God’s Longsuffering: An Appeal to the Conscience

By / Jun 22

God’s Longsuffering: An Appeal to the Conscience

 

 “And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation.” — 2 Peter iii. 15.

 

JESUS is well called “our Lord,” let us at the commencement adore him. Let us each one cry to him, “My Lord, and my God.” It is a long, long time since our Lord went up to heaven, and he said that he would come again. Evidently, some of those who best understood him misunderstood him, and thought that he would surely come again even in their lifetime. He said that he would come, and faithful ones in all ages have looked for him, and it is not possible that our Lord can have deceived us. Because he is so sweetly our Lord, our brethren have made sure that he will keep his word; and he will. But certain of them have gone beyond our Lord’s promise, and have felt sure that they knew when he would come; and they have been bitterly disappointed because the hour which they fixed passed over, and he did not appear. This does not prove that he will not come. The day is certainly nearer, and every hour is hastening his coming. “Behold, he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him.”

     But why are his chariots so long in coming? Why does he delay? The world grows grey, not alone with age, but with iniquity; and yet the Deliverer comes not. We have waited for his footfall at the dead of night, and looked out for him through the gates of the morning, and expected him in the heat of the day, and reckoned that he might come ere yet another sun went down; but he is not here! He waits. He waits very, very long. Will he not come?

     Longsuffering is that which keeps him from coming. He is bearing with men. Not yet the thunderbolt! Not yet the riven heavens and the reeling earth! Not yet the great white throne, and the day of judgment; for he is very pitiful, and beareth long with men! Even to the cries of his own elect, who cry day and night unto him— he is not in haste to answer, for he is very patient, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.

     But his patience sometimes greatly puzzles us. We cannot make it out. Eighteen, nineteen centuries, and the world not converted! Nineteen centuries, and Satan still to the front, and all manner of iniquity still wounding this poor, bleeding world! What meaneth it? O Son of God, what meaneth it? Seed of the woman, when wilt thou appear with thy foot upon the serpent’s head? We are puzzled at the longsuffering which causes so weary a delay.

     One of the reasons is that we have not much longsuffering ourselves. We think that we do well to be angry with the rebellious, and so we prove ourselves to be more like Jonah than Jesus. A few have learned to be patient and pitiful to the ungodly, but many more are of the mind of James and John, who would have called fire from heaven upon those who rejected the Saviour. We are in such a hurry. We have not the eternal leisure of God. We have but to live, like ephemera, our little day, and therefore we are in hot haste to see all things accomplished ere the sun goes down. We are but leaves in the forest of existence; and if something is not done soon, and done quickly, we shall fade, and pass away amid unaccomplished hope; and so we are not patient. We are staggered when the Master tells us to forgive unto seventy times seven. When he forgives unto seventy times seven, and still waits, and still holds back his thunders, we are amazed, because our mind is not in harmony with the mind of the Infinitely-patient God.

     We are all the more puzzled, again, because the ungodly so sadly misuse this longsuffering of God as a reason for greater sin, and as a motive for denying that there is a God at all. Because he gives them space for repentance, they make it into space for iniquity; and because he will not deal out his judgments immediately, they say, “Where is the promise of his coming?”

     We have impatiently wished that he would break the silence. Have I not in my heart of hearts cried out, “O Lord, how long? Can this go on much longer? Canst thou bear it? Wilt thou not come with the iron rod, breaking thy foes before thy face, most mighty Son of God?” It is hard to have the days of blasphemy and rebuke multiplied upon us, and to hear the adversary say in every corner, “Where is now their God?” Yet, dear friends, we ought not to be affected by the hissing of these serpents. Surely we would not have our God change his purposes because of the foolish taunts of men. One said, “If there be a God, let him strike me dead”; but God did not smite him, and from this he argued that there was no God: from the same fact I argue that there is a God, and that this God is truly God; for, if he had been less than divine, he might have struck him dead; but, being infinitely patient, he bore with him still. Who was that speck that he should cause God to move hand or foot even to crush him? God is not easily moved, even by the blasphemies of the ungodly. He may be provoked one of these days, for longsuffering has its end, but for a while the Lord pauseth in pity, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

     Beloved brethren, God’s longsuffering with a guilty world he may never explain to us. There are many things which we must not ask to have explained. We get into deep waters, and into terrible troubles, when we must have everything explained. For my part, I like to believe great truths which are beyond my reason. A religion without mysteries seems to me to be false on the face of it. If there be an Infinite God, it is not possible that poor I, with my finite mind, shall ever be able to understand everything about him. If the Lord chooses to tarry till thousands of years have passed away, yea, till millions of years have elapsed, yet let him do as he wills. Is he not infinitely wise and good; and who are we that we should put him to the question? Let him tarry his own time; only let us watch, and wait, for he will come, and they that wait for him shall have their reward.

     At this time I am going to speak a little upon this point. First, let us admire the longsuffering of God. And, secondly, let us make a right account of it by accounting it to be salvation.

     I. First, I would conduct your minds hurriedly over a few points that may help you to ADMIRE THE LONGSUFFERING OF GOD.

     Admire the longsuffering of God as to peculiar sins. Look, brethren, they make images of wood or stone, and they say, “These are God,” and they set up these things in the place of him that made the heavens and the earth. How does he endure to see reasonable beings bowing down before idols, before fetishes, before the basest objects? How does he bear that men should even worship emblems of impurity, and say that these are God? How does he bear it—he that sitteth in the heavens, in whose hand our breath is, and whose are all our ways?

     Others, even in this country, blaspheme God. What an amount of profanity is poured out before God in this city! One can scarcely walk the streets to-day without hearing horrible language. An oath has often chilled me to the marrow— an oath which was not excused by any special circumstance, but rolled out of the man’s mouth as a customary thing. We have to-day some among us that might match the devil in blasphemy, so foully do they talk. And oh, how is it that God bears it when they dare imprecate his curse upon their bodies and their souls? O Father, how dost thou bear it? How dost thou endure these profane persons, who insult thee to thy face?

     Besides, there are those who use fair speech, and yet blaspheme most intolerably. Men of education and of science are often worse than the common folk because they blaspheme with fearful deliberation, and solemnly speak against God, and against his Son, and against the precious blood, and against the Holy Ghost. How is it that the Thrice-holy One bears with them? Oh, wondrous longsuffering of a Gracious God!

     And then there are others who wallow in unmentionable impurity and uncleanness. No, I will not attempt any description, nor would I wish to take your thoughts to those things whereof men may blush to think, though they blush not to do them. The moon sees a world of foulness, fornication, and adultery: and yet, O God, thou bearest it! This great blot upon the face of the world, this huge city of London reeks in its filthiness, and yet thou holdest thy peace!  

     And then, when I turn my thoughts another way, to the oppression of the poor, to the grinding down of those who, with the hardest labour, can scarcely earn bread enough to keep body and soul together, how does the Just God permit it? When I mark the oppression of man by man— for among wild beasts there is none that equals the cruelty of man to man— how doth the All-merciful bear it? Methinks the sword of the Lord must often rattle in its scabbard, and he must force it down, and say, “Sword of the Lord, rest and be quiet!”

     I will not go further, because the list is endless. The wonder is that a Gracious God should continue to bear all this! Think of the sin involved in false teaching. I stood one day at the foot of Pilate’s staircase, in Rome, and saw the poor creatures go up and down, on their knees, on what they are taught was the very staircase on which the Lord Jesus Christ stood before Pilate. I noticed sundry priests looking on, and I felt morally certain that they knew it to be an imposture. I thought that if the Lord would lend me his thunderbolts about five minutes, I would make a wonderful clearance thereabouts: but he did nothing of the kind. God is not in haste as we are. Sometimes it does suggest itself to a hot spirit to wish for speedy dealing with iniquity: but the Lord is patient and pitiful.

     Especially notice, next, that this longsuffering of God is seen in peculiar persons. In certain persons sins are greater than the same sins would be in other people. They have been favoured with a tender conscience, and with good instruction, so that when they sin they sin with a vengeance. I have known some who have stood at God’s altar, and have gone forth from his temple to transgress; they have been Levites of his sanctuary, and yet first in villanies. Yet the Lord spares the traitors, and lets them live.

     It is wonderful that God should have such longsuffering when we look at the peculiar circumstances under which some men sin. Some men sin against God wilfully, when they have no temptation to it, and can plead no necessity. If the poor man steals, we half forgive him; but some do so who have all that heart could wish. When the man driven to extremity has said the thing that was not true, we have half excused him; but some are wilful liars, with no gain or profit therein. Some sin for the sheer love of sin, not for the pleasure they gain by it, nor for the profit they hope from it, but for mere wantonness. Born of godly parents, trained as you were in the very school of godliness, made to know, as you do know in your own conscience, the Lord Jesus to be the Son of God, when you sin against him, there is a painful emphasis in your transgressions. I speak to some who may well wonder that they are yet alive after having sinned with such gross aggravations.

     Some manifest the longsuffering of God very wonderfully in the length of time in which they have been spared to sin. Many men are provoked by one offence, and think themselves miracles of patience if they forget it. But many have provoked God fifty, sixty, seventy, perhaps eighty years. You could not stand eighty minutes of provocation, and yet the Lord has put up with you throughout a lifetime. You tottered into this house to-night. You might have tottered more if you had remembered the weight of sin that cleaves to you. Yet the mercy of God spares you. Still, with outstretched arms, infinite mercy bids you come and receive at the hand of God your pardon bought with the blood of Jesus Christ. This longsuffering of God is marvellous.

     Remember that it would be easy on God’s part to be rid of you. There is a text where he says, “Ah! I will ease me of mine adversaries.” Some men bear because they cannot help it. They are obliged to submit; but God is not in that condition. One wish, and the sinner will never provoke him any more, nor refuse his mercy again. He will be gone out of the land of hope. Therefore, I say, the longsuffering of God is enhanced in its wonderfulness by the fact that he is under no necessity to exercise it except that which springs out of his own love.

     I beg all of you who are unconverted to think earnestly upon God’s longsuffering to you in permitting you to be here, still to hear from the cross of Christ the invitation, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.”

     II. Secondly, let us take THE RIGHT ACCOUNT OF THE LONGSUFFERING OF GOD. “Account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation.” What does this mean?

     Does it not mean, first, as to the saving of the many? The Lord Jesus Christ is, as I believe, to have the pre-eminence. I think that he will have the pre-eminence in the number of souls that will be saved as compared with those that will be lost; and that can scarcely be effected except by a lapse of time in which many will be brought to Christ. I am not, however, going into any speculations. I look at it this way. As long as this old hulk keeps beating up against the rocks, as long as she does not quite go down into the sea of fire, it means man’s salvation. It means, “Out with the lifeboat! Man the lifeboat, and let us take off from her all that we can, and bring them to shore.” God calls upon us, until the world is utterly destroyed with fire, to go on saving men with all our might and main. Every year that passes is meant to be a year of salvation. We rightly call each year “the year of our Lord”; let us make it so by more and more earnest efforts for the bringing of sinners to the cross of Christ. I cannot think that the world is spared to increase its damnation. Christ came not to destroy the world, but that the world through him might be saved; and so, as every year rolls by, let us account it salvation, and spend and be spent in the hope that by any means we may save some.

     And if we can indulge a brighter hope still that the kingdom of Christ shall come, and that multitudes shall be converted, and that the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea, so let it be. But ever let this be to the front — that this longsuffering of God means salvation, and at that we are to aim.

     So, dear friends, in the second place, the next meaning of this is to any of you who are unconverted. I want you to account that the longsuffering of God in sparing you means to you salvation. Why are you here to-night? Surely it is salvation. I met years ago a soldier who had ridden in the charge of Balaclava. He was one of the few that came back when the saddles were emptied right and left of him. I could not help getting into a corner, and saying to him, “Dear sir, do you not think that God has some design of love to you in sparing you when so many fell? Have you given your heart to him?” I felt that I had a right to say that. Perhaps I speak to some of you who were picked off a wreck years ago. Why was that? I hope it was that you might be saved. You have had a fever lately, and have hardly been out before. You have come hither to-night, still weakly, scarcely recovered. Why were you saved from that fever when others were cut down? Surely it must mean salvation. At any rate, the God who was so pitiful as to spare you, now says to you, “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” When Master Banyan was a lad, he was so foolhardy that, when an adder rose against him, he took it in his hand, and plucked the sting out of its mouth, but he was not harmed. It was his turn to stand sentinel at the siege of Nottingham, and as he was going forth, another man offered to take his place. That man was shot, and Master Bunyan thus escaped. We should have had no “Pilgrim’s Progress” if it had not been for that. Did not God preserve him on purpose that he might be saved? There are special interpositions of divine providence, by which God spares ungodly men, whom he might have cut down long ago as cumberers of the ground: should we not look upon these as having the intention that the barren tree may be cared for yet another year, if haply it may bring forth fruit? Some of you who are here tonight are wonders to yourselves that you are still in the land of the living — I pray you account the longsuffering of God to be salvation. See salvation in it. Be encouraged to look to Christ, and, looking to him, you shall find salvation, for “there is life in a look at the Crucified One.” Account God’s longsuffering to be salvation to you if to no one else.

     God’s longsuffering is one of the great means by which he works for the salvation of his elect. He will not let them die till first they live to God. He will not suffer them to pass into eternity till first his infinite love has justified them through the righteousness of Christ.

     Thus I have said what I hope may be embraced by some here present.

     But I must finish. This text seems to me to have a bearing upon the people of God. Indeed, it is for them that it is written. “Account that the longsuffering of God is salvation.”

     I must turn the text to give you really what lies in it. God hears the cry going up from his own elect, and it is written, “Shall not God avenge his own elect, though he bear long with them?” That long forbearance of God brings to his own people much of trouble, pain, sorrow, much of amazement and soul distress. Brother, you must learn to look upon that as salvation. I hear you say, “What mean you?” I mean this. The very fact that you are made to groan and cry by reason of God’s longsuffering to guilty men gives you sympathy with Christ, and union with Christ, who endured such contradiction of sinners against himself. Reckon that in being brought into harmony, sympathy, oneness with Christ, through enduring the result of the divine longsuffering, you find salvation. It is salvation to a man to be put side by side with Christ. If you have to bear the jests and gibes of the ungodly— if God spares them, and permits them to persecute you, be glad of it, and reckon it as salvation, for now you are made partaker of Christ’s sufferings. What more salvation do you desire?

     Remember, too, that when the ungodly persecute the righteous, they give them the mark of salvation, for of old it was so. He that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the spirit. If you were never reviled, if you were never slandered or traduced, who would know that you are a Christian? But when, through the longsuffering of God with the ungodly, you are made to suffer, account it to be a mark of your salvation. “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”

     Once more: reckon the longsuffering of God, when it permits the ungodly to slander and injure you, as salvation, because it tends to your salvation by driving you nearer to the Lord. It prevents your making your home in this world. It forces you to be a stranger and a foreigner. It compels you to go without the gate bearing Christ’s reproach, and so, in this way, that which seemed so hard to bear brings salvation to you.

     Wherefore, comfort one another, dear children of God. Be not over cast-down and troubled because of your Lord’s delaying his coming, for he will yet help you, and you shall be delivered.

     If the Lord has shown longsuffering to any of you, and yet you have never repented or turned to him, do so to-night. “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and you are not saved.” But, oh, that you might be saved ere this service ends! The leaves are falling from the trees thick and fast, and ere you fall from the tree of this mortal life, think of your God, and turn to him, and live. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” May he snatch you from the burning! Amen, and amen.

*The only date listed for this sermon is "Autumn of 1886".



Public Testimony: A Debt to God and Man

By / Jun 22

Public Testimony: A Debt to God and Man

 

“Then they said one to another, We do not well: this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace: if we tarry till the morning light, some mischief will come upon us: now therefore come, that we may go and tell the king’s household.” — 2 Kings vii. 9.

 

You are not surprised to find that, when those four lepers, outside the gate of Samaria, had made the great discovery that the Syrian camp was deserted, they first satisfied their own hunger and thirst. And quite right too. Who would do otherwise? It is true that they were bound to go and tell other hungry ones; but they could do that with all the louder voice, and they were the more sure of the truth they had to tell, when they had first refreshed themselves. It might have been a delusion: they were prudent to test their discovery before they told it. Having refreshed and enriched themselves, they bethought them of going to tell the besieged and starving citizens. I would advise every soul that has found Christ to imitate the lepers in this matter. Make sure that you have found the Saviour. Eat and drink of him; enrich yourself with him; and then go and publish the glad tidings. I shall not object to your going as early as possible; but still, I would prefer that you should not go to assure others until you are quite certain yourself. I would have you go with a personal witness, for this will be your chief power with others. If you run too soon, and do not first taste and see that the Lord is good, you may say to others, “There is abundance in the camp”; and they may reply, “Why have you not eaten of it yourself?” Thus your testimony will be weakened, if not destroyed; and you will wish you had held your peace. It is better that you first of all delight yourself in fatness before you proclaim the fact of a festival. It is good that your faith should grasp the exceeding great and precious promises; and then, when you run as a tidings-bearer, you will testify what you have seen. If any say to you, “Are you sure that it is true?” you will answer, “Ay, that I am, for I have tasted and handled of the good word of life.” Personal enjoyments of true godliness assist us in our testimony for truth and grace.

     But the point I desire to bring out is this: if those lepers had stopped in the camp all night, if they had remained lying on the Syrian couches, singing, “Our willing souls would stay in such a place as this”; and if they had never gone at all to their compatriots, shut up and starving within the city walls, their conduct would have been brutal and inhuman. I am going to talk to some at this time (I do not know how many of the sort may be here) who think that they have found the Saviour, who believe that they are saved, who write themselves down as having truly enjoyed religion, and who imagine that now their sole business is to enjoy themselves. They delight to feed on the word, and to this I do not object at all; but then, if it is all feeding and nothing comes of it, I ask to what end are they fed? If the only result of our religion is the comfort of our poor little souls; if the beginning and the end of piety is contained within one’s self, why, it is a strange thing to be in connection with the unselfish Jesus, and to be the fruit of his gracious Spirit. Surely, Jesus did not come to save us that we might live unto ourselves. He came to save us from selfishness.

     I am afraid that some of my hearers have never yet confessed the work of God in their souls. They feel that, whereas they were once blind, now they see; but they have never declared what the Lord has done for their souls. Has all this work been done in a corner for their personal delectation? I want to have a drive at them, and at all others who have not yet considered that the object of their receiving grace from the Lord is that God may, through them, communicate grace to others. No man liveth unto himself. No man should attempt so to live.

     My subject will be this: first, to hide the great discovery of grace is altogether wrong; in the second place, if we have made that discovery we ought to declare it; and, thirdly, this declaration should be continually made. It should not be a matter of one solemn occasion, but -our whole life should be a witness to the power and grace which we have found in Christ.

     I. First, then, dear friends, TO HIDE THE DISCOVERY OF DIVINE GRACE WOULD BE WRONG.

     Let me ask you to remember the connection of my text. God had come to the Syrian camp, and had by himself alone routed the whole Syrian host: they had every man of them fled. Though the starving citizens of Samaria did not know it, the Lord had made provision in abundance for all their hunger; and there it was, within a stone’s throw of the city gates. The Lord had done it: his own right hand and his holy arm had gotten him the victory, and had provided for Israel’s needs, though they did not know it. These lepers found out the joyful facts, and had utilized their discovery by entering into possession of the treasure: they were appointed to make known the joyful facts; and if they had concealed them they would have been guilty men.

     For, first, their silence would have been contrary to the divine purpose in leading them to make the discovery. Why were these four lepers led into the camp that they might learn that the Lord of hosts had put the enemy to the rout? Why, mainly that they might go back, and tell the rest of their countrymen. I fear that the doctrine of election has too often been preached in such a way that thoughtful minds have objected to it upon the ground of its tendency to selfishness. Men do not like the doctrine anyhow; but there is no use in putting it in a needlessly ugly shape. Election is a fact, but a fact which relates to other facts. The Lord calls out of the world a people, a peculiar people, whom he makes to be his own; but the ultimate end of the election of these men is that they may gather in others. As Israel was chosen to preserve the light for the nations, so has the Lord chosen his believing people that they may bring in the other sheep which are not yet of the fold. We are not to get within four narrow walls, and sit and sing—

“We are a garden walled around,
 Chosen and made peculiar ground:
A little spot enclosed by grace
Out of the world’s wide wilderness.”

Or if we do so sing, we are not to bless ourselves over and over again as being the end and climax of the Lord’s work and wisdom. No, but since we are a garden walled around, we are to bring forth fruit to him who owns us. We are to be a nursery ground. I know a piece of ground upon which some millions of young fir trees were grown, which were afterwards planted out upon a range of Scotch hills. Such should our churches be. Though comparable in our feebleness to a handful of corn upon the top of the mountains, we expect that the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon, and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth. We are chosen unto salvation that afterwards we may go and be lights to those that sit in darkness, and spiritual helps to those that are ready to perish. These four men were allowed to see what God had done on purpose that they might run home with the cheering news. If they had not gone to Samaria with the tidings they would have been false to the divine purpose; and so will you be, my brother, if you continue to hold your tongue; so will you be, my sister, if you never say, “The Lord has done great things for me, whereof I am glad.” Let the purpose of God, for which you ought to adore him every day, be plenteously fulfilled in you, and let it be seen that he has chosen you to know Christ that you may make him known to others.

     These people would not only have been false to the divine purpose, but they would have failed to do well. They said one to another, “We do not well.” Did it ever strike some of you, dear friends, that it is a very serious charge to bring against yourselves, “We do not well”? I am afraid that many are content because they can say, “We do not drink. We do not swear. We do not gamble. We do not lie.” Who said you did? You ought to be ashamed of yourselves if you did any of those things. But is this enough? What are you actually doing? “To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” I have heard of perfect people, but I have not seen any such. If it came to acts of positive commission of sin, I could possibly compare notes with such brethren; for I endeavour to be blameless, and I trust I am: but when I remember that sins of omission are really and truly sins, I bid “good-bye” to all notions of perfection, for my many shortcomings overwhelm me. No man has done all the good he could have done, and ought to have done. If any man assures me that he has done all the good that might have been possible to him, I do not believe him. I will say no more; but let us labour to avoid sins of omission. Dear friend, if you know the Lord, and you have never confessed his name, then you have not done well. If you have been in company, and you have not spoken up for Christ, you have not done well. If you have had opportunities of telling out the gospel even to children, and you have not done so, you have not done well. It is a heavy charge, after all, for a man’s conscience to bring against him when it forces him to join with others in saying, “We do not well.” That is the reason why the barren fig-tree was cut down. He that kept the vineyard did not say, “Cut it down, it bears such sour fruit.” It bore no fruit at all. There was the point: it cumbered the ground. Take heed, oh, take heed, of a religion which does not make you positively do well! If all that your religion does is to keep you from doing mischief, it has too small an effect to be the religion of Jesus Christ. He asks, “What do ye more than others? Do not even publicans so?” God help us then to make an open declaration of what his Spirit has secretly taught to us!

     Besides this, had those lepers held their tongues, they would actually have been doing evil. Suppose that they had kept their secret for four-and-twenty hours, many hundreds might have died of starvation within the walls of Samaria: had they so perished, would not the lepers have been guilty of their blood? Do you not agree with that? May not neglect be as truly murder as a stab or a shot? If, in your street, a man shall perish through not knowing the Saviour, and you never made an effort to instruct him, how will you be guiltless at the last great day? If there be any within your reach who sink down to perdition for want of the knowledge of Christ, and you could have given them that knowledge, will your skirts be free from blood in the day when the great inquest shall be held, and God shall make inquisition for the blood of men? I put it to the consciences of many silent Christians, who have never yet made known to others what God has made known to them — How can you be clear from guilt in this matter? Do not say, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” for I shall have to give you a horrible answer if you do. I shall have to say, “No, Cain, you are not your brother’s keeper, but you are your brother’s killer.” If, by your effort you have not sought his good, by your neglect you have destroyed him. If I were able to swim, and I saw any of you in a stream, and I merely looked at you, and greatly regretted that you should be so foolish as to tumble in, but never stretched out a hand to rescue you, your death would lie at my door; and I am sure it is so with those who talk about enjoying religion, and yet keep it all to themselves, and never rescue the perishing. Stern truths these. Let them go home where they ought to go home, and may God the Holy Ghost bless them!

     Again, these lepers, if they had held their tongues, would have acted most unseasonably. Note how they put it themselves: they say, “We do not well: this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace.” O brother, has Jesus washed your sins away, and are you silent about it? I remember the day when I first found peace with God through the precious blood; and I declare that I was forced to tell somebody about it: I could not have stifled the voice within me. What, my dear brother! are you saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation, and you keep the blessing to yourself? Do you not wonder that all the timbers in your house do not groan at you, and that the earth itself does not open her mouth to rebuke you? Can you be such an ungrateful wretch as to have tasfed of amazing mercy, and yet to have no word to say by way of confessing it? Come, brother, come, sister, overcome that retiring spirit of yours, and cry— “I cannot help it; I am driven to it; I must and will bear witness that there is a Saviour, and a great one.” Personally, I cannot hold my tongue, and never will while I can speak.

“E’er since by faith I saw the stream,
His flowing wounds supply;
 Redeeming love has been my theme,
 And shall be till I die!”

Oh, that God would stir up every silent Christian to speak out for his Lord! We have had enough of the dumb spirit. Oh, for the Spirit in the form of tongues of fire!

     One thing more: silence may be dangerous. What said these men? “If we tarry till the morning light, some mischief will come upon us.” That morning light is very close to some of you. If you tarry till tomorrow morning before you have spoken about Christ, some mischief may come upon you. I might put it farther off on a grander scale. There is a morning light which will soon be seen over yon gloomy hills of darkness; how soon we cannot tell, but our Master has bidden us to be always on the watch for it. In such an hour as we think not, he will come; and when he comes, it will be to reward his faithful servants. There is a text which speaks of our not being ashamed at his coming. What a wonderful text that is! What if he were to come to-night: should we not be ashamed? He may come ere the unformed word has quitted my lip, or reached your ear; the shrill clarion of the archangel may startle the dead from their graves, and the Christ may be among us on his great white throne! Suppose he should come to-night, and you, who have thought that you knew him and loved him, should never have sought to win a soul for him—how will you face him? How will you answer your Lord, whom you have never owned? You knew the way of salvation, and you concealed it. You knew the balm for the wounds of sinners, and you let them bleed to death. They were thirsty, and you gave them no draught of living water; they were hungry, and you gave them no bread of life. Sirs, I cannot venture to his judgment-seat with such a blot upon my soul! Can you? Brother, can you? Sister, can you? What! your own dear children— your own flesh and blood — have you never prayed with them, nor sought to bring them to Jesus? What! the servants of your house— have you never spoken of the Saviour to them? Your wife, your husband, your old father, your brother—and you have never yet opened your lips to say, “Jesus has saved me; I wish you were saved too”! You might have done as much as that. You have said bolder things than that to them about worldly matters. Oh, by the love of God, or even by a lower motive, by the love of your fellow-men, do burst your bands asunder, and speak out for Christ; or else, if your profession be true, you do not well; indeed, there is reason to question your religion.

     Thus much upon the first point—to hide the blessed discovery would have been wrong in the lepers, and it would be wrong in us.

     II. Secondly, if we have made the blessed discovery of Christ’s gracious work in routing our enemies, and providing for our needs, and if we have tasted of the fruit of that glorious victory ourselves, WE OUGHT TO MAKE A VERY EXPLICIT AVOWAL OF THAT DISCOVERY. It ought to be confessed very solemnly, and in the way which the Lord himself has appointed. How can we better show forth all righteousness than by being buried with Christ in baptism, according to his command? We ought, also, to unite with the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to co-operate therewith in holy service. This ought to be done very decidedly, because our Lord requires it. Our blessed Lord Jesus Christ couples always with faith the confession of it. He that with his heart believeth, and with his mouth maketh confession of him, shall be saved. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” We constantly find the two together. The faith that saves is not a sneaking faith, which tries to get to heaven by keeping off the road, and creeping along behind the hedge. The true faith comes into the middle of the road, feeling, “this is the King’s highway, and I am not ashamed to be found in it.” This is the faith which Jesus expects of you, the faith which cries, “I have lifted my hand unto the Lord, and I will not go back.”

     Next, if you have found Christ, the man who was the means of leading you to Christ has a claim upon you that he should know of it. Oh, the joy of my heart, the other day, when I saw some four-and-twenty who were my spiritual children! I felt then that I was receiving large wages at the Master’s hands. Many get good from the minister, and yet they never let him know of it. This is not doing as they would be done by. It is rather like cheating us of the reward of our ministry. To know that God is blessing us is a great comfort and stimulus. Do not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn.

     Next, I think the church of God has a claim upon all of you who have discovered the great love of Jesus. Come and tell your fellow-Christians. Tell the good news to the King’s household. The church of God is often greatly refreshed by the stories of new converts. I am afraid that we who get over fifty come by degrees to be rather old-fogeyfied, and it is a great blessing to us to hear the cries of the babes in grace, and to listen to the fresh and vivid testimony of new converts. It stirs our blood, and quickens our souls, and thus the church of God is benefited. If some of you old folks had been at the church-meeting the other Monday evening, and heard some five little children, one after the other, telling what the Lord had done for their souls, you would have agreed with me that you could not have done it so well yourselves. You may know more, but you could not have stated what you know so simply so, sweetly, so charmingly, as those dear children did. One of them was but nine years old, or younger, and yet she told of free grace and dying love as clearly as if she had been eighty or ninety. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings the Lord ordaineth strength. Some of you have known the Lord for many years, and yet you have never confessed him. How wrong it is of you! How much you injure the church!

     Besides that, a decided testimony for Christ is due to the world. If a man is a soldier of the cross, and does not show his colours, all his comrades are losers by his want of decision. There is nothing better for a man when he is brought to Christ than for him decidedly to express his faith, and let those about him know that he is a new man. Unfurl your standard. Decision for Christ and holiness will save you from many dangers, and ward off many temptations. Compromise creates a life of misery. I would sooner be a toad under a harrow than be a Christian man who tries to conceal his Christianity. It is sometimes difficult, in this age, for a man to follow his conscience, for you are expected to run with a party; but I am of this mind— that I would sooner die than not live a free man. It is not life to have to ask another man’s permission to think. If there be any misrepresentation, if there be any scorn, if there be any contempt for being a Christian, let me have my share of it, for a Christian I am, and I wish to be treated like the rest.

     If all Christians came out, and declared what the Lord has done for their souls, the world would feel the power of Christianity, and would not think of it as men now do, as though it were some petty superstition, of which its own votaries were ashamed. If indeed ye be soldiers of the cross, bear your shields into the light of day, and be not ashamed of your Captain! What can there be to make us blush in the service of such a Lord? Be ashamed of shame, and quit yourselves like men!

     Your open confession is due all round, and it is specially due to yourself. It is due to your spiritual manhood that, if the Lord has done anything for you, you should gratefully acknowledge it. It is also due to your love of others—and love of others is of the very essence of Christianity—that you should explicitly declare that you are on the Lord’s side. What more shall I say? What more need I say? I would sound the trumpet, and summon to our Lord’s banner all who are good men and true.

     III. THIS DECLARATION SHOULD BE CONTINUALLY MADE. Here I speak of many who have confessed Christ publicly, and are not ashamed of his name. Beloved, we ought always to make Christ known, not only by our once-made profession, but by frequently bearing witness in support of that profession. I wish that we did this more amongst God’s own people. Miss Havergal very admirably says, “The King’s household were the most unlikely people to need to be instructed in this good news:— So it seems at first sight. But, secondly, the lepers were the most unlikely persons to instruct the King’s household; and yet they did so.” You and I might say— Christian people do not require to be spoken to about our Lord and his work; they know more than we do. If they do require it, who are we, who are less than the least of all our Master’s household, that we should presume to instruct them? Thus even humility might check our bearing testimony in certain companies. If you were in the midst of uninstructed people, to whom you could do good, you might feel bound to speak; but among Christians you are apt to be dumb. Have you not said to yourself, “I could not speak to that good old man. He is much better instructed in the faith than I am”? Meanwhile, what do you think the aforesaid good old man is saying? He says to himself, “He is a fine young man, but I could not speak to him, for he has so much more ability than I have.” Thus you are both as mute as mice when you might be mutually edified. Worse still, perhaps you begin talking upon worthless themes: you speak of the weather, or of the last wretched scandal, or of politics. Suppose we were to change all this, and each one say, “I am a Christian man, and next; time I meet a brother Christian, whether he is my superior or not, I shall speak to him of our common Master;” If two children meet, they will do well to speak of father and mother. If one is a very little child, he may know but little about his father compared with the knowledge possessed by his big sister; but then he has kissed his father last, and has of late enjoyed more caresses from his father than his grown-up sister has. The elder can tell more of father’s wisdom and providence, but the younger has a more vivid sense of his tenderness and love; and so they can unite in fervent admiration.

