Adoption

By / Jun 22

Adoption

 

“Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,”— Ephesians 1:5.

 

IT is at once a doctrine of Scripture and of common sense, that whatever God does in time he predestined to do in eternity. Some men find fault with divine predestination, and challenge the justice of eternal decrees. Now, if they will please to remember that predestination is the counterfoil of history, as an architectural plan, the carrying out of which we read in the facts that happen, they may perhaps obtain a slight clue to the unreasonableness of their hostility. I never heard any one among professors wantonly and wilfully find fault with God’s dealings, yet I have heard some who would even dare to call in question the equity of his counsels. If the thing itself be right, it must be right that God intended to do the thing; if you find no fault with facts, as you see them in providence, you have no ground to complain of decrees, as you find them in predestination, for the decrees and the facts are just the counterparts one of the other. Have you any reason to find fault with God, that he has been pleased to save you, and save me? Then why should you find fault because Scripture says he pre-determined that he would save us? I cannot see, if the fact itself is agreeable, why the decree should be objectionable. I can see no reason why you should find fault with God’s foreordination, if you do not find fault with what does actually happen as the effect of it. Let a man but agree to acknowledge an act of providence, and1want to know how he can, except he runs in the very teeth of providence, find any fault with the predestination or intention that God made concerning that providence. Will you blame me for preaching this morning? Suppose you answer, No. Then can you blame me that I formed a resolution last night that I would preach? Will you blame me for preaching on this particular subject? Do, if you please, then, and find me guilty for intending to do so; but if you say I am perfectly right in selecting such a subject, how can you say I was not perfectly right in intending to preach upon it? Assuredly you cannot find fault with God’s predestination, if you do not find fault with the effects that immediately spring from it. Now, we are taught in Scripture, I affirm again, that all things that God choseth to do in time were most certainly intended by him to be done in eternity, and he predestined such things should be done. If I am called, I believe God intended before all worlds that I should be called; if in his mercy he has regenerated me, I believe that from all eternity he intended to regenerate me; and if in his loving-kindness he shall at last perfect me and carry me to heaven, I believe it always was his intention to do so. If you cannot find fault with the thing itself that God does, in the name of reason, common sense, and Scripture, how dare you find fault with God’s intention to do it?

     But there are one or two acts of God which, while they certainly are decreed as much as other things, yet they bear such a special relation to God’s predestination that it is rather difficult to say whether they were done in eternity or whether they were done in time. Election is one of those things which were done absolutely in eternity; all who were elect, were elect as much in eternity as they are in time. But you may say, Does the like affirmation apply to adoption or justification? My late eminent and now glorified predecessor, Dr. Gill, diligently studying these doctrines, said that adoption was the act of God in eternity, and that as all believers were elect in eternity, so beyond a doubt they were adopted in eternity. A nor now He went further than that to include the doctrine of justification, and he said that inasmuch as Jesus Christ was before all worlds justified by his Father, and accepted by him as our representative, therefore all the elect must have been justified in Christ from before all worlds. Now, I believe there is a great deal of truth in what he said, though there was a considerable outcry raised against him at the time he first uttered it. However, that being a high and mysterious point, we would have you accept the doctrine that all those who are saved at last were elect in eternity when the means as well the end were determined. With regard to adoption, I believe we were predestined thereunto in eternity; but I do think there are some points with regard to adoption which will not allow me to consider the act of adoption to have been completed in eternity. For instance, the positive translation of my soul from a state of nature into a state of grace is a part of adoption, or at least it is an effect of it, and so close an effect that it really seems to be a part of adoption itself. I believe that this was designed, and in fact that it was virtually carried out in God’s everlasting covenant; but I think that it was not actually then brought to pass in all its fulness. So with regard to justification, I must hold, that in the moment when Jesus Christ paid my debts, my debts were cancelled — in the hour when he worked out for me a perfect righteousness it was imputed to me, and therefore I may as a believer say I was complete in Christ before I was born, accepted in Jesus, even as Levi was blessed in the loins of Abraham by Melchisedec; but I know likewise that justification is described in the Scriptures as passing upon me at the time I believe. “Being justified by faith,” I am told, “I have peace with God, through Jesus Christ.” I think, therefore, that adoption and justification, while they have a very great alliance with eternity, and were virtually done then, yet have both of them such a near relation to us in time, and such a bearing upon our own personal standing and character, that they have also a part and parcel of themselves actually carried out and performed in time in the heart of every believer. I may be wrong in this exposition; it requires much more time to study this subject than I have been able yet to give to it, seeing that my years are not yet many; I shall no doubt by degrees come to the knowledge more fully of such high and mysterious points of gospel doctrine. But nevertheless, while I find the majority of sound divines holding that the works of justification and adoption are done in our lives, I see, on the other hand, in Scripture, much to lead me to believe that both of them were done in eternity; and I think the fairest view of the case is, that while they were virtually done in eternity, yet both adoption and justification are actually passed upon us, in our proper persons, consciences, and experiences, in time, — so that both the Westminster confession and the idea of Dr. Gill can be proved to be Scriptural, and we may hold them both without any prejudice the one to the other.

     Well now, beloved, leaving then the predestination, let us come to as full a consideration as the hour shall enable us to give of the doctrine of “the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.”

     First, then, adoption — the grace of God displayed in it; secondly, adoption — the privileges which it brings; thirdly, adoption — the duties which it necessarily places upon every adopted child.

     I. First, ADOPTION— THE GRACE OF IT.

     Adoption is that act of God, whereby men who were by nature the children of wrath, even as others, and were of the lost and ruined family of Adam, are from no reason in themselves, but entirely of the pure grace of God, translated out of the evil and black family of Satan, and brought actually and virtually into the family of God; so that they take his name, share the privileges of sons, and they are to all intents and purposes the actual offspring and children of God.

     This is an act of pure grace. No man can ever have a right in himself to become adopted. If I had, then I should receive the inheritance in my own right — but inasmuch as I have no right whatever to. be a child of God, and can by no possibility claim so high a privilege in and of myself, adoption is the pure gratuitous effect of divine grace, and of that alone. I could suppose that justification might be by works under the old covenant; but I could not suppose adoption to be under the old covenant at all I could imagine a man keeping the law perfectly, and being justified by it, if Adam had not fallen; but even upon such a supposition, Adam himself would have had no right to adoption — be would still have been only a servant, and not a son. Above all contradiction and controversy, that great and glorious act whereby God makes us of his family, and unites us to Jesus Christ as our covenant head, that so we may be his children, is an act of pure grace. It would have been an act of sovereign grace, if God had adopted some one out of the best of families; but in this case he has adopted one who was a child of a rebel. We are by nature the children of one who was attainted for high treason; we are all the heirs, and are born into the world the natural heirs of one who sinned against his Maker, who was a rebel against his Lord. Yet mark this — notwithstanding the evil of our parentage, born of a thief, who stole the fruit from his master’s garden— born of a proud traitor, who dared to rebel against his God, — notwithstanding all — God has put us into the family. We can well conceive, that when God considered our vile original he might have said within himself, “How can I put thee among the children!” With what gratitude should we remember that, though we were of the very lowest original, grace has put us into the number of the Saviour’s family. Let us give all thanks to the free grace which overlooked the hole of the pit whence we were digged, and which passed over the quarry whence we were hewn, and put us among the chosen people of the living God. If a king should adopt any into his family, it would likely be the son of his lords — at any rate, some child of respectable parentage; he would scarce take the son of some common felon, or some gipsy child, to adopt him into his family; but God, in this case, has taken the very worst to be his children. The saints of God all confess that they are the last persons they should ever have dreamed he would have chosen. They say of themselves —

“What was there in us that could merit esteem,
Or give the Creator delight?
Twas ‘Even so, Father,’ we ever must sing,
‘Because it seemed good in thy sight.”

     Again, let us think not only of our original lineage, but of our personal character. He who knows himself, will never think that he had much to recommend him to God. In other cases of adoption there usually is some recommendation. A man, when he adopts a child, sometimes is moved thereto by its extraordinary beauty, or at other times by its intelligent manners and winning disposition. But, beloved, when God passed by the field in which we were lying, he saw no tears in our eyes till he put them there himself; he saw no contrition in us until he had given us repentance; and there was no beauty in us that could induce him to adopt us — on the contrary, we were everything that was repulsive; and if he had said, when he passed by, “Thou art cursed, be lost for ever,” it would have been nothing but what we might have expected from a God who had been so long provoked, and whose majesty had been so terribly insulted. But no; he found a rebellious child, a filthy, frightful, ugly child; he took it to his bosom, and said, “Black though thou art, thou art comely in my eyes through my son Jesus; unworthy though thou art, yet I cover thee with his robe, and in thy brother’s garments I accept thee;” and taking us, all unholy and unclean, just as we were, he took us to be his — his children, his for ever. I was passing lately by the seat of a nobleman, and some one in the railway carriage observed, that he had no children, and he would give any price in the world if he could find some one who would renounce all claim to any son he might have, and the child was never to speak to his parents any more, nor to be acknowledged, and this lord would adopt him as his son, and leave him the whole of his estates, but that he had found great difficulty in procuring any parents who would forswear their relationship, and entirely give up their child. Whether this was correct or not, I cannot tell; but certainly this was not the case with God. His only-begotten and well-beloved son was quite enough for him; and if he had needed a family, there were the angels, and his own Omnipotence was adequate enough to have created a race of beings far superior to us; he stood in no need whatever of any to be his darlings. It was then, an act of simple, pure, gratuitous grace, and of nothing else, because lie will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and because he delights to show the marvellous character of his condescension. Did you ever think what a high honour it is to be called a son of God. Suppose a judge of the land should have before him some traitor who was about to be condemned to die; suppose that equity and law demanded that the wretch should shed his blood by some terrible punishment; but suppose it were possible for the judge to step from his throne, and to say, “Rebel thou art, but I have found out a way whereby I can forgive thy rebellions: man! thou art pardoned!” There is a flush of joy upon his cheek. “Man! thou art made rich: see, there is wealth!” Another smile passes over the countenance. “Man! thou art made so strong that thou shalt be able to resist all thine enemies.” He rejoices again. “Man!” saith the judge at last, “thou art made a prince; thou art adopted into the royal family, and thou shalt one day wear a crown. Thou art now as much the son of God as thou art the son of thine own father.” You can conceive the poor creature fainting with joy at such a thought; that he whose neck was just ready for the halter should have his head now ready for a crown — that he who expected to be clothed in the felon’s garb, and taken away to death, is now to be exalted and clothed in robes of honour. So, Christian, think of what glory thou. Art didst thou deserve in God, — robes of shame and infamy, — but thou art to have those of glory. Art thou in God’s family now? Well said the poet –

“It doth not yet appear,
How great we must be made.”

     We do not know the greatness of adoption yet. Yea, I believe that even in eternity we shall scarce be able to measure the infinite depth of the love of God in that one blessing of " adoption by Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.” Still, methinks there is some one here who says, “I believe, sir, that men are adopted because God foresees that they will be holy, righteous, and faithful, and therefore, doubtless, God adopted them on the foresight of that.” That is an objection I often have to reply to. Suppose, my friends, you and I should take a journey into the country one day, and should meet with a person, and should say to him, “Sir, can you tell me why the sails of yonder windmill go round?” He would of course reply, “It is the wind.” But, suppose you were to ask him, “What makes the wind?” and he were to reply, “the sails of the windmill,” would you not just think that he was an idiot? In the first place, he told you that the wind caused the revolution of the sails, and then, afterwards, he tells you that the sails make the wind — that an effect – can be the parent of that which is its own cause! Now, any man you like to ask, will say, that faith is the gift of God — that good works are God’s workmanship. Well, then, what is the cause of good works in a Christian? “Why, grace,” they say. Then, how can good works be the cause of grace? By all that is rational, where are your heads? It is too foolish a supposition for any man to reply to without making you laugh, and that I do not choose to do; and therefore, I leave it. I say again, beloved, if the fruits upon a Christian be caused by the root, how can the fruit, in any degree, be the cause of the root? If the good works of any man be given him of grace, how can they, by any pretence whatever, be argued as the reason why God gives him grace? The fact is, we are by nature utterly lost and ruined, and there is not a saint in heaven that would not have been damned, and that did not deserve to be damned in the common doom of sinners. The reason why God hath made a distinction is a secret to himself; he had a right to make that distinction if he pleased, and he has done it. He hath chosen some unto eternal life, to the praise of his glorious grace; he hath left others to be punished for their sins, to the praise of his glorious justice; and in one as in the other, he has acted quite rightly, for he has a right to do as he wills with his own creatures. Seeing they all deserved to be punished, he has a right to punish them all. So too, as he hath reconciled justice with mercy or mated it with judgment, he has a right to forgive and pardon some, and to leave the others to be unwashed, unforgiven, and unsaved — wilfully to follow the error of their ways, to reject Christ, despise his gospel, and ruin their own souls. He that does not agree with that, agreeth not with Scripture. I have not to prove it — I have only to preach it; he that quarrelleth with that, quarrelleth writh God — let him fight his quarrel out himself.

     II. The second thing is, THE PRIVILEGES WHICH COME TO US THROUGH ADOPTION.

     For the convenience of my young people — members of the church— I shall, just for a moment, give you a list of the privileges of adoption, as they are to be found in our old Confession of Faith, which most of you have, and which I am sure most of you will study at home this afternoon, if you have opportunity, looking out all the passages. It is the Twelfth Article, upon adoption, where we read Son Jesus — “All those that are justified, God vouchsafed, in and for the sake of his only Son Jesus Christ, to make partakers of the grace of adoption, by which they are taken into the number, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of children of God, have his name put upon them, receive the spirit of adoption, have access to the throne of grace with boldness, are enabled to cry Abba, Father, are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by him as a Father, yet never cast off, but sealed to the day of redemption, and inherit the promises as heirs of everlasting salvation.”

     I shall commence, then, with the privileges of adoption. And there is one privilege not mentioned in the Confession, which ought to be there. It is this: – When a man is adopted into a family, and comes thereby under the regime of his new father, he has nothing whatever to do with the old family he has left behind, and he is released from subjection to those whom he has left. And so, the moment I am taken out of the family of Satan, the Prince of this world has nothing to do with me as my father, and he is no more my father; I am not a son of Satan, I am not a child of wrath. The moment I am taken out of the legal family, I have nothing whatever to do with Hagar. If Hagar comes to meddle with me, I tell her, " Sarah is my mother, Abraham is my father, and, Hagar, you are my servant, and I am not yours. You are a bondwoman, and I shall not be your bondslave, for you are mine.” When the law comes to a Christian with all its terrible threats and horrible denunciations, the Christian says, “Law! why dost thou threaten me? I have nothing to do with thee; I follow thee as my rule, but I will not have thee to be my ruler; I take thee to be my pattern and mould, because I cannot find a better code of morality and of life, but I am not under thee as my condemning curse. Sit in thy judgment-seat, O law, and condemn me; I smile on thee, for thou art not my judge, I am not under thy jurisdiction; thou hast no right to condemn me.” “If,” as the old divines say, “the king of Spain were to condemn an inhabitant of Scotland, what would he say? He would say, ‘Very well, condemn me, if you like, but I am not under thy jurisdiction.’” So, when the law condemns a saint, the saint says, “If my father condemns me, and chastens me, I bow to him with filial submission, for I have offended him; but, O law, I am not under thee any longer, I am delivered from thee, I will not hear thy sentence, nor care about thy thunders All thou canst do against me, go and do it upon Christ; or, rather, thou hast done it. If thou demandest punishment for my sin, look, there stands my substitute; thou art not to seek it at my hands. Thou chargest me with guilt; it is true, I am guilty, but it is equally true, my guilt is put upon the scapegoat’s head. I tell thee, I am not of thy family; I am not to be chastened by thee; I will not have a legal chastisement, a legal punishment. I am under the gospel dispensation now; I am not under thee. I am a child of God, not thy servant. We have a commandment to obey the Father that we now have; but as to the family with which we were connected, we have nothing to do with it any longer. That is no small privilege; oh that we could rightly understand it, and appreciate it, and walk in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free!

     But now, as the Confession hath it, one of the great blessings which God gives us is, that we have his name put upon us. He will give unto us a new name, as is the promise in the book of the Revelation. We are to be called after the name of God. Oh! remember, brothers, we are men, but we are God’s men now; we are no longer mere mortals; we are so in ourselves, but by divine grace we are chosen immortals — God’s sons, taken to himself. Remember, Christian, thou hast the name of God upon thee.

     Mark another thing. We have the spirit of children, as well as the name of children. Now, if one man adopts another child into his family, he cannot give it his own nature, as his own child would have had; and if that child that he shall adopt should have been a fool, it may still remain so; he cannot make it a child worthy of him. But our heavenly Father, when he comes to carry out adoption, gives us not only the name of children, but the nature of children too. He gives us a nature like his well-beloved Son Jesus Christ. We had once a nature like our father Adam after he had sinned; he takes that away, and gives us a nature like himself as it were “in the image of God;” he overcomes the old nature, and he puts in us the nature of children. “He sends forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, whereby we cry, Abba, Father;” and he gives us the nature and the character of children, so that we are as much by grace partakers of the spirit of children of God, as we should have been if we had been his legitimately born children, and had not been adopted into his family. Brethren, adoption secures to us regeneration, and regeneration secures to us the nature of children, whereby we are not only made children, but are made partakers of the grace of God, so that we are in ourselves made unto God by our new nature as living children, actually and really like himself.

     The next blessing is, that being adopted we have access to the throne. When we come to God’s throne, one thing we ought always to plead is our adoption. The angel that keeps the mercy seat might stop us on the road with saying, “What is thy claim to come here? Dost thou come as a subject, or a servant? If thou dost, thou hast no right to come; but if thou comest as a son, come, and welcome,” Canst thou say thou art a son in thy prayers, Christian? Then never he afraid to pray; so long as thou knowest thy sonship thou wilt be sure to get all thou wantest, for thou canst say, “Father, I ask not as a servant; if I were a servant I should expect thy wages, and knowing that as a servant I have been rebellious, I should expect wages of eternal wrath. But I am thy son. Though as a servant I have often violated thy rules and may expect thy rod, yet, O Father, sinner though I be in and of myself, I am thy son by adoption and grace. Spurn me not away; put me not from thy knee; I am thy own child; I plead it; ‘the Spirit beareth witness with my Spirit that I am born of God.' Father, wilt thou deny thy son?” What! when he pleads for his elder brother’s sake, by whom he is made God’s child, being made an heir with Christ of all things? Wilt thou drive away thy son? No, beloved, he will not; he will turn again, he will hear our prayer, he will have mercy upon us. If we are his children, we may have access with boldness to the grace wherein we stand, and access with confidence unto the throne of the heavenly grace.

     Another blessing is, that we are pitied by God. Think of that, children, in all your sufferings and sorrows. “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.” Dostthou lie sick? The Lord standeth by thy bedside, pitying thee. Art thou tempted of Satan? Christ is looking down upon thee, feeling in his heart thy sighs and thy groans. Hast thou come here this morning with a heavy heart, a desponding spirit? Remember, the loving heart of God sympathises with thee. In his measure Christ feels afresh what every member bears. He pities thee, and that pity of God is one of the comforts that flow into thine heart by thine adoption.

     In the next place, he protects thee. Just as a hen protects her brood under her feathers from birds of prey that seek their life, so the Lord makes his own loving arms encircle his children. No father will allow his son to die, without making some attempt to resist the adversary who would slay him; and God will never allow his children to perish while his omnipotence is able to guard them. If once that everlasting arm can be palsied, if once that everlasting hand can become less than Almighty, then thou mayest die; but while thy Father lives, thy Father’s buckler shall be thy preserver, and his strong arm shall be thine effectual protection.

     Once again, there is provision, as well as protection. Every father will take care to the utmost of his ability to provide for his children. So will God. If ye are adopted, being predestinated thereunto, most surely will he provide for you.

“All needful grace will God bestow,
And crown that grace with glory too;
He gives us all things, and withholds
No real good from upright souls.”

Mercies temporal, mercies spiritual thou shalt have, and all because you are God’s son. his redeemed child, made so by the blood of Jesus Christ.

     And then you shall likewise have education. God will educate all his children, till he makes them perfect men in Christ Jesus. He will teach you doctrine after doctrine; he will lead you into all truth, until at last, perfected in all heavenly wisdom, you shall be made fit to join with your fellow-commoners of the great heaven above.

     There is one thing perhaps you sometimes forget, which you are sure to have in the course of discipline, if you are God’s sons, and that is, God’s rod. That is one fruit of adoption. Unless we have the rod we may tremble, fearing that we, are not the children of God. God is no foolish father: if he adopts a child, he adopts it that he may be a kind and wise father. And though he doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men for nought — though when his strokes are felt, his strokes are fewer than our crimes, and lighter than our guilt, — yet at the same time he never spares the rod; lie knows he would ruin his children if he did, and therefore sometimes he lays it on with no very sparing hand, and makes them cry out and groan, while they think that he is turned to be their enemy.

     But as the Confession beautifully has it, exactly in keeping with Scripture, “Though chastened by God as by a father, yet never cast off, but sealed to the day of redemption, they inherit the promises, as heirs of salvation.” It is one great doctrine of Scripture, that God cannot, as well as will not, cast off his children. I have often wondered how any persons could see any consistency in Scripture phraseology, when they talk about God’s people being children of God one day and children of Satan the next. Now, it would startle me not a little if I should step into a lecture-room, and hear the lecturer asserting that my children might be my children to-day, and his children the next. I should look at him, and say, “I don’t see that; if they are really mine they are mine; if they are not mine they are not mine; but I do not see how they can be mine to-day and yours to-morrow.” The fact is, that those who preach thus do believe in salvation by works, mask and cover it with specious qualifications as much as they may. There is as much need for a Luther to come out against them as there was for him to come out against the Romanists. Ah! beloved, it is well to know that our standing is not of that character, but that if we be children of God, nothing can unchild us— though we be beaten and smitten as children, we ne’er shall be punished by being cast out of the family, and ceasing to be children. God knows how to keep his own children from sin. He will never give them liberty to do as they please; he will say to them, “I will not kill you — that were an act I could not do, — but this rod shall smite you; and you shall be made to groan and cry under the rod;” so that you will hate sin, and you will cleave to him, and walk in holiness even to the end. It is not a licentious doctrine, because there is the rod. If there were no rod of chastisement, then it were a daring thing to say that God’s children shall go unpunished. They shall, so far as legal penalty is concerned; no judge shall condemn them; but as far as paternal chastisement is concerned, they shall not escape; “I have loved you above all the nations of the earth,” says God, “and therefore I will punish you for your iniquities.”

     Lastly, so sure as we are the children of God by adoption, we must inherit the promise that pertains to it; “if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ.” “If we suffer with him, we shall also be glorified together.”

III. And now the final point is, THERE ARE SOME DUTIES WHICH ARE CONNECTED WITH ADOPTION.

     When the believer is adopted into the Lord’s family, there are many relationships which are broken off The relationship with old Adam and the law ceases at once; but then he is under a new law, the law of grace — under new rules, and under a new covenant. And now I beg to admonish you of duties, children of God. Because you are God’s children, it has then become your duty to obey God. A servile spirit you have nothing to do with; you are a child; but inasmuch as you are a child, you are bound to obey your Father’s faintest wish, the least intimation of his will. What does he say to you? Does he bid you fulfil such and such an ordinance? It is at your peril if you neglect it; for you are disobeying your Father, who tells you so to do. Does he command you to seek the image of Jesus? Seek it. Does he tell you, “Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect?” Then not because the law says so, but because your Father says so, seek after it; seek to be perfect in love and in holiness. Does lie tell you to love one another? Do love one another; not because the law says, “Love your God,” but because Christ says, “If ye love me keep my commandments; and this is the commandment that I give unto you, that ye love one another.” Are you told to distribute to the poor, and minister unto the necessity of saints? Do it not because you think you are bound by the law to do it, but do it because Christ says so — because he is your Elder Brother, he is the Master of the household, and you think yourself most sweetly bound to obey. Does it say, “Love God with all your heart?” Look at the commandment, and say, “Ah! commandment, I will seek to fulfil thee; Christ hath fulfilled thee already — I have no need, therefore, to fulfil thee for my salvation, but I will strive to do it, because lie is my Father now, and he has a new claim upon me. Does he say, “Remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy?” I shall remember what Jesus said – The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” and therefore I shall not be the Sabbath’s slave; but as inasmuch as my Father rested on the seventh day, so also will I from all my works, and I will have no works of legality to defile his Rest; I will do as many acts of mercy as ever I can; I will seek and strive to serve him with filial homage. Because my Father rested, so will I in the finished work of Christ. Because “my Father worketh hitherto,” and my Saviour says, “and I work,” therefore I count not that the Sabbath is broken in ought that repairs the breach. And so with each of the ten commandments. Take them out of the law, put them in the gospel, and then obey them. Do not obey them simply as being the law graven on tables of stone; obey them as gospel written on fleshy tables of the heart; “for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”

     There is another duty, believer. It is this: if God be thy Father, and thou art his son, thou art bound to trust him. Oh! if he were only thy Master, and thou ever so poor a servant, thou wouldst be bound to trust him. But, when thou knowest that he is thy Father, wilt thou ever doubt him? I may doubt any man in this world; but I do not doubt my father. If he says a thing, if he promises a thing, I know if it be in his power, he will do it; and if he states a fact to me, I cannot doubt his word. And yet, O child of God, how often dost thou distrust thy heavenly Father? Now, do so no more. Let him be true; let every man be a liar; still doubt not thy Father. What! could he tell thee an untruth? Would he cheat thee? No, thy Father when he speaks, means what he says. Canst thou not trust his love? What! will he let thee sink, while he is able to keep thee afloat? Will he let thee starve, while his granaries are full, will he let thee die with thirst, when his presses burst with new wine? Are the cattle upon a thousand hills his, and will he let thee lack a meal? Is the earth the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof, and will he let thee go away empty, and poor, and miserable? Oh! surely not. Is all grace his, and will he keep it back from thee? No, he saith to thee to-day, “Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine;” take what thou wilt, it is all thine own; but trust to thy Father.

“Leave to his sovereign will,
To choose, and to command.
With wonder filled, thou then shalt own,
How wise, how strong his hand.”

Now go away, heirs of heaven, with light feet, and with joy in your countenances, saying, you know that you are his children, and that he loves you, and will not cast you away. Believe that to his bosom he now presses you — that his heart is full of love to you; believe that he will provide for you, protect you, sustain you, and that he will at last bring you to a glad inheritance, when you shall have perfected the years of your pilgrimage, and shall be ripe for bliss, “As he hath predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.”

     I need not, this morning, delay you any longer in personally addressing unconverted persons. Their welfare I always seek; I have sought, while speaking to the saints this morning, so to speak, that every sinner may learn at least this one fact, that salvation is of God alone, and that he may be brought into this state of mind, to feel that if he is saved God must save him, or else he cannot be saved at all. If any of you acknowledge that truth, then in God’s name I now bid you believe in Jesus; for as surely as ever you can feel that God has a right to save or to destroy you, grace must have made you feel that, and therefore, you have a right now to come and believe in Jesus; if you know that, you know all that will make you feel empty, and therefore, you know enough to make you cast your entire hope upon that fulness which is in Jesus Christ. The Lord bless you, and save you! Amen.

    



Plenteous Redemption

By / Jun 22

Plenteous Redemption

 

“With him is plenteous redemption.”— Psalm 130:7.

 

REDEMPTION is a word which has gladdened many ears, when there was no heavenly sound in its blessed chime. Apart from any theological use of it, the word is a very sweet one, and has been melodious to many hearts. In those days when piracy was carried on continually along the coast of Africa, when our fellow Christian subjects were caught by corsairs, and carried away captive, you can well understand how the burdened soul of the manacled slave, chained to the oar of his galley, was gladdened by the hope that possibly there would be redemption. His cruel master, who had forced him into his possession, would not willingly emancipate him; but a rumour came, that in some distant nation they had raised a sum of money to purchase the freedom of slaves — that some wealthy merchant had dedicated of his substance to buy back his fellow-countrymen; that the king himself upon his throne had promised to give a liberal redemption that the captives among the Moors might return to their homes. Truly I can suppose the hours would run happily along, and the dreariness of their toil would be assuaged, when once that word “redemption” had sounded in their ears. So with our fellow-subjects and our fellow-men, who once were slaves in our West India settlements. We can well conceive that to their lips the word redemption must have been a very pleasing song. It must have been well nigh as sweet to them as the marriage peals to a youthful bridegroom, when they knew that the noble British nation would count down the twenty millions of their redemption money; that on a certain morning their fetters should be snapped asunder, so that they should no more go out to the plantations to sweat in the sun, driven by the whip, but they should call themselves their own, and none should be their masters to possess their flesh, and have property in their souls. You can conceive when the sun of that happy morn arose, when emancipation was proclaimed from sea to sea, and the whole land was at liberty, how joyful must their new-found freedom have appeared. O there are many sonnets in that one word “redemption.”

     Now, ye who have sold for nought your glorious heritage; ye who have been carried bondslaves into Satan’s dominion; ye who have worn the fetters of guilt and groaned under them; ye who have smarted beneath the lash of the law; what the news of redemption has been to slaves and captives, that will it be to you to-night. It will cheer your souls and gladden your spirits, and more especially so when that rich adjective is coupled with it — “plenteous redemption.”

     This evening I shall consider the subject of redemption, and then notice the adjective appended to the word: “plenteous redemption.”

     I. First, then, we shall consider the subject of REDEMPTION.

     I shall commence in this way, by asking, What has Christ redeemed! And in order to let you know what my views are upon this subject, I would announce at once what I conceive to be an authoritative doctrine, consistent with common sense, and declared to us by Scripture, namely, that whatever Christ has redeemed, Christ will most assuredly have. I start with that as-an axiom, that whatever Christ has redeemed, Christ must have. I hold it to be repugnant to reason, and much more to revelation, that Christ should die to purchase what he never shall obtain; and I hold it to be little less than blasphemy to assert that the intention of our Saviour’s death can ever be frustrated. Whatever was Christ’s intention when he died — we lay it down as a very groundwork truth, which ought to be granted to us by every reasonable man — that Christ will most certainly gain. I cannot see how it can be that the intention of God in anything can be frustrated. We have always thought God to be so superior to creatures, that when he has once intended a thing, it must most assuredly be accomplished; and if I have that granted to me, I cannot for a moment allow you to imagine that Christ should shed his blood in vain; that he should die with an intention of doing something, and yet should not perform it; that he should die with a full intention in his heart, and with a promise on the part of God, that a certain thing should be given to him as a reward of his sufferings, and yet should fail to obtain it. I start with that; and I think that everyone who will weigh the matter, and truly consider it, must see it to be so, that Christ’s intention in his death must be fulfilled, and that the design of God, whatever that may be, must certainly be carried out. Well then, I believe that the efficacy of Christ's blood knows no other limit than the purpose of God. I believe that the efficacy of Christ’s atonement is just as great as God meant it should be, and that what Christ redeemed is precisely what he meant to redeem, and exactly what the Father had decreed he should redeem. Therefore I cannot for one moment give any credence whatever to that doctrine which tells us that all men are redeemed. Some may hold it, as I know they do, and hold it very strongly, and even urge it as being a fundamental part of the doctrine of revelation. They are welcome to it; this is a land of liberty. Let them hold their views, but I must tell them solemnly my persuasion, that they cannot hold such doctrine if they do but well consider the matter; for if they once believe in universal redemption, they are driven to the blasphemous inference that God’s intention is frustrated, and that Christ has not received what he died to procure. If, therefore, they can believe that, I will give them credit for being able to believe anything; and I shall not despair of seeing them landed at the Salt Lake, or in any other region where enthusiasm and credulity can flourish without the checks of ridicule or reason.

     Starting, then, with this assumption, I beg now to tell you what I believe, according to sound doctrine and Scripture, Christ has really redeemed. His redemption is a very compendious redemption. He has redeemed many things; he has redeemed the souls of his people; he has redeemed the bodies of his people; he has redeemed the original inheritance which man lost in Adam; he has redeemed, in the last place, the world, considered in a certain sense — in the sense in which he will have the world at last.

     Christ has redeemed the souls of all his people who shall ultimately he saved. To state it after the Calvinistic form, Christ has redeemed his elect; but since you do not know his elect until they are revealed, we will alter that, and say, Christ has redeemed all penitent souls; Christ has redeemed all believing souls; and Christ has redeemed the souls of all those who die in infancy, seeing it is to6 be received, that all those who die in infancy are written in the Lamb’s bock of life, and are graciously privileged by God to go at once to heaven, instead toiling through this weary world. The souls of all those who were written before all worlds in the Lamb’s bonk of life, who in process of time are humbled before God, who in due course are led to lay hold of Christ Jesus as the only refuge of their souls, who hold on their way, and ultimately attain to heaven; these, I believe, were redeemed, and I most firmly and solemnly believe the souls of none other men were in that sense subjects of redemption. I do not hold the doctrine that Judas was redeemed; I could not conceive my Saviour bearing the punishment for Judas, or if so how could Judas be punished again. I could not conceive it possible that God should exact first at Christ's hands the penalty of his sin, and then at the sinner’s hands again. I cannot conceive for a moment that Christ should have shed his blood in vain; and though I have read in the books of certain divines, that Christ’s blood is fuel for the flames of hell, I have shuddered at the thought, and have cast it from me as being a dreadful assertion, perhaps worthy of those who made it, but utterly unsupported by the Word of God. The souls of God’s people, whoever they may be, and they are a multitude that no man can number — and I could fondly hope they are all of you — are redeemed effectually. Briefly, they are redeemed in three ways. They are redeemed from the guilt of sin, from the punishment of sin, and from the power of sin. The souls of Christ’s people have guilt on account of sin, until they are redeemed; but when once redemption is applied to my soul, my sins are every one of them from that moment for ever blotted out.

