The Holy Spirit Glorifying Christ

By / Apr 12

The Holy Spirit Glorifying Christ

 

 

“He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” — John xvi. 14.

 

 

April 12th, 1891

 

THE needs of spiritual men are very great, but they cannot be greater than the power of the Divine Trinity is able to meet. We have one God, — Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, — One in Three, and Three in One; and that blessed Trinity in Unity gives himself to sinners that they may be saved. In the first place, every good thing that a sinner wants is in the Father. The prodigal son was wise when he said, “I will arise and go to my father.” Every good and perfect gift comes from God the Father, the first Person in the blessed Trinity, because every good gift and every perfect gift can only be found in him. But the needy soul says, “How shall I get to the Father? He is infinitely above me. How shall I reach up to him?” In order that you might obtain the blessings of grace, God was in Christ Jesus, the second ever-blessed Person of the Sacred Trinity. Let me read you part of the verso that follows my text: “All things that the Father hath are mine.” So, you see, everything is in the Father first; and the Father puts all things into Christ. “It pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell.” Now you can get to Christ because he is man as well as God. He is “over all, God blessed for ever;’ but he came into this world, was born of the Virgin Mary, lived a life of poverty, “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried.” He is the conduit-pipe, conveying to us all blessings from the Father. In the Gospel of John we read, “Of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.” Thus you see the Father, with every good thing in himself, putting all fulness into the Mediator, the Man Christ Jesus who is also the Son of God.

     Now I hear a poor soul say, “But I cannot even get to Christ; I am blind and lame. If I could get to him, he would open my eves; but I am so lame that I cannot run or even walk to him. If I could get to him, he would give me strength; but I lie as one dead. I cannot see Christ, or tell where to find him.” Here comes in the work of the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the blessed Unity. It is his office to take of the things of Christ, and show them unto saints and sinners, too. We cannot see them, but we shall see them fast enough when he shows them to us. Our sin puts a veil between us and Christ. The Holy Spirit comes and takes the veil away from our heart, and then we see Christ. It is the Holy Spirit’s office to come between us and Christ, to lead us to Christ, even as the Son of God comes between us and the Father, to lead us to the Father; so that we have the whole Trinity uniting to save a sinner, the Triune God bowing down out of heaven for the salvation of rebellious men. Every time we dismiss you from this house of prayer, we pronounce upon you the blessing of the Sacred Trinity: “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you!” And you want all that to make a sinner into a saint, and to keep a saint from going back to be a sinner again. The whole blessed Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, must work upon every soul that is to be saved.

     See how divinely they work together, — how the Father glorifies the Son, how the Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus, how both the Holy Spirit and the Lord Jesus glorify the Father! These Three are One, sweetly uniting in the salvation of the chosen seed.

     To-night our work is to speak of the Holy Spirit. Oh, what a blessed Person he is; not merely a sacred influence, but a Divine Person, “very God of very God.” He is the Spirit of holiness to be reverenced, to be spoken of with delight, yet with trembling; for, remember, there is a sin against the Holy Ghost. A word spoken against the Son of man may be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Holy Ghost (whatever that may be, I know not,) is put down as a sin beyond the line of divine forgiveness. Therefore reverence, honour, and worship God the Holy Spirit, in whom lies the only hope that any of us can ever have of seeing Jesus, and so of seeing God the Father.

     First, to-night, I shall try to speak of what the Holy Spirit does: “He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you;” secondly, I shall seek to set forth what the Holy Spirit aims at: “He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you;” and, thirdly, I shall explain how in both these things he acts as the Comforter, for we read, in the seventh verse, that our Saviour says, “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you;” and it is of the Comforter that he says, “He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.”

     I. First, we are to consider WHAT THE HOLY SPIRIT DOES. Jesus says, “He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.”

      The Holy Ghost, then, deals with the things of Christ. How I wish that all Christ’s ministers would imitate the Holy Spirit in this respect! When you are dealing with the things of Christ, you are on Holy Ghost ground; you are following the track of the Holy Spirit. Does the Holy Ghost deal with science? What is science? Another name for the ignorance of men. Does the Holy Ghost deal with politics? What are politics? Another name for every man getting as much as he can out of the nation. Does the Holy Ghost deal with these things? Nay, my brethren, “He shall receive of mine.” O my brother, the Holy Ghost will leave you if you go gadding about after these insignificant trifles! He will leave you, if you aim at magnifying yourself, and your wisdom, and your plans; for the Holy Spirit is taken up with the things of Christ.” He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” I like what Mr. Wesley said to his preachers. “Leave other things alone,” said he; “you are called to win souls.” So I believe it is with all true preachers. We may let other things alone. The Holy Ghost, who is our Teacher, will own and bless us if we keep to his line of things. O preacher of the gospel, what canst thou receive like the things of Christ? And what canst thou talk of so precious to the souls of men as the things of Christ? Therefore, follow thou the Holy Ghost in dealing with the things of Christ.

     Next, the Holy Spirit deals with feeble men. “He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” “Unto you.” He is not above dealing with simple minds. He comes to those who have no training, no education, and he takes the things of Christ, and shows them to such minds. The greatest mind of man that was ever created was a poor puny thing compared with the infinite mind of God. We may boast about the great capacity of the human intellect; but what a narrow and contracted thing it is at its utmost width! So, for the Holy Spirit to come and teach the little mind of man, is a great condescension. But we see the great condescension of the Holy Ghost even more when we read, “Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called;” and when we hear the Saviour say, “I thank thee, O’ Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” The Holy Ghost takes of the things of Christ, and shows them to those who are babes compared with the wise men of this world. The Lord Jesus might have selected princes to be his apostles; he might have gathered together twelve of the greatest kings of the earth, or at least twelve senators from Rome; but he did not so. He took fishermen, and men belonging to that class, to be the pioneers of his kingdom; and God the Holy Ghost Likes of the things of Christ, high and sublime as they are, and shows them unto men like these apostles were, men ready to follow where the Lord led them, and to learn what the Lord taught them.

     If you think of the condescension of the Holy Spirit in taking of the things of Christ, and showing them unto us. you will not talk any more about coming down to the level of children when you talk to them. I remember a young man who was a great fool, but did not know it, and therefore was all the greater fool: once, speaking to children, ho said, “My dear children, it takes a great deal to bring a great, mind down to your capacities.” You cannot show me a word of Christ of that kind. Where does the Holy Ghost ever talk about its being a great comedown for him to teach children, or to teach us? Nay, nay; but he glorifies Christ by taking of his things, and showing them unto us, even such poor ignorant scholars as we are.

     If I understand what is meant here, I think that it means, first, that the Holy Ghost helps us to understand the words of Christ. If we will study the teaching of the Saviour, it must be with the Holy Spirit as the light to guide us; he will show us what Christ meant by the words he uttered. We shall not lose ourselves in the Saviour’s verbiage; but we shall get at the inner meaning of Christ’s mind, and be instructed therein; for the Lord Jesus says, “He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” A sermon of Christ, even a single word of Christ, set in the light of the Holy Spirit, shines like a diamond; nay, like a fixed star, with light that is never dim. Happy men and happy women who read the words of Christ in the light shed upon them by the Holy Ghost! But I do not think that this is all that the text means.

     It means this: “Not only shall he reveal my words, but my things

     The Holy Ghost takes the nature of Christ, and shows it unto us. It is easy to say, “I believe him to be God and man;” but the point is, to apprehend that he is God, and therefore able to save, and even to work impossibilities; and to believe that he is man, and therefore feels for you, sympathizes with you, and therefore is a brother born to help you in your adversities. May the Holy Ghost make you see the God-Man to-night! May he show you the humanity and the Deity of Christ, as they are most blessedly united in his adorable person; and you will be greatly comforted thereby.

     The Holy Ghost shows to us the offices of Christ. He is Prophet, Priest, King. Especially to you, sinner, Christ is a Saviour. Now, if you know that he takes up the work of saving sinners, and that it is his business to save men, why then, dear friend, surely you will have confidence in him, and not be afraid to come to him! If I wanted my shoes mended, I should not take my hat off when I went into a cobbler’s shop, and say, “Please excuse, me. May I beg you to be so good as to mend my shoes!” No; it is his trade: it is his business. He is glad to see me. “What do you want, sir?” says he; and he is glad of work. And when Christ puts over his door, “Saviour,” I, wanting to be saved, go to him, for I believe that he knows his calling, and that he can carry it out, and that he will be glad to see me; and that I shall not be more glad to be saved than he will be to save me. I want you to catch that idea. If the Holy Spirit will show you that, it will bring you very near to joy and peace to-night.

     May the Holy Ghost also show you Christ’s engagements! He has come into the world engaged to save sinners He pledged himself to the Father to bring many sons unto glory, and he must do it. He has bound himself to his Father, as the Surety of the covenant, that he will bring sinners into reconciliation with God. May the Holy Ghost show that fact to you; and right gladly you will leap into the Saviour’s arms!

     It is very sweet when the Holy Spirit shows us the love of Christ, — how intensely he loves men, how he loved them of old, for his delights were with the sons of men, — not because he had redeemed them; but he redeemed them because he loved them, and delighted in them. Christ has had an eternal love to his people.

 “His heart is made of tenderness,
His bowels melt with love.”

      It is his heaven to bring men to heaven. It is his glory to bring sons to glory. He is never so happy as when he is receiving sinners. But if the Holy Ghost will show you the depth and the height, the length and the breadth, of the love of Christ to sinners, it will go a long way towards bringing all who are in this house to-night to accept the Saviour.

     But when the-Holy Ghost shows you the mercy of Christ, — how willingly he forgives; how he passes by iniquity, transgression, and sin; how he casts your sins into the sea, throws them behind God’s back, puts them away for over; — ah! when you see this, then will your hearts be won to him.

     Specially I would desire the Holy Ghost to show you the blood of Christ. A Spirit-taught view of the blood of Christ is the most wonderful sight that ever a weeping eye beheld. There is your sin, your wicked, horrible, damnable sin; but Christ comes into the world, and takes the sin, and suffers in your room and place and stead; and the blood of such an One as he, perfect man and infinite God, — such blood as was poured out on Calvary’s tree, — must take away sin. Oh, for a sight of it! If any of you are now despairing, and the Holy Ghost will take of the blood of Christ, and show it unto you, despair will have no place in you any longer. It must be gone, for “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin,” and he that believeth in him is forgiven all his iniquities.

     And if the Holy Ghost will also take of the prayers of Christ, and show them unto you, what a sight you will have! Christ on earth, praying till ho gets into a bloody sweat; Christ in heaven, praying with all his glorious vestments on, accepted by the Father, glorified at the Father’s right hand, and making intercession for transgressors, praying for you, praying for all who come to God by him, and able, therefore, to save them to the uttermost; — this is the sight you will have. A knowledge of the intercession of Christ for guilty men is enough to make despair flee away once for all. I can only tell you these things; but if the Holy Ghost will take of them, and show them unto you, oh, beloved, you will have joy and peace to-night through believing!

     One thing I must add, however, and then I will leave this point, upon which wo could dilate for six months. I think; that is, that whatever the Holy Ghost shows you, you may have. Do you see that? He takes of the things of Christ, and shows them to us; but why? Not as a boy at school does to one of his companions when he is teasing him. I remember often seeing it done. He pulls out of his pocket a beautiful apple, and shows it to his schoolmate. “There,” says he. “do you see that apple?” Is he going to say. “Now I am going to give you a piece of it”? No, not he. He only shows him the apple just to tantalize him. Now. it would be blasphemy to imagine that the Holy Ghost would show you the things of Christ, and then say, “You cannot have them.” No, whatever he shows you, you may have. Whatever you see in Christ, you may have. Whatever the Holy Ghost makes you to see in the person and work of the Lord Jesus, you may have it. And he shows it to you on purpose that you may have it, for he is no Tantalus to mock us with the sight of a blessing beyond our reach; he waits to bless us. Lay that thought up in your heart; it may help you some day, if not now. You remember what God said to. Jacob, “The land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it.” If you find any promise in this Book, and you dare to lie down upon it, it is yours. If you can just lie down and rest on it, it is yours; for it was not put there for you to rest on it without its being fulfilled to you. Only stretch yourself on any covenant blessing, and it is yours for ever. God help us so to do!

     II. But now, secondly, and very briefly, let us consider WHAT THE HOLY SPIRIT AIMS AT, Well he aims at this, Jesus says, “He shall glorify me.” When he shows us the things of Christ, his object is to glorify Christ. The Holy Spirit’s object is to make Christ appear to be great and glorious to you and to me. The Lord Jesus Christ is infinitely glorious; and even the Holy Ghost cannot make him glorious except to our apprehension; but his desire is that we may see and know more of Christ, that we may honour him more, and glorify him more.

     Well, how does the Holy Spirit go about this work? In this simple way, by showing us the things of Christ. Is not this a blessedly simple fact, that when even the Holy Ghost intends to glorify Christ, all that he does is to show us Christ? Well, but does he not put fine words together, and weave a spell of eloquence? No; he simply shows us Christ. Now, if you wanted to praise Jesus Christ to-night, what would you have to do? Why, you would only have to speak of him as he is, — holy, blessed, glorious! You would show him, as it were, in order to praise him, for there is no glorifying Christ except by making him to be seen. Then he has the glory that rightly belongs to him. No words are wanted, no descriptions are needed. “He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.”

     And is it not strange that Christ should be glorified by his being shown to you? To you, my dear friend! Perhaps you are saying, “I am a nobody.” Yes, but Christ is glorified by being shown to you. “Oh, but I am very poor, very illiterate, and besides, very wicked!” Yes, but Christ is glorified by being shown to you. Now, a great king or a great queen would not be rendered much more, illustrious by being shown to a little Sunday-school girl, or exhibited to a crossing-sweeper boy. At least, they would not think so; but Christ does not act as an earthly monarch might. He reckons it to be his glory for the poorest pair of eyes that ever wept to look by faith upon him. He reckons it to be his greatest honour for the poorest man, the poorest woman, or the poorest child that ever lived, to see him in the light in which the Holy Ghost sets him. Is not this a blessed truth? I put it very simply and briefly. The Holy Ghost, you sec, glorifies Christ by showing him to sinners. Therefore, if you want to glorify Christ, do the same. Do not go and write a ponderous tome, and put fine words together. Tell sinners, in simple language, what Christ is. “I cannot praise him,” says one. You do not want to praise him. Say what he is. If a man says to me, “Show me the sun,” do I say, “Well, you must wait till I strike a match and light a candle, and then I will show you the sun”? That would be ridiculous, would it not? And for our candles to be held up to show Christ, is absurd. Tell what he is. Tell what he is to you. Tell what he did for you. Tell what he did for sinners. That is all. “He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.”

     I will not say more on this point, except that, if any of us are to glorify Christ, we must talk much of him. We must tell what the Holy Spirit has told to us; and we must pray the Holy Spirit to bless to the minds of men the truth we speak, by enabling them to see Christ as the Spirit reveals him.

     III. But now, thirdly, in both of these things, — showing unto us the things of Christ, and glorifying Christ, THE HOLY SPIRIT IS A COMFORTER. Gracious Spirit, be a Comforter now to some poor struggling ones in the Tabernacle, by showing them the things of Christ, and by glorifying him in their salvation!

     First, in showing to men the things of Christ, the Holy Spirit is a Comforter. There is no comfort like a sight of Christ. Sinner, your only comfort must lie in your Saviour, in his precious blood, and in his resurrection from the dead. Look that way, man! If you look inside, you will never find any comfort there. Look where the Holy Ghost looks. “He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” When a thing is shown to you, it is meant for you to look at it. If you want real comfort, I will tell you where to look, namely, to the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. “Oh!” say you, “but I am a wretched sinner.” I know you are. You are a great deal worse than you think you are “Oh, but I think myself the worst that ever lived.” Yes, you are worse than that! You do not know half your depravity. You are worse than you ever dreamed that you were. But that is not where to look for comfort. “I am brutish,” says one; “I am proud; I am self-righteous; I am envious; I have everything in me that is bad. sir. and if I have a little bit that is good sometimes, it is gone before I can see it. I am just lost, ruined, and undone.” That is quite true; but I never told you to look there. Your comfort lies in this, “He shall receive of mine,” — that is, of Christ’s, — “and shall shew it unto you.” Your hope of transformation, of gaining a new character altogether, of eternal life, lies in Christ, who quickeneth the dead, and maketh all things new. Look away from self, and look to Christ, for he alone can save you.

     A sight of Christ is the destruction of despair. “Oh, but the devil tells me that I shall be cast into hell! There is no hope for me.” What matters it what the devil tells you? He was a liar from the beginning. Let him say what he likes; but if you will look away to Christ, there will be an end of the devil’s power over you. If the Holy Ghost shows you what Christ came to do on the cross, and what he is doing on his throne in heaven, there will be an end to these troublous thoughts from Satan, and you will be comforted.

     Dear child of God, are you in sorrow to-night? May the Holy Ghost take of the things of Christ, and show them unto you! There is an end to sorrow when you see Jesus, for sorrow itself is so sweetly sanctified by the companionship of Christ which it brings to you, that you will be glad to drink of his cup and to be baptized with his baptism.

     Are you in want to night, without even a place where to lay your head? So, too, was he “The Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” Go to him with your trouble. He will help you to bear your poverty. He will help you to get out of it, for he is able to help you in temporal trials as well as in spiritual ones. Therefore go you to Christ. All power is given unto him in heaven and in earth. Nothing is too hard for the Lord. Go your way to him, and a sight of him will give you comfort.

     Are you persecuted? Well, a sight of the thorn-crowned brow will take the thorn out of persecution. Are you very, very low? I think that you have all heard the story I am about to tell you, but some of you have, perhaps, forgotten it. Many years ago, when this great congregation first met in the Surrey Music Hall, and the terrible accident occurred, when many persons were either killed or wounded in the panic, I did my best to hold the people together till I heard that some were dead, and then I broke down like a man stunned, and for a fortnight or so I had little reason left. I felt so broken in heart that I thought that I should never be able to face a congregation again; and I went down to a friend’s house, a few miles away, to be very quiet and still. I was walking round his garden, and I well remember the spot, and even the time, when this passage came to me, “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour;” and this thought came into my mind at once, “You are only a soldier in the great King’s army, and you may die in a ditch; but it does not matter what becomes of you as long as your King is exalted. He — HE is glorious. God hath highly exalted him.” You have heard of the old French soldiers when they lay allying. If the emperor came by, when they were ready to expire, they would just raise themselves up, and gave one more cheer for their beloved leader. “Vive Empereur!” would be their dying words. And so I just thought, “He is exalted. What matters it about me?” and in a moment my reason was perfectly restored. I was as clear as possible. I went into the house, had family prayer, and came back to preach to my congregation on the following Sabbath, restored only by having looked to Jesus, and having seen that he was glorious. If he is to the front, what does it matter what happens to us? Rank on rank we will die in the battle if he wins the victory. Only let the Man on the White Horse win; let the King who died for us, and washed us in his precious blood, be glorified, and it is enough for us.

     But now, lastly, when Christ is glorified in the heart, he acts as a Comforter, too. I believe, brethren, that we should not have half the trouble that we have if we thought more of Christ. The fact is, that we think so much of ourselves that we get troubled. But some one says, “But I have so many troubles.” Why should you not have a great many troubles? Who are you that you should not have troubles? “Oh, but I have had loss after loss which you do not know of!” Very likely, dear friend. I do not know of your losses, but is it any wonder that you should have them? “Oh!” says one, “I seem to be kicked about like a football.” Why should you not be? What are you? “Oh!” said one poor penitent to me the other night, “for me to come to Christ, sir, after my past life, seems so mean.” I said, “Yes, so it is; but, then, you are mean. It was a mean business of the prodigal son to come home, and eat his father’s bread and the fatted calf after he had spent his substance in riotous living.” It was a mean thing, was it not? But, then, the father did not think it mean. He clasped him to his bosom, and welcomed him home. Come along, you mean sinners, you that have served the devil, and now want to run away from him! Steal away from Satan at once, for my Lord is ready to receive you. You have no idea how willing he is to welcome you. He is so ready to forgive, that you have not yet guessed how much sin he can forgive. “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men.” Up to your necks in filth, in your very hearts saturated with the foulest iniquity; yet, if you come to Christ, he will wash you whiter than snow. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Come along, and try my Lord.

     Have exalted ideas of Christ. Oh, if a man will but have great thoughts of Christ, he shall then find his troubles lessening, and his sins disappearing! You have been putting Christ on a wrong scale altogether, I see. Perhaps even you people of God have not thought of Christ as you ought to do. I have heard of a certain commander who had led his troops into a rather difficult position. He knew what he was at, but the soldiers did not all know; and there would be a battle on the morrow. So he thought that he would go round from tent to tent, and hear what the soldiers said. He listened, and there was one of them saying to his fellows, “See what a mess we are in now! Do you see, we have only so many calvary, and so many infantry, and we have only a small quantity of artillery. And on the other side there are so many thousands against us, so strong, so mighty, that we shall be cut to pieces in the morning.” And the general drew aside the canvas, and there they saw him standing, and he said, “How many do you count me for?” He had won every battle that he had ever been engaged in. He was the conqueror of conquerors. “How many do you count me for?” O souls, you have never counted Christ for what he is! You have put down your sins, but you have never counted what kind of a Christ he is who has come to save you. Rather do like Luther, who says that, when the devil came to him, he brought him a long sheet containing a list of his sins, or of a great number of them, and Luther said to him, “Is that all! “No,” said the devil. “Well, go and fetch some more, then.” Away went Satan to bring him another long list, as long as your arm. Said Luther, “Is that all?” “Oh, no!” said the devil, “I have more yet.” Well, go and bring them all,” said Luther. “Fetch them all out, the whole list of them.” Then it was a very long black list. I think that I have heard that it would have gone round the world twice. I know that mine would. Well, what did Luther say when he saw them all? He said, “Write at the bottom of them, ‘The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin!” It does not matter how long the list is when you write those blessed words at the end of it. The sins are all gone then. Did you ever take up from your table a bill for a large sum? You felt a kind of flush coming over your face. You looked down the list. It was a rather long list of items, perhaps, from a lawyer or a builder. But when you looked at it, you saw that there was a penny stamp at the bottom, and that the account was receipted. “Oh!” you said, “I do not care how long it is; for it is all paid.” So, though your sins are very many, if you have a receipt at the bottom, — if you have trusted Jesus, — your sins are all gone, drowned in the Red Sea of your Saviour’s blood, and Christ is glorified in your salvation. May God the Holy Ghost bring every unsaved one here to-night to repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ! The Lord bless every one of you, for his name’s sake! Amen. 



The Sinner’s End

By / Dec 28

The Sinner's End

 

“Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction — Psalm 73:17-18

 

WANT of understanding has destroyed many. The dark pit of ignorance has engulfed its thousands. Where the lack of understanding has not sufficed to slay, it has been able seriously to wound. Lack of understanding upon doctrinal truth, providential dealing, or inward experience, has often caused the people of God a vast amount of perplexity and sorrow, much of which they might have avoided had they been more careful to consider and understand the ways of the Lord. My brethren, if our eyes are dim, and our hearts forgetful as to eternal things, we shall be much vexed and tormented in mind, as David was when he understood not the sinner’s end; for indeed it is a great mystery to ordinary reason to see the ungodly prospering and pampered while the righteous are chastened and afflicted. Let us, however, receive a clear understanding with regard to the death, judgment, and condemnation of the proud sinner, then at once our sorrows and suspicions are removed, and petulance gives place to gratitude. See the ox paraded through the streets covered with garlands; who envies its lot when he remembers the axe and the altar? The child may see nothing but the flowers, but from the man of understanding no childish ornament can conceal the victim’s misery.

     The best place in which to be instructed with heavenly wisdom is the sanctuary of God. Until David went there he was in a mist, but entering its hallowed portals, he stood upon a mountain’s summit, and the clouds floated far beneath his feet. You ask me what there could have been in the ancient sanctuary which could have enlightened David as to the end of the wicked. It may be, my brethren, that while he sat before the Lord in prayer, his spirit had such communion with the unseen God, that he looked into unseen things, and saw, as in an open vision, the ultimate doom of the graceless; or it may be that the hallowed songs of Israel’s congregation foretold the overthrow of the foemen of Jehovah, and stirred the royal soul. Perhaps on that holy day the priests read in the scanty pages of the then written work some ancient story, such as had refreshed the Psalmist in his happier seasons. It may have been that they rehearsed in the ears of the people the years beyond the flood, and the universal death which swept a world of sinners to their eternal prisons with a flood of wrath; or it may be that they read concerning Sodom and Gomorrah, and the fiery shower which utterly consumed the cities of the plain. It is not impossible that the theme of meditation led the devout monarch back to the plagues of Egypt, and the day of the Lord’s vengeance, when he overthrew proud Pharaoh and his hosts in the midst of the Red Sea. The book of the wars of the Lord is full of notable records, all revealing most clearly that the right hand of the Lord hath sooner or later dashed in pieces all his enemies.      

     Possibly when David went into the sanctuary of God the Law was read in his ears. He heard the blessings for obedience, the curses for rebellion; and as he listened to the thundering anathemas of the law which curses none in vain, it maybe that he said, “Now understand I their end.” Certainly a due estimate of the law of God, and the justice which maintains its dignity will clear up all fears concerning the ultimate escape of the wicked. Such a law and such a judge allow not the slightest suspicion that sin will always prosper. Moreover, brethren, David could not well go up to the sanctuary without witnessing a sacrifice, and as he saw the knife uplifted and driven into the throat of the victim, and knew that he himself was preserved from destruction by the sufferings of a substitute, represented by that lamb, he may have learnt that the wicked, having no such sacrifice to trust to, must be led as sheep to the slaughter, and as the bullock is felled by the axe, so must they be utterly destroyed. By some of these means, either by the sight of the sacrifice, or by his own meditations, or by the word read and the expositions given by prophets or priests in the sanctuary — it was in God’s own house that he understood the end of the wicked. I trust, beloved, if you lack understanding in any spiritual matters, you will go up to the house of the Lord to inquire in his temple. The word of God is to us as the Urim and Thummim of the High Priest, prayer asks counsel at the hand of the Lord, and often the lip of the minister is God’s oracle to our hearts. If you are vexed at any time because Providence seems to deal indulgently with the vile, and harshly with you, come ye to the spot where prayer is wont to be made, and while learning the justice of God, and the overthrow which he will surely bring upon the impenitent, ye shall go to your houses calmed in mind and disciplined in spirit. May you sing as Dr. Watts puts it —

“I saw the wicked rise,
And felt my heart repine,
While haughty fools, with scornful eyes,
In robes of honour shine.
The tumults of my thought
Held me in dark suspense,
Till to thy house my feet were brought,
To learn thy justice thence.
Thy word with light and power
Did my mistakes amend;
I view’d the sinner’s life before,
But here I learn’d their end.”

 This morning we have selected our subject for many ends, but more especially with the anxious desire that we may win souls for Christ that we may see a feast of ingathering at the end of the year; that this may be the best of days to many, the birthday of many immortal souls. The burden of the Lord weighs down my soul this morning; my heart is filled even to bursting with an agony of desire that sinners may be saved. O Lord make bare thine arm this day, even this day. In enlarging upon our solemn subject, first, let us understand the sinner’s end; secondly, let us profit by our understanding of it; thirdly, let us, having received this understanding, anxiously and earnestly warn those whose end this must be except they repent.

     I. First, then, gathering up all our powers of mind and thought, LET US ENDEAVOUR TO UNDERSTAND THE SINNER’S END. Let me rehearse it in your ears.

     The end of the sinner, like the end of every man else in this world, is death. When he dieth, it may be, that he will die gently, for often there are no bands in their death, but their strength is firm., A seared conscience gives a quietude of stupidity just as a full forgiveness of sin gives a peacefulness of perfect rest. They talk about another world as though they had no dread; they speak of standing before God as though they had no transgression. “Like sheep they are laid in the grave,” “He fell asleep like a child,” say his friends; and others exclaim, “He was so happy, that he must be a saint.” Ah! this is but their apparent end. God knoweth that the dying repose of sinners is but the awful calm which heralds the eternal hurricane. The sun sets in glowing colours, but O the darkness of the black tempestuous night. The waters flash like silver as the soul descends into their bosom, but who shall tell the tenfold horrors which congregate within their dreadful deeps. Frequently, on the other hand, the death of the wicked is not thus peaceful. Hot always can the hypocrite play out his game to the end; the mask slips off too soon and conscience tells the truth. Even in this world, with some men, the storm of everlasting wrath begins to beat upon the soul before it leaves the shelter of the body. Ah, then, the cries, the groans! What dread forebodings of the unquiet spirits! What visions of judgment! What anxious peerings into the midnight of future banishment and ruin! Ah, then the cravings after a little longer span of life, the clutchings at anything for the bare chance of hope. May your ears be spared the dreadful outcry of the spirit when it feels itself seized by the hand invisible and dragged downward to its certain doom. Give me sooner to be shut up in prison for months and years than to stand by dying beds such as I have myself witnessed. They have written their memorial on my young heart; the scars of the wounds they gave me are there still. Why the faces of some men, like mirrors, reflect the flames of hell while yet they live. All this, however, is but of secondary importance compared with that which follows death. To the ungodly there is awful significance in that verse of the Revelation, “I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.”

     One woe is past, but there are other woes to come. If death were all, I were not here this morning; for little mattereth it in what style a man dies, if it were not that he shall live again. The sinner’s death is the death of all in which he took delight. No cups of drunkeness for thee again, no viol, no lute, no sound of music, no more the merry dance, no more the loud lascivious song, no jovial company, no high sounding blasphemies; all these are gone for ever. Dives, thy purple is plucked from off thee, the red flames shall be thy mantle. Where now thy fine linen, wherefore is thy nakedness thus revealed to thy shame and contempt? Where now thy delicate tables, O thou who didst fare sumptuously every day? Thy parched lips shall crave in vain the blessed drop to cool thy tongue. Now where are thy riches, thou rich fool? Thy barns are indeed pulled down, but thou needest not build greater, thy corn, thy wine, thine oil have vanished like a dream, and thou art poor indeed, cursed with a depth of penury such as the dog-licked Lazarus never knew. Death removes every delight from the graceless. It takes away from his eye, his ear, his hand, his heart, everything which might yield him solace. The cruel Moabites of death shall cut down every fair tree of hope, and fill up with huge stones every well of comfort, and there shall be nothing left for the spirit but a dreary desert, barren of all joy or hope, which the soul must traverse with weary feet for ever and ever!

     Nor is this all. Let us understand their end yet farther. No sooner is the sinner dead than he stands before the bar of God in his disembodied state. That impure spirit is set before the blazing eye of God. Its deeds are well known to itself; it needs no opening of the great books as yet. A motion of the eternal finger bids it go its way. Whither can it go? It dare not climb to heaven; there is but one road open: it sinks to its appointed place. The expectation of future torment plagues the soul with a self-kindled hell, conscience becomes a never-dying, ever-gnawing worm. Conscience, I say, crieth in the souls of men, “Now where art thou? Thou art lost, and this thy lost estate thou hast brought upon thyself. Thou art not yet judged” says conscience; “yet thou art lost, for when those books are opened, thou knowest that their records will condemn thee.” Memory wakes up and confirms the voice of conscience “’Tis true,” she saith, “’tis true.” Now the soul remembers its thousand faults and crimes. The judgment also shakes off its slumber, holds up its scales, and reminds the man that conscience clamours not amiss. Hope has been smitten down, but all the fears are living and full of vigour; like serpents with a hundred heads, they sting the heart through and through. The heart bowed down with unnumbered dreads moaneth within itself: “The awful trumpet will soon sound, my body will rise; I must suffer both in body and in soul for all my wrong-doings, there is no hope for me, no hope for me. Would God I had listened when I was warned! Ah! would to God that I had turned at the faithful rebuke, that when Jesus Christ was presented to me in the Gospel I had believed on him! But no, I despised my own salvation. I chose the fleeting pleasures of time, and for that poor price I have earned eternal ruin. I chose rather to drown my conscience than to let it lead me to glory. I turned my back upon the right, and now here I am, waiting like a prisoner in a condemned cell till the great assize shall come and I shall stand before the Judge.” Let us go on to consider their end. The day of days, that dreadful day has come. The millennial rest is over, the righteous have had their thousand years of glory upon earth. Hark! the dread trumpet, louder than a thousand thunders, startles death and hell. Its awful sound shakes both earth and heaven; every tomb is rent and emptied. From the teeming womb of earth, that fruitful mother of mankind, up start multitudes upon multitudes of bodies, as though they were new-born; lo, from Hades come the spirits of the lost ones — and they each enter into the body in which once it sinned, while the righteous sit upon their thrones of glory, their transformed bodies made like unto the glorious body of Christ Jesus the Lord from heaven. The voice of the trumpet waxes exceeding loud and long, the sea has given up her dead, from tongues of fire, from lion’s jaws, and from corruption’s worm, all mortal flesh has been restored, atom to atom, bone to bone, at the fiat of Omnipotence all bodies are refashioned. And now the great white throne is set with pomp of angels. Every eye beholds it. The great books are open, and all men hear the rustling of their awful leaves. The finger of the hand that once was crucified turns leaf after leaf, and names of men are sounded forth — to glory, to destruction — “Come ye blessed “Depart ye cursed:” — these are the final arbiters of glory or of ruin. And now where art thou, sinner, for thy turn is come? Thy sins are read and published! Shame consumes thee. Thy proud face now mantles with a thousand blushes. Thou wouldst cover thyself, but thou canst not, and, most of all, thou art afraid of the face of him who to-day looks on thee with eyes of pity, but then with glances of fiery wrath, the face of Jesus, the face of the Lamb, the dying Lamb, then enthroned in judgment. Oh how ashamed thou wilt be to think thou hast despised him, to think that though he died for sinners, thou didst scorn and scoff him, didst malign his followers and slander his religion! How piteously wilt thou crave a veil of granite to hide thy shameful face from him. “Rocks hide me! Mountains fall upon me! Hide me from the face of him that sits upon the throne.” But it must not — it must not be.

“Where now, oh, where shall sinners seek
For shelter in the general wreck?
Shall falling rocks be o’er them thrown?
See rocks, like snow, dissolving down.”

     O, sinner, this is but the beginning of the end, for now thy sentence is read out, thy doom pronounced, hell opens her wide jaws, and thou fallest to destruction. Where art thou now? Body and soul re-married in an everlasting union, having sinned together must now suffer together, and that for ever. I cannot picture it; imagination’s deepest dye paints not this tenfold night. I cannot pourtray the anguish which both soul and body must endure — each nerve a road for the hot feet of pain to travel on, each mental power a blazing furnace heated seven times hotter with raging flames of misery. Oh, my God, deliver us from ever knowing this in our own persons!

     Let us now pause and review the matter. It behoves us to remember concerning the sinner’s latter end, that it is absolutely certain. The same “word” which says, “he that believeth shall be saved,” makes it also equally certain and clear that “he that believeth not shall be damned” If God be true, then must sinners suffer. If sinners suffer not, then saints have no glory, our faith is vain, Christ’s death was vain, and we may as well abide comfortably in our sins. Sinner, whatever philosophy may urge with its syllogisms, whatever scepticism may declare with her laughter and sneers, it is absolutely certain that, dying as thou art, the wrath of God shall come upon thee to the uttermost. If there were but a thousandth part of a fear that you or I might perish, it were wisdom to fly to Christ; but when it is not a “perhaps” or a “peradventure,” but an absolute certainty that he who rejects Christ must be lost for ever, I do conjure you, if ye be rational men, see to it, and set your houses in order, for God will surely smite, though he tarry never so long. Though for ninety years thou avoid the arrows of his bow, his bolt will in due time find thee, and pierce thee through, and where art thou then?

     And as it is certain, so let us recollect that to the sinner it is often sudden. In such an hour as he thinketh not, to him the Son of man cometh. As pain upon a woman in travail, as the whirlwind on the traveller, as the eagle on his prey, so suddenly cometh death. Buying and selling, marrying and giving in marriage, chambering and full of wantonness, the ungodly man saith, “Go thy way for this time, when I have a more convenient season I will send for thee;” but as the frost often cometh when the buds are swelling ready for the spring and nips them on a sudden how often doth the frost of death nip all the hopeful happiness of ungodly men and it withers once for all. Hast thou a lease of thy life? Lives there a man who can insure that thou shalt breathe another hour? Let but thy blood freeze in its channels; let but thy breath stop for a moment, and where art thou? A spider’s web is a strong cable when compared with the thread on which mortal life depends. We have told you a thousand times, till the saying has become so trite that you smile when we repeat it, that life is frail, and yet ye live O men, as though your bones were brass, and your flesh were adamant, and your lives like the years of the Eternal God. As breaks the dream of the sleeper, as flies the cloud before the wind, as melts the foam from the breaker, as dies the meteor from the sky, so suddenly shall the sinner’s joys pass from him for ever, and who shall measure the greatness of his amazement?

