All Comers to Christ Welcomed

By / Nov 17

All Comers to Christ Welcomed

 

“Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. — John vi. 37.

 

CHRIST will not die in vain. His Father gave him a certain number to be the reward of his soul travail, and he will have every one of them, as he said, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me.” Almighty grace shall sweetly constrain them all to come. My father gave me recently some letters which I wrote to him when I began to preach. They are almost boyish epistles; but, in reading through them again, I noticed in one of them this expression, “How I long to see thousands of men saved; but my great comfort is that some will be saved, must be saved, shall be saved, for it is written, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me.”

     The question for each of you to ask is, “Do I belong to that number?” I am going to preach with the view of helping you to find out whether you belong to that “all” whom the Father gave to Christ, the “all” who shall come to him. We can use the second part of the verse to help us to understand the first. “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out,” will explain our Saviour’s previous words, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me.”

     I shall have no time for any further preface; I must at once get to my subject, and try to put everything in a condensed form. Kindly give heed to the word, think about it, pray over it; and may God the Holy Ghost apply it to all your hearts!

     I. First, notice in the text THE NECESSITY OF CHARACTER: “Him that cometh to me.” If you want to be saved, you must come to Christ. There is no other way of salvation under heaven but coming to Christ. Go wherever else you will, you must be disappointed and lost; it is only by coming to him that you can by any possibility have eternal life.

     What is it to come to Christ? Well, it implies leaving all other confidences. To come to anybody, is to leave everybody else. To come to Christ, is to leave everything else, to leave every other hope, every other trust. Are you trusting to your own works? Are you trusting to a priest? Are you trusting to the merits of the Virgin Mary, or the saints and angels in heaven? Are you trusting to anything but the Lord Jesus Christ? If so, leave it, and have done with it. Come away from every other reliance, and trust to Christ crucified, for this is the only way of salvation, as Peter said to the rulers and elders of Israel, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

“To Jesus bleeding on the tree,
Turn thou thine eye, thine heart,”

and come to him at once, and thy soul shall live for ever.

     To come to Jesus means, in brief, trusting him. He is a Saviour; that is his business, come you to him, and trust him to save you. If you could save yourself, you would not need a Saviour; and now that Christ has set up to be a Saviour, let him do the business. He will. Come, and lay all your needs at his feet, and trust him. Resolve that, if lost, you will be lost trusting alone in Jesus; and that can never be. Tie up all your hopes into one bundle, and put that bundle upon Christ. Let him be all thy salvation, and all thy desire, and so thou shalt be surely saved.

     I have sometimes tried to explain to you what the life of faith is like; it is very much like a man walking on a tight rope. The believer is told that he shall not fall, he trusts in God that he shall not; but every now and then he says, “What a way it is down there if I did fall!” I have often had this experience: I have gone up an invisible staircase; I could not see the next step, but when I put my foot down on it, I found that it was solid granite. I could not see the next stair, and it seemed as if I should plunge into an abyss; yet have I gone on upward, steadily, one step at a time, never able to see farther into absolute darkness, as it seemed, and yet always with a light just where the light was wanted. When I used to hold a candle to my father, of an evening, when he was sawing wood out in the yard, he used to say, “Boy, do hold the candle where I am sawing, don’t look over there.” And I have often thought to myself, when I wanted to see something in the middle of next week, or next year, that the Lord seemed to say to me, “Hold your candle on the piece of work which you have to do to-day; and if you can see that, be satisfied, for that is all the light you want just now.” Suppose that you could see into next week, it would be a great mercy if you lost your sight a while, for a far-seeing gaze into care and trouble is no gain. “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,” as sufficient unto the day will be the good thereof. But the Lord does train his people for the skies by testing their faith in the matter of his daily care of them. Often, a man’s reliance upon God for the supply of his earthly wants proves that he has trusted the Lord for the weightier affairs relating to his soul’s salvation. Do not draw a line between the temporal and the spiritual, and say, “God will go just so far; but I must not take such and such a thing to him in prayer.” I remember hearing of a certain good man, of whom one said, “Why, he is a very curious man; he prayed about a key the other day!” Why not pray about a key? Why not pray about a pin? Sometimes, it may be as important to pray about a pin as to pray about a kingdom. Little things are often the linch-pins of great events. Take care that you bring everything to God in faith and prayer. “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”

     I have turned aside from my subject for a minute, but let us now think again of this matter of coming to Christ. To come to Jesus, not only implies leaving all other confidences, and trusting Christ, it also means following him. If you trust him, you must obey him. If you leave your soul in his hands, you must take him to be your Master, and your Lord, as well as your Saviour. Christ has come to save you from sin, not in sin. He will therefore help you to leave your sin, whatever it is; he will give you the victory over it; he will make you holy. He will help you to do whatever you should do in the sight of God He is able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by him; but you must come to him if you would be saved by him.

     To put together all I have said, you must quit every other hope; you must take Jesus to be your sole confidence, and then you must be obedient to his command, and take him to be your Master, and Lord. Will you do that? If not, I have nothing to say to you except this,— he that believeth not in him will perish without hope. If you will not have God’s remedy for your soul malady, the only remedy that there is, there remaineth for you nothing but blackness and dismal darkness for ever and ever.

     II. But, now, secondly, while there is this necessity of character, notice also THE UNIVERSALITY OF PERSONS: “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

     Granted that he comes to Christ, that is all that is needed. Does some one say, “Sir, I am a very obscure person. Nobody knows me; my name was never in the papers, and never will be; I am a nobody”? Well, if Mr. Nobody comes to Christ, he will not cast him out. Come along, you unknown person, you anonymous individual, you that everybody but Christ forgets! If even you come to Jesus, he will not cast you out.

     Another says, “I am so very odd.” Do not say much about that, for I am odd, too; but, dear friends, however odd we are, though we may be thought very eccentric, and some may even consider us a little touched in the head, yet, nevertheless, for all that, Jesus says, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Come along with you, Mr. Oddman! You shall not be lost for want of brains, nor yet for having too many; though that is not a very common misfortune. If you will but come to Christ, though you have no talent, though you are but poor, and will never make much headway in the world, Jesus says, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

     “Ah!” says a third friend, “I do not mind about being obscure, or being eccentric; but it is the greatness of my sin that keeps me back from Christ.” Let us read the text again: “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” If he had been guilty of seven murders, and all the whoredoms and adulteries that ever defiled mortal man, if impossible sins could be charged against him, yet if he came to Christ, mark you, if he came to Christ, the promise of Jesus would be fulfilled even in his case, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

     “But,” says another, “I am completely worn out, I am good for nothing. I have spent all my days and years in sin. I have come to the very end of the chapter, I am not worth anybody’s having.” Come along with you, you fag-end of life! Jesus says, “Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.” You have to walk with two sticks, do you? Never mind, come you to Jesus. You are so feeble that you wonder that you are alive at your advanced age. My Lord will receive you if you are a hundred years of age; there have been many cases in which persons have been brought to Christ even after that age. There are some very remarkable instances of that fact on record. Christ says, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” If he were as old as Methuselah, if he did but come to Christ, he should not be cast out.

     “Alas!” says one, “I am in a worse case than even that aged friend, for beside being old, I have resisted the Spirit of God. I have been many years troubled in my conscience; but I have tried to cover it all up. I have stifled every godly thought.” Yes, yes; and it is a very sad thing, too; but for all that, if you come to Christ, if you can even make a dash for salvation, and come to Jesus, he cannot cast you out.

     One friend perhaps says, “I am afraid that I have committed the unpardonable sin.” If you come to Christ, you have not, I know; for him that cometh to him Jesus will in no wise cast out. He cannot, therefore, have committed the unpardonable sin. Come along with you, man, and if you are blacker than all the rest of the sinners in the world, so much the more glorious shall be the grace of God when it shall have proved its power by washing you whiter than snow in the precious blood of Jesus.

     “Ah!” says one, “you do not know me, Sir.” No, dear friend, I do not; but, perhaps, one of these days I may have that pleasure. “It will not be any pleasure to you, Sir, for I am an apostate. I used to be a professor of religion; but I have given it all up, and I have gone back to the world, wilfully and wickedly doing all manner of evil things.” Ah! well, if you can but come to Christ, though there were seven apostasies piled one upon another, still his promise stands true, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Whatever the past, or whatever the present, backslider, return to Christ, for he standeth to his plighted word, and there are no exceptions mentioned in my text: “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” “Well, Sir,” cries another, “I should like to come to Christ; but I do not feel fit to come.” Then, come all unfit, just as you are. Jesus says, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” If I were woke up in the middle of the night by a cry of “Fire!” and I saw that some one was at the window with a fire-escape, I do not think that I should keep in bed, and say, “I have not my black necktie on, or “I have not my best waistcoat on.” I should not speak in that way at all. I would be out of the window as quickly as ever I could, and down the fire-escape. Why do you talk about your fitness, fitness, fitness? I have heard of a cavalier, who lost his life because he stopped to curl his hair when Cromwell’s soldiers were after him. Some of you may laugh at the man’s foolishness; but that is all that your talk about fitness is. What is all your fitness but the curling of your hair when you are in imminent danger of losing your soul? Your fitness is nothing to Christ. Remember what we sang at the beginning of the service:—

“Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness he requireth,
Is to feel your need of him:
This he gives you;
’Tis the Spirit’s rising beam.”

Come to Christ just as you are, foul, vile, careless, godless, Christless. Come now, even now, for Jesus said, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

     Is there not a glorious width about my text: “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” What “him” is this? It is “him that cometh.” What “him that cometh”? Any “him that cometh” in all the world. H he comes to Christ, he shall not be cast out. A red man, or a black man, or a white man, or a yellow man, or a copper-coloured man, whatever he is, if he comes to Jesus, he shall in no wise be cast out.

     When you mean to put a thing broadly, it is always best to state it, and leave it. Do not go into details; the Saviour does not. Some years ago, there was a man, a kind, loving husband, who wished to leave to his wife all his property. Whatever he had, he intended her to have it all, as she ought; so he put down in his will, “I leave to my beloved wife, Elizabeth, all that I have.” That was all right. Then he went on to describe in detail what he was leaving her, and he wrote, “All my freehold and personal estate.” The most of his property happened to be leasehold, so the wife did not get it because her husband gave a detailed description; it was in the detail that the property slipped away from the good woman. Now, there is no detail at all here: “Him that cometh.” That means that every man, and woman, and child, beneath the broad heavens, who will but come, and trust in Christ, shall in no wise be cast out. I thank God that there is no allusion to any particular character, in order specially to say, “People of that character shall be received,” for then the characters left out might be supposed to be excluded; but the text clearly means that every soul that comes to Christ shall be received by him.

     III. The flight of time hurries me on, therefore, I beg you to listen earnestly while I speak to you, in the third place, about THE UNMISTAKEABLENESS OF THE PROMISE: “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise”— that is, for no reason, under no circumstances, at no time, under no conditions whatever,— “I will in no wise cast out”; which means, being interpreted, “I will receive him, I will save him, I will bless him.”

     Then if you, my dear friend, come to Christ, how could the Lord cast you out? How could he do it in consistency with his truthfulness? Imagine my Lord Jesus making this declaration, and giving it to us as an inspired Scripture, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out,” and yet casting out somebody, even that unknown somebody up in the corner. Why, it would be a lie; it would be an acted lie! I pray you, blaspheme not my Lord, the truthful Christ, by supposing that he could be guilty of such conduct as that. He could do as he liked about whom he would receive until he made the promise; but after he had pledged his word, he bound himself by the veracity of his nature to keep it; and as long as Christ is the truthful Christ, he must receive every soul that comes to him.

     But let me also ask you, suppose that you came to Jesus, and he cast you out, with what hands could he do it? “With his own hands,” you answer. What! Christ coming forward to cast out a sinner who has come to him? I ask again, with what hands could he do it? Would he do it with those pierced hands, that still bear the marks of the nails? The Crucified rejecting a sinner? Ah! no; he hath no hand with which to do such a cruel work as that, for he has given both his hands to be nailed to the tree for guilty men. He hath neither hand, nor foot, nor heart with which to reject sinners, for all these have been pierced in his death for them; therefore he cannot cast them out if they come to him.

     Let me ask you another question, What profit would it be to Christ if he did cast you out? If my dear Lord, of the thorny crown, and the pierced side, and the wounded hands, were to cast you away, what glory would it bring to him? If he cast you into hell, you who have come to him, what happiness would that bring to him? If he were to cast you away, you who have sought his face, you who trust his love and his blood, by what conceivable method could that ever render him the happier or the greater? It cannot be.

     What would such a supposition involve? Imagine for a moment that Jesus did cast away one who came to him; if it were ascertained that one soul came to Christ, and yet he had cast him away, what would happen? Why, there are thousands of us who would never preach again! For one, I would have done with the business. If my Lord can cast away a sinner who comes to him, I cannot, with a clear conscience, go and preach from his words, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Moreover, I should feel that, if he failed in one promise, he might fail in the others. I could not go and preach a possible but doubtful gospel. I must have “shalls” and “wills” from the eternal throne of God; and if it is not so, our preaching is vain, and your faith is also vain.

     See what would follow if one soul came to Christ, and Christ cast him out. All the saints would lose their confidence in him. If a man breaks his promise once, it is of no use for him to say, “Well, I am generally truthful.” You have caught him false to his word once, and you will not trust him again, will you? No; and if our dear Lord, whose every word is truth and verity, could break one of his promises only once, he would not be trusted by his people any more, and his Church would lose the faith that is her very life. Ah! me; and then they would hear of it up in heaven; and one soul that came to Christ, and was cast away, would stop the music of the harps of heaven, would dim the lustre of the glory-land, and take away its joy, for it would be whispered among the glorified, “Jesus has broken his promise. He cast away a praying, believing soul; he may break his promise to us, he may drive us out of heaven.” When they began to praise him, this one act of his would make a lump come in their throats, and they would be unable to sing. They would be thinking of that poor soul that trusted him, and was cast away; so how could they sing, “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,” if they had to add, “But he did not wash all that came to him, though he promised that he would”?

     I do not like even to talk of all that the supposition would involve; it is something so dreadful to me, for they would hear of it in hell, and they would tell it to one another, and an awful glee would take possession of the fiendish hearts of the devil and all his companions, and they would say, “The Christ is not true to his word; the boasted Saviour rejected one who came to him. He used to receive even harlots, and he let one wash his feet with her tears; and publicans and sinners came and gathered about him, and he spoke to them in tones of love; but here is one,— well, he was too vile for the Saviour to bless; he was too far gone, Jesus could not restore him, Christ could not cleanse him. He could save little sinners, but not great ones; he could save sinners eighteen hundred years ago. Oh! he made a fine show of them; but his power is exhausted now, he cannot save a sinner now.” Oh, in the halls of Hades, what jests and ridicule would be poured upon that dear name, and, I had almost said, justly, if Christ cast out one who came to him! But, beloved, that can never be; it is as sure as God’s oath, as certain as Jehovah’s being, that he who comes to Christ shall in no wise be cast out. I gladly bear my own witness before this assembled throng that—

“I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary, and worn, and sad:
I found in him a resting-place,
And he has made me glad.”

Come, each one of you, and prove the text to be true in your own experience, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen.



The Lord Leading; David Following

By / Nov 14

The Lord Leading; David Following

 

“And let it be, when thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees, that then thou shalt bestir thyself: for then shall the LORD go out before thee, to smite the host of the Philistines. And David did so, as the LORD had commanded him; and smote the Philistines from Geba until thou come to Gazer.”— 2 Samuel v. 24, 26.

 

DAVID’S life was a life of war. The Christian life wears other aspects; but still, in very deed and in truth, spiritually, it also is a life of war. Our Lord spoke the truth when he said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” The end of all his great work will be universal peace, and the lion shall lie down with the lamb; but, for the present, men fight against the principles which Christ brought into the world, and all who become the followers of Christ must expect to be soldiers of One whose life was one great conflict, and who died upon the battlefield, ay, and was crowned upon the battlefield, too! Expect, then, to war a good warfare as long as you are here.

     David had won one great victory over the Philistines; but he was not permitted to sit down, and congratulate himself upon his triumph. The Philistines were upon him again. Those Philistines took a great deal of beating; and the powers of evil are not content anywhere with being defeated once or twice. They are up and at us again; they challenge us afresh, they hope to overthrow us sooner or later; and again and again must we be ready to resist them, with this as our war-cry, “They compassed me about; yea, they compassed me about: but in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.” There must be war even after victory; and we must stand prepared for it.

     Note well, however, that, before David went to war, in each case, he waited upon God: “David enquired of the Lord.” Whenever we have any enterprise on hand, it is wise to wait upon God for direction, and for help. David had received divine guidance before; but counsel in one dilemma is not guidance for another. Though David had been led of God the first time to fight the Philistines, he did not consider that the direction then given would apply again, so he went a second time; and it is written, “David enquired of the Lord.” The answers which David received on these two occasions were different. The first time, the Lord said, “Go up.” The second time, he said, “Thou shalt not go up.” Had David been content with his former waiting upon God, he would have made a great mistake. What you have to do to-day you may not have to do to-morrow, and what you did yesterday may have been right enough for yesterday, but it may be as wrong as possible for to-day. Wait more continually upon God, dear friends. Be not satisfied with what you have received of direction and support; but go to God again and again. If you go to him daily for manna, you may well go to him daily for counsel. David did this, and he acted wisely. I am afraid, dear friends, that many Christians go carelessly blundering on, as we say, “neck or nothing.” They do the first thing that comes to hand, and do not wait, and pause, and consider, as they ought. I know some friends who seem to me to enter into great speculations which they had much better let alone, and who venture into various schemes which they would be much wiser to leave to other people. If they would only wait upon God, they would find themselves restrained from many things which now they attempt, and impelled to other things which now they neglect. The old proverb says that “kneeling does not spoil silk stockings.” I am not so sure of that. The silk stockings do not matter; but we may say that kneeling does not hurt a man’s knees. Kneeling makes him strong in the foot, brave in the heart, and often clear in the brain. If a man will only wait upon God, it will help his own mind to form a correct judgment, and, besides that, the Lord will give him guidance of which he never dreamed. He may have a token which shall be to him the very “clue of the maze.” He may get a word from God which will make him wiser than the ancients, and it shall be as though the Urim and the Thummim still spoke out of the sanctuary to guide the saints of the Most High.

     To-night, I shall speak about David’s experience, as recorded in this remarkable verse, in the following way. Here is, first, a prime necessity promised. God promises that he will be with David; nay, that he will go before him in this holy war: “Then shall the Lord go out before thee, to smite the host of the Philistines.” But, secondly, here is a consequent action commanded: “Then thou shalt bestir thyself: for then shall the Lord go out before thee.” Thirdly, here is a hopeful sign afforded: “When thou hearest the sound of a going (or, marching) in the tops of the mulberry trees, then thou shalt bestir thyself.” And, lastly, but very briefly, there is a sure result following: “And David did so, as the Lord had commanded him; and smote the Philistines from Geba until thou come to Gazer.”

     I. Well now, to begin with, here is A PRIME NECESSITY PROMISED: “Then shall the Lord go out before thee.”

     This was a necessity to David, for he had long ago learned that all his dependence must be upon God. It is also a necessity to us, for if we are to have a single soul converted, it must be the work of God; ay, and if a single holy thought is begotten in this place, or any other, and fires the heart of any saint, and leads to holy service, it must be the work of God’s grace. Without him we can do nothing, and we shall be nothing. What we want just now e3pecially is for the Lord to go before us in our contemplated mission. In what way?

     Well, first, the Holy Spirit must go before us to prepare the minds of the people. When our Lord came into the world, the world was prepared for his coming. There had been certain things done, all over the globe, that made the time of his coming the best time at which he could come. But it has also been noticed by our missionaries, especially in the South Sea islands, that before they arrived there, certain changes had taken place, and certain movements in the minds of the people, that made the missionaries feel that they had come just in the nick of time. God had gone before them in providence and in grace, making ready a people prepared for the Word. Now, I want you to pray the Lord to do so with all the congregations that shall be gathered in this place, and, indeed, with all congregations. What can a preacher do, if his hearers should come, and God have left them to themselves? He would have to plough an iron soil, that would break his ploughshare, and break his heart. How different it is where God has been at work with the hearers! A child has been taken to heaven, the mother’s heart is breaking with sorrow, and she is tender and ready to hear of Jesus and the heaven to which her babe has gone. There, a man has been ill; he had been a thoughtless, careless man, but in his sickness he has peered into eternity, and he is now thoughtful, and prepared for the preacher’s message. Often have I said to myself, as I have come along to this place, “I shall have a picked congregation.” The Lord has an election of grace, and he has also an election of hearers.

     You cannot tell, dear friends, how much the conversion of sinners is due to antecedent action on the part of God before the saving moment came. There is a fire, and you say that the fire was made when the match was struck, and applied to the wood. Well, that is true; but long before that moment, he who split the wood and he who made the match had something to do with preparing for the fire, had they not? Where had been your fire if the wood had not been dried, and ready for the kindling, and deftly laid in its place? And where had been your light if it had not been for the phosphorus, and all else that was used to make the match? So does the Lord prepare for the fire of holy service. God is at work, dear friends, in London as well as elsewhere. Sad is the poverty in this great Babylon; but, oh, if men could all be rich and wicked, how would they ever be saved? Grievous is the disease that follows sin; but if men could sin and never smart for it, what evil we should see! God is at work in providence, and with tender touches here and there he is making men thoughtful, constraining them to feel, in a word, making them ready before the time of the preaching comes.

     And then the Holy Spirit must go before us to prepare the preacher. Preachers may think themselves thoroughly prepared for their work; but the smallest thing may put them out,— some little disarrangement of their dress, something in the pulpit not quite right, or some body dropping an umbrella in the aisle (as is so common here on Thursday nights), or some one person in the congregation who does not seem in the least impressed. Oh, shame upon us that we, who have such a message to deliver, should be affected by such very little things! Yet preachers are so affected, and often they cannot help it. Even before the preacher enters his pulpit, he may get out of order for preaching. Poor man that he is, something may happen to him that may quite put him out of harmony with the truth he has to deliver. Pray God to make our brethren, Fullerton and Smith, preachers fit for their work, and the best preparation will be the Lord going before them. May the prophet have his vision before he speaks! May the hand of the Lord press heavily upon him before he uplifts his hand to point men to the Lamb of God! May his lip be blistered with the live coal from off God’s altar before he opens his mouth to speak words of flame in the name of the Lord!

     Pray, brethren, pray; pray much, that the Lord may go before to prepare the hearers, but equally that he may go before to prepare the preachers.

     I will suppose that the hearers are present; in doing so, I only anticipate a few days. I hope that this house will be very full. The speakers are also here and ready for their work; they have come forward attended by your prayers. Now is the moment when we want the Spirit of God to go before us to deal with men. A single word, spoken in the strength of God, will effect far more than ten thousand words uttered in the power of mere reasoning, or eloquence, or even earnestness. When God goes before us, wonders are accomplished by sentences that seem very simple and trite; you have heard them many times before, but now you hear them in a very different way. They fell before like flakes of snow; but now they come like flashes of fire. They burn into your bosom; they set your heart on a blaze. What is the secret of this power? God is in it, God is working with it; he is proving his presence with his people. It is a strange thing, but it is strangely true, that by the foolishness of preaching it pleases God to save them that believe; and, while his power is never promised to go with the most gorgeous ceremonial, or with the most beautifully artistic effect, it is pledged to go with the simple declaration of the gospel of Christ, and the preaching of his holy Word. It is the gospel of Christ that is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” Though I have said this ten thousand times before, and you are always hearing it, and do not doubt it, yet for that very reason I say it again with all the emphasis with which I can say it;— the prime necessity for every holy work is for God to go before, for the Lord to make bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the people; and if we have not that Divine Leader, we have nothing at all that is of real service in holy work.

     II. Secondly, there is, in the text, A CONSEQUENT ACTION COMMANDED: “Then thou shalt bestir thyself: for then shall the Lord go out before thee.”

     God could do without us if he chose to do so; but God is pleased not to do without us. What a mercy it is that God deigns to use us! What a happiness for us! God might have gone forth, with thunder and lightning, against the Philistines, and scattered them in a moment; but that was not his way of winning the victory. It was to be a fight between David and the Philistines; and therefore God went before him to be the source of David’s strength.

     But David must follow after. When will some of our brethren learn the fact that God’s working is not a reason for our sitting still? It is not written, “The Lord will go before thee, and then thou shalt rest,” or, “The Lord shall go before thee, and then thou shalt sit still, and be grateful.” No, no; “Then thou shalt bestir thyself.” “Now, David, if you ever did move quickly, bestir yourself now that God has gone before you. If you ever did use a sword with all your heart, and soul, and strength, do it now.” “Then thou shalt bestir thyself.” “Look sharp.” That would be a very good translation, indeed. “Then thou shalt be all awake, and all alive; then thou shalt rush upon the Philistines, and destroy them. God has gone before thee; wilt thou not follow?” What a mercy, what a privilege, what a boon, God confers on his people that, though he could do very well without them, he does not please to do so; but where he goes as the Leader, he bids them at once heartily and earnestly follow him!

