A Harp of Ten Strings

By / Aug 30

A Harp of Ten Strings

 

“And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.”— Luke i. 46, 47.

 

IT is very clear that Mary was not beginning a new thing; for she speaks in the present tense, and in a tense which seems to have been for a long time present: “My soul doth magnify the Lord.” Ever since she had received the wonderful tidings of the choice which God had made of her for her high position, she had begun to magnify the Lord; and when once a soul has a deep sense of God’s mercy, and begins magnifying him, there is no end to it. This grows by what it feeds upon: the more you magnify God, the more you can magnify him. The higher you rise, the more you can see; your view of God is increased in extent; and whereas you praised him somewhat at the bottom of the hill, when you get nearer and nearer to the top of his exceeding goodness, you lift up the strain still more loudly, and your soul doth more fully and exultantly magnify the Lord.

     “My soul doth magnify the Lord.” What does it mean? The usual signification of the word “magnify” is, to make great, or to make to appear great. We say, when we use the microscope, that it magnifies so many times. The insect is the same small and tiny thing; but it is increased to our apprehension. The word is very suitable in this connection. We cannot make God greater than he is. Nor can we have any conception of his actual greatness. He is infinitely above our highest thoughts; when we meditate upon his attributes—

“Imagination’s utmost stretch
In wonder dies away.”

     But we magnify him by having higher, larger, truer conceptions of him; by making known his mighty acts, and praising his glorious name, so that others, too, may exalt him in their thoughts. This is what Mary was doing: she was a woman who was given, in after-life, to pondering. Those who heard what the shepherds said concerning the holy child Jesus wondered j but “Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” They wondered; Mary pondered. It is only the change of a letter; hut it makes a great difference in the attitude of the soul, a change from a vague flash of interest to a deep

attention of heart. She pondered; she weighed the matter; she turned it over in her mind; she thought about it: she estimated its value and result. She was like that other Mary, a meditative woman, who could quietly wait at her Lord’s feet to hear gracious words, and drink them in with yearning faith.

     It is no idle occupation thus to get alone, and in your own hearts to magnify the Lord; to make him great to your mind, to your affections; great in your memory, great in your expectations. It is one of the grandest exercises of the renewed nature. You need not, at such a time, think of the deep questions of Scripture, and may leave the abstruse doctrines to wiser heads, if you will; but if your very soul is bent on making God great to your own apprehension, you will be spending time in one of the most profitable ways possible to a child of God. Depend upon it, there are countless holy influences which flow from the habitual maintenance of great thoughts of God, as there are incalculable mischiefs which flow from our small thoughts of him. The root of false theology is belittling God; and the essence of true divinity is greatening God, magnifying him, and enlarging our conceptions of his majesty and his glory to the utmost degree.

     But Mary did not mean, by magnifying the Lord, merely to extol him in her own thoughts; being a true poetess, she intended to magnify the Lord by her words. No, I must correct myself; she did not intend to do it, she had been doing it all along, she was doing it when she came, panting and breathless, into her cousin Elizabeth’s house. She said, “My soul doth magnify the Lord. I am now a such a favoured condition that I cannot open my mouth to talk to you, Elizabeth, without speaking of my Lord. My soul now seems filled with thoughts of him. I must speak, first of all, about him, and say such things of his grace and power as may help even you, my goodly elder sister, still to think grander thoughts of God than you have ever before enjoyed. My soul doth magnify the Lord.”

     We must recall the fact that Mary was highly distinguished and honoured. No other woman was ever blessed as she was; perhaps no other could have borne the honour that was put upon her— to be the mother of the human nature of our Saviour.  It was the highest to be possible honour that could be put upon mortal, and the Lord knew, at the appointed time, where to find a guileless, lowly woman, who could be entrusted with such a gift, and yet not seek to filch away his glory. She is not proud; nay, it is a false heart that steals the revenues of God, and buys therewith the intoxicating cup of self-congratulation. The more God gives to a true heart, the more it gives to him. Like Peter’s boat, which sank into the waters the more deeply, the more fully it was laden with fish, God’s true children sink in their own esteem, as they are honoured by their Lord. God’s gifts, when he gives grace with them, do not puff us up; they build us up. A humble and lowly estimate of ourselves is added to a greater esteem of him. The more God gives thee, the more do thou magnify him, and not thyself. Be this thy rule— “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Be thou less and less. Be thou the Lord’s humble handmaid, yet bold and confident in thy praise of him who hath done for thee great things. Henceforth and for ever, let this be the one description of thy life: “My soul doth magnify the Lord; I have nothing else to do any more but to magnify him, and to rejoice in God my Saviour.”

     A week might be profitably employed were I to attempt to preach upon each part of Mary’s song; but with quite another purpose in view, I am going to present it to you as a whole. As I put before you this instrument of ten strings, I will ask you, just for a minute or two, to place your fingers on each of them as they shall be indicated, and see whether you cannot wake some melody to the praise of the great King, some harmony in his honour; whether you cannot, at this good hour, magnify the Lord, and rejoice in God your Saviour. Luther used to say that the glory of Scripture was to be found in the pronouns; and it is certainly true of the text. Look at the personal touch of them, how it comes over and over again! “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.” At one of our Orphanage Festivals, I put before our many friends who were gathered together several reasons why everybody should contribute to the support of the children; indeed, I said, nobody ought to go off the ground without giving something. I was struck with one brother, who had no money with him, but who brought me his watch and chain. “Oh,” I said, “do not give me them; these things sell for so little compared with their value;” but he insisted upon my keeping them, and said, “I will redeem them to-morrow, but I cannot go away without giving something now.” How glad I would be if every child of God here should be as earnest in adoration, and say, “I am going to give some praise to God at this service: out of some of those strings I will get music; perhaps out of them all. I will endeavour with my whole heart to say, at some portion of the sermon, and from some point of view, ‘My soul doth magnify the Lord’!” Do I hear you whisper, “My soul is very heavy”? Lift it up, then, by praising the Lord; begin a psalm, even if at first the tune must be in a minor key: soon the strain will change, and the “Miserere” become a “Hallelujah Chorus.”

     I. The first string which Mary seems to touch, and which, I trust, we, too, may reach with the hand of faith, is that of THE GREAT JOY WHICH THERE IS IN THE LORD. “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.” Let us bless God that our religion is not one of gloom. I do not know of any command anywhere in Scripture, “Groan in the Lord alway; and again I say, Groan.” From the conduct of some people, we might almost imagine that they must have altered their New Testament in that particular passage, and thus wofully changed the glory of the original verse, “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.” The first I ever knew of Christ my Master truly, was when I found myself at the foot of his cross, with the great burden that had crushed me effectually gone. I looked round for it, wondering where it could be, and, behold, it was tumbling down into his sepulchre! I have never seen it since, blessed be his name, nor do I ever want to see it again! Well do I remember the leaps I gave for joy when first I found that all my burden of guilt had been borne by him, and was now buried in the depths of his grave.

“Many days have passed since then;
Many changes I have seen!”

     I have been to a great many wells to draw water; but when I have drawn it, and tasted thereof, it has been brackish as the waters of Marah; but whenever I have gone to this well— “my God, my Saviour”— I have never drawn one drop that was not sweet and refreshing. He who truly knows God must be glad in him; to abide in his house is to be still praising him; yea, we may exult in him all the day long. A very notable word is that which is found in the mouth of David: “God my exceeding joy.” Other things may give us pleasure; we may be happy in the gifts of God, and in his creatures, but God himself, the spring of all our joys, is greater than them all. Therefore, “Delight thyself also in the Lord.” This is his command; and is it not a lovely one? Let no one say that the faith of the Christian is not to be exultant; it is to be a delight; and so greatly does God desire us to rejoice in him, that to the command is added a promise, “And he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” What a religion is ours, in which delight becomes a duty, in which to be happy is to be obedient to a command I Heathen religions exact not only self-denials of a proper kind, but tortures which men invent to accustom themselves to misery; but in our holy faith, if we keep close to Christ, while it is true that we bear the cross, it is also true that the cross ceases to be a torture; in fact, it often bears us as we bear it; we discover in the service of our Master that “his yoke is easy, and his burden is light,” and, strange to say, his burden gives us rest, and his yoke gives us liberty. We have never had anything from our Master but it has ultimately tended to our joy. Even when his rod has made us smart he has intended it to work for our good, and so has it wrought. Praise him, then, for such goodness.

     Our religion is one of holy joy, especially with regard to our Saviour. The more we understand that glorious word “Saviour”, the more are wo ready to dance with delight. “My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.” The good tidings of great joy have reached us, and as we, by his grace, have believed them, he has saved us from sin, and death, and hell. He has not simply promised to do it some day, but he has done it; we have been saved. What is more, we have, many of us, entered into rest by faith in him; salvation is to us a present experience at this hour, though we still wait for the fulness of it to be revealed in the world to come.

     Oh, come, let us joy in our Saviour! Let us thank him that we have so much for which to thank him. Let us praise him that there is so much that we may rejoice in; nay, so much that we must rejoice in. Let us adore his dear name that he has so arranged the whole plan of salvation, that it is calculated to bring heaven to us while we are here, and to bring us who are here into heaven hereafter. Thus we lift up our hearts because of the great joy there is laid up for us in God. This is the first string: touch it now; think of all the joy you have had in God; praise him for all the holy mirth he has given you in his house; the bliss of communion with him at his table; the delights of fellowship with him in secret. Sing to him with a grateful heart, saying, “My soul doth magnify the Lord.”

     II. The second string we would desire to lay our fingers upon is THE GODHEAD OF OUR SAVIOUR. “My soul doth magnify the Lord.” I have not a little Lord. “And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour” I know that my Saviour is a man, and rejoice in his humanity; but we will contend to the death for this— that he is more than man; he is our Saviour. One human being could not redeem another, or give to God a ransom for his brother. An angel’s arm could not bear the tremendous load of the disaster of the Fall; but Christ’s arm is more than angelic. He whom we magnify as our Saviour counted it not robbery to be equal with God; and when he undertook the wondrous task of our redemption, he brought the Godhead with him to sustain him in the more than herculean labour. Our trust is in Jesus Christ, very God of very God; we shall never cease, not only to believe in him, but to speak of him, and rejoice in him, and sing of him, as the incarnate Deity. What a frozen religion that is which has not the Godhead of Christ in it! Surely, they must be men of a very sanguine and imaginative temperament who can pretend to receive any comfort out of a Christianity which has not the divine Saviour as its very centre. I would as soon think of going to an iceberg to warm myself, as to a faith of that kind to find comfort. Nobody can ever praise up Christ too much for you and for me; they can never say too much of his wisdom, or of his power. Every divine attribute ascribed to Christ makes us lift up a new song unto him; for, whatever he may be to others, he is to us God over all, blessed for ever. Amen.

     I wish that I could sing instead of speaking to you of him who was with the Father before all worlds began, whose delights, even then, were with the sons of men in prospect of their creation. I wish that I could tell the wonderful story of how he entered into covenant with God on the behalf of his people; and pledged himself to pay the debts of those his Father gave to him. He undertook to gather into one fold all the sheep whom he pledged himself to purchase with his precious blood; he engaged to bring them back from all their wanderings, and fold them on the hill-tops of the Delectable Mountains at his Father’s feet. This he vowed to do; and he has gone about his task with a zeal that clothed him as a cloak; and he will achieve the divine purpose before he delivers up the kingdom to God, even the Father. “He shall not fail nor be discouraged.” It is our delight to hear this Son of God, this Son of Mary, this wondrous Being in his complex nature as our Mediator, exalted and extolled, and made very high. Have you not sometimes felt that if the minister preached more about Jesus Christ, you would be very glad to hear him? I hope that is your inclination; yet I am afraid that we talk a great deal about many things rather than about our Master. Come, let me hear of him; sing to me or talk to me of Jesus, whose name is honey in the mouth, and music in the ear, and heaven in the heart. Oh, for more praise to his holy name! Yes, some of us can touch this string, and say with Mary, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.”

     III. The third string has softer, sweeter music in it, and it may suit some of us better than the sublimer themes that we have touched already. Let us sing, and magnify the LORD’S LOVING CONDESCENSION; for so the blessed virgin did when she went on to say, “for he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.” Here is something to sing about; for ours was not only a low estate, but perhaps some here would have had to say, like Gideon, “My family is poor, and I am the least in my father’s house,” and, like him, you would have been passed over by most of the people. Perhaps even in your own family you were counted as nobody; if there was a jest uttered, you were sure to be the butt of it, and generally you were misunderstood, and your actions misinterpreted. This was a trying experience for you; but from this you have been gloriously delivered. It may have been that, like Joseph, you were a little dreamy, and perhaps you were a trifle too fond of telling your dreams. Yet, though because of this you were much put upon, the Lord at length raised up your head above those round about you. It may have been that your lot in life was cast among the very poorest and lowest of mankind; yet the Lord has looked upon you in infinite compassion, and saved you. Will you not, then, magnify him?

     If Christ wanted a people, why did he not choose the kings, and princes, and nobles of the earth? Instead of that, he takes the poor, and makes them to know the wonders of his dying love; and instead of selecting the wisest men in the world, he takes even the most foolish, and instructs them in the things of the kingdom.

“Wonders of grace to God belong,
Repeat his mercies in your song.”

     All of us who have been saved by grace must strike a tenderer note still; for we were sinful as well as lowly. We went astray like lost sheep; therefore we magnify the Lord, who bought us, and sought us, and brought us back to his fold. It may be painful to remember what we once were, but it is well sometimes to go back in our thoughts to the time past when we lived in sin, that we may the better appreciate the favour of which we have been made partakers. When the apostle Paul wrote out a catalogue of those who shall not inherit the kingdom of God, he added, “And such were some of you: but ye are washed.” Oh, let us bless the name of the Lord, and magnify him for this! Who else could have cleansed us from our sin, or in what other fountain save that opened to the house of David could we have plunged, to rid us of our awful defilement? He stoops very low, for some of God’s elect were once the off scouring of all things; and even when converted, many of them remained so in the estimate of the world, which sneers at humble Christians. If the professed followers of Christ happen to meet in some fine building, and worship God with grand music and gorgeous ritual, then the people of the world put up with them; they may go even so far as to patronize them, though, even then, their respect is chiefly called forth, not on behalf of the people, but because of the building, the fine music, and the carriages. The carriages are especially important, for without a certain number of them at the door, it is deemed impossible to have a proper display of cultured Christianity. But the more God’s people cling to the Lord, the less likely are they to be esteemed by the vulgar judgment of unholy men. Yet the Lord has chosen such, blessed be his name! It is a great wonder to me that the Lord ever chose some of you; but it is a far greater wonder that he should ever have chosen me. I can somehow understand his love of you, when I look at the gracious points in your character, though I am fully aware that they are only wrought by grace; but I cannot understand the love which he has displayed to me, who am the least of all the saints. “Oh!” say you, “that is what we were going to say about ourselves.” Yes, I know. I am trying to put it into your mouths, so that we may all join in adoring gratitude. It is a miracle of mercy that he should have loved any of us, or stooped in his grace to have raised such beggars from the dunghill to set us among the princes at his right hand.

“Why was I made to hear thy voice,
And enter while there’s room;
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?”

     IV. The next string, however, is THE GREATNESS OF GOD’S GOODNESS; for Mary goes on to sing,— “He hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.” Oh, the Lord has done great things for his people! “He that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.” God has made you blessed. You were once under the curse, but for you there is now no condemnation, for you are in Christ Jesus. If the curse had withered you, like some lightning-blasted oak, you could not have wondered; but, instead thereof, the gracious Lord has planted you by the rivers of water, and he makes you to bring forth your fruit in your season, and your leaf also doth not wither. “The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.” To be lifted up from that horrible pit is such a great thing that we cannot measure it, but to be set up on that throne of mercy exceeds our highest thought: who can measure that? Take your line, and see if you can fathom the depth of such grace, or measure the height of such mercy. Shall we be silent when we behold such marvellous loving-kindness? God forbid it! Let us break forth in our hearts now with gladsome hallelujahs to him who has done such wonderful things for us!

     Think, brethren, you were blind: he has made you see. You were lame: he has made you leap. Worse than that, you were dead: he has made you live. You were in prison: and he has made you free. Some of us were in the dungeon, with our feet fast in the stocks. Can I not well remember when I did lie in that inner prison, moaning and groaning, without any voice to comfort me, or even a ray of light to cheer me in the darkness? And now that he has brought me out, shall I forget to utter my deep thanks? Nay, but I will sing a song of deliverance, that others may hear, and fear, and turn unto the Lord. But that is not all. He has not only taken us from the prison, he has raised us to the throne: you and I could go in and out of heaven to-night, if God called us there, and every angel would treat us with respect. If we entered into the glory-land, even though we had come from the poorest home in London, we should find that the highest angels are only ministering servants to the chosen people of God. Oh, he has done wonders for us!

     I am not so much attempting to preach, as trying to wake up your memory, that you may think of the goodness of the Lord’s grace, and say, “Oh, yes, it is so, and my soul doth magnify the Lord!” Not one of the wonders of divine grace has been wrought for us without deep necessity for its manifestation. If the very least grace, which may perhaps hitherto have escaped your attention, were taken from you, where would you be? I often meet with people of God who used to be very happy and joyful, but who have fallen into despondency, and who now talk about the mercies of God’s covenant love in such a way as to make me blush. They say, “I thought I once had that blessing, sir, and I am afraid I have not got it now, though there is nothing I long for more. Oh, what a precious thing it would be to be able to have access to God in prayer! I would give my eyes to be able to know that I am really a child of God.” Yet those of us who have these blessings do not half value them; nay, brethren, we do not value them a thousandth part as much as we ought. Our constant song should be, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation.” Instead of that, we often take the gifts thoughtlessly and unthankfully from his hand. When a man is in the sea, he may have much water over his head and not feel it; but when he comes out, if you then put a little pail of water on his head, it becomes quite a burden as he carries it. So some of you are swimming in God’s mercy; you are diving into it, and you do not recognize the weight of the glory which God hath bestowed upon you; but if you should once get out of this ocean of joy, and fall into a state of sadness of heart, you would begin to appreciate the weight of any one of the mercies which now do not seem to be of much consequence, or to make any claim upon your gratitude. Without waiting to lose the sense of God’s grace, in order that we may know the value of it, let us bless him who has done such inconceivably great things for us, and say, “My soul doth magnify the Lord.”

     V. The fifth string that I would touch is THE COMBINATION OF GRACE AND HOLINESS that there is in what God has done for us. “He that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.” I may not even hint at the peculiar delicacy of Mary’s case, but she knew that it was wholly holy and pure. Now, when the Lord has saved you and me, who did not deserve saving, he did a very wonderful act of sovereign grace in making us to differ, but the mercy is that he did it all justly. Nobody can say that it ought not to be done. At the last great day, what God has done in his grace will stand the test of justice; for he has never, in the splendour and lavishness of his love, violated the principles of eternal righteousness, even to save his own elect. “He that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.” Sin must be punished: it has been punished in the person of our glorious Substitute. No man can enter into heaven unless he is perfectly pure: they who are redeemed shall take no unclean thing within the gates. Every rule and mandate of the divine empire shall be observed. The Law-maker will not be the law-breaker even to save the sinner; but his law shall be honoured as surely as the sinner shall be saved. Sometimes I feel that I could play on that string for an hour or two. Here we have justice magnified in grace, and holiness rejoicing in the salvation of sinners. The attributes of God are like the terrible crystal shining out with its clear white light, which yet may be divided into all the colours of the prism; each different, and all beautiful. The dazzling radiance of God is too glorious for our mortal eyes, but each revelation teaches us more of his beauty and perfectness. In the ruby light of an atoning sacrifice we are enabled to see how God is just and yet the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. Glory be to his name for the power of grace mingled with holiness! My soul doth magnify the Lord for this wonderful salvation, in which every attribute shall have its glory; justice as well as mercy, wisdom as well as might. “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” Who could have invented such a plan, and who could have carried it out when it was thought of? Only he who came “with dyed garments from Bozrah.” “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.”

     VI. The sixth string is one which should be sweet every way. Mary now goes on to touch the string of GOD’S MERCY. “And his mercy is on them that fear him.” The saints of old often touched this string in the temple. They often sang it, lifting up the refrain again and again— “His mercy endureth for ever!”

“For his mercy shall endure,
Ever faithful, ever sure.”

     Mercy! Sinner, this is the silver bell for you: it is of the Lord’s mercies that you are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. Listen to the heavenly music that calls you to repent and live. God delighteth in mercy. He waiteth to be gracious. Mercy! Saint, this is the golden bell for you; for you need mercy still. Standing with your foot upon the jasper doorstep of Paradise, with the pearly gate just before you, you will still need mercy to help you over the last step; and when you enter the choir of the redeemed, mercy shall be your perpetual song. In heaven you will chant the praises of the God of grace, whose mercy endureth for ever.

     Do you mourn over your own backslidings? God will have mercy upon thee, dear child, though thou hast wandered since thou hast known him. Come back to him this very hour. He would woo thee again. He would press thee to his bosom. Hast thou not often been restored, hast thou not often had thy iniquities put away from thee in the years gone by? If so, again this moment touch thou this string— a child’s finger can make it bring forth its music— touch it now. Say, “Yes, concerning mercy, mercy to the very chief of sinners, my soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.”

     VII. Time would fail us if we tried to dwell at any length upon these wondrous themes; so we pass to the next string, number seven, GOD’S IMMUTABILITY, because in the verse we have already touched upon, there are two notes. Mary said, “His mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.” He that had mercy in the days of Mary, has mercy to-day: “from generation to generation.” He is the same God. “I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” You that once delighted in the Lord, do not suppose that he has altered. He still invites you to come and delight in him. He is “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.” What a poor foundation we should have for our hope if God could change! But he has confirmed his word by an oath “that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.” The God of my grandfather, the God of my father, is my God this day; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the God of every believer; he is the same God, and is prepared to do the same, and to be the same to us as to them. Look back into your own experience; have you not found God always the same? Come, protest against him, if you have ever found him to change. Is the mercy-seat altered? Do the promises of God fail? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Will he be favourable no more? Ay, even “if we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself;” and when all things else melt away, this one eternal rock abides; therefore, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.” It is a blessed string to touch. If we had time, we would play upon it, and evoke such harmonies as would make the angels want to join us in the chorus.

     VIII. The next string which will awaken a responsive echo in your hearts is GOD’S POWER. “He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.” This string gives us deep bass music, and requires a heavy hand to make it pour forth any melody. What wonders of power God has wrought on the behalf of his people, from the days of Egypt, when the horse and his rider he cast into the Red Sea, even till now! How strong is his arm to defend his people! In these days some of us have been driven to look to that power, for all other help has failed. You know how it was in the dark ages: it seemed as if the darkness of popery could never be removed; but how soon it was gone when God called forth his men to bear witness to his Son! What reason we have to rejoice that he “scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts”! They thought that they could readily burn up the heretics, and put an end to this gospel of theirs; but they could not do it. And to-day there is a dark conspiracy to stamp out the evangelical faith. First, on the part of some who go after their superstitions, set up the crucifix to hide the cross, and point men to sacraments instead of to the Saviour. And then, worse than these, are those who undermine our faith in Holy Scripture, tear from the Book this chapter and that, deny this great truth and the other, and try to bring the inventions of man into the place that ought to be occupied by the truth of God. But the Lord liveth: Jehovah’s arm hath not waxed short. Depend upon it, ere many years have passed, he will take up the quarrel of his covenant, and will bring the old banner to the front again. We shall yet rejoice to hear the gospel preached in plainest terms, accentuated by the Holy Ghost himself upon the hearts of his people. Let us touch this string again. The Almighty God is not dead. “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear.”

     IX. The next string is one that some friends do not like; at least, they do not say much about it: it is DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY. Listen to it. You know how God thunders it out. “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” God’s will is supreme. Whatever the wills of men may be, God will not be driven from the throne, nor will his sceptre be made to quiver in his hands; after all the rebellious acts of men and devils, he will be still eternal and supreme, with his kingdom ruling over all. And thus the virgin sings, “He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.” Who can speak the wonders of his sovereign grace? Was it not strange that he should ever have chosen you?

“What was there in you that could merit esteem,
Or give the Creator delight?
‘’Twas even so, Father,’ you ever must sing,
‘Because it seem’d good in thy sight.

     Is it not strange that the Lord should not take the kings and mighty ones, but should so order it, that the poor have the gospel preached to them? God is King of kings, and Lord of lords; and he acts like a king. “He giveth not account of any of his matters.” But he lets us see right clearly that he has no respect to the greatness and fancied goodness of man; that he does as he pleases; and that he pleases to give his mercy to them that fear him, and bow before him. He dispenses his favours to those who tremble at his presence, who come humbly to his feet, and take his mercy as a free gift; who look to his dear Son because they have nothing else to look to, and, as poor, guilty worms, find in Christ their life, their wisdom, their righteousness, their all. Oh, the splendour of this great King!

     X. The tenth string is GOD’S FAITHFULNESS. “He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; as he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.” God remembers what he has said. Take those three words, “As he spake.” Whatever he said, though it be thousands of years ago, it stands fast for ever and ever. God cannot lie. Beloved, are any of you in trouble? Search the Scriptures till you find a promise that suits your case; and when you get it, do not say, “I hope that this is true.” That is an insult to your God. Believe it, believe it up to the hilt. Do as I have seen boys do in the swimming-bath; take a header, and go right into the stream of God’s mercy; dive as deeply as you can; there is no drowning there. These are “waters to swim in”; and the more you can lose yourself in this blessed crystal flood of promised mercy, the better it shall be. You shall rise up out of it as the sheep come from the washing; you shall feel refreshed beyond measure in having cast yourself upon God. When God’s promises fail, let us know of it; for some of us have lived so long on those promises, that we do not care to live on anything else; and if they can he proved to be false, we had better give up living altogether. But we delight to know that they are all absolutely true: what God said to our fathers stands good to their children, and will stand good even to the end of time, and to all eternity.

     If any of you have not been able to touch even one of these strings, I would bid you get to your knees, and cry to God, and say, “Why is it that I cannot magnify thee, O Lord?” I should not be surprised if you discovered the reason to be that you are so big yourself. He never magnifies God who magnifies himself. Belittle yourself, and begreaten your God. Down with self to the lowest depths, and up, higher and still higher, with your thoughts of God.

     Poor sinner, you that have not yet laid hold on God, there is sweet music even for you in the virgin’s song. Perhaps you are saying, “I am nothing but a lump of sin and a heap of misery.” Very well; leave the lump of sin and the heap of misery, and let Christ be your all-in-all. Give yourself up to Christ. He is a Saviour; let him do his own business. If a man sets up to be a lawyer, and I have a case in court, I should not think of giving him the case, and then afterwards go into court, and begin to meddle with it for myself. If I did, he would say, “I must drop the case if you do not let it alone.” Sometimes the idea may come into your mind that you will do something towards saving yourself, and have some share in the glory of your salvation. If you do not get rid of that idea, you will be lost. Surrender yourself to Christ, and let him save you; and then afterwards he will work in you to will and to do of his own good pleasure, while you shall make melody in your heart unto the Lord, and from this harp of ten strings shall proceed such delightful melody that many shall listen with such rapture that they shall go to your Master, and take lessons in this heavenly music for themselves.

     The Lord bless you, beloved, and send you away happy in him!



The Lad’s Loaves in the Lord’s Hands

By / Aug 9

The Lad’s Loaves in the Lord’s Hands

 

“Jesus took the loaves.”— John vi. 11.

 

LOOK, there are the people! Five thousand of them, as hungry as hunters, and they all need to have food given to them, for they cannot any of them travel to buy it! And here is the provision! Five thin wafers— and those of barley, more fit for horses than for men— and two little anchovies, by way of a relish! Five thousand people and five little biscuits wherewith to feed them! The disproportion is enormous: if each one should have only the tiniest crumb, there would not be sufficient. In like manner, there are millions of people in London, and only a handful of whole-hearted Christians earnestly desiring to see the city converted to Christ; there are more than a thousand millions of men in this round world, and oh, so few missionaries breaking to them the bread of life; almost as few for the millions, as were these five barley cakes for those five thousand! The problem is a very difficult one. The contrast between the supply and the demand would have struck us much more vividly if we had been there, in that crowd at Bethsaida, than it does sitting here, nearly nineteen hundred years afterwards, and merely hearing about it. But the Lord Jesus was equal to the emergency: none of the people went away without sharing in his bounty; they were all filled. Our blessed Master, now that he has ascended into the heavens, has more rather than less power; he is not baffled because of our lack, but can even now use paltry means to accomplish his own glorious purposes; therefore let no man’s heart fail him. Do not despair of the evangelization of London, nor think it hopeless that the gospel should be preached in all nations for a testimony unto them. Have faith in God, who is in Christ Jesus; have faith in the compassion of the Great Mediator: he will not desert the people in their spiritual need, any more than he failed that hungry throng, in their temporal need, long ago.

     We will now look at these biscuits and sardines, which seem to be truly an insufficient stock-in-trade to begin with, a very small capital indeed on which to conduct the business of feeding five thousand persons. I shall say of these loaves and fishes, first, that they had a previous history before being mentioned in our text; secondly, when we get to our text, we shall find these little things in a very grand

position— “Jesus took the loaves”; and therefore, thirdly, they will have an after-history which is well worthy of being noted. When things get into Christ’s hands, they are in the very focus of miracles.

     I. We will begin by saying that THESE LOAVES AND FISHES HAD A PREVIOUS HISTORY. Andrew said to Jesus, “There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes.”

     Notice, first, then, the providence of God in bringing the lad there. We do not know his name; we are not told anything concerning his parentage. Was he a little, pedlar, who thought that he could make some money by selling a few loaves and fishes, and had he nearly sold out? Or was he a boy that the apostles had employed to carry this slender provision for the use of Jesus and his friends? We do not know much about him; but he was the right boy in the right place that day. Be his name what it might, it did not matter; he had the barley loaves and fishes upon which the people were to be fed. Christ never is in need but he has somebody at hand to supply that need. Have faith in the providence of God. What made the boy bring the loaves and fishes, I do not know. Boys often do unaccountable things; but bring the loaves and fishes he did; and God, who understands the ideas and motives of lads, and takes account even of barley loaves and fishes, had appointed that boy to be there. Again I say, believe in the providence of God. Mr. Stanley tells us that, when lie came out of that long journey of his through the forest, I think after a hundred and sixty days of walking in darkness, and found himself at last where he could see the sun, he felt that there was a special providence of God that had taken care of him. I am very glad that Mr. Stanley felt that it was the hand of God that had brought him out of the noisome shade; but I do not need to go to Africa to learn that we are beset behind and before by his goodness. Many of us have felt a special providence of God in our own bed-chambers; we have met with his hand in connection with our own children. Yea, every day we are surrounded by tokens of his care. “Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord.” “I am sure God took care of me,” said one; “for as I was going along a certain street, I slipped on a piece of orange-peel, and had what might have been a serious fall; yet I was not hurt in the least.” To which his friend replied, “I am sure God has taken care of me; for I have walked along that street hundreds of times, and have never slipped on a piece of orange-peel, or on anything else.” Full often God draws near to us in common life.

“He comes to us all unaware,
And makes us own his loving care.”

Let us also believe in his providence with regard to the church of Christ: he will never desert his people; he will find men when he wants them. Thus it has ever been in the history of the saints, and thus it shall ever be. Before the Reformation there were many learned men who knew something of Christ’s gospel; but they said that it was a pity to make a noise, and so they communed with one another and with Christ very quietly. What was wanted was some rough bull-headed fellow who would blurt the gospel out, and upset the old state of things. Where could he be found? There was a monk named Luther, who, while he was reading his Bible, suddenly stumbled on the doctrine of justification by faith; he was the man: yet when he went to a dear brother in the Lord, and told him how he felt, his friend said to him, “Go back to thy cell, and pray and commune with God, and hold thy tongue.” But then, you see, he had a tongue that he could not hold, and that nobody else could hold, and he began to speak with it the truth that had made a new man of him. The God that made Luther, knew what he was at when he made him; he put within him a great burning fire that could not be restrained, and it burst forth, and set the nations on a blaze. Never despair about providence. There sits to-night, somewhere in a chimney comer in the country, a man that will turn the current of unbelief, and win back the churches to the old gospel. God never yet did come to a point of distress as to his truth but what suddenly one came forward, a David with a sling and a stone, or a Samson with a jawbone, or a Shamgar with an ox-goad, who put to rout the adversaries of the Lord. “There is a lad here.” The providence of God had sent him.

     Next, this lad with his loaves was brought into notice. When they were searching for all the provisions in the company, this obscure boy, that never would have been heard of else, was brought to the front, because he had his little basket of biscuits. Andrew found him out, and he came and said to Jesus, “There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes.” So, rest assured, that if you have the Bread of Life about you, and you are willing to serve God, you need not be afraid that obscurity will ever prevent your doing it. “Nobody knows me,” says one. Well, it is not a very desirable thing that anybody should know you: those of us who are known to everybody would be very glad if we were not; there is no very great comfort in it. He that can work away for his Master, with nobody to see him but his Master, is the happiest of men. “I have only one hundred people to preach to,” said a country pastor to me; and I replied, “If you give a good account of those hundred, you have quite enough to do.” If all you have is very little— just that pennyworth of loaves and fishes— use that properly, and you will do your Master service; and in due time, when God wants you, he knows where to find you. You need not put an advertisement in the paper; he knows the street you live in, and the number on the door. You need not go and push yourself to the front; the Lord will bring you to the front when he wants you; and I hope that you do not want to get there if he does not want you. Depend upon it, should you push forward when you are not required, he will put you back again. Oh, for grace to work on unobserved, to have your one talent, your five loaves and two fishes, and only to be noticed when the hour suggests the need, and the need makes a loud call for you. We have thus seen, first of all, the loaves and fishes, in the desert, quite unnoticed, but put there by providence; and we now behold them by that same providence, thrust into prominence.

     When brought into notice, the loaves and fishes did not fare very well; they were judged insufficient for the purpose; for Andrew said, “What are they among so many?” The boy’s candle seemed to be quite snuffed out: so small a stock— what could be the use of that? Now, I dare say, that some of you have had Satan saying to you, “What is the use of your trying to do anything?” To you, dear mother, with a family of children, he has whispered, “You cannot serve God.” He knows very well that, by sustaining grace, you can; and he is afraid of how well you can serve God if you bring up those dear children in his fear. He says to the colporteur over yonder, “You have not much ability; what can you do?” Ah, dear friend! he is afraid of what you can do, and if you will only do what you can do, God will, by-and-by, help you to do what now you cannot do. But the devil is afraid of even the little that you can do now; and many a child of God seems to side with Satan in despising the day of small things. “What are they among so many?” So few, so poor, so devoid of talent, what can any of us hope to do? Disdained, even by the disciples, it is small wonder if we are held in contempt by the world. The things that God will honour, man must first despise. You run the gauntlet of the derision of men, and afterwards you come out to be used of God.

