The Singing Pilgrim

By / Jun 22

THE SINGING PILGRIM.

 

“Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.” — Psalm cxix. 54.

 

THE one-hundred-and-nineteenth Psalm is said by many to consist of detached sentences, and to be rather a casket of gold rings than a chain of united golden links; yet the position of this verse is somewhat remarkable, for the verse before it runs thus: — “Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake thy law.” Most of you know for yourselves what that sentence means; for if you hear a man swear in the streets, your blood runs chill with horror; and when you think of what has been said by blasphemers against the person of our divine Lord, and against the divine truths of revelation, you are horrified that men should have had the audacity to think— much less to say— such wicked things against the Most High. David rightly said, “Horror hath taken hold upon me,” and then he added our text; as if he would say, “I am horrified that they should break the law of God, and tread it under foot, for to me it is an intense delight: ‘Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimaged That which is their scorn is my song. What they count dross is gold to me. How can they treat such precious truths contemptuously?” He is horrified at the thought that what is, to him, the very soul of his life, and the life of his soul, should be to them a cast-off and a hate. Surely some connection is visible here: these rings are evidently linked to each other.

     It is well to notice the following verse. David writes, “I have remembered thy name, O Lord, in the night, and have kept thy law,” —as much as if he had said — It is not always daylight with me; buy when it is, thy statutes are my song. My sun is not always above the horizon; but when it is dark with me, and I am in trouble, I do not forget thee. Thou art still my solace. I remember thy name, and I am comforted. If I may not see thy face, it is a joy to remember thy name; for they that know thy name will put their trust in thee. If I can but remember thy name when my spirits sink, I shall have my soul stayed and upheld until the daylight shall again break in upon my spirit. Is there not much sweetness in this hopeful assurance, much to make our text overflow with meaning?

     And now I invite you to consider the text itself. It seems to me to talk about three things, three things which concern us. The first is a pilgrim; who is, secondly, a singing pilgrim; and this brings before us, thirdly, his song-book; — “thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.”

“Sweet strains to me thy laws have been,
Sweet music in my heart,
Where on my lonely pilgrimage
I sojourn all apart.”

     I. First, here is A PILGRIM. David was a type of all who are true disciples of Jesus. They are all pilgrims. A pilgrim is a person who is travelling through one country to another. If we are true to our profession, we are pilgrims with an emphasis; for, first, we belong to another country. We were not born here as to our highest nature. When we were born in the most emphatic sense we were born of another country altogether; “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, but of God.” “Except a man be born again”— “from above,” says the margin — “he cannot see the kingdom of God.” We have been born from above. Our birth makes us citizens of the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. We are aliens, foreigners, strangers in this world. One said of old, “I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were”; and another said, “I am a stranger in the earth;” indeed, all the faithful confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Jesus, our leader, said, “Ye are not of the world, even as I am not of the world;” and the beloved disciple said, “Ye are of God, little children, and the whole world lieth in the evil one.”

     We are hurrying through this world as through a foreign land. We are in this country, not as residents, but only as visitors, who take this country en route for glory. Ungodly men live as if they never meant to die. All their plans and preparations are evidently arranged for tarrying in this country; but if God has instructed you aright, you know assuredly that you shall die, and you have become familiar with the thought of departing from these shores. Here you have no continuing city, but are like the tent-dwelling patriarchs, who by their very abodes confessed that they looked for a possession yet to be given them. You look not only upon all other men as mortal, but upon yourselves as such; nor do you at all regret it; you would not stay here for ever if you could. You know that you are emigrants to the land of the unsetting sun, and these lands are but traversed on the road to your eternal heritage. This is a rare knowledge, peculiar to the godly. You may bring an unconverted man to be conscious of his mortality, but you cannot get him to realize that he is going to another land. Nay, he is going, he is going, he is going whither he would not. He is hurried to the land of confusion and dismay, where the shadow of death for ever rests on hopeless spirits. You do not wonder, therefore, that he tries to avoid the remembrance of this troublesome fact, and that he journeys on with his eyes shut, trying to forget that his life’s voyage will ever end. To you, dear friends, your passage through this world is not a transit to somewhere or to anywhere; for you know where you are going. As Jesus said to the disciples, “Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know”: you know which way Jesus went, and you know that you will go the same way; for he has promised that where he is there you shall be also. One of his solemn declarations was, “Because I live, ye shall live also”; and one of his last prayers put this promise into the form of authority and claim— “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory.”

     If an Italian now in England passes through France on his way to the Eternal City, he stays at Paris, or Lyons, or Marseilles, on his journey; but all the while he is not a Frenchman, he is an Italian. Wherever he stays upon the road, he says to himself, “This is not Rome. This is not the place of my nativity. I have no citizen rights here; I am going onward to my own dear city, and I must hasten as best I may until I reach it.” That is the condition of the Christian: his face is steadfastly set to go to the New Jerusalem, and nothing must detain him. A pilgrim in the old crusading times started out to reach Jerusalem. You know how many were attacked with' that insanity in those times; I commend them not, but I use the illustration in all soberness. The Crusader journeyed on foot across Europe. Whenever he came in sight of a goodly city, whether it was Vienna, or Constantinople, he stood and gazed upon the towers, the spires, the minarets; and when he had done so, he turned to his companion and said, “A fair sight, my friend; but it is not the Holy City to which you and I are journeying.” So, whenever God brings us to any place, however pleasant or delightful it may be, it is for us to say, “A fair sight, and God be thanked for it; but it is not the Golden City yet.” Our gardens are not Paradise, our homes are not the Father’s house on high, our comforts are not our heaven, our halting-places are not the everlasting rest. We must not rest contented here below. We have not come to that promised land whereof God has spoken to us in his covenant. If we were mindful of the place from which we came out, truly we have had many opportunities to return; but we are not mindful of it; our whole desire lies in the opposite direction; our burgess-rights and civic privileges connect us with a city whose jewelled walls and shining streets are waiting for our coming. Our Captain cries to us, “Forward.” Beyond the river our possessions lie. In another land is our everlasting abode. We are, then, pilgrims born in another country, passing through this world to an inheritance beyond.

     A pilgrim' s main business is to get on and pass through the land as quickly as he may. You will remember how Israel desired to pass through the land of Sihon, King of Heshbon, and Moses offered these terms— “Let me pass through thy land: I will go along by the highway, I will neither turn unto the right hand nor to the left: only I will pass through on my feet.” Sihon would not allow them to pass on these conditions; neither will the world grant us a similar privilege. The tribes had to fight their way, and so must we. All we ask is a road. We may also beg the loan of six feet of earth for a sepulchre, but all else we will forego if we may the better proceed towards our inheritance. Not how to stay here in comfort, but how to pass through the land in holiness is our great question. Sometimes a home sickness is upon us, and then we are weary of this wilderness, and pine for the land which floweth with milk and honey. We hear the inviting heralds and the songs of those who hold high festival in the palaces above, wherefore we groan being burdened, and long to end the days of this our banishment: —

“Let me go, oh speed my journey,
Saints and seraphs lure away.
Oh, I almost feel the raptures
That belong to endless day.

 

 “Oft methinks I hear the singing
That is only heard above.
Let me go, oh speed my going,
Let me go where all is love!”

     As pilgrims, it is true in our case that our relatives are not, the most of them, in this country. We have a few brethren and sisters with us who are going on pilgrimage, and we are very thankful for them; for good company cheers the way. It is pleasant when Christiana can take her dear friend Mercy with her, and when her boys Matthew and James can go, and Mr. Greatheart with them. Though, if need be, Christian must leave Christiana and all the rest behind if they will not go with him, still it is much more pleasant to see them going on pilgrimage with us. Yet the majority of those dear to us are already over yonder. If I may not say the majority by counting heads, yet certainly in weight the great majority will be found to be in the far country. Where is our Father? Where but in heaven? And where is our Elder Brother? Is he not there too, at the right hand of God? And where is the Bridegroom of our soul? the truest and best Bridegroom with whom we are joined in a marriage union, which death cannot sever? Where, I say, is the Bridegroom of our souls? We know right well. And may not the bride desire the happy period of the home-bringing— the joyous marriage feast, the supper of the Lamb? Where our Father is, and where Jesus is, must needs be our own country, and we are exiles till we reach it.

     If we have a clear eye for spiritual relationships, see what a host of our nearest and dearest ones have gone across the river already, and are in the glory land. Multitudes, multitudes are there: Gad, a troop cometh, a host innumerable. We are come unto “the general assembly and church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.” Let us, therefore, go on with great speed: let us not think to tarry here, for our best friends and kindred have entered into their rest, and it becomes us to follow after them.

     And, you know, a man who is a pilgrim reckons that land to be his country in which he expects to remain the longest. Through the country which he traverses he makes his way with all speed; but when he gets home he abides at his leisure, for it is the end of his toil and travail. What a little part of life shall we spend on earth! When you and I have been in heaven ten thousand years we shall look back upon those sixty years we spent here as just nothing at all: their pain a pin’s prick, their gain a speck, their duration the twinkling of an eye. Even if you have to tarry eighty or ninety years in this exile, when you have been in heaven a million years the longest life will seem no greater than a thought, and you will wonder that you said the days were so weary and the nights so dreary, and that the years of sickness dragged such a weary length along. Ah me, eternal bliss, what a drop thou makest of our sea of sorrow I Heaven covers up this present grief, and so much overlaps it that we could fold up myriads of such mournings and still have garments of joy enough to clothe an army of the afflicted. We make too much of this poor life, and this fondness costs us dear. Oh for a higher estimate of the home-country, with its delights for evermore! then would the trials of a day exhale like the dew of the morning, and scarce secure an hour of sorrow. We are only here time enough to feel an April shower of pain, and we are gone among the unfading flowers of the endless May. Wherefore let us not make the most of the least, and the least of the most; but let us put things in their order, and allot to brief life its brief consideration, and to everlasting glory its weight of happy meditation. We are to dwell throughout eternity with God! Is not that our home? That is not a man’s residence into which he enters at the front door and in a moment passes out at the back, and is gone never to return, as though it were a mere passage from one street to another; and yet this is about all that believers do as to this poor world. That is a man’s home where he can sit him down at his ease and look on all around him as his own and say—

“Here will I make a settled rest,
While others go and come,
No more a stranger or a guest,
But like a child at home.”

Yes, this shows that we are pilgrims, because we are here for so short a space compared with the length of time we shall spend in the dear country beyond.

     One thing that always marks us as pilgrims is this, — that we are treated by the people of this land as strangers. Different races of men reveal their nationality by their speech, their dress, their manners, and their habits. That which is perfectly natural in a Dutchman seems ridiculous to a Frenchman, while the customs of a Chinaman horrify a Briton. As we who are of the hill country pass through these lowlands the people discover our foreign character, and take a wondering interest in us, sometimes of a friendly sort, but oftener of a hostile kind. They marvel whence we are, and as they cannot make us out they often come to the conclusion that we are acting a part, and are nothing better than hypocrites and pretenders. They, of course, are honest, and all who are not like them must be false and contemptible. This suspicion and ill will does not happen to all professors, but more or less it falls to the lot of all genuine Christians. They cannot be hid, and yet they cannot be understood, for their life is hid. Gladly would they pass incognito through the land, but the men of the world will not have it so. They soon discover the pilgrim strangers, and they think them very odd. I suppose they are so, if judged by the customs of the world. We do not drop into the ways and customs of the ungodly; for our Master said to us, “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” Hence, in this world, the true Christian is as strange as a Red Indian in Cheapside. People do not understand saints, they cannot make them out; for they are constructed upon different principles from other men, and often do things which men count foolish,

unmanly, and absurd; for the laws which govern them are not such as the world esteems. Hence it happens that the ungodly forge a strange name for a Christian; they cannot make head or tail of him, and so they set him up in their chamber of horrors, and fix a nickname upon him. They declare right positively, “He is mad.” Blessed madness! Another time they say, “He is a hypocrite.” One cries, “It is cant”; another, “It is fanaticism.” Those are all expressions by which the world shows that it cannot make us out. Are you surprised when they use such titles? You ought to be very much surprised if they do not use them. If the utterly worldly man says, “I perfectly understand you,” then say to yourself, “Then I am like you, for if I had been different from you— if God’s grace had given me a different way of thinking— you would have been sure to find fault with me.” Oh, never be afraid of the world’s censure, brethren; its praise is much more to be dreaded. When Socrates was told, “Such a man speaks well of you to-day,” the philosopher was by no means gratified, but concluded that he must have done something amiss that such a fellow should speak well of him. Take censures out of a foul mouth to be your highest praise, but praises out of such mouths are worse than abuse. We are strangers, speckled birds, curious creatures, beings that are twice born, who have a new life which is an enigma to ungodly men. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, or whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” He is an unaccountable person. “Thou canst not tell whence he cometh or whither he goeth.” He who finds redemption and eternal life in Jesus is judged to be a strange, out-of-the-way being. He who looks for his happiness in the world to come is made thereby a pilgrim, and that is to men of this world a sort of gipsy life, fictitious, romantic, absurd, and unpractical. We who are indeed such accept our appointed condition, and the scorn which often comes with it, and henceforth we break loose from bonds of time and sense to seek another country, — that is, a heavenly.

“Cheerful, O Lord, at thy command
I bind my sandals on;
I take my pilgrim’s staff in hand,
And go to seek the better land,
The way thy feet have gone.”

     II. But now, secondly, according to our text, the believer is A SINGING PILGRIM: “Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.” He does not say “my song” only, but “my songs,” in the plural, as if he had been a great singer, and given to singing, which proves that pilgrims to heaven are a merry sort of people after all. They have their trials, some trials more than those which other men know; but then they have their joys, and among these joys are sweet delights such as worldlings can never taste. On the whole, Moses is right in his judgment of the Lord’s people: “Happy art thou, O Israel.” “Blessed are the people,” says the Psalmist, “that know the joyful sound. They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance.” Holy pilgrims are happy; theirs is not the caravan of despair, but the march of those who go from strength to strength. I hear a voice objecting, “You give a rose colour to facts, for some religious people are very gloomy.” I dispute not the fact. For sure some days are dark, and yet day is not the time of darkness: even noontide may be dim, and yet noon is not the hour of gloom. On earth all men must eat some bitter herbs, whether they eat the paschal lamb or not. Moreover, all are not truly godly who profess to be so. They fancied they were religious, and therefore felt themselves bound to keep up the profession: surliness and gloom are part of the buttressing by which they keep up the flimsy structure of their piety. Their religion is not real, and so they make it terrible. If your cheek is painted you know that its ruddy hue may yield to a handkerchief or to a drop of perfume, and therefore you keep your distance and appear reserved. The countryman’s rubies are not so soon dissolved; the roses of rude health are not so speedily uprooted. I have known people who painted themselves up as Christians, and they felt it incumbent upon them to look very demure, or else their paint would have come off. They thought that they must add melancholy to their profession to imitate holiness. False notion. The gloom betrays the child of darkness. “But we do measure people’s piety by the length of their faces,” says one. Do you? So do I, and I like them short — the shorter the better. Those who draw very long faces do it as a matter of pretence, and this is utterly to be condemned, for Jesus says that the Pharisees had such countenances that they might appear unto men to fast, but they were hypocrites to the core. Let me tell you for a certainty— for I have the experience of many to back me up in it— that there is a quiet, rippling rill of intense comfort in a Christian’s heart, even when he is cast down and tried, and at other times when trials are lightened there are cascades of delight, leaping cataracts of joy, whose silver spray is as pure as the flash of the fountains of Paradise. I know that there are many here who, like myself, understand what deep depression of spirit means, but yet we would not change our lot for all the mirth of fools or pomp of kings. Our joy no man taketh from us: we are singing pilgrims, though the way be rough. Amid the ashes of our pains live the sparks of our joys, ready to flame up when the breath of the Spirit sweetly blows thereon. Our latent happiness is a choicer heritage than the sinner’s riotous glee. When suffering greatly, and scarce able to stand, I was met by one who has long enjoyed rude health and unbroken prosperity. His mind is coarse, and his tongue rasps like a file, and he is ever fond of expressing his rational ideas as proof that he is a superior person. With sarcastic politeness he stood before me, and said, “Dear, dear, what a sufferer you are! But it is what may be expected, for whom the Lord loveth he chastencth.” I had barely time to admit that the chastening had been severe before he added, “You are very welcome to love which shows itself in that fashion; for my part, I had rather be without it, and enjoy the use of my limbs. I can do better without your God than with him.” Then the hot tears scalded my eyelids and forced themselves a passage. I could bear the pain, but I could not endure to hear my God evil spoken of. I flamed up in indignation, and I cried, “If instead of having pain in my legs I had a thousand agonies in every limb of my body I would not change places with you. I am content to take all that comes of God’s love. God and his chastening are better than the world and its delights.” Truly I know it to be so. My soul has a greater inner gladness in her deep despondency than the godless have in their high foaming merriments. Yes, and even pain is tutor to praise, and teaches how to play upon all the keys of our humanity till a completer harmony comes from us than perpetual health could have produced. Was not Herbert right when he wrote of man’s double powers of grief, and then found in them double founts of praise?

“But as his joys are double,
So is his trouble.
He hath two winters, other things but one:
Both frosts and thought do nip
And bite his lip;
And he of all things fears two deaths alone.

 

 Yet even the greatest griefs
May be reliefs,
Could he but take them right, and in their ways.
Happy is he whose heart
Hath found the art
To turn his double pains to double praise.”

You that are lowest down in the scale of visible joy, you that are broken in pieces like wrecks grinding upon rocks, you that are a mass of pain and poverty— you will give your Lord a good word, will you not? You will say, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” At our worst we are better off than the world at its best. Godly poverty is better than unhallowed riches. Our sickness is better than the worldling’s health. Our abasement is better than the sinner’s honours. We count it better that we suffer pain like to the torture of death than that we bathe in pleasure, and that pleasure be the effect of sin. We will take God at all the discount you can put upon him, and you shall have the world and all the compound interest which you are able to get out of such a sham. God’s people sing: they are the children of the sun, birds of the morning, flowers of the day. Wisdom’s ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. We hear a music which never ceases, full-toned and high-ascending, and its soft cadences are with us in the night when darkness thickens upon darkness, and the heart is heavily oppressed. “Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” Know ye that paradox? Some of us have learned it now these many years.

     It seems that the Psalmist had times of very special delight— high days and holidays; or, as the old records write, “gaudy days,” days of overflowing joys. “Thy statutes have been my songs.” He was not always singing— at least, not at his highest pitch; but there were many brave times when he poured forth a song. If you and I cannot always sing, we do sometimes turn to that sweet amusement, and while away the time. Remember how John Bunyan represents Mr. Ready-to-Halt, Mr. Feeble-Mind, and all the rest of them: when they had cut off Giant Despair’s head they danced, and Ready-to-Halt played his part upon his crutches. Ay, we have our merry-makings, brethren, at which angels find themselves at home. Pilgrims can sing and touch the lively string. When the Lord kills Giant Despair for us we have our Psalms and Te Deums, and we praise the Lord upon the high-sounding cymbals. When we are brought from deep distress our God deserves a song, and he shall have it too. The heathen tune their hymns to great Diana or to Jove, and surely the living God shall not lack for praise. Our hearts are poured out with as great delight and merriment as when the wine vats overflow. We know nothing now of the spirit of wine, for it is evil; but the wine of the Spirit, ah, that is another thing; it filleth the heart with a divine exhilaration which all the dainties of the world can never bestow.

     The singing pilgrim is a man who has a world of joy within him, and is journeying to another world, where for him all will be joy to a still higher degree. He sings high praises unto God, and blesses his name beyond measure, for he has reason to do so, reason which never slackens or lessens. Oh that we were always as we are sometimes, then would our breath be praise. David remembered his best times. He says, “Thy statutes have been my songs.” He recollected that he sang, and sang often. I want some of you who are troubled to-night to rest with us awhile and recollect when you were the Lord’s choristers and sang as heartily as any of the company. You have hanged your harps on the willows. That is a bad thing to do, but it is better to hang your harp on the willows than to break it, for it may be taken down and used again for the Lord’s glory. Jesus, who has a tender heart for mourners, will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice. Think not that the past has devoured all your happiness; hope lives, peace abides, and joy is on the wing. Recall those sweet songs yon loved to sing. Recall them, I say, and find in them arguments for renewed praise. If you cannot graze in the pastures of delight and feed upon new joys, ruminate upon the old ones, and get from them rich nutriment for praise. Think of happier days, and be happier. Listen to the echoes of your former psalms, and begin to sing again. The thing that has been is the thing that shall be. “The Lord hath been mindful of us, he will bless us.”

     The Psalmist bears his testimony that though now he maybe mourning yet he did once sing. I wish that Christians whenever they feel discouraged and doubting would not begin telling everybody, “Oh, I am bowed down,” without saying also, “I was not always so. For years I was free as a bird, and did not envy an angel; nor shall I be always sorrowful; I shall wear my plumes again and fill the air with my songs. I am not going to be bowed down always. I have sackcloth on my loins to-day, but I do remember when I was dressed in silken apparel, and rejoiced before the Lord. My sackcloth will not last long. ‘Weeping may endure for a night:’ it is the time for dews. ‘But joy cometh in the morning,’ that is the time for sunlight and for bird-singing, and so it will be with me.” Recollect what you used to do, dear friend, in the heyday of your faith; and tell others what you used to do that they may not think you have always been a knight of the rueful countenance. Do not let the Hill Mizar and the Hermonites be quite forgotten. When “deep calleth unto deep,” say— “I will remember thy former lovingkindnesses, and joys long past, and so will I put my trust in thee.”

     Well may every pilgrim to heaven be a singing pilgrim, because he is getting every day nearer to the land where it is all singing. There are many delights in heaven, but the main thing about heaven is the adoration of God. Oh, if I might once adore with my whole being, I would ask never to do anything else for ever, but to melt away in reverent worship of the blessed God. Oh, what singing that will be, when you will sing your best, your heart made perfect to sing worthily in accord with the plane and theme. Oh for the music which is all harmony and no discord! What music that will be when all the dear voices which have been hushed, which we can hardly think of now without a tear, will all ring out clearly the praises of God, — when all the myriad voices that have gone before will join in full chorus — when all shall be perfect, and all shall be there, and ail shall praise God for ever. Come, pilgrim, sing, for you are going to sing for ever. Now, rehearse your blessed anthem. Sing unto the Lord now, since you are to sing unto the Lord world without end.

“Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
That follows after prayer.

 

 And the night shall be filled with music
And the cares that infest the day
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.”

     III. Now, I must come to a close, for time admonishes me; and the last head was to be THE SONG BOOK: “Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.”

     The Bible is a wonderful book. It serves a thousand purposes in the household of God. I recollect a book my father used to have, entitled “Family Medicine,” which was consulted when any of us fell sick with juvenile diseases. The Bible is our book of family medicine. In some houses, the book they most consult is a “Household Guide.” The Bible is the best guide for all families. This Book may be consulted in every case, and its oracle will never mislead. You can use it at funerals. There are no such words as those which Paul has written concerning the resurrection of the dead. You can use it for marriages— where else find you such holy advice to a wedded pair? You can use it for birthdays. You can use it for a lamp at night. You can use it for a screen by day. It is a universal Book; it is the Book of books, and has furnished material for mountains of books; it is made of what I call bibline, or the essence of books. I am preaching to you to-night as a man without books. I cannot get at any of my books, for they are all packed away; but I have a library here in having this one volume, which is, in fact, a number of books bound together. This one Book is enough to last a man throughout the whole of his life, however diligently he may study it. It seems that David, when he was a pilgrim, used the part which he had of this blessed Book as a song-book. It was nearly all history. What could he find to sing of there? He sang the wars and victories of the God of Israel. You and I have a bigger book than David had; can we say that, as pilgrims, we use this blessed Book for songs? Truly we ought to do so, for this is the book that started us on pilgrimage. The blessed teachings of this Book, sent home by the Holy Spirit, made us flee from the City of Destruction, and made us seek the road that leads to life eternal. We sing about this Book, for it is “perfect, converting the soul.” It turned our feet from dangerous ways of folly, sin, and shame. By the lessons of this Book—

“Grace taught our soul to pray,
And made our eyes o'erflow,”

and therefore do we sing of the gracious statutes of the Lord.

     We use this Book for a song-book, as pilgrims, because it tells us the way to heaven. We often sing as we come to a fresh spot on the route, and bless God that we find the road to be just as we have read in the way-book, just as. our divine Master said it should be. Well may we sing a song of gratitude for an infallible word.

     We love this Book because it speaks of other pilgrims who have gone this way. It is a Book full of stories of the worthies of old, of whom it tells us, —

“Once they were mourning here below,
And wet their couch with tears,
They wrestled hard, as we do now,
With sins, and doubts, and fears.”

It is very delightful to us to read and know how they conquered, and to learn that all true pilgrims who keep to the high road will conquer too. So we sing of Gideon, and of Barak, of Jephtha, and of David, and, above all, of the great Prince of pilgrims who went that way. We love this Book because it describes the life and death of the Prince of pilgrims, even our Lord Jesus. Many a sweet song we get concerning him, as we rehearse the story of what he did and suffered for us here below, and what he is doing for us now.

     This Book tells us the privileges of pilgrims, both here and hereafter, and of the care which the Lord of pilgrims shows towards all who seek the better country.

     Best of all, if better can be than what we have said already, we love this Book because it tells us of the place to which we are going. Oh, how it paints that city, not in many words, but in suggestive similes. How wonderfully it talks to us of our abode! Why, if it said no more than that “they shall be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory,” we should know enough of heaven to make our hearts dance for joy. To be with Jesus where he is, to behold his glory, this is bliss pressed down and running over, more than our bosoms can hold. Have you ever seen the heavenly country? Has your eye ever been permitted to rest upon it? “No,” says one, “certainly not. ‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard.’” A very nice text, brother. Go on with it; go on with it. You may make God say what he does not mean if you quote half a text. He says, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him; but God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit.” Hence we know these joys by revelation, and that is the best of knowledge. The eye has not seen; but we have done with seeing with eyes when we deal with spiritual things. Our ears have not heard: these are poor deaf things. At best they only hear mortal sounds; but we have an inward function, faculty, power of hearing without ears. God does not speak in audible tones to his children, and yet he speaks to them, and they hear him. We have a spirit which dispenses with fleshly faculties when it comes to deal with God. He has revealed to us somewhat of the joy of communion with Christ; somewhat of the joy of conquered sin; somewhat of the joy of beholding his face, and praising and blessing his name. We know already somewhat of the joy of being made like him, and one with him; and all this sets our feet on the top of Mount Clear, and puts the telescope to our eye: and if our hand be steady, as, thank God, sometimes it is, we see the city; and we long to enter it. “Thy statutes have been my song in the house of my pilgrimage,” because there I read of what is to be my home when pilgrim days are over, and I shall see the Master face to face.

     Now, dear hearers, do you sing out of this holy Book? A country may be judged by its songs; and so may an individual. Do you sing the song of songs? Are God’s statutes royal music for you? A wise man once said that he would permit anybody to make the laws of a country if he had the making of the ballads, for these kindle the spirit and fashion the character. What do you sing, brother? What do you sing? I leave that question as a heart-searching one— what do you sing? Or are you one that never sings at all? Poor soul, how do you live here, and where will you live hereafter? Where must non-singers go? God give you a singing heart, and may you sing unto the Well-beloved a song touching the Well-beloved, and keep on singing it “till the day break and the shadows flee away.” God bless you. Amen.



Who is This?

By / Feb 13

Who is This?

 

“Behold, the Lord hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. And they shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the Lord: and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken. Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.” — Isaiah lxii. 11, 12; Ixiii.1.

 

ISRAEL was often in great trouble, frequently oppressed by neighbouring nations. It would not have been so if they had been faithful to Jehovah; but as a chastisement for their idolatry they were given over into the hands of adversaries. One nation, near akin to them, was very jealous of them. The Edomites, the seed of Esau, were always watching against Israel, and whenever the nation fell on evil times, and powerful kingdoms invaded them, Edom was ever in alliance with the enemy, ready to profit by Israel’s sorrows. Hence Edom was the typical adversary of Israel, and is in that manner mentioned here with Bozrah, its capital city.

     The Lord God of Israel often interposed to rescue his people. I need not go over the history; but any one of these appearances for the overthrow of Israel’s enemies may be represented in the language now before us, in the commencement of the sixty-third chapter. God coming forth in the glory of his strength overthrows Israel’s enemies, and is seen in vision returning from their slaughter. I take the text as a representation of those marvellous victories which the Lord wrought for his chosen people when he put forth his power on their behalf. The first verse represents the astonishment of the prophet and of the people, as they beheld the Lord glorious in power, when he had vindicated the cause of his oppressed people, and had crushed the power of their adversaries.

     As in God’s immediate dealings with men we usually see the Son of God most manifest, this passage may fitly represent the glorious appearings of our Lord Jesus Christ whenever he has come forth to vindicate the cause of his people and to overthrow their enemies. This vision will be astoundingly fulfilled in the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The fourteenth and nineteenth chapters of the Book of Revelation give us parallel passages to this. What astonishment there will be among the sons of men when he shall appear in his vesture dipped in blood, smiting the nations with his iron rod—yea, dashing them in pieces as potters’ vessels! In those last tremendous times, when the day of vengeance shall have arrived, then shall the winepress be trodden without the city, even the great winepress of the wrath of God. No tongue can fully tell the terrors of that day when our Lord shall say, “Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries.” While he shall give victory to the cause of peace, and purity, and truth, and righteousness, and shall save all those who believe in him, he shall bruise Satan under his feet, and crush the powers of darkness. Then shall these words of the prophet be more fully understood: “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength?”

     The commentators and expositors almost universally deny that this text may be used as referring to our Lord’s passion. They tell us that to do so would be to wrest the Scripture from its obvious meaning; at any rate, at the best, it would be a mere accommodation of the passage. Now, I take up the gage of battle, and deny the assertion. The church by a holy instinct has referred the passage to our Lord’s first as well as his second coming, and she has not been in error. The very first reference of this text is to the Lord’s passion in its spiritual aspect as a battle against the enemies of our souls. I grant you that the text does not speak of our Lord as trampled upon and crushed in the winepress, and the blood which stains his garments is not said to be his own blood, but that of his foes. Such a representation might have been expected had it been the prophet’s design to describe the sufferings of our Lord; he does not describe the sufferings themselves, but he does most clearly depict their grand result. If we take a deeply spiritual sight of our Lord’s passion, such as a prophet would be likely to have before him in vision, we see upon his garments, as the result of his sufferings, not so much his own blood as the blood of the enemies whom in death he overthrew.

     The passage is poetical: the battle is a spiritual one; the conflict is with sin and with the powers of darkness; and the conqueror returns from the fight having utterly destroyed his foes, of which his blood-dyed garments are the surest evidence. Our Lord’s passion was the battle of all battles, upon which the whole campaign of his life turned; and had he not there and then vanquished all our adversaries, and had he not at the resurrection come back as one who had trampled down all his foes, then there had been no glorious appearing in the latter days. That first combat is the cause of the ultimate triumph. I look upon this sixty-third of Isaiah as the prophetic statement of the event described by Paul in Colossians ii. 15: — “And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” On the resurrection morning it would have been correct poetically to have used the language of our text. Unseen spirits, viewing our Lord after a spiritual manner, might have exclaimed as they beheld the risen Saviour—

“Who is this that comes from Edom,
All his raiment stain’d with blood;
 To the slave proclaiming freedom;
 Bringing and bestowing good:
 Glorious in the garb he wears,
Glorious in the spoils he bears?”

     I mean so to use the passage this morning, with a consciousness that I am not accommodating it, nor taking it from its natural sense at all; but rather placing it in the light of its first great fulfilment. I have not concealed from you its relation to the Second Advent, when the Lord Jesus shall appear in victory “clothed with a vesture dipped in blood”; but at the same time this is a picture of salvation rather than destruction, and its hero appears as “mighty to save,” in fulfilment of a divine proclamation: “Behold, thy salvation cometh.” The scene before us describes an interposition of the Messiah; the return of the divinely appointed champion from the defeat of his enemies. As it is evidently a picture of salvation rather than of damnation; as the main feature in it is that he is mighty to save; as the great and chief element of the whole thing is that the year of his redeemed is come, and that the warrior’s own arm has brought salvation to his people; I cannot for a moment question that this text is applicable to the first coming of Christ. Then he did battle with the hosts of sin and death and hell, and so vanquished them that in his resurrection he returned with the keys of death and of hell at his girdle. Then was he seen as “mighty to save.” Now lend me your hearts as well as your ears, while I proceed to the great subject before us, and may the Holy Spirit grant us his gracious aid!

     I. First, in my text there is A PROCLAMATION: “Behold, the Lord hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. And they shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the Lord: and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken.” The commentators as a whole can see no connection between the sixty-third chapter and the preceding part of the Book of Isaiah; but surely that connection is plain enough to the common reader. In these verses the coming of the Saviour is proclaimed, and in the next chapter that coming is seen in vision, and the evangelical prophet beholds the Saviour so vividly that he is startled, and enquires, “Who is this?”

     Let us consider this proclamation broadly; for we have no time to dwell upon its details. I desire to apply its spiritual lessons as I go on, aiming chiefly at the comfort of those who are in soul trouble. Are any of you oppressed with a sense of sin? Do you see sin to be an enemy too powerful for you to overcome? Are you unable to escape out of the hand of the enemy? Here is a proclamation. God, the ever gracious One, demands your attention while, as a King, he proclaims his word of mercy to the daughter of Zion; “Behold, thy salvation cometh.”

     This great announcement tells you that there is a salvation from without Within your heart there is nothing that can save you: all within you is carnal, sold under sin. Out of bondage only bondage can arise. The proclamation is, “Behold, thy salvation cometh.” It comes to you from a source beyond yourself; it does not arise from within you, for it could not do so. Salvation comes from God himself. What a blessing, that when there was no salvation in you, nor the possibility of its coming from within, it came from above! Salvation comes not from man’s will, or merit, or efforts. “Salvation is of the Lord.” “It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” O soul, if the Lord God comes to save you, Edom and Bozrah, sin and hell, will soon be broken in pieces! The power of your sins, and the tyranny of your sinful habits, the cords of your companionships, the bondage of Satan himself, must speedily yield when salvation comes from the eternal throne, and the mighty One of Israel hastens to the rescue.

     It is a salvation which comes through a person. “Thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.” The great salvation which we have to proclaim is salvation by Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Jesus of Nazareth, who died on the cross, is also the Son of the Highest. Him hath God set forth to be the propitiation for sin, to be the deliverer of mankind from the bondage of evil. Behold him, the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world! Behold him, the beloved of the Father! Power to save unto the uttermost is laid upon him; he is a Saviour, and a great one. Remember this, and do not look to rites and ceremonies, or to creeds and doctrines, but to the person of Jesus, who is God and man. Simeon said, when he beheld our Lord as a babe, “Mine eyes have seen thy salvation”: truly we may say the same with emphasis when we see him in his resurrection.

     This salvation leads to holiness” for the text says of those who receive the Saviour, “They shall call them, The holy people.” If, dear friend, you are to be saved, you are also to be sanctified; indeed, that sanctification is the essence of salvation. This will give you great joy, I know; for no man really desires salvation, rightly understanding what he desires, without meaning by it that he may be saved from the power of sin, and may no longer be in servitude to his own lusts, or to the wicked customs of the world. Sinners, rejoice; the great Jehovah proclaims to you a salvation which shall so purify you that you shall be saved from your sins, and shall be called “The holy people.” Is not that the best news you have ever heard?

     Further, it is salvation by redemption; for it is written that they shall be called “The redeemed of the Lord.” In the sacred Scriptures there is no salvation for men except by redemption. You have enslaved yourselves, and your heritage is under bond; and therefore you and it must be ransomed. Behold, your Redeemer pays your ransom. His own heart’s blood Messiah pours forth, that men who have been enslaved may be set free. Redemption by substitution is the gospel. Christ stands in your stead, a sufferer because of your sins: you are set in Christ’s stead, rewarded because of his righteousness, accepted because of his acceptableness with God. This is a sure and satisfactory salvation; a salvation which satisfies the conscience of man as well as the justice of God. This salvation is to you without money and without price; but it cost the Redeemer nothing less than himself. Behold in him the ransom paid in full, so that he bids you go free. He saith, “Fear not: for I have redeemed thee.” Tell it out among the heathen, tell it out among the fallen, that there is salvation, salvation by a great redemption, full and free. Ail that lost ones have to do is joyfully to accept the purchased freedom, and go forth in joy and peace.

