Cheering Words

By / Dec 22

Cheering Words

 

“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.” — John xv. 9.

 

THE Saviour was about to leave his disciples, and this was the hardest trial which they had ever experienced. As there could be no trial to them like the loss of the Saviour’s presence, it was at this time Jesus brought forth his richest consolation. He seems to have kept the best wine and the most potent cordial till the time when their spirits most required to be comforted. He said to them, more fully than he had ever said it before, “Take this for your comfort; live upon it while I am absent from you; live upon it always — that, as the Father hath loved me, so have 1loved you.”

     But what is this richest of all cordials? What is this marrow and fatness? It is the assurance of his love to us; and surely there cannot be a more delightful thought that can fill the soul of a mortal than this, — “The Son of God loves me.” Did you never sit down for half an hour, and try to masticate and digest this thought? That God should pity me, I can understand, being so far inferior to himself, and so full of misery. That he should be generous to me, I can comprehend, from the liberality and bounty of his nature, and from my great necessities. But that lie should love me, is wonderful. I cannot see anything lovely in myself, and there are many who see that there is much unloveliness about me, and I do not doubt that there is; but yet he who knows me better than I know myself, and is not unmindful of my infirmities and weaknesses, says he loves me. He does not put me at arm’s length, and then feed me from his bounty: that would be gracious; but he opens wide his bosom, and takes me into his heart. He shuts the golden doors, and takes me in to dwell for ever, that in the ivory palaces I may be made glad with the cassia and the aloes of his delightful presence. Man, didst thou ever get this into thy soul? Then though thou mayest be clothed in rags, thou wilt feel as though thou wert wrapped about with imperial purple. Although thou mayest dwell in a very poor and lonely cottage, when this thought shines upon thee, thou wouldst not change thy cottage for a palace. Unto which of the angels did he ever say this? I believe angels are the subjects of divine love in a certain sense, but I have never read of Christ saying to them: “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you.” This is the special privilege of the sons of Adam, who have fallen, which angels never have. How marvellous! And is it not more than marvellous, that God should have selected me out of the sons of Adam? Perhaps there is nothing in any of you which you can look upon as a reason why God should love you. Did I say “perhaps”? Why, there are ten thousand things about everyone of us that might have won for us the Almighty’s hatred. Instead of this, he says he loves us, his people. Surely, if I were to say no more, but sit down and leave you to think over the fact that God loves you, and that your name is dear to Jehovah, your souls might be satisfied as with marrow and fatness.

     The text itself clearly contains two things, — a declaration and an exhortation.

     I. THE DECLARATION is like a door on two hinges, and on these the text swings. The hinges are “as” and “so” — “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you.” What if I call them two diamond pivots, upon which the pearly gate of love turns to shut in God’s people!

     These words may be viewed in four lights. The word “as” is used here for the sake of affirmation. The Saviour does as much as say, in the most solemn manner possible, to his believing people, “I love you, and I love you as surely as my Father loves me.” There are a great many new doctrines starting up nowadays, and perhaps to-morrow morning there will be another. New opinions are constantly coming up, but I do not recollect ever hearing anybody say that the Father does not love the Son. Whatever new heresies there may be, — and there will be plenty of them, — I do not suppose that this will ever be the subject of heresy. It is so firmly believed, that I never heard a sermon preached to prove it; it is a doctrine taken for granted, and laid hold of as being an elementary truth of the Christian system. Jesus Christ, then, says, “You do not doubt that the Father loves me; now just as surely as the Father loves me, I say, solemnly and truly, that I love you.” He says this to every one of us who trusts in him, — to all of you poor, troubled Christians, who have so many cares that you would not like to count them; you to whom it was whispered, the other day, —

“The Lord hath forsaken thee quite;
Thy God will be gracious no more.”

“No,” says Jesus, “you do not think that the Father has cast me off, or ceased to love me? Then do not think that I have cast you off, or ceased to love you; you are the purchase of my blood, and as surely as the Father loves me, so do I still love you.”

     This “as” may not only be regarded as an affirmation, but also what is very near akin to it, a confirmation. In order to strengthen their faith, God has been pleased to give his people not merely his Word, but tokens and signs to confirm his Word. When Noah had been delivered from the flood by means of an ark, he might still have been very timid at the first shower of rain, and have been afraid that the world was going to be drowned again; but to remove any fears he might have had, lo, there appears in the heavens God’s bow, a bow of many colours, illustrating the joy which there should be in the hearts of those with whom God had made a covenant; not a black bow as though it were bent on destruction, nor a crimson bow as though it were dipped in blood, but a bow of many colours, a bow turned upwards, not shooting the arrows of vengeance upon mankind, but hinting to us that we may shoot our prayers up to heaven, — a bow unstrung, and a bow without an arrow, to show that God had ceased from warring with his creatures, and had made peace with man. As soon as Noah saw that bow, he said, “I shall not be drowned, the world will not be destroyed by a flood.” God also gave his servant David a sign when he told him that, as long as the sun and moon should shine in their places, he would not break his covenant with David. The rainbow is a very sweet sign, but we cannot always see it; and the sun and moon are not always visible, so the Lord has been pleased to give to his people a sign which is always visible, a symbol which is good by day and by night, and which is not dependent upon raindrops and sunbeams. The Christian, by the eye of faith, can always look up to heaven, and see Christ in the bosom of his Father. You have no doubt, I am sure, that Christ is the object of divine affection. You can see it clearly, and there is no doctrinal error at all clouding your view of the love of the Father for his Son. Now this is to be to me the token that Jesus Christ loves me. I look up and see Jesus resting in his Father’s heart; and I, a poor sinner, resting upon Jesus, and finding all my help in him, know that I am in Christ’s heart, and that nothing shall ever pluck me thence. I know this because I have the sign that “as” the Father loves the Son, “so” Christ loves me. May God give us grace to see and rejoice in this “as” of confirmation!

     But perhaps the fulness of this meaning lies in the fact that this is an “as” and a “so” of comparison. I think the text means that, in the same way as the Father loves the Son, just in the same way Jesus loves his people. And how does the Father love the Son? He loved him without beginning. You do meet with strange people sometimes, but I do not recollect ever meeting with anyone who thought that God the Father did not at some time or other love the Son. It is commonly and currently believed amongst all who accept the Bible as true, that from everlasting to everlasting the love of God is set upon his Son. We believe that long “ere worlds were made or time began” the Lord Jesus Christ was dear to his eternal Father. Now, as the Father loves Christ, so Christ loves us, and therefore he loves us without beginning. Long before the lamps of heaven were kindled, or the stars began to twinkle in the sky, when as yet all this world slept in the mind of God as unborn forests sleep within the acorn-cup, we were in the heart of Christ.

     When we rest upon Christ, we may be infallibly certain that his foreseeing eye beheld us, and that his foreloving heart loved us when as yet we had no being. In the book wherein all his members were written, which in continuance were fashioned when as yet there were none of them, there he read our names, our forms, our lineaments. He saw our characters and knew our sins.

“He saw us ruined in the fall,
Yet loved us notwithstanding all.”

     You can go back to the beginning of human affection; you can easily go back to the beginning of your love to God, but God’s love to us is a deep which has no bottom.

“The streams of love I trace
Up to their fountain — God;
And in his mighty breast I see
Eternal thoughts of love to me.”

     And I suppose we all believe that the Father loves his Son without any end. You have no idea, I suppose, that at any time the Father will cease to love his own dear Son. You cannot suppose such a thing; your mind can hardly conjure up such a blasphemous thought as that there should ever be a division amongst the Persons of the Trinity, and that Jesus Christ should be driven from his Father’s heart. “Now,” saith Christ, “as the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you,” that is, without end.

“Once in Christ, in Christ for ever;
Nothing from his love can sever.”

This is a great and precious truth, but I know some people who use it very badly, for they say, “I was in Christ once, and therefore I must be in Christ now.” But that is not the question. If you were once in Christ, you are in Christ now; but can you really and truly say that you are in Christ now? Are you now resting upon him? Are you now walking in his ways? Are you now reflecting his image? Are you now trusting that his Spirit dwells in you? If not, I do not care what you say about having been once in Christ, for I do not believe that, unless you are in Christ now. This truth which you use as a buttress for your presumption, should rather be used as a stimulus to self-examination. Remember, it is written, “But if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him;” and if you have drawn back, you have given clear proof that his soul has no pleasure in you, for they who are in Christ Jesus are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation; they are preserved by Christ Jesus; they are sanctified by his indwelling Spirit, and their path, according to Solomon, “is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” God grant that we may prove our calling by our perseverance!

     Let us just for a moment suck in the truth of this very precious doctrine that, as surely as the Father will always continue to love Jesus Christ, so Jesus Christ will always continue to love us. Some of us, perhaps, look forward to old age without expecting any very great delight in it. There are times when the grinders fail, because they are few, and they that look out of the windows are darkened. But, saint, thou needest not fear the loosing of the silver cord, for thy God shall never change; his eye shall not wax dim; his natural force shall never abate. If thou shouldst be bowed double with infirmity, yet remember that the everlasting God fainteth not, neither is weary, and his love for thee will never cease. Perhaps at times we look forward to death with a sort of shiver. I trow that there are seasons when even the very best of God’s servants do not find death the sweetest possible subject for contemplation, but I do not think that any of us who believe in Jesus have the slightest reason to be afraid to die. On the contrary, we may rejoice in it; for our Saviour will not leave us in the hour of death. Still is he in the Father’s bosom, and still shall we be there oven when the chill floods are about us, and the boomings of the eternal waves shall be sounding in our ears. Rest confident, Christian, that even down to the grave Christ will go with you, and that up again from it he will be your Guide and your Companion to the celestial hills.

     I am sure you are all perfectly agreed, too, that God the Father loves Jesus Christ without any change. You do not believe, as instructed disciples, that the Father loved Jesus Christ more at one time than at another. It is our belief that when Christ said, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” he was still as dear to his Father’s heart as ho ever had been. There was a hiding of his face from his Son, but not a turning away of his heart. Can you suppose that his Father loved him the least when he was most obedient? When he was obedient unto death, and fulfilled his Father’s will at all hazards in the awful darkness, do you think that then the Father’s heart was cold and stony towards him? Oh, no; it was but a change of manifestation, but his inward love was still the same! Now, Christian, take this for your own comfort, that there is never any change in Jesus Christ’s love to those who rest in him. Yesterday you were on Tabor’s top, and you said, “He loves me.” To-day you are in the Valley of Humiliation; but he loves you just the same. On the hill Mizar, and far away among the Hermons, you heard his voice which spoke so sweetly with the turtle-notes of love; and now on the sea, or even in the sea, when all his waves and billows go over you, and deep calleth unto deep at the noise of his waterspouts, he is just as loving to you as ever he was. He does not change one whit. If you lived in certain lands, you might look up and see on the mountain some glorious old peak lifting its snow-white head into the clouds. When you look up the next morning, can you see the mountain? No, you see nothing but fog. Is there no mountain? Oh, yes, —

“The mountains when in darkness hidden,
Are real as in the day.”

So is it with you. You look up to-day and see your Father’s love, and rejoice in it; to-morrow you may not see it so clearly, but it has not gone, for it abides fixed and stable, and never changes. Gourds may grow and wither, but God’s love neither grows nor withers; it knows not the shadow of a change. As the Father loves Christ without change, so doth Christ love us without change.

     Once more, and then we shall entrench upon another interpretation of the word “as.” I think it also means that the Father loves the Son without any measure. I was going to say that this is an “as” of degree; but it is a degree without any degree, or rather, it is a degree which cannot be measured. You cannot say of the Father’s love to the Son that he loves him up to such a point and there stops; and you cannot say of Jesus Christ’s love to his people that he loves them so much, but does not love them any farther.

“Oh, no; Christ loves his Church,
His glory ’tis to bless;
He cannot love her more,
He will not love her less.”

     The whole heart of Christ was emptied into his people’s hearts. You say his people’s hearts could not hold all. Very likely; but that is no reason why Christ did not give us all. If I cannot hold all the sea, yet God may give me all the sea. The Christian is filled with all the fulness of God. He has as much of Christ in him as he can hold. He is in Christ, and Christ is in him. He dwells in God, and God dwells in him. Both these are Scriptural expressions. There is no conceivable limit to the love of God to us in Jesus Christ; and if you want a proof of it, go to Calvary, and see there how he gave himself for us; how he was stripped naked to his shame, that he might clothe us; how he spared neither hands, nor feet, nor head, nor back; nay, how he spared not even his own heart, but poured out from it blood and water. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for” those whom he loves. There cannot be greater love than that of Christ, he went as far as infinity could go in love; and do you know how far that is? No.

“Imagination’s utmost stretch
In wonder dies away”

at the thought of infinite love stretching its wings, and putting itself forth to its highest pitch. Such is Jesus Christ’s love to you. What was that you said the other night? That you were afraid you would exhaust the patience of God? A little sprat said once he was afraid he should drink the sea dry, but there was never any the less water in the sea for all that he drank, for he was in the sea, and all he drank was in the sea still. So all that we get from God is still in God, for “in him we live, and move, and have our being.” If you could give to a poor man in the street any quantity of money, and still have just as much in your own pockets, nay, if you could still have the same money in your own pockets that you had given to him, the man would say, “Well, giving does not impoverish you, and restraining doth not enrich you, therefore you may well give freely.” Oh! there are some of us who have such large appetites for divine love. I have sometimes felt such hungering after my God that I thought my soul could never be satisfied. I have thirsted after him till I have felt like behemoth, who trusteth that he can drink up Jordan at a draught. But there is enough in God to satisfy all our soul’s needs. We sometimes sing what is strictly true, —

“All my capacious powers can wish,
In thee doth richly meet.”

     Come, then, beloved, you have a full Saviour, a precious Saviour, one who loves you without any measure, without any degree, even as the Father loves him! There is much food here for those who know how to feed upon it. May the Holy Ghost help us so to do!

     II. Let me now ask your patient attention while I speak upon THE EXHORTATION OF THE TEXT: “Continue ye in my love.”

     “What, what!” says one, “does he love us with an everlasting love, and yet thus admonish us, ‘Continue ye in my love’?” Yes, yes; the certainty of the thing does not at all weaken the force of the precept. This is God’s plan, to work out his own purpose by an exhortation. Diligent students of God’s Word must have noticed that the very things which in one part of Scripture are spoken of as unconditional gifts, are in other parts spoken of as blessings to be anxiously desired and eagerly sought after. The two things are correct and consistent one with the other, only some people get one of their eyes bound up, so that they are not able to see two truths at a time. I am thankful if you can see one, but I should be still more glad if you could see two, because I think that then you would be more like the perfect man in Christ Jesus, who enters into life with both eyes. You find in one place that God is exhorting his people to good works as if their good works were all their own, and yet in another place he tells them that their good works are the gifts of his Spirit. In one place he tells the saints that they shall hold on their way, and in another place he exhorts them to hold on their way. This is not at all inconsistent, because the exhortation, by God’s grace applied to the heart, ministers to the fulfilment of the decree. My good old grandfather, I think, was quite right, when he said, “I rest my salvation upon the finished work of Jesus Christ as if I had never performed a good work in all my life, and then I endeavour to do good works as if everything depended upon them.” This is what the Saviour seems to say to his disciples, “Continue ye in my love, continue in the path of obedience, in the path of faith, and by your keeping of this exhortation shall my purpose be fulfilled, and you shall be preserved in my love.”

     Not that this is exactly the meaning of the text. Although this may lie on the surface, it seems to me rather to suggest such counsel as this: “Continue ye to exhibit to others the love which I have exhibited to you.” Some professed Christians never get into Christ’s love at all in this sense of it. It strikes me that one of the truest signs of grace in the young Christian is his love to others. As soon as ever he is himself saved, he wants to have other people saved. I do not believe that heaven is a place into which, if I get, I shall be eternally happy at the thought of other people being shut out. On the contrary, I look forward to it as the place where Christ shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied, and it is not a little that will satisfy him! If you ever get any comfort from the thought of others being shut out, you may keep your comfort to yourselves. My comfort is, and I hope it always will be, to labour to be the means of bringing others in. Oh, to bring sinners to Christ.’ Oh, to feel the same love beating in our hearts which Christ has beating in his; not to the same degree, of course, but the same kind of love. Oh, to be baptized into that same river of love in which Christ was baptized, and to come out of it to continue in the same sort of love, so as to have the same love to others-which Jesus Christ had to us! Do not be afraid of having too much love for precious souls. Do not think that you will ever go beyond the love of Jesus Christ in that matter. Poor cold hearts as we are, how shall we warm into anything like his affection?

“Did Christ o’er sinners weep,
And shall our cheeks be dry?”

Ah, there are some cheeks that were never wet with the tear for others yet; and there are some hearts that never were ready to break for the conversion of others! “Well,” says one, “every tub must stand on its own bottom.” Yes, sir, and if you trust to yourself, it will be your everlasting ruin. If you have found honey, your first desire is that another should taste of its sweetness; and, having found Christ yourself, your first instinct will be to turn round and say to others, “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world.” I find that, when I preach the gospel without tenderness, I do not get such a blessing as I do when it melts my own soul. It is a good thing when the preacher finds his own heart breaking. Heart-broken ministers are very soon made heart-breaking ministers. Love to others has a kind of sympathetic influence; and under the blessing of God the Holy Spirit, when men see that we care about them, they are often led to care about themselves. May all Christians here get fully into Christ’s love, and learn to look at sinners as Christ looked at them in all their awful danger, and weep over them even as Christ wept over Jerusalem!

     I think, however, that the Saviour meant even a little more than this. Sometimes we get into Christ’s love, and enjoy it in our own hearts. It is the sweetest thing this side heaven to know and enjoy the love of Jesus Christ, to have our head lying on his bosom, so that we can feel his heart beat, and then to hear him say, “I have loved thee, and given myself for thee.” You know this, do you? Then I know your prayer will be, like that of the spouse, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.” I do not know how it is with you, but I find it rather more easy to get into this state, than to keep there. I can get up the mountain, by God’s grace, but the difficulty is to stop there. Peter said, “It is good for us to be here; let us build three tabernacles.” Yes, but it is not so easy to build one tabernacle upon the mountain. Christ’s love-visits are so often like those of angels — few and far between! But yet we cannot blame our Beloved. Forbid it, my tongue, that thou shouldst ever say a word against him. No, he would never turn me out of doors. The fault is my own, it is I who leave the table, and refuse to stop with him any longer. Oh, may his love bind us so fast to the altar, that we may never stray from it, but may continue in his love!

     “Well,” says one, “I do not think that any man could keep long in communion with Christ if he had as many troubles as I have.” Did you ever read about Enoch? We are told that he lived three hundred and sixty-five years, and walked with God; and if Enoch walked with God so long, do you think that you cannot walk with him for the few years of your short life? “Oh!” you say, “but Knock was differently situated from what I am.” And yet it is written, “Enoch walked with God, . . . . and begat sons and daughters,” which seems to say that the common engagements of life, and the ordinary cares of a family, need not break off our walking with God. But you say, “He did not live in such times as these.” No, he did not live in such good ones, for he lived before the rising of the Sun; he lived in the twilight, in the dim, dark ages, before the great Sun of Righteousness had arisen with healing beneath his wings. Enoch walked with God nearly four hundred years; but there are some of us who cannot walk with him for four hundred hours! Oh, may the Lord grant us more grace, for that is where the mischief lies! The most of God’s people. I am afraid, are in the condition of being just alive. Sometimes a man is washed up on a rock, and you put your hand to his bosom to see if there is any heat left in him, and hold a looking-glass to see if he has any breath; you look for signs and evidences, and at last you say, “Yes, he is alive.” And this is just like a great many of you. You have to look for signs and evidences to know if you are alive; you are just washed up on the rock, and that is all. But look at many of us here: we do not want signs and evidences; we are alive, and we know that we are; we can talk and laugh, and eat and drink, and engage in business; we are perfectly sure that we are alive, because we are in good health. And so it is with Christians when they get to be in good sound spiritual health, and are enabled by divine grace to do much for their Master. I should not be satisfied with being merely alive; if I were lying stretched upon the bed, and someone should say to me, “Well, you know you are alive,” I should tell him that I was not satisfied merely with that, I wanted to be healthy and well God grant, that we may not only know Christ’s love, but that we may get into the soul of it, into the marrow and fatness of it, till we live in it; and then may God’s grace help us to continue in it!

     But there are some poor souls hero who have never got into this love at all, nor do they know anything about it. Perhaps, dear friends, you desire to know it. Well, there is only one place where you can see it. The window through which you can look into God’s heart is the cross of Christ. If you want to read the love of God, go and look through the wounds of the Saviour, and as you stand looking through those wounds, you will, if you listen, hear a voice saying, —

“Love’s redeeming work is done;
Come, and welcome, sinner, come.”

I have never heard of Jesus Christ shutting the door against a sinner. There is a notice that is put in some gentlemen’s parks, stating that they do not allow beggars or dogs there; but Jesus Christ puts up a notice that he does allow beggars; in fact, there are none but beggars who ever go to him; and even those who are such beggars that you would not pick their clothes from a dunghill, Jesus Christ receives into his house, into his heart, into the bath of his blood, and wraps them in the robe of his perfect righteousness. O poor sinner, do come and try him, and he will not cast you out!



The Determination of Christ to Suffer for His People

By / Dec 15

The Determination of Christ to Suffer for His People

 

“And they gave him to drink wino mingled with myrrh: but he received it not.” — Mark xv. 23.

 

OUR Saviour, before he was nailed to the cross, and on the cross, several times had drinks of different sorts offered to him. Whilst they were nailing him to the cross, they endeavoured to make him drink wine, or vinegar as it is called, mingled with gall; and when he had tasted of it, — he did taste it,— he would not drink it When he was on the cross, the soldiers, mocking him, offered him vinegar, or their weak drink of which they ordinarily partook, pledging him in their cups with scorn. And once more, when he said, “I thirst,” they took a sponge filled with vinegar, dipped it in hyssop, and put it to his lips.

     This occasion of offering the wine mingled with myrrh is, I believe, different from all the rest. This wine mingled with myrrh was given to him as an act of mercy. Matthew Henry seems to think that it was prepared by those holy women who were wont to attend to the necessities of our Lord. They had followed him in all his footsteps whithersoever he went; it was by their bounty that the bag which Judas kept was generally as full as it was required to be, so that out of the store they could go and buy meat for their Master and for his disciples. It was these holy women who prepared the spices to embalm him at his burial; and Matthew Henry thinks that these women, prompted by their compassion for him, got ready this cup of wine mingled with myrrh, that he might be strengthened for his miseries, and that those miseries might in some degree be alleviated by the partial stupefaction which a strong draught of wine and myrrh would give to him.

     This time, our Saviour positively declined the cup: “he received it not.” The wormwood he tasted, but this he received not at all; he would have nothing to do with it. Why? The answer is not to be found in our Saviour’s abstemiousness, for he was not abstemious; he was never self-indulgent, but he certainly was never abstemious. He was “the Son of man” who “came eating and drinking;” he felt no repugnance to wine; he himself made it, he himself drank it; he even earned for himself the name, “a gluttonous man and a winebibber”; not deservedly, but because, in contrast to John, who abstemiously refrained from ordinary food, Jesus Christ sat down with publicans and sinners, feasted with the feasters, and ate and drank like other men. Nor do I think the reason is to be found in any love of pain that Christ had, nor in any heartless bravado, which would lead him to say, “I will suffer, and I will put the cup away from me.” Far be that from Christ; he never thrust himself in the way of suffering when it was unnecessary; he did not go to give himself up into the hands of his enemies before his hour was come; he avoided persecution when the avoidance of the persecution would not be an injury to his cause; he withdrew out of Judaea, and would not walk in that land, because of Herod, who sought to slay him. I believe that, if our Saviour had not been the atoning sacrifice, if his sufferings had been merely those of a martyr, he would have quaffed to the very dregs the cup that was offered him, and would not have left any of it. The reason why he refused the cup, I think, is to be found in another thing altogether.

     There is a glorious idea couched in the fact that the Saviour put the myrrhed wine-cup entirely away from his lips. On the heights of heaven the Son of God stood of old, and he looked down and measured how far it was to the utmost depths of misery; he cast up the sum total of all the agonies which a man must endure to descend to the utmost depths of pain and misery. He determined that, to be a faithful High Priest, and also to be a suffering one, he would go the whole way, from the highest to the lowest, “from the highest throne in glory to the cross of deepest woe.” This myrrhed cup would just have stopped him within a little of the utmost limit of misery; therefore, he said, “I will not stop half-way, but I will go all the way; and if this cup can mitigate my sorrow, that is just the reason why I will not drink it, for I have determined that to the utmost lengths of misery I will go, that I will do, and bear, and suffer all that Incarnate God can bear for my people, in my own mortal body.”

     Now, beloved, it is this fact that I wish to bring out before you — the fact that Jesus Christ came into the world to suffer, and that because the myrrhed cup would have prevented him from reaching the lowest step of misery, “he received it not.” I shall have to show you, first, that this was very frequently the case throughout his life, that he would not take a step which would have diminished his miseries, because he was determined to go the whole length of suffering. Secondly, I shall try to show you the reason for this determination. Then, thirdly, I shall close up by speaking of the lesson that we may learn from it.