“The moment a sinner believes,
And trusts in his crucified Lord,
His pardon at once he receives,
Salvation in full through his blood.”

     The guilt of our sin is taken away by the redemption of Christ. Whatever sin you may have committed, the moment you believe in Christ, not only will you never be punished for that sin, but the very guilt of that sin is taken from you. You cease to be in God’s sight any longer a guilty person; you are reckoned by God as a justified believer to have the righteousness of Christ about you; and therefore, you can say — to recal a verse which we often repeat —

“Now freed from sin I walk at large,
My Saviour’s blood’s my full discharge;
At his dear feet my soul I lay,
A sinner saved, and homage pay.”

     Every sin, every particle of guilt, every atom of transgression, is by the redemption of Christ, effectually taken away from all the Lord’s believing family.

     And mark, next: not only the guilt, but the punishment of sin is taken away. In fact, when we cease to be guilty, we cease to be the objects of punishment altogether. Take away the guilt, the punishment is gone; but to make it more effectual, it is as it were written over again, that condemnation is taken away, as well as the sin for which we might be condemned. “There is, therefore, now, no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” None of those who were redeemed by Christ can ever be damned; they can never be punished on account of sin, for Christ has suffered their punishment in their stead, and therefore, they cannot, unless God be unjust, be sued a second time for debts already paid. If Christ their ransom died, they cannot die; if he, their surety, paid their debt, then unto God’s justice they owe no longer anything, for Christ hath paid it all. If he hath shed his blood, if he hath yielded up the ghost, if he hath “died, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God,” how, then, would God be just, and yet the punisher of those whom he has already punished once in the person of Jesus Christ their Saviour! No beloved, through the plenteous redemption of Christ we are delivered from all punishment on account of sin, and from all guilt which we had incurred thereby.

     Moreover the believing family of Christ – or rather, all for whom he died – are most effectually delivered from the power of sin. Oh! there, all are for some who suck in the two truths I have been mentioning, as if they were honey; but they cannot endure this it very strongly – no man can ever be redeemed from the guilt of sin, or from the punishment of sin, unless he be at the same time delivered from the power of sin. Unless he is made by God to hate his own sin, unless he is enabled to cast it to the ground, unless he is made to abhor every evil way, and to cleave unto God with full purpose of heart, walking before him in the land of the living, in the strength of the Holy Spirit, such a man has no right to believe himself redeemed. If thou art still under the dominion of thy lusts. O wicked sinner, thou hast no right to think thyself a purchased heir of heaven. If thou canst be drunk, if thou canst swear, if thou canst curse God, if thou canst lie, if thou canst profane the Sabbath, if thou canst hate his people, if thou canst despise his Word, then thou hast no right whatever, any more than Satan in hell, to boast that thou art redeemed; for all the Lord’s redeemed are in due time brought out of the house of bondage, out of the land of Egypt, and they are taught the evil of sin, the horrible penalty of it and the desperate character of it in the sight of God. Art thou delivered from the power of sin, my hearer? Hast thou mortified it? Art thou dead unto it? Is it dead unto thee? Is it crucified unto thee, and thou unto it? Dost thou hate it as thou wouldst a viper? Dost thou tread on it as thou wouldst tread upon a serpent? If thou dost, albeit there be sins of frailty and infirmity, yet if thou hatest the sin of thy heart, if thou hast an unutterable enmity to it, take courage and comfort. The Lord hath redeemed thee from the guilt and penalty, and also from the power of sin. That is the first point of redemption. And hear me distinctly again, lest any should mistake me. I always like to preach so that there can be no mistake about it. I do not want so to preach that you will say in the judgment of charity, he could not have meant what he said. Now, I mean solemnly again to say what I have said — that I do believe that none others were redeemed than those who are or shall be redeemed from the guilt, the punishment, and the power of sin, because I say again, it is abhorrent to my reason, much less to my views of Scripture, to conceive that the damned ever were redeemed, and that the lost in perdition were ever washed in the Saviour’s blood, or that his blood was ever shed with an intention of saving them.

     2. Now let us think of the second thing Christ has redeemed. Christ has redeemed the bodies of all his children. In that day when Christ redeemed our souls, he redeemed the tabernacles in which our souls dwell. At the same moment when the spirit was redeemed by blood, Christ who gave his human soul and his human body to death, purchased the body as well as the soul of every believer. You ask, then, in what way redemption operates upon the body of the believer. I answer, first, it ensures it a resurrection. Those for whom Christ died, are ensured by his death a glorious resurrection. “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ, shall all be made alive.” All men are by virtue of the death of Christ quickened to a resurrection, but even here there is a special property of the elect, seeing that they are quickened to a blessed resurrection, whilst others are quickened only to a cursed resurrection; a resurrection of woe, a resurrection of unutterable anguish. O Christian, thy body is redeemed.

“What though thine inbred sins require
Thy flesh to see the dust,
Yet, as the Lord thy Saviour rose,
So all his followers must.”

     What! though in a little time I shall slumber in the tomb, though worms devour this body, I know that my Redeemer liveth, and because he lives I know that in my flesh. I shall see God. These eyes which soon shall be glazed in death, shall not be always closed in darkness; death shall be made to give back his prey; he shall restore all that he has taken. Lo, I see him there! He hath the bodies of the just locked up in his dungeons; they are wrapped up in their cerements, and he thinks they are secure: lie has sealed their tombs and marked them for his own. O death! foolish death! thy caskets shall be rifled; thy storehouses shall be broken open. Lo, the morning is come! Christ hath descended from on high. I hear the trump, “Awake! Awake!” and lo! from their tombs, the righteous start; while death sits in confusion howling in vain, to find his empire all bereft of its subjects, to And all his dungeons rifled of their prey. “Precious shall their blood be in his sight;” precious shall be their bones! their yery dust is blessed, and Christ shall raise them with himself. Think of that, ye that have lost friends — ye weeping children of sorrow! your redeemed friends shall live again. The very hands that grasped yours with a death clutch, shall grasp them in paradise; those very eyes that wept themselves away in tears, shall, with eye-strings that never shall be broken, wake up in the noon-day of felicity. That very frame which thou didst sorrowfully convey, with dread attire of funeral, to bury in its tomb — yes, that selfsame body, made like the image of Jesus Christ, spiritualized and changed, but nevertheless the selfsame body, shall rise again; and thou, if thou art redeemed, shalt see it, for Christ has purchased it, and Christ shall not die in vain. Death will not have one bone of the righteous — nay, not a particle of their dust — nay, not a hair of their heads. It shall all come back. Christ has purchased all our body, and the whole body shall be completed, and united for ever in heaven with the glorified soul. The bodies of the righteous are redeemed, and redeemed for eternal happiness.

     3. In the next place, all the possessions of the righteous which were lost in Adam are redeemed. Adam! where art thou? I have a controversy with thee, man, for I have lost much by thee. Come thou hither. Adam! thou seest what thou art now, tell me what thou once wast; then I shall know what I have lost by thee, and then I shall be able to thank my Master that all thou didst lose he has freely bought back to all believers. What didst thou lose? “Alas!” cries Adam, “I had a crown once; I was king of all the world; the beasts crouched at my feet and did me reverence; God made me, that I might have supreme command over the cattle upon the hills, and over all fowls of the air; but I lost my crown. I had a mitre once,” said Adam, “for I was a priest to God, and ofttimes in the morning did I climb the hills, and sing sweet orisons of praise to him that made me. My censer of praise hath often smoked with incense, and my voice has been sweet with praise.

‘These are thy glorious works, parent of good,
Almighty, thine this universal frame,
Thus wondrous fair; thyself how wondrous then;’

Oft have I bidden misty exhalations, sun, and moon, and stars, sing to his praise; daily have I bidden the herds upon the hills low out his glories, and the lions roar his honours; nightly have I told the stars to shine it out, and the little flowers to blossom it forth: but ah! I lost my mitre, and I, who was once a priest to God, ceased any longer to be his holy servant.” Ah! Adam, thou hast lost me much; but yonder I see my Saviour; he takes his crown off his head, that he may put a crown on ray head; and he puts a mitre on his head, to be a priest, that he may put a mitre on my head too, and on the head of all his people; for, as we have just been singing,

“Thou hast redeemed our souls with blood,
Hast set the prisoners free;
Hast made us kings and priests to God,
And we shall reign with thee.”

 Just what Adam lost: the kingship and the priesthood of Christ, is won for all his believing people. And what else didst thou lose, Adam? “Why, I lost paradise.” Hush, man! say nothing upon that; for Christ hath bought me a paradise worth ten thousand such Edens as thine. So we can well forgive thee that. And what else didst thou lose? “Why, I lost the image of my Maker.” Ah! hush, Adam! In Jesus Christ we have something more than that; for we have the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ, and sure that is even better than the image of the Maker, for it is the very dress and robe that the Maker wore. So, Adam, all that thou hast lost I have again. Christ has redeemed all that we sold for nought. I, who have sold for nought a heritage divine, shall have it back unbought, — the gift of love, says Christ, e’en mine. Oh! hear it, then! The trump of Jubilee is blown; Christ hath redeemed the lost possesions of his people.

     4. And now I come to the last thing that Christ has redeemed, though not the last point of the discourse. Christ has redeemed this world. “Well, now,” says one, “that is strange, sir; you are going to contradict yourself flatly.” Stop a moment. Understand what I mean by the world, if you please. We do not mean every man, in it; we never pretended such a thing. But I will tell you how Christ has redeemed the world. When Adam fell God cursed the world with barrenness. “Thorns also and briars shall it bring forth unto thee, and in the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread.” God cursed the earth. When Christ came into the world they twisted a crown made of the cursed thorn, and they put that on his head, and made him king of the curse; and in that day he purchased the redemption of the world from its curse; and it is my very belief, and I think it is warranted by Scripture, that when Christ shall come a second time, this world will become everywhere as fertile as the garden of Paradise used to be. I believe that Sahara, the literal desert, shall one day blossom like Sharon, and rejoice like the garden of the Lord. I do not conceive that this poor world is to be a forlorn planetary wanderer for ever; I believe that she is yet to be clothed with verdure, such as she once wore. We have evidences in the beds of coal underneath the earth, that this world was once much more fertile than it is now. Gigantic trees once spread their mighty arms, and I had almost said one arm of a tree in that day would have builded half a forest for us now. Then mighty creatures, far different from ours, stalked through the earth; and I believe firmly that a luxuriant vegetation, such as this world once knew shall be restored to us, and that we shall see again a garden such as we have not known. No more cursed with blight and mildew, with no more blast and withering, we shall see a land like heaven itself —

“Where everlasting spring abides,
And never withering flowers.”

When Christ cometh he shall do even this.

     In the day of the fall, too, it is currently believed that animals for the first time received their ferocious temperament, and began to fall on each other; of this we are not sure; but if I read Scripture rightly, I find that the lion shall lie down with the kid, and that the leopard shall eat straw like the ox, and that the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice den. I do believe that in millennial years that are coming, and coming soon, there shall be known no more devouring lions, no blood-thirsty tigers, no creatures that shall devour their kind. God shall restore to us again, and even to the beasts of the field, the blessing which Adam lost.

     And, my friends, there is a worse curse than that which has fallen on this world. It is the curse of ignorance and sin: that, too, is to be removed. Seest thou yonder planet? It is whirling along through space— bright, bright and glorious. Hearest thou the morning stars sing together, because this new sister of theirs is made? That is the earth; she is bright now. Stay! Didst remark that shadow sweep across her? What caused it? The planet is dimned, and on her face there lies a sorrowful shadow. I am speaking, of course, metaphorically. See there the planet; she glides along in ten-fold night; scarce doth a speck of light irradiate her. Mark again, the day is not come, when that planet shall renew her glory, but it is hastening amain. As the serpent slips its slough, and leaves it behind it in the valley, so yon planet hath slipped its clouds, and shone forth bright as it was before. Do you ask who hath done it? Who hath cleared away the mist? Who hath taken away the darkness? Who hath removed the clouds? “I have done it,” says Christ, the sun of righteousness; “I have scattered darkness, and made that world bright again.” Lo, I see a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. To explain myself, lest I should be mistaken, I mean this. This world is now covered with sin, ignorance, mistake, idolatry, and crime; the day is coming when the last drop of blood shall be drunk by the sword; it shall be no more intoxicated with blood; God shall make wars to cease unto the ends of the earth. The day is coming — oh that it were now! — when the feet of Christ shall tread this earth. Then down shall go idols from their thrones; down superstitions from their pinnacles; then slavery shall cease; then crime shall end; then peace shall spread its halcyon wings over all the world; and then shall you know that Christ hath died for the world, and that Christ hath won it. “The whole creation,” said Paul, “groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now;” waiting for what? “waiting for the redemption;” and by the redemption, I understand what I have just explained to you, that this world shall be washed of all her sin; her curse shall be removed, her stains taken away and this world shall be as fair as when God first struck her from his mind; as when, like a glowing spark, smitten from the anvil by the eternal hammer she first flashed in her orbit. This Christ has redeemed; this, Christ shall, and most assuredly must have.

     II. And, now, a word or two concerning the last thought — “PLENTEOUS REDEMPTION.

     It is plenteous enough, if you consider what I have already told you Christ has bought. Sure I should have made it no more plenteous, if I had lied against my conscience, and told you that he had bought every man; for of what avail is it that I am bought with blood, if I am lost? Of what use is it to me that Christ has died for me, if I yet sink in the flames of hell? How will that glorify Christ, that he hath redeemed me, and yet failed in his intentions? Surely it is more to his honour to believe, that according to his immutable, sovereign, and all-wise will, he laid the foundation as wide as he intended the structure to be, and then made it just according to his will. Nevertheless, it is “plenteous redemption.” Very briefly, lend me your ears just a moment.

     It is “plenteous,” when we consider the millions that have been redeemed. Think if ye can, how great that host who have already “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb;” and then think how many now with weary feet are plodding their way to Paradise, all of them redeemed. They all shall sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb. Is it not “plenteous redemption,” when you reflect that it is a “multitude that no man can number” that will be gathered in? Let us close that by saying, “And why not you?” If so many are redeemed, why should not you be? Why should you not seek for mercy on the strength of that, knowing that all who seek will most assuredly receive, for they would not have sought unless it had been prepared for them?

    It is “plenteous,” again, if we consider the sins of all who are redeemed. However great the sins of any redeemed soul, this redemption is enough to cover it ill to wash it all away —

“What though your numerous sins exceed
The stars that spread the skies,
And awning at th’ eternal throne,
Like pointed mountains rise;”

Yet this plenteous redemption can take all your sins away. They are no greater than Christ foresaw, and vowed to remove. Therefore, I beseech you, fly to Jesus, believing that however great your guilt, his atonement is great enough for all who come to him, and therefore you may safely come.

     Remember, again, that this “plenteous redemption” is plenteous, because it is enough for all the distresses of all the saints. Your wants are almost infinite; but this atonement is quite so. Your troubles are almost unutterable; but this atonement is quite unutterable. Your needs you can scarce tell; but this redemption I know you cannot tell. Believe, then, that it is “plenteous redemption.” O believing sinner, what a sweet comfort it is for you, that there is “plenteous redemption,” and that you have a lot in it. You will most certainly be brought safely home, by Jesu’s grace. Are you seeking Christ? Or rather, do you know yourselves to be sinners? If you do, I have authority from God to say to every one who will confess his sins, that Christ has redeemed him. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” Are you a sinner? I do not mean a sham sinner; there are lots of them about, but I have no gospel to preach to them just now. I do not mean one of those hypocritical sinners, who cry, “Yes, I am a sinner,” — who are sinners out of compliment, and do not mean it. I will preach another thing to you: I will preach against your self-righteousness another day; but I shall not preach anything to you just now about Christ, for he “came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” But are you a sinner, in the bona fide sense of the word? Do you know yourself to be a lost, ruined, undone sinner? Then in God’s name I urge you to believe this — that Christ has died to save you; for as sure as ever he has revealed to you your guilt by the Holy Ghost, he will not leave you till he has revealed to you your pardon by his only Son. If you know your lost estate, you shall soon know your glorious estate. Believe in Jesus now; then thou art saved, and thou mayest go away happy, — blest beyond what kings could dream. Believe that since thou art a sinner, Christ hath redeemed thee — that just because thou knowest thyself to be undone, guilty, lost and ruined, thou hast this night a right, a privilege, and a title, to bathe in the fountain filled with blood, “shed for many for the remission of sins.” Believe that, and then thou shalt know the meaning of this text — “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom also we have received the atonement.” God dismiss you with a blessing, for Jesus’ sake!



The Royal Death Bed

By / Dec 22

The Royal Death Bed

 

“Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?"— Amos 3:6

 

WE have nothing to do this morning with the question of moral evil, and indeed with the awful mystery of the origin of moral evil, we have nothing to do at any time. There may have been some few speculators upon this matter, who like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, could walk in the midst of the fire unharmed, but most men who have ventured near the mouth of this fiery question, have been like Nebuchadnezzar’s guards— they have fallen down, destroyed by the blasting influence of its heat. The problem we have to solve is not how was evil born, but how shall evil die— not how it came into the world, but the mischief it has wrought since its coming, and how it is to be driven out. Those persons who fritter away their time in useless and curious enquiries about the origin of moral evil, and so forth, are generally persons who are too idle to attempt the practical casting out of the fiend, and therefore would kill their time, and quiet their consciences by abstruse controversies and vain janglings about subjects with which we have nothing to do.

     The evil in the text is that of calamity, and we might so read the verse— “Shall there be a calamity in the city, and the Lord hath not done it?” — a question exceedingly appropriate at the present time. There has been evil in this city; a calamity of an unusual and disastrous nature has fallen upon this nation. We have lost one who will find to-day a thousand tongues to eulogize him; a prince whose praise is in the mouth of all; and who is in such repute among you that it is utterly needless for me to commend his memory to your hearts. We have lost a man whom it was our habit to suspect so long as he lived; he could do little without arousing our mistrusts; we were always alarmed by phantoms of intrusion, and unconstitutional influence, and now that he has departed, we may sincerely regret that we could not trust where confidence was so well deserved. Not of lack of homage to his rank, his talents, or his house, could he complain; but from his tomb there might well come the still small voice of memory, reminding us of many causeless suspicions, a few harsh judgments, and one or two heartless calumnies. I was pleased by a remark made by the leading journal of the age, to the effect that the Prince Consort’s removal might suggest deep regrets for our thrifty homage and measured respect. He has deserved nothing but good at our hands. Standing in the most perilous position, his foot has not slipped; standing where the slightest interference might have brought down a storm of animosity upon his head, he has prudently withheld himself, and let public affairs as much as possible alone. Looking upon the nature of our government, and the position of the throne in our constitution, I can but say, “Verily it is a heavy calamity to lose such a husband for such a Queen.” So dire is this evil that our troubled hearts are shadowed with dark forebodings of other ills of which this may be the mournful herald. We were saying with David, “My mountain standeth firm, it shall never be moved an earthquake has commenced, the mountain trembles, one great rock hath fallen— what may come next? We did reckon upon war, but we had no forewarnings of a Royal funeral; we looked forward with some apprehension to strifes abroad, but not to losses at home. And now we feel that a corner-stone in the Royal house has been taken away, and we look forward with sorrow and fear to what may come next, and next, and next. We have great faith in our Constitution, but had we not even greater faith in God, we might fear lest the removal of an eminent minister, lest the taking away of some great men who have stood prominent in our commonwealth, should leave us desolate, without earthly helpers. ’Tis not the fall of yonder stately column, which alone has caused us sadness; it is the prophetic finger pointing to other parts of the goodly pile, which has made us full of forebodings of the time when many a noble pillar must lie in the dust, Nor is this all, or the deepest sorrow. We feel this to be an evil upon the city, because of the taking away of a parent from his children, and such children too— princes, princes whom no man may venture to instruct as could a father, princes into whose ears wise counsels will scarcely enter, save through a father’s voice— princes and princesses, who needed to have his prudent counsel to steer them through the various trials of their minority, and to cheer them when they should come into the battles of life. He is taken away, who, in concert with the Queen, hath so well trained them, and what his loss may be to their future characters time only shall reveal. More than this — and here we touch the tenderest string and come nearest to the heart of the evil— Her Majesty has lost her beloved husband, her only equal friend, her only confidant, her only councillor in her private cares. Save her children, she has lost all at a blow, and she is this day more widowed than the poorest widow in the land. The bereaved wife of the peasant is too often afflicted by the grasp of chill penury, but she has some equals and friends who prevent the colder hand of regal isolation from freezing the very soul In our tenderly beloved Sovereign we see Majesty in misery, and what if I say, we behold the empress of sorrow. Just as the mountain-peaks, the first to catch the sunbeams of summer, are the most terribly exposed to the pitiless blasts of winter, so the elevation of sovereignty with all its advantages in prosperity, involves the maximum of sorrow in the hour of tribulation. What rational man among us would be willing to assume imperial cares in ordinary times, but what must they be now, when household bereavement wrings the heart, and there is no more an affectionate husband to bear his portion of the burden. Brethren, we can only sympathize, but we cannot console. Ordinary cases are often within reach of compassion, but the proper reverence due to the highest authority in the land, renders it impossible for the dearest friend to use that familiarity which is the very life of comfort. This is a calamity indeed!" O Lord, the comforter of all those whose hearts are bowed down, sustain and console our weeping monarch! Would that Robert Hall, or Chalmers, could arise from the grave, to depict this sorrow! As for me, my lips are so unaccustomed to courtly phrases, and I understand so little of those depths of sorrow, that I am not tutored and prepared to speak on such a subject as this. I do but stammer and blunder, where there is room for golden utterance and eloquent discourse. Thou God of heaven! thou knowest that there beats nowhere a heart that feels more tenderly than ours, or an eye that can weep more sincerely for the sorrow of that Royal Lady, who is thus left alone. Alas! for the Prince who has fallen upon the high places! From the council-chamber he is removed; from the abode of all the graces he is taken away; from the home of loveliness, from the throne of honour, he is gone; and it is an evil— such an evil as has never befallen this nation in the lifetime of any one of us— such an evil, that there is but one death— and may that be far removed — which could cause greater sorrow in the land.

     But now, our text lifts up its voice, and demands to be heard, since it is a question from the lips of the Eternal God. “Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?”

     There are two things upon which we will speak this morning. First, God has done it; secondly, God has done it with a design. Let us endeavour to find, if we can, what that design is.

     I. First, then, there is an evil in the city; but GOD HAS DONE IT.

     There was considerable curiosity to enquire into the second cause of this evil. Whence came the fever? We could not suppose it to be bred, as the fever frequently is, in our courts and alleys; in the plague-nest where filth provided it with all its food, until it was hatched to pestilence. What were its earliest symptoms, what its growth, and how it was that it baffled the physician’s skill? We may lay aside these enquiries, to look apart and away from the second cause, to the first great cause who hath done all. “The Lord hath done it.” He gave the breath, and he hath taken it away; he moulded the manly form, and he has laid it prostrate in the dust; he has sent the man, and he has said, “Return! to the dust whence thou wast taken.” I call to remembrance the notions which have spread throughout this world, and which are still living in our age— the notions which seek to banish God, and make him a stranger in the midst of his own works. God must have done this thing, or else we are driven to some other alternative. How came this calamity about? Shall we suppose it to be by chance? There are still some found foolish enough to believe that events happen without divine predestination, and that different calamities transpire without the overruling hand, or the direct agency of God. Alas! for you and for me, if chance had done it. Ah! what were we, men and brethren, if we were left to chance! We should be like poor mariners, put out to sea in an unsafe vessel, without a chart and without a helm; we should know nothing of the port to which we might ultimately come; we should only feel that we were now the sport of the winds, the captives of the tempest, and might soon be the victims of the all-devouring deep. Alas! poor orphans were we all, if we were left to chance. No father’s care to watch over us, but left to the fickleness and fallibility of mortal things! What were all that we see about us, but a great sand storm in the midst of a desert, blinding our eyes, preventing us from ever hoping to see the end through the darkness of the beginning. We should be travellers in a pathless waste, where there were no roads to direct us— travellers who might be overturned and overwhelmed at any moment, and our bleached bones left the victims of the tempest, unknown, or forgotten of all. Thank God, it is not so with us. Chance exists only in the heart of fools; we believe that everything which happens to us is ordered by the wise and tender will of him who is our Father and our Friend; and we see order in the midst of confusion; we see purposes accomplished where others discern fruitless wastes; we believe that, “He hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.”

     Some, on the other hand, run to another extreme, still forgetting their God. They deny the thought of chance, but they bend to the idea of fate. Some predestinarians without a God, are as far astray in their ideas as those who believe in chance without a God. For what is the “fate” of some men? It reminds me of one of those huge machines employed in the lead mines, where two wheels are always revolving, and breaking the stones quarried from the pit. The stones at first lie at a distance, but they are continually moving nearer and nearer to the all-devouring mouth of the great wheels, and at last they are crushed and ground. Such is fate in the minds of some men. Or to use another figure. It is like the great car of Juggernaut, dragged along by irresistible power. On it comes, crushing, mangling, flattening beneath its wheels the bleeding bodies lying in the way. From this horrid car of fate none can get-away; none even attempt to escape. They are bound hand and foot, and laid down in its pathway, and when the time comes the wheels will grind the poor wretches to powder. Well, I thank God that while I believe in predestination, I know the difference between that and fate. Fate is predestination blind, demented, brainless, wandering about, achieving wondrous things without a purpose, overturning mountains, plucking up cedars by the roots, scattering firebrands, hurling deaths about, but all without an end. Such is fate. because it must be, — events occur, because they shall be. But predestination — It is is, a glorious thing. With many eyes it looketh to the interests of God and his creatures too, and although it saith the thing must be, yet it must be because it is wise, and right, and just, and kind, that it should be; and though we may think that it comes to the same in the end, yet to our hearts the differences are. as wide as the poles asunder. Believe not in fate, but believe in God. Say not it was the man’s destiny, but say it is God’s will. Say not, a cruel and irresistible fate hath snatched him away; but say, a tender hand, finding that the due time was come, hath taken him from evil to come.

     These two suppositions being disposed of, there remains another. “Is there evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?” If- neither a foolish chance nor an insensate fate hath done it; perhaps the spirit of evil may have inflicted it. Perhaps Satan may bring evils upon us; perhaps he may drag down men to their graves; perhaps he may cut the thread of life; perhaps he is the evil genius of the world, and the keeper of the gates of death. Brethren, we scout the thought at once from our minds. Begone far hence, foul King of Errors! thou art the prince of the air, but thou art not king of kings; nor art thou now the king of death; the keys swing not at thy girdle; not from thy black lips can come the summons, “Prepare to meet thy doom;” not with thy foul fingers are we plucked from our houses and from our thrones; not through thy cruelty are we given up to an ill and black day. Thy despotic and tyrannic mind has no power to lord it over us. No, Jesus, thou hast vanquished Satan; thou hast delivered us from the very fear of death, because thou hast destroyed him that had the power of death, that is the devil. A thousand angels could not drag us to the grave; and thou, black spirit, thou shalt not be able to confine us there, when once the trump of the archangel shall awaken us from our sleep. Nay, Satan has not done it. Look not on your troubles and trials, my brethren in Christ, as coming from hell. Satan may sometimes be the instrument of your pains, but still they come from God. In the cup of our sorrows, there is not a dreg which the Father did not put there; bitter as the compound may be, the eternal hand of wisdom mixed the whole. The rod may fall, but Satan does not wield it. Like as a father “chasteneth his children,” so the Lord doth chasten “them that fear him.”

     But, once more: one more thought arises in our mind. Perhaps the greatest temptation of modern times, is to impute everything which happens to the laws of nature. Now, this may satisfy philosophy, but theology goes a little further, and while it admits all the laws of matter, yet it asserts that a law is in itself utterly powerless, apart from a power to carry it out. It may be a law that such-and-such things shall be done, but they never will be done unless there be some power to make the law effective. The notion of some in modern times seems to be, that this world is like a great clock, wound up many years ago; in fact, there are some who believe in perpetual motion— and appear to teach that it wound itself up. In order to get rid of God, and send him as far away as possible, they go back to primeval times, and conceive that then all the wheels were set in motion, and a sufficient quantity of momentum put into the whole affair, so that it is now going on of itself. As to divine interpositions, these they will not believe; miracles, of course, are absurd, and everything is left to the ordinary laws of nature, there being sufficient vitality, according to some, in the world itself to carry on its own acts, according to certain laws and rules. Blessed be God, we know that this is not true. We believe it is our duty to use every sanitary means to remove the seeds of disease; we believe that they err who would proclaim a fast over a plague, when it were better to sweep the streets; we think that they are wrong who only go to the prayer-meeting when they had better go and pull down a row of dilapidated cottages and build better ones; we think that they are unpractical and do not understand the Scriptures well, who would be on their knees when they ought to be on their feet and doing earnest work for man; but at the same time, still we have it, that the Lord has done everything, and that these calamities come not except God putteth forth his hand— that it is his will to remove men by death, and only by his will could they die. Why, that idea of leaving us all to machinery is an unhappy one to a man who can say, “My Father, my Father in heaven!” It is as if a child should be left without nurse or parent, but then there is a cradle which works by machinery, and rocks the child so many hours a day; when it is time for the child to wake he is aroused by machinery; there is an engine ready to feed him; there is a contrivance prepared to take off his. garments at night, and an invention to put them on in the morning; he grows up, and whatever is to be done, has to be done by a machine; — no love, no father, no tender nurse, no kind and affectionate mother, — he is the child of machines and wheels; and so, from year to year, he is passed on from one to another. When he comes up into life he is still fed by a machine; he sleeps, he goes on his journeys; in everything that he does he sees no living face, he feels no soft hand, he hears no loving tender voice; it is one clever piece of soulless, lifeless mechanism that accomplishes all. Now, I bless God that is not the case with us. I can see my Father’s hand; I thank him I am fed, but I know he feeds me; I know the laws of nature contribute to preserve life, but I see the impress of his presence in my life, and I should feel like a sad and miserable orphan, with nothing that could fill my heart’s craving after a something to love, if I believed this world to be deserted of its God, and to have been going on with no Father near it to keep it in order, and to make it produce the results which he designed. Blessed be God, we have no doubt about our answer to the question. Even if there be evil in a city the Lord hath done it!

     Let us pause a moment here, and think. If, then, the Lord hath done it, with what awe is every calamity invested? Standing by the royal death-bed, I thought I was in the presence of a prince, but lo, I see a man. It is thy work, O thou Most High; thou hast sealed those eyes in darkness; thou hast bidden that heart ceases its beatings, thou, even thou, hast stretched the manly form in death. How near we are to God! Tread softly, as you go by that little room where your infant’s dead body lies yet unburied; for God is there, plucking the flower-bud and appropriating it to himself. You have had some trial yesterday. “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet;” for God is in that burning bush. Men see nothing but the calamity; the eyes of faith see God. We sometimes count it matter of interest if we hear that such-and-such a departed worthy slept in such-and-such a room, or wrote in such a place. What shall we say, when we remember that God is there— that God is here— that while we wear these garments of sorrow, when we bowed our heads just now, and shed tears of sympathy, God was here himself, — the All-worker, the King of kings, the Lord of lords. Speak with bated breath; hush, and be silent; you are in the presence of majesty. Let us think of national calamities or of private ills with that reverence which should be inspired by a consciousness of the presence of Deity.

     And then, again, if God hath done it, for ever be put away all questions about its being right. It must be right. If any would reply, we would answer them in the curt phrase of Paul, “Nay but Oman, who art thou that repliest against God?” But to take him away, and to remove him just in the hour of the nation’s peril—can this be right? Brethren, it must be. He has died at the best hour; the affliction has come at the most fitting season. It would have been wrong that it should have been otherwise; it would neither have been wise nor kind that he should have been spared. And this I gather from the fact that God has taken him away; and therefore it must be wisest, best, kindest. Only say the same over all your losses. Though your dearest friend be removed, be hushed, be dumb with silence and answer not, because thou didst it, even thou, O God, therefore we say, “Thy will be done.”

     And this, too, shall be our best comfort. God hath done it. What! shall we weep for what God hath done? Shall we sorrow when the Master hath taken away what was his own? “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” The gardener had a choice flower in his beds. One morning he missed it. He had tended it so carefully that he looked upon it with the affection of a father to a child, and he hastily ran through the garden and sought out one of the servants, for he thought surely an enemy had plucked it, and he said to him, “Who plucked that rose?” And the servant said, “I saw the master walking through the garden early this morning, when the sun was rising, and I saw him bear it away in his hand.” Then he that tended the rose said, “It is well; let him be blessed; it was his own; for him I held it; for him I nursed it; and if he hath taken it, it is well.” So be it with your hearts. Feel that it is for the best that you have lost your friend, or that your best relation has departed. God has done it. Be ye filled with comfort; for what God hath done can never be a proper argument for tears. Do ye weep, ye heavens, because God hath veiled the stars? Dost thou weep, O earth, because God hath hidden the sun? What God hath done is ever ground for sonnet and for hallelujah. And even here, o’er the dead as yet unburied, our faith begins to sing its song— “’Tis well, ’tis well; ’tis for the best; and let the Lord’s name be praised now as ever.”

     II. I now only want your attention for a few minutes while I pass on to the second head. IF GOD HATH DONE IT, HE HATH DONE IT WITH SOME DESIGN.

