be buried because another died on his behalf? My burial with Christ means not only that he died for me, but that I died in him, so that my death with him needs a burial with him. Jesus died for us because he is one with us. The Lord Jesus Christ did not take his people’s sins by an arbitrary choice of God; but it was most natural and fit and proper that he should take his people’s sins, since they are his people, and he is their federal head. It behoved Christ to suffer for this reason — that he was the covenant representative of his people. He is the Head of the body, the Church; and if the members sinned, it was meet that the Head, though the Head had not sinned, should bear the consequence of the acts of the body. As there is a natural relationship between Adam and those that are in Adam, so is there between the second Adam and those that are in him. I accept what the first Adam did as my sin. Some of you may quarrel with it, and with the whole covenant dispensation, if you please; but as God has pleased to set it up, and I feel the effect of it, I see no use in my controverting it. As I accept the sin of father Adam, and feel that I sinned in him, even so with intense delight I accept the death and atoning sacrifice of my second Adam, and rejoice that in him I have died and risen again. I lived, I died, I kept the law, I satisfied justice in my covenant Head. Let me be buried in baptism that I may show to all around that I believe I was one with my Lord in his death and burial for sin.

     Look at this, O child of God, and do not be afraid of it. These are grand truths, but they are sure and comforting. You are getting among Atlantic billows now, but be not afraid. Realize the sanctifying effect of this truth. Suppose that a man had been condemned to die on account of a great crime; suppose, further, that he has actually died for that crime, and now, by some wonderful work of God, after having died he has been made to live again. He comes among men again as alive from the dead, and what ought to be the state of his mind with regard to his offence? Will he commit that crime again? A crime for which he has died? I say emphatically, God forbid. Rather should he say, “I have tasted the bitterness of this sin, and I am miraculously lifted up out of the death which it brought upon me, and made to live again: now will I hate the thing that slew me, and abhor it with all my soul.” He who has received the wages of sin should learn to avoid it for the future. But you reply, “We never did die so; we were never made to suffer the due reward of our sins.” Granted. But that which Christ did for you comes to the same thing, and the Lord looks upon it as the same thing. You are so one with Jesus, that you must regard his death as your death, his sufferings as the chastisement of your peace. You have died in the death of Jesus, and now by strange, mysterious grace you are brought up again from the pit of corruption unto newness of life. Can you, will you, go into sin again? You have seen what Goa thinks of sin: you perceive that he utterly loathes it; for when it was laid on his dear Son, he did not spare him, but put him to grief and smote him to death. Can you, after that, turn back to the accursed thing which God hates? Surely, the effect of the great grief of the Saviour upon your spirit must be sanctifying. How shall we who are dead to sin live any longer therein? How shall we that have passed under its curse, and endured its awful penalty, tolerate its power? Shall we go back to this murderous, villainous, virulent, abominable evil? It cannot be. Grace forbids.

     This doctrine is not the conclusion of the whole matter. The text describes us as buried with a view to rising. “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism unto death.”— for what object? — “that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Be buried in Christ! What for? That you may be dead for ever? No, but that now getting where Christ is, you may go where Christ goes. Behold him, then: he goes, first, into the sepulchre, but next out of the sepulchre; for when the third morning came he rose. If you are one with Christ at all, you must be one with him all through; you must be one with him in his death, and one with him in his burial, then you shall come to be one with him in his resurrection. Am I a dead man now? No, blessed be his name, it is written, “Because I live ye shall live also.” True, I am dead in one sense, “For ye are dead”; but yet not dead in another, “For your life is hid with Christ in God”; and how is he absolutely dead who has a hidden life? No; since I am one with Christ 1 am what Christ is: as he is a living Christ, I am a living spirit. What a glorious thing it is to have arisen from the dead because Christ has given us life. Our old legal life has been taken from us by the sentence of the law, and the law views us as dead; but now we have received a new life, a life out of death, resurrection-life in Christ Jesus. The life of the Christian is the life of Christ. Ours is not the life of the first creation, but of the new creation from among the dead. Now we live in newness of life, quickened unto holiness, and righteousness, and joy by the Spirit of God. The life of the flesh is a hindrance to us; our energy is in his Spirit. In the highest and best sense our life is spiritual and heavenly. This also is doctrine which is to be held most firmly.

     I want you to see the force of this; for I am aiming at practical results this morning. If God has given to you and to me an entirely new life in Christ, how can that new life spend itself after the fashion of the old life? Shall the spiritual live as the carnal? How can you that were the servants of sin, but have been made free by precious blood, go back to your old slavery? When you were in the old Adam life, you lived in sin, and loved it; but now you have been dead and buried, and have come forth into newness of life: can it be that you can go back to the beggarly elements from which the Lord has brought you out? If you live in sin, you will be false to your profession, for you profess to be alive unto God? If you walk in lust, you will tread under foot the blessed doctrines of the Word of God, for these lead to holiness and purity. You would make Christianity to be a by-word and a proverb, if, after all, you who were quickened from your spiritual death should exhibit a conduct no better than the life of ordinary men, and little superior to what your former life used to be. As many of you as have been baptized have said to the world, — We are dead to the world, and we have come forth into a new life. Our fleshly desires are henceforth to be viewed as dead, for now we live after a fresh order of things. The Holy Spirit has wrought in us a new nature, and though we are in the world, we are not of it, but are new-made men, “created anew in Christ Jesus.” This is the doctrine which we avow to all mankind, that Christ died and rose again, and that his people died and rose again in him. Out of this doctrine grows death unto sin and life unto God, and we wish by every action and every movement of our lives to teach it to all who see us.

     So far the doctrine: is it not a precious one indeed? Oh, if you be indeed one with Christ, shall the world find you polluting yourselves? Shall the members of a generous, gracious Head be covetous and grasping? Shall the members of a glorious, pure, and perfect Head be defiled with the lusts of the flesh and the follies of a vain life? If believers are indeed so identified with Christ that they are his fulness, should they not be holiness itself? If we live by virtue of our union with his body, how can we live as other Gentiles do? How is it that so many professors exhibit a mere worldly life, living for business and for pleasure, but not for God, in God, or with God? They sprinkle a little religion on a worldly life, and so hope to Christianize it. But it will not do. I am bound to live as Christ would have lived under my circumstances; in my private chamber or in my public pulpit, I am bound to be what Christ would have been in like case. I am bound to prove to men that union to Christ is no fiction, or fanatical sentiment; but that we are swayed by the same principles and actuated by the same motives.

     Baptism is thus an embodied creed, and you may read it in these words: “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.”

     II. But, secondly, A REALIZED UNION WITH CHRIST is also set forth in baptism, and this is rather a matter of experience than of doctrine.

     1. First, there is, as a matter of actual experience in the true believer, death. “Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” It must be contrary to all law to bury those who are yet alive. Until they are dead, men can have no right to be buried. Very well, then, the Christian is dead, — dead, first, to the dominion of sin. Whenever sin called him aforetime he answered, “Here am I, for thou didst call me.” Sin ruled his members, and if sin said, “Do this,” he did it, like the soldiers obedient to their centurion; for sin ruled over all the parts of his nature, and exercised over him a supreme tyranny. Grace has changed all this. When we are converted we become dead to the dominion of sin. If sin calls us now, we refuse to come, for we are dead. If sin commands us we will not obey, for we are dead to its authority. Sin comes to us now— oh, that it did not, — and it finds in us the old corruption which is crucified, but not yet dead; but it has no dominion over our true life. Blessed be God, sin cannot reign over us, though it may assail us and work us harm. “Sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under law, but under grace.” We sin, but not with allowance. With what grief we look back upon our transgressions! How earnestly do we endeavour to avoid them! Sin tries to maintain its usurped power over us; but we do not acknowledge it as our sovereign. Evil enters us now as an interloper and a stranger, and works sad havoc, but it does not abide in us upon the throne; it is an alien, and despised, and no more honoured and delighted in. We are dead to the reigning power of sin.

     The believer, if spiritually buried with Christ, is dead to the desire of any such power. “What!” say you, “do not godly men have sinful desires?” Alas, they do. The old nature that is in them lusteth towards sin; but the true man, the real ego, desires to be purged of every speck or trace of evil. The law in the members would fain urge to sin, but the life in the heart constrains to holiness. I can honestly say, for my own self, that the deepest desire of my soul is to live a perfect life. If I could have my own best desire, I would never sin again; and though, alas, I do consent to sin so that I become responsible when I transgress, yet my innermost self loathes iniquity. Sin is my bondage, not my pleasure; my misery, not my delight; at the thought of it I cry out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?” In our heart of hearts our spirit cleaves steadfastly to that which is good, and true, and heavenly, so that the real man delights in the law of God, and follows hard after goodness. The main current and true bent of our soul’s wish and will is not towards sin, and the apostle taught us no mere fancy when he said, “For he that is dead is freed from sin.”

     Moreover, in the next place we are dead as to the pursuits and aims of the sinning and ungodly life. Brethren, are any of you that profess to be God’s servants living for yourselves? Then you are not God’s servants; for he that is really born again lives unto God: the object of his life is the glory of God and the good of his fellow-men. This is the prize that is set before the quickened man, and towards this he runs. “I do not run that way,” says one. Very well, then you will not come to the desired end. If you are running after the pleasures of the world or the riches of it, you may win the prize you run for, but you cannot win “the prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus.” I hope that many of us can honestly say that we are now dead to every object in life, except the glory of God in Christ Jesus. We are in the world, and have to live as other men do, carrying on our ordinary business; but all this is subordinate, and held in as with bit and bridle; our aims are above yon changeful moon. The flight of our soul, like that of an eagle, is above these clouds: though that bird of the sun alights upon the rock, or even descends to the plain, yet its joy is to dwell above, outsoaring the lightning, rising over the black head of the tempest, and looking down upon all earthly things. Henceforth our grace-given life speeds onward and upward; we are not of the world, and the world’s engagements are not those upon which we spend our noblest powers.

     Again, we are dead in this sense, that we are dead to the guidance of sin. The lust of the flesh drives a man this way and that way. He steers his course by the question, “What is most pleasant? What will give me most present gratification?” The way of the ungodly is mapped out by the hand of selfish desire: but you that are true Christians have another guide, you are led by the Spirit in a right way. You ask, “What is good and what is acceptable in the sight of the Most High?” Your daily prayer is, “Lord, show me what thou wouldst have me to do?” You are alive to the teachings of the Spirit, who will lead you into all truth; but you are deaf, yea, dead to the dogmas of carnal wisdom, the oppositions of philosophy, the errors of proud human wisdom. Blind guides who fall with their victims into the ditch are shunned by you, for you have chosen the way of the Lord. What a blessed state of heart this is! I trust, my brethren, that we have fully realized it! We know the Shepherd’s voice, and a stranger we will not follow. One is our teacher, and we submit our understandings to his infallible instruction.

     Our text must have had a very forcible meaning among the Romans in Paul’s time, for they were sunk in all manner of odious vices. Take an average Roman of that period, and you would have found in him a man accustomed to spend a large part of his time in the amphitheatre, hardened by the brutal sight of bloody shows, in which gladiators slew each other to amuse a holiday crowd. Taught in such a school, the Roman was cruel to the last degree, and withal ferocious in the indulgence of his passions. A depraved man was not regarded as being at all degraded; not only nobles and emperors were monsters of vice, but the public teachers were impure. When those who were regarded as moral were corrupt, you may imagine what the immoral were. “Enjoy yourself; follow after the pleasures of the flesh,” was the rule of the age. Christianity was the introduction of a new element. See here a Roman converted by the grace of God! What a change is in him! His neighbours say, “You were not at the amphitheatre this morning. How could you miss the sight of the hundred Germans who tore out each other's bowels?” “No,” he says, “I was not there; I could not bear to be there. I am totally dead to it. If you were to force me to be there, I must shut my eyes, for I could not look on murder committed in sport!” The Christian did not resort to places of licentiousness; he was as good as dead to such filthiness. The fashions and customs of the age were such that Christians could not consent to them, and so they became dead to society. It was not merely that Christians did not go into open sin, but they spoke of it with horror, and their lives rebuked it. Things which the multitude counted a joy, and talked of exultingly, gave no comfort to the follower of Jesus, for he was dead to such evils. This is our solemn avowal when we come forward to be baptized. We say by acts which are louder than words that we are dead to those things in which sinners take delight, and we wish to be so accounted.

     2. The next thought in baptism is burial. Death comes first, and burial follows. Now, what is burial, brethren? Burial is, first of all, the seal of death; it is the certificate of decease. “Is such a man dead?” say you. Another answers, “Why, dear sir, he was buried a year ago.” You ask no more whether he is dead when you know that he is buried. There have been instances of persons being buried alive, and I am afraid that the thing happens with sad frequency in baptism, but it is unnatural, and by no means the rule. I fear that many have been buried alive in baptism, and have therefore risen and walked out of the grave just as they were. But if burial is true, it is a certificate of death. If I am able to say in very truth, “I was buried with Christ thirty years ago,” I must surely be dead. Certainly the world thought so, for not long after my burial with Jesus I began to preach his name, and by that time the world thought me very far gone, and said, “He stinketh.” They began to say all manner of evil against the preacher; but the more I stank in their nostrils the better I liked it, for the surer I was that I was really dead to the world. It is good for a Christian to be offensive to wicked men. See how our Master stank in the esteem of the godless when they cried, “Away with him, away with him!” Though no corruption could come near his blessed body, yet his perfect character was not savoured by that perverse generation. There must, then, be in us death to the world, and some of the effects of death, or our baptism is void. As burial is the certificate of death, so is burial with Christ the seal of our mortification to the world.

     But burial is, next, the displaying of death. While the man is indoors the passers-by do not know that he is dead; but when the funeral takes place, and he is carried through the streets, everybody knows that he is dead. This is what baptism ought to be. The believer’s death to sin is at first a secret, but by an open confession he bids all men know that he is dead with Christ. Baptism is the funeral rite by which death to sin is openly set forth before all men.

     Next, burial is the separateness of death. The dead man no longer remains in the house, but is placed apart as one who ceases to be numbered with the living. A corpse is not welcome company. Even the most beloved object after a while cannot be tolerated when death has done his work upon it. Even Abraham, who had been so long united with his beloved Sarah, is heard to say, “Bury my dead out of my sight.” Such is the believer when his death to the world is fully known: he is poor company for worldlings, and they shun him as a damper upon their revelry. The true saint is put into the separated class with Christ, according to his word, “If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” The saint is put away in the same grave as his Lord; for as he was, so are we also in this world. He is shut up by the world in the one cemetery of the faithful, if I may so call it, where all that are in Christ are dead to the world together, with this epitaph for them all, “And ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”

     And the grave is the place— I do not know where to get a word— of the settledness of death; for when a man is dead and buried you never expect to see him come home again: so far as this world is concerned, death and burial are irrevocable. They tell me that spirits walk the earth, and we have all read in the newspaper “The Truth about Ghosts,” but I have my doubts on the subject. In spiritual things, however, I am afraid that some are not so buried with Christ but what they walk a great deal among the tombs. I am grieved at heart that it should be so. The man in Christ cannot walk as a ghost, because he is alive somewhere else; he has received a new being, and therefore he cannot mutter and peep among the dead hypocrites around him. See what our chapter saith about our Lord: “Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more: death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.” If we have been once raised from dead works we shall never go back to them again. I may sin, but sin can never have dominion over me; I may be a transgressor and wander much from my God, but never can I go back to the old death again. When my Lord’s grace got hold of me, and buried me, he wrought in my soul the conviction that henceforth and for ever I was to the world a dead man. I am right glad that I made no compromise, but came right out. I have drawn the sword, and thrown away the scabbard. Tell the world they need not try to fetch us back, for we are spoiled for them as much as if we were dead. All they could have would be our carcases. Tell the world not to tempt us any longer, for our hearts are changed. Sin may charm the old man who hangs there upon the cross, and he may turn his leering eye that way, but he cannot follow up his glance, for he cannot get down from the cross: the Lord has taken care to use the mallet well, and he has fastened his hands and feet right firmly, so that the crucified flesh must still remain in the place of doom and death. Yet the true, the genuine life within us cannot die, for it is born of God; neither can it abide in the tombs, for its call is to purity and joy and liberty; and to that call it yields itself.

     3. We have come as far as death and burial; but baptism, according to the text, represents also resurrection: “That like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Now, notice that the man who is dead in Christ, and buried in Christ, is also raised in Christ, and this is a special work upon him. All the dead are not raised, but our Lord himself is “the firstfruits of them that slept.” He is the First-begotten from among the dead. Resurrection was a special work upon the body of Christ by which he was raised up, and that work, begun upon the Head, will continue till all the members partake of it, for—

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

As to our soul and spirit, the resurrection has begun upon us. It has not come to our bodies yet, but it will be given to them at the appointed day. For the present a special work has been wrought upon us by which we have been raised up from among the dead. Brethren, if you had been dead and buried, and had been lying one night, say, in Woking Cemetery, and if a divine voice had called you right up from the grave when the silent stars were shining on the open heath— if, I say, you had risen right out from the green mound of turf, what a lonely being you would have been in the vast cemetery amid the stilly night ! How you would sit down on the grave and wait for morning! That is very much your condition with regard to the present evil world. You were once like the rest of the sinners around you, dead in sin, and sleeping in the grave of evil custom. The Lord by his power has called you out of your grave, and now you are alive in the midst of death. There can be no fellowship here for you; for what communion have the living with the dead? The man out there in the cemetery just quickened would find none among all the dead around him with whom he could converse, and you can find no companions in this world There lies a skull, but it sees not from the eyeholes; neither is there speech in its grim mouth. I see a mass of bones lying in yon corner: the living one looks at them, but they cannot hear or speak. Imagine yourself there. All that you would say to the bones would be to ask, “Can these dry bones live?” You would be a foreigner in that home of corruption, and you would haste to get away. That is your condition in the world: God has raised you up from among the dead, from out of the company among whom you had your former conversation. Now, I pray you, do not go and scratch into the earth, to tear up the graves to find a friend there. Who would rend open a coffin and cry, “Come, you must drink with me! You must go to the theatre with me”? No, we dread the idea of association with the dead, and I tremble when I see a professor trying to have communion with worldly men. “Come ye out from among them; be ye separate; touch not the unclean thing.” You know what would happen to you if you were thus raised, and were forced to sit close to a dead body newly taken from the grave. You would cry, “I cannot bear it; I cannot endure it”; you would get to the wind side of the horrid corpse. So with a man that is really alive unto God: deeds of injustice, oppression, or unchastity he cannot endure; for life loathes corruption.

     Notice that, as we are raised up by a special work from among the dead, that rising is by divine power. Christ is brought again “from the dead by the glory of the Father.” What means that? Why did it not say, “by the power of the Father”? Ah, beloved, glory is a grander word; for all the attributes of God are displayed in all their solemn pomp in the raising of Christ from the dead. There was the Lord’s faithfulness; for had he not declared that his soul should not rest in hell, neither should his Holy One see corruption? Was not the love of the Father seen there? I am sure it was a delight to the heart of God to bring back life to the body of his dear Son. And so, when you and I are raised out of our death in sin, it is not merely God’s power, it is not merely God’s wisdom that is seen, it is “the glory of the Father.” Oh, to think that every child of God that has been quickened has been quickened by “the glory of the Father.” It has taken not alone the Holy Spirit, and the work of Jesus, and the work of the Father, but the very “glory of the Father.’ If the tiniest spark of spiritual life has to be created by “the glory of the Father,” what will be the glory of that life when it comes into its full perfection, and we shall be like Christ, and see him as he is! O beloved, value highly the new life which God has given you. Think of it as making you richer than if you had a sea of pearls, greater than if you were descended from the loftiest of princes. There is in you that which it required all the attributes of God to create. He could make a world by power alone, but you must be raised from the dead by “the glory of the Father.”

     Notice next, that this life is entirely new. We are to “walk in newness of life.” The life of a Christian is an entirely different thing from the life of other men, entirely different from his own life before his conversion, and when people try to counterfeit it, they cannot accomplish the task. A person writes you a letter and wants to make you think he is a believer, but within about half-a-dozen sentences there occurs a line which betrays the imposture. The hypocrite has very nearly copied our expressions, but not quite. There is a freemasonry among us, and the outside world watch us a bit, and by-and-by they pick up certain of our signs; but there is a private sign which they can never imitate, and therefore at a certain point they break down. A godless man may pray as much as a Christian, read as much of the Bible as a Christian, and even go beyond us in externals; but there is a secret which he knows not and cannot counterfeit. The life divine is so totally new that the unconverted have no copy to work by. In every Christian it is as new as if he were the very first Christian. Even though in every one it is the image and superscription of Christ, yet there is a milled edge or a something about the real silver that these counterfeits cannot get a hold of. It is a new, a novel, a fresh, a divine thing.