     I. OUR SAVIOUR WOULD GO THE WHOLE LENGTH OF MISERY; he would suffer in every respect like as we suffer; he would bear the whole of the tortures of atonement, without even the slightest shadow of mitigation or alleviation. Now, I think I can show you that, on many occasions in Christ’s life, he determined to be tempted in every point in which men are tempted, and to be tempted to the utmost limit of the power of temptation; nor would he even accept anything which would have limited the force of the temptation upon man. I will give you some proofs of this. First, Christ knew that you and I would he exposed to peril; he therefore determined that he would be exposed to peril, too, and that he would not by any means, when it was in his power, escape from the peril. Let me show him to you high up there, on the pinnacle of the temple; there stands our Master, and a fiend by his side, on a giddy eminence, with but little beneath his feet; he stands poised aloft, he looks down the hill on which the temple is built, into the depths below; and the enemy says, “Cast thyself down, commit thyself to the care of the angels.” It was like this myrrhed cup — “Do not stand in this peril; cast thyself upon that promise, and risk thyself upon the angels’ wings, for they shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.” But like as he would not receive this cup, so neither would he receive this deliverance from his peril; but there he stood erect, confident in his God, not using the means of deliverance which the tempter wished him to exercise, even as he would not drink this cup.

     Take another case: Jesus Christ knew that many of his people would have to suffer bodily wants, and poverty, and woe. He therefore hungered; after forty days’ fast, when he might have delivered himself from his hunger by turning stones into bread, one would have said, “It would have been a very innocent act to turn stones into bread, and feed himself;” but, “No,” says Christ to the gnawing pangs of hunger, “I will let you go as far as you can; I will not turn these stones into bread; I will let hunger exercise all its power upon me; I will let my body be gnawed by its fierce teeth; I will not mitigate its misery.” He would not receive that wine mingled with myrrh that the devil offered him in the wilderness, when he tempted him to make the stones into bread; he would not take the mitigation of his misery.

     I will tell you another case. Many men have attempted to have their lives cut short because they have so much misery, and no more hope of being happy, therefore they have wished for death; they have wished that they might be as the untimely birth, that they might be shut up in the bowels of the earth for ever. They have longed for death, and desired it; and if an opportunity had cast itself in their way in which they might have died with honour, without having even the disgrace of suicide, how many would have accepted the alternative of death! Here is our Saviour in the same condition; for he is dragged to the brow of the hill of Nazareth. O Son of man, thy wisest choice is to be dashed down the sides of the hill on which the city is built! If thou art wise, thou wilt let them hurl thee headlong; there would be an end of all thy misery, for there are years before thee through which thou wilt be roasted at the slow fire of persecution, and afterwards thou wilt have to pass through floods of deepest misery. Do you not think the temptation started up in his mind, “Let yourself be cast down”? He knew all about it. Had he been cast down, he would have died an honourable death, like the death of a prophet slain in his own country; but no, “passing through the midst of them, he went his way,” because, as he refused the wine-cup, so he refused a hasty death, which would have delivered him from his miseries.

     Do you not observe that I have only just given you specimens? You will find that all through the Saviour’s life it was just the same. You will not find him in one instance working a miracle to lessen his own bodily fatigue, or to alleviate his own bodily wants and necessities, but always letting the ills of this life wreak themselves upon him with all their fury. He hushed the winds once, but it was for his disciples, not for himself; he lay in the ship asleep, and let the waves toss him up and down as much as they pleased. He multiplied the loaves and fishes; but it was for the multitude, not for himself. He could find money in a fish’s mouth: but it was to pay the tribute, not for himself. He could scatter mercies wherever he went, — open men’s eyes, and deliver many of them from pains: he never exercised any of his skill upon himself. If the wind blew, he let it spend itself upon his cheeks, and crack them; if the cold was bitter, he let the cold come round him, as it did in the garden of Gethsemane; if journeying was troublesome, he journeyed where he might have travelled as his Father did; as old Thomas Sternhold says in his fine translation of the Psalms —

“The Lord descended from above,
And bow’d the heavens most high,
And underneath his feet he cast
The darkness of the sky.
“On cherub and on cherubim
Full royally he rode,
And on the wings of mighty winds
Came flying all abroad.”

So might Jesus, if he pleased, but he journeyed on in weariness. He might have made the water leap out of the well to his hand, but there he sat and thirsted, while he had power to make fountains gush even from the stone on which he sat. On the cross, “I thirst,” was his cry; and yet, if he pleased, he might have opened in himself rivers of living water; he had them for others, but he had none for himself. You will observe this fact that, in all the history of Christ, never once did he take anything which could have lessened his miseries, but he went the whole length; and as on this occasion he refused the wine drugged with myrrh, so never did he receive anything that had a tendency to prevent him from going to the requisite lengths of suffering.

     II. Now let me show you THE REASON FOR THIS. Was it out of any love to suffering that he thus refused the wine-cup? Ah, no; Christ had no love of suffering. He had a love of souls, but like us he turned away from suffering, he never loved it. We see he did not, for even in the garden he said, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” It was his human nature struggling against suffering, as human nature rightfully does. God has made us so that we do not naturally love suffering, and it is not wrong for us to feel some repugnance to it, for God has implanted that repugnance in us. Christ did not sulfur because he loved suffering. Why, then, did he suffer? For two reasons: because this suffering to the utmost was necessary to the completion of the atonement, which saves to the utmost; and because this suffering to the utmost was necessary to perfect his character as “a merciful High Priest” who has to compassionate souls that have gone to the utmost of miseries themselves; that he might know how to succour them that are tempted.

     First, I say it was necessary to make the atonement complete. I do think that, if our Saviour had drunk this myrrhed cup, the atonement would not have been valid. It strikes me that, if he had drunk this wine mingled with myrrh, he could not have suffered to the extent that was absolutely necessary. We believe Christ did, on the cross, suffer just enough, and not one particle more than was necessary for the redemption of his people. If, then, this wine-cup had taken away a part of his sufferings, the ransom price would not have been fully complete, it would not have been fully paid. And if it had but taken away so much as a grain, the atonement would not have been sufficiently satisfactory. If a man’s ransom is to be paid, it must be all paid; for though but one single farthing be left unpaid, the man is not fully redeemed, and he is not yet totally free. If, then, this drinking of the wine-cup had taken out the smallest amount from that fearful price of agony which our Saviour paid, the atonement would have been insufficient — insufficient only to a degree, but even insufficiency to a degree, however small, would have been enough to have caused perpetual despair, yea, enough to have shut the gates of heaven against all believers. The utmost farthing must be paid; inexorable justice never did yet omit so much as a fraction of its claim. Nor would it in this case have exonerated in any measure; Christ must pay it all. The wine-cup would have prevented his doing that, therefore he would suffer and go the whole length of suffering; he would not stop, but would go through it all.

     Again, I say it was that he might be made a compassionate High Priest. Someone might have said, “When my Master died, he did not suffer much. He suffered somewhat, but the wine-cup prevented much suffering. I dare not touch the wine-cup; at least, I dare not take it so as to alleviate my sufferings at all; then I must suffer more than ho, for that drugged wine I must not drink. Surely, then, my Master cannot sympathize with me, if I for conscientious motives bear suffering without accepting alleviations which some think are wrong.” “Nay,” said the Master, “nay, you shall never say that. If you have to suffer without a comfort, I will let you know that I suffered without a comfort, too.” You say, “Oh, if I had some myrrh given me which could mitigate my woe, it were well!” “Ah!” says the Saviour, “but I have had it offered to me, and I will not drink it, in order that you may see that I suffered woe without the comfort, without the cordial, without the consolation, which you think would enable you to endure it.” O blessed Lord Jesus, thou wast “tempted in all points like as we are”! Blessed be thy name! This myrrh-cup could have put a plate of steel upon thy breast, it would have blunted many darts of suffering; therefore thou didst put it aside that thou mightest, naked suffer every shaft to find its target in thy heart. This myrrh-cup would have steeled thy feelings, so that thou couldst not be rent by the whips of anguish; therefore thou wouldst not take its steeling influence, its hardening qualities. Thou, who didst stoop to become a poor, weak worm, “a worm and no man,” didst bear the agony, without making the agony less, or strengthening thine own body to bear it. O blessed High Priest! Go to him, ye tried and tempted ones; go to him, and cast your burdens on him; he can bear them, he has borne burdens heavier than yours before. Cast your burden on the Lord, as his shoulders can sustain it; and his shoulders, that have borne trouble without comfort, can bear your troubles, though they be comfortless ones, too. Do but tell them to your Master, and you shall never find a lack of sympathy in him.

     III. And now, what have we to say by way of A LESSON for this short discourse?

     When Christ was offered this cup, he would not receive it. Sometimes, beloved, it is in your power to escape from sufferings for Christ’s sake; and you may rightly do so, if you can escape from them without injuring the mission upon which your Father has sent you; for as he sent his Son into the world, even so has he sent you into the world. You have your mission; and there are times when the acceptance of a cordial, or the reception of an escape from peril, would be a degradation to your high dignity, an injury to your office; and therefore there are times when you should decline even the cup of consolation itself. You and I are called to hold fellowship with Christ in his sufferings; perhaps our business places us where we have to hold fellowship with Christ in the suffering of contempt. The finger is pointed at us; the lip is sometimes protruded in derision; sometimes an expression is used towards us, calling us a hypocrite, a cant, a formalist. You may be apt to think, “Oh, that I could avoid all this! I wish I could escape.” Can you avoid it, and serve your Master as well? If you can, then drink the myrrh-cup, and avoid the misery; but if you cannot, and if it is proven that your position is one of duty, and one in which you can honour your Master, it is at your peril that you exchange your situation for an easier one, if you exchange it for one less useful.

     “Oh!” says one, “I work among wicked men, and I have to bear a testimony for truth in their midst; may I not leave the place at once? I feel that I am doing good there; but the jeers and taunts are so hard to bear, that the good I do seems to be always counterbalanced by the misery I suffer.” Take care, take care, lest you let the flesh prevail over the spirit. It would be like a myrrh-cup to you, for you to leave your situation, and go to another; it would be the removal of your pain; ponder a long time before you do it, weigh it well. If your Maker has put you there, to suffer for his name’s sake, come not down from the cross to which he has nailed you by a daily crucifixion, till you have suffered all; and take not the myrrh-cup of an escape until you have borne all for Christ. I think it was holy Polycarp who, when the soldiers came to him to take him to prison, made his escape; but when he found afterwards that his doing so had dispirited some Christians, and had been attributed to his cowardice, when next the soldiers presented themselves, and he had an opportunity to escape, “No,” he said, “let me die.” It had been foolhardy of him, if he had run into the teeth of men the first time, in order to be put to death; but when he saw that he would serve his Master better by his death than by his life, it would have been an unrighteous thing if he had drunk of the wine-cup, if he had made his escape, and not died for his Master’s sake.

     O my brethren, I do think that there are many cordials which the world, too, has to offer to the Christian which he must not drink at all, because if his Master wishes him to have fellowship with him in his suffering, it is his to suffer so far as his Master wills. You are perhaps a man or a woman of a sorrowful spirit; you are given to solitude and loneliness. There are certain amusements, which some men say are harmless; they tell you that they are meant for you, and ask you to go and take them. You think, “Well, in my low state, surely I might take these things. If I were happy and joyous, I should not need them; but surely, my Father, ‘like as a father pitieth his children,’ will pity me; and if I do these things, and do them merely for temporary comfort, my heart seems as though it would break if I had not this little temporary excitement.” Take care, take care, that it is not the wine-cup that prevents you, my friends. If your Master gives you the wine-cup, the golden wine-cup filled with the precious wine of the covenant, the strong promises, and sweet fellowship in Christ, drink it without a moment’s hesitation, and be glad, for God has said, “Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish;” and this is the strong drink he gives to you in the golden wine-cup of the Saviour’s fellowship. Drink it, and be happy. But if men would offer it to you, look many a time before you drink it. It may be, you may be right in drinking it, it may not be a wrong thing; but it may be, too, that even a thing that is innocent to others, may be wrong to you; and the taking of that amusement and pleasure into your hand, might be like our Saviour’s taking the myrrh-cup and drinking it. It would be a stultifying you, a preventing you from learning all the lessons of your misery, from going in all the steps of your Redeemer, who wishes us to follow him through all the miseries which he has ordained for us, that they may be the means of fellowship with him in his suffering.

     This is the only lesson I desire to give you at this time. If the Lord impress it on our minds, it may be of use to us. Only let me say, how many there are who would have drunk this wine-cup, if it had been offered to them! Your Saviour has taken from you the desire of your eyes with a stroke; he has robbed you of one who is dear and near to you. Say, Christian, if you had had the myrrh-cup put before you, if it had been said, “If you like, that loved one of yours shall live,” if it had been offered to you that the life that has been taken away should be spared, could you with fortitude have said, “Not my will, but thine, be done”? Could you have put it away, and said, “No, my Master, if this cup may not pass from me except I drink it, thy will be done. And what is more, if it may pass from me, if I need not suffering, yet if I can honour thee more by suffering, and if the loss of my beloved one will serve thee and please thee, then so let it be, Drink it I refuse the comfort, when it comes in the way of thine honour; I reject the favoured mercy if it comes in the teeth of thy glory. I am willing to suffer; thy consolations I care not for; if I can honour thee better without them, I will do without them?”

     There are some among you in the habiliments of mourning. Let me just, in conclusion, note a very beautiful thought of a good man on a passage of Scripture. Jesus says in his prayer, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.” Do you know why good men die? Do you know why the righteous die? Shall I tell you what it is that kills them? It is Christ’s prayer — “Father, I will that they be with me.” It is that that fetches them up to heaven. They would stop here, if Christ did not pray them to death. Every time a believer mounts from this earth to heaven, it is caused by Christ’s prayer. “Now,” says this good old divine, “many times Christ and his people pull against one another in prayer. You bend your knee in prayer, and say, ‘Father, I will that they whom thou hast given me be with me where I I am.’” So, you see, one gets hold of him, and the other, too. He cannot be in both places; the beloved one cannot be with Christ and with you, too. Now, what shall be the answer? Put the prayers side by side; you are praying, “Father, I will that they whom thou hast given me be with me where I am;” and there is your Saviour, praying that they may be with him where he is. Now, if you had your choice; if the King should step from his throne, and say, “Here are two supplicants; they are praying opposite to one another; their prayers are clearly contrary to each other; I cannot answer them both;” oh, I am sure, though it were agony, you would start from your feet, and say, “Jesus, not my will, but thine, be done.” You would give up your prayer for your sick husband’s life, for your sick wife’s life, for your dying child’s life, if you could realize the thought that Christ was praying in the opposite direction, “Father, I will that they whom thou hast given me be with me where I am.”

     And now we come to the supper of our Master; oh, may the Master give us fellowship with him! Poor sinners that know not Christ, I have hardly a moment in which to address you; but remember, the separation which will be made between you and the church to-night is but a picture of an awful separation which shall be made between you and the church at the last great day. You will sit upstairs, some of you, to look down upon the solemnity: remember, you may look upon it here, but you will not look upon it in heaven, unless your hearts be made new by Christ, and unless you be washed in his precious blood.



Five Links in a Golden Chain

By / Nov 6

Five Links in a Golden Chain

 

“To Titus, mine own [or, “true”] son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.” — Titus i. 4.

 

AMONG the friends of Paul, Titus was one of the most useful and one of the best beloved. Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, and Titus was a Gentile. I should suppose that both his parents were Gentiles, and in this respect he differed from Timothy, whose mother was a Jewess. Timothy would well serve as a preacher to the circumcision, but Titus would be a man after Paul’s heart as a preacher to the Gentiles. He seems to have been a man of great common-sense; so that, when Paul had anything difficult to be done, he sent Titus. When the collection was to be made at Corinth on behalf of the poor saints at Jerusalem, Paul sent Titus to stir the members up, and with him another brother to take charge of the contributions. Titus appears to have been a man of business capacity and strict probity, as well as a man who could order the church aright, and preach the gospel with power. Paul was, on one occasion, comforted by the coming of Titus. At another time, he was sad because Titus was not where he had hoped to meet with him. Though we know little about him from the Acts of the Apostles, or anywhere else, he appears to have been in every way one of the ablest of the companions of Paul, and the apostle takes care to mention him over and over again in his Epistles to the Galatians and to the Corinthians, rendering honour to whom honour is due. It is a great pity when eminent men forget those who help them, and it is a sad sign when any of us do not gratefully feel how much we owe to our coadjutors. What can any servant of God do unless he has kind friends to bear him up by their prayers and their help? Paul did not forget to mention his friend and helper, Titus.

     Dear brethren, in this particular verse, which I have chosen for my text, it seems to me that Paul has brought together five points in which he was one with Titus. It is a great blessing when Christian men are in union with each other, and when they are willing to talk about the bonds that unite them. The more we can promote true unity among Christian men, the better. “First pure, then peaceable,” must be our motto; first, the truth; afterwards, unity in the truth. “We must not be content with merely contending for the faith; we must next fight the battles of life, and do all we can to note the points in which true Christians are agreed. I desire, at this time, to “stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance,” to refresh your memories in regard to all the love that we have borne to one another in the days and years that are now past, and to exhort you to a still closer union in heart unto the glory of God.

     There are five things in which Paul seems to me to bring out clearly his union with Titus; I might call them, “five links in a golden chain.” I shall only briefly speak of each of the five, and try to apply them to ourselves.

     I. First, Paul says of himself and Titus, that THERE WAS A CLOSE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THEM: “Titus, mine own son.”

     This was a very close relationship; — not that Titus was Paul’s son after the flesh, for there was no natural relationship between them at all. Probably, in the early part of their lives, they had been total strangers to one another; but now, Paul views Titus as his son. We know, beloved, many of us, that the grace of God creates relationships of a very near and tender kind, relationships which will endure through life, relationships which will outlast death, and be, perhaps, even more strong and vivid in eternity than they are here. Up yonder, where they neither marry nor are given in marriage, I should think that the relationships which come of the flesh will, to a large degree, be merged in their celestial condition; but there, the sonship of Titus towards Paul is even stronger than it was when they twain were here below.

     How comes that sonship? It comes often through God blessing a ministry to the conversion of a soul. Henceforth, he who has spoken the Word with power to the heart bears to him who has heard it the relationship of a father to a son. There are many in this place to whom I stand in this most hallowed relationship. You recognize it, I know, and I desire to express my intense and fervent love to the many of you who have been born unto God by the preaching of the Word here. I do not know of anything that has more greatly comforted me during the last week or two, in the time of sharp contention for the faith, than the reception of so many letters, from persons of whom I have never before heard, saying, “You do not know me, but you are my spiritual father; and now, at such a time of trial as this is to you, I must write and send you a word of good cheer.” It is always a marvel to me that my feeble testimony should ever be blessed to the conversion of a seeking soul; but when I think of the hundreds, and the thousands, — ay, I am not exaggerating when I say thousands, — whom I have met with here on earth, and the many more, at present unknown to me, whom I hope to meet with either here or in heaven, I do rejoice, yea, and I will rejoice; and I cannot help expressing my great love to all those who have been brought to the Saviour by the words which I have preached and published.

     The apostle Paul not only said of Titus that he was his son, but he called him his trueson. The Revised Version correctly translates it, “My true child.” We have, alas! some who have called us “father” in a spiritual sense, of whom we have cause to be ashamed. There are converts and converts. There are those who say they have received the Word, and. perhaps they have after the poor fashion in which the brain can receive it, but they have never received it in the heart; so, after running well for a while, they grow weary, and turn aside, and then the gainsayer says, “That is one of your converts!” They throw this in our teeth, and wo do not wonder that they should do so. These base-born ones, these who have no part nor lot in the matter, though they pretend to have it, these are a perpetual grief to us, a wound in our spirit, which is hard to bear. But, oh, what a mercy it is when wo know that many of our converts are our “true ” spiritual children, in whom the work of repentance was deep, and whose profession of faith was sincere, who are not the products of free will, but the products of the Holy Spirit, and who bring forth fruit, not of themselves, but their fruit is found in Christ Jesus to whom they are eternally joined ! Oh! those of you, between whom and myself there is this intimate relationship, let us feel some touch of this sacred kinship, and rejoice before God that we do feel it.

     But, beloved, many of you are joined together by spiritualties in other relationships; you also have been the means of bringing souls to Christ, and there are those sitting by your side who, for that reason, look upon you with great love. Others of you are brethren in Christ; there is a brotherhood, produced by the Christian life, that will remain when other brotherhoods have all disappeared. An ungodly man may be the literal brother of a saint; but they will be separated in that day when there shall be weeping at the judgment seat of Christ, and they shall be eternally separated, for, though they seemed to be of one family, they were really of two families, the one an heir of wrath, the other receiving grace to become a child of God. But beloved, as many of you as believe in Jesus Christ, are members of one family; you are related to one another in the highest possible way through the kinship of the spiritual life. Wherefore, let us now salute each other in the Lord; standing or sitting in our places, and without using any outward sign or symbol, let our hearts go out to one another in loving greeting. One family we dwell in Christ, knit to one another by ties of sympathy, and love, and mutual delight, because knit to Christ Jesus the Lord. I want you to feel that blessed union. Let us make this service a sort of family gathering, as when the father stands up at the head of the table, at Christmas time, or on New Year’s day, and says that he is glad to see all the family at home once more. I seem to stand among you thus, not as the oldest in years, but still the chief official member of this church, and I salute you all, and bid you rejoice together because of ties of love which time cannot loose, and death itself cannot dissolve.

     II. Then the apostle, wishing to show how real was the union between himself and Titus, next mentioned that THEY WERE BRETHREN BY A COMMON FAITH: “Titus, my true son after the common faith.”

     Yes, beloved, and our faith is also common. It is the same faith in two respects; first, because we believe the same truths; and, secondly, because we believe them with “like precious faith.” We who are rightly members of this Tabernacle Church have believed the same truths; there is no dispute or discussion among us about the fundamentals of our faith. To us, there is one God, — Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. To us, there is one Mediator, — Jesus Christ the Saviour. We believe in the election of grace by the Divine Father; we believe in the vicarious sacrifice of the Eternal Son; we believe in the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, and in the need of it in the case of every living man, and woman, and child. We believe in “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” I feel intensely grateful for this unity of faith. A church divided in its doctrine, — what can it do? If it has to spend its strength in continual debate, what force has it with which to conquer the world? But knowing, as we do know, that the Scriptures are our unerring guide, that the Holy Spirit is the infallible Explainer of the Scriptures, we come to one common fount to learn what we are to receive, and we receive it with one common anointing, even the anointing of the Spirit of God.

     This unity of the faith is one of the things in which we ought continually to rejoice. I hope that I love all Christians; yet I cannot help saying that, when I sit down and talk with a brother who believes the doctrines of grace, I feel myself a great deal more at home than I do when I am with one who does not believe them. Where there is the unity of the faith, there seems to be a music which creates harmony, and that harmony is delightful to the renewed spirit. God grant, dear friends, that none of us may err from the faith; but that we may be steadfast, immovable, firmly fixed in our belief of the great doctrines of the gospel, for this is the way in which we are made truly one.

     Then, Paul says that he and Titus were one “after the common faith;” that is, the one faith was believed by them in the same way. There is only one faith worth having; Paul calls it, in the first verse, “the faith of God’s elect.” It is real faith, cordial faith, childlike faith, God-given faith. It is not a faith that springs out of human nature unaided by the Holy Ghost; but it is precious faith, faith which is the gift of God, and the work of the Holy Spirit. Now, if we believe only intellectually, we do not enter into sympathy with one another as we do when we both believe spiritually, with heart and soul, from the very depths of our being. Beloved, I trust that I can say of myself, and of you also, that we have received faith as a gift from God; here, then, is another sacred tie binding us together. You have that jewel of faith gleaming on your bosom, and here are others who have the same precious gem, so by that very fact you are drawn to each other. Your faith and my faith, if they are both true faith, are “the common faith.” I may have very little faith, and you may have the full assurance of understanding; but your faith and mine are of the same sort. Your faith may be but as a grain of mustard seed, and your friend’s faith may have grown into a tree; but it is the same faith: it clings to the same Christ, and will produce the same eternal results in the salvation of the soul. Come, then, let us spiritually shake hands again over this second point. First, we are closely related to one another; secondly, we possess a common faith which is a wonderful bond of union between us.

     III. Carefully note the third link. It is this: WE HAVE A MUTUAL BENEDICTION, for Paul wishes for Titus, “Grace, mercy, and peace.”

     This is just what Titus would have wished for Paul if he had been sending him a benediction; and I wish to you, beloved, “Grace, mercy and peace,” and I think you are in your hearts wishing for me also, “Grace, mercy, and peace.” We all alike need these three choice favours.

     First, we need “grace” to help. I know how it is with the weak believer; he sees some brave Christian doing mighty works for God, and he says, “Oh, I wish that I were like him! Oh, that I were as strong as he is!” and he gets the notion that this more prominent worker has no fainting fits or weaknesses such as he has. Oh, no! he supposes that his brother’s head is bathed in everlasting sunshine, and that his heart is continually flooded with rivers of delight. That shows, my friend, that you are greatly mistaken, for the most eminent saint has no more grace to give away than the least in the family of God has. I sometimes wish that I could disabuse the minds of our dear trembling friends, Miss Much-afraid and Mr. Despondency, of the ideas they have concerning some of us to whom they look up with esteem. I am not going to let you into all our secrets; but, believe me, our heads ache as much as yours, and our eyes are sometimes as wet with tears as ever yours are, ay, and our hearts get quite as heavy as yours do. “Yes,” you say, “very likely, but then, somehow or other, you are stronger than we are.” Just so, but suppose you have to carry fifty pounds weight, and you can carry that, and no more; well, you have strength enough for your task. If another man has to carry a hundred pounds weight, and ho can just carry that, and no more, he is in exactly the same condition as you are. Here is a brother who has a large measure full of manna, which he is carrying for the supply of his family, Here is another, who has quite a small measure, and as ho carries it into his tent, ho says to himself, “Oh! I wish that I had that great bushel of manna that my brother took into his tent just now.” Yes, but listen: “he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack.” Mark you, I do not discourage the attempt to gather much grace, I would urge you to get all you can of it; for, however much you gather, you will have none too much; but I would discourage your despair if there should seem to be but little falling to your share, for you shall have no lack. The fact is, all of us need grace. You who preach the gospel, you who are deacons, you who are elders, you who teach the infant class, you who can only give away a tract, you must do all these works with grace, or else you will not really do them at all; and our need of grace is a common meeting-place for us all. Only grace can save you, and only grace can save me; and the grace of God shall be given to us and all believers as we have need of it.

