To Those Who Feel Unfit for the Communion

By / Jun 22

To Those Who Feel Unfit for the Communion

 

“For there were many in the congregation that were not sanctified: therefore the Levites had the charge of the killing of the passovers for every one that was not clean, to sanctify them unto the Lord. For a multitude of the people, even many of Ephraim, and Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet did they eat the passover otherwise than it was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, The good Lord pardon every one that prepareth his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary. And the Lord hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people.”— 2 Chronicles xxx. 17— 20.

 

BRETHREN, it should be much to our joy that we do not serve under the ceremonial law, nor live within the legal dispensation. The legal economy exhibited to the people a multitude of types and figures, and consequently it laid down many rules and rituals; and these were enacted with such solemn and terrible penalties, that the people were in constant fear of offending, and found obedience irksome by reason of the weakness of their flesh and the unspirituality of their minds. As for our Lord Jesus, his yoke is easy, and his burden is light; but concerning the law, even Peter speaks of it as “a yoke which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear.” We are now brought into the glorious liberty of the children of God, a liberty which those who had been in the bondage could best appreciate. Those who are still under legal restrictions feel the pressure of them when they see the liberty of others. Sitting at dinner with a Samaritan, who considered himself under the law of the Pentateuch, I noticed that the worthy man refused first one dish and then another, and at length he exclaimed, “Moses very hard”; evidently feeling that the limit upon his diet involved a good deal of self-denial. Some of us could cheerfully bear such small matters as abstinence from certain meats and drinks; but if we were surrounded with regulations and prescriptions entering into minute details, our life would be full of care, and we should feel ill at ease.

     We have attained the liberty of the gospel, and we are not called upon to observe days, and months, and years; nor to border our garments with a certain colour, nor to trim our hair by rule; neither are we called to practise divers washings and purifyings, or to observe laws and regulations amounting to a continual round of rites. The “free Spirit” dwells in us; to us every place is hallowed; our religion is not of the outward, and in the matter of meats we call nothing common or unclean. We have ordinances, it is true, but they are few and simple. They are but two, and each of them is instructive and easy. Baptism and the Supper of the Lord, which are for the Lord’s people only, are easy of observance, and are for our help and comfort, but are by no means burdensome. These are not laid upon us as yokes, but given to us as privileges. Neither are they enforced by such a sentence as this: “The soul that forbeareth to keep the passover shall be cut off from among his people.” Gospel ordinances are choice enjoyments, enjoined upon us by the loving rule of him whom we call Master and Lord. We accept them with joy and delight. In keeping these commandments there is great reward; but they are not presented to us as matters of servitude. In baptism we are made to see the burial of our Lord, and are helped to enter into spiritual fellowship with him therein: this is no burdensome ordinance, but a delight. The Lord’s own Supper is a joyful festival, a feast of fat things, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. All is joy and rest about these two ordinances. In enjoying them we feel that we are not under law, but under grace. I would not have you come to this table with the same trembling with which an Israelite ate the passover, or stand there as the Israelite did, with your loins girt, and your staff in your hand, eating in haste and apprehension. Nay, but you may sit at ease, or even recline, to express the rest which you enjoy at the Lord’s table, and the close communion to which your Redeemer invites you. He has called you his friends, and he has honoured you to be his table companions, to sit and feast with him without reserve.

     Lest liberty should degenerate into license, I am bound to remind you that we are not left without command and direction. The law of love is as binding on us as ever the law of works could have been. We are still called to obedience — the obedience of faith. A most strict but most happy service grows out of sonship, and no true son wishes to disown it. Should not the son honour his father? Does not the Lord himself say, “If I be a father, where is mine honour?” There is a service of which we read, that God spares such a one, “as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.” We are not under the law, but yet we are not without law to Christ; and concerning these ordinances which I have described as the privilege of the Lord’s free men, there is an order of the Lord’s house, and a discipline of his family, which must by no means be set aside by the loving child. We are not slaves fearing the lash, but we are sons who have a filial fear of grieving our heavenly Father.

     The rules concerning the passover, and the right keeping of that high festival, were plain and definite, and to break them would have been a great offence to the God of Israel. These rules required a certain ceremonial cleanness on the part of all who partook of the Paschal lamb, and those who were defiled were kept back, so that they could not present the offering of the Lord in its appointed season. The sacred rite was not to be celebrated in heedless formalism, but with a careful cleansing out of the old leaven, that they might keep the feast aright. Now, concerning the memorial Supper of the Lord, we have no rubric as to the bread or the wine, and no prescribed regulation as to posture or manner of procedure; and yet there are certain notes of guidance which we shall do well to follow with loving care.

     For instance, when we come to this table of the Lord, it should not be without a preparedness of heart for it:— “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of this bread, and drink of this cup.” To come here irreverently, or with sinister motive, is to secure condemnation. To come here idly and carelessly is to lose the blessing. We should approach the table with hearts full of humility, gratitude, faith and expectation. We should receive the bread and wine with sincere longing after fellowship with Christ, tender love to his blessed person, and great joy in his finished work. If we do not thus partake of the sacred feast we shall miss its high design.

     Yet, nevertheless, since I fear that there may be a certain number here to-night of the Lord’s own people, who are in the condition of the multitude in Hezekiah’s day, out of Manasseh and Zebulun, who have not sufficiently cleansed themselves after the manner of the purification of the sanctuary, I am anxious to show them how they may, even now, come to the divine ordinance, and realize profit from it, through the abundance of divine grace. God helping them, from this moment they may commence the needful preparednessof heart, and may speedily attain to it. So long as they do sincerely wish to meet with God, and to enjoy fellowship with him in his ordinance, there is no reason why they should retire from the assembly of the saints. They may begin, even now, I say, to make ready for this festival, and by divine grace they may so partake of this Supper, as to find in it all that their hearts desire. Our Lord is able, by his Spirit, to wash away their present defilement, and quicken them in mind and soul, so that they may both draw near to God with true heart, and discern the Lord’s body with clear understanding. Such is the power of divine grace, that in a few moments the Lord can take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously. Our Great High-Priest, in the sacred authority of his divine office, can confer perfect cleansing, and give us full right to sit with the family, and partake of the lamb, and to rest beneath the roof, whose door has been marked for safety by the sprinkled blood.

     I. So I will begin by saying, first, that as in the case before us in the text, so at this very time, THERE ARE SEASONS WHEN WE FEEL UNFIT FOR THE SACRED ORDINANCE OF THE LORD S HOUSE.

     It may be, that at this hour, there are many in the congregation who are not sanctified for the feast, and are not cleansed according to the due order. I speak not of you all, there are choice spirits in this place, who “walk in the light, as God is in the light,” and have fellowship with God perpetually, so that the blood of Jesus cleanseth them from all sin. Why should we not all seek this acceptable preparedness, so that we may never be unfit for the most hallowed of all engagements? Ought we ever to be unfit for our Lord’s table? Those two disciples who walked from Jerusalem to Emmaus, talked together by the way. What a mercy it was that when their Lord asked them the manner of their communications, they could give this for their short answer: “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth”! Could you answer in such commendable style when you talk together? Consider, my brethren, and answer to your consciences. It is well to be in such a condition, that in our common talk we are still keeping near to Jesus of Nazareth. The transition from our private dialogue to our Lord’s actual company, and even to his being made known unto us in the breaking of bread, should be just like the gliding of a stream from one part of its channel to another, as it hastens its constant flow towards the boundless sea.

     I fear that many of us have to complain of ourselves at times that we feel unfit for any holy thing, and most of all for the solemn engagements of this hallowed ordinance. Let us think of the ways in which the Israelites were rendered unfit for the passover, and see how far they tally with our unfitness for the Supper. Some were kept away by defilement. Read in Numbers, ninth chapter, sixth verse— “And there were certain men, who were defiled by the dead body of a man, that they could not keep the passover on that day: and they came before Moses and before Aaron on that day.” For these men it was provided that they should keep the passover a month later, but they were to keep it without fail. Read the ninth and tenth verses— “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If any man of you or of your posterity shall be unclean by reason of a dead body, or be in a journey afar off, yet he shall keep the passover unto the Lord.” I am afraid that you and I touch a great many dead bodies, and are often defiled thereby. You cannot go out to your business to-morrow morning but you will meet with that spiritual death which loads with corruption the air of “this present evil world.” The dead in sin lie all around us; contact with their ways and motives, unless we are continually cleansed by divine grace, is defiling in many ways. Worse still, we cannot even stay at home without finding sin in our own dwellings. Yea, the mass of sin within your own selves, “the body of this death,” as Paul calls it, is a constant source of defilement. Some quickness of temper, or levity of language, or excess of care, or thought of pride, or desire of covetousness, will occur. Oh, that we were delivered from the liability! These dead and corrupt things lie, not only in a corner, but on the table, in the bed, and everywhere, and when we touch them we are defiled. Whatever kind of sin it may be, whether of act, or of word, or of thought, or of imagination, or desire, it defiles more than most men imagine. Oh, that those who prate about perfection knew their own uncleanness! It were for their humbling, if they knew the sadly all-pervading influence of evil. How shall we pass through this huge charnel-house of a world, so full of everything that is corrupt, without becoming daily defiled? There are sins even in our holy things. Who shall deliver us?

     A sense of defilement sadly tends to hinder fellowship. I know that if you are labouring to-night under a sense of sin, you do not feel the joyful liberty you would desire in coming to the hallowed table of your divine Lord. You long to have that sense of defilement sweetly removed by the application of the precious blood which cleanses from all sin. Thank God, that sacred purification is always available. You can at once wash and be clean, and know yourself to be “accepted in the Beloved.” Thus may you eat the passover even “as it is written”; but in any case, even if burdened with sin, the Lord does not forbid you to remember the death of his dear Son. Like the men of Ephraim, you shall find pardon, every one.

     Peradventure, however, you are not conscious of having fallen into any known sin; but yet you feel like one who is not at home with God, but at some measure of a distance from him. You are out of your usual walk and rest. That calm and holy frame, that perfect peace which once you enjoyed from hour to hour, has gone from you. Thus you have about you, spiritually, the second disqualification for the passover. When a man was on a journey afar off he could not keep the passover. The passover was a household institution. It required a house wherein the lamb could be slain and prepared for eating, and a door whereof the lintel and two side posts could be sprinkled with blood; so that, when a man was moving rapidly from place to place, and had no house wherein to sojourn, he could not observe the holy festival. Even thus, when you and I are out of our usual abode in Christ Jesus, and are wandering in anxiety, and care, and doubt, we do not feel able to commune with our Lord as our hearts would desire. Brethren, do we not sometimes flit to and fro, like Noah’s dove, finding no rest? How hard, then, is it to get into the full teaching of this holy Supper! It is well to sing, “Return unto thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee”; but till the prayer is answered, the ordinance is not enjoyed. The heart’s blood of the Eucharist is nearness to God; and when we are afar off, it is a poor, dead ceremony. Its crown and joy is rest; and if we are tossed to and fro like the locust, and are like a rolling thing before the whirlwind, what use can we make of the mere form of the feast? Then are we very sadly disqualified for the sweets of communion, and feel disposed to go home and leave the holy feast to others. Yet such going home would be painful, and might even be injurious. O Lord, what shall thy servants do? We feel like men on a battle-field, and this ordinance is as green pastures, wherein the sheep do feed, and lie down, while the shepherd comes among them, manifesting himself to them. Gracious Lord, quiet the inward warfare, and make us to lie down, as saith the Psalmist, “He maketh me to lie down”; for if thou do not thus give us rest, we shall trample down even these holy pastures, and grieve thy Spirit.

     Beloved friends, some of you have come hither to-night weary with the greatness of the way. You have been on a journey all this week, and you came to a halt on Saturday night afar off from that spirit of devotion which you should cultivate. Life of late has been full of troubles and perplexities. I pray the Lord to give you sweet rest at this moment, and bring you nigh to himself. “Cast your care on him; for he careth for you.” Lay your burdens down at the foot of the great burden-bearer’s cross. Be quiet even as a weaned child. At the same time, cry unto the Well-Beloved, “Draw me, we will run after thee”; and, or ever you are aware, your soul shall make you “like the chariots of Ammi-nadib.” If you cannot come to the Beloved he can come to you, “leaping over the mountains, skipping upon the hills,” and all your distance and disquiet will cease at once. So shall you keep the feast.

     It may so happen, that up to this moment you have been in an evil case, from unknown causes. You cannot say how or why, but certainly it is not with you as in days past. Marring influences not mentioned in the book of Numbers, and possibly not mentionable at all— but none the less real for that — may have been keeping you from eating the spiritual passover to your heart’s content, and may now tend to keep you from a truly happy approach to the Lord’s table in spirit and in truth. Whatever the cause may be, I want you to confess it frankly, just as those men in Numbers confessed to Moses that they had touched a dead body. So far as you know the cause of defilement and division, own it. Look at the mischief as best you can, and mourn over it as far as it is sinful. Then carefully put it away from you, so far as it is a matter of care or distrust; and labour earnestly at this moment to prepare your heart to seek the Lord your God, even though you cannot quite feel that you are cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary: I mean, even though you do not feel in the best possible frame of mind for holy fellowship.

     Some supposed disqualifications may be removed by an act of faith, or by a fuller knowledge. Do you fear to come because you have such little faith? May not the little children have their supper as well as the grown up sons? Are not these precisely the members of the family who most need to be fed and comforted? The utter absence of faith would shut you out, but not the feebleness of it. Come, thou little one: to thee I say, “Come in, thou blessed of the Lord, wherefore standest thou without?”

     Do you hesitate because your joy is not now overflowing? Is this a sufficient reason for refusing to obey the command, “This do in remembrance of me”? Were the twelve full of joy at the founding of this feast? Had they no questioning, saying, “Lord, is it I?” May not the feast itself furnish the joy? Is not the Lord of the feast your exceeding joy? If you cannot bring joy with you, come, that you may find it here.

     Do you say, I am spiritually weak in all points? Again I ask, is that a reason why you should not feed on the best of food? It seems to me that it is a chief reason why you should feed often and heartily. "Eat ye that which is good” is a safe prescription for you, and a generous invitation from your Lord. Greatly you need it, freely take it. The supply of heavenly bread is intended for those who are faint. “He hath filled the hungry with good things.” He will fill you.

     Do you complain that you feel so useless? This is a deplorable fact, but what has it to do with the matter in hand? Are you to come to your Lord’s table because you are useful to him? Nay, but that the Lord Jesus may be useful to you. Surely this is not a wage, but a provision of free grace. You do not bring the feast; your part is to receive it. So only can you become useful to Christ as Christ is abundantly useful to you. You cannot help to feed the multitude till your Lord first puts the bread into your hands. Come now and take what he has blessed.

     I know, that for many reasons, the choicest saints at times deem themselves disqualified for this holy banquet, and I have sometimes thought that that is not altogether an ill feeling; at any rate, it is a symptom of many healthy things. If I felt myself worthy in any sense, except the Scriptural one, I should infer from my self-satisfaction that I was unworthy. This table is no place for Pharisees. Where the Saviour presides, there may come none but sinners saved by his grace. If you have merits of your own which you can boast, and no sin to confess, you are not the man for whose salvation the Substitute has shed his precious blood. How could he atone for those who have no fault? But if you are a sinner, you are the sort of person whom Jesus came to save. Jesus is the sinner’s friend. He will be yours if you go to him in that capacity. How can we commemorate the shedding of his blood unless we daily feel that we have solemn need to be washed therein? How can we remember him except as we see how we derive all from him? Jesus is never seen to be a full Christ except by those who feel their own emptiness apart from him. He is never prized at a true value by those who have a high esteem of themselves. A broken heart knows best his power to comfort. A bleeding heart sees best his power to heal. If you are sensible of your unworthiness, you are not unworthy in the Scriptural sense, but may freely come. For my own part, I enjoy my holiest seasons when my heart lies low before the Lord. No communion is more intensely sweet than that which washes his feet with tears and covers them with kisses of penitential love. When I have been most ashamed of myself, my Lord has been most glorious in my eyes. When I have, in shame, covered my face, he has, in love, uncovered his own countenance. Come, then, ye weeping saints, for I know that ye seek Jesus; and you are such as he welcomes to his table! Bring your disqualifications, and turn them into confessions of sin; and these, by increasing your hunger, will enable you the better to enjoy the provisions of that sacred table where Jesus is both the host and the food: the bread and the wine, and yet the Master of the feast. Thus much upon those hindrances and disqualifications. It is not a cheering theme.

     II. But now, secondly, though we feel and lament our want of preparation, WE MAY STILL COME TO THE FEAST. Let us, to some extent, follow in the track of the men of Hezekiah’s time.

     They forgot their differences. The one nation had been rent into two, and even in Hezekiah’s time there was ill feeling between Ephraim and Judah; but the king of Judah overlooked his boundaries, and we read that the posts passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, even unto Zebulun; and divers of Asher and Manasseh and Zebulun humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem. Political and personal feuds were forgotten. They were one family, and they recognized the relationship, and gathered to the one table. I trust none of us are at variance with others; but if we are, let us make peace at once. This we can do on the spot: let us put away every angry and unkind thought. From this foul stuff let all our bosoms be purged at once. The memorials of our dying Lord have slain all our enmity, and given life to our love. This will be a great help towards coming fitly to the table.

     We read that when the tribes assembled they removed the idols. They took all the altars that were in Jerusalem, and cast them into the brook Kedron. This was a fine beginning for men who did not feel quite up to the mark. Come, brethren, let us down with our altars of creature worship, cut down the groves of carnal confidence, and break up the graven images of unholy love. If there is anything in our heart that has usurped our Lord’s place, let us each one to himself sing very softly this verse:—

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

Now, open your heart to Jesus, and give him all your love. He is worthy of much more. Young man, have you any ambitions that are apart from Christ’s glory? Break them as with a sledge hammer at this moment. Christian man, have you any glory apart from the cross of Jesus? At this moment crucify it. Nail your glory to his cross, and have done with it. Dear sister, are there any loves of yours that are alien to the love of Christ? Have you any secret delight which you could not expose to his view? Any alabaster box which you would not cheerfully break for him? Come, cast away all idols. You cannot keep the feast aright till this, at least, is done: but this accomplished, you may observe it with gladness. How I long to hear the breaker’s hammer going. Can it not be done at once? Unless those idols have been so long set up in your heart that there is a question whether you love the Lord at all, they will readily fall from their pedestals. If you love Jesus, your spirit will make your hand quick at this sacred iconoclasm, till you shall have broken down every imago which now defiles the temple of your soul.

     That done, those who were not all that they desired to be, yet endeavoured to prepare their hearts. “Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, The good Lord pardon every one that prepareth his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers.” Do you long to seek God tonight? Then there is access for you. I can truly say for myself, that I long, above everything, to meet with my God and Saviour at the table. Though I be in myself unworthy, yet I cannot live without my Lord. I must have him; and nothing else will satisfy me short of fellowship with him. No outward sign, no bread, no wine, no fellowship with God’s people will content me: my heart is hungering for her Saviour. My Lord, my God, my heart cries after thee! As the thirsty hart in the wilderness pants for the water-brooks, so does my heart cry out for God, the living God. Is it so with you? Surely the best sort of preparation is already commencing in your soul. Let your heart take its full of this longing and pining, and that is the way in which you will be enabled to come to the sacred table without being an intruder, and without missing the blessing.

     Note, next, that Hezekiah made open and explicit confession unto God that these people were not as they should have been. He did not excuse them; but he came before God and cried, “The good Lord pardon every one that prepareth his heart.” Herein is wisdom. If our hearts are longing after God, let us confess our neglect of meditation, our failure in private prayer, our forgetfulness of self-examination, and our failure in all those other preparations which are so appropriate to this blessed memorial of our Lord. Thus drawing nigh with sorrow and regret, and with the humble resolve that, in the future, your heart shall endeavour to dwell nearer to the Lord, and further off from the defiling influences of a dead world, you will in spirit and in truth commune with him who never yet sent a penitent from his presence without saying, “Peace be unto you.”

     Confession made, let prayer ascend to heaven: “The good Lord pardon every one of us everything wherein we have been lax, or deficient, or erring. O thou heart-searching God, forgive thy servants, and accept us in Christ Jesus.” Thus purified and made white by instantaneous pardon, we need not hesitate to keep the feast. With desire have we desired to feed upon our Lord, who is the true passover, and he will not refuse us. Even to Laodicea he said, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock”: even to those who dwell in that lukewarm church he promises to sup with them, if they will but admit him, and, therefore, we are sure that he will sup with us, even with us, though we come blushingly, and with shame upon our faces.

     III. We come, in the last place, to notice, that IN SO COMING, WE MAY EXPECT A BLESSING. If we do but come with prepared heart, and great longing of soul, even though we confess ourselves to be disorderly, and have to plead with the Lord to forgive our unfitness, yet he will, without fail, meet with us and enrich us with the blessing which we seek.

     God’s ways of acting are the same in all ages; and if Hezekiah and his people won the blessing, and “praised the Lord day by day, singing with loud instruments unto the Lord”; even we may look for the like joy, and holy exultation. We read that they “kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with great gladness.” Beloved, I want you to enter into that great gladness to-night. If there is any place where we are bound to be glad, it is at the Lord’s Supper. Remember, this is no funeral feast; it is no memorial of one who lies rotting in the grave. Here we remember that Jesus died, but we also hear those prophetic words, “Until I come.” He lives, and he shall shortly come with all the glory and majesty of heaven to claim the kingdoms as his own, and to judge the nations in equity. Therefore have we joy as we come to the table. It is a memorial of a death by which the life of myriads was purchased. It is the memorial of a great struggle which ended in the most glorious of all victories. "It is finished,” is the banner which waves over us. Such a victory is a joy for ever, let it be gladly commemorated. Here we celebrate the feast of pardoning love delighting itself in being enabled justly to spare the guilty. Here is the feast of redeemed bondsmen, the jubilee of emancipation from everlasting slavery. We come hither as those that are alive from the dead to feast with him, who, in very truth was slain, but who has risen again, and has become our life and our joy. Oh, for a well-tuned harp! Bring an instrument of ten strings and the psaltery, and let every string be awakened to ecstasy on behalf of Jesus, to set forth in worthy notes his passion and his triumph.

     There was great gladness in Israel, even among the men of Ephraim who were not ceremonially fit to keep the passover; and, following upon this, there was great praise to God. They continued singing unto the Lord all the day. The Levites and the priests and the people joined with them, and they brought forth loud instruments to add to the volume of their music. Notice the words, “singing with loud instruments unto the Lord.” They employed everything by which to express their overflowing gratitude, their glowing joy. I pray that my Lord’s servants may fetch out their loud instruments to-night to sing unto him who loved us, and gave himself for us. Let us lift up the song, “Worthy is the Lamb, for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us unto God by thy blood. Thou shalt reign for ever and ever, King of kings and Lord of lords. Unto thy name be hallelujahs throughout eternity.” Oh, for the cymbals, the high-sounding cymbals, that, with their mighty clash, we might express something of the overpowering joy of our spirit before the living God! Brethren, these were the very people who kept the passover, “not according as it was written.” They came ill-prepared, unpurified, and utterly unfit; but God blessed them, and helped them to get ready for the holy feast there and then; and I trust he will do so now to those who desire it. How much I long that all of you Christians— half-asleep Christians, lukewarm Christians of a doubtful sort, Christians whose right to commune is gravely questioned by yourselves— I long that you may be quickened on a sudden by the Holy Ghost, who is still in the midst of the church, that you may at once delight yourselves in the Lord, and feel a holy nearness to Christ, and a heavenly exhilaration at the mention of his name. So will you eagerly praise the Beloved of your soul, and bid all that is within you bless his holy name!

     Added to this, in the passover in Hezekiah’s days, there was great communion with God, at least the outward sign of it, for “they did eat throughout the feast seven days, offering peace offerings and making confession to the Lord God of their fathers.” In those sacrifices other than sin offerings, a part was put on the altar for God, and a part was given to the priest and the worshipper to feast upon, that they might thus, in symbol, hold fellowship with God. Oh, for a measure of hallowed fellowship with God at this time! Many of you know what it means. If you do not, I cannot explain it to you. You must taste and see for yourselves. May it be with us to-night as it was with the elders on the side of Sinai, of whom it is written, “They did see God, and did eat and drink.” What a wonderful combination! Yet what an instructive conjunction! “They did see God, and did eat and drink.” Oh that we might eat and drink with our Lord at this time as men eat with their friends! May we now see that face which no earthly eye can see! May we hear that voice which sounds not in mortal ear, but penetrates the soul! Oh, that we may see him who is invisible! We may do so even now. I mean even you, who feel least prepared, can yet enjoy this supreme delight. Oh, that you may do so till you assure me that I have not told you the half of what you now taste and feel. I pray the Lord that the soft south wind may blow warmly across this congregation, till all the winter is gone from your spirits, and you feel the icebergs within your souls dissolved and running away in streams of praiseful gratitude to him who has loved you of old, and now manifests himself to you. There is a secret charm, a silent energy of the Holy Spirit, which, in quiet, he can exert over the minds of his people; and I pray that you may know it now, even you that are least prepared for the engagement which at this moment lies before us.

     Then there came upon the people a great enthusiasm, insomuch that they resolved to have another seven days of holy convocation, just as Solomon did when they consecrated the temple. We are told that “they took counsel to keep other seven days: and they kept other seven days with gladness.” I love to find people so possessed with the Spirit of God that they say, “That service was by far too short. I wish it had kept on for another hour.” I love to see them lingering, as if they could not quit a place in which they have been so greatly blessed. How pleasant to go away, not loathing, but longing; watching till another Sabbath shall come, that we may hear again of the same sacred matter, and feel again the same dew from the Lord! How we tremble lest the heavenly blessings should be withdrawn! for we feel that we can no more command them than we could bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion. Since we have been in the sacred chambers of the King, we have feared lest our golden keys should be missing, so that we could not enter into his treasury again, or again approach his seat. You know how you feel when your heart sings of the place

“Where congregations ne’er break up,
And Sabbaths have no end.”

When you long for that protracted worship, it shows that God is very present with you; and it was so with the people in Hezekiah’s days, who, nevertheless, were at the first unprepared for the Paschal festival. May you who are now dull become so joyous that you are eager to turn a seven days’ feast into fourteen; may your enthusiasm know no bounds; may you rise as on wings of eagles, and maintain your highest soaring for many a day!

     Furthermore, this brought about a great liberality. Everybody wanted to offer sacrifices; everybody was anxious to feed his poorer brethren; the king gave a thousand bullocks and seven thousand sheep; and the princes would not be outdone by him; they must needs go just a touch beyond him, for they gave a thousand bullocks and ten thousand sheep. Meanwhile, a host of priests came, and more fully surrendered themselves to the service of Jehovah their God. How I wish that some such result would follow the present service! Oh, that many of you would give largely of your substance to the cause of God, and may others give themselves more fully to the great Master’s service! From this time forth, may devoted men and consecrated women be found in all our families, and may the kraals of Africa and the Zenanas of India be the better for it.

     Did you observe in the reading, how the people finished the festival? They had another great breaking of idols. The hammers gave forth their music again, and the images went to pieces. All that which was displeasing to God became displeasing to the people, and they swept it away. That was the finale; for, when God goes up, the devil goes down. As sure as ever you love God, you must hate idols. You cannot rejoice in him, and yet rejoice in the world, the flesh, and the devil. What sacred jealousy, what holy revenge, what destruction of every evil thing within the soul, is sure to follow when the Beloved unveils his charming face, and all our soul is melted with the beams of his love! Nothing hastens sanctification like communion with God. May this table be to all of you the place of your renewed tryst with Jesus! May you again take him by the hand, and surrender to him; while he shall take you by the hand, and work in you all the good pleasure of his will! Let marriage vows with Jesus be repeated here. May our living union with him become more consciously a matter of fact! May this be a sanctifying season! May this be so even with you who were just now saying, “I do not think that I dare stop to the communion! I do not feel aright, nor desire aright. I am dead, stupid, heavy; and I fear I should only profane the sacred table.” Cry to the Lord, as Hezekiah did! Mingle your confessions and your prayers before the mercy-seat; and may the good Lord pardon each one of you, even though you are not purged after the purification of the sanctuary as you could desire.

     The Lord bless his waiting people, for Jesus’ sake! Amen.



Help for your Sickness

By / Jun 22

Help for your Sickness

 

“When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.”— Matthew viii. 16, 17.

 

IT was the evening: in all probability it was the evening of a Sabbath-day. The Jews were so tender not to break the Sabbath that they did not even bring forth the sick to the Saviour until the even was come. The Saviour would gladly have healed them on the Sabbath-day, for that was to him a high day for holy work, but they did not think it right, and so they kept back their sick till the day was ended. If any of you have thought that the time has not come for you to approach the Saviour, you have laboured under a great error, for he would not have you delay for a. single hour; but I hope you are now satisfied that you have waited long enough, and that at last the evening is near in which you should come to Jesus. God grant that any superstition which has kept you back may be removed; and may this be the set time, the hour of grace to your souls!

     Whether it was a Sabbath-evening or not, the day had been spent by the Saviour in diligent labour; for our Saviour took care, when the people would listen to him on the seventh day, to preach with all his might. As soon as the sun was up, he began to tell out saving truth. He was tired when evening was come, and he might have sought rest; but instead of that, they brought out the sick to him to heal, and he must close up a weary day by a yet more arduous task. Until darkness had covered the earth, he must continue still to scatter blessings right and left. At this hour our blessed Master has laid aside all weariness; and now at eventide he is waiting to bless. Whatever has been done during the day, yet if some poor, weary soul has spurned the voice divine through all the former hours, he is waiting still to save, ere yet the sun has quite gone down. When even was come, they brought unto him those that were sick. We are in like case. Let us put up this prayer to him, “O thou who didst bless the sick in the evening, come now and bless us while all is cool and still, and let us find thy salvation!”

     What a strange sight that evening saw! They brought forth to the Saviour those that were possessed of evil spirits, and those that were sick. They brought them on their mattresses, and laid them in the streets. It must have been a very difficult thing to bring out some that were possessed, because they struggled and raved; but nevertheless they brought them. The streets were turned into a hospital, and in the still evening air you could hear the cries of those poor creatures who were possessed of evil spirits, and the moans of those in acute pain. It was a sad sight, a piteous sight, to look upon; and as far as Christ’s eye could see, every nook and corner were occupied with these sick people. But what a glorious thing it must have been to see him, the divine Physician, with tears of pity in his eyes, and yet with beaming joy on his countenance; suffering intensely all the while because of their suffering, and yet joyous because he was able to bless them. You see him go along, and lay his hand on one sick man, and he leaped up from the bed; and you hear him speak to another, and the foul spirit fled, and he that was madness itself became calm and rational. See him cast a look over yonder, and with that glance he expels the fever. Hear him speak a word to one far away, and, with that word he dries up dropsy, or opens a blind eye. It was grand to see the Saviour thus fighting with Satan and with foul diseases, and everywhere victorious. That was one of the happiest evenings that ever ended day in Palestine. I want you to feel that we can have its parallel to-night. We have Jesus here. We have been seeking him. There are some here who dwell with him. Jesus is here, and the sick folk are here, and he is just as able to heal to-night as he was in days gone by.

     I am going to speak about his works of healing, and to draw encouragement there from; and then we shall go into the explanation of his power to heal, which is given us in the second verse of our text: “Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.”

     I. Let us notice, first, OUR LORD’S WORKS OF HEALING. On that occasion, and on many others, he cured all sorts of sickness. I think I am right in saying that there is not in the whole list of diseases one which the Saviour did not heal. They may be known by new names, for they say the doctors have invented a dozen new diseases lately; but they are only old diseases to which they have given new names. Our great grandfathers died of diseases the names of which they never knew, or else they had other names than those which are given to them now. But as man has always been much the same, most diseases have continued as long as the human race. We have to be very grateful that leprosy, which was the great scourge of the Jews, is almost extinct now; but in our Saviour’s day it seems to have been exceedingly common. But leprosy and all forms of disease came under the Saviour’s power, and fled at his word.