     Now, the doctrine that “Salvation is of the Lord,”— that glorious doctrine which I believe with all my heart, and which I desire to preach all my days,— the doctrine that salvation is of God, and God alone, from first to last, in every point of the compass, was never intended to be a soporific, and to discourage the action of men. The fact that God goes before us does not encourage us in sloth. Yet some talk as if it did. Take the doctrine of election, for instance. “God has a chosen people; therefore I need not preach to them.” No, no, sir; God has a chosen people; therefore I do preach to them. It would not be of any use for me to preach if he had not ordained any unto eternal life; but as he has a people who shall assuredly be saved, I will thrust the gospel magnet in among the mass, and those people whom the Lord has chosen shall be attracted by it. The Lord Jesus Christ will not die in vain. Precisely so; therefore I need not preach him, I suppose? But the very reason why I do preach him is because he did not die in vain. The death of Christ that does not effect its purpose, is not worth preaching; but the death of Christ that is effectual for the end for which it was designed, is worth preaching, and more and more do we rejoice to preach it. The grand doctrines of the gospel are not doctrines that lead men to slumber. There are some who pervert them, as they do the other Scriptures, and it will be so throughout all time; for men will turn the holiest things into reasons for sloth and sin; we cannot help that, but there is nothing in the truths themselves that should produce such effects. Our forefathers, of the olden time, who went everywhere preaching the Word, the Calvinists of France who, in the Desert and wherever they went, hazarded their lives unto the death, the Huguenots, who could bravely do and dare and die for Christ, were, to a man, believers in these principles, which are supposed by some to send men to sleep. The most energetic Christianity that ever was upon the face of the earth has been just this form of Christianity; and therefore it cannot possibly be that the doctrine rightly used will encourage idleness or sloth. How can it? If you yourself were told to-night, “Proceed on such an errand, and your God will go with you,” would that be a reason why you should not go? If you were bidden to fight a battle, and you were told, “God will be with you in the battle,” would the fact that God would be with you, and would win the victory, be a reason why you should not fight? You must be made of strange material if that were to be the result of the promise of victory and the assurance of the divine presence. Nothing makes men labour so energetically as the expectation of success; and the certainty of succeeding, because God is with them, nerves their arm, and makes them do what otherwise would be impossible.

     No, dear friends, we are not among those who say, “God will have his own, and therefore I shall not pray or do anything.” Listen, friend, if that is your language: God will have his own, but he will never have you, for you are clearly not one of them. God’s own never talk in such a style as that; God’s own have a very different kind of voice. You are not of his sheep, for you do not follow him. The Christ— to what did he go? To slumber and idleness? No, but to incessant service.

“Cold mountains, and the midnight air,
Witnessed the fervour of his prayer.”

He knew that the Lord would give him the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession, and therefore he prayed for all who had been given to him by his Father. His life was a consecrated one, spent in burning zeal and constant devotion to his great Father’s cause; and if you are one of the Lord’s own, it will be your mission to follow the Christ in this; and as he was, so will you be in this world. Come, brothers, God is going to bless you. Do you draw back because of that fact? If so, surely there are more lunatics than those in Bethlehem Hospital. No, no; because God is going to be with you, therefore every man says, “I will follow where God leads. I will take my share in this grand fight, since the Lord himself doth lead the van.”

     III. Well now, thirdly, in our text there is A HOPEFUL SIGN AFFORDED: “When thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees, then thou shalt bestir thyself.”

     Whether these were mulberry trees or balsams, I do not know; it is very difficult to discover what trees they were. It does not matter much, but David was to get round to the back of the Philistines instead of attacking them in front, and he was to lie quietly in ambush till he heard a rustling in the tops of the trees when there was no wind, as though they were trodden by the feet of angels, and God’s host was hurrying to the fray. Perhaps this sign, while it was intended to encourage David and his people, was meant to intimidate the Philistines. They would say one to another, “What is that noise? What is that rustling? There is a sound of something travelling along the tops of yonder trees. There is not a breath of wind, but you can hear the leaves moving. Listen to the rustling; something strange is happening.” The Philistines were most superstitious, and would be ready very speedily to take to their heels. However, whatever was it to them, to David it was to be the signal for attacking them. “Now, up and at them, with sword and spear, and bow and arrow. Smite the Philistines when you hear the sound of the mysterious marching in the tops of the mulberry trees.”

     Now, what are our signs that we ought to be up and doing for Christ? Well, we ought to be up and doing for him without any signs. Every minute men are dying, every hour their souls are passing into eternity unsaved, every day Christ is pleading that he may be recompensed for his passion. Christians should always be smiting the Philistines of sin; but there are certain times that call us to unusual action. And what are they?

     To me they are, first, when we see earnestness among God’s people. When we hear them say, one to another, “Oh, I wish we had a great blessing!” When we hear them talk, as one did to me the other day, “God is with us, we do have souls converted; but we do not see the great work that we long for, the hundreds of thousands brought in, the whole nation struck to the heart by a sight of the power of God. Oh, that we could see better days, brighter days!” I know many here whom I am now looking upon, and I remember what they have said to me of their own groaning before God for a greater display of his saving power. That is to me the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees.

     Again, it is a hopeful sign, when God gives us useful preachers. Oh, what a blessing a true gospel minister is! A man whom God has made for himself is one of the ascension gifts of Christ; and when you see, as you do in our two brethren, Fullerton and Smith, men who seem made by God on purpose for their work, suiting each other exactly, and during these many years God has made them to be like a great cloud scattering showers of blessing wherever they go, I think, when I see these good men and others being prepared by the Lord , my heart says, “That is the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees. God is going to bless us.” There was no better proof of the Reformation having begun than when Luther began to speak out against the abominations of Rome, and Zwingle lifted up his voice, and Farel proclaimed the old faith, and Calvin came forth to declare the truth of God, and Beza and multitudes of others gave their testimony. These were the birds that sang because the sun was rising; and when God gives us useful preachers, they are among the signs that he is coming near us to bless the people.

     Well, when the preachers are there, with a praying people at their back, then, when you see crowds come together to hear the Word, do you not think that there is the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees? Oh, what would some preachers do to get the people to hear them at all? Ah, what are they not doing, dear friends? As things now go, I should not wonder at all if we were to have, in some of our places of worship, a part of Mr. Barnum’s show, in order to attract a congregation! We have all kinds of fiddling, and tinkering, and I know not what, going on to get people to come and hear what is called the gospel. “Oh,” said one, “but he brought so many to the place!” Yes, if they had had a clown out of the theatre, he would, no doubt, have brought still more. If that is all that you want,— simply to gather a crowd together,— it is not so very difficult if you are not squeamish about the means you employ. But, oh! when God sends the people to hear the gospel and nothing else, and they come and listen to what a man has to say to them about heaven and hell, life and death, the cross of Christ and the way of salvation, that is the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees.

     And, beloved, we may say the same as soon as there is interest felt in the Lord’s work, as soon as people begin to talk about it, and say, one to another, “What did you hear there?” or, “What did the preacher say about the way of salvation?” Better still, when some begin to be impressed, when you find, in the after-meeting, some in tears who do not know much about the gospel yet, but who want to know; and when, here and there, you see signs of deep repentance for sin, and a humble trembling, about which perhaps you hardly dare say much, but you rejoice that it is there;— all these are tokens for good. What a comfort it is to see, in boys and girls, even in little children, some desire towards God! This is the going in the tops, the green shoots of the trees, this is the treading of angel’s footsteps where one would think footsteps could never be. This is what we want; and as we have seen a good deal of it of late, we are looking for more of it.

     And whenever you Christian people begin to see that there is some impression made upon the person sitting with you in the pew, edge up to that individual, and begin to speak to him quietly but earnestly about his soul. Do not let anybody go away from the services without having a personal application of the truth made to them: Here I stand in the pulpit, and fire my guns, yet the shot may hit nobody; but if each one of you would carry his own private pocketpistol, and just apply it to the ear of every hearer before he goes away, there would be a good deal more execution done. There is many a man who is not startled by the firing of the Woolwich Infant, one of the biggest guns in the world; but he would be very much astonished if he had that kind of private, personal dealing with his own soul, here from you, man to man, and hand to hand. Try that plan during the special services, ask the Lord to enable you to summon up courage enough to do it. And you, good sisters, who are too timid as yet to attempt that good work, break the ice once, and there will not be much difficulty after that. You will find it to be a happy thing to speak about Jesus to souls that come in your way. “When thou hearest the sound of a going, then thou shalt bestir thyself.” My aged brother, you have been attending here for many years, and you are rather an old saint, but you are also rather an old sinner for never having spoken to other people about their souls. I want to urge even you to begin, you who know most, and say least, you who actually have had a long experience of the things of God, but have pocketed it, and kept it to yourself. Now I earnestly say to you, as God did to David, “When thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees, then thou shalt bestir thyself.”

     “That is right, Mr. Spurgeon,” says one; stir them up.” I did not say “them.” I said, and my text says, “Then thou shalt bestir thyself” Dear friends, it is all very well to say, “I like to see an earnest church.” So do I; but it is better to have every member zealously seeking the souls of others, for that is the way to have an earnest church, and that is the way the blessing comes. David, you must bestir yourself; then the soldiers who are with you will catch the fire from their leader, and they will bestir themselves.

     IV. Now I finish by saying just a little, in the fourth place, about A SURE RESULT FOLLOWING: “And David did so, as the Lord had commanded him; and smote the Philistines from Geba until thou come to Gazer.”

     The result was all that David could have expected, and more. Obedient action secured it. David simply “did so, as the Lord had commanded him;” but he “smote the Philistines from Geba till thou come to Gazer.” They could not stand before him; he won an overwhelming victory, and you do not hear much more about the Philistines after this. That final stroke had crushed them down. So, beloved, may the Lord send us a great victory this next week if so it pleases him! Cry to him for it, pray for it believingly, and it must be granted to us.

     “David did so, as the Lord had commanded him.” I wonder of how many of my dear friends it may be said as of David, he “did so, as the Lord had commanded him.” I know that it will be said of many, that you have thought about it. But David did so, not merely thought about it. He probably thought; but he also “did so.” He came to the practical point. “I shall try and do a little something to help the mission,” says someone; “I did give away one bill the other night.” Yes, yes, that is all right; but “David did so,” that is, he did bestir himself, and he did bestir himself most when he saw the signs and tokens of the divine power being put forth. “David did so, as the Lord had commanded him.”

     If I habitually look after others, and speak individually to them about their souls, and if I bring the gospel before them, either in a printed form or viva voce, if I keep on testifying of Christ to everybody who will give me a hearing, I shall have conversions as surely as I am a living man; it cannot be otherwise. If you continue looking to God to go before you, and follow after him with that part of the work which he has put into your hands, and which is a great privilege to be engaged in, you shall not labour in vain, nor spend your strength for nought. “Paul planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.” How many times I have heard that text mangled and destroyed by being misquoted, “Paul may plant, and Apollos may water, but except God give the increase, all the labour is in vain.” There is no such text in the Bible, although the statement happens to be true for all that; the other truth, which is in the Bible, is Paul’s declaration, “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.” You, Paul, go on planting; you, Apollos, go on watering; and if God does not give the increase, let us know. What will we do when we hear it? Why, we will seek to learn the reason why; and we will go to his throne with tears and cries, and say, “Lord, thou hast changed the whole business. It used to be, ‘Paul planted, Apollos watered; and God gave the increase;’ but now Paul plants, and Apollos waters, and there is no increase. Lord, what hinders the blessing?” And we will keep on crying to him, and never let him go until he does bless us.

     My dear hearers, you who are unconverted, if you feel any spiritual emotions in your hearts, if you feel any desires towards God, if you feel any softening, if you feel any quickening, then bestir yourselves; and if ever, on brighter days than usual, you get just a little hope of salvation, then bestir yourselves. Oh, I pray you, you who are seeking the Lord, when there is any encouragement given to you,— and how often encouragement does come!— do not miss it. Take the tide at the flood. Come to Jesus just as you are. Trust him, and find in him eternal life. May his blessing be with you all for his dear name’s sake! Amen.



The Lord’s Famous Titles

By / Nov 10

The Lord’s Famous Titles

 

“The LORD looseth the prisoners: the LORD openeth the eyes of the blind: the LORD raiseth them that are bowed down: the LORD loveth the righteous: the LORD preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and widow: but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down.”— Psalm cxlvi. 7— 9.

 

THIS morning, as well as I could, looking to God for help, I tried, in Christ’s stead, to persuade men to be reconciled to God. I showed that there was a great spiritual drought, and neither dew nor rain to be had except as God should send it; and I tried to press my hearers to go to God, to wait upon him, to look to him, and through the mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ, to seek and find in God all that would be needful for their eternal blessedness. I pressed hard, and some yielded, not to my pressure, but to a divine impulse that went with my pleading. There were some who did not yield this morning, so I am going to make another attempt to win them now, calling in our August Ally, even the Divine Spirit, without whom we can do nothing. May he bring many to God in penitence to-night!

     You know that it helps men to come to a person when they know who he is, and how good he is, and how likely it is that they will find benefit by coming to him. My text tells us something about God, the Lord Jehovah. Five times the word occurs at the head of a sentence, Jehovah, Jehovah, Jehovah, Jehovah, Jehovah. Sometimes, when a great king or prince has a high day, a herald proclaims the titles of his majesty. He is prince of this, and lord of that, and emperor of the other;— too often, a lot of empty sounds. But when we come to speak of God, every title of his falls short of what is his real glory and honour. To-night we have five of his titles put together, five wonderful achievements of God, five things for which the Lord would Lave himself noted. I want each one of you here to hear about them, and to say, “That encourages me,” or “That cheers me,” or “That helps me.” At any rate, out of the five great magnets that I will try to use to-night, may one or other draw all our reluctant hearts to God, that we may find rest and peace in him!

     I. There are five famous titles of God here. The first one is, THE EMANCIPATOR. Read the latter part of the seventh verse: “The Lord looseth the prisoners.”

     It is God’s glory that he is an Emancipator. How often, in the Old Testament, and in the New, too, you find the Lord loosing the prisoners! It was so notably in the case of Joseph, when God brought him out of the prison, and set him up as Lord over all Egypt; and still more notably in the case of Israel in Egypt when, with a high hand, and a stretched-out arm, the Lord brought forth his people from all the tyranny of Pharaoh, whom he destroyed in the Red Sea. You may keep on reading Scripture, and you will continually find that it is true, “The Lord looseth the prisoners.”

     I want some of you who are here to catch at that thought. Are you mentally a prisoner, under gloom, to-night? Did a cloud come over you a little while ago? Does it rest upon your mind still? Can no physician remove it? Listen to this word: “The Lord looseth the prisoners.” Are you in the bondage of error? Have you been misled by false teachers? Have you fallen into mistakes about the Word of God? Are you denying the great truths which would comfort you? Are you believing the great errors which becloud your spirit? Come to God for teaching. He can emancipate you from any form of error, even though you have been brought up in it from a child. “The Lord looseth the prisoners.” Or have you come under some gross delusion? Are you the victim of some false impression which you cannot shake off? I pray you, if you are harried and worried by temptations of Satan, and he seems to have a firm foothold in your spirit, and cannot be driven out, let this text, like a silver bell, ring out comforting music to you, “The Lord looseth the prisoners.” Oh, that you who are in mental bonds might be set free to-night!

     There are, however, worse bonds than those, the chains of moral slavery. This man is a drunkard; and though he has taken the pledge, he cannot escape from the terrible craving which intemperate habits have brought upon him. Ah! friend, come you to Christ; he can take away the love of strong drink, and set you free. “The Lord looseth the prisoners,” and he can do that for men and women who have given themselves up as lost. God have mercy upon wretched women when they become the prey of strong drink! To my certain knowledge, this evil is becoming much more common than it was a few years ago. More frequently do we have to mourn over fallen sisters than we did some years back. It is sad that it should be so; but the glorious fact remains that “the Lord looseth the prisoners.” Do not despair, poor woman! Have hope of deliverance; God can loose thee yet from the bonds of strong drink. Has anyone here fallen into bondage to a lust? Has some evil passion got a tight hold on you, and you cannot break the bonds? There is one who can set you free; ay! though you have been indulging in the evil for many years, and seem to be wedded to an evil habit from which you cannot escape, still is it true, “The Lord looseth the prisoners.” Do not trust in yourself to get quit of the evil; but look to him who died for sin upon the cross, and trust in him, for it is written, “He shall save Ids people from their sins.” I cannot stay to-night to mention all the kinds of moral bondage into which men and women fall; but let this sweet message be like a stray note from the harps of angels to all who arc in the prison-house, “The Lord looseth the prisoners.”

     Perhaps you are held fast in spiritual bondage. This is where we are all by nature; we are born slaves. Are you, to-night, my friend, conscious that you are a slave to sin? Are you fast bound by your trespasses? O spiritual bondsman, there is an Emancipator who can take your chains from you! “If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed;” and he is able to do it with a single word. Only trust him, only yield yourselves up to him as willing captives, and you shall be free from that moment. God make you free tonight! Ay, and he can loose you from every iniquity in which you may be enslaved!

     There is another kind of emancipation which the Lord is constantly giving to the prisoners of hope, even deliverance from this present evil world. You are sick to-night, you are sad, you are cast down and troubled, because of the burden of the flesh. “The Lord looseth the prisoners.” There is many a prisoner who has been loosed during the last week or two; dear members of this church who had been confined to sick beds. The Lord has opened the cage door, and the bird, set at liberty, has gone carolling up to the skies. The body has been put into the grave, and lies imprisoned there in durance vile; but he shall come, who himself rose from the dead, and when his feet shall touch the earth again, and the angelic trumpet shall sound the summons, their bodies shall come forth—

“From beds of dust and silent clay
To realms of everlasting day;”

for “the Lord looseth the prisoners.”

     Here is a theme for a whole evening’s discourse; but I do not want to take up any more time over this point. I wish rather to drive home this wedge; if you are prisoners, if you are under any form of bondage, come to God in Christ Jesus, and put your trust in him, for “the Lord looseth the prisoners.”

     II. We must hasten on, to notice a second famous title for the Lord, that is, THE ILLUMINATOR: “The Lord openeth the eyes of the blind.”

     If you will kindly look at your copies of the Bible, you will find that the words “the eyes of” are inserted in italics by the translators, so that the text really is, “The Lord openeth the blind.” Ah, he opens the very soul of the blind, and lets light in where there are no eyes! Have you not noticed that it is so? If anybody were to say to me, “Mr. Spurgeon, pick out a dozen of the happiest people that you know,” ten of them would be blind people. We have some dear friends, members of this church, who are among the happiest souls that God has ever made. It is long since they saw the light; but God has opened their hearts in such a way that they enjoy a wonder ful quietness of spirit, great placidity of mind, and an inward light and splendour which persons with eyes might well envy. I have noticed that blind people are often among the happiest people; and blind Christians certainly might take the chief place among us for their quiet and rest of mind. The Lord Jesus Christ opens the blind, he comes and sheds a light when the windows of the body are closed, and gives light within, so that they are full of brightness.

     But if you like to take the text as it is in our translation, it will do very well. When the Lord Jesus Christ was here, he opened the eyes of the blind. He touched many a sightless eyeball, and the light streamed in. Read the Evangels through, and you will find this miracle constantly recurring. Blindness is a very common ailment in the East; and the miracle of recovering the sight of the blind was therefore frequent with our Lord.

     Next, the Lord enables blind souls to see. Here is a great mercy. The Lord has opened the eyes of many a man, who could not see himself, and so proved how blind he was, and could not see the Lord, and so showed still more how blind he was. The Lord has given the inner sight to many a man who was without spiritual understanding, to whom the gospel seemed a great mystery, of which he could make neither head nor tail. The Lord has made the scales to fall from many blind mental eyes, and enabled those who were blind first to see themselves, and then to see their Saviour. Blessed be his name!

     And whenever the blind of earth fall asleep in Jesus, and enter into heaven, they shall have no blindness in glory. There, their eyes shall see the King in his beauty; they shall behold his face, and rejoice in his love. Jehovah is a great Eye-opener: cannot some of you blind people catch at this truth, and say, “Then we will come to him, for we want to have our eyes opened”?

     Perhaps someone says, “Sir, I do not quite comprehend all that you say. I have been a hearer for some time, and I want to understand the gospel. I try to grasp it; but, somehow, I cannot get at the truth.” Come, in prayerful faith, to God himself to-night, and he will explain it to you. I can hold the light to your eyeballs; yet, if they are blind, I cannot make you see; but the Lord can give the sight as well as the light, and I beseech you to ask it at his hands to-night. There is nothing really difficult in the gospel; and if you will come to Jesus like a teachable child, and ask to be instructed of him, you will find that it is all plain to him that believeth. Of the way of holiness it is written, “The wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.”

     If you come to God for grace, dear friend, he will never stint you. You need not be poor Christians; you may be “rich to all the intents of bliss.” You need not have shallow grace; you may, if you wish, get into “waters to swim in.” Giving will not impoverish him, withholding will not enrich him; but, rather, giving enriches him, it enriches his very heart with great joy, for he delights to give. Come and take freely, and learn the liberality of God. I remember one who called himself “a gentleman-commoner upon the bounty of God.” Some of us can take the same title; we have had a handbasket portion for many years; not a sackful at a time, but a handbasketful. That is a good way of living. If a girl gets a portion from her father, and the old gentleman never gives her anything else, she does not receive so much as her sister who has a hand-basket portion many days in the week. A present often comes to her from the old house at home. Father sends it every time with his love, and she receives more love and more thought, and he, too, receives more gratitude in return, perhaps, than if he had given his daughter one lump sum, and then his generosity was all over. It is a blessed way of learning the liberality of God, to be receiving freely and receiving continually from him: “he giveth more grace.”

     Come, then, to God by Jesus Christ, because he is, first, the Emancipator, and, secondly, the Illuminator.

     III. Now for the third bright title of the Lord, that is, THE COMFORTER. Read the middle sentence of verse 8: “The Lord raiseth them that are bowed down.”

     Some are bowed down with bereavement. Well may she be bowed down who has just committed to the earth the beloved of her heart; and well may he go mourning whose firstborn son has been taken from him by a sudden stroke. Well may some lament, who have lost the choicest friend that man ever had, and find that half their life is gone in the death of that beloved one; yet, “The Lord raiseth them that are bowed down.” Come, tell your grief to him who pitied the widow at the gate of Nain. Come, pour out your sorrow before him who wept with the beloved sisters at Bethany when Lazarus was dead. He can help you, for he “raiseth them that are bowed down.”

     Some are bowed down sadly by the burdens of life. They have more to carry than most men have. They stagger along from day to day beneath a load that threatens to crush them into the dust. Oh, come to my Lord, who gives new strength to bear burdens, for he raiseth up those that are bowed down! It is wonderful what a man can do when God has laid his hand on him, and said to him, “Be strong.” You are faint, and you will faint without your God; but you will be strong if you come and trust him, for “Jehovah raiseth them that are bowed down.”

     Maybe, you are bowed down with inward distress. Ah, there is no cure for some forms of distress but to go straight away to God! The scandal of our ministry is the despondency that we cannot disperse. How often I have come down from talking with some dear friends here, whose minds have been distracted, and I have had to confess myself “dead beat.” God has helped me to comfort many: it is my lot, almost wherever I may be, to be followed up by persons suffering in mind. I sometimes laugh and tell them that “birds of a feather flock together,” and that they must think me half-cracked, and so they come to me to sympathize with them. Well, so be it; there is a kind of sympathy between me and them. But I have learnt this lesson, that to bring comfort to a mind diseased is not within the preacher’s power except his Master shall specially qualify him for the task; and, in any case, I say to you, dear troubled friends, go straight away to him of whom you read these sweet words, “The Lord raiseth them that are bowed down.”

     Have I the extreme felicity, to-night, of addressing in this congregation one who is bowed down by a sense of sin? Where art thou, Magdalen, hiding thy face in tears? Where art thou, poor erring prodigal, longing to come back to thy Father; but too bowed down to start upon the journey? List: “The Lord raiseth them that are bowed down.” He loves to find the poor sinner crouching on the dunghill, putting his head into the dust in very despair of heart, and he delights to come, and put his hand upon him, and say, “Stand upon thy feet; fear not.” There is a great God of mercies, who glories in doing wonders of grace, forgiving even the blackest sin. I say again, I would like to ring this text, like a silver bell, in the ears of every penitent sinner here, and say, “The Lord raiseth them that are bowed down.”

     IV. We are getting on with our text, for we have come to the fourth great title. God is THE REWARDER: “The Lord loveth the righteous.” Come, dear friends, here is a wafer made with honey; here is a feast of fat things, full of marrow, for you who are the people of God, you whom he has accounted righteous because the perfect righteousness of Christ has been imputed to you.

     First, “the Lord loveth the righteous” with a love of complacency. He takes delight in them; he loves them, not merely with a love of benevolence that desires their good; but he looks with pleasure and delight at righteous men, those whom he has made righteous, those who love him because they are righteous, and who are like him in being righteous. The Lord looks at them, and rejoices over them. How that ought to cheer any of you who have been made holy by God’s grace! The Lord’s delight is in you; he calls you his Hephzibahs, saying, “My delight is in them.” Wherever there is anything of Christ, anything of righteousness, anything of holiness, there is evidence of the Lord’s love. So, in the first place, “the Lord loveth the righteous” with a love of complacency.

     He does more than that; he loves the righteous with a love of communion. Remember how the Lord puts it, by the mouth of Isaiah, “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” I doubt not that God often talks with righteous men. “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him.” He lets them speak to him, and he speaks to them in return. Do you know anything about this communion with God? If you do not, never say that others do not, for we are as honest and truthful as you are, and we bear our testimony that there is such a thing as walking with God; we declare, from happy, heartfelt experience, that there is such a thing as talking with God, and knowing that he loves us, and that his love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

     God also loves his people with a love of favour. He loves them so that he will give them anything that they need. Yes, he has said, through the psalmist, “No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” He loves the righteous so that, when they go into their chamber to pray to him, he may let them plead a little while because it is for their good to do so, but he will always yield to their desires. He has said, “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” He does do that with his people. The Lord loveth the righteous so as to favour them with extraordinary blessings, things of which I cannot talk here; for there is many a love-passage between Christ and the righteous soul that must never be told. We do not talk of our love-passages in the streets, that would be half profane; nor can we even tell of them here. There are favours which the Lord shows to his righteous people, which they know, and he knows, but which no one else can know till that day when all things shall be revealed.