     Though seemingly inadequate to feed the multitude, these loaves and fishes would have been quite enough for the boy’s supper, yet he appears to have been quite willing to part with them. The disciples would not have taken them from him by force; the Master would not have allowed it: the lad willingly gave them up to be the commencement of the great feast. Somebody might have said, “John, you know that you will soon be able to eat those five cakes and those two little fishes; keep them; get away into a corner: every man for himself.” Is it not a good rule, “Take care of number one”? Yes, but the boy whom God uses will not be selfish. Am I speaking to some young Christian to whom Satan says, “Make money first, and serve God by-and-by; stick to business, and get on; then, after that, you can act like a Christian, and give some money away,” and so on? Let such a one remember the barley loaves and the fishes. If that lad had really wisely studied his own interests, instead of merely yielding with a generous impulse to the demand of Christ, he would have done exactly what he did; for if he had kept the loaves, he would have eaten them, and there would have been an end of them; but now that he brings them to Christ, all those thousands of people are fed, and he gets as much himself as ho would have had if he had eaten his own stock. And then, in addition, he gets a share out of the twelve baskets full of fragments that remain. Anything that you take away from self and give to Christ is well invested; it will often bring in ten thousand per cent. The Lord knows how to give such a reward to an unselfish man, that he will feel that he that saves his life loses it, but he that is willing even to lose his life, and the bread that sustains it, is the man who, after all, gets truly saved.

     This, then, is the history of these loaves. They were sent there through God’s providence by a lad who was sought out and brought into notice. His stock-in-trade was despised, but he was willing to give it, whether it was despised or not. He would yield it to his Lord. Now, do you see what I am driving at? I want to get a hold of some of the lads, and some young men and young women— I will not trouble about your age, you shall be lads if you are under seventy— I want to get hold of you who think that you have very little ability, and say to you, “Come, and bring it to Jesus.” We want you. Times are hard. The people are famishing. Though nobody seems to need you, yet make bold to come out; and who knows but that, like Queen Esther, you may have come to the kingdom for such a time as this? God may have brought you where you are to make use of you for the converting of thousands; but you must be converted yourself first. Christ will not use you unless you are first his own. You must yield yourself up to him, and be saved by his precious blood, and then, after that, come and yield up to him all the little talent that you may have, and pray him to make as much use of you as he did of the lad with the five barley cakes.

     II. But now I want to show you that THESE BARLEY CAKES GOT INTO A GRAND POSITION. The text says, “Jesus took the loaves.” He took them into his own hands. From the trembling hands of the boy, or from his little basket, they were transferred to the blessed hands which one day would bear the nail-prints. This may teach us several lessons.

     First, they were now associated with Jesus Christ. Henceforth those loaves do not so much suggest the thought of the lad’s sacrifice as of the Saviour’s power. Is it not a wonderful thing that Christ, the living God, should associate himself with our feebleness, with our want of talent, with our ignorance, with our little faith? And yet he does so. If we are not associated with him, we can do nothing; but when we come into living touch with him, we can do all things. Those barley loaves in Christ’s hands become pregnant with food for all the throng. Out of his hands they are nothing but barley cakes; but in his hands, associated with him, they are in contact with omnipotence. Have you that love the Lord Jesus Christ thought of this, of bringing all that you possess to him, that it may be associated with him? There is that brain of yours; it can be associated with the teachings of his Spirit: there is that heart of yours; it can be warmed with the love of God: there is that tongue of yours; it can be touched with the live coal from off the altar: there is that manhood of yours; it can be perfectly consecrated by association with Christ. Hear the tender command of the Lord, “Bring them hither tome,” and your whole life will be transformed. I do not say that every man of common ability can rise to high ability by being associated with Christ through faith; but I do say this,— that his ordinary ability, in association with Christ, will become sufficient for the occasion to which God in providence has called him. I know that you have been praying, and saying, “I have not this, and I cannot do that.” Stay not to number your deficiencies; bring what you have, and let all that you are, body, soul, and spirit, be associated with Christ. Although he will not bestow upon you new faculties, the faculties you have will have new power, for they will come into a new condition towards him; and what may not be hoped for by association with such wisdom and might?

     But, further, they were transferred to Christ. A moment ago, they belonged to this lad, but now they belong to Christ. “Jesus took the loaves.” He has taken possession of them; they are his property. Oh, Christian people, do you mean what you say when you declare that you have given yourselves to Christ? If you have made a full transfer, therein will lie great power for usefulness. But do not people often say, “If I might make some reserve”? “What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” What about that odd thousand that you put in the funds the other day? What about the money saved up for a new bonnet? You sometimes sing—

“Yet if I might make some reserve,
And duty did not call,
I love my God with zeal so great,
That I should give him all.”

Ah, well! when you have really yielded all, you may sing that again; but I am afraid that there are but few who can sing it truly. Oh, that we had more real putting of the loaves into Christ’s hands! The time that you have not used for self, but given to Christ; the knowledge that you have not stored, as in a reservoir, but given to Christ; the ability that you have not wielded for the world, but yielded to Christ; your influence and position, your money and home, all put into Christ’s hands, and reckoned to be not your own, but to be his henceforth; this is the way in which London’s need will be met, and the world’s hunger will be satisfied. But we are staggered at the very outset by the lack of this complete dedication of everything to Christ.

     What is better still, as these loaves were given to Jesus, so they were accepted by Jesus. They were not only dedicated, they were also consecrated. Jesus took the five barley loaves, Jesus took the two little fishes, and in doing so he seemed to say, “These will do for me.” As the Revised Version has it, “Jesus therefore took the loaves.” Was there any reason why he should? Yes, because they were brought to him; they were willingly presented to him; there was a need of them, and he could work with them, “therefore” he took the loaves. Children of God, if Christ has ever made use of you, you have often stood and wondered however the Lord could accept you; but there was a “therefore” in it. He saw that you were willing to win souls: he saw the souls needed winning, and he used you, even you. Am I not now speaking to some who might be of great service if they yielded themselves unto Christ, and Christ accepted them, and they became accepted in the Beloved? Only five barley cakes, but Jesus accepted them; only two small fishes, brought by a little lad, but the great Christ accepted them, and they became his own. Let us join one now in heaven, who on earth brought her all, and pray—

“Oh, use me, Lord, use even me,
Just as thou wilt, and when, and where:
Until thy blessed face I see,
Thy rest, thy joy, thy glory share!”

     But, what is better still, these loaves and fishes were blessed by Christ as he lifted up his eyes, and gave thanks to the Father for them. Think of it. For five little cakes and two sprats Christ gave thanks to the Father; apparently a meagre cause for praise, but Jesus knew what he could make of them, and therefore gave thanks for what they would presently accomplish. “God loves us,” says Augustine, “for what we are becoming.” Christ gave thanks for these trifles because he saw whereunto they would grow. Do you not think that, having thanked the Father, he also thanked the boy? And in after years these words of gratitude would be ample recompense for such a tiny deed. Like the woman who cast in the two mites to the treasury, he gave his all, and doubtless was commended for the gift. Though high in glory to-day, Christ is still grateful when such offerings are made to him; still he thanks his Father when, with timid, trembling hands, we offer to him our best, our all, however small; still is his heart gladdened when we bring him our scanty store that it may be touched by his dear hand, and blessed by his gracious lips. He loves us, not for what we are, but for what he will yet make us; he blesses our offerings, not for their worth, but because his power will yet make them worthy of his praise. May the Lord thus bless every talent that you have! May he bless your memory; may he bless your understanding; may he bless your voices; may he bless your hearts; may he bless your heads; may he bless you all and evermore! When he puts a blessing into the little gift and into the little grace that we have, good work begins, and goes on to perfection.

     And when the loaves had been blessed, the next thing was, they were increased by Christ. Peter takes one, begins to break it, and as he breaks it, he has always as much in his hand as he started with. “Here, take a bit of fish, friend,” says he. He gives a whole fish to that man, he has a whole fish left. So he gives it to another, and another, and another, and goes on scattering the bread and scattering the fish everywhere, as quickly as he can; and when he has done, he has his hands just as full of fish and as full of bread as ever. If you serve God you will never run dry. He who gives you something to say one Sunday will give you something to say another Sunday. These seven-and-thirty years and more, have I ministered to this same church and congregation, and every time that I have preached I have said all that I knew. Some very learned brethren are like the great tun of Heidelberg; they can hold so much wine that there is enough to swim in, but they put in a tap somewhere up at the top, and you never get much out. Mine is a very small barrel indeed, but the tap is down as low as it can be; and you can get more liquor out of a small tub, if you empty it, than you can out of a big vat if you are only permitted to draw a little from the top. This boy gave all his loaves, and all his fish— not much, truly— but Christ multiplied it. Be like him, give your all; do not think of reserving some for another occasion. If you are a preacher, do not think of what you will preach about the next time; think of what you are going to preach about now. It is always quite enough to get one sermon at a time: you need not have a store; because if you get a lot piled away somewhere, there will be a stale odour about them. Even the manna that came down from heaven bred worms and stank; so will your best sermons, even if the message is God-given; and if it does not come down from heaven, but from your own brain, it will go bad still more quickly. Tell the people about Christ. Lead them to Jesus, and do not trouble about what you will say next time, but wait till next time comes, and it shall be given you in the same hour what you shall speak.

     But, mark once more: when Jesus took the loaves, it was not only to multiply, but also to dispose of them. They were distributed by Christ. He did not believe in multiplication, unless it was attended by division. Christ’s additions mean subtraction; and Christ’s subtractions mean additions. He gives that we may give away. He multiplied as soon as ever the disciples began to distribute; and when the distribution ended, the multiplication ended. Oh, for grace to go on distributing! If you have received the truth from Christ, tell it out! God will whisper it in your ear, and tell it in; but if you stop the telling out, if you cease the endeavour to bless others, it may be that God will no more bless you, nor grant you again the communion of his face.

     Putting all this together, if we all would bring our loaves and fishes to the Lord Jesus Christ, he would take them, and make them wholly his own. Then, when he should have blessed them, he would multiply them, and he would bid us distribute them, and we could yet meet the needs of London, and the needs of the whole world even to the last man. A Christ who could feed five thousand can feed five millions. There is no limit. When once you get a miracle, you may as well have a great one. Whenever I find the critics paring down miracles, it always seems to me to be very poor work; for if it is a miracle, it is a miracle; and if you are in for a penny, you may as well be in for a pound. If you can believe that Christ can feed fifty, then you can believe that he can feed five hundred, five thousand, five millions, five hundred millions, if so it pleases him.

     Thus have I tried to stir up God’s people to believe in the Lord, and consecrate themselves to him. But some of you are saying, “He is not preaching to me.” No, I am not preaching to you; but I am preaching for you; for if God’s people begin to be roused, they will soon look after you. You will have somebody asking you about your soul before you get out of the Tabernacle; and during the week, if you meet some of them, they will be troubling you, rousing up your conscience, and making you feel what an awful thing it is to be an enemy to God, and to live without Christ. I hope that it will be so. Oh, you that do not love my Lord, what are you at? Paul said that you would be Anathema Maranatha— cursed at his coming! I pray you, do not rest easy while that may be your portion. You are the people that we want to feed, you are the people whom we want to bless. Oh, that God in his mercy would but bless you! We do not ask to have the honour of it. We would be willing to have it quite unknown who it was that brought you to the Saviour, so long as you did but come to him. May the Lord in mercy bring you!

     III. But now, thirdly, and to conclude, THESE LOAVES AND FISHES HAD AN AFTER-HISTORY. They got into Christ’s hands. What was the result?

     First, a great deal of misery was removed by the lad’s basketful of barley cakes. Those poor people were famished; they had been with Christ all day, and had had nothing to eat; and had they been dispersed as they were, tired and hungry, many of them would have fainted by the way; perhaps some would even have died. Oh, what would we give if we might but alleviate the misery of this world! I remember the Earl of Shaftesbury saying, “I should like to live longer. I cannot bear to go out of the world while there is so much misery in it.” And you know how that dear saint of God laid himself out to look after the poor, and the helpless, and the needy, all his days. Perhaps I speak to some who never woke up yet to the idea that, if they were to bring their little all to Christ, he could make use of it in alleviating the misery of many a wounded conscience, and that awful misery which will come upon men if they die unforgiven, and stand before the judgment bar of God without a Saviour. Yes, young man, God can make you the spiritual father of many. As I look back upon my own history, little did I dream when first I opened my mouth for Christ, in a very humble way, that I should have the honour of bringing thousands to Jesus. Blessed, blessed be his name! He has the glory of it. But I cannot help thinking that there must be some other lad here, such a one as I was, whom he may call by his grace to do service for him. When I had a letter sent to me by the deacons of the church at New Park Street, to come up to London to preach, I sent it back by the next post, telling them that they had made a mistake, that I was a lad of nineteen years of age, happy among a very poor and lowly people in Cambridgeshire, who loved me, and that I did not imagine that they could mean that I was to preach in London. But they returned it to me, and said that they knew all about it, and I must come. Ah, what a story it has been since then, of the goodness and lovingkindness of the Lord! Now, perhaps, these words come to some brother who has never yet laid hold of the idea that God can use him. You must not think that God picks out all the very choice and particularly fine persons. It is not so in the Bible; some of those that he took were very rough people: even the first apostles were mostly fishermen. Paul was an educated man, but he was like a lot out of the catalogue, one born out of due time; the rest of them were not so, but God used them; and it still pleases God, by the base things and things that are not, to bring to nought the things that are. I do not want you to think highly of yourself; your cakes are only five, and they are barley, and poor barley at that; and your fish are very small, and there are only two of them. I do not want you to think much of them, but think much of Christ, and believe that, whoever you may be, if he thought it worth his while to buy you with his blood, and is willing to make some use of you, it is surely worth your while to come and bring yourself, and all that you have, to him who is thus graciously ready to accept you. Put everything into his hands, and let it be said of you to-night, “And Jesus took the loaves.” It is a part of the history of the loaves that they assuaged a great mass of misery.

     And next, Jesus was glorified; for the people said, “He is a prophet.” The miracle of the loaves carried them back to the wilderness, and to the miracle of the manna; they remembered that Moses had said, “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me.” For this Deliverer they longed, and as the bread increased so grew their wonder, until in the swelling cakes they saw the finger of God, and said, “This is of a truth that Prophet that should come into the world.” That little lad became, by his loaves and fishes, the revealer of Christ to all the multitude; and who can tell, if you give your loaves to Christ, whether thousands may not recognize him as the Saviour because of it? Christ is still known in the breaking of bread. But the people went further with reference to Christ, after they had been fed by the loaves and fishes: they concluded that he was a prophet, and they began whispering among themselves, “Let us make him a king.” Now, in a better sense than the text implies, I would to God that you and I, though humbly and feebly, might serve Christ till people said, “Christ is a Prophet. Let us make him a King.” This sermon I offer my Master, if he will be pleased to accept it, though it is but a barley cake, and I pray that by it some may take Jesus Christ to be their King. Oh, that he had a throne in the hearts of many whom he shall feed at this time with the bread of heaven! Brethren, I know that you wish to glorify Christ. Here is the way. Bring your loaves and fishes to Christ, that he may use them in his divine commissariat, and then he shall be magnified in the eyes of all the people.

     When the feast was finished, there were fragments to be gathered. This is a part of the history of the loaves— they were not lost; they were eaten, but they were there; people were filled with them, but yet there was more of them left than when the feast began. Each disciple had a basketful to carry back to his Master’s feet. Give yourself to Christ, and when you have used yourself for his glory, you will be more able to serve him than you are now; you shall find your little stock grow as you spend it. Remember Bunyan’s picture of the man who had a roll of cloth. He unrolled it, and he cut off so much for the poor. Then he unrolled it, and cut off some more, and the more he cut it, the longer it grew. Upon which Bunyan remarks—

“There was a man, and some did count him mad;
The more he gave away, the more he had.”

It is certainly so with talent and ability, and with grace in the heart. The more you use it, the more there is of it. It is often so with gold and silver: the store of the liberal man increases, while the miser grows poor. We have an old proverb, which is as true as it is suggestive: “Drawn wells have the sweetest waters.” So, if you keep continually drawing on your mind, your thoughts will get sweeter; and if you continue to draw on your strength, your strength will get to be more mighty through God. The more you do, the more you may do, by the grace of the Ever-blessed One!

     Last of all, it came to pass, that these loaves had a record made about them. There is many a loaf that has gone to a king’s table and yet never been chronicled; but this boy’s five cakes and two little fishes have got into the Bible; and if you look, you will find the barley cakes in Matthew, you will find the barley cakes in Mark, you will find the barley cakes in Luke, you will find the barley cakes, where we have found our text, in John. To make quite sure that we should never forget how much God can do with little things, this story is told four times over, and it is the only one of Christ’s miracles which has such an abundant record.

     And now, as a practical issue, let us put it to the test. You young people who have lately joined the church, do not be long before you try to do something for Christ. You that have for a long time been trusting Christ, and have never yet begun to work, arouse yourselves to attempt some service for his sake. Aged friends and sick friends can still find something to do. Perhaps, at the last, it will be found that the persons whom we might have excused on account of illness, or weakness, or poverty, are the people who have done the most. That, at least, is my observation. I find that, if there is a really good work done, it is usually done by an invalid, or by somebody who might very properly have said, “I pray thee, have me excused.” How is it that so many able-bodied and gifted Christians seem to be so slow in the Master’s service? If there is a political meeting, something about Liberals and Conservatives, how earnest you are! You are all there, every bit of you, over your politics, which are not worth a penny a year; but when it comes to souls being saved, many of you are mute as fishes. You go all the year round without caring even for the spiritual welfare of a little child. One of our friends gave a good answer to a brother who said to him, “I have been a member of a church now for forty years. I am a father in Israel.” He asked him, “How many children have you? How many have you brought to Christ?” “Well,” the man said, “I do not know that I ever brought anybody to Christ.” Upon which our friend retorted, “Call yourself a father in Israel, and yet you have no children! I think you had better wait until you have earned the title.” So do I. It would be better that we had no professors of that sort, but that all our members, even were they much fewer, should be men and women constantly bringing forth fruit unto God in the conversion of others. The Lord set you all to work with this object!

     I have almost done; but again I cannot help reminding those who are not Christ’s, that while I have not directly preached to them, I have tried, by a side wind, to be preaching to them all the time. Either you are the Lord’s, or you are not. If you are Christ’s servant, take a sheet of paper, and write down, “Lord, I bring my loaves and fishes to thee;” and if you are not Christ’s, confess the awful truth to yourself, and face it. I wish that you would make a record of it in black and white, putting down both name and date, “I am not Christ’s.” Take a good look at it, try and grasp what it means, to withhold yourself from him who loves you, and waits to save; then ask yourself why you are not his. I remember a woman, not long ago, who said that at her work it came across her mind, “I am not saved.” She was sweeping the room, and when she finished that, she said to herself, “I have to cook the dinner, but I am not saved.” She went into the kitchen, and had her fire all ready, and her food j but all the while she was putting things in the pot she kept saying to herself, “I am not saved;” and so it was when she was busy all the afternoon; and when her husband came home, she could not help blurting it out to him, “Oh, husband, I am not saved!” But he was; and he pointed her to Christ; they knelt together, and oh, how he prayed with her! She found that which she so earnestly sought, and it was not very many days before she could say, “Oh, husband, I am saved!” May that be the case with you! The Lord bless every one of you, wherever you may be! We shall all meet in the day of judgment. May you and I meet without fear there, to sing to the sovereign grace of God, which saved us from the wrath to come, and helped us while we were here to bring our little, and put it into Christ’s hands! The Lord be with you! Amen.



Young Man! A Prayer for You

By / Aug 2

Young Man! A Prayer for You

 

“And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.”— 2 Kings vi. 17.

 

THIS young man waited upon a prophet: he could not have had a more instructive occupation; yet his eyes needed to be opened. He was well disposed towards good things, for the tone of his language to his master shows that he was heartily at one with him; but his eyes were not yet half opened. Being in great alarm for his master’s safety, he ran to him to warn him: good servants should be their master’s best friends. In return, his believing master prays for him. If we desire the good of our servants, our children, and our friends, let us take care that we make supplication for them. All that we can do for them at our best is to give them secondary blessings; but if we pray to God for them, they will receive the best of gifts from him who sends down in his mercy nothing but good gifts and perfect gifts. When we have come to the end of our teaching, and example, and persuasion, let us hand our young friends over to the Lord, who works effectually unto eternal salvation.

     Elisha’s petition for this young man was, “O Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see!” The young man was at that time in the peculiar condition of seeing, and yet not seeing. He saw the enemy surrounding the city, but not the greater host of the Lord’s angels who protected the man of God. Looking over the little walls of Dothan, he observed all the country round about to be occupied by the horses and chariots of the king of Syria; and he cried, “Alas, my master! how shall we do?” He could see the danger, but he could not see tile deliverance; and therefore the prophet lifted up his heart to heaven, and said, “O Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see!” Elisha reckons his servant’s natural sight as not seeing, and regards the vision which detects the invisible as the only true sight. Perhaps I am addressing some, at this time, who are very friendly to the cause of God, and are even connected with it by relationship or occupation; they cheerfully lend a hand at any time in holy service so far as they can, and they wish prosperity to the cause of true religion. Yet their eyes have not been opened to see spiritual things; or, at least, not sufficiently opened to see the gracious and divine side of them. They see enough to perceive that they are in danger from a great enemy. They perceive that it is no easy thing to fight the battle of life: in the prospect of it they cry, “How shall we do?” They perceive that it is a difficult thing for a man to stand up for holiness, for truth, for integrity, for purity, and to maintain a gracious character throughout the whole of life. They seem to themselves to be environed with opposing forces in their business, in their temperament, in their companionships, and perhaps in their families. As for the cause of godliness, it seems hemmed in by adversaries; and they ask— What is to be done? Is not the matter desperate? Might it not be as well to surrender at once? For any such timid one I would present to God the prayer of Elisha: “O Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see!” Oh, that the prayer might be answered at this hour!

     Very briefly, I shall speak, first, upon our prayer; secondly, upon our reason for offering such a petition; and thirdly, upon our hope; for we trust that, if our prayer is answered, the person whose eyes are opened will behold a vision which will bless him beyond anything he has ever dreamed of.

     I. First, then, OUR PRAYER: “Lord, I pray thee, open the eyes of the young man, that he may see!” This petition bears many senses. I will mention a few only.

     For certain of our friends we pray that their eyes may be opened to see the enemy of their souls under the many disguises which he assumes. We fear that many are ignorant of his devices. Young men, especially, are too apt to mistake the great enemy for a friend. They believe his false and flattering words, and are seduced to ruin. He holds forth to them the sparkling cup; but in its beaded bubbles death is lurking. He talks of “pleasure”; but in the lusts of the flesh the pleasure is a shadow, and misery is the substance. He wears the mask of prudence, and admonishes young men to “mind the main chance”, and leave religion till they have made their fortunes; but that gain which comes of thrusting God aside will prove to be an everlasting loss. The devil as a serpent does more mischief than as a roaring lion. If we had to meet the devil, and knew him to be what he is, we might far more easily conquer him; but we have to deal with him disguised as an angel of fight, and here is the need of a hundred eyes, each one of them opened by God, that we may see. Even worse than this is the fact that, at times, he does not meet us at all, but he undermines our path; he digs pits for our feet; he shoots his arrows from afar, or sends forth a pestilence which walks in darkness. Then have we need of a better sight than nature gives. I would pray for the young man who is just leaving home to go into the world, “O Lord, open the eyes of the young man, that he may see!” May he be able to detect the falsehood which may hide itself beneath the truth, the meanness which may wrap itself about with pride, the folly which may robe itself in learning, the sin which may dress itself in the raiment of pleasure! I would not have you taken, like birds, in a snare. I would not have the youth led, like a bullock to the shambles, by the hand of temptation. Let us breathe such a prayer as that of Elisha for each person in this place who is beginning life. God grant that his eyes may be opened to see Bin as sin, and to see that evil never can be good, and a lie never can be true, and rebellion against our God can never be the way to happiness!

     We want men’s eyes to be opened to see God as everywhere, observing all things. What an opening of the eyes this would be to many! It is a sad but true saying, that God may be seen everywhere, but that the most of men see him nowhere. He is blind indeed who cannot see HIM to whom the sun owes its light. Until our eyes are opened, we rise in the morning, and we fall asleep at night, and we have not seen God all day, although he has been every moment around us and within us. We live from the first day of January to the last day of December, and while the Lord never ceases to see us, we do not even begin to see him till, by a miracle of grace, he opens our eyes. We dwell in a wonderful world which the great Creator has made, and filled with his own handiwork, and cheered with his own presence, and yet we do not see him: indeed, there are some so blind as to assert that there is no Creator, and that they cannot perceive any evidence that a supremely wise and mighty Creator exists. Oh, that the Lord Jesus would open the eyes of the wilfully blind! Oh, that you, also, who are blinded by forgetfulness rather than by error, may be made to cry with Hagar, “Thou God seest me”; and with Job, “Now mine eye seeth thee”! If God will graciously convince men of his own divine presence, what a benediction it will be to them, especially to the young in commencing life! A clear perception that the Lord observes all that we do will be a very useful protection in the hour of temptation. When we remember the divine eye, we shall cry, like Joseph, “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” To see yourself is well; but to see God is better. Let us pray, “O Lord, open the young man’s eyes, that he may see THEE!”

     When a man begins to see his great enemy, and his best Friend, we may next pray, Lord, open his eyes to see the way of salvation through the appointed Saviour. There is no seeing the Lord Jesus but by his own light. We look to him with a look which comes from him. I have tried to explain salvation to people many a time, in simple words and figures; but there is a great deal more wanted than an explanation. It is right to be very plain; but more is needed than a clear statement. No matter how bright the candle, a blind man sees none the better. I continually pray, “Lord, open my mouth”; but I perceive that I must also pray, “Lord, open men’s eyes!” Until God opens a man’s eyes, he will not see what faith means, nor what atonement means, nor what regeneration means. That which is plain as a pikestaff to a seeing man is invisible to the blind. “Believe, and live”; what can be plainer? Yet no man understands it till God gives grace to perceive his meaning. It is our duty, as preachers, to put the gospel as plainly as possible; but we cannot give a man spiritual understanding. We declare, in baldest and boldest terms, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”; but men ask, like simpletons, “What do you mean?” We cry, “Look unto Jesus, and live”; but when our explainings are over, we learn that they have mistaken our meaning, and are still looking to themselves, and turning their backs on the Lord Jesus. To believe, or trust, is no mystery, but the simplest of all simplicities; and for that very reason men cannot be persuaded to think that we mean what we say, or that God means what he says. We need to pray— Lord, open their eyes, that they may see; for seeing, they do not see; and hearing, they do not perceive!

     Blessed be the Lord, how sweetly they do see it the moment their eyes are opened by his own omnipotent touch! Then they wonder that they did not see it before, and call themselves ten thousand fools for not perceiving what is so plain. Faith in the Lord Jesus is the veriest A B C of divine revelation: it belongs to the rudiments and elements of heavenly knowledge, and we are dolts indeed not to take it as we find it in the Word, and leave off mystifying ourselves over so plain a matter. Once let the miracle-working power of God open our eyes, and we see well enough; but till then we grope in the noon-day for that which is right before us. I hope, beloved fellow-Christians, that you are praying while I am speaking; praying, I mean, for those around you, and for all the blind souls that wander among the graves of earth: “Lord, open their eyes, that they may see!” He that made the eye can open it. Sin cannot so darken the mind but that God can pour light into it. If we cannot make men see, we can at least lead them to the Master Oculist, who can rectify their sight.

     We should pray that our friends may have their eyes opened to see all manner of spiritual truth. These optics of ours can only see natural objects: that is all they are intended for. We should be very grateful that our eyes can see as much as they do see; but spiritual objects are not discernible by the eyes of the body, which are for material objects only. The things which pertain to the spiritual kingdom must be perceived by eyes of a spiritual sort, eyes opened by the Lord. God must give to us spiritual senses before we can discern spiritual things: let this never be forgotten. There are those sitting among us who cannot discern spiritual things, for they have not the needed faculties. Carnal men and carnal women see only carnal things. The flesh cannot grasp, perceive, or discern the things of the Spirit. We must become spiritual, and receive spiritual faculties, before we can perceive spiritual things; in a word, we must be “born again.” “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Hence the need of the prayer, “Lord, open thou the eyes of the young man, that he may see!”

     Already the horses and chariots of fire were round about Elisha; but his servant could not see one of them, because they were spiritual chariots and spiritual horses— angelic beings belonging to the purely spiritual domain; and as yet the youth had not entered the spiritual region, and had no eyes with which to see into it. When God had given him spiritual eyes, then there began to break upon his vision that strange sight—ethereal, aerial, nay, spiritual, but yet most real; that sight which revived his soul with the conviction that the prophet was safe, since the ministers of God, as flames of fire, flashed to and fro; and like an army, with horses and chariots, showed themselves strong for the defence of the servant of Jehovah. How surprised he was! How great his amazement! How content his mind! He and his master were mysteriously defended, beyond all fear of danger. O my hearers, as yet strangers to the things of God; if the Lord would open your eyes at once, you would be astonished indeed; for as yet you have no idea, you cannot have any idea, what the spiritual life is, nor what spiritual realities must be: neither can you have any true idea of them till you are quickened of the Lord. You may talk about spiritual subjects, and discuss them, and think yourselves theologians; but you resemble deaf persons criticizing music, and blind men describing pictures. You are not qualified even to express an opinion upon the matter till you are created anew in Christ Jesus, and brought within range of the spiritual and the heavenly. “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Let the prayer go up, then, from all enlightened hearts, for those who are not as yet walking in the light: “Lord, open the eyes of the young men, that they may see!”

     We may expect a speedy answer. God does hear prayer. Who knows but that many sitting in this house may be surprised by the secret touch of the invisible Spirit, and all of a sudden may find themselves introduced into a new world? Elisha’s prayer for this young man was not, and our prayer for others is not, that they may do something which they can do, that they may use some faculty which they already possess; but that a new sight may be granted to them, and that a new nature may be created within them, by a power altogether above and beyond themselves. We call in the hand of God. We ask the Lord to work a marvel. We would have you, dear friends, receive what no education can ever give you, what no graduation at any university can ever bestow upon you; we want you to obtain what no years of experience or of study can achieve; we want you to possess what no imitation of other people will gain for you; we want you to experience a change which only the Lord himself can work in you. We would have you pass from nature’s darkness into God’s marvellous light, from an awful blindness into a clear vision of things otherwise invisible. Register that prayer before the Lord, ye that are familiars in the courts of heaven! Present the prayer for children, and kinsfolk, and friends. Cry, “Lord, let them receive sight, through the gracious working of thy Holy Spirit!”

     II. Secondly, let us set forth OUR REASON for praying such a prayer for those around us. On this occasion, I can truly say that I am praying much more than I am preaching. Whilst I am standing here before you, I am also bowing low before the Lord my God, and I am bearing upon my heart certain of you for whom I long in my heart, and have great heaviness of spirit. I am praying, in the secret of my soul, “Lord, open his eyes, that he may see!”

     The first reason for our prayer is, because we ourselves have been made to see. Had this miracle of grace not taken place within us, we should have had no thought of prayer for you; but now our whole heart goes with the plea. Once we were as you are. Our eyes were blinded so that we saw neither our foes in all their terror, nor the glory of the Lord round about us. Like blind Samsons, we went through the weary drudgery of earth surrounded by our foes. At length a glimmering of the light fell upon us, like a lightning-flash, showing us our sin; and after we were thus illuminated we endured a great fight of afflictions. Without were fightings, within were fears. Our enemies were round about us, and we knew not what to do. But some man of God prayed for us, and one day our eyes were turned toward the hills from whence cometh all aid to terror-stricken men. The Lord was there, though we knew him not; but yet we looked to him and were enlightened, and our faces were not ashamed; for round about him the mountain was full of chariots and horses of fire. “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

“Lord, I was blind; I could not see
In thy marred visage any grace;
But now the beauty of thy face
In radiant vision dawns on me.”

What else but such a heavenly vision could have scattered all our guilty fear? What else could have given us peace in the midst of tumult? We did not quite understand how it was done, nor did the change come to all of us in the same way; but we can all say, “One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see”; and since the prayers of others availed for us, we ought with double earnestness and hope to continue to plead for those who still have missed the glorious revelation. “Lord, open the eyes of the young man, that he may see!”

     We call upon the Lord for this second reason, because only by his power can men be made to see. This we found in our own experience. In vain we struggled to behold the salvation of God; in vain we sought the help of godly people; no sight came to our souls, nor were the eyes of our understanding enlightened, until the Lord himself laved our eyes in the waters that go softly. Then we came seeing. And this we also discover when we try to lead others to the light. We speak to them of the glories we ourselves behold, and set before them the truth of God; but we cannot make them see. To bestow spiritual vision is as great a wonder as to make a world, and requires the same fiat of omnipotence. Only he who created the eye can give this second sight. “Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind.” What folly, then, to attempt the greater task of bestowing the sight of the heart! How vain the boast of those who attempt to invade God’s prerogative, and imagine that human ordinances or observances can open blind eyes! Beloved, let us, after we have done our best to make the people see the glory of the gospel, ever fall back on the God of the gospel, and entreat him to do his own blessed work.

“He comes, from thickest films of vice,
To clear the mental ray;
And on the eye-balls of the blind,
To pour celestial day.”

Do not try to hold up your tallow candles to reveal the chariots of fire, nor parade your vain philosophy, as if that could clear away the darkness of the soul. Leave room for God to work; and, in a moment, at the touch of his finger, in response to the prayers of his people, the wondrous work shall be accomplished.

     Most importunately do we pray when we see the people enquiring. The cry, “What shall we do?” sends us to our knees; for we know that what is necessary is, not something to be done, but something to be seen. And we feel persuaded that the Lord who awoke the desire in the hearts of the seekers, will surely, also, open their eyes to behold his glory. The very fact that we feel drawn to pray for them, is already a token to us that, ere long, the scales shall fall from their eyes; and through their vision of the splendour and sufficiency of the provision that God hath made for those who trust in him, the name of the Lord will be greatly glorified. Therefore, with much expectancy, we again utter our prayer, “Lord, open their eyes, that they may see!”