     Now the parallel of that is this— Jesus Christ can forgive sins of all sorts. There are different grades of sin. Some are exceedingly defiling and loathsome. Other sins are scarcely hurtful to the general commonwealth, and so are often almost unnoticed. Yet any sin will ruin a soul for ever. It may be thought to be little, but as a little prick with a poisoned arrow will heat all the blood, and bring on death, so is sin such a venomous disease that the least of it is fatal. But from whatever kind of sin you are suffering, I would encourage you to come to Jesus with it, be it what it may. Is yours an extreme case? Have you been grossly guilty? Come with it, then, for our Lord healed the worst diseases. On the other hand, have you been kept out of gross sin from your early youth? Have you been preserved from outward vice? It may be that your chief sin is the forgetting of God, and living without love to Christ— a deadly sin, let me tell you; but bring it to the Saviour. Have you been idle? Have you been proud? Have you been lascivious? Have you been untruthful? Have you been profane? Have you been malicious? I cannot tell; but God knoweth— who can read your heart as readily as we read a book. But whatever the sin may be, remember that all manner of sin and of blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men. “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” Oh, hear this, and look up to the Saviour, and pray him of his great mercy to exercise the healing art of his redeeming love on you, this evening, now that the sun has set! They brought to Jesus all sorts of diseases.

     Note, next, that Jesus can deal with special cases of devilry. Possession with evil spirits was probably peculiar to that age. I sometimes think that, when the Saviour came down on earth, the devil had the impudence to ask to be let loose, that he and all his servants might come on earth, and in person might meet the Saviour. Satan is still busy, going about, seeking whom he may devour; but not exactly in the particular way in which he raged in Christ’s day. He cannot take possession of men’s bodies as he did then. So the Saviour met Satan foot to foot, and face to face; but the devil made a poor fight of it, for whenever the Lord Jesus made his appearance, the devil wanted to be off; and if he did not want to go, the Saviour soon moved him by saying, “Come out of him.” Like a whipped dog, he did not dare to make a sound, but fled. A whole legion of demons were glad to get into a herd of swine, and ran violently down a steep place into the sea, to escape from the frown of our Lord. Satan had found somebody that was more than a match for him. The parallel to that is this. There are some men that we meet with, in whom the devil evidently reigns; and there are such women too— for when women are bad, they can be bad, and there can be no mistake about it. The devil can make more mischief out of a woman than out of a man when he thoroughly gets possession of her. Well, whether men or women, there are some who might be called “the devil’s own.” One man is a drunkard: there is no holding him; he must drink on; he seems to be infatuated by it. He takes the pledge, and abstains for a little while; but by-and-by the devil gets hold of him again, and he goes back to his taps. Though he has drunk himself into delirium tremens, and to death’s door, yet still he gives way to this loathsome vice. Others are possessed with the devil of lasciviousness, and it does not matter what they suffer; they will be always defiling themselves, ruining body and soul by their iniquity. We know persons who seem to have a devil in them in the matter of passion. They are but a little provoked, and they lose all command of themselves, and you would think that they ought to be put in a padded room in Bethlehem Hospital, and kept there till they cooled down. Otherwise, they might do mischief to themselves and to others. Surely some men, who can scarcely speak without swearing, have the devil in them. How one’s blood runs chill, in going down our streets, to hear how commonly our working-men degrade themselves with filthy conversation! It is not exactly cursing: it is less honest, and more vile! Is there any hope for such? These are the very people in whom Jesus Christ has often displayed his healing power. I could tell you to-night of lions that have been turned to lambs, men of furious passions who have become gentle, and quiet, and loving, men of pro fane speech who would be shocked at the very remembrance of what they once said, and whose voices have been often heard in prayer: men and women, too, who loved the wages of iniquity, and lost their character, and defiled themselves; but they are washed, and they are sanctified. I have blessed the name of God when giving the right hand of Christian fellowship to ransomed ones to whom we could not have given our right hand a little while ago, for it would have been wrong to join with them in the wickedness of their pursuits. Oh, yes, my Master still casts devils out of men! If there are any such here to-night, let your cry for help go up to our blessed Master. Come again, great Lord, and cast out the evil spirit from men, and get to thyself the victory in many a heart, to the praise of the glory of thy grace!

     The remarkable point about this miracle-working was that all were healed, and there was no failure. When a man brings out a patent medicine, he publishes verifications of the efficacy of his physic. He gets a number of cases, and he advertises them. I suppose they are genuine. I should not like to be hanged if they were not. I suppose, therefore, they are all accurate and authentic. But there is one thing which you never knew a medicine advertiser do: he never advertises the failures of the medicine. The number of persons that have been induced to buy the remedy, and have derived no good from it: if these were all advertised, it might occupy more room in the newspaper than those who write of a cure. My Lord Jesus Christ is a Physician who never had a failure yet— never once. Never did a soul wash in Christ’s blood without being made whiter than snow. Never did a man, besotted with the worst of vice, trust in Jesus without receiving power to conquer his evil habits. Not even in the lowest pit of hell is there one that dares to say, “I trusted Christ, and I am lost. I sought his face with all my heart, and he cast me away.” There is not a man living that could say that, unless he dared to lie; for not one has with heart and soul sought the Saviour, and trusted in him, and then had a negative from him. He must save you if you trust him. As surely as he lives he must save you, for he has put it, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” I will repeat it, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” You have never come if he has not received you; for he must save those who trust in him.

     Notice, that his word was the sole medicine he used: “He cast out the spirits with his word.” No other medicine, no charms, no long performances, no striking of his hand over the place; but he spake, and it was done. He said to the devil, “Come out of him”; and it came out. He said to the disease, “Go”; and away it went. In that way the Lord saves men to-day— by his word. While I am speaking it to-night, or when you shall be reading it, his word will be the power of God unto salvation. I am glad that you are here to hear it, for faith cometh by hearing. I shall be glad if you diligently read it, for reading is a kind of hearing, and many are brought to the Saviour thereby. Jesus Christ does not need to put you through a long purgatory, and keep you for months getting ready to be saved. He has only this night to open your ear to hear his word, and when you hear it he can bless it to your soul so that you shall live, and your sin shall die; and you shall become changed and renewed by his matchless grace.

     I speak his word to-night, praying that he will make it effectual, as he has done aforetime; and to him shall be the praise.

     We have the same medicine to-night that Jesus used, for we have his word. We have got himself here in answer to the prayers of his people, and we have the same sort of sick people here; and therefore we expect to see the same wonders wrought.

     II. May God give you a hearing ear, and save you while I speak, secondly, of OUR LORD’S PERSONAL POWER TO HEAL! Whence came it that he was able to save? We are pointed to the secret of his power by these words, “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias, the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.”

     Christ was able to heal the diseases of men, because he bare them himself. Do not think that our Lord Jesus was actually diseased: he suffered greatly, but I read not that any disease was upon him. Probably there was no man in whom there was less tendency to natural disease than in him. His pure and blessed body was not subject to the diseases which are brought upon men through sin being in them. How, then, did he take upon him our sicknesses and our sorrows?

     First, he bare our sicknesses by intense sympathy. When Christ looked at all those sick people, he did, as it were, take all their sicknesses upon himself. You know what I mean. If you talk with a person who is very ill, and you feel for him, you seem to lay his pains upon yourself, and then you have power to comfort him. When I am seeing troubled people, I enter into one sorrowful case after another till I am more sad than any of them. I try as far as I can to have fellowship with the case of each one, in order to be able to speak a word of comfort to him; and I can say, from personal experience, that I know of nothing that wears the soul down so fast as the outflow of sincere sympathy with the sorrowing, desponding, depressed ones. I have sometimes been the means in God’s hand of helping a man who suffered with a desponding spirit; but the help I have rendered has cost me dearly. Hours after, I have been myself depressed, and I have felt an inability to shake it off. You and I have not a thousandth part of the sympathy that was in Christ. He sympathized with all the aggregate of human woe, and so sympathized that he made his heart a great reservoir, into which all streams of grief poured themselves. My Master is just the same now. Though he is in heaven, he is just as tender as he was on earth. I never heard of anybody losing tenderness by going to heaven. People get better by going there; and so is Christ, if it were possible, even more tender than when on earth. Think of this. Somebody might not sympathize with you, poor sinner, but Jesus does. You would not like to tell some people what you have done, for they would turn upon their heel, and give you a wide berth, but it is not so with Jesus. He looks upon sin, not with the eye of a judge, but with the eye of a physician. He looks at it as a disease, and he deals with it that he may heal it. He has great sympathy with sinners, though he has no sympathy with sin. He takes the sinner’s sorrows to himself.

     “Ah!” says one, “no man careth for my soul.” Dear friend, man or woman, whoever you may be, One greatly cares for you, and he speaks to you to-night by these lips. Oh, that these lips were better fitted to be used by him! He says, “Come unto me, and I will give you rest.” He bids you take of the water of life freely. He is ready at this moment to bestow salvation.

     “Nobody knows my case,” cries one. But Jesus knows it. He knows that dark spot in it. He knows that hard core which will not come away. He knows that filthy thing which you remember tonight, and shiver as you remember it. He knows it all, and yet he says, “Return, thou backsliding daughter.” He bids the vilest of the vile come to him, for he has sympathy with them still.

     Jesus Christ took upon himself our sicknesses by his championship of our humanity. Satan misled our first parents, and the powers of darkness held us captive. In consequence of sin we have become sick and infirm, and liable to suffer.

     Now, when our Lord Jesus came on earth, he as good as said, “I am the Seed of the woman; and I have come to bruise the head of men’s adversary.” So Christ, in that respect, took upon himself all the consequences which come of sin. He stood forth as the Champion of fallen manhood, to fight Satan, and cast him out of men’s bodies; to battle with disease, and to overthrow the evil which lies at the root of it, that men might be made healthy.

     He is our Champion still. I delight to preach him to you, ye suffering, ye sorrowing, ye sinful, ye lost, ye castaways! One has come who has taken up your cause, the sinner’s Redeemer, next-of-kin to man, who has come to avenge him of his adversary, and to buy back his lost inheritance. Behold in Jesus the Champion of sinners, the David who comes and defies the Goliath that has long afflicted men. Oh, I wish you would trust our glorious Champion! Remember how he met the adversary alone, and vanquished him. “’Twas on that dark, that dreadful night.” The enemy sprang upon him in the garden like a lion, and the Saviour received him on his breast. He brought the Saviour to his knees; but there he grasped the lion, hugged him, crushed him, rent him, and flung him from him. Our Samson sweat as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground; and though he had won that victory, he afterwards bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. He lives, however, now again, the Champion of the cause of all the suffering, the sorrowing, and the sinful, if they will but come and put their case into his hands. He himself took our sicknesses and our infirmities, by championing our cause, and standing in our place to fight our battles. Give him your cause, trust your soul in his hands, and he will redeem you out of the jaw of the lion, yea, out of the very mouth of hell.

     But here is the pith of the whole matter. The reason why Jesus is able to heal all the mischief that sin has wrought is this— because he himself took our sin upon him by his sacred substitution. Sin is the root of our infirmities and diseases; and so, in taking the root, he took all the bitter fruit which that root did bear. Oh, tell it out again, and tell it out again, and tell it every day, and tell it in the dead of night, and tell it in the glare of noonday, and tell it in the market, and tell it in the street, and tell it everywhere, that God took sin from off the back of sinners, and laid it on his innocent and only-begotten Son! O mystery divine, never to be known if God had not revealed it; and not even now to be believed if God himself had not assured us of it! He laid sin upon Christ. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Hearken, then, ye guilty ones! Hear how freely God can forgive, and yet not injure his justice. If you trust Christ, you may be sure that you are among the number of those whose sins were laid on Christ. He was punished in your room, and place, and stead. Now, it is not just that, if another was punished in your stead, you should be punished too; and therefore the very justice of God requires that, if Christ suffered in your stead, you should not suffer. See you that?

     “But did he suffer in my stead?” I must answer this question by another, “Dost thou believe that Jesus is the Christ? Wilt thou trust thy soul with him?” Well, if thou dost,' thy transgressions are not thine, for they were laid on him. They are not on thee, for, like everything else, they cannot be in two places at one time; and if they were laid on Christ, they are not laid on you. But what did Jesus do with the sins that were laid on him? Can they not come back to us? No, never; for he took them to the sepulchre, and there he buried them for ever. And now, what saith the Scripture? “In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found.” “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions; and, as a cloud, thy sins.” “Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” Our sins are gone. Christ has carried them away. “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” Believers are the seed for whom the victory has been gained. They are the seed to whom the promise is sure. It is not to those who are of works, but to those who are of faith. Those that are born again, of the Spirit of God, through faith which is in Christ Jesus— these are “redeemed from among men.” Suppose I owed ten thousand pounds: if a dear friend should call on my creditor, and pay that ten thousand pounds for me, I should then owe the creditor nothing. I could meet him with a smiling face. He may to-morrow morning bring his account-books if he likes, and say, “There, you see, there are ten thousand pounds down there against you.” I would joyfully answer, “Yes; but look on the other side. You have been paid. Here are the words at the foot of your bill, ‘Received in full of all demands.’” Now, when Jesus took the sins of believers upon himself, he discharged them by his death; and every man that believes has the receipt in full in our Lord’s resurrection. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God.” Yea, those that believe in Christ have the complete forgiveness of every sin. As for me, I like to sing with Kent—

“Here’s pardon for transgressions past,
It matters not how black their cast;
And O my soul, with wonder view,
For sins to come here’s pardon too!”

All blotted out at once with one stroke of the sacred pen— obliterated once for all. God does not again lay to the charge of men what he has once forgiven them. He does not forgive them half their sins, and visit them for the rest; but, once given, the blessing is irrevocable; as it is written. “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” He never draws back, nor repents of what he has done. He saves, and the salvation which saves is everlasting salvation.

     Now I see why Christ can heal. Dear heart, you have come here to-night full of the disease of sin, and you are saying, “Will he heal me?” Look to him! Look to him! Look to him! The morning that I found Christ I did not think to find him. I went to hear the word as I had heard it before; but I did not hope to find Jesus there and then. Yet I did find him. When I heard that there was nothing to be done but simply to look to Jesus; and when the exhortation came so sharp, and shrill, and clear, “Look! look! look!” I looked, and I bear witness to the change that passed over me— such a change as though I died and rose again. And such a change, my hearer, shall pass over thee if thou believest.

“There is life for a look at the Crucified One;
There is life at this moment for thee.”

     God give thee the look, and give thee the life, even now, for Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen.



The Shining of the Face of Moses

By / May 18

The Shining of the Face of Moses

 

“And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him. And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him: and Moses talked with them. And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him in mount Sinai. And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face. But when Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he took the vail off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded. And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone: and Moses put the vail upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him.”— Exodus xxxiv. 29— 35.

 

A FAST of forty days does not improve the appearance of a man’s countenance: he looks starved, wrinkled, old, haggard. Moses had fasted forty days twice at the least; and according to many competent authorities the tenth chapter of Deuteronomy seems to imply that he fasted forty days three times in quick succession. I will not assert or deny the third forty days; but it is certain that, with a very slight interval, Moses fasted forty days, and then forty days more; and it is probable that to these must be added a third forty. Small attractiveness would naturally remain in a face which had endured so stern an ordeal; but the Lord whom he served made his face brilliant with an unusual lustre. The glory of the light of God upon his countenance may have been the reason why he remained so hale in after years of old age. This man of eighty spent forty years more in guiding Israel, and in the end his eye had not dimmed, nor his natural force abated. He that could fast forty days would be a hard morsel for death. Those eyes which had looked upon the glory of God were not likely to wax dim amid earthly scenes; and that natural force which had endured the vision of the supernatural could well support the fatigues of the wilderness. God so sustained his servant, that his long and repeated fasting, during which he did not even drink water, did no harm to his physical constitution. The abstinence even from water renders the fast the more remarkable, and lifts it out of similarity to modern feats of fasting.

   Moses did not know, at the time, that his face was shining; but he did know it afterwards, and he has here recorded it. He gives in detail the fact of the brightness of his own face, and how others were struck with it, and what he had to do in order to associate with them. We are sure that this record was not made by reason of vanity, for Moses writes about himself in great lowliness of spirit: it was written under divine direction, with a worthy object. The man Moses was very meek, and his meekness entered into his authorship, as into all the other acts of his life: we are therefore sure that this record is for our profit. I am afraid, brethren, that God could not afford to make our faces shine: we should grow too proud. It needs a very meek and lowly spirit to bear the shinings of God. We only read of two men whose faces shone, and both were very meek. The one is Moses, in the Old Testament; the other is Stephen, in the New, whose last words proved his meekness: for, when the Jews were stoning him, he prayed, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” Gentleness of nature and lowliness of mind are a fine background on which God may lay the brightness of his glory. Where those things abound, it may be safe for the Lord, not only to put his beauty upon a man, but also to make a record of the fact. Moses wrote this record with a reluctant pen. Since he did not write it out of vanity, let us not read it out of curiosity. He wrote it for our learning: let us learn by it; and may God the Holy Spirit cause our faces to shine to-day, as we read of the shining face of Moses!

   It would appear, so far as we can make out the narrative, that his face continued to shine long afterward. After Moses had come down from the mount the brightness began to diminish. Paul tells us that it was a “glory to be done away”; but when he went into the holy place to commune with God the brightness was revived, and he came out again and spoke to the people with that same glowing heaven upon his brow. When he addressed the people in the name of God, he took off the vail, and let them see the brightness of God in his ambassador; but as soon as he had done speaking, and fell back into his own private character, he drew a vail over his face, that none might be kept at a distance thereby. The man Moses was as meek with the glory on his countenance as before it gathered there. God put great honour upon him, but he did not desire to make a display of that honour, nor childishly wish that it should be seen of men. For the people’s sakes and for typical purposes, he veiled his face while in ordinary conversation with the people, and only unveiled it when he spoke in the name of the Lord. Brethren, if God honours you as preachers or teachers, accept the honour, but do not attribute it to your own worthiness, or even to your own personality; but ascribe it to the office to which the Lord has called you. “I magnify mine office,” said Paul; but you never find Paul magnifying himself. He wears the glory as an ambassador of God, not as a private individual. The dignity that God gives to his servants is bestowed upon their office, not upon themselves apart from it. They must never run away with it into daily life, and think that they themselves are “reverend,” because their Lord is so; nor may they claim for their own thoughts the serious attention which they rightly demand for the Word of the Lord. Ministers do not pretend to be a class of sacred beings, like the Brahmins of India: the only vantage-ground they occupy is, that the Lord speaks through them according to the gift of his Holy Spirit. Unveiled are our faces when we speak to God and for God; but among our brethren we would hide away anything from which we might claim superiority for ourselves.

   I. With this as my preface, I shall now come immediately to my subject. Here is Moses with a strange glory upon his countenance. We will first answer the question, HOW CAME THIS GLORY TO BE THERE? The skin of Moses’ face shone: how came it to do so?

   The answer is, first, it was a reflection of the glory which he had seen when he was with God in the holy mount. It was the result of that partly-answered prayer, “I beseech thee, show me thy glory.” God could not, at that time, grant the prayer in its fulness, for Moses was not capable of the vision; and the Lord told him, “Thou canst not see my face, and live.” I look upon that prayer, however, as a very wonderful one, for this reason, that it was answered to the full, fourteen hundred years after it was presented. The glory of God is only to be seen in the face of Christ Jesus; and on the top of Tabor, Moses saw the Son of God transfigured, and his prayer was there and then answered to its utmost bounds. In the transfiguration, God showed to Moses his full glory; for he was then made able to behold it. But though on the top of mount Sinai he could not see the full glory of Jehovah, yet he had seen enough to make an impression upon him of such a kind that the skin of his face shone. God is light, and they that look upon him are enlightened, and reflect light around them. Moses spake with God face to face as a man speaketh with his friend, and this made his countenance glow. As the sun shining upon a reflector has its light thrown back again, often in a most brilliant fashion, so that the reflector looks like a minor sun; so was it with, the face of Moses when it reflected the glory of the Lord. The face of Moses was to God what the moon is to the sun. A saint shines on men when God has shone on him. We are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the presence of the Lord. Would you shine in the valley?— first go up the mount, and commune with God. Would you shine, my brethren, with superior radiance? then be this your fervent prayer, “Make thy face to shine upon thy servant.” If the Lord lift upon thee the light of his countenance, there will be no lack of light in thy countenance. In God’s light thou shalt give light.

   The light on the face of Moses was the result of fellowship with God. That fellowship was of no common order. It was special and distinguished. I do not doubt that Moses walked with God after the fashion of believing men in the pursuit of his daily calling; but he spent two periods, of forty days each, in solitary fellowship with God. Everybody was away; Aaron, Joshua, and all the rest were far down below, and Moses was alone with God. His intercourse with God was intense, close, and familiar; and that not for one day, but for eighty days, at the least. Protracted fellowship brings a nearness which brief communion cannot attain. Each morning’s sun found him still in the light of God; each evening’s dew found his soul still saturated with the divine influence. What must be the effect of such whole-hearted, undisturbed fellowship with God? He heard no hum of the camp below; not even the lowing of cattle, or bleating of sheep came up from the foot of the mount. Moses had forgotten the world, save only as he pleaded for the people in an agony of prayer. No interests, either personal or family, disturbed his communion; he was oblivious of everything but Jehovah, the Glorious One, who completely overshadowed him. Oh, for the enjoyment of such heavenly communion! My brothers and sisters, have we not lost a great deal by so seldom dwelling apart, so little seeking continuous, absorbing fellowship with the Most High? I am sure we have. We snatch a hasty minute of prayer; we afford a hurried quarter of an hour for Bible reading, and we think we have done well. Very far am I from saying that it is not well. But if for minutes we had hours, the gain might increase in proportion. Oh, for nights of prayer! Oh, for the close shutting of the closet door, and a believing drawing nigh to God! There is no limit to the power we might obtain if such were the case. Though our faces might not be lit up with splendour, our lives would shine, our characters would become more pure and transparent; and our whole spirit would be so heavenly, that men would regard with wonder the brightness of our being. Thus, you see, the face of Moses shone because he had long looked upon the face of God.

     I would have you note that this communion with God included intense intercession for the people. God will not have fellowship with our selfishness. Moses came out of himself, and became an intense pleader for the people; and thus he became like the Son of God, and the glory descended on him. How he pleaded! With what sighs and cries he besought Jehovah not to destroy the men who had vexed his Holy Spirit! They had degraded the Godhead by likening it unto a bullock which eateth grass. They made a calf in Horeb, and bowed before it, saying, “These be thy gods, O Israel”! Moses pleaded for the people down below, and not for himself. Here is a point in which, it may be, we fail. The Lord turned again the captivity of Job when he prayed for his friends. The Lord loves intercessory prayer; and if ever he makes a man’s face to shine, it is when he, like Christ, has made intercession for the transgressors, and poured out his soul, not for himself, but for a guilty company.

     More than that. In that intercession Moses had exhibited a degree of self-abnegation reaching to the sublime. God said to him, “Let me alone, that I may destroy them. I will make of thee a great nation.” The Lord’s covenant with Abraham was that Abraham’s seed should possess the land; but the Lord might have destroyed all the existing tribes except Moses, and then have made of the family of Moses a race in which the covenant with Abraham could have been kept to the letter. What a prospect was set before him! The children of Moses should grow into an elect nation, heirs of all the promises of God. But no: Moses not only goes the length of putting aside the proffered honour, but he cries, “Blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.” Instead of his name being written in the place of the people, he would let their names stand at the expense of his own. When a man can come to that, he is the man the skin of whose face is a fit parchment on which God may write the glory of his love. The less of self the more of God. When we can renounce all for God’s glory and the good of his church, the Lord will not fail to smile upon us.

     Yet once more. This man Moses not only obtained this brightness by his long communion and his intercessory prayer and self-oblivion, but by his faithfulness among the people. When he went down in the interval between the two fastings, and found the people worshipping the golden calf, he did not spare them. He loved them, but he did not keep back the stern blow of justice. He said, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” And there came to him the tribe of Levi, and he said, “Go through the camp, and slay every man his brother who shall be found rebelling against the Lord.” At once they cut off the idolaters, who were guilty of open treason against the King of Israel. But this was not enough: the whole nation must be chastened for its great sin, and humbled by a symbolical punishment. I think I see Moses, having broken the tables in his holy wrath, now taking down their idol god, grinding it, pounding it, dissolving it in water, and sternly compelling the tribes to drink of the water. He made a nauseous, bitter draught out of their idol, and made them drink it, so that their bellies might be filled with their own iniquity, and they might know what it was to turn away from the Lord their God. Grand old Moses! Faithful servant of God! Unbending executioner of divine justice! Meek wert thou, but by no means indifferent to truth and righteousness. God chooses not milksops, destitute of backbone, to wear his glory upon their faces. We have plenty of men made of sugar, nowadays, that melt into the stream of popular opinion; but these shall never ascend into the hill of the Lord, nor stand in his holy place, nor wear the tokens of his glory. O my brother, it is needful that thou be true to the Lord in public if thou wouldst have his fellowship in private. If the Lord can challenge thee for thine unfaithfulness among men, he will never honour thee with his own peculiar seal of light. Moses was no trimmer, no hunter after popularity; but he was sternly true to his Lord, and hence he was such that the Lord could safely make his face to shine. Enough of this, though much more might be said: learn the useful lesson which this part of the subject teaches.

     II. But, secondly, WHAT DID THIS SHINING OF HIS FACE MEAN? This brightness on his face— what did it signify?

     Very briefly, it meant this: God’s special favour for Moses. God seemed to say, “This is my man: I have chosen him above all others: among those that are bora of women there is no greater than he: I have put a measure of my own glory upon him, and the token thereof shines in his face.”

     Surely, it also meant special favour for Israel. If they could but have understood it, they would not have been afraid; but conscience made them cowards. God, in effect, said to them, by the shining of the face of Moses, “I have had favour upon you, for I have accepted your intercessor. My servant Moses has been pleading for your lives, and in proof that I have accepted you and will spare you, I have written your pardon across his shining brow.” Favour to the Lord Jesus is favour to us. Lord, when I hear thee say, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” I rejoice that thou art well pleased with me in Christ Jesus. When God looks on the face of his Anointed, he looks with favour upon us.

     This brightness on the face of Moses was also God’s witness to his commission. He had sent him, for he had glorified him. The people could not doubt his commission when they looked upon his shining face. I suppose rays of light proceeded from it. Michael Angelo, in his famous statue of Moses, represents him with horns: the strange fancy is founded on the Vulgate version, which mistook the meaning of a Hebrew word, and translated it “horns.” Beams of light seemed to rise from that marvellous face: a halo of glory surrounded that solemn countenance, and the people could not but perceive that this was a man on whom God had looked.

     And more. It was not only a witness of his office, but it was an increase of his power. The people were overawed by this strange light. They dared, even after this, to murmur against Moses, for they dared to murmur against God himself; but, still, to a people of such a temper as theirs, the supernatural light must have been a source of wonder and of awe.

“They gazed and looked, and lo, on brow and face, A glory and a brightness not of earth,

The eye lit up with fire of heavenly birth,
The whole man bright with beams of God’s great grace.”

     It gave their prophet authority with them; it made them tremble before him. They would not dare to contradict one who looked on them with such a face of glory: his speech was as a flame of fire, because his face was on a blaze.

     The pith of the whole thing, I think, lies in this— the face of Moses shone typically, to show us that there is a great glory about the law of God. It has a glory all its own from its spirituality, its holiness, its perfectness, its justice, its immutability, its power over the conscience, and so forth. It has eminent glory, because it has been ordained of God himself, and therefore stands as the sacred rule of the universe. But this is not what Paul understands by the glory of the law. He makes the glory “of that which was to be abolished,” the glory of the ceremonial law, to lie in its end. Now, the end of the law for righteousness is Christ. The law is given to point us to Christ, to drive us to Christ, to be our schoolmaster to whip us to Christ, to convince us of our need of Christ, and to shut us out from every other hope but that which begins and ends with Christ. The glory of the law is Christ. And so Moses comes with a glory on his face which the children of Israel could not perceive, nor steadfastly look into.

“They looked and saw the glory, and they shrank
From that dread vision, dazzling man’s frail sight.”

Even as to-day men see outward rites that God has given, but see not their glorious meaning, so was it with Israel in the wilderness: they saw sacrifices, but they knew not the Great Sacrifice; they saw the oil and the water, but they knew not the Holy Ghost; they saw ten thousand tokens dear and manifest of the ever-blessed Messiah, but they did not perceive him so as to know him when he came. Every type and ceremony might say, “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” The law is overlaid with the glory of Christ, as the face of Moses was covered with light. This is the deepest and innermost meaning of the sacred light which glowed upon the skin of the face of Moses.

     III. And now, thirdly. This glory upon the face of Moses— WHY DID NOT MOSES KNOW OF IT? For we read that “Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone.”

     I answer, first, that it is not easy for a man to see his own face, unless he can borrow a looking-glass. Speaking in parable, the meaning I intend is this: it is not easy for a man to form an accurate judgment of his own character. There are people in the world who think they see their own faces clearly, and that they shine like suns; and yet they do not shine at all, except it be with brazen impudence and self-conceit. In other cases, lowly men are afraid that their faces do not shine at all; and yet they are brightness itself. It is no small part of the shining of some faces that their owners are modest and humble. Brethren, you cannot see your own faces; and until you can do so, you must not imagine that you know your own characters. Upon reflection, you may arrive at something like a judgment, but it is not one which you may safely rely upon. Since Moses had no looking-glass, how could ho tell that the skin of his face shone? Our own judgment of our own character usually errs on the side of partiality to ourselves. Nor is the evil so readily cured as some suppose, for the gift of seeing ourselves “as others see us” is not so corrective as might be supposed. Some persist in seeing us through the coloured spectacles of prejudice and ill-will, and this injustice is apt to create in us a further partiality to ourselves. If other men make mistakes about us who can see us, they probably do not make such great blunders about us as we do about ourselves, since we cannot see our own faces. Truth to tell, we are very fond of ourselves, and have our own characters in high esteem; therefore we are unfair judges on points of difficulty about ourselves. Our temptation is to gross self-flattery: we dream of strength where all is weakness, of wisdom where all is folly. A man does not need to see his own face: if that face be washed to purity, it will be enough that God sees it, and approves its beauty.

     But I will tell you, further, why Moses did not see the glory of his own face. It was because he had seen the glory of God. When a man gets a clear view of the holiness of God, it is all over with all claim of personal excellence; from that day he abhors himself in dust and ashes. I might have thought myself pure; but how can I, when I find that the heavens are not clean in God’s sight? I might have thought myself wise; but how can I, when I read that he charged his angels with folly? How can I speak of perfect purity as a thing of which I am possessed, after I have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts? A vision of God is the quietus of boasting. He that hath looked into the face of the sun is blinded to all other light.

     Having given one sufficient reason, I am, perhaps, unwise to add another; hut yet it may be profitable to remember that Moses had not seen the shining of his own face because it had never once entered his thoughts to wish that his face should shine. That is true beauty of character which comes without being sought— I mean unconscious excellence, a character which commands an admiration which it has never desired. Are we not too apt to wish to be bright that others may see us? Have we not laboured to grow in grace that we might outgrow others? Does no man pray for success in his ministry, with a little squint of his eye towards an ambition to be thought “so useful”? Does no sister ever seek the salvation of her class, that she may be esteemed in the church as a remarkable soul-winner? Did you never pray for holiness, and really mean that you wished to be considered holy? Have you never prayed in public with great fervour, with a half-suppressed wish to be thought a special man of God? Would it not have greatly gratified you to hear men say, “What a prayer that was!”? Have you not even laboured to be humble, that you might rejoice in your humility? I am afraid it is so. We are always praying, “Lord, make my face to shine”; but Moses never had such a wish; and, therefore, when it did shine, he did not know it. He had not laid his plans for such an honour. Let us not set traps for personal reputation, or even glance a thought that way.