     This salvation is complete. “Thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken.” See the beginning of it: “Thou shalt be called, Sought out.” See the end of it: thou shalt be called, “Not forsaken.” You will not begin with God, but God will begin with you. You shall be sought out, and then you will seek him. He seeks you even now. You shall be known as one that was sought out, a sheep that wandered, a piece of money that fell into the dust; but, behold, you are sought out till the Saviour says, “Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.” This is the gracious beginning of salvation. But suppose the Lord found you, and then left you; you would perish after all. But it shall not be so; for the same Lord who calls you “Sought out” also calls you “Not forsaken.” You shall never be forsaken of the grace of God, nor of the God of grace. Whatever you may be, notwithstanding your weakness and your waywardness, you shall be known in heaven by these two names— first, that you were “sought out,” and next, that you were “not forsaken.” It makes my eyes sparkle with delight to think how fully those two names describe myself. I delight to sing:—

“Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
 He, to rescue me from danger,
 Interposed his precious blood.”

Equally true is that other word, “not forsaken.” Notwithstanding all my provocations and rebellions, I believe in him who hath said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” I shall not die but live, because he is with me.

     This salvation which we have to proclaim to you, then, is one that comes to you who lie despairing at hell’s dark door. You shall be sought out according to the sovereign grace of God. Jesus comes to you when you are afraid to come to him. You fear that if you were to commence the march to heaven you would faint by the way; but he who travels in the greatness of his strength is come that you may lean on him. You that are smitten with faintness of heart because you know your own weakness and changeableness, you shall be helped and sustained to the end. He that begins the good work of grace in the heart is no changeling, but he will carry it on and carry it out to the praise of the glory of his grace. Oh, this is worth proclaiming! Oh, for a silver trumpet with which to blow a blast that might awaken all who slumber! There is salvation; salvation by a glorious person; salvation unto holiness; salvation by redemption; a salvation so perfect that those who receive it shall never be forsaken. O dear hearer, do you not wish to have this salvation? Do you not desire to obtain it at once? If you do, I beg you to follow me now, while I direct you to him who is the salvation of his people. While we fix our eyes upon the glorious person raised up and upheld by God, by whom this salvation is brought to the sons of men, I pray that you may believe in him unto eternal life.

     II. To introduce this person, I now come to consider THE QUESTION “Who is this that cometh from Edom?” The prophet beholds in vision the Captain of salvation, returning from battle, arrayed like the warriors of whom we read, “the valiant men are in scarlet.” He beholds the majestic march of this mighty Conqueror, and he cries, “Who is this?” Now, when a soul first hears the proclamation of God’s salvation, and then sees Jesus coming to him, he says, “Who is this?” The question in part arises from anxiety, as if he said, “Who is this that espouses my cause? Is he able to save? Has he really conquered my enemies?” The heart enquires, “You preach to me a Saviour, but what sort of a Saviour is he? Is he able? Is he willing? Is he tender? Is he strong?” What you are, dear friend, is easily told, for you are lost and ruined; but the great question you need to consider, is — Who is he that comes to save you? And you may well with anxiety put the question, because it concerns your own personal welfare — “Is he such a Saviour as will be able to save me?”

     The question arose from anxiety, but it also indicates ignorance. We do not any of us know our Lord Jesus to the full yet. “Who is this?” is a question we may still put to the sacred oracle. Paul, after he had known Christ fifteen years, yet desired that he might know him; for his love passeth knowledge. If this passage refers to our Saviours resurrection, it is a remarkable truth that even his disciples did not know him when he had arisen. Launcelot Andrewes, in a famous sermon on this text, enlarges on this point, and I am content to borrow from him. Magdalene, of all the women in the world, ought to have known him, but she supposed him to be the gardener. The two disciples that walked with him to Emmaus were with him long enough to have spied him out, and yet in all that long walk they did not know him. Do you wonder that they did not discern their Lord? Would it have been a marvel had they said, “Who is this? Behold him travelling in the greatness of his strength, and yet a few hours ago we saw him dead, and helped to lay his lifeless body in Joseph’s tomb! Who is this? We saw him stripped! They took his garments from him on the cross, and now he is ‘glorious in his apparel.’ Who is this? His enemies made nothing of him, they spat in his face, they nailed him to the tree; but, lo, his garments are dyed with the blood of his foes, and he comes back more than conqueror! Who is this?” I do not wonder that when the person of Christ first flashes on the sinner’s eye, he thinks to himself: He was once a babe at Bethlehem, a weary man before his foes, scourged, spat upon; is this the Saviour? And does he come to me and propose that I should put my trust in him as having overthrown all my adversaries? “Who is this?”

     As the sinner looks, and looks again, he cries, “Who is this?” in delighted amazement. Is it indeed the Son of God? Does he intervene to save me? The God whom I offended, does he stoop to fight and rout my sins? He without whom was not anything made, heaven’s darling, and the delight of angels, can it be he? The soul is astonished, and scarce believes for joy. Yet, beloved, it is even he. This same Jesus is both Lord and God. When he ascended up on high he led captivity captive, and made an open show of his vanquished foes. He nailed the handwriting of ordinances that was against us to his cross; he brake the head of the serpent, and destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. How could he be less than God? It is he, and none other than he, God over all, blessed for ever, who took upon himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross. It is he whom God hath highly exalted, and given him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow. No wonder that the soul enquires, “Who is this?”

     I think the question is asked, also, by way of adoration. Such a question is elsewhere so used. Here is an instance— “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage?” So that, as the soul begins to see Jesus, its anxiety is removed by knowledge, and is replaced by an astonishment which ripens into worship. Adoringly the spirit cries, “ Who is this?” What a Saviour I have! How could it have come about that he should die for me? What a Saviour is he in his death! What a Saviour in his rising again! What a Saviour in his ascension up to heaven! What a Saviour in his enthronement! What a Saviour in his glorious advent, when he shall come to gather together his own! Who is this? We are lost in wonder as we bow before the infinite majesty of the Son of God, and adore him as God, our Saviour, for ever and ever.

     It appears from the question that the person asking it knows whence the Conqueror came; for it is written, “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah?” Yes, our Redeemer has returned from death, as said the Psalmist, “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” He came again from the land of the enemy. He died and descended into the regions of the dead; but he loosed the bands of death, for he could not be holden of them. He went forth to fight with all the adversaries of our souls, even with all the powers of darkness. It was a terrible battle. How thick and fast the shafts flew at the commencement of the fight! Our hero soon knew the garments rolled in blood, for he became covered with a bloody sweat. He flinched not from the horrible conflict, although his body had become one bleeding wound. How sharp were the swords that wounded him, when his friends proved cowards, and one of them betrayed him! How terrible were the blades that sheathed themselves in his body and mind! They pierced his hands and his feet: they laid open his very heart. His head was bleeding with the thorns, and his back with the knotted scourges; but he ceased not to grapple with the evil powers. He said, “This is your hour,” and full well he found it so. He had in the midst of the fight to groan as well as sweat; that cry was forced from him, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” But quickly followed the victorious shout of “It is finished,” and there and then he hurled his tremendous adversary headlong, crushed his head, and left him fallen, no more to rise!

“ ‘ ‘Tis finished,’ said his dying breath,
 And shook the gates of hell.”

As on this Resurrection day we see our Lord come back to us, we perceive his garments sprinkled with the blood of all who strove against us. I beseech you to lay hold of this, and trust my blessed Lord; for he has fought with all the enemies of our souls, and he has returned from the enemy’s country, leading captivity captive. We may look at him this day right trustfully, for his fight is over, and his enemies are crushed, as grapes in the winefat. We not only trust our Lord, but we worship him this day as King of kings and Lord of lords.

“Bruisèd is the serpent’s head,
 Hell is vanquish’d, death is dead,
 And to Christ gone up on high,
 Captive is captivity. Alleluia!”

     Next notice that the prophet in vision observes the colour of the Conqueror's garments: “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah?” Red is not Christ’s colour; hence the question arises, “Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel?” Our Beloved’s garments are whiter than any fuller can make them. The glory of his purity is such that we say to ourselves, “Red, why, that is the colour of Edom, the adversary! Red, that is the colour of the earth of our manhood! Red is the colour of our scarlet sins.” Why is he red? Brethren, although the text treats of the blood of his adversaries, yet I would have you devoutly think of our Lord literally as shedding his own blood, for his victory was thus accomplished. The text sets forth the result of that blood-shedding in the overthrow of his enemies and ours; but we cannot separate the effect from the cause. As a matter of fact, when our Lord’s own blood was shed, sin and death and hell were trodden down and destroyed as grapes in the winepress. When he was suffering he was then smiting down his enemies. By the shedding of his own blood he was shedding the blood of his foes. The life of the powers of darkness was taken away by his death. When I see Jesus coming back literally covered with his own blood, I discern him spiritually as encrimsoned with the slaughter of evil and its abettors. Glory be to his name! I shall never cease to look upon my Lord in the red colours as in the prime of his beauty. The blood-red colours are the colours of victory. He never looks so lovely as when he appears as “a Lamb that has been slain.” I remember how Rutherford seems to glow and burn when in his prose poetry he talks of “the bonnie red man.” That crimson vest is his most royal garment. He hath taken away all our transgressions and iniquities, and covered all our scarlet sins, and we see the blood of them in his blood. Glory be to the bleeding Christ, I say! If there be one hallelujah louder than any other, let it be unto him who wears the vesture dipped in blood. His own blood is the token and proof that the blood of all his spiritual foes has been shed. Our warfare is accomplished and our sin is pardoned. Behold the colours of atonement, for they are the ensigns of eternal victory.

“Why that blood his raiment staining?
’Tis the blood of many slain;
 Of his foes there’s none remaining,
None the contest to maintain:
 Fallen they are no more to rise,
All their glory prostrate lies.”

But yet the question comes from one who perceives that the Conqueror is royally arrayed. “This that is glorious in his apparel." O dear hearers, the Jesus we have to preach to you is no mean Saviour; he is clothed with glory and honour because of the suffering of death. He wears to-day a greater splendour than adorned the sons of Aaron; our great High Priest hath put on all his jewels. He wears also the majesty of his kingship: “On his head are many crowns.” He is this day arrayed in light and glory. His majesty is too bright for mortal eyes to gaze upon. When the beloved John beheld him he fell at his feet as dead. He is “glorious in his apparel.”

     The question ends with “travelling in the greatness of his strength.” He did not come back from slaughtering our enemies feeble and wounded, but he returned in majestic march, like a victor who would have all men know that his force is irresistible. The earth shook beneath our Lord’s feet on the resurrection morning, for “there was a great earthquake.” The Roman guards became as dead men at his appearing. Beloved, the Lord Jesus Christ is no petty, puny Saviour. He is travelling to meet poor sinners; but he is travelling in the greatness of his strength. “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” said he. As he travels through the nations it is as a strong man against whom none can stand, mighty to rescue every soul that puts its trust in him.

     There is the question. I leave it with you, praying that every soul here that is oppressed by the powers of hell, may ask the question, “Who is this that cometh from Edom?”

     III. Thirdly, let us consider THE ANSWER. Upon this I must be brief.

     No one can answer for Jesus: he must speak for himself Like the sun, he can only be seen by his own light. He is his own interpreter. Not even the angels could explain the Saviour: they get no further than desiring to look into the things which are in him. He himself answers the question “Who is this?” His personality comes out: “I, the Lord Jesus. It is none other than myself who has come forth to overthrow the adversary.” The speaker was too modest to ask the mighty Saviour who he was; but that Saviour was not too lofty to give him the information which was desired. O poor heart! Jesus will show himself to you if you desire to know him. He will come near to you when you dare not come nigh to him. In his own light you will see him, and if you are bewildered and befogged, but yet truly anxious, he will manifest himself to you in his great love, and say to you, “It is I; be not afraid.”

     The answer which our Lord gives is twofold. He describes himself first as a speaker: “I that speak in righteousness.” Is he not the Word? Every word that Christ speaks is true: he speaks not in falsehood, but in righteousness. The gospel which he proclaims is a just and righteous one, meeting both the claims of God and the demands of conscience. O soul, if thou wilt hearken to Jesus thou shall hear that from him which thou couldst never hear from any other lip! “Never man spake like this man.” He will speak of God’s holiness, and yet he will speak to thy comfort. He will reveal God’s justice, and yet God'. love to thee. Oh, hear thou what the Christ has to say, and believe every word of it without a cavil, for therein lies salvation. “Hear, and your soul shall live.”

     Our Lord also describes himself as a Saviour: “I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.” Now, observe that the word “mighty” is joined with his saving, and not with his destroying. Although he can crush his foes as easily as a man can crush with his feet the berries of the grape, the prophet does not speak of him as “mighty to tread down his enemies.” He will prove himself thus mighty in that day of vengeance which is in his heart; but just now he reveals himself in the year of his redeemed as “mighty to save.” Rejoice in this, O my hearers! The Lord Jesus Christ is a Saviour, and he is grand in that capacity. Nothing is beyond his power in the line of salvation. He saith, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” There is no manner of sin which he cannot forgive; there is no sort of hardness of heart which he cannot remove; there are no spiritual difficulties which he cannot surmount. “His reward is with him, and his work before him.” “He shall not fail, nor be discouraged.” Oh that he stood here this morning instead of me! I do but prattle concerning him, and yet it is the best that I can do. If you use the eyes of faith, my Lord, who hath overcome the foes of his redeemed, stands before you to-day; and if you ask who he is, he proclaims himself, for he would have you know himself. To know Jesus is the first , the chief, the highest piece of human knowledge. He is your teacher, and this is your lesson. He answers the question of the prophetic catechism, and when it is asked, “Who is this?” he replies, “I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.” Fall at his feet, and love and adore him this day, and then your heaven shall begin below.

     Thus have we gone through the text in a very poor and hurried way; for I want just a few minutes to make practical use of the subject ere I send you away.

     May the Holy Ghost now apply the truth with power! Poor troubled one! thy sins are many, and they grievously oppress thee. Thou seest no hope of escape from the justice of God, or from the power of evil within thy nature. Hearken to the proclamation, as I dwell upon it again. “Behold, thy salvation cometh.” Jesus can save you, for he is “mighty to save”!

     He can save you; for he has saved others like you. He has these many years kept his hand at this work. Your case will not perplex him; he is at home at the business of saving sinners. The chief of sinners was saved long ago; and if the chief, then you, although you may be the next greatest, can be saved. Jesus has never been put to a nonplus yet. He that conquered Edom and Bozrah, he that led captivity captive and vanquished all the hosts of hell shall never be defeated. Do not tell me that his arm is shortened, that he cannot save. He can save you, you who now desire to be made holy. You with the hard heart, who desire to have it softened, he can do the mighty deed. He can raise the spiritually dead and even restore those who have become corrupt. He can do it, though nobody else can.

     He can overthrow all your enemies. Satan has you now in his grasp, and you are not able to war with him. One evil passion or another binds you. You seem watched like Peter in prison, and bound even as he was; but he who loosed Peter can release you. Jesus can say to the prisoners, “Go forth,” and forth they shall go. There is no temptation, no sin, no infernal influence from which he cannot rescue his chosen. He is so mighty to save that he can deliver every soul that trusts in him, however great its extremity. Leave your enemies to Jesus; they baffle you, but he can rout them. His garment is already dyed with their blood, wherefore be not afraid!

     He can do this alone. If you trust Jesus, and none but Jesus, you have an all-sufficient salvation. “I have trodden the wine-press alone, and of the people there was none with me.” “I looked, and there was none to help; I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me.” Poor sinner! hang on to Jesus and his one salvation. If you have no other sort of hope, if thou canst see no good thing in thyself, if thy prayers die on thy lips, if thou canst not weep, if thou canst not feel, if thou hast not even so much as a jot of anything that is commendable about thee, still cling thou to Jesus, to Jesus only. The great battle of salvation he fought single-handed; and he can save thee singlehanded. He is exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, and he will not stain his princedom by failing in salvation. I fear I have never done more in my own salvation than rather to hinder than help my Lord, and yet I know that though I believe not, he abideth faithful. He will stand to his office, even though I fail in my pledges. When he saves, he does truly save. He is master of the business. He put himself apprentice to it when he was here below, and set to work to heal all manner of sickness, and he never failed even then; but now that he has gone through death and hell for us, and made himself perfect through suffering, he is a master workman, and he can save in the teeth of all opposition. Do but trust him, and thou shalt find it so.

     Let me add to this, dear troubled friend, that he is able to save you now. Do you notice that verse, “The day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come”? I leaped with joy at those words as I studied them. Yes, I thought, I will tell these sinners that the day of vengeance is in God’s heart, and I will warn them that if they do not turn to him he will destroy them. Ah! but that vengeance is as yet in his heart; he lets it lie therein his long-suffering patience. But the year of his redeemed is come: it is present, it is now. It is not, “To-day will I destroy you”; but, “To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.” To-day is the day of salvation: “the year of my redeemed is come.” We speak of our dates as “Anno Domini,” and so they are: these days are in the year of our Lord. We live in the years of our Redeemer, years of his redeemed, years of pardoning love. Oh, that you would come now that your year is come! Jesus is able to save you at this hour. This morning in February, this cold and bitter morning, when the east wind searches you to the very marrow, the Lord Jesus Christ can warm your hearts with a summertide of love. It was such a morning as this when I first found my Lord: when the snow-flakes fell so abundantly, each one seemed to say that Jesus had made me whiter than snow. Even this cruel east wind will breathe comfort to you if you will look to my Lord dressed in his vesture dipped in blood. Behold the glorious apparel of his love and righteousness. He comes back from death and hell triumphant, so that you may never come under their yoke. He proclaims life to you because your foes are dead. He washes your garments white because his are dyed with blood. You shall live for ever because he died, and you shall triumph because he has won the battle on your behalf. You shall go froth conquering and to conquer because he conquers.

     Jesus has done the work already. There is nothing to be endured by him in order to save you from your sins: the expiation is made, the redemption is paid, the righteousness is wrought out. Of this salvation our Lord said, at the moment when he won the victory, “It is finished”; and finished it is for ever. Without seam, and woven from the top throughout, was the garb the Saviour’s body wore, and now he presents a garment like to it to every naked sinner who trusts him, and he says, “Put it on.” It is freely given though it was dearly wrought. It cost our Lord his life to weave it, his blood to dye it; but to the sinner it is a free gift, and if he will but have it, he also shall be glorious in his apparel, and Jesus will strengthen him till he also shall travel in the greatness of his strength. Oh that you would believe in Jesus Christ this morning!

     It is a sad wonder that men do not believe in Jesus. It is a mournful wonder that you, who have been hearing the gospel for so many years, do not believe in him. What are you at? Why, if somebody were to preach to you any other gospel than what I have delivered, you would grow angry, you would not hear it. Why is it that you delight to hear the gospel, and yet will not accept it to your own salvation? Many of you have a great admiration of my Lord, after a fashion, and you love to hear me praise him; but what is it to you? What can he be to you unless you trust him? “Oh, but I don’t feel my sins.” Have I not told you many times that salvation does not lie in your feelings? “Oh, but I am not—” Have I not told you over and over again that it is not what you are, but what Jesus is? Hearken unto me. Cease from self, and come to Jesus just as you are. Let us finish by each one of us singing this verse from the heart, and all of us together with our tongues :—

“A guilty, weak, and helpless worm,
 On Christ’s kind arms I fall:
 He is my strength and righteousness,
 My Jesus and my all.”



The General Convocation Around Mount Zion

By / Nov 5

THE GENERAL CONVOCATION AROUND MOUNT ZION.

 

“But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.”—Hebrews xii. 22—24.

 

THE whole passage will be considered, but our special central text will be verse 23: “To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven.”

     Paul is displaying the superiority of the new covenant to the old. He tells us what Israel after the flesh came to at their best in the morning hours of the law, and what the firstborn after the Spirit have come to under the gospel. He pictures the great assembly of the chosen people round about Mount Sinai, and then his inspired mind describes an infinitely larger and happier gathering, to which all believers have come, around Mount Sion. Not only the Hebrews to whom he was writing, but all the people of God are gathered together in one general assembly, of which the blessed God is the centre. He shows us the joyful difference between the two gatherings, and the feelings and pursuits of those who compose them. What we shall want this morning is a little careful attention to the deep meaning of the text, and an intensely earnest desire actually to enter into the enjoyment of the privileges which are herein set before us. Our text contains an incalculable wealth of meaning: it is written according to God’s riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Surely it was written as with a pen of diamond upon plates of gold set with jewels. May God of his grace lead us fully into it. We would not only speak of privilege as possible, but would say with Paul, “We are come unto it.” As surely as we are not come to the terrors of the law, so surely we are come to the blessings of the gospel. Read in verse 18, “Ye are not come,” and then in verse 22, “But ye are come.” We do not only hear of Zion and her festivities, but we are come to them. We do not merely know the letter of the gospel, but we are come into the inner and spiritual meaning of it by personal enjoyment. “We are come.” I would ring out those words as a sort of musical accompaniment to the truths uttered. All through the sermon let our hearts rejoicingly say, “We are come,” “We are come.” We have obtained by faith all that which is set before us in the text.

     I. First, I want to set out, as I may be able, A CONTRAST PRESENTED IN THE ENTIRE PASSAGE which we have read, — a contrast between the economy of law and the economy of grace.

     Every good thing is enhanced in value by its opposite. Light is all the brighter to eyes which have wept in darkness; food is all the sweeter after you have known hunger; and Sion is all the fairer because of Sinai. The contrast between free grace and law makes grace appear the more precious to minds that have known the rigour of the commandment.

     The contrast presented here is sevenfold. It may be that the idea of this sevenfold contrast first occurred to Bengel, that prince of critics; but I have ventured to differ from his form of it, and I hope that in so doing I have set forth the contrast as to the seven things more clearly than he has done, so that even the humblest here will catch each point, and retain each contrast in his memory. Notice the contrasts.

     First, as to place (v. 18), “Ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched”; (v. 22) “but ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.” Behold Sinai with its rugged crags: scarce had a human foot ever trodden it: perhaps until that hour in which Jehovah descended upon it in splendour it had remained a virgin peak, which the foot of man had never polluted. There was no habitation of man upon it, neither did it yield pasturage for flocks. The mount of God stood out in terrible sublimity against the sky, holding communion with the stars, but refusing to deal with men. It was sublime, but stern and tempest-beaten. God came upon Sinai with his law, and the dread mount became a type of what the law would be to us. It has given us a grand idea of holiness, but it has not offered us a pathway thereto, nor furnished a weary heart with a resting-place, nor supplied a hungry soul with spiritual food. It can never be the place where congregated multitudes erect a city for themselves, and a temple for the living God: it is not the shrine of fellowship, but the throne of authority and justice. The Jews under the law had that stern hill for their centre, and they compassed it about with pale countenances and trembling knees. We gather to quite another centre, even unto the palace-crowned steep of Sion. There David dwelt of old, and there David’s Lord revealed himself. The hill of Sion rose above the city of Jerusalem, and the two together formed the favoured spot where Jehovah deigned to dwell in solemn state in the midst of his chosen nation; “for the Lord hath chosen Sion; he hath desired it for his habitation.” There the service of his sanctuary was carried on, and around it clustered all the palaces of Judah and the habitations of the chosen people. It was called “the city of vision,” and the city of peace. God dwelt in the midst of her, and therefore she was not moved. “Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Sion.” “God is known in her palaces for a refuge.” “God shall help her, and that right early.” This is a type of the dispensation in which the Lord comes to man in a vision of peace, and manifests himself in forgiving grace. The Lord dwells with men in the person of the man Christ Jesus, and we come to him and find our habitation in him in all Generations. Even as the sparrow hath found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, so do we come to dwell at the altars of God, in the city which his grace has founded and his power has garrisoned. The places in their contrast are full of teaching.

     This mount that might be touched we are told, in the next place, “burned with fire” God’s presence made the mountain melt and flow down. “The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail-stones and coals of fire.” Sinai was altogether on a smoke; innumerable lightnings flashed forth around the summit of the hill, and Jehovah revealed himself in flaming fire. What, then, have believers come to instead of fire? Why, to another form of fire: to “an innumerable company of angels”— “he maketh his angels spirits, his ministers a flame of fire.” Some of those bright beings are called seraphim, or burning ones, for they come and go like flames of fire. It must have been terrible to look up to Sinai and see it casting forth its flames; but it is with delight that we look towards the angels who excel in strength, and spend that strength in the service of the Lord and his people. These arc a wall of fire round about us. “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” Hath he not given them charge over us to keep us in all our ways? It is most glorious to think of the position every believer occupies to-day; for we are all come where the hosts of God encamp about us. David said, “The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels.” Daniel said, “Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.” The prophet flings his thousands about as if they were mere units. Think of Jehovah’s legions. Jesus speaks of the Father sending him twelve legions of angels in a moment. The Lord Jehovah hath more legions to send to one spot than the Roman Empire could have mustered in all its length and breadth; and every single warrior of these legions is able to destroy a whole army in a single night, as one of them did when he smote Sennacherib. What mighty spirits, what flaming spirits, what pure spirits, what glorious spirits they are; and we have communion with them! We have come to an innumerable company of angels. We do not always realize it as we should; but these loving spirits are about us as surely as they were around Jacob in his dream. If our eyes were opened we should see horses of fire and chariots of fire round about the Lord’s servants. “Millions of spiritual creatures walk this earth, both when we wake and when we sleep.” God comes to us by them: “He rode upon a cherub, and did fly.” Angels contend against evil spirits, and are our defenders. This, then, is our position: we are come to the countless hosts of our Father’s messengers, and not to devouring flame.

     Pursue the contrast, and you find on Mount Sinai that there was blackness, doubtless made the more intensely black as the vivid lightnings flashed out from it. “Ye are not come unto blackness,” says Paul. What is the contrast to this? “But ye are come to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven.” Perhaps you do not for a moment see any contrast, but I will soon show it to you. Blackness is the symbol of sorrow, it is the garb of mourning. Everywhere we associate blackness with grief; but now Paul sets before us the grandest embodiment of joy. The word for general assembly in the original suggests a far-reaching festivity. “Ye are come to the paneguris: to a solemn festive assembly, comparable to the National Convocation of the Greeks, which was held around the foot of Mount Olympus, every four or five years, when all the Greeks of different states came together to keep up the national feeling by festivities and friendly competitions which I will explain further on. Instead of the colours of grim death we see the joyous congregating of all the clans, the glad union of all the children of God who are scattered abroad. We this day, in loving fellowship with the church, are come to the great gathering of God, the holy convocation of saints of every tongue, the central home of all the tribes of his great family. It is a gathering for solemn purposes, for it is a “church but still for joyous purposes, for it is a national holiday. A solemn joy, a holy delight pervades the atmosphere which the one great church of God is breathing. You say to me, “Do you mean the church in heaven?” Yes, I mean the church in heaven and on earth too; why divide it? There is only one church. Here and there, earth and heaven make a little division to our senses, but there is no division in the mind of God; he sees one general assembly of all his people, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues. Cannot you realize the scene and note the glory of it? Cannot your mind come to the general assembly? Cannot you feel that you are standing in company with all the chosen of God of every age, clime, and place, keeping high holiday with them before the Most High, singing with them his praises continually, and doing him service with delight? I am so glad not to be alone, but to be one of the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven: I feel ready to shout for joy! What a contrast this— between the blackness of coming sorrow by the law and the joyous whiteness of the garments of those who believe.

     Follow the next point of contrast, and you have darkness mentioned. “Nor unto blackness, and darkness.” The cloud on Sinai was so dark as to obscure the day, except that every now and then the lightning-flash lit up the scene. What are we come to in contrast to that darkness? “To God the Judge of all.” Possibly it does not strike you with joy when I mention it; but this is perhaps the most joyous of all the clauses of the passage. “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” What a contrast to the darkness of the law is a reconciled God! “Oh, but,” say you, “he is there as the Judge of all, and that makes us tremble.” Why? Wherefore? It makes me leave off trembling when I think that I am come “to God the Judge of all,” that Christ has brought me near, even to the Judge, so that I have nothing to dread from him. What can the Judge do but pronounce sentence of acquittal upon the man for whom Christ has made expiation? What can he do to harm us? Nothing, but much to help us; for, rolling every slander away, he will make the righteous to shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. We are standing to day in the presence of that great God who looks upon his people with delight, and awards to them their several crowns. In this great gathering of the firstborn they wrestle with sin, they run the race of perseverance, they proclaim his honour, and sing his praise. This is, in fact, the highest delight of all the saints— to gather unto their God!

     And what follows next? Why, tempest. It is said, “Ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest.” All over the top of Sinai there swept fierce winds and terrible tornadoes, for the Lord was there. All heaven seemed convulsed when God did rend it, and descended in majesty upon the sacred mount. But what do you and I see? The very reverse of tempest, — “The spirits of just men made perfect,” serenely resting. What more is there for them to do? They are perfect, they have fought the fight, they have run the race, they are crowned, they are full of ecstatic bliss, the light of God is on their brows, the glory of God is reflected from their faces; everything like tempest is far gone from them; they have reached the fair haven, and are tossed with tempest no more. To-day you and I have come where we hold fellowship with the immutably serene, who are resting in the glory which God has appointed them. This is a part of the splendid pageantry of the covenant of grace, and we are come to it.

“E’en now by faith we join our hands
With those that went before;
And greet the blood-besprinkled bands
On the eternal shore.”

Faith has brought us into that one communion in which all saints live, whether they are on earth or in the Father’s house above.

     Follow the contrast further, and you come to the sound of a trumpet. This resounded from the top of Sinai. Clarion notes most clear and shrill rang out again and again the high commands of the thrice-holy God. You are not come to that. Instead of a trumpet, which signifies war and the stern summons of a king, ye are come unto “Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant,” and the silver tones of “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Here is nothing to disturb the ear; for “he shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench.” No message thunders out, “Stand off!” but holy affection cries, “Come, and welcome! for God has come to you in the person of the Mediator, the man Christ Jesus.” In the person of Jesus we see nothing to alarm, but everything to encourage. Oh, for faith to see with joy the Mediator of that new covenant which doth not so much command as work in us to will and to do! Is not this one of the choicest blessings of the position we now occupy, that instead of the trumpet we hear the sweet and saving voice of Jesus bidding us repose in his salvation and be eternally blessed?

     The seventh contrast lies in this, — together with the trumpet there sounded out a voice, a voice which was so terrible that they asked that they might not hear it again. They cowered down under it, like poor, frightened children, terrified by the penetrating sound. They could not endure another word; they begged that the voice would be silent. We have come to another voice, the voice of “the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” There is a voice from Sion, there is a voice that rolls over the heads of the innumerable company of angels, a voice of the Lord that is full of majesty, and exceedingly comfortable to the “general assembly and church of the firstborn,” who know the joyful sound. The blessed Word speaks life, pardon, reconciliation, acceptance, joy, eternal bliss! Happy people, whose ears have discerned this heavenly voice! “They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance!” The more of this voice the better — it never wearies the ear, nor distresses the heart.

“Blood has a voice to pierce the skies,
‘Revenge,’ the blood of Abel cries:
But the dear blood of Jesus slain
Speaks peace as loud from every vein.”

We are come to it, for we have been washed in it, and its sweet, prevailing note is filling our heart with music even now.

     Now, dear friends, I have set forth the contrast, and I want you to think it out by the help of the ever-blessed Spirit. To all that was transacted at Sinai the people could not come, nor did they wish to come; they kept at a distance, for they were afraid: but to all that is displayed on Sion we may come; nay, what is better, I hope we can say with the Apostle, “We are come.” We now enter into it, and delight in it: it has become our life and our joy. All that the people saw at Sinai distressed them; all that we see at Sion electrifies us with delight— we scarce know how to bear ourselves as we think of the wondrous glory of love. We are not warned off, we are not driven into fear and bondage, but we come unto the mount of God, and there we feast, rejoicing in him, even in all that he is and does. The veil is rent from the top to the bottom, and we have access to God through Jesus Christ our Lord, leave the instructive contrast. May the Holy Spirit bless it.

     II. I beg you, in the second place, to follow me in what may not perhaps so much strike you, but it is certainly worthy of your attention, namely, A COMPARISON IN OUR MORE CENTRAL TEXT. Our position is that “We are come to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven.” It is a comparison, not with anything Jewish, for that would not have been suitable, but with a Gentile festival, which more readily lent itself to the Apostle’s great thought. Let me give you, first of all, a rough sketch.

     In Greece, in her happier times, in order to preserve a national unity, the various states, kingdoms, or republics, which constituted Greece proper, held at the foot of Olympus a great gathering, to which none came as participators except citizens of the various Greek nationalities. The object of the gathering was that every part of the Greek nature might be educated and displayed, and the unity of the Greek race be remembered. Poets came and sang verses which they had composed with care; orators stood and discoursed to gain the crown for eloquence; men of all kinds of mental attainments were there emulating each other. At the same time all sorts of athletic exercises for the development of the body were going on. The territory in which this was held was considered to be sacred. Though the states were often at war with one another, they never carried the war into that particular region. It was a quiet, peaceful, neutral spot. Do you not espy a parallel? No man was allowed to compete in any of the exercises and contests except he had been at least ten months or more in preparation for them. Those who were conquerors had no gold given them as reward; a simple crown of olive was all; but it was thought quite sufficient reward for the most exhausting feats, and for the greatest self-denial, such as resistance unto blood and dislocation of bones. When the conquerors went home, we are told that they were drawn into their own cities with horses in great state, and the gates were not opened to them, but a breach was made in the city wall that they might be admitted with unusual pomp. The whole business of the paneguris was held in high esteem by the Greek people, and religion lent its rites and ceremonies to render the gathering the more imposing. The apostle, I do not doubt, had seen it: at any rate, the word which he uses properly and naturally suggests it.

     Think for a moment! Before us stands the city which is the centre of this unrivalled congregation of the firstborn: Jerusalem stands in her place, and her Acropolis, Mount Sion, looks down upon the scene. To the city of the living God the living children of God have come. See how the presence of the Lord brings together an innumerable company! Far as imagination can fly the space is filled with shining ones, who compose the court of the Most High. Observe the freeborn burgesses of the holy city, enrolled by God that they may participate in the exercises which make illustrious this noblest of all assemblies. See, yonder are the runners and the wrestlers. Perhaps you do not think there can be much festivity about engagements which involve so much of endurance as running and striving for the mastery, but the Greeks were of another mind, and these contests “were a part of the pleasures of the festival. How much I wish that we could look upon all the conflicts, sufferings, and troubles of this mortal life as occupations of the great festive gathering which is now being held in heaven and in earth around the city of our God.

     See, yonder is the Judge, the great Umpire of his people’s efforts, ready to award the crowns. And who are those sitting in their seats, and looking on? These are they who have taken their turn in these grand displays, and, having won their crowns, there they sit, “the spirits of the just made perfect,” “the cloud of witnesses.” To-day, my brethren, you are participating in that great international gathering of all the people of God. Are you not glad to be here? When I was visiting one of our sick friends he uttered a sentence which stuck to me, and indeed suggested my subject. He said, “I have had some education for heaven in attending the Tabernacle.” “How is that?” “Because I have been used to worship with a great company of godly people, used to join in the songs of great multitudes, and I shall feel at home among the number that no man can number.” Yes, it is sweet to go up with the multitude who keep holy day; the number adds a charm to the worship, and gives to our hearts a tone of exhilaration which else they might have lacked. Behold, then, the countless bands of the redeemed assembled around the chosen mount!

