The Pastor’s Life Wrapped Up with His People’s Steadfastness: A Pleading Reminder for the New Year.

By / Jun 22

THE PASTOR’S LIFE WRAPPED UP WITH HIS PEOPLE’S STEADFASTNES: A PLEADING REMINDER FOR THE NEW YEAR.

 

“Now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.” — 1 Thessalonians iii. 8.

 

MINISTERS, who are really sent of God, greatly rejoice in the spiritual prosperity of their people. If they see God’s word prosper, they prosper; if the church of God is blessed, they are blessed. Their life is wrapped up in the spiritual life of their people. Never is the servant of God so full of delight as when he sees that the Holy Spirit is visiting his hearers, making them to know the Lord, and confirming them in that heavenly knowledge. On the other hand, if God does not bless the word of his servants it is like death to them. To be preaching and to have no blessing makes them heavy of heart: the chariot-wheels are taken off, and they drag heavily along: they seem to have no power nor liberty. They get depressed, and they go back to their Master, with this complaint, “Who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?” He revives and cheers them, and they come back again to their service; but yet if they do not see a manifest blessing resting upon the people, they cry and sigh, and are like dying men. If the Lord willed to do so, he might have made automatons to preach; and these would only need to be wound up, and to be allowed to run down again; they would have known no feelings of joy or of sorrow, and would have been invulnerable to the arrows of grief. We have heard of the Iron Duke; iron preachers would have been enduring instruments, and would never have been laid aside by mental depression.

     But the sympathy of the preacher is God’s great instrument for blessing the hearer. If you read a sermon in a book it is good; but if you hear it preached fresh from the man’s heart, it is far more effective. There is a living fellow-feeling about it, and that is the power which God has in all ages been pleased to use— the power of a spirit which God has made sensitive with affection, so sensitive that it rises to joy when its affectionate purpose is accomplished, and sinks to depths of grief when that purpose fails. This, I take it, is what the apostle means when he says, “Now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.” The people can make the pastor happy beyond expression by their being rich in grace and happy in Christ; but they can make him miserable beyond all description if they are either unstable or insincere.

     Dearly beloved, I have often rejoiced in God as I have seen the work of the Spirit among you. It is no small joy that for many years have never been without an increase to the church. With few exceptions we have never gathered at our monthly communions without receiving a considerable number into our membership. During these years some have turned back, to our great sorrow, and some have flagged, to our solemn grief; but others have persistently carried on the work of God, and have developed gifts and graces which have made them qualified for larger spheres; so that at this day those at home come behind in no gift, and those abroad do not forget the hallowed training of Zion. In every part of the earth some are engaged in holy service who have gone out from this church. For all this our heart must be grateful. But these are evil times; these are times the like of which I have not before seen, in which the foundations are removed, and “what shall the righteous do?” The winds are out. The tacklings are loosed. The mariners reel to and fro. Everything seems drifting. Men know not where they are. Half the professing Christians of the present day do not know their heads from their heels, and the half that do know seem inclined to take to their heels and run, rather than stand steadfast in the faith and wait till evil days are over. It is time that we spoke to you concerning steadfastness, that you be not like idle boys, that leap hedges and ditches after every nest that silly birds may choose to make; but that you keep to the King’s highway of holiness and truth, and hold fast to the doctrines and the practices which are taught us in the word of God. I say to you by this discourse, “Now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.” It is a matter of life and death to us that you should be rooted, grounded, and settled.

     Notice first, that some are not in the Lord; secondly, some appear to be in the Lord, but they are not standing fast; and thirdly, that some in the Lord stand fast in the Lord, and these are our life: “Now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.”

     I. First, SOME ARE NOT IN THE LORD AT ALL. A solid mass of infidelity and godlessness hems us in. Our heart is heavy, because this great city is determined to shut its eyes to the light. There are streets upon streets in which none attend the house of God; and we have it on credible information, that, in certain districts, if one man in a street is seen to go regularly to a place of worship, his neighbours mark him as a singular being. The home-born Londoner of the working classes, as a rule, has no care for the place of worship. If I were living in the country I think I would be content with but half a wage sooner than come and dwell in this ungodly place. Our members try to bring up their children in God’s fear, but they are often compelled to quit their homes because of the filthy conduct of those who defile our streets. Yet this is not my present theme.

     Our greater sorrow is that there are many who hear the gospel and are not in the Lord. We are not sorry that they should come to hear the word; would to God that all Christless souls would hear of Christ! But we are sorry that they have come month after month, year after year, and have received no saving benefit. I still meet here and there with those who tell me, “I used to hear you in Park-street, and Exeter Hall,” and yet I gather from them that they are undecided. I have small hope for them if thirty years of ministry have not brought them to Christ. At any rate these many years add to the dreadful probability that they will continue to make the word of God to be unto themselves a savour of death unto death. If I could pick out of this audience to-night, by infallible guidance, one man or one woman, and could point to that person and say, “Such a one will certainly go down to hell to endure the everlasting wrath of God”; and if you knew that I was speaking like a prophet from God, and that it was certainly so, you would turn round and look with deepest grief upon that doomed soul. You would shudder to be sitting in the same pew. And yet though, thank God, we may not speak with that certainty, the probability grows so great as almost to amount to a certainty concerning those upon whom entreaties have been wasted, upon whom expostulations have been wasted, by whom invitations have been refused, that they will continue to harden their hearts until at last they sink into the place where mercy never enters.

     Ah, Lord, these are heavy tidings, and thy saints feel them! I know I am speaking to many who deeply sympathize with me when I say, that the thought of this is a worm that makes our joys decay— I mean the thought that some of you contribute to God’s work, and are in many points excellent, and yet you lack the one thing needful, and after having joined with God’s people in outward acts of devotion you will be driven from his presence for ever. O infinite mercy, grant that it may not be so, but may these men and women even now be led to believe in Jesus and be saved! We die when we think of those who are not in the Lord at all. How it would revive us if we could see them saved!

     If there be a deadening influence about the thought that some few among us are not converted, think of what the effect must be upon a minister’s mind if he shall have laboured long and seen no fruit. There may be instances in which a man has been faithful, but not successful; places where, for a time, the dew falls not, and the softening influences of the Spirit are not given. Then the soil breaks the ploughshare, and the weary ox is ready to faint. I began to preach while yet a youth, scarce sixteen years of age, but before I had preached half a dozen times I saw persons affected by those sermons. I pined to find some heart that had looked to Jesus while I had preached him; and I have photographed upon my eye-balls at this very moment a very humble clay-walled cottage which seemed to me to be a sacred spot, for I was told by a venerable deacon that it was the house of a poor woman who had sought and found the Saviour through my ministry. I did not let the week conclude till I had seen her, for I hungered for the joy of meeting with one whom I had brought to Christ. If I found one soul converted I took heart and looked for more. Brother, are you working for Jesus? Then you know what it is to feel the shadow of death when you do not win a soul. Does it not seem hard to be knocking for Christ against a door that never opens, but has fresh bolts put to it to keep it closed? Be not ashamed of yourself because you feel distressed; it proves your capacity for being used. By-and-by God will bless you, and then you will understand the text “How we live.” You will find that your pulse is quickened, your heart’s blood warmed, your soul filled with a diviner life as you rise nearer to the dignity of a saviour of men, and taste the joys unspeakable for which Christ laid down his life.

     II. We notice, secondly, that THERE ARE SOME WHO PROFESS TO BE IN CHRIST, BUT THEY CERTAINLY ARE NOT STANDING FAST. This is a Marah— a bitter well; this is a source of heart-break and of sore tribulation to the servant of God in whom the Spirit of God dwells, namely, that, first, there are many over whom we rejoice who, nevertheless, altogether apostatize. Use the best judgment that you can, there will be some added to a church who are not really the Lord’s people. They do run well; “what doth hinder them that they should not obey the truth?” They appear to begin in the Spirit, yet by-and-by they attempt to be made perfect in the flesh. Oh, foolish ones, “Who hath bewitched you?” They seem to be all that we want them to be for a time, but soon they are nothing that they should be: and this does not happen merely during the first six months or so, else might we set them on probation; but, alas, it has happened to men that have grown grey in the church, esteemed and honoured, and yet they have fallen till their names cannot be mentioned without sorrow. We can never feel sufficiently grateful to our Lord for allowing a Judas to be among the twelve, for thus, he himself bore what has been to his servants the most crushing of griefs. The man that went to the house of God in company with us has betrayed, not us alone, but our Master, and the truth. This has often happened in the history of the church, and therefore we may expect it; but whenever it comes it is a stab to the very soul, and Paul, I think, if he were here, would say, “Now we die, because these men do not stand fast in the Lord.” Happy am I to have been so largely spared this heart-wounding calamity. Oh, my brethren, we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord; but it is as death to us if you turn aside!

     But there are other forms of instability. Many do not behave in such a way that we could remove their names from the church-roll; but they decline in grace. Far too many grow worldly, and it is especially the case when they grow wealthy. Well did one say to me the other day who has risen to riches, “I almost regret that I have ever changed my position, for I find my difficulties wonderfully increased— my difficulties especially with my family. They ask for things now in the form of amusements which they never would have thought of if I had not become wealthy.” When a man toils and moils to heap riches together he is laboriously endeavouring to make it difficult for him to be saved; yet some think that the main object of life is to load themselves so that they cannot easily follow after Christ. It is poor progress to grow rich in gold but poor in grace.

     We see others whom we look upon as likely to be leaders and helpers, who, if not from this cause yet from some other, are diverted from the work of God. We do not now expect to see them at the prayer-meeting: it would be rather astonishing if they came in. We do not now expect them to conduct a tract society, or a lay-preaching association, or a Sunday-school; for they are careless as to the salvation of souls. We know some who were once full of zeal; but now they are neither cold nor hot. These may seem trifles to the thoughtless, but they are not trifles to those who watch after their souls, and will have to give an account. Whenever I have seen it I have said to myself, “How much of this is due to me? How much must I blame myself for this?” And one cannot answer that question immediately. Many thoughts and searching considerations are needed; but, believe me, there is nothing which eats more like a sharp acid into a man’s inmost soul to cause him a daily grief than when he sees those that profess to be servants of Christ not answering to the processes of grace, but acting like worldly men. There are some of whom I must speak even weeping, because they vex our spirit by their neglect of their Master’s business.

     In these days there are other forms of this lack of steadfastness, and they come up in this way. Some are always shifting their doctrinal opinions. Within the last ten years we have had the most remarkable selection of abominations in the way of new doctrines that ever cursed our human race. If all the heresies that have been vamped were true, I do not know whether there would remain either heaven, or hell, or earth, or God, or man, for all these have been removed by the foul finger of doubt. Some go in not so much for disbeliefs as for fanaticisms; and, believing nothing one day, the world is to believe everything the next. We have already miracles restored to us, and a daring person has arisen who assumes the name of Christ. A bottomless pit of fanaticism is yawning. Hell from beneath is vomiting all manner of absurdities to vex the church of God. Now is the time for steadfastness. It is a blessed thing for a man to know what he does believe, and to hold it; to have no ear for novelty-mongers, but to say, “If it be new it is not true. I have my colours nailed to the mast, and I cannot take them down.”

     We know some who are not steadfast in their service of Christ. When a man claims to be perfect he is wholly useless to us: he is sure to leave his work. He wants all his time to admire his own perfections. It is not possible for him to be of any further service among such poor sinners as we are, and off he goes to stand by himself and say, “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are.” I would a great deal sooner remain imperfect and be of some use to God and man, than brag of my excellence and do nothing. Brethren, stick to your work for God. If you preach, preach on. If called to teach in the Sunday-school, at your peril leave your class. If God has bidden you go from door to door with tracts, stick to it; and when the Lord himself shall come, you cannot be found in a better attitude than in that of discharging the offices to which he has called you. He would not have us stand with our mouths wide open gazing into the air. The best attitude for a servant when his Master comes is to be found doing his Master’s will.

     We live, if ye stand fast in the Lord as to doctrine and as to holy service, and especially we live if the Lord keeps you, dear brethren, true in the matter of holy conversation. I call that holiness which minds its work at home. I call that holiness which makes a kind father, a true brother, an obedient child, and makes me mind my daily calling, and see that there I make others happy and so commend the gospel to them. See to it that your personal characters in secret before God, and at home before your friends, and outside in the world, where eagle eyes watch to perceive your infirmities, are spotless and unblameable; for then we live. But when men can turn round and fling in our teeth “These are your Christians, and they deal as others deal, and talk as others talk,” then down goes our spirit, and we wish we could die. It is life to lead a band of earnest steadfast men who know the truth, and live the truth, and are ready to die for the truth. This is an honour of which we feel we are unworthy, though we aspire to it. But to lead inconsistent, dubious, half-hearted, idle people onward to some imaginary goal, is a doom compared with which death itself is light.

     Now, dear brothers and sisters, the reason why every true minister sinks in heart when those who seem to be in Christ do not stand fast is this— that unless men are steadfast the church is weakened. The strength of any church must be the aggregate of the strength of all the members put together; therefore if you have a set of weak brethren you multiply the weakness of each one by the number of the membership. What a hospital is the result! If each believer be strong, then the whole church is strong; and that is our desire: we pine to see the church of God vigorous in her holy calling. If believers are steadfast, then God is glorified. Transient piety brings no glory to God. God is not honoured by that religion which is taken up to-day and laid down to-morrow. It is only by perseverance— ay, and perseverance to the end, that glory is brought to God.

     The minister is disappointed of his reasonable expectations when men do not stand fast, He is like a farmer who sees the seed grow, but just when it is about to yield him a crop he spies out black smut, and his wheat is blighted. He may well weep over the fact that it went so far and yet failed so utterly. Judge, ye mothers, what it is to nurse your children till they are near to manhood, and then to see them sink into the grave. You have wished perhaps that you had been childless sooner than see your dear offspring taken from you thus. Very similar is the sorrow of the true pastor: when he expects that God will be glorified by his converts they turn aside, and his work is lost; or if they do not turn aside unto perdition, yet if they are unstable their joy is lessened and their usefulness is marred, and this is no small thing. We live in your joy, and if you miss it we grieve for your incalculable loss; for believe me there is no joy like the highest form of Christianity, and to lose this is a catastrophe. The beginnings of piety are often bitter; and difficult advances are often made through the sea and through the terrible wilderness; but the higher stage of piety is the Beulah land from which you look into the paradise of God, yourself living on the borders of it. If any child of God should miss the highest joy it is a grief most heavy to those who watch for their souls. Wherefore be ye steadfast, for so we live.

     III. Then THERE ARE SOME WHO ARE IN THE LORD AND WHO STAND FAST IN THE LORD, and these are our life.

     They are our life, because their holy conduct fills us with living confidence. I tell you, brethren, when I have seen the holy generosity of members of this church, making sacrifices to serve the Lord; when I have seen the holy courage of brethren standing up for Jesus, and bearing reproach for the sake of principle, and speaking out the truth in defiance of ridicule; when, in fact, I have seen many things that I will not mention now— I have said to myself these are fruits that could not have been produced except by the truth and by the Spirit of God. Then have I felt very confident in the gospel which has been so adorned by your actions. Certain of our beloved elders and deacons passed away, to our deep sorrow, not very long ago, and when I came down from their death-chambers I did not require any further argument to prove the religion of the Lord Jesus: the Holy Spirit set his seal upon the truth by their joyful departures. If infidels had met me as I left those choice death-beds, I should not have argued with them for a single moment; I should have simply laughed them to scorn, for I should have felt like a man that has looked at the sun till he cannot bear the blaze of it any longer, and then hears a blind man swear that there is no sun. With what confidence we speak when holy lives and joyful deaths prove the gospel!

     Again, how often have I seen fears which have crept into my soul disappointed by my dear people! This is a time of fear, when all Solomon’s men that keep watch about his bed had need each one to carry his sword drawn because of fear in the night. Yet, when I have seen God’s people steadfast, my fears have fled. Yes, I have said, the Lord keepeth the feet of his saints. He is as a wall of fire round about his own. If it were possible, the powers of evil would deceive the very elect; but it is not possible. The saints are steadfast, and each steadfast one cheers his minister, and helps him to lay aside his anxieties, and to rejoice in the certainty that the gospel will triumph.

     The steadfast become our life by stimulating us to greater exertion. I believe that the steadfast help the minister to a high degree of usefulness. When the man of God sees his people living to God at a high rate of piety, he speaks many things which otherwise he never would have spoken. He glories in the work of God, and with no bated breath or trace of hesitation, he points to his people, and cries, “See what God has done!” He exults over his converts with a holy joy. He cries, “See what they used to be and what they are now! See how life has been made to spring up in the midst of death, and how light shines where aforetime darkness reigned.” Take away the living evidences of divine power from the church, and you lower the preacher’s spirit at once, and deprive him of power to demonstrate his commission by the signs that follow it.

     I am sure, dear friends, you would have a deadening influence on me if you were not steadfast in holiness. How can I preach up holiness if some one sitting in the gallery looks down and says, “Yonder is one of his members, and a worse thief I do not know!” Can I preach up the glory of grace when some one cries, “Fine talk; but I saw one of the members of his church half seas over the other night. Is that what is meant by the free spirit?” If behind me there is a regiment of deceivers and hypocrites, my position is horrible. Surely I had better give over the preaching of the gospel when you give over the living of the gospel. My task, in itself difficult, is rendered absolutely impossible if while I preach one thing you live another. Happily it has not been so among you, and you will not permit it to be so in the future. May God. of infinite mercy grant to me that I may live, because Christ lives in you; that I may be strong because I can fall back upon you as my “living epistles, known and read of all men!” Of godly established Christians, I may quote the words of David, “Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: he shall speak with the enemies in the gate.” The best answer to all the opponents of the old-fashioned gospel is the godly zeal of an earnest church. “Now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.”

     I had many things to say unto you, but my time has gone. Only may God the Holy Ghost dwell with the preacher that he may preach the Lord Jesus, and not himself: and may the Spirit of God dwell with you, dear members of this church, that you may live under his bedewings, and may bear his fruit unto the glory of God. As for you that are members of other churches, the Lord make you to be to your own pastors their joy and crown; it will be ill for you if in the day of judgment they have to give an ill account of you. We do not think enough about that trial which each man will have to undergo, or of that account which all under shepherds will have to render in the last great day. It is written “If the watchman warn them not they shall perish, but their blood will I require at the watchman’s hands.” Oh, my Master, when thou searchest my garments for the blood of souls, grant that I may be found clear of the blood of all men. What a heaven this will be!

     Remember that other word, “If the watchman warn them, and they take no heed of the warning, they shall perish; but he has delivered his soul.” May every one of us take care to deliver his soul! It is my highest prayer to be able to make full proof of my ministry, that in all of you I may have an unquestioned testimony to my life-long fidelity to my Lord, and to your souls. Pray for me daily, and for yourselves also, that by our steadfastness this favoured church may be made to live and flourish till our Lord himself shall come.



Commendation for the Steadfast

By / Jun 22

Commendation for the Steadfast

 

“I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.”— Revelation iii. 8, 10.

 

THIS is a message to the angel of the church at Philadelphia, and it is full of instruction to churches and ministers at this present time. “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” The Philadelphian church was not great, but it was good; it was not powerful, but it was faithful. The Spirit says, “Thou hast a little strength.” Every band of believers has some strength: weak as we are in ourselves, the very fact of our possessing faith proves that we have a portion of strength. Still that strength is a matter of degrees; and certain churches have a little strength— but only a little. I suppose that the Philadelphian church had but little strength in the following respects:— the number of its members would be small, and it had therefore but little strength for undertaking any extensive enterprize which would call for numerous bands of workers. The brethren needed all their strength concentrated on their home work, for they were few, and the miss of one or two from home evangelization and edification would be greatly felt. A church may have a very short muster-roll, and yet it may be very dear to God, who thinks more of quality than of quantity, more of obedience than of numbers. They had also little strength in the direction of talent. They were not like that famous church at Corinth, where everybody could teach everybody, but where nobody cared to learn of any one. They had but small ability to speak with tongues, or work miracles, or teach the word; but they adhered faithfully to what they had been taught by the apostles of the Lord: they were not brilliant, but they were sound. Churches with few men of learning or eloquence in them may yet be greatly approved of the Lord, who cares more for grace than learning, more for faith than talent. In all probability they were, like most of the churches of that day, possessed of very little pecuniary strength. They could do but little where money would be required. They were a company of poor people with no man of means among them; and there are many such churches that are peculiarly precious to the heart of God, who cares nothing for gold, and everything for sincerity. Possibly they were little, too, in those things which go side by side with grace: I mean in knowledge, and in power to utter what they knew. This was a pity; but as it was their misfortune and not their fault, they were not blamed for it. The Lord does not blame us for having little strength, but for having little love, little faith, little zeal, little consecration.

     The Philadelphian saints, like the limpet, which has but little strength, stuck firmly to the rock, and they are commended for it. They had little strength, but they kept God’s word, and they did not deny his name. Possibly if they had felt stronger they might have presumptuously quitted the word of the Lord for the opinions of men, as the Galatians did, and then they would have lost their reward. May every church of the Lord Jesus Christ, whether it have little strength or much, be concerned to be steadfast in the faith— loyal to King Jesus— firm in the truths which Christ has taught us by the Holy Ghost.

     But, dear friends, as this expression was used to the angel of the church at Philadelphia, whom I suppose to be the minister of the church, I do not feel that I shall be doing any violence to the text if I take it in reference to each individual; and I have no doubt that there will be individual Christians present at this time who, though they have but little strength, have kept God’s word. If so, they will receive a reward for it, according to the grace of God. They have been firm and steadfast in their confession of the faith once delivered unto the saints, and the Lord who gave them the grace to be so will give them yet more grace as the recompense of their fidelity. We will speak upon the text to-night with a view to that, and we shall notice, first, that there is a word of praise: God praises this faithful messenger of the church. Secondly, he gives him a word of prospect. He says, “I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word.” And then, thirdly, we shall speak upon a word of promise which is in the text in the tenth verse: “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” Oh that my words might call out some faithful ones in these evil days. We need pillars in the house of our God. Where are they to be found?

     I. First I would remind you that our text has in it A WORD OF PRAISE.

     I do not think that we should be so slow as we sometimes are in praising one another. There is a general theory abroad that it is quite right and proper to point out to a brother all his imperfections, for it will be a salutary medicine to him, and prevent his being too happy in this vale of tears. Is it supposed that we shall cheer him on to do better by always finding fault with him? If so, some people ought to be very good by this time, for they have had candid friends in plenty. Find fault with a brother and he will be kept from growing too proud; and he will, no doubt, go forward blessing you very much for your kind consideration in promoting his humility. Remember also that it is so much to the increase of brotherly love to have a clear eye to see the imperfections of our friends. Does anyone in his senses think so? I should suppose that after having given a sufficient trial to that manner of procedure, it would be quite as well at times to try another, and to rejoice in everything which we see of grace in our brethren, and sometimes to thank God in their hearing for what we perceive in them that we are sure is the fruit of the Spirit. If they are what they should be, they will not think so much of our little praises as to be unduly exalted thereby; but they will be sometimes so encouraged as to be nerved to higher and nobler things. If a man deserves my commendation, I am only paying a debt when I give it to him, and it is dishonest to withhold it under the pretence that he would not use the payment rightly. Men who deserve praise can bear it, and some of them oven need it. I should not wonder that the kindly words of God’s people may be but a rehearsal of that “Well done, good and faithful servant” which will one day sound in their ears; and be a useful rehearsal, too, helping them on their weary way. Good men have many conflicts, let us minister to their comfort. At any rate, the great Head of the church did not think it unwise to say to the church at Philadelphia that he thought well of it because it had kept his word. Let us give honour to whom honour is due, and encourage those who are aiming to do right.

     What had these Philadelphian believers done that they should be praised? What they did was this— they kept the word of God: “Thou hast kept my word, and thou hast not denied my name.” What does this mean?

     Does it not mean, first, that they had received the word of God; for if they had not heard it and held it they could not have kept it. It was theirs, they heard it and had no wish to hear anything else. It was theirs, they read it and searched it and made it their own. They hoarded up divine knowledge in their memories, preserved it in their affections, used it in their experience, and practised it in their lives. They were not ashamed of revealed truth, but, on the contrary, they took it for their possession, their heritage, their treasure, their all. I trust that many of us can say that the doctrines of grace are our jewels, our estate, yea, our very life. God has put us in trust with the gospel, and we will sooner part with all that we have than be false to our trust. It is no small privilege so to be taught of the Holy Ghost as to have a taste for the gospel, a deep attachment to the truths of the covenant.

     Next, we may be sure that they loved the word of God. They had an intense delight in it. They appreciated it: they fed upon it. They stored it up as bees store away honey, and they were as ready to defend it as bees are to guard their stores. They meditated upon it; they sought to understand it; they took delight in everything which came from the mouth of God. Men do not keep things which they consider to be valueless: if men in our day had a higher opinion of the truth they would be more valiant for it. People are always ready to part with that for which they have no esteem, and for this very reason many are quite willing to give up the Bible to critics and philosophers, those footpads and burglars of faith. But he that keeps God’s word, we may be sure, is deeply in love with it. Oh, dear child of God, you may be very little in Israel; but if you love the word of God there is a something about you in which God takes delight. He sees you at your Bible-reading, he marks you in your endeavours to get at the meaning of his word, he notes you when you sit down and meditate upon his divine thoughts, and he takes pleasure in your eagerness to know what the will of the Lord is. He says, “I know thy works”; and though you may be one of little influence and little ability, yet he is pleased with you because you are pleased with his word.

     More, however, is meant than simply loving the word, though that is no small thing. It means that they believed it, believed it most thoroughly, and so kept it. I am afraid that there are great truths in God’s word which we do not intelligently believe, but take for granted. We say, “Yes, yes; these doctrines are in the Creed;” and we put them up on the top shelf, and by that very act we lay them aside and do not heartily believe in them for ourselves. We grow very vexed if anybody denies them; but if there is no controversy over them we forget them. Is this wise? We call our opponents heterodox, and our zeal for orthodoxy comes to the front; and yet, after all, it may be that we have never exercised a personal faith about those doctrines, so as to think them out for ourselves. It is a grand thing to work your passage to a truth, to mine your way to the golden ore by digging and clearing. True believers may be likened to those mites in the cheese which eat their way into it, and penetrate into the centre by feeding upon all that lies in their way as they advance. We eat our way into the word of God, we live upon what we learn, tunnelling through the truth with receptive minds. The truth is too great for us ever to absorb it all, but daily and hourly we live upon it. We so believe it, as to treat it as a matter of fact, valuable for everyday use: this is the surest way to keep it, even to the end. Now, dear child of God, as I have said before, you may have but very little strength, you may often be tempted and tried, and cast down; but if you believe the word, there is more for the pleasing of God in a childlike faith than there is in the most glittering profession or in the most showy deeds. Faith is the Koh-i-noor among jewels,— the queen of the virtues. Believe you God’s word, and you have wrought a god-like work. Believe it when others contradict it, and you are a conqueror over them all. Believe it when circumstances seem to make it questionable; believe it when your own heart fails you; believe it when your sin and corruption rise within you like a fountain of foul waters: thus shall you give glory to the God of truth. Still hold on to the promise made to you in the word of God, and to the manifestation of God which is seen in Christ Jesus, and you will be doing your God the honour which he deserves at your hands, and he will say, “I know thy works; for thou hast a little strength, but thou hast kept my word.”

     Furthermore, in addition to the inner possession and the hearty belief of the truth, we must be ready to adhere to it at all times. That, perhaps, is the central thought here,— “Thou hast kept my word.” Why, there are great folk among us that never care to believe according to God’s word at all. They have thought out what they believe; their theology is made out of their own substance, as spiders spin their webs out of their own bowels. But, surely, in everything which concerns the doctrines of our most holy faith, we must make reference to a “Thus, saith the Lord.” It is not what I think; it is not what some greater man may think; it is not what may be the consensus of all the enlightened minds of the period: the decision lies with what the Lord has spoken. God’s thoughts are as high above ours as the heavens are above the earth; dare we drag them down and sit in judgment on them? If the thought of the age happens to be right, well and good; but it is not upon temporary opinion that we rest. Our faith stands not in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God. What is taught in Holy Scripture is sure truth to us, and every other statement must bow to it. Chillingworth said what ought to be true, though I am afraid that it is not— “The Bible and the Bible alone is the religion of Protestants.” I should like to see a few more of such Protestants. Many say that we ought to keep “abreast of the times,” whatever that may mean; and that there is a certain “spirit of the age,” to which we should be subject. This to me is treason against sovereign truth. I know of one only spirit to whom I desire to be subject, and that is the Spirit of all the ages, who never changes. By his teaching we are not only nineteen centuries behind the present age, but we come in at the back of all the ages of human history. If we have but little strength, we mean to let the times and the spirits go where they like, we shall keep to the Holy Spirit and to his eternal teachings. Supposing that we have not such big heads as some have, and cannot excogitate or multiply sophisms and inventions as they do, it will be no small thing to be commended at the last, in these terms— “Thou hast a little strength, but thou hast kept my word.” Brother, cling to God’s word; cling to infallible and immutable revelation! Whatever novelty comes up, keep to the word of Jesus! Whatever discovery may be made by the wise men of the age, let Christ be wisdom unto you. Regard the new teachers no more than you would the wise men of Gotham, for those who oppose themselves to God’s word are fools. Let them cry “Lo here, or lo there,” but believe them not. Here is your anchorage. The Book is our ultimatum.

“Within this sacred volume lies
The mystery of mysteries;
Happiest they of human race
To whom our God hath given grace
To read, to mark, to think, to pray,
To know the right, to learn the way;
But better they had ne’er been born
Who read to doubt, or read to scorn.”

That which is not in Holy Scripture is not to be received as matter of faith in the Christian church; but that which is there is to be received and held with that stern steadfastness, that incorruptible faith, which no more changes than the unchanging truth which it has grasped. Woe be to the man who is first a Calvinist, then an Arminian, then a Pelagian, then a Unitarian; never finding rest for the sole of his foot; keeping nothing because he has nothing to keep. This Philadelphian church had won the commendation, “Thou hast kept my word.” Dear hearer, see that you win it too.