     Another reason why he had not thought of it was, that he was so much engaged in doing good to others. He gave himself up for those stiff-necked Israelites; he actually lived for them, and offered himself before God to die for them. He carried the whole people in his bosom as a nurse carries her child. He fed his flock like a shepherd; and, like the Good Shepherd, he would have given his life for the sheep. Oh, the self-sacrifice of the man Moses! He never thought about his own face; for he was thinking about their faces. What would he have given if they had been capable of such nearness to God as he himself enjoyed! Oh, to be so absorbed in doing good, that we have not a thought or a care for our own personal repute! Then a man may do good in self-forgetfulness, and may find himself famous to his own amazement.

     Once more, Moses could not very well have thought of his own face shining, for he had no example of such a thing to suggest the idea. Out of all those around him nobody else’s face shone. When you live with men whose faces shine, then you enquire about yourself, for you naturally wish your face to shine like theirs. Aaron’s face did not shine. Alas, poor Aaron! Nobody’s face shone in all that camp, and so there was nothing to cause Moses to look for such a radiance on his own brow. Mr. Bunyan, in his beautiful picture of Christiana and Mercy and the children coming up from the bath, represents the opposite state of things, for he says, “When the women were thus adorned, they seemed to be a terror one to the other; for that they could not see that glory each one on herself which they could see in each other. Now, therefore, they began to esteem each other better than themselves. ‘For you are fairer than I am,’ said one. And ‘You are more comely than I am,’ said another. The children also stood amazed to see into what fashion they were brought.” It is a great treat to see and admire the Christian virtues of our brethren in Christ: every Christian delights to see his friends comely in all the graces of the Holy Spirit. Moses had but little to gratify him in that way, especially at the period when he came down from the mount and found Aaron weakly yielding to the people’s sin. Even the choicest of the elders were far inferior to Moses, and therefore it was not suggested by his surroundings that his own face might shine. It is well when men are not self-conscious.

     It is best, my beloved brethren, that our faces should shine to others, and not to ourselves. If you might know your own excelling, do not know it, for there is an ill savour about self-consciousness. To come forward and say, “I am perfectly holy,” is babyish. It is like a child who cries, “See my new frock! Look at my pretty new frock!” I tremble to hear one say, “I have quite passed out of the conflict mentioned in the seventh of Romans. I have got this, and I have got that.” I am reminded of Jehu, when he said, “Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord”; and yet Jehu was not right at heart before the Lord. There is not much to see when you wish men to see it. God save us from knowing too much about the shining of our own faces! May the light of his countenance fill the whole circle of our being, while we lie at his feet, mastered by a reverent awe of him!

     IV. I must hasten on to another interesting point. WHY DID MOSES WEAR A VAIL? Having this brightness on his face, why did he hide it?

     I answer, in part the natural meekness of the man led him to do so. He was forced into the position of leader; he never wished to be prominent, but the Lord put great pressure upon him in the desert, and drove him on to be as king in Jeshurun. He had no ambitions. Though made to be as God to Pharaoh, he never exalted himself in the Egyptian court. Among the Israelites he did not monopolize power; but he gladly yielded to the chosen elders a portion of his magisterial dignity. The man Moses was very meek; and so to hide the brightness of his face was a pleasure, and not a trial to him. Like many a lovely woman, he shrank from the public gaze. We shall do well to possess the grace of humility.

     He veiled his face in tender condescension to the people. When they ran away from him, he called to them to know why they were afraid. “My lord, we fear that splendour on your brow.” “Then, let me veil it,” says he; “I would not terrify, but win.” It was their fault that they could not bear the brightness: their fault: I say again, their fault, and yet he does not upbraid, nor stand upon his rights. He had compassion on their folly as well as on their weakness. It may happen that a gracious man may be so evidently right, that, when others are offended at him, the offence is to be greatly blamed; and yet he will do well to yield in anything which does not involve principle. There is a modest veiling of excellences which shows a brother to be still more excellent than his excellences which have proved him. Quench not the light of your sternest principle; but veil it with abounding love. He always sinks himself, this man Moses. The God-given glory of his face he does not slight, nor seek to abate; but so far as it would bring him honour from men, he puts it under a vail. That he may come closer to the people whom he loves, he is content to hide his glory. Let us also seek to bless the people, and to keep in touch with them.

     But, beloved, the chief reason lies elsewhere. Why did Moses veil his face? The answer is this: it was a judicial symbol, setting forth the sentence of God upon the people. The Lord, by this token, as good as said, “You are so rebellious, so given to your idolatries, so unwilling to see, that henceforth you shall not see the brightness of my glory in the dispensation of the law in which you live. Moses shall veil his face because the vail is upon your hearts.” It is a dreadful thing when God gives men up to a judicial blindness, when he permits the vail which they have woven to abide over their minds, “that seeing they might not see; and hearing they might not understand. As I told you in the reading, the vail was literally on Moses’ face, but spiritually it was on their hearts. Henceforth they were not to see because they had not wished to see. He that wilfully shuts his eyes will find that God takes away his sight. If thou refuse to understand, justice will make thee foolish. The shadow of destruction is insensibility. The eyes are blindfolded before the fatal volley is fired.

     The practical warning I would earnestly apply. Do you not think we have a great many people around us— may we not belong to them ourselves?— whose foolish hearts are blinded so that the light of the glory of God in the face of Christ is veiled for them? Are not many suffering from veiled hearts? In your circle there is a rare man of God: you have hoard of his faith: he walks with God: others have told you what beauties they see in his character. You cannot see anything particular in him; you, on the contrary, despise him, and avoid his company. He wears a vail for you. Here is the Bible. “O book, exquisite sweetness!” Your dear mother calls it beyond all things precious. Dear soul, how her face brightens when she tells you how she has been sustained by it in the day of trouble! You read it now and then; but you do not see anything remarkable in it, certainly nothing that charms you: the Book is veiled to you. Here is the glorious gospel of the blessed God. You have heard us say what a wonderful gospel it is. We have been overjoyed in describing it. You feel no enthusiasm. The gospel is veiled to you. You have hoard a sermon on some grand doctrine. Believers are ready to leap for joy; but you are utterly indifferent. The truth is veiled to you. This is a sad omen of a lost estate. The vail is on your heart, and your soul is in darkness which may be felt. Am I not speaking the truth about many of you? O my friends, when you hear about Christ, and do not admire him, conclude that you must be blinded; when you hear the glorious gospel of the blessed God, and it does not charm you, conclude that the vail is on your hearts. Oh, that you would turn unto the Lord! For when you turn to God, the vail shall be taken away. Oh, that God the Holy Spirit would come and turn you by his almighty power! May he constrain you to seek the Lord to-day. Then shall the vail be taken away, and you shall see the beauty of the Lord Jesus in his salvation. Here is a little prayer for you: use it often— “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” The wondrous things are in the law; may you behold them. The Holy Ghost must take the vail away, and remove the scales from your eyes, and then you will see, but not till then.

     This is why Moses wore the vail— as a testimony that God had given them over to judicial blindness, because they refused to know his will. O Lord, deal not thus with this people!

     V. I close with this question. WHAT OTHER LESSONS MAY WE LEARN FROM THE FACE OF MOSES? First, learn the exceeding glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. How so? Well, this was, so to speak, in a minor degree, the transfiguration of Moses; and all it came to was that his face shone. But when Christ came, he was transfigured as to his whole person. Not only his face shone, but his whole person and his garments also. Moses could veil his face, but the shining of our Lord could not be thus veiled, for it streamed through his raiment, which became “white and glistering.” The vail of Moses was, so to speak, a raiment for his face, and it was able to keep in the glory; but our Lord was wearing his usual garment without seam, woven from the top throughout, and the light shone through his raiment, so that he and his clothing were alike bright. Nothing could conceal the glory of our Lord, which was so great, that whereas Israel saw it tremblingly, the disciples were cast into a deep sleep thereby. A word is used by an instructive commentator in reference to Christ’s transfiguration which expresses a forcible idea: ho speaks of it as incandescence. He was all brightness and light; surpassing the mere shining of the skin, even as the sun far surpasses every form of its reflection. The glory of Christ is beyond all comparison— the glory which excelleth. Oh, that I knew how to speak of it! But I feel like Paul, when he said, “I could not see for the glory of that light.” It overpowers me. The Lamb is the light of heaven itself; what shall I say more? John on the rock of Patmos saw our Lord in vision, and he said his “countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw him I fell at his feet as dead.” Moses wore a light on his face that might be covered; but Jesus was, and is, all light, and in him is no darkness at all. “That was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”

     Another lesson is just this. See the possibilities of glory which await human nature. If Moses’ face can shine here, I can understand how, in the next state, when we are risen from the dead, our bodies may be all light and bright, and we ourselves like flames of fire. “This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” Unless our Well-beloved cometh quickly, our bodies will be sown in dishonour; and now I see how they can be raised in glory. Then shall we put on “the glory of the celestial.” We shall be among the shining ones, and shall ourselves shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of our Father. If the wrinkled face of the patriarch Moses, bronzed and browned by forty years in the Arabian desert, and lined by the long fast on the top of the mountain— if the dry parchment of his face could shine so marvellously, why should not our bodies be endowed with glory, when God shall raise them again from the grave? As a crocus bulb looks up from the soil wherein it was buried, and boldly lifts up a golden cup, which the sun fills with glory from the heavens, why should not we also bloom into perfection? “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be”— any more than it did appear what Moses should be — “but we know that, when he shall appear,”— whose appearing is more glorious than that of Moses— “we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”

     Lastly, here is one more lesson. What honour God may put upon any one of us if we really put honour upon him! My brothers, my sisters, if you are consecrated to God as Moses was, he can give you an unconscious influence which others will be compelled to recognize. Upon your brow the heavenly light of grace will rest; from your eyes the lamp of truth will shine. Walk in the light, as God is in the light, and have fellowship with him; and then you, too, shall shine as God’s light-bearers, and your whole life shall be as the star which guided the wise men to Christ. Influencing men for God, the gracious will follow you, and the wicked will be awed by you, even as “Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy.”

     O Spirit of God, rest on every one of us according to our capacity to endure the tongue of fire! Say unto us, O Saviour, this morning, “Go forth, my friends, and be burning and shining lights to my praise.” Amen.



God fighting Sin

By / Dec 28

God fighting Sin

 

“But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.”— Isaiah lxiii. 10.

 

THIS is a terrible case. When God is turned to be a man’s enemy, and fights against him, he is in a desperate plight. With other enemies we may contend with some hope of success, but not with the Omnipotent. The enmity of others is an affliction, but the enmity of God is destruction. If he turns to be our enemy, then everything is turned against us. The stars in their courses fight against us, and the stones in the fields are in league for our stumbling. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” But if God be against us, who can be for us? The words read like a funeral knell: “He was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.”

     This shows us that God is not indifferent to sin. Men may try to persuade themselves that God does not care; that it is nothing to him how men act, whether they break or keep his laws. Men may plead that he is “kind to the unthankful and to the evil,” and the same event happens unto all, both to the righteous and to the wicked; and so indeed it seems for the present. Our shortsightedness may even assure us that the ungodly prosper, and have the best of it; but this is only our blindness. God hates sin now and always. He would not be God if he did not. God is stirred with righteous indignation against every kind of evil: it moves his Spirit to anger. Some believe in an impassive God; but certainly the God of the Bible is never so described. He is represented in Holy Scripture after the manner of men; but how else could he be represented to men? If he were represented after the manner of God, you and I could understand nothing at all of the description; but as he is represented to us in Scripture, the Lord notes sin, feels sin, grows angry with sin, is provoked, and his Holy Spirit is vexed by the rebellion of men. Let me read the solemn text again: “But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.”

     God is always the same, but his acts vary. He changes not, and yet he is represented in our text as turning. He turns in his action, though he does not turn in his purpose. He often wills a change, though he never changes his will. He is always the same God, hut he does not always show us the same side of his character. Sometimes he manifests mercy, at other times justice: he is as much God in the one case as in the other. At one time he makes a world; at another time he destroys it: but he is the same Jehovah. A change in his outward dispensation does not argue any change in his inward disposition. He is an unchanging God of whom we read, “He was turned to be their enemy.”

     Having said these two or three things as a helpful commencement, I would invite you to consider this remarkably impressive verse with very great reverence and awe. May the Holy Spirit help us! The current idea now is, “Never preach anything that is dreadful or terrible. If you do, you will earn as bad a character as Spurgeon.” Now, I am not ashamed, in the least degree, to have a bad character for preaching against the evil of sin, and declaring the sure punishment of it. What have I to gain by such preaching? Shall I get the applause of men? Nay, the whole current of this generation’s liking rushes the other way. Let the preacher tell men that they may live as they like, and that it will come all right in the long run, and that will please them. Universal salvation is a very popular doctrine among the “cultured” folk. I want none of your popularity. I will preach to you, as long as this tongue moves in my head, God’s truth, whether it offend or please; and the day shall declare who best loved your souls — those who could flatter, or those who spoke unpalatable truth. Our text has in it very little, apparently, that may minister comfort to anybody; and yet my persuasion is, that if, with reverent heart, you lend your ear to what it teaches, it will lead you into a surer comfort than you will ever find in the philosophies of men, yea, it will bring your conscience into a state of rest with God, for which you will bless God as long as ever you live.

     I. First, MY TEXT BELONGS TO THE LORD’S OWN OFFENDING CHILDREN. Let me try to find them out, and lay this text home to them. There are some of God’s own people— really converted, saved people— who have, nevertheless, degenerated into such a state of sin that the Lord is turned to be their enemy. If you read this chapter, you will see that it is so. Let me begin at the seventh verse. “I will mention the loving-kindnesses of the Lord, and the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses. For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so he was their Saviour. In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy.” See, dear friends: once they were on the lap of love, once they lay in the bosom of favour, once they knew the sympathy of Christ, once they could sing of lovingkindnesses, and a multitude of mercies; but they rebelled. Is it not a shocking thing that the favoured people of God should backslide? Is it not sad that they who have eaten the bread of heaven should hunger for the ashes of this world; that men who have lain in the bosom of Christ should, nevertheless, play the traitor to him, and provoke his anger? Yet it is so, sadly so; we have seen it so in others. God grant that it may not be so with us!

     These people, after tasting all this love, and all this favour, became rebellious. He calls them “rebels.” They were not merely children that made a mistake, children that fell through folly, but “they rebelled.” Does the child of God ever get into that state? Yes, children have rebelled. David thus erred, and many others have shamefully rebelled against their God. I cannot say how far a man who has tasted of the grace of God may go in sin; but, I pray you, do not experiment upon it. Nay, let us keep as far away from sin as possible. Yet it appears that those with whom the Saviour had such sympathy that in all their affliction he was afflicted, nevertheless “rebelled and vexed his holy Spirit.”

     Well, then, what happened? Now we come to the text indeed: “He was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.” This is the story in many cases. Me sends affliction. There come upon the man’s harvest the palmer-worm, and the caterpillar, and the canker-worm. There come upon his business a blight and a blast. He cannot make it out; for where everything seemed to go well, all affairs now go amiss. All that he gets is like money poured into a bag that is full of holes. Seeing that he is a child of God, and has become a rebel, he has vexed God’s Spirit, and chastisement falls upon him. Perhaps he is brought low by a painful disease. Perhaps a dear child is taken away. Affliction comes into the family one way or another: not the affliction of Job, which tried him for God’s glory; but the affliction of Jacob, who was afflicted in his family because that family had become defiled with sin. God is jealous, and deals severely with his erring children.

     He sends them affliction; but worse than that, he turns to be their enemy, and he fights against them by withholding the comforts of the Holy Spirit. Oh, how they once enjoyed a sermon! it was full of grace and truth. They do not enjoy it now. The same preacher; other people are edified as much as before; but they are not. Such a man goes to pray; but he feels no Spirit pleading within. He reads the Bible, and it is a dead letter. He seeks the company of Christian people, but their society is dreary to him, and yields no solace. God has shut up the windows of heaven. He has made the angels cease to bring down blessings by the way of the golden ladder. God has turned to be his enemy, and fights against him. I have known cases in which true people of God (I know they were the true people of God, for they have come back, and they never did lose the life of God, even when they were away from him) have come to this— that God has fought against them in their prayers, and they seemed to pray like a man shouting inside a great copper caldron, where every sound echoes in his ears like thunder. I charge you that are the people of God to mind what you are at; for God, who loves you, will deal roughly with you if you sin against him. Remember that text, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” As I have often said, if a man saw a boy in the street breaking windows, or doing mischief, he might say very little to him; but if he was his own boy, he would give him a smart blow, and send him home; and so is it when the Lord catches his own children sinning. He may let the common sinner go on, and sin until judgment shall be executed; but as for his own children, they cannot transgress with impunity. “He was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.”

     At such times, if they still pursue any Christian career of usefulness, they are smitten with great barrenness, and their work is without efficacy. I should greatly sorrow if my words brought bruising to the tenderest of God’s people; but yet I know that it is so. If the preacher leaves his God, his God will leave him to preach in vain. If the teacher quits the Saviour, the Saviour will quit the teacher, and leave him, or her, to fail with the children. What generally happens with a minister when God has gone? Well, instead of going to God, and humbling himself and crying to him for mercy, he resolves that he will buy a new organ. That will do the trick. The new organ, after all, blow it as they may, does not come to much. Well, then, he will have sensational entertainments, a Sunday-evening concert— fiddling, or something or other. If God will not help him, he is in the same plight as Saul the son of Kish. He will try music first, and if that does not render him aid, he will go to the witch of Endor, now called “modern theology,” and ask assistance there. God have mercy upon us, if we ever do that! I do not wish for success in the ministry if God does not give it to me; and I pray that you, who are workers for God, may not wish to have any success except that which comes from God himself in God’s own way; for if you could heap up, like the sand of the sea, converts that you had made by odd, unchristian ways, they would be gone like the sand of the sea as soon as another tide comes up. O child of God, do not try to do without God! Do not bring in new inventions to patch up the breach that your sin has made. If the Lord turns to be your enemy, and fights against you, bow before him, and confess your wrong.

     I leave this point when I have made solemn enquiry. Am I speaking to any Christian man or woman to whom this text is sorrowfully true? Is not sin the cause of your sorrow? I beseech you, do not trifle with this matter. It is a very solemn thing to have God fighting against you. Say to him, “Shew me wherefore thou contendest with me.” But do not despair. If the Lord had meant to destroy you, he would have sternly said, “He is joined to idols: let him alone.” To leave a man altogether alone is God’s ultimatum with the hopeless; but to flog the wanderer back to his Lord is love in a mask. The wise man can see beneath the mask, and understand that it is because God would not destroy you with the wicked that therefore he now brings you under the discipline of his family, and makes you feel that sin and smart must go together in an heir of heaven. Seek you the Lord; cry unto him; and confess your sin. The parable of the prodigal son belongs much more to you than it does to an unconverted person; for you can call God “Father,” and you may come back to him as a son; for you are his son, notwithstanding all your riotous living in the far country, and all your wasting of your Father’s substance. Arise, and go to him at once. You know the way. Retrace it. You know your Father: fly to him immediately. Put your head into his bosom, and sob out your confession, “Father, I have sinned”; and before this present service is over, you shall receive your Lord’s full absolution, and you shall feel yourself—

“To your Father’s bosom pressed,
Once again a child confessed;
From his house no more to roam,
But with God to rest at home.”

God will soon put away the rod when you put away the sin. If he does not stay the chastisement, you will patiently bear it, and bless him that he has forgiven you; for that is the chief thing to be thought of. As a rule, the Lord ceases to fight against the man who ceases from sin; but if he does not, prostrate yourself before him. There is a picture in a quaint old book which represents a man with a flail trying to strike another, and the man who is assailed runs close in, so that the adversary cannot strike him. Run in upon God, and he cannot strike you. What does he say? “Let him take hold of my strength; and he shall make peace with me.” That is— go right up to God, who has been smiting you, and say, “Lord, I fully submit to thee. By the bowels of thy compassion, I pray thee, forgive me, and restore me to thy love.” He has no pleasure that you should suffer: as his dear child he would have you happy. He is grieved that you should wander away from him. Come back at once, backslider; come back even now. The Lord enable you to do so now, for Jesus’ sake!

     II. THE TEXT IS TRUE TO THOSE WHO CANNOT SAY THAT THEY ARE THE PEOPLE OF GOD, who would give their eyes if they could. Many an awakened sinner feels that he has rebelled; and vexed God’s Holy Spirit, and now he feels that God has turned to be his enemy, and is fighting against him by sending him trouble. Yes, he was getting on splendidly, and his prosperity was a snare to him. He had plenty of money, and therefore he could go into every place of amusement and every haunt of vice. Now he mourns an empty pocket. To-night he hardly knows where he is going to find a lodging. He was a young gentleman once, but he has to herd with beggars now. Yes, many and many a man has been brought down, by lechery and drunkenness, to the lowest abyss of penury. God has turned to be his enemy, for all things fail him: he has tried to get a situation, and he cannot; he has worn his boots off his feet, and he cannot find work to do. Perhaps I speak to some young woman here whose course has been far away from God; and she, too, has come down in another sense. Health is gone. Alas, for that laughing girl! That hectic flush upon her cheek tells that the worm is within the fruit. Poor soul! she is sickening. She will pass away, and she is still without hope. God has turned to be her enemy (so she thinks), and he fights against her, for the medicine is of no use to her; while other people seem to have been cured, she remains as sickly as ever. There are those here against whom God has been fighting of late; and when God fights, it is not child’s play, nor mere buffeting: he fights indeed. Perhaps he may be fighting with some of you in this respect, that your spirits are gone. you were once as merry as a cricket. You used to count it one of the easiest things to drive dull care away. Oh, what a jolly fellow you were! And now you cannot hold up your head. An awful depression has come upon you, and you cannot look up. It may have been through a sermon: or you were all alone, thinking, and you began to feel despondent, melancholy, unhappy. God is fighting against you, and in the depths of your soul you feel his frown. Or else you are in pecuniary difficulties. Formerly, your prosperity was your ruin. You could not be saved while you were rich; and your ease and your carelessness had to be broken in upon. There was no saving you without burning up the bed in which you slept so securely. God is tearing to pieces all your deceitful joy, and making you see the truth of matters.

     I should not wonder if God is fighting against some of you in another way, so that your flimsy notions of religion are all going. You formerly boasted, “I can believe in the Lord Jesus Christ whenever I like, and it will be all right.” You once thought it such an easy thing to believe; but you do not find it so now. You have been thinking about salvation lately, and it is not quite such a trifling matter as you thought it was. Why, now you cry, “I cannot feel. What is worse, I cannot believe, I cannot remember. I cannot restrain myself from evil, I seem possessed by the devil. God help me, for I cannot help myself.” God does not seem to help you, but he makes you feel more of your weakness than you ever knew before; and the more you labour to be better the worse you are. “He was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.”

     In the progress of this battle you may have suffered very serious damage. There came a man into this Tabernacle, some years ago, who said, “I got spoiled one Sunday morning. I came into this Tabernacle, and I thought that I was as good a man as any tradesman within fifty miles of the place.” Said he, “I went out spoiled; for I was made to confess that I was as bad as anybody in Newington, or within a thousand miles of the place.” That is what comes to us when God begins to fight against our self-righteousness. I thought myself, as a child, a good and decent lad, till I saw my own heart. I was a fine soldier till God came with his battle-axe, smashed in my shield, and hewed away my finery, and I stood there, in my own apprehension at that time, the worst youth that had ever lifted his hand against God. God makes great havoc with the trappings of self-righteousness. Our tawdry finery soon goes to pieces when the truth deals with it.

     At such times, when God is fighting against a man, his inward sorrows seem to increase. His memory shouts at him, “Remember this! Remember that! Remember the other! Remember that night of sin! Remember that day of rebellion!” His fears rise up and stalk like grim ghosts before him. His hopes, that once sang sweetly siren songs, now turn their sonnets into dirges. His expectations fail. The man’s thoughts are all a case of knives, cutting his soul at every point. O sirs, when God besieges the town of Mansoul, he sets his batteries against every gate. His artillery is turned against every part of the wall. His big shells burst in the centre of the heart. The Lord is a man of war, Jehovah is his name. When he goes forth to battle, it shall be terrible for the man against whom he fights.

     I hear you say to me, “You are giving a very terrible description.” I am not describing everybody that is saved. Many come to Christ very readily, and simply trust in him, and live at once. But, my hearer, you are not of that tender sort. You would not come. A mother’s tears could not persuade you, your teacher’s exhortations could not induce you; even the gentler dealings of God could not drive or draw you; and you have lived in sin till at last God has effectively taken you in hand. Your conscience is aroused; you cannot go on any longer as you now are.

     “Oh,” says one, “I do not feel like that.” Alas! I wish you did. I have to meet with a great many people of a sorrowful spirit. They are constantly seeking me out. I have known them come for many a mile to have a talk with me; for they seem to think that I know something about these wounds and bruises. They are right in their belief, although the fact causes me great labour among the sad. Oh, dear hearts, if God fights against you, throw down your weapons! Pull those feathers out of your caps! Down on your faces before him! Yield, and when you have yielded he will do you no harm; but he will stoop over you, and lift you up, and forgive you. The woman taken in adultery in the presence of Christ is a sample of what he will do with you, taken in the very act of rebellion against him. The tender Saviour said, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more!” Dear soul, yield, yield, yield! Make no excuse. Offer no extenuation. Yield to the omnipotence of God, which, in your case, will be omnipotent love. He has wounded, and he will heal. He has torn you, and he will bind you up. “The Lord killeth, and maketh alive: he woundeth, and his hands make whole.” But how can he make those alive who were never killed? You that were never wounded, you who to-night have been sitting here and smiling at your own ease, what can mercy do for you? Do not congratulate yourselves on your peace, for at the bottom of the painful experience I have described there lies the wondrous secret that this fighting against men is fighting against their evil for their good, that they may be saved. God fights against your pride, that you may be humbled: he fights against your self-confidence, that you may be ashamed of it; and when his warfare has answered its purpose, God will be no enemy of yours; but you will find him blotting out your sins like a cloud, and like a thick cloud your iniquities.

     I leave off when I have warned you to watch carefully that you do not go into sin. It is a blessed thing to be forgiven; but it is a more blessed thing to be kept from sin. Oh, what agony, what mischief, I have seen brought upon individuals and families by acts of carelessness which have afterwards led to acts of licentiousness! Steer clear of the lesser forms of sin, lest you so vex the Spirit that he shall turn to be your enemy, and fight against you.

     III. Lastly, THIS TEXT IS A VERY DREADFUL ONE IN REFERENCE TO THOSE WHO DIE IMPENITENT. Concerning those who die impenitent, what shall we say? What ought to be the truth about them? You— I speak only now of those who have heard the gospel, of such as are sitting in this Tabernacle, where the warning and the promise are set before them— if you die impenitent, having wilfully rejected the great sacrifice of Christ, you will die with a vengeance. Jesus Christ has died, and you have refused the merit of his blood. You have wilfully and wickedly done despite to the mercy of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost; and this is in addition to all your other sins. Now, let me ask you— What is to be done with the man who will not have mercy when it is set before him? If a convicted criminal is invited to confess and receive pardon, and he will not do it, what remains but to carry out the sentence? Both justice and injured mercy require that it should be so. When a man gets into the next world, who dies refusing Christ, and rejecting divine mercy, he will fight against God there, and, according to his ability, he will be a greater sinner there than here. Shall God give him pleasure? Shall the Lord make such a rebel happy? Shall he stand by and say, “I will reward the rebel. He has vexed my Spirit, but I will ennoble and reward him”? Shall the Judge of all the earth act so? If you will turn to this Book, you will not find between these two covers a solitary ray of hope for a man who dies without God, and without Christ. I defy any man who believes this Book to be inspired, to find anything in its sacred page but blank despair for the man who will not in this life accept the mercy of God in Christ Jesus. My Lord and Master said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” That is his word, and there it stands, and there it will stand for ever. It will never be reversed. It is the final sentence, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” I charge you, by the living God, do not provoke him to this. Rush not upon the edge of Jehovah’s sword.

     At once look to Jesus crucified— Jesus crucified for the guilty, Jesus who came into the world, took our nature, and bare our sin and shame. He cries from the cross, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” I cannot speak to you like an angel from heaven, but I speak like a sinner saved from hell; and I implore you to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved; “for God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” God bless you! Amen.



Camp Law and Camp Life

By / Dec 14

Camp Law and Camp Life

 

“For the Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy; that he see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee.”— Deuteronomy xxiii. 14.

 

 I WILL scarcely allude to the context, which you ought to notice at home, but I must say as much as this: the Lord cared for the cleanliness of his people while they were in the wilderness, literally so; and this text is connected with a sanitary regulation of the wisest possible kind. What I admire in it is that God the glorious, the all-holy, should stoop to legislate about such things. Such attention was very necessary for health and even for life, and the Lord, in condescending to it, conveys a severe rebuke to Christian people who have been careless in matters respecting health and cleanliness. Saintly souls should not be lodged in filthy bodies. God takes note of matters which persons who are falsely spiritual speak of as beneath their observation. If the Lord cares for such things, we must not neglect them. But oh, what condescension on his part that his Spirit should dictate to Moses concerning these grosser concerns! I bow before the majesty of a condescension to which nothing is too low.

     Observe, also, how it shows us the all-reaching character of the law of Moses. It overshadowed everything; it guided, arranged, restrained, or suggested all the acts of the people under its tutorship. Wherever they were, in their most public or private acts, the people were always under the supervision of the law. By reason of their sinfulness, this holy code of regulations became a yoke which they were not able to bear; still it was a very necessary and salutary law, for which they should have been grateful at all times, since it was for their good in every respect, and tended to bless them both spiritually and physically, socially and religiously.

     Dear friends, the great thing that I would bring out at this time is the spiritual lesson of the text— how the Lord would have his people clean in all things. The God of holiness commands and loves purity— purity of all kinds. He saith, “Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord.” Cleanliness of body is sometimes neglected by persons professing godliness; I speak to their shame. It ought not to be possible for grace and dirt to meet in the same person. I must confess I feel a great horror at Christian people who are so dirty that one cannot sit in the same pew with them without nausea. This is the trial of many visitors among poor people who profess religion, that certain of them are not clean in their houses, and in their clothes. Filth may be expected in persons of unclean hearts, but those who have been purified in spirit should do their utmost to be pure in flesh, and clothes, and dwelling. If cleanliness be next to godliness— and I am sure it is — it ought to be observed by those who profess godliness. Does not the same text which says “having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience,” also say, “and our bodies washed with pure water”? The Christ who redeemed us did not redeem us that we should be covered with filthiness. He has redeemed the body as well as the sold, and he has made it to be the temple of the Holy Ghost; surely we must cleanse his temple, and not suffer it to be defiled. I like the idea of those sailors on board ship, who knew that the ship was going down, and therefore, put on their Sunday’s best, that they might die as clean and neat as they could. I would not care to die in filth, or to live in it. A Christian should be clean in all things— in his person, in his house, in his garments, and in his habits. For his own sake, but specially for the sake of others, he should carefully observe sanitary laws, lest he be found guilty of the command winch saith, “Thou shalt not kill.” Now, if God speaks about this matter of cleanliness, I am sure I may do so, and ought to do so. If anyone is offended let him take a basin of clean water and wash the offence away. If anyone thinks me personal, let him have a personal bath, and so obliterate the mark. If cleanliness is a point which God does not omit, he would not have his servants silent about it.

     Still, I pass on from that to the greater lesson of the passage. You will notice that the presence of God in the midst of his people was all-reaching and everywhere. No part of the camp was exempt from God’s walking in it. Not merely in the holy place was God, or in the Holy of holies between the cherubim, but he was everywhere in the streets of the canvas city, and in the outskirts thereof. When troops of Israelites went out to war, and consequently cast up temporary camps, they were to remember that God was still walking in the midst of them; and this was to be the great motive power of their lives — the presence of God. The high privilege of being a people near unto Jehovah involved continual watching that nothing might offend his sacred majesty. O sirs, every man, whether a Christian or not, ought to remember that God is everywhere, that there is no escaping from his presence, that even the shades of night furnish no veil under which we may sin with impunity. But as for the chosen, who know the Lord, it is for them to have the lowliest respect unto one so glorious, and yet so graciously near. We may ever pray that

 

“Our weaker passions may not dare
Consent to sin, for God is there.”