     Why should Christian people so often meet and part without exchanging five words about the Lord Jesus? I am not condemning any of you: I am censuring myself more than any one else. We do not bear enough testimony for our Lord. I am sure I felt quite taken aback the other day when a flyman said to me, “You believe that the Lord directs the way of his people, don’t you, sir?” I said, “That I do. Do you know anything about it?” “Why,” he said, “Yes. This morning I was praying the Lord to direct my way, and you engaged me; and I felt that it was a good beginning for the day.” We began talking about the things of God directly. That flyman ought not to have been the first to speak: as a minister of the gospel, I ought to have had the first word. We have much to blame ourselves for in this respect. We hold our tongues because we do not know how a word might be received; but we might as well make the experiment. No harm could come of trying. Suppose you were to go into a place where persons were sick and dying, and you had medicine about you which would heal them; would you not be anxious to give them some of it? Would you say nothing about it because you could not tell how it might be received? How could you know how it would be received except by making the offer? Tell poor souls about Jesus. Tell them how his grace healed you, and perhaps they will answer, “You are the very person I need; you have brought me the news I have longed to hear.”  

     There are districts in London, to my knowledge, in the suburbs especially, where, if a man knocks at the door, and begins to say a word about Christ, the poor people answer, “No one ever calls upon us to do us any good. We are left to perish.” It is shameful that it should be so, but so it is. Men live and men die in this Christian country as much lost to the knowledge of the gospel as if they had lived on the Congo. If they lived on the Congo, we should all subscribe to send a missionary up the river to tell them of Jesus and his love: even at the risk of his dying of fever, we should send a missionary to them; and yet those who live next door to our homes, or are even in our employ, are left in ignorance of salvation. The woman that comes in charing, the man who sweeps up the mud from the street— these may know no more of Christ than Hottentots, and yet we do not speak about Christ to them. Is not this shocking? We have satisfied our own hunger, and now we allow others to starve! If I should persuade any brother here, or any sister here, who has tasted that the Lord is gracious, to shake off sinful lethargy, I should have done good service. Dear friends, do let us quit indifference, and get to work for Jesus. It is not enough to me that I should myself preach the gospel; I would fain turn you all out to proclaim it. Oh, that the thousands here assembled would go through London proclaiming Christ! The result of such a crusade eternity alone could reveal. I spoke from this pulpit once about Christian young men who were great hands at cricket, but could not bowl straight at a sinner’s heart. A gentleman who was present that day, and heard me, said, “That is true about me, I am a Christian man, but yet I am better known as a cricketer than as a worker.” He began to serve his Lord with his whole heart, and he is at this day in the front rank of usefulness. Oh, that I could win another such! The multitudes of London are dying in the dark. I beseech you bring them all the light you have! Myriads are perishing all over this United Kingdom. Hasten to their rescue! The world also remains under the power of evil. I beseech you to reclaim it!

     “I do not know anything,” says one. Then do not say what you don’t know. “Oh!” cries another, “I hope I am a Christian.” Tell others how you became a believer, and that will be the gospel. You need not study a book, and try to make a sermon with three heads and a tail; but go home, and say to your biggest boy, “John, I want to tell you how your father found a Saviour.” Go home to that sweet little daughter of yours, and say, “Dear Sarah, I want to tell you how Jesus loves me.” Before the morning light you may have had the joy of seeing your dear children brought to the Saviour if this very evening you talk to them out of the fulness of your heart.

     Only this I say to you: if you do not love my Master, then turn you from your evil ways. If you have not trusted Jesus, trust him at once, and find salvation full and free. When you have found that salvation, then publish the tidings of it. By the love of him that bled upon the cross— by every drop of blood from his pierced heart, arouse yourselves to serve him with all your might. Either with tongue or with pen tell of the love of Jesus.

“Tell it out among the heathen,
That he reigneth from the tree.”

Sound it forth everywhere beneath yon arch of heaven that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners; and add, “He has saved me.” God bless you!

*This sermon is undated and no accurate date can be determined.



Number Two-thousand; or, Healing by the Stripes of Jesus

By / Jan 1

Number Two-thousand; or, Healing by the Stripes of Jesus

 

“With his stripes we are healed.”— Isaiah liii. 5.

 

BEING one evening in Exeter Hall, I heard our late beloved brother, Mr. Mackay, of Hull, make a speech, in which he told us of a person who was under very deep concern of soul, and felt that he could never rest till he found salvation. So, taking the Bible into his hand, he said to himself, “Eternal life is to be found somewhere in this Word of God; and if it be here, I will find it, for I will read the Book right through, praying to God over every page of it, if perchance it may contain some saving message for me.” He told us that the earnest seeker read on through Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and so on; and though Christ is there very evidently, he could not find him in the types and symbols. Neither did the holy histories yield him comfort, nor the book of Job. He passed through the Psalms, but did not find his Saviour there; and the same was the case with the other books till he reached Isaiah. In this prophet he read on till near the end, and then in the fifty-third chapter, these words arrested his delighted attention, “With his stripes we are healed.” “Now I have found it,” says he. “Here is the healing that I need for my sin-sick soul, and I see how it comes to me through the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be his name, I am healed!” It was well that the seeker was wise enough to search the sacred volume; it was better still that in that volume there should be such a life-giving word, and that the Holy Spirit should reveal it to the seeker’s heart. I said to myself, “That text will suit me well, and peradventure a voice from God may speak through it yet again to some other awakened sinner.” May he, who by these words spoke to the chamberlain of the Ethiopian queen, who also was impressed with them while in the act of searching the Scripture, speak also to many who shall hear or read this sermon! Let us pray that it may be so. God is very gracious, and he will hear our prayers.

     The object of my discourse is very simple: I would come to the text, and I would come at you. May the Holy Spirit give me power to do both to the glory of God!

     I. In endeavouring to come to the full meaning of the text, I would remark, first, that GOD, IN INFINITE MERCY, HERE TREATS SIN AS A DISEASE. “With his stripes”— that is, the stripes of the Lord Jesus “we are healed.” Through the sufferings of our Lord, sin is pardoned, and we are delivered from the power of evil: this is regarded as the healing of a deadly malady. The Lord in this present life treats sin as a disease. If he were to treat it at once as sin, and summon us to his bar to answer for it, we should at once sink beyond the reach of hope, for we could not answer his accusations, nor defend ourselves from his justice. In great mercy he looks upon us with pity, and for the while treats our ill manners as if they were diseases to be cured rather than rebellions to be punished. It is most gracious on his part to do so; for while sin is a disease, it is a great deal more. If our iniquities were the result of an unavoidable sickness, we might claim pity rather than censure; but we sin wilfully, we choose evil, we transgress in heart, and therefore we bear a moral responsibility which makes sin an infinite evil. Our sin is our crime rather than our calamity: however, God looks at it in another way for a season. That he may be able to deal with us on hopeful grounds, he looks at the sickness of sin, and not as yet at the wickedness of sin. Nor is this without reason, for men who indulge in gross vices are often charitably judged by their fellows to be not only wholly wicked, but partly mad. Propensities to evil are usually associated with a greater or less degree of mental disease; perhaps, also, of physical disease. At any rate, sin is a spiritual malady of the worst kind.

     Sin is a disease, for it is not essential to manhood, nor an integral part of human nature as God created it. Man was never more fully and truly man than he was before he fell; and he who is specially called “the Son of man” knew no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth; yet was he perfectly man. Sin is abnormal; a sort of cancerous growth, which ought not to be within the soul. Sin is disturbing to manhood: sin unmans a man. Sin is sadly destructive to man; it takes the crown from his head, the light from his mind, and the joy from his heart. We may name many grievous diseases which are the destroyers of our race, but the greatest of these is sin: sin, indeed, is the fatal egg from which all other sicknesses have been hatched. It is the fountain and source of all mortal maladies.

     It is a disease, because it puts the whole system of the man out of order. It places the lower faculties in the higher place, for it makes the body master over the soul. The man should ride the horse; but in the sinner the horse rides the man. The mind should keep the animal instincts and propensities in check; but in many men the animal crushes the mental and the spiritual. For instance, how many live as if eating and drinking were the chief objects of existence: they live to eat, instead of eating to live! The faculties are thrown out of gear by sin, so that they act fitfully and irregularly; you cannot depend upon any one of them keeping its place. The equilibrium of the life-forces is grievously disturbed. Even as a sickness of body is called a disorder, so is sin the disorder of the soul. Human nature is out of joint, and out of health, and man is no longer man: he is dead through sin, even as he was warned of old, “in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Man is marred, bruised, sick, paralyzed, polluted, rotten with disease, just in proportion as sin has shown its true character.

     Sin, like disease, operates to weaken man. The moral energy is broken down so as scarcely to exist in some men. The conscience labours under a fatal consumption, and is gradually ruined by a decline; the understanding has been lamed by evil, and the will is rendered feeble for good, though forcible for evil. The principle of integrity, the resolve of virtue, in which a man’s true strength really lies, is sapped and undermined by wrong-doing. Sin is like a secret flow of blood, which robs the vital parts of their essential nourishment. How near to death in some men is even the power to discern between good and evil! The apostle tells us that, when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly; and this being without strength is the direct result of the sickness of sin, which has weakened our whole manhood.

     Sin is a disease which in some cases causes extreme pain and anguish, but in other instances deadens sensibility. It frequently happens that, the more sinful a man is, the less he is conscious of it. It was remarked of a certain notorious criminal that many thought him innocent because, when he was charged with murder, he did not betray the least emotion. In that wretched self-possession there was to my mind presumptive proof of his great familiarity with crime: if an innocent person is charged with a great offence, the mere charge horrifies him. It is only by weighing all the circumstances, and distinguishing between sin and shame, that he recovers himself. He who can do the deed of shame does not blush when he is charged with it. The deeper a man goes in sin, the less does he allow that it is sin. Like a man who takes opium, he acquires the power to take larger and larger doses, till that which would kill a hundred other men has but slight effect upon him. A man who readily lies is scarcely conscious of the moral degradation involved in being a liar, though he may think it shameful to be called so. It is one of the worst points of this disease of sin that it stupefies the understanding, and causes a paralysis of the conscience.

     By-and-by sin is sure to cause pain, like other diseases which flesh is heir to; and when its awakening comes, what a start it gives! Conscience one day will awake, and fill the guilty soul with alarm and distress, if not in this world, yet certainly in the next. Then will it be seen what an awful thing it is to offend against the law of the Lord.

     Sin is a disease which pollutes a man. Certain diseases render a man horribly impure. God is the best judge of purity, for he is thrice holy, and he cannot endure sin. The Lord puts sin from him with abhorrence, and prepares a place where the finally-unclean shall be shut up by themselves. He will not dwell with them here, neither can they dwell with him in heaven. As men must put lepers apart by themselves, so justice must put out of the heavenly world everything which defileth. O my hearer, shall the Lord be compelled to put you out of his presence because you persist in wickedness?

     And this disease, which is so polluting, is, at the same time, most injurious to us, from the fact that it prevents the higher enjoyment and employment of life. Men exist in sin, but they do not truly live: as the Scripture saith, such an one is dead while he liveth. While we continue in sin, we cannot serve God on earth, nor hope to enjoy him for ever above. We are incapable of communion with perfect spirits, and with God himself; and the loss of this communion is the greatest of all evils. Sin deprives us of spiritual sight, hearing, feeling, and taste, and thus deprives us of those joys which turn existence into life. It brings upon us true death, so that we exist in ruins, deprived of all which can be called life.

     This disease is fatal: Is it not written, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die”? “Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” There is no hope of eternal life for any man unless sin be put away. This disease never exhausts itself so as to be its own destroyer. Evil men wax worse and worse. In another world, as well as in this present state, character will, no doubt, go on to develop and ripen, and so the sinner will become more and more corrupt as the result of his spiritual death. O my friends, if you refuse Christ, sin will be the death of your peace, your joy, your prospects, your hopes, and thus the death of all that is worth having! In the case of other diseases nature may conquer the malady, and you may be restored; but in this case, apart from divine interposition, nothing lies before you but eternal death.

     God, therefore, treats sin as a disease, because it is a disease; and I want you to feel that it is so, for then you will thank the Lord for thus dealing with you. Many of us have felt that sin is a disease, and we have been healed of it. Oh, that others could see what an exceedingly evil thing it is to sin against the Lord! It is a contagious, defiling, incurable, mortal sickness.

     Perhaps somebody says, “Why do you raise these points? They fill us with unpleasant thoughts.” I do it for the reason given by the engineer who built the great Menai Tubular Bridge. When it was being erected, some brother engineers said to him, “You raise all manner of difficulties.” “Yes,” he said, “I raise them that I may solve them.” So do we at this time dilate upon the sad state of man by nature, that we may the better set forth the glorious remedy of which our text so sweetly speaks.

     II. God treats sin as a disease, and HE HERE DECLARES THE REMEDY WHICH HE HAS PROVIDED: “With his stripes we are healed.”

     I ask you very solemnly to accompany me in your meditations, for a few minutes, while I bring before you the stripes of the Lord Jesus. The Lord resolved to restore us, and therefore he sent his Only-begotten Son, “Very God of very God,” that he might descend into this world to take upon himself our nature, in order to our redemption. He lived as a man among men; and, in due time, after thirty years or more of service, the time came when he should do us the greatest service of all, namely, stand in our stead, and bear the chastisement of our peace. He went to Gethsemane, and there, at the first taste of our bitter cup, he sweat great drops of blood. He went to Pilate’s hall, and Herod’s judgment-seat, and there drank draughts of pain and scorn in our room and place. Last of all, they took him to the cross, and nailed him there to die— to die in our stead, “the Just for the unjust, to bring us to God.” The word “stripes” is used to set forth his sufferings, both of body and of soul. The whole of Christ was made a sacrifice for us: his whole manhood suffered. As to his body, it shared with his mind in a grief that never can be described. In the beginning of his passion, when he emphatically suffered instead of us, he was in an agony, and from his bodily frame a bloody sweat distilled so copiously as to fall to the ground. It is very rarely that a man sweats blood. There have been one or two instances of it, and they have been followed by almost immediate death; but our Saviour lived— lived after an agony which, to any one else, would have proved fatal. Ere he could cleanse his face from this dreadful crimson, they hurried him to the high priest’s hall. In the dead of night they bound him and led him away. Anon they took him to Pilate and to Herod. These scourged him, and their soldiers spat in his face, and buffeted him, and put on his head a crown of thorns. Scourging is one of the most awful tortures that can be inflicted by malice. It is to the eternal disgrace of Englishmen that they should have permitted the “cat” to be used upon the soldier; but to the Homan cruelty was so natural that he made his common punishments worse than brutal. The Homan scourge is said to have been made of the sinews of oxen, twisted into knots, and into these knots were inserted slivers of bone, and hucklebones of sheep; so that every time the scourge fell upon the bare back, “the plowers made deep furrows.” Our Saviour was called upon to endure the fierce pain of the Homan scourge, and this not as the finis of his punishment, but as a preliminary to crucifixion. To this they added buffeting, and plucking of the hair: they spared him no form of pain. In all his faintness, through bleeding and fasting, they made him carry his cross until another was forced, by the forethought of their cruelty, to bear it, lest their victim should die on the road. They stripped him, and threw him down, and nailed him to the wood. They pierced his hands and his feet. They lifted up the tree, with him upon it, and then dashed it down into its place in the ground, so that all his limbs were dislocated, according to the lament of the twenty-second psalm, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.” He hung in the burning sun till the fever dissolved his strength, and he said, “My heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.” There he hung, a spectacle to God and men. The weight of his body was first sustained by his feet, till the nails tore through the tender nerves: and then the painful load began to drag upon his hands, and rend those sensitive parts of his frame. How small a wound in the hand has brought on lockjaw! How awful must have been the torment caused by that dragging iron tearing through the delicate parts of the hands and feet! Now were all manner of bodily pains centred in his tortured frame. All the while his enemies stood around, pointing at him in scorn, thrusting out their tongues in mockery, jesting at his prayers, and gloating over his sufferings. He cried, “I thirst,” and then they gave him vinegar mingled with gall. After a while he said, “It is finished.” He had endured the utmost of appointed grief, and had made full vindication to divine justice: then, and not till then, he gave up the ghost. Holy men of old have enlarged most lovingly upon the bodily sufferings of our Lord, and I have no hesitation in doing the same, trusting that trembling sinners may see salvation in these painful “stripes” of the Redeemer.

     To describe the outward sufferings of our Lord is not easy: I acknowledge that I have failed. But his soul-sufferings, which were the soul of his sufferings, who can even conceive, much less express, what they were? At the very first I told you that he sweat great drops of blood. That was his heart driving out its life-floods to the surface through the terrible depression of spirit which was upon him. He said, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” The betrayal by Judas, and the desertion of the twelve, grieved our Lord; but the weight of our sin was the real pressure on his heart. Our guilt was the olive-press which forced from him the moisture of his life. No language can ever tell his agony in prospect of his passion; how little then can we conceive the passion itself? When nailed to the cross he endured what no martyr ever suffered; for martyrs, when they have died, have been so sustained of God that they have rejoiced amid their pain; but our Redeemer was forsaken of his Father, until he cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” That was the bitterest cry of all, the utmost depth of his unfathomable grief. Yet was it needful that he should be deserted, because God must turn his back on sin, and consequently upon him who was made sin for us. The soul of the great Substitute suffered a horror of misery, instead of that horror of hell into which sinners would have been plunged had he not taken their sin upon himself, and been made a curse for them. It is written, “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree”; but who knows what that curse means?

     The remedy for your sins and mine is found in the substitutionary sufferings of the Lord Jesus, and in these only. These “stripes” of the Lord Jesus Christ were on our behalf. Do you enquire, “Is there anything for us to do, to remove the guilt of sin?” I answer: There is nothing whatever for you to do. By the stripes of Jesus we are healed. All those stripes he has endured, and left not one of them for us to bear.

     “But must we not believe on him?” Ay, certainly. If I say of a certain ointment that it heals, I do not deny that you need a bandage with which to apply it to the wound. Faith is the linen which binds the plaster of Christ’s reconciliation to the sore of our sin. The linen does not heal; that is the work of the ointment. So faith does not heal; that is the work of the atonement of Christ.

     Does an enquirer reply, “But surely I must do something, or suffer something”? I answer: You must put nothing with Jesus Christ, or you greatly dishonour him. In order to your salvation, you must rely upon the wounds of Jesus Christ, and nothing else; for the text does not say, “His stripes help to heal us,” but, “With his stripes we are healed.”

     “But we must repent,” cries another. Assuredly we must, and shall, for repentance is the first sign of healing; but the stripes of Jesus heal us, and not our repentance. These stripes, when applied to the heart, work repentance in us: we hate sin because it made Jesus suffer.

     When you intelligently trust in Jesus as having suffered for you, then you discover the fact that God will never punish you for the same offence for which Jesus died. His justice will not permit him to see the debt paid, first, by the Surety, and then again by the debtor. Justice cannot twice demand a recompense: if my bleeding Surety has borne my guilt, then I cannot bear it. Accepting Christ Jesus as suffering for me, I have accepted a complete discharge from judicial liability. I have been condemned in Christ, and there is, therefore, now no condemnation to me any more. This is the groundwork of the security of the sinner who believes in Jesus: he lives because Jesus died in his room, and place, and stead; and he is acceptable before God because Jesus is accepted. The person for whom Jesus is an accepted Substitute must go free; none can touch him; he is clear. O my hearer, wilt thou have Jesus Christ to be thy Substitute? If so, thou art free. “He that believeth on him is not condemned.” Thus “with his stripes we are healed.”

     III. I have tried to put before you the disease and the remedy; I now desire to notice the fact that THIS REMEDY IS IMMEDIATELY EFFECTIVE WHEREVER IT IS APPLIED. The stripes of Jesus do heal men: they have healed many of us. It does not look as if it could effect so great a cure, but the fact is undeniable. I often hear people say, “If you preach up this faith in Jesus Christ as saving men, they will be careless about holy living.” I am as good a witness on that point as anybody, for I live every day in the midst of men who are trusting to the stripes of Jesus for their salvation, and I have seen no ill effect following from such a trust; but I have seen the very reverse. I bear testimony that I have seen the very worst of men become the very best of men by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. These stripes heal in a surprising manner the moral diseases of those who seemed past remedy.

     The character is healed. I have seen the drunkard become sober, the harlot become chaste, the passionate man become gentle, the covetous man become liberal, and the liar become truthful, simply by trusting in the sufferings of Jesus. If it did not make good men of them, it would not really do anything for them, for you must judge men by their fruits after all; and if the fruits are not changed the tree is not changed. Character is everything: if the character be not set right, the man is not saved. But we say it without fear of contradiction, that the atoning sacrifice, applied to the heart, heals the disease of sin. If you doubt it, try it. He that believes in Jesus is sanctified as well as justified; by faith he becomes henceforth an altogether changed man.

     The conscience is healed of its smart. Sin crushed the man’s soul; he was spiritless and joyless, but the moment he believed in Jesus he leaped into light. Often you can see a change in the very look of the man’s face; the cloud flies from the countenance when guilt goes from the conscience. Scores of times, when I have been talking with those bowed down with sin’s burden, they have looked as though they were qualifying for an asylum through inward grief; but they have caught the thought, “ Christ stood for me; and if I trust in him, I have the sign that he did so, and I am clear,” and their faces have been lit up as with a glimpse of heaven.

     Gratitude for such great mercy causes a change of thought towards God, and so it heals the judgment, and by this means the affections are turned in the right way, and the heart is healed. Sin is no longer loved, but God is loved, and holiness is desired. The whole man is healed, and the whole life changed. Many of you know how light of heart faith in Jesus makes you, how the troubles of life lose their weight, and the fear of death ceases to cause bondage. You rejoice in the Lord, for the blessed remedy of the stripes of Jesus is applied to your soul by faith in him.

     The fact that “with his stripes we are healed” is a matter in evidence. I shall take liberty to bear my own witness. If it were necessary, I could call thousands of persons, my daily acquaintances, who can say that with the stripes of Christ they are healed; but I must not therefore withhold my personal testimony. If I had suffered from a dreadful disease, and a physician had given me a remedy which had healed me, I should not be ashamed to tell you all about it; but I would quote my own case as an argument with you to try my physician. Years ago, when I was a youth, the burden of my sin was exceedingly heavy upon me. I had fallen into no gross vices, and should not have been regarded by any one as being specially a transgressor; but I regarded myself as such, and I had good reason for so doing. My conscience was sensitive because it was enlightened; and I judged that, having had a godly father, and a praying mother, and having been trained in the ways of piety, I had sinned against much light, and consequently there was a greater degree of guilt in my sin than in that of others who were my youthful associates, but had not enjoyed my advantages. I could not enjoy the sports of youth because I felt that I had done violence to my conscience. I would seek my chamber, and there sit alone, read my Bible, and pray for forgiveness; but peace did not come to me. Books such as Baxter’s “Call to the Unconverted,” and Doddridge’s “Rise and Progress,” I read Over and over again. Early in the morning I would awake, and read the most earnest religious books I could find, desiring to be eased of my burden of sin. I was not always thus dull, but at times my misery of soul was very great. The words of the weeping prophet and of Job were such as suited my mournful case. I would have chosen death rather than life. I tried to do as well as I could, and to behave myself aright; but in my own judgment I grew worse and worse. I felt more and more despondent. I attended every place of worship within my reach, but I heard nothing which gave me lasting comfort till one day I heard a simple preacher of the gospel speak from the text, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” When he told me that all I had to do was to “look” to Jesus— to Jesus the crucified One, I could scarcely believe it. He went on, and said, “Look, look, look!” He added, “There is a young man, under the left-hand gallery there, who is very miserable: he will have no peace until he looks to Jesus”; and then he cried, “Look! Look! Young man, look!” I did look; and in that moment relief came to me, and I felt such overflowing joy that I could have stood up, and cried, “Hallelujah! Glory be to God, I am delivered from the burden of my sin!” Many days have passed since then; but my faith has held me up, and compelled me to tell out the story of free grace and dying love. I can truly say—

“E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.”

I hope to sit up in my bed in my last hours, and tell of the stripes that healed me. I hope some young men, yea, and old men before me, will at once try this remedy; it is good for all characters, and all ages. “With his stripes we are healed.” Thousands upon thousands of us have tried and proved this remedy. We speak what we do know, and testify what we have seen. God grant that men may receive our witness through the power of the Holy Spirit!

     I want a few minutes’ talk with those who have not tried this marvellous heal-all. Let us come to close quarters. Friend, you are by nature in need of soul-healing as much as any of us, and one reason why you do not care about the remedy is, because you do not believe that you are sick. I saw a pedlar one day, as I was walking out: he was selling walking-sticks. He followed me, and offered me one of the sticks. I showed him mine— a far better one than any he had to sell— and he withdrew at once. He could see that I was not likely to be a purchaser. I have often thought of that when I have been preaching: I show men the righteousness of the Lord Jesus, but they show me their own, and all hope of dealing with them is gone. Unless I can prove that their righteousness is worthless, they will not seek the righteousness which is of God by faith. Oh, that the Lord would show you your disease, and then you would desire the remedy!

     It may be that you do not care to hear of the Lord Jesus Christ. Ah, my dear friends! you will have to hear of him one of these days, either for your salvation or your condemnation. The Lord has the key of your heart, and I trust he will give you a better mind; and whenever this shall happen, your memory will recall my simple discourse, and you will say, “I do remember. Yes, I heard the preacher declare that there is healing in the wounds of Christ.”

     I pray you do not put off seeking the Lord; that would be great presumption on your part, and a sad provocation to him. But, should you have put it off, I pray you do not let the devil tell you it is too late. It is never too late while life lasts. I have read in books that very few people are converted after they are forty years of age. My solemn conviction is that there is but little truth in such a statement. I have seen as many people converted at one age as at another in proportion to the number of people who are living at that age. Any first Sunday in the month you may see the right-hand of fellowship given to from thirty to eighty people who have been brought in during the month; and if you take stock of them, there will be found to be a selection representing every age, from childhood up to old age. The precious blood of Jesus has power to heal long-rooted sin. It makes old hearts new. If you were a thousand years old, I would exhort you to believe in Jesus, and I should be sure that his stripes would heal you. Your hair is nearly gone, old friend, and furrows appear on your brow; but come along! You are rotting away with sin, but this medicine meets desperate cases! Poor, old tottering pensioner, put your trust in Jesus, for with his stripes the old and the dying are healed!

     Now, my dear hearers, you are at this moment either healed or not. You are either healed by grace, or you are still in your natural sickness. Will you be so kind to yourselves as to enquire which it is? Many say, “We know what we are”; but certain more thoughtful ones reply, “We don’t quite know.” Friend, you ought to know, and you should know. Suppose I asked a man, “Are you a bankrupt or not?” and he said, “I really have no time to look at my books, and therefore I am not sure.” I should suspect that he could not pay twenty shillings in the pound: should not you? Whenever a man is afraid to look at his books, I suspect that he has something to be afraid of. So, whenever a person says, “I don’t know my condition, and I don’t care to think much about it,” you may pretty safely conclude that things are wrong with him. You ought to know whether you are saved or not.

      “I hope I am saved,” says one, “but I do not know the date of my conversion.” That does not matter at all. It is a pleasant thing for a person to know his birthday; but when persons are not sure of the exact date of their birth, they do not, therefore, infer that they are not alive. If a person does not know token he was converted, that is no proof that he is not converted. The point is, do you trust Jesus Christ? Has that trust made a new man of you? Has your confidence in Christ made you feel that you have been forgiven? Has that made you love God for having forgiven you, and has that love become the mainspring of your being, so that out of love to God you delight to obey him? Then you are a healed man. If you do not believe in Jesus, be sure that you are still unhealed, and I pray you look at my text until you are led by grace to say, “I am healed, for I have trusted in the stripes of Jesus.”

     Suppose, for a moment, you are not healed, let me ask the question, “Why are you not?” You know the gospel: why are you not healed by Christ? “I don’t know,” says one. But, my dear friend, I beseech you do not rest until you do know.

     “I can’t get at it,” says somebody. The other day a young girl was putting a button on her father’s coat. She was sitting with her back to the window, and she said, “Father, I can’t see; I am in my own light.” He said, “Ah, my daughter, that is where you have been all your life!” This is the position of some of you spiritually. You are in your own light: you think too much of yourselves. There is plenty of light in the Sun of Righteousness, but you get in the dark by putting self in the way of that Sun. Oh, that your self might be put away! I read a touching story the other day as to how one found peace. A young man had been for some time under a sense of sin, longing to find mercy; but he could not reach it. He was a telegraph clerk, and being in the office one morning he had to receive and transmit a telegram. To his great surprise, he spelt out these words— “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” A gentleman out for a holiday was telegraphing a message in answer to a letter from a friend who was in trouble of soul.

     It was meant for another, but he that transmitted it received eternal life, as the words came flashing into his soul.

     O dear friends, get out of your own light, and at once, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”! I cannot telegraph the words to you, but I would put them before you so plainly and distinctly that every one in trouble of soul may know that they are meant for him. There lies your hope— not in yourself, but in the Lamb of God. Behold him; and as you behold him your sin shall be put away, and by his stripes you shall be healed.

     If, dear friend, you are healed, this is my last word to you; then get out of diseased company. Come away from the companions that have infected you with sin. Come ye out from among them, be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing. If you are healed, praise the Healer, and acknowledge what he has done for you. There were ten lepers healed, but only one returned to praise the healing hand. Do not be among the ungrateful nine. If you have found Christ, confess his name. Confess it in his own appointed way. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” When you have thus confessed him, speak out for him. Tell what Jesus has done for your soul, and dedicate yourself to the holy purpose of spreading abroad the message by which you have been healed.

     I met this week with something that pleased me— how one man, being healed, may be the means of blessing to another. Many years ago I preached a sermon in Exeter Hall, which was printed, and entitled, “Salvation to the uttermost.” A friend, who lives not very far from this place, was in the city of Para, in Brazil. Here he heard of an Englishman in prison, who had in a state of drunkenness committed a murder, for which he was confined for life. Our friend went to see him, and found him deeply penitent, but quietly restful, and happy in the Lord. He had felt the terrible wound of blood-guiltiness in his soul, but it had been healed, and he felt the bliss of pardon. Here is the story of the poor man’s conversion as I have it:— “A young man, who had just completed his contract with the gas-works, was returning to England, but before doing so he called to see me, and brought with him a parcel of books. When I opened it, I found that they were novels; but, being able to read, I was thankful for anything. After I had read several of the books, I found a sermon (No. 84), preached by C. H. Spurgeon, in Exeter Hall, on June 8th, 1856, from the words, ‘Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost,’ & c. (Hebrews vii. 25.) In his discourse, Mr. Spurgeon referred to Palmer, who was then lying under sentence of death in Stafford Gaol, and in order to bring home this text to his hearers, he said that if Palmer had committed many other murders, if he repents and seeks God’s pardoning love in Christ, even he will be forgiven! I then felt that if Palmer could be forgiven, so might I. I sought, and blessed be God, I found. I am pardoned, I am free; I am a sinner saved by grace. Though a murderer, I have not yet sinned ‘beyond the uttermost,’ blessed be his holy name!” It made me very happy to think that a poor condemned murderer could thus be converted. Surely there is hope for every hearer and reader of this sermon, however guilty he may be!