     Brethren, you are not around a blazing mount, nor do you compose a trembling assembly of persons who, like slaves, are afraid of their great and terrible master; but you are come to-day to the great festival in which earth and heaven unite. That assembly is one and indivisible. Around the throne of the Most High the apostle represents all the saints as gathered to hold one glorious feast. “Has it begun?” say you. Yes, it is going on now, and you are come to it: if you are living by faith as you ought to live you are now engaged in it. “Oh, but,” say you, “I am wrestling.” That is a part of the festival. “I never thought of that,” cries one. But it is even so. When the national meeting was held at Olympus there were contests of all kinds, and these were not regarded with sorrow, but with exultation. “What! would you have me look at my sufferings and wrestlings as part of a festival?” Yes; I would have you glory in them, and view them in the same high and heroic light in which the apostle sets them forth, in the figure before us. The exercises are now proceeding. The sacred orators are now doing their part: you heard the singers just now. I count it a high honour to hold your attention while I tell you of the glory of my Lord and Master, who himself contended here, and endured the cross, despising the shame. Thousands of others are discoursing as I do; for the assembly abounds in the rich gifts of utterance, and everywhere chosen spokesmen are telling out the wonderful wisdom and love of God. Many at this meeting have hymns to sing, or books to write; and all are doing their best to make the assembly a notable one. Look at another class of chosen men, and mark how they are struggling with temptation, warring against error, running in the course, or bearing heavy weights! Yes, that is all a part of the grand display which the Lord is making before all intelligent beings, wherein the power of love, the energy of faith, the splendour of grace, and the triumph of good are being made manifest to the glory of God by us.

     “Oh,” say you, “I cannot look at my sorrows in such a light.” No doubt the men who were wrestling or racing found that for the present it was not joyous; yet they did not shun it, for they had earnestly desired the day when they might be allowed to share in the national display: they counted it a high honour to be permitted to take part even in the roughest contests. None but a Greek could do so. You also have put your name down for a place in the church of God; this is a high honour, to which none but the twice-born, whose names are written in heaven, can be admitted: accept the hardness with the honour. “Oh, but,” say you, “I have run a long time, I have run for fifty years!” Splendid running this! I do not believe that even at Olympus they ever saw a man run for fifty years at a stretch. Keep on! Do not suffer the glory of the day to fail. You say this sheds a strange light upon Christian life. Say, a blessed light, which will delight the eyes and hearts of enthusiastic believers. The Father of all takes delight in this assembly: it is the joy of Christ to look down upon his champions, whose faith he sustains, whose faith he accepts. He is saying to devils, “Look on, and see what lovers of right can do?” Look on, ye innumerable company of angels, and see what grace can do in the hearts of poor, feeble men and women, making them strong to do exploits. My brethren, see what feats were performed of old; read the eleventh chapter of this epistle. Remember how the Lord’s own elect stood at the stake, and burned to the death without yielding. Think how they were stretched on racks, but would not deny their Lord; were dragged at the heels of wild horses; were roasted over slow fires; or were stung to death by wasps. Their endurance is more glorious than all that can be told of the heroes of Greece. What wonders men have done through grace! God has glorified his name by what he has enabled men to bear and do. This our Lord would have us look at and unite in.

     Now, what can we do? God help us to do our best. Oh for grace to suffer more, to give more, to work more, to be more firm in resisting temptation, more pure in all godly conversation! Champions, shall the day of glory decline? The feast has scarce reached its greatest day; let not courage, or patience, or faith begin to flag. May we be jealous for the honour of the chosen race, to which we belong.

     Our text adds to the term “general assembly” that of the “church of the firstborn.” “Oh,” say the commentators, “this is tautology.” Not so. The apostle felt bound, after having used such a remarkable comparison, to call us back to the solemnity of the matter, and remind us that it is “a church” which is gathered. You and I have come to a great church-meeting, where all the saints of God are met at this moment. What makes a church? An ecclesia? These words may help you: — they are, first, a people chosen; next, a people called; then a people culled; then a people consecrated; and then a people congregated. So do they become the church of the living God; separated unto God by his electing love; called out from the world by his effectual calling; culled out by being separated through a work of grace; congregated and gathered together into one in Christ; and evermore consecrated to the divine service. This is what you and I have come to. Oh for words with which to speak our joy for admission into such a company!

     Brethren, notice that Paul was writing to Hebrews, and the Hebrews no doubt gloried in their great feasts, when all the tribes came up to Jerusalem. Yes, Paul knew all about those feasts, and all that they meant; but this is an assembly to which the Jewish ritual offers us no parallel. Hebrews come to that festival, but it is by no means peculiarly theirs. “They shall come from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south.” Just as at Olympus, Spartans, Thebans, Athenians, and Corinthians, all came, and melted into Greeks, so will they come, — Jews, Gentiles, men of this church, and of that, and they will all melt into one general assembly. It is not a peculiar assembly of Hebrews, but a general assembly of all the firstborn.

     Note, dear friends, the individuals who compose the company. They are all high born, for they are all firstborn. There is but one emphatically firstborn, namely, Jesus Christ himself, the firstborn of every creature; but being one with him we become the firstborn of God through the new birth. By our union to Christ, and by the blessed processes of grace, we are made and known to be the firstborn of God. Now the firstborn among men had the ascendency and sway in the household, even as “the meek shall inherit the earth.” The day comes when righteousness shall be to the fore. The firstborn had the excellency. “Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power.” The saints are the excellent of the earth, in whom is all our delight. The firstborn were consecrated to God; and we, too, are dedicated persons, set apart unto God; “for ye are not your own; ye are bought with a price.” The firstborn were redeemed: so have we been purchased with the precious blood of Christ. The firstborn had the estate, the throne, and the priesthood. Vast is the inheritance of the firstborn of God, — all things are theirs; they are heirs of God, joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. To the firstborn belonged honour: “SUCH honour have all the saints.” There are younger brothers in every family who receive comparatively little if they happen to be descended from great lords; but there are no younger brethren in the family of God. They are all firstborn, all heirs, and what is wonderful to tell, each one of them has all the estate; for so infinite is it, that, though if I have all, you can have all too: an innumerable company of this blessed firstborn race can have the whole of God to be their portion for ever and ever.

     But then it is added that they are enrolled. As I have already told you, they enrolled the competitors in the Greek festivals, and a man took care months before to get his name set down for a place. Thus God has enrolled the names of his people. They are written— where? In the earth? No; the wicked are written in the earth, but the names of the Lord’s people are written in heaven. In the divine decree that never changes, in the divine heart that never alters, in the divine memory that never fails, in the divine thought that never forgets, all the names of the godly are written.

     I do not know how to set this out, but I do want you to feel as if you were standing this morning in that great assembly with spiritual exercises going on around you, such as struggling against sin, striving for the mastery over error, patiently enduring pain, and working holy work. The Judge is looking on, with the crown in his hand, ready to place it upon each conqueror’s head; the air breathes perfume, and is full of music, for all around is joy. When a man suffers, if he looks upon it as punishment, he feels like a criminal tied up to be lashed; but if he knows that his pain is a necessary part of the road to victory, he bears it without complaint. If we all understand that this period is not comparable to a battle, whereof the result hangs in the balance, but comparable to those deeds of prowess wherewith of old men celebrated a victory, then the face of things is altered, and our toils are transfigured. Angels come down, and poor men and women are lifted up, in patience triumphing, and giving pleasure to their Lord, and bringing honour to that favoured city which God has prepared for them. We are here amid the throng, not as spectators only, but sharing in the overflowing joy. Oh, the bliss of feeling that even now heaven is begun below, and the sufferings of this present life are but a part of the glory of the Lord manifested in his people!

     III. We will conclude by noticing the third point, which is— A COMING TO BE ENJOYED. This is the essence of it all— “We are come” unto this general assembly and church of the firstborn. How then do we come? A difficulty meets us at the outset. You that have never thought of this great assembly which my imagination and heart have tried to picture this morning, you cannot come. The porter stands at the barrier, and keeps you back. You cry, “Let me come!” No, you may not come. This festival is only for the firstborn, and you are not that by nature. You must first be born again, and become one of the firstborn. The Spirit of God must make you a new creature in Christ Jesus, and then the porter will open the wicket, and say, “Come in, and welcome.” Which part are you going to take in this great gathering? Will you fight against sin? Will you wrestle against error? Will you run for the crown? Will you sing or speak? What will you do in this great congress of all the saints? But these questions do not apply until first you are born from above.

     Next, you must be enrolled. Your name must be written down, not in our church-book, but in the church-book of the Lord above. I would to God that some of you would be moved to say, “Oh, that my name were written there!” The name of every believer is upon Christ's heart, and hand, and shoulder. If thou believest that Jesus is the Christ, if thou art trusting in him, thy name is among the enrolled.

     If thou believest in him that rose again from the dead, and he is the Author and Finisher of thy faith, then come and welcome: thou art one of those whose names are written in heaven. The general assembly would miss you if you were absent: yea, heaven itself cannot be perfect if you do not enter its ranks; for all the saints must be there, or else it will not be a perfect gathering. Would you have them mourning in heaven, and saying, “Such an one is not here!” Why, heaven’s songs would be suspended if one child of the family were left in the outer darkness. There must be a believing in Jesus, and then there will be a reception into the chosen assembly.

     But you say again, “How am I to get into that assembly? I hope I have been born again, and that my name is written among the Lord’s redeemed people, but still I do not feel as if I were in the festive gathering yet: I feel more like one in the arena contending for very life.” So did many at Olympus. They were fighting and wrestling, and while so engaged they endured great hardness; yet their valiant strife was a part of the grand scene, and they would not have been absent on any account. So, dear friends, what we must do is this, first — God helping us, let us partake in the joy of the one church. Why should I not be as happy as you angels are? You have not so much reason to be happy as I have, for Jesus never took your nature, or died for you.

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

And you, spirits of the just, why should not I participate in all your joy? What blessing belongs to you which does not also belong to me, except the one delight of absolute perfection? Am I not saved? Am I not washed? Am I not clothed? Am I not a child of God, — in all things just what you are, except that one finishing stroke— which I am sure to have in due time when I have concluded my wrestling and my running? Let us joy in God to-day, and, surely, even in heaven they know no greater bliss than this. To joy in God through Jesus Christ our Lord is happiness at its highest. Slay the Spirit of God help us.

     If we wish to feel we are among the Lord’s host let us participate in their service. There is something for you and for me to do; and to enjoy this holiday we must all take a share in its engagements. Come, brother, quicken your pace, you are not making enough progress in the divine life: hasten your steps, throw away every weight, and cast oft' the garment which entangles your feet. You, too, dear brother, over there in the workshop, where you hear bad language, and see bad practices, — go you in for the wrestling: see what you can do: in the name of the Lord grasp the evil which opposes you; fling an evil custom on its back, and win a victory for purity and truth. Thus shall we each by vying with the rest contribute to the grand result, and share in the general triumph.

     And when we are participating in the service, let us next feel that we can possess the inheritance. It is “the assembly of the firstborn”: let no man miss his birthright. See how the apostle introduces Esau as a warning, and how he bids us regard our afflictions as chastisements which prove our sonship. Come, then, act as sons, and rejoice in your Father’s riches which are all your own. Let us not remain half-starved through the penury of our unbelief; but let us be filled to the full through the richness of the faith which the Spirit of God has wrought in us.

     Let us look on all things round about us with quite a different eye, not walking like slaves who dread their taskmaster, and scarcely dare to call their breath their own, but like free men who have even the Judge of all upon their side, and can have nothing to fear in life or death. Deep be our reverence, but high our joy, as we stand in his gracious presence, and with all the blood-bought rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. At this moment our question is, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” Our cry is, — Here am I; send me.” Use me, my Lord, glorify thyself in me; and while the innumerable company of angels look on, help me to do, and dare, and wrestle, and win, till thou shalt give to me also the crown of life that fadeth not away. This will not be a payment of debt, but a gift of grace. The metaphor of a Greek assembly excludes all notion of wages for work. No mercenary thought entered the mind of a single Greek who strove for the mastery at the assembly. He had nothing to win but a crown of olive. No money was ever given; it would have degraded the paneguris to a common show. Therefore you are not invited to contend that you may win a reward by your own merit. Ours is holiday work which it is joy to perform. Moved by a spiritual chivalry, saints do and dare for Jesus out of love to him. His service is its own reward. To die for him is life; to live for him is heaven. Let others boast their pedigree and nationality, we have reached the august convocation of the ransomed of the Lord who have come to Sion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads.



The Law Written on the Heart

By / Oct 29

The Law Written on the Heart

 

“After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts.”— Jeremiah xxxi. 33.

 

LAST Lord’s-day morning we spoke of the first great blessing of the covenant of grace, namely, the full forgiveness of sins. Then we dilated with delight upon that wonderful promise, “Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” I hope our consciences were pacified and our hearts filled with wonder as we thought of God’s casting behind his back all the sins of his people; so that we could sing with David, “Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities.” This great blessing of pardoned sin is always connected with the renewal of the heart. It is not given because of the change of heart, but it is always given with the change of heart. If God takes away the guilt of sin, he is sure at the same time to remove the power of sin. If he puts away our offences against his law, he also makes us desire in future to obey the law.

     In our text we observe the excellence and dignity of the law of God. The gospel has not come into the world to set aside the law. Salvation by grace does not erase a single precept of the law, nor lower the standard of justice in the smallest degree; on the contrary, as Paul says, we do not make void the law through faith, but we establish the law. The law is never honoured by fallen man till he comes from under its condemning rule, and walks by faith, and lives under the covenant of grace. When we were under the covenant of works we dishonoured the law, but now we venerate it as a perfect display of moral rectitude. Our Lord Jesus has shown to an assembled universe that the law is not to be trifled with, and that every transgression and disobedience must receive a just recompense of reward, since the sin which he bore on our account brought upon him, as our innocent substitute, the doom of suffering and death. Our Lord Jesus has testified by his death that, even if sin be pardoned, yet it is not put away without an expiatory sacrifice. The death of Christ rendered more honour to the law than all the obedience of all who were ever under it could have rendered; and it was a more forcible vindication of eternal justice than if all the redeemed had been cast into hell. When the Holy One smites his own Son, his wrath against sin is evident to all. But this is not enough. The law is in the gospel not only vindicated by the sacrifice of Christ, but it is honoured by the work of the Spirit of God upon the hearts of men. Whereas under the old covenant the commands of the law excited our evil natures to rebellion, under the covenant of grace we consent unto the law that it is good, and our prayer is, “Teach me to do thy will, O Lord.” What the law could not do because of the weakness of the flesh, the gospel has done through the Spirit of God. Thus the law is had in honour among believers, and though they are no more under it as a covenant of works, they are in a measure conformed to it as they see it in the life of Christ Jesus, and they delight in it after the inward man. Things required by the law are bestowed by the gospel. God demands obedience under the law: God works obedience under the gospel. Holiness is asked of us by the law: holiness is wrought in us by the gospel; so that the difference between the economies of law and gospel is not to be found in any diminution of the demands of the law, but in the actual giving unto the redeemed that which the law exacted of them, and in the working in them that which the law required.

     Notice, beloved friends, that under the old covenant the law of God was given in a most awe-inspiring manner, and yet it did not secure loyal obedience. God came to Sinai, and the mountain was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. So terrible was the sight of God manifesting himself on Sinai that even Moses said, “I exceedingly fear and quake.” Out of the thick darkness which covered the sublime summit there came forth the sound of a trumpet, waxing exceeding loud and long, and a voice proclaimed one by one the ten great statutes and ordinances of the moral law. I think I see the people at a distance, with bounds set about the mount, crouching with abject fear, and at last entreating that these words might not be spoken to them any more. So terrible was the sound of Jehovah’s voice, even when he was not declaring vengeance, but simply expounding righteousness, that the people could not endure it any longer: and yet no permanent impression was left upon their minds, no obedience was shown in their lives. Men may be cowed by power, but they can only be converted by love. The sword of justice hath less power over human hearts than the sceptre of mercy.

     Further to preserve that law, God himself inscribed it upon two tables of stone, and he gave these tablets into the hands of Moses. What a treasure! Surely no particles of matter had hitherto been so honoured as these slabs, which had been touched by the finger of God, and bore on them the legible impress of his mind. But these laws on stone were not kept: neither the stones nor the laws were reverenced. Moses had not long gone up into the mount before the once awe-struck people were bowing before the golden calf, forgetful of Sinai and its solemn voice, and making to themselves the likeness of an ox that eateth grass, and bowing before it as the symbol of the godhead. When Moses came down from the hill with those priceless tablets in his hands, he saw the people wholly given up to base idolatry, and in his indignation he dashed the tablets to the ground and broke them in pieces, as well he might when he saw how the people had spiritually broken them and violated every word of the Most High. From all which I gather that the law is never really obeyed as the result of servile fear. You may preach up the anger of God, and the terrors of the world to come, but these do not melt the heart to loyal obedience. It is needful for other ends that man should know of God’s resolve to punish sin, but the heart is not by that fact won to virtue. Man revolts yet more and more; so stubborn is he that the more he is commanded the more he rebels. The decalogue upon your Church walls and in your daily service has its ends, but it can never be operative' upon men’s lives until it is also written on their hearts. Tables of stone are hard, and men count obedience to God’s law to be a hard thing: the commands are judged to be stony while the heart is stony, and men harden themselves because the way of the precept is hard to their evil minds. Stones are proverbially cold, and the law seems a cold, chill thing, for which we have no love as long as the appeal is to our fears. Tablets of stone, though apparently durable, can readily enough be broken, and so can God’s commands; so are they indeed broken every day by us, and those who have the clearest knowledge of the will of God nevertheless offend against him. As long as they have nothing to keep them in check but a servile dread of punishment, or a selfish hope of reward, they yield no loyal homage to the statutes of the Lord.

     At this time I have to show you the way in which God secures to himself obedience to his law in quite another fashion; not by thundering it out from Sinai, nor by engraving it upon tablets of stone, but by coming in gentleness and infinite compassion into the hearts of men, and there, upon fleshy tables, inscribing the commands of his law in such a manner that they are joyfully obeyed, and men become the willing servants of God.

     This is the second great privilege of the covenant: not second in value, but in order— “who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases.” It is thus described by Ezekiel: “And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” In the Epistle to the Hebrews we have it in another form, and we read it thus: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.” This is so inestimably precious that you who know the Lord are longing for it, and it is your great delight that it is to be wrought in you by the sovereign grace of God.

     We shall, first of all, look at the tablets,— “I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts”; secondly, at the writing; thirdly, at the writer; and, fourthly, at the results which come of this wondrous writing. O that the Spirit who is promised to lead us into all truth may illuminate us now.

     I. First, I invite your attention to THE TABLETS upon which God writes his law,— “I will put my law in their inward parts.” Just as once he put the two tables into the ark of gopher wood, so he will put his holy law into our inward nature, and enclose it in our thoughts and minds and memories and affections, as a jewel in a casket. Then he adds, “And I will write it in their hearts.” Just as the holy words were engraven upon stone, so shall they now be written in the heart, in the handwriting of the Lord himself. Mark that the law is written not on the heart, but in the heart, in the very texture and constitution of it, so that into the centre and core of the soul obedience shrill be infused as a vital principle.

     Thus, you see, the Lord has selected for his tablets that which is the seat of life. It is in the heart that life is to be found, a wound there is fatal: where the seat of life is there the seat of obedience shall be. In the heart life has its permanent palace and perpetual abode: and God saith that, instead of writing his holy law on stones which may be left at a distance, he will write it on the heart, which must always be within us. Instead of placing the law upon phylacteries which can be bound between the eyes but may easily be taken off, he will write it in the heart, where it must always remain. He has bidden his people write his laws upon the posts of their doors and upon their gates; but in those conspicuous places they might become so familiar as to be unnoticed; the Lord now himself writes them where they must always be noted and always produce effect. If men have the precepts written in the abode of their life, they live with the law, and cannot live without it. It is a wonderful thing that God should do this. It displays infinitely greater wisdom than if the law had been inscribed on slabs of granite or engraven on plates of gold. What wisdom is this which operates upon the original spring of life, so that all that flows forth from man shall come from a sanctified fountain-head!

     Observe next, that not only is the heart the seat of life, but it is the governing power. It is from the heart, as from a royal metropolis, that the imperial commands of the man are issued by which hand and foot, and eye and tongue, and all the members are ordered. If the heart be right, then the other powers must yield submission to its sway, and become right too. If God writes his law upon the heart, then the eye will purify its glances, and the tongue will speak according to rule, and the hand will move and the foot will travel as God ordains. When the heart is fully influenced by God’s Spirit, then the will and the intellect, the memory and the imagination, and everything else which makes up the inward man, comes under cheerful allegiance to the King of kings. God himself saith, “Give me thine heart,” for the heart is the key of the entire position. Hence the supreme wisdom of the Lord in setting up his law where it becomes operative upon the entire man.

     But before God can write upon man’s heart it must be prepared. It is most unfit to be a writing-table for the Lord until it is renewed. The heart must first of all undergo erasures. What is written on the heart already, some of us know to our deep regret. Original sin has cut deep lines, Satan has scored his horrible handwriting in black letters, and our evil habits have left their impressions. How can the Lord write there? No one would expect the holy God to inscribe his holy law upon an unholy mind. The former things must be taken away, that there may be clear space upon which new and better things may be engraven. But who can erase these lines? “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.” The God who can take away the spots from the leopard, and the blackness from the Ethiopian, can also remove the evil lines which now deface the heart.

     As the heart must undergo erasure, it must also experience a thorough cleansing, not of the surface only, but of its entire fabric. Truly, brethren, it was far easier for Hercules to purge the Augean stables than for our hearts to be purged; for the sin that lies within us is not an accumulation of external defilement, but an inward, all-pervading corruption. The taint of secret and spiritual evil is in man’s natural life, every pulse of his soul is disordered by it. The eggs of all crimes are within our being: the accursed virus, from whose deadly venom every foul design will come, is present in the soul. Not only tendency to sin, but sin itself hath taken possession of the soul, and blackened and polluted it through and through, till there is not a fibre of the heart untinged with iniquity. God cannot write his law in our inward parts till with water and with blood he has purged us. Tables on which the Lord shall write must be clean, therefore the heart on which God is to engrave his law must be a cleansed heart; and it is a great joy to perceive that from the person of our Lord heart-cleansing blood and water flowed, so that the provision is equal to the necessity. Blessed be the name of our gracious God, he knows how to erase the evil and to cleanse the soul through his Holy Spirit’s applying the work of Jesus to us.

     In addition to this, the heart needs to be softened, for the heart is naturally hard, and in some men it has become harder than an adamant stone. They have resisted God’s love till they are impervious to it: they have stood out obstinately against God’s will till they have become desperately set on mischief, and nothing can affect them. God must melt the heart, must transform it from granite into flesh; and he has the power to do it. Blessed be his name, according to the covenant of grace he has promised to work this wonder, and he will.

     Nor would the softening be enough, for there are some who have a tenderness of the most deceiving kind. They receive the word with joy: they feel every expression of it, but they speedily go their way and forget what manner of men they are. They are as impressible as the water, but the impression is as soon removed; so that another change is needed, namely, to make them retentive of that which is good: else might you engrave and re-engrave, but, like an inscription upon wax, it would be gone in a moment if exposed to heat. The devil, the world, and the temptations of life, would soon erase out of the heart all that God had written there if he did not create it anew with the faculty of holding fast that which is good.

     In a word, the heart of man needs to be totally changed, even as Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Ye must be born again.” Dear hearers, we preach to you that whosoever believeth in Christ hath everlasting life, and we speak neither more nor less than the truth of God when we say so; but yet, believe us, there must be as great a change in the heart as if a man were slain and made alive again. There must be a new creation, a resurrection from the dead; old things must pass away, and all things must become new. God’s law can never be written upon the old natural heart: there must be a new and spiritual nature given, and then upon the centre of that new life, upon the throne of that new power within our life, God will set up the proclamation of his blessed will, and what he commands shall be done. So, then, you see these tablets are not so easily written upon as perhaps at the first we thought. If God is to write the law upon the heart, the heart must be prepared, and in order to being prepared, it must be entirely renewed by a miracle of mercy, such as can only be wrought by that omnipotent hand which made both heaven and earth.

     II. Secondly, let us pass on to notice THE WRITING. I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts.” What is this writing? First, the matter of it is the law of God. God writes upon the hearts of his people that which is already revealed; he inscribes there nothing novel and unrevealed, but his own will which he has already given us in the book of the law. He writes upon the heart by gracious operation that which he has already written in the Bible by gracious revelation. He writes: not philosophy, nor imagination, nor superstition, nor fanaticism, nor idle fancies. If any man says to me, “God has written such and such a thing on my heart,” I reply, “Show me it in the Book,” for if it be not according to the other Scriptures it is not a scripture of God. A fancy as to a man’s being a prophet, or a prince, or an angel, may be on a man’s heart, but God did not write it there, for his own declaration is, “I will write my law in their hearts,” and he speaks not of anything beyond. The nonsense of modern pretenders to prophecy is no writing of God; it would be a dishonour to a sane man to ascribe it to him: how can it be of the Lord? He here promises to write his own law on the heart, but nothing else. Be you content to have the law written on your soul, and wander not into vain imaginings lest you receive a strong delusion to believe a lie.

     Observe, however, that God says he will write his whole law on the heart,— this is included in the words, “my law.” God’s work is complete in all its parts, and beautifully harmonious. He will not write one command and leave out the rest as so many do in their reforms. They become indignant in their virtue against a particular sin, but they riot in other evils. Drunkenness is to them the most damnable of all transgressions, but covetousness and uncleanness they wink at. They denounce theft, and yet defraud; cry out against pride, and yet indulge envy: thus they are partial, and do the work of the Lord deceitfully. It must not be so. God does not set before us a partial holiness, but the whole moral law. “I will write my law in their hearts.” Human reforms are generally lopsided, but the Lord’s work of grace is balanced and proportionate. The Lord writes the perfect law in the hearts of men because he intends to produce perfect men.

     Mark, again, that on the heart there is written not the law toned down and altered, but “my law,”— that very same law which was at first written on the heart of man unfallen. Paul says of natural men, that “they show the work of the law written in their hearts.” There is enough of light left on the conscience to condemn men for most of their iniquities. The original record of the law upon man’s heart at his creation has been injured and almost obliterated by man’s fall and his subsequent transgressions, but the Lord, in renewing the heart, makes the writing fresh and vivid, even the writing of the first principles of righteousness and truth.

     But to come a little closer to the matter: what does the Scripture mean by writing the law of God in the heart? The writing itself includes a great many things. A man who has the law of God written on his heart, first of all, knows it. He is instructed in the ordinances and statutes of the Lord. He is an illuminated person, and no longer one of those who know not the law and are cursed. God’s Spirit has taught him what is right and what is wrong: he knows this by heart, and therefore can no longer put darkness for light, and light for darkness.

     This law, next, abides upon his memory. When he had it only upon a tablet he must needs go into his house to look at it, but now he carries it about with him in his heart, and knows at once what will be right and what will be wrong. God has given him a touchstone by which he tries things. He finds that “all is not gold that glitters,” and all is not holy which pretends to that character. He separates the precious from the vile, and does this habitually; for his knowledge of God’s law and his memory of it are attended by a discernment of spirit which God has wrought in him, so that he quickly discerns what is according to the mind of God and what is not. Now this is a great point, for some things are commonly done by men which they will even defend, and say that there is no wrong in them; but according to the divine rule they are utterly unjust. God’s people judge these things, and take no pleasure in them. A sacred instinct warns the believer of the approach of sin. Long before public sentiment has proclaimed a hue and cry against questionable practices, the Christian man, even if deluded for a while by current custom, yet feels a trembling and an uneasiness. Even if he consents outwardly, being overborne by general opinion, a something within protests, and leads him to consider whether the matter can be defended. As soon as he detects the evil, he shrinks from it. It is a grand thing to possess a universal detector, so that, go where you may, you are not dependent upon the judgment of others, and therefore are not deceived as multitudes are.

     This, however, is only a part of the matter, and a very small part comparatively. The law is written on a man’s heart further than this: when he consents unto the law that it is good; when his conscience, being restored, cries, “Yes, that is so, and ought to be so. That command by which God has forbidden a certain course is a proper and prudent command: it ought to be enjoined.” It is a hopeful sign when a man no longer wishes that the divine commands were other than they are, but confirms them by the verdict of his judgment. Are there not men who in their anger wish that killing were no murder? Are there not others who do not steal, and yet wish they might take their neighbours’ goods? Are there not many who wish that fornication and adultery were not vices? This proves that their hearts are depraved; but it is not so with the regenerate, they would not have the law altered on any account. Their vote is with the law, they regard it as the guardian of society, the basis on which the peace of the universe can alone be built, for only by righteousness can any order of things be established. If we could possess the wisdom of God, we should make just that law which God has made, for the law is holy, and just, and good, and promotes man’s highest advantage. It is a great thing when a man gets as far as that.

     But, furthermore, there is wrought in the heart by God a love to the law as well as a consent to it, such a love that the man thanks God that he has given him such a fair and lovely representation of what perfect holiness would be; that he has given such measuring lines, by which he knows how a house is to be builded in which God can dwell. Thus thanking the Lord, his prayer, desire, longing, hungering, and thirsting, are after righteousness, that he may in all things be according to the mind of God. It is a glorious thing when the heart delights itself in the law of the Lord, and finds therein its solace and pleasure. The law is fully written on the heart when a man takes pleasure in holiness, and feels a deep pain whenever sin approaches him. Oh, my dear friend, the Lord has done great things for you when every evil thing is obnoxious to you. Even though you fall into sin through the infirmity of your flesh, yet if it causes you intense agony and sorrow it is because God has written his law in your heart. Even though you cannot be as holy as you want to be, yet if the ways of holiness are your pleasure, if they are the very element in which you live as much as the fish lives in the sea, then you are the subject of a very wonderful change of heart. It is not so much what you do as what you delight to do, which becomes the clearest test of your character. Many strictly religious people who go to and fro to church and chapel would be uncommonly glad if they did not feel bound to do so. Is not their public worship a dead formality? A great many people have family-prayers and private prayers who wish they could be rid of the nuisance. Is there any religion in bodily exercises which are burdensome to the heart? Nothing is acceptable to God until it is acceptable to yourself: God will not receive your sacrifice unless you offer it willingly. How contrary this is to the notion of many, for they say, “You see I deny myself by going so many times to a place of worship and by private prayer, therefore I must be truly religious.” The very reverse far nearer the truth. When it becomes a misery to serve God, then indeed the heart is far away from spiritual health; for when the heart is renewed, it delights to worship and serve the Lord. Instead of saying, “I would omit prayer if I could,” the regenerate mind cries, “I wish I could be always praying.” Instead of saying, “I would keep away from the assembly of God’s people if I could,” the newborn nature wishes like David to dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. This is a great evidence of the writing of the law upon the heart, when holiness becomes a pleasure, and sin becomes a sorrow. When this is done, what great things God has done for us!

     The main point of the whole is this, that whereas our nature was once contrary to the law of God, so that whatever God forbade we at once desired, and whatever God commanded we therefore began to dislike, the Holy Spirit comes and changes our nature, and makes it congruous to the law, so that now whatsoever God forbids we forbid, whatsoever God commands, our will commands. How much better to have the law written upon the heart than upon tables of stone!

     If anybody should enquire how the Lord keeps the writing upon the heart legible, I should like to spend a minute or two in showing the process. How the Holy Ghost first writes the law on the heart I cannot tell. The outward means are the preaching of the word and the reading of it; but how the Holy Ghost directly operates on the soul we do not know; it is one of the great mysteries of grace. This much we know within ourselves, that whereas we were blind now we see, and whereas we abhorred the law of God we now feel an intense delight in it: that the Holy Ghost wrought this change we also know, but how he did it remains unknown. That part of his holy office which we can discern is done according to the usual laws of mental operation. He enlightens by knowledge, convinces by argument, leads by persuasion, strengthens by instruction, and so forth. So far also we know that one way by which the law is kept written upon a Christian’s heart is this,— a sense of God’s presence. The believer feels that he could not sin with God looking on. It would need a brazen face for a man to play the traitor in the presence of a king; such things are done “under the rose,” as men word it, but not before the monarch’s face. So the Christian feels that he dwells in God’s sight, and this forbids him to disobey. The eye of the heavenly Father is the best monitor of the child of God.

     Next, the Christian has a lively sense within him of the degradation which sin once brought upon him. If there is one thing I never can forget personally, it is the horror of my heart while I was yet under sin, God revealed ray state to me. Ah, friends, the old proverb that a burnt child dreads the fire has an intensity of truth about it in the case of one who has ever been burnt by sin so as to be driven to despair by it; he hates it with a perfect hatred, and by that means God writes the law upon his heart.

     But a sense of love is a yet more powerful factor. Let a man know that God loves him, let him feel sure that God always did love him from before the foundations of the world, and he must try to please God. Let him be assured that the Father loved him so much as to give his only begotten Son to die that he might live through him, and he must love God and hate evil. A sense of pardon, of adoption, and of God’s sweet favour both in providence and in grace, must sanctify man. He cannot wilfully offend against such love; on the contrary, he feels himself bound to obey God in return for such unsearchable grace; and thus by a sense of love doth God write his law upon the hearts of his people.

     Another very powerful pen with which the Lord writes is to be found in the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ. When we see Jesus spit upon, and scourged, and crucified, we feel that we must hate sin with ail the intensity of our nature. Can you count the purple drops of his redeeming blood and then go back to live in the iniquity which cost the Lord so dear? Impossible! The death of Christ writes the law of God very deeply upon the central heart of man. The cross is the crucifier of sin.

     Besides that, God actually establishes his holy law in the throne of the heart by giving to us a new and heavenly life. There is within a Christian an immortal principle which cannot sin because it is born of God, and cannot die, for it is the living and incorruptible seed which liveth and abideth for ever. In regeneration there is imparted to ns a something altogether foreign to our corrupt nature; a divine principle is dropped into the soul which can neither be corrupted nor made to die, and by this means the law is written on the heart. I do not pretend to explain the process of regeneration, but for certain it involves a divine life, implanted of the Holy Spirit.

     Once more, the Holy Ghost himself dwells in believers. I pray you, never forget this marvellous doctrine, that as truly as ever God dwelt in human flesh in the person of the God-man Mediator, so truly doth the Holy Ghost dwell in the bodies of all redeemed men and women who have been born again; and by the force of that indwelling he keeps the mind for ever permeated with holiness, for ever subservient to the will of the Most High.

     III. Now we turn for just a minute to think of THE WRITER. Who is it that writes the law upon the heart? It is God himself. “I will do it,” saith he.

     Note, first, that he has a right to indite his law on the heart. He made the heart; it is his tablet: let him write there whatever he wills. As clay in the hands of the potter so are we in his hands.

     Note, next, that he alone can write the law on the heart. It will never be written there by any other hand. The law of God is not to be written on the heart by human power. Alas, how often have I expounded the law of God and the gospel of God, but I have got no further than the ear: only the living God can write upon the living heart. This is noble work, angels themselves cannot attain to it. “This is the finger of God.” As God alone can write there and must write there, so he alone shall have the glory of that writing when once it is perfected.  

     When God writes he writes perfectly. You and I make blots and errors: there needs to be a list of errata at the end of every human piece of writing, but when God writes, blots or mistakes are out of the question. No holiness can excel the holiness produced by the Holy Spirit when his inward work is fully completed.  

     Moreover, he writes indelibly. I defy the devil to get a single letter of the law of God out of a man’s heart when God has written it there. When the Holy Ghost has come with all the power of his divinity and rested on our nature, and stamped into it the life of holiness, then the devil may come with his black wings and all his unhallowed craftiness, but he can never erase the eternal lines. We bear in our hearts the marks of the Lord God eternal, and we shall bear them eternally. Written rocks bear their inscriptions long, but written hearts bear them for ever and ever. Does not the Lord say, “I will put my fear in their hearts that they shall not depart from me”? Blessed be God for those immortal principles which forbid the child of God to sin.  