     Remember, O sons of men, how terrible is the end of the ungodly. You think it easy for me to talk of death and damnation now, and it is not very difficult for you to hear; but when you and I shall come to die, ah! then every word we have uttered shall have a weightier meaning than this dull hour can gather from it. Imagine the sinner dying. Weeping friends are about him; he tosses to and fro upon yon weary couch. The strong man is bowed down. The last struggle is come. Friends watch the glazing of the eyes; they wipe the clammy sweat from the brow. At last they say, “He is gone! He is gone!” Oh, my brethren, what amazement must seize upon the unsanctified spirit then! Ah, if his spirit could then speak, it would say, “It is all true that I was wont to hear. I spoke ill of the minister, the last sabbath in the year, for frying to frighten us, as I said, but he did not speak half so earnestly as he ought to have done. Oh, I wonder he did not fall down upon his knees and pray me to repent, but even if he had, I should have rejected his entreaties. Oh, if I had known! If I had known! If I had known all this; if I could have believed it; if I had not been such a fool as to doubt God’s word and think it all a tale to frighten children with. Oh, if I had known all this! but now I am lost! lost! lost for ever!” I think I hear that spirit’s wail of utter dismay, as it exclaims, “Yes, it has come; the thing whereof I was told it has all come to pass. Fixed is my everlasting state; no offers of mercy now; no blood of sprinkling now; no silver trumpet of the gospel now; no invitations to a loving Saviour’s bosom now! God is in arms against me. His terrors have broken me in pieces, and as a leaf is driven with the whirlwind, so am I driven I know not whither; but this I know, I am lost, lost, lost beyond all hope.” Horrible is the sinner’s end. I shudder while thus briefly I talk of it. O, believer, take heed that thou understandest this well.

     Do not fail to remember that the horror of the sinner’s end will consist very much in the reflection that he will lose heaven. Is that a little? The harps of angels, the company of the redeemed, the smile of God, the society of Christ — is this a trifle — to lose the saint’s best rest, that heritage for which martyrs wade through rivers of blood, that portion which Jesus thought it worth while to die that he might purchase. They lose all this, and then they earn in exchange the pains of hell, which are more desperate than tongue can tell. Consider a moment! He that inflicts the punishment is God. What blows must He strike! He did but put out his finger and he cut Rahab and wounded the dragon in the Red Sea. What will it be when stroke after stroke shall fall from his heavy hand? Oh Omnipotence, Omnipotence, how dreadful are thy blows! Sinner, see and tremble; God himself comes out in battle against you? Why the arrows of a man, when they stick in your conscience, are very sharp, but what will the arrows of God be! How will they drink your blood and infuse poison into your veins. Even now, when you feel a little sickness you are afraid to die, and when you hear a heart-searching sermon, it makes you melancholy. But what will it be when God in thunder dressed, comes out against thee and his fire consumes thee like the stubble. Will God punish thee? O sinner, what punishment must that be which he inflicts? I tremble for thee. Flee, I pray thee, to the cross of Christ, where shelter is prepared.

     Remember, moreover, it will be a God without mercy, who will then dash thee in pieces. He is all mercy to thee to-day, 0 sinner. In the wooing words of the Gospel he bids thee live, and in his name I tell thee as God lives he willeth not thy death, but would rather thou shouldest turn unto him and live; but if thou wilt not live; if thou wilt be his enemy; if thou wilt run upon the point of his spear, then he will be even with thee in the day when mercy reigns in heaven, and justice holds its solitary court in hell. O that ye were wise, and would believe in Jesus to the salvation of your souls!

     I would have you know, O ye who choose your own destructions, that ye shall suffer universally. Now, if our head ache, or if our heart be palpitating, or a member be in pain, there are other parts of the body which are at ease; but then, every power of body and of mind shall suffer at one time. All the chords of man’s nature shall vibrate with the discord of desolation. Then shall suffering be unceasing. Here we have a pause in our pain; the fever has its rests; paroxysms of agony have their seasons of quiet; but there in hell the gnashing of teeth shall be unceasing, the worm’s gnawings shall know no cessation; on, on for ever — for ever a hot race of misery. Then, worst of all, it shall be without end. When ten thousand years have run their course, thou shalt be no nearer to the end than at first. When millions have been piled on millions, still the wrath shall be to come — to come, as much as if there had been no wrath at all. Ah! these are dreadful things to talk of, and you who hear or read my sermons know that I am falsely accused when men say that I dwell often upon this dreadful theme; but I feel as if there is no hope for some of you, unless I thunder at you. I know that often God has broken some hearts with an alarming sermon, who might never have been won by an inviting and wooing discourse. My experience goes to show that the great hammer of God breaks many hearts, and some of my more terrible sermons have been even more useful than those in which I lifted up the cross and tenderly pleaded with men. Both must be used, sometimes the love which draws, and anon the vengeance which drives. Oh, my hearers, I cannot bear the thought that you should be lost! As I meditate, I have a vision of some of you passing away from this world, and will you curse me? Will you curse me as you go down to the pit? Will you accuse me, “You were not faithful with me. Pastor, you did not warn me; minister, you did not strive with me?” No, by the help of my Lord, through whose grace I am called to the work of this ministry, I must, I will be clear of your blood. You shall not make your bed in hell without knowing what an uneasy resting place ye choose. Ye shall hear the warning. It shall ring in your ears. “Who among us shall dwell with everlasting fire? Who among us shall abide with the eternal burnings?” I do assure you a true love speaks to you in every harsh word I utter, a love that cares too much for you to flatter you, a love which must tell you these things without mitigating them in any degree, lest ye perish through my trifling. “He that believeth not shall be damned.” “Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?” Why will ye reject your mercies? God help you by his Holy Spirit to understand your latter end and lay hold on Jesus now.

     II. This brings us to our second remark— If we have understood the sinner’s end, LET US NOW PROFIT BY IT. HOW can we do this?

     We can profit by it, first, by never envying the ungodly again. If at any time we feel with the Psalmist that we cannot understand how it is that the enemies of God enjoy the sweets of life, let us cease at once from such questionings, because we remember their latter end. Let David’s confession warn us —

“Lord, what a thoughtless wretch was I
To mourn, and murmur, and repine,
To see the wicked placed on high,
In pride and robes of honour shine!
But oh, their end! their dreadful end!
Thy sanctuary taught me so:
On slippery rocks I see them stand,
And fiery billows roll below.
Now let them boast how tall they rise,
I’ll never envy them again;
There they may stand with haughty eyes,
Till they plunge deep in endless pain.”

     If the sinnner’s end be so terrible, how grateful ought we to be, if we have been plucked from these devouring flames! Brothers and sisters, what was there in us why God should have mercy on us? Can we ascribe the fact that we have been washed from sin in Jesu’s this blood to, and anything made to but choose grace — the freeway, rich of, sovereign righteousness grace — can? Come we ascribe then, let us with our tears for others mingle joyous gratitude to God for that eternal love which has delivered our souls from death, our eyes from tears, and our feet from falling. Above all let us prize the sufferings of Christ beyond all cost. Oh, blessed cross, which has lifted us up from hell. Oh, dear wounds, which have become gates of heaven to us. Can we refuse to love that Son of man — that Son of God? Will we not to-day, at the foot of his dear cross, give ourselves to him anew, and ask him to bestow on us more grace, that we may live more to his honour, and spend and be spent in his service? Saved from hell, I must love thee, Jesus; and while life and being last, I must live and be prepared to die for thee.

     Again, beloved friends, how such a subject as this should lead you that profess to be followers of Christ to make your calling and election sure! If the end of the impenitent be so dreadful, let nothing content us but certainties with regard to' our own escape from this woe. Have you any doubts this morning? Have no peace of mind till those doubts are all solved. Is there any question upon your spirit as to whether you have real faith in the living Saviour? If so, rest not, I pray you, till in prayer and humble faith you have renewed your vows and come afresh to Christ. Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove yourselves; build on the rock; make sure work for eternity, lest it should happen after all, that you have been deceived. Oh, if it should turn out so. Alas! alas! alas! for you to have been so near to heaven and yet to be cast down to hell.

     Now this subject should teach Christians to be in earnest about the salvation of others. If heaven were a trifle we need not be zealous for the salvation of men. If the punishment of sin were some slight pain we need not exercise ourselves diligently to deliver men from it; but oh, if “eternity” be a solemn word, and if the wrath to come be terrible to bear, how should we be instant in season and out of season, striving to win others from the flames! What have you done this year, some of you? I fear me, brother Christians, some of you have done very little. Blessed be God, there are many earnest hearts among you; you are not all asleep; there are some of you who strive with both your hands to do your Master’s work, but even you are not as earnest as you should be. The preacher puts himself here in the list, mournfully confessing that he does not preach as he desires to preach. Oh, had I the tears and cries of Baxter, or the fervent seraphic zeal of Whitfield, my soul were well content, but, alas! we preach coldly upon burning themes and carelessly upon matters which ought to make -our hearts like flames of fire. But I say, brethren, are there not men and women here, members of this Church, doing nothing for Christ; no soul saved this year by you, Christ unhonoured by you; no gems placed in his crown? What nave ye been living for, ye cumber-ground? Wherefore stand ye in the Church, ye fruitless trees? God make you – oh ye that do little for him – to humble yourselves before him, and to begin the next year with this determination, that knowing the terrors of the Lord, you will persuade men, and labour, and strive to bring sinners to the cross of Christ.

     III. But we must leave that point of instruction and come to our last and pleading point, and that is very earnestly to WARN THOSE WHOSE END THIS MUST BE EXCEPT THEY REPENT.   

     And who are they? Please to remember we are not speaking now of people in the street, of drunkards, and harlots, and profane swearers, and such like – we know that their damnation is sure and just – but, alas, I need not look far. If I glance along these seats and look into faces upon which my eye rests every Sabbath day, there are some of you, some of you who are unconverted still. You are not immoral but you are unregenerated; you are not unamiable but you are not far from the kingdom, but you are not in the kingdom. It is your end I speak of now, yours ye sons of godly mothers, yours ye daughters of holy parents —you end, unless God give you repentance. I want you to see where you are standing to-day.  “Surely thou didst set  them in slippery places” If it has ever been your lot to tread the glaciers of the Alps you will have seen upon that mighty river of ice, huge wave-like mountains of crystal, and deep fissures of unknown depth, and of an intensely blue colour. If condemned to stand on one of these icy eminences with a yawning crevasse at its base, our peril would be extreme. Sinner it is on such a slippery place you stand, only the danger is far greater than my metaphor sets forth.  

     Your standing is smooth; pleasure attends you; yours are not the rough ways of penitence and contrition — sin’s road is smooth — but ah how slippery from its very smoothness. O be warned, you must fall sooner or later, stand as firmly as you may. Sinner you may fall now, at once. The mountain yields beneath your feet, the slippery ice is melting every moment. Look down and learn your speedy doom. Yonder yawning gulf must soon receive you, while we look after you with hopeless tears. Our prayers cannot follow you; from your slippery standing place you fall and you are gone for ever. Death makes the place where you stand slippery, for it dissolves your life every hour. Time makes it slippery, for every instant it cuts the ground from under your feet. The vanities which you enjoy make your place slippery, for they are all like ice which shall melt before the sun. You have no foot-hold, sinner, you have no sure hope, no confidence. It is a melting thing you trust to. If you are depending on what you mean to do — that is no foot-hold. If you get peace from what you have felt or from what you have done — that is no foot-hold. It is a slippery place you stand in. I read yesterday of the hunter of the chamois springing from crag to crag after the game he had wounded. The creature leapt down many a frowning precipice, but the hunter fearlessly followed as best he could. At last in his hot haste he found himself slipping down a shelving rock. The stone crumbled away as it came in contact with his thickly-nailed shoes, which he tried to dig into the rock to stop his descent. He strove to seize on every little inequality, regardless of the sharp edges; but as his fingers, bent convulsively like talons, scraped the stone, it crumbled off as though it had been baked clay, tearing the skin like ribands from his fingers and cutting into his flesh. Having let go his long pole, he heard it slipping down behind him, its iron point changing as it went; and then it flew over the ledge bounding into the depths below. In a moment he must follow, for with all his endeavours he is unable to stop himself. His companion looks on in speechless horror. But heaven intervenes. Just as he expects to go over the brink, one foot is arrested in its descent by a slight inequality. He hardly dares to move lest the motion might break his foot-hold, but gently turning his head to see how far he is from the brink, he perceives that his foot has stopped not a couple of inches from the edge of the rock; those two inches further and destruction had been his lot.

     Ungodly man, in this mirror see thyself, you are sliding down a slippery place, you have neither foot-hold, nor hand-hold. All your hopes crumble beneath your weight. The Lord alone knows how near you are to your eternal ruin. Perhaps this morning you are scarce two inches from the edge of the precipice. Your drunken companion who died a few days ago, has just now gone over the edge. Did you not hear him falling — and you yourself are about to perish. Good God! the man is almost gone! Oh that I could stay you in your downward course. The Lord alone can do it, but he works by means. Turn round and gaze upon your past life; behold the wrath of God which must come on account of it. You are sliding down the slippery places to a fearful end, but the angel of mercy calls you, and the hand of love can save you. Hear how Jesus pleads with thee. “Put thy hand in mine,” he says; “thou art lost, man, but I can save thee now.” Poor wretch! wilt thou not do it. Then art thou lost. Oh wherefore wilt thou not, when love and tenderness would woo thee, wherefore wilt thou not put thy trust in him. He is able and willing to save thee, even now. Believe in Jesus, and though thou art now in slippery places, thy feet shall soon be set upon a rock of safety. I know not how it is, the more earnestly I long to speak, and the more passionately I would set forth the danger of ungodly men, the more my tongue refuses. These weighty burdens of the Lord are not to be entrusted it seems to the power of oratory. I must stammer and groan them out to you. I must in short sentences tell out my message and leave it with you. I have the solemn conviction this morning that there are scores and hundreds of you who are on the road to hell. You know you are. If conscience speaks truly to you, you know you have never sought Christ, you have never put your trust in him, you are still what you always were, ungodly, unconverted. Is this a trifle? Oh, I ask you, I put it to your own judgments, is this a thing of which you ought to think carelessly? I pray you let your hearts speak. Is it not time that some of you began to think of these things? Nine years ago we had some hopes of you, those hopes have been disappointed up till now. As each year rolls round you promise yourself that the next shall be different; but there has been no change yet. May we not fear that you will continue entangled in the great net of procrastination until at last you will have eternally to regret that you kept deferring, and deferring, and deferring, till it was too late. The way of salvation is not hard to comprehend; it is no great mystery, it is simply “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” Trust Christ with thy soul and he will save it. I know you will not do this unless the Holy Spirit constrains you, but this does not remove your responsibility. If you reject this great salvation you deserve to perish. When it is laid so clearly before you, if you refuse it, no eye can pity you among all the thousands in hell or all the millions in heaven.

“How they deserve the deepest hell
Who slight the joys above;
What chains of vengeance must they feel
Who break the cords of love.”

     May I ask all Christian people to join in prayer for the ungodly. When I cannot plead as a preacher, I bless God I can plead as an intercessor. Let us spend, all of us, a little time this afternoon in private intercession. May I ask it of you as a great favour — occupy a little time this afternoon, each child of God, in praying for the unconverted among us. Conversion work does go on; there are many always coming to be united to the Church, but we want more; and we shall have more, if we pray for more.

     Make this afternoon a travailing time, and if we travail in birth God will give us the spiritual seed. It is to the Holy Spirit we must look for all true regeneration and conversion, therefore let us pray for the descent of his influence, and depend upon his omnipotence and the great work must and shall be done. Could I address you in the tones of an angel, yet I could not have more to say than this, “Sinner, fly to Christ.” I am glad I am weak, for now the Master’s power shall be the better seen. Lord, do thou the sinner turn, and make him feel the danger of his state, and find in Christ a ransom and a rescue, and to thy name be glory. — Amen.



No Room for Christ in the Inn

By / Dec 21

No Room for Christ in the Inn

 

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” — Luke 2:7.

 

     IT was needful that it should be distinctly proven, beyond all dispute, that our Lord sprang out of Judah. It was necessary, also, that he should be born in Bethlehem-Ephratah, according to the word of the Lord which he spake by his servant Micah. But how could a public recognition of the lineage of an obscure carpenter and an unknown maiden be procured? What interest could the keepers of registers be supposed to take in two such humble persons? As for the second matter, Mary lived at Nazareth in Galilee, and there seemed every probability that the birth would take place there; indeed, the period of her delivery was so near that, unless absolutely compelled, she would not be likely to undertake a long and tedious journey to the southern province of Judea. How are these two matters to be arranged? Can one turn of the wheel effect two purposes? It can be done! It shall be done! The official stamp of the Roman empire shall be affixed to the pedigree of the coming Son of David, and Bethlehem shall behold his nativity. A little tyrant, Herod, by some show of independent spirit, offends the greater tyrant, Augustus. Augustus informs him that he shall no longer treat him as a friend, but as a vassal; and albeit Herod makes the most abject submission, and his friends at the Roman court intercede for him, yet Augustus, to show his displeasure, orders a census to be taken of all the Jewish people, in readiness for a contemplated taxation, which, however, was not carried out till some ten years after. Even the winds and waves are not more fickle than a tyrant’s will; but the Ruler of tempests knoweth how to rule the perverse spirits of princes. The Lord our God has a bit for the wildest war horse, and a hook for the most terrible leviathan. Autocratical Caesars are but puppets moved with invisible strings, mere drudges to the King of kings. Augustus must be made offended with Herod; he is constrained to tax the people; it is imperative that a census be taken ; nay, it is of necessity that inconvenient, harsh, and tyrannical regulations should be published, and every person must repair to the town to which he was reputed to belong; thus, Mary is brought to Bethlehem, Jesus Christ is born as appointed, and, moreover, he is recognised officially as being descended from David by the fact that his mother came to Bethlehem as being of that lineage, remained there, and returned to Galilee without having her claims questioned, although the jealousy of all the women of the clan would have been aroused had an intruder ventured to claim a place among the few females to whom the birth of Messias was now by express prophecies confined. Remark here the wisdom of a God of providence, and believe that all things are ordered well. When all persons of the house of David were thus driven to Bethlehem, the scanty accommodation of the little town would soon be exhausted. Doubtless friends entertained their friends till their houses were all full, but Joseph had no such willing kinsmen in the town. There was the caravanserai, which was provided in every village, where free accommodation was given to travellers; this, too, was full, for coming from a distance, and compelled to travel slowly, the humble couple had arrived late in the day. The rooms within the great brick square were already occupied with families; there remained no better lodging, even for a woman in travail, than one of the meaner spaces appropriated to beasts of burden. The stall of the ass was the only place where the child could be born. By hanging a curtain at its front, and perhaps tethering the animal on the outer side to block the paassge, the needed seclusion could be obtained, and here, in the stable, was the King of Glory born, and in the manger was he laid. My business this morning is to lead your meditations to the stable at Bethlehem, that you may see this great sight — the Saviour in the manger, and think over the reason for this lowly couch — “because there was no room for them in the inn.”

     I. I shall commence by remarking that THERE WERE OTHER REASONS WHY CHRIST SHOULD BE LAID IN THE MANGER.

     1. I think it was intended thus to show forth his humiliation. He came, according to prophecy, to be “despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;” he was to be “without form or comeliness,” “a root out of a dry ground.” Would it have been fitting that the man who was to die naked on the cross should be robed in purple at his birth? Would it not have been inappropriate that the Redeemer who was to be buried in a borrowed tomb should be born anywhere but in the humblest shed, and housed anywhere but in the most ignoble manner? The manger and the cross standing at the two extremities of the Saviour’s earthly life seem most fit and congruous the one to the other, lie is to wear through life a peasant’s garb; he is to associate with fishermen; the lowly are to be his disciples; the cold mountains are often to be his only bed; he is to say, “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head;” nothing, therefore, could be more fitting than that in his season of humiliation, when he laid aside all his glory, and took upon himself the form of a servant, and condescended even to the meanest estate, he should be laid in a manger.

     2. By being in a manger he was declared to be the king of the poor. They, doubtless, were at once able to recognise his relationship to them, from the position in which they found him. I believe it excited feelings of the tenderest brotherly kindness in the minds of the shepherds, when the angel said — “This shall be a sign unto you; you shall find the child wrapped in swaddling-clothes and lying in a manger.” In the eyes of the poor, imperial robes excite no affection, but a man in their own garb attracts their confidence. With what pertinacity will workingmen cleave to a leader of their own order, believing in him because he knows their toils, sympathizes in their sorrows, and feels an interest in all their concerns. Great commanders have readily won the hearts of their soldiers by sharing their hardships and roughing it as if they belonged to the ranks. The King of Men who was born in Bethlehem, was not exempted in his infancy from the common calamities of the poor, nay, his lot was even worse than theirs. I think I hear the shepherds comment on the manger-birth, “Ah!” said one to his fellow, “then he will not be like Herod the tyrant; he will remember the manger and feel for the poor; poor helpless infant, I feel a love for him even now, what miserable accommodation this cold world yields its Saviour; it is not a Caesar that is born to-day; he will never trample down our fields with his armies, or slaughter our flocks for his courtiers, he will be the poor man’s friend, the people’s monarch ; according to the words of our shepherd-king, he shall judge the poor of the people; he shall save the children of the needy.” Surely the shepherds, and such as they — the poor of the earth, perceived at once that here was the plebeian king; noble in descent, but still as the Lord hath called him, “one chosen out of the people.” Great Prince of Peace! the manger was thy royal cradle! Therein wast thou presented to all nations as Prince of our race, before whose presence there is neither barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free; but thou art Lord of all. Kings, your gold and silver would have been lavished on him if ye had known the Lord of Glory, but inasmuch as ye knew him not he was declared with demonstration to be a leader and a witness to the people. The things which are not, under him shall bring to nought the things that are, and the things that are despised which God hath chosen, shall under his leadership break in pieces the might, and pride, and majesty of human grandeur.

     3. Further, in thus being laid in a manger, he did, as it were, give an invitation to the most humble to come to him. “We might tremble to approach a throne, but we cannot fear to approach a manger. Had we seen the Master at first riding in state through the streets of Jerusalem with garments laid in the way, and the palm-branches strewed, and the people crying, “Hosanna!” we might have thought, though even the thought would have been wrong, that he was not approachable. Even there, riding upon a colt the foal of an ass, he was so meek and lowly, that the young children clustered about him with their boyish “Hosanna!” Never could there be a being more approachable than Christ. No rough guards pushed poor petitioners away; no array of officious friends were allowed to keep off the importunate widow or the man who clamoured that his son might be made whole; the hem of his garment was always trailing where sick folk could reach it, and he himself had a hand always ready to touch the disease, an ear to catch the faintest accents of misery, a soul going forth everywhere in rays of mercy, even as the light of the sun streams on every side beyond that orb itself. By being laid in a manger he proved himself a priest taken from among men, one who has suffered like his brethren, and therefore can be touched with a feeling of our infirmities. Of him it was said “He doth eat and drink with publicans and sinners;” “this man receiveth sinners and eateth with them.” Even as an infant, by being laid in a manger, he was set forth as the sinner’s friend. Come to him, ye that are weary and heavy-laden! Come to him, ye that are broken in spirit, ye who are bowed down in soul! Come to him, ye that despise yourselves and are despised of others! Come to him, publican and harlot! Come to him, thief and drunkard! In the manger there he lies, unguarded from your touch and unshielded from your gaze. Bow the knee, and kiss the Son of God; accept him as your Saviour, for he puts himself into that manger that you may approach him. The throne of Solomon might awe you, but the manger of the Son of David must invite you.

     4. Methinks there was yet another mystery. You remember, brethren, that this place was free to all; it was an inn, and please to remember the inn in this case was not like our hotels, where accommodation and provision must be paid for. In the early and simple ages of the world every man considered it an honour to entertain a stranger; afterwards, as travelling became more common, many desired to shift the honour and pleasure upon their neighbours; wherefore should they engross all the dignity of hospitality? Further on still, some one person was appointed in each town and village, and was expected to entertain strangers in the name of the rest ; but, as the ages grew less simple, and the pristine glow of brotherly love cooled down, the only provision made was the erection of a huge square block, arranged in rooms for the travellers, and with lower stages for the beasts, and here, with a certain provision of water and in some cases chopped straw for the cattle, the traveller must make himself as comfortable as he could. He had not to purchase admittance to the caravanserai, for it was free to all, and the stable especially so. Now, beloved, our Lord Jesus Christ was born in the stable of the inn to show how free he his to all comers. The Gospel is preached to every creature and shuts out none. We may say of the invitations of Holy Scripture,

“None are excluded hence but those
Who do themselves exclude;
Welcome the learned and polite,
The ignorant and rude.
Though Jesus’ grace can save the prince,
The poor may take their share;
No mortal has a just pretence
To perish in despair.”

     Class exclusions are unknown here, and the prerogatives of caste are not acknowledged. No forms of etiquette are required in entering a stable; it cannot be an offence to enter the stable of a public caravanserai. So, if you desire to come to Christ you may come to him just as you are; you may come now. Whosoever among you hath the desire in his heart to trust Christ is free to do it. Jesus is free to you; lie will receive you; he will welcome you with gladness, and to show this, I think, the young child was cradled in a manger. We know that sinners often imagine that they are shut out. Oftentimes the convicted conscience will write bitter things against itself and deny its part and lot in mercy’s stores. Brother, if God hath not shut thee out, do not shut thyself out. Until thou canst find it written in the Book that thou mayest not trust Christ; till thou canst quote a positive passage in which it is written that he is not able to save thee, I pray thee take that other word wherein it is written — “He is able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by him.” “Venture on that promise: come to Christ in the strength and faith of it, and thou shalt find him free to all comers.

     5. We have not yet exhausted the reasons why the Son of Man was laid in a manger. It was at the manger that the beasts were fed; and does the Saviour lie where weary beasts receive their provender, and shall there not be a mystery here? Alas, there are some men who have become so brutal through sin, so utterly depraved by their lusts, that to their own consciences every thing manlike has departed, but even to such the remedies of Jesus, the Great Physician, will apply. We are constantly reading in our papers of men who are called incorrigible, and it is fashionable just now to demand ferociously, that these men should be treated with unmingled severity. Some few years ago all the world went mad with a spurious humanity, crying out that gentleness would reform the brutal thief whom harsh punishments would harden hopelessly; now the current has turned, and everybody is demanding the abandonment of the present system. I am no advocate for treating criminals daintily; let their sin bring them a fair share of smart; but if by any means they can be reformed, pray let the means be tried. The day will come when the paroxysm of this garrotting fever is over, we shall blush to think that we were frightened by silly fears into a dangerous interference with a great and good work which hitherto has been successfully carried on. It is a fact that under the present system, which (abating some faults that it may be well to cure) is an admirable one, crime is growing less frequent, and the class of gross offenders has been materially lessened. Whereas in 1844 18,490 convicts were transported, in 1860 the corresponding number was 11,533, and that notwithstanding the increase of the population. The ticket-of-leave system, when the public would employ the convicts and so give them a chance of gaining a new character, worked so well that little more than one per cent, in a year were re-convicted, and even now only five per cent, per annum are found returning to crime and to prison. Well, now, if the five per cent, receive no good, or even become worse, ought we not to consider the other ninety-five, and pause awhile before we give loose to our vengeance and exchange a Christian system of hopeful mercy for the old barbarous rule of unmitigated severity. Beware, fellowcitizens, beware of restoring the old idea that men can sin beyond hope of reformation, or you will generate criminals worse than those which now trouble us. The laws of Draco must ever be failures, but fear not for the ultimate triumph of plans which a Christian spirit has suggested. I have wandered from the subject, — I thought I might save some from the crime of opposing true philanthropy on account of a sudden panic; but I will return at once to the manger and the babe. I believe our Lord was laid in the manger where the beasts were fed, to show that even least-like men may come to him and live. No creature can be so degraded that Christ cannot lift it up. Fall it may, and seem to fall most certainly to hell, but the long and strong arm of Christ can reach it even in its most desperate degradation; he can bring it up from apparently hopeless ruin. If there be one who has in here this morning whom society abhors, and who abhors himself, my Master in the stable with the beasts presents himself as able to save the vilest of the vile, and to accept the worst of the worst even now. Believe on him and he will make thee a new creature. 6. But as Christ was laid where beasts were fed, you will please to recollect that after he was gone leasts fed there again. It was only his presence which could glorify the manger, and here we learn that if Christ were taken away the world would go lack to its former heathen darkness. Civilisation itself would die out, at least that part of it which really civilises man, if the religion of Jesus could be extinguished. If Christ were taken away from the human heart, the most holy would become debased again, and those who claim kinship with angels would soon prove that they have relationship to devils. The manger, I say, would be a manger for beasts still, if the Lord of Glory were withdrawn, and we should go back to our sins and our lusts if Christ should once take away his grace and leave us to ourselves. For these reasons which I have mentioned, methinks, Christ was laid in a manger.

     II. But still the text says that he was laid in a manger because there was no room for him in the inn, and this leads us to the second remark, THAT THERE WERE OTHER PLACES BESIDES THE INN WHICH HAD NO ROOM FOR CHRIST.

     The palaces of emperors and the halls of kings afforded the royal stranger no refuge? Alas! my brethren, seldom is there room for Christ in palaces! How could the kings of earth receive the Lord? He is the Prince of Peace, and they delight in war! He breaks their bows and cuts their spears in sunder; he burneth their war-chariots in the fire. How could kings accept the humble Saviour? They love grandeur and pomp, and he is all simplicity and meekness. He is a carpenter’s son, and the fisherman’s companion. How can princes find room for the new-born monarch? Why he teaches us to do to others as we would that they should do to us, and this is a thing which kings would find very hard to reconcile with the knavish tricks of politics and the grasping designs of ambition. O great ones of the earth, I am but little astonished that amid your glories, and pleasures, and wars, and councils, ye forget the Anointed, and cast out the Lord of All. There is no room for Christ with the kings. Look throughout the kingdoms of the earth now, and with here and there an exception it is still true — “The kings of the earth stand up, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed.” In heaven we shall see here and there a monarch; but ah! how few; indeed a child might write them. “Hot many great men after the flesh, not many mighty are chosen.” State-chambers, cabinets, throne-rooms, and royal palaces, are about as little frequented by Christ as the jungles and swamps of India by the cautious traveller. He frequents cottages far more often than regal residences, for there is no room for Jesus Christ in regal halls.

“When the Eternal bows the skies
To visit earthly things,
With scorn divine he turns his eyes
From towers of haughty kings.
He bids his awful chariot roll
Far downward from the skies,
To visit every humble soul
With pleasure in his eyes.”

But there were senators, there were forums of political discussion, there were the places where the representatives of the people make the laws, was there no room for Christ there? Alas! my brethren, none, and to this day there is very little room for Christ in parliaments. How seldom is religion recognised by politicians! Of course a State-religion, if it will consent to be a poor, tame, powerless thing, a lion with its teeth all drawn, its mane all shaven off, and its claws all trimmed — yes, that may be recognised; but the true Christ and they that follow him and dare to obey his laws in an evil generation, what room is there for such? Christ and his gospel — oh! this is sectarianism, and. is scarcely worthy of the notice of contempt. Who pleads for Jesus in the senate? Is not his religion, under the name of sectarianism, the great terror of all parties? Who quotes his golden rule as a direction for prime ministers, or preaches Christ-like forgiveness as a rule for national policy? One or two will give him a good word, but if it be put to the vote whether the Lord Jesus should be obeyed or no, it will be many a day before the ayes have it. Parties, policies, place-hunters, and pleasure-seekers exclude the Representative of Heaven from a place among representatives of Earth. Might there not be found some room for Christ in what is called good society? Were there not in Bethlehem some people that were very respectable, who kept themselves aloof from the common multitude; persons of reputation and standing — could not they find room for Christ? Ah! dear friends, it is too much the case that there is no room for Him in what is called good society. There is room for all the silly little forms by which men choose to trammel themselves; room for the vain niceties of etiquette; room for frivolous conversation; room for the adoration of the body; there is room for the setting up of this and that as the idol of the hour, but there is too little room for Christ, and it is far from fashionable to follow the Lord fully. The advent of Christ would be the last thing which gay society would desire; the very mention of his name by the lips of love would cause a strange sensation. Should you begin to talk about the things of Christ in many a circle, you would be tabooed at once. “I will never ask that man to my house again,” so-and-so would say — “if he must bring his religion with him.” Folly and finery, rank and honour, jewels and glitter, frivolity and fashion, all report that there is no room for Jesus in their abodes.

     But is there not room for him on the exchange? Cannot he be taken to the marts of commerce? Here are the shop-keepers of a shop-keeping nation — is there not room for Christ here? Ah! dear friends, how little of the spirit, and life, and doctrine of Christ can be found here! The trader finds it inconvenient to be too scrupulous; the merchant often discovers that if he is to make a fortune he must break his conscience. How many there are – well, I will not say they tell lies directly, but still, still, – I had better say it plainly – they do lie indirectly with a vengeance. Who does not know as he rides along that there must be many liars abroad? For almost every house you see is “The cheapest house in London,” which can hardly be; full sure they cannot all be cheapest!  What sharp practice some indulge in! What puffery and falsehood! What cunning and sleight of hand! What woes would my Master pronounce on some of you if he looked into your shopwindows, or stood behind your counters. Brankruptcies, swindlings, frauds are so abundant that in hosts of cases there is no room for Jesus in the mart or the shop.

     Then there are the schools of the philosophers, surely they will entertain him. The wise men will find in him incarnate wisdom; he, who as a youth is to become the teacher of doctors, who will sit down and ask them questions and receive their answers, surely he will find room at

once among the Grecian sages, and men of sense and wit will honour him. “Room for him, Socrates and Plato! Stoics and Epicurians give ye way; and you, ye teachers of Israel, vacate your seats; if there is no room for this child without your going, go; we must have him in the schools of philosophy if we put you all forth.” No, dear friends, but it is not so; there is very little room for Christ in colleges and universities, very little room for him in the seats of learning. How often learning helps men to raise objections to Christ! Too often learning is the forge where the nails are made for Christ’s crucifixion; too often human wit has become the artificer who has pointed the spear and made the shaft with which his heart should be pierced. We must say it, that philosophy, falsely so called, (for true philosophy, if it were handled aright, must ever be Christ’s friend) philosophy, falsely so called, hath done mischief to Christ, but seldom hath it served his cause. A few with splendid talents, a few of the erudite and profound have bowed like children at the feet of the Babe of Bethlehem, and have been honoured in bowing there, but too many, conscious of their knowledge, stiff and stern in their conceit of wisdom, have said, — “Who is Christ, that we should acknowledge him?” They found no room for him in the schools.    

     But there was surely one place where he could go — it was the Sanhedrim, where the elders sit. Or could he not be housed in the priestly chamber where the priests assemble with the Levites. Was there not room for him in the temple or the synagogue? No, he found no shelter there; it was there, his whole life long, that he found his most ferocious enemies. Not the common multitude, but the priests were the instigators of his death; the priests moved the people to say “Not this man, but Barabbas.” The priests paid out their shekels to bribe the popular voice, and then Christ was hounded to his death. Surely there ought to have been room for him in the Church of his own people; but there was not. Too often in the priestly church, when once it becomes recognised and mounts to dignity, there is no room for Christ. I allude not now to any one denomination, but take the whole sweep of Christendom, and it is strange that when the Lord comes to his own his own receives him not. The most accursed enemies of true religion have been the men who pretended to be its advocates. It is little marvel when bishops undermine the popular faith in revelation; this is neither their first nor last offence. Who burned the martyrs, and made Smithfield a field of blood, a burning fiery furnace, a great altar for the Most High God? Why, those who professed to be anointed of the Lord, whose shaven crowns had received episcopal benediction. Who put John Bunyan in prison? Who chased such men as Owen and the Puritans from their pulpits? Who harried the Covenanters upon the mountains? Who, Sirs, but the professed messengers of heaven and priests of God? Who have hunted the baptized saints in every land, and hunt them still in many a Continental state? The priests ever; the priests ever; there is no room for Christ with the prophets of Baal, the servants of Babylon. The false hirelings that are not Christ’s shepherds, and love not his sheep, have ever been the most ferocious enemies of our God and of his Christ. There is no room for him where his name is chanted in solemn hymns and his image lifted up amid smoke of incense. Go where ye will, and there is no space for the Prince of peace but with the humble and contrite spirits which by grace he prepares to yield him shelter.