     If you know Christ, tell others about him. You do not know what good there is in making Jesus known, even though all you can do is to give a tract, or repeat a verse. Dr. Valpy, the author of a great many class-books, wrote the following simple lines as his confession of faith:—

“In peace let me resign my breath,
And thy salvation see;
My sins deserve eternal death,
But Jesus died for me.”

Valpy is dead and gone; but he gave those lines to dear old Dr. Marsh, the Rector of Beckenham, who put them over his study mantel-shelf. The Earl of Roden came in, and read them. “Will you give me a copy of those lines?” said the good earl. “I shall be glad,” said Dr. Marsh, and he copied them. Lord Roden took them home, and put them over his mantel-shelf. General Taylor, a Waterloo hero, came into the room, and noticed them. He read them over and over again, while staying with Earl Roden, till his Lordship remarked, “I say, friend Taylor, I should think you know those lines by heart.” He answered, “I do know them by heart; indeed, my very heart has grasped their meaning.” He was brought to Christ by that humble rhyme. General Taylor handed those lines to an officer in the army, who was going out to the Crimean war. He came home to die; and when Dr. Marsh went to see him, the poor soul in his weakness said, “Good sir, do you know this verse which General Taylor gave to me? It brought me to my Saviour, and I die in peace.” To Dr. Marsh’s surprise, he repeated the lines:—

“In peace let me resign my breath,
And thy salvation see;
My sins deserve eternal death,
But Jesus died for me.”

Only think of the good which four simple lines may do. Be encouraged all of you who know the healing power of the wounds of Jesus. Spread this truth by all means. Never mind how simple the language. Tell it out: tell it out everywhere, and in every way, even if you cannot do it in any other way than by copying a verse out of a hymnbook. Tell it out that by the stripes of Jesus we are healed. May God bless you, dear friends! Pray for me that this sermon of mine which is numbered TWO-THOUSAND, may be a very fruitful one.



Small Rain for Tender Herbs

By / Dec 25

Small Rain for Tender Herbs

 

“As the small rain upon the tender herb.”— Deuteronomy xxxii. 2.

 

THIS is the language of the great prophet Moses, “My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass.” We read of Moses that he was a prophet mighty in word and deed: he combined with his incomparable teaching an unequalled degree of marvellous miracle-working. He was equally great as a law-giver and as an administrator. This double power was found in no other prophet till our Lord Jesus Christ himself came. The other prophets were, many of them, mighty in deed, but not in word; and others mighty in word, but not in deed. Samuel spoke mightily in the name of the Lord, but his miracles were few. Elijah was a great doer, but few of his words remain. The combination of the two was peculiar to Moses, and afterwards to him of whom Moses had said aforetime, “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken.” Moses was mighty in deed, no man could have been more so. He it was that broke the power of Egypt by the ten great plagues, and led forth the once enslaved people through the Red Sea, and fed them forty years with bread from heaven, and formed them into a nation. Heaven and earth and sea seemed to be obedient to Moses, God had girded him with such extraordinary power; yet I greatly question whether his power of word was not greater than his power of action. Although he was slow of speech, yet with Aaron as his spokesman he faced the terrible Egyptian king, and so vanquished him that he dreaded the word of Moses more than all the armies of the nations. In the five volumes which he wrote, which are to this day accepted by us as lying at the base of revelation, Moses proved his great capacity in word. He was a master with his pen: he neither failed in prose nor in poetry, in law nor in divinity, in history nor in prophecy. Inspiration from above was his strength; he spake the very word of God which he had heard when he was with him in the holy mount.

     Yet we perceive that this might of word, which dwelt in Moses, displayed itself frequently in a mild and gentle utterance; in the text, he declares that his doctrine should drop as rain, and distil as dew, and that it should be “as the small rain upon the tender herb.” The highest power is consistent with the lowliest tenderness. He that is mightiest in word is mighty, not so much in thunder, and earthquake, and fire, as in a silent persuasiveness. God is often most present where there is least of apparent force; the still, small voice had God in it when it was written “The Lord was not in the wind.” It is a wonderful thing, however, this being “mighty in word.” It is perfectly marvellous how God does use words to accomplish great things. Remember, it is by the incarnate Word that we are saved at all; if is by the inspired Word that we are made to know the will of God, and it is through the words by which that incarnate Word is preached unto man that God is pleased to communicate the inner life. Faith cometh by hearing, and there could be no hearing if there were no words spoken. You may wisely covet the power to speak with the words which God’s wisdom teacheth, for thus you will be an immeasurable blessing to your fellow-men. You may well treasure up those words in your memory, even if you have not the gift to tell them out to others, for they are the wealth of the soul. You may be content to repeat the language of the Book of God, the ipsissima verba, the very words of inspiration, if you cannot put together sentences of your own; for the pure Word of God is by itself the best thing a man can say, and to repeat a text is often better than to preach a sermon from it. We cannot too widely scatter the actual language of the Holy Spirit, for we cannot tell what work the divine utterance may perform. Thank God that he does use words, for thus he comes very near to us. Ask him to open your own lips, that you may show forth his praise; and if that be not granted you, then ask him to open your ears, that his words may sink into your souls, and prove a savour of life unto life to you.

     I intend to make three observations upon my text. Moses says that his doctrine should be as the small rain upon the tender herb.

     I. Our first observation is, MOSES MEANT TO BE TENDER. Moses intended, in the sermon he was about to preach, to be exceedingly gentle. He would water minds as tender herbs, and water them in the same fashion as the small rain does. He would not be a beating hail, nor even a down-pouring shower, but he would be “as the small rain upon the tender herb.” And this is the more remarkable, because he was about to preach a doctrinal sermon. Does he not say, “My doctrine shall drop as the rain”? Time was when a doctrinal sermon seemed to be most appropriately preached with clenched fists. The very idea of a doctrinal sermon seemed to mean a fight, a sort of spiritual duel, in which the good man was evidently bent upon demolishing somebody or other who held contrary views. I trust we are learning better, and that we try now to let doctrine distil as rain, and drop as dew, “as the small rain upon the tender herb.” It is at certain turning-points of the road our duty to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, but we are to recollect that our contentions are the contentions of love, and that it ill becomes the man who holds the truth of a loving Saviour to hold it in bitterness, or contend for it with rancour. You will possibly think that I have been guilty in this matter, but I cannot make such a confession to any large extent. I have felt no bitterness; and when I have spoken forcibly, I have yet restrained myself from harder things which I might truthfully have brought forth. Yet, I regret that I have been forced into controversy for which I have no taste, and in which I have no pleasure. I have been driven to it: I have never sought it. To spread the gospel I should choose the gentler method: it is only to defend it that I have to draw the sword. Fight for truth, yea, be willing to live or die for truth; but if you wish to spread it, you will do it best by letting it drop as rain, and distil as dew, gently and tenderly, “as the small rain upon the tender herb.”

     It is equally remarkable that this discourse of Moses was a sermon of rebuke. He rebuked the people, and rebuked them, too, with no small degree of sternness, when he said, “Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick; then he forsook God which made him.” He warned the people of their great sin, and he did not hesitate to say, “They are a nation void of counsel, neither is there any understanding in them.” Yet he felt that he had rebuked with the utmost meekness, and had still been as the soft dew and gentle rain. Ah, brethren! upbraiding must be done in tenderness. Rebukes given in an unkind spirit had better not be given at all. I passed by a preacher one evening, who was addressing certain villagers in the most terrific strains. He was telling them, “The Lord is coming! The Lord is coming! You will be all destroyed!” There was plenty of sound, though I fear not an excess of sense; and there was a savour of delirious prophecy, which went beyond the Scriptures into personal visions and figments of the man’s own brain. I wondered what he hoped to do. The people were standing at their doors, and smoking their pipes, and taking it in as a curious kind of display. Perhaps better that he should rage like a sea in a storm than give the people no warning; and yet I do not suppose any good could come of his shoutings. Had he spoken gently to them, one by one, concerning faith in God; had he gone to their doors, and spoken of the great love of Jesus Christ, perhaps there would have been some result; but one would not look for good fruit from the boisterous shouting of nonsense; and yet there are many who feel that if a man shouts and perspires something must be effected. Wisdom does not learn her exercises among the athletes, but among calm scholars. We do not black people’s eyes to make them see, nor bully them into peace, nor kick them into heaven. To strive, and cry, and lift up, and cause clamorous voices to be heard in the streets is not Christ’s way. Not a syllable have we to say against zeal, even when it breaks over all bounds of propriety; but it is the zeal which we value, and not the outbursts by themselves. We question greatly whether too often physical force is not mistaken for spiritual power; and this is an error of a mischievous kind. We want, if we can, to draw our hearers with bands of love, not with cart-ropes; and with “cords of a man,” not such cords as we put about dogs and bulls. There must be in all rebukes an abounding gentleness, softness, and holy sorrow. When Paul is writing a very strong condemnation, he says, “I now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ.” Jesus Christ denounces the doom of Jerusalem, but it is with a flood of tears. He cries, “Woe unto thee, Chorazin!” but he feels a woe within his own soul while he is uttering woe to them. Dear brethren, it is well to observe this: that, though it was a doctrinal discourse, it was tender; and though it was a rebuking discourse, with Moses for preacher, jet still it was “as small rain upon the tender herb.”

     Yet once more, in this discourse, this swan’s song, this final deliverance of the great judge in Israel, he was about to declare the wrath of God; for here we read words like these: “A fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains. I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend mine arrows upon them”: and so on. Never stronger, sterner language; but even this was made to drop as the small rain. And if ever there is a time when the sluices should be pulled up, and the floods of sympathy should flow, it is when we preach the wrath of God. I am certain that, to preach the wrath of God with a hard heart, and a cold lip, and a tearless eye, and an unfeeling spirit, is to harden men, and not to benefit them. If we preach these terrors of the Lord persuasively we have hit the nail on the head, for what saith the apostle: “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men”? Gently, as a nurse persuadeth a child, though in the background is the rod, we would woo men to Jesus till we win them. Though we tell them that they must have Christ or perish; they must believe in him or be for ever driven from his presence into outer darkness, we do this because we love them— love them better than those who flatter them. We dare not keep back for a moment the fact that sin is a horrible evil, and brings with it endless misery, nor would we dare to soften a syllable of the heavy tidings which we have to bear from the Lord to the impenitent, yet we have no joy in being the bearers of harsh news, it is the burden of the Lord to us. We wish we had permission to preach always upon cheering themes, as, indeed, we would gladly do, if men would turn to Jesus and live. Yet, even now, when we beat the warning drum, we do not forget to interject frequent pauses between the alarming strokes, that pity’s gentle voice may take its turn in the winning of souls.

     I remember one servant of God who could not help interrupting the great New England minister by crying out, “Mr. Edwards, Mr. Edwards, is he not a God of mercy after all?” I hope I should never, under any circumstances, give occasion for such a question. Though the Lord is a God of vengeance upon such as refuse his Son, and reject his grace, yet is he abundant in mercy, tenderness, and longsuffering, and delighteth not in the death of any, but that they should turn unto him and live. Therefore let us give space for mercy to persuade while justice threatens. The right spirit in which to preach the terrors of God is the spirit of the text. We are to make even our solemn warnings drop “as the small rain upon the tender herb.” Moses meant to be gentle. Though it was a doctrinal discourse, a searching and rebuking discourse, and a discourse full of the threatenings of God, yet he displayed in it his customary meekness.

     Now, beloved friends, if Moses meant to be tender, how much more truly was Jesus tender! The representative of the law aimed at tenderness: how much more the incarnation of the gospel! He who came with ten broken commands to threaten men was tender: how much more he who comes with five wounds, founts of eternal pardon, to persuade men! How winning is the meek and lowly Lamb of God! The moment we look to his life we see that wondrous tenderness displayed in his doctrine, for his teaching was compassionate in manner. Somehow, I cannot imagine our Lord Jesus Christ preaching with tones and manners at all similar to certain of his professed followers, who thunder at men with a vehemence devoid of sympathy. He did thunder in indignation, but the lightning of conviction was by far the more noticeable, and with the lightning there always came a shower of pity. The Sermon on the Mount, I have sometimes thought, was such as an inspired woman might fitly have preached, it is so full of heart, and so exceedingly pitiful. For the most part, throughout his ministry, though masculine to the last degree, yet there is a softness, a pathos of love; as if in the person of Christ we had both man and woman, as in the first Adam at the creation. Jesus is the head of the race, completely combining in his own person all the vigour of the man, and all the affection of the woman. He is, as it were, both father and mother to the children of men, blending everything that is sweet in manhood and womanhood in one individuality, and showing it all in his style, which is forcible as a hero’s energy in the day of battle, and yet gentle as a nurse with her children. All the mannerisms of Christ are wooing; hence we read, “Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.” Hence we have him saying, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not.” To him the sick came by instinct as to a Physician peculiarly set for the healing of humanity; to him the bereaved sisters, and the widowed mothers, and the outcast lepers ran with eager hope; yea, to him the wildest of maniacs yielded, feeling the irresistible spell of his love. Oh yes, our Lord’s manner was gentleness itself.

     Furthermore, his style of speech was compassionately considerate, even as the dew seems to consider the withered grass, and the small rain to adapt itself to the tender herb. In his teaching he evidently thought of the feebler sort, and suited himself to those depressed by grief. You find no hard words thrown in to make the speaker seem wise. There are difficulties about his doctrine inherent to the nature of truth, but they are never aggravated by his style. I suppose nobody ever went to him, and said, “Rabbi, what didst thou mean by such and such a word?” They knew the meaning of the words, though not always did they catch the inner sense. Their misapprehension was never the fault of the words which he used. His use of the parabolic style was especially remarkable: he kept on saying the kingdom of heaven is like: like this, like that. When he feeds the multitude, he never gives them indigestible food— his menu is always bread and fish; so when he preaches, there is no indigestible truth. For the most part, in the early days of his preaching to the outside multitude, he gave them little more than moral truth, for that was all they were able to bear. It sometimes amuses me to see how certain “modern thought” men prove themselves to belong to the outside many, and not to the inner circle of disciples; for they take the Sermon on the Mount, and extol it as the summit of the doctrine of Jesus, whereas it was only his discourse to the multitude, and not such spiritual teaching as he gave to his apostles when alone. There were gleams and glintings of the divinely-spiritual truth flashing out of the moral truth like flames from afire; but for the most part he gave the crowd that which it could receive, and not that which would have been above their heads. He crumbed the bread into the milk, and gave the people a portion fit for their childhood. He fed them with milk, for they were not able yet to bear that strong meat which his servant Paul was permitted afterwards to bring forth in a lordly dish for the feeding and feasting of those who have had their senses exercised in spiritual things. The Lord was very careful as to the manner of his teaching, and as to the matter of his teaching, too, even to his chosen. “I have yet many things to say unto you,” said he, “but ye cannot bear them now.” There was a gradual development in his teaching as he saw the minds of men were prepared to receive the truth which he should speak; from which method of wisdom and prudence let his disciples learn a lesson.

     Furthermore, note well that the truth which our Lord spoke had always a refreshing effect upon those that were spiritually alive. Our blessed Master’s sermons were “as the small rain upon the tender herb,” not merely for the softness of their descent, but for the wondrous efficacy with which they came. His words fell not as fire-flakes to destroy, nor as the dust from the wilderness to defile, but ever as the warm shower to cherish. What a delight it must have been to have listened to the Lord!

     Oh, to hear him preach once! Ah! though he should rebuke me, and do nothing else; ay, though he should thunder at me, and do nothing else; how gladly would I listen to his voice, and say, “Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth”! Surely this heart of mine would be too glad to be as a fleece of wool, filled with the dew of his blessed doctrine! There must have been an unutterable sweetness, a delicious persuasiveness, a divine power, about the speaking of Jesus, for, “Never man spake like this man.” His lips were as lilies, dropping sweet-smelling myrrh. Whatsoever he spake was fragrant with infinite love and gentleness, and therefore it revived the spirit of the contrite ones.

     So we learn that Moses meant to be tender, and Jesus was tender. What else do we learn? Why, that all the servants of Jesus Christ ought to be tender; for, if Moses was so, much more should we be. I know there are many here to-night who are preachers of the gospel. Dear brethren, let us endeavour, with all our might, to be always considerate towards those whom we address. Let us think of them as tender herbs, for many are so in their weakness, sorrowfulness, instability, and ignorance. I am persuaded that we fix too high a standard when we preach, and assume that our people know a great deal more than they do. I am sure we need frequently to go over again the elements, the fundamentals, the simplest doctrines of the gospel, to our congregations; for, though there be some that are fathers, for whom we are grateful, yet it is true to-day, as it was in Paul’s day, we have not many fathers; and we ought not to preach with an eye to the few fathers, but with an eye to the many children. We shall do well if the babes in grace are fed by us, and to do this our preaching must be “as the small rain upon the tender herb.” We must try to the utmost of our ability to be very plain and simple, for many will not understand us even then. I was greatly pleased with a complaint brought against me the other day, to which I plead guilty, and I expect I shall plead guilty to it for many a day to come. Some one said, “Mr. Spurgeon gives us meat, but there's no gristle; he cuts out all the bone.” They wanted a bit or two of hard bone, just to try their teeth on. Alas, many have broken more than a tooth over the novel teaching of “modern thought”! Now, I have never been particularly earnest, when feeding my flock, to seek out the poisonous pastures, just to see how much of injurious fodder they could bear without sickening. No; I have had regard to those who are not yet able to discern the differences in spiritual things, and therefore I have led them to those ancient pastures where the saints were content to feed in days gone by.

     I think we cannot be too simple, nor too plain, nor set out the precious things of God in too clear a light. The little ones of God have very great needs, and must have our special care. These tender herbs are very apt to be dried up; and, yet, being tender, they are not able to drink in a great shower all at once. When I have been travelling, especially in southern France and Italy, I have come upon places where the river has burst its banks, and covered all the land with water: then, instead of blessing the fields, it has swept everything out of them, and buried them in mud, and killed the crops. There is a great difference between irrigation and inundation; and some preachers forget this. A sermon may sometimes act in that fashion to some of God’s dear tender ones; it may be a perfect deluge of doctrine, sweeping up by the roots those feeble plants which are not very deeply rooted in the faith. They shall not perish, but we must avoid everything which has a tendency to destroy even the least of them. We do well to give the tender herbs the water of life little by little. It must be “Line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, and there a little”; for God’s children are like our children, and need little and often, rather than much and seldom. There is a loaf of bread, and there is the child: you want to get that loaf of bread into the child. Well, you must do it by degrees, or else you will never do it at all. You will choke the child, if you attempt to insert too much at a time into his limited store-room. Take the bread, and break it down, and in due time he will appropriate that quartern loaf, and a great many loaves besides; for little children have great appetites. God’s children cannot all of them receive a mass of doctrine all at once, but they have a fine appetite, and if you give them time, they will gradually appropriate, masticate, and inwardly digest all the truth of God so that they will be nourished up thereby, and made to grow. Let every minister of Christ remember this, and patiently instruct his hearers as they are able to bear it.

     And so, dear friends, I will say one thing more upon this point, which is, let every Christian remember this, for every Christian is to try and bring souls to Christ. We are all to be teachers of the gospel, according to our ability; and the way to do it is to be “as the small rain upon the tender herb.” Perhaps, dear friend, you say, “Well, I should be small rain, without any great effort, for I have not much in me.” Just so, but yet that small rain has a way of its own by which it makes up for being so small. How is that, say you? Why, by continuing to fall day after day. Any gardener will tell you that with many hours of small rain there is more done than in a short period with a drenching shower. Constant dropping penetrates, saturates, and abides. Little deeds of kindness win love even more surely than one bounteous act. If you cannot say much of gospel truth at a time, keep on saying a little, and saying it often. If you cannot come out with a waggon-load of grain for an army, feed the barn-door fowls with a handful at a time. If you cannot give the people fulness of doctrine like the profound divines of former ages, you can at least tell out what the Lord has taught you, and then ask him to teach you more.

     As you learn, teach; as you get, give; as you receive, distribute. Be as the small rain upon the tender herb. Do you not think that in trying to bring people to Christ we sometimes try to do too much at once? Rome was not built in a day, nor will a parish be saved in a week. Men do not always receive all the gospel the first time they hear it. To break hearts for Jesus is something like splitting wood: we need to work with wedges that are very small at one end, but increase in size as they are driven in. A few sentences spoken well and fitly may leave an impression where the attempt at once to force religion upon a person may provoke resistance, and so do harm. Be content to drop a word or two to-day, and another word or two to-morrow. Soon you may safely say twice as much, and in a week’s time you may hold a long and distinctly religious conversation. It may soon happen that where the door was rudely shut in your face you will become a welcome visitor, whereas had you forced your way in at first you would have effectually destroyed all future opportunity.

     There is a great deal in speaking at the right moment. We may show our wisdom in not doing, and in not saying, as much as in doing and saying. Time is a great ingredient in success. To speak out of season will show our zeal, but not always our sense. We are to be instant out of season as well as in season, but this does not involve incessant talking. I commend to everyone who would be a winner of souls by personal effort the symbol of our text, “as the small rain upon the tender herb.” The rain is seasonable, and in accordance with its surroundings. The rain does not fall while a burning sun is scorching the plants, or it might kill them; neither is it always falling, or it might injure them. Do not bring in your exhortations when they would be out of place, and do not be incessantly talking even the best of truth, lest you weary with chatter those whom you desire to convince with argument. If you will wait upon the Lord for guidance, he will send you forth when you will be most useful, even as he does the rain. God will direct you as to time and place, if you put yourself at his disposal.

     Thus have I spoken, perhaps, at too great length, upon the first head— Moses meant to be tender.

     II. The second head is, MOSES HOPED TO BE PENETRATING: “as the small rain upon the tender herb.” Now, small rain is meant to enter the herb, so that it may drink in the nourishment and be truly refreshed. The rain is not to drench the herb, and it is not to flood it; it is to feed it, to revive it, to refresh it. This was what Moses aimed at. Beloved, this is what all true preachers of Christ aim at. We long that the word which we speak may enter into the soul of man, may be taken up into the innermost nature, and may produce its own divine result.

     Why is it some people never seem to take in the word, “as the small rain upon the tender herb”? I suppose it is, first, because some of it may be above their understanding. If you hear a sermon, and you do not know at all what the good man is about, how can it benefit you? If the preacher uses the high-class pulpit-language of the day, which is not English, but a sort of English-Latin— produced rather by reading than by conversation with ordinary mortals; why then the hearer usually loses his time, and the preacher his labour.

     One said to me, “If I went to such and such a place I should not want my Bible, but I should need a dictionary, for otherwise I should not know what was meant.” May that never be the case with us! When people cannot understand the meaning of our language, how can we expect that they can drink in the inner sense? I do exhort any hearer here to whom it has not occurred that he must understand the sermon to be benefited by it, to seek out always, both in his hearing and in his reading, that kind of teaching which he can grip and grasp. He will rise to higher things by this means, but he cannot rise by that which never touches him. We cannot feed upon that which is high above and out of our sight. Ballooning in theology is all very fine, but it is of no use to poor souls down here below, who cannot hope to be allowed a place in the car. Tender plants are not refreshed by water which is borne aloft into the clouds, they want it to come down to earth, and moisten their leaves and roots; and if it does not come near them, how can they be refreshed by it? The fountains of Versailles are very grand, but for the little flower-pot in a London window, a cupful from a child’s hand, poured near the root, will suffice.

     Many do not drink in the sacred word because it seems to them too good to be true. This is limiting the goodness of God: God is so good that nothing can be too good to be looked for from him. How many fail to grasp a promise because, while they say it may be true in a sense, they do not receive it in the sense intended by the Spirit of God! They dwarf and diminish the sense, and in the process they evaporate the real meaning, and the word of God becomes of none effect to them. In many an instance, the gospel does no mighty works because of their unbelief. Depend upon it, God’s word is a great word, for he is a great God; and the largest meaning we can find in it is more likely to be true than a smaller one.

     Many persons do not receive the gospel promise to the full because they do not think it is true to them; anybody else may be blessed in that way, but they cannot think it probable that they shall be. Though the gospel is particularly directed to sinners, to such as “labour and are heavy-laden,” and to such as need a Saviour, yet these good folks think, “Surely grace could never reach to us.” Oh, how we lose our labour, and fail to comfort men, because of the unbelief which pretends to be the child of humility, but is really the offspring of pride! The small rain does not get at the tender herb because the herb shrinks from the silver drops which would cherish it.

     No doubt many miss the charming influences of heavenly truth because they do not think enough. How often does the word fail to enrich the heart because it is not thought over! The small rain does not get to the root of the tender herb, for time and opportunity are not allowed to it. O you that would profit by the ministry of the gospel, take this for your golden rule— Hear once, meditate twice, and pray three times! I prescribe to you, as a composition and compound of excellent virtue, that there should be at least twice as much meditating as there should be hearing. Is it not strange that people should think sermons worth hearing, but not worth meditating upon? It is as foolish as if a man thought a joint of meat worth buying, but not worth cooking; for meditation is, as it were, a sorb of holy cookery by which the truth is prepared to be food for the soul. Solomon says: “The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting,” and, verily, there are many of that sort, who hunt after a sermon, and when they have found it they roast it not, they do not prepare it as truth should be prepared ere it can be digested and become spiritual meat. Why get books if you never read, or clothes if you never dress, or carriages if you never ride? Yet any one of these things is more sensible than hearing sermons and never meditating upon them. Do not so, dear brethren, I pray you!

     We are not members of the Society of Friends, although I hope we are friends, and members of a society, but we should try and do after service what they try to do during the service. Let us keep silence, and let the truth sink into us. We should be all the better if occasionally we were famished of words, for too often we are smothered with them. It would be profitable to have the supply of words stopped, that we might get below the language, and look inward at the hidden sense, that we might reach the bowels of truth, and feel its energetic operation upon our heart and soul. We are too often like men who skim over the surface of the soil while there are nuggets of gold just out of sight, which we might readily secure if we would but stop and dig for them. You cannot hope to feel the efficacy of that which is preached, so that it shall be to you as the small rain upon the tender herb, unless you thoughtfully consider it.

     And, once more, we ought to pray that token we hear the word toe may be prepared to receive it: it is of great importance that we should open the doors of our soul to let the gospel enter us. Hospitality to truth is charity to ourselves. Some people sit, while we are preaching, like men in armour, and the gospel bow is drawn with all our force, but the arrow rattles on their mail. It is only now and then that, divinely guided, the arrow finds out a joint in their harness. But the profitable way to hear is to come hither without armour of prejudice, or stubbornness, and lay yourself open to receive the arrow: then will it be “the arrow of the Lord’s deliverance.” Gideon’s fleece became wet with the dew, for it was ready to receive it. Every bit of wool has an aptitude, a sponginess, to suck up dew; and the moisture of the atmosphere fell where it was welcome when it fell on that fleece. The fleece was a nest for the dew-drops to rest in. So let it be with our spirits. I pray God to make it so. “The preparation of the heart in man is from the Lord.” May he so prepare us that, when the doctrine preached shall come to us as the small rain, it may not fall on stones and dead wood, but on growing herbs, which, though tender, will none the less gladly accept the blessed benison of heaven, and return thanks for it.

     III. I shall conclude with this third reflection, that MOSES HOPED TO SEE RESULTS. You may, perhaps, say that you do not see this in the text. Will you kindly look again? “As the small rain upon the tender herb.” Now, observe, in looking about among mankind, that, whenever wise men expect any result from their labours, they always go to work in a manner suited and adapted to the end they have in view. If Moses means that his speech shall bless those whom he compares to tender herbs, he makes it like small rain. I see clearly that he seeks a result, for he adapts his means. There is a kind of trying to do good which I call the “hit-or-miss” style of doing it. Here you are going to do good: you do not consider what method of doing good you are best fitted for, but you aspire to preach, and preach you do. Of course, you must give a sermon, and a sermon you give. There is no consideration about the congregation, and its special condition, nor the peculiar persons composing it, nor what truth will be most likely to impress and benefit. Hit-or-miss, off you go! When a man means to see results, he begins studying means and their adaptation to ends; and if he sees that his people are strong men, and he wants to feed them, well, he does not bring out the milk jug, but he fetches out a dish of strong meat for them. You can see he means to feed his people, for he has great anxiety when preparing their spiritual meat. When a person wants to water plants, and they are tender herbs, if he looks for results he does not drench them: that would look as if he had np real object, but simply went through a piece of routine. Moses meant what he was doing. Finding the people to be comparable to tender herbs, he adapted his speech to them, and made it like the small rain.

     Now, what will be the result if we do the same? Why, brethren, it will come to pass thus: there will be among us young converts like tender herbs, newly planted, and if we speak in tenderness and gentleness we shall see the result, for they will take root in the truth, and grow in it. Paul planted, and then Apollos watered. Why did Apollos wafer? Because you must water plants after you have planted them, that they may the more readily strike into the earth. Happy shall you be, dear friends, if you employ your greater experience in strengthening those whose new life is as yet feeble! You shall have loving honour as nursing fathers, and your wise advice shall be “as the small rain upon the tender herb,” for you shall see the result in the young people taking hold of Christ, and sucking out the precious nutriment stored away in the soil of the covenant, that they may grow thereby.

     Next, when a man’s discourse is like small rain to the tender herb, he sees the weak and perishing one revive and lift up his head. The herb was withering at first, it lay down as you see a newly-planted thing do, faint and ready to die; but the small rain came, and it seemed to say, “Thank you,” and it looked up, and lifted its head, and recovered from its swoon. You will see a reviving effect produced upon faint hearts and desponding minds. You will be a comforter, you will cheer away the fears of many, and make glad the timid and fearful. What a blessing it is when you see that result, for there is so much the more joy in the world, and God is so much the more glorified!

     When you water tender herbs, and see them grow, you have a further reward. It is delightful to watch the development and increase of grace in those who are under our care. This has been an exceedingly sweet pleasure to me. I quote my own instance because I have no doubt it is repeated in many of you. It has been a great delight to me to meet men serving God, and preaching the gospel gloriously, who were once young converts, and needed my fostering care. I know men, deacons of churches, fathers in Israel, that I recollect talking to twenty or twentyfive years ago, when they could not speak a word for Jesus, for they were not assured of their own salvation. I rejoice to see them leaders of the flock, whereas once they were poor, feeble lambs. I carried them in my bosom, and now they might almost carry me. I am glad enough to learn from them, and sit at their feet. It is a great thing for a father to see his boys grow into strong men, upon whom he may lean in his declining days. “Blessed is the man that hath his quiver full of them they were the children of his youth, and they are the comfort and joy of after days. You, dear friends, in your own way, you shall comfort the youngsters who are just seeking the Saviour; and then, in after years, when you hear them preaching, and see them outstripping you in gifts and in graces, you will thank God that you were like the small rain to them when they were very tender herbs!

     Once more, we water plants that we may see them bring forth fruit, and become fit for use. So shall we see those whom God blesses by our means become a joy to the Lord himself, yielding fruits of holiness, patience, and obedience, such as Jesus Christ delights in. His joy is in his people; and when he can rejoice in them, their joy is full. Let us try to be little in our own esteem, that we may be as the small rain. Let us try to be a little useful, if we cannot reach to great things: the small rain is a great blessing. Let us try to be useful to little things. Let us look after tender herbs; let us try to bring to Jesus boys and girls. Let us look after the tender plants of the Lord’s right hand planting, those who are babes in grace, the timid, trembling, half-hoping, half-fearing ones. Let us come down from the seventh heaven to bless this fallen earth. We have been reading about the trumpets, and the “star called Wormwood”: let us come down from those high matters to common-place affairs. Let us quit clouds and skies, and condescend to men of low estate. Let us come down from communing with the philosophers of culture, and the apostles of a new theology, to the ordinary people who live around us, and cannot comprehend these fine fictions. Let us come down to the streets and lanes, and do what we can for the poor, the fallen, the ignorant. Let us go with Jesus, in the gentleness and sweetness of his divine compassion, to the little children in years, and the babes in grace. So shall we be like Moses; so shall we be, better still, like the Lamb of God, to whose name be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

 



The Heart: A Gift for God

By / Dec 11

The Heart: A Gift for God

 

“My son, give me thine heart.”— Proverbs xxiii. 26.

