Turn or Burn

By / Dec 7

Turn or Burn

 
"If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow and made it ready."—Psalm 7:12

 

     If the sinner turn not, God will whet his sword." So, then, God has a sword, and he will punish man on account of his iniquity. This evil generation hath laboured to take away from God the sword of his justice; they have endeavoured to prove themselves that God will "clear the guilty," and will by no means "punish iniquity, transgression and sin." Two hundred years ago the predominant strain of the pulpit was one of terror: it was like Mount Sinai, it thundered forth the dreadful wrath of God, and from the lips of a Baxter or a Bunyan, you heard most terrible sermons, full to the brim with warnings of judgment to come. Perhaps some of the Puritanic fathers may have gone too far, and have given too great a prominence to the terrors of the Lord in their ministry: but the age in which we live has sought to forget those terrors altogether, and if we dare to tell men that God will punish them for their sins, it is charged upon us that want to bully them into religion, and if we faithfully and honestly tell our hearers that sin must bring after it certain destruction, it is said that we are attempting to frighten them into goodness. Now we care not what men mockingly impute to us; we feel it our duty, when men sin, to tell them they shall be punished, and so long as the world will not give up its sin we feel we must not cease our warnings. But the cry of the age is, that God is merciful, that God is love. Ay; who said he was not? But remember, it is equally true, God is just, severely and inflexibly just. He were not God, if he were not just; he could not be merciful if he were not just, for punishment of the wicked is demanded by the highest mercy to the rest of mankind. Rest assured, however, that he is just, and that the words I am about to read you from God's Word are true—"The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God;' "God is angry with the wicked every day;" "If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready. He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors." Forsooth, because this age is wicked it is to have no hell; and because it is hypocritical it would have but feigned punishment. This doctrine is so prevalent as to make even the ministers of the gospel flinch from their duty in declaring the day of wrath. How few there are who will solemnly tell us of the judgment to come. They preach of God's love and mercy as they ought to do, and as God has commanded them; but of what avail is it to preach mercy unless they preach also the doom of the wicked? And how shall we hope to effect the purpose of preaching unless we warn men that if they "turn not, he will whet his sword?" I fear that in too many places the doctrine of future punishment is rejected and laughed as a fancy and a chimera; but the day will come when it shall be known to be a reality. Ahab scoffed at Micaiah, when he said he should never come home alive; the men of Noah's generation laughed at the foolish old man, (as they thought him), who bid them take heed, for the world should be drowned; but when they were climbing to the tree-tops, and the floods were following them, did they then say that the prophecy was untrue: and when the arrow was sticking in the heart of Ahab, and he said, "Take me from the battle, for I must die;" did he then think that Micaiah spoke an untruth? And so it is now. Ye tell us we speak lies, when we warn you of judgment to come; but in that day when your mischief shall fall on yourselves, and when destruction shall overwhelm you, will you say we were liars then? Will ye then turn round and scoff, and say we spake not the truth? Rather, my hearers, the highest need of honour will then be given to him who was the most faithful in warning men concerning the wrath of God. I have often trembled at the thought that, here I am standing before you, and constantly engaged in the work of the ministry, and what if, when I die, I should be found unfaithful to your souls, how doleful will be our meeting in the world of spirits. It would be a dreadful thing if you were able to say to me in the world to come, "Sir, you flattered us; you did not tell us of the solemnities of eternity; you did not rightly dwell upon the awful wrath of God; you spoke to us feebly and faintly; you were somewhat afraid of us; you knew we could not bear to hear of eternal torment, and therefore you kept it back and never mentioned it!" Why, methinks you would look me in the face and curse me throughout eternity, if that should be my conduct. But by God's help it never shall be. Come fair or foul, when I die I shall, God helping me, be able to say, "I am clear of the blood of all men." So far as I know God's truth I will endeavour to speak it; and though on my head opprobrium and scandal be poured to a ten-fold greater extent than ever, I'll hail it and welcome it, if I may but be faithful to this unstable generation, faithful to God, and faithful to my own conscience. Let me, then, endeavour—and by God's help I will do it as solemnly and as tenderly as I can—to address such of you as have not yet repented, most affectionately reminding you of your future doom, if you should die impenitent. "If he turn not, he will whet his sword."

     In the first place, what is the turning here meant? In the second place let us dwell on the necessity there is for men's turning, otherwise God will punish themmeans whereby men can be turned from the error of their ways, and the weakness and frailty of their nature amended by the power of divine grace.

     I. In the first place, my hearers, let me endeavour to explain to you the NATURE OF THE TURNING HERE MEANT. It says—"if he turn not he will whet his sword."

     To commence then. The turning here meant is actual, not fictitious—not that which stops with promises and vows, but that which deals with the real acts life. Possible one of you will say, this morning "Lo I turn to God; from this forth I will not sin, but I will endeavour to walk in holiness; my vices shall be abandoned, my crimes shall be thrown to the winds, and I will turn unto God with full purpose of heart;" but, mayhap, to-morrow you will have forgotten this; you will weep a tear or two under the preaching of God's word, but by to-morrow every tear shall have been dried, and you will utterly forget that you ever came to the house of God at all. How many of us are like men who see their faces in a glass, and straightway go away and forget what manner of men they are! Ah! my hearer, it is not thy promise of repentance that can save thee; it is not thy vow, it is not thy solemn declaration, it is not the tear that is dried more easily than the dew-drop by the sun, it is not the transient emotion of the heart which constitutes a real turning to God. There must be a true and actual abandonment of sin, and a turning unto righteousness in real act and deed in every-day life. Do you say you are sorry, and repent, and yet go on from day to day, just as you always went? Will your now bow your heads, and say, "Lord, I repent," and in a little while commit the same deeds again? If ye do, your repentance is worse than nothing, and shall but make your destruction yet more sure; for he that voweth to his Maker, and doth not pay, hath committed another sin, in that he hath attempted to deceive the Almighty, and lie against the God that made him. Repentance to be true, to be evangelical, must be a repentance which really affects our outward conduct.

     In the next place, repentance to be sure must be entire. How many will say, "Sir, I will renounce this sin and the other; but there are certain darling lusts which I must keep and hold." O sirs, In God's name let me tell you, it is not the giving up of one sin, nor fifty sins, which is true repentance; it is the solemn renunciation of every sin. If thou dost harbour one of those accursed vipers in thy heart, thy repentance is but a sham. If thou dost indulge in but one lust, and dost give up every other, that one lust, like one leak in a ship, will sink thy soul. Think it not sufficient to give up thy outward vices; fancy it not enough to cut off the more corrupt sins of thy life; it is all or none which God demands. "Repent," says he; and when he bids you repent, he means repent for all thy sins, otherwise he never can accept thy repentance as being real and genuine. The true penitent hates sin in the race, not in the individual—in the mass, not in the particular. He says, "Gild thee as thou wilt, O sin, I abhor thee! Ay, cover thyself with pleasure, make thyself guady, like the snake with its azure scales—I hate thee still, for I know thy venom, and I flee from thee, even when thou comest to me in the most specious garb." All sin must be given up, or else you shall never have Christ: all transgression must be renounced, or else the gates of heaven must be barred against you. Let us remember, then, that for repentance to be sincere it must be entire repentance.

     Again, when God says, "If he turn not, he will whet his sword," he means immediate repentance. Ye say, when we are nearing the last extremity of mortal life, and when we are entering the borders of the thick darkness of futurity, then we will change our ways. But, my dear hearers, do not delude yourselves. It is few who have ever changed after a long life of sin. "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?" If so, let him that is accustomed to do evil learn to do well. Put no faith in the repentances which you promise yourselves on your death beds. There are ten thousand arguments against one, that if you repent not in health, you will never repent in sickness. Too many have promised themselves a quiet season before they leave the world, when they could turn their face to the wall and confess their sins; but how few have found that time of repose! Do not men drop down dead in the streets—ay, even in the house of God? Do they not expire in their business? And when death is gradual, it affords but an ill season for repentance. Many a saint has said on his death-bed, "Oh! if I had now to seek my God, if I had now to cry to him for mercy, what would become of me? These pangs are enough, without the pangs of repentance. It is enough to have the body tortured, without having the soul wrung with remorse." Sinner! God saith, "To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, when your fathers tempted me and proved me." When God the Holy Spirit convinces men of sin, they will never talk of delays. You may never have another to repent in. Therefore saith the voice of wisdom, "Repent now." The Jewish rabbis said, "Let every man repent one day before he dies, and since he may die to-morrow, let him take heed to turn from his evil ways to-day." Even so we say; immediate repentance is that which God demands, for he hath never promised thee that thou shalt have any hour to repent in, except the one that thou hast now.

     Furthermore; the repentance here described as absolutely necessary is hearty repentance. It is not a mock tear; it is not hanging out the ensigns of grief, whilst you are keeping merriment in your hearts. It is not having an illumination within, and shutting up all the windows by a pretended repentance; it is the putting out of the candles of the heart; it is sorrow of soul which is true repentance. A man may renounce every outward sin, and yet not really repent. True repentance is a turning of the heart as well as of the life; it is the giving up of the whole soul to God, to be his for ever and ever; it is a renunciation of the sins of the heart, as well as the crimes of the life. Ah! dear hearers, let none of us fancy that we have repented when we have only a false and fictitious repentance; let none of us take that to be the work of the Spirit which is only the work of poor human nature; let us not dream that we have savingly turned to God, when, perhaps, we have only turned to ourselves. And let us not think it enough to have turned from one vice to another, or from vice to virtue; let us remember, it must be a turning of the whole soul, so that the old man is made anew in Christ Jesus; otherwise we have not answered the requirement of the text—we have not turned unto God.

     And lastly, upon this point, this repentance must be perpetual. It is not my turning to God during to-day that will be a proof that I am a true convert; it is forsaking of my sin throughout the entire of my life, until I sleep in the grave. You need not fancy that to be upright for a week will be a proof that you are saved; it is a perpetual abhorrence of evil. The change which God works is neither a transitory nor a superficial change; not a cutting off the top of the weed, but an away of that which is the cause of the defilement. In old times, when rich and generous monarchs came into their cities they made the fountains run milk and wine; but the fountain was not therefore a fountain of milk and wine always; on the morrow it ran with water as before. So you may to-day go home and pretend to pray; you may to-day be serious, to-morrow you may be honest, and the next day you may pretend to be devout, but yet if thou return, as Scripture has it, "like the dog to its vomit, and like the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire," your repentance shall but sink you deeper into hell, instead of being a proof of divine grace in your hearts.

     It is very hard to distinguish between legal repentance and evangelical repentance; however, there are certain marks whereby they may be distinguished, and at the risk of tiring you, we will just notice one or two of them; and may God grant that you may find them in your own souls! Legal repentance is a fear of damning: evangelical repentance is a fear of sinning. Legal repentance makes us fear the wrath of God; evangelical repentance makes us fear the cause of that wrath, even sin. When a man repents with that grace of repentance which God the Spirits works in him, he repents not of the punishment which is to follow the deed, but of the deed itself; and he feels that if there were not pit digged for the wicked, if there were no ever-gnawing worm, and no fire unquenchable, he would still hate sin. It is such repentance as this which every one of you must have, or else you will be lost. It must be a hatred of sin. Do not suppose, that because when you come to die you will be afraid of eternal torment, therefore that will be repentance. Every thief is afraid of the prison; but he will steal to-morrow if you set him free. Most men who have committed murder tremble at the sight of the gallows-tree, but they would do the deed again could they live. It is not the hatred of the punishment that is repentance; it is the hatred of the deed itself. Do you feel that you have such a repentance as that? If not, these thundering words must be preached to you again, —"If he turn not, he will whet his sword."