     And, lastly, this life is an active thing. I have often wished that Paul had not been so fast when I have been reading him. His style travels in seven-leagued boots. He does not write like an ordinary man. I beg to tell him that if he had written this text according to proper order, it should run, “Like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should be raised from the dead.” But see; Paul has got over ever so much ground while we are talking: he has reached to “walking.” The walking includes the living, of which it is the sign, and Paul thinks so fast when the Spirit of God is upon him that he has passed beyond the cause to the effect. No sooner do we get the new life than we become active: we do not sit down and say, “I have received a new life: how grateful I ought to be. I will quietly enjoy myself.” Oh dear, no. We have something to do directly we are alive, and we begin walking, and so the Lord keeps us all our lives in his work; he does not allow us to sit down contented with the mere fact that we live, nor does he allow us to spend all our time in examining whether we are alive or no; but he gives us one battle to fight, and then another; he gives us his house to build, his farm to till, his children to nurse, and his sheep to feed. At times we have fierce struggles with our own spirit, and fears lest sin and Satan should prevail, till our life is scarce discerned by itself, but it is always discerned by its acts. The life that is given to those who were dead with Christ is an energetic, forceful life, that is evermore busy for Christ, and would, if it could, move heaven and earth and subdue all things unto him who is its Head.

     This life Paul tells us is an unending one. Once get it, and it will never go from you. “Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more.”

     Next, it is a life which is not under the law or under sin. Christ came under the law when he was here, and he had our sin laid on him, and therefore died; but after he rose again there was no sin laid on him. In his resurrection both the sinner and the Surety are free. What had Christ to do after his rising? To bear any more sin? No, but just to live unto God. That is where you and I are. We have no sin to carry now; it was all laid on Christ. What have we to do? Every time we have the headache, or feel ill, are we to cry out, “This is a punishment for my sin”? Nothing of the kind. Our punishment is all done with, for we have borne the capital sentence, and are dead: our new life must be unto God.

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

I have now to serve him and delight myself in him, and use the power which he gives me of calling others from the dead, saying, “Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee life.” I am not going back to the grave of spiritual death nor to my grave-clothes of sin ; but by divine grace I will still believe in Jesus, and go from strength to strength, not under law, not fearing hell, nor hoping to merit heaven, but as a new creature, loving because loved, living for Christ because Christ lives in me, rejoicing in glorious hope of that which is yet to be revealed by virtue of my oneness in Christ.

     Poor sinner, you do not know anything about this death and burial,And you never will till you have power to become sons of God, and that he gives to as many as believe on his name. Believe on his name, and it is all yours. Amen and Amen.



Without Christ-Nothing

By / Oct 23

Without Christ-Nothing 

 

“Without me ye can do nothing.” — John xv. 5.

 

THIS is not the language of a man of ordinary mould. No saint, no prophet, no apostle would ever have addressed a company of faithful men, and have said to them, “Without me ye can do nothing.” Had Jesus Christ been, as some say, a good man, and nothing more, such language as this would have been unseemly and inconsistent. Among the virtues of a perfect man we must certainly reckon modesty, but this from a mere man would have been shamelessly immodest. It is impossible to conceive that Jesus of Nazareth, had he not been more than man, could ever have uttered the sentence, “Without me ye can do nothing.” My brethren, I hear in this sentence the voice of that Divine Person without whom was not anything made that was made. The majesty of the words reveals the Godhead of him that uttered them. The “I am” comes out in the personal word “me,” and the claim of all power unveils the Omnipotent. These words mean Godhead or nothing. The spirit in which we listen to this language is that of adoration. Let us bow our heads in solemn worship, and so unite with the multitude before the throne who ascribe power and dominion and might to him that sitteth upon the throne and to the Lamb.

     In this adoring state of mind we shall be the better prepared to enter into the innermost soul of the text. I am not going to preach upon the moral inability of the unregenerate, although in that doctrine I most firmly believe; for that truth did not come in our Lord’s way when he uttered these words, neither did he allude to it. It is quite true that unregenerate men, being without Christ, can do no spiritual action whatever, and can do nothing which is acceptable in the sight of God; but our Lord was not speaking to unregenerate men at all, nor speaking about them. He was surrounded by his apostles, the eleven out of whom Judas had been weeded, and it is to them as branches of the true vine that he says, “Without me ye can do nothing.” The statement refers to such as are in the vine, and even to such as have been pruned, and have for a while been found abiding in the stem, which is Christ; even in such there is an utter incapacity for holy produce if separated from Christ.

     We are not called upon just now to speak upon all forms of doing, as beyond us, but of that form of it which is intended in the text. There are certain forms of doing in which men excel who know little or nothing of Christ; but the text must be viewed in its own connection, and the truth is clear. Believers are here described under the figure of branches in the vine, and the doing alluded to must therefore be the bearing of fruit. I might render it, “Apart from me ye can produce nothing— make nothing, create nothing, bring forth nothing.” The reference, therefore, is to that doing which may be set forth by the fruit of the vine branch, and therefore to those good works and graces of the Spirit which are expected from men who are spiritually united to Christ: it is of these that he says, “Without me ye can do nothing.” Our text is only another form of the fourth verse: “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye except ye abide in me.” I am therefore going to address myself to you who profess to know and love the Lord, and are anxious to glorify his name, and I have to remind you that union to Christ is essential; for only as you are one with him, and continue to be so, can you bring forth the fruits which prove you to be truly his.

     I. Reading again this solemn sentence, “Without me ye can do nothing,” it first of all excites in me AN ASPIRATION OF HOPE. There is something to be done, our religion is to have a grand practical outcome. I have been thinking of Christ as the vine, and of the myriads of branches in him, and my heart has hoped for great things. From such a root what a vintage must come! Being branches in him, what fruit we must produce! There can be nothing scanty or povertystricken in the fruitage of a vine so full of sap. Fruit of the best quality, fruit in the utmost abundance, fruit unrivalled, must be borne by such a vine. That word “do” has music in it. Yes, brethren, Jesus went about about doing good, and, being in him, we shall do good. Everything about him is efficient, practical,— in a word, fruitbearing; and being joined to him much will yet be done by us. We have been saved by the almighty grace of God apart from all doings of our own, and now that we are saved we long to do something in return: we feel a high ambition to be of some use and service to our great Lord and Master. The text, even though there be a negative in it, yet raises in our soul the hope that ere we go hence and be no more we may even here on earth do something for Christ.

     Beloved, there is the ambition and hope before us of doing something in the way of glorifying God by bringing forth the fruits of holiness, peace, and love. We would adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by love unfeigned, by every good and holy work we would show forth the praises of our God. Apart from the Lord Jesus we know we cannot be holy; but joined unto him we overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil, and walk with garments unspotted from the world. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, and all manner of holy conversation. For none of these things are we equal in and of ourselves, and yet by faith we say with Paul, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me.” We may be adorned with plentiful clusters, we may cause the Saviour to have joy in us that our joy may be full: great possibilities are before us.

     We aspire not only to produce fruit in ourselves, but to bear much fruit in the conversion of others, even as Paul desired concerning the Romans, that he might have fruit among them. In this matter we can do nothing whatever alone; but being united unto Christ we bring forth increase unto the Lord. Our Lord Jesus said, “The works that I do shall ye do also, and greater works than these shall ye do, because I go unto the Father.” Brethren, a hope springs up in our bosom that we may each one of us bring many souls to Jesus. Not because we have any power in ourselves, but because we are united to Jesus we joyfully hope to bring forth fruit in the way of leading others to the knowledge of the gospel.

     My soul takes fire of hope, and I say to myself, If it be so, all these branches, and all alive, how much fruit of further blessing will ripen for this poor world. Men shall be blessed in us because we are blessed in Christ. What must be the influence of ten thousand godly examples! What must be the influence upon our country of thousands of Christian men and women practically advancing love, peace, justice, virtue, holiness! And if each one is seeking to bring others to Christ what numerous conversions there must be, and how largely must the church of God be increased. Do you not know that if there were only ten thousand real Christians in the world, yet if each one of these brought one other to Christ every year it would not need twenty years to accomplish the conversion of the entire population of the globe? This is a simple sum in arithmetic which any schoolboy can work out. Certainly it looks a small thing that each one should bring another to the Lord; and surely if we are one with him we may hope to see it done. So I sit me down and dream right comfortably, according to the promise, “Your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” See these thousands of branches, proceeding from such a stem as Christ Jesus, and with such sap as the Holy Ghost flowing through them; why, surely, this vine must soon clothe the mountains with its verdure, and there shall not remain a single barren rock unadorned with the blessed foliage! Then shall the mountains drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt. Not because of any natural fertility in the branches, but because of their glorious root, and stem, and sap, each one shall bear full clusters, and each fruitful bough shall run over the wall. Beloved friends in Christ, have you not strong desires to see some such consummation? Do you not long to take a share in the high enterprise of winning the world to Christ? Oh, ye that are young and full of spirits, do you not long to press to the front of this great crusade? Our souls pine to see the knowledge of the Lord covering the earth as the waters cover the sea. It is glad tidings to us that, joined unto Christ, we can do something in this great business, something upon which the Lord will smile, something which shall redound to the glory of his name. We are not condemned to inaction; we are not denied the joy of service, the superior blessedness of giving and of doing: the Lord hath chosen us and ordained us to go and bring forth fruit, fruit that shall remain. This is the aspiration which rises in our soul; the Lord grant that we may see it take actual form in our lives.

     II. But now, in the second place, there passes through my heart a shudder,— A SHUDDER OF FEAR. Albeit I glow and burn with strong desire, and rise upon the wing of a mighty ambition to do something great for Christ, yet I read the text, and a sudden trembling takes hold upon me. “Without me”:— it is possible, then, that I may be without Christ, and so may be utterly incapacitated for all good. Come, friends, I want you to feel, even though it cast a cold chill over you, that you may possibly be “without Christ.” I would have you feel it in the very marrow of your bones, yea, in the centre of your hearts. You profess to be in Christ; but are you so? The large majority of those to whom I speak this morning are visible members of the visible church of Christ; but what if you should not be so in him as to bring forth fruit? Evidently there are branches which in a certain sense are in the vine, and yet bring forth no fruit! It is written, “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away.” Yes, you are a member, perhaps an elder, perhaps a deacon, possibly a minister, and so you are in the vine; but are you bringing forth the fruits of holiness? Are you consecrated? Are you endeavouring to bring others to Jesus Christ? Or is your profession a thing apart from a holy life, and devoid of all influence upon others? Does it give you a name among the people of God and nothing more? Say, is it a mere natural association with the church, or is it a living, supernatural union with Christ? Let the thought go through you and prostrate you before him who looks down from heaven upon you, and lifts his pierced hand, and cries, “Without me ye can do nothing.” My friend, if you are without Christ, what is the use of carrying on that Bible-class; for you can do nothing? What is the use of my coming to this pulpit if I am without Christ? What is the use of your going down into the Sunday-school this afternoon if, after all, you are without Christ? Unless we have the Lord Jesus ourselves we cannot take him to others. Unless within us we have the living water springing up unto eternal life, we cannot overflow so that out of our midst shall flow rivers of living water.

     I will put the thought another way,— What if you should be in Christ, and not so in him as to abide in him? It appears from our Lord’s words that some branches in him are cast forth and are withered. “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered.” Some who are called by his name, and reckoned among his disciples, whose names are heard whenever the muster-roll of the church is read, yet do not continue in him. My hearer, what if it should happen that you are only in Christ on a Sunday, but in the world all the week! What if you are only in Christ at the communion table, or at the prayermeeting, or at certain periods of devotion? What if you are off and on with Christ! What if you play fast and loose with the Lord! What if you are an outside saint and an inside devil! Ah me, what will come of such conduct as this? And yet some persist in attempting to hold an intermittent communion with Christ; in Christ to-day because it is the Sabbath; out of Christ to-morrow because it is the market, and obedience to Christ might be inconvenient when they buy and sell. This will not do. We must be so in Christ as to be always in him, or else we are not living branches of the living vine, and we cannot produce fruit. If there were such a thing as a vine branch that was only occasionally joined to the stem, would you expect it to yield a cluster to the husbandman? So neither can you if you are off and on with Christ. You can do nothing if there be not constant union.

     One year when I was travelling towards my usual winter resting-place I halted at Marseilles, and there was overtaken by great pain. In my room in the hotel I found it cold, and so I asked for a fire. I was sitting in a very desponding mood, when suddenly the tears came to my eyes, as if smitten with a great sorrow. I shall never forget the thoughts which stirred my heart. The porter came in to light the fire. He had in his hand a bundle of twigs. I called to him to let me look at it. He was about to push it into the stove as fuel with which to kindle the fire. As I took the bundle into my hand, I found it was made of vine branches— branches that had been cut off now that the pruning time was come. Ah me, I thought, will this be my portion? Here I am, away from home, unable to bear fruit, as I love to do. Shall I end with this as my portion? Shall I be gathered for the fire? Those vine shoots were parts of a good vine, no doubt— branches that once looked fair and green; but now they were fuel for the flame. They had been cut off and cast off as useless things, and then men gathered them and tied them in bundles, and they were ignobly thrust into the fire. What a picture! There goes a bundle of ministers into the fire! There is a bundle of elders! There’s another bundle of deacons, a bundle of church members, a bundle of Sunday-school teachers! “Men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” Dear brothers and sisters, shall this be the lot of any of us who have named the name of Christ? Well did I say a shudder may go through us as we listen to those words, “without me.” Our end without Christ will be terrible indeed. First, no fruit; then no life; and at last no place among the saints, no existence in the church of God. Without Christ we do nothing, we are nothing, we are worse than nothing. This is the condition of the heathen now, and it was our own condition once; God forbid that we should find it to be our condition now— “without Christ, having no hope!” Here is grave cause for heart-searching, and I leave the matter with you to that end.

     III. Having come so far in our second head, under the third I behold A VISION OF TOTAL FAILURE. Without me,” says the text, “ye can do nothing”— ye can produce nothing. The visible church of Christ has tried this experiment a great many times already, and always with the same result. Separated from Christ, his church can do nothing which she was formed to do. She is sent into the world upon a high enterprise, with noble aims before her, and grand forces at her disposal; but if she could cease from communion with Christ she would become wholly incapable.

     Now what are the outward signs of any community being apart from Christ? Answer, first, It may be seen in a ministry without Christ in its doctrine. This we have seen ourselves. Woe worth the day that it is so! History tells us that not only in the Romish church and the Anglican church, but among the Nonconformist churches, Christ has been at times forgotten. Not only among Unitarians, but among Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, all round, Jesus has been dishonoured, Attempts have been made to do something without Christ as the truth to be preached. Ah me, what folly it is! They preach up intellectualism, and hope that this will be the great power of God; but it is not. “Surely,” say they, “novelties of thought and refinements of speech will attract and win! The preachers aspire to be leaders of thought; will they not command the multitude and charm the intelligent? Add music and architecture, and what is to hinder success?” Many a young minister has given up his whole mind to this— to try and be exceedingly refined and intellectual; and what has he done with these showy means? The sum total is expressed in the text— “Nothing”: “Without me ye can do nothing.” What emptiness this folly has created: when the pulpit is without Christ the pews are soon without people. I knew a chapel where an eminent divine was to be heard for years. A converted Jew coming to London to visit a friend, set out on Sunday morning to find a place of Christian worship, and he chanced to enter the chapel of this eminent divine. When he came back he said that he feared he had made a mistake; he had turned into a building which he hoped was a Christian place of assembly; but as he had not heard the name of Jesus all the morning, he thought perhaps he had fallen in with some other religionists. I fear that many modern sermons might just as fairly have been delivered in a Mahometan mosque as in a Christian church. We have too many preachers of whom we might complain, “they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.” Christianity without Christ is a strange thing indeed. And what comes of it where it is held up to the people? Why, by-and-by there are not enough people to support the ministry; empty benches are plentiful, and the thing gets pretty nearly wound up. Blessed be God for it! I am heartily glad that without Christ these pretended ministers cannot prosper. Leave Christ out of the preaching and you shall do nothing. Only advertize it all over London, Mr. Baker, that you are making bread without flour; put it in every paper, “Bread without flour;” and you may soon shut up your shop, for your customers will hurry off to other tradesmen. Somehow there is a strange prejudice in people’s minds in favour of bread made of flour, and there is also an unaccountable prejudice in the human mind which makes men think that if there be a gospel it must have Christ in it. A sermon without Christ as its beginning, middle, and end is a mistake in conception and a crime in execution. However grand the language it will be merely much-ado-about-nothing if Christ be not there. Ay, and I mean by Christ not merely his example and the ethical precepts of his teaching, but his atoning blood, his wondrous satisfaction made for human sin, and the grand doctrine of “believe and live.” If “Life for a look at the Crucified One” be obscured, all is dark; if justification by faith be not set in the very forefront in the full blaze of light, nothing can be accomplished. Without Christ in the doctrine ye shall do nothing.

     Further, without acknowledging always the absolute supremacy of Christ we shall do nothing. Jesus is much complimented nowadays; but he is not submitted to as absolute Lord. I hear many pretty things about Christ from meu who reject his gospel. “Lives of Christ” we have in any quantity. Oh for one which would set him forth in his glory as God, as Head of the church and Lord of all. I should greatly like to see a “Life of Christ” written by one who knew him by communion with him and by reverently sitting at his feet. Most of the pretty things about Jesus which I read nowadays seem to have been written by persons who have seen him through a telescope at a great distance, and know him “according to Matthew,” but not according to personal fellowship. Oh for a “Life of Christ” by Samuel Rutherford or George Herbert, or by some other sweet spirit to whom the everblessed One is as a familiar friend. Certain modern praises of Jesus are written upon the theory that, on the whole, the Saviour has given us a religion that is tolerably suited to the enlightenment of the nineteenth century, and may be allowed to last a little longer. Jesus is commended by these critics, and somewhat admired as preferable to most teachers; but he is by no means to be blindly followed. It is fortunate for Jesus that he commends himself to the “best thought” and ripest culture of the period; for, if he had not done so, these wise gentlemen would have exposed him as being behind the times. Of course they have every now and then to rectify certain of his dogmas, especially such as justification by faith, or atonement, or the doctrine of election— these are old-fashioned things, which belong to an older and less enlightened period, and therefore they adapt them by tearing out their real meaning. The doctrines of grace, according to the infallible critics of the period, are out of date— nobody believes them now, and so they settle off old-fashioned believers as non-existent. Christ is rectified and squared, and his garment without seam is taken off, and he is dressed out in proper style, as by a West-End clothier; then he is introduced to us as a remarkable teacher, and we are advised to accept him as far as he goes. For the present the wise ones tolerate Jesus; but there is no telling what is to come: the progress of this age is so astonishing that it is just possible we shall before long leave Christ and Christianity behind. Now, what will come of this foolish wisdom? Nothing but delusions, mischief, infidelity, anarchy, and all manner of imaginable and unimaginable ills. The fact is, if you do not acknowledge Christ to be all, you have virtually left him out, and are without him. We must preach the gospel, because Christ has revealed it. “Thus saith the Lord,” is to be our logic. We must preach the gospel as ambassadors delivering their message; that is to say, in the King’s name, by an authority not their own. We preach our doctrines, not because we consider that they are convenient and profitable, but because Christ has commanded us to proclaim them. We believe the doctrines of grace, not because the enlightenment of the age sets its wonderful imprimatur upon them, but because they are true and are the voice of God. Age or no age has nothing to do with us. The world hates Christ and must hate him: if it would boldly denounce Christ it would be to us a more hopeful sign than its deceitful Judas kiss. We keep simply to this,— the Lord hath said it, and we care not who approves or disapproves. Jesus is God and Head of the church, and we must do what he bids us, and say what he tells us: if we fail in this, nothing of good will come of it. If the church gets back to her loyalty she shall see what her Lord will do; but without Christ as absolute Lord, infallible Teacher, and honoured King, all must be failure even to the end.

     Go a little further: you may have sound doctrine, and yet do nothing unless you have Christ in your spirit. I have known all the doctrines of grace to be unmistakably preached, and yet there have been no conversions; for this reason, that they were not expected and scarcely desired. In former years many orthodox preachers thought it to be their sole duty to comfort and confirm the godly few who by dint of great perseverance found out the holes and corners in which they prophesied. These brethren spoke of sinners as of people whom God might possibly gather in if he thought fit to do so; but they did not care much whether he did so or not. As to weeping over sinners as Christ wept over Jerusalem; as to venturing to invite them to Christ as the Lord did when he stretched out his hands all the day long; as to lamenting with Jeremiah over a perishing people, they had no sympathy with such emotions, and feared that they savoured of Arminianism. Both preacher and congregation were cased in a hard shell, and lived as if their own salvation was the sole design of their existence. If anybody did grow zealous and seek conversions, straightway they said he was indiscreet, or conceited. When a church falls into this condition it is, as to its spirit, “without Christ.” What comes of it? Some of you know by your own observation what does come of it. The comfortable corporation exists and grows for a little while, but it comes to nothing in the long run; and so it must: there can be no fruit-bearing where there is not the spirit of Christ as well as the doctrine of Christ. Except the spirit of the Lord rests upon you, causing you to agonize for the salvation of men even as Jesus did, ye can do nothing.