     III. But now for our third remark, THE INN ITSELF HAD NO ROOM FOR HIM; and this was the main reason why he must be laid in a manger.

     What can we find in modem times which stands in the place of the inn? Well, there is public sentiment free to all. In this free land, men speak of what they like, and there is a public opinion upon every subject; and you know there is free toleration in this country to everything — permit me to say, toleration to everything but Christ. You will discover that the persecuting-spirit is now as much abroad as ever. There are still men at whom it is most fashionable to sneer. We never scoff at Christians now-a-days; we do not sneer at that respectable title, lest we should lose our own honour; we do not now-a-days, talk against the followers of Jesus under that name. No; but we have found out a way of doing it more safely. There is a pretty word of modem invention — a very pretty word — the word “Sectarian.” Do you know what it means? A sectarian means a true Christian; a man who can afford to keep a conscience, and does not mind suffering for it; a man who, whatever he finds to be in that old Book, believes it, and acts upon it, and is zealous for it. I believe that the men aimed at under the term, “sectarians,” are the true followers of Christ, and that the sneers and jeers, and all the nonsense that you are always reading and hearing, is really aimed at the Christian, the true Christian, only he is disguised and nick-named by the word sectarian. I would give not a farthing for your religion, nay, not even the turn of a rusty nail, unless you will sometimes win that title. If God's Word be true, every atom of it, then we should act upon it; and whatsoever the Lord commandeth, we should diligently keep and obey, remembering that our Master tells us if we break one of the least of his commandments, and teach men so, we shall be least in his kingdom. We ought to be very jealous, very precise, very anxious, that even in the minutise of our Saviour’s laws, we may obey, having our eyes up to him as the eyes of servants are to their mistresses. But if you do this, you will find you are not tolerated, and you will get the cold shoulder in society. A zealous Christian will find as truly a cross to carry now-a-days, as in the days of Simon the Cyrenian. If you will hold your tongue, if you will leave sinners to perish, if you will never endeavour to propagate your faith, if you will silence all witnessing for truth, if, in fact, you will renounce all the attributes of a Christian, if you will cease to be what a Christian must be, then the world will say, “Ah! that is right; this is the religion we like.” But if you will believe, believe firmly, and if you let your belief actuate your life, and if your belief is so precious that you feel compelled to spread it, then at once you will find that there is no room for Christ even in the inn of public sentiment, where everything else is received. Be an infidel, and none will therefore treat you contemptuously; but be a Christian, and many will despise you. “There was no room for him in the inn.” How little room is there for Christ, too, in general conversation, which is also like an inn. We talk about many things; a man may now-adays talk of any subject he pleases; no one can stop him and say, “There is a spy catching your words; he will report you to some central authority.” Speech is very free in this land; but, ah! how little room is there for Christ in general talk! Even on Sunday afternoon how little room there is for Christ in some professed Christian’s houses. They will talk about ministers, tell queer anecdotes about them — perhaps invent a few, or, at least, garnish the old ones, and add to them, and make them a little more brilliant; they will talk about the Sunday school, or the various agencies in connection with the Church, but how little they say about Christ! And if some one should in conversation make this remark, “Could we not speak upon the Godhead and manhood, the finished work and righteousness the ascension, or the second advent of our Lord Jesus Christ,” why we should see many, who even profess to be followers of Christ, who would hold up their heads and say, “Why, dear, that man is quite a fanatic, or else he would not think of introducing such a subject as that into general conversation.” No, there is no room for him in the inn; to this day he can find but little access there. I address many who are working-men. You are employed among a great many artisans day after day; do you not find, brethren — I know you do — that there is very little room for Christ in the workshop? There is room there for everything else; there is room for swearing; there is room for drunkenness; there is room for lewd conversation; there is room for politics, slanders, or infidelities; but there is no room for Christ. Too many of our working men think religion would be an incumbrance, a chain, a miserable prison to them. They can frequent the theatre, or listen in a lecture-hall, but the house of God is too dreary for them. I wish I were not compelled to say so, but truly in our factories, workshops, and foundries, there is no room for Christ. The world is elbowing and pushing for more room, till there is scarce a comer left where the Babe of Bethlehem can be laid. As for the inns of modern times — who would think of finding Christ there? Putting out of our catalogue those hotels and roadside houses which are needed for the accommodation of travellers, what greater curse have we than our taverns and pot-houses? What wider gates of hell? Who would ever resort to such places as we have flaring with gas light at the comers of all our streets to find Christ there? As well might we expect to find him in the bottomless pit! We should be just as likely to look for angels in hell, as to look for Christ in a gin palace! He who is separate from sinners, finds no fit society in the reeking temple of Bacchus. There is no room for Jesus in the inn. I think I would rather rot or feed the crows, than earn my daily bread by the pence of fools, the hard-earnings of the poor man, stolen from his ragged children, and his emaciated wife. What do many publicans fatten upon but the flesh, and bones, and blood, and souls of men. He who grows rich on the fruits of vice is a beast preparing for the slaughter. Truly, there is no room for Christ among the drunkards of Ephraim. They who have anything to do with Christ should hear him say — “Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate; touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters.” There is no room for Christ now-a-days even in the places of public resort.

     IV. This brings me to my fourth head, which is the most pertinent, and the most necessary to dwell upon for a moment. HAVE YOU ROOM FOR CHRIST? HAVE YOU ROOM FOR CHRIST?

     As the palace, and the forum, and the inn, have no room for Christ, and as the places of public resort have none, have you room for Christ? “Well,” says one, “I have room for him, but I am not worthy that he should come to me.” Ah! I did not ask about worthiness; have you room for him? “Oh,” says one, “I have an empty void the world can never fill!” Ah! I see you have room for him. “Oh! but the room I have in my heart is so base!” So was the manger. “But it is so despicable!” So was the manger a thing to be despised. “Ah! but my heart is so foul!” So, perhaps, the manger may have been. “Oh! but I feel it is a place not at all fit for Christ!” Nor was the manger a place fit for him, and yet there was he laid. “Oh! but I have been such a sinner; I feel as if my heart had been a den of beasts and devils!” Well, the manger had been a place where beasts had fed. Have you room for him? Never mind what the past has been; he can forget and forgive. It mattereth not what even the present state may be if thou mournest it. If thou hast but room for Christ he will come and be thy guest. Do not say, I pray you, “I hope I shall have room for him the time is come that he shall be born; Mary cannot wait months and years. Oh! sinner, if thou hast room for him let him be born in thy soul to-day. “To day if ye will hear his voice harden not your hearts as in the provocation.” “To-day is the accepted time; today is the day of salvation.” Room for Jesus! Room for Jesus now! “Oh!” saith one, “I have room for him, but will he come?” Will he come indeed! Do you but set the door of your heart open, do but say, “Jesus, Master, all unworthy and unclean I look to thee; come, lodge within my heart,” and he will come to thee, and he will cleanse the manger of thy heart, nay, will transform it into a golden throne, and there he will sit and reign for ever and for ever. Oh! I have such a free Christ to preach this morning! I would I could preach him better. I have such a precious loving Jesus to preach, he is willing to find a home in humble hearts. What! are there no hearts here this morning that will take him in? Must my eye glance round these galleries and look at many of you who are still without him, and are there none who will say, “Come in, come in?” Oh! it shall be a happy day for you if you shall be enabled to take him in your arms and receive him as the consolation of Israel! You may then look forward even to death with joy, and say with Simeon — “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.” My Master wants room! Room for him! Room for him! I, his herald, cry aloud, Room for the Saviour! Room! Here is my royal Master — have you room for him? Here is the Son of God made flesh — have you room for him? Here is he who can forgive all sin— have you room for him? Here is he who can take you up out of the horrible pit and out of the miry clay— have you room for him? Here is he who when he cometh in will never go out again, but abide with you for ever to make your heart a heaven of joy and bliss for you — have you room for him? ’Tis all I ask. Your emptiness, your nothingness, your want of feeling, your want of goodness, your want of grace — all these will be but room for him. Have you room for him? Oh! Spirit of God, lead many to say, “Yes, my heart is ready.” Ah! then he will come and dwell with you.

“Joy to the world the Saviour comes,
The Saviour promised long;
Let every heart prepare a throne
And every voice a song.”

     V. I conclude with the remark, that if you have room for Christ, then from this day forth remember THE WORLD HAS NO ROOM FOR YOU; for the text says not only that there was no room for him, but look — “There was no room for them,” — no room for Joseph, nor for Mary, any more than for the babe. Who are his father, and mother, and sister, and brother, but those that receive his word and keep it? So, as there was no room for the blessed Virgin, nor for the reputed father, remember henceforth there is no room in this world for any true follower of Christ. There is no room for you to take your ease; no, you are to be a soldier of the cross, and you will find no ease in all your life-warfare. There is no room for you to sit down contented with your own attainments, for you are a traveller, and you are to forget the things that are behind, and press forward to that which is before; no room for you to hide your treasure in, for here the moth and rust doth corrupt; no room for you to put your confidence, for “Cursed is he that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm.” From this day there will be no room for you in the world's Id’ good opinion — they will count you to be an offscouring; no room for you in the world’s polite society — you must go without the camp, bearing his reproach. From this time forth, I say, if you have room for Christ, the world will hardly find room of sufferance for you ; t you must expect now to be laughed at; now you must wear the fool’s cap in men’s esteem; and your song must be at the very beginning of your pilgrimage.

“Jesus, I thy cross have taken,
All to leave and follow thee;
Naked, poor, despised, forsaken,
Thou from hence my all shall be.”

There is no room for you in the worldling’s love. If you expect that everybody will praise you, and that your good actions will all be applauded, you will quite be mistaken. The world, I say, has no room for the man who has room for Christ. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. “Woe unto you when all men speak well of you.” “Ye are not of the world, even as Christ is not of the world.” Thank God, you need not ask the world’s hospitality. If it will give you but a stage for action, and lend you for an hour a grave to sleep in, ’tis all you need; you will require no permanent dwelling-place here, since you seek a city that is to come, which hath foundations; whose builder and maker is God. You are hurrying through this world as a stranger through a foreign land, and you rejoice to know that though you are an alien and a foreigner here, yet you are a fellow citizen with the saints, and of the household to God.

     What say you, young soldier, will you enlist on such terms as these? Will you give room for Christ when there is to be henceforth no room for you — when you are to be separated for ever, cut off from among the world’s kith and kin mayhap — cut off from carnal confidence for ever? Are you willing, notwithstanding all this, to receive the traveller in? The Lord help you to do so, and to him shall be glory for ever and ever. Amen.



The Lord,—The Liberator

By / Dec 14

The Lord – The Liberator

 

“The Lord looseth the prisoners.” — Psalm 146:7.

 

     WHEN preaching last Tuesday in Dover, the mayor of the town very courteously lent the ancient town-hall for the service, and in passing along to reach a private entrance, I noticed a large number of grated windows upon a lower level than the great hall. These belonged to the prison cells where persons committed for offences within the jurisdiction of the borough were confined. It at once struck me as a singular combination, that we should be preaching the gospel of liberty in the upper chamber, while there were prisoners of the law beneath us. Perhaps when we sang praises to God, the prisoners, like those who were in the same jail with Paul and Silas, heard us; but the free word above did not give them liberty, nor did the voice of song loose their bonds. Alas! what a picture is this of many in our congregations. We preach liberty to the captives; we proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord; but how many remain year after year in the bondage of Satan, slaves to sin. We send up our notes of praise right joyously to our Father who is in heaven, but our praises cannot give them joy, for alas! their hearts are unused to gratitude. Some of them are mourning on account of unpardoned sin, and others of them are deploring their blighted hopes, for they have looked for comfort where it is never to be found. Let us breathe a prayer at the commencement of the sermon this morning, “Lord, break the fetters, and set free the captives. Glorify thyself this morning by proving thyself to be Jehovah, who looseth the prisoners.”

     The little circumstance which I have mentioned, fixed itself in my mind, and in my private meditations it thrust itself upon me. My thoughts ran somewhat in an allegory, until I gave imagination its full rein and bid her bear me at her will. In my day-dream I thought that some angelic warder was leading me along the corridors of this great world-prison, and bidding me look into the various cells where the prisoners were confined, reminding me ever and anon as I looked sorrowful, that “Jehovah looseth the prisoners.’’ What I thought of, I will now tell out to you. The dress of the sermon may be metaphorical; but my only aim is to utter comforting, substantial truth; and may the Master grant that some of you who have been in these prisons, as I have been, may this day come out of them, and rejoice that the Lord has loosed you.

     I. The first cell to which I went, and to which I shall conduct you, is called the common prison. In this common prison, innumerable souls are shut up. It were useless to attempt to count them; they are legion; their number is ten thousand times ten thousand. This is the ward of SIN. All the human race have been prisoners here; and those who this day are perfectly at liberty, once wore the heavy chain, and were immured within the black walls of this enormous prison. I stepped into it, and to my surprise, instead of hearing, as I had expected, notes of mourning and lament, I heard loud and repeated bursts of laughter. The mirth was boisterous and obstreporous. The profane were cursing and blaspheming; others were shouting as though they had found great spoil. I looked into the faces of some of the criminals, and saw sparkling gaiety: their aspect was rather that of wedding-guests than prisoners. Walking to and fro, I noticed captives who boasted that they were free, and when I spoke to them of their prison-house, and urged them to escape, they resented my advice, saying, “We were born free, and were never in bondage unto any man.” They bade me prove my words; and when I pointed to the irons on their wrists, they laughed at me, and said that these were ornaments which gave forth music as they moved; it Was only my dull and sombre mind, they said, which made me talk of clanking fetters and jingling chains. There were men fettered hard and fast to foul and evil vices, and these called themselves free-livers, while others whose very thoughts were bound, for the iron had entered into their soul, with braggart looks, cried out to me, that they were freethinkers. Truly, I had never seen such bond-slaves in my life before, nor any so fast manacled as these; but ever did I mark as I walked this prison through and through, that the most fettered thought themselves the most free, and those who were in the darkest part of the dungeon, thought they had most light, and those whom I considered to be the most wretched, and the most to be pitied, were the very ones who laughed the most, and raved most madly and boisterously in their mirth. I looked with sorrow but as I looked, I saw a bright spirit touch a prisoner on the shoulder, who thereon withdrew with the shining one. He went out, and I knew, for I had read the text – “The Lord looseth the prisoners,” I knew that the prisoner had been loosed from the house of bondage. But I noted that as he went forth his late bond-fellows laughed and pointed with the finger, and called him sniveller, hypocrite, mean pretender, and all ill names, until the prison walls rang and rang again with their mirthful contempt! I watched, and saw the mysterious visitant touch another, and then another, and another, and they disappeared. The common conversation of the prison said that they had gone mad; that they were become slaves, or miserable fanatics, whereas I knew that they were gone to be free for ever; emancipated from every bond. What struck me most was, that the prisoners who were touched with the finger of delivering love were frequently the worst of the whole crew. I marked one who had blasphemed, but the Divine hand couched him, and he went weeping out of the gate. I saw another who had often scoffed the loudest when he had seen others led away, but he went out as quietly as a lamb. I observed some, whom I thought to be the least depraved of them all. but they were left, and oftentimes the blackest sinners of the whole company were first taken, and I remembered that I had somewhere in an old book read these words — “The publicans and the harlots enter into the kingdom of God before you.” As I gazed intently, I saw some of those men who had once been prisoners come back again into the prison — not in the same dress which they had worn before, but arrayed in white robes, looking like new creatures. They began to talk with their fellow-prisoners; and, oh! how sweetly did they speak! They told them there was liberty to be had; that yonder door would open, and that they might escape. They pleaded with their fellow-men, even unto tears. I saw them sit down and talk with them till they wept upon their necks, urging them to escape, pleading as though it were their own life that was at stake. At first I hoped within myself that all the company of prisoners would rise and cry, “Let us be free.” But no; the more these men pleaded the harder the others seemed to grow, and, indeed, I found it so when I sought myself to be an ambassador to these slaves of sin. Wherever the finger of the shining one was felt our pleadings easily prevailed; but save and except in those who were thus touched by the heavenly messenger all our exhortations fell upon deaf ears, and we left that den of iniquity crying, “Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” Then I was cast into a muse, as I considered what a marvel of mercy it was that I myself should be free; for well do I remember when I spumed every invitation of love; when I hugged my chains, dreamed my prison garb to be a royal robe, and took the meals of the prison, called the pleasures of sin, and relished them as sweet, yea, dainty morsels, fit for princes. How it came to pass that sovereign grace should have set me free I cannot tell; only this I know, I will sing for ever, while I live and when I die, that “The Lord looseth the prisoners.” Our gracious God knoweth how to bring us up out from among the captives of sin, set our feet in the way of righteousness and liberty, make us his people, and keep us so for ever. Alas! how many have I now before me who are prisoners in this common prison? “Oh! sovereign grace, their hearts subdue;

May they be freed from bondage too;
As willing followers of the Lord,
Brought forth to freedom by his word.”

     II. I asked the guide where those were led who were released from the common ward. He told me that they were taken away to be free, perfectly free; but that before their complete gaol deliverance it was necessary that they should visit a house of detention which he would show me. He led me thither. It was called the solitary cell, I had heard much of the solitary system, and I wished to look inside this cell, supposing that it would be a dreadful place. Over the door was written this word — “PENITENCE, and when I opened it I found it so clean and white, and withal so sweet and full of light, that I said this place was fitter to be a house of prayer than a prison, and my guide told me that indeed so it was originally intended, and that nothing but that iron door of unbelief which the prisoners would persist in shutting fast made it a prison at all. When once that door was open the place became so dear an oratory, that those who were once prisoners therein were wont to come back to the cell of their own accord, and begged leave to use it, not as a prison, but as a closet for prayer all their lives long. He even told me that one was heard to say when he was dying, that his only regret in dying was, that in heaven there would be no cell of penitence. Here David wrote seven of his sweetest Psalms; Peter also wept bitterly here; and the woman who was a sinner here washed the feet of her Lord. But this time I was regarding it as a prison, and I perceived that the person in the cell did so consider it. I found that every prisoner in this cell must be there alone. He had been accustomed to mix with the crowd, and find his comfort in the belief that he was a Christian because born in a Christian nation; but he learned that he must be saved alone if saved at all. He had been accustomed aforetime to go up to the house of God in company, and thought that going there was enough; but now every sermon seemed to be aimed at him, and every threatening smote his conscience. I remembered to have read a passage in the same old book I quoted just now — “I will pour out upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart; all the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart.” I noticed that the penitent, while thus alone and apart in his cell, sighed and groaned full oft, and now and then mingled with his penitential utterances some words of unbelief. Alas! were it not for these, that heavy door would long ago have been taken from its hinges. ’Twas unbelief that shut the prisoners in, and if unbelief had been removed from this cell I say it had been an oratory for heaven, and not a place for disconsolate mourning and lamentation. As the prisoner wept for the past, he prophecied for the future, and groaned that he should never come out of this confinement, because sin had ruined him utterly, and destroyed his soul eternally. How foolish his fears were all men might see, for as I looked round upon this clean and white cell, I saw that the door had a knocker inside, and that if the man had but the courage to lift it there was a shining one standing ready outside who would open the door at once; yea, more, I perceived that there was a secret spring called faith, and if the man could but touch it, though it were but with a trembling finger, it would make the door fly open. Then I noticed that this door had on the lintel and on the two side posts thereof the marks of blood, and any man who looked on that blood, or lifted that knocker, or touched that spring, found the door of unbelief fly open, and he came out from the cell of his solitary penitence to rejoice in the Lord who had put away his sin, and cleansed him for ever from all iniquity. So I spoke to this penitent, and bade him. trust in the blood, and it may be that through my words the Lord afterwards loosed the prisoner; but this I learned, that no words of mine alone could do it, for in this case, even where repentance was mingled with but a little unbelief, ’tis the Lord, the Lord alone, who can loose the prisoners.

     III. I passed away from that cell, though I would have been content to linger there, and I halted at another; this, also, had an iron gate of unbelief, as heavy and as ponderous as the former. I heard the warder coming, and when he opened the door for me it grated horribly upon its hinges, and disturbed the silence, for this time I was come into the silent cell. The wretch confined here was one who said he could not pray. If he could pray he would be free. He was groaning, crying, sighing, weeping because he could not pray. All he could tell me, as his eyeballs rolled in agony, was this — “I would, but cannot, pray; I would plead with God, but I cannot find a word, my guilt has smitten me dumb.” Back he went, and refused to speak again, but he kept up a melancholy roaring all the day long. In this place no sound was heard but that of wailing; all was hushed except the dropping of his tears upon the cold stone, and his dreary miserere of sighs and groans. Verily thought I this is a sad and singular case, yet I remember when I was in that cell myself I did not think it strange. I thought that the heavens were brass above me, and that if I cried never so earnestly the Lord would shut out my prayer. I durst not pray, I was too guilty, and when I did dare to pray ’twas hardly prayer, for I had no hope of being heard. “No,” I said, “it is presumption; I must not plead with him;” and when at times I would have prayed, I could not; something choked all utterance, and the spirit could only lament, and long, and pant, and sigh to be able to pray. I know that some of you have been in this prison, and while I am talking to you this morning you will remember it, and bless God for deliverance. Perhaps some of you are in it now, and though I say I think your case is very strange, it will not seem so to you. But do you know, there was a little table in this cell, and on the table lay a key of promise, inscribed with choice words. I am sure the key would unlock the prison-door, and if the prisoner had possessed skill to use it; he might have made his escape at once. This was the key, and these were the words thereon — “The Lord looked down from the height of his sanctuary: from heaven did the Lord behold the earth; to hear the groaning of the prisoner; to loose those that are appointed to death.” Now, thought I, if this man cannot speak, yet God hears his groans; if he cannot plead, God listens to his sighs, and beholds him all the way from heaven, with this purpose, that he may catch even the faintest whisper of this poor man’s broken heart and set him free; for though the soul feels it can neither plead nor pray, yet it has prayed, and it shall prevail. I tried to catch the ear of my poor friend a little while, and I talked to him, though he would not speak with me. I reminded him that the book in his cell contained instances of dumb men whom Jesus had taught to speak, and I told him that Christ was able to make him speak plainly too. I turned to the book of Jonah, and read him these words, — “Out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest me.” I quoted the words of Elias, “Go again seven times.” I told him that the Lord needed no fine language, for misery is the best argument for mercy, and our wounds the best mouths to speak to God’s ear. Besides, I told him we have an Advocate with the Father who openeth his mouth for the dumb, so that those who cannot speak for themselves have one to speak for them. I told the man that whether he could pray or not he was bidden to look at the blood-marks over his door; that the publican was justified by the blood, though he could only cry “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” I pleaded with him to receive the Lord’s own testimony, that the Lord Jesus is “able to save unto the uttermost then that come unto God by him,” that he waited to be gracious, and was a God ready to pardon; but after all, I felt that the Lord alone must loose his prisoners. O, gracious God, loose them now!

     IV. We had not time to stay long at any one place, so we hastened to a fourth door. The door opened and shut behind me and I stood alone. What did I see? I saw nothing! ’Twas dark, dark as Egypt in her plague! This was the black hole called the cell of ignorance. I groped as a blind man gropeth for the wall. I was guided by my ear by sobs and moans to a spot where there knelt a creature in an earnest agony of prayer. I asked him what made his cell so dark. I knew the door was made of unbelief, which surely shuts out all light, but I marvelled why this place should be darker than the rest, only I recollected to have read of some that sat “in darkness, and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron.” I asked him if there were no windows to the cell. Yes, there were windows, many windows, so people told him, but they had been stopped up years ago, and he did not know the way to open them. He was fully convinced that they never could afford light to him. I felt for one of the ancient lightholes, but it seemed as if, instead of giving light, it emitted darkness; I touched it with mv hand and it felt to me to have once been a window such as I had gazed through with delight. He told me it was one of the doctrines of grace which had greatly perplexed him; it was called Election. He said he should have had a little light had it not been for that doctrine, but since God had chosen his people, and he felt persuaded that he had not chosen him, he was lost for ever, since if he were not chosen, it was hopeless for him to seek for mercy. I went up to that window and pulled out some handfuls of rags; filthy rotten rags which some enemies of the doctrine had stuffed into the opening; caricatures and misrepresentations of the doctrine maliciously used to injure the glorious truth of divine sovereignty. As I pulled out these rags, light streamed in, and the man smiled as I told him, “ It is a mercy for thee that there is such a doctrine as election, for if there were no such doctrine, there would be no hope for thee; salvation must either be by God’s will or by man’s merit; if it were by man’s merit, thou wouldest never be saved, but since it is by God’s will, and he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, there is no reason why he should not have mercy on thee, even though thou mayest be the chief of sinners. Meanwhile he bids thee believe in his Son Jesus, and gives thee his divine word for it, that “Him that cometh unto him he will in no wise cast out.” The little light thus shed upon the poor man led him to seek for more, so he pointed to another darkened window which was called— The Fall— or Human Depravity. The man said, “Oh, there is no hope for me for I am totally depraved, and my nature is exceeding vile; there is no hope for me.” I pulled the rags out of this window too, and I said to him, “Do you not see that your ruin fits you for the remedy? It is because you are lost that Christ came to save you. Physicians are for the sick, robes for the naked, cleansing for the filthy, and forgiveness for the guilty.” He said but little, but he pointed to another window, which was one I had long looked through and seen my Master’s glory by its means; it was the doctrine of Particular Redemption. “Ah!” said he, “suppose Christ has not redeemed me with his precious blood! Suppose he has never bought me with his death!” I knocked out some old bricks which, had been put in by an unskilful hand, which yet blocked out the light, and I told him that Christ did not offer a mock redemption, but one which did really redeem, for “the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” “Ah!” he said, “but suppose I am not one of the ‘us!’” I told him that he that believeth and trusteth Christ, is manifestly one of those whom Jesus came to save, for he is saved. I told him that inasmuch as universal redemption manifestly does not redeem all, it was unworthy of his confidence; but a ransom which did redeem all believers, who are the only persons for whom it was presented, was a sure ground to build upon. There were other doctrines like these. I found the man did not understand one of them; that the truth had been misrepresented to him, and he had heard the doctrines of grace falsely stated and caricatured, or else had never heard them at all. He had been led by some blind guide who had led him into the ditch, and now when the windows were opened and the man could see, he saw written over the door, “Believe and live!” and in the new light which he had found he trusted his Lord and Saviour, and walked out free, and marvelled that he had been so long a slave. I marvelled not, but I thought in my heart how accursed are those teachers who hide the light from the eyes of men so that they understand not the way of life. Ignorant souls, who know not the plan of salvation, will have many sorrows, which they might escape by instruction. Study your Bibles well; be diligent in attending upon a free-grace ministry; labour after a clear apprehension of the plan of salvation, and it will often please God that when you come to understand his truth your spirits will receive comfort, for it is by the truth that “the Lord looseth the prisoners.”

     V. I passed on and came to another chamber. This room, marked number five, was large, and had many persons in it who were trying to walk to and fro, but every man had a chain round his ankle, and a huge cannon-ball fixed to it deserters from the ranks of virtue — a military. This punishment clog of habit they troubled said the for prisoner much. I saw some of them trying to file their chains with rusty nails, and others were endeavouring to fret away the iron by dropping tears of penitence thereon; but these poor men made but little progress at their work. The warder told me that this was the chain of Habit, and that the ball which dragged behind was the old propensity to lust and sin. I asked him why they did not get the chains knocked off, and he said they had been trying a long time to be rid of them, but they never could do it in the way they went to work, since the proper way to get rid of the chain of habit was, first of all, to get out of prison; the door of unbelief must be opened, and they must trust in the one great deliverer the Lord Jesus, whose pierced hands could open all prison doors; after that, upon the anvil of grace with the hammer of love, their fetters could be broken off. I stayed awhile, and I saw a drunkard led out of his prison, rejoicing in pardoning grace. He had aforetime laboured to escape from his drunkenness, but some three or four times he broke his pledge, and went back to his old sin. I saw that man trust in the precious blood and he became a Christian, and becoming a Christian he could no more love his cups; at one stroke of the hammer the ball was gone for ever. Another was a swearer; he knew it was wrong to blaspheme the Most High, but he did it still, till he gave his heart to Christ, and then he never blasphemed again, for that foul thing was abhorred. I noticed some, and methinks I am one of them myself, although they had the ball taken away, yet on their hands there were the remains of old chains. Like Paul, in another case, when we rejoice in all things we have to say, “Except these bonds.” Once we were chained both hands together; the divine hammer has smitten off the connecting links, but still some one or two are left hanging there. Ah! often has that link made me cry out — “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death!” Though I am free, yet still the iron clings to its hold, and will hang there till I die. “When I would do good evil is present with me.” O that old Adam nature, the corrupt flesh, would God we were rid of it! Blessed be the Lord, as the pulse begins to beat high with heaven’s glory, the band will burst, and we shall be perfect for ever. There is no way of getting rid of the links of old habits but by leaving the prison of unbelief and coming to Christ, then the evil habits are renounced as a necessary consequence though the temptation will remain. Though sometimes we have to feel a link of the chain, it is a subject of unbounded thankfulness that the link is not fastened to the staple. We may sometimes feel it dragging behind, enough to trip us up, so that we cannot run in the path of obedience as swiftly as we would, but it is not in the staple now. The bird can fly; though there be a remnant of its cord about its foot it mounts up to heaven, singing its song of praise. The Lord must loose prisoners from their evil habits. He can do it; a drop of Jesu’s blood can eat the iron all away, and the file of his agonies can cut through the chain of long-acquired sins, and make us free. “The Lord looseth the prisoners.”

     VI. I must take you to another cell. In almost all prisons where they do not want to make vagabonds worse than when they entered, they have hard labour for them. In the prison I went to see in my reverie there was a hard-labour room. Those who entered it were mostly very proud people; they held their heads very high, and would not bend; they were birds with fine feathers, and thought themselves quite unfit to be confined, but being in durance vile, they resolved to work their own way out. They believed in the system of human merit, and hoped in due time to purchase their liberty. They had saved up a few old counterfeit farthings, with which they thought they could by-and-bye set themselves free, though my bright attendant plainly declared their folly and mistake. It was amusing, and yet sad, to see what different works these people were about. Some of them toiled at a tread-wheel; they were going to the stars they said, and there they were, tread, tread, tread, with all their might; but though they had been labouring for years, and were never an inch higher, yet still they were confident that they were mounting to the skies. Others were trying to make garments out of cobwebs; they were turning wheels, and spinning at a great rate, and though it came to nothing they wrought on. They believed they should be free as soon as they had made a perfect garment, and I believe they will. In one place a company laboured to build houses of sand, and when they had built up to some height the foundation always yielded, but they renewed their efforts, for they dreamed that if a substantial edifice were finished they would then be allowed to go free. I saw some of them, strangely enough, endeavouring to make wedding garments out of fig-leaves, by sewing them together, but the fig-leaves were of a sort that were shrivelled every night, so that they had to begin the next morning their hopeless toil. Some, I noticed, were trying to pump water out of a dry well, the veins stood out upon their brows like whipcords while they worked amain without result. As they laboured, like Samson when he was grinding at the mill, I could hear the crack of whips upon their backs. I saw one ten-thonged whip called the Law, the terrible Law — each lash being a commandment, and this was laid upon the bare backs and consciences of the prisoners; yet still they kept on work, work, work, and would not turn to the door of grace to find escape. I saw some of them fall down fainting, whereupon their friends strove to bring them water in leaking vessels, called ceremonies; and there were some men called priests, who ran about with cups which had no bottoms in them, which they held up to the lips of these poor fainting wretches to give them comfort. As these men fainted, I thought they would die, but they struggled up again to work. At last they could do no more, and fell down under their burdens utterly broken in spirit; then I saw that every prisoner who at last so fainted as to give up all hope of his own deliverance by merit, was taken up by a shining spirit, and carried out of the prison and made free for ever. Then I thought within myself, ‘Surely, surely, these are proud self-righteous persons who will not submit to be saved by grace, ‘therefore He brought down their heart with labour; they fell down and there was none to help; then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses.”’ I rejoiced and blessed God that there was such a prison-house to bring them to Jesus; yet I mourned that there were so many who still loved this house of bondage and would not escape, though there stood one with his finger always pointing to the words — “By the works of the law shall no flesh living be justified;” and to these other words, “By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” I had seen enough of that prison-house, for I recollect being there myself, and I have some of the scars upon my spirit now. I desire not to go back to it, but as I have received Christ Jesus the Lord so would I walk in Him, knowing that if the Son make me free I shall be free indeed.

     VII. We must not leave these corridors till we have peered into all the cells; for we may not come here again. As I passed along, there was another cell, called The Low Dungeon of Despondency. I had read of this in the book of Jeremiah — a pit wherein there was no water, of which the prophet said, “He hath led me and brought me into darkness and not into light.” I looked down. It was a deep, dark, doleful place; down in it I saw by the gloomy light of the warder’s lantern a poor soul in very deep distress, and I bade him speak to me, and tell me his case. He said he had been a great offender, and he knew it; he had been convinced of sin; he had heard the gospel preached, and sometimes he thought it was for him, but at other times he felt sure it was not; there were seasons when his spirit could lay hold of Christ, but there were times when he dared not hope. Now and then, he said, some gleams of light did come; once a week when he had his provision sent down, a little fresh bread and water, he did feel a little encouraged, but by the time the Monday came — for his provision was always sent down on Sunday — he felt himself as low and miserable as ever. I called out to him that there was a ladder up the side of the prison and if he would but climb it, he might escape, but the poor soul could not feel the steps. I reminded him that he need not be where he was, for a divine hand had let down ropes to draw him up, with soft cushions for his armholes; but I seemed as one that mocked him, and I heard some that tormented him bid him call me “liar.” These were two villains called Mistrust and Timorous, who were bent upon keeping him here, even though they knew that he was an heir of heaven, and had a right to liberty. Finding myself powerless, I thus learned the more fully that the Lord must loose these prisoners or else they must be prisoners for many a-day; yet it was a great comfort to recollect that no soul ever died in that dungeon if it had really felt its need of Christ, and cried for mercy through his blood. No soul ever utterly perished while it called upon the name of the Lord; it might lie in the hold till it seemed as if the moss would grow on its eye-lids, and the worms eat its mildewed corpse, but it never did perish, for in due time it was brought by simple faith to believe that Christ is “able to save, even to the uttermost,” and then they come up, O how quickly, from their low dungeon, and they sing more sweetly than others — “He hath brought me up out of the horrible pit, and out of the miry clay; he hath set my feet upon a rock, and put a new song in my mouth, and established my going.”   

     VIII. Shudder not at the clinging damps, for I must take you to another dungeon deeper than this last; it is called the inner prison. Paul and Silas were cast into the inner prison, and their feet made fast in the stocks, yet they sang in their prison; but in this dungeon no singing was ever heard. It is the hold of despair. I need not enlarge much in my description. I hope you have never been there; and I pray you never may. Ah! when a spirit once gets into that inner prison, comforts are turned at once into miseries, and the very promises of God appear to be in league for the destruction of the soul. John Bunyan describes old Giant Despair and his crab-tree cudgel better than I can do it. Sorrowful is that ear which has heard the grating of the huge iron door, and full of terror is the heart which has felt the chilly damps of that horrible pit. Are any of you in that dungeon to-day? Do you say, “I have grieved the Spirit, and he is gone; my day of grace is over; I have sinned against light and knowledge; I am lost?” O man, where are you? I must have you free. What a splendid trophy of grace you will make! My Master loves to find such great sinners as you are, that he may exhibit his power to save. Oh! what a platform for my Lord to rear the standard of his love upon, when he shall have fought with you and overcome you by his love. What a victory this shall be. How will the angels sing unto him that loved the vilest of the vile, and ransomed the despairing one out of the hand of cruel foes. I have more hope of you than I have of others; for when the surgeon enters the hospital after an accident, he always goes to the worse case first. If there be a man who has broken his finger only, “Oh! let him be,” say they, “he can wait;” but if there be a poor fellow who is much mangled, “Ah!” says the surgeon, “I must see to this case at once.” So is it with you ; but the Lord must loose you; I cannot. Only this I know, if you would but believe me, there is a key which will fit the lock of your door of unbelief. Come, look over this bunch of keys: “He is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by him.” “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” “He that believeth on him is not condemned.” “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Brother, this inner dungeon can be opened by the Lord Jesus. “The gates of brass before him burst, the iron fetters yield.”