     IV. I wish to finish by noticing THE RESULTS of the law being thus written in the heart. I hope while I have been preaching about it many of you have been saying, “I hope that the law will be written in my heart.” Remember that this is a gift and privilege of the covenant of grace, and not a work of man. Dear friends, if any of you have said, “I do not find anything good in me, therefore I cannot come to Christ,” you talk foolishly. The absence of good is the reason why you should come to Christ to have your needs supplied. “Oh, but if I could write God’s law on my heart I would come to Christ.” Would you? What would you want Christ for? But if the law is not written on your heart, then come to Jesus to have it so written. The new covenant says, “I will put my law in their inward parts, and will write my law in their hearts.” Come then to have the law thus inscribed within. Come just as you are, before a single line has been inscribed. The Lord Jesus loves to prepare his own tablets, and write every letter of his own epistles: come to him just as you are, that he may do all things for you.

     What are the results of the law being written on the hearts of men? Frequently the first result is great sorrow. If I have God’s law written on my heart, then I say to myself, “Ah me, that I should have lived a law-breaker so long! This blessed law, this lovely law, why I have not even thought of it, or if I have thought of it, it has provoked me to disobedience. Sin revived, and I died when the commandment came.” We wring our hands and cry, “How could we be so wicked as to break so just a Jaw? How could we be so wilful as to go against our own interests? Knew we not that a breach of the commandment is an injury to ourselves?” Thus we are in bitterness as one that is in bitterness for the death of his first-born. I do not believe God has ever written his law on your hearts if you have not mourned over sin. One of the earliest signs of grace is a dew upon the eyes because of sin.

     The next effect of it is, there comes upon the man a strong and stern resolve that he will not break that law again, but will keep it with all his might. He cries out with David, “I have sworn and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments.” His whole heart says, when reading the precepts of the Lord,— “Yes, that is what I ought to be, that is what I wish to be, and that is what I will be, according to the will of God.”

     That strong resolve soon leads to a fierce conflict; for another law lifts up its head, a law in our members; and that other law cries, “Not so quick there, your new law which has come into your soul to rule you shall not be obeyed: I will be master.” He who is born within us to be our king finds the old Herod ready to slay the young child. The lust of the eye, and the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, each one of these swears warfare against the new monarch and the fresh power that is come into the heart. Some of you know what this struggle means. It is a very hard fight with some to keep from actual sin. Have you not when troubled with a quick temper had to put your hand to your mouth to stop yourself from saying what you used to say, but what you never wish to say again? Have you not often gone upstairs to get alone, feeling that you would soon slip if the Lord did not hold you up? How wise to get alone with God and cry to him for help! How prudent to watch day and night against evil! Certain braggers talk about having got beyond all that. I should be glad to think that there are such brethren: but I should want to keep them in a glass-case to show them round, or in an iron safe where thieves could not get at them. I conceive it to be a snare of the devil to imagine that you are beyond the need of daily watchfulness. For my own part, I have not passed beyond conflict and struggle: I bear testimony that the battle grows more stern every day. Those of God's people with whom I associate I find fighting and wrestling still. Sometimes I know the devil does not roar, but I am more afraid of him when he is quiet than when he rages. I would sooner he would roar of the two, for a roaring devil is better than a sleeping devil. Whenever he gives way he only gives an inch to take an ell; and whenever you begin to say to yourself, “My corruptions are all dead; I have no tendencies to sin now,” you are in awful peril. Poor soul, you do not know what you are talking about. God send you to school, and give you a little light, and you will sing to another tune, I am sure, before long. These are the incidental results— when the Lord writes the law in the heart, strifes and struggles are common within the man, for holiness strives for the mastery.

     But does not something better than this come of the divine heartwriting? Oh, yes. There comes actual obedience. The man not only consents to the law that it is good, but he obeys it; and if there be anything which Christ commands, no matter what it is, the man seeks to do it,— not only wishes to do it, but actually does it; and if there be aught that is wrong, he not only wishes to abstain from it, but he does abstain from it. God helping him, he becomes upright, and righteous, and sober, and godly, and loving, and Christlike, for this it is which the Spirit of God works in him. He would be perfect were it not for the old lusts of the flesh which linger even in the hearts of the regenerate. Now the believer feels intense pleasure in everything that is good. If there be anything right and true in the world, he is on the side of it: if there be defeats to truth, he is defeated; but if truth marches on conquering and to conquer he conquers, and takes and divides the spoil with joy. Now he is on God’s side, now he is on Christ’s side, now he is on truth’s side, now he is on holiness’ side; and a man cannot be that without being a happy man. With all his smugglings, and all his weepings, and all his confessions, he is a happy man because he is on the happy side. God is with him, and he is with God, and he must be blessed.

     As this proceeds, the man becomes more and more prepared to dwell in heaven. He is changed into God’s image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord. Our fitness for heaven is not a thing that will be clapped upon us in the last few minutes of our life, just as we are going to die; but the children of God have a meetness for heaven as soon as ever they are saved, and that meetness grows and increases till they are ripe, and then, like ripe fruit, they drop from the tree and find themselves in the bosom of their Father God. God will never keep a soul out of heaven half a minute after it is fully prepared to go there; and so, when God has fitted us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, we shall enter at once into the joy of our Lord.

     My brethren, I feel I have talked feebly and prosily about one of the most blessed subjects that ever occupied the thoughts of man— how God’s law shall be kept, how it shall be honoured, how holiness shall come into the world, and we shall no longer be rebellious. Herein let us trust in our Lord Jesus, who is to us the surety of that covenant of which this is one great promise— “I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their hearts will I write it.” God do so to us, for Christ s sake. Amen.



Feed My Lambs: A Sabbath-School Sermon

By / Oct 15

Feed My Lambs: A Sabbath-School Sermon

 

“So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Peed my lambs.” — John xxi. 15.

 

READ the whole chapter, and observe the change of scene. First, they are on the lake fishing, casting their nets at Christ’s command, and dragging to land a multitude of great fishes. They have all come on shore, and when they have breakfasted, their faces are not turned to the sea, but to the pastures on the hillside. These are clothed with flocks, and the Master says no more about fishermen and fish, but speaks of shepherds and sheep. Herein lieth a parable: the servants of the Lord Jesus are first fishermen and then shepherds. The first work of Christ’s servants is comprised in that commission, “Go, ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature”; or, parabolically, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a draught.” They begin their heavenly vocation as fishers, even as Jesus said to them at the first, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Their earliest work is to preach the gospel, which is like the letting down of a great seine net, enclosing life of all kinds. They are not to make a selection of characters so as to preach only to likely persons: that would be comparable to angling, a figure which is used in the Old Testament in connection with destruction, and not in reference to salvation, even as Amos says: “The Lord God hath sworn by his holiness, that, lo, the days shall come upon you, that he will take you away with hooks, and your posterity with fishhooks.” In gospel fishery we let down the big net and thus encompass many of all sorts. In the act of preaching the gospel, all is fish that comes to net; the sorting of the good from the bad is to be done another day. Our urgent work— I mean yours and mine, my brethren— is to go out into the world and proclaim the blessed gospel of salvation to all who care to hear us. We are to go into every place to which we can gain access, “into all the world”; “into the streets and lanes of the city, into the highways and hedges”: anywhere and everywhere the world over. Our one instrument as fishers for Christ is the gospel of the grace of God. God forbid that we should use any other. May the Lord help us to keep to our fishing, and may we constantly receive divine direction as to how and where to cast the net, so that we may have a full net, and yet a net unbroken, wherewith we may fish again.

     After this is done, and while it is being done, another art is to be practised. Fishing is not all, as many seem to think. It is a great part of our service, and would God it were more attended to; but after it has been attended to shepherding comes in, and is a work of equal weight. Our Lord Jesus Christ would have his servants attend to this second task with all their hearts. If souls are converted they have been brought up from the depths of sin, and the scene changes: we see a flock, “the church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood.” This flock needs as much care as any other, yea, it needs to be tended with the utmost labour and watchfulness. The Lord Jesus himself is the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep, the Great Shepherd who is brought again from the dead, and the Chief Shepherd under whom he has appointed shepherds to watch for the souls of men. He will have those of us whom he calls to his service to shepherdize those who are converted: leading, protecting, feeding, comforting, and succouring them. He will call us to account if we neglect this charge, for he will require his flock at our hands, saying, “Where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?”

     This shepherd work is so important that three times the Saviour bids us attend to it, saying first, “Feed my lambs,” then, “Feed my sheep,” or as some old manuscripts have it, “my little sheep,” and then again, “Feed my sheep.” We are to feed the babes in grace; to shepherdize the young men in Christ Jesus; and to feed the older ones who feel many growing infirmities, and need again the comforts of their earliest days. Three times over are we thus bidden: are we, then, so apt to fail in this? Jesus spake but once to death, and Lazarus came forth: are we more deaf than the grave, and must we be thrice commanded? Let us no longer be disobedient to the heavenly mandate. We must never so evangelize the outside mass as to forget to fold and feed those within. We are to disciple all nations, and then to teach them all things whatsoever Christ has commanded us. Not every man that can haul in a net is ready at once to tend a flock; we need much grace, for the Lord Jesus Christ spent years in most industriously educating the Twelve, training the Seventy, and getting ready a band of followers who were not only saved, but educated, so as to teach others also. We must not be indifferent to this matter. The quiet work of building up believers must be steadily pursued, even though those who sound a trumpet before them may despise such ministries.

     I shall speak this morning upon work within the fold, the feeding of the sheep and Iambs, and this I shall do in order that I may help our beloved Sabbath-school teachers. This is their day, and if I do not seem to speak directly or exclusively to them, I hope I shall nevertheless say much to stimulate and direct them in their invaluable labours. I bespeak for them your most earnest prayers and loving sympathies, and of many I would beg a more practical co-operation with them.

     Concerning this shepherdizing for Christ let us first note the sphere “My lambs”: secondly, the man for it— one like Simon son of Jonas: thirdly, his preparation for it: fourthly, the work itself: and fifthly, the motive under which the feeding is to be carried out. Briefly on each point. Oh for help from the Spirit of God!

     I. First, think of THE SPHERE. Although in the other instances Jesus says, “Feed my sheep,” yet in this first instance he says, “Feed my lambs.” To whom does he refer? I think, first, to such as are little in grace. They have but a grain of mustard seed of faith as yet: their love is not a flame, but a spark: the leaven of grace within them has begun to work, but all the measures of meal are not yet leavened. The spiritual life in these is like a candle newly lit, apparently in danger of being suddenly blown out, and therefore needing great care. Weakness is an idea in the word “lambs”; and so in the church of God all such as are weak— and, alas, how many there are— all such as are doubting, all such as are slenderly instructed, all such as are easily bewildered in doctrine, cast down in spirit, and apt to be staggered,— all such, I say, are to be watched over with special care, and therefore Jesus mentions them particularly and separately and in the first place. If our kindness should neglect the strong it would be a sad pity, but it might not entail so much damage as if we neglect the weak. What saith the apostle? “Comfort the feeble-minded; support the weak; be patient towards all men.” In our numbers we have always a few who wear the weeds of spiritual widowhood; these are very sincere, but sadly anxious, scarcely knowing what full assurance means, but yet true and resolute. Their faith is a trembling one, crying “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” Such are not to be blamed, nor avoided, nor despised, nor in the least degree discouraged; but, inasmuch as we ourselves also may be tempted with like fears, we are to console them. We ought to know that if we be strong, our strength lieth not in ourselves; for our own strength is perfect weakness; and therefore we should deal graciously and tenderly with the weak of the flock. I think this is the reason why the weak were committed to Simon Peter in this particular case; because he had been very weak himself: he had denied his Master through his fears, and thus he was taught to have compassion on other trembling ones. He who is himself compassed with infirmities knows the heart of the weaklings: he can enter with sympathy into their doubts and their distresses, for he has felt the same. I say therefore, this morning, in the name of the Lord Jesus, to all of you who love him, “Look well to the weak ones of the church.”

     But I cannot think, as some expositors do, that weakness is the main idea in the word “lambs”; for the notion of a lamb is not confined to the thought of weakness, since full-grown sheep may be weak and lambs may be vigorious; but the most prominent thought is that of youth. The lambs are the young of the flock. So, then, we ought to look specially and carefully after those who are young in grace. They may be old in years, and yet they may be mere babes in grace as to the length of their spiritual life, and therefore they need to be under a good shepherd. As soon as a person is converted and added to the church he should become the object of the care and kindness of his fellow members. He has but newly come among us, and has no familiar friends among the saints, therefore let us all be friendly to him. Even should we leave our older comrades we must be doubly kind towards those who are newly escaped from the world and have come to find a refuge with the Almighty and his people. Watch with ceaseless care over those newborn babes who are strong in desires, but strong in nothing else. They have but just crept out of darkness, and their eyes can scarcely bear the light; let us be a shade to them until they grow accustomed to the blaze of gospel day. Addict yourselves to the holy work of caring for the feeble and despondent. Peter himself that morning must have felt like a newly enlisted soldier, for he had in a sense ended his public Christian life by denying his Lord, and he had begun it again when he “went out and wept bitterly.” He was now making a new confession of his faith before his Lord and his brethren, and, therefore, because he was thus made to sympathize with recruits he is commissioned to act as a guardian to them. Young converts are too timid to ask our help, and so our Lord introduces them to us, and with an emphatic word of command he says, “Feed my lambs.” This shall be our reward, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these ye have done it unto me.”

     But surely we must include in this those who have been converted while young in years. We thank God exceedingly that we have among us and round about us many dear children that already know Christ. We have never as a church thought that a certain number of years must have passed over a child before it can confess its faith in Christ and be received into the church. It is sometimes said that we teach adult baptism. We do nothing of the sort. We practise believer s baptism, and baptize all who confess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, whether they are children or adults. Our enquiry as to fitness does not refer to age, but to faith. The number or the fewness of days or years is no consideration whatever with us. Our question is, “Dost thou believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?” If that be fairly answered we say at once, “What doth hinder you to be baptized?” However young a believer may be he should make an open confession of his faith, and be folded with the rest of the flock of Christ. We are not among those who are suspicious of youthful piety: we could never see more reason for such suspicions in the case of the young than in the cases of those who repent late in life. Of the two we think the latter are more to be questioned than the former: for a selfish fear of punishment and dread of death are more likely to produce a counterfeit faith than mere childishness would be. How much has the child missed which might have spoiled it! How much it does not know which, please God, we hope it never may know! Oh, how much there is of brightness and trustfulness about children when converted to God which is not seen in elder converts! Our Lord Jesus evidently felt deep sympathy with children, and he is but little like Christ who looks upon them as a trouble in the world, and treats them as if they must needs be either little deceivers or foolish simpletons. To you who teach in our schools is given this joyous privilege of finding out where these young disciples are who are truly the lambs of Christ’s flock, and to you he saith, “Feed my lambs that is, instruct such as are truly gracious but young in years.

     It is very remarkable that the word used here for “feed my lambs” is very different from the word employed in the precept, “feed my sheep.” I will not trouble you with Greek words, but the second “feed” means exercise the office of a shepherd, rule, regulate, lead, manage them, do all that a shepherd has to do towards a flock; but this first feed does not include all that: it means distinctly feed, and it directs teachers to a duty which they may, perhaps, neglect, namely, that of instructing children in the faith. The lambs do not so much need keeping in order as we do who know so much, and yet know so little: who think we are so far advanced that we judge one another and contend and emulate. Christian children mainly need to be taught the doctrine, precept, and life of the gospel: they require to have divine truth put before them clearly and forcibly. Why should the higher doctrines, the doctrines of grace, be kept back from them? They are not, as some say, bones; or if they be bones, they are full of marrow, and covered with fatness. If there be any doctrine too difficult for a child, it is rather the fault of the teacher’s conception of it than of the child’s power to receive it, provided that child be really converted to God. It is ours to make doctrine simple; this is to be a main part of our work. Teach the little ones the whole truth and nothing but the truth; for instruction is the great want of the child’s nature. A child has not only to live as you and I have, but also to grow; hence he has double need of food. When fathers say of their boys, “What appetites they have!” they should remember that we also should have great appetites if we had not only to keep the machinery going, but to enlarge it at the same time. Children in grace have to grow, rising to greater capacity in knowing, being, doing, and feeling, and to greater power from God; therefore above all things they must be fed. They must be well fed or instructed, because they are in danger of having their cravings perversely satisfied with error. Youth is susceptible to evil doctrine. Whether we teach young Christians truth or not, the devil will be sure to teach them error. They will hear of it somehow, even if they are watched by the most careful guardians. The only way to keep chaff out of the child’s little measure is to fill it brimful with good wheat. Oh that the Spirit of God may help us to do this! The more the young are taught the better; it will keep them from being misled.

     We are specially exhorted to feed them because they are so likely to be overlooked. I am afraid our sermons often go over the heads of the younger folk, who, nevertheless, may be as true Christians as the older ones. Blessed is he that can so speak as to be understanded of a child! Blessed is that godly woman who in her class so adapts herself to girlish modes of thought that the truth from her heart streams into the children’s hearts without let or hindrance.

     We ought especially to feed the young because this work is so profitable. Do what we may with persons converted late in life, we can never make much of them. We are very glad of them for their own sakes; but at seventy what remains even if they live another ten years? Train up a child, and he may have fifty years of holy service before him. We are glad to welcome those who come into the vineyard at the eleventh hour, but they have hardly taken their pruning-hook and their spade before the sun goes down, and their short day’s work is ended. The time spent in training the late convert is greater than the space reserved tor his actual service: but you take a child-convert and teach him well, and as early piety often becomes eminent piety, and that eminent piety may have a stretch of years before it in which God may be glorified and others may be blessed, such work is profitable in a high degree. It is also most beneficial work to ourselves. It exercises our humility and helps to keep us lowly and meek. It also trains our patience; let those who doubt this try it; for even young Christians exercise the patience of those who believe in them and are therefore anxious that they should justify their confidence. If you want big-souled, large-hearted men or women, look for them among those who are much engaged among the young, bearing with their follies, and sympathizing with their weaknesses for Jesus’ sake.

     You see the sphere which is presented to your zealous activity. Will you not occupy it? Many of you are already engaged in it; see to it that ye fulfil your high calling, and to the utmost feed the lambs.

     II. Secondly, let us speak of THE MAN who is to do this? I look upon my text as addressed, not to Peter only, but to those who are like Peter. What if I say it is addressed to us all? As servants and lovers of Jesus, he says to us, “Feed my lambs.” Who should do it? Christ selected Simon Peter as a leading man. He was one of the chief of the apostles, if we may use such a word. He was one of the triumvirate that led the van— Peter, and James, and John. But though a leading man, he was to feed the lambs, for no man may think himself too great to care for the young. The best of the church are none too good for this work. And, dear friends, do not think because you have other service to do that therefore you should take no interest in this form of holy work, but kindly, according to your opportunities, stand ready to help the little ones, and to cheer those whose chief calling it is to attend to them. To us all this message comes: “Feed my lambs.” To the minister, and to all who have any knowledge of the things of God, the commission is given. See to it that you look after the children that are in Christ Jesus. Peter was a leader among believers, yet he must feed the lambs.

     But he was especially a warm-hearted man. Simon Peter was not a Welshman, but he had a great deal of what we know as Welsh fire in him. He was just the sort of man to interest the young. Children delight to gather round a fire, whether it be on the hearth or in the heart. Certain persons appear to be made of ice, and from these children speedily shrink away: congregations or classes grow smaller every Sunday when cold-blooded creatures preside over them. But when a man or a woman has a kindly heart, the children seem to gather readily, just as flies in these autumn-days swarm on a warm sunny wall. Therefore Jesus says to warm-hearted Simon, “Feed my lambs.” He is the man for the office.

     Simon Peter was, moreover, an experienced man. He had known his own weakness; he had felt the pangs of conscience; he had sinned much and had been much forgiven, and now he was brought in tender humility to confess the love and loveliness of Jesus. We want experienced men and women to talk to converted children, and to tell them what the Lord has done for them, and what have been their dangers, their sins, their sorrows, and their comforts. The young are glad to hear the story of those who have been further on the road than they have. I may say of experienced saints— their lips keep knowledge. Experience lovingly narrated is suitable food for young believers, instruction such as the Lord is likely to bless to their nourishing in grace.

     Simon Peter was now a greatly indebted man. He owed much to Jesus Christ, according to that rule of the kingdom— he loveth much to whom much hath been forgiven. Oh you that have never entered upon this service for Christ, and yet might do it well, I beseech you consider your obligation to Jesus. The state of our schools at the present moment is a strong argument for your aid. We have plenty of children and few teachers; around this place of worship many schools are doing their work in a lame and halting manner for want of teachers. O you who owe so much to Christ, will you not feed his lambs? Ought you not to be forward to offer yourselves? Will you refuse him? Come forward at once and say, “I have left this work to younger hands, but I will do so no longer. I have experience, and I trust I yet retain a warm heart within my bosom; I will go and join these workers, who are steadily feeding the lambs in the name of the Lord. So far as to the man who is called to feed the lambs.

     III. Thirdly, when the Lord calls a man to a work, he gives him THE PREPARATION necessary for it. How was Peter prepared for feeding Christ’s lambs? First, by being fed himself. The Lord gave him a breakfast before giving him a commission. You cannot feed lambs or sheep either unless you are fed yourself. It is quite right for you to be teaching a great part of the Lord’s-day; but I think a teacher is very unwise who does not come to hear the gospel preached and get a meal for his own soul. First be fed, and then feed.

     But especially Peter was prepared for feeding the lambs by being with his Master. He would never forget that morning, and all the incidents of it. It was Christ’s voice that he heard; it was Christ’s look that pierced him to the heart: he breathed the air which surrounded the risen Lord, and this fellowship with Jesus perfumed Peter’s heart and tuned Peter’s speech, that he might afterwards go forth and feed the lambs. I commend to you the study of instructive books, but above all I commend the study of Christ. Let him be your library. Get near to Jesus. An hour’s communion with Jesus is the best preparation for teaching either the young or the old.

     Peter was also prepared in a more painful way than that, namely, by self-examination. The question came to him thrice over, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Lovest thou me? Lovest thou me?” Often the vessel wants scouring with self-examination before the Lord can fitly use it to convey the living water to thirsting ones. It never hurts a true-hearted man to search his own spirit and to be searched and tried by his Lord. It is the hypocrite who is afraid of the truth which tests his profession: trying discourses, and trying meditations, he dreads; but the genuine man wants to know for certain that he really does love Christ, and therefore he looks within him and questions and cross questions himself.

     Mainly, dear friends, that examination should be exercised concerning our love; for the best to preparation for teaching Christ’s lambs is love,— to Jesus and to them. We cannot be priests on their behalf unless like Aaron we wear their names upon our breasts. We must love or we cannot bless. Teaching is poor work when love is gone; it is like a smith working without fire, or a builder without mortar. A shepherd that does not love his sheep is a hireling and not a shepherd: he will flee in the time of danger, and leave his flock to the wolf. Where there is no love there will be no life; living lambs are not to be fed by dead men. See, brothers and sisters, we preach and teach love: our subject is the love of God in Christ Jesus. How can we teach this if we have no love ourselves? Our object is to create love in the hearts of those we teach, and to foster it where it already exists; but how can we convey the fire if it is not kindled in our own hearts? How can he promote the flame whose hands are damp, and dripping with worldliness and indifference, so that he acts on the child’s heart rather as a bucket of water than as a flame of fire? These lambs of the flock live in the love of Christ: shall they not live in ours? He calls them his lambs, and so they are; shall we not love them for his sake? They were chosen in love; they were redeemed in love; they have been called in love; they have been washed in love; they have been fed by love, and they will be kept by love till they come to the green pastures on the hill tops of heaven. You and I will be out of gear with the vast machinery of divine love unless our souls are fall of affectionate zeal for the good of the beloved ones. Love is the grandest preparation for the ministry, whether exercised in the congregation or in the class. Love, and then feed. If thou lovest, feed. If thou dost not love, then wait till the Lord hath quickened thee, and lay not thy unhallowed hand to this sacred service.

     Thus I have described the sphere, the man, and his preparation.

     IV. Let us now consider THE WORK: Feed my lambs.” I have given you the gist of this subject already. With the weak of the flock, with the new converts in the flock, with the young children in the flock, our principal business is to feed. Every sermon, every lesson, should be a feeding sermon and a feeding lesson. It is of little use to stand and thump the Bible and call out, “Believe, believe, believe!” when nobody knows what is to be believed. I see no use in fiddles and tambourines; neither lambs nor sheep can be fed upon brass bands. There must be doctrine, solid, sound, gospel doctrine to constitute real feeding. When you have a joint on the table, then ring the dinner-bell; but the bell feeds nobody if no provender is served up. Getting children to meet in the morning and the afternoon is a waste of their steps and yours if you do not set before them soul-saving, soul-sustaining truth. Feed the lambs; you need not pipe to them, nor put garlands round their necks; but do feed them.

     This feeding is humble, lowly, unostentatious work. Do you know the name of a shepherd? I have known the names of one or two who follow that calling, but I never heard anybody speak of them as great men; their names are not in the papers, nor do we hear of them as a trade with a grievance, claiming to be noticed by the legislature. Shepherds are generally quiet, unobtrusive people. When you look at the shepherd, you would not see any difference between him and the ploughman, or the carter. He plods on uncomplainingly through the winter, and in the early spring he has no rest night or day because the lambs are needing him: this he does year after year, and yet he will never be made a Knight of the Garter, nor even be exalted to the peerage, albeit he may have done far more useful work than those who are floated into rank upon their own beer-barrels. So in the case of many a faithful teacher of young children; you hear but little about him, yet he is doing grand work for which future ages will call him blessed. His Master knows all about him, and we shall hear of him in that day; perhaps not till then.

     Feeding the lambs is careful work too; for lambs cannot be fed on anything you please, especially Christ’s lambs. You can soon half poison young believers with bad teaching. Christ’s lambs are all too apt to eat herbs which are deleterious; it needs that we be cautious where we lead them. If men are to take heed what they hear, how much more should we take heed what we teach? It is careful work the feeding of each lamb separately, and the teaching of each child by itself the truth which it is best able to receive.

     Moreover, this is continuous work. “Feed my lambs,” is not for a season, but for all time. Lambs could not live if the shepherd only fed them once a week. I reckon they would die between Sunday and Sunday; therefore good teachers of the young look after them all the days of the week as they have opportunity, and they are careful about their souls with prayer and holy example when they are not teaching them by word of mouth. The shepherdry of lambs is daily, hourly work. When is a shepherd’s work over? How many hours a day does he labour? He will tell you that in lambing-time he is never done. He sleeps between whiles just when he can, taking much less than forty winks, and then rousing himself for action. It is so with those who feed Christ’s lambs; they rest not till God saves and sanctifies their dear ones.

     It is laborious work, too; at least he who does not labour at it will have a terrible account to render. Do you think a minister’s life is an easy one? I tell you that he who makes it so will find it hard enough when he comes to die. Nothing so exhausts a man who is called to it as the care of souls; so it is in measure with all who teach— they cannot do good without spending themselves. You must study the lesson; you must bring forth something fresh to your class: you must instruct and impress. I have no doubt you are often driven very hard for matter, and wonder how you will get through the next Lord’s-day. I know you are sore pressed at times if you are worth your salt. You dare not rush to your class unprepared, to offer to the Lord that which costs you nothing. There must be labour if the food is to be wisely placed before the lambs, so that they can receive it.

     And all this has to be done in a singularly choice spirit; the true shepherd spirit is an amalgam of many precious graces. He is hot with zeal, but he is not fiery with passion; he is gentle, and yet he rules his class; he is loving, but he does not wink at sin; he has power over the lambs, but he is not domineering or sharp; he has cheerfulness, but not levity; freedom, but not license; solemnity, but not gloom. He who cares for lambs should be a lamb himself; and, blessed be God, there is a Lamb before the throne who cares for all of us, and does so the more effectually because he is in all things made like unto us. The Shepherd spirit is a rare and priceless gift. A successful pastor or a successful teacher in a school will be found to have special characteristics, which distinguish him from his fellows. A bird when it is sitting on its eggs, or when the little ones are newly-hatched, has about it a mother-spirit, so that it devotes all its life to the feeding of its little ones: other birds may be taking their pleasure on the wing, but this bird sits still the life-long day and night, or else its only flights are to provide for gaping mouths which seem to be never filled. A passion has taken possession of the bird; and something like it comes over the true soul-winner: he could gladly die to win souls; he pines, he pleads, he plods to bless those on whom his heart is set. If these could but be saved he would pawn half his heaven for it; ay, and some times in moments of enthusiasm he is ready to barter heaven altogether to win souls, and, like Paul, he could wish himself accursed, so that they were but saved. This blessed extravagance many cannot understand, because they never felt it; may the Holy Ghost work it in us, so shall we act as true shepherds towards the lambs. This, then, is the work: “Feed my lambs.”

     V. Lastly, let us consider THE MOTIVE. Our Lord Jesus heard Peter’s assurance of love, and then he said, “Feed my lambs.” The motive for feeding the lambs was to be his Master’s self, and not his own self. Had Peter been the first Pope of Pome, and had he been like his successors, which indeed he never was, surely it would have been fitting for the Lord to have said to him, “Feed your sheep. I commit them to you, O Peter, Vicar of Christ on earth.” No, no, no. Peter is to feed them, but they are not his, they are still Christ’s. The work that you have to do for Jesus, brethren and sisters, is in no sense for yourselves. Your classes are not your children, but Christ’s. This is not my church, but Christ’s. The exhortation which Paul gave was, “Feed the church of God,” and Peter himself wrote in his epistle, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.” Let these lambs turn out what they may, the glory is to be to the Master and not to the servant; and the whole time spent, and labour given, and energy put forth, is every particle of it to redound to his praise whose these lambs are.

     Yet while this is a self-denying occupation, it is sweetly honourable, too, and we may attend to it feeling that it is one of the noblest forms of service. Jesus says, “My lambs: my sheep.” Think of them, and wonder that Jesus should commit them to us. Poor Peter! Surely when that breakfast began he felt awkward. I put myself into his place, and I know I should hardly have liked to look across the table to Jesus, as I remembered that I denied him with oaths and curses. Our Lord desired to set Peter quite at his ease by leading him to speak upon his love which had been so seriously placed in question. Like a good doctor he puts in the lancet where the anxiety was festering: he enquires, “Lovest thou me?” It was not because Jesus did not know Peter’s love; but in order that Peter might know of a surety, and make a new confession, saying, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.” The Lord is about to hold a tender controversy with the erring one for a few minutes, that there might never be a controversy between him and Peter any more. When Peter said, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee,” you half thought that the Lord would answer, “Ah, Peter, and I love you”; but he did not say so, and yet he did say so. Perhaps Peter did not see his meaning; but we can see it, for our minds are not confused as Peter’s was on that memorable morning. Jesus did in effect say, I love you so that I trust you with that which I purchased with my heart’s blood. The dearest thing I have in all the world is my flock: see, Simon, I have such confidence in you, I so wholly rely on your integrity as being a sincere lover of me, that I make you a shepherd to my sheep. These are all I have on earth, I gave everything for them, even my life, and now, Simon, son of Jonas, take care of them for me.” Oh, it was “kindly spoken.” It was the great heart of Christ saying, “Poor Peter, come right in and share my dearest cares.” Jesus so believed Peter’s declaration that he did not tell him so in words, but in deeds. Three times he said it, “Feed my lambs: feed my sheep: feed my sheep,” to show how much he loved him. When the Lord Jesus loves a man very much, he gives him much to do or much to suffer. Many of us have been plucked like brands from the burning, for we were “enemies to God by wicked works and now we are in the church among his friends, and our Saviour trusts us with his dearest ones. I wonder when the prodigal son came back and the father received him, whether when market-day came he sent his younger son to market to sell the wheat and bring home the money. Most of you would have said, “I am glad the boy is come back; at the same time I shall send his elder brother to do the business, for he has always stuck by me.” As for myself, the Lord Jesus took me in as a poor prodigal son, and it was not many weeks before he put me in trust with the gospel, that greatest of all treasures; this was a grand love-token. I know of none to excel it. The commission given to Peter proved how thoroughly the breach was healed, how fully the sin was forgiven, for Jesus took the man who had cursed and sworn in denial of him and bade him feed his lambs and sheep. Oh, blessed work, not for yourselves, and yet for yourselves! He that serves himself shall lose himself, but he that loseth himself doth really serve himself after the best possible fashion.

     The master-motive of a good shepherd is love. We are to feed Christ’s lambs out of love.

     First, as a proof of love. “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” If ye love me, feed my lambs. If ye love Christ, show it, and show it by doing good to others, by laying yourself out to help others that Jesus may have joy of them.

     Next, as an inflowing of love. “Feed my lambs,” for if you love Christ a little when you begin to do good, you will soon love him more. Love grows by active exercise. It is like the blacksmith’s arm, which increases its strength by wielding the hammer. Love loves till it loves more, and it loves more till it loves more; and it still loves more till it loves most of all, and then it is not satisfied, but aspires after enlargement of heart that it may copy yet more fully the perfect model of love in Christ Jesus, the Saviour.

     Besides being an inflowing of love, the feeding of lambs is an outflow of love. How often have we told our Lord that we loved him when we were preaching, and I do not doubt you teachers feel more of the pleasure of love to Jesus when you are busy with your classes than when you are by yourselves at home. A person may go home and sit down and groan out—

“’Tis a point I long to know,
Oft it causes anxious thought,”

and wipe his forehead and rub his eyes, and get into the dumps without end; but if he will rise up and work for Jesus, the point he longs to know will soon he settled, for love will come pouring out of his heart till he can no longer question whether it is there.

     So let us abide in this blessed service for Christ that it may be the delight of love, the very ocean in which love shall swim, the sunlight in which it shall bask. The recreation of a loving soul is work for Jesus Christ; and amongst the highest and most delicious forms of this heavenly recreation is the feeding of young Christians; endeavouring to build them up in knowledge and understanding, that they may become strong in the Lord. The Lord bless you, dear fellow-labourers in the Sabbath-school, from this time forth and for evermore.



The Great Cross-Bearer and His Followers

By / Oct 8

The Great Cross-Bearer and His Followers

 

“And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him, and put his own clothes on him, and led him out to crucify him.”— Mark xv. 20.
“And he bearing his cross went forth.”— John xix. 17.
“And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian. who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross.”— Mark xv. 21.

 

WHEN our Lord had been condemned to die, the execution of his sentence was hurried. The Jews were in great haste to shed his blood: so intense was the enmity of the chief priests and Pharisees that every moment of delay was wearisome to them. Besides, it was the day of the Passover, and they wished to have this matter finished before they went with hypocritical piety to celebrate the festival of Israel’s deliverance. We do not wonder at their eagerness, for they could not bear themselves while he lived, since his very presence reproved them for their falsehood and hypocrisy. But at Pilate we do wonder, and herein he is much to be blamed. In all civilized countries there is usually an interval between the sentencing of the prisoner and the time of his putting to death. As the capital sentence is irreversible, it is well to have a little space in which possible evidence may be forthcoming, which may prevent the fatal stroke. In some countries we have thought that there has been a cruelly long delay between the sentence and the execution, but with the Romans it was usual to allow the reasonable respite of ten days. Now, I do not say that it was incumbent upon Pilate according to Roman law to have allowed ten days to a Jew, who had not the rights of Roman citizenship; but I do say that he might have pleaded the custom of his country, and so have secured a delay, and afterwards he might have released his prisoner. It was within his reach to have done so, and he was culpable, as he was all along, in thus yielding to the clamour for an immediate execution for no other reason than this, that he was “willing to content the people.” When once we begin to make the wishes of other men our law we know not to what extremity of criminality we may be led; and so the Saviour’s hasty execution is due to Pilate’s vacillating spirit, and to the insatiable blood-thirstiness of the scribes and Pharisees.

     Being given over to death, our Saviour was led away; and I suppose the painters are right when they put a rope about his neck or his loins; for the idea of being led in an open street would seem to imply some sort of bond: “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter.” Alas, that the Emancipator of our race should be led forth as a captive to die!