 

He is daring indeed who would sin in the face of God. Sin to God’s teeth? Approach the throne of the Great King, and be disloyal there? God forbid! The Lord forgive us our audacities! There is a special presence, higher and other than the universal presence of God; and as this is the peculiar privilege of the saints, it should be to them a constant check, or a perpetual spur. The presence of God is to us a check to evil, and a spur to good.

     About this presence, and its effects, I am going to speak at this time, as the Spirit of the Lord may help me. Oh, for an anointing from the presence of the Lord!

     There are three things which I shall speak of. The first is an instructive comparison, which I may draw from this text. The text speaks about the camp of Israel, and that is a comparison which may very aptly set forth the nature of the church of God; for the church is spiritually a camp. Secondly, here is a special privilege— “The Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee.” And then, thirdly, here is demand for corresponding conduct. “Therefore, because the Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, therefore shall thy camp be holy, that he see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee.” May this lesson be learned by us all this day!

     I. First, then, AN INSTRUCTIVE COMPARISON. The church of God is in many respects comparable to a camp.

     It is a camp for separation. Men who are encamped are separated from the traders, householders, and others near whom they are tarrying. They are separated especially from the adversaries with whom they are at war. When you come near to a camp, you are challenged by the sentry, for you must not come there without warrant. In war-time a picket is sure to be in your path whichever way you come near to the camp; for during a campaign warriors are a separated people, and must keep themselves so. Such ought the church of God to be. We are crusaders, and are separated from the mass for the service of the cross which we bear on our hearts. We are in an enemy’s country, and we must keep ourselves to ourselves very much, or else we shall certainly fail of that holy military discipline which the Captain of our salvation would have us strictly enforce. An attempt is being made, here and there, to make the church like the world, and it has already been carried out by actual experiment. The most ridiculous and even discreditable things are in such cases done in the name of religion, and under cover of church purposes. O friends, this custom comes from the lowest depth, and is full of the cunning of Satan. It will be our destruction if the attempt should succeed. The great object of a Christian should be to separate the church more and more entirely from the world. Our Lord was not of this world, but was crucified without the gate: “Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.” The reproach to-day, dreaded by feeble minds, is that of being narrow-minded, bigoted, strict, precise. Let us willingly take it up. It is his reproach: let us not attempt to escape it. Let it be our resolve that, as far as ever we can, we will be nonconformists to the ways even of worldly Christiana. Let us not be conformed to this world, but transformed in the spirit of our minds. Ours be the holy dissidence of spiritual dissent from evil, the sacred separation of Separatists from error. Are we a camp, dear friends? The question might lead us to judge others: I will put it in the singular. Am I a soldier of the cross, a follower of the Lamb? If so, I must, as a soldier, live in my barracks, or abide in my lines. I must be separated; and I must, as a follower of the Lamb, “go forth unto him without the camp,” being determined to live the separated life as he sets it before me. Every true church, then, is a camp for separation.

     Next, it is a camp, because it is on the defensive. As I have said before, we are marching through an enemy’s country. The children of Israel marched through the wilderness, and the Amalekites frequently harassed them, and slew the hindmost of them; as the Amalekites harass us, and, alas! they slay the hindmost of us. It is not those that are to the front for their captain, not those who follow close to the standard, nor those who go forth armed in his strength, that fall by the enemy. Those who play about in the rear, who gather up the stones of the desert, and hoard them up as a treasure— it is these upon whom the Amalekites pounce. Yet their arrows are far flying, and none of us is safe from the enemy, except as the Lord keeps us. Therefore, we must go about armed at all times. I heard say of a certain clergyman, that he told his bishop, when he went to a ball, that he was “off duty”; but his bishop very properly replied, “When is a clergyman off duty?” I put the same question to a Christian, When are you off duty? Never. The policeman wears a badge on his arm to show that he is on duty: you wear nothing upon your arm, it is upon your whole self. Buried with the Lord in baptism, the sacred watermark is on you from head to foot, the token that henceforth you are dead to the world, and are alive in newness of life. You cannot strip yourself of so comprehensive a distinction; it is impossible to erase it, it is an indelible token, and if you are false to it, then you are traitors indeed. If you are living as you should do, you are living unto Christ, always and ever, in every place, and at all times. You are to serve God in your enjoyments, as well as in your employments; in your leisure as much as in your labour. You are to serve him, not only in what is mistakenly called his house, but also in your own house. Ay, and you yourself are to be the temple of the living God always. Brethren, we are soldiers at all times, and must never doff our regimentals. We must keep rank, and march in serried order, for every day is a battle to the church of God. There is no truce between the church and error, between the saint and sin. If there be a truce, it is an unholy one, and must be broken, for God himself has proclaimed eternal war between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. Our condition is one of warfare, and nothing else, until the last great victory shall crush the serpent’s head. The church is a camp, for it is on the defensive.

     It is a camp, too, especially, because it is always assailing the powers of darkness. It is carrying the war into the enemy’s territory. That, no doubt, is the special intention of the words of our text. Read the ninth verse, “When the host goeth forth against thine enemies, then keep thee from every wicked thing.” Learn, then, that we are to go forth against the enemy. It is not for the church of God to protect her own borders, and think, “This is enough”; she must go forth to conquer fresh territory for her Lord. There used to be in our churches too much of contentedness with isolation and inactivity. The hymn went up from a quiet, do-nothing assembly—

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

We dare not feel content to let the wilderness remain what it is; we may not give up vast regions to the dragon and the owl. No, no, dear friends, we are going to break up more ground, and make the little spot into a far wider space; and if the garden be walled around, wo hope to build a wall round many more acres of ground, and so enlarge the garden of the Great King. The church of God is like fire, and you cannot say to fire, “You must burn comfortably at the corner of that haystack, and never think of going any farther.” “No,” says the fire, “I will burn it all down.” “But there are farm buildings yonder: do not touch those sheds and barns.” The fierce fire is insatiable; it never stops while there is anything to be consumed. Even so a true church has within herself an ambition for her Lord that his kingdom may be extended everywhere; and that ambition is as insatiable as that of Alexander, which a conquered world could scarce content. If there were only one sinner left, it would be worth the while of all the saved millions to continue to pray day and night for that one sinner, and to set all its tongues moving to tell to that one sinner the gospel of Christ. Alas, we are a very long way off from having a lone soul to watch over! A few are saved, and untold millions are perishing. Feeble are the lamps which as yet are kindled, the vast proportion of the world is wrapt in tenfold night. We are as yet only a handful of com on the top of the mountains, and our desire should be to grow till “the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth.” We have a world to conquer, and we cannot afford to loiter. We have a kingdom to set up for the Lord of hosts, and we must not sleep, for the adversaries of the Lord are raging. We are an army, sworn to war against the Canaanites of error and sin, to cast down their walled cities, to break their idols, and to cut down their groves. The church of God is the great army of peace, purity, liberty, love: she wars against war, she wars against sin, she wars against oppression, she wars against falsehood, uncleanness, intemperance, unrighteousness; and her fight has only yet begun. Do you not feel, my brethren, dwelling in this wicked city of London, that our appropriate description is a camp?

     And next, dear friends, the church of God is a camp because we are on the march. A camp is pitched in one spot for temporary purposes, for the army is moving on to-morrow, and then the camp will be in another place. The Israelites, especially, were not dwelling in the desert; they were only marching through it into the land that God had promised to them. It is well for us to recollect that we are ourselves in a movable camp, marching, marching onward, marching forward; but ever marching and moving. This is not our rest. We are not at home: we are on foreign travel. Alas! I am afraid that we do not realize this, but are like the children of Israel, who took forty years in the wilderness to perform a journey which, I suppose, might have been accomplished in forty days or less. It was not far, after all, from Egypt to Canaan; we should think nothing of it as a journey now; and even for that great mass of people, who necessarily travelled slowly, it needed not to have been a long passage; but they took forty years over it, because they marched this way and that way, in endless mazes lost, wandering rather than journeying towards a definite spot. Do you not think that a great many Christian people are practising the same method of motion without progress? Have you not seen some of them, like the King of France, march up a hill and down again? Is not that the way with most? Bravely they lift the lance, and hold the shield, and rush forth to the fight. They ride round the enemy, and take stock of him, and come home to tell what they have seen; and that is all they do! Multitudes are for ever playing at being Christians. Do you not note their childish seesaw, up and down, up and down; but their movement leaves them no higher than at the first. God save us from this! The camp must go onward. Thus saith the Lord, “Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward.” We ought to be advancing in grace, in knowledge, in earnestness, in holiness, in usefulness, and if not, we scarcely realize the figure of a camp.

     Yet, once more, no doubt a camp, as formed for temporary purposes, was a token of the church; for although the church stands still and abides, yet in her individual members she is subject to the same law of decay, and death, and change, as the rest of the world. Soon shall the camp cease; and the soldiers become citizens, and the tents be exchanged for mansions. The church is militant upon the earth for a season only. We are here to-day and gone to-morrow. O brethren, we are at present rather a camp than a city; for we pass away, and our brethren also, as the days fly by. I recollect this church and congregation six-and-thirty years ago; and my brother William Olney behind me will recollect it too; but neither he nor I can recall all the names of our brother soldiers who were with us then. They are gone from us at our Captain’s call. I say not that they are lost, for they are not so; but they are lost to us for present aid. You cannot say that a thing is lost when you know where it is, and we know where they are; but they are not here, and we sadly miss them. Others have sprung up, but a whole generation has passed away. Part of our legion have forded the dividing stream,

And we are to the margin come,
And soon expect to die.

     To us also there remaineth a rest, but we recollect that here we have no continuing city, we seek one to come. We endeavour to make the camp as comfortable as the desert will permit; but it can never be a home. When you are in the East, your tent-bed awaits you; you sleep well, you wake up, there is your breakfast; but very soon they roll up the tent, and pull up the poles, and put the whole thing on camels, and you are again homeless on the burning sand. You can never reckon upon anything like steadfast abiding in one place when you are following camp life. Such is the life of the believer: camp life is his lot, and it is well for him to be prepared to rough it.

     Here we are in a tabernacle, that is, a tent which is to be taken down; but we are going to a city that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. We have a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, and we are wending our way thither; but, as yet, we are like Bedouin Arabs, or like our own soldiers on a campaign, when they have no permanent barracks, but abide in tents.

     We remember very sadly, that, when rough men get into camp— and soldiers, as a rule are rough enough— they think that they may do anything. In this respect the camp of God is to differ from all other camps, as much as white from black. To this day it is a sort of popular error that a soldier may indulge himself in uncleanness, and be less blamable than other people. I have heard the remark, “The young man is in the army; and what can you expect of him?” But God’s people are to be soldiers, and theirs is to be camp life; but their camp is holy, and so must each one of them be. Thus saith the Lord, “When the host goeth forth against thine enemies, then keep thee from every wicked thing.” “The Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy; that he see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee.” A camp of angels should not be more holy than a church of saints among whom the Lord God hath taken up his abode.

     Thus much upon the very instructive figure of the text.

     II. Secondly, I come to notice A SPECIAL PRIVILEGE. The text mentions a privilege specially promised to Israel, but I am sure, to a very high and real degree, enjoyed by ourselves. “The Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee.”

     By this walking is intended a special presence of love. The Lord is present in his church in a higher sense than in the world. The Lord walks in the midst of his church as a man takes pleasure in the walks of his garden. The church is the garden of the Lord, his paradise. “His delights are with the sons of men.” He looks on this one, and on that— all plants of his own right-hand planting: he looks to see where the knife is wanted, that he may prune the vine; or where refreshment is wanted, that he may water the roots. The Lord, with unutterable care, is in the midst of his church. Remember how he says, “I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment; lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.” If you want to find God on earth, you must look among his chosen. Where is a father most at home but with his children? God hath said, “This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.” While Israel was a dweller in tents the ark of the covenant was among them, the token of the Lord’s presence; and in his warring church the great Captain of the host is ever lovingly near. Hear how he gives the assurance, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” There are special lines of love to his own, which make us sometimes cry, “Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world!” But so it is our Lord Jesus walks up and down our ranks, and sees our order or disorder, our courage or our cowardice; and this is the best reason why we should behave ourselves aright. He loves us, and we must not grieve him. See the force of this argument, “The Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp; therefore shall thy camp be holy.”

     God is present in the camp of his people with a special presence of observation. He sees all things; but his eyes are, in the first place, fixed on his church. With burning glance he searches the very heart of professors. I tremble while I speak this word. It is often bowing me to the dust. With regard to the ungodly, I may say of them, “The times of this ignorance God winketh at”; but to his people he says, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” There is a discipline in the house of God which is carried on, not by church officers, nor by the church itself, but by the providence of God. Men die before their time, and others are sick who might be well; sick, I mean, through ill behaviour in the church of God. Thus saith the apostle: “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.” If you are not my child I have nothing to say about your behaviour: I leave you to your own father. But if you are my boy, my child at home, I must speak to you, I must correct you, for I bear a responsibility towards you. So it is with God. He will bear much from the ungodly which he will not endure from his own people. Here is a text which I would like to wrap up in my heart: “The Lord thy God is a jealous God.” That wondrous love of his must have jealousy linked with it. Our God loves us so much, so entirely, with all the infinity of his Godhead, that if we do not love him in return, and yield the holy fruits of love, he is grieved and angry. “The Lord thy God is a jealous God.” See, then, the argument: if it be so, that God is specially watchful over his church, let thy camp be holy. The Lord cries, “Be ye holy; for I am holy.” “Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord.” It is not for Jehovah’s camp to be fouled. He would not have any putrid matter, anything offensive, remain within the camp literally; and spiritually he will have us keep all filthiness away from his church. He will have us just, true, pure, sincere, holy; and if we are not so, his anger will burn like fire. Lord, have mercy upon us! Christ, have mercy upon us! What more can we say?

     Again, dear friends, the peculiar privilege of Israel is to have a special presence of salvation. “The Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp to deliver thee.” God is with his people, to help them in their times of trouble, to rescue them out of danger, to answer their cries in their necessity, to save them in the hour of temptation. He is with us to deliver us in all things in which we require deliverance. Have we not found him so? I could touch this string with no feeble or wavering hand. This very week I have found him with me, to deliver me in many things— many things that seemed to lay me low, matters which concerned the Lord’s church. Trouble was there; but the Lord was there also. Oh, what a blessing it is! “The Lord is there.” Have you any troubles and difficulties, dear friend, and are you a child of God? Do you belong to Christ? Well, the Lord is with his people to deliver them. Should not this be a grand argument why the camp should be holy, for if he hears our prayers, we are bound to obey his precepts? If he will give us our will, let his will be done on earth, even as it is in heaven. God help us so to do!

     And, next, the Lord is with the camp of his people, not only to deliver them, but as a special presence for victory. He routs their enemies, and gives his saints success. All the hope that the church has of doing any good in the world must come from the Lord’s being in the midst of her. If any error is to be trampled down as straw for the dunghill, if any sinner is to be snatched like a lamb from between the jaws of the lion, if any dark neighbourhood is to be enlightened, it must be because God is with his people. “Without me ye can do nothing.” This word is most true. It is he, and he alone, that can give up our enemies before us. Very well, then, let the camp be holy, lest we lose that presence, and he be gone.

     Once more, it is a special presence in covenant. “The Lord thy God.” Listen to that word — “Jehovah thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp to deliver thee.” The living God is our God. Men have many gods, even in England— gods of their own making; but my God is the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I believe in the Old Testament God, who is the same as the God of the New Testament. I abhor the idea of a new Godhead. Jehovah is one and the same to me. But oh, if he be our God by special covenant, if he has taken us to be his people, and we have taken him to be our God, it is most delightful, but it involves us in a grave responsibility to be a holy people. If we can say,

“’Tis done, the great transaction’s done.
I am my Lord’s, and he is mine,”

then let us be holy, and let our whole camp be holy. Otherwise our vows are a fiction, our professions are a lie. Do we wish to provoke the Lord, and to vex his Spirit? The Lord save us from this evil!

     See, then, the special privilege. I have already told you what it involves.

     III. So now I have only to dwell for a minute or two upon the last point a little more distinctly— A CORRESPONDING CONDUCT. “Therefore shall thy camp be holy; that he see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee.”

     Observe, then, that this rule, that the camp be holy, applies to the commonest places wherein we are found. “Therefore shall thy camp be holy.” As I have already said, men generally think that they may take great license in a camp; but the Lord says, “Therefore shall thy camp be holy.” When you are out for a holiday, be holy. When you say, “Now we have one or two friends coming to the house, and we will indulge ourselves somewhat,” be holy; and let the conversation and the entertainment be holy. Let not only the church-meeting be holy; but let the family gathering be holy, whether at Christmas, or on a Bank holiday, or at another time. Let the common meals be holy, no excess or murmuring being tolerated. Let the board and the bed be holy. Let the body and the mind be holy. Let the commonest act you do be holiness to the Lord. Let the bells upon the horses ring out only this note, “Holiness unto the Lord.” “Holiness becometh thine house, O God”; but holiness becometh also all the houses of thy people. Holiness is the ordained livery of a servant of God, and he that does not wear this garment has disgraced himself and his master. He is wearing, in fact, the livery of the King’s enemies. Let him mind what he is at. If my memory does not deceive me, when Oliver Cromwell was first contending with the king, the soldiers who joined him were mostly gentlemen-farmers, and they wore their own buff jerkins; and as many on the other side were dressed much the same, mistakes were made; and, in a rough-and-tumble fight, they did not know cavalier from roundhead. So Cromwell said, upon a certain occasion, that all his soldiers must be dressed in a certain colour, and not a man should be in his troop who did not come by such a day with such a coat on. Well, you say, why should they wear uniform? Some of them did not like it; but his orders were peremptory, that not a man should be with him if he did not wear the regulation dress, since by their common array they knew each other, and could not be mistaken in a scuffle. Holiness is the white raiment of the believer; be sure that you put it on, because, otherwise, we shall not know you, and the world will not know you, and you will be mistaken for an enemy. I am afraid you will be treated as having gone over to the enemy, if we catch you in the usurper’s black instead of the king’s white. The Holy Spirit arrays you in the white raiment of holiness, that you may shine out bright and clear and distinct before the sons of men.

     But now, notice this, too. While this holiness pertained to their commonest things, it was also ordered that every unclean thing was to be put from them. “That he may see no unclean thing in thee.” This is an awful text. I will not preach about it, but I will just repeat it to you again: “That he may see no unclean thing in thee.” Ah, me! We often see unclean things in ourselves, do we not? Yes; but we often overlook much uncleanness, and do not notice it because our eyes are dim. We have lost, perhaps, the spiritual nostril that would smell the unclean thing. Our senses have become perverted by the foul world in which we live. But then, think of this— the pure and holy God— the thrice holy God— he speaks of himself in this sort, “That he see no unclean thing in thee.” Brothers, sisters, what a house-cleaning this calls for! What hard sweeping this requires— that “he see no unclean thing in thee”! Remember, the pith of that text concerning the Paschal Lamb lies in God’s sight of the sprinkled blood. Notice, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” So here the very force of the text lies— “that he see no unclean thing in thee.” Oh, for grace and watchfulness to keep clear of touching the unclean thing! Let us come continually to the washing-place— even to the fountain opened. Let us beseech the cleansing Spirit to operate as with fire, and burn his purifying way through and through our souls, that in the church of God the Lord may not see any unclean thing in any one of us.

     Note well the fearful warning which is added. If there be in the camp an unclean thing tolerated and delighted in, and he see it— if it becomes conspicuous and grievous to him, then the worst consequences will follow — “Lest he turn away from thee.” Oh! what would happen to us if the Lord were to turn away from us as a church? Horror takes hold on me at the thought. The pastor will die in due time: that is a small matter, for the Lord can send another. But if the Lord were to pass away from us, what an overwhelming desolation! Ichabod would be written in large capitals across this house if the Lord were gone. And yet my wonder often is that he has not gone, when I remember the unclean things that I have to see and mourn over. I see very little compared with what the Lord sees, but I see enough to make me tremble. The Lord sees much about us that grieves him, even when we think there is nothing amiss. Let us pray that the Lord do not go from us. I invite you earnestly to pray that during my absence God may keep all the camp in holy working order; that he may see no unclean thing, and may not turn away from his people. O Lord, in thy love bear with us, and abide with us evermore!

 

     I have done; but there is a little fragment that follows my text which I want some of you to get before I go. Read this. This follows the text. It is a curious thing that it should follow the text. I think that it is put here on purpose for me to have a word for the sinner before I have done. “Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee: he shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him.” I wonder whether any runaway has come into our place of worship to-night. Certainly there are some of Satan’s slaves here. I would recommend you to run away from the devil, and not give him a moment’s notice. Flee from his service directly. There is no getting away from sin except by instantaneous flight. Run for it! Run at once. Steal away to Jesus. Do not stop to think twice. The prodigal said, “I will arise, and go to my father”; and he arose and went to his father. Deliberating about it, and giving notice, never answers anybody’s purpose in the matter of repentance unto life. Instantaneous flight is your wisdom. Run away in a twinkling. If you do run away, and get among the Lord’s people, we will never give you up to your old master. He may come here after you; but we know him, and are not to be deceived by him in this matter. He has come here after many; but we have not given up any of his runaways, and by God’s grace, we will never part with you, but defy the man-catcher to take you away. Jesus says, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out”; and so you see he will harbour you, and not return you to your Master. There were slaves in Moses’ day, but if they ran away nobody ever sent them back to their master; and therefore it was not much of slavery after all. The devil has many slaves; but if they run away to Jesus, they shall never be sent back. Come, then, dare to be free from Satan’s power. Strike for liberty! Your tyrant lord has no right to you. I know you sold yourself, but you were not your own to sell; you were stolen goods. The devil can have no more property in you than you had in yourself, and that was nothing, for you are not your own. Fly away, poor hunted dove, to Jesus’ wounds; and when once you get there, the hawk cannot reach you. Safe in the Rock of Ages you shall dwell as a dove in the clefts. Though I have dealt faithfully with the uncleanness of professing believers, I now invite the vilest and the foulest to come to Jesus for safety and liberty.

“There is a fountain fill’d with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.”

Ransomed sinners may dwell among us, in whatsoever place they shall choose. Neither will we oppress them with hard questions or irksome duties, but we will bind them to be free, as we are ourselves bound to liberty, in the name of the Lord our God. God bless you, dear friends, and during my absence may you be fed with the finest of the wheat! May the blessing of the Lord rest upon you! If we do not meet again in this wilderness below, may we meet, when camp life is over, in the city above, to go no more out for ever! The blessing of the Lord rest on you evermore!



The Lord no more Wroth with his People

By / Dec 7

The Lord no more Wroth with his People

 

“For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not he wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee.”— Isaiah liv. 9.

 

BEFORE any person could feel himself safe in applying such a word as this to himself, he would naturally read the chapter, and study the connection in which it stands, to see whether it would be a wresting of Scripture for any private believer to understand it as being spoken by God to himself. Doing this, you will very soon be satisfied that every true believer has his just portion here. Observe the closing words of the chapter: “This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord”— not of Jews or Gentiles as such, but of the servants of the Lord, be they of what race they may. It is not written that this was their heritage in some past dispensation, or shall be their heritage in some brighter era yet to come; but “This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord.” Each one, therefore, may conclude that if he is a servant of the Lord this is his own heritage.

     But how are we to know these servants of the Lord? What is the distinguishing mark set upon them? The next words tell us this— “And their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.” If there be anyone among us whose righteousness is his own, wrought out by himself, he is excluded from this heritage; but whoever in our number has learned personally, and for himself, to call the Lord Jesus “The Lord our righteousness,” he may claim the blessings of this chapter as his own. Without committing a spiritual robbery, everyone who is justified in Christ Jesus may feel that every sentence in this chapter belongs to him. “This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord.” Am I a servant of the Lord? Do I serve him out of love?

     The prophet further adds, “And their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.” Have I a righteousness that is divine in its origin and character? If so, then, my soul, come thou boldly to the Master’s table, and whatever dainties the Lord may heap thereon, do thou feed upon them freely; for this is the children’s meat which the heavenly Father has here set before them, and they will be guilty of no presumption if they take it all to themselves, and feast thereon to the full. May the Holy Spirit work in us this holy liberty!

     In trying to deal with the text in a somewhat superficial manner— for it would be impossible, in the short time we have this evening, to explore its depths— we shall notice two things: first, what men have the most cause to fear; and secondly, what the saints need never fear.

     I. And, first, WHAT MEN HAVE MOST TO FEAR.

     All men who are unsaved ought, with fear and trembling, to dread the wrath of God— the wrath present, and the wrath to come. The text speaks of the Lord’s being wroth, as of an evil to be feared. Man has cause to be afraid of the rebuke of God which is named in our text— that stern rebuke of the Holy One which is the prelude to the lifting-up of his unsheathed sword, and the destruction of his adversaries. God’s anger and rebuke make up the utmost form of terror; and if men were not maddened by sin they would confess that it is so.

     God’s wrath is matter for fear, because, dear friends, to be in union with God is necessary to the happiness of the creature. To have God for its enemy is for the creature to be removed from its foundation, and placed where it cannot abide. The whole universe stands because God’s power supports it: only because it is so far in unison with the will of God does it exist in order, peacefulness, and joy. Take God away from the world, and the world would become dark, dead, drear, desolate: nay, I correct myself, there would be no world. This great sun, the moon, and stars would all subside into their native nothing, even as a moment’s foam melts back into the wave that bears it, and is gone for ever. In the same way, an intelligent being, a spiritual nature, without its Creator, is lost— lost as a sheep which has strayed from the shepherd, lost to all that renders life worth the having. It were better for such a creature that it had never had an existence; for the wrath of God, when it goes forth in the form of a rebuke upon a thoughtful man, is as a seven-fold plague. God’s rebuke on any creature is a withering thing, but on an intelligent being it is hell. Some have felt it to a fearful degree in this life. Remember Cain, who went forth from the presence of God a marked man. Who among us would like to have known his dread, living in fear that whosoever should find him would kill him; a man accursed of the Most High, and marked among his fellow-men? We read of Pashur, in the days of Jeremiah, who had the rebuke of God dwelling upon him, so that he became a terror to himself. Remember the word of the Lord in the book of Deuteronomy, where the Lord threatens his erring people: “And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the Lord shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind: and thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life.” What a rebuke is this! The voice of God had gone forth against him, and his soul trembled. Think of that proud mortal who heard God’s voice of rebuke in the midst of his revelry and mirth— that God-defying monarch, Belshazzar, whose knees knocked together, and the joints of his loins were loosed, because he had seen the handwriting of God upon the wall. The rebuke of God bums up a man’s spirit, turns his moisture into the drought of summer, and withers him like a flower broken off at the stalk, or like the hay that has fallen in the sun beneath the scythe! Oh, if such a calamity should ever come upon us, we shall have reason indeed to say, “Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath”!

     This wrath of God is to be feared, my brethren, all the more because there is no escaping from it. A man who is under the wrath of a monarch can escape to another kingdom; a man who has incurred the anger of the most mighty enemy can find, somewhere in this great world, a nook wherein he can conceal himself from his relentless pursuer. But he that has exposed himself to the wrath of God cannot save himself from the Almighty hand. Though thou hide thyself on the top of Carmel, yet there the Omniscient eye shall see thee; and though thou fly to the clefts of the rock, like the eagle, yet God will find thee out. There is no escaping from his presence. Even though the beams of the morning sun should lend us wings, he would arrive before his fugitive. There is no place, even should we dive beneath hell’s profoundest wave, where he could not reach us. It was said, in the days of the Caesars, that the whole world was but one great prison for those who were the enemies of the emperor. It is so. Earth itself, and heaven, and hell, are but one vast dungeon for the man who is the object of the wrath of God, and against whom the sentence of doom has gone forth from the eternal lip. A rebuke that withers! A rebuke from which there is no escape! Well may sinners who deserve it admire the longsuffering which invites to mercy, and tremble lest the word of wrath should take its place, and pursue them to the death.

     There is this also to be dreaded in the wrath of God, that, as there is no escape from it, so there is no cure for it. Nothing can possibly give a man ease or safety when the rebuke of God has gone forth against him. He may be surrounded with temporal comforts, but his riches will only mock his inner poverty. Friends may utter words of cheer; but miserable comforters shall they all be.

“When HE shuts up in long despair,
Who can remove the iron bar?”

If God speak the word in wrath, none can reverse the sentence. He shutteth, and no man openeth.

     Instead of the mercies of this life becoming any comfort to him, when a man has the wrath of God resting upon him, it is written, “I will curse all your blessings.” Oh, terrible words! when the curse follows a man in his basket and in his store, in the fruit of his body, and in the object of his life; follows him to his bed, to his board, to his work, and to his rest! O wretched being! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. Blessed God! we thank thee that thou hast not yet so spoken against us, but hast left us yet on praying ground, and pleading terms with thee, and sent us once again the voice of inviting mercy, saying, “Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die, O house of Israel?” Had thy rebuke gone forth against us, we had been utterly consumed with terrors.

     Worse still, my brethren: the rebuke of God, if we live and die impenitent, is one against which we cannot harden ourselves. We cannot gather strength to endure when God strikes at the heart and dries up the spirit. There are some pains of the body which, at first, are so tormenting, that patience, while suffering from them, seems impossible; but after a certain season the nerve grows dull, or, at any rate, use blunts the edge of pain, or the faintness of the flesh comes to the assistance of the sufferer. But it is not so with the wrath of God. No shield can ward off the arrows of Almighty justice. The Lord knows how to smite the man, not merely in hand, or foot, or head, but in the heart. The arrows of God stick fast in the man’s inner self; they wound his spirit; and “a wounded spirit who can bear?” Some of those who have been the most impudent braggarts against God, have whined like cowards, and cried out— or, as the prophet puts it, “howled upon their beds”— when he has but touched them with his finger. They cursed God until it came to dying, and then they changed their tune to one of craven fear. How often have atheists turned into trembling confessors when eternity has been in view! They could say once, “Who is the Lord that we should serve him?” but, when they saw death approaching, and sin pursued their soul with furies, they cried and entreated the Lord that he would have mercy. He knows, O ye stout-hearted ones, he knows how to find out the joints in what you think to be your invulnerable harness! He can pierce you so that you can no longer stand up against him. He can break the point of your spear, and turn the edge of your sword; and then you will lie at the mercy of the God whom your sins have provoked. Beware how ye dash yourselves upon the bosses of his buckler, for you will only slay yourselves. In vain do ye boast yourselves, for by strength shall no man prevail. Oh, the wrath to come! The lapse of years shall never help a man to harden himself against the punishment of sin, which will for ever be “the wrath to come.” Hell shall be as intolerable when it has been borne a thousand years as it was when first the soul was cast therein. Throughout eternity there will be no relief to condemned spirits from the burden of their sinfulness; for as they will cling to sin, so will sin cling to them. No drop of consolation will fall into the cup of eternal woe; but the impenitent shall drink for ever of the wine of the wrath of God.

     Here remember, my brethren, the tremendous and overwhelming fact, that the wrath of God does not end with death. This is a truth which the preacher cannot mention without trembling, nor without wondering that he does not tremble more. The eternity of punishment is a thought which crushes the heart. You have buried the man, but you have not buried his sins. His sins live, and are immortal: they have gone before him to judgment, or they will follow after him to bear their witness as to the evil of his heart and the rebellion of his life. The Lord God is slow to anger, but when he is once aroused to it, as he will be against those who finally reject his Son, he will put forth all his omnipotence to crush his enemies. “Consider this,” saith he, “ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.” It will be no trifle to fall into the hands of the living God. He will by no means clear the guilty. For ever must his anger burn. We have nothing in Scripture to warrant the hope that God’s wrath against evil doers will ever come to an end. Oh, the wrath to come! The wrath to come! The wrath which after ages and ages will still be to come, and still to come, and still to come! Well might that mighty pleader, Whitefield, when he preached, lift up his hands, and with streaming eyes and breaking heart cry to the crowds— “Oh, the wrath to come, the wrath to come!”