     And no doubt also it was intended in this sense— that they had obeyed the word of God. “Thou; hast a little strength:” there are very few of you, but you have been observant of all precepts and ordinances. Some think it a great thing to be members of a popular sect, but when the great curtain rolls up, and all things are seen as they are, and not as they seem, do you not think that that church will be most commended which was truest to the teaching of the Holy Spirit in everything? Christian chivalry should make you feel it better to be a member of a church of six doing the Lord’s work conscientiously than to be a member of a church of six millions which has turned aside from it. I could not be in communion with a church whose chief guide and authority is another book than God’s word, and whose acknowledged Head is other than the Lord Jesus Christ. I had sooner stand alone than yield with a crowd to an Act of Parliament which was passed to dictate to me the form in which I may worship God. There shall come a day when it will be found that the minorities have generally saved both the world and the church. A struggling few may reckon themselves to be the majority when they stand alone with God, for HE counts for more than all the myriads of the earth put together. The faithful, staunch, God-fearing men that would not budge an inch, or change a letter, or shape a syllable, to please all the kings and princes of the earth, shall be found to praise and honour in the day of the Lord’s appearing. These are the men that Christ shall stoop from his throne to honour: they that have trifled with his word shall be lightly esteemed: they that have wilfully broken one of the least of his commandments, and have taught men so, shall be least in the kingdom of heaven. Blessed and happy shall he be who followeth the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. Blessed shall he be who only wanted to know the Lord’s will that he might do it unquestioningly, caring nothing what the will of other people might be in the matter.

     I shall put it home to you, dear friends, again. You may have but little strength, but do you keep God’s word? You may never become more numerous, or more influential; but do let it be true of you, that you have kept God’s word. Be students of God’s word and adherents of it. Take no notice of anything I say if it cannot be supported by the word of divine truth. Take equally little notice of what any man says, be he orator, thinker, bishop, or whatever he may be. There is no value in all the brass counters which circulate among the many; they are current with the world, but the Kingdom of God does not know them. The words of men are trifling in value; it takes a mass of them to come to the value of a farthing; but any one word of the Lord is worth a mint of gold. If a doctrine be of God, if it has come out of the loving lips of the Lord Jesus, hold it fast, as for dear life. Let men call you bigot, but never mind, hold you on with all your might, and your Lord will smile upon you.

     Thus have I explained what the Philadelphians did. They did it under great disadvantages, but that only helped to increase the weight of praise measured out to them. They had little talent, but they kept God’s word. Oh, that men who have ten talents would not be so anxious to be original in their teaching! Oh, that they would cease to display their own thought, their own cleverness, and individuality. If you have little talent, it is a pity you have not more; but still it is for jour praise if you quit yourselves like men, and stand fast in the faith. It may be, you have little strength of mind; but I hope even then grace enables you to be firm for truth. In other things you may be easily persuaded, and readily talked over; but be you doubly stanch in the things of God. There make your mark, and put your foot down. Let it be seen that you do not go to be stirred in those vital points, till your friends say of you, “Oh, you can twist William anywhere, but not in his religion. On that point he is a regular Puritan; there is no moving him.” May it always be so; even if you have but little strength, see to it that you keep Christ’s word.

     Possibly you have not much strength as to influence: your sphere may be very narrow, and your power in it very slight. That does not matter; but it does matter that you be faithful to your Lord. If you have kept God’s word you may be wielding an influence far beyond what you imagine. Good men in the dark days of Popery found out the truth, but they only lived, perhaps, in some quiet village, or shut up in a monastery, and the most they could do was to write down what they knew and so keep it. We have met with instances where they wrote out part of the word of God, and hid it away in a wall; and afterwards, when the wall was pulled down, the priceless record was discovered and used. Truth does not die through being buried. Some taught the gospel very quietly in their own family circle, and so kept it. Some would get a few copies of the New Testament, and go about and sell them in their baskets; and so they kept the truth. Those men of old time whose influence upon their own age seemed so little, nevertheless prepared the way for those braver spirits who, by-and-by, shone forth like the stars of the morning. Hold fast God’s word and never mind what comes of it for the moment; God’s seed may not grow in a day, but it will grow. If you only influence one child, who can tell what that child may be? If you only help to strengthen one solitary Christian woman, who knows what may come to pass by her means? We see the telegraph wires, but we do not see what messages they may carry. The ropes hang down in our belfry, but the glorious chime is aloft. We cannot see the big bells, but it is ours to pull the ropes that are near our hand, and do what God bids us to do, and music will come of it somewhere. Above all, if we have but little strength of any kind, let us keep God’s word.

     Now, why should God’s word be kept in this way? What is there to praise about keeping God’s word? I answer, because it is a holy thing to treasure up God’s word. I have gone into the churches on the Continent, and I have seen gold and silver plate in the sacristy, understood to be worth one or two or three millions of money. These were said to be the treasures of the church. Why, these are the treasures of men, and they shall pass away. The solid truth of revelation, the doctrine of the Holy Ghost, a divine experience given to you by that Holy Ghost — all this is the treasure of the church, and you are doing a holy thing when you guard it against every adversary. To this purpose are saints sent into the world— to keep this treasure of the church against all adversaries. Truth is the jewel for which all believers must be ready to die. Solomon made shields of gold, which were borne before the king when he went into the house of the Lord; but Rehoboam took away the shields of gold, and put shields of brass in their place. It is to be feared many are doing the same at this moment. Let us bear our protest: the gold is good enough for us. Do not throw away the best for the sake of getting something that may be newer, but that must be far inferior. I hold one single sentence out of God’s word to be of more certainty, and of more power, than all the discoveries of all the learned men of all the ages.

     I might have seen the Alexandrian library burned without losing a night’s rest, for the mass of its contents must have been mere rubbish; but were there one single verse of the New Testament which it were possible to blot out from human memory and record, one might be willing to lay down his life to save the glorious sentence. The mind of man sends forth pure water and impure, and it is hard to discern between the two; but from the heart of God there wells up, undiluted and unmingled, a stream of living truth which is more for man’s benefit than all else out of heaven. Warriors guard kings, and crowns, and thrones; but the living truth of the living God is infinitely more worthy of our watch. Oh for ten thousand valiant men to stand about the bed of the truth, each man with his sword upon his thigh because of fear in the night. Therefore, as it is a holy thing, a heavenly thing, a priceless thing, keep you God’s word.

     Besides, it is a wise thing, for you that have but little strength, to keep God’s word. The feebler you are the more closely should you keep to the Scriptures. Remember what Solomon says,— “The conies are a feeble folk,” but he puts them down as wise people, for they have their habitation in the rocks. If a disputer can once get you away from the Bible, he can swallow you alive; but if you will keep to Scripture, and handle this weapon, “It is written; it is written,” the disputer may be the arch-fiend himself, but he cannot possibly get the victory over you. Your wisdom is not to try to gain keenness of mind that you may emulate the critic, but to lay hold upon God’s word, and cling to it, for therein shall be your safety and your victory.

     Again, dear friends, we ought to hold fast to the truth of God, because, if we have little strength, it is there that we shall get more strength. We shall never grow stronger by leaving the eternal word. Nay, but as we cling to God in feebleness, the divine strength of the word is infused into our souls. Besides, God’s word is a supporting thing, and he who quits it leaves his chief helper. He that receives it shall live, but without it there is no spiritual life. Therefore let us hold it. If men would take away from us certain dainties which are sweet but which are not needful, we might be content to let them spoil us of such superfluities; but if they come to take away bread and water from the poor and needy, then we cannot have it. For this we must stand up and fight to the death. The word that cometh out of Christ’s mouth is the daily manna of our heavenly life, and it behoves every Christian, however feeble or however strong, to keep the word of God with all his might against all comers, since it is his life. I am at this pass, I can sooner die than yield the gospel. I may be a fool, and an old-fashioned bigot, but I am not a turncoat, and I cannot quit the word of the Lord. If I must be the last of the Puritans, I will not be ashamed of it. My Lord will revive his buried truth as sure as he is God: the present madness will cease with its own short hour.

     So much, then, with regard to this word of praise.

     II. I will not be long on the next point, while I just remind you that there is A WORD OF PROSPECT:— “Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word.”

     It seems to me to mean just this,— “You have been faithful; therefore I will use you. You have been steadfast; therefore I will employ you.” For a considerable period of human life, it may be, God does not give to all of us a field of usefulness, but he provides a field of trial. There are some to whom he early opens the gate of usefulness, because he sees in them a spirit that will bear the temptation of success; but in many other cases it is questionable whether they could bear promotion, and therefore the Lord permits them to be tried in different ways until he sees that they are found faithful, and then he puts them into his service, and gives them an opportunity of bearing witness for him. Now, dear friend, perhaps hitherto you have been perfectly satisfied with holding the truth with all your might, and being faithful to it in private and in your own daily life. I want to suggest to you that if you have done this for some time the era has now arrived when you may go forward to somewhat more. There are opportunities before you now which were not there before: these are placed before you especially because you have been tried, and have been proved faithful. If you will now begin to talk to others about that which you love so well, you will be astonished to find how gladly they will receive it from you. You have been a receiver yourself until now, and that is well and good; but, now that you have become filled, overflow to others, and let them receive of your joy. “How do I know that they will accept it?” say you. I know it from this fact— that, as a general rule, the man that keeps God’s word has an open door before him. If you have been vacillating and shifty and tricky, and have believed everything and nothing, nobody will take any particular notice of what you say, except it be to shut the door against your uncertain prattle. But when they have observed how you stand to the truth, how solid, and how steadfast you are, they will give over disputing with you, and come to inquire what your views really are. People do not care about knocking their heads against brick walls, or fighting against pillars of iron; and when they see that you are firm and unmoved, they will say, “We must let him have his own way.” When a man begins his Christian life in a kind of dubious, half-hearted way, his friends do not know whether he is really going to carry it out or not: at any rate, as he endeavours to avoid all persecution, they do not know what to think of him, and they feel encouraged to treat him as one who can be pressed and squeezed at pleasure. If there is a secret entrance to heaven he prefers it; he means to go round about and climb over the wall somewhere, or sneak in at the back gate. This poor creature has no power or influence; he is rather ridiculous than useful. Nobody ever respects him. Nobody cares a button about him. The devil himself does not trouble him much, for he knows that he will do no harm to his kingdom, let him talk as he likes. But the man who says, “I am going straight for glory, and if anybody is in my way so much the worse for him, for I am bound to take the right road;” such a man will find a pretty clear track. Mr. Moody would say, “Make a bee line for heaven.” A bee knows the nearest way, and keeps to it with all its force. Let me hear each one of yon say, “I am not going to take any corners, or twists, or windabouts; but, straight away, what God bids me to do I am going to do; what he bids me believe I am going to believe; and if there is anything to be suffered for it, all right. I have added it all up, and I count the reproach of Christ to be greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt.” This is the right kind of resolution. God help you to keep to it. Before you, my brother, the Lord God has set an open door. Go ahead! Do not be afraid. People will be willing to hear what you have to say, and, what is more, people will be converted by what you say, for God has set before you this open door, and no man can shut it. It is amazingly easy to go through a door when it is wide open, and it will be very easy to you— much easier than you think, now that you have been schooled by God’s Spirit into steadfastness of character, just to say in Gods name, dependent upon God’s strength, what he has taught you. You will bring many to Christ, because you yourself abide in Christ.

     Come, brother, you did not reckon that such usefulness would ever fall to your lot; did you? Cheer up, and get to work. Wake up to holy energy. In the Sunday-school there are little children that you will be the means of bringing to Christ if you take a class; and out at the street corners there are folks that you will turn to the Saviour if you have but the courage to stand up and preach. Out in the villages, or in the crowded city hearts await you. I say not this of you all, but only of confirmed and faithful ones. If you feel, “I never can give up the Bible; I never can forsake the truths that I have learnt from it: they are stamped on my heart, they are cut into the very centre of my soul,” then you are the man who may safely go forth to publish the truth. There is an open door before you which no man can shut. Gird up your loins and enter it. Rush to the front. Victory lies before you. God means to use you. You are a vessel fit for the Master’s use, and there never was a vessel fit for his use that he did not use one day or other. The hour needs its man quite as much as the man needs the hour. Take time by the forelock and honour your God. The Lord help you to keep his word, and then to go in for public testimony.

     III. Our last point was to be A WORD OF PROMISE; for, according to the tenth verse, it is written, “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” Those who keep God’s word, shall themselves be kept from temptation. The Lord returns into his servants’ bosoms that which they render to him: he gives keeping for keeping.

     Now, I shall speak for myself and for you, and I know that we can bear witness that this promise is true. One says to me, “Are you not perplexed about the prevalence of modern thought— the new phase of divinity that has come up of late, and the general progress that is being made towards a new theology? Does it not trouble you?” Not a bit. Modern ideas do not affect me in the slightest. If all men that live or ever shall live should throw up the old Calvinism, there remains one that will hold it, for this reason— that he could not hold any other. I must be crushed out of existence before my convictions of the truth of the doctrines of grace in the old-fashioned form can ever be taken from me. I am miserable, wretched, lost if the doctrines of grace be not true. I am joyous, glad, strong, happy if these doctrines be true. I cannot give them up, therefore; and especially because as I read, and the more I read, I perceive these things to be written in the word of God, and therefore I must hold them.

     In this church we feel very little of the temptation which tries all the world: very seldom are any of our friends unsettled in their minds, or tormented with these hornets of heresy. “Alas,” said one minister to me, “I see some of my best people becoming sceptical; are you not worried by seeing the thoughtful ones drifting off into new views?” “No, not at all.” “Why not?” “Because the grace of God keeps our people to their moorings. They know what they believe and they have no desire to change.” If a man does not believe the doctrines of grace, he comes to hear me once, and he says, “I am not going there any more.” He talks to some of you, and you are so dogmatic, and firmly rooted, be calls you pig-headed, and says it is no use arguing with such bigots; and so he goes to argue somewhere else. This is exactly as we would have it. When a bushel is full of wheat the good corn keeps the chaff out of the measure. This is the Lord’s way of delivering those who keep his word: thus he shuts them away from the temptation that comes upon others. He seems to say, “Dear child, since you will not go beyond my written word, you shall not be tempted to go beyond it. I will cause the enemies of the truth to leave you alone. You shall be offensive to them, or they to you, and you shall soon part company.” Remember how Mr. Bunyan pictures it. When Talkative came up to gossip with Christian and Hopeful, he chattered away upon all sorts of topics, and they were wearied with him. To get rid of him, Christian said to Hopeful, “Now we will talk a little about experimental godliness;” and when they began to speak about what they had tasted and handled of divine truth, Mr. Chatterbox dropped behind. He did not like spiritual conversation, neither do any of the breed. The holy pilgrims were not so rude as to tell him to go; they only talked about heavenly things, which he did not understand, and he went of his own accord. I believe that result is sure to follow holy conversation and sound preaching. Keep to the truth, and the modern school will give you a wide berth. But if any of you try the double-shuffle in religion— the plan of trying to believe a little of everything and not much of anything— if you try to hold with the hare and run with the hounds, you will be tempted to deadly error, and it will serve you right. In the temptation you will fall, for indeed you are fallen already. Keep the word of God, and the word of God will keep you. You will be shielded from half the temptations that fret and worry professors if you take your place and keep it against all comers.

     Or perhaps the text may mean that if the temptation shall come you shall be preserved from it. The deliberately-formed conviction that the word of God is the standard of our faith, and the unwavering habit of referring everything to it and standing and falling by it, may not deliver us from every error, but they will save us from that which is the nurse and matrix of every error— that is, the habit of trusting to our own understanding, or relying upon the understandings of our fellow-men. I value more a solid confidence in the word of God than even the knowledge that comes out of it; for that faith is a saving habit, a sanctifying habit, in every way a strengthening and confirming and preserving habit. May God grant to us that whatever form of temptation may come upon the face of the earth, we may stand fast for his truth, so that none of us may perish like Judas, the son of perdition.

     All this I have spoken to the people of God, but I am not ignorant that there are some here who do not know God’s word, nor love it. They have never embraced it, and to them no blessing can come through it. But why should you not receive it? Does it not strike you as being reasonable that, if God has spoken, his creatures ought to believe what he has spoken,— that after he has laid down the law there should remain no room for questioning?

“This is the judge that ends the strife,
When wit and reason fail.”

Come you, then, and search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life, and they are they which testify of Christ; and let it not be said that you will not come unto him that you might have life. As God bears testimony in his word to his own dear Son, believe that testimony; accept the Saviour whom he has given, and find immediate salvation: find it to-night. Go out of the place saying, “I believe it.” “He that believeth hath everlasting life,” for “this is life eternal, to know thee, the only true God, and. Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” I warrant you if you get faith into your soul, and the word becomes your joy and comfort, you will never let it go. You will sing as we did just now, and as I sang very heartily—

“Let all the forms that men devise
Assault my soul with treacherous art,
I’ll call them vanity and lies,
And bind the gospel to my heart.”

So may God bless you. Amen.



Concerning Saints

By / Jun 22

Concerning Saints

 

“All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord; and thy saints shall bless thee.”—Psalm cxlv.10.

 

Do not throw yourselves back in your seats, and say, “This will be a sermon for saints, and therefore we may be excused from attending to it.” Do you not see that the first clause gives you a fair word and a kindly hint? “All thy works shall praise thee, O Jehovah.” Through this you may enter, as by an open door, for if you are not Jehovah’s saints you are his works, and are bound to praise his name. In these days of harvest and full summer-tide, every created thing appears to praise God by its very existence. Insect and fern, pebble and rippling brook, star and cloud, wind and dew,— all reflect the wisdom and goodness of the Most High. Many a man’s works are no credit to him, and even in cases wherein men have wrought well, and produced much which is to their honour, yet certain of their works are not to their credit, but deserve to be plunged in darkness. It is never so with a single work of the Eternal; all his works are perfect. He puts no bad work into them, he uses no base material, he never makes up with paint and varnish for grievous deficiencies. Set all his works in the sunlight, ay, put them all under the strongest magnifier, and they tell no tale against him, but they all publish him as the best of workers, the grandest of thinkers, the most complete of designers. You may range high heaven, or descend into the depths of the sea, or dig into the darkest mines; but you will come upon nothing which can find fault with him. You may break God’s works in pieces, and examine them in minute detail; you may pass them through the fire again and again: but tested as they may be, they bear but one witness,—

“The hand that made us is divine,”

And that divine hand is excellent in knowledge and power.

     All God’s works also praise him by a sort of intent, they make praise his glory as of set purpose. We are speaking of the inanimate creation — we say inanimate, but in this matter they seem to be all alive to the glory of the Lord. The worlds that roll through space, and the motes that dance in the sunshine, the firebolt that levels the tower, and the snow-flakes that dance in his wintry courts, the yeast of the foaming sea, the pollen of the ripening flower, and the cleavage of the crystal, all vie with one another in proclaiming the greatness of the wisdom and the goodness of the Lord. Not alone are the heavens telling the glory of God, and the firmament showing his handiwork, but the earth and the air, the sea and all deep places, the hill-side and the cottage garden, are all emulating each other in the blessed work of praising Jehovah. How often at sunset hath it seemed to us as if God held his court far away in the west, amid the bright and burning clouds, and there the seraphs bowed as visibly as before the throne above! Looking across the sea, when the sun has just been rising in the morning, we have seen the gates of heaven opened, and the skirts of the Lord’s robes have been as visible to us as once they were to Moses. At hush of midnight, when ten thousand stars are adoring, earth’s stillness proves her to be a profound worshipper. There are a thousand times when nature keeps her special Sabbaths, and in God’s temple doth every one speak of his glory.

     Arouse thee, then, my friend! Thou art a creature, if not a new creature in Christ Jesus. Adore thy Benefactor if thou dost not know thy Saviour. The known may be a step to the unknown. In joining God’s works in his praise, thou mayest be led to join with himself. Thou hast never fully and properly attended to this first call; thou canst not, therefore, complain if thou findest thyself too feeble for the second. Hast thou nothing for which to praise the Lord? Is not thy body a specimen of his handiwork? Are not the organs of nutrition, and the supplies which are given to them, proofs of his goodness? Thy deliverance from fever, and a hundred other deaths, is something worthy of a song. All thy domestic hopes, and joys, and longings, though they reach not to eternal things, and are but draughts from the nether springs, yet do they come from the same hand as the higher boons; and they may lead thee home, for the prodigal, who came back to his father, was sweetly tempted thither by the remembrance of the bread in his father’s house, of which there was enough and to spare.

     Yet I confess that there is in the text much that is special for a chosen people; it speaks to those who dwell within the inner circle, who by position, character, and privilege are elevated to the highest form of service. Praise is high as heaven, and lasting as eternity, and yet there is something that is better, for it is written— “thy saints shall bless thee.”  

     Everywhere throughout the word of God you see kept up a very clear and sharp distinction between those that fear God and those that fear him not,— between the two seeds, the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman,— between those that are living in sin, and those that have been delivered from it, and so are made saints unto God. Two peoples there are, and ever will be while the present dispensation lasts, and the difference between them is great and vital. For this reason it must be difficult, if not impossible, to compose forms of prayer which shall be suitable for two conditions of men so essentially opposite. There should be in our public prayers, as there is in the word of God, this distinction clearly made and manifested. There is a line which divides to-day between Israel and Egypt, even as there will be a line of fire, proceeding from the judgment-seat, which will effectually and finally sever between the heirs of God and the heirs of wrath. At the very beginning we shall have to remind you that the text suggests this. We are all God’s works. “It is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves”; but we are not all “his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” We have not yet all been brought within the bonds of the covenant; we have not yet all been saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation, and hence we are not all his saints. Divide yourselves by a scriptural judgment. “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.” Rest in no neutrality. Dream not of communion between Christ and Belial. “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” You are either with God or against him, and the sooner you know your true position the better. I shall never preach to you as if you were all alike, for I know you are not. Some of you are in Christ, and others of you are in the gall of bitterness, and in the bonds of iniquity. I shall not to-night forget that I have tares as well as wheat before me, and I shall try to make that distinction appear all through my sermon.

     I shall want you carefully to notice three things. The first is, that God has a people whom he calls his saints: of these we read in the text. Secondly, these are placed in the first rank; for while it is said, “All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord,” the saints occupy a special position, and they are spoken of by themselves, and put before all others,— “and thy saints shall bless thee.” Thirdly, these people render a special homage. While they join in the praise which comes up from all God’s works, they stand in an inner circle, and fulfil a peculiar ministry, and therefore we read “thy saints shall bless thee.”

     I. Come, then, to our work. May the Holy Ghost help us! First, GOD HAS A PEOPLE WHOM HE CALLS HIS SAINTS. Who are they? Are they all dead? It is supposed so; for the usage of the Popery around us is to call men saints who have been long in their graves, but living men are not regarded in that light. I notice, even among those who call themselves Protestants, a great many relics of the old harlot of the seven hills, and among the rest this nonsense of dead saintship. Somebody wrote me the other day about his “sainted mother.” What did he mean? Had the Pope canonized her? Or did she become a saint by dying? Does death, which came in through sin, bring sainthood with it? Assuredly not. If men are not saints before death, they certainly cannot be made saints after death. Do the coffin and the grave bring you this canonization? Does corruption in the tomb create an odour of sanctity? I am sure that it is not so, for it is written, “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.” Where death leaves us judgment will find us. You cannot make a sinner into a saint by killing him. He who does not live as a saint here, will never live as a saint hereafter. When the apostle Paul wrote letters to the churches, he called the members of them saints. They were living men and women of whom he thus spake. They were ordinary men and women like ourselves; poor in rank, greatly deficient in education, and often without house or home. In some respects they were even inferior to ourselves; for their former conversation had been so exceedingly lax that they ignorantly tolerated sins which in these days would not be endured for a moment. I believe that the church of God at this day, taken as a whole, is better than the church at Corinth was. For instance, there is no church that I know of, worthy to be called a church of Christ, that would tolerate in its membership one who had been guilty of incest. We should be quite sure to deal with such an open and crying crime as that. We have many faults to-day, and they had a great many faults then, for the apostle had to write to some churches twice over to warn them of certain very apparent evils; and yet, for all that, there were saints in those churches, and Paul was accustomed to address those who were joined together in any one place as those who were called to be saints.

     Saints, then, are not people who are dead and buried, and are stuck up in niches for us to admire. There are saints, no doubt, before the throne of God; and we, too, are saints here below if we are what we should be, and if we have received that grace which brings with it deliverance from the reigning power of sin, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the heart.

     These saints are to be met with in our own country. Many persons have a high esteem for ministers whom they have never seen, who labour in exceedingly remote districts. Of course these good men and their churches must be absolutely perfect: a race of saints. Distance lends enchantment to the view. For my part, I love to believe in the holiness of those who are round about me, in the sanctity of my fellow-labourers, and in the fervent devotion of those who hold up my hands, from day to day, in my work of faith and labour of love. There are as many saints in England as there are in America. I am not inclined to look to the Plymouth church, or the Romish church, or the Greek church, or any other church, for my saints: I find them in the Tabernacle.

“There my best friends, my kindred dwell,
There God my Saviour reigns.”

It is all very fine to believe in the saintship of the brethren in the Sunder-bunds, or in Cathay, wherever those regions may be, but it argues a great lack of faith in the power of the Holy Ghost if we do not believe in his sanctifying influence upon the fellowship at home. I look for my saints among the Christian men and women who are busy all around me in Sunday-school teaching, street-preaching, and other soul-winning work. It is the pure in heart who see God, and I believe it is the pure in heart who see the saints of God. If we were more saintly ourselves, saints would not be half as scarce as they are.

     What is it to be a saint? Some people do not want to know, for with them it is a term of contempt. They say, “Oh, he is one of your saints!” They lay the emphasis on the word “saints,” as if it were something very disgraceful; or, at least, despicable and hypocritical. Whenever I have that said to me— and it has happened more than once— I take my hat off out of respect to the title. I had rather be a saint than a Knight of the Garter. Sometimes I have said, “I wish you could prove your words”; for surely nobody need be ashamed of being called a saint unless he is afraid that he cannot maintain the name; but if you really are saintly, and men apply the title to you in scorn, wear it upon your sleeve as your honour, and make no attempt whatever to conceal the soft impeachment. I suppose that nobody would, as a general thing, be ashamed to be called a peer of the realm; but certainly to be a saint is a far more honourable thing than to be a Duke. The peerage the Queen can give; but saintship only God himself can give; and if you have that you need never be ashamed of it. I have sometimes heard of the Latter Day Saints.” I do not know much about them, but I greatly prefer the “Every Day Saints.” Those people who are saints anywhere and everywhere are truly saints; and he that is not a saint everywhere is not a saint anywhere, for this is a thing that cannot be put off and on like our Sunday dress. Holiness must be a part of ourselves; it must be our nature to be saintly.

     Who, then, are saints? Some will tell us that they are persons who are totally free from sin in thought, and word, and deed; but where will you find these marvellous beings? I have never met with such. I have seen a few hare-brained enthusiasts who said that they were perfect, but you had only to watch them for a single day to discover their defects; but a man absolutely free from all tendency to sin I have never seen on earth, nor have you: I thought we were all sinners, and I have not altered the opinion. I should not think he was much of a saint who did not confess that he was somewhat of a sinner still. I should be afraid that he did not know himself, and that his standard of saintship was not as high as it ought to be. When a man is so good that he cannot be better, I perceive that in some respects he is so bad that he could hardly be worse; for instance, in the matter of pride, he has gone some few degrees beyond Lucifer himself. When a soul is thoroughly saturated with the belief that it can be no better, it will be no better. That holy restlessness which makes a man lament his imperfections, and pine after something more Christlike, is part of the force by which we move upward towards higher degrees of spirituality and grace. Self-satisfaction is the death of progress, and at the same time the discovery of falsehood. The very power to become sanctified has departed from the man who boasts that he is so. A certain great painter had been accustomed to perform great feats with his brush, but one day, having finished a picture, he laid down his palette, and said to his wife, “My power to paint is gone!” “Oh,” said she, “how is that?” “Well,” he answered, “up to this day I have always been dissatisfied with my productions; but the last picture I have painted perfectly satisfies me, and therefore I am certain that I shall never be able to paint anything worth looking at again.” As long as ever a man is dissatisfied with himself, he will be capable of great things; but when he feels that he has attained, and is perfectly satisfied, depend upon it nothing will come of him during the rest of his life. He has lost the very faculty of progress.

     Oh, brothers, if we know ourselves and our God, every idea of our being absolutely perfect will make us sick to the death; we know we are nothing of the sort. Still, we also know that sin has not dominion over us, and that we are holiness unto the Lord; and in this we do and will rejoice, and bless the Lord our God.

     Taking all that into consideration, we again ask the question, who are saints?

     Saints, in the first place, are those whom God has set apart for himself. He chose them to be his own portion from before the foundations of the world. He gave them, as men whom he had set apart for himself, into the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are the people whom Christ speaks of when he mentions “those whom thou hast given me.” These are the saints. These Christ has effectually and specially redeemed from among men, according to that text, “These were redeemed from among men,” and again, “Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Whatever the general aspect of redemption—and it has a general one, wide as the race of men—yet it has also a special aspect towards those chosen ones whom God has taken to be his own from amongst all the inhabitants of the earth.

     These people being thus God’s own, by his electing love, are in due time called effectually by his grace. “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” Having been redeemed by blood, they are in due time redeemed by power. The power of the Holy Spirit brings them out of Egypt’s bondage into the glorious liberty of God’s dear Son. From that day these people become manifestly saints, a people that live in God, with God, for God, to God, by God— a people that do not belong to the rest of the world. “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” “The people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.” They are a singular people, “a peculiar people.” I have heard it objected sometimes, “If I were religious, I should be so peculiar.” Of course you would be. Scripture says that you would be. “Oh, but I should be one by myself!” Of course you would be. “Know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself.” These are the saints, then: a people dedicated unto God, through his own rich grace, to live for him: for them to live is Christ. “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”

     But who are the saints, again? How shall we know them?

     Well, they are known, next, by their holy life. They are not only dedicated to God, but they are made meet for God’s use by the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. Forget not all I have said about our imperfections; but, for all that, God’s people are a holy people. “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” A man is described in Scripture, not by his infirmities, but by the general run and current of his life. We say of a river that it runs to the south, although there may be eddies along the banks which run in an opposite direction to the main stream. Still, these are an inconsiderable matter. The main stream of the Thames is running constantly towards the sea, and we speak not amiss or untruthfully when we say that it is so. And the main stream and set of the current of the life of a child of God runs towards that which is right, true, and holy, both towards God and towards man. If it is not so with you, dear friend, I make very short work of it: you do not know the Lord. You have need to be born again, and to be delivered from the power of sin. “His servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness.” Depend upon it, that which governs you is your king; and if evil governs you, then you belong to the evil one. But where there is grace in the heart, grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life.