     The direction in which he is led is outside the city. He must not die in Jerusalem, though multitudes of prophets had perished there. Though the temple was the central place of sacrifice, yet must not the Son of God be offered there, for he was an offering of another kind, and must not lie upon their altars. Outside the city, because by the Jews he was treated as a flagrant offender who must be executed at the Tyburn of the city, in the appointed place of doom known as Calvary or Golgotha. When Naboth was unjustly condemned for blasphemy, they carried him forth out of the city, and stoned him with stones that he died; and afterwards Stephen,— when they cried out against him as a blasphemer, they cast him out of the city, and there they stoned him. Our Saviour therefore must die in the ordinary place of execution, that in all respects he might be numbered with the transgressors. The rulers of the city so loathed and detested their great Reprover that they rejected him, and would not suffer him to die within their city walls. Alas, poor Jerusalem, in casting out the Son of David, thou didst cast out thy last hope: now art thou bound over to desolation.

     He was led outside of the city because from that time no acceptable sacrifice could be offered there. They might go on with their offering of daily lambs, and they might sacrifice their bullocks, and burn the fat of fed beasts; but from that day the substance of the sacrifice had gone away from them, and Israel’s offerings were vain oblations. Because the true sacrifice is rejected of them the Lord leaves them nothing but a vain show.

     Still more forcible is the fact that our Lord must die outside the city because he was to be consumed as a sin-offering. It is written in the law, “And the skin of the bullock, and all his flesh, with his head, and with his legs, and his inwards, and his dung, even the whole bullock shall he carry forth without the camp unto a clean place, where the ashes are poured out, and burn him on the wood with fire.” There were several sorts of offerings under the law; the sweet-savour offerings were presented upon the altar, and were accepted of God, but sin-offerings were burnt without the camp or gate, because God can have no fellowship with sin. Once let sin be imputed to the sacrifice and it becomes abhorrent to God, and must not be presented in the tabernacle or the temple, but burned outside the circle wherein his people have their habitations. And here let our hearts gratefully contemplate how truly our Lord Jesus became a sin-offering for us, and how in every point he followed out the type. With his face turned away from his Father’s house he must go to die: with his face turned away from what were once his Father’s people he must be led forth to be crucified. Like a thing accursed, he is to be hung up where felons suffer condign punishment. Because we were sinners, and because sin had turned our backs to God, and because sin had broken our communion with God’s accepted ones, therefore must he endure this banishment. In that sorrowful march of the cross-bearing Saviour my soul with sorrow sees herself represented as deserving thus to be made to depart unto death; and yet joy mingles with this emotion, for the glorious Sin-bearer hath thus taken away our sin, and we return from our exile: his substitution is infinitely effectual. Well may those live for whom Jesus died. Well may those return in whose place the Son of God was banished. There is entrance into the holy city now, there is entrance into the temple now, there is access unto God himself now, because the Lord hath put away our sin through him who was led to be crucified outside the city gate.

     Nor do I think that even this exhausts the teaching. Jesus dies outside Jerusalem because he died, not for Jerusalem alone, nor for Israel alone. The effect of his atonement is not circumscribed by the walls of a city nor by the bounds of a race. In him shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. Out in the open he must die, to show that he reconciled both Jews and Gentiles unto God. “For he is the propitiation for our sins,” saith Paul, who was himself a Jew, “and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” Had he been the Saviour of Jews only, seclusion in the place of his offering would have been appropriate, but as he dies for all nations, he is hung up without the city.

     And yet, once more, he suffered outside the gate that we might go forth unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. “Come ye out from among them; be ye separate, touch not the unclean thing,” henceforth becomes the command of God to all his sons and daughters: behold the Son of sons, his Only-begotten, leads the way in nonconformity to this present evil world, being himself officially severed from the old Jewish church, whose elders seek his life. He dies in sacred separation from the false and corrupt corporation which vaunted itself to be the chosen of God. He protested against all evil, and for this he died, so far as his murderers were concerned. Even so must his followers take up their cross and follow him withersoever he goeth, even though it be to be despised and rejected of men. See what instruction is found in the choice of the place wherein our great Redeemer offers himself unto God.

     I. Let us draw near to our Lord for awhile, and carefully observe each instructive detail. Our imagination pictures the Blessed One standing outside the gate of Herod’s palace in the custody of a band of soldiers with a centurion at their head, and we begin at once to observe HIS DRESS. That may seem a small matter, but it is not without instruction. How is he dressed? Our text tells us that when they had mocked him they took off the purple from him and put his own clothes on him; but we are not told that they took off the crown of thorns, and hence it has been currently believed that he continued to wear it to the cross and on the cross. Is not this highly probable? Surely if the thorny crown had been withdrawn this would have been the place to have said, “They took off the purple from him and removed the crown of thorns”; but it is not so written, and therefore we may believe that the sorrowful coronet remained upon him. Pilate wrote upon his accusation “the King of the Jews,” and it was not unfitting that he should continue to wear a crown. Jesus died a crowned monarch, king of the curse. The Lord God in justice said to rebel man, “Cursed is the ground for thy sake: thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee;” and lo, the man by whom we are redeemed is crowned with that product of the earth which came of the curse.

“O sacred head surrounded
By crown of piercing thorn;
O bleeding head, so wounded,
Reviled and put to scorn.”

     Probably also, as I have said, he was bound; for they led him as a sheep to the slaughter; but this binding was probably more abundant than that which we have hinted at, if it be indeed true that by Roman custom criminals were bound with cords to the cross which they were doomed to carry. If this was the case, you may picture our Lord with his cross bound to himself, and hear him say, “Bind the sacrifice with cords, even to the horns of the altar.”

     But the chief point to be noted is that Jesus wore his own clothes, the usual garments which he was accustomed to wear, and this no doubt for identification, that all who looked on might know that it was the same person who had preached in their streets and had healed their sick. They were under no misapprehension; they knew that it was Jesus of Nazareth: the keen hate of the scribes and Pharisees would not have permitted any substitution of another. It was none other than he, and his garments were the ensigns of that truth. He wore his own clothes also for another reason, namely, that there might be a fulfilment of prophecy. It may not strike you at first, but you will soon see it. Our Lord must not go to die in the purple: he must march to the cross in that vestment which was without seam and woven from the top throughout, or else the word could not have been fulfilled, “They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.” Other raiment could readily have been rent and divided, but this garment, which was peculiar to the Saviour, could not have been so rent without destroying it, and therefore the soldiers cast lots for it. Little did they who put it on him dream that they were thus accessory to the fulfilment of a prophecy. Does it not strike you as strange that the Pharisees, who were so full of hatred to Christ, did not carefully draw back from the fulfilment of so many types and prophecies? Their rabbis and teachers knew the prophecy of Zechariah, that the Messiah should be sold for thirty pieces of silver: why did it not occur to them to make their bribe to Judas twenty-nine or thirty-one silver pieces? Why, again, did they cast the price unto the potter by buying of him the field of blood? Could they not, so to speak, have baulked the prophecy thereby? Here were voluntarily fulfilled by themselves prophecies which condemned them. I shall have to show you the same thing further on; but meanwhile observe that if it had been their object to fulfil type and prophecy they could not have acted more carefully than they did. So they put his own garments on him, and unwittingly they furnished the possibility for the fulfilment of the prophet’s word: “They parted my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.”

     To me there occurs one other thought touching his wearing his own garments. I do not know if I can express it, but it seems to me to indicate that our Lord’s passion was a true and natural part of his life; he died as he lived. His death was not a new departure, but the completion of a life of self-sacrifice, and so he had no need to put on a fresh garb. Look! He goes to die in his ordinary everyday garments! Does not it almost seem as if people put on their Sunday clothes because they regard religion as something quite distinct from their common life? Do you not wish to see godliness in work-day clothes? religion in its shirt-sleeves? grace in a smock-frock? Do you not almost cry concerning some loud talkers,— “Put his own clothes on him, and then lead him out and let us see him”? It should be an integral part of our life to live and to die for our God. Must we become other men if we are to be God’s men? Can we not wear our own clothes, habits, characteristics, and peculiarities and serve the Lord? Is there not some suspicion of unnaturalness in services which require men to put on a strange, outlandish dress? Surely they find their worship to be on another level than their life; they must step out of their way and dress up to attend to it. It is ill for a man when he cannot lead his fellow's in prayer till he has gone to the wardrobe. Time was when vestments meant something; but ever since our great High-priest went up to his one sacrifice wearing his common clothes, all types are fulfilled and laid aside. Now, we pray not officially, or we should need the robe; but we pray personally, and our own clothes suit us well. Jesus continued the unity of his life as he approached its close, and did not even in appearance change his way; he lived to die a sacrifice; this was the climax of his life, the apex of the towering pyramid of his perfect obedience. No mark is set, no line is drawn between his passion and all the rest of his life; nor should there be a screen between our life and death. Somehow, I dread a death which is meant to be pictorial and exhibitional. I am not an admirer of Addison’s death, as some are, who praise him because he sent for a young lord, and cried, “Come, see how a Christian can die!” I like better Bengel’s wish when he desired to die just as a person would slip out from company because some one beckoned him outside. Such a person modestly thinking his presence or absence to be of small account in a great world, quietly withdraws, and friends only observe that he is gone. Death should be part of the usual curriculum, the close of the day’s work, the entrance into harbour which ends the voyage. It is well to feel that you can die easily, because you have done it so many times before. He who dies daily will not fear to die. Bathe in the Jordan often, and you will not dread the fording of it when your hour has come. Our blessed Lord lived such a dying life that he made no show of death, he did not change his tone and spirit any more than his garments, but died as he lived. They put his own clothes on him; he had not himself taken them off; it was no wish of his to wear the purple even for an hour either in reality or in mockery. He was evermore the same, and his own vesture best beseemed him.

     Truly, blessed Master, we may well say, “All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia”; even though they take thee not out of “the ivory palaces wherein they have made thee glad”; but out of the common guard-room, where they had made thee to be despised and mocked and spit upon. Come from whence thou mayest, thy vesture hath a fragrant smell about it, and all thy brethren rejoice therein.

     II. Brethren, I beg you for a few minutes to look at HIS COMPANY. Who were they that were with our Lord when he came to die? First and nearest to him were the rough Roman soldiers, strong, muscular, unfeeling men, ready to shed blood at any moment. In them human affection was kept down by stern discipline, they were the iron instruments of an empire of iron. They would do what they were bidden, and feeling and sympathy were not allowed to interfere. I do but bid you look at these guards to remind you that from beneath their eagle our Saviour won a trophy; for their centurion at our Lord’s death uttered the confession, “Certainly this was the Son of God.” This was a blessed confession of faith, and I delight to think of our Lord as thus becoming the conqueror of his conquerors by taking one out of them to be his disciple and witness, as we would fain believe he was. Surely after openly making the clear confession which the evangelist has recorded we may number him with believers.

     Next to these guards were two malefactors, led out with him to execution. That was intended to increase his scorn. He must not be separated from the basest of men, but he must be led forth between two thieves, having previously had a murderer preferred to him. They seem to have been very hardened scoundrels, for they reviled him. I mention them because our Lord won a trophy by the conversion of one of them, who dying said, “We suffer justly, but this man hath done nothing amiss,” and then prayed, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” This dying thief has brought more glory to Christ than hundreds of us, for in every place wherever this gospel has been preached this has been told as a memorial of him, and as a comfort to the guiltiest to look to Jesus. In the act of death he believed in Christ, and believed when the Lord himself was in the act of death, and that day he was with him in paradise. How hast thou conquered, O thou despised of men! How hast thou won by thy gentleness both Roman legionaries and Jewish thieves.

     Beyond the prisoners were the scribes and Pharisees, and high priests. I could not picture their faces, but surely they must have been about the worst lot of human physiognomies that were ever seen, as with a fiendish delight they stared at Jesus. He had called them “hypocrites”: he had spoken of them as “making clean the outside of the cup and platter,” while their inner part was very wickedness, and now they are showing their venom, and silencing his reproofs. But their hate was so insatiable that it was accompanied with fear, and that night it was seen that Christ had conquered them, for they crouched before Pilate and begged a guard to prevent their victim from leaving the tomb. In their heart of hearts they feared that after all he might be the Son of God. Thus were they also vanquished: though to them the Lord Jesus was a savour of death unto death, yet they could not but be affected by him and vanquished by his death. Their hate brought with it alarm, and fear, and agitation: they trembled before the Nazarene. Look at the scene! Though the despised and sorrowful One is bowed down beneath his cross you can see at a glance the majesty which dwells in him; but as you look at them, the mean, wretched seed of the serpent, they seem to go upon their bellies, and dust is their meat. He is all truth and openness, and they are all cunning and craft. You can see at a glance that as an angel is to the fiends of hell, so is the Christ to his persecutors. That face distained with spittle, and blackened with blows, and encinctured with thorns wears a more than imperial glory, while their faces are as the countenances of slaves and criminals.

     Around these there is a great rabble, and if you look into the mob you see with surprise that they are the same crowd, who a week ago shouted “Hosanna! Hosanna!” They have changed their note and cry, “Crucify him: crucify him for a few pence they were bribed to do so: they were an ignorant, fickle mob. When such do hiss at you for doing right, forgive them. When they point the finger of scorn at you for being a Christian, regard them not. It little boots what they may say or do: they yelled at him who was their best Benefactor and ours. The Lord Christ endured the popular scorn as he had once received the popular acclamation. He lived above it all, for he knew that men of low degree arc vanity. “Vanity of vanities”; all that cometh of vain man is vanity.

     Ay, but there was a little change for the better in the company: there was just a streak of light in that cloud, for kindly women were in the throng. These were not all his disciples, perhaps few of them were such, for otherwise he would not have bidden them weep over a woe which his disciples escaped; but they were tender-hearted women who could not look upon him without tears: it is said by Luke that they bewailed and lamented him. They knew how innocent he was, and how kind he had been. Perhaps some of them had received favours at his hands, and therefore they wept sore that he should die. It was well done of them. In all the Evangelists there is no instance of a woman that had any hand in the death of Christ. As far as they are connected with the matter they are guiltless, they rather oppose his death than promote it. Woman was last at the cross and first at the sepulchre, and therefore we can never say a word about her being the first in the transgression. Oh, kindly eyes that gave the Lord of love the tribute of their pity! Blessed be ye of compassionate heaven! But the Saviour desired not at that time that human sympathy should be spent upon him, for his great heart was big with sorrows not his own. He knew that when the children of those women had grown up, and while yet some of the younger women would still be alive, their awful woe would make them exclaim, “Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bear, and the paps that never gave suck.” When they saw the slain of the Romans, and the slain of their own contending factions then would they mourn. The Master therefore said—

“Weep not for me! Oh! weep not, Salem’s daughters,
Faint though ye see me, stay the bursting tear;
Turn the sad tide— the tide of bitter waters—
Back on yourselves for desolation near.”

It was well on the woman’s part; it was better still on his, that he gently set the draught of sympathy on one side, because their coming sorrow oppressed him more deeply than his own.

     We must now leave the company, but not till we have asked, Where are his disciples? Where is Peter? Did he not say, “I will go with thee to prison and to death”? Where is John? Where are they all? They have fled, and have not yet returned to speak a word to him or for him. Holy women are gathering, but where are the men? Though the women are brave and act like men, the men are fearful and act as women. We are poor helpers to our Master. Had we been there, we should have done the same as they did, if not worse, for they were the flower of our Israel. Ah, me, how little worth are we for whom the Ever-blessed paid so much! Let us give clearer proof of loyalty, and follow our Prince more closely.

     III. But now, come closer to the Saviour: break through the company, and hear my third talk with you while you look a little on HIS BURDEN. May the good Spirit teach me how to depict my Lord. We are told by John that our Saviour “went forth bearing his cross.” We might have supposed, so far as the other three evangelists are concerned, that Simon the Cyrenian had carried the cross all the way, but John fills up the blank space in their accounts. Our Lord carried his own cross at the commencement of the sorrowful pilgrimage to Calvary.

     This was done, first, by way of increasing his shame. It was a custom of the Romans to make felons bear their own gibbet, and there is a word in the Latin, furcifer, which signifies “gallows bearer,” which was hissed at men in contempt, just as nowadays a despised individual might be called a “gallows-bird.” Nothing was more disgraceful, and therefore that must be added to the Redeemer’s load of shame. He made himself of no reputation for our sakes.

     Note, next, its weight. Usually only one beam of the cross was carried: it may have been so now. It does not look so, however; for the expression, “bearing his cross,” would naturally mean the whole of it. It is highly probable that, although that load could easily be borne by the rough, coarse criminals who ordinarily suffered, yet not so readily by the tender and more exquisite frame of our divine Lord. It is difficult to find any other reason why they should have laid the cross on Simon, unless it be true, as tradition says, that he fainted beneath the burden. I care nothing for tradition, nor even for conjecture; but still there must have been a reason, and as we cannot believe that these people had any real mercy for Christ, we think they must have acted upon the cruel wish that he might not die on the road, but might at least live to be nailed to the tree. “The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” This I leave.

     And now I call your attention to the fact that there was a typical evidence about this. If Simon had carried Christ’s cross all the way, we should have missed the type of Isaac, for Isaac when he went to Mount Moriah to be offered up by his father carried the wood for his own sacrifice. I think if I had been a Jew, full of hate to Jesus Christ, I would have said, “Do not let him carry his cross: that will be too much like Isaac carrying the wood.” No; but knowing the type, they wantonly fulfil it. It is their own will that does it, and yet the predestination of the Eternal is fulfilled in every jot and tittle, and our great Isaac carries the wood with which he is to be offered up by his Father. How marvellous it is that there should be a fixed decree and yet an altogether unlimited free agency.

     The spiritual meaning of it, of course, was that Christ in perfect obedience was then carrying the load of our disobedience. The cross, which was the curse, for “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree,” is borne on those blessed shoulders which were submissive to the will of God in all things. Our Lord’s cross-bearing is the representation of his bearing all our sin, and therefore in it we rejoice.

     It also has a prophetic meaning: that cross which he carried through Jerusalem shall go through Jerusalem again. It is his great weapon with which he conquers and wins the world: it is his sceptre with which he shall rule, governing the hearts of his people by no more forceful means than by the love manifested on his cross. “The government shall be upon his shoulder;” that which he bore on his shoulder shall win obedience, and they that take his yoke upon them shall find rest unto their souls.

     IV. I wish I had an hour during which I might speak upon the last head, which bristles with points of interest; but I must give its lessons to you rather in rough remarks than in studied observations.

     The last thing to consider is HIS CROSS-BEARER. We are not told why the Roman soldiers laid the cross on Simon. We have made a conjecture; but we leave it as a conjecture, although a highly probable one. If it be true, it lets us see how truly human our Master was. He had been all night in the garden, sweating as it were great drops of blood in his anguish: he had been before the Sanhedrim, he had been before Pilate, then before Herod, then before Pilate again; he had endured scourging; he had been mocked by the soldiery; and it would have been a great wonder if the human frame had not shown some sign of exhaustion. Holy Scripture, by its example, teaches us great reticence about the sufferings of Jesus. Some of the mediaeval writers and certain good people who write devotional books are too apt to dilate upon every supposed grief of our Master, so as to harrow up your feelings; but it is the part of wisdom to imitate the ancient painter who, when he depicted Agamemnon as sacrificing his daughter, veiled the father’s face. It is indelicate and almost indecent to write as some have done who would seem to be better acquainted with anatomy than awed by divinity. Much that Jesus endured must for ever remain veiled to us; whether he fainted once or twice or thrice, or did not faint at all, we are not informed; and therefore we leave the idea in the obscurity of probability, and reverently worship him who was tender in body and soul, and suffered even as we do. Oh, love surpassing knowledge which could make him suffer so!

     There was a great singularity in the providence which brought Simon upon the scene just when he appeared. The right man came forward at the right moment. That Simon did not come at first, and that they did not place the cross on him from the beginning was for the fulfilment of the type of Isaac to which allusion has been made: thus providence arranges all things wisely.

     Observe that Simon was pressed into this duty. The word used signifies that the person is impressed into the royal service. Simon was a pressed man, and probably not a disciple of Christ at the time when he was loaded with the cross. How often has a burden of sorrow been the means of bringing men to the faith of Jesus! He was coming in from the country about some business or other, and him they compelled to bear his cross, impressing him into the service which else he would have shunned, for “he passed by,” and would have gone on if he could. Roman soldiers were not accustomed to make many bones about what they chose to do. It was sufficient for them that he came under their notice, and carry the cross he must.

     His name was Simon: and where was that other Simon? What a silent, but strong rebuke this would be to him. Simon Peter, Simon son of Jonas, where wast thou? Another Simon has taken thy place. Sometimes the Lord’s servants are backward where they are expected to be forward, and he finds other servitors for the time. If this has ever happened to us it ought gently to rebuke us as long as we live. Brothers and sisters, keep your places, and let not another Simon occupy your room. It is of Judas that it is said, “his bishopric shall another take;” but a true disciple will retain his office. Remember that word of our Lord, “Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” Simon Peter lost a crown here, and another head wore it.

     Simon was a Cyrenian— an African— I wonder if he was a black man. In the Acts of the Apostles, at the thirteenth chapter, we find mention of a Simeon that was called Niger, or black. We do not know whether he was the same man or no, but anyhow he was an African, for Cyrene lies just to the west of Egypt, on the southern coast of the Mediterranean. Surely the African has had his full share of cross-bearing for many an age. Oh that the pangs of his sorrow may bring forth a birth of joy! Blessed be he, whether African or Englishman, or who he may, that has the honour of bearing the cross after Christ.

     He was coming in from the country. How often the Lord takes into his service the unsophisticated country people who as yet are untainted by the cunning and the vice of the city. Some young man is just come up from the country this very week, and is commencing his apprenticeship in London. How I wish my Master would impress him at the city gates, and do it in that divine way of his to which the will of the impressed person yields a sweet consent. Would God you would come at once and take up the cross of Jesus just at the city gate, before you learn the city’s sin and plunge into its dangers. Happy is the Simon coming in from the country who shall this day be led to bear Christ’s cross. Good Master, fulfil our heart’s desire, and lay thy cross on some unaccustomed shoulder even now.

     We are told he was the father of Alexander and Rufus. Which, my brethren, is the greater honour to a man, to have a good father, or to be the father of good sons? Under the Old Testament rule we usually read of a man that he is the son of such an one, but here we come to another style, and find it to a man’s honour that he is the father of certain well-known brethren,— “the father of Alexander and Rufus.” Surely, Mark knew these two sons, or he would not have cared to mention them; they must have been familiar to the church, or he would not have thus described their father. It was their father who carried the cross. It is exceedingly likely that this Rufus was he of whom Paul speaks in the last chapter of his epistle to the Romans, for Mark was with Paul, and by this means knew Simon and Rufus. Paul writes, “Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.” His mother was such a motherly person that she had been a mother to Paul as well as to Rufus. Surely, if she was a mother to Paul, she was another disciple of Jesus, and it would look as if this man, his wife, and his two sons all became converts to our Lord after he had carried his cross. It is certainly not the most unlikely circumstance that has been accepted by us on the ground of probability. Oh, what a blessing to a man to be known by his sons! Pray, dear Christian friends, you that have an Alexander and a Rufus, that it may be an honour to you to be known as their father. “Him they compelled to bear his cross,”— perhaps the heavier end of it, if it was really bound to Christ, as they say; or as I judge, the whole of it. It matters little how it was; but Simon is the representative of the church which follows Christ bearing his cross. Here we may recall the language of Paul: “I fill up that which is behind,” may I paraphrase it?— I take the hinder end,— “of the sufferings of Christ for his body’s sake, that is the church.” Everyone that will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution. Jesus said, “Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” Here is a representative, then, of all the godly— this Simon bearing Christ’s cross.

     Mark, it was not a cross of his own making, like those of monks and nuns who put themselves to pains of their own inventing. It was Christ’s cross; and he carried it not before Christ, as some do who talk of their poverty as though it would get them to heaven, instead of resting on Christ’s cross. He carried it after Christ in its right place. This is the order,— Christ in front bearing all our sin, and we behind enduring shame and reproach for him, and counting it greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt.  

     There is Simon, and we will view him as a lesson to ourselves. First, let Simon be an example to us all, and let us readily take up the cross after Christ. Whatever is involved in being a Christian, rejoice at it. If there be any shame, if there be any contumely, if there be any loss, if there be any suffering, even if it were martyrdom, yet gladly take up the cross. Behold, the Father lays it upon you for Christ’s sake.

     The next is advice to any of you that have been compelled to suffer as Christians though you are not Christians. I wonder whether there is anybody here who is only a press-man and yet has to bear the cross. A working man became a teetotaler: he did not mean to be a Christian, but when he went to work his mates tempted him to drink, and as he would not join them they attacked him as a Christian, and said, “You are one of those canting hypocrites, those Wesleyans, those Presbyterians, or those Spurgeonites!” This is not true of you: but thus you see the cross is forced on you: had you not better take it up and bear it joyfully? They have pressed you into this service: take it as an index of the will of providence, and say, “I will not be a press-man only; I will be a volunteer, and I will cheerfully carry Christ’s cross.” I know a man who merely comes to this place of worship because he is somewhat interested with the preaching, though he has no idea of being a converted man; yet in the street where he lives nobody ever goes to a place of worship, and therefore they set him down as a pious man, and some have even ridiculed him for it. Friend, you are in for it because you attend here, and you put me in for it too, for if you do anything wrong they are sure to lay all the blame on me. they say— “That is one of Spurgeon’s people.” You are not: I do not own you as yet; but the outsiders have pushed you into the responsibilities of a religious profession, and you had better go in for its privileges. They have laid the cross upon you, do not throw it off. Come on, and bring that dear motherly wife with you, and Alexander and Rufus too. The church will be glad to take you all in, and then as a volunteer you shall bear Christ’s cross. It is, however, a remarkable thing that some should first of all be forced into it and then become willing followers.

     Last of all, if you and I are cross-bearers, here is a sweet thought. Are we carrying a cross which presses us heavily just now? You know you are to be like your Master, and if so there will be someone found to help yon bear your cross. They found Simon to bear the cross of Jesus, and there is a Simon somewhere to help you. Only cry to the Lord about it, and he will find you a friend. If Simon is not forthcoming I will tell you what to do. Imitate Simon. If Simon was what I think he was, he became a converted man, and before long found himself in trouble through it, and he at once went to the Lord in prayer, and said, “Lord Jesus, I am resting in thee alone. Thou didst give me the honour to carry thy cross once, now, I beseech thee, carry mine!” This is what I want you to do with your crosses at this time. You that have to endure hardness for Christ, and are glad to do it, ask him to bear your burden for you. He has borne your sins, and if you will but commit your troubles to him, joy and peace through believing shall stream into your souls by his Holy Spirit. God bless you, for Christ’s sake.



Chariots of Iron

By / Sep 28

Chariots of Iron

 

“And the Lord was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron. And they gave Hebron unto Caleb, as Moses said: and he expelled thence the three sons of Anak.”— Judges L 19, 20.

 

WE frequently use Canaan as a type of heaven, and the Jordan, through which Israel passed, as a symbol of death. Dr. Watts has taught us to sing,—

“Sweet fields beyond the- swelling flood
Stand dress’d in living green;
So to the Jews old Canaan stood,
While Jordan roll’d between.
“Could we but climb where Moses stood,
And view the landscape o’er,
Not Jordan’s stream, nor death’s cold flood,
Should fright us from the shore!”

This is thoroughly poetical, and may be made exceedingly instructive; but it is not quite accurate, if we undertake a careful consideration of the whole matter. If the New Testament is to expound the Old, then there is another lesson to be learned from the land which flowed with milk and honey. “We that have believed do enter into rest;” that is to say, all believers in Christ have crossed the Jordan, and have come into the promised rest. The covenant is fulfilled to them already in a great measure; they are living under Messiah’s sway within the bounds of his kingdom, and every precious thing which God promised them is theirs. They dwell in the “land which the Lord thinketh upon”: “Thy land, O Immanuel!” The type, therefore, may best set forth the case of the instructed and advanced believer who has passed through the first or wilderness stage of his life, and has now come into a higher condition, actually enjoying spiritual privileges and sitting together with Christ in the heavenly places. To him, however, this condition of exalted privilege is not a state of undisturbed repose: on the contrary, he wars a constant warfare, wrestling with spiritual wickednesses. The Canaanite is in possession, and the Canaanite is to be driven out. Our natural tendencies and corruptions, our sinful habits and lustings, and the warping and bending of our spirit towards evil— all this has to be overcome; and we shall not possess the land, so as to enjoy undivided tranquillity until sin is utterly exterminated. What Joshua could not do our Lord Jesus shall fully accomplish; the enemy within shall be rooted out, and then shall dawn the day of our joy and peace, when we shall sit every man under his own vine and fig-tree, and none shall make us afraid. That perfect victory shall be ours; but not yet.

     Taking this as the truth which we shall illustrate by our text, we notice that the work of Israel was to drive out and utterly to exterminate those condemned races which were in possession of Canaan. One tribe was chosen to lead the van in the fierce campaign. Joshua, their heroic leader, was gone: who should lead the way? The power of the Canaanites in his day had been broken, but now that he was dead the old races began to look up again, even as we ofttimes find our sins which we thought were all dead suddenly finding fresh courage, and attempting to set up their empire once more. Then Israel went to God and enquired, “Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them? And the Lord said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand.”

     The tribe of Judah, then, was commissioned to lead the way, and we see three things in its conduct of the enterprise. First, the Lord’s power was trusted and magnified, for “the Lord was with Judah, and Judah drave out the inhabitants of the mountain.” Secondly, by this very tribe, this right royal tribe, the Lord’s power was distrusted, and therefore restrained; for “Judah could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.” Yet, as if to rebuke them, they had a singular incident set before them for the vindication of God’s power, and of that we read in the twentieth verse. Caleb, that grand old man, who still lived on, the sole survivor of all who came out of Egypt, had obtained Hebron as his portion, and he went up in his old age, when his bones were sore and set, and slew the three sons of Anak, even three mighty giants, and took possession of their city. In this way the Lord’s power was trusted and vindicated from the slur which Judah had brought upon it.

     I. Let us think upon our first head, which is, that by the tribe of Judah THE LORD’S POWER WAS TRUSTED AND MAGNIFIED. “The Lord was with Judah.” Oh that the Holy Ghost may be with us!

     The people had wisely consulted their God, and it fell to Judah’s lot, by divine appointment, to lead the van. In that work the tribe prospered. Read the chapter when you are at home, and you will observe a series of great victories. “Judah went up; and the Lord delivered the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand: and they slew of them in Bezek ten thousand men. And they found Adoni-bezek in Bezek: and they fought against him, and they slew the Canaanites and the Perizzites. But Adoni-bezek fled; and they pursued after him, and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and his great toes. And Adoni-bezek said, Threescore and ten kings, having their thumbs and their great toes cut off, gathered their meat under my table: as I have done, so God hath requited me.” Thus they overcame the monarch who had domineered over the land, and had been a terror to all the little kings. Next, the tribe attacked Jerusalem, and Hebron, and Debir, and Hormah. Soon afterwards they fell upon the Philistines, who were men of war, and they took Gaza, Askelon, and Ekron with the coasts thereof. The Lord God in this way had proved to Judah, and to all Israel, what he could do, and it would have been wise on their part to have put unlimited trust in him; then had they gone forward conquering and to conquer. Has not the Lord done the same with those of us who have believed in him? What has your experience been, my brother? I speak not to men of the world, nor to those who have just begun the divine life; but I speak to those of you who have experience of the things of God, and who have lived the life of faith for years. Has not God revealed his power in you? Do you not possess infallible proofs of it which you would scarcely like to tell, for they are as secret as they are sacred? Though you would never mention them in a mixed audience, lest you should cast your pearls where they would not be appreciated, yet they are laid up in your memories in the form of remarkable deliverances, special comforts, and singular mercies, for which to this day you cannot account upon any other theory than that the Lord God omnipotent put forth his hand and specially helped you in your hour of need. Do not forget these things. If the Lord’s power be proved to your own soul by God himself, then it is proved indeed. I care very little for those evidences of the existence of a God which are fashioned for us by learned men— the a priori argument, the argument from analogy, and all the rest. I have seen an end to them in my own doubts and fears. The most convincing evidence is found in another kind of reasoning, such as that which conquers all doubt by actual experience. When God has come to our soul, and drawn nigh to us in the hour of our distress, we have needed no further argument. When he has said “Peace” to our troubled spirit, and stilled its raging, then have we received conclusive evidence of his power. When he has lifted us up into ecstasy, and filled us with joy unspeakable and full of glory, we have laid up these evidences in our record-house, and our assurance has grown doubly sure. If we have not tied a bit of red tape round these briefs, and hidden them away in our pigeon-holes, we have taken better care of them than that; for we have locked them up in the inner chambers of our heart. Mary pondered these things in her heart, and we have done the same. God’s goodness was thus proved to Judah, even as it has been to many of us in our degree: proven as clearly as if it had been worked out mathematically, like a problem in Euclid.

     But the Lord had also proved his power to Judah in numerous victories. The victories which he gave to them were singular and remarkable, even when not miraculous; and there were many of them. They had gone from city to city, and smitten all their foes. It seemed as if God had said to Judah, as he said to Joshua, “No man shall be able to stand against thee all the days of thy life.” Now, repeated facts go to strengthen the inference drawn from former fact. According to the best practical philosophy, which is the inductive, you note a fact, and then the inference from it is probable: you note another fact, and the inference is more probable. You get six, seven, eight, ten, twenty similar facts, and your deduction becomes more and more nearly certain. But when these facts come thick as hailstones, when they become as many as the drops of dew, or the beams of light, then the inference may be regarded as absolutely sure. When your life is crowded with displays of God’s power, with you, for you, and in you, then that power cannot be doubted. It is impossible to argue a Christian out of the grounds of his faith when he has had long dealings with God. There! You cavillers may boast that you can disprove a doctrine, if you like. I care nothing for your sophisms. You cannot disprove it to me. You can carp against the Old Testament or the New, if you like. I am sorry for you, for it is all clear enough to me; but I am not going to get into a great heat over it in order to combat you. It is not so very important what you prove, or do not prove, about the Books, because the matter of fact still remains untouched. Those of us who have lived in the light of God’s countenance, and have spoken with him as a man speaks with his friend, and have had replies from him, not once, nor twice, nor in years gone by alone, but daily and continually; we, I say, are not to be moved from our belief. We have another life into which a stranger cannot intrude, and a converse with God which seems ridiculous only to those who never knew it, for it is sublime as sublimity itself, to those who everyday enjoy it; and having such a life, it furnishes us with evidence which does not go to be debated: we believe, and are sure. Disprove our sanity, and you have done something; only let me tell you that even then we shall remain sane enough to hold to what we do hold, and shall not be so mad as to join the infidel ranks. We are satisfied to be fools if to be fools means to see God. We are satisfied to know nothing about the “culture” and the “thought” of this grand century, if that involves being far off from the Eternal Lord, and ceasing to see his hand in nature, in providence, and in grace. We are content if we may but know him, whom to know is life eternal.

     Beloved brethren, I may say of many here present that God has proven his power and goodness to you by such overwhelming proofs that doubt, in your case, would be a grievous piece of folly and sin. God had especially favoured Judah with remarkable assistance in what I may call “brotherly action.” “Judah said unto Simeon his brother, Come up with me into my lot, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I likewise will go with thee into thy lot. So Simeon went with him.” (See verse 3.) In communion with each other these tribes had further proof of God’s power, for he gave them the necks of their enemies. We also can narrate wonderful displays of God’s power and grace when we have had fellowship one with another in holy service. Our choicest experiences have been enjoyed in Christian society. When the disciples were met together, the doors being shut, then Jesus came into the midst of them, and said unto them, “Peace be unto you.” The Lord is gracious to us when we are having sympathy with his poor and struggling people, and entering into a mutual covenant that we will stand by each other and help each other in the midst of an ungodly world. The Lord is pleased with brotherly love, and there he commands the blessing to rest as the dews on Hermon. If I could forget the major part of my own personal experience at home, yet can I never forget the heavenly seasons spent in the Tabernacle with my beloved ones. In the prayer-meetings, have not our hearts burned within us? At the banqueting-table of celestial love, at the Lord’s Supper, to which we delight to come every Lord’s day, have we not attained a nether heaven? Have we not passed into the vestibule of God's own house in glory, and felt that it needed scarce the rending of the thinnest piece of tissue to let us actually stand in the unveiled presence of God? Yes, God has been with us, and then we have had proofs enough of his power and love. When together we have gone forth to battle, to struggle against the sin of the age, to bear testimony for neglected truth, to bring our wandering brethren back, or to reclaim fallen sisters to the faith of Jesus, have we not obtained in that fraternal action grand proofs of the Master’s power to bless and save? I know that we have. There let it stand, and let it witness against us if we in future yield to unbelief.