     It is not always proper for us to ask reasons for divine acts, for if he gives no account of his matters we ought not to ask any account. That frivolous affectation of piety which leads even professedly Christian men to call every affliction a judgment, and to consider that every person who is suddenly taken away, dies as a judgment either upon him or others, I detest from my very soul. The infidel press usually lays hold upon this as being our weakest point. It is not our weakest point; we have nothing to do with it. Those who talk thus know nought of their Bibles. They upon whom the tower of Siloam fell, dream ye that they were worse sinners than others? I am utterly sick of the cant of a portion of the religious world, when they raised a kind of miniature howl at me, when I said, and still repeat it, that an accident on a railway on the Sunday is not a judgment, but happens in the common course of Providence, and that we are not to look for an immediate reason close at hand for any of these events. God’s judgments are a vast deep; they are not that little shallow pool, to the bottom of which every fool’s plummet may reach. God has some greater mystery in what he does than these, which every babe might discover. But, we draw a line between private calamities and national calamities. Nations have no future; hence the Judge of nations must chastise them here. For individuals, the punishment of sin is not in this world, but in the world to come; but nations will not rise as nations — they will rise as individuals; hence, when a death becomes a national calamity, it is fitting and proper to question, if we do not pry too deep, as to why God hath done it. Personally, the judgment is in the next world, and to each man the end of his career is to come there; but with nations I think there are judgments here, and that we should be wrong if we passed by the dealings of God, without hearing “the rod and him that hath appointed it.”

     Now, why hath God been pleased to take away the Consort of our Queen?

     I think, in the first place, we may see a motive for it in his thus giving a most solemn monition to all the kings and princes of the earth. Thus saith Jehovah, King of kings and Lord of lords: “Emperors and princes! ye shall die like men. Let not your crowns seem to you eternal; there is but one King, immortal, invisible. Think not, when ye stretch your sceptres over nations, that yours is an Almighty arm; your arm shall drop the rod; your head shall lose its crown; your purple shall give place to the shroud, and your palace shall be the narrow limits of the tomb.” The dead from their graves are crying—

 

“Princes! this clay must be your bed
In spite of all your towers;
The tall, the mighty, and majestic head
Must lie as low as ours.”

 

     You will say, “But why not remove a common and ordinary person?” Because it would not have that effect. Thou, God, hast spoken from the castle, where the flag, half elevated, hung out the sign of sorrow, and thou hast said to princes who must hear, and to Czars who must listen, “I am God, and beside me there is none else. As for you, ye kings, your breath is in your nostrils; men of high degree are vanity; wherein are ye to be accounted of?” We, the multitude, can hear sermons every day, when we see our fellows and our equals removed from us by death; but these high and lofty ones sit up in their state like the gods in high Olympus, and if there were not death in their ranks, they might write themselves down as demigods, and demand worship at our hands. Stained is thy pride, O empire! thy escutcheon marred and blotted; for Death, the herald, hath challenged the royalty of emperors and kings, and dashed down, once for all, his gauntlet in defiance of the princes of the earth. Ye shall sleep like your serfs and slaves; ye shall die like your subjects. Xerxes has passed away, as well as the millions he led to slaughter. And so, ye mighty ones, must ye find that Death advances with equal foot to the palace of the king— to the cottage of the poor.

     More than this: who can tell how many a heart that had been careless in our court, and thoughtless among our lords, may be made to consider? If anything can do it, this must. They who have been dazzled with the brightness of splendour, and have lost their thought amidst the noise of pomp, will hear for once a sermon by a preacher whom they dare not despise; for God will say to them, “Courtiers! noblemen! peers! I have taken away your head from you; prepare ye to meet your God!” And it may be that to-day there are knees bowed in prayer which never bowed before, and eyes may weep for sin as well as for death to-day, and hearts may be breaking with a consciousness of guilt, as well as with a sense of loss. ’Tis hard for the rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven; thus Providence attempts to make it easy. It is not easy to get the ear of those who are thus immersed in the ordinary gaieties and cares of Court life; but this detains them, death holds the wedding guests, while with his lean and skinny hand uplifted, he tells out the tale, and makes them hear, and checks and keeps them till the story is done. It may be that God intends to bring out for this our age, some who shall stand towards the Church of God to-day, as Lady Huntingdon and Ann Erskine did to the Church a hundred years ago. It may be he is tutoring to-day, some women who, like Anne of Bohemia, the friend of the Reformers, may become promoters of the gospel of Christ; and those who otherwise might have been strangers may come to lend their influence and their power to the promotion of real godliness, and the vital interests of men.

     I think these are not unreasonable things to say. We may see that God has his purpose here. Besides, methinks to-day God has spoken to us as a people. He has shown to us our entire dependence upon him. He can take away every Prince and every Noble, every Cabinet Minister, and every Privy Councillor; he can leave this nation like a ship dismasted; he can, if he so wills, take the hand from the helm, and let her be drifted out to sea, and there she may be encompassed with the clouds of war and the lightnings judgment, and all our state may suffer wreck like Nineveh and Babylon of old. Britain! God hath blessed thee; but remember, it is thy God. England! God hath honoured thee; but forget not the God who keeps thee. O nation, too apt to become proud of thine own strength, now that thou art to-day wrapped about with sackcloth, and the ashes are on thy head, bow thou and say, “God is God alone; the shields of the mighty belong unto him, and unto him, and unto him alone, be glory and honour, for ever and ever.”

     Then, he has spoken to each of us as individuals. I hear a voice which says to me, “Preacher! be instant in season and out of season; be up and doing, earnest and fervent, for thy day is short, and thy time shall soon be over.” I hear a voice which says to you, officers of the Church, “Be diligent in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; for soon shall the pallor of death overtake you, and he shall lay his chill hand upon your hoary heads, and stretch you in the cold grave.” I hear a voice which speaks to the people of my charge, — the members of this Christian Church — “Work while it is called to-day, for the night cometh wherein no man can work.” And I hear a solemn note, ringing as a funeral bell to you who are unconverted, and I translate its message thus, — “Prepare to meet your God; ye careless ones, who are at ease, make ready, for he comes; ye thoughtless ones, who give yourselves no trouble about eternity, make ready, for he comes; drunkard, thou who art a lover of pleasure more than a lover of God, make ready, for he comes; swearer, blasphemer, if there be such an one here, make ready, for he comes; he comes whom thou hast blasphemed; and each one of you, if ye be out of Christ, if your sins still lie upon you, if ye have never sought and found absolution from the lips of God your Father, seek it, seek it, for he comes.” When at the battle of Balaklava, the troop of soldiers rode into the valley of death, it must have been a frightful thing to see your comrade reel in the saddle and fall back; to hear bullet after bullet whistling about one’s ears; and shots finding their mark in one’s companion; to see the road strewed with bodies, and the ranks so continually riddled and thinned. And what has been the life of many of us but such a charge as that? Companions of our boyhood! where are ye? Friends of our youth! how many of you have fallen? And the grey-haired sire, as he looks back can say, “How few survive of all I once knew! How many have gone! What multitudes have fallen in the valley of decision!” And we stand miracles of long-suffering; we stand monuments of mercy! Must not our turn soon come? Must not our turn soon come, I say? Have we a lease of our lives? Can we postpone the dread moment? Can we hope to live long, when the whole of the longest life is short? Let us prepare, for to-morrow may see our coffin measured; to-morrow may behold us ready for our cerements; nay, to-night the setting sun may set upon our dead bodies. I do beseech you, remember, men, that ye are mortal. Call to recollection, by this solemn drapery of woe, and by the garments df your sorrow, that soon you must be wept over; soon mourners shall go about the streets for you, and you shall go to your long homes. I am addressing some of you this morning, who awake my tenderest anxieties. You have been to hear this voice before, some of you, and you have trembled; but your strong passions are too much for you. You have said, “Go thy way; when I have a more convenient season I will send for thee;” and that convenient season has not come yet. You would be saved; but you must be damned. You have longings after life at times; but the cravings of that old lust, that old habit of drunkenness, that old vice, those old corruptions, come, and you go back like dogs to your vomit, and like sows that were washed to your wallowing in the mire. I speak to some this morning, who have trembled in this house, when they heard the Word preached, and they have gone home, and they have felt for a little while solemnly impressed; but they have put the angel of mercy from them; they have despised there, own salvation. Well, ye shall do it but a few times more; ye shall despise your own souls but a few more days; and then ye shall know, on your deathbeds, that we have not lied to you, but have spoke to you God’s truth. May God convince you of that, before you discover it too late, when the judgment shall sit, and your body, together reunited, shall stand before the judgment seat. Feeble as my words may be, it will make a sad part of the account that you were warned to think on your latter end, and to turn to God. Oh! by death and all its terrors, if unaccompanied by faith — by resurrection, and the horrors it shall increase, if you shall perish unforgiven — by the judgment and its tremendous pomp — by the sentence and its eternal certainty — by the punishment and its everlasting agony— by time and eternity — by death and the grave — by heaven and by hell—by God and by the wounds of the Saviour—awake, ye sleeping ones! Awake, ere ye sleep the sleep of death! The way of salvation is again proclaimed. "Whosoever believeth in the Lord Jesus Christ hath everlasting life.” “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” On yonder tree he pours out his blood a sacrifice. Trust thy soul with him, and he will save you; put it in his hands, and he will keep it, and at the last he will be answerable for thy soul, and he will present it “without spot or wrinkle or any such thing,” before the throne of God, even the Father. May the Lord follow with his blessing what has been said, and to him shall be glory.



Too Good to be True! A Paradox

By / Dec 15

Too Good to be True! A Paradox

 

"They yet believed not for joy.”— Luke 24:41

 

THIS is a very strange sentence, but the Christian is a singularly complex being. He is a compound of the fallen and of the perfect. He detects in himself continually an alternation between the almost diabolical and the divine. Man himself is a contradiction, but the Christian is that contradiction made more paradoxical. He cannot comprehend himself, and only those who are like him can understand him. When he would do good he finds evil present with him. How to will he often finds, but how to perform he finds not. He is the greatest riddle in the universe. He can say with Ralph Erskine,

"I'm in my own and others’ eyes, A labyrinth of mysteries.”

In the case before us, the disciples saw Christ manifestly before their eyes. To a certain extent they believed in his resurrection; that belief gave them joy, and at once that very joy made them unbelieving. They looked again; they believed once more; anon, a wave of joy rolled right over the head of their faith, and then afresh their doubts returned. What palpitations, what heavings of the heart they had! “It is too good to be true,” said they. This is the summing up of the mental process which was going on within— “It is true; how blessed it is; it cannot be true because it is so blessed.” To-night I shall endeavour to address that timid but hopeful tribe of persons who have heard of the greatness and preciousness of the salvation of Christ, and have so far believed, that they have been filled with happiness on account of it, but that very enjoyment has made them doubt, and they have exclaimed— “It cannot be; it is not possible; this exceeds all my expectations; it is, in fact, too good.” I remember to have been myself the subject of this temptation. Overjoyed to possess the treasure which I had found hidden in the field, delighted beyond all measure with the hope that I had an interest in Christ, I feared that the gold might be counterfeit, the pearl a cheat, my hope a delusion, my confidence a dream. Newly delivered from the thick darkness, the overwhelming brightness of grace threatened to blind my eyes. Laden with the new favours of a young spiritual life the excessive weight of the mercy staggered my early strength and I was for some time troubled with the thought that TO these things must be a great deal too good to be true. If God had been half as merciful or a tithe as kind as he was, I could have believed it, but such exceeding riches of his grace were too much; such out-doings of himself in goodness, such giving exceeding abundantly above what one could ask or even think, seemed too much to believe.

     We will at once attempt to deal with this temptation. First of all, I will try to account for it; then, secondly, to recount the reasons which forbid us long to indulge it; and then, thirdly, turn the very temptation itself into a reason why we should be more earnest in seeking these good things.

     I. To begin, LET ME ACCOUNT FOR IT.

     It is little marvel that the spirit is amazed even to astonishment and doubt when you think of the greatness of the things themselves. The black sinner says— “My iniquity is great; I deserve the wrath of God; the gospel presents me with a pardon, full and complete. I have laboured to wash out these stains, but they will not disappear; the gospel tells me that the precious blood of Jesus cleanseth from all sin. Year after year have I revolted and gone astray; the gospel tells me that he is able to forgive all my sins, and to cast my iniquities behind my back.” Bowed down with a sense of the greatness of his guilt, you may excuse the sinner if he thinks it must be impossible that ever the offences he has committed could be condoned, or his iniquity could be put away. “No,” saith he, “a condemned sinner I am, and the promise of a free pardon is too much for me to believe.

‘Depths of mercy can there be, Pardon yet reserved for me.

Nay, more,” saith the poor soul, “I am told that God is prepared to justify me; to give me a perfect righteousness; to look upon me as though I had always been a faithful servant; to regard me, to all intents and purposes, as though I had kept all his laws without any offence, and had obeyed all his statutes without any exception. According to the Scriptures, I am to be robed about with the finished righteousness of Christ, clothed in that garment which he spent his life to work, and I am in that garment to stand accepted in the beloved. It is too good to be true,” saith the soul; “it cannot be. I, the condemned one. accepted? I, who never kept God's law received as though I had kept it wholly? I, who have broken it, pressed to his bosom as though I were perfect in innocence?” It does startle the soul, and well it may. And when the gospel goes on to add— “Ay, and not only will I justify thee, but I will adopt thee; thou shalt be no more a servant but a son, no more a bond-slave but an heir of God and a joint heir with Christ” — the mind cannot grasp the whole of that thought. “Adopted, received into his family! Alas,” it cries, “I am not worthy to be called God's son.” And as the sinner looks upon its former abject and lost estate, and looks upward to the brightness of the inheritance which adoption secures to it, it says— “It is impossible,” and like Sarah he laughs, saying, “How can this be? How can it be possible that I should attain to these things?” And then the gospel adds— “Soul, I will not only adopt thee, but having sanctified thee entirely— thy whole spirit, soul, and body— I will crown thee ; I will bring thee to the mansions of the blessed in the land of the happy; I will put a new song into thy mouth and the palm of victory in thy hand ; the harp of triumph thou shalt play ; thy soul shall be deluged with delight, and thy spirit shall bathe itself in everlasting and unbroken peace. Heaven is thine, though thou deservest hell; God's glory thine, though thou deservest wrath. It is little marvel that these things, being so excessively great, the poor broken heart should be like the captives who returned from Babylon, who were “like men that dream.”

“When God restored our captive state,
Joy was our song, and grace our theme;
The grace beyond our hopes so great,
That joy appeared a painted dream.”

     Another reason for incredulity may be found in our sense of unworthiness. Note the person that receives these mercies, and you will not wonder that he believes not for joy. "Ah,” saith he, "if these things were given to the righteous I could believe it, but to me, an old offender ; to me, a hard-hearted despiser of the overflowing love of God ; to me, who have looked on the slaughtered body of the Saviour without a tear, and viewed the precious blood of redemption without delight ; to me, who have blasphemed, who have done despite to the spirit of his grace and trodden underfoot his truth,— oh!” saith this poor heart, "I could believe it for any one ; I could believe it for the whole world sooner than for myself!" For you must know that the repenting sinner always has a deeper view of his own sin than of the sin of others, and in this he differs from the impenitent, who have very keen eyes to see offences in other men, but are blind to their own. He verily esteems himself the chief of sinners. He thinks that if any one could have had the hottest place in hell that must surely have been his proper portion, and it is so wonderful to him that he should be saved, that his spirit laugheth with a kind of incredulity.  “What, I, the man who sat in the pot-house and could sing a lascivious song? shall I sit at the right hand of God, and be glorified with Christ? What, I, whose heart blasphemed its Creator— whose soul has been a very den of thieves— can I be accepted, washed, and saved?” Brethren, when any of us look back upon our past lives we can find enough ground for astonishment if God has been pleased to choose us; hence, I say, it is not a strange or a singular thing that the poor heart, from very excess of joy, should be unable to believe.

     Add to these the strange terms upon which God presents these things to poor sinners. The miracle of the manner equals the marvel of the matter. God cometh to the sinner, and he saith not to him, “Do penance; pass through years of weariness; renounce every pleasure; become a monk; live in the woods; make thyself a hermit; torture thy body; cut thyself with knives; starve thyself; cover thyself with a shirt of hair, or wear a girdle of chain about thy loins.” No, if he did, it would not appear so wonderful; but he comes to the sinner and he says, “Sinner, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” No works are asked of thee; no ceremonies doth he demand, but simply trust thy soul with Christ. Oh, simple words! oh, easy terms! They are not terms at all, for these he gives us; his Spirit enables us to trust in Jesus. If he had bidden us do some great thing, we should have been very willing to attempt it, but when it is simply,  “wash and be clean”—  “Oh,” we say, "that simple thing, that easy plan, that scheme which is as well fitted to the beggar as to the king, as suitable to the poor abandoned prostitute as to the most moral of the Pharisees ; that scheme which adapts itself to the ignorant and the rude as well as to the learned and polite,” our spirit saith,”  ah, ’tis a joyous plan,” and yet, from very joy, it is unable to believe.

     And add to this one more thought, — the method by which God proposes to work all this; that is to say, he proposes to pardon, and to justify the sinner instantaneously. The plan of salvation requires not months nor weeks in which his sin may be put away. It is finished. An instant is enough to receive it, and in that instant the man is saved. The moment a man believes in Christ, not some of his sins, but all his sins are gone. Just as when God blew with his wind, the Egyptians were all drowned at once in the waters of the Red Sea, and Moses said, "Ye shall see them no more for ever," so, when once we believe in Christ, the breath of God's pardoning love blows upon the waters, and our sins sink into the bottom like a stone; there is not one, not one of them left. It is as when a man takes a bond, you are his debtor; he can imprison you, but he holds the bond in the candle, and he says, "See here!" and when it is burned, your whole debt, though ’twere ten or twenty-thousand pounds, is gone in a moment. So doth faith; it sees the handwriting of the ordinances that was against us taken away and nailed to Christ's cross. Now this does seem a surprising thing; it in so surprising that when men have heard it for the first time they have been willing to run anywhere to listen to it again. This was the secret of Whitfield’s popularity. The gospel was a new thing in his age to the mass of the people. They were like blind men who, having bad their eyes couched, and being suddenly taken out at night to view the stars, could not refrain from clapping their hands for joy. The first sight of land is always blessed to the sailor's eyes; and the men of those days felt that they saw heaven in the distance and the port of peace. It is no wonder that they rejoiced even to tears. It was glad tidings to their spirits, and there Were some then, as there are now, who could not believe by reason of their excessive joy.

     Possibly John Bunyan alludes to this singular unbelief in his sweet picture of Mercy's dream, wherein, like Sarai, she laughed. Let me tell it you in his own words: — "In the morning, when they were awake, Christiana said to Mercy, What was the matter that you did laugh in your sleep to-night? I suppose you were in a dream. MERCY: So I was, and a sweet dream it was; but are you sure I laughed? CHRISTIANA: Yes you laughed heartily; but prithee, Mercy, tell me thy dream. MERCY: I was dreaming that I sat all alone in a solitary place, and was bemoaning of the hardness of my heart. Now, I had not sat there long, but methought many were gathered about me to see me. and to hear what it was that I said. So they hearkened, and I went on bemoaning the hardness of my heart. At this, some of them laughed at me, some called me fool, and some began to thrust me about. With that, methought I looked up, and saw one coming with wings towards me. So he came directly to me and said, ' Mercy, what aileth thee? ' Now, when he had heard me make my complaint, he said, ‘Peace be to thee He also wiped mine eyes with his handkerchief, and clad me in silver and gold. He put a chain about my neck, and earrings in my ears, and a beautiful crown upon my head. Then he took me by the hand and said, ‘Mercy, come after!’ So he went up, and I followed, till we came to a golden gate. Then he knocked; and, when they within had opened, the man went in, and I followed him up to a throne, upon which one sat; and he said to me, ‘Welcome, daughter!’ The place looked bright and twinkling, like the stars, or rather like the sun; and I thought that I saw your husband there; so I awoke from my dream. But did I laugh?” Well might her mouth be filled with laughter to see herself so favoured!

     Having thus tried to account for this state of the heart, may I have the help of God while I try to DO BATTLE WITH THE EVIL THAT IS IN IT, THAT WE MAY BE II. ABLE TO BELIEVE IN CHRIST! Troubled heart, let me remind thee, first of all, that thou hast no need to doubt the truth of the precious revelation because of its greatness, for He is a great God who makes it to thee. Didst thou expect that he, the King of heaven, rich in mercy and abundant in long-suffering, would send little grace, little love, and little pity to the sons of men? What saith the Scripture of Araunah the Jebusite? — “All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king.” But what shall we say of God? Shall he give like a king? Ay, he is King of kings, and he giveth as kings can never give. When Alexander bade his officer demand what reward he pleased, he asked so much that he nearly emptied the treasury, and when the treasurer refused to pay it, and came to Alexander and said, “This man is unreasonable; he asks too much”— “Nay,” said the conqueror, “he asks of Alexander, and he measures what he asks by my dignity.” So be it your remembrance that God will not give meanly and niggardly, for that were unworthy of him, but he will give splendidly and magnificently, for this is after his own nature. Expect, therefore, that he will save great sinners in a great and glorious way, and give them great mercies, for the Lord is a great God and a great King above all gods. The riches of his grace are inexhaustible. He is the Father of mercies, and he begetteth mercies by thousands and by millions to supply his people's needs. You meet a poor man, and you are hungry. If he were hospitable he might say, “Come in, sir, and you may have a part of my crust.” You go in and you find a scanty meal upon the table, and you say, “What you have given me is all you had to give, I thank you for it.” But what would you think if you waited at the royal door and received a royal invitation, and, when you went in, were fed with dry crusts and drops of water? You would think this not becoming a king. Now, if your friend has been offended, and he is willing to forgive, you are grateful to him, for he does perhaps his best, but God standeth at his gate with his tables laden with a rich hospitality. “My oxen and my fatlings are killed, all things are ready, come ye to the supper,” Let no low thoughts of God come in to make you doubt his power to save you. Have high thoughts of God, and this snare of the fowler will be broken.

     Again, let me remind you that the greatness of God's mercy should encourage you to believe that it comes from God. If I could take you on a sudden, blindfold you, and carry you away you knew not whither, and then, loosing the bandage from your eyes, should say, “Look here ; it is all gold on every side, thick slabs of gold, and there is a pick-axe ; take it and use it,”— you begin and turn up blocks of ore,— would you have any idea at the time that this was put there by men ? “No,” say you, "this is God's mine, the infinite bounty of the Creator; not the scanty contrivance of the creature.” The abundance of the treasure proves to you that it cannot be the treasure-house of man. Now, you open your eyes in this building to-night, and you see a gaslight. “Well,” you say, “it is very good— a very good light in its way, but I can see it is man’s light.” Go out and see the moon’s light: did you ever think that man made that? Or wait till to-morrow morning and look up at the sun; wait till noonday when he is shedding down his brightness and gilding the fields with tints of glory, and I think you will say, “Ah! I shall never mistake this for man’s work; it is so exceeding bright that nothing that man can ever achieve in the way of illumination can be at all comparable to it.” Thus the greatness of the light makes you believe in the divinity that ordained it. If you should see to-morrow a heavy shower of rain, you would not believe, I suppose, that it was made with a watering-pot; and if you saw the Thames swollen to its banks from a great flood, you would not believe that the London waterworks had filled it to its brim. “No,” say you, “this is God at work in nature. The greatness the work proves that God is here.” If you were ever in Cambridge, you might have seen a little mountain which is so small that nobody knows who made it. Some say it is artificial; some say it is natural. Now, I have never heard any dispute about the Alps; nobody ever said that they were artificial. I never heard of any disputation about the Himalayas; no one ever conjectured that human hands piled them up to the skies and clothed them with their hoary snows So, when I read of the mercies of God in Christ, reaching up like mountains to heaven, I am sure they must be divine. I am certain the revelation must come from God; it must be true; it is self-evidential. I might enlarge this argument by showing that God’s works in creation are very great, and therefore it were idle to think that there would be no great works in grace. Two works which have been made by the same artist always have some characteristics which enable you to see that the same artist made them. In like manner, to us there is one God; creation and redemption have but one author; the same eternal power and Godhead are legibly inscribed on both. Now when I look at the sea, and hear it roaring in the fulness thereof, I see a great artist there. And when my soul surveys the ocean of grace, and listens to the echoes of its motion as the sound of many waters, I see the same Almighty artist. When I see a great sinner saved, then I think I see the same Master-hand which first formed man, and curiously wrought his substance, endowing him with powers so great that they baffle our understanding ; but if I only met with little specimens of grace, with narrow gifts and stunted benedictions, I might say— “These may be of man, for man can do many things, and possibly as he has done things, little things in creation, he can do little things in grace.” But when we meet with astounding conversions, with marvellous forgivenesses, we are sure this must be God because it is so great, and so far beyond all human comprehension.

     Let me remind you again, that you may get another argument to put an end to your fears about the greatness of God's mercy from the greatness of his providence. Did you ever think how much food God gives to his creatures every year? How much fine wheat he lays upon the earth that we may feed thereon! Have you remembered the vast machinery with which he feeds the thousand millions of men that are upon the face of the globe? When Xerxes led his millions from Persia to Greece, there was a very great and cumbrous system to carry on the commissariat so that all the host might be fed; and even as it was, many of them were starved; but here are millions upon millions, and God feeds them. Nay, enlarge the thought. There are the fowls of heaven that are countless— did you ever pick up a dead sparrow that had been starved to death? I never did. Think of the sharp winters, and the birds, somehow or other, without barn or granary, find their food. Look at the millions and millions of fish in the sea, swimming to-night and searching for their food, and your heavenly Father feedeth all these. Look at the innumerable insects creeping upon the earth, or dancing in the summer sunbeam, all supplied. Look at behemoth who makes the deep to be hoary with roaring, look at huge leviathan, the elephant, the crocodile, and those other mighty creatures of God’s strength to go through the deep or through the forests; these he supplies in providence. And if he be so lavish here, do you think that in the masterpiece of his hand, his grace, he is stinted and narrowed? God forbid! ’Twere hard to believe in littleness of special love when we see greatness of common goodness towards the sons of man. “Oh,” says one, “but I am thinking of my unworthiness, and that this does not meet it.” Well, this will meet it. There is a country where there has been a drought, and the land is all parched and chapped. That field of corn there belongs to a good man; that field over yonder belongs to an infidel; that one over there belongs to a blasphemer; that one is cultivated by a drunkard; that other one belongs to a man who lives in every known vice. Here comes a cloud! blessed be God, here comes a cloud, which sails along through the sky. Where will it go? It is big with rain; it will make the poor dried-up germ revive; there will be a harvest yet; which way will it go? “Of course,” you say, “It will only go in the corner where the godly man has his field.” Nay, not so. It spreads its rich mantle over the entire sky, and the shower of mercy falls upon the just and the unjust, upon the thankful and upon the unthankful. It falls just as plenteously where the blasphemer is the possessor as where the gracious man lifts up his heart in prayer, Now what does this show? God blesses ungodly men, unthankful men, and I hold that as grace is always in analogy with nature, God is ready to-night to bless blasphemers, graceless men, careless men, drunken men, men who ask not his favour, but who, nevertheless, if God wills to save them, shall certainly receive his salvation, who shall have his mercy brought into their souls and shall live. To turn the point a moment and argue again. Soul, thou sayest, “I cannot believe, because the mercy is so great would anything but great mercy suit thy case at all? Say, would little gains serve thy turn? Must thou not say with Baxter, “Lord, give me great mercy or no mercy, for nothing short of great mercy can answer my desire?” Thou needest a great Christ; thou wantest one that can wash away foul offences. He is just such an one as thou needest. Trust him; trust him; trust him now! Besides, what hast thou to do with asking questions at all? What God gives thee to do, is it not thine to do? He tells thee, “Trust my Son and I will save thee through his blood.” Sinner, ask no questions; be it right or wrong, the responsibility will not rest with thee if thou wilt do as God bids thee do. If the Spirit of God should now constrain thee to trust Christ, shouldst thou perish, then thou canst say, “I perished doing as God bade me.” That can never be; thou wilt be the first that ever did perish so. May God enable thee at this very moment to take him at his word, and to trust thy soul in Jesus’ hands!

     III. I close by USING YOUR VERY FEARS AS AN ENTICEMENT TO BELIEVE

     If it be so joyous only to think of these things, what must It be to possess them? If it gives such a weight to thy spirit only to think of being pardoned, adopted, accepted, and saved, what must it be really to be washed? Thou canst not make a guess. But this I can tell thee, the first moment I believed in Christ, I had more real happiness in one tick of the clock than in all the years before. Oh, to be forgiven! It is enough to make a man leap; ay, to leap three times as John Bunyan puts it, and go on his way rejoicing. Forgiven! Why, a rack becomes a bed of down, the flames be – come our friends when we are forgiven. Justified! No more condemnation! Oh, the joy of that! The happiness of the slave when he lands on freedom’s shore is nothing compared with the delight of the believer when he gets out of the land of the enemy. Speak we of the joy of the poor captive who has been chained to the oar by the corsair, and who at last is delivered? The breaking of his chain is not one-half such melodious music to him as the breaking of our chains to us. “He took me out of the horrible pit and out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and pout a new song into my mouth, and established my goings.”

“I will praise thee every day, Now thine anger’s passed away; Comfortable thoughts arise From the bleeding sacrifice. Jesus is become at length My salvation and my strength; And his praises shall prolong, While I live, my pleasant song.”

Talk not of the joys of the dance, or of the flush of wine; speak not of the mirth of the merry, or of the flashes of the ambitious and successful. There is a mirth more deep than these; a joy more intense; a bliss more enduring than anything the world can give. It is the bliss of being forgiven; the bliss of having God’s favour and God’s love in one’s soul; the bliss of feeling that God is our Father; that Christ is married to our souls; and that the Holy Ghost dwelleth in us, and will abide with us for ever. Let the sweetness of the mercy draw thee, poor soul! let the sweetness of the mercy, I say, entice thee! But thou sayest, “May I have it?" Come and welcome, come and welcome, sinner, come! When you get outside of this place you will see opposite to the Elephant and Castle a fountain; if you are thirsty, go and drink; there is nobody there to say, “You must not come; you are not fit.” It is put there on purpose for the thirsty. And if to-night you want Christ, if you feel in your souls a desire to be partakers of his salvation, he stands there in the highway of the gospel, and he is free to every thirsty soul. No need to bring your silver cups or your golden vases; ye may come with your poverty. No need, my poor friend, that you should wait until you have learned to read well or have studied the classics; you may come in your ignorance just as you are. No need, my poor erring brother, that you should wait till you should thoroughly reform; you may come and do your reformation afterwards. Come to Jesus as ye are, just as ye are. He will wash the filthy, clothe the naked, heal the sick, give sight to the blind, enrich the penniless, and raise to glory those who seem to be sinking down to hell. Oh! may God draw some to-night, some who have come in here out of curiosity to hear the strange preacher, who only hopes to be strange in seeking to win souls by telling them earnestly God’s simple truth! May the Master lay hold of some to-night, yea, to-night! Had I the power to plead as Paul did, could I utter impassioned words like those of the seraphic Whitfield, O could I plead with you as a man pleadeth for his life, as a mother pleadeth for her child, so would I say to you, and beseech you that ye be reconciled to God! My strength fails, the truth has been uttered. Hear it! May you receive it! “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved”— thus spake our Lord and Master— “He that believeth not shall be damned.” Believe and make profession of thy faith, for whosoever with his heart believeth, and with his mouth maketh confession, shall be saved.

     May the Lord bless the joy of the tidings to the rejoicing of our heart, for his dear name’s sake! Amen.



The True Apostolical Succession

By / Dec 15

The True Apostolical Succession

 

“Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth.” —Psalm 45:16

 

     THE overwhelming national calamity announced to the citizens of London at midnight, by the solemn tolling of the great bell of St. Paul's, was unknown to most of us until we entered this sanctuary. It was, therefore, impossible to drape the building with the tokens of our sorrow; nor can the preacher adapt his discourse to this most melancholy occasion. We have already prayed most earnestly for our beloved Sovereign, the widowed Queen of England: may the God of all consolation cheer her lonely heart with that divine comfort which He alone can give. With reverent sympathy we all mourn in her mourning, and weep in her weeping. We are all bereaved in her bereavement; and we wish that by some means she could really know how intense and how universal is the grief of her loyal and loving subjects, who view her in this hour more as their mother than as their Queen. To God again, we commend the Royal Widow and household. O Lord, be thou a present help in this their time of need.

    Excuse me, brethren, if I find it imperative to address you from my selected text, and to turn your mind to subjects of another kind. My text was suggested by certain events which have transpired in our own Church; the Lord having removed from us during the past week a valued elder of the Church; and having, at the same time, given us a singular increase from the families of the Church. I thought the two events together were a notable exposition of this verse, “Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth.”

     The forty-fifth Psalm is a sort of marriage-song, proclaiming the glories of Christ, the husband; and the beauties — the God-given beauties of the Church, his bride. The bride is described as attired in her garments of needlework, and clothing of wrought gold, attended by her royal maidens; while the King himself is pourtrayed as being doubly fair, “fairer than the children of men,” having grace poured into his lips. According to the Eastern custom, at the marriage ceremony, there were many good wishes expressed, and the benediction was also pronounced upon the newly-married pair, that they might become as fruitful as Isaac and Rebecca; hence the blessing of children in our text. It was the custom with great kings, when they had many sons, to allot to them different parts of their dominions; the young princes were made satraps over certain provinces, hence the blessing pronounced, “whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth.” A continuous line is promised, and perennial honour is secured. Christ is to be the spiritual parent of many sons, — “he shall see his seed,” — these sons are to be illustrious, and partake in the kingdom of their divine Lord, for “he shall bring many sons unto glory.”