     But above all things we must have Christ with us in the power of his actual presence. Do we always think of this— “Without me ye can do nothing”? We are going out this afternoon to teach the young; shall we be quite sure to take Christ with us? or on the road shall we suddenly stop and say, “I am without my Master, and I must not dare to go another step”? The abiding consciousness of the love of Christ in our soul is the essential element of our strength. We can no more convert a sinner without Christ than we could light up new stars in the sky. Power to change the human will, power to enlighten the intellect as to the things of God, and to influence the mind as to repentance and faith, must come entirely from the Most High. Do we feel that? or do we put our thoughts together for an address, and say, “Now, that is a strong point, and that will produce effect”; and do we rest there? If so, we can do nothing at all. The power lies with the Master, not with the servant; the might is in the hand, not in the weapon. We must have Christ in these pews and in these aisles, and in this pulpit, and Christ down in our Sunday-school, and Christ at the street corner when we stand up there to talk of him, and we must feel that he is with us even to the end of the world, or we shall do nothing.

     We have, then, before us a vision of total failure if we attempt in any way to do without Christ. He says, “Without me ye can do nothing:” it is in the doing that the failure is most conspicuous. You may talk a good deal without him; you may hold congresses, and conferences, and conventions; but doing is another matter. Without Jesus you can talk any quantity; but without him you can do nothing. The most eloquent discourse without him will be all a bottle of smoke. You shall lay your plans, and arrange your machinery, and start your schemes; but without the Lord you will do nothing. Immeasurable cloudland of proposals and not a spot of solid doing large enough for a dove’s foot to rest on— such shall be the end of all! You may have all the money that generosity can lavish, all the learning that your universities can supply, and all the oratory that the most gifted can lay at your feet; but “without me,” saith Christ, “ye can do nothing.” Fuss, flare, fireworks, and failure; that is the end of it. “Without me ye can do nothing.” Let me repeat those words again, “Do nothing.” “Do nothing,” and the world dying around us! Africa in darkness! China perishing! Hindostan sunk in superstition, and a church which can do nothing! No bread to be handed out to the hungry, and the multitude fainting and dying! The rock to be smitten and the water of life to leap out for the thirsty, but not a drop forthcoming, because Jesus is not there. Ministers, evangelists, churches, salvation armies, the world dies for want of you, and yet “ye can do nothing” if your Lord is away. The age shall advance in discovery, and men of science shall do their little best, but you shall do “nothing” without Christ, absolutely nothing! You shall not proceed a single inch upon your toilsome way, though you row till the oars snap with the strain; you shall be drifted back by winds and currents unless you take Jesus into the ship. Remember that all the while the great Husbandman is watching you, for his eye is on every vine-branch. He sees that you are producing no grapes, and he is coming round with that sharp knife of his, cutting here and there! What must become of you who produce nothing? It makes one’s very soul to curdle within him to think that we should live to do nothing. Yet I fear that thousands of Christians get no further than this; they are not immoral, dishonest, or profane; but they do nothing. They think of what they would like to do, and they plan and they propose; but they do nothing. There are buds in plenty, but not a single grape is produced and all because they do not get into that vital, overflowing, effectual communion with Christ which would fill them with life, and constrain them to bring forth fruit unto the glory of God. There is a vision, then, of the failure all along the line if we try to do without Christ.

     IV. But now, fourthly, I hear A VOICE OF WISDOM, a still small voice which speaks out of the text, and says to us who are in Christ, let us acknowledge this. Down on your knees, bow your mouths in the dust and say, “Lord, it is true: without thee we can do nothing, nothing whatever that is good and acceptable in the sight of God. We have not ability of ourselves to think anything of ourselves, but our ability is of God.” Now, do not speak thus, as if you paid a compliment which orthodoxy requires you to make; but from the deeps of your soul, smitten with an absolute self-despair, own the truth unto God. “To will is present with me, but how to perform that which I would I find not.” Lord, I am a good-for-nothing do-nothing, a fruitless, barren, dry, rotten branch without thee, and this I feel in my inmost soul. Be not far from me, but quicken me by thy presence.

     Next, let us pray. If without Christ we can do nothing, let us cry to him that we may never be without him. Let us with strong crying and tears entreat his abiding presence. He comes to those who seek him: let us never cease seeking. In conscious fellowship with him, let us plead that the fellowship should be unbroken evermore. Let us pray that we may be so knit and joined to Jesus that we may be one spirit with him, never to be separated from him again. Master and Lord, let the life floods of thy grace never cease to flow into us, for we know that we must be thus supplied or we can produce nothing. Brethren, let us have much more prayer than has been usual among us. Prayer is appointed to convey the blessings God ordains to give; let us constantly use the appointed means, and may the result be ever increasing from day to day.

     Next, let us personally cleave to Jesus. Let us not attempt a life of separation; for that were to seek the living among the dead. Do not let us depart from him for a single minute. Would you like to be caught at any one second of your life in a condition in which you could do nothing? I must confess I should not like to be in that state— incapable of defence against my enemies, or of service for my Lord. If an awakened one should come before you under distress of mind, and you should feel quite incapable of doing any good to him, what a sad perplexity. Or if you did not feel incapable, and yet should really be so, and what if you should therefore talk on in a religious way, but know no power in it; would it not be a sad thing? May you never be in such a state that you would be a do-nothing, with opportunities afforded and yet without strength to utilize them! If you are divided from Christ you are divided from the possibility of doing good; cling, therefore, to the Saviour with your whole might, and let nothing take you off from him; no, not for an hour.

     Heartily submit yourselves, also, dear friends, to the Lord’s headship and leadership, and ask to do everything in his style and way. He will not be with you unless you accept him as your Master. There must be no quarrel about supremacy, but you must yield yourself up absolutely to him, to be, to do, or to suffer, according to his will. When it is wholly so he will be with you, and you shall do everything that is required of you. Wonderful things will the Lord perform through you when once he is your all in all. Will we not have it so?

     Once more; joyfully believe in him. Though without him you can do nothing, yet with him all things are possible. Omnipotence is in that man who has Christ in him. Weakness itself you may be, but you shall learn to glory in that weakness because the power of Christ doth rest upon you if your union and communion with Christ are continually kept up. Oh for a grand confidence in Christ! We have not believed in him yet up to the measure of the hem of his garment; for even that faith made the sick woman whole. Oh to believe up to the measure of his infinite Deity! Oh for the splendour of the faith which measures itself by the Christ in whom it trusts! May God bring us there, then shall we bring forth much fruit to the glory of his name.

     V. And now, lastly. While I was listening to my text as a child puts a shell to its ear and listens till it hears the deep sea rolling in its windings, I heard within my text A SONG OF CONTENT. “Without me ye can do nothing.” My heart said, “Lord, what is there that I want to do without thee? There is no pain in this thought to me. If I can do without thee I am sorry to possess so dangerous a power. I am happy to be deprived of all strength except that which comes from thee. It charms, it exhilarates, and delights my soul to think that thou art my all. Thou hast made me penniless as to all wealth of my own, that I might dip my hand into thy treasury; thou hast taken all power away from every sinew and muscle of mine, that I may rest on thy bosom.” “Without me ye can do nothing.” Be it so. Brethren, are you not all agreed? Do you wish to have it altered, any of you that love his dear name? I am sure you do not; for suppose, dear friends, we could do something without Christ, then he would not have the glory of it. Who wishes that? There would be little crowns for our poor little heads, for we should have done something without him; but now there is one great crown for that dear head which once was girt with thorns; for all his saints put together cannot do anything without him. The goodly fellowship of the apostles, the noble army of martyrs, and the triumphant host of the redeemed by blood, all put together, can do nothing without Jesus. Let him be crowned with majesty who worketh in us both to will and to do of his own good pleasure. For our own sakes, for our Lord’s sake, we are glad that it is so. All things are more ours by being his; and if our fruit is his rather than our own, it is none the less but all the more ours. Is not this rare music for a holy ear?

     I feel so glad that without Christ we can do nothing because I fear that if the church could do something without Christ she would try to live without him. If she could teach the school and bring the children to salvation without Christ, I am afraid Christ would never go into a Sunday-school again. If we could preach successfully without Jesus, I suspect that the Lord Jesus Christ would seldom stand on high among the people again. If our Christian literature could bless men without Christ, I am afraid we should set the printing-press going, and never think about the crucified One in the matter. If there could be work done by the church without Jesus, there would be rooms into which he would never be invited; and these would soon become a sort of Blue Beard’s chambers, full of horror. A something that we could do without Christ! Why the mass of the church would get to working that machinery tremendously, and all the rest would be neglected, and so it is a blessed thing for the whole church that she must have Christ everywhere.

     “Without me ye can do nothing.” As I listened to the song within these words I began to laugh: I wonder if you will laugh too. It was to myself I laughed, like Abraham of old. I thought of those who are going to destroy the orthodox doctrine from off the face of the earth. How they boast of the decline and death of old-fashioned evangelism. I have read once or twice that I am the last of the Puritans, the race is all dying out. To this I demur: I am willing to be esteemed last in merit, but not last as ending the race. There are many others who are steadfast in the faith. They say our old theology is decaying, and that nobody believes it. It is all a lie; but wise men say so, and therefore we are bound to consider ourselves obsolete and extinct. We are, in their esteem, as much out of date as antediluvians would be could they walk down our streets. Yes, they are going to quench our coal and blot us out from Israel. Newspapers and reviews and the general intelligence of the age all join to dance upon our graves. Put on your night-caps, ye good people of the evangelical order, and go home to bed and sleep the sleep of the righteous, for the end of you is come. Thus say the Philistines, but the armies of the Lord think not so. The adversaries exult exceedingly; but Christ is not with them. They know very little about him, they do not work in his spirit, nor cry him up, nor extol the gospel of his precious blood, and so I believe that when they have done their little best it will come to nothing. “Without me ye can do nothing if this be true of apostles, much more of opposers! If his friends can do nothing without him, I am sure his foes can do nothing against him. If they that follow his steps and lie in his bosom can do nothing without him, I am sure his adversaries cannot, and so I laughed at their laughter and smiled at their confusion. I laughed, too, because I recollected a story of a New England service when the pastor one afternoon was preaching in his own solemn way, and the good people were listening or sleeping, as their minds inclined. It was a substantial edifice wherein they assembled, fit to outlive an earthquake. All went on peacefully in the meeting-house that afternoon till suddenly a lunatic started up, denounced the minister, and declared that he would at once pull down the meeting-house about their ears. Taking hold of one of the pillars of the gallery, this newly-announced Samson repeated his threatening. Everybody rose; the women were ready to faint; the men began to rush to the door, and there was danger that the people would be trodden on as they rushed down the aisles. There was about to be a great tumult; no one could see the end of it; when suddenly one cool brother sitting near the pulpit produced a calm by a single sentence. “Let him try!” was the stern sarcasm which hushed the tempest. Even so to-day the enemy is about to disprove the gospel and crush out the doctrines of grace. Are you distressed, alarmed, astounded? So far from that, my reply to the adversary’s boast that he will pull down the pillars of our Zion is this only,— LET HIM TRY! Amen.



Welcome! Welcome!

By / Oct 16

Welcome! Welcome!

 

“And the people, when they knew it, followed him: and he received them, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing.”— Luke ix. 11.

 

MY subject has been suggested to me by the rendering of this passage given in the Revised Version, where we read: “But the multitudes perceiving it, followed him; and he welcomed them.” The difference lies, you see, between the words “he received them” and “he welcomed them.” The new version is an instructive improvement, of which we will at once make evangelical use.

     The multitude perceived that Jesus was departing, and began to value his presence all the more, because they feared the loss of it. They could not tell where he might go, nor for how long, and they could not afford to part with him: therefore no sooner did they see the boat leave with him, than, watching the direction in which it was steered, they hastened along the shore to overtake him at his landing. They were not content to walk, but they ran afoot, and as they darted through the first village the people enquired the reason of this rush: they were informed that the great prophet was crossing the sea to the other shore; they joined in the pursuit, and the running company was increased. When they reached the next town there was quite a stir, as the citizens heard the crowd tramping through the gate and along the streets; and again the enquiry was heard, “What means this eager, anxious throng?” Again the crowd increased, and on they went hurrying as hard as they could go, till they actually reached the shore before the vessel which carried Jesus. As for the Master, though he had taken ship on purpose to be quiet and alone, he exhibited no signs of anger at their intrusion: he did not rebuke them as though they were rude and troublesome; but we are told that “he welcomed them.” Had he been like ourselves, he would have regarded them as most unwelcome; but in the graciousness of his heart he did not think them so; but honestly and heartily welcomed them. Now, if our Lord welcomed people at that inconvenient time, we might safely infer that he will welcome them at all times; but we are not left to draw inferences; for we find all through his life that he always received sinners, and never rejected any one. Our Lord kept open house as long as he was here. It might always have been said of him, “This man receiveth and welcometh sinners.” His motto was, “Whosoever will, let him come.” If any desired to come nearer than being mere hearers, and would join the band of disciples, he was always ready to receive them. If many did not enter into the closest intimacy of his heart it was because they were themselves unable to come, and not because he shut them out. Publicans and sinners drew near unto him; the very look of him was an invitation, his finger beckoned, his eye persuaded, his outstretched arms entreated, his whole self attracted all men unto him. At the door of his love there lay no growling dog of morose suspicion, neither had he placed there the porter of stern rebuke, but the door was set wide open, and over the portal was written the words, “COME AND WELCOME. That is the subject of this morning’s discourse, my earnest desire being that some who have been afraid to approach him maybe induced to come at once by learning how freely he welcomes all comers.

     First, we shall dwell upon the fact that Jesus welcomes all who come to him; secondly, we shall use it as an encouragement to all seeking souls; and, thirdly, we shall employ it as a lesson, teaching those of us who are Lis disciples how to treat those who desire to see Jesus.

     I. First, may the Holy Spirit help us while we dwell upon THE FACT that Jesus welcomed those who sought him.

     We observe, first, that our Lord received all comers at all times. The time mentioned in our text was the most inconvenient possible. He was seeking rest for his disciples, who had gone through the various towns and villages preaching and working miracles; they were a good deal elated at their success, and it was needful that they should have a little quiet retirement to think matters over, and to come down into a calm state of mind. Moreover, they were weary: for they were so thronged by the people that they had not time even for needful refreshment, and rest was, therefore, absolutely requisite, lest these few men, who were in fact the hope of the church and of the world, should die of exhaustion. The Master put them into a ship that they might sail away and find retirement in a desert place. Rest was absolutely needful to the overwrought workers. A great sorrow was on them also, for John had been beheaded, and it was meet that they should solace their grief by a short retirement. At this time, too, our blessed Lord desired obscurity; for Herod was enquiring for him; and even when that delightful king was in his best mood he was not one whose near acquaintance anyone would wish to cultivate. He might, perhaps, have listened to Jesus as he listened to John; but he would have sought his life as soon as he had gratified his curiosity, or another Herodias would have goaded him on to murder the faithful preacher who made the palace too hot for the wanton. Our Lord’s time was not yet come, either to be exhibited in a royal court, or to be slain as a royal victim; and therefore he sought a desert place for a little while. It was most inconvenient, therefore, to be followed by so great a crowd. Were the workers to have no rest? Could there be no retirement afforded, especially at a time when it was so necessary? Is it not wonderful that under such circumstances our blessed Lord should welcome the insatiable throng?

     I think, too, that the Master desired just then to hold a conference with his apostles as to the work they had done, and the future which was opening up before them. Peradventure he willed to set apart a season for special prayer with them. Before any great effort, we read that he retired to pray, and so, depend upon it, after any great enterprise he would again seek private prayer. It would naturally occur to him to rake in the good seed which the twelve had so successfully scattered. But peace and rest he must not have, for the multitudes are on the beach before he can set foot thereon. The apostolic conference was broken in upon, and turned into a great camp-meeting. The Master and his disciples are not allowed to get alone even to hold high and solemn discourse upon the affairs of his kingdom; but here come the crowds, pell-mell, crushing one upon another, and the Master and his little band find themselves the centre of a great mass of people. Rest, or quiet, or holy discourse are out of the question; preaching, healing, and feeding must fill up every moment till the day is far spent. Our Lord welcomed the throng with a gracious air; full of tenderness, he smiled upon them as a captain smiles upon his soldiers at the muster. He did not lose his patience with them, nor chide them for their ill-manners; but just as if he had asked them to come, and had sent forth his heralds to summon them, he stood ready to receive them. It is wonderful that he did not say, “Go your way for this time: when I have a more convenient season I will send for you.” I have heard those words somewhere, but they were not used by our Lord: they were used by one at the door of whose conscience the gracious Lord had been knocking. If there are any put-offs, they are not on Christ’s side, but on ours. Oh sad, that ever men should ask for delay when Jesus even at the most inconvenient season is ready to welcome them.

     Let me put the truth before some of you here who as yet are unsaved. Dome to Jesus when you will, it shall always be at the right time. Times consecrated to other purposes shall yet afford you welcome. The saints of God gather at the communion table, and the spreading of that table is not intended to be a means of grace to the unconverted: on the contrary, it is fenced and guarded, and reserved for believers only, and none have any right there but those who are in Christ. The object of the Lord’s supper is not conversion, but edification: it is intended that as many as are alive unto God should there be fed, that those emblems should remind them of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, which are the food of their spiritual life. Yet if any of you should be looking on— ay, and even if you should have intruded there without a right to come, yet if you seek the Saviour he will not be so occupied with the fellowship of saints as to refuse a sinner. His heart will not be so taken up with the near, and dear, and choice love of his own favoured ones as to shut his ear to the cry of the humble and contrite. If thou seek him, even when thou art intruding, he will be found of thee.

     Peradventure, also, I address some who have outlived revivals. You remember precious seasons when the power of God was present to heal men, and many were to your knowledge healed. You sat side by side with some who sought and found salvation in Christ: you did not seek, and you did not find; or if, perhaps, you exhibited some emotion, yet your search after Christ was very faint and dilatory, and consequently you did not meet with him to the joy and peace of your spirit. Now that the revival is over, and the flood-tide of grace seems to have ebbed out, you have come, like the dying year, to a time when the harvest is past and the summer is ended, and you are not saved. Around you blow the fallen leaves, and you yourself do fade as a leaf, but you are not saved. Opportunities of blessing have been plentiful with you, but you are not saved. You are now at the close of the day, and your sun is going down, but you are not saved. Even yet there is hope, for our Lord’s welcome is a long and lasting one. If you be drawn by invisible cords to seek the Saviour, yield to those gentle drawings, for Jesus receives men even down to the shutting of the gate. It may be late, but it is not too late. You may go to Christ at midnight as well as at mid-day, and never will he answer that the door is now shut, so that he cannot rise and give you. Even though the special means of grace may have ended, and the men whom God has blessed have gone elsewhere, yet still come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ; for there never was an hour discovered yet in which Jesus would refuse a sinner that longed for him. Have you never read that text, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me, and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out”? There is no reserve as to the dead hours of night, or the raw hours of the morning. If a soul will but come to Christ, the Lord will never say him nay.

     It may be, dear friend, that you think the present would be a very improper time to come to Christ, because you have so lately been plunging into a fearful sin. You say, “Would you have me go blackhanded to Christ, black-hearted to Christ?” Yes, I would have you fly to him at once, even as the manslayer darted off to the city of refuge, with the blood of the slain still warm upon his hand. Do you put it to me as a question suggested by a sort of moral decency— Must I not let an interval pass over me in which I may in a measure wash out the recollection of my present sin? No! I tell thee, no. I rather dread than desire such a false washing as the mere lapse of time can give. Time cannot alter wrong, or make sin less heinous; and if it pacifies the conscience it is an evil peace, a false peace, a peace to be abhorred. Come to Jesus while yet the wounds of thy conscience are bleeding. Come while they are at their worst, neither washed, bound, nor mollified with ointment. When thou art foul is the fittest time for washing; and when thou art altogether undone, and conscious of it, then is the season to hasten away to the great Saviour. When Saul of Tarsus was about to hunt the saints of God, he saw Damascus lying in the plain below, and he himself was ready like a fierce tiger to spring upon it; but there and then Jesus appeared to him, Might he not have said in answer to the voice from heaven, “My Lord, let me go back to Jerusalem and endure a quarantine: let me hide away for months, and then come to thee”? No; but then and there was he converted, though smitten down in the act of persecution. Nothing could seem to be more inconvenient than for Christ to receive him there and then, with the writs upon him for the arrest of the saints; yet the Lord welcomed the persecutor, and he will welcome others in like case. My hearer, I will not try to describe your sin of last night, nor will I make a guess at what you propose to do in sin before to-morrow’s sun has risen; but I will beseech you, as you are, to arise and seek the Saviour. Poor prodigal brother, quit the husks and the swinetrough; quit them now, and without so much as tarrying to wash your hands, go home to your Father, who will wash you and make you white as snow. Tarry for nothing. Delay is your greatest danger. This very moment is the fittest for repentance and faith. Come now; for the Lord waiteth to be gracious. I do not find that when the prodigal reached his father’s house he came there at an unseemly hour. I never knew whether it was the middle of the night, the early morning, or the middle of the day, for the parable does not give us a hint. At any rate, it was at such an hour that the fatted calf was waiting to be killed, a ring and the best robe were ready to be brought forth, and all in the house were ready to keep holiday over him that was lost and found. Sinner, hie away, hie away to Jesus, be the hour whatsoever it may. Our gracious Lord cannot repel you, for even those were welcomed who came at the most inconvenient hour which can be imagined, and since then he has refused none.