     Yet further, brethren, it so happened that to Judah God gave great proofs of his presence and power by raising up, here and there, a man in their midst who performed heroic deeds. I will not speak of Caleb, for you will tell me, “Ah, he was an old, old man, and belonged to another generation. He was just going off the scene; we do not wonder that he did great things.” Ay, but he had a nephew, one Othniel, a young man as yet unmarried, and when Caleb said, “He that smiteth Kirjath-sepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife,” his nephew Othniel was the man for the city and the bride. The young hero stood forward, and went up to the fortress, and took the city, and passed it over to his uncle’s hands, and received the promised reward. Oh yes, and we have seen raised up— and shall see it more and more— young heroes who have been self-denying, self-distrustful, inconsiderate of themselves, who have been willing for Christ’s sake to be anything or nothing, and God has been with them, and the power of the Most High has rested upon them. Has not unbelief been rebuked when we have been compelled to say, “Instead of the fathers shall be the children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth”? This has been a blessed token of God’s presence and power. I know how it is with those who have been long in the church: they wonder what is to become of it when the old folks die. “When the pastor is gone, what shall we do then?” Wait till it happens, brothers: wait till it happens; and then you shall see that he who could find one servant can find another. The Lord was never short of instruments yet, and he never will be. You and I, you know, if we wear out one tool, must wait till we send to the shop for a second; but the Lord grows new tools out of old ones. New springs are born out of the decays of the old year’s autumn. I have seen a young tree growing out of the roots of the old one, and fresh leaves unfold where those of last year had once been. In our advancing years we become better recruiting-sergeants, and so enlist our own successors. You who are now getting grey once wondered what would become of the cause of God when the guide of your youth fell asleep in Jesus; but the immortal cause has survived the death of the standard-bearer. We never hear of that good man now; indeed, he does not seem to have been so important as you thought. God will find messengers as long as he has errands. When certain of us have gone home, you young people will be leading in our stead, and you will say, “I recollect the old gentleman. We did value his ministry, and we could not think what we should do without him; but we have done a deal better without him than ever we did with him, for God in his infinite mercy has raised up a worthy successor.” Wherefore be of good courage, and let what you have seen as to the past be to you a prophecy of God’s goodness in the future. Caleb shall be gathered to his fathers, but Othniel shall follow him, who shall be as brave as he.

     The reason why the men of Judah were successful was because they had full confidence in God. Up to a certain point Judah relied upon God. Jehovah had bidden them to lead the way, and they led the way. He had conducted them from city to city, and they went, not doubting that God would be with them; and so success attended them, for they leaned upon the Lord. Thus shall it be with us, for it is written— “According to your faith be it unto you.” The Lord will not fall short of the measure: let us not make the measure short. Yet this is where we too frequently fail; for our faith is such a poor piece of business. We scarcely trust God as well as we trust a generous man; and when God does a great thing for his people they say one to another, “Is it not surprising? Is it not wonderful?” Many are amazed that God should keep his word; so that, when he answers prayer, they exclaim, “What a marvellous thing!” Is it, then, a marvel for God to be true? for God to keep his promise? I grant you that there is a side of it which for ever must be marvellous; but still I fear that with the allowable marvel there is often mixed such a degree of unbelief that the wonderment is not so much of admiring gratitude as astonished unbelief. For God to hear prayer is as natural as for a cause to produce an effect. There is as much, and as certain, and as infallible a connection between prayer that is wrought in us by the Holy Ghost and the result of that prayer as there is between force in the steam engine and the motion of the train. Instead of the power of prayer being a mere fiction, it is the most practical and certain of all the forces that are extant this side of the eternal throne. God works more by prayer than by anything else, and if we would but enlarge the channel through which his mighty power would flow, by having more faith and more confidence in prayer, we should sec greater things than these.

     II. Now I come to the painful but important subject of THE LORD’S POWER RESTRAINED BECAUSE DISTRUSTED.

     The men of Judah could drive out the inhabitants of the mountain, but they could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron. Some of our more flippant infidels have asserted that this verse says that the Lord could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley; yet the antecedent is not God at all, but Judah. It is Judah that could not drive them out. “Well,” say they, “but God was with Judah, and they did drive out the people of the mountain: why could they not drive out the people of the plain by the same power?” This is the hinge of the matter. They did not conquer the men of the iron chariots, because God in that business was not with them. As far as their faith went, so far God kept touch with them, and they could do anything and everything; but when they despondingly thought that they could not drive out the inhabitants of the wide valleys, then they failed utterly. They were afraid because of the chariots, which had poles between the horses armed with lances which cut their way through the crowd, and the axles of the wheels were fitted with great scythes: these inventions were novel, and caused a panic, and therefore the men of Judah lost their faith in God, and so became weak and cowardly. They said, “It is of no use; we cannot meet these terrible machines”; and therefore they did not pray, or make an attempt to meet the foe. They could not drive out the people. Of course they could not. If they had exhibited the same faith about the chariots of iron as about the hill-men, the chariots of iron would have been no better than chariots of straw, for the Lord “breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder, and burneth the chariot in the fire.” If they had believed in God, and gone forth in his name, the horses would soon have fled, as indeed they did when God gave his people faith. When Barak led the way with Deborah, then they smote Jabin, who had nine hundred chariots of iron. They fled; they fled; they hasted away, for the Lord was with Barak, and gave them up to him as chaff to the whirlwind. God would have been with Judah if Judah had displayed faith; but, having no faith, they could not rout the chariots of iron.

     Their faith was imperfect. They retained too much confidence in themselves, mark that; for, if their confidence had been in God alone, these chariots of iron would have been ciphers in the calculation. If God has to give the victory, then chariots of iron or chariots of fire are no item at all against an omnipotent God. They evidently thought that there was somewhat in themselves; for their power went as far as smiting the men of the hills, but not so far as attacking the cavalry in the open plain where there was room for them to rush to and fro. Now, that is your weakness and mine. We tacitly imply that God can help us up to a certain point. Docs not that mean that we can help ourselves up to that point? Being interpreted, the belief conceals a measure of self-trust; and the next akin to self-trust is distrust. If you have passed out of yourself, where have you entered now? Into the infinite. The man who has reached the infinite needs not to reckon any longer. It was of no use for Noah to keep a log of his vessel when there remained no shore: when it was all sea, it did not matter to him where he drifted. And so when you once get right away from self there are no limits. God is unbounded: therefore trust him without stint. Act like Samson, the strong, because the childlike, hero. If there is a Philistine to meet, he is ready for him. There are two of them: he is quite ready for both. There are twenty of them: it makes no difference. A thousand of them are before him. All right, there are only the more for the hero to kill, for he will slay every mother’s son of them, and pile up their carcases heaps upon heaps. Numbers do not matter. “But, Samson, if you are to do this deed, you must wield a good Damascus blade.” “Yes,” says he, “if I am to do it, of course I must; but if the Lord is to do it, the jawbone of an ass will suffice.” It made no difference to him when he had thrown himself simply and nakedly upon God whether foes were few or many, whether weapons were fit or feeble. Herein is the failure of our faith, if it rests not in God’s bare arm. See this round world, how steadily it turns! how smoothly it moves along in its predestinated course! Why? Because God has hung it upon nothing, and God’s own will directs it. Suppose it were hung on a chain: would it be any the more secure? The strength of the chain would come from God, and it is better to have the power without the chain. Though a saint is sustained by nothing but the power of God, all the devils in hell cannot stir him. The bare arm of God is the source of all power.

     Next, the imperfection of their faith lay in this, as it may do in yours, my brethren,— that they believed one promise of God and did not believe another. There is a kind of faith which is strong in one direction, but utter weakness if tried in other ways. It is curious that persons generally pick out the easiest promises to believe, while those which are greater, and therefore are the more godlike, they cannot believe. Judah believed in smiting the hill-men, because he thought such warfare easy; but as to overcoming the cavalry with their chariots of iron, that was difficult, and so he did not believe up to that mark. Beware of being pickers and choosers of God’s promises. You who are traders know that customers will turn all your stock over, and keep on picking over packet after packet, and never buy anything at the end. Does this please you? When people pick the promises over they say— “That one? No, I cannot receive that.” When they do believe a promise, it is the smallest in the book. Oh! for a faith that takes the promises in the bulk, and knows nothing of choosing or refusing. Whatsoever God has promised he is able also to perform; and if the promise be but suitable to my case, I am to grasp it and expect to see it fulfilled. Some believe God at one time and not at another. Do you not find that you believe the Lord a good deal on Thursday nights after a sermon? How about Friday night? Ah! that is rather different. I have known friends who are wonderful believers on Sunday. They go home singing—

“Let the earth’s old pillars shake
And all the wheels of nature break;
Our steady souls shall fear no more
Than solid rocks when billows roar.”

You make a bad debt on Monday: how do you feel over it? Not quite so much like a pillar, I daresay, but rather more like the thistledown that is blown with the wind. Much faith is temporary. It is not unlike the faith mentioned in Æsop’s fable when the stag stood looking into the water at his branching antlers, and tossing his head with defiance. “Why,” said he, “am I afraid of the hounds? A dog come near me? Impossible! If the hound does but see my horns he will fear death. I shall rip him up or dash him in pieces. I will let the pack see what I am made of.” Just then there was heard a bark, and away went the stag like lightning, as terrified as ever. How like to us. We appear to be so grandly strong, so quietly believing; yet the first trouble that comes scatters our courage. That is the reason why Judah could not drive out the dwellers in the plain: he heard the rushing of those chariots of iron, and his heart failed him.

     There was a further reason for failure arising out of this imperfection of their faith: they could not conquer the chariots of iron, because, first, they did not try. The Hebrew does not say that they could not drive them out. What the Hebrew says is that they did not drive them out. Some things we cannot do because we never make the attempt. I wish we had among Christian workers the spirit of the Suffolk lad who was brought up in court to be examined by an overbearing lawyer. The lawyer roughly said to him, “Hodge, can you read Greek?” “I don’t know, sir,” said he. “Well, fetch a Greek book,” said the lawyer, and showing the lad a passage he said to him, “Can you read that?” “No.” “Then why did you not say that you could not?” “Because I never say I cannot do a thing till I have tried it.” If that spirit were in Christian people we should achieve great things; but we set down such and such a thing as manifestly beyond our power, and, silently, we whisper to ourselves, “therefore beyond God’s power,” and so we let it alone. No chariots of iron will be driven out if we dare not make the attempt.

     Next, I suspect that they did not drive them out because they were idle. If cavalry were to be dealt with, Judah must bestir himself. If chariots of iron were to be defeated they must enter upon an arduous campaign; and so, taking counsel of their fears and their idleness, they said, “Let us not venture on the conflict.” There are many things that Christ’s church is unable to do because it is too lazy. “What,” say you, “do you call us lazy?” No, brethren, I will not do anything of the sort. If any of you should happen to call yourselves so it will spare me the trouble. I am afraid that I should have to upbraid certain ministers for being indolent in God’s work, and I fear that many others of God’s servants are none too diligent. Idleness refuses to sound the trumpet for the battle, and the fight never comes on, and therefore the enemy is not driven out.

     Then, again, they were not at all anxious to meet the men who manned those chariots, for they were afraid. These men of Judah were cowards in the presence of chariots of iron, and what can a coward do? He is great at running away. They say that he “may live to fight another day.” Not he: he will live, but he will not live to fight, depend upon it, any more another day than he does to-day. His heart is in his heels, and he will show his foeman his back whenever the fight is hot. We must cry mightily to God to deliver us from cowardice, and then we shall accomplish what now we think impossible.

     Dear friends, there was no excuse for this on the part of Judah, as there is really no excuse for us when we think any part of God’s work to be too difficult for us,— for, recollect, there was a special promise made about this very case. Kindly look at the twentieth chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy, at the first verse, and you will see how the Lord says, “When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, be not afraid of them: for the Lord thy God is with thee.” If there be a special promise made to meet an emergency, who are we that we should be cast down by the difficulty? Besides that, they received a special commission. Read the second verse of the chapter from which our text is taken— “The Lord said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand.” Iron chariots or no chariots, God had delivered the country into their hand. Besides that, their God had done greater deeds than this: he had divided the Red Sea, and drowned the chivalry of Egypt; he had divided the Jordan into halves and led his people through the river dry-shod; and he had made the walls of Jericho to fall flat to the ground. Why then was he distrusted because of those wretched chariots of iron? Come then, brothers and sisters, have you got into a cleft stick in the matter of your personal affairs; and are you saying to-night, “I cannot pray about it: I cannot trust God about it”? Is that right? Look your Bibles up, and see whether there be not a promise exactly suited to your singular condition. Look back upon your own experience and see whether God has not done already for you and others of his people a greater thing than your present trial requires. Why will you say that you cannot drive out the chariots of iron? Be of good courage, and go forward. God is able to deliver you; therefore fear not. He will supply your need; be not dismayed. Perhaps some holy work for God is your difficulty. You have done something already for which you praise God, and now a new work is laid at your door, of which you say, “No, I cannot undertake it: I do not feel at all equal to it.” What! Not if the Almighty Lord has said, “I will be with thee”? Do you answer, “I could do almost anything, but not that”? Are you sure, my brother, that you could do almost anything? Do you not think that, if another task were set before you, it would be equally hard to you? If God commands, is it right to reason why, or even to ask a question? Let us get at the work, my brethren; and the greater the danger, the greater the labour, the greater the difficulty, so much the more fully let us cast ourselves upon our God, and give to him the glory of the deed when the work is done. You know not what you can do; you are omnipotent if girt about with God’s omnipotence; you are wise if God teaches you, strong if God upholds you. The capacities which lie within a man are greater than he knows, and the capacities with which God can endow a man are greater than he dreams. Therefore forward, in the name of the Most High!

     An unconverted person is here who has been thinking of coming to Christ, but he says: “I cannot give up all my sins. One of them I must retain: all the rest I can leave, but that one is invincible, for it has chariots of iron. I cannot drive it out.” That sin must die, or you will perish by it. Depend upon it, that sin which you would save from slaughter will slaughter you. “But I am in such a strange connection, and there are so many peculiar circumstances about my case.” Yes, I know; peculiar circumstances surround all men that go to hell, but they do not quench the fire for them. “But, sir, we must live.” Must you? I see no necessity for that in my own case. I know that I must serve God; but whether I live or not is a secondary matter. It is infinitely better that we should die than do wrong. This necessity of living is not quite so clear as people suppose. Why must you live? The martyrs did not. They felt that they must testify for Christ and his truth, and they gloried to die sooner than to do aught that was wrong. You will not perhaps be brought to that, but you ought to be ready for it Do not be in such a fever about this poor life. Is not the soul better than the body? “Yes, sir, but I cannot explain my difficulty.” No; and do not try. Turn the sin out. That is the only thing to do with it; and the more you love it, the more speedily should you turn it out, for it evidently lies near your heart, where it can do you great mischief. “Well, it is not one of the grosser sins.” No; it is one of those respectable sins which are so hard to get rid of. You must drive it out. I notice that if anybody picks my pocket it is sure to be a respectable-looking person. If a man is a rogue he is sure to look like an honest man, to lead people to trust him. Sin must be driven out, even though it has a chariot of iron. Certain Christians make up their minds that certain sins must be tolerated in their cases. I know one who has constitutionally a fiery temper, and so, whenever he gets into a towering passion, he cries, “I cannot help it: I am so constituted.” Instead of weeping before God, and vowing, “I will master this passion: God is omnipotent, and he can make my temper a reasonable one”— instead of that, he says that everything else can be conquered in him, but not this sin, for it is constitutional. So have I known persons to be miserly and mean. The grace of God has done everything for them except making them give away a shilling, and they suppose that they are to go to heaven with their covetous nature, as if the Lord would Jet such people in there. Selfishness is put down by them as being one of the sins that have chariots of iron, which they cannot overcome. “You know that we all have our besetments,” says one. What do you mean by that? Some sin that you often fall into? Do you call that a besetting sin? If I were to walk to-night across Clapham Common, and half-a-dozen men stopped me, I should say that I was beset; but if at an appointed place a party met me regularly, I should not say that I was beset. And so, the sin which a man often indulges in is not his besetting sin: it is his favourite sin, a sin that will be his ruin. A besetting sin is one which forces itself upon a man, and ere he can be on his guard it seizes him by the throat and throws him down. We must be watchful, so that the next time the temptation comes we may escape from it. Let us make war on the evil, and say, “It is no use your attacking me: I will attack and overcome you by faith in Jesus Christ.” The fact is, brothers and sisters, we must tolerate no sin in ourselves; if we make excuses for it in our brethren, well and good; but let us never make or accept an excuse for ourselves. Sin in us is ten times worse sin than in others. If an unconverted man sins it is bad enough; but when a man has tasted of the good word of grace, and has leaned his head on Christ’s bosom, and then falls into sin, what excuse can be offered for him? None. Let us weep tears of blood because we thus offend. We will yet vanquish the chariots of iron. We will throw down the gauntlet to-night, and in the name of God we will destroy them.

     III. To close. Let us see THE LORD’S POWER VINDICATED. Just at that time brave old Caleb, leaning on his staff, went up to Hebron. When he was a younger man Moses sent him as a spy, and when he was upon that business he happened to come near to Hebron, and there he saw three tremendous fellows of the race of the giants; I suppose they were from eight to ten or twelve feet high. He saw them, and those that were with him were afraid. They said, “We were as grasshoppers in their sight.” But Caleb was not a bit afraid. He said, “God is not with them, and they will be easily overthrown.” When they came into the land forty years after, Caleb did not ask for his city; but as an unselfish man, he fought to win cities for others. When that was done he said, “Hebron was given to me. I must go and conquer it; and the giants that I saw years ago, I dare say, have not grown much shorter; I must cut them down.” Away he went, and it proved as he had said; in his hale old age he was able to slay those three sons of Anak, and to take possession of their city.

     I could tell you of holy women, sick and infirm, scarcely able to leave their beds, who are doing work which, to some strong Christians, seems too hard to attempt. Have I not seen old men doing for the Lord in their feebleness that which young men have declined? Could I not tell you of some with one talent— certainly no more— who are bringing in a splendid revenue of glory to their Lord and Master, while you fine young fellows with ten talents have wrapped them all in a napkin and hid them in the earth? I wish that I could shame myself, and shame every worker here, into enterprises that would astonish unbelievers. God help us to do that which seems impossible. Let men be provoked to charge us with fanaticism. God bless the fanaticism which, being translated, means nothing but a true faith in the living God.

     May we be helped to trust the Lord as he ought to be trusted, and march on till we drive out all his enemies despite their chariots of iron, that unto God may be glory for ever and ever. Amen.



Shutting, Sealing, and Covering; or, Messiah’s Glorious Work

By / Sep 24

SHUTTING, SEALING, AND COVERING; OR, MESSIAH’S GLORIOUS WORK.

 

“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.”— Daniel ix. 24.

 

THE Lord God appointed a set time for the coming of his Son into the world; nothing was left to chance. Infinite wisdom dictated the hoar at which the Messiah should he born, and the moment at which he should be cut off. His advent and his work are the highest point of the purpose of God, the hinge of history, the centre of providence, the crowning of the edifice of grace, and therefore peculiar care watched over every detail. Once in the end of the world hath the Son of God appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, and this is the event before which all other events must bow. The studious mind will be delighted to search out the reasons why the Messiah came not before, and why he did not tarry till yet later ages. Prophecies declared the date; but long before infallible wisdom had settled it for profoundest reasons. It was well that the Redeemer came: it was well that he came in what Scripture calls the fulness of time, even in these last days.

     Note, again, that the Lord told his people somewhat darkly, but still with a fair measure of clearness, when the Christ would come. Thus he cheered them when the heavy clouds of woe hung over their path. This prophecy shone like a star in the midst of the sorrows of Israel: so bright was it that at the period when Christ came there was a general expectation of him. Holy men and women, diligent in the study of the Scriptures, were waiting for him: Simeon was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and Anna looked for redemption in Jerusalem with others of like mind. Not only the Jews, but the Samaritans expected him, for the woman at the well exclaimed, “I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ,” Even in heathen lands there was a remarkable cessation from stir and battle: an unusual peace reigned over all the nations, and the hush of expectation ruled the hour—

“No war, or battle’s sound,
Was heard the world around:
The idle spear and shield were high uphung;
The booked chariot stood
Unstained with hostile blood;
The trumpet spake not to the armed throng;
And kings sat still with awful eye,
As if they surely knew their sovran Lord was by.”

Men were looking out for the coming One; for the corn of earth was ripe for the reaper. Men were on the tiptoe of expectation, and wondered when the promised Prince would arrive. Alas, they knew him not when he appeared. After this fashion are things at the present moment with regard to the Second Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Of that day and of that hour knoweth no man;” but it is known unto God, and fixed in the roll of his eternal purposes.” Known unto God are all his works from the creation of the world,” and especially those grand works which concern the person of our adorable Lord Jesus. He shall come as God hath appointed: the vision of his glory shall not tarry. He has given us suggestive hints as to that glorious appearing; and he has plainly taught us to be looking for and hastening unto the day of the Lord. Among his last words are these, “Surely I come quickly these are words of consolation as well as of warning. He bids us watch constantly for the coming of the Lord, that it overtake us not as a thief in the night; and he assures us that he will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God: wherefore comfort one another with the glad tidings, and whenever your hearts sicken because of abounding sin, hear ye with the ear of faith the voice of promise crying, “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh.” Best assured that he cometh who will in the fullest and most manifest sense finish transgression, and make an end of sin, and bring in everlasting righteousness. The advent of the Well-beloved is the consolation of his mourning saints. Both at his first and second appearings the Lord not only cometh to drive away the wicked as chaff, but also to comfort and exalt his elect: it is a day that shall burn as an oven, and yet to the redeemed it will be the gladdest day that ever dawned.

     The first advent of our Lord is spoken of in our text as ordained to be ere the seventy weeks were finished, and the city should be destroyed; and so it was even as the prophet had spoken. I shall not occupy your time by attempting to fix the beginning and the end of the period intended by the seventy weeks, and the seven weeks and three-score and two weeks. That is a deep study, requiring much research and learning, and I conceive that the discussion of such a subject would be of no great practical use to us this Sabbath morning. You will be better nourished upon the Lord himself than upon times and seasons. Suffice it to believe that Jesus Christ our Lord, the Messiah, came exactly as it was prophesied, and remained on earth as it was foretold he should do: in the middle of the predestinated week he was cut off, when he had completed three years and a half of saving ministry, and within another period of like length the gospel was preached throughout all nations, and Messiah’s peculiar relation to Israel was cut off. At another time it may afford you profitable contemplation if you consider the four hundred and ninety years from the decree of the king for rebuilding to the overthrow of Jerusalem.

     We will at this present hour survey the work of the Messiah— that is his Hebrew name, or of Christ, which is the Greek interpretation thereof. Let us survey the work of the Anointed. Secondly, let us inquire as to our participation in it; and then, thirdly, let us contemplate the consequences which follow upon our being sharers in it, or upon our not being participants in it. Oh for a measure of the anointing, that we may fitly meditate upon our great theme. Come, Holy Spirit, and rest upon us.

     I. First, LET US SURVEY THE MESSIAH S WORK. According to my text it divides itself into two grand works, which two works subdivide themselves in each case into three particulars.

     The first work of our Lord Jesus Christ is the overthrow of evil, and it is thus described, — “To finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity.” But our Lord’s labour is not all spent upon down-pulling work; he comes to build up, and his second work is the setting up of righteousness in the world, described again by three sentences: “To bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.”

     The first work of the Messiah is the overthrow of evil. This overthrow of evil is described by three words. If I were to give you a literal translation from the Hebrew I might read the passage thus: “To shut up the transgression, to seal up sin, and to cover up iniquity.” According to learned men, those are the words which are here used, and the three put together are a singularly complete description of the putting away of sin. First, it is shut up: it is, as it were, taken prisoner, and confined in a cell; the door is fastened, and it is held in durance: it is out of sight; held to a narrow range; unable to exercise the power it once possessed. In a word, it is “restrained”— so the margin of our Bibles reads it. The Hebrew word signifies to hold back, to hold in, to arrest, to keep in prison, to shut in or shut up. Its dominion is finished, for sin itself is bound. Christ has led captivity captive.

     But it is not enough to shut up the vanquished tyrant, unless he be shut up for ever; and therefore, lest there should be any possibility of his breaking loose again, the next sentence is, “To seal up.” The uses of the seal are many, but here it is employed for certainty of custody. Just as when Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den the king sealed the stone with his own signet and with the signet of his lords; or, better still, as when our divine Master was laid in the grave, they rolled the stone to the mouth of the sepulchre, and his enemies set a seal and a watch, lest his body should be stolen by his disciples. In his case,

“Vain the stone, the watch, the seal,
Christ has burst the gates of hell.”

     But sin cannot thus arise. It is imprisoned in the sepulchre of Jesus, and never can it come forth; for the seal royal of the immutable God is set upon the door. Thus is sin placed doubly out of sight: it is shut up and sealed up, as a document put into a case and then sealed down. “Finished” and “made an end of” are the two words used in our authorised version, and they give the essence of the meaning. To borrow a figure from current events, — Arabi, the Egyptian rebel, is shut up as our prisoner, and his defeat is sealed, therefore his rebellion is finished and an end is made of it. Even thus is it with transgression: our Lord has vanquished evil, and certified the same under the hand and seal of the Omnipotent, and therefore we may with rapture hear him say, “It is finished,” and also behold him rise from the dead to seal justification.

     Yet, as if this might not suffice, the next term in the Hebrew is to cover up; for the word to make reconciliation or expiation is usually in the Hebrew to cover over. “Blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” Christ has come to cover sin, to atone for it, and so to hide it. His glorious merits and substitutionary sufferings and death put away sin so completely that God himself beholds it no more. He has blotted it out, cast it into the sea, and removed it from us as far as the east is from the west. The two former sentences speak of finishing transgression and making an end of sin, and these expressions are full and complete, while this third one explains the means by which the work is done, namely, by an expiation which covers up every trace of sin. Thus in the three together we have a picture of the utter extinction of sin both as to its guilt and its power, ay, and its very existence: it is put into the dungeon and the door is shut upon it; after this the door is sealed and then it is covered up, so that the place of sin’s sepulchre cannot be seen any more for ever. Sin was aforetime in God’s sight, but through Christ Jesus we read, “Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people; thou hast covered all their sin; thou hast taken away all thy wrath.” Sin was in God’s way till Christ shut it up, and now it pushes itself no more into the sight of the Lord. Sin was always breaking loose till Jesus sealed it up, and now it cannot come forth to lay any accusation against the justified.

     The three words might be put into one word by saying Christ has made a clean sweep of sin of every kind. Whatever may be its special development, whether it be transgression, which means the breaking of bounds, or sin, which is any want of conformity to the law, or iniquity — that is to say, in-equity, or the want of equity, a default in righteousness; in all forms in which it can be described Christ has shut it up, sealed it up, and covered it up by his atoning sacrifice once for all. The depths have covered it; if it be searched for, it cannot be found; our blessed Scapegoat has carried it away into the land of forgetfulness; it shall not be mentioned against us any more for ever. Those three words contain infinitely more of meaning than I have either space or ability to set forth.

     Observe, dear friends, that the terms for sin are left in an absolute form. It is said, “to finish transgression,” “to make an end of sins,” “to make reconciliation for iniquity.” Whose transgression is this? Whose sins are these? Whose iniquity is it? It is not said. There is no word employed to set out the persons for whom atonement is made, as is done in verses like these— “Christ loved the church and gave himself for it;” “I lay down my life for the sheep.” The mass of evil is left unlabelled, that any penitent sinner may look to the Messiah and find in him the remover of sin. What transgression is finished? Transgression of every kind. But what sins are made an end of? Sins of every sort— against law and against gospel, against God and against men, sins past, sins present, sins to come. And what iniquity is expiated? Every form of iniquity, whatever falls short by omission, whatever goes beyond by commission. Christ in this passage is spoken of in general terms as removing sins, transgressions, and iniquities in the mass. In other places we read of the objects of his substitution; but here all is left indefinite to encourage all. He gives us no catalogue of offences; for where should he write it? The very heavens could not hold the enumeration; but he just takes the whole, unformed, horrible, black, disgusting mass, and this is what he does with it, — he encloses it, fastens it up, and buries it for ever. In the words of our version he finishes it, makes an end of it, and makes expiation for it. The Messiah came to wipe out and utterly destroy sin, and this is, and will be, the effect of his work. Put all the three sentences into one and this is the sum of them.

     Indulge me for a few minutes while I take the sentences separately and press each cluster by itself. And first notice that it is said he came to finish the transgression. As some understand it, our Lord came that in his death transgression might reach its highest development, and sign its own condemnation. Sin reached its finis, its ultimatum, its climax, in the murder of the Son of God. It could not proceed further: the course of malice could no further go. They had stoned the prophets and killed everyone that was sent unto them; but now he came, and God said, “They will reverence my Son,” but they did not; on the other hand, they cried, “ This is the heir; let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours,” Sin finished itself when it brought forth the death of the Son of God. It could produce no riper fruit, for no supposable crime can exceed the putting to death of Jesus our Lord Now hath sin finished itself, and now hath Jesus come to finish it. “Thus far,” saith he, “thou shalt go, but no further: here in my wounds and death shall thy proud waves be stayed.” Sin virtually committed suicide when it slew the Saviour, for his death became its death. The kingdom of sin was overthrown in that day when it smote the Prince of Peace: then was a period put to the dominion of evil; and, to come back to the Hebrew, the Lord restrained transgression, and Satan was bound with a great chain. “The times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.” Sin may no longer range unchecked. Sin is now arrested and held under warrant, restrained under the bonds of law; and from the day of our Lord by the preaching of the gospel sin has become more and more shut up as to its reigning power. Some men have been altogether delivered from the rule of evil, and other men who remain its slaves yet go not to such a pitch of outward riot as they would have done had not Christ appeared. Sin is being besieged; it skulks behind its earthworks; its sorties are becoming fewer and less forcible; and though it is still powerful, the hour of its pride is passed, its head has received a deadly wound: the age has come in which the victory of truth and righteousness is guaranteed by the death of Jesus Christ our Lord. Thy finis is written, O transgression! written by the pierced hand! Thy huge volume has in it writing long enough and grievous enough, full enough of blasphemy against God and of evil towards men; but now the Lord Jesus takes the pen from thee, and thou shalt write no more, as thou hast done. The huge leviathan of evil has met its match, and is placed under the power of the Avenger. Thus saith the Lord, “Behold, I will put my hook in thy nose and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee by the way by which thou camest.” The Lord hath set bounds to the transgression which aforetime broke all bounds. Where sin abounded, grace doth much more abound. Sin is shut up that grace may have liberty. This is one part of our Lord’s great work: all glory be unto his name, he has accomplished it with power, and the power of the enemy is broken.

     Now take the second sentence, which in our version is, “To make an end of sin.” Messiah has come to proclaim so free, so rich, so gracious a pardon to the sons of men that when they receive it sin virtually ceases to be: it is made an end of. The man that is in Christ, and hath Christ for his covenant head, is this day so delivered from all sin whatsoever, that he may boldly ask the question, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” If Christ has made an end of sin there is an end of it: the matter is ended, and no more is to be said. Down among the dead men let sin lie, for ever buried by the right hand of the conquering Saviour.

     But the Hebrew has it “to seal up sins.” Now I take it to mean just this. There are certain handwritings which are against us, and they would be produced against us in court, but by the order of the judge all these handwritings are sealed up, and regarded as out of sight: no man dare break the seal, and no man can read them unless the seal be broken; therefore they will never be brought against us. They have become virtually null and void. Everything that can be brought as an accusation against God’s people is now sealed up and put out of the way once for all, never to be opened and laid to their charge before the living God. Or, if you regard sin as a captive prisoner, you must now see that by Christ’s death the prison wherein sin lies is so sealed that the enemy can never come forth again in its ancient power. Sin could once sit on the highest mountain, and look over the world and say, “All this is mine”; and the embodiment of sin could come to Christ and say of all the kingdoms of the world, “All these will I give thee,” as though he claimed them all for his own. But it is not so to-day. The mountain of the Lord’s house is this day exalted upon the top of the hills, and though as yet all nations do not flow unto it, yet a glorious company comes streaming up to the temple of the living God, and that company shall increase from day to day. As when a brooklet groweth to a stream, and the streamlet rises to a river, and the river swells till it rolls in fullest force into the shoreless main, so is it yet to be with the ever-growing church of Jesus Christ, which ere long shall carry all before it, and cover the earth with blessing. Evil, thou canst not reign! Jesus has come and overcome thee himself, and taught man to vanquish thee! Thou canst not come again to the crown thou once hadst, for the seed of the woman hath broken thy head: he shall reign for ever and ever, and thou shalt die! Hallelujah! The coffin of sin is both shut up and fastened down with the seal of Christ’s victory.

     But now, the last expression is in English, he hath come “to make reconciliation for iniquity”; that is, to end the strife between God and man by a glorious reconciliation, a making again of peace between these twain; so that God loveth man, and, as a consequence, man loveth God. In the blessed atonement of Christ, God and man meet at a chosen meeting-place. Christ is Jehovah’s darling and our delight. A slain Saviour is well pleasing to God, and oh, how pleasing he is to a sinner who is deeply under a sense of sin! Here, here is that mercy-seat sprinkled with blood where man may speak to God without fear, and where God doth speak to man without wrath. Here righteousness and peace have met together; mercy and truth have kissed each other. Oh, glorious reconciliation which Christ has made by honouring the law in his life and in his death.

     Now, take the Hebrew for it, and read the sentence thus, — to cover iniquity. Oh, what bliss this is: to think, dear friends, that sin is now once for all covered! Not as though it lay rankling there beneath some coverlet through which fire might burn, or lightning strike; but Christ’s covering is such that, if you could heap hell over sin, it were not so hidden; and if you could pile worlds upon it, it were not so concealed; and if all heaven bowed to overlay it, it were not so out of sight as when Jesus buried it deeper than the lowest depths, where no memory can remember it, or mind perceive it.

“Our guilt shall vanish quite away,
Though black as hell before,
Shall be dissolved beneath the sea,
And shall be found no more.”

     This is what is to be done with the whole kingdom of evil, as well with the power of it as with the guilt of it. Dagon is to fall and to be broken, and the very stump of him is to be demolished. As when the darkness flies before the sun, not a trace of its blackness is left, so is sin to be destroyed utterly from the redeemed of the Lord. It is not merely the guilt of sin that is shut up and sealed and covered, but sin itself, its power, its dominion, its habit, its defilement, the dread that comes of it, and the fear and the burning of heart which it engenders. All the foul birds of sin’s filthy cage must fly away, never to return, chased away by the glorious work of him who shall save his people from their sins. For this the Messiah was cut off, and this by his death is achieved.

“O love! thou bottomless abyss!
My sins are swallow’d up in thee;
Cover'd is my unrighteousness,
Nor spot of guilt remains on me.
While Jesu’s blood, through earth and skies,
Mercy, free, boundless mercy cries!”