     “Holiness is imputed,” says one. It cannot be imputed, say I. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to us; but holiness is quite another term, and you never find in the word of God mention made of an imputation of holiness. That cannot be. David says, “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.” These are actual qualities, not imputations. God’s saints are not drunkards. God’s saints are not liars. God’s saints are not dishonest. God’s saints are not ungenerous and unloving. God’s saints are not a people that take delight in iniquity, and follow after the wages of evil, like Balaam of old. God’s people are a people that follow after holiness, and will never be satisfied till sin is exterminated from their hearts, root and branch. In fact, they will never get to heaven till they get that holiness, and when they get that they will be in heaven, for they will awake in the likeness of their Lord. These, then, are the distinguishing marks of the saints of God.

     “Where shall we find these saints?” says one. Slander says, “Nowhere,” but truthfulness affirms that there are many of them to be found. They are the ornaments of our households, the pillars of our churches, the delights of our communion, and the glory of Christ. Oh, that we might be numbered among them!

     Now I want to call your mind back to where we started. Our text speaks of saints; but they are said to be God’s saints. “All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord; and thy saints shall bless thee.” The devil has his saints, and Rome has her saints, and self-righteousness has its saints, and ceremonialism has its saints; but these are not God’s saints. God has his own saints, and they belong to him. They are peculiarly and especially his. They are as the signet upon his finger. Their names are engraven upon the palms of his hands. You remember how the Good Shepherd speaks of those who believe on him,— “My sheep” — do notice that word “my,” — “hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” They are so completely his that they shall be his for ever and ever, and they never can be taken away from him.

     II. Well, now, secondly, I want you to notice that THESE ARE PLACED IN THE FIRST RANK, and the reason is of God’s grace and mercy, because he has done the most for them. “All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord,” but “thy saints shall bless thee,” because they are in a very peculiar and remarkable manner God's works. God has created all things; but he has twice created his saints. He brought the world out of chaos, but he brought his people out of the land of darkness and of the shadow of death, from under the power and domination of every evil thing; yea, even from death, and from hell itself. For them he wrought a creation and a resurrection. You that are his people have been made new creatures in Christ Jesus. Of you he says, “Behold, I make all things new.” You are “begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” The new creation of saints infinitely surpasses the creation of the world. Saints are even placed higher than the angels who are around the throne of God; “for unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my son?” But he has said that unto you; so that in the scheme of creation you rank above all   once-created beings, for you are the twice-born, the twice-made. As in the King’s army of old there was a body-guard that always stood about the king, whom thy called the immortals, so in God’s great host there is a body-guard —his holy ones, his saints, the twice-born, the immortals, of whom Christ says, “Because I live, ye shall live also.”

     But, again, god’s works of grace are not only created by his own power, but in great favour they stand, in a covenant relation with himself. Behold, he has made the covenant of day and night, which shall not be broken, and he has made the covenant with the earth that he will no more destroy it with a flood, and he has covenanted that while the earth endureth seed time and harvest, and summer and winter, shall not cease. After the same fashion has he made a covenant with his own redeemed, that he will not be wroth with them, nor rebuke them, world without end. The bow in the cloud is the token of the covenant of preservation which he made with all his works; but when you come to the spiritual covenant, that eternal settlement is made of God, in Christ Jesus, with his chosen, and with them only. None but his own believing people can be said to be interested in the covenant of grace, ordered in all things and sure; for the man Christ Jesus was the Representative of those who are his own body, his own brethren, of whom he says, “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me." The second Adam is the Head of the new race, which is born under the new covenant, not according to the works of the law, but according to the promise of the grace of God. Isaac, the happy child of Sarah, the free woman, born according to the promise, lives at home with his father, and is heir with his father for ever; but Ishmael, the son of the bondwoman, born according to the strength of nature, is banished and cast off, as it is written,“ Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.”

     Oh, rejoice, you people of God, that if there be a covenant with God’s ordinary works, there is a higher, better, deeper, and more spiritual covenant made with you!

     Further than this, God’s tenderest consideration is given to his saints. He cares for all the works of his hands. Not a sparrow falleth to the ground without being noticed by our Father. God cares for every fish of the sea; and even such fish as never see the light, but dwell in black pools, in the monster caverns of the earth, are not forgotten of him. But as for his children, what care he gives to them! No farmer has as much care for his barn-door chickens as he has for his own little chicks indoors. The Lord cares for all those countless multitudes that wait upon him; but there is the tenderer care of the Father for all those who are allied to him by nature, and are heirs with him by grace. Remember that text, “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.” There is a special fatherly consideration and pity that the Lord has for all his children.

     Let us look back, and think how God has loved us long before we thought of him, and how he has thought of us when we have forgotten him. One said to me, the other day, “What will become of Gordon?” I answered, “He is safe enough, I believe; for he has given himself into the hand of God, and he will take care of him.” To this the questioner replied, somewhat flippantly, “It may be so; but, you see, he is so dashing that he gives God a great deal to think of and to do.” I did not like the expression, but still it is exceedingly applicable to many of us; for the office of “Preserver of men” is no sinecure in the case of the Most High. Even a quiet life at home is crowded with the most spiritual, minute, and tender thoughts of God. The Lord’s guardian care extends to everything, and to every particle of everything, so that nothing in the whole of life is left to chance, or regarded as a trifle. And how sweetly the Lord cares for us! He does all so quietly, calmly, perfectly. Martha, you see, cannot go about her little room without making a fuss, and complaining of Mary; but the great Father goes about his great house, and takes care of all his children, and never makes a complaint about the greatness of their needs, or the urgency of their necessities, or the repetition of their faults. He “giveth liberally, and upbraideth not.” You who are God’s saints are first in the Almighty’s care. “I am poor and needy, yet the Lord thinketh upon me,” says David. It is worth while to be poor and needy, if for that reason we have more of the thought of God set upon us. See what a special position you occupy, oh, ye sanctified ones, not only in creation and in the covenant, but in the tender care of God.

     And what a position you have as to God's visits! “Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it: thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water.” But the visits of God to creation— what are they compared with his visits to us, his own redeemed! When he came to Bethlehem, he did so visit us that he took our nature, and became bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh. And he wears that nature still. God is still incarnate.

“He is at the Father’s side,
The Man of love, the Crucified.”

To none of his other creatures has he paid such a visit as that. Even now, to-day, you who are humble and contrite are nearer to God than kings and princes. God in his visitations of men astounds us. “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?” Yet he will come to your cottage, come to your chamber, come to your sick bed. “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” “Thou hast granted me life and favour, and thy visitation hath preserved my spirit.”

     You see, the saints have the first seats all along, and they hold them to the end of the chapter, for they shall be crowned with glory and honour. God crowns the year with his goodness. The time is coming when the Lord will cover the earth with the wheat-sheaf, and with the barley crown, and these shall be followed by the ruddy fruits of the orchard. God shall make glad the heart of man with the varied gifts of his bounty. The earth hath its coronation; but what is the coronation of the saints? “Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in in his season;" or, if it be not so with thee, thou shalt behold thy Lord coming here to receive thee, for he hath said it, “I will come again, and receive you unto myself.”

     There is a glory yet to come to the whole of creation; for its groans and travail will lead up to its new birth. What a zodiac of glory will flame from the new heavens above the new earth at the latter day! But what of that? The greatest glory is for us to be fashioned, as we soon shall be, in the image of the Son of God, and then to dwell at his right hand for ever. Between God and man there seems to be an infinite distance; yet when you see the God-man, Christ Jesus, you perceive that God has made his creature, man, near of kin unto himself. God has taken man into the nearest possible degree of consanguinity to himself, and has illustrated this by varied degrees of relationship. He has made us to be his sons and daughters, and as a corporate body he has made us to be the spouse, the bride, the Lamb’s wife. The Lord Jesus is not ashamed to call us brethren. Thus are we child, spouse, brother. The nearness of our kin to Deity ought to overwhelm us with humble gratitude and with intense delight. God has done infinitely more for us than for all his creatures besides. Rise as you may in creatureship, even till you reach the cherubim and the seraphim, if they be creatures of his hand; even above these stands the Son of God, — the Son of man,— and we are one with him. Oh, the exceeding riches of the grace and the glory of God in his saints!

     III. So I finish by noticing, dear friends, that as God has a people called saints, and as he has put them in the front rank, THEY RENDER A SPECIAL HOMAGE to him. This homage is true praise, and yet it has a certain difference of principle in it, so that it is instructive to say, “All thy works shall 'praise thee, O Lord,” but “thy saints shall bless thee.”

     Praise is a very proper thing to render to God; and in common with all his works we do render it. But praise has not in it those elements of warmth which belong to blessing God. For instance, you can praise a man, and yet have no kind of regard for him. I suppose that when Wellington defeated the French at Waterloo, there could hardly be found in all the ranks of Napoleon’s army men who did not praise Wellington. They said, “He must, indeed, be a marvellous warrior to have annihilated such an army as ours.” They could not help praising him, but they could have no love for him, and would no doubt have been heartily glad if he had never existed. In the same way, you probably know men towards whom personally you have no warm feeling, and yet when you see their works you are bound to praise them. A man is an eminent painter, and you exclaim, “His pencil is instinct with life.” Still, the man is no friend of yours, you pronounce no blessings on his name. It may be that your feeling towards him is that of deep regret that such abilities should be united with so ill a character. A certain person is exceedingly skilful in his profession, but he treats you unjustly, and, therefore, though you often praise him for his extraordinary performances, you cannot bless him, for you have no cause to do so. I am afraid that there might be such a feeling as that of admiration of God for his great skill, his wonderful power, his extraordinary justness, and yet no warmth of love in the heart towards him. Cold-blooded philosophers have written of God as if he were some far-off abstraction, and they have allowed words to fall from their pens, like masses of ice, which, when we have dissolved them, have been fragrant with reverence. Such men stand like the Israelites, outside the bounds, and gaze at the fire and smoke of Sinai, awe-struck and trembling. As for us it is our delight to come up unto God, even within the thick darkness, and to commune with him as a man communeth with his friend. Others may praise God, but it is ours, with our whole hearts, to bless his name. “Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.”

     Praise is a form of worship in which we cannot attain to communion with God of the highest order; for that we must ascend another step, and learn to bless him. I never read that God praises men. It may be true that in some sense he does so when he says, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” but I do not find the expression used in Scripture. God blesses men. Everybody knows that; and therefore when we bless God we enter upon a singularly happy fellowship with him. He blesses us, and we bless him; and herein is communion. I grant you, that between the two blessings there is a very great disproportion; but it is the same word, with much of the same meaning.

     Again, God’s works all praise him. The lily lifts itself upon its slender stem, and displays its golden petals and its glittering ivory leaves; and by its very existence it praises God. Yonder deep and booming sea rolls up in storm and tempest, sweeping everything before it; and every dash of its waves praises God. The birds in the morning, and some of them all through the night, can never cease from praising; uniting with the ten thousand other voices which make ceaseless concert before the throne. But observe, neither the flower, nor the sea, nor the bird, praises with intent to praise. To them it is no exercise of intellect, for they do not know God, and cannot understand his worthiness; nor do they even know that they are praising him. They exhibit his skill, and his goodness, and so forth, and in so doing they do much; but we must learn to do more. When you and I praise God, there is the element of will, of intelligence, of desire, of intent; and in the saints of God there is another element, namely, that of love to him, of reverent gratitude towards him, and this turns the praise into blessing.

     Oh, do you not sometimes feel, as you behold the glory of God, “Let his name be praised for ever and ever”? When you stand at the foot of Calvary you are not only astonished at the glorious love of God in Christ Jesus, but you are melted down, and every beat of your heart is to the tune “Blessed be his name!” Your soul goes out towards Jesus. It is not merely the sense of what he is, but the sense of what he is to you. “He loved me, and gave himself for me.” There is a consequent love and gratitude to him who gave these benefits; and then there is a desire that you could do something by way of expressing your deep gratitude to him. You have almost wished that Christ were at your door, hungry, that you might feed him. You cannot do it literally, but he tells you that you can do it in the person of his poor saints. You have thought, “Oh, that he were at my door on some cold night, when the snow was drifting, that I might open unto him, and give him the best place at my table, and my choicest bed. What a host I would be if he would but be my guest!” Now, that is blessing him, an active benevolence towards him. It is not merely praising him, but it is feeling a good-will, a practical desire. If it were possible for you to bestow some good thing on him, you would rejoice to bestow it. If you could do anything to make him more happy than he is, if that were possible, you wish to do it. It is the end and design of our actions which Christ looks at. It is not merely the hymn we sing, nor the alms we give, nor the service that we render, though all that is part of it; but the innermost soul of blessing God is loving himself, the love that bows over his feet, and wets and waters and washes them with tears ,— that unbinds one’s locks to wipe those feet,— that finds the precious alabaster-box to break, and pours the contents upon him, — that is not satisfied unless it can do something to show its love,— this is blessing him. Such love thinks nothing of what it does. All its thought is of him, and how it will please him. Oh, for a crown to put upon his head! Oh, for a song to sing at his feet! Oh, for a perfect heart, that I might reserve it for him alone! Oh, that I had a soul as wide as heaven, that I might entertain my Lord, and him only! Nay, even that were not large enough. Oh, that I could turn space into a great mouth with which to speak his praise, and make all eternity the song, and infinity the music!

     We cannot reach half way to our desire, and so we have to wind up by saying, “Bless the Lord, O my soul!” Go in, dear hearts, and sit like David before the Lord, and cry, “Whence is this to me?” Then go out, and talk about him to your friends, and say great things and choice things concerning him. Make him a glorious God in their ears. Tell them there never was such a friend, or helper, or Saviour, or father, or brother, or husband, as your God has been to you. Make them hear it,— that you are the happiest of men because you have found the blessed God. Make all to know it,— that you are the most contented of men because you have chosen the good part, which is to sit at the feet of Jesus. Do bless him in secret; and then bless him with the few that are your daily companions, and if God has given you the tongue of eloquence, bless his name before the crowds, and never be ashamed. Tell them that there is no life like life for God; there is no joy like joy in Christ, no riches like the riches of God’s grace, no heaven like the heaven of dwelling for ever with him. Oh, speak well of him, and when you have spoken your best of him, then wish to begin again, and speak better; and when you have reached to that, and said your best things, then say, “These are nothing compared with what he deserves. I will try again, and yet rise beyond the loftiest conceptions of the present.”



Faith Among Mockers

By / Jun 22

FAITH AMONG MOCKERS.

 

“He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.” — Psalm xxii. 8.

 

DAVID experienced what Paul afterwards so aptly described as “cruel mockings.” Note the adjective cruel: it is well chosen. Mockings may not cut the flesh, but they tear the heart; they may shed no blood, but they cause the mind to bleed internally. Fetters gall the wrists, but the iron of scorn entereth into the soul. Ridicule is a poisoned bullet which goes deeper than the flesh, and strikes the centre of the heart. David in the wilderness hunted by Saul, and on the throne abused by Shimei, knew what it was to be the butt of scorn, the football of contempt. Many a time and oft was he the song of the drunkard, and the byword of the scoffer.

     But what have I to do with the son of Jesse? my heart remembers the Son of man. What if David suffered despising and scorn? He knew it but in small measure compared with our blessed Lord. Well is it said, “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.” It is not wonderful that such an one as David should have to cry, “My soul is among lions,” when the Lord of all, the perfectly pure and Holy One, was driven to utter the same cry, saying, “All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.” My brethren and sisters in Christ, if you have to pass through a like painful experience, count it no strange thing, for a strange thing it is not. Reproach is the common heritage of the godly. Do not think that this fire which you suffer is the first that ever burned a saint. Others have had to bear the enmity of the world long before you. Remember that, of old, from the first moment when sin came into the world, there were two seeds, the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent; and between these two seeds there is an enmity of the most deadly kind, which will never cease. It may assume different forms, and it may be held in check by many forces, but it will always continue for ever the same while men are men, and sin is sin, and God and the devil are opposed. It was so, you know, in the house of Abraham: he was a man that walked before God, and was perfect in his generation, and yet in his family there were the two opposing powers: Ishmael, born after the flesh, mocked him that was born after the Spirit. When Rebekah had brought forth twin sons, yet the fact of their being twin sons of holy Isaac did not prevent the enmity that arose between Jacob and Esau. Nothing will prevent the seed of the serpent from exhibiting its spite towards the seed of the woman; even kinship and brotherhood go for little in this strife; in fact, a man’s foes full often are they of his own household. Count it no marvel, then, if you are derided! It seems to be a necessity of the holy nature of God that it should incur the enmity of the evil nature of fallen man, and that this evil nature should show itself by direct and bitter attack. Remember “him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” Henceforth, bow your shoulders to the yoke; expect that if you follow the Crucified you will have to bear the cross, for so it will be. I trust that our present meditation may be useful to any of God’s servants who are feeling the sharp lash of envious tongues, that they may not be driven from their steadfastness thereby. If any in their hearts are bowed down because they are conscious that possibly they have given the scoffers some opportunity to mock at them, may they even in this take heart, for David had done so, and yet he was not crushed by the blasphemies of the wicked.

     The first thing to which I shall call your attention at this time is, that a truly gracious man is like David and like the Lord Jesus, in that HIS TRUST IN GOD IS KNOWN. Even the enemies of this holy man who is mentioned in the text, and, as I interpret it, even the enemies of our divine Lord and Master, never denied that he trusted in God. This, indeed, is the commencement of their scoff: “He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him.” From which I gather that every gracious man should have an apparent, manifest, public trust in God. He should not merely trust him in his heart alone, but that trust should so enter into his entire nature that he does not conceal it nor think of concealing it. He should be so open in the avowal of his confidence that his enemies, before whom he is naturally restrained and on his guard, nevertheless are able to spy out this precious thing within him, and are forced to bear their witness, though it be mockingly and jestingly, that “He trusted on the Lord.” Such a testimony is all the more valuable as coming from an enemy. You know our character is not likely to be drawn too prettily by those who hate us; the utmost will be sure to be said against us; but if even our enemies say of us, “He trusted on the Lord,” we may be very thankful that we have so lived as to extort this testimony from their lips.

     What, then, ought a child of God to do in order to show that he really does trust in the Lord? How did Jesus do this? Well, I think that in our Lord’s case it was his wonderful calmness which compelled everybody to see that “he trusted on the Lord.” You never find him in a flurry; he is never worried nor confused. He is beset behind and before with men who try to catch him, but he is as self- possessed as if he spoke among friends. He does not appear to be the least upon his guard, and yet instead of their catching him, before long he either catches them, or else they retire saying, “Never man spake like this Man.” He was always cool, peaceful, ready, self-composed. You notice his inward quietude not only when enemies are round about him, but when he is surrounded by a great mob of people all hungry, starving, famishing: he breaks the bread and multiplies it; but not before he has made them all sit down on the green grass by hundreds and by fifties. He will have them in companies, arranged in ranks, for convenient distribution; and when they are all placed in order, as if it had been a well-marshalled royal entertainment, then it is that he takes the bread, and, looking up to heaven, with all deliberation asks a blessing, and breaks and gives the food to the disciples. The disciples make no scramble of it: it is an orderly festival, and the thousands are all fed in order due, in majestic decorum; for Christ was calm, and therefore master of the situation. He never looks as if he had fallen into difficulties, and then adopted expedients to get out of them; but his whole life is pre-arranged and ordered in the most prudent and peaceful manner. Nothing upon this earth, although he was so reduced that he had nowhere to lay his head, although he was sometimes so weary that he sat down upon a well to rest, could put him out of the way, or disarrange his perfect collectedness. He was always ready for every emergency; in fact, nothing was an emergency to him. What a beautiful picture that is of Christ on board ship in a storm! While they that are with him are afraid that they will go down, that the wind will blow them into the water, or blow the water over them, so that they will certainly be drowned, what is he doing? Why, he is asleep: not because he forgot them— no; but because he knew that the vessel was in the great Father’s hands. It was his time for sleep; he was weary and needed it, and so he carried out that which was the nearest duty, and in all peacefulness laid his head on a pillow, and slumbered. His sleep ought to have made them feel at ease. Whenever the captain can afford to go to sleep, the passengers may go to sleep too. Depend upon it, he that manages everything would not have gone to bed if he had not felt that it was all right in the hands of the Highest, who at any moment could stay the raging storm. I wish we could be similarly restful; for then even our enemies would say of us, “He trusted on the Lord.” I wish we could have that steadfast, imperturbable frame of mind, in which our Lord untied the knots wherewith his foes would have bound him; for then our assailants would marvel at our quiet confidence. Jesus knew no hurry, but calmly and deliberately he met each matter as it came, and grandly kept himself free from all entanglement. Oh, for the holy quiet which would prevent our going about our business in haste! “He that believeth shall not make haste,” but do everything as in the infinite leisure of the Eternal, who never is before his time, and never is behind. If we could do that, and did not get so flurried and worried, and tossed about and driven to our wit’s end, then our enemies would say with astonishment, “He trusted on the Lord.”

     Brethren, this ought also to come out not merely in our calm and quiet manner, but also by our distinct avowal. I do not think that any man has a right to be a secret believer in the Lord Jesus Christ at this time. You will tell me that Nicodemus was so; that Joseph of Arimathea was so, and I answer “Yes”; but therein they are not our exemplars. These weak brethren were forgiven and strengthened; but we may not therefore presume. Times, however, are different now: by the death of Christ the thoughts of many hearts were revealed, and from that day those secret disciples were among the foremost to avow their faith. Nicodemus brought the spices, and Joseph of Arimathea went in boldly and begged the body of Jesus. Since that day when the Christ was openly revealed upon the cross, the thoughts of other men’s hearts are revealed too; and it is not now permissible for us to play hide-and-seek with Christ. No; “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;” “He that with his heart believeth and with his mouth maketh confession of him, shall be saved.” The open confession is constantly, in Scripture, joined with the secret faith. The Lord Jesus Christ puts it, “He that denieth me before men, him will I deny”; and if you read it, the text sets denying in opposition to confession, so that it really means, “He that does not confess me before men, him will I not confess when I come in the glory of the Father.” Our Lord does not reckon upon leading a body of followers who will always keep behind the hedge, hiding themselves in holes and corners whenever there is anything to be done for his glory, and only running out at meal-times when there is something to be got for themselves. I know some professors of that sort, but I have very little to say to their credit: they are a cowardly crew. No, no. We ought distinctly to declare that we believe in God, and we should take opportunities, as prudence dictates, of telling to our friends and neighbours what our experience has been about trusting in God; telling them of deliverances we have received, of prayers which have been answered, and of many other tokens for good which have come to us as the result of our faith in God. To trust in man is a thing of which we may be ashamed, for we find man to be as a broken reed, or as a spear that pierces us to our heart when we lean thereon; but blessed are they that trust in the Lord, for they shall be as trees planted by the rivers of water, they shall bring forth their fruit in their season, and even their leaf shall not wither. God, in whom they trust, will honour their faith, and bless them yet more and more; let them therefore honour their God, and never hesitate to speak well of his name. So, then, I say first a calm belief, and, secondly, an open avowal should cause even our adversaries to know that we have trusted in the Lord.

     And, then, I will add to that, that our general conduct should reveal our faith. The whole of our life should show that we are men who rejoice in the Lord; for trusting the Lord, as I understand it, is not a thing for Sundays and for places of worship alone: we are to trust in the Lord about everything. If I trust the Lord about my soul I must trust him about my body, about my wife, about my children, and all my domestic and business affairs. It would have been a terrible thing if the Lord had drawn a black line around our religious life, and had said, “You may trust me about that, but with household matters I will have nothing to do.” We need the whole of life to be within the ringfence of divine care. The perfect bond of divine love must tie up the whole bundle of our affairs, or the whole will slip away. Faith is a thing for the closet, and the parlour, and the counting-house, and the farmhouse; it is a light for dark days, and a shade for bright days: you may carry it with you everywhere, and everywhere it shall be your help. Oh, that we did so trust in the Lord that people noticed it as much as they notice our temper, our dress, or our tone. The pity is that too often we go forward helter-skelter, following our own wisdom, whereas we ought to say, “No, I must wait a little while, till I ask counsel of the Lord.” It should be seen and known that we are distinctly waiting upon God for guidance. What a stir this would make in some quarters! I wish that without any desire to be Pharisaical, or to display our piety, we nevertheless did unconsciously show the great principle which governs us. Just as one man will say, “Excuse me, I must consult a friend,” or, “I must submit the case to my solicitor,” so it ought to be habitual with a Christian before he replies to an important matter, to demand a moment wherein he may wait upon God and obtain direction. In any case I wish that it may be so usual with us to ask guidance from above that it may be noticed as our habit to trust on the Lord.

     Once more, I think this ought to come out most distinctly in our behaviour during times of trouble; for then it is that our adversaries are most likely to notice it. You, dear sister, have lost a child. Well now, remember that you are a Christian woman, and sorrow not as those that are without hope. Do let the difference be real and true, and do not be ashamed that others should observe it. When your neighbour lost her child it occasioned a quarrel between her and God, but it is not so with you, is it? Will you quarrel with God about your baby? Oh, no; you love him too well. And you, brother, you are perplexed in business, and you know what a worldling does: if he has nothing more than outward religion, he complains bitterly that God deals hardly with him, and he quarrels with God; or, perhaps, to make things better, he does what he ought not to do in business, and makes them a great deal worse. Many a man has plunged into rash speculations until he has destroyed himself commercially; but you, as a Christian man, must take matters calmly and quietly: it is not yours to speculate, but to confide. Your strength lies in saying— “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” You must not be so eager to be rich that you would put forth your hand to do iniquity in order to seize the golden apples: that is the reverse of faith. You are now to play the man, and in the power of the Holy Ghost you are now with resignation— with more than that— with a sweet acquiescence in the Divine will — to show men how a Christian can behave himself. I have never admired Addison’s words as some have done, who, when he came to die, sent for a lord of his acquaintance, and said, “See how a Christian can die.” There is a little parade about that; but I do desire that every Christian should say in his soul, “I will show men how a Christian can live. I will let them see what it is to live by faith in the Son of God who loved me, and gave himself for me. Those who do not believe there is a God shall yet be led to feel there must be a God, because my faith in him doth speed so well, and I obtain such unnumbered blessings as the result of it.” I say, most earnestly, that especially in the time of sorrow and bereavement, when other people are sore put to it because they have lost their joy, and the light of their house is quenched, it is the believer’s duty and privilege by his holy calm of heart to show his trust in God. If religion cannot help you in trouble, it is not worth having; if the Spirit of God does not sustain you when you lose your dearest friend, you ought to question whether it is the Spirit of God; you ought to ask, “Can this be the Spirit which bore up the martyrs at the stake?” if now that you are passing through these waters you are carried away by them? If our faith shines out in dark times, even as the stars are seen by night, then is it well with us.

     Oh, that you and I might in all these ways so live that all who see us should know that we are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ! It would be ridiculous if a man went into society with a label on his breast, “This man trusts in God,” and it would be a pretty clear sign that he needed to be thus ticketed. I would have you shun all distinctive phylacteries in matters of religion as too much flavoured with the leaven of the Pharisees; but when the possession of godliness proclaims its own self, even as a box of precious spikenard tells its own tale, you need not be ashamed of it. Display and ostentation are vicious, but the unrestrained use of influence and example is commendable. In these days when men glory in their unbelief, let us not be bashful with our faith. If, in a free country, men should not persecute an infidel, they certainly ought not to silence a believer. We do not intend to smuggle our religion through the land. It is not contraband, and therefore we shall bear it with us openly in the sight of all men, and let them say if they please, “He trusted on the Lord.”

     II. Secondly, THIS TRUST ON THE PART OF BELIEVING MEN IS NOT UNDERSTOOD BY THE WORLD. “He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him.” Observe that they restricted the Saviour’s trust to that point— “He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him.” But now, in the first place, our faith is not confined to merely receiving from God. No, brethren; if the Lord does not deliver us we will trust him. See how firmly Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stood to it that they would not bow before the image which Nebuchadnezzar had set up: “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace,, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” There was great faith in that “if not.” We must not live and wait upon God with a kind of cupboard love, just as a stray dog might follow a man for bones; but we must speak well of our God even if he scourge us, for therein lies both the truth and the strength of faith. Job has put it— “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Whatever happens to us, if our faith is the work of the Holy Spirit we shall hold on to our trust in God.

     Neither is our faith limited to what men call deliverance. It is a misrepresentation when his enemies say, “He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him;” because though it is the truth, it is not the whole truth. Our blessed Lord continued to trust in the Father though the cup did not pass from him, and though no legions of angels were sent to deliver him from Pilate. Though the enemy was permitted to exercise all his malice upon him until his blessed body was nailed to the accursed tree, yet the faith of our divine Lord and Master was not moved from its steadfastness. He trusted in God for something higher than deliverance from death, for he looked beyond the grave, and said, “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” In all his pains his heart said, “It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good.” The blind world cannot understand this. They say, like their father, “Doth Job fear God for nought?” They insinuate that Christian people trust God for what they get out of him. Now I have often thought that if the devil could have put it the other way he would have been very rejoiced to do so. Suppose he could have said, “Job serves God for nought,” then the ungodly world would have shouted, “We told you so. God is a bad Paymaster: his servants may serve him as perfectly as Job, but he never gives them any reward.” Happily the accuser’s grumble is of quite the opposite kind. Neither one way nor another is there any pleasing the devil, and it is not a thing we desire to do. Let him put it as he likes. We serve God and we have our reward; but if the Lord does not choose to give us exactly what we look for, still will we trust in him, for it is our delight. It is a misrepresentation to say of a believer that “he trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him if he is supposed to trust for no other reason.