     IX. I am getting to the end of this dark story now; but tarry a moment at the grating of the Devil's Torture Chamber, for I have been in it; yes, I have been tormented in it, and therefore I tell you no dream; I tarried in it till my soul melted because of agony, and therefore speak what I do know, and not what I have learned by report. There is a chamber in the experience of some men where the temptations of the devil exceed all belief. Read John Bunyan’s “Grace abounding,” if you would understand what I mean an. The devil tempted him, he says, to doubt the existence of God; the truth of Scripture; the manhood of Christ; then his deity; and once, he says, he tempted him to say things which he will never write, lest he should pollute others. Ah! I remember a dark hour with myself when I, who do not remember to have even heard a blasphemy in my youth, much less to have uttered one, heard rushing through my soul an infinite number of curses and. blasphemies against the Most High God, till I put my hand to my mouth lest they should be uttered, and I was cast down, and cried to the merciful God that he would save me from them. Oh! the foul things which the fiend will inject into the spirit; the awful, damnable things, the offspring of his own infernal den, which he will foist upon us as our own thoughts in such hosts, and so quickly the one after the other, that the spirit has hardly time to swallow down its spittle, and though it hates and loathes these things, still it cannot escape from them, for it is in prison. Ah! well, thank God no soul ever perished through such profanities as those, for if we hate them they are none of ours; if we loathe them it is not our sin, but Satan’s, and God will in due time bring us to be free from these horrors. Though the hosts of hell may have ridden over our heads, yet, let us cry “Rejoice not over me O mine enemy, though I fall yet shall I rise again.” Use your sword, poor prisoner! You have one. “It is written” — “the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.” Give your foe a deadly stab; tell him that “God is, and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him,” and you may yet see him spread his dragon wings and fly away. This, too, is a prison in which unbelief has confined both saint and sinner, and the Lord himself must loose these prisoners.

     X. Last of all, there is one dungeon which those confined therein have called the condemned cell. I was in it once. In that room the man writes bitter things against himself; he feels absolutely sure that the wrath of God abideth on him; he wonders the stones beneath his feet do not open a grave to swallow him up; he is astonished that the walls of the prison do not compress and crush him into nothingness; he marvels that he has his breath, or that the blood in his veins does not turn into rivers of flame. His spirit is in a dreadful state; he not only feels he shall be lost, but he thinks it is going to happen now. The condemned cell in Newgate, I am told, is just in such a corner that the condemned can hear the putting-up of the scaffold. Well do I remember hearing my scaffold put up, and the sound of the hammer of the law as piece after piece was put together! It appeared as if I heard the noise of the crowd of men and devils who would witness my eternal execution, all of them howling and yelling out their accursed things against my spirit. Then there was a big bell that tolled out the hours, and I thought that very soon the last moment would arrive, and I must mount the fatal scaffold to be cast away for ever. Oh! that condemned cell! Next to Tophet, there can be no state more wretched than that of a man who is brought here! And yet let me remind you that when a man is thoroughly condemned in his own conscience he shall never be condemned. When he is once brought to see condemnation written on everything that he has done, though hell may flame in his face, he shall be led out, but not to execution; led out, but not to perish, “he shall be led forth with joy, and he shall go forth with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth before him into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” As we read in history of one who was met with a pardon just when the rope was round his neck, just so does God deal with poor souls; when they feel the rope about their necks, acknowledge that God’s sentence is just, and confess that if they perish they cannot complain, it is then that sovereign mercy steps in and cries, “I have blotted out like a cloud thine iniquities, and like a thick cloud thy sins; thy sins which are many are all forgiven thee.” And now, thou glorious Jehovah, the Liberator, unto thee be praises! All thy redeemed bless thee, and those who are to-day in their dungeons cry unto thee! Stretch out thy bare arm, thou mighty Deliverer! Thou who didst send thy Son Jesus to redeem by blood, send now thy Spirit to set free by power, and this day, even this day, let multitudes rejoice in the liberty wherewith thou makest free; and unto Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Israel’s one Redeemer, be glory for ever and ever! Amen.



Life and Walk of Faith

By / Dec 7

Life and Walk of Faith

 

“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him.” — Colossians 2:6.

 

     OUR nature is fond of change. Although man was made in the image of God at first, it is plain enough that any trace of immutability which he may once have possessed has long ago departed. Man, unrenewed, could he possess the joys of heaven, would in time grow weary of them, and crave for change. When the children of- Israel in the wilderness were fed on angels’ food, they murmured for variety, and groaned out, “Our soul loatheth this light bread.” It is little wonder, then, that we need cautions against shifting the ground of our hope and the object of our faith. Another evil principle will co-work with this love of change in our hearts, and produce much mischief — our natural tendency to build upon our own works. For a time that pernicious habit is cured by conviction of sin. The law, with its sharp axe, cuts down the lofty cedar of fleshly confidence, and withers all its verdure; but, since the root still remains, at the very scent of water it sprouts again, and there is good need to set the axe going with all its former edge and weight. When we think legality quite dead, it revives, and, linking hands with our love of change, it tempts us to forsake our simple standing upon Christ, the Rock of Ages, and urges us to advance to a something which it decorates before our eyes with fancied colours, and makes out to our feeble understandings to be better or more honourable to ourselves. Though this will certainly be again beaten down in a Christian, for he will meet with trouble after trouble when once he goeth astray from his first path, yet again the old secret desire to be something, to do something, to have some little honour by performing the works of the law, will come in, and we shall have need to hear the voice of wisdom in our hearts saying to us, “As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him;” persevere in the same way in which ye have begun, and, as at the first Christ Jesus was the source of your life, the principle of your action, and the joy of your spirit, so let him be the same even till life’s end, the same when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and enter into the joy and the rest which remain for the people of God.

     In trying to teach this very useful, though simple lesson, I shall, in the plainest possible language, first of all talk a little of the text by way of exposition; then, secondly, by way of advocacy; and then, thirdly, by way of application.

     I. Oh that the gracious Spirit, who alone can lead us into all truth, would aid me while I endeavour to open up this verse BY WAY OF EXPOSITION.

     In expounding the text, we readily break it up into two parts: here is the life of faith — receiving Christ Jesus the Lord; here is, secondly, the walk of faith — so walk ye in him.

     1. The Holy Spirit here reveals to us the life of faith — the way by which you and I are saved, if saved at all. Remark, carefully, that it is represented as receiving. Now the word receiving implies the very opposite of anything like merit. Merit is purchasing; merit might be called making by labour, or winning by valour; but receiving is just the accepting of a thing as a gift. The eternal life which God gives his people is in no sense whatever the fruit of their exertions; it is the gift of God. As the earth drinks in the rain, as the sea receives the streams, as night accepts light from the stars, so we, giving nothing, partake freely of the grace of God. The saints are not by nature wells, or streams, they are but cisterns into which the living water flows. They are but as the empty vessel; sovereign mercy puts them under the conduit-pipe, and they receive grace upon grace till they are filled to the brim. He that talks about winning salvation by works; he that thinks he can earn it by prayers, by tears, by penance, by mortification of the flesh, or by zealous obedience to the law, makes a mistake; for the very first principle of the divine life is not giving out, but receiving. It is that which comes from Christ into me which is my salvation; not that which springs out of my own heart, but that which comes from the divine Redeemer and changes and renews my nature. It is not what I give out, but what I receive, which must be life to me.  

     The idea of receiving, again, seems to imply in it a sense of realization, making the matter a reality. One cannot very well receive a shadow; we receive that which is substantial. Gold, silver, precious stones — such things we can receive; estates, riches, bread, water, food, raiment — all these are things which are substances to us. and therefore it becomes possible for us to receive them. We do not receive a dream; we do not receive, again I say, a shadow; we do not speak of receiving a spectre; we do not receive a phantom. There is something real in a thing that is received. Well now so is it also in the life of faith; we realize Christ. While we are without faith, Christ is a name to us, a person that may have lived a long while ago, so long that his life is only a history to us now! By an act of faith Christ becomes a real person in the consciousness of our heart, as real to us as our own flesh, and blood, and bones, and we speak of him and think of him as we would of our brother, our father, our friend. Our faith gives a substance to the history and idea of Christ, puts real solidity into the spirit and name of Christ, and that which to the worldly man is but a phantom, a thing to hear about, and talk about, becomes to us a thing to taste, and handle, to lay hold upon, and to receive as real and true. I know, ye that are unconverted, that ye think all these things an idle tale; but you that are saved, you who have received Christ, you know that there is substance here, and shadow everywhere else. This has become to you the one grand reality, that God is in Christ reconciling you unto himself.

     But receiving means also a third thing, that is getting a grip of it, grasping it The thing which I receive becomes my own. I may believe it to be real, but that is not receiving it. I may believe, also, that if I ever do get it it must be given to me, and that I cannot earn it for myself, but still that is not receiving it. Receiving is the bona fide taking into my hand and appropriating to myself as my own property that which is given to me. Now this is what the soul doth when it believes on Christ. Christ becomes my Christ; his blood cleanses my sin, and it is cleansed; his righteousness covers me, and I am clothed with it; his Spirit fills me, and I am made to live by it. He becomes to me as much mine as anything that 1 can call my own; nay, what I call my own here on earth is not mine; it is only lent to me, and will be taken from me; but Christ is so mine, that neither life, nor death, nor things present, nor things to come, shall ever be able to rob me of him. Oh! I hope, dear friends, you have that blessed appropriating faith which says, “Yes, he is not another man’s Christ, he is my Christ,” I hope you can look into his face to-day and say, “My beloved, who loved me, and gave himself for me” I hope you do not talk of these things as I might talk of my lord So-and-So’s park, and admire its beauties, while I myself have no right to one acre of the many thousands within the park-fence; but I trust, on the other hand, you can say — “The blessings and promises of the Lord my God are all my own; whatever I read of in the covenant of grace that is good, that is comely, that is desirable, I have heard a voice say in my ears, ‘Lift up now thine eyes, and look to the north, and the south, to the east, and the west — all this have I given thee to be thy possession for ever and ever by a covenant of salt.’” Now put these three things together, and I think you have the idea of receiving Christ. To receive him is to have him as the result of God’s free gift; to realize him; and then to appropriate him to yourselves.

     The word “receive” is used in some ten or a dozen senses in holy Scripture; five of them will suffice my purpose just now. To receive is often used for taking. We read of receiving a thousand shekels of silver, and of receiving money, garments, olive-yards, sheep, and oxen. Perhaps in this sense we understand the words of the Master — “No man can receive anything unless it be given him from above,” and that other sentence — “To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.” We take Christ into us — to return to my old simile — as the empty vessel takes in water from the stream; so we receive Christ. The love, life, merit, nature, and grace of Jesus freely flow into us, as the oil into the widow’s vessels. But the -word is also used in Scripture to signify holding that which we take in; indeed, a vessel without a bottom could hardly be said to receive water. I do not suppose any one would talk of a sieve receiving water, except in a mock sense. But the life of faith consists in holding within us that which Christ hath put into us. so that Jesus Christ is formed in us the hope of glory. By faith it comes in; by faith it is kept in; faith gives me what I have; faith keeps what I have; faith makes it mine? faith keeps it mine; faith gets hold of it with one hand, and then clasps it with both hands with a grasp that neither death nor life can loose. Then, receiving sometimes means in Scripture simply believing. “He came unto his own and his own received him not.” We read of receiving false prophets, that is, believing them. Now, to receive Christ is to believe him. He says, “I can save you.” — I receive that. He says, “I will save you.” — I receive that. He says, “Trust me and I will make you like myself.” — I receive that. Whatever Jesus says, I believe him, and receive him as true. I make his word so true to myself that I act upon it as being true, and regard it not as a word that may possibly be true, but which must be true, even if heaven and earth should pass away. This is receiving Christ — believing what he has said. Receiving, also, often signifies in Scripture entertaining. Thus the barbarous people at Melita received Paul and his companions kindly, and kindled a fire. Ah! after we have once found all in Christ to be our own, and have received him into ourselves by faith, then we entreat the Lord to enter our hearts and sup with us. We give him the best seat at the table of our souls; we would feast him on the richest dainties of our choicest love. We ask him to abide with us from morn till eve; we would commune with him every day, and every hour of the day. We entertain him; we have a reception-chamber in our hearts, and we receive Christ. And then, once again, receiving in Scripture often signifies to enjoy. We hear of receiving a crown of life which fadeth not away; that is, enjoying it, enjoying heaven, and being satisfied with all its bliss. Now, dear friends, when we receive Christ, there is intended in this an enjoying of it. I am only now talking the simplicities of our faith, but I do want to make them very personal to you. Are you thus enjoying Christ? If you had a crown you would wear it; you have a Christ — feed on him. If you were hungry and there were bread on the table, you would eat. Oh! eat and drink, beloved, of your Lord Jesus Christ. If you have a friend, you enjoy his company: you have a friend in Christ; Oh! enjoy his conversation. Do not leave him, like a bottle of cordial for the fainting, sealed up from us; let him not be as some choice dainty all untasted, while you are hungry. Oh! receive Christ, for this is the very heaven and rest of the soul. His flesh is meat indeed, his blood is drink indeed. Never did angels taste such divine fare. Come hither saints and satiate yourselves in him. To take him into one’s self, to hold him there, to believe every word he says, to entertain him in our hearts, and to enjoy the luscious sweetness which he must confer upon all those who have eaten his flesh, and have been made to drink of his blood — this it is to receive Christ.

     But we have not brought out the real meaning of this life of faith yet till we dwell upon another word. As ye have received. Received what? Salvation may be described as the blind receiving sight, the deaf receiving hearing, the dead receiving life; but beloved, beloved, here is a thought here — oh that you may get hold of it! We have not only received these things, but we have received CHRIST. “As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord.” Do you catch it? It is true that He gave us life from the dead? He gave us pardon of sin; He gave us imputed righteousness. These are all precious things, but you see we are not content with them; we have received Christ himself. The Son of God has been poured out into us, and we have received him, and appropriated him. Mark, I say, not merely the blessings of the covenant, but himself; not merely the purchase of his blood, but he himself from whose veins the blood hath flowed has become ours; and every soul that hath eternal life is this day a possessor of Christ Jesus the Lord. Now we will put this, also, personally to you. Have I received Christ, that is the anointed? My soul, hast thou seen Christ as the anointed of the Father in the divine decree to execute his purposes? Hast thou seen him coming forth in the fulness of time wearing the robes of his priesthood, the anointed of the Father? Hast thou seen him standing at the altar offering himself as a victim, an anointed priest, anointed with the sacred oil by which God has made him a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec? My soul, hast thou seen Jesus going within the veil and speaking to thy Father and to his Father as one whom the Father has accepted, of whom we can speak, in the language of David, as our shield and God’s anointed? Oh! it is a delight indeed to receive Christ not as an unsent prophet, not as a man who came of his own authority, not as a teacher who spoke his own word, but as one who is Christos, the anointed, the anointed of God, ordained of the Most High, and therefore most certainly acceptable, as it is written, “I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people. It pleased the Father to bruise him; he hath put him to grief.” Delightful is the contemplation of Christ under that aspect! Soul, dost thou thus receive the Messias of God? But the text says, “Christ Jesus.” Now Jesus means a Saviour. Christ is his relation to God, Jesus his relation to me. Have I received Christ in his relationship to me as a Saviour? My soul, has Christ saved thee? Come, no “ifs” and “ans” about it. Hast thou received him as thy Saviour? Couldest thou say in that happy day when thy faith closed with him, “Yes, Jesus, thou hast saved me!” Oh! there are some professors of religion who do not seem to have received Christ as Jesus. They look upon him as one who may help them to save themselves, who can do a great deal for them, or may begin the work but not complete it. Oh! beloved, we must get a hold of him as one that has saved us, that has finished the work. What, know ye not that ye are this day whiter than the driven snow because his blood has washed you? Ye are this day more acceptable to God than unfallen angels ever were, for ye are clothed in the perfect righteousness of a divine one. Christ has wrapped you about with his own righteousness; you are saved; you have received him as God’s anointed, see that you receive him as Jesus your Saviour.

     Then, again, it is clear that saving faith consisteth also in receiving him as he is in himself, as the divine Son. “Ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord.” Those who say they cannot believe in his Deity have not received him. Others theoretically admit him to be divine, but he is never a subject of confidence as such; they have not received him. But I trust I speak to many hundreds this morning who willingly accept his Godhead, and say, “I entertain no doubt about his Deity, and, moreover, on that I risk my soul; I do take him into my heart as being God over all, blessed for ever, Amen; I kiss his feet while I see his humanity; but I believe that, since those feet could tread the waters, lie is divine. I look up to his hands, and as I see them pierced I know that he is human; but as I know' that those hands multiplied the loaves and fishes till they fed five thousand, I know that he is divine. I look upon his corpse in the tomb, and I see that he is man; I see him in the resurrection, and I know that he is God. I see him on the cross, suffering, and I know that he is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh; but I hear a voice which saith, ‘Let all the angels of God worship him;’ ‘Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever;’ and I bow before him and say, ‘Oh Lord, thou Son of God and son of Mary, I receive thee as Christ Jesus the Lord.’”

     Now this is all very plain talking you will say; and I remind you that souls are saved by very plain truths, and the dealings of men’s souls with Christ are not carried on in learned or metaphysical terms. We do believe, and so take Christ Jesus the Lord into us, and by that act of faith, without any doing of our own, we are completely saved.

     I shall only make this further remark here, that the apostle speaks of this as a matter of certainty, and goes on to argue from it. Now we do not argue from a supposition. I must have you clear, dearly beloved in the Lord, that this is a matter of certainty to you. We can hardly get to the next point unless you can say, “I have received Jesus.” The verse runs, “As or since ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord so walk ye in him.” We must not alter it into, “Since I hope I have,” “Since I trust I have.” Ye either have or have not; if ye have not, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, and cry to him for his great gift; but if you have, O, dear friends, do not let it be a question with you, but say “Yes, yes, yes, I can say, once for all, I have received him; poor, weak, and worthless though I am, I do put my humble seal to the fact that God is true, and I trust in him who is able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by him.” This is the life of faith.

     2. Now, in expounding the text, our second point was the walk of faith. “Since ye have received him, walk in him.” Walk implies, first of all, action. Do not let your reception of Christ be a mere thing of thought to you, a subject only for your chamber and your closet, but act upon it all. If you have really received Christ, and are saved, act as if you were saved, with joy, with meekness, with confidence, with faith, with boldness. Walk in him; do not sit down in indolence, but rise and act in him. Walk in him; carryout into practical effect that which you believe. See a man who has received an immense fortune, his purse is bursting, and his caskets are heavy; what does he do? Why, he behaves like a rich man; he sees a luxury which pleases him, and he buys it; there is an estate he desires, and he purchases it; he acts like a rich man. Beloved brethren, you have received Christ — act upon it. Do not play the beggar now that boundless wealth is conferred upon you. Walking, again, implies perseverance, not only being in Christ to-day, that would be standing in him and falling from him; but being in him to-morrow, and the next day, and the next, and the next, and the next; walking in him all your walk of life. I remember Matthew Henry, speaking about Enoch walking with God, says he did not only take a turn or two up and down with God, and then leave him, but he walked with God four hundred years. This implies perseverance. You have received Christ — persevere in receiving him; you have come to trust him — keep on trusting him; you hang about his neck as a poor, helpless sinner — remain hanging there; in other words abide in him. Walking implies habit. When we speak of a man’s walk and conversation, we mean his habits, the constant tenor of his life. Now, dear friends, if you and I sometimes enjoy Christ, and then forget him; sometimes say he is ours, and anon loose our hold, that is not a habit; we do not walk in him. But if you have received him, let it be your habit to live upon him; keep to him; cling to him; never let him go, but live and have your being in Him. This walking implies a continuance. There is no notice given in the text of the suspension of this walking, but there must be a continual abiding in Christ. How many Christians there are who think that in the morning and evening they ought to come into the company of Christ, and then they may be in the world all the day. Ah! but we ought always to be in Chirst, that is to say, all the day long, every minute of the day; though worldly things may Lake up some of my thoughts, yet my soul is to be in a constant state of being in Christ; so that if I am caught at any moment, I am in him; at any hour if any one should say to me, “Now, are you saved?” I may be able still to say, “Yes.” And if they ask me for an evidence of it, I may, without saying so, prove it to them by the fact that I am acting like a man who is in Christ, who has Christ in him, has had his nature changed by receiving Christ’s nature, and has Christ to be his one end and aim. I suppose, also, that walking signifies progress. So walk ye in him; proceed from grace to grace, run forward until you reach the uttermost limit of knowledge that man can have concerning our Beloved. “As ye have received him walk in him.”

     But now I want you to notice just this; it says, “Walk ye in him.” Oh! I cannot attempt to enter into the mystery of this text — “Walk in him!” You know if a man has to cross a river, he fords it quickly and is out of it again at once, but you are to suppose a person walking in a certain element always, in Christ. Just as we walk in the air, so am I to walk in Christ; not sometimes, now and then coming to him and going away from him, but walking in him as my element. Can you comprehend that? Not a soul here can make anything out of that but the most silly jargon, except the man who having received the inner spiritual life, understandeth what it is to have fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. Dear friends, in trying to open up that point just for a moment, let us notice what this walking in Christ must mean. As Christ was at first when we received him the only ground of our faith; so as long as we live, we are to stand to the same point. Did you not sing the other day when you first came to him —

“I'm  a poor sinner and nothing at all,
But Jesus Christ is my all in all?”

Well, that is how you are to continue to the end. We commence our faith with —

“Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling.”

When thou art hoary with honours, when thou art covered with fame, when thou hast served thy Master well, still come in just the same way with —

“A guilty weak and helpless worm,
On Christ’s kind arms I fall,
He is my strength and righteousness,
My Jesus and my all.”

     Let not your experience, your sanctification, your graces, your attainments, come in between you and Christ, but just as you took him to be the only pillar of your hope at first, so let him be even to the last. You received Christ, again, as the substance of your faith. The infidel laughed at you, and said you had nothing to trust to; but your faith made Christ real to you. Well, now, just as the first day when you came to Jesus you no more doubted the reality of Christ than you did your own existence, so walk ye in him. Well can I recollect that first moment when these eyes looked to Christ! Ah! there was never anything so true to me as those bleeding hands, and that thorn-crowned head. I wish it were always so, and indeed it ought to be. As ye have received Christ really, so keep on realising and finding substance in him. And that day, beloved, Christ became to us the joy of our souls. Home, friends, health, wealth, comforts — all lost their lustre that day when He appeared, just as stars are hidden by the light of the sun. He was the only Lord and giver of life’s best bliss, the one well of living water springing up unto everlasting life. I know that the first day it mattered not to me whether the day itself was gloomy or bright. I had found Christ; that was enough for me. He was my Saviour; he was my all. I do think that that day” I could have stood upon the faggots of Smithfield to burn for him readily enough. Well now, just as you received him at first as your only joy, so receive him still, walking in him, making him the source, the centre, ay, and the circumference too of all your souls’ range of delight, having your all in him. So, beloved, that day when we received him, we received him as the object of our love. Oh! how we loved Christ then! Had we met him that day, we would have broken the alabaster box of precious ointment, and poured it upon his head; we would have washed his feet with our tears, and wiped them with the hairs of our head. Ah! Jesus, when I first received thee, I thought I should have behaved far better than I have; I thought I would spend and be spent for thee, and should never dishonour thee or turn aside from my faith, and devotedness, and zeal; but ah! brethren, we have not come up to the standard of our text — walking in him as we have received him. He has not been by us so well beloved as we dreamed he would have been.

     I take it then to be the meaning of our text, as Christ Jesus the Lord was at the first All-in-All to you, so let him be while life shall last.

     II. I shall be very brief upon THE ADVOCACY OF THIS PRINCIPLE, for surely you need no urgent persuasion to cleave unto such a Lord as yours.

     In advocating this principle, I would say, first of all, suppose, my brethren, you and I having been so far saved by Christ, should now begin to walk in some one else, what then? Why. what dishonour to our Lord. Here is a man who came to Christ and says he found salvation in him, but after relying upon the Lord some half-a-dozen years, he came to find it was not a proper principle, and so now he has begun to walk by feelings, to walk by sight, to walk by philosophy, to walk by carnal wisdom. If such a case could be found, what discredit would it bring upon our Holy Leader and Captain. But I am certain no such instance will be found in you, if you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. Have you not up till now found your Lord to be a compassionate and generous friend to you, and has not simple faith in him given you all the peace your spirit could desire? I pray you, then, unless you would stain his glory in the dust, as you have received Christ, so walk in him.

     Besides, what reason have you to make a change? Has there been any argument in the past? Has not Christ proved himself all-sufficient! He appeals to you to-day — “Have I been a wilderness unto you?” When your soul has simply trusted Christ, have you ever been confounded? When you have dared to come as a guilty sinner and believed in him, have you ever been ashamed? Very well, then, let the past urge you to walk in him. And as for the present, can that compel you to leave Christ? Oh! when we are hard beset with this world or with the severer trials within the Church, we find it such a sweet thing to come back and pillow our head upon the bosom of our Saviour. This is the joy we have to-day, that we are in him, that we are saved in him, and if we find this to-day to be enough, wherefore should we think of changing? I will not forswear the sunlight till I find a better, nor leave my Lord until a brighter Lover shall appear; and, since this can never be, I will hold him with a grasp immortal, and bind his name as a seal upon my arm. As for the future, can you suggest anything which can arise that shall render it necessary for you to tack about, or strike sail, or go with another captain in another ship? I think not. Suppose life to be long — He changes not. Suppose you die; is it not written that “neither death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord!” You are poor; what better than to have Christ who can make you rich in faith? Suppose you are sick; what more do you want than Christ to make your bed in your sickness? Suppose you should be maltreated, and mocked at, and slandered for his sake — what better do you want than to have him as a friend who sticketh closer than a brother? In life, in death, in judgment, you cannot conceive anything that can arise in which you would require more than Christ bestows.

     But, dear friends, it may be that you are tempted by something else to change your course for a time. Now what is it? Is it the wisdom of this world, the cunning devices and discoveries of man? Is it that which our apostle mentions as philosophy? The wise men of the world have persuaded you to begin questioning; they have urged you to put the mysteries of God to the test of common-sense, reason, and so forth, as they call it, and not lean on the inspiration of God’s Word. Ah! well, beloved, it is wisdom, I supposed, which philosophy offers you. Well, but have you not that in Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge? You received Christ at first, I thought, as being made of God unto you wisdom, and sanctification, and righteousness, and so on; well, will you cast him off when you have already more than all the wisdom which this philosophy offers?

     Is it ceremonies that tempt you? Has the priest told you that you ought to attend to these, and then you would have another ground of confidence? Well, but you have that in Christ. If there is anything in the circumcision of the Jews, you have that, for you are circumcised in him. If there be anything in baptism, as some think that to be a saving ordinance, you have been buried with him in baptism; you have that. Do you want life? your life is hid with him. Do you want death? You are dead with Christ, and buried with him. Do you want resurrection? he hath raised you up with him. Do you want heaven? he hath make you sit together in heavenly places in him. Getting Christ, you have all that everything else can offer you; therefore be not tempted from this hope of your calling, but as ye have received Christ, so walk in him.

     And then, further, do you not know this? that your Jesus is the Lord from heaven? What can your heart desire beyond God? God is infinite; you cannot want more than the infinite. “In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” Having Christ you have God, and having God you have everything. Well might the apostle add to that sentence, “And ye are complete in him!” Well, then, if you are complete in Christ, why should you be beguiled by the bewitcheries of this world to want something besides Christ? If resting upon him, God is absolutely yours, and you are, therefore, full to the brim with all that your largest capacity can desire, oh! wherefore should you thus be led astray, like foolish children, to seek after another confidence and another trust? Oh! come back, thou wanderer; come thou back to this solid foundation, and sing once again with us —

“On Christ the solid rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.”

     III. And now, last of all, a few words BY WAY OF APPLICATION.

“So walk ye in him.” One of the first applications shall be made with regard to some who ho complain of a want of communion, or rather, of those of whom WE ought to complain, since they injure us all by their distance from Christ. There are some of you who never have much communion with Christ. You are members of the Church, and very decent people, I dare say, in your way; but you do not have communion with Christ. Ask some professors — “Do you ever have communion with Christ?” They would be obliged to say — “Well, I do not know that my life is inconsistent; I do not think anybody could blame me for any wrong act towards my fellow-man; but if you come to that, whether I have ever had communion with Christ, I am compelled to say that I ha e had it now and then, but it is very seldom; it is like the angels’ visits, few and far between.” Now, brethren, you have received Christ, have you not? Then the application of the principle is, as you have received him, so walk in him. If it were worth while for you to come to him at first, then it is worth while for you always to keep to him. If it were really a safe thing for you to come to him and say, “Jesus, thou art the way,” then it is a safe thing for thee to do now; and if that was the foundation of blessedness to thee, to come simply to Christ, then it will be the fountain of blessedness to thee to do the same now. Come, then, to him now. If thou wert foolish in trusting him at the first, then thou art wise in leaving off doing so now. If thou wert wise, however, in approaching to Christ years gone by, thou art foolish in not -standing by Christ now. Come, then, let the remembrance of thy marriage unto the Lord Jesus rebuke thee; and if thou hast lost thy fellowship with Jesus, come again to his dear body wounded for thy sake, and say, “Lord Jesus, help me from this time forth as I have received thee, day by day to walk in thee.”

     There are many of you who complain of a want of comfort. You are not so comfortable as you would like to be, and why? Why you have sinned. Yes, yes, but how did you receive Christ. As a saint? “No, no,” say you, “I came to Christ as a sinner.” Come to him as a sinner now, then. “Oh! but I feel so guilty.” Just so, but what was your hope at first? Why, that guilty though you were, he had made an atonement, and you trusted in him. Well, you are guilty still; do the same as you did at first; walk in him, and I cannot imagine a person without comfort who continually makes this the strain of his life, to rest on Christ as a poor sinner, just as he did at first. Why, Lord, thou knowest the devil often says to me, “Thou art no saint.” Well then if I be not a saint, yet I am a sinner, and it is written “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” Then

“Just as I am, and waiting not,
To rid my soul of one foul spot,
To him whose blood can cleanse each blot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”

Why, you cannot help having comfort if you walk with your Surety and Substitute as you did at the first, resting on Him, and not in feelings, nor experience, nor graces, nor anything of your own; living and resting alone on him who is made of God unto you all that your soul requires.

     There is yet another thing. There are many Christians whose lives really are not consistent. I cannot understand this if they are walking in Christ; in fact, if a man could completely walk in Christ he would walk in perfect holiness. We hear an instance, perhaps, of a little shopkeeper who puffs and exaggerates as other shopkeepers do — he does not exactly tell a lie, but something very near it. Now I want to know whether that man was walking in Christ when he did that. If he had said to himself, “Now I am in Christ,” do you think he would have done it? We hear of another who is constantly impatient, always troubled, fretting, mournful. I want to know whether that man is really walking in Christ as he walked at first, when he is doubting the goodness, the providence, the tenderness of God. Surely he is not. I have heard of hard-hearted professors who take a Christian brother by the throat with, “Pay me what thou owest.” Do you think they are walking in Christ when they do that ? We hear of others, when their brothers have need, shut up the bowels of their compassion; are mean and stingy; are they walking in Christ when they do that? Why, if a man walks in Christ, then he so acteth as Christ would act; for Christ being in him, his hope, his love, his joy, his life, he is the reflex of the image of Christ; he is the glass into which Christ looks; and then the image of Christ is reflected, and men say of that man, “He is like his Master; he lives in Christ.” Oh! I know, dear brethren, if we lived now as we did the first day we came to Christ, we should live very differently from what we do. How we felt towards him that day! We would have given all we had for him! How we felt towards sinners that day! Lad that I was, I wanted to preach, and

“Tell to sinners round,
What a dear Saviour I had found.”

How we felt towards God that day! When we were on our knees what pleading there was with him, what a nearness of access to him in prayer! Oh! how different; how different with some now! This world has with rude hand brushed the bloom from the young fruit. Is it true that flowers of grace, like the flowers of nature, die in the autumn of our piety? As we all get older, ought we to be more worldly? Should it be that our early love, which was the love of our espousals, dies away? Forgive, O Lord, this evil, and turn us anew unto thee.

“Return, O holy Dove! return,
Sweet messenger of rest!
We hate the sins that made thee mourn,
And drove thee from bur breast.
The dearest idol we have known,
Whate’er that idol be,
Help us to tear it from thy throne,
And worship only thee.
So shall our walk be close with God,
Calm and serene our frame;
So purer light shall mark the road
That leads us to the Lamb.”

“As ye have received him walk in him,” and if ye have not received him, oh! poor sinner, remember he is free and full, full to give thee all thou needest, and free to give it even to thee. Let the verse we sung be an invitation to thee:

“This fountain, though rich, from charge is quite clear;
The poorer the wretch, the welcomer here:
Come, needy and guilty; come, loathsome and bare;
Though leprous and filthy, come just as you are.

Trust in God’s anointed — that is receive him — and then, having trusted him, continue still to trust him. May his Spirit enable you to do it, and to his name shall be glory for ever and ever.



The Royal Pair in Their Glorious Chariot

By / Nov 30

The Royal Pair in Their Glorious Chariot

 

“Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant? Behold his bed, which is Solomon’s; threescore valiant men are about it, of the valiant of Israel. They all hold swords, being expert in war: every man hath his sword upon his thigh because of fear in the night. King Solomon made himself a chariot of the wood of Lebanon. He made the pillars thereof of silver, the bottom thereof of gold, the covering of it of purple, the midst thereof being paved with love, for the daughters of Jerusalem. Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold king Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart.”— Solomon’s Song 3:6-11

 

     GREAT princes in the east are in the habit of travelling in splendid palanquins, which are at the same time chariots and beds. The person reclines within, screened by curtains from public view; a body-guard protects the equipage from robbers, and blazing torches light up the path along which the travellers proceed. King Solomon, in this Song, describes the Church of Christ, and Christ himself, as travelling through the world in such a palanquin. The day is coming when both our divine Lord and his chosen bride shall be revealed in glory before the eyes of all men. The present age is the period of concealment— the mystical Solomon and his beloved Solyma are both on earth, but they are unseen of men; like the ark of old they dwell within curtains; only the anointed priests of God can discern their beauties, and even these gaze rather by faith than by sight. “Lo I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world,” is certainly true, for Jesus is here; but equally correct is that word of Peter, “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” He is here in the reality, power, and influence of his presence, but he is not here as to the visibility of his kingdom and person, for we wait with our loins girt about, and with patience of hope, until the revelation of Jesus Christ. The portion of the blessed canticle now before us is, we think, descriptive of the progress of the hidden Christ through the world. He has been borne along, in very truth, but he himself has been so little perceived of men, that they even ask the question, “Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness?” He is not now manifested openly to men. If any should say, “Lo here or “Lo there! this is Christ!” believe them not, for Christ is not as yet seen. When he doth come he shall be as perceptible as the lightning’s flash, which every man’s eye discerneth without the need of an instructor. So, also, with his true Church. She also is hidden like her Lord, and though her hand, her foot, or her face may be sometimes seen, yet the whole elect body has never yet been beheld. If any say, “Lo, here is the Church of Christ!” or “Lo there!” believe them not, for it is a fact that there is no corporation of men of which we can say exclusively or even universally, “Lo, this is the Church of Christ.” There are tares growing with the wheat in the best guarded field, and on the other hand no one enclosure contains all the wheat. The true Church of Christ is scattered here and there; it is found amongst all denominations, and there is not one denomination of which you can say, “This only is the Church of Christ, or all its members belong to the body of Christ’s spouse.” Just now the mystical bride is in a certain sense as invisible as her husband. Behold, then, the betrothed ones carried through the world in the sumptuous chariot of which we have to speak this morning.