     I fail to describe this triumphant overthrow of sin and Satan. I have neither wisdom nor language answerable to such a theme. I invite you now for a few minutes to consider the second work, namely, the setting up of righteousness. This is set before us in three expressions: first, in the words “to bring in everlasting righteousness.” And what is that? Why, his own righteousness which is from everlasting to everlasting, and will never be taken way from those who have it, and will never cease to be their beauty and their glorious Jesus. The work of Christ in his life and death is by God imputed to his people: indeed, it is theirs because they are one with Christ. He is the Lord their righteousness, and they are the righteousness of God in him. Saints are so righteous in Jesus Christ that they are more righteous than Adam was before he fell, for he had but a creature righteousness, and they have the righteousness of the Creator: he had a righteousness which he lost, but believers have a righteousness which they can never lose, an everlasting righteousness. Nor is that all the meaning of our text: those to whom God imputes righteousness, to them also he imparts righteousness. He makes them pure in heart, he changes their desires, he makes them love that which is right and just and good, and so he gives them grace to lead godly, sober, honest, and holy lives. This righteousness shall not be crushed out of them, for the work of the Spirit shall continue until they shall become perfect, and be meet to dwell with God in light. Happy are those spirits to whom Christ gives an everlasting righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom and in it they shall shine forth as the sun. They are right and they shall be right; they are true and they shall never degenerate into falsehood; they are God’s own children and they shall go on to develop the image of Christ, their elder brother, till they shall be without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. This Christ came to do: he imputes and imparts righteousness, and thus brings in everlasting righteousness as the foundation of his kingdom.

     Next, in order to the setting up of a kingdom of righteousness he is come that he may “seal up vision and prophecy.” That is, by fulfilling all the visions and the prophecies of the Old Testament in himself, he ends both prophecy and vision. He seals up visions and prophecies so that they shall no more be seen or spoken; they are closed, and no man can add to them; and therefore— and that is the point to note— the gospel is for ever settled, to remain eternally the same. Christ has set up a kingdom that shall never be moved. His truth can never be changed by any novel revelation. If any man come to you and say, “I am a prophet!” bid him go and find believers among the foolish, for to you Jesus has sealed up prophecy. If any man come and say, “I have somewhat to reveal which contradicts the old gospel,” tell him to go and preach to those who choose to hear him, but you know better, for Christ to you has sealed up prophecy and vision, and there is to be no more of it. There is no need of it, because in Christ God has spoken all he means to say concerning the way of salvation. Until such time as Christ himself shall come the canon is complete; and though there be many voices crying, “Lo, here!” and “Lo, there!” and some so fascinating that they might deceive, if it were possible, the very elect, yet those whom Christ has chosen know the Shepherd’s voice, and “a stranger will they not follow, for they know not the voice of strangers.” Brethren, there always was something better yet to come in all times till Christ arrived; but after the best there cometh none. A certain philosopher taught this; the next philosopher taught that, and the next one contradicted this and that, and taught another thing; while another master arose and contradicted all who went before. So man groped as in the dark for the wall; but now the day has dawned, and the true light shineth, for Christ hath appeared. This, then, is an essential part of the setting up of that which is good— namely, to settle truth on a fixed basis, whereon we may stand steadfast, immovable. The candles are snuffed out because the day itself looks out from the windows of heaven. Rejoice in this, beloved. God makes you righteous in Christ and with Christ, and in order that you shall never be perplexed with change, he sets aside all other teachers, that Christ may be your all in all.

     Then, as if this were not enough, and truly it would not be enough, he is also come to anoint the Most Holy, or the Holy of holies, as you may read it. And what means this? Nothing material, for the Holy of holies, the place into which the High Priest went of old is demolished, and the veil is rent. The most holy place is now the person of the Lord Jesus Christ; he was anointed that God might dwell in him. Together with Christ the Holy of holies is now his church, and that church was anointed or dedicated when the Holy Ghost fell at Pentecost, to be with us, and to abide in us for ever. That was a noble part of the setting up of the great kingdom of righteousness, when tongues of fire descended and sat upon each of the disciples, and they began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. This is Christ’s work, for which he came, and for which he ascended on high, to set up the truth, to set up righteousness, and to make it everlasting by the dwelling of the Holy Ghost in the Church of God in the midst of the sons of men.

     Thus you see, in six ways, which condense themselves into two, our Lord set about his lordly enterprise. Heaven rings with the praises of the Messiah who came to destroy the work of sin, and to set up the kingdom of righteousness in the midst of the world.

     II. LET US NOW ENQUIRE AS TO OUR PARTICIPATION IN THESE TWO WORKS. I will put a few questions as briefly as I can, and I pray God, the Holy Ghost, that every one of us may honestly answer them.

     First, dear brethren, Christ has come into the world to do all this good work, but has he done it for us? “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.” What for? “That whosoever believeth in him might not perish.” There is a general aspect to the atonement, but there is quite as surely a special object in it. God loved the world, and therefore he gave his Son. But to what end did he give his Son? Here is the answer, “That whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life.” There was a special eye to believers. Come, then, have you believed? The first question that is to help you to answer that enquiry is this— Is your sin shut up as to its power? “Sin shall not have dominion over you” if Christ is in you. How is it between your soul and evil? Is there war or peace? Once you loved sin; you could not have enough of it. Is it so now? Do you still delight in evil? For if you do, the love of God is not in you. Can you still put forth your hand to iniquity as you once did? Then do not pretend that Christ has done anything for you. If you are a believer, your sin may not be absolutely dead, but it is shut up for dead: it is fast held in the condemned cell. It may still breathe, but it is crucified with Christ. How it tugs to get its hands loose from the nails! How it struggles to get its feet down from the tree! But it cannot, for He that nailed it there knew how to drive nails, and how to fasten the offender to the tree. Do you begin to grow weary of iniquity? Is it distasteful and unpleasant to you? And when looking over the day you perceive where you have spoken unadvisedly or acted hastily, or in any other way soiled your character, do you feel as if you would fain wash out every spot with tears? If it be so, Christ has begun with you: he has come to shut up your sin, and to end its reign: it shall no more have dominion over you. It may be in you, but it shall not be on the throne: it may threaten you, but it shall not command you: it may grieve you, but it shall not destroy you. You are under another master: you serve the Lord Christ. Judge you how this matter fares with you.

     The next question arising out of the text is, Is your sin sealed up as to its condemning power? Have you ever felt the power of the Holy Spirit in your soul, saying to you, “Go in peace; thy sins which are many, are all forgiven thee”? Have you clutched that promise, “He that believeth in him is not condemned”? Have you believed in Jesus? and has that blessed word, “There is therefore now no condemnation,” breathed a deep calm over your spirit? Some of you do not know what I mean; but others of you do. Oh, what bliss, what a heaven it is to know, “I am washed in the blood of the Lamb; — I am delivered, clean delivered from every sin, past, present, and to come, as to any possibility of its being laid to my charge. Christ has put my sins into a bag, sealed them up, hurled that bag into the sea, and flung them out of existence, and they are gone, never to be found again any more.” He has made an end of sin. Come, dear hearer, do you know anything about this? If you do not, it is the one thing you want to know, and until you know it you will never have any rest to your spirit, but you will be tossed to and fro as upon a raging sea. “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” There is no peace to any of us till Christ hath made an end of our sin. How is it with your hearts?

     And next, is your sin covered as to its appearance before God? Has the Lord Jesus Christ made such an expiation for your sin that it no longer glares in the presence of the Most High, but you can come unto God without dread? Can you hopefully say, “Lord God, thou seest no sin in me, for thou hast covered me with the righteousness of Christ, and washed me in his blood”? Did you ever feel the sweetness of that? It is rapture! I can recollect times when I have been driven to doubt whether it could be true, it seemed too good; and then again, when my faith has revived I have said, “Good as it is, it is true, for it is like God to do these great marvels, and to put away the sins of his people and cover them once for all.” Oh then there has been a joy within my spirit not at all like the joy of harvest, or the joy of marriage, or the joy of a firstborn child in the house. No; it is a joy like the bliss of angels, deep, unspeakable, mysterious, divine. Have you ever felt it? You will feel constantly if Christ comes to dwell with you: you will then be assured in your heart that he has made an end of your sin.

     Further, let me question you about the next point. Has the Lord Jesus Christ made you righteous? Do you glory in his blood and righteousness, and do you now seek after that which is pure and holy? “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” If we continue in sin we shall perish in sin. He is saved who comes out from evil and seeks to live honestly, righteously, soberly, after the manner of the godly and the saintly. Is it so with you? Is there a great and deep change in your spirit, so that you now love those good things which once you despised and ridiculed in others? Oh, if you cannot answer my poor questions, how will you stand before the judgment-seat of God when he shall test you as with fire?

     Furthermore, are the prophecies and visions sealed up as to you? Are they fulfilled in you? When God declares that he will wash us and make us whiter than snow, is it so with you? When he declares that he will cleanse our blood, which has not yet been cleansed, is it so with you? When he says, “A new heart also will I give them, and a right spirit will I put within them: and I will write my law upon their hearts;” is it so with you? Are you fishing about after empty dreams and fancies, or have you laid hold upon the old prophecies and the ancient visions, and discovered the substance of them to be deeply wrought in your very heart?

     Nor is this all: are you anointed to be most holy to the Lord? Are you set apart that you may serve him? Has the Holy Spirit come upon you, giving you a desire to do good? Have you a wish to rescue the perishing, a longing to bring the wandering sheep back to the great Shepherd’s fold? Is the Spirit of God so upon you to-day that you can truly say, “I am not my own; I am bought with a price”? Jesus, the Messiah, came to do all these things, and if he has not done them to you, then he has not come to you; you are still a stranger, still far off from him. Oh, may the Lord make you desperately unhappy till you come to Jesus; may you never know what quiet means till you find it at the pierced feet! From this hour may you breathe sighs, and may every pulse be a new agony of spirit, till at last you can say, “Yes, the Messiah was cut off, and cut off for me, and all that he came to do he did for me, and I am a sharer and a partaker in it all.”

     III. Lastly, we have but a brief interval in which to speak of THE RESULTS OF PARTICIPATING IN ALL THIS. The results! I want a week to speak of them in. They are, first of all, security. How can that man be lost whose transgression is finished, and whose sin has ceased to be? What is there for him to dread on earth, in heaven, or in hell? If Christ has put away my sin, I cannot die; if Christ has washed away my guilt, I cannot be condemned; I am safe, and may triumphantly sing—

“More happy, but not more secure,
The glorified spirits in heaven.

Wherefore, rejoice in this.

     And now, inasmuch as you are secure, you are also reconciled to God, and made to delight in him. God is your friend, and you are one of the friends of God. Rejoice in that hallowed friendship, and live in the assurance of it. Now you have the anointing, do not doubt it. Christ has made it yours by his death. The Spirit of the Lord resteth upon you; you are fit for service; set about it without further question. The anointing is upon you; you are most holy to the Lord; so let your life be wholly consecrated. Your heart ought to be, and shall be by the Spirit’s power, as holy as that innermost shrine into which no unauthorized foot ever intruded, into which only once in the year the high priest went, and then not without blood. God dwelleth in you, and you in God. Oh, blessed consequences, — you shall soon dwell with him for ever!

     But now suppose when I put the question you had to shake your head and say, “No, it is not so with me.” Then hear these few sentences. If the Messiah has not done this for you, then your sin will be finished in another way; — sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. An awful death awaits you, — death unto God, and purity and joy. Woe, woe, to you. Death on the pale horse pursues you, and will overtake you soon. Then will one woe be past, but another will follow it. If Christ has never made an end of your sin, then mark this, your sin will soon make an end of you, and all your hopes, your pleasure, your boasting, your peace will perish. Oh, terrible end of all that is hopeful within you. You shall be a desolation for ever and for ever. Has not Christ reconciled you? Then mark this, your enmity will increase. There is no peace between God and you now, but soon will the war begin in which he must conquer, and you, never yielding, will continue for ever more to hate God, and to find in that hate your utmost torment, your fiercest hell. Have you never had the righteousness of Christ brought in? Then mark this, your unrighteousness will last for ever, One of these days God will say, “He that is unholy, let him be unholy still: he that is filthy, let him be filthy still.” That will be the most awful thing that can ever happen to you. You have heard of the fable of Medusa’s head: whoever looked upon it when it was held up was turned to stone; and one day, sinner, you shall look at death, and it will petrify your character so that it shall be for ever what it is when death came to you. Where death finds you, there judgment shall find yon, and there eternity shall leave you. Oh, wretched soul, to have nothing to do with the everlasting righteousness of Christ!

     Are not the prophecies fulfilled in you, the prophecies of mercy? Then listen. The prophecies of woe will be written large across your history. “The wicked shall be turned into hell, with all the nations that forget God.” Beware, ye that forget God, lest he tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver. I will not detain you with many such words of terror, but through the Old Testament they roll like peals of thunder, nor is the New Testament less stern towards him that goeth on in his iniquity and will not turn unto the Christ.

     Lastly, will you never be anointed to be most holy? Then remember, holiness and you will stand at a distance for ever, and to be far off from holiness must necessarily be to be far off from heaven and happiness. Sin is misery; in it lies both the root and the fruit of eternal woe. Purity is paradise: to be right with God is to be right with yourself and all created things; but if ye will not be holy, then must ye by force of your own choice be for ever tossed about upon the restless sea of wretchedness. God save you, brothers and sisters; God save you for Christ’s sake. Amen.



One War Over and Another Begun

By / Sep 17

One War Over and Another Begun 

 

“And when Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the Lord, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord God! for because I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face. And the Lord said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die. Then Gideon built an altar there unto the Lord, and called it Jehovah-shalom.”— Judges vi. 22— 24.

 

THESE Midianites were wandering Bedouins from Arabia, and from the east country round about the Holy Land. Like those who represent them in the present day, they were masters of the art of plundering, and knew no bowels of compassion. They generally lived a hard life themselves, and when they had an opportunity to feast on the spoils of others, they rioted without stint, and left a famine behind them. Most fitly does the Scripture compare them to grasshoppers, for both in number and in destructive force they were like those terrible devourers. God had brought them upon Israel to scourge that nation because it had been so foolish and so ungrateful as to set up the gods of the heathen, and to forget the one mighty God who was so specially and graciously their patron and defender. They were impoverished and ground down to the very last degree by these plunderers, who left no food either for men or cattle. The poor Israelites, creeping forth from their dens and caves, attempted to carry on the work of husbandry, and sowed the land; but when the time came for reaping, the marauders came forth once more, took away their harvest, and despoiled their pastures again. Then, as usual, Israel cried unto Jehovah, and his ear was open to their groaning. Their afflictions made them weary of their idols, and caused them to say, “We will return unto our first husband, for it was better with us then than now.” God in his great mercy raised up for them a deliverer, Gideon, a mighty man of valour, who distinguished himself in various skirmishes with the foe! His name was already a terror to Midian, for he who dreamed of the barley-cake which smote the tent, and it lay along, said to his fellow has— “This is none other than Gideon, the son of Joash.” His character has never been sufficiently admired: Scripture names much less bright than his have preferred before him by the general ministry; yet he deserves far better treatment. He was a man gentle and yet strong, cautious and yet venturesome; a searching enquirer, and an intense believer. While he was a sort of foreshadowing of David, he had much of the after-glow of Joshua. He was a truly great man, though his latter days were overshadowed by a grievous religious error, and a sad moral fault. Despite his failings he was one of the greatest of the heroes of faith. This man went to his work with the Bedouin in much the same manner as that which has proved so successful in Egypt during the past week. He was not in a hurry to venture upon a pitched battle, but waited his time, and then by a sudden and unexpected attack he struck the whole host with panic, so that they fled at once, and Midian was smitten as one man. It is very singular how history repeats itself, and how all events go to exhibit the singular truthfulness of the Bible record. These wild Arabs can clearly be overcome by a single blow if it takes them when they feel secure. Formidable as they are as plunderers, and great as they are at boasting, they are not able to stand against a hand to hand onslaught; true valour drives them before it like a rolling thing before the whirlwind, scattering them like chaff before the tempest. The leaders flee: two of the minor ones, Oreb and Zeeb, the raven and the wolf, are first captured, and by-and-by the greater generals, who had fled first of all, are taken by the victorious band. The leaders were ahead of all others in flight then as they have been in the late campaign. In after days the destruction of their mighty ones became a proverbial curse, “Make their nobles like Oreb, and like Zeeb: yea, all their princes as Zebah, and as Zalmunna.” There are many points of likeness between the two campaigns, but this is not our theme to-day.

     Let us think for a while of Gideon, in order that we may see that we ourselves are or may be somewhat parallels with him. We may not have to smite the Bedouin as he had, but unto a spiritual warfare God has called many of us: and though he intends to use us, and to get unto himself victory by us, yet it may be that at this moment we are in fear. We are now passing through the same mental processes as those which educated Gideon, and we are being prepared thereby for future conflict and conquest.

     I. I shall begin by asking you to dwell for a minute upon GIDEON’S SIGH FOR PEACE; for he loved not war, but pined for quiet. He called the name of the altar,— “Jehovah-shalom,” which the margin reads, “The Lord send peace.” You see therefore that deeper down in his spirit than any desire for warlike honour there was a yearning after peace. He wanted not the spoils of princes; he only desired to plough,, and sow, and reap in peace.

     And do you wonder at it, when the ills of war were all around? He had for a long time seen in the cases of his friends and neighbours the desolating effects of war: their property was taken from them, their bread was stolen out of their mouths, their children were slain, and themselves made to hide away upon the tops of mountains or in caverns among the hills. Life became intolerable amid such privations and dangers. Gideon must have felt his heart swell with grief and indignation as he looked upon the remnant of Israel hunted like partridges upon the mountains, though once they had dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig-tree. The Bedouin styled the valley of Jezreel “the meadows of God”: how grievous to see those fat pastures trodden down by the feet of the invaders! Ah, little can you and I imagine of the horrors of war. We read of it, and our sympathies are touched, but we know not the multiplied murders, the painful wounds, the desolating rapine, and the fierce crimes which attend the track of armies. If we saw battle with our own eyes, we should with burning fervour cry, “Send us peace in our days, good Lord.”

     Moreover, he had not only seen war, but he sighed for peace, because he was himself feeling the mischief of it. The dread of the conflict had come to his own mountain farm at Abiezer. There he was himself, threshing wheat by the wine press, in an unusual place, in an inconvenient place, that he might hide a little grain, for winter’s food, from the Midianites who were eager to devour it. Ay, and when carnage smokes at your own door, and rapine is at your own gate, when you yourself are straitened and are hiding for fear, then comes from the deep recesses of the spirit the cry, “Oh, that God would send us peace, for this is a weary oppression; these ravens and wolves devour us utterly.” Let us bow our heads and thank God that he has long blessed this favoured isle with unbroken peace; and as an act of thankfulness to God let us set our faces against the war-spirit which so readily inflames our fellow countrymen.

     The way of peace was sufficiently well known to Gideon: the prophet of the Lord had indicated to the people that the only way of peace was for Israel to return unto Jehovah, her God. The great sin of departure from the glorious living God was set before them, and they could readily draw the inference that they would never have peace from their enemies till first of all they had made their peace with God. They must surrender to their sovereign, and renew their loyalty, and then he would drive out the foe from their land. They must confess their transgressions and renew their covenant, and then they would obtain deliverance. Then would the ancient promise be fulfilled, “One should chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight.” Gideon probably knew this before the prophet came; it was deeply imprinted on his thoughtful spirit, and as he was a man of faith in God, he did not doubt but that if Israel returned unto Jehovah then peace would follow. Much is gained when we know this, if our knowledge leads to practical action.

     While Gideon was meditating and working, an angel appears to him and gives him the assurance that with him at least God was at peace. The covenant angel said to him, “Jehovah is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.” Methinks his spirit ought greatly to have rejoiced at that assurance, and perhaps it did; for what better thing can happen unto any man than to receive such a token for good? If God be for us, who can be against us? We know how sweet is the assurance that being justified by faith we have peace with God. It is well with us when we are assured that the Lord is with us, our helper, our shield, our portion for ever and ever.

     But there arose in his mind a grave anxiety. His was a very careful, thoughtful soul, for he was a man of prudence, large-hearted, far-seeing, and given to look at things coolly and steadily; and there arose in his heart a question serious and vital, “Is this the voice of God to me, or am I deluded? Is God at peace with me, or am I like the rest, plunged in a horrible warfare against the living God?” Therefore he puts a question, and he asks a sign that he might make sure of what he was about. Brethren, in spiritual matters you and I had need be sure. If we have peace within our spirit let us make certain that it is the peace of God; for still are there voices that cry, “Peace, peace,” where there is no peace. Still do siren songs charm men to ruin with their dulcet notes; still does the fatal river flow most smoothly as it approaches the dreadful cataract. Beware of that word of the Lord, “When they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” None are more quiet than the ungodly when they are given up to a strong delusion. The Psalmist says of them, “There are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men.” Like liquor which has settled on its lees, the ungodly man’s carnal confidence seems clear and bright: the settling of conscious sin and consequent doubt in their case lies at the bottom undisturbed. It was not so with Gideon: his anxiety made itself visible. He was not the man to leap at a shadow: he sought for substance. If he was to have peace, he must have it from God: if he was to be delivered, he longed to have victory plain and permanent. The favour which he asked was requested because anxiety troubled him, and lie wished to make assurance doubly sure. He desired to know from God himself that his mission was authentic and his success certain. “Fast bind, fast find,” says the proverb, and this valiant man would have it so.

     I believe that many of us have been, and perhaps are, in Gideon’s position. Of course we have not his errand, but we have one of our own, and we are troubled because we are not personally sure of our peace. We are grieved by our past sins and their consequences. This is the lot of many men. The fowls which they have reared have come home to roost: they have been guilty in the past, and their sins have returned upon them, so that they are sore vexed. They have cried unto the Lord in their trouble, beseeching him to deliver them out of their distresses, and now a consciousness of sin is upon them, and they fear lest their prayers should be rejected. Under the strokes of God’s rod they smart, they feel their guilt more and more, they are sore afraid. “Conscience doth make cowards of us all,”’ and when the mighty Spirit of God convinces us of sin then sin becomes a second sorrow; nay, worse than that, for if sorrow do chasten us with whips, sin doth scourge us with scorpions. We are consumed by God’s anger, and by his wrath we are troubled. His breaking waves go over us, and his billows swallow us up. Still the heart keeps on crying after God if it is being operated upon by the Spirit of God. The mind is tossed to and fro and is confounded, but even in its confusion it seeks the true rest, and longs to gain peace in God. Like the needle in the compass, it is agitated and disturbed, yet still it knows its pole, and trembles towards it. It will never be still till it reaches the point of its rest. Have you ever been in that condition? I know you have if the Lord has loved you and ordained you to his work. Has God at such a time sent you a message of mercy? Have you searched the Scriptures and found a precious promise? Have you heard a faithful servant of God preach under his Master’s anointing, and have you been comforted? Even then I should not wonder if the darkening thought has arisen like a cloud, “Is this the right comfort for me? May I really enjoy it? Will it be presumption or assurance?” There is often a fine line, thin as a razor’s edge, between the two, and woe unto him who makes a mistake about it. O God, save us from carnal security. Prevent our crying “Peace, peace, where there is no peace.” Better that we write bitter things against ourselves, if they be true, than that we say smooth things and flatter ourselves to destruction. Therefore, I should not wonder if you are asking the Lord to give you a token for good. You are praying to him and saying, “I will not be comforted except thou comfort me: thy dove shall find no rest for the sole of her foot except it be in the ark with the true Noah, in whom is rest.” As for me, I will take no cup of consolation except that which Jesus proffers when he gives it me with his own pierced hands. If washed, it shall be in Jesus’ blood: if clothed, it shall be in his righteousness. I will be hungry till I die sooner than eat anything but the bread of heaven. I will thirst till I faint and expire, but none shall give me to drink except of the water of the well of Bethlehem. Brethren, we must make sure work for eternity: we cannot afford to have a question on that matter. A note of interrogation here will be a note of alarm. It will be a thorn in our side.

     I am sure that in the case of Gideon, if it be thus spiritually interpreted and set in gospel light, we may see ourselves. As though we looked into a glass we may say, “That portrait is my own.”

     II. From Gideon’s longing, panting desire to obtain peace with God and then peace for his country we turn to look a little further into GIDEON’S FEAR WHICH HE MET WITH IN THE WAY OF PEACE. “An angel” appeared to him,— so saith the text in the Authorised Version; but in truth it was the angel of Jehovah, and this should have comforted him, even as it has comforted us. Do we not sing,

“But if Immanuel’s face appear,
My hope, my joy begins;
His name forbids my slavish fear,
His grace removes my sins”?

One would have thought that Gideon would have leaped for joy when he beheld his God veiled in angelic form, but instead thereof the shadow of death fell upon him. Here was a man panting for peace, and firmly following the way of peace, and yet afraid with a deadly fear. Peace cannot be had except by our drawing near to God and the Lord’s drawing near to us; but as soon as this process commences poor humanity shrinks from the interview, and is melted with fear. “When Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the Lord, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord God! for because I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face.” It usually happens that when God is bringing men into peace with himself, while the operation is going on thoroughly and soundly, there is a degree of trembling in the soul. I suspect that conversion which has no trembling in it: note the prodigal’s cry, “I am not worthy to be called thy son.” Note Peter’s bitter weeping, and the three days’ darkness of Saul of Tarsus. Even to believers the visitations of God are not without overwhelming awe: Jacob cries, “How dreadful is this place,” Job abhors himself, Moses doth exceedingly fear and quake, and Isaiah cries, “Woe is me.”

     Why was Gideon afraid? Not because he was a coward— you will scarcely meet with a braver man in all Scripture than this son of Joash— but because even brave men are alarmed at the supernatural. He saw something which he had never seen before an appearance celestial, mysterious, above what is usually seen of mortal men; therefore, as he feared God, Gideon was afraid. When the living God draws very near to a soul, even though it be in the person of Christ Jesus, that soul is struck with awe, and trembles before the Lord. It cannot well be otherwise. Recollect how it was with the beloved John. “When I saw him,” says John— that was, his own dear Master, upon whose breast he had leaned his head— “when I,” the disciple whom Jesus love, “saw him, I fell at his feet as dead.” You do not wonder, therefore, if a poor soul full of doubt and anxiety, vexed with a sense of sin, and greatly troubled by affliction, is full of fear when Jesus draws near. Though he conies with no feeling but of love, no thought but of mercy, no sentence but of free forgiveness, yet the heart is awe-struck at the wondrous sight. Alas, some of you know not what it is to have the Lord drawing near to your spirits. If you did you would not think it strange that certain awakened ones have acted in a singular way, and for a while have forgotten to eat bread. Daniel saith, “I was left alone, and saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength.” That great Lord who ruleth all things, whose voice divideth the flames of fire, maketh the hinds to calve, and discovereth the deep recesses of the forest, is not to be discoursed with as an ordinary person; his presence overwhelms the finite mind. He looketh on the earth and it trembleth, he toucheth the hills and they smoke; the voice of his thunder is in the heavens, his lightnings lighten the world. When this glorious God comes near to the soul it is a solemn visitation, and the mind is bowed under it. Well said Habakkuk, “When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble.” I marvel not that this mighty man of valour was grievously disturbed. Who among us would have been otherwise?

     Moreover, Gideon had been ill-taught by tradition. There was a rumour abroad which was derived from truth, and yet was false, namely, that no man could see a heavenly being and live. It is true that the Lord expressly told his servant Moses that he could not see his face and live; but he did not say, “Thou canst not see an angel and live”: nor had he said, “Thou canst not see my veiled presence and live.” The tradition was an accretion to the truth and a corruption of it. We may not see the face of God, but we may see Jesus; in fact, we live because we see him. Beware of the moss which grows upon a truth. Many a heart bleeds because it is wounded by its own imperfect ideas of God; and so when God does draw near, when the great Almighty overshadows it, there is a slavish dread for which there is no need. “I shall die,” saith he, “I shall die.” He sees his sin, and therefore he thinks that God has come in anger to punish him: he feels his weakness, and fainting under it he groans, “I shall die.” No, soul, if God had meant to slay you he would have let you alone. Whom God destroys he first leaves to the madness of his own conceit. He does not take the trouble to show a man his sin, and reveal to him his transgression unless he means to pardon and save him. He lets the proud Pharisee remain as comely as he dreams himself to be, and allows him to glory in his own righteousness, and go on in his proud self-conceit: as for the chosen of the Lord, the Spirit of God blows upon their comeliness and withers it right away as the flower of the field. If the Lord has taken to strip you, he will clothe you: if he makes your righteousness to fade like the leaves of autumn} it is because he has a glorious robe with which to array you: therefore be not afraid. Yet it is no marvel if you are cast down: we are such creatures of sight and feeling that before the glory of the Lord we are encompassed with fears, and sickened with affright.

     Besides, Gideon was in a state of mind in which he could be easily cast down. He was a brave man, but long affliction had cast a tinge of sadness over him. His usual conduct in life is well pictured by the two signs which God gave him. When all the people around him were with excitement, like the threshing floor, heated and dry, he, like the fleece, was cool and composed: and then, again, when all around him like the wet floor, were damped with discouragement, he alone remained in his ordinary condition, with not a drop of cowardice within him. That was the kind of man: calm, quiet, determined, brave. But at the moment recorded in our text he was smarting under a cruel oppression, conscious of God’s anger for Israel’s sin, and overshadowed by God’s own presence, and therefore his mind was ready to rush from one fear to another. Only, see the beauty of it, that he always tells his fear to God, always goes to him for comfort, and therefore always obtains succour. The brave man is not he who sees no fear, but he who, seeing the danger, rises superior to it. Men who are boldest in the actual conflict are usually found among those who look seriously at the coming battle, and do not go to war with a light heart. These men count the cost, and so when they commit themselves to the conflict they know what they are at. Such was this man, tossed to and fro from one fear to another, but never tossed off from his God, and so always sure to right himself. And you, dear heart, if you are seeking after peace with God I should not wonder if fear follows fear, and yet no fear drives you from looking unto the Lord. It is but natural that you should be overawed, but oh, be not despairing, for there is the surest reason for hope. Still look to Jesus, and he will surely in his due time send you a blessed deliverance.

     One thing is noteworthy, namely, that Gideon’s greatest fear arose out of a sign which he had himself asked for. He said, “Show me a sign,” and when he had that sign, namely, God’s coming to him, then it was that he was afraid. Be very chary how you ask for signs; for they may work your discouragement rather than your comfort. I have known some say, “I shall not believe I am a child of God unless I feel a deep sense of sin,” and when they have entered into that feeling they have exclaimed, “I will never again ask for this.” I have heard of others who thought they could come to Christ if they were gently drawn; and the Lord has been gently drawing them, and then they have wished that they had been more troubled and distressed. They imagine that they could have believed more readily had their despair been greater— a strange notion certainly. The fact is, we are prone to unbelief: this noxious weed grows without sowing, and only the sweet love of Jesus can teach us how to believe. We are ever busy in manufacturing fresh doubts, and for raw material we use the very tokens for which we so earnestly besought the Lord. We cry aloud, “Show me a token for good,” and when the token is given we are amazed at being heard, and fall to fearing more sadly than before. Therefore pray for such boons with bated breath, and say twice over concerning such things, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

     All this while, beloved friends, Gideon had one truth before him, which ought to have prevented all his fears: for the Lord had spoken to him, and said, “Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?” See, he goes home fearing that he will die, and yet that could not be. How could he die if he was to deliver Israel? he must be a live man to do that, and yet, you see, he forgets to reason for his own comfort, but takes care to argue for his fears. Have I never seen my hearers doing this? I have often caught myself at it,— refusing to use my logic for the strengthening of my faith, but perverting reason in order to assist my unbelief. Is not this foolish and wicked? We sharpen the knives with which to cut ourselves; we nurture in our bosom the viper which will bite us; we stuff our pillows with thorns, and fill our cups with wormwood, and all to no purpose but the increase of despondency. Too often we are industrious in the fabrication of discomfort, and utterly idle in the search for joy. This is folly, and yet better men than we are have fallen into this fault. The Lord save us from it. In drawing near to God is our peace, and if in that process a sense of the presence of God casts us down and creates a more poignant sorrow than we felt at the first, let us not therefore shrink from the process, but push on with all our might. As our safety lies in coming to God, to him we must approach at all hazards. If he seem to stand before us with a drawn sword in his hand let us run upon the point of it. If even our God be a consuming fire let us still draw near to him, for this is indeed the high privilege of saints. “Our God,” that is our God in Christ Jesus, “is a consuming fire.” Who, then, shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who shall dwell with everlasting burnings? When this question is quoted it is usually referred to the burning of hell. The error is glaring. For the Scriptural answer to the question shows that it is not so. “He that walketh righteously and speaketh uprightly”— he it is that dwells on high with the Lord God. He is the man that can live in the fire, for he is genuine metal. He hath the pure heart, and shall see God, and live. That sweet singer of the sanctuary, Miss Havergal, beautifully writes:—

“They say there is a hollow, safe and still,
A point of coolness and repose
Within the centre of a flame, where life might dwell
Unharmed and unconsumed, as in a luminous shell,
Which the bright walls of fire enclose
In breachless splendour, barrier that no foes
Could pass at will. “There is a point of rest
At the great centre of the cyclone’s force,
A silence at its secret source;—
A little child might slumber undistressed.
Without the rutile of one fairy curl,
In that strange central calm amid the mighty whirl.
“So, in the centre of these thoughts of God,
Cyclones of power, consuming glory-fire,—
As we fall o’erawed
Upon our faces, and are lifted higher
By his great gentleness, and carried higher
Than unredeemed angels, till we stand
Even in the hollow of his hand,—
Nay, more! we lean open his breast—
There, there we find a point of perfect rest
And glorious safety.”

So dwell we in the heart of God, who is a wall of fire round about us, and the glory in our midst. He who shall have had everything burnt up within him that can burn shall find in the presence of God the element of his life. Oh, the splendour of the life of faith! God bring us fully into it. Thus have I spoken of Gideon’s fear while he was in the path of peace.

     III. Now let us spend a few minutes in considering GOD’S COMFORT OF HIS SERVANT. “The Lord said unto him, Shalom— peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die.” The Lord would not have his Gideons disturbed in mind. If we are to trouble the enemy we must not be troubled ourselves. “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned.” This is how God would have his prophets speak, and this is how he speaks himself. He wants his workers to be full of comfort while they labour.

     Notice, brethren, the great power of God in speaking home the truth. Suppose I salute you with, “Brethren, peace be to you.” That would be a sweet word; but when the Lord says it, you feel the peace itself. Suppose Peter had stood up in that barque which was tossed upon the Galilean lake, and had said to the waves, “Be still”: the Waves would not have taken much notice of him, and the whistling blast would have defied him; but when Jesus said, “Peace, be still,” the rampant lions of the sea crouched at his feet, and there was a great calm. Oh, that the great Master’s voice would sound the requiem of trouble in every tempest driven heart by saying, “Peace be unto you,” so that you may become perfectly restful in your God.

     “Peace!” the word is shalom, the word which Gideon borrowed and applied to the altar which he raised in obedience to the Lord’s bidding. It signifies not only quiet, but prosperity, success, “good fortune,” as the multitude say. When God spoke that word home to his dear servant’s heart a great joy was born within him to prepare him for his great warfare. The Lord also cheered him with, “Fear not.” Oh, that charming word; as full as it is short— “Fear not.” It is the death-knell of fear, the life of hope. If we once hear it as God’s fiat in our soul it makes us leap over a wall or break through a troop. Doubts and fears flee away like spectres of the night when the sun arises. “Fear not.” What is there to fear? If God is with you, of whom can you be afraid?     Gideon feared himself, feared his own unfitness and unworthiness, feared in the awful presence of God; but the Lord said, “Fear not,” and Gideon’s heart grew calm.

     Then the Lord added, “Thou shalt not die,” thus meeting the special form of his dread. This is what the Lord says to every poor trembler who is holding to him by the desperate grip of faith,— “Thou shalt not die. Thou shalt not die the second death: thou hast no sin to die for, for I have laid thy transgressions on my only-begotten Son; Thou shalt not die, for Jesus died. Thy spiritual life cannot expire, for thy ‘life is hid with Christ in God,’ and because Jesus lives thou shalt live also.” When Jehovah speaks to comfort his people they are comforted indeed, and I pray him this morning so to speak to any of you who wish to enjoy perfect peace. May the peace of God which passeth all understanding keep your hearts and minds by Christ Jesus. May you walk down those aisles saying, “Yes, I have peace with God: I have no fear now: I shall never die, for Jesus says, ‘He that liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” What a morning without clouds will this be to your souls.