     Another reason for this prayer is— you are not aware of your own blindness. You are trusting in yourselves that you can see well enough all you need to see. That young man, of whom I am thinking now, has no idea whatever that his eyes are stone blind to eternal things. He thinks himself a sharp and clever fellow; and I do not deny that he is so, in his own line of things. I am glad that he has such quick faculties for this life. God bless him; and may he prosper in his business, and in the enterprise upon which he is just entering! May the good Lord be with him concerning the matter on which his heart is set! But still, dear friend, I am rather afraid of your cleverness; I am somewhat frightened at that keenness of yours, because I have seen sharp men cut themselves, and I have seen the self-reliant make miserable failures. Something is to be said for confidence in its proper place; but self-congratulation is a proof of inward weakness, and forebodes a breakdown. If you are depending on an arm of flesh, at the very best you are resting on a broken reed; you require a strength beyond your own to fight the moral and spiritual battle of life. Your self-reliance, in this case, is a piece of groundless self-conceit. Do you not remember one, of whom we read in this very Book of Kings, that, when he was forewarned of what he would yet do, he exclaimed, in astonishment, “Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing?” Hazael could not think himself capable of such crimes; and yet he no sooner had the opportunity than he fell into the evil up to the very neck. He was dog enough to be cruel, for he was dog enough to fawn upon himself. You do not believe, young man, that you will ever be dishonest; and yet that little gambling speculation of yours will lead to it. You cannot think that you will ever be godless; and yet you are even now departing from the good old ways of your home, and making a jest of sacred things when in certain company. They that trust in themselves are storing up the fuel for a great fire of sin. The pride which lifts itself up will throw itself down. Because the fine young fellow does not know how blind he is, we therefore lament his blindness, and are the more earnest in bringing him to Jesus, that he may receive his sight. “Lord, open his eyes, that he may see!”

     Next, we pray this prayer, because we have reason to fear that you are surrounded by those who will mislead you. We know the young man well. He has newly come to London from that sober, orderly, country home, and he has no notion of the snares which will be laid for him by fowlers, male and female. Oh, you who have no experience, and little discretion, hear the voice of warning! Satan has cunning servants about him, that hunt for the precious life with double diligence. Our Lord Jesus has about him servants who too often slumber; but the devil’s servants are not slothful in their dreadful business. You will find them waylay you in the streets without, and press around you in the haunts of pleasure within. They are everywhere, and they leave no stone unturned that they may entrap the unwary. And what if this blind young man is put down in the midst of all these blood-suckers? They will devour him if they can: what if he is left to be their victim? It is like turning out a sheep among a pack of wolves. “Lord, open the eyes of the young man, that he may see!”

     We pray this prayer for some of you, because you are going away from those who have hitherto watched over you, and this is a dangerous change for you. Your mother—ah! we can never tell what a blessing a godly mother is to a young—your mother parts from you with great anxiety. Will you ever forget her tender words? Our fathers are all very well— God bless them! — and a father’s godly influence and earnest prayers are of untold value to his children; but the mothers are worth two of them, mostly, as to the moral training and religious bent of their sons and daughters. Well, I say, you are going right away from your mother’s holy influence, and from your father’s restraining admonitions. You will now have nobody to encourage you in the right way. You will miss your sister’s holy kiss, and your grandmother’s loving persuasions. You are going out of the hothouse into a night’s frost: well may we pray concerning you, that you may carry with you well-opened eyes, to see your way, and look before you leap. The young man is now to walk alone: “Lord, open his eyes, that he may see!” If he does not look before he leaps, he will soon be in the ditch; and who shall pull him out?

     Again, we pray this prayer with the more pleasure, because you will do so muck good if your eyes are opened. A blind man in the midst of such a world as this, what can he do? He cannot help other travellers, for he has to seek aid for himself. You wish to give rather than to take, do you not? Some here have great abilities, and I want them to use them aright. I am persuaded that I am speaking to young people whom God has ordained to be of great service to their age. That youth yonder does not as yet know what is in him. He is playing with himself; he is making a fool of himself; he is throwing his pearls before swine: he is wasting his strength. If the Lord should open his eyes, he would see what he is doing. What a man he would make if he were but right with God! Think of Saul of Tarsus, how he harassed the church of Christ; but when the scales fell from his eyes, the Lord had no better servant under heaven than that once-furious persecutor. With both hands diligently he built up the church which once he laboured to cast down. “The thing which has been is the thing which shall be.” Pray, therefore, O my brethren, for our young men who have sinned, that they may be restored; and for those who are as yet ignorant, that they may be enlightened; for the cause of God has need of these, and in these the church shall find her champions! Little know we the wealth of comfort for the faithful which may lie in one young life. Surely, we ought to pile on our prayers, and make our intercession flame like some great beacon-light for the rising youth of our time.

     There is yet another reason, fetched from the other side of the case. We should pray for the blinded one, since he may terribly sin if not soon made to see. How capable of doing mischief is a man blinded by ignorance, by passion, by ambition, or by any other form of sin! Who knows the capacities for evil that lie within a single soul? That once bright spirit, Satan, when he first thought of raising revolt against the God of heaven; it was, perhaps, a single momentary flash of rebellious thought; but before long he had become proudly antagonistic to his Maker, and the dragon had drawn down with his tail a third part of the stars of heaven to quench them in the eternal night of endless wickedness. Then he came to this earth, and polluted Paradise, and seduced our first parents from their happy innocence, so that they became the progenitors of an unhappy race, steeped up to their lips in sin. That one first thought of ill, oh, how pregnant was it with innumerable evils! So, too, among ourselves. A boy, his mother’s pride, to whom she looks forward as the honour of the family, may for a while appear to be everything that love can hope; but he falls into the hands of one of those tempters to unbelief who are so abundant in this great city. He is taught to pour ridicule upon his mother’s piety, and soon he casts off the bands of his father’s God. He forgets the sanctity of God’s holy day, and forsakes the house of prayer; and then he learns the way to the houses of strange women, and to the palace of strong drink; and he plunges into one sin after another, till he is himself the leader of others down to the abyss. That boy, who used to kneel at his mother’s knee, and say his childish prayer, and then stand up, and sing of Jesus and his love, was fondly regarded as one who would honour Jesus in his life; but see him now: he staggers home after midnight, vomiting oaths! He is foul both in soul and in body, and those who love him best are saddest at the sight of him. Dear friends, if we would not see our children or our friends running to this excess of riot, and sinking in this superfluity of naughtiness, let us in agony of spirit plead with God at once on their behalf. Oh, for an immediate entrance of the light into their souls! Lord, open their eyes, that they may see! Lord, cause them to start back from the beginnings of sin, which are as the breaking out of the water-floods! O Saviour, quench in them the spark of evil ere it grows into a fire, and rages to a conflagration!

     IH. I must now close by mentioning what OUR HOPE is about men when we pray this prayer for them, as I have been doing all along— “Lord, open the young man’s eyes, that he may see!” What is our hope in reference to this? What will they see if the heavenly eye-salve be applied?

     Elisha, no doubt, felt that the answer to his prayer would be precisely what it really was. “The Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” We want men’s eyes to be opened, that they may know, first, that spiritual forces really exist. The things which we see are not the only real things, nor even the most real things. The things that are seen are temporal; they are, in truth, but shadows of the unseen. The substantial realities are not seen by these poor eyes: the substance is only perceived by our true selves. All that is visible is the mere shadow: the very image of the things is out of sight. Faith teaches us to believe in the existence of that most glorious of all spirits, the great God, in whom we live, and move, and have our being. Faith reveals to the heart the existence of that divine and ever-adorable Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is at this hour with his church, and will abide with her to the end of the world. Faith also makes us know the existence, and power, and presence of the Holy Ghost, who dwelleth with believers, and is in them, working out the eternal purpose of God in their sanctification. No knowledge is more sublime than to know the Trinity in Unity; Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, one Jehovah. When we come to realize that the Lord God is the source of all things; that God hath made us, and not we ourselves, and that all things come into being by his sovereign will and power; then we come to recognize his presence, to consult his will, and to lean upon his might. God becomes real in our thought and apprehension. Since he whom we cannot see nevertheless supporteth all things that are, we feel that the invisible is the basis of all things. Oh, that we could get men’s minds out of these time-worn ruts of things seen, these narrow bounds of space, and time, and seeing, and handling! Oh, that they could rise into the region where the dim faculties, which are bounded by so small a circle, would give place to perceptions which know the infinite, the eternal, the true, the divine! Oh, that the human mind, which was made in the image of God, could find itself at home with God, whose child it may become, by a second birth, of the living and incorruptible seed, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever!

     Verily, if we get our eyes open, we shall begin to recognize that God is greater than this world, and all worlds; and then the mighty truths, which concern his way of mercy in Christ Jesus, will ennoble the soul. Then shall we become true comrades of those bright messengers of God that fly to and fro, fulfilling the behests of the Most High. That there are devils, I think no Christian man will ever doubt; for at certain seasons we have been sadly conscious of a singularly terrible presence, with which our souls have been in agonizing conflict. In that fearful battle it has gone hard with us; our armour has been battered, our comfort has been grievously wounded, and our courage badly mauled. We have been saved as by the skin of our teeth. We hardly knew how to hold on at all, we were so sore beset by unnatural temptations, and suggestions nothing less than infernal. Then, at the Lord’s rebuke, this great adversary has taken sudden flight, and angels have come, and ministered to us new joys, and fruits of consolation, fresh from the tree of life. Then have we enjoyed communion with unseen messengers of God, who have seemed to bind up our wounds, and bring us on our way, and whisper peace. Did not an angel come to strengthen our Lord in Gethsemane? Have we not, in our measure, enjoyed a similar visitation? It is a grand thing to see the hosts of God attending us, and to know that bright convoys of these shining ones will come to salute us at the last. It is a great gain to have the eyes opened, to see the Lord’s goodness and mercy following us all the days of our life, and ourselves, even here, dwelling in the house of the Lord for evermore. Open your eyes to spiritual things, and at once you are encouraged. The present is grievous, while you know only the visible; but the wilderness blossoms as the rose when you see the invisible. Project yourself beyond this narrow region, and behold the infinite, and sources of joy spring up around you everywhere. Poverty is forgotten in the midst of such riches; and even pain and disease have lost their sting.

     Elisha’s young attendant, when his eyes were opened, saw, next, that God’s people are safe. He perceived that there were more with Elisha, after all, than could possibly be against him, and he felt that he himself was safe as the servant of the servant of God. Thus he believed in his master’s God, and found a shelter from his own fears. The invaders were flesh and blood, but the defenders were of fire, and thus were able to consume the adversaries at once. He saw, and saw it so joyfully, that God’s horses of fire, and chariots of fire, were more than a match for all the forces of evil. I pray that the eyes of every Christian person here may be so opened that they shall never doubt that the powers on the side of truth and righteousness and God are, after all, mightier than the hosts of evil. It may be that you live among those who scoff at your faith, and despise all that you hold dear; indeed, it seems that, wherever you turn, everybody is against you in this day of doubt. I think I hear you cry, with David, “My soul is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.” Courage, my comrade, God is near thee! His angels are keeping watch and ward about thee! We are not alone, for the Father is with us. Oh, that our eyes may be so opened as to see that more are they that are with us than all that are against us! Indeed, “if God be for us, who can be against us?” Let us be strangers to fear. In holy confidence, let us be “stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” Never allow a doubt as to the ultimate issue. Is God himself your shield, and your exceeding great reward? Then, what can man do unto you? Perhaps, within a month, some of you, to whom I now speak, may be in so severe a fight that you will be almost driven to throw down your weapons in utter despair, saying, “How can I stand against so many? — I that am so feeble?” I beseech you, remember this warning. Have not I told you of it? I would plead with you to play the man. Gird up the loins of your mind; be sober, and hope to the end; for if the Lord has opened your eyes, you will perceive that you are on the winning side, and that HE is coming soon who will smite his enemies upon the cheekbone. If you are on the side of God, and of his truth; if you do the right; if you believe in the Lord Jesus; if you commit yourself to the keeping of the hand which was pierced with the nails; heaven and earth may pass away, but the Lord can never desert you. The skies may be rolled up like a shrivelled parchment scroll, and all the things that are seen may melt away; like baseless fabrics of a vision, earth and sea may vanish; but a believing soul must live, and triumph, and be exalted to a throne with Christ; for he hath said, “Because I live, ye shall live also.” Hold fast your integrity. Believe the truth of God even to the end; for the Lord Jesus will not fail, nor be discouraged, till all his foes are beneath his feet.

     If your eyes are opened, you will know that saints are honoured by their Lord. See! he despatches his squadrons to be a body-guard to one of them; would not you wish for such honours? See here the secret of the peace which abides with the man of God: as he has meat to eat that men know not of, so has he company that men cannot see. He lives like a prince in the centre of a camp, and sleeps securely. Faith makes the difference between the tranquil prophet and his frightened boy. Oh, that you would believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and so enter into his peace! May this be the red-letter day in which your eyes shall be opened to see spiritual things, and you shall begin to live a spiritual life! For this I have prayed. For this let us all breathe for a moment a silent prayer. (Here followed an interval of silence, and then the preacher spoke in prayer.) “Lord, I pray thee, open the young man’s eyes, that he may see: yea, Lord, open the eyes of all the blind among us, for Jesus’ sake! Amen.”



Barriers Broken Down

By / Jul 26

Barriers Broken Down

 

“For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”— Romans x. 3.

 

You that have your Bibles open, kindly follow me from the first verse of the chapter. It begins, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.” If you really desire that men should be saved, pray for them. It is an empty wish, a mere formality, if you do not turn it into prayer. Every loving desire for any man or woman should, by the believer, be taken before God in prayer. We cannot expect that God will save men unless his people pray for it. There must be travail before the birth, and there must be travail in prayer with God before we can expect that many will be born again into the church of God. Oh, for more prayer! Let us cry to God in secret, and in the family, and in all our assemblies, that God would save the sons of men.

      But prayer, if it is sincere, is always attended with effort. Hence the apostle begins to teach as well as to pray. He prays that Israel might be saved, and then he explains the difficulties in the way, and tries to remove them. You pray, dear friend, do you? But you never speak to the individual for whom you pray. Is your prayer sincere? I will not question it. But your prayer has hardly reached that pitch of passionate earnestness which will secure an answer; for if you were in downright earnest, you would go to the person for whom you pray, and explain the way of salvation. You want your boy to be a scholar. Then you send him to school. You want your girl to learn a certain trade. You put her apprentice to it, do you not? In the things of common life, that which you desire you use means to obtain. Oh, that in all our churches we might feel that while effort without prayer is presumption, and prayer without effort is hypocrisy, the holy blending of prayer and labour will produce, for certain, a grand result!

     If we labour for souls, we must not be content unless souls are really saved; for the apostle says, “For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God.” Well, does not that satisfy you, Paul? They are zealous for God. They are red-hot. “No,” says he, “not unless it is in the right way. They have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.” We feel very thankful when we see tears stream down the cheek; but, you know, people cry at the theatre, and there is not much in it. Pray God it may not end in a shower of tears; but that the heart may bleed as well as the eyes weep. It may happen that wo have induced our hearers to give up some outward sins. So far, so good. But it is written, “Ye must be born again;” and if this vital change is not experienced, all outward reformation will land them short of heaven. Beloved, the apostle’s love for souls led him to pray, and led him to labour; but it led him to be very concerned that none should stop short of real living faith in Christ, and justification by his blood and righteousness. When we are in the throes of a revival, and we think men are turning to Christ, let us be happy, and let us not throw any cold water upon anybody; but let us see that it is really the work of grace in the hearts of our hearers. Let us take care that the ploughshare goes down deep. Some soil wants even cross-ploughing and scarifying. Let us do the work thoroughly; for it is only those that are really converted that will stand. We do not want a lot of people that will run in at one door of the church, and out at the other; but we want saving work; and our prayer should be, “Lord, quicken the people into divine life, by divine truth, through the divine Spirit!”

     Now observe, that the apostle, being thus earnest about souls, endeavours to be specially clear about the doctrine of justification by faith. If we want men to be truly converted, we must set before them the plan of salvation very clearly and distinctly. I meet with hundreds of persons who have had some kind of work upon their hearts, but they tell me that they walk in a mist. They have not quite understood it. They felt that they were on the rock, but they were not quite sure what the rock really was. It is a good thing that our zeal for God should be according to knowledge, that we know what we believe, and why we believe it; and know that we are saved, and how we are saved, and why we are saved; for if there be a mistake here, it may be fatal. Martin Luther, who, as we all know, continually preached the doctrine of justification by faith, said one day, that he felt half inclined to take the Bible, and bang it about the people’s heads; for they seemed as if they would not get a hold of the doctrine that we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, and by that alone. I suspect that knocking people’s heads about with the Bible would not effect any very great result; but that was Martin Luther’s way of putting it. Keep hammering away on that nail: “Believe, believe, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Well, now, that was the particular battle-ground of Luther’s day, so that he said, “The doctrine of justification by faith is the article of a standing or a falling church.” If a church holds and preaches that, it is a church of Christ, notwithstanding many blunders. But, whatever it may preach, if it does not preach that, it is to be questioned whether it is not a fallen church, a church that has lost its true position.

     The fight to-day is the same as in Luther’s day. The words have changed, and men make other pretences; but the fight all along the line is still this—Are we saved by our own merits, or by the merits of another? Are we righteous through what we do, or are we righteous through what Christ has done? Is sin put away by tears and repentances, or is sin washed away by the precious blood of Christ, and by that alone? Beloved, I trust that our pulpit will never give an uncertain sound upon this matter.

     In our discourse we shall endeavour to show you that, while there are two righteousnesses, our own righteousness and the righteousness of God, there will always be, as there has always been, a conflict between the two. Men will choose their own righteousness, and they will not submit themselves to the righteousness of God.

     You that are fellow-workers for Christ will be especially interested in this text; for it sets forth three difficulties in the way of a man’s salvation. The first is, ignorance: “They being ignorant of God’s righteousness.” The next is, self-will: “And going about to establish their own righteousness.” And the third is, flat rebellion: “Have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”

     I. Well, now, our first difficulty is with IGNORANCE.

     “Ignorance is the mother of devotion,” according to the Church of Rome. “Ignorance is the mother of error,” according to the Word of God. We love the spread of knowledge, although there is a knowledge which it were better not to know, as there is a philosophy that is nothing but vain deceit, and not true wisdom. What we want our fellow-men to possess, is spiritual knowledge. Especially do we desire that they may have, first and chiefly, knowledge with regard to God’s righteousness; for the difficulty is, that men do not know what that righteousness is which God requires.

     Do you want to be saved by your own righteousness? Do you know what kind of righteousness it must be? To be accepted, it must be perfect. That is to say, if you have committed but one sin, you have stained your character in the sight of God, and your hope of perfect righteousness is gone. God’s law requires obedience, from the first moment that the creature understands that law, as long as over that creature lives. Mark what it requires of you: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.” Have you done that? “And thy neighbour as thyself.” Have you done that? Why, there is not one of us who has done it. If we had kept the law of God completely, from the first command to the last, from the first day until now; even that would not save us; for, if there were to be one sinful word or deed during the rest of life, it would spoil the whole, and God could not accept our righteousness.

     When a man commits one sin, he is guilty of disobedience to all the commands of God; for “he that offendeth in one point is guilty of all.” Here is a chain containing twenty links. If I break one of them I have broken the chain. True, there are nineteen perfect links; but if number twenty is snapped, down goes the cage over the mouth of the mine, and the miners are killed. Suppose that I should be required to produce a perfect vase of alabaster, or clear crystal, as a present to the Queen. But my servant-maid has chipped it just a little. What is to be done? I may possibly find somebody to use some patent cement, and fasten the little pieces in their places; but when all is done, it is chipped; it is not perfect; and if it must be perfect before royalty can accept it, I must get another vase, for this one will not do.

     Now, dear friend, while I am talking to you about a chip here and a chip there in your life, I am sure you must be saying, “Do not talk so, sir. Why, some of us have not only got chipped, but we are smashed right up. And as to broken links; why, we have fairly melted the chain; there is not a link left. We have nothing, absolutely nothing, that we can bring before God.” I am glad to hear it. If you are lost, you are the very ones Christ came to save; and if you have no righteousness of your own, you have got to the halfway house of salvation. When you strip a man, you are partly on the way to clothing him. When a man is changing his old clothes for better, he must get the old ones off first. Oh, how glad I am to meet with a real sinner! There are many sham sinners about. I saw, one day, in Italy, a fellow sticking out his arm, with an awful sore, and he bugged of me. As I suspected that he had manufactured that sore with a little sulphuric acid, or by some such process, I did not feel the least pity for him. We have lots of people who come confessing their sins: “Oh, yes, we are sinners; we are sinners.” They do not mean it: they are only sham sinners. A real sinner, one who feels his guilt, is a “sacred thing”, as Hart says; “the Holy Ghost has made him so.” He is an empty vessel that God is going to fill. He is a broken heart that God is going to make anew. But here is our trouble; that the mass of people are not aware how perfect, how complete, any righteousness must be, before God can accept it.

     The next difficulty is, that men do not know that God has provided a righteousness for all believers. For every soul of Adam born, who will believe in Christ, there is a perfect righteousness; not ours, but God’s. God came here in human form, not bound to be obedient; but “being found in fashion as a man, he became obedient”; obedient to his own law, and fulfilled every jot and tittle of it. He was “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” And his obedience is ours, if we believe. God looks at us as if we had done what his Son has done. Christ died, and rose again; and God regards us as having died in him, and reckons that we are risen with him, and now live in him. Our righteousness is the righteousness of another, even of the Son of God— a perfect righteousness, a divine righteousness, an everlasting righteousness. In the book of Daniel it is written that Messiah, the Prince, should “finish the transgression, make an end of sins, make reconciliation for iniquity, and bring in everlasting righteousness.” He was “made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

     Alas! how many there are who do not know that God justifieth the ungodly; that sinners can be regarded as just, through what Christ has done and suffered; and that, believing in the precious Christ whom God has set forth to be a propitiation, the vilest are fair to look upon in God’s esteem, and the far-off ones are made nigh by the blood of Christ! Oh, I wish that men knew it! I have sometimes thought that if they did but know it, if they did but really hear the gospel; they must believe it. You that preach Christ in the streets, go on preaching him. I saw a man preaching, the other day, with no creature but one dog to listen to him, and I really thought that he might as well have gone home. But I met with a story yesterday which I know to be true, and it showed me that I was making a mistake. There was a woman who for years had been in such dreadful despair that she would not even hear the gospel. She came to be very ill, and she said to one that called upon her, “You sent a man to preach under my window three months ago, and I got a blessing.” “No,” the friend said, “I never sent anybody to preach under your window.” “Oh,” she said, “I think you did, for he came and preached, and my maid said that there was nobody listening to him. I did not want to hear him; and as he made so much noise, my maid shut the window, and I lay down in bed; but the man shouted so, that I was obliged to hear him; and I thank God I did, for I heard the gospel, and I found Christ. Did you not send him?” “No,” said the good man, “I did not.” “Well,” she said, “then God did. There was nobody in the street listening to him; but I heard the gospel, and I got out of my despair, and I found the Saviour, and I am prepared to die.” Fire away, brethren! You do not know where your shot will strike; but “there’s a billet for every bullet.” I believe that there is some soul whom God means to bless whenever we preach the gospel, depending upon his grace. But the mass of mankind are ignorant of the righteousness which God requires, and ignorant of the righteousness which God has provided.

     Many are ignorant as to how they are to receive this righteousness. If there be such a righteousness, say they, how are we to get it? The current notion is, “I must pray so much; I must weep so much; I must feel so much.” Ah! this is the common ignorance, whereas men should know that —

 

“There is life for a look at the Crucified One.”

 

     “Why, everybody preaches this,” says someone. I know they do, but people do not understand it, although you keep on preaching it; for until God the Holy Ghost makes men to know the meaning of what you say, they will but nod their heads, and pass on. Though I heard the gospel from my childhood, and was brought up upon the very knee of piety, I did not understand what I must do to be saved till I heard that text preached from— “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” I do not believe that my ignorance was the fault of the preacher. It was certainly not the fault of my father, or my mother, and not the fault of the Bible, which I had read through again and again; but it was the fault of these dim eyes, that I could not see. Go on! go on! ye preachers of the Word. Spread abroad the knowledge of this great fact, that “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.”

     The worst of this terrible ignorance is, that the mass of mankind do not know HIM who is our righteousness. Who is the Righteousness of God? Who is the Blessed One? God’s only-begotten Son; God, the Word made flesh; born at Bethlehem, nurtured in the carpenter’s shop, toiling here below, and wearing his life away for the souls of men; extending his arms upon the cross, giving his side to be pierced, his soul to be breathed out, his body to be laid in the tomb, that men might be saved. O Jesu! in thy wounds is our salvation; but men do not know it. O Jesu! thy death is the death of sin, thy life is our life unto God; but men do not know it. Alas! alas! men still go on in their blindness and ignorance; still is the Lord of life despised and rejected of men, and still his servants cry, “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?”

     You see our great difficulty is human ignorance— ignorance, dear friends, even of the facts of the truth. You do not know how near to this place, in the very midst and heart of London, there are tens of thousands who do not know the name of Christ. You think it incredible; but I know that it is so. There are multitudes that have never read a chapter in the Word of God since they went to Sunday-school as children, and they never darken the threshold of God’s house. There are streets, in neighbourhoods not far from here, where, if one man goes to a place of worship, he is marked by all his neighbours as a strange character. Let me turn aside for a moment, and ask you how in this city of London are we to get the gospel to the working-men— to a great number of them? How does it get to some of them? How? Oh, little Mary sings it on father’s knee on Sunday night. He has not been out to a place of worship; but his little girl has been to the Sunday-school; or his son Jack has been to the mission, and comes home, and tells his father what the preacher said. He will listen to his own children when he will listen to no one else. The way to increase the number of those who are not ignorant, is for us so to see the things of Christ, that others who have never seen them may have from us an intimation of what we have seen. Oh, it must be very painful to a blind man for another to say to him, “Now I am looking over a delightful landscape. Away there I can see a beautiful piece of water, and beyond the hills I see the sea. There is a ship going along.” “Oh,” the man says, “I wish I had eyes that I could see, too!” The Holy Spirit makes us see, that, as we tell the story, we may set others longing to see also. I think I reminded you once before, that when the prodigal came back, his father said, “Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.” But, you will notice, he never fed him. The father does not say anything about that. He says, “Bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry.” Well, it is the servants and all the rest of the household that are to eat. There is nothing said about killing the fatted calf for the prodigal. No, no; you see he had lost his appetite, and others must begin to eat first; and then, when they began to eat, he was sure to join in with them. There is no surer way of begetting an appetite than seeing other people eating. Let us enjoy the things of Christ so much that poor sinners’ mouths will water, and they will begin to ask, “What is thy Beloved more than any other beloved? What is this righteousness whereof you speak? What is this wonderful thing?” We have need to tell out what we know; for ignorance, even of the simple facts of the gospel, is extremely common.

     Others are in great ignorance as to the excellence of the gospel. They do not know the peace, the joy, the rest it brings.

“His worth if all the nations knew,
Sure the whole world would love him too.”

But they think that it is all mere talk; a something all very well for parsons, and for some few other people, to get a hold of; but nothing for the working-man, nothing for the man of business, nothing for your noble gentleman who has his heaven at Newmarket, and his bliss at Epsom. Ah, dear friends! I would to God they knew the pearl of great price, the incomparable value of salvation by blood; for then would they reckon the highest glory of this present world as unworthy to be compared with the least delight of the kingdom of God.

     With many this ignorance is wilful. Nobody is so blind as the man that does not want to see; nobody so deaf as the man that does not wish to hear. Many are like the hogs in harvest— very deaf when they are told to go out of the corn-field. And so, when sinners run riot in their sins, they are very deaf indeed when they are told to quit them, and fly to Christ for refuge. Some of you, perhaps, do not want to know too much. When you come to that part of the Bible that begins to touch your conscience, you say, “Shut that up.” You will go on somewhere else. You do not want to know. Wilful ignorance will bring terrible damnation. If there be salvation, and you do not want to know it, then you deserve to be cast away.

     There are some who are ignorant despairingly; and I do pity them, poor souls! They sigh and cry, “Oh, I cannot be saved, I am so guilty. My heart is so hard!” The devil tells men, first, that they can be saved any day they like; so they may put it off. Then, immediately afterwards, he says, “Salvation is not for such as you. You never had enough sense of sin. You never will have enough faith. God will never save you.” Ah, my dear friend, I wish I could make you understand, that whoever comes to Christ he will in no wise cast out; for he himself hath said, “He that believeth on me hath”— hath now— “everlasting life.” He shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck him out of Christ’s hands. Some of us will give Christ great glory when we get to heaven. I think that some people will meet us at the gate, and say, “What! and have you got here?” I should not wonder if it was some elder brother. That elder brother was a good fellow. He was a real child, and he was always with his father, and all his father had was his. Yet he was surprised to see the prodigal come home after wasting his father’s living. Ah, but it is those that cost the Lord so much in whom his infinite grace will be displayed! They will glorify him most. O ye despairing ones, if you must faint, faint away on to the bosom of Christ! Swoon away into the arms of the almighty Saviour, and then it will be well to have swooned, and you will find in him your strength.

     II. There is another thing that stands in our way that is worse than ignorance, and that is, SELF-WILL. Men, ignorant of God’s righteousness, are said to be “going about to establish their own righteousness”; in other words, to set up the poor idol of their own righteousness. Man sees God’s righteousness, and, instead of accepting it, he says, “I think I could match that. I will set up my own righteousness.” There is a treasure of gold, and the man says, “No, I will not have that. I think that I could make a sovereign at home out of a bit of brass.” Fool that he is! How shall he mimic God? If I were at heaven’s wide-open gate, and a voice should say, “Enter freely,” and I replied, “No, I think I prefer the Surrey hills, or a place down by the seaside,” what a fool I should be! but, even then, not so great a fool as when, forsaking the righteousness of God, I want to set up my own. A human thing at best, how shall that match the divine righteousness? An imperfect thing at best, how shall I compare that with the perfect righteousness of Christ? A fading, fleeting thing, always apt to be damaged by the next moment’s temptation, how can I be so foolish? A ridiculous thing, an ignominious thing, a filthy thing. Paul said that his righteousness, which was of the law, was “blameless”; and yet he counted it dung that he might win Christ— dung, the most filthy thing. Here, scavenger, take it away! Have any of you any righteousness of your own? I do not believe that even the dustman would take it. He would say, “No, the carts are not for carting away man’s righteousness; we have no place bad enough to shoot it into.” Shoot it into the bottomless pit: nay, even there they have not any righteousness; for they know their true condition. Human righteousness is a great lie: it is filthy rags. Away with it from off the face of the earth!

     What do men try to do? In what vain efforts are they spending their time and strength? According to the text, they go about “to establish their own righteousness.” I think you will better understand it, if I read it, “They go about to set up their own righteousness.” You see it is a dead thing. “See here”, they say; “we will make it stand.” If I had a corpse here— I am glad that I have not— well, I set it up, and it tumbles down. Nevertheless, I will put its legs out a little wider, and see whether it will stand. Down it goes! Now I will prop it up. Surely, I can make this dead thing stand. But, no: it has a tendency to fall, and down it goes! Have I not seen a sinner try to set up the corpse of his own righteousness, and make it stand? At last he has been obliged to say what the fool said in the old classic, “It wants something inside”; and so it does: for until there is life within, it will not stand. Even so, our righteousness has no true vitality, no life within, and it will not stand.

     Or, to use another illustration: it is like a man trying to patch up an old house. You find such in country villages; a place which nobody has ever repaired for fifty years. I do not know if there is any landlord; but if there is, he would like to forget that he. has such property. The main beam is nearly cracked through. The lath and plaster have gone long ago, and the birds go in and out the best parlour whenever they like; and the whole thing is tumbling down. A man buys it, and he says, “Now, you know, it is a pity to pull this house down; I think I will repair it.” So he puts in a beam there, just under the roof; and he puts a strut here, and another timber there; and, by the time he has spent as much as would have built a house, he has got a very handsome ruin left, and nothing more. I think it was Charles the First who used to swear, “God mend me.” Somebody said it would be an easier job to make a new ono of him; and I believe it. When men say, “God mend me,” they had better say, “God make me new.” So, as to your righteousness; if you have a lot of it, and it is very good; if you have been christened, or baptized, if you like, and confirmed, and have always gone to your place of worship, and are so good that you wonder you can live in such a wicked world as this; if you have all that righteousness, the best thing to do with it is, to get rid of it; for it will ruin your soul. But this is what men do, — they try “to set up” their own righteousness.

     And then the text says that they “go about” to do this: “Going about to establish their own righteousness.” That is to say, they set about it with great zeal. Some of you that know the Lord can recollect how you thought you would do it. Why, at first, when you started as a young man, you were never going to do any wrong. You were going to have a perfect righteousness of your own. You had an ugly temper, however, and it broke out indeed. “Well,” you said, “I shall never do so again.” You came down to breakfast, and you were as bad-tempered as ever; so you said, “Never mind, I will set it up now. I shall be a teetotaler. That will be a grand thing.” So it was; but, somehow or other, down tumbled your righteousness again! Then you went to a place of worship. You said, “I will always be there.” You began to think that you would grow into a saint; but you did not. Down tumbled your righteousness! Over it went; and you, all the while, tried zealously to set it up. “Going about” implies great earnestness: when a man says, “I am going about a thing”, he means that he is going to take his coat off— going to work in his shirt-sleeves. He is going to toil at it for many hours. I recollect how I set to work in my shirt-sleeves to make a righteousness of my own; and I did very nicely indeed while it was dark. But when a little light from the cross broke in, I began to see the filthiness of it. And you, my friend, think yourself very beautiful when you cannot see yourself. But let the looking-glass be held before you, you would begin to see the spots of filth that defile the very best of your righteousnesses. Ah me! how foul the righteousness of men is; and yet they go about to set up their own righteousness.