     I shall try this morning, first of all, to expound the text in its different imports, in different periods of the Church'1s history; then endeavour to interpret it by our own experience; and then, thirdly, make an inquiry as to how far in our midst we have seen it proved, that ‘" instead of thy fathers shall be thy children.”

     1. First of all, then, we are to interpret the text in the light of THE HISTORY OF THE CHURCH IN THE PAST. And we think we can bring out different shades of meaning, while interpreting the promise by its fulfilment; for we may rest assured that is the safest way of reading promise and prophecy in the light of actual events.

     First, let us take our stand at the end of Old Testament history, just where the New Testament begins. The Church stands with her records in her hands; she turns to the first page and reads of the proto-martyr Abel; in following years she views the glittering names of Noah, of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob; onward to Moses and Aaron; far on still to the time of her judges, her kings, her prophets, until she sees the roll closed by the failing hand of Malachi. She drops a tear, and she cries, “Alas, the book is closed! the fathers, where are they? The Elijahs have mounted in their fiery chariots to heaven, and the Elishas have gone down to their tombs.” “Not so,” says Christ, her husband, “nay, not so, beloved; thy roll of children has not ended; the glories of thy descendants have not yet come to their close.” “Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children.” John the Baptist rises up instead of Elijah, and even excels Elias, for among them that had been born of women there was not a greater than John the Baptist. Then came her husband himself, even Jesus, who was better than many sons, since he gathered up in his own person all the perfections of those mighty men who had been his types before. But it seemed as if the Lord would supply in New Testament history the vacuum which was caused by the departure of Old Testament saints. Have we in the Old Testament a far-seeing Ezekiel, who can read the rolls of the future by the river Chebar? Ah! then we shall have a John, who in the gloomy Isle of Patmos shall behold bright revelations of God. Have we a clear outspoken practical Daniel, who loves truth and righteousness? We shall have a James, who shall expound the law of faith which worketh, which proveth its truthfulness by holiness. Have we an eloquent Elias, who poureth forth from his lips streams of evangelical doctrine, speaking more of Christ than all the rest? Lo, Paul the apostle, “not a whit behind the very chief of the apostles,” takes his place. Have we in the Old Testament a young Josias, who purged the temple, and had his heart perfect towards God? So have we in our history a young Timothy, whose heart is right before his God. Have we a bold and dashing Haggai, who in rough strains reproves the people for their sins? So have we a Peter, who, nothing daunted, lays to the charge of an immense multitude, the murder of Jesus, the Son of David. Nay, even in women we have no failure; for if under the Old Testament dispensation, they sang of Sarah, the mother of the faithful, what shall we say of Mary? “Blessed among women shall she be; from henceforth all generations shall call her blessed.” If they had their Bahab, as a trophy of grace divine, we have that woman which was a sinner; and if they had their Deborahs, mothers in Israel, we have Lydia, and Dorcas, and Priscilla, and of honourable women not a few. Stephen is not inferior to Abel: nor is Philip less in honour than Nathan. The glorious company of the apostles is not a whit behind the goodly fellowship of the apostles. We say that our New Testament host of heroes is superior to that of the past, and that most manifestly God did make the children of his Church princes in all the earth, right royally in faith did they divide the nations, and sway the sceptres of kingdoms, though in the world’s eye they were like their Master, “despised and rejected of men.” So, it seemeth to me, we may read this text.

     We proceed a little further in history to the time when, after Christ had ascended on high, his disciples went everywhere preaching the Word; and as they went, they sought out, first of all, the lost sheep of the house of Israel; but both providence and grace conspired to compel them to preach the Word to the Gentiles also, that they might be saved. Nay, more than this, the Jews, moved with anger, opposed the truth; and on a certain memorable occasion, one of the apostles said to them, “Lo, we turn unto the Gentiles a blessed turning for you and for me! Now I think I see the Church weeping again and again. “Alas!” says she, “the fathers have rejected me; the Pharisees in their self-righteousness, the Sadducees in their licentiousness, the Herodians in their worldliness, the mass of the people in their superstition, have despised and rejected the truth of Christ my Lord. Alas,’ says she, “that the olive has been despoiled of her boughs! What shall I do? The natural branches have been lopped away, till the stem standeth bare and leafless.” Her Master appears to her and comfortably repeats his assurance, “Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth.” “Lo,” saith he, “I have given thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” I think I see her tender and triumphant husband pointing with joyous finger to the different countries that should afterwards receive the truth, glancing over Alpine ranges to the valleys of Switzerland, and beyond the pillars of Hercules to these Isles of the Sea in which his name has so long been honoured, and then expanding his hands as though he would enclasp the whole, saying to her, “ They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before me; mine enemies shall lick the dust; all kings shall bow down before me; all generations shall call me blessed. Have I taken from thee Palestine? Lo, I have given thee all the nations of men that be upon the face of the earth. Shall the Hebrews discard me? Lo, I have given thee ten thousand times ten thousand, — so many as the stars of heaven for number, who shall be the spiritual seed of Abraham, who was the father of the faithful.” Verily Christ has fulfilled this promise to his Church, and is fulfilling it at this very day. Ethiopia stretches out her hands in prayer, Europe rejoices in his name, Asia yields her converts, and America adores his name. We are hoping that the Jew will be ingathered with the fulness of the Gentile; but, meanwhile, the children are taking the place of the fathers, and we who were the children of the desolate, and of the barren woman, are now far more in number than those who were the children of “the married wife.”

     I shall beg you to run your eye through history a little further to the time when the apostles one by one yielded up their ministry, and their immediate successors followed them to their tombs. It must have been a day of great lamentation to the Church of Christ, when at last John, the last of the twelve stars, gave forth no more light on earth, but was translated to shine in another firmament — in heaven above. We think we hear the news, as it spreads through all the churches that were scattered about Asia, Bithynia and Cappadocia, Africa, Spain, Italy, Gaul, and perhaps Britain itself — “John is dead!” The last spark of the apostolic fire has died out; the last of the live coals that glowed with the miraculous flame of apostolic fire has been taken with the golden tongs from off the altar of earth, and removed by seraphic wings to blaze upon the golden altar in heaven. Then there followed grievous martyrdoms, and Polycarp, and Ignatius, and men of that order, who had been the companions of the apostles; and some of whom may even have seen our Lord, departed from among the sons of men. The lions’ jaws were busy grinding the bones of the confessors; the dungeons were swollen with the captive martyrs of Christ; the blood of the Church flowed in one perpetual stream of crimson, and the Church might have wept and said, “Alas! alas! the chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof! Thou hast barked my fig tree; thou hast cut down my cedar; thou hast laid desolate my vineyards, and broken down my hedges. Thou hast taken away the heroes from the battle and the standard-bearers from the strife. My young men have fallen by the sword, and their fathers have gone into captivity. What shall the Church do?” She was like Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted because they were not. She said, as she saw her new converts, call them Benoni, even those that were born of her in what she thought to be her expiring pangs she named “Sons of sorrow;” but her Lord said concerning those who were born unto her, “Call them Benjamin, the sons of my right hand,” for instead of the fathers that have perished, the children shall rise up. And they did so; and there was a long succession of men, as bold to dare, as clear to testify, and as holy to live, as those who had departed to their God. We do not believe in that fiction of apostolical succession by the laying on of hands of men ; but we do believe in that glorious truth of apostolical succession — the laying on of the hands of God, when he himself calleth out one by one from the midst of mankind — men who shall grasp the standard when the standard-bearer falls,— men who shall bear the great two-edged sword, and fight God’s battles when those who fought them before have gone down to their graves triumphant. The Lord supplied the lack of his Church at every hour. To use that sentence which has been worn long, but is never threadbare, — the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church; and so, instead of thy fathers, thy children arise to praise their God.

    Further down in history there came the time of the Church’s most awful dearth. She had sinned. Led by the princely hand of Constantine to the altar of infamous adultery, she prostituted herself to a connexion with the State, and committed fornication with the kings of the earth. From that day forth the Spirit of God forsook her, and in the brightness of his splendour he shone not upon her. Her vigour died when the imperial hand was laid upon her. Whatever a royal hand may do to diseased men, it always brings the king’s evil upon the Church. No ills of poverty or persecution can equal the injurious effects of State alliance upon the Church of God. Her freedom is evaporated, her discipline becomes a pretence, her faults cannot be remedied, her progress in reformation is prohibited, her glory is departed. The Christian Church, when linked with the Roman power, soon declined, till truth became dim and holiness was stained; then the much fine gold was changed, then the light of her sun was as the light of eventide, if not as the darkness of midnight itself; and she stood, clouds and darkness being round about her, and sorrow her portion. By the lapse of years the good hath died and only the evil lived. The curse of the State had engendered priestcraft, popedom — and what if I say hell-dom — in all lands. The Church stood and wept, and she said, “Chrysostom, where is he? His golden mouth is silent. Augustine, where is he? He can no more tell of the gospel of the Grace of God; the angelical doctor has departed. Athanasius, where is he? — that rock in the midst of the billows?” And she wept, for she seemed to have no men left; no eye pitied and no arm helped her. But lo, her God spake and said, “Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth;” and three imperial spirits, chief among the sons of men, sprung up — Luther, Calvin, and Zuingle, worthy to stand side-by-side with any fathers that even the Old Testament or apostolic times could produce. They had their bright compeers, who stood firmly with them, and shone like a divine constellation in the midst of the dark night of popery. God seemed to say to the Church, “I will give thee back apostles, I will give thee back thy prophets, I will send to thee a new host of warriors; there shall be giants in those days, and thou shalt make them princes in all the earth.”

     Then, to come later, and end our historical review: there came a period when the Church had again, a second time, sold herself to the State, when she who should be the Lord’s chaste virgin became once more the mistress and harlot of kings. She wore her bondage readily enough until, happily for her, the princes made her yoke heavy and her life bitter. Then came a sifting season, when the chaff and the wheat could no more abide together, when the lovers of God and his truth must break their alliance with death and their covenant with hell. There rose up in the midst of the Church a company of men who would not endure to have the Word of God altered and fashioned by princes, — who saw that God’s truth was not to be moulded like a nose of wax by committee-men, or bishops, or judges. They came forth from the mass to join those few who, like the few in Sardis, had not defiled their garments. The Church wept and mourned, for she said, “Wycliffe has departed; the mighty Lollards, those shakers of the nation, have gone their way; the fathers have departed but God said to her, “Instead of thy fathers shall- be thy children,” and up rose such men as Bunyan, Charnock, Howe, Goodwin, Owen, Manton, Caryl, and multitudes more of like gigantic mind. That mighty host whose names are two thousand, who left the harlot church, and came, out from her impurities, were the children who worthily made up for the apostacy of the fathers. These mighty two thousand men are heroes, whose names are fit to match with Martin Luther and with Calvin, ay, and I dare to say it, with any of the martyrs who have gone before. They stood alone. And now, it seems to me, at this day, when any say to us, “You, as a denomination, what great names can you mention ? what fathers can you speak of ?” we may reply, “ More than any other under heaven, for we are the old apostolic Church that have never bowed to the yoke of princes yet ; we, known among men, in all ages, by various names, such as Donatists, Novatians, Paulicians, Petrobrussians, Cathari, Arnoldists, Hussites, Waldenses, Lollards, and Anabaptists, have always contended for the purity of the Church, and her distinctness and separation from human government. Our fathers were men inured to hardships, and unused to ease. They present to us, their children, an unbroken line which comes legitimately from the apostles, not through the filth of Rome, not by the manipulations of prelates, but by the Divine life, the Spirit’s anointing, the fellowship of the Son in suffering and of the Father in truth.” But whither shall I wander, I go upon a needless errand, for what are our fathers to us unless we prove ourselves their worthy sons? Let us forego our pedigree, and see if we have present grace by which to prove the succession of which we boast. Neander has said, “There is a future for you Baptists let us not be slow to ensure it! I say, let us rather, instead of doing as many will do during the next year, instead of boasting descent from the two thousand who came out on Bartholomew’s day, let us pray that we may be able to glory more in our children than in our fathers. Let us say, “No, we will not think of the past to be proud of it, but we will think of the present to labour for it, that we may show to the world that the old life is not extinct, that ours is not a roll of wonders which have all been completed and finished, but it contains the prophecy of wonders yet to come, wherein God shall show forth his mighty acts unto the sons of men.” May it be so in all the Churches of Christ! May it be abundantly so in our own Church and denomination, to the honour and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ!

     II. We have to interpret our text; secondly, in its APPLICATION TO OUR OWN CIRCUMSTANCES AT THE PRESENT TIME. “Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children.”

     It seems clear enough from the text, as well as from observation, that the fathers must be taken from us. Yes, it is the delight of a pastor to look upon the reverend heads of those who have served the Church, some of them for more than half a century, with integrity, with uprightness, and with success; but they must leave us. The hands of affection cannot retain them among us, however firmly they may make the grasp. Our earnest prayers cannot immortalise them in the land of mortality, and our greatest kindness cannot preserve their bodies from mouldering back to their native dust in the land of decay. The fathers must go: as we look upon their snow-white heads, often the painful reflection crosses our mind — “We cannot expect to have them with us long; David must sleep with his fathers; Hezekiah, though his life be lengthened for awhile, must at last yield the inexorable decree, for ‘there is no discharge in this war.’”

     Now, the loss of the fathers must be to the Church always painful, for we lose the maturity of their judgment. When, having passed through many difficulties, they begin to see their way through the ordinary trials of life; when, having tested and proved many things, they have come to hold fast that which is good, and have become meet to be instructors of babes, and guides of those that wander — just then, the eye that sees so clearly is filmed, the hand which could point so plainly is paralysed, and the foot which trod so firmly in the way of wisdom totters, and the man falls to his last home. We lose, besides the maturity of their judgment, their blessed living testimony just when they had begun to tell us that for threescore years and ten they had found God’s Word to be faithful and true ; just when they could give their viva voce testimony to the faithfulness and goodness of an immutable God, their lips are silenced, they bequeath to us the legacy of their living example, and their dying witness, but we have them not alive among us as pillars in the house of our God, and witnesses for the faith. And just, too, when we thought that their holy efforts were almost necessary to the Church’s success, it usually happens that then they are taken away. Hushed is the voice which could instruct; still is the heart that was always anxiously beating with a desire for Zion’s prosperity. They are gone, and they leave a gap in our defences; they pull down a tower from our battlements; the shields of the mighty are taken away, and the chariots are burned in the fire. They are removed from us, too, when their prayers were more than usually valuable, when the mellowness of their piety gave a blessed fragrance to their supplications. They are taken from us when their hoary heads added dignity in our eyes to their supplications, and when their righteous lives seemed to prevail with God for the fulfilment of his Word, that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man should avail much. Yes, as I look around, as a young pastor, upon my brethren in arms, those who have stood by me these eight years, in all our conflicts and our struggles, who have been with me in the wilderness of my temptation, by the bed of my sickness ; my helpers in council, my assistants in labour, my comforters in trial, my ready friends in the Church, and my protectors in the midst of the rioting crowd — those who for these many years have borne the burden and heat of the day — I cannot refrain from emotions of the deepest grief at the thought that the fathers must not live for ever, but that one by one, as the stars set beneath the horizon line, so must they set on earth, to shine in another and better sphere — not lost, thank God, but gone before. We have this week lost one who was, I think, the first person I received into Church fellowship here, he having been for many years a useful member of other Baptist Churches. He served his Master well — as well as continual weakness and increasing feebleness of health would permit him. And now he is gone: who next shall follow, God only knows; but one by one, the young may go, but the old must. The young are as in a siege, where the bullet may cut them down; but the old are as in the breach, where the attack is being made, and death is storming the ramparts. The fathers must depart. We dwell no longer on that, lest we indulge in dreary apprehensions as to our Church’s future, though that were folly and sin, for in looking back on the past, we have seen such a marvellous succession in the ministry, and also in all the offices of the Church, that we cannot but thank God that he does walk still among the golden candlesticks and trim the lamps!

    But let us turn to the pleasing reflection, “Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children.” When the fathers die, God shall find other men who, trained while their fathers yet lived, shall be ready and ripe to take their places. Very often we hear the question, “If such-and-such a minister should die, who could occupy his pulpit? What would be the use of such-and-such a building, if So-and-so were taken to his rest?” Ah! ye know not what ye ask, nor what ye say, “Instead of the fathers shall be the children.” Men of faith are followed by men of faith. They who trust God, when they die, shall be succeeded by others who shall walk in the same divine life, and shall see the same promises fulfilled. The love which burned in the heart of one, when quenched there by death, shall burn in the breast of another; the hope that gleamed from one joyous eye, shall soon gleam from the eyes of another whom God has raised up to be his successor. The work shall not stop for want of a workman; supplication shall not cease for want of righteous men to pray; the offering of praise shall not be stayed from the absence of grateful hearts to offer joyous songs. God shall be pleased to raise up one after another, according as it is written, “Moses my servant is dead, but behold, Joshua shall go before you.” What a blessed thing it is, that in this Church we have seen the promise fulfilled in the olden times; and we can look round upon our denomination, and other Churches can do the same, and remember families that have been connected with our struggles and our strifes from the very earliest periods of history. If you look down the hand-book of Baptist ministers, you will see there names which have appeared for these last three or four centuries ; and if you could turn to the Church rolls of some of our different Churches, you would see that there are certain family names which constantly recur — not written now and then, but in one direct line, as though the God of Abraham were the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and the God of all the families, even to the last generation. I pray that such a succession as this may fall upon many families here, and that as you have known the Lord, so your house may never lack a man to stand and to do service in the temple before the Lord God of Israel!

      III. But I come to the last point, which is the most important: that is, TO MAKE AN INQUIRY AS TO THE MATTER OF FACT, HOW FAR THIS TEXT HAS BEEN TRUE IN OUR EXPERIENCE AS A CHURCH.

     We will put this matter in the form of questions. How many are there here to-day of the usual worshippers in our midst, whose parents were in Christ, and who are themselves in Christ too? When I was thinking over this subject in my study, my eye in vision glanced over the pews, and I thought of the different families. I could remember one or two, perhaps, where there are children arrived at years of maturity, who were yet unconverted; but for the most part, I think, there is hardly an exception to the rule in this place — that where there are parents who serve God, there are some children who serve him also. If it were right, we might glance our eye to the right hand and to the left, and we might say, “There is a household yonder, where one, two, three, four, five, six, seven fear the Lord. The father and the mother are walking in the faith, and their children going on pilgrimage with them.” We might turn to another family, and say, “There are two who have arrived at years of maturity, who have made a profession of their faith in Christ, and are walking in their parents’ footsteps; and their parents hope that as the others grow up it will be to call the Redeemer blessed.” I might look down below, and look with joy, too, upon many families! With some of you God has dealt very graciously, for he has brought all your children in. With others he has begun to do his gracious work; he has brought one or two of your household. And though there are some few solemn and sad exceptions, yet, blessed be God, these are few, very few indeed. Here we have seen that “the promise is to us and to our descendants, even to as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Here we have had the words of Paul and Silas richly and abundantly fulfilled — “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”

     Besides this, to go a little further, how many are there in this Church who have been raised up by God to fill similar positions in the Church to those which their forefathers had! I hope there will always be a succession unto God in the eldership and in the deaconship; and what if I were egotistical enough to say so, in the ministry too! I would to God there might be in every single position in this Church, as soon as one dies, another allied and descended from the departed to take his place! That, too, has been fulfilled in several instances in our midst. In the Church of God at large it is really surprising to see how constantly the mantle of Elijah falls upon Elisha. If you read through the list of our ministers, you will see certain names like Angus, Pearce, and Fuller, which run right on. Some of us can look back to four or five generations in which our parents have always been preachers of the Word. It is the happiness of one here present to know, that while he himself and his beloved brother preach the Word, his father and his grandfather, too, are uttering the selfsame gospel that is preached here to-day. And so has it been with many a household. We are not solitary instances. There are very many such, where there has been a succession, a positive succession — not grace running in the blood, but grace running side-by-side with the blood, so that instead of the fathers the children have been raised up, who have been illustrious in the Church, and distinguished in the world, as kings and priests unto our God.

     We have asked two questions, and some of us have had great pleasure in answering them; but a pang has rent the heart of some others. We must enlarge upon that, not to increase the pang, but that God may graciously remove it. Are there not sons and daughters here, descended from holy men and women, who to-day are careless? Your mother’s God is not your God. She dropped her holy tears upon your infant forehead, and devoted you from the very breast to God. She prayed for you. She is now a saint of God in heaven, and you bid fair to be an heir of wrath in hell. Perhaps you are remembering now some hymn which was a favourite with her, which you saw this very morning in the hymn-book; and the Psalm that was read, you remember its solemn reading at her grave; and you have recollected her, but you have not remembered your God. She is not the mother of saints, in your case, but the mother of a careless soul who knows the truth, and cares not for it, who hears the invitation of the Gospel, and wantonly and wickedly rejects it. Young men and women! would you bring down your parents’ grey hairs with sorrow to the grave? Ye can do it speedily by open iniquities; ye can do it gradually by a silent careless rejection of Christ Jesus. Some of you have yourselves grown old, your parents are to you traditions of the past, they have long since mouldered in the grave; but you are ungodly yet; you took not up the standard when your father’s arm failed to hold it — not you; you stood not in the ranks of God's mighties when your parent fell — not you ; but you are to-day a hearer only, and not a doer of the Word — listening to the outward sound, but not receiving the inward sense. O soul! what wilt thou do when thou shalt leave thy body, and stand before thy God? What wilt thou do when, looking upward from the awful gulf, thou seest thy mother, thy father, glorified? Oh! there will be weeping, there will be weeping at the judgment-seat of Christ. There will be sorrow beyond all sorrow in that valley of decision, when the multitude shall be gathered together, to be rent in twain for ever. Oh! it will be doleful, it will be doleful, when we part to meet no more! No more the kiss of affection, or even the tie of relationship. Shut up in heaven shall ye be, ye beatified spirits. Shut up in hell shall ye be, ye impenitent, if ye come to the judgment-seat of God. This is the more sorrowful, because it relates to some of you — you that are here this morning — some of you who are always sitting in these seats. You come as God’s people come, and hear as they hear, but are not blessed as they are.

     Lastly, it may be I speak to some who have strayed in here this morning accidentally, who are even worse than this. And so, man, thou hast lived to curse thy God! What was that oath this morning, before thou didst leave thy house — an oath in which thy mother’s Saviour was blasphemed? And you have grown up, and you ill-use your wife for desiring to worship your father’s God! You were baptized of old in your father’s prayers, and immersed in your mother’s affectionate yearnings. When she brought you forth, and first looked upon your infant form, she blessed God that she was the mother of a man-child, in the hope that he might be devoted unto God from his youth up. Alas! poor mother! it were better for him that he had never been born. When thy father heard the tidings of thy birth, he said, “Let him serve his God, and my heart is glad.” He had no thoughts of begetting thee to be a fiend in hell, or a slave of the devil; and yet, stranger, would it be too hard to say, that is what thou art this morning? “Nay,” sayest thou, “not quite a blasphemer.” Well, an infidel. And what is an infidel but a blasphemer, who has not courage to say out what he thinks in his heart? And so you doubt the Deity of that precious Saviour on whom your mother’s soul reposed? And so you despise that religion which was her comfort in her last expiring hour? And so, I say, you are an enemy to that God in whose eternal bosom your own sire rests for ever? Well, shall it always be so? Angel of destiny! Shall it always be so? Shall the wax of human life cool, and shall the doom be sealed for ever? Nay, angel of mercy! intervene; and now, oh! now, reverse the man’s condition! Turn his heart to flesh; melt thou the adamant in the precious blood of Jesus, and make it soft! “There is forgiveness with him that he may be feared.” Come unto him! Come unto him! He will receive you still. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.” “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.” May the Spirit of God find you out this morning! May he prick you in the heart! May he make you feel and tremble! — more than that, may he make you fly to Christ, the City of our Refuge! May he constrain you to put your trust in the atonement, which he made for many! May you now find in him a Saviour, “able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God through him!” Let every parent Buy, “Amen!”



The Weeding of the Garden

By / Dec 8

The Weeding of the Garden

 

“But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.” — Matthew 15:13.

 

JESUS CHRIST had spoken certain truths which were highly objectionable to the Pharisees. Some of his loving disciples were in great fright, and they came to him and said, “Knowest thou not that the Pharisees are offended?” Now, our Saviour, instead of making any apology for having offended the Pharisees, took it as a matter of course, and replied in a sentence which is well worthy to be called a proverb, — “Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.” Now we have oftentimes, as Mathew Henry very tritely remarks, a number of good and affectionate but very weak hearers. They are always afraid that we shall offend other hearers. Hence, if the truth be spoken in a plain and pointed manner, and seems to come close home to the conscience, they think that surely it ought not to have been spoken, because So-and-so, and So-and-so, and So-and-so took offence at it. Truly, my brethren, we are not all slow to answer in this matter. If we never offended, it would be proof positive that we did not preach the gospel. They who can please man will find it quite another thing to have pleased God. Do you suppose that men will love those who faithfully rebuke them? If you make the sinner’s heart to groan, and waken his conscience, do you think he will pay you court and thank you for it? Nay, not so; in fact, this ought to be one aim of our ministry, not to offend, but to test men and make them offended with themselves, so that their hearts may be exposed to their own inspection. Their being offended will discover of what sort they are. A ministry that never uproots will never water; a ministry that does not pull down will never build up. He who knoweth not how to pluck up the plants which God hath not planted, scarcely understandeth how to be a worker of God in his vineyard. Our ministry ought always to be a killing as well as a healing one, — a ministry which kills all false hopes, blights all wrong confidences, and weeds out all foolish trusts, while at the same time it trains up the feeblest shoot of real hope, and tends comfort and encouragement even to the weakest of the sincere followers of Christ. Do not, then, be needlessly alarmed about our ministry. Just give us plenty of elbow-room to strike right and left. Let not our friends encumber us. Whether they be friends or foes, when we have to strike for God and his truth, we cannot spare whoever may stand in our way. To our own Master we stand or fall, but to no one else in heaven or on earth.

     Well now; our Saviour was thus led from the remark of his disciples to utter this memorable proverbial saying. If we understand it aright, it applies to every doctrine and to every false system of religion. Whatever God hath not planted will be rooted up. As for heretical teachers; let them alone; they be blind leaders of the blind, and if the blind lead the blind they shall both fall into the ditch. Many good people are greatly concerned about the growth of papacy in England. They fear the day will come when papacy shall have quenched the light of gospel grace, I trust, my brothers and sisters in Christ, you will not get nervous upon that point. It is of little consequence what men are, if they are not saved, if they are not brought to know the Lord. I do not know that it is a very important item what kind of religion they have if they have not got the true one. They may receive the awful doom of unbelievers in Christ, and enemies to the gospel, as Romanists or Mahommedans; or like too many in this land, being merely professing Christians who deceive themselves and others, they may incur the same wrath of God, and inherit the same condemnation. But do not think for a moment that the harlot of the seven hills will ever prevail against the bride of Christ. Not she. The Lord will by-and-bye, when her iniquity shall be full, utterly destroy her. Only be sure in your heart that God has not planted it, and you may be equally sure that he will pluck it up. Prophets may plant it with their pretended revelations, martyrs may water it with their blood, confessor after confessor may defend it with his learning and with his courage, time may endear it, literature may protect it, and kings may keep guard about it, but he that ruleth in the heavens, and careth nought for human might, shall certainly grasp its trunk, and, pulling it up, even though it be strong as a cedar, shall hurl it into the fire, because he hath not planted it. Yes, every hoary system of superstition, every ancient form of idolatry, I trust, my It is of little every venerable species of will-worship, shall be certainly overturned, as God is true. Leave them alone; be not over anxious. He shall come by-and-bye who shall cry, “Overturn, overturn, overturn;” and he shall pluck up by the roots everything which his own hand hath not planted. The advice of the Jewish orator was very sensible, when he said concerning certain men, “Refrain from these men, and let them alone, for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought; but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it.” When you see a new enterprise, some brethren very enthusiastic attempting something you cannot quite approve of, do not stand in their way. Let them have a fair trial; there is one at the helm who understands how to manage better than we do. Let them alone; if God has not the work in hand it will come to nought, and if it should be God’s work then surely it will stand. I am so constantly referred to for advice from all parts of the country, that I am very often in the position of the Delphic oracle — not wishing to give wrong advice, and therefore hardly able to give any. Among others, some time ago I had an inquiry from a brother as to whether he ought to preach or not. His minister told him he ought not and yet he felt he must; so I thought I would be safe, and I said to him just this — “My brother, if God has opened your mouth the devil cannot shut it, but if the devil has opened it, I pray the Lord to shut it directly.” I was quite certain to be safe there. He took it as an encouragement to preach on. I think we may say the like with regard to all modern enterprises, Whenever a brother comes with something new that is to revive the Church and to do good, we may say, “Well, if God has opened your mouth, I will not help Satan to shut it; but if Satan has opened your mouth, may God shut it; but it is not mine to do that work; I must leave it to him; to your own Master you shall stand or fall.”

    But, while I have no doubt that this is the drift of the text, and what the Saviour specially aimed at, yet, beyond a doubt, we may read this sentence as having reference to our own souls. And here may the Spirit of God give to us a deep solemnity of spirit, that we may be led to ask ourselves, and honestly to answer the inquiry, whether we are plants of God’s right-hand planting or not. May God the Holy Ghost have personal dealings with many of our souls to-night, and may this be a heart-searching we are and rein-trying hour!

     First, I shall have something to say about those plants that God has not planted, secondly, we will consider a little about their being uprooted; and then we will come to the examination as to whether we are plants that God has planted.

     I. The Greek word not only signifies plants — for you know we are in the habit of calling a thing a plant which grows in the woods — but the Greek word has nicer discrimination. As Tyndal very well remarks, it is not merely a plant; but a root that has been designedly put into the ground and taken care of. We must not only be comparable to living plants; but we must be comparable to those which come under the gardener’s care, which are planted in the soil, tended by his skill, and looked upon with interest as being his own. Now, there are many professors who are like wild plants; they were never planted by any servant of God, much less by God himself. They are thorns and briers; they bring forth wild fruits, noxious, bitter, poisonous, acrid, and deadly to the taste of the passer-by. They grow in abundance. This London is like some wild heath that is covered with its ferns and gorse, and even with something worse than these — wild plants that spring up spontaneously. Now, these will have to be rooted up. When the day comes for God to clear his commons, there will be a blaze indeed, when he shall say, “Gather them together in bundles to burn; but gather the wheat into my garner.” The drunkard, the swearer, the adulterer; those who live by cheating and robbing their neighbours; those who never darken the walls of God’s sanctuary; those to whom the Sunday is the busiest day in the week ; those who are without God and without hope, and without Christ, these we may call self-sown plants, uncared for, untutored, and must be rooted up, for he will say, “ Gather out of my kingdom all things that offend, and they that do iniquity.” There are other plants, however, that have evidently been planted by some hand. Some have been planted by the minister’s hand. There are the signs and marks about them that some pruning-knife has been at work. You know to what I refer. We all of us have some converts. God has his thousands I hope, in this place; but I have some of my own here that I could do better without. A man’s converts are always a disgrace to him. It is only those that God converts that will last. When we go fresh into a place, there is always a number of people who hear with a degree of profit, and who are affected by us. But let that minister be taken away, and they go back again. One wave washes them up on the shore, and the return wave sucks them back again into the great deeps. Why, see how it was with this congregation in years gone by, when they were smaller and fewer in number. When my worthy predecessor, Mr. James Smith, preached the Word, there was a number of those who professed conversion; and what became of many when he went away, God alone knows; save that we found out some of them no better than they should be. And if I should die, there would be some of you that would do the same. Take but away the leader, and the soldier slinks back into his quarters. He has no objection to follow his captain while he sees him; but the man being the captain, if the standard-bearer falls, then he hies himself out of the conflict, and is seen no more. I do not know who planted you; but if ye are only planted by man, though he were the best man that ever lived, you will be rooted up. If your conversion is only human, if you are only brought to God by mere moral suasion, and have never been operated upon by the holy, divine, supernatural energy of the Holy Spirit, you will go back like the dog to his vomit, and like the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.

     There are some too that were not planted by ministers, but they were planted by their fathers and mothers. They have got a kind of family religion. Well, I like to see the child follow his parent when the parent walks in the footsteps of Christ. It is a blessed thing when the old oak falls off to see half-a-dozen saplings sprung up round the spot where he stood. But we must recollect that we have nothing to do with hereditary godliness, for hereditary godliness is not worth a straw. We must be personally saved. We cannot be saved in our father’s loins. What if the blood of martyrs be in my veins to-night, and if I traced back my pedigree, as I might do, through a line of preachers of the Word — what mattereth it, if I myself make shipwreck concerning faith, and be a castaway? It shall be but the sorer condemnation for a child of the saints to perish as an heir of wrath. Ah! there are many of you who have fathers and mothers in the Church who look for your everlasting welfare with anxious desire, I pray you do not imagine that your father’s religion will save you. We will not baptize you, lest you should have that thought in your head. Till you have got religion of your own we have nothing to do with you. Not until you have a personal faith dare we give you a baptism. We would not have you make a profession by proxy, nor would we have profession made for you while you are an unconscious babe. True religion is personal to every man; it is a matter of his own consciousness; he must in his own soul be lost or be saved. The battle of life can be fought in no battle-field but in our own personal consciousness, and he that attempts to shift the work or to shift the responsibility to another, goes on a fool’s errand, and he will surely fail in it. If ye have not been planted thus, you will be rooted up.