     The same truth will now be set in another light by a second remark. Our Lord received all sorts of comers. They were a motley throng, and I fear that few, if any, of them were actuated by any high or exalted motive. No doubt some came to hear, and others came to see, but many came for what they could get. They followed after Jesus because they were sick, and he could heal them. “Ah me!” I have heard it said by awakened ones, “I am afraid, if I came to Christ, I should come from a selfish motive.” Dismiss that fear, which at bottom is self-righteous: what should a beggar come to your house for but to seek an alms? To gain something is the only motive with which a poor sinner can come to Christ. Our fear of hell, or dread of sin, or hope of pardon, must drive or draw us to Christ; in any case, our motive must be to receive at his hands. I confess that I at first came to Christ only and solely for what I could get out of him. It was an apostle who said, “We love him because he first loved us.” I have heard of a love of Jesus which is purely disinterested, and I believe it is possible, and that it may grow up in after Christian life; but at the first we must come to Jesus with an eye to what we shall obtain at his hands; we must come because we cannot do without him. There is no other way of coming. “It is a low motive,” says one. So it may be, but it is a powerful motive for all that. At any rate, Christ exhorts us to come unto him for rest and for salvation, and I do not remember a single exhortation to this ideal, disinterested love. The Lord Jesus welcomed the multitudes though they came from low motives, and so will he welcome us if we do but come to him. If what we come for is something for ourselves, if we come to him that sin may be forgiven, and that we may be made the children of God, our motives will not be disgusting to Christ; but he will welcome us.

     Among those who came to Christ there must have been all sorts of people; but the bulk of them had hurried to him hastily and unprepared. They came afoot, it is said, running. They had not had time to prepare themselves with any kind of decent apparel. As they ran scampering through the villages, each one gathered others at his heels, and they came helter-skelter, a most promiscuous throng. They were not dressed for solemn worship; but there they were, and the Saviour welcomed them. I wonder how long a man would need to spend in preparing himself for coming to Christ. When he had done it all, what would it be worth? Preparation for coming to Christ is simply this:— If you are empty you are prepared to be filled; if you are sick you are prepared to be healed; if you are sinful you are prepared to be forgiven; but all other preparation is quite out of the question. We must not supersede the gospel by the law, and we should be doing so if we told the sinner to make himself fit for mercy. O weary, heavy laden souls, you may come just as you are: hot from the fleshpots of Egypt, grimy from Pharaoh’s iron furnace you may come and sit down and eat the paschal lamb, and though every rag about you be defiled, yet just as you are you may come to the fountain filled by Jesus Christ himself, and wash and be clean. They were a most unprepared lot of people; but Jesus welcomed them.

     Most of them might have been objected to by our Lord if he had chosen to do so, for various reasons,— the most of them on account of their poverty. They had not even a crust among them. They had come away in such a hurry that they had not brought a day’s food with them, and if they came to Christ they must be fed by him within a few hours, or else drop from sheer starvation. They were a ragged regiment, a hungry herd— what some fine folks call the mob, the canaille; but Jesus welcomed them, and never said a syllable about their bare backs and empty pockets. How squeamish some of his servants are; but their Master had no such proud ways about him. I heard one say the other day that he could not attend a place of worship because he had not clothes that were fit to come in. I wonder what sort of garments the Lord Jesus would object to in a coming sinner! I am afraid if he were to see some of you he would hardly think that you are dressed fit for public worship, for you are too smart by half; but I do not believe that he ever rejected a man or woman because of their patched or unfashionable garments. What cared he for court dress, and full dress, and all that nonsense? Our Lord was no flatterer of wealthy lords and handsome ladies. No robe or mantle ever charmed his eye. I never read in Scripture that Jesus said, “Come not between the wind and my nobility, ye unwashed crowds.” Never did he turn away because they were beneath him in condition, and too poor for his notice. Nothing of the sort. It was the jewel of his ministry that “the poor had the gospel preached unto them.” He delighted to see the needy gather about him to be taught and comforted. So, then, none of you can plead poverty. If you have not a penny to bless yourselves with, Christ will bless you without money and without price.

     Many of the multitude might have been rejected on account of disease, for into the crowd the lepers came— disagreeable neighbours anywhere. They certainly had no right to mingle with healthy people, but they did so, for they had hopes of being healed. Men and women were there who laboured under defiling disorders, for which, according to the Jewish law, they ought to have been shut up in a separate house; yet when the crowd came to Christ these poor souls came in among the rest,, and there is no instance of the Lord’s ever sorting them out and saying to any one, “I cannot receive you, for you are a leper.” What a melancholy sight the Master must have seen when he went out into the streets and they there laid the sick in their beds. He always walked in the midst of a great hospital, among the most horrible diseases, yet never once did he turn any case away. O poor souls, sick souls, come to Jesus at once, for my blessed Master will welcome you all, whoever you may be.

     Neither did our Lord ever reject one person on account of youth. His disciples thought that such a preacher as he was ought never to be listened to except by persons of intellect, or at least of ripe years, who could appreciate what he would say; and when the mothers brought the children the disciples were much displeased with them; but our Master welcomed the young, saying, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Dear boys and girls, Jesus will not put you by to wait till you are older,, but he will welcome you just as you are. Ah, how sweetly Jesus is doing this to my knowledge with many little folks. I heard last week of a poor boy who lived near my house. A meeting is held by some of our friends in a cottage, and this boy came one night and said, “Please, sir, may I come in?” The good man of the house answered, “You may if you will wash your face and hands.” “That I will do, sir,” he said; and he soon returned and took his seat. He was an attentive hearer and a devout worshipper. Though only twelve years old he loved the prayer-meeting, and was always there. One evening he said to the leader of the meeting, “Please, sir, may I pray?” and this poor child then poured out his heart before God with such sweetness that he impressed all who listened to him. One night as he went out of the room he shook hands with the good man of the house and said, “Good-bye, sir, perhaps we may not meet again till me meet in heaven.” His words seem prophetic now, for before the next meeting a brewer’s dray passed over him, and his sweet young spirit ascended to Jesus whom he loved so well. What a joy to know that this poor child is now beholding the face of our Father who is in heaven. I am right glad to say that we are continually receiving boys and girls into the church. Child-piety is no rarity among us; we find it no cause of difficulty, but a well-spring of delight. Dear children, do not be afraid to come because you are so little, for Jesus has told the big people that except they receive him as little children they shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. He said also, “They that seek me early shall find me.” Come to him at once.

     There were some in the throng, too, whom Jesus might have rejected because they were too old. Here they come! They can scarcely see their way; they limp, they use crutches, they are deaf, and their limbs are very feeble. Surely, when these poor old souls come to Jesus, he might say to them, “What am I to do with you worn-out old creatures? Go and spend the rest of your days where you spent the first part of them! How dare you think of coming to me when you are baldheaded, feeble, lame, and blind? How can you be soldiers of the cross?” Glory be to his name, our great Captain enlists old men, makes friends with old women, and delights to magnify the greatness of his grace in the salvation of the most infirm. Father William, though it be the eleventh hour with you, our Lord still calls you into his vineyard. Come, and fear not.

     “Well,” say you, “I can understand his receiving both young and old; but surely sin must have led him to refuse a comer.” It was not so. Those who came to Christ were often very sinful; but he received sinners. Did you ever notice that the last person he spoke to before he died was the thief on the cross, and the first person he spoke to when he rose again was Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils? My Lord delights to draw near to the guiltiest of the guilty, to blot out their iniquities, and to receive them into his heart of love, so that I come back to what I said before: our Lord receives all sorts of comers.

     Once more: our Lord receives all with a hearty welcome. He did not merely allow the people to come near, tolerating their presence; but “he welcomed them.” When he saw that they were like sheep without a shepherd his heart was stirred within him, and he at once laid himself out to do them good. The sight of their need aroused his compassion: the deep fountains of his infinite love were broken up at once, and flooded his whole nature, so that “he was moved with compassion.” He proved that he welcomed them by the deeds that he wrought for them. He taught them concerning the kingdom; he healed those that had need of healing; and he fed the whole five thousand. There was not one single exception to this rule, he welcomed every one of them— taught, healed, fed, and smiled on all. He did not single out one, and say, “You, sir, may go your way, I will have nothing to do with you”; but; each one felt that he was welcome. It is just so now. My blessed Master is glad to receive sinners, his bowels yearn over men; ho longs for their salvation; he rejoices when they come to him; ho proves his willingness to receive them by the bounty of his grace towards them; he multiplies his benedictions towards those that trust him; he heaps on his favours; he does all that they want, and grants them exceeding abundantly above all that they ask or even think, and this without a single exception on any ground, or for any reason whatever; for, “Him that cometh to me,” saith he, “I will in no wise cast out.” This is the blessed fact.

     II. Now I come to use this as AN ENCOURAGEMENT. If Jesus Christ when he was here on earth welcomed all that came at all hours, then ho will welcome you, my friend, if you come to him now; for the circumstances are just the same. You are the same sort of person as those whom Jesus used to welcome. They were good-for-nothing bodies; they were persons that were full of need, and could not possibly bring a price with which to purchase his favour. Are you not just like them? Are you a very special sinner? I am sure I could find another special sinner like you whom Jesus has received. I will not go into detail; but I will venture to ask you— Are you a thief?

The dying thief rejoiced to see
In Christ salvation full and free.

Have you been unchaste? David was an adulterer and was pardoned; and Jesus forgave a woman that was a sinner, who therefore loved him much. The untruthful, the unclean, the ungodly are the sort of people that Jesus came to seek and save.

     And then there is the same Saviour. Jesus Christ is the same gracious Pardoner as he was in the days of his flesh. “Why,” say you, “he is in heaven.” Yes, but I never knew anybody lose anything by going to heaven: it is all the other way. Jesus has not lost his tenderness nor his compassion, nor his delight in blessing the sons of men. He is the same Saviour in glory that he was in his humiliation. I invite you to come, dear friend, though you are suffering from the same unfitness as these people were. Come just as you are, and come with the same expectation as they did; for they expected him to work wonders for them, and he did so. Jesus is in the same mind as when he would not condemn the guilty woman, and when he prayed for his murderers: he is still bent upon the one errand of saving men: he still welcomes sinners. Since, then, you are under the same conditions, come, and expect the same result from your coming.

     The welcome that you will receive from Christ, my dear friend, will be as hearty as that which they received. When is it that a man does not make all comers welcome? It may be a person calls for whom he has no liking, and he does not invite him to a meal because he does not want him; he would sooner have his room than his company; but that is not true of our Lord; for he loves his enemies, and seeks his foes. He has abundant love to guilty men, and hears their cry for mercy. So glad is our Lord to see the marriage feast of his love furnished with guests, that he sends out his servants to fetch in highwaymen and vagrants. Sometimes people are not welcome because they come when you have not enough to feed them with. The good housewife murmurs, “I wish they had come some other day.” It is never so with our Master. He has abundant provision; yet there is room, ay, and yet there is food. There is enough in Christ Jesus for all that ever will come to him for salvation. All that the Father giveth him shall come, and there is not one that shall come whom he will send away because there is not due provision made for him. That reason cannot possibly exist when Jesus himself in all his fulness is the covenant provision. Sometimes a host may not welcome an applicant because it would be dangerous to his reputation to entertain him. We should none of us be eager to entertain a thief or a burglar or a murderer in hiding from justice, nor would vagabonds and tramps be our chosen guests, for it would lower our esteem among men. As for our Lord Jesus, his reputation is gone long ago: “He made himself of no reputation,” that he might welcome the disreputable to his house and heart. They sneeringly spread it about the streets, “This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” Yes, his reputation was gone among the Pharisees; but he has a new reputation now, and his great glory is that he cleanses the chief of sinners, and makes them heirs of God. O my trembling hearer, you need not be afraid.

     Sometimes a man who has been hospitable has been known to grow weary of it; for he says, “These people come and eat and drink, and then abuse me.” Jesus has never been hardened by this; his house is open, and his table is furnished still. He foreknew our ill manners, and he has not been surprised by the conduct of any of his guests. He knew they were unworthy; he did not entertain one of them because they deserved it; he did it all because he is infinitely gracious, and delights to do good to the unthankful and to the evil. This is why he keeps his house open still, that those who are ready to perish may come, that the worthless and undeserving may come and participate in the bounties of his grace. Jesus Christ will make you welcome, though society will not own you. Is there any man here that doubts it? My friend, come and try the Lord. There is not on earth a man that dares to say, “I went to Christ, and he cast me away.” You may perambulate hell itself, and never find one who can truthfully say, “I believed in Jesus, and he would not save me.” Come, friend, if he rejects you, you will be the first of his castaways. We will have you up in the Tabernacle and exhibit you as the man that Jesus Christ would not save, and then I will shut up shop, and hold my tongue for ever. I will never dare to preach the gospel again if one comer to Jesus be rejected by him. It never has happened, and never shall. Come and welcome. Jesus welcomed the crowd, and he will welcome you, and he will prove that you are welcome by doing for you what he did for them. He will teach you, teach you concerning the kingdom, teach you repentance, teach you faith; he will teach you so effectually that you shall learn truly, and your heart beneath his teaching shall be changed and sanctified, and you shall become a new creature. More than that, he will heal you. Whatever the disease of your soul may be, only come to my Master and he will banish every plague of doubt, or palsy of fear, or leprosy of sin, or fever of lust. There is no balm in Gilead; but Jesus Christ is the never-failing Physician, and he can make you whole at once. Nor is this all, for he will feed you with the bread of heaven; with better than angels’ meat will he sustain you, and satisfy your heart and mind with all that you can desire.

     Thus I have laboured to encourage you. O that the Spirit of God may give effect to my words.

     III. Thirdly, we use our text as A LESSON. Dear friends, if Jesus Christ welcomes all that come to him, let all of us who are his followers imitate his example, and give a warm welcome to those who seek the Lord. Whatever their motive is, whenever we see people coming to the worship of God, and especially when we see them a little impressed, let us welcome them heartily. It is a grievous sin when strangers come in and find themselves stared at as if they were wild beasts; nobody offers them a seat: they may stand till they drop, but nobody cares an atom about them, and they may come again, and go in and out for the month together, and never a word is spoken to them. I pray you, do not so; but, on the contrary, look out personally for individuals, and try to win them for Jesus. There has been a great wind lately, and it has shaken down much fruit; but windfall fruit is seldom good for much. Billy Bray used to say, “The best fruit is hand-picked,” and I believe the best converts in the world are those for whom loving hearts wait, and pray, and plead. Sometimes after a great sermon, or when there has been a mighty shaking under a revival, many come down who are only windfalls and of very small account; but those whom you win one by one, by caring about them, minding their estate, and watching their growth— these are the best of fruit and well worth storing. Mind, then, this rule: when you go gathering fruit go with a smile. Men are brought to Jesus by cheerfulness far sooner than by gloom. Jesus welcomed men; his looks said, “I am glad to see you.” He seemed to say to the people who flocked after him into his retirement, “I did not invite you at this time, for I desired to be alone; but as you are so earnest and eager after me, I am prepared to do what you desire. You are welcome to all that I can do for you.” In winning souls use an abundance of smiles. Have you not seen in one of our magazines an account of seven people saved by a smile? It is a pretty story. A clergyman passes by a window on his way to church. A baby was being dandled there, and he smiled at the baby, and the baby at him. Another time he passed; the baby was there again, and once more he smiled. Soon baby was taken to the window at the hour when he usually passed. They did not know who the gentleman was; but one day two of the older children followed to see where he went on a Sunday. They followed him to church, and as he preached in a winning way, they told their father and mother, who felt interest enough in their baby’s friend to wish to go. Thus in a short time a godless family that had previously neglected the worship of God was brought to the Saviour because the minister smiled at the baby. I never heard of anybody getting to heaven through frowning at the baby, or at anyone else. Certain wonderfully good persons go through the world as if they were commissioned to impress everybody with the awful solemnity of religion: they resemble a winter’s night without a moon; nobody seems attracted, nor even impressed, by them except in the direction of dislike. I saw a life-buoy the other day covered with luminous paint. How bright it seemed, how suitable to be cast upon the dark sea to help a drowning man! An ordinary lifebuoy he would never see, but this is so bright and luminous that a man must see it. Give me a soul-winner bright with holy joy, for he will be seen by the sorrowing soul, and his help will be accepted. Cover your lives with the luminous paint of cheerfulness, compounded of joy and peace through believing. Smile Christ into mourners’ hearts by God’s grace. It can be done if the Holy Spirit will only give you a lesson.

     Jesus welcomed them, let us warmly welcome all comers. Do not seem to say to them, “You want to be saved, do you?” “Yes.” “You had better mind what you are about: you know there are a great many hypocrites. I am not sure of your sincerity. Do you really want to be saved?” If the seeker cries, “O sir, what must I do to be saved?” do not answer with icy words, “Do not be so excited. Be calm, and let me lay the gospel before you in a clear, didactic manner, for fear you should be deceived. I hope it is all right with you, and that these desires are not mere natural excitement, but are the fruit of the Spirit. Still it is my duty to be faithful and put you to the test.” Why, my dear friend, if you had been in a right state of heart you would have led that man into the kingdom of heaven before you had got half through those cautious remarks. Give him a loving, hearty welcome, and not a cold, suspicious searching. Say, “Do you want to be saved?” “Yes.” “Then come and welcome: believe in the Lord Jesus and he is yours. You want Jesus Christ, do you?” “Yes.” “Come along: he waits to be gracious; he is here present; and all you have to do is to trust in him.

     I put this in a very simple way; but there is very much in it. Jesus, the Master, welcomed sinners; let all his servants wear the livery of love, and set wide open every door for sinners to enter. “But perhaps there is very little good in these who say they are seeking.” The remark is no doubt correct, perhaps there is no good at all in them. What then? Let us welcome them all the same. Did not our Lord receive you when there was no good about you? Should not you also receive such, and set the gospel before them, that God the Holy Spirit may bless them?

     “But some are so poor that if they are received into the Church they will be of no service to it: they will rather be dependent upon its charity than helpful to its funds.” Yes, but these are the sort of people that our Lord used to welcome, and why should not we? It will be an evil day for any church when it despises any class of men. There will come a curse upon a church that looks to men’s garments and purses, and values them according to the guinea stamp. This will never do. Is he a man? Then he has an immortal soul about him. Does he seek the Saviour? Christ bids us encourage him. Is he a sinner? Christ can cleanse him. Is he troubled about his sin? Jesus can give him rest. Let us help him, however loathsome his past life may have been, and however little he may be able to do in return.

     If anyone here wishes to find mercy and cannot find it, I would during the last minute of my discourse try to welcome him. Friend, thou sayest, “How can I be saved!” Have you ever heard the gospel. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved”? “Yes,” say you, “but I do not think I believe aright.” Listen. Here is a verse for you. Get out your New Testament. Look out John v. 24. Turn it down. Turn it down, and read it when you get home. I beg all of you who have not found the Saviour to mark that passage: read it carefully, and keep on reading it over and over again for an hour. Read it over ten thousand times, if need be, for I want you to find salvation through it. I know this text will save any man living, God blessing it to him. Here it is:

     “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life”

What a grand verse! Is there anything in it about believing aright? Not a syllable. Only let a man truly believe and he “hath” (it is not said “shall have”)— he has now “everlasting life.” Mark that,— not a life that will die out in a quarter of a year if. he does not mind,— no, but “hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” Suck at that text, poor soul: salvation lies in it. Believe in Jesus and you are saved. May God help you to believe it by his blessed Spirit, and you shall live unto him henceforth and for ever. Amen.



Whole-Hearted Religion

By / Oct 9

Whole-Hearted Religion

 

“And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them.” — Jeremiah xxxii. 39.

 

THOSE of you who were present last Lord’s-day morning will remember my sermon upon “Mongrel Religion,” in which I dealt with those who feared the Lord and served other gods. Their heart was divided, therefore they were found faulty. They had, as the Hebrew puts it, a heart and a heart,— a heart that went this way and a heart that went the other way, and so as a matter of fact they became, as the prophet saith, as “ a silly dove that hath no heart.” The discourse of this morning is intended to exhibit whole-hearted religion, which is the opposite of the sad mixture which we have so lately denounced. We wish to look upon persons of Caleb’s stamp, who followed the Lord fully, in whom by the grace of God the divided heart has become united, so that with their whole heart they serve the Lord their God.

     Our text is an extract from Jeremiah’s copy of the covenant of grace. The Lord promises to Israel, “They shall be my people, and I will be their God.” And in the fortieth verse he says, “And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.” This, then, is the covenant of grace which God has made with his people, and it is highly suggestive that the first blessing of it relates to the heart; for God when he begins with men does not begin with the outward way, but with the inward spirit. He puts it, “I will give them one heart and one way”: the way is second, the heart comes first. Understand, then, that in all true godliness we must begin with heart-work. It is no use hoping to polish the outside until by degrees you enlighten the interior; nay, but the light must first be placed within, and then, as it shines through, spots on the exterior will be discovered, and will all the more readily be cleansed away. God works not to the centre, but in the centre, and then from the centre into the outer life.