     Our next want is, “mercy" to forgive. Titus perhaps thought to himself, “Well, Paul wishes mercy for me, hut can hardly wish it for himself, for he is such an eminent servant of God, so holy, so consecrated, so zealous, so self -denying, that he does not need mercy. I reminded you, in our reading, that Paul, in writing to a church, says, “Grace be to you, and peace;” but when he writes to a minister, he says, “Grace, mercy, and peace.” It looks as though ministers needed more mercy than their people do; and it is my firm conviction that the more eminent is their office, and the more remarkable is their usefulness in the service of God, the more mercy do they require. Brethren, how can we meet our responsibilities unless we constantly cry, “Lord, have mercy upon us”? How can we deal faithfully with the souls committed to our charge, and be clear of the blood of all men, unless the Lord shall have mercy upon us, and upon us beyond all others?

     All of us, then, need mercy. I do; do not you? You are only a plain man, with a family growing up around you; but you need mercy for your sins as the head of the household. Perhaps you are only a domestic servant, my sister; but you need mercy even in that humble calling of yours. You, perhaps, dear friend, are very rich, oh, you need much mercy! And you, on the other hand, are very poor; I am sure that you need mercy. Some of you are in full health; you need mercy lest you should pervert that strength to an evil purpose. Others of you are very sickly; you may well cry for mercy, that you may bear up under your many pains and depressions of spirit. We all need mercy; so that is another point in which we are one.

     The third word of the benediction is “peaceto comfort. I hope that many of us know what peace of conscience means, what peace with God means, and what peace with man means. If God has given us his peace, it is a treasure of untold value, “the pearl of great price.” To be at peace with God, is better than to be a millionaire, or Czar of all the Russias. Peace of mind, restfulness of heart, quiet of spirit, deliverance from care, from quarrelling, from complaining, — I know that I want that kind of peace, and you want it, too, do you not? You need it in your family, in your business, in your own hearts. Well, then, here we meet again, having this same want of peace; and, when we get it, we meet once more in finding the same delicious enjoyment of it. I wish to you, beloved, now and henceforth, grace, mercy, and peace; and I believe that you wish the same to me; and herein again we join our hands, and bless God that we feel true union of heart.

     IV. Upon the next part of my subject, which is more weighty still, I must say but little. It is this: “Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” That is, WE ARE ONE IN THE SOURCE OF EVERY BLESSING.

     All good comes to us from God the Father, through the one Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour. I love to think of this, — that all the grace, mercy, and peace that come to you, and all the grace, mercy, and peace that come to me, come from the heart of God. How many waggons there are upon the road of grace, and all of them heavily laden! One stops at that brother’s door, and another waits at this sister’s gate; but they all started from one spot. Look on the side of the waggons, and you will see the name of the same Proprietor on every one. “The chariots of God are twenty thousand,” but they are all the Lord’s; so that whatever grace, mercy, and peace come to us at all, come from the same place. Get to the very foundation of this truth, and you will see that we who believe all eat bread baked in the same oven, our clothes come out of the same wardrobe, the water that we drink comes from the same rock, ay, and the shoes that we wear were made by the same mighty Worker who bade Moses say to Israel of old, “Thy shoes shall be iron and brass ; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be.” You have not anything that is worth having but what your Father gave to you; and your Father is my Father, and the hand that passeth the blessing to you passeth the blessing to me and to the whole family of believers.

     These blessings not only all come from the same source, but they all come by the same channel: “the Lord Jesus Christ.” There is the sacred blood-mark on every covenant blessing, whether you have it, or your brother has it, or some Christian far away in India gets it. It all comes by the same divinely-appointed channel, — the man, the God, Christ Jesus our Lord. I do not know how you feel about this matter, but it seems to me as if this ought to bind us very closely together. I recollect when first I left my grandfather, with whom I had been brought up as a little child, how grieved I was to part from him; it was the great sorrow of my little life. Grandfather seemed very sorry, too, and we had a cry together ; he did not quite know what to say to me, but he said, “Now child, to-night, when the moon shines, and you look at it, don’t forget that it is the same moon your grandfather will be looking at;” and for years, as a child, I used to love the moon because I thought that my grandfather’s eyes and my own somehow met there on the moon. How much better it is to think that you, dear friend, going right away to Australia, are looking to the Saviour, while wo are doing the same thing here, and so our eyes meet! You go to God at the mercy-seat in prayer, and that is just where we go; so, after all, we pray at the same sacred spot, and our petitions meet at the great throne of mercy. Thus we are made to feel our blessed union in Christ.

     Some people say that they try to recollect other people; but if you really love them, you will not “try” to recollect them, you will not be able to keep from remembering them. Their image will come up before your mind’s eye; you cannot avoid it, and you will not wish to avoid it. So, dear friends, we will not say that we will try to remember each other while we are parted a while; but every blessing that comes to us shall remind us that it comes from our Father, through Jesus Christ our Mediator, and so we shall feel that we are truly one.

     V. Then, to close, there is one more point of union, and that lies in OUR COMMON RELATIONSHIP TO OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. See how Paul puts it, “The Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.”

     I must dwell briefly upon every word of this title. First, Jesus is Lord to all his people, and equally to be obeyed by them all, and adored by them all. It is important that, with bowed knee, and reverent love, we call him Lord and God. We put our finger into the print of the nails, and the wound in his side, confessing that ho is and must be real man; but, at the same moment, we cry with Thomas, “My Lord and my God.” I cannot pretend to have any union with the man who cannot from his heart say that. If thou dost not count Christ to be God, well, go thy way, my fellow-man, and I will go mine; but thy way and my way cannot be the same. We know that this is the Christ of God, and he who does not know it needs to be taught of God the very first principles of the gospel. So, you see, we have a true unity in the lordship of Christ; we desire, as one man, to be obedient to all his commands, and to worship him as “very God of very God.”

     Then comes the next word, “the Lord Jesus Christ.” That will come over again when I speak of the word “Saviour”, so I pass on to the following word, “the Lord Jesus Christ.” He is, to all of us who believe, the Anointed One, so anointed that every Word that Jesus Christ has spoken is to us infallibly inspired. We believe in Jesus, not only as men say they do to-day; but we believe really in Jesus, for we believe in his doctrine, in that which he himself spoke, and in that which he spoke by his inspired apostles. We cannot separate between Christ and the truth he came to preach, and the work he came to do; nor will we attempt to do so. He is to us the Anointed of God, as Prophet, Priest, and King, and we accept him in all the offices for which he bears that anointing; do we not, my brethren? I know that we do; as brethren in one common faith, we rejoice in the common Christ whoso anointing has fallen upon us, too. Though we are but as the skirts of the garment of our Great High Priest, yet the holy oil upon his head has come down even to us, as it is written, “ye have an unction from the Holy One.”

     The apostle further writes, “The Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.” Sometimes, in the Bible, we find the Lord Jesus Christ called “a Saviour.” “Unto you is born in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” That is good, but it is not good enough for what poor sinners need. Our Lord Jesus Christ is not a Saviour among other saviours, though he does instrumentally make his people saviours, as it is written, “saviours shall come up on Mount Zion;” and happy are they who, as instruments in his hands, save souls from death, and hide multitudes of sins. But Jesus is also called the Saviour.” He is “the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe,” — the Saviour, par excellence. Then next, he is my Saviour, as Mary sang, “My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.” Oh, that is sweet indeed, — to get a personal grip of him, and to know that he has saved me from despair, from sin, from the power of evil, from death, from hell. But there is, in some respects, a superior sweetness in this plural pronoun, “our Saviour.” Selfishness is gone when we come to feel an intense delight in this truth, that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Saviour of many more beside ourselves. “Our Saviour” — does not this bind us to one another? A common delight in one person is one of the strongest bands of sympathetic union that can bind men together; and a common obligation to some one superior being becomes a great reason for our being knit together in love. My Saviour, your Saviour, our Saviour: “The Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.” Whenever we feel any disposition to break off from this brother and from that, whom we know to be, after all, saved in the Lord, let us come together with a fresh clasp of the hands as we say to one another, “We rejoice in our Saviour, and we are one in him.”

     What I want to say, — as a parting word, before I leave you once more for my season of rest, — is just this. Let us keep close together now, shoulder to shoulder, if over we did so in all our lives. “Close your ranks!” must be the message to the faithful in those evil days. Let us feel heart touching heart in the deepest and truest Christian affection; for, in proportion as we are welded together in love, we shall be strong for all the practical purposes for which the Holy Spirit intends a church to be used.

     These thirty-four years, — is not that the number? — they are so many, I begin to forgot the figures, — a third of a century have I served among you as a preacher of the gospel. I am always fearing that I shall got “ fiat, stale, and unprofitable, ” and that my voice will cease to have any music for you ; but there is one thing I know, from the first day I came among you until now, I have preached nothing but “the glorious gospel of the blessed God,” — “Jesus Christ and him crucified,” and I am not afraid that that gospel will ever get “flat, stale, or unprofitable,” and this is the golden chain which has bound us together in holy fellowship. This is the foundation on which wo have built, — “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” Yes, one baptism; there are others who hold another baptism, but we know of no outward baptism but the immersion of the believer into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and upon this point we are all agreed, as we are upon the rest of the articles of our faith.

     So, being one, let us show to all the world what the power of Christian unity really is. Keep together in the prayer-meetings. Never let those precious gatherings decay or drop. If you have come together in large numbers, — and you have in my presence, — do so much more in my absence; lot each one feel bound to meet with his brothers and sisters in prayer. I am longing for a genuine revival of religion, — a revival of religion everywhere; and I think I can see signs that it is coming; I find that many of the Baptist ministers who love the gospel, are going over the groundwork, preaching the fundamental doctrines more than ever they did; that is a good thing. I find that the churches are meeting together for prayer at this juncture, more than they have done, seeking that God will help and guide them to be faithful; that also is a good thing. And people are talking about the plan of salvation, — on the tops of omnibuses, and in the railway carriages, — everywhere it comes up as a subject of debate. In the daily papers, the same theme is brought forward, for which I thank God; and though I have had to bear my share of reproach for the truth’s sake, yet I joyfully accept it. Anything which can call public attention to the gospel of Christ is a help to us; and I believe that the attention called to this question is hopeful, that the discussion of it by so many is still more hopeful, and that the firm adherence to the faith, which I see in so many, will be attended by an intense zeal for the conversion of souls, and then we shall see a revival. God has been hindered and hampered by the false doctrine and heresy that have been cherished in so many of the churches; and the Spirit of God has been grieved and driven away by the utter rottenness of worldliness that has been indulged in by so many professing Christians. We have let a little light into this darkness; we have opened a door here and there, and a clear cold draught is blowing out some of the miasma, and the ill gases of the stagnant atmosphere that has been poisoning our people far too long.

     Now is our time, brethren. Let us, as one man, pray God to send this benediction from on high, — “grace, mercy, and peace.” I charge you, while I am away, to be instant in and out of season about this matter; and to let this be a special object of supplication with the members of this church, that we should have a revival of religion here, at any rate, while the pastor is away. It is better for it to come while he is away, for nobody will then put the credit of it upon any instrument. Break out, heavenly fire! Descend! Descend! Descend! Let the sacrifice be consumed!

     As for you who do not know and love the Lord, we love you, we desire to bring you into the blessed circle of love by the door of faith in Christ. Look alone to Jesus Christ, who is the only way of salvation for you as for us. Oh, that you would look to him, and live! God grant it, for Christ’s sake! Amen.



Two Immutable Things

By / Oct 30

Two Immutable Things

 

“Yea, I aware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine.” — Ezekiel xvi. 8.

 

 DURING this last summer, I took a little journey into the country, as I had an opportunity of preaching and visiting in the region where I lived as a little child, and where I afterwards spent some of my school-boy days. Everything was very vividly interesting to me, much more so than it could have been to anybody who was a stranger to the district. Now I want some of you, especially you who love the Lord, to go back in thought to your early days when you were children in grace; ay, go back even further than that, to the time of your spiritual birth, those first hours when your love to your Lord was true and fervent, and everything round about you was fresh and bright and joyous.

     Biographies are generally interesting if they are biographies; that is to say, if the events of the person’s life are truly told; but I think that the most interesting biography to any man is his own lite. Take that book down from the shelf, and look into it. You say that you have not kept a diary; well, perhaps not, but you have one in your memory. You may have read Pepys’ Diary, or Evelyn’s Diary; they are interesting, but I want to get you to read your own. Turn over the pages of the book of memory, and think of those first times when you sought and found the Saviour, when you repented, when you believed, when you yielded yourself up to Jesus, when he took you to be his, and you took him to be yours. I am sure that this exercise will awaken many happy thoughts, and I feel equally certain that it will suggest many regrets; but the happiness will be good for you if it excites your gratitude, and the regrets will be good for you if they deepen your penitence. I want you, then, to go back for a little time, and think of what God did for you then, and of what he has done for you since. You are called to this retrospect by such a chapter as the one before us, which is God’s own statement of how he dealt with the chosen nation. It is also, in a parable, the Lord’s declaration of how he has dealt with us. He remembers it, and he would have us remember it; and in the words of our text he reminds us of the covenant he made with us: “Yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becomest mine.”

     Beloved, the time of our conversion, the time when we joyously realized that we were saved, was a covenanting time. The covenant itself, as to God’s part in it, was made with Christ on our behalf or ever the earth was; it is older than the hills, it is as ancient as God himself. But, as far as we are concerned, the covenant comes into practical, experimental connection with ourselves when we believe in the Lord Jesus, rely upon his atoning sacrifice, and depend upon his promises of grace. I repeat that converting times are covenanting times. We made a covenant with God then; we said, —

“’Tis done! the great transaction’s done.
I am my Lord’s, and he is mine:
He drew me, and I follow’d on,
Charm’d to confess the voice divine.
High heaven, that heard the solemn vow,
That vow renew’d shall daily hear:
Till in life’s latest hour I bow,
And bless in death a bond so dear?”

The covenant was also on God’s part, for he has promised to save all those who trust him; and that promise became ours when we trusted his dear Son. All the promises of the covenant of grace became promises made particularly to ourselves when we received the seal of the covenant by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.

     It is a somewhat singular thing that, in this chapter, God does not say anything about Israel’s part of the covenant; he seems to pass that over as though it were never worth mentioning. The nation had so entirely forgotten it, and had been so altogether untrue to it, that the whole stress of the chapter seems to lie on what God did, how God kept the covenant. Though the sin of the people is brought to their remembrance, yet the Lord does not say to them, “Ye entered into covenant with me,” but he says, “I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest mine.” So, at this time, I shall not say much about the covenant that you made with God; do not you forget it, and do not forget that you have often forgotten it. You did covenant with God that you would be his, and you meant it when you made the promise; you know how far you have been true to it; but what I want to remember myself, and for you to remember, too, is God’s covenant with us, what he promised to do for us, and what he has done for us. Let this thought dwell in our minds, that it may renew our love to our Lord, and make us continually to realize that we are truly his because he has made a covenant with us.

     Here, then, is our text: “Yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest mine.” My remarks upon it will be, first, that it was a covenant freely made; secondly, it was a covenant entirely of love; thirdly, it was a most sure covenant; and in closing, I will try to show you that this covenant involves very gracious consequences.

     I. In the first place, IT WAS A COVENANT FREELY MADE.

     The context tells us that this child, with whom God entered into covenant, was one who could not have had any claim upon him. It was a covenant which he made at his own suggestion, out of the greatness of his love, for the nation of Israel, of which he speaks, had nothing in its pedigree to suggest it. The Lord says, “Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite.” Yet Jehovah entered into covenant with that people. And now, if you look back upon your pedigree, —

“What was there in you that could merit esteem,
Or give the Creator delight?”

There are some who do not believe in the depravity of human nature. I must believe in it if I am myself a fair specimen of human nature; and every man who has watched his own heart, and has any idea of the sin which dwells within him, will know that his origin is tainted, that from the very first there is a tendency to evil, and only evil; and, therefore, that there is nothing in him as to his birth that can command or deserve the favour of God. If God enters into covenant with unfallen man, man is so insignificant a creature that it must be an act of gracious condescension on the Lord’s part; but if God enters into covenant with sinful man, he is then so offensive a creature that it must be, on God’s part, an act of pure, free, rich, sovereign grace. When the Lord entered into covenant with me, I am sure that it was all of grace, nothing else but grace; and I think that all of you who know what that covenant means, and can claim an interest in it, will say, “In mv case, at any rate, it was of grace, and of grace alone.” It was a covenant freely entered into by divine grace, for our pedigree did not suggest it.

     There was also nothing in our condition to commend it. This poor child had never been washed or clothed, it was left in all its filthiness to die; there was nothing about it to commend it to the attention of the passer-by. And what were we by nature? Oh, dear friends, let us think, with shame and confusion of face, of what we used to be before we know the Lord.

“Backward with humble shame we look
On our original;
How is our nature dash’d and broke
In our first father’s fall!”

     We were not all of us open, profligate sinners; some were, however. If I speak of drunkards, and swearers, and fornicators, and the like, I may add with the apostle, “And such were some of you; but ye are washed.” And others of us, who wore not suffered to run in these evil ways, yet with our hearts, with our thoughts, with our tempers, and with our spirit, we sinned grievously in the sight of God. When I remember what a den of unclean boasts and birds my heart was, and how strong was my unrenewed will, how obstinate and rebellious against the sovereignty of the divine rule, I always feel inclined to take the very lowest room in my Father’s house; and when I enter heaven, it will be to go among the less than the least of all saints, and with the chief of sinners.

     Yes, dear friends, it is only too true there was nothing in our condition to commend us to God, or to induce him to enter into covenant with us. It was just because he would do it, because, when he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy; because, he is showing the greatness of his mercy, he feels that he may as well show it where it is most needed; so he looks out, not for merit, but for misery; not for deservings, but for undeservings. According to the riches of his grace, he abounds in mercy towards the very worst of us, pardoning our sin, passing by our transgression, and blotting out our iniquity.

     It was, then, a covenant freely entered into because there was nothing in our condition to commend it.

     It was also a covenant freely made because there was nothing in our beauty to warrant it. Indeed, there was a total absence from us of everything that might be reckoned comely and beautiful. Are you now penitent? Yet, then, your heart was harder than adamant stone. Are you now believing? Then, you were an unbeliever. Are you now zealous for God? Then, you were rather zealous against him, or if not, you were quite indifferent to divine things. Is there any virtue, is there any praise, is there anything of good repute in you? It was not there when God entered into a covenant with you. If there was any beauty in the wife who is mentioned in this parable, it was after the marriage; but before, she was cast out, she was not grown. Whatever there was there, was undeveloped, and worse still, unclean. And in that day when Jesus took us to himself, and we took him to be our Saviour, there was nothing as yet apparent of that which his grace has now wrought in us; it was totally absent then. Oh, brothers and sisters, let us praise and magnify that free grace that ever entered into covenant with you and with me!

     That is the first point, it was a covenant most freely made.

     II. But we cannot linger long on any one part of our glorious subject; so we notice, in the next place, that IT WAS A COVENANT ENTIRELY OF LOVE. Taking our text in its connection, we learn that this covenant was a marriage covenant. It is a very wonderful thing that God should enter into a marriage covenant with his people; but he has done so. The Lord Jesus Christ has taken upon himself our nature, and has become bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh; so that, when Paul is speaking of marriage, he says, “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.” And then he adds, “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church,” which means that Christ has joined himself to his people, and become one in nature with his chosen henceforth and for ever. The Lord Jesus Christ hath taken his people to be henceforth as joined unto him as the wife is joined to her husband. They become one; and so does Christ make his people one with himself. This is a very easy tiling to say, but it is an almost impossible thing to compass and understand. Can it be really so, my soul, that thou art wedded to the Son of God? Is it really so that he says, “Yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee,” and that covenant is a covenant of marriage by world without end? Catch that thought if you can, and enjoy all the comfort of it; but give God the glory for such wonderful condescension.

“On such love, my soul, still ponder,
Love so great, so rich, so free;
Say, whilst lost in holy wonder,
Why, O Lord, such love to me?
Grace shall reign eternally.”

     That it was a covenant which was meant to be entirely of love, is proved by the way in which it was carried out. See how it is said, “Then washed I thee with water; yea, I throughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil. I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers’ skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk. I decked the also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck. And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and ear-rings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head;” and so on. This is a covenant all of love, for these are all love-tokens, love-gifts to the beloved one.

     Now, will you go back in thought, and recollect when you used to receive those gifts from the Lord? You remember when your ears were hung with car-rings. Oh, what hearing that was! You did not grumble at the preacher then, you enjoyed listening to him whenever you could. You would be up early, and work hard so as to get a half-holiday, that you might go and hear the gospel. Your ears were hung with ear rings then. And, oh, how you rejoiced in God as he gave you humility, and patience, and zeal, and love, and all the precious jewels out of the divine casket! You hardly thought you had them, but other people could see them, and they told you that they were there; and they would sometimes say, “How beautiful God has made you by his grace!” Do you remember that? You cannot have forgotten, I hope, those happy times when love-tokens came to you so fresh and frequent! Those evening meditations, how delightful! That sitting up in bed at midnight, enjoying the presence of your Lord; those morning prayers; those quiet walks! Oh, how precious were many texts of Scripture! How delighted you often were with the visits of the Spirit of God, when he brought home this and that great truth to your soul with overwhelming comfort!

     I am only reminding you what the Lord has done for you. As for myself, he has been all love, and goodness, and kindness, and nothing else to me. Truly, a blessed Husband hast thou been unto my soul, O Jehovah! I cannot find fault with thee; neither am I able to find words with which to praise thee sufficiently for all the love and kindness thou hast made to pass before me. Do you not say the same? I think you do. As we sang just now, —

“Dost thou ask me who I am?
Ah, my Lord, thou know’st my name;
Yet the question gives a plea
To support my suit with thee.
Thou didst once a wretch behold,
In rebellion blindly bold,
Scorn thy grace, thy power defy:
That poor rebel, Lord, was I.
Once a sinner near despair
Sought thy mercy-seat by prayer
Mercy heard and set him free;
Lord, that mercy came to me.
Many days have pass’d since then,
Many changes I have seen;
Yet have been upheld till now:
Who could hold me up but thou?”

Let us praise the name of the Lord for the covenant which, in the way it has been carried out, has proved to be a covenant all of love.

     And, dear friends, I would not have you forget that it must be a covenant all of love which God has made with such creatures as we are, because it could bring the Lord no profit. What benefit could he get from us? He may well say, “If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof.” What glory can we bring to Omnipotence? What tribute can we render to him who is Possessor of heaven and earth?

“Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears for ever flow?”

of what use would they be to him? No; if the Lord enters into covenant with us, it cannot be for any gain to himself; it must be only out of a desire to benefit us. Wherefore, let us bow in reverent adoration of the unselfish, self-created love of God to us which we have known since that dear hour which brought us to his foot, and he entered into covenant with us, and we became his own. Surely I have said enough upon this topic to suggest many a grateful thought within the minds of all God’s people.

     III. But now I want to carry you with me to another point; that is, thirdly, IT WAS A MOST SURE COVENANT: “I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee.”

     The covenant which God makes with believers is intended to remain for ever. It is not something which may be broken in a few hours, like a child’s toys; it is an everlasting covenant. Read that 60th verse: “Nevertheless I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant.” How I love to get among the everlasting things! You know, in Canada, they build palaces of ice in the winter time, and very beautiful things they are; but then, when spring comes, where are those palaces? And in summer, the very foundation upon which they were built has melted back into the St. Lawrence. God does not make with his believing people covenants like those ice palaces; his covenant stands secure, though earth’s old columns bow. If God has promised to save thee, — as he has done if thou believest in Jesus, — he will save thee in the teeth of death and hell. Rest thou sure of this and say with David, “He hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure.” Here is something to rest upon: “I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee.” He intended it to remain.

     And in proof that he intended it to remain, he ratified it by an oath. Even among men, where there is an oath, there should be an end of all question; and if Jehovah lifts his hand to heaven, and swears, who shall, after that, dare to suggest that a question is possible? In the day in which we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, he did, as it were, swear unto us: “Surely, blessing, I will bless thee.” “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” We needed nothing more than the promises of Jehovah to rest upon; but, “God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have lied for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.” My soul, be thou full of comfort, for the God who entered into covenant with thee has ratified that covenant by an oath.

“His oath, his covenant, and his blood,
Support me in the sinking flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay:
On Christ the solid rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.”

     To make a covenant even surer than by an oath, men were accustomed to seal it by a sacrifice. They struck hands, and then they said, “Let us kill a bullock, let us slay a lamb, and the blood shall be the token that this covenant is made between us.” Now, beloved, you who believe have the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, to confirm the covenant of grace. God cannot break it; if thou believest in Jesus, he must save thee, by the pledges of his own Son’s life and death. If thou truly believest that Jesus is the Christ, thou art born of God. If thou believest that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. If thou art trusting alone in him, he cannot, he will not cast thee away, for the sacrifice of his Son makes the eternal covenant sure. Is not the blood of Jesus called “the blood of the everlasting covenant”? And herein we see the covenant most surely established. I would have you notice, in our text, that the covenant is remembered by God. It is he who says, “I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee.” He does not forget it; he does not want to forget it; he does not intend to forget it. He says, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls

are continually before me.” The Lord remembers what he did when he swore that he would save his people, and when he gave Christ to make the covenant sure.