     But one more hint here. When a man is possessed of true and evangelical repentance—I mean the gospel repentance which saves the soul—he not only hates sin for its own sake, but loathes it so extremely and utterly that he feels that no repentance of his own can avail to wash it out, and he acknowledges that it is only by an act of sovereign grace that his sin can be washed away. Now, if any of you suppose that you repent of your sins, and yet imagine that by a course of holy living you can blot them out—if you suppose that by walking uprightly in future you can obliterate your past transgressions—you have not yet truly repented; for true repentance makes a man feel, that

"Could his zeal no respite know,
Could his tears for ever flow,
All for sin could not atone,
Christ must save, and Christ alone."

     And if it is so killed in thee that thou hatest as a corrupt and abominable thing, and wouldst bury it out of thy sight, but that thou feelest that it will never be entombed, unless Christ shall dig the grave, then thou hast repented of sin. We must humbly confess that we deserve God's wrath, and that we cannot avert it by any deeds of our own, and we must put our trust solely and entirely in the blood and merits of Jesus Christ. If ye have not so repented, again we exclaim in the words of David, "If you turn not, he will whet his sword."

     II. And now the second point; it is a yet more terrible one to dwell upon, and if I consulted my own feelings I should not mention it; but we must not consider our feelings in the work of ministry, any more than we should if we were physicians of men's bodies. We must sometimes use the knife, where we feel that mortification would ensue without it. We must frequently make sharp gashes into men's consciences, in the hope that the Holy Spirit will bring them to life. We assert, then, that there is a NECESSITY that God should whet his sword and punish men, if they will not turn. Earnest Baxter used to say, "Sinner! turn or burn; it is thine only alternative: TURN OR BURN!" And it is so. We think we can show you why men must turn, or else they must burn.

     1. First we cannot suppose the God of the Bible could suffer sin to be unpunished. Some may suppose it; they may dream their intellects into a state of intoxication, so as to suppose a God apart from justice; but no man whose reason is sound and whose mind is in a healthy condition can imagine a God without justice. Ye cannot suppose a king without it to be a good king; ye cannot dream of a good government that should exist without justice, much less of God, the Judge and King of all the earth, without justice in his bosom. To suppose him all love, and no justice, were to undeify him, and make him no longer God; he were not capable of ruling this world if he had not justice in his heart. There is in man a natural perception of the fact, that if there be a God, he must be just; and I can scarcely imagine that ye can believe in a God without believing also in the punishment of sin. It were difficult to suppose him elevated high above his creatures, beholding their disobedience, and yet looking with the same serenity upon the good and upon the evil; you cannot suppose him awarding the same need of praise to the wicked and to the righteous. The idea of God, supposes justice; and it is but to say justice when you say God.

     2. But to imagine that there shall be no punishment for sin, and that man can be saved without repentance, is to fly in the face of all the Scriptures. What! Are the records of divine history nothing? And if they be anything must not God have mightily changed, if he doth not now punish sin? What! did he once blast Eden, and drive our parents out of that happy garden on account of a little theft, as man would style it? Did he drown a world with water, and inundate creation with the floods which he had buried in the bowels of this earth? And will he not punish sin? Let the burning hail which fell on Sodom tell you that God is just; let the open mouth of the earth which swallowed up Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, warn you that he will not spare the guilty: let the mighty works of God which he did in the Red Sea, the wonders which he wrought on Pharaoh, and the miraculous destruction which he brought on Sennacherib, tell you that God is just. And it were perhaps out of place for me in the same argument to mention the judgments of God even in our age; but have there never been such? This world is not the dungeon where God punishes sin, but still there are a few instances in which we cannot but believe that he actually did avenge it. I am no believer that every accident is a judgment; I am far from believing that the destruction of men and women in a theatre is a punishment upon them for their sin, since the same thing has occurred in divine service to our perpetual sorrow. I believe judgment is reserved for the next world; I could not account for providence if I believed that God punishes here. "Those men upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you nay." It has injured religion for men to take up every providence, and say, for instance, that because a boat was upset on the Sabbath-day it was a judgment on the persons that were in it. We assuredly believe that it was sinful to spend the day in pleasure, but we deny that it was a punishment from God. God usually reserves his punishment for a future state; but yet, we say, there have been a few instances in which we cannot but believe that men and women have been by Providence in this life punished for their guilt. I remember one which I scarcely dare relate to you. I saw the wretched creature myself. He had dared to imprecate on his head the most awful curses that man could utter. In his rage and fury he said he wished his head were twisted on one side, that his eyes were put out, and that his jaws were made fast: but a moment afterwards the lash of his whip—with which he had been cruelly treating his horse—entered his eye, brought on first inflammation, and then lock-jaw, and when I saw him he was just in the very position in which he had asked to be placed, for his head was twisted round, his eye-sight was gone, and he could not speak except through his closed teeth. You will remember a similar instance happening at Devizes, where a woman declared that she had paid her part of the price of a sack of meal, when she had it in her hand, and immediately dropped down dead on the spot. Some of these may have been singular coincidences; but I am not so credulous as to suppose that they were brought about by chance. I think the will of the Lord was in it. I believe they were some faint intimations that God was just, and that although the full shower of his wrath does not fall on men in this life, he does pour a drop or two on them, to let us see how he will one day chasten the world for its iniquity.

     3. But why need I go far to bring arguments to bear on you, my hearers? Your own consciences tell you that God must punish sin. You may laugh at me, and say that you have no such belief. I do not say you have but I say that your conscience tells you so, and conscience has more power over men than what they think to be their belief. As John Bunyan said, Mr. Conscience had a very loud voice, and though Mr. Understanding shut himself up in a dark room, where he could not see, yet he used to thunder out so mightily in the streets, that Mr. Understanding used to shake in his house through what Mr. Conscience said. And it is often so. You say in your understanding, "I cannot believe God will punish sin;" but you know he will. You would not like to confess your secret fears, because that were to give up what you have so often most bravely asserted. But because you assert it with such boast and bombast, imagine you do not believe it, for if you did, you would not need look so big while saying it. I know that when you are dying you will believe in a hell. Conscience makes cowards of us all, and makes us believe, even when we say we do not, that God must punish sin.

     Let me tell you a story; I have told it before, but it is a striking one, and sets out in a true light how easily men will be brought in times of danger to believe in God, and a God of justice too, though they have denied him before. In the backwoods of Canada there resided a good minister, who one evening, went out to meditate, as Isaac did, in the fields. He soon found himself on the borders of a forest, which he entered, and walked along a track which had been trodden before him; musing, musing still, until at last the shadows of twilight gathered around him, and he began to think how he should spend a night in the forest. He trembled at the idea of remaining there, with the poor shelter of a tree into which he would be compelled to climb. On a sudden he saw a light in the distance among the trees, and imagining that it might be from the window of some cottage where he could find a hospitable retreat, he hastened to it, and to his surprise, saw a space cleared and trees laid down to make a platform, and upon it a speaker addressing a multitude. He thought to himself, "I have stumbled on a company of people, who in this dark forest have assembled to worship God, and some minister is preaching to them, at this late hour of the evening, concerning the kingdom of God, and his righteousness;" but to his surprise and horror, when he came nearer, he found a young man declaiming against God, daring the Almighty to do his worst upon him, speaking terrible things in wrath against the justice of the Most High, and venturing most bold and awful assertions concerning his own disbelief in a future state. It was altogether a singular scene; it was lighted up by pine-knots, which cast a glare here and there, while the thick darkness in other places still reigned. The people were intent on listening to the orator, and when he sat down thunders of applause were given to him; each one seeming to emulate the other in his praise. Thought the minister, "I must not let this pass; I must rise and speak; the honour of my God, and his cause demands it." But he feared to speak, for he knew not what to say, having come there suddenly; but he would have ventured, had not something else occurred. A man of middle age, hale and strong, rose, and leaning on his staff he said, "My friends, I have a word to speak to you to-night. I am not about to refute any of the arguments of the orator; I shall not criticise his style; I shall say nothing concerning what I believe to be the blasphemies he has uttered; but I shall simply relate to you a fact, and after I have done that you shall draw your own conclusions. Yesterday, I walked by the side of yonder river; I saw on its floods a young man in a boat. The boat was unmanageable; it was going fast towards the rapids; he could not use the oars, and I saw that he was not capable of bringing the boat to the shore. I saw that young man wring his hands in agony; by-and-bye he gave up the attempt to save his life, kneeled down and cried with desperate earnestness, "O God! save my soul! If my body cannot be saved, save my soul.' I heard him confess that he had been a blasphemer, I heard him vow that if his life were spared he would never be such again; I heard him implore the mercy of heaven for Jesus Christ's sake, and earnestly plead that he might be washed in his blood. These arms saved that young man from the flood; I plunged in, brought the boat to shore, and saved his life. That same young man has just now addressed you, and cursed his Maker. What say you to this, sirs!" The speaker sat down. You may guess what a shadow ran through the young man himself, and how the audience in one moment changed their notes, and saw that after all, whilst it was a fine thing to brag and bravado against Almighty God on dry land, and when danger was distant, it was not quite so grand to think ill of him when near the verge of the grave. We believe there is enough conscience in every man to convince him that God must punish him for his sin; therefore we think that our text will wake an echo in every heart—"If he turn not, he will whet his sword."

     I am tired of this terrible work of endeavouring to show you that God must punish sin; let me just utter a few of the declarations of his Holy Word, and then let me tell you how repentance is to be obtained. O sirs! ye may think that the fire of hell is indeed a fiction, and that the flames of the nethermost pit are but popish dreams; but if ye are believers in the Bible ye must believe that it cannot be so. Did not our Master say, "Where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." You say it is metaphorical fire. But what meant he by this—"He is able to cast both body and soul into hell?" Is it not written, that there is reserved for the devil and his angels fearful torment? And do you not know that our Master said, "These shall go away into everlasting punishment;" "Depart, ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels?" "Yes," you say, "but it is not philosophical to believe that there is a hell; it does not consort with reason to believe there is." However, I should like to act as if there were, even if there is no such place; for as the poor and pious man once said, "Sir, I like to have two strings to my bow. If there should be no hell I shall be as well off as you will; but if there should, it will go hard with you." But why need I say "if?" You know there is. No man has been born and educated in this land without having his conscience so far enlightened as to know that to be a truth. All I need to do is to press upon your anxious consideration this thought: —Do you feel that you are a fit subject for heaven now? Do you feel that God has changed your heart and renewed your nature? If not, I beseech you lay hold of this thought, that unless you be renewed all that can be dreadful in the torments of the future world must inevitably be yours. Dear hearer, apply it to thyself, not to thy fellow-men, but to thine own conscience, and may God Almighty make use of it to bring thee to repentance.