 

THESE are the words of Solomon speaking in the name of wisdom, which wisdom is but another name for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is made of God unto us wisdom. If you ask, “What is the highest wisdom upon the earth?” it is to believe in Jesus Christ whom God has sent— to become his follower and disciple, to trust him and imitate him. It is God, in the person of his dear Son, who says to each one of us, “My son, give me thine heart.” Can we answer, “Lord, I have given thee my heart”? Then we are his sons. Let us cry, “Abba, Father,” and bless the Lord for the high privilege of being his children. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.”

     I. Let us look at this precept, “My son, give me thine heart”; and notice, first, that LOVE PROMPTS THIS REQUEST OF WISDOM.

     Only love seeks after love. If I desire the love of another, it can surely only be because I myself have love toward him. We care not to be loved by those -whom we do not love. It were an embarrassment rather than an advantage to receive love from those to whom we would not return it. When God asks human love, it is because God is love. As the sparks mount toward the sun, the central fire, so ought our love to rise toward God, the central source of all pure and holy love. It is an instance of infinite condescension that God should say, “My son, give me thine heart.” Notice the strange position in which it puts God and man. The usual position is for the creature to say to God, “Give me”; but here the Creator cries to feeble man, “Give me.” The Great Benefactor himself becomes the Petitioner— stands at the door of his own creatures, and asks, not for offerings, nor for words of praise, but for their hearts. Oh, it must be because of the great love of God that he condescends to put himself into such a position; and if we were right-minded, our immediate response would be, “Dost thou seek my heart? Here it is, my Lord.” But, alas! few thus respond, and none do so except those who are, like David, men after God’s own heart. When God says to such, “Seek ye my face,” they answer at once, “Thy face, Lord, will we seek”: but this answer is prompted by divine grace. It can only be love that seeks for love.

     Again, it can only be supreme love which leads wisdom to seek after the heart of such poor things as we are. The best saints are poor things; and as for some of us who are not the best, what poor, poor things we are! How foolish! How slow to learn! Does wisdom seek us for scholars? Then wisdom must be of a most condescending kind. We are so guilty, too. We shall rather disgrace than honour the courts of wisdom if she admits us to her school. Yet she says to each of us, “Give me thy heart. Come and learn of me.” Only love can invite such scholars as we are. I am afraid we shall never do much to glorify God; we have but small parts to begin with, and our position is obscure. Yet, common-place people though we are, God says to each one of us, “My son, give me thine heart.” Only infinite love would come a-wooing to such wretched hearts as ours.

     For what has God to gain? Brothers and sisters, if we did all give our hearts to him, in what respect would he be the greater? If we gave him all we have, would he be the richer? “The silver and the gold are mine,” says he, “and the cattle on a thousand hills. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee.” He is too great for us to make him greater, too good for us to make him better, too glorious for us to make him more illustrious. When he comes a-wooing, and cries, “Give me thine heart,” it must be for our benefit, and not for his own. Surely it is more blessed for us to give than for him to receive. He can gain nothing: we gain everything by the gift. Yet he does gain a son: that is a sweet thought. Everyone that gives God his heart becomes God’s son, and a father esteems his children to be treasures; and I reckon that God sets a higher value upon his children than upon all the works of his hand besides. We see the Great Father’s likeness in the story of the returning prodigal. The father thought more of his returning son than of all that he possessed besides. “It was meet,” said he “that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.” Oh, I tell you, you that do not know the Lord, that if you give your hearts to him you will make him glad! The Eternal Father will be glad to get back his lost son, to press to his bosom a heart warm with affection for him, which heart aforetime had been cold and stony towards him. “My son, give me thine heart,” says he, as if he longed for our love, and could not bear to have children that had forgotten him. Do you not hear him speak? Speak, Spirit of God, and make each one hear thee say, “My son, give me thine heart”!

     You who are sons of God already may take my text as a call to give God your heart anew, for— I do not know how it is— men are wonderfully scarce now; and men with hearts are rare. If preachers had larger hearts, they would move more people to hear them. A sermon preached without love falls flat and dead. We have heard sermons, admirable in composition, and excellent in doctrine, but like that palace which the Empress of Russia built upon the Neva of blocks of ice. Nothing more lustrous, nothing more sharply cut, nothing more charming; but oh, so cold, so very cold! Its very beauty a frost to the soul! “My son,” says God to every preacher, “give me thine heart.” O minister, if thou canst not speak with eloquent tongue, at least let thy heart run over like burning lava from thy lips! Let thy heart be like a Geyser, scalding all that come near thee, permitting none to remain indifferent. You that teach in the school, you that work for God anyhow, do it thoroughly well. “Give me thine heart, my son,” says God. It is one of the first and last qualifications of a good workman for God that he should put his heart into his work. I have heard mistresses tell servants when polishing tables that elbow-grease was a fine thing for such work; and so it is. Hard work is a splendid thing. It will make a way under a river, or through an Alp. Hard work will do almost everything; but in God’s service it must not only be hard work, but hot work. The heart must be on fire. The heart must be set upon its design. Bee how a child cries! Though I am not fond of hearing it, yet I note that some children cry all over: when they want a thing, they cry from the tips of their toes to the last hair of their heads. That is the way to preach, and that is the way to pray, and that is the way to live: the whole man must be heartily engaged in holy work. Love prompts the request of wisdom. God knows that in his service we shall be miserable unless our hearts are fully engaged. Whenever we feel that preaching is heavy work, and Sunday-school teaching after six days’ labour is tiresome, and going round a district with tracts is a terrible task— then we shall do nothing well. Put your heart into your service, and all will be joyful; but not else.

     II. Now, I turn my text another way. WISDOM PERSUADES US TO OBEY THIS LOVING REQUEST. To take our hearts and give them up to God is the wisest thing that we can do. If we have done it before, we had better do it over again, and hand over once more the sacred deposit into those dear hands which will surely keep that which we commit to their guardian care. “My son, give me thine heart.”

     Wisdom prompts us to do it; for, first, many others crave our hearts, and our hearts will surely go one way or other. Let us see to it that they do not go where they will be ruined. I will not read you the next verse, but many a man has lost his heart and soul eternally by the lusts of the flesh. He has perished through “her that lieth in wait as for a prey, and increaseth the transgressors among men.” Happy is that young man whose heart is never defiled with vice! There is no way of being kept from impurity except by giving up the heart to the holy Lord. In a city like this, the most pure-minded are surrounded with innumerable temptations; and many there are that slip with their feet before they are aware of it, being carried away because they have not time to think before the temptation has cast them to the ground. “Therefore, my son,” says wisdom, “give me thine heart. Everybody will try to steal thy heart, therefore leave it in my charge. Then thou needest not fear the fascinations of the strange woman, for I have thy heart, and I will keep it safe unto the day of my appearing.” It is most wise to give Jesus our heart, for seducers will seek after it.

     There is another destroyer of souls. I will not say much about it, but I will just read you what the context saith of it— “Who hath woe? Who hath sorrow? Who hath contentions? Who hath babbling? Who hath wounds without cause? Who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine. They that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things.” Read carefully the rest of the chapter, and then hear the voice of wisdom say, “My son, if thou wouldst be kept from drunkenness and gluttony, from wantonness and chambering, and everything that the heart inclineth to, give me thy heart.”

     It is well to guard your heart with all the apparatus that wisdom can provide. It is well totally to abstain from that which becomes a snare to you: but, I charge you, do not rely upon abstinence, but give your heart to Jesus; for nothing short of true godliness will preserve you from sin so that you shall be presented faultless before his presence with exceeding great joy. As you would wish to preserve an unblemished character, and be found honourable to the end, my son, I charge thee give to Christ thy heart.

     Wisdom urges to immediate decision because it is well to have a heart at once occupied and taken up by Christ. It is an empty heart that the devil enters. You know how the boys always break the windows of empty houses; and the devil throws stones wherever the heart is empty. If you can say to the devil when you are tempted, “You are too late; I have given my heart to Christ, I cannot listen to your overtures, I am affianced to the Saviour by bonds of love that never can be broken,” what a blessed safeguard you have! I know of nothing that can so protect the young man in these perilous days as to be able to sing “O God, my heart is fixed; my heart is fixed! Others may flit to and fro, and seek something to light upon, but my heart is fixed upon thee for ever. I am unable to turn aside through thy sweet grace.” “My son,” says the text, “give me thine heart,” that Christ may dwell there, that when Satan comes, the One who is stronger than the strong man armed may keep his house, and drive the foeman back.

     Give Jesus your hearts, beloved friends, for wisdom bids you do it at once, because it will please God. Have you a friend to whom you wish to make a present? I know what you do: you try to find out what that friend would value, for you say, “I should like to give him what would please him.” Do you want to give God something that is sure to please him? You need not build a church of matchless architecture— I do not know that God cares much about stones and wood. You need not wait till you shall have amassed money to endow a row of almshouses. It is well to bless the poor, but Jesus said that one who gave two mites, which made a farthing, gave more than all the rich men who cast in of their wealth into the treasury. What would God my Father like me to give? He answers, “My son, give me thine heart.” He will be pleased with that, for he himself seeks the gift.

     If there are any here to whom this day is an anniversary of birth, or of marriage, or of some other joyful occasion, let them make a present to God, and give him their hearts. It is wonderful that he should word it so. “My son, give me thine heart.” I should not have dared to say such a thing if he had not said it, but he does put it so. This will please him better than a bullock that hath horns and hoofs, better than smoking incense in the silver censer, better than all you can contrive of art, or purchase by wealth, or design for beauty. “My son, give me thine heart.”

     For notice, again, that if you do not give him your hearty you cannot please him at all. You may give God what you please, but without your heart it is all an abomination to him. To pray without your heart is solemn mockery; to sing without your heart is an empty sound; to give, to teach, to work, without your heart is all an insult to the Most High. You cannot do God any service till you give him your heart. You must begin with this. Then shall your hand and purse give what they will, and your tongue and brain shall give what they can; but first your heart— first your heart— your inmost self— your love— your affection. You must give him your heart, or you give him nothing.

     And does he not deserve it? I am not going to use that argument, because, somehow, if you press a man to give a thing, at last it comes not to be a gift, but a tax. Our consecration to God must be unquestionable in its freeness. Religion is voluntary or else false. If I shall prove that your heart is God’s due, why, then, you will not give, but rather pay as though it were a debt; so I will touch that string very gently, lest, in seeking to bring forth music, I snap the chord. I will put it thus; surely it were well to give a heart for a heart. There was One who came and took human nature on him, and wore a human heart within his bosom, and that human heart was pressed full sore with sorrow till, it is written, that he wept. It was pressed still more with anguish till, it is written, “He sweat, as it were, great drops of blood, falling to the ground.” He was still further overwhelmed with grief, till at last he said, “Reproach hath broken my heart, and I am full of heaviness and then it is written, “One of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.” A heart was given for you, will you not give your heart? I say no more.

     I was about to say that I wished I could bring my Master here to stand on this platform, that you might see him; but I know that faith comes by hearing, not by seeing. Yet would I set him forth evidently crucified among you, and for you. Oh, give him, then, a heart for a heart, and yield yourself up to him! Is there not a sweet whisper in your spirit now that says, “Yield thy heart”? Hearken to that still small voice, and there shall be no need that I speak farther.

     Believe me, beloved friends, there is no getting wisdom except you give your heart to it. There is no understanding the science of Christ crucified, which is the most excellent of all the sciences, without giving your heart to it. Some of you have been trying to be religious. You have been trying to be saved, but you have done it in an off-handed sort of style. “My son, give me thine heart” Wisdom suggests to you that you should do it, for unless your whole heart is thrown into it you will never prosper in it. Certain men never get on in business; they do not like their trade, and so they never prosper. And, certainly, in the matter of religion, no man can ever prosper if he does not love it, if his whole heart is not in it. Some people have just enough religion to make them miserable. If they had none, they would be able to enjoy the world; but they have too much religion to be able to enjoy the world, and yet not enough to enjoy the world to come. Oh, you poor betweenities— you that hang like Mahomet’s coffin, between earth and heaven— you that are like bats, neither birds nor beasts— you that are like a flying fish, that tries to live in the air and water too, and finds enemies in both elements— you that are neither this, nor that, nor the other, strangers in God’s country, and yet not able to make yourselves at home with the devil— I do pity you. Oh, that I could give you a tug to get you to this side of the border-land! My Master bids me compel you to come in; but what can I do except repeat the message of the text? “My son, give me thine heart.” Do not be shilly-shallying any longer. Let your heart go one way or the other. If the devil be worth loving, give him your heart, and serve him; but if Christ be worth loving, give him your heart, and have done with hesitation. Turn over to Jesus once for all. Oh, may his Spirit turn you, and you shall be turned, and his name shall have the praise!

     III. And now I close with the third observation. LET US BE WISE ENOUGH AT ONCE TO ATTEND TO THIS ADMONITION OF WISDOM. Let us now give God our heart. “My son, give me thine heart.”

     When? At once. There is no intimation that God would have us wait a little. I wish that those persons who only mean to wait a little would fix a time when they will leave off waiting. They are always going to be right to-morrow. Which day of the month is that? I have searched the calendar, and cannot find it. I have heard that there is such a thing as the fool’s calendar, and that to-morrow is there; but then, you are not fools, and do not keep such a calendar. To-morrow, tomorrow, to-morrow, to-morrow, to-morrow, to-morrow, to-morrow; it is a raven’s croak of evil omen. To-day, to-day, to-day, to-day, to-day; that is the silver trumpet of salvation, and he that hears it shall live. God grant that we may not for ever be crying out, “to-morrow,” but at once give our hearts to him!

     How? If we attend to this precept, we shall notice that it calls upon us to act freely. “My son, give me thine heart.” Do not need to have it led in fetters. It might, as I have already said, prevent a thing from being a gift if you too pressingly proved that it was due. It is due, but God puts it, as it were, upon free-will for once, and leaves it to free agency. He says, “My son, give me thine heart. All that thou hast from me comes as a gift of free grace; now give me back thy heart freely.” Remember, wherever we speak about the power of grace, we do not mean a physical force, but only such force as may be applied to free agents, and to responsible beings. The Lord begs you not to want to be crushed and pounded into repentance, nor whipped and spurred to holy living. But “My son, give me thine heart.” I have heard that the richest juice of the grape is that which comes with the slightest pressure at the first touch. Oh, to give God our freest love! You know the old proverb that one volunteer is worth two pressed men. We shall all be pressed men in a certain sense; but yet it is written, “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.” May you be willing at once!

     “My son, give me thine heart.” It seems a pity that a man should have to live a long life of sin to learn that sin does not pay. It is a sad case when he comes to God with all his bones broken, and enlists in the divine army after he has spent all his youth in the service of the devil, and has worn himself out. Christ will have him whenever he comes; but how much better it is, while yet you are in the days of your youth, to say, “Here, Lord, I give thee my heart. Constrained by thy sweet love, I yield to thee in the dawn of my being”!

     Now, that is what the text means: give God your heart at once, and do it freely.

     Do it thoroughly. “My son, give me thine heart.” You cannot give Christ a piece of a heart, for a heart that is halved is killed. A heart that has even a little bit taken off is a dead heart. The devil does not mind having half your heart. He is quite satisfied with that, because he is like the woman to whom the child did not belong: he does not mind if it be cut in halves. The true mother of the child said, “Oh, spare the child! Do not divide it;” and so Christ, who is the true Lover of hearts, will not have the heart divided. If it must go one way, and the wrong way, let it go that way: but if it will go the right way, he is ready to accept it, cleanse it, and perfect it, only it must go all together, and not be divided. “Give me thine heart.”

     Did I hear somebody say, “I am willing to give God my heart?” Very well, then, let us look at it practically. Where is it now? You cannot give your heart up till you find out where it is. I knew a man who lost his heart. His wife had not got it, and his children had not got it, and he did not seem as if he had got it himself. “That is odd,” say you. Well, he used to starve himself. He scarcely had enough to eat. His clothes were threadbare. He starved all who were round him. He did not seem to have a heart. A poor woman owed him a little rent. Out she went into the street. He had no heart. A person had fallen back a little in the payment of money that he had lent him. The debtor’s little children were crying for bread. The man did not care who cried for hunger, or what became of the children. He would have his money. He had lost his heart. I never could make out where it was till I went to his house one day, and I saw a huge chest. I think they called it an iron safe: it stood behind the door of an inner room; and when he unlocked it with a heavy key, and the bolts were shot, and the inside was opened, there was a musty, fusty thing within it, as dry and dead as the kernel of a walnut seven years old. It was his heart. If you have locked up your heart in an iron safe, get it out. Get it out as quickly as ever you can. It is a horrible thing to pack up a heart in five-pound notes, or bury it under heaps of silver and gold. Hearts are never healthy when covered up with hard metal. Your gold and silver are cankered if your heart is bound up with them.

     I knew a young lady— I think I know several of that sort now— whose heart I could never see. I could not make out why she was so flighty wardrobe, giddy, frothy, till I discovered that she had kept her heart in a wardrobe. A poor prison for an immortal soul; is it not? You had better fetch it out, before the moth eats it as wool. When our garments become the idols of our hearts, we are such foolish things that we can hardly be said to have hearts at all. Even such foolish hearts as these, it were well to get out of the wardrobe, and give to Christ.

     Where is your heart? I have known some leave it at the public-house, and some in places that I shall not mention, lest the cheek of modesty should crimson. But wherever your heart is, it is in the wrong place if it is not with Christ. Go, fetch it, sir. Bring it here, and give it into the hand of him that bought it.

     But in what state is it? “Ay, there’s the rub.” For, as I told you, that the miser’s heart was musty and fusty, so men’s hearts begin to smell of the places wherein they keep them. Some women’s hearts are mouldy and ragged through their keeping them in the wardrobe. Some men’s hearts are cankered through keeping them among their gold; and some are rotten, through and through, through keeping them steeped in vice. Where is the drunkard’s heart? In what state must it be? Foul and filthy. Still God says, “Give me thine heart.” What! such a thing as that? Yes, did I not tell you that when he asked for your heart it was all for love of you, and not for what he should get out of you: for what is such a heart as yours, my friend, that has been in such a place, and fallen into such a state? Yet, still give it to him, for I will tell you what he will do: he will work wonders for your heart. You have heard of alchemists who took base metal, so they say,, and transmuted it into gold: the Lord will do more than this. “Give me thine heart.” Poor, filthy, defiled, polluted, depraved heart!— give it to him. It is stony now, corrupted now. He will take it, and in those sacred hands of Christ, that heart shall lie, till, in its place you shall see a heart of flesh, pure, clean, heavenly. “Oh,” say you, “I never could make out what to do with my hard heart.” Give it now to Christ, and he will change it. Yield it up to the sweet power of his infinite grace, and he will renew a right spirit within you. God help you to give Jesus your heart, and to do it now!

     There is going to be a collection for the hospitals. Stop, you collectors, till I have said my last word. What are you going to give? I do not mind what you are going to put into the boxes; but I want to pass round an invisible plate, for my Lord. I desire to pass it round to all of you; and please will you say to yourself when you drop your money into the box, “I am going to drop my heart into the invisible collection, and give it up to Jesus. It is all that I can do.” Collectors, pass round the boxes, and thou, O Spirit of God, go from man to man, and take possession of all hearts for Jesus our Lord! Amen.



Song for the Free, and Hope for the Bound

By / Nov 6

Song for the Free, and Hope for the Bound

 

“He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder. Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! For he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder.”— Psalm cvii. 14— 16.

 

MY anxious, prayerful desire this morning is, that some who have been in the condition described in the text may come out of it into full redemption. They have been too long in prison; and now the silver trumpet sounds— liberty to the captives. Jesus has come into the world to break the gate of brass, and to cut the bars of iron in sunder. Oh, that my prayer might be heard for those who are in bondage! I trust that some of those who are now immured in the dungeon of despondency will say “Amen” to my prayer; and if they are praying inside, and we are praying outside, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself comes to open the prison doors, then there will be a Jubilee before long.

     This passage, of course, literally alludes to prisoners held in durance by their fellow-men. What a sad world man has made this earth! With superfluity of naughtiness man has multiplied his Bastilles! As if there were not misery enough to the free, he invents cells and chains! One’s blood boils when standing in those living graves in which tyrants have buried their victims out of sight and hearing! Could the most fierce of wild beasts display such cruelty to their kind as men have shown to men? By the horrors of such imprisonments one must estimate the joy of being set free. To God it is a glory that, in the order of his providence, he often provides a way of escape for the oppressed. Cruel dynasties have been overthrown, tyrants have been hurled from their thrones, and then enlargement has come to those who were straitly shut up. Liberated ones should indeed “praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men.”

     But the various scenes in this Psalm were intended to describe spiritual conditions. The second verse is a key to the whole song: “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.” The deliverance here intended is one which is brought to us by redemption, and comes by the wav of the great sacrifice upon Calvary. We are redeemed with the precious blood of him who surrendered his own liberty for our sakes, and consented to be bound and crucified that he might set us free. My grateful heart seems to hear him saying again, as he did in the garden of Gethsemane, “If ye seek me, let these go their way.” His consenting to be bound brought freedom to all those who put their trust in him.

     I shall endeavour, as God shall help me, to speak of the text spiritually, and we will consider it under the heading of three questions: first, Who are the favoured men of whom the text speaks? Secondly, How has this remarkable deliverance been wrought? Thirdly, What shall be done about it? The text tells us how to act. “Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness!”

     I. First, let us ask: WHO ARE THESE FAVOURED MEN?

     These favoured persons were guilty men, as you will see by the context — “Because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the Most High.” Hear this, ye sinful ones, and take heart! God has wrought great wonders for a people whom it seemed impossible for him to notice. If they came into prison through rebellion, you would expect him to leave them there. Yet rebels are set free by an act of immeasurable grace. The Redeemer has received gifts for men, “yea, for the rebellious also.” These men were despisers of God’s word; was there a gospel of freedom for them? Yes. It is for them that Jehovah, in abounding grace, has wrought miracles of mercy.

     The persons described by the Psalmist were guilty of overt acts: they were in actual rebellion against the commands of the Most High. Their rebellion was not a single hasty act; their entire lives were a continuance of their wicked revolt. From their childhood they went astray; in their youth they provoked the Lord; and in their manhood they disobeyed him more and more. They were in open opposition to their Creator, Benefactor, and Lord. I have no doubt that I am speaking to many who must own that they have been actual and wilful transgressors against the Lord of love. They have turned unto him the back, and not the face: they have not been servants, but rebels.

     The persons here spoken of were as evil in their hearts as in their lives, for they “contemned the counsel of the Most High.” Perhaps they intellectually rejected the teaching of Holy Scripture, and scorned to receive what the Lord revealed. They refused to yield their understandings to infallible teaching; but judged their own thoughts to be better than the thoughts of God. The counsel of the Most High, though marked by the sublimity of him from whom it came, appeared to them to be less high than their own soaring theories; and therefore they despised it. To some men any doctrine is more acceptable than that of Scripture. They gladly hear what doubters say, but they will not hear what God the Lord shall speak. His counsel of instruction, his counsel of command, his counsel of promise— his whole counsel they cast away from them, and they take counsel of their own conceit.

     Now this actual and mental sin, when it is brought home to a man’s awakened conscience, fills him with dismay. Because he has transgressed with hand and heart, the convinced sinner is in sore dismay. O my hearer, are you in distress this day through your own fault? Do you wonder that you are in trouble? Did you expect to go in the way of evil, and yet to be happy? Did you never hear those words, “There is no peace, saith my God, unto the wicked”? Know you not that they are “like the troubled sea when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt”? Now that you find yourself taken in the thorns of your own folly, are you at all surprised? The Scripture saith, “Hast thou not procured this unto thyself?” Are not these the wages of sin? Thank God you have not yet received more than the earnest money of that terrible wage: but, depend upon it, sin is a hard paymaster. Sin and sorrow are wedded in the very nature of things, and there is no dividing them. They that sow iniquity shall reap the same. Turn as it may, the river of wickedness at last falls into the sea of wrath. He that sins must smart unless a Saviour can be found to be his Surety, and to smart for him.

     So, then, these people who were set free were by nature guilty men, who could not have deserved the divine interposition. Hear this, ye consciously guilty, you that are condemning yourselves, and confessing your faults! This is good news for you, even for you. The Lord sets free the men whose own hands have forged their manacles. This is free grace indeed! These marvels of delivering love were performed, not for the innocent in their misfortune, but for the guilty in their rebellion. “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.”

     Go a little further, and you will notice that these persons were doomed men, for they “sat in darkness, and in the shadow of death.” It means that they were in the condemned cell, waiting for execution. No light could come to them, for their condemnation was clear; no escape could be hoped for, not a ray of hope came from any direction. In a short time they must be taken out to execution, so that the shadow of their death fell with its damp, dread, deadening influence upon their spirits. Do I address any such this morning? Ah, my friend, I can sympathize with you as you sit here, and feel that you are doomed! I, too, have felt that sentence of death within me. I knew myself to be “condemned already,” because I had not believed on the Son of God. I recollect how those words “condemned already” rang in my ears, as I should think the bell of St. Sepulchre’s used to sound in the ears of the condemned in Newgate, warning them that the time was come to go out upon the scaffold. When the shadow of eternal wrath falls upon the heart, nothing worse can be imagined; for the conscience bears sure witness that God is just when he judges, condemns, and punishes. When a man feels the shadow of death upon him, infidel arguments are silenced, self-conceited defences are banished, and the heart consents to the justice of the law which declares, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” My brethren, who remember being in this state of conscious condemnation, will join me in praying for those who are now in that condition, for they need our pity and love. O my hearers, condemned in your own consciences, take heart, and hope; for you are the sort of people whom Jehovah in his grace delights to set free! Those doomed ones were the men of whom our text sings, “He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death.” It is your condemned condition which needs free mercy; and, behold, the Lord meets your need in his boundless grace! To the doomed the Lord God in Christ Jesus will give free pardon this morning. I speak with great confidence, for my trust is in the God of love. The Lord is going to hear prayer for you, sinners. You shall be brought from under the black cloud which now threatens you with overwhelming tempest; you shall come forth from the condemned cell, not to execution, but to absolution. Blessed be the name of the Lord, he passeth by transgression, and doth it justly through the atonement of his Son I

     But next, these persons were bound men; for they “sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron.” Their afflictions were like iron, hard and cold, and such they could not break from. The iron entered into their souls; the rust fretted the flesh, and poisoned the blood. They were bound in a double sense: affliction within, and iron without. It is a terrible thing when a man feels that he is lost, and that he cannot get away from destruction. An evil habit has got him within its iron grasp, and will not relax its hold. Even though he would, he cannot loose himself from the thraldom of his sin. He has become a slave, and there is no escape for him. “O my God!” he cries, “what can I do?” The more he strains, the faster the iron seems to hold him. His attempts to be free from evil only prove to him how much enslaved he is. What an awful compound is described in the text— “affliction and iron”! The bondage is mental and physical too. The enslaved spirit and the depraved flesh act and react upon each other, and hold the poor struggling creature as in an iron net. He cannot break off his sins, he cannot rise to a better life. I know that some of you who are here at this time are in this case. You long to be delivered, but you are unable to cut the cords which hold you. You are greatly troubled day after day, and cannot rest; and yet you get no further. You are striving to find peace, but peace does not come; you are labouring after emancipation from evil habits; but the habits hold you still! Friend thus bound, to you I have to tell the glad news that Jesus Christ has come on purpose that he might proclaim the opening of the prisons to them that are bound. “He hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder.” God is able to liberate men from every bond of sin over which they mourn. Wouldst thou be free? He will open the door. There is no habit so inveterate, there is no passion so ferocious, but God can deliver you from it. If you will but trust in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, his grace is a hammer that can break your chains. Let Jesus say, “Loose him, and let him go,” and not even devils can detain you. Christ’s warrant runs over the whole universe; and, if he makes you free, you will be free indeed.

     To advance another step, these persons were weary men; for we read of them, “he brought down their heart with labour.” This does not happen to all in the same degree, but to some of us this labour was exceedingly grinding and exhausting. Our hearts were lofty, and needed bringing down; and the Lord used means to do it. With some, temporal circumstances go wrong: where everything used to prosper, everything appears to be under a blight. From abundance they descend to want. Perhaps the health also begins to give way, and from being strong and hearty men they become sickly and feeble. How often this tames proud spirits! If it be not outward sorrow, it is within that they labour till their heart is brought low. They cannot rest, and yet they try all earthly remedies for ease: they go to the theatre, they sport with gay companions, they laugh, they dance, they plunge into vice; but they cannot shake off the burden of their sin, it will not be removed. As the giraffe, when the lion has leaped upon him, bears his enemy upon his shoulders, and cannot dislodge him even though he rushes across the wilderness like the wind, so the sinner is being devoured by his sin while he madly labours to shake it off. While the unconverted seek to rest themselves, they do but increase their weariness. They labour, ay, labour as in the very fire; but it is labour in vain. In vain do they hasten to every religious service, and attend to every sacred ceremony. In vain do they try to mourn; how can they put feeling into a heart of stone? If they could, they would make their tears for ever flow, and their prayers for ever rise; but, to their horror, they accomplish nothing. The whip of the law sounds, and they must get to their tasks again; but the more they do, the more they are undone. Like one that, having fallen into a slough, sinks all the deeper into the mire through every struggle that he makes, so do they fall lower and lower by their efforts to rise. I understand those awful strugglings of yours, so desperate and yet so unavailing. God is bringing down your heart with labour; but have you not had enough of this? Do you not remember that love-word, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest”? Sweet promise; will you not believe it, and avail yourselves of it? Will you not come to Jesus, and take the rest which he gives? How I wish you would come this very day! I beseech the Holy Spirit to turn you to Jesus. The Lord has come forth with power to draw you, and to bring you away from your weariness unto the sweet rest which remains for the people of God. Poor doves, fly no further; return to your Noah! These of whom we speak at this time were as weary men as ever you can be, but Jesus gave them rest; why should he not give rest to you? Though bad, and banned, and bound, and burdened, there is yet hope; for the Lord can set you free.  

     Again, these persons were downcast men— “they fell down, and there was none to help.” “We cannot go on any longer,” say they, “it is useless to exert ourselves. We cannot escape God’s wrath, and yet we cannot bear it. We are at our wits’ end. There is no use in our trying to be better. We must give it up in despair.” “They fell down this shows that they were quite spent. The captive has been grinding at the mill till he cannot go another round; even the lash cannot make him take another step— he falls in faintness, as though life had gone. So have we known men forced to acknowledge that they are “without strength.” This was always true, but they did not always feel it. Now they have come to this, that, if heaven could be had for one more effort, and hell escaped for one more good work, yet they could not do it. They fall down, and there they lie, a heap of helplessness, dead in trespasses and sins. Where is now the boasted power of their free-will? Now it is to you who have fallen down, even to you, that the word of this salvation is sent. The Lord Jesus delights to lift up those that lie at his feet. He is a great overturner: “He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.” He that flies aloft on the eagle’s wings of pride shall be brought low by the shafts of vengeance; but he that humbles himself to the dust shall be lifted up. He that has fallen down, and lies in the dust at the feet of Jesus, lies on the doorstep of eternal life. The Lord will give power to the weak, and increase strength to those who have no might. I rejoice when I hear any one of you own to his weakness, since the Lord Jesus will now show forth his power in you.

     In fact, these persons were helpless men: “They fell down, and there was none to help.” What a word that is— “None to help”! The proverb says, “God helps those that help themselves.” There is a sort of truth in it; but I venture to cover it with a far greater truth: “God helps those that cannot help themselves.” When there is none to help thee, then God will help thee. “There was none to help”— no priest, no minister, not even a praying wife, or a praying mother, could now do anything; the man felt that human helpers were of no avail. His bed was shorter than that he should stretch himself upon it, and his covering was narrower than that he should wrap himself up in it. Now he saw that there was no balm in Gilead, there was no physician there; and he looked to a higher place than Gilead for balm and medicine. The balm for such a wound as his must come from heaven, for on earth there was “none to help.” This is a fitting epitaph to be placed over the grave of self-righteousness. This also is the death-knell of priestcraft, birthright membership, and sacramentarianism. The conscience sees that there is “none to help.” Is this your case? Then you are the men in whom God will work the marvels of his grace, and bring you out where you shall walk in light and peace.