     This, then, is what men have most to dread. Did you ever dread it? He that never dreaded it, nor felt in his spirit a trembling and a fear concerning it— alas for him, he has the strongest cause for alarm! Well do I remember when this awful truth rolled over my spirit like the huge car of Juggernaut. I then thought myself to be utterly crushed and lost, and in a hopeless state; and, truly, so I should have been but for amazing grace. Happy was it for me that I did see myself to be obnoxious to the divine anger; for I had never laid my sins upon Christ, if I could have carried them myself; I had never leaned upon his strength if I had been strong enough to stand by my own power. If it had not been a hopeless, helpless case with me, I had never closed in with the Lord Jesus and made him to be all my hope and help. When the wrath of God, burning in my spirit, had consumed every other hope, oh, then it was sweet to come to Christ, and find in him all consolation and salvation!

     II. Enough upon this point. The delightful theme I wish to enlarge upon is this: WHAT THE SAINTS NEED NEVER FEAR. Dreadful as it is, and more than sufficient to overwhelm the spirit with dismay, a fear of the wrath of God need never disturb the believer’s heart.

     Let us read: “For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee.” God has sworn that he will never be wroth with his people. He does not say that he will never be so angry with their sins as to chasten them sharply; for anger with our sins is love to us. He does not say that he will not be so angry as to punish us; although there would be great mercy even in that; but he goes much further, and says, that he will never be so wroth with his people as even to rebuke them; he will not let his wrath rise so high as to draw an angry word from him. “What!” say you, “then doth not God rebuke his people?” Ah, verily, that he doth, and chasten them too! but those rebukes and those chastisements are in love, and not in wrath. The text before us is to be read thus: “I will not be wroth with thee so as to rebuke thee in indignation.” There shall never be so much as a word of wrath from the lips of God, touching any one of his servants whose righteousness is of him. So doth he love those who are in Christ Jesus, so completely hath he absolved them, that not in anger will he speak so much as one word against them.

     Now, this, to make us sure of it, is first of all confirmed by an oath: “So have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee.” We ought to believe God’s bare word: we are bound to accept his promise as certainty itself; but who will dare to doubt the oath of the Eternal? You cannot accuse a man of anything more horrible than perjury: can you be so profane as to lay this at the door of God? To suspect him of having sworn dishonestly, or dream that he can make a breach of that covenant which he has sealed by an oath— this would be a crime against the thrice-holy Lord. Shall we tarnish the glory of God, by a suspicion that he will break his oath? And yet, perhaps, we are doing so. Under heavy chastisement you are saying— “The Lord is wroth with me; he has turned his heart against me.” While you are feeling in your body the smart of fierce disease, or in your estate a gradual decay of your property; or in the person of that dear dead child, or in the decease of that beloved wife or husband, you are seeing the hand of God going out against you, it may be you say, “This cannot be love; the Lord must be wroth with me— so wroth with me as to be smiting me with the blows of a cruel one.” But, dear child of God, you must not think so for a moment. The Lord has sworn that he would not be wroth with you, and he cannot break his oath. Nothing but love can guide the hand of his providence. It is not possible that there is even a mixture of motives in his dealings with you. Undiluted affection arranges every step, and perhaps it is because of the greatness of his affection that you are called upon to suffer so grievously. We all acknowledge that when a father strings up his nerves at last to chastise his darling child, he then gives clearest proof of wise love, since every blow of the rod falls heavier on the father’s heart than ever it can on the child’s flesh. It is true love which whips the erring heir of glory from his sin. To fondle and spoil a rebel were folly, and cruelty would show that the father had not love enough to his child to study his best interests; but we see the triumph of love when a wise parent, out of supreme affection, grieves himself by chastening his child. Your heavenly Father doth not afflict willingly; but he has a loving reason for every stripe. In all your affliction he is afflicted, and he brings himself to afflict you— if I may use such a term— as you bring yourself to the chastening of your child. Love seems to behave itself strangely when it wields the rod and bruises its darling; but indeed it is then most truly love. I charge you, as you love your God, and would not dare to accuse him of falsehood, do not believe for an instant that he is wroth with you, or will rebuke you in anger. The rebuke he sends is a rebuke of undiluted love. Not a grain of divine anger is to be found in a mountain of divine affliction. Jehovah swears there is not: can you do other than believe him?

     As if still further to illustrate the certainty of this, he is pleased to draw a parallel between his present covenant oath and that which he made in the days of Noah with the second great father of the human race. He said to Noah that the waters should no more go over the earth so as to destroy all flesh from off it, and he gave him the rainbow as a sign that this should never be. Observe, that the covenant made with Noah was a covenant of pure grace; for Noah found grace in the sight of the Lord. The Lord will deal with us also according to his grace. God destroyed the earth because it was corrupt; and assuredly it is corrupt again. Many times since Noah’s day the earth has been polluted with crying sins that might well have provoked God to turn the torrents upon our race. Those were horrible days when all men did as seemed good in their own eyes in the days of the Judges! You cannot read the histories of the kings of Israel without feeling sick at heart. The other nations were no better than the Jews, and probably were much worse; yet the chosen people were as vile as vile could be. What horrible days were those of the Homan emperors, when those who governed the world were monsters in iniquity, and all lands reeked with vice! What cloudy days were those of the Middle Ages, when to be a genuine Christian was to be hunted to death; when every kind of superstition and villainy had sway! The Lord might well have drowned the world in any one of those times quite as justly as he did in the days of Noah. It was of his grace, then, that although he foresaw that the world would still be corrupt, and that every imagination of man’s heart would still be evil, he yet said that he would not destroy the earth, but that his longsuffering should patiently wait till the end should be. Now, beloved, this covenant of pure grace is paralleled by the covenant we have been speaking of in your case. He has said, “I have sworn that I will not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee.” “Ah!” you say, “but my sins, my many imperfections, my shortcomings, my glaring failures, my frequent backslidings, my coldness of heart, my laxity in prayer, the mistakes into which I fall through carelessness, my unbelief, my thousand sins— surely he will be wroth with me on account of these?” But have I not shown you that he might a thousand times have been wroth with the world so as to destroy it with water, but because of his covenant he was not so? The covenant was not made on account of what men would be, for the Lord foresaw that they would be evil continually; but ho made a covenant because his mercy is great and his tenderness is infinite. He has made the like covenant with you, and your sins shall not disannul it. Sinner as you are, it is written: “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Defiled as you are, yet you fly to the fountain and are washed, and the Lord is not wroth with you, neither doth he rebuke you. As he made a covenant of pure grace not to destroy the world with water, so he has made a covenant of pure grace with you not to be wroth with you; and until the one fails the other will not. Oh, rejoice that God has put your freedom from wrath upon so sure a footing!

     But, that first covenant with Noah was made after a sacrifice. Noah offered a sacrifice of clean beasts unto God, and it is said that the Lord smelled a sweet savour, or a savour of rest, and shortly after that it was that he made the covenant not to destroy the earth. So, you see, the flood is kept away from us through a covenant of sacrifice. Now, beloved, the same reason so works with God that he will not be wroth with you, nor rebuke you. There is a sacrifice in which God always smells a sweet savour of rest, and therefore you are secure. Ah! it is not you that are acceptable to him in yourselves; oh, no! but you are “accepted in the Beloved.” Oh, that precious sentence: “Accepted in the Beloved”! We have no personal sweetness; but because of the savour of our Lord’s good ointments, therefore are his members fragrant unto God. Christ is as precious incense unto God at all times, and this is the reason of our salvation. You recollect how the Israelites were preserved in Egypt on the night of the Passover. It was not said to them, “When you look at the blood I will pass over you,” or, “When I look at you I will pass over you;” but God said: “When 1 see the blood, I will pass over you.” God’s eye was fixed on the blood on the lintel, and saw in that the type of the precious blood of Jesus, and therefore he passed over his people. And so the Lord’s eye is fixed on Jesus and his precious sacrifice; and God is, for his sake, well pleased with us, and utters no condemning word. When your sins rise in your conscience, and you repent most bitterly of them, and are downcast in your spirit concerning them, yet still, let not your sense of sin cause you to question this solemn declaration, sworn to by God’s own mouth— “I will not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee.” Be sure of God’s favour, for you see the reason of it: he does not look at you as you are in yourself, but as you are in Christ. He answers that sweet prayer we sometimes sing—

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

As he is not wroth with the earth so as to drown it; so, because of the sacrifice, he will not be wroth with us so as to rebuke us in anger.

     Remark again: that covenant which God made with Noah was openly propounded in the ears of the whole race. Noah and his sons heard it, and we have all heard it. God has openly said, “I will no more cause the water to cover the face of the earth.” Now, when a man makes a promise, if it is in private he is bound by it, and his honour is engaged thereto; but when his solemn promise becomes public, he stakes his character among men upon the fulfilment of his word. We are accustomed to say— “If he didn’t mean to do it, why did he make it so public? Why did he say it in this place and in that place?” Now, since the Lord has made public this gracious word— “I will not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee,” does he not intend to do as he has said? Would he write it thus, as it were athwart the sky, if he did not mean to keep it? Hath he spoken in secret, and disannulled this which he spake in public? His answer is— “I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain.” His promises are yea and amen in Christ Jesus. Not the dot of an i, nor the cross of a t shall ever fail. None of his words shall fall to the ground. Christ has not come to put any one of God’s words away, but that they all may be established; and, my brethren, heaven and earth shall pass away, but not one jot or tittle of the promises of our God shall fail.

     Let it be remarked, also, concerning the parallel between the one promise and the other, that God never has broken the covenant which lie made with Noah. There have been partial floods, which have carried off the inhabitants of a valley; but the race of man has never been swept away with water since the days of Noah and the ark, and I do not think there is any man here who suspects that they will be. When the showers begin to fall, it is always delightful to mark that radiant bow set there in the sky, that God may look upon it, and remember his covenant; and that we may look upon it, and remember that covenant too. How gloriously is it painted on the darkness of the cloud! How plainly it says to us, “Fear not!” Now, beloved, if the Lord be so faithful to one covenant, why should we imagine, even in our worst moments, that he will be unfaithful to his other word which he has spoken concerning our souls? Dear heart, he that is true in one will be true in another! When you have trusted a person, and found him scrupulously upright in one instance, it would be a shame to mistrust him in another till you have a cause. You have never had any cause to doubt your God. Has he forgotten his oath? Has he pulled up the sluices of the great deep, and bidden the secret fountains leap up from their ancient lair? Has he unstopped the bottles of heaven by the month together, and bade them pour out floods which should cover the tops of the hills, and drown the whole race of Adam? Ye are living witnesses that it is not so. Well, then, be this a proof to you of the truthfulness of the Lord our God. Doubt not his love to you until he shall have broken the covenant that he made with Noah, since he saith, “This is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee.” If you can, any of you, fully drink in the Lord’s meaning, you do not want any more words of mine: the Lord’s words are more than enough. Drink in the divine truth, and let it saturate your inmost spirit. God saith, “I will not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee,” by which he intends to say, “Whatever I do to thee, it shall not be in wrath; wherever I cast thee— into the wilderness, into the furnace, into the grave— there shall be no wrath in my act; no, not to the extent of a rebuke. All that I do to thee shall be love, love, love; nothing but love from first to last.” Surely this word is marrow and fatness! What more could the Lord say to us? What more could we desire? God grant that the wines on the lees well refined stored up in this text may make a feast for all believers!

     Now, I want to say to you, dear friends, that if this be the case, that God will not be wroth with us, nor rebuke us, then the greatest fear that can ever fall upon us is gone, and it is time that all our lesser fears were gone with it. For instance, there is the fear of man. This man says that, and that man says the other; and some people attach a wonderful deal of importance to what other people say, and so they are carried away with the fear of man’s opinion. Why can they not catch the spirit of that brave nobleman who had carved over his castle gates the words: “They say. What do they say? Let them say.” We do not always attain to such independence of mind, but we ought to do so. Ordinarily we tremble because of man, though he is but grass, and withers like the flower of the field. But, when we clearly understand that God is not wroth with us, we feel raised above the rage of mortals. Now, Herod, mock at thy pleasure! Now, Pilate, ask thy sarcastic questions! Now, scribes and Pharisees, meet in your councils! The Lord is not wroth with us, and what do we care for you? Let the earth be removed, let the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea, let the waters thereof roar and be troubled; since God is not wroth with us, and does not rebuke us, we can stand like solid rocks in the midst of the hurly-burly of the storm, and laugh to scorn the turmoil. Towards the anger of men we turn the armour of believing endurance now that the Lord’s anger is turned away from us once for all.

     So, too, we need not fear the devil. He is the most cunning of our adversaries, and being exceeding wroth with us, he goeth about to deceive and to devour; but, brethren, if God will never be wroth with us, the teeth of the old dragon are broken. His only hope is that God will be wroth with us, and for this purpose he leadeth us, if he can, into sin; but if he cannot effect his design, to what purpose are all his arts? O fool of fools, Prince of Darkness! A mass of cunning and folly art thou! O thou fiend of hell!— the very children in Zion laugh thee to scorn, and shake their heads at thee; for they shall tread thee beneath their feet shortly, and gloriously shall they triumph over all thy power. If God will not be wroth with me, nor rebuke me, why should I fear though all hell’s legions should march against me?

     Dear brethren, if God will never be wroth with us, nor rebuke us, we need not fear any of the chastisements which he may lay upon us. There is a vast difference between a blow that is given in anger and a pat that is given in love. Your children soon perceive the difference. A little one is in your arms, and if you do but pat it lightly in anger it begins to cry; but if your hand fell heavily in sport, and it saw that you only meant a love-pat, it would laugh. So we rejoice in tribulations, and glory in afflictions, because they come from the deep love of God. When we perceive that love is written on our trials, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. “Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.” I am glad the text does not say, “I will never rebuke thee, even in love.” It would be an awful text, if it said that! Blessed be God, he does rebuke us! If it had been said, “I will never rebuke thee, nor chasten thee,” why, what would follow? Is it not written, “If ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons”? If there were no rebukes, no chastisements, it would be a sure sign that the Lord had cast the reins on our necks, and had said, “He is joined to idols; let him alone.” We do not desire that the Lord should promise us freedom from trial. The true-born child of God must not escape trouble, and, if he be wise, he would not if he might. Since there is no anger in affliction, let the Lord chastise his servants even as seemeth good in his sight; all our souls shall say is this, “Rebuke us not in anger; and then, thy will be done!” The sorrows of this mortal life lose all their sharpness when we believe that the Lord will not be wroth with us, nor rebuke us.

     My brethren, how this alters the look of death. If death be a punishment to a believer, then death wears gloomy colours; but if it be not so, if death itself has changed its character, so as not to be to the believer a punishment for sin, how delightful is this! The believer’s punishment was fully borne by his Substitute, so that the bitterness of death is past. It is not death to die: it is only undressing. These poor garments are dusty with toil, and withal, in some cases, they are ragged with age, and therefore we may be well content to put them off. “Not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon with our house which is from heaven.” Dying— why, it is only going to our bed-chamber to sleep a while, and then to wake up, at the sound of the trumpet, in the likeness of our Lord. Dying— why to our souls it is the entrance into the joy of our Lord; it is passing into the ivory palaces, wherein they have made him glad, and wherein we shall be made glad in his blessed company. O brethren, the smell of his garments at a distance— how overpowering it is! The myrrh, and the aloes, and the cassia, delight our souls! What will be the fragrance when we are in the Beloved’s arms? What must be the glory when we stand at his right hand clothed in the gold of Ophir? What must it be to be there? Since, then, death is changed from a foe to a friend, and in death the Lord does not even so much as rebuke his people: it has become a gainful thing to die, a blissful thing to depart and be with Christ.

     After death shall come the judgment, and in that last great day of judgment the Lord will not be wroth with his people; and if the reading out of all his people’s sins before an assembled world must imply a rebuke, then it shall not be done, for he will not rebuke them. In no way shall rebuke come to them. Besides, there are no sins to be charged on his people now, for if they be searched for they shall not be found. Christ has put their iniquities away, and cast them into the depths of the sea. “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” His people shall not, even in that awful day, know anything of rebuke from Jehovah’s lips. Oh, the blessedness of this glorious promise, which is confirmed to us by the oath of God!

     So, then, what should we fear? What indeed? The Lord grant us to be afraid of being afraid! May the Holy Spirit give us grace to be ashamed to blush or doubt, and may we trust him now with a firm confidence that cannot be moved!

     These four words, and I have done. If it be so, that God has sworn that he will not be wroth with us, then, first, believe it. The inference is clear: Jehovah swears— shall not his children believe? For any man to doubt me is to dishonour me; but for my child to mistrust my oath would be the unkindest cut of all. Believe without hesitation. That is one word.

     The next is, rejoice. If he will not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee, then be glad. Here is constant theme for song. The nightingale sings in the dark, and so may you. Midst darkest shades with such a word as this your dawning is begun. Rejoice evermore.

     The third word is, be resigned. If the Lord will not be wroth with you, meekly bear without repining whatever his will ordains. You see the cup is sweetened with love, why do you make wry faces over it? Will you not accept what perfect love proffers? Oh, do not kick against a God so gracious!

     Lastly, impart. If you have learned this love in your own heart, then tell it out to others. If indeed it be glad tidings to you, tell out the happy message, and say to every sinner you meet with, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”; “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters”; “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” You can prove your knowing this for yourselves, by your desire to make it known to others j and you have need to doubt whether you truly understand the salvation of the Lord in your own soul, if you feel no inward impulse to make others know the glorious promise of your Lord.

     May God bless you, dear friends, by putting this text right into your souls! I can only lay it near the open door of your ears, but the Holy Spirit can place it in the inner casket of your hearts. May he do so at once, for his name’s sake! Amen.



“So it is.”

By / Nov 30

"So it is."

 

“Lo this, we have searched it, so it is; hear it, and know thou it for thy good.”— Job v. 27.

 

THUS closed a forcible speech by Eliphaz the Temanite: it may be called his “summing up.” He virtually says, “What I have testified in the name of my friends is no dream of theirs. Upon this matter we are specialists; and bear witness to truth which we have made the subject of research and experience. Lo this, we have searched it, so it is; hear it, and know thou it for thy good.” By this declaration he sets forth his teaching with authority, and presses it home. He persuades Job to consider what he had said, for it was no hasty opinion, but the ripe fruit of experience. When we speak what we know we expect to be heard.

     I shall not follow Eliphaz: I am only going to borrow his closing words, and use them in reference to gospel testimony; which is to us a thing known and searched out. I shall use it in the following way. First, our text sets forth the qualification of the teacher. He must be a man who can say, “Lo this, we have searched it, so it is.”       Secondly, we have the argument with the hearers; — “We have searched it, so it is; heart, and know thou it for thy good.” And lastly, we have hero the exhortation for every enquirer who wants to know the truth concerning spiritual and eternal things: “Hear it, and know thou it for thy good.”

     I. To begin with, I judge that these words may well describe THE QUALIFICATION OF THE TEACHER. He will be poorly furnished if he cannot run in the line which Eliphaz draws in the words of our text.

     He should have, first, an intimate knowledge of his subject. How can he teach what he does not know? When we come to talk about God, and the soul, and sin, and the precious blood of Jesus, and the new birth, and holiness and eternal life, the speaker who knows nothing about these things personally must be a poor driveller. Let him be quiet till he knows what he is to speak upon. Let him sweep chimneys, or cobble shoes, or break stones, or follow any other honourable calling, but it will not be honest for him to profess to be a preacher of the gospel unless he is acquainted with these sacred subjects. I know well the place of the ministry of one who was ordained to be a preacher, and drew the hire of which every true labourer is worthy. He delivered a discourse which greatly troubled the mind of a friend named Jonathan, whom I knew and esteemed. The awakened young man went to him on the Monday, and said, “Oh, sir, your sermon last Sabbath-day has robbed me of my sleep, and made me very anxious.” The preacher answered, “I am very sorry for it, Jonathan. I will never preach that sermon any more. If it troubles people, I will have no more of it; for I have something better to do than to make people miserable.” “But, sir,” said the young man, “you preached about the new birth, and you said we must be born again. In fact your text said so. What does it mean?” He answered, “Jonathan, I do not know anything about it; but you are such a good fellow that I am quite sure you need not be afraid. If there is anything in being born again you had it when you were christened. In your baptism, you were made a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven. That is all I know about it.” It is needful that we say to some preachers, first of all— YE must be born again, for, if not, you cannot interpret the new birth to the people. Without personal experience you will speak riddles of which you do not know the answers. The blind will lead the blind, and both will fall into the ditch. There is a German story of a minister who had delivered himself very earnestly upon a vital theme, and after the service he was waited upon by one in great distress of heart, who was peculiar in his use of language. He generally said “we” when he should have said “I”; and so he said to the minister, “Sir, if what you have been saying is true, what shall we do?” He did not mean to bring the minister into it, but the use of the word “we” implicated the pastor so much that he began to search, and, searching, he found that he had no part nor lot in the matter, and that he had been preaching what he himself had never felt. Have I anybody here who is doing this every Sabbath-day? A blind man, who is teaching others about colour and vision? A preacher of an unknown God? A dead man sent with messages of life? You are in a strange position, dear friend. The Lord save you! I wish that it might happen to you as it did to my dear friend, Mr. Haslam, whom God has blessed to the conversion of so many. He was preaching a sermon which he did not understand, and while he preached it, he converted himself. By God’s grace he began to feel the power of the Holy Spirit and the force of divine truth. He so spake that a Methodist in the congregation presently cried out, “The parson is converted;” and so the parson was. He owned it, and praised God for it, and all the people sang—

“Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.”

His own utterances concerning Christ crucified had been to him the power of God unto salvation. O beloved, no man has any right to teach in the Sunday-school, or preach, or pretend in any other way to be sent of God, unless he has been so taught of the Holy Spirit that he has an intimate acquaintance with the gospel.

     I must add that he should have a personal experience of it, so that he can say, “Lo this, we have searched it, so it is.” It is unseemly that an ignorant man should keep a school. It is not meet that a dumb man should teach singing. Shall an impenitent man preach repentance? Shall an unbelieving man preach faith? Shall an unholy man preach obedience to the divine will? Shall one that is living in sin preach of freedom from sin? Surely any person will be an unsuitable herald of the glad tidings of grace who speaks what he has never tried and verified. Before thou preach again, brother, pray God to enable thee to know in thine own soul, the truth of that which thou dost declare. Oh, that we may be born again, and so preach regeneration! Oh, that we may exercise faith, and then preach it! Surely it must be so. He who would learn to plough, must not be apprenticed to one who never turned a furrow. We must know the Lord or we cannot teach his way.

     It strikes me, next, that what is wanted in a successful teacher is a firm conviction of the truth of these things, growing out of his having tested them for himself. He must say, with emphasis, “So it is.” When I had found Christ, and joined the church, I began to teach in the Sabbath-school, but my little class of boys taught me more than I taught them. I was speaking to them one day about “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved,” and one of the boys said to me, “Teacher, have you believed?” I answered, “Yes.” “And have you been baptized?” “Yes.” “Then,” said he, “teacher, you are saved.” I said, “I hope so.” Years ago it was a kind of fashion to say “I hope so;” and I followed my seniors in this modest talk. The boy looked me straight in the face, and said, “And don’t you know, teacher?” Well, I felt that I did know, and that I ought not to have said “I hope so.” So I replied, “Yes, I do know it.” “Of course,” said the boy, “the text says so. If it ain't true, well, of course, it ain’t true; but if it is true, well, it is true, and nobody need hope about it.” So it was. The boy used good logic. The Scripture saith, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved”; therefore, he that believeth and is baptized is saved. That is clear enough, and let not the believer say that “he hopes so,” but let him boldly assert that “it is so.” You promise a man to pay him five pounds some day this week. Suppose you asked him, “Do you expect that I shall pay you that five pounds?” If he should answer, “I hope so,” you would know what he thought of you. And it is very much the same when we thus speak of the Lord: we dishonour him when we say “I hope so,” after he has said “it is so.” The Lord’s Word must be true. Why do you “hope” about it? Believe it and enjoy it. But people will go hoping and hoping, and hopping and limping; as if to be lame were the proper thing. They had better put both feet to the ground, and cry, “God has said it: I believe it. Glory be to his name, he shall have all the praise.” “Then shall the lame man leap as an hart.” When we teach others, we ought to have a firm conviction that what we teach is true beyond all question. You cannot use a lever if you have no fixed fulcrum. You must have a point to work upon, or you cannot lift an ounce. So, in trying to teach another man, you must know that something or other is true. Infallibility used to be claimed for the pope, but Luther upset that nonsense. The Protestants then asserted that infallibility lay in the Bible; and this became their fulcrum. It seems to me that now it is commonly thought that infallibility lies nowhere; or, if there be any such thing, it is to be found among young green-horns, fresh from college, who do not know A from B in theology, and yet criticize the Bible, and cut it about as they choose. They are infallibles, and we must all bow down before their idol of advanced thought. I prefer my infallible Book, and I shall stick to it, God helping me, knowing that it has never led me astray, and believing that it never will. O dear teachers, know for a certainty what you teach, and, if you do not know it to be true, hold your tongues about it. If you are not sure that your doctrine is true, be quiet till you are sure. A ministry of hesitation must be ruinous to souls. When divine truth is held fast, then let it be held forth, and not till then.

     Once more: a needful qualification for a teacher of the Word is earnestness and good will to the hearer. We must implore each one of our hearers to give earnest heed. We must cry to him with our whole heart, “Hear it, and know thou it for thy good.” Without love, there can be no real eloquence. We must have a burning love for the souls of men, if we would win them for Jesus. Unless our hearts desire their good, we may preach our tongues out, but we shall never bring our hearers to salvation by Christ. The best birdlime for these wild fowl is a longing desire for their present and eternal good. The great Saviour’s heart is love, and those who are to be saviours for him must be of a loving spirit. True love will do the work when everything else has failed. A pastor has held the hearer by his heart long after his head has struggled away. A preacher had managed somehow to offend one of his hearers, and the angry man kept away from the place of worship for many a day. The preacher was not in the least aware that he had given offence; but when the matter came out, he went at once to set it right. The offended person had become settled in unbelief. The preacher went to him, and said that he had been sorry to miss him; and that he had been made ill by learning that he had become an unbeliever. Tears were in his eyes, and his voice was half choked, as he said, “Do you know, friend David, I cannot sleep at nights for thinking about you. I am so concerned about your soul that I cannot rest unless you are converted.” The man had grown into the habit of blasphemy, and if he had been addressed in any other way he would have cursed the minister, and told him to go about his business; but that touch of real affection did it. “You concerned about my soul! Then it is time that I became concerned about it too”: that was the reasoning which passed through David’s mind. Oh, do let us love our hearers! Let us love them to Jesus. These are the bands that draw men to Jesus — the bands of love; and these are the cords that hold them to the Saviour— the cords of a man. We must wish our people to hear the truth, not because we have prepared discourses which, we cannot afford to waste upon an empty chapel, but because we feel sure that if they will hear the gospel it will do them good, and save their souls. We must sigh and cry for the souls of our hearers. We must preach with an intent, and that intent must not fall short of their eternal salvation. We must go as with a sword in our bones till we see our hearers yield their hearts to Jesus.

     Knowledge of our subject avails not without love to our hearers. There are three ways of knowing, but only one sort is truly worth the having. Many labour to know, merely that they may know. These are like misers, who gather gold that they may count it, and hide it away in holes and corners. This is the avarice of knowledge; in some respects less mean than greed of gold, and yet of the same order of vices. Selfishness makes men anxious to know; mental selfishness urges them to toils most wearisome. Yet there may be much of this hoarded knowledge where there is no wisdom. Poor is the ambition to know — to know more than others, to know more to-day than we knew yesterday; to know what no one else knows. What of all this? To know, to know; this is the one thing with those who, like the horseleech, live only to suck and to be swollen. To what purpose is knowledge buried in the brain, like a crock of gold buried in a ditch? Such knowledge turns stagnant, like water shut up in a close pond— above mantled with rank weed, and below putrid, or full of loathsome life. A second class aspire to know that others may know that they know. To be reputed wise is the heaven of most mortals. To win a degree, and wear half-a-dozen letters of the alphabet at the end of your name, is the glory and immortality of many. To me the fashion seems cumbersome, and vexatious; but the grand use of these appended letters is to let the world know that this is a man who knows more than the average of his fellows. After all, it is no very great thing to make your neighbours aware that you are somebody in scientific circles; it is more magnanimous to do without the certificates, and let folks find out for themselves that you possess unusual information. One does not eat merely that others may know that you have had your dinner, and one should not know merely to have it known that you know. Why not wear letters after your name to signify that you own half a million of money, or farm a thousand acres of land, or fatten a hundred hogs? This is the grand end of wearisome days and nights, that the knowing ones may know that you know.

     The third kind of knowledge is the one worth having. Learn to know that you may make other people know. This is not the avarice but the commerce of knowledge. Acquire knowledge that you may distribute it. Light the candle, but put it not under a bushel. Some are much buried under that bushel. My friend was half inclined to say a word or two for his Lord; but he did not, for he recollected the big bushel marked “TIMIDITY & Co.,” and so he kept his light out of the way. Destroy that bushel, since it destroys your usefulness. If God has given you a candle, let it burn and shine; for light is given that eyes may see it. If God has lighted you from on high, do not deny your light to any far or near. Know that others may know. Be taught that you may teach. This trading is gainful to all who engage in it.

     Thus much upon the first point: the qualification of a teacher is intimate knowledge, personal experience, confidence, earnestness and good will.

     II. Secondly, THE ARGUMENT FOR THE HEARER: — “Lo this, we have searched it, so it is.”

     The argument directed to the hearer is the experience of many, confirming the statement of one: — “We have searched it, so it is.” Bacon has taught us from a mass of agreeing testimonies to infer a general truth. We are not now so foolish as to set up a theory, and then hunt for facts to support it; but we gather the facts first, and then deduce the theory from them. So here the three friends have made ample researches, and have arrived at certain conclusions; and they urge this reasoning upon Job. Unrenewed men cannot know much about Christ and his salvation except it be through the testimonies of their friends who have felt the power of divine grace: it is ours therefore to be witnesses for Christ to them, that they also may believe the truth, which can save their souls.

     Without further preface I should like to bear my own personal witness to a few things about which I am fully persuaded. I am not afraid of dogmatism, but I shall speak very positively, since I can say, “Lo this, we have searched it, so it is.”

     And my first witness is that sin is an evil and a bitter thing. I think, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I may speak for you and say, “We have searched this out, and we know that it is so.” We have seen sin prove injurious to our fellow-men. “Who hath woe, who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine. Men of strength to mingle strong drink.” Whence cometh much of beggary but from dissipation? Whence cometh much of deadly disease but from uncleanness of life? Is not half the misery in the world the direct and distinct result of vice? I will not harrow up your feelings by telling you of young men and young women who bade fair for better things, but who turned aside to vice, and thus brought evil diseases into their bones. We could wish to forget their cries and moans with which they appalled us when they found that wild oats had to be reaped, and that each ear of those sheaves was as a flake of fire. By-and-by the guilty soul has to meet its God; what will be its terror! We know of ourselves, and in ourselves, that sin is a serpent, whose tooth infuses poison into the wound it makes. Sin brought some of us very low, and nothing but almighty grace restored us. It made some of us sit between the jaws of despair, and question whether it would not be better to put an end to our lives than continue to exist in such horrible gloom. Sin is that inquisition which deals in racks and fires, and all manner of infernal tortures. No misery can for a moment be compared with the torment which follows upon sin. We get neither pleasure nor profit by sin, though it may dupe us with the name of both. Sin is “evil, only evil, and that continually.” This we have searched, and so it is. We wish that others who are beginning life would accept our testimony, and withhold their feet from the paths of the destroyer. It cannot be needful that everybody should taste the poison cup: may not our mournful experience of sin’s evil effects suffice for you? Sirs, you may search the purlieus of sin, from end to end, but you will never find a living joy therein. Wherefore, flee from it by God’s grace.