     And oh! how many there are of even professors of religion, who are self -planted. By their own good deeds, and their own efforts, and their own strivings, and their own prayings, they hope to be saved; and having an experience which was not wrought in them, but which they borrowed from books, they have come, and ofttimes have they deceived the minister and been added to the Church. Ah, souls! ye may paint yourselves as ye will, but unless ye have the genuine matter, ye will never be able to pass the judgment-seat of God. Ye may gild and varnish, but he will say, “Take it away,” and like the painted face of Jezebel, which the dogs did eat, despite the paint, so shall you yourselves be utterly devoured, despite the fair picture that you made. There may be some such in this Church. Human judgment cannot discover them. May the candle of the Lord search them out to-night! Soul! a home-spun religion and a homemade godliness will fail us; we- must have that which is the workmanship of God by the Holy Ghost. Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” and “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Take care, ye self-planted trees, lest when the Master cometh by he shall say, “How came that plant there? I never put it in the garden; pluck it up.” And he shall throw it over the wall of the garden, just as the gardeners throw away their rubbish, which is afterwards gathered up and burned in the fire.

     Before I leave this point, I want to say two or three things. I speak in humble language, so that I may be understood, for in these solemn matters any soarings after fine language is but mocking the souls of men. Let me just notice that some of those plants that God never did plant, are very beautiful. If you go into the fields, there are many plants that grow there that are quite as lovely as those in the garden. Look at the foxglove and the dog rose; look at many of the blossoms we pass by as insignificant, they are really beautiful; but they are not plants that have ever been planted. Now, how many we have in our congregations that are really beautiful, yet they are none of God’s planting — men and women whose character is upright, whose manners are amiable, whose life is irreproachable. They are not immoral, they neither cheat nor lie; but they are exemplary; their disposition is kind, tender-hearted, and affectionate, more than this, for Jesus says, “Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.” Though it be a lovely plant, though it seem to be a fair flower externally, yet since the root of it hath sucked its nourishment out of the wild wastes of sin, whether of infidelity or of lawlessness, it is evil in the eye of God, and it must be plucked up.

     Further, how many there are of our wild wood plants that even bring forth fruit. The schoolboy in the country can tell us that the wood is an orchard, and that often he has had many a luscious meal from those wild fruits that grew there. Yet, mark you, though the birds may come and satisfy their hunger from those wild fruits, and though the seeds may be in the winter the sparrow’s garner, and the linnet’s storehouse, yet they are not planted, and they do not come under the description of the text — plants that have been planted. So, too, there may be some of you who really do some good in the world. Without you a mother’s wants might not be provided for; from your table many of the poor are fed. Oh! this is good, this is good; I would that all of you did more of it, but I pray you remember that this is not enough; there must be God’s planting in you, or else the fruits you bring forth will be selfish fruits. You will be like Israel who was denounced as being an empty vine, because, forsooth, he brought forth fruit unto himself. Charity is good. Noble charity, be thou honoured among men! But there must be faith, and if we have no faith in Christ, though we give our bodies to be burned, and bestow our goods to feed the poor, yet where Christ is, we certainly can never come.

     And I would hint just once more, that many of those wild plants have very strong roots. If you were to go and try to dig them up, you would have a task before you not easily accomplished. Look at the wild dock: did you seek to pull it up? Piece after piece it breaks away, and you have to send some sharp instrument deep into the soil before you can root it out, and even then, if there be but a piece left, it springs up and thrives again. Oh how many there are who have as much tenacity of life in their false confidence, as there is in the dock — in its root! Some of you cannot shake. “I never have a doubt,” said one, “I never had a doubt or a misgiving.” You remember Robert Hall said, “Allow me to doubt for you, sir,” because he knew the man to be an ill-liver. And so we have some — they are not in trouble as other men, neither are they plagued like other men; they speak with an air of satisfaction; their language sounds like assurance, but it is presumption; it looks like confidence in Christ, but it is confidence in themselves. And such will strike their roots very deep, and they will be very strong indeed, so that you cannot shake them; yet, alas for them! they are not plants of the Lord’s right-hand planting, and therefore the sentence is passed; and ere long it shall be executed without pity — “they shall be rooted up.”

     II. And now, very briefly indeed, upon my second point, — for time will fail us if we dwell long upon it, — THEIR UPROOTING.

     This uprooting sometimes comes in this life. Peradventure, they are tempted, and they foully fall; or persecution comes, and they desert the standard by which they swore to stand or die. Or if not, they come to die, and then death comes and takes hold of their profession, and strikes it to and fro like some great giant who is able to rend up an oak by its roots. Perhaps for weeks the man holds his confidence and says, “It is well with me! it is well with me!” And we have known some plants with the roots so deep that Death himself could not tear them up. They have died deceived, they have perished with a false hope, and they have gone into the next world dreaming of heaven, and expecting to see the face of God. But oh their mistake! “Where am I?” said the soul, “this is not heaven and the mask was pulled off, and the man saw himself all loathsome and leprous, and he said, “I thought I was fair and lovely.” Some rude hand plucked off his garment, and he saw his running sores and ulcers, and he said, “I thought I was soundly healed.” And he heard the voice of conscience saying, “Thou hypocrite! God never had a work in thy soul: thou didst deceive thyself; thou didst cozen thyself into a pretend hope, and now where art thou? The songs of the sanctuary change for the wailings of hell; thy sittings at the Lord’s table end in dolorous feastings at the table of devils. Cast out, lost, banished, because God never planted thee, therefore art thou plucked up.”

     III. This leads me to my final task, — the WORK OF SELF-EXAMINATION.

     Dear friends, let not my aged, confirmed Christians, here stand back from self-examination. Minister, thou too, O my own soul, and thou, deacon, elder, aged professor — let each man among us put himself into the scale. Am I or am I not a plant of the Lord's right-hand planting? Well then, first and foremost, if I am a plant of the Lord’s planting, there was a time when I had to be taken out of the place where I once grew. Can I remember a time when he digged about me and dug me up till the roots of my heart began to bleed; my soul was loosened from the earth and the soil which it had loved, and though it did cling tenaciously to it, yet was I drawn out by superior power, taken out of the kingdom of darkness, and separated from the earthiness of my own works and self-righteousness. Can I remember that? Yes, blessed be God, some of us can say “I can.” “One thing I know, whereas I was once blind now I see.” “Old things have passed away, behold all things have become new.” There must be a change. No matter how moral you may have been, there must be a change. There must be a change too which you can feel yourself, even though others cannot see it. And when such a change does not amount — I will not merely say to the change in a sick man when he gets well, but to the change in a dead man when he comes to life — if there is no such change as this, we must fear that we are not plants of the Lord's planting.

     Again, if I have been planted by God, I do most thoroughly and unfeignedly mourn that I ever was anything but what I am, and I do most heartily pant to be made like unto Christ, and to be conformed unto his image. If thou hast any love in thy heart towards sin so as willingly to choose it, take care that thou deceive not thyself as to the love of God being in thee. He that is saved hates sin and loathes it, and though he committeth sin it is by infirmity, and even when his will giveth consent unto the sin, yet it giveth a still deeper and more confident assent unto the law, and after it hath sinned, it mourneth and bemoaneth itself exceedingly on account of sin. If you saw a fish in a tree, you would know it was not in its element, and if you see a Christian in sin you will be able to discover that he is not in his element. If sin be a pleasure to thee, if thou canst sail down its stream and rejoice in it, canst drink its draughts and make merry with those that make merry therein — then deceive not thyself, for thou art not a plant of the Lord's right-hand planting.

     Again, if thou be such as God hath made thee, then thou hast learned thine utter helplessness and emptiness apart from Christ as thy righteousness, and the Spirit of God as thy strength. Have you anything of your own to boast of? He never planted you. Have you done anything that you can bring before God and claim as your own? He has had no dealings with you. About this we are quite sure, for here the Lord makes clean work. Self-righteousness must not merely be wounded in the leg; it must have its brains dashed out, and he that still clingeth to himself, and his strength and his works, has to begin anew, for he has not yet begun in God’s way.

     Another essential mark of the plants of God’s planting is, that they are all planted on one soil, and, strange to say, all on a rock. They whom God has planted, put their trust in Jesus only. They have not the shadow of a shade of a suspicion of an idea of a hope anywhere but in Christ. They say of Christ’s wounds, “They are the clefts of the rock in which we hide ourselves.” They say of Christ’s blood, “This has cleansed our sins.” They say of Christ himself, “He is our law.” They say of his presence, “It is our delight.” They say of his gospel, “It is our joy.” They say of his heaven, “It is our sure and everlasting reward.” I would that we had longer time — I knew not that the time was speeding at so great a rate — I would we had longer time to be testing and trying ourselves in this matter; but Scripture is so explicit as to what a believer is, and what he is not, that I need not enlarge, but rather stir up your hearts to make sure work here. Professor, what if you should be deceived! If you should be! Do not say, “But.” I tell thee again, it is possible, for others have been deceived. I beseech thee, suppose it possible. O that thou mayest say in thy soul, “Well, if it be possible, if I am deceived, yet I am a sinner, and as a sinner I will go to Christ afresh to-night; if I am not a saint, I am a sinner ; and this is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief,’ so I will go to him again.” But if you refuse to say this, 1 will put the “if” again. Jonathan Edwards remarks that, in the great revival in New England, there were sinners of all sorts converted, except unconverted professors; and, says he, “these unconverted professors are in the most dangerous state in which men can be.” Well, take that warning to yourselves. Some of you say, “But I am not a professor.” Ah, but you are always here, and people consider you such. Though you are nob baptized, and do not join the Church, yet your constantly coming here identifies you with us and they consider that you make a profession; and so you do after a sort. Mark this; if you are still unconverted, and keep on attending the means of grace year after year, you are getting into a more dangerous state. It is not often we hear of men being converted when they have been hearing the Word twenty or thirty years without its having taken effect. Do then, I pray you, try yourselves. Make sure work for eternity. Build with stone, and not with plaster; build on the rock, and not on the sand. “I counsel thee that thou buy of me gold tried in the fire,” saith the Spirit. Oh! let not your faith be a mere spasm, the mere action of a moment. O that you may have the faith of God’s elect, which is of the operation of God the Holy Ghost! Do you say, “How is this to be had? How can I be saved?” Soul, I have a free gospel to preach to thee; a full Christ to empty sinners; a precious Christ for lawless outcasts; a rich Christ to beggarly and starving souls. “Whosoever will,” saith Jesus, “let him come and take of the water of life freely.” “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” He that trusts Christ is a plant of God’s right-hand planting. O that thou wouldst trust Jesus now! I know there is something which holds thee back, and thou sayest “I am not fit.” He wants no fitness. Come as you are. Any man is fit to be washed that is blackany man is fit to be made whole that is sick; any man is fit to be relieved that is poor. Ah! you have got the fitness in your unfitness, for your unfitness is all the fitness that he wants. “But may I come?” say you. May you? Yes, if you need the Saviour, you may come. Just as you may go to the fountain which stands in the street, and sends forth its sparkling streams, that he who is thirsty may drink, so may you come now. “The greater the wretch,” said Rowland Hill in his hymn — “the welcomer here.” Christ loves to save big sinners. Black sinners, double-dyed sinners, crimson-dyed sinners, Jesus Christ delights to wash. Oh! is there such-an-one here to-night? Is there a heart here that longs to have Christ to be his all in all? Soul, if thou art longing for Christ, he is longing for thee. Let the match be made to-night, since you are both agreed. Since you are agreed to have Christ, and he wills to have you — here, strike hands to-night, and take him “to have and to hold, for better for worse, for life and for death,” yea, for all eternity! What sayest thou? “Oh, I am not worthy.” “Ah!” saith he, “thou art black, but thou art comely in me; if thou art but willing to come to me now.” Has he made thee willing to come to Christ? In Christ’s name, come! He bids thee come. From heaven he speaks to thee to-night through his ambassador, “Come and welcome, sinner, come!” The door is opened, and the Master stands outside, and he says, “My oxen and fatlings are killed; come ye to the supper!” Trust Jesus, sinner! Down with thee, down with thee, flat on thy face before him! Trust him with thy soul just as it is! Away with your “buts” and “ifs,” and with your “to-morrows” and “peradventures,” and your carnal reasonings! Now with an empty hand take a full Christ. Now, with empty, hungry mouths, receive the living food, “for he is able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by him!” One may grow hoarse in calling after poor souls, but they will never come unless our heavenly Father comes after them by his Spirit; but he often does come when the Word is preached with faithfulness and affection, God is in the Word— God wrestling with the souls of men, and going after the souls of men, and fetching in souls, as our Church-books testify every week.

     Oh! I am loath to leave off to-night. Let me plead with you another moment! Poor heart! dost thou go away and say, “There is nothing for me”? How can this be? how can it be? Even if the text condemn thee, still the gospel is preached to thee. Christ Jesus says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” There is something for you, — you that cannot see the preacher — down yonder in the lobbies, there is something for you. In your ears the Word sounds. “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” Trust Christ, sinner, and your soul is saved. A plant of the Father’s right-hand planting, is that soul who hath come to put his trust in Jesus. And the devil himself shall not be able to pluck you up.



The Peacemaker

By / Dec 8

The Peacemaker

 

 “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” — Matthew 5:9.
                    

THIS is the seventh of the beatitudes. There is a mystery always connected with the number seven. It was the number of perfection among the Hebrews, and it Seemeth as if the Saviour had put the peacemaker there, as if he was nearly approaching to the perfect man in Christ Jesus. He who would have perfect blessedness, so far as it can be enjoyed on earth, must labour to attain to this seventh benediction, and become a peacemaker. There is a significance also in the position of the text, if you regard the context. The verse which precedes it speaks of the blessedness of “the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” It is well that we should understand this. We are to be “first pure, then peaceable.” Our peaceableness is never to be a compact with sin, or an alliance with that which is evil. We must set our faces like flints against everything which is contrary to God and his holiness. That being in our souls a settled matter, we can go on to peaceableness towards men. Not less does the verse that follows my text seem to have been put there on purpose. However peaceable we may be in this world, yet we shall be misrepresented and misunderstood; and no marvel, for even the Prince of peace, by his very peacefulness, brought fire upon the earth. He himself, though he loved mankind, and did no ill, was “despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Lest, therefore, the peaceable in heart should be surprised when they meet with enemies, it is added in the following verse, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for their’s is the kingdom of heaven.” Thus the peacemakers are not only pronounced to be blessed, but they are compassed about with blessings. Lord, give us grace to climb to this seventh beatitude! Purify our minds that we may be “first pure, then peaceable,” and fortify our souls, that our peaceableness may not lead us into surprise and despair, when for thy sake we are persecuted among men.  

     Now let us endeavour to enter into the meaning of our text. Thus would we handle it this morning, as God shall help us. First, let us describe the peacemakerproclaim his blessednessset him to worklet the preacher become a peacemaker himself.

      I. First, LET USDESCRIBE THE PEACEMAKER. The peacemaker, while distinguished by his character, has the outward position and condition of other men. He stands in all relations of life just as other men do.

     Thus the peacemaker is a citizen, and though he be a Christian, he remembers that Christianity does not require him to forego his citizenship, but to use and to improve it for Christ's glory. The peacemaker, then, as a citizen, loveth peace. If he liveth in this land, he knows that he lives among a people who are very sensitive of their honour, and are speedily and easily provoked — a people who are so pugilistic in their character that the very mention of war stirs their blood, and they feel as if they would go at it at once with all their force. The peacemaker remembereth the war with Russia, and he recollecteth what fools we were that we should have meddled there, to bring to ourselves great losses both in trade and money, and no advantage whatever that is perceptible. He knoweth that this nation hath often been drifted into war for political purposes, and that usually the pressure and burden of it cometh upon the poor working man, upon such as have to earn their living by the sweat of their face. Therefore, though he, like other men, feeleth hot blood, and being an Englishman born, feeleth the blood of the old sea kings often in his veins, yet he represseth it, and saith to himself. “I must not strive, for the servant of God must be gentle to all men, apt to teach, patient. So he putteth his back against the current, and when be heareth everywhere the noise of war, and seeth many that are hot for it, he doth his best to administer a cooling draught, and he saith, “Be patient; let it alone; if the thing be an evil, yet war is worse than any other evil. There was never a bad peace yet, and never a good war,” saith he, “and whatever loss we may sustain by being too quiet, we shall certainly lose a hundred times as much by being too fierce.” And then in the present case he thinketh how ill it would be for two Christian nations to go to war — two nations sprung of the same blood, — two countries which really have a closer relation than any other two countries upon the face of the earth, — rivals in their liberal institutions, — coadjutors in propagating the gospel of Christ, — two nations that have within their midst more of the elect of God and more of the true followers of Christ than any other nations under heaven. Yea, he thinketh within himself, it were ill that the bones of our sons and daughters should go again to make manure for our fields, as they have done. He remembereth that the farmers of Yorkshire brought home the mould from Waterloo with which to manure their own fields — the blood and bones of their own sons and daughters; and he thinketh it not meet that the prairies of America should be enriched with the blood and bones of his children; and on the other hand he thinketh that he would not smite another man, but would sooner be smitten of him, and that blood would be to him an awful sight. So he saith, “What I would not do myself, I would not have others do for me, and if I would not be a killer, neither would I have others killed for me.” He walketh in vision over a field of battle; he heareth the shrieks of the dying and the groans of the wounded; he knows that even conquerors themselves have said that all the enthusiasm of victory has not been able to remove the horror of the dreadful scene after the fight; and so he saith, “Nay, peace, peace!” If he have any influence in the commonwealth, if he be a member of the House of Parliament, if he be a writer in a newspaper, or if he speak from the platform, he saith, “Let us look well to it ere we hurry into this strife. We must preserve our country’s honour; we must maintain our right to entertain those who flee from their oppressors; we must maintain that England shall ever be the safe home of every rebel who flies from his king, a place from which the oppressed shall never be dragged by force of arms; yet still,” he saith, “cannot this be, and yet no blood?” And he biddeth the law officers look well to it and see if they cannot find that peradventure there may have been an oversight committed, which may be pardoned and condoned without the shedding of blood, without the plucking of the sword from its scabbard. Well, he saith of war that it is a monster, that at its best it is a fiend, that of all scourges it is the worst ; and he looketh upon soldiers as the red twigs of the bloody rod, and he beggeth God not to smite a guilty nation thus, but to put up the sword awhile, that we be not cast into trouble, overwhelmed with sorrow, and exposed to cruelty, which may bring thousands to the grave, and multitudes to poverty. Thus the peacemaker acteth; and he feels that while he does so, his conscience justifies him, and he is blessed, and men shall one day acknowledge that he was one of the children of God.

     But the peacemaker is not only a citizen, but a man, and if sometimes he letteth general politics alone, yet as a man he thinks that the politics of his own person must always be those of peace. There, if his honour be stained, he standeth not up for it: he counteth that it were a greater stain to his honour for him to be angry with his fellow than for him to bear an insult. He heareth others say, “If you tread upon a worm it will turn;” but he saith, “I am not a worm, but a Christian, and therefore I do not turn, except to bless the hand that smites, and to pray for those that despitefully use me.” He hath his temper, for the peacemaker can be angry, and woe to the man who cannot be; he is like Jacob halting on his thigh, for anger is one of the holy feet of the soul, when it goeth in the right direction; but while he can be angry, he learneth to “be angry and sin not,” and “he suffereth not the sun to go down upon his wrath.” When he is at home, the peacemaker seeketh to be quiet with his servants and with his household; he putteth up with many things sooner than he will speak one uncomely word, and if he rebuketh, it is ever with gentleness, saying, “Why do ye this? — why do ye this?” — not with the severity of a judge, but with the tenderness of a father. The peacemaker may learn a lesson, perhaps, from a story which I met with last week in reading the life of Mr. John Wesley. Going across in a ship to America with Mr. Oglethorpe, who was to be the governor of Savannah, he one day heard a great noise in the governor's cabin. So Mr. Wesley went there, and the governor said, “I dare say you want to know what this noise is about, sir, I have good occasion for it. You know, sir,” said he, “ that the only wine I drink is Cyprus wine, and it is necessary for me ; I put it on board, and this rascal, my servant, this Grimaldi, has drunken all of it ; I will have him beaten on the deck, and the first ship of war that comes by, he shall be in taken by press, and enlisted in His Majesty’s service, and a hard time he shall have of it, for I will let him know that I never forgive.” “Your honour,” said Mr. Wesley, “then I hope you never sin.” The rebuke was so well put, so pointed, and so needed, that the governor replied in a moment, “Alas, sir, I do sin, and I have sinned in what I have said; for your sake he shall be forgiven; I trust he will not do the like again.” So the peacemaker always thinketh that it is best for him, as he is a sinner himself, and responsible to his own Master, not to be too hard a master to his servants, lest when he is provoking them he may be also provoking his God.

     The peacemaker goes abroad also, and when he is in company he sometimes meets with slurs, and even with insults, but he learns to bear these, for he remembereth that Christ endured much contradiction of sinners against himself. Holy Cotton Mather, a great Puritan divine, of America, had received a number of anonymous letters, in which he was greatly abused; having read them and preserved them, he put a piece of paper round them, and wrote upon the paper when he put them on a shelf, “Libels; — Father, forgive them!” So doth the peacemaker do. He saith of all these things, “They be libels, — Father, forgive them!” and he doth not rush to defend himself, knowing that he whom he serves will take care that his good name will be preserved, if only he himself be careful how he walketh among men. He goes into business, and it sometimes happens to the peacemaker, that circumstances occur in which he is greatly tempted to go to law; but he never doth this, unless he be straitly compelled to it, for he knoweth that law work is playing with edged tools, and that they who know how to use the tools yet cut their own fingers. The peacemaker remembereth that the law is most profitable to those who carry it on; he knows too, that where men will give sixpence to the ministry for the good of their souls, and where they pay a guinea to their physician for the good of their bodies, they will spend a hundred pounds, or five hundred as a refresher to their counsel in the Court of Chancery. So he saith, “Nay, better that I be wronged by my adversary, and he get some advantage, than that both of us should lose our all.” So he letteth some of these things go by, and he findeth that on the whole, he is none the loser by sometimes giving up his rights. There be times when he is constrained to defend himself; but even then he is ready for every compromise, willing to give way at any time and at any season. He has learned the old adage, that “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure,” and so he taketh heed to it, to agree with his adversary quickly while he is yet in the way, letting strife alone ere it be meddled with, or when it be meddled with, seeking to end it as quickly as may be, as in the sight of God.

     And then the peacemaker is a neighbour, and though he never seeketh to meddle with his neighbour’s disputes, more especially if it be a dispute between his neighbour and his wife, for well he knoweth that if they two disagree, yet they will both agree very soon to disagree with him, if he meddleth between them ; if he be called in when there is a dispute between two neighbours, he never exciteth them to animosity, but he saith to them, “ Ye do not well, my brethren; wherefore strive ye with one another ? ” And though he taketh not the wrong side, but seeketh ever to do justice, yet he tempereth ever his justice with mercy, and saith unto the one who is wronged, “Canst not thou have the nobility to forgive?” And he sometimes putteth himself between the two, when they are very angry, and taketh the blows from both sides, for he knows that so Jesus did, who took the blows from his Father and from us also, that so by suffering in our stead, peace might be made between God and man. Thus the peacemaker acts whenever he is called to do his good offices, and more especially if hisstation enableth him to do it with authority. He endeavoureth, if he sits upon the judgment seat, not to bring a case to a trial, if it can be arranged otherwise. If he be a minister, and there be a difference among his people, he entereth not into the details, for well he knoweth that there is much idle tittle-tattle; but he saith, “Peace” to the billows, and “Hush” to the winds, and so he biddeth men live. They have so little while, he thinketh, to dwell together, that it were meet they should live in harmony. And so he saith, “How good and pleasant a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”

     But once again, the peacemaker hath it for his highest title, that he is a Christian. Being a Christian, he unites himself with some Christian Church; and here, as a peacemaker, he is as an angel of God. Even among Churches there be those that are bowed down with infirmities, and these infirmities cause Christian men and Christian women to differ at times. So the peacemaker saith, “This is unseemly, my brother; let us be at peace;” and he remembereth what Paul saith, “I beseech Euodias, and I beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord and he thinketh that if these two were thus besought by Paul to be of the same mind, unity must be a blessed thing, and he laboureth for it. And sometimes the peacemaker, when he sees differences likely to arise between his denomination and others, turneth to the history of Abrarn and he reads how the herdsmen of Abram did strive with the herdsmen of Lot, and he noteth that in the same verse it is said, “And the Canaanite and the Perizzite, dwelled in the land.” So he thinketh it was a shame that where there were Perizzites to look on, followers of the true God should disagree. He saith to Christians, “Do not this, for we make the devil sport; we dishonour God; we damage our own cause; we ruin the souls of men;” and he saith, “Put up your swords into your scabbards; beat peace, and fight not one with another.” They who be not peacemakers, when received into a Church, will fight upon the smallest crotchet; will differ about the minutest point; and we have known Churches rent in pieces, and schisms committed in Christian bodies through things so foolish, that a wise man could not perceive the occasion; things so ridiculous, that a reasonable man must have overlooked them. The peacemaker saith, “Follow peace with all men.” Specially he prayeth that the Spirit of God, who is the Spirit of peace, might rest upon the Church at all times, binding believers together in one, that they being one in Christ, the world may know that the Father hath sent his Son into the world; heralded as his mission was with an angelic song “Glory to God in the highest; on earth peace, good will toward men.”

     Now, I trust in the description which I have given of the peacemaker, I may have described some of you; but I fear the most of us would have to say, “Well, in many things I come short.” However, this much I would add. If there be two Christian men here present, who are at variance with each other, I would be a peacemaker, and bid them be peacemakers too. Two Spartans had quarrelled with each other, and the Spartan king, Aris, bade them both meet him in a temple. When they were both there, he heard their differences; and he said to the priest, “Lock the doors of the temple; these two shall never go forth till they be at one;” and there, within the temple, he said, “It is unmeet to differ.” So they compounded at once their differences, and went away. If this was done in an idol temple, much more let it be done in the house of God; and if the Spartan heathen did this, much more let the Christian, the believer in Christ do it. This very day, put aside from you all bitterness and all malice, and say one to another, “If in aught thou hast offended me, it is forgiven; and if in aught I have offended thee, I confess my error; let the breach be healed, and as the children of God, let us be in union with one another.” Blessed are they who can do this, for “blessed are the peacemakers!”

     II. Having thus described the peacemaker, I shall go on to DECLARE HIS BLESSEDNESS. “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” A three-fold commendation is implied.

     First, he is blessed

     And while he is blessed of God, the blessedness is diffused through his own soul. His conscience beareth witness that as in the sight of God through the Holy Spirit, he hath sought to honour Christ among men. More especially is he most blessed when he has been most assailed with curses; for then the assurance greets him, “So persecuted they the prophets that were before you.” And whereas he has a command to rejoice at all times, yet he finds a special command to be exceedingly glad when he is ill-treated. Therefore, he taketh it well, if for well-doing he be called to suffer, and he rejoiceth thus to bear a part of the Saviour’s cross. He goes to his bed; no dreams of enmity disturb his sleep; he riseth and goeth to his business, and he feareth not the face of any man, for he can say “I have not in my heart anything but friendship towards all;” or if he be attacked with slander, and his enemies have forged a lie against him, he can nevertheless say, —

“He that forged, and he that threw the dart,
Has each a brother's interest in my heart.”

     Loving all, he is thus peaceful in his own soul, and he is blessed as one that inherits the blessing of the Most High.

     And not unfrequently it cometh to pass that he is even blessed by the wicked; for though they would withhold a good word from him, they cannot. Overcoming evil with good, he heapeth coals of fire upon their heads, and melteth the coldness of their enmity, till even they say, “He is a good man.” And when he dieth, those whom he hath made at peace with one another, say over his tomb, “’T were well if the world should see many of his like; there were not half the strife, nor half the sin in it, if there were many like to him.”

     Secondly, you will observe that the text not only says he is blessed; but it adds, that he is one of the children of God. This he is by adoption and grace; but peacemaking is a sweet evidence of the work of the peaceful Spirit within. As the child of God, moreover, he hath a likeness to his Father who is in heaven. God is peaceful, longsuffering, and tender, full of lovingkindness, pity, and compassion. So is this peacemaker. Being like to God, he beareth his Father's image. Thus doth he testify to men that he is one of God's children. As one of God’s children, the peacemaker hath access to his Father. He goeth to him with confidence, saying, “Our Father which art in heaven,” which he dare not say unless he could plead with a clear conscience, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” He feels the tie of brotherhood with man, and therefore he feels that he may rejoice in the Fatherhood of God. He cometh with confidence and with intense delight to his Father who is in heaven, for he is one of the children of the Highest, who doeth good both to the unthankful and to the evil.

     And still, there is a third word of commendation in the text. They shall be called the children of God.” They not only are so, but they shall be called so. That is, even their enemies shall call them so; even the world shall say, “Ah! that man is a child of God.” Perhaps, beloved, there is nothing that so strikes the ungodly as the peaceful behaviour of a Christian under insult. There was a soldier in India, a big fellow, who had been, before he enlisted, a prizefighter, and afterwards had performed many deeds of valour. When he had been converted through the preaching of a missionary, all his messmates made a laughing-stock of him. They counted it impossible that such a man as he had been should become a peaceful Christian. So one day, when they were at mess, one of them wantonly threw into his face and bosom a whole basonful of scalding soup. The poor man tore his clothes open, to wipe away the scalding liquid, and yet self-possessed amidst his excitement, he said, “I am a Christian, I must expect this,” and smiled at them. The one who did it said, “If I had thought you would have taken it in that way, I would never have done it; I am very sorry I ever did so.” His patience rebuked their malice, and they all said he was a Christian. Thus he was called a child of God. They saw in him an evidence that was to them the more striking, because they knew that they could not have done the same. When Mr. Kilpin, of Exeter, was one day walking along the streets, an evil man pushed him from the pavement into the kennel, and as he fell into the kennel, the man said, “Lay there, John Bunyan, that is good enough for you.” Mr. Kilpin got up and went on his way, and when afterwards this man wanted to know how he took the insult, he was surprised that all Mr. Kilpin said was, that he had done him more honour than dishonour, for he thought that being called John Bunyan was worth being rolled in the kennel a thousand times. Then he who had done this said that he was a good man. So that they who are peacemakers are “called the children of God.” They demonstrate to the world in such a way, that the very blind must see and the very deaf must hear that God is in them of a truth. O that we had grace enough to win this blessed commendation! If God hath brought thee far enough, my hearer, to hunger and thirst after righteousness, I pray thee never cease thy hunger till he has brought thee so far as to be a peacemaker, that thou mayest be called a child of God.

     III. But now, in the third place, I am to try and SET THE PEACEMAKER TO WORK. Ye have much work to do, I doubt not, in your own households and your own circles of acquaintance. Go and do it. You remember well that text in Job — “Can that which is unsavoury be eaten without salt? or is there any taste in the white of an egg?” — by which Job would have us know, that unsavoury things must have something else with them, or else they will not well be pleasant for food. Now, our religion is an unsavoury thing to men: we must put salt with it; and this salt must be our quietness and peace-making disposition. Then they who would have eschewed our religion alone, will say of it, when they see the salt with it, “This is good,” and they will find some relish in this “white of an egg.” If you would commend your godliness to the eons of men, in your own houses make clear and clean work, purging out the old leaven, that ye may offer sacrifice to God of a godly and heavenly sort. If ye have any strifes among you, or any divisions, I pray you, even as God, for Christ's sake, forgave you, so also do ye. By the bloody sweat of him who prayed for you, and by the agonies of him who died for you, and in dying said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” forgive your enemies, “pray for them that despitefully use you, and bless them that curse you.” Let it be always said of you, as a Christian, “That man is meek and lowly in heart, and would sooner bear injury himself than cause an injury to another.”

     But the chief work I want to set you about is this, Jesus Christ was the greatest “They shall be His patience rebuked their malice, and they all said he was a Christian. of all peace-makers. “He is our Peace.” He came to make peace with Jew and Gentile, “for he hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.” He came to make peace between all striving nationalities, for we are “no more Greek, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ is all in all.” He came to make peace between his Father’s justice and our offending souls, and he hath made peace for us through the blood of his cross. Now, ye who are the sons of peace, endeavour as instruments in his hands to make peace between God and men. For your children’s souls let your earnest prayers go up to heaven. For the souls of all your acquaintance and kinsfolk let your supplications never cease. Pray for the salvation of your perishing fellow creatures. Thus will you be peacemakers. And when you have prayed, use all the means within your power. Preach, if God has given you the ability; preach with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven — the reconciling word of life. Teach, if you cannot preach. Teach the Word. “Be instant in season and out of season.” “Sow beside all waters;” for the gospel “speaketh better things than the blood of Abel,” and crieth peace to the sons of men. Write to your friends of Christ; and if you cannot speak much, speak a little for him. But oh! make it the object of your life to win others for Christ. Never be satisfied with going to heaven alone. Ask the Lord that you may be the spiritual father of many children, and that God may bless you to the ingathering of much of the Redeemer's harvest. I thank God that there are so many among you who are alive to the love of souls. It makes my heart glad to hear of conversions and to receive the converts; but I feel most glad when many of you, converted by my own instrumentality, under God, are made the means of the conversion of others. There be brethren and sisters here, who bring me constantly those who have been brought first to this house by them, over whom they watched and prayed, and at last have brought them to the minister, that he may hear their confession of faith. Blessed are such peacemakers! Ye have “saved a soul from death, and hidden a multitude of sins.” They that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever.” They, indeed, in heaven itself “shall be called the children of God.” The genealogy of that book, in which the names of all the Lord’s people are written, shall record that through God the Holy Ghost they have brought souls into the bond of peace through Jesus Christ.