     I must now claim your attention while I notice, first, the glory of the progress of Christ through the world, as described in the sixth verse; secondly, the security of Christ's cause, as represented in the seventh and eighth; thirdly, the superlative excellence of it, as described in the ninth and tenth; and lastly, our joyful duties with regard to it, as openly declared in the eleventh.

     I. First, then, THE MAGNIFICENT PROGRESS, THE GLORIOUS ON-GOING OF THE CHURCH AND HER LORD THROUGH THE WORLD.

     “Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?” The equipage excites the attention of the on-looker; his curiosity is raised, and he asks, “Who is this?” Now, in the first progress of the Christian Church, in her very earliest days, there were persons who marvelled greatly; and though they set down the wonders of the day of Pentecost to drunkenness, yet “they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?” In after years, many a heathen philosopher said, “What is this new power which is breaking the idols in pieces, changing old customs, making even thrones unsafe — what is this?” By-and-bye, in the age of the Reformation, there were cowled monks, cardinals in their red hats, and bishops, and princes, and emperors, who all said, “What is this? What strange doctrine has come to light?” In the times of the modern reformation, a century ago, when God was pleased to revive his Church through the instrumentality of Whitfield and his brethren, there were many who said, “What is this new enthusiasm, this Methodism? Whence came it, and what power is this which it wields?” And, doubtless, whenever God shall be pleased to bring forth his Church in power, and to make her mighty among the sons of men, the ignorance of men will be discovered breaking forth in wonder, for they will say, “Who is this?” Spiritual religion is as much a novelty now as in the day when Grecian sages scoffed at it on Mars’ Hill. The true Church of God is a stranger and pilgrim still; an alien and a foreigner in every land; a speckled bird; a dove in the midst of ravens; a lily among thorns.

     The ignorance of men concerning spiritual things is not, however, caused by the darkness of the things themselves, for Christ and his Church are the great lights of the world. When great personages travelled in their palanquins, and more especially on marriage processions, they were attended by a number of persons who, at night, carried high up in the air burning cressets which gave forth a blaze of light. Sometimes these lights were simply torches carried in the hands of running footmen; at other times they were a sort of iron basket lifted high into the air, upon poles, from which went up a pillar of smoke and flame. Our text says “Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke?” a beautiful illustration of the fact that wherever Christ and his cause are carried, light is a sure accompaniment. Into whatsoever region the gospel may journey, her every herald is a flash of light, her every minister a flaming fire. God maketh his Churches the golden candlesticks, and saith unto his children “Ye are the lights of the world.” As certainly as ever God said “Let there be light,” and there was light over the old creation, so does he say, whenever his Church advances, “Let there be light,” and there is light. Dens of darkness, where the bats of superstition had folded their wings and hung themselves up for perpetual ease, have been disturbed by the glare of these divine flambeaux; the innermost caverns of superstition and sin, once black with a darkness which might be felt, have been visited with a light above the brightness of the sun. “The people which sat in darkness have seen a great light, and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light has sprung up.” Thus saith the Lord unto the nation where his kingdom cometh, “Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord hath risen upon thee!” Bear ye the Church of Christ to the South Seas; carry Christ and his spouse in his palanquin to the Caffre, the Hottentot, or the Esquimaux, and everywhere the night of death is ended, and the morning with its glorious dawn has come. High lift your lamps, ye servants of our Lord. High lift up the cross of the Redeemer; for in him is light, and the light is the life of men.

     But you will tell me that our text rather speaks of " pillars of smoke" than of sparkling lamps. Brethren, the smoke is but the effect of the dame, and even the pillar of smoke is luminous. What is the smoke that has attended the Church? What but the deaths of her martrys, the sufferings of her confessors, the patient endurance of her valiant sons? Wherever she goes, the thick smoke of her suffering goeth up to heaven. “We are alvvay delivered unto death,” said the apostle. The cause of truth involves a perpetual sacrifice; her smoke ascendeth for ever. Black smoke I say it is in the eye of man, but unto God it is a sweet-smelling savour. Never did fat of rams, or the fat of kidnies of fed beasts , smell so sweetly before the Most High as the faith, the love, the courage, which has ascended up to heaven from the dauntless heroes of the Church in past ages when at the stake they have been faithful even unto death. Suffering, and grief, and woe, are the lot of the spouse of the despised and rejected Saviour, but all these are as things of nought if thereby she may scatter that terrible blackness which blinds the face of man and makes him a stranger to his God.

     It often happens that oriental monarchs of immense possessions, are not content with burning common coals in these cressets, but frequently consume sandal-wood and other woods which give forth a delightful smell; or else, if they use ordinary coals, they sprinkle upon them frankincense and myrrh, so that a delicious perfume is spread on all sides. In the olden times, they also went to great expense in obtaining drugs, which the merchants collected from all parts of the earth, and these were carefully compounded into the renowned “powders of the merchants.” which yielded a delicious variety of delicate perfumes, not to be produced by any one aromatic essence. Our inspired poet describes the travelling procession of the royal pair, and fails not to dwell upon the delightful perfume of myrrh and frankincense, with all the powders of the merchant, “which make the wilderness smell as a garden of roses.” Wherever the Church of Christ proceeds, though her pathway is a desert, though she marches through a howling wilderness, she scatters the richest perfume. The page of history were only worthy to be blotted in oblivion were it not for the sweet odours which the Church has left upon it. Look at all past ages, and the track of the Church is still redolent with all the richest fragrance of human virtue and divine grace. Wherever the Church advances she makes manifest the savour of the knowledge of Christ in every place! Men believe in Jesus, and unto the Lord faith has all the fragrance of myrrh. They love Jesus; and love in the esteem of heaven is better than frankincense. Loving Christ they endeavour to be like him, till patience, humility, brotherly-kindness, truthfulness, and all things that are honest, lovely, and of good repute, like “powders of the merchant,” are spread abroad throughout the whole earth. Tell me where the Church is not, and I will tell you where sin reigns; tell me where Christ and his Church are carried, and I will tell you where you shall find every virtue that can adorn humanity, and every excellence that can magnify the excellence of the grace of God. If you would find an antidote for the deadly exhalations which lurk among this world’s deserts of sin; if you would destroy the foul pestilence which reigns in the darkness of heathenism, of Popery, and of infidelity, cry unto the Mighty One— “Arise, thou unknown traveller, arise, and bid thy servants carry thee into the midst of all this misery and death! The light of thy flaming torches shall scatter the darkness, and the burning of thy precious perfumes shall say unto evil— ‘Fold thy wings!’ and unto the pestilence of sin— ‘Get thee back unto thy den!’”

     Among the ten wonders which Jewish tradition ascribes to the temple, we find that the rain never extinguished the fire of the wood which was laid in order upon the altar, nor did the wind ' ever conquer the pillar of smoke so as to disperse or bend it. Verily it is so with the Church of God, as she cometh out of the wilderness: who shall quench her flaming lamp, or stay the incense of her golden censers? Ride on, Great Prince, and bear thy spouse with thee in thy majestic chariot, till thou hast lit the world with thy divine light, and hast made it a temple filled with a cloud of incense of sweet smell to the nostrils of Jehovah!

     II. We have, secondly, to notice THE SECURITY OF CHRIST'S CHURCH AT ALL TIMES.

     Of course when travelling through a wilderness, a royal procession was always in danger of attack. Arabs prowled around; wandering Bedouins were always prepared to fall upon the caravan; and more especially was this the case with a marriage procession, because then the robbers might expect to obtain many jewels, or, if not, a heavy ransom for the redemption of the bride or bridegroom by their friends. What shall I say of the attacks which have been made upon the Church of Christ, and upon Christ himself? They have been incessant. When one form of evil has been routed, another has presented itself. Evil teems with children. The frogs and lice of Egypt were not more numerous than the enemies of the Lord’s anointed and his bride. Every day produces new battles. These attacks arise from all quarters; sometimes from the world, and sometimes, alas! from even professed members of the Church. Adversaries lurk everywhere, and until the Church and her Lord shall be revealed in the splendour of the Millennium, having left the wilderness for ever, we must expect to find her molested on every side. My dear brethren, we know that Christ’s cause in the world is always safe because of divine protection, and because the legions of God’s angels keep watch and ward over the saints. But we have something more tangible than this. Our gracious God has been pleased to commit unto men the ministry of Christ. “Unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.” The Lord ordaineth that chosen men should be the protectors of his Church; not that they have any power as of themselves to do anything, but He girdeth the weak with strength and maketh the feeble mighty; so then, men, even the sons of men stand in array around the travelling palanquin of Christ, to guard both the bridegroom and the bride. 

     Read the 7th and 8th verses carefully, and you will notice that there are enough swordsmen. “Threescore valiant men are about it.” There are always enough men chosen of God to guard the Church. Poor Unbelief holds up her hands and cries— “Ah! the good men are all dead; Zion is under a cloud; the Lord hath taken away the great men; we have no valiant defenders of the faith, none such as this crisis may require!” Ah! Unbelief, let the Lord say unto thee as he did unto Elias — “Yet have I left me seven-thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal.” There shall be just as many warriors as the crisis shall require. We do not know where the men are to come from, but the Lord will provide. There may be sitting in the Sunday school to-day a child who shall one day shake this nation from one end to the other; there may be even here, unknown, obscure, and unobserved, the man whom God will make strong to rebuke the infamous infidelity of our age. We know not where the anointing rests. We, in our folly, would anoint Eliab or Abinadab, but God hath chosen David, the shepherd’s boy, and he will bring him forth and teach him how to hurl the stone at Goliath’s brow. Tremble not, neither be ye afraid; God who makes man and makes man’s mouth, will find the sixty men when the sixty shall be needed. “The Lord gave the word, great was the company of them that published it.” The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

     Observe that these warriors are men of the right mettle. “Yes," says poor trembling Little-Faith, “we have hosts of men, but they are not like the great hearts of old; they have not the qualifications which the age requires." Ah! but remember, about the bed of Solomon there are “threescore valiant men;” and glory be unto my Master, while I may not flatter the ministry, I must not dishonour him by believing that he has left his Church without valiant defenders. There are Luthers still living who bid defiance to all adversaries; men who can say, “We count not our lives dear unto us that we may finish our course with joy, and fulfil the ministry which the Lord hath delivered unto us.” Fear not; you may not at present know the valour of the Lord’s body-guard, but when the Church’s battle grows hotter than just now, suddenly there shall be seen a champion stalking to the front of the battle, and men shall say, “Who is this? How he wields that battle-axe! How he splits the armour of his foes! See how he piles them heaps on heaps, and mounts that hill of slaughtered enemies to smite a greater foe! Who is this?” And the answer shall be, “This is a man whom God hath found; the world knew not of him, but God has trained him in the camps of Dan, and now the Spirit moveth him to smite the Philistines.

     “Ah!” I think I hear you say, “but though there may be so many men, and men of the right sort, I am afraid they are not in the right place.” Look again at the text. It is written— “Threescore valiant men are ABOUT IT;” that is, there are some on that side, and some on this, some before, and some behind; they are all round the travelling chariot of Christ. “I wish there might be one in our parish,” says one. Pray for him, and he who has promised to -send you all good things may yet send him to you. “Pray ye the Lord of the harvest that he may send forth labourers into his harvest.” It is singular how God sometimes raises a mighty man, in this denomination, then in that, and then in the other. Suppose any body of Christians should try to monopolize all the valiant men themselves; why, they could not do it, because every side of the royal bed must be guarded, and in his own place each man is set for the defence of the gospel. The Church is compassed about with mighties, who are under God to do great exploits. If the Lord guides the flight of sparrows, surely he knows how to dispose his ministers; and let the Church be well content to let them occupy their posts until the wilderness is past, and the glory shall be revealed. The Church often makes mistakes, and thinks she can make ministers, or at least choose their position. She can do no such thing. God sends the valiant man; all you can do is to recognise his valour, and accept him as your champion; beyond that you cannot go; this is God’s work, not man’s. A minister made by men, made valiant by human strength, had better betake himself at once ignominiously to his tent, for his disgrace will be certain. God who sends the men, knows where to put them, so that they may stand round about the bed, and leave no corner unprotected.

     Notice that these men are all well armed. The text says expressly, “They all hold swords.” What swords are these? Every valiant man in Christ’s Israel holds the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. A man who is a good textuary will usually be a good divine; he who draws from the treasury of the written word will find his spoken word to be fruitful in profit to the people of God. If we use carnal reason; if we rely upon refinement, argument, eloquence, or any other form of the wisdom of man, we shall soon find our enemies will defeat us; but to ply the Word right and left; to give gospel cuts and strokes such as the devil himself cannot parry, this is to overcome the world through the Word of God. Besides this, and here is an opportunity for you all to carry swords— every valiant man in God’s Israel carries the sword of prayer, which is comparable to those huge two-handed swords of the olden time, which the soldier lifted up and brought down with such tremendous force, as to cleave a man in halves: prayer is a weapon which no man can effectually resist. If you know how to use it, bring it down upon your foeman’s head, and woe unto him! I would to God that in this Church there were found many of these valiant men of. Israel! Indeed, would God all the Lord’s servants were prophets, that it might be said of all of you that you hold swords. Your holy lives can be swords with which to smite your enemies. The tongues with which you speak of Christ lovingly, tenderly, persuasively— these may be weapons against our common enemy. Oh that when we hear the muster roll at last, it may be said of every Church-member that he held a sword! Do not tremble, ye timid ones, for the ark of the Lord; neither let your fears promote your unbelief; God knows full well how to give the right weapons to the right men, and his Church shall be secure even to the end.

     Further, my brethren, these men are not only well armed, but they are well trained. They are all expert in war; men who have endured temptations themselves; men whose souls have been exercised; men who have slain both the lion and the bear, and are men of war from their youth. Christian ministers especially should be no novices, but both in the school of temptation, and in some school of the prophets, they should be disciplined for fight. May there be such found here! I look out daily for such among you as are taught of God, and much of my time is spent with our young soldiers to make them expert in war. O that the Lord would hear my prayers and bless our college with men, and means, and above all with his Spirit. Fools are not the men for this age. We want a sound knowledge of doctrine, practical power in preaching, and a thorough insight into the human heart; and where these by earnest prayer can be found in a man and further developed by careful teaching, we are bound to give our aid. Such men should be looked after, and no pains should be spared to bring them forth; in fact, dear friends, you ought to think it a high honour to be allowed to help in putting such men into working order. Oh! how I groan to get my friends to feel the importance of sending out trained young ministers. I give my time and my substance cheerfully, but when will the Christian Church help in this matter as it should?

     Further, these men were not only well-trained, but you will see that they were always ready. Each man has his sword upon his thigh, ready to be drawn forth. I know some nominal ministers who seem to me to carry no sword at all. They keep a sheath, a very handsome sheath, with a hilt at the top and a stick inside. What is the good of such men? We want men to have swords in their sheaths, men who can speak with power, and have the demonstration of the Spirit and the power thereof resting upon them. Such men should wear their swords where they are to be got at, so that when the adversary comes they may dash at him at once. Rejoice, O daughter of Zion, thy Lord hath not left thee, even at this day, without some such men!

     Observe also that these men were watchful, for “they had their sword on their thigh because of fear in the night." They never sleep, but watch always for the Church’s interest. Pray ye that the Lord may raise up many such, who night and day with tears shall watch for the souls of men, and against the enemies of our Israel.

     Dear friends, some of you may at times be alarmed when you hear of attacks made upon the Bible. At one time it was thought that ethnology would prove that the human race could not be one; and Moses was terribly abused by some who said it was not possible that all of us could have come of one pair. That battle was fought, and you hear nothing of it now; it is over; learning and argument in the hand of God has routed those antagonists. Then they pelted us with shells, and bones of lizards. Geology threatened to dig our graves; but we have lived all through that struggle, and we have found geology to be a great blessing, for it has shed a new light on the first chapter of Genesis, and made us understand a great deal better what it meant. Another Amalekite advances to combat; this time it is with figures and numbers; we are to be speared with arithmetic, and slain with algebra! And what will be the result of it? Why, it will do the Bible a world of good, for we shall understand it better. I thank God whenever the Bible is attacked; for all those who know the times and seasons, begin to study just that part of Scripture more carefully, and then we get a clearer light shed upon it, and we find ourselves more confirmed than ever that this is the very truth, and that God hath revealed it to us. “Well, but who will take this matter up?” I do not know, and I do not particularly care, but I know my Master has his threescore valiant men round about his bed, and that each man has his sword upon his thigh because of fear in the night, and never mind what the battle may be, the end of it will be for God’s glory, and there shall be progress with the chariot of Christ through that which seemed as if it must overthrow it. Cast aside your fears; rejoice, and be glad, O daughter of Zion! Thy Lord is with thee in the travelling chariot, and the threescore valiant men are watching against thy foes.

     III. Meanwhile, reposing in peace, let us notice THE EXCELLENCY OF THIS CHARIOT IN WHICH JESUS RIDES.

     It is not difficult to convey to persons the most unacquainted with Eastern manners and customs, an idea of what this palanquin is. It is a sort of large sedan in which one or two persons may recline with ease. Of course, this palanquin could not be made of gold or silver, because then it would be too heavy for carriage; it must be made of wood; hence King Solomon made a bed, or chariot, or palanquin, of the wood of Lebanon. Then there needs to be four pillars supporting the covering and the curtains; the pillars thereof are of silver. The bottom of it should be something massive, in order to sustain the weight of the person; the bottom thereof is of gold. The canopy on the top, is a covering of purple. Since to lie on gold would be very unpleasant, it is covered with delicate, daintily wrought carpets; and so we have the bottom thereof paved, or rather carpeted with love for the daughters of Jerusalem. Some delicate devices of needlework adorn the bottom of this bed-chariot in which the king and his spouse recline during their journey.

“No beams of cedar or of fir,
Can with thy precious truth compare.”

     I rejoice to know concerning you as a Church, that the more you understand the doctrines of grace the better you love them. You are confirmed in the present faith, and well you may be, for our doctrine is worthy of your confidence. We are not afraid that any truth which Christ has uttered should be tried by the most stringent criticism,' for not one single stone of all the bulwarks of Gospel doctrine can ever be removed out of its place. When cedars of Lebanon have yielded to the worm, even then shall the truth as it is in Jesus remain the same.

     As for the silver pillars which bear up the canopy, to what should I liken them but to the attributes of God which support and guarantee the efficiency of the great atonement of Christ beneath which we are sheltered. There is the silver pillar of God’s justice. He cannot, he will not smite the soul that hides beneath the cross of Christ. If Christ hath paid the debt, how is it possible that God should visit again a second time the iniquity of his people, first on their Surety, and then again on themselves? Then stands the next, the solid pillar of his power. “They shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand; my Father which gave them me is greater than all, and none is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” Then on the other side is the pillar of his love, a silver pillar indeed, bright and sparkling to the eye; love unchanging and eternal, strong as the power and fast as the justice which bear up the canopy on the other side. And here on this side stands immutability, another column upon which the atonement rests. If God could change, then might he cast away his, blood-bought; but “because I am God and change not, therefore ye sons of Jacob rejoice.” As for the covering of the chariot, it is of purple. I need not tell you where it was dyed. No Tyrian hues are mingled here. Look up, Christian, and delight thyself in that blood-red canopy which shelters thee from the sun by day and from the moon by night! From hell and heaven, from time and from eternity, art thou secured by this covering which is of purple. Oh! tempting theme to dilate upon the precious and glorious doctrine of atonement! Whenever our adversaries assail the Church, whatever may be the apparent object of their animosity, their real one is always the same, a desperate hatred to the great truth that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. Well, as they hate it, let us love it; and under it let us take our greatest delight.

     As for the bottom of this palanquin, which is of gold, — may not this represent the eternal purpose and counsel of God, that purpose which he formed in himself or ever the earth was? Pure was the decree of God, holy, wise, just, for his own glory, and most true; and as the precious things of the temple were all of gold, well may the basis of eternal love, an immutable and unchangeable decree, be compared to much fine gold. I do not know, brethren, how it is with you, but I find it most pleasant to have as the basis of my hope, the firm decree of God. Atonement covers me, I know, but still on this I must rest, Jehovah wills it; God decrees it; he hath said it, and it must be done; he hath commanded and it standeth fast. Oh! that golden sovereignty, whereon is written— “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy; it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth.” Dear brethren, the Apostle plainly tells us that this is the basis on which even the silver pillars rest, “for he hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus, according as he hath chosen us in him from before the foundation of the world.”

     Then, to make this all soft and pleasant to recline upon, here is pavement of needlework. Soft cushions of love on which to rest. There is a double meaning here, for both the bride and bridegroom find rest in love. Our Lord finds rest in the love of his people. “Here will I dwell for ever.” They do, as it were, make these carpets of needle-work in their love and affection for him, and in their trust and confidence in him; and here he rests. On the other hand, our Beloved spent his life to work for us our bed of rest, so that we must translate it “love off as well as love for the daughters of Jerusalem.” We rest in Christ’s love; he rests in our love. Come, I need not explain further, brothers and sisters. Take your rest now to the full. You are married unto Christ; you are one with him; betrothed unto him in faithfulness, embraced in the arms of his affection. Fear not the noise of archers; the “threescore valiant men” protect you, and the king himself embraces you; now solace yourself with him; take your full of his sweet society, and say unto him from the bottom of your heart, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for his love is better than wine.” Leave fighting for the evidences to the valiant mem who can do it; as for you, ye daughters of Jerusalem, rest upon your Lord’s bosom; leave conflict to the men ordained to fight, the men expert in war; as for you, be you expert in communion; understand the motions of Jesus’ heart; look unto the lustre of his loving eyes; behold his beauties; be ravished with his divine affection to you; and now let your soul be satisfied with favour, and be full of the lovingkindness of the Lord!

     IV. We close, then, by noticing THE DUTY OF EVERY BELIEVING HEART in connection with the subject.

     Let every believer, while he recognises himself as part of the Church inside the palanquin, yet look upon himself personally as one of the daughters of Zion, and let us each go forth this morning to meet King Solomon. It is not King David; King David is the type of Christ up to the time of his crucifixion— “despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” and yet King of the Jews. King Solomon is the type of Christ ever since the day when

“They brought his chariot from above,
To bear him to his throne.”

     and, with sound of trumpet, conducted him to his Father’s presence-chamber above. Now it is King Solomon; King Solomon for wealth, for wisdom, for dignity, for honour, for peace. He is the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, and therefore is he King Solomon going forth. Get up from your beds of sloth; rise from your chambers of ease; go forth, go forth to pray, to labour, to suffer; go forth to live in purity, leaving Babylon behind; go forth to walk with him alone, leaving even your kinsfolk and acquaintance if they will not follow with you. Wherefore tarriest thou at home when the King is abroad? “Behold the Bridegroom cometh, come ye forth to meet him,” and behold King Solomon. To-day let your eye rest upon him. Let your eye behold the head that to-day is crowned with glory, wearing many crowns. Behold ye, too, his hands which once were pierced, but are now grasping the sceptre. Look to his girdle where swing the keys of heaven, and death, and hell. Look to his feet, once pierced with iron, but now set upon the dragon’s head. Behold his legs, like fine brass, as if they glowed in a furnace. Look at his heart, that bosom which heaves with love to you, and when you have surveyed him from head to foot exclaim, “Yea, he is the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely.” Does sin prevail? Behold King Solomon. Have doubts and fears arisen? Behold King Jesus. Are you troubled, and does your enemy annoy you? Look up to him, behold king Solomon. I pray you remember the light in which you are to behold him. Do not think that Christ has lost his former power. Behold him as he was at Pentecost, with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals. Oh! how glorious was our Lord when the Church crowned him with her zeal, and the arrows went abroad, and three thousand fell slain by his right hand to be made alive by the breath of his mouth! Oh, how these early saints crowned him, when they brought of their substance and laid it at the apostle’s feet, neither did any man count that ought he had was his own. They crowned him with their heart’s purest love; the Church had on her brow her bridal-wreath, and her husband wore his nuptial crown. Behold him to-day as wearing that crown still, for he is the same Christ, and do you go forth to meet him, and labour for him, and love him as the first saints did.

     Forget not that his mother is to crown him soon in the day of his espousals. He is our brother as well as our husband, and the Church is his mother as well as ours. Oh! she is to crown him soon! The day of his espousals draweth nigh. Hark! I hear the trumpet sound! Jesus comes, and his feet stand upon Mount Olivet; kings and princes lick the dust before him; he gathers sheaves of sceptres beneath his arm even as the mower gathereth wheat with the sickle. He treadeth on principalities and powers, the young lion and the dragon doth he trample under foot. And now his saints cry, “Hosanna, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” The long-expected one is come, and his mother crowns him in the day of his espousals! Courage, poor heart, courage! Go forth and see King Solomon to-day as he is to be, and remember,

“It doth not yet appear
How great we shall be made;
But when we see our Saviour here,
We shall be like our Head.”

     When we look on Him; let us rejoice that this is to be our glory. We are to put off this sackcloth and put on scarlet and fine linen. The dust is to be wiped from our brow and the sweat from our face; the shackles are to be taken from our wrist, and the gyves from our legs; and we are to be emancipated, ennobled, glorified, made partners with Christ in all his splendour, and taught to reign with him world without end.

     But there are some here that I can hardly call the daughters of Jerusalem, yet they are always round about Zion’s gate. Oh, there are many of you who are always listening to our voice, and joining in our hymns, and yet you have not seen our Master yet! Go forth; leave your sinful pleasures, and leave your self-righteousness too; go forth and behold King Solomon. Look to Jesus, sinner, bleeding on the cross, and as thou lookest, love and trust; and I know that as soon as thou hast seen him and trusted him, thou wilt have a crown to put upon his head. It will be the day of thine espousal unto him, and thou wilt crown him with such a crown. Thou wilt decorate that crown with jewels dug from the secret mine of thy deepest heart, and having made this crown, thou wilt put it on his head, and fall down before him and sing—

"All hail the power of Jesus name,
Let angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown him Lord of all."

     Well, then, we will lay aside every fear, and continue all the day gazing upon our matchless Christ, adoring him, exalting him, and having fellowship with him; for all is well; his travelling chariot is always safe, and soon will he step out of it with his bride at his right hand, and the world shall be astonished to behold the beauties of the royal pair when he shall be exalted, and they that are with him, before the presence of his Father and all the holy angels!



A Drama in Five Acts

By / Nov 23

A Drama in Five Acts

 

“But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.” — 1 Corinthians 7:29-31

 

     HOLY Scripture seldom gives a special rule for each particular case, but it rather instructeth us by general principles applicable to all cases. To meet every distinct moral emergency which could possibly arise, and solve every separate problem of action, would require rather a library than a volume. To men who are taught of the Spirit of God, general principles are far more valuable than special precepts, and I am half persuaded that it is so with all persons; for it is less difficult to apply a general principle to a peculiar case than it is to find out exactly what the particular case may be, and what the special rule applicable to it. In writing to the Church at Corinth the apostle had to answer several questions with regard to marriage; whether, for instance, it was not better in those persecuting times, when men often had to flee suddenly from their houses, that they should remain unmarried; whether, again, supposing a person became a Christian after marriage, it was lawful for him to separate from the person with whom he was unequally yoked; and several other questions as to fitting action in certain extraordinary positions. To these the apostle answers with an “I suppose,” or again, “Howbeit, for this speak I, not the Lord;” as if he felt himself quite out of his element in attempting to meet every case; but soon he lands on sure ground in the verses before us, and seems to say, “Whatever may be the answers which I ought to give to these special questions, of this one thing I am quite sure; I say positively and without any doubt that the time is short, and therefore it remaineth, whether ye are married or not, whether ye weep or whether ye rejoice, whether ye buy or whether ye sell, that ye should act in all these things as knowing their temporary and unsubstantial character.”

     Dear brethren, the important lesson which we endeavour to teach this morning is just this— that because time is so short, and the things of this world so frail and fleeting, it becomes us always to look at the things which are seen in their true character, and never to build substantial hopes on unsubstantial comforts, nor seek for solid joy from unreal things.

     In order that I may make this matter very plain, and may be the more likely to enlist your attention, and to secure the friendship of your memories in future years, I intend this morning to take you to a play. Strange thing for me to do, who have never crossed the threshold of a theatre on any occasion, good or bad! Yet this morning I shall seat you in front of the stage, and I shall put the worldling side by side with you while the five acts are performed. I shall next invite you to attend in the character of a Christian, to loolc through the whole and discern its emptiness; then, in the third place, I shall point you to the curtain which is quite sure to drop upon the scene ; and then we will walk out of this theatre of unreal show, this fashion of this world which passeth away, and see what there is to do in this world which is real, practical, and lasting.  

     Do not suppose that the idea of taking you to a theatre this morning is original on my part; it is in my text. “The fashion of this world passeth away,”— the word translated “fashion” is borrowed from the changing scenes of the drama; where the splendid pageantry vanishes as the scene changes. Nor will you think Holy Scripture too severe in its comparison, when I remind you that one of the world’s own poets has said

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.”

     Nor will the most precise among you complain of the levity of a metaphor which is sanctioned by Apostolic use; but I trust you will all cheerfully listen, while in simple words I tell the story which the bard of the sanctuary has sung in flowing verse.

“This life’s a dream, an empty show;
But the bright world to which I go,
Hath joys substantial and sincere:
When shall I wake and find me there?”

     I. WE WILL WITNESS THE FASHION OF THIS WORLD AS IT PASSES BEFORE US, LISTENING- TO THE WORLDLING’S COMMENT.

     The first act introduces those that have wives. It opens with a wedding. The bride and bridegroom advance to the altar in bridal attire. The bells are ringing; crowds are cheering at the door, while overflowing mirth is supreme within. In another scene we observe domestic happiness and prosperity, a loving husband and a happy wife. Yet, further on in the performance, rosy children are climbing the father’s knee; the little prattlers are lisping their mother’s name. “Now,” says our companion as he gazes with rapture, “This is real and enduring, I know it is; this will satisfy me; I crave for nothing more than this. Home is a word as sweet as heaven, and a healthy happy race of children is as fine a possession as even angels can desire. On this rock will I build all my hope; secure me this portion, and I cheerfully renounce the dreamy joys of religion.” We whisper in his ear that all this is but a changing scene, and will by-and-bye pass away, for time is short, and wife and children are dying creatures. The man laughs at us, and says, “Fanatics and enthusiasts may seek eternal joys, but these are enough for me.” He believes that if there be anything permanent in the universe it is marrying and being given in marriage, educating and bringing up a family, and seeing them all comfortably settled. He is right in valuing the blessing, but wrong in making it his all. Will he see his error before the curtain falls? Or will he continue to found the hopes of an immortal spirit upon dying joys? See the green mounds in the cemetery, and the headstone, with “Here he lies.” Alas for thee, poor deluded worldling, where is thy soul now? Doth it console thee that the dust of thine offspring shall mingle with thine ashes? Where hast thou now a home? What family hast thou now to care for? The first act is over; take breath and say, “This also is vanity.”

     The tenour of the drama changes, alas, how soon! Household joys are linked with household sorrows. They that weep are now before us in the second act. The cloudy and dark days have come. There are parents wringing their hands; a beloved child has died, and they are following its corpse to the tomb. Anon, the merchant has suffered a tremendous loss; he puts his hand to his aching head and mourns, for he knows not what will be the end of his troubles. The wife is smitten by the hand of death; she lies on her bed, blanched with sickness and wan with pain; there is a weeping husband at her side, and then there is another funeral, and in the dim distance I see the black horses again and again. The woes of men are frequent, and sorrow’s visits are not, like those of angels, few and far between. Our man of the world, who is much moved at this second act, foreseeing his own sorrows therein, weeps, until he fairly sobs out his feelings, clutches us with earnestness, and cries, “Surely this is awfully real; you cannot call this a fleeting sorrow or a light affliction. I will wring my hands for ever; the delight of my eyes has been taken from me; I have lost all my joys now; my beloved in whom I trusted has withered like a leaf in autumn before my face; now shall I despair; I shall never look up again!” “I have lost my fortune,” says the afflicted merchant, “and distress overwhelms me; this world is indeed a wilderness to me; all its flowers are withered. I would not give a snap of my finger to live now, for everything worth living for is gone!” Sympathising deeply with our friend, we nevertheless venture to tell him that these trials to the Christian, because they are so short and produce such lasting good, are not killing sorrows. “Ah,” says he, “you men of faith may talk in that way, but I cannot; I tell you these are real things.” Like an English sailor, who, seeing a play, sprung upon the stage to help a lady in distress, believing that the whole was real, so do such men weep and sigh, as if they were to mourn for ever, because some earthly good has been removed. Oh that they knew that the depths of sorrow were never yet explored by a mortal mourner! Oh that they would escape from those lower deeps where immortal spirits weep and wail amidst an emphasis of misery! The sorrows of time are trifles indeed when compared with the pains of everlasting punishment; and on the other hand we reckon that they are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. They are but light afflictions, which are but for a moment, a mere pin’s prick to the man of faith. Happy is the man whose eyes are opened to see that heirs of heaven sorrow not as those who are without hope. A real joy of heavenly origin is ever with believers, and it is but the shadow of sorrow which falls upon them. There let the curtain drop— let us enter into an eternal state, and what and where are these temporary griefs?

     But the third act comes on, and presents us with a view of those who rejoice. It may be that the first-born son has come of age, and there are great festivities. They are eating and drinking in the servants’ hall, and in the master’s banquet chamber; there are high notes of joy, and many compliments, and the smiling sire is as glad as man can be. Or it is the daughter’s wedding, and kind friends implore a thousand blessings on her head, and the father smiles and shares the joy. Or it is a gain in business, a fortunate speculation; or the profits of industry have come flowing in, slowly perhaps, but still surely, and the man is full of rejoicing; he has a house, and home, and friends, and reputation, and honour, and he is, in the eyes of all who know him, happy; those who do not know him , think he has no cares, that he can have no sorrows, that his life must be one perpetual feast, and that, surely there can be no spot in his sun, no winter in his year, no ebb to follow his floods. Our friend by our side is smiling at this sunny picture. “There,” says he, “is not that real? Why, there must be something in that! What more do you want? Only let me get the same, and I will leave you the joys of faith, and heaven, and immortality, to yourselves; these are the things for me; only let me laugh and make merry, and you may pray as you will. Fill high the bowl for me; put the roast and the viands on the table, and let me eat and drink, for to-morrow I die.” If we gently hint to our friend that all this passes away like a vision of the night, and that we have learned to look on it as though it were not, he laughs us to scorn, and accounts us mad when he is most mad himself. As for ourselves, so far from resting upon the softest couch that earth can give us, we spurn its vain delights.

“There’s nothing round this spacious earth
That suits my large desire;
To boundless joy and solid mirth
My nobler thoughts aspire.
Where pleasure rolls its living flood,
From sin and dross refined;
Still springing from the throne of God,
And fit to cheer the mind.”

     But the fourth act of the drama is before us, and they that buy demand our attention. The merchant is neither a mourner nor a man of mirth; in the eyes of certain Mammonites he is attending to the one thing needful, the most substantial of all concerns. Here feast your eyes, ye hard, practical, earth-scrapers. There are his money-bags; hear how they thump on the table! There are the rolls of bonds, the banker’s books, the title-deeds of estates, mortgages and securities, and the solid investment in his country’s own consols. He has made a good thing of life, and still he adheres to business, as he should do; and, like a painstaking man, he is accumulating still and piling up his heap, meanwhile adding field to field and estate to estate, till soon he will possess a whole county. He has just now been buying a large and very fine house, where he intends to spend the remainder of his days, for he is about to retire from business; the lawyer is busy making out the transfer; the sum of money is waiting to be paid, and the whole thing is as good as settled. “Ah! now,” says our friend, who is looking on at the play, “you are not going to tell me that this is all a shadow? It is not; there is something very solid and real here, at least, something that will perfectly satisfy me.” We tell him we dare say there is something that will satisfy him, but our desires are of a larger span, and nothing but the infinite can fill them. Alas for the man who can find satisfaction in earthly things! It will be only for a time; for when he comes to lie upon his dying-bed, he will find his buyings and his sellings poor things wherewithal to stuff a dying pillow; he will find that his gainings and his acquisitions bring but little comfort to an aching heart, and no peace to a conscience exercised with the fear of the wrath to come. “Ah, ah!” he cries, and sneers sarcastically, putting us aside as only fit for Bedlam, “Let me trade and make a fortune, and that is enough for me; with that I shall be well content!” Alas, poor fool, the snow melts not sooner than the joy of wealth, and the smoke of the chimney is as solid as the comfort of riches.