     To “go about” to establish a righteousness means, in the next place, that men have varied ways of doing it. Shall I tell you what I frequently meet with? I have talked with a person, and said, “Can you trust in your own works?” “Oh, no, sir, I can never do that.” “Well, can you come to Christ, and take the righteousness of God?” “Well, sir, no; I do not feel enough my own emptiness.” Look I This man is going to bring his own emptiness to help him. He actually thinks that, if he has not any righteousness, his own emptiness is good for something; and, if he can get to feel that, he will come and bring his feelings of emptiness to commend him to Christ. Did you ever hear of such a thing? You go to him, and you say, “My dear man, salvation is not on account of your feelings.” Each time you drive him out of his refuge of lies, he hastens back to the old ground again—something of himself. Suppose there is a ship out at sea, and the people on board feel that they are safe. One of them says, “I know that we shall not drift far out of our course.” “Why?” “Because we have such a big anchor on board.” You say, “Ah! he is a cockney. He must be a fool who believes in an anchor on board.” Why, it is no good to anybody! It is when you “let go” the anchor, and lose sight of it, and the anchor gets an unseen grip down below, that it is good for something; but while the anchor is on board, it is only so much dead weight for the ship. You want to have your anchor on board, do you not? You do not like it to “enter into that which is within the veil:” that is too mysterious. You want to feel something, to have something of your own. O pride! O self-will! God will have salvation to be all of grace, and man will have it of debt. God gives the promise of his grace, and man puts his penny down to pay for it. Men’s pennies and God’s promises do not very well go together to buy heaven. He says, like a king, “You may have it for nothing;” and wo say, “Lord, we think we could make up a little something to buy it.” Well, then, you will never have it. His terms are free, rich, sovereign grace; a sinner, with nothing, receiving everything from God. He may have it. He may have it now. None can say him nay. But he stands chaffering, trying to pay his penny, as if God kept a shop. Has God come down to stand in your market, and cry to you, “Here, bring your gold and your silver to purchase my favour”? You know not who he is, for all things are his. If he were hungry, ho would not tell you, for the cattle on a thousand hills belong to him. Will you have salvation freely? If so, take it freely. But if you will buy it, you and God can never agree.

     Let me just close this point about human will, by saying that the efforts of men for their own salvation are deadly efforts. God will save them one way, and they want to be saved another. God says, “There is medicine. Take it; drink it.” Man says, “No, I will grow my own drugs in my own garden, and I will compound my own physic;” and he goes and takes his own dose. And can he ever get well in such a way as that? God says, “I will forgive.” Man says, “I will try and deserve to be forgiven”; as if that could be possible. I have heard that the Romanists say that venial sins are a kind of sins that deserve to be forgiven. What sort of sin must that be? Yet some men seem to think that, somehow or other, they can deserve to be forgiven. That would not be forgiveness at all. Come, come, ye vilest of the vile, ye lost and utterly undone! Come, come, you that have no righteousness, or the ghost of a shade of a shadow of a pretence of any! Come as you are. There is everything you want in Christ. Come and have him, and you shall not be refused; but reject his terms, and salvation can never be yours.

     III. Now, very briefly, I want to speak upon the third difficulty, which is a gross evil, namely, FLAT REBELLION.

     Observe my text, dear friend, if you forget everything else. I say, remember what the Lord says: “They have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” This is a strange word. “Have not submitted themselves.” Do you not wonder that such a word is used? Here is a criminal who will not submit to be pardoned. Here is a sick man who will not submit to be made well. Here is a man with a broken leg who will not submit to have it healed. Here is a poor beggar in the street who will not submit to be made into a gentleman. Why, the word seems quite out of place, does it not? It shows you the monstrous absurdity of self-righteousness, that men will not submit themselves to that which is the greatest blessing that heaven itself can bestow. It is a matter of submission.

     While it is a strange word, it is a very searching word. Is it so, that, the reason why I am not saved is that I will not submit? Do I stick out? Have I an iron sinew in my neck? Am I such a self-willed fool that I will not submit before my Maker— will not yield even to have salvation for nothing? Am I so proud that I scorn to be a pauper before God? That is just it. That is the reason why many have not peace. If they were bankrupts, if they were cleaned right out, they would have perfect rest of soul; but still they stand out, and, in their self-righteousness, fight against God.

    It is a very true word. I am sure that there is many a sinner who has not anything to be proud of, and yet he is as proud as Lucifer. Why, there are harlots that are proud of their own righteousness. There are drunkards proud of their own righteousness. I do not know where they get it from; but proud of it they are. I have heard say that a dustman can be as proud as my Lord Mayor. And so the vilest sinner can be proud of his own righteousness. “Why”, say you, “he has not any to be proud of.” No more have you: I mean you good, moral persons, you who never do anything wrong, as you think. You have not any more righteousness than he has, if it comes really to be measured up, and tested by the Word of God. Still, it is so: the worse the man, the harder he is to bow before the righteousness of God.

     It is a very suggestive word. “They have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” They will not own that God is King. They quarrel with his sovereignty. How can the rebel be forgiven when he begins to question whether the king is king? When he begins to deny the rights of the magistrate to condemn him, how can he be pardoned? You must yield, my friend. Submit to the fact that God is God, or else you will not submit to God’s righteousness. Man thinks that God is hard, austere, demanding too much; and while God puts before him everything for nothing, yet still he says that the price is too high. It is his heart that is too high, his proud looks that want bringing down. Oh, that God would bring them down! The man will not submit to the power of God. He will not yield himself up to God to work with him, and in him, and for him. He wants to do all himself; and then, if he got to heaven, he would throw his cap up, and want to share the glory. But it will not do. It is all of grace from first to last; and the sinner must consent that it shall be so, or else the gate of heaven will never give him admittance.

     Lastly, it is a very cheering word. “They have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God.” “And is that all that I have to do — to submit myself? Is that all?” you say. There is a feather in the cap of your pride. Take it out. You have a weapon of rebellion by your side. Throw it down. Just submit yourself there, with folded hands, with the rope around your neck. Say, “Lord, if my soul be sent to hell, I deserve it. I submit, and I plead for mercy. I plead the precious blood. I not only submit to take that plea, but I delight to take it. I am happy to believe that

‘Thou hast promised to forgive
All who on thy Son believe.
Lord, I know thou canst not lie:
Give me Christ, or else I die.’”

     Beloved friend, may the Holy Spirit lead you to submit! You have been kicking and struggling; now submit. You have been despairing, and talking about its being presumptuous to believe. Submit. Give all that up. No more of your talk! Come to faith! When a man submits to God, that man has got the victory. When God is King, you are safe. When you take Christ to be everything, and you are nothing, then neither death nor hell shall ever divide you from the heart of God. When you are not your own, you are Christ’s; but so long as you are dependent upon self, you do not know the Lord, and you cannot know him.

     May God bless this simple testimony to each and all, and to his name be praise! Amen.



God Rejoicing in the New Creation

By / Jul 5

God Rejoicing in the New Creation

 

“Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people.”— Isaiah lxv. 17— 19.

 

THIS passage, like the rest of Isaiah’s closing chapters, will have completest fulfilment in the latter days when Christ shall come, when the whole company of his elect ones shall have been gathered out from the world, when the whole creation shall have been renewed, when new heavens and a new earth shall be the product of the Saviour’s power, when, for ever and for ever, perfected saints of God shall behold his face, and joy and rejoice in him. I hope and believe that the following verses will actually describe the condition of the redeemed during the reign of Christ upon the earth: “There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old. They shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them. And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord.”

     But the work which is spoken of in the text is begun already among us. There is to be a literal new creation, but that new creation has commenced already; and I think, therefore, that even now we ought to manifest a part of the joy. If we are called upon to be glad and rejoice in the completion of the work, let us rejoice even in the commencement of it. The Lord himself will joy and rejoice, and we who are in sympathy with him are exhorted and even commanded to be glad; let us not be slack in this heavenly duty.

     Do you know what this work of creation is, which is here thrice promised in the words, “I create . . I create . . I create”? It is evidently a second creation, which is altogether to eclipse the first, and put it out of mind. Shall I tell the story?

     The first creation was so fair that, when the Lord looked upon it, with man as its climax and crown, he said, “It is very good;” but it failed in man who should have been its glory. Man sinned; and in his sin he was so connected with the whole of the earth, that he dragged it down with him. The slime of the serpent passed over everything. The taint of sin marred the whole of God’s work in this lower world. The creation was made subject to vanity, and it groaneth in pain together until now. But the Infinitely Blessed would not be defeated, and in infinite condescension he determined that he would make a new creation which should rise upon the ruins of the first. He resolved that under a second Adam something more than Paradise should be restored to the universe. He purposed that he would undo, through Jesus Christ, the Seed of the woman, all the mischief that had been wrought by the serpent. He has commenced to undo this mischief, and to work this new creation, and so commenced that he will never withdraw his hand till the work is done. He has commenced it thus— by putting new hearts into as many as he has called by his Spirit, regenerating them, and making them to become new creatures in Christ Jesus. We are the commencement of the future ingathering. Our new-born spirits are the first ripe ears of corn out of a wonderful harvest that will come by-and-by. The saints’ spirits are, first of all, new-created; but their bodily parts remain in the old creation. Hence we suffer pain, for though the Spirit is life because of righteousness, “the body is dead because of sin.” By-and-by their bodies shall be new-created, when, from beds of dust and silent clay, they shall upleap into immortal beauty. The resurrection will be to the body what regeneration is to the soul. When body and soul are thus created anew, the whole earth around them, in which they shall dwell, shall be, at the same time, renewed also; and so God shall make the spirits, the minds, the bodies, and the abodes of men, all new. These bodies, quickened by his Spirit who dwelleth in us, and united to souls purified and refined, shall tread upon an earth delivered from the curse, and shall be canopied beneath new heavens. Have they not new desires? Should not all above them be new? They shall tread a new earth, for they have new ways.

     Inasmuch as this ought to be the subject of joy, and the text invites us to it, I come to press upon you the sweet duty of present delight. Oh, when happiness is made a precept, when joy is made a command, I cannot but hope that God’s people, to whom I am now speaking, will answer to the call! Has joy become a duty? Then we will be joyous. Has gladness become a precept? Then wo will gladly enough obey, and our heart shall dance for joy. I will read the text again, and then we will consider what sort of joy it is which is to arise out of the work of divine grace in the new creation. “Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people.”

     I. First, then, concerning the joy to which we are called, we would say, IT IS A JOY IN CREATION: “Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth. I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.”

     I must confess that I think it a most right and excellent thing that you and I should rejoice in the natural creation of God. I do not think that any man is altogether beyond hope who can take delight in the nightly heavens as he watches the stars, and feel joy as he treads the meadow’s all bedecked with kingcups and daisies. Ho is not lost to better things who, on the waves, rejoices in the creeping things innumerable drawn up from the vasty deep, or who, in the woods, is charmed with the sweet carols of the feathered minstrels. The man who is altogether bad seldom delights in nature, but gets away into the artificial and the sensual. He cares little enough for the fields except he can hunt over them, little enough for lands unless he can raise rent from them, little enough for living things except for slaughter or for sale. He welcomes night only for the indulgence of his sins, but the stars are not one half so bright to him as the lights that men have kindled: for him indeed the constellations shine in vain. One of the purest and most innocent of joys, apart from spiritual things, in which a man can indulge, is a joy in the works of God. I confess I have no sympathy with the good man, who, when he went down the Rhine, dived into the cabin that he might not see the river and the mountains lest he should be absorbed in them, and forget his Saviour. I like to see my Saviour on the hills, and by the shores of the sea. I hear my Father’s voice in the thunder, and listen to the whispers of his love in the cadence of the sunlit waves. These are my Father’s works, and therefore I admire them, and I seem all the nearer to him when I am among them. If I were a great artist, I should think it a very small compliment if my son came into my house, and said he would not notice the pictures I had painted, because he only wanted to think of me. He therein would condemn my paintings, for if they were good for anything, he would be rejoiced to see my hand in them. Oh, but surely, everything that comes from the hand of such a Master-artist as God has something in it of himself! The Lord doth rejoice in his works, and shall not his people do so? He said of what he had made, “It is very good;” and he cannot be very good himself who thinks that which God makes is not very good. In this he contradicts his God. It is a beautiful world we live in

Every prospect pleases,
And only man is vile.”

There are lovely spots on this fair globe which ought to make even a blasphemer devout. I have said, among the mountains, “he who sees no God here is mad.” There are things that God has made which overwhelm with a sense of his Omnipotence: how can men see them, and doubt the existence of the Deity? Whether you consider the anatomy of the body, or the conformation of the mighty heavens, you wonder that the scorner does not bow his head— at least in silence— and own the infinite supremacy of God.

     Well, now, if there be— and I am sure there is— something pure and elevating in joy in God as the Creator of ordinary things— as the Maker of all this first creation— much more is there something bright, and pure, and spiritually exhilarating, in rejoicing in God’s higher works, in God’s spiritual works, in God’s new creation. Methinks, if a man feels within him a new heart, and rejoices in his new birth; if he sees in others new and holier lives, and rejoices in them; if he listens to the preaching of the gospel, and discovers in it new and better principles, such as the old worn-out world could never have discovered— why, that man is a gracious man. The eye that can see the new nature is an eye that grace has given, and newly opened to new light. The heart that can rejoice in the new creation is a heart that is itself renewed, or else it would not comprehend spiritual things, and could not rejoice in them. I invite you, therefore, dear friends— you that see, and know, and somewhat appreciate the new creation in its beginnings— to joy, and to rejoice in it to-night. It is a delightful thing that God should make a tree, and bid it come forth in the springtide with all its budding verdure. It is a far better thing that God should take a poor thorny heart like yours and mine, and transform it till it becomes like the fir-tree or the pine-tree to his praise. It is a charming sight when bulbs, that have slept under ground through the winter, hold up their golden cups to be filled with the glory of the returning sun. But how much better that hearts that have lain dead in trespasses and sins should be moved by the secret touch of the Spirit of God to welcome the Sun of righteousness, and to rejoice in him! How glorious to see a slum become a sanctuary, a den of thieves a house of God! This is even more wonderful than for darkness to become light, and chaos yield to order. God’s new creation, even in its beginnings here, and now, is a something to delight one’s soul in. I pray you, delight yourselves therein. Behold, in the creation of a new heart, the manifest finger of God! What power to turn the human will— to subdue fierce passions— to change the very core and centre of the heart! This is power in the moral and spiritual world as great as anything which can be seen even in the convulsions of earthquakes. Herein is wisdom too! We speak of the wisdom of God as seen in anatomy, in botany, or in astronomy; yet this wisdom is still more to from be seen in regeneration— in the making of the sinner who wandered from God, to become a saint who follows after holiness, in the bringing of the opposer of Christ to become his friend and advocate. To rule the will, and yet leave it free; to guide the heart, and yet to let it choose; to reverse the law of being, and yet to violate no law of man’s nature— herein is the wisdom of the Highest himself. The attributes of God are to be seen in the visible creation; but they are to be seen in a brighter and superior light in the new creation. There is no one of the attributes of God which has not its illustration under the economy of grace; and blessed shall your whole being be if you can to the full rejoice in that which God creates.

     There is one reason why you are called upon to rejoice in it, namely, that you are a part of it. When the angels saw God making this world, they sang together, and shouted for joy; but they were not a part of this lower world. They had nothing to do with man’s estate, save as a matter of sympathy. But as for this new creation of our gracious God, you and I, beloved, who have believed in Jesus, are part of it. That same grace, which has quickened others into new life, has quickened us. The same Spirit, who has given new principles and new desires to others, has given them to us also. The Father hath begotten us again by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. We are the central beings of the new creation, and so let us joy and rejoice in it with all our soul, and mind, and strength.

     I know, when I lay sore sick and tormented in body, it seemed always to be such a joy to me that I myself, my inner self, my spirit, had been new-created, and that my nobler part could rise above the suffering, and soar into the pure heavens of the spiritual realm; and I said of this poor body, “Thou hast not yet been new-created. Still doth the venom of the old serpent taint thee; but thou shalt yet be delivered. Thou shalt rise again if thou diest, and art buried, or thou shalt be changed if the Lord should suddenly come. Thou, poor body, thou that draggest me down to the dust in pain and sorrow, even thou shalt rise, and be made anew in ‘the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body’; for the new creation has begun in me, even the earnest of the Spirit.” O beloved, cannot you rejoice in this? I would incite you to do so. Rejoice in what God is doing in this new creation! Let your whole spirit be glad! Overflow with gladness! Let loose the torrents of praise! Leap down, ye cataracts of joy!

     Well, that is our first point. It is a joy in creation.

     II. And, secondly, IT IS A JOY WHICH WILL ECLIPSE ALL THAT HAS GONE BEFORE.

     Now, my text is, “And the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” God’s great new-creating work ought to fill us with such joy as to make us forget the old creation, as though we said to ourselves:— What are the sun and the moon? We shall not have need of these variable lights in the perfection of the new creation, for in heaven, “They need no candle, neither light of the sun.” What is the sea, though it be the very mirror of beauty? In that new creation there will be no more sea, and storms, and tempests will be all unknown. What are these luxuries of sight and hearing? We shall not want them when our eyes shall behold the King in his beauty in the land that is very far off. The joy of the spiritual is such that, while it admits the joy of the natural, yet, nevertheless, it swallows it up as Aaron’s rod swallowed up the rods of the magicians. In those last days we shall be in tune with Dr. Watts when he sang—

“Lo! what a glorious sight appears
To our believing eyes!
The earth and seas are pass’d away,
And the old rolling skies.
“From the third heaven, where God resides,
That holy, happy place,
The new Jerusalem comes down,
Adorn’d with shining grace.
“The God of glory down to men
Removes his bless’d abode,
Men the dear objects of his grace,
And he their loving God.
“His own soft hand shall wipe the tears
From every weeping eye,
And pains, and groans, and griefs, and fears,
And death itself shall die.”

     As an instance of the expulsive power of a new delight, we all know how the memory of the old dispensation is gone from us. Brethren, did any one of you ever weep because you did not sit at the Passover? Did you ever regret the Paschal lamb? Oh, never, because you have fed on Christ! Was there ever man that knows his Lord that ever did lament that he had not the sign of the old Abrahamic covenant in his flesh? Nay, he gladly dispenses with the rites of the old covenant, since he has the fulness of their meaning in his Lord. The believer is circumcised in Christ, buried in Christ, risen in Christ, and in Christ exalted to the heavenly places. Did you ever regret the absence of the burnt-offering, or the red heifer, or any one of the sacrifices and rites of the Jews? Did you ever pine for the feast of tabernacles, or the dedication? No, because, though these were like the old heavens and earth to the Jewish believers, they have passed away, and we now live under new heavens and a new earth, so far as the dispensation of divine teaching is concerned. The substance is come, and the shadow has gone; and we do not remember it.

     Now, I want you to feel just the same with regard to all your former life as you now feel towards that old dispensation. The world is dead to you, and you to the world. Carnal customs and attractions are for you abolished, even as the ancient sacrifices are abolished. What were your sins? They are blotted out: the depths have covered them: you shall see them again no more for ever. Seek not after them as though you had a lingering esteem for them. Let them not come to mind, except to excite you to repentance. What were your pleasures when you lived in sin? Forget them. They were very vapid, deceptive, destructive evils. You have a higher pleasure now which enchants your soul. What have been the sorrows of your past life, especially your sorrows while coming to Christ? You need not remember them; but, like the woman who remembereth no more her travail for the joy that a man is born into the world, so your birth into the new creation causes you to forget all the sufferings of your spirit in coming there. “Old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new!” I would to God that the joy of the new creation would so fill us right up to the brim that we should not imagine any other joy. This puts out all other joy as the sun hides all the stars. Let all go; let all go: rolled up as the heavens and the earth are to be, like vestures all outworn, let all of my past life be laid aside. Now put I on my new dress of sparkling joy and delight in the new things, for has not Christ made all things new to me? A new song is in my mouth, even praise to him for evermore; a new law is in my heart; and a new service engages all my powers.

     There is great scope for enlargement here, but I will not linger, lest I chase away your joy by speaking about it unto weariness.

     III. In the third place, IT IS A PRESENT AND A LASTING JOY; “But be ye glad and rejoice FOR EVER in that which I create.” Be now glad, and now rejoice: it is a present joy. Take a delightful interest in that which God is now creating in the spiritual realm: though the work be only in the doing, yet be glad concerning it. Be glad in anything that the Lord has created in you. Has he created in you so much of the new life as to have produced conviction, repentance, faith in Christ, hope in the promise, longing for holiness? Be glad in this even if you have other circumstances pressing upon you, and causing you to be heavy of heart. Though you might be mourning because you are so sickly, yet be glad that you are born again. If somewhat distressed because you are so poor, yet be glad that you are a child of God, and have a place in the new family of love. Let the old things go, and grasp the new, the heavenly. The old creation— bear with it a little longer, for the time of your redemption from its bondage draweth nigh. Find your joy where God would have you find it, namely, in that part of your nature which is new, in the new principles, the new promises, the new covenant, and the blood of the new covenant, which are yours— all of them. Look no longer for the living among the dead, but let your heart dwell in the living world with your living Lord, and be glad. The kingdom of God is within you, rejoice in it.

     And I want you, also, to find your joy in the now creation of God, as you see it in others. The angels rejoice over one sinner that repents; surely you and I ought to do so! Try and do good, and bring others to Christ, and when a soul shows signs of turning to its God, let that be your joy. “Be glad and rejoice in that which I create.” I have had many rich draughts from this cup. I do not know anything that has made me so happy, hundreds and thousands of times in my life, as to see God at work in men’s hearts; and, without exaggeration, to hear of this one and of that brought to Christ through the hearing or the reading of my sermons has been a heaven to me. Oh, you may drink as much as you like of this cup of sympathy with God in his new creation-work! There is no intoxication about it— to find a joy in the work of God in the hearts of others is healthy, unselfish delight. I know some snarling people who, if they hear of one being converted, say that “they hope it is genuine,” which, being interpreted, means that they do not believe it is, and they almost hope it is not. “Oh, but,” they say, if there is a great work done anywhere, “I never did like excitement! When I hear of many conversions, I expect many backslidings.” Cold, dead fish that they are, excitement would not hurt them. A little boiling might do them good, perhaps. Ay, but if they meet with one who is an eminent Christian, and whose public character will bear the closest inspection, they say: “Ah, well! we do not know what he is at home;” and so they have always some sly word to say against God’s work, just like the serpent in Eden coming, and hissing, “Yea, hath God said?” I would far rather be one of those that can see the beauty of God’s handiwork in my fellow-Christians, than one who can spy out their defect. I think it is very beautiful where John Bunyan represents Christiana and Mercy as admiring each other. They had both enjoyed a wash in that wonderful beauty-giving bath, and Mercy said to Christiana, “How beautiful you are! I never saw anyone look so lovely as you are.” But Christiana said that she was not beautiful, at all; she could not see anything about herself to admire, while in Mercy she saw everything to esteem and love. Oh, to have an eye for the work of God in other people, and to rejoice in it! Such an eye sees not itself, and yet it is itself one of God’s loveliest works. “Be ye glad and rejoice,” says God, “in that which I create.” Can we decline the sacred invitation? Nay, rather let us thankfully enter into the joy of our Lord. Be thankful for what God has done for yourself; be thankful for what God is doing in other people; and recollect that, if you once begin this joy, you need never renounce it, for the text says, “Be ye glad and rejoice for ever.” Every day, and all the day, this light of joy is shining, for the Creator stays not his hand. As long as ever you live, there will be something in the new creation that shall be to you a well-spring of fresh joy and delight. Heaven will only enlarge this self-same joy. Be glad for ever, because God will ever be creating something fresh in which you may be glad.

     IV. Again, in the fourth place, it may be said of the joy which we ought to feel, that IT IS A JOY WHICH GOD INTENDED FOR US: “For, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.” He has made the new city, the new people, the new world to be a source of joy.

     Take Jerusalem as the emblem of the church of God. God always intended that his chosen, called, and converted people should be a rejoicing. He created you on purpose that you should yourselves be happy, and bring happiness to others. Do you not know that his name is the happy God, and nothing gives him greater happiness than to give happiness to his creatures? Do you think you were chosen to be a groaner all your days? Were you called to misery, dear brother? Does Jesus Christ say, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will make you doleful”? Does he say, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, and ye shall find agony in your hearts”? No; but he talks about rest, and peace, and joy, and blessedness. One wrote to me, some years ago, and said that he came into this congregation, and he felt at once that he must be in the wrong place, because he found so large an assembly. God’s people, he said, are a small remnant; there are few that shall be saved. He had settled that matter in his own expanded soul. But he was still more sure that he was in the wrong place when he looked at me, for I looked happy; and in his judgment, if I had known anything about the experience of a tried child of God, my face would have been much longer, more wrinkled, and more sadly serious. I confess that my face does betray at times the fact that I am happy; and I cannot help it. But when this good man looked round on the great congregation— you were not all here then— but when he looked round on the vast congregation, and saw them all looking so happy, he felt that he must get out of the building as soon as he could, for such smiling people could not be the afflicted people of God. He walked, he said, some distance along our streets, feeling heavy at heart because of the joy he had witnessed; but at last he reached a little place in a court. The very aspect of the chapel gave him hope— it was so small, and so hidden away. He entered, and, to his satisfaction, he found in the congregation less than a score: here were the faithful few. At any rate, he could say of this, “Is it not a little one?” The minister was as doleful as could be desired, and the subject was full of lamentation. He tells me that he sat down there in peace, for he found himself at home. I am glad he was suited. Different people have different ways, you know; and some love to be comfortably wretched. But I find myself miserable only when I keep away from my Lord and his work of new-creation. I have always found hitherto that when I can get under the shadow of his wings, my soul is at rest, and I look upon that restfulness and happiness as the work and fruit of the Spirit— “the fruit of the Spirit is joy and peace.” My impression is that I am not right when I give way to depression and melancholy. I certainly should not go to a place of worship seeking for doubt and despondency. Neither should I conclude that I must be on the way to heaven, because I felt in my own heart some of the miseries of hell. When I am despondent, I say to myself, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” I probably know as much about depression of spirit as any man that lives; but I consider myself foolish and blameworthy, a fool for knowing so much darkness, and I do not want to feel any more of it. I would like to drive myself out of it once for all if I could; for we ought to be glad, and rejoice for ever in that which God creates. He has created his people a rejoicing: yea, his people to be a joy. Ours is a heritage of joy and peace. My dear brethren and sisters, if anybody in the world ought to be happy, we are the people. How large our obligations! How boundless our privileges! How brilliant our hopes!

“Bright the prospect soon that greets us
Of that long’d-for nuptial day,
When our heavenly Bridegroom meets us
On his kingly, conquering way;
In the glory,
Bride and Bridegroom reign for aye!”

     What should make us miserable? Shall the children of the bridechamber mourn while the Bridegroom is with them? Sin?— that is forgiven. Affliction?— that is working our good. Inward corruptions?— they are doomed to die. Satanic temptations?— we wear an armour which they cannot penetrate. We have every reason for delight, and we have moreover this command for it, “Delight thyself also in the Lord, and he will give thee the desires of thy heart.” God bring us into that blessed condition, and keep us there!

     God intended not only that we should have joy, but that we should spread it among others. He intends that wherever we go we should be light-bearers, and set other lamps shining. Why are some so afraid of joy? They seem, wherever they go, to be busy in turning out the lambs. The first thing to be done is, “Take that child out.” Dear little child, with its pleasant prattle, so happy at your feet!— why send it away ? If there is a very happy hymn in the book, do not sing it: it would be presumptuous. Sing—

“Lord, what a wretched land is this!”

Crooked metre, key dismal, tune dolorous. I fear that certain Christians go through this world making it miserable as they march through it. Oh, that they could see that Christ has come to destroy the works of the devil, and would have us rejoice in the new creation of our God!

     Alas, there are heady, hard-hearted persons abroad who, by their wilfulness and pride, would crush every flower in the garden beneath their wicked hoofs! Wherever they go, everything is despised, ridiculed, and kicked by them! This is the spirit of the evil one. Oh, do not so! Christian people, you dare not be so; you shall not be so: God will not let you be so: you must be gentle, compassionate, generous, kind, gracious. Wherever you go, try to make others happy; for God creates Jerusalem a rejoicing, and his people a joy: a joy to others who have no joy, a source of happiness to the saddest of our race. Help the widow, comfort the fatherless, succour the poor, cheer the desponding, tell the glad news to the weary heart. In the Father’s hands, in Christ’s hands, in the Spirit’s hands, seek to break the prisoner’s fetters, and to bring him out into the light of liberty: you, too, are anointed to proclaim liberty to the captives. May the God of infinite mercy help you and help me so to do!

     Now, dear friends, just for a minute upon this creation. I want to show how the work of God does create a joy-making people. As soon as ever we are converted, what is one of the first things that comes of it? Why, joy. The morning I found Christ it snowed very hard. The snow-flakes fluttered around me, like white doves, as I went home; and I felt just as light as those, for my soul was washed whiter than snow. It was not a gloomy winter’s day to me: but all nature wore her bridal dress in sympathy with my delight. Was it not so with you on the day of your new birth? Were you not as happy as ever you could be when you first found the Saviour? So far, you see, the Lord creates joy; and it is better still further on. When the creation of God goes on, and a man is helped to conquer sin, when the work of grace in his soul grows and increases, he cries, “Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory,” and he gets increased joy in his soul over every conquered sin. When you and I see sin subdued, do we not feel happy? Whenever the news comes to me that a man has been reclaimed from drunkenness, or a woman is saved from the streets, or when I hear of a hard-hearted sinner repenting, I rejoice in the Lord. Conversion-days are our high holidays. Revivals are our jubilees. Thus the Lord gives us opportunities for joy and rejoicing as his new-creation work proceeds stage by stage. Better days are in store, it may be, and I trust that in years to come we shall more and more behold God working, and shall rejoice therein.

     But, by-and-by, there will be a still greater joy. We shall enter into heaven, and there will be joy among the angels, and joy in our heart over God’s new-creation work, which will proceed at a glorious rate. Then the nations will be converted to God. I know not when, nor exactly how, but the day shall come when Christ shall reign from pole to pole. And what a joy that will be! We shall indeed be glad in that which God creates, as the islands of the sea shall ring out his praise! Then Christ the Lord will come, and what joy and rejoicing there will be in that day when he has fully fashioned the new earth and the new heavens! His ancient people, the seed of Abraham, shall be gathered in with exultation. We will clap our hands when the long-wandering nation shall turn unto the true God, and own the rejected Messiah, of the house of David! The Gentiles will not be jealous. They will rejoice as the Jew comes in; and then will the Jews rejoice over the Gentiles, as they see them worshipping Abraham’s God. Everything that is to come in the eternal future flashes light into the eyes of believers, and calls upon them to rejoice in anticipation. Nothing prophesied should be dreaded by us. There is nothing foretold by seer, or beheld in vision, that can alarm the Christian. He can stand serenely on the brink of the great eternity, and say, “Come on! Let every event foretold become a fact! Pour out your vials, ye angels! Fall, thou star called Wormwood! Come, Gog and Magog, to the last great battle of Armageddon!” Nothing is to be dreaded: nothing is to be feared by those who are one with Jesus. To us remains nothing but joy and rejoicing, for God hath made his people a rejoicing; yea, his people a joy.

     V. I finish up with the last point, IT IS A JOY IN WHICH WE SHARE WITH GOD. Gently, my tongue! Timidly and cautiously speak thou here! Here is thy warrant for supposing a fellowship with God and man in this joy— “Behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people.” The wonderful comes out here. God himself, the Ever-blessed, finds joy in his new creation. Herein is ground for marvelling. I have often said to you that, when the Lord made the material world, there was not much in it to touch his spiritual nature, and so he simply spoke and said, in plain prose, “It is good.” That was all: he said it was good. But when the Lord has made new heavens and earth, when he has finished, when the bride of Christ shall be brought to him— you know the word, “He will rest in his love, he will joy over her with singing.” Did you ever get into your hearts the idea of the Lord God singing? God singing over his church, over his Jerusalem, over his new creation! God singing! I can understand the angels singing for joy over God’s work, but here is God singing over his own work. I will tell you something more wonderful than that: it is that you should be a part of that work, and that God should sing over you. And yet it is not so very wonderful, for is he not the Father, and doth not the Father sing over his prodigal son that wandered and is come back? Is he not the Saviour, and will not the Saviour, who bought us with his blood, sing over us who are the purchase of his agonies? He is the Spirit, and shall not the Spirit, who has striven with us, and wrought all our works in us, sing when his work is done, and we are sanctified? Father, when thy eternal purposes are all fulfilled, thou wilt joy over thy people! Son of God, Redeemer, when all thy agonies shall have received their recompense in the salvation of thy redeemed, thou wilt rejoice over thy chosen! Holy Ghost, when all thy condescending indwelling within us shall have accomplished its design, thou wilt rejoice in thy people! Come now, beloved, rejoice in sympathy with the divine heart! When the father found his son, he made the whole household merry, and shall not we be? When the woman had found her piece of money, she called together her friends and neighbours, and she said, “Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.” Shall not we rejoice with the Spirit over the lost silver pieces? When the shepherd brought home his sheep, he said, “Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.” Come, then, rejoice with the Father, rejoice with the Son, rejoice with the Spirit; and if the Lord God, as the Trinity in Unity, invites us to be glad and rejoice in that which he creates, let us not hold back, but let us sing his matchless love, and new-creating power, and infinite wisdom. I am sure you will sing, you must sing even now, if you know yourselves to be a part thereof.

     And now I close with this observation. Nobody will ever rejoice in this new-creating work of God while he is rejoicing in his own works, and trusting in himself, and boasting his own merits. It is a sign of grace when a man is sick of self, and is in harmony with God. When he leaves off rejoicing in what he can do, and comes to rejoice in what God has done, and is doing, then a change has been wrought upon him. Some of you are trying to save yourselves, and make yourselves right before God: as well might the dead try to find life for themselves. It cannot be done. You must be made new by a power you have not within yourself— by a divine power. You must be born again, and this is the work of God; not your work. We shall know when this heavenly work is begun in you when you cease from rejoicing in anything that you are or can be of yourselves, and then shall you with us rejoice in that which God creates in you.

     Ring the bells of heaven! Tune your voices, sons of earth! He who makes all things new is on the throne, working out his holy pleasure. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Amen.



Redemption through Blood, the Gracious Forgiveness of Sins

By / Jun 7

Redemption through Blood, the Gracious Forgiveness of Sins

 

“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according, to the riches of his grace.”— Ephesians i. 7.