     III. Now briefly what are the MEANS of repentance? Most seriously I say, I do not believe any man can repent with evangelical repentance of himself. You ask me then to what purpose is the sermon I have endeavoured to preach, proving the necessity of repentance? Allow me to make the sermon of some purpose, under God, by its conclusion. Sinner! thou art so desperately set on sin, that I have no hope thou wilt ever turn from it of thyself. But listen! He who died on Calvary is exalted on high "to give repentance and remission of sin." Dost thou this morning feel that thou art a sinner? If so, ask of Christ to give thee repentance, for he can work repentance in thine heart by his Spirit, though thou canst not work it there thyself. Is thy heart like iron? He can put it into the furnace of his love and make it melt. Is thy soul like the nether millstone? His grace is able to dissolve it like the ice is melted before the sun. He can make thee repent, though thou canst not make thyself repent. If thou feelest thy need of repentance, I will not now say to thee "repent," for I believe there are certain acts that must precede a sense of repentance. I should advise you to go to your houses, and if you feel that you have sinned, and yet cannot sufficiently repent of your transgressions, bow your knees before God and confess your sins: tell him you cannot repent as you would; tell him your heart is hard; tell him it is as cold as ice. You can do that if God has made you feel your need of a Saviour. Then if it should be laid to your heart to endeavour to seek after repentance, I will tell you the best way to find it. Spend an hour first in endeavouring to remember thy sins; and when conviction has gotten a firm hold on thee, then spend another hour—where? At Calvary, my hearer. Sit down and read that chapter which contains the history and mystery of the God that loved and died; sit down and think thou seest that glorious Man, with blood dropping from his hands, and his feet gushing rivers of gore; and if that does not make thee repent, with the help of God's Spirit, then I know of nothing that can. An old divine says, "If you feel you do not love God, love him till you feel you do: if you think you cannot believe, believe till you feel you believe." Many a man says he cannot repent, while he is repenting. Keep on with that repentance, till you feel you have repented. Only acknowledge thy transgressions; confess thy guiltiness; own that he were just if he should destroy thee; and say this, solemnly—

My faith doth lay its hand
On that dear head of thine,
While like a penitent I stand,
And there confess my sin.

     Oh! what would I give if one of my hearers should be blessed by God to go home and repent! If I had worlds to buy one of your souls, I would readily give them, if I might but bring one of you to Christ. I shall never forget the hour when I hope God's mercy first looked on me. It was in a place very different from this, amongst a despised people, in an insignificant little chapel, of a peculiar sect. I went there bowed down with guilt; laden with transgression. The minister walked up the pulpit stairs, opened his Bible, and read that precious text, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and beside me there is none else;" and, as I thought, fixing his eyes on me, before he began to preach to others, he said, "Young man! look! look! look! You are one of the ends of the earth; you feel you are; you know your need of a Saviour; you are trembling because you think he will never save you. He says this morning, 'Look!'" Oh, how my soul was shaken within me then! what! thought I, does that man know me, and all about me? He seemed as if he did. And it made me "look!" Well, I thought, lost or saved, I will try; sink or swim, I will run the risk of it; and in that moment I hope by his grace I looked upon Jesus, and though desponding, downcast, and ready to despair, and feeling that I could rather die than live as I had lived, at that very moment it seemed as if a young heaven had had its birth within my conscience. I went home, no more cast down; those about me, noticing the change, asked me why I was so glad, and I told them that I had believed in Jesus, and that it was written, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Oh! if one such should be here this morning! Where art thou, thou chief of sinners, thou vilest of the vile? My dear hearer, thou hast never been in the house of God perhaps these last twenty years; but here thou art, covered with thy sins, the blackest and vilest of all! Hear God's Word. "Come, now let us reason together, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as wool, and though they be red like crimson, they shall be white than snow." And all this for Jesus' sake; all this for his blood's sake! "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved;" for his word and mandate is, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned."

SINNER! TURN OR BURN!



Manasseh

By / Nov 30

Manasseh

 
"Then Manasseh knew that the Lord he was God."—2 Chronicles 33:13

 

     Manasseh is one of the most remarkable characters whose history is written in the sacred pages. We are accustomed to mention his name in the list of those who greatly sinned, and yet found great mercy. Side by side with Saul of Tarsus, with that great sinner who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head, and with the thief that died upon the cross—a forgiven sinner at the eleventh hour—we are wont to write the name of Manasseh, who "shed innocent blood very much," and notwithstanding that, was forgiven and pardoned, finding mercy through the blood of a Saviour who had not then died, but whom God foresaw should die, and the merits of whose sacrifice he therefore imputed to so great a transgressor as Manasseh.

     Without preface we shall enter on the history of Manasseh this morning, and consider him in a threefold light: first, as a sinner, then as an unbeliever, and thirdly, as a convert. It may be there shall be some Manasseh within these walls now; and if in describing the case of this ancient king of Israel I shall in some degree describe him, I trust he will take to himself the same consoling truths which were the means of the comfort of Manasseh when in the dungeon of repentance.

     I. First, then, we shall consider MANASSEH IN HIS SIN.

     1. And we note, first, that he belonged to that class of sinners who stand first in the phalanx of evil—namely, those who sin against great light, against a pious education and early training. Manasseh was the son of Hezekiah, a man who had some faults, but of whom it is nevertheless said, "He did right in the sight of the Lord." To a great degree he walked before God with a perfect heart, even as did David his father. We can not suppose that he neglected the education of his son Manasseh. He was the son of his old age. You will remember that at a time of heavy sickness God promised him that he should have his life prolonged fifteen years. Three years after that event Manasseh was born, and he was, therefore, only twelve years old when his father died; still he was old enough to remember the pious prayers of a father and a mother, and had arrived at sufficient maturity to understand right from wrong, and to have received those early impressions which we believe are, in most cases, eminently useful for after life. And yet Manasseh pulled down what his father had built up, and built up the idol temples which his father had pulled down. Now, it is a notorious fact, that men who do go wrong after a good training, are the worst men in the world. You may not know, but it is a fact, that the late lamented murder of Williams at Erromanga, was brought about by the evil doings of a trader who had gone to the island, and who was also the son of a missionary. He had become reckless in his habits, and treated the islanders with such barbarity and cruelty, that they revenged his conduct upon the next white man who put his foot on their shore; and the beloved Williams, one of the last of the martyrs, died a victim of the guilt of those who had gone before him. The worst of men are those who, having much light, still run astray. You shall find among the greatest champions of the camp of hell, men who were brought up and educated in our very ranks. It is not necessary that I should mention names; but any of you that are acquainted with those who are the leaders of infidelity at the present time will at once recognize the fact. And such men actually make the very worst of infidels; while the best of Christians often come from the very worst of sinners. Our John Bunyans have come from the pot-house and the taproom, from the bowling-alley, or places lower in the scale; our best of men have come from the very worst of places, and have been the best adapted to reclaim sinners, because they themselves had stepped into the kennel, and had nevertheless been washed in a Saviour's cleansing blood. And so it is true that the worst of the enemies of Christ are those who are nourished in our midst, and like the viper of old, which the husbandman nursed in his bosom, turn round to sting the bosom which has nurtured them. Such a one was Manasseh.

     2. In the next place, Manasseh as a sinner was a very bold one. He was one of those men who do not sin covertly, but who, when they transgress, do not seem to be at all ashamed, who are born with brazen foreheads, and lift their faces to heaven with insolence and impudence. He was a man who, if he would set up an idol, as you would see by reading this chapter, did not set it up in an obscure part of the land, but put it in the very temple of God; and when he would desecrate the name of the Most High, he did not privily go to his chapel, where he might worship some evil deity, but he put the deity into the very temple itself, as if to insult God to his very face. He was a desperado in sin, and went to the utmost limit of it, being very bold, and desperately set on mischief. Now, whether it be for right or wrong, boldness is always sure to win the day. Give me a coward—you give me nothing; give me a bold man, and you give me one that can do something, whether for Christ's cause or for the devil's. Manasseh was a man of this kind. If he cursed God, it was with a loud voice; it was not in hole or corner, but upon his throne, that he issued proclamations against the Most High, and in the most daring manner insulted the Lord God of Israel. And yet, dear friends, this man was saved, notwithstanding all this. This greatest sinner, this man who had trampled on his father's prayers, who had wiped from his brow the tears which bad been shed there by an anxious parent, who had stifled the convictions of his conscience, and had gone to an extremity of guilt, in bold, open, and desperate sin, yet this man was at last, by divine grace, humbled and brought on his knees to acknowledge that God was God alone. Let no man, therefore, despair of his fellow. I never do, since I think and hope that God has saved me. I am persuaded that, live as long as I may, I shall never see the individual of whom I can say "That man is a hopeless case" I may peradventure meet with the person who has been so exhorted and so warned, and has so put off all the sweet wooings of his conscience, that he has become seared and hardened, and consequently apparently hopeless; but I shall never meet a man who has sinned so desperately that I can say of him he never can be saved. Ah! no; that arm of mercy which was long enough to save me is long enough to save you; and if he could redeem you from your transgression, assuredly there are none sunk lower than you were, and therefore you may believe that his arm of mercy can reach them. Above all, let no man despair of himself. Whilst there is life there is hope. Give not up yourselves into Satan's arms. He tells you that your death-warrant is sealed, that your doom is cast, and that you never can be saved. Tell him to his face that he is a liar, for that Jesus Christ "is able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by him, seeing that he ever liveth to make intercession for them."

     3. Again, Manasseh was a sinner of that peculiar caste which we suspect is not to be found very frequently. He was one of those who had the power of leading others to a very large extent astray from the truth and religion of God. He was a king, and had, therefore, great influence; what he commanded was done. Among the rank of idolaters Manasseh stood first, and it was the song and glory of the false priests that the king of Judah was on the side of the gods of the heathen. He was the leader—the first man in the battle. When the troops of the ungodly went to war against the God of the whole earth, Manasseh led the vanguard and cheered them on. He was their great Goliath, challenging all the armies of the living God. Many among the wicked stood back and feared the conflict; but be never feared. "He spake and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast;" and therefore he was bold and arrogant in leading others astray. There are some such still alive—men not content with treading the broad road themselves, but seeking to entice others into it. And O, how active they are in their efforts! They will go from house to house, and distribute those publications which are impure and polluting; they will stand in our streets and endeavor to draw around them the young, ay, men and women just fresh come from the house of God, or going to God's sanctuary, to tell them that dreary story that there is no God, or the dismal falsehood that there is no future, but that we must all die like dogs and suffer annihilation. There are some such who never seem to be happy unless when they are leading others astray. It is not enough for them to go alone against God, but they must sin in company. Like the woman in the Proverbs, they hunt for precious life, and like hounds thirsting for blood, they are seeking after men to destroy them. Society now is like Prometheus: it is, to a great extent, bound hand and foot by the very customs that surround it, and like Prometheus, we have upon us the winged hound of hell perpetually tapping at our heart and swallowing the life-blood of our spirit. I mean we have that accursed infidelity which seeks to lead men from God and drive them from their Maker. But, nevertheless, leaders among them have yet been saved. Manasseh, the leader of those who hated God, was yet humbled, and made to love the Most High.