     And, dear friends, our faith is not tied to time. That is the mistake of the statement in the text. They said, “He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him” — as much as to say, “If God does not deliver him now his trust will have been a folly, and God will not have answered to his confidence.” But it is not so. Brethren, if we are in the fire tonight, and we are trusting in God, our faith does not mean that we expect to come forth from the furnace at this very hour. Nay, we may not come out to-night, nor to-morrow, nor next month, it may be not for years. We do not tie God down to conditions, and expect him to do this and that, and then if he does not in his wisdom see fit to do it, threaten that we will trust him no more. The very worst we could do would be to make the Eternal God a slave to time, as though he must do everything at our bidding, and measure his divine movements by the ticking of a clock. The Lord did deliver his Son Jesus Christ, but he suffered him to die first; he was put into the grave before he was uplifted from the power of death; and if it had not been that he died and lay in the tomb he could not have had that splendid deliverance which his Father did vouchsafe him when he raised him again from the dead; had he not yielded to death there could have been no resurrection for him or for us. So, beloved, it may be God has not effected his purpose with you yet, nor has he quite prepared you for the height of blessing to which he has ordained you. Receive what he is going to give you, and take gratefully the painful preliminaries. High palaces must have deep foundations, and it takes a long time to excavate a human soul so deep that God can build a gorgeous palace of grace therein. If it be a mere cottage that the Lord is to build in you, you may escape with small troubles; but if he is going to make you a palace to glorify himself withal, then you may expect to have long trials. Coarse pottery needs not the laborious processes which must be endured by superior vessels. Iron which is to become a sword for a hero must know more of the fire than the metal which lies upon the road as a rail. Your eminence in grace can only come by affliction. Will you not have trust in God if severe trials are ordained for you? Yes, of course you will. The Holy Spirit will be the all-sufficient helper of your infirmities. I say it is misrepresentation if we limit the Holy One of Israel to any form for our deliverance, or to any time for our deliverance. Let not the Lord of love be treated like a child at school, as if he could be taught anything by us!

     So, also, our faith must not judge at all by present circumstances. The ungodly world judges that God has not delivered us because we are now in trouble, and are at present distressed by it. Oh, how wrongly the world judged of Christ when it judged of him by his condition! Covered with a bloody sweat and groaning out his soul to God beneath the olives at midnight— why, they that passed by who did not know him must have judged him to be a man accursed of God. “See,” they would have said, “we never heard of a man that sweat blood before— sweat blood in prayer; and yet listen to his groaning; he is not heard by God, for evidently the cup does not pass from him.” If any man had looked at our Lord Jesus when he was on the cross and had heard him cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” they would have certainly concluded that he was the most ungracious and undeserving of men; for had he been a saint, surely, they say, God would not have forsaken him. Yes, but you see they only saw a little of our blessed Master’s career; they only looked upon a span of his existence; what a grievous error it was to have estimated his life by his brief passion, knowing nothing of its grand intent! See him now while harps unnumbered sound his praises and all heaven rejoices to behold his glory, and the Father looks upon him with ineffable delight! This is the same Jesus who was crucified! What think you of him now? You must not measure a man by a little bit of his life, nor even by the whole of his earthly career; for it is nothing compared with the hidden future of his life in eternity. These men measured David’s faith, and measure our faith by what they see of us on one day: we are sick, we are sorry, we are poor, we are troubled, and then they say, “We told you so! This faith of theirs is not worth having, or else they would not fare so roughly or be found in so much heaviness.” Faith and feeling are in contrast. Outward circumstances must never be made the tests of the value of pious trust in our God. We must not judge God by his dealings with us nor judge ourselves thereby; but let us still hold on to this pure, simple faith that the Lord is good to Israel. Let us love the Lord for a whole eternity of his love, and then for everything, for every turn of his hand, for every frown and stroke and rebuke; for he is good in everything, unalterably good. If with this faith of ours we are praying and pleading and God does not answer us, does not help us, but leaves us in the dark, yet still let not our trust waver. If any man walk in darkness and see no light, let him trust and trust on until the light shall come.

     So, then, we have just touched upon two points— that a true man’s faith is soon made known, but that, though it be known, it is usually misunderstood. We live among blind men; let us not be angry because they cannot see.

     III. Thirdly, THIS TRUE FAITH WILL, IN ALL PROBABILITY, BE MOCKED AT SOME TIME OR OTHER. It is a great honour to a man to trust in God, and so to have his name written upon the Arch of Triumph which Paul has erected in the eleventh chapter of the Hebrews, where you see name after name of the heroes who served God by faith. It is a glorious thing to mingle our bones with those who are buried in that mausoleum which bears this epitaph, “These all died in faith.” It is an honourable thing to be a believer in God, but there are some who think the very reverse, and these begin to scoff at the believer. Sometimes they scoff at faith itself: they count faith itself to be a folly of weak minds. Or else they insult over one particular Christian’s faith. “Oh,” they say, “he professes to trust in God. This man talks after this mad fashion! Why, he is a working man like other people— works in a shop along with me. What has he to do with trusting God any more than I have? He is conceited and fanatical.” Or in other circles they cry, “This is a man of business; he keeps a shop, and I dare say he knows as much of the tricks of the trade as we do, and yet he talks about trusting in God. No doubt he pretends to this faith to win religious customers.” Sometimes the mockery comes from one of your own family, for faith’s foes live in the same house with her. The husband has been known to say to his wife, “Ridiculous nonsense, your trusting in God!” Ay, and parents have said the like to holy children; and, alas! children have grown up to speak in like fashion to their parents to the wounding of their hearts. As if faith in God were a thing that could be scoffed at, instead of being the most wise, and proper, and rational thing under heaven. Faith in God is a thing to be reverenced rather than reviled. True religion is sanctified common-sense. It is the most common-sense thing in the world to put your trust in One that cannot lie. If I trust myself, or trust my fellow-man, I am thought to be in the first case self-reliant, and in the second case I am judged to have a charitable disposition; yet in either case I shall, sooner or later, prove my folly; but if I trust God, who can bring a reason against my confidence? What is there to be ridiculed in a man’s trusting his Maker? Can HE fail that created the blue heavens, that settled the foundations of the earth and poured out the waters of the great sea? Can the Almighty retract his promise because he is unable to fulfil it? Can he break his word because circumstances master him and prevent his performance of it? “Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.” The day shall come when it will be known by all intelligent beings that unbelief of God is folly, but that faith in the Eternal is essential wisdom. God give us more faith in himself. No doubt we may expect to have all the more of the laughter of the ungodly, who will make a spectacle of us for our faith: but what of that? We can bear mockery and much more for his sake who died for us.

     And then men scoff at the very idea of divine interposition. They judge the Lord’s deliverance to be the main point of our faith. “He trusted God that he would deliver him.” “Look,” they say, “he fancies that God will deliver him, as if the Creator had not something else to do besides looking after him, poor miserable creature that he is! He is nothing to God— a mere speck— the insect of an hour, and yet he trusts in God to interfere on his behalf.” The philosophers laugh whenever you speak of divine interposition, and count that we must be in the last stage of lunacy to expect anything of the kind. They believe in laws, they say— irreversible, immutable laws, that grind on, like the great cogs of a machine which, when once they are set in motion, tear everything to pieces that comes in their way. They do not believe that God fulfils promises, or answers prayers, or delivers his people. Their God is a dead force, without mind, or thought, or love, or care. He who in nature acts according to law is yet believed to have no power to carry out his own word, which must always be law to a truthful being. Why, some of us are as sure that God has interposed for us as if he had rent the heavens and thrust forth his right hand visibly before the eyes of all beholders. The wise ones laugh at us for this, but we are not abashed; rather do we reply, “Laugh if you like, and as long as you like; but we daily receive unnumbered blessings from God in answer to our cries, and your laughter no more affects us than the noise of the dogs by the Nile disturbs the flow of the river. We shall believe for all your merriment, and if it please you to go on with your laughter we also will go on with our faith.” The object of the ungodly man’s scorn is the idea that God should ever interfere to help his people in human affairs; but do you stand to it, O true believers; for he does still show himself strong on the behalf of them that trust in him. Let them say, and laugh at you as they say it, “He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him;” but let none of these things move you.

     Further, we have known this mockery to extend to all kinds of faith in the divine love. “Let him deliver him,” they say, “seeing that he delighted in him.” Perhaps you have unwisely told out the tale of God’s special love to those who are now making merriment of you; you have cast your pearls before swine, and they turn again to rend you. They say, “This man says God loves him above others; that he chose him before the world began; that he redeemed him from among men with the blood of Christ; that he has called him by his Holy Spirit that he has admitted him into his secrets and made him his child;” and then they laugh again right lustily, as if it were a rare jest. How the world rages against electing love! It cannot endure any speciality in grace. The idea that one man should be more beloved of heaven than another it scouts as horrible. The heathen could not make out a certain brave saint because he called himself Theophorus, or “Godbearer;” but he stuck to it that he was so, and this made his foes the more wrathful. God dwelt in him, he said, and he would not give up his happy belief, therefore they ceased not to mock. It was a carrying out of our text, “Let him deliver him, seeing he delighteth in him.” Well, well; we can afford to bear these mockings; for if we are beloved by a king it will not much matter if we are sneered at by his subjects if we are beloved by God it is a small concern though all men should make us the subject of their jest.

     Ungodly men are exceedingly apt to find amusement in the trials involved in the life and walk of faith. Their cry of “Let him deliver him” implies that their victim was in serious difficulty from which he could not extricate himself. This is no novelty to the believer, but it makes rare fun for the ungodly. What is the good of faith if the believer suffers like others, and endures the same pains, and losses, and diseases as others? So the men of the world argue. They would be believers too if it would bring them in a fortune, or a handsome salary, or at least a loaded table and a full cup. But when they see a saint on the dunghill with Job, or in the pit with Joseph, or in the dungeon with Jeremiah, or among the dogs with Lazarus, they sneer and cry Is this the reward of piety? Is this the recompense of godliness? They like to spy us out in our time of trouble and taunt us with our confidence in God; and, alas, there is so much unbelief in us that we are all too prone in such seasons to question the justice and faithfulness of the Lord, and to say with David, “Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency.” It seems hard for us to be mocked by the base ones of the earth, to become the song and the byword of the ungodly; yet this has happened to the excellent of the earth and will happen yet again. Set your account that this is a part of the covenanted heritage, and accept it with joy for Christ’s sake.

     IV. Now, I must close with this point (though there is much more to be said): THE TIME SHALL COME WHEN THE FAITH OF THE MAN WHO HAS TRUSTED IN GOD SHALL BE ABUNDANTLY JUSTIFIED. I think it is no small thing to have the ungodly bearing witness that “He trusted in God that he would deliver him.” I have known what it is to be exceedingly grateful to ungodly men for helping me to believe that I am truly a child of God. Somebody, years ago, uttered an atrocious lie against me— an abominable slander. I was very low and heavy of spirit at the time; but when I read it I clapped my hands for joy, for I felt, “Now I have one of the marks and seals of a child of God, for it is written, ‘Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.’” The love of the Lord’s brethren and the hatred of the Lord’s enemies are two things to be desired. We may gather that we are not of the wicked when they will not endure us in their company, when our very presence irritates them, and they begin to rail and jeer. It has happened unto us even as Jesus said: “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” So that there is justification, as it were, of our faith even from the lips of adversaries, and we ought to be thankful for it instead of being. downcast about it.

     Another justification awaits us, and in due season it will come. Brethren, the day will come when God will deliver his people. You will be brought out of your trouble— it may not be immediately, but it will be seasonably. You may most wisely in the meantime learn to glory in your tribulation; your bitters shall turn into sweets, and your losses into gains; your sorrows shall be your joys, your struggles your triumphs— perhaps in this life this transformation may occur, even as the Lord gave to Job twice as much as he had before; but certainly in the life to come you will find the tables turned. Then, what will the ungodly say? They say now, “He trusted on God that he would deliver him;” but they will be compelled to say as they gnash their teeth, “God has delivered him.”

     Whereas the ungodly ridicule the idea that God delights in his people, the day shall come when they shall be made to see that he does delight in them. When the Lord appears on behalf of his people, and gives them “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning,” the wicked shall gnash their teeth, and be filled with confusion. When the Lord shall turn again our captivity, even our most desperate foes shall be made to say, “The Lord hath done great things for them.” They shall wonder and be sore vexed to see how the Lord hath a favour to his chosen. If they do not see it in this life, oh, what an exhibition ungodly men will see of his delight in his people in the world to come! Dives sees Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom: what a sight for him! They that scoff at God’s poor people here, shall see them exalted to be kings and priests, to reign with Christ for ever and ever, and what will they say then? What can they say but be compelled to bear witness that their faith was justified.

     Brethren, at the last great day ungodly men will be witnesses on behalf of the saints. If any doubt whether the saints trusted in God, the wicked will be compelled to come forward and say, “They did trust, for we laughed at them for it.” Of this and that man they shall say, “He trusted on God that he would deliver him.” In that day the unbelieving will be swift witnesses against themselves; for as they ridiculed the children of God here, they will have it read out before them as evidence of their enmity against the Lord: and how will they answer it? A man is generally much grieved with any one who injures his children. I have known a man behave patiently to his neighbours, and put up with a great deal from them; but when one of them has struck his child I have seen him incensed to the last degree. He has said, “I cannot stand that, I will not look on and see my own children ill-used.” The Lord says, “He that touches you touches the apple of my eye.” Jesus rises from his throne in glory and stands up indignantly while his servant Stephen is being stoned. If I had no other amusement whatever, I would not for merriment sake mock the people of God; for it will go hard with those who make unhallowed mirth out of the saints of the Most High. If any of you have ever done so— if you have done so ignorantly— the Lord forgive you, and bring you to be numbered among his people, as was Saul of Tarsus; and if any of you have done so knowingly, be humble and penitent, and the Lord will forgive you and receive you amongst his people.

     But whether ye revile or flatter, it is all one to us. We are at a pass with you: we do trust in God that he will deliver us, and we cannot be removed from this confidence. O ye mockers, we will not be fooled out of our hope, nor jested out of our peace. We cannot find any one like our God to trust to, and so we will not depart from him in life or death, but will rest in him, come what may, even till we see him face to face.



Knowledge. Worship. Gratitude.

By / Jun 22

KNOWLEDGE. WORSHIP. GRATITUDE.

 

“So that they are without excuse: because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful.” — Romans i. 20, 21.

 

THOSE who boast of their knowledge betray their ignorance. Knowledge is not a possession to be proud of, since it brings with it so great a responsibility that a nurse might as well be proud of watching over a life in peril. Knowledge may become good or ill according to the use which is made of it. If men know God, for instance, and then glorify him as God, and are thankful, their knowledge has become the means of great blessing to them; but if they know God, and fail to glorify him, their knowledge turns to their condemnation. There is a knowledge which does not puff up the mind, but builds up the soul, being joined with holy love. Did not our Lord say, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”? But for men to know God, and not to glorify him as God, and to be unthankful, is, according to our text, no benefit to them: on the contrary, it becomes a savour of death unto them, because it leaves them without excuse. Our Saviour could plead for some, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” But what plea is to be used for those who know what they do, and yet do evil; who know what they ought to do, and do it not? These have the light, and close their eyes; or, to use another figure, they have the light, and use it to sin by. They take the golden candlestick of the sanctuary into their hands, and by its help they perform their evil deeds the more dexterously, and run in the way of wickedness the more swiftly. Accursed is that man who heaps to himself knowledge till he becomes wise as Solomon, and then prostitutes it to base ends by using it to aggrandize his wealth, to pamper his appetites, to bolster his unbelief, or to conceal his vices. A man may by knowing more become all the more a devil. His growing information may only increase his condemnation. It is clear, then, that knowledge is not a possession of such unmingled good that we may grow vain of it; better far will it be if the more we know the more we watch and pray. Go on and read, young man. Go on and study with the utmost diligence. The more of knowledge you can acquire the better; but take care that you do not, like Sardanapalus, heap up your treasures to be your own funeral pile. Do not by a rebellious pride curdle the sweet milk of knowledge, and sour your precious blessing into an awful curse. It is soon done, but not so soon undone. It was the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil the eating of which brought all this evil upon us which ye see this day. Ye may eat of that tree still, if so it please you; but if ye taste not of the tree of life at the same time, your knowledge shall only open to you the gates of hell. Knowledge of itself alone is as land which may either become a blooming garden or a howling wilderness. It is a sea out of which you shall bring pearls or dead men’s bones. Life and death, heaven and hell, are here: if it was said of old, “Take heed what you hear,” I also will say, “Take heed what you know.”

     The people mentioned by Paul in our text fell into two great evils, or rather into two forms of one great evil— atheism: the atheism of the heart, and the atheism of the life. They knew God, but they glorified him not as God, neither were they thankful.

     We will first consider the first sin mentioned here, and then the second. I shall not look at these two evils as if you were Romans, because I know that you are not, but I shall adapt the text to your own case, and speak of these sins, as Englishmen are too apt to commit them. Thirdly, let us view the consequences, or, what comes of men not glorifying God, and not being thankful. Then, fourthly, let us fly from these sins immediately, God helping us. O Holy Spirit, help the preacher now, for all his help is in thee!

     I. At once, then, let us look at this first sin, a sin very common in these days. THEY KNEW GOD, BUT THEY GLORIFIED HIM NOT AS GOD. Even in old Rome, with all its darkness, there was some knowledge of God: how can the creature quite forget its Creator? Of course the people had not that spiritual knowledge which the Holy Ghost communicates to the renewed in heart, for the carnal mind cannot know God spiritually: its fleshly ideas cannot come near to his holy spirituality. But Paul means that they perceived the eternal power and Godhead of the Great Former of all things; and they might have perceived much more of his divine character and glory if their foolish hearts had not been darkened by their evil passions. When you go among the heathen, whether they are Pantheists or Polytheists, or whatever they may be, there is still a notion in the background of all their mythology of some one great superior being, elevated above those whom they call gods, some serenely just father, preserver, avenger, and rewarder of men. The most debased of mankind are still found to have some measure of knowledge of the great Creator: they hold the truth, though they hold it in unrighteousness. They can as soon shut their eyes to the sun, as completely blind their minds to the fact that there is a God. Some among the heathen no doubt attained to a very considerable knowledge of God, or at least they walked upon the borders of marvellous discoveries of the Godhead. We are greatly surprised at the language of Socrates, and Plato, and Seneca, and others: such men have lately been held up as patterns; but if their lives are studied, they will be found to be sadly defaced with what Paul fitly calls “vile affections.” These were wise men, but the world by wisdom knew not God; they were great thinkers, but a clear revelation of God was not in all their thoughts. They did not like to retain God in their knowledge, and so they remained steeped in loathsome vice which we dare not mention, for it is a shame even to speak of the things which were done of the most enlightened of them in secret. They had knowledge, but they forgot its responsibilities: they knew God, but they glorified him not as God, neither were they thankful.

     We may now let all the heathen go, for it is more true of us than it is of them, that we know God. Those to whom I am speaking to-night dwell where the name of God is familiar, where the gospel of God sounds like a trumpet in their streets, where the character of God is painted with the finger of light upon the blessed pages of the Bible, and where the Spirit of God takes care that the consciences of men shall be enlightened. We know God, but I am afraid that there are many thousands and millions of our fellow-creatures who glorify him not as God; let us see to it that we do not ourselves belong to the unhappy number.

     Those do not glorify God as God who do not trace all their good things to God. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,” but many ungrateful hearts forget this truth, and receive the blessings of this life with dumb mouths and cold hearts. In the old time there were those who traced everything they saw to what they called “Chance”; that misformed deity has been laid aside, and on its pedestal men have set up another idol known as “Nature.” Nowadays swarms of people attribute everything that is great and wonderful to “Nature”: — they talk for ever of “the beauties of Nature,” “the grandeur of Nature,” “the laws of Nature;” but God is as little spoken of as if he were not alive. As to laws of Nature, these occupy with moderns much the same place as the deities of Olympus with the ancients. What are laws of Nature but the ordinary ways in which God works? I know of no other definition of them. But these people attribute to them a sort of power apart from the presence of the Creator. One standing up in the street, venting his infidelity, said that we could not do better on Sunday than go abroad and worship Nature. There was nothing that was so refining and elevating to the mind as Nature. Nature did everything. A Christian man in the crowd ventured to ask, “What is Nature?” And the gentleman said, “Well, Nature— well— it is Nature? Don’t you know what it is? It is Nature?” No further definition was forthcoming; I fear the term is only useful as enabling men to talk of creation without being compelled to mention the Creator. I find nowadays that people talk about “Providence,” and yet discard God. Among the vulgar and the ungodly this is another subterfuge to avoid the ascribing of their blessings to the Giver of them. A farmer, whose crops had failed a second time, was consoled by a clergyman, because he suffered from the hand of Providence. “Yes,” said he, “that Providence is always treating me shamefully: but there’s one above that will stop him.” The poor soul had heard of Providence till he thought it an evil power, and hoped that the good God would curb its mischievous influence. This comes of not speaking plainly of God. For what is Providence? Can there be such a thing without the constant working of the Great Provider? Men talk of “Foresight.” But is there any foresight without an eye? Is there not some living eye that is watching for our good, some living hand that is following up the eye, and providing for our needs? Man does not like to think of his God. He wants to get away into a far country, away from God his Father; and he will adopt any sort of phrase which will help him to clear his language of all trace of God. He longs to have a convenient wall built up between himself and God. The heathen often attributed their prosperity to “fortune”; some of them talked of “chance”; others discoursed of “fate.” Anything is to man’s taste rather than blessing the great Father, and adoring the one God. If they prospered, they were “lucky”; this was instead of gratitude to God. They looked into the almanack to find lucky days; this instead of faith in the Most High. They were superstitious, and asked their priests to tell them what would be a fortunate time for commencing an undertaking; this instead of resting upon the goodness of the Lord. Have we not some now who bless their good luck, and still talk about their fortunate stars? God whom they know they do not honour as God.

     Yes, and we have among us men who talk neither of “fortune” nor of “Nature,” but of themselves. They are styled “self-made men,” and they are very prone to worship the great self who made them: they are never backward in that cult. Their adoration of themselves is constant, reverent, and sincere. “Self-made men,” indeed! Infinitely better is it to be a God-made man. If there be anything about us that is worth the having, it must be from him from whom every good gift and every perfect gift has evermore descended; let us therefore give Him thanks. There is no other sun for our sky than yon sun in the heavens: there is no other source of good but the ever-blessed God, who has made himself known to us, whom with all our hearts we now adore.

     But may I not be addressing some who, at this moment, do not bow before God, and bless him for their prosperity? They attribute it to their industry, and to their good luck. Oh, sirs, you come under the head of those who know God, and yet do not glorify him as God; neither are you thankful. The Lord help such to confess this sin, and may his grace wash them clean of it, for indeed it is a great and heinous sin in the judgment of the Most High. Justice makes a black mark against those who do not ascribe their good things to God, from whom they flow with such sweet constancy of kindness.

     But we can also commit that sin, in the next sense, by not feeling any obligation laid upon us through partaking of the divine bounty. Are there not many rich men to whom it never occurs to feel bound to serve the Lord who gave them power to get wealth? Are there not many healthy persons, sound of limb, and strong in constitution, who yet do not praise the God who has kept them from sickness and death? Are we any of us sufficiently grateful for our talents, our faculties, our friends, our daily provisions? Do we not all receive a large amount of blessing for which we do not render praise to God? The fact is that every mercy brings an obligation with it, and we that receive most ought to render most; for we receive nothing from God without being thereby naturally and of right laid under bonds to return to him the glory due unto his name. We are tenants, whose rent is to be paid in service and praise. It is a very blessed obligation! It is a happy bond to be bound to praise and bless God! Praise is no more a burden to a true heart than song to a bird, or perfume to a flower, or twinkling to a star. Adoration is no taxation. God's revenue of glory comes from myriads of free-will offerings, which gracious spirits delight to present to him all their days. Yet there are some who know God, but they glorify him not as God: they rob him of that which it should be their life to bring. They seem to say that they are their own, and not God’s: they may live as they please; they may serve themselves. God is not in all their thoughts; and, as to spending and being spent in the service of him who gave them being, it has not yet crossed their minds. God’s complaint concerning them is a just one, — “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.” God grant us grace to avoid this cruel provocation, and may we glorify God as God by practically owning the obligation under which his mercy places us.

     Many may be met with who know God, but never glorify him as God, because they never adore him, and worship him, with the love of their hearts. They go to church or to some place of worship regularly, and sing psalms and hymns, and they may even have family-prayer at home; but their heart has never adored the living God with living love. Their worship has a name to live, but it is dead. They present to the Lord all the external harvest of worship, but the corn is gone, only the straw and the husk are there. And what is the value of your husky prayers? your prayers without a kernel, made up of the straw of words, and the chaff of formality? What is the value of professions of loyalty from a rebel? What is the worth of professed friendship to God when your heart is at enmity against him? Is it not a mockery of God to present to him a sacrifice “where not the heart is found”? When the Lord has to say— They come as my people, and they sit as my people, and they sing as my people, but their heart is far from me, — can he take any pleasure in them? May not God thus complain of many? Oh, let it not be so with you! I know that there are some here against whom that charge would lie if we preferred it—that they know God, but they do not glorify him as God, for they do not love him. The name and service of God are much on their tongues, but they do not delight in him, they do not hunger and thirst after him, they do not find prayer and praise to be their very element, but such service as they render is merely lip-service, the unwilling homage of bond-slaves, and not the delighted service of those who are the children of God. Oh, my brethren, if we accept Jehovah as the living God, let us give him the utmost love of our souls. Will you call a man brother, and then treat him like a dog? Dare you call God your God, and then act towards him as though he were not worthy of a thought? With what joy does David cry, “I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds”! This is the kind of spirit with which to deal with the Lord. Oh, to rejoice in God all the day, and to make him our exceeding joy! Thus, and thus only, do we glorify him as God. Without the fire of love no incense will ever rise from the censer of praise. If we do not delight in God we do not fitly adore God.

     There is another way of not glorifying God as God, and that is by never recognizing his omnipresence. Have we not among us those who on Sunday feel some kind of reverence of God, but during the six days of the week are godless? When they are in a place of worship they have some sense of God’s being there; if they do not fear and tremble, yet they behave with decency and respect; but in other places they dare to act as if they were out of range of God. Do they fancy that God is not in that secret chamber where they follow out their passions? Do they imagine that he is not in that ribald company where they make mirth of sacred things? Do they imagine that out of man’s sight is also out of God’s sight? Do not some men so act and live if God were either dead, or else were blind and deaf, utterly oblivious to everything that is done on the face of the earth? How blind must they be who think God blind! May we never fall into this absurdity! May we feel that we cannot anywhere consent to sin for God is there. The whole earth is God’s house: shall we abuse the King in his own palace? The skies are the roof of his temple, and beneath God’s blue sky we ought not to find a place to sin in. Nowhere in time is there space for evil, nor in the universe is there room for sin. Yet, alas, how few recognize, “Thou God seest me,” as being a death-blow to sin? “They know God, but they glorify him not as God,” but think that he is absent either in person or in mind, and that in some secret places they can hide away from him, and with impunity follow their own desires.

     Are there not some again, and many, who do not admit the true glory of God because the idea of his sovereignty is very horrible to them? I lay this charge against many professing Christians— that their God is not the God of the Bible, and that they have no notion of Jehovah, the true God. The one God of heaven and earth is Jehovah — that God who said of old, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” Certain professed followers of Jesus will not have this God, but they make to themselves a god who is under some degree of obligation to his sinful creatures, of whom they say that he is bound to treat all alike. These are guilty of robbing Divinity of its most majestic attribute, namely, sovereignty. They are for dictating to the King of kings, and tying the hands of infinite compassion, lest the supreme will of God should have too much liberty. I know of no such God as that: the God I worship can never do other than right, yet is he under no bond to his creatures, but ordereth all things according to the counsel of his own will. I believe that if the Lord had denied me mercy, I had so sinned that I could never have impugned his justice. When I see him save a sinner, I look not at it as a deed which he was bound to do, but as a spontaneous act, free as the air, full of his own goodness which arises entirely from himself, “He doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth.” I, for one, am perfectly satisfied with everything that God does, whether of power, justice, or mercy. My heart says, “It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good.” I could have sung the song of Moses at the Bed Sea, when all Egypt was drowned, and found in the drowning of the foe a deep background of joy, because I should have seen in it the carrying out of the divine will, the reign of righteousness, and the avenging of cruel tyranny. I make bold to say that I would have praised God as the waves went over Pharaoh; for the Lord did it, and he did right. I would have cried with Moses, “I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.” I expect to be among the number, though some seem as if they would decline the service, who shall for ever bless God for all his dealings with mankind— the stern as well as those that seem more tender. The Lord God, even Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, is the God whom I worship. I do not know this new god that has lately come up, who they say is all tenderness and has none of the stern attributes of righteousness and wrath. The God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob is the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and in him my soul delights. Let him sway his sceptre even as he pleases. His will be done on earth even as it is in heaven. Again will we say Hallelujah, when all his everlasting purposes shall have been fulfilled, and the wicked shall be punished, and the righteous raised to their Father’s throne. To know God, and to glorify him as God, is to regard him as supreme, ungoverned, the Arbiter of all things, whose will is law. I believe in God on his throne, God giving no account of his matters, but doing his own pleasure as God over all. Short of this I could not glorify him as God.

     There are some others who know God, who fail to glorify him as God, because they do not trust him. In revelation God has presented himself as the object of trust to his creatures, and he has promised that all who trust in him shall be forgiven their transgressions through the atonement of his Son, Jesus Christ. Such as trust him he declares shall be saved; and he sends out a messenger of mercy to all mankind, proclaiming— “He that believeth in him is not condemned.” He bids sinners come and trust under the shadow of his wing; and he declares that none that come to him will be ever cast out. Revealing himself in Christ Jesus, he pleads with guilty men. Asking nothing of them, he entreats them to accept his mercy, which he freely presents to them without money and without price. Making no distinction in the gospel-call, he bids men come to him, saying, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth; for I am God, and besides me- there is none else.” When proud man replies, “No, I shall trust in myself, trust in my own works, trust in my own prayers, but I shall not trust in Christ,” then he knows God, but he glorifies him not as God, and when he perishes he will be without excuse. What kind of God is that whom we will not trust? How do we honour him when we refuse to believe him? Do we accept his Godhead, and yet refuse his mercy? This cannot be.

     The counts are many against men, but this one more must be mentioned— many know God, but they never glorify him as God by submitting themselves to him, and yielding up their members to be instruments of his glory. If I glorify God as God, then I desire to obey God’s commandments, to spread his glory, to magnify his name. I desire in all things to please him, if indeed I treat him as God should be treated. If I know God, and yet live for my own profit, for my own honour, for my own comfort, then I do not glorify God as God. Oh, sirs, when the Lord is glorified as God, we yield ourselves to his control without a murmur. He may take what he will away from us, and we say, “It is the Lord: let him do what seemeth him good.” He may remove every comfort from us, and cover us with sore boils and blains, but we shall sit down with Job upon the dunghill, and say, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Knowing him as God will make us submissive to suffer, and quick to act. We shall feel the force of Elijah’s cry, “If the Lord be God, follow him.” We shall rouse ourselves to the utmost energy to serve him when he stands before us as really God. If we serve man and are faithful, we do the best we can for our master; but if God be our Master, oh, what service we are bound to render to him! What enthusiasm ought to be kindled in our breasts by the belief that we are God’s servants! “I am thy servant,” is our happy claim, our honoured challenge. This it is that makes a man of a man, and something more than man. Oh, to learn this lesson, and to practise it! To glorify God as God will make us akin to angels! Even you Christians may feel that this is much beyond you yet, but towards it you must ever fly. I shrink before my Lord in speaking of him, but I desire what I have not yet attained— that I may truly glorify him as my Lord and my God.