     And once more, the Lord loves the righteous so that he will honour them. If men are righteous, the world will hate them; and as a proof of its hatred, it will begin to bespatter them. There are always some in the world who say, “Throw plenty of mud, some of it will stick;” and oh, how they delight to throw it! Their hands seem to take to the dirt naturally. But, beloved, if you follow God fully, your character will never be long tarnished. Do not try to answer those who slander you. If an ass kicked you, would you kick the ass? If a fool brings a charge against you, do not reply to him. Let him rail on; God will vindicate you. Remember that Psalm from which I quoted just now, the thirty-seventh: “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.” It may even happen to a man that he may perform an action that will never be understood while he lives; but the true man of God lives for eternity, not for time. He says, “I do not care if it takes five hundred years for the righteousness of my action to be seen by my fellow-men; it will not make it any more righteous when they do see it, nor will it be any less righteous while they do not see it. What have I to do with men? I serve the living God.” If you get into that condition of heart, you can trust your reputation, your life, your usefulness, entirely with God, for “the Lord loveth the righteous.” A day shall come when all the world shall know it, when they who are righteous shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father, and God shall say of them, “Well done, good and faithful servants, enter into the joy of your Lord.”

     Now, then, will you not come to him, since his favourites are the best people in all the world? Kings and princes have often been known to choose their associates among the worst of their subjects, men who ministered to their baser passions. The favourites of kings have often been the offscouring of the earth; but our King loves the righteous. He will have none to be his courtiers, to come near to him, to dwell before his face, but those that walk uprightly, through his mighty grace. I think that there is something very inviting there to you who are of a true heart, something which ought to induce you to come to such a God as this, the Lord who loveth the righteous.

     V. But now, last of all, and, perhaps, sweetest of all, the fifth name of God is THE PRESERVER: “The Lord preserveth the strangers he relieveth the fatherless and widow: but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down.” My time is so nearly gone that I can only just ask you to apply, by God’s help, the few words that I shall say.

     Notice, first, that God preserveth strangers. In all nations, in the olden time, strangers were driven out; they did not want any foreigners settling among them. In this country, in almost every village, it used to be the practice for a stranger to be regarded as a kind of mad dog; and if he happened to wear a different garb from that of the villagers, all the boys hooted him. It seems that our depraved humanity is naturally unkind to strangers. I often hear people say even now, “Oh, he is a foreigner!” O you proud Englishman! is he not as good as you? You are a foreigner when you get to the other side of the English Channel. It was God’s order to his ancient people that they were to be kind to strangers. Wherever they came, they were to be allowed to dwell, and were to be taken care of. God put it thus to Israel: “Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt;” and because God loved them when they were strangers in Egypt, they were to take especial care of strangers and foreigners who came into their midst.

     What a grand trait this is in God’s character, “The Lord preserveth the strangers”! If any of you feel quite strangers here to-night, if you are strangers to religion, strangers to religious observances, strangers to everything that is good, if you feel, when you hear the gospel, that you are altogether strange to it, it sounds so oddly in your ears, come along, dear stranger, “The Lord preserveth the strangers”! Come under the shadow of his wings, and you shall find shelter there. Father is dead, mother is dead, friends are all gone, and even in the very village where you were born you are a stranger; come along, your God is not dead, your Saviour liveth: “The Lord preserveth the strangers.”

     Then notice the next sentence in our text: “He relieveth the fatherless and widow” If you turn to the first Books of the Bible, you will see there God’s great care of the fatherless and the widow. Who had the tithes? Well, the Levites; but also the poor, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow. If you look at Deuteronomy xiv. 28, or xxvi. 12, you will find that the tithes were not for the priests exclusively, but they were also for the widow, and the fatherless, and the strangers. Besides this, the Israelites were never to glean their fields twice, for the gleanings were for the widow and the fatherless; and they were never to shake the olive tree or any fruit tree twice, but to leave what remained upon-it for the widow and the fatherless. There was also this law made, that they should never take as a pledge the raiment of a widow. That is pretty often done in London; but it might not be done then, the garment of the widow might never be taken in pledge, Wherever the legislation of God for his people touched upon the widow and the fatherless, it was immeasurably kind. Now, then, you who feel like widows, you who have lost your joy and earthly comfort, you who feel like the fatherless, and cry, “No man careth for my soul,” oh, may the sweet Spirit of the Lord entice you to come to him, for, as I reminded you in the reading, “A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.”

     But the view of God’s character would not be complete if it was not added, “The way of the wicked he turneth upside down.” You see, the godly, and they who trust God, are always in danger from the wicked; but he turns the way of the wicked upside down. Take a specimen. Joseph’s brethren sell him into Egypt, and make a slave of him. God turns this arrangement upside down, and makes a prince of him. Think of Mordecai. Haman will have him hanged; he has the gallows ready, but Haman gets hanged on his own gallows. God knows how to make the malice of men promote the benefit of those against whom they turn their cruelty. “The way of the wicked he turneth upside down.”

     Be thou just, and fear not. Rest in Christ’s atoning sacrifice; trust him only. Come thou to thy God, and be his servant henceforth, and for ever, and thou shalt see how he will break thy bonds, and open thine eyes, and cheer thy spirit, and indulge thee with his love, and preserve thee even to the end. “There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.” God bless you, dear friends, and may you all come to God to-night, through Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen.



Earth’s Vanities, and Heaven’s Verities

By / Nov 7

Earth’s Vanities, and Heaven’s Verities

 

“Surely every man walketh in a vain shew: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them. And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee. Deliver me from all my transgressions: make me not the reproach of the foolish.” — Psalm xxxix. 6— 8.

 

THESE are solemn words. Sometimes we have a more joyful theme than this; but I believe that, spiritually, as well as naturally, it is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting. A meditation of a quiet kind, on things not as they are in fiction, but as they prove to be in fact, is always salutary. There is a great mass of sorrow in the world; and all of us meet with something every now and then to calm our spirit, and cool our blood. So, to-night, if we think a little of the fleeting character of this world, and of the real world where certainty alone is to be found, and if we school ourselves to learn facts and realities, by the blessing of God’s Spirit, we may go away even more lastingly refreshed than if our hearts were made to leap for joy by meditation upon some transporting theme.

     I will have no further preface; there is too much in the text itself to allow time for a lengthy introduction. Therefore, notice, first, that David records his- view of human life: “Surely every man walketh in a vain shew: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them.” Then, next, David expresses his own emotions in contemplation of these things: “And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee.” And, then, in the third place, David offers an appropriate and needful prayer, for he cries, “Deliver me from all my transgressions: make me not the reproach of the foolish.”

     I. First, then, let us notice that in our text DAVID RECORDS HIS VIEW OF HUMAN LIFE.

     You will notice that he puts “surely” twice over in this verse, and with the “verily” of the fifth verse, which has the same meaning, and might have been translated “surely,” he has uttered the same word three times, “surely, surely, surely,” or, if you please, “verily, verily, verily.” He half reminds us of his greater Son, the Son of David, whose speech was often emphasized with that sacred assuring word, “Verily, verily, I say unto you.” David here seems to tell us that there is nothing sure except that nothing is sure. “Surely,” says he, “nothing on earth is sure; verily there is not verity anywhere here below.” There is a land of verities, there is a home of sureties; some of us are on the way thither, and have already the earnest of our inheritance; but as for you who have your portion in this life, you have vanity not verity, change is written on everything earthly.

     Having thus given us the keynote of certainty,— for the psalmist did not write at haphazard, but he wrote what he knew, he wrote what he had experienced, and he wrote under the inspiration of the Spirit of God ,— we should the more carefully look at what he has written. If it be so surely, let us be sure to know what it is.

     And, first, he seems to me to speak of life as a walk; and of that he says, “Surely every man walketh in a vain shew.” Then he speaks of life as a worry; and of that he says, “Surely they are disquieted in vain.” And then he speaks of life as a success, as men call it, and of that he says, “He heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them.”

     David first speaks of life as a walk. He seems to have had in his mind the idea of a great procession: “Surely every man walketh in a vain shew.” If you choose to go to the Lord Mayor’s show next Saturday, you may see a vain show, and may know precisely what David meant. Such things were more common in Oriental countries than they are with us; but whether it is the Lord Mayor’s show or any other, it is a picture of what this mortal life is. The procession, if you see it, or if you do not see it, but only read and hear of it, may remind you of what life is; what you see of it is all show. There are kings in the show, and princes in the show, and heroes of old time in the show; but there are neither kings, nor princes, nor heroes therein reality. It is all show; and such is this mortal life to a large extent. Among some classes of society, show is everything; they must “keep up appearances.” Just so; and, all the world over, that is about all there is,— “appearances” — a vain show. If you want reality, you cannot see it; the unseen is real. If you want shadow, you can see it: “the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” I wish we could get a hold of that idea as a practical thing, that everything we can see is shadow, but what we cannot see is the real substance. When we talk about faith, men call us “visionary.” Well, well, you may call us that if you like, for we have vision of a very high order; but we beg to return the word to you in its ordinary meaning, for if you make your treasure of what you can see and handle, you are the visionaries, for this is but a vain show in which you rejoice, and that which you see with your eyes is but a vision, a dream that vanisheth when one awaketh. Earthly life is only a show. Oh, friends, I wish we really thought this! We should not be so hot-brained as we are if we said to ourselves, “These are only shadows.” We should not be so vexed and worried as we are if we often said to ourselves, “These are shadows; I could not see them if they were not. If they were real, they would not be perceptible to my senses, they would only be perceptible by the higher faculty of faith.” “Surely every man walketh in a vain shew.” It is a show, and nothing more.

     But it is a passing show, for David does not say, “Surely every man sits down in a vain shew, and remains in the same place,” but “every man walketh in a vain shew.” It is with life as with a procession which passes before your eyes. It comes; hark to the shouts of the people! It is here in a few minutes, there are the people crowding the streets; but presently it has vanished, and it is gone. Does not life strike you as being just that? I remember, oh, I remember so many figures in the procession! I have seemed to stand as at a window, though that itself has been but seeming, for I also have been in the procession. I recollect the great hearty men of my boyhood, whom I used to hear pray; they are now singing up yonder. Then when I think of you, dear friends, I remember a long procession of saintly men and godly women who have all passed before me, and have gone into the glory. What a host of friends we have in the unseen world, “gone over to the majority”! As we get older, they really are the majority, and our friends on earth are outnumbered by our friends in heaven. Some of you will fondly remember dear ones who have passed away in the procession, but please recollect that you also are in the procession. Though they seem to have passed before you, you have been passing along with them, and you may reach the vanishing-point before long, and there will be this talk among the brotherhood you love, “He, too, has gone,” or, “She has fallen asleep;” for we are all walking as in a procession, and passing away to the land of substance and reality.

     A show which is passing away is, in itself, if it be measured by this mortal life, vain: “a vain shew.” To a man who has no hope hereafter, it is all “vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” Within the narrow compass of this poor globe, there is nothing that is worth a man’s opening his mouth to ask for or to receive. Take the broader, larger circle of the heavens, and there, within that boundless circumference, there is something to be found that is worth finding. Dwell in God, and you have something substantial; dwell out of God, and you make “much ado about nothing.” Life is a vain show when it is lived apart from God.

     If you will only consider for a minute, you will see directly that it is so. Think of the armies of Babylon and Assyria, the palaces their kings built, the mighty cities that they piled; where are they now? Think of the Medes and Persians, with all their pomp of power; where are their glories now? And Greece,— her palaces and her temples are a desolation. Listen to the tramp of Roman armies up the Via Sacra, hark to the acclamations of the people as they climb the very chimney-tops to see the conquerors come home; where are they all gone? Fame did but blow one blast upon her brazen trumpet, and the echoes sounded for a while, and then there was silence. “Surely every man walketh in a vain shew.” Get the idea of a procession, and you have caught the thought which David would convey to you. Such, too often, is the whole of a man’s life, just the passing of a pageant, and nothing more.

     The psalmist then speaks of life as a worry, and he says, “Surely they are disquieted.” So they are. How few people are so free from the spirit of the things of this world as to pass through this life quietly? If we could once live in the eternities, we should be calm, and still, and restful; but we live by the moment and the day, and we are all on the worry, and the fidget, and the fret, and the fume, and we know no real rest. The work of this world, if carried on only as for this world, is well described here: “Surely they are disquieted in vain.” See how they begin life, eager for its joys, its honours, its wealth. Note how they plod, and toil, and labour. How much of brain-work is done by the light of the midnight oil! Many a man agitates his mind, and wearies his spirit, till his life is lost in finding a livelihood. They are trying to live, and lo! life is gone; and they wake up, and wonder how it is that they have let it go, and have not really lived at all. Some are all for getting, never for enjoying in any measure; when such men get a sufficiency, it is not sufficient for them. When they get twice that, they are still eager for more, and live on in a perpetual worry. Then one has more than another, and envy comes in, of all passions one of the most wearing; and when a man has at last all he thought he should ever want, then he is afraid of losing it. Now he is anxious about this, and worried about that, and fretting about the other. Believe me, there are no people who take the fret of life so much as those who ought to have sense enough to be quit of it; “having food and raiment ” they are not “therewith content”; and having taken all that is good for them to carry, they are like a traveller who, having one good substantial staff to help him in his walking, must needs carry a bundle of sticks with him, and so load himself unnecessarily. Is it not so?

     Did you ever stand in the Bourse at Paris, or did you ever, by any chance, hear the noise of our own Stock Exchange? The latter place is more difficult to see than the former; but when I have stood upstairs in the Bourse in Paris, and have looked down upon the raving multitude below, I have wondered whether, if Bedlam had been emptied out, there would be more noise, more uproar, more calling out, more pushing and rushing, first this way, and then that way. I could not understand what they were at; perhaps that made the scene appear the more maddening. Every man seemed all alive, and as though he would eat up every other man in the place; and I believe that the Bourse is but a picture of mercantile life everywhere,— competition, competition, everybody buying cheaply, and grinding down everybody that works, and then complaining that, in his turn, he is ground, too, his own measure being measured back to him. Ah me, what a life it is! Had David penned this Psalm to-day, he might have written in capital letters, “SURELY THEY ARE DISQUIETED IN VAIN.” Oh, for a little quiet! Oh, for time to think! Oh, for opportunities to get near to God, and unbosom all your thoughts and all your cares before him, and then to go away feeling patience mingled with joy, and joy with the expectation of unutterable bliss, helping us really to live, instead of being disquieted in vain!

     Well, next, David passes on to speak of life as a successThe Illustrated London News that somebody died “worth” so-and-so, do not believe it. A man is not worth what he has when he dies; a man may not be worth twopence, although he may possess a million, he himself is worth nothing, poor grabber of everything! But you say such and such a man died, and left. £200,000. Yes, there are several of us who, when we die, will leave much more than that. I shall leave all the world behind me, and there are many others here who will do the same, and leave all the millions that there are, and all the estates that ever were, and all the treasures of the world; and I suppose that every one of us, when he shall die, will leave everything behind him, for shrouds have no pockets, and men carry nothing with them into their graves.

     But even when a man is successful in heaping up riches, see how David describes it: “He heapeth up riches.” That is all, he does not partake of them, he does not use them, he merely heaps them up. He accumulates without enjoyment. When a man has food and raiment, and has what he needs for comfort, all that he has beyond, if counted by thousands, might as well be a thousand pins as a thousand pounds, so far as any good it is to him. But the bigger heap will not give more comfort, for there is the additional anxiety of taking care of it. When riches are consecrated to God’s glory, they assume quite another character; but I am now talking about this world and the mere possession of its treasures. David calls it the heaping up of riches, and that is all that it is, getting a big heap, like children do at the seaside; one gets a bigger heap of sand than another has, but what is the good of that?

     The psalmist also says that, when the man heaps up riches, he “knoweth not who shall gather them.” He hoards without security. This is probably an allusion to the husbandman, who has cut down his corn, and put the sheaves together; and then at night, before he can gather them into the garner, much less before he can thresh out the grain, and grind it, some marauder comes, and runs off with it all. The miser heaps up his gold, but he does not know who may gather it. Have we not seen the fruit of many years toil vanish in an hour? The reaping of a lifetime has disappeared by a panic in a moment.

     “He heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them.” He leaves his wealth without pleasure. The psalmist alludes to the fact that men cannot tell what will become of their possessions when they die. I am sure that there is many a man who would turn in his grave if he knew what was being done with his hard-earned wealth. To live wholly to enrich somebody about whose character you know so little, seems a poor object in life; and yet it is the only object which many are pursuing. Without chick or child, it may be, still men will go on scraping together riches for some unknown heir who, if they knew him, would be perhaps beneath their contempt; yet they go on working like slaves for one who will never be grateful to them when they are dead.

     Now does not the whole of this put together make up a very sorry picture? Yet it is true of the worldling, of the man who has no hope hereafter, of the man who has never projected his soul by grace into the spiritual and the heavenly realm.

     II. And now, glad to get away from this part of our subject, we notice how DAVID EXPRESSES HIS OWN EMOTIONS IN CONTEMPLATION OF THESE THINGS.

     And first, he has come to a decision. Having turned these matters all over, he begins the expression of his own feelings thus, “And now, Lord.” I like that mode of speech; it is a great thing to come to God with a “now.” You know how the Lord comes to us; he says, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord.” I like a man sometimes to come close up to God, and sit down, and seem to say, “Now, Lord, thou seest that I have realized the vanity of this world; I may well let it all go, for it melts away in my hand; it is a mere shadow which is not worth living for, and I have to live in eternity with thee. I have to live in heaven or in hell. O, my God, bring me to my bearings! Bring me close up to thee, and let us reason together, and have the question out. ‘And now, Lord.’ ” Every moment is solemn if we would but make it so; but there are certain turning-points in life, when a man has had his eyes opened to see the fallacy of his former pursuits, when, stopping where the roads meet, he looks up to the signpost, and says, “And now, Lord, guide me; help me to take the right turn, to eschew the shadow, and to seek after that which is substantial. Now, Lord.”

     I also like this expression of David’s emotions, because he consults with God: “Every man walketh in a vain shew: but,” saith he, “and now, Lord, there is no vanity with thee, no deception, no delusion with thee, behold, I turn away from this mirage, which just now deluded me, to thee my God, the Rock of my salvation, and I look to thee. And now, Lord.” I would to God that somebody here would say, “I have to spend eternity somewhere. I will not waste this present time, and live as if this world were all; but I will lift up my prayer to-night, and say, ‘Now, Lord, now that I have passed my childhood, and am a young man, now that I have reached my twenty-first birthday, now that I am thirty, forty, fifty, now that my hair turns grey, it is time for me to be wise if ever, now, Lord.’ ” And if I am so unhappy as to have a person here who has advanced to the very end of his lease, and has become seventy, and yet still is living for a world that is slipping away from him, I would to God that the Holy Spirit would make him say to-night, “And now, Lord; now I seek thee, now I turn to thee.”

     You can see at once that David feels that he is out of place, for he says, “Lord, what wait I for?” He says, “What wait I for? I can see what these fools are waiting for; they are waiting to take their place in the show, they put on their masquerading garments, and go out there to take part in the pageant; but I will not go there. I do not belong to any of the classes that make up that show. What wait I for, then? I see the men disquieted in vain; but, Lord, I have learned to trust in thee; then, what wait I for? And, O my God, I see how others clutch the treasure which they cannot keep, which is not worth the having, for they are soon to leave it, or it quickly leaves them; I am not after that kind of thing; now, Lord, what wait I for?” He is like a fish out of water, he is a man out of his native country, evidently a stranger and an exile, who is turning to his God, he is a fellow-stranger with his God, and he says to him, “Now, Lord, what wait I for?” — a question only God himself can fully answer.

     You observe, also, that he has his eye on the future. He is a man who is waiting for something. Faith is a high virtue; and waiting upon God is a flower that grows out of it. “What wait I for? I have not found it yet; I am waiting for it, for here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come.” Our treasure is not here; it is away there, upon the eternal hills, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. The man described in our text is a waiting man, whose chief delight is now in a world that is to come.

     And you observe, lastly, on this point, that he is a man whose hope is in God: “My hope is in thee.” I have no earthly expectations; but I say, “My soul, wait thou only upon God, for my expectation is from him.” “Hopes of ever finding anything here which can fill me, or content me, I have long ago abandoned; and now, Lord, my hope is in thee. It is only thee, my God, that I desire; and if I get thee, if I am filled with thee, if thou abidest in me, if thou dost transform me into thine image, if thou dost deign to use me for thy glory, if thou wilt take me home to dwell with thee where Jesus is, this is what I wait for, and I wait for nothing else.” We are expectant of good things to come. We are not inhabitants of this country, we are citizens of the New Jerusalem which is above; we are only shipwrecked here for a while, and exiled from home until the boat shall come to ferry us across the stream to the land where our true possessions lie, and where our best Beloved is gone. Life, and light, and love, and everything to us is he who has gone as our Forerunner to the place which he has prepared for them that love him.

     III. Now I close by noticing that DAVED OFFERS AN APPROPRIATE AND NEEDFUL PRAYER: “Deliver me from all my transgressions: make me not the reproach of the foolish.” After all, we are here, brothers; we do not know how long we may have to stop here, and there are some things which we want while we are here. Well, what are they? Send in your requests; what do you want?

     David puts down what he wants. “He wants first to be delivered from trouble,” says somebody. No, he does not say anything about that; he prays, “Deliver me from all my transgressions.” “He wants to be delivered from that headache, that heartache, that pain in the limbs, that depression of spirit.” Nothing of the sort; the prayer of this godly man is, “Deliver me from all my transgressions.”

     That is, first, he prayed for deliverance from sins committed. “Lord, put all my sin away, so that I may be clean every whit from every sin that I have ever committed.” Can that be? Oh, yes; it is so with many of us! We are washed in the blood of the Lamb; and that washing is perfect washing, it leaves no stain behind it. If thou believest in the Lord Jesus Christ, he has taken thy sin upon himself; he has put thy sin away by the great blood-shedding, it is not on thee any longer; it has even ceased to be, according to that wonderful text, “The iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found.” What a blessed thing it is to live with no cloud whatever between your soul and your God, to know that every sin is blotted out by the atonement of Christ, and that your heavenly Father looks upon you with delight and favour, even as a child of God, and does not chide you! O happy, happy, happy man, who walks in the light, as God is in the light, and so has fellowship with God, while the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth him from all sin! David’s first prayer is for deliverance from sins committed. If you get it answered in your case, you will not walk in any vain show, and you will not be disquieted at all, much less “disquieted in vain.”

     Next, he prays to be delivered from the assaults of sin. Who is there here that is not tempted? If anyone says, “I am above temptation, or beyond temptation,” well, that person must have gone far in pride and carnal security; he is eaten up with the leprosy of self-deceit. We are all tempted, and every day we need to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” “Deliver me from all my transgressions. Lord, do not let me sin; let me not in heart, or thought, or word, or deed, offend against thee.” Oh, if we could but be perfect, so that we could never manifest an ugly temper, never speak a wry word, never have an evil thought! Oh, if we could but be perfect! Ah, sirs, this is the riches we covet, to be perfectly free from every tendency to sin! If we could but get to that, then we should have got to heaven, for that is heaven, to be perfectly delivered from sin. Well, well, we shall have that perfection, God will give it to us; but let us make this the subject of our daily prayer, “Deliver me from all my transgressions.”

     David also prayed for deliverance from peculiarly dangerous sins. Allow me to put an emphasis on one little word in my text, “Deliver me from all my transgressions.” I am afraid that we all have some special sin that is our sin more than it is anybody else’s, some tendency, hereditary, perhaps, some liability to a particular form of sin. I do believe that, if some brethren were ever tempted to hilarity, they would not transgress in that direction, for they were born in November, and they have a fog in their very soul. There are some others, who, if they were tempted to great depression, would not transgress in that way, for they have sunlight in their souls, and their eyes always twinkle with a natural merriment. Some men are not tempted to be misers; it would be a mercy if they were, for they are such dreadful spendthrifts. Some men are never tempted to be lavish; I half wish that the devil or some one better would tempt them that way, for they are so mean, and it is so hard to get even a threepenny piece from them to help the best of causes. Satan is pretty well acquainted with us, he sees the joints in our harness, he knows to what sins we are specially inclined; and if it be so in sinners, it is so in saints also. We all have need to pray, “Deliver me from all my transgressions; especially from the sins to which I am most liable. Lord, save me from them.” I invite you, dear friend, to pray this prayer of David.

     And then pray the other also: “Make me not the reproach of the foolish. If I am to be reproached, let me be reproached by wise men; but make me not the reproach of the foolish.”

     Thus, David prayed for deliverance from deserved dishonour. Oh, may God grant that none of you, whom he has called to a higher and better life, and made to long for glory and eternity, may ever make the enemy to blaspheme, or give them real reason for despising yon! God keep us from falling! O Christian men, Christ has been more wounded by his friends than by his foes! We do not mind what the infidel has to say; at least, we should not mind it if you did not at times help him to say sad things by your inconsistency. We feel the point of the arrow, and the smart of the wound is acute; but keener far is it to feel that your own wrongdoing feathered the arrow which the enemy shot from his bow. God keep us from that evil! May we never lend a feather from our wings with which to furnish an arrow against Christ or his cause!