     Do you ask me whether such cases ever occur now? I answer, yes they do; too rarely, but they do happen. Yesterday I received something which cheered my heart very much, and made me bless my God, that notwithstanding all opposition, he had still made me of some little use in the world. I received a long letter from a certain city, from one who has been one of the leaders of the secular society in that place. The writer says, "I purchased one of the pamphlets entitled 'Who is this Spurgeon?' and also your portrait (or a portrait sold as yours) for 3d. I brought these home, and exhibited them in my shop window. I was induced to do so from a feeling of derisive pleasure. The title of the pamphlet is, naturally, suggestive of caricature, and it was especially to incite that impression that I attached it to your portrait and placed it in my window. But I also had another object in view. I thought by its attraction to improve my trade. I am not at all in the book or paper business, which rendered its exposure and my motive the more conspicuous. I have taken it down now: I am taken down too. * * * I had bought one of your sermons of an old infidel a day or two previous. In that sermon I read these words: —'They go on; that step is safe—they take it; the next is safe—they take it; their foot hangs over a gulf of darkness.' I read on, but the word darkness staggered me. It was all dark with, me. 'True, the way has been safe so far, but I am lost in bewilderment. No, no, no, I will not risk it.' I left the apartment in which I had been musing, and as I did so, the three words, 'Who can tell?' seemed to be whispered at my heart. I determined not to let another Sunday pass without visiting a place of worship. How soon my soul might be required of me I knew not, but felt that it would be mean, base, cowardly, not to give it a chance. Ay, my associates may laugh, scoff, deride, call me coward, turncoat, I will do an act of justice to my soul. I went to the chapel; I was just stupefied with awe. What could I want there? The door keeper opened his eyes wider, and involuntarily demanded, 'It's Mr.—isn't it?' 'Yes,' I said, 'it is.' He conducted me to a seat, and afterward brought me a hymn-book. I was fit to burst with anguish. 'Now,' I thought, 'I am here, if it be the house of God, heaven grant me an audience, and I will make full surrender. O God, show me some token by which I may know that thou art, and that thou wilt in no wise cast out the vile deserter who has ventured to seek thy face and thy pardoning mercy.' I opened the hymn-book to divert my mind from feelings that were rending me, and the first words that caught my eyes were

"'Dark, dark indeed the grave would be,
Had we no light O God, from thee.'"

     After giving some things which he looks upon as evidences that he is a true convert of religion, he closes up by saying, "O sir, tell this to the poor wretch whose pride, like mine, has made him league with hell; tell it to the hesitating and to the timid; tell it to the cooling Christian, that God is a very present help to all that are in need. Think of the poor sinner who may never look upon you in this world, but who will live to bless and pray for you here, and long to meet you in the world exempt from sinful doubts, from human pride, and backsliding hearts." Ah, he need not ask my forgiveness; I am happy, too happy, in the hope of calling him " brother" in the Christian church. This letter is from a place many miles from this city and from a man who had no small standing among the ranks of those who hate Christ. Ah! there have been Manassehs saved, and there shall be yet. There have been men who hated God, who have leaped for joy, and said—

"I'm forgiven, I'm forgiven,
I'm a miracle of grace,"

     and have kissed the very feet which once they scorned and scoffed, and could not bear to hear the mention of.

     There is one fact concerning Manasseh which stamps him as being a very prince of sinners, namely this: "He caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom," and dedicated his sons unto Tophet. This was a dreadful sin; for though Manasseh repented, we find that his son Amon followed in the steps of his father in his wickedness but not in his righteousness. Listen! "Amon was two-and-twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned two years in Jerusalem. But he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, as did Manasseh his father: for Amon sacrificed unto all the carved images which Manasseh his father had made, and served them; and humbled not himself before the Lord, as Manasseh his father had humbled himself; but Amon trespassed more and more." Children will imitate their fathers in their vices, seldom in their repentance; if parents sin, their children will follow them, without much doubt; but when they repent and turn to God, it is not easy to lead a child back in the way which it has once forsaken. Are there any here, who, like that ancient Carthaginian, have dedicated their sons to the opposition of their enemy. You remember one who dedicated his son Hannibal from his very birth to be the everlasting enemy of the Romans. There may be such a man here, who has dedicated his offspring to Satan, to be the everlasting enemy of Christ's gospel, and is trying to train up and tutor him in a way which is contrary to the fear of the Lord. Is such a man hopeless? His sin is dreadful, his state is dreary, his sin without repentance will assuredly damn him; but so long as he is here, we still will preach repentance to him, knowing that Manasseh was brought to know God, and was forgiven all his manifold sins.

     II. The second aspect in which we are to regard Manasseh is as an UNBELIEVER; for it appears that Manasseh did not believe that Jehovah was God alone; he was, therefore, a believer in false gods, but an unbeliever, so far as the truth is concerned. Now, does it not strike you at the outset, that while Manasseh was an unbeliever in the truth, he must have been a very credulous person to believe in the all imaginary deities of the heathen? In fact, the most credulous persons in the world are unbelievers. It takes ten thousand times more faith to be an unbeliever than to be a believer in revelation. One man comes to me and tells me I am credulous, because I believe in a great First Cause who created the heavens and the earth, and that God became man and died for sin. I tell him I may be, and no doubt am very credulous, as he conceives credulity, but I conceive that which I believe is in perfect consistency with my reason, and I therefore receive it. "But," saith he, "I am not credulous—not at all." Sir, I say, I should like to ask you one thing. You do not believe the world was created by God? "No." You must be amazingly credulous, then, I am sure. Do you think this Bible exists without being made? If you should say I am credulous because I believe it had a printer and a binder, I should say you were infinitely more credulous, if you assured me that it was made at all. And should you begin to tell me one of your theories about creation—that atoms floated through space, and came to a certain shape, I should resign the palm of credulity to you. You believe, perhaps, moreover, that man came to be in this world through the improvement of certain creatures. I have read, you say, that there were certain monads—that these monads improved themselves until they came to be small animalcule—that afterward they grew into fishes—that these fishes wanted to fly, and then wings grow—that by-and-by they wanted to crawl, and then legs came, and they became lizards, and by divers steps they then became monkeys, and then the monkeys became men, and you believe yourself to be cousin-german to an ourang-outang. Now, I may be very credulous, but really not so credulous as you are. I may believe very strange things; I may believe that, with the jaw-bone of an ass, Samson slew a thousand men; I may believe that that the earth was drowned with water, and many other strange things, as you call them; but as for your creed, your non-creed, "'tis strange, 'tis passing strange, 'tis wonderful," and it as much outvies mine in credulity, if I be credulous, as an ocean outvies a drop. It requires the hardest faith in the world to deny the Scriptures, because the man, in his secret heart, knows they are true, and, go where he will, something whispers to him, "You may be wrong—perhaps you are," and it is as much as he can do, to say, "Lie down, conscience! down with you; I must not let you speak, or I could not deliver my lecture to-morrow, I could not go among my friends, I could not go to such-and-such a club; for I can not afford to keep a conscience, if I can not afford to keep a God."

     And now let me tell you what I conceive to be the reasons why Manasseh was an unbeliever. In the first place, I conceive that the unlimited power which Manasseh possessed had a very great tendency to make him a disbeliever in God. I should not wonder if an autocrats man with absolute dominion, should deny God; I should think it only natural. You remember that memorable speech of Napoleon's. He was told that man proposed, but that God disposed. "Ah!" said Napoleon, "I propose and dispose too;" and therein he arrogated to himself the very supremacy of God. We do not wonder at it, because his victories had so speedily succeeded each other, his prowess had been so complete, his fame so great, and his power over his subjects so absolute. Power al—ways, as I believe, except in the heart which is rightly governed by grace, has a tendency to lead us to deny God. It is that noble intellect of such-and-such a man which has led him into discussion; he has twice, thrice, four, five, six, seven times, come off more than conqueror in the field of controversy; he looks round and says, "I am, there is none beside me; let me sake up whatever I please, I can defend it; there is no man can stand against the blade of my intellect; I can give him such a home thrust as will assuredly overcome him;" and then, like Dr. Johnson, who often took up the side of the question he did not believe, just because he liked to get a victory that was hard to win, so do these men espouse what they believe to be wrong, because they conceive it gives them the finest opportunity of displaying their abilities. "Let me," says some mighty intellect, "fight with a Christian; I shall have hard enough work to prove my thesis, I know I shall have a great difficulty to undermine the bastions of truth which he opposes to bear against me; so much the better; it were worth while to be conquered by so stout an opposition and if I can overcome my antagonist, if I can prove myself to have more logic than he has, then I can say, 'tis glorious; 'tis glorious to have fought against an opponent with so much on his side, and yet to have come off more than conqueror." I do believe the best man in the world is very hard to be trusted with power; he will, unless grace keeps him, make a wrong use of it before long. Hence it is that the most influential of God's servants are almost invariably the most tried ones, because our heavenly Father knows that if it were not for great trials and afflictions we should begin to set ourselves up against him, and arrogate to ourselves a glory which we had no right to claim.

     But another reason why Manasseh was an unbeliever, I take it, was because he was proud. Pride lieth at the root of infidelity; pride is the very germ of opposition to God. The man saith, " Why should I believe? The Sunday-school child reads his Bible, and says it is true. Am I, a man of intellect, to sit side by side with him, and receive a thing as true simply at the dictum of God's Word? No, I will not; I will find it out for myself, and I will not believe simply because it is revealed to me, for that were to make myself a child." And when he turns to the page of revelation, and reads thus, " Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye can in nowise enter into the kingdom of heaven," he says, " Pshaw! I shall not be converted then; I am not going to be a child; I am a man, and a man I will be, and I would rather be lost a man than saved a child. What I am I to surrender my judgment, and sit down tacitly to believe in God's Word?" " Yes," says God's Word, "thou art; thou art to become as a child, and meekly to receive my Word." "Then," says he, in his arrogance and pride, "I will not," and like Satan, he declares it were better to rule in hell than serve in heaven, and he goes away an unbeliever, because to believe is too humbling a thing.

     But perhaps the most potent reason for Manasseh's unbelief lies here; that he loved sin too well. When Manasseh built the altars for his false gods, he could sin easily, and keep his conscience; but he felt Jehovah's laws so stringent, that if he once believed in the one God he could not sin as he did. He read it thus: "Remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy; thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal;" and so on. Manasseh wanted to do all these things, and therefore he would not believe because he could not believe and keep his sin. The very reason why we have much unbelief is because we have much love of sin. Men will have no God, because God interferes with their lusts. They could not go on in their sins, if they once believed there was an everlasting God above them, or professed to believe it, for all do believe it, whether they say so or not; and because the thought of God checks them in their impiety and their lust, therefore they cry out, "There is no God," and say it with their lips as well as in their hearts. I believe it was this that led Manasseh to persecute the saints of God; for among his sins it is written, " he shed innocent blood very much." It is a tradition among the Jews that the prophet Isaiah was sawn in sunder by Manasseh, on account of a rebuke which he gave him for his sin. Isaiah was not wont to be very timid, and he told the king of his lusts, and therefore placing him between two planks, he cut him in sunder from head to foot. It is just the reason why men hate God, and bate his servants, because the truth is too hot for them. Send you a preacher who would not tell you of your sins and you would hear him peaceably; but when the gospel comes with power, then it is that men can not bear it; when it trenches upon that pleasure, that sin, or that lust, then they will not believe it. Ye would believe the gospel if ye could believe it and live in your sins too. O! how many a drunken reprobate would be a Christian, if he might be a drunkard and a Christian too! How many a wicked wretch would turn believer, if he might believe and yet go on in his sins! But because faith in the everlasting God can never stand side by side with sin, and because the gospel cries, "Down with it! down with it! down with your sin," therefore it is that men turn round and say, "Down with the gospel." It is too hot for you, O ye sinful generation; therefore ye turn aside from it, because it will not tolerate your lusts, nor indulge your iniquity.