     IV. The minister has now, in the last place, TO PRACTICE HIS OWN TEXT, AND ENDEAVOUR THROUGH GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT TO BE A PEACEMAKER THIS MORNING.

     I speak to many a score of persons this morning who know nothing of peace; for “there is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” “The wicked is like the troubled sea, which cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.” I speak not to you with any desire of making a false peace with your souls. Woe to the prophets who say “Peace, peace, when there is no peace!” Rather let me, first of all, that we may make sound work in this matter, expose the peaceless, the warring state of your soul.

     O soul! thou art this morning at war with thy conscience. Thou hast tried to quiet it, but it will prick thee. Thou hast shut up this recorder of the town of Mansoul in a dark place, and thou hast built a wall before his door; but still, when his fits are on him, thy conscience will thunder at thee and say, “This is not right; this is the path that leadeth unto hell; this is the road of destruction.” Oh! there be some of you to whom conscience is as a ghost, haunting you by day and night. Ye know the good, though ye choose the evil; ye prick your fingers with the thorns of conscience when ye try to pluck the rose of sin. To you the downward path is not an easy one; it is hedged up and ditched up, and there be many bars and gates and chains on the road; but ye climb over them, determined to ruin your own souls. Oh! there is war between you and conscience. Conscience says, “Turn;” but you say, “I will not.” Conscience says, “ Close your shop on Sunday;” conscience says, “Alter this system of trade, it is cheating;” conscience says, “ Lie not one to another, for the Judge is at the door;” conscience says, “Away with that drinking-cup, it makes the man into something worse than a brute;” conscience says, “Rend yourself from that unchaste connexion , have done with that evil, bolt thy door against lust;” but thou sayest, “I will drink the sweet though it damn me; I will go still to my cups and to my haunts, though I perish in my sins.” There is war between thee and thy conscience. Still thy conscience is God’s vicegerent in thy soul. Let conscience speak a moment or two this morning. Fear him not; he is a good friend to thee, and though he speak roughly, the day will come when thou wilt know that there is more music in the very roarings of conscience than in all the sweet and syren tones which lust adopts to cheat thee to thy ruin. Let thy conscience speak.

     But more, there is war between thee and God's law. The ten commandments are against thee this morning. The first one comes forward and says, “Let him be cursed, for he denies me. He has another God besides me, his God is his belly, he yieldeth homage to his lust.” All the ten commandments, like ten great pieces of cannon, are pointed at thee to-day, for thou hast broken all God’s statutes, and lived in the daily neglect of all his commands. Soul! thou wilt find it a hard thing to go to war with the law. When the law came in peace, Sinai was altogether on a smoke, and even Moses said, “I do exceedingly fear and quake.” What will ye do when the law comes in terror, when the trumpet of the archangel shall tear you from your grave, when the eyes of God shall burn their way into your guilty soul, when the great books shall be opened, and all your sin and shame shall be published? Can you stand against an angry law in that day? When the officers of the law shall come forth to deliver you up to the tormentors, and cast you away for ever from peace and happiness, sinner, what wilt thou do? Canst thou dwell with everlasting fires? Canst thou abide the eternal burnings? O man! “agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him: lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.”

     But, sinner, dost thou know that thou art this morning at war with God? He that made thee and was thy best friend thou hast forgotten and neglected. He has fed thee, and thou hast used thy strength against him. He has clothed thee, — the clothes thou hast upon thy back to-day are the livery of his goodness — yet, instead of being the servant of him whose livery thou wearest, thou art the slave of his greatest enemy. The very breath in thy nostrils is the loan of his charity, and yet thou usest that breath perhaps to curse him, or at the best, in lasciviousness or loose conversation,to do dishonour to his laws. He that made thee has become thine enemy through thy sin, and thou art still to-day hating him and despising his Word. You say, “I do not hate him.” Soul, I charge thee then, “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.” “No,” sayest thou, “I cannot, I will not do that!” Then thou hatest him. Jf thou lovedst him, thou wouldst keep this his great command. “His commandment is not grievous,” it is sweet and easy. Thou wouldst believe in his Son if thou didst love the Father, for “he that loveth the Father loveth him also that is begotten of him.” Art thou thus at war with God? surely this is a sorry plight for thee to be in. Canst thou meet him that cometh against thee with ten thousand? yea, canst thou stand against him who is Almighty, who makes heaven shake at his reproof, and breaks the crooked serpent with a word? Dost thou hope to hide from him? “Can any hide in secret places, that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Though thou dig in Carmel, yet will he pluck thee thence. Though thou dive into the caverns of the sea, there shall he command the crooked serpent, and it shall bite thee. If thou make thy bed in hell, he will find thee out. If thou climb to heaven, he is there.” Creation is thy prisonhouse, and he can find thee when he will. Or dost thou think thou canst endure his fury? Are thy ribs of iron? are thy bones brass? If they be so, yet shall they melt like wax before the coming of the Lord God of hosts, for he is mighty, and as a lion shall he tear in pieces his prey, and as a fire shall he devour his adversary, “for our God is a consuming fire.”      
     This, then, is the state of every unconverted man and woman in this place this morning. You are at war with conscience, at war with God’s law, and at war with God himself. And, now, then, as God's ambassadors, we come to treat of peace. I beseech you give heed. “stead, be ye reconciled to God.” moment. Look and listen. him speak to some of you. As though God did beseech you by me, I pray you, in Christ's “In his stead.” Let the preacher vanish for a It is Christ speaking to you now. Methinks I hear This is the way he speaks, “Soul, I love you; I love you from my heart; I would not have you at enmity with my Father.” 'The tear proves the truth of what he states, while he cries, “How often would I have gathered you, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wing, but ye would not.” “Yet,” saith he, “I come to treat with you of peace. Come, now, and let us reason together. of David. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies Sinner,” saith he, “thou art bidden now to hear God’s note of peace to thy soul, for thus it runs— " Thou art guilty and condemned; wilt thou confess this? Art thou willing to throw down thy weapons now, and say, Great God, I yield, I yield; I would no longer be thy foe?” If so, peace is proclaimed to thee, wicked forsake his way. and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him turn unto the Lord, for he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.’ Pardon is freely presented to every soul that unfeignedly repents of its sin; but that pardon must come to you through faith. “Let the So Jesus stands here this morning, points to the wounds upon his breast, and spreads his bleeding hands. He says, “Sinner, trust in me and live!” God proclaimeth to thee no longer his fiery law, but his sweet, his simple gospel, believe and live. “He that believeth on the Son is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life.” O soul! does the spirit of God move in thee this morning? Dost thou say, “Lord, I would be at peace with thee?” Are you willing to take Christ on his own terms, and they are no terms at all — they are simply that you should make no terms in the matter, but give yourself up, body, soul, and spirit, to be saved of him? Now, if my Master were here visibly, I think he would plead with you in such a way that many of you would say, “Lord, I believe; I would be at peace with thee.” But even Christ himself never converted a soul apart from the Holy Spirit, and even he as a preacher won not many to him, for they were hard of heart. If the Holy Ghost be here, he may as much bless you when I plead in Christ’s stead as though he pleaded himself. Soul! wilt thou have Christ or not? Young men, young women, ye may never hear this word preached in your ears again. Will ye die at enmity against God? Ye that are sitting here, still unconverted, your last hour may come, ere another sabbath’s sun shall dawn. The morrow ye may never see. Would you go into eternity, “enemies to God by wicked works?” Soul! wilt thou have Christ or no? Say “No,” if thou meanest it. Say “No, Christ, I never will be saved by thee.” Say it. Look the matter in the face. But I pray you do not say, “I will make no answer.” Come, give some answer this morning — ay, this morning. Thank God thou canst give an answer. Thank God that thou art not in hell. Thank God that thy sentence has not been pronounced — that thou hast not received thy due deserts. God help thee to give the right answer! Wilt thou have Christ or no? “I am not fit.” There is no question of fitness; it is, wilt thou have him? “I am black.” He will come into your black heart and clean it. “Oh, but I am hard-hearted.” He will come into your hard heart and soften it. Wilt thou have him? — thou canst have him if thou wilt. When God makes a soul willing, it is a clear proof that he means to give that soul Christ; and if thou art willing he is not unwilling; if he has made thee willing, thou mayest have him. “Oh,” says one, “I cannot think that I might have Christ.” Soul, thou mayest have him now. Mary, he calleth thee! John, he calleth thee! Sinner, whoever thou mayest be out of this great throng, if there be in thy soul this morning a holy willingness towards Christ, ay, or if there be even a faint desire towards him, he calleth thee, he calleth thee! O tarry not, but come thou and trust in him. Oh, if I had such a gospel as this to preach to lost souls in hell, what an effect it would have upon them! Surely, surely, if they could once more have the gospel preached in their ears, methinks the tears would bedew their poor cheeks, and they would say, “Great God, if we may but escape from thy wrath, we will lay hold on Christ.” But here it is preached among you, preached every day, till I fear it is listened to as an old, old story. Perhaps it is my poor way of telling it; but God knoweth, if I knew how to tell it better, I would do so. O my Master! send a better ambassador to these men, if that will woo them. Send thou a more earnest pleader, and a more tender heart, if that will bring them to thyself! But oh! bring them, bring them! Our heart longeth to see them brought. Sinner, wilt thou have Christ or not? This morning is the day of God's power to some of your souls, I know. The Holy Ghost is striving with some of you. Lord, win them, conquer them, overcome them! Do you say, “Yes, happy day! I would be led in triumph, captive to my Lord’s great love?” Soul, it is done, if thou believest. Trust Christ, and thy many sins are all forgiven thee: cast thyself before his dear cross, and say —

“A guilty, weak, and helpless worm,
Into thy arms I fall;
Be thou my strength and righteousness,
My Jesus and my all.”

And if he reject thee, tell us of it. If he refuse thee, let us hear it. There was never such a case yet. He always has received those that come. He always will. He is an open-handed and an open-hearted Saviour. O sinner! God bring thee to put thy trust in him once for all! Spirits above! tune your harps anew; there is a sinner born to God this morning. Lead thou the song, 0 Saul of Tarsus! and follow thou with sweetest music, O Mary, the sinner! Let music roll up before the throne to-day; for there are heirs of glory born, and prodigals have returned! To God be the glory for ever and ever! Amen.

 



It is Finished!

By / Dec 1

It is Finished!

 

 “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.” — John 19:30.

 

MY brethren, I would have you attentively observe the singular clearness, power, and quickness of the Saviour's mind in the last agonies of death. When pains and groans attend the last hour, they frequently have the effect of discomposing the mind, so that it is not possible for the dying man to collect his thoughts, or having collected them, to utter them so that they can be understood by others. In no case could we expect a remarkable exercise of memory, or a profound judgment upon deep subjects from an expiring man. But the Redeemer’s last acts were full of wisdom and prudence, although his sufferings were beyond all measure excruciating. Remark how clearly he perceived the significance of every type! How plainly he could read with dying eye those divine symbols which the eyes of angels could only desire to look into! He saw the secrets which have bewildered sages and astonished seers, all fulfilled in his own body. Nor must we fail to observe the power and comprehensiveness by which he grasped the chain which binds the shadowy past with the sun-lit present. We must not forget the brilliance of that intelligence which threaded all the ceremonies and sacrifices on one string of thought, beheld all the prophecies as one great revelation, and all the promises as the heralds of one person, and then said of the whole, “‘It is finished,’ finished in me.” What quickness of mind was that which enabled him to traverse all the centuries of prophecy; to penetrate the eternity of the covenant, and then to anticipate the eternal glories! And all this when he is mocked by multitudes of enemies, and when his hands and feet are nailed to the cross! What force of mind must the Saviour have possessed, to soar above those Alps of Agony, which touched the very clouds. In what a singular mental condition must he have been during the period of his crucifixion, to be able to review the whole roll of inspiration! Now, this remark may not seem to be of any great value, but I think its value lies in certain inferences that may be drawn from it. We have sometimes heard it said, “How could Christ, in so short a time, bear suffering which should be equivalent to the torments — the eternal- torments of hell?” Our reply is, we are not capable of judging what the Son of God might do even in a moment, much less what he might do and what he might suffer in his life and in his death. It has been frequently affirmed by persons who have been rescued from drowning, that the mind of a drowning man is singularly active. One who, after being some time in the water, was at last painfully restored, said that the whole of his history seemed to come before his mind while he was sinking, and that if any one had asked him how long he had been in the water, he should have said twenty years, whereas he had only been there for a moment or two. The wild romance of Mahomet’s journey upon Alborak is not an unfitting illustration. He affirmed that when the angel came in vision to take him on his celebrated journey to Jerusalem, he went through all the seven heavens, and saw all the wonders thereof, and yet he was gone so short a time, that though the angel’s wing had touched a basin of water when they started, they returned soon enough to prevent the water from being spilt. The long dream of the epileptic impostor may really have occupied but a second of time. The intellect of mortal man is such that, if God wills it, when it is in certain states, it can think out centuries of thought at once; it can go through in one instant what we should have supposed would have taken years upon years of time for it to know or feel. We think, therefore, that from the Saviour’s singular clearness and quickness of intellect upon the cross, it is very possible that he did in the space of two or three hours endure not only the agony which might have been contained in centuries, but even an equivalent for that which might be comprehended in everlasting punishment. At any rate, it is not for us to say that it could not be so. When the Deity is arrayed in manhood, then manhood becomes omnipotent to suffer; and just as the feet of Christ were Once almighty to tread the seas, so now was his whole body become almighty to dive into the great waters, to endure an immersion in “unknown agonies.” Do not, I pray you, let us attempt to measure Christ’s sufferings by the finite line of your own ignorant reason, but let us know and believe that what he endured there was accepted by God as an equivalent for all our pains, and therefore it could not have been a trifle, but must have been all that Hart conceived it to be, when he says He bore —

“All that incarnate God could bear,
With strength enough, but none to spare.”

     My discourse will, I have no doubt, more fully illustrate the remark with which I have commenced; let us proceed to it at once. First, let us hear the text and understand it; then let us hear it and wonder at it; and then, thirdly, let us hear it and proclaim it.

     I. LET US HEAR THE TEXT AND UNDERSTAND IT.

     The Son of God has been made man. He has lived a life of perfect virtue and of total self-denial. He has been all that life long despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. His enemies have been legion; his friends have been few, and those few faithless. He is at last delivered over into the hands of them that hate him. He is arrested while in the act of prayer; he is arraigned before both the spiritual and temporal courts. He is robed in mockery, and then unrobed in shame. He is set upon his throne in scorn, and then tied to the pillar in cruelty. He is declared innocent, and yet he is delivered up by the judge who ought to have preserved him from his persecutors. He is dragged through the streets of that Jerusalem which had killed the prophets, and would now crimson itself with the blood of the prophets’ Master. He is brought to the cross; he is nailed fast to the cruel wood. The sun burns him. His cruel wounds increase the fever. God forsakes him. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” contains the concentrated anguish of the world. While he hangs there in mortal conflict with sin and Satan, his heart is broken, his limbs are dislocated. Heaven fails him, for the sun is veiled in darkness. Earth forsakes him, for “his disciples forsook him and fled.” He looks everywhere, and there is none to help; he casts his eye around, and there is no man that can share his toil. He treads the winepress alone; and of the people there is none with him. On, on, he goes, steadily determined to drink the last dreg of that cup which must not pass from him if his Father’s will be done. At last he cries — “It is finished,” and he gives up the ghost. Hear it, Christians, hear this shout of triumph as it rings to-day with all the freshness and force which it had eighteen hundred years ago! Hear it from the Sacred Word, and from the Saviour’s lips, and may the Spirit of God open your ears that you may hear as the learned, and understand what you hear!

     1. What meant the Saviour, then, by this — “It is finished?” He meant, first of all, that all the types, promises, and prophecies were now fully accomplished in him. Those who are acquainted with the original will find that the words — “It is finished,” occur twice within three verses. In the 28th verse, we have the word in the Greek; it is translated in our version “accomplished,” but there it stands — “After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now finished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.” And then he afterwards said, “It is finished.” This leads us to see his meaning very clearly, that all the Scripture was now fulfilled, that when he said, “It is finished,” the whole book, from the first to the last, in both the law and the prophets, was finished in him. There is not a single jewel of promise, from that first emerald which fell on the threshold of Eden, to that last sapphire-stone of Malachi, which was not set in the breast-plate of the true High Priest. Nay, there is not a type, from the red heifer downward to the turtle-dove, from the hyssop upwards to Solomon’s temple itself, which was not fulfilled in him; and not a prophecy, whether spoken on Chebar’s bank, or on the shores of Jordan; not a dream of wise men, whether they had received it in Babylon, or in Samaria, or in Judea, which was not now fully wrought out in Christ Jesus. And, brethren, what a wonderful thing it is, that a mass of promises, and prophecies, and types, apparently so heterogeneous, should all be accomplished in one person! Take away Christ for one moment, and I will give the Old Testament to any wise man living, and say to him, “Take this; this is a problem; go home and construct in your imagination an ideal character who shall exactly fit all that which is herein foreshadowed ; remember, he must be a prophet like unto Moses, and yet a champion like to Joshua ; he must be an Aaron and a Melchisedek; he must be both David and Solomon, Noah and Jonah, Judah and Joseph. Nay, he must not only be the lamb that was slain, and the scape-goat that was not slain, the turtle-dove that was dipped in blood, and the priest who slew the bird, but he must be the altar, the tabernacle, the mercy-seat, and the shewbread.” Nay, to puzzle this wise man further, we remind him of prophecies so apparently contradictory, that one would think they never could meet in one man. Such as these, “All kings shall fall down before him, and all nations shall serve him;” and yet, “He is despised and rejected of men.” He must begin by showing a man born of a virgin mother — “A virgin shall conceive and bear a son.” He must be a man without spot or blemish, but yet one upon whom the Lord doth cause to meet the iniquities of us all. He must be a glorious one, a Son of David, but yet a root out of a dry ground. Now, I say it boldly, if all the greatest intellects of all the ages could set themselves to work out this problem, to invent another key to the types and prophecies, they could not do it. I see you, ye wise men, ye are poring over these hieroglyphs; one suggests one key, and it opens two or three of the figures, but you cannot proceed, for the next one puts you at a nonplus. Another learned man suggests another clue, but that fails most where it is most needed, and another, and another, and thus these wondrous hieroglyphs traced of old by Moses in the wilderness, must be left unexplained, till one comes forward and proclaims, “The cross of Christ and the Son of God incarnate,” then the whole is clear, so that he that runs may read, and a child may understand. Blessed Saviour! In thee we see everything fulfilled, which God spoke of old by the prophets; in thee we discover everything carried out in substance, which God had set forth us in the dim mist of sacrificial smoke. Glory be unto thy name! “It is finished” — everything is summed up in thee.

     2. But the words have richer meaning. Not only were all types, and prophecies, and promises thus finished in Christ, but all the typical sacrifices of the old Jewish law, were now abolished as well as explained. They were finished— finished in him. Will you imagine for a minute the saints in heaven looking down upon what was done on earth— Abel and his friends who had long ago before the flood been sitting in the glories above. They watch while God lights star after star in heaven. Promise after promise flashes light upon the thick darkness of earth. They see Abraham come, and they look down and wonder while they see God revealing Christ to Abraham in the person of Isaac. They gaze just as the angels do, desiring to look into the mystery. From the times of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, they see altars smoking, recognitions of the fact that man is guilty, and the spirits before the throne say, “Lord, when will sacrifices finish? – when will blood no more be shed?” The offering of bloody sacrifices will sacrifices soon increases. — It is now carried on by men ordained for the purpose. Aaron and the high priests, and the Levites, every morning and every evening offer a lamb, while great sacrifices are offered on special occasions. Bullocks groan, rams bleed, the necks of doves are wrung, and all the while the saints are crying, “O Lord, how long? — when shall the sacrifice cease?” Year after year the high priest goes within the veil and sprinkles the mercy-seat with blood; the next year sees him do the like, and the next, and again, and again, and again. David offers hecatombs, Solomon slaughters tens of thousands, Hezekiah offers rivers of oil, Josiah gives thousands of the fat of fed beasts, and the spirits of the just say, “Will it never be complete? – Will the sacrifice never be finished? – must there always be a remembrance of sin? – will not the last High priest soon come? – will not the order and line of Aaron soon lay aside its labour, because the whole is finished?” Not yet, not yet, ye spirits of the just, for after the captivity the slaughter of victims still remains. But lo, he comes! Gaze more intently than before — He comes who is to close the line of priests! Lo! there he stands, clothed — not now with linen ephod, not with ringing bells, nor with sparkling jewels on his breastplate — but arrayed in human flesh he stands, his cross his altar, his body and his soul the victim, himself the priest, and lo! before his God he offers up his own soul within the veil of thick darkness which hath covered him from the sight of men. Presenting his own blood, he enters within the veil, sprinkles it there, and coming forth from the midst of the darkness, he cries, “It is finished! It is finished! – that for which ye looked so long, is fully achieved and perfected for ever.

     3. The Saviour meant, we doubt not, that in this moment his perfect obedience was finished. It was necessary, in order that man might be saved, that the law of God should be kept, for no man can see God's face except he be perfect in righteousness. Christ undertook to keep God's ’s law for his people, to obey its every mandate, and preserve its every statute intact. Throughout the first years of his life he privately obeyed, honouring his father and his mother; during the next three years he publicly obeyed God, spending and being spent in his service, till if you would know what a man would be whose life was wholly conformed to the law of God, you may see him in Christ.

“My dear Redeemer and my Lord,
I read my duty in thy word,
But in thy life the law appears
Drawn out in living characters.”

     It needed nothing to complete the perfect virtue of life but the entire obedience of death. He who would serve God must be willing not only to give all his soul and his strength while he lives, but he must stand prepared to resign life when it shall be for God’s glory. Our perfect substitute put the last stroke upon his work by dying, and therefore he claims to be absolved from further debt, for “it is finished.” Yes, glorious Lamb of God, it is finished! Thou hast been tempted in all points like as we are, yet hast thou sinned in none! It was finished, for the last arrow out of Satan's quiver had been shot at thee; the last blasphemous insinuation, the last wicked temptation had spent its fury on thee; the Prince of this world had surveyed thee from head to foot, within and without, but he had found nothing in thee. Now thy trial is over, thou hast finished the work which thy Father gave thee to do, and so finished it that hell itself cannot accuse thee of a flaw. And now, looking upon thine entire obedience, thou sayest, “It is finished,” and we thy people believe most joyously that it is even so. Brothers and sisters, this is more than you or I could have said if Adam had never fallen. If we had been in the garden of Eden to-day, we could never have boasted a finished righteousness, since a creature can never finish its obedience. As long as a creature lives it is bound to obey, and as long as a free agent exists on earth it would be in danger of violating the vow of its obedience. If Adam had been in Paradise from the first day until now, he might fall to-morrow. Left to himself there would be no reason why that king of nature should not yet be uncrowned. But Christ the Creator, who finished creation, has perfected redemption. God can ask no more. The law has received all it claims; the largest extent of justice cannot demand another hour’s obedience. It is done; it is complete; the last throw of the shuttle is over, and the robe is woven from the top throughout. Let us rejoice, then, in this that the Master meant by his dying cry that his perfect righteousness wherewith he covers us was finished.

     4. But next, the Saviour meant that the satisfaction which he rendered to the justice of God was finished. The debt was now, to the last farthing, all discharged. The atonement and propitiation were made once for all, and for ever, by the one offering made in Jesu’s body on the tree. There was the cup; hell was in it; the Saviour drank it — not a sip and then a pause; not a draught and then a ceasing; but he drained it till there is not a dreg left for any of his people. The great ten-thonged whip of the law was worn out upon his back; there is no lash left with which to smite one for whom Jesus died. The great cannonade of God’s justice has exhausted all its ammunition; there is nothing left to be hurled against a child of God. Sheathed is thy sword, O Justice! Silenced is thy thunder, O Law! There remaineth nothing now of all the griefs, and pains, and agonies which chosen sinners ought to have suffered for their sins, for Christ has endured all for his own beloved, and “it is finished.” Brethren, it is more than the damned in hell can ever say. If you and I had been constrained to make satisfaction to God’s justice by being sent to hell we never could have said, “It is finished.” Christ has paid the debt which all the torments of eternity could not have paid. Lost souls, ye suffer to-day as ye have suffered forages past, but God’s justice is not satisfied; his law is not fully magnified. And when time shall fail, and eternity shall have been flying on, still for ever, for ever, the uttermost farthing never having been paid, the chastisement for sin must fall upon unpardoned sinners. But Christ has done what all the flames of the pit could not do in all eternity; he has magnified the law and made it honourable, and now from the cross he cries — “It is finished.”

     5. Once again: when he said, “It is finished,” Jesus had totally destroyed the power of Satan, of sin, and of death. The champion had entered the lists to do battle for our soul’s redemption, against all our foes. He met Sin. Horrible, terrible, all-but omnipotent Sin nailed him to the cross; but in that deed, Christ nailed Sin also to the tree. There they both did hang together — Sin, and Sin’s destroyer. Sin destroyed Christ, and by that destruction Christ destroyed Sin. Next came the second enemy, Satan. He assaulted Christ with all his hosts. Calling up his myrmidons from every comer and quarter of the universe, he said, “Awake, arise, or be for ever fallen! Here is our great enemy who has sworn to bruise my head; now let us bruise his heel!” They shot their hellish darts into his heart; they poured their boiling cauldrons on his brain; they emptied their venom into his veins; they spat their insinuations into his face; they hissed their devilish fears into his ear. He stood alone, the lion of the tribe of Judah, hounded by all the dogs of hell. Our champion quailed not, but used his holy weapons, striking right and left with all the power of God-supported manhood. On came the hosts; volley after volley was discharged against him. No mimic thunders were these, but such as might shake the very gates of hell. The conqueror steadily advanced, overturning their ranks, dashing in pieces his enemies, breaking the bow and cutting the spear in sunder, and burning the chariots in the fire, while he cried, “In the name of God will I destroy ye!” At last, foot to foot, he met the champion of hell, and now our David fought with Goliath. Not long was the struggle ; thick was the darkness which gathered round them both; but he who is the Son of God as well as the Son of Mary, knew how to smite the fiend, and he did smite him with divine fury, till, having despoiled him of his armour, having quenched his fiery darts, and broken his head, he cried, “It is finished,” and sent the fiend, bleeding and howling, down to hell. We can imagine him pursued by the eternal Saviour, who exclaims: —

                                                              “Traitor!
                                                               My bolt shalt find and pierce thee through,
                                                               Though under hell's profoundest wave
                                                               Thou div’st, to seek a shelt’ring grave.”

His thunderbolt o’er took the fiend, and grasping him with both his hands, the Saviour drew around him the great chain. The angels brought the royal chariot from on high, to whose wheels the captive fiend was bound. Lash the coursers up the everlasting hills! Spirits made perfect come forth to meet him. Hymn the conqueror who drags death and hell behind him, and leads captivity captive! “Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, that the King of glory may come in!” But stay; ere he enters, let him be rid of this his burden. Lo! he takes the fiend, and hurls him down through illimitable night, broken, bruised, with his power destroyed, bereft of his crown, to lie for ever howling in the pit of hell. Thus, when the Saviour cried, “It is finished,” he had defeated Sin and Satan; nor less had he vanquished Death. Death had come against him, as Christmas Evans puts it, with his fiery dart, which he struck right through the Saviour, till the point fixed in the cross, and when he tried to pull it out again, he left the sting behind. What could he do more? He was disarmed. Then Christ set some of his prisoners free; for many of the saints arose and were seen of many: then he said to him, “Death, I take from thee thy keys; thou must live for a little while to be the warder of those beds in which my saints shall sleep, but give me thy keys.” And lo! the Saviour stands to-day with the keys of death hanging at his girdle, and he waits until the hour shall come of which no man knoweth; when the trump of the archangel shall ring like the silver trumpets of Jubilee, and then he shall say, “Let my captives go free.” Then shall the tombs be opened in virtue of Christs death, and the very bodies of the saints shall live again in an eternity of glory.

“’It is finish’d!’
Hear the dying Saviour cry.”

     II. Secondly, LET US HEAR AND WONDER.

     Let us perceive what mighty things were effected and secured by these words, “It is finished.” Thus he ratified the covenant That covenant was signed and sealed before, and in all things it was ordered well, but when Christ said, “It is finished,” then the covenant was made doubly sure; when the blood of Christ’s heart bespattered the divine roll, then it could never be reversed, nor could one of its ordinances be broken, nor one of its stipulations fail. You know the covenant was on this wise. God covenants on his part that he would give Christ to see of the travail of his soul; that all who were given to him should have new hearts and right spirits; that they should be washed from sin, and should enter into life through him. Christ’s side of the covenant was this — “Father, I will do thy will; I will pay the ransom to the last jot and tittle; I will give thee perfect obedience and complete satisfaction.” Now if this second part of the covenant had never been fulfilled, the first part would have been invalid, but when Jesus said, “It is finished,” then there was nothing left to be performed on his part, and now the covenant is all on one side. It is God’s “I will,” and “They shall.” “A new heart will I give you, and a right spirit will I put within you.” “I will sprinkle clean water upon you and ye shall be clean.” “From all your iniquities will I cleanse you.” “I will lead you by a way that ye know not.” “I will surely bring them in.” The covenant that day was ratified. When Christ said, “It is finished,” his Father was honoured, and divine justice was fully displayed. The Father always did love his people. Do not think that Christ died to make God the Father loving. He always had loved them from before the foundation of the world, but — “It is finished,” took away the barriers which were in the Father's way. He would, as a God of love, and now he could as a God of justice, bless poor sinners. From that day the Father is well pleased to receive sinners to his bosom. When Christ said — “It is finished,” he himself was glorified. Then on his head descended the all-glorious crown. Then did the Father give to him honours, which he had not before. He had honour as God, but as man he was despised and rejected; now as God and man Christ was made to sit down for ever on his Father’s throne, crowned with honour and majesty. Then, too, by “It is finished,” the Spirit was procured for us.

“Tis by the merit of his death
Who hung upon the tree,
The Spirit is sent down to breathe
On such dry bones as we.”

     Then the Spirit which Christ had aforetime promised, perceived a new and living way by which he could come to dwell in the hearts of men, and men might come up to dwell with him above. That day too, when Christ said — “It is finished,” the words had effect on heaven. Then the walls of chrysolite stood fast; then the jasper-light of the pearly-gated city shone like the light of seven days. Before, the saints had been saved as it were on credit. They had entered heaven, God having faith in his Son Jesus. Had not Christ finished his work, surely they must have left their shining spheres, and suffered in their own persons for their own sins. I might represent heaven, if my imagination might be allowed a moment, as being ready to totter if Christ had not finished his work; its stones would have been unloosed; massive and stupendous though its bastions are, yet had they fallen as earthly cities reel under the throes of earthquake. But Christ said, “It is finished,” and oath, and covenant, and blood set fast the dwelling-place of the redeemed, made their mansions safely and eternally their own, and bade their feet stand immoveably upon the rock. Nay, more, that word “It is finished!” took effect in the gloomy caverns and depths of HELL. Then Satan bit his iron bands in rage, howling, “I am defeated by the very man whom I thought to overcome; my hopes are blasted; never shall an elect one come into my prison-house, never a blood-bought one be found in my abode.” Lost souls mourned that day, for they said — “It is finished!” and if Christ himself, the substitute, could not be permitted to go free till he had finished all his punishment, then we shall never be free.” It was their double death-knell, for they said, “Alas for us! Justice, which would not suffer the Saviour to escape, will never suffer us to be at liberty. It is finished with him, and therefore it shall never be finished for us.” That day, too, the earth had a gleam of sunlight cast over her which she had never known before. Then her hill-tops began to glisten with the rising of the sun, and though her valleys still are clothed with darkness, and men wander hither and thither, and grope in the noonday as in the night, yet that sun is rising, climbing still its heavenly steeps, never to set, and soon shall its rays penetrate through the thick mists and clouds, and every eye shall see him, and every heart be made glad with his light. The words “It is finished!” consolidated heaven, shook hell, comforted earth, delighted the Father, glorified the Son, brought down the Spirit, and confirmed the everlasting covenant to all the chosen Beed.