     II. Now we come to consider the second sin. May the word which I may have to say about it, be blessed to many of my hearers by the power of the Holy Spirit! The second sin is NEITHER WERE THANKFUL. Did you know, dear friends, that unthankfulness was such a sin as this? Have you ever thought of it in this light before— that men were without excuse because when they knew God they were not thankful? Unthankfulness is a sin for which there is no excuse if it be attended with knowledge. I fear there are thousands who call themselves Christians, who are not thankful, and yet they never thought themselves very guilty on that account. Yet you see these sinners were without excuse, because they were guilty of a great sin before God, and that sin was unthankfulness. I tremble both for myself and you when I see want of thankfulness thus set in the front rank of sins.

     How is it that we may be unthankful?

     I answer, first, there is in some a want of gratitude for mercies possessed. They receive many blessings without making a note of them, or even seeming to know that they have them. Their daily mercies seem to come in always at the back door, where the servants take them in, and never tell their master or mistress that they have arrived. They never receive their mercies at the front door with grateful acknowledgments; but they still continue dumb debtors, daily owing more, but making no attempt at a return. The Lord continues to bless them in things temporal, to keep them in health and strength, ay, and to give them the means of grace and spiritual opportunities; and they live as if these things were so commonplace that they were not worth thanking God for. Many professors are of that kind— recipients of countless mercies, but destitute of such common thankfulness as even beasts might manifest. From them God hears no song of gratitude, no chirp of praise, though birds would charm the woodlands with their minstrelsy: these are worse than the dumb driven cattle, or the fishes in the brook, which do at least leap up, and mean their Maker’s praise.

     Some show this unthankfulness in another way, for they always dwell most on what they have not got. They have manna, and that is angels’ food; but then they have no fish, and this is a ready theme for grumbling. They talk very loudly of “the fish we did eat in Egypt,” and lament those ample feasts provided by the muddy Nile. Moreover, they have none of those delightful vegetables— the leeks, and the garlic, and the onions. They have none of these rank luxuries, and therefore again they murmur, and call the manna “light bread.” They put this complaint over and over again to Moses, till Moses must have been sick of them and their garlic. They said that they could not get leeks, and cucumbers, and onions, and that they were therefore most hardly done by, and would not much longer put up with it. Thankless rebels! And have I not known some of God’s servants say that they enjoy much of the presence of their Lord, but they have no riches; and so they are not among the favoured ones. Over their poverty they fetch a deep groan. Some live in the presence of God, so they tell us, and they are full of divine delights, but yet they are greatly afflicted with aches and pains, and all the dolors of rheumatism, and therefore they murmur. I admit that rheumatism is a dreadful pain enough, but at the same time to dwell always on the dark side of things, and to forget our mercies, is a sad instance of ingratitude. We are few of us as thankful as we ought to be; and there are some people who are not thankful at all, for instead of a song concerning their mercies, their life is one long dirge for their miseries. Must we always hear the sackbut? Is the harp never to give forth a joy-note?

     Some show their unthankfulness by fretting under their supposed ills. They know from Scripture that even their afflictions are working for their good, yet they do not rejoice in the prospect, or feel any gratitude for the refining process through which the Lord is passing them. Heaven and perfection are left unsung, but the present processes are groaned over without ceasing. Their monotonous note is always this pain, this loss, this burden, this uncomfortable sensation, this persecution from the world, this unkindness from the saints, and so on; all this goes to show that, though they know God, they do not glorify him as God, neither are they thankful.

     We can be guilty of unthankfulness, also, by never testifying to the goodness of God. A great many people come in and out of your houses; do you ever tell them about God’s goodness to you? Did you ever take up a single ten minutes with the tale of the Lord’s lovingkindness to you? Oh, what backwardness there is to testify to God as God, and to all his goodness and love! Our mouths are full of anything rather than the goodness of the Lord. Shame on our wicked lips!

     Some fail, also, in their singing of God' s praises. I love to be singing in my heart, if I may not sing with my tongue. Is it not a good thing for you house-wives, when you are about the house, to sing over everything? I remember a servant that used to sing at the washtub, and sing in the kitchen; and when some one asked her why she was always singing, she said that if it did not do anything else it kept bad thoughts out of her mind. There is a great deal in that; for bad thoughts are bad tenants, who pay no rent and foul the house. I knew a dear old Methodist preacher, who is now in heaven, who when he came downstairs of a morning was always tooting a bit of a hymn over, and he did the same in the barn, and the field. I have passed him in the street, and noted his happy melody: indeed he was always singing. He never took much notice of anybody, so as to be afraid of being overheard. Whether people heard him or not did not make much difference to him. He was singing to the Lord, not to them; and so he went on singing. I do not think that he had much of a voice, or an ear for music, but his soul was made up of praise, and that is better than a musical education. God does not criticize our voice, but he accepts our heart. Oh, to be singing the praises of God every minute of our lives, and never ceasing therefrom! Do you not think that many fail in this respect? They are not preparing for heaven, where all is praise, or they would take up the joyful employment at once.

     It is plain that many are not thankful to God, for they never praise him with their substance. Yet when the Jew was thankful, he took care to give a portion to the house of the Lord: before he would eat of his corn, he would send his sheaf to the sanctuary. If we are grateful to God, we shall feel that the first thing to do is to give of our substance an offering of thanksgiving to the Most High. But this does not strike some people, whose religion is so spiritual that they cannot endure to hear of money, and they faint at the sound of a collection. Their thankfulness rises to singing a hymn occasionally, but it never goes as far as giving a button to the cause of God. I am afraid their thankfulness is not worth more than what they pay to express it: that is to say, nothing at all. God deliver us from such a state of heart as that; and may we never, in any of these senses, be found amongst those professors, of whom it is said that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were they thankful.

     III. Listen to me now carefully for two or three minutes while, in the third place, I mention, very briefly and solemnly, what was THE RESULT OF THIS.

     They knew God, but they glorified him not as God, neither were they thankful. And the first result of it was that they fell into vain imaginings. If we do not glorify God, the true God, we shall soon be found setting up another god. This vain-imagination business is being done quite as extensively now as in Paul’s days. Depart from the inspiration of the Bible, and from the infallibility of the Spirit of God who wrote it, and where will you go? Well, I cannot tell where you will go. One wanders into one vain imagination, and one into another, till the dreamers are on all sides. I expect to see a new doctrine every day of the week now. Our thinkers have introduced an age of inventions, wherein everything is thought of but the truth of God. We do not want these novelties. We are satisfied -with the word of God as we find it. But if you do not glorify God as God, and are not thankful to him for all his teaching, then away you go into vain imaginations.

     And what next? Well, away goes the mind of man into all sorts of sins. The chapter describes unnatural lusts and horribly fierce passions. Men that are not satisfied and thankful — men that have no fear of God before their eyes— it were a shame for us to. think, much more to speak, of what they will do. A heart that cannot feed at God’s table will riot somewhere. He that is not satisfied with the cup that God has filled will soon be a partaker of the cup of devils. An unthankful spirit is, at bottom, an atheistic spirit. If God were God to us, we should not be unthankful to him. If God were glorified in our hearts, and we were thankful for everything that he did, we should walk in holiness, and live in submission. And if we do not thus behave ourselves, the tendency will be for us to go from bad to worse, and from worse to the very worst. This has been done on a large scale by nations, whose downward course of crime began with want of thankfulness to God. It is done on a smaller scale by individuals, to whom departure from God is the beginning of a vicious career. Get away from God, and where have you gone? If you do not love him, and delight in him, whither will you stray? May the Lord tether us fast to himself, and even nail us to the cross.

     It seems that these people, of whom Paul wrote, fell into all kinds of bitterness, such as envy, murder, deceit, malignity, whispering, backbiting, hating of God. They became spiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, and so forth. Well, if your spirit is not sweetened by the adoration and the love of God, it will grow bitter. If love does not reign, hate will rule. Look at unthankful people. Hear them talk. Nobody’s character is safe. There is no neighbour whom they will not slander. There is no Christian man whom they will not misrepresent. The very angels of God would not be safe from suspicion if they lived near to people of that kind. But when you glorify God as God, and are thankful for everything— when you can take up a bit of bread and a cup of cold water, and say with the poor Puritan, “What, all this, and Christ too?” — then are you happy, and you make others happy. A godly preacher, finding that all that there was for dinner was a potato and a herring, thanked God that he had ransacked sea and land to find food for his children. Such a sweet spirit breeds love to everybody, and makes a man go through the world cheerfully. If you give way to the other order of feeling, and do not glorify God, but quarrel with him, and have no thankfulness for his mercies, then you will suck in the spirit of the devil, and you will get into Satan’s mind, and be of his temper, and by-and-by his works you will do. Oh, brothers and sisters, dread unthankfulness! Perhaps you did not think that it was so bad, but it is horrible! God help you to escape from it!

     IV. And that you may escape from it, let us finish up by this exhortation. LET US FLY BY THE HELP OF GOD S SPIRIT FROM THESE TWO SINS. Let us glorify God, as God, every one of us.

     “Oh,” says one, “I am full of sin.” Come and glorify God, then, by confessing it to him. “Oh, but I am not pardoned.” Come and glorify him by accepting pardon through the blood of his dear Son. “Oh, but I am of an evil heart.” Come and glorify him by telling him so, and asking his Spirit to renew you in your mind. Come, yield yourself to his sweet gospel. May his blessed Spirit incline you so to do. Come, take him now to be your God. Have you forgotten him? Remember him. Have you neglected him? Seek him. Have you offended him? Mourn before him. Say, “I will arise, and go unto my Father.” Your Father waits to receive you. Glorify him as God.

     And then, next, let us begin to be very thankful, if we have not been so before. Let us praise God for common mercies, for they prove to be uncommonly precious when they are once taken away. Bless God that you were able to walk here, and are able to walk home again. Bless God for your reason: bless him for your existence. Bless God for the means of grace, for an open Bible, for the throne of grace, for the preaching of the Word. You that are saved must lead the song. “Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” Bless him for his Son. Bless him for his Spirit. Bless him for his Fatherhood. Bless him that you are his child. Bless him for what you have received. Bless him for what he has promised to give. Bless him for the past, the present, and the future. Bless him in every way, for everything, at all times, and in all places. Let all that is within you bless his holy name. Go your way rejoicing. May his Spirit help you so to do!



High Doctrine and Broad Doctrine

By / Jun 22

HIGH DOCTRINE AND BROAD DOCTRINE.

 

“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” — John vi. 37.

 

THESE two sentences have been looked upon as representing two sides of Christian doctrine. They enable us to see it from two stand-points — the Godward and the manward. The first sentence contains what some call high doctrine. If by “high” they mean “glorious towards God,” I fully agree with them; for it is a grand, God-honouring truth which our Lord Jesus declares in these words, — “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me.” Some have styled this side of truth Calvinistic; but while it is true that Calvin taught it, so also did Augustine, and Paul, and our Lord himself, whose words these are. However, I will not quarrel with those who see in this sentence a statement of the great truth of predestinating grace. The second sentence sets forth blessed, encouraging, evangelical doctrine, and is in effect a promise and an invitation, — “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” This is a statement without limitation of any kind: it has been thought to leave the free grace of God open to the free will of man, so that whosoever pleases may come and may be sure that he will not be refused. We have no permission to pare down either sentence, nor is there the slightest need to do so. The first sentence appears to me to say that God has chosen a people, and has given these people to Christ, and these people must and shall come to Christ, and so shall be saved. The second truth declares that every man who comes to Christ shall be saved, since he shall not be cast out, and that implies that he shall be received and accepted. These are two great truths; let us carry them both with us, and they will balance each other.

     I was once asked to reconcile these two statements, and I answered “No, I never reconcile friends.” These two passages fell out: they are perfectly agreed. It is folly to imagine a difference, and then set about removing it. It is like making a man of straw, and then going out to fight with it. The grand declaration of the purpose of God that he will save his own is quite consistent with the widest declaration that whosoever will come to Christ shall be saved. The pity is that it ever should be thought difficult to hold both truths; or that, supposing there is a difficulty, we should have thought it our duty to remove it. Believe me, my dear hearers, the business of removing religious difficulties is the least remunerative labour under heaven. The truest way is to accept the difficulty wherever you find it in God’s word, and to exercise your faith upon it. It is unreasonable to suppose that faith is to be exempted from trials: all the other graces are exercised, and why should not faith be put to the test? I often feel a joy within my spirit in having to believe what I cannot understand; and sometimes when I have to say to myself, “How can it be?” I find a joy in replying that it is so written, and therefore it must be so. Instead of all reasoning stands the utterance of God. Our Father speaks, and doubts are silenced: his Spirit writes, and we believe. I feel great pleasure in gliding down the river of revelation, upon a voyage of discovery, and hour by hour obtaining fresh knowledge of divine truth; but where I come to an end of progress, and see my way blocked up by a sublimely awful difficulty, I find equal pleasure in casting anchor under the lee of the obstacle, and waiting till the pilot tells me what next to do. When we cannot go through a truth, we may be led over it, or round it; and what matters? Our highest benefit comes not of answering riddles, but of obeying commands by the power of love. Suppose we can see no further into the subject— what then? Shall we trouble about that? Must there not be an end of human knowledge somewhere? May we not be perfectly satisfied for God to appoint the boundary of understanding? Let us not therefore run our heads against difficulties of our own invention, and certainly not against those which God has seen fit to leave for us.

     Take, then, these two truths, and know that they are equally precious portions of one harmonious whole. Let us not quibble over them, or indulge a foolish favouritism for one and a prejudice against the other; but let us receive both with a candid, large-hearted love of truth, such as children of God should exhibit. We are not called upon to explain, but to accept. Let us believe if we cannot reconcile. Here are two jewels, let us wear them both. As surely as this Book is true, God has a people whom he has chosen, and whom Christ has redeemed from among men; and these must and shall by sovereign grace be brought in due time to repentance and faith, for not one of them shall ever perish. But yet is it equally true, that whosoever among the sons of men shall come and put his trust in Christ shall receive eternal life. “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”

“None are excluded hence but those
Who do themselves exclude.
Welcome the learned and polite,
The ignorant and rude.”

     The two truths of my text are by no means inconsistent the one with the other: they are perfectly agreed. Happy is the man who can believe them both, whether he sees their agreement or does not see it.

     I was cruising one day in the western Highlands. It had been a splendid day, and the glorious scenery had made our journey like an excursion to Fairy Land; but it came to an end, for darkness and night asserted their primeval sovereignty. Right ahead was a vast headland of the isle of Arran. How it frowned against the evening sky! The mighty rock seemed to overhang the sea. Just at its base was a little bay, and into this we steamed, and there we lay at anchorage all night, safe from every wind that might happen to be seeking out its prey. In that calm loch we seemed to lie in the mountain’s lap while its broad shoulders screened us from the wind. Now, the first part of my text, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me,” rises like a huge headland high into the heavens. Who shall scale its height? Upon some it seems to frown darkly. But here at the bottom lies the placid, glassy lake of infinite love and mercy: "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Steam into it, and be safe under the shadow of the great rock. You will be the better for the mountain-truth as your barque snugly reposes within the glittering waters at its foot; while you may thank God that the text is not all mountain to repel you, you will be grateful that there is enough of it to secure you.

     First, I shall bid you view that goodly mountain, and then we shall sail into that pleasant loch.

     I. Consider, then, with reverential joy THE ETERNAL PURPOSE. Our Lord Jesus Christ, when he found that the mass of the people rejected him, turned round upon them, and said, “Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep.” He knew in his own heart, however, that if they refused him all would not do so: a number would assuredly believe on him. Therefore he boldly said, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me.” He threw this grand fact in the teeth of his fierce revilers. It was his own comfort, and their rebuke. Now, I do not want to throw it at anybody to-night; on the contrary, I desire to use it as a beckoning finger to any troubled heart that longs to come to Jesus and be saved.

     I saw the other day, round a gentleman’s park, a very strong and lofty palisade, and to complete the exclusive apparatus a superabundant number of tenter-hooks were nailed upon the top of the fence, and a liberal quantity half-way up. I somewhat jocosely observed upon the kindness of the proprietor, in placing so many nails for the boys to climb up by, and so many more for them to hold on by when once they were up. “Why,” said my companion, “those tenter-hooks would tear fingers and clothes to pieces; they are no help to climbers.” “No,” I replied, “no more help to climbers than the remarks which your minister made upon the sovereignty of God could be considered to be a help to seekers of the Lord Jesus.” The good man set forth the truth in the most awkward and pernicious manner possible; not making thereof steps for earnest climbers, but tenter-hooks for unwelcome intruders. I never yet saw such a crowd desirous of salvation that there was the slightest call for fences and tenter-hooks to keep them out: but I do see so many tremblers needing encouragement, and so many doubters needing instruction, that I delight to turn every word, and promise, and doctrine of the Lord into sweet invitations to all around me to come and welcome to the great heart of the Crucified. I am not afraid that too many will come; my fears are all in the opposite direction. Oh, that I could hope that all my present hearers would come to Jesus at once!

     First notice, carefully, that if all that the Father giveth to Christ shall come to him, then some 'people shall most surely come to Christ; and why should not you be among them? This seems to me to be a sweet suggestion for the help of despondency when she is at her worst: some must come to Christ, why should not I come? When the devil says to you, “You cannot come to Christ,” and you yourself feel as if you could not come; when sin hampers you, when doubt drags you down, when you cannot do what you want to do— still it is decreed and determined that some people must come, then why not you? By divine decree they shall come; why should not you be among them? Does not that help you? If God blesses it, you will not longer sit on the borders of despair. Suppose there is a plague in the city, but there are some people predestinated to be healed. I should be glad to know of that fact. I should be almost glad of it if I was sure that I was not one of the favoured ones, for I rejoice in the good of others: but I should be still more glad to press to the physician with this assurance upon my mind — Some must be healed: why should not I? There is a famine in the land. I hear that it is revealed by a sure prophet that a certain number never shall die of famine. Then why should not I outlive the dreadful days and be among them? Why not? I hear one say, “Suppose I am not one of God’s elect.” To him I answer, “Suppose you are.” Better still, suppose that you leave off supposing altogether, and just go to Jesus Christ and see. To go to him is your wisdom; your immediate business, as laid down in his Word, therefore, delay not. Instead of shutting myself out, as some do, because it is written, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me I shut myself in, and say, “Then I will be among them.” Why should I not? Oh, Lord, if thou hast ordained that some shall come, then I see that to them no difficulties can be insuperable, and I will therefore come to thee myself, and in thy name enter in where every coming one is welcome.

     In the next place I find that those that come to Christ, according to this text, come because of the Father and the Son. Read it. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me.” That is, they come to Jesus. Why is it that they are made to come? Because the Father has given them to Christ. Why is it that they shall come? Is it because there is some good thing in them? No, there is nothing said upon that point either one way or the other. Is it because they have strong wills and firm determinations, and therefore come? The Scripture is equally silent upon that point, except that it says elsewhere that the New Birth is not of the will of man. The reason that is given why they shall come to Jesus is because something was done for them by the Father and by the Son. Why, then, should not I come? Suppose I am weak: suppose I am sinful: suppose I am seven times more sinful than anybody else; yet since this “shall come” depends not on the character of those to whom the promise is made, but upon a certain something done for them by the Father and the Son, why should not I be among those for whom the Father and the Son have done this certain thing, and why should not I therefore be made to come to Jesus? There never was a soul that really wanted to come to Jesus but what it could come and did come. There never was a pining, longing sinner that was long kept away from Christ. When he wanted Christ, Christ wanted him a hundred times as much. If thou hast the least desire or the faintest longing after the Lord Jesus Christ, then the cords of love are about thee, and his mighty hands are drawing home those cords. Yield to the sweet pressure and thou shalt come, not because of what thou art, or what thou ever hast been, but because of what the Father is doing, and because of what the Son is doing. It is written, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him;” but when he is drawing thou canst come. The Father is drawing you, since you are longing to come, and are anxious to find a Saviour. Now, do not turn this truth about so as to set it edgeways, and make a chevaux de frise of it to keep yourself from getting to Christ. The doctrine of the divine purpose is not a thorn-hedge to keep you off from the tree of life: on the contrary, you are bound to regard it as an open door. “Some must come. Why not I? Those that come do so because of something done for them of the Father and of the Son; and why should not that have been done for me? Why should not I also draw near to God?”

     Notice, thirdly, that these people are all of them saved because they come to Christ. Observe the words— “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me.” They are not saved otherwise than by coming to Christ. Here are certain people that are different from others, for the Father has given them to Christ. Yes, but it does not matter how different they are from others; they have to be saved in the same way as other people. There is no way of salvation specially prepared for these peculiar people; they must follow the King’s highway. The one common way of salvation is by coming to Christ, and all that the Father has given to Christ must come in by this gate. This is the one door that God has opened: there is no other; there never shall be any other. Come: pluck up heart, my dear friend, — thou that art bowing thy head like a bulrush, — the best saint in heaven found his way thither by a simple trust in Jesus Christ. Why canst not thou get there in the same way? Many sinners of the deepest dye have been saved through Jesus Christ, and why should not you be saved in the same way? Ask Peter, and James, and John, and Paul, and all the rest of them, whether they entered into heaven by a private bridge thrown across for them alone; and they will tell you that they were saved by the one Redeemer. As no Scripture is of private interpretation, so be sure that there is no private and secret Saviour for a few favoured persons. “Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. God’s elect can only be saved by coming to Christ. Jesus says, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me;” for they cannot be saved else. Coming to Christ is the one essential thing. “Oh,” says one, “I sometimes wish that I knew whether I was one of God’s elect.” Why should you wish to know anything out of its turn, when you can learn every truth that you need by studying other truths which lead up to it? You come to Christ, and you shall know that you were given to Christ; for none come to him but those who are his, and by their coming to him they give the best evidence of their election. You know what the brother in Cornwall said to Malachi, who was rather a stout Calvinist. He said, “Now, Malachi, I owe you £2. Before I discharge the debt I want you to tell me whether I am predestinated to pay you.” Malachi opened wide his hand, and said, “Put the £2 there, and I will tell you directly.” Like most sensible folk, he preferred to prophesy after the event; and there are many advantages in keeping to that method. It is evidently the natural order of things for uninspired folk. Whether the Father gave me to Christ or not, I cannot discover till I know whether I have come to Christ. When I know that I have truly come to Christ with all my heart, then I am certain that I was given to Christ, and I find no difficulty in so believing; yea, my heart is glad to think that I am saved in the same way as others are saved.

     Yet, once again, from this text it is most clear that, if I come to Christ, the Father gave me to Christ. If I, whoever I may be, do but simply trust Jesus — for that is the coming here meant— then I am one whom the Father gave to his Son. If, just as I am, I cast myself upon his blood and righteousness, and become his disciple, sworn to follow him, hoping by his help to tread in his footsteps: then I may know that, long before the day-star knew its place, or planets ran their round, the Eternal Father had looked upon me with eyes of everlasting love, and that he still accepts me, and will never cast me away. Is it not so? “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me and if I have come, then the Father hath given me to Christ: the great question is answered, the eternal mystery is unveiled, and my spirit may rejoice in God my Saviour, and in all the precious things of that everlasting covenant which is ordered in all things and sure.

     So much about that huge, overhanging mass of rock. Of that I am going to say no more; only under its lee I have anchored long ago, and at that anchorage I mean still to remain. Since I have come to Jesus I know that I belong to him by the Great Father’s gift, and I am right well assured that the purpose of God shall be fulfilled in me, and that he will assuredly bring me, with all the rest of his elect, to his kingdom and glory, where we shall see his face for ever. This may be called old-fashioned doctrine: I care not what it is called, it is my life, and I dare rest my soul’s weight upon it for time and for eternity.

     II. Now we enter into smooth water: the mystery is opened, let us partake of the joy of it. We have, in the second place, to speak to you for a little time on THE EVERLASTING GOSPEL— “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” You may forget my first head if you like, especially if you are troubled by it, but I earnestly beseech you to recollect the second.

     “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” This is one of the most generous gospel texts that I do remember to have met with between the covers of this book. Generous, first, as to the character to whom the promise is made. “Him that cometh to me:” that is the character. The man may have been guilty of an atrocious sin, too black for mention; but if he comes to Christ he shall not be cast out. To that atrocious sin he may have added many others, till the condemning list is full and long; but if he comes to Christ he shall not be cast out. He may have hardened his neck against the remonstrances of prudence, and the entreaties of mercy; he may have sinned deeply and wilfully; but if he comes to Christ he shall not be cast out. He may have made himself as black as night— as black as hell; yet, if he shall come to Christ, the Lord will not cast him out. I cannot tell what kind of persons may have come into this Hall to-night; but if burglars, murderers, and dynamite-men were here, I would still bid them come to Christ, for he will not cast them out. I suppose that the most of you are tolerably decent as to moral character; and to you I say, if you come to Christ he will not cast you out. Children of godly parents, hearers of the word, he will not cast you out. You who lack only one thing, but that the one thing needful, he will not cast you out. Backsliders! Are there some such here, who have almost forgotten the way to God’s sanctuary, for whom the Sabbath-bell proclaims no Sabbath now? Come you to Jesus, and he will not cast you out. Oh, you Londoners, you have grown weary of God’s house, and of God’s day— millions of you; but if with all your irreligion you are here to-night, the truth holds good of you also, — if you trust in Jesus, he will not cast you out.

     If, amidst this company, there should be some whose characters we had better not describe, and who already shrink into themselves at the very idea of being picked out, and mentioned by name; yet if such persons come to Jesus, he will gladly receive them. Be your character what it may, you who are wrapped in mystery, you shall not be cast out. I wish that I could put this to those who are troubled about a life of grievous sin; for to the life-long transgressor the text is still true. My Lord proclaims an act of oblivion concerning all the past. It shall be as though it had never been. Through Jesus Christ, if you will but believe in him, the whole past shall be rolled up, and put away, as though it had never known an existence, and you yourself shall be born again. When Naaman came up from washing in the Jordan we read that “his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean;” and so it shall be with you. The old man took the fair-haired child upon his knee, and threaded his fingers through its locks, and said, “Young child, God keep you from the sin into which I have plunged. My old life is full of evil. It is now almost over, and I am past hope. Would God I were a child again!” Lo, the angel of mercy whispers to any one in that condition, “You may be a child again!” The man a hundred years of age may yet be made a child; and he that is a grey-beard in infamy may yet become a babe in innocence through the cleansing power of the water and the blood which flowed from the riven side of Jesus. Go ye, and write it athwart the brow of night; write it in new stars if you can— “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Then hang it up over the mid-day heavens, and let the sun cast all his beams upon it, till it seems writ in the splendour of God— “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” The character who will be received is not mentioned, lest in mentioning one sinner another should seem to be excluded. No limit is set to the extent of sin: any “him” in all the world— any blaspheming, devilish “him” that comes to Christ shall be welcomed. I use strong words that I may open wide the gate of mercy. Any “him” that comes to Christ— though he come from slum or taproom, betting-ring or gambling-hell, prison or brothel— Jesus will in no wise cast out.

     Farther, this text is a very generous one because it gives no limit to the coming. The only limit to the way of coming is that they do come to Christ I have known some come to Christ running to him— a willing, speedy, earnest pace. You read of that in the gospels. They were so glad to hear of a Saviour that they flew to him at once. Many young children and young people do this, and they are blessed in the deed. Come along with you, ye lively and tender spirits; he will not cast you out if you leap and rush to him. If you run all on a sudden to him to-night— if you make a dash for Christ— he will not cast you out.

     Alas! a great many, when they come to Christ, advance very limpingly. They are burdened with a huge load of sin and fettered with doubts and fears, and so they make slow progress. They do not look to Jesus and live, all at once. They keep looking here and looking there, instead of looking to him. They are a long while in coming, for they are afraid, and ignorant and dull. Never mind, brother. The snail got into the Ark; and if you come to Christ he will not cast you out though your pace be sadly sluggish. Some look to Christ as soon as they hear of him, with clear, bright eyes like those of Rachel. Oh, such a look! They seem to drink in Christ and his salvation all at once with those bright eyes. But I have met with many whose look is like that of Leah, who had tender eyes: they look through the mists of their doubt, and the showers of their tears, and they do not half see Christ as they should. Ay, but that half-clouded look will save them. Any looking will save you if it is looking to Christ; and any coming if it is coming to Christ, will save you. Coming to sacraments may condemn you; coming to priests will ruin you; but coming to Christ will save you. If your simple faith takes hold of Christ’s salvation there is life in that grip. If your thoughts think of him, if your heart embraces him, if your soul trusts him, however weakly and imperfectly you do it, he will not cast you out. Oh, this is glorious truth to my mind; is it not so to yours? So long as we do but come to him, our Saviour will not cast us away: I feel glad to be preaching this gospel in Exeter-hall; are you not glad to hear it? If you are not you are a sorry set.

     Thirdly, there is no limit here as to time. “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” is a glorious, free utterance, compassing every age. There may be some little children here; indeed, I am glad to see boys and girls mingling with the congregation. Listen to me, my children! I am always glad to see you, and we preachers make a great mistake if we do not preach to you. Oh, dear John and Jane, Mary and Thomas, I wish you would come to Christ while you are yet young, and put your trust in him, and become young Christians. There is no reason why you should not. You are old enough to die, and you are old enough to sin, and you are old enough to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Why should you not do so at once? When I was just about fifteen years of age I was helped by God’s Spirit to cast myself upon Christ; and did I ever repent that I came to Jesus so soon? No; I wish that I could have come fifteen years before, and that I had known Christ as soon as ever I learned to know my mother. Some of you have heard about Jesus from your infancy; his name was part of the music with which your mother sang you to sleep. Oh, that you may know Jesus by faith as well as by hearing! Do not think that you have to wait till you are grown up before you may come to Jesus. We have baptized quite a number of boys and girls of ten, eleven, and twelve. I spoke the other day with a little boy nine years of age; and I tell you that he knew more about Christ than ever so many grey-headed men do; and he loved Jesus most heartily. As the sweet child talked to me about what Christ had done for him, he brought tears into my eyes, to see how happily and brightly he could speak of what he had felt in his own soul of the Saviour’s power to bless. You young children are like rosebuds; and you know everybody likes a rosebud better than a full-blown rose. My Lord Jesus will gladly receive you as rosebuds. Offer yourselves to him, for he will not cast you away. I am sure he never will.