     IV. Let us now look at GIDEON’S MEMORIAL. His fears being banished, and being at perfect peace, Gideon now goes to work. Are any of you questioning whether you are saved or not? Do not go out preaching yet, for you may, perhaps, put others into bondage. Are any of you half afraid that you are not at peace with God? Be careful what you do! Strive after peace, lest you weaken your testimony. I recollect the lesson which I learned from my Sunday-school class: I was taught, if the other boys were not. Though yet a youth, I was teaching the gospel to boys, and I said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” One of them asked somewhat earnestly, “Teacher, are you saved?” I answered, “I hope so.” The boy replied, “Teacher, don’t you know?” As if he had been sent to push the matter home to me, he further enquired, “Teacher, have you believed?” I said, “Yes.” “Have you been baptized?” I said, “Yes.” “Well, then,” he argued, “you are saved.” I was happy to answer, “Yes, I am”; but I had hardly dared to say that before. I found that if I had to teach other people the truth I must know and believe its sweet result upon myself. I believe, dear friends, that you will seldom comfort others except it be by the comfort with which you yourself are comforted of God. Look at certain of our brethren who preach and have no conversions. What is the reason in some cases? Is it not that they fish all the week for frogs to feed the people with, and people do not care to receive such food? I mean this. If some new doubt is hatched; if some philosopher thinks he has found out a flaw in the gospel, next Sunday these worthies discourse upon it, for they think every new query must be answered. As for me, I do not care a fig what all the philosophers find out, for they cannot disprove the facts of my experience. When I come across a fresh piece of infidelity I do not hurry to proclaim it to you, and so do the devil’s advertising for nothing. Let others follow their business, if it be their business; as for me, my business is to preach the truth of God which I have learned from his infallible word by the teaching of his Spirit. God would have his people be at peace with him, and know that they are so, for if they are fretted within, and worried in reference to their God, how can they fight the battles of life?

     When Gideon is fully at peace, what does he begin to do for God. If God loves you he will use you either for suffering or service; and if he has given you peace you must now prepare for war. Will you think me odd if I say that our Lord came to give us peace that he might send us out to war? Gideon’s first work was to go and cut down his father’s sacred grove, which stood on the top of the hill, and enclosed an altar to Baal. He could not effect this business by day, because the foolish worshippers would have rallied to the defence of their dumb idol, and have overpowered the reformer; therefore with his ten men he performed the work by night. I think I see him and his people in the dim darkness, with their axes and saws, doing the work as quietly as they can, felling all those trees. A splendid clearance was made that night. “Now,” cries he, “over with that detestable altar to Baal.” Some people would have said, “Spare it as a fine piece of antiquity.” Yes, and leave it to be used again! I say, down with it, for the older it is the more sin it has caused, and the more likely is it that it will be venerated again. I often wish the reformers had been more thorough in their destruction of idolatrous images and Popish trumpery. In many a parish church of this land everything is ready for the restoration of the Roman idolatry. The nests were not half pulled down, and the rooks are likely to be back again. Many a window, full of saints the Bible never knew, only waits for the martyr-burners to be back again. Gideon cast down every stone, and it was bravely done.

     But see, by the Lord’s bidding he piles a new altar of earth, or unhewn stone; and when that is done, he fetches his father’s bullock and slays it for a sacrifice. How steadily they went about this re-establishment of the pure faith! See, they use the wood of the grove for burning the sacrifice, and the heavens are red with the blaze. I think I hear the gallant leader say, “Let them wake now; they cannot prevent our worshipping the Most High, nor can they cause the grove to grow again. By yon beacon-fire Israel shall gather together to fight against Midian, and victory shall be ours.” Beloved, if God has given you peace, go home and begin your reform. I would preach up the overthrow of every sin. Down with every idol. Have you one left? Over with it, and present a sacrifice to God. Every true Christian should pass a reform bill at home, and carry it out.

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

     But to pull down is not enough. Plenty of people can do that. Gideon, as we have seen, builds an altar to Jehovah. When you are at perfect peace with God, think what you can do for him: think of a new plan of work, or consider how to do the old work better: advance any part of divine truth that has been forgotten, any ordinance that has been neglected, any virtue that has been despised. Especially make prominent Christ Jesus, the altar and sacrifice so dear to God. Now that you have begun the fight by cutting down Baal’s grove, complete it by building an altar for the Lord. Instead of a fortress and high tower, declare the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, and hold that fort till he shall come. When he had built his altar he called it “Jehovah-shalom,” which was done by way of thanksgiving for peace received. The inscription declares that “Jehovah is our peace.” Blessed be his name this day. We have entered on the battles of peace, for the Lord God is with us, and with his people we will go forth to win the peace which he has promised. It was a psalm in two words: it was a song of one verse, infinitely sweet. “Jehovah-shalom the Lord our peace.

     Moreover, it was a prayer, as the margin puts it,— “Jehovah, send peace.” If you have peace with God, let your next prayer be, “Lord, give peace to all thy people.” “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” Work it, O holy Spirit of peace! Then ask for peace by the conquest of an ungodly world for Jesus till the first Christmas carol shall be sung again, “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, goodwill toward men.”

     See, brethren, and with that I finish, there may sit here this morning a young man who does not know what God is going to make of him. The capacities of service that God can infuse into a single individual are marvellous. At present you are disturbed in mind, afflicted in heart, ill at ease; you need perfect peace, but you have not found it yet. Rest not till you have it. At God’s own altar, where Jesus died, you will find it, and only there. Where Jesus’ blood makes peace with God there is your peace. Rest not till you are assuredly at peace with the Lord of all, so that your soul lies down in green pastures, and is led by the still waters. I desire that down in the deepest caverns of your nature there may reign a profound calm which nothing can disturb. Then may the Spirit of God come upon you, and may you sound the trumpet for the battles of the Lord. Oh for the valour which will smite everything that is sinful, and will root out everything that is erroneous. “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon” be our watchword. As our Master was sent to destroy the works of the devil, even so do we bear the same commission, using only his weapons— love, truth, and self-sacrifice.



The Samaritan Woman and Her Mission

By / Sep 10

The Samaritan Woman and Her Mission

 

“And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman; yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her? The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? Then they went out of the city, and came unto him.”— John iv. 27— 30.

 

Behold our Lord and Master with divinely skilful art seeking after a single soul! We must have large congregations or we are disinclined for soul-winning. The habit of the age is to do nothing but what is ostentatious; every work must be with beat of drum or sound of tambourine. I pray that the Lord may work in us the steadfast desire to do good on the quiet, by stealth, when no one looks on, when not a single disciple is near. Oh that we may have such an estimate of the value of a single soul that we count whole days well spent to bring one fallen woman or one drunkard to the Saviour’s feet. Blessed is he who works on though he is never heard of, and looks for his reward from his Master. In the heat of the day the Lord Jesus found rest and refreshment in speaking to one whom many would scarce look upon, except with eyes of scorn. Blessed Saviour, we do not marvel as the disciples did that thou didst speak with the woman, but we do wonder with a higher kind of astonishment that ever thou didst speak to the like of us, who have so sadly fallen, and done thee dishonour, and grieved thy heart We are amazed that he who is the glory of heaven, “Light of light, very God of very God,” should shroud himself in the likeness of sinful flesh, and being found in fashion as a man should seek after us unworthy ones. Oh, the compassion of the Redeemer’s heart!

     Read this chapter through carefully, and see the skill which that compassion taught him. How sweetly ready he was to converse with her and take up her questions. Never imagine that the thirty years of retirement at Nazareth were wasted. I would fain go, if I were young, for thirty years to learn how to talk as he did, if his own Spirit would teach me the lesson. He was a perfect teacher, because as man he had lent a willing ear to the heavenly instruction of the Holy Ghost, and therefore grew in knowledge and fitness for his work; as saith that notable Scripture, “The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine car to hear as the learned. The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.” By communion with God in private, and by watching men in seclusion, he learned both the mind of God and the nature of man, so as to know how to handle the human mind. Men are “kittle cattle,” and can only be managed by a wise hand. Many an earnest fool has driven a soul to hell in his endeavour to drag it to heaven by force; for human wills yield not to such rough force, but rebel the more. Souls have to be brought to salvation by a gentleness and wisdom such as the Saviour used when he fascinated the Samaritan woman into eternal life, and enticed her to the truth: so only can I describe that wondrous power which he exercised over her in the few short but blessed sentences with which he addressed her.

     Now turn a moment from that glorious One, that perfect man and yet infinite God, whom we would lovingly adore before we look away from him. Here come his disciples! They have been into the city to buy food— an errand most needful,— that they and their Teacher might live. But see! When they perceive him talking with a woman they marvel, each in his own way. Some are dumfoundered, and cannot explain the phenomenon; others look as if they would interpose if they dared, and would cry to the woman, “Away, you vixen: what right have you here, speaking to such a One as our Leader, whose shoe-latchets even we are not worthy to unloose? Your approach dishonours him: take yourself away.” They did say so with their eyes, though awe of their Lord restrained their tongues. For these disciples of Jesus were steeped in the customary antipathies of the age. First, it was sufficiently offensive that the person with whom Jesus was conversing was a woman. My beloved sisters, you owe much to the gospel, for it is only by its agency that you are raised to your proper place. For what said the Rabbis? “Rather burn the sayings of the law than teach them to women and, again, “Let no man prolong conversation with a woman; let no one converse with a woman in the streets, not even with his own wife.” Women were thought to be unfit for profound religious instruction, and altogether inferior beings. My sisters, we do not think that you are superior to us, though some of you perhaps fancy so; but we are right glad to own your equality, and to know that in Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female. Jesus has lifted you up to your true place, side by side with man. Even the apostles were tainted at first with that horrible superstition which made them marvel that Jesus openly talked with a woman. Moreover, they wondered that he could talk with such a woman! I do not suppose they knew all about her character, but there is a look about the fallen which betrays them; they cannot conceal the boldness which a course of vice usually produces. They may have thought “If he had talked with an aged matron, a saintly mother in Israel, it might not have been surprising; but how can he converse with such a. woman?” They did not as yet understand his mission to rescue the perishing and save the lost. This poor woman also had the misfortune to be a Samaritan, and above all things Jews hated Samaritans, as aliens and heretics, who dared to call Jacob their father and to believe themselves orthodox. Jews and Samaritans were much alike, and you know the sects that approach nearest to each other usually reserve their bitterest hatred for their next of kin. They will tolerate those who are far removed from them, because they are altogether in the darkness of error, and so are somewhat excusable; but those who have so much light they detest for not seeing eye to eye with themselves. We pity a dumb man, for he cannot speak at all, but we are indignant that one who can say “Sibboleth” will not take a little more trouble and pronounce it “Shibboleth,” as we do. Surely he might go that other inch and be quite right. This woman was one of those Samaritan heretics who had dared to set up an opposition temple to the one at Jerusalem, and say that they also were the people of God; so the disciples shrank from her, and marvelled that Jesus did not do the same. How could so good a man mix himself up with such people? I have, myself, heard a great deal of foolishness spoken about mixing up with certain people, because we dare to meet with them upon some common ground to accomplish a right purpose. I have sometimes wondered whether people ever read of Abraham when he fought for the cause of the king of Sodom. A horrible man, I have no doubt, that monarch was, yet when his country had been plundered by the invading kings, Abraham marched out on behalf of the King of Sodom; not that he cared for him, but that he desired to deliver his nephew Lot. For that reason he is found in some measure of association with Sodom’s king; but when the object upon which they were united was achieved, then see how the princely Abraham washes his hands of the man. He says, “I will not take of thee from a thread even to a shoe-latchet, lest thou shouldest say, ‘I have made Abraham rich.’” Thus there may be a temporary union among men, between whom there is the widest difference, and this apparent unity may be lawful and expedient because the end to be gained is altogether good. Our blessed Lord was seeking the good of this unholy woman, and therefore he was fully justified in talking with her. Thereby he rebuked the superstition of his followers more effectually than by words.

     There is another side to the question. How could these disciples marvel that he spake with anybody, after having chosen them and called them. Surely, when they frowned on others they forgot the dunghills where they grew. If they had only remembered where they were when he found them, and how often they had grieved him by their perverseness, they would have reserved their surprise for their own cases. Ah, brethren, ever since the Lord spoke with me, I have never marvelled that he spoke with anybody: it has not crossed my mind to make it any subject of wonder that he should stoop to the lowest and meanest now that he has stooped to me; yet I fancy I have seen in certain brethren evident signs that they forget that they were themselves once strangers in Egypt. They forget that grace washed and cleansed them, or else they would have been filthy still, for Paul truly saith, “such were some of you.” I am sorry when saved ones affect superfine purity and marvellous spirituality, and turn away from such as Jesus would have welcomed. Alas, such disciples have little of the tenderness of their Master! Our divine Lord has more tenderness for sinners than the whole of us put together. There is more love in his soul towards lost ones than there is in all these thousands of believers here present, though I hope that many of your hearts beat high with a loving desire that the guilty may be delivered from the wrath to come. But look at the disciples! See, yonder is John, that sweet-souled John, and yet he marvels: and there is Peter, good but faulty, and he marvels: and there is Thomas the thoughtful, and he marvels. They are all good men, and yet they are marvelling that Jesus is gracious to a poor woman. Oh, Peter, and John, and James, and the rest of you, look into your own hearts, and let a glance of the Holy Spirit lighten up the darkness of your spirits, and you will renounce this self-righteous marvelling which grieves the woman, and you will enter into deeper sympathy with your Lord’s love. Dear friends, let us never disdain the worst of men or women, but seek with all our might to woo and win them for our Lord. Oh, to have bowels of mercies as Jesus had! This will well become the followers of the compassionate Son of man.

     See, as the result of this conduct of the disciples, one of the sweetest conferences that was ever held was broken up, and brought to a close at its very climax. Just when Jesus had said, “I that speak unto thee am he,” then it must end, for here they come, these cold, unsympathetic ones. Yet they were disciples, were they not? Oh, yes, and true disciples, too; but, alas, no breakers of communion are more blamable or more frequent in the offence than Christ’s own disciples when they are out of sympathy with their Master. You see, they are thinking about the meat, and about the Saviour’s need of it: and these thoughts were most proper, but not very elevated or spiritual; and they come wondering that Jesus speaks with a woman, and so the holy conference ends, and the woman must go. Oh, when any of you draw near to Christ, and he is just lifting the silver veil from his dear face, and your eyes are beginning to behold him, mind that you keep your door shut. “Oh, but it is a good man at the door.” Yes, but he will be just as likely to mar your fellowship as anybody else. The best of men may sometimes intrude between you and the Well-beloved, and fellowship which seemed as if it must mellow into heaven itself will come to a speedy and sorrowful close. I do not blame Peter that he wanted tabernacles in which to remain upon the top of the mount; for he was pretty well aware of what he might meet upon the plain. Do you not often wish that you could sing—

“Sequester’d from the noise and strife,
The lust, the pomp, and pride of life;
For heaven I will my heart prepare,
And have my conversation there.”

     Although the conference was thus broken up, the consequence thereof was the Lord’s glory, even as often out of evil he worketh good. Since the woman cannot sit and gaze upon the divine face of her Lord, nor hear the strange music which flowed from his blessed lips, she will give herself to holy activity: she goes her way to the city, and she speaks to the men. This is well: there is little to deplore when men’s hearts are so right that you cannot take them off from glorifying Christ, do what you may; when if you disturb their private communion they are ready at once for public service. Driven away from sitting, like Mary, at the Master’s feet, let us rise to play the Martha, by preparing a table for the Lord. Always reckon, dear friends, whenever you are taken off from your usual course of life, as it were by a jerk, that the Lord has some special work for you to do. Do not fret, or try to back the engine to get on the old lines again. No, if the switch is turned by the divine hand, go on; he that has the management of all the railroads of your life knows better which way your soul should go than you yourself can know. I have observed Christian people jerked out of a pious family where they were extremely happy, and placed in the midst of ungodliness, a situation not of their own choosing or seeking, but appointed of the Lord, that they may bring godliness into that house, and shed light in the midst of the darkness. Friend, you, too, may be taken away from this church where your soul has flourished, and you may feel like one banished and bereaved. Well, never mind. If you are sent to some church where everything is dreary and dead, go there like a firebrand to set them on flame. Your Lord would not have permitted the breaking up of your peace unless he had some high service for you. Since you are his servant, find out his will, and do it. God will thus honour himself in you, and by-and-by he will honour and comfort you also.

     Observe that the woman now becomes a messenger for Christ. She has to quit conferring with him to go and testify about him. She did not go unbidden though, for she recollected that the Lord had said at an early period of the conversation, “Go, call thy husband, and come hither.” So she goes to call her husband. It is well to have a warrant for what we do. Observe, she interprets her orders very liberally. She thought as the Christ had said, “Thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband,” he could not have limited her errand to one who was not her husband except in name, and so she might as well call any of the six men with whom she had dwelt, and therefore she might speak to all the men who were loitering about the public square, and tell them what she had seen. Remember how our Saviour gave a large interpretation of his own prophetic mission. He was not sent as a teacher except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, but he went to the very edge of his diocese, if he did not go over it. He went to the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and when a woman came out of those parts he had healing for her daughter; though he did sow most of his seed upon the acres of the Holy Land, yet he made it fly over the boundary; in fact, he sowed all the ages, and on this once barbarous island there have fallen blessed handfuls which are bringing forth fruit to his glory. Always go to the verge of your commission, never stop short of it. Try to do more good than you can, and it is very possible that you will be successful. Indeed, if you only try to do what you can do you will do little; but when in faith you attempt what you cannot alone accomplish, God will be at your back, and in your weakness his strength shall be made clear.

     Notice that the woman leaves her waterpot. The Spirit of God thought well to record this circumstance, and therefore 1 think there must be a measure of teaching in it. She left her waterpot, first, for speed. Perhaps you have got it into your head that it was an ordinary English waterpot, such as you water the garden with: possibly you so picture it, rose and all. Nothing of the sort: it was a big jar, or large pitcher of earthenware, she had to carry on her head or her shoulder, quite a load for her, and so she left it that she might run the more quickly. She was a wise woman to leave her waterpot when she wanted to move rapidly. Others think she did so because she was so taken up with her errand that she forgot her pitcher. It is blessed forgetfulness which comes of absorption in a holy design. When the King’s business requireth haste it is wise to leave behind everything that would hinder. Our Lord Jesus himself forgot his hunger in his zeal to guide a soul to peace, and it is said of him in the Psalm, “I forget to eat my bread.” He was so absorbed in his heavenly work that he said, “I have meat to eat that ye know not of.” A man has hardly felt the power of eternal things unless at times he forgets some earthly matters. If a man is called to rush for his life through a room full of crockery there will, probably, be a number of breakages. You cannot think of everything at once; your mind is limited, and it is not advisable that you should divide the strength of your thoughts by having two or more aims. So she left her waterpot. Without thought she hit upon as good an action as thought would have suggested. The waterpot would have hindered her, but it might be useful to the Christ and his disciples. Thus they could give him to drink. He was thirsty, and probably so were they, and with her pitcher they could help themselves. Besides, it was a pledge that she was coming back. She said thereby, “I am running away on an errand, but I shall come back again. 1 have not listened to the great Teacher for the last time. I shall return, and hear him further, till I know him better and trust him more fully.” So it was significant that she left her waterpot. Sometimes you will have to leave your shop to win a soul. You will cast up a row of figures wrongly, and wonder why; and the reason will be that before your mind there fluttered the soul of a swearer or the figure of a drunkard, or the image of a fallen woman, and your heart was filled with the longing to find the lost sheep. Never mind. I dare say the woman had her waterpot again, and you will get back to business again, and rectify your blunder, and attend to the shop, and set all matters right; and if a soul is saved you will have made a profit by any loss you have sustained.

     We have started the woman on her mission; now I want you to observe particularly her mode of address, for there is teaching here. She said to the men, “Come, see a man, that told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” Observe first, when she did go back to the men she had but one aim, and that was to bring them to Jesus. She cries, “Come, see.” She did not tell them anything about their sin at the time, nor try to reform their habits; she called them at once to him who could set them right. She knew that if she could bring them to Christ all things would come right inevitably. It is good for you to shoot only at one target. Choose your design and aim at it, and not at two objects. Drive away at the souls of men in the name of God to get them to Christ, and nothing short of him. Labour for this; be willing to live for this, and to die for this, that men may be saved by Immanuel’s love, and blood, and Spirit. This Samaritan woman aimed at this object and tried to gain it by an exceedingly earnest address. I warrant you she said it very prettily: “Come, come, come, see a man that told me all things that ever I did”: perhaps with all her charms, with all the softness of her winsome tongue, with all the entreaty of her bright eyes, she cried, “Come, every one of you; come, see for yourselves, a man which told me all things that ever I did.” If you go upon the Lord’s errands take your heart with you; speak every single syllable earnestly; and if you are thoroughly alive you will not need to be taught the way of doing it. The way comes naturally to those whose hearts are set upon the end.

     She spoke self-forgetfully: she seemed entirely to have forgotten herself, and yet she remembered herself,— a paradox, but not a contradiction. She said, “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did.” She quoted herself, and yet if she had thought of herself she would not have said a word on the subject of her own life. She might have feared that the men would have replied,— “A pretty story that must be!” They knew her well, and might have turned round and said, “You are a beauty, to come here and talk to us in this style!” No; she let them talk of her as they pleased. “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did.” That putting aside of all affectation, that genuine simplicity, was part of her power. Never try to be otherwise than you are. If you have been a great sinner, be ashamed of it, but do not be ashamed of that love which saved you from it, so as to refuse to bear witness to its power. Put away the thought of what people will think of you, and only look to what they will think of Jesus for having forgiven and renewed you.

     Note how short she was. Ralph Erskine calls her the female preacher. I am not so sure of the correctness of the title. If women preached just as long as she did, and no longer, no one could find fault with them; her testimony lies is all in one verse, and is just an invitation and a question. There needed no more words; no, not another half a word. She said exactly enough; for she was successful in leading the men to Jesus, who could do the preaching far better than she could. I cannot call her words a sermon; at any rate, you would not care for me to preach so briefly. However, brevity is a great virtue. Do not crave to be fluent, only ask to be earnest.

     Then, how vivacious she was. “Come, see a man.” The words are all alive, and very far from being dull and heavy. “Come, see.” It is almost as laconic as Julius Caesar’s famous dispatch: “I came, I saw, I conquered.” “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?”

     Then, it was so sensible. There is a dispute about the exact force of what the woman said, but most of those who give us precise translations differ from our common version. It is what she meant and believed, but not exactly what she said. She probably said, “Come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did: Can this be the Christ?”— or, “This is not the Christ, is he?” She did not say he was, but she suggested it with great modesty for the men to examine. She, believed that Jesus was the Christ, but she knew that men do not like to be taught by such as she, and so she humbly threw it out for their examination. “Can this be the anointed One whom we are expecting? come and judge.” She did not express all she believed, lest she should provoke them to opposition; she was adroit and wise. She fished after the manner of her Master, for she could not but feel how dexterously he had fished for her. She was an apt scholar, and humbly copied the Friend who had blessed her: “Come, see a man, who told me all things that ever I did: can this possibly be the Christ?” This led them to come, if it was only to set the woman right. Possibly they thought her a poor, mistaken body; but in their superior wisdom they would look into the matter, and so the thing she desired was granted her. Oh, to have our wits about us for Jesus!

     But the argument is exceedingly strong, let her put it how she may. “This man has told me all things that ever I did.” She might have said, if she thought it wise to say it, “He must be the Christ;” and that is my last point, namely, the grand argument drawn from herself, and adapted to the men. Observe the force of her reasoning. His power to read her heart, and manifest her to herself, was conclusive evidence to her that a special anointing was upon him.

     But before I get at that I must have you examine more fully the whole of the woman’s little message, of which it was a part. It divides itself into two parts. You have been looking for firstly and secondly all this while, and now you shall have them. There are two parts in her sermon. The first is the invitation: “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did”: the second is the argument: “Is not this the Christ?”

     I. Consider at once THE INVITATION. It is a clever as well as a genuine and hearty invitation. She says, “Come, see.” This was putting it most fairly, and men like a fair proposal, and the Holy Spirit works by means which suit the mind. She does not say, “You must and shall believe what I say.” No, no; she is too sensible: she says, “Come and see for yourselves”: and that is exactly what I want to say to every unconverted person here this morning. My Lord Jesus is the most precious Saviour that I ever dreamed of. Come and test him! He is altogether lovely, and he has blessed my soul unspeakably; but I do not want you to believe because of my saying: come and see for yourselves. Can anything be fairer? Seek him by prayer: trust him by faith: test his gospel for yourselves. It is an old-fashioned exhortation: “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good,” and, again, “Prove me now, saith the Lord of hosts.” In fact, this is Christ’s own word to the first disciples, “Come and see and they used it when pleading with others, saying to them, “Come and see.”

     Moreover, this woman’s invitation throws the responsibility upon them. She says, “Come and see.” Thus would I say to you,— If you do not come and see, I cannot help it, and I cannot help you either. I cannot stand sponsor for you: use your own judgments and clear your own consciences. Come and see on your own accounts. If you do not, then the blame must rest with you. If you do, then your personal investigation will be sure to end in a blessing. O dear hearers, I may preach the gospel to you, but I cannot go to Christ in your stead. It is mine to entreat and persuade, and to use every kind of means by which I may get you to the Saviour; but it is a personal matter with each of you. Oh that the Holy Spirit would lead you to come yourselves to Jesus; for it must be your own act and deed through his blessed working upon your nature. You must come, you must repent, you must believe: you must lay hold on eternal life for yourselves. Nothing but personal religion can possibly save you. The woman’s call was a good exhortation in that respect.

     Then, is it not pleasantly put, so as to prove the sympathy of the speaker? She does not say, as she might have said, “Go, see a man.” No; “Come, see a man,” as much as to say, “Come along; I will go with you and lead the way. You shall not say I have seen enough of him and do not care to go again, and now want to send you packing there alone because I am tired of him. No; come! Come along; come with me— we will all go together. The more I have seen of him the more I want to see. Come, see the wondrous man.” Dear friends, when you try to win a soul do not try the “go” system, but use the “come” system. When man cries, “I cannot go to Christ,” or, “I will not go to Christ,” look at him through your tears and cry out, “Friend, I am a sinner like yourself, and have no hope but in the precious blood of Jesus. Come, let me pray with you: let us go to Jesus together.” Then, when you pray, do not say, “Lord, I am one of thy saints, and come to thee bringing this sinner.” That may be true, but it is not a wise way of speaking. Cry, “Lord, here are two sinners that deserve thy wrath, and we come to ask thee in thy pity to give the Saviour to us, and renew our hearts by thy Spirit.” That is the way God helps soul-winners to draw others. When we say, “Come,” let us lead the way ourselves. What you wish another to do it will be wise to do yourself, for example has more power than precept. How would you like the sinner to turn round upon you and say, “You may well give away advice when you do not intend to use it yourself.” No; but “Come, see a man that told me all things that ever I did.” A sister’s heart spoke out in that word, “Come.”

     Again, what a blessed vanishing of the speaker there is. I have heard of brethren whose preaching is spoilt because they are so self-conscious. The man wishes you to feel that he is speaking in first-rate style, and is an eminent divine. When he has finished, the common exclamation is, “I never heard such a clever man.” But he was not so wise as he might have been or should have been, for he who preaches rightly makes you forget himself; in fact, the observation about him, if it comes out at all, is in this fashion— “I did not detect any eloquence; anybody might have talked like that, but somehow I have felt as I never felt before.” The fish knows little about the angler, but he knows when he has swallowed the hook. When the truth has gone right home to the hearer’s heart the form of speech is of little consequence. This woman does not say anything to make the Samaritan men admire herself, but she draws to Jesus with the exhortation, “Come, see a man.” What she does mention about herself is with the design of extolling the Saviour. That is a grand sentence of John the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease,” Less, less, less of John, that there may be all the more of Christ. There is but one great universe, and Christ and you are in it. The more space you occupy there must be so much the less for Jesus. When you get less and less there is more for Jesus; and when you reach the vanishing point then Jesus is all in all; and that is exactly what you should aim at. This sensible woman’s invitation deserves to be copied by every worker.

     II. Now for THE ARGUMENT, with which I close. An argument lies concealed here, and if you look at the text a minute or two you will discover it. She conceals it because she is persuaded that they have already agreed to it. It is this: “If Jesus be the Christ, the Anointed, then it is fit that you should come with me and see him.” She does not argue that point, because every Samaritan agreed to it. If Jesus be the Christ then we ought to go and listen to him, look at him, and become his followers. Alas, my dear hearers, I am obliged to urge that argument with many of you, because you are not so practical as these Samaritans. You believe that Jesus is the Christ; I suppose every man and woman of you does that: why. then, do you not believe in him as your Saviour? You never had a doubt about his Godhead: why is he not your God? “If I tell you the truth,” says Christ, “why do you not believe me?” If this be the Anointed One whom God hath sent to take away the sins of men why have you nob sought him that he may rid you of your sins? If this be the propitiation which God has set forth, why have you not accepted this propitiation? If this be the fountain wherein sin can be washed away, why are you not washed? There is no reason in your course of action; it is illogical and irrational. If there be a Saviour, the man who is taught right reason vows that he will have him: if there be a fountain that can wash away sin he resolves to be washed in it: if he can get right with God by any process he hastens to be rectified. I say, this woman did not argue the point, because it did not need arguing. It goes without saying, and there let it stand.

     But what she did argue was this: “This man who was just now sitting on the well, is he not the Christ?” How did she prove it? First, she did as good as say, “He must be Christ, because he has revealed me to myself: he has told me all things that ever I did.” The words are wide. Stop, dear woman; surely he has not revealed all your life, certainly not in words. He has revealed your unchastity, but nothing else. But she was right. Were you ever out in a black and murky night when a single lightning-flash has come. It has only smitten one oak in the field, but in so doing it has revealed all the landscape. It struck one object, but all around you was light as day for the moment. So, when the Lord Jesus Christ revealed this woman’s lustfulness, she saw clearly the whole of her life at a single view, and the Lord had indeed told her all things that ever she did. Do you wonder that she said, “Is not this the Christ?”

     Beloved, no one proves himself to be truly anointed unless he begins by showing you your sins. If any teacher leads you to hope that, without repentance, or any sense of sin, you may be saved, he is not of Christ. I charge you fling away any hope which is not consistent with your own entire hopelessness apart from Jesus. If you have not known yourself a sinner you cannot know Christ as a Saviour. Some are preaching up nowadays a dry-eyed faith, and men seem to jump into assurance as if there were no new birth, no conviction of sin, and no repentance. But it is not so: “Ye must be born again.” That birth is not without pangs. Trust in Christ brings a hatred of sin and a mourning because of it. A man cannot hate what he does not know; but this woman was made to see her sin, and that sight proved that the Messiah was dealing with her. The non-repentance prophets cry, “Peace, peace,” where there is no peace: they film the sore, but Jesus puts the lancet into it, lays it wide open, and makes the patient see the gangrene of the wound, and then he closes it up, and with his heavenly ointment makes a sure cure of it. There is no binding up the heart that was never broken: there is no comforting a man who has always been comfortable: there is no making a man righteous who always was righteous: there is no washing a man who has no filthiness. No, and this is what the Messiah does: he lays bare the disease, and this is a proof that he is sent of God, because he does not adopt the flimsy, flattering mode of deceivers, but goes straight to the truth. Her argument is,— He must be the Messiah, for he revealed me to myself.

     Secondly, he must he the Messiah, for he has revealed himself to me. “No sooner did I see my filthiness than I saw at once that he was every way ready to cleanse me.” A sinner’s eye is never ready to see the Saviour till first it has seen the sin. When the man sees despair written across the face of human strength, then he turns and sees hope mildly beaming from the kind eyes of the Son of man: but not till then. Jesus has revealed himself, and now she says, “I see that he knows me, and knows all about me.” Wonderful it is how the gospel robe exactly fits a man: when he gets it and puts it on he feels that he who made this garment knew his form. Perhaps you have some special weakness or singular deformity; but you soon perceive that Jesus knew all about it, for his salvation exactly meets the lack. There is a bath: ah, he knew I was filthy. There is a robe: ah, he knew I was naked. There is eyesalve: he knew that I was blind. Here is a ring for my finger: he knew I wanted a forget-me-not to keep me in memory of mercy received. Here are shoes for my bare feet, and a banquet for my griping hunger. Every want is forestalled, and this proves the omniscience of my Saviour. “Therefore,” said she, “he knows all about me: he must be infinitely wise; he must be the Christ.” This is good arguing, is it not?

     Then she seemed to say to them too, “This is more to me a great deal than it can be to you; for he has dealt personally with me; therefore I abide in my assurance that he is the Christ: but go and learn the same arguments for yourselves.” Brethren, if the Lord Jesus Christ had told this woman all that ever her third husband did it would have had far less power over her than telling her all she had done herself. When conviction comes personally home, and the discovery is all about your own state and character, it has a special power over your heart and mind to make you say, “This is the Christ.” Also, my brethren, at the remembrance of my Lord’s surgery when I was wounded and sore broken, I am ready to cry, “See how he handles me. Never was a hand so strong and yet so tender: never a physician with such a lion’s heart and such a lady’s hand. I can feel his strength as he upholds me and I can feel his tenderness as he embraces me. Surely he is the Anointed, and sent of the Lord to bind up the brokenhearted, for he has bound up my broken heart. The case is proved to me: come and experience the like conviction within yourselves.”

     Moreover, and perhaps there is force in this which has not been noticed, she says, “Come, see,” as much as to say, “You may come, I know, for when I came to the well he did not look daggers at me; and when I did not give him water he did not grow hot with me and say, ‘Disrespectful woman, I will not speak to you.’ No, but I was at home with him in a moment. Come, see a man who made himself so at home with me that he told me all that ever I did. I am sure he must be the Messiah. The Messiah is to come to open the blind eyes, and he must needs be among the blind to perform the miracle. lie is to fetch prisoners out of prison, and they are the lowest class that are in prison, and yet he goes to them. So, come along. I will go first, and introduce you to him.”

     That is the woman’s little speech, and how good it is! I am going to add a bit to it which she did not know, but which we know. I wish I knew how to say something that would make you unconverted ones hurry to Christ, but if anything ought to do so it is this. Suppose you never do come to Christ in this life, and die without him. God grant you may not die without having listened to him and received him; but if you do you will be wakened up at the last day from your grave with the blast of a terrible trumpet, and with the cry of “Come to judgment! Come to judgment! Come away!” Whether you will or not, you will have to come, and see a man sitting upon the great white throne, judging the nations; and do you know what he will do with you then? He will tell you all things that ever you did, and as the scenes pass before your mind’s eye, and as your own words go ringing again through your ear, you will be sore distressed. Perhaps this morning’s scene will be revived before you, and conscience will tell you, “You were at the Tabernacle that morning: the gospel was put plainly to you, by one who in his heart longed for you to be saved; but you did despite to all those entreaties, and turned away.” I tell you it will be your hell for Jesus to tell you all things that ever you did, and you then will see the argument: “Is not this the Christ?” But, alas, he will be no Saviour to you, for you refused him. He will then tell you, “I called, but you refused; I stretched out my hands, but no man regarded.” Still shall proceed that awful tale of all things that ever you did, concluding with this,— you refused mercy, you rejected Jesus, you turned away from salvation, you would not have this man to save you, and therefore have you come to have your past made the fuel for your everlasting burning. God grant that no one here may ever come to that. No, if I had the task to select one man out of this congregation that would have to spend an eternity in having his life rehearsed to him, where should I find him? No, I cannot see one that I dare to pitch upon, not one,— not one,— not even the worst man or woman here. I would not if I could. O God, of thy mercy suffer no one here to know the terror of being driven away for ever from thy presence and the glory of thy power, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.