 

READ the chapter, and carefully note how the apostle goes to the back of everything, and commences with those primeval blessings which were ours before time began. He dwells on the divine love of old, and the predestination which came out of it; and all that blessed purpose of making us holy and without blame before him in love, which, was comprehended in the covenant of grace. It does us good to get back to these antiquities— to these eternal things. You shake off something of the dust of time, as you no longer walk adown its restless ages; but traverse the glorious eternity, where centuries seem no more than fallen leaves by the way. Thousands of years are less than a drop of a bucket compared with the lifetime of the Almighty. How sublime a thing to climb, in contemplation, to the everlasting God and the eternal council-chamber, and to see the heart of love beating towards the chosen people before all time, and the infinite mind of God devising and purposing their good! This is an exceeding great refreshment, and the wonder is that so few believers dare to ascend this sublime hill of the Lord, there to commune with him that was and is, and is to come.

     After the apostle had briefly touched upon that subject, he then and began to speak of present blessings— matters of actual experience; and he commenced by saying, “In whom we have redemption.” The grace of the eternal past is a matter of faith; but here is something which is within our grasp and enjoyment. The other we believe; but this we actually and literally receive. “We have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.”

     And here let me say what a charming thing it is to deal with experimental divinity; not with theories, but with matters of fact, great facts which are dear to you, because they have been wrought in you, and you have not been merely a delighted spectator of them, but you have been the subject and object of them. “In whom we have redemption.” Whether others have it or not, we have “redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.” We do not hope for it, but we have it. We do not merely think so, but we know that we have it. We are redeemed; we are free from bondage; we are forgiven, and are no longer under condemnation.

     At this time, as God shall help me, I shall dwell upon the forgiveness of sins. We have not time to plunge into the deeps of the eternal purpose, nor even to dive into the full doctrine of redemption; but, as the swallow with his wing touches the brook, and then is up and away, so must it be with my thought at this time— a mere touch of the river of the water of life will be a blessing to myself; and as I cast a little spray over you, I hope it will refresh you also. May the Holy Spirit help our meditation!

     I. The first observation, taken distinctly from the text, is this— THAT THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS IS A GRAND BLESSING. The apostle has mentioned it, if you notice, amongst the great things of God— his electing love, his adoption of us by Jesus Christ, his acceptance of us in the Beloved. Side by side with these colossal mercies he puts this one, that we have “the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” This is a blessing of no mean stature, for it marches with the giants of election and adoption. Let it stand prominently out before us at this time.

      What is this “forgiveness of sins”? Too often, in popular talk, it is supposed that the chief and main thought of the forgiven sinner is that he has escaped from hell. Salvation means much more than this; and what it further means is too much kept in the background, but yet I will begin with rescue from punishment; for if sin be pardoned, the penalty is extinguished. It would not be possible for God to forgive, and yet to punish. That would be a forgiveness quite unworthy of God. It would, indeed, be no forgiveness at all. We are certain that the everlasting punishment of sin declared in Scripture, will never happen to the man who is forgiven. When transgression is removed the soul stands clear at the bar of God, and there can be no further penalty. “I absolve thee,” says the great Judge; and that carries with it weight, so that a man that is forgiven is cleared of the punishment which he must otherwise have borne. “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.”

     Yet divine favour restored is a still brighter result of forgiveness to many. Speaking from my own experience, while I was under conviction of sin I had loss apprehension of the punishment of sin than I had of sin itself. I do not know that I very frequently trembled at the thought of hell: I did so whenever it came before my mind; but when I was in the hand of the Holy Ghost, as a Spirit of bondage convincing me of sin, my great trouble was that God was angry with me— properly and rightly so. I mourned that I had offended my Maker, that I had grieved the living God, that I had sinned against his righteous will, and that I could not rejoice in his favour, nor sun myself in his smile. I felt that it was right on the part of the holy God to be displeased with me. I believe that the great joy of forgiveness, to the believer, is that God has taken away his anger from him. That sweet hymn, which we often sing, is a paraphrase of a passage in Isaiah—

“I will praise thee every day,
Now thine anger’s turned away;
Comfortable thoughts arise
From the bleeding sacrifice.”

“Though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me.” Forgiveness means this among men. A person has grieved and wronged me. I feel hurt in my mind about it. When I forgive him, I no longer feel grieved or angry with him: I think of him as aforetime, and we are on good terms. If my forgiveness is genuine— and in God’s case it is emphatically so— then there is no resentment left. The offence is as though it had never been committed. I say to the person who did me wrong, “I take a sponge, and I wipe it all off the slate: give me your hand, let us stand as we stood before.” The pardon of sin by God is after such a fashion. He blots out the sin as the Oriental erases with his pencil the record made upon his waxen tablet, so that no trace of it remains. He smiles where else he must have frowned; he gives complacent love where else there must have been indignation and wrath. Do you not think that this is the sweetest way of looking at the forgiveness of sin? If you are at this time under legal work, feeling the tortures of a guilty conscience, you will appreciate such a pardon very highly. In the case of the poor penitent prodigal, it was the kiss of his father’s lip, it was his restoration to his father’s heart, it was the cheering words of his father’s love, that constituted to him the sweetest fragrance of the rose of forgiveness. Yes, the Lord Jesus Christ has come, that we poor, guilty ones may be restored to the favour of God, and walk consciously in the light of his countenance, because sin is removed.

     This pardon of sin, being of this full and sweet character, involving both the reversal of the penalty of sin, and the ending of the distance that intervened between us and God, brings with it the removal of much distress and sorrow from the heart! I do not think that there can be any grief outside of hell that is more terrible to bear than the wounds of conscience. We read that “David’s heart smote him”; and, believe me, the heart can smite as with an iron mace, and smite where the bruise is felt intensely. Give me into the power of a roaring lion, but never let me come under the power of an awakened, guilty conscience. Ay, shut me up in a dark dungeon, among all manner of loathsome creatures— snakes and reptiles of all kinds— but, oh, give me not over to my own thoughts when I am consciously guilty before God! This, surely, is the worm that dieth not, and the fire that is not quenched. I do not speak now what I have merely heard of; though, if you will read Mr. Bunyan’s “Grace Abounding,” you will find a striking account of it there; but I speak of what I have felt in my own soul. No pains of body can rival, for a moment, the agonized feeling of the heart, when the hot irons of conviction bum their way through the soul. When God sets up the conscience, and makes it a target for his arrows, they drink up the life blood of our spirit, till we cry out, and wonder how such anguish can come to a creature so insignificant. Our soul seems too small a cup to contain such an ocean of misery— too narrow a field for so cruel a battle. It is not the Lord that is the author of the misery; but he is giving us up for a while, that we may be filled with our own ways, and learn the bitterness of our own sin. When the Lord comes to us with a forgiving word, these sorrows are gone, like the mists of the morning when the sun arises. We grieve still to think that we have sinned; but that gnawing remorse, that vulture eating up the liver, is smitten with death, and the man breathes hopefully again. Though the penitence remains, the torment is removed from me, when God has forgiven me.

     Let me say here, that full forgiveness of sin, consciously enjoyed, will not only lift an enormous weight from off the soul, but it will breathe into the heart a great joy. When you know that sin is forgiven, you cannot be sad as before. The thought of perfect pardon, if it does but fill the spirit, will thrust out gloom, and remove apathy. It will make the lame man leap as a hart: he may still be lame, but he will leap as if he were not. And the tongue of the dumb, even though untrained to speech, shall be made to sing concerning free grace and dying love. When the thoughts are concentrated upon the enjoyment of complete forgiveness, full reception into the divine favour, and the blotting out of sin, then is the heart lifted into the suburbs of heaven. My dear hearers, do you know what I am talking about? Some of you do, blessed be the name of the Lord; but I am afraid that some of you do not; and you never can know the sweetness of mercy until you first have tasted the bitterness of sin. You will never know how grace can heal until you have felt how sin can wound. There is no clothing you till you are stripped; there is no making you alive till you are killed; there is no filling you till you are empty. The Lord filleth the hungry with good things, but the rich he sends empty away. God himself will never comfort you till you are driven to self-despair; and if you have already come to that, it is a great privilege to me to be allowed to tell you that the fact of forgiveness of sin is not only a doctrine of the creed, but it is a promise of God’s Word. “I believe in the forgiveness of sins:” this is no mere formula, but a realized fact with me. Removal of the penalty, removal of God’s offence against us, the clearing away of all the turbid waters within the heart, and the creation of joy and peace through perfect reconciliation to God— this is a summary account of the forgiveness of sin. It is a blessing vast and rich.

     II. And now, secondly, THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS IS BOUND UP WITH REDEMPTION BY BLOOD. Take the text, “In whom we have redemption through his bloody the forgiveness of sins.” Redemption and forgiveness are so put together, as to look as if they were the same thing. Assuredly they are so interlaced and intertwisted that there is no having the one without the other. Do you ask— “How is it that there should always need to be redemption by blood, in order to the forgiveness of sin?” I call your attention to the expression, “Redemption through his blood.” Observe, it is not redemption through his power, it is through his blood. It is not redemption through his love, it is through his blood. This is insisted upon emphatically, since in order to the forgiveness of sins it is redemption through his blood, as you have it over and over again in Scripture. “Without shedding of blood is no remission.” But they say— they say— that substitution is not just. One said, the other day, that to lay sin upon Christ, and to treat him as guilty, and let him die for the unjust, was not just. Yet the objector went on to say that God forgave men freely without any atonement at all. Of this wise critic I would ask— Is that just? Is it just to pass by breaches of the law without a penalty? Why any law at all? and why should men care whether they keep it or break it? It was stated by this critic that God, out of his boundless love, treated the guilty man as if he were innocent. I would ask— if that be right, where is the wrong of God’s treating us as innocent because of the righteousness of Christ? I venture to affirm that pardon is needless, if not impossible, upon the theory that the man, though guilty, is treated as if he were not guilty. If all are treated alike, whether guilty or not guilty, why should any one desire pardon? It were easy to answer cavillers, but they really are not worth the answering. It is to me always sufficient if I find a truth taught in Scripture: I ask no more. If I do not understand it, I am not particularly anxious to understand it: if it be in the Scriptures, I believe it. I like those grand, rocky truths of the Bible which I cannot break with the hammer of my understanding, for on these I lay the foundations of my soul’s confidence. Redemption by blood is here linked with forgiveness of sins, and in many other Scriptures we find it plainly stated. It is so. Let that stand for a sufficient answer to all objectors.

     And it is so, if we come to think of it, because this reflects great honour upon God. They say, “Let God simply forgive the sin, and have done with it.” But where, then, were his justice? “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” He threatened sin with punishment. If he does not execute his threatening, what then? Can we be sure that he will fulfil his promise? If he break his word one way, might he not break it another? If the Lord should not execute the penalty which he has threatened to sin, would it not look as if he made a mistake in threatening a penalty at all? Would it not seem as if he had been too severe at the first, and then had to catch himself up, and revise his own judgment afterwards? And shall that be? Might it not be supposed that, after all, God made much ado about nothing, and that he was really jesting with men when he threatened them with fearful punishment on account of sin? Shall God say, “Yea,” and “Nay”? Shall he speak and unspeak? This is according to the folly of man. Sometimes it may even be wisdom in a fallible man to reverse his word, and retract his declaration; but with God this cannot be. It is needful for the vindication of his own justice, his wisdom, and his holiness, that he shall not forego one of his threatenings, any more than one of his promises; and, since it is just that sin should be punished, and that, though the sinner should in wondrous mercy be permitted to go free, it is wise and just that Another should step in— God’s own Self should step in— and bear for the sinner what is due to the justice of the Most High. The substitution of our Lord in our room and stead is the central doctrine of the gospel, and it greatly glorifies the name of God.

     Besides that, beloved, that sin should not be pardoned without an atonement, is for the welfare of the universe. This world is but a speck compared with the universe of God. We cannot even imagine the multitudes of beings over which the great Lawgiver has rule; and if it could be whispered anywhere in that universe that, on this planet, God tampered with law, set aside justice, or did anything, in fact, to save his own chosen, so that he threw his own threatening behind his back, and disregarded his own solemn ordinance; why, this report would strike at the foundations of the eternal throne! Is God unjust in any case? Then how can he judge the universe? What creatures, then, would fear God, when they knew that he could play fast and loose with justice? It were a calamity even greater than hell itself that sin should go unpunished. The very reins of moral order would be snatched from the hand of the great Charioteer, and I know not what of mischief would happen. Evil would then have mounted to the high throne of God, and would have become supreme throughout his domains. It is for the welfare of the universe, throughout the ages, that in the forgiveness of sins there should be redemption by blood. Let lovers of anarchy cavil at it; but let good men accept the sacrifice of the Son of God with joy as the great establishment of law and justice.

     Moreover, this also is arranged for our comfort and assurance of heart. I protest before you all that, if I had been anywhere assured, when I was under conviction of sin, that God could forgive me outright without any atonement, it would have yielded no sort of satisfaction to me; for my conscience was sitting in judgment upon myself, and I felt that if I were on the throne of God, I must condemn myself to hell. Even if I could have derived a temporary comfort from the notion of forgiveness apart from atonement, the question would afterwards have come up— how is this just? If God does not punish me, he ought to do so; how can he do otherwise? He must be just, or he is not God. It must be that such sin as mine should bring punishment upon itself. Never, until I understood the great truth of the substitutionary death of Christ, could my conscience get a moment’s peace. If an atonement was not necessary for God, it certainly was necessary for me; and it seems to me necessary to every conscience that is fairly instructed as to the absolute certainty that sin involves deserved sorrow, and that every transgression and every iniquity must have its just recompense of reward. It was necessary for the perpetual peace of every enlightened conscience that the glorious atonement should have been provided.

     Besides that, the Lord meant to save us in a safe way for the promotion of our future reverence for the law. Now, if sin had been blotted out so readily, and nothing more said of it, what effect would that have had on us in the future? I think that everyone who has felt the burden of sin, and has stood at the foot of the cross, and heard the cries of the great Sacrifice, and read God’s wrath against sin written in crimson lines upon the blessed and perfect person of the innocent Saviour— every such person feels that sin is an awful thing. You cannot trifle with transgression after a vision of Gethsemane. You cannot laugh at it, and talk about the littleness of its demerit, if you have once stood on Golgotha, and heard the cry, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” The death of the Son of God upon the cross is the grandest of all moral lessons, because it is a lesson that affects the very soul of the man, and changes his whole idea of sin. The cross straightens him from the desperate twist which sin gave him at the first. The cure of the first Adam’s fall is the second Adam’s death— the second Adam’s grace, which comes to us through his great sacrifice. We love sin till we see that it killed our best Friend, and then we loathe it evermore. I say, again, that if the great Father did forgive you, and said, “There is nothing in it; go your way, it is all over;” you would have lacked that grandest source of sanctified life which now you find in the wounds of him who has made sin detestable to you, and has made perfect obedience, even unto death, the subject of your soul’s admiration. Now you long to be unto the great Father, in your measure, what your great Redeemer was to him when he magnified the law, and made it honourable. This is no mean benefit.

     O beloved friends, I do bless the Lord, at this time, for the forgiveness of sins through redemption by blood. There is something worth preaching in this truth. You can live on it; you can die on it. I am constantly— almost every week— at the death-beds of our members here: we are so large a church that one or two every week are going home. When we begin to talk about the precious blood of Jesus— the blood of the everlasting covenant, you should see the brightness of dying eyes! I mark the quiet of the departing spirit; and as my dear friends grip my hand, their testimony is unvaryingly, “Jesus is the Rock of our confidence, and all is well.”

     O Lord Jesus, hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes! O blessed Redeemer, what will a man do in death who has not thy death to be the death of his sin? How can a man live who has never seen thee lay down thy life in his stead, “the Just for the unjust, to bring us to God”? Whatever others may say, let us repeat our text, with solemn assurance, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.”

     III. But now, thirdly— and the text is very clear upon this, as upon the other two points— THE FORGIVENESS OF SIN IS STILL A MATTER OF GRACE, AND OF RICH GRACE. “We have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace”

     I admit that the forgiveness of sins, on God’s part, is a matter of justice, now that the redemption by blood has been completed. The man believes; the man confesses his sin; and it is written, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” The sacrifice is so great that it justly puts away the sin, and it is righteously forgiven. But observe this: the act of God in forgiving is not one atom the less gracious, because, in his infinite wisdom, he has so contrived that it is unquestionably just. If any make this assertion, they will be called upon to prove it; and they can prove it.

     Pardon is the more gracious to us that it does not come to us in an unrighteous way. We see God’s great prudence and wisdom in planning the method by which he may “be just, and the Justifier of him that believeth.” Those thoughts and plans on God’s part are all tokens of great love to us. Beloved, it is only by grace that we are justified; yet that this grace is exercised in a way of justice causes the grace to be not less, but even manifestly more gracious.

     The death of Christ, the redemption by blood, instead of veiling the grace of God, only manifests it. Put the thing before your own minds. Suppose that somebody has offended you, and you say, “Think no more of it; it is all forgiven.” Very well: that is kind of you, and commendable. It shows the graciousness of your character. But suppose, on the other hand, you were in office as a judge, and felt compelled to say, “I am willing to forgive you, but your offence has resulted in such and such great mischiefs, and all these things have to be cleared away. I will tell you what I will do I will clear them away myself. I will bear the result of your sin in order that my pardon may be seen to be most sure and full. I will pay the debt in which you have involved yourself. I will go to the prison to which you ought to go, as the consequence of what you have done. I will suffer the effect of your wrongdoing instead of condemning you to suffer it.” Well, now, the forgiveness that cost you so much would manifest your graciousness much more than that which costs you nothing beyond a kind will, and a tender heart. Oh, if it be so, that God, the Divine Ruler, the Judge of all the earth, says to guilty man, “I will pardon you, but it is imperative that my law be carried out; and this cannot be done except by the death of my dear Son, who is one with me, who is very God of very God, who himself wills to stand in your stead, and vindicate my justice, by suffering the penalty due to you”— then I say that the grace of God is a thousand-fold more clearly shown than by the free forgiveness which “modern thought” pleads for! Pardon which has cost God more than it cost him to make all worlds— which has cost him more than to manage all the empires of his providence— which has cost him his Only-begotten Son, and has cost that Only-begotten Son a life of sorrow and a death of unutterable and immeasurable anguish— I say that this pardon is pre-eminently gracious. Love is more displayed in this, infinitely more, than by a mere word and a wave of the hand, which would dismiss the sinner, without any attempt at an atoning sacrifice.

     Besides, beloved, be this always remembered, that it is in the application of redemption, and the personal pardon of any sinner, through the blood of Jesus, that the grace of God is best seen by that sinner. To each one pardon through the Lord Jesus comes, not only according to grace, but “according to the riches of his grace.” I can understand that God should forgive yow, all of you. I could hear it with full belief, and it would not astonish me. But that he should pardon me— that I should have the forgiveness of sins, and redemption by blood— that does astonish me. And I believe that any person, under a sense of sin, sees more of the grace of God in his that own salvation than in the salvation of anybody else. He may be quite conscious that he has never been a thief, or a drunkard, or a murderer; and yet, when he comes to look at it, he may see reasons why the pardon of sin in his case should be more remarkable than even in the case of a drunkard, or a thief, or a murderer. There may be elements in his own case which may make him seem to have sinned even more grievously than open transgressors, because he transgressed against greater light, with less temptation thereto, and with a direr presumption of rebellion against the Most High. That Jesus died, is unutterable grace; but that he loved me, and gave himself for me, this is overwhelming grace, and makes the heir of heaven say with emphasis, Blessed be God that, in Jesus, I have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace!

     Do you not feel at this time, you that have been pardoned, that nothing but the riches of God’s grace could ever have pardoned you? No scanty grace could have provided an atonement equal to your iniquities. Poverty of grace would have left you ruined by your debt of sin. Riches of grace were wanted, and riches of grace were forthcoming in redemption by blood, and in the full, perfect, irreversible forgiveness which God gave you in the day when you believed on Jesus Christ your Saviour. Oh, that the Holy Spirit would help you to sing of the grace of God to-day and every day!

     IV. Thus far have I brought you, then, in three remarks. Kindly follow me in the fourth one, upon which I will not be long.

     Fourthly, THIS FORGIVENESS OF SINS IS ENJOYED BY US NOW. “In whom we have”— we have— “redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” I remember the astonishment with which I sat in a ministers’ meeting, and heard one, who professed to be a preacher of the gospel, assert that he did not think that any one of us could be sure that he was forgiven. I ventured at once to say that I was sure; and I was pleased, but by no means surprised, to find that others dared to say the same. I hope I have hundreds before me who enjoy the same assurance.

     Brethren, if there be no consciousness of the forgiveness of sins possible, how can there be any rest for the conscience? Yet Jesus says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” What rest is possible to the condemned? Can you go to bed to-night with your sins unforgiven? Some of you may have the foolhardiness to do that, but I would not dare to do it. See where you are. Within a moment you may be dead. Within that moment you will be in hell, past all hope. In a single instant you may be eternally lost: can you endure the thought? Our breath has but to stop, or the heart to cease beating, and instantly life is over. How can you be at peace, while sin is unforgiven? Unless sin had made men mad, they would never rest till they were cleared from, their sins. There cannot be any true rest without a consciousness of forgiveness. Yet that rest is promised; therefore the present enjoyment of an assurance of forgiveness must be possible.

     And, next, where could there ever be that great love in the hearts of men and women which we read of in Scripture? She that washed the Saviour’s feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head— would she have done so if she had not known that she was forgiven? She loved much, because she had had much forgiven her. And the stimulus, the zeal, the fervour that spurs on a man in his service and suffering for the Lord Jesus, must arise out of the consciousness that the Lord has done great things for him, and the conclusion that therefore he must do great things for his Lord. Surely, you have robbed Christianity of its highest moral force, if you have denied the possibility of knowing that you are pardoned.

     Moreover, where is there any testimony of the power of grace? We that come and preach to you may be liars unto you, if we ourselves have never tasted and handled pardoning grace. We do, at any rate, but retail to you a second-hand gospel, which we have never tested and proved for ourselves. If I did not know, in my very soul, that the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin, how could I dare to face you with the gospel message? I have not impudence enough to tell you of what might be, or might not be, about which I am uncertain myself. God grant me grace to break stones, or sweep chimneys, sooner than come and tell you a cunningly-devised fable, or a tale about which I have no assured certainty, derived from personal knowledge! Could I say to you, “I dare say there is bread, but I myself am hungry, I have never eaten a mouthful of the provision which I offer you”? Think of my saying to one perishing of thirst, “There is living water flowing from the rock; but personally I am thirsty.” You might say to me at once, “Then go home to your house, and next time you appear, be sure of the truth of what you tell us. If you do not believe it, how should we believe it?” Beloved, there are thousands, there are tens of thousands, on earth still who know that the Son of God has power on earth to forgive sins; and there are myriads in heaven who passed to their felicity confident that they had been forgiven, and they sang on earth the same song that they sing in heaven, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.” They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. They know it, they have no doubt about it. Many of us know it here, and rejoice therein at this moment.

     Dear friend, what would you give to have this assurance? Thou mayest have it— “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Whoso believeth in him is justified from all sin. “He that believeth in him hath everlasting life.” Oh, that God’s grace may lead you to cast away all other confidences, and to lay your guilty spirit down at Jesus’ feet! Then shall you go your way rejoicing that you also, with us, can say, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.”

     V. Fifthly— and this is only a brief head; but it is a point that must not be left out— THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS BINDS US TO OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. Let us read the text again. “In whom we have redemption through his blood.” We have nothing apart from Jesus. Every blessing of the covenant binds us to Christ. Covenant gifts are so many golden chains to fasten the soul of the believer to his Lord. Our wealth of mercy is all in Christ. There is nothing good outside of Christ. When are we pardoned, brethren? When have we forgiveness? Why, when we are in him, “in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.” O son of Adam, living without Jesus, hear and take warning! So long as thou art out of Christ, thou must bear thine own burden till it crush thee to the dust; but as soon as thou hast touched the hem of his garment, there is a link of connection; and if thou canst rise from that to holding him by the feet, the union is closer; and if thou canst from that become like Simeon, who took him up in his arms, then mayest thou cry, “Mine eyes have seen thy salvation.” When thou hast Christ to the full, thou hast grace to the full. It is as you are in Christ— in connection and communion with Christ— that you receive the pardon of sin, for all the pardon is in him. Do you see that?

     “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.” The forgiveness is not so much in his office, and in his work, as in himself. When thou gettest Christ, thou hast redemption; for he is redemption. When thou gettest Christ, thou hast forgiveness of sins; for he is the propitiation for our sins. He has put the sin away by the sacrifice of himself. Get Christ, and thou hast the proof, the evidence, the sum, the substance of perfect pardon. If thou acceptest the Beloved, thou art “accepted in the Beloved.” When thou art in him, then thou art forgiven; but thy forgiveness is alone in him. In him thou hast redemption: out of him thou art in bondage.

     Beloved, every day, as we go afresh to God for a sense of pardon, let us know that we can never get it except as we come still viewing Jesus. I notice that some believers, when they get rather dull and cold, begin the work of self-examination. This may appear very proper, but it is dreary work. I do not believe, dear friends, if you are very poor, that you will ever get rich by looking through all your empty cupboards. If it is very cold, and you have no coals in the cellar, you will not become warm by going into the cellar, and seeing that there is nothing below but an empty coal-hole. No, no; if our graces are to be revived, we must begin with a renewed consciousness of pardon through the precious blood; and the only way to get that sense of pardon is to go to the cross again, even as we went at the first. I sometimes wonder that you do not get tired of my preaching, because I do nothing but hammer away on this one nail. I have driven it in up to the head, and I have gone round to the other side to clinch it; but still I keep at it. With me it is, year after year, “None but Jesus I None but Jesus!” Oh, you great saints, if you have outgrown the need of a sinner’s trust in the Lord Jesus, you have outgrown your sins, but you have also outgrown your grace, and your saintship has ruined you! He that has the mind of Christ within him must still come to his Lord, just as he came at the first.

     I frankly confess that still I cry to my Lord Jesus—

“Nothing in my hand I bring,”
Simply to thy cross I cling.”

Still, to this day, I have no redemption in myself, but only in Jesus. I am not an inch forwarder as to the ground of my trust. Is it not so with you? Do we not still say of Jesus— “In whom we have redemption through his blood”? To this day we find no reason for forgiveness in ourselves. The precious blood is still our one plea. Lost and condemned are we apart from the one offering of our Great High Priest. But cleansed and justified are we in him.

“Oh! how sweet to view the flowing
Of his sin-atoning blood,
With divine assurance knowing,
He has made my peace with God!”

You know the story of the poor bricklayer, who fell from a scaffold and when they took him up, he was so much injured that they fetched a minister to him, who, stooping over him, said, “My dear man, you have a very short time to live. I entreat you to make your peace with God.” To the surprise of the minister, the man opened his eyes, and said, “Make my peace with God, sir? It was made for me nearly nineteen hundred years ago, upon the cross of Calvary, by him that loved me, and gave himself for me.” Oh, the joy which this creates in the heart! Yes, it is in Jesus that the peace is made— effectually made, made for me, made for you, made for all believers. In Jesus is perfect redemption. In Jesus pardon is provided, proclaimed, presented, and sealed upon the conscience. Go and live on Jesus; live with Jesus; live in Jesus; never go away from Jesus; and may he be dearer to you every day of your lives! Blessed be his adorable name! Amen, and Amen.



The Statute of David for the Sharing of the Spoil

By / Jun 7

The Statute of David for the Sharing of the Spoil

 

“And David came to the two hundred men, which were so faint that they could not follow David, whom they had made also to abide at the brook Besor: and they went forth to meet David, and to meet the people that were with him: and when David came near to the people, he saluted them. Then answered all the wicked men and men of Belial, of those that went with David, and said, Because they went not with us, we will not give them ought of the spoil that we have recovered, save to every man his wife and his children, that they may lead them away, and depart. Then said David, Ye shall not do so, my brethren, with that which the Lord hath given us, who hath preserved us, and delivered the company that came against us into our hand. For who will hearken unto you in this matter? but as his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff: they shall part alike. And it was so from that day forward, that he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel unto this day.”— 1 Samuel xxx. 21— 25.

 

THOSE who associate themselves with a leader must share his fortunes. Six hundred men had quitted their abodes in Judæa; unable to endure the tyranny of Saul they had linked themselves with David, and made him to be a captain over them. They were, some of them, the best of men, and some of them were the worst: in this, resembling our congregations. Some of them were choice spirits, whom David would have sought, but others were undesirable persons, from whom he might gladly have been free. However, be they who they may, they must rise or fall with their leader and commander. If he had the city Ziklag given to him, they had a house and a home in it; and if Ziklag was burned with fire, their houses did not escape. When David stood amid the smoking ruins, a penniless and a wifeless man they stood in the same condition. This rule holds good with all of us who have joined ourselves to Christ and his cause; we must be partakers with him. I hope we are prepared to stand to this rule to-day. If there be ridicule and reproach for the gospel of Christ, let us be willing to be ridiculed and reproached for his sake. Let us gladly share with him in his humiliation, and never dream of shrinking. This involves a great privilege, since they that are with him in Ins humiliation shall be with him in his glory. If we share his rebuke in the midst of an evil generation we shall also sit upon his throne, and share his glory in the day of his appearing. Brethren, I hope the most of us can say we are in for it, to sink or swim with Jesus. In life or death, where he is, there will we, his servants, be. We joyfully accept both the cross and the crown which go with our Lord Jesus Christ: we are eager to bear our full share of the blame, that we may partake in his joy.

     It frequently happens that when a great disaster occurs to a band of men, a mutiny follows thereupon. However little it may be the leader’s fault, the defeated cast the blame of the defeat upon him. If the fight is won, “it was a soldiers’ battle”; every man at arms claims his share of praise. But if the battle is lost, cashier the commander! It was entirely his fault; if he had been a better general he might have won the day. This is how people talk: fairness is out of the question. So in the great disaster of Ziklag, when the town was burned with fire, and wives and children were carried away captive; then we read that they spoke of stoning David. Why David? Why David more than anybody else, it is hard to see, for he was not there, nor any one of them. They felt so vexed, that it would be a relief to stone somebody, and why not David? Brethren, it sometimes happens, even to the servants of Christ, that when they fall into persecution and loss for Christ’s sake, the tempter whispers to them to throw up their profession. “Since you have been a Christian, you have had nothing but trouble. It seems as if the dogs of hell were snapping at your heels more than ever since you took upon you the name of Christ. Therefore, throw it up, and leave the ways of godliness.” Vile suggestion! Mutiny against the Lord Jesus? Dare you do so? Some of us cannot do so, for when he asks us, “Will ye also go away?” we can only answer, “Lord, to whom should we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” No other leader is worth following. We must follow the Son of David. Mutiny against him is out of the question.

“Through floods or flames, if Jesus lead,
We’ll follow where he goes.”

When a dog follows a man, we may discover whether the man is his master by seeing what happens when they come to a turn in the road. If the creature keeps close to its master at all turnings, it belongs to him. Every now and then you and I come to turns in the road, and many of us are ready, through grace, to prove our loyalty by following Jesus even when the way is hardest. Though the tears stand in his eyes and in ours; though we weep together till we have no more power to weep, we will cling to him when the many turn aside, and witness that he hath the living Word, and none upon earth beside. God grant us grace to be faithful unto death!

     If we thus follow our leader and bear his reproach, the end and issue will be glorious victory. It was a piteous sight to see David Leaving two hundred men behind him, and marching with his much diminished forces after an enemy who had gone, he scarce knew where, who might be ten times stronger than his little band, and might slay those who pursued them. It was a melancholy spectacle for those left behind to see their leader a broken man, worn and weary like themselves, hastening after the cruel Amalekite. How very different was the scene when he came back to the brook Besor more than a conqueror! Do you not hear the song of them that make merry? A host of men in the front are driving vast herds of cattle and flocks of sheep, and singing as they march, “This is David’s spoil!” Then you see armed men, with David in the midst of them, all laden with spoil, and you hear them singing yet another song; those that bring up the rear are shouting exultingly, “David recovered all! David recovered all!” They, the worn-out ones that stayed at the brook Besor, hear the mingled song, and join first in the one shout, and then in the other; singing, “This is David’s spoil! David recovered all!”

     Yes, we have no doubt about the result of our warfare. He that is faithful to Christ shall be glorified with him. That he will divide the spoil with the strong is never a matter of question. “The pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” The old truth by which we stand shall never be blotted out.

“Engraved as in eternal brass
The mighty promise shines;
Nor shall the powers of darkness rase
Those everlasting lines.”

We are certain as we live that the exiled truth shall celebrate its joyful return. The faith once for all delivered to the saints may be downtrodden for a season; but rejoice not over us, O our adversaries: though we fall we shall rise again! Wherefore we patiently hope, and quietly wait, and calmly believe. We drink of the brook Besor by the way and lift up our heads.

     This morning I want to utter God-given words of comfort to those who are faint and weary in the Lord’s army. May the divine Comforter make them so!

     I. I shall begin by saying, first, that FAINT ONES OCCUR EVEN IN THE ARMY OF OUR KING. Among the very elect of David’s army— hands— heroes who were men of war from their youth up— there were hands that hung down, and feeble knees that needed to be confirmed.’ There are such in Christ’s army at most seasons. We have among us soldiers whose faith is real, and whose love is burning; and yet, for all that, just now their strength is weakened in the way, and they are so depressed in spirit, that they are obliged to stop behind with the baggage.

     Possibly some of these weary ones had grown faint because they had been a good deal perplexed. David had so wrongfully entangled himself with the Philistine king, that he felt bound to go with Achish to fight against Israel. I dare say these men said to themselves, “How will this end? Will David really lead us to battle against Saul? When he could have killed him in the cave he would not, but declared that he would not lift up his hand against the Lord’s anointed; will he now take us to fight against the anointed of God? This David, who was so great an enemy of Philistia, and slew their champion, will he war on their behalf?” They were perplexed with their leader’s movements. I do not know whether you agree with me, but I find that half-an-hour’s perplexity takes more out of a man than a month’s labour. When you cannot see your bearings, and know not what to do, it is most trying. When to be true to God it seems that you must break faith with man, and when to fulfil your unhappy covenant with evil would make you false to your Christian professions, things are perplexing. If you do not walk carefully, you can easily get into a snarl. If Christians walk in a straight line it is comparatively easy going, for it is easy to find your way along a straight road; but when good men take to the new cut, that by-pr.tli across the meadow, then they often get into ditches that are not in the map, and fall into thickets and sloughs that they never reckoned upon. Then is the time for heart-sickness to come on. These warriors may very well have been perplexed; and perhaps they feared that God was against them, and that now their cause would be put to shame; and when they came to Ziklag, and found it burned with fire, the perplexity of their minds added intense bitterness to their sorrow, and they felt bowed into the dust. They did not pretend to be faint, but they were really so; for the mind can soon act upon the body, and the body fails sadly when the spirits are worried with questions and fears. This is one reason why certain of our Lord’s loyal-hearted ones are on the sick list, and must keep in the trenches for a while.