     In reference to the heart, one of the earliest works of divine grace is to unite it in one. Strange to say, I should be equally truthful if I said that one of the first works of grace is to break the heart; but so paradoxical is man that when his heart is unbroken it is divided, and when his heart is broken, then, for the first time, it is united; for a broken heart in every fragment of it mourns over sin, and cries out for mercy. Every shattered particle of a contrite spirit is united in one desire to be reconciled to God. There is no union of the heart with itself till it is broken for sin and from sin. Early in the morning of grace the man comes to himself, and so is restored to the unity of his manhood. The effect of this inner reunion is very salutary. We read of the prodigal, that “when he came to himself,” he said, “I will arise and go to my father.” The heart is united in itself when it is united to the Lord; even as the Lord has said by the mouth of the prophet, “I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart.”

     It is of this unitedness of heart that I shall speak first, and then I shall go on to those other covenant blessings which come after it, according to the text. These are placed after it in order to show its great value, since it is the first step to exceedingly precious blessings.

     First, then, we will consider unitedness of heart:— “I will give them one heart”; secondly, the blessing which immediately arises out of it, consistency of walk,— “I will give them one way.” From these two come the third blessing, “steadfastness of principle,— “that they may fear me for ever”; and consequent upon all this comes personal blessedness,— “for the good of them”: and attendant upon that favour, relative benediction,— “and for the good of their children after them.” Our programme is very extensive, may the Spirit of God help us to fill it up.

     I. We begin, then, at the beginning, with UNITEDNESS OF THE HEART. Our first statement under this head shall be that it is naturally divided. Sin is confusion, and at its entrance it created a Babel, or a confusion, within the heart of man. Until man sinned his nature was one and undivided; but the fall broke him, and destroyed his unity. Within him now there are many voices, many-imaginations, and many devices. Within him there is strife and contention, wars and fightings, which come of his lusts, which struggle with each other, and with his understanding. Observe the contest which is constantly visible between his conscience and his affections. His affections choose that which is evil, while his conscience approves that which is right. The desires go after that which appears to be pleasant, but the judgment warns the mind of its folly; hence a controversy between the two powers of the soul. The lusts crave for that which the intellect condemns; the passions demand that which the reason would deny; the will persists in that which the judgment would forego. The ship of our manhood will not obey the helm; there is a mutiny on board, and those powers which should be underlings strive for the mastery. Man is dragged to and fro by contending forces: conscience draws this way, and the affections drag in the opposite direction. Our propensities and faculties are by nature like the crowd in the Ephesian theatre of whom we read, “Some therefore cried one thing, and some another; for the assembly was confused.” We sin not without some measure of compunction, and we do not quit our sin thoroughly even when we yield to conscience; fur the heart still hankers after that which the conscience disallows. To many a man it is given to admire things that are excellent, and still to delight in things which are abominable. His conscience bids him rise to a pure and noble life, but his baser passions hold him down to that which is earthly and sensual.

     Frequently, too, there is a very great division between a man’s inward knowledge and his outward conduct. Men are often wise in the head and foolish in the hand: they know the right and do the wrong. The law of God is read in their hearing and written upon their memories, and yet it is forgotten in their lives. They are men of great discernment in theory, and yet in their actions they put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter; darkness for light and light for darkness. They sin against the light: “they love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.” Often and often the man is as right as justice herself in his opinions, and clear as the day in his information; and yet he gropes as the blind, and stumbles at noonday as in the night. His knowledge goes one way, and his will another; he knows the consequences of sin, and therefore fears; he perceives the pleasureableness or profit of sin, and therefore presumes. He is sure that he will never be so base as to fall into a certain fault; by-and-by he rushes into it, and defends himself for so doing, till he changes his fickle mind, and then he denounces that which just now he allowed. How can he be right with God when he is not even right with himself?

     All through the carnal man, if you look at him, there is confusion and mischief. We should call that creature a monster which had its head towards the earth and its feet towards heaven, and yet the carnal man lives in that position; he ought to tread the world beneath his feet, but he places it above; while the heaven to which he should aspire he daily spurns! He lets his animal passions, which should be treated as the dogs of his flock, become his lords and masters. He reverses the order of nature, and bids the beast within him have dominion over the spirit. Appetites which in their way are good if they are kept in with bit and bridle are permitted to become evil, because they have unlimited indulgence and are allowed to be the tyrants of the soul. The Ishmael of the flesh mocks at the Isaac of the conscience, and is unreproved. Solomon said, “I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth,” and the same may be seen in the little world within, where appetites rule and grander capacities are placed in servitude. Man is a puzzle, and none can put him together but he that made him at the first. He is a self-contradiction, a house divided against itself, a mystery of iniquity, a maze of folly, a mass of perversity, obstinacy, and contention. Sin has made the heart to be so inwardly divided as to be like the troubled sea which cannot rest; or like a cage of unclean birds, every one fighting its fellow; or like a den of wild beasts which cease not to rend each other. When man cast off the yoke of the One God he fell under bondage to gods many, and lords many, who struggle for supremacy and make the one kingdom into many rival principalities: since sin became natural to man, it became natural that man’s heart should be divided.

     But it must be united — there is the point; and hence the covenant promise, “I will give them one heart.” For, dear friends, in the matters of godliness if our heart be not whole and entire in following after God we cannot meet with acceptance. God never did and never will receive the homage of a divided heart. Alexander, when Darius proposed that the two great monarchs should divide the world, replied that there was only room for one sun in the heavens. What his ambition affirmed that God declareth from the necessity of the case. Since one God fills all things there is no room for another. It is not possible for a heart to be given up to falsehoood and yet to be under the power of truth. It is idle to attempt to serve two such masters as holiness and iniquity. God cannot smile upon an unhallowed compromise, and allow men to bow in the house of Rimmon and yet worship in his holy temple. God will have all or nothing: he will have us only, wholly, altogether, and always his or else he will have nothing to do with us. False gods can bear a divided empire, but the true God cannot have it. You may assemble a parliament of idols, but Jehovah saith, “I am God alone.” It was once proposed to the Roman senate to set up the image of Christ in the Pantheon among the gods, but when they were informed that he would not agree that any worship should be mingled with his own the senate straightway refused him a shrine. In this they acted in a manner consistent with itself; but those are altogether inexcusable “who swear by the Lord and swear by Malcham.” We provoke the Lord to jealousy when we offer him a corner in our souls and allow our vain thoughts to lodge within us. Errors can lie down like sheep in a field, but no error can lie side by side with the lordly lion of the truth. There is no god but God. Jehovah, he is the God! There is one Mediator between God and man— the man Christ Jesus. Whatsoever a man setteth up in his heart as the object of his affections in opposition to God is a vain, a vile, a vicious thing, and that man cannot be accepted of the Lord. Wouldst thou, then, serve God, O man? Him only must thou serve. Wouldst thou bring unto him an offering? Thou must first give him thine heart— thine undivided heart. He cries, “My son, give me thine heart,” and he saith not, “Give me a share of it.” He will not call that house his temple where other things are worshipped as well as himself. Abhorrence, not acceptance, shall fall to the lot of that man who is half-hearted with God. And is not this as it should be? Does not the love of Jesus deserve our whole-hearted love in return? His love, which made him become man, deserves man’s entire homage. His love which led him to the cross deserves that we be crucified to the world for his sake. His love to death demands that we be dead to sin for his sake. His love which now rules all heaven for our sakes deserves our soul, our life, our all. He gave himself for us, his whole self, and we must give our whole hearts to him. In the chapter before us the Lord says, “Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul.” Shall we give half a heart to our whole-hearted God? Shall we be double-minded when he is so intense in blessing us? Shall we love the world and hope to have the love of the Father in us at the same time? God will not have it, and we do not wish it. The heart must be united.

     We have seen that it must be united for acceptance, we now note that it must be united for sincerity: a divided heart is a false heart. Where there is no unity of heart there is no truth in the spirit. Tell me that thou lovest the world, and I will tell thee that the love of the world is enmity to God. Declare that thou wilt serve Belial ever so little, and I know that thy service of Christ is but Judas’ service— mercenary, temporary, traitorous. Sincerity does not open the front door to Christ and the back gate to the devil.

     Our heart must be united, next, for intensity of life. True religion needs the soul to be ever at a fervent heat. “The kingdom of heaven,” saith our Lord, “suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” None climb the hill whereon the New Jerusalem is built except such as go on hands and knees, and laying aside every weight give themselves wholly to the divine ascent. The pilgrim who hopes to reach the better land and makes a pleasure trip of it is under a mistake: it is hard travelling, and requires ardour and perseverance. It is so in every good word and work. A lazy prayer requests a denial, and shall have it. Half-hearted praise is an insult to God, and everything in religion that is not done with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, is a sin, however much it may look like a virtue. When we are most intense we do not come up to the zeal which these important things deserve: how can we then imagine that we can please God with less than our best? Know ye not that our Lord hath said, “Because thou art lukewarm, I will spue thee out of my mouth”? No stronger expression of disgust can possibly be used, and this disgust is not for the bold and hardened rebel, but for the moderate disciple who served God without fail, but without zeal. God loves a whole heart, but half a heart is his abhorrence. Only those who run with all their might will win the race; and, as the man of divided heart is lame on both his feet, he can have no hope of the prize. Lord, make my heart one, that I may give it all to thee, and spend and be spent in thy one service, since thou only art the One in whom my soul delighteth.

     The heart must be united to be consecrated. Will God be served with broken cups and cracked flagons, and shall his altars be polluted with torn and mangled sacrifices? All the things in heaven and earth which the Lord acknowledges as consecrated things are dedicated to him and to him alone. Can you imagine that within the Holy Place there would be an altar part of which was used for sacrifices offered to Jehovah, and another portion for victims presented to Moloch? The idea cannot be endured. The Lord said of old to Ezekiel, “Son of man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever, and my holy name, shall the house of Israel no more defile, neither they, nor their kings. In their setting of their threshold by my thresholds, and their post by my posts.” God will not account that to be consecrated to himself which is used by another. Brethren, we must be wholly consecrated unto the Lord, or we cannot be consecrated to him at all. We are unconsecrated, we are polluted, we are as things accursed if we are divided in heart.

     Once more, we must have our heart united, or else none of the blessings which are to follow in covenant order can possibly reach us. For, look, “I will give them one heart,” and then it follows, “one way”;— no man will have a consistent, uniform way while he has a divided heart. Read next, “That they shall fear me for ever”; but no man will fear God for ever unless fear has taken possession of his whole heart. The convert may profess to follow the Lord for awhile, but he will soon turn aside; he who does not begin with his whole heart will soon tire of the race. “For ever” is a long day, and requires our whole soul to hold on and to hold out. The Lord also promises that this shall be “for the good of them, and of their children after them”; but those who give God a part of their heart, neither win a blessing for themselves nor for their posterity; they are not among the seed that God has blessed, neither can they be. Oh men and women, if your hearts run hither and thither, and your aims and desires are scattered like a flock of sheep, running abroad according to their own wilfulness, the Good Shepherd will not feed you. When he comes to visit you he will gather all your desires and aspirations into one fold, and then will he lead you into green pastures, and make you to lie down therein. As under the old law men might not sow with mingled seed, nor wear garments of linen and woollen mixed, so neither can those of divided way and heart come into the favour of God.

     So I leave the first head when I have noticed that according to the text God will give his chosen this unified heart: “I will give them one heart.” Ah, we shall never obtain this blessing otherwise than as a free gift of God’s grace. Teachers may put holy thoughts into our heads, but they cannot alter our hearts. We may unite our thoughts in some system of divinity, but we can never unite our desires upon the Divinity himself except we experience a work of grace upon our souls. The one Lord must make our heart one. He who once made the heart must make it anew to make it one. “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” But none of these seven ones would ever be ours unless it were added, “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ,” and that grace must make our heart one. This the Lord does in part by enlightenment through the light of his Holy Spirit. He shows us the worthlessness and deceptiveness of everything that would attract our hearts away from Jesus and from our God; and when we see the evil of the rival, we give our heart entirely to him whom we worship. The Lord works this also by a process more thorough still; for he weans us from all idolatrous loves. He makes our carnal delights to become bitter to us, so that we turn aside from them with disgust, even as the Egyptians loathed to drink of the waters of the river which they formerly idolized, for the Lord had turned it into blood. He puts gall upon the breasts of the world, and then we look elsewhere for comfort. It takes much to make us cry with David, “My soul is even as a weaned child.” Disease and death are summoned to shoot their fatal arrows at our dearest ones before we will give God the whole of our hearts. It is hard to love the creature much and yet not too much; it is a great thing to love our beloved ones in Christ and in subordination to Christ. Many a mother has had to lose child after child because she had stirred the jealousy of the best Beloved one by dividing her heart between him and her little ones. Many a man in business has fallen from wealth and prosperity because God saw that his heart went astray after his possessions. Doubtless many have had eloquence, talent, and gifts of various kinds, and they doted upon these things until it has been needful to remove them to unite their hearts upon God, and so they have been laid aside by sickness, or the mind has lost its vigour, or the voice has failed, and the gift has become a plague rather than a comfort, and thus their heart has lost its idol, and has turned unto the Lord. If Christ is married to us he will have us chaste unto himself. What think we of a man who is engaged to a woman and is found spending his love upon another as well! We say he is false and treacherous, and we utterly despise him. He ought to give his heart to her whom he has espoused, and to love her with constancy, or he cannot be esteemed a pure minded man. Even so in our dealings with the Lord Jesus we must be watchful lest a single desire or affection should prove false to him. Such a glorious object of affection must fill the whole horizon of the soul, even as the sun fills all the heavens with his light, and the stars are quite forgotten. All the rivers run into the sea, and so must all our loves run to Jesus. Oh men and brethren, shut the gates of your hearts lest any steal away by night from the Lord. The heart must be whole and wholly his. Recollect that you may have a great gash in your head, and yet you may live; but if but a pin’s point should divide your heart you will die. Ask grace to say with the psalmist, “O God my heart is fixed”; then, indeed, will you sing and give praise. This is not only important, it is essential. See ye, my hearers, whether you have received this choice blessing of the covenant of grace each one for himself,— this holy, uniting work of the Spirit of God.

     II. If we have this we may now advance to the second blessing of the covenant here mentioned, which is CONSISTENCY OF WALK: “I will give them one way.” When the heart is united the man lives for a single object, and that alone. Running in one direction, striving for one purpose, he keeps to the one way which leads to heaven. As Christ is our one life, so is he our one way.

     Without this unity there can be no truth in a man’s life. If he spins by day, and unravels at night, he is acting out a falsehood. If he runs to the right while men look at him, but trudges back again to the old post as soon as men’s eyes are taken from him, his life is an equivocation, which is but a fine word for a lie. It is a dreadful thing for a man’s word to be a lie, but for a man’s whole life to be a lie is still more horrible. We may have much more of the liar about us than we dream of: let us see to it, and pray God that like Nathanael we may have no guile in us. We may patch up our life with bits of religion, and remnants of profession, till it becomes like the beggar’s coat of which no man knows the original: such a garment may be fit for a beggar, but shall we wear it? The seamless garment of truth, woven from the top throughout adorns a Christian, but motley raiment proves a man a fool. Unless we follow the Lord with one heart, and one way, we shall be found to be liars after all; and if all liars have their portion in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death, what will be his lot whose life was false to itself and false to God? Inconsistency of behaviour shows that truth is little set by in the heart. We must, dear friends, have one walk, or else our life will make no progress. He who travels in two opposite directions will find himself no forwarder. How is it that some professors are at much the same place as they occupied twenty years ago? Years have made them more grey, but not more gracious. At night they fastened up their boat in a little creek of the river, and when the tide ran out they waited and waited until close to the end of its running, and then they went down a little way with the tide; very soon the stream ceased to turn, and so they drifted back with the flood, and hitched up near the same muddy shore as before. Like a pendulum they travel far but get no farther. Growth, progress, advancement— none of these can they know, for they are doubleminded, and so run to and fro in the earth and wear themselves out with vanity. Multitudes of people are doing this. They make such progress one Sunday that they resolve henceforth to live unto God. They begin at a steam engine rate, they plough the sea of life in their eagerness; they are like a vessel which has had new boilers put into her; but by to-morrow where are they? They have burst their boilers, or they have allowed the fires to go out, and henceforth they are without spiritual life or motion, and lie like logs upon the stream. This will not do; we must have one way of uniform vitality. I do not say that we can always make apparent progress at the same rate, for powerful under-currents affect our life, and a man may be doing much who is successfully overcoming adverse influences. When a fierce wind is blowing a captain may know that he will be driven on shore if he does not steam right into the teeth of the hurricane: if he does this is he not making the surest real progress if he manages to keep where he is and avoid the fatal danger? I say, then, that if we do not seem to advance we may, nevertheless, in the judgment of God be making true progress if we resist the mighty impulses which would otherwise hurry us on to destruction: but if we have two ways, and steer this way and that way and every way by turns, with the view of pleasing men and making things easy all round, we cannot speed towards the desired haven.

     We must choose and keep to one way, or we cannot attain to usefulness. What influence has a double-minded man? If a man speak for God to-day, and so lives to-morrow that he virtually speaks for the devil, what power has he over those around him? How can he lead who has no way of his own? If your actions play fast and loose with truth; if your life is a chequer-work of black and white; if you are everything by turns and nothing long, what force for good can you possibly exert? Consistency and unity of life are necessary to usefulness.

     And I am sure it is necessary for anything like assurance. The best of believers may through holy anxiety question their own state; but the man who has two ways may well sing:—

“’Tis a point I long to know,
Oft it causes anxious thought,
Do I love the Lord or no?
Am I his or am I not?”

O you who are inconsistent in life I must make bold to tell you that many of your friends are even more in doubt about you than you are about yourself. ’Tis a point we also long to know; for we cannot tell whether you love the Lord or no, whether you are his or not. Sometimes we see happy signs about you, and our charity hopeth all things; but when we see you again falling into evil ways, we are distressed, and even our charity weeps over you. How can we be assured of your change of heart when we see so little change of life? What a pity to lead such a life that it puzzles those who love you best to form any judgment as to your condition. If you were to die as you are we should not know which way you would go, for your present path is dubious and intricate. Would you go to heaven or hell? Common judgment would depend upon whether you died in one of your good fits or in one of your bad ones. Is this a pleasant way of putting it? O ye who blow hot and cold, ye are strange beings, you seem to the common observer to be too good for hell, and not good enough for heaven. You cannot be divided at last, and therefore you may rest assured that the powers of evil will seize you as their own.

     No person can come to any true personal assurance while his life is of a double character. But if I know that I have one heart, and that my heart belongs to my Lord, and that I have one way, a way of obedience to him, then may I be assured that I am his. If I cannot make such progress as I would, yet if I follow my Lord and keep my face steadfastly set towards Jerusalem, then I know where I am, and what I am, and whither I am going. Holiness of life proves our faith, and faith ensures our salvation, and salvation begets joy, and peace, and confidence. “Hereby we know that we know him if we keep his commandments.” A plain way will make our condition plain. This unity of way is a covenant blessing: it comes not of man neither by man, but God gives it to his own elect as one of the choice favours of his grace,— “I will give them one heart and one way.”

     III. Briefly we notice, in the third place, the next covenant blessing, STEADFASTNESS OF PRINCIPLE— “That they may fear me for ever.” Get the heart and the way right, and then the spiritual force of the fear of God will abide in us in all days to come.

     Notice the basis of true religion,— it is the fear of God: it is not said that they shall join a church and make a profession, and speak holy words for ever; but that “They may fear me for ever.” Oh brothers and sisters, our religion must have the Lord in the very heart of it. We must be in constant contact with God, and possess in our souls the true fear of God; for as this is the beginning of wisdom so is it the only security of perseverance. When God has given us a true spiritual fear of him it will abide all tests. Outward religion depends upon the excitement which created it; but the fear of the Lord lives on when all around it is frost-bitten. What happens to many converts? The revivalists have gone, and they have gone too. But if God has given us one heart to love and obey him, and his fear is in us, we do not depend upon the mental thermometer. Like salamanders, we can live in the fire; but like seals we can live in Arctic ice. We are not dependent upon special services, and warm-hearted exhortations; for we have a springing well within. We live upon the Master, and not upon the servants: the Spirit of God does not leave us because certain good men have gone elsewhere. No, God has given us to fear him for ever.

     Persecution comes, Christians are ridiculed in the workshop, they are pointed out in the street, and an opprobrious name is hooted at them; now we shall know who are God’s elect and who are not. Persecution acts as a winnowing fan, and those who are light as chaff are driven away by its blast; but those who are true corn remain and are purified. Careless of man’s esteem, the truly God-fearing man with one heart holds on his one way and fears the Lord for ever.

     Then, perhaps, comes a more serious test, the trial of prosperity. A man grows rich, he rises into another class of society. If he is not a real Christian he will forsake the Lord, but if he be a true-born heir of the kingdom he will fear the Lord for ever, and consecrate his substance to him. A heart wholly given to God will stand the wear and tear of life in all conditions, whether in honour or in contempt. Poverty is a severe test to many, and I have known numbers of professors forsake the house of God because, as they said, their clothes were not fit to come in; but that is a poor excuse; I fear their hearts were not fit to come in. The fear of God would make the godly man swallow his pride and follow Christ in rags: he will bear a famine of bread and a famine of water, but he cannot endure a famine of the word of God. His soul must be fed, and so he must and will be found where the Lord’s table is spread with the bread of heaven. When God stripped Job of all his riches, it was then that his integrity was seen and proved.