     Yet once more, this covenant will be remembered by him for ever. I will read again that sixtieth verse: “Nevertheless I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant.” And then the sixty-second verse: “And I will establish my covenant with thee; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord.” He made a covenant with Noah that he would not again destroy the earth with a flood, and he promised to hang his bow in the cloud as a token of that covenant; and he has done so to this day. He has not destroyed the earth with a flood, and his covenant, which he has made with the greater Noah, who is our true Rest, stands fast, and shall still stand fast when heaven and earth have passed away.

     I want you to think with deepest gratitude of this wondrous condescension, that God should ever have entered into such a covenant with you and with me. Why, if I believed what some preach about the temporary, trumpery salvation which only lasts for a time, I would scarcely be at all grateful for it; but when I know that those whom God saves he saves with an everlasting salvation, when I know that he gives to them an everlasting righteousness, when I know that he settles them on an everlasting foundation of everlasting love, and that he will bring them to his everlasting kingdom, oh, then I do wonder, and I am astonished! Such a blessing as this to be given to you, and given to me!

“Pause, my soul! adore, and wonder!
Ask, ‘Oh, why such love to me?’”

     Sit still and meditate till your hearts burn within you because of this amazing love.

     IV. I finish by noticing that THIS COVENANT INVOLVES VERY GRACIOUS CONSEQUENCES. Let me read the text again: “Yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest mine.” Read those last three words again: “Thou becamest mine.

     Beloved, if God has entered into covenant with us, we have become the Lord’s. Whose were you before? The world’s? Your own? The devil’s? Well, we will not dispute with the many claimants; but now you can say, “O Lord our God, other lords beside thee have had dominion over us: but by thee only will we make mention of thy name.”

     “Thou becamest mine.” Do you recollect the spot, — perhaps it was your own little room, — where, as a youth you sat, after having long prayed and wept? And at last you felt that Jesus was yours; and you sat still, and you said to yourself, “Yes, I am his, every bit of me. He has bought me with his blood, I am his.” Do you remember those first few days in which you felt half afraid to do anything lest you should grieve that dear Lover of your soul? Then you wanted to do everything that you might please him whose servant you had become. I remember a verse of Scripture, which, as a young believer, I used often to repeat: for it was very dear to me. I daresay you love it too; it is this: “Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.” We did feel then that we were wholly Christ’s; do we feel it as much now? “Thou becamest mine.” To come back to the marriage covenant of which the Lord speaks, — when the husband put the ring upon his bride’s finger, he said to her, “Thou hast become mine.” Do you remember when you felt upon your finger the ring of infinite, everlasting, covenant love that Christ put there? “Thou becamest mine.” Oh, it was a joyful day, a blessed day! Happy day, happy day, when his choice was known to me, and fixed my choice on him!

     Now, beloved, tee ought to be the Lord’s more and more. Ever since we became his, we have been the objects of his love and mercy, he has done everything for us. I cannot tell you what he has done, nor can I tell you what he has not done; for everything that could be desired and wished for, Christ has done for you and for me. This long list which lie gives here of how his spouse was clothed, and shod, and adorned, and crowned, reminds me of that verse in the 103rd Psalm where the list of benefits reaches its climax: “Who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies.” Well now, after having experienced the blessings of this covenant, we ought to love our Lord Jesus Christ better than ever, and we ought to feel that we are more and more completely his than ever we were in our lives.

     If that be our fooling, it will lead us practically to renew the bond of the covenant. “Thou becamest mine.” After all that the Lord has done for us, let us become his again; let us come and yield ourselves up to him once more. If any of you have backslidden, or grown cold towards your Lord, come and renew your vows unto the Most High. Say, with me, “My Saviour, I repent not of having yielded myself to thee; but I do repent that I have not more fully carried out my resolve to be wholly thine. If I had never trusted and loved thee before, I would desire to begin to trust thee and love thee now, for thou art unutterably lovely, thou art unspeakably worthy of the confidence of every redeemed man and woman.” Let us each come, and lay our hand once more on that dear head which was bowed with the burden of our sins, and look up into that dear face which has brightened our life so often with its love-glances; and let us now surrender ourselves fully, perfectly, joyfully, over again unto him whose we are, and whom we serve. God help you to do it!

     And you who have never done so, may you come to Jesus this very moment! Your only hope lies in him. God says by the mouth of his servant Isaiah, “Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people.” There is no covenant between God and man except in Jesus Christ. Come, then, and take Christ as your Saviour; and God has sworn to thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, that he will never cast thee away, but thou shalt be his in that day when he makes up his jewels. God grant it, for his name’s sake! Amen.



Prayer, the Proof of Godliness

By / Oct 27

Prayer, the Proof of Godliness

 

“For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found.” — Psalm xxxii. 6.

 

ALL men are not godly. Alas! the ungodly are the great majority of the human race. And all men who are to some extent godly are not equally godly. The man who fears God, and desires truly to know him, has some little measure of godliness. The man who has begun to trust the Saviour whom God has set forth as the great propitiation for sin, has a blessed measure of godliness. The man, whose communion with God is constant, whoso earnest prayers and penitential tears are often observed of the great Father, and who sighs after fuller and deeper acquaintance with the Lord, — this man is godly in a still higher sense. And he who, by continual fellowship with God has become like him, upon whom the image of Christ has been photographed, for he has looked on him so long, and rejoiced in him so intensely, — he is the godly man. The man who finds his God everywhere, who sees him in Jill the works of his hands, the man who traces everything to God,— whether it be joyful or calamitous,— the man who looks to God for everything, takes every suit to the throne of grace, and every petition to the mercy-seat, the man who could not live without his God, to whom God is his exceeding joy, the help and the health of his countenance, the man who dwells in God,— this is the godly man. This is the man who shall dwell for ever with God, for he has a Godlike-ness given to him; and in the Lord’s good time he shall be called away to that blessed place where he shall see God, and shall rejoice before him for ever and ever.

     Judge ye, dear hearers, by these tests, whether ye are godly or not. Let conscience make sure work about this matter. Possibly, while I am preaching, you may be helped to perform this very needful work of self-examination. The text itself is a test by which we may tell whether we are among the godly: “For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found.”

     In these words we have, first, the universal mark of godly men. They pray unto God. Then we have, secondly, a potent motive for praying: “For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee.” And then, thirdly, we have the special occasion when prayer is most useful, the occasion of which the godly avail themselves abundantly: they shall “pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found.” All these points are well worthy of our earnest consideration.

     I. The first is, THE UNIVERSAL MARK OF GODLINESS: “For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee.”

     When a man is beginning to be godly, this is the first sign of the change that is being wrought in him, “Behold, he prayeth.” Prayer is the mark of godliness in its infancy. Until he has come to pleading and petitioning, we cannot be sure that the divine life is in him at all. There may be desires, but if they never turn to prayers, we may fear that they are as the morning cloud, and as the early dew, which soon pass away. There may be some signs of holy thought about the man, but if that thought never deepens into prayer, we may be afraid that the thought will be like the seed sown upon the hard highway, which the birds of the air will soon devour. But when the man comes to real pleading terms with God, when he cannot rest without pouring out his heart at the mercy-seat, you begin to hope that now he is indeed a godly man. Prayer is the breath of life in the new-born believer. Prayer is the first cry by which it is known that the newborn child truly lives. If he does not pray, you may suspect that he has only a name to live, and that he lacks true spiritual life.

     And as prayer is the mark of godliness in its infancy, it is equally the mark of godliness in all stages of its growth. The man who has most grace will pray most. Take my word for it as certain, that when you and I have most grace, we may judge of it by the fact that there is more of prayer and praise in us than there was before. If thou prayest less than thou once didst, then judge thyself to be less devout, to be less in fellowship with God, to be, in fact, less godly. I know of no better thermometer to your spiritual temperature than this, the measure of the intensity of your prayer. I am not speaking about the quantity of it, for there are some who, for a pretence, make long prayers; but I am speaking about the reality of it, the intensity of it. Prayer is best measured by weight rather than by length and breadth; and in proportion as thou growest in grace, thou wilt grow in prayerfulness, depend upon it. When the child of God reaches the measure of the fulness of the stature of a man in Christ Jesus, then he becomes like Elias, a man mighty in prayer. One such man in a church may save it from ruin. I go further, and say that one such man in a nation may bring down upon it untold blessings. He is the godliest man who has most power with God in his secret pleadings; and he who has most power with God in his secret pleadings has it because he abounds in godliness. Every one that is godly shall pray unto the Lord, whether he be but the babe in grace who lisps his few broken sentences, or the strong man in Christ who lays hold upon the covenant angel with Jacob’s mighty resolve, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.” The prayers may vary as the degree of godliness differs, but every godly man has, from the beginning to the end of his spiritual life, this distinguishing mark, “Behold, he prayeth.”

     Further, dear friends, true prayer is an infallible mark of godliness. If thou dost not pray, remember that old true saying, “A prayerless soul is a Christless soul.” You know how often it has been the case that the highest professions of holiness have been sometimes accompanied by the practice of the deadliest vices. For instance, wherever the doctrine of human perfection has been much hold, it has almost always engendered some horrible licentiousness, some desperate filthiness of the flesh which is unknown to anything but that doctrine. In like manner, I have known persons to become, as they say, so conformed to the mind of God, so perfectly in accord with the divine will, that they have not felt it necessary to pray. This is the devil in white, — nothing else; and the devil in white is more of a devil than when he is dressed in black. If anything leads you to decline in prayerfulness, or to abstain altogether from prayer, it is an evil thing, disguise it as you may. But wherever there is real prayer in the soul, take it as certain that the lingering of holy desire in the spirit proves that there is life in the spirit still. If the Lord enables thee to pray, I beseech thee, do not despair. If thou hast to pray with many a groan, and sigh, and tear, think none the less of thy prayers for that reason; or if thou thinkest less of them, the day may come when thou wilt think better of thy broken prayers than of any others. I have known what it is to come away from the throne of grace, feeling that I have not prayed at all ; I have despised my prayer, and wept over it; yet, some time after, in looking back, I have thought, “I wish I could pray as I did in the time when I thought that I did not pray at all.” We are usually poor judges of our own prayers; but this judgment we may make, — if the heart sighs, and cries, and longs, and pleads with God, such signs and tokens were never in an unregenerate heart. These flowers are exotics; the seed from which they grew must have come from heaven. If thou dost pray a truly spiritual prayer, this shall be indeed a sure mark that the Spirit of God is striving within thee, and that thou art already a child of God.

     Once more, beloved friends, prayer is natural to the godly man. I do think that it is a good thing to have set times for prayer; but I am sure that it would be a dreadful thing to confine prayer to any time or season, for to the godly man prayer comes to be like breathing, like sighing, like crying. You have, perhaps, heard of the preacher who used to put in the margin of his manuscript sermon, “Cry here.” That is a very poor sort of crying that can be done to order; so, you cannot make the intensity of prayer to order, it must be a natural emanation from the renewed heart. Jacob could not always go and spend a night in prayer; possibly he never spent another whole night in prayer in all his life after that memorable one. But when he spent that one by the brook Jabbok, he could “do no other,” as Luther said. Pumped-up prayer is little better then the bilge water that flows away from a ship. What you want is the prayer that rises from you freely, like the fountain that leaped from the smitten rock. Prayer should be the natural outflow of the soul; you should pray because you must pray, not because the set time for praying has arrived, but because your heart must cry unto your Lord.

     “But,” says one, “sometimes I do not feel that I can pray.” Ah! then indeed you need most to pray; that is the time when you must insist upon it that there is something sadly wrong with you. If, when the time has come for you to draw near to God, you have the opportunity and the leisure for it, you feel no inclination for the holy exercise, depend upon it that there is something radically wrong with you. There is a deadly disease in your system, and you should at once call in the heavenly Physician. You have need to cry, “Lord, I cannot pray. There is some strange mischief and mystery about me, there is something that ails me; come, O Lord, and set me right, for I cannot continue to abide in a prayerless condition!”

     A prayerless condition should be a miserable and unhappy condition to a child of God, and he should have no rest until he finds that once more his spirit can truly pour itself out before the living God. When you are in a right state of heart, praying is as simple as breathing. I remember being in Mr. Rowland Hill’s chapel at Wotton-under-Edge, and stopping at the house where he used to live; and I said to a friend who knew the good man, “Where did Mr. Rowland Hill use to pray?” He replied, “Well, my dear sir, I do not know that I can tell you that; and if you were to ask, ‘Where did he not pray?’ or, ‘When did ho not pray?’ I should be unable to tell you. The dear old gentleman used to walk up and down by that laurel hedge, and if anybody was outside the hedge, he would hear him praying as he went along. Then he would go up the street, and keep on praying all the time. After he had done that, he would come back again , praying all the while ; and if he went indoors, and sat down in his study, he was not much of a man to read, but you would find that he was repeating some verso of a hymn, or he was praying for Sarah Jones who was ill, or he would plead for Tom Brown who had been backsliding.” When the old man was in London, he would go up and down the Blackfriars Road, and stand and look in a shop window; and if anybody went to his side, it would be found that he was still praying, for he could not live without prayer. That is how godly men come to be at last; it gets to be as natural to them to pray as to breathe. You do not notice all the day long how many times you breathe; when you come home at night, you do not say, “I have breathed so many times today.” No, of course you do not notice your breathing unless you happen to be asthmatical; and when a man gets asthmatical in prayer, he begins to notice his praying, but he who is in good sound spiritual health breathes freely, like a living soul before the living God, and his life becomes one continual season of prayer.

     To such a man, prayer is a very happy and consoling exercise. It is no task, no effort; his prayer, when he is truly godly, and living near to God, is an intense delight. When he can get away from business for a few quiet minutes of communion with God, when he can steal away from the noise of the world, and get a little time alone, these are the joys of his life. These are the delights that help us to wait with patience through the long days of our exile till the King shall come and take us home to dwell with himself for ever.

     Those prayers of the godly, however, may be presented in a great many forms. Some praying takes the good form of action; and an act may be a prayer. To love our fellow-men, and to desire their good, is a kind of consolidated practical prayer. There is some truth in that oft- quoted couplet by Coleridge, —

“He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things, both great and small.”

     There comes to be a prayer to God in giving alms, or in preaching the gospel, or in trying to win a wanderer, or in taking a child upon your knee, and talking to it about the Saviour. Such acts are often most acceptable prayers; but when you cannot act thus, it is well to pour out your heart before the Lord in words; and when you cannot do that, it is sweet to sit quite still, and look up to him, and even as the lilies pour out their fragrance before him who made them, so do you, even without speaking, worship God in that deep adoration which is too eloquent for language, that holy nearness which, because it is so near, dares not utter a sound, lest it should break the spell of the divine silence which engirds it. Frost of the mouth, but flow of the soul, is often a good combination in prayer. It is blessed prayer to lie on your face before God in silence, or to sigh and cry, or moan and wail, as the Holy Spirit moves you. All this is prayer, whatever shape it assumes, and it is the sign and token of a true believer’s life.

     I think that I have said enough upon that first point, — the universal mark of godliness is prayer.

     Secondly, there is, in the text, A POTENT MOTIVE FOR PRAYING: “For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee when thou mayest be found.”

     The motive seems to be, first, because Cod heard such a great sinner as David was. Possibly you know that this passage is very difficult to interpret. It appears to be simple enough, yet there are a great many interpretations of it. In the Revised Version you will find the marginal reading, “In the time of finding out sin.” Let me read the context: “I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid: I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. For this let every one that is godly pray unto thee in the time of finding out sin.” It runs all right, and the connection seems to warrant it. I am not sure that it is the correct translation, but the sense harmonizes with it; so let us learn from it this lesson, that God has heard the prayer of a great sinner. There may be, in this house of prayer, someone who has gone into gross and grievous sin, and this reading of the passage may be a message from the Lord to that person. David had sinned very foully, and he had added deceit to his sin. His evil deeds have made the ungodly to rail at godliness even until the present day, so that infidels ask in contempt, “Is this the man after God ''''' s own heart?” It was an awful sin which he committed; but there came to him a time of finding out his sin. His heart was broken in penitence, and then he went to God, and found mercy; and he said in effect, that it was so wonderful that such a wretch as he was should be forgiven, that every godly man, as long as the world stood, would believe in the confession of sin to the Lord, and in the power of prayer to obtain pardon for the guilty. I like that meaning of the text, for it is sometimes necessary to us, when we are under a sense of sin, to think of such sinners as Manasseh, and Magdalene, and the dying thief, and Saul of Tarsus. There are times, even with those whom God has greatly blessed, when nothing but the sinner’s Saviour will do for them, and when they feel that, if there were not salvation for the vilest of the vile, there would be no salvation for them. So, God gives us a case like that of David, that every one that is godly may pray unto him in the time of finding out his sin. We might have been afraid to come if David had not led the way. “Come,” says he of the broken heart, he who wrote the fifty-first Psalm, “God forgave me; and he did it that he might show forth in me all longsuffering, for a pattern to them who should hereafter repent and believe.”

     Another motive for prayer which I think the text brings before us is this, we all need pardon daily: “For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee;” “for this” — for this covering of sin, for this blotting out of iniquity. Dear friends, I hope that all of you pray unto God daily for the forgiveness of sins; I am sure that all the godly amongst you do so. If you commit no sins, then the Saviour made a great mistake when he left us the prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses.” What is the need of that petition if we have no trespasses to be forgiven? But for this, that is, for the pardon of his sin, every one who is godly will pray unto the Lord.

     And every one who is godly will pray unto God for this reason also, namely, became he has received the pardon of sin. You remember when you made your confession to the Judge of all, and received absolution from him. You recollect when, with broken heart and downcast eye, you acknowledged your sin unto him, and he put away your transgression. Well then, that is the reason why you should always be praying. He who heard you then will still hear you. He who put away your sin then, by that one great washing in the fountain filled with blood, will continue to put away your sin by that foot-washing which he gives to us continually, of which Jesus said, “He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit.” Blessed be God, we shall not cease to pray for pardon although we have received pardon; we will crave the daily renewal of the divine token of reconciliation. If we received it when we were sinners, much more shall we receive it now that we are reconciled to God by the death of his Son. If we received it when we were outcasts, much more shall we receive it now that we are his dear children.

     Again, “For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee,” that is to say, because troubles come, for the connection teaches us this lesson. “Surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him. Thou art my hiding-place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble.” Brethren, the Lord takes care to keep us praying, does he not, by giving us constant needs? Suppose that I had a friend upon whom I was dependent, and whose society I greatly loved, and that he said to me, “I will give you, in a lump sum, as much money as will last you till this time next year, and then you can come and see me, and receive another year’s portion; or, as you like to come to my house, would you prefer to have the amount quarterly?” I should reply, “I will choose the latter plan, for then I should come to you four times in the year, and have four dinners with you.” “Well, then, would you like it monthly?” “Oh, yes! I would like to come monthly, and spend a day with you every month.” “Perhaps,” says he, “you would like to come daily.” “Oh, yes! I should prefer that; I should like to have a daily portion at your table.” “Perhaps you would like to stop with me always, as Dr. Watts did when he went to Sir Thomas Abney’s, to stay for a week, and I think that ‘week’ lasted for twenty-eight years, for he never went away till he died. Perhaps you would like to receive everything from my own hand, and have nothing but what I give you.” “Oh! yes, my friend, this continual indebtedness, this constant dependence, would give me so many opportunities of better knowing you whom I love so much that I should like to have it so.”

     You have heard of “a hand-basket portion.” There is a maid to be married, and her father says to her, “There, my girl, I will give you so many hundred pounds; do your best with it, for it is all I shall have for you.” Another girl is married, and her father says, “I shall send you down a basketful of things on such a day;” and so, every week, a present goes to her. It is a hand-basket portion, and it is always coming; it never comes to an end, and she gets a great deal more from the old man than the other does, who has her fortune all at once. At any rate, it comes, every time, “with father’s love.” If it is given only once, and is done with, perhaps an ill-feeling springs up; but if it comes, “with father’s love,” fifty or a hundred times a year, see how affection is increased between father and daughter. Give me a hand-basket portion. You who like may go and gather a week’s manna; it will stink before the end of the week. I like to have mine fresh every day, just as it comes warm from the ovens of heaven, and ready for the heavenly appetite of the man who learns to live upon the daily gift of God. For this shall every one that is godly pray unto God. He shall have trouble to drive him, he shall have grace to draw him, ho shall have weights to lift him, and they shall be so adjusted that, though they threaten to hold him down, they shall really raise him up.

     Once more, I think that, broadly speaking, the word “this” here means, “Because God does hear prayer, for this reason shall every one that is godly pray unto him.” Now, dear friends, it always will be a dispute between the true believer and the mere professor whether God does hear prayer. Of course, the outside world will always sneer at the idea of God hearing prayer. A man said to me, one day, “You say that God hears your prayers.” “Yes, I do say it.” Said ho, “I do not believe it.” “No,” I said, “I never thought you did; and if you had believed it, I might have thought that it had been a mistake. I did not expect a carnal mind to receive the truth of God.” “Oh!” said he, “there is nothing in it.” Then I asked him, “Did you ever pray, my friend? Did you ever try God?” No, he never did. “Very well, then,” I said, “do not say anything about what you do not know. If you know nothing about what it is, hold your tongue till you do, and let those of us who have tried it speak of what we know.” If I were put in a witness box to-morrow, any lawyer in London would like to have me for a witness; so, when I stand here, and declare solemnly that hundreds and even thousands of times God has answered my prayers, I claim to be as much accepted as an honest witness as I should be in the High Court of Justice ; and I can bring forward, not myself only, but scores and hundreds of you. Brethren, tell me, does not God hear prayer? [Voices: “Yes! Yes! Yes!”] I know he does; and you godly folk can all bear witness that it is so. Calmly and deliberately, you could tell of many instances in which you called upon the Lord, and he answered you. I am loth to argue this point, for it is not a point to be argued. If a man said that I had not any eyes, he might say it, and my eyes would twinkle as I heard him say it; and when anyone says, “God does not hear prayer,” I am sorry for the poor soul that dares to make an assertion about a thing which he has never tested and tried. God does hear prayer, and because he hears it we will call upon him as long as we live. “For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee,” because there is reality in it, and there is a blessed result from it. Prayer does move the arm that moves the world, though nothing is put out of gear by our praying. The God who ordained the effects that are to follow prayer ordained the prayer itself; it is a part of the grand machinery by which the world swings upon its hinges.

     III. I have not time to say more on that part of my subject, though so much more might be said; but the last point is one to which I want to call your earnest attention; that is, THE SPECIAL OCCASION WHEN PRAYER IS MOST USEFUL. “For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found,” or, “in a time of finding,” as the margin of our Bibles has it. Is there any set time when God is to be found?

     Well, in general, it is the time of this mortal life. So long as you live here, and pray to God, he has promised to answer. Though it be the eleventh hour, do not hesitate to pray. Christ’s word is, “He that seeketh findeth.” There is a special promise to those who seek the Lord early; but this does not exclude those who seek him late. If you truly seek him, he will be found of you.

     I think, too, that the time of finding is under this gospel dispensation. God has always heard prayer, but there seems to be a larger liberty allowed us in prayer now. The mercy-seat is unveiled, and the veil is rent away that we may come with boldness. But besides that, there are special times of finding God, namely, in visitations of his Spirit. Revival times are grand times for prayer. How many there are who put in their suit with God because they feel moved thereto by a heavenly impulse! There is “the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees,” as there was with David, and they begin to bestir themselves.

     In closing, I will dwell only upon this one point: there are special times of finding for individuals, and one of these is the time of the finding out of sin. Come back to the translation which I gave you before. The time when you will find out sin, is the time when you will find God. “Why!” say you, “it is a horrible thing for me to find out my sin.” It is, in itself; but it is the best time to find out God. When thine eyes are blinded with tears of penitence, thou canst best see the Saviour. Do not say, “I find myself to be so guilty, and therefore I have no hope.” Nay, rather, because thou findest thyself to be guilty, therefore have hope, for the Saviour came to seek and to save such guilty ones as thou art. The time, I say, when sin finds us out, and we are humbled and ashamed, is the time when we may find our God through Jesus Christ.

     So, too, a time of decision is a time for finding God. Some remain shilly-shallying; they have not decided whether they will live for the world and perish, or seek Christ and live eternally. But when the Spirit of God comes upon you, and you say to yourself, “I must find Jesus Christ, I must get forgiveness, and lay hold of eternal life; give me Christ, or else I die;” you shall have him. God has promised that, if wo seek him with our whole heart, he will be found of us. When you are decided for God thoroughly and intensely, it will be with you a time of finding.

     So will it be when you come to God in full submission. Some of you have not laid down your weapons of rebellion yet. You cannot be reconciled to God while your sword is in your hand; down with it, man! Some of you have fine feathers on your helmets, and you come before God as great captains; off with those feathers! He will accept you in rags, but not in ribbons. He will receive you if you come confessing your sin, but not boasting of your supposed merits. Down with you into the very dust. Yield to God. Oh, that his mercy might make us all pliant as the willow before his mighty power! Then shall wo find peace through Christ.

     I believe that it is a time of finding when you come to concentration. I have known men sometimes say, with a holy determination, “I am resolved that I will find Christ; I will find salvation, and everything else shall go till I do. I shall go upstairs to my room, and shut the door, and not come out again till I have found the Lord.” When the whole soul is bent on seeking Christ, then will the Lord speedily appear, and it shall be a time of finding.

     But especially is it a time of finding when the heart at last trusts wholly and implicity to the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. You shall find that God has found you when you have done with yourself, and taken the blood and righteousness of Christ to be the sole hope of your soul. God lead you to this, dear hearers, this very hour!