     III. And now I come to my last point, upon which very briefly. “It is finished!” LET US PUBLISH IT.

     Children of God, ye who by faith received Christ as your all in all, tell it every day of your lives that “it is finished.” Go and tell it to those who are torturing themselves, thinking through obedience and mortification to offer satisfaction. Yonder Hindoo is about to throw himself down upon the spikes. Stay, poor man! wherefore wouldst thou bleed, for “it is finished”? Yonder Fakir is holding his hand erect till the nails grow through the flesh, torturing himself with fastings and with self -denials. Cease, cease, poor wretch, from all these pains, for “it is finished!” In all parts of the earth there are those who think that the misery of the body and the soul may be an atonement for sin. Rush to them, stay them in their madness and say to them, “Wherefore do ye this? ‘It is finished.’” All the pain that God asks, Christ has suffered; all the satisfaction by way of agony in the flesh that the law demandeth, Christ hath already endured. “It is finished!” And when ye have done this, go ye next to the benighted votaries of Rome, when ye see the priests with their backs to the people, offering every day the pretended sacrifice of the mass, and lifting up the host on high — a sacrifice, they say — “an unbloody sacrifice for the quick and the dead,” — cry, “Cease, false priest, cease! for ‘it is finished!? Cease, false worshipper, cease to bow, for ‘it is finished!’” God neither asks nor accepts any other sacrifice than that which Christ offered once for all upon the cross. Go ye next to the foolish among your own countrymen who call themselves Protestants, but who are Papists after all, who think by their gifts and their gold, by their prayers and their vows, by their church-goings and their chapel-goings, by their baptisms and their confirmations, to make themselves fit for God ; and say to them, “Stop, ‘it is finished God needs not this of you. He has received enough; why will ye pin your rags to the fine linen of Christ’s righteousness? Why will you add your counterfeit farthing to the costly ransom which Christ has paid in to the treasure-house of God? Cease from your pains, your doings, your performances, for ‘it is finished;’ Christ has done it all.” This one text is enough to blow the Vatican to the four winds. Lay but this beneath Popery, and like a train of gunpowder beneath a rock, it shall blast it into the air. This is a thunderclap against all human righteousness. Only let this come like a two edged sword, and your good works and your fine performances are soon cast away. “It is finished.” Why improve on what is finished? Why add to that which is complete? The Bible is finished, he that adds to it shall have his name taken out of the Book of Life, and out of the holy city: Christ’s atonement is finished, and he that adds to that must expect the selfsame doom. And when ye shall have told it thus to the ears of men of every nation and of every tribe, tell it to all poor despairing souls. Ye find them on their knees, crying, “O God, what can I do to make recompense for my offences?” Tell them, “It is finished;” the recompense is made already. “O God!” they say, “how can I ever get a righteousness in which thou canst accept such a worm as I am?” Tell them, “It is finished;” their righteousness is wrought out already; they have no need to trouble themselves about adding to it, if “it is finished.” Go to the poor despairing wretch, who has given himself up, not for death merely, but for damnation — he who says, “I cannot escape from sin, and I cannot be saved from its punishment.” Say to him, “Sinner, the way of salvation is finished once for all.” And if ye meet some professed Christians in doubts and fears, tell them, “It is finished.” Why, we have hundreds and thousands that really are converted, who do not know that “it is finished.” They never know that they are safe. They do not know that “it is finished.” They think they have faith to-day, but perhaps they may become unbelieving to-morrow. They do not know that “it is finished.” They hope God will accept them, if they do some things, forgetting that the way of acceptance is finished. God as much accepts a sinner who only believed in Christ five minutes ago, as he will a saint who has known and loved him eighty years, for he does not accept men because of any anything they do or feel, but simply and only for what Christ did, and that is finished. Oh! poor hearts! some of you do love the Saviour in a measure, but blindly. You are thinking that you must be this, and attain to that, and then you may be assured that you are saved. Oh! you may be assured of it to-day — if you believe in Christ you are saved. “But I feel imperfections.” Yes, but what of that? God does not regard your imperfections, but he covers them with Christ’s righteousness. He sees them to remove them, but not to lay them to thy charge. “Ay, but I cannot be what I would be.” But what if thou canst not? Yet God does not look at thee, as what thou art in thyself, but as what thou art in Christ.

     Come with me, poor soul, and thou and I will stand together this morning, while the tempest gathers, for we are not afraid. How sharp that lightning flash! but yet we tremble not. How terrible that peal of thunder! and yet we are not alarmed, and why? Is there anything in us why we should escape? No, but we are standing beneath the cross — that precious cross, which like some noble lightning-conductor in the storm, takes itself all the death from the lightning, and all the fury from the tempest. We are safe. Loud mayest thou roar, O thundering law, and terribly mayest thou flash, O avenging justice! We can look up with calm delight to all the tumult of the elements, for we are safe beneath the cross.

    Come with me again. There is a royal banquet spread; the King himself sits at the table, and angels are the servitors. Let us enter. And we do enter, and we sit down and eat and drink; but how dare we do this? our righteousness are as filthy rags how could we venture to come here? Oh, because the filthy rags are not ours any longer. We have renounced our own righteousness, and therefore we have renounced the filthy rags, and now to-day we wear the royal garments of the Saviour, and are from head to foot arrayed in white, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing; standing in the clear sunlight — black, but comely; loathsome in ourselves, but glorious in him; condemned in Adam, but accepted in the Beloved. We are neither afraid nor ashamed to be with the angels of God, to talk with the glorified; nay, nor even alarmed to speak with God himself and call him our friend.

     And now last of all, I publish this to sinners. I know not where thou art this morning, but may God find thee out; thou who hast been a drunkard, swearer, thief; thou who hast been a blackguard of the blackest kind ; thou who hast dived into the very kennel, and rolled thyself in the mire — if to-day thou feelest that sin is hateful to thee, believe in Him who has said, “ It is finished.” Let me link thy hand in mine; let us come together, both of us, and say, “Here are two poor naked souls, good Lord; we cannot clothe ourselves;" and he will give us a robe, for “it is finished.” “But, Lord, is it long enough for such sinners, and broad enough for such offenders?” “Yes,” saith he, “it is finished.” “But we need washing, Lord! Is there anything that can take away black spots so hideous as ours?” “Yes,” saith he, “here is the bath of blood.” “But must we not add our tears to it?” “No,” says he, “no, it is finished, there is enough.” “And now, Lord, thou hast washed us, and thou hast clothed us, but we would be still completely clean within, so that we may never sin any more; Lord, is there a way by which this can be done?” “Yes,” saith he, “there is the bath of water which floweth from the wounded side of Christ.” “And, Lord, is there enough there to wash away my guiltiness as well as my guilt?” “Ay,” saith he, “it is finished.” “Jesus Christ is made, unto you sanctification as well as redemption.” Child of God, wilt thou have Christ's finished righteousness this morning, and wilt thou rejoice in it more than ever thou hast done before? And oh! poor sinner, wilt “thou have Christ or no? “Ah,” saith one, “I am willing enough, but I am not worthy.” He does not want any worthiness. All he asks is willingness, for you know how he puts it, “Whoever will let him come.” If he has given you willingness, you may believe in Christ’s finished work this morning. “Ah!” say you, “but you cannot mean me.” But I do, for it says, " Ho, every one that thirsteth.” Do you thirst for Christ? Do you wish to be saved by him? “Every one that thirsteth,”— not only that young woman yonder, not simply that grey-headed old rebel yonder who has long despised the Saviour, but this mass below, and you in these double tiers of gallery — “Every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money come.” O that I could “compel” you to come! Great God, do thou make the sinner willing to be saved, for he wills to be damned, and will not come unless thou change his will! Eternal Spirit, source of light, and life, and grace, come down and bring the strangers home! “It is finished.’ Sinner, there is nothing for God to do. “It is finished;” there is nothing for you to do. “ It is finished ; ” Christ need not bleed. “It is finished;” you need not weep. “It is finished;” God the Holy Spirit need not tarry because of your unworthiness, nor need you tarry because of your helplessness. “It is finished; every stumbling-block is rolled out of the road; every gate is opened; the bars of brass are broken, the gates of iron are burst asunder. “It is finished;” come and welcome, come and welcome! The table is laid; the fatlings are killed; the oxen are ready. Lo! here stands the messenger! Come from the highways and from the hedges; come from the dens and from the kens of London; come, ye vilest of the vile; ye who hate yourselves to-day, come! Jesus bids you; oh! will you tarry? Oh! Spirit of God, do thou repeat the invitation and make it an effectual call to many a heart, for Jesus’ sake! Amen.



Abram and the Ravenous Birds

By / Nov 24

Abram and the Ravenous Birds 

 

“But when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away.” — Genesis 25:11.

 

WE might use this text, if we chose, as a picture of the ease with which Faith repels all attacks that are made upon Christ, the great sacrifice of the new covenant. Ainsworth tells us that the original word which we translate “drove,” has in it the force of “puffed” them away; as if with a very puff of breath these kites, and vultures, and eagles, were at once driven away from the bodies of the victims. Faith knows how, when sceptical kites, when blaspheming vultures, when speculative eagles, come down to attack the sacrifice of Christ, to chase them away with but a puff of her breath. “We know whom we have believed.” Let the earth shake; our confidence in him cannot move. He is to us as real a person as ourselves; nay, we might doubt our own existence, but Jesus, his power, his love, his precious blood, his prevalent atonement, we dare not doubt. One puff of the breath of prayer, and questions and cavils are gone; one puff of the breath of holy faith in praise, and every sceptical attack is scattered to the winds, as far as we are concerned. When these fowls come down upon the body of Christ, like Abram, by faith we “puff” them away.

     But I do not intend to use the text with such an object this morning, though one might legitimately do so. It seems to me to represent to us our duty, when distracting thoughts invade the sanctity of our holy worship. Here is Abram; he has killed the victims according to divine order; he has laid them in their places according to heavenly rule; he is waiting until God shall over those victims make and ratify the covenant; but meanwhile the buzzards, and kites, and vultures, scent the body from afar, and hasten to devour the flesh of the bullock and the ram. Abram chases them away, that so his sacrifice may not be spoiled, and he may have real fellowship with God. Brothers and sisters, we never attempt to worship God without finding some difficulties in the way.

“What various hindrances we meet,
In coming to a mercy seat!”

     We in our assemblies are like the angels in theirs; “When the sons of God came together, Satan came also among them.” We find that wherever we may be, and in whatever frame of heart, and with whatever earnestness we may attempt to worship God, there is a servant with us who must be told to stop at the foot of the mountain, while we go and worship God yonder upon the mountain-top, or else our offerings will not be profitable to ourselves, nor acceptable before God.

     I shall attempt, this morning, in dealing with this subject, first to enumerate some of those foul birds which come upon our sacrifice; secondly, to show the necessity of driving them away; and thirdly, how we are to do it.

     I. First, then, LET US MENTION SOME OF THOSE WELL-KNOWN INTRUDERS WHICH ARE PERPETUALLY MOLESTING OUR PEACE AND DISTURBING OUR SERVICE.

     First, there are wicked thoughts — the sons of Satan. These respect no sacred places. The sanctity of our closet has been violated with thoughts of lust: the dignity of the mercy-seat has net sufficed to repress the vile insinuations of blasphemy. Wickedness, though it dwelleth no more in the heart of the believer, yet seeketh to find a lodging there, and well doth it effect its purpose at times, for it tarrieth like a wayfaring man for a night, lingering there sufficiently long to mar our devotion, and to prevent our having joy in fellowship with God. Have you not found these thoughts intruding into this house, and on the Sabbath have not unhallowed things vexed you? In the sanctuary of God itself, have you not found the sons of Belial still tormenting you? You would sing God’s praise; perhaps a snatch of some unholy song suggests itself. You would pray unto God; but in your very access to the mercy-seat, you meet some fiend-like doubt. You would listen to the voice of God with all attention, but wicked temptations distract you; and you would thank God with all your souls, but folly comes. in to shut your mouth and prevent your praise. The very best of the saints have need to hold up their shield to keep off the fiery darts of Satan. Upon the best ground that ever was ploughed with gospel plough Satan will scatter the worst seed; tares will come up in God’s most fruitful field; there will be spots, even in our solemn feasts; there will be these birds upon our most hallowed sacrifices. But we must resolutely resist these harpies; these evil ones are not to be allowed at any time, but much less in the service of God. We must guard against them at all times and in all seasons, but much more when we stand in the presence of him who saith, “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.”

     In company with these foul vultures fly those ravenous kites, called worldly thoughts, which spring from the force of habit. The wheels have been running the last six days in this direction; it is not quite so easy to reverse the action, and to make them go the other way. We have been sinking, sinking, sinking in the miry clay of daily business; it is not very easy for the soul that lies cleaving to the dust to rise at once towards heaven. It is no wonder, when you have so many things to think of in this age of competition, that the ledger should lie there in front of the pew instead of the Bible, and that at times the day-book should come in when your hand holds the hymnbook, or that you should be thinking of a bad debt, or of a long account which is rather precarious, instead of meditating upon the faithfulness of God, and of pardons bought with blood. These traffickers molest the very temple, and we have not always the scourge of small cords to drive them out, nor the commanding presence of the Saviour, to say, “Take these things hence; it is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves.” How many a mother comes here with all her tribe of children on her shoulders! How many a father comes here with thoughts of where he shall apprentice his eldest son, or what shall become of his younger daughter? How many a merchant comes in, and every wind that makes the window-panes rattle reminds him of his ships at sea; how many a farmer is thinking of his land, and the fitful gleams of sunshine and returning showers make him remember his cattle and his crops. Shops and stalls, bushels and scales, silks and cottons, horses and cows, and even meaner things intrude into thy house, O King of kings! Brethren, how often do some of you indulge in them? I hope there are none of you who keep your account books on Sunday, and yet how common is this in London! There are some who shut up their shop in front, and keep it open at the back, as if they would serve the devil and cheat the Lord! If you write up your ledgers on the Sunday, why not open the shop; for you might as well be in the shop as in the counting-house; the sin is just the same, only you now add hypocrisy to it; by pretending to serve God when you do not. Yet how many there are, true believers in Christ, who would scorn to look at the ledger on the Sunday, and yet their mind is hampered with accounts, and debtor and creditor will be striking balances continually in their brain. Some professors on the Sabbath afternoon will be talking about the state of the markets, and asking, “What do you think of the rise and fall of Consols?” “When will this terrible American war be over?” “When is it likely the Manchester factories will obtain full employment by the arrival of ship loads of cotton?” or “How will Louis Napoleon pay his debts?” When they come up to the house of God in the evening, they wonder how it is they do not get on with the preacher. The preacher might wonder how he could be of any service to such hearers. They wonder that the Sabbath is not a refreshment to them; but how is it likely to be, when they still continue in their worldly employments, giving their hearts really to the world, though they profess to give their bodily presence to the service of Christ.

     Besides wicked and worldly thoughts, another set of ravens will be croaking over us. I mean anxious thoughts, which are the fruits of our unbelief. “Oh!” saith one, “how can I help it? If you knew my condition in business, you would not marvel that care will come in to-day; loss after loss, continually going backward, though with energy and perseverance I seek to make progress; a large family — a once extensive connection — the constant fear of ruin, — how can I hope to chase away anxious thoughts and carking cares on the day of rest?” My brother, I make many excuses for you; but while I make all excuses, let me remind you that it is written, “Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you.” At least to-day there is no need that you should carry that burden. Why, it will be none the worse for this one day’s letting alone, and it certainly will be none the better for this blessed day being wasted in fretting and worrying yourself. What if the burden be heavy? Is it not enough to carry it six days? Why do you need to carry it on the seventh? What if the toil be severe — and we will allow that it is — is not that the more reason why you should shorten the hours of your labour, and not give the whole seven days to it, but on this day pour out your heart before God, empty out your troubles at his feet, and leave in his hands your difficulties and your trials, believing that he knows them all, and knows how to make them all work for your good? These carking cares must be chased away, just as much as wicked thoughts, for “after all these things do the Gentiles seek.”

     But, sometimes in our prayers, and in our Sabbath worship, we shall be disturbed by those carrion crows called annoying thoughts, the offspring of our vanity. I will just mention some of them that you will think, perhaps, rather odd; but I have no doubt you know them. We have known, sometimes, a sister come to worship, and she notices “Why, Mrs. So-and-so is dressed differently from what she was last Sunday, and she had a new bonnet the Sunday before!” O silly soul, to be allured like a butterfly with colours and flowers! Then, look at yonder brother: there is So-and-so sitting in the opposite gallery, that he did not want to see to-day, at any rate, for he does not like the man, and he feels that his very presence is a detriment and a drawback to the possibility of devotion. Or, perhaps, my brethren, as you came in, there was some little mistake at the door; or, when our friend got to the pew, he found it occupied by somebody else; or, he is not occupying just the door-seat where he likes to sit; or, perhaps, he is standing in an inconvenient place. You know these are all trifles, arrant trifles, the most despicable of things; but how many there are that irritate themselves about them! And why? Because they have so high an opinion of their own dignity, that they think these little things ought not to be endured by them. No, sir. the aisle should be carpeted up which you walk; there should be an air cushion always provided, gratis, for you; there should be beadles on purpose to show you into the seat, and when you are there, every objectionable person in the congregation should be removed, and everything should be done for your personal comfort! “No, I am not so foolish as that.” I do not know that, my dear sir; there is the germ of it in most of us. We want so many of these little punctillios, and if we are not duly honoured, we cannot worship with comfort. The thought of seeing God, and enjoying the light of his countenance, has not sufficient power over the carnal hearts of some to make them forget all the little inconveniences that must occur in vast assemblies, and in a great house like this in which we are gathered. There are some fretty-tempered souls that cannot worship, because some trifle not worth a moment’s notice has disturbed their minds. Now, these feelings must be striven against; this vanity is not to be allowed in any one of us. We must denounce it, and chase it out, for it only makes us little in the esteem of others; and if we could but see ourselves, it would make us contemptible in our own sight. Oh! bless his name, when a soul is hungry, it little matters how it gets its food; when a heart is really set on finding Christ, the man will care but little what may be his comfort or his discomfort. Only let the truth of Jesus come into the soul, let him feed on its marrow and its fatness, and he will say, “I would rather be a door-keeper” (and that is a very objectionable office for anybody — if any of you tried it. you would find it very inconvenient to worship God, after having kept the door of the Tabernacle,) “I would rather be a door-keeper in the house of God, than dwell with comfort and with ease, in the tents of the wicked.”

     But, I will mention a brood of eagles which will haunt Mount Zion, — I mean ecclesiastical anxieties. And what do I mean by these? Why, that sometimes when our minds should be perfectly free for worshipping God, Church business, perhaps Church differences, thrust themselves upon us. The deacon thinks he may worry himself a little about something that has occurred with the poor; the elder thinks it would be justifiable to be thinking over the case of such-and-such a refractory individual whose case has troubled him; the member thinks he may be fretting about the dulness of the ministry; the minister thinks he may be groaning because some in the galleries have not joined the Church; and mark, all these are good things in their places, but they have no business at all with us when we come up to God’s house to worship him. Then, these birds, even though they he like the sparrows that build under the eaves of the altar, must be driven away; for, until we can get rid of them all, we shall not find the day of rest such as it should be, nor will our worship be acceptable before the throne of God, nor our own souls derive the joy they ought to have from the service and presence of the Lord.

     Probably in this description I have not yet touched your case, but I will not try again, for I think you can yourself remember many things which haunt you. Many a ship has been built here without a dry dock; many a waggon-load of corn has been sold here without a sample-bag; many a broad acre has been planted in this chapel; many a hundred head of oxen has been sold here; many a loom has been set a-going; many a vessel has been navigated; many a new shop-front constructed, and many a building erected, when you ought to have been worshipping God; for in all our places of worship there are those who will be sending their minds gadding abroad over mountains of vanity, when they ought to be sitting still, to see and to understand the salvation of God.

     II. I have described the birds; I have indicated the intruders; I have raised the hue and cry against them; let me now seek to STIR YOU UP TO CHASE THEM AWAY.

     Distracting cares must be driven away, first, for your own sake. Brethren, some of us have been alarmed to see how the lunatic asylums are everywhere needing fresh wings, and the number of inmates so rapidly increasing. If there be one reason above all others for this, I venture to assert, it is the neglect of the day of rest. No human brain can bear the perpetual toils of business, except it knows how to pause and oil the machinery by turning the mind in some other direction. Here we have merchants whose brains are exercised from the time they rise till the time they go to rest; ay, and their very dreams are disturbed by great schemes and plans; and then, when the first day of the week comes, they are scheming still. Instead of pulling up, and letting the horses of the mind take rest, so that they may start afresh in the chariot on the next week-day, it is on, on, on, on, and then they wonder that the poor creatures at last flag with weariness, or even drop dead upon the road. Flog them as you will, your minds cannot keep always at this stretch. We, whose hardest toil is on this day, and who find that the great cares of a Church so large as this will follow us to our bed, and that all the days of the week we are occupied thereby, find it to be one of our sternest trials to resist the fear that our reason may reel; for it is too hard for any man, even for the minister of God, to be always thinking, always working, even though that work be for God himself. You know what Solomon says. He says — “If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct;” by which he means to say, if the man would stop and whet his tool, it would be sharp, and he would not need to expend half the strength, while he would do far more work. But here you have some who think the Sunday must be all work, work, work; instead of which, if they were to stop to whet the edge of the tool, they would do far more in the end, while their soul would not be half so soon worn out. You have heard persons say, “I would sooner wear out than rust out.” There is no occasion for either, if we would but keep this day of rest, as a perfect rest to our heart and soul; but that we can never do unless we love Christ, for a Sabbath is an impossibility to an unconverted man. If we would but, as Christians resting in Christ, keep this first day of rest, giving our souls thorough ease, there would be no fear of the brain giving way; we should labour on, even to a good old age, and then die in peace, and our works would follow us. I cannot expect you to believe me if I should say, you can carry on your business all the days of the week without care, without diligence, without very earnest thought. We must be “diligent in business,” and you must put both your hands to the wheel, if you would make it go. But do leave the wheel alone to-day. Now, have done with it. You will madden yourself, or, if it come not to so sad a climax as that, you will destroy your comfort, destroy the acuteness of your mental powers, if you do not give them rest to-day. I am no preacher of the old legal Sabbath; those who are teachers of the law insist upon that quite enough. As for me, I am a preacher of the gospel, and rejoice that believers are not “under the law, but under grace.” A worldling is under the law, and it is his duty to remember the seventh day to keep it holy, for so runs the law which is his taskmaster; but I am not under the law, and therefore I keep this day — not the seventh, but the first day of the week, on which my Saviour rose again from the dead — keep it not of law, but of grace — keep it not as a slavish bondage, not as a day on which I am chained and hampered with restraints against my will, but a day in which I may take holy pleasure in serving God, and in adoring before his throne. The Sabbath of the Jew is to him a task; the Lord’s day of the Christian, the first day of the week, is to him a joy, a day of rest, of peace, and of thanksgiving; and if you Christian men can earnestly drive away all distractions, so that you can really rest today, it will be good for your bodies, good for your souls, good mentally, good spiritually, good temporally, and good eternally.

     Let me give you a second reason. You will find, if you are able to take a perfect rest, by driving away these evil thoughts when you are worshipping God, that you will do your work during the other days of the week far better. It was an old Popish folly to try and tell what kind of weather there would be by the weather on Sunday “If it rain before mess; rain all the week more or less.” Now, we do not believe that literally; but we do believe it in a spiritual sense. If you have a bad Sabbath-day, you will have a bad week; but if you have a good day of rest, you will find it good with your souls the whole week long; not that you will be without trouble all the week, that would not be good for you, but you shall never be without grace during the week, nor if you have peace on the Sunday shall you be without peace on the Monday; the old Puritans used to say, “The first day of the week was the market-day,” and you know in the country villages, in those times, their being fewer shops than there are now, they went to market to lay in stock for the week, and if the good wife bought a small quantity of cheese, or meat, why then they were on short commons the whole week through. So is it with us. This is our market-day, and if we gain but little to-day, we shall have slender diet during the other days; but if we get the basket loaded well, if we have reason to say, “The Lord has satisfied my soul with fatness, and caused my spirit to delight in his word,” you will find that during the week your peace shall be like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.

     And then let me remind you, in the next place, that the character of this day demands that you should get rid of these thoughts. This is the day on which – God said, “Let there be light, and there was light;” this is the day on which Christ rose again from the dead for our justification. Christ finished atonement, made an end of sin, and brought in everlasting righteousness on this blessed day. This is the day on which the Holy Ghost came down from heaven — the day on which the rushing mighty wind and the cloven tongues descended upon the apostles. Therefore, according to apostolic custom, do we keep this day as the day of light, the day of resurrection, the day of the descent of the Holy Spirit the Comforter. Now, it is inconsistent with such a day — the day of light — for us to be in darkness. It is inconsistent with the day of resurrection for us to be raking in this grave of the world. It is inconsistent with this day of the descent of the Spirit for us to be thinking of carnal things, and forgetting the things which are above. It was a Romish tradition, that on Easter morning the sun always danced; and to my mind on this day when Jesus rose and left the dead, if the sun does not dance, our heart does; and if the world is not clad in sunlight, yet our soul is; and if to-day the very sea doth not clap its hands for gladness, yet shall our voices send forth gladsome psalms. Oh! this is not the day of bondage. Go ye under the whip of Moses who choose to do so. This is the day of freedom, and of delight, the day of peace, and calm, and rest, and tranquillity. Work, and thoughts of work, doubts, fears, legality, self -righteousness, are all inconsistent with the spirit of the day, for Christ has said, “It is finished!” and we must cease to work too, not only with our hands but with our souls — working no more for life, for that is given; working no more for justification, for that is concluded; but to-day resting in Christ, for “It is finished!” and finding peace in him, for “there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus” — leaving all our cares with him, for nothing can separate us from the love of Christ,” and then giving up our souls to a glorious and gracious holy day, which shall be a preparation for the eternal enjoyment of the perpetual feast of the glorified at the table of God in heaven.

     Now, for this reason, because they are so inconsistent with this day, I pray you get rid of all these obnoxious thoughts. George Herbert has put all I could say, and far more, into two or three of his quaint verses, which I will give you.

“The other days and thou
Make up one man; whose face thou art,
Knocking at heaven with thy brow:
The working days are the back part;
The burden of the week lies there,
Making the whole to stoop and bow,
Till thy release appear.
Sundays the pillars are,
On which heaven’s palace arched lies:
The other days fill up the spare
And hollow room with vanities.
They are the fruitful beds and borders
In God's rich garden: that is bare
Which parts their ranks and orders,
Thou art a day of mirth:
And where the week-days trail on ground,
Thy flight is higher, as thy birth:
O let me take thee at the bound,
Leaping with thee from seven to seven,
Till that we both, being tossed from earth,
Fly hand in hand to heaven:”

Oh! that is the true way of living — leaping from seven to seven, passing over the six days, that we may get once more to the solid resting place of the day of rest. Be it so with you, brethren, and when the fowls come down upon the sacrifice chase them away.

     Another argument. The indulging of vain or anxious thoughts, when we are engaged in the worship of God, must be striven against, because it must be grievous to the Holy Spirit. How can we expect that we shall have his presence and his assistance if we give him not our hearts? Good Mr. Manton says, “If a man should send to a place of worship a skin stuffed with straw, it would be thought to be an insult, but he might as well do that as go there himself with his mind stuffed with vanities.” Was it not a crime of old — “This people draweth nigh to me with their lips, but their heart is far from me?” Can you conceive it enough to make long prayers, if your minds are occupied all the while about the widow’s house, or courting the approbation of man? It is vain for us to bring these oblations unto God, for his requirement is, “My son, give me thine heart.” How can the Lord, the high and lofty One, ever accept the sacrifice where not the heart is found? It was considered to be one of the worst omens in the Roman sacrifices, if the augurs discovered that the victim had no heart. So it must always be an ill omen to us, if in our worship our heart be not set on God, and intently engaged in his service. O Spirit of God! how many of us have lost our comfort, and the joy and peace of our faith, because we have not, when we have been upon our knees, or engaged in sacred songs, or in listening to the Word, compelled our thoughts to keep at home and bow down to the Most High! What think you? If you were in the presence of a king, would he consider it to be comely or decent if you should forget what you came there for; if while you offered your petition your mind should be engaged on other matters, or if you should turn your back upon him to gaze out of the windows while His Majesty spoke to you? And what are you doing, when your soul is looking to worldliness, while God's own face is speaking to you, and his Word is being read in your ears? Oh! this is to insult the Most High. Angels veil their faces, and shall our eyes be gadding abroad? Angels bow themselves before him, and continually do cry, “Holy, holy, holy and shall we insult the Divine Majesty, by coming here with unholy thoughts, or with unhallowed anxieties, not veiling our faces, but permitting them to receive all that the light of day can reveal to us of vanity, of deceit, and of care? O God! give us to know what thou art; then shall we understand how thou art to be worshipped in spirit and in truth.

    I shall add once more, these thoughts and cares must be driven away, for if you do not strive against them they will increase and multiply. This is a growing habit. I have not to complain in this congregation of any want of attention during the service; but I have had the pain of seeing assemblies where the wandering eye has been indulged, till at last it would be as pleasant and perhaps as profitable to address a load of bricks as to address the people who were assembled. They come in listlessly, some of them a half-an-hour after the service begins; and in some, where the habit has grown worse and worse, the minister generally knows when to leave off, because he sees the friends are coming in to see the others go home. They come gradually later and later, and become more and more careless about what is uttered, till an angel from heaven would scarcely make them keep open their heavy eyes, and a prophet sent from God could not stir their stolid souls. The force of habit is like the velocity of a falling stone, it increases in ever multiplying proportions. If I have indulged one unbelieving thought, there has always been another to follow it; if I have allowed some little disturbance in the congregation to cast me down, and distract my thoughts, there has been another, and another, and another, till I have been in the pitiable condition of a minister who has been half afraid of his congregation. And it will be so with you. We must strive against it; we must get rid of these carking thoughts; we must chase these birds from the sacrifice. Away with you! Away with you! We cannot have you here; we must, we will worship God, and if one effort will not give us quiet, we must try again, for it must be done, or else we shall destroy our peace, and render the Sabbath as hard a day as any of the other days of the week, while the service of God will be to us a vanity, and to him a vain oblation.  

     III. I am now, then, in the last place, to try and briefly SHOW YOU HOW TO DO IT. And we begin by saying, first of all, set your heart upon it; for when the soul is set upon a thing, then it is likely to accomplish it. Go up to God’s house, saying, “I must give my soul to eternal matters to-day, and I will. My soul crieth after God, as a thirsty stag in the wilderness brays after the water-brooks. O God, my heart is fixed to-day; I must have done with earth, I must begin with heaven; I must say to all cares, ‘sit still, and I must say to my soul, ‘Wake up, my glory, wake, psaltery and harp, I myself will awake right early to praise God.” And when the soul is thus set upon the matter, there will be half the battle already fought, and the victory almost won.

     But when you have this done, remember next; let the preparation of your heart before coming to the sacrifice assist you when you shall be there. We are told men ought not to preach without preparation. Granted. But, we add, men ought not to hear without preparation. Which, think you, needs the most preparation, the sower or the ground? I would have the sower come with clean hands; but I would have the ground well ploughed and harrowed, well turned over and the clods broken, before the seed be cast in. It seems to me that there is more preparation needed by the ground than by the sower; more by the hearer than by the preacher. But this is forgotten. Men come to market, having made up their minds what they want to sell and what they will buy, and they give their attention to how markets go, and they act accordingly. But men come into these places of worship; they do not know what they want, they come they know not what for; perhaps it is to see the place, or hear the preacher, and they go away, and they have no spiritual profit. How could they? What profit would a man make on Change, if he went there without a purpose, and stayed there without looking after his own interests? Prepare thy heart in private by communion with God, and thou shalt have communion with him in public; meet God in thy house, and thou shalt meet him in his house. What if the preacher should not profit thee? Yet it is not the preacher you came after, but his God; be but wakeful and you will meet his God in the hymn, or in the chapter. Your heart must be in a right state beforehand. You know, brethren, if you have a lake, and the water is all rippled, there may be a cedar standing on its banks, but there cannot be a perfect- reflection when the water is disturbed; but when the water is as clear as glass, then whatever there is on the bank is reflected. Ah! you must bring your heart calm and quiet to the house of God, or else there cannot be an unbroken reflection of the image of God upon your spirits. Oh! seek to come up here as a bride adorned for her husband, as wedding guests going to the wedding feast with their garments on, expecting that they shall be made glad. Come hither as hungry ones pleading for food, and thirsty souls all longing for the water of life.

     But, this done, above all, cry to the Spirit of God for help to make your spirit rest. You have trouble; he is the Comforter. You have infirmities; but “the Spirit itself also helpeth our infirmities.” You have sins; but the Spirit of God applies the peace speaking blood of Christ, gives you rest in conscience. Cry unto him! Cry unto him. as a little child crieth to its parent when it has attempted something which it cannot perform. Say, “My Father, help me! I would worship thee — O enable me to do so; I would see thee — touch my eyes with heavenly eye-salve; I would hear thee  — open my ears to day to thy voice, and seal them up to all beside; I would feed on thee — Lord, open thou my lips for thee, the bread of heaven, and let me feed on nothing save thyself.” This done, he is a God that heareth prayer, and he will grant you the desire of your heart.

     Then, when you have thus done, and you come up to the house of God, still seek to continue in the same frame of mind, remembering in whose immediate presence you are. A Spartan youth was holding the censer at a sacrifice, when Alexander was offering a victim. It chanced that while he held the censer a hot coal fell upon his hand. The youth stood still, and never flinched, lest by any utterance or cry the sacrifice should be disturbed; for he said he was in the presence of Alexander, and he would not have the sacrifice interrupted for him; and thus he bore the pain of the burning coal. Let us remember that Spartan youth, adding to what he said. “We are in the presence of the Almighty God.” Then, if there be something which annoys us, let us bear it unflinchingly, for we stand before him for whom it is blessed to suffer, and who will surely reward them that seek him in spirit and in truth. It is written in Josephus that certain of the Jewish priests, at the time of the taking of the temple, were standing at the altar. They were waving to and fro the sacred censers, and offering their prayers and their victims. The Romans rushed in, sword in hand. There were shrieks and cries, murders and deaths; the pavement was stained with blood; but the priests took notice whatever, nor would they turn from their sacrifice, till at last they were themselves slain. Oh! for something of their devotedness to God, that even death itself might not interrupt our songs, but when it comes, find us wrapped in meditation, high hymning our great Creator, expecting his glory, and waiting for his appearance. Many instances we might quote of the attention which the superstitious heathen paid to their worship. Shall we be behind them in the reality and sincerity of our adoration of the Most High and Holy God? Nay, let us, keeping our minds always fixed upon beholding the face of God, thus seek to chase away the birds from the sacrifice. Another means I will give you. Take care that your faith be in active exercise, or else you cannot chase away those thoughts. Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for him. Be still, and know that he is God. Trust in him at all times; ye people pour out your hearts before him. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage. Depend upon his power, and his wisdom, and thus thou shalt have no thought to trouble thee of what thou shalt eat, or what thou shalt drink, or wherewithal thou shalt be clothed, but like the birds of the air that keep eternal song, like the lilies of the valley which keep perpetual sabbath, so shalt thou sing and rest, and Christ shall be glorified in thee.