     III. We look, then, at Manasseh as an unbeliever, and now we have our last most pleasing task of looking at Manasseh as A CONVERT. Hear it, O heavens, and listen, O earth! The Lord God hath said it. Manasseh shall be saved. He on his throne of cruelty has just appended his name to another murderous edict against the saints of God; yet he shall be humbled; he shall ask for mercy and shall be saved. Manasseh hears the decree of God; he laughs. "What! I play the hypocrite, and bend my knee? Never! It is not possible; and when the godly hear of it, they all say, 'It is not possible.' What! Saul among the prophets? Manasseh regenerated? Manasseh made to bow before the Most High? The thing is impossible." Ah! it is impossible with man, but it is possible with God; God knows how to do it. The enemy is at the gates of the city; a hostile king has just besieged the walls of Jerusalem; Manasseh flees from his palace and hides himself among the thorns; he is there taken, carried captive to Babylon, and shut up in prison. And now we see what God can do. The proud king is proud no longer, for he has lost his power; the mighty man is mighty no more, for his might is taken from him; and now in a low dungeon listen to him. It is no more the blasphemer, no more the hater of God; but see him cold on the floor! Manasseh bows his knee, and with the tears rolling down his cheeks, he cries, "O God! my father's God! an outcast comes to thee; a hell-hound stained with blood throws himself at thy feet; I, a very demon, full of filthiness, now prostrate myself before thee! O my God, canst thou, wilt thou have mercy on such a wretch as I?" Hear it, ye heavens! Listen yet again. See, from the skies the angel flies with mercy in his hand. Ah! whither speeds he? It is to the dungeon of Babylon. The proud king is on his knee, and mercy comes and whispers in his ear—"Hope!" He starts from his knees, and cries, "Is there hope?" And down he falls again. Once more he pleads, and mercy whispers that sweet promise, uttered once by the murdered Isaiah—"I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for my name's sake, and will not remember thy sins." O! do you see him? His very heart is running over in his eyes. O! how he weeps for joy, and yet for sorrow that he ever could have sinned against a God so kind. A moment more, and the dungeon is opened; the king of Babylon, moved by God, bids him go free, and he returns to his kingdom and throne, a happier and a better man than he had ever been before. I think I see him coming into Jerusalem. There are his statesmen and favorites, crying to him, "Come in, Manasseh; the bowl shall be filled, and we will have a merry night to-night; we will bow before the shrine of Ashtaroth, and thank her that she has set thee at liberty; lo, the horses of the sun are ready; come and pay thy devotions to him that shines on the earth, and leads the host of heaven!" Methinks I see their astonishment when he cries, "Stand back! stand back! ye are my friends no longer, until ye become God's friends; I have dandled you on my knees, and, vipers, you have stung me with the poison of asps; I made you my friends, and you have led me down to the gulf of hell. But I know it now. Stand back till ye are better men; and I will find others to be my courtiers." And there the poor saints, hidden in the back streets of the city, so frightened because the king has come back, are holding meetings of solemn prayer, crying unto God that no more murderous, persecuting edicts might go forth. And lo, a messenger comes and says? "The king is returned;" and while they are looking at him, wondering what the messenger is about to say, he adds, "He has returned, not Manasseh as he went, but as a very angel. I saw him with his own hands dash Ashtaroth in pieces; I heard him cry, 'The horses of the sun shall be hoofed; sweep out the house of God; we will hold a passover there; the morning and evening lamb shall again burn on Jehovah's altars, for he is God, and beside him there is none else.'" O! can you conceive the joy of believers on that auspicious day? Can you think how they went up to God's house with joy and thanksgiving? And on the next Sabbath they sung, as they had—never sung before, "O come let us sing unto the Lord, let us make a joyful noise unto the rock of our salvation," while they remembered that he who had persecuted the saints of God aforetime, now defended that very truth which once he abhorred. There was joy on earth, ay, and there was joy in heaven too; the bells of heaven rang merry peals the day Manasseh prayed; the angels of heaven flapped their wings with double alacrity the day Manasseh repented; earth and heaven were glad, and even the Almighty on his throne smiled gracious approbation, while he again said, "I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for my name's sake, and will not remember thy sins."

     And now are you curious to know what were the bases of the faith of Manasseh—what were the rocks on which he built his trust in God? I think they were two. He believed in God, first, because he had answered his prayer; and secondly, because he had forgiven his sin. I have sometimes said, when I have become the prey of doubting thoughts, "Well, now I dare not doubt whether there be a God, for I can look back in my diary and say, on such a day in the depths of trouble I bent my knee to God, and or ever I had risen from my knees the answer was given me." And so can many of you say; and therefore whatever others may say, you know there is a God, because he answered your prayer. You heard of that holy man, Mr. Müller, of Bristol. * If you were to tell George Müller there was not a God, he would weep over you. "Not a God?" he would say; "why, I have seen his hand. Whence came those answers to my prayers?" Ah! sirs, ye may laugh at us for credulity; but there are hundreds here who could most solemnly assert that they have asked of God for divers matters, and that God has not failed them, but granted their request. This was one reason why Manasseh knew that the Lord he was God.

     The other reason was, that Manasseh had a sense of pardoned sin. Ah! that is a delightful proof of the existence of a God. Here comes a poor miserable wretch: his knees are knocking together, his heart is sinking within him, be is giving himself up to despair. Bring the physicians to him! they cry, "We fear his mind is infirm. We believe he will at last have to be taken to some lunatic asylum;" and they apply their remedies, but he is none the better, but rather grows worse. On a sudden this poor creature, afflicted with a sense of sin, groaning on account of guilt, is brought within the sound of the sacred Word; he hears it—it increases his misery; he hears again—his pain becomes doubled; till at last every one says his case is utterly hopeless. Suddenly, on a happy morning which God had ordained, the minister is led to some sweet passage. Perhaps it is this: "Come now, and let us reason together; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." The Spirit applies it, and the poor man goes home light as air, and says to his wife and children, " Come rejoice with me." "Why?" say they. "Because," says he, "my sins are forgiven.," "How do you know that?" "O!" says he, "I have a sense of pardoning love within my heart, which all the doubters in the world could not gainsay; and if all the earth should rise up against me and say I should be condemned, I could say, 'I know there is now no condemnation for me.'" Have you ever felt pardoning blood applied? You will never doubt God, I know, if you have. Why, dear friends, if the poorest old woman in the world should be brought before an infidel of the wisest order, having a mind of the greatest caliber, and he should endeavor to pervert her, I think I see her smile at him, and say, "My good man, it is of no use at all, for the Lord has appeared unto me of old, saying, 'Yea I have loved thee with an everlasting love,' and so you may tell me what you please: I have had a sense of blood-bought pardon shed abroad in my heart, and I know that he is God, and you can never beat it out of me." As good Watts says, when we have once such an assurance as that,

"Should all the forms that men devise
Assault my faith with treacherous art,
I'd call them vanity and lies,
And bind the gospel to my heart."

     O! if you have a sense that sin is forgiven, you can never doubt the existence of a God; for it will be said of you, "Then he knew that the Lord he was God."

     And now I gather up my strength for just one moment, to speak to those of you who desire to know what you must do to be saved. My hearer, no question can be more important than that; none is so requisite to ask. Alas! there are too many who never ask it, but who go sailing down to the gulf of black despair, listening to the syren song of procrastination and delay. But, if you have been brought to ask the question solemnly and seriously, " What must I do to be saved?" I am happy, thrice happy to be able to tell you God's own word, "He that believeth on the Lord Jesus Christ and is baptized, shall he saved; he that believeth not," the Scripture saith, "shall be damned." " Not of works, lest any man should boast." "But sir," you say, "I have many good works, and would trust in them." If you do, you are a lost man. As old Matthew Wilks most quaintly said once, speaking in his usual tone—" You might as well try to sail to America in a paper boat, as to go to heaven by your own works; you will be swamped on the passage if you attempt it." We can not spin a robe that is long enough to cover us; we can not make a righteousness that is good enough to satisfy God. If you would be saved, it must be through what Christ did, and not what you did. You can not be your own Saviour; Christ must save you, if you are saved at all. How then can you be saved by Christ? Here is the plan of salvation. It is written—" This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Do you feel that you are a sinner? Then believe that Jesus Christ came to save you; for so sure as ever you feel you are a sinner, it is a fact that Christ died for you; and if he died for you, you shall not perish, for I can not conceive that Christ would die in vain. If he did die for you, you shall most assuredly be pardoned and saved, and shall one day sing in heaven. The only question is, Did he die for you? He most certainly did if you are a sinner; for it is written—I will repeat it again—"It is a faithful saying, that Christ Jesus came to save sinners." Poor sinner, believe! My dear friend, give me thine hand! I wish I could put it inside Christ's hand. O! embrace him! embrace him! lest haply the clouds of night should come upon thee, and the sun should set ere thou hast found him, O! lay hold on him, lest death and destruction should overtake thee; fly to this mountain, lest thou be consumed, and remember, once in Christ, thou art safe beyond hazard.

"Once in Christ in Christ for ever,
Nothing from his love can sever."

O! believe him! believe him, my dear, dear hearers for Jesus sake! Amen.

* See "The doings of God with regard to George Müller."


Love’s Commendation

By / Nov 23

Love's Commendation

 

"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."—Romans 5:8

 

     I shall have nothing new to tell you; it will be as old as the everlasting hills, and so simple that a child may understand it. Love's commendation. "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." God's commendation of himself and of his love is not in words, but in deeds. When the Almighty God would commend his love to poor man, it is not written, "God commendeth his love towards us in an eloquent oration"; it is not written that he commendeth his love by winning professions; but he commendeth his love toward us by an act, by a deed; a surprising deed, the unutterable grace of which eternity itself shall scarce discover. He "commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Let us learn, then upon the threshold of our text, that if we would commend ourselves it must be by deeds, and not by words. Men may talk fairly, and think that thus they shall win esteem; they may order their words aright, and think that so they shall command respect; but let them remember, it is not the wordy oratory of the tongue, but the more powerful eloquence of the hand which wins the affection of "the world's great heart." If thou wouldst commend thyself to thy fellows, go and do—not go and sayact

"No big words of ready talkers,
No fine boastings will suffice;
Broken hearts and humble walkers,
These are dear in Jesus' eyes."

     Let us imitate God, then, in this. If we would commend our religion to mankind, we cannot do it by mere formalities, but by gracious acts of integrity, charity and forgiveness, which are the proper discoveries of grace within. "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." "Let your conversation be such as becometh the gospel of Christ;" and so shall you honour him, and "adorn the doctrine" which you profess.

     But now for this mighty deed whereby God commended his love. We think that it is twofold. We believe the apostle has given us a double commendation of love. The first is, "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, Christ died for us"; the second commendation arises from our condition, "In that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us."

     I. The first commendation of love, then, is this—that "CHRIST DIED FOR US"; and as the whole text is double, so this sentence also contains a twofold commendation There is a commendation of love in the person who died—Christ; and then in the act which he performed—"Christ died for us."