     But we must not miss the fifth act. See the rich man, our friend whom lately we saw married, whom we then saw in trouble, afterwards rejoicing and then prospering in business, has entered upon a green old age; he has retired, and has now come to use the world. You will notice that in my text this is the last act of the drama. The world says he has been a wise man and has done well, for all men will praise thee when thou doest well for thyself. Now he keeps a liberal table, a fine garden, excellent horses, and many servants; he has all the comforts in fact that wealth can command , and as you look around his noble park, as you gaze at his avenue of fine old trees, or stay a day or two at the family mansion and notice all its luxuries, you hear your friend saying, “Ay, there is something very real here; what do you think of this?” When we hint that the grey hairs of the owner of all these riches betoken that his time is short , and that if this be all he has he is a very poor man, for he will soon have to leave it, and that his regrets in leaving will make his death more pitiable than that of a pauper, our friend replies, “Ah! ah! you are always talking in this way. I tell you this is not a play. I believe it is all real and substantial, and I am not, by any talking of yours, to be made to think that it is unsubstantial and will soon be gone.” O world, thou hast fine actors, to cheat men so well, or else mortal man is an easy fool, taken in thy net like the fishes of the sea. The whole matter is most palpably a mere show, but yet men give their souls to win it. Wherefore, O sons of men, are ye thus beside yourselves? “Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not?”

     Dear friends, I have put before your mind’s eye a fair picture of that which men who live by sight and not by faith regard as being the chief end of man, and the real object of his being. It is to be married; to pass through the trials and joys of life with decency, to trade and grow rich, and at last to use the comforts of this world without abuse: a very comfortable and quiet picture, by no means the representation we should have to present before you of the profligate, the profane, the dissolute, or the debauched. There is nothing here, but what is proper and right, and yet everything is improper and everything becomes wrong at once if these be thought to be the substantial things for which an immortal spirit is to spend its fires, and for which an undying soul is to exhaust its powers.

     II. Let us now take the CHRISTIAN VIEW OF THIS DRAMA.

     “Life is real; life is earnest:” it is real thus far to the Christian, it is real for work and activity for God; it is real in the solemn responsibility which it brings; it is real in the gratitude which we owe to God for the comforts which he is pleased to bestow; it is real to us so far as we can see God therein, and can turn everything to God’s glory. The unreality of this world to a Christian, is found in the fact that time is short. This is the wand which touches the substance and makes it, before the eye of wisdom, dissolve into a shade. Time is short!

     When the apostle declares that they that have wives, should be as though they had none, he does not teach us to despise the marriage state, but not to seek our heaven in it, nor let it hinder our serving the Lord. It is supposed that there are some things which a man without a wife and family can do— those things the man with a wife and family should do. It is supposed that a man without a wife can give his time to the cause of God: the man with a wife should do the same, and he will not find it difficult to do so if God hath blessed him with one who will second all his holy endeavours. It is supposed that a man without a wife has no care: a man with a wife should have none, for he should cast all his cares on God who careth for him. “He that careth not for his own house is worse than a heathen man and a publican;” and yet the apostle says, in the verse following my text, “But I would have you without carefulness;” for we should learn to live by faith. The man who has a large family, and many things to exercise his mind, should yet, through the teaching of the Holy Spirit, live as quietly and comfortably as though he had none, depending and resting by simple faith upon the providence and goodness of God. Then, again, it is supposed that an unmarried man will find it easier to die, for there will be none of that sorrow at leaving his beloved family: the man with a wife and family should, by faith, find it just as easy since the promise runs, “Leave thy fatherless children, and let thy widows trust in me.” Full of the same faithful tenderness and affection which another husband would exhibit, and even excelling in love and kindness, yet the Christian should look up to the divine Lord who is the husband of the widow, and with confidence leave his offspring, and bid them trust in his God. May God the Holy Ghost teach us how to walk in our households, loving ever and yet remembering that all our kindred shall pass away.

     Again, there is the second act— weeping. Every Christian man must weep; but the Apostle says that our sorrows are to be regarded by us, because time is short, as though they were no sorrows at all. A man who knows that his trials will not last long, can be cheerful under them. If he sees a Father’s hand in the midst of every adversity, and believes that when he is tried he shall come forth like gold from the furnace; if he knows with the Psalmist that “weeping may endure for the night, but that joy cometh in the morning, why then grief has lost its weight, and sorrow has lost its sting; and while the man weeps he yet rejoices, seeing the rainbow of the covenant painted on the cloud. Happy man, who, under bereavement, under crosses, and losses, can still cast his burden upon God, and can say, “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation!” The Christian man is bound to live above his sorrows; he weeps, for “Jesus wept;” he may mourn, for the faithful have been mourners often, but he must not so mourn and weep as to be eaten up with grief; over the tops of the rolling waves he must see the haven of peace, and rejoice evermore.

     So is it in the third part. The Christian has his rejoicings, and he is not forbidden to be happy; indeed, he is commanded to rejoice; and the things of this life he may freely enjoy with the double zest of the mercy itself, and of the God who gave it to him. But still, believer, in all thy joys, remember to hold them with a loose hand. Never so hold thy joys as if they were all in all to thee. Though it be wife, or child, or property, or health, or wealth, or fame, still ever stand ready to surrender all into thy Father’s hand, feeling that these, after all, are not thy joys; that thou hast better springs to drink from than those which earth’s summers can dry up, and that thou hast rivers of pleasure deeper and broader than any which earth’s winter shall be able to freeze. Do thou still stand steadily to this, that, as earth cannot cast thee down to despair, so it cannot lift thee up so as to make thee forget thy God. Learn in these things to rejoice as though thou hadst them not, and let this be thy solace, that thy name is written in heaven.

     So, too, in the matter of buying and possessing. It is not wrong for a Christian to trade and to trade well. I cannot see any reason why a Christian should be a fool; in fact, those who are fools in business are very often a great dishonour to the Christian religion, for a fool is very often first-cousin, if not father, to a knave. But, still, while we buy and sell it should always be thus— “This is not my real trade; this is not the way in which I really get rich, for my treasure is beyond the skies, where moth devours not, and where rust cannot consume.” Handle these things, brethren, knowing that they take to themselves wings and flee away; look at them as transient objects which are to be used and sanctified in the passing, not your own, but lent to you for a time; to be repaid at last, with interest, in the day when the Master saith, “Give an account of thy stewardship, for thou mayest be no longer steward." A man may be as rich as Croesus, and his wealth will never hurt him if he does not hold it with a tight hand; and a man may be as happy as happiness can make him here, and yet it will not hurt him if he learns to keep it under his feet. But oh! when one’s rejoicings or possessions get the upper hand of us there is as dreadful a drowning in a sea of pleasure as in a sea of misery. Keep before your mind the words of our sweet singer—

"To thee we owe our wealth and friends,
And health, and safe abode;
Thanks to thy name for meaner things,
But they are not my God.
What empty things are all the skies,
And this inferior clod!
There’s nothing here deserves my joys,
There’s nothing like my God.”

     The last scene is the using of the things of this life. The creatures of God are given us to be used. John the Baptist may be an ascetic, but the Son of Man is come eating and drinking. The Christian man knows that the mercies which God has given him are to be used, but while he uses them he must use them as though he did not use them. That is a high philosophy which I fear me not many of us have learned, the philosophy of the apostle when he said, “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound.” That man is the full-grown and true Christian whom circumstances cannot alter! He trusts in God when he is penniless, and he trusts in his God just the same when he is rich; he rests on God when he can enjoy nothing, and he rests on him just the same when he can enjoy everything; he learned to build on the Bock of Ages when he had no comfort, and he builds on the Rock of Ages now, when he has every comfort! This, I take it, is where the apostle would have us brought. To the true Christian the things of this world are only real so far as they involve responsibility; but, seeing that time is short, he looks on life as men look upon a play; he sees a monarch strut, and he says, “Ah! he is to pull off his robes behind the stage!” He sees a peasant or a beggar, and he smiles and thinks of the time when the king and the peasant shall be equal, and the servant and his lord shall stand before one tribunal to give an account of the things done in the body. Send your souls longing after real and unchanging joys, for these splendid, gaudy, shifting scenes, mock the beholder and delude his hopes. Gorgeous as the colours of the bubble, and quite as frail, farewell ye worthless things, our spirit leaves you for eternal mansions in the skies.

     III. And now, dear friends, I want your attention a few minutes while I point you to THE CURTAIN WHICH IS SOON TO DROP UPON ALL THESE THINGS, it bears this short device, “TIME IS SHORT.”

     It is very difficult to keep men in mind of the fact that they are mortal. We confess that we are mortal, but we profess by our actions that we are immortal. Said a man of eighty-two concerning another of seventy, when he wanted to buy his land and could not get it at the price he wished— “Never mind, So-and-so is an old man, he will soon be dead, and then I’ll buy it.” Though he was ten or twelve years older than the other, yet the other must of course, soon die, while he, in his own thoughts, must live for many a year. How short time is! Do we not, dear friends, get more and more that impression? I am but young compared with very many of you, yet the impression constantly grows upon my mind. Why, it seems but the day before yesterday when I plucked the first early primrose of spring, while the flowers were breaking up from under the earth, and the buds were ready to burst from the sheath! It was only as yesterday that we were walking in the fields and were remarking that the corn was just beginning to be tinged with the golden hue of harvest! Only a few Sabbaths ago I was talking to you of Ruth in the harvest-fields, and of the heavily-laden waggon that was pressed down with sheaves; and now the leaves are almost all gone; but few remain upon the trees; these frosty nights and strong winds have swept the giants of the forest till their limbs are bare, and the hoar frosts plate them with silver. Then, before we shall have time to bum the winter’s log, we shall see the snow-drops and the yellow crocus heralding another spring! At what a rate we whirl along! Childhood seems to travel in a waggon, but manhood at express-speed. As we grow older I am told that the speed increases till the grey-headed old man looks back upon all his life as being but a day; and I suppose, if we could live to be a hundred-and-thirty we should feel the same, till, like Jacob, we should say, “Few and evil have been the days of thy servant!” and, if we could live as long as Methuselah, I doubt not our life would appear shorter still. How time flies, not only by the measurement of the seasons, but by ourselves! A few days ago I trudged with my satchel on my back to school, or joined in boyish sport. How lately was it when the boy became a youth, and must be doing something, and was teaching other boys as he had been taught in his day. It was but yesterday I came to Park Street to address some few of you, and yet how time has fled since then, till now some nine years of our ministry have passed. No weaver’s shuttle, no arrow from a bow, no swift post, no meteor seems to fly at a rate so wonderful as does our life! We heard of one the other day who had seen Wesley preach, and so we find ourselves side-by-side with the last century, and those old people have known some others in their youth who told them of the yet older time, and you find that going through the history of some ten or twelve persons you are carried back to the days of William the Conqueror, and you see our country taken by the Normans, and then you fly back to ancient British times as with a thought. You no longer say, “How long the nation has existed!” for it is as a sleep. You stand by some old cliff and see a deposit of shells, and as you remember that it may have taken a million of years to have formed that bed, you think— “What is man? and what is time? It is not here, but gone!” We have only to think of what time is to conclude at once that time is not! It is but a little interlude in the midst of the vast eternity; a narrow neck of land jutting out into the great, dread, and unfathomable sea of everlastingness!

     But while time is thus short, its end is absolutely sure. That curtain yonder must fall soon! It must fall; it is inevitable. I cannot prevent my death by the most regular habits of life; the most skilful physician cannot preserve my life for me; a host of angels, should they swear to make me immortal, could not! When the time comes, die I must! And, as my death is inevitable, so it may be very near. Let each man remember that! How soon it may be we cannot tell! Every Sabbath there are some in this house who are dead before the next Sabbath. I am not now venturing a guess; it is a matter of fact, a matter of fact, too, that comes under my own cognizance very frequently. According to our population and the gradual number of deaths, there must be some out of this congregation here this morning who will have gone the way of all flesh before next Sabbath-day! There was one — I look at her seat now, and a brother sitting near by looks there with sorrow! — who was with us one Sabbath-day, and we soon heard that she had gone to enjoy the Eternal Sabbath! At a Church-meeting last week, no less than three of our sisters were reported as having fallen asleep in Jesus within a week. Ah! how near is death to us! Perhaps he now stands looking over thy shoulder, young man; God holds back his hand, but the dart of death is close to thy heart, and soon, —ah, how soon!— may you be taken to the place appointed for all living! Go, thou strong man, and remember that thou art a mass of feebleness! Go, thou young man, and remember that death reaps green corn! Go, thou old man, and expect the sickle! And go, thou rich man, and remember that thou shalt soon leave everything that thou hast, and then where art thou if thou hast no treasure in heaven, if thou hast not laid up in store for immortality?

     And I must add here that, to those who have no God, death, while inevitable and very near, will be most awful and tremendous! There was a dreadful story told in the papers of this last week. At the seaport town of Garliestown one day last week, certain workmen were busy preparing a better berth for a vessel which seems to have taken the ground a little too soon. On a sudden some one raised a cry that the ship was listing over, and while some four men were able to escape, one poor fellow was unable to do so, and the ship fell upon his lower extremities and loins. Now this was thought, perhaps, to be no great danger, for they could take away the sludge and extricate him. So they began to shore the ship, and willing hands brought ropes and blocks, and wedges, and earnest strength. But they soon discovered that the thing was impossible from the nature of the bottom of the river, and from the position of the cargo, which, I suppose, they could not speedily remove. The man was jammed under the bulwarks, and must remain fixed there without hope. There was just one awful hour before the coming tide would reach the spot. Well might a solemn hush succeed the frantic labours of the townsmen as death was seen riding on the advancing flood. The poor creature had to lie there that hour as the tide came gently in. A minister stood by his side praying with him; let us trust that his soul found peace with God! But O the terror of his position; well might he say, “Cover my head, that I may not see the water.” Steadily the cold unpitying waters flowed on until a corpse was hidden where an hour or so before a strong man laboured. This is a graphic picture of the position of every ungodly man! He does not know it, but the waves of time are coming up about him now, and we cannot help him to escape. The load of his sins is on his loins: he cannot deliver himself; the great waters of God's wrath must swallow him up -quick. O, sinner, would that I could save thee! Alas, it is not in my power! But there is an arm that can deliver thee; there is one who can lift the burden off thee, and say to thee, “Be free!” Believe in him and thou shalt never die! Trust thou in his power and rest thyself on his love, and thou shalt escape as a bird out of the snare of the fowler; and when death cometh it shall be no death to thee, but a peaceful migration from the land of shadows to the world of substance. God help us to be wise, that we may remember our latter end!

     I would say a few more words to the sinner. I cannot think, O worldling, why thou shouldest love this world so much when it is so soon to vanish! In the old Greek cities they had a king every year, and, because it was so poor a thing to be a king for only one year and then to be a common man again, all the citizens dreaded to be kings. How canst thou long to be rich, when thou art only to be rich for so short a time? When the sailor is just about to furl his sail because he is near the port, he will not fret himself with some little inconvenience in the ship; and wherefore art thou so sore vexed with all these little trials, when thou art so near the eternal haven? When men buy property on a short lease, they will not give much for it, for they are only to have it for a brief term; wherefore spendest thou thy soul to buy this world? What will it profit thee, if thou gain it, if thy soul be lost? When men have a house and they are soon to leave it, they will not lay out much in repairing it; wherefore, then, carest thou so much for thy body? Why mindest thou so much this life; the bell is even now trembling to toll for thee, and the grave is yawning that it may swallow thee up? Oh man! Oh man! I would that thou wert wise! Thou art to live for ever, for ever, for ever, either

"In flames that no abatement know,
Though briny tears for ever flow.”

     or else in joy beyond degree. Which shall it be with thee, man? If thou diest as thou art, O sinner, remember, there remaineth nothing for thee but a fearful looking for of judgment and of fiery indignation! I pray thee by the love of God, to consider thy ways. Thus saith the Lord unto thee this day by my lips, as truly as he spake to Hezekiah by the prophet of old, “Set thy house in order, for thou shalt die and not live.” How wilt thou stand, sinner, in the day when the Lord cometh to make inquisition for sin, and to avenge their iniquity upon the heads of the unpardoned? Fly, sinner; God help thee by his grace to fly now to yonder open door, where Jesus waits to receive thee and to put away thy sin. Whosoever believeth on him is not condemned. Like as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so the Son of man is lifted up that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.

     IV. Come, come, ye wise men, rise and leave this theatre, we have seen enough of it. “The fashion of this world passeth away;” and for you and for me happy shall it be when it shall have passed away for ever. But is there nothing real? Can I do nothing real here? Is there nothing I can do that shall last for ever? Yes, the soul is lasting. Then let me see to my own soul. Let me make my calling and election sure, for I shall have been of all fools the most mad, if I shall have trifled with these things and yet have neglected my soul. The Roman emperor, Claudius, once invaded Great Britain, but his performance only consisted of gathering pebbles and shells from the sea-coast. This shall be my triumph, this my sole reward, if here in this world I live only to gather wealth. At the last I shall be as though I gathered pebbles, for these things shall be of no value to me if my soul shall perish. O Lord, by thy rich grace set me upon a sure foundation, and make me right before thy face.

     Yes, there are some real things besides my own soul. There are other men' s souls. What am I doing for them? Am I teaching, am I preaching, or, if I am not doing this, am I helping others to preach? Am I doing my best to add to the kingdom of Christ by the ingathering of immortals? Have I a sphere in the ragged school or in tract distributing, or am I helping in some way or other to do good? For, if not, my life is a play, I am doing nothing real; I am only hurrying here and there, and when it comes to the last I shall have been as a workmen that has neglected his own work to play with children in the streets! Dig up your buried talents, O idlers. Work while it is called to-day, O ye who are given to slumber.

     Yes, there is something real— there is Christ's Church. The Church that is to shine like the stars in heaven for ever, the Bride of the Lamb — what am I doing for Her? Do I seek the good of Jerusalem? As a member of the Church, do I contribute to its strength? Do I give of my substance to her efforts, and of my talents to her doings? Do I cast myself wholly into the arms of Christ, and work for him! Yes, there is something real— Jesus is so. Am I glorifying him here on earth? When I see him in his poor people, do I feed him? When he shivers at my door in the garb of poverty, do I clothe him? When I know that he hath need, do I visit him? If so, I am doing real things. If I devote my life to God, to Christ, to his Church, to the souls of men, and if my own soul is saved, then I am living; but if not, I am dead while I live. “Let us live while we live!" Alas! how many are dying while they live, drivelling while they live! Oh! the scores of pounds we spend on ourselves; the hundreds we give to our own comfort! And where is that? It is gone like smoke! But that which is given to God lasts and endures; it is treasured up in God’s bank; that which is given to the poor and needy is made— though unrighteous mammon— to be treasured up in heaven! But I know many practical persons will say, “Yes, this is a very pretty speech for a young minister; but these ministers do not understand business; they cannot be expected to understand temporal matters.” I would to God ye understood them half so well, for our understanding in this matter we know is sound; and when you shall come to see these things in the light of eternity streaming between the curtains of your dying bed, you will understand, then, that there was nothing worth living for but God, and Christ, and his Church; and you will give your verdict then with mine to this, that truly to live must be Christ, or else to die never can be gain!

     God add his blessing, and may some be led to trust in Jesus this morning!



A Message from God for Thee

By / Nov 16

A Message from God for Thee

 
“The punishment of thine iniquity is accomplished, O daughter of Zion; he will no more carry thee away into captivity: he will visit thine iniquity, O daughter of Edom; he will discover thy sins.” — Lamentations 4:22

 

     EVERY Sabbath we are insisting upon it that both the Law and the Gospel have a voice to universal manhood: the Law in its condemnation of every subject under its sway, and the Gospel in its gracious invitation and command to every creature under heaven. Yet, at the same time, we must never forget that both the Law and the Gospel have a special voice to certain characters; that the law has ten-fold thunders for peculiar sinners, and, on the other hand, that the Gospel has a voice of unutterable sweetness to those favoured persons who have by the Holy Spirit been prepared to hear its voice. While there are texts which are universal, and invitations whose range is as wide as fallen humanity, there are at the same time a still larger number of texts which are aimed like arrows at an appointed target. My text this morning can never be understood unless we clearly point out the characters to whom it is addressed. The blessing is not for the daughter of Edom, neither is the curse for the daughter of Zion. We must be very earnest with our own hearts this morning, to discover, if possible, whether we come under the number of those whose warfare is accomplished, and whose sin is pardoned; or whether, on the other hand, we abide with the multitude on whom resteth the curse of God, and whose sins shall be discovered and punished by the right-hand of the Most High. I have a double message from the Lord this morning. I say not alone, as did the blind prophet of old, “Come in, thou wife of Jeroboam; for I am sent to thee with heavy tidings but I have also to say, “Come in thou blessed of the Lord, wherefore standest thou without.” According to the persons I address, my message will be as pleasant as ever was brought by those whose feet were beautiful upon the mountains because they published good tidings of great joy, or as dreadful as that which Daniel bore to the trembling monarch in the day when his kingdom was divided and given to the Medes and Persians.

     Our two messages we will try to deliver in their order; we shall then want your attention and patience for a minute while we answer the question— Why the difference? and then we will press upon each character the force of the message, that each may be led to believe what is addressed to him.

     I. OUR FIRST MESSAGE IS ONE OF COMFORT. “The punishment of thine iniquity is accomplished, O daughter of Zion; he will no more carry thee away into captivity.”

     1. We find, at the outset, a joyous fact. Read it with glistening eyes ye to whom it belongs— “The punishment of thine iniquity is accomplished, O daughter of Zion.” In the case of the kingdom of Judah, the people had suffered so much in their captivity that their God, who in his anger had put them from him, felt his repentings kindle together, and considered that they had suffered enough; “For she hath received at the Lord’s hand,” said the prophet, “double for all her sin.” Brethren, in our case we have not been punished at all, but yet the words may stand as they are, and be literally true, for the punishment of our iniquity is accomplished. Remember that sin must be punished. Any theology which offers the pardon of sin without a punishment, ignores the major part of the character of God. God is love, but God is also just— as severely just as if he had no love, and yet as intensely loving as if he had no justice. To gain a just view of the character of God you must perceive all his attributes as infinitely developed; justice must have its infinity acknowledged as much as mercy. Sin must be punished. This is the voice which thunders from the midst of the smoke and the fire of Sinai— “The soul that sinneth it shall die “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” “Sin must be punished” is written on the base of the eternal throne in letters of fire; and, as the damned in hell behold it, their hopes are burned to ashes. Sin must be punished, or God must cease to be. The testimony of the Gospel is not that the punishment has been mitigated or foregone, or that justice has had a sop given it to close its mouth. The consolation is far more sure and effectual; say ye unto the daughter of Zion that “the punishment of her iniquity is accomplished.” Christ hath for his people borne all the punishment which they deserved; and now every soul for whom Christ died may read with exultation— “The punishment of thine iniquity is accomplished.” God is satisfied, and asks no more.

     Sin deserved God’s wrath; that wrath has spent itself on Christ. The black and gathering clouds had all been summoned to the tempest, and manhood stood beneath the dark canopy waiting till the clouds of vengeance should empty out their floods. “Stand thou aside!” said Jesus— “Stand thou aside, my spouse, my Church, and I will suffer in thy stead.” Down dashed the drops of fire; the burning sleet swept terribly over his head, and beat upon his poor defenceless person, until the clouds had emptied out their awful burden, and not a drop was left. Beloved, it was mot that the cloud swept by the wind into another region where it tarries until it be again called forth, but it was annihilated, it spent itself entirely upon Christ. There is no more punishment for the believer, since Christ hath died for him. In his dying, our Lord has satisfied the divine vengeance even to the full. Then this, too, must satisfy our conscience. The enlightened conscience of a man is almost as inexorable as the justice of God, for an awakened conscience, if you give it a false hope, will not rest upon it, but crieth out for something more. Like the horse- leech it saith — “Give, give, give.” Until you can offer to God a full satisfaction, you cannot give the conscience a quietus. But now, O daughter of Zion, let thy conscience be at rest. Justice is satisfied; the law is not despised: it is honoured; it is established. God can now be just, severely so, and yet, seeing that thy punishment is accomplished, thou mayest come with boldness unto him, for no guilt doth lie on thee. Thou art accepted in the Beloved; thy guilt was laid on him of old, and thou art now safe.

“In thy Surety thou art free,
His dear hands were pierced for thee;
With his spotless vesture on,
Holy as the Holy One.”

     Come thou boldly unto God, and rejoice thou in him.

     Lest, however, while God is reconciled and conscience is quieted, our fears should even for an instant arise, let us repair to Gethsemane and Calvary, and see there this great sight, how the punishment of our iniquity is accomplished. There is the God of heaven and of earth wrapped in human form. In the midst of those olives yonder I see him in an agony of prayer. He sweats, not as one who labours for the bread of earth, but as one who toils for heaven. He sweats “as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” It is not the sweat of his brow only, but “All his head, his hair, his garments, bloody be.” God is smiting him, and laying upon him the punishment of our iniquities. He rises, with his heart exceeding sorrowful even unto death. They hurry him to Pilate’s judgment-seat. The God of heaven and earth stands in human form to be blasphemed, and falsely accused before the tribunal of his recreant creature. He is taken by the soldiery to Gabbatha; they strip, they scourge him; clots of gore are on the whip as it is lifted from his back. They buffet him, and bruise him with their blows; as if his robe of blood were not enough, they throw about his shoulders an old cloak, and make him a mimic king. Little knew they that he was the King of kings. He gives his back to the smiters , and his cheeks to them that pluck off the hair; he hides not his face from shame and spitting. Oh! what shall be said of thee, thou Son of man? In what words shall we describe thy grief? All ye that pass by behold and see if there was ever any sorrow like unto his sorrow that was done unto him! Oh God, thou hast broken him with a rod of iron; all thy waves and thy billows have gone over him. He looks, and there is none to help; he turns his eye around, and there is none to comfort him. But see, through the streets of Jerusalem he is hastened to his death; they nail him to the transverse wood; they dash it into the ground; they dislocate his bones; he is poured out like water; all his bones are out of joint; he is brought into the dust of death; agonies arc piled on agonies; as in the classic fable the giants piled Ossa upon Pelion that they might reach the stars, so now that man may reach to heaven, misery is piled on misery, what if I say hell on hell! but Jesus bears the dreadful load. At last he reaches the climax of anguish, grief could go no higher. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!” was the sum total of all human misery; the gathering up of all the wrath of God, and all the sorrow of man into one sentence. And thus he dies! Say ye unto the daughter of Zion that her punishment is accomplished. “It is finished!” Let the angels sing it; hymn it in the plains of glory; tell it here on earth, and once again say ye unto the daughter of Zion that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins! This, then, is the joyous note we have to sound this morning.

     2. But — but— and here comes the solemn, soul-searching part of our discourse — Is the punishment of mine iniquity accomplished? Let us see to whom this message is sent. Will you open your Bibles at the book of Lamentations — it is but a slender volume— and follow me a moment with your eyes and with your hearts, for this promise is sent to a certain character, and I know there are some here who will read their own history therein.

     In the first chapter and at the sixth verse you find it said of her— “From the daughter of Zion all her beauty is departed” We should have thought that Christ would have died for those who had some form and comeliness, but no. “God – commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” At the coming of the Holy Spirit into the soul, all self-righteousness melts away, our merit is dissolved like the rime of the morning frost before the heat of the rising sun. In the light of the Holy Spirit the darkness of the creature is removed, and the fancied goodness of fallen humanity dies like a dream. Now the man perceives himself to be utterly vile; that which once he esteemed as making him lovely in the sight of God has withered before his eyes, and all his glory is trailed in the mire. My hearer, has all thy self-righteousness been taken from thee? for rest assured thou art not this daughter of Zion unless thy beauty has all departed, and all thy boastful thoughts have been utterly slain.

     Wonder of wonders! the eighth and ninth verses tell us “Jerusalem hath grievously sinned,” and the ninth verse tells us yet more, that “her filthiness is in her skirts.” Thus, those for whom Christ died are made to feel their sin. While their righteousness becomes as filthy rags, their unrighteousness becomes loathsome and detestable in their sight. Holy Scripture rakes up the most terrible figures to set forth the abominable character of sin, some, even, which we would hardly dare to quote to meet the public ear, but which the renewed heart feels to be perfectly true. The heart discovereth itself to be all wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores, till it abhorreth itself before God. “O Lord, I am vile.” “We are all together as an unclean thing.” “We are laden with iniquity.” Such are the cries of awakened souls, and it is to such as these that the gracious message is directed.

     Look on, again, to the seventeenth verse, and there you find that this filthiness has brought her into utter distress— “Zion spreadeth forth her hands, and there is none to comfort her.” So those to whom this message is sent are brought, through a sense of sin, into a comfortless state. Ceremonies, Baptism, the Lord’s Supper— all these yield them no peace. They can no longer rest in their Church-goings and Chapel-goings. A formal, notional religion would once satisfy them, but they find no rest for the sole of their foot in such a pretence now. Time was when if they went through a prayer at night and morning, and read a verse or two of the Bible, they thought all would be well; but now there is none to comfort them. These refuges of lies are all swept away, for the furious hail of conviction has laid them level with the ground. Let us be certain of this, that there is no word of peace or comfort for us in our text until the beauty in which we once boasted has all been withered before the wintry blasts of the law; till our filthiness has been discovered before our sight, and we have been led to an experimental acquaintance with our ruined and comfortless condition on account of our iniquities.

     To make the case worse, this poor daughter of Zion is obliged to confess that she deserved all her sufferings. In the eighteenth verse she says— “The Lord is righteous: for I have rebelled against his commandments.” The soul feels now that God is just. Unrenewed persons find fault with God’s justice. Eternal punishment they cavil at; hell is such a bugbear to them, that, just as every culprit will, of course, find fault with the prison and the gallows, so they rail at the wrath to come, though that wrath is just as sure, notwithstanding all their objections to it. But when the heart is really touched by divine grace, then it has no more to say for itself, but pleads guilty at the bar of God’s great assize; and if the Judge should put on the black cap, and condemn it to be taken instantly to the place of execution, that soul could only say, “Thou art righteous, O Lord, for I have sinned.” I despair of ever finding a word of comfort for any man or woman among you, if you have not been brought to feel that you deserve the wrath of God. Come with the ropes about your necks, ready for execution, and you will find a God ready to forgive.

     Further still: in the first verse of the second chapter you find that her prayer was not yet heard— “How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger, and cast down from heaven unto the earth the beauty of Israel, and remembered not his footstool in the day of his anger!” Well do I remember the time in my own experience when I prayed in vain; when I bowed my knees and the heavens were as brass, and not a word or answer of comfort was given to my languishing spirit! All who are converted do not pass through this, for no one experience is a standard for all, but remember I am seeking out a certain class this morning, for my text is addressed to a special character. If thou hast been for months, ay, even for years, crying for mercy, and still hast not found it, let not this cast thee down, for to thee is this message sent this morning. Thou art this daughter of Zion covered with a cloud, and I have to say unto thee that “the punishment of thine iniquity is accomplished.” Thy prayer has come up with acceptance, for the Spirit inspired it and Jesus offered it. God absolves thee, from heaven thy forgiveness comes. Oh, believe the word of the Lord, and rejoice therein. “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.”

     Further: as her prayer was not heard, so every place of refuge was broken down. In the eighth verse of the second chapter you find — “The Lord hath purposed to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion: he hath stretched out a line, he hath not withdrawn his hand from destroying; therefore he made the rampart and the wall to lament: they languished together.” Even what few stones of the ruined wall remained as an heap behind which the Israelitish warriors might defend themselves were to be broken down. So God goes on overturning, overturning, overturning in the sinner’s heart till Christ comes in. After every hope has been broken down we are apt to build up another. “Peace, peace, where there is no peace,” is the sinner’s constant cry. Our Lord, who is determined to bring us to the obedience of faith, continually beats down the sinner’s confidences, till at last there is not one stone left upon another that is not thrown down; then the sinner yields himself a captive, and free grace leads him in triumph to the cross. Is this your case this morning, my dear hearer? If it be then, my sweet message is for you. “Go in peace, they sins which are many are all forgiven thee!”

     Further still: this daughter of Jerusalem was now brought into a state of deep humiliation. Look at the tenth verse of the second chapter: "The elders of the daughter of Zion sit upon the ground and keep — silence; they have cast up dust upon their heads: they have girded themselves in sackcloth: the virgins of Jerusalem hang down their heads to the ground.” Here is a state of deep prostration of spirit! I do not want to enlarge on these points, because we have not time; and, what is more, there is no necessity for doing so, for you that have been brought through them understand them; and some of you who are in this state now will say, as I read the verses, “There is my picture; as face answereth to face in a glass so does the description of Jeremiah exactly answer to my condition.” Well then, to you who lie in deep soul prostration, conscious that the lowest position is not too low for you, to you is this gracious message sent— “The punishment of thine iniquity is accomplished.”

     Furthermore: it seems from the thirteenth verse that all her foes Were let loose against her, and her grief exceeded all bounds and prevented all comparison: — “What thing shall I take to witness for thee? what thing shall I liken to thee, O daughter of Jerusalem? what shall I equal to thee, that I may comfort thee, O virgin daughter of Zion? for thy breach is great like the sea: who can heal thee? ” So the sinner feels as if he stood all alone. That sorrowing young woman over yonder thinks that no one has ever suffered what she is now enduring. That trembling conscience there is writing this bitter thing against itself — “There was never such a sinner as I am, never one who had so hard a heart, and was so terribly broken on account of it.” Ye give a full vent to your sorrows, till your distress rolls like a torrent deep and wide. Yet it is not true that you are thus the only wayfarer in the path of repentence. Oh, but remember, that even though this were true, though all thine enemies, thine own heart, and all the devils in hell should conspire against thee, yet to thee, even to thee, thus saith the Lord, the God of hosts, “Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people; speak ye comfortably unto Jerusalem, and say unto her that her warfare is accomplished.”

     Not to keep you longer on this point let me take you on to another. In the eighteenth and nineteenth verses of the same chapter you will see that at last this afflicted daughter of Zion was brought to constant prayer: — "Their heart cried unto the Lord, O wall of the daughter of Zion, let tears run down like a river day and night: give thyself no rest; let not the apple of thine eye cease. Arise, cry out in the night: in the beginning of the watches, pour out thine heart like water before the face of the Lord: lift up thy hands toward him,” — and so on. Thus the soul is brought to abide fast by the mercy-seat, and clings to the horns of the altar. At last the awakened spirit enters into a constant state of prayer, and its prayer is not so much an act as a condition. You know that hymn— that litany I was about to call it—

"Wealth and honour I disdain,
Earthly comforts, Lord, are vain,
These can never satisfy,
Give me Christ, or else I die."

     Every verse ends with that intense desire— “Give me Christ or else I die.” This comes to be the state of a soul which God intends to bless; it falls into such a condition that it must have the blessing— “Give me Christ or else I die.” “I can no denial take.” Again, and again, and again, the sound of its moaning goeth up before the Lord God of Sabaoth; its knocks at the gate of mercy are as frequent as the moments of the hour. Now, to you who are thus brought to pray because you cannot help it, who do not pray at set times merely, but whose very life has become one perpetual prayer for mercy— to you the Master speaks to-day. (Lord! open the ear that it may hear!) “The punishment of thine iniquity is accomplished.”

     I have no time to go further into this case of the daughter of Zion. If you read the whole book of Lamentations through, it will well repay you. If you have ever passed through a state of conviction, if the law has ever had its perfect work in you, you will find that the Lamentations of Jeremiah will suit you, and when you get to the verse with which we commenced our reading this morning, you will read it with a holy unction resting on it— “It is of the Lord’s mercy that we are not consumed, and because his compassions fail not.” Now if you thus can read it, then remember there is no doubt at all about the fact that the precious word of this morning is for you; lay hold on it by faith; feed on it, live on it, and rejoice.