     With some of you old age is creeping on; but I rejoice to know that your grace is not decaying. You are becoming deaf, eyesight is failing you, and your limbs are trembling; but you can still hear the voice of the Lord, and behold the beauties of his word, and run in the ways of his statutes If God has given the young man one heart and one way, he will fear God for ever, and will not forsake the Lord when infirmities multiply upon him. He will bring forth fruit in old age, to show that the Lord is upright. If our soul is wholly Christ’s, we can never go back unto perdition: “Who shall separate us from the love of God?” The Lord has cast such cords of love about us that he holds us fast. We can lose father and mother, yea, and our own lives also, bat we cannot forsake the Lord whose blood has bought us from the lowest hell. We are bound for the kingdom; who shall keep us out of it? We have been shot like arrows from the bow of God, and we must speed onward till we rest in the target of eternal bliss. Oh what a mercy it is to have within us a fear of God, which is not to last for a period of years, but for ever!

     IV. Very hurriedly I mention the next thing, which is PERSONAL BLESSEDNESS, “for the good of them.” Where God gives us one heart and one way, and steadfast principle, it must be for our good in the highest sense. Tell me who are the happiest Christians. They will be found to be whole-hearted Christians. When heart and life are divided happiness leaks through the crack. We must be steady in the pursuit of righteousness if we would abide in the enjoyment of peace. Brothers, if you want to know the sweetness of religion you must know the depth of it. The foam upon the top of the sacred cup is often bitter, but at the bottom lies the essence of sweetness. I will not say, drink deep or drink not at all, but I will say this, that those who are content with superficial godliness have no idea of the delights which dwell in the deep places of communion with God. Plunge into the river of life; let body, soul, and spirit be immersed into its floods, and you shall swim in joy unspeakable. Lose sight of the shores of worldliness and you shall see God’s wonders in the deeps. In intense devotion to the Lord you will find the rare jewel satisfaction. “O Naphtali, satisfied with favour, and full with the blessing of the Lord!” Sweet content never dwells with half-heartedness.

     This shall be for your good every way— for your guidance in business, for your direction in devotion, for the good of your mind here, for the good of your spirit hereafter. To be endowed by grace with one heart and one way is to be rendered fit to live and fit to die. I am sure if you read the biographies of men, if they are fairly written, you will find that the good, the true, the great, the noble, were single-minded. Those who have the clearest sight of God are the pure in heart and the undivided in heart; and those who enjoy a heaven below are those whose hearts and lives are engrossed with heavenly things. The blessed life is that of fervent love and thorough consecration. Do these things abound among you, brethren? I believe that in this assembly there are more whole-hearted Christian men than I am likely to meet with in any other gathering: and yet, for all that, I cannot help fearing that even here there are professing Christians who never knew what it was to give their hearts perfectly to God’s work, or to the love of Jesus. When these people come to the hour of trouble they are dispirited and rebellious; would it be so if they were perfectly resigned to God’s will? These people are often short of spiritual comforts; would they be short of them if they had made a clean and clear surrender to their God? I believe they would not. Men who will not eat are starved and weak, and many a disease finds soil within them through the weakness of their constitution; but those who feed on Christ, the Bread of Heaven, are nourished and strong, and are preserved from a thousand ills by that very fact. O God the Holy Spirit, I cannot talk to Christ’s servants as I wish to do, but thou canst move them now to aspire after a complete giving up of themselves to thee, for this shall be for their good!

     V. The last is a RELATIVE BLESSING: “And for their children after them.” Whole-hearted Christians are usually blessed with a posterity of a like kind. Consecrated men and women live to see their children following in their steps. When sons and daughters forsake the ways of godliness do you wonder when you spy out the home life of their parents? If religion is a sham, do you expect frank young men to respect it? If the father was hollow-hearted in his profession, will not the children despise it? The genuine, thoroughbred Christian is often hated, but he is never the object of contempt. Men may ridicule him, and say that he is a fool, but they cannot help admitting that he is happy, and the wiser sort among them wish that they were such fools themselves. Be thorough and true, and your family will respect your faith. The almost inevitable consequence of respect in a child towards his parent is a desire to imitate him. It is not always so, but as a rule it is so: if the parents live unto God in a thorough-hearted way, their sons and daughters aspire to the same thing. They see the beauty of religion at home around the fireside, and their conscience being quickened they are led to pray to God that they may have the like piety, so that when they themselves commence a household they may enjoy the like happiness. Certainly if any of you are the children of eminently godly parents, and are living in sin, your parents’ lives condemn you. Are they in heaven? Dare you go to their grave, and sit upon the grassy hillock, and think of how you are living? It will force tears to your eyes to contrast yourself with them. You may well tremble to think that you neglect your mother’s Saviour, that you forget your father’s God. It will go hard with those who leap into hell-fire over a father’s prayers and a mother’s entreaties; yet some seem desperately resolved on such suicide. I hope these are comparatively few, and that still it is true, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Blessings temporal and spiritual come, upon households where the heads of the family are completely consecrated to God. Try it! try it! I will be bound that you will find it profitable. If at the last great day you shall find that consecration to Christ is an error, I will be willing to bear the blame for ever. I am not afraid that any one among you will ever censure me for having excited you into a zeal too fervent, or a life too devoted. Brothers, I am afraid of those of you who go ancle deep into religion and never venture further; I am afraid lest you should by-and-by return to the shore; but as for you who plunge into the centre of the stream, and find waters to swim in, I have no fears; you shall be borne onward by a current ever increasing in strength till in the ocean of eternal love you lose yourselves in heaven above. I can wish you no greater blessing than that the Holy Spirit may make you whole-hearted, consistent, persistent, ardent, established, and persevering in the things of God. On you and on your household my heart pronounces this benediction,— the Lord give you one heart and one way that you may fear him for ever. Amen.



Mongrel Religion

By / Oct 2

Mongrel Religion

 

"So these nations feared the Lord and served their graven images, both their children, and their children's children: as did their fathers, so do they unto this day."—2 Kings 17:41.

 

"SO DO THEY unto this day," said the writer of the Book of Kings, who has long since passed away unto his fathers. Were he alive now he might say concerning the spiritual descendants of these Samaritans, "So do they unto this day." This base union of fearing God and serving other gods is by no means obsolete. Alas, it is too common everywhere, and to be met with where you might least expect it. From generation to generation there have been Mongrel Religionists, who have tried to please both God and the devil, and have been on both sides, or on either side, as their interest led them. Some of these wretched blenders are always hovering around every congregation, and my hope is that I may convince the consciences of some here present that they themselves are guilty, and that of them it might be said, as of these Assyrian immigrants, "They feared the Lord, and served their own gods." My sermon will by no means be an essay upon an extinct race, but it may be placed among "the present-day papers," for "so do they unto this day." He that hath ears to hear, let him hear, and to whomsoever the word shall apply let its rebuke be taken home, and through the teaching of the Holy Spirit may it produce decisive results.

    I. I shall first call your attention to THE NATURE OF THIS Mongrel Religion. It had its good and bad points, for it wore a double face. These people were not infidels. Far from it: "they feared the Lord." They did not deny the existence, or the power, or the rights of the great God of Israel, whose name is Jehovah. They had not the pride of Pharaoh who said, "Who is Jehovah that I should obey his voice?" They were not like those whom David calls "fools," who said in their hearts, "There is no God." They had faith, though only enough to produce fear. They knew that there was a God; they feared his wrath, and they tried to appease it. So far they were hopeful persons, and under the influence of a feeling which has often led up to better things. It was better to dread God than to despise him; better slavishly to fear than stupidly to forget. We would not have men so foolish as to doubt the existence of God, nor so profane as to defy him. There was something commendable about men of whom it could be said that they feared Jehovah, even though that fear was a selfish and servile one, and was by no means so efficacious upon them as it ought to have been, for it did not cause them to put away their idols.

    Another good point about these mixed religionists was that they were willing to be taught. As soon as they found that they were not acting rightly towards the God of the land, they sent a petition to their supreme ruler, the king of Assyria, setting forth their spiritual destitution. Church and State were fused in those days, and therefore they applied to their king that he would help them in their religious distress, and he acted to the best of his light; for he sent them one or the priests of the old religion of the land. This man was a Bethelite, one who worshipped God under the symbol of an ox, which the Scripture calls a calf. He was a very slight improvement upon a heathen; but we must be glad even of small progress. They were quite willing to be taught the manner of the God of the land, and so they installed this priest at Bethel, and gathered about him to know what they should do. We have people around us unto this day who are glad to hear the gospel, and sit with pleasure under our ministry, and if the word be faith fully preached they commend the preacher and give a gratified attention to the things that proceed out of his mouth; and yet they are living in known sin. Albeit they do not practically turn from sin and renounce the service of Satan, yet are they willing to bow with the righteous, to sing their psalms and assent to their prayers, and to accept their confession of faith. They are a teachable sort of people, so far as mere hearing goes but there they stop.

    Though these strangers feared Jehovah, and were willing to learn the way of his worship, yet they stuck to their old gods. "Ah," said the Babylonian, "I listen respectfully to what you have to say of this God, of the land; but Succoth-benoth for me; when I go home I shall offer sacrifice to him." The men of Cuthah said, "Verily this is good doctrine concerning the God of Israel; but the god of our fathers was Nergal, and to him will we cleave"; and the Sepharvites, though they wished to hear of the pure and holy Jehovah, and therefore learned from his law the command, "Thou shalt not kill," yet still they passed their children through the fire to Moloch, and did not cease from that most cruel of all religious rites. Thus you see that this mingle-mangle religion left the people practically where they were: whatever their fear might be, their customs and practices remained the same. Have you never met with persons of the same mongrel kind? If you have never done so, your class of acquaintances must be superior to mine At this moment I shall not speak at random, but aim at individual cases; for I know of persons who come to this place of worship with great regularity, and yet they serve their sins, and obey their own vicious passions. They take delight in the services of this house, and yet they are much at home with the god of this world. Some worship a deity quite as horrible as Moloch, whose name in the olden time was Bacchus—the god or the wine-cup and the beer-barrel. They pay their eager devotions at his shrine, and yet they would be numbered with the people of God. They were drunk last night, and yet they are here this morning: possibly they will keep sober to-day; but they will not let many days pass before they will once more stagger before their abominable idol. In all places of worship there are people of this kind. Do not look round to see if there is a person present dressed like a working man, for I have not the poor in my eye at this time. Alas, this vice is to be met with in one rank as well as another, and the person I mean looks quite respectable, and wears broadcloth. Many worshippers of Bacchus do not drink so as to be found drunk and incapable in the street. O no; they go upstairs to their beds in their own houses, so that their condition is not observed; but still they must know that they are verging upon intoxication, if not actually gone. Woe unto such, who, while they pretend to be worshippers of Jehovah, are also worshippers of the beastly god of drunkenness. Is that too harsh a word? I beg the beasts' pardon for thus slandering them. Alas, there are others who adore the goddess Venus, the queen of lust and uncleanness. I say no more. It is a shame even to speak of things which are done of them in secret. Too often the god is Mammon, who is as degraded a deity as any of them. Such turn religion into a means of gain, and would sell Jesus himself for silver. The sin of Judas is one of which we may say, "So do they unto this day." Judas is an apostle, he listens to the Master's words, he preaches at the Master's command, and be works miracles in the Master's Dame; he also keeps the bag and manages the finance for Christ's little company, and he does it so carefully and economically that what he filches for himself is not missed, and he remains in good repute. Judas professes to serve Jesus, but all the while he is really serving himself, for secretly he abstracts from the treasury somewhat for his own pocket. "He had the bag and kept that which was put therein." There are such still in the churches of God: they do not actually steal, but they follow Jesus for what they can make or get out of him and his disciples. The symbols of their worship are the loaf and the fish. Now, this is as degrading a form of worship as the adoration of graven images. Gain is the god of many in all congregations: they seek Jesus, not because they care for his words, but because they eat of the loaves. They fear the Lord, but they serve other gods.

    Are there not to be found in the world men whose very calling is contrary to the spirit of true godliness? I did know, and may I never know again such an one, a man apparently most devout and gracious, who was a deacon of a church, and passed round the communion cup; and yet over the worst drinking dens in the town where he lived, where the lowest harlots congregated, you would see the man's name, for he was the brewer to whom the houses belonged—houses which had been purposely adapted at his expense for purposes of vice and drunkenness. He took the profits of a filthy traffic, and then served at the Lord's table. I would judge no man, but some cases speak for themselves. God save the man that can pander to the devil, and then bow down, before the Most High. Persons are to be found, without a lantern and candle, who earn their money by ministering at the altars of Belial, and then offer a part of it to the Lord of hosts. Can they come from the place of revelling to the chamber of communion? Will they bring the wages of sin to the altar of God? He who makes money over the devil's back is a hypocrite if he lays his cankered coin at the apostles' feet. "Thy money perish with thee." How some men can rest in their impious pretensions it is not for me to guess; but methinks if their consciences were quickened, it would strike them as being a horrible thing in the land that they should be fearing the Lord, and serving other gods. I knew one who was always at the place of worship, prayer-meetings, and all, and yet he had forsaken the wife of his youth, and was the companion of gamblers, and drunkards, and the unclean. I know another of a much milder type: be is a regular hearer, but he has no sense of true religion. He is a steady, hard-working man, but he lives to hoard money, and neither the poor nor the church of God ever get a penny from him: bowels of compassion he has none. He is a stranger to private prayer, and his Bible is never read; but he never misses a sermon. He never lifts his thoughts above the bench at which he works, or the shop in which he serves, his whole conversation is of the world, and the gain thereof, and yet he has occupied a seat in the meeting-house from his youth up, and has never thought of leaving it except at quarter-days, when he is half a mind to give it up and save the few shillings which it costs him. Oh, sad, sad, sad! I can understand the man who honestly says, "I am living for the world and have no time for religion." I can understand the man who cries, "I love the world and mean to have my fill of it." I can understand the man who says, "I shall not pretend to pray or sing psalms, for I do not care about God or his ways"; but how can I comprehend those who are faithful to the outward part of religion, and profess to receive the truth, and yet have no heart for the love of Jesus, no care for the service of God? Oh, unhappy men, to come so near salvation in appearance, and to be so far off in reality! How can I explain their conduct? Truly, I must leave them among the mysteries of the moral world; for "they fear the Lord and serve their graven images unto this day." So far have we spoken upon the nature of this patched-up religion, this linsey-woolsey piety. May we have none of it.

    II. Let us now consider THE MANNER OF ITS GROWTH. However came such a monstrous compound into this world?

    Here is the history of it. These people came to live where the people of God had lived. The Israelites were most unworthy worshippers of Jehovah; but, still, they were known to others as his people, and their land was Jehovah's land. If the Sepharvites had stopped at Sepharvaim they would never have thought of fearing Jehovah; if the men of Babylon had continued to live in Babylon they would have been perfectly satisfied with Bel, or Succoth-benoth, or whatever the name of their precious god might be: but when they were fetched out from their old haunts, and brought into Canaan, they came under a different influence, and a new order of things. God would not allow them to go the whole length of idolatry in his land: though he had cast out his people, yet still it was his land, and he would make these heathens know it, and show some little decency in their new abode. Now, it sometimes happens to utter worldlings that they are dropped into the midst of Christian people, and they naturally feel that they must not be different from everybody about them. A kind of fashion is set by the professors among whom they dwell, and they fall into it. If they do not become gracious people themselves they try to look a little like them. Everybody in the village attends a place of worship, and the new comers do the same, though they have no heart to it. They have not the courage of their want of conviction, so they just drift with the current, and as it happens to run in a religious direction they are as religious as the rest. Or it may be they have a godly mother, and their father is a believer, and so they adopt the traditions of the family. They would like to be free to forsake the ways of piety, but they cannot be quite so unkind to those whom they love, and so they yield to the influences which surround them, and become in a measure fearers of God, out of respect to their neighbors or their families. This is a poor reason for being religious.

    Something else happened to these Assyrian immigrants which had a stronger influence still. At first they did not fear God, but the Lord sent lions among them. Matthew Henry says, "God can serve his own purposes by which he pleaseth, little or big, lice or lions." By the smaller means he plagued the Egyptians, and by the greater these invaders of his land. There is no creature so small or so great but God can employ it in his service and defeat his enemies thereby. When these lions had torn one and another, then the people trembled at the name of the God of the land, and desired to know the manner in which he would be worshipped. Affliction is a wild beast by which God teaches men who act like beasts. This is the growth of mongrelists. First, they are among godly people, and they must, therefore, go a little that way; and next, they are afflicted, and they must now go further still. The man has been ill, he has seen the brink of the grave; he has promised and vowed to attend to good things, in the hope that God would relent and permit him to live. Besides that, the man's extravagance has brought him into difficulties and straits; he cannot go so far or so fast as he formerly did, and hence he inclines to more staid and sober ways. He dares not follow his bent, for he finds vice too expensive, too disreputable, too dangerous. Many a man is driven by fear where he could not be drawn by love. He does not love the Lamb, but he does fear the lions. The rough voices of pain, poverty, shame, and death work a kind of law—work upon certain consciences which are insensible to spiritual arguments. They are forced, like the devils, to believe and tremble. Apprehension does not in their case lead to conversion, but it compels an outward respect for divine things. They argue that if the ills they feel do not reform them they may expect worse. If God begins with lions, what will come next? Therefore, they outwardly humble themselves, and yield homage to the God they dread.

    But notice, that the root of this religion is fear. There is no love on the right side; that affection is in the opposite scale. Their hearts go after their idols, but to Jehovah they yield nothing but dread. How many there are whose religion consists in a fear of hell, a dread of the consequences of their sin. If there were no hell they would drink up sin as the ox, standing knee-deep in the stream, sucks in the water. If sin were not followed with inconvenient consequences, they would live in it as their element, as fishes swim in the sea. They are only kept under by the hangman's whip or the jailer's keys. They dread God, and this is but a gentler form of hating him. Ah, this is a poor religion, a religion of bondage and terror. Thank God, dear friends, if you have been delivered from it; but it is sure to be the characteristic of a fusion of fearing God and serving other gods.

    One reason why they dropped into this self-contradictory religion was that they had a trimming teacher. The king of Assyria sent them a priest: he could not have sent them a prophet, but that was what they really wanted. He sent them a Bethelite, not a genuine servant of Jehovah, but one who worshipped God by means of symbols; and this the Lord had expressly forbidden. If this priest did not break the first commandment by setting up other gods, yet he broke the second by making an image to represent the true God. What saith the Lord? "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them." This priest taught them the calf worship, but he winked at their false deities. When he saw them each one bowing before his own idol, he called it a natural mistake, and by no means spake indignantly to them. If one of them worshipped Succoth-benoth, so long as he also brought an offering to Jehovah, he was not so uncharitable as to condemn him. He cried, "Peace, peace," for he was a large-hearted man, and belonged to the Broad Church who believe in the good intentions of all men, and manufacture excuses for all the religions of the age. I know of no surer way of a people's perishing than by being led by one who does not speak out straight, and honestly denounce evil. If the minister halts between two opinions, do you wonder that the congregation is undecided? If the preacher trims and twists to please all parties, can you expect his people to be honest? If I wink at your inconsistencies will you not soon be hardened in them? Like priest, like people. A cowardly preacher suits hardened sinners. Those who are afraid to rebuke sin, or to probe the conscience, will have much to answer for. May God save you from being led into the ditch by a blind guide.

    And yet is not a mingle-mangle of Christ and Belial the common religion of the day? Is not worldly piety, or pious worldliness, the current religion of England? They live among godly people, and God chastens them, and they therefore fear him, but not enough to give their hearts to him. They seek out a trimming teacher who is not too precise and plain-spoken, and they settle down comfortably to a mongrel faith, half truth, half error, and a mongrel worship half dead form, and half orthodoxy. God have mercy upon men, and bring them out from the world; for he will not have a compound of world and grace. "Come ye out from among them," saith he, "be ye separate: touch not the unclean thing." "If God be God, serve him: if Baal be God, serve him." There can be no alliance between the two. Jehovah and Baal can never be friends. "Ye cannot serve God and Mammon." "No man can serve two masters." All attempts at compromise or comprehensiveness in matters of truth and purity are founded on falsehood, and falsehood is all that can come of them. May God save us from such hateful doublemindedness.

    Thus have I described the nature and the growth of this cross-bred religion.

    III. Thirdly, let us estimate THE VALUE OF THIS RELIGION. What is it worth? First, it must evidently be feeble on both sides, because the man who serves Succoth-benoth cannot do it thoroughly if all the while be fears Jehovah; and he who fears Jehovah cannot be sincere it be is worshipping Moloch. The one sucks out the life of the other. Either one or the other alone might breed an intense worshipper; but when there are two deities, it is written, "Their heart is divided, now shall they be found wanting." A man of the world who is out and out in his conduct can make the best of his worldliness: what joy there is in it he gets, what profit there is to be made out of it be obtains; but if he tries to mix godliness with it he is pouring water on the fire, and hindering himself. On the other hand, if a man goes in for godliness, he will assuredly make something of it, by the blessing of God: if there be any joy, if there be any holiness, if there be any power, the man who is thorough-going wins it; but suppose he is pulled back by his love of sin, then he may possess enough religion to make him miserable, and enough of sin to prevent his salvation; but the two are opposed, and between them he finds no rest. The man is lame on both feet, impotent in both directions. He is like the salt which has lost its savor, neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill, but to be trodden under foot of men.