     I wish next to testify to the fact that repentance of sin, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, bring a wonderful rest to the hearty and work a marvellous change in the whole life and character. There is such a thing as the new birth, for we have been born again; and this not in mere fancy or sentiment, but as a plain matter of fact. We know what it is to have passed from death unto life, as surely as we know the difference between night and morning. Young man, have you any doubt about this? Will my testimony be of any avail to you? Do you think I would stand here, knowingly, and tell you what is false? I hope you do me justice, and admit that I aim at speaking the truth. There is such a thing as having the tastes all altered, the desires all changed, the fears removed, the hopes elevated, the passions subdued, the will conquered, the affections purified, and the mind sanctified. There is such a thing as having perfect rest about all the past, because sin is forgiven; perfect rest about the future, because we have committed our all to the hands of Christ, who is able to keep us; and peace as to the present, because we belong to Jesus. I speak for thousands in this place to-night when I say that repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ bestow on men a wonderful delight, and transform their characters by the Holy Ghost. That is worth knowing, is it not? Believe for yourselves, and realize personally the power of faith. “We have searched it, so it is; hear it, and know thou it for thy good.”

     Next, we beg to bear our witness to the fact that prayer is heard of God. If it were possible for me to tell you the many instances in which God has heard my prayers, you would, in your kindness, follow me a considerable way, but I should have to draw so largely upon your faith, that before I came to the end, you would feel compelled to doubt. Nor should I blame you. Truth is stranger than fiction, and if you are not familiar with prayer, you will think me a mad fanatic. In matters in reference to the Stockwell Orphanage, I have seen the Lord’s hand very conspicuously in times of need. When money has run short, and there have been hundreds of children to be fed, faith and prayer have filled our coffers. Well, sirs, men of the world may say it is all fancy, and laugh at it as a spiritual dream; but fancies do not load tables, and feed children, and supply thousands of pounds. Will one of you make the attempt? Will you provide for our five hundred orphans for a month by dreams and fancies? We have known times of close pinching, and have waited upon God, and in a short time he has sent us abundant relief, whereof there are brethren on this platform who would willingly bear witness. If there be no prayer-hearing God, we have played the fool; and yet no other sort of foolery has ever produced such surprising results. We know that God hears prayer. We are personally sure of it, because we have tried it for ourselves. I wish that anybody here who is in doubt about it would try the power of prayer. Go to God in prayer— ay, even you that are unconverted — and see whether the Lord will not hear you. Somebody says, “Surely that is unsound advice! How can the unconverted pray?” Let me tell you a story. I was preaching, years ago, to the Sunday-school children of a certain country town, where the people were Calvinistic, and a point or two more. They received sixteen ounces to the pound of the gospel, and they liked an ounce or two above full weight. I made the observation to the children that before I had been renewed by grace, I, as a child, was in trouble, and I went to God in supplication, and he helped me. I need not repeat the circumstances; but it seemed to me that the Lord heard my childish pleading, and helped me. This experience led me to feel that there was a reality in prayer; for God had heard me. When I came out from the chapel, where I had mentioned this circumstance, a number of grave persons who were both sound and sour in the faith, beset me round about like bees. They began asking, “How can a natural man pray a spiritual prayer? How can God accept a prayer which is merely natural, since he is a Spirit? If prayer is not wrought by the Holy Ghost it is an idle form”; and so on, and so on. It is difficult to conceive how many quibbles can be made upon one point. I was about twenty years of age, but I did my best to defend myself, for I had stated a fact, and a fact is a stubborn thing. At any rate, I held my own; but I do not know that I should have won the victory if I had been left alone. A grand old woman in a red cloak pressed forward into the middle of the ring, and addressed the doubly-sound brethren, whom she knew better than I did. With an almost prophetic air she looked on them and said, “O fools and slow of heart to come here and cavil with this young servant of the Lord. Hearken to me, and be convinced, and go home in silence. Does not the Lord hear the young ravens when they cry? Do they pray spiritual prayers? Does the Holy Ghost work prayer in them? If God hears the natural prayers of crying ravens, will he not hear the cries of children?” This was fine. The adversaries vanished out of my sight. There was no overcoming a statement so Scriptural. God does hear prayer. We bear our witness to that fact with all our strength, and therefore we say about it: “Lo this, we have searched it, so it is; hear it, and know thou it for thy good.”

     Another testimony we would like to bear, namely, that obedience to the Lord, though it may involve present loss, is sure to be the most profitable course for the believing man to take. If you will serve the Lord Jesus Christ, you will not find your road all smooth; but you will find it more pleasant than serving the devil. Satan said of Job, “Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about all that he hath?” It was most true, but the Lord God might have answered the devil, “Would you have my servants unrewarded? It is from you that service meets no reward but death. Do you think I would have you able to say, ‘God’s servants serve him for nothing. Even Job gets no return for his faithful obedience’?” Beloved, we may not expect immediate success in business because we walk in the path of integrity. We may for a time be losers by being honest, and may miss many a chance by abhorring deception. But we do not measure things by the inch, and by the ounce, when we come to deal with eternal matters. Brethren, here we leave the clock and its ticking, and speak of the glory and immortality which belong to the infinite and the eternal. Coming into those larger regions, we declare that nothing can be obtained, worth the getting, by a lie, or by a trick, or by falling into sin. The most profitable course in life that any man can take is to do the right in every case. If it should involve loss, do right, and suffer the consequences; for there are other compensating consequences which will make a man a gainer by uprightness, even if he should lose the clothes from his back. To have done right is to have a well-spring of joy within the heart. Some of us have tried this, and are sure about it. There are aged persons here, who can tell you that they owe everything in life to having been enabled by the grace of God to act uprightly in their youth. I know one who is at this moment in a fine position, whose rise in life dates from the moment when his employer bade him say that he was not at home, and he answered, “Sir, I could not say that. I cannot tell a lie.” From that day his promotion in the office was constant and rapid. Another felt himself unable to cast up the firm’s accounts on Sunday, but before long was so prized that nobody would have suggested such a thing to him. A straightforward course is the nearest way to success. We bear our testimony that righteousness is the best course. We cannot say, “Honesty is the best policy; we have tried both that and thieving, and honesty pays best”; but, for all that, if you consider the law of the Lord you will be considering your own interests. Take notice of this testimony: righteousness is wisdom. A straight line is the shortest way between any two places. “Lo this, we have searched it, so it is; hear it, and know thou it for thy good.”

     I have many things to say, but our hours fly like the cherubim: each one hath six wings. We beg to say that the old-fashioned gospel is able to save men, and to arouse enthusiasm in their souls. Here—here is the best proof! Look around upon this vast assembly. Have we any music, any candles, any millinery? Have we anything here to attract people but simply the preaching of the old, old gospel? Our service is so severely simple as to be called bare. Have I varied from the old way and the old faith— ay, by the eighth part of a hair’s breadth? Have I not kept to the gospel, and set it forth in simple language? Lo, here I come to the end of thirty-seven years, and before me are the same multitudes of people as at the first. Young preacher, you will not need anything but Christ Jesus should you be spared to preach as long as I have done. When everybody seems to say that orthodoxy is spun out, God will send us a revival, and the despised doctrines of grace will be to the front again, and Christ shall make them his chariot, in which he will ride forth conquering, and to conquer. Behold, even at this day, a company of the poorest of the people proclaim the gospel in its roughest form, and preach it in our streets and lanes; and the crowd is stirred therewith, as it never is by any other theme. Notwithstanding all the infidelity of the times, faith is lifting the standard still. Hold to the faith and to the cross! Preach sin down: preach Christ up. Preach the atoning sacrifice, preach in the power of the Holy Spirit. Such preaching is sufficient for the purposes of salvation. “Lo this, we have searched it, so it is; hear it, and know thou it for thy good.”

     III. I close now with our third point: we have here THE EXHORTATION TO THE ENQUIRER. What do we say to him? “This, we have searched it, so it is; hear it.” I need hardly address that exhortation to most of the present assembly. Hear it you do, with a delight which is remarkable. But you know how matters tend in London in these sad days. The masses of the people will not come to hear of Jesus and his love. They often pass by a street-preacher, and have no curiosity to know what it is which has brought him out into the open-air. But oh, if you wish to be saved, hear the gospel! Let nothing keep you away from God’s sanctuary, where the real gospel is proclaimed. Hear it! If it is not preached exactly in the style which you would prefer, nevertheless, hear it. “Faith cometh by hearing.” Come out on Sunday morning, you working-men that are sitting at home in your shirt-sleeves. Come out and hear. I cannot make out what some of you do: you work hard all the week round, and when the day of rest arrives, you have no hope of heaven, and no hunger after salvation. Life is a poor thing if it ends here. Do you believe that all you can possess is to be had on this side the grave? It is a poor look-out. Do you fancy that your life can be nothing better than an endless turning of the grindstone? Were you born merely to toil for daily bread? Is there nothing higher and better? If you say that you will die like dogs, I dare not think so meanly of you as you think of yourselves. You have only begun to exist. You have to live for ever. You will exist in eternity as surely as God shall live, world without end. Shall it be an immortality of happiness, or an eternal existence of woe? Do, I pray you, think about this; and if there be a gospel (and you believe there is), then hear it, hear it, hear it, till by the hearing of it God sends you faith, and faith grasps salvation!

     The next thing that he says is “know it” Hear it and know it; go on hearing it until you know it. If you cannot quite attain to knowing it by hearing it, read your Bibles and seek the Lord till you are made to know the sublime secret. Ask Christian men and women to explain difficulties to you that so you may know it. By getting a clear view of the plan of salvation, know what you must do to be saved. If you do not know anything else, know this essential matter. Christ crucified is the most precious piece of knowing which you can ever come at. To know Christ is life eternal. Look to him till you see in him your life, your love, your God, your heaven, your all. Blessed is the man that findeth this wisdom, for he hath found an endless blessedness.

     Our text means — know it in a particular way. “Know thou it for thy good” The devil knows a great deal. He knows more than the most intelligent of us; but he knows nothing for his good. All that he knows sours into evil within his rebellious nature. There is a way of knowing a great deal, and yet of getting no good out of it; like Samson’s lion, which had a mass of honey within it, and yet had never tasted the sweetness of it, for it was a dead lion. You may have all the knowledge of Solomon, and yet you may know nothing for your good, but end your days with the terrible wailing, “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.”

     How is a man to know anything for his good? This knowledge must first be a practical knowledge. Does the Word say “Repent”? If you want to know what repentance means, repent at once. You need not go to the Catechism or to the Creed for a definition; repent, and you know what repentance means. Be changed in mind, confess your sin, and forsake it. Be sorry for sin; see the wrong of it; quit it. You will know what repentance is when you have repented. If you want to know what faith is, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and when you have believed, you will know what believing is. The best way to know a virtue is to practise it. Somebody said, “What is the best way to tell a sinner the way of salvation?” The answer given was, “The best way to tell him is to tell him.” So it is. The very best way to eat your dinner is to eat it. We get confounding and confusing ourselves with trivial distinctions, whereas we had better throw distinctions to the dogs, and get to soul-winning. You will never catch hares with drums, nor souls with controversies. Come to Jesus, sinner! Come to Jesus! Believe in Jesus, sinner! believe in Jesus at once! “He that doeth his will shall know of his doctrine.” You will know the truth when from the heart you have obeyed it. God help you to exercise this practical faith at once. “Know thou it for thy good.”

     To know a thing for our good is to know it for ourselves. “Know it for thy good.” I find that one rendering is, “Know it for thyself.” Another man’s God is no God to me: he must be “My Lord and my God.” Another man’s Christ is no Christ for you; he must reveal himself to you personally. Another man’s faith is no faith for you. God must be your God, Christ must be your Christ, and the faith that saves you must be your own faith. God grant that it may be so; then you will know the Lord personally for your good.

     I must add that we only know things for our good when we know them believingly. To a sinner a promise is as dark as a threatening, if he does not believe it. Christ, to an unbelieving sinner, is simply a judge. Christ’s very death becomes “a savour of death unto death” to the unbeliever, and it cannot be “a savour of life unto life” to him unless it be mixed with faith. When you believe in Jesus, there is a vein of grace for you in every doctrine of the Bible. You know the promise of the Lord, and you know it for your good, when you humbly believe that it is so, and humbly take it to yourself because you are resting in Christ.

     I would to God that many here would know these things for their good! If they did, I should be happy indeed, and so would they be.

     Now I have done; but I should like to say this: If there is nothing in religion, why do you come here? If there is salvation in believing in Christ, why are you not saved? You say there is a hell. Why are you going there? You know that there is a heaven. Why are you not preparing for it? You know that there is a Christ, whose wounds bleed salvation; why are you not looking to him? Is it all to be play, this religion of ours— going to meetings, sitting in your seats, and listening to the preacher? I would rather be silent than be fiddling o your dancing; or go through the service merely to spend a Sabbath in a decorous manner. Sirs, if you are not saved what shall I do? What shall I do? If you are saved, we will meet in heaven, and we will praise God for ever, each one of us, and our Lord shall have all the glory. But if you are lost— if you are lost— I cannot come to you, nor can you come to me. Let me do what I can for you before the great gulf divides us. What, what shall I say when I render in my account? Shall I tell the Lord that you were not saved because I was afraid to tell you that there was a hell, and I kept back every threatening doctrine, and tried to make things pleasant to you, whether you were saved or not? I could not make that profession, even if it could save your souls; for it would not be in any measure true. “I have not shunned to declare unto you the whole counsel of God,” as far as I know it. God is my witness, and so are your consciences, that I have longed for your conversion. You that have heard me these years, if you are lost, it will not be for want of pleading with, nor for want of instruction, nor from lack of entreaties. O souls, why will you die? Why will you keep on procrastinating, and crying “To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow”? Why should it always be to-morrow? There will be no to-morrow of hope for you when once you are lost. Flee now to Christ. I pray you, by the living God, and by the heaven which he gives to those who believe in Christ, hasten to Jesus! Trust yourselves to Jesus now. By that dreadful doom which will surely fall on every man who dies rejecting Christ, I beseech you flee from the wrath to come. Lord, grant that it may be so, for Jesus’ sake! Amen.



Little Faith and Great Faith

By / Nov 2

Little Faith and Great Faith

 

“O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”— Matthew xiv. 31.
“O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.”— Matthew xv.28.

 

BETWEEN the very lowest degree of faith and a state of unbelief there is a great gulf. An abyss immeasurable yawns between the man who has even the smallest faith in Christ and the man who has none. One is a living man, though feeble, the other is “dead in trespasses and sins”; the one is a justified man, the other is “condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” The weakest believer is on the road to heaven; the other, having no faith, is going the downward road, and he will find his portion at last among the unbelievers— a terrible portion indeed.

     Although we thus speak of believers as all of one company, yet there is a great distance between weak faith and strong faith. Thank God, it is a distance upon the one safe road— the King’s highway. No gulf divides little faith from great faith; on the contrary, little faith has only to travel along the royal road, and he shall overtake his stronger brother, and himself become “strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” I want to quicken some of the more tardy travellers along the sacred way. I would have doubts slain and faith revived. I want Mr. Feeble-Mind, and Mistress Much-Afraid, and Miss Despondency, and the whole tribe of the little ones, to take heart of hope this morning, and observe that they have not yet enjoyed all that the Lord has prepared for them. Although a little faith saves, there is more faith to be had: faith which strengthens, gladdens, honours, and makes useful, is a most desirable grace. It is written, “He giveth more grace,” and therefore God has more in readiness for us. Little faith may increase exceedingly until it ripens into full assurance with all its mellowness and sweetness.

     There are three things I am going to attend to. The first is little faith gently censured: “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” In the second place, little faith tenderly commended; for it is no small boon to have any faith at all, even though it has to be called little. Thirdly, I shall conclude by speaking of great faith as much more to be commended. In this last matter I shall dwell upon our Master’s gracious words: “O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.”

     I have read in your hearing two stories in the fourteenth and fifteenth chapters of this Gospel according to Matthew. It is memorable that the incidents, illustrating little and great faith, come so closely together. I shall take it for granted that you have the stories of Peter and the Canaanitish woman clearly before your minds. Keep your Bibles open while I preach; and may the Spirit of God open your hearts to understand them!

     I. First, we have LITTLE FAITH GENTLY CENSURED.

     What shall I say about it, to begin with, but this?— that it is frequently found where we expected greater things. This man who is chided for little faith is Peter. Peter, to whom the Lord had communicated a very clear knowledge of himself; Peter, the foreman of the twelve; Peter, in after-days the great preacher of Pentecost; Peter, who has been exalted by some into the primate or pope of the apostolic church, though he claimed no such position; this is Peter, who was a true piece of stone from the foundation rock , Peter, to whom the Master gave the keys, and to whom he delivered the commission, “Feed my sheep,” and “Feed my lambs.” It is Peter, to whom Jesus says, “O thou of little faith.” And, my dear brother or sister, may it not be true that you have obtained great mercy, enjoyed high privileges, received gracious protection, and been eminently favoured with fellowship with Christ, most near and dear? By this time you ought to be strong in faith. But yet you are not so. You will soon be home; your grey hairs are silvered with the light of Immanuel’s land; you can almost hear the singing of the saints across the narrow stream. At your time of life, so long taught of God, so deeply experienced in the things of Christ, you ought to be fathers in faith, whereas you are still children; you ought to be mothers in Israel, and yet you are mere babes. Is it not so? Why is this sad fact so undeniable? Solomon spake of the cedar in Lebanon, and of the hyssop on the wall: but I have too often seen a hyssop on Lebanon, and I have sometimes seen a cedar upon a wall: I mean, that I have seen great grace where there seemed to be nothing to assist it, and I have seen little grace where everything was advantageous to its growth. These things ought not so to be. You and I, who are no children now; you and I, who are no longer coasters, but have launched out into the deep, and have had experience in many a storm; you and I, who are no strangers to our Lord now, for the King hath often brought us into his banqueting-house, and his banner over us has been love; we ought to be ashamed if we are still lamenting our little faith. It is an infirmity in which we cannot glory, for unbelief is exceeding sinful. Well might the Master lift his finger to some who are sitting in these pews this morning, and say to us one by one, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”

     Continuing our very gentle censure, we note that little faith is far too eager for signs. I do not think that Peter’s faith became suddenly little: it was always little, and the sight of the boisterous wind made its littleness apparent. When he said, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water,” his faith was weak. Why did he want to walk on the water? Why did he seek such a wonder? It was because his faith was little. Strong faith is content without signs, without tokens, without marvels. It believes God’s bare word, and asks for no confirming miracle; its trust in Christ is such that it asks for no sign in the heavens above, or in the seas beneath. Little faith, with her “If it be thou,” must have signs and wonders, or she yields to doubt. Joyful meditations, remarkable dreams, singular providences, choice answers to prayer, special fellowships— little faith must be having something out of the common, or she collapses. The perpetual cry of little faith is, “Show me a token for good.” Little faith is not satisfied with the bow which God doth set in the cloud, but she would have the whole heavens painted with celestial colours. It is not satisfied with the usual portion of the saints, but must have more, do more, and feel more than the rest of the disciples. Why could not Peter have kept in the ship like the rest of his brethren? But, no: because his faith was weak he must quit the deck for the deep; he cannot think that it really is his Master walking on the sea unless he walks with him. How dare he ask to do what his divine Lord was doing? Let him be content to share his Lord’s humiliation: he ventures far when he asks to partake in a miracle of Omnipotence. Am I to doubt unless I can do miracles like those of my Lord? But this is one of the failings of weak faith: it is not content to drink of his cup and be baptized with his baptism; it would share his power, and partake in his throne.

     Weak faith is apt to have too high an opinion of its own power. “Oh,” says one, “Surely you are wrong. Is it not the error of weak faith to have too low an opinion of its own ability?” Brethren, no man can have too low an opinion of his own power; because he has no power whatever. The Lord Jesus Christ said, “Without me ye can do nothing”; and his witness is true. If we have strong faith we shall glory in our powerlessness, because the power of Christ doth rest upon us. If we have weak faith, we shall diminish our trust in Jesus and put into our hearts instead of it so many measures of confidence in self. Just in proportion as faith in our Lord is weakened, our idea of ourselves will be strengthened. “But I thought,” says one, “that a man who had strong self-reliance was a man of great faith.” He is the man who has no faith at all; for self-reliance and Christ-reliance will not abide in the same heart. Peter has an idea that he can go upon the water to his Master: he is not so sure of the others, but he is clear about himself. James, and John, and Andrew, and the rest of them, are in the ship: it does not occur to Peter that any one of these can tread the waves; but he cries, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” Self-consciousness is no attribute of faith; but it is a nest for doubt. Had he known himself, he might have said, “Lord, bid John come to thee on the water; I am unworthy of so high a dignity.” But, no: being weak in faith, he was strong in his own opinion of himself, and he hurried to the front, as usual; hastened into a pathway that was quite unfit for his trembling feet to tread, and before long found out his error. It is weak faith that allows of high ideas of self. Great faith hides self under its mighty wings.

     Note another point about weak faith: it is too much affected by its surroundings. Peter went on pretty well till he noticed that the wind tossed the waves about tremendously, and then he was afraid. Are not many Christians too apt to live by what they feel and see? Do we not often hear a young beginner say, “I know that I am converted, for I feel so happy”? Well, but a new frock will make many a girl happy, or a few shillings in the pocket will make a youth rejoice. Is this the best evidence that you can bring? Why, if you are very troubled, it may be a better sign of conversion than feeling happy. It is well to mourn over sin, and struggle against it, and try to overcome it: this is a sure mark of grace; a far surer one than overflowing joy. Ah, believer! you will be happy in the highest and best sense if you trust in Jesus; but you will soon lose your happiness if your happiness becomes the ground of your confidence. Happiness is a thing that depends upon how things happen. It is too often hap-ness, and nothing more. It is too much a hap-hazard thing. But faith rests in Christ whatever hap may happen; and so it is happy in the happening of sorrow and grief, because it relies wholly upon God. Faith rests upon the Lord’s faithful word and promise, come what may. “Ah!” says another, “I feel very low and dull. I am heavy even when I try to pray; I cannot pray as I would like.” And so you doubt your salvation because of that, do you? Does your salvation depend upon the liveliness of your prayers? It is the mark of weak faith, that it is all up, and then all down. If we live by feelings, brethren, we shall live a very wretched life; we shall not dwell in the Father’s house, but we shall be a kind of gipsies, whose tents are too frail to shut out the weather. God save us from being like the barometer, which at one time is “set fair”; but “set fair” with the barometer does not last long, it is back again to “rain,” and it drops down to “much rain,” before we know where we are. Strong faith knows where its true standing is, and, perceiving this to be unchanging, it concludes that its foundation is as good one day as another day; for its standing is in Christ. As the promise upon which strong faith leans is not a variable quantity, but is always the same, so its rest is the same. Our faithful God will save all those who put their trust in him; and there is the top and the bottom of it: we need not go any further. But poor weak faith is always looking out to see whether the wind is in the east; and if it be so, down she goes. Is the wind quiet? Peter walks on the wave. Does the wind howl? Peter begins to sink. This is weak faith all over. It pins us down to its environment. God help us to rise out of it!

     Weak faith, in the next place, is forgetful of its constant danger, and has not learned to believe in the teeth of it. When Peter was walking on the waves, he was in as much danger as when he began to sink. Practically, he never was in any danger at all; for Jesus, who enabled him to tread the sea, was equally near all the way. When he was standing, he could not have walked another step if the Master had not upheld him; and when he began to sink, his Master was still able to prevent his drowning. Would his Master withdraw the divine strength, and suffer his poor servant to perish? Peter’s strength is gone; but will his Master take away the divine strength, and leave him to perish? Weak faith frequently makes this mistake; she does not know that she is at all times in extreme danger, wherever she may be, when she looks to herself; and that she is never in any danger, wherever she may be, if she looks to her Lord. If you get a cloudy view of your confidence, and begin to trust, not in Christ pure and simple, but in Christ Jesus as you enjoy him, in Christ as you are like him, or in Christ and yourself as taught by him: if you allow any amalgamations in your trust, they will turn out to be adulterations; and when a sense of danger falls upon your mind, you will not know where to turn for the re-establishment of your confidence. Strong faith takes Jesus only as her basis; but feeble faith tries to add thereto. Beloved, weak faith tries to make up for want of confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ with an indistinct confidence in herself, or her works, or prayers, or something else. If Peter had been trusting wholly in Jesus, whether he walked on the billows, or sank in the waves, he had done what his Master told him to do, and the reason of his safety was not in the least affected by the wind. If his reliance be on Jesus only, the ground of his confidence is never questionable. I pray that we may climb above that weak faith which rises and falls with the passing incidents of this life’s story.

     Weak faith, when conscious of her danger, swings as a pendulum to the opposite extreme, and in an instant exaggerates her peril. One moment Peter walks upon the sea; the next moment he is going to be drowned. It is a curious thing that he never thought of swimming. When the soul trusts Christ it is spoiled for reliance upon self. When once a man has found out the way to walk upon the top of the water, he forgets his skill in swimming in it. Self-confidence goes when confidence in Christ comes in. It was the Lord’s will that Peter should know his weakness, and should most clearly see that his standing depended upon his faith, and that faith found all its strength in the Lord Jesus. Down goes Peter; and now it is, “Lord, save me.” He is at his wits’ end. Peter is going to be drowned— drowned with the Master standing by! He will die while Jesus lives. Will he? He will perish when he is doing what Jesus bade him do! Do you think he will? It is evident he has that fear upon him. I have been foolish enough to feel that I should sink under trouble and need. It is folly. Having mixed up our confidence in brighter days, when dark days come, a large part of our confidence is gone, and we fear that we shall perish. Have not some of you that believed in the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints, yet said, “I shall one day fall by the hand of the enemy”? You know that Christ has promised to keep you; and yet, because you are not quite keeping yourself as you ought to do, you dream that he will not keep you. You know that he will never give you up, and yet you are almost ready to give it all up yourself, and say, “I shall prove an apostate after all.” In this way little faith forgets her Lord. She is too bold one day, and too timid another, and all because she mixes up her confidences.

     Little faith speaks unreasonably. Notice how our Lord puts it: “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” faith is spiritual common sense; unbelief is unreasonable. For look; if Christ was worth trusting at all, and Peter had proved that he thought he was, by throwing himself into the sea, to come to him; then, if he was worth trusting at all, he was worthy to be trusted to the full. You cannot say of a man, “He is a faithful man, for you may at times rely upon his word.” That qualifying word, “at times,” is fatal to his character. Unless he is always to be relied upon, he is not an honest, truth-speaking man. And if you say of God’s promises, “I can believe some of them, and therefore I expect him to help me under certain difficulties,” you are accusing the Lord of unfaithfulness. O sir, you are cutting away the foundation of what little faith you have. Your Lord might ask you, “Why do you believe as much as you do believe? Having gone so far, why do you not go on to the end? The reason which makes you believe as much as you do believe, should make you believe to a still greater degree. O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? If thou hast any faith, why dost thou doubt? If any doubt, why any faith?” The two things are inconsistent with each other. You are not occupying a logical position in being a weak believer in a strong Christ. Why wavering faith in an unwavering promise? Why feeble faith in a mighty Saviour? Let your faith take its colour from him on whom it rests, and from the Word which you believe, and then you will be standing upon good, solid, reasonable ground, which can be justified to conscience and understanding.

     One word more about our trembling apprehensions. Weak faith often gets a wetting. Although Peter was not drowned, yet you may be sure he was soaked to the skin with the water. If you have strong faith you will often escape a sea of troubles, which weak faith will be immersed in. Weak faith is a great fabricator of terrors. I know friends who have a trouble-factory in their back-garden, where they are always making rods for their own backs. They disbelieve God about this and about that, and hence they are always fretting and worrying, and getting wet through with trouble. I have heard say that home-made clothes very seldom fit; and, certainly, home-made troubles are very hard to bear. I have also heard that a home-made suit will last longer than other garments, and I believe that homemade troubles stick to us far longer than those which God appoints for us. Shut up that fear-factory, and make songs instead! If God send thee a trouble, it comes not amiss to thee. But who wetted Peter through and through, and soaked him in the deep? Who but Peter himself? Peter, afflicted Peter! If he had possessed strong faith, he might have had a dry coat. His Master prevented the waters destroying him; but he suffered them to make him very uncomfortable. If thou hast weak faith, thou wilt have broken joys and many discomforts.

     Thus have I very gently censured weak faith. I did not mean to hurt a hair of its head. It is a blessed thing, this little faith— not its littleness, but its faith. If I could kill the weakness, and quicken the faith; if the littleness could be removed, and the faith could be increased, how glad should I be!

     II. NOW, LITTLE FAITH SHALL BE TENDERLY COMMENDED. I shall praise it, not because it is little, but because it is faith. Little faith requires to be tenderly handled, and then it will be seen to be a precious thing.

     First of all, it is true faith. Faith which begins and ends with Jesus is true faith. The least faith in Jesus is the gift of God; and it is “like precious faith,” though it is not like strong faith. If thou hast faith as a grain of mustard seed, thou canst do wonders. Though thy faith be so little that thou hast to look for it with all thine eyes, yet if it be there, it is of the same nature as the strongest faith. A three-penny piece is silver, as surely as the crown piece, and it bears the mint-mark quite as certainly. A drop of water is of the same nature as the sea; a spark is fire as assuredly as the flames of Vesuvius. Nobody knows what may come of a spark of faith: behold, it sets a thousand souls on fire! Little faith is true faith, for did not our Lord say to this Peter: “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven”? Peter had true faith; and yet it was little faith. O my hearer, “If thou believest that Jesus is the Christ, thou art born of God.” If thou dost feebly cast thyself on Christ’s finished work, thy weakness in the act of reliance does not alter the fact that thou hast fallen into strong hands, which will surely save thee. Jesus saith, “Look unto me, and be ye saved”; and though thy look be a very unsteady one, and though tears of sorrow dim thine eyes so that thou canst not see him as he is, yet thy looking to him hath saved thee. Little faith is born from above, and belongs to the family of the saved. The weakest faith is real faith.

     Next, notice that little faith obeys the precept, and will not go a step without it. Little faith cries, “If it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.” If Jesus saith, “Come,” little faith answers, “Behold, I come!” Though her gait be staggering, and her knees be feeble, yet she will go where Jesus calls her, whether it be through flood or flame. I know some of the Lord’s children who very seldom have much enjoyment; and yet I almost envy them for their tenderness of conscience. Their shrinking from the least contact with sin, their carefulness to keep the way of the Lord’s commandments, are admirable traits in their character. Gracious walking is, after all, more precious than comfortable feeling. How can I blame thee, poor little faith, when I see thee afraid to put one foot before the other for fear thou shouldest step aside? I had rather see thee in all thy timidity thus carefully obedient than hear thee talking loudly about thy great faith, and then see thee tampering with sin and folly, and feeling as if when thou hast greatly erred it is a matter of no great consequence. When tenderness of conscience flourishes side by side with little faith, they are as two lilies for delicate beauty.

     Peter’s little faith did not try to walk upon water until Jesus gave the word of permission. Peter asked, “Bid me come.” Oftentimes have I noticed men and women much despondent, greatly fearful, and yet they would not do anything for the life of them, until they heard the voice behind them saying, “This is the way, walk ye in it.” They hesitate till they have consulted the map of the Word; they dare not go at a venture, but they kneel and cry for guidance, for they are afraid of taking even a single step apart from their Master’s will. They have a holy dread of running without warrant from the Lord. Little faith, if this be thy mind and temper, we commend thee much!

     And, next, little faith struggles to come to Jesus. Peter did not leave the ship for the mere sake of walking the waters; but he ventured on the wave that he might come to Jesus. He sought not a promenade upon the waves, but the presence and company of his Lord. “When Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.” That was the one point he aimed at— to get to Jesus. Some of you, I know, have but little faith; but you long to get nearer to Jesus. Your daily panting is, “Lord, reveal thyself to me, reveal thyself in me, and make me more like to thee.” He who seeks Jesus has his face turned in the right direction. Though your knees knock together, and your hands hang down, yet what little headway you do make is towards Jesus: you strive to serve him, and to honour him; is it not so? Though the winds be contrary, you still pull for the shore. Well, though thou be little in faith, yet am I glad thou art struggling, despite thy feebleness, to reach thy Lord. Struggle on, for Jesus comes to meet thee; and when thou dost begin to sink, through mistrust, he will catch thee up and set thee on thy feet again. Wherefore, be of good cheer!