     If any here are in the opposite extremity of life, I would remind them that “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” applies to the aged as well as to the young. I heard it said by a minister— a very earnest man— that if persons were not converted before they were five and forty, he hardly believed that they would ever be converted afterwards; and he gave it as a note of his observation that he had not seen any persons converted after five and forty. I wished that I had been in his pulpit. I should not have questioned his statements, but I would have overlaid them with others of another character. Surely this brother had been living in some minute hamlet or other; or else he had not preached the gospel in its fulness to every creature. Perhaps he did not believe in the conversion of the aged, and consequently no aged persons were converted by his means. I have seen as many people converted of one age as another: that is to say, in proportion to the number of them, for there are not so many people in the world over fifty as there are under fifty; and consequently a large proportion of those persons who make up our congregations are young. We have in our regular gatherings a fair number of all ages, and as to the additions to the church, I have noticed that there is about the same proportion of very young children as of very old men and women. We have baptized, upon profession of faith, men and women over eighty years of age, about whose conversion we had as firm a conviction as we had about the conversions of the little ones; neither more nor less. Who shall dare to say that there is an age after which God’s grace does not work? I challenge any one to bring a text which looks that way; furthermore, I challenge the truth of any observations which arrive at such a result. My own preaching has been such that young and old in equal proportions have attended it, and in equal proportions they have been saved. However old you may be, my Master bids me say to you, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Come along, come along, dear old friend, though you cannot come without your stick. Come along, though your eyes are failing: come in your spectacles. Though you cannot do much for my Master, he can do everything for you. Though you have only a little time to live on earth, you will have all eternity in heaven through which you can praise him. I am sure you will be one of the most eager at that work. I think you will be like an old woman of my acquaintance. When I spoke to her about her conversion at an advanced age, she said, “Sir, if the Lord Jesus Christ ever does save such a poor old sinner as I am, he shall never hear the last of it.” That is just why I want him to save you; for then he never will hear the last of it. You will praise him for ever and for ever for what he has done for you. Will you not?

     Oh, my dear hearers, come to Jesus! Come in the morning when the dew is on your branch, for he will not cast you out. Come in the heat of noon, when the drought of care parches you, and he will not cast you out. Come when the shadows have grown long, and the darkness of the night is gathering about you, for he will not cast you out. The door is not shut; for the gate of mercy closes not so long as the gate of life is open. Oh, fly to Christ, and find mercy now!

     Once again, dear friends, I want you to notice in my text the blessed certainty of this salvation. “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Two or three negatives in the Greek language make a negation stronger, though they would have no such effect in the English tongue. It is a very strong negative here. “Him that cometh to me I will not not cast out;” or,“I will never never cast out.” As much as to say, — On no account, or for no reason, or on no pretence, or from no motive whatever, will I ever in time or in eternity cast out the soul that comes to me. That is how it stands— a declaration of absolute certainty from which there can be no escaping. What a blessed thing it is to get your foot on certainties! Certain preachers, who are much cried up nowadays, are very uncertain preachers, for they do not themselves know what they will be propounding to-morrow. They make their creed as they go along, and a very poor one it is when they make it. I believe in something sure and certain; namely, in infallible Scripture, and that which the Lord has written therein, never to be altered while the world stands. My text is certain as the truth of Christ Jesus; and if we had ever seen that beautiful face of his we could not distrust him. Can your imagination picture for a minute the ever-blessed face of the Son of God? Could you look into that face, and suspect him of a lie? And when he says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth in me hath everlasting life,” the saying must be true. If you believe in him, you have everlasting life, When he says, “Him that cometh to me I will never never cast out,” the declaration must be true. He never, never, can cast you out, whoever you may be, however long you may live, or whatever else may happen, if you do but come to him. There are plenty of reasons, apparently, why he should cast you out, but he has knocked them all on the head by saying, “I will in no wise cast out:” that is, “In no way, and under no pretext, will I ever cast out a soul that comes to me.” Now, if Christ does not cast us out, then he receives us; and if he receives us, we are received into the heart of God; we are received into eternal life; and by-and-by we shall be received into everlasting blessedness. Oh, the joy of my text, in that it is so certain!

     So I shall close here, dear friends, with just a word or two of further encouragement by noticing the personality of my text; for in this a part of the liberality consists. Do you observe that the first part of the text began with, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me.” Ay, but when Christ began to deal with sinners with broken hearts, he dropped the “all” and every form of general statement, and he came to the personal pronoun singular Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Now, herein he meant to say to every one in this Hall, “If thou dost come to me, I will not cast thee out.” It is not, “If thou and another come;” for, if so, it would be put in the plural: “If you come.” But it is, “Him that cometh.” You alone; your servant alone; your child alone; but specially yourself alone: if you come to the Lord Jesus he will not cast you out. You cannot doubt this. Come, then, my dear hearers, believe your Saviour. I am not talking to-night to persons who doubt the veracity of the Son of God, I am not talking to persons who think Christ a liar. You know that he would receive you if you would come. Then, why do you not come? But you mean to come, do you, by-and-by? Then why not now? What is it that holds you back? How dare you delay? Will you be alive next week? How can you be sure of a day, or an hour? When money is to be given away, I do not find that persons generally delay to receive it, and say, “I would rather have it next year.” No, they say, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Oh, to have a Christ in the hand, and to get him now! And why not now? Is it because you really do not understand what it is to receive him, or to believe in him? It is indeed the simplest thing in the world, and that is the only reason why it is so difficult; it is so exceedingly simple, that men cannot believe that it can be as we put it. Indeed, it is so. Faith is simply to trust Christ; and trusting Christ brings with it the new life, and salvation from sin. I sometimes put it in Watts’s way—

“A guilty, weak, and helpless worm,
On Christ’s kind arms I fall.”

But after I had once been preaching, a young man said to me, “Sir, I cannot fall.” “Oh dear,” I said, “then I do not know how to talk; for I meant not a thing you could do, but the cessation of all your efforts, just falling, or if you will see it better, just tumbling down— because you cannot stand upright; and that is it.” Because I cannot save myself, I fall into Christ’s arms. Ceasing to hold to anything of my own, I just drop upon him. “Still,” you say, “there must be something more than that.” There is nothing more than that. If thou believest that Jesus is the Christ, thou art born of God. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” “He that with his heart believeth, and with his mouth maketh confession of him, shall be saved.” “Oh, but I must— I must— I must do something mysterious, or feel something which at present is far beyond me.” Thus you give God the lie, and put away from you the life eternal.

     Have you never read the story of the good ship that had been a long time at sea, and the captain had lost his reckoning; he drifted up the mouth of the great river Amazon, and, after he had been sailing for a long time up the river without knowing that he was in a river at all, they ran short of water. When another vessel was seen, they signalled her, and when they got near enough for speaking they cried, “Water! We are dying for water!” They were greatly surprised when the answer came back, “Dip it up! Dip it up! You are in a river. It is all around you.” They had nothing to do but to fling the bucket overboard, and have as much water as ever they liked. And here are poor souls crying out, “Lord, what must I do to be saved?” when the great work is done, and all that remains to them is to receive the free gift of eternal life. What must you do? You have done enough for one life-time, for you have undone yourself by your doing. That is not the question. It is, “Lord, what hast thou done?” And the answer is, “It is finished. I have done it all. Only come and trust me.” Sinner, you are in a river of grace and mercy. Over with the bucket, man, and drink to the full; for you will never exhaust the stream of grace.

     A river is free to every dog that runs along the bank: every cow that stands by the river may drink to the full. So is the mercy of God free to every sinner, be he who he may, that does but come to Jesus. That river runs near to you to-night. Stoop down, you thirsty one, and drink and live. But you say, “I must feel different from what I do now.” But you need not: come with your bad feelings. “Oh, I have not yet a broken heart,” says one. Come to Christ, and he will break your heart. “But I do not feel my need as I ought.” Come to Christ and he will help you to feel your need. “Oh, but I am nobody!” You are the very person that Christ delights in, for to you he will be everybody.

     Do you see that beautiful tree in the orchard loaded with fruit? It is a pear-tree. From top to bottom it is covered with fruit. I think I never saw such a sight: every branch is bowing down. Some boughs are ready to break with the luscious burden. As I listen to the creaking boughs, I can hear the tree speak. What does it say? It says, “Baskets, baskets, baskets! Bring baskets!” Now, then, who has a basket? “I have got one,” cries yonder friend, “but it is of no use, for there is nothing in it.” Bring it here, man: that is the very kind of basket the tree wants. A person over there says, “Oh, I have a basket— a splendid basket. It is just the thing. It is full from top to bottom.” You may keep your basket to yourself. It is of no use to my loaded tree. Where is there an empty basket? Who has an empty basket? Come along with you: come and pick from the tree as long as you like. Bring all your baskets. Bring thousands and thousands of baskets, all empty, and fill them all! Do you notice as we fill the baskets that the fruit begins to multiply? There is more when we have filled the baskets than there was at first, for this inexhaustible tree produces more and more fruit, as fast as we pluck from it. What is wanted by the Lord Jesus is an empty soul to receive out of the fulness which God has treasured up in him.

     God bless every one of you, for his name’s sake. Amen.



The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption

By / Jun 22

THE SPIRIT OF BONDAGE AND OF ADOPTION.

 

“For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” — Romans viii. 15, 16.

 

THESE two verses are full of the word “spirit,” and they are also full of spiritual truth. We have read in previous verses about the flesh and of the result that comes of minding it, namely, death. But now, in this verse, we get away from the flesh, and think only of the work of the Holy Spirit upon our spirits, and of the blessed privilege which comes of it— “that we should be called the sons of God.” We cannot enter into this except by the power of the Holy Spirit, for spiritual truth must be spiritually discerned: our eyes need God’s light, and our spirits need the Holy Spirit’s quickening. We breathe our prayer to the Great Spirit that he would make us feel the full meaning of his word.

     I think that I see in the text the fourfold work of the Spirit: first, the spirit of bondage; secondly, the spirit of adoption; thirdly, the spirit of prayer, — here it is, “Whereby we cry.” And fourthly, the spirit of witness: “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”

     I. Consider, first of all, THE SPIRIT OF BONDAGE. Much of the bondage in which we are plunged by our fallen nature is not the work of the Spirit of God at all. Bondage under sin, bondage under the flesh, bondage to the fashions and customs of the world, bondage under the fear of man, — this is carnal bondage, the work of the flesh, and of sin, and of the devil. But there is a sense of bondage, to which, I think, the apostle here mainly alludes, which is of the Spirit of God. Before the Spirit of God within us becomes the Spirit of liberty, he is, first of all, the Spirit of bondage. The Spirit is not first a quickening Spirit to us, but a withering Spirit: — “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.” The divine Spirit wounds before he heals, he kills before he makes alive. We usually draw a distinction between law-work and gospel-work; but law-work is the work of the Spirit of God, and is so far a true gospel-work that it is a frequent preliminary to the joy and peace of the gospel. The law is the needle, which draws after it the silken thread of blessing, and you cannot get the thread into the stuff without the needle: men do not receive the liberty where with Christ makes them free till, first of all, they have felt bondage within their own spirit driving them to cry for liberty to the great Emancipator, the Lord Jesus Christ. This sense or spirit of bondage works for our salvation by leading us to cry for mercy.

     Let us notice that there is a hind of bondage which is, in part at least, the work of the Spirit of God, although it is often darkened, blackened, and made legal in a great measure by other agencies which do not aim at our benefit. That part of the bondage which I shall now describe is altogether the work of the Spirit of God. That is, first, when men are brought into bondage through being convinced of sin. This bondage is not the work of nature; certainly, never the work of the devil. It is not the work of human oratory, nor of human reason; it is the work of the Spirit of God; as it is written, “When the Spirit of truth is come, he shall convince the world of sin.” It needs a miracle to make a man know that he is in very deed a sinner. He will not own it. He kicks against it. Even when he confesses the outward transgression, he does not know or feel the inward heinousness of his guilt, so as in his soul to be stunned, and confounded, and humbled, by the fact that he is a rebel against his God. Now, no man can ever know a Saviour without knowing himself a sinner: even as no man can value a physician while he is ignorant of the existence and evil of disease. By the killing sentence of the law we are bruised, and broken, and crashed to atoms, as to all comeliness and self-righteousness. This, I say, is the work of the Spirit of God; he worketh a necessary spirit of bondage within us by putting us under a sense of sin.

     The Spirit of God is always the Spirit of truth, and therefore he only convinces men of that which is true: he puts them into no false, or fanciful, or needless bondage. “When the Spirit of truth is come, he shall convince the world of sin,”— because it is sinful. When the Spirit puts men into bondage because they are sinners, he only puts them into their right place. When he came to some of us by the law he made us feel what we were by nature; and what we felt and saw was the truth. He made us see things as they really were. Until he came, we put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter, darkness for light and light for darkness; but when the Spirit of truth was come, then sin appeared sin. Then we were in bondage, and it was no fancied slavery, but the very truth.

     The Spirit of God also brought us farther into bondage when he made us feel the assurance that punishment must follow upon sin, when he made us know that God can by no means clear the guilty, and that he was not playing with us when he said, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” We were made to feel the sentence of death in ourselves, that we might not trust in ourselves. At that time we trembled on the brink of fate. We wondered that we were not already in hell. We were so convinced of sin that it was a matter of astonishment to us that the sentence did not immediately take place upon us. We were speechless before God, as to excuse or justification. We could not offer anything by which we could turn away the edge of justice, though we saw it like a glittering sword stripped of the scabbard of almighty patience. Do you know what this means? I can hardly hope that you will prize the atonement, or feel the sweetness of the expiation by blood, unless, first of all, you have felt that your soul’s life was due to God on account of your transgressions. We must know a shutting-up under the sentence of the law, or we shall never rejoice in the liberty which comes to us by grace through the blood of the Lamb of God. Blessed be the Spirit of God for working in us this double sense of bondage, first making us know that we are guilty, and, secondly, making us feel that the justice of God must punish us for sin.

     And then, further, the Spirit of God operates as a spirit of bondage upon the hearts of those whom God will save, by bringing them to feel the utter impossibility of their hoping to clear themselves by the works of the law. We heard this sentence thundered in our soul— “By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” We could not meet our God under the law: we looked up to Sinai’s fiery summit, whereon the Lord revealed himself, and we felt that its crags were too steep for our tottering feet to climb. Even if the way were smooth, how could we dare to pass through the thick darkness, and hold communion with Jehovah, who is a consuming fire? The Spirit of God once for all weaned us from all thought of a righteousness of our own. We were clean divorced from the legal spirit, and compelled to abhor the very notion of justifying ourselves in the sight of a pure and holy God by our works, or feelings, or prayers. This was the work of the Spirit of God.

     This result is always produced in every child of God, but not always by the same degree of bondage. Fetters of different weights are used in this prison-house, as wisdom and prudence appoint. The spirit of bondage comes not to all alike; for some find peace and life in a moment, and come to Calvary as soon as Sinai begins to thunder.

     I have known this spirit of bondage come with great force to men who have been open transgressors. Others who have been kept by the preventing grace of God from the extremes of open sin have not felt so much of it; but men that have blasphemed God, broken the Sabbath, and violated every holy thing, — when they are brought before God under a sense of sin, have frequently had a hard time of it. See how Saul was three days blinded, and did neither eat nor drink. Read John Bunyan’s “Grace Abounding,” and notice the five years of his subjection to this spirit of bondage. It must in his case be noted that his bondage was far from being altogether the work of the Spirit, for much of it arose from his own unbelief. But still there was in the core and heart of it a work of the Spirit of God most wonderfully convincing him of sin. I should not wonder if some of my hearers, who may have gone far into outward transgression, are made to feel, when brought to spiritual life, great grief and humiliation under a sense of their sin.

     Such bondage often happens to those who, as the old authors used to say, were “close sinners”— men who did not even know that they were sinners at all, but, in consequence of their morality and the strictness of their lives, had a high conceit of their own excellence in the sight of God. Certain of these people experience most fearful convictions of sin: as if God would say to each one, “I must rid thee of thy self-righteousness. I must cure thee of trusting in thy moral life; and therefore I will let thee see into the depths of thy depravity. I will discover to thee thy sins against light and knowledge, thy sins against conscience, thy sins against the love of God. Thou shalt be brought into sore bondage; but that bondage shall heal thee of thy pride.”

     I have noticed one thing more, and that is, that those who are in after life to be greatly useful are often thus digged, and tilled, and dunged, in order that much fruit may be brought forth by them in after years. I have had to deal with as many troubled souls as any living man, and God has greatly used me for their deliverance; but this never could have happened, so far as I can judge, unless I had myself been the subject of a terrible law-work, convincing me not only of my actual sin, but of the source of that sin, namely, a deep and bottomless fountain of depravity in my own nature. When I have met with persons driven to despair, and almost ready to destroy themselves, I nave said, “Yes, I understand all that: I have been in those sepulchral chambers, and can sympathize with those who are chilled by their damps. I know the heart of a stranger, for I also was a captive in Egypt, and worked at the brick-kilns.” In such a case this bondage of spirit becomes a profitable preparation for after work. The sword that has to cut through coats of mail must be annealed in many fires; it must endure processes which a common blade escapes. Do not, therefore, all of you expect that the spirit of bondage will be seen in you to the same degree; for, after all, it is not the spirit of bondage which is to be desired for its own sake, but that which comes after it— the Spirit of liberty in Christ Jesus.

     Our text reminds us that the result of this spirit of bondage in the soul is fear: — “The spirit of bondage to fear.” There are five sorts of fears, and it is well always to distinguish between them.

     There is the natural fear which the creature has of its Creator, because of its own insignificance and its Maker’s greatness. From that we shall never be altogether delivered; for with holy awe we shall bow before the divine majesty, even when we come to be perfect in glory.

     Secondly, there is a carnal fear: that is, the fear of man. May God deliver us from it! May we never cease from duty because we dread the eye of man! Who art thou that thou shouldst be afraid of a man that shall die? From this cowardice God’s Spirit delivers believers.

     The next fear is a servile fear— the fear of a slave towards his master, lest he should be beaten when he has offended. That is a fear which should rightly dwell in every unregenerate heart. Until the slave is turned into a child he ought to feel that fear which is suitable to his position. By means of this fear the awakened soul is driven and drawn to Christ, and learns the perfect love which casts it out.

     If servile fear be not cast out it leads to a fourth fear, namely, a. diabolical fear; for we read of devils, that they “believe and tremble.” This is the fear of a malefactor towards the executioner, such a fear as possesses souls that are shut out for ever from the light of God’s countenance.

     But, fifthly, there is a filial fear which is never cast out of the mind. This is to be cultivated. This is “the fear of the Lord” which is “the beginning of wisdom.” This is a precious gift of grace: “Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord.” This makes the saints fearful of offending, lest they should grieve infinite love; it causes them to walk before the Lord with the fear of a loving child who would not in anything displease his parent.

     When the spirit of bondage is at work upon the heart, there is much of the fourth form of fear, namely, servile fear; and I tell you that it is the Spirit of truth which brings this to us, because we are in a condition which demands it: we are slaves until Christ sets us free, and, being still under the law, servile fear is our most natural and proper feeling. Would you have the bondsman rejoice in a liberty which he does not possess? Is he not the more likely to be free if he loathes his slavery? I wish that every man here, who is not a child of God, would become possessed with servile fear, and tremble before the Most High.

     Now, mark that while this fear lasts it is intended to work us toward God. I have already touched upon that. This bondage, which causes fear, breaks us off from self-righteousness; it makes us value the righteousness of Christ, and it also puts an end to certain sins. Many a man, because he is afraid of the consequences, leaves off this and that which would have ruined him; and, so far, the fear is useful to him; and, in after life, the sense of the terror which fear wrought in his soul, will keep him nearer to, his Lord. How can he return to that evil thing which aforetime filled his soul with bitterness and grief?

     But now I want to notice that in due time we outgrow this bondage, and never receive it again, for “We have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear.” There comes a time when the Spirit of truth no longer causes bondage. Why not? Because we are not slaves any longer, and therefore there is no bondage for us. Because we are no longer guilty, having been cleared in the court of God, and therefore no sin should press upon our spirit. Because we are made to be the children of God; and God forbid that God’s children should tremble like slaves. No, we have not received the spirit of bondage again, for the Spirit of God has not brought it to us again; and though the devil tries to bring it we do not “receive” his goods; and though sometimes the world thinks that we ought to feel it, we are not of the world, and we will not “receive” the world’s spirit. We are new creatures in Christ Jesus; we are not under the law, but under grace; and therefore we are free from our former bondage. “We have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear.” I know some Christians, or persons who call themselves so, who often come under this spirit of bondage. They erroneously say, “If I have sinned I have ceased to be a child of God.” That is the spirit of bondage with a vengeance. If a servant disobeys he will be sent adrift; but you cannot discharge your child. My son is my son for ever; who denies that? Sonship is a settled fact, and never can be altered under any possible circumstances. If I am a child of God, who shall separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, my Lord? Some perform all religious actions from a principle of fear; and they abstain from this and that iniquity because of fear. A child of God does not desire to be thus driven or held back. He works not for reward; he toils not in order to gain salvation. He is saved; and because God has “worked in him to will and to do of his own good pleasure,” therefore he works out the salvation which God has already worked in. Blessed is the man who knows that he is no longer a servant, but has become an heir of God, a joint-heir with Jesus Christ.

     II. This brings us to our second head, which is, THE SPIRIT OF ADOPTION. I should require a week to preach properly upon that blessed theme. Instead of preaching upon it, I will give you hints.

     Will you kindly notice that the apostle said, “Ye have not received the spirit of bondage”? If he had kept strictly to language he would have added, “But ye have received the Spirit of” what? Why of “liberty” That is the opposite of bondage. Ay, but our apostle is not to be hampered by the rigid rules of composition. He has inserted a far greater word: — “Ye have received the Spirit of adoption.” This leads me to observe that, from this mode of putting it, it is clear that the Spirit of adoption is in the highest sense the spirit of liberty. If the Son make you free, ye shall be free indeed. If ye yourselves become sons through that blessed Son, oh, the freeness of your spirits! Your soul has nothing now to fear; you need not dread the wrath of God, for he has sworn, “I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee.” The believer feels the love of God shed abroad within him, and therefore he exercises a liberty to draw nigh to God, such as he never had before. He has access with boldness: he learns to speak with God as a child speaks to a father. See what a blessed thing is this Spirit of liberty, this Spirit of adoption.

     Now, the apostle said, “Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear.” What is the opposite of that? He should have added— should he not? — “but ye have received the Spirit of liberty by which ye have confidence.” He has not in so many words expressed himself thus, but he has said all that and a great deal more by saying, “Whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” This is the highest form of confidence that can be thought of, — that a child of God should be able, even when he is forced to cry, to cry nothing less than, “Abba, Father.” At his lowest, when he is full of sorrow and grief, even in his cryings and lamentings, he sticks to “Abba, Father.” This is a joyous confidence indeed! Oh, that God may give it to you, dearly beloved, to the very full!

     Thus it is clear that the Spirit of adoption is a spirit of liberty, and a spirit of confidence. As a child is sure that its father will love him, feed him, clothe him, teach him, and do all that is good for him, so are we sure that “No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly;” but he will make all things to “work together for good to them that love God.”

     The spirit of bondage made us fear, but the Spirit of adoption gives us full assurance. That fear which distrusts God— that fear which doubts whether he will remain a loving and merciful God— that fear which makes us think that all his love will come to an end — that is gone, for we cry, “Abba, Father,” and that cry is the death of doubting and fearing. We sing to brave music, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him.”

     The Spirit of adoption, moreover, is a spirit of gratitude. Oh, that ever the Lord should put me among the children! Why should he do this? He did not want for children that he should adopt me. The First-born alone was enough to fill the Father's heart throughout eternity. And yet the Lord puts us among the children. Blessed be his name for ever and ever! “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!”

     The Spirit of adoption is a spirit of child-likeness. It is pretty, though sometimes sad, to see how children imitate their parents. How much the little man is like his father! Have you not noticed it? Do you not like to see it, too? You know you do. Ay, and when God gives the Spirit of adoption, there begins in us, poor fallen creatures as we are, some little likeness to himself; and that will grow to his perfect image. We cannot become God; but we have the privilege and the power to become the sons of God. “Even to as many as believe on his name” does Jesus give this privilege; and therefore we grow up into him in all things, who is our Head, and at the same time the pattern and mirror of what all the children of God are to be.

     Thus, dear friends, let us see with great joy that we have not received again the spirit of bondage. We shall not receive it any more. The Spirit of God will never come to us in that form again, for now we have been washed in the blood, we have been taken away from being heirs of wrath even as others, we have been placed in the family of the Most High, and we feel the Spirit of adoption within us, whereby we cry, “Abba, Father.”

     III. Just two or three words only upon the next spirit, which is, THE SPIRIT OF PRAYER. Whenever the Spirit of adoption enters into a man it sets him praying. He cannot help it. He does not wish to help it.

“Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath,
The Christian’s native air;
His watchword at the gates of death:
He enters heaven with prayer.”

     And this praying of the true believer who has the Spirit of adoption is very earnest praying, for it takes the form of crying. He does not say, “Abba, Father.” Anybody can say those words. But he cries, “Abba, Father.” Nobody can cry, “Abba, Father,” but by the Holy Ghost. When those two words, “Abba, Father,” are set to the music of a child’s cry, there is more power in them than in all the orations of Demosthenes and Cicero. They are such heavenly sounds as only the twice-born, the true aristocracy of God, can ever utter, “Abba, Father they even move the heart of the Eternal.

     But it is also very natural praying: for a child to say, “Father,” is according to the fitness of things. It is not necessary to send your boys to a Board School to teach them to do that. They cry “Father,” soon and often. So, when we are born again, “Our Father, which art in heaven,” is a prayer that is never forced upon us: it rises up naturally within the new-born nature; and because we are born again we cry, “Abba, Father.” When we have lost our Father for awhile, we cry after him in the dark. When he takes the rod to us we cry; but we cry no otherwise than this — “Abba, Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.”

     It seems to me to be not only an earnest cry and a natural cry, but a very appealing cry. It touches your heart when your child says, “Don’t hurt me, father. Dear father, by your love to me, forgive me.” True prayer pleads the fatherhood of God — “My father, my father, I am no stranger; I am no foe, I am thy own dear and well-beloved child. Therefore, like as a father pitieth his children, have thou pity upon me.” The Lord never turns a deaf ear to such pleadings. He says, “I do earnestly remember him still,” and in love he checks his hand.

     And what a familiar word it is— “Abba, Father”! They say that slaves were never allowed to call their masters “abba.” That was a word for free-born children only: no man can speak with God as God’s children may. I have heard critics say sometimes of our prayers, “How familiar that man is with God”; and one adds, “I do not like such boldness.” No, you slaves; of course, you cannot speak with God as a child can; and it would not be right that you should! It befits you to fear, and crouch, and, like miserable sinners, to keep yourselves a long way off from God. Distance is the slave’s place; only the child may draw near. But if you are children, then you may say, “Lord, thou hast had mercy upon me, miserable sinner as I was; and thou hast cleansed me, and I am thine; therefore deal with me according to the riches of thy grace. My soul delighteth herself in thee, for thou art my God, and my exceeding joy.” Who but a true-born child of God can understand that word— “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he will give thee the desires of thine heart.”

     I do not know any more delightful expression towards God than to say to him, “Abba, Father.” It is as much as to say— “My heart knows that thou art my Father. I am as sure of it as that I am the child of my earthly father; and I am more sure that thou wouldest deal tenderly with me than that my father would.” Paul hints at this when he reminds us that our fathers, verily, chastened us after their own pleasure, but the Lord always chastens us for our profit. The heavenly Father’s heart is never angry so as to smite in wrath; but in pity, and gentleness, and tenderness, he afflicts his sons and daughters. “Thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.” See what a blessed state this is to be brought into, to be made children of God, and then in our prayers to be praying, not like serfs and servants, but as children who cry, “Abba, Father.”

     IV. Now, the last thing is, THE SPIRIT OF “WITNESS: — “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”

     There are two witnesses to the adoption of every child of God. Two is a legal number: in the mouth of two witnesses the whole shall be established. The first witness is the man’s own spirit. His spirit says, “Yes, yes, yes, I am a child of God. I feel those drawings towards God; I feel that delight in him; I feel that love to him; I feel that wish to obey him, which I never could have felt if I were not his child. Moreover, God’s own word declares, ‘To as many as received him’— that is Christ— ‘to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name;’ now, I have received Christ, and I do believe on his name: therefore, I have the evidence of God’s written word that I am one of the sons of God. I have the right, the permission, the authority, to be one of the sons of God. That is the witness of my spirit: I believe, and therefore I am a child.”

     Now comes in the witness of the Holy Spirit. Nobody can question his veracity; but how does the Spirit of God witness to our sonship?

     First, he witnesses it, as I have already said, through the word of which he is the Author. The word contained in Scripture is quite enough for us if we have a saving faith. We accept it and believe it. The Spirit of God thus witnesses through the Word, and that is the surest medium. “We have a more sure word of testimony,” said Peter. That is a wonderful declaration of the apostle. Peter had spoken about seeing Christ transfigured on the holy mount. Was not that sure? Yes, it was, but he, in effect, says, — We have a more sure word of testimony than all the sights that we have seen, whereunto we do well if we take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place.

     Next, the Spirit of God bears witness by his work in us. He works in us that which proves us to be the children of God; and what is that?

     The first thing is that he works in us great love to God. None love God but those that are born of him. There is no true love to God in Christ Jesus except in those that have been begotten again by God’s own Spirit, so that our love to God is the witness of the Spirit that we are the children of God.

     Furthermore, he works in us a veneration for God. We fear before him with a childlike reverence: everything that has to do with God becomes sacred to us when he communes with us. Ay, if he only met us in a dream we should say, “How dreadful is this place! It is none other than the house of God, and it is the very gate of heaven.” The place of his feet is glorious in our eyes. The meanest of his chosen are honourable in our esteem. This holy awe of believers is a proof of their being God’s children. If he be their Father they will reverence him, for we know that when we had fathers of our flesh, they corrected us, and we gave them reverence, for it was due to them. Shall we not be in subjection to the Father of our spirits? That subjection is the surest evidence that we are indeed the sons of God.