    At first I should think that the mixture of the true with the false at Samaria looked like an improvement. I should not wonder but what the priests of Judah were rather glad to bear that the lions had come among the strangers, and that the people wanted to know something about Jehovah. It had a look in the right direction, and consequently the Scripture says that they feared God; but yet this fear of God was so hollow that, if you turn to the thirty-fourth verse, you will read, "They fear not the Lord." Sometimes a verbal contradiction most accurately states the truth. They feared the Lord only in a certain sense; but, inasmuch as they also served other gods, it came to this when summed up, that they did not fear God at all. The man who is religious and also immoral, to put it in short, is irreligious. He who makes a great fuss about godliness and yet acts in an ungodly way, when all comes to all, is an ungodly man. The value of this mixture is less than nothing. It is sin with a little varnish upon it. It is enmity to God with a brilliant colouring of formality: it is standing out against the Most High, and yet with a Judas kiss pretending to pay him homage.

    These Samaritans in after years became the bitterest foes of God's people. Read the Book of Nehemiah, and you will see that the most bitter opponents of that godly man were those mongrels. Their fear of God was such that they wanted to join with the Jews in building the Temple, and when they found that the Jews would not have them, they became their fiercest foes. No people do so much hurt as those who are like Jack-o'-both-sides. The mixed multitude that came out of Egypt with the Israelites, fell a-lusting. The mischief does not begin with the people of God, but with those who are with them, but not of them. The tares which you cannot root out grow with the wheat, and draw away from it that which should have nourished it. As the clinging ivy will eat out the life of a tree around which it climbs, so will these impostors devour the church if they be left to their own devices. This patchwork religion is of more value to the devil than to anyone else; it is his favourite livery, and I pray you hate it, for it is a garment spotted by the flesh. I believe, dear friends, that those people who have a dread of God, which makes them appear religious, and who yet all the while live in their sins, are most in danger of any people in the world; for there is no getting at them to save them. You preach to sinners, and they say, "He does not mean us, for we are saints." You bring the thunders of the law to bear on the congregation, and they, being inside the church, are not afraid of the tempest. They hide behind their false profession. There is more likelihood of the salvation of a downright outsider than of these pretenders. They hold with the bare and run with the hounds, they fear the Lord and serve other gods, and they will perish in their folly. Their ruin will be all the more terrible because they sin in the light. They have so much conscience that they know what is right and what is wrong, and they deliberately choose to abide with the evil, even though at the same time they do despite to their better selves. Surely they will be banished to the deepest hell who seemed inclined to go towards heaven, but who, nevertheless, presumptuously wrenched off bolts and bars to force their way to destruction. O you religious worldlings, for you there is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.

    How provoking this adulterated religion must be to God! It is even provoking to God's minister to be pestered with men whose hypocrisies weaken the force of his testimony. Here is a man who is known to be one of my hearers, and yet at the same time he drinks, and speaks lewdly, and acts wickedly. What have I to do with him? His tongue is never still, and he tells everybody that he is a friend of mine, and my great admirer, and then men lay his conduct at my door, and wonder what my doctrine must be. I could almost say, "Sir, be my enemy, for this will harm me less than your friendship." If this grieves his ministers, how provoking must it be to God himself: these people are seen to worship him, and when strangers come into the assembly they spy out these hypocrites, and straightway charge the holy Jesus with all their faults. "See," say they, "there is old So-and-so. He is a great man among them, and yet I saw him come out of the gin-palace more than three sheets in the wind." Thus the holy God is dishonored by these unholy hypocrites. True religion suffers for their falsehood. One may fancy the Lord Jesus saying, "Come now, if you must needs serve the devil, do it; but do not loiter around my gates and boast of being my servants." The holy God must often feel his indignation burn against unholy men and women who intrude into his courts and dare to pass themselves off under his name. I put this very plainly. Some of you do not know how necessary it is to speak plainly in these days. If any of you perish through hypocrisy it shall not be because I did not speak boldly about it. May God the Holy Spirit of his great mercy apply the words where they need to be applied, that those who are fearing God and serving other gods may grieve over their inconsistency, and repent and turn in very deed and truth to the Most High.

    IV. I pass briefly to another important point, which is this,—THE CONTINUANCE OF THIS EVIL: for the text says, "As did their fathers, so do they, unto this day." I believe in the final perseverance of the saints: I am almost obliged to believe in the final perseverance of hypocrites; for, really, when a man once screws himself up to play the double, and both to fear God and serve other gods, he is very apt to stick there. It takes a great deal of effort to bring yourself to that degree of wickedness; you must use a great deal of damping of conscience and quenching of the Spirit before you can reach that shameless point, and having once gained that position you are apt to keep it all your life long. "So do they unto this day."

    Look, friends. It seems unlikely that a man would willingly continue in such a ridiculous position even for an hour. I call it ridiculous, for it is unreasonable and outrageous to be serving God and Satan at the same time. It is inconsistent and self-contradictory, and yet, though it be so, it is a sad fact that it is a deep pit and the abhorred of the Lord fall therein, seldom to be lifted out of it. Often by the grace of God we see the confirmed sinner plucked like a brand from the burning; but, oh, how seldom do we see the hollow-hearted Pharisee brought out of his delusions. On the anvil of a false profession Satan hammers out the most hardened of hard hearts.

    One reason why it can be said of most men—"so do they unto this day," is because it yields them a sort of comfort; at any rate it keeps off the lions. "Why," say they, "it must be the right thing to do, for now we are quiet." While they lived in sin without a pretense of religion, when the minister preached the word powerfully, they went home trembling; now they do not care what he preaches about: the lions roar no longer, not so much as a cub shows itself. Though they do drink a little, though they do use strong language now and then, though they are really unconverted, yet since they have taken a pew at the church, or the chapel, they feel wonderfully easy in their minds. This peace they think to be worth a Jew's eye. It is so soothing and pacifying to the conscience to feel that you mix up with the best of the saints, and are highly esteemed by them. So they wrap it up, and go down to hell with a lie in their right hand.

    The worst of it is that not only men themselves do this, but their children and their children's children do the same: "As their fathers did, so do they unto this day." In an out-and-out godly family it is a great joy to see the children springing up to fear God; but these double people, these borderers, see no such desirable succession. Frequently there is an open decline from apparent religion: the sons do not care to go where the old man went at all; nor need we wonder, since it did him so little good. He made all unhappy at home, and none are eager to imitate him. In other cases, where there was kindness at home, the children are apt to try the same plan as their fathers, and mingle a little religion with a great deal of worldliness. They are just as keen and sharp as their worldly sire, and they see on which side their bread is buttered, and therefore they keep up the reputation of religion. A little gilt and paint go a long way, and so they lay it on. They fly the flag of Christ, at any rate, even though the vessel does not belong to his dominion, and is not bound for the port of glory. As vessels sometimes run a blockade under a false flag, so do they reap many advantages from sailing under Christian colors. This detestable iniquity will not die out: it multiplies itself, scattering its own seed on all sides, and so from generation to generation it lives on; whole nations fear the Lord and serve other gods.

    The greatest curse, perhaps, that ever visited the world came upon it in this way. Certain vain-glorious preachers desired to convert the world at a stroke, and to make converts without the work of the Spirit. They saw the people worshipping their gods, and they thought that if they could call these by the names of saints and martyrs the people would not mind the change, and so they would be converted. The idea was to Christianize heathenism. They virtually said to idolaters, "Now, good people, you may keep on with your worship, and yet you can be Christians at the same time. This image of the Queen of heaven at your door need not be moved. Light the lamp still; only call the image 'our Lady,' and 'the Blessed Virgin.' Here is another image; don't pull it down, but change its name from Jupiter to Peter." Thus with a mere change of names they perpetuated idolatry: they set up their altars in the groves, and upon every high hill, and the people were converted without knowing it—converted to a baser heathenism than their own. They wanted priests, and, lo, there they were, robed like those who served at the altars of Jove. The people saw the same altars and sniffed the same incense, kept the same holy days and observed the same carnivals as aforetime, and called everything by Christian names. Hence came what is now called the Roman Catholic religion, which is simply fearing God and serving other gods. Every village has its own peculiar saint, and often its own particular black or white image of the Virgin, with miracles and wonders to sanctify the shrine. This evil wrought so universally that Christianity seemed in danger of extinction from the prevalence of idolatry, and it would have utterly expired had it not been of God, and had he not therefore once more put forth his hand and raised up reformers, who cried out, "There is but one God, and one Mediator between God and man." Brave voices called the church back to her allegiance and to the parity of her faith. As for any of you who are trying to link good and evil, truth and falsehood together, beware of the monstrous birth which will come of such an alliance: it will bring on you a curse from the Most High.

    V. I shall now close by saying a few words byway of CURE OF THIS DREADFUL EVIL OF MONGRELISM; this fearing the Lord, and serving other gods. Suppose men were thus fall of duplicity in politics, what would be thought of them? If a war should rage between two nations, what would be thought of the man who professed to serve the Queen, and all the while was playing his cards to win favor with the Queen's enemies. What would he be? A liberal-minded person? A gentleman of broad sympathies? Perhaps so. But also he would be a traitor, and when he was found out he would be shot. He who in any way tries to serve God and his enemies, is a traitor to God: that is what it comes to. In ordinary politics, if there be two parties, and a man comes forward and says, "I am on your side," and all the while he is doing his best to help the opposition, everybody says that he is a mean fellow. And what meanness it is to say, "I am for Christ," and yet practically to be for his enemies; to cry up holiness, and yet to live in sin; to preach up faith in Christ, and yet to trust in your own merits. This wretched shuffling indicates a meanness of soul from which may God in infinite mercy deliver us. Suppose a man in business said, "Oh, yes, I will be an honest man, but I will at the same time practice a trick or two; I will be as straight as a line, but yet I will be crooked too." Why, he would very soon be known by only one name, and that name a dishonorable one. A merchant cannot be honest and dishonest, a woman cannot be both chaste and unchaste, pure and impure, at the same time; and a man cannot be truly with God and yet with the world; the amalgamation is impossible. Everybody sees through such sham godliness.

    Ah, my dear friends, suppose that God were to treat us after the like double fashion; suppose he smiled to-day and cursed to-morrow suppose be said, "You fear me, and so I will give you comfort to-day but inasmuch as you worship other gods, when it comes to the last I will send you to your own gods; you shall go down to hell." You want one course of conduct from God, mercy, tenderness, gentleness, forgiveness; but if you play fast and loose with him, what is this but mocking him? Shall a man mock God? O thou great Father of our spirits, if we poor prodigals return to thee, shall we come driving all the swine in front of us, and bringing all the harlots and citizens of the far country at our heels, and introduce ourselves to thee by saying, "Father, we have sinned, and have come home to be forgiven and to go on sinning"? It were infernal,—I can say no less. Yet some attempt it. Shall any of us come to the blessed Christ upon the cross, and look up to his dear wounds, and say to him, "Redeemer, we come to thee; thou shalt be our Savior, thou shalt deliver us from the wrath to come; but, behold, when we have washed our robes we will defile them again in the filth of the world. Wash us, and we will go back, like the sow, to wallow in the mire. Forgive us, and we will use the immunity which thy mercy grants us, as a further incentive to rebellion"? I can imagine such language as that being used by Satan; but methinks few of you have descended so low as to talk thus. Yet is not that exactly what the man says who professes to be a Christian, and yet wilfully lives in sin?

    Lastly, what shall I say of the Holy Spirit? If he does not dwell in our hearts we are lost; there is no hope for us unless he rules within us. And shall we dare to say

 

"Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove,

With all thy quickening powers,"

 

meanwhile I will live in filthiness and selfishness. Come, Holy Spirit, come and dwell with me, and I will hate my brother, I will boil with angry temper, and will be black with malice, so as to make my home miserable. Come, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove, come dwell within my soul, and I will carry thee to the theater, and the ball-room, and the house of evil name.

    I hate to utter such language even for the sake of exposing it; but what must God think of men who do not say so, but who act so; who, like Balaam, live in sin and yet cry, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his." I dare not preach from that very popular text, for it is the mean, selfish wish of a man who even at the last would save his own skin. The old sneak! He wanted to live and serve the devil, and then cry off at the last. Surely he might have said, "I have been a prophet of Satan, and have sold my soul to him; let me die as I have lived." I would wish to live in such a way as I would wish to die. If I would not like to die as I am, then I ought not to live as I am. If I am in a condition in which I dare not meet my God, may God in mercy fetch me out of the condition at once. Let me be right, and let there be no mistake about it; but do not let me try to be both right and wrong, washed and filthy, white and black, a child of God and a child of Satan. God has separated heaven and hell by a gulf that never can be passed, and he has divided the two characters which shall people those two places by an equally wide gulf. This division can be passed by his grace, but none can inhabit the intermediate space. None can hang between spiritual death and spiritual life, so as to be partly in one and partly in the other. Decide, then, decide. Be one thing or the other. "How long halt ye between two opinions?" Again I say with Elias, upon Carmel, "If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him." But do not mix the worship of the two, for thus you will provoke God, and cause his anger to burn like fire against you. May God bless this word, for his name's sake. Amen.



The Ark of the Covenant

By / Sep 25

The Ark of the Covenant 

 

“And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the laud, in those days, saith the Lord, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the Lord: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more.”— Jeremiah iii. 16.

 

THIS text speaks concerning the material ark. I should like to append to that another, which speaks of the ark spiritually, and tells us where its antitype is to be found.

     “And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament (or covenant).” — Revelation xi. 19.

     When inward piety is low the externals of religion are frequently cried up. Those who know nothing of God are the very people to exclaim concerning themselves and their brethren, “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these.” The Pharisees, who were furthest from God, were the most bitter advocates of ritualism and formalism; they would not even have a man healed on the Sabbath day, or allow the hungry to rub a few ears of corn out of the husks. It is not always so; but yet too often, “The nearer the church the further from God.” The more gown, the less grace. The more phylactery, the less sanctity. The more of ecclesiasticism, the less of true godliness. On the other hand, whenever the Spirit of God is largely poured out, although the ordinances of God are carefully attended to, yet as external things they are sure to be put into their proper place, and that proper place is a secondary one. The spiritual is put foremost and the ritualistic is placed hindmost when grace is largely given. It was so with David in the fifty-first Psalm: when he had made a hearty confession of his sin, and cried to God for mercy, he uttered those memorable words, “Thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offerings.” He puts aside the symbol because he has a clear view of the substance. That is exactly the case with the people mentioned in my text: they had been sadly sinful; but God in his mercy promised to turn to them, and to bless them, and bring them back into their own land again, and he says— “And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding. And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the Lord, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the Lord: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more.” The visible golden ark, which was so much their glory, should be quite forgotten, because of the gracious visitation of God. That shall be our subject this morning.

     First, I shall invite your attention to the symbol reverenced; secondly, we shall see that reverence obliterated; and, thirdly, we shall dwell upon that reverence transferred; for though we no longer revere the ancient ark of shittim wood overlaid with pure gold, we do honour to that forever-enduring ark of which we read in our second text— “The temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his covenant.”

     I. First, then, let us think upon THE SYMBOL REVERENCED.

     The ark of the covenant was a small coffer not exceeding four feet and a-half in length by about two feet eight inches in breadth. It was made of an enduring kind of wood, and was covered with pure gold both within and without. Upon the upper part of it was a golden crown, into which fitted a solid slab of gold, which formed the lid of the ark. That golden lid was called the propitiatory or mercy-seat; in the Hebrew, Kapporeth, or a place of covering. Upon the two ends of this mercy-scat, and part and parcel of the same solid metal, were two cherubs, with outstretched wings. The Lord said of them, “And the cherubims shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubims be.” Between those wings, when God was favourable to his people, the bright light, called the Shekinah, was wont to shine forth: and when, once in the year, the high priest went into the innermost place, bearing with him a cloud of incense and sprinkling the blood, he saw the glory of that light.

     This ark was the object of great reverence, and very fitly so, because it symbolized God’s presence, the presence of Jehovah, the living God, in the midst of his people. They saw no similitude, for what likeness can there be of him that filleth all in all? But they knew that God’s excellent glory shone above the mercy-seat, and they thought of the ark in connection with the Lord, as David did, when he said, “Thou and the ark of thy strength.” It was, therefore, a thing greatly to be reverenced, for God was there. To no other people had God given such a token of his presence. He walked in the midst of no other camp; but of Israel he had said, “My Spirit shall go with thee.” It was the first article of the tabernacle concerning which Moses received instructions, for, indeed, it was the first in honour. Read the twenty-fifth chapter of Exodus, and see how speedily the Lord who gave the law provided a chest for its honourable preservation. Although Solomon made most of the furniture of the holy place anew he retained the same ark, which was too much esteemed to be changed. When it was carried abroad in the marchings of the Israelites it always went in front, and it was distinguished from all the other furniture by being covered externally with blue, as if to signify its heavenly character. Lifted high on men’s shoulders, upon golden staves, the blue coloured wrapping of the ark was seen in the van of the Lord’s host occupying the place of honour. We do not wonder, therefore, that it was much spoken of and esteemed by the tribes of Israel.

     That presence of God meant Messing; for God was with his people in love to them. The Lord abides not with his enemies, but with his chosen. So long as he gave the token of his presence it was a sign that he had not cast them off as hopeless. He still heard their prayers and granted them his favours; for he still remained in residence among them while his mercy-seat was in the holy place. When the ark went into the house of Obed-Edom for a time the Lord blessed the house of Obed-Edom for the sake of the ark of the Lord. Therefore David was encouraged to bring up the ark into his own city, and he did so with gladness, which he expressed by dancing before the Lord with all his might. Well, then, might the people speak of it, and think of it, and visit it, and magnify it, because it brought blessing to them.

     The ark was held in reverence by the Israelites because it was their leader When the time came to march through the wilderness the ark went in the forefront. How often did Moses cry, “Rise up, Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered,” and on they went across the pathless desert rightly led by this ark of the covenant. When they came to the brink of Jordan, as soon as the feet of the priests that bare the ark touched the waters, the river was parted, and they went through dry shod. It was so trusted in that they bore the ark on one occasion into the battlefield, when God was not with them, and the golden coffer was carried into captivity to vindicate its own honour among the Philistines, by smiting its captors with sore diseases, and breaking in pieces Dagon, their god. A wonderful ark it was when God was with it. It was such a symbol of power that we wonder not that when David brought it up to Mount Zion all the people shouted, and with sound of trumpet celebrated its triumphal march. It was also so much a symbol of holiness that Solomon removed Pharaoh’s daughter out of the city of David, for he said, “My wife shall not dwell in the house of David, king of Israel, because the places are holy, whereunto the ark of the Lord hath come.”

     In Solomon’s day the ark was finally installed in the temple, and the king placed over it two greater cherubim, ten cubits high, with outspread wings. These were made of olive wood overlaid with gold, and probably covered the entire structure of the coffer and the smaller cherubim, which were component parts of it. Then they drew out the staves of the ark, signifying that there the ark was to stay; but they left the ends of the staves visible, to show that God might yet depart from them if they sinned against him. In the temple the ark rested until the time of the captivity, and from that time it was no more heard of, and possibly never appeared again in the temple that was built by Zerubbabel or in that which was enlarged and beautified by Herod.

     The ark was to the Israelites, after their wanderings were over, the fixed centre of their nationality, even as while they were in the wilderness it had always been placed in the centre of the camp. In the desert it had been the central kernel of the whole army. Outside the ark was the tabernacle or holy place, and outside of that, in various rows and orders, were the tents of the tribes; but the core of it all was this honoured ark. To-day we have a centre to which we rally, a fixed centre which faith perceives in heaven, whither the true ark of the covenant has gone up.

     Marvel not that the men of Judah paid great reverence to this ark when in so many ways it was a token for good to them. What they did to this ark is mentioned in the text. First, they recognised it as the ark of the covenant of the Lord. They were wont to say, “The ark of the convenant of the Lord.” They spoke much of it, and prided themselves upon the possession of it. Nay, they not only spoke of it, but they loved it; for we read, “Neither shall it come to mind,” or as the margin has it, “Neither shall it come upon the heart.” The ark of the covenant was upon the hearts of God’s people; they had a deep affection for it. When it was carried away captive we read of a godly woman who was seized with sudden travail at the news, while the aged Eli fell backward with horror at the tidings. It was very dear to the people of God, and if it was taken away they reckoned that the glory was departed from them.

     Hence, in the next place, they remembered it, as the text plainly informs us. If they were captives they prayed in the direction in which the ark was situated; wherever they wandered they thought of God and of the coffer which represented his presence.

     Next, they visited it. On certain holy days they came from Dan and from Beersheba, even from the utmost ends of their land, in joyful companies, singing from stage to stage, and making joyful holiday as they went up to the place where God did dwell between the cherubim. When they came back they rejoiced because they had worshipped before the ark of the covenant, even before the presence of the Most High God.