     David also prayed to be preserved from undeserved defamation: “Make me not the reproach of the foolish.” If you live the life of an angel, foolish persons will soon spread an ill story against you. Unless the Lord holds their tongues, they will not hold them. Pray, then, that you may be preserved from slander. If it comes, may it be real slander, with no truth in it; but may God preserve you even from that, for it is a cruel thing, and cuts even to the quick!

     Again, David prayed for deliverance from spiritual disappointment; and may we also be preserved from all disappointments concerning our trust in God! If we trusted in God, and he did not deliver us, we should be indeed the reproach of the foolish. We come out boldly for the truth of God, and stand alone, and yet that truth never vindicates us, why, then we shall be the reproach of the foolish! We pray that we may not be put to shame, and that God’s bare arm may defend his own cause, and we believe it will be so.

     And last of all, in his prayer, “Make me not the reproach of the foolish,” David pleads for deliverance from dreadful taunts at the last. May I never be lost, and then for ever have to bear this reproach! You know, the thought has sometimes come to me that, if I am not true, and if at the last great day the Master should say, “I never knew you, depart, ye cursed,” how will those who have to depart with me turn round, and say, “And you, and you? You talked to us; you preached to us; and yet you are here yourself.” This would be to suffer shame as did the king of Babylon when he went down to the pit, and the kings whom he had slain began to say to him, “Art thou become like one of us?” How they gloried over their conqueror, himself shut up in hell, conquered by the Almighty God! Professors, I beseech you to pray this prayer to-night, “Make me not the reproach of the foolish.” Do be sincere, true men, lest on the last day you not only have the wrath of God to bear, but the shame and the everlasting contempt which your fellow-sinners will heap upon you while you lie there, after all your profession, a castaway.

     The Lord grant his blessing to those who are to be baptized tonight! May they be faithful to the end; and may others of us, who have confessed Christ years ago, be kept from sin! May we all trust Christ to-night! If we never trusted Jesus before, let us begin at once, each one saying, “Now, Lord, what wait I for? My hope is in thee.” May we all come to Jesus, and find eternal life in him! Amen, and amen.



Christ’s Dying Word for His Church

By / Nov 3

Christ’s Dying Word for His Church

 

“It is finished.” — John xix. 30.

 

IN the original Greek of John’s Gospel, there is only one word for this utterance of our Lord. To translate it into English, we have to use three words; but when it was spoken, it was only one,— an ocean of meaning in a drop of language, a mere drop, for that is all that we can call one word. “It is finished.” Yet it would need all the other words that ever were spoken, or ever can be spoken, to explain this one word. It is altogether immeasurable. It is high; I cannot attain to it. It is deep; I cannot fathom it. “Finished.” lean half imagine the tone in which our Lord uttered this word, with a holy glorying, a sense of relief, the bursting out of a heart that had long been shut up within walls of anguish. “Finished.” It was a Conqueror’s cry; it was uttered with a loud voice. There is nothing of anguish about it, there is no wailing in it. It is the cry of One who has completed a tremendous labour, and is about to die; and ere he utters his death-prayer, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,” he shouts his life’s last hymn in that one word, “Finished.”

     May God the Holy Spirit help me to handle aright this text that is at once so small and yet so great! There are four ways in which I wish to look at it with you. First, I will speak of this dying saying of our Lord to his glory; secondly, I will use the text to the Church's comfort; thirdly, I will try to handle the subject to every believer's joy; and fourthly, I will seek to show how our Lord’s words ought to lead to our own arousement.

     I. First, then, I will endeavour to speak of this dying saying of Christ TO HIS GLORY. Let us begin with that.

     Jesus said, “It is finished.” Let us glory in him that it is finished. You and I may well do this when we recollect how very few things we have finished. We begin many things; and, sometimes, we begin well. We commence running like champions who must win the race; but soon we slacken our pace, and we fall exhausted on the course. The race commenced is never completed. In fact, I am afraid that we have never finished anything perfectly. You know what we say of some pieces of work, “Well, the man has done it; but there is no ‘finish’ about it.” No, and you must begin with “finish”, and go on with “finish”, if you are at last able to say broadly as the Saviour said without any qualification, “It is finished.”

     What was it that was finished? His life-work and his atoning sacrifice on our behalf. He had interposed between our souls and divine justice, and he had stood in our stead, to obey and suffer on our behalf. He began this work early in life, even while he was a child. He persevered in holy obedience three and thirty years. That obedience cost him many a pang and groan. Now it is about to cost him his life; and as he gives away his life to finish the work of obedience to the Father, and of redemption for us, he says, “It is finished.” It was a wonderful work even to contemplate; only infinite love would have thought of devising such a plan. It was a wonderful work to carry on for so long; only boundless patience would have continued at it; and now that it requires the offering of himself, and the yielding up of his earthly life, only a Divine Saviour, very God of very God, would or could have consummated it by the surrender of his breath. What a work it was! Yet it was finished; while you and I have lots of little things lying about that we have never finished. We have begun to do something for Jesus that would bring him a little honour and glory; but we have never finished it. We did mean to glorify Christ; have not some of you intended, oh! so much? Yet it has never come to anything; but Christ’s work, which cost him heart and soul, body and spirit, cost him everything, even to his death on the cross, he pushed through all that till it was accomplished, and he could say, “It is finished.”

     To whom did our Saviour say, “It is finished”? He said it to all whom it might concern; but it seems to me that he chiefly said it to his Father, for, immediately after, apparently in a lower tone of voice, he said, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” Beloved, it is one thing for me to say to you, “I have finished my work,”— possibly, if I were dying, you might say that I had finished my work; but for the Saviour to say that to God, to hang in the presence of him whose eyes are as a flame of fire, the great Header and Searcher of all hearts, for Jesus to look the dread Father in the face, and say, as he bowed his head, “Father, it is finished; I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do,” — oh, who but he could venture to make such a declaration as that? We can find a thousand flaws in our best works; and when we lie dying, we shall still have to lament our shortcomings and excesses; but there is nothing of imperfection about him who stood as Substitute for us; and unto the Father himself he can say, concerning all his work, “It is finished.” Wherefore, glorify him to-night. Oh, glorify him in your hearts to-night that, even in the presence of the Great Judge of all, your Surety and your Substitute is able to claim perfection for all his service!

     Just think also, for a minute or two, now that you have remembered what Jesus finished, and to whom he said that he had finished it, how truly he had finished it. From the beginning to the end of Christ’s life there is nothing omitted, no single act of service ever left undone; neither is there any action of his slurred over, or performed in a careless manner. “It is finished,” refers as much to his childhood as to his death. The whole of the service that he was to render to God, when he came here in human form, was finished in every single part and portion of it. I take up a piece of a cabinet-maker’s work; and it bears a good appearance. I open the lid, and am satisfied with the workmanship; but there is something about the hinge that is not properly finished. Or, perhaps, if I turn it over, and look at the bottom of the box, I shall see that there is a piece that has been scamped, or that one part has not been well planed or properly polished. But if you examine the Master’s work right through, if you begin at Bethlehem and go on to Golgotha, and look minutely at every portion of it, the private as well as the public, the silent as well as the spoken part, you will find that it is finished, completed, perfected. We may say of it that, among all works, there is none like it; a multitude of perfections joined together to make up one absolute perfection. Wherefore, let us glorify the name of our blessed Lord. Crown him; crown him; for he hath done his work well. Come, ye saints, speak much to his honour, and in your hearts keep on singing to the praise of him who did so thoroughly, so perfectly, all the work which his Father gave him to do.  

     In the first place, then, we use our Lord’s words to his glory. Much might be said upon such a theme; but time will not permit it now.

     II. Secondly, we will use the text TO THE CHURCH’S COMFORT.

     I am persuaded that it was so intended to be used, for none of the words of our Lord on the cross are addressed to his Church but this one. I cannot believe that, when he was dying, he left his people, for whom he died, without a word. “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” is for sinners, not for saints. “I thirst,” is for himself; and so is that bitter cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” “Woman, behold thy son!” is for Mary. “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise," is for the penitent thief. “Into thy hands I commend my spirit,” is for the Father. Jesus must have had something to say, in the hour of death, for his Church; and, surely, this is his dying word for her. He tells her, shouting it in her ear that has become dull and heavy with despair, “It is finished.” “It is finished, O my redeemed one, my bride, my well-beloved, for whom I came to lay down my life; it is finished, the work is done!”

“Love’s redeeming work is done;
Fought the fight, the battle won.”

“Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it.” John, in the Revelation, speaks of the Redeemer’s work as already accomplished, and therefore he sings, “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” This truth is full of comfort to the people of God.

     And, first, as it concerns Christ, do you not feel greatly comforted to think that he is to be humiliated no longer? His suffering and shame are finished. I often sing, with sacred exultation and pleasure, those lines of Dr. Watts,—

“No more the bloody spear,
 The cross and nails no more,
 For hell itself shakes at his name,
And all the heavens adore.
“There his full glories shine
With uncreated rays,
 And bless his saints’ and angels’ eyes
To everlasting days.”

I like also that expression in another of our hymns,—

“Now both the Surety and sinner are free.”

Not only are they free for whom Christ became a Surety, but he himself is for ever free from all the obligations and consequences of his suretyship. Men will never spit in his face again; the Roman soldiers will never scourge him again. Judas, where art thou? Behold the Christ sitting upon his great white throne, the glorious King who was once the Man of sorrows! Now Judas, come, and betray him with a kiss! What, man, dare you not do it? Come Pilate, and wash your hands in pretended innocency, and say now that you are guiltless of his blood! Come, ye Scribes and Pharisees, and accuse him; and oh, ye Jewish mob and Gentile rabble, newly-risen from the grave, shout now, “Away with him! Crucify him!” But see! they flee from him; they cry to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne!” Yet that is the face that was more marred than any man’s, the face of him whom they once despised and rejected. Are you not glad to think that they cannot despise him now, that they cannot illtreat him now?

“ ’Tis past,— that agonizing hour
 Of torture and of shame;”

And Jesus says of it, “It is finished.”

     We derive further comfort and joy as we think that, not only are Christ’s pangs and sufferings finished, but his Father's will and word have had a perfect completion. Certain things were written that were to be done; and these are done. Whatsoever the Father required has been rendered. “It is finished.” My Father will never say to me, “I cannot save thee by the death of my Son, for I am dissatisfied with his work.” Oh, no, beloved; God is well pleased with Christ, and with us in him! There is nothing which was arranged in the eternal mind to be done, yea, not a jot or tittle, but what Christ has done it all. As his eye, that eye that often wept for us, reads down the ancient writing, Christ is able to say, “I have finished the work which my Father gave me to do. Wherefore, be comforted, O my people, for my Father is well pleased with me, and well pleased with you in me!” I like, when I am in prayer, sometimes to say to the great Father, “Father, look on thy Son. Is he not all loveliness? Are there not in him unutterable beauties? Dost thou not delight in him? If thou hast looked on me, and grown sick of me, as well thou mayest, now refresh thyself by looking on thy Well-beloved, delight thyself in him;—

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

The perfect satisfaction of the Father with Christ’s work for his people, so that Christ could say, “It is finished,” is a ground of solid comfort to his Church evermore.

     Dear friends, once more, take comfort from this “It is finished,” for the redemption of Christ's Church is perfected. There is not another penny to be paid for her full release. There is no mortgage upon Christ’s inheritance. Those whom he bought with blood are for ever clear of all charges, paid for to the utmost. There was a handwriting of ordinances against us; but Christ hath taken it away, he hath nailed it to his cross. “It is finished,” finished for ever. All those overwhelming debts, which would have sunk us to the lowest hell, have been discharged; and they who believe in Christ may appear with boldness even before the throne of God itself. “It is finished.” What comfort there is in this glorious truth!

“Lamb of God! thy death hath given
Pardon, peace, and hope of heaven:
‘It is finished;’ let us raise
 Songs of thankfulness and praise!”

     And I think that we may say to the Church of God that, when Jesus said, “It is finished,” her ultimate triumph was secured. “Finished!” By that one word he declared that he had broken the head of the old dragon. By his death, Jesus has routed the hosts of darkness, and crushed the rising hopes of hell. We have a stern battle yet to fight; nobody can tell what may await the Church of God in years to come, it would be idle for us to attempt to prophesy; but it looks as if there were to be sterner times and darker days than we have ever yet known; but what of that? Our Lord has defeated the foe; and we have to fight with one who is already vanquished. The old serpent has been crushed, his head is bruised, and we have now to trample on him. We have this sure word of promise to encourage us, “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” Surely, “It is finished,” sounds like the trumpet of victory; let us have faith to claim that victory through the blood of the Lamb, and let every Christian here, let the whole Church of God, as one mighty army, take comfort from this dying word of the now risen and ever-living Saviour, “It is finished.” His Church may rest perfectly satisfied that his work for her is fully accomplished.

     III. Now, thirdly, I want to use this expression, “It is finished,” TO EVERY BELIEVER’S JOY.

     When our Lord said, “It is finished,” there was something to make every believer in him glad. What did that utterance mean? You and I have believed in Jesus of Nazareth; we believe him to be the Messiah, sent of God. Now, if you will turn to the Old Testament, you will find that the marks of the Messiah are very many, and very complicated; and if you will then turn to the life and death of Christ, you will see in him every mark of the Messiah plainly exhibited. Until he had said, “It is finished,” and until he had actually died, there was some doubt that there might be some one prophecy unfulfilled; but now that he hangs upon the cross, every mark, and every sign, and every token of his Messiahship have been fulfilled, and he says, “It is finished.” The life and death of Christ and the types of the Old Testament fit each other like hand and glove. It would be quite impossible for any person to write the life of a man, by way of fiction, and then in another book to write out a series of types, personal and sacrificial, and to make the character of the man fit all the types; even if he had permission to make both books, he could not do it. If he were allowed to make both the lock and the key, he could not do it; but here we have the lock made beforehand. In all the Books of the Old Testament, from the prophecy in the Garden of Eden right away down to Malachi, the last of the prophets, there were certain marks and tokens of the Christ. All these were so very singular that it did not appear as if they could all meet in one person; but they did all meet in One, every one of them, whether it concerned some minute point or some prominent characteristic. When the Lord Jesus Christ had ended his life, he could say, “It is finished; my life has tallied with all that was said of it from the first word of prophecy even to the last.” Now, that ought greatly to encourage your faith. You are not following cunningly-devised fables; but you are following One who must be the Messiah of God, since he so exactly fits all the prophecies and all the types that were given before concerning him.

     “It is finished.” Let every believer be comforted in another respect, that every honour which the law of God could require has been rendered to it. You and I have broken that law, and all the race of mankind has broken it, too. We have tried to thrust God from his throne; we have dishonoured his law; we have broken his commandments wilfully and wickedly; but there has come One who is himself God, the Law-giver, and he has taken human nature, and in that nature he has kept the law perfectly; and inasmuch as the law had been broken by man, he has in the nature of man borne the sentence due for all man’s transgressions. The Godhead, being linked with the manhood, gave supreme virtue to all that the manhood suffered; and Christ, in life and in death, has magnified the law, and made it honourable; and God’s law at this day is raised to even greater honour than it had before man broke it. The death of the Son of God, the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, has vindicated the great moral principle of God’s government, and made his throne to stand out gloriously before the eyes of men and angels for ever and ever. If hell were filled with men, it would not be such a vindication of divine justice as when God spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, and made him to die, the Just for the unjust, to bring us to God. Now let every believer rejoice in the great fact that, by the death of Christ, the law of God is abundantly honoured. You can be saved without impugning the holiness of God; you are saved without putting any stain upon the divine statute-book. The law is kept, and mercy triumphs, too.

     And, beloved, here is included, of necessity, another comforting truth. Christ might well say, “It is finished,” for every solace conscience can need is now given. When your conscience is disturbed and troubled, if it knows that God is perfectly honoured, and his law vindicated, then it becomes easy. Men are always starting some new theory of the atonement; and one has said lately that the atonement was simply meant as an easement to the conscience of men. It is not so, my brethren; there would be no easing of the conscience by anything that was meant for that alone. Conscience can only be satisfied if God is satisfied. Until I see how the law is vindicated, my troubled conscience can never find rest. Dear heart, are thine eyes red with weeping? Yet look thou to him who hangs upon the tree. Is thy heart heavy even to despair? Look to him who hangs upon the tree, and believe in him. Take him to be thy soul’s atoning Lamb, suffering in thy stead. Accept of him as thy Representative, dying thy death that thou mayest live his life, bearing thy sin that thou mayest be made the righteousness of God in him. This is the best quietus in the world for every fear that conscience can raise; let every believer know that it is so.

     Once more, there is joy to every believer when he remembers that, as Christ said, “It is finished,” every guarantee was given of the eternal salvation of all the redeemed. It appears to me that, if Christ finished the work for us, he will finish the work in us. If he has undertaken so supreme a labour as the redemption of our souls by blood, and that is finished, then the great but yet minor labour of renewing our natures, and transforming us even unto perfection, shall be finished, too. If, when we were sinners, Christ loved us so as to die for us, now that he has redeemed us, and has already reconciled us to himself, and made us his friends and his disciples, will he not finish the work that is necessary to make us fit to stand among the golden lamps of heaven, and to sing his praises in the country where nothing that defileth can ever enter?

“The work which his goodness began,
The arm of his strength will complete;
His promise is yea and Amen,
And never was forfeited yet:
 Things future, nor things that are now,
Not all things below nor above,
Can make him his purpose forego, 
Or sever my soul from his love.”

I believe it, my brethren. He who has said, “It is finished,” will never leave anything undone. It shall never be said of him, “This Man began, but was not able to finish.” If he has bought me with his blood, and called me by his grace, and I am resting on his promise and power, I shall be with him where he is, and I shall behold his glory, as surely as he is Christ the Lord, and I am a believer in him. What comfort this truth brings to every child of God!

     Are there any of you here who are trying to do something to make a righteousness of your own? How dare you attempt such a work when Jesus says, “It is finished”? Are you trying to put a few of your own merits together, a few odds and ends, fig-leaves and filthy rags of your own righteousness? Jesus says, “It is finished.” Why do you want to add anything of your own to what he has completed? Do you say that you are not fit to be saved? What! have you to bring some of your fitness to eke out Christ’s work? “Oh!” say you, “I hope to come to Christ one of these days when I get better.” What! What! What! What! Are you to make yourself better, and then is Christ to do the rest of the work? You remind me of the railways to our country towns; you know that, often, the station is half-a-milo or a mile out of the town, so that you cannot get to the station without having an omnibus to take you there. But my Lord Jesus Christ comes right to the town of Mansoul. His railway runs close to your feet, and there is the carriage-door wide open; step in. You have not even to go over a bridge, or under a subway; there stands the carriage just before you. This royal railroad carries souls all the way from hell’s dark door, where they lie in sin, up to heaven’s great gate of pearl, where they dwell in perfect righteousness for ever. Cast yourself on Christ; take him to be everything you need, for he says of the whole work of salvation, “It is finished.”

     I recollect the saying of a Scotchwoman, who had applied to be admitted to the communion of the kirk. Being thought to be very ignorant, and little instructed in the things of God, she was put back by the elders. The minister also had seen her, and thought that, at least for a while, she should wait. I wish I could speak Scotch, so as to give you her answer, but I am afraid that I should make a mistake if I tried it. It is a fine language, doubtless, for those who can speak it. She said something like this, “Aweel, sir; aweel, sir, but I ken ae thing. As the lintbell opens to the sun, so my heart opens to the name of Jesus.” You have, perhaps, seen the flax-flower shut itself up when the sun has gone; and, if so, you know that, whenever the sun has come back, the flower opens itself at once. “So,” said the poor woman, “I ken one thing, that as the flower opens to the sun, so my heart opens to the name of Jesus.” Do you know that, friends? Do you ken that one thing? Then I do not care if you do not ken much else; if that one thing is known by you, and if it be really so, you may be far from perfect in your own estimation, but you are a saved soul.

     One said to me, when she came to join the church, and I asked her whether she was perfect, “Perfect? Oh, dear no, sir! I wish that I could be.” “Ah, yes!” I replied, “that would just please you, would it not?” “Yes; it would indeed,” she answered. “Well, then,” I said, “that shows that your heart is perfect, and that you love perfect things; you are pining after perfection; there is a something in you, an ‘I’ in you, that sinneth not, but that seeketh after that which is holy; and yet you do that which you would not, and you groan because you do, and the apostle is like you when he says, ‘It is no more I, the real I, that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.’ ” May the Lord put that “I” into many of you to-night, that “I” which will hate sin, that “I” which will find its heaven in being perfectly free from sin, that “I” which will' delight itself in the Almighty, that “I” which will sun itself in the smile of Christ, that “I” which will strike down every evil within as soon as ever it shows its head! So will you sing that familiar prayer of Toplady’s that we have often sung,—

“Let the water and the blood,
From thy riven side which flow’d,
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power”!

     IV. I close by saying, in the fourth place, that we shall use this text, “It is finished,” TO OUR OWN AROUSEMENT.

     Somebody once wickedly said, “Well, if Christ has finished it, there is nothing for me to do now but to fold my hands, and go to sleep.” That is the speech of a devil, not of a Christian! There is no grace in the heart when the mouth can talk like that. On the contrary, the true child of God says, “Has Christ finished his work for me? Then tell me what work I can do for him.” You remember the two questions of Saul of Tarsus. The first enquiry, after he had been struck down, was, “Who art thou, Lord?” And the next was, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” If Christ has finished the work for you which you could not do, now go and finish the work for him which you are privileged and permitted to do. Seek to—

“Rescue the perishing,
Care for the dying,
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
Weep o’er the erring one,
Lift up the fallen,
Tell them of Jesus, the Mighty to save.”

     My inference from this saying of Christ, “It is finished,” is this,— Has he finished his work for me? Then I must get to work for him, and I must 'persevere until I finish my work, too; not to save myself, for that is all done, but because I am saved. Now I must work for him with all my might; and if there come discouragements, if there come sufferings, if there comes a sense of weakness and exhaustion, yet let me not give way to it; but, inasmuch as he pressed on till he could say, “It is finished,” let me press on till I, too, shall be able to say, “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” You know how men who go fishing look out for the fish. I have heard of a man going to Keston Ponds on Saturday fishing, and stopping all day Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. There was another man fishing there, and the other man had only been there two days. He said, “I have been here two days, and I have only had one bite.” “Why!” replied the other, “I have been here ever since last Saturday, and I have not had a bite yet; but I mean to keep on.” “Well,” answered the other, “I cannot keep on without catching anything.” “Oh!” said number one, “but I have such a longing to catch some fish that I shall stop here till I do.” I believe that fellow would catch some fish ultimately, if there were any to be caught; he is the kind of fisherman to do it, and we want to have men who feel that they must win souls for Christ, and that they will persevere till they do. It must be so with us, brethren and sisters; we cannot let men go down to hell if there is any way of saving them.

     The next inference is, that we can finish our work, for Christ finished his. You can put a lot of “finish” into your work, and you can hold on to the end, and complete the work by divine grace; and that grace is waiting for you, that grace is promised to you. Seek it, find it, get it. Do not act as some do, ah, even some who are before me now! They served God once, and then they ran away from him. They have come back again; God bless them, and help them to be more useful! But future earnest service will never make up for that sad gap in their earlier career. It is best to keep on, and on, and on, from the commencement to the close; the Lord help us to persevere to the end, till we can truly say of our life-work, “It is finished”!

     One word of caution I must give you. Let us not think that our work is finished till we die. “Well,” says one, “I was just going to say of my work, ‘It is finished.’ ” Were you? Were you? I remember that, when John Newton wrote a book about grace in the blade, and grace in the ear, and grace in the full corn in the ear, a very talkative body said to him, “I have been reading your valuable book, Mr. Newton; it is a splendid work; and when I came to that part, ‘The full corn in the ear,’ I thought how wonderfully you had described me.” “Oh!” replied Mr. Newton, “but you could not have read the book rightly, for it is one of the marks of the full corn in the ear that it hangs its head very low.” So it is; and when a man, in a careless, boastful spirit, says of his work, “It is finished,” I am inclined to ask, “Brother, was it ever begun? If your work for Christ is finished, I should think that you never realized what it ought to be.” As long as there is breath in our bodies, let us serve Christ; as long as we can think, as long as we can speak, as long as we can work, let us serve him, let us even serve him with our last gasp; and, if it be possible, let us try to set some work going that will glorify him when we are dead and gone. Let us scatter some seed that may spring up when we are sleeping beneath the hillock in the cemetery. Ah, beloved, we shall never have finished our work for Christ until we bow our heads, and give up the ghost! The oldest friend here has a little something to do for the Master. Someone said to me, the other day, “I cannot think why old Mrs. So-and-so is spared; she is quite a burden to her friends.” “Ah!” I replied, “she has something yet to do for her Lord, she has another word to speak for him.” Sister, look up your work, and get it done; and you, brother, see what remains of your life-work yet incomplete. Wind off the ends, get all the little corners finished. Who knows how long it may be before you and I may have to give in our account? Some are called away very suddenly; they are apparently in good health one day, and they are gone the next. I should not like to leave a half -finished life behind me. The Lord Jesus Christ said, “It is finished,” and your heart should say, “Lord, and I will finish, too; not to mix my work with thine, but because thou hast finished thine, I will finish mine.”

     Now may the Lord give us the joy of his presence at his table! May the bread and wine speak to you much better than I can! May every heir of heaven see Christ to-night, and rejoice in his finished work, for his dear name’s sake! Amen.



Faint; but not Faint-Hearted

By / Oct 17

Faint; but not Faint-Hearted

 

“Faint, yet pursuing.”— Judges viii. 4.