     In addition to this, the Spirit of God works in us a holy confidence. By his grace we feel in days of trouble that we can rest in God. When we cannot see our way we go on joyfully without seeing. What is the good of seeing with our own eyes when the eyes of the Lord are running to and fro in the earth to show himself strong in the behalf of all them that trust in him? Our faith feels a joy in believing seeming contradictions, a delight in accepting apparent impossibilities. We have a belief in God’s veracity so sure and steadfast that if all the angels in heaven were to deny the truth of God we would laugh them to scorn. He must be true, and we know it: every word of his book is as certainly true to us as if we had seen the thing with our own eyes— ay, and truer still, for eyes deceive, and mislead, but God never can. Wherever there is this blessed child-like trust, there is the Spirit’s witness that we are the children of God.

     And then, again, when the Spirit of God works in us sanctification, that becomes a further witness of our sonship. When he makes us hate sin, when he makes us love everything that is pure and good, when he helps us to conquer ourselves, when he leads us to love our fellow-men, when he fashions us like to Christ, this is the witness of the Spirit with our spirit that we are the children of God. Oh, to have more and more of it!

     Besides which, I believe that there is a voice unheard of the outward ear, which drops in silence on the spirit of man, and lets him know that he has, indeed, passed from death unto life. This also is the seal of the Spirit to the truth of our adoption.

     Now let us begin at the beginning, and bless him that ever he made us feel the bondage of sin. Let us bless him that he made us fear and tremble, and fly to Jesus. Let us bless him that he has brought us into the adoption of children. Let us bless him that he helps us to cry “Abba, Father”; and, lastly, let us bless him that to-night he bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.

     Dear friend, dost thou believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? If so, all the privileges of an heir of God are thine. If thou dost not believe in Christ, the Spirit of God will never bear witness to a lie, and tell thee that thou art saved when thou art not. If thou art not saved and not yet a believer in Jesus, I tell thee that thou art like a blank document to which the Spirit of God will never set his hand and seal, for he is never so unwise as to sign a blank. If thou hast believed, thou art a child of God, and the Spirit of God sets his seal to thy adoption. Go in peace, and rejoice in the Lord for ever.

Nor fret, nor doubt, nor suffer slavish fear:
Thy spirit is released, thy path is clear.
Let praise fill up thy day, and evermore
Live thou to love, to copy, and adore.



The Pastor’s Life Wrapped Up with His People’s Steadfastness

By / Jun 22


The Great Birthday of Our Coming Age

By / Dec 21

The Great Birthday of Our Coming Age 

 

“Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: but when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.”— Galatians iv. 3— 6.

 

THE birth of our Lord Jesus Christ into this world is a wellspring of pure, unmingled joy. We associate with his crucifixion much of sorrowful regret, but we derive from his birth at Bethlehem nothing but delight. The angelic song was a fit accompaniment to the joyful event, and the filling of the whole earth with peace and good will is a suitable consequence of the condescending fact. The stars of Bethlehem cast no baleful light: we may sing with undivided joy, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” When the Eternal God stooped from heaven and assumed the nature of his own creature who had rebelled against him, the deed could mean no harm to man. God in our nature is not God against us but God with us. We may take up the young child in our arms and feel that we have seen the Lord’s salvation; it cannot mean destruction to men. I do not wonder that the men of the world celebrate the supposed anniversary of the great birthday as a high festival with carols and banquets. Knowing nothing of the spiritual meaning of the mystery, they yet perceive that it means man’s good, and so in their own rough way they respond to it. We who observe no days which are not appointed of the Lord, rejoice continually in our Prince of Peace, and find in our Lord’s manhood a fountain of consolation.

     To those who are truly the people of God the incarnation is the subject of a thoughtful joy, which ever increases with our knowledge of its meaning, even as rivers are enlarged by many trickling brooks. The Birth of Jesus not only brings us hope, but the certainty of good things. We do not merely speak of Christ’s coming into relation with our nature, but of his entering into union with ourselves, for he has become one flesh with us for purposes as great as his love. He is one with all of us who have believed in his name.

     Let us consider by the light of our text the special effect produced upon the church of God by the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in human flesh. You know, beloved, that his coming a second time wilt produce a wonderful change upon the church. “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun.” We are looking forward to his second advent for the uplifting of the church to a higher platform than that upon which it now stands. Then shall the militant become triumphant, and the labouring become exultant. Now is the time of battle, but the second advent shall bring both victory and rest. To-day our King commands us to conflict, but soon he shall reign upon Mount Zion, with his ancients gloriously. When he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Then shall the bride adorn herself with her jewels, and stand ready for her Husband. The whole waiting creation which now groaneth and travaileth together in harmony with the birthpangs of the church shall then come to her time of deliverance, and enter into the glorious liberty of the children of God. This is the promise of the second advent; but what was the result of the first advent? Did that make any difference in the dispensation of the church of God? Beyond all doubt it did. Paul here tells us that we were minors, in bondage under the elements of the world, until the fulness of time was come, when “God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.” Some will say, “He is speaking here of the Jews”; but he expressly guards us in the previous chapter against dividing the church into Jews and Gentiles. To him it is only one church, and when he says we were in bondage he is talking to the Galatian Christians, who were many of them Gentiles; but in truth he regards them neither as Jews nor Gentiles, but as part of the one and indivisible church of God. In those ages in which election mainly embraced the tribes of Israel there were always some chosen ones beyond that visible line, and in the mind of God the chosen people were always regarded as neither Jews nor Gentiles, but as one in Christ Jesus. So Paul lets us know that the church up to the time of the coming of Christ was like a child at school under tutors and governors; or like a young man not yet arrived at years of discretion, and therefore most fitly kept under restraint. When Jesus came his great birthday was the day of the coming of age of the church: then believers remained no more children, but became men in Christ Jesus. Our Lord by his first advent brought the church up out of her nonage and her pupilage into a condition of maturity, in which it was able to take possession of the inheritance, and claim and enjoy its rights and liberties. It was a wonderful step from being under the law as a schoolmaster, to come from under its rod and rule into the freedom and power of a full-grown heir; but such was the change for believers of the old time, and in consequence there was a wonderful difference between the highest under the Old Testament and the lowest under the New. Of them that are born of woman there was not born a greater than John the Baptist, and yet the least in the kingdom of heaven was greater than he. John the Baptist may be compared to a youth of nineteen, still an infant in law, still under his guardian, still unable to touch his estate; but the least believer in Jesus has passed his minority, and is “no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”

     May the Holy Spirit bless the text to us while we use it thus. First, let us consider in itself the joyful mission of the Son of God, and then let us consider the joyful result which has come of that mission, as it is expressed in our text.

     I. I invite you to CONSIDER THE JOYFUL MISSION OF THE SON OF GOD. The Lord of heaven has come to earth; God has taken upon himself human nature. Halleluiah! This great transaction was accomplished at the right time: “When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman.” The reservoir of time had to be filled by the inflowing of age after age, and when it was full to the brim the Son of God appeared. Why the world should have remained in darkness for four thousand years, why it should have taken that length of time for the church to attain her full age, we cannot tell; but this we are told, that Jesus was sent forth when the fulness of time was come. Our Lord did not come before his time nor behind his time: he was punctual to his hour, and cried to the moment,— “Lo, I come.” We may not curiously pry into the reasons why Christ came when he did; but we may reverently muse thereon. The birth of Jesus is the grandest light of history, the sun in the heavens of all time. It is the pole-star of human destiny, the hinge of chronology, the meeting-place of the waters of the past and the future. Why happened it just at that moment? Assuredly it was so predicted. There were prophecies many which pointed exactly to that hour. I will not detain you just now with them; but those of you who are familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures well know that, as with so many fingers, they pointed to the time when the Shiloh should come, and the great sacrifice should be offered. He came at the hour which God had determined. The infinite Lord appoints the date of every event; all times are in his hand. There are no loose threads in the providence of God, no stitches are dropped, no events are left to chance. The great clock of the universe keeps good time, and the whole machinery of providence moves with unerring punctuality. It was to be expected that the greatest of all events should be most accurately and wisely timed, and so it was. God willed it to be when and where it was, and that will as to us the ultimate reason.

     If we might suggest any reasons which can be appreciated by ourselves, we should view the date in reference to the church itself as to the time of her coming of age. There is a measure of reason in appointing the age of twenty-one as the period of a man’s majority, for he is then mature, and full grown. It would be unwise to make a person to be of age while only ten, eleven, or twelve; everybody would see that such boyish years would be unsuitable. On the other hand, if we were detained from being of age till we were thirty, every one would see that it was a needless and arbitrary postponement. Now, if we were wise enough, we should see that the church of God could not have endured gospel light earlier than the day of Christ’s coming; neither would it have been well to keep her in gloom beyond that time. There was a fitness about the date which we cannot fully understand, because we have not the means of forming so decided an estimate of the life of a church as of the life of a man. God alone knows the times and seasons for a church, and no doubt to him the four thousand years of the old dispensation made up a fit period for the church to abide at school, and bear the yoke in her youth.

     The time of coming of age of a man has been settled by law with reference to those that are round about him. It were not meet for servants that the child of five or six should be master: it were not meet in the world of commerce that an ordinary boy of ten or twelve should be a trader on his own account. There is a fitness with reference to relatives, neighbours, and dependants. So was there a fitness in the time when the church should come to her age with regard to the rest of mankind. The world must know its darkness that it might value the light when it should shine forth; the world must grow weary of its bondage that it might welcome the great Emancipator. It was God’s plan that the world’s wisdom should prove itself to be folly; he meant to permit intellect and skill to play themselves out, and then he would send his Son. He would allow man to prove his strength to be perfect weakness, and then he would become his righteousness and strength. Then, when one monarch governed all lands, and when the temple of war was shut after ages of bloodshed, the Lord whom the faithful sought suddenly appeared. Our Lord and Saviour came when time was full, and like a harvest ready for his reaping, and so will he come again when once more the age is ripe and ready for his presence.

     Observe, concerning the first advent, that the Lord was moving in it towards man. “When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son.” We moved not towards the Lord, but the Lord towards us. I do not find that the world in repentance sought after its Maker. No; but the offended God himself in infinite compassion broke the silence, and came forth to bless his enemies. See how spontaneous is the grace of God. All good things begin with him.

     It is very delightful that God should take an interest in every stage of the growth of his people from their spiritual infancy to their spiritual manhood. As Abraham made a great feast when Isaac was weaned, so doth the Lord make a feast at the coming of age of his people. While they were as minors under the law of ceremonial observances, he led them about and instructed them. He knew that the yoke of the law was for their good, and he comforted them in the bearing of it; but he was. glad when the hour came for their fuller joy. Oh, how truly did the Psalmist say, “How precious are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!” Tell it out with joy and gladness, that, the blessings of the new dispensation under which we dwell are the spontaneous gifts of God, thoughtfully bestowed in great love, wherein he hath abounded towards us in all wisdom and prudence. When the fulness of time was come, God himself interposed to give his people their privileges; for it is not his will that any one of his people should miss a single point of blessedness. If we are babes it is not his wish; he would have us men. If we are famished it is not by his desire, he would fill us with the bread of heaven.

     Mark the divine interposition,— “God sent forth his Son.” I hope it may not seem wearisome to you if I dwell upon that word “sent,”— “God sent forth his Son.” I take great pleasure in that expression, for it seals the whole work of Jesus. Everything that Christ did was done by commission and authority of his Father. The great Lord, when he was born at Bethlehem, and assumed our nature, did it under divine authorization; and when he came and scattered gifts with both his hands among the sons of men he was the messenger and ambassador of God. He was the Plenipotentiary of the Court of Heaven. At the back of every word of Christ there is the warrant of the Eternal; at the back of every promise of Christ there is the oath of God. The Son doeth nothing of himself, but the Father worketh with him and in him. O soul, when thou dost lean on Christ thou dost rely upon no amateur Saviour, no uncommissioned Redeemer; but upon One who is sent of the Most High, and therefore is authorised in everything that he does. The Father saith, “This is my beloved Son; hear ye him for in hearing him you are hearing the Most High. Let us find joy, then, in the coming of our Lord to Bethlehem, because he was sent.

     Now run your eye to the next word: “When the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son.” Observe the Divine person who was sent. God sent not an angel, nor any exalted creature, but “his Son.” How there can be a Son of God we know not. The eternal filiation of the Son must for ever remain one of those mysteries into which we must not pry. It were something like the sin of the men of Beth-shemesh if we were to open the ark of God to gaze upon the deep things of God. It is quite certain that Christ is God; for here he is called “his Son.” He existed before he was born into this world; for God “sent” his Son. He was already in being or he could not have been “sent.” And while he is one with the Father, yet he must be distinct from the Father, and have a personality separate from that of the Father, otherwise it could not be said that God sent his Son. God the Father was not made of a woman, nor made under the law, but only God the Son; therefore, while we know and are assured that Christ is one with the Father, yet is his distinctness of personality most clearly to be observed.

     Admire that God should have only one begotten Son, and should have sent him to uplift us. The messenger to man must be none other than God’s own Son. What dignity is here! It is the Lord of angels that is born of Mary; it is he without whom was not anything made, who deigns to hang at a woman’s breast and to be wrapped in swaddling bands. Oh, the dignity of this, and consequently, oh, the efficiency of it! He that has come to save us is no weak creature like ourselves; he that has taken upon himself our nature is no being of limited strength, such as an angel or a seraph might have been; but he is the Son of the Highest. Glory be to his blessed name! Let us dwell on this with delight.

“If some prophet had been sent
With salvation’s joyful news,
Who that heard the blest event
Could their warmest love refuse?
But ’twas he to whom in heaven
Hallelujahs never cease;
He, the mighty God, was given—
Given to us— a Prince of Peace.
None but tie who did create us
Could redeem from sin and hell;
None but he could reinstate us
In the rank from which we fell.”

Press on, still keeping to the very words of the text, for they are very sweet. God sent his Son in real humanity— “made of a woman.” The Revised Version properly hath it, born of a woman.” Perhaps you may get nearer to it if you say, “Made to be born of a woman,” for both ideas are present, the factum and the natum, the being made and the being born. Christ was really and truly of the substance of his mother, as certainly as any other infant that is born into the world is so. God did not create the human nature of Christ apart, and then transmit it into mortal existence by some special means; bat his Son was made and born of a woman. He is, therefore, of our race, a man like ourselves, and not man of another stock. You are to make no mistake about it; he is not only of humanity, but of your humanity; for that which is born of a woman is brother to us, be it born when it may. Yet there is an omission, I doubt not intentional, to show how holy was that human nature, for he is born of a woman, not of a man. The Holy Spirit overshadowed the Virgin, and “that holy thing” was born of her without the original sin which pertains to our race by natural descent. Here is a pure humanity though a true humanity; a true humanity though free from sin. Born of a woman, he was of few days and full of trouble; born of a woman, he was compassed with our physical infirmities; but as he was not born of man he was altogether without tendency to evil or delight therein. I beg you to rejoice in this near approach of Christ to us. Ring out the glad bells, if not in the spires and steeples, yet within your own hearts; for gladder news did never greet your ear than this, that he that is the Son of God was also “made of a woman.”

     Still further it is added, that God sent his Son “made under the law” or born under the law; for the word is the same in both cases; and by the same means by which he came to be of a woman he came under the law. And now admire and wonder! The Son of God has come under the law. He was the Law-maker and the Law-giver, and he is both the Judge of the law and the Executioner of the law, and yet he himself came under the law. No sooner was he born of a woman than he came under the law: this voluntarily and yet necessarily. He willed to be a man, and being a man he accepted the position, and stood in the place of man as subject to the law of the race. When they took him and circumcised him according to the law, it was publicly declared that he was under the law. During the rest of his life you will observe how reverently he observed the commands of God. Even to the ceremonial law as it was given by Moses he had scrupulous regard. He despised the traditions and superstitions of men, but for the rule of the dispensation he had a high respect.

     By way of rendering service unto God on our behalf, he came under the moral law. He kept his Father’s commandments. He obeyed to the full both the first and the second tables; for he loved God with all his heart, and his neighbour as himself. “I delight to do thy will, O my God,” saith he, “yea, thy law is within my heart.” He could truly say of the Father, “I do always those things that please him.” Yet it was a marvellous thing that the King of kings should be under the law; and especially that he should come under the penalty of the law as well as the service of it. “Being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” As our Surety and Substitute he came under the curse of the law; being made a curse for us. Having taken our place and espoused our nature, though without sin himself, he came under the rigorous demands of justice, and in due time he bowed his head to the sentence of death. “He laid down his life for us.” He died the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. In this mystery of his incarnation, in this wonderful substitution of himself in the place of sinful men, lies the ground of that wonderful advance which believers made when Jesus came in the flesh. His advent in human form commenced the era of spiritual maturity and freedom.

     II. I ask you now, therefore, in the second place, to CONTEMPLATE THE JOYOUS RESULT WHICH HAS COME OF OUR LORD’S INCARNATION.

     I must return to what I have said before— this coming of Christ has ended the minority of believers. The people of God among the Jews were before Christ came the children of God; but they were mere babes or little children. They were instructed in the elements of divine knowledge by types, emblems, shadows, symbols: when Jesus was come there was an end of that infantile teaching. The shadows disappear when the substance is revealed; the symbols are not wanted when the person symbolized is himself present. What a difference between the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ when he shows them plainly of the Father and the teaching of the priests when they taught by scarlet wool and hyssop and blood! How different the teaching of the Holy Ghost by the apostles of our Lord, and the instruction by meats and drinks and holy days. The old economy is dim with smoke, concealed with curtains, guarded from too familiar an approach; but now we come boldly to the throne, and all with unveiled face behold as in a glass the glory of God. The Christ has come, and now the Kindergarten school is quitted for the college of the Spirit, by whom we are taught of the Lord to know even as we are known. The hard governorship of the law is over. Among the Greeks, boys and youths were thought to need a cruel discipline: while they went to school they were treated very roughly by their pedagogues and tutors. It was supposed that a boy could only imbibe instruction through his skin, and that the tree of knowledge was originally a birch; and therefore there was no sparing the rod, and no mitigation of self-denials and hardships. This fitly pictures the work of the law upon those early believers. Peter speaks of it as a yoke, which neither they nor their fathers were able to bear (Acts xv. 10). The law was given amid thunder and flaming fire; and it was more fitted to inspire a wholesome dread than a loving confidence. Those sweeter truths, which are our daily consolation, were hardly known, or but seldom spoken; Prophets did speak of Christ, but they were more frequently employed in pouring out lamentations and denunciations against children that were corrupters. Methinks, one day with Christ was worth a half century with Moses. When Jesus came, believers began to hear of the Father and his love, of his abounding grace, and the kingdom which he had prepared for them. Then the doctrines of eternal love, and redeeming grace, and covenant faithfulness were unveiled; and they heard of the tenderness of the Elder Brother, the grace of the great Father, and the indwelling of the ever-blessed Spirit. It was as if they had risen from servitude to freedom, from infancy to manhood. Blessed were they who in their day shared the privilege of the old economy, for it was wonderful light as compared with heathen darkness; yet, for all that, compared with the noontide that Christ brought, it was mere candle-light. The ceremonial law held a man in stern bondage: you must not eat this, and you must not go there, and you must not wear this, and you must not gather that. Everywhere you were under restraint, and walked between hedges of thorn. The Israelite was reminded of sin at every turn, and warned of his perpetual tendency to fall into one transgression or another. It was quite right that it should be so, for it is good for a man that, while he is yet a youth, he should bear the yoke, and learn obedience; yet it must have been irksome. When Jesus came what a joyful difference was made. It seemed like a dream of joy, too glad to be true. Peter could not at first believe in it, and needed a vision to make him sure that it was even so. When he saw that great sheet let down, full of all manner of living creatures and four-footed things, and was bidden to kill and eat, he said, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” He was startled indeed when the Lord said, “What God hath cleansed, chat call not thou common.” That first order of things “stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation;” but Paul saith, “I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself.” Prohibition upon mere ceremonial points, and commands upon carnal matters are now abolished, and great is our liberty: we shall be foolish indeed if we suffer ourselves to be again entangled with the yoke of bondage. Our minority was ended when the Lord, who had aforetime spoken to us by his prophets, at last sent his Son to lead us up to the highest form of spiritual manhood.

     Christ came, we are told next, to redeem those who were under the law; that is to say, the birth of Jesus, and his coming under the law, and his fulfilling the law, have sec all believers free from it as a yoke of bondage. None of us wish to be free from the law as a rule of life; we delight in the commands of God, which are holy, and just, and good. We wish that we could keep every precept of the law, without a single omission or transgression. Our earnest desire is for perfect holiness; but we do not look in that direction for our justification before God. If we be asked to-day, are we hoping to be saved by ceremonies? we answer, “God forbid.” Some seem to fancy that baptism and the Lord’s Supper have taken the place of circumcision and the Passover, and that while Jews were saved by one form of ceremonial we are to be saved by another. Let us never give place to this idea; no, not for an hour. God’s people are saved, not by outward rites, nor forms, nor priestcraft, but because “God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,” and he has so kept the law that by faith his righteousness covers all believers, and we are not condemned by the law. As to the moral law, which is the standard of equity for all time, it is no way of salvation for us. Once we were under it, and strove to keep it in order to earn the divine favour; but we have now no such motive. The word was, “This do and thou shalt live,” and we therefore strove like slaves to escape the lash, and earn our wage; but it is so no longer. Then we strove to do the Lord’s will that he might love us, and that we might be rewarded for what we did; but we have no design of purchasing that favour now, since we freely and securely enjoy it on a very different ground. God loves ns out of pure grace, and he has freely forgiven us our iniquities, and this out of gratuitous goodness. We are already saved, and that not by works of righteousness which we have done, or by holy acts which we hope to perform, but wholly of free grace. If it be of grace it is no more of works, and that it is all of grace from first to last is our joy and glory. The righteousness that covers us was wrought out by him that was born of a woman, and the merit by which we enter heaven is the merit, not of our own hands or hearts, but of him that loved us, and gave himself for us. Thus are we redeemed from the law by our Lord’s being made under the law; and we become sons and no more servants, because the great Son of God became a servant in our stead.

     “What!” saith one; “then do you not seek to do good works?” Indeed we do. We talked of them before, but we actually perform them now. Sin shall not have dominion over us, for we are not under law, but under grace. By God’s grace we desire to abound in works of holiness, and the more we can serve our God the happier we are. But this is not to save ourselves, for we are already saved. O sons of Hagar, ye cannot understand the freedom of the true heir, the child born according to promise! Ye that are in bondage, and feel the force of legal motives, ye cannot understand how we should serve our Father who is in heaven with all our heart and all our soul, not for what we get by it, but because he has loved us, and saved us, irrespective of our works. Yet it is even so; we would abound in holiness to his honour, and praise, and glory, because the love of Christ constraineth us. What a privilege it is to cease from the spirit of bondage by being redeemed from the law! Let us praise our Redeemer with all our hearts.

     We are redeemed from the law in its operation upon our mind: it breeds no fear within us now. I have heard children of God say sometimes, “Well, but don’t you think if we fall into sin we shall cease to be in God’s love, and so shall perish?” This is to cast a slur upon the unchangeable love of God. I see that you make a mistake, and think a child is a servant. Now, if you have a servant, and he misbehaves himself, you say, “I give you notice to quit. There is your wage; you must find another master.” Can you do that to your son? Can you do that to your daughter? “I never thought of such a thing,” say you. Your child is yours for life. Your boy behaved very badly to you: why did you not give him his wages and start him? You answer, that he does not serve you for wages, and that he is your son, and cannot be otherwise. Just so. Then always know the difference between a servant and a son, and the difference between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace.

     I know how a base heart can make mischief out of this; but I cannot help it: the truth is the truth. Will a child rebel because he will always be a child? Far from it; it is this which makes him feel love in return. The true child of God is kept from sin by other and better forces than a slavish fear of being turned out of doors by his Father. If you are under the covenant of works, then, mind you, if you do not fulfil all righteousness you will perish; if you are under that covenant, unless you are perfect you are lost; one sin will destroy you, one sinful thought will ruin you. If you have not been perfect in your obedience, you must take your wages and be gone. If God deals with you according to your works, there will be nothing for you but, “Cast out this bondwoman, and her son.” But if you are God’s child, that is a different matter; you will still be his child even when he corrects you for your disobedience.

     “Ah,” saith one, “then I may live as I like.” Listen! If you are God’s child, I will tell you how you will like to live. You will desire to live in perfect obedience to your Father, and it will be your passionate longing from day to day to be perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. The nature of sons which grace implants is a law unto itself: the Lord puts his fear into the hearts of the regenerate so that they do not depart from him. Being born again and introduced into the family of God, you will render to the Lord an obedience which you would not have thought of rendering to him if you had only been compelled by the idea of law and penalty. Love is a master force, and he that feels its power will hate all evil. The more salvation is seen to be all of grace, the deeper and more mighty is our love, and the more does it work towards that which is pure and holy. Do not quote Moses for motives of Christian obedience. Do not say, “The Lord will cast me away unless I do this and that.” Such talk is of the bondwoman and her son; but it is very unseemly in the mouth of a true-born heir of heaven. Get it out of your mouth. If you are a son you disgrace your Father when you think that he will repudiate his own; you forget your spiritual heirship and liberty when you dread a change in Jehovah’s love. It is all very well for a mere babe to talk in that ignorant fashion, and I don’t wonder that many professors know no better, for many ministers are only half-evangelical; but you that have become men in Christ, and know that he has redeemed you from the law, ought not to go back to such bondage. “God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law.”

     What else has he come for? Notice further, “That we might receive the adoption of sons.” The Lord Jesus Christ has come in human flesh that his people might to the full realise, grasp, and enjoy, “the adoption of sons.” I want you this morning to see if you can do that. May the Holy Spirit enable you. What is it to receive the adoption of sons? Why to feel, Now I am under the mastery of love, as a dear child, who is both loved and loving. I go in and out of my Father’s house not as a casual servant, called in by the day or the week, but as a child at home. I am not looking for hire as a servant, for I am ever with my Father, and all that he has is mine. My God is my Father, and his countenance makes me glad. I am not afraid of him, but I delight in him, for nothing can separate me from him. I feel a perfect love that casteth out fear, and I delight myself in him. Try now and enter into that spirit this morning. That is why Christ has come in the flesh— on purpose that you, his people, may be to the full the adopted children of the Lord, acting out and enjoying all the privileges which sonship secures to you.

     And then, next, exercise your heirship. One who is a son, and knows he is an heir of all his father’s estates, does not pine in poverty, nor act like a beggar. He looks upon everything as his own; he regards his father’s wealth as making him rich. He does not feel that he is stealing if he takes what his father has made to be his own, but he makes free with it. I wish believers would make free with the promises and blessings of their God. Help yourselves, for no good thing will the Lord withhold from you. All things are yours: you only need to use the hand of faith. Ask what thou wilt. If you appropriate a promise it will not be pilfering: you may take it boldly and say, “This is mine.” Your adoption brings with it large rights; be not slow to use them. “If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.” Among men, sons are only heirs, heirs in possession, when the father is dead; but our Father in heaven lives, and yet we have full heirship in him. The Lord Jesus Christ was made of a woman on purpose that his dear people might at once enter into their heirship.

     You ought to feel a sweet joy in the perpetual relationship which is now established between you and God, for Jesus is still your brother. You have been adopted, and God has never cancelled adoption yet. There is such a thing as regeneration, but there is not such a thing as the life then received dying out. If you are born unto God you are born unto God. The stars may turn to coals, and the sun and moon may become clots of blood, but he that is born of God has a life within him which can never end: he is God’s child, and God’s child he shall be. Therefore let him walk at large like a child, an heir, a prince of the blood royal, who bears a relationship to the Lord which neither time nor eternity can ever destroy. This is why Jesus was made of a woman and made under the law, that he might give us to enjoy the fulness of the privilege of adopted sons.

     Follow me a minute a little further. The next thing that Christ has brought us by being made of a woman is, “Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts.” Here are two sendings. God sent his Son, and now he sends his Spirit. Because Christ has been sent, therefore the Spirit is sent; and now you shall know the Holy Ghost’s indwelling because of Christ’s incarnation. The Spirit of light, the Spirit of life, the Spirit of love, the Spirit of liberty, the same Spirit that was in Christ Jesus is in you. That same Spirit which descended upon Jesus in the waters of baptism has also descended upon you. You, O child of God, have the Spirit of God as your present guide and Comforter; and he shall be with you for ever. The life of Christ is your life, and the Spirit of Christ is your Spirit; wherefore, this day be exceeding glad, for you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but ye have received the Spirit of adoption.

     There we finish, for Jesus has come to give us the cry as well as the spirit of adoption, “whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” According to ancient traditions no slave might say, “Abba, Father,” and according to the truth as it is in Jesus none but a man who is really a child of God, and has received the adoption, can truly say, “Abba, Father.” This day my heart desires for every one of you, my brethren, that because Christ has been born into the world you may at once come of age, and may at this hour confidently say, “Abba, Father.” The great God, the Maker of heaven and earth, is my Father, and I dare avow it without fear that he will disown the kindred. The Thunderer, the ruler of the stormy sea, is my Father, and notwithstanding the terror of his power I draw near to him in love. He who is the Destroyer, who says, “Return, ye children of men,” is my Father, and I am not alarmed at the thought that he will call me to himself in due time. My God, thou who shalt call the multitudes of the slain from their graves to live, I look forward with joy to the hour when thou shalt call and I shall answer thee. Do what thou wilt with me, thou art my Father. Smile on me; I will smile back and say, “My Father.” Chasten me, and as I weep I will cry, “My Father.” This shall make everything work good to me, be it never so hard to bear. If thou art my Father all is well to all eternity. Bitterness is sweet, and death itself is life, since thou art my Father. Oh, trip ye merrily home, ye children of the living God, saying each one within himself, “I have it, I have it. I have that which cherubim before the throne have never gained; I have relationship with God of the nearest and the dearest kind, and my spirit for her music hath this word, ‘Abba, Father; Abba, Father.’”

     Now, dear children of God, if any of you are in bondage under the law, why do you remain so? Let the redeemed go free. Are you fond of wearing chains? Are you like Chinese women that delight to wear little shoes which crush their feet? Do you delight in slavery? Do you wish to be captives? You are not under the law, but under grace; will you allow your unbelief to put you under the law? You are not a slave. Why tremble like a slave? You are a child; you are a son; you are an heir; live up to your privileges. Oh, ye banished seed, be glad! You are adopted into the household of God; then be not as a stranger. I hear Ishmael laughing at you: let him laugh. Tell your Father of him, and he will soon say, “Cast out this bondwoman and her son.” Free grace is not to be mocked by human merit; neither are we to be made sad by the forebodings of the legal spirit. Our soul rejoices, and, like Isaac, is filled with holy laughter; for the Lord Jesus has done great things for us whereof we are glad. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.