     1. First, then, it is the highest commendation of love, that it was CHRIST who died for us. When sinful man erred from his Maker, it was necessary that God should punish his sin. He had sworn by himself, "The soul that sinneth it shall die;" and God—with reverence to his all-holy name be it spoken—could not swerve from what he had said. He had declared on Sinai that he would by no means clear the guilty; but inasmuch as he desired to pardon the offending, it was necessary that some one else should bear the sufferings which the guilty ought to have endured, that so by the vicarious substitution of another, God might be "just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly." Now, the question might have arisen, "Who is he that shall be the scapegoat for man's offence? Who is he that shall bear his transgressions and take away his sins?" If I might be allowed to picture in my imagination (and mark, it is nothing more than imagination), I could almost conceive a parliament in heaven. The angels are assembled; the question is proposed to them: —"Cherubim and seraphim, cohorts of the glorified, ye spirits that like flames of fire, swift at my bidding fly; ye happy beings, whom I have created for my honour! here is a question which I condescend to offer for your consideration: —Man has sinned; there is no way for his pardon but by some one suffering and paying blood for blood. Who shall it be?" I can conceive that there was silence throughout the august assembly. Gabriel spoke not: he would have stretched his wings and flapped the ether in a moment, if the deed had been possible; but he felt that he could never bear the guilt of a world upon his shoulders, and, therefore, still he sat. And there the mightiest of the mighty, those who could shake a world if God should will it, sat still, because they felt all powerless to accomplish redemption. I do not conceive that one of them would have ventured to hope that God himself would assume flesh and die. I do not think it could have entered even into angelic thought to conceive that the mighty Maker of the skies should bow his awful head and sink into a grave. I cannot imagine that the brightest and most seraphic of these glorified ones would for an instant have suffered such a thought to abide with him. And when the Son of God, upstarting from his throne, spoke to them and said, "Principalities and powers! I will become flesh, I will veil this Godhead of mine in robes of mortal clay, I will die!"—I think I see the angels for once astonished. They had seen worlds created; they had beheld the earth, like a spark from the incandescent mass of unformed matter, hammered from the anvil of Omnipotence, and smitten off into space; and yet they had not wondered. But on this occasion I conceive that they ceased not to marvel. "What! wilt thou die, O Word! Creator! Master! Infinite! Almighty! wilt thou become a man and die?" "Yes," saith the Saviour, "I will." And are you not astonished, mortal men? Do you not wonder? What, will you not marvel? The hosts of heaven still are wondering. Though it is many an age since they heard it, they have not yet ceased to admire; and do not you begin to marvel yet? Shall the theme which stirs the marvel of the seraph not move your hearts? That God himself should become man, and then should die for you! "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, Christ should die. Roll that thought over in your mind; ponder it in your meditations; weigh it in your hearts. If ye have right ideas of Godhead, if ye know what Christ is, if ye can conceive him who is the everlasting God, and yet the man—if ye can picture him, the pure, holy, perfect creature, and yet the everlasting Creator—if ye can conceive of him as the man who was wounded, and yet the God who was exalted for ever—if ye can picture him as the Maker of all worlds, as the Lord of providence, by whom all things exist and consist—if ye can conceive of him now, as robed in splendor, surrounded with the choral symphonies of myriads of angels, then perhaps ye may guess how deep was that stride of condescension, when he stepped from heaven to earth, from earth into the grave, from the grave down, it is said, into the lowest "sheol," that he might make his condescension perfect and complete. "He hath commended his love" to you, my brethren, in that it was Christ, the Son of God, who died for us.

     2. The second part of the first commendation lieth here, that Christ died for us. It was much love when Christ became man for us, when he stripped himself of the glories of his Godhead for awhile, to become an infant of a span long, slumbering in the manger of Bethlehem. It was no little condescension when he divested himself of all his glories, hung his mantle on the sky, gave up his diadem and the pleasures of his throne, and stooped to become flesh. It was moreover, no small love when he lived a holy and a suffering life for us; it was love amazing, when God with feet of flesh did tread the earth, and teach his own creatures how to live, all the while bearing their scoffs and jests with cool unangered endurance. It was no little favour of him that he should condescend to give us a perfect example by his spotless life; but the commendation of love lieth here—not that Christ lived for us, but that Christ died for us.

     Come, dear hearers, for a moment weigh those words. "Christ died for us!" Oh, how we love those brave defenders of our nation who but lately died for us in a far-off land! Some of us showed our sympathy to their sons and daughters, their wives and children, by contributing to support them, when the fathers were laid low. We feel that the wounded soldier is a friend to us, and that we are his debtors for ever. We may not love war; we may not, some of us, think it a Christian act to wield the sword; but, nevertheless, I am sure we love the men who sought to defend our country with their lives, and who died in our cause. We would drop a tear over the silent graves of Balaclava, if we were there now. And, if it should ever come to pass that any one of them should be called to die for us, should we not henceforth love them? Do any of us know what is contained in that great word "die?" Can we measure it? Can we tell its depths of suffering or its heights of agony? "Died for us!" Some of you have seen death; you know how great and dread is its power; you have seen the strong man bowing down, his knees quivering; you have beheld the eyestrings break, and seen the eyeballs glazed in death; you have marked the torture and the agonies which appal men in their dying hours; and you have said, "Ah! it is a solemn and an awful thing to die." But, my hearers, "Christ died for us." All that death could mean Christ endured; he yielded up the ghost, he resigned his breath; he became a lifeless corpse, and his body was interred, even like the bodies of the rest that died. "Christ died for us."
    Consider the circumstances which attended his death. It was no common death he died; it was a death of ignominy, for he was put to death by a legal slaughter; it was a death of unutterable pain, for he was crucified; and what more painful fate than to die nailed to a cross? It was a long protracted death, for he hung for hours, with only his hands and his feet pierced—parts which are far away from the seat of life, but in which are situated the most tender nerves, full of sensibility. He suffered a death which for its circumstances still remain unparalleled. It was no speedy blow which crushed the life out of the body, and ended it; but it was a lingering, long, and doleful death, attended with no comforts and no sympathy, but surrounded with scorn and contempt. Picture him! They have hurled him on his back; they have driven nails through his hands and his feet; they have lifted him up. See! They have dashed the cross into its place. It is fixed. And now behold him! Mark his eyes, all full of tears; behold his head, hanging on his breast. Ah! mark him, he seems all silently to say, "I am poured out like water; all my bones are out of joint; I am brought into the dust of death." Hear him, when he groans, "I thirst." Above all, listen to him, whilst he cries, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" My words cannot picture him; my thoughts fail to express it. No painter ever accomplished it, nor shall any speaker be able to perform it. Yet I beseech you regard the Royal Sufferer. See him, with the eye of your faith, hanging on the bloody tree. Hear him cry, before he dies, "It is finished!"

"See from his head, his hands, his feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?"

     Oh! how I wish I could stir you! If I should tell you some silly story of a love-sick maid, ye would weep; if I should turn novelist, and give you some sad account of a fabled hero who had died in pain—if it were a fiction, I should have your hearts; but this is a dread and solemn reality, and one with which you are intimately connected, for all this was done for as many of you as sincerely repent of your sins.

"All ye that pass by,
to Jesus draw nigh:
To you is it nothing that Jesus should die?"

     Bethink you, that if you are saved, it is something to you, for the blood which trickles from his hands, distils for you. That frame which writhes in torture writhes for you

     II. Our second point was this: "God commendeth his love towards us," not only because Christ died for us, but that CHRIST DIED FOR US WHILE WE WERE YET SINNERS."

     Let us for a moment consider what sort of sinners many of us have been, and then we shall see it was marvellous grace that Christ should die for men—not as penitents— but as sinners. Consider how many of us have been continual sinners. We have not sinned once, nor twice, but ten thousand times. Our life, however upright and moral it has been, is stained by a succession of sins. If we have not revolted against God in the outward acts which proclaim the profligate to be a great sinner, yet the thoughts of our heart and the words of our lips are swift witnesses against us that we have continually transgressed. And oh! my brethren, who is there among us who will not likewise confess to sins of act? Who among us has not broken the Sabbath-day? Who among us has not taken God's name in vain? Who of us shall dare to say that we have loved the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength? Have we never by any act whatsoever showed that we have coveted our neighbour's goods? Verily, I know we have; we have broken his commands, and it is well for us to join in that general confession—"We have done those things which we ought not to have done; we have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and there is no health in us." Now, the sweet thought is, that Christ died for us, whilst he knew that we should be continual transgressors. Men, brethren, and fathers, he did not die for you as those who have committed but one fault, but as those who were emphatically "sinners;" sinners of years' standing; some of you sinners with grey heads; sinners who have persevered in a constant course of iniquity. As sinners we are redeemed, and by it we become saints. Does not this commend Christ's love to us, that he should die for sinners, who have dyed themselves with sin as with crimson and with scarlet; great and continual sinners.

     Note again, he has died for us, although our sins were aggravated. Oh! there are some of us here who are great sinners—not so much in the acts we have performed, as in the aggravation of our guilt. I reckon that when I sin, I sin worse than many of you, because I sin against better training than many of my hearers received in their youth. Many of you, when you sin, sin against faithful ministers, and against the most earnest warnings. It has been your wont to sit under truthful pastors; you have often been told of your sins. Remember, sirs, when you sin you do not sin so cheap as others: when you sin against the convictions of your consciences, against the solemn monitions of your pastors, you sin more grossly than others do. The Hottentot sinneth not as the Briton doth. He who has been brought up in this land may be openly more righteous, but he may be inwardly more wicked, for he sins against more knowledge. But even for such Christ died—for men who have sinned against the wooings of his love, against the strivings of their consciences, against the invitations of his Word, against the warnings of his providence—even for such Christ died, and therein he commendeth his love towards us, that he died for sinners. My hearer, if thou hast so sinned, do not therefore despair, it may be he will yet make thee rejoice in his redemption.

     Reflect again, When we were sinners, we were sinners against the very person who died for us. "Tis strange, 'tis passing strange, 'tis wonderful," that the very Christ against whom we have sinned died for us. If a man should be injured in the street, if a punishment should be demanded of the person who attacked him, it would be passing strange if the injured man should for love's sake bear the penalty, that the other might go free; but 'twas so with Christ. He had been injured, yet he suffers for the very injury that others did to him. He dies for his enemies—dies for the men that hate and scorn him. There is an old tradition, that the very man who pierced Christ's side was converted; and I sometimes think that peradventure in heaven we shall meet with those very men who drove the nails into his hands and pierced his side. Love is a mighty thing; it can forgive great transgressors. I know my Master said, "Begin at Jerusalem," and I think he said that because there lived the men who had crucified him, and he wanted them to be saved. My hearer, hast thou ever blasphemed Christ? Hast thou ever mocked him, and scoffed at his people? Hast thou done all thou couldst to emulate the example of those who spat in his holy face? Dost thou repent of it? Dost thou feel thou needst a Saviour? Then I tell thee, in Christ's name, he is thy Saviour; yes, thy Saviour, though thus hast insulted him—thy Saviour, though thou hast trampled on him—thy Saviour though thou hast spoken evil of his people, his day, his Word, and his gospel.