     Perhaps, also, the pace was killing to these men. They made forced marches for three days from the city of Achish to Ziklag. These men could do a good day’s march with anybody; but they could not foot it at the double quick march all day long. There are a great many Christians of that sort— good, staying men who can keep on under ordinary pressure, doing daily duty well, and resisting ordinary temptations bravely; but at a push they fare badly: who among us does not? To us there may come multiplied labours, and we faint because our strength is small.

     Worst of all, their grief came in just then. Their wives were gone. Although, as it turned out, they were neither killed nor otherwise harmed; yet they could not tell this, and they feared the worse. For a man to know that his wife is in the hands of robbers, and that he may never see her again, is no small trouble. Their sons and daughters also were gone: no prattlers climbed their father’s knee, no gentle daughters came forth to bid them u Welcome homo.” Their homes were still burning, their goods were consumed, and they lifted up their voice and wept: is it at all wonderful that some of them were faint after performing that doleful miserere? Where would you be if you went home this morning, and found your home burned, and your family gone, you knew not where? I know many Christians who get very faint under extraordinary troubles. They should not, but they do. We have reason to thank God that no temptation has happened to us but such as is common to men; and yet it may not seem so; but we may feel as if we were specially tried, like Job. Messenger after messenger has brought us evil tidings, and our hearts are not fixed on the Lord as they ought to be. To those who are faint through grief I speak just now. You may be this, and yet you may be a true follower of the Lamb; and as God has promised to bring you out of your troubles, he will surely keep his word. Remember, he has never promised that you shall have no sorrows, hut that he will deliver you out of them all. Ask yon saints in heaven! Ask those to step out of the shining ranks who came thither without trial. Will one of the leaders of the shining host give the word of command that he shall step forward who has washed his robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, but who never knew what affliction meant while here below? No one stirs in all that white-robed host. Does not one come forward? Must we wait here for ever without response? See! instead of anyone stirring from their ranks, I hear a voice that says, “These are they which came out of great tribulation.” All of them have known, not only tribulation, but great tribulation. One promise of the New Testament is surely fulfilled before our eyes— “In the world ye shall have tribulation.” When trouble came so pressingly on David’s men they felt their weakness and needed to halt at the margin of the brook.

     Perhaps, also, the force of the torrent was too much for them. As I have told you, in all probability the brook Besor was only a hollow place, which in ordinary times was almost dry; but in a season of great rain it filled suddenly with a rushing muddy stream, against which only strong men could stand. These men might have kept on upon dry land, but the current was too fierce for them, and they feared that it would carry them off their feet and drown them. Therefore, David gave them leave to stop there and guard the stuff. Many there are of our Lord’s servants who stop short of certain onerous service: they are not called to do what their stronger comrades undertake with joy. They can do something, but they fail to do more; they can also bear certain trials, but they are unable to bear more; they faint because they have not yet come to fulness of growth in grace. Their hearts are right in the sight of God, but they are not in condition to surmount some peculiar difficulty. You must not overdrive them, for they are the feeble of the flock. Many are too faint for needful controversy. I have found a great many of that sort about lately: the truth is very important, but they love peace. It is quite necessary that certain of us should stand up for the faith once delivered to the saints; but they are not up to the mark for it. They cannot bear to differ from their fellows; and they hold their tongues rather than contend for the truth. There are true hearts that, nevertheless, cannot defend the gospel. They wish well to the champions; but they seek the rear rank for themselves. And some cannot advance any further with regard to knowledge; they know the fundamentals, and feel as if they could master nothing more. It is a great blessing that they know the gospel, and feel that it will save them; but the glorious mysteries of the everlasting covenant, of the sovereignty of God, of his eternal love and distinguishing grace, they cannot compass— these are a brook Besor which as yet they cannot swim. It would do them a world of good if they could venture in; but, still, they are not to be tempted into these blessed deeps. To hear of these things rather wearies them than instructs them: they have not strength enough of mind for the deep things of God. I would have every Christian wish to know all that he can know of revealed truth. Somebody whispers that the secret things belong not to us. You may be sure you will never know them if they are secret; but all that is revealed you ought to know for these things belong to you and to your children. Take care you know what the Holy Ghost teaches. Do not give way to a faint hearted ignorance, lest you be great losers thereby. That which is fit food for babes should not be enough for young men and fathers: we should eat strong meat, and leave milk to the little ones.

     Yet these fainting ones were, after all, in David’s army. Their names were in their Captain’s Register as much as the names of the strong. And they did not desert the colours. They had the same captain as the stoutest-hearted men in the whole regiment; they could call David “Master” and “Lord” as truly as the most lion-like man amongst them. They were in for the same dangers; for if the men in front had been beaten and had retreated, the enemy would have fallen on those who guarded the stuff. If the Amalekites had slain the four hundred, they would have made short work of the two hundred. They had work to do as needful as that of the others. Though they had not to fight, they had to take care of the stuff; and this eased the minds of the fighting men. I will be bound to say it was a great trial to them not to be allowed to march into the fight. For a brave man to see the troops go past him, and hear the last footfall of his comrades, must have been sickening. Who could pleasantly say, “I am left out of it. There is a glorious day coming, and I shall be away. I shall, until I die, think myself accursed I was not there, and hold my manhood cheap that I fought not with them on that glorious day”? It is hard to brave men to be confined to hospital, and have no drive at the foe. The weary one wishes he could be to the front, where his Captain’s eye would be upon him. He pants to smite down the enemies, and win back the spoil for his comrades.

     Enough of this. I will only repeat my first point: fainting ones do occur even in the army of our King.

     II. Secondly, THESE FAINTING ONES REJOICE TO SEE THEIR LEADER RETURN. Do you see, when David went back they went to meet him, and the people that were with him. I feel very much like this myself. That was one reason why I took this text. I felt, after my illness, most happy to come forth and meet my Lord in public. I hoped he would be here; and so he is. I am glad also to meet with you, my comrades. We are still spared for the war. Though laid aside a while, we are again among our brethren. Thank God! It is a great joy to meet you. I am sorry to miss so many of our church-members who are laid aside by this sickness; but it is a choice blessing to meet so many of our kindred in Christ. We are never happier than when we are in fellowship with one another and with our Lord.

     David saluted the stay-at-homes. Oh, that he might salute each one of us this morning, especially those who have been laid aside! Our King’s salutations are wonderful for their heartiness. He uses no empty compliments nor vain words. Every syllable from his lips is a benediction. Every glance of his eye is an inspiration. When the King himself comes near, it is always a feast day to us! It is a high day and a holiday, even with the faintest of us, when we hear his voice. So they went to meet David, and he came to meet them, and there was great joy. Yes, I venture to mend that, and say there is great joy among us now. Glory be to his holy name, the Lord is here! We see him, and rejoice with joy unspeakable.

     David’s courtesy was as free as it was true. Possibly those who remained behind were half afraid that their leader might say, “See here, you idle fellows, what we have been doing for you!” No; he saluted them, but did not scold them. Perhaps they thought, “He will upbraid us that we did not manage to creep into the fray.” But no; “he giveth liberally, and upbraideth not.” He speaks not a word of upbraiding, for his heart pities them, and therefore he salutes them— “My brethren, God has been gracious to us. All hail!” David would have them rejoice together; and give praise unto the most High. He will not dash their cup with a drop of bitter. Oh, for a salutation from our Lord at this good hour! When Christ comes into a company his presence makes a heavenly difference. Have you never seen an assembly listening to an orator, all unmoved and stolid? Suddenly the Holy Ghost has fallen on the speaker, and the King himself has been visibly set forth among them in the midst of the assembly, and all have felt as if they could leap to their feet and cry, “Hallelujah, hallelujah!” Then hearts beat fast, and souls leap high; for where Jesus is found his presence fills the place with delight. Now, then, you weary ones, if you be here, any of you, may you rejoice as you now meet your Leader, and your Leader reveals himself to you! If no one else has a sonnet, I have mine. He must, he shall be praised. “Thou art the King of glory, O Christ! All heaven and earth adores thee. Thou shalt reign for ever and ever.”

     III. Thirdly, FAINT ONES HAVE THEIR LEADER FOR THEIR ADVOCATE. Listen to those foul-mouthed men of Belial, these wicked men: how they rail against those whom God has afflicted! They came up to David and began blustering— “These weaklings who were not in the fight, they shall not share the spoil. Let them take their wives and children and begone.” These fellows spoke with loud, harsh voices, and greatly grieved the feebler ones. Who was to speak up for them? Their leader became their advocate.

     First, do you notice, he pleads their unity? The followers of the son. of Jesse are one and inseparable. David said, “Ye shall not do so, my brethren, with that which the Lord hath given us, who hath preserved us.” “We are all one,” says David. “God has given the spoil, not to you alone, but to us all. We are all one company of brothers.” The unity of saints is the consolation of the feeble. Brethren, our Lord Jesus Christ would refresh his wearied ones by the reflection that we are all one in him. I may be the foot, all dusty and travel-stained; and you may be the hand, holding forth some precious gem; but we are still one body. Yonder friend is the brow of holy thought, and another is the lip of persuasion, and a third is the eye of watchfulness; but still we are one body in Christ. We cannot do, any one of us, without his fellow; each one ministers to the benefit of all. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of thee.” We are all one in Christ Jesus. Surely this ought to comfort those of you who, by reason of feebleness, are made to feel as if you were very inferior members of the body: you are still living members of the mystical body of Jesus Christ your Lord, and let this suffice you. One life is ours, one love is ours, one heaven shall be ours in our one Saviour.

     David further pleaded free grace, for he said to them, “Ye shall not do so, my brethren, with that which the Lord hath given us.” He did not say, “With that which you have conquered, and fairly earned in battle,” but “that which the Lord hath given us.” Look upon every blessing as a gift, and you will not think anyone shut out from it, not even yourself. The gift of God is eternal life; why should you not have it? Deny not to anyone of your brethren any comfort of the covenant of grace. Think not of any man, “He ought not to have so much joy.” It is all of free grace; and if free grace rules the hour, the least may have it as well as the greatest. If it is all of free grace, then, my poor struggling brother, who can hardly feel assured that you are saved, yet if you are a believer, you may claim every blessing of the Lord’s gracious covenant. God freely gives to you as well as to me the provisions of his love; therefore let us be glad, and not judge ourselves after the manner of the law of condemnation.

     Then he pleaded their needfulness. He said, “These men abided by the stuff.” No army fights well when its camp is unguarded. It is a great thing for a church to know that its stores are well guarded by a praying band. While some of us are teaching in the school or preaching in the street, we have great comfort in knowing that a certain number of our friends are praying for us. To me it is a boundless solace that I live in the prayers of thousands. I will not say which does the better service— the man that preaches, or the man that prays; but I know this, that we can do better without the voice that preaches than without the heart that prays. The petitions of our bed-ridden sisters are the wealth of the church. The kind of service which seems most commonplace among men is often the most precious unto God. Therefore, as for those who cannot come into the front places of warfare, deny them not seats of honour, since, after all, they may be doing the greater good. Remember the statute, “They shall part alike.”

     Notice that David adds to his pleading a statute. I like to think of our great Commander, the Lord Jesus, making statutes. For whom does he legislate? For the first three? For the captains of thousands? No. He makes a statute for those who are forced to stay at home because they are faint. Blessed be the name of our Lord Jesus, he is always looking to the interests of those who have nobody else to care for them! If you can look after your own cause, you may do so; but if you are so happy as to be weak in yourself, you shall be strong in Christ. Those who have Christ to care for them are better off than if they took care of themselves. He that can leave his concerns with Christ has left them in good hands. Vain is the help of self, but all-sufficient is the aid of Jesus.

     To sum up what I mean: I believe the Lord will give to the sick and the suffering an equal reward with the active and energetic, if they are equally concerned for his glory. The Lord will also make a fair division to the obscure and unknown as well as to the renowned and honoured, if they are equally earnest. Oh, tell me not that she who rears her boy for Christ shall miss her reward from him by whom an apostle is recompensed! Tell me not that the woman who so conducts her household that her servants come to fear God, shall be forgotten in the day when the “Well dones” are distributed to the faithful! Homely and unnoticed service shall have honour as surely as that with which the world is ringing.

     Some of God’s people are illiterate, and they have but little native talent. But if they serve the Lord as best they can, with all their heart, they shall take their part with those that are the most learned and accomplished. He that is faithful over a little shall have his full reward of grace. It is accepted according to what a man hath. We may possess no more than two mites, but if we cast them into the treasury, our Lord will think much of them.

     Some dear servants of God seem always to be defeated. They seem sent to a people whose hearts are made gross and their ears dull of hearing. Still, if they have truthfully proclaimed the Word of the Lord their reward will not be according to their apparent success, but according to their fidelity.

     Some saints are constitutionally depressed and sad; they are like certain lovely ferns, which grow best under a constant drip. Well, well, the Lord will gather these beautiful ferns of the shade as well as the roses of the sun; they shall share his notice as much as the blazing sunflowers and the saddest shall rejoice with the gladdest. You Little-Faiths, you Despondencies, you Much-Afraids, you Feeble-Minds, you that sigh more than you sing, you that would but cannot, you that have a great heart for holiness, but feel beaten back in your struggles, the Lord shall give you his love, his grace, his favour, as surely as he gives it to those who can do great things in his name. Certain of you have but a scant experience of the higher joys and deeper insights of the kingdom, and it may be that you are in part faulty because you are so backward; and yet, if true to your Lord, your infirmities shall not be reckoned as iniquities. If lawfully detained from the field of active labour this statute stands fast for ever, for you as well as for others: “As his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff: they shall part alike.”

     IV. Now, fourthly, FAINT ONES FIND JESUS TO BE THEIR GOOD LORD IN EVERY WAY. Was he not a good Lord when he first took us into his army of salvation? What a curious crew they were that enlisted under David! “Every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him, and he became a captain over them.” He was a captain of ragamuffins; but our Lord had not a better following. I was a poor wretch when I came to Christ; and I should not wonder if that word is near enough to the truth to describe you. I was a good-for-nothing, over head and ears in debt, and without a penny to pay. I came to Jesus so utterly down at the heel, that no one else would have owned me. He might well have said,— “No, I have not come to this— to march at the head of such vagrant beggars as these.” Yet he received us graciously, according to his promise, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Since then, how graciously has he borne with us! We are not among those self-praising ones who have wrought such wonders of holiness; but we mourn our shortcomings and transgressions; and yet he hath not cast away the people whom he did foreknow. When we look back upon our character as soldiers of Christ, we feel ashamed of ourselves, and amazed at his grace. If anybody had told us that we should have been such poor soldiers as we have been, we should not have believed them. We do not excuse ourselves: we are greatly grieved to have been such failures. Yet our gracious Lord has never turned us out of the ranks. He might have drummed us out of the regiment long ago; but here we are still enrolled, upheld, and smiled upon. What a captain we have! None can compare with him for gentleness. He still owns us, and he declares, “They shall be mine in that day when I make up my jewels.”

     Brethren, let us exalt the name of our Captain. There is none like him. We have been in distress since then: and he has been in distress with us. Ziklag smoked for him as well as for us. In all their affliction he was afflicted. Have you not found it so? When we have come to a great difficulty like the brook Besor he has gently eased his commands, and has not required of us what we were unable to yield. He has not made some of you pastors and teachers, for you could not have borne the burden. He hath abounded towards us in all wisdom and prudence. He has suited the march to the foot, or the foot to the march. How sweetly he has smiled on what we have done! Have you not wondered to see how he has accepted your works and your prayers? You have been startled to find that he did answer your feeble petitions. When you have spoken a word for Jesus, and God has blessed it, why you have thought, “Surely there is a mistake about this! How could my feeble word have a blessing on it?” Beloved, we follow a noble Prince. Jesus is the chief among ten thousand for tenderness as well as for everything else. How tenderly considerate he is! How gentle and generous! He has never said a stinging word to us ever since we knew him. He is that riches which has no sorrow added to it. He has rebuked us; but his rebukes have been like an excellent oil, which has never broken our heads. When we have left him, he has turned and looked upon us, and so he has cut us to the quick; but he has never wounded us with any sword except that which cometh out of his mouth, whose edge is love. When he goes away from us, as David did from those two hundred who could not keep up with him, yet he always comes back again in mercy, and salutes us with favour. We wonder to ourselves that we did not hold him, and vow that we would never let him go; but we wonder still more that he should come back so speedily, so heartily, leaping over the mountains, hastening like a roe or a young hart over the hills of division. Lo! he has come to us. He has come to us, and he makes our hearts glad at his coming. Let us indulge our hearts this morning as we take our share in the precious spoil of his immeasurable love. He loves the great and the small with like love; let us be joyful all round.

     There is one choice thing which he will do, that should make us love him beyond measure. David, after a while, went up to Hebron to be made king over Judah. Shall I read you in the second book of Samuel, the second chapter, and the third verse? “And his men that were with him” (and among the rest these weak ones who could not pass over the brook Besor), “and his men that were with him did David bring up, every man with his household; and they dwelt in the cities of Hebron.” Yes, he will bring me up, even me! He will bring you up, you faintest and weakest of the band. There is a Hebron wherein Jesus reigns as anointed King, and he will not be there and leave one of us behind. There is no kingdom for Jesus without his brethren, no heaven for Jesus without his disciples. His poor people who have been with him in faintness and weariness shall be with him in glory, and their households. Hold on to that additional blessing. I pray you, hold on to it. Do not let slip that word— “and their households.” I fear we often lose a blessing on our households through clipping the promise. When the jailer asked what he must do to be saved, what was the answer? “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” You have heard that answer hundreds of times, have you not? Did you ever hear the rest of it? Why do preachers and quoters snip off corners from gospel promises? It rims thus: “Thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” Lay hold of that blessed enlargement of grace, “and thy house.” Why leave out the wives and the children? Will you let the Amalekites have them? Do not be satisfied without household salvation. Let us plead this word of the Lord this morning:— O thou blessed David, whom we have desired to follow, who has helped us so graciously even unto this day, when thou art in thy kingdom graciously remember us, and let it be said of us, “ and David went up thither, and his men that were with him David brought up (they did not go up of themselves) every man with his household ; and they dwelt in the cities of Hebron;” “Every man with his household.” I commend that word to your careful notice. Fathers, have you yet seen your children saved? Mothers, are all those daughters brought in yet? Never cease to pray until it is so, for this is the crown of it all, “Every man with his household.”

     What I have to say lastly is this: how greatly I desire that you who are not yet enlisted in my Lord’s band would come to him because you see what a kind and gracious Lord he is! Young men, if you could see our Captain, you would down on your knees and beg him to let you enter the ranks of those who follow him. It is heaven to serve Jesus. I am a recruiting sergeant, and I would fain find a few recruits at this moment. Every man must serve somebody: we have no choice as to that fact. Those who have no master are slaves to themselves. Depend upon it, you will either serve Satan or Christ, either self or the Saviour. You will find sin, self, Satan, and the world to be hard masters; but if you wear the livery of Christ, you will find him so meek and lowly of heart that you will find rest unto your souls. He is the most magnanimous of captains. There never was his like among the choicest of princes. He is always to be found in the thickest part of the battle. When the wind blows cold he always takes the bleak side of the hill. The heaviest end of the cross lies ever on his shoulders. If he bids us carry a burden, he carries it also. If there is anything that is gracious, generous, kind, and tender, yea lavish and superabundant in love, you always find it in him. These forty years and more have I served him, blessed be his name! and I have had nothing but love from him. I would be glad to continue yet another forty years in the same dear service here below if so it pleased him. His service is life, peace, joy. Oh, that you would enter on it at once! God help you to enlist under the banner of Jesus even this day! Amen.



My Times are in thy Hand

By / May 17

My Times are in thy Hand

 

“My times are in thy hand.” — Psalm xxxi. 15.

 

DAVID was sad: his life was spent with grief, and his years with sighing. His sorrow had wasted his strength, and even his bones were consumed within him. Cruel enemies pursued him with malicious craft, even seeking his life. At such a time he used the best resource of grief; for he says in verse 14, “But I trusted in thee, O Lord.” He had no other refuge but that which he found in faith in the Lord his God. If enemies slandered him, he did not render railing for railing; if they devised to take away his life, he did not meet violence with violence; but he calmly trusted in the Lord. They ran hither and thither, using all kinds of nets and traps to make the man of God their victim; but he met all their inventions with the one simple defence of trust in God. Many are the fiery darts of the wicked one; but our shield is one. The shield of faith not only quenches fiery darts, but it breaks arrows of steel. Though the javelins of the foe were dipped in the venom of hell, yet our one shield of faith would hold us harmless, casting them off from us. Thus David had the grand resource of faith in the hour of danger. Note well that he uttered a glorious claim, the greatest claim that man has ever made: “I said, Thou art my God.” He that can say, “This kingdom is mine,” makes a royal claim; he that can say, “This mountain of silver is mine,” makes a wealthy claim; but he that can say to the Lord, “Thou art my God,” hath said more than all monarchs and millionaires can reach. If this God is your God by his gift of himself to you, what can you have more? If Jehovah has been made your own by an act of appropriating faith, what more can be conceived of? You have not the world, but you have the Maker of the world; and that is far more. There is no measuring the greatness of his treasure who hath God to be his all in all.

     Having thus taken to the best resource by trusting in Jehovah, and having made the grandest claim possible by saying, “Thou art my God”, the Psalmist now stays himself upon a grand old doctrine, one of the most wonderful that was ever revealed to men. He sings, “My times are in thy hand.” This to him was a most cheering fact: he had no fear as to his circumstances, since all things were in the divine hand. He was not shut up unto the hand of the enemy; but his feet stood in a large room, for he was in a space largo enough for the ocean, seeing the Lord had placed him in the hollow of his hand. To be entirely at the disposal of God is life and liberty for us.

     The great truth is this— all that concerns the believer is in the hands of the Almighty God. “My times”, these change and shift; but they change only in accordance with unchanging love, and they shift only according to the purpose of One with whom is no variableness nor shadow of a turning. “My times”, that is to say, my ups and my downs, my health and my sickness, my poverty and my wealth— all these are in the hand of the Lord, who arranges and appoints according to his holy will the length of my days, and the darkness of my nights. Storms and calms vary the seasons at the divine appointment. Whether times are reviving or depressing remains with him who is Lord both of time and of eternity; and we are glad it is so.

     We assent to the statement, “My times are in thy hand,” as to their result. Whatever is to come out of our life, is in our heavenly Father’s hand. He guards the vine of life, and he also protects the clusters which shall be produced thereby. If life be as a field, the field is under the hand of the great Husbandman, and the harvest of that field is with him also. The ultimate results of his work of grace upon us, and of his education of us in this life, are in the highest hand. We are not in our own hands, nor in the hands of earthly teachers; but we are under the skilful operation of hands which make nothing in vain. The close of life is not decided by the sharp knife of the fates; but by the hand of love. We shall not die before our time, neither shall we be forgotten and left upon the stage too long.

     Not only are we ourselves in the hand of the Lord, but all that surrounds us. Our times make up a kind of atmosphere of existence; and all this is under divine arrangement. We dwell within the palm of God’s hand. We are absolutely at his disposal, and all our circumstances are arranged by him in all their details. We are comforted to have it so.

     How came the Psalmist’s times to be thus in God’s hand? I should answer, first, that they were there in the order of nature, according to the eternal purpose and decree of God. All things are ordained of God, and are settled by him, according to his wise and holy predestination. Whatsoever happeneth here happeneth not by chance, but according to the counsel of the Most High. The acts and deeds of men below, though left wholly to their own wills, are the counterpart of that which is written in the purpose of heaven. The open acts of Providence below tally exactly with that which is written in the secret book, which no eye of man or angel as yet has scanned. This eternal purpose superintended our birth. “In thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as jet there was none of them.” In thy book, every footstep of every creature is recorded before the creature is made. God has mapped out the pathway of every man who traverses the plains of life. Some may doubt this; but all agree that God foresees all things; and how can they be certainly foreseen unless they are certain to be? It is no mean comfort to a man of God that he feels that, by divine arrangement and sacred predestination, his times are in the hand of God.

     But David’s times were in God’s hand in another sense; namely, that he had by faith committed them all to God. Observe carefully the fifth verse: “Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.” In life we use the words which our Lord so patiently used in death: we hand over our spirits to the hand of God. If our lives were not appointed of heaven, we should wish they were. If there were no overruling Providence, we would crave for one. We would merge our own wills in the will of the great God, and cry, “Not as we will, but as thou wilt.” It would be a hideous thought to us if any one point of our life-story were left to chance, or to the frivolities of our own fancy; but with joyful hope we fall back upon the eternal foresight and the infallible wisdom of God, and cry, “Thou shalt choose our inheritance for us.” We would beg him to take our times into his hand, even if they were not there.

     Moreover, beloved brethren, our times are in the Lord’s hands, because we are one with Christ Jesus. “We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” Everything that concerns Christ touches the great Father’s heart. He thinks more of Jesus than of all the world. Hence it follows that when we become one with Jesus, we become conspicuous objects of the Father’s care. He takes us in hand for the sake of his dear Son. He that loves the Head loves all the members of the mystical body. We cannot conceive of the dear Redeemer as ever being out of the Father’s mind; neither can any of us who are in Christ be away from the Father’s active, loving care: our times are ever in his hand. All his eternal purposes work towards the glorifying of the Son, and quite as surely they work together for the good of those who are in his Son. The purposes which concern our Lord and ourselves are so intertwisted as never to be separated.

     To have our times in God’s hand must mean not only that they are at God’s disposal, but that they are arranged by the highest wisdom. God’s hand never errs; and if our times are in his hand, those times are ordered rightly. We need not puzzle our brains to understand the dispensations of Providence: a much easier and wiser course is open to us; namely, to believe the hand of the Lord works all things for the best. Sit thou still, O child, at thy great Father’s feet, and let him do as seemeth him good! When thou canst not comprehend him, know that a babe cannot understand the wisdom of its sire. Thy Father comprehends all things, though thou dost not: let his wisdom be enough for thee. Everything in the hand of God is where it may be left without anxiety; and it is where it will be carried through to a prosperous issue. Things prosper which are in his hand. “My times are in thy hand,” is an assurance that none can disturb, or pervert, or poison them. In that hand we rest as securely as rests a babe upon its mother’s breast. Where could our interests be so well secured as in the eternal hand? What a blessing it is to see by the eye of faith all things that concern you grasped in the hand of God! What peace as to every matter which could cause anxiety flows into the soul when we see all our hopes built upon so stable a foundation, and preserved by such supreme power! “My times are in thy hand!”

     Before I go into this subject, to show the sweetness of this confidence, I pray every Christian here to read the text, and take it in the singular, and not as we sang it just now—

“Our times are in thy hand,
Whatever they may be,
Pleasing or painful, dark or bright,
As best may seem to thee.”

We find it in the psalm, “My times are in thy hand.” This does not exclude the whole body of the saints enjoying this safety together; but, after all, truth is sweetest when each man tastes the flavour of it for himself. Come, let each man take to himself this doctrine of the supreme appointment of God, and believe that it stands true as to his own case, “My times are in thy hand.” The wings of the cherubim cover me. The Lord Jesus loved me, and gave himself for me, and my times are in those hands which were nailed to the cross for my redemption. What will be the effect of such a faith, if it be clear, personal, and enduring? This shall be our subject at this season. May the Holy Spirit help us!

     I. A clear conviction that our times are in the hand of God WILL CREATE WITHIN US A SENSE OF THE NEARNESS OF GOD. If the hand of God is laid upon all our surroundings, God himself is near us. Our Puritanic fathers walked with God the more readily because they believed in God as arranging everything in their daily business and domestic life; and they saw him in the history of the nation, and in all the events which transpired. The tendency of this age is to get further and further from God. Men will scarcely tolerate a Creator now, but everything must be evolved. To get God one stage further back is the ambition of modern philosophy; whereas, if we were wise, we should labour to clear out all obstacles, and leave a clear channel for drawing near to God, and for God to draw near to us. When we see that in his hand are all our ways, we feel that God is real and near.

     “My times are in thy hand.” Then there is nothing left to chance. Events happen not to men by a fortune which has no order or purpose in it. “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.” Chance is a heathenish idea which the teaching of the Word has cast down, even as the ark threw down Dagon, and brake him in pieces. Blessed is that man who has done with chance, who never speaks of luck; but believes that, from the least even to the greatest, all things are ordained of the Lord. We dare not leave out the least event. The creeping of an aphis upon a rosebud, is as surely arranged by the decree of Providence, as the march of a pestilence through a nation. Believe ye this; for if the least be omitted from the supreme government, so may the next be, and the next, till nothing is left in the divine hand. There is no place for chance, since God filleth all things.

     “My times are in thy hand” is an assurance which also puts an end to the grim idea of an iron fate compelling all things. Have you the notion that fate grinds on like an enormous wheel, ruthlessly crushing everything that lies in its way, not pausing for pity, nor turning aside for mercy? Remember that, if you liken Providence to a wheel, it must be a wheel which is full of eyes. Its every revolution is in wisdom and goodness. God’s eye leaves nothing in providence blind; but fills all things with sight. God works all things according to his purpose; but then He himself works them. There is all the difference between the lone machinery of fixed fate, and the presence of a gracious, loving Spirit ruling all things. Things do happen as he plans them; but he himself is there to make them happen, and to moderate, and guide, and secure results. Our great joy is not, “My times are in the wheel of destiny”; but, “My times are in thy hand.” With a living, loving God to superintend all things, we feel ourselves at home, resting near our Father’s heart.

     “My times are in thy hand.” Does not this reveal the condescension of the Lord? He has all heaven to worship him, and all worlds to govern; and yet “my times” — the times of such an inconsiderable and unworthy person as I am— are in his hand. Now, what is man that it should be so? Wonder of wonders, that God should not only think of me, but should make my concerns his concerns, and take my matters into his hand! He has the stars in his hand, and yet he puts us there. He deigns to take in hand the passing interests of obscure men and lowly women.

     Beloved, God is near his people with all his attributes; his wisdom, his power, his faithfulness, his immutability; and these are under oath to work for the good of those who put their trust in him. “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Yes, God considers our times, and thinks them over; with his heart and soul planning to do us good. That august mind, out of which all things spring, bows itself to us; and those eternal wings, which cover the universe, also brood over us and our household, and our daily wants and woes. Our God sits not still as a listless spectator of our griefs, suffering us to be drifted like waifs upon the waters of circumstance; but is busily occupying himself at all times for the defence and perfecting of his children. He leads us that he may bring us home to the place where his flock shall rest for ever.

     What a bliss this is! Our times, in all their needs and aspects, are in God’s hand, and therefore God is always caring for us. How near it brings God to us, and us to God! Child of God, go not thou tomorrow into the field, lamenting that God is not there! He will bless thy going out. Come not home to thy chamber, crying, “Oh, that I knew where I might find him!” He will bless thy coming in. Go not to thy bed, dreaming that thou art left an orphan; neither wake up in the morning with a sense of loneliness upon thee: thou art not alone, for the Father is with thee.

     Wilt thou not feel how good it is that God should come so close to thee, and handle thy bread and thy water, and bless thy bed and thy board? Art thou not happy to be allowed to come so close to God, as to say, “My times are in thy hand”? There is a great deal in this first point as to the nearness of the Lord; and if you will turn it over, you will see more and more that a conviction that our times are in God’s hand tends to create a happy and holy sense of the nearness of God to us.

     II. THIS TRUTH IS A COMPLETE ANSWER TO MANY A TEMPTATION.

You know how craftily Satan will urge a temptation. He says, “Now you have a large family, and your chief duty is to provide for them. Your position brings with it many wants. Here is a plan of making money; others follow it. It may not be quite straight, but you must not be particular in such a world as this, for nobody else is.” How will you meet this? If you can say to Satan, “It is not my business to provide for myself or for my family: my times are in God’s hand; and his name is Jehovah-Jireh, ‘the Lord will provide’; and I will not do a questionable thing, though it would fill my house with silver and gold from the cellar to the chimney-pot. I shall not meddle with my Lord’s business. It is his to provide for me: it is mine to walk uprightly, and obey his Word.” This is a noble answer to the arch-enemy. But supposing he says, “Well, but you are already in difficulties, and you cannot extricate yourself if you are too precise. A poor man cannot afford to keep a conscience: it is an expensive luxury in these days. Give your conscience a holiday, and you can soon get out of your trouble.” Let your reply be, “O prince of darkness, it is no business of mine to extricate myself! My times are in God’s hand. I have taken my case to him, and he will work for me in this matter better than I can do for myself! He does not wish me to do a wrong thing, that I may do for myself what he has promised to do for me.” We are not called upon to eke out God’s wisdom with a bit of our own wickedness. God forbid! Do the right, even if the heavens should fall. The Lord who has taken your business into his hand will bear you through.

     “Well”, says one, “we may use a little discreet policy in religious matters, and keep the peace by wise compromise. We may accomplish our end all the sooner by going a little roundabout. If you can just let truth wait for a little until the fine weather comes, and the silver slippers are in season, then she will be saved a good deal of annoyance!” Brethren, it is not for us to pick and plan times in this fashion. God’s cause is in God’s hand, and God would not have us help his cause by a compromising hand being laid on his ark. Remember what the hand of Uzzah brought on him, though he meant it well. Let us continue steadfast in the integrity of our walk, and we shall find our times are in God’s hand, and that they are well ordered, and need no hasty and unholy interposition on our part.

     Brethren, is it not a delightful thing for us to know that though we are on a stormy voyage, the Lord himself is at the helm? The course we do not know; nor even our present latitude and longitude; but the Pilot knows all about us, and about the sea also. It will be our wisdom not to interfere with our Captain’s orders. They put up a notice on the steamboats, “Do not speak to the man at the wheel.” We are very apt, in our unbelief, to dispute with him to whom the steering of our vessel is entrusted. We shall not confuse him, thank God; but we often confound and confuse ourselves by our idle complainings against the living Lord. No, when you are tempted to presume, or to act in a despairing haste, or to hide your principles, or to do something which is not defensible, in order that you may arrange your times more comfortably, answer with a decided “No,” and say, “My times are in God's hand,” and there I will leave them.