 

THESE three hundred men, though faint, were not faint-hearted. If they had been cowards, they would have left Gideon when he made the proclamation, “Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead.” Twenty and two thousand accepted that permission, and left their general with ten thousand. Out, of that smaller company, which was yet too large, these three hundred had been selected as the men that lapped. While others unloosed their helmets, and lay prone upon the grass, to take a luxurious drink, these men acted like a hasty dog who, running by the side of a stream, laps and runs, and laps and runs, and wastes no time in drinking. They were men who had given themselves wholly up to this holy war, and who were determined to smite these foes of God and his people; and yet they were faint. They were not faint because they were dispirited, for they had just won a great victory. They had broken the pitchers, and unveiled the lamps, and blown the trumpets, and they had shouted, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon,” and they had seen the vast host of Midian melt away before their eyes, They had plunged with fervour into the battle, chasing the flying foe, and laying tens of thousands dead at their feet. Every man among them was a here; and yet they were faint.

     When you see men faint, do not blame them. Peradventure, by their faintness, they have proved of what true stuff they are made. They have done as much as flesh and blood can do, and therefore they are faint. They may not have been defeated, they may have gained a glorious victory, and yet for the moment they may be faint. Faintness, by itself, is a poor thing; but if you can truly say, “Faint, yet pursuing,” faintness becomes the foil to set off perseverance; and the man is all the nobler because, when faint, he still pursues.

     I am going to talk, to-night, to some of God’s people who may be in the condition which the text describes: “Faint, yet pursuing.” I shall dwell a little, in the first place, upon the weakness of the flesh: “Faint.” Secondly, I shall ask you to admire the strength of grace: “Faint, yet pursuing.” When we have done that, I trust that we shall have a few minutes in which to learn the lessons of example, for these men shall be our schoolmasters.

     I. First, let us think about THE WEAKNESS OF THE FLESH.

     What is man, after all, at his very best? The best of men, at best, are but men, and human nature, even at its best, is but a poor thing; and the strongest man may very soon be too weak to do anything, and the heroic man, who could stand against the shock of arms, may lie upon the ground, weary, and unable to go a step further. Why were these brave, strong men of Gideon’s band faint? I shall mention certain reasons which apply to us as well as to them.

     Well, first, they grew faint because they had lost their rest. It was at night that they broke the pitchers, at night that they made that surprising attack upon the camp of their enemies, and they had ever since, with hot foot, been pursuing the flying crowd. There had been no time for them to have any sleep, that “tired nature’s sweet restorer” which is so necessary to us all. And there are Christian minds that have not rested, they have not had time to rest; and upon some there comes what is called insomnia, the inability to sleep. This, of course, is a physical malady, and over-busy men may be afflicted by it; but Christian men may suffer from spiritual insomnia. They may get so exercised about their work, so worried about the Lord’s work, they may lay so much to heart the needs and woes of men, they may be so fretted about how little they can do, and how feebly they do it, and how small is the result that follows from all they have done, that they may get into a state of spiritual insomnia and restlessness. Now, this is always evil. Christ would have Martha to care and to serve; but he would not have her cumbered with much serving; he would prefer that she should sit like Mary at his feet. We can do much for our Lord, some can do a great deal more than they are now doing; but it is very possible to attempt too much, and really to do next to nothing, because we have put ourselves into a condition in which we cannot do anything well. You may see a man, who is strong and vigorous, achieve with one blow what another cannot accomplish with twenty feeble strokes. It is not the doing much that is the important matter; it is the doing what you do with real force and power. You lose the ability thus to work unless you have needful rest. Did you never notice how the Master makes rest a privilege of the worker? “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; . . . and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” You will never work like Christ unless you can rest like Christ. He had a great capacity for resting as well as great power for working. When he was in that little ship which was tossed with tempest, he was asleep in the hinder part of the vessel while the storm was at its height; to go to sleep was the best thing that he could do, and, at certain times, the best thing that a Christian can do, is to “rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him;” for in that way he will get back his lost strength and power for service. If he neglects to rest in Christ, he will become faint; and it will be a happy circumstance if, when faint, he is still pursuing.

     In addition to losing their rest, these men had endured a very heavy strain. There is much work to be done, that we might go on doing for a century if we lived so long, yet we should never be worn out by it, the ordinary jog-trot work of every day does not kill men. But there are superhuman efforts to be made on special occasions, and those extraordinary tasks put a tremendous strain upon the soul. It was a superhuman effort when the three hundred brave warriors remained with Gideon; over thirty thousand of his first great army melted away, but the three hundred stalwarts stood fast. It may seem to you to be simple enough to stand fast when thirty thousand flee; but you will not find it so if ever you are put to the test. And then to go down, at dead of night, under Gideon’s leadership, against at least a hundred and fifty thousand Midianites, with lamps, pitchers, and trumpets as their only weapons, might seem a small thing to do; but it took courageous men to do such a daring deed as that, and to believe that by such a simple stratagem God would defeat their numerous foes. O sirs, believe me, faith is not child’s play; and, though a simple faith, exercised from day to day about ordinary things, is not to be despised, yet there come special moments when you must have the faith of God’s elect, and an elect faith, too, and a high degree of it; and if you have that, and exert it to the full, you will find that it will tell upon your whole frame.

     These men had also experienced the strain of great success. Stand still, and see that mighty host dividing into parties, and beginning to slay one another. Behold the whole power of Midian suddenly broken. Oh, the joy that must have filled the hearts of Gideon’s three hundred! Their spirits must have leaped within them with ecstasy and delight, they must have felt that they could hardly contain themselves for very joy while God was working such a glorious deliverance; and if you have ever been indulged by your heavenly Father with some great success in service for the King, you have felt afterwards as if your moisture was turned into the drought of summer. It takes the very soul out of a man to see God at work, and himself to be the instrument, in the Lord’s hands, of accomplishing some high and wondrous purpose of judgment or mercy. These three hundred men had endured a great strain upon their faith, and they had also had that which is a greater strain still, the triumph of their faith in God; and so, exhausted and worn out, they were ready to faint.

     Beside that, remember, dear friends, that these men had put forth great strength. It was not merely mental wear and tear that they had to endure, but there was much actual conflict with the enemy. At first, the Midianites killed one another, but after they took to flight, Gideon’s men pursued them up hill and down dale, slaying them wherever they could, for they would not leave one of these enemies of their country who had dared to invade the land of the holy, they resolved to cut them all off. It was a hard day’s work, and many deeds of daring had they done; and now, as they go by Succoth, they are faint though they are still pursuing the flying foe. If you, dear brethren and sisters, will give yourselves wholly to God’s work, although you will never get tired of it, you will often get tired in it. If a man has never tired himself with working for God, I should think he never has done any work that was worth doing. If a sister has never spent herself in trying to win souls, I should suppose that the number of souls which she will win will be very few indeed. We can never expect God’s blessing on our work till every faculty of our being is aroused, and the whole of our strength is put forth in the divine service. Now, if this is the case with us, it is no wonder if sometimes we get weary, and feel ready to faint.

     Note also that these brave men had endured a long march. They had first fought the battle of the night, and this had been followed by the pursuit of the enemy during the day They wanted to prevent them from crossing the fords, and all along that forced march there had been fighting; and the fighting after a battle is often the most severe. Many generals have been able to win a battle; but they have not known how to use it after they have won it. The toughest part of the fight full often is after the enemy begins to flee; and these men had endured a long day of this trying work. Now, dear friends, I believe that it is very often, not the pace, but the time that makes Christian people tired. When I have thought the matter over, I have many times said that I could die for Christ, by his grace, if I might lay my head down on a block, and have it chopped off at once. I think that I could endure that; but what about being roasted alive by a slow fire? Well, that is rather a different thing. One might feel in such a case that human strength would very soon be dried up. Ah, dear friends, to stand bravely for Christ for a week or two, is a simple matter; but to keep on month after month, and year after year, is another affair! It is the length of life that tries the reality of religion. Some are able to stand against the temptations of youth, and yet succumb amid the business of middle life; and alas! as many horses fall at the bottom of the hill, so we have known many men who have sinned sadly in old age. In fact, as nearly as I can recollect, all the great falls recorded in Scripture are those of old men, or of persons far beyond the age of youth, as if to teach us that, when we think that we have grown wise by experience, we shall be great fools if we trust to our-selves even then. But it is that length of endurance, that year after year of trial, that long fight of affliction, or that long-continued temptation, that tries the man; and it is little wonderful if sometimes the very heroes of the cross are faint and weary.

     And, once more, these brave men had taken no refreshment. We read that the people took victuals in their hand when they went down to the fight; but that food was all gone, for soldiers have fine appetites when they have had much to do, and they grow very faint if they cannot get refreshment. Ah, dear children of God, if you live where you do not hear the gospel faithfully preached, I do not wonder if you faint! Or, if you have given up hearing the Word, and have been busying yourself, always teaching, it may be that you have been giving out too much, and taking in too little. I like the plan adopted by many of our dear friends who come here on Sabbath mornings; they are always here in the morning, but they are never here on Sabbath evenings. Where are they? They are happily engaged in some good and gracious work; but they will not give up the hearing in the morning, for that, they say, is their week’s meal, and strengthens them for service during the rest of the day. I think that they do wisely. Young Christians, especially, cannot do without their food. There are not many of us who would be in vigorous health if we did not have our food regularly; and I do not think that the majority of Christians can afford to be so busy in the Master’s service as not to get opportunities for meditation, contemplation, and hearing and studying the Word of God. Perhaps some brother here may be faint to-night for that very reason, and he may receive a hint that it is necessary for him to take refreshment if he is to go on with his work. “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile,” said Christ to his disciples; and as to the people who followed him, when he saw them hungry and faint, he multiplied the loaves and fishes, and fed them to the full, and they were revived.

     But, beloved, what child of God, who engages faithfully in the work and warfare of this life, does not at times feel ready to faint? Stand in the position of one who finds himself deserted by those who seemed to be his friends, but who prove faithless, and, without a protest for the truth, glide away in the general current of error. Your heart grows sick as you think of the cowards who ought to have been at your side in the battle for the standard. Your soul is ready to faint as you note the slackness of others whom you do not suspect of going astray, but who, in the day of battle, are like Meroz, and come not up to the help of the Lord against the mighty. Battling for Christ in the midst of the crowd where you want hundreds of helpers, and can scarcely find one, trying to carry the light into some of the dark slums of London, thinking that every Christian will sympathize with you, but finding that none do so,— these are the trials that make even brave hearts feel faint.

     Well, brethren, I think I have said enough, and perhaps too much, upon that first point, the weakness of the flesh, so I turn with great pleasure to the next point.

     II. In the second place, let us admire THE STRENGTH OF DIVINE GRACE. These three hundred men were “faint, yet pursuing.” They could march but slowly, but they did march; they could strike but feebly, but they did strike.

     Observe that, although they were faint, they were not faint in their heart. They still believed, they still had a brave stomach for the fight, they had not wavered in their resolution, they meant still to go forward, they intended to conquer the enemies of their country before them, or die in the attempt, and not one of them proposed to turn back; they were “faint, yet pursuing.” Every man of them kept on the track of the Midianites; they were still determined to go forward. They did not demand substitutes, saying, “We have done so much; now let somebody else come in, and finish the work.” No, no, they were still pursuing, each man resolved that his own right arm should wield his weapon till the fray was over. Nor did they rest on their laurels. Some of us, perhaps, would have done so if we had been in their places; we might have said, “We have done bravely, we have already broken the neck of Midian, we are victors; there is no need to do more.” No, but they reckoned that nothing was done while there was anything undone. They were not content while as yet a single foeman lived. They must carry the warfare right through to the bitter end; and they meant to do it. Sternly resolved were they that, though they were faint, and even if they died, they would die with their faces to the enemy, fighting for the Lord God of Israel. Brothers in Christ, is not that our resolve to-night? My Christian sisters, do you not feel the same? We have lifted our hand to the Lord, and we will never go back; we could not give up his truth, his love, his service. To whom should we go if we left our Lord? If we did not keep on still pursuing, what should we do? Lie still, we cannot; there is a something in us which will not let us rest while there is work to be done for God, by which Christ can be glorified.

     These men were driven forward by hope. Although they were faint, they felt that he who had brought them so far would bring them through to the end. He had done so much for them that they might have said,—

“His love in time past forbids us to think
He’ll leave us at last with hunger to sink;”

and so they kept on, hopeful still that they should win a complete victory. They were resolved that, if it were not so, yet still they would keep on. So let it be with us. If I am faint, I will still continue fighting against sin. If everybody else forsakes the cross, yet a genuine Christian cannot. If every flag were taken away, and rolled in the mire, our Master should still find us, by his grace, prepared to bear disgrace and dishonour for his sake, and still to cling to the grand old cause, “faint, yet pursuing.”

     Now, beloved, you who are here to-night may belong to various classes, and faintness may come upon you in reference to different things. Let me just mention them in the hope that the strength of grace may come to you even as it did to Gideon’s band.

     Are you a student, my dear brother? Are you studying the Scriptures? Are you endeavouring to learn the deep things of God? Do you know that you have learned very little as yet? Do the great mysteries stagger you? Are you driven to feel what a fool you are? Have you come to those great deeps where such as you can never see the bottom? Ah, well, though you are faint in your study of the Scripture, still pursue it! Get close to the Word of God, search it through and through, study it, meditate on it, give yourself wholly to it, seek to know all that God has revealed, for the things which are revealed, however mysterious they are, belong to you. If you are faint in the pursuit of divine truth, yet continue to pursue it.

     Perhaps, you are fighting against some inbred sin. It may be that I address some who see a swarm of sins within their nature. By God’s grace, you have determined to put every sin to the sword; but you have been baffled by their numbers and their strength. This very morning, when you got up, you thought that you would make this the holiest day you have ever lived; but it has been a very poor day, after all. The other week, when you went to business, you said to yourself, “By God’s help, I will show all I meet to-day how a Christian can live.” But you tripped and stumbled very sorrowfully. Well now, my dear brother, you are faint because of these failures. Yet, I pray you, do not give up the struggle, for God will help you. In the power of his Spirit you are able to overcome these sins, and you may yet sing, “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through Lord Jesus Christ.” Up and at them, brethren! If faint, yet still be pursuing. The Lord help you in this battle!

     Possibly, you are a worker for Christ. You have begun well; I am thankful that you have begun. After continuing a little time in the Lord’s service, you do not want to give it up, but you do not seem to get on at it; and Satan has been saying to you, “You might as well give it up, for you are doing no good. Do not worry yourself with that work any longer.” There is a friend who is not Satan, but perhaps Satan is using that friend, and getting that friend to say to you, “This work will be too much for you, I know it will; you are not adapted for it, why do you not take things more easily?” Ah! but, dear friend, permit me to say to you, “If you are faint, yet still be pursuing. There is a great blessing coming, and the devil does not want you to receive it. Defeat the devil by giving yourself more earnestly than ever to the cause of your Lord, for, depend upon it, there is something going to happen soon that will abundantly repay you, and the arch-enemy wants to prevent you from getting the blessing.”

     Is the conflict concerning prayer? Have you been pleading for a soul, and you have not yet won the victory? Is it your husband? Is it your wayward boy? Is it a friend? Have you been at Jabbok, near where Gideon was at this very time? Have you wrestled with the angel, have you been expecting to prevail, and have you not yet been successful, and has something said to you, “Do not pray about it anymore”? Oh, beloved, if that is the case, I beg you to pluck up courage! Though faint, yet still be pursuing. Continue pleading with God, and do not let the angel go until ho blesses you.

     Or, once more, have you been bearing witness for the truth, and in bearing witness for it have you met with losses and crosses? Have you been brought under suspicion and misrepresentation? Have you lost some of your dearest friends, and have they even become your bitter enemies? Do you get very faint, and are you tempted to say, “Why should I protest? Let things go as they will. The age is rotten through and through; what is the use of my standing out?” Oh, say not so! Where would the Deformation have been if it had not been for two or three brave hearts? How will any truth be preserved in the world if men are craven and chicken-hearted? Nay, my brother, speak not so, but rather say to-night, “Though I may appear to achieve nothing by my protest, that is not my affair. My business is to do my duty, results must rest with God; and, by his grace, faint as I am, I will still be pursuing.”

     III. Now I close by pointing out to you THE LESSONS OF EXAMPLE that we may learn from Gideon’s brave men.

     The first lesson is this: Serve the Lord. Brothers and sisters, we are saved by grace. Some of us were saved years ago; we were washed in the blood of the Lamb, and clothed in the righteousness of Christ. our We rejoice in a finished work whereby we are saved. Now let us serve because we have been saved, and let us serve our Lord to the last fragment of strength. I do not think that Christ can be rightly served with half our manhood; it must be with the whole of our powers. All my goods, all my alms, all my talents, all that I can invent, all that I can achieve, I must give to him. Is there any part of us that we dare reserve for self? Shall the broad arrow of the King never be stamped on this or that portion of our being? Ah, then, a curse will come upon us! Nay, let it not be so; but let us give him all the strength we have until we become fairly exhausted, and are ready to faint, and even then let us be pursuing.

     Let us also serve the Lord when every movement is painful, when even to think is wearisome. These men were faint. You know what it is for a soldier to be faint; it is no nonsense, no pretence, it is real fainting. Yet to go running on when you are ready to faint, to keep right on when you are ready to drop, this is very trying work; yet let us do it, brethren, by God’s grace. Some people only pray when they feel like praying; but we need most to pray when we feel that we cannot pray. If we were only to preach,— some of us,— when we felt like preaching, we should not often preach. If some people I know would only give when they felt like giving, they would never give; perhaps for the matter of that they never do. But you are not to do a thing merely when it is a pleasure to you; do it when it is a pain to you. When faint, yet be pursuing; when, instead of your legs carrying you, you have to drag your legs along the ground, yet still pursue the enemy. When you feel that, absolutely, you could not go another foot, yet still go many another yard, for there is such a thing as doing as much as you can, and yet, by divine power and grace, keeping on after that. The work that you felt you could not do, will have more acceptance with God than that which you performed in your ordinary strength.

     Serve the Lord when every movement is painful, and serve him when difficulties thicken. There were only three hundred of Gideon’s men, and there were fifteen thousand of the enemy, and the people who ought to have been their friends would not even give them a loaf of bread to eat. Then is the time to serve the Lord. There is little in your service when everybody says, “Hurrah!” but there is something in the man who can follow the Lord when they cry, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” To run with the crowd, any fool can do that; but to face that crowd, and go the other way; to stand right alone, like a brazen pillar that cannot be stirred though the whole earth should push against you; there is something in such action that is worthy of the grace of God; and it is true grace alone that helps a man to act thus. Brothers and sisters, do not count the difficulties; count your God as everything, and let the rest go which way they will. The more difficulties there are, the better; and the fewer friends, the better; there shall be the more glory to the grace that helps you in your loneliness to stand firm, and to be faithful to your God.

     Next, be stimulated by past success. Success for God is good. You win a victory over the Midianites, and you feel faint. Do not faint. Why! it does not become you to faint after that victory. You who are red to the elbows with the blood of the enemy, are you going to faint? You who just now smote Oreb and Zeeb, are you going to turn cowards? You know what confusion there is in battle when a standard-bearer fainteth. See, the standard begins to tremble, it falls almost down; somebody holds it up, but the standard-bearer faints, and down goes the banner, and everybody thinks that the battle is lost. Standard-bearer, standard-bearer, I beseech thee, do not faint! Cry to thy God, standard-bearer, for so many depend upon thee! Teacher of a class, minister of a congregation, leader of a clan, stand in the strength of Jehovah himself, and having done all, stand!

     Lastly, be hopeful when you are feeblest, just as these men were: “Faint, yet pursuing.” When there were so very, very, very few of them, and they were faint, then they expected victory; and when there are very, very few of us, and we too are weary and fainting, then, perhaps, our extremity will be God’s opportunity. Watch the hourglass. How fast the sands are flowing! The time is almost up; there are only two or three sands yet to trickle down. Just so; but when the hour is up, then God’s eternity comes in. When our time comes to an end, then God’s great leisure shall come to an end, too; and he will pluck his right hand out of his bosom, and he will do a work in our day that shall make both the ears of him that heareth thereof to tingle. Wherefore, beloved brethren and sisters, let us give ourselves more to Christ than ever.

     As for you who do not belong to Jesus, to whom do you belong? You who are not servants of Christ, whose servants are you? Tremble, I pray you, for your master pays terrible wages: “The wages of sin is death.” Remember the rest of the verse, “but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” God grant us that glorious gift, for Jesu’s sake! Amen.



A Royal Funeral

By / Oct 7

A Royal Funeral

 

“And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.”— John xix. 38— 42.

 

LET US go to this grave, but not to weep there; nay, not to shed so much as a single tear. The stone is rolled away, our Lord’s precious body is not there, for Christ has risen from the dead. It may be that, like Mary at the sepulchre, we shall see a vision of angels; but if not, we may behold a company of comforting truths which still linger about the empty tomb of our ascended Lord. We are expressly told, in Holy Scripture, that our Lord was buried. It was evidently not sufficient for us merely to be told that ho died; we must also know that he was buried. Why was this? Was it not, first, that we might have a certificate of his death? We do not bury living men; and the Lord Jesus would not have been buried if the centurion had not certified that he was certainly dead. The Roman officer had probably seen Christ’s heart pierced by the soldier’s spear, when blood and water flowed forth from his side. At any rate, when his men went to execute the coup de grace, which finished the lives of the other two, by the breaking of their legs, they were so certain that he who hung in the middle was really dead that they brake not his legs. Christ’s being given up for burial, was Pilate’s certificate that he had not merely pretended to die, but that it was a real death, and that his body had no life remaining in it. This is an essential point, for if Jesus did not die, he has made no atonement for sin. If he died not, then he rose not; and if he rose not, then your faith is vain, ye are yet in your sins. The sepulchre, therefore, occupies a very important place in the story of the death of Jesus.

     Again, was he not buried to fulfil a type which he had himself chosen? Like as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish, in the heart of the sea, even so was the Son of man to lie for that time in the bowels of the earth. The casting of the runaway prophet into the sea quieted the angry waves; the tempest fell asleep when he was given up as a victim; and Christ’s being cast into the sea of death has quieted the storm of almighty wrath; we sail to-day as on a sea of glass, because Christ was buried in those awful billows. He must fulfil the type of Jonah, or else he spoke not aright concerning himself when he said, “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas.”

     Further, was not our Lord buried to make his battle with death and his triumph over it more complete? He has conquered death; but he has also burst open the castle of death, that is the grave. He has bearded the lion in his den, the Douglas in his hall. In this matchless duel, he has set himself to fight, not only with death, but with death and the grave combined; and hence the paean of victory is not merely, “O death, where is thy sting?” but it is also, “O grave, where is thy victory?” Christ’s victory is altogether complete. He hath led captivity captive, because he became a captive. He has vanquished all death’s allies, as well as death itself, by going down into the grave, and rending its bars asunder.

     Beside all this, did not our Lord die, and condescend to be buried, to sweeten the grave for his people? Rightly did we sing just now concerning the tomb—

“There the dear flesh of Jesus lay,
And left a long perfume.”

Unless the Lord should speedily come, as he may,— God grant that ho may!— we shall fall asleep, and these bodies of ours will be committed to the silence of the grave. We must not dare to dread the sepulchre; where Christ has been, we may safely and honourably go. As I told you, the other day, he left the fine linen to be the furniture of our last bed; he left the napkin rolled up by itself, that weeping friends might dry their tears thereon; he left, beside, the myrrh and aloes, about one hundred pounds’ weight, which Nicodemus brought. I never heard that they were taken away from the tomb; Jesus left them there, and they still shed their sweet fragrance throughout the graves of all his saints. We are not going to a noisome vault, but to a perfumed chamber, hung with the fine linen sheets that encompassed the Christ, and odorous with the spices that shed their sweetness upon him. To die, is now our gain; to sleep in Jesus, is to be blest indeed.

     I may add, also, that I think our Lord was buried so that, from his tomb, he might leap to his throne. He goes to the lowest depths that thence he may rise to the loftiest heights. You, too, believer, may go as low as the grave, but you can never go any lower, and when you are at your lowest, you are then on your way to your highest. Your Lord stooped to conquer, so must you. You will have won the victory over death when you lie, stark and cold, upon your last bed. The adversary may think that he has defeated you,—

“When silent is your pleading tongue
And blind that piercing eye,”

and inactive that once diligent hand, but it is not so; you shall then have broken loose from everything that hinders you from entering upon your highest service for your Lord, and you shall have entered that holy place where you shall see his face, and serve him day and night in his glorious temple.

     I like to think of Jesus as going down into the lowest parts of the earth, when I remember that he that descended is the same who also ascended. This should encourage us to feel that, sink as we may, lower and yet lower still, we shall rise all the higher because of that sinking, and shall enter still more completely into fellowship with Christ both in his sufferings and in his glory. It was needful, then, my brother, that there should be a new tomb in the garden close by Golgotha, and that our Lord should lie there. It is a very wonderful thing that he, whose face is the light of heaven, whose hands are sceptred with the government of the universe, and whose very feet are sandalled with the stars, should yet bear the image of death upon his pale countenance, and should lie there lifeless, to be handled by others, and to be wrapped as any other dead man might be, in fine linen and sweet spices.

     But my subject at this time is concerning the wonderful working of God with regard to the burial of Jesus. The providence of God began with the body of Christ from the very first, even from his conception; and it followed him right to the last, even to his burial. You see the holy Child in the manger, and you notice how all things round about minister strangely to him. Throughout his life, all things worked together for his good; not to screen him from suffering, but to cause him to suffer, and to make him triumphant through those sufferings. And when he came to die, I see the finger of God displayed at every part of that dread tragedy; but now that he is dead, will that kind providence forsake him? Ah, no!