     Once more, let us remember, that many of us as sinners have been persons who for a long time have heard this good news, and yet have despised it. Perhaps there is nothing more wonderful in the depravity of man than that it is able to forget the love of Christ. If we were not so sinful as we are, there is not one of us here this morning who would not weep at the thought of the Saviour's love, and I believe there is not a solitary man, woman, or child here, who would not say, "I love thee, O my God! because thou hast done so much for me." It is the highest proof of our depravity that we do not at once love the Christ who died for us. There is a story told of the convenanters—of one named Patrick Welwood—whose house was surrounded at a time when a minister had for security been hidden there. Claverhouse's dragoons were at the door, and the minister had fled. The master of the house was summoned, and it was demanded of him, "Where is the minister?" "He is gone; I cannot tell whither, for I know not." But they were not satisfied with that; they tortured him, and since he could not tell them where he was (for in reality he did not know), they left him, after inflicting upon him the torture of the thumbscrew; and they took his sister, a young girl who was living in the house. I believe she did know where the minister was concealed; but on taking her they asked her, and she said, "No, I can die myself, but I can never betray God's servant, and never will, as he may help me." They dragged her to the water's edge, and making her kneel down, they determined to put her to death. But the captain said, "Not yet; we will try to frighten her"; and sending a soldier to her, he knelt down, and applying a pistol to her ear, she was bidden to betray the minister or die. The click of the pistol was heard in her ear, but the pistol was not loaded. She slightly shivered, and the question was again asked of her. "Tell us now," said they, "where he is, or we will have your life." "Never, never," said she. A second time the endeavour was made; this time a couple of carabines were discharged, but into the air, in order to terrify her. At last they resolved upon really putting her to death, when Trail, the minister, who was hidden somewhere near, being aroused by the discharge of guns, and seeing the poor girl about to die for him, sprang forward, and cried, "Spare that maiden's blood, and take mine; this poor innocent girl, what hath she done?" The poor girl was dead even there with the fright, but the minister had come prepared to die himself, to save her life. Oh, my friends, I have sometimes thought that her heroic martyrdom was somewhat like the blessed Jesus. He comes to us, and says, "Poor sinner, wilt thou be my friend?" We answer, "No," He comes to us, and says, "Ah, I will make thee so," saith he, "I will die for thee"; and he goes to die on the cross. Oh! methinks I could spring forward and say, "Nay, Lord Jesus, nay, thou must not die for such a worm." Surely such a sacrifice is a price too large to pay for poor sinful worms! And yet, my hearers, to return again to what I have uttered before, you will hear all this, and nine out of ten will retire from this place, and say, "It was an old, old story"; and while ye can drop a tear for aught else, ye will not weep one tear for Jesus, nor sigh one sigh for him, nor will ye afford him even a faint emotion of love. Would it were different! Would to God he would change your hearts, that so ye might be brought to love him.

     Further, to illustrate my text, let me remark again, that inasmuch as Christ died for sinners, it is a special commendation of his love for the following reasons: —It is quite certain that God did not consider man's merit when Christ died; in fact, no merit could have deserved the death of Jesus. Though we had been holy as Adam, we could never have deserved a sacrifice like that of Jesus for us. But inasmuch as it says, "He died for sinners," we are thereby taught that God considered our sin, and not our righteousness. When Christ died, he died for men as black, as wicked, as abominable, not as good and excellent. Christ did not shed his blood for us as saints, but as sinners. He considered us in our loathsomeness, in our low estate and misery—not in that high estate to which grace afterwards elevates us, but in all the decay into which we had fallen by our sin. There could have been no merit in us; and therefore, God commendeth his love by our ill desert.

     Again: it is quite certain, because Christ died for us as sinners, that God had no interest to serve by sending his Son to die. How could sinners serve him? Oh! if God had pleased, he might have crushed this nest of rebels, and have made another world all holy. If God had chosen, the moment that man sinned he might have said unto the world, "Thou shalt be burned"; and like as a few years ago astronomers told us that they saw the light of a far-off world burning, myriads of miles away, this world might have been consumed with burning heat, and sin scorched out of its clay. But no. Whilst God could have made another race of beings, and could have either annihilated us, or consigned us to eternal torment, he was pleased to veil himself in flesh, and die for us. Surely then it could not have been from any motive of self-interest. God had nothing to get by man's salvation. What are the attractions of human voices in Paradise. What are the feeble symphonies which mortal lips can sing on earth, compared with the death of our Lord? He had angels enough. Do they not day without night circle his throne rejoicing? Are not their golden harps sufficient? Is not the orchestra of heaven large enough? Must our glorious Lord give up his blood to buy poor worms, that they may join their little notes with the great swell of a choral universe? Yes, he must; and inasmuch as we are sinners, and could by no possibility repay him for his kindness, "God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

     But there is another commendation of love. Christ died for us "unasked." Christ did not consider me as an awakened heir of heaven, but as a dead, corrupt, lost, and ruined heir of hell. If he had died for me as an awakened heir of heaven, then I could have prayed for him to die, for then I have power to pray, and will to pray; but Christ died for me when I had no power nor will to lift my voice in prayer to him. It was entirely unasked. Where did ye ever hear that man was first in mercy? Did man ask God to redeem? Nay, rather, it is almost the other way; it is as if God did entreat man to be redeemed. Man never asked that he might be pardoned, but God pardons him, and then turns round and cries, "Return unto me, backsliding children of men, and I will have mercy upon you." Sinners! if you should go down on your knees, and were for months to cry for mercy, it would be great mercy if mercy should look upon you; but without asking, when we are hardened and rebellious, when we will not turn to Christ, he still comes to die for us. Tell it in heaven; tell it in the lower world! God's amazing work surpasses thought; for love itself did die for hatred—holiness did crucify itself to save poor sinful men, and unasked for and unsought, like a fountain in the desert sparkling spontaneously with its native waters, Jesus Christ came to die for man, who would not seek his grace. "God commendeth his love towards us."

     And now, my dear hearers, I want to close up, if the Spirit of God will help me, by endeavouring to commend God's love to you, as much as ever I can, and inviting as many of you as feel your need of a Saviour, to lay hold of him and embrace him now as your all-sufficient sacrifice. Sinner! I can commend Christ to thee for this reason: I know that thou needest him. Thou mayest be ignorant of it thyself, but thou dost need him. Thou hast a leprosy within thine heart—thou needest a physician; thou sayest, "I am rich;" but sinner, thou art not—thou art naked, and poor, and miserable. Thou sayest, "I shall stand before God accepted at last"; but, sinner, without Christ thou wilt not; for whosoever believeth not on Christ "hath not life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." Hear that, my dear hearers: "The wrath of God abideth on him." Oh! that wrath of God! Sinner, thou needest Christ, even though thou dost not think so. Oh, that the Lord would impress this upon thee! Again, a day is coming when thou wilt feel thy need of Christ if thou dost not now. Within a few short years, perhaps months or days, thou wilt lie upon the last bed that shall ever bear thy weight; soon thou shalt be stayed up by soft pillows; thy frame will be weak, and thy soul full of sorrow. Thou mayest live without Christ now, but it will be hard work to die without him. Thou mayest do without this bridge here; but when thou gettest to the river thou wilt think thyself a fool to have laughed at the only bridge which can carry thee safely over. Thou mayest despise Christ now, but what wilt thou do in the swellings of Jordan. Canst thou face death, and not be afraid? Nay, man, thou art affrighted now if the cholera is in the city; or if some little sickness is about thee thou shakest for fear; what wilt thou do when thou art in the jaws of death, when his bony hand is squeezing thee, and when his dart is in thy vitals? What wilt thou do then without a Saviour? Ah! thou wilt want him then. And what wilt thou do when thou hast passed that black stream, when thou findest thyself in the realm of spirits—in that day of judgment, when the thunders shall be loosed, and the wings of the lightning shall be unbound—when tempests shall herald with trumpet voice the arrival of the great Assize? What wilt thou do when thou shalt stand before his bar before whom, in astonishment, the stars shall flee, the mountains quake, and the sea be licked up with tongues of forked flame? What wilt thou do, when from his throne he shall exclaim, "Come hither, sinner," and thou shalt stand there alone, to be judged for every deed done in the body? Thou wilt turn thine head, and say, "Oh! for an advocate!" And he shall look on thee, and say, "I called, and ye refused; I stretched out my hand and no man regarded; I also will now laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh." Ah! what wilt thou do then sinner, when the judgment-seat is set? Oh! there will be weeping—there will be weeping at the judgment-seat of Christ. And what wilt thou do in that day when he shall say, "Depart, ye cursed;" and when the black angel, with a countenance more fierce than lightening, and with a voice louder than ten thousand thunders, shall cry, "Depart!" and smite thee down where lie for ever those accursed spirits, bound in fetters of iron, who, long long ago, were cast into perdition? Say not, I tell thee terrible things: if it be terrible to speak of, how terrible it must be to bear! If you believe not what I say, I shall not wonder if you laugh at me; but as the most of you believe this, I claim your most solemn attention to this subject.

     Sirs! Do ye believe there is a hell, and that you are going there? And yet do you still march heedless on? Do you believe that beyond you, when the stream of life is ended, there is a black gulf of misery? and do you still sail downwards to it, quaffing still your glass of happiness, still merry as the live-long day? O stay, poor sinner, stay! Stay! It may be the last moment thou wilt ever have the opportunity to stay in. Therefore stay now I beseech thee. And if thou knowest thyself to be lost and ruined, if the Holy Spirit has humbled thee and made thee feel thy sin, let me tell thee how thou shalt be saved. "He that believeth on the Lord Jesus Christ and is baptized, shall be saved. "He that believeth not," saith the Scripture "shall be damned." Do you not like that message? Ought I to have said another word instead of that? If you wish it, I shall not; what God says I will say; far be it from me to alter the messages from the Most High; I will, if he help me, declare his truth without altering. He saith "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned." What is it to believe? To tell you as simply as possible: to believe is to give up trusting in yourself and to trust in Jesus Christ as your Saviour. The negro said, you know, "Massa dis here is how I believe—when I see a promise, I do not stand on de promise; but I say, dat promise firm and strong; I fall flat on it; if de promise will not bear me, den it is de promise fault; but I fall flat on it." Now, that is faith. Christ says, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Faith is to say, "Well, then, sink or swim, that is my only hope; lost or saved, that is my only refuge. I am resolved, for this my last defence,

'If I perish there and die,
At his cross I still will lie'."

     "What!" says one, "no good works?" Good works will come afterwards, but they do not go with it. You must come to Christ, not with your good works, but with your sins; and coming with your sins, he will take them away, and give you good works afterwards. After you believe, there will be good works as the effect of your faith; but if you think faith will be the effect of good works, you are mistaken. It is "believe and live." Cowper calls them the soul-quickening words, "believe and live." This is the sum and substance of the gospel.

     Now, do any of you say this is not the gospel? I shall ask you one day what it is. Is not this the doctrine Whitfield preached? Pray what else did Luther thunder, when he shook the Vatican? what else was proclaimed by Augustine and Chrysostom, but this one doctrine of salvation in Christ by faith alone? And what did Paul write? Turn ye to his epistles. And what did our Saviour himself say, when he left these words on record—"Go ye and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost?" And what did he command his disciples to teach them? To teach them this. The very words I have now repeated to you were his last commission. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned."