     Little faith deserves commendation again, in that it does behave grandly for a time. Though Peter had little faith, yet he walked from one billow to another, in rare style. I think I see him after he had leapt out of the ship, astonished to find himself standing upon the waters, which lay beneath him like solid glass. Then he takes one step, like a child that begins to walk; and, with growing confidence, he takes another. Though the waves roll under his feet, yet he stands firmly upon them, for a time. Little faith can play the man for a while. When Jael took the nail and slew Sisera, the timorous woman became a warrior, as she slew the enemy of Israel. Many a time the lame and the feeble, who could not usually lift a hand in the holy war, have felt stimulated, and have developed heroism for the time being. Little faith, like David’s sling, has slain the giant; like Ehud’s lefthanded dagger, little faith has wrought deliverance. So I commend thee, little faith; for thou hast thy high days and holidays, and thou too canst count thy victories, wrought in the name of Jesus. If it were always with thee as it is at times, thou wouldest be glorious indeed! Even now thou canst move mountains, and pluck up trees by the roots.

     Little faith I must commend yet further; because when it finds itself in trouble it betakes itself to prayer. Peter begins to sink. What does Peter do? Peter prays: “Lord, save me.” Little faith knows where her strength lies. When she is in trouble, she does not then turn her face to human confidences, or natural forces; but she turns immediately to prayer. Little faith pours out her heart before the Lord. I love to see a man, in the hour of his distress, begin to pray at once, as naturally as frightened birds take to their wings. Some of you run to your neighbours, or hold a council with your own wits: but the profit of this course has never made you rich. Let us try a surer method. Instead of stopping to turn over all the old stock we have, let us go at once to Jesus for new help. Alas! we do not go to Jesus until we have knocked at every other door; and then the mercy is that he does not turn us away from his gate. Peter did not try the natural resort of swimming; he took to praying, “Lord, save me.” O little faith, thou art great at pleading in prayer. Perhaps thy very weakness drives thee oftener to thy knees. Thou art not so prevalent in prayer as strong faith; but thou art quite as abundant in it. I see thee trembling and faint; then dost thou cry unto the Lord for strength, and he helps thee. This cry of thine proves thee to be of the spiritual stock; even as it was with one of old, of whom it was said, “Behold, he prayeth.”

     Weak faith has this commendation again, that it is always safe, because Jesus is near. Peter was safe on the water, because Christ was on the water. Though his faith was weak, he was not saved by the strength of his faith; he was saved by the strength of that gracious hand which was stretched out to catch him when he was sinking in the flood. If thou believest in Christ with all thy heart, if he is the first and last of thy confidence, then, though thou be full of trembling and alarm, Jesus will never let thee perish. If thou art depending upon him, and upon him alone, it is not possible that he should slight thy faith, and let thee die. God forbid we should so insult our Lord as to suppose he would let a believer drown, however weak his faith! Since Christ lives, how can we die? Since Christ standeth on the waters, how can we sink beneath them? Are we not one with him?

     One thing I may say in commendation of weak faith, and that is, that Jesus himself acknowledges that it is faith. He said to Peter, “O thou of little faith.” He rebuked him because it was little, but he smiled on him because it was faith. I love to feel that the Holy Ghost is the Creator, not of the littleness of our faith, but of our faith, be it ever so little. Our Lord acknowledges that to be faith which we suspect to be little better than unbelief. “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief,” is an admirable prayer for many of us. Christ forgives the unbelief, but he very graciously accepts the faith, despite its weakness. He can spy out faith when, like a lone spark, it is all but smothered under a heap of rubbish.

     Once more, I commend little faith because, though it may sometimes sink, it recovers itself, and does its old wonders over again. Peter is ready to sink; but when his Master has caught him, what do you see? There is not one person now walking on the water; there are two. Christ is there, and Peter too. Peter, my man, you walk on the sea as one to the manner born! Oh, yes; his little faith has learned, by a touch from the Lord, to do what it did at first: he walked the waves at first, and now he does it again. See! he comes up with his Lord into the ship. You that used to have good times, and at this hour look back upon them with deep regret, may have the like again. You that have grown despondent and sad, be of good courage; you shall have your festival days back again, and much brighter than they. “Oh, but I have wasted so much time,” says one, “through this feeble faith of mine.” Well, it is a great pity; but there is a promise which I commend to your faith: “I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten.” The locust has eaten up our harvests— this locust of weakness has devoured our pleasant fruits; yet our Lord Jesus Christ can restore to us those wasted years; he can pack ten years of use fulness into one; he can put seven days of joy into one day, and so make up to us the lost past. Our Lord can make you to forget the shame of your youth, and not to remember the reproach of your widowhood any more. Be of good courage, little faith! Thou comest of a good family, though thou be but a babe as yet. Be of good courage, little faith! Thou mayest be sick on board the vessel; but the vessel in which thou hast embarked is safe for all that, and thou wilt get to shore as surely as strong faith will do. Put thy trust in the Lord, and quietly wait for him, so shall thy morning surely come in due time. Thus have I gently censured and kindly commended little faith.

     III. But now I want to say a few words to finish with; and this is the motto of them— GREAT FAITH IS MUCH MORE COMMENDED.

     It is sometimes found where we least expected it. Our Lord beheld it, not in the manly Peter, but in the tender woman who pleaded for her child. She was a woman; but she had faith which put the men to shame. She was a Canaanitish woman, of a race concerning which it was said, “Cursed be Canaan,” and yet she had stronger faith than Israelitish Peter, who had known the Scriptures from his youth up. She was a woman who had great discomfort at home; for the devil was there, tormenting her daughter. It is a dreadful thing to have the devil in your husband, or a devil in your daughter, when you go home; yet many a Christian woman has this to bear. Notwithstanding this grave trial, though there was nothing to comfort her at home, she was a woman of great faith. And why should not we be like her? My brother, although your condition and circumstances are greatly against your growth in grace, yet why should not you grow to manhood in Christ? The Lord Jesus can cause you to do so. Though it seems to you that you must be stunted by the chill blast and the cruel soil which environ you, yet the great husbandman can so foster you that you shall become a plant of renown. God can turn disadvantageous circumstances into means of growth. By the holy chemistry of his grace he can bring good out of evil. I commend great faith with special emphasis when I see it where all its surroundings are hostile to it.

     Next, great faith is to be commended because it perseveres in seeking the Lord. This woman came to Jesus to have her daughter healed; and at first he answered her never a word. Oh, the misery of silent suspense! Next, he speaks coolly of her to his disciples; but she seeks on. She has come for a boon, and she so believes in the Lord, the Son of David, that she will not take “no” for an answer; she means to be heard, and so she presses her suit with importunity even to the end. Oh for a strong faith, a persevering faith! Brethren, have you got it? You men, are you using it? Here is a woman that had it, and kept it at work till she won her object. May we have it abundantly!

     Great faith also sees light in the thickest darkness. I do not think Peter was half so tried as the Canaanite was. What was it that frightened Peter? The wind. What might have frightened her? Why, the harsh words of Jesus himself. Who is afraid of the wind? Who would not be afraid of a rejecting Christ, speaking hard words? “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.” Why, if our Lord had spoken thus to any one of us, we should never have dared to pray again. We should have said, “No, that hard sentence shuts me out altogether.” But not so strong faith. “No,” says she, “he called me a dog. Dogs have a position in society; little dogs are carried by their little masters indoors at dinner time, that they may get a crust or a crumb; and, Lord, I will be a dog, and get my crumb: it is only a crumb for thee to give it, though it would be everything to me to get it.” So she pleads with him as readily as if he had given her a promise instead of a rebuff. Great faith can see the sun at midnight: great faith can reap harvests at mid-winter, and find rivers in high places. Great faith is not dependent upon sunlight: she sees that which is invisible by other light. Great faith rests upon the certainty that such a thing is so because God has said it, and she is satisfied with his bare word. If she neither sees, nor hears, nor feels anything to corroborate the divine testimony, she believes God for his own sake, and all is well with her. O brethren, I hope you will be brought to this condition— that you will believe in God, though your feelings give God’s promise the lie, and though your circumstances give it the lie. Though all your friends and companions give the Lord the lie, may you come to this, Let God be true with every man, and every man a liar; but doubt God we dare not, and we will not. His sure promise must stand. Such a faith as this deserves to be commended, and our Lord himself praises it. “O woman, great is thy faith”!

     Great faith prays and prevails. How she did prevail! Her daughter was made whole, and she received a broad grant of whatever she willed. “Be it unto thee even as thou wilt.” I wish we had this mighty faith in connection with prayer. One man praying with faith will get more from God than ten men, or, for the matter of that, ten thousand men, who are unstable and unbelieving. Believe me, there is a way of praying in which you may have what you will of God. You may go up to your closet, and ask and have; ay, and come out of your solitude saying, “I have it.” Even though you have it not as a matter of actual enjoyment, yet your faith has grasped it, realized it, and believed in it, and so has taken immediate possession. Did not Luther often, in his worst times, come down from his chamber crying, “Vici,” “I have conquered”? He wrestled with God in prayer, and then he felt that all else that he had to wrestle with was just nothing: if he had overcome heaven by prayer, he could overcome earth, and death, and hell. Strong faith doth all this, and goes on to do more.

     She has extraordinary reverence for God; but she has a wonderful familiarity with him. If you were to hear what strong faith has sometimes dared to say to God, you would think it profane; and profane it would be from any lips but hers. But when God indulges her to know the secret of the Lord, which is with them that fear him, and when he says, “Ask what thou wilt, and it shall be done unto thee,” she has a blessed liberty with God, which is to be commended, and not forbidden. If the Son make you free in prayer, you shall be free indeed. Strong faith is ever on the winning side. It wears the keys of heaven at its girdle. The Lord can deny nothing to the pleadings of an unstaggering faith.

     I commend strong faith, because Jesus, our Lord, was delighted with it. What music there was in his words, “O woman, great is thy faith”! There was no smile on his face when he said to Peter, “O thou of little faith”: it grieved him that his follower should have such little faith in him. But now it gladdened him that this poor woman had such splendid faith. He looks at her faith as jewellers do at some famous stone worth more than they can tell. “O woman,” said he, “great is thy faith. I am charmed with thy faith. I am amazed at thy faith. I am delighted with thy faith.” Well, brethren, you and I long to do something to please our Redeemer. I know we have often cried, “Oh, what shall I do my Saviour to praise?” Believe him then. Believe his promise without doubt. Believe him greatly. Believe him unstaggeringly. Believe him to the full, and go on in faith till there seems to be nothing further to believe. Believe evermore in Christ Jesus.

     How enriched that woman became! She had pleased her Lord, and then her Lord pleased her: “Be it unto thee even as thou wilt.” She went away the happiest woman under the skies. God had given her her desire, and she was over-glad and ever glad.

     What benefits we could confer upon others if we had strong faith! Her daughter was made whole. Mother, if thou hadst more faith, thy child would soon be brought to Jesus. Father, if thou hadst more faith, thy boy would not be such a plague to thee as he now is. Have more faith in thy God; and when thou dost treat thy Father better, thy children shall treat thee better. If thou wilt dishonour thy God by doubting him, do you wonder your children dishonour you by disobeying you? O preacher, if thou hadst more faith, thou wouldest have more converts! Sunday-school teacher, if thou hadst more faith, more children would be brought to the Saviour out of thy class. “Lord, increase our faith”! I hope we are all saying that in our hearts at this moment.

     I will conclude by asking: Is there not great reason why our faith in Christ should be strong? Is there not every reason why we should have the strongest faith in him? I told you, the other day, of John Hyatt, when he was dying. Someone said to him: “Mr. Hyatt, can you trust your soul with Christ now?” He said, “I would trust him with ten thousand souls, if I had them.” We can go even further than that. If all the sins that men had committed since the world was made, and time began, were laid upon one poor sinner’s head, that sinner would be justified in believing that Christ could take that sin away. Whosoever thou art, and whatever thou art, bring your burdens, and lay them at his feet, casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you; and henceforth may he never have to say to you, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” Oh, may he often exclaim, with joy, of you, “O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt”! May the Holy Spirit bless these simple words of mine to your edification! Amen,



The Blessing of the High Priest

By / Oct 26

The Blessing of the High Priest

 

“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: the Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.” — Numbers vi. 22— 27.

 

THE Lord has blessed his people, and he would have them know it. He has blessed them with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, and it is his wish that they should experience the fulness of this blessedness. Are any of the Lord’s people without a sense of his blessing? It is not the will of God that you should continue in this low condition. If you are cast down, he has said to his prophets, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem.” Have you sinned, and wandered into the darkness? The Lord bids you return, and encourages you to pray, “Turn us again O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.” The happy God would have you happy in the enjoyment of his blessing.

     To bring this blessing constantly to the remembrance of his chosen, the Lord appointed a representative of himself who should publicly pronounce his blessing upon the people. He chose Aaron, and he bade Moses instruct him. Aaron was not only to offer sacrifice, and to make intercession, but he was to take a higher stand, and bestow blessings, in the name of God, upon the assembled people. Those who are old may fitly pronounce a blessing upon their children, as Jacob did upon his twelve sons; and the minister of Christ may, in God’s name, pronounce a benediction upon the people. This was the custom in early times: the congregation was dismissed with the gracious words: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.” Our God has appointed One above all others to bless his people, even our great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the antitype of Aaron and his sons; and in the exercise of his high office continually blesses his people. He began his ministry with the Sermon on the Mount, and the word “Blessed.” His whole life was a stream of blessing: for “he went about doing good.” When he rose to heaven, having completed his ministry, it was as “he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.” He “shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven,” bringing blessings with him, even gifts for men. In the name of the triune God, the Lord Jesus, from the highest glory, effectually blesses us to-day. Let not your hearts be troubled, as though you were beneath the storm-cloud of the curse. Know ye not that the curse is altogether turned away from us; for he was “made a curse for us”? The blessing alone remains, and Jesus himself remains to repeat it.

     Remember, with solemn awe and heart-searching, that this blessing was for the children of Israel, and for them only. Aaron was not appointed to bless the nations who were without God; but to bless the children of Israel. The great blessing which our Lord Jesus Christ pronounces is for his people, even for those to whom he gives eternal life. Ask yourselves whether you are believers, as Jacob was? Are you pleaders with God, as Jacob was? It was through his triumphant wrestling with God that he won the princely name of Israel: have you ever prevailed in prayer? If so, though you may feel very feeble, and halt as you come from the scene of conflict, yet to you, even to you, as being spiritually of the seed of Israel, the Lord Christ, the “high priest of our profession,” has given the blessing. But if any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ there is no blessing for him, since that awful text thunders at him: “Let him be Anathema Maranatha” — accursed at his coming. The Lord grant that such a curse may lie on none of us; but may we, as we hear the priestly benediction, be able by faith to receive it as our own!

     In handling my text, I shall first dwell for a few minutes upon the general character of this benediction. Much is to be gathered here. Secondly, we shall review the blessing itself, weighing its three clauses, and gathering instruction from each word. Thirdly, we will hearken to the divine amen, which is at the close of it: “And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.” May the Holy Spirit aid us in this meditation!

     I. First, then, consider THE GENRERAL CHARACTER OF THIS BLESSING.

     It was a blessing, in the first place, given through a priest. Not every man might take upon himself to bless the people: it was Aaron—God’s high priest, who offered sacrifice for the people—who was called to bless the tribes. The hands which had been stained with the blood of the victim, were outstretched in blessing. Once in the year the Lord’s high priest went in unto God for the people, not without blood; and when his solemn duties within the veil had been duly done, he came forth, and put on those glorious garments which for a while he had laid aside, and he blessed the people, as he was authorized to do. From which I gather that we can get no blessing from God, except through the priesthood of Christ. There must be the sacrifice, and the sprinkling of the blood, before the music of the blessing can sound in our ears. God bestows all spiritual blessings upon us in and through the Lord Jesus, who died for us, and is ordained to be the one mediator between God and man. Christ as the great high priest, who offered himself without spot unto God, is the divine channel of blessing. Do we know the Lord’s Anointed? Are we resting in the sacrifice which he has presented, even his own blood? Without Christ no blessing can come to us. O my hearers, do not remain without the precious blood, if that be your present condition; but may the good Spirit of God lead you to hear the voice of love, which cries, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”! Jesus saith, “No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” You cannot know the Father as a God of infinite blessedness except through the Son, who is the priest with the one effectual sacrifice. It is a priestly benediction, sealed with sacrificial blood; and it can only be bestowed by the hand of our glorious Priest.

     Next, this benediction is of the nature of intercession. There lies within these words a prayer. “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee” is the cry of the man of God to Jehovah, that he would bless and keep his people. The priest’s office was to make intercession for the people, and we have in our Lord Jesus a high priest who pleads evermore for his chosen. We have a high priest, through whom all that come to God will be accepted, “seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Never forget that “he made intercession for the transgressors.” He has, moreover, a special pleading for believers. Concerning them there is a peculiar exercise of intercession; for he says, “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me.” The high priest had a peculiar office in reference to the seed of Israel, and our Lord makes special intercession for his saints. He is exercising that office now. How much we owe to his intercession no tongue can tell. Try to learn a little of it from these words, “Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” “I have prayed for thee”: here is our safety. Believe, my brethren, that our Lord has prayed for us, is praying for us still. With his quick eye of love he has perceived our danger long before we have dreamed of it; and with his eloquent tongue of earnestness he has pleaded the causes of our soul at the throne of grace, before we were aware of our peril. “Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him”; and even so your heavenly High Priest perceives what you have need of, and asks for it long before you think of presenting such a petition. Blessed be the name of him who is the Advocate with the Father on our behalf!

“He ever lives to intercede
Before his Father’s face:
Give him, my soul, thy cause to plead,
Nor doubt the Father’s grace.”

     But, next, this benediction is yet of a higher order than intercession. Every man in the camp might have prayed— The Lord bless and keep his people, and lift up his countenance upon them. But no man in all the camp would have dared to say, in the same authoritative style as Aaron did: “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: the Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.” Here is not only faith pleading, but faith receiving and bestowing. “Without doubt,” says Paul, “the less is blessed of the greater”; and thus Aaron was greater than the people, being set apart to a high and honourable office, into which none else might intrude. He was God’s representative, and so he spoke with the authority of his office. To-day our Saviour’s intercession in the heavenly places rises far higher in power and glory than that of any ordinary intercessor. He blesses in fact, while the greatest saints on earth and in heaven can only bless in desire.

“With cries and tears he offer’d up
His humble suit below;
But with authority he asks,
Enthroned in glory now.”

This benediction wears the form of a fiat as well as of a prayer. The priest here speaks the blessing for which he asks. Turning to the Father, our Lord Jesus cries, “Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me.” Turning to us he says, “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee.” What he prays for of God he distributes among men, by an authority vested in him by the Father. “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell.” My heart delights to think of the Lord Jesus Christ at this hour, not as a Gethsemane pleader, with groans, and agony, and bloody sweat; but as one who has finished his work, and who now reigns in the glory of the Father, having all power in heaven and in earth. He sends the blessing to those to whom it comes. His prayer is so infinitely effectual, that he practically gives the blessing himself. Has he not said, “If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it”?

     Notice, in the next place, that this blessing is sure. Aaron did not bless the people of his own will; he did not utter good words of his own composing; but there went forth a divine power which made the form of blessing to be a blessing indeed.

     There was power in the priestly benediction. First, because Aaron was appointed by God himself to bless the people, and when he pronounced the benediction over the assembled multitude it was not Aaron’s blessing, but the blessing of Jehovah, who had sent him. The God who set him apart to bless the people in the divine name was, by that very act and deed, engaged to make good his servant’s words. Even so our blessed High Priest took not this office upon himself, but he was called thereunto; and his call is abundantly certified, “For him hath God the Father sealed.” What our Lord says must stand, for he is commissioned of the Father; and anointed of the Spirit, as the ambassador of peace. God is in Christ Jesus, and the Godhead stands at the back of every word of mercy, every syllable of blessing which is uttered by the ever-blessed Son. I delight to think of my Lord as no amateur intercessor, taking up a work on his own responsibility without heavenly sanction; but he was appointed before all worlds to bless us, and God will confirm every benediction which his Son pronounces upon us.  

     But there is another reason for being certain that the benediction is sure to all the seed. Not only was the person chosen to bless the people, but the very words which he should use were put into his mouth. “On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them.” Here we have a fixed form of benediction, to which Aaron was to restrict himself. Forms of prayer are not in themselves sinful: in some instances, forms are given in the Word of God, as in the Book of Psalms, and elsewhere. Free prayer is most useful, and it will ordinarily consort best with the movements of the free Spirit; but in the case of a benediction, it is well that it was dictated to the man of God. The children of Israel might miss blessing through the ignorance, or forgetfulness, or unbelief of Aaron; and therefore it was not left to him; but he had to learn by heart each word and sentence. In this wise, and in no other, was he to bless the people. I like this; for if God himself puts the very words into the mouth of his priest, then they are God’s words. God himself arranged the three wonderful stanzas of blessing, and commanded Aaron to say so much, and no more. Not according to his own mind, or wish, or tenderness, or narrowness, does Aaron bless; but according to God’s own mind must the fixed and predetermined benediction be given forth. Blessed be the name of God; the benediction is thus assured to us, for the words are his own. Even so the Lord hath put into the Saviour’s mouth the words of blessing for us. Jesus said, “I speak not my own words, but the words of him that sent me.” Every glorious proclamation of grace from the mouth of our Lord Jesus is a word given him by the great God himself. How our souls delight in this! I have heard people talk about the limitation of Christ’s nature while he was here; and I fear their next step will be Socinianism. Beloved, every word that our Lord Jesus uttered was infallible. He fell into no errors of any sort. If he did err and you find it out, it is clear that you know more than your Master; and that sounds very like blasphemy. Christ is the wisdom of God, and the power of God; in the wisdom of God there can be no mistake, and in the power of God not one word shall fall to the ground. Wherefore, beloved, concerning this blessing, and every other that you find in God’s Word, be certain that it is true. Best in quiet assurance; for if God himself has appointed the priest to bless, and has given the very words which he is to utter, the Lord would compromise his own honour and glory if he were to run back therefrom. God himself in Christ Jesus declares that he will bless his people: yea, and they shall be blessed!

     While dwelling upon the form of this benediction, observe that it teas to be continued. It was not dependent upon the life of one man; for Moses was to speak unto Aaron “and to his sons.” Aaron could not continue for ever by reason of death: in due time he must be stripped of his official garments, and die, like the rest of men; but then his son came in his stead, and the perpetual oblation and benediction were maintained. The blessing was not to cease from generation to generation. This was always to be one of the glorious offices of the high priest, that he should bless the people. Here I would dwell with pleasure upon my subject: the blessing of the Lord our God was upon his ancient people; but it is also upon us on whom the ends of the world are come. That blessing fell upon us in the beginning, when we were converted; and it has never ceased. The blessing of the Lord falls on us now as a refreshing dew, or as the golden rain when the corn is springing. The saints are for ever the blessed of the Lord. He blesses us to-day. There was a day when you felt very near to the Lord your God, and you remember the Hermons and the Hill Mizars with regretful fondness. You enjoyed the divine blessing more that day than perhaps you do this morning; but, in very truth, the blessing is always the same. The sun’s light is always the same, only our mists and fogs come in to hide his face. Our great Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness, shines evermore with fulness of favour upon his people; but our doubts and fears, our worldliness and sin, come in like mists and hide his brightness. God towards his people is of one mind, and who can turn him? He blesses ever: he curses never. You can never say of the Lord that, towards his chosen, “out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing.” No bitter waters are intermixed with the sweet streams of his grace.

     I would add that this blessing came frequently. We do not know how often Aaron uttered this blessing upon the people. In this passage it is left without any determination as to times and seasons. It is something like our Saviour’s Memorial Feast: we are nowhere told when and how often we are to celebrate the Supper of the Lord. Although it seems to me to have been the practice in apostolic times to break bread on the first day of the week, there is no law laid down. It is put thus: "This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.” So Aaron is not told that on such a day, and at such an hour, he shall bless the people; but he may do as his heart dictates. On the day of atonement, when the high priest came out from the secret place, he put on his robes of beauty, and blessed the people. I do not find that he was commanded to do so every day; but the Jews say that Aaron always blessed the people after the offering of the morning sacrifice, when the lamb had been slain and consumed upon the altar. This was not repeated in the evening. Of this we know nothing beyond the tradition; and I mention it mainly because the older divines were wont to say that Aaron gave a blessing in the morning, that is, in the first part of time, for then the ceremonial law stood; but that he can give no blessing in the evening; for now Christ himself has come in the end of days, and we have no need of a blessing from the Aaronic priesthood, seeing the great Melchizedek has come. There may be something in that tradition, and there may be nothing; but this I know, that Aaron did often bless the people, and this is to my mind full of comfort. The Lord Jesus is ready still to bless us. Have you few blessings? You limit them yourselves. You are not straitened in him; you are straitened in your own bowels. There is for you a blessing every morning: seek it when you wake. There is for you a blessing every evening: rest not till you feel it. There is a blessing for you at midnight, when you keep the watches wearily; and there is a blessing for you at midday, when you bear the noontide heat of care and toil. “Thy blessing is upon thy people”: that is to say, it is always upon them. Our great High Priest doth not now and then bless the people; but from his lips grace distils as dew, and drops as rain, without ceasing. Our Lord is always blessing, and we are always blessed. Oh, for grace to know this, and to glorify the God of our blessings!

     II. We will now consider THE BLESSING ITSELF. Oh, for renewed help from the Holy Spirit!

     Notice, carefully, that this benediction passes from the priest to God. It is not, “I, Aaron, ordained of God, bless you, and like a shepherd I will keep you, and smile upon you, and give you peace.” Oh, no! the blessing falls from Aaron’s lips, but it comes originally from the Lord’s heart and hand. It runs thus: “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: the Lord make his face shine upon thee: the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.” Every blessing must come directly from God. What an honour was put on Aaron, to be made the mouthpiece of God! What an honour is put upon the preacher when he becomes the instrument, in God’s hand, for cheering his people! What an honour is put upon you when, in talking with your children, or with your friends, you are privileged to be as a golden conduit-pipe, through which the holy oil of salvation flows to them! I pray you, seek much of this honour. Put yourselves in God’s way, that you may be vessels for his use. Ask him to give you grace to seize upon every opportunity to speak what he would have you say. But, I pray you, never rest in the blessing of a man. Nay, if you were sure that such a man were sent of God, and he should, with all earnestness, invoke the best benison upon you, be not content with the man, but press on to the Master. Seek to have blessing first-hand from heaven. Covet a good man’s blessing, and count it a treasure; but value it only because God speaks through the man.

     This fact makes the blessing exceedingly precious. “THE LORD bless thee.” What a blessing the Lord gives! Have we not heard a mother say to her little child, “Bless you”? What a wealth of meaning she threw into it! But when God says, “Bless you!” there are infinity and immutability in it. There can be no limit to the goodwill of the infinite God. Our gifts are like a handful of pence. God’s gifts are so rich that I dare not liken them even to silver or gold. When Jehovah blesses, it is after the manner of his sovereign Almightiness. His benediction sheds joy and glory over our entire manhood. “The Lord bless thee”—what an ocean of blessedness is in it! “And keep thee”—what safe keeping is that! “And be gracious unto thee”—what grace is that!—the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. “The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee”—oh, to be countenanced of God! what fellowship that means! “And give thee peace.” What a peace is that which God gives—the peace of God which passeth all understanding!

     It behoves us to interpret the words of our text in the largest possible manner, and to look upon them as being not only waters up to the knees, but waters to swim in. Here we may cry, “Oh, the depth!” The Lord blesses his people “according to the riches of his glory by Christ Jesus.” Do you know what his riches are? Can you measure the estate of God? Can you imagine what the riches of his grace must be? Here you have the riches of his glory; yes, and the greatest riches of his glory, by Christ Jesus The Lord blesses you according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus; and what can be more? Dwell on that; I say no more.

     I call your special attention, in looking over this benediction, to the fact that the name of THE LORD, or Jehovah, is three times mentioned. “Jehovah bless thee, and keep thee: Jehovah make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: Jehovah lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.” It is the remark of scholars, that each one of these names bears a different mark in the original Hebrew. I will not say that this teaches the doctrine of the Trinity; but I must say that, believing the doctrine of the Trinity, I understand the passage all the better. The shadow of the Triune God is on the sacred benediction in the name thrice repeated. Yet is the Lord but one, for he says: “I will bless thee.” Here we hear the voice of One, yet Three. We sang, this morning, a hymn beginning, “Holy, holy, holy”; for thus the heavenly worshippers salute the divine Majesty. They cry, “Holy, holy, holy,” three times. Why not twice? Why not four times? Why not seven times? For this last, there might be a reason, since seven is the number of perfection. Trine expressions are most frequent in Holy Scripture; and what can this mean, but that the Lord who is one God for ever and ever, is also threefold in his existence and manifestation? We are to speak of him as “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty”; and we may pronounce the blessing upon the people in the name of Jehovah, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, still knowing that there is but one who has solemnly said at the close of the blessing, “They shall put my name upon the children of Israel, and I will bless them.” Let the sacredness of that name, and its being mentioned in this way, confirm you in the belief of the inscrutable mystery of the Three in One. What is this benediction now before us but an early form of the benediction used universally in the church of Jesus Christ in all ages? “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.”

     Taking the three sentences in the light now cast upon them the first sentence, “The Lord bless thee and keep thee,” may be regarded as the benediction of the Father. It is the preservation of love. It is God who has hitherto kept you from falling. We are “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” “He will keep the feet of his saints.” “He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” To the Father’s tender care I would, at this hour, commend each one of you: “The Lord bless thee and keep thee.” May he do this when thou art in great temptation, that thou yield not! May he keep thee from thine own evil heart of unbelief, that thou turn not aside! Contending with a sinful world, may he keep thee from its snares! Marching through a region full of seductions to error, may he keep thee from quitting the truth, even as he keepeth his own elect! The Lord bless thee with all good, and keep thee from all evil! They are well kept whom God keeps, and none are kept besides. There is no keeping like divine keeping. He saith: “I will be a wall of fire round about them”; and again, “He kept him as the apple of his eye”; and again, “I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.” “The Lord is thy keeper.” “The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.” We pray, “Lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil,” and the prayer is directed to “Our Father in heaven.” I think you will find a depth of meaning in this first line of the holy hymn of blessing, if you regard it as the benediction of the Father. Do not so regard it exclusively, for there is no clear line of demarcation; each of the three stanzas melts into the other two, and the blessing is still one.

     The next clause is the benediction of the Son, or the joy of grace: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” “The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee”: this means the favour of God; may it be given to each one of you! You know where God’s face is: we read of “The glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” He that hath seen Jesus hath seen the Father. When our Lord smiles on us, we see the face of God— that face not veiled with frowns, but bright with smiles: a face full of love and favour, a face which was once turned away, but is now turned towards us in peace. “The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee.” Dearly beloved, is there any grace conceivable like the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ? and is there any light conceivable like the shining of the love of God? A few moments ago the fog surrounded this place, and we seemed as if we were descending into pitch darkness; but, in an instant, light poured in through yonder windows, and there was an immediate change; and now the sun is shining upon us— a thing to be noted in this rarely sun-lit land. In this I see a symbol of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. We come upon a period of gloom and deep depression, and midnight lowers upon our day; and then a breath of the heavenly wind chases away the fog, and the Sun of Righteousness rises, and the scene is changed. Let us have the favour of God, and all our troubles are less than nothing.

“In darkest shades if he appear,
My dawning is begun.”

May we always walk in the light, as God is in the light; but that must be through the shining of his face. Through Jesus Christ we may enjoy an eternal sunshine. Even in heaven, “The Lamb is the light thereof.” There is no light for us except through Jesus Christ. May the Lord Jesus be gracious to you! He is full of grace. To you that are in trouble to-day, may he be gracious with his consolations. To you that are fighting for him, may he be gracious in covering your head in the day of battle. To you that labour, may he put underneath you the everlasting arms of grace; and so may you have grace upon grace, and all the graces that you want till you enter into glory. Surely this second benediction is as full as it is brief. It is a box wherein all sweets compacted lie. Given the love of God the Father, and the grace of God the Son, our bliss runs high.