     There was only one good point about these people— they did at last take to praying: “Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble.” It was not much of a prayer to hear; it was too shrill to be musical; it was too painful to be pleasant. “They cried,” like one in sore anguish: they cried, like a child that has lost its mother; “they cried,” like some poor wounded animal in great pain. Do you tell me that you cry, but that your cry is a very poor one? I know it, and I am glad to hear you say so, for the less you think of your cry the more God will think of it. Do you value yourself according to your prayers? Then your prayers have no value in them. When you think that your prayers are only broken words, and hideous moans, and wretched desires, then you begin to form a right estimate of them, and thus you are on true ground, where the Lord of truth can meet you. “They cried.” Was it any credit to them to cry? Why, no, it was what they were forced to do! They would not have cried to the Lord even then if they could have done anything else. They cried when their hearts had been brought so low that they fell down. It is a good fall when a man falls on his knees. O my dear hearer, whatever else you do, or do not do, are you crying to God in secret for his grace? Then, as surely as the Lord liveth, you shall come out into liberty. A praying man shall never be sent to perdition. There is that about prayer which makes it a token for good, a pledge of blessings on the road, a door of hope in dark hours. Where is the man that cries? Where is the man that prays? That is the man of whom it shall be said, and of others like him, “The Lord brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder.

     May the Lord bless the description which I have given, so that some of you may see yourselves as in a looking-glass, and be encouraged to hope that the Lord will save you as he has saved others like you! If you do see yourself in the text, take home the comfort of it, and make use of it. Do not look at it, and say, “This belongs to somebody else.” You bondaged brother, you self-despairing sinner, you are the man for whom Christ went up to the cross! If you saw a letter directed to yourself, would you not open it? I should think so. The other day a poor woman had a little help sent to her, by a friend, in a letter. She was in great distress, and she went to that very friend begging for a few shillings. “Why,” said the other, “I sent you money yesterday, by an order in a letter!” “Dear, dear!” said the poor woman, “that must be the letter which I put behind the looking-glass!” Just so; and there are lots of people who put God’s letters behind the looking-glass, and fail to make use of the promise which is meant for them. Come, all ye that labour and are heavy-laden, come and taste my Master’s love, yea, take of it freely, and be filled with heavenly rest!

     II. Secondly, may God’s Spirit go with us while we answer the question: How HAS THIS DELIVERANCE BEEN WROUGHT? YOU that have been set free should tell how you were emancipated. Let me tell my story first. It was the gladdest news I ever heard when it was told me that Jesus died in my stead. I sat down in my misery, hopeless of salvation, ready to perish, till they told me that there was One who loved me, and for love of me was content to yield his life for my deliverance. Wonder of wonders, he had actually borne the death penalty for me! They said that the Lord of glory had become man to save men, and that if I trusted him I might know assuredly that he had suffered in my stead, and so had blotted out my sins. I marvelled much as I heard this; but I felt that no one could have invented news so strange. It surpassed all fiction that the offended God should himself take my nature, and in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ should pay my debts, and suffer for my sins, and put those sins away. I heard the blessed tidings— there was some comfort even in hearing it— but I believed it, and clutched at it as for life. Then did I begin to live. I believe that truth to-day: all my hope lies there. If any of you wonder that I show fight for the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ, you may cease to wonder. Would not any one of you stand up for his wife and children? This truth is more to me than wife and children, it is everything to me. I am a damned man to all eternity if Christ did not die for me. I will put it no more softly than that. If my Redeemer has not borne my sins in his own body on the tree, then I shall have to bear them in my own body in the place of endless misery. I have no shade of a hope anywhere but in the sacrifice of Jesus; I cannot, therefore, give up this truth: I had sooner give up my life. I heard that the Son of God had suffered in my stead that I might go free: I believed it, and I said to myself, “Then I have no business to be sitting here in darkness and in the shadow of death.” I shook myself from my lethargy, I arose, and went out of my prison; and as I moved to go out, a light shone round about me, and my fetters fell clanking to the ground. What glorious musical instruments they were! The very things that had galled me so long now brought me joy. I found that the iron gate, which I thought could never be unlocked, opened to me of its own accord. I could not believe that it was true, it seemed too wonderful; I thought I must be dreaming. I very soon knew of a surety that it was I myself. The cold night air blew down the street of my daily care, and I said, “Oh, yes, I am still on earth, and it is true, and I am free from despair, and delivered from the curse!” This is how I came out to liberty: I believed in Jesus my Redeemer. To-day, my dear brothers and sisters here, hundreds of them, would each one tell the story in a different way, but it would come to the same thing.

     Follow me while we go a little into Scriptural detail, and learn from David how the Lord sets free the captives.

     First, our deliverance was wrought by the Lord himself. Listen: “HE brought them out of darkness.” Write that “HE” in capital letters, Mr. Printer. Have you in the house any specially large letters? If so, set up that word in the most prominent type you have:— “HE brought them out of darkness.” Read also the sixteenth verse:— “HE hath broken the gates of brass.” Did the Lord send an angel to liberate us? No; HE came himself in the person of his dear Son. When the Lord Jesus Christ had paid our enormous debt, did he leave us to accept our quittance entirely of our own free will, apart from his grace? Ah, no! the Holy Spirit, came, and made us willing in the day of his power! “HE,” “HE,” “HE” wrought all the work for us, and all our works in us. “HE brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death.” “Oh that men would praise the Lord, for HE hath broken the gates of brass.” It is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. There is no salvation worth the having which has not the hand of the Godhead in it. It needs Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to save a soul. None but the Trinity can deliver a captive soul from the chains of sin and death and hell. Jehovah himself saves us.

     Next, the Lord did it alone— “He hath broken the gates of brass.” Nobody else was there to aid in liberating the prisoner. When our Lord Jesus trod the winepress, he was alone. When the Spirit of God came to work in us eternal life, he wrought alone. Instruments are condescendingly used to convey the word of life, but the life of the word is wholly of God. As to the divine Father, is it not true of “his own will begat he us by the word of truth”? He is the Author of our spiritual life, and he alone. None can share the work of our salvation with him, and none can divide the glory. Ho, you that are captives, are you looking for some man to help you? Remember, I pray you, that there is “none to help.” “Salvation is of the Lord.” Remember that verse, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else;” that is to say, there is none else in the work of salvation except God. O soul, if thou hast to do with Christ Jesus, thou must have him at the beginning, thou must have him in the middle, thou must have him in the end, and thou must have him to fill up every nook and corner from the first to the last. He alone hath done it.

     Note, too, that what he did was done by the Lords own goodness; for the Psalmist says, “Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness!” His goodness took the form of mercy; as it is said m the first verse of this psalm, “O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever!” It must have been mercy, because those whom it blessed were as undeserving as they were miserable. They were guilty, guilty in action, and guilty in thought; they had rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the Most High; yet he came, and set them free. You and I are always wanting to know before we give alms to beggars, “Are they deserving people?” God gives the alms of his grace only to the undeserving. We respond to those who have a claim upon us; God remembers those who have no claim whatever upon him. “Ah,” says one, “but the people did cry!” I know they did; but they did not even do that till he first of all brought down their heart with labour. Prayer is a gift from God as well as an appeal to God. Even prayer for mercy is not a cause, but a result. Grace is at the back of prayer, and at the base of prayer. These prisoners would not have prayed if God had not wrought upon them, and driven and drawn them to pray.

“No sinner can be
Beforehand with thee;
Thy grace is most sovereign,
Most rich, and most free.”

     So it has been with others, and therefore have I hope that it will be so with you, my beloved hearers. In the greatness of his goodness I trust my Lord will come and save you. It is not your goodness, but his goodness, which is the cause of hope: not your merit, but his mercy is his motive for blessing you. How greatly do I rejoice to remember that the Lord delighteth in mercy! It is his joy to pardon sin, and pass by the transgressions of the remnant of his people.

     Note, once again, that while we are describing this great deliverance, we cannot help seeing that the Lord effected it most completely. What did he do? Did he bring them out of darkness? That was to give them light. Yes; but a man that is chained is only a little better off for getting light, for then he can see his chains all the more. Notice what follows— “and out of the shadow of death”: so the Lord gave them life as well as light. That “shadow of death” is gone, it can no longer brood over their darkened spirits. Yes, but when a man has light and life, if he is still in bondage, his life may make him feel his bondage the more vividly, and his light may make him long the more for liberty. But it is added, “and he brake their bands in sunder,” which means liberty. The Lord gave light, life, and liberty— these three things. God does nothing by halves. He does not begin to save, and then say, “I have done enough for you. I must stop midway.” Dear heart, if the Lord comes to your prison, he will not merely light a lamp in your dungeon, though that were something: he will not merely revive your spirit, and give you more life, though that were something; but he will break your chains, and bring you out into the liberty wherewith Christ makes men free. He will finish his emancipating work. Do it, Lord; do it now! Help men to believe in Jesus at this moment!

     There is one more point which I want you to notice very carefully. When the Lord does this, he does this everlastingly. He “brake their bands in sunder.” When a man was set free from prison in the old times when they used iron chains, the smith came, and took the chains off, and then they were hung up upon the walls. Have you never been in ancient prisons, and seen the fetters and manacles hanging up ready for use; ay, for use upon those who have already worn such jewellery before, if they should come that way again? This is not the case here; for he “brake their bauds in sunder.” Note this right well, O child of God, you were once shut up as with gates of brass, and bars of iron, and the devil thinks that one of these days he will get you behind those gates again! But he never will, for the Lord “hath broken the gates of brass.” All the powers of darkness cannot shut us up with broken gates! Satan thinks he will imprison us again; but the bars of iron are cut in sunder. The means of our captivity are no longer available. My mind carries me to a certain scene, and my eye almost beholds it. Behold Samson, the hero of Israel, shut in within the walls of Gaza. The Philistines boast, “Now will he be our captive.” He slept till midnight, and then he arose. He found that he was shut up within the city, and so he went to the gate. That gate was barred and locked; but what mattered it? Israel’s champion bowed his great shoulders down to the gate: he took hold of both the posts, gave a tremendous heave, and in an instant tore up the whole construction from the earth in which it had been firmly placed. “He lifted the doors of the gate of the city, and the two posts, and went away with them, and put them upon his shoulders, and carried them up to the top of a hill that is before Hebron.” See in this thing a symbol of what our Lord Jesus Christ did when he arose from the dead. He carried away all that which held us captive— posts, and bar, and all. “He led captivity captive.”

     When our Lord had led us forth from our prison, he said to himself, “They shall never be shut up again, for now I will make sure work of it,” and therefore he brake the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder. How then can any child of God be shut up within the Gaza of sin again? How shall we be condemned when the Lord hath put away our sin for ever? No, the liberty received is everlasting liberty: we shall not see bondage any more. Oh, dear souls, I do want you to lay hold on this! You doomed and guilty men, you downcast and wearied men, there is everlasting salvation for you; not that which will save you to-day, and will let you go back to your bondage to-morrow; but that which will make you the Lord’s free men for ever! If thou believest that Jesus is the Christ, if thou believest in him to save thee, thou shalt be saved. It is not said half-saved, but saved. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” That cannot admit that we should go to hell. Jesus says, “I give unto my sheep eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” “He hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder.” Lord, help some poor souls to sing this song to-day, and receive at this moment everlasting salvation!

     III. I close with a practical question: WHAT IS TO BE DONE ABOUT THIS? If such people as we have described have been brought into liberty, what is to be done about it? I do not want to tell you what to do, I would have you do it by instinct. Fain would I, like Miriam, take a timbrel, and go first, and bid all the sons and daughters of Israel follow me in this song: “Sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously. He hath brought out his captives, and set his people free.” It naturally suggests itself to the liberated spirit to magnify the Lord. So the Psalmist put it, “Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness!”

     First, then, if the Lord has set any of you free— record it. See how David wrote it down. Write it in your diary; write it so that friends may read it. Say, “The Lord hath done great things for us.”

     When you have recorded it, then praise God. Praise God with all your heart. Praise God every one of you. Praise God every day. When you have praised God yourselves, then entreat others to join with you. The oratorio of God’s praise needs a full choir. I remember, years ago, a bill connected with a religious service of a very pretentious character, and on this bill it promised that the Hallelujah Chorus should be sung before the sermon. The friend who led the singing for me at that time came in to me, and asked if I could spare him. “See here,” said he, “a person has come from the service which has been advertised to say that they have nobody to sing the Hallelujah Chorus. The minister wants me to go down and do it.” I answered, “Yes; by all means go. If you can sing the Hallelujah Chorus alone, don’t throw yourself away on me.” Then we smiled, and at last broke out into a laugh; it was too much for our gravity. Surely for a man to think that he can sufficiently praise God alone is much like attempting to sing the Hallelujah Chorus as a solo. The Psalmist therefore utters that great “Oh!” “Oh that men would praise the Lord!” I do not think he said “men,” for the word “men” is in italics: the translators are accountable for it. He means: Oh that angels, oh that cherubim and seraphim would praise the Lord! Oh that all creatures that have breath would praise the Lord for his goodness! Even that would not be enough, but let the mountains and the hills break forth before him into singing, and let all the trees of the wood clap their hands. Let the sea roar and the fulness thereof, the world and they that dwell therein. With a great “Oh!” with a mighty sigh over the holy business, which was far too great for himself, David felt moved to call upon all others to praise the Lord.

     I close with that; my brothers, my sisters, you that have been saved, praise God! Praise him with the blessings he has lavished on you. I described them in three ways. With your light praise him: the more you know, the more you see, the more you understand, turn it all into praise. Next, with your life praise him— with your physical life, with your mental life, with your spiritual life: with life of every sort even unto eternal life praise the Lord. Liberty has been given us; let our freedom praise him. Be like that man who was made straight, who went out of the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. God has made you free, feel free to praise him: and if men will not give you leave to praise, take French leave; yea, take heavenly leave, and praise God anywhere and everywhere. Hark! how they sing the songs of Bacchus and of Venus in the streets, and even wake us up in the night: why may not we sing God’s praises in the same public fashion? We must praise him! We will praise him! We do praise him! We shall praise him for ever and ever!

     Praise him with the heart he has changed, with the lips he has loosed, with the lives he has spared. A little while ago you could not speak a cheerful word, but now you can rejoice in God. Let those lips, from which he has taken the muzzle of dumb despair, be opened in his praise. Praise him with all the talents he has lent you. If you have any power of thought, if you have any fluency of speech, praise him. If you have any voice of song, praise him. If you have health and strength, praise him. Let every limb of your body praise him: those members which were servants of sin, let them be instruments of righteousness unto God. Praise him with your substance. Let your gold and silver, ay, and your bronze, praise him. Praise him with all that you have, and with ail that you are, and with all that you hope to be. Lay your all upon the altar. Make a whole burnt-offering of it. Praise him with all the influence you have. If he has delivered you from the shadow of death, let your shadow, like that of Peter, become the instrument of God’s healing power to others. Teach others to praise God. Influence them by your example. Fill your house with music from top to bottom; perfume every room with the fragrance of living devotion. Make your houses belfries, and be yourselves the bells for ever ringing out the loud praises of the Lamb of God. He bore your sins, bear you his praises. He died for you, therefore live for him. He has heard your prayers, let him hear your praises. Let us together sing “Hallelujah to God and the Lamb.” Let us stand upon our feet, and with one voice and heart let us sing:

“Praise God, from whom all blessings flow,
Praise him all creatures here below,
Praise him above, ye heavenly host,
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”



Driving Away the Vultures from the Sacrifice

By / Nov 3

Driving Away the Vultures from the Sacrifice

 

“And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away.”— Genesis xv. 11.

 

ABRAHAM, when he was childless, received the amazing promise that his seed should be as the stars of heaven for number. This he believed, and his faith in Jehovah “was counted unto him for righteousness.” Surely there is more righteousness in trusting the Lord than in all the works of the flesh! Those who speak lightly of faith are of a different mind from the Lord, whose judgment is according to truth.

     For the confirmation of the patriarch’s faith the Lord resolved to give to his servant a gracious visitation which should be regarded as the solemn making of a covenant, and also as a prophecy of the future history of the promised seed. Abram was bidden to bring victims: a heifer, a she-goat, a ram, a turtle-dove, and a pigeon. The language is peculiar: “The Lord said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old;” and then in the next verse we read, “And he took unto him all these.” Thus God and his servant each took part in the sacrifice; and so they set forth in symbol the communion which the Lord God has with his people in the covenant of grace, as they meet together in that one great Sacrifice of our Lord Jesus, which is the soul and essence of all the outward offerings. It was an offering taken for God which the Lord accepted, but it was, also, an offering taken unto himself by Abraham, who saw Christ’s day— saw it, and was glad.

     The man of God obeyed the command of God with great exactness and deliberation, laying the pieces of the sacrifice in due order, and then waiting upon God until he should be pleased further to reveal himself. But what is this? The solemn service is disturbed by foul birds. The most intense devotion is liable to interruptions of the worst sort. In the East, if a camel falls dead in the lone desert, the air is almost immediately full of winged things. Vultures that had not been visible before, not so much as one of them, will suddenly appear, as if by magic, coming from every quarter and circling over the carcase. “Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.” These and smaller carnivorous birds are the scavengers of warm countries, and do not long allow any flesh to remain undevoured. So, doubtless, when the victims presented by the patriarch Abram were laid upon the altar, they spied the bodies from afar, and hastened to the prey. It was nothing to the vultures whether they were victims slaughtered for God, or creatures that had fallen dead on the plain, for true to their instinct they discovered the carcases and flew to them, even as Job said of the eagle, “Where the slain are, there is she.” Flights of buzzards, and kites, and carrion-crows, began to make their appearance in the sky, and they would have swooped down upon the sacrifices and defiled them, or borne them away piece-meal, if the patriarch, who had presented the sacrifices, had not kept watch at the altar. This he did right earnestly and vigorously, so that we read in the text, “When the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away.” When we meet with God, we must be serious and resolute in his worship; and if difficulties arise, we must encounter them with all our might, resolving that we will offer to God a sacrifice which shall not be torn in pieces by distracting influences.

     Observe, that Abram, when he had done as God had told him, and had brought the victims, and laid them in their places, did not go home in a hurry, and say, “It is near sundown, Sarah will expect me in the tent.” No, he remained by the sacrifice. He did not grudge the time, nor feel a sense of weariness; but he loved the worship of God, and therefore lingered at the altar till the sun was going down. Nothing is to be hurried in devotion; never is haste more out of place than in divine worship. The habit of quiet waiting upon God, of never being in a hurry to be gone, the willingness to give time and thought to the service of God, is not so common as one could wish. But when a man is thoroughly devout, and God’s Spirit has spoken with him, he is not satisfied merely to give the allotted time to divine service or to private devotion, he is loth to be gone. He would be first in at the house of the Lord, and last out of it. He can tarry the Lord’s leisure and not grow impatient, even if, hour after hour, the converse be not closed. The longer the better when God is near us. And if the blessing seems far away, and it does not come on a sudden, the gracious worshipper waits until it does come, for he would not go away without the benediction of the Lord.

     When we are serving the Lord, our holy anxiety must not abate till we are fairly through with the service. Abram had laid the victims on the altar, but as yet no fire from heaven had consumed them, and so he remained on the spot to see that all was well to the end. The servant of the Lord does not quit his place till he has seen the matter through. For fear that all should yet be spoiled he sets himself to watch. When, therefore, the kites and carrion-crows come down, the waiting patriarch is there to meet them. Had he gone away in haste to attend to his ordinary duties, the sacrifice had been stolen, or polluted. But he waits, and does well in waiting. My soul, wait thou only upon God, even as a maid waiteth on her mistress! Watch and pray, and watch still. “Blessed are all they that wait for him.” They that can be at leisure with God, who do not hurry over what they have to do, and who feel that their time is God’s time, these are the true sons of Abraham. If any worldly business would hurry them away, they will not permit it; they give men the cold, shoulder rather than rob their Lord, and rob themselves, by hasty worship. Till their appointment with God is over, they are at no man’s call. They cannot break up their interview with God, but must tarry and wait his utmost time. Lest anything unforeseen should happen and spoil their service, they will wait till the sun goes down; and even when sleep overtakes them, they will be where the Lord will meet with them in the night-watches if so he shall favour them. It is wise never to leave our devotions till God himself has pronounced the dismission by a benediction, has given the blessing to the full, and so has bidden his servants go in peace.

     I think that this staying of Abram to defend the sacrifice when the ravenous birds came down upon it may be used as a lesson to us in three respects. First, let us zealously guard the great Sacrifice of Christ When the foul birds, which are so numerous, especially just now, come down upon the sacrifice, let us drive them away. Secondly, let us guard that minor sacrifice, the grateful sacrifice of ourselves. When the birds of temptation come down upon it, let us drive them away. Thirdly, let us anxiously guard those separate sacrifices of devotion which come out of our dedicated lives. When anything comes down to disturb us in prayer or praise, let us resolve that we will drive it away. Oh that the Spirit of all grace may bless this discourse to us, that we may thereby be excited to holy watchfulness!

     I. First, with regard to THE GREAT SACRIFICE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. This has been, and always will be, the great object of attack by the enemies of God. One would have said, if one had not known human nature, that the doctrine of the substitutionary Sacrifice, Christ dying in our stead, would, at all events, have commanded the loving confidence of every human heart. It is so wonderful a system, this plan by which justice is vindicated and mercy is magnified, that one instinctively expects all men reverently to accept it. It would seem too grave a charge to bring against our apostate race that they would set to work to cavil at the divine expedient, and so pick holes in their own salvation, and try to contradict the kindest hope that God himself could set before them. But so it has been. The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness. It is still to the Jews a stumblingblock, and to the Greeks foolishness, though it be indeed the power of God, and the wisdom of God. It has happened according to the Word of the Lord, “Behold I lay in Sion a stumbling-stone and rock of offence.” Therefore, dear friends, all of you who by faith approach the Sacrifice of our Lord Jesus, and who base your hopes of heaven thereon, watch lest the vultures come down upon the Sacrifice, and be ready to drive them away.

     Note well, that the sacrifice which Abram guarded was of divine ordination. Jehovah himself had told him what creatures to kill, and how to divide them, and how to arrange the pieces upon the altar. He did nothing according to his own invention; he offered no will-worship; but he did everything as it was prescribed to him. Because this sacrifice was divinely appointed, he could not bear that kites and crows should peck at it, and tear it at their pleasure. It is even so with the Sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ: my blood boils that so many men should dare to assail that which the Lord Jehovah has appointed. It was God who devised the plan; it was God who gave his Son out of his own bosom to die; it is God himself who has commended that plan to our hearts, and made us put our trust in his great Sacrifice. Oh, it brings the tears into our eyes, and the blood into our cheeks, that any should trample on the precious blood, and speak ill of the vicarious sufferings of Christ! Whoever the men may be, yea, though they were angels from heaven, we could not have patience with them. We cannot help regarding those as worse than carrion-crows who would desire to touch this sublimest though simplest of all doctrines, that Jesus Christ bore our sins in his own body on the tree. They dare to say that it is immoral to suppose that our sin could be transferred to Christ, or his righteousness to us. Thus, to charge the essential act of grace with immorality, is to profane the sacrifice of God, and count the blood of Jesus an unholy thing. It is not for us to speak sweetly of those who deal scurvily with Christ. If they be enemies of Christ, our Sacrifice, they cannot be friends of ours. We shake the dust from our feet against those who reject the doctrine of a crucified Saviour, slain in the sinner’s stead. They are no brethren of ours who reject the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. We are anxious to drive off those who peck at our Lord’s substitutionary Sacrifice, because that Sacrifice is of divine appointment.

     Next, we see a further reason for guarding the Sacrifice in the fact that it is of most solemn import. That sacrifice was so to Abram. It meant, you know, a covenant. The sacrifice, as Abram had presented it at God’s appointing, was the token of his being brought into covenant relationship with God. Now, to my mind, it is one of the most delightful truths of Scripture, though so much neglected, that God’s people are in covenant with God, by a covenant of grace. An old Scotch theologian was wont to say that he who understood the two covenants, understood the whole science of theology, and I believe it is so. The very pith of the whole business lies in that broken covenant of works by which we are ruined, and in that everlasting covenant of grace, ordered in all things and sure, by which we are saved. The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ is the “blood of the everlasting covenant,” even as he says to us at the communion table, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” If you take his Sacrifice away, of course you take the covenant away. Those who deny the vicarious Sacrifice have no faith in the covenant; in fact, they never speak of such a thing, but place it among the obsolete terms which their forefathers used, but which they themselves have altogether renounced. From their teaching the covenant is gone, and when that is gone, my brethren, what is left? If the covenant is forgotten, what remains to be our support when, like David, we come to our dying beds? Alas for us if we cannot then exclaim, “Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure”! We cannot let the vultures tear this Sacrifice, for it is to us the token of the covenant; and if there be no covenant of grace, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain, and we are still under the curse of the broken law. If ye are still out of covenant with God, what hope, what safety, what peace, what joy is there for you? Away, ye kites, who are hovering over the Sacrifice with ill intent! Ye may pretend to be harmless as doves, but we cannot allow you to profane the covenant, and peck at the Sacrifice.

     And, next, we must guard this Sacrifice, because there God most fully displays his grace. It was at the place of the sacrifice which Abram had offered that God was pleased to come and reveal himself to the patriarch as he had not done before. “And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram.” The place of sacrifice is the place of revelation. Where the blood is shed there grace is manifested. If you would see God in the wilderness, you must go to the place where the sacrifices were offered, for the place of sacrifice was the place where God met his people. The mercy-seat where God displayed his grace to men was sprinkled with the blood. It must be always so. God cannot meet with sinful men except in him who is the one Mediator between God and man, whose Sacrifice hath reconciled us unto himself. “Without shedding of blood there is no remission,” and without remission there is no fellowship. Therefore, as we love the mercy of God, we must contend for the Sacrifice of Christ, and we must not bear that it should be ignored, much less that it should be decried. True religion is gone when the vicarious work of Jesus is questioned. In the forefront of all preaching must be the cross. “In this sign we conquer,” as Constantine saw in his dream. There is no conquest over human hearts except by the story of the death of Jesus for the sins of men. Deprive us of the Sacrifice, and behold an army which has lost both its banners and its weapons of war. The gates of hope are closed against the guilty when the atonement is denied. The windows through which light should come to the penitent are sealed against a single beam of hope when once you take away the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore will we drive away the ravenous birds as long as we have a hand to move. As we love the souls of men, we will spend our last breath in the defence of our Lord’s substitution. Can we bear to see man’s last refuge taken away? God forbid! Away, ye evil birds! The heroes of old chased the harpies from their feasts, much more would we drive you from the altar of our God.

     We will do this all the more because, as I have said to you before, this is the chief point of attack. Every doctrine of revelation has been assailed, but the order of battle passed by the black prince at this hour runs as follows:— “Fight neither with small nor great, save only with the crucified King of Israel.” If they can carry the bastion of substitution, if they can throw down the great truth of atonement, then all the rest will go, as a matter of course. The cross taken away, indeed, there is nothing left worth defending. If the ark of the Lord is taken, what remains to Israel? Write ye Ichahod, for the glory has departed. Therefore let us gather up our strength, that we may vigorously chase the vultures from the altar of the living God.

     “How are we to do it?” says one. Well, we can all of us help in this struggle. First, by a constant, immovable faith in Jesus Christ our crucified Saviour for ourselves. Oh, rest in him, my beloved! Rest in his great Sacrifice every day more; rest more intelligently, more happily, more implicitly in that finished work of his which he has wrought out for all his people. Looking unto Jesus; coming unto Jesus; resting in Jesus; following Jesus: let that be a complete description of your lives. Every day let your own heart be more united to the Well-beloved Bridegroom; love him best of all as you see him arrayed in wounds and bloody sweat. Are not these his choicest ornaments? I am sure your hearts are never so stirred with holy feeling as when you dwell at Calvary, and behold the Surety of the covenant dying for you. Think more and more of him who loved you to the death, and thereby redeemed you from the death which your own sins deserved. Sing ye to a grave, sweet melody—

“The ever-blessed Son of God
Went up to Calvary for me;
There paid my debt, there bore my load
In his own body on the tree.”

     Let your own confidence be strong, and then very frequently make an open declaration of your faith in the atoning Sacrifice. I say “very frequently,” for I think the oblation of our confession of Christ should be presented continually in these days. The more frequently we bring forward the truth of the atonement the better, when so many are covering it, cavilling at it, or contradicting it. Many of our Nonconformist churches are accustomed to have a communion once a month, and think that quite often enough: it may be so; but we delight to bring before the eyes of men on every first day of the week the tokens of the Redeemer’s Sacrifice. The tokens are not objects of superstitious reverence to us, but yet they are very dear, as sweetly reminding us of his body broken for our sake, and his blood poured forth for our redemption. As long as that ordinance is observed, there will be a memorial of Christ’s death of the most instructive and impressive kind. But whether you can use the emblems or not, declare the truth itself. Let your conversation be full of Christ crucified; and if there be any question anywhere about this matter, take your stand, and let all know that you have seen that Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. On this point there can be no difference among really regenerate men. This is one of the dividers of the chaff from the wheat. This great magnet will not draw to itself any but the metal which is akin to itself. Take you care that there be no hesitancy about this truth. When the birds come down upon the Sacrifice, let your childlike faith in Christ, and your clear statement of the truth about him, help to drive them away. Those who are not in love with the doctrine will not long court your company. To some of us it is felt to be a duty to make as bold a defence as we can of this imperishable truth, and we would, if we knew of still plainer words, use them constantly.

     “God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Stand ye fast, each man in his place, in the defence of this central truth of our most blessed faith, and be prepared, for the sake of this, to endure all things from the adversary. Abram was an old man; and a vulture, and especially a dozen vultures, eager for their prey, are not easy to deal with; they are very ugly customers, they show no respect for the sacrifice, and certainly not for those who would prevent them from dishonouring the sacrifice. Angry, and resolute, and free from every principle of reverence, nothing is finer play to them than to tear the great sacrifice of God. If we come in their way, they will aim at our eyes, and tear our faces, and our hands. Let them come on, we are prepared for their worst onslaughts. Be you ready to endure anything for the sake of the doctrine of a crucified Saviour, made sin for us though he knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him; made a curse for us, as it is written, “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” The day shall come when he shall count himself most blessed who died for Christ, and earned the ruby crown of those who spilt their blood for his dear sake. Let us emulate them by being willing to sacrifice character, and friendship, and position, and all else, so that we may stand forth unquestionably clear upon this glorious truth, this article by which a church stands or falls. As churches receive it, they stand; as they reject it, they are outside the pale of the true household of faith. “When the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away.” To this work let us give ourselves till the sun goes down, and we fall asleep to behold the vision of God.

     II. But now, coming, perhaps, closer home to some of you dear friends, let us apply this example of Abram to ourselves in the matter of THE GRATEFUL SACRIFICE OF OUR LIVES. It is our reasonable service, that we present ourselves a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God by our Lord Jesus Christ, and we must guard our consecration against the temptations which will assail it.

     I am addressing to-night many of you who feel that you have entered into covenant with God by Jesus Christ. You are henceforth and for ever Jehovah’s covenanted ones, and in consequence of that covenant, through the Sacrifice of Christ, you have become the Lord’s. Remember last Sunday night the text which finished, “And thou becamest mine.” There was a sweet ring about those words to my ears, “Thou becamest mine.” “Ye are not your own, ye are bought with a price.” You know the sneer about the “mercantile atonement,” but oh, I love the word “bought and, as if to make it more mercantile still, the Holy Ghost has worded it even more plainly, “bought with a price.” We take all those reproaches about the mercantile theory into our bosom, and hide them there, as greater riches than the treasures of philosophy. We are not ashamed of the Words of God himself. And now, henceforth beloved, we do confess that we belong wholly to Christ, from the crown of our head to the sole of our foot: body, soul, and spirit; time, talent, thought, substance, all that we are, and all that we have. We have been “bought with a price,” and henceforth we put in no claim to ourselves, for we belong absolutely to the Lord that bought us. Now, now the vultures will come! The carrion-crows and kites will from afar behold this sacrifice, and they will hasten to the prey. You do not see them to-night, perhaps. No, but the traveller does not see these evil fowls, till all of a sudden the sky seems darkened with them. The horrid, hideous creatures come like lightning for rapidity, and they are hungry as death when they arrive on the scene. You that are consecrated to God may expect that, though you do not see them, there are vultures looking down upon the sacrifice, and you must be prepared to drive them away.