     I want to stop here, and say to you who anxiously ask, “What will become of me when I die? I am so very poor and needy,”— never think about that matter; you have enough to do to trust God till you die. As to what is to become of your body when you are dead, never fret about that. It is wonderful how God does take care of the very dust and ashes of his chosen, how, sometimes, they receive in death respect and honour which they never thought would have come to them, and after they have passed away, their children and their household are blessed of God for their sake. The God of the living forsakes not his saints in dying, or after death. As Ruth would cleave to Naomi, and said, “Where thou diest, I will die, and there will I be buried,” so, with greater faithfulness, does God cleave to his people; he will see them buried, and take care of their children after they are gone. This is his comforting promise, “Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let thy widows trust in me.”

     Now let me remind you how God took care of the Firstborn among many brethren. Jesus is dead, and in the hands of wicked men; the executioners have him in their charge, those same executioners, who just now broke the legs of the two thieves, have hold of Christ; but that precious body must be preserved, not a bone of him must be broken, no disrespect must be paid to that immaculate Being. Death and hell would have revelled in insulting Christ’s body if they could. As Achilles dragged Hector by the heels round the walls of Troy, so would Satan have liked that men should have mauled the dead body of Christ. He would have cast him to the dogs or to the kites if he could have had his way; but so it must not be. Many a man who has been a prince has been buried with the burial of an ass; but this great Saviour, whom men despised, must have a royal funeral: how is he to have it? That is the point I wish to bring to your notice now; and, before I have finished my discourse, I hope I shall be able to prove to you that everything required for Christ’s burial was supplied.

     I. The first requisite was, SOMEONE TO OBTAIN THE BODY.

     The law has executed Jesus, though wrongfully, and his body therefore belongs to the executioner, or, at any rate, to the law. Who is to rescue that precious body from the clutches of the law? Ah! you may look your eyes out, but you cannot see the man who can accomplish this task; yet God knows where he is. There is one Joseph, who has an estate at Arimathaea, a wealthy man, a member of the Sanhedrim, “an honourable counsellor.” He appears upon the scene, and he is the right man to do what is required, for he is a secret disciple. He has great respect for that dead body; for he had great regard for Jesus while he was alive. As we look Joseph up and down, we say, “Yes, if he will do his best, he is the very man for this emergency.” He is under great arrears of obligation to his Lord, whom he scarcely owned in his lifetime; yet he is a real disciple. Joseph, if thou canst do anything in this matter, we give thee this solemn charge, go and get the body of Christ.

     He was, besides, an official, and influential; therefore he could gain an entrance where a private person could not; and what was still more to the point with such a man as Pilate, he was a rich man, for in those days, in the courts, everything went by favour. The poor man’s cause might be just, yet he could not secure a hearing; but the gold in a rich man’s hand would speak more loudly than the most convincing arguments upon a poor man’s tongue. So this secret disciple is the one to beg the body of Jesus, because he is an honourable counsellor, and also because he is rich. If he is willing to undertake the task, he is the man to accomplish it.

     But my heart misgives me, for Joseph has been secretly a disciple, and therefore I conclude that he must be very timid. During the last two years or so, he has been really a follower of Christ, and yet he has kept in the council. He has been a member of the Sanhedrim, yet he has not spoken out against its evil deeds. Ah, me! I am afraid that he will not be able to go and speak to Pilate. But note, brethren, what Mark tells us about him: “Joseph of Arimathaea went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.” God can make a coward bold as a lion in the day when he needs him; and this good man, fall of honour, and abounding in wealth, said, “I will go to Pilate.” Why! this cruel vacillating governor will put a man to death if he aggravates him; who knows how this interview may end? But Joseph says, “I will go to Pilate.” He obtains admittance, and he asks for the body of Jesus. Pilate exclaims, “Why, he is not dead yet!” “Yes, he is,” answers Joseph, “I have seen him die.” When the centurion comes, he certifies that he is dead. Pilate cannot imagine what Joseph can want with a dead man’s bones, but he says, “You may have his body. Take him down, you may have him.” So Joseph comes back to the cross; he has proved that he was the very man for this work. We should never have thought of him, but God had him in reserve for the hour of need, and brought him to the front at the right moment.

     Now you see Joseph hurrying away from Pilate’s hall to the hill of Calvary, where the crosses are still standing. He has, in his hand, the order signed by the governor, he shows it to the officer in charge, and he is a man of such prominence, so well known as an honourable counsellor, an official gentleman, and a person of wealth, that everybody is ready to help him. He himself is probably first and foremost in raising the ladder, helping to pull out the great nails, and to let down the blessed body. He is the man for this work, for he is objectionable to nobody. He has been a counsellor, so that those on the side of the Sanhedrim do not object to him. The holy women stand watching him, but they have no fears as to his action; they know him, for he has probably done them many a kindness privately in days gone by; and they know that he has been a secret disciple of the Lord. He has brought with him fine white linen, which he was well able to buy, he reverently takes the body of Jesus down from the cross, and tenderly wraps it round with the costly winding-sheets which he has purchased; and so this trying business is finished without interference from anyone.

     I hope that these details do not seem trivial to you, for nothing is trivial that concerns our Lord and his cause. In the tabernacle and the temple, even the nails had to be duly prepared; and I think that, in this matter of providing a suitable person to go and get the body of Jesus out of the hand of the legal custodian, we ought to admire the wonderful goodness of God. Depend upon it, if, at any other time, there should be some great and terrible task to be accomplished, God will find the man to do it. If one shall be wanted, by-and-by, at peril of his life to bear witness for Christ, the right person will be found; and until this chapter of divine providence shall come to an end in our Lord’s eternal glory, there shall never be a crisis, however crucial, but the man shall be found whom God wants, or the woman who is to occupy the place which the Lord has for her to fill.

     Thus, Joseph has obtained the body of Jesus from the hands of Pilate, and he may do what he will with it; that is the first point.

     II. The next requisite is, SOMEONE TO BURY THE BODY.

     We do not want one man to carry away that body, and lay it in the grave, for such a person as Jesus should have an honourable funeral. Now see what happens. There is another man, also a counsellor, “a ruler of the Jews,” “a master of Israel,” yet another secret disciple who had come to Jesus by night; he appears just at this very moment: “There came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night.” Now we have two mourners for our Master’s funeral. James and John,— where are you? They cannot hear my question. Peter and Bartholomew, where are you? They are too far away; they cannot hear me. Who will follow the body of Jesus to the grave? Who will be chief mourner? There are some gracious women, brave enough to stand afar off, and willing enough, if beckoned, to come and join the sad cortege that attends the corpse to the tomb. But how honourable to Christ was it that the first two and the chief mourners on that sorrowful occasion should be two members of the Sanhedrim, Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus, two men of note, two reputable individuals who were held in honour even among the Jews who crucified Christ!

     First, let me say of these two men who attended the burial of our Lord, that they did him honour. Thus was fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy, “He made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.” All the while until Christ had paid the dreadful price of our redemption, he was despised and rejected of men; but as soon as ever he could say, “It is finished,” and the debt was fully paid, he must not be depised and rejected any more. Now, rich men must come and do him homage; and accordingly Joseph and Nicodemus came. It may seem only a little thing, but it indicates the turn of the tide, just as the floating of a straw may do. Jesus is no longer derided, nor even attended alone by the poorest and most obscure of Galileans; but Joseph from Arimathaea, and Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, attend the funeral of the great Lord and Saviour of men, and so pay such honour as they can to his dead body.

     While they thus did him honour, they received from him much more honour. Ah, my brethren, it was a great privilege that was accorded to these two men! I stand and wonder how it was that this position was allotted to two who had kept so long behind the scenes. They had lost— they had lost— I cannot tell you how much they had lost, two, perhaps three years of constant fellowship with Christ, and of instruction from his own dear lips; they had lost incalculably. They were in the rear of all Christ’s disciples; Mary Magdalene was in front of them, the woman that was a sinner was far ahead of them, they were right in the rear rank; yet their Master, in the splendour of his grace, gives them this privilege even while he himself lies dead, to them is accorded the high honour of handling his blessed flesh, and laying him in the tomb. I am afraid that some of you secret Christians, who never come out boldly for Christ, will not have such an honour as this. If the Lord ever uses you at all, it will be in some sad business, such as a funeral; and even that will be an honour to you, if you are permitted to attend him in his death though you have not shared the glory of his life. You lose— oh! you lose incalculable boons by not avowing your discipleship. Yet I pray that there may come a time, and that it may come at once, when even you will come out, and do what you can for your Lord, saying to yourself, “Now is the hour when oven I, timid as I am, must avow him.” When soul-murder is in your streets, when heresy is in your pulpits, when apostacy is in your churches, you are recreant to the last grain of your spiritual manhood if you who love Christ do not come out boldly on his side, and declare that you belong to him. If you never have confessed him before men, and you neglect this opportunity, wherein there is the greatest and most urgent of need, I fear that you will never own him at all.

     Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus were both wanted for this sad task; and though we should never have thought of inviting them to perform it, yet they were the only two men connected with Christ who wore exactly fitted for the office; and, as I have said, they thus honoured Christ, and he thus honoured them. I should also say, brethren, that among all the disciples, there were no more sincere mourners for Christ than these two men. I think that I hear Joseph fetch a deep sigh, and say, “Ah! Nicodemus, how wicked I have been, for I have not kept with Christ as I ought to have done! I ought to have gone with him to prison and to death; instead of that, I have been among the ungodly, rich and honoured.” “Ah!” says Nicodemus, “and I went to him by night, and he talked so sweetly to me, but I have been hiding away ever since, ashamed to touch this blessed bleeding hand; I realize that it is a high honour to be allowed to handle these dear feet, and to wrap the linen all about them, but I do not deserve such an honour, I am sure;” and they would stop, and weep, and sigh again, to think of how they had ill-treated their Lord, by what they may have thought was modesty, but which conscience now tells them was nothing else than shameful cowardice.

     And I do not think that, out of all Christ’s followers, there were any who would be more tender with that blessed body, for they were gentlemen. They were not countrymen or fishermen, used to handling and being handled roughly; they were of tenderer mould, and when they looked on that dear form, how gently would they treat it! Being also men of property, they would have many servants able to help them in all sorts of ways. In his wonderful interment, our Lord Jesus could not have been better attended, nor have been buried by men who would have performed the mournful duty with more solemn feelings, more hushed reverence. They loved him, yet felt that they had acted in an unloving manner towards him, and now also felt that the best they could possibly do was all too little for the blessed One who had sealed the forgiveness of their cowardice by permitting himself to be entrusted to their hands. I can see great love about this dead Christ, and great pity, and great kindness, that even his lifeless body should be giving life to the faith and hope of Joseph and Nicodemus, and should be firing them with fresh ardour. While they looked upon his corpse, they must have been compelled to resolve that never more would they be ashamed of him whom they had helped to lay in the grave.

     So far we have, in imagination, brought our Lord Jesus Christ into the hands of two most suitable persons to bury him.

     III. The next requisite is, THE MATERIALS NECESSARY FOR THE BURIAL. I feel

     The manner of the Jews is to bury the body wrapped in fine white linen; where is that? I do not believe that Peter has a yard of it anywhere, I hardly think that James and John have anything much finer than fishermen’s coats, and so forth. Fine linen,— let it be the best that can be bought, let it be white as snow, for wrapping around this perfect body; but where is it to be obtained? Joseph has it; he is a man of wealth, who can get anything that is wanted, and he has brought with him the best winding-sheets in which to wrap the Saviour’s body.  

     But we must also have mixed spices in abundance, fifty pounds’ weight at the least. “Oh!” says Nicodemus, “I have brought one hundred pounds’ weight with me, and if I could have found a conveyance, and more spices had not been superfluous, I would have brought many hundred pounds’ weight of myrrh and aloes, well mingled according to the art of apothecary, with which to surround that blessed form.”  

     See, my brothers, Christ wanted for nothing when he was dead; do you think that he will want for anything while he is alive? “Ah! but our little church, our poor cause, is wanting money badly, and we are going to get up a bazaar.” What! and you have not thought about going to your Lord for what you lack? The fact is, the Church of God has been looking to the devil to find funds for the Lord’s work, instead of seeking aid from the Lord himself. It is a pity that we cannot come back to him who, even when he was dead, had a hundred pounds’ weight of myrrh and aloes brought to him. Cannot we trust him for all that is required for his service? It will be a better and a brighter day for the Church when she believes that, if Christ wants myrrh and aloes, he can get them. Does not the Lord say, “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine Every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. . . . If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof”? Let us go forth to fight the Lord’s battles without any doubts concerning the commissariat of his army. He can provide, and he will provide; only let us trust him, and not go down to Egypt for help, nor lean upon an arm of flesh.

     As Nicodemus gave so freely to the dead Christ, how generously ought you and I to give to our living Lord! If we have anything in the world, let us give it all up to Christ. Even if we have nothing left but a grave, which we have provided for our own funeral, yet let us surrender that, as Joseph did when he gave up his new tomb that his Lord and Master might lie therein.

     Thus, you see, that all that is needed for Christ’s burial is there already. So I leave that part of our subject, and go on to the next.

     IV. Another requisite is, A PLACE WHEREIN TO BURY THE BODY. We have the body, Pilate has given us that; we have the spices and the fine linen; and we have the two men ready to bury the body; now we want a tomb.

     It would be very convenient, and also very important, if we could get a sepulchre near at hand; because, you see, if the body of Christ had to be carried a long way to be buried, the Jews would say, “Ah! they changed it on the road; they took it a mile or two out of the city, and the Christ who rose from the dead is not the Christ that was buried.” But here, just at the bottom of this rocky scarp which is called Golgotha, there is a garden, and in that garden there is a tomb. Mark the providence of God in this matter, for that tomb belongs to Joseph, and there the Saviour’s body is lovingly laid. He did not, and he could not, lack a tomb when it was required; when the time came for him to be buried, the sepulchre was there already prepared, hewn out of the rock.

     It would be also a great advantage if it could be a new tomb, wherein never was anybody buried; for if they buried him in an old tomb, the Jews would say that he had touched the bones of some prophet or other holy man, and so came to life. Ah! well, Joseph’s is a new tomb; there are no bones there, for nobody has ever been buried there before.

     It would seem, too, to be the proper thing for our Lord to have a tomb in a rock. You cannot fitly put him in sand who is himself the Bock of Ages. Nay, let our Lord Jesus, with that grand immutable love and eternal faithfulness of his, let him lie in the solid rock. There it is, all ready for him, just the very kind of tomb that is wanted for him who is the Bock of our salvation.

     If it should also be a tomb in a garden, there would be a touch of familiar beauty about that arrangement. One likes that the very surroundings of Christ’s grave should be instructive. I cannot stop to tell you about all the beauty and the instruction which cluster around a garden; the gardens of Scripture especially are most fruitful subjects, and our Lord’s garden-tomb might suggest to us a most profitable theme for meditation.

     Thus, Christ’s tomb is the very thing we would wish for him. In no second-hand grave, in no town fosse, in no pauper’s grave dug out of the earth, but in a rich man’s sepulchre, worthy of a king, it is there that the Christ must lie. See how God provides for his Son, and learn how he will provide for you. If he provides for his Son when dead, he will provide for you while living; therefore be you comforted whatever your condition may be.

     V. There is one more difficulty, and perhaps it is the worst of all, for it concerns THE TIME FOR THE BURIAL. You see, it is very late in the afternoon, and besides, it is the “preparation” for a very important Sabbath, and these good people cannot do any work on the Sabbath, their consciences will not permit them to do so, for they are strict Jews. But it so happened that they obtained the body just in time to wrap it round about with the spices and with the linen, and then we are told, “There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.” To me, it is a very pretty thought that, when there was so little time, the place of burial was so near. It would have taken all the lingering twilight to have carried Jesus far, but the right place was near. Providence knew all about the difficulty, and provided for it.

     Next, they could not take much time with the body, and the ceremony was the more fitting for Christ’s rising. Beloved, whenever you cannot do anything for your Lord as you would like to do it, do the best you can, and you may depend upon it that you have done just what ought to be done. “Oh, no!” they say, “Oh, no! we would have liked to have wrapped him up much more leisurely, and more delicately; we would have made a finished work of embalming that precious body.” Listen: nothing more was wanted. Jesus was not going to be in the sepulchre long. God’s Holy One could not see corruption. He did not need to be embalmed, for he was to be up again so soon, and therefore a hurried burial was quite sufficient.

     Listen again: there is another thing worth mentioning. The incompleteness brought them early to the sepulchre. If they do not finish their task of love on the evening of the crucifixion, they will be there early in the morning, when the Sabbath is over, to complete it. That was precisely what was wanted, that, as soon as the Master was risen, on that first day of the week, they should be there to see him; but they would not have been there to see him, perhaps, if they had not come, as the holy women did, with more spices to finish the work which had been, comparatively speaking, so roughly and hurriedly done on that dread evening.

     It was all right; and I drew much comfort and joy out of this fact when I was thinking it over. I said to myself, “Sometimes, I am so oppressed with the care of the many things entrusted to me that I cannot study my sermon as I would like.” Perhaps it is all the better for that; the Master does not want studied sermons. It may be also that it suits the hearer all the better. If you cannot bury Christ as you would like to because there is not time, when you have done the best that you could, and sorrowed over it, you have done the very thing that your Lord wants you to do. Rest you content with that, and just say to yourself, “He takes the will for the deed, and all my blunderings and mistakes he overlooks because I did it all out of love for his dear name.”

     I have talked thus to you about Christ’s dead body. Oh, that I had an opportunity of speaking to you about him as the living Lord! But as I cannot, for our time is gone, I would ask you just to stoop down, and in faith and love to kiss those wounds, admire that pierced hand, that other hand, that nailed foot, that other foot, that side with the spear gash, and that dear face with closed eyes, and then say, “He bore all this for me; what have I done for him?” God bless you! Amen.



Guidance to Grace and Glory

By / Oct 4

Guidance to Grace and Glory

 

“Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.”— Psalm lxxiii. 24.

 

THE psalmist here evidently perceives that his Lord is near; he does not so much speak of God as to him: “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel.” You know what the French call, tutoyage,— thou-ing and thee-ing; there is something of that kind of language in the text, a speaking in tones of hallowed familiarity with God. As if the Lord were just close by, the psalmist says to him, “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory;” not in the way of prayer asking God to do so, but in childlike confidence expressing the conviction that it shall be so, and rejoicing in the blessed assurance of it. “Thou shalt,— I know thou wilt, I am sure of it, I have firm reliance on it, and I bless thee for it,— ‘Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.’” It is not every man who can talk like that, and it is not every believing man who has yet attained confidence enough to dare to speak so. It is well if you can only pray that this may be the case with you; but the sweetness lies in grasping this truth with a childlike delight, and with unfaltering faith believing it to be yours: “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.”

     The psalmist had been, to some extent, finding fault with the providence of God. There had been, in his mind, a quarrel with God’s proceedings. He saw the wicked in great power, having all their wishes and desires gratified in every way, while he himself was sorely plagued and chastened, and he could not quite understand it; but now, even though he does not comprehend it, he yields to God’s superior judgment, he lays aside his own logic, and his arguments, and he says, “No, Lord, I will no longer be a debater, but thou shalt guide me; I will no longer look for present joy, I will look to that which is to come afterward. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward shall come my brilliant days, my times of joy, afterward thou wilt receive me to glory.” You see that, after drifting about for a while, the psalmist has come to a good anchorage. He has found a resting-place, as the birds do, when, after wandering away, they fly back to their nest; and he sings, “Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.” Sitting down once more at the feet of his Lord, he looks up into those dear, tender, loving, watchful eyes, and he says, “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. My discussions are all over now; my questions are at an end; I will rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him, and my soul shall be content with his will whatever it is.” I pray that what the Holy Spirit may lead me to say upon my text may have an effect something like that upon any tempest-tossed spirits here. May they also be brought to rest in the Lord!

     First, dear friends, I will speak concerning the conviction which led the psalmist to take a guide; secondly, I will say a little upon the confidence which led him to take God for his Guide; thirdly, I will talk to you about the delightful commerce between the psalmist and his God, which began when God had become his Guide, and continued throughout his life; and then the fourth point, which shall be our finis, shall be, the sure result of this guidance: “Thou shalt afterward receive me to glory.”

     I. First, then, concerning THE CONVICTION WHICH LED THE PSALMIST TO TAKE A GUIDE. Happily for him, that conviction came very early. If I am to have a guide on my journey, I should like to have one at the beginning, for it is the starting that has so much to do with all the rest of the way. If I start due south, when I ought to have gone north, I shall have to retrace many a weary step. Dear young friends, if you can have God to be your Guide now, in the morning of life, how happy you will be! It will influence for good the whole of your future existence, depend upon it. As the river is coloured by the glacier from which it flows, and never, even when larger and deeper, quite loses the whiteness of its mountain source, so, if you begin with God at the fountain-head and spring of life, there will be a peculiar charm around your pathway as long as ever you live. Permit to say that I have found it so myself. I can say to my Lord, and do often say it, “O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works. Now also when I am old and grey-headed, O God, forsake me not.” There is a sweet plea when years multiply upon you, if you can say to the Lord,—

“In early years thou wast my Guide,
And of my youth the Friend.”

     David began to experience divine guidance while he was a shepherd boy, and it was well for him that it was so; but why did he ever feel that he needed a guide? I suppose it was because of a work of grace upon his heart; for, naturally, we do not like being guided. The mother’s apron-strings grow irksome to the young man when he finds the down coming upon his cheek; he will have his own way; is it not manly to be one’s own master? Allow me to say that there is no master worse; you had better serve the greatest tyrant than be your own master. But it is often thus with the young; at first, they call it liberty to have their own way; and it is only when the grace of God softens and sobers them, when he gives the young men wisdom, knowledge, and discretion, that they begin to dream that they need a guide. I heard a good old man speak, the other day. He was a doctor of divinity, and I introduced him to the children, in a somewhat jocose manner, by telling them that he was a doctor of divinity, and that doctors of divinity knew everything, and a few things beside; but when he began to speak, he said, “My dear children, I do not know everything; but I will tell you one thing that I do know, I do know that I do not know much. I have been a long time learning it; but I have at last learnt that I do not know much;” and when he had expatiated upon that, he said, “and, dear children, I have learnt another thing; I do know that I am not fit to take care of myself. I wonder,” he added, “whether all the boys and girls here have yet come to that conviction, that they are not fit to take care of themselves, and that they need somebody to lead them all the way through life.” It is a fine piece of knowledge when you have learned as much as that. I do pray that all who are young may learn it soon, and that others who, by painful experience, begin to see that they are not quite as wise as they thought they were, will come to the conclusion that they are not fit to manage themselves after all, and that they want a higher power, a wiser eye, a keener mind, a mightier hand, a supremer will, to govern them than any that they have of their own.

     I suppose that the psalmist said to the Lord, “Thou shalt guide me,” because he had been convinced of his own folly, and therefore felt that it was well to commit himself into wiser hands; and also that he had obtained some knowledge of the difficulties of the way. The way of life is a trying one to most people; to many, it is very difficult. To those who find it easy, it is probably less so than to those who find it difficult. It is a very unfriendly world to live in if you have to fight with poverty, or if you have to work hard to provide sufficient for the day’s needs; but I question whether it is not a worse world to the man who has not to work, and who has all that heart can wish. The most perilous position for a young man to be placed in is, very early in life, to have a large income, with nobody to check him in spending it, and to be permitted to do just whatever he likes. Oh! those very smooth ways, how many slip therein, who might have stood, perhaps, had the road been rougher! But to no one of us is the path of life an easy one, if we desire to be pure, and clean, and upright, and accepted with God. He is indeed a fool who attempts to walk in that way without a guide. Look at yourself, full of folly; look at the way, full of pitfalls and dangers of every kind; and you may well stop, and say, “I must have a guide, I dare not go alone a step further on such a perilous path.”

     No doubt the psalmist had seen others set out without a guide, and he had heard of their falls, and of their ruin. You have not lived long, young man; but you have been in the world long enough to have seen or to have heard of many who seemed likely to be great and good, who nevertheless have come to an evil end. That will be your portion, too, as well as theirs, if you venture to walk in this difficult way without a guide.

     The psalmist’s desire to have a guide, also showed his great anxiety to be right. I wish that all men began life with an earnest desire to act rightly in it; and that each one would say, “I shall never live this life again, I should like to make it a good one so far as I can.” Since you cannot come back to mend it; but, as it is, it will have to be presented before the great Judge of all, seek to do that which is right each day, and to obey your God every hour you live. If this were the intense desire of every one of us, we should be driven at once to this conclusion, “I must have a guide. I want to live a glorious life; and if I am to do so, I must be helped in it, for I am incompetent for the task by myself.”

     I am merely giving you the outline of a sermon; I have not time to fill it up, so now I leave this first point, the conviction which led the psalmist to take a guide.

     II. Secondly, let us think of THE CONFIDENCE WHICH LED HIM TO TAKE GOD AS HIS GUIDE. If we were but in our right senses, we should all do so.

     A man, looking about wisely for a guide, will prefer to have the very best; and is not God, who is infinitely wise, the best Guide that we can have? Who questions it? Is not the Lord also the most loving, the most tender, the most considerate, the most fatherly of all beings who can be chosen as a guide? Wisdom, when attended with discourtesy and unfeeling roughness, may be shunned by us; but divine wisdom, dressed in robes of love and tenderness, invites us to run into her arms. Choose God, I pray you, because he so well knows the way, and because he has such a tender love for poor trembling humanity.