     I know that there are some hero who are seeking the Lord. There are some who have lately begun to come under great anxiety. I hope that you will not be long in that anxious state, but that you will come right out of it by trusting yourselves with Christ. It is a wonderful end to anxiety when you have somebody to trust to, and when you do trust that somebody. Now, trust Jesus; he will save you. Ay, ho does save you the moment that you trust him; and he will never let you go, but will bring you to his glory home above.

     May God send his blessing on these words, for Jesus’ sake! Amen.



How Good to Those Who Seek!

By / Oct 23

How Good to Those Who Seek!

 

“The LORD is good to the soul that seeketh him.” — Lamentations iii. 25.

 

I DO not know whether it has ever struck you what a grand man Jeremiah was. If you were to read the book of his prophecy through from beginning to end, and make yourself familiar with the circumstances under which the prophet spoke and wrote, I think you would come to admire him as one of the greatest men who ever lived; for he was not, like Isaiah, brightened and cheered by having a joyful message to deliver, but he had received a sorrowful burden from his Lord, and he faithfully carried it; and when the people rejected his testimony, and refused his message, he went on delivering it all the same. There was no gleam of success to gladden his ministry, yet he never flinched. Nobody seemed to believe in him, he was the jest and the by-word of the people; but that did not matter to him at all. He was tender and affectionate, so that he cried, “Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” Yet he was as stern and unflinching as if his face had been made of an adamant stone. I think him second to no man in the whole list of human beings who have ever lived. Hence, when I found some of those with whom I have been in controversy of late describing one of my protests against false doctrine and worldliness as a “Jeremiad” or a Jeremiah’s Lamentation, I said to myself, “That is the highest compliment they could pay me.” If they even call me a fool, yet nevertheless I will accept the epithet with delight. I count it no dishonour to have to lament as Jeremiah did, and to have to bear a sorrowful testimony even as Jeremiah did; and in that great day when the Lord rewards his servants, the rewards will not be in proportion to the way in which their testimony was received, but in proportion to the fidelity with which they delivered it. If Jeremiah is rejected of men, yet, if he has delivered his Master’s message, he is not rejected of his Master; and in that great day when God the Judge of all shall bring us to account, we who have spoken out of the depths of our soul, and have had our testimony made a jest and a by-word, shall receive none the less honour from our Lord if we have faithfully delivered it.

     I begin with this thought, concerning the man who uttered my text, because the people who speak somewhat sorrowfully and sadly are said to be “pessimists.” It is an ugly word, yet I have had it applied to myself; whereas other men who speak very brightly, — possibly more brightly than they ought to speak, — those who have couleur de rose for everything, are called “optimists.” Well now, when a man is in deep distress of mind, and in sore trouble of heart, if a person comes to him, and says, “Oh, my dear sir, there is really not much the matter with you! It is a very simple thing to cure, and I will soon get you through it,” you say to yourself, “That gentleman is an optimist,” and you make very large deductions from what he has to say, because you feel that he is inclined to flatter, and to put a brighter face upon things than they ought to wear. But if another person comes, who is called a pessimist, one who always makes the worst of everything, — a man who writes “Jeremiads” and who utters lamentations, — if he, nevertheless, says something very bright and cheering, you say to yourself, “Now I know that what he says is true; there must be something really cheering and hopeful when such a man as that, who dares to look at the dark side of things, can yet venture to encourage me.” Well now, it is the prophet Jeremiah, in his Book of Lamentations, who says to you who are seeking the Lord, “The Lord is good to the soul that seeketh him.” You do not need to take any discount off his words of cheer. Depend upon it, what he says is true. If he of the weeping eyes, if he of the sorrowful spirit, yet nevertheless, in all the bitterness of his misery, bears testimony that the Lord is good to the soul that seeketh him, then, depend upon it, it is so. So we begin at an advantage. I pray you to believe the text, because of the man who was inspired to utter it.

     I shall try briefly and earnestly, first, to describe a seeking soul; next, to assure him that God is good to him: and then, further to cheer him on in his seeking.

     I. First, I am to try to DESCRIBE A SEEKING SOUL.

     Everybody does not seek the Lord. There are many who say to God, by their actions if not by their words, “Depart from us; desire not the knowledge of thy ways.” The man who seeks the Lord is the man who feels that he wants him. He is under a sense of need, — a need which he could hardly describe, but which, nevertheless, weighs very heavily upon him. He wants something very great, but he hardly knows what it is. He feels that he has a void, an emptiness within, that needs filling. There is a something that he believes would content him if he could get it, but he has not got it yet. He feels that he is not right with God, he feels like one who is far off from God. He feels guilty, and he wants pardon. He feels sinful, and he wants renewing. He feels everything that he ought not to be, and he wants to be changed, to be made a new man. That is the one who seeks the Lord; a man does not seek after that which he does not want, but a conscious and urgent need drives the troubled soul to seek after God.   

     This seeker, also, is one who, though he does not know it, has a of faith, for he believes, deep down in his heart, that if ho He has heard measure could once got to God, all would be well with him. of God in Christ Jesus, and he says within himself, “Oh, if I could but find this blessed Mediator, if I could but discover this glorious Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world, it would be well with me.” He has not believed so as to appropriate Christ, but he believes so much as to wish that he could appropriate him. This is the man who seeks the Lord. We do not seek for that which appears to have no value in it; but, in proportion as a man has, first, a sense of his need, and secondly some idea of the value of the great blessing which he needs, he becomes an earnest seeker. I hope I am talking to some persons of this kind, as I am describing their true character.

     Further, this seeker sometimes seeks very unwisely. He goes to seek God where he will never find him, like the holy women did when they went to the sepulchre to find the risen Christ, and the angel asked them why they were seeking the living among the dead. When a soul wants God, and wants salvation, it will begin to seek the Lord by its own doings, by its own feelings, by its own strange eccentricities, perhaps. It wants God, and it must have him. You know how a starving man will break through stone walls to get at the food that he so terribly needs; and, often, a man who is seeking after God would go through stone walls, or over them, if he might but find him; yet that is not the way to seek the Lord. “Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)” Christ is not far off, he is very near thee; and yet the seeker is unwisely seeking after God as though he were very far away, and for Christ as though he had to do some strange and wonderful thing in order to find him. Some of you think that you must have a remarkable dream, others expect an angelic vision, some are waiting to hear a very extraordinary sermon, and to feel very singular emotions. This is the nature of seekers, that they often seek in a very unwise way; but still, they do seek; and it is a mercy that they do seek, for “the Lord is good to the soul that seeketh him.”

     I will tell you what true seekers do when they act wisely. I notice that they often yet alone. When you begin to seek the Lord, my young friend, you will steal away by yourself. Father and mother will say, “We do not quite know what has come over him, he seems so different from what he used to be. He gets up into his little room, we think lie must go there to pray.” If his parents are gracious people, they begin to have great hope of him. I remember times when I was never so happy as when I could get alone. Seekers, true seekers, will find some quiet place; that is a difficult thing to find in this noisy London, yet a real seeker will make even a crowded street to be his place of retirement, or he will walk down some back alley, and be thinking, and crying, and seeking, and groaning. But in the country, how often have I known young lads to get down a saw-pit, or up a hay-loft, or in the corner of a barn, or anywhere where they could but sit in quiet meditation, and try to think their way to Jesus’ feet, that they might find him if they could. That getting alone is a good sign. When a stag is wounded, it delights to hide in the recesses of the forest, that it may bleed and die alone; and when God has shot his arrow of conviction into a human heart, one of the first signs of the wounding is that the man likes to get alone.

     I will tell you another thing about the true seeker. You will find that he begins to bring out his Bible, that much-neglected Book. Now that he is seeking the Lord, he knows that —

“Within this sacred Volume lies,
The mystery of mysteries.”

And he begins to study his Bible as he never did before. It is a blessed sign when the young man or the young woman begins to take an interest in the Word of God, and searches the Scriptures, saying, “Lord, bless this Book to me. The Christ is here. He feedeth among the lilies of thy revealed truth; oh, that I might meet him, and that I might call him mine!”

     And as, perhaps, in his study of the Scriptures he meets with difficulties, you will find that this seeking young man is anxious to go and hear the Word preached; for the Word rightly preached has a warmth about it, and a vividness, which are not always so manifest to the seeker in his reading of the Word. If you are true seekers, I know that you will want to go and hear a preacher who touches your conscience, who speaks to your heart, and who longs to bring you to Christ. My dear hearers, I do not mind where you go on the Sabbath day if you really hear the truth faithfully preached. As far as I am concerned, there are plenty of people here; but I do wish that, on the Sabbath, and on week-nights too, you would not have any desire to go and hear a “clever ” preacher, or to some fine musical service, but that you would say, “We have to care first for our immortal souls, and we long to seek and find eternal life, therefore let us go where the minister preaches Jesus Christ and him crucified, let us go where we can hear the gospel of the grace of God, for that is what we want.” You cannot afford to throw away a single hour, either in listening to human oratory or to any other kind of performance. With you it must be, “Give me Christ, or else I die.” Therefore, be diligent in hearing the gospel preached.

     That is, then, another mark of a true seeker, he loves to be alone, he searches the Scriptures, he goes as much as he can to hear the gospel preached.

     And there is another sign of the true seeker that I always love to see; he likes to get into godly company. He does not care now for the friends he once so much admired, — his merry friends who laughed away the years, — if he can but get where he can hear a few poor people talking about Jesus; something like John Bunyan, you remember, who saw three or four godly women at Bedford talking about the things of God, and the tinker drew near, and listened to their gracious conversation, though their talk about the new birth was beyond his comprehension. That is good seeking when you turn eavesdropper to hear about Christ, when you like to listen to some poor neighbour who does not know much more than you yourself know, but who, in her simple language, talks about an experience of the things of God to which you have not as yet attained, but which you wish you had felt and known.

     There is another mark of a seeker that is better still: “Behold, he prayeth.” Possibly, he used to repeat a form of prayer; but he has given that up, and now he talks to God straight out of his heart, and asks for what he really wants; and he not only does that morning and evening, but he is praying during most of the day. If you watch him oven from the other side of the counter, you may hear a sigh every now and then; or when he is at his work, driving the piano, or using the hammer, if you are close to him, you may see his lips moving, and you may catch such words as those, “Saviour, reveal thyself to me. Blood of Christ, cleanse me. Spirit of God, renew me.” That is one of the men who are seeking the Lord.

     I think there will be one more mark that you will see upon a sincere seeker; he will quit all that is evil as much as possible, and he will seek after that which is good, and especially, he will seek after faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He has heard it said that he that believeth in him hath everlasting life, and he says to himself, “Oh, that I could believe in him!” You will see him now trying to believe, very much like a little child tries to take his first steps in walking alone. His mother holds out an apple, and baby makes a daring venture to try with three or four steps to get across to where mother holds out the bribe. Oh, I love to see poor souls trying to trust Christ, trying to rest in Jesus! They often make sorry work of it; but still, the Lord accepts it, for with their hearts they are really trying to rest in Jesus. If, poor trembling seeker, your faith should bring you no comfort because it is so weak, yet keep on trusting to Christ. When the brazen serpent was lifted up, all who looked to it were healed. There were, doubtless, some clear bright eyes that saw the brazen serpent from its head to its tail; and as they looked, they lived. But there were probably others who were so bitten by the serpents that their eyes were swollen, and dim; they could only see out of the corners, and the death-damp seemed to blind even that little bit of sight which they had; but, oh! if they could only get just a glimpse, so as just to see the glittering brass, though they could not make out the shape of the serpent, yet they lived. They were bidden to look; and if they looked, and could not see, yet the promise was not to the seeing, but to the looking; and so, as they looked, they wore healed. Thus look to Jesus, and you shall live.

     I do trust that many seekers hero have come as far as this; if so, I may now conduct them to the next stage of my sermon.

     II. I want, in the second place, to ASSURE THE SEEKING SOUL THAT THE LORD IS GOOD TO HIM: “The Lord is good to the soul that seeketh him.”

     “Ah!” says one, “my heart is almost ready to break; I have been seeking so long, I feel so sad, I am so discouraged.” But “the Lord is good to the soul that seeketh him.” Let me show you this truth very rapidly.

     First, it is good of him to have set you seeking at all. He might have left you in your sins as he has left so many thousands of your fellowmen. He might have left you to be content with this vain, wicked world. At this moment, you might have been leaning across the counter of the gin-palace instead of listening to the Word of the Lord. Ay, instead of going home to pray, you might have been getting to the harlot’s haunt; and to-morrow, instead of coming to the prayer-meeting, you might have been found where the multitude amuse themselves with vice. Thank God that you are a seeker, for there is something good in that fact. On a dark night, you may be grateful for one star shining in the sky, or even for a single match; it is very little, you think, but thank God for that little. “The Lord is good to the soul that seeketh him,” in setting him seeking at all.

     But God is also good to the seeker in giving him some gleams of comfort. Did you say that you had been seeking the Lord for months? Well, how is it that you have kept on seeking? I think it must be because you have sometimes had a few rays of light. I cannot give you any better evidence than my own. I was long in seeking Christ; and for that I blame myself, not Christ. But there were times, before I found him, when I almost met with him. I did not see him; but I seemed to see the trees move as he passed along. I did not see him, but I heard his footfalls; and sometimes I went home, and said to myself, “Oh, yes, I shall find him! I shall not cry to him in vain.” I even thought sometimes that I had laid hold of him, and that I had trusted him; and though I went back again into despondency, yet I was not without hope of ultimately finding him. You know what it is sometimes, when you are very hungry, and you cannot get a meal, if you can get just a bite or two of something; it keeps you up till the mealtime comes. Well, it was like that when I was hungering and thirsting for Christ. Many a crumb this poor dog picked up from under the Master’s table, and so I was encouraged to keep on seeking till I found my Saviour. Is it not so with you, dear friend? Yes, the Lord is good to them that seek him by just keeping their courage up, and preventing them from sinking utterly into despair. Is he not good in keeping back the temptation which might have destroyed you? The foul insinuations of Satan trouble you, but they might be worse than they are. You have been driven almost to despair, but not quite. You have grated against the rock, but you are not shipwrecked yet. “He stayeth his rough wind in the day of the east wind.” Thank God for that. “The Lord is good to the soul that seeketh him.”

     I think that he is also good in not letting us rest short of himself. You would have liked to have had comfort long ago, would you not? Ay, but comfort is not the main thing that you require; you need safety. Often, the surgeon, when he has a bad case, will not let the wound heal. “No, not yet,” says he; “if that wound heals too soon, there will be more mischief coming from it.” So he lets in his lancet again, and cuts out a bit of proud flesh; and our Lord will not let us close up the wound that sin hath made lest it be but a sorry healing that will end in a worse wound than before. I pray God that no one who is really seeking Christ may ever be able to rest till he gets to him. There is good resting at the foot of the cross, but you want to rest before you get there. I thank God for not letting you rest until you get to Christ, and I hope you will say, —

“I will not be comforted
Till Jesus comforts me.”

Make that your resolve, and may the Spirit of God keep you up to it! If so, you also will prove that “the Lord is good to the soul that seeketh him.”

     But he is much better to them that seek him than you have ever imagined, for he has given such rich promises to seekers. Oh, the blessed invitations of Christ! “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” This blessed Book is full of such promises as these, — just the kind of promises that seeking souls need; and they all prove that the Lord is, indeed, good to them that seek him.

     He is also good to seekers because he has made the way of salvation so plain. Brethren, there are certain gentlemen, nowadays, who want us to have what they call an advanced theology, an eclectic religion, which will suit those who are supposed to be “cultured.” O God, save me from over caring for such a thing as that! I want to be the means of saving the poor and needy, the ignorant and the fallen; and God wishes to save such people, and therefore he puts the gospel very plainly, “Believe and live. Trust the great Sacrifice, rely on Jesus crucified, and you are saved, and saved for ever.” A man with an intellect not much above that of an idiot may understand this gospel, and enjoy it, while a man with the greatest mental powers cannot understand it any better; nay, he cannot understand it at all, unless the Spirit of God shall reveal it to him. I do thank God that it is not a difficult way of salvation that he has laid before us, but that it is simple, or as men say, “as plain as a pikestaff.” God bring us all to accept this gracious plan of salvation!

     Then, once more, is it not very good of the Lord in being found of seekers in due time? There is no true seeker who shall die in his sins. If thou art sincerely seeking, thou shalt find; this is promised in our Lord’s own words that wo read just now: “For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” If I could take you through the whole dread region of hell, if we could pause at every cell where the finally impenitent are shut up without hope, and if it were possible to interrogate every lost spirit, there would not be found there a single one that sincerely sought the Lord through Jesus Christ. No one shall be able to stand up at the last great day, and say, “I came to Jesus, but he cast me out. I trusted him, but he did not keep his promise.” No, my dear hearer, if over you shall be lost, it will be because you never came to Christ, because you never trusted him, because you would not have him as your Saviour. But if thou comest to Christ, — poor, ragged, defiled, loathsome, guilty up to the hilt, — if thou comest to Christ, remember that he said, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out;” and that word still stands true. If thou dost seek the Lord with all thine heart, thou shalt surely find him, for he “is good to the soul that seeketh him.”

     I try to speak to you very plainly, as if I were talking to you by your own fireside. I do not feel at any great distance from you in standing here to speak to all of you round about me; yet I half wish that I could get a hold of your hands, you unconverted ones, and say to you, “Do believe that my Lord is good to them that seek him. Do believe it, and seek him for yourselves.” He is a good Lord. We sang, a few minutes ago, —

“Oh, hope of every contrite heart!
Oh, joy of all the meek!
To those who fall, how kind thou art!
How good to those who seek!”

Those are not mere words; they are the very truth of God. He is, indeed, good to those who seek him.

     III. But, lest I weary any seeker where I want to win him, I shall close by FURTHER CHEERING HIM ON IN HIS SEEKING.

     Friend, be of good comfort, Christ is seeking you. It is written, “The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” If I were at this time seeking a person in London, I might have a long task; it would be like the proverbial “hunting for a needle in a bottle of hay.” But suppose I knew that the person I was seeking was also seeking me; I think then I should say that there was a double probability of our meeting. If I am seeking him, and he is seeking me, and especially if he who seeks me is a man of high intelligence and wide knowledge, we shall meet one of these mornings or evenings, depend upon it. So, if thou art seeking Christ, that is hopeful; but if Christ is seeking thee, and he knows all about thee, — all the ins and outs of thy poor life, — he and you will come together soon, I am persuaded of it. You are drawing nearer to each other every hour, and it will not be long before your arms are about his neck, and his arms about yours; you will be rejoicing in him, and he will be rejoicing over you.

     I want to give you another word of good cheer, my seeking friend. It may not be long before you find the Saviour; it may, indeed, be so little a while that, before the clock strikes again, you will have found him. Why not? “Oh!” say you, “I wish it might be so! Oh, that I might find the Lord in that short time!” Well, look at me. Some four or five years I had been seeking Christ under a heavy burden of sin. I remember well that Sabbath morning in the month of January, 1850, for there was a very severe snowstorm. I was going to the Congregational Chapel at Colchester that morning; but it snowed so heavily that I turned into the little Primitive Methodist Chapel, merely because of the heaviness of that snowstorm. I was cold at heart, almost despairing; I thought that I should never find the Saviour, but between half-past ten o’clock, when I entered that place, and half-past twelve o’clock, when I was back again at home, what a change had taken place in me! I had passed from darkness into Simply by looking to Jesus, I had been delivered from despair, and I was brought into such a joyous state of mind that, when they saw me at home, they said to me, “Something wonderful has happened to you;” and I was eager to tell them all about it. I was like Bunyan when he wanted to tell the crows on the ploughed field all about his conversion. Yes, I had looked to Jesus as I was, and found in him my Saviour. Well now, this October Sabbath night, you, dear heart, have been seeking the Lord for ever so long. You will not need to seek him any more if you will but look to him; that is all you have to do. Look to him! Look to him! Look to him; and, as you look to him, the great transaction will be done, your burden will be gone, the joy of salvation will be given to you from heaven by God’s own right hand, and you shall have a now song in your mouth, your feet shall be set upon the rock, and your goings shall be established.

     And mark you this: when the blessing comes, it will be worth waiting for. When the pardon of your sin comes, you will say, “I do not regret my cries and tears, my weary waitings and anxious seekings. He has come! He has come! He has come, my Lord and my God!” Why, if I had to wait at the posts of his door from youth to old age, yet if I found him at last, it would well repay all my waiting. The joy and peace through believing which come from Christ are a wonderful off -set against the tears and sorrows that we have endured while wo have been seeking him.

     This is my closing thought: thou hast no need to go about seeking Christ ang longer. Thou hast no need to wait even five minutes ere thou findest him, for it is written, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” Dost thou know what it is to believe on him, to trust him? Do so now. “It would be a great venture,” says one. Then venture on him. “Would he save me?” Try him. You have heard, I dare say, of the African who came over to England. Before he came, the missionary told him that, sometimes, it was so cold in England that the water grow hard, and men could walk on it. Now, the man had heard a great many things that were not true which he had believed; but this, he said, he never would believe. It was “one great big lie; for nobody over could walk on water.” When he woke up, one I December morning, and the stream was frozen over, he still said that he would not believe it. Even when his friend went on the ice, and stood there, and said, “Now you can see that what I told you was true; this is water, yet it is hard, and it bears me up,” — the African would not believe it, till his friend said to him, “Come along,” and he gave him a pull, and dragged him on the ice, and then he said, “Yes; it is true, for it bears me up.”

     I would like to give some of you a bit of a pull like that. I am resting on Christ, on Christ alone; and he bears me up. Come along, and try him for yourselves. May the Lord lead you to do so! There never yet was a heart that truly trusted in Christ that was deceived by him. Remember that verse which, we sang; at the beginning of the service, and —

“Venture on him, venture wholly,
Let no other trust intrude;
None but Jesus
Can do helpless sinners good.”

Then shall you know for a certainty that “the Lord is good to the soul that seeketh him.” God bless and save you, every one, for Jesus’ sake! Amen.



The Everlasting Arms

By / Oct 6

The Everlasting Arms

 

“Underneath are the everlasting arms.” — Deuteronomy xxxiii. 27.

 

THIS short passage is found in the midst of a mass of gold, sentences containing the richest treasures of truth. All this spiritual wealth is the heritage of the people of God, — not only of his typical people to whom those words were spoken, but to his real people, the true seed of Abraham, those who are the believing children of the father of all believers. If you are trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, you may take these precious words home to yourself, and you may live upon them; you may eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and rejoice in all the refreshment that they bring to your spirit.

     In the four verses, from the 26th to the 29th, notice how near God is said to be to his people. He is described as being above us, arching us over with his divine power: “There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky.” Faith can hear the tramp of the celestial cavalry above our heads. We who trust in the Lord are always safe, for the angels of God are looking down upon us from the battlements of heaven, ready to show themselves strong on our behalf as soon as their presence is needed by us. Then, our text tells us of God beneath us. As he is above us in the heavens, so underneath us are the everlasting arms. The next sentence shows us God before us: “and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy thorn;” and the remaining verses of the chapter represent him as being all around us, so that we are encompassed with God; not only with his presence, with which he fills heaven, and earth, and all deep places, but with the glorious presence of his mighty love. He is above, beneath, before, and all around us; he never forsakes us, for in him we live, and move, and have our being. Let us rejoice, therefore, in our Lord’s nearness.

     I. Now coming to our text, I want, as God’s Spirit shall help me, to bring to your notice, first, THE QUARTER THAT IS THUS HONOURABLY SECURED: Underneath.”

     “Underneath.” Well, in the first place, that is the point of mysterious assault. We look for the attacks of the powers of darkness from underneath. They are very remarkable attacks; there are many who are the objects of them, but there are few who fully understand them. There are many of God’s children who are often sorely vexed by Satan, yet they do not know that it is the devil who is troubling them. They blame themselves for thoughts that are none of their own, but which come up from the infernal pit, like smoke and sparks from that dread lower world. O friends, if Satan has ever grievously tempted and assailed you, you will dread beyond expression any repetition of that temptation or assault. Mr. Bunyan well says that a man had better go over hedge and ditch, and many miles round about, rather than meet this terrible adversary. He not only works through the world, and through the flesh, but he has modes of personal attack, fiery darts from his own hand, false accusations and foul insinuations, which come only from him. By all these he assails Christians, and brings us to a stand, so that sometimes we know not what to do. Just underneath us there seems to yawn the awful pit, out of which Satan rises, with his abandoned fallen angels, to do us mischief. Then comes in this gracious assurance: “Underneath are the everlasting arms.” Against this mysterious because incomprehensible foe, whose darts are so painful and deadly, God has been pleased to set a shield; and he puts underneath thee, O child of God, his everlasting arms! You may be tempted by Satan, but it shall only be in a measure; God will not let him put forth all his diabolical strength. When the Lord suffered Satan to tempt Job, there was always a proviso, which said to the devil as to the raging sea, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further.” The Lord pulled him up short just at the point where he hoped to destroy the good man; and it shall be so with thee also, tried believer. Underneath thee, in thy worst attacks from Satan, shall be the everlasting arms of the Lord himself.

     Note a second meaning of this word “underneath.” That is the place of our daily pilgrimage. To the Israelites, “underneath” was the burning sand of the terrible wilderness; sometimes, “underneath” were the fiery serpents, and all manner of evil things, so that their march towards Canaan was a continual trial to them. “But,” saith God to his people, “though sense sees nothing underneath but ever-burning sands, let faith see underneath the everlasting arms.” Some of you go forth to your daily labours, and you find the place of your service to be a real wilderness, full of trial and everything that is unpleasant to you. Yet look again, with eyes touched with heaven’s eye-salve, and instead of seeing the bitter poverty, and the grinding toil, and the daily trial, you will begin to see that God is in it all, and “underneath are the everlasting arms.” Thou shalt go cheerfully home to heaven, upborne by God. He who made thee will carry thee; he who loves thee will bear thee all the days of old till thou shalt come unto the Mount of God, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days. I think, therefore, that our text applies not only to the point. of mysterious assault, but to the place of daily pilgrimage and toil.