     “What sort of vultures will there be?” says one. Well, there will come doubts as to eternal things. There will be questions about your own wisdom in giving yourself up to God. I hope you have been strangers to such birds of prey, but some of us have not been: doubts as to whether there be a God to serve; doubts as to whether there be a heaven, an eternal future, a blessed reward; doubts as to whether it is well to give up this world for the next, or not. Drive them away, brethren! Drive them away! When the birds come down upon the sacrifice, drive them away, as he did who had all the riches of Egypt offered to him, yet “endured, as seeing him who is invisible.” This is what you and I must do: feel that it is but common-sense, sanctified common-sense, to be looking out for that which will endure for ever, and to let these temporary things go, if it be needful that they go, that we may win the crown that fadeth not away.

     Possibly there will come to some of you younger folks fond dreams of ambition. Now you are content to be a Christian; satisfied to mix with poor people in holy service; quite pleased at an opportunity of teaching in a ragged-school. Ah! but there may come a moment when Satan will show you the kingdoms of this world, and he will say, “All these will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me and you may feel as if the service of Christ was not, after all, very respectable; that you could do better in the world; find choicer company, enter more select society. But drive, drive these carrion-crows away, my brothers and sisters; there cannot be anything comparable in the world to the service of God; there cannot be anything so worthy of your noblest manhood as to be truly the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. When these fowls come down upon the sacrifice, drive them away.

     Another wretched sort of black crows, however, assails men more frequently: they come in the form of the cares of life— the care of getting bread, the hardness of labour. Many a man has said, “Well now, I have many children, and I work hard, and I am poor; surely I must not seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness ;” and straightway he begins to neglect the assembling of himself together with God’s people, and he thinks that he must spend a part of the Sabbath in labour, and times that he used to spend in prayer are given up to meaner employment. But oh! if ever a man ought to cling to Christ more than at any other time, it is when he is poor. You that are burdened with cares, you are the people who want Christ most of all. If a man lived in a palace, and had no Christ to go to, I would call him a miserable being; but if you have to toil without the comforts of this life, so much the more reason that you should enjoy those eternal compensations which can help you to bear up in your struggle. Oh, let not, I pray you, the cares of this life take you from Christ! Live for him; you cannot live without him: do not try it. The heavier your difficulties, the more grace you need. Cling you all the more closely to your Lord when troubles come. When the birds come down upon the sacrifice— those carking cares, and wearinesses, and troubles of life— drive them away.

     Perhaps I may be speaking to certain consecrated men and women, who have met with other horridly filthy fowls. Of course, you never saw vultures in their native state; if you did see them once, you would never want to see them again: they are such loathsome creatures. Bat there will come to godly men, sometimes, temptations to sin. The purest have been tempted to impurity; the most devout have been tempted to blaspheme; men full of integrity have been tempted to dishonesty, and the most truthful to falsehood. We cannot tell what we may be tempted to do. But here is our one business with these vultures: let us drive them away. You cannot help birds flying over your heads in the air, but do not let them alight, and build their nests in your hair. Temptations will come, but do not entertain them. Drive them away. Give the vultures the quarter-staff; make these horrible creatures feel that you cannot and will not permit them to take up a lodging anywhere near you. Abram drove them away, he would have no parley with them. He threw his staff at them, shouted at them, struck at them, and drove them away. God help us to do so with, every foul temptation!

     But there is a nasty, sleepy kind of vulture, called idleness; one of the vultures that sit and sleep by the hour together— and I think I have seen them about here sometimes. This vulture comes to some good men, who say they belong to Christ, but that question we must leave to their own consciences. It is a sleepy vulture, and they say that “they think they have laboured long enough.” They used to be in the Sunday-school when they were younger, but they are now weary of such constant toil. They used to be very earnest in the front rank, but now their position seems to be to sit in an arm-chair, and look at the battle, and see how other people fight. I have been slenderly cheered lately by a large number of brethren who have greatly sympathized with me, and helped me to fight the Lord’s battles by bravely looking on. They remind me of Mr. Gough’s story of Betty and the bear. She beat the bear with her broom with all her might, and her brave husband, who had climbed a ladder into the loft, helped her grandly by bidding her hit the bear harder and harder, while he looked on. I hope I may yet receive worthier help than this. Let us all be up and doing, and take our full share of the warfare. I exhort you, if the vulture of indolence comes your way, to drive it away. A nasty, dirty creature it is, after all, if it makes a man of God who is capable of Christian service, to a high degree, sit still, fold his arms, and say, “There is nothing more for me to do.”

     One vulture, too, that wants to be driven away, is that of measuring yourselves with other people. Some judge that they do all that is expected of them if they copy other people. Their guinea is always put underneath somebody else’s guinea. If they gave ten, it would not be too much for them; but still they are satisfied as long as they do as well as other people. Let us get out of tins. If we are only going to be what other people are, we shall run great risks of being unprofitable servants. “Comparing themselves among themselves,” says the apostle, “they are not wise.” I will neither stand in another man’s shoes at the day of judgment, nor to-day; for, though I very frequently feel as though I were surer of any other man’s salvation than my own, yet at no time would I dare to run the risk of changing with any one, for I do know something about myself, but I know nothing of any other man’s heart. Let no one make another man his measure and standard. I pray you not to do so, for if you do, it will be a vulture that will defile your sacrifice. The man who can live most completely to God shall be the happiest man even in this life. He, whose heart’s desire is only to spend and be spent for Christ, shall find that he will win a peaceful state of heart; and this is a foreshadowing of heaven. I mean not that we should seek to win this poor and paltry world, which God has purposely put under our feet, but I mean that the meek “inherit the earth” in the highest and truest sense. He shall have the most of real happiness who is willing to lose happiness and lose everything so that he may win Christ, and be found in him, not having his own righteousness, which is of the law, but the righteousness which is of God by faith. Therefore, when any of the ravenous fowls of evil come down upon your life’s sacrifice, drive them away.

     III. And so I must close with only a few sentences upon this last point: Guard ALL THE SACRIFICES OF YOUR DEVOTION. When the fowls come down upon your sacrifices of prayer, and praise, and meditation, drive them away. Have you noticed that if all day long there is not a knock at the door, there will be one if you retire to pray? It is wise to do as the Saviour says, “Enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut to the door, pray to thy Father that seeth in secret.” That shutting of the door means that we are to seek secrecy, and to prevent interruption. A little boy, who was accustomed to spend a time every day in prayer, went up into a hayloft, and when he climbed into the hayloft, he always pulled the ladder up after him. Someone asked him why he did so. He answered, “As there is no door, I pull up the ladder.” Oh, that we could always in some way cut the connection between our soul and the intruding things which lurk below! There is a story told of me and of some person, I never knew who it was, who desired to see me on a Saturday night, when I had shut myself up to make ready for the Sabbath. He was very great and important, and so the maid came to say that some one desired to see me. I bade her say that it was my rule to see no one at that time. Then he was more important and impressive still, and said, “Tell Mr. Spurgeon that a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ desires to see him immediately.” The frightened servant brought the message; but the sender gained little by it, for my answer was, “Tell him I am busy with his Master, and cannot see servants now.” Sometimes you must use strong measures. Did not our Lord tell his messengers, on one occasion, to salute no man by the way? Courtesy must give place to devotion. It is incumbent on you that you should be alone with your Lord, and if intruders force an entrance, they must be sent about their business.

     Alas! if you send men and women away, still evil birds will not be so dismissed. Wandering thoughts and inward troubles— how shall these be chased away? That door must be well listed which keeps the devil out. He comes in at the smallest opening, for he is a serpent, and serpents get in where other creatures cannot; they have a wriggling way with them. Satan will twist himself in to us when we hope we are beyond his reach. Drive him away, brother! He will go if you resist him. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” He will not stand fire if you are determined to have a shot at him. As to vain thoughts which harass and distract you, seriously determine that you will drive them away. All your thoughts of sorrow, dismiss them at the mercy-seat. As for all business thoughts, do not entertain them. Say what Abraham said to the servants, “Abide here whilst I go and worship God yonder.” Tell the world, “So far may you come, but no farther— I must, I will keep my sacrifice of praise and prayer before the Lord.” Sir Thomas Abney had been accustomed to have family prayer at a certain time. He was made Lord Mayor of London. His hour of family prayer being sometime about the time of the banquet, he begged to be excused for a little, for he had an urgent engagement with a special friend. He then went and called his family together, to meet with God in prayer. Do the same; if even a banquet should come down upon you, quit the table for the altar, and your guests for your God. When our time for prayer draws near, if all the twelve apostles were to preach in our street, we ought not to give up our private prayer for the sake of hearing them all. When the birds come down upon the sacrifice, drive them away, however fine they may look: drive off the golden eagles as well as the crows. This will require great watchfulness. Cast yourselves upon the power of the Holy Spirit. He alone can help us, even with our infirmities, much more with our distractions. Let us cry to him, that his divine overshadowing may be both shield and great reward to us while we attempt to draw near to God in private worship.

     Now, my dear hearers, I will keep you no longer, except to say this: those of you who came here to-night to hear the Word, I pray you do not go away without a blessing. Something or other has happened, perhaps, to distract you; drive it away. The Sacrifice of Christ is the thing you have to look to. Look unto the Lord Jesus, and be saved; and if anything comes between you and his atoning death, drive it away. Come to-night to Jesus. Why should it not be? It is the last time the preacher will be here on Thursday nights for a little while. Did he not ask for a closing and crowning blessing? It will be realized to the full if you are saved to-night. You can be saved, you shall be saved if you look to Jesus, the great Sin-offering. Give yourselves up to the Saviour now, upon the spot.

     You that have believed in Jesus unto eternal life, and have just begun the divine life, you will not be long before you are beset with various temptations. Be prepared for those fowls, whose chief is the prince of the power of the air, and labour to drive them away. You think that, since you are converted, it will be all plain sailing now. You make a mistake: it is now that the battle begins. Be prepared for conflict. I have no doubt Abram, being a sheik, carried a good staff with him. Be ready with a staff, borrowed from the good Shepherd, to drive away the temptations that are sure to assail young believers.

     As for you dear old saints, you have offered your sacrifice, and it is towards evening, and the sun is going down, do not be surprised if you should feel a horror of great darkness, even at the last; but rest assured that the Lord will come, and cheer your darkness with the vision of his covenant love. Drive those doubts away, and those fears of death. You are going home; do not be afraid. Jesus is coming to meet you, therefore dismiss every fear. Stand by the sacrifice all the day; stand by the sacrifice when night comes on, birds or no birds. Stand by the sacrifice whether you see a vision of glory or not. Stand by the sacrifice till you behold the Lamb on his throne. One thing I have made up my mind to, whether I find present joy or present sorrow, present commendation or present censure, I will be faithful to my Lord, and stand by the sacrifice until I die with one hand upon this Book, and another upon the horns of the altar. I would cry this night in the courts of the Lord’s house, in the presence of all his people, “Bind the sacrifice with cords, even with cords, to the altar.” I will be a sacrifice for Jesus because he is a Sacrifice for me. I count it all joy to preach him and his cross if I may but win souls and be found in him at the last. The Lord bless you, and be with you, my brethren, for Christ’s sake!



A Sermon for Time Present

By / Oct 30

A Sermon for Time Present

 

“In that day it shall he said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not: and to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack. The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing. I will gather them that are sorrowful for the solemn assembly, who are of thee, to whom the reproach of it was a burden.”— Zephaniah iii. 16— 18.

 

HOLY Scripture is wonderfully full and abiding in its inner sense. It is a springing well, whereat you may draw, and draw again; for as you draw, it springs up for ever new and fresh. It is a well of water springing up everlastingly. The fulfilment of a divine promise is not the exhaustion of it. When a man gives you a promise, and he keeps it, there is an end of the promise; but it is not so with God. When he keeps his word to the full, he has but begun: he is prepared to keep it, and keep it, and keep it for ever and ever. What would you say of a man who had wheat upon his barn floor, and threshed it until he had beaten out the last golden grain; but the next day he went and threshed again, and brought back as much as the day before; and on the day after, again taking his flail, he went to the same threshing, and again brought back his measure as full as at the first, and so on for all the days of the year? Would it not seem to you as a fairy tale? It would certainly be a surprising miracle. But what should we say if, throughout a long life, this miracle could be prolonged? Yet we have continued to thresh the promises ever since faith was given us, and we have carried away our full portion every day. What shall we say of the glorious fact that the saints in all generations, from the first day until now, have done the same; and of that equal truth, that as long as there is a needy soul upon earth, there will be upon the threshing floor of the promises the same abundance of the finest of the wheat as when the first man filled his measure and returned rejoicing? I will not dwell upon the specific application of the text before us: I do not doubt that it was specially fulfilled as it was intended; and if there still remains some special piece of history to which this passage alludes, it will again be fulfilled in due time; but this I know, that those who have lived between whiles have found this promise true to them. Children of God have used these promises under all sorts of circumstances, and have derived the utmost comfort from them; and this morning I feel as if the text had been newly written for the present occasion, for it is in every syllable most suitable to the immediate crisis. If the Lord had fixed his eye upon the condition of his church just now, and had written this passage only for this year of grace 1887, it could scarcely have been more adapted to the occasion. Our business shall be to show this; but I would aim at much more. Let our prayer be that we may enjoy this marvellous portion of the sacred word, and take intense delight in it. As God rests in his love, so may we rest in it this morning; and as he joys over us with singing, so may we break forth into joyous psalms to the God of our salvation.

     I am going to begin with the last verse of the text, and work my way upwards. The first head is, a trying day for God’s people. They are sorrowful because a cloud is upon their solemn assembly, and the reproach thereof is a burden. Secondly, we will note a glorious ground of consolation. We read in the seventeenth verse, “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.” And, thirdly, here is a brave conduct suggested thereby: “In that day it. shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not: and to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack.”

     I. Beginning at the eighteenth verse, we notice A TRYING DAY FOR GOD’S PEOPLE. The solemn assembly had fallen under reproach. The solemn assemblies of Israel were her glory: her great days of festival and sacrifice were the gladness of the land. To the faithful their holy days were their holidays. But a reproach had fallen upon the solemn assembly, and I believe it is so now at this present moment. It is a sad affliction when in our solemn assemblies the brilliance of the gospel light is dimmed by error. The clearness of the testimony is spoiled when doubtful voices are scattered among the people, and those who ought to preach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, are telling out for doctrines the imaginations of men, and the inventions of the age. Instead of revelation, we have philosophy, falsely so-called; instead of divine infallibility, we have surmises and larger hopes. The gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, is taught as the production of progress, a growth, a thing to be amended and corrected year by year. It is an ill day, both for the church and the world, when the trumpet does not give a certain sound; for who shall prepare himself for the battle?

     If added to this we should see creeping over the solemn assembly of the church a lifelessness, an indifference, and a lack of spiritual power, it is painful to a high degree. When the vitality of religion is despised, and gatherings for prayer are neglected, what are we coming to? The present period of church history is well portrayed by the church of Laodicea, which was neither cold nor hot, and therefore to be spewed out of Christ’s mouth. That church gloried that she was rich and increased in goods, and had need of nothing, while all the while her Lord was outside, knocking at the door, a door closed against him. That passage is constantly applied to the unconverted, with whom it has nothing to do: it has to do with a lukewarm church, with a church that thought itself to be in an eminently prosperous condition, while her living Lord, in the doctrine of his atoning sacrifice, was denied an entrance. Oh, if he had found admission— and he was eager to find it— she would have her have flung away her imaginary raiment, and he would have given her gold tried in the furnace, and white raiment with which she might be clothed. Alas! she is content without her Lord, for she has education, oratory, science, and a thousand other baubles. Zion’s solemn assembly is under a cloud indeed, when the teaching of Jesus and his apostles is of small account with her.

     If in addition to this, worldly conformity spreads in the church, so that the vain amusements of the world are shared in by the saints, then is there reason enough for lamentation, even as Jeremiah cried: “How is the gold become dim!” Her Nazarites, who were purer than snow and whiter than milk, have become blacker than a coal. “All our enemies have opened their mouths against us.” If no longer there is a clear distinction between the church and the world, but professed followers of Jesus have joined hands with unbelievers, then may we mourn indeed! Woe worth the day! An ill time has happened to the church and to the world also. We may expect great judgments, for the Lord will surely be avenged on such a people as this. Know ye not of old that when the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair, and they were joined unto them, then the flood came and swept them all away? I need not pursue this subject further, lest our burdens take from us the time which is demanded for consolation.

     It appears from the text that there were some to whom the reproach was a burden. They could not make sport of sin. True, there were many who said that the evil did not exist at all, and others who declared that it was not present in any great degree. Yes, and more hardened spirits declared that what was considered to be a reproach was really a thing to be boasted of, the very glory of the century. Thus they huffed the matter, and made the mourning of the conscientious to be a theme for jest. But there was a remnant to whom the reproach of it was a burden; these could not bear to see such a calamity. To these the Lord God will have respect, as he said by the prophet:— “Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.” The many drank wine in bowls and anointed themselves with their chief ointments, but they were not grieved for the affliction of Joseph (Amos vi. 6); but these were pressed in spirit and bore the cross, counting the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt. God’s people cannot bear that Christ’s atoning sacrifice should be dishonoured; they cannot endure that his truth should be trodden as mire in the streets. To true believers prosperity means the Holy Ghost blessing the word to the conversion of sinners and the building up of saints; and if they do not see this, they hang their harps upon the willows. True lovers of Jesus fast when the Bridegroom is nob with his church: their glory is in his glory, and in nothing else. The wife of Phinehas, the son of Eli, cried out in her dying agony, “The glory has departed,” and the reason that she gave was once because of the death of her husband and his father, but twice because “the ark of God is taken.” For this she named her new-born child Ichabod— “The glory is departed from Israel, for the ark of God is taken.” The bitterest pain of this godly woman was for the church, and for the honour of our God. So it is with God’s true people: they lay it much to heart that the truth is rejected.   

     This burdened spirit is a token of true love to God: those who love the Lord Jesus are wounded in his woundings, and vexed with the vexings of his Spirit. When Christ is dishonoured his disciples are dishonoured. Those who have a tender heart towards the church can say with Paul, “Who is offended, and I burn not?” The sins of the church of God are the sorrows of all living members of it. This also marks a healthy sensibility, a vital spirituality. Those who are unspiritual care nothing for truth or grace: they look to finances, and numbers, and respectability. Utterly carnal men care for none of these things; and so long as the political aims of Dissenters are progressing, and there is an advance in. social position, it is enough for them. But men whose spirits are of God would sooner see the faithful persecuted than see them desert the truth, sooner see churches in the depths of poverty full of holy zeal than rich churches dead in worldliness. Spiritual men care for the church even when she is in an evil case, and cast down by her adversaries: “thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof.” The house of the Lord is to many of us our own house, his family is our family. Unless the Lord Jesus be extolled, and his gospel conquer, we feel that our own personal interests are blighted, and we ourselves are in disgrace. It is no small thing to us: it is our life.

     Thus have I dwelt upon the fact that it is an ill day for God’s people when the solemn assembly is defiled: the reproach thereof is a burden to those who are truly citizens of the New Jerusalem, and because of this they are seen to be sorrowful. The Lord here says, “I will gather them that are sorrowful for the solemn assembly.” They may well be sorrowful when such a burden is laid on their hearts. Moreover, they see in a hundred ways the ill effect of the evil which they deplore. Many are lame and halting; this is hinted at in the promise of the nineteenth verse: “I will save her that halteth.” Pilgrims on the road to Zion were made to limp on the road because the prophets were ‘Tight and treacherous persons” When the pure gospel is not preached, God’s people are robbed of the strength which they need in their life-journey. If you take away the bread, the children hunger. If you give the flock poisonous pastures, or fields which are barren as the desert, they pine and they become lame in their daily following of the shepherd. The doctrinal soon affects the practical. I know many of the people of God living in different parts of this country to whom the Sabbath is very little of a day of rest, for they hear no truth in which rest is to be found, but they are worried and wearied with novelties which neither glorify God nor benefit the souls of men. In many a place the sheep look up and are not fed. This causes much disquietude and breeds doubts and questionings, and thus strength is turned to weakness, and the work of faith, the labour of love, and the patience of hope are all kept in a halting state. This is a grievous evil, and it is all around us. Then, alas! many are “driven out,” of whom the nineteenth verse says, “I will gather her that was driven out.” By false doctrine many are made to wander from the fold. Hopeful ones are made to stray from the path of life, and sinners are left in their natural distance from God. The truth which would convince men of sin is not preached, while other truths which would lead seekers into peace are beclouded, and souls are left in needless sorrow. When the doctrines of grace and the glorious atoning sacrifice are not set clearly before men’s minds, so that they may feel their power, all sorts of evils follow. It is terrible to me that this dreadful blight should come upon our churches; for the hesitating are driven to destruction, the weak are staggered, and even the strong are perplexed. The false teachers of these days would, if it were possible, deceive the very elect. This makes our hearts very sorrowful. How can we help it?

     Yet, beloved, all the time that the people of God are in this evil case, they are not without hope; for close upon all this comes the promise of the Lord to restore his wandering ones. We have the sense twice over: “I will get them praise and fame in every land where they have been put to shame.” “I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the Lord.” The adversaries cannot silence the eternal testimony. They hanged our Lord himself upon a tree; they took down his body and buried it in a tomb in the rock; and they set their seal upon the stone which they rolled at the mouth of the sepulchre. Surely now there was an end of the Christ and his cause. Boast not, ye priests and Pharisees! Vain the watch, the stone, the seal! When the appointed time had come, the living Christ came forth. He could not be holden by the cords of death. How idle their dreams! “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord doth have them in derision.” Beloved, the reproach will yet be rolled away from the solemn assembly: the truth of God will yet again be proclaimed as with trumpet tongue, the Spirit of God will revive his church, and converts as many as the sheaves of the harvest shall yet be gathered in. How will the faithful rejoice! Those who were burdened and sorrowful shall then put on their garments of joy and beauty. Then shall the ransomed of the Loud return with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads. The conflict is not doubtful. The end of the battle is sure and certain. Methinks I even now hear the shout, “The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”

     II. Secondly, let us think of something which shines like a star amid the darkness. The second verse of the text presents A GLORIOUS GROUND OF CONSOLATION. Here is a rich text indeed. This passage is like a great sea, while I am as a little child making pools in the sand which skirts its boundless flood. A series of discourses might well be founded on this one verse: I mean the seventeenth.

     Our great consolation in the worst times lies in our God. The very name of our covenant God— “the Lord thy God”— is full of good cheer. That word, “the Lord,” is really JEHOVAH, the self-existent One, the unchangeable One, the ever-living God, who cannot change or be moved from his everlasting purpose. Children of God, whatever you have not got, you have a God in whom you may greatly glory. Having God you have more than all things, for all things come of him; and if all things were blotted out, he could restore all things simply by his will He speaketh, and it is done; he commandeth, and it stands fast. Blessed is the man that hath the God of Jacob for his trust, and whose hope Jehovah is. In the Lord Jehovah we have righteousness and strength; let us trust in him for ever. Let the times roll on, they cannot affect our God. Let troubles rush upon us like a tempest, but they shall not come nigh unto us now that he is our defence. Jehovah, the God of his church, is also the God of each individual member of it, and each one may therefore rejoice in him. Jehovah is as much your God, my brother, as if no other person in the universe could use that covenant expression. O believer, the Lord God is altogether and wholly your God! All his wisdom, all his foresight, all his power, all his immutability—  all himself is yours. As for the church of God, when she is in her lowest estate she is still established and endowed in the best possible sense— established by the divine decree, and endowed by the possession of God all-sufficient. The gates of hell shall not prevail against her. Let us exult in our possession. Poor as we are, we are infinitely rich in having God; weak as we are, there is no limit to our strength, since the Almighty Jehovah is ours. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” If God be ours, what more can we need? Lift up thy heart, thou sorrowful one, and be of good cheer. If God be thy God, thou hast all thou canst desire: wrapped up within his glorious name we find all things for time and eternity, for earth and heaven. Therefore in the name of Jehovah we will set up our banners, and march onward to the battle. He is our God by his own purpose, covenant, and oath; and this day he is our God by our own choice of him, by our union with Christ Jesus, by our experience of his goodness, and by that spirit of adoption whereby we cry “Abba, Father.”

     To strengthen this consolation, we notice next, that this God is in the midst of us. He is not a long way off, to be sought with difficulty, if haply we may find him. The Lord is a God nigh at hand, and ready to deliver his people. Is it not delightful to think that we cry not to God across the ocean, for he is here? We look not up to him from afar, as though he dwelt beyond the stars, neither do we think of him as hidden in the fathomless abyss; but the Lord is very near. Our God is “Jehovah in the midst of thee.” Since that bright night in which a babe was born at Bethlehem, and unto us a Son was given, we know God as “Emmanuel, God with us.” God is in our nature, and therefore very near unto us. “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” Though his bodily presence is gone, yet we have his spiritual presence with us evermore; for he saith, “Lo, I am with you alway.” He walketh among the golden candlesticks. We have also the immediate presence of God the Holy Spirit. He is in the midst of the church to enlighten, convince, quicken, endow, comfort, and clothe with spiritual power. The Lord still works in the minds of men for the accomplishment of his purposes of grace. Let us think of this when we are going forth to Christian service: “The Lord of hosts is with us.” When you call your class together in the Sabbath school, say to your Lord, “If thy presence go not with me, carry me not up hence.” Ah, friends! if we have God with us, we can bear to be deserted by men. What a word that is, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them!” Shall not the army shout when the King himself is in their ranks! Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered! When he is with us they that hate him must flee before him. Be it our concern so to live that we may never grieve away the Spirit of God. Beloved, there is such abundant consolation in the fact of the presence of God with us, that if we could only feel the power of it at this moment, we should enter into rest, and our heaven would begin below.

     Let us go a step further, and note that our consolation is largely to be found in the fact that this God in the midst of us is full of power to save. “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save.” That is to say, “Jehovah, thy God, is mighty to save.” His arm is not shortened, he is still “a just God and a Saviour.” Nor is he merely able to save, but he will display that ability; “he will save.” Come, my brother, we see around us this and that to discourage us; let us, like David, encourage ourselves in the Lord our God. We may very well forget all difficulties, since the God who is in the midst of us is mighty to save. Let us pray, then, that he will save; that he will save his own church from lukewarmness and from deady error; that he will save her from her worldliness and formalism; save her from unconverted ministers and ungodly members. Let us lift up our eyes and behold the power which is ready to save; and let us go on to pray that the Lord may save the unconverted by thousands and millions. Oh, that we might see a great revival of religion! This is what we want before all things. This would smite the enemy upon the cheek-bone, and break the teeth of the adversary. If tens of thousands of souls were immediately saved by the sovereign grace of God, what a rebuke it would be to those who deny the faith! Oh, for times such as our fathers saw when first Whitefield and his helpers began to preach the life-giving word! When one sweet voice was heard clear and loud, all the birds of paradise began to sing in concert with him, and the morning of a glorious day was heralded. Oh, if that were to happen again, I should feel like Simeon when he embraced the heavenly babe! Then would the virgin daughter of Zion shake her head at the foe, and laugh him to scorn. It may happen; yea, if we are importunate in prayer it must happen: “God shall bless us, and all the ends of the earth shall fear him.” Let us not seek power of rhetoric, much less of wealth; but let us look for the power which saves. This is the one thing I crave. Oh, that God would save souls! I say to myself, after being badgered and worried through the week by the men of modern thought: “I will go my way and preach Christ s gospel, and win souls.” One lifting up of Jesus Christ crucified is more to me than all the cavillings of the men who are wise above what is written. Converts are our unanswerable arguments. “Happy is the man,” saith the Psalm, “that hath his quiver full of them: they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.” Blessed is the man who has many spiritual children born to God under his ministry; for his converts are his defence. Beholding the man who was healed standing with Peter and John, they could say nothing against them. If souls are saved by the gospel, the gospel is proved in the surest manner. Let us care more about conversions than about organizations. If souls are brought into union with Christ, we may let other unions go.

     We go yet further, and we come to great deeps: behold God’s joy in his people. “He will rejoice over thee with joy.” Think of this! Jehovah, the living God, is described as brooding over his church with pleasure. He looks upon souls redeemed by the blood of his dear Son, quickened by his Holy Spirit, and his heart is glad. Even the infinite heart of God is filled with an extraordinary joy at the sight of his chosen. His delight is in his church, his Hephzibah. I can understand a minister rejoicing over a soul that he has brought to Christ; I can also understand believers rejoicing to see others saved from sin and hell; but what shall I say of the infinitely-happy and eternally-blessed God finding, as it were, a new joy in souls redeemed? This is another of those great wonders which cluster around the work of divine grace! “He will rejoice over thee with joy.” Oh, you are trembling for the ark of the Lord; the Lord is not trembling, but rejoicing. Faulty as the church is, the Lord rejoices in her. While we mourn, as well we may, yet we do not sorrow as those that are without hope; for God does not sorrow, his heart is glad, and he is said to rejoice with joy— a highly emphatic expression. The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, imperfect though they be. He sees them as they are to be, and so he rejoices over them, even when they cannot rejoice in themselves. When your face is blurred with tears, your eyes red with weeping, and your heart heavy with sorrow for sin, the great Father is rejoicing over you. The prodigal son wept in his Father’s bosom, but the Father rejoiced over his son. We are questioning, doubting, sorrowing, trembling; and all the while he who sees the end from the beginning knows what will come out of the present disquietude, and therefore rejoices. Let us rise in faith to share the joy of God. Let no man’s heart fail him because of the taunts of the enemy. Rather let the chosen of God rouse themselves to courage, and participate in that joy of God which never ceaseth, even though the solemn assembly has become a reproach. Shall we not rejoice in him when he, in his boundless condescension, deigns to rejoice in us? Whoever despairs for the cause, he does not; wherefore let us be of good courage.

     It is added, “He will rest in his love.” I do not know any Scripture which is more full of wonderful meaning than this. “He shall rest in his love,” as if our God had in his people found satisfaction. He comes to an anchorage: he has reached his desire. As when a Jacob, full of love to Rachel, has at length ended the years of his service, and is married to his well-beloved, and his heart is at rest; so is it spoken in parable of the Lord our God. Jesus sees of the travail of his soul when his people are won to him; he has been baptized with his baptism for his church, and he is no longer straitened, for his desire is fulfilled. The Lord is content with his eternal choice, content with his loving purposes, satisfied with the love which went forth from everlasting. He is well pleased in Jesus— well pleased with all the glorious purposes which are connected with his dear Son, and with those who are in him. He has a calm content in the people of his choice, as he sees them in Christ. This is a good ground for our having a deep satisfaction of heart also. We are not what we would be; but then we are not what we shall be. We advance slowly; but then we advance surely. The end is secured by omnipotent grace. It is right that we should be discontented with ourselves, yet this holy restlessness should not rob us of our perfect peace in Christ Jesus. If the Lord hath rest in us, shall we not have rest in him? If he rests in his love, cannot we rest in it?

     My heart is comforted as I plainly see in these words love unchanging, love abiding, love eternal: “he will rest in his love.” Jehovah changes not. Being married to his people, “he hateth putting away.” Immutability is written on his heart. The turtle-dove, when he has once chosen his mate, remains faithful throughout life, and if the beloved dies, he will, in many cases, pine away with grief for her, for his life is wrapped up in hers. Even so our Lord hath made his choice of his beloved, and he will never change it: he died for his church, and so long as he lives he will remember his own love, and what it cost him: “Who shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord?” “He will rest in his love.”