     Take care also that thou attend a ministry which draws thee from earth, for there are some dead ministries which make the Sabbath-day more intolerable than any of the other days of the week. Such are the controversial ministries, in which the brain is set to work, and exercised and troubled with questions, and dilemmas, and disputes, and contentions. I will not say it is wicked to preach such sermons on the Sabbath day, but I will say it is not consistent with Sabbath rest, for that rest is as much for the soul as for the body, and the Sabbath was not made alone for the animal part of us, but for the spirit, that it might have a deep, profound calm, the antepast of the rest which remaineth for the people of God. Seek a ministry that is full of Christ, full of covenant faithfulness; a ministry not of “ifs” and “buts,” but of “shalls” and “wills.”' Seek a ministry, which vindicates the Spirit’s power; which, while it teaches fully the sinner’s abject helplessness, dwells much upon the absolute Omnipotence of God to save. Seek one which preaches a full Christ for empty sinners, whose theme is death and resurrection; whose object it is to make Christ precious to thy heart, and so to compel thee to trust in him. Thus thou shall find it more easy to rest on the Sabbath-day than if thou shouldst attend under the legal preacher, whose theme is moral duties; or under the mere doctrinal preacher, whose object is contention and fighting; or under the mere experimental preacher, whose aim shall be to stir up the filthy mud of thy heart, instead of pouring into thee the pure clean water of the truth as it is in Jesus.

     O my brothers and sisters, I know how many there are of you who look forward all the week long to this day; and there are times when some of us, when we awake in the morning, can spring from our beds saying, “Thank God, this is the day of rest;” when we can say, “Now, I am not to go to my toil to-day; farewell, the bricklayer’s trowel, or the carpenter’s hammer; I have not to go to my books to-day; the high stool, and the desk, and the pen, are put away; I am not to-day to look after the servants, and the fields, and the barn; not to day to walk along the shop and see how trade is prospering or how it is receding. It is all over now. Just nail up those doors, and leave them alone; have nothing to do with them Do not tell me that I have a house, or that I have anything to think of, except Christ Jesus, his Father, and the Holy Spirit. Get ye gone, vain thoughts, I cannot meddle with you; keep your distance, I have had enough of you; you have had your six days, and you have pinched and pained me enough; now my soul has passed through the wilderness, sits down at the well of Elim, sends down its pitcher, draws up draughts of rest, climbs the palm tree, plucks the sweet fruits, and enjoys them in anticipation of the feast before the throne of God.” Ah! this will be good for your bodies, good for your souls, good for you in all respects; and my sermon shall not be in vain this morning, if I have made you think every Sunday,” The birds will come down on the carcases, but I will drive them away and if you will come to look not only on this one day, but on your seasons of prayer and meditation, as being unloading seasons, when the ship that has been sinking in the water almost to its edge, and seems as if it would go down altogether, is unloaded, and rises up and floats higher than it did before; when the eagle gets the chain untied, and leaps from the rock, up to its own native eyrie in the skies — when your poor bondaged captive soul that has been lying in the dark dungeon comes out to perfect liberty, and takes its stroll abroad, forgetful of the prison and the chain. Oh! for those heavens on earth — those precious queens of days! Time is the ring, and these Sabbaths are the diamonds set in it. The ordinary days are but the walks in the garden, hard trodden and barren; but the Sabbaths are the beds full of rich choice flowers. This day is Care’s balm and cure, the couch of time, the haven of divine calms. Come, my soul, throw thyself upon this couch; for now the bed is long enough, and the coverlet is broad enough, rest and take thine ease, for thou hast come unto Jesus, to a finished sacrifice, to a completed righteousness, and thy soul may be satisfied in the Lord, and thy spirit may rejoice in the Lord thy God. This is to keep Sabbath-days.

    An unconverted man cannot do this; and there are many of you, I fear, here present who never knew what Sabbath means — never had a Lord’s day in your lives. In vain do you keep emptily the day unless your hearts keep it too. Oh! may your hearts know how to find in Christ a perfect rest; then shall the land have rest, and shall keep her Sabbaths. May God give you to know your sin, and enable you to fly to the Saviour, and find in him all your soul wants. May he enable you to rest in Christ today, and then you shall keep Sabbaths on earth, till you keep the eternal Sabbath before the throne; “for thus saith the Spirit, They rest from their labours.” “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,” and thou shalt have rest. Trust him, and so shalt thou be saved, and thy Spirit shall be at ease.  



The Roaring Lion

By / Nov 17

The Roaring Lion

 

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” — 1 Peter 5:8-9.

 

SATAN, who is called by various names in the Scriptures, all descriptive of his bad qualities, was once an angel of God, perhaps one of the chief among the fiery ones —

“Foremost of the sons of light,
Midst the bright ones doubly bright.”

Sin, all-destroying sin, which has made an Aceldama out of Eden, soon found inhabitants for hell in heaven itself, plucking one of the brightest stars of the morning from its sphere, and quenching it in blackest night. From that moment this evil spirit, despairing of all restoration to his former glories and happiness, has sworn perpetual hostility against the God of heaven. He has had the audacity openly to attack the Creator in all his works. He stained creation. He pulled down man from the throne of glory and rolled him in the mire of depravity. With the trail of the serpent he despoiled all Eden’s beauty, and left it a waste that bringeth forth thorns and briers, a land that must be tilled with the sweat of one’s face. Not content with that; in as much as he had spoiled the first creation, he has incessantly attempted to despoil the second. Man, once made in the image of God, he soon ruined; now he uses all his devices, all his craft, all the power of his skill, and all the venom of his malice to destroy twice-made man, created in the image of Christ Jesus, and with ceaseless toil and untiring patience, he is ever occupied in endeavouring to crush the seed of the woman. There is no believer in Christ, no follower of that which is true and lovely, and of good repute, who will not find himself, at some season or other, attacked by this foul fiend and the legions enlisted in his service. Now, behold your adversary. Yea, though ye cannot see his face, or detect his form, believe that such a foe withstands you. It is not a myth, nor a dream, nor a superstitious imagination. He is as real a being as ourselves. Though a spirit, he has as much real power over hearts as we have over the hearts of others; nay, in many cases far more. This is, I repeat it, no vision of the night; no phantom of a disordered brain. That wicked one is as sternly real this day as when Christ met him in deadly conflict in the wilderness of temptation. Believers now have to fight with Apollyon in the valley of Humiliation. Woe to the professors of godliness who are defeated by this deadly antagonist; they will find it a terrible reality in the world to come. Against this prince of darkness we utter afresh this morning the warning of the apostle, “Whom resist stedfast in the faith.”

     I shall now speak to four lion points. First of all, he Satan’s incessant activity, – “He walketh about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour;” secondly, — “, He we will dwell awhile upon his terrible roarings; thirdly, upon his ultimate aim, seeking to devour God’s people; and then, lastly, let us take up the exhortation of Peter, and show how Satan is to be overcome.

     I. First, then, SATAN S PERPETUAL ACTIVITY.

Only God can be omnipresent; hence, Satan can only be in one place at one time. Yet, if you will consider how much mischief he doeth, you will easily gather that he must have an awful degree of activity. He is here, and there, and everywhere; tempting us here, and anon scattering his temptations in the countries which are antipodes to us; hurrying across the sea or speeding over the land. We have no means of ascertaining what are his means of flight; but we may easily infer from his being so constantly in all places, that he must travel with inconceivable velocity. He has, besides, a host of fallen spirits who fell with him. This great dragon drew with his tail the third part of the stars of heaven — and these are ready to execute his will and obey his behests, if not with the same potency and force which belongs by hereditary right to their great leader, still with something of his spirit, his malice, and his cunning.

     Think for awhile, how active he must be! We know that he is to be found in every place! Enter the most hallowed sanctuary, and you shall find him there. Go where men congregate upon the Exchange, and you shall lack no signs of his being present there. Retire into the quietude of the family circle, and you will soon detect in bickerings and jealousies, that Satan has scattered handfuls of evil seed there. Nor less in the deep solitude of the hermit’s cave, might you find the impress of his cloven foot. You shall sail from England to America, and find him there amidst the clashing of swords. You shall come back and journey across the mighty empire of Russia, and find him there in the tyrant’s heart, and perhaps, too, even in the enmity which is excited in the breasts of those who are oppressed. You shall go into the wilds where foot of Christian missionary never trod, but you shall find that Satan has penetrated into the far interior, and tutored the untutored barbarian. You shall go where the name of Jesus is as yet unknown, but you shall find Satan having dominion there. He is the prince of the power of the air. Wherever the breath of life is inhaled, the poisonous miasma of temptation is a thing familiar. They that dwell in the wilderness bow before him; the kings of Seba and of Sheba offer him gifts, yea, and the dwellers in the isles acknowledge him too often as their king.

     Then, remember, that as he is found in all places, so you have often found him in all your duties. You have sought to serve God in your daily avocations, but strong temptations, furious suggestions of evil, have followed you there. You have come 'home from your business almost broken -hearted with your slips. You have come into the family and sought to magnify your Master in the social circle; but perhaps in the best moment, when you seemed about to achieve the greatest work, you were tripped up by the heels; your easily- besetting sin overturned you, and Satan exulted at your fall. You found him there. You have said, “I will go to my bed,” but in your tossings at midnight, you have found him there. You have risen and said, “I will go into my closet and shut-to the door;” but who among us has not met the foul fiend even there in solitary conflict? When we wished to be wrestling with the angel of God, we have had to contend with the fiend of hell. Look upon any of your duties, Christian, and will you not see upon them marks of sin, and on some, not only marks of sin, but marks of Satan’s presence too? Satan is not in all sin; we sin of ourselves. We must not lay too much upon Satan’s shoulders. Sin grows in our hearts without any sowing, just as thorns and thistles will grow in fallow furrows; but still there are times when Satan himself must have been present, and you have had to know it and feel it. On some of the old bricks of Egypt and of Babylon there has been found the mark of a dog s foot. When the brick was made, while it was left to dry, the creature passed over it and left the imprint of its foot upon it, and now, thousands of years afterwards, when we pull down the wall we find the dog-mark. Thus hath it been often with us. While our duties were in such a state that they were yet impressible; before they were yet sun-burned, and dried, and ready to be builded up for real practical purpose, that dog of hell has passed over them and left the dog-foot on the best things that we ever did. As we look back years afterwards, we perceive what we might not have seen at the time — that he really marred and stained the best performance of our most willing hands. Ah! when I think how Satan follows us in all places and in all duties, I am sometimes almost ready to apply to him the language of David when he spoke of the omnipresent God — “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.” But glory be to God, if I climb to heaven thou art not there. There I can escape thee. Beyond the reach of thy roarings my spirit shall find her rest in God.

     We must observe also how ready Satan is to vent his spite against us in all frames of heart. When we are depressed in spirit; — perhaps some bodily illness has brought us low. our animal spirits have ebbed and we feel ready to sink, then that old coward Satan is sure to attack us. I have always noted as a matter of experience that he prefers rather to attack some of us when we are in a low and weak state than at any other time. Oh! how temptation has staggered us when we have been sick! We have said — “Ah! if this had but come when I was well, then I could have caught it on the shield at once; in fact I would have laughed at it and broken it in pieces.” But Satan avails himself of our sad and weak frames in order to make his fiery darts tell more effectively. On the other hand, if we are joyous and triumphant, and are something in the frame of mind that David was when he danced before the ark, then Satan knows how to set his traps by tempting us to presumption — “My mountain standeth firm, I shall never be moved;” or else to carnal security — “Soul, take thine ease, thou hast much goods laid up for many years;” or else to self-righteousness — “My own power and goodness have exalted me.” Or else, he will even attempt to poison our joys with the spleen of evil forebodings. “All!” saith he, “this is too good to hold; thou wilt soon be cast down, and all these fine plumes of thine shall yet be trodden like the mire of the streets.” He well knows how, in every frame of mind, to make our condition minister to his devouring purposes. He will follow thee, Christian, when thy soul is all but despairing, and he will whisper in thine ears — “God hath forsaken thee, and given thee over to the will of thine enemies.” And he will track thine upward course, riding as it were on cherub’s wings, when thou treadest the starry pathway of communion; he will dog thy footsteps even upon Tabor’s summit, and climb with thee to Pisgah’s brow. On the temple’s pinnacle he will tempt thee, saying, “Cast thyself down;” and on the mountains highest peak he will attack thee with. “Bow down and worship me.”

     And ah! remember how well he knows how to turn all the events of Providence to our
ill. Here comes Esau, hungry with hunting; there is a mess of pottage ready, that he may be tempted to sell his birthright. Here is Noah, glad to escape from his long confinement in the ark; he is merry, and there is the wine-cup ready for him, that he may drink. Here is Peter; his faith is low, but his presumption is high; there is a maiden ready to say — “Thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth.” There is Judas, and there are thirty pieces of silver in the priestly hand to tempt him, ay, and there is the rope afterwards for him to hang himself withal. No lack of means! If there be a Jonah, wishing to go to Tarshish rather than to Nineveh, there is a ship ready to take him. Satan has his providences as if to counterfeit the providence of God. At least, he knows how to use God’s providence to serve his own ends. One of the greatest mercies God bestows upon us is his not permitting our inclinations and opportunities to meet. Have you not sometimes noticed that when you had had the inclination to a sin there has been no opportunity, and when the opportunity has presented itself you have had no inclination towards it. Satan’s principal aim with believers is to bring their appetites and his temptations together; to get their souls into a dry, seared state, and then to strike the match and make them burn. He is so crafty and wily with all the experience of these many centuries, that man, who is but of yesterday, can scarcely be thought of as a match for him. Did he not drag down the wise man, even Solomon –whose wisdom was more excellent than any of the sons of men? Did he not lay the Royal Preacher, like a helpless victim at his feet? Did he not cast down the strong man, Samson – who could slay a thousand Philistines, but who could not resist the dallyings of Delilah? Did he not bring down even the man after God’s own heart by a most sorrowful fault? Let us sorrowfully remember that we have hardly met with a perfect and an upright man against whom Satan has not vented his spleen, and over whom Satan has not in some degree triumphed.

     Well, I have thus spoken of Satan’s terrible activity; of his following us into all places, and attending us wherever we may go. I am sure that no Christian heart here thinks this to be a mere trifle. Of course there are sceptics. There are some who will not believe in the existence of this evil spirit. Too generally I have noticed that, when a man has no devil he has no God. Usually when a man does not believe there is a devil, it is because he never experiences his attacks, and probably never will, for the devil does not take the trouble to go and look after those he is sure of. “Oh! no,” he says, “let them take their ease; I do not need to tempt them.” But I say this, if a man has ever met Satan, as John Bunyan describes Christian meeting Apollyon in the Valley of Humiliation, he will have no doubt of the existence of a devil. When I have stood foot to foot with that arch-tempter, in some dire hour of conflict, I could no more doubt his being there struggling and wrestling with my soul, than could a soldier who has been cut, and scarred, and wounded, while bleeding and faint, doubt that there must have been an antagonist to inflict those wounds. Experience will be to man, after all, the best proof of this, and we cannot expect that those who have never known the joys of the Holy Spirit, will know much about the attacks of the Evil Spirit; nor that those who doubt that there is a God, can ever be much tormented with the devil. “Oh!” saith Satan, “let them alone, they will fall into the ditch of themselves; there is no need that I should go abroad after them” I think I remember telling you of Mr. Beecher’s illustration. When the negro went out with his master to catch wild ducks; one of the ducks being a little wounded, the master made the most desperate efforts to get that, but he observed that when it was dead, and had fallen down, he did not trouble much about it, because he could pick it up at any time. And so it is with dead souls; the devil can pick them up at any time. It is those that are wounded, but have got some little life, that he is afraid of losing. Such as these he is sure to pursue; he will be ever striving to get them safe in his grasp.

     II. And now we turn, secondly, to SATAN S ROARINGS.

     The destroyer has many ways of mischief. Here in the text he is compared to a roaring lion. In some passages of Scripture you will remember he is compared to a fowler. Now, a fowler makes no noise; it would altogether defeat his end if he were to frighten the birds; but as quietly as possible he sets his lure, and with sweet notes he seeks to enchant his victim till it is taken in the trap. That is quite a different thing from the roaring lion of the text. In another passage it is said that he knows how to transform himself into an angel of light; and then, plausibly and smoothly, he teacheth false doctrine and error, and all the while appeareth to have a holy zeal for truth, and the most earnest love for that which is delicate and lovely, and of good repute. We have plenty of specimens in these days of the devil teaching morality. You sometimes take up a newspaper of the sceptic or scorpion school, whose writers hate all true religion as much as the devil hates virtue, and you find a most unctuous article upon the indelicacies of some honest preacher, or a very pious lamentation over the presumed follies of an earnest minister. Never let the devil accuse Christians of cant and hypocrisy again, let him find his answer in his own dear allies who can plead for the sanctity of places which they abhor and for a solemnity which they despise. Of all devils the most devilish is the saintly hypocrite loving sin, and yet pleading against it in order to promote it. In this text, however, he is not an angel of light, but a roaring lion. I think it was Rutherford who said that he liked the devil best in this shape. I remember in one of his letters he thanks God that he had given him a, roaring devil to deal with. Now what is the peculiar temptation which is intended under the metaphor of a roaring lion— again we repeat it — not the slouching gait of a prowling lion who is seeking after its prey, and will only roar when it gives its spring; but a lion that roars till he makes the very forests startle, and shakes the hills, which gird the prairie.

     These roarings of Satan are threefold. Perhaps Peter here alluded to the roaring of persecution. How Satan roared with persecutions in Peter’s days! He roared, and roared, and roared again, till none but stout hearts dared to show themselves valiant for Christ. There were the underground prisons filled with frogs, and serpents, and toads, where breath or fresh air never chased away the noxious smell and pestilential vapour. There were racks and gibbets; there was the sword for beheading and the stake for burning; there was dragging at the heels of the wild horse; there was smearing over with pitch and then setting the body still alive to bum in Nero’s garden. There were torments which must not be described, the very pictures of which are enough to make one’s eyes weep blood as you look upon them. There was nothing for the Christian then but banishment and imprisonment; these were the lowest penalties. “They were stoned; they were sawn in sunder; they wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins; destitute, afflicted, tormented.” These were the roarings of the lion in good Peter’s day. Since then, from his old den at Rome, what roarings has he given forth, like thunders indeed to all except the men who knew the difference between the mimic thunders of hell and the real thunders of the God of heaven! Let Smithfield testify to the roarings of this lion! Let our cemeteries and graveyards which still bear the memorial of our myriad martyrs, testify how the lion has roared at us! And let our denomination especially, persecuted alike by Protestant and Romanist, hunted both by good and bad upon the face of the earth — let the thousands that have been drowned in the rivers of Holland and Germany — let the multitudes who have there been put to the most exquisite torture merely because they would hold God’s holy ordinance, and would not prostitute it at will of the Pope or prelate, — let all these speak and tell how Satan has roared in days of old! He has not half the roar in him now that he had then! Why, he can do nothing at all against us! His roars now-a-days are like the hissings of some angry cat. All he can do is but to use cruel mockings; now and then a wicked slander, or a jeer, or a caricature, or a witty sentence. What are these? Oh! if we cannot bear these, what should we have done when the lion used to roar in real lion-like style? Well, well, he may growl again yet before some of us have gone off the face of the earth, for we know not what may happen. But let him roar; we know, blessed be God, that he who is for us is more than all they that be against us.

     But there is another kind of furious attack, the roarring of strong and vehement temptation. This some of us have felt. Do you know what it is, Christian — I hope you do not — do you know what it is sometimes to be caught hold of by the clutch of some frightful temptation which you hate, loathe, detest, and abominate, and yet the clutch of the hand is seconded by an arm so terrific in its strength that it drags you right on against your will. You look at the sin, look it in the very face ; you feel you cannot do this great wickedness and sin against God, and yet the impulse, strong and stern, mysterious and irresistible, drags you on till you come to the edge of the precipice and look down upon the yawning gulf, which threatens to swallow you up quick ; and in the last moment, as by the very skin of your teeth, you are delivered, and your foot doth not slip, neither do you. fall into the hand of the destroyer; yet you have had reason to say — “My steps had almost gone; my feet had well-nigh slipped.” Have yon known what it is to have this temptation come again, and again, and again, till you were in a very agony? You felt that you had rather die than thus be perpetually assaulted, for you feared that in an evil hour you might leave your God and turn unto perdition. You have been like good Mr. Standfast in Bunyan’s Pilgrim, when tempted by Madam Bubble; he fell at last down upon his knees, and with sighs and cries to God he begged him to deliver him, and he that cometh to the help of the feeble at last delivered his servant. Have you ever known this? This is one of Satan’s roarings at you, thrusting his temptation against you like the torments to which they put some of the early martyrs, when they laid them down and poured filthy water down their throats in such immense quantities that they were at last killed, and though they loathed the filthy liquid, yet their enemies continued to pour on and on. So has Satan done with us, pouring down his tilth, cramming us with his mire, constraining us as much as possible to yield to temptation. My peculiar temptation has been constant unbelief. I know that God’s promise is true, and that he that said it will do it; he that has performed of old changeth not, and will be firm and faithful even to the end; yet does this temptation incessantly assail me — “Doubt him; distrust him; he will leave you yet.” I can assure you when that temptation is aided by a nervous state of mind, it is very hard to stand day by day, and say, “No, I cannot doubt my God; he that has been with me in days gone by is with me still; he will not forsake his servant, nor put him away.” That perpetual assaulting, that perpetual stabbing, and cutting, and hacking at one’s faith, is not so easy to endure. O God, deliver us, we pray thee, and make us more than conquerors by thy Spirit’s power!

     Once more, Satan has another way of roaring. I do not suppose that one in ten of God’s people knows anything about this — and they need not wish to — Satan can roar also in the Christian' s ears with blasphemies. I do not allude now to those evil thoughts which spring up in the minds of men who, in their childhood, and their early youth, went far into sin. I know that you will sometimes, when in prayer, be troubled with the snatch of an old song which you once were used to sing; and perhaps, when you would be most free from every unhallowed thought, some coarse expression which you heard in your former haunts, will return again, and again, and again. Why, the verse of a hymn may suggest to you some unholy thing, or a text of Scripture bring up some of those old recollections which you have longed to forget. But, I allude now more especially to those yet more ferocious attacks of Satan, when he will inject blasphemous thoughts into the minds of believers who never thought such things before. You know how Bunyan describes it. “Good Christian had to pass through the valley of the shadow of death. About the midst of this valley, he perceived the mouth of hell to be: and just when he was come over against the mouth of the pit, one of the wicked ones got behind him, and stepped up softly to him, and whisperingly suggested many grievous blasphemies to him, which he verily thought had proceeded from his own mind. This put Christian more to it than anything he had met with before, even to think that now he should blaspheme Him that he so much loved before. Yet, if he could have helped it, he would not have done it. But he had not the discretion either to stop his ears, or to know from whence those blasphemies came. “Seldom does the ministry allude to these matters; but, inasmuch as they trouble some of the people of God, I believe it to be the duty of a faithful shepherd of the flock, to minister to those who are called to pass through this dark and dismal state. Oh! the horrors and terrors which Satan has sometimes caused to God’s people, by the thoughts that were not theirs, but proceeded from himself, or from some of his fiends! First, he suggested the because thought of the so vividly wicked, that they keep cried not thy with law David;” — and “Horror then, when hath taken the thought hold of had me, flashed for a moment upon the soul, he gave a second horror, by saying, “Ah! you are not a child of God or you would not have so vile a nature.” Whereas you never thought it at all. It was his suggestion, not yours; and then, having laid his sin at your door, he has turned accuser of the brethren, and has sought to cast down your faith from its excellency, by making you imagine that you had committed the unpardonable sin. Now, if he roars against you, either with persecution, or with temptation, or with diabolical insinuations, take the language of our apostle here — “Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.”

     III. I now turn to my third point, which is SATAN S ULTIMATE AIM — “Seeking whom he may devour.”

     Nothing short of the total destruction of a believer will ever satisfy our adversary Nothing less than the perfection and complete salvation of a Christian is the heart’s desire of our Saviour. He will never see the full fruition of the travail of his soul, till all his people are completely saved. The reverse is true of Satan. He can never be content till he sees the believer utterly devoured. He would rend him in pieces, and break his bones, and utterly destroy him, if he could. Do not, therefore, indulge the thought, that the main purpose of Satan is to make you miserable. He is pleased with that, but that is not his ultimate end. Sometimes he may even make you happy, for he hath dainty poisons sweet to the taste which he administers to God’s people. If he feels that our destruction can be more readily achieved by sweets than by bitters, he certainly would prefer that which would best effect his end.

“More the treacherous calm I dread
Than tempests rolling overhead,”

said Toplady; and much in the same spirit, said a Puritan divine of old — “There is no temptation so hard to bear, as not being tempted at all.” Indeed, it is a stern temptation to be left at ease. When we think we have no occasion for our sword, we begin to unbuckle it from our side; we strip off our armour-plate piece by piece, and then it is that we become most exposed to the attack of our enemies. Satan will be glad enough, no doubt, to see your faith weakened, but his aim is to destroy that faith, so that you may not believe in God to the saving of your soul. He will be pleased enough if he can throw mire into the eyes of your hope, so that you can no more look to the goodly land that is beyond Jordan; but he will never be satisfied till he puts those eyes out altogether, and sends you, like Samson, to grind at the mill. Let us take this for our comfort; if it be Satan’s desire that we may be utterly destroyed, in that at least he is certain to be defeated. When it comes to a question which shall win the victory, Christ, the Eternal Son of God, or Satan, the prince of the power of the air, we need have no doubt as to which shall succeed. The devil is but a creature, finite in his nature, and limits are laid upon his prowess. If the battle were between Satan and man, then, indeed, woe worth the day to us! We might quit ourselves like men and be strong, but before this giant all the host of Israel must flee. But the battle is not ours; it is the mighty God’s. He that once broke this serpent’s head still wages war with him. Yea, and Christ himself must be defeated, the glory of his cross must be dimned, his arm must be broken, the crown of sovereignty must be snatched from his head, and his throne must reel beneath him, ere one of those for whom he died, and on whom he set love, ever be away or be given up to the power of his adversary. In this, then, tried believer, count it thy joy, that he may worry, but he cannot rend ; he may wound, but he cannot kill ; he may get his foot upon thee to make a full end of thee, but thou shalt yet start up with fresh strength and say, “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me.”

     IV. With the fourth point, we now draw to a close — WHAT WE SHOULD DO IN ORDER THAT WE MAY OVERCOME THIS ADVERSARY.

     “Whom resist, stedfast in the faith” This is our first means of defence. When Satan attacks us as an angel of Light, we need not so much resist by open antagonism as by flight. There are some temptations which are only to be overcome by running away from them, but when Satan roars we most raise the shout and the war-cry. To run then would be cowardice, and must entail certain destruction. Suppose now that Satan roars with persecution, (and it is a poor roar that he can raise in that way now) or, suppose you are slandered, villified, abused — will you give way? Then are you undone. Will you say, “No, never, by him that called me to this work, I will see this battle out, and in the name of him who has been my helper hitherto, I set up the banner; and cry — ‘Jehovah-Nissi; the Lord of hosts is our banner; the God of Jacob is our refuge.’” You have done well; you have resisted, and you will win the day. Hath he assailed you with some temptation obnoxious to your spirit? Yield an inch, and you are undone, but become more watchful, and more vigilant over yourself in that particular sin, and resistance must certainly bring victory. Or has he injected blasphemy? Resist. Be more prayerful every time he is more active. He will soon give it up, if he finds that his attacks drive you to Christ. Often has Satan been nothing but a big black dog to drive Christ’s sheep nearer to the Master. Often has he been like a tremendous crested billow which has just lifted the poor shipwrecked mariner on to the rock, and from very fear has made him cling the more tightly there. If he thrusts you thus, match him by turning even his temptations to good account, and he will soon give up that mode of warfare, and exchange it for another. Resist him. But how resist him? “Stedfast in the faith.” Seek to obtain a clear knowledge of the doctrines of the gospel, and then get a good grip of them. Be ready to die, sooner than give up a particle of God’s revealed truth. This will make you strong. Then take hold of the promises of God, which are yea and amen in Christ Jesus. Know that to every doctrine there is some opposite promise. Have ready for every attack some strong word commencing with “Is it written?” Answer Satan with, “Thus saith the Lord.” — “Stedfast in the faith.” Remember, all the water outside of a ship cannot sink it. It is the water inside that perils its safety So, if your faith can keep its hold, and you can still say, “Though he slay me yet will I trust in him,” Satan may batter your shield; but he has not wounded your flesh.

“Amidst temptations sharp and long,
My soul to this dear refuge flies;
Hope is ray anchor, firm and strong,
While tempests blow, and billows rise.
The gospel bears my spirits up;
A faithful and unchanging God
Lays the foundation for my hope,
In oaths, and promises, and blood,”

The conflict may be long, but the victory is absolutely sure. Oh poor soul! do but keep near to the cross and thou art safe. Throw thine arms around the dying Saviour. Let the droppings of his blood fall on thy sins, and even if thou canst not see him, still believe him. Still say, “I know that he came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief,” and I will cling to the sinner’s Saviour as my only hope and trust. Then let Satan roar, he cannot hurt; let him rage, his fury is vain; he may but show his teeth, for he certainly cannot bite. “Whom resist, stedfast in the faith.”

     But, there is another word added for our comfort, — “Knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” This is well sketched by John Bunyan, in that picture I have already alluded to, of the Valley of the Shadow of Death. “As Christian was going along the exceedingly narrow pathway, with a deep ditch on one side, and a dangerous quag upon the other, he came to a stand, and he had half a thought to go back; and then again he thought he might be half-way through the valley; so he resolved to go on. And while he pondered and mused, he heard the voice of a man as going before him, saying, ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.’ Then he was glad, and that for these reasons. He gathered from thence that some who feared God were in this valley as well as himself; that God was with them, though they perceived him not; that he hoped to have company by-and-bye. So he went on, and called to him that was before, but he knew not what to answer for that he also thought himself to be alone.” Here honest John hits our experience to the life. It is likely enough that as I am speaking this morning, some of you will say, “I did not think that anybody else ever felt as I feel.” And though I tell you these things, and know that many of you have heard Satan roar, I am compelled to confess that I have frequently said in my own heart, “I do not believe that any other man ever had this temptation before me.” Well, this text stands to refute our supposition, “The same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” Martin Luther was wont to say, that next to Holy Scripture, the best teacher for a minister was temptation; he put affliction next, but temptation he kept first in his view. When we have been tempted and tried ourselves we know how to succour others. I grant you it is hard to have the conviction on one’s mind, that you are standing in a perilous place where never man stood before, and tempted as never man was tempted before you. Come, believer, we will talk this matter over for two or three seconds. Certainly your Lord has been there before, for he was tempted in all points like as you are. Scripture saith that all your brethren have had some participation in your trials. Now mark, as they suffered as you suffer no temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man. As they came through the temptation safe and unharmed, so shall you. As they testified that their light afflictions worked out for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, so that shall be your testimony. As they have overcome and now circle the throne of God clothed in pure white garments, so will you. And inasmuch as their temptations have left no scars upon their brow, no stains upon their robes, no rent in their royal mantles, so neither shall Satan he able to disfigure or to mutilate you, but you shall come out of every trial and of every struggle, losing nothing therein save that which it is well to lose — your dross and your tin, your chaff and your bran. Ye shall come forth from the deep waters washed, cleansed, and purified. God grant that so it may be with you, but it can only be so by your resisting Satan, stedfast in the faith.

     And now, I am addressing some this morning whom the precept does not reach, for they have no faith in which to stand fast. If you knew what a blessed thing it is to be a Christian, you would weep your eyes out that you are not Christians yourselves. “Oh!” say you, “but you have described to us the temptations of Satan!” Just so, but it is a blessed thing to be a Christian in his very worst state. As I look sometimes upon those pictures which are drawn by the artist to illustrate the Pilgrim's Progress, even when I have seen poor John up to his neck in the mire, I have thought I would sooner be Christian in the Slough of Despond, than Pliable on the dry land on the other side; sooner be Christian when the dragon hurled all his darts at him, though he smiled not all the day long — sooner be Christian then, than be Hypocrisy or Formality climbing over the wall to go by some other way. It is a good thing to be a Christian even in his very worst state, and what must 3 it be in his best? Young men and young women, as one of your own age, I bear my testimony that to follow Christ is the most blessed and pleasant thing, even in this present evil world.

“I would not change my bless’d estate
For all the world calls good or great;
And while my faith can keep her hold,
I envy not the sinner’s gold.”

But who am I, that I should say this? Why, nothing but a poor miserable sinner, who looks for all in Christ. With nothing in my hand, I simply cling to his cross. Nor am I an inch forwarder than I was twelve years ago in this respect. My cry then was, “None but Jesus, none but Jesus,” and it is my cry now, and shall be my cry even to the end. And what are you to-day but a lost, guilty sinner? But do not despair. Trust Jesus! Trust Jesus! — and the joys and privileges of the Christian are yours. Now, this moment cast yourself on him. Look to his agony and bloody sweat, his cross, his passion, his death, his burial, his resurrection, his ascension, and you shall find a balm for every fear, a cordial for every distress. All that you want, and all that your heart can ever desire is most surely to be found in Christ Jesus your Lord.

     May God grant us to be partakers of that grace which is in his most blessed name, that we may not be destroyed by the destroyer!