     Do you not think that this word “underneath” also relates to the place of perilous descent? There are times in a man’s life when he has to come down. It is not a very easy matter to go down the hill safely. Some persons have proved that it is difficult to grow old gracefully; but to the Christian it ought not to be impossible or unusual to grow old graciously. Still, there are difficulties about that coming down the hill of life, — coming down in a very material sense, perhaps, from competence to real poverty; coming down as to your mental powers, being conscious of losing your former influence over your fellows; coming down in general repute, through no fault of your own, but through circumstances of which you are not the master. All this is very trying to human nature. You know that, on the way to heaven, there are many Hill Difficulties; and brave spirits rather enjoy climbing to the top of them. We like a craggy path, hard and rough, where we can keep on looking upward all the way even if we have to scramble on our hands and knees. There is something pleasant in going up in that fashion; but it is when going down into the Valley of Humiliation that we are apt to slip. We do not like going down; and, as many horses fall at the bottom of the hill, so I believe that many people trip at the end of a trial when they think it is nearly over, and they have no need to look so carefully to their feet. Well now, dear friends, if any of you are going down the hill, I think the text comes in very sweetly: “Underneath are the everlasting arms.” You cannot go so low but that God’s arms of love are lower still. You get poorer and poorer; but “underneath are the everlasting arms.” You get older and feebler; your ears are failing, your eyes are growing dim; but “underneath are the everlasting arms.” By-and-by, unless the Lord speedily returns, you will have to die, and you will come down very low then; but still it will be true “underneath are the everlasting arms.”

     Further, I think that we may use the text as referring to a matter of intense concern. Sometimes, we say to one another, “Is our religion real? We trust we love the Lord; but do we love him? We think we are reposing in Christ; but are we really doing so? We have a measure of joy and peace; does it come really through believing in Jesus, or is it a delusion of the flesh or of the devil? We have come forward so far in the heavenly way; but are we really going towards heaven, or is it all a mistake?” It is a good thing, occasionally, brothers and sisters, to look underneath; he who never sees what is under him may have great cause to do so. Examine your foundations, see what your corner-stones are, for if you should be building on the sand, then, in the time of storm, your fine building will be all swept away. It is a grand thing if we can find this text to be true: “Underneath are the everlasting arms.” I dig through my experience, and “underneath are the everlasting arms.” I question my joys, I examine myself about my sorrows; but do I come down on the purposes of God, the immutable faithfulness of the Most High, the eternal verities revealed in Scripture; do I come down upon the everlasting arms? If so, I am resting where the whole universe may rest; I am resting on a faithful God, and I need not be afraid. Do not fear to examine yourself; if you do, there is perhaps all the graver need for the testing and trying. Search and look, and go to the bottom of these matters. Happy shall you be if, diving to the very depths, you can say, “Yes, underneath are the everlasting arms.”

     I shall use this first word of my text in one more way: I think we have here the secret of singular discoveries that will yet be made. We do not at present know the reality of things; we judge according to our feelings, and by the sight of our eyes; how else can we judge? But the day will come when things will appear very different from what they do now. There is a huge trouble which has mastered us for years; it has seemed, with its dense shadow, to darken our heavenly way for a great length of time; but the day will come when we shall look through that trouble, and we shall find that “underneath are the everlasting arms.” Perhaps some of us are in sore perplexity; we cannot understand the Lord’s providential dealings with us. He does not always tell us the reason for his actions; we might not understand it if he did, but we may rest assured that he is working out purposes of infinite love. He ceases not to care for us even when things appear to be at their very worst. I bear my willing witness to the faithfulness of God; I am not so old as some, but I am old enough to have gone through fire, and through water, and I am here to testify that I have not been burned by the one, nor drowned by the other. Cannot many of you say the same? In your sorest trials, and in your hottest furnaces, has he not been specially present with you, and bestowed great blessings upon you? ’Tis even so; then trust him, ye saints, for what his Word assures you is gloriously true: “Underneath are the everlasting arms.” Go deeper down, look further into the real reason of things than you have been accustomed to do, and you shall come on this solid foundation, that God is working out for you infinite and eternal blessedness by these light afflictions which are but for a moment.

     II. Now, secondly, let us note THE MANNER IN WHICH THIS QUARTER IS SECURED: “Underneath are the everlasting arms.”

     The everlasting arms are there; and that means, first of all, that God himself is close to us, guaranteeing the eternal safety of all those who trust in him. Of course, where anyone’s arms are, there he is, and God is not divided from his own arms. This is our joy and comfort, that God is with us. What strength it gives to faith to believe that God is present! Even the false prophet, Mahomet, had a strong faith in God, — in Allah, — and when he fled for the first time, and hid in a cave with only one friend, his companion said to him, “Our pursuers are after us, and there are only two of us.” “Stop,” exclaimed Mahomet, “there are three, for Allah is here!” It was the utterance of a brave and grand faith; would that his whole career had been in harmony with it! Wherever there are two of God’s people, there is Another with them, for God is there. We do not count him in as we ought to do; yet, if we were wise, we should put ourselves down as only ciphers, and say, “Nobody is there till HE is there; he is the one true, personal numeral that multiplies all these ciphers indefinitely.” Mr. Wesley said, as he died, “The best of all is, God is with us;” and that is the best of all, is it not? Underneath is God himself. He who made the heavens and the earth cannot forsake those who do not forsake him. If thou lovest him, if thou trustest in him, he might as soon cease to be as fail anyone who is relying upon him. This is the glory of Jehovah that, while the gods of the heathen are worthless idols, our God hears prayer, and answers the cry of his people. Try him, and see if it be not so. Blessed are they who trust in Jehovah, for they shall find in the living God help in every time of need, and strength sufficient for every day of trial. So, then, we see that what might appear to us as the dark abyss, the dreary, mysterious underland, is all guarded by Jehovah himself: “Underneath are the everlasting arms.”

     Our text also means that the Lord’s immutable purpose is being fulfilled. Where God’s arms are, he is at work, and he is at work accomplishing his purposes of grace. The text speaks of everlasting arms: that is a strength that never fails, and never turns aside from the purpose to which it has bound itself. O child of God, down deep where thou canst not see it, the divine power of the Eternal Godhead is always at work for thee! The arms of God are busy on thy behalf; he hath made them bare to show himself strong in thy defence. Be thou sure of this, God hath a purpose of love to all who believe in him, and that purpose of love shall stand fast to all eternity. Whatever changes there may be in the appearance of this world, and in the great universe of which it forms a part, there shall be no change in the infinite resolve of God to bless his people, and preserve them even to the end. Wherefore, believer, be of good comfort, and say to yourself, “At the bottom of everything that happens to me, there is the immutable purpose of God, and God himself working it out.”

     Beside the Lord’s immutable purpose, and his infinite power by which God is at work for you at all times, our text means that his inexhaustible patience is waiting its time. “Underneath are the everlasting arms,” bearing up thy load, sustaining it with long endurance, while he keeps on working for thee, — invisible, yet ever active on thy behalf. Dost thou expect to see thy God on this side heaven? If so, thou wilt be disappointed. Art thou willing to walk by faith, and not by sight? If so, thou shalt have a double blessing; for, “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” Oh, that the Holy Spirit of God would bring you to this point! Having trusted God in the person of his dear Son, having laid the whole weight of your eternal interests upon him whom God hath revealed to be your Saviour, you may leave them there in perfect safety, without a moment’s care or anxiety. God’s everlasting arms must carry out God’s eternal purposes. Not one of his promises can fall to the ground, for “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” It is God himself who undertakes to bear thee up, and bear thee through; therefore, rest thou assured that ho will do it.

     III. I must not speak longer upon that matter, for I must say just a little upon the third point. THERE ARE TIMES WHEN THIS TEXT IS VERY PRECIOUS TO BELIEVERS: “Underneath are the everlasting arms.”

     One of these times is, I think, when we are very sick and very feeble. The pillows have been beaten up for you, and made as soft as they can be; and the bed, which is so apt to grow hard, has been tenderly smoothed by kind fingers; yet you sink back as if you were about to die of very exhaustion. Sink back, then; be not afraid, for “underneath are the everlasting arms.” Perhaps there comes a faintness over you, and you seem to be sinking, sinking, — you know not where; still, “underneath are the everlasting arms.” You try to rise, but you cannot; you would clutch at something by which you think you might get back to activity, but you fall back into the same state of weary languor and pain. Well, but still, “underneath are the everlasting arms.” It is delightful to feel that our feebleness impinges upon Omnipotence; that, just when there is nothing left to us, then God comes in with all his fulness, and bears us up. He is ever faithful, and full of compassion; he doth not afflict willingly, or grieve the children of men; so, when he must grieve them, it is then that he displays his special power to strengthen and sustain them. Go home to thy bed, if so it must be with thee; if there be wearisome months of sickness and disease awaiting thee, go home, and carry this text with thee: “Underneath are the everlasting arms.”

     Is not this word very sweet, too, when burdened with sore troubles, or oppressed with heavy labours? You feel that you need double strength, and you say, “I cannot keep on any longer; there is too much for mortal powers to endure, I cannot bear up under these repeated trials. The last time I felt thus, I thought that I had no strength left, and now this feeling comes over me again; what shall I do? I am thrown down, I am crushed, as though men were riding over my head; I seem to be cast out like the mire in the streets.” Yes; but still, “underneath are the everlasting arms.” We sang, just now, —

“As thy day, thy strength shall be.”

Is that truth or fiction? Ask God’s people as to their past experience, and they will set to their seal that God is true; and you, too, shall find it true. Oh, how wondrously God’s saints have been borne up under persecution, and cheerful and glad under oppression! The sweetest songs that ever were heard on earth, were sung behind prison bars. Peradventure I shall not be wrong when I say that the most wonderful joys that ever were felt by mortal hearts, have been felt by men who, on the morrow, were to be burned at the stake; but whose very souls have danced within them, because of the unspeakable delight which the presence of God has given to them. I think it was Socrates who said that “Philosophers could be merry without music.” I take the statement from his mouth, and alter it, and say, Christians can be happy without happy circumstances; they can sometimes, like nightingales, sing best in dark nights. Their joy is not mere outward mirth. Sorrows fall upon them; yet, from the deep that lieth underneath, wells up yet more exceeding joy. Yes, “underneath are the everlasting arms;” and when we can no longer stand, it is a blessed thing to lean or fall back on them.

     I have already told you that another time when tills text is very sweet is when you am going down hill; and some of you may be going down lull pretty fast just now. Never mind; “Underneath are the everlasting arms.” When you come down the hill of old age, you know what lies at the bottom; why, then, you go up again, higher than ever you went before, renewing your youth, and being for ever with the Well-beloved.

     So, dear friends, I may change the application of my text, “Underneath are the everlasting arms,” and pass it on to those who are all trembling and shaking. Some of you, perhaps, know what I mean. That young man has begun to preach a little, but he says, “I fear that i shall break down.” Dear brother, if you got a message from God to tell, then tell it, and do not be afraid, for “underneath are the everlasting arms.” You are seeking to gather a few young people together, and you are trying to bless them; but you feel your own weakness so much that you say, “I know I shall make a failure of it.” Do not say so, for “underneath are the everlasting arms.” He who helps us when we go down, down, down, is equally ready to do so when we are going up in his service. When our ardent zeal is bearing us forward to do something more for the Lord than we are quite equal to, then, “underneath are the everlasting arms.” And if you are seeking greater holiness, daring to indulge a loftier joy, if you are trying to sing some of those hymns which, a few months ago, you thought were pitched in too high a key for you, be bold and daring. Your wing-feathers will grow by your very attempt to fly; the possibilities of grace are boundless; leave yourself to them. Be not always weak and trembling; God help you to become as a David, and you who are as David to become as an angel of the Lord!

     Once more, the hour will come when everything will begin to melt away beneath your feet. Earthly comforts will fail you, friends will be unable to help you; they can wipe the clammy sweat from your brow, and moisten your lips with a drop of water, but they cannot go with you on the great voyage upon which you are about to be launched. When heart and flesh fail, then may the Lord speak to you the sweet words before us, “Underneath are the everlasting arms”! It will be a sinking to the flesh, but a rising to the spirit. Underneath dying saints there is the living God. Be not afraid, therefore, even to die; for, to the Christian, “to die is gain.” I recollect, at a funeral, when we laid the body of one of God’s saints in the grave, a dear minister prayed, “Lord, we thank thee that, though our dear friend has come so low as to be in his grave, he cannot go any lower, for ‘underneath are the everlasting arms,’ and in due time thou wilt bring him up again in those everlasting arms, raised in the likeness of his Lord.” That is true of all believers; therefore, let this text come sweetly home to your heart: “Underneath are the everlasting arms.”

     I must conclude with just this remark. There are some here who are not yet saved. I would illustrate the way of salvation to you by this text. You are hoping to save yourself, you are depending upon something that you have done, or that you have felt; I want you to lot all that go, to give up every hope you have that comes out of yourself. “Oh!” say you, “but I shall fall.” Yes, you will; and that falling shall be your salvation, for, “underneath are the everlasting arms.” There you are, up at that window, and the flames are raging behind you, so that you cannot escape; but one stands below, he is strong enough to catch you in his arms, and he says, “Drop into my arms. Do not hesitate.” Jesus Christ never yet allowed any soul to be injured that dropped into his arms. Let go, man, let go! Let go everything, and drop into the arms of Jesus. That is the saving thing, — to let everything else go, and trust alone to Jesus, depending wholly upon him who lived, and died, and rose again, and is the ever-living Saviour of sinners. Drop into his arms; they are everlasting arms, as strong to save now as they were 1,800 years ago. Drop into his arms. God help you to do so, for his name’s sake! Amen.



A Man Under Authority

By / Oct 2

A Man Under Authority

 

“The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.” — Matthew viii. 8, 9.

 

WITHOUT any introduction, as we have just been reading Matthew’s record of this notable miracle of our Lord, I shall come at once to the text, and, first of all, work out the incident itself, and then, secondly, make use of its lessons for our own practical purposes. There is much to be learned from this narrative for our guidance at the present time.

     I. First, then, let me WORK OUT THE INCIDENT ITSELF.

     A centurion, the commander of the detachment of Roman forces then placed at Capernaum, had a servant exceedingly ill. He was paralyzed, or palsied, but it was with that kind of paralysis which still leaves room for great pain. He was grievously tormented, and yet palsied. This man of war was evidently a good master, thoughtful of his servants; and when he heard that the great prophet, Jesus of Nazareth, had come to the town, he made the best of his way to him, and besought him to heal his servant. The centurion did not ask Jesus to come down and heal him, but the Saviour at once replied, “I will come and heal him.” This was more than the centurion had asked; he had pleaded for the healing of his slave, but he had not expected the personal presence of the glorious Master.

     You remember that, on another occasion, a certain nobleman went to Jesus, and besought him, saying, “Sir, come down ere my child die.” Jesus did not go down to the nobleman’s child, but he sent his powerful word, and healed him.

     In this case, it was a servant, not a child, who was suffering; and, as if the Saviour would pay the greater attention where the rank was lower, he showed the condescension of his spirit by saying in this instance, “I will come and heal him. I myself will come and undertake the cure that you request of me.” See how the Saviour grants more than we ask, and also how very tender and considerate he is to the poor and needy. He would not have them think that he despises them; and, therefore, while to the nobleman’s son a gracious word is sent, to the centurion’s servant the Lord proffers a gracious visit: “I will come and heal him.” Jesus is very tender and pitiful. He knows the soreness of human hearts in poverty and sickness, and he will not inflict upon them any unnecessary wound. Nay, he will, as it were, go out of his way by a superior gentleness to those who are of the lowest rank that he may show that he is no respecter of persons after the manner of men.

     Now see what the centurion does. He had requested the Lord to heal his servant; he is very grateful for the kindness of the Saviour in offering to come and heal him; but he is a true gentleman, so he will not put the Saviour to any personal inconvenience. He feels that it is not at all necessary that the great Physican should take a journey to his house, so he says to him, “Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof; but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.” The refining power of faith upon the manners of men is very wonderful. Roman centurions were usually rough, bluff fellows who cared for nobody. On many a hard-fought field they received their training for future service, and they forced their way up from the ranks, not by competitive examinations, but by blows, and cuffs, and bruises, and wounds. Yet this officer, being a believer in Jesus Christ, is evidently softened, more or less civilized, and cultivated, by that very fact. You can notice it often, that the roughest men, the least educated of women, will have about them some of the gentlest and sweetest traits of character when they come to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. So the centurion says, “My Lord, glad enough would I be of a visit from thine august Majesty; but I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof, and it is not needful for thee to do so. Thou canst heal my servant with a single word. Therefore, I pray thee, speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.” It was this beautiful, thoughtful, gentlemanly feeling, which I cannot too highly recommend, which led him to speak in this way; and what he said is remarkably instructive.

     Let me, then, work out the incident in detail.

     Notice, first, that the centurion drew a parallel between himself and the Lord Jesus Christ. He said, “I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me,” or, as the Revised Version better renders it, “For I also am a man under authority.” Some have tried to shift the meaning here, and to teach that the centurion meant to say, “I am under authority, only a subaltern officer, and yet I can do so-and-so. You are not under authority, but great and powerful, and therefore you can do much more.” But that is not the sense at all. The centurion meant that he was himself a man under authority, not merely a private individual, but a servant of Caesar. The uniform that he wore marked him out as belonging to one of the legions of the Roman empire; the insignia upon his regimentals denoted that he was a centurion, a commander who derived his position and power from the great Emperor at Rome. He was “a man under authority.”

     It is not to our great Master’s dishonour, but quite the opposite, that this centurion meant to say, “I recognize in thee also a man under authority;” for this blessed Christ of ours had come into the world commissioned by God. He was not here merely in his private capacity, as the Son of David, or as the Son of Mary, or even as the Son of God; but he was here as the One whom the Father had chosen, anointed, qualified, and sent to carry out a divine commission. This officer could see about the person of Christ the marks of his being commissioned by God. By some means, I know not how, he had arrived at this very safe and true conclusion, that Jesus Christ was acting under the authority of the great God who made heaven and earth; and he looked at him, therefore, under that aspect, as duly authorized and commissioned for his work.

     Now go a step further. He who is commissioned to perform any work is also provided by the superior authority with the power to carry out that work. A centurion, therefore, has soldiers under him; “I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me; men put under me for the carrying out of my commands, because my commands are authorized by the superior authority of Caesar.” So this man seems to say to Christ, “I believe that thou art provided with due assistance for the carrying out of all the purposes for which thou hast come into the world. If I have an order to send,” says he, “I say to my servant, ‘Go,’ and he goes. If I want another to come, I say, ‘Come,’ and he comes. If there is something to be done, I summon one of the men under my authority, and I say to him, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” He seems to say to the Saviour, “Thou also, commissioned and appointed of the great God, must have had servants appointed to wait upon thee. Thou art not sent to a warfare at thine own charges. Thou art not left to do this work alone. There must be, somewhere about, though I perceive them not, soldiers under thee, and servants under thee, who wait to do thy bidding.” You catch that idea, do you not? The parallel is very clear, and I do not wonder that the Saviour greatly ‘admired the man’s faith, which had enabled him to perceive this great truth.

     The centurion went, therefore, a step further in his argument. “I, a man duly commissioned, have under me servants to carry out my will, and these servants of mine I keep well in hand” You know that there are masters who have servants to whom they say, “Go,” and they do not go, or to whom they say, “ Come,” and they do not come, — at least, they do not come very quickly. They must say, “Come,” or “Go,” several times before the servants actually do come or go; and there are masters who may say, “Do this,” and they may again say, “Do this,” and they may yet again say, “Do this,” but it is not done. But this centurion was a man who knew how to manage men. He was a master, a real master; not in name only, but in fact. He did not, within his domain, tolerate anything like delay; he said to Christ, “I say, ‘Go,’ and they go; or ‘Come,’ and they come.” He did not allow anything like mutiny or the resistance of his will; he had his whole household so well in hand that, when he said to his servant, “Do this,” he did it. This is the right kind of master, and servants in the long run like a master who will be obeyed. The centurion was a disciplinarian of that sort, as kind as the sunlight, for he sought Christ’s aid for his sick servant, but also as true and firm as steel; so that, what he said was to be done, was to be done, and done at once.

     He transfers that characteristic to the Saviour. He does not, he cannot, do the Christ the discredit of supposing that he has not his household well in hand, that he has servants who dare to trifle with his commands, that there are agencies which have broken loose from beneath his rule, and will go whichever way they please. “No,” says he, “Saviour, commissioned of the Father, thou hast thy soldiers and thy servants, and I believe that thou hast them under such control and subject to such discipline that thou hast but to speak, and the act thou dost order is done, or to command, and it stands fast for ever.” I trust that none of us would dishonour the Saviour by questioning the truth of this parallel which the centurion so thoughtfully drew.

     Once more, the centurion went a little further, and implied that, as Christ had the power to perform the divine will, and had that power well in hand, he believed he teas willing to direct all that power to the one object of healing his servant. I believe that many of you know that the Lord Jesus Christ is almighty; you do not doubt that fact, but the question is, — Is he almighty to save you? You do not doubt that, if the Saviour wills it, he can make your spirit whole, but you ask, — Will he will it? Will he turn that power in our direction? It does not enter into the centurion’s head that there will be any difficulty in his case. “No,” he seems to say, “King of kings, omnipotent Master and Lord, thou canst at once direct an angel to fly to my servant, or thou canst bid the disease quit my dwelling, or thou canst speak to the palsy, and the palsy itself will be thy servant, and will fly away at once at thy command. Thou hast only to put forth thy power upon my servant, and he will at once be healed.” I want you to believe, dear hearts, that our Lord Jesus Christ, no longer here in the flesh, but risen from the dead, is clothed with power equal to that which he had in the centurion’s day; nay, that he is clothed with even greater power, for after his resurrection he said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” And then I want you to believe that he is prepared to turn all that power in your direction, so as to work for your deliverance from spiritual death, your rescue from the power of sin, your help in the way of providence, your guidance in the way of wisdom, or whatsoever, out of ten thousand things, may happen to be the need of this present moment. Oh, that he, who gave such faith as this to the centurion at Capernaum, would give like precious faith to many of you, that you also may glorify and bless his holy name!

     Now observe that there was only one thing further which was on this centurion’s mind, and that was this. He looked upon Christ as a master over all kinds of powers, powers sufficient for all his purposes; he looked at him as having them all well in hand, so that he could have his own bidding done in a moment, and he was anxious to keep his own place. You ask me how I know this. I am sure it was so, because, when the Saviour was willing to come down to his house, he shrank from having such an honour conferred upon him; he seemed to fool that he was being put into a wrong position. He was himself only a servant, and he felt that, in the particular character which he was thou bearing, he was not worthy that his master should come under his roof; so he said, “Speak the word only, and my servant shall be honied.”

     I think that this is the principal thing you and I have to do. When we think about our Lord Jesus Christ, we need not worry ourselves about how he will effect his purposes, how the decrees of God will be carried out, or how his promises will be fulfilled. The principal thing we have to do is this, — to be ourselves the Lord’s servants, and when he says to any one of us, “Go,” to mind that we do go, and when he says, “Come,” to see that we do come, and when he says, “Do this,” to be sure that we do it. Thou wouldst rule the seas? Thou hadst bettor rule thyself. Thou wouldst purge the Church? Thou hadst better see to it that thine own heart is purged. Thou wouldst reform the world? Out on thee! What hast thou to do with reforming the world till thou hast first washed thine own hands in innocency? Get thee to thy right place, and do thou thine own work, and it shall be well with thee. What art thou, after all, but as a tiny worker on a little ant-hill? Thou hast thy one grain of wheat to carry, and that is enough for thee; but do not worry thyself about all the concerns of the ant-hill; if thou dost, at least do not fret thyself about the whole planet on which thou livest, still less about the complete solar system, for what canst thou do with it if thou dost worry thy poor antship even unto death? Nay, but do thy little share of work upon thine own ant-hill, carry thine own grain of wheat to the general store, so thou shalt have answered the purpose of thy being, and it shall be well with thee. May God, even our Lord Jesus Christ, give us the grace to set him up very high as Lord and Master, full of power, and wisdom, and love; and then to set ourselves down very low, and to ask that, as his servants, we may serve him faithfully all the days of our life!

     Thus I have, as best I could, worked out the incident itself.

     II. Now, secondly, I want to MAKE USE OF ITS LESSONS FOR OUR OWN PRACTICAL PURPOSES.

     First, then, dear friends, it seems to me that this little narrative should be used to urge us to believe in the power of the Lord Jesus Christ, even if he does not speedily come in the glory of the Second Advent. I am frequently talking with Christian friends about these evil days in which we live, and of the mischief of the times in which our lot is cast. Certainly, it is not a very cheering subject, and generally I find that friends wind up with some such remark as this: — “Well, the comfort is, that the Lord Jesus Christ will come very soon. The defections in the professing church, the blasphemies of the world, — are they not among the special tokens that the end is hastening on? When our Lord comes, then all these difficult problems will be solved, and all that grieves us will come to an end.” Yes, yes, all that I fully believe, and I look upon the second glorious advent of our Lord Jesus Christ as the brightest hope of his Church; but, still, do you not think that a more practical and a more God-honouring faith would say. without putting aside the blessed hope of the second advent, “Yet the Lord Jesus Christ can deal with the present evils of the Church and of the world, without actually coming into our midst.” He can say a word while yet remaining in the highest heavens, amid the splendours of the sacred worship of the New Jerusalem; he can speak a word there, and so effect his purpose here. Does not that truth seem to flow naturally out of the faith of this centurion? Our blessed Lord, there is no need that thou shouldst at present rend the heavens, and in majesty come down; there is no need that thou shouldst literally touch the hills, and make them smoke, and that the glory of thy divine presence should consume thine adversaries. If it so pleaseth thee, thou canst do thy bidding where thou art, without disturbing this dispensation, without even working a miracle, allowing things to take their usual course, and yet accomplishing thy supreme purposes.