     When the devil comes with his subtle questions and insinuations, refer him to your Lord, in whose hand your times are placed. When you have a lawsuit, the opposite side will like to come and talk with you, to see if they can get something out of you. It will be your wisdom to reply, “If you have anything to say, say it to my solicitor.” If the devil comes to you, and you get into an argument with him, he will beat you; for he is a very ancient lawyer, and he has been at the business for so many ages that you cannot match him. Send him to your Advocate. Refer him to the Wonderful, the Counsellor. Ever shelter beneath this fact, “My times are in his hand. I have left the whole business to another, and I cannot dishonour him by intermeddling.” Satan knows the Christ too well to go to him; he knows the taste of his broadsword, of “It is written.” He will not contest with Jesus, if we leave him to plead the causes of our soul.

     III. In the third place, THIS CONVICTION IS A SUFFICIENT SUPPORT AGAINST THE FEAR OF MEN. We may say to ourselves, when our enemies bear very hard upon us, “I am not in their hands. My times are in thy hand.” Here are gentlemen judging and condemning us with great rapidity. They say, “He has made a great mistake: he is an old bigot; he has snuffed himself out.” This is easier said than done. The candle shines still. They say of you, “He is foolish and headstrong, and on religious matters he is as obstinate as a mule; and he will come to grief.” You have not come to grief yet in the way they predict, and they had better not prophesy till they know. The godly are not in the hands of those who mock them. The wicked may gnash their teeth at believers, but they cannot destroy them. Here is their comfort, they have committed their spirit to the hand of God, and he will sacredly preserve the precious deposit. Fear not the judgments of men. Appeal to a higher court. Take the case to the King’s Bench. Go to God himself with the matter, and he will bring forth your judgment as the light, and your righteousness as the noonday.

     Do the malicious resolve to crush you? They will use .to the utmost their little power; but there is a higher power which will hold them in. Rejoicingly say, “My times are in thy hand.” Do they treat you with contempt? Do they sneer at you? What does that matter? Your honour comes not from men. Their contempt is the highest compliment the wicked can pay you.

     Alas, many professors place their times in the hands of the world! If they prosper and grow rich, they see an opportunity of social advantage, and they quit their humbler friends to join a more respectable sect. How many are lost to fidelity because their prosperous times are not in God’s hand, but in their own! Some, on the other hand, when they are in adversity, get away from the Lord. The excuse is, “I cannot go to the house of God any more; for my clothes are not so respectable as they used to be.” Is your poverty to take you out of your Lord’s hands? Never let it be so; but say, “My times are in thy hand.” Cleave to the Lord in losses as well as in gains, and so let all your times be with him.

     How often we meet with people who are staggered by slander! It is impossible to stop malicious tongues. They wound, and even slay, the characters of the godly. The tried one cries, “I cannot bear it: I shall give all up.” “Why? Why yield to mere talk? Even these cruel tongues are in God’s hand. Can you not brave their attacks? They cannot utter a single whisper more than God permits. Go on thy way, O righteous man, and let false tongues pour forth their poison as they will. “Every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn.” If my times are in God’s hand, no man can do me harm unless God permit. Though my soul is among lions, yet no lion can bite me while Jehovah’s angel is my guard.

     This feeling, that our interests are safe in the highest keeping, breeds an independent spirit. It prevents cringing before the great, and flattering the strong. At the same time, it removes all tendency to envy; so that you do not wish for the prosperity of the wicked, nor fret yourself because of evil-doers. When one knows that his times are in God’s hand, he would not change places with a king; nay, nor with an angel.

     IV. A full belief in the statement of our text is A CURE FOR PRESENT WORRY. O Lord, if my times are in thy hand, I have cast my care on thee, and I trust and am not afraid! Why is it, my sister— for this habit of worrying abounds among the gracious sisterhood— why do you vex yourself about a matter which is in the hand of God? If he has undertaken for you, what cause have you for anxiety? And you, my brother— for there are plenty of men who are nervous and fretful — why do you want to interfere with the Lord’s business? If the case is in his hand, what need can there be for you to be prying and crying? You were worrying this morning, and fretting last night, and you are distressed now, and will be worse to-morrow morning. May I ask you a question? Did you ever get any good by fretting? When there was not rain enough for your farm, did you ever fret a shower down? When there was too much wet, or you thought so, did you ever worry the clouds away? Tell me, did you ever make a sixpence by worrying? It is a very unprofitable business. Do you answer, “What, then, are we to do in troublous times”? Why, go to him into whose hand you have committed yourself and your times. Consult with infinite wisdom by prayer; console yourself with infinite love by fellowship with God. Tell the Lord what you feel, and what you fear. Ten minutes’ praying is better than a year’s murmuring. He that waits upon God, and casts his burden upon him, may lead a royal life: indeed, he will be far happier than a king.

     To leave our times with God is to live as free from care as the birds upon the bough. If we fret, we shall not glorify God; and we shall not constrain others to see what true religion can do for us in the hour of tribulation. Fret and worry put it out of our power to act wisely; but if we can leave everything with God because everything is really in his hand, we shall be peaceful, and our action will be deliberate; and for that very reason it will be more likely to be wise. He that rolls his burden upon the Lord will be strong to do or to suffer; and his days shall be as the days of heaven upon the earth. I admire the serenity of Abraham. He never seems to be in a fluster; but he moves grandly, like a prince among men. He is much more than the equal of the greatest man he meets: we can hardly see Lot with a microscope when we have once seen Abraham. Why was that? Because he believed in God, and staggered not.

     Half the joy of life lies in expectation. Our children get greater pleasure out of expecting the holiday than they do out of the day itself. It is much the same with ourselves. If we believe that all our times are in God’s hand, we shall be expecting great things from our heavenly Father. When we get into a difficulty we shall say, “I am now going to see the wonders of God, and to learn again how surely ho delivers them that trust in him.” I thank God I have learned at times to glory in necessities, as opening a window into heaven for me, out of which the Lord would abundantly pour forth his supplies. It has been to me so unspeakable a delight to see how the Lord has supplied my needs for the Orphanage, the College, and other works, that I have half wished to be in straits, that I might see how the Lord would appear for me. I remember, some time ago, when year after year all the money came in for the various enterprises, I began to look back with regret upon those grand days when the Lord permitted the brook Cherith to dry up, and called off the ravens with their bread and meat, and then found some other way of supplying the orphans’ needs. In those days, the Lord used to come to me, as it were, walking on the tops of the mountains, stepping from peak to peak, and by marvellous deeds supplying all my needs, according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Do you know, I almost wished that the Lord would stop the streams, and then let me see how he can fetch water out of the rock. He did so, not very long ago. Funds ran very low, and then I cried to him, and he heard me out of his holy hill. How glad was I to hear the footfall of the ever-present Lord, answering to his child’s prayer, and letting him know that his times were still in his Father’s hand! Surely it is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is a joy worth worlds to be driven where none but the Lord can help you, and then to see his mighty hand pulling you out of the net. The joy lies mainly in the fact that you are sure it is the Lord, and sure that he is near you. This blessed realization of the Lord’s interposition causes us to glory in tribulation. Is not that a cure for worry, a blessed cure for anxiety?

     V. Fifthly, a firm conviction of this truth is A QUIETUS AS TO FUTURE DREAD. “My times are in thy hand.” Do you wish to know what is going to happen to you in a short time? Would you look between the folded leaves of the future? You can buy a penny newspaper which will tell you the fate of nations this very year. You may be well-nigh sure that nothing will happen which is thus predicted; and thus it may be of some little use to you. Be you content with the prophecies of Scripture, but follow not every interpreter of them. Many people would pay largely to have the future made known to them. If they were wise, they would rather desire to have it concealed. Do not want to know; such knowledge would answer no useful purpose. The future is intended to be a sealed book. The present is all we need to have before us. Do thy day’s work in its day, and leave to-morrow with thy God. If there were ways of reading the future, it would be wise to decline to use them. The knowledge would create responsibility, arouse fear, and diminish present enjoyment; why seek after it? Famish idle curiosity, and give your strength to believing obedience. Of this you may be quite sure, that there is nothing in the book of the future which should cause distrust to a believer. Your times are in God’s hand; and this secures them.

     The very word “times” supposes change for you; but as there are no changes with God, all is well. Things will happen which you cannot foresee; but your Lord has foreseen all, and provided for all. Nothing can occur without his divine allowance, and he will not permit that which would be for your real or permanent injury. “I should like to know”, says one, “whether I shall die soon.” Have no desire in that direction: your time will come when it should. The best way to live above all fear of death is to die every morning before you leave your bedroom. The apostle Paul said, “I die daily.” When you have got into the holy habit of daily dying, it will come easy to you to die for the last time. It is greatly wise to be familiar with our last hours. As you take off your garments at night, rehearse the solemn scene when you shall lay aside your robe of flesh. When you put on your garments in the morning, anticipate the being clothed upon with your house which is from heaven in the day of resurrection. To be fearful of death is often the height of folly. A great prophet once ran away many miles to escape from death by an imperious queen. He was one of the bravest of the brave, and yet he hurried into solitude to escape a woman’s threat. When he had finished his weary walk, he sat down, and actually prayed, “Let me die.” It was a singular thing to do, to run for his life, and then to cry, “Let me die.” That man never did die; for we speak of Elijah, who rode to heaven in a chariot of fire. God does not answer all his people’s prayers, for ho has better things for them than they ask. Do not tremble about what may never happen. Even we may never die, for it is written, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump.” Some of us may be alive and remain at the coming of the Lord. Who knows? Behold, he comes quickly. At any rate, do not let us worry about death, for it is in his hands.

     VI. Again, a full conviction that our times are in his hand will be A REASON FOR CONSECRATED SERVICE. If God has undertaken my business for me, then I may most fitly undertake such business for him as he may appoint. Queen Elizabeth wished one of the leading merchants of London to go to Holland to watch her interests there. The honest man told her Majesty that he would obey her commands; but he begged her to remember that it would involve the ruin of his own trade for him to be absent. To this the Queen replied, “If you will see to my business, I will see to your business.” With such a royal promise ho might willingly let his own business go; for a queen should have it in her power to do more for a subject than he can do for himself. The Lord, in effect, says to the believer, “I will take your affairs in hand, and see them through for you.” Will you not at once feel that now it is your joy, your delight, to live to glorify your gracious Lord? To be set free to serve the Lord is the highest freedom. How beautiful it is to read in the book of Isaiah, “And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers”! Outsiders shall do the drudgery for you, and set you free for higher service. Read on and see: “But ye shall be named the Priests of the Lord: men shall call you the Ministers of our God.” Faith sets us free from the wear and tear of carking care, that we may give ourselves up wholly to the service of the Lord our God. Faith causes us to live exempt from fret, to serve the blessed God alone. Set free from the burden of earthly things by God’s kind care of us, we present our bodies as living sacrifices unto the Lord our God. He hath not made us slaves and drudges, but priests and kings unto God.

     I am sure, dear friends, if we get this truth fully saturating our souls, that our times are in God’s hand, it will make life a grander thing than it has ever seemed to be. Do you believe that God’s hand is working with you and for you? Then art thou lifted above the dumb-driven cattle that surround thee; for the God of heaven thinketh upon thee, and puts his hand to thine affairs. This connection with the divine puts heart into a man, and raises him to high endeavour, and great belief. We feel we are immortal till our work is done; we feel that God is with us, and that we are bound to be victorious through the blood of Jesus. We shall not be defeated in the campaign of life, for the Lord of hosts is with us, and we shall tread down our enemies. God will strengthen us, for our times are in his hand; therefore we will serve him with all our heart, and with all our soul, being fully convinced that “our labour is not in vain in the Lord.”

     VII. Lastly, if our times are in God’s hand, here is A GRAND ARGUMENT FOR FUTURE BLESSEDNESS. He that takes care of our times, will take care of our eternity. He that has brought us so far, and wrought so graciously for us, will see us safely over the rest of the road. I marvel at some of you older folks, when you begin to doubt. You will say, “Look at yourself.” Well, so I do; and I am heartily ashamed that ever a grain of mistrust should get into the eye of my faith. I would weep it out, and keep it out for the future. Still, some of you are older than I am, for you are seventy or eighty years of age. How much longer do you expect to travel in this wilderness? Have you another ten years, think you? God has been gracious to you for seventy years, and will you fret about the last ten, which, indeed, may never come? That will never do. God has delivered some of you out of such great trials, that your present ones are mere flea-bites. Sir Francis Drake, after he had sailed round the world, came up the Thames, and when he had passed Gravesend there came a storm which threatened the ship. The brave commander said, “What! Go round the world safely, and then get drowned in a ditch? Never!” So we ought to say. God has upheld us in great tribulations, and we are not going to be cast down about trials which are common to men. A man of energy, if he takes a work in hand, will push it through; and the Lord our God never undertakes what he will not complete. “My times are in thy hand,” and therefore the end will be glorious. My Lord, if my times were in my own hand, they would prove a failure; but since they are in thy hand, thou wilt not fail, nor shall I. The hand of God ensures success all along the line. In that day when we shall see the tapestry which records our lives, we shall see all the scenes therein with wondering eye; we shall see what wisdom, what love, what tenderness, what care was lavished upon them. When once a matter is in God’s hand it is never neglected or forgotten, but it is carried out to the end. Wherefore, comfort one another with these words.

     I have not been able to preach on this text as I hoped to do, for I am full of pain, and have a heavy headache; but, thank God, I have no heartache, with such a glorious truth before me. Sweet to my soul are these words — “My times are in thy hand.” Take the golden sentence home with you. Keep this truth in your mind. Let it lie on your tongue like a wafer made with honey. Let it dissolve until your whole nature is sweetened by it. Yes, dear old lady, you that have come out of the workhouse this morning to hear this sermon, say to yourself, “My times are in thy hand.” Yes, you, dear friend, who cannot find a situation, and have been walking the shoes off your feet in the vain endeavour to seek one: you also may say, “My times are in thy hand.” Yes, my dear sister, pining away with consumption, this may be your song: “My times are in thy hand.” Yes, young man, you that have just started in business, and have met with a crushing loss, it will be for your benefit after all; therefore say, “My times are in thy hand.” This little sentence, to my mind, swells into a hymn: it buds and blossoms into a psalm. Few are the words, but mighty is the sense, and full of rest.

     Now, remember, it is not everybody that can find honey in this hive. O sinners, you are in the hands of an angry God; and this is terrible! The God against whom you continually sin, and whom you provoke by refusing his grace, has absolute power over you. Beware, ye that forget God, lest he tear you in pieces. You have provoked, offended, and grieved him; but yet there is hope, for his mercy endureth for ever. Though you have vexed his Holy Spirit, yet return unto him, and he will have mercy upon you, and abundantly pardon you. It is certain that you are in his hands, and that you cannot escape from him. If you should climb to heaven, or dive to hell, you would not be out of his reach. No strength of yours can resist him, no speed can outrun him. Yield yourselves unto God; and then this great power of God, which now surrounds you, shall become your comfort. At present it ought to be your terror. The eyes of God are fixed upon you; the hand of God is against you; and if you are unsaved, one touch of that hand will mean death and everlasting destruction. That hand which the believer devoutly kisses, is the hand which you may well dread. Oh, that you would flee to Christ Jesus, and find shelter from wrath beneath the crimson canopy of his precious blood! Amen.



Both Sides of the Shield

By / May 14

Both Sides of the Shield

 

“Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim. And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, light with Amalek: to morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand.” — Exodus xvii. 8, 9.

 

IN trying to understand the truth of God we are in great danger of being one-sided. One man catches at part of a truth, and says, “That is it, and that is the whole of it.” Another man lays hold of another side of truth, and he says, “This is the whole of it;” and straightway there arises a contention between them. They are like the men who quarrelled as to the material of which a certain shield was made. One of them said that it was a golden shield; the other was equally sure that it was a silver one: whereas it so happened that it was gold on one side and silver on the other. So they fiercely wrangled when they might very well have been agreed if they had known a little more. Most truths have two sides, and it is well to try to see both of them. Nearly every doctrine in the Word of God is balanced by some other doctrine, and many of the differences amongst the people of God have arisen from the undue stress which has been laid on one aspect of truth, while the other side has been altogether neglected. This danger very frequently besets us. For instance, some see the sovereignty of God, and are so carried away with that sublime truth, that they deny the responsibility of man; they thus both wrest the doctrine they do know, and fight against the doctrine they do not know. Others can see the universality of the gospel invitation, and with large hearts can urge all men to turn unto God and live; but they have never seen the speciality of the redemptive work of Christ, and so fail to understand the eternal purpose of God to save his chosen people. Running away with half a truth, they are like men that go through the wilderness wearing only one shoe, and they get lame of one foot, and that makes them limp all over. It does not matter which foot it is that is lame; the man is a cripple if either foot is thus afflicted.

     It is essential for us to hold our minds ready to receive whatever the Holy Ghost teaches, and frequently to accept truths which we cannot harmonize. I have long ago given up all attempts to reconcile what God has revealed in one part of the Bible with what he has made known in another part. If I find in God’s Word doctrines which appear to me to be at variance with the teaching in other passages, I say to myself, “God knows where these things harmonize, and if he had wanted me to know it, he would have told me. As he has not told me, why should I worry myself about the matter? I am not going to speculate and theorize as to where these truths meet; nor will I cast a bridge of gossamer across the deep gulf which I fancy I see, and then trust myself to a thread that cannot bear my weight.” “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever.” One said to me, the other day, concerning two great doctrines, “How do you make these two agree?” I answered by first asking another question, “How do I make two things agree that never fell out? There is no need for me to attempt anything of the kind. These two truths are perfectly reconcilable; and as they come from God’s mouth, it would be as difficult for you to show that they do not agree as it is for me to show that they do agree.” God does not say “Yea” and “Nay.” The Lord does not blow hot and cold. If he reveals two doctrines which apparently contradict each other, yet are they both true, since both are spoken by the God who cannot lie; and if I cannot see how they can be both true, it comforts me to think that I am not asked to see it; I am expected to believe it, and God’s grace gives me the faith to do even that. In fact, I rather like a difficulty, for then there is an opportunity for the exercise of faith. It is glorious, when one is sailing, to come right up under the lee of a great rock, and to be compelled to say, “Well, I cannot proceed any further this way.” What then? Why, just let your anchor down, and make a harbour of the rock, and lie there at rest while stormy winds do blow. That is what you should do with difficult doctrines; make a quiet haven of the mysterious truth, and let it shelter you in time of doubt or despondency. When the storm is passed, you will find that there are other ways for you to go where it is perfectly plain sailing. Seeing that the revelation is divine, there must be mysteries which mortals cannot understand at present. Let us comfort ourselves with our Saviour’s words, “What thou knowest not now, thou shalt know hereafter.” Some day the way will be made plain before us; and meanwhile, our attitude should be that of trustful children, who believe implicitly whatever their loving father tells them, whether they comprehend it or not.

     In the present discourse, I am going to take up two sets of truths which are rather varied, and yet are very practical withal. My range of thought will be extensive, but I will not wander from the incident before us. There are four things which have been suggested to my mind while meditating upon this text and its surroundings, each of which may be viewed from two standpoints. First, in this assault of Amalek on the people of God, we see persecution in its double aspect; secondly, in the rod of Moses we behold instrumentality in its double relation; thirdly, in the battle we observe prudence in its double activity; and lastly, in the leaders of the people we are reminded of Christ in his double capacity as he pleads for us yonder and fights for us here.

     I. First, let us look at PERSECUTION IN ITS DOUBLE ASPECT. On the one hand, notice that this attack upon Israel was Amalek’s great sin, on account of which the nation was doomed to be extirpated. Because of this, God said, “I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” But, on the other hand, this assault was the result of Israel’s sin, for it is significantly put after the strife of Massah and Meribali, “Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim.” The point is this: persecution may come to you from evil men, distinctly from them, and it may be their wicked free will which makes them assail you; and yet, at the same time, it may be your sin which lies at the bottom of it, and because you have erred they have been permitted, and even appointed, to bring trouble upon you. Let us think of these two things.

     Notice well that assaults upon us may arise from the sins of others. It is right that we should recognize this, lest in the dark day we should become unduly discouraged. Persecution often arises because we come into conflict with wicked men; but God will judge our adversaries; he will remember his covenant with his people, and deliver us from the hand of all our enemies.

     These Amalekites attacked Israel, and greatly sinned in so doing, for they were the first that made war against God’s people. He who had so graciously chosen and kept them, who with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm had brought them through the Red Sea, had espoused their cause; and his word, “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm,” had been a kind of shield to Israel in her earliest days. Though Abraham and others had, at times, gone forth to battle, nobody had fought with Israel since she had become a nation, and by mighty signs and wonders had been delivered from the hand of Pharaoh and the bondage of Egypt. But Amalek first among the nations dared to assail the chosen people of God; and hence a stern doom was decreed against him. He had heard what great things God had done for his people, and yet he presumed to fight against them, and in so doing impiously lifted up his hand against Jehovah himself. He became the leader in this particular form of evil, and thus assumed a fearful responsibility, and assured to himself a terrible judgment.

     But the impiety was still worse; for Amalek went out of his way to attack Israel. The people had not come into his territory; they were a good way off it, and were passing quietly by; but we read, “Then came Amalek.” His envy was stirred up so much that he came away from his own region to fight with Israel without any provocation. Amalek was a descendant of Esau, and the hate of Esau towards Jacob so burned in the breast of Amalek towards Israel, that he came a long journey in order that he might at once, without proclaiming war, fall suddenly upon the hosts of Israel. Because the attack was thus wanton, he had to suffer the stern judgment of God. Let not wicked men imagine that, because God is in heaven and they are upon the earth, they can with impunity oppose his people. “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.” Woe be to the man who wantonly attacks the saints of the Most High God! Be not disquieted, O child of God, if this is thy case! “Fret not thyself because of evil-doers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.”

     Moreover, Amalek in this act went forth to fight against God himself. It was not with Israel alone that he warred; he battled also with Jehovah, the God of Israel. In the words of the sixteenth verse, as some translate them, Amalek had laid his hands upon the throne of God, therefore God laid his own hand upon the throne, and swore by his throne that he would uproot Amalek from among the nations. It was because the opposition to the Israelites was distinctly on account of God himself that therefore Amalek had to be cut off. Dear brothers and sisters, you and I may be assailed by wicked men, and we may distinctly trace the whole of it to their malice, and to their enmity against God himself; but though that may be all true, yet we must not therefore be ourselves malicious towards them. Neither must we be proud, as though we were innocent, and they alone were guilty. Wicked men nailed our Saviour to the cross, but his prayer for them was, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Dearly beloved, if the ungodly hate you, and persecute you, avenge not yourselves; but rather give place unto wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” When you are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, the Lord takes notice of it. “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” was the word which came from the excellent glory to him who journeyed to Damascus, “breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord.” When he persecuted them, he was really persecuting their Master. Be not, then, troubled if men revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for Christ’s sake; but rather “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” Leave the issue with the Lord; the battle is his, and he will, in his own time and way, overthrow all his and your adversaries.

     Let us now turn our thoughts to the other aspect of this subject. The guilt of ungodly men in persecuting God’s people is not inconsistent with my next statement, that assaults upon us may also arise from our own sins. We may have brought the evil upon ourselves; and we had better look to it that there be not a sin of our own that lies at the root of what we suffer, for it was so with these people. When they had chided with Moses, and murmured against God, “Then came Amalek.”

     Israel had been quarrelling with God. Do you wonder, then, that other people quarrelled with them? You may often read your sin in its punishment; and, if you had prophetic eye enough, you might see your chastening in your offence. Many a time our severity to others is the reason for God’s apparent severity with us. If we have withheld from the poor, we need not wonder if God withholds from us; and if we have been slow to forgive, we need not marvel if we do not soon get a sense of forgiveness for ourselves. We often urge people to do unto others as we would that they should do unto us. Let me reverently say another thing— do unto God as you would that God should do unto you; for “with the froward God will show himself froward.” That ink with which we wrote the ill word, God will use in the writing down of our sentence. It was so in this case; Israel quarrelled with God, and now Amalek quarrels with Israel.

     They put a question about God, “Is the Lord among us, or not?”—a horrible question, since it involved a doubt as to the veracity of Moses, and as to the reality of all the great wonders which were wrought in Egypt and in the wilderness. But, because they questioned God, God makes it a serious question between them and Amalek— a question which, for a while, seemed to be answered favourably, for Israel prevailed. But soon it was answered unfavourably, for Amalek prevailed. The conflicting hosts sway to and fro on the battle-field, first victors, then vanquished; again conquering, then once more conquered. How will the terrible struggle end? No wonder that God puts the issue in question, when they had put him in question. If you question God, he will soon leave you to question yourselves. I do not wonder that men say, “Have I any faith?” when they begin to doubt the very inspiration of Scripture. What is the good of having any faith when there is nothing loft for you to believe? You may well fear to build upon that Scripture whose very foundations you have undermined. If we make God a question, God will make our safety a question, and we shall have a stern fight for it.

     Moreover, we find that Israel had uttered threats against Moses, so that he said, “They be almost ready to stone me.” Now, if they would stone the man of God, is it at all wonderful that the men of the world were ready to kill them? If you go against Moses, God will send Amalek against you, for remember that God does chasten his people. Though he forgives, he chastens; and he chastens all the more because he forgives. He condemns us in our consciences, that he may not condemn us at the judgment-seat. He afflicts us here, that we may not be destroyed with the world at the end. Now is the day of the believer’s chastisement for his benefit. By-and-by will be the time of the unbeliever’s punishment, which shall bring him no benefit, but shall be the just reward of his evil deeds. Child of God, do you wish to receive chastisement? You have only to go into sin, and you may rest assured that you will not escape the rod. If you are a bastard, you may, perhaps, sin and prosper; but if you are a true-born child of God, you cannot sin without smarting for it.

“Did I meet no trials here,
No chastisement by the way,
Might I not, with reason, fear
I should prove a castaway?
Bastards may escape the rod,
Sunk in earthly vain delight;
But the true-born child of God
Must not, would not if he might.”

     So, there is our first point. We may sometimes justly charge our afflictions upon the ill intent of ungodly men; and yet, at the same time, we may have to charge them also upon ourselves. It may be equally true that we have procured them by our own slips and stumblings in the ways of the Lord, as that evil men have wickedly raised their hand against us. So, when attacks are made upon us, let us be more careful to search our own hearts, and examine our own lives, than to condemn the faults of other men. To their God they will have to render their own account.

     II. In the second place, let us think of INSTRUMENTALITY IN ITS DOUBLE RELATION. Here, again, another contrast is to be found in the text and its connection. If you will notice, in the fifth verse, God says to Moses, “Take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river;” but when Moses talks about the rod, in the ninth verse, which forms our text, he says, “To morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand.” In both verses it is the same rod which is spoken of. God calls it the rod of Moses; Moses calls it the rod of God; and both these expressions are true. I want you to recollect that. The first is true: it is the rod of Moses; that is the human side, and in this connection it is sometimes called the rod of Moses, and sometimes the rod of Aaron. But the divine side is just as noticeable, and then it is called the rod of God. With reference to the instrumentality which God is pleased to use, we must thus remember its twofold nature, and look on both sides of the shield.

     One side is that God calls it the rod of Moses, and so honours him. Wherever there is an opportunity of doing honour to the faith of his own servants, God is never slow to use it. He is a King who delights to give glory to his warriors when they behave themselves bravely in the heat of battle. It gives him pleasure to knight them on the field, and let them know that they have done well. At the end he will say to those who have been valiant for his cause, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Even here he gives his chosen a foretaste of that full approval which will make their heaven complete. God is not afraid of spoiling his people by saying a good word about them. You remember the story of the man who had a good wife, and one said to him, “Why, she is worth her weight in gold.” “Yes,” he said, “she is worth a Gibraltar rock in gold, but I never tell her that. You know that it is necessary to maintain discipline, and, if I were to tell her how much I really value her, she would not know herself.” Well, now, that is wrong. It does people good to be told how highly we value them. There is many a Christian man and woman who would do better if now and then someone would speak a kindly word to them, and let them know that they had done well. God himself gives us an example of this, for he here puts honour on his servant, by saying to Moses, “Thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go.” Moses was the instrument whom God used against Pharaoh; and though his rod was in itself only a common stick, yet it was he who used the rod, and it was really that rod with which he smote the river. God actually did use him; and it is not God’s way to use a man, and then say nothing about it. God ascribes to Moses what Moses really did. We must never despise the instrumentality which God uses. The tendency of our nature is to run to the other extreme, and to rest in instrumentality. We often need to remember that word, “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.” But in trying to avoid that rock, we must not run on the other, and slight all instrumentality. God will have his servants esteemed; and, if he puts honour upon them, we cannot be wrong if we also honour them.

     Moreover, it really was the rod of Moses, and would not so well have fitted any other hand. God does not put into a position of influence a man unfit for the post. Even Moses did not work wonders with the rod until he had renounced the riches of Egypt, and borne the burden of life in the wilderness. There was a fitness in the fact of the rod being in the hand of such a man. He had no rod when, in his fleshly energy, he slew the Egyptian whom he found oppressing the Hebrew slave. Had it then been in his hand, what sad havoc he might have made! But now he used it as God directed. In fact, the rod was the symbol of his authority, and that authority was not bestowed upon him until lie was qualified to exercise it. Thus, in a very real sense, it was the rod of Moses. In addition to this, it was the faith of Moses which gave power to his rod; he himself was the conductor of the divine energy. Had the rod been wielded by another man, self-appointed, and lacking the confidence which Moses had come to possess in God, it would have been simply a powerless stick; but because of his authority, and because of his faith, it was meet to call it “the rod of Moses. When a man is evidently used of God, let us be quick to recognize the special qualities which render him worthy to be used, and let us esteem him very highly in love for his work’s sake. Thus we see that God calls the almond branch, which did such wonders in Egypt and at the Red Sea, the rod of Moses.

     On the other hand, Moses calls it the rod of God, and so honours God. He whom God uses gives God the praise, for God is ever the source of our strength; and if any work is done that is worth the doing, unto him must be ascribed all the glory. It was not in his own might that Moses turned the waters of the Nile into blood, and caused the fish to die. It was not by any power inherent in himself that he made the dust of Egypt to live, and become a terrible plague to the people. It was not by any human magic that Moses divided the Red Sea, and made a way for the ransomed nation to march through its depths. No one knew better than he that the instrument that branded the breast of the Red Sea, and left a dry mark where it fell, was the rod of God, not man’s. It is he alone that doeth great wonders, and unto his name be all the praise. “Non nobis, Domine,” must ever be our psalm of adoration unto Jehovah; “Not unto us, O Lord; not unto us, but unto thy name, give glory.”

     Let us learn, from these words of Moses, that instrumentality is not to be decried or despised, for God uses it; but the instrument must never be allowed to usurp the place of God, for it must be always remembered that it is God who uses it. The axe must not exalt itself against him that heweth therewith; but, when there are trees to be felled, it would be folly to throw the axe away. The net must not be made a god that we may sacrifice to it; but it would be idle to go fishing without a net. Use your agencies and your instrumentalities to the very fullest extent, and then know that it is God that worketh in you, and God that worketh by you, if anything is accomplished that is worthy of record.

     Thus I have given you two sets of things in which it is easy enough to blunder if you shut one of your eyes, or if you only look at them in one light: first, the persecution of God’s people; and, secondly, the instrumentality used in God’s service.

     III. And now, for a third thing. Behold, in this incident, PRUDENCE IN ITS DOUBLE ACTIVITY. You have that in the text. Moses said unto Joshua, “Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek.” To which Joshua might have replied, “Yes, I will gladly do that, and you will go too, Moses, and fight, will you not?” No, no, he will not. “To morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand.” You see, as Oliver Cromwell would have put it, prudence trusts in God, and keeps its powder dry. Prudence prays with Moses, while it fights with Joshua. In like manner, in the activities of our holy faith, we must learn to balance work and worship, prayer for victory and conflict with the enemy.

     In the case before us, we see that the means are not neglected. Moses did not call all the people to pray when it was time for fighting. He prayed, but at the same time he set the battle in array. This is true wisdom, for “faith without works is dead.” We cannot expect to have souls saved if we pray and never preach. We cannot expect to have our children saved if we only pray for them night and morning, and never speak to them about eternal matters, and do not instruct them in the things of God. The means must not be neglected.

     Observe how Moses prepared to fight the Amalekites. He said to Joshua, “Choose us out men.” He did not lose sight of the necessity of having the fittest warriors, because his trust was in God. If someone, seeing only one side of the question, had come to him, and said, “The battle is the Lord’s, why do you want to pick the men? Will not one man do as well as another?” Moses would probably have replied, “These Amalekites are mighty warriors. Take chosen men— men that are able-bodied, men that are expert in war, the choicest men you can find, and go to war with Amalek. We shall need our best men to overcome such a foe. Choose us out men.” This is a rule without an exception, when you go to work for Christ, bring forth the best of everything that you have, your best thought, your best knowledge, your best ability. Let the church always see to it that she tries to get the best men she can to fight the battles of the Lord. It is a mistake to suppose that anybody will do for Christian work. Christ may use whom he wills, even the weakest things, and the things that are despised; but as for us, we must always look to that which is most adapted to the work, most suitable for it, ever hearkening to the words of Moses to Joshua, “Choose us out men.”

     The leader was also chosen— “Moses said unto Joshua.” He did not pick up the first youth that he met, and say to him, “Go and fight these Amalekites,” but he took the man whom God had fitted for the post of leader in the war, even Joshua, and said to him, “Go out, fight with Amalek.” It is well for us, in carrying on the work and warfare for God, to rally round those whom God has qualified to be leaders. Means are not to be neglected, nor may God’s work be done in a slovenly style. Choose you out men, and let the leader of them be a choice man, the man of God’s choice.

     The time for the battle was also chosen. “To morrow I will stand on the top of the hill.” Why not to night, Moses? These Amalekites have just been falling upon you. Why not fight them at once? Well, because the people were not ready; it would take a little time to get the fighting men in order. To morrow was quite soon enough. Besides, Moses felt by instinct that he would fight these children of the wilderness best when he could see them; not by night, when they knew the way better than he did, but by daylight. To those of you who earnestly desire to serve God, I would say— Do not be in too great a hurry, lest your indiscreet zeal should bring disaster upon you. “He that believeth shall not make haste.” Choose the best time. Serve God wisely. Go about the work as if all depended upon you, and then trust in God, knowing that all depends upon him. Use the same foresight, the same judgment, the same care that you would use if it were solely your own work; and then, when you have done that, fall back upon God, feeling that all your care and all your foresight will be in vain unless he stretches forth his hand to help, and to ensure success.