     The love of God to us is undisturbed: “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding,” dwells with his love: he is not disquieted about it, but peacefully loves, and is never moved. The calm of God is wonderful to contemplate: his infallible knowledge and infinite power put him beyond fear or question. He sees no cause of alarm as to his redeemed, nor as to the cause of truth and the reign of righteousness. As to his true church, he knows that she is right, or that he will make her right. She is being transformed into the image of Jesus, and he rests in the full assurance that the image will ere long be complete. He can carry out his own purposes in his own way and time. He can see the harvest as well as the sowing; therefore he doth “rest in his love.” You have seen a mother wash her child, and as she washes its face the child perhaps is crying, for it does not for the present enjoy the cleansing operation. Does the mother share the child’s grief? Does she also cry? Oh, no! she rejoices over her babe, and rests in her love, knowing that the light affliction of the little one will work its real good. Often our griefs are no deeper than the cry of a child because of the soap in its eyes. While the church is being washed with tribulations and persecutions, God is resting in his love. You and I are wearying, but God is resting.

     “He shall rest in his love.” The Hebrew of this line is, “He shall be silent in his love.” His happiness in his love is so great, that he does not express it, but keeps a happy silence. His is a joy too deep for words. No language can express the joy of God in his love; and therefore he uses no words. Silence in this case is infinitely expressive. One of the old commentators says, “He is deaf and dumb in his love,” as if he heard no voice of accusation against his chosen, and would not speak a word of upbraiding to her. Remember the silence of Jesus, and expound this text thereby.

     Sometimes also the Lord does not speak to his people: we cannot get a cheering word from him; and then we sigh for a promise, and long for a visit of his love; but if he be thus silent, let us know that he is only silent in his love. It is not the silence of wrath, but of love. His love is not changed, even though he does not comfort us.

“His thoughts are high, his love is wise,
His wounds a cure intend;
And though he does not always smile,
He loves unto the end.”

When he does not answer our prayers with his hand, he yet hears them with his heart. Denials are only another form of the same love which grants our petitions. He loves us, and sometimes shows that love better by not giving us what we ask than he could do if he spoke the sweetest promise which the ear has ever heard. I prize this sentence: “He shall rest in his love.” My God, thou art perfectly content with thy church after all, because thou knowest what she is to be. Thou seest how fair she will be when she comes forth from the washing, having put on her beautiful garments. Lo, the sun goes down, and we mortals dread the endless darkness; but thou, great God, seest the morning, and thou knowest that in the hours of darkness dews will fall which shall refresh thy garden. Ours is the measure of an hour, and thine the judgment of eternity, therefore we will correct our short-sighted judgment by thine infallible knowledge, and rest with thee.

     The last word is, however, the most wonderful of all: “He will joy over thee with singing.” Think of the great Jehovah singing! Can you imagine it? Is it possible to conceive of the Deity breaking into a song: Father, Son and Holy Ghost together singing over the redeemed? God is so happy in the love which he bears to his people that he breaks the eternal silence, and sun and moon and stars with astonishment hear God chanting a hymn of joy. Among Orientals a certain song is sung by the bridegroom when he receives his bride: it is intended to declare his joy in her, and in the fact that his marriage has come. Here, by the pen of inspiration, the God of love is pictured as married to his church, and so rejoicing in her that he rejoices over her with singing. If God sings, shall not we sing? He did not sing when he made the world. No; he looked upon it, and simply said that it was good. The angels sang, the sons of God shouted for joy: creation was very wonderful to them, but it was not much to God, who could have made thousands of worlds by his mere will. Creation could not make him sing; and I do not even know that Providence ever brought a note of joy from him, for he could arrange a thousand kingdoms of providence with ease. But when it came to redemption, that cost him dear. Here he spent eternal thought, and drew up a covenant with infinite wisdom. Here he gave his Only-begotten Son, and put him to grief to ransom his beloved ones. When all was done, and the Lord saw what became of it in the salvation of his redeemed, then he rejoiced after a divine manner. What must the joy be which recompenses Gethsemane and Calvary! Here we are among the Atlantic waves. The Lord God receives an accession to the infinity of his joy in the thought of his redeemed people. “He shall rejoice over thee with singing.” I tremble while I speak of such themes, lest I should say a word that should dishonour the matchless mystery; but still we are glad to note what is written, and we are bound to take comfort from it. Let us have sympathy with the joy of the Lord, for this will be our strength.

     III. I close with a brief word upon THE BRAVE CONDUCT SUGGESTED THEREBY. Let us not sorrow under the burdens which we bear, but rejoice in God, the great Burden-bearer, upon whom this day we roll our load. Here it is— “In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not; and to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack.”

     There are three things for God’s people to do. The first is, to be happy. Bead verse fourteen— “Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all thy heart, O daughter of Jerusalem.” Any man can sing when his cup is full of delights; the believer alone has songs when waters of a bitter cup are wrung out to him. Any sparrow can chirp in the daylight; it is only the nightingale that can sing in the dark. Children of God, whenever the enemies seem to prevail over you, whenever the serried ranks of the foe appear sure of victory, then begin to sing. Your victory will come with your song. It is a very puzzling thing to the devil to hear saints sing when he sets his foot on them. He cannot make it out: the more he oppresses them, the more they rejoice. Let us resolve to be all the merrier when the enemy dreams that we are utterly routed. The more opposition, the more we will rejoice in the Lord: the more discouragement, the more confidence. Splendid was the courage of Alexander when they told him that there were hundreds of thousands of Persians. “Yet,” he said, “one butcher fears not myriads of sheep.” “Ah!” said another, “when the Persians draw their bows, their arrows are so numerous that they darken the sun.” “It will be fine to fight in the shade.” cried the hero. O friends, we know whom we have believed, and we are sure of triumph! Let us not think for a single second, if the odds against us are ten thousand to one, that this is a hardship; rather let us wish that they were a million to one, that the glory of the Lord might be all the greater in the conquest which is sure. When Athanasius was told that everybody was denying the Deity of Christ, then he said, “I, Athanasius, against the world”: Athanasius contra mundum became a proverbial expression. Brethren, it is a splendid thing to be quite alone in the warfare of the Lord. Suppose we had half-a-dozen with us. Six men are not much increase to strength, and possibly they may be a cause of weakness, by needing to be looked after. If you are quite alone, so much the better: there is the more room for God. When desertions have cleaned the place out, and left you no friend, now every corner can be filled with Deity. As long as there is so much that is visible to rely upon, and so much to hope in, there is so much the less room for simple trust in God: but now our song is of the Lord alone; “for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.” The next duty is fearlessness: “Fear thou not.” What! not a little? No, “Fear thou not.” But surely I may show some measure of trembling? No, “Fear thou not.” Tie that knot tight about the throat of unbelief. “Fear thou not”: neither this day, nor any day of thy life. When fear comes in, drive it away; give it no space. If God rests in his love, and if God sings, what canst thou have to do with fear? Have you never known passengers on board ship, when the weather was rough, comforted by the calm behaviour of the captain? One simple-minded soul said to his friend, “I am sure there is no cause for fear, for I heard the captain whistling.” Surely, if the captain is at ease, and with him is all the responsibility, the passenger may be still more at peace. If the Lord Jesus at the helm is singing, let us not be fearing. Let us have done with every timorous accent. O rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him. “Your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you.”

     Lastly, let us be zealous: “Let not thine hands be slack.” Now is the time when every Christian should do more for God than ever. Let us plan great things for God, and let us expect great things from God. “Let not thine hands be slack.” Now is the hour for redoubled prayers and labours. Since the adversaries are busy, let us be busy also. If they think they shall make a full end of us, let as resolve to make a full end of their falsehoods and delusions. I think every Christian man should answer the challenge of the adversaries of Christ by working double tides, by giving more of his substance to the cause of God, by living more for the glory of God, by being more exact in his obedience, more earnest in his efforts, and more importunate in his prayers. “Let not thine hands be slack” in any one part of holy service. Fear is a dreadful breeder of idleness; but courage teaches us indomitable perseverance. Let us go on in God’s name. I would stir up the members of this church, and all my brethren, to intense zeal for God and the souls of men. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”

     Would God that all were on Christ’s side out of this great assembly! Oh, that you would come to Jesus, and trust him, and then live for him in the midst of this crooked and perverse generation! The Lord be with us. Amen.



He Cometh with Clouds

By / Oct 27

He Cometh with Clouds

 

“Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.”— Revelation i. 7.

 

IN reading the chapter we observed how the beloved John saluted the seven churches in Asia with, “Grace and peace be unto you.” Blessed men scatter blessings. When the benediction of God rests on us we pour out benedictions upon others.

     From benediction John’s gracious heart rose into adoration of the great King of Saints. As our hymn puts it, “The holy to the holiest leads.” They that are good at blessing men will be quick at blessing God.

     It is a wonderful doxology which John has given us: “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” I like the Revised Version for its alliteration in this case, although I cannot prefer it for other reasons. It runs thus: “Unto him that loveth us, and loosed us from our sins by his blood.” Truly our Redeemer has loosed us from sin; but the mention of his blood suggests washing rather than loosing. We can keep the alliteration and yet retain the meaning of cleansing if we read the passage, “Unto him that loved us, and laved us.” Loved us, and laved us: carry those two words home with you: let them lie upon your tongue to sweeten your breath for prayer and praise. “Unto him that loved us, and laved us, be glory and dominion for ever and ever.”

     Then John tells of the dignity which the Lord hath put upon us in making us kings and priests, and from this he ascribes royalty and dominion unto the Lord himself. John had been extolling the Great King, whom he calls, “The Prince of the kings of the earth.” Such indeed he was, and is, and is to be. When John had touched upon that royalty which is natural to our divine Lord, and that dominion which has come to him by conquest, and by the gift of the Father as the reward of all his travail, he then went on to note that he has “made Us kings,” Our Lord’s royalty he diffuses among his redeemed. We praise him because he is in himself a king, and next, because he is a king-maker, the fountain of honour and majesty. He has not only enough of royalty for himself, but he hands a measure of his dignity to his people. He makes kings out of such common stuff as he finds in us poor sinners. Shall we not adore him for this? Shall we not cast our crowns at his feet? He gave our crowns to us, shall we not give them to him? “To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” King by thy divine nature! King by filial right! King-maker, lifting up the beggar from the dunghill to set him among princes! King of kings by the unanimous love of all thy crowned ones! Thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise! Reign thou for ever and ever! Unto thee be hosannas of welcome and hallelujahs of praise. Lord of the earth and heaven, let all things that be, or ever shall be, render unto thee all glory in the highest degree. Brethren, do not your souls take fire as you think of the praises of Immanuel? Fain would I fill the universe with his praise. Oh for a thousand tongues to sing the glories of the Lord Jesus! If the Spirit who dictated the words of John has taken possession of our spirits, we shall find adoration to be our highest delight. Never are we so near to heaven as when we are absorbed in the worship of Jesus, our Lord and God. Oh, that I could now adore him as I shall do when, delivered from this encumbering body, my soul shall behold him in the fulness of his glory!

     It would seem from the chapter that the adoration of John was increased by his expectation of the Lord’s second coming; for he cries, “Behold, he cometh with clouds.” His adoration awoke his expectation, which all the while was lying in his soul as an element of that vehement heat of reverent love which he poured forth in his doxology. “Behold, he cometh,” said he, and thus he revealed one source of his reverence. “Behold, he cometh,” said he, and this exclamation was the result of his reverence. He adored until his faith realized his Lord, and became a second and nobler sight.

     I think, too, that his reverence was deepened and his adoration was rendered more fervent by his conviction of the speediness of his Lord’s coming. “Behold, he cometh,” or is coming: he means to assert that he is even now on his way. As workmen are moved to be more diligent in service when they hear their master’s footfall, so, doubtless, saints are quickened in their devotion when they are conscious that he whom they worship is drawing near. He has gone away to the Father for a while, and so he has left us alone in this world; but he has said, “I will come again and receive you unto myself,” and we are confident that he will keep his word. Sweet is the remembrance of that loving promise. That assurance is pouring its savour into John’s heart while he is adoring; and it becomes inevitable, as well as most meet and proper, that his doxology should at its close introduce him to the Lord himself, and cause him to cry out, “Behold, he cometh.” Having worshipped among the pure in heart, he sees the Lord; having adored the King, he sees him assume the judgment-seat, and appear in the clouds of heaven. When once we enter upon heavenly things we know not how far we can go, nor how high we can climb. John who began with blessing the churches now beholds his Lord.

     May the Holy Ghost help us reverently to think of the wondrous coming of our blessed Lord, when he shall appear to the delight of his people and the dismay of the ungodly!

     There are three things in the text. They will seem common-places to some of you, and, indeed, they are the common-places of our divine faith, and yet nothing can be of greater importance. The first is, our Lord Jesus comes: “Behold he cometh with clouds.” The second is, our Lord Jesus Christ's coming will be seen of all: “Every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him.” And, in the third place, this coming will cause great sorrow: “All kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.”

     I. May the Holy Spirit help us while, in the first place, we remember that OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST COMES!

     This announcement is thought worthy of a note of admiration. As the Latins would say, there is an “fee” placed here— “Behold, he cometh.” As in the old books the printers put hands in the margin pointing to special passages, such is this “behold!” It is a Nota Bene calling upon us to note well what we are reading. Here is something which we are to hold and behold. We now hear a voice crying, “Come and see!” The Holy Spirit never uses superfluous words, nor redundant notes of exclamation: when he cries, “Behold!” it is because there is reason for deep and lasting attention. Will you turn away when he bids you pause and ponder, linger and look? Oh, you that have been beholding vanity, come and behold the fact that Jesus cometh. You that have been beholding this, and beholding that, and thinking of nothing worthy of your thoughts; forget these passing sights and spectacles, and for once behold a scene which has no parallel. It is not a monarch in her jubilee, but the King of kings in his glory. That same Jesus who went up from Olivet into heaven is coming again to earth in like manner as his disciples saw him go up into heaven. Come and behold this great sight. If ever there was a thing in the world worth looking at, it is this. Behold and see if there was ever glory like unto his glory! Hearken to the midnight cry, “Behold, the bridegroom cometh!” It has practically to do with you. “Go ye forth to meet him.” This voice is to you, O sons of men. Do not carelessly turn aside; for the Lord God himself demands your attention: he commands you to “Behold!” Will you be blind when God bids you behold? Will you shut your eyes when your Saviour cries, “Behold”? When the finger of inspiration points the way, will not your eye follow where it directs you? “Behold, he cometh.” O my hearers, look hither, I beseech you.

     If we read the words of our text carefully, this “Behold” shows us first, that this coming is to be vividly realized. I think I see John. He is in the spirit; but on a sudden he seems startled into a keener and more solemn attention. His mind is more awake than usual, though he was ever a man of bright eyes that saw afar. We always liken him to the eagle for the height of his flight and the keenness of his vision; yet on a sudden, even he seems startled with a more astounding vision. He cries out, “Behold! Behold!” He has caught sight of his Lord. He says not, “He will come by-and-by,” but, “I can see him; he is now coming.” He has evidently realized the second advent. He has so conceived of the second coming of the Lord that it has become a matter of fact to him; a matter to be spoken of, and even to be written down. “Behold, he cometh!” Have you and I ever realized the coming of Christ so fully as this? Perhaps we believe that he will come. I should hope that we all do that. If we believe that the Lord Jesus has come the first time, we believe also that he will come the second time; but are these equally assured truths to us? Peradventure we have vividly realized the first appearing: from Bethlehem to Golgotha, and from Calvary to Olivet we have traced the Lord, understanding that blessed cry, u Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” Yes, the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. But have we with equal firmness grasped the thought that he comes again without a sin-offering unto salvation? Do we now say to each other, as we meet in happy fellowship, “Yes, our Lord cometh”? It should be to us not only a prophecy assuredly believed among us, but a scene pictured in our souls, and anticipated in our hearts. My imagination has often set forth that dread scene: but better still, my faith has realized it. I have heard the chariot-wheels of the Lord’s approach, and I have endeavoured to set my house in order for his reception. I have felt the shadow of that great cloud which shall attend him, damping the ardour of my worldliness. I hear even now in spirit the sound of the last trumpet, whose tremendous blast startles my soul to serious action, and puts force into my life. Would God that I lived more completely under the influence of that august event!

     Brothers and sisters, to this realization I invite you. I wish that we could go together in this, until as we went out of the house we said to one another, “Behold, he cometh!” One said to his fellow, after the Lord had risen, “The Lord has risen indeed.” I want you tonight to feel just as certain that the Lord is coming indeed, and I would have you say as much to one another. We are sure that he will come, and that he is on the way; but the benefit of a more vivid realization would be incalculable.

     This coming is to be zealously proclaimed, for John does not merely calmly say, “He cometh,” but he vigorously cries, “Behold, he cometh.” Just as the herald of a king prefaces his message by a trumpet blast that calls attention, so John cries, “Behold!” As the old town-crier was wont to say, “O yes! O yes! O yes!” or to use some other striking formula by which he called upon men to note his announcement, so John stands in the midst of us, and cries, “Behold, he cometh!” He calls attention by that emphatic word “Behold!” It is no ordinary message that he brings, and he would not have us treat his word as a common-place saying. He throws his heart into the announcement. He proclaims it loudly, he proclaims it solemnly, and he proclaims it with authority: “Behold, he cometh.” Brethren, no truth ought to be more frequently proclaimed, next to the first coming of the Lord, than his second coming; and you cannot thoroughly set forth all the ends and bearings of the first advent if you forget the second. At the Lord’s Supper, there is no discerning the Lord’s body unless you discern his first coming; but there is no drinking into his cup to its fulness, unless you hear him say, “Until I come.” You must look forward, as well as backward. So must it be with all our ministries; they must look to him on the cross and on the throne. We must vividly realize that he, who has once come, is coming yet again, or else our testimony will be marred, and one-sided. We shall make lame work of preaching and teaching if we leave out either advent.

     And next, it is to be unquestionably asserted. “Behold, he cometh.” It is not, “Perhaps he will come”; nor, “Peradventure he may yet appear.” “Behold, he cometh” should be dogmatically asserted as an absolute certainty, which has been realized by the heart of the man who proclaims it. “Behold, he cometh.” All the prophets say that he will come. From Enoch down to the last that spoke by inspiration, they declare, “The Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints.” You shall not find one who has spoken by the authority of God, who does not, either directly or by implication, assert the coming of the Son of man, when the multitudes born of woman shall be summoned to his bar, to receive the recompense of their deeds. All the promises are travailing with this prognostication, “Behold, he cometh.” We have his own word for it, and this makes assurance doubly sure. He has told us that he will come again. He often assured his disciples that if he went away from them, he would come again to them; and he left us the Lord’s Supper as a parting token to be observed until he comes. As often as we break bread we are reminded of the fact that, though it is a most blessed ordinance, yet it is a temporary one, and will cease to be celebrated when our absent Lord is once again present with us.

     What, dear brethren, is there to hinder Christ from coming? When I have studied and thought over this word, “Behold, he cometh,” yes, I have said to myself, indeed he does; who shall hold him back? His heart is with his church on earth. In the place where he fought the battle he desires to celebrate the victory. His delights are with the sons of men. All his saints are waiting for the day of his appearing, and he is waiting also. The very earth in her sorrow and her groaning travaileth for his coming, which is to be her redemption. The creation is made subject to vanity for a little while; but when the Lord shall come again, the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. We might question whether he would come a second time if he had not already come the first time; but if he came to Bethlehem, be assured that his feet shall yet stand upon Olivet. If he came to die, doubt not that he will come to reign. If he came to be despised and rejected of men, why should we doubt that he will come to be admired in all them that believe? His sure coming is to be unquestionably asserted.

     Dear friends, this fact that he will come again, is to be taught as demanding our immediate interest. “Behold, he cometh with clouds.” Behold, look at it; meditate on it. It is worth thinking of. It concerns yourself. Study it again and again. “He cometh.” He will so soon be here that it is put in the present tense: “He cometh.” That shaking of the earth; that blotting out of sun and moon; that fleeing of heaven and earth before his face— all these are so nearly here that John describes them as accomplished. “Behold, he cometh.”

     There is this sense lying in the background— that he is already on the way. All that he is doing in providence and grace is a preparation for his coming. All the events of human history, all the great decisions of his august majesty whereby he ruleth all things— all these are tending towards the day of his appearing. Do not think that he delays his coming, and then upon a sudden he will rush hither in hot haste. He has arranged for it to take place as soon as wisdom allows. We know not what may make the present delay imperative; but the Lord knows, and that suffices. You grow uneasy because near two thousand years have passed since his ascension, and Jesus has not yet come; but you do not know what had to be arranged for, and how far the lapse of time was absolutely necessary for the Lord’s designs. Those are no little matters which have filled up the great pause: the intervening centuries have teemed with wonders. A thousand things may have been necessary in heaven itself ere the consummation of all things could be arrived at. When our Lord comes it shall be seen that he came as quickly as he could, speaking after the manner of his infinite wisdom; for he cannot behave himself otherwise than wisely, perfectly, divinely. He cannot be moved by fear or passion so as to act hastily as you and I too often do. He dwells in the leisure of eternity, and in the serenity of omnipotence. He has not to measure out days, and months, and years, and to accomplish so much in such a space or else leave his life-work undone; but according to the power of an endless life he proceeds steadily on, and to him a thousand years are but as one day. Therefore be assured that the Lord is even now coming. He is making everything tend that way. All things are working towards that grand climax. At this moment, and every moment since he went away, the Lord Jesus has been coming back again. “Behold, he cometh!” He is on the way! He is nearer every hour!

     And we are told that his coming will be attended by a peculiar sign. “Behold, he cometh with clouds.” We shall have no need to question whether it is the Son of man who has come, or whether he is indeed come. This is to be no secret matter: his coming will be as manifest as yonder clouds. In the wilderness the presence of Jehovah was known by a visible pillar of cloud by day, and an equally visible pillar of fire by night. That pillar of cloud was the sure token that the Lord was in his holy place, dwelling between the cherubim. Such is the token of the coming of the Lord Christ.

“Every eye the cloud shall scan,
Ensign of the Son of man.”

So it is written, “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” I cannot quote at this time all those many passages of Scripture in which it is indicated that our Lord will come either sitting upon a cloud, or “with the clouds,” or “with the clouds of heaven but such expressions are abundant. Is it not to show that his coming will be majestic? He maketh the clouds his chariots. He cometh with hosts of attendants, and these of a nobler sort than earthly monarchs can summon to do them homage. With clouds of angels, cherubim and seraphim, and all the armies of heaven he comes. With all the forces of nature, thundercloud and blackness of tempest, the Lord of all makes his triumphant entrance to judge the world. The clouds are the dust of his feet in that dread day of battle when he shall ease him of his adversaries, shaking them out of the earth with his thunder, and consuming them with the devouring flame of his lightning. All heaven shall gather with its utmost pomp to the great appearing of the Lord, and all the terrible grandeur of nature shall then be seen at its full. Not as the Man of sorrows, despised and rejected of men, shall Jesus come; but as Jehovah came upon Sinai in the midst of thick clouds and a terrible darkness, so shall he come, whose coming shall be the final judgment.

     The clouds are meant to set forth the mighty as well as the majesty, of his coming. “Ascribe ye strength unto God: his excellency is over Israel, and his strength is in the clouds.” This was the royal token given by Daniel the prophet in his seventh chapter, at the thirteenth verse, “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven.” Not less than divine is the glory of the Son of God, who once had not where to lay his head. The sublimest objects in nature shall most fitly minister to the manifest glory of the returning King of men. “Behold, he cometh;” not with the swaddling-bands of his infancy, the weariness of his manhood, the shame of his death, but with all the glorious tapestry of heaven’s high chambers. The hanging of the divine throne-room shall aid his state.

     The clouds, also, denote the terror of his coming to the ungodly. His saints shall be caught up together with him in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; but to those that shall remain on earth the clouds shall turn their blackness and horror of darkness. Then shall the impenitent behold this dread vision— the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven. The clouds shall fill them with dread, and the dread shall be abundantly justified, for those clouds are big with vengeance, and shall burst in judgment on their heads. His great white throne, though it be bright and lustrous with hope to his people, will with its very brightness and whiteness of immaculate justice strike dead the hopes of all those who trusted that they might live in sin and yet go unpunished. “Behold, he cometh. He cometh with clouds.”

     I am in happy circumstances to-night, because my subject requires no effort of imagination from me. To indulge fancy on such a theme would be a wretched profanation of so sublime a subject, which in its own simplicity should come home to all hearts. Think clearly for a moment, till the meaning becomes real to you. Jesus Christ is coming, coming in unwonted splendour. When he comes he will be enthroned far above the attacks of his enemies, the persecutions of the godless, and the sneers of sceptics. He is coming in the clouds of heaven, and we shall be among the witnesses of his appearing. Let us dwell upon this truth.

     II. Our second observation is this: OUR LORD’S COMING WILL BE SEEN OF ALL. “Behold, he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him.”

     I gather from this expression, first, that it will be a literal appearing, and an actual sight. If the second advent was to be a spiritual manifestation, to be perceived by the minds of men, the phraseology would be, “Every mind shall perceive him.” But it is not so: we read, “Every eye shall see him.” Now, the mind can behold the spiritual, but the eye can only see that which is distinctly material and visible. The Lord Jesus Christ will not come spiritually, for in that sense he is always here; but he will come really and substantially, for every eye shall see him, even those unspiritual eyes which gazed on him with hate, and pierced him. Go not away and dream, and say to yourself, “Oh, there is some spiritual meaning about all this.” Do not destroy the teaching of the Holy Ghost by the idea that there will be a spiritual manifestation of the Christ of God, but that a literal appearing is out of the question. That would be altering the record. The Lord Jesus shall come to earth a second time as literally as he has come a first time. The same Christ who ate a piece of a broiled fish and of a honeycomb after he had risen from the dead; the same who said, “Handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have”— this same Jesus, with a material body, is to come in the clouds of heaven. In the same manner as he went up he shall come down. He shall be literally seen. The words cannot be honestly read in any other way.

     “Every eye shall see him.” Yes, I do literally expect to see ray Lord Jesus with these eyes of mine, even as that saint expected who long ago fell asleep, believing that though the worms devoured his body, yet in his flesh he should see God, whom his eyes should see for himself, and not another. There will be a real resurrection of the body, though the moderns doubt it: such a resurrection that we shall see Jesus with our own eyes. We shall not find ourselves in a shadowy, dreamy land of floating fictions, where we may perceive, but cannot see. We shall not be airy nothings, mysterious, vague, impalpable; but we shall literally see our glorious Lord, whose appearing will be no phantom show, or shadow dance. Never day more real than the day of judgment; never sight more true than the Son of man upon the throne of his glory. Will you take this statement home, that you may feel the force of it? We are getting too far away from facts nowadays, and too much into the realm of myths and notions. “Every eye shall see him,” in this there shall be no delusion.

     Note well that he is to be seen of all kinds of living men: every eye shall see him: the king and the peasant, the most learned and the most ignorant. Those that were blind before shall see when he appears. I remember a man born blind who loved our Lord most intensely, and he was wont to glory in this, that his eyes had been reserved for his Lord. Said he, “The first whom I shall ever see will be the Lord Jesus Christ. The first sight that greets my newly-opened eyes will be the Son of man in his glory.” There is great comfort in this to all who are now unable to behold the sun. Since “every eye shall see him,” you also shall see the King in his beauty. Small pleasure is this to eyes that are full of filthiness and pride: you care not for this sight, and yet you must see it whether you please or do not please. You have hitherto shut your eyes to good things, but when Jesus comes you must see him. All that dwell upon the face of the earth, if not at the same moment, yet with the same certainty, shall behold the once crucified Lord. They will not be able to hide themselves, nor to hide him from their eyes. They will dread the sight, but it will come upon them, even as the sun shines on the thief who delights in the darkness. They will be obliged to own in dismay that they behold the Son of man: they will be so overwhelmed with the sight that there will be no denying it.

     He will be seen of those who have been long since dead. What a sight that will be for Judas, and for Pilate, and for Caiaphas, and for Herod! What a sight it will be for those who, in their lifetime, said that there was no Saviour, and no need of one; or that Jesus was a mere man, and that his blood was not a propitiation for sin! Those that scoffed and reviled him have long since died, but they shall all rise again, and rise to this heritage among the rest— that they shall see him whom they blasphemed sitting in the clouds of heaven. Prisoners are troubled at the sight of the judge. The trumpet of assize brings no music to the ears of criminals. But thou must hear it, O impenitent sinner! Even in thy grave thou must hear the voice of the Son of God, and live, and come forth from the tomb, to receive the things done in thy body, whether they were good or bad. Death cannot hide thee, nor the vault conceal thee, nor rottenness and corruption deliver thee. Thou art bound to see in thy body the Lord who will judge both thee and thy fellows.

     It is mentioned here that he will especially be seen by those that pierced him. In this is included all the company that nailed him to the tree, with those that took the spear and made the gash in his side; indeed, all that had a hand in his cruel crucifixion. It includes all of these, but it comprehends many more besides. “They also who pierced him” are by no means a few. Who have pierced him? Why those that once professed to love him, and have gone back to the world. Those that once ran well, “What did hinder them?” And now they use their tongues to speak against the Christ whom once they professed to love. They also have pierced him whose inconsistent lives have brought dishonour upon the sacred name of Jesus. They also have pierced him, who refused his love, stifled their consciences, and refused his rebukes. Alas, that so many of you should be piercing him now by your base neglect of his salvation! They that went every Sunday to hear of him, and that remained hearers only, destroying their own souls rather than yield to his infinite love: these pierced his tender heart. Dear hearers, I wish I could plead effectually with you tonight, so that you would not continue any longer among the number of those that pierced him. If you will look at Jesus now, and mourn for your sin, he will put your sin away; and then you will not be ashamed to see him in that day. Even though you did pierce him, you will be able to sing, “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.” But, remember, if you persevere in piercing him, and fighting against him, you will still have to see him in that day, to your terror and despair. He will be seen by you and by me, however ill we may behave. And what horror will that sight cost us!

     I felt unfit to preach to you to-night; but last Lord’s-day I said that I would preach to-night if I could possibly manage it. It seemed barely possible, but I could not do less than keep my word; and I also longed to be with you, for your sakes; for peradventure there may not remain many more occasions on which I shall be permitted to preach the gospel among you. I am often ill; who knows how soon I shall come to my end? I would use all that remains to me of physical strength and providential opportunity. We never know how soon we may be cut off, and then we are gone for ever from the opportunity of benefiting our fellow-men. It were a pity to be taken away with one opportunity of doing good unused. So would I earnestly plead with you under the shadow of this great truth: I would urge you to make ready, since we shall both behold the Lord in the day of his appearing. Yes, I shall stand in that great throng. You also will be there. How will you feel? You are not accustomed, perhaps, to attend a place of worship; but you will be there, and the spot will be very solemn to you. You may absent yourself from the assemblies of the saints, but you will not be able to absent yourself from the gathering of that day. You will be there, one in that great multitude; and you will see Jesus the Lord as truly as if you were the only person before him, and he will look upon you as certainly as if you were the only one that was summoned to his bar.

     Will you kindly think of all this as I close this second head? Silently repeat to yourself the words, “Every eye shall see him, and they also that pierced him.”

     III. And now I must close with the third head, which is a painful one, but needs to be enlarged upon: HIS COMING WILL CAUSE GREAT SORROW. What does the text say about his coming?

     “All kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.” “All kindreds of the earth.” Then this sorrow will be very general. You thought, perhaps, that when Christ came, he would come to a glad world, welcoming him with song arid music. You thought that there might be a few ungodly persons who would be destroyed with the breath of his mouth, but that the bulk of mankind would receive him with delight. See how different— “All kindreds of the earth,” that is, all sorts of men that belong to the earth; all earth-born men, men out of all nations and kindreds and tongues shall weep and wail, and gnash their teeth at his coming. O sirs, this is a sad outlook! We have no smooth things to prophesy. What think you of this?