     The third blessing is surely that of the Holy Ghost. “The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.” Here is the fellowship of peace. For God’s face to shine is one thing, and a very precious thing; but for God to lift up his countenance upon us, is a still richer boon. To feel that God is dealing graciously with me, and shining upon me, is very delicious; but to know that he countenances me, that he supports me in my acts, and is in fellowship with me— this is best of all. Oh, to think that, looking upon me, the Lord says, “Yes, my child, you are doing right; I countenance you in what you are doing.” This is joy. Every servant has seen her mistress’s face fall; but she is glad when the same face is lifted up upon her, because she has done well, and has given pleasure. I do pray that the Holy Ghost may countenance all of you who work for the Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that you may say, “I have the countenance of God. No one applauds me: I am obscure. Many criticize me, and say that I am mistaken: others cavil and abuse. But, Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon me, and it will more than suffice.” To be countenanced by God is better than being commended by princes. Then follow the words, “And give thee peace”: for when a man knows that God countenances him, then he enters into peace. Why should he fret when God smiles? What matters though all the world should censure, if Jehovah countenances his servant. A look of approval from God creates a deep, delightful calm within the soul. Brothers, may the Holy Comforter work this peace in you all!

     But now, very briefly, notice that this benediction is all along in the singular. It is not, “The Lord bless you, and keep you”; but, “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee.” Why? Because the people of God are one, and he views them as one; and so the blessing comes upon the entire church as a whole. But, next, I think it is that every individual believer may take the whole of this benediction home to himself. The high priest seems to say, not— “The Lord bless Ephraim and Manasseh, Judah and Benjamin”; but, as if he singled out each one of the assembly, he says, “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee.” Dear brethren, I will not call you out by name, but I would say to each brother, “The Lord bless thee.” I cannot, my sisters, name you in public, though you serve the Lord so well; but I will speak to you individually, and say, “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee; and make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; and countenance thee, and give thee peace.” The blessing is meant for the appropriation of each one. While it embraces the whole church in one word, it yet distributes a full portion to each individual. We may each one take to himself the whole of this great benediction.

     III. More I might have said upon this Old Testament benediction; but time fails me, and so I must conclude, by a word or two, in the third place, upon THE DIVINE AMEN.

     The divine Amen is in the last verse: “And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.” Only two or three words will suffice.

     Here is the authority repeated, by way of confirmation of what has been said: “They shall put my name upon the children of Israel, and I will bless them.” The priest does his part, and then the Lord makes the blessing effectual. Christ is authorized of God to put the name of God upon his people. It is a delightful thing for the Lord to call us by our own name, as it is written, “I have called thee by thy name, thou art mine.” It is even more soul-enriching to have the divine name put upon us, so as to be called Sons of God, Joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. Herein is condescension on God’s part, and honour and security for us. When the Lord’s name is named upon anything, he will guard his own dedicated things. The name of the Lord is a strong tower, and within it we are safe.

     I think I see here a confirmation of those blessings which are pronounced by good men. “They shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.” I loved to have my grandfather’s blessing, when I was preaching the Word in early days. He has now gone into the glory; but he blessed me, and none can take away the name of God from me. Most of you will remember the blessings of good men who are now gone to glory; and God confirms those blessings. He allows his people, whom he has made priests and kings unto God, to put his name upon others, and to pronounce blessings upon them. Their word shall stand, and what they bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. The blessing of your father and of your mother shall come upon you. The blessing of the angels of the churches, whom the Lord holds as stars in his right hand, shall fall on faithful believers and helpers as a dew from the Lord himself.

     And then comes, best of all, the blessing of our God most surely promised: “And I will bless them.” I will not attempt to preach from that little, great text— “I will bless them.” I could enlarge upon it by the month. “I will bless them”: they shall have their troubles; but I will bless them through their troubles. When they have earthly goods, I will bless them and make them real comforts. I will bless their basket and their store. If those earthly comforts are taken away, I will give them compensation a thousand-fold in myself. I, who gave the mercies, will allow no one but myself to take them away; and this shall only be done in love, that I may bless them still more. Brethren, the world may curse us; but if God bless us, the curse will be as the whistling wind. Friends may become enemies, or may forget us; but, if God blesses us, we can bear the wound. God blessed us when we were young, he kept us in the giddy paths of youth; he blessed us in our hale manhood, and helped us when our family cares were upon us; and he will still sustain us now that we lean heavily on the staff, and find the grasshopper to be a burden. He will bless us when sickness lays us low; and when we come to die Jesus will bless us with dying grace for dying moments, and hand us out our best things last. We shall wake up in the likeness of Christ, and then we shall be satisfied with his blessing, being transformed into the image of him by whom the blessing comes. The judgment-day shall dawn, the earth shall pass away, but the Lord will bless us. God’s “will” has an eternal range. When God saith, “I will,” all the devils in hell cannot turn aside the blessing, and all the ages of eternity cannot change the King’s word. “I will bless them.” How much he will bless them he does not say; but the great I who makes the promise blesses like a God. God himself will bless his people, directly, and personally. “I will bless them.” Here is absolute certainty based on the faithfulness of the Lord: here is endless mercy certified by the divine eternity and immutability. Do you whisper, “But the Lord sends us trials”? I answer, It is true. What son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But in this is a covenant blessing; for every twig of the rod shall bring forth to them the comfortable fruits of righteousness ere many days are past. You do not need that I should say another word. Go home with this celestial music in your ears, “I will bless them.”

     This blessed assurance does not belong to you all indiscriminately. We have no blessing for those who are not believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. O sinners, God make you conscious that you are outside of the blessing; and may that terrible fact create in you an aching heart, and a longing soul, which nothing can ever rest but the blessing of the Lord God.

     You that are resting in Jesus, hear these words, which I have read you from the inspired Book, and may the Holy Ghost write them on your minds. Thus saith Jehovah of his people, “I will bless them.” The Lord has caused his servants to bless us by the testimony of the gospel, and now he himself blesses us by his Spirit. He will himself bring his precious things to our door. He will himself feast us at his table, yea, he will himself become our food, our bread, and our water. Come, let us bless the Lord. Since he has so blessed us, let us heartily bless him. We will wind up our meditation by singing—

“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!”



The Man Who Shall Never See Death

By / Oct 19

The Man Who Shall Never See Death

 

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death. Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?”— John viii. 51— 53.

 

IN the previous part of this chapter we hear the Jews, with malicious voices, assailing our blessed Lord with this bitter question, “Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?” How very quietly the Saviour answered them! He did answer them, because he judged it needful to do so; but he did so with great patience, and with sound argument: “I have not a devil; but I honour my Father.” Clear proof this! No man can be said to have a devil who honours God; for the evil spirit from the beginning has been the enemy of all that glorifies the Father. Paul, who had not read this passage—for the Gospel of John was not then written—was nevertheless so filled with his Master’s spirit, that he answered after a like manner when Festus said, “Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.” He calmly replied, “I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.” This was a fine copy of our Saviour’s gentle and forcible reply: “I have not a devil; but I honour my Father.” Brethren, whenever you are falsely accused, and an evil name is hurled at you, if you must needs reply, “give a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” Be not heated and hurried; for if so, you will lose strength, and will be apt to err. Let your Lord be your model.

     The false charge was the occasion of our Lord’s uttering a great truth. On they rush, furious in their rage, but he flashes in their faces the light of truth. To put down error, lift up truth. Thus their deadly saying was met by a living saying: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.” Nothing so baffles the adversaries of the faith as to utter with unshaken confidence the truth of God. The truth which Jesus stated was full of promise; and if they wilfully rejected his promise, it became worse to them than a threatening. Christ’s rejected promises curdle into woes. If these men, when he said to them, “If a man keep my saying he shall never see death,” yet went on reviling him, then their consciences, when afterwards awakened, would say to them, “He that believeth not shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” If the believer shall never see death, then the unbeliever shall never see life. Thus the gospel itself becomes “a savour of death unto death” to those who refuse it; and the very word which proclaims eternal life threatens eternal death to the wilfully unbelieving. I pray that, this morning, we may be put into a gracious frame of mind, and may be so helped to keep Christ’s saying, that we may inherit this wondrous promise: “If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.”

     May the Holy Spirit specially aid me while I first speak upon the gracious character: the man who keeps Christ’s saying. Secondly, I would dwell upon the glorious deliverance: “He shall never see death.” Thirdly, taking the two later verses of my text, I would honour the great Quickener; for evidently, according to the Jews, our Lord was making much of himself by what he said; and in truth the fact that the believer shall never see death does greatly magnify the Lord Jesus. May he be glorified in our mourning hearts while we think of our departed friend as one who shall never see death!  

     I. First, consider THE GRACIOUS CHARACTER: “It a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.”

     Observe, that the one conspicuous characteristic of the man who shall never behold death is that he keeps Christ's saying or word. He may have other characteristics, but they are comparatively unimportant in this respect. He may be of a timorous nature; he may often be in distress; but if he keep Christ’s saying, he shall never see death. He may have been a great sinner in his early life; but, being converted, and led to keep Christ’s saying, he shall never see death. He may be a strong-minded man, who keeps a firm grip of eternal realities, and therefore becomes supremely useful; but none the more for that is this promise true to him: the reason for his safety is the same as in the case of the weak and timorous: he keeps Christ’s saying, and therefore he shall never see death. Divest yourselves, therefore, of all enquiries about other matters, and only make inquisition in your own heart upon this one point: do you keep Christ’s saying? If you do this, you shall never see death.

     Who is this man who keeps Christ’s saying? Obviously, he is a man that has close dealing with Christ. He hears what he says; he notes what he says; he clings to what he says. We meet with persons nowadays who talk about faith in God; but they know not the Lord Jesus Christ as the great sacrifice and reconciler. But without a mediator there is no coming to God. Jesus says, “No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” His witness is true. Brethren, we glorify Christ as himself God. Truly, the unity of the Godhead is never doubted among us; but while “there is one God,” there is also “one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” For ever remember that Christ Jesus as God-man, Mediator, is essential to all our intercourse with the Father. You cannot trust God, nor love God, nor serve God aright, unless you willingly consent to his appointed way of reconciliation, redemption, justification, and access, which is only through the precious blood of Jesus Christ. In Christ we draw nigh unto God. Attempt not to approach unto Jehovah, who is a consuming fire, except through the incarnate God. Tell me, my hearer, is your faith fixed upon him whom God has set forth to be the propitiation for sin? Do you come to God in God’s own way? for he will not receive you in any other. If you reject the way of salvation through the blood of the Lamb, you cannot be keeping the saying of Christ; for he says, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father”; and he says this of none else.

     These people, next, making the Lord Jesus their all in all, reverenced his word, and therefore kept it: they respected, observed, trusted, and obeyed it. By keeping his saying is meant, first, that they accept his doctrine. "Whatever he has laid down as truth is truth to them. My hearer, is it so with you? With some their great source of belief is their own thought. They judge the divine revelation itself, and claim the right, not only to interpret it, but to correct and expand it. In the fulness of self-confidence, they make themselves the judges of God’s Word. They believe a doctrine because the light of the present age confirms it or invents it. Their foundation is in man’s own thought. In their opinion, parts of Scripture are exceedingly faulty, and need tinkering with scientific hammers. The light of the Holy Ghost is to them a mere glowworm as compared with the light of the present advanced age. But he that is to share the promise now before us is one who believes the Saviour’s word, because it is his word. He takes the sayings of Christ, and his inspired apostles, as being therefore true, because so spoken. To him the inspiration of the Holy Ghost is the warrant of faith. A very important matter this: the foundation of our faith is even more important than the superstructure. Unless you ground your faith upon the fact that the Lord hath spoken, your faith lacks that worshipful reverence which God requires. Even if you are correct in your beliefs, you are not correct in your spirit unless your faith is grounded on the authority of God’s own Word. We are to be disciples, not critics. We have done with cavilling, for we have come to believing. In this our departed deacon stood on firm ground. By him every teaching of the Word was accepted with a lively, childlike faith; and though tempted by the school of doubt, he was not in the least affected by its reasonings. To him the gospel was dear as life itself. As he did, so must we believe Christ’s doctrines.

     Next, the gracious man trusts Christ's promises. This is a crucial point. Without trust in Jesus we have no spiritual life. Say, my hearer, dost thou rely upon the saying of the Lord Jesus, “He that believeth in me hath everlasting life”? Dost thou believe in the promise of pardon to the man that confesseth and forsaketh his sin—pardon through the precious blood of the great sacrifice? Are the promises of Christ certainties to thee, certainties hall-marked with his sacred “Verily, verily, I say unto you”? Canst thou hang thy soul upon the sure nail of the Lord’s saying? Some of us rest our eternal destiny solely upon the truthfulness of Christ. When we take all his promises together, what a fulness of confidence they create in us!

“How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!”

     Furthermore, the gracious man obeys his precepts. No man can be said to keep Christ’s saying unless he follows it practically in his life. He is not only teacher, but Lord to us. A true keeper of the Word cultivates that spirit of love which is the very essence of Christ’s moral teaching. He endeavours to be meek and merciful. He aims at purity of heart, and peaceableness of spirit. He follows after holiness even at the cost of persecution. Whatsoever he finds that his Lord has ordained, he cheerfully performs. He does not kick at the Lord’s command, as involving too much self-denial and separation from the world; but he is willing to enter in by the strait gate, and to follow the narrow way, because his Lord commands him. That faith which does not lead to obedience is a dead faith and a false faith. That faith which does not cause us to forsake sin, is no better than the faith of devils, even if it be so good.

“Faith must obey her Father’s will,
As well as trust his grace:
A pardoning God is jealous still
For his own holiness.”

     So, now you see who the man is that keeps Christ’s saying. That man receives, through the Word of God, a new and everlasting life; for the Word of God is a "living and incorruptible seed, which liveth and abideth for ever.” Wherever the seed of the Word drops into a soil which accepts it, it takes root, abides and grows. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” It is by Christ’s saying, or by Christ’s Word, that life is implanted in the soul: by that same word the heavenly life is fed, increased, developed, and at length perfected. The power and energy of the Holy Ghost which work through the word are used as the beginning, the sustaining, and the perfecting of the inner life. The life of grace on earth is the blossom of which the life of glory is the fruit. It is the same life all along, from regeneration to resurrection. The life which comes into the soul of the believer, when he begins to keep Christ’s sayings, is the same life which he will enjoy before the eternal throne in the realms of the blessed.

     We may know what keeping Christ’s saying is from the fact that he himself has set us the example. Note well the fifty-fifth verse, where Jesus says concerning the Father— “Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying.” We are to keep our Lord’s saying, even as he kept his Father’s saying. He lived upon the Father’s word, and therefore refused Satan’s temptation to turn stones into bread. His Father’s word was in him, so that he always did the things which pleased the Father. When he spoke, he spoke not his own words, but the word of him that sent him. He lived that the divine word might be executed: even on the cross he was careful that the Scripture might be fulfilled. He said, “He that is of God heareth God’s words”; and this was so truly the case with him that he said, “Mine ears hast thou opened.” The word was everything to him, and he rejoiced over his apostles, because he could say of them, “They have kept thy word.” He, whose word you are to keep shows you how to keep it. Live towards him as he lived towards the Father, and then you shall receive the promise he has made: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.” If love be the fulfilling of the Lord’s saying, our dearly-beloved but now departed friend kept the saying of Christ— for in that matter many believers have done virtuously, but he excelled them all. He has not looked on death.

     II. Now we turn to the delightful part of our subject, namely, THE GLORIOUS DELIVERANCE which our Lord here promises: “He shall never see death.” Our Lord did not mean that he shall never die, for he died himself; and his followers, in long procession, have descended to the grave. Some brethren are cheered by the belief that they shall live until the Lord comes, and therefore they shall not sleep, but shall only be changed. The hope of our Lord’s appearing is a very blessed one, come when he may; but I do not conceive that to be alive at his coming is any great object of desire. Is there any great preference in being changed beyond that of dying? Do we not read that, “We which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep”? This is a great truth. Throughout eternity, if I die I shall be able to say I had actual fellowship with Christ in the article of death, and in descent into the grave, which those happy saints who will survive can never know. It is no matter of doctrine, but yet, if one might have a choice in the matter, it might be gain to die.

“The graves of all his saints he bless’d,
And soften’d every bed:
Where should the dying members rest,
But with the dying Head?”

     How dear will Christ be to us when, in the ages to come, we shall think of his death, and shall be able to say, “We, too, have died and risen again”! You that are alive and remain will certainly not have a preference over us, who, like our Lord, shall taste of death. I am only speaking now of a matter of no great moment, which, as believers, we may use as a pleasant subject of discourse among ourselves. We grieve not that our brother has fallen asleep before the Lord’s glorious appearing, for we are sure that he will be no loser thereby. Our Lord has said, “If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death”; and this does not relate to the few who will remain at his second advent, but to the entire company of those who have kept his saying, even though they pass into the grave.

     What does this promise mean? It means this, in the first place: our face is turned away from death. Here am I, a poor sinner, convinced of sin, and aroused to a fear of wrath. What is there before my face? What am I compelled to gaze upon? The Greek is not fully interpreted by the word “see”: it is an intenser word. According to Westcott, the sight here mentioned is that of “a long, steady, exhaustive vision, whereby we become slowly acquainted with the nature of the object to which it is directed.” The awakened sinner is made to look at eternal death, which is the threatened punishment of sin. He stands gazing upon the result of sin with terror and dismay. Oh, the wrath to come! The death that never dies! While unforgiven, I cannot help gazing upon it, and foreseeing it as my doom. When the gospel of the Lord Jesus comes to my soul, and I keep his saying by faith, I am turned completely round. My back is upon death, and my face is towards life eternal. Death is removed; life is received; and more life is promised. What do I see within, around, and before me? Why, life, and only life— life in Christ Jesus. “He is our life.” In my future course on earth, what do I see? Final falling from grace? By no means; for Jesus saith, “I give unto my sheep eternal life.” What do I see far away in the eternities? Unending life. “He that believeth in me hath everlasting life.” Now I begin to realize the meaning of that text, “I am the resurrection: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” And again, “I am the life: he that liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” The man who has received the saying of the Lord Jesus has passed from death unto life, and shall never come into condemnation, and consequently shall never gaze on death. All that lies before the believer is life, life more abundantly, life to the full, life eternal. What has become of our death? Our Lord endured it. He died for us. “He his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree.” In his death as our representative we died. There is no death penalty left for the believer; for not the least charge can be brought against those for whom Christ has died. Hence we sing—

“Complete atonement thou hast made,
And to the utmost farthing paid
Whate’er thy people owed:
Nor can his wrath on me take place,
If shelter’d in thy righteousness,
And sprinkled with thy blood.”

Shall we die for whom Christ died in the purpose of God? Can our departure out of the world be sent as a punishment, when our Lord Jesus has so vindicated justice that no punishment is required? When I behold my Lord die upon the cross, I see that for me death itself is dead.

     Then comes in another sense of the expression. “He that keepeth my saying shall never see death,” means that his spiritual death is gone never to return. Before the man knows Christ, he abideth in death, and wherever he looks he sees nothing but death. Poor souls! you know what I am talking about, you that are now under concern of soul; for you try to pray, and find death in your prayers; you try to believe, but seem dead as to faith. Alas, you ungodly ones! although you know it not, death is everywhere within you. You are “dead in trespasses and sins.” Your sins are to you what grave-clothes are to a corpse; they seem your natural investiture; they cling to you, they bind you. Little do you know what corruption is coming upon you, so that God himself will say of you, “Bury the dead out of my sight.” As soon as ever the gospel saying of the Lord Jesus comes to a man with power, what is the effect? He is dead no longer: he begins to see life. It may be, that at first it is a painful life— a life of deep regrets for the past, and dark fears for the future; a life of hungering and thirsting; a life of pining and panting; a life that wants a something, it scarcely knows what, but it cannot live without it. This man sees life; and the more he keeps his Saviour’s word, the more he rejoices in Christ Jesus, the more he rests on his promise, the more he loves him, the more he serves him, the more will his new life drive death out of sight. Life now abounds and holds sway, and the old death hides away in holes and corners. Though oftentimes the believer has to mourn over the old death which struggles to return, yet he does not gaze upon that death of sin as once he did; he cannot endure it, he takes no pleasure in the contemplation of it, but cries to God for deliverance from it. Grace frees us from the reign of death as well as from the penalty of death; and in neither of these senses shall the keeper of Christ’s saying ever look upon death.

     “But,” cries one, “will not a Christian man die?” I answer, not necessarily; for some will remain at the coming of our Lord, and these will not die; and hence there is no legal necessity that any should die, since the obligation would then rest alike on all. But good men die. The tokens of death are seen in mournful array upon my pulpit. Yet our dear brother did not die as the penalty of his sin. He was forgiven; and it is not according to God’s grace or justice to punish those whom he has forgiven. O my hearers, if you do not believe in the Lord Jesus, death will be a penal infliction to you; but death is changed in its nature in the case of a believer in Jesus. Our death is a falling asleep, not a going to execution. It is a departure out of the world unto the Father, not a being driven away in wrath. We quit the militant host of earth for the triumphant armies of heaven by the gate of death; that which was a cavern leading to blackness and darkness for ever, has, by the resurrection of our Lord, been made into an open tunnel, which serves as a passage into eternal glory. As a penal infliction upon believers, death was abolished by our Lord; and now it has become a stairway from the grace-life below to the glory-life above.

     “If a man keep my saying, he shall never gaze on death,” may further mean, he shall not live under the influence of it. He shall not be perpetually thinking of death and dreading its approach, and that which follows after it. I must admit that some Christians are in bondage through fear of death; but that is because they do not keep their Master’s saying as they ought to do. The effect of his saying upon us is frequently such that instead of being afraid to die, we come to long to depart. In such a case we should realize the verses of Watts, who tells us that could we see the saints above, we should long to join them.

“How we should scorn these robes of flesh,
These fetters and this load!
And long for evening to undress,
That we may rest in God.

 “We should almost forsake our clay
Before the summons come,
And pray and wish our souls away
To their eternal home.”

I have to check some dear brethren when they say to me, “Let me die the death of the righteous.” No, do not talk as Balaam did; but rather say, “Let me live, that I may glorify God and help my sorrowing brethren in the Lord’s work.” I pray you, do not hasten to be gone; and yet this impatience proves that death has lost its terrors for us. We do not see death looming before us as a coming tempest: we do not gaze upon it as a fascinating horror which makes our faces pale, and casts a lurid glare on all around. We see not the darkness, for we walk in the light: we fear not the rumbling of the chariot, for we know who rides to us therein.

     We shall never see that which is the reality and essence of death, namely, the wrath of God in the second death. We have no cause to fear condemnation, for “it is God that justifieth.” That final separation from God, which is the real death of human nature, can never come to us. “Who shall separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord!” That ruin and misery which the word “death” describes, when used in relation to the soul, will never befall us; for we shall never perish, neither shall any pluck us out of Christ’s hand.

     When the believer dies, he does not gaze on death. He walks through the valley of the shadow of death; but he fears no evil, and sees none to fear. A shadow was cast across my road, but I passed through it, and scarcely perceived that it was there. Why was that? Because I had my eye fixed upon a strong light beyond; and I did not notice the shadow which otherwise would have distressed me. Believers are so rejoiced by the presence of their Lord and Master, that they do not observe that they are dying They rest so sweetly in the embrace of Jesus, that they hear not the voice of wailing. When they pass from one world into another, it is something like going from England to Scotland: it is all one kingdom, and one sun shines in both lands. Often travellers by railway ask, “When do we pass from England into Scotland?” There is no jerk in the movement of the train; no broad boundary: you glide from one into the other, and scarce know where the boundary lies. The eternal life that is in the believer glides along from grace to glory without a break. We grow steadily on from the blade to the ear, and from the ear to the full corn; but no black belt divides the stages of growth from one another. We shall know when we arrive; but the passage may be so rapid that we shall not see it. From earth to heaven may seem the greatest of journeys, but it is ended in the twinkling of an eye.

“One gentle sigh, the fetter breaks,
We scarce can say, ‘He’s gone,’
Before the ransomed spirit takes
Its mansion near the throne.”

He shall never gaze on death: he shall pass it by with no more than a glance. He shall go through Jordan as though it were dry land, and scarce know that he has passed a river at all. Like Peter, the departing shall scarce be sure that they have passed through the iron gate, which shall open of its own accord; they shall only know that they are free. Of each one of them it may be said, as of Peter, “He wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision.” Fear not death; for Jesus says, “He that keepeth my saying shall never see death.”

     Follow the soul when it enters upon the other world: the body is left behind, and the man is a disembodied spirit; but he does not see death. All the life he needs he has within his soul by being one with Jesus. Meanwhile, he is expecting that at the trump of the resurrection his body will be reunited with his soul, having been made to be the dwelling and the instrument of his perfected spirit. While he is absent from the body, he is so present with the Lord that he does not look on death.

     But the judgment-day has come, the great white throne is set, the multitudes appear before the Judge? What about the keeper of Christ’s saying? Is he not afraid? It is the day of days, the day of wrath! He knows that he shall never see death, and therefore he is in no confusion. For him there is no u Depart, ye cursed.” He can never come under the eternal sentence. See! hell opens wide her mouth tremendous. The pit which of old was digged for the wicked yawns and receives them. Down sink the ungodly multitude, a very cataract of souls. “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” In that terrific hour, will not his foot slip? No; he shall stand in the judgment, and shall never see death.

     But the world is in a blaze; all things are being dissolved, and the elements are melting with fervent heat; the stars are falling like the leaves of autumn, and the sun is black as sackcloth of hair. Is he not now alarmed? Ah, no! He shall never see death. His eyes are fixed on life, and he himself is full of it. He abides in life, he spends that life in praising God. He shall never gaze on death; for Jesus says, “Because I five, ye shall live also.” O blessed eyes, that shall never look on death! O happy mind, that has been made confident in Jesus Christ of an immortality for which there is no hazard! Our dear brother was the embodiment of life in the service of the Lord. Last Sabbath he sat in this seat behind me, and responded in his very soul to the Word of the Lord. Last Monday was spent all day in the service of God and this church, in the most hearty manner. Though a great sufferer, his spirit carried him over his bodily weakness, and he constantly exhibited an amazing zeal for God and the souls of men. To the last the old ruling passion was strong in him: he would speak for his Lord. He was so struck down that he did not know that he was dying. He found himself in heaven or ever he was aware, and I dare say he said to himself, “I thought I was going to the Tabernacle; but here I am in the temple of my God. For many a year I took my seat among my brethren below, or went about serving my Lord among his people, and now I have a mansion above, and behold his face; but I will now see what there is to do.” Yes, he will serve God day and night in his temple, just as he did here; for he was never tired of work for Jesus. He was always at it, and always full of life. He never beheld death while he was with us, for he overflowed with life; and when physical death came, he did not gaze upon it, but simply bowed his head, and found himself before the throne.

     What a glorious word is this! Alas for you who are ungodly! you are made to look on death. It haunts you now; what will it be in the hour of your decease? “What will you do in the swelling of Jordan?” Nothing remains for you but the wages of sin, which is death. The ruin and misery of your souls will be your endless portion. You will be shut in with the finally destroyed, ruined, and wretched ones for ever! This is a dreadful looking for of judgment. It ought to startle you. But as for the believer, surely the bitterness of death is past. We have nothing more to do with death as a penalty or a terror, any more than we have to do with spiritual death as the choke-damp of the heart, and the mother of corruption.

     III. This brings me to the third point THE GREAT QUICKENER. Those Jews — what a passion they were in! How unscrupulous their talk! They could not even quote Christ’s words correctly. They said, “Thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death.” He did not say so. He said, “Shall never see death.” We may be said to taste of death as our Master did; for it is written that “He tasted death for every man.” And yet in another sense we shall never taste the wormwood and gall of death, for to us it is “swallowed up in victory.” Its drop of gall is lost in the bowl of victory. However, the Lord Jesus did not say that we shall never taste of death; neither did he mean that we shall not die, in the common sense of the word. He was using, to the Jews, words in that religious sense in which their own prophets used them. The ancient Scriptures so used the word death; and these Jews knew their meaning right well. Death did not always mean the separation of the soul from the body; for the Lord’s declaration to Adam was, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Assuredly, Adam and Eve died in the sense intended; but they were not annihilated, nor were their souls separated from their bodies; for they still remained to labour on earth. “The soul that sinneth it shall die,” relates to a death which consists of degradation, misery, inability, ruin. Death does not mean annihilation, but something very different. Overthrow and ruin are the death of a soul, just as perfection and joy are its life for ever. The separation of the soul from God is the death penalty; and that is death indeed. The Jews refused to understand our Lord; yet they clearly saw that what Jesus claimed tended to glorify him above Abraham and the prophets. Hidden away in their abusive words, we find a sense which is instructive. It is not the greatness or the goodness of a believer that secures his eternal life; it is his being linked by faith to the Lord Jesus Christ, who is greater than Abraham and the prophets. The man keeps Christ’s saying, and that becomes a bond between him and Christ, and he is one with Christ. Because of their Lord, the saints live; and the living of the saints by him brings to him glory and honour. His life is seen in every one of his people: like mirrors, they reflect his divine life. He has life in himself, and that life he imparts to his chosen. As the old creation displays the glory of the Father, so the new creation reveals the glory of the Son. Believers find their highest life in Christ Jesus their Lord, and every particle of it glorifies him.

     It is also to our Lord’s glory that we live by his word. He does not sustain us by the machinery of providence, but by his word. As the world stood out into being because God spake, so do we live and continue to live because of Christ’s saying. That which he taught, being received into our hearts, becomes the origin and the nourishment of our eternal life. It is greatly glorifying to Christ that, by his word, all spiritual life in the countless myriads of believers is begotten and sustained.

     It is clear that the Lord Jesus is far greater than Abraham and all the prophets. Their word could not make men live, nor even live themselves. But the saying of Jesus makes all live who receive it. By keeping it they live— yea, live for ever. Glory be to the name of him who quickeneth whom he wills!

    A sweet inference flows from all this, and with that I conclude. The glory of Christ depends upon the not seeing of death by all who keep his saying. If you and I keep his saying, and we see death, then Jesus is not true. If you, believing in Jesus, gaze on death, it will be proved that either he had not the power or the will to make his promise good. If the Lord fails in any one case, he has lost the honour of his faithfulness. O ye trembling, anxious souls, lay hold on this:  

“His honour is engaged to save
The meanest of his sheep.”

If the saint of God, who has won thousands for Jesus, should after all perish, what a failure of covenant engagements there would be! But that failure would be just as great if one of the least of all those who keep our Lord’s word should be suffered to perish. Such a loss of honour to our all-glorious Lord is not to be imagined; and hence if one of you who are the least in your father’s house do really trust in him, though encumbered with infirmities and imperfections, he must keep you from beholding death. His truth, his power, his immutability, his love, are all involved in his faithfulness to his promise to each believer. I want you to take this home with you, and be comforted.

     Ay, and if I have some foul transgressor here this morning, the grossest sinner that ever lived, if thou wilt come to Christ, lay hold upon his gracious saying, keep it, and be obedient to it, thou shalt never see death. There is not a soul in hell that can ever say, “I have kept Christ’s saying, and I have seen death, for here I am.” There never will be one such, or Christ’s glory would be tarnished throughout eternity. Keep his saying, and he will keep you from seeing death!

     How eagerly did my departed friend long for the conversion of those who came to the Tabernacle! He was never satisfied while any were unblessed. He had great longings. He loved revivals and missions. Tidings of souls saved stirred his inmost soul. Oh, that his prayers, while he was with us, may be answered now that he is gone from us! He not only lived among us, but he lived in our hearts. He needs no praise from me; his praise is in all the church. He will require no monument; all your hearts are his memorials. Never can I forget my beloved fellow-worker either in time or in eternity. Beloved, the real William Olney has not seen death, although with many tears we must lay him in the grave next Wednesday. Pray much for me: my loss is not to be measured. Pray much for his dear family, whose loss cannot be repaired. Amen.