     Note, again, that the battle was most real. Moses did not say, “Choose you out men, and go and drive Amalek away like a flock of sheep.” No; but “Go out, fight with Amalek.” Believe me, brethren, we make a great mistake if we think that this world is to be conquered for Christ without mighty efforts. Some talk as if the expenditure of a few pounds, and the going forth of a few men will end the whole war. It will do nothing of the sort. If nations are to be subdued to Christ, his church must exert all her power. All her power without him is nothing; but if he chooses to use her power, he will have the whole of it brought into use before he gives the blessing. “Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek.” “When the battle began, it was no child’s play; it was a hand-to-hand conflict, a struggle for life or death; and the end of it was that “Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword;” not merely by praying, but “with the edge of the sword.” Moses on the hill-top is doing his part by holding up the Tod; but you must have Joshua down below with the sharp edge of the sword, or else Amalek will laugh at the prayers of Moses. I should like to have this rule written on every man’s mind, that, if he is to serve God, and get a blessing from God, he must have both the prayer of Moses and the sword of Joshua.

     But, on the other hand, in this battle, reliance upon God is not neglected. Moses ascends the hill holding up his banner, and that banner is the rod of God. The staff on which God’s servant had been accustomed to lean, God had blessed, and made it to be a sceptre, the sign of the royal presence, and a wonder-working thing in the land. Moses holds this up. The banner is the rod of God, and the banner-bearer is the chosen servant of God. Everything on Israel’s side is of God; Moses and Joshua are ordained of God, and the rod chosen of Moses is at the same time the rod of God. This is held up where all the people can see it, and every warrior, as he turns his eye, can behold that rod of God, which had wrought such wonders before, still held aloft above the conflicting armies. When Moses’ hands are heavy, the symbol of God’s presence need not be lowered; for Aaron and Hur are at hand to hold up his arms. Israel is continually reminded of the interest of God in the battle against Amalek. The rod in the hand of Moses seems to say “God is fighting for you. God’s servant is holding up the appointed standard.” Undoubtedly that assurance must have largely aided them to go through the battle with a brave heart. The meaning of it would be clear: “Fight, but trust. War with Amalek with the edge of the sword, but prevail over Amalek by prevailing with God in prayer.”

     Unfortunately, in our work for God, we generally fall into one of two blunders. Either we get a lot of machinery, and think that we shall accomplish everything by that; or else we are like some whom I have known, who have confided so much in prayer that they have done nothing but pray. Prayer is a downright mockery if it does not lead us into the practical use of means likely to promote the ends for which we pray. I have known friends take medicine when they have been ill, and never pray about their sickness. There are some others who pray about their sickness, but never take the proper medicine. They are both wrong. You must have Joshua, and you must have Moses, too, in the time of trial. Go before God with your sickness; but if there be an appointed means that has been made useful to others, use it, for God will bless you by the use of means. Try to see two sides of a thing. Do not trust exclusively to either one or the other. It is a very heinous fault to trust the means without God; but, though it is a much smaller fault to trust in God, and not use the means, yet still it is a fault. Practical prudence will lead you to do both. It gives to Joshua his sword, that he may make it red. with the blood of the enemy; and it gives to Moses his rod, that he may go with it up to the top of the hill, and hold it up there in the sight of the people, that all may know that the battle is the Lord’s, and that he will deliver the enemy into their hands. God make you wise in these things, and enable you to use both the rod of God and the sword of man!

     IV. I have to speak of one other truth, and then I have done. Behold here, in a wondrous type, CHRIST IN HIS TWOFOLD CAPACITY. Christ is represented to us here as Moses on the hill pleading, and as Joshua in the valley fighting.

     Learn, first, that Christ is pleading for us. He is not here: he is risen, and he has ascended to the right hand of God, even the Father, and there he is making intercession for his people. It is because he intercedes for us that we win the victory. Cannot your faith’s eye see him now, on the top of the hill, with the rod of God in his hand, with all power given to him in heaven and in earth, pleading with authority before the great throne of Jehovah? Here is the secret of our strength. He never fails; he never needs to sit down upon a stone; nor does he need any to stay up his hands because they grow weary. No, blessed be his name, ho pleads and prevails from generation to generation, and will continue to do so until he shall descend from heaven a second time to complete the victory of his people! In his mediation is our confidence.

     But, then, do not forget that he is also warring for us. He is here, though I have just said that he is not here; in one sense he is gone, and in another sense he remains. On the very eve of his departure, he said, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” And his promise is for ever true, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” So, though he has gone into the glory, he is yet here in a spiritual sense by the Holy Ghost, who is his lieutenant, who takes the kingdom, and presides over it, and works in it on behalf of King Jesus. He is that “other Comforter” whom the Lord Jesus promised to send to his disciples; and so, though Christ has ascended, that blessed Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, has taken his place, and, by the Holy Ghost, Christ is still here. We need not pray for the Holy Ghost to be poured out. He never will be poured out again, since he was once poured out at Pentecost, and is still here. You may very properly ask to be baptized into the Holy Ghost if you desire to know his power to the full; and you may go down into his influences till you are immersed therein; but how can we ask that the Spirit should again be poured out, when he has not gone back to heaven? He came down once, and here he stays. “He shall abide with you for ever.” This is the dispensation of the Holy Ghost, and in him Christ is always with us, our greater Joshua, fighting for the people whom he will one day lead into the promised land, the heavenly Canaan.

     I think that I see our Joshua now, sword in hand, chasing our adversaries; and I turn my eye upwards, and see our Moses, rod in hand, pleading for his people. Let us see him in both capacities, and thank God that Christ is all — not one type of the law, but all the types— not one of the ceremonials, but all the ceremonials, and all the shadows melting into one great substance. Glory be to his name! Believe in Christ in heaven, and trust him with your prayers. Believe in Christ on earth, range yourself on his side, and rest assured that no foe will be able to stand against him. He is on the battle-field to day; and in the thickest of the fray, when his own people are driven back, and his adversaries begin to rejoice, friends and foes alike shall yet prove the power of his almighty arm. “Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty; and in thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things.”

“Fight for thyself, O Jesus, fight,
The travail of thy soul regain.”

     So, you see that, though two things may look contradictory, they are often both really true, and are both different sides of one shield. Try, then, always to see both sides of every truth revealed in the Scriptures. Divine truths often resemble tramcars, which travel upon two lines of iron, and yet the two lines make but one tramway. The lines are parallel, and do not touch each other. How could the car travel if they did? This is the truth of God; it is but one truth, but it has two sides which run parallel to each other. Do not try to join them, nor take them up, and make them cross each other; but travel along them till you come to the great terminus above.

     God bless you, if you are his people! If not, all is wrong. Oh, may you now trust the living Christ! He is here, ready to hear your cry for mercy; he is there in glory, ready to plead your cause. He waits to be gracious to sinners here below; he waits in heaven till his enemies shall be made his footstool. May you bow before the silver sceptre of his mercy, that you may not be broken in pieces by the iron rod of his justice; and may the Lord be with you all! Amen.



An Urgent Request for an Immediate Answer

By / May 10

An Urgent Request for an Immediate Answer

 

“And now if ye will deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me: and if not, tell me; that I may turn to the right hand, or to the left.” — Genesis xxiv. 49.

 

THE chapter from which the text is taken bristles with points. There is a remarkable parallel between Eliezer seeking a wife for Isaac and the ministers of Christ seeking souls for Jesus. It is something more than an allegory. It is really a very instructive parable of how we are to deal for our Master with the souls of men and women. For as truly as Abraham sent his servant to seek a bride for his son, we are commissioned to search for those who shall be brought into the church, and at length, as the bride of Christ, sit down at the marriage-feast in the glory-land above.

     You will notice how Eliezer prayed all the way along. He had no doubt in his mind as to whether God interfered in human affairs; but boldly and simply sought to know his will. Then, having presented his petition, we find him in quiet confidence holding his peace, “to wit whether the Lord had made his journey prosperous or not.” And when success crowned his efforts, he was forward to acknowledge that the speedy fulfilment of his object was in answer to his supplication. It was the guidance of God, and not his own acuteness or wisdom, which led to such a favourable issue. Thus it is also with every true minister of the New Testament. Oh, if we do not pray for you, my dear hearers, our preaching to you will be hypocrisy! We shall never speak to men for God with any power of persuasion, unless first we speak to God for men with power of supplication. Not without many a prayer and many a heaving of my heart in sighs have I come here to speak to you now. I believe that I am sent to find out some appointed for Christ in the divine purpose and covenant, and I pray my Master that there may be many such.

     While this trusty servant thus prayed to his masters God, see how loyal he was to his master. He evidently realized that he was not on his own errand, but was the chosen instrument to do his lord’s will. The phrase, “my master”, is the refrain of this chapter; the word “master” occurs twenty-two times. Eliezer did not aspire to any independence of Abraham, or of Abraham’s son. His thoughts were of his master; his words were in praise of his master; his deeds on behalf of his master. He was not his own, but the bond-servant of another. This is also our position. Woe to the minister who loses sight of the true relationship between himself and his Lord, or who begins to think of serving his own interest rather than that of him who called and sent him! My brethren, we are not our own, but the slaves of Christ. May our hearts be always kept loyal to him; our lips constantly speak his praise; our lives ever witness to our devotion to our Lord! Nothing we have is our own; all is his: and his absolute ownership of us and ours is our highest delight. George Herbert speaks of the “Oriental fragrancy” which dwells in the words, “My Master.” It is, indeed, a name full of sweet savour and holy gladness. Even here it is heaven to serve him; but what will it be to see his face, when his bride is brought safely home!

“O Jesus, thou hast promised
To all who follow thee,
That where thou art in glory,
There shall thy servant be;
And Jesus, I have promised
To serve thee to the end;
Oh, give me grace to follow
My Master and my Friend!”

     See how alert Eliezer was to seize the opportunity of obeying his master’s orders. His love to Abraham made him quick to carry out the commission with which he was charged. When Rebekah came to the well, he began the conversation in the same way as the Lord Jesus, long afterwards, at Jacob’s well-side, began to talk to the woman of Samaria. He asked her to give him to drink. The two scenes by the well-side might almost form companion pictures. Then he very skilfully found out her name, and was invited to her father’s house as a guest. I always feel a special joy when I hear of the visit of a servant of God to a house being the means of winning some member of the household for his Master. We should always aim to make our visits a blessing to those with whom we abide. It speaks much for the consistent life of the man who is enabled to do so. If we realize that we are always on our Master’s service, we shall bear a good testimony before those with whom we come in contact, making it quite clear that we watch for souls as those that must give account; that they may do it with joy, and not with grief.

     One other thing in this man is noteworthy; he meant business, and went with unerring aim straight to the mark. He had not many purposes, but only one. He did not go there for anything else but just to find a wife for Isaac; and when he got into pretty comfortable quarters, and had been called by Laban the blessed of the Lord, he was not satisfied. He meant business, and would not even eat the meat set before him until he had told his errand. Like every true servant of Christ, he put his master’s business before his own ease or comfort; even before the question of necessary food. When a man begins to think more of his eating than of doing the will of God, he ceases to be a true-hearted minister. Let us imitate the thoroughness of Abraham’s servant in this matter. He told Bethuel and Laban what he came for, and before he finished his address he turned to them, and said distinctly, “Now, what answer do you mean to give to my master’s message? I cannot be kept in suspense. If ye will deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me: and if not, tell me; that I may turn to the right hand, or to the left.”

     I. Notice, first, that HE STATED HIS CASE. YOU must not expect men to come to a decision upon a matter which has not been laid before them. Our good young brother, who goes into the pulpit and cries, “Believe, believe,” and does not tell his hearers what is to be believed, has not accomplished much. You cannot well ask people to buy if you have no goods to show to them. But Eliezer opened his pack, exposed his wares, and sought at once to do business on his master’s account. What did he say to his interested listeners?

     To begin with: he told them that his master teas great, and gave them some idea how rich he was; for he went over the list of his possessions — his flocks and herds, his silver and gold, his camels and asses, his menservants and maidservants. Thus did he commend his master, as I would also seek to commend mine. Language fails me to speak of his greatness. This world is his, and all the worlds that he has made. “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts.” He lays claim to all things in the earth, animate and inanimate. “Every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.” None other can be mentioned beside him. “Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?” So great is he that all other things are small compared with him. “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.” Is he not a glorious Master to serve? “How great is his goodness, and how great is his beauty!”

     Having first spoken of his master, he told them that his master's son was his heir. That was a very important point in the business; and he spoke about how his master had put all that he had into the hands of his son; that the promises were his, and that the inheritance would come to him. He called the son “master” equally with the father. I also desire to glorify God and to magnify Christ Jesus, his Only-begotten and Well-beloved Son. It is the Father’s will “that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.” He is his Father’s heir; he claimed the title in his parable of the wicked husbandmen. When we come on our Master’s business, we seek those who shall become “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.”

     This is the third point with Eliezer: he wanted one who would leave her old home, and go and be one with his master's son. He said that his master’s son needed a wife, and he had come to seek one for him. He needed one who would be willing to go on a long and venturous journey, and be a pilgrim in a strange land with her husband. He would have no other than one who would give herself up to the God of Israel, and take a full share with Isaac in the covenant blessing. Well, now, that is my case, too. The Lord God, the Creator of heaven and earth, has all manner of good things to bestow upon the sinful sons of men. There is no measuring the grace and love of God, and he would have you to be his people that he may be your God. He wants those who will be willing to leave all, and be united to his Only-begotten Son, the Lord Jesus, who for our salvation came down from heaven, and took our nature, and lived in it; who took our sin, and died for us, that we might be pardoned and for ever saved. The Son must see of the travail of his soul. There must be souls that shall be eternally saved through believing on him. He cannot die in vain. He must have a people who shall be to him a bride, with whom he shall delight himself for ever and ever. And the question is, are there any such here? Are there any here who will yield themselves to his sweet love, who will trust themselves with him, as Rebekah trusted herself with Isaac, who will come out of the world, and live the separated life with him? This is the errand on which we have come.

     And Eliezer added that he hoped that he had found the right person. He believed that it was Rebekah, for he had put it before God in prayer, and in answer to his prayer she had come. She had done exactly as he had laid it down in prayer that she should do. Now, I have a hope dancing in my heart, that I have on this occasion found the right person. I often wonder why some people are here. There has come into the Tabernacle on the Lord’s-day, many a time, a runaway from his father’s house in the country. He has come to London to sin, and he has little thought that he came to London to be saved; but here the Word of God has laid hold upon him. There has dropped in here a sailor, who had only been a day or two in port, and the last thing that he ever thought was that he should be converted; but here he came, and found eternal life. Your coming here in such numbers, and your eyes, as you look at me, encourage me, while your willingness to hear what I have to say inspires me to fearlessly deliver my Master’s message. Surely, God means to bless you. If he gives the hearing ear, will he not give the broken heart; and if he has led you to be anxious to listen to my message, are you not, many of you, the very persons whom he has appointed to be for ever united to his beloved Son?

     The case being thus faithfully stated by Eliezer, he now pressed for a reply. “If ye will deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me. If Rebekah will go with me to be the wife of Isaac, tell me.” So I put it to you. If you are willing to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and are ready to leave the world and all its temptations, and come to him, say so. Tell me. Let us know it. You have now come to a turning-point. You remember how the Roman ambassadors demanded of some who came to them that they should, on the spot, decide whether they meant war with Rome or submission to it. When they asked for time, the ambassadors took their wands, and drew a circle round them, and said, “Before you quit that circle, you must settle whether it is to be peace or war.” I would draw here a circle round some of you, and say, “Your portion must be either salvation or damnation. You have been hesitating and halting too long already. Do not leave that seat till you have decided one way or the other.” There is, just under the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, a spot, which I once had pointed out to me— it must be forty years ago — where a workman, busily engaged at the top of the dome, fell, and, of course, was dashed to pieces on the floor; and I saw the mark of his chisel on the place where he was killed. I wonder whether there are any marks in these pews where souls were lost, where some have parleyed with God, refused his grace, resisted his Spirit, and gone thenceforth the downward road. I would to God that, instead thereof, there might be some mark where the grace of God has wrought effectual salvation! I believe there is not a single pew, or seat in the aisles, in this place, that might not legitimately be marked as a place where souls have been saved; for, time out of mind, when friends come here and speak on Monday nights, you must have noticed how one of them says, “The third seat from that pillar over yonder was the place where I sat when the light came,” and another says, “Christ found me in a back seat in the top gallery,” and so on, until they have pointed to almost every part of the building as the place where God has called some one by his grace. I hope that some of you are now sitting in the very spot where you are predestinated to be born again unto everlasting life.

     II. In the second place, it is clearly set before us, that when Eliezer had stated his case, HE WISHED TO HAVE A FAVOURABLE REPLY. I might almost say he expected it. After his wonderful guidance, and his hospitable reception, his hopes would rise high that his quest would be speedily brought to a satisfactory end.

     If a favourable reply was given to him, it would enable him to execute his errand; whereas, if the answer was against him, he could not then carry out his master’s orders. If no soul gets saved through this discourse, I cannot carry on my business. “Oh, well,” says one, “a man may preach very faithfully, and yet he may have no souls saved.” Yes, a fisherman may fish, and never catch any fish, but he is not much of a fisherman; and so, if there were no souls saved, perhaps I might find some way of satisfying my conscience, but it is unknown to me as yet. I have never sought such a solace, and hope I never shall. With me it is, “Give me children, or else I die.” If you are not saved, and brought to Christ, I feel as if I must give up my work of preaching to you. I cannot stand here beating the air. If my hearers are not converted, I have lost my time; I have lost the exercise of brain and heart. I feel as if I had lost my hope, and lost my life, unless I find for my Lord some of his blood-bought ones; and I must find some of them by this sermon.

     I think that Eliezer longed for a favourable reply, because it would be an answer to his prayer. Possibly you have not prayed for yourself, but we have prayed for you: not that we know your name, or your case; but we have often gone over in secret a case just like yours, and we can say that we have brought you before God in earnest supplication. And perhaps there are godly people at home, who are praying that, as you are here, you may get a blessing. I frequently see people who come to join the church, and they say, “My husband is not converted,” or “My daughter is not converted.” “Do you get them to come and hear the Word?” I ask. “Oh, yes, sir, they come and hear!” “Well,” I have said, “if you get them into the battle, where the shots are flying, they are very likely to be wounded.” So we have often prayed that, when some of you have been persuaded to come and hear the Word, the Spirit of God may get hold of you, and that you may fall wounded beneath his sharp sword, or receive an arrow between the joints of the harness.

     The principal reason, however, why this good man wanted to find a willing response about Rebekah was, because it would gladden his master's son. “Oh,” he thought, “what joy I shall give him if I take back to him the right woman, the wife whom God has appointed for him! He has lost his mother Sarah, and he is pining and grieving; and if I can take him back one who will fill her place in his tender heart, I shall rejoice.” As for us, our one business is to make glad the heart of Christ. His heart was pierced with a spear after having been broken with great anguish; and there is nothing that will refresh him like a soul yielding itself to his care. Who will do that here? Are there any in this house who are now saying, “I will belong to Christ from this time forth. I will trust him; for he loved me, and gave himself for me”? Happy messenger, to stand here and tell his story, and to say, “My Lord is waiting for you in the far country. He has sent me to invite you to share with him all that he has. If your heart is willing to take him, he gives himself to you.” His only complaint is, “Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life;” and his declaration is, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Any “him” that comes to him, he will receive and bless. Eliezer was quite sure his master would deal tenderly and truly with Rebekah, therefore he asked her father and brother to “deal kindly and truly” with him. I am quite sure that my Master will deal “kindly and truly” with you; he could not do otherwise. If you but knew his heart, or had a glimpse of his beauty, you would hesitate no longer. Will you not give him a favourable answer, and say, “Yes, we will deal kindly and truly with your Master, and will yield our hearts to him at once and for ever”?

     I think, too, that Eliezer had begun to feel that it would be for Rebekah’s benefit to go to his master. He had seen her face at the well; he liked the style of the young woman, and he thought, “If I can get her for Isaac, she will be settled in life; she will be the mistress and queen of a great household; she will have a happy husband, and all that her heart can desire.” As I think of some here who have never found peace, I say to myself that if I could only get you to Christ, how happy you would be! If you would come and trust him, your everlasting fortune would be made. If you would yield yourselves to him, there would be an end of sin, an end of doubt, an end of fear, and an end of terror. You would be saved. Your morality, which is now so precarious, would rise into a solid spirituality; for you would be made holy through the indwelling Spirit. Seeing that this would be the case, could I do you a better turn than to lead you to Jesus? John B. Gough tells a story of how he was fetched from a railway-station to speak one night, and the cab that was sent for him had a broken window. He noticed that the man who came in the cab put a handkerchief over his head as he sat close up against the hole in the window, and then he observed that he put his head against the window. Mr. Gough said, “Have you a cold in your head?” “No,” he said, “but there is a nasty hole in this pane of glass, and I am afraid that you may take cold. I am sticking my head into the hole to shield you, for you taught me to be a man and a Christian.” Such gratitude as that was most touching; and if we can bring any to Christ, I am sure they will be very grateful to us. If we can lead them to Jesus, they will feel as if they could not do too much for us; therefore out of love to them, having so many who are now our dear children in Christ, we would plead with them, and say, “Give us a good answer, and say ‘Yes,’ to the overture of our Master’s Son.”

     III. But now the point of the text is, that HE WAS DETERMINED TO HAVE SOME ANSWER. He says, “If ye will deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me: and if not, tell me.” He would have their answer, whether it was “Yea,” or “Nay.” “If not, tell me.” May I ask that everyone here will say “Yes,” or “No,” to the invitation to give himself up to Christ? If you will do so, say, “I will.” If you will not do so, say deliberately, “I will not.” I wish I could get hold of an undecided man, and taking his hand, could say to him, “Now, you must tell me which it will be.” I can imagine some of you would say, “Oh, give me time to consider!” and I would reply, “You have had time to consider. Your hair is getting grey.” In spite of all our entreaties, people say, “Oh, but I do not like to decide so suddenly!” If I asked you whether you would be honest, I hope that you would not take many minutes to answer that. Why, then, should you hesitate so long in giving your adherence to Christ? I am like Abraham’s servant; some answer I must have.

     But can we rightly press men to decide if we fear that they will answer “No”? I think we may, because, from the nature of the case, no answer means a denial. How many of our hearers have thus for years turned their back upon Christ, by the simple method of giving no answer at all! “We hear what you say, sir,” they murmur, “and thank you for saying it;” but, nevertheless, they go out, and go on their way, and forget what manner of men they are. Such a response is a refusal; and it is none the less a refusal because you will probably retort, “But I did not say ‘No,’ sir. Indeed, one of these days I may perhaps say ‘Yes.’ ” But, meanwhile, you reject the proposal, and refuse to give yourself up to the Lord. The question is, Will you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? The absence of an affirmative answer means, “No, I will not.” I am sure that it does in every case. No argument can be raised about that.

     But if you will answer me, “No, I will not have Christ; I will not believe on him; I will not become a Christian; I will not leave my old ways; I mean to go on in them;” well, I thank you for the answer, pained as I am, because now we can talk it over. This is better than no response, for now we have something to work upon. An ill answer can be considered, while no answer baffles all our efforts to help you. It is far more hopeful to encounter opposition, than to meet with indifference. It is a great thing, when a ship is at sea, for the captain to know whereabouts he is; and when we meet with those who distinctly reject Christ, we at once know our bearings. If you say, “No, I am not a Christian, and I do not want to be:” so far you are honest, and I want you now to think it over. Would you like to die in this frame of mind? You may die where you are sitting. Are you wise to come to this determination? Do you think that this is a resolution which you can justify before the judgment-bar of God? You will certainly have to appear there. After death yon will rise again, when the trump of the archangel sounds; and, as surely as you are here, you will have to stand before the great white throne, whereon Christ will sit as Judge. How will the resolution which you have now made stand the light of that tremendous day? I pray you, think of it, and I hope that you will alter your decision as many another man has done when he has calmly considered the magnitude of the issues at stake, and the awful result which must come of rejecting him who is now the Saviour, but who will one day sit as the Judge.

     But we are the more determined to press you for some decision, because an ill answer will set us free to go to others. You see Eliezer says, “If not, tell me; that I may turn to the right hand, or to the left.” Do not suppose that if you refuse Christ, he will lose the effect of his death. “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.” If you will not come unto him, others will. If you reject him, he has a people who will accept him, by his almighty grace. O sirs, if you that hear the gospel will not have my Master, we will go and bring in the publicans and harlots, and they shall enter the kingdom of heaven before you! Sons of pious parents, children of Sabbath-schools, if you believe not, you shall be cast into “outer darkness”, where shall be “weeping and gnashing of teeth”, while the people whom you despise, infidels and profligates, the very scum of society, shall accept the Saviour, and live. Oh, I charge you, think not that your refusal of the gospel invitation will leave any gaps in the ranks of the redeemed! Our Saviour, in his parable of the marriage of the king’s son, foretold what will happen. The king said to his servants, “The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.” But I would urge you to yield yourself unto the Lord, that you may be found at the marriage-supper of the Lamb. Do not trifle with eternal matters. If you want to play the fool, do it with counters or with pebbles, but not with your soul, that shall live for ever in bliss or in woe.

     My importunity with you is strengthened when I think that, perhaps, if you give me the answer straight out, “No, I am not a Christian, and I do not mean to be one,” you may, in saying it, see more clearly what a terrible decision you have arrived at. An ill answer may startle you, and ultimately lead you to repent of your folly, and reverse your decision. If you would write down— “I am not a Christian, and I never mean to be one,” it might startle you still more. I challenge you to do so; and when it is written, put it over the mantelpiece, and look at it. It will be far better to do that, horrible as it is, than to continue in this state of wicked suspense, indifferent as to whether you are lost or saved, undecided whether you are for Christ or against him, and yet, in your heart of hearts, dead in trespasses and sins. In this very place, I once urged those who were undecided to go home, and write down, either the word “Saved,” or “Lost,” and sign their name to the paper. One man, when he got into his house, asked for pen and paper; and when his wife enquired why he wanted it, he said he was going to do what the parson said, and write down “Lost.” She refused to fetch him the paper if he was going to do that. So he got it himself, and put down a capital L, when his little girl climbed up in the chair behind him, and said, “No, father, you shan’t do that, I’d rather die than you should do that”; and the child’s tears fell on his hand as she spoke. What my sermon had failed to do, those tears accomplished; the strong man was bowed, and yielded himself to Christ; and when they got up from their knees in that little room, he took the pen, and changing the L into an S, wrote “Saved.” He was saved because he came face to face with the fact that he was lost. His ill answer startled both himself and his child. May God work the like change in you, both for your own sake and also for the sake of your loved ones!

     I want to press you for some kind of answer, because, like Eliezer, I have promised my Master to make search for you, and an ill answer will clear me of my oath. If I can get “No,” from you as your answer, and am certain that you will not go with me to my Master’s Son, I shall be clear. It was so with Abraham’s servant; he and his master agreed to that at the first. When men say “No,” and entreaties are of no further use, and the preaching of the gospel has no power over them, then we must leave them, and carry the glad tidings to others, just as Paul and Barnabas of old said to the angry Jews at Antioch, “It was necessary that the Word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” I beseech you, do not put Christ away from you; and I press you for a definite answer. Is ay, as Eliezer said, “If ye will deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me: and if not, tell me; that I may turn to the right hand, or to the left.”

     Now I just want to have a little talk with you over this matter. My dear friend, you are in peril of eternal death. While you are hesitating, life is ebbing. During the past few months, how many of our dear friends have been taken away by influenza, and other causes! This congregation has suffered from sickness, in family after family, as I never knew it suffer before. May you not be taken? I charge you, therefore, do not act as though you had plenty of time. Possibly you have not another week to live. The clock, as it ticks, seems to me to say, “Now, now, now, now, now, now;” and for some of you there is an alarm in the clock, which, when it runs down, utters this warning, “Now or never, now or never, now or never.”

     After all, the matter that we have in hand is not one that requires great debate. Whether I will believe the truth or not, should not be a matter of discussion. Whether I will receive the gift of God or not, should not be a thing to be argued about if I am in my right mind. Whether, being lost, I am willing to be saved— whether, having the gospel of eternal life proclaimed to me, I should accept it by faith— well, I need not ask the sages as to what I shall answer, nor need I go to the Law Courts to consult the judges as to my reply. This is a thing so simple that it requires no argument. Who will choose to be damned? Who will refuse eternal life? Surely these are questions that should be decided at once.

     Waiting and trifling have done you no good hitherto. The countryman, when he wanted to cross the river, and found it deep, said that he would sit down and wait till the water was all gone by. He waited, but the river was just as deep after all his waiting; and with all your delay, the difficulties in the way of your accepting Christ do not get any less. If you look at the matter rightly, you will see that there are no great difficulties in the way, nor were there ever such obstacles as your imagination pictures. Another countryman, having to cross Cheapside, one morning, was so confused by the traffic of omnibuses and cabs and foot passengers, that he said he felt sure he could not get across the road, and would wait till the people thinned out a little; but all day long they never did thin out. Unless he had waited till the evening, he would have found little difference in that perpetual stream of hurrying people. O friends, you have waited until you can get “a convenient season” to become a Christian, and after all your delay, the way is not any clearer! Twenty years ago some of you were as near decision for Christ as you are now. Nay, you seemed nearer. I then thought, “Oh, some of them will soon believe in Jesus, and yield their hearts to him!” But you said then that it was not quite time. Is it time now? Is the day without difficulty any nearer? Is the season any more suitable? Nay, indeed, there is no improvement.

     Let me say that, I believe that your waiting has not only done you no good, but has positively done you great harm. There were times when it seemed easy for you to yield to the pressure of the divine Spirit. It certainly is not easier now; indeed, it is more difficult. I think sometimes God treats men as Benjamin Franklin treated the man who stood loafing in his bookshop, and at last took up a book, and said, “How much is this?” Franklin replied, “A shilling.” “A shilling?” he said, “a shilling?” and he would not give the price. After staying about ten minutes, he said: “Come, Mr. Franklin, now what will you take for it?” Franklin answered, “Two shillings.” “No,” he said, “you are joking.” “I am not joking,” said Franklin: “the price is two shillings.” The man waited, and sat a while, thinking. “I want the book,” he drawled out; “still, I will not give two shillings. What will you take for it?” Franklin said, “Three shillings.” “Well,” the man said, “why do you raise your price?” To which Franklin responded, “You see, you have wasted so much of my time that I could better have afforded to take one shilling at first than three shillings now.” Sometimes, if men come to Christ at the very first invitation, it is a sweet and easy coming. See how dear young children often yield themselves to Christ, and how peaceful is their entrance into the rest of faith! But when people wait, when they postpone believing, when they violate conscience, when they tread down all the uprising of holy thoughts within them, it becomes much harder for them to trust in Christ than it would have been when he was first preached to them. I come, therefore, to you again, and say, “If ye will deal kindly and truly with my Master, tell me: and if not, tell me; and tell me now.”

     “Well,” says one, “I am glad you have spoken to us; I will think it over.” No, friend, I do not mean that. I do not want you to think it over. You have had enough of thinking; I pray that God’s Spirit may lead you to an immediate decision. “Well, suppose that we consider it during the week,” you say. No, that will not suit either my Master or myself. I want the answer now. I am like a messenger carrying a letter, on which is written, “The bearer will wait for a reply.” I was once in a country town, and I said to my host, when I went to bed, “I have to be in London to-morrow, and I cannot get up in time for my work unless I leave by a train which I can catch readily enough if you wake me at six o’clock.” Well, my host was an Irishman, so he woke me at five o’clock; and when I sat up in bed, I said, “What is it?” He said, “You have only another hour to sleep.” The consequence was that I missed my train. If he had only wakened me at the proper time, and said, “Now you must get up,” I should have dressed at once; but as he said, “You have only another hour to sleep,” of course I slept that hour, and another one as well, for I was weary. The same principle applies to you. If I say to you, “Go home, and think it over all the week,” I shall be giving you a week in which to remain in rebellion against God; and I have no right to do that. I shall be giving you a week in which you are to continue an unbeliever; and he that is an unbeliever is in peril of eternal ruin, for “he that believeth not shall be damned.” Worse than all, the week may lead to many other weeks; to months, perhaps, and years; perchance to a whole eternity of woe. I cannot give you five minutes. God the Holy Ghost speaks by me now to souls whom God hath chosen from before the foundation of the world, and he says, “To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” The Holy Ghost says “To-day, even to-day.” “Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” The question comes to you, Will ye be Christ’s? “If ye will deal kindly and truly with my Master, tell me: and if not, tell me.”  

     The best answer you can give is in the verses that follow the text. “Laban and Bethuel answered and said, The thing proceedeth from the Lord: we cannot speak unto thee bad or good. Behold, Rebekah is before thee; take her.” Oh, I wish some of you would thus respond to my appeal this day! This thing is also from the Lord: it was he who gave me this message; it was he who brought you to hear it Surely you will not be found fighting against God. Your heart is open to him; he sees the faintest desire that you have toward him. Breathe out your wish now, and say, “My heart is before thee: take it.”

“Take my poor heart, and let it be
For ever closed to all but thee!
Seal thou my breast, and let me wear
That pledge of love for ever there.”

He will not be slow to accept that which, is offered to him. He will take you now, and he will keep you for ever.

     “How is it to be done?” says one. The plan is very simple. Jesus Christ took upon himself the sins of all who ever will trust him. Come and rest upon his atoning sacrifice. Give yourself up to him wholly and unreservedly, and he will save you. Take him to be your Saviour by the simple act of faith. The pith of the matter is that I, being lost, give myself over to Christ to save me. I believe that the act of faith was very well set forth in the statement of a poor imbecile. They said that he was an idiot; but I think that he had more real sense than many a man who boasts of his intellect. Some one said to him. “John, have you got a soul?” “No,” he said, “I ain’t got no soul.” “Why, John, how is that?” He replied, “I had a soul once, but I lost it, and Jesus Christ found it, so I have just let him keep it.” There is the whole philosophy of salvation. You have lost your soul; Christ has found it. Let him keep it. God bless you! Amen.