     And, next, this sorrow will be very great. They shall “wail.” I cannot put into English the full meaning of that most expressive word. Sound it at length, and it conveys its own meaning. It is as when men wring their hands and burst out into a loud cry; or as when eastern women, in their anguish, rend their garments, and lift up their voices with the most mournful notes. All the kindreds of the earth shall wail: wail as a mother laments over her dead child; wail as a man might wail who found himself hopelessly imprisoned and doomed to die. Such will be the hopeless grief of all the kindreds of the earth at the sight of Christ in the clouds: if they remain impenitent, they shall not be able to be silent; they shall not be able to repress or conceal their anguish, but they shall wail, or openly give vent to their horror. What a sound that will be which will go up before high heaven when Jesus sits upon the cloud, and in the fulness of his power summons them to judgment! Then “they shall wail because of him.”

     Will your voice be heard in that wailing? Will your heart be breaking in that general dismay? How will you escape? If you are one of the kindreds of the earth, and remain impenitent, you will wail with the rest of them. Unless you now fly to Christ, and hide yourself in him, and so become one of the kindred of heaven— one of his chosen and blood-washed ones them from their sins— who shall praise his name for washing— unless you do this, there will be wailing at the judgment-seat of Christ, and you will be in it.

     Then it is quite clear that men will not be universally converted when Christ comes; because, if they were so, they would not wail. Then they would lift up the cry, “Welcome, welcome, Son of God!” The coming of Christ would be as the hymn puts it—

“Hark, those bursts of acclamation!
Hark, those loud triumphant chords!
Jesus takes the highest station.
Oh, what joy the sight affords!”

These acclamations come from his people. But according to the text the multitude of mankind will weep and wail, and therefore they will not be among his people. Do not, therefore, look for salvation to some coming day, but believe in Jesus now, and find in him your Saviour at once. If you joy in him now, you shall much more rejoice in him in that day; but if you will have cause to wail at his coming, it will be well to wail at once.

     Note one more truth. It is quite certain that when Jesus comes in those latter days men will not be expecting great things of him. You know the talk, they have nowadays about “a larger hope.” To-day they deceive the people with the idle dream of repentance and restoration after death, a fiction unsupported by the least tittle of Scripture. If these kindreds of the earth expected that when Christ would come they would all die out and cease to be, they would rejoice that thereby they escaped the wrath of God. Would not each unbeliever say, “It were a consummation devoutly to be wished”? If they thought that at his coming there would be a universal restoration and a general jail delivery of souls long shut up in prison, would they wail? If Jesus could be supposed to come to proclaim a general restoration they would not wail, but shout for joy. Ah, no! It is because his coming to the impenitent is black with blank despair that they will wail because of him. If his first coming does not give you eternal life, his second coming will not. If you do not hide in his wounds when he comes as your Saviour, there will lie no hiding place for you when he comes as your Judge. They will weep and wail because, having rejected the Lord Jesus, they have turned their backs on the last possibility of hope.

     Why do they wail because of him? Will it not be because they will see him in his glory, and they will recollect that they slighted and despised him? They will see him come to judge them, and they will remember that once he stood at their door with mercy in his hands and said, “Open to me,” but they would not admit him. They refused his blood: they refused his righteousness: they trifled with his sacred name; and now they must give an account for this wickedness. They put him away in scorn, and now, when he comes, they find that they can trifle with him no longer. The days of child’s-play and of foolish delay are over; and now they have solemnly to give in their life’s account. See, the books are opened! They are covered with dismay as they remember their sins, and know that they are written down by a faithful pen. They must give an account; and unwashed and unforgiven they cannot render that account without knowing that the sentence will be, “Depart, ye cursed.” This is why they weep and wail because of him.

     O souls, my natural love of ease makes me wish that I could preach pleasant things to you; but they are not in my commission. I need scarce wish, however, to preach a soft gospel, for so many are already doing it to your cost. As I love your immortal souls, I dare not flatter you. As I shall have to answer for it in the last great day, I must tell you the truth.

“Ye sinners seek his face
Whose wrath ye cannot bear.”

Seek the mercy of God to-night. I have come here in pain to implore you to be reconciled to God. “Kiss the Son lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”

     But if you will not have my Lord Jesus, he comes all the same for that. He is on the road now, and when he comes you will wail because of him. Oh that you would make him your friend, and then meet him with joy! Why will ye die? He gives life to all those who trust him. Believe, and live.

     God save your souls to-night, and he shall have the glory. Amen.



The Blood of Sprinkling and the Children

By / Oct 23

The Blood of Sprinkling and the Children

 

“Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover. And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning. For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you. And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever. And it shall come to pass, when ye be come to the land which the Lord will give you, according as he hath promised, that ye shall keep this service. And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? that ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses.”— Exodus xii. 21— 27.

 

I WANTED, dear friends, earnestly wanted, to continue the subject of last Lord’s-day morning; for I felt it important that we should bear again and again our witness to the doctrine of the vicarious sacrifice of Jesus Christ our Lord. But, at the same time, I promised that I would endeavour to keep “the feast of the children,” and have a sermon which should be specially addressed to Sunday-school teachers. I could not preach a school sermon at the appointed time, so as to open your children’s week, but thought a discourse might come in none the less suitably if I brought up the rear by closing your meetings. How am I to fulfil both my purposes? I think the subject before us will enable me to do so. We shall preach of the sprinkled blood, and of Jesus the great sacrifice for sin; and then we shall press upon all who know the value of the great redemption that they teach the young in their earliest days what is meant by the death of Jesus and salvation through his blood.

     The Paschal lamb was a special type of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are not left to gather this from the general fact that all the ancient sacrifices were shadows of the one true and real substance; but we are assured in the New Testament that “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. v. 7). As the Paschal lamb must be without blemish, so was our Lord, and its killing and roasting with fire were typical of his death and sufferings. Even as to time, our Lord fulfilled the type, for the time of his crucifixion was the passover. As the impression answers to the seal, so does the sacrifice of our Lord correspond with all the items of the passover ceremonial. We see him “drawn out” from among men, and led as a lamb to the slaughter; we see his blood shed and sprinkled; we see him roasted in the lire of anguish; by faith we eat of him, and flavour the feast with the bitter herbs of penitence. We see Jesus and salvation where the carnal eye secs only a slaughtered lamb, and a people saved from death.

     The Spirit of God in the passover ceremonial lays special emphasis upon the sprinkling of the blood. That which men so greatly oppose, he as diligently sets forth as the head and front of revelation. The blood of the chosen lamb was caught in a basin, and not spilled upon the ground in wastefulness; for the blood of Christ is most precious. Into this bowl of blood a bunch of hyssop was dipped. The sprays of that little shrub would hold the crimson drops, so that they could be easily sprinkled. Then the father of the family went outside, and struck with this hyssop the lintel and the two side posts of the door; and so the house was marked with three crimson streaks. No blood was put upon the threshold. Woe unto the man that tramples upon the blood of Christ, and treats it as an unholy thing! Alas! I fear that many are doing so at this hour, not only among the outside world, but among those who profess and call themselves Christians.

     I shall endeavour to bring forward two things. First, the importance attached to the sprinkled blood; and, secondly, the institution connected with it, namely, that the children should be instructed in the meaning of sacrifice, so that they also may teach their children, and keep alive the memory of the Lord’s great deliverance.

     I. First: THE IMPORTANCE ATTACHED TO THE BLOOD OF SACRIFICE is here made very plain. Pains are taken to make the sacrifice observable, yea, to force it upon the notice of all the people.

     I note, first, that it became and remained the national mark. If you had traversed the streets of Memphis or Rameses on the night of the Passover, you could have told who were Israelites and who were Egyptians by one conspicuous token. There was no need to listen under the window to hear the speech of the people within the house, nor to wait till any came into the street so that you could observe their attire. This one thing alone would be a sufficient guide— the Israelite had the bloodmark upon his doorway, the Egyptian had it not. Mark you, this is still the great point of difference between the children of God and the children of the wicked one. There are, in truth, but two denominations upon this earth— the church and the world; those who are justified in Christ Jesus, and those who are condemned in their sins. This shall stand for a never-failing sign of the “Israelite indeed”: he has come to the blood of sprinkling, which speaketh better things than that of Abel. He that believeth in the Son of God, as the one accepted sacrifice for sin, hath salvation, and he that believeth not in him will die in his sins. The true Israel are trusting in the sacrifice once offered for sin; it is their rest, their comfort, their hope. As for those who are not trusting in the atoning sacrifice, they have rejected the counsel of God against themselves, and thus have declared their true character and condition. Jesus said, “Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you”; and want of faith in that shedding of blood, without which there is no remission of sin, is the damning mark of one who is a stranger to the commonwealth of Israel. Let us make no question about it: “Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God.” (See 2 John 9, in the Revised Version.) He that will not accept the propitiation which God hath set forth must bear his own iniquity. Nothing more just, and yet nothing more terrible, can happen to such a man than that his iniquity should not be purged by sacrifice nor offering for ever. I care not what your supposed righteousness may be, nor how you think to commend yourselves to God, if you reject his Son, he will reject you. If you come before God without the atoning blood, you have neither part nor lot in the matter of the covenant inheritance, and you are not numbered among the people of God. The sacrifice is the national mark of the spiritual Israel, and he that hath it not is an alien; he shall have no inheritance among them that are sanctified, neither shall he behold the Lord in glory.

     Secondly, as this was the national mark, it was also the saving token. That night the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast, and as he flew down the streets of Egypt he smote high and low, the firstborn of princes and the first-born of beasts, so that in every house and in every stall there was one dead. Where he saw the blood-mark he entered not to smite; but everywhere else the vengeance of the Lord fell on the rebellious. The words are very remarkable: “The Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.” What holds back the sword? Nothing but the blood-stain on the door. The lamb has been slain, and they have sprinkled their houses with the blood, and therefore are they secure. The sons of Jacob were not richer, nor wiser, nor stronger, nor more skilled than the sons of Ham; but they were redeemed by the blood, and therefore they lived, while those who knew not the redeeming token died. When Jericho fell down, the one house that stood was that which had the scarlet line in the window; and when the Lord visits for sin, the man that shall escape is he who knows Jesus, “in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sin according to the riches of his grace.”

     I call your very special attention, however, to the words that are used in the twenty-third verse: “The Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door.” What an instructive expression! “When he seeth the blood.” It is a very comforting thing for you and for me to behold the atonement; for thus we gain peace and enter into rest; but, after all, the grand reason of our salvation is that the Lord himself looks upon the atonement, and is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake. In the thirteenth verse we hear the Lord himself say: “When I see the blood I will pass over you.” Think of the holy eye of God being turned to him that taketh away the sin of the world, and so fixed on him that he passes over us. He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, but he looks upon the face of his anointed and forgives the sin. He accepts us with our sacrifice. Well does our hymn-writer pray—

“Him and then the sinner see;
Look through Jesu’s wounds on me.”

It is not our sight of the sprinkled blood which is the basis of salvation, but God’s sight of it. God’s acceptance of Christ is the sure guarantee of the salvation of those who accept his sacrifice. Beloved,

when thine eye of faith is dim, when thine eye-balls swim, in a flood of tears, when the darkness of sorrow hides much from thy vision, then Jehovah sees the blood of his Son, and spares thee. In the thick darkness, when thou canst not see at all, the Lord God never fails to see in Jesus that with which he is well pleased, and with which his law is honoured. He will not suffer the destroyer to come near thee to harm thee, because he sees in Christ that which vindicates his justice and establishes the needful rule of law. The blood is the saving mark. At this moment this is the pressing question for each one in the company gathered in this house: Do you trust the divine propitiation or do you not? Bring to me what you will to prove your own personal excellence. I believe in no virtue which insults the Saviour’s blood, which alone cleanseth us from all sin. Rather confess your multiplied transgressions and shortcomings, and then take heart and hope; for there is forgiveness large and free for the very chief of sinners, through him who has made peace by the blood of his cross.

     O my hearer, guilty and self-condemned, if thou wilt now come and trust in Jesus Christ, thy sins, which are many, shall be all forgiven thee, and thou shalt love so much in return, that the whole bent and bias of thy mind shall be turned from sin to gracious obedience. The atonement applied to the conscience saves from despair, and then acting upon the heart it saves from the love of evil. But the atonement is the saving sign. The blood on the lintel and on the two side posts secured the house of the poorest Israelite; but the proudest Egyptian, yea, even Pharaoh on the throne, could not escape the destroyer’s sword. Believe and live. Reject the atonement and perish!

     Note, next, that the mark of the blood was rendered as conspicuous as possible. The Israelites, though they ate the Paschal lamb in the quiet of their own families, yet made no secret of the sacrifice. They did not make the distinctive mark upon the wall of some inner chamber, or in some place where they could cover it with hangings, that no man might perceive it; but they smote the upper part of the doorway and the two side posts of the door, so that all who passed by the house must see that it was marked in a peculiar manner, and marked with blood. The Lord’s people were not ashamed to have the blood thus put in the forefront of every dwelling: and those that are saved by the great sacrifice are not to treat the doctrine of substitution as a hole-and-corner creed, to be secretly held, but not openly avowed. The death of Jesus in our room and place and stead is not a redemption of which we are ashamed to speak in any place. Call it old-fashioned and out of date, our critics may; but we are not ashamed to publish it to the four winds of heaven, and to avow our confidence in it. He that is ashamed of Christ in this generation, of him will Christ be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father, and all his holy angels with him. There is a theology abroad in the world which admits the death of Christ to a certain indefinable place in its system, but that place is very much in the rear: I claim for the atonement the front and the centre. The Lamb must be in the midst of the throne. Atonement is not a mystery scarcely to be spoken of, or if spoken of at all, to be whispered. No, no, it is a sublime simplicity, a fact for a child to know, a truth for the common people to rejoice in! We must preach Christ crucified whatever else we do not preach. Brethren, I do not think a man ought to hear a minister preach three sermons without learning the doctrine of atonement. I give wide latitude when I say this, for I would desire never to preach at all without setting forth salvation by faith in the blood of Jesus. Across my pulpit and my tabernacle shall be the mark of the blood; it will disgust the enemy, but it will delight the faithful. Substitution seems to me to be the soul of the gospel, the life of the gospel, the essence of the gospel; therefore must it be ever in the front. Jesus, as the Lamb of God, is the Alpha, and we must keep him first and before all others. I charge you, Christian people, do not make this a secondary doctrine. Keep your perspective right, and have this always in the foreground. Other truths are valuable, and may most worthily be placed in the distance; but this is always to be in the foreground. The centre of Christianity is the cross, and the meaning of the cross is substitution.

“We may not know, we cannot tell,
What pains our Jesus bare,
But we believe it was for us
He hung and suffered there.”

     The great sacrifice is the place of gathering for the chosen seed: we meet at the cross, even as every family in Israel met around the table whereon was placed the lamb, and met within a house which was marked with blood. Instead of looking upon the vicarious sacrifice as placed somewhere in the remote distance, we find in it the centre of the church. Nay, more; it is so much the vital, all-essential centre, that to remove it is to tear out the heart of the church. A congregation which has rejected the sacrifice of Christ is not a church, but an assembly of unbelievers. Of the church I may truly say, “The blood is the life thereof.” Like the doctrine of justification by faith, the doctrine of a vicarious sacrifice is the article of standing or falling to each church: atonement by the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ means spiritual life, and the rejection of it is the reverse. Wherefore, we must never be ashamed of this all-important truth, but make it as conspicuous as possible. “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness: but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”

     Further, the sprinkled blood was not only most conspicuous, but it was made very dear to the people themselves by the fact that they trusted in it in the most implicit manner. After the door-posts had been smeared the people went inside into their houses, and they shut to the door, never to open it again till the morning. They were busy inside: there was the roasting of the lamb, the preparing of the bitter herbs, the girding of their loins, the getting ready for their march, and so forth; but this was done without fear of danger, though they knew that the destroyer was abroad. The command of the Lord was, “None of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning.” What is going on in the street? You must not go to see. The midnight hour has come. Did you not hear it? Hark, that dreadful cry! Again a piercing shriek! What is it? The anxious mother asks, “What can it be?” “There was a great cry in Egypt.” The Israelites must not heed that cry so as to break the divine word which shut them in for a little moment, till the tempest was overpast. Perhaps persons of doubtful mind, during that dread night, may have said, “Something awful is happening. Hear those cries! Listen to the tramping of the people in the streets, as they hurry to and fro! It may be there is a conspiracy to slay us at dead of night.” “None of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning” was sufficient for all who truly believed. They were safe, and they knew it, and so, like the chicks beneath the wings of the hen, they rested in safety. Beloved, let us do the same. Let us honour the precious blood of Christ not only by speaking of it boldly to others, but by a calm and happy trust in it for ourselves. In full assurance let us rest. Do you believe that Jesus died for you? Then be at peace. Let no man’s heart fail him now that he knows that Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures. Let the cross be the pillar of our confidence, unmoved and immovable. Do not be agitated about what has been or what is to be: we are housed in safety in Christ Jesus both from the sins of the past and the dangers of the future. All is well, since love’s atoning work is done. In holy peacefulness let us proceed with our household work, purging out the old leaven and keeping the feast; but let no fear or doubt disturb us for an instant. We pity those who die without Christ, but we cannot quit our Lord under the pretence of saving them: that would be folly. I know there are terrible cries outside in the streets— who has not heard them? Oh, that the people would but shelter beneath the blood-mark! It pierces our heart to think of the doom of the ungodly when they perish in their sins; but, as Noah did not quit the ark, nor Israel leave her abode, so our hope is not larger than the cross will warrant. All who shelter beneath the blood of the atonement are secure, and as for those who reject this great salvation, how shall they escape? There are great and sad mysteries in this long night, but in the morning we shall know as much of God’s dealings with men as it will be good for us to know. Meanwhile, let us labour to bring our fellows within the pale of safety, but yet let us be ourselves peaceful, composed, restful, and joyful. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” “And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” Possess ye your souls in patience. Oh, rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him. Feed upon the Lamb, for his flesh is meat indeed. That same Jesus who has preserved your life from destruction will be the sustenance of that life evermore. Be happy beneath the saving blood-mark. Make a feast of your passover. Though there be death outside, let your joy within be undisturbed.

     I cannot stay long on any one point, and therefore notice, next, that the Paschal bloodshedding was to be had in perpetual remembrance. “Ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever.” As long as Israel remained a people, they were to keep the passover: so long as there is a Christian upon earth the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus must be kept in memory. No progress of years or advance of thought could take away the memory of the Paschal sacrifice from Israel. Truly it was a night to be remembered when the Lord brought out his people from under the iron yoke of Egypt. It was such a wonderful deliverance, as to the plagues which preceded it, and the miracle at the Red Sea which followed it, that no event could possibly excel it in interest and glory. It was such a triumph of God's power over the pride of Pharaoh, and such a manifestation of God’s love to his own people, that they were not merely to be glad for one night, nor for one year, nor even for a century; but they were to remember it for ever. Might there not come a time when Israel would have achieved further history? Might not some grander event eclipse the glory of Egypt’s overthrow? Never! The death of Egypt’s firstborn, and the song of Moses at the Red Sea must remain for ever woven into the tapestry of Hebrew history. Evermore did Jehovah say, “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” Beloved, the death of our Lord Jesus Christ is to be declared and showed by us until he come. No truth can ever be discovered which can put his sacrificial death into the shade. Whatever shall occur, even though he cometh in the clouds of heaven, yet our song shall be for ever, “Unto him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood.” Amid the splendour of his endless reign he shall be “the Lamb in the midst of the throne.” Christ as the sacrifice for sin shall ever be the subject of our hallelujahs: “For thou wast slain.” Certain vainglorious minds are advancing— advancing from the rock to the abyss. They are making progress from truth to falsehood. They are thinking, but their thoughts are not God’s thoughts, neither are their ways his ways. They are leaving the gospel, they are going away from Christ, and they know not whither. In quitting the substitutionary sacrifice they are quitting the sole hope of man. As for us, we hear the Lord saying to us, “Ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever,” and so will we do. “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever,” is our boast and glory. Let others wander where they will, we abide with him who bore our sins in his own body on the tree.

     Notice next, dear friends, that when the people came into the land where no Egyptian ever entered they were still to remember the passover. “It shall come to pass, When ye be come to the land which the Lord will give you, according as he hath promised, that ye shall keep this service.” In the land that flowed with milk and honey there was still to be the memorial of the sprinkled blood. Our Lord Jesus is not for the first day of our repentance only, but for all the days of our lives: we remember him as well amid our highest spiritual joys as in our deepest spiritual griefs. The Paschal lamb is for Canaan, as well as for Egypt, and the sacrifice for sin is for our full assurance as well as for our trembling hope. You and I will never attain to such a state of grace that we can do without the blood which cleanseth from sin. If we should ever reach perfection, then would Christ be even more precious than he is to-day; or, if we did not find him so, we might be sure that our pretended attainment was a wretched delusion. If we walk in the light as God is in the light, and have constant fellowship with him, yet still the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

     Moreover, brethren, I want you to notice carefully that this sprinkling of the blood was to be an all-pervading memory. Catch this thought: the children of Israel could not go out of their houses, and they could not come in, without the remembrance of the sprinkled blood. It was over their heads; they must come under it. It was on the right hand and on the left: they must be surrounded by it. They might almost say of it, “Whither shall we go from thy presence?” Whether they looked on their own doors, or on those of their neighbours, there was the same threefold streak, and it was there both by day and by night. Nor was this all; when two of Israel married, and the foundation of a family was laid, there was another memorial. The young husband and wife had the joy of looking upon their firstborn child, and then they called to mind that the Lord had said, “Sanctify to me all the firstborn.” As an Israelite he explained this to his son, and said, “By strength of hand the Lord brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage; and it came to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the Lord slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man, and the firstborn of beast: therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all that openeth the matrix, being males; but all the firstborn of my children I redeem.” The commencement of every family that made up the Israelitish nation was thus a time of special remembrance of the sprinkling of the blood; for then the redemption money must be paid, and thus an acknowledgment made that they were the Lord’s, having been bought with a price. In ways many, and everywhere present, the people were reminded of the need of sacrifice. To the thoughtful, every going down of the sun reminded him of the night to be remembered; while the beginning of each year in the month Abib brought home to him the fact that the beginning of his nation dated from the time of the killing of the lamb. The Lord took means to keep this matter before the people; for they were wayward, and seemed bent upon forgetting, even like this present age.

     In the thirteenth chapter, in verse 9, we read: “It shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes.” And again, in verse 16, we read: “And it shall be for a token upon thine hand, and for frontlets between thine eyes: for by strength of hand the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt.” By this is meant that they were henceforth to do everything with regard to redemption, and they were henceforth to see everything in connection with redemption. Redemption by blood was to consecrate each man’s hand, so that he could not use it for evil, but must employ it for the Lord. He could not take his food, or his tool, in his hand, without remembrance of the sprinkled blood which had made his food and his labour a blessing. All his acts were to be under the influence of atoning blood. Oh, what service you and I would render if it was always redeemed labour that we gave! If we went to our Sunday-school class, for instance, feeling, “I am bought with a price,” and if we preached with redeemed lips the gospel of our own salvation, how livingly and lovingly we should speak! What an effect this would have on our lives! You would not dare, some of you, to do what you now do, if you remembered that Jesus died for you. Many a thing which you have left undone would at once be minded if you had a clearer consciousness of redeeming love. The Jews became superstitious, and were content with the letter of their law, and so they wrote out certain verses upon little strips of parchment called “tephillin,” which they enclosed in a box, and then strapped upon their wrists. The true meaning of the passage did not lie in any such childish action; but it taught them that they were to labour and to act with holy hands, as men under overwhelming obligations to the Lord’s redeeming grace. Redemption is to be our impulse for holy service, our check when we are tempted to sin. They were also to wear the memory of the passover as frontlets between their eyes, and you know how certain Jews actually wore phylacteries upon their foreheads. That could be no more than the mere shell of the thing: the essence of the command was that they were to look on everything in reference to redemption by blood. Brethren, we should view everything in this world by the light of redemption, and then we shall view it aright. It makes a wonderful change whether you view providence from the standpoint of human merit or from the foot of the cross. We see nothing truly till Jesus is our light. Everything is seen in its reality when you look through the glass, the ruby glass of the atoning sacrifice. Use this telescope of the cross, and you shall see far and clear; look at sinners through the cross; look at saints through the cross; look at sin through the cross; look at the world’s joys and sorrows through the cross; look at heaven and hell through the cross. See how conspicuous the blood of the passover was meant to be, and then learn from all this to make much of the sacrifice of Jesus, yea, to make everything of it, for Christ is all.

     One thing more: we read in Deuteronomy, in the sixth chapter, and the eighth verse, concerning the commandments of the Lord, as follows: “And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.” See, then, that the law is to be written hard by the memorials of the blood. In Switzerland, in the Protestant villages, you have seen texts of Scripture upon the doorposts. I half wish we had that custom in England. How much of gospel might be preached to wayfarers if texts of Scripture were over Christian people’s doors! It might be ridiculed as Pharisaical, but we could get over that. Few are liable to that charge in these days through being religious overmuch. I like to see texts of Scripture in our houses, in all the rooms, on the cornices, and on the walls; but outside on the door— what a capital advertisement the gospel might get at a cheap rate! But note, that when the Jew wrote upon his door-posts a promise, or a precept, or a doctrine, he had to write upon a surface stained with blood, and when the next year’s passover came round he had to sprinkle the blood with the hyssop right over the writing. It seems to me so delightful to think of the law of God in connection with that atoning sacrifice which has magnified it and made it honourable. God’s commands come to me as a redeemed man; his promises are to me as a blood-bought man; his teaching instructs me as one for whom atonement has been made. The law in the hand of Christ is not a sword to slay us, but a jewel to enrich us. All truth taken in connection with the cross is greatly enhanced in value. Holy Scripture itself becomes dear to a sevenfold degree when we see that it comes to us as the redeemed of the Lord, and bears upon its every page marks of those dear hands which were nailed to the tree for us.

     Beloved, you now see how everything was done that could well be thought of to bring the blood of the Paschal lamb into a high position in the esteem of the people whom the Lord brought out of Egypt; and you and I must do everything we can think of to bring forward, and keep before men for ever the precious doctrine of the atoning sacrifice of Christ. He was made sin for us though he knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

     II. And now I will spend a short time in reminding you of THE INSTITUTION THAT WAS CONNECTED WITH THE REMEMBRANCE OF THE PASSOVER. “It shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? that ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s passover.”

     Inquiry should be excited in the minds of our children. Oh, that we could get them to ask questions about the things of God! Some of them enquire very early, others of them seem diseased with much the same indifference as older folks. With both orders of mind we have to deal. It is well to explain to children the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, for this shows forth the death of Christ in symbol. I regret that children do not oftener see this ordinance. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper should both be placed in view of the rising generation, that they may then ask us, “What mean ye by this?” Now, the Lord’s Supper is a perennial gospel sermon, and it turns mainly upon the sacrifice for sin. You may banish the doctrine of the atonement from the pulpit, but it will always live in the church through the Lord’s Supper. You cannot explain that broken bread and that cup filled with the fruit of the vine, without reference to our Lord’s atoning death. You cannot explain “the communion of the body of Christ” without bringing in, in some form or other, the death of Jesus in our place and stead. Let your little ones, then, see the Lord’s Supper, and let them be told most clearly what it sets forth. And if not the Lord’s Supper— for that is not the thing itself, but only the shadow of the glorious fact— dwell much and often in their presence upon the sufferings and death of our Redeemer. Let them think of Gethsemane, and Gabbatha, and Golgotha, and let them learn to sing in plaintive tones of him who laid down his life for us. Tell them who it was that suffered, and why. Yes, though the hymn is hardly to my taste in some of its expressions, I would have the children sing—

“There is a green hill far away,
Without a city wall.”

And I would have them learn such lines as these:

“He knew how wicked we had been,
And knew that God must punish sin;
So out of pity Jesus said,
He’d bear the punishment instead.”

     And when attention is excited upon the best of themes, let us be ready to explain the great transaction by which God is just, and yet sinners are justified. Children can well understand the doctrine of the expiatory sacrifice; it was meant to be a gospel for the youngest. The gospel of substitution is a simplicity, though it is a mystery. We ought not to be content until our little ones know and trust in their finished sacrifice. This is essential knowledge, and the key to all other spiritual teaching. May our dear children know the cross, and they will have begun well. With all their gettings may they get an understanding of this, and they will have the foundation rightly laid.

     This will necessitate your teaching the child his need of a Saviour. You must not hold back from this needful task. Do not flatter the child with delusive rubbish about his nature being good and needing to be developed. Tell him he must be born again. Don’t bolster him up with the fancy of his own innocence, but show him his sin. Mention the childish sins to which he is prone, and pray the Holy Spirit to work conviction in his heart and conscience. Deal with the young in much the same way as you would with the old. Be thorough and honest with them. Flimsy religion is neither good for young nor old. These boys and girls need pardon through the precious blood as surely as any of us. Do not hesitate to tell the child his ruin; he will not else desire the remedy. Tell him also of the punishment of sin, and warn him of its terror. Be tender, but be true. Do not hide from the youthful sinner the truth, however terrible it may be. Now that he has come to years of responsibility, if he believes not in Christ, it will go ill with him at the last great day. Set before him the judgment-seat, and remind him that he will have to give an account of things done in the body. Labour to arouse the conscience; and pray God the Holy Spirit to work by you till the heart becomes tender and the mind perceives the need of the great salvation.

     Children need to learn the doctrine of the cross that they may find immediate salvation. I thank God that in our Sabbath-school we believe in the salvation of children as children. How very many has it been my joy to see of boys and girls who have come forward to confess their faith in Christ! and I again wish to say that the best converts, the clearest converts, the most intelligent converts we have ever had have been the young ones; and, instead of there being any deficiency in their knowledge of the Word of God, and the doctrines of grace, we have usually found them to have a very delightful acquaintance with the great cardinal truths of Christ. Many of these dear children have been able to speak of the things of God with great pleasure of heart, and force of understanding. Go on, dear teachers, and believe that God will save your children. Be not content to sow principles in their minds which may possibly develop in after years; but be working for immediate conversion. Expect fruit in your children while they are children. Pray for them that they may not run into the world and fall into the evils of outward sin, and then come back with broken bones to the Good Shepherd; but that they may by God’s rich grace be kept from the paths of the destroyer, and grow up in the fold of Christ, first as lambs of his flock, and then as sheep of his hand.

     One thing I am sure of, and that is, that if we teach the children the doctrine of the atonement in the most unmistakable terms we shall be doing ourselves good. I sometimes hope that God will revive his church and restore her to her ancient faith by a gracious work among children. If he would bring into our churches a large influx of young people, how it would tend to quicken the sluggish blood of the supine and sleepy! Child Christians tend to keep the house alive. Oh, for more of them! If the Lord will but help us to teach the children we shall be teaching ourselves. There is no way of learning like teaching, and you do not know a thing till you can teach it to another. You do not thoroughly know any truth till you can put it before a child so that he can see it. In trying to make a little child understand the doctrine of the atonement you will get clearer views of it yourselves, and therefore I commend the holy exercise to you.

     What a mercy it will be if our children are thoroughly grounded in the doctrine of redemption by Christ! If they are warned against the false gospels of this evil age, and if they are taught to rest on the eternal rock of Christ’s finished work, we may hope to have a generation following us which will maintain the faith, and will be better than their fathers. Your Sunday-schools are admirable; but what is their purpose if you do not teach the gospel in them? You get children together and keep them quiet for an hour-and-a-half, and then send them home; but what is the good of it? It may bring some quiet to their fathers and mothers, and that is, perhaps, why they send them to the school; but all the real good lies in what is taught the children. The most fundamental truth should be made most prominent; and what is this but the cross? Some talk to children about being good boys and girls, and so on; that is to say, they preach the law to the children, though they would preach the gospel to grown-up people! Is this honest? Is this wise? Children need the gospel, the whole gospel, the unadulterated gospel; they ought to have it, and if they are taught of the Spirit of God they are as capable of receiving it as persons of ripe years. Teach the little ones that Jesus died, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. Very, very confidently do I leave this work in the hands of the teachers of this school. I never knew a nobler body of Christian men and women; for they are as earnest in their attachment to the old gospel as they are eager for the winning of souls. Be encouraged, my brothers and sisters: the God who has saved so many of your children is going to save very many more of them, and we shall have great joy in this Tabernacle as we see hundreds brought to Christ. God grant it, for his name’s sake! Amen.