     3. I have not yet, however, told this message perfectly, for we must not overlook a third point. We have had a joyous fact, then a chosen person, and now there is a precious promise. “I will no more carry thee away into captivity.” Thou art in captivity now, but it is the last thou shalt ever have. Thou art sorrowing on account of sin, and troubled even to despair; but thou art now forgiven— not thou shalt be, but thou art; all the wrath was laid on Christ; there is none remaining upon thee; thou art forgiven, and thy captivity is turned as the streams in the south. Let thy mouth be filled with laughter, and thy tongue with singing, for the Lord hath done great things for thee. These convictions of thine shall never return again in their present terror; only do thou cling to the Rock of Ages, and no wave shall bear thee back into the deeps. Thou shalt go through the wilderness but once; thou shalt pass through the Jordan of a Saviour’s blood, and then thou shalt enter into Canaan and rest, for “we that have believed do enter into rest.” And as to the future, in the world to come there is no captivity for thee. All thy hell is past; Tophet burns not for thee, neither can the pit shut its mouth upon thee. All that thou deservest of the wrath of God, Christ hath endured, and there is not a drop remaining for thee. Come thou to the golden chalice into which God drained his wrath, and look at the sparkling wine of love which filleth it. Ah, how changed from what it once was. ’Twas full, and foul, and black: each drop was Tophet, and the whole of it eternal misery. Christ drained it; to the very dregs he drained it; turning it upside down, he said, “It is finished!” and not a drop was left. Come thou, I say, to it, for it is not empty now; it is full again, but with what is it filled withal? ’Tis full to the brim and overflowing with love unsearchable, eternal, divine. Come thou and drink.

"Calv'ry's summit let us trace, 
View the heights and depths of grace;
Count the purple drops, and say, Thus my sins were borne away.
Now no more his wrath we dread, Vengeance smote our Surety's head;
Justice now demands no more,
He hath paid the dreadful score.
Sunk, as in a shoreless flood,
Lost, as in the Saviour's blood,
Zion, O! how bless'd art thou,
Justified from all things now."

     "I will take the cup of salvation, and will call on the name of the Lord.” You may have troubles, but you will never have punishment; you may know affliction, but you shall never know wrath; you may go to the grave, but you shall never go to hell; you shall descend into the regions of the dead, but never into the regions of the damned; the Evil One may bruise your heel, but he shall never break your head; you may be in prison under doubts, but you shall never be in prison under condemnation. “He will no more carry thee away into captivity.” Thy punishment is all accomplished on another. Thou art free to-day; come thou forth out from the land of Egypt and out of the house of bondage. Sing unto the Lord for he hath triumphed gloriously, and brought out his people, and delivered them with his own right hand!

     Thus have I sought, as best I could, to deliver my first message; I hope many will be comforted thereby. 

     II. We shall now turn to our second, which is, A BURDEN OF WOE. Daughter of Edom! Thus saith the Lord unto thee— “I will visit thine iniquity." Unbeliever, thou who hast never felt thy need of Christ, and never fled to him, to thee he says, “I will visit thine iniquity.” His justice tarries, but it is sure; his axe seems rusty, but it is sharp. The sins of the past are not buried; or if they be, they shall have a resurrection. Thy thoughts, thy words, thy deeds, shall all return in terror on thy head. Thou shalt begin, even in this life, to feel some of this punishment. On thy dying bed thy frail tenement shall creak, and thou shalt see the biasings of the furnace of fire through the rifts of thy crumbling cottage. When thou shalt lie a-dying, then shall the messengers of the Emperor of heaven stand about thy bed and summon thee to judgment. Thy cheek shall blanch, however brazen may now be thy brow. Then, strong man, thou shalt be bowed down, and thy loins shall be loosened, for when God dealeth with thee thou shalt feel his hand, even though thou wert girt about with bars of brass or triple steel. And then thou diest; thy death shall be the foretaste of the second death. Thy soul descends into the pit amongst thy kindred, and thou beginnest to feel what God can do against the men who laughed, despised, and defied him. Then shall thine oaths be all fulfilled; then shall thy lustings and thy revellings come to thee in their true light. Then shalt thou hear ringing in thy conscience the echo of the divine sentence, “Thou deservest all this, for God gave thee warning when he said “I will surely visit thee for thine iniquity.” Then shall the trumpet ring— “Awake! Awake! ye dead and come to judgment!” From sea and land they start to live again. Thy soul comes back to its body which was its partner in guilt. I see you, and the multitudes like you, standing there while the great white throne is lifted up on high; the righteous have been gathered out from among the crowd and you remain; and, now, hark ye! hark ye! to a voice more dread than thunder — “ Bind them up in bundles to burn them! — the drunkard with the drunkard ; the swearer with the swearer: the careless, the proud, the self-righteous, each with each, and cast them into the furnace of fire.” It is done, and where art thou now, sinner? Dost thou say of me this morning— “I knew that thou wouldst speak not good but evil unto me?” Amother day thou shalt bless thy stern reprover! Call me not thine enemy; it is thy sin that is thine enemy. I make not hell; I do but warn thee of it with a brother’s love. Thou diggest hell thyself; thou thyself fillest it; and the breath of thy sins shall fan the fire. “The Lord of Hosts will visit thine iniquity, O daughter of Edom.” Hear it; hearken thou to it, for it is the voice of God which now forewarns thee. Beware, O careless soul, beware of forgetting God, lest he tear thee in pieces, and there be none to deliver thee. I have heavy tidings indeed from the Lord to thee.

     But who is this daughter of Edom? As we searched for the daughter of Zion just now, so we must also search for the daughter of Edom. The verse preceding our text seems to give us some inkling of who she is. Of course it refers to the race of Esau, who inhabited such cities as Bozrah and Petra, which are now become a desolate wilderness. It seems, then, according to the twenty-first verse, that the daughter of Edom was a mirthful one. In irony and sarcasm the prophet says— “Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom, that dwellest in the land of Uz; the cup shall pass through unto thee: thou shalt be drunken, and shalt make thyself naked.” There is a holy joy which belongs unto the people of God; there is an unholy mirth which is a sure sign of a graceless state. You say from day to day, “How shall we amuse ourselves? What next gaiety; and what new levity? With what new liquor shall we fill the bowl of merriment? What shall we eat? What shall we drink? Wherewithal shall we be clothed? Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.” Pleasure is your life, your only thought. Ah! daughter of Edom, there is sackcloth for thy fine linen; there are ashes for all thine ornaments; thine earrings shall give place to everlasting tears-drops, and all thy beauty shall turn to rottenness and decay! Weep, all ye that thus make mirth in the presence of the avenging Judge, for the day cometh when he shall turn your laughter into mourning, and all your joys shall be ended! “Thus saith the Lord; say, a sword, a sword is sharpened, and also furbished: it is sharpened to make a sore slaughter; it is furbished that it may glitter: should we then make mirth?”

     Edom, moreover dwelt very carelessly, she dwelt in the land of Uz, far from danger. Her dwelling was among the rocks. Petra, the stony city, was cut out of the live rock. The daughter of Edom said in her heart, “Who shall come hither to disturb the eagle’s nest? The son of Esau dwelleth like an eagle in his eyrie, and he pounceth down upon his prey or ever his victim is aware? Who shall go up and bind the strong eagle, or pull forth his feathers from his mighty wings? Lo! he dareth to look in the face of the sun , and he laugheth at the spear of the hunter; who shall bring him down?” Thus saith the Lord, “O daughter of Edom, I will visit thine iniquity.” “Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the Lord.” Ye proud men and women, ye say, “Will God deal with us? Will he treat us as common sinners? Even if he should, we will not care; fill high the bowl and let us drink, even though it be at Belshazzar’s feast; we will drink, though there be damnation in the cup!” Thus speak ye, but thus saith the Lord, even as he saith unto Moab– "I will bring down they high looks; I will trample thee like straw is trodden for the dunghill, and thou shalt know that I am the Lord."

     More than this; it appears that this daughter of Edom rejoiced because of the sorrow of Zion, and made mirth and merriment over the sorrows of others. Do you not hear even the wise men say— “Ah! These drivelling hypocrites, whining about sin! Why, it is only a peccadillo, a mere trifle!” “Look,” says one— “I am a man of the world; I know nothing of these women’s fears and child-like tremblings; why do you sit and hear a man talk to you like this, and tell you of hell and of judgment— do you believe it? “No” says this man “I know nothing of your care; I despise the narrow spirits that believe in justice and in wrath to come!” O haughty boaster, as the Lord my God liveth, the day shall come when thou shalt be trodden as ashes under the soles of our feet. Beware ye, for when the Avenger cometh forth a great ransom shall not deliver you! I see the floods bursting forth on the earth. Noah, the preacher of righteousness, has been laughed at, and called an old hypocrite for talking of God’s destroying nations. He is shut in yonder ark, and what think ye now of the prophet, what think ye now of the preacher of righteousness? Ye are swept away; the waves have covered you; a few of your strong ones climb to the tops of the hills, but the all-devouring waters reach you there. I hear your last shriek of awful anguish; there is not a single note of unbelief in it now; as you go down and the gurgling waters cover you, your last verdict is that the prophet was right and you were fools. To your death-beds I make my appeal. I appeal from your drunken lives to the sad sobriety of death. From all your gaiety, and carelessness, and contempt to day; I appeal to your last hours, and to your resurrection terrors! God help thee! God help thee to repent! but heavy, O daughter of Edom, heavy is thy curse; God will visit thine iniquity upon thee!

     It seems, too, from a passage in Malachi, first chapter and fourth verse, that Edom always retained a hope, a vain, a self-sufficient confidence. “Whereas Edom saith, we are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the Lord of hosts, they shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, the border of wickedness, and, the people against whom the Lord hath indignation for ever.” So there are some of you who say, “I dread not a loss of hope! Why, I have fifty refuges; I trust in this, and that, and the other, and when I do despair a moment yet I pluck up heart again.” Ah! daughter of Edom, God will visit thee for thine iniquity, and thy vain confidences shall be as stubble to the flame.

     Besides, it seems that this daughter of Edom was very proud. Jeremiah describes her in the forty-ninth chapter and the sixteenth verse, in much the same language as Obadiah. But this tremendous pride was brought low at the last; and so also all those who think themselves righteous shall find themselves foul at last. They rest and trust in the rotten and broken reed of their own doings, and woe shall be unto them, for God will visit them for their sins.

     I shall not enlarge further, except on that special word of warning with which the verse ends, “I will discover thy sins” Let every sinner here be afraid because of this! You have hidden your sin; He will discover it. It may be it was last night; ’twas in a very secret place, and you contrived so that none might track you; but the All-seeing One will discover your sin. “How are the things of Esau searched out! how are his hidden things sought up!” I may address some here who wear a very excellent moral character in the eyes of their neighbours, but if those neighbours did but know all, they would loathe them utterly. Your disguises are rent, your masks are plucked away; the Revealer of Secrets cometh forth. Dreadful shall be the day when, with sound of trumpet, every secret iniquity shall be published in the house-tops. The day cometh when, as Achan stood guilty before Joshua, so shall every man hear it said, " Be sure your sin will find you out.” This is thy portion, daughter of Edom! Thy secret sins shall all be published in the light of the sun, for God will surely visit thee!

     III. The time expires, but I must just notice the next point WHAT IS THE REASON WHY THERE ARE THESE DIFFERENT MESSAGES?

     The reason why I had to publish a message of mercy to the daughter of Zion just now was sovereign grace. The daughter of Zion had no right to pardon; she had done nothing to deserve it, but God had chosen her, and had entered into covenant with Abraham concerning her, that he would not leave nor forsake her. Everlasting love preserved deliverance for the beloved city. Our God had kindled in her heart thoughts of repentance, and in his sovereignity, because he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, he sent her the gracious message of full remission by an accomplished punishment.

     But why was the second message sent to the daughter of Edom? Here it is not the line of sovereignity, but the line of justice; he sent it because the daughter of Edom deserved it. Sinner, when God says he will punish sin, thou mayest kick against it if thou wilt, but thy conscience tells thee thou deservest to be punished. God will not smite thee more than thou deservest, but let him only give thee as much, and wrath will come upon thee to the uttermost. Edom hath waxed proud; she hath been careless; she hath despised God; she is unbelieving; sherepenteth not; therefore shall her iniquity be published, and God shall visit it upon her head.

     IV. And now, lastly, WHAT CLAIMS HAVE THESE MESSAGES TO OUR FAITH? Well, we believe this Bible to be the Word of God. I know we live in a day when even a bishop has ventured to impugn plenary inspiration. Do not attach too much importance to this new attack. It has no novelty in it; it is an old enemy, long since wounded to the heart, which now attempts a revival of its force. We have been alarmed at a man of straw, and a deal of noise has been made about nothing. The scullions of Zion’s household are more glorious than this new hero of error, and are more than a match for him. We did think at first that there might be some force in his objections, but now we laugh them to scorn; ridicule is the only answer they deserve; let even the young children and the old women in the streets of Zion laugh at the new adversary! We believe still, and I hope that ever in this Christian land, and from this pulpit, I may always say that we believe this Book to be the Word of God. Well then, you to whom the first message is sent, believe it. You said, as I read the description just now, “That is my case.” Very well, then, the punishment of thine iniquity is accomplished. Do not say, “I will try and believe it.” but believe it. Do not say, “I hope it is true;” it is true; believe it, and walk out of this house full of joy, saying in thy spirit, “My punishment was borne by Christ; I shall never be carried into captivity any more; being justified by faith, I have peace with God through Jesus Christ my Lord; I am accepted, I am forgiven.” Praise him every day now that his anger has passed away for ever, and let the men of the world see how happy a Christian can be “Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works. Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment.” Does anybody object to that quotation? Object to Solomon and not to me; I intend, God helping me, to rejoice and be glad all my days.

     As for the second message, again I say this Book is God’s Word, and it is true. Believe it. “Oh,” says one, “but if I believed it, I should be full of awful anguish.” Would to God you were; for do you not see that then you would come under the description of the daughter of Zion, and then the promise would be yours, for what is the law sent for? To flog men to hell? No, but to be our pedagogue to bring us to Christ. The schoolmasters in the old Greek times were such cruel fellows, that no boys would go to school voluntarily, so they had a pedagogue who with a stick, went round to the parents’ houses and whipped the boys to school. Now we are so afraid to come to Christ, though he is a good and tender Master, that he employs the law to go round to our houses to whip us to himself, his peace, his great salvation. Ah! I would I could drive you to the Saviour, for these thunders of to-day are meant to bring you from under the law that you may put your trust in Jesus Christ alone. Oh, daughter of Edom, careless and proud, thy doom is certain! The wrath of God is sure. Oh that thou wouldest but believe this, and that thy heart were broken, for then we might come to thee again, and say, “Thus saith the Lord, I have blotted out like a cloud thine iniquities, and like a thick cloud thy sins.”



Christian Sympathy

By / Nov 9

Christian Sympathy

 

“Did not I weep for him that was in trouble ? was not my soul grieved for the poor ?”— Job 30:25

 

     IN endeavouring to justify the ways of God, Job’s three friends came to the harsh conclusion that he would not have been so severely afflicted if he had not been a very great sinner. Among other accusations against the afflicted patriarch, Eliphaz the Temanite had the cruelty to lay this at his door, “Thou hast not given water to the weary to drink, and thou hast withholden bread from the hungry.” Such a slander we may describe as “speaking wickedly for God,” for in his ignorance of the great laws of Providence towards the saints in this life, the Temanite had uttered falsehood in order to account for the divine procedure. God’s own testimony of Job is that he was “a perfect and an upright man, one that feared God and eschewed evil;” and certainly he could never have earned the character of “perfect” if he had been devoid of pity for the poor. Richly did the three miserable comforters deserve the burning rebuke of their slandered friend, “Ye are forgers of lies, ye are physicians of no value. O that ye would altogether hold your peace and it shall be your wisdom.”

     Job, in his great indignation at the shameful accusation of unkindness to the needy, pours forth the following very solemn imprecation— “If I have withheld the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail; or have eaten my morsel myself alone, and the fatherless hath not eaten thereof; if I have seen any perish for want of clothing, or any poor without covering; if his loins have not blessed me, and if he were not warmed with the fleece of my sheep; if I have lifted up my hand against the fatherless, when I saw my help in the gate: then let mine arm fall from my shoulder blade, and mine arm be broken from the bone.” Thus vehemently making a tremendous appeal to heaven, he shakes off the slander into the fire as Paul shook the viper from his hand. I trust there are many present who, if the like charge should be laid to their door, might as boldly deny it; not in the same form of imprecation, for that is forbidden to the Christian man, but with all the positiveness which can dwell in the “Yea, yea,” “Nay, nay” of the followers of Jesus. I trust that many of you can in your measure use the language of the man of Uz, and say, “When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me: because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me: and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy.” In the two questions of my text Job claims something more than merely having helped the poor with gifts, he declares that he wept and grieved for them. His charity was of the heart. He considered their case; laid their sorrows to his own soul; and lent his eyes to weep and his heart to mourn. “Did I not weep for him that was in trouble? Was not my soul grieved for the poor?” Human sympathy is the subject of our present meditation, and I shall labour to excite in you those emotions which are the genuine result of sympathy when it is truly felt. Practical sympathy is my aim; I trust your liberality, at the end of the sermon, will prove that I have hit the centre of my target.

     Human sympathy, then, its commendations, its hindrances, its sure fruits, and its special application to the case in hand this morning.

     I. HUMAN SYMPATHY, ITS COMMENDATIONS.

     1. We may say of it first, that even nature dictateth that man should feel a sympathy for his kind. Humanity, had it remained in its unfallen estate would have been one delightful household of brothers and sisters. If our first parents had never sinned, we should have been one unbroken family, the home of peace, the abode of love. The fact that “God hath made of one blood all nations that dwell upon the face of the earth” would then have been a realized and established truth; no nationalities would have divided, or personal interests separated us. Having one common Father, one loving Cod, one blissful Paradise, our lives would have been one long heaven on earth of sweetly intermingled peace, love, joy, fellowship, and purity. One can hardly indulge a conception of such a happy world without an intense regret that the fall has made it all a dream— yet let us dream a moment of a world without a soldier, without sword, or spear, or shield; a world without a prison, a magistrate, or a chain; a society in which none will wrong his fellow, but each is anxious for the well-being of all; a race needing no exhortation to virtue, for virtue is its very life; a land where love has knit all natures into unity and breathed one soul into a thousand bodies! Alas! for us, when Adam fell he not only violated his Maker’s laws, but in the fall he broke the unity of the race, and now we are isolated particles of manhood, instead of being what we should have been, members of one body, moved by one and the same spirit. The dream may vanish but we lose not our argument, for even in fallen humanity there are some palpitations of the one heart, some signs of the “one blood.” Flesh and blood are able to make the revelation that we were not made to live unto ourselves. Fallen and debased as man is, and this pulpit is not prone to flatter human nature, yet we cannot but Recognise the generous feeling towards the poor and suffering which exists in many an unregenerate heart. We have known men who have forgotten God, but who, nevertheless, do not forget the poor; who despise their Maker’s laws, but yet have a heart that melts at a tale of woe. It were folly to dispute that some who deny the God that made them, have yet exhibited bowels of compassion to the poor and needy. When even publicans and harlots can exhibit sympathy, how much more should it burn in the Christian heart; we should do more than others or else we shall hear the Master say, “What thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.” Called with a nobler calling, let us exhibit as the result of our regenerate nature a loftier compassion for the suffering sons of men. Many interesting incidents have been recorded by naturalists of sympathy among animals; the “dumb driven cattle” of our pastures, and the dogs of our streets have manifested commiseration towards a suffering one of their own species; and we are less than men, we are worse than brute beasts if we can enjoy abundance without sharing our bread with the starving, if we can be wrapt in comfort and refuse a garment to the shivering poor, or rest in our ceiled houses and yield no shelter to the homeless wanderer. Brethren, if nature herself teaches you wherefore should I say more, ye are not unnatural, ye achieve already more than mere nature can demand; you do the greater, you will not fail in the less.

     2. Further, we may remark that the absence of sympathy has always been esteemed, in all countries, and in all ages, one of the most abominable of vices. In old classic history who are the men held up to everlasting execration? Are they not those who had no mercy on the poor. Each land has its legend of the proud noble who hoarded up his corn in the day of famine, and bade the perishing multitudes curse and die; and down to this day the name of such a wretch is quoted as a word of infamy. A man without a heart would be a beast more worthy of being hunted down than a tiger or a wolf. Men with little hearts and grasping ungenerous spirits, how heartily are they despised! If they wear the Christian garb they disgrace it; the ordinary disciples of morality are ashamed of them, and I may add that even vice and immorality shun their company. The grinding, hardhearted man may gain the approbation of those who are like himself, and therefore applaud him for his prudence and discretion, but the big heart of the world has ever been sound enough on this matter to understand that there is no genuine virtue without liberality, and that one of the most damning of all vices which stamps a man as being thoroughly rotten at the core, is that vice of selfishness which makes the wretch live and care only for his own personal aggrandizement, and offer only a stony heart to the woes of his fellows. Brethren, I entertain no fear that you will ever win the badge of infamy which hangs about the neck of churls.

     3. But I have better arguments to use with you. Sympathy is especially a Christian's duty. Consider what the Christian is, and you will say that if every other man were selfish he should be disinterested; if there were nowhere else a heart that had sympathy for the needy there should be one found in every Christian breast. The Christian is a king; it becometh not a king to be meanly caring for himself. Was Alexander ever more royal than when his troops were suffering from thirst, and a soldier offered him a bowl full of the precious liquid, he put it aside, and said it was not fitting for a king to drink while his subjects were thirsty, and that he would share their sorrow with them? O ye; whom God has made kings and princes, reign royally over your own selfishness, and act with the honourable liberality which becomes the seed royal of the universe. You are sent into the world to be saviours of others, but how shall you be so if you care only for yourselves? It is yours to be lights, and doth not a light consume itself while it scatters its rays into the thick darkness? Is it not your office and privilege to have it said of you as of your Master— “He saved others, himself he cannot save?” The Christian’s sympathy should ever be of the widest character, because he serves a God of infinite love. When the precious stone of love is thrown by grace into the crystal pool of a renewed heart it stirs the transparent life-floods into ever widening circles of sympathy: the first ring has no very wide circumference; we love our own household; for he that careth not for his own household is worse than a heathen man and a publican: but mark the next concentric ring; we love the household of faith “We know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren:” look once more, for the ever-widening ring has reached the very limit of the lake, and included all men in its area, for “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks are to be made for all men.”

     If any man shall think that we are not “born for the universe” and should narrow our souls, I can only say that I have not so learned Christ, and hope never to confine to a few the sympathy which I believe to be meant for mankind. To me, a follower of Jesus means a friend of man. A Christian is a philanthrophist by profession, and generous by force of grace; wide as the reign of sorrow is the stretch of his love, and where he cannot help he pities still.

     4. Beloved, will you remember the blessed example of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; for this, surely, will teach you not to live for self. “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich.” His heart is made of tenderness, his bowels melt with love. In all our afflictions he is afflicted. Since the day when he became flesh of our flesh, he hath never hidden himself from our sufferings. Our glorious Head is moved with all the sorrows which distress the members. Crowned though he now be, he forgets not the thorns which once he wore; amid the splendours of his regal state in Paradise he is not unmindful of his children here below. Still is he persecuted when Saul persecutes the saints; still are his brethren as the apple of his eye, and very near his heart. If ye can find in Christ a grain of selfishness, consecrate yourselves unto your lusts, and let Mammon be your God. If ye can find in Christ a solitary atom of hardness of heart and callousness of spirit, then justify yourselves, ye whose hearts are as stones to the wailing of the desolate. But if ye profess to be followers of the Man of Nazareth, be ye full of compassion; he feeds the hungry lest they faint by the wav; he bindeth up the broken in heart and healeth all their wounds; he heareth the cry of the needy and precious shall their blood be in his sight; therefore be ye also tenderhearted and very affectionate the one toward the other.

     5. Dear friends, though this last reason will certainly be to a Christian heart the very best that can be urged, yet permit me to suggest another. Sympathy is essential to our usefulness. I know that a man in the ministry who cannot feel, had much better resign his office. We have heard some hold forth the doctrines of grace, as if they were a nauseous medicine, and men were to be forced to drink thereof by hard words and violent abuse. We have always thought that such men did more hurt than good, for while seeking to vindicate the letter, they evidently missed the spirit of the faith once delivered unto the saints. Cold and impassive are some of our divines; they utter truth as though it were no concern of theirs whether men received it or no. To such men heaven and hell, death and eternity, are mere themes for oratory, but not subjects for emotion. The man who will do good must throw himself into his words; and put his whole being into intense communion with the truth which he utters. God’s true minister cannot preach a sermon upon the ruin of man without feeling a deep amazement in his own spirit, because of the burden of the Lord. He cannot, on the other hand, unfold the joys of pardon and the love of Jesus without a leaping heart and rejoicing tongue. The man who is devoid of love will be devoid of power, for sympathies are golden chains by which Christian orators draw men’s ears and hearts to themselves and the truths they teach. “I preached,” said one, “when I spake of condemnation as though I wore the chains about my own arm, and heard them clanking in my ears.” “And I,” another might have said, “I preached of pardon bought with blood, as though I had myself just come up from the sacred fountain, having left my foulness all behind, and being girt about with the white linen which is the righteousness of the saints.” If our hearers perceive that we do not really long for their good, that our preaching is but a matter of mere routine to be got through as so much irksome “duty," can we hope to win their hearts? But when they feel that there is a loving heart within the preacher, then they give the more earnest heed to the things whereof we speak. You Sunday-school teachers, you must have warm hearts or you will be of little use to your children. You street-preachers, City missionaries, Bible women, and tract distributors, you who in any way seek to serve our Lord— a heart, a heart, a heart, a tender heart, a flaming heart, a heart saturated with intense sympathy, this, when sanctified by the Holy Spirit, will give you success in your endeavours. Name the men the wide world over who have been the most succesful in bending multitudes to their own will, and they are the men who have the largest hearts. For good or evil, heart-power is real power. The men whose hearts move with mighty pulsations like the piston-rod of a steam engine, will soon move the wheels and drag along the ponderous load. We must have within us the engine of the heart, throbbing mightily and continually, and then shall we draw the hearts of men with irresistible force.

     6. Here I must supplement that thought with another; sympathy may often be the direct means of conversion. How do the Romanists craftily avail themselves of this! The loaves and fishes have always been used at Rome as an attraction to the multitude. Still the Sister of Mercy, with her basket on her arm, goes to the poor, or devotes herself to the sick — and in this we praise them; were it the gospel they had to teach, they could scarcely have found a wiser method for its propagation; and be it what it may which they have to disseminate, they certainly have not failed for lack of wisdom. I would that we who have a purer faith, could remember a little more the intimate connection between the body and the soul. Go to the poor man and tell him of the bread of heaven, but first give him the bread of earth, for how shall he hear you with a starving body? Talk to him of the robe of Jesu’s righteousness, but you will do it all the better when you have provided a garment with which he may cover his nakedness. It seems an idle tale to a poor man if you talk to him of spiritual things and cruelly refuse him help as to temporals. Sympathy, thus expressed, may be a mighty instrument for good; and even without this, if you be too poor to be able to carry out the pecuniary part of benevolence, a kind word, a look, a sentence or two of sympathy in trouble, a little loving advice, or an exhortation to your neighbour to cast his burden on the Lord, may do much spiritual service. I do not know, but I think if all our Church-members were full of love, and would always deal kindly, there would be very few hearts that would long hold out, at least from hearing the Word. You ask a person to hear your preacher; but he knows that you are crotchety, short-tempered, illiberal, and he is not likely to think much of the Word which, as he thinks, has made you what you are; but if, on the other hand, he sees your compassionate spirit, he will first be attracted to you, then next to what you have to say, and then you may lead him as with a thread, and bring him to listen to the truth as it is in Jesus, and who can tell but thus, through the sympathy of your tender heart, you may be the means of bringing him to Christ.

     7. And I shall say here, that this sympathy is sure to be a great blessing to yourselves. If you want joy— joy that you may think upon at nights, and live upon day after day, next to the joy of the Lord, which is our strength, is the joy of doing good. The selfish man thinks that he has the most enjoyment in laying out his wealth upon himself. Poor fool! his interest is vastly small compared with the immense return which generosity, and liberality, and sympathy bring to the man who exercises them. Be ye assured that we can know as much joy in another’s joy as in our own joy. Then, beside the joy it brings, there is experience. Experimental knowledge may be gained by it. I would not, of course, aver that a man can get experience without having trouble himself, but the next best thing to it, is to bear other people’s troubles. We may never have known what it is to want bread, but to see a saint who has been brought to the door of starvation, and yet has had his bread given and his water sure, may be almost as useful. You and I may not be tortured with the pangs of sickness or the weakness of decay, but to climb some three pairs of stairs to a miserable back room, and to see a child of God – patient in his tribulation, and to put ourselves by sympathy upon his bed, and suffer and smart with him, may give us the next best thing to the experience itself. I do think, brethren, that some men may live twenty lives, and get the experience of twenty men, and the information and real good of twenty men’s troubles, by having large hearts which can hold the sorrows of others. Oh! we cannot tell how much blessedness we might receive if we were more free to aid our fellows. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Ask any man who has been to visit the sick, the poor, and the needy, whether he has not come home more resigned to his own trials, and more satisfied with his own lot. We gave a shilling, and received a casket of pearls, which dropped from the lips of the poor suffering-one while he told of God’s faithfulness, and the preciousness of the love of Christ. We are great losers when we know not these rich poor saints. If we would but trade with them ’twere a blessed barter for us. Coral and pearl— let no mention be made of them in comparison with the priceless gems which we might receive if we had greater sympathy and fuller communion with the suffering sons and daughters of Jerusalem.

     Thus have I said as much as may be fitting this morning in commendation of Christian sympathy.

     II. We speak now of THE HINDRANCES TO CHRISTIAN SYMPATHY.

     Some say that there is very little Christian sympathy abroad. I do not believe them, except as regards themselves. I dare say they have measured other men’s com with their own bushels. When any say, “O, there is no love in the Church,” I have always noticed that, without exception, they have no love themselves. On the other hand, we have heard others say, “What a blessed unity there is in the Church; when we come to the Tabernacle it does us good to get such hearty shakes of the hand, and to see such love in every brothers eye.” When they speak thus, I know the reason is that they carry fire in their own hearts, and then they think the Church warm, while the others carry lumps of ice in their hearts, and then they imagine that everybody must be cold.

     1. One of the great impediments to Christian sympathy is our over intense selfishness. We are all selfish by nature, and it is a work of grace to break this thoroughly down, until we live to Christ, and not to self any longer. How often is the rich man tempted to think that his riches are his own. A certain lady being accosted by a beggar, who asked charity of her; she gave him a shilling, saying, “Take that shilling; it is more than God ever gave me.” The beggar said, “O, Madam, but God has given you all your abundance.” “Nay,” said she, “but I am right; God has only lent me what I have; all I have is a loan.” I would that all who are entrusted with this world’s substance felt that it was only loaned out to them, and that they were stewards. Now, a steward, when he has orders to give a poor man a large sum of money, does not say, “Dear me, that will make me poor!” He never considered that that which was entrusted to him belonged to him, and so he gives it freely enough. So, remember, you have nothing of your own; specially you Christian men, who have been bought with a price, you are in a double sense stewards unto God, and should act as such; living to God, we should devote ourselves to the good of the race for Jesus’ sake.

     2. Another hindrance lies in the customs of our country. We still have amongst us too much of caste and custom. The exclusiveness of rank is not readily overcome. It is not so, I thank God, in this place of worship, but I have known many places of worship where there are tiers of Christian people, layer on layer, who never associate with each other. In some places of worship they put up in conspicuous letters, “FREE SEATS FOR THE POOR. I do abominate that! Then you have another class — respectable tradesmen, but though they sit at the same table with the dons, and my lord this or that, they never think for a moment of speaking to them. When people come out of Church, what a gradation there is! Have I not seen in many a country village how, first of all, the squire goes out, and then the bailiff follows, and then all the poor people curtsey and bow to shew their abject servitude and serfdom. And all this in a Christian land! In our Dissenting places of worship what stiffness there is; what rustling of the silks up one aisle, and what quietude of the cottons in another! When the members come together Lady So-and-so, who sits yonder, or Miss This, who sits there, will hardly recognise Haney That, or Betsy So-and-so? Now I feel as much pleased in associating with the poorest of God’s saints as with those who are of a higher degree in this world, for I believe the happy fusion of all will promote the interests of all. It would vex my heart to see you grow into the stuck-up respectability of some of our fine congregations. Away for ever with these castes and divisions; let us maintain the family feeling, and suffer nothing to violate it.

     3. Much want of sympathy is produced by our ignorance of one another. We do not know the sufferings of our fellows. If I had brought the newspaper here to-day, and I had half a mind to do so, and had read you some extracts about the sufferings in Preston, and Wigan, and the various towns in Lancashire, you would have known much more about the distress than you do now. Or if, which would do as well, you were to go next Monday with some City missionary to the East end , or St. Giles’s, or some poor district this side the water you would say, “Dear me, I did not know that people really did suffer at this rate; I had no idea of it; or I would have given more to the poor.” We want to be educated into the knowlege of our national poverty; we want to be taught and trained, to know more of what our fellow-men can and do suffer. Oh! if the Christian Church knew the immorality of London, she would cry aloud to God. If but for one night you could see the harlotry and infamy; if you could but once see the rascality of London gathered into one mass, your hearts would melt with woe and bitterness, and you would bow yourselves before God and cry unto him for this city as one that mourneth for his only son, even for his firstborn.

     4. No doubt the abounding deception' which exists among those who seek our help has checked much liberality. I think I can tell the moment a man opens his mouth to address me, when a man wants to beg of me. There is such a particular whine and a sanctified unction, that the moment you hear it, you think, “I will give that man nothing; he is an old established beggar, and gets his living by it.” Seeing, as I have done, not scores, but hundreds of these beings, there is a tendency to get one’s heart hard and callous, and to say “Oh! they are all deceivers.” But they are not all such; there is a vast amount of real distress of a private character, a suffering which will not cry nor moan; and I take it that it ought to be your business and mine to seek out these cases; not to stop till they come to us, but to go to them, avoiding ever, with a stern discretion, those ill cases which do but prey upon Christian charity, but seeking out the genuine sufferers, and giving them relief. Let none of these things, great obstacles though they be, hinder your sympathy to-day, for none of them exist in the case which we shall have to plead this morning.

     III. A few minutes upon THE FRUITS OF CHRISTIAN SYMPATHY.

     1. The fruit of Christian sympathy will be seen in a kindly association with all Christians: we shall not shun them nor pass them by.

     2. It will be seen next, in a kindly encouragement of those who want aid, constantly being ready to give a word of good advice, and good cheer to the heart which is ready to faint. Dear Christian friends, I think our experience is not so available as it might be for the good of others. In the olden times they that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard. You will find your brethren often distressed in mind; you have passed through the same stage; conversation with them will help them to escape as you have, done. More especially is this conversation very valuable under the pangs of conviction. When a young man or woman has been awakened under the ministry, I charge you each before God, you that have found peace in Christ, to watch the throes and agonies of the new birth, and be at hand to take the little child and nurse it for Christ. The senior members of every Christian Church should consider themselves, as called by their very position to look after the young. We have some such here; we want a few more. We want you mothers in Israel, especially, to be so sympathetic that you may no sooner hear that a soul is in distress than you are in distress too till you can have poured in the oil and the wine into their wounds. I think this sympathy should be especially shown to any that backslide. There is a tendency to cut such off from the Church-book and then leave them. This should not be; we must look after that which is out of the way. The shepherd must leave the ninety and nine sheep to go after the one which has gone astray. If you see one vacillating be most careful there. If you detect in any a growing coldness, be the more anxious to foster that which remains, which is ready to die. Let a holy discipline and watchfulness be maintained over the entire Church, by the care and forethought of every one for his next friend. Thus can you practically show your Christian sympathy.

     3. Show it, also, whenever you hear the good name of any called into doubt. Stand up for your brethren. ’Tis an ill bird that fouls its own nest, but there are some such birds. The moment they hear a word or a whisper against a Christian man, though a member of the same Church, “Report it, report it” say they; always pretending that they are very sorry, but all the while sucking it as a dainty morsel. The old proverb, you know, was, “We have done dinner; clear the things away, and now let us sit down and crack other men’s characters.” I fear me there are even some professing Christians who do that. This is not sympathy, but the malice of Satan: may God deliver you from it! Stand up for all that are your fellow-soldiers: be jealous of the honour of the regiment in which you have enlisted.