     But again you say, "How can I believe that Christ died for me?" Why, thus, —He says he died for sinners: canst thou say thou art a sinner? I do not mean with that fine complimentary phrase which many of you use, when you say, "Yes, I am a sinner;" and if I sit down to ask you, "Did you break that commandment?" "Oh, no," you will say: "Did you commit that offence?" "Oh, no;" you never did anything wrong. And yet you are sinners. Now that is the sort of sinners I do not think I shall preach to. The sort of sinners I would call to repentance are those whom Christ invited—those who know that they have been guilty, vile, and lost. If thou knowest thy sinnership, so truly Christ died for thee. Remember that striking saying of Luther. Luther says, Satan once came to him and said, "Martin Luther, thou art lost, for thou art a sinner." Said I to him, "Satan, I thank thee for saying I am a sinner, for inasmuch as thou sayest I am a sinner, I answer thee thus—Christ died for sinners; and if Martin Luther is a sinner, Christ died for him." Now, canst thou lay hold on that, my hearer? It is not on my authority, but on God's authority. Go away and rejoice; for if thou be the chief of sinners thou shalt be saved, if thou believest.

"Jesus, thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
'Midst flaming worlds in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.

Bold shall I stand in that great day.
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
While, thro' thy blood, absolv'd I am
From sin's tremendous curse and shame."

     Sing that, poor soul, and thou hast begun to sing the song of Paradise. May the Lord, the Holy Spirit, apply these simple statements of truth to the salvation of your souls.



The Exaltation of Christ

By / Nov 2

The Exaltation of Christ

 
"Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."—Philippians 2:9-11

 

     I almost regret this morning that I have ventured to occupy this pulpit, because I feel utterly unable to preach to you for your profit. I had thought that the quiet and repose of the last fortnight had removed the effects of that terrible catastrophe; but on coming back to the same spot again, and more especially, standing here to address you, I feel somewhat of those same painful emotions which well-nigh prostrated me before. You will therefore excuse me this morning, if I make no allusion to that solemn event, or scarcely any. I could not preach to you upon a subject that should be in the least allied to it. I should be obliged to be silent if I should bring to my remembrance that terrific scene in the midst of which it was my solemn lot to stand. God shall overrule it doubtless. It may not have been so much by the malice of men, as some have asserted; it was perhaps simple wickedness—an intention to disturb a congregation; but certainly with no thought of committing so terrible a crime as that of the murder of those unhappy creatures. God forgive those who were the instigators of that horrid act! They have my forgiveness from the depths of my soul. It shall not stop us, however

     I shall not attempt to preach upon this text; I shall only make a few remarks that have occurred to my own mind; for I could not preach to-day; I have been utterly unable to study, but I thought that even a few words might be acceptable to you this morning, and I trust to your loving hearts to excuse them. Oh, Spirit of God, magnify thy strength in thy servant's weakness, and enable him to honour his Lord, even when his soul is cast down within him.

     When the mind is intensely set upon one object, however much it may by divers calamities be tossed to and fro, it invariably returns to the place which it had chosen to be its dwelling place. Ye have noticed in the case of David. When the battle had been won by his warriors, they returned flushed with victory. David's mind had doubtless suffered much perturbation in the mean time; he had dreaded alike the effects of victory and defeat; but have you not noticed how his mind in one moment returned to the darling object of his affections? "Is the young man Absalom safe?" said he, as if it mattered not what else had occurred, it his beloved son were but secure! So, beloved, it is with the Christian. In the midst of calamities, whether they be the wreck of nations, the crash of empires, the heaving of revolutions, or the scourge of war, the great question which he asks himself, and asks of others too, is this—Is Christ's kingdom safe? In his own personal afflictions his chief anxiety is, —Will God be glorified, and will his honour be increased by it? If it be so, says he, although I be but as smoking flax, yet if the sun is not dimmed I will rejoice; and though I be a bruised reed, if the pillars of the temple are unbroken, what matters it that my reed is bruised? He finds it sufficient consolation, in the midst of all the breaking in pieces which he endures, to think that Christ's throne stands fast and firm, and that though the earth hath rocked beneath his feet, yet Christ standeth on a rock which never can be moved. Some of these feelings, I think, have crossed our minds. Amidst much tumult and divers rushings to and fro of troublous thoughts our souls have returned to the darling object of our desires, and we have found it no small consolation after all to say, "It matters not what shall become of us: God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow."

     This text has afforded sweet consolation to every heir of heaven. Allow me, very briefly, to give you the consolations of it. To the true Christian there is much comfort in the very fact of Christ's exaltation. In the second place, there is no small degree of consolation in the reason of it. "Wherefore, also, God hath highly exalted him;" that is because of his previous humiliation. And thirdly, there is no small amount of really divine solace in the thought of the person who has exalted Christ. Wherefore God also"—although men despise him and cast him down—"God also hath highly exalted him."

     I. First, then, IN THE VERY FACT OF CHRIST'S EXALTATION THERE IS TO EVERY TRUE CHRISTIAN A VERY LARGE DEGREE OF COMFORT. Many of you who have no part nor lot in spiritual things, not having love to Christ, nor any desire for his glory, will but laugh when I say that this is a very bottle of cordial to the lip of the weary Christian, that Christ, after all, is glorified. To you it is no consolation, because you lack that condition of heart which makes this text sweet to the soul. To you there is nothing of joy in it; it does not stir your bosom; it gives no sweetness to your life; for this very reason, that you are not joined to Christ's cause, nor do you devoutly seek to honour him. But the true Christian's heart leapeth for joy, even when cast down by divers sorrows and temptations, at the remembrance that Christ is exalted, for in that he finds enough to cheer his own heart. Note here, beloved, that the Christian has certain features in his character which make the exaltation of Christ a matter of great joy to him. First, he has in his own opinion, and not in his own opinion only, but in reality, a relationship to Christ, and therefore he feels an interest in the success of his kinsman. Ye have watched the father's joy, when step by step his boy has climbed to opulence or fame; ye have marked the mother's eye, as it sparkled with delight when her daughter grew up to womanhood, and burst forth in all the grandeur of beauty. Ye have asked why they should feel such interest; and ye have been told, because the boy was his, or the girl was hers. They delighted in the advancement of their little ones, because of their relationship. Had there been no relationship, they might have been advanced to kings, emperors, or queens, and they would have felt but little delight. But from the fact of kindred, each step was invested with a deep and stirring interest. Now, it is so with this Christian. He feels that Jesus Christ, the glorified "Prince of the kings of the earth." is his brother. While he reverences him as God, he admires him as the man-Christ, bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh, and he delights, in his calm and placid moments of communion with Jesus, to say to him, "O Lord, thou art my brother." His song is, "My beloved is mine, and I am his." It is his joy to sing—

"In the blood with sinners one,"

     Christ Jesus is; for he is a man, even as we are: and he is no less and no more man than we are, save only sin. Surely, when we feel we are related to Christ, his exaltation is the source of the greatest joy to our spirits; we take a delight in it, seeing it is one of our family that is exalted. It is the Elder Brother of the great one family of God in heaven and earth; it is the Brother to whom all of us are related.

     There is also in the Christian not only the feeling of relationship merely, but there is a feeling of unity in the cause. He feels that when Christ is exalted, it is himself exalted in some degree, seeing he has sympathy with his desire of promoting the great cause and honour of God in the world. I have no doubt that every common soldier who stood by the side of the Duke of Wellington felt honoured when the commander was applauded for the victory; for, said he, "I helped him, I assisted him; it was but a mean part that I played; I did but maintain my rank; I did but sustain the enemy's fire; but now the victory is gained. I feel an honour in it, for I helped, in some degree, to gain it." So the Christian, when he sees his Lord exalted, says, "It is the Captain that is exalted, and in his exaltation all his soldiers share. Have I not stood by his side? Little was the work I did, and poor the strength which I possessed to serve him; but still I aided in the labour;" and the commonest soldier in the spiritual ranks feels that he himself is in some degree exalted when he reads this—"Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:" a renown above every name—"that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow."

     Moreover, the Christian knows not only that there is this unity in design, but that there is a real union between Christ and all his people. It is a doctrine of revelation seldom descanted upon, but never too much thought of—the doctrine that Christ and his members are all one. Know ye not, beloved, that every member of Christ's church is a member of Christ himself? We are "of his flesh and of his bones," parts of his great mystical body; and when we read that our head is crowned, O rejoice, ye members of his, his feet or his hands, though the crown is not on you, yet being on your Head, you share the glory, for you are one with him. See Christ yonder, sitting at his Father's right hand! Believer! he is the pledge of thy glorification; he is the surety of thine acceptance; and, moreover, he is thy representative. The seat which Christ possesses in heaven he has not only by his own right, as a person of the Deity, but he has it also as the representative of the whole church, for he is their forerunner, and he sits in glory as the representative of every one of them. O rejoice, believer, when thou seest thy Master exalted from the tomb, when thou beholdest him exalted up to heaven. Then, when thou seest him climb the steps of light, and sit upon his lofty throne, where angels' ken can scarcely reach him—when thou hearest the acclamations of a thousand seraphs—when thou dost note the loud pealing choral symphony of millions of the redeemed; think, when thou seest him crowned with light—think that thou art exalted too in him, seeing that thou art a part of himself. Happy art thou if thou knowest this, not only in doctrine, but in sweet experience too. Knit to Christ, wedded to him, grown into him, parts and portions of his very self, we throb with the heart of the body; when the head itself is glorified we share in the praise; we felt that his glorification bestows an honour upon us. Ah! beloved, have you ever felt that unity to Christ? Have you ever felt a unity of desire with him? If so, you will find this rich with comfort; but if not—if you know not Christ—it will be a source of grief rather than a pleasure to you that he is exalted, for you will have to reflect that he is exalted to crush you, exalted to judge you and condemn you, exalted to sweep this earth of its sins, and cut the curse up by the roots, and you with it, unless you repent and turn unto God with full purpose of heart.

     There is yet another feeling, which I think is extremely necessary to any very great enjoyment of this truth, that Christ is exalted. It is a feeling of entire surrender of one's whole being to the great work of seeking to honour him. Oh! I have striven for that: would to God I might attain unto it! I have now concentrated all my prayers into one, and that one prayer is this, that I may die to self, and live wholly to him. It seems to me to be the highest stage of man—to have no wish, no thought, no desire but Christ—to feel that to die were bliss, if it were for Christ—that to live in penury and woe, and scorn, and contempt, and misery, were sweet for Christ—to feel that it did not matter what became of one's self, so that one's Master was but exalted—to feel that though, like a sear leaf, you are blown in the blast, you are quite careless whither you are going, so long as you feel that the Master's hand is guiding you according to his will. Or rather to feel that though like the diamond you must be cut, that you care not how sharply you may be cut, so that you may be made fit to be a brilliant in his crown; that you care little what may be done to you, if you may but honour him. If any of you have attained to that sweet feeling of self-annihilation, you will look up to Christ as if he were the sun, and you will say of yourself, "O Lord, I see thy beams; I feel myself to be not a beam from thee—but darkness, swallowed up in thy light. The most I ask is, that thou wouldst live in me, that the life I live in the flesh may not be my life, but thy life in me, that I may say with emphasis, as Paul did, 'For me to live is Christ.'" A man that has attained to this, never need care what is the opinion of this world. He may say, "Do you praise me? Do you flatter me? Take back your flatteries: I ask them not at your