Jonah’s Resolve, or “Look Again”!

By / Dec 14

Jonah's Resolve, or "Look Again"!

 

“Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.”— Jonah ii. 4.

 

WHAT a complex creature is man! Those who fancy that they can fully describe him do not understand him. He is a riddle and a contradiction. As says Ralph Erskine—

“I’m in mine own and others’ eyes
A labyrinth of mysteries.”

Here, for instance, is a confession from David. “So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee. Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand:” (Ps. lxxiii. 22, 23). Paul saith, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord:” (Rom. vii. 24, 25). He is strengthened with all might by the Spirit of God in the inner man, and yet is he weakness itself. In the text Jonah appears to be in a despairing condition,— “I am cast out of thy sight”; and still he has hope, for he resolves, “Yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.” Everything seems lost, and yet as long as a man can look to God nothing is lost. God cannot see him, so he thinks; yet he talks about looking towards God,— this is singular, is it not? It is as if he said, “I am cast out of thy sight, and yet thou art the object of my sight.” I do not know of a more gloomy sentence that human lips can speak than this,— “I am cast out of thy sight I do not know of a more hopeful resolution that the human heart can determine upon than this,— “Yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.” Oh, untried and inexperienced brother, be not at all disconcerted when you cannot comprehend yourself; on the contrary, take it as one of the evidences that there is a divine life within you when you become a mystery to yourself. If, like a schoolboy, you can draw your own likeness on a slate with a piece of pencil, and can say, “This is all myself,” why, then you will be rubbed out, and your image will be forgotten; but an immortal and divinely-inhabited spirit which is to survive sun, moon, and stars is not so readily sketched. While you are brother to the worm, and akin to corruption, you are nevertheless nearly related to him that sitteth on the eternal throne. Vast regions of wonder-land lie between your condition as the abject prey of death and your portion as an heir of God by Christ Jesus. Manhood is a great deep. I set it not side by side with the fathomless abyss of Godhead, but I know of nothing else which surpasses it.

     Our text next leads me to observe that faith in the child of God, whatever may he his circumstances, still comes to the front. Here is Jonah in such a wretched condition that he says, “I am cast out of thy sight;” and yet, despite this, he declares, “Yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.” The huge Atlantic wave comes rolling on, it sweeps not only over the feet and breast of faith, but it rises far above her head, and for the moment faith seems to be drowned. Wait an instant, and with her face ruddy from the wave and her locks streaming from the flood, faith lifts up her head again and cries, “Yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.” Write faith’s motto,— INVICTA; she ever rides forth upon the white horse, conquering and to conquer. Faith is the child of the Omnipotent, and shares in his omnipotence; it is born of the Eternal, and it possesses his immortality. You may crush and grind it, but every fragment lives; you may cast it into the fire, but it cannot be burned, neither can the smell of fire pass upon it; you may hurl it into the great deeps but it is bound to rise again. Faith has an eye that was made to drink in the sunlight, and so long as God is a sun, there will be eyes of faith to rejoice in him. If we have faith, there is that in us which overcomes the world, baffles Satan, conquers sin, rules life, and abolishes death. All things are possible to him that believeth. Faith triumphs in every place notwithstanding that her life is one of continued trial. Sense is broken like a potter’s vessel, and reason is frail as a spider’s web; but faith abideth, and groweth, and reigneth in the power of the Most High.

     Please observe, for it may be for the comfort of some here present, that Jonah was in a position altogether unique and yet faith stood him in good stead. You have read of Joseph in the dungeon; but his imprisonment was nothing compared with the entombment of Jonah in the belly of a fish. You have read of Job on a dunghill in utter misery,— it is a sorry plight; but there are many Jobs in one Jonah if we reckon by present misery and distress. To lie as a living man in a living sepulchre was horrible. Jonah, no doubt, suffered from those inconveniences which, apart from miracle, would have ended his life right speedily. A dark, stifling, pestilential cell would have been preferable to the maw of a shark, or whatever great fish it may have been which had swallowed him. The singular thing of it is that he was aware of his position, and knew when the monster dived into the sea-bottom, when it passed through a meadow of sea-weed, when it neared some great mountain, and when again it rose to the surface. This makes the miracle all the more striking; for one is apt to imagine that the man must have lain dormant, or at least must, in a measure, have been unconscious while in such singular hiding. His position was such as never mortal man had known before or since. Now, it sometimes happens that singularity gives a sting to sorrow. When a man believes that nobody ever suffered as he is doing, he concludes his case to be well-nigh hopeless. Dear tried friend, you cannot say this with any certainty, I am sure; for you have comrades with you in your every grief; but Jonah could say it with absolute truthfulness: he was where never man had been before, and where never man has been since, to be alive. His trial was all his own; no stranger intermeddled in it: in his affliction he had no predecessor, and no successor; he was the first and the last that for three days and nights had dwelt in the belly of a fish. He was singular to the last degree, and yet— here is the blessedness of it— his faith was equal to his position. You cannot banish faith, her home is everywhere. You have seen upon the Manx penny the three legs which must always stand, turn the coin whichever way you please: such is faith,— throw it wherever you may, it always falls on its feet. If faith be in a little child, it gives the child wisdom beyond its years; if it be in a decrepit old man, it makes him strong out of feebleness; if it be faith in solitude, it blesses a man with the best of company; if it be faith in the midst of adversaries, it brings to a man the best of friends. Faith in weakness makes us strong, in poverty makes us rich, and in death makes us live. Get a firm confidence in God, and you need not enquire what is going to happen,— all must be well with you. Winding or straight, up hill or down dale, or through the fire or through the sea, if thou believest, thy road is the King’s, highway. If faith does not fail, nothing fails. Faith arms a man from head to foot with mail through which neither sword, nor spear, nor poisoned arrow can ever pierce. Though it be forged upon the anvil of the devil’s greatest subtlety, no weapon can prosper against thee, O true believer! Thou art as safe as he in whom thou believest; for “he shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust. His truth shall be thy shield and buckler.”

     If I might at this time help any child of God who is in trouble into a solid rest in God, I should be indeed delighted. Oh that the ever blessed Spirit would help me to that end!

     Carefully note, first, the verdict of sense— “I am cast out of thy sight”; and, secondly, the resolve of faith— “Yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.” These, remember, were both found in one man at one time.

     I. First, here is THE VERDICT OF SENSE.

     Please notice that it comes first in the text. Sense hurriedly decides, “I am cast out of thy sight.” It is noteworthy that unbelief is always first to speak. Whenever David observes, “I said in my haste,” you will notice that something is to be confessed which was unwise and untrue. Unbelief cannot wait, it must have its say; it blabs out all its silly soul at its earliest opportunity. In your own case, if you can be calm and patient you will speak to God’s glory; but if you are hasty and petulant, and must needs talk as soon as ever the trial comes upon you, it is almost an absolute certainty that you will say what you will be glad to unsay. Our hasty words are often dipped in wormwood and Handed back to us that we may eat them. Hold thee still a while, my brother, or, if thou must speak, speak to thy God and not against him; speak to thy God and not to thyself. Soliloquies are frequently an increase of woe. The heart ferments and heats itself, creating an inward fever which parches the soul. If a vessel wanteth vent it is not helped by being stirred within itself; yet such is the case when we say with David, “I pour out my soul in me.” Better is that word, “Ye people’ pour out your heart before him,” even before the living God. Brother, speak thou not to thyself, lest thou seem to be a madman: thou mayest vex thy soul exceedingly by those lone maunderings; speak thou to thy God. Even if thou utter hasty words, and words of unbelief, they are better uttered in his presence than muttered within thine own heart. He will hear them in any case; but when he perceives that in thy spirit there is no guile, though much impatience, he will freely forgive thee all thy childish error of too hasty speech, and help thee to bear up under thy woe. Speak, for silence slays; but speak to God, for he is full of compassion. Take the warning of the text, however, and be slow to murmur, remembering that the carnal nature is ever swift to speak and sure to speak amiss.

     This verdict of sense, in the next place, was apparently very correct. “I said, I am cast out of thy sight.” Did it not seem so? Jonah had tried to get away from God, and God had pursued him with a tempest, and almost broken the ship to pieces in order to be at him. As the result of the tempest he had been hurled into the sea, and in the sea a great fish had swallowed him, and he had been carried down till the floods compassed him about. Did not all his surroundings confirm his suspicion that he was a castaway? Could he expect ever again that the word of the Lord would come to Jonah the son of Amittai? Could he hope ever again to stand with the joyful multitude that kept holy day in the courts of the Lord’s house, or to present his sacrifice of thanksgiving upon Jehovah’s altar? No; if he judged by his feelings, he was shut up to the conclusion which he expressed. There remained nothing to him but bare life, and that in such a condition that one could hardly desire to have it continued. He reckoned with abundant show of reason that he must be cast out of God’s sight. Yet it was not so; and therefore I invite those of you who have begun to judge your God by what you feel, and by what you see, to revise your judgment, and in future to be very diffident as to your power to come to any just conclusion as to God’s dealings with you. Thank God, you will be wrong if you despair. It is much better for you to show your faith by relying on your God than to display your folly by saying, “I am cast out.”

     As this verdict of sense seemed to be correct, Jonah must have felt that it was assuredly deserved. If the Lord had dealt with Jonah according to his sins, he would have been a castaway. He had hurried to Joppa, and taken a passage in a ship to go to Tarshish, or anywhere else, to flee from the presence of God. Now, what was a fitter punishment for him than that he should be cast out from the sight of God? Had not this been his inquiry at Joppa, “Whither shall I go from thy Spirit?” Was not this his demand, “Whither shall I flee from thy presence?” Now, he has his answer,— he is carried down till the depth closed him round about. His waywardness had come home to him: he had been paid in his own coin; and what could Jonah feel but that he was filled with his own ways? Had he died in the sea he could not have doubted the Lord’s justice. If he had been driven away as an outcast, it had but been righteous retribution to a runaway who refused his Master’s service. This must have made him doubly sorrowful; a guilty conscience is the sourest ingredient of all. When each wave howled in Jonah’s ear, “You deserve it,” he was in an evil plight indeed.

     One sharp part of Jonah’s misery was that God’s hand was so evidently in his misery. He sees it and trembles. Observe how he ascribes all to God,— “Thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about; all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.” We can bear a blow from an enemy, but a wound from our best friend is hard. If the Lord himself go forth against us, the war is one to tremble at. If the messenger of grief be commissioned by Jehovah himself, and we know it, mere carnal reason concludes that all is over finally, and that henceforth all we can do is to sit down and die. Faith thinketh not so; but this is after the manner of flesh and sense.

     Observe that this verdict of sense, “I am cast out from God,” was very bitter to Jonah. You can see by the way in which he speaks that it is a heavy burden to him, and yet it seems strange that it should be so. Here is a man who, when he was in a wrong state of heart, sought to flee from the presence of the Lord, and therefore went to the seacoast on purpose, rejoiced to find a ship bound for a distant and almost unknown land, and paid the fare to sail therein of set purpose that he might get away from God; and now that he thinks he is away from God, he is filled with horror and dismay. By this we know the children of God even at their worst estate. Oh, you that are the people of God, you may sometimes in your wilfulness wish that you could get away from the all-searching eye; but if you could do so it would be hell to you. If you are a child of God you must dwell in the presence of God; it is your life, and you cannot be happy anywhere else. Oh, redeemed, regenerate man, it is impossible now for thy once renewed spirit ever to be happy in the beggarly elements of thy former condition: except in the divine atmosphere of heavenly love there is no rest for thee. Thou art spoilt for this world, O heir of the world to come! There was a time when its dainties would have been sweet to thy taste, and thy soul could have been filled therewith; but that day is over now: thou must eat the bread of heaven or starve. If thou art not happy in thy God thou art doomed to be happy nowhere. There is no choice left for thee. Thy very nature is so affected now that as the needle rests not save as it points to the pole, so can thy heart never be quiet except in Jesus. The light of his countenance must be light to thee, or thou must walk in darkness; thy music must come from Jesus’ lips, or else there is nought for thee but wailing and gnashing of teeth; thy heaven must be in his embrace, there is no heaven elsewhere for thee. Nor would we wish to have it different. I am sure I can say from my very soul that if God could leave me it would be to me a hell worse than Dante or Milton could imagine. What if I still had to pursue my holy calling, and to preach! What woe to preach without him! What a hollow mockery! If I were bound to continue still the outward form of prayer and of a moral life, what vanity of vanities would it all be without my Lord! Without God! brothers, sisters, can you bear the thought? It is not the pang of hell, nor its fires, nor its undying worm, nor aught else that can be pictured of amazing terror that causes such alarm as the bare thought of being severed from God. To be cast out from his sight were hell indeed! Now, I should think that if Jonah had been in a calm state of mind, and had been able to consider things in the light of truth, it ought to have given him some ground of hope that he was not cast out from God after all, because he was so unhappy at the idea of being so cast out. Will the Lord leave a soul that is distressed by such leaving? No spirit is wholly cast off from God if it longs after God. If thou canst be content without God thou art indeed a lost one; but if there be in thee a wretched rankling discontent at the very thought of being severed from thy God, then thou art his, and he is thine, and no eternal division shall come between thee and him.

     Thus I have brought out somewhat the force of this verdict of sense,— “I am cast out of thy sight”; but I want you further to notice that it was not true. There was ground for grief, but not for this despairing inference. The verdict was not sustained by sufficient evidence. It was a great deal more than Jonah should have said, “I am cast out of thy sight.” What, alive in the sea, Jonah; alive in the deep! alive in the belly of a fish! and say that you are cast out from God’s sight! Surely if God was anywhere in the world, it was in that great fish. Where else could there have been surer proofs of his present power and Godhead than in keeping a man alive in a living charnel? There was a constant standing miracle for three days and nights; and where there is a miracle, there is God most visibly seen. If Jonah could have asked the seas and asked the deep places of the earth, they would have told him that the Lord was not far away. If he could have asked the fish itself, it would have owned that God was there. If those who go down to the sea in ships see the works of the Lord and his wonders in the deep, much more might he have seen them who went into the sea in a fish’s belly. There is a text that Jonah could never have heard, which I commend to you against the time when you get to be where Jonah was. I do not suppose you ever will be buried alive in a fish literally; but you may spiritually sink as deep as the prophet did. What is that text? “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Jonah said, “I am cast out but that was not true. Poor Jonah! the mariners cast him out, but God did not; he was cast out of the ship, but not out of the sight of God. The Lord of old was faithful, and it was his rule never to cast away his people; even as David saith, “For the Lord will not cast off for ever: but though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion, according to the multitude of his mercies.” Mark the text I quoted from our Lord’s own lips: “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Never question this sacred word. He will never, never cast out a single one that trusts him. So that if ever you should be in a condition which seems to you quite as forlorn as that of this prophet in the midst of the sea, you may yet be sure that you are not cast off, nor cast out. He who says he is cast out, says more than can possibly be true; since the infallible promise is, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” It is not for us to forge a lie against the God of the whole earth. He does not speak that which is false, but out of his mouth proceedeth verity. Even if all things in earth and hell should swear that the Lord has cast away one of his own believing people, it will be our duty to disbelieve them all; for it is impossible that he should cast out any believer, in any wise, for any reason or motive whatsoever.

     II. Follow me, dear friends, and may the Lord make it profitable to you, while I dwell during the rest of my time upon THE RESOLVE OF FAITH. Oh that the Holy Ghost may work in us “like precious faith” with Jonah. “Yet,” says Jonah, “even if I be cast out, yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.”

     Jonah was a man of God when he was in his worst state of mind; at no time was the eternal life quite extinct within him. An ugly kind of saint this Jonah, when he was in the sulks! A proud, self-conscious, wilful, and morose being, hard to love! Yet, as an oyster may bear a precious pearl within its rough shell, so did the harsh prophet contain, within his being, a priceless jewel of faith— faith eminent, prevalent, triumphant, faith of the highest degree.

     This faith put him upon prayer. The chapter begins, “Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish’s belly.” Jonah had not prayed when he went down to Joppa. He had taken the management of himself into his own hands, and referred nothing to God as to that rash voyage. How could he pray in such a temper? He paid his fare to go to Tarshish; he did not pray God’s blessing on that expenditure, I am quite sure. When the sea began to work, and was tempestuous, he was in the sides of the ship, but he did not pray; no, he went to sleep. His conscience had become stupid, and seared as with a hot iron; there was no prayer in him, but a certain numbness of mind and lethargy of heart. And now he gets into the fish’s belly, a very close, dead place, where one would think he would lie in a state of coma, or in a sort of fainting fit, if it were possible for him to live at all; yet there he begins to pray. You will find God’s children praying where you thought they would despair; and, on the other hand, you may discover that they do not pray where you thought they would abound in supplication. “Oh,” says one man, “if I could have my time all to myself, and had not the worry of this family and this business, what a deal of time I would spend in prayer!” Would you? I would not guarantee your abundant devotion. Some of those who have least time for prayer pray most, and those who have most opportunity and everything congenial, are too often found to be most slack in their petitions. Jonah’s oratory was narrow, and this pressed the prayer out of him. He did not pray in the sides of the ship, where he had room enough and to spare; but he prayed where he could not get upon his knees, or hear his own voice. Laid out in his living coffin, he began his pleadings. One would think it hard to make the belly of hell the gate of heaven, but Jonah did so. He prays, and one of the surest evidences of a living faith is prayer. If thou canst not do anything else, thou canst pray, and if thou be a child of God thou wilt as surely pray as a man breathes or as a child cries; thou canst not help it. Prayer is thy vital breath, thy native air. Whether on the land or in the sea, prayer is thy life, and thou canst not exist without it if thou be indeed born from on high. Answer, dear hearer, is it not so? It is not the prayer-look, but the prayer-faith that we must have. Hast thou such faith?

     I beg you to notice, however, that this faith of Jonah showed itself not in prayer to God in general, but the passage runs, “Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord HIS God.” There is a mint of meaning here! If you go upstairs and pray to God, as everybody’s God, you have done what every Jack, Tom, and Harry may do; but to go to your closet and cry to the Lord as your own God, is what none but an heir of grace can do. Oh to cry— “My Father and my Friend! My God in covenant. My God to whom I have spoken years ago, and from whom I have heard full many a time. Thou whom I love. Thou who lovest me, Jehovah, my God.” This laying hold upon God as our own God is a business which the outer-court worshipper knows nothing of. Have some of you got a God at all? “Oh,” you say, “I know there is a God.” Yes, I know there is a bank; but that does not make me rich. What is your God to me? I want to say “my God,” or I cannot be happy. Have you a God to yourself, all to yourself; for if it be so, you will pray the prayer of faith when you draw near to him, and this will prove that whatever your condition may be, you are not cast out from the sight of the Most High.

     There is one thing about Jonah I want you particularly to notice, that as his faith made him pray, and made him pray to the Lord his God, his faith made him deal familiarly with holy Scripture. “What!” say you: “how know you that?” He had but a small Bible compared with ours, but he had laid much of it up in his memory. Evidently he loved the Book of Psalms, for his prayer is full of David’s expressions. Kindly look at Jonah’s prayer. I think I am right in saying that there are no less than seven extracts from the Psalms in that prayer and its preface. It was Jonah’s own prayer, and no man compiled it for him, for he was far away from the haunts of men; yet his heart led him to his former readings, and his memory came to his aid with expressions most suitable, and forcible, borrowed from a former much tried servant of the Lord. A deep experience is bound to resort to Scripture for its expression. Human compositions suffice for surface work, but when all God’s waves and billows have gone over us, we quote a Psalm. When our soul fainteth within us, we are not to be revived by human songs, but we turn to the grave sweet melodies of inspiration. When a true child of God is in trouble, it is wonderful how dear the Bible becomes to him,— aye, the very words of it. I say, the very words of it; for I care nothing about the scorn which attaches to a belief in “Verbal Inspiration.” If the words are not inspired, neither is the sense, since there can be no sense apart from the words. My soul doth know what it is to hang her hope upon a single word of God; and to find her trust accepted. I would not even change the expression of our translation in many a place: not that I am bound by a translation, for God’s original is that which we accept as infallible; but yet there are translations which are evidently accurate, for the Lord’s own Spirit has made them unutterably dear to his saints. There are circumstances connected with the very words of many a text, and with God’s dealing with us through those words, and in such instances we cling even to the English text with all our might. I think you will find that tried saints are the most biblical saints. In summer weather we delight in hymns, but in winter’s storms we fly to psalms. Your frothy professors quote Dickens or George Eliot, but God’s afflicted quote David or Job. Those Psalms are marvellous. David seems to have lived for us all: he was not so much one man as all men in one. Somewhere or other, the great circle of his experience touches yours and mine, and the Holy Ghost by David has furnished us with the best expressions which we can utter before the Lord in prayer. Give me the faith which loves the Scriptures. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God, and true faith always loves the Word from which it sprang; it feeds thereon, and grows thereby. In proportion as people begin to criticize the Scriptures, and to doubt the authenticity of this and that, in that proportion they move out of the latitude of faith: the region of criticism is cold as the polar seas; faith loves a warmer atmosphere. The faith of God’s elect clings to God and reverences his word. By every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God shall man live, and upon such meat Jonah lived where others must have died.

     I desire to come close up to my text, while I bid you note that faith dares come to God with a “yet.” Jonah said, “Yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.” Faith in her worst circumstances trusts to God. Clog her, load her, shut her up, yet she looks to God alone. O God, I trusted thee once when I was but young, and I felt my need of a Saviour; I came to thee then and I looked to Jesus, and I found peace at once; but then I did not know the evil of sin as I know it now. What then? Why, with this new knowledge yet will I look to Jesus. I did not know then the depravity of my heart as I know it now, but yet with this fresh sense of guilt I will look as at the first. I did not know then thy great and exceeding wrath against sin as I know it now; but yet with this fuller discovery I will look to thee. I did not know the burden of life then as I know it now; I did not know the power of Satan over me then as I know it now; yet will I look again unto thy holy temple. With all these new weights and fresh incumbrances I do to-day what I did many years ago; I throw myself on thee, my Lord, and trust in thy matchless plan of salvation through the precious blood of Christ. It charmed me once, it charms me yet again. This is the perseverance and determination of faith. She overleaps all walls, and dashes through all hedges with her “yet.” Come what may, she has looked to Christ, and she means to do so whatever may arise to suggest some other course.

     According to the Hebrew, the word should be rendered “only” instead of “yet,”— “only I will look again toward thy holy temple.” Faith looks to God only. Faith comes alone to her God, and seeks no company to keep her in countenance. When we were first saved it was by faith only, and we must be saved in the same way still. In Jonah’s case all props were knocked away; he had nothing to look to in the whale’s belly at the bottom of the sea; but then and there he trusted God, and that was all. He could not think very clearly, nor confess before men, neither could he be or do anything; for he was packed away in quarters too close for action; but he could look again towards the temple of God, and this alone he did. He could give the faith-look when all looking with the eyes was far out of the question. How could he tell in which direction to look for the temple when all around him rolled the dark sea? His look was inward and spiritual, and he was content to do that, and that only. His state was looking, looking— only looking. Be it ours to believe, to believe, and yet again to believe. Jonah looked again to the place where God revealed himself, and we look to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. He looked to the mercy-seat sprinkled with the blood of sacrifice, where the Lord was wont to pardon and bless all suppliant sinners, and we also look to Jesus as the great Propitiation. To this look we will add nothing as a ground of trust. Jesus only is our hope, and only will we look to him. We will add nothing to our look, our look to Christ; he alone is our stay and our comfort. It is a blessed thing to get clear of all secondary hopes, and to live by faith alone. Mixtures will not do in the hour of trial. A single eye is what is needed: the least division in your trust is painful and dangerous. If you have lost some of your first light, look again; look toward his holy temple at once, and the light shall surely return to you.

     Do you notice here that faith is driven to do according to her first acts— “Yet I will look again.” You know faith is described in other ways beside looking; it is taking, grasping, possessing, feeding; but faith first of all is looking; and so, whenever you fall into grievous trouble, it will be wise to resort to the beginning of your confidence, and hold it fast to the end. If you cannot grasp, yet look. There are several grades of faith; and when you cannot reach the higher grade it will be wise to enter fully into the lower one. Remember, the lowest form of faith will save, and even the smallest measure of faith is effectual for salvation, though not for consolation. Look! Look to Jesus! “There is life in a look.” There is heaven in a look. “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” Look! If thou canst not go forth to fight by faith, stand still and look by faith. If thou canst not declare the glory of the Lord, yet look. If thou canst not tell what God hath done for thee, yet keep thou still looking by faith to see what God will do for thee. Do thou thy first work, and as thy first work was a simple look at the Crucified One, look again to him.

     With this I shall close, urging dear friends here present, even if they forget all the rest of my text, to remember those two words, “Look again.” If any of you are in sore trouble, I will bid you go home with only these two words ringing in your ears, “Look again!” If you did look once, but have fallen into new darkness, look again. I mean this morning, and I would ask you to follow me in it, to look to my Lord Jesus Christ again as I did at the first. It is frequently a great benefit to overhaul the foundations and begin again at the beginnings. I did look to Christ three and thirty years ago, or more; so did some of you. But the devil may say, “Your faith was fancy; your conversion was a delusion.” Be it so, O Satan; we will not dispute with you, but we will begin again from this moment. It is such a mercy that faith does not need to grow old before it saves us: the faith born this moment saves the soul in its very birth. Is it so, that your faith is not more than five minutes old, my brother? Have you only just begun to trust Christ? Well, thy faith hath saved thee quite as effectually as the faith of a man who has believed in Christ for fifty years. We must believe anew each day; yesterday’s believing will not do for to-day. Let us now look to Jesus Christ upon the cross, and trust him this morning as if we never trusted him before. “I will look again toward thy holy temple.” It will do each man good to look anew to that cross which is the sole hope of his soul. There is nothing more sweetening to the spirit than to confess sin and accept mercy in the original style, and to go to Jesus anew just as we went at first. Let us do so at this moment.

     A person proudly said the other day that he could no longer sing,—

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

He had got beyond that! Highty tighty, here’s a fine fellow! He has just risen from the dunghill, and is come to be a grand gentleman all at once! Nothing will do for him but—

“See the conquering hero comes,
Sound the trumpets; beat the drums.”

Alas, for the top-lofty hypocrite! Shame on the proud self-magnifier! If he did but know himself he would confess his nothingness with a deeper emphasis than ever, and he would, like the publican, cry, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” I believe that as a child of God grows in sanctification he deepens in humility, and as he advances to perfection he sinks in his own esteem. Oh that men would give over that bladder-blowing which seems to be so much admired in certain quarters! We have had much occasion to mourn over the lower life of some professors; but the higher life of others is not a bit better; it is false, proud, censorious, and unpractical. Those who boast of perfection will have much to grieve over when once they come to their senses, and stand in truth before the living God. No man talks of living without sin till he is taken in the net of self-deception. I have walked with God for many years, and enjoyed the light of his countenance, but my experience is that I am this day obliged to take a far lower place before him than ever I took before, while—

“Less than nothing I can boast,
And vanity confess.”

Brethren, whether you will do so or not, I flee to the cross again. In the Rock of Ages I again hide myself. Who among us dares to come forth from that divineshelter? “Jesus, lover of our soul, let us to thy bosom fly.” Let all of us sing as though it were for the first time—

“Just as I am— without one plea
But that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bidd’st me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come.”

     Dear friends, it is due to God, it is due to Christ, it is due to the gospel, that we should every day believe with like simplicity of undivided trust. Keep on believing in Christ, “to whom coming as unto a living stone.” We are to live by faith. You may be quite sure that you are permitted to do this, for Christ is always a sinner’s Saviour. If you cannot come to him as saints, come to him as sinners. If your unfitness for fellowship as a servant comes before your mind and breaks your heart, yet remember that you may always return as a prodigal son. If you cannot feed in green pastures as sheep of the fold, yet yield to the strong hand of him who seeketh the lost sheep. If you cannot come to Jesus as you should, yet come just as you are. If your garments are not clean, as they should be, yet come and wash them white in the blood of the Lamb.

     This ought to be done more readily by us every day, for it should be a growingly easy thing to believe our God as experience proves his faithfulness. When we are at our worst let us trust with unshaking faith. Recollect that then is the time when we can most glorify God by faith. To trust Christ when thou hast a shallow sense of sin, when thy heart is glad and thy face is bright, is but a slender trusting him; but to believe that he can cleanse thee when thy heart is black as hell, when thou canst not see one good trait in all thy character, when thou seest nothing but fault and imperfection about thine entire life, when all thine outward circumstances seem to speak of an angry God, and all thine inward feelings threaten thee with doom from his right hand,— this is to believe indeed. Such faith the Lord deserves of thee. Oh, if thou be only a little sinner, a little Saviour and a little faith may serve thy turn; if thou hast but little fear, and a little burden, and little care, and little need, why then thou canst not greatly prove or trust thy Lord. But if thou be up to thy neck in sorrow, aye, if thou be drowned in it, as Jonah was, and be driven well nigh to despair, then thou hast a great God, and thou shouldst glorify him by greatly trusting him. If thou be tempted to lay violent hands upon thyself, or to do some other rash and evil deed, do thou no such thing, but trust thyself with thy God, and this will give him more glory than seraphim and cherubim can do. To believe in the promise of God, as you read it in his word, is a grand thing. To believe it, though you are sick and sorry, though ready to die, this is to glorify the Lord. Brethren, if I live I will believe the promise, if I die I will believe the promise, and when I rise again I will believe the promise. Let us resolve to believe though the world be in flames, and the pillars thereof are removed. Let us believe though the sun be turned into darkness and the moon into blood. Let us believe though all the powers of the earth be marshalled in fight, and Gog and Magog gather themselves together to battle. Let us believe though the trumpet sounds for judgment, and the great white throne is set in the open heaven! Wherefore should we doubt? The covenant confirmed by promise and by oath, and ratified with the blood of Jesus, places every believer under the broad shield of divine truth; and what cause can there be for fear? O my hearer, believest thou in Christ? Dost thou trust thy God? If thou canst stand to that, thou art not only a saved man, but thou already givest glory to God. So may he help thee to do. Amen.