     Beloved, I want you to exercise this faith continually. You are, perhaps, in a little church, and when that goes to the bad, you say, “Oh, well, we cannot make it better! We must wait till the Lord comes.” Not a bit of it; begin to stir up his strength now, for he can work before that second advent, and work right gloriously, too. You turn over the newspaper, and you say, “I am weary and well-night sick unto death of all this evil.” Yes, and so am I; but what then? “Oh!” you answer, “we had better go upstairs to bed, and wait till the Lord comes.” Not at all; let us go, and sharpen our swords, and attack the enemies of our Lord more earnestly than ever. We will have another battle or two yet before he does come. Who knows how long he may tarry? But, whether he tarries or whether he comes soon, let us not be at all disquieted, as though his power could not be seen apart from his second advent. The power is given to him in heaven and in earth. Even now the name of Jesus is “high over all.” He is now the great attraction to men, the great destroyer of Satan. Let us not begin, then, to think little of our absent Lord’s present power, and to hang all our hopes upon his literal presence among us. I say, again, that I am not depreciating that glorious coming of his; God forbid that I should do so! It still is our grandest hope; but let us not put it out of its place so as to make us at all despondent or distrustful about what our risen Lord is able to do for us even now. He still can do “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.”

     I want you, next, dear friends, to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ’s unseen servants. You look around, or you look abroad, and try to find out men who shall proclaim the gospel vigorously during the next twenty years, and you say you do not perceive them; no, nor do I. Now think a moment; when this centurion saw Jesus of Nazareth standing in the midst of his disciples, what did he see? He saw a lowly-looking man, in appearance very much like other men, but certainly not attended by any court, or guarded by any soldiery; yet he believed, concerning this man, that he was surrounded by invisible bands who, in a moment, would do his bidding. I want you to think thus of your Lord. At this day, the Christ of God on earth is attended by all the servants that he needs for his great cause. The scoffers say, “Ah, the old truth is dying out! Where can they find men of mind to preach it?” But our eyes, enlightened by faith, can see a great multitude who shall publish the same old truth until Christ shall come. The mountain is full of horse and chariots of fire round about Elisha; there shall yet be found myriads of burning spirits to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ until he comes again. I like that couplet, —

“Remember that Omnipotence
Has servants everywhere.”

Thou canst not see thorn, but they are waiting for their Lord’s orders, and he can see them. He knows where he has put thorn, and when he will call them to himself, and bid them do his work. Therefore, let us not be in the least disheartened or discouraged because of what we see, or what we do not see. Let us rely upon the invisible; let us expect the unexpected; ay, I was going to say, let us expect the unexpectable. That which we cannot dream of as possible or probable, let us nevertheless believe shall be done; for God must be true, Christ cannot be defeated, Calvary never will and never can become, in any measure, a defeat. The death of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, must accomplish the purposes for which it was wrought out. Let us rest assured, then, that he has his servants waiting to do his bidding.

     Now apply this subject a little more closely still. I wish that some poor soul would even now believe that the Lord Jesus Christ could save him at once with a single word. I know you are apt to think that the conversion of men must be wrought in some very particular and special way. Pictorial and descriptive accounts of striking conversions have been repeated so often that many people get the idea that the scenery is necessary to the effect; but I want you to put all such ideas away from your thoughts. If you needed any scenery, it is here before your eyes; but you do not want it. Else, for a preacher to stand in this dense heat in the midst of six thousand immortal souls, is scenery enough for anyone who wants something striking. And if the Lord shall come to you, and in a moment save you, there will be quite enough of the special and the particular just in the mere fact that you are the subject of the Lord’s mighty working. But I want you to believe that this work of divine grace upon the soul has not to do with any particular position in which a man is found. The Lord Jesus Christ can save a man when he is in bed, when he is putting on his clothes, when he is walking the street, when he is at his business, or when he is not at his business, but indulging in sin. I could give many instances to show that there is nothing wanted in the way of peculiarity of position in order for Christ to save.

     When you are at home, you say to your servant, “Mary, go to such-and-such a place,” and Mary goes. Or you say, “Sarah, come here,” and Sarah comes. If there is anything to be done, you say, “Jane, do this,” and she does it; yet you do not put a paragraph in the newspaper saying, “Here, on the second day of October, 1887, Jane So-and-so made a cup of tea for her mistress.” It is such a usual and ordinary thing in connection with the duties of the household, is it not? Very well, just so is the work of conversion in connection with the Church of Christ. He himself has but to speak the word, and the great work is straightway done. The surroundings of the sinner do not signify at all to him. He can now, under the present circumstances in which you are, come to you, and pluck you out of death into life, out of darkness into light. Out of all your wanderings he can bring you home at once. If thou truly believest in the Lord Jesus Christ, thou art born of God. If thou dost now, at this very moment, trust Christ with thy soul, thou hast passed from death unto life. If, at this instant, thou wilt have done with every other hope, and just come and rest thyself upon the finished work of Jesus Christ, the Saviour, thou, John, Thomas, Mary, Jane, Sarah, whoever you may be, thou art saved. I put it in a very homely way just now intentionally, for I want to bring it down to this point, — that, just as the centurion said, “I have only to say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it,” so has Christ only to speak the effectual word of his grace, and the devil will fly, sin will be removed, grace will be infused, and the soul will be saved. Oh, what a mercy this is!

     To you who are the people of God I would apply this subject in this way. If it be as I have said concerning the sinner that he must trust in Christ if he is to be saved, it is also true that you should believe for your servants, your friends, and your acquaintances. Your children are still unconverted; have you ever prayed for them, believing in the power of Jesus Christ to convert them? One said, the other day, of a certain person, “It seems no use praying for such a fellow as that.” Of course, it is no use to pray such prayers as you would be likely to present if you talk like that. When you have given a person up, and you have no further hope concerning him, what prayer can you offer for him? I want thee, my brother, my sister, to believe concerning thy child, thy brother, thy friend, thy unconverted neighbour, just as this centurion believed concerning his sick servant, that Jesus had but to speak the word, and his sick servant would be healed. “Oh, but the doctor says that this is a case of paralysis! He says that he will never get over it; it is impossible for him to be cured; the disease is complicated in such a peculiar way that we must give up all hope.” Ah, but this centurion does not look at the patient! He looks at the Physician; and he says, and says rightly, “Jesus can as easily bid this disease depart as I can bid my servant go when I wish him to start upon an errand.” Think not of the sinner, or of the greatness of his sin, but think of the greatness of the Saviour. I am sure that, if we preached with more faith in Christ, we should see more results. Peradventure, you do not see conversions in your work, because you keep looking to the people; looking to the sinners; looking to the hardness of their hearts. What has all that to do with Christ’s power to save? If this man, in addition to having paralysis, could have had fever, and leprosy, and dropsy, and all other diseases at once, it would not have mattered in the least to the great Physician, for when Christ comes on the scene, if you have one impossibility, he can meet it, and if you had fifty impossibilities, he could meet them all just as easily. Granted an almighty Saviour, what room is there for doubt as to what he can do?

     I wish I could drive this truth home into some who have been praying for others, but who have never prayed the prayer of faith. It is the prayer of faith that saves the sick; it is the prayer of faith that saves the sinful; it is the prayer of faith that makes everything of Christ, and takes him at his right valuation as being a master of every situation. That is what thou shouldst do; make Jesus Christ master of the situation, and plead with him in that capacity, and thou shalt not plead in vain, and thy child, thy friend, thy servant shall yet be saved.

     Let the practical close of this evening’s meditation be that we believe in Jesus a great deal more than we have ever believed before. If we have believed in Jesus, let us have still more confidence in him. I think it is a sad pity when a man preaches the gospel with a doubt at the back of his throat. What good can come of his preaching? They sometimes charge us with dogmatism. We would be more dogmatic if we could be, for we speak what we do know, and testify what we have seen; and if men receive not our witness, we cannot help that. We cannot change our witness because men do not care to receive it. Go thou forth, minister of God, and preach the gospel as a certainty, and thou shalt prove it to be a certainty. If thou dost preach it as a something which may or may not be true, it will paralyze thee, and it will not profit thy hearers. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, I claim from every man to whom I preach that he should believe in him, accept his great salvation, and bow before him. If you do so, dear friends, you shall be saved; but if you will not, it is not left as a matter of choice with you, but the Lord Jesus has himself declared, “He that believeth not shall be damned.” He will not allow us to trifle with him. He is a Sovereign, he is the King of kings, and Lord of lords, and he calls upon us to kiss his feet, bow down before him, and own him as our Lord and God.

     Our chief business just now is not so much to think of what Christ can do in the great battle of the present, or what he will do in the dread conflict of the future; but of what we have to do, and I think that what we have to do is, so to believe in Christ as to be his obedient servants. If he says, “Go,” let us go. If he says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy-laden,” let us come unto him. If he says concerning any service, “Do this,” let us do it; and if, instead of bidding us do anything, he bids us believe him, let us come and believe him, for this will be our wisdom, this will be our happiness, this will be our heaven, to be the obedient servants of him who must be Ruler over all. God has decreed that this shall be his glory; he has set him on his throne expecting till his foes be made his footstool. If you choose to be his enemies, you shall choose it to your own destruction; but if you will come and bow before him, and be his servants, you shall find that heaven and earth are waiting at his back to bless you, and you shall go from strength to strength beneath his loving and unfailing care.

     The Lord bless you, dear friends, for Jesus’ sake! Amen,



Heman’s Sorrowful Psalm

By / Sep 25

Heman’s Sorrowful Psalm

 

“But unto thee have I cried, O LORD; and in the morning shall my prayer prevent thee.” — Psalm lxxxviii. 13.

 

WHAT misery of soul some persons endure before they find peace with God! There is no need that it should be so with them; their anguish often arises from a mistake. The gospel is very simple; it is just, — “Believe and live.” He that believeth in the Lord Jesus Christ is not condemned; he at once receives pardon, and passes from death unto life, and he shall never come into condemnation. But a very large number of persons will not go the straight road to heaven. They cannot believe that it is the right road; so they get troubled in their thoughts, tumbled up and down in their minds, as John Bunyan puts it, and they go staggering over dark mountains, stumbling and falling, wounding and bruising themselves, and it is long before they come out into the light and joy of peace in believing. I would recommend you young people especially to take the straight way to salvation by trusting in Jesus just as you are. You shall, by doing so, avoid the poor pilgrim’s Slough of Despond, and very much else that might trouble and burden you; but, as I know that many do go round about, and so get troubled and perplexed, I am going to talk to them from these words of the psalmist.

     This good man, Heman the Ezrahite, went by this rough roundabout road that some of you have taken, and thus he found himself in terrible places. He seems to have been brought about as low as a man can be brought; but all the while there was this fact in his favour, he continued praying. He did pray; he would pray; he could not be made to leave off praying. If, by some process or other, Satan could have dragged him from the mercy-seat, he would have had the diabolical hope of his ultimate destruction; but as long as the man would keep on his knees, repeating his earnest cry to God for mercy, it was not possible that he could be destined. I may be now addressing some who, in the depth of their trouble, have been praying unto God, not always with a brave believing heart, but still with intense sincerity and earnestness; and now it has come to this pass with them, the evil spirit says, “Do not pray any more. Give it up. It is of no use. God will never hear you.” If that is your temptation, dear friend, may the Holy Spirit come to your rescue while I talk familiarly with you in his name!

     First, from this Psalm, learn how to pray. Secondly, from the psalmist’s example, resolve to pray in your very worst case. After I have spoken upon these two points, I shall close by giving you some reasons why you will find it wise thus to pray.

     I. First, then, from this Psalm, LEARN HOW TO PRAY.

     A great many people make a mistake about what prayer really is; they seem to think that it consists in repeating a form of words, but it does not. The witch of old used to mutter certain phrases, and she pretended that she wrought great wonders by repeating such and such words backwards; but there was no real power about her words, it was sheer superstition to believe in her incantations. I pray you, beloved friends, do not rely upon prayer as a kind of witchcraft, for it is nothing better than witchcraft to believe that the mere utterance of certain sacred words and phrases can have any appreciable effect either upon yourselves or upon God. Prayer is the longing of the soul to hold communion with the Most High, the desire of the heart to obtain blessings at his hands. James Montgomery happily described what real prayer is when he wrote, —

“Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,
Utter’d or unexpress’d:
The motion of a hidden fire,
That trembles in the breast.
“Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear;
The upward glancing of an eye,
When none but God is near.
“Prayer is the simplest form of speech
That infant lips can try;
Prayer the sublimest strains that reach
The Majesty on high.
“Prayer is the contrite sinner’s voice
Returning from his ways;
While angels in their songs rejoice,
And cry, ‘Behold be prays!’”

     If you would pray aright, you will do wisely to copy the writer of this Psalm; and, first, tell the Lord your case. In this Psalm, Heman makes a map of his life’s history, he puts down all the dark places through which he has travelled. He mentions his sins, his sorrows, his hopes (if he had any), his fears, his woes, and so on. Now, that is real prayer, laying your case before the Lord. Go to your chamber, and shut to your door, and toll the Lord all about yourself. Do you lack words? Well then, use no words. Tell him all simply by the movements of your thought, for God can read the thoughts of men. Act as if you, like Hezekiah, were opening a letter, and spread it out before the Lord, hide nothing from him. It is true that you cannot hide it, for he knows all about you; but still do not try to conceal anything from your God. Tell him about your life of sin, tell him of your vain attempts to make yourself better, tell him of your many failures, tell him of your false hopes, tell him of all your blunders and mistakes; and then say, “Lord, I do not even now fully understand my own case, but thou dost. Do with me according to thine own wisdom and prudence, and save thy servant, I beseech thee.” That is the way to pray, this is how the psalmist prayed. Try the same plan as soon as you get home; nay, do not delay, but pray thus at once. Open your heart to God, and spread your case before him.

     Then, the next rule of prayer is, pray naturally. Note that the psalmist says, “O Lord God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee.” Children are very eloquent when they cry, you have no need to teach them the arts of oratory or of posturing; when they really want a thing, they cry all over till they get it. That is the way truly to pray; when you so want the blessing, that your heart and your flesh cry out for the living God, you will not need to trouble about words. Your eyes shall aid you with their liquid pleas, your breath shall assist you as you sigh and sob, every part of your being shall help you as you stretch out your hands unto God. The best prayer is, like a cry, the most natural expression of the sorrow and the need of the heart. Come like that to God; get upstairs into that little room where no eye but the Lord’s shall see thee, and there cry unto him, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” That is the way to pray, not to repeat some pompous form which may have been useful to saints in ages gone by, but to let your very soul pour out itself like water before the Lord in the most natural way that it can find.

     But you must also notice, in the first verse, what is very essential to prayer. The psalmist says that he cried day and night before God. This makes a wonderful difference in prayer. Praying is not whistling to the winds, it is crying before God, — speaking to God. Thou canst not see him, but he is there; then tell him thy case. Thou canst not hear his footfall to remind thee of his presence, but he is there, so ask for what thou wantest; deal directly with God. Remember what Paul wrote to the Hebrews: “He that cometh to God, must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Believe thou that God is, and that he hears prayer, and thou shalt find it to be so in thine own experience. I challenge any man to put this matter to the test, and see if he does not find it as I say. There never was one yet who did thus come to God, and God sent him away empty. Poor trembling soul, get thou to thy God; if hitherto thy prayers have been earnest, but thou hast left out this one important point that thou hast not really prayed to him, then begin at once in a better style. You may write a hundred letters to a friend, but you will never receive an answer to them if you do not properly direct them, and put them into the post; so, many persons forget to direct and post their prayers by really presenting them before God.

     Next, dear friends, this Psalm will help you in prayer if you read aright its first words: “O Lord God of my salvation.” Pray with this belief fixed in your mind, that your help must come from God, and pray expecting salvation from the Lord. It is true, whether you know it or not, that you are lost, and that only God himself can save you. Pray, in the full belief of that fact; go to God with this thought in your mind, and this utterance out of your mouth: “O Lord, I am lost, unless thou dost help me; I am undone, unless thou dost come to my rescue; and here I am at thy mercy-seat, crying unto thee, Lord, save me.” Do not go to so-called priests; do not go to ministers or to Christian friends with any idea that they can help you the turn of an ounce; but go straight away to God, applying to him through our Lord Jesus Christ, and it is not possible that he should turn you away. Try it and see. Some of us who were certainly as guilty as ever you can be, have tried this plan, and we have found mercy; and we are therefore all the more earnest in entreating you and all other sinners to do the same.

     Further, dear friends, that you may pray aright, notice that the psalmist prayed often. In the first verse he says, “I have cried day and night before thee.” Further on he says, “I have called daily upon thee.” I like those morning prayers of which our text speaks: “In the morning shall my prayer prevent thee.” I recollect, as a lad, when I was seeking the Saviour, getting up with the sun that I might get time to read gracious books and to seek the Lord. When I look back upon it, I can see why the word was blessed to me when I heard the gospel preached in that Methodist Chapel at Colchester, because I had, before that, been up betimes crying to God for the blessing. There are some people here who do not know what it is like early in the morning. You never did in your lives see the sun rise, did you, unless you got up earlier than usual one winter’s morning? I have often proved that the early morning is the best part of the day. The dew of the morning has medicine in it to drive away many a disease. A little while all alone in the morning might prove to be the time in which God would meet with you; will you not try it? But the psalmist says that he also prayed at night; perhaps, when others were asleep, he stole from his couch, and bowed his knee, and cried to God. When all is hushed and still, — and there is, even in London, an hour of that kind, somewhere between three and four o’clock in the morning, when the streets cease for a while their almost perpetual grind, and the air is still and quiet, — it is wonderful how you may be helped to pray by the silence that is round about you. O friend, if you are not saved, I would beseech you to get up at dead of night, and cry to God for salvation. I would advise you not to go to your beds, nor to think of falling asleep, till you have believed in Jesus to the saving of your soul, lest you should never wake up in this world, but should awake in that state in which there is no hope for ever for those who have died impenitent. Dear hearts, cry often, cry continually to God, until he gives you this salvation, and after that I know you will always cry to him, for you will not be able to help it. Prayer will then become your daily breath, and you will pray then as naturally as your lungs now heave with the breath of life. But do pray often, even as Heman did.

     The psalmist tolls us also that he prayed with weeping and mourning. Read verse nine: “Mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction: Lord, I have called daily upon thee.” That is a blessed style of praying, when the prayers are salt with penitential tears. If thine heart is breaking with repentance and sorrow for sin, thou wilt break down the bars which shut thee out of hope and peace. If thou wilt give up thy sin; if thou dost mourn over thy sin; if thou dost sigh and cry to become gracious and holy, thou shalt prevail before long, for God may permit a weeping penitent to stand awhile at mercy’s door, but he can never send that penitent away empty, for it is written over that door (I can read the golden letters): “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” While God lives, never shall a sinner truly come to him, and yet be cast out. I say again, go and try it, go and try it, and thou shalt find it to be even so.

     Once more, you will perhaps find prayer more successful if you follow the psalmist’s way of praying pleadingly. Notice how he puts it in the tenth verse: “Shall the dead arise and praise thee?” Plead with God; if you are in earnest, you will soon find pleas that you can use with him. “Lord, save me; it will glorify thy grace to save such a sinner as I am. Lord, save me, else I am lost to all eternity; do not let me perish, lord. Save me, O Lord, for Jesus died. By his agony and bloody sweat, by his cross and passion, save me.” I am going over the kind of pleas I used when I took my arguments, and came before the throne of grace, and said, “I will not go away, I will not quit the mercy-seat except thou bless me.” Surely, thou canst find some reason why thou shouldst be saved. Look not for it in any merit of thine own, else thou wilt look where thou wilt never find it; but look to his free grace and sovereign love, to the heart of God, and to the bleeding wounds of Jesus, and say unto God, “Lord, I cannot, I will not, let thee go except thou bless me.” If you pray in that fashion, it will not be long before the morning light of salvation will break in upon your troubled spirit.

     II. This leads me now, briefly, to speak upon my second division: from the psalmist’s example, RESOLVE TO PRAY IN YOUR VERY WORST CASE.

     I want to go over the Psalm again very rapidly, to remind you of the writer’s experience. This man of God was, first, full of troubles. Note what he says in the third verse: “My soul is full of troubles.” Yet he prayed. When you are full of troubles, go to God with them, that is the very time when you most need to pray. “But,” say you, “Mr. Spurgeon, you do not know all that I have to think of.” No, but I do know that, the more you have to think of, the more reason you have to go to God in prayer about it. That was a grand argument of Martin Luther when he said to his friend, “I have a very busy day to-day; I have so much work to do that I am afraid I shall not get through it all, I must have at least three hours’ prayer, or else I shall not have time to get through all my toil.” The more work he had to do, the more prayer he felt that he needed. Is not that right? The more loads you have to drag, the more horses you need; and the more work there is to be done, the more reason is there for crying to God to help you to do it. That is not a waste of time; on the contrary, it is the best employment of time that anyone can have.

     When thou art full of trouble, pray the more. “Ah!” says one, “I gave up praying, sir, because I was in such trouble.” Foolish brother! Foolish sister! Another says, “I went down in the world till I felt that I had not any clothes fit to come in.” Clothes fit to come in? Any clothes are fit to come in, if you have paid for them. “Oh!” save another, “but I was so troubled that I did not like to come.” What! not go to the house of the Lord when you want comfort most? That is the time when you ought certainly to come. Do not, I pray you, stay away from the outward means of grace when you are in trouble; but especially do not stay away from God himself when you are tried and perplexed. When you are as full of trouble as ever you can be, then is the time to pray most.

     Next, it seems that the psalmist was ready to die: “My life draweth nigh unto the grave.” Well, do not leave off praying because you are ready to die. Now, surely, is the time to pray more earnestly than ever.

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

If you are going to die, die praying; do not let the fear of death stop your praying, that would be folly indeed.

     Moreover, the psalmist had given himself up: “I am counted with them that go down into the pit.” Well now, if you have given yourself up, yet still pray. I know that you say, “Sir, I am in despair.” Well, offer one more prayer, brother; one more prayer; and if thou shouldst not get comfort then, I will come to thee, and say yet again, “One more prayer.” If thou despairest of everything else, yet do not despair of the mercy of God. Thy extremity will be the Lord’s opportunity. Keep on praying; as long as thou art out of hell, still keep on praying, and so thou shalt never come there, for no praying soul can ever be cast away from the presence of God. Keep on praying, I beseech thee, if the worst comes to the worst.

     I fancy that I hear you say, “Oh, but I have no strength left!” Well, then, you are just like Heman, strengthless, for he said, “I am as a man that hath no strength.” Pray all the more if that is your case; if you have not strength to kneel, fall flat on your face, and pray to God, but keep at it, hold on to it. If thou canst scarcely hold on, yet somehow or other get a grip of the divine promise, and plead for God’s mercy for the sake of Jesus, and thou shalt never perish.

     I do not know whether I am spreading my net widely enough; but there may be one who says, “I am forgotten” Then listen to what Heman says: “I am like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand.” Man, if thou hast written thyself down as lost, if thou hast given up all prayer, if thou dost never open thy Bible, if thou hast resolved never again to come to the house of God because thou despairest of mercy, yet, I beseech thee, know that it is a lie that deceives thee. Still is there hope for thee. Believe that Jesus still receives sinners, — ay, such sinners as thou art, and go to him by believing prayer, and thou shalt yet find mercy. There are many records of men and women who have been in despair through guilt for twenty years or even a longer period and then have boon divinely delivered. I remember one case, that of Mr. Timothy Rogers, who was eight-and-twenty years in despair, and yet came out to light and liberty, and wrote a wonderful book on trouble of mind, which has been a comfort to many other afflicted souls. Do not despair even if Satan seems to have gripped thee, and to be dragging thee down to the bottomless pit. As long as thou yet livest, the gospel woos thee, and entreats thee to believe in Jesus Christ, for yet there is room in the heart of God and in the love of God for such a sinner as thou art. I pray thee, do not cease to cry unto God; still continue calling upon him till he giveth thee a comforting answer.

     Perhaps thou sayest, “I feel the wrath of God so heavily.” What if thou dost? Go and plead the mercy of God in Christ; and as Christ, in the stead of sinners, bore his Father’s wrath, go thou and rest in that great vicarious sacrifice. “But I have nobody to speak to” says another. Never mind if you have not; that is all the more reason why you should pray to God, and plead with God, who will not leave you. “But I am distracted” says another. Yes, and you will be distracted, and I should not wonder if you went out of your mind, unless you will go to God as you are, and implore him to look at your distractions, and to lay his gentle hand upon you, and to restore you to yourself, and then to restore you to himself. I wish I know how to plead with each one of you, personally. I feel that I want to go down these stairs, and round these galleries, and to pick out men and women who are being tempted not to pray again, and to give each of them a brotherly grip of the hand, and to say, “Do not cease to plead for thy life; do not cease to look to Jesus on the tree. Hope thou in him; it is Satan’s desire to ruin thee by leading thee to despair. Take heart of hope, and do believe that mercy’s gate is still open to thee. Come and welcome, and thou shalt in no wise be cast out.”