     Choose him also because of his constant, unceasing, infallible care. If I choose a guide who may die on the road, I am likely to be unhappy; but God will never die. If I choose a guide who, being my friend at the starting, will not care for me when I have advanced half way on my journey, I am unwise in my choice; but God cannot change, he will ever be the same. If I had to ascend the Alps, and I selected a guide who could help me over the easy portions of the road, but would be unable to aid me in the more difficult parts of it, I should again be unhappy. The Lord is a Guide who will never fail, and never alter, and never die. Oh, thou art wise indeed if thou wilt say to him, “My God, thou shalt guide me with thy counsel”!

     But will God guide us? Well, it were in vain to choose him if he would not; but of all beings God is most easy of access. You know how it is with some of us who are very, very, very busy, and who scarcely ever have a moment’s rest at all from the rising of the sun till far into the night. There is a knock at the door; there is another knock at the door; there is another; and at last, if we are to be prepared for our public duties, we are obliged to say that we cannot be seen, we must have a little time to ourselves, But there is never an hour when God cannot be seen, never a moment when his door will not open to any who come to ask advice of him; and God is everywhere, so that, wherever you are, you can find him; not only in the place where you bow the knee in private prayer, but out on the exchange, amid the throng of men, or in the streets, or on the omnibus, or in the ship at sea, or in the flying train, anywhere, and everywhere. A breath, an aspiration will find him; or—

“The upward glancing of an eye,”

a sigh, an unexpressed desire, and thou hast come to him at once; and he has servants everywhere to do the bidding of his love when we have sought his help.

     The psalmist was truly wise in saying to the Lord, “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel.” Dear friends, are you equally wise in that way? I see young men and young women here in considerable numbers; will not each of you say, “Yes, Lord, it is even so; from this 4th of October, my heart says to thee, ‘Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel’”?

     III. Now I must pass on to my third point, only skimming the. surface of the subject. Think of THE HEAVENLY COMMERCE WHICH NOW BEGINS BETWEEN THE SOUL AND ITS GUIDE.

     How does God guide men? Here let me warn you against the superstitions which some persons use with the idea that God will guide them in that way. Above all, avoid the superstition which some practise by opening the Bible at random in the hope of being guided by the text which comes first to sight. You will be often misled if you act thus. The heathen acted so with Virgil, and I think the heathen were, in that respect, better than Christians, because, when they played the fool, they did it with Virgil, and not with God’s Book. Do not so, I pray you. One of these days you may open at this text, “He went and hanged himself,” and if you are not satisfied with that passage, you may open the Bible at another place, and find it written, “Go, and do thou likewise;” but that will not excuse you if you commit suicide. Nothing can be more wicked and absurd than such a practice as that.

     How, then, does God guide us? First, by the general directions of his Word. You want to know what God would have you to do. Nine times out of ten, look to the Ten Commandments, and you will at least know what you must not do; and knowing what you must not do, you will be able to conclude what you may do. There are some wonderfully plain directions in God’s Word as to all manner of circumstances and conditions. You may often imitate the saints of old, and you may always imitate their Master; and in imitating Christ, you will know what to do. This is the question that will guide you as to your course of action,— What would Jesus Christ have done if he had been in my circumstances? Apart from his Godhead, in which you cannot copy him, what would the Man Christ Jesus have done? Do that; for it is sure to be the wisest thing. So, first, be guided by the general directions given in God’s Word.

     The next way of guidance is, that there are great principles infused m every man who takes God for his Guide. Among the rest, there are principles like this: avoid everything that is evil. That one direction-post will often stop you, and show you which way you ought not to go, because, if there is anything wrong about the road, however profitable it may seem to be, however easy and pleasant it is, and, above all, however customary it is for others to go that way, you must not travel along it. There are many in the broad road, but you must not make one more. “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” You keep to the narrow way, and you will be in the right road.

     The next general principle of our holy religion is, that we ought to live for the glory of God alone. You could not have a much better guide than such questions as these: “What action would reflect most honour upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ? Which course would be most creditable to my religious profession? Which would be likely to do most good?” Follow that rule; it is almost equal to the Urim and Thummim of the high priest if you have these questions to guide you.

     You are bidden also to show love to your fellow-men. If you are in a difficulty about two courses of action, do the more loving of the two, that by which you can most deny yourself, and most benefit your fellow-creatures, especially with reference to their salvation. Thus, by infusing principles of disinterestedness, principles of faith in God, principles of humility and contentment, the Word of God and the Spirit of God supply us with directions on the road we are to travel.

     Next to this, God guides his people on the way of life by giving a certain balance of the faculties. When we come to God in penitence, when we are born again of the Spirit, and live by faith in Christ, then, first of all, fear is banished, and faith takes its place. We are then better able to judge which is the right road. “There were they in great fear, where no fear was.” Many a man has done wrong because he had not the courage to do right; but you who have been born again have not the spirit of fear, but the spirit of love, and courage, and faith, and you have a sound mind, so that thus you are guided aright. By your faculties being left undisturbed by fear, your mental balance is maintained.

     Obstinancy is a shocking thing as a guide in life; young men have resolved that they will do so and so if they die for it. Yes, but the grace of God dethrones obstinancy, and gives us in its place acquiescence in the divine will. Bowing with submission to the will of God, by that very fact we are furnished with unerring guidance.

     Haste, too, is the author of a great deal of mischief in human life. Men are in such a hurry that they make all manner of mistakes; but the habit of praying about everything is in itself a great guide. You have to stop a while, and the very stopping lets you see more than you would have seen in your hurry. The habit of praying before you leap leads to the habit of looking before you leap; and then, when you perceive that you cannot leap, prayer gives you enough of prudence to resolve that you will go round some other way. Thus you are wisely guided in life.

     Above all, the grace of God guides us very much by the dethroning of self as the traitorous lord of our being, and makes us loyal to Christ. When a man acts out of loyalty to Christ, he is pretty sure to act very wisely and rightly. On this point alone I should have liked to have had an hour’s talk with you, but I must draw my remarks to a close.

     I believe that, over and above this infusion of right principles, and balancing of the faculties, there is a special illumination of mind which comes from dwelling near to God. Everybody knows how near akin sin is to insanity. Well, now, remember that holiness is as near akin to perfect wisdom as sin is to insanity; and when you yield yourself to the holy influences of God’s presence, you shall have given to you what men call “shrewd common-sense”, but what is really an illumination produced in your mind by getting near to God, and being made like him.

     And, lastly, I believe that, at the very worst times, when all these things will fail you as a guide, you may expect mysterious impulses, for which you can never account, which will come to you, and guide you aright. There are many stories, which I should like to have told, relating to instances in which men of God have been directed, by some strange impulse on their minds, to do things which they had never thought of doing; and what they have done has turned out to be for the saving of life, or for deliverance from great evils. Oh, yes! if you live near to God, he will say to you things that he will not tell to anybody else. There are monitions of the Spirit, which come to men who deal intimately with the Invisible, that do not come to everybody; only let not every fool who gets a silly notion into his head run away with the idea that it came from God. Only this week, a young man said to me, “You believe the Bible, sir?” “Yes, I believe the Bible, certainly.” “Do you believe what God says?” “Certainly I do.” “Well,” he said, “I had a revelation, the other night, and a voice said to me, ‘Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it.’” “All right,” I said; and he then said to me, “That door leads into your College, and you are to take me in.” I replied, “So I will when I get a revelation that I am to do so; but, you see, the revelation, whatever it is worth, has only come to you, and I shall not let you in till I have one to the same effect.” I have a notion that I shall never have that revelation, and that he himself received it, not from God’s Word, but through a slight aperture in his cracked brain. There are many persons who get revelations of that kind, to which we pay no sort of attention. The mysterious impulses that I mean come only to those who are really serving God, and who, in closely waiting upon him, find that “the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant.”

     IV. But I must finish my discourse. The finis was to be, THE SURE RESULT OF THIS GUIDANCE: ‘‘Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.”

     On earth, there is no real glory for us unless we are guided by God’s counsel. There is no true glory for any man who takes his own course; but glory is for those of you who put your hand into the hand of the great Father, and pray him to forgive all your iniquities for Christ’s sake, and to lead you in the way everlasting. Afterward, he will receive you to glory.

     This is a delightful thought, but I can now only answer this one question. When we die, who will receive us into glory? Well, I do not doubt that the angels will. John Bunyan’s description of the shining ones, who come down to the brink of the river to help the pilgrims up on the other side of the cold stream, I doubt not is all true; but the text tells us of somebody better than the angels who will come and receive us. Our dying prayer to our Lord will be, “Into thy hands I commend my spirit,” and his answer will be, “I receive thee to glory.” Our heavenly Father stands watching for the moment when our redeemed spirit shall pass into his hands that he may receive it. Our Saviour, who bought us with his precious blood, stands waiting to receive the jewel for which he paid so dear a price. The Spirit of God, who dwelleth in us, is also waiting to perfect the work which he has carried on so long, and to lift us up into the blessedness of the eternal city.

     Oh, how I wish that every person here, who has not yet yielded himself or herself to Christ, would do so now! Breathe silently these words before you quit the pew; I will give you a second or two in which to do it: “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.” Bow your heads, and let that prayer be offered.

*        *        *        *        *        *

     Lord, thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory! For Jesus’ sake, accept this resolve! Amen.



Once Dead, Now Alive

By / Sep 30

Once Dead, Now Alive

 

“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.”— Ephesians ii. 1.

 

I PREACHED to you, this morning, the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, and its various bearings; but unless you have experienced spiritual resurrection, you do not understand that doctrine, and you cannot grasp its meaning. Spiritual resurrection may be understood in theory; but it cannot be really comprehended until we ourselves have been raised out of spiritual death. Ever remember that, in the things of God, knowledge is only to be gained by personal experience. If you would understand regeneration, you must be born again. If you would understand faith, simple as it is, you must yourselves believe.

     To-night, I want to give you another exposition of spiritual quickening as it is described in my text: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” There are three things about which I am going to speak to you; first, you were dead; secondly, some of you have been quickened; and, thirdly, of those of you who have been quickened it can be truly said that you are now alive.

     I. First, then, YOU WERE DEAD.

     I think that I must, in imagination, take you into that death-chamber. The blinds are all drawn down, there is a great hush about the room; here is a coffin; it is covered with a white cloth, turn it back gently, and stand with me, and look at the person who lies sleeping there. He is dead. Alas! there is woe in the family, for the brother is dead. Here is the terribly true picture of what we were by nature; I mean, what we all were, and what many still are. God grant that they may be delivered from this sad condition!

     To find out what spiritual death means, I shall ask you to remember that this dead body here is characterized by an absence of sense. Be not afraid, it is your brother man; come close up to him, and speak. He does not hear you. Speak more loudly; he does not answer you, he gives no sign of recognition. Shout at the very top of your voice; stoop down, and speak into his ear. Alas! it is the clay-cold ear of death, upon which no effect whatever is produced. I remember when I was spiritually just like that. I could not hear even the voice of Jesus, though it was very soft and tender. He said, “Come unto me,” but I did not respond to his call. There were others near me who did; but I was dead, and took no notice. Then there came a louder sound, a voice of threatening, a message of condemnation. God spoke from the top of Sinai, and hurled at me the ten great thunderbolts of his law; yet still I did not hear. I had broken all those commands, and I must bear the penalty of disobedience; the law told me so, but I did not hear. Friends led me, sometimes, dead as I was, where both the law and the gospel were fully preached; but I did not hear, I could not hear. Sounds went past the drum of my ear, and my body heard; but the ear of my heart was not reached, I could not hear, for I was dead.

     Let us see if our friend in the coffin can see. Here, lift up the coffin-lid, wave a lighted candle before his eyes; pull up that blind, let in the sunlight. He does not see; and he cannot see. There are none so blind as the dead; and there was a time with me,— and I use myself sorrowfully as an example,— when I could not see. I could not see my Lord, I could not see his love, I could not see his bleeding heart, I could not see his thorn-crowned head, I saw no beauty in the altogether-lovely One. I was wrapped up in my own worldly pleasure, and in myself, and I was not alive unto God. Ah, me! this is indeed death, to be unable to hear or to see.

     Can this dead body perceive anything by smelling? Here, bring that smelling-bottle, and place it close to the man’s nostrils. It contains the strongest volatile salts, that would make the tears come to some of our eyes; but it does not affect him. Burn the rarest incense, fill the chamber with the smoke, yet he recks nothing as to what sweet perfume is in the room. And well do I remember when my mother told me that there had been much unction about the sermon, and my father said that the Lord was there, and that it was as when one breaketh a box of ointment, and the house is filled with the sweetest odours; but I protest to you that I discerned nothing of its fragrance. There was to me no spiritual sweetness, no subtle delight about the doctrines of the gospel, for I was dead.

     Perhaps this man may have lost the power of sight, and hearing, and smelling; but yet he may be alive. Let us see if he has any sense of taste. Bring hither the most nauseous drug, or give me gall and wormwood, and I will put a few drops on his lips. These things are not loathsome to him. Now let us try sugar and honey, and all things that are luscious and sweet. Evidently, you might as well lay these things upon a slab of marble, for the dead man has no taste for them. It was just so with me spiritually. I knew not, in those days, the sweetness of the gospel of Christ, nor even the bitterness of sin. I had no taste, for I was dead; and that is what you all were, my brothers and sisters. That is what some are who are sitting at your side in the pew, dead, having no taste for heavenly joys.

     But, perhaps, after all, these senses may be gone, and yet life may remain. Let us see if the man can feel; let me press his hand very gently. No, he does not press mine in return. I will stoop down, and kiss the face of this my brother; but there is no smile upon his countenance, though he would have smiled in other days. He is dead; and he can feel nothing of pain or joy. It is a dreadful thing to be sitting in God’s house, as perhaps some of you are, feeling nothing whatever. I would give my eyes, nay, I would give even my life to save this company if I knew how to speak so as to reach men’s hearts; but there is no mode of human language that can make a dead heart live, or make a stony heart to beat with the pulsations of life. This comes from another and a higher power than mine. But, apart from the operations of the Spirit of God, all are by nature dead, and this is what some of you are even now, spiritually dead, and therefore devoid of holy senses.

     There is another test that we may apply, to see if there is an absence of desire. I will speak to this dead man, and say, “Friend, you lie here dead; do you know it? You who cannot feel, or hear, or see, do you wish to live? Do you desire to live? There is no answer to my question; but I can tell you that, because he is dead, he does not even desire to live; and this, too, is the state of many spiritually. They have not any wish after heavenly things. You are quite content if you have money enough to pay your way, or if you have enough to enjoy yourself at the theatre, or in some worldly gaiety; but as for God, and Christ, and heaven, these may all go for anything that you care. You have no desire for them, you are dead, and dead to the very things for which men were made to live, and by which alone men do live. You are dead, and you have no desire after life.

     Shall I speak to the corpse again? It is no use, for the man has no senses, and no desire. Beside that, there is an absence of power. Has not this man the power to get life, the power to do something good? I lift his hand; it drops down powerless. I try the other hand; it is no sooner up than it falls down again. It is evidently useless to attempt to force him to any action, for he is without power. We also were “without strength.” Oh, how can this dead man live if he can do nothing towards making himself alive? I will tell you that by-and-by; but, meanwhile, this is an essential part of death, that the man is “without strength.”

     Further, in those who are naturally or spiritually dead there is an absence of fellowship with the living. If this man cannot do anything for himself, let us get him up, and dress him. Come hither, good woman, you who washed him, come, and put on his best clothes, and make him sit up. It was not long ago that we saw the picture of a dead emperor lying dressed in his warrior’s garments; so dress this man up in his Sunday suit, and let him sit at the table with his wife and children. You shudder at the suggestion, and tell me that it is impossible. Yet the Egyptians set a skeleton at their feasts, so as to remind themselves of death, and it was not altogether unwise; but if I had my choice of a place at the table, I should not elect to have our bony friend next to me; and I think that, if the dead were seated at our festivals, we should all naturally shrink from that part of the table. Thus you can see what death does spiritually; it shuts you out of fellowship with the living people of God. You were in a room, the other night, where there were half-a-dozen Christian people; and you said to yourself, “This is about the dullest evening I have ever spent.” You went to a service, the other day, where there was much prayer, and you made fun of it when you came away, it was so dreary to you. Yes, of course it was; and if you were condemned to go to heaven,— no, I have not made a mistake, I mean what I say,— if you were condemned to go to heaven, it would be a hell to you. You would not be able to endure that constant praise of God, that perpetual adoration of him, which is the occupation of the blessed; you would have no heart for that. “Let me out,” you would say, “I had rather go to my own place than stop here.” Thus, you see, you are dead; and the dead are shut out from fellowship with the living.

     Then, once more, there are tokens of decay. We will not take this man from the coffin, we will let him lie there. Look at him; it is now four days since he was pronounced to be dead. I noticed, when I came into the room just after his death, that his face looked perhaps more sweet than it did during his lifetime. It often happens that, when the time of the extreme pain which brought on death has come altogether to an end, the face seems to regain its former sweetness, which was obliterated by the pain, and the man looks more beautiful than before; and often the countenance appears restful, though the heart before death was full of anguish. Yes, but that was a little while after death when I noticed this sweet expression of face. How is it with the corpse four days, five days, say, six days after death? Ah, me! come, undertaker, screw this coffin-lid down; it is not meet that any other eye should look at this ghastliness, or that anyone else should see those tokens of decay. It is just so spiritually. The young man, who is dead in sin, may, under his mother’s care at home, look very beautiful; there may be no trace of spiritual death about him. You might think him, and he may think himself, better than a great many Christians. Have I not heard him say that it is so? But give him time to show what he really is. Bring him to London; place him in a large warehouse; let him go out in the evening, and let there be nobody to meet him but the strange woman. Ah, within how short a time the destructiveness of horrible sin may be seen in his character! Could that fond mother, who sent him from her fireside comparatively pure, see what he has become, she might almost say, “Bury him out of my sight.” This is the way we were all going to decay till our Lord Jesus appeared to us, and stopped the corruption by dethroning death, and putting spiritual life into us through faith in himself.

     I think that, perhaps, I have said enough on that part of my subject, so I will not take you to that death-chamber again.

     II. Now, in the second place, dear friends, to all who have believed in Christ it can be truly said, “YOU HAVE BEEN QUICKENED.” So the text says, “You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.”

     Do you recollect how that happened? I can only speak about myself in such a matter as this, because one man cannot enter into another’s experience; but I think that what I see in myself, you have seen in yourselves, you who are alive unto God. There came a time when I began to live. I recollect it well; I can not only remember when the new life first came into my soul, but I can distinctly recall the first effect of it. I am told that, when a man has been drowning, and he begins to return to consciousness, when they rub him back to sentient life, the first sensation is that of exquisite pain as the blood begins to flow again in the channels in which it had been quiescent. When the life-blood began to flow in my heart spiritually, it gave me nothing but pain. I was lost, and I felt that it was so. I was not dead, was I, if I felt? Then I heard the gospel, and I did hear it, too, with awful distinctness. I remember to have had, on one occasion, a slight deafness, and when the surgeon had attended to my ears, and I went into the street, I wished myself deaf again, for all the noises were so dreadful to my ears, so intense was every little sound. We ought to thank God that we do not hear more than we do; if we heard more, we should not hear anything at all, we should hear so much that the different sounds would not convey any meaning to our mind. So was it with me; I heard too much. The thunder of the law deafened me; and when I heard the voice of the Saviour, it seemed to say, “You have rejected me, and I have left you to perish. The door of mercy is now shut, and will not be opened to you.” I began to feel what sin really was, and to realize that I could not escape from it, and that a just God must punish me. Yet I consented to the punishment, dreadful as it was, and confessed that I did not wish the Lord to be unjust even to save me. This was the tremendous terror of my state, that I had received a living consciousness of what was right, and sided with the right, yet all the while felt that the righteous Judge condemned me.

     What happened after that? Being quickened, and having felt this pain, after a while I woke up as out of an awful sleep, and I seemed to say to myself, “Where am I?” I had been born into a new world. Some of you know the egg-shell of this poor sinful world; but you do not know the real life of it. A man may go dreaming on through this world, seeing the sun, and moon, and stars, and all things that are visible; but he may never have discovered the true life which is invisible. So it was with me. If, all of a sudden, this lamp here could be made into a living thing, it would be a strange change for it to find itself alive in the midst of this crowd of people, where it has stood so long, a poor, dead, metallic thing. There was some such change as that wrought in me; I thought that, if the world was not new, I was. Something wonderful had happened to me; I can tell you that I had a sort of twist that day, and I have never got over it, and I have no wish to get over it. Everything seemed different to me; I looked at all things through new eyes, and heard with new ears; and, somehow, I discovered what I had never dreamed of, for I talked to God, Christ was near me, his Spirit was within me, I saw living men and women in this new world, and I began to wish to get amongst them, and would have been glad to have washed the feet of any of them so long as they would but permit me to be in their company. I remember that experience; do not you? We must all have felt something like that if we have really been born from above.

     And then, being thus alive, we had to learn everything. You see, a person just born into the world, and knowing nothing, is like a newborn infant. I suppose that, when an infant first sees, it cannot measure distances; it does not know whether a thing is close to it, or far away. All that the eye can bring to it seems flat at the first. Mothers do not always reflect how little their children know, and how all the things that we know as a matter of course were really learned by experience. Once we did not understand much, just like babes that do not at first comprehend what is said to them, and could not reply to it even if they understood it. There are a few simple words, or syllables, by which they speak to mother and father, and you are very pleased when they are able to say them, and you talk of it to one another as a great achievement when baby has uttered a whole sentence. I have heard you, and I remember doing the same thing myself; it is so natural for us to like to hear the first words of our children. That is just how it was with God and ourselves spiritually; we had everything to learn. We were alive, but we did not know much; we were rather puzzled by some of our big brothers and sisters, but our heavenly Father accepted our broken utterances, and our oft-mistaken words. We did see, though we did not know much about the laws of perspective. We did hear, though we did not understand music and harmony. We did feel, and that was a proof that we were alive. Oh, what a mercy that was!

     Very soon, we began to have new wants. Do you recollect that experience? We felt a new hunger; we had never had that while we were dead. We wanted to feed on the truth of God. Do you not remember when you went to hear a certain popular preacher deliver one of his wonderful sermons, and everybody else spoke of it as “splendid,” but you said to yourself, “I do not know what there was in it, but certainly I did not get any food for my soul”? Another time, you were taken to hear a plain, simple minister, who talked about Jesus and his love, and others exclaimed, “He is a poor preacher, with no name, and no fame,” but you said, “I do not know how it is, but I am satisfied with the feast I have had, I feel as if I had been sitting at the King’s banqueting-table.” Ah, God’s people know the difference between flowers and fruit! They know the difference between meat, and mere plate, and spoon, and fork; and they are not to be deceived. You remember when you began to hunger, and to thirst, and oh! when you drank your first draught of the living water, you could not make out what it was. You see, you had been dead, and all these things were new to you. What was hunger? What was thirst? How did you come to have such sensations? You never hungered after Christ, you never thirsted after the gospel, while you were dead in sin; but now you have many things that are quite new to you, new fears, new cares, new doubts, new aspirations.

     Let me remind you that you also had new joys. Your heart began to dance at the sound of Christ’s name. You never danced at the sound of that name while you were dead; but when you had received spiritual life, that dear name had all the music of heaven in it when it rang in your ears, and your heart responded, “Jesus, precious Jesus,—

“‘No music’s like thy charming name,
Nor half so sweet can be.’”

Oh, what rapture you had in those early days! You went forth with joy, and were led forth with peace. The mountains and the hills broke forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field did clap their hands. That delight has not gone from you now, has it? You are still happy in the Lord, you can sing as joyously as ever,—

“Oh happy day, that fix’d my choice
On thee, my Saviour, and my God:
Well may this glowing heart rejoice,
And tell its raptures all abroad!”

     You see how it is with you now; life has brought you, as a new creature, into a new world; old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new. So far, I hope that many have been able to follow me.

     III. Now comes the closing point, and I must say only a few words upon it, for I should like you to sing a verse of “Happy Day,” ere we separate. The third division is, YOU ARE NOW ALIVE. Yes, as many as have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ are spiritually alive. Does not he say, “He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live”?

     You are spiritually alive. Very well, then, do not go lack to the grave. It was a madman’s taste to go and live in a cemetery. The demoniac at Gadara had his habitation among the tombs, and surely nobody in his right mind would think of having such an abode as that. If you are alive, do not go and live in the grave. Sometimes, a person says to me, “Tell me, sir, may I go to such and such a place of amusement?” When I hear the name of it, I say, “Well, if you want to go, go; if you are dead, go and be buried with the dead, we do not want any dead souls among the living in Zion. If that sort of thing is to your taste, go and enjoy it; but if you are a child of God, it will not be your taste. If you are alive from the dead, you will not want to go and live in a charnel-house.” I once was in a place where there were said to be at least ten thousand skulls heaped up, one above another, from floor to ceiling; I should think that there must have been quite that number, and as I walked along through those rows of skulls, every one of them seeming to be grinning at me, I did not ask to be allowed to stop there all night. So, he that is spiritually alive does not wish to dwell with sinners in ungodliness; their merriment would be his misery, that which is their delight would cause him the most exquisite pain. “Let me get out of this,” he would say, “this is no place for me.” To chain a living man to a skeleton, would be a horrible torment; do not you, I pray you, be chained to a dead man, or a dead woman either, and do not seek your company among the dead. You are alive; therefore, do not go back to the tomb.