     Visiting it, they were accustomed also to speak highly of it; for in the margin of your Bibles you will find, “Neither shall they magnify it any more.” They used to tell to one another what the ark had done; the glory that shone forth from it, the acceptance of the offering whose blood was sprinkled upon it on the Day of Atonement, and the testimony which was heard from between the cherubic wings. They would tell how the ark divided the Jordan, how it laid the walls of Jericho level with the ground, how it slew the prying men of Bethshemesh and Uzzah, who laid presumptuous hands upon it, and how the glory of the Lord came upon it and filled the temple so that the priests could not stand to minister. Of their God and the ark of his strength they would not cease to sing; for the ark of the covenant was honoured in Israel.

     II. Secondly, I would have you observe THAT REVERENCE OBLITERATED. They were to say no more, “The ark of the covenant of the Lord.” Yet that fact was to be a blessing. Observe that the words are not spoken as a threatening, but as a gracious promise. Now, this cannot merely mean that they would be without the ark; for they would certainly understand that to be a sign of divine anger. Neither would the mere absence of the ark fulfil the prophet’s words; for if the ark were gone they would remember it still, and their hearts would hanker after it. If they could not visit it, yet it would come to their minds, and they would speak of it. It was somehow to be a boon to them that they should speak no more of the ark of the covenant, for the text was delivered in the form of a promise. The fact is they were to have done with the symbol because the substance would come. They were no more to speak of the ark itself, because they would have that which the ark was intended to foreshadow. Bear with me with great patience this morning while I try to interest you in the points in which our blessed Lord Jesus Christ is the ark of the covenant now in the temple of God for us.

     Our Lord Jesus by his coming has put out of his people’s thoughts the material ark of the covenant, because its meaning is fulfilled in him; and this, first, in the sense of preservation. The ark was intended to be a sacred treasury in which God laid up the two tables of stone upon which the law was written, that they might be kept there as priceless things, not to be commonly handled or even seen, but shut up there as the most precious gifts of heaven. We know not where the tablets are now, and we know not what has become of the golden chest; but where is the law now? Once it lay broken at your feet and mine, even as the tables were shattered at the feet of Moses. When Moses takes the tables of the law into his hand he soon grows angry with the sinful people, and he breaks them to pieces at the foot of the mount. But where is the law now? In Christ, for “he is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.” “How I love thy law,” says David. David knew where the law was, and where it could become an object of love, even in the hand of a mediator. The law apart from Christ is a terror to our guilty souls, because it is a law broken, and therefore condemning; but the law in Christ Jesus, honoured and fulfilled by him, is a delightful sight to true worshippers. In him the law is more honoured than by any merely human obedience, and it smiles upon us as if we had perfectly obeyed it. The law fulfilled is our confidence as much as the law violated was our dread. We think nothing of the ark now, and we think nothing of the tablets of stone; but we do think everything of Christ Jesus, “who is made of God unto us righteousness”; for he has completely kept the law; for he said, “Thy law is within my heart.” It was not within his heart alone, but within all his life; his whole thoughts, words, and acts went to make up a golden chest in which the precious treasure of the perfect law of God should be contained. O come, let us magnify his blessed name!

     Next, the ark signified propitiation; for over the top of the sacred box which held the two tables of the law was the slab of gold called the mercy-seat, which covered all. We will not talk of that golden covering now, but we will speak of Jesus, our blessed Lord, who covers all. When God looks down upon his law, he does not see it nakedly, but he beholds it in the person of his Son. He sees it there perfectly preserved without taint or flaw of any kind, and he rejoices therein. You and I magnify the Lord that instead of having a naked law to look at, which would flash devouring flame upon us, we see the law in Christ covered with mercy, fulfilled by love on our behalf. We often speak of the mercy-seat; but do we, so often as we should, remember that Jesus Christ himself is that mercy-seat? There is no mercy-seat to which we can draw nigh in prayer except the Lord Jesus Christ himself, me is the propitiation for our sins, and through whom our supplications are accepted. “Ah,” said the Jew, “we have a mercy-seat that covers all.” “Ah,” say we, “but we have one who does not do that typically, and in outward pattern alone, but he is the real covering upon which we lay our prayers and thanksgivings, and find ourselves accepted.” We come not to God on the footing of the law, but the interposing propitiation covers all, and comes between, and upon that mercy-seat we offer our petitions and praises. That is a second blessed reason why we will say no more, “The ark of the covenant of the Lord,” neither shall it come to mind, for Jesus is the propitiatory for us.

     The next word is a very blessed one, and that is covenant. The ark was called “the ark of the covenant.” It represented a covenant of works, as it was a part of a visible sanctuary; and, ah, how soon was that covenant broken! There is no wonder that in the breaking of that covenant the golden pot of manna was lost, and that Aaron’s rod that budded was no more seen; for we are told in the Chronicles that when they opened the ark, in the days of Solomon, there was nothing found in it “save the two tables which Moses put therein at Horeb, when the Lord made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of Egypt.” Paul tells us that they were there originally, and so it is probable that they were taken away by the Philistines. Ah, how soon we should lose the sweet things of God if we were under the covenant of works, and how soon we should miss the gentle sovereignty of his shepherd rod! I thank and bless God that in Christ Jesus we have a covenant of grace which can never fail, and never can be broken, and in him we have all that our souls desire: pot of manna and rod of Aaron, covenant provision and covenant rule we find in him. Dear hearer, have you ever seen Christ as your covenant? It is not every believer that has seen him in that light. When we first come to Christ we look to him as our Saviour, and we are lightened, and a very blessed look it is. It may not be till years after that we come to understand that God has entered into covenant with us in Christ, that he will bless us, and sanctify us, and keep us to the end. But, mark you, while a knowledge of Christ as a Saviour gives you the bread of life, yet the “wines on the lees well refined” and the “fat things full of marrow” are unknown to you till you can spell that word “covenant.” Oh, how I wish some of the people of God understood it, and realized that there is established between God and us in the person of Christ Jesus a covenant ordered in all things and sure. May the Holy Ghost teach you this. God has pledged his honour for the salvation of his people, and he has sealed the covenant with the precious blood of Jesus, and therefore he will not turn away from it, but will keep it for his Son’s sake. Oh, blessed Jesus, we want no ark of the covenant; for thou art the covenant itself to us, and in thee we rejoice.

     Fourthly: because this ark was the ark of the covenant of God it was from it that he was accustomed to reveal himself, and so it is called the “ark of testimony.” Jehovah often spoke from off the mercy-seat to his waiting people. His priests and prophets heard a voice coming forth from the thick darkness of the secret chamber wherein God dwelt, a voice from off the mercy-seat giving them promises of succour in their times of need. It was a great thing to possess what they called “the oracle.” No other people had a true oracle except these chosen ones of God; but now that its voice is silent we need not regret it, for we have another oracle. “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.” His Son is the testimony of the Father’s mind; “He that hath seen me,” saith he, “hath seen the Father.” In all the world of nature, in all the realm of providence, in all the books of revelation, God is seen; but nowhere as he is seen in the person of Jesus Christ— Jesus, the Word, is the plainest revelation of God. His sacrifice is the heart of God writ out in readable characters. Jesus Christ is “the testimony.” Come, then, beloved, let us rejoice in the faithful and true Witness. Some will say that they know God by study, others declare that they have found out God by reflection, and certain dream that they perceive him by imagination; but all their knowledge put together cannot equal their blessed testimony of God which he hath given us concerning himself in the manifestation of his incarnate, holy, obedient, suffering, dying, risen Son. We say no more, “the ark of the testimony,” but we rejoice that God was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, and saw the Father in the Son.

     We have only reached the middle of the subject now: this ark also signified enthronement; for the top of the ark was, so to speak, the throne of God. It was “the throne of the heavenly grace.” There God reigned and dwelt; that is, typically. It was a throne to which petitioners came with their pleas to obtain favours at the hand of the great King. Where now is the visible throne of God? Ah, sirs, his holy place has been broken down, and he dwelleth not in temples made with hands, that is to say of this building. There is no visible throne of God upon the face of the earth now. Whereunto shall ye liken the throne of the Most High? We have heard of thrones of mighty kings adorned with gold, and ivory, and pearls, and gems, till they have shone like rainbows; but what would these trifles be to the God of the whole earth? If you would see the throne of God, behold the person of the Christ; for in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. The Lord reigneth from the tree, from the cross: here is the kingdom of God set up in the person of Christ Jesus among the sons of men. Oh what a blessing to have such a throne to come to— to Jesus himself who is the throne of the invisible God! We talk no longer of the ark, and of its gold, and of its crown, and of its golden lid, and of the winged cherubs; for the Lord Jesus is infinitely better than these. Oh, our beloved Lord and Master, thou dost chase away these shadows from our minds, for the very throne of God art thou!

     Out of this grows the next idea, that as it was the place of God’s enthronement, so it was the door of man’s approach. Men never came nearer to God on earth typically than when they stood in the holy place close by the ark. Israel was nearest to God symbolically on that day when the atonement had been made and accepted, and her priest stood before the ark awe-stricken in the presence of God. You and I need not speak of the ark of the covenant; for we have a blessed way of approach. We do not come to Christ once in the year only, but every day in the year, and every hour of the day. He who came but once in the year came tremblingly. The Jews have a tradition that they put a cord about the foot of the High Priest, so that if he should die before the ark they might draw out his corpse; such was their servile fear of God. The tradition shows what was the trembling nature of that entrance within the veil: how different from the apostle’s words, “Let us come boldly unto the throne of the heavenly grace.” We are not afraid of being stricken with death there: we are full of reverence, but we have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear. There is no approaching God except in Christ; but in Christ our approach to God may be as near as possible. Come nearer, nearer still: it is your fault that you do not come near enough. There is nothing to tremble at here,— come right up to God and speak with him as a man speaketh with his friend. I would leave others to worship as they find they can; but to me the prayers of our national church are very beautiful, but, oh, how cold! What a long way off is God in the Liturgy! What word is there in it of childlike delight in God? Hence certain brethren who have been accustomed to that style of praying chide us for our boldness and familiarity in prayer. They think we are presumptuous in drawing so near to God. Brethren, we do not marvel at your judgment, nor complain of it. We would not condemn you for your distant prayers; but we cannot yield to your censure of our bolder approach, for we have in our bosoms a sense of acceptance and a spirit of adoption which will not let us speak with God otherwise than as his favoured children. We come boldly because we come through Jesus. Who is afraid of Jesus? Who shudders when drawing near to him? And if he be the mercy-seat to which we come, and the place where the Father meets us, we feel that he permits the holy familiarity, the humble freedom which is suggested to our hearts by the spirit of adoption.

     I must go a step further— the ark was the place of gracious power. On the top of the mercy-seat stood cherubic figures, and, notwithstanding all that learned men may have said, I do not think that any idea is nearer the mark than that these cherubim were types of angelic power, and of all the powers of providence which God is pleased to use in the behalf of his people. Notice how frequently the Word associates angels with our Lord; for instance, when Jacob saw the ladder which reached to heaven, and God at the top of it, there were angels ascending and descending upon it. Cherubim were on all the curtains of the most holy place which enclosed the ark, and the ministry of angels is interwoven into the great covenant plan of salvation. “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” Consider, then, that the angels on the mercy-seat typify the power of God by which he will defend his people. Bight well did he defend them, for who could harm them when he was in the midst of them? Yet we will not speak of the ark, neither will we remember it, neither will we visit it; for we see in Christ Jesus that all the power of God is on our side: he is “God with us,” and if God be with us, who can be against us? Every angel is the servant of our covenant Head, and so the guardian of every member of Christ. As he might have summoned twelve legions of angels by one uplifted glance to heaven, so will lie fill the mountain with horses of fire and chariots of fire whenever his people need such succour. The stars in their courses fight for the Saviour and for the saved ones: nothing shall by any means harm them. In heaven, and earth, and hell the warrant of the great King stands in fall force, “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm;” and this protection comes to us because we are preserved in Christ Jesus.

     An eighth explanation, however, I must close with, so far as this second head is concerned. The ark was much reverenced by the Jews, because it was the centre of their nationality. Around the ark in the wilderness gathered all the tribes. The pillar of fire and cloud above the ark of the covenant was God’s flaming standard marking the pavilion where the Lord of hosts abode. After they were settled in Canaan, it was the centre of the nation; thither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, unto the testimony of our God. To-day we have no such sacred ark or chest, we have no palladium or central standard. There is a church which has a man they call infallible, who is her centre; and there are others who in their cravings after uniformity in the churches would, I have no doubt, soon create a second hierarchy, and bring forth by prodigious birth a second pope; but it is not so among us. God will not have it so; he will have no human centre; and our very divisions are overruled to prevent such a thing. But there is one centre to which all God’s people gather; there is one name above every name, “of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” Find me a dozen spiritual men, and, to describe their different modes of thought, one of them may be called a Baptist, another an Episcopalian, a third a Presbyterian, a fourth a Methodist, and so forth; but let them sit together and begin to talk of the things of God, and of the covenant of grace, and of the work of the Spirit in the soul, and of the preciousness of the blood of Jesus, and you will see that they are one. Though they talk with various brogues, their language is one. Even as men from Somersetshire, or Essex, or Yorkshire, all differ and yet all are Englishmen; so are Christians of various denominations one in the common language of the cross of Christ. They say that Christians ought to be one, and so we ought; but I go further, and assert that all who are in Christ are already one. When our Lord prayed, “That they all may be one,” was he unheard? Was his prayer unavailing? I believe it was answered, and that to this day there is a vital union among all the people of God in every place, and though they sometimes try to conceal that unity, yet the love of Christ will out and will fuse them into one. Put two mere theologians together, and they will fight like Kilkenny cats; but bring two spiritual men together at the cross, and they will lie down like two lambs: they cannot help it, they must love each other in Christ. There is, there must be, an essential unity among those who are quickened by the Spirit: and I rejoice and glory that the name, the person, and the work of Jesus are at this hour the centre of Christendom. Talk not of the ark, neither visit it, neither let it come to mind; for the King himself is in the midst of us, “the standard-bearer among ten thousand.”

     III. Thirdly, let us see THIS REVERENCE TRANSFERRED. Let us render to Jesus the honour which aforetime was offered to the ark. First: let us say that Jesus is our covenant. We are told, “They shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the Lord.” People must talk, it is natural to them, they must say something— what else are their tongues for? Let us, then, say concerning Christ that he is the ark of the covenant of the Lord. Come, let us each one say it for himself— “Lord Jesus, I am in covenant with God through thee. Jesus, thou art my propitiation, by thee I approach unto the Father.” Recognize this truth for yourself, my brother, and it will be a grand day for you. When you have said it to yourself, say it to those about you. Say it to strangers, but especially say it to your own brethren. “They that feared the Lord spake often one to another,” and what better subject could they have than to say one to another, “Brother, what fellowship we have with God in Christ! What a covenant there is between us and him! Oil how sweetly doth Christ cover our sins! How blessedly doth he fulfil the law! How sweetly doth he bring us into fellowship with angels, and how doth he enable God to shine forth upon us!” Say this, say it often, nobody will rebuke you; it is a subject upon which you may be as fluent as you please. When you have said all you know, say it over again, and when you have said it again, say it a third time. This is a kind of note of which the human ear, when once it is cleansed, never grows weary.

     The text takes you a step further; for it says of the original ark, “neither shall it come to mind,” or (I give the margin), “neither shall it come upon your heart.” Brethren, let Christ come upon your heart, and dwell there. Beloved, let us not have Christ in the head, but Christ in the heart. Know all you can about him; but love him on account of everything you know; for everything we learn about Christ ought to be another argument for affection to him. How I loved him when I only knew myself a sinner and Christ a Saviour; but oh, I love him more as I begin to see my greater need and his greater fulness; as I see my greater sinfulness and his greater graciousness! Oh for a great Christ! Oh to see him grow upon us. Oh to get more knowledge, and then to have our hearts enlarged that we may love him more and more! Carry Christ in your heart, even as the Israelite bore the ark in his affections. Oh love the Lord, all ye his saints! You can love other things too much; but not your Lord. Embrace him; cry in the language of 'the Song, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.” Outsiders do not understand the Song: they say it is a mere love ditty. They never will understand it till the Lord Jesus is laid on their hearts; but when he is once there— their joy, their all— they will need just such golden speech as Solomon’s Song, and every word of it will be dear to their souls. Let us, then, love our Lord with all our hearts.

     And, next, if we should ever grow dull or cold at any time, let us take the third step in the text, and let us remember the Lord.

“What peaceful hours I once enjoyed,
How sweet their memory still.”

If I have not this enjoyment now, I will remember it, and struggle till I find my Lord again. O my Lord, I will remember thee. If I forget thee, let my heart forget to beat.

“Gethsemane, can I forget?
Or there Thy conflict see,
Thine agony and bloody sweat,
And not remember Thee!
“When to the cross I turn mine eyes,
And rest on Calvary,
O Lamb of God! my sacrifice!
I must remember Thee.
“Remember thee, and all thy pains,
And all thy love to me;
Yea, while a breath, a pulse remains,
Will I remember thee.”

     O memory, leave no other name than that of Jesus recorded upon thy tablets. Let us sometimes set apart a little space for the exercise of our memory. It is good for children at school to have their memories trained. Should not we sometimes, especially we who speak so much, get quite alone and sanctify our memory by going over all the blessings of the covenant which come to us by Christ, all the glory of his person, and all the wonders of his work. Oh, yes, we must remember it!

     The next thing is, let us visit him. We cannot set out on journeys now to go to Jerusalem on foot,— little bands of us together; yet let us visit Jesus. Let us continually come to the mercy-seat alone. Who that knows the worth of prayer but wishes to be often there? Next, let us come up by twos and threes. You that live at home and seldom get out, could you not every now and then during the day say to your maid, if she is a Christian, or to your sister who lives with you, “Come, let us have a five minutes’ visit to the ark of the covenant; let us go to the Lord and speak with him; may be he will speak with us. Perhaps we have not been agreeing as we should together, let us go and hear what God the Lord will speak, for he may speak peace to us, in more senses than one. Perhaps we have had a trouble to-day, and we do not see our way— let us go up to the ark of the covenant and hear what the oracle will tell us. Peradventure the Lord will say, ‘This is the way, walk ye in it,’ and we shall know what to do.” Frequently in twos and threes visit Christ your ark, and take care also to join the great caravans of church prayer. One starts in this place every Sunday at seven o’clock in the morning, and another at the hour of ten. Join those bands of pilgrims. A still larger company goes up to the oracle on Monday nights at seven o’clock. Some twelve or fifteen hundred of us are usually to be found in happy fellowship going up to the mercy-seat on Mondays. A very blessed little company meet on Thursday nights before I begin my sermon, and they say, “Come and let us go and enquire of the Lord, and ask his blessing upon his servant.” Besides these, there are meetings for prayer in this place at so many hours that I cannot now mention them all. If you live where they are giving up prayer-meetings, carry home a live coal and drop it into your minister’s bosom. “Ah,” say you, “he might not like it.” That is very likely, but he certainly needs setting on fire if he lets the prayer-meeting go out. Churches without prayer-meetings! Pull them down, their day is over! Stop the preacher’s mouth if he does not pray, and let his church be scattered to the winds; for the church that forgets to assemble for prayer has “Ichabod” written on its walls. No prayer, no power. The ark of the covenant is gone when the people no longer come together to cry unto the Lord in their companies. Let us visit the ark, then, constantly together; let us go up to the Holy Place that we may speak with the Most High!

     The last thing is, “Neither shall that be done any more”; but the margin has it, “Neither shall that be magnified any more.” Transfer your reverence, then, and as you cannot magnify the literal mercy-seat, come and magnify Christ, who is the real mercy-seat. Oh, that I knew how to speak words worthy to lie under the soles of my Master’s feet! Oh, that I could speak a sentence that was fit to be laid in the road like the palm branches, with which the disciples strewed his way, not worthy to be touched by his feet, but by the feet of the beast that he rode upon! I am not worthy to unloose his shoe latchet. He is so glorious that archangels fall on their faces to adore him. Heaven is splendid, but the splendour of heaven is the presence of my Lord and Master. His throne is a glorious high throne, but it owes its glory and its height to him that sits upon it. Hallelujah unto thee, O Christ. Hallelujah for ever and ever! for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us unto God by thy blood! If the Jew was ever permitted to look upon the golden chest of the ark, he saw but little compared with what I see in thee, thou man, thou God! The wood that could not rot, covered over with precious gold, was a poor representation of his perfect manhood and glorious Godhead. The ark was crowned, but we see Jesus made a little lower than the angels, and crowned King of kings and Lord of lords. Again my heart cries hallelujah! The Jew could but see a slab of gold that was called the throne of God, but we see the spotless, perfect life, and infinitely precious atonement of Christ, which are better than the much fine gold. I see God, not as a light for the eyes, but as shining upon the soul in Jesus my Lord. Oh, the glory, the glory of that light! I am reconciled! I am a child of God! I am brought near! Jehovah speaks to me! I speak to him! Hallelujah! All praise to him through whom such fellowship is rendered possible, so that a man can see God and live! Glory, glory be unto him who is now in the temple above. The veil is rent, and faith can see Jesus, to whom we come this day. God bless you, beloved. Amen.