     III. Now I finish with A FEW REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD KEEP ON PRAYING, and why you should add to your prayer, a simple confidence in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

     This is the first reason. Suppose, dear friend, — and I do not like even to suppose such a thing, — but, for the sake of argument, suppose that what your despair says is true, that you will perish. Then, you cannot lose anything by prayer, can you? Remember what we sang a few minutes ago, —

“I can but perish if I go;
I am resolved to try;
For if I stay away,
I know I must for ever die.”

I repeat that you cannot lose anything by prayer. “Oh!” I have said to myself, when broken down under a sense of sin, “God cannot be angry with me for crying to him for mercy. Surely that cannot be an increase of my guilt — that I dare to say, ‘Lord, forgive me. The worst criminal before a judge may at least beg for mercy; so I will put in my plea, in broken words, and with many tears. I cannot lose anything by praying; therefore, I will certainly continue to pray unto the Lord.”

     Moreover, dear friends, it is not so great a thing, after all, to have to continue to ask. It is not so hard a thing for me to be made to wait a little while. As a sinner, I kept God waiting for me long enough, ay, far too long. He called, but I would not come; what wonder if now he keeps me waiting? Shall I be in a pet, and say, “I will wait no longer”? Oh, the many sermons I have heard and thrown on one side! Oh, the many times the Spirit of God has touched my conscience, and I have resisted his strivings! Ought I therefore to be at all surprised if now he should say to me, “Thou must wait a bit at mercy’s gate, for I will have thee knock, and knock, and knock again before I let thee in”? Oh, no; it is not so hard a thing, and it will pay me for waiting! When he does but open the gate, I shall think very little of the many prayers and tears that I have offered to him; I shall be so overjoyed to get inside that I shall bless him even for keeping me waiting. Therefore, my soul, press on; keep on praying, for what if he should, after all, hear thee? O poor heart, what if, after all, thy sin should be forgiven thee, and thou shouldst become a child of God? O thou forlorn one, what if the light of heaven should yet shine in upon thy heart, and all the bells of holy joy should ring within thy spirit? What if it should be so? And it will be so if thou believest in the Lord Jesus Christ. It may be that thou art within an inch of salvation even now. Let me tell thee, if thou art but looking to Jesus, thou hast salvation already. One trustful glance at him upon the cross, and thou art saved, saved now, and saved for ever. God grant that it may be so with thee!

     At any rate, cease not to pray, for he to whom thou grayest is a gracious God. The widow who went to the unjust judge was importunate, and prevailed with him, unjust as he was; but thou art pleading with a loving God, who gave his Son to die for sinners. Take good heart; thou wilt not plead in vain, for he loves to hear thy prayers. He must, he will, answer thee, for he is a God of grace.

     Besides, if he does not save thee, will he be a gainer by it? And if he does save thee, will he be a loser by it? Oh, no, dear heart! If he will save thee, it will increase his honour and his glory. Why, thou thyself wilt tell everybody what a good God he is, wilt thou not? And thy friends and thy neighbours, when they see thee saved, such a sinner as thou art, will begin to say one to another, “Here is a wonder of grace. See what God has done for this man. Let us come and seek him, too.” It is not to God’s disadvantage to save thee, now that Christ has died. Therefore, take heart, and be of good courage.

     Moreover, he has heard others. He who speaks to thee now boldly tells thee that God heard him. “I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.” Come along with you, whoever you are. I am sure you can pray as well as I did when first I sought his face. I am sure you know about as much of the gospel as I did when I first looked to him, for I did not really know the truth till I heard that word, “Look! Look! Look!” That is about all I know oven now. I look at Jesus, and he looks at me. I am looking unto Jesus, and I am lightened of all my burden. That is the whole story. Look thou to him, and thou shalt be lightened, too. If others have been saved, why shouldst not thou be saved? Therefore, pluck up heart, and still cry mightily and believingly to him.

     More than that, the Lord has promised to hear thee. Listen: “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” Here is another precious promise: “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” There is a big “whosoever.” Let me repeat that text: “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The Lord does hear prayer; do not let any unbelief upon that point linger any longer in thy heart. He will hear thee now sitting in thy pew. Try it; try it; if thou hast been praying for months, and yet no peaceable answer has come to thee, resolve this moment that thou wilt never cease thine entreaties until he grants thee the desire of thine heart.

     I am looking upon many young men and maidens here; how I wish that they would all look to Jesus even now! Oh, that at least some of you, dear young friends, might begin to be Christians from this very hour! The harvest is past, the summer is well-nigh ended, and you are not saved; but before the leaves fall from the trees, yield yourselves to Jesus. There are some boys and girls here; the Lord grant that they may, while they are yet children, trust in Jesus, and be saved! But the most of you are men and women in middle life, and many, very many of you, are aged people. Have you found Christ, dear friend? Are there any of you old folks who are without Christ? I cannot make you out, — grey-headed, and yet unconverted; what is to become of you? In the order of nature, you must soon die. The young may die, but me old must. Oh, that you would not rest in your declining years till all is right for eternity! You know what accidents are constantly occurring, and how suddenly moil pass into eternity! A man has heart disease, and without a moment’s warning he is hurried before his Maker’s bar. Prepare to meet your God, and do so by believing in him whom God has set forth to be the Saviour of men, even the Lord Jesus Christ, who died, “the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” God bless you, dear hearers! We shall never all of us meet again on earth; that is not possible among these thousands from all quarters of the globe, but may the sincere penitent prayer of all the unsaved amongst us be so heard that we may all meet in heaven! Amen and Amen.

 



Kept from Iniquity

By / Sep 22

Kept from Iniquity

 

“I kept myself from mine iniquity.” — Psalm xviii. 23.

 

IN our roading we had a very wonderful description of God’s delivering mercy towards his servant David. He was very peculiarly tried in the court of Saul; he deserved so well of the king that it was doubly hard for him to be treated so ill. He had been the deliverer of his country when he slew Goliath, yet he was hunted as if he had been the grossest of malefactors. He had to fly for his life, like a partridge upon the mountains, and all the while, no doubt, Saul and his partisans accused him of all manner of evil. There was scarcely any bad thing which they did not attribute to David; but he was upright before God, and he dared to challenge the investigation of the Most High, for he was sincere and true to the core. He proved by his conduct that he was so; for when Saul was in his hands, on two memorable occasions when he might readily have taken his life, he disdained to do so. He would not put forth his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and in great grace, in his own good time, God was pleased to deliver his servant. If men blow out the candle of a Christian’s reputation, God will light it again; if he does not do so in this life, remember that at the resurrection there will be a resurrection of reputations as well as of bodies: “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” It is, after all, of very small account what is said by men whose breath is in their nostrils. “They say. What do they say? Let them say.” Let them say till they have done saying; it little matters what they say; yet, to a sensitive spirit, like that of David, the tongue is a very sharp instrument, it cutteth like a razor, and pierceth even to the bones. He felt, therefore, the slander of many, and was sometimes greatly troubled by it. However, God was pleased to work a very marvellous deliverance for him. It seemed as if the Lord would sooner shake the earth to atoms, and crush the arches of heaven, than fail to deliver his servant. He will do so still, depend upon it. “He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”

     David attributes his providential deliverance to the mercy of God by which he had been kept clear in his conduct: “I kept myself from mine iniquity.” Whatever you do, if you do right, God will see you through; but, whoever you may be, if you turn aside to crooked ways, you will soon fall into a bog. If you try to carve for yourself, you will probably cut your own fingers. He who thinks that he can do better by suppressing truth, or by speaking falsehood, or by acting contrary to the dictates of his conscience, will find that he has made a great mistake. Do thou so trust in God as to hold to thine integrity. “Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.” Ponder the path of thy feet, and God will bring thee through as surely as he is alive, which is saying much more than if I said as surely as thou art alive; for, as the Lord liveth, before whom we stand, he will not forsake the righteous, nor cast off them that serve him faithfully.

     This is the passage we have to consider, “I kept myself from mine iniquity.” Here is, first, a personal danger: “mine iniquity.” And, secondly, here is a special guard: “I kept myself.” And then, thirdly, here is a happy result. David could say, as he looked back upon his life, “I kept myself from mine iniquity.” There was no boasting in this declaration; but as his enemies accused him falsely, like an honest man he defended himself, for he was able truthfully to say, “I kept myself from mine iniquity.”

     I. Well now, here is, first, A PERSONAL DANGER: “mine iniquity.”

     This is a dreadful possession to have in the house; a man had better have a cage of cobras than have an iniquity, yet we have each of us to deal at home with some special form of sin. It is said that there is a skeleton in every house. I do not know whether that is true; but I do know that there is something very much allied to a skeleton, that is, the body of this death with which we all have to deal; and it takes a special shape in each good man. There is some particular sin which he may call “mine iniquity.” Not only is there the general iniquity which affects the whole race, but each man has his own particular form of it: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.” There is a general sin, but there is a particularity in it, too; each man has his own way of sinning, so that he can speak of “mine iniquity.”

     Let us think of the particular form of iniquity with which some of us have to do. It takes its speciality, perhaps, from our natural constitution. He who judges all men alike does them an injustice. There are some who have but little tendency to a particular form of evil, but they have a very great inclination towards some other sin. Some are sanguine; they are expecting great things, and they fall into the sin of expecting to drink sweet waters from the cisterns of this world. There are some of quite another temperament, who are inclined to despondency, perhaps to suspicion; they may fall into mistrust, or various forms of unbelief, and even into despair, which will be very grievous to the God who is over gracious. There are some men who, from their very parentage, are inclined to drunkenness or to unchastity. There are others, favoured by God with a godly ancestry who, if they were left to themselves, would not probably fall into either of those forms of sin, yet they might be proud of their own integrity, and proud of their own uprightness; and is not pride as great a sin as those more open transgressions? Depend on it, my dear friend, thou hast some tendency peculiar to thyself, and there is a special point where thou liest open to the attacks of temptation. Happy will that man be who so knows himself that he sets a double watch against that postern gate through which the adversary is apt to creep in the dark. Peculiar constitutions may lead to special forms of sin, and it behoves the godly man to keep himself from his own iniquity.

     Our tendency is to decry the particular form of sin that we find in others. We hold up our hands as if we were quite shocked. Better look in the looking-glass than look out at the window. Looking out of the window, thou seest one for whom thou art not responsible; but looking in the glass, thou seest one of whom thou must give account to God, and thou wilt do well to ask God to keep that one. Thou wilt, likely enough, within a day’s march, not see a much worse man than he is, if thou dost know him well. I remember Mr. Berridge’s quaint joke. He had, hanging round his room, the portraits of many ministers; and ho would say to his friend, “Here is Whitefield, here is Wesley, here is So-and-so;” and then, loading his visitor to a looking-glass, he would say, “Here is the devil.” Yes, he is somewhere about there where thou art looking. If thou lookest long enough, thou mayest detect some of his handiwork at any rate, for there is something of his work about us all. Sin, therefore, may be something peculiar to constitution.

     But any man may also know that “mine iniquity” may be engendered by education. How impressible we are in childhood! We bear the print of our mother’s fingers when we are fifty years of age, and it is not gone from us even when we are old and grey-headed. Things that were done at our father’s home are likely to be done in our own home. Things that we saw, things that we heard, when we were very young, may abide with us, and help to shape our whole life. May God help us so to look back upon our early training as to discover the defects of it, and, not laying the sin upon others, which would be a wicked perversion of the truth, yet let us recollect that, as we lived in a sinful generation, we have acquired some taint therefrom, and we have need to watch against the sins which were taught us when we were young, especially any of you who have been rescued by grace out of homes of drunkenness and debauchery! I bless the Lord that there are many here who have been brought by sovereign grace out of very dens of iniquity. There are some here who are, so far as they are aware, the only ones of all their household who know the Lord; and when they go home to-night, it will be a great pain to them, as they cross the threshold, to think how very different the atmosphere will be from that in the house of God where they have worshipped. Well, my dear brother or sister, we sympathize with you in your trial, and pray the Lord that you may carefully watch and that you may he kept from your iniquity.

     No doubt there are certain forms of iniquity which grow out of our particular condition. The young man has his iniquity; it is not the iniquity of the aged. The young man is tempted to sinful pleasure, the old man to covetousness. Each period of life has its own special snare. Pray, I beseech you, young people, middle-aged people, old people, pray the Lord that you may be kept from the peculiar iniquity of that part of the life-passage through which you are going. He who quits the shores of England for Australia may ask the guardian care of God while yet the white cliffs of Albion have scarcely melted from his view. Let him ask God’s blessing as he passes through the middle passage of the Suez Canal; but let him not forget to pray when the captain tells him that, within a few days, he will come in sight of the southern shore. No, all along we need keeping.

     It is so with our condition of life as to our outward circumstances. The rich man has his temptations. Few know how great they are, or they would not be so eager after riches. It is as hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven as for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. It is a natural impossibility, for so many difficulties surround the possession of riches; but with God all things are possible. Yet the poor man will not find that he has a much larger hole to go through. His straitened circumstances will not materially help him. Agur did well to pray, “Give me neither poverty nor riches.” There are peculiar trials in each condition; and even the middle way between the two is not without its own special temptations; so that, whether thou hast much or little, pray God that thou mayest keep thyself from thine iniquity.

     There are iniquities which come through prosperity. I have never yet prayed to God to preserve me in going up in a balloon, for I have never had any idea of entering one; but whenever you prosper very greatly, and especially when you prosper very fast, you are very like a man going up in a balloon. If people knew the danger, they would send in prayers to the Monday night prayer-meeting, asking that the Lord would have mercy upon the man who is greatly prospering, for there are very peculiar trials surrounding that condition. Oh, that men might be kept from that cleaving to the world and letting the Saviour go, which so often follows upon great success in life!

     But equally must he pray who is in adversity. Oh, the ills of adversity! The worst ill of all is the tendency to doubt God, and to put forth your hand unto iniquity in order to remove the heavy load. Pray the Lord, thou who art losing everything, that he will keep thee from thine iniquity. Thou needest not pray, like Pharaoh, “Take away the frogs;” but pray like David, “Take away mine iniquity.” That is the prayer of the true child of God.

     I may be speaking to some who have great talents. Well, you have need to pray, “Lord, keep me from mine iniquity,” for great talent is a very dangerous thing for a man to possess, a charge which needs great grace. And, if thou hast but one talent, thine iniquity may be to wrap it in a napkin, and hide it in the earth. There is a temptation in the one talent as well as in the five. Therefore, pray

tin? Lord to keep thee from that iniquity which is often the accompaniment of the particular condition in which thou art found.

     Brothers, there are some of you who have need to pray this prayer in reference to your calling. I do not think that any calling is free from temptation, but there are some positions in which the temptation is very terrible. I need not go into those which surround many of you in trade, when everybody seems to “cut the thing fine,” as they say, and to cut the truth much finer than anything else, and say a great deal that is not true, under the notion that somehow or other it will, help his business. If there be customs in your trade which all others follow, and which you know to be wrong, do not adopt them; but say, “Lord, keep me from mine iniquity.” You need not begin to say, “Those grocers, those milk-dealers, those publicans, all have their iniquities.” Think about your own; quite enough iniquities may crowd into your shop without your thinking about the shops of other people. Pray the Lord that you may be kept from your iniquity.

     And, O beloved, what iniquities there are which surround us all in daily life! Into what company can you go without being tempted? In this city, at the present time, the position of a Christian is very much like that of Lot in Sodom. I speak what I do know; I do not exaggerate the conditions which surround the lives of some Christian working-men and Christian working-women who are not able to let their children go into our streets by reason of the filthiness of the language that they would hear. Even round about this house of prayer is a very cauldron of iniquity, so that many say, “We cannot live there, and we do not know where to live to keep our children out of the temptations which now surround them.” I say not that one age is worse than another, but I do say that the peculiar trials of today should make Christians walk very near to God; and, instead of loosening and relaxing the lines of our religious profession, let us tighten them as much as over we can, and seek to be thoroughly Nonconformist, not conforming to the world, to be out and out Dissenters, dissenting from the ways of this ungodly generation.

     Still, to help you to find out your iniquity, I will make one or two more remarks. It is likely to be that iniquity which thou hast oftenest fallen into in thy previous life. What has been thy sternest struggle? Against quickness of temper? Then, that is thine iniquity. Doubt and mistrust? That is thine iniquity. Has it been covetousness? has it been slowness to forgive any who have offended you? Has it been gossiping and mixing untruth with your talk? That is your iniquity. Whatever it is which hitherto has stained thy life, that is probably the thing which will stain it again unless thou dost watch, and call in the power of the Holy Spirit for thy protection. That sin which you find yourself readily committing, which you drift into without any effort, ay, which you drift into when you are making a great many efforts not to do it, that is your iniquity. That which you have returned to after having smarted for it, that which you have vowed you would never be guilty of again, and which yet has in a moment, like the bursting forth of some hidden spring of water, carried thee away with a rush, — that is thine iniquity. Oh, how canst thou keep thyself from it unless God shall keep thee? Cry unto the Most High to enable thee to keep thyself from thine iniquity. That is thine iniquity which has overtaken thee oven after thou hast prayed against it, and laboured against it, that thou hast concluded that surely thou wilt never do it again, and yet thou hast done it.

     Let me tell you one thing more; that which you do not like to hear condemned, that which you do not like the preacher to mention, that which makes you wriggle in your seat, and feel, “I wish he would not say that, he is coming too closely home,” that is your iniquity. And if thou canst not bear that thy wife should speak to thee about it, or that thy brother or thy sister should give thee a friendly word of advice concerning it, that which thou art most loth to hear, probably has to do with thine iniquity. We may often judge ourselves by this test. It is that which thou art most loth to hear that thou hast most need to hear; instead of being angry with him who points it out to thee, thou shouldst be willing to pay him for doing it. When you go to your doctor, and ask him to examine you, if he says, “There is something a little amiss with the heart, or with the lungs,” do you knock him down? Do you get into a passion with him for telling you the truth? No, you give him his guinea, and thank him even for imparting evil news. And should we not thank those who rebuke us, and tell us of our faults? When God sendeth thee not a faithful friend, I pray him to send thee an honest enemy, who will deal straightly with thee, and let thee know where thy weakness is, that thou mayest then cry to God, “Lord, keep me from mine iniquity.”

     II. Now, secondly, in our text there is A SPECIAL GUARD: “I kept myself from mine iniquity.”

     Someone may perhaps say, “I have a special temptation, but I am going to set a guard against it.” Let me ask you first who you are; are you a child of God? Have you passed from death unto life? If you say, “No,” I am not referring to you in this part of my subject. You must be born again, you must go by faith to Jesus Christ, and ask for cleansing in his precious blood, and renewal by the Holy Spirit; but I am now talking to the child of God, the man who has spiritual life. I speak to you, my dear brother, because you can, by God’s grace, keep yourself from your iniquity. How are you to do it?

     Well, first, you must find out what it is. You must get a clear idea of your own iniquity. Ask the Lord to search you, and try you, and know your ways. When you have found out what that iniquity is, then endeavour to get a due sense of its foulness and guilt in the sight of God. Ask the Lord to make thee hate most that sin to which thou art most inclined. Remember that thou art a child of God; it ill becomes thee to be friendly with any of the King’s enemies. Remember that Christ has bought thee; thou belongest to him, thou shouldst not be the slave of any sin, thou must not be such if the life of God be in thee. The life of God in the soul hates sin; thou canst not take pleasure in any sin if thou art indeed a regenerate man or woman. Therefore, I say to thee, seek to get a sight of the heinousness of thy particular sin and the danger which attends it, that, as thou hast an extraordinary horror of it, thou mayest set that over against thy tendency to it.

     Then, he resolved in the power of the Holy Spirit that this particular sin shall he overcome. There is nothing like hanging it up by the neck, that very sin, I mean. Do not fire at sin indiscriminately; but, if thou hast one sin that is more to thee than another, drag it out from the crowd, and say, “Thou must die if no other does. I will hang then up in the face of the sun.” Strive against thine anger; strive against thy covetousness; strive against thine envy; strive against thine evil temper, thy malice, if that be thy fault; for there are some who are very slow to forgive. Strive against it till thou gettest thy foot upon its neck. “I cannot do it,” says one. Why, the Lord has said that lie will bruise Satan under our feet shortly! Surely, if you are to have the devil under your foot, you can get all sin under your feet by God’s help; and you must do it. It is a part of that work that must be wrought in us to bring every thought into captivity to divine grace. You are not able to subdue the least sin apart from Christ; but, by the help of the Holy Spirit, there is nothing that can master thee. I tell thee that, if thou let any sin master thee, thou wilt be lost. If any sin should remain unconquered, thou art ruined; for this is the way of salvation, the absolute conquest of every sin through the grace of the Holy Spirit. It must be so with thee ere thou canst outer heaven, and thou art able to overcome it in the power of Jesus Christ. If thou hast an iniquity that more than another haunts thee, then keep away from all that tempts thee to it. Is there a house where thy company is much liked, but where thou art never able to come away without having fallen into sin? Keep away from that house. It is often one of the most essential things in young converts that they should quit the company in which they once sported. You may go into some company to do good; but mind that you are strong enough to resist the evil, for it does not always do for those who have but little strength to attempt to pull others out of the fire; they may be themselves pulled into it. No, come ye out from among them, be ye separate; touch not the unclean thing. You have no business to be in that place where it becomes almost necessary that you should sin; that necessity should warn you not to go there.

     The true path of safety is to pray and believe against all sin. We conquer sin by faith in Christ. This is the axe that will cut down the upas tree, and there is no other that will do so. Believe thou in Jesus Christ the Saviour, who died for thee; and then believe in him as living again, and willing to help thee in every conflict against sin. Go thou, having Christ crucified with thee, and ask him to crucify thy sin, and nail it up to his cross. So thou shalt be helped to overcome; but there must be care, and prayer, and watchfulness, and trust, and continual looking up to the Lord for grace. Only so can you say, “I kept myself from mine iniquity.”

     III. Thirdly, I conclude with A HAPPY RESULT.

     David says, “I kept myself from mine iniquity.” He does not say that ho could not sin, but that he would not, and he did not. When a wicked man gets old, he may say, “I do not sin like those young people.” No, because you cannot; it has been well said that there is many an old man who, if you could put young eyes in him, would look the same way as he used to do. That is not what we want; it is not the failure to commit a sin because your passions have grown colder, or your strength has left you; it is a change of heart that is wanted. “I kept myself from mine iniquity;” that is, “though it would try to tempt me, and did so, and I might have yielded to it, yet by the grace of God I would not yield.”

     I do pray, my brothers and sisters, that, if we live ten, twenty, thirty, or fifty more years, we may be able to say, without any boasting, but in deep humility before God, “By his great grace, by trust in Jesus, I kept myself from mine iniquity,” because, if we do so, see what a blessing it will be to us, for it will be to us a reason for our being brought out of the trouble. If when you are in need, if when you are under temptation, God helps you to keep straight, you will come out all right at the last. What a number of stories I might tell here of young men, who were great losers at first by being godly; but they kept themselves right, and they had to thank God for it ever afterwards. I know, at this present moment, a personal friend who was a banker’s clerk. On a certain day, he was told to do something which he judged to be, speaking plainly, dishonest; and he told the manager that he could not do it, whereupon he received a month’s notice. It was a country bank, and he was not sent about his business at once; and he had to turn the matter over. He had a wife and children; and when he went home, it was not easy to tell the wife that the excellent situation that he held would be vacated within a short time. But he stood fast in his integrity, he said that he was sure God would bring him safely through, and he never had even the slightest thought of doing other than he had said he would do. It was within twelve months that he obtained the situation of manager of that very bank, and it belongs to him at this moment; he very speedily became a man in a much better position than he could have expected to have obtained, simply from the fact that it had been proved that he could be trusted. It is not always so; some people have to be a long time under a cloud; but, in the long run, if thou as a child of God wilt but stand fast, God will not let thee be a loser. If he does, it shall be thy glory to lose everything sooner than tarnish thy character. Thou shalt find it a greater joy to lose all things for Christ than it would be to gain the whole world by doing anything that was wrong. If you are able to say, “I kept myself from mine iniquity,” then you shall also be able to say with David, “I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised.”

     Next, if you act thus, it will be a triumph of divine grace. Brethren, we want to show the world what grace can do, and every member of the church ought to feel that he is put upon his behaviour to prove what the grace of God has done in him. What credit is brought to Christ by professed Christians who are so like worldlings that, if you put them under a microscope, you could not tell the difference between them? If you can do what worldlings do, you shall go at last where worldlings go. If grace does not make you to differ from them, it is not the grace of God, it is all a sham. We ought to feel that Christ’s honour is in danger by our ill behaviour, and so live that we can glorify our Father who is in heaven by our good works, keeping ourselves from our iniquity.

     For again, this will he our best testimony to others. It is well to preach as I do, with my lips; but you can all preach with your feet, and by your lives, and that is the most effective preaching. The preaching of holy lives is living preaching. The most effective ministry from a pulpit is that which is supported by godliness from the pew. God help you to do this!

     And, lastly, what a sweet peace this will give to your conscience! Though we know we are saved by grace, hear this, ye ungodly. There is no way of salvation for you, or for us, but by the grace of God through Jesus Christ; yet when we are saved, the evidence to our own soul of that work of grace upon our nature is very sweet when we can say, “I have kept myself from mine iniquity.” A well-spent life, a life that is pure, a life that has been consecrated to usefulness, a life in which there has not been a turning aside to the right hand or to the left, helps us to lie down with comfort upon our dying bod, and bid farewell to all our dear ones, and fool that we are leaving behind us the legacy of a gracious example in which we do not glory, but for which we give God the glory, and thank and praise his holy name. Begin at the cross; there is the source of your salvation. Then go, and live like the living Saviour. God help you to do so, for Christ’s sake!