     Next, you are alive; therefore, do not be carried on a bier. I have seen living men carried about on biers. Here is a man who has long heard the good old-fashioned gospel; but, the other day, he met with a believer in evolution, one of the monkey-worshippers of whom I told you last Thursday night, whose father is not in heaven, but up a tree. “Oh!” said the foolish man, as he listened to the heresy-monger, “this evolution theory is a very wonderful thing,” and so three or four of them bore him off on a bier, carried him away from the truth as it is in Christ. Of course, if the man is dead, the proper place for him is on a bier; but you are alive, therefore you know what the dead do not, and I pray that you may know it from the sole of your foot to the crown of your head, and stand up for the truth, defend it valiantly, and not be driven to and fro with every wind of doctrine, just as if you were only a stray straw in the street. Know what God has taught you, and be prepared to live by it, and to die for it, if need be. You are alive; therefore, be alive for the truth, and be not carried away on a bier.

     Further, you are alive; therefore, do not be wrapped up in grave-clothes. Have you any on now? I should not wonder if you have. There is a piece of red stuff that many living persons still wear; it is called, “bad temper.” Oh, get rid of that fragment of grave-clothes, I entreat you! It smells of the tomb. The Lord help you to be sweet, and gentle, and meek! Do not wear your old grave-clothes now that you are alive from the dead. Were you covetous? Were you lustful? Were you false? Get rid of all these grave-clothes. Oh, that God the Holy Ghost may sanctify you, spirit, soul, and body, till you are clean delivered from these cerements of the sepulchre! Lazarus came out of the tomb with his grave-clothes on; but the Saviour said, “Loose him, and let him go,” and they took the napkin from his head, and the winding-sheets from about his body, and the man was free. Do not go about in a winding-sheet; put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man. The Lord help you so to do!

     You are alive; then another exhortation is, get up and work. You are alive unto God. Are you so alive that you mean to sit down, and take it quietly now? Are you going to heaven in an easy chair? You have climbed up the gospel coach, sat down on the box seat, and you say that you mean to sit there as long as you live. Oh, you good-for-nothing wretch, do not talk about being saved; why, you are not yet saved from selfishness! When we are really saved, we begin to love other people as well as to love God, and we desire with all our might to spend and to be spent in the Lord’s service. You do not suppose that the Lord Jesus Christ came here to be a lackey to the lazy, do you? We are not saved by works; but if we have not works, we are not saved. We are saved by grace; but grace makes us a people zealous for good works. God grant that this purpose of mercy may be fulfilled in each one of us who was dead, but is now alive!

     You are alive now; therefore, glorify him who quickened you. If I had lived in the days of our Lord, I should have liked, if it had been possible, to have had a cup of tea with Lazarus. I think that I should have asked him down to my house, and should have said to him, “Lazarus, tell me all about your resurrection. You were dead, and your sisters buried you, and Martha said to the Lord Jesus, ‘By this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.’ Tell me, did you really hear that voice that said, ‘Lazarus, come forth,’ and did you know the sweet tones of the dear Master’s call? Were you dead, and did that sound bring life with it? How did you feel when you found yourself lying on that cold stone shelf in the sepulchre, and when the light came streaming in where there had been a stone before to shut it out? Do you remember how you felt when you shuffled out, and came from the sepulchre all wrapped up in the grave-clothes?” “Oh!” Lazarus would say, “my dear brother, I cannot tell you much about these things; but I remember that the first thing I saw, when they took the napkin off my eyes, was that blessed Man, my Lord and my God, and I knew that he had raised me from the dead, and I felt that I could lie at his feet, and die again of overwhelming love. I loved him so, for he had raised me from the dead. Do not talk about me, speak about him; go forth, and preach about him to others, wherever you have an opportunity, say that he raised me from the dead, that he can raise others from the dead, and he can make death yield up all his spoils, through the power of his resurrection life.” That is what I want all you, who are spiritually alive, to do, go forth and tell what Jesus has done in raising the dead to life.

     I have finished when I have said just this word to the unsaved. Trust Jesus; trust him now; come to him now even by one gracious stride of faith, for he is able to save to the uttermost all them that come unto God by him.



Good Advice for Troublous Times

By / Sep 9

Good Advice for Troublous Times

 

“Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.” — Isaiah xxvi. 20.

 

THE Lord has a very peculiar care for his own people. He is their Shepherd, and he feeds them like a flock. He is their Father, and he guards them as his own dear children. Whenever times of great trouble come, he thinks specially of them. He drowned the antediluvian world, but not till Noah was safely in the ark. He burned Sodom and Gomorrah, but not till Lot had escaped to the little city called Zoar. In all his judgments he remembers his mercy towards his believing people, he does not suffer them to be destroyed even in the day of the destruction of the ungodly. Child of God, your Father’s eye is lovingly fixed upon you; his heart cares for you every moment. Unhappy men and women, of whom we cannot say this! Unhappy you who have never trusted and never loved your God, your Maker, and your best Friend! But thrice happy is the poorest and most tried among us who knows that the Lord is his refuge, his castle and high tower, his Defender and Provider, his God, and his all.

     Whenever there is any evil to come upon the land, God knows all about it, for he knows everything, he foresees all that is going to happen. He sometimes gives foresight to men, as in the case of his prophets; and I do not doubt that, even now, believing men, when they live very near to God, see farther into the future than others can. There were several occasions, in the life of John Knox, when he expressly foretold the deaths of certain men; and similar power has been given to other eminent saints who have walked on the hill-top with God. They have looked much farther than the dwellers in the plain, who forget God, have ever seen. But, whether we can see into the future, or not, is of little consequence, for the Lord can see. If the father of the family knows what is to occur, his children will not be without due warning; therefore God, when he foresees that his judgments will be abroad in the earth, takes care to forewarn his children; and when any great calamity is coming, he provides for them a shelter in the time of storm. Let us thank God for this.

     O you who have no God to go to, the future must often look very dark to some of you, especially that blackest spot of all, where rolls the chilly stream of the river of death! When you come there, you will have to take a plunge in the dark; but the heir of heaven knows that, whatever lies before him, all is ordained and fixed, arranged and settled, by the infinite wisdom and love of God, and he can trust himself without fear to the Lord’s preserving mercy. Without wishing to pry into the future, he leaves himself entirely in the hands of God.

     I began by saying that believers are the objects of God’s special care, and next that God has a foresight which he exercises on their behalf. Now, further, the advice which our careful and foreseeing God gives us, is sure to be wise. We should all of us be wise if we could do before an event what we would wish to do after it; unfortunately, we are often wise when it is too late. I do not know a better definition of a fool than that he is a man who is wise too late; but God will make us wise in time if we are willing to take his advice. If we will do what he bids us, we shall do the right thing. Listen, then, to the advice that God here gives us when times of trouble come, — and they will come, — and before times of trouble come, when we foresee them. The proper and wise course for us is plainly marked out in our text: “Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.”

     I. My first observation upon these words shall be that, BEFORE OR IN TIMES OF TROUBLE, IT IS WELL TO DRAW NEAR TO God.

     Is not that a sweet call from God, “Come, my people. Come, my people”? As the hen gives her peculiar “cluck” when the hawk is in the air, to bid her chicks come and hide under her wings, so does God here give a gentle loving note of alarm, and a gracious call of invitation, as he says, “Come, my people.” “No, do not go, my people, scattered hither and thither by the approach of danger; but, come, my people. Be not driven from me by affliction, but be driven to me by adversity. Come, my people.” How sweet the words sound to me! If I had the voice of an angel, I should hardly be able to bring out all their sweetness: “Come, my people. Come, my people. The clouds are in the sky the first flash of lightning has seemed to split the ebon darkness of nature. Come, my people, hasten home, be quick about it, come, my people. Nay, linger not; halt not through fear, be not paralyzed with apprehension. Come, my people; come to me, come to your God, come to your Father, come to your Friend.”

     For what purpose should we come to the Lord? I think that, in times of trouble, or when we are apprehending trial, we should come to spread our case before God. You fear that you are going to be very ill, or that your dear wife is likely to die; you are afraid that your property will be taken from you, or that something else that is dreadful will happen. Then come, and—

“Tell it all to Jesus, comfort or complaint.”

     Remember how Hezekiah acted when he received that abominable letter from Rab-shakeh; he took it, and spread it before the Lord. Now, do the same with any trouble of yours, present or impending, come and tell it all to Jesus. You were just going across the road to consult a neighbour, were you? I do not forbid you to do that by-and-by; but first listen to this electric bell: “Come, my people! Come, my people!” It calls you to your God first; go and tell him all about it. He will patiently hear your story, he will listen without weariness, and he will efficiently help you; therefore spread the case before him.

     The next thing you should do in coming to God is, to consider his mind about such a case. Have you ever done that? When we consult a counsel, it is because we want to have his judgment upon some difficult point of law. We expect that he has had to decide something like it before; he knows the precedents that bear upon the case, and we therefore ask his judgment. I love to see a man turning to his Bible when a trouble is coming, to see what God has to say about such a case as his. If I am going to be bereaved, or if I am already bereaved, I wish to know how Jesus comforted those who lost their loved ones. If I am ill, I ask, “What do the Scriptures say to the sick?” If I am going down in the world, I want to learn what is God’s direction to the man who is falling into poverty. Let me come and hear what God has to say about the matter. I believe that, if we acted in that fashion, we should be much more calm than we are under surprising sadnesses, for we should say to ourselves, “My main question is not, How can I get out of this trouble? but, How should I behave myself in it? What ought a man of God to do under the trying circumstances which have now come upon me?” Does not God bid you, first of all, to consider what will be for his glory, and afterwards to consult your own comfort? “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” and so the lesson of your trouble shall be shown to you. “Come, my people, then, tell me your anxiety, and ask what my will is about it.”

     “Come, my people,” means, next, come to your God, in times of trouble, to make sure of the greatest matters. You are going to lose your little money, are you? Well, well, that is bad enough; but you have some jewels which you are not going to lose. You remember Little-faith being robbed down Dead-Man’s Lane. Bunyan says that, when the three sturdy rogues, Faint-heart, Mistrust, and Guilt, fell upon him, they robbed him of most of his spending money, but he had certain jewels that they never found, and of which therefore they could not rob him. So, the world may come, and take away many of our external and temporary comforts, but we have a treasure that it never gave us, and cannot take away from us. No, my brother, you did not gain that treasure by keeping shop, and you will not lose it by keeping shop. If you have true religion, you did not buy it, and you shall never sell it; it is yours for ever, an inheritance that never can be alienated from you. Now that you have lost so much, and suffered so much, I want you to come to God, and just think of what you still have, God as your Father, Jesus as your Brother, the Holy Spirit as your Comforter; you have still all the resources of providence, all the riches of the promises, all the superabundance of the covenant of grace. Well then, you have not lost much, after all, have you? I think I have told you before of a friend of mine, who went to the Bank of England, and came away to his business with a couple of hundred pounds in his pocket; and as he passed down the Borough, he was robbed. His wife looked very white when he said that he had been robbed. “Yes,” said he, “my dear, I have been robbed of my pocket-handkerchief.” Then the good man smiled; what did he mind about his pocket-handkerchief so long as the hundreds of pounds were safe? So, if you only have to say, “My Lord, I have lost this little, and that little,” so long as your soul is safe, your eternal welfare is safe, your heaven is safe, why, surely, you will thus be helped to bear without murmuring those ills which are common to men!

     Once more, “Come, my people,” means that, having made sure of the great things, you may leave all the little things with God. I was thinking, the other day, suppose any one of us had power over the weather, to make it rain or make it shine, just as we pleased; and I thought I should not like to be that individual, because I should have people at me from morning to night, tearing me to pieces, one wanting rain, and another wanting sunshine. I would rather not have any such power; but if God gave me the control over winds and waves, and clouds and rain, if I had it to-night, the first thing I would do when I reached home would be to go upstairs, and say, “Lord, thou hast given me power over the wind and the rain, but I know that I shall make all manner of mistakes with it; I have not the wit to manage these matters; O Lord, graciously tell me what to do.” If you do like that, is it not much the same thing as if you had not any power, and left it to God altogether? You may have just as much rest as that, and even more; for, to be without the power is to be without the responsibility. So, beloved, when you go to God in times of trouble, say, “Do what thou wilt, Lord; I desire to leave the care and burden of all this trial to thee. I am too foolish and too weak to deal with it; therefore, undertake for me; and henceforth, having left it entirely in thy hands, I would be quiet even as a weaned child, and say, whatever happens, ‘It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good.’”

     I will just ring that little silver bell, and then leave this point. “Come, my people. Come, my people. Come and tell me your trouble. Come and study my mind about your trouble. Come and make sure of the greatest matters. Come and leave your little matters with me. Come my people, draw near to me in times of trouble.”

     This is the first division of my subject.

     II. The second is, that IT IS WISE TO ENTER INTO THE CHAMBERS OF SECURITY WHICH GOD HAS PROVIDED FOR us: “Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers.” My business, in this second part of my discourse, is to bring a candle, and to show you the way along the passages leading to the rooms provided for you: “Enter thou into thy chambers.” It is a time of trouble with you: “Enter thou into thy chambers.” “What chambers?” you ask. I am going to show you; here is the candle to light your way, take it, and follow me: “Come thou into thy chambers.”

     One of the rooms into which a man should enter in times of trouble is the store-chamber of divine power. God is able to bear you through every trial; God is able to bring good out of all evil; God is able to comfort you; God is able either to prevent the trouble, or to make you strong enough to bear it. Nothing can happen to you which will be beyond the power of God; and according to his mighty power he will certainly deliver you. He will show himself strong on your behalf, if you do but trust him, and you shall be able to sing, “The Lord is my Shepherd and my Shield.” “Come, my people,” get into this chamber, this well-guarded room of the Lord. Of what are you afraid? Afraid of the devil? God is stronger than Satan. Afraid of death? God is stronger than death. Afraid of poverty? Christ is stronger than poverty. Afraid of sickness? The power of God will sustain you while suffering from the most terrible disease that can possibly come to your mortal frame. “Come, my people.” Hide away in this chamber of the divine omnipotence. Thou wilt never be afraid, surely, after that invitation, for the almighty God shall be thy defence.

     May I take you into another chamber, which will, perhaps, suit you better? That shall be the council-chamber of divine wisdom. So you are in trouble now, and you are a great deal perplexed; but God is not perplexed or troubled. He sees the end from the beginning; he has all means at his disposal; there are no entanglements and knots to him, he has the clue to every labyrinth, and he can guide you into the centre of joy. Be not afraid, though thou art thyself utterly undone, though thou seest no way of escape; the Lord can see where thou canst not. There are no such things as darkness and night to the eyes of him who perceives all things. Oh, I do delight to know that God is infinitely wise! I, a poor fool, have done this and that, and nothing comes of it; so it seems. I have tried to do right, but apparently without success. What then? There is a higher wisdom than any man’s, and that divine wisdom is at work on behalf of the heirs of heaven. “Come, my people,” enter into this bright room, and take a delightful rest in this council-chamber of divine wisdom.

     Let me show you into another chamber; possibly some of you will feel more at home there, for it is the drawing-room of divine love. This is the state-chamber of the palace: “Come, my people,” and enter into it. Think of this wondrous truth, that God loveth thee. Whether he strike thee or stroke thee, the Lord loveth thee. Whether he chasten thee or caress thee, he loveth thee. He loved thee from before the foundation of the world; and he will love thee when the world’s foundations shall be overthrown. He loves thee without beginning, without measure, without change, without end. He has betrothed thee to himself in bonds of everlasting love. Come into this chamber with its golden hangings; come to this couch that is softer than down, and rest here. Let earth be all in arms abroad, there is perfect peace for the man who enters into this chamber of divine love.

     But if these three chambers are not enough for your protection and comfort, may I take you to the muniment-room of divine faithfulness? This is a wonderful chamber. God is true; God is faithful; God keeps his promises. My dear friends, do you study the promises recorded in the Bible? If you do not, I am sorry for you. The promises of God should be the constant subject of study by the child of God, because, when you get a hold of a promise from God, it is as good as the thing itself. God’s promise to pay is always at par with those who trust him; they want no discount on a divine promise, it is as good as the thing itself to their believing hearts. Oh, what an innumerable company of promises there is in this blessed Book! We need never be downhearted if we would but study this wonderful Book of God, which has a promise to meet every trial and sorrow; and all the promises of God in Christ Jesus “are yea and Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” You are going into trouble; did you say that you are suffering from cancer? Oh, come into this chamber of the faithful promises! You have need to come. Did you say that your trouble is a bankruptcy caused entirely through misfortune? Come, then, into this chamber; look at the motto hanging on the walls, “Bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.” Believe it. You shall have bread and water as long as there is any beneath the cope of heaven. God will never fail you, therefore trust him. Be not dismayed. “Come, my people, enter into thy chambers.”

     There is one chamber into which I am very fond of entering, that is, the strong-room of divine immutability. This is the one into which God took his servant Moses before he sent him down to Egypt. Moses asked the Lord what his name was, and he answered, “I AM THAT I AM.” The children of Israel were not able to comprehend that glorious name of Jehovah, so the Lord gave them a shorter one instead, “I AM.” But to the full-grown child of God, this is the name in which he delights, “I AM THAT I AM,” the same immutable Jehovah, never altering, with “no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” Oh, how my soul does delight in the Lord’s immutability! We change like the weather-glass. We never are at “Set Fair;” or, if ever we do get to “Set Fair,” it is sure to rain, as I notice that it generally does when the weather-glass is at that point. But, dear friends, God is always the same. We wax and wane, like the moon; God is the sun, without parallax or tropic. Blessed is the immutability of God! What a chamber to get into! When I enter it, I feel like a man in the strong-room of the Bank of England. I hear a voice saying, “I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”

     There is only one more room which I will mention at this time, though I could have described many more, and that is, the best chamber of divine salvation. Look at the scarlet curtains dyed in the precious blood of Jesus. What a chamber this is for a man to dwell in, where his pardon was bought for him by the death of his Lord, where the new life is given to him by the life of his Lord, and where a throne and crown in heaven are promised to him through the victories of his Lord. “Salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks.” What a restful chamber does this salvation make! “Come, my people. Come, my people. Come, my people. Enter into thy chambers.”

     I have rung the silver bell, I have given you your candles, now go and enter into your chambers, and rest in divine power, wisdom, love, faithfulness, immutability, and salvation.

     III. But now comes one thing more. God gives us, in the third place, further good advice. WHEN WE ENTER THOSE CHAMBERS, IT IS NECESSARY TO SHUT THE DOOR. Listen: “Enter into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee.” If you go into a room, and leave the door open, you have not hidden yourself much, and you have not gained any protection by entering the chamber. I earnestly invite the people of God to enter the chambers I have pointed out; but I would also persuade them to shut the doors of those rooms. What for?

     First, to shut out all doubt. You have entered the chamber of divine power. Now, do not doubt your God. “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Shut the door. Shut the door. You have come into the chamber of divine wisdom. Do not doubt your God; do not say, “This is a mistake. Surely, I have been led in the wrong way. Providence has erred.” Shut that door. Shut that door. We cannot let any draughts come in to blow upon our trust in the infinite wisdom of God. And if thou hast entered into the chamber of divine love, how blessed it is to feel, “He has loved me from before the foundation of the world.” Does there come in an “if”? Shut that door. There is no rest or comfort till we shut out all doubt; we must know of a surety that the Lord loved us, or we cannot have any enjoyment in his love. And suppose that it is the chamber of divine faithfulness into which we have entered, we must have no doubt about that; we must not say to ourselves, “God may forget his promise, perhaps he will break his word.” Oh, shut that door, and lock it, and bolt and bar it! Say, “That door can never be opened any more; we cannot have any doubt about God’s faithfulness; he cannot lie. Is he the Lord, and shall his love grow feeble to his saints? Is he God, and shall he turn aside from his word, and break his covenant and oath?” Shut that door. Let not anything come in that way to disturb our peace. And as to the divine immutability, we cannot allow the door to be open to let even the supposition of change come in. “Oh, God loved me,” says one, “twenty years ago!” And do you think that he does not love you now? “Oh, but he helped me so graciously then!” Will he not help you now? What, has he changed? Thou art blaspheming God by the very thought of such a thing.

“Whom once he loves, he never leaves,
But loves them to the end.”

Do thou believe this, and whenever there comes a doubt that he has cast thee away, shut that door, and drive a nail through it, that it may never be opened again, for the Lord cannot change. If he be God, he must for ever be the same. “Come, my people, enter into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee.”

     I think that we must first shut the doors to shut out all doubts.

     But we must also shut the doors to shut ourselves in, to shut ourselves in with God. Now, my Lord, a great storm is coming; but I am shut in with thee. I trust thy power; I trust thy wisdom; I trust thy love; I trust thy faithfulness; I trust thine immutability; I trust thy salvation. I trust nothing else, but I repose wholly in thee. You must often have noticed what our Saviour did in the storm on the Sea of Galilee. He knew that a great tempest was coming on, and he looked about him — for what? For a pillow. What, for a pillow? Why, if you and I had been there, we should have looked round for a hen-coop or a spar! But Jesus looked round for a pillow; not for a life-belt, but for a pillow; and when he found the pillow, what did he do? He went to the stern of the ship, stretched himself out, and went to sleep! Why did he so act? Because he felt that he was perfectly safe in his Father’s hands; and there were his poor disciples wide awake, fretting and worrying. Did they stop the wind by fuming? Did they calm the waves by complaining? No, no; they tramped up and down the little vessel, but the sea did not take any notice of them. At last, they went to wake their Master. He was so soundly sleeping that they could not get him awake as soon as they wished, so they cried, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” O faithless disciples, your Master was doing the grandest thing that he could do, he was just leaving the vessel in the hands of God, and himself going to sleep. Brethren and sisters, sometimes, when you get into a great deal of trouble, may I be allowed to be your solicitor, and give you a piece of advice? Go to bed, and go to sleep. “Oh, but I want to be doing something!” Yes, I know you do; and you will make a mess of it. Go to bed. Look for a pillow, and go to sleep. Nine times out of ten, when we worry and fret, we undo what we try to do; and to sit still, would be a far wiser thing. Come, my people, hurry not into the market; worry not in the shop; “come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee;” rest in God, and wait patiently for him, for he can do all things, and winds and waves shall be quiet at his bidding.

     I wish that I could talk like this to you all, but I must not. Some of you have no chambers to go to, you who are out of Christ have no place to rest in. Oh, that you had! God grant that you may have before to-morrow’s sun has risen! May you believe in Jesus this very night! Then you shall have God for your Friend for ever and ever, and all these chambers that I have mentioned shall be at your disposal.

     IV. I finish up with this last remark, borrowed from the text. IT IS DELIGHTFUL TO THINK THAT THE TROUBLE WILL NOT LAST LONG. Let me read the text again: “Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.”

     Is not that a wonderful expression, — “a little moment”? A moment is but the tick of the clock; but here it is “a little moment”— a little moment. Ah, me, we do not think so when the trouble comes! Perhaps it is some disease; possibly it is incipient consumption. You have been coughing a great deal. Ah, my dear friend, come and tell your God about it! It will only last a little moment, and then you will be where you shall cough no more, but you shall sing God’s praises, world without end. “But it is the commencement of a cancer.” I know; and that is an awful thing; but, my dear sister, go to God, get into these blessed chambers of divine power, wisdom, love, and so on, and you will hear him say, “It is only for a little moment.” “Ah!” says one, “but I am hopelessly poor, and have been so for a long time, and I expect that I shall be so till I die.” Well, if so, it will be but for a little moment, and then you will be rich for ever.

     I am not an old man yet, though I am not young; but I am obliged to tell you that years are much shorter to me than they used to be twenty years ago. And weeks, — why, they seem to fly! I never get to Sunday night without seeming to have another Sunday morning close on my heels. Do you not find it so? When Jacob said that his days were few, why did he so speak? Because he was an old man. If he had been a man of five-and-twenty, he would not have said that; he would have thought that he had lived a good long while, but when he got to be over a hundred, then his days seemed very few. After all, what is the longest life? Suppose that you should live to be seventy or eighty. We who are over fifty feel that it hardly needs an effort of mind to project ourselves through the next five-and-twenty years, and find ourselves old and grey-headed, and ready to depart; and we shall depart in due season. It is only for a little moment that we are to be here. The cup is very bitter, but then there is not much in it; let us take it all down at a draught. These pills are too small for us to make two bites at them. Besides, to chew them is to get their bitterness, to swallow them is to know nothing about it. So do with the troubles of this life; take them as they come, cheerfully and contentedly, thankfully praising God that there is good in the evil, and sweetness in the bitter. Take it all. It will not last long.

“A scrip on my back, and a staff in my hand,
I march on in haste through an enemy’s land;
The road may be rough, but it cannot be long,
And I’ll smooth it with hope, and cheer it with song.”

Get into the chambers that the Lord has prepared for you, and hide yourselves “for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.”

     Here I stand, on this ninth of September, in the year of grace eighteen hundred and eighty-eight, still preaching to you; but there will come a time when there will be no voice of mine from this pulpit, and no glance of your eyes towards the minister here. We shall be in the world to come; and then, in a short time, we shall all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ. If we have never hidden in these chambers, if we have never fled to Christ, ah! then will come the time of woe, a darksome time, indeed; sorrows without a shore, griefs without a terminus, a bitterness that must be everlasting. God help us to drink ten thousand cups of bitterness here rather than have to drink that cup of wormwood and gall for ever! Come, fly to Christ to-night; the Lord help you to do so! Believe in him, trust in him, that you may never know his indignation; but, having hidden for a small moment from the present trouble, you shall wake up to endless joy at God’s right hand, for ever and ever. Amen.