     4. But still there is no Christian sympathy in all this if it does not when needed, prove itself by real gifts of our substance. Zealous words will not warm the cold; delicate words will not feed the hungry; the freest speech will not set free the captive, or visit him in prison; the most adorned words will not clothe the naked, and the words that are most full of unction will not pour oil and wine into the wounds of the sick. Words! Words! Words! Chaff! Chaff!! Chaff!!! If there be no act there is no sympathy. “Whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?”

     Perhaps some of my hearers this morning will say that the text and the subject are appropriate to the occasion, but that they want some spiritual food. Well, you get that often, I trust, here; but I am persuaded that there are times when, if Christ were upon earth, he would dwell mainly upon these themes of practical Christianity. I read my Master’s Sermon on the Mount, and what doctrine is there in it? It is all precept from beginning to end; and so shall my sermon be this morning; not doctrine, but precept; for this I know, we want to see in the Christian world more of the practical carrying out of the loving benevolence of the Saviour. What care I about the doctrines for which you fight, unless they produce in you the spirit of Christ? What care I for your forms of faith and your ceremonies, if all the while you are a Nabal, wickedly saying in your heart, “Shall I take my bread and my water to give it unto these strangers?” Oh! let your faith be a living faith, lest, while you have the form of godliness, you deny the power thereof. Time was when, wherever a man met a Christian he met a helper. “I shall' starve!” said he, until he saw a Christian’s face, and then he said, “Now shall I be aided.” But some have thrown benevolence aside, and imagine that these are old duties of a legal character. Legal, then, will I be, when, in my Master’s name, again I say, “To do good and to communicate forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”

     IV. I now conclude with an appeal for the special object of the collection this morning. I ASK YOUR AID FOR THESE NEEDY ONES IN LANCASHIRE.

     1. Remember, first, that their poverty is no fault of their own. They are not brought to it by excess of meats or drinks. They are not reduced to it by riot or disorder. It is not idleness; it is not a wilful strike against the masters. It is utterly unavoidable; and here, therefore, is the right place for benevolence to display itself. The Egyptian hieroglyph for charity is very suggestive. It is a naked child giving honey to a bee which has lost its wings. Notice, it is a child: we should give in meekness. It is a naked child: we should give from pure motives, and not for show. It is a child feeding a bee; not a drone, but one that will work; a bee that has lost its wings; one, therefore, which has lost its power to supply itself: a picture before you of those martyrs and confessors of industry whose cause I plead to-day. A bee that has lost its wings makes its appeal for a little honey to every childlike heart here to-day, and they who are true to God will not refuse it their aid.

     2. Remember, too, that the cause of this suffering is a national sin— the sin of slavery. We have not yet passed the third generation, and upon a nation God visits sin to the third and fourth generation. We have rid ourselves, at last, of this accursed stain so far as our present Government is concerned; we are therefore delivered from any fear in future on that ground: but still, if slavery be now in America, we must remember that it would not have been there if it had not been carried there, and we are partners in guilt. Moreover, there has been too much winking at slavery amongst the merchants of Manchester and Liverpool. There has not been that abhorrence of the evil which should have been, and therefore it is just in the Providence of God that when America is cut with the sword we should be made to smart with the rod. If the Lord is pleased to smite our nation in one particular place, yet we must remember that it is meant for us all. Let us all bear the infliction as our tribulation, and let us cheerfully take up the burden, for it is but a little one compared with what our sins might have brought upon us. Better far for us to have famine than war. From all civil war and all the desperate wickedness which it involves, good Lord deliver us; and if thou smitest us as thou hast done, it is better to fall into the hand of God than into the hand of man.

     3. I must also refresh your memories, though you know it well, with the fact of the patient endurance of those who have been called to suffer. You have read of no burning of mills, no breaking open of baker’s shops. You have heard no accusations brought against the aristocracy; you have heard of no great political movement for the upsetting of our institutions. There was never upon earth a nobler spectacle than that of these men suffering so frightfully with their wives and children, and yet enduring it so patiently. They deserve to be helped. If ever there was a case in which human ears must be opened to hear the cry of woe, this is it. If you and I had our wives and children at home starving, and had nothing but the charity of the parish and the little relief of the committees, making only some one-and-fourpence or one-and-sixpence a head to live upon for a week, I am afraid we should begin to think that we could re-adjust the machinery of Government; or it might happen that if we saw bread and could not get it we might break the window, or do some unrighteous act to take away another man’s property sooner than see our children starve. They suffer well; they suffer well, brethren; and we do not well unless we help them.

     4. Moreover, remember how widely spread is this distress. I know too many of my dear hearers are often brought to as great poverty as the operatives in Lancashire, but then you have some little help; sometimes the Church can give it; at other times some friend, not quite so badly off as you are, will help you. But there, if a poor man wants a loaf, he cannot get it of the tradesman even on credit, for the tradesman has no power to give him credit. Nor can these people borrow of their neighbours, for where all are equally destitute one cannot help another. Even the Churches fail to do what they would wish to do. In the case of one dear brother, late a student in our college, to whom we constantly send supplies week by week, and who maintains a class of some forty young women, and in answer to the cry of faith has found all the means, I hope to aid him by this collection of to-day. The distress is not only with the poor now, but with those a little above them, and God only knoweth to what extent it must go unless in his gracious Providence he by some means or other, bringeth a supply of cotton that they may once again be at work.

     5. Wherefore need I urge you, my hearers? I feel that you are ready now to assist these suffering ones. Let your own gratitude to God move you. Blessed be God that you have not this famine and straitness of bread. Thank the Master that though times may be hard, and some may now and then complain, yet we have not to walk through our streets and see our factories shut up, and miss the smoke which marks the daily toil that brings food to hungry mouths. We have not to know every habitation is a Bochim because the strong man boweth down for lack of bread, and the faces of the children are wan, and the mothers weep, and even the breasts refuse the infant child its needed nourishment. Give as God has prospered you. He that giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord, and the Lord shall remember him in the time of trouble. He that believeth on the Lord Jesus Christ hath everlasting life freely given him; let him, therefore, freely give, even as he hath freely received.



Christ—Perfect Through Sufferings

By / Nov 2

Christ- Perfect Through Sufferings

 

"For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." —Hebrews 2:10

 

     BELIEVING that God foreknoweth all things, we cannot but come to the conclusion that he foreknew the fall, and that it was but an incident in the great method by which he would glorify himself. Foreknowing the fall, and fore-ordaining and predestinating the plan by which he would rescue his chosen out of the ruins thereof, he was pleased to make that plan a manifestation of all his attributes, and, to a very great extent, a declaration of his wisdom. You do not find in the method of salvation a single tinge of folly. The Greeks may call it folly, but they are fools themselves. The gospel is the highest refinement of wisdom, ay, of divine wisdom; and we cannot help perceiving that not only in its main features, but in its little points, in the details and the minutiae, the wisdom of God is most clearly to be seen. Just as in the making of the tabernacle in the wilderness not a single loop or tache was left to human chance or judgment, so in the great scheme of salvation, not a single fragment was left to the human will or to the folly of the flesh. It appears to be a law of the divine action that everything must be according to the fitness and necessity involved in perfect wisdom— “ It behoved that Christ should suffer;” and in our text we find,“ It became him from whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory , that he should make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” It seemed to be but the order of natural fitness and congruity, in accordance with the nature and character of God, that the plan of salvation should be just what it is. Oh! how careful should we be who have to preach it never to alter it in the slightest degree. How should we lift our prayers to heaven that God would give us a clear understanding, first, of what we have to teach, and then a clear method of teaching what we have learned, so that no mistake may be made here, for a mistake here would mar that express image of God which shines in the gospel, and prevent our hearers from seeing the beautiful fitness and proportion which are so adapted to reveal the perfect character of God. We say the plan must be what it is; it could not be otherwise so as to be in keeping with the divine character; and, therefore, it is imperative upon us that we make no alteration in it, no, not of a word, lest we should hear the Apostle’s anathema hissing through the air like a thunderbolt from God — “If we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel than that ye have received let him be accursed!”

     Our text invites us to the consideration of three particulars: first, that Christ is a perfect Saviour; secondly, that he became so through suffering; and thirdly, that his being made perfect through suffering, will ennoble and dignify the whole work of grace. “It became him” — it seemed fitting— “that in bringing many sons unto glory he should make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”

     I. To begin, then, first of all with the joyous thought, so well known to you all, but so necessary still to be repeated, that THE LORD JESUS IS A PERFECT SAVIOUR.

     1. For, first, he is perfectly adapted for the work of saving. The singular constitution of his nature adapts him to his office. He is God. It was necessary that he should be so. Who but God could sustain the enormous weight of human guilt? What but Divinity was equal to bear the awful load of wrath which was to be carried upon his shoulders? What knowledge but Omniscience could understand all the evil, and what power but Omnipotence could undo that evil? That Christ is God must ever be a theme for grateful admiration to his people. They who reject the divinity of Christ can have but a poor foundation to rest upon; the fickle sand, would seem to be more stable than the basis of their hope. It is enough for one man to work out his own obedience; more than enough for one man to bear wrath for himself; how, then, could he do it for others, and for those countless multitudes whose ruin was to be retrieved? But, beloved, we know that had he only been God yet still he would not have been fitted for a perfect Saviour, unless he had become man. Man had sinned; man must suffer. It was man in whom God’s purposes had been for a while defeated; it must be in man that God must triumph over his great enemy. He must take upon himself the seed of Abraham, that he may stand in their room and stead, and become their federal head. An angel, we believe, could not have suffered on the tree; it would not have been possible for an angelic nature to have borne those agonies which the wrath of God demanded as an expiation for guilt. But when we see the Lord Jesus before us, being verily the Son of Man, and as certainly the Son of God, we perceive that now Job’s desire is granted; we have a daysman that can lay his hand on both, and touch humanity in its weakness, and divinity in its strength; can make a ladder between earth and heaven; can bridge the distance which separates fallen manhood from the perfection of the eternal God. No nature but one so complex as that of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, would have been perfectly adapted for the work of salvation.

     And as he was adapted in his nature, so, beloved, it is very clear to us that he was also adapted by his experience. A physician should have some acquaintance with disease; how shall he know the remedy if he be ignorant of the malady. Our Saviour knew all because “he took our infirmities and he bare our sicknesses. He was tempted in all points, like as we are.” He looked not at sin from the distance of heaven, but he walked, and lived in the midst of it. He did not pass hurriedly through the world as one might hastily walk through an hospital without clearly understanding the disease, but he lived his more than thirty years in the very centre of it, seeing sin in all its shapes; yes, seeing it in shapes that you and I have not yet seen. He saw it in demoniac forms, for hell was let loose for a season, that the combat might be the more terrible and the victory the more glorious. He saw sin carried to its most aggravated extent, when it crucified God himself, and nailed Jesus, the heir of heaven, to the accursed tree. He understood the disease; he was no empiric; he had studied the whole case through; deceitful as the human heart is, Jesus knew it; fickle as it is in its various appearances— Protean as it is in its constantly varying shapes, Christ knew and understood it all. His life-long walking of the hospital of human nature had taught him the disease. He knew the subjects, too, upon whom to operate. He knew man, and what was in man; yes, better than the most skilled surgeon can know by experiment. He knew by experience. He himself took our infirmities and bare our sorrows. He was himself the patient, himself the medicine. He took upon himself the nature of the race he came to save, and so every feeling made him perfect in his work; every pang instructed him; every throb of anguish made him wise, and rendered him the more accomplished to work out the purposes of God in the bringing of the many sons unto glory. If you will add to his perfect experience his marvellous character, you will see how completely adapted he was to the work. For a Saviour, we need one who is full of love, whose love will make him firm to his purpose, whose love will constrain him to yoke every power and talent that he has to the great work. We want one with zeal so flaming, that it will eat him up; of courage so indomitable, that he will face every adversary rather than forego his end; we want one, at the same time, who will blend with this brass of courage the gold of meekness and of gentleness; we want one who will be determined to deal fearlessly with his adversaries, who will put on zeal as a cloak, and will deal tenderly and compassionately with the disease of sin-sick men; — such an one we have in Christ. No man can read the character of Christ with any sort of understanding without saying, “That is the man I want as my friend.” The argument which Christ used was a very powerful one— “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me.” Why? “For I am meek and lowly in heart." The character of Christ qualifies him to be the world’s Saviour, and there is something in his character, when properly understood, which is so attractive, that we may well say—

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

     If we had to make a Saviour ourselves, and it were left to a parliament of the wisest senators of the race to form an ideal personage who should just meet man’s case, if the Divine One had lent us his own wisdom for the occasion, we could only have desired just such a person as Christ is. In character, we should have needed just such traits of nature and of spirit as we see in Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God. We think, therefore, we may safely say to every unconverted man, Christ is adapted to be a Saviour to you. We know that the saints, without our saying it, will respond, “Ay, and he is just fitted to be a Saviour to us.” Man, yet God; bone of our bone, and yet counting it no robbery to be equal with God; sufferer like ourselves, bearer of all the ills of manhood, and yet, unlike us, free from sin, holy, harmless, undefiled: qualified in all respects to undertake and accomplish the great work; Jesus, thou art a perfect Saviour to us.

     2. Furthermore, as Christ is thus perfectly adapted, so he is perfectly able to be a Saviour. He is a perfect Saviour by reason of ability. He is now able to meet all the needs of sinners. That need is very great. The sinner needs everything. The beggar at the door of Christ, asks not for crumbs or groats, but needs all that Christ can give. Nothing short of all-sufficiency can ever meet the wants of a poor son of Adam fallen by sin. Christ Jesus hath all fulness dwelling in himself. “More than all in Christ we find:” pardon in his blood; justification in his righteousness; wisdom in his teaching; sanctification in his Spirit. He is the God of all grace to us. Deep as our miseries and boundless as our sins may be, the mines of his unfathomable love, his grace, and his power, exceed them still. Send a spirit throughout all nations to hunt up the most abject of all races; discover, at last, a tribe of men degenerated as low as the beasts; select out of these the vilest, one who has been a cannibal; bring before us one lost to all sense of morality, one who has put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter, light for darkness and darkness for light; let that man be red with murder, let him be black with lust; let villainies infest his heart as innumerable and detestable as the frogs of Egypt’s plague— yet Christ is able to meet that man’s case. It is impossible for us to produce an exaggeration of the work of sin and the devil, which Christ shall not be able to overtop by the plenitude of his power. “He is able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by him.” That divine word which made heaven and earth, is able to make a new creature in Christ Jesus; and that power which never can be exhausted, which after making ten thousand times ten thousand worlds could make as many more, is all in Christ, and is linked with the virtue of his merit and the prevalence of his blood, and therefore he hath all power in heaven and in earth to save souls. As he has this power to meet all needs, so he can meet all need in all cases. There has never been brought to Christ a man whom he could not heal. If born blind, a touch of his finger has given sight; if lame he has made him leap like a hart; ay, and though dead, the voice of Christ has made Lazarus come forth from his tomb. Some troubled consciences think their case is not in the list of possible cures, let us assure them it must be. I would like to know who is the vilest sinner, for if I knew him I should feel delighted to behold him, since I should see a platform upon which my Lord’s grace might stand to be the more gloriously resplendent in the eyes of men. Are you the vilest of the vile this morning? Do you feel so? Does Satan say you are so? Then I pray you do my Master the honour to believe that he is still able to meet your case, and that he can save even you. Though you think yourselves the ends of the earth, the very ravellings of the garment of manhood, yet “look unto him and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth, for he is God, and besides him there is none else.” As he can meet all cases, so he can meet all cases at all times. One villainy of hell is to tell sinners that it is too late. While the lamp holds out to burn, the vilest sinner that returns shall find mercy in him. At the eleventh hour he saved the thief; let not this be a reason for your procrastination— that were ungrateful; let it, however, be a cause for hope— that were reasonable. He is able to save you now. Now, at this hour, at this very moment, if thou dost trust him thou art saved. If now, without an hour’s delay to retire to thy chamber, without even five minutes’ time elapsing in which to prepare thy soul for him, if now thou canst believe that Christ can save thee, he will do it, do it at this moment. His cures are instantaneous; a word, and it is done. Swift as the lightning’s flash is the accomplishment of his purpose of grace. As the lightning flasheth from the west even to the east, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be at his last great advent; and so is it in his marvellous advent into the hearts of sinners whom he ordains to save. Able to meet all cases, able to meet them at this very hour is Christ. Sinner, Christ is perfectly able to save thee, and to save thee perfectly. I know the will and wit of man want to be doing something to begin salvation. Oh, how wicked is this! Christ is Alpha, why would you take his place and be an Alpha to yourselves? I have had this week two cases in which I have had to hold a solemn argument with troubled souls about this matter. Oh! the “ifs” and “buts” they put; the “perhaps,” and “and,” and “peradventures,” and “Oh, I don’t feel this,” and “I don’t feel that!” Oh, that wicked questioning of Christ! While talking with them, endeavouring to comfort them, and I hope not unsuccessfully, I was led to feel in my own mind what an awful crime it is to doubt God, to doubt Him that speaks from above, to doubt Him when he hangs bleeding on the tree. While it seemed to me to be such a hard thing to bring a sinner to trust Christ, yet it did seem, on the other hand , such a sin of sins, such a master-piece of iniquity that we do not trust Christ at once. Here is the plan of salvation– trust Christ and he will save you. But they say, "I do not feel enough;" or else "I have been such a sinner;" or else "I cannot feel the joy I want;" or else "I cannot pray as I would." Then I put it to them. Do you trust Christ? “Yes,” they will say, “I do trust Christ, and yet I am not saved.” Now, this makes God a liar, for he says, “He that believeth in him is not condemned, and he that believeth on him hath everlasting life.” When a soul professes to trust Christ, and yet says “I am afraid he will not save me,” what is this but telling the Eternal God to his face that he is false? Can you suppose a grosser infamy than this? Oh! that men were wise, that they would take God at his word, and believe that Christ is a perfect Saviour, not asking them to help him at the first, but able to begin with them just where they are, and to lift them up from all the hardness of their hearts and the blackness of their souls to the very gates of heaven. He is a perfect Saviour, soul, and a perfect Saviour for you. You know the old story of the brazen serpent. There may have been some very wise persons who, when the brazen serpent was lifted up, would say “I cannot look there and be healed, for, you see, I do not feel the venom in my veins as my next door neighbour does.” The man is bitten, and his veins are swelling, but he says he does not feel the pain so acutely as his neighbour, and he does not feel the joy of those who are healed, or else he would look. “If some angel would come,” he says, “and tell me that the brazen serpent was set up on purpose for me, and that I am ordained to be healed by it, then I would look.” There is a poor ignorant man over there who asks no questions but does just as he is told. Moses cries “Look, look, ye dying; look and live!” and, asking no questions about what he has felt, or what he was, or what he should feel, yonder poor soul just looks and the deed is done; the flush of health runs through him, and he is restored, while the questioner, the wise man in his own conceit, too wise indeed, to do as he is told, perishes through his own folly, a victim to the serpents, but yet more a victim to his own conceit. Christ is a perfect Saviour to begin with you, and he will also be a perfect Saviour to carry on the work. He will never want your help; he is a perfect Saviour to finish the work. He will bring you at last to his right-hand, and throned with him in light you shall bless and praise the name of God that He provided a perfect Saviour for men.

     3. Once more, let me remind you that Christ is a perfectly successful Saviour. I mean by this that, in one sense, he has already finished the work of salvation. All that has to be done to save a soul Christ has done already. There is no more ransom to be paid; to the last drachma he hath counted down the price. There is no more righteousness to be wrought out; to the last stitch he has finished the garment. There is nothing to be done to reconcile God to sinners; he hath reconciled us unto God by his blood. There is nothing wanted to clear the way to the mercy-seat; we have a new and living way through the veil that was rent, even the body of Christ. There is no need of any preparation for our reception on the part of God. “It is finished,” was the voice from Calvary; it meant what it said, “It is finished.” Christ hath finished transgression, made an end of sin, and brought in everlasting righteousness. And, as he has been successful in doing all the work for us, so, in every case where that work has been applied, perfect success has followed. Produce a single case where an application has been made to Christ without success. Find a single soul in whom Christ has commenced his work, and then left it. You do hear of some who fall from grace: produce them. We are told of some who are children of God to-day, and children of the devil to-morrow: produce them. We are told that whom once he loves he may leave; produce those whom he has ever left. Let them be seen. Hold them up to the gaze of men and devils— the patients in whom Christ’s medicine did work awhile, but failed to produce a lasting cure. Heaven were clothed in sackcloth if such a discovery were made, for if he hath failed to keep on earth, why not in heaven? Hell were echoing with infernal laughter if one such instance were found, for where were the honour of God’s word and promise? We challenge you, ye princes of darkness, and ye who make the vast assembly of the damned in hell, we challenge you to produce in all your ranks a single case of one who trusted in Christ that he would deliver him and yet Christ cast him away; or one in whom the new spirit was infused and regeneration wrought, and who yet, after all fell and perished like the rest. Lift up your eyes to heaven; innumerable as the stars are the spirits redeemed by blood; so many as they are, they are all witnesses to the fact that Christ is a perfect Saviour; that he is no professor who does not perform, for he has carried them all there, and as we gaze upon them we can say, “Thou hast redeemed them unto God by thy blood;” thou canst save, and perfectly save, O Lord Jesus Christ.

     Now I have thus dwelt upon the perfect adaptation, the perfect ability, and the perfect success of Christ, our text tells us that it became him for whom are all things that he should give us such a Saviour. “For whom are all things,” says the Apostle; that is, all things are made for his glory. Now, it could not have been for God’s glory to give us an imperfect Saviour; to send us one who would mock us with hopes which could not be fulfilled. It would have been a tantalising of human hope, which I do not hesitate to pronounce an awful cruelty, if any but a complete and perfect Saviour had been presented to us. If it had been partly works and partly grace, there had been no grace in it. If it had been needful for us to do something to make Christ’s atonement efficacious, it would have been no atonement for us; we must have gone down to the pit of hell with this as an aggravation, that a God who professed to be a God of mercy had offered us a religion of which we could not avail ourselves; a hope which did but delude us, and make our darkness the blacker. I want to know what some of my brethren in the ministry, who preach such very high doctrine, do with their God’s character. They are told to preach the gospel to every creature, but they very wisely do not do it, because they feel that the gospel they preach is not a gospel suitable to every creature; so they neglect their Master’s mandate, and single out a few. I bless my Master that I have an available gospel, one that is available to you this morning, for “whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life and I hold that it were inconsistent with the character of him “for whom are all things,” and that it were derogatory to his honour if he should have sent to you a salvation that would not meet your case; if he should have sent me to preach a gospel to you which could not completely save. But, glory be to God, the salvation which is here preached, the salvation taught in this Book, brings all to you, and asks nothing from you.

     Moreover, Paul calls our God— “him by whom are all things.” It would be inconsistent with the character of him by whom are all things if he had sent a part-Saviour; for us to do part ourselves, and for Christ to do the rest. Look at the sun. God wills for the sun to light the earth; doth he ask the earth’s darkness to contribute to the light? Doth he question night, and ask it whether it has not in its sombre shades something which it may contribute to the brightness of noon? No, my brethren, up rises the sun in the morning, like a giant to run his race, and the earth is made bright. And shall God turn to the dark sinner, and ask him whether there is anything in him that may contribute to eternal light? No; up rises the face of Jesus, like the Sun of Righteousness, with healing beneath his wings, and darkness is, at his coming, light. See ye, too, the showers. When the earth is thirsty and cracking, doth the Lord say unto the clouds, “Wait ye until the earth can help ye, and can minister unto its own fertility?” Nay, verily, but the wind bloweth and the clouds cover the sky, and upon the thirsty earth the refreshing showers come down. So is it with Christ; waiting not for man, and tarrying not for the Son of Man; asking nothing from us, he giveth us of his own rich grace, and is a complete and perfect Saviour.

     Thus much, then, upon our first head; I would we had more time for our second; but we will pass to it at once.

     II. CHRIST WAS MADE A PERFECT SAVIOUR THROUGH SUFFERING.

     He was not made perfect in character by his suffering, for he always was perfect— perfect God, perfect man; but he was made officially perfect, perfect as the captain of our salvation through his sufferings, and that in four ways. 

     By his sufferings he became perfect as a Saviour from having offered a complete expiation for sin. Sin could not have been put away by holiness. The best performance of an unsuffering being could not have removed the guilt of man. Suffering was absolutely necessary, for suffering was the penalty of sin. “In the day thou eatest thereof,” said God to Adam, “thou shalt surely die.” Die then he must. Nothing short of death could meet the case. Christ must go to the cross; he must suffer there; ay, and he must bow his head and give up the ghost, or else no atonement for sin had been possible. The curse came upon us as the result of sin. “Curseth is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them.” Now had Christ been never so perfect, yet had he never suffered he never could have taken our curse. “Cursed is every one that hangeth on the tree,” but without the tree, without the cross, Christ had not been our substitute, and all he did could have been of no sort of use to us. Being crucified he became accursed; being crucified he died, and thus he could make perfect expiation for sin. Sin demanded punishment; punishment must consist of loss and of pain; Christ lost everything, even to the stripping of his garment; his glory was taken from him; they made nothing of him; they spat in his face; they bowed the knee, and mocked him with bitter irony. There must be pain too, and he endured it; in his body there were the wounds and the fever which the wounds produced, and in his soul there was an exceeding heaviness even unto death, and an agony which no tongue can tell, for we have no words in which to speak of it. We believe that this agony was commensurate with the agonies of the lost in hell; not the same agony, but an equivalent for it; and remember, not the equivalent for the agony of one, but an equivalent for the hells of all that innumerable host whose sins he bore, condensed into one black draught to be drained in a few hours; the miseries of an eternity without an end, miseries caused by a God infinitely angry because of an awful rebellion, and these miseries multiplied by the millions for whom the man Christ Jesus stood as covenant head. What a draught was that, men and brethren! Well might it stagger even him! And yet he drained that cup, drained it to its utmost dregs till not a drop was left. For thee, my soul, no flames of hell; for Christ the Paschal-lamb has been roasted in that fire. For thee, my soul, no torments of the damned, for Christ hath been condemned in thy stead. For thee, my spirit, no desertion of thy God, for He was forsaken of God for thee. 'Tis done, ' tis finished, and by thy sufferings, Jesus, thou hast become perfect as the expiation of thy people’s sins. Do, my brethren, remember that your sins are perfectly expiated. Do not let them trouble you as to punishment; the punishment has gone. Sins cannot lie in two places at one time; they were put on Christ, and they cannot be on you. In fact, your sins are not to be found; the scapegoat has gone, and your sins will never be found again. Your sins, if they were searched for, could not be discovered, nor by the piercing eye of God can a single blemish be found in you. So far as the punishment of the law is concerned it is finished, and Christ is a perfect Saviour. 

     Again, if Christ had not suffered he could not have been perfect as a Saviour, because he could not have brought in a perfect righteousness. It is not enough to expiate sin. God requires of man perfect obedience. If man would be in heaven he must be perfectly obedient. Christ, as he took away our guilt, has supplied us with a matchless righteousness. His works are our works; his doings are, by imputation, our doings. But a part of obedience is a patient endurance of God’s will. Patience is no mean part of the full obedience of a sincere soul. Christ must therefore suffer hunger, and cold, and nakedness throughout life, that he may be capable of the virtue of patience. An obedience even unto death is now the only perfect form of obedience. The man who would keep the law of God perfectly must not start back even at martyrdom. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy strength,” would now require death to consummate it. It was not possible for the Master to have made the robe, woven from the top throughout without seam, unless the scarlet thread of crucifixion had run along its edge. But now, my soul, Christ is thy perfect Saviour, for he presents thee with a perfect righteousness. There is nothing more to do. Neither my living nor my dying can make my righteousness more complete. No doing, no labouring, no denying, no suffering, are needed to finish that which Christ began. “It is finished.” Put on thy robe, O Christian; walk ever in it; let it be thy wedding-dress. Angels admire thee; God himself accepts thee; coming into his wedding-feast he sees thee with this garment on, and he asks thee not how thou comest hither, but bids thee sit down and feast for ever, for thou art such as even He can keep company with in his glory. 

     Yet, thirdly, it was necessary that Christ should suffer to make him a perfect Saviour so far as his sympathy goes. After sin is washed away, and righteousness imputed, we yet want a friend, for we are in a land of troubles and of sorrows. Now, if Christ had not suffered he could not have been a faithful high-priest, made like unto his brethren. We should never have had that sweet text — “He was tempted in all points, like as we are, yet without sin,” if he had not suffered. But now he knows all shapes of suffering. It is not possible that even out of the thousands now in this house there should be one heart whose case Christ cannot meet. 

“In every pang that rends the heart
The man of sorrows had a part.”

     Disease, sickness of body, poverty, need, friendlessness, hopelessness, desertion— he knows all these. You cannot cast human suffering into any shape that is new to Christ. “In all their afflictions he was afflicted.” If you feel a thorn in your foot, remember that it once pierced his head. If you have a trouble or a difficulty, you may see there the mark of his hands, for he has climbed that way before. The whole path of sorrow has his blood-bedabbled footsteps all along, for the Man of Sorrows has been there, and he can now have sympathy with you. “Yes,” I hear one say, “but my sorrows are the result of sin.” So were his; though not his own, yet the result of sin they were. “Yes,” you say, “but I am slandered, and I cannot bear it.” They called him a drunken man, and a wine-bibber. Why, when you once think of the sufferings of Christ, yours are not worth a thought. Like the small dust of a balance that may be blown away with the breath of an infant, such are our agonies and our trials when compared with his. Drink thy little cup; see what a cup he drained. The little vinegar and gall that fall to thy share thou mayest gladly receive, for these light afflictions, which are but for a moment, are not worthy to be compared to the sufferings through which he passed. 

     Finally, upon this point; he thus became perfect as our exemplar. This, too, was necessary in bringing many sons unto glory, for we come to heaven by following the example of Christ, as well as by being washed in his blood. “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord;” that holiness is best of all promoted by an investigation of Christ’s character, and a studious imitation of all its points. Now had Christ not suffered he could not have been an example to us. We should have said, “Yes, yes, he may be an example to unsuffering angels, but not to men who have to tread the hot coals of the furnace.” He could have afforded no example of patience if he had never suffered; he could never have taught us to forgive if he had never felt injuries; he could not have trained us to holy courage if he had never fought a battle; he could never have shown us the way to make tribulation work experience, and experience hope, if through tribulation he had not himself waded to his throne. We want not an example taken from princes to be applied to peasants. We need a poor man to be an example for the poor; we want a man who lives in private to teach us how to live in retirement; we want one who fears not the face of crowds to show us how to walk in our public ways. We want, if we would meet the case of fallen humanity, a man just like the Saviour, who passed through all the various phases of life, was in all companies, was shot at from all quarters, was tempted in all points like as we are, and this could not have been if he had been led in quiet ways along a path of joy. He must do business on the tempestuous deeps; his ship must rock, his anchor drag, the thick darkness and the lightnings must gather round him; they did so, and thus the captain of our salvation was made perfect through suffering, as an example for our imitation. I would that we might each of us know him in the efficacy of his blood, in the glory of his righteousness, in the sweetness of his sympathy, and in the perfection of his example, for then should we know him to the joy of our hearts for ever. 

     III. And now, lastly, our third point— CHRIST 'S HAVING BEEN MADE PERFECT THROUGH SUFFERING WILL ENNOBLE THE WHOLE WORK OF GRACE.

     “It became him for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory”— that is the great work— “to make the captain of their salvation perfect through suffering.” The whole thing will work for his glory. Oh, my brethren, how this will glorify God at the last, that Christ, the man, should have been perfect through suffering! How this will glorify him in the eyes of devils! Looking upwards from their beds of fire where they bite their iron bands in vain, how will they see the wisdom and power of God as more than a match for the wisdom and might of their leader! It was in man that they defeated God; in man God destroys them. They trampled on man’s heel; man has broken their head. They took away from man the transient crown of his Eden-glory; man wears the unfading crown of immortality. Man, even man, sits upon the throne of Godhead, and that man crowned with light and glory everlasting was a man who did encounter Satan; who met him, too, on fair grounds; not a man shielded from pain; not a man who had an immunity from internal or external distress; but a man full of weakness, full of infirmity like other men, and yet, through God in alliance with his manhood, more than a conqueror, and now reigning for ever and ever. Milton, I think it is, supposes that this may have been the reason for Satan’s first rebellion, because he could not bear that an inferior race should be lifted up to be set above himself on God’s throne. Whether this be so or not, it must certainly be an aggravation to the misery of that proud arch-traitor, that now the man, the man, the man in whose image God was defeated, is heir of all things, King of kings, and Lord of lords. 

     How greatly will God be exalted that day in the eyes of lost spirits. Ah! ye that shall perish— God grant there may be none such here! — if you shall ever perish in hell, you will have to glorify God as you see Christ, who was made perfect through suffering, reigning there. You will not be able to say, “My damnation lies at God’s door,” for you will see in Christ a suitable Saviour. You will have to look up and say, “Yes, he who was preached to me on Sabbath-days was God; he could save me. He whom I was bidden to trust in was man, and could sympathise with me, but I would not come unto him that I might have life.” In letters of fire ye shall see it written, “Ye knew your duty, but ye did it not;” and even your moans and groans as ye suffer shall be but an utterance of this awful truth — “Great God, thou art just; nay, thou art doubly just; just, first, in damning me for sin, just, next, in trampling me under foot , because I trampled underfoot the blood of the Son of God, and counted his covenant an unholy thing.” Your weepings and wailings shall be but the deep bass of the awful praise which the whole universe, willingly or unwillingly, must give to him who has provided a perfect Saviour, and made him perfect through suffering. 

     Oh, my brethren, what delight and transport will seize the minds of those who are redeemed! How will God be glorified then! Why, every wound of Christ will cause an everlasting song. As we shall circle his throne, rejoicing, will not this be the very summit of all our harmony— “Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us unto God by thy blood.” We must not say what God could do or could not do, but it does seem to me that by no process of creation could he have ever made such beings as we shall be when we are brought to heaven; for if he had made us perfect yet then we should have stood through our own holiness; or if he had forgiven us without an atonement then we should never have seen his justice, nor his amazing love. But in heaven we shall be creatures who feel that we have everything but deserve nothing; creatures that have been the objects of the most wonderful love, and therefore so mightly attached to our Lord that it would be impossible for a thousand Satans ever to lead us astray. Again. We shall be such servants as even the angels cannot be, for we shall feel under deeper obligation to God than even they. They are but created happy; we shall be redeemed by the blood of God's dear Son, and I am sure, brethren, day without night we shall circle God’s throne rejoicing, having more happiness than the angels, for they do not know what evil is, but we shall have known it to the full, and yet shall be perfectly free from it. They do not know what pain is, but we shall have known pain, and grief, and death, and yet shall be immortal. They do not know what it is to fall, but we shall look down to the depths of hell and remember that these were our portion. Oh! how we will sing, how we will chant his praise, and this, I say again, shall be the highest note, that we owe all to that bright one, that Lamb in the midst of the throne. We will tell it over, and over, and over again, and find it an inexhaustible theme for melodious joy and song that he became man, that he sweat great drops of blood, that he died, that he rose again. While the angels are singing “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” we will bid them stop the song a moment, while we say, “He whom ye thus adore was once covered with bloody sweat.” As we cast our crowns at his feet, we will say, “And he was once despised and rejected of men.” Lifting up our eyes and saluting him as God over all, blessed for ever, we will remember the reed, the sponge, the vinegar, and the nails; and as we come to him and have fellowship with him, and he shall lead us beside the living fountains of water, we will remember the black brook of Kedron of which he drank, and the awful depths of the grave into which he descended. Amid all the splendours of heaven, we shall never forget the agony, and misery, and dishonour of earth; and even when they sing the loudest sonnets of God’s love, and power, and grace, we will sing this after all, and before all, and above all, that Jesus the Son of God died for us, and this shall be our everlasting song— “He loved us and gave himself for us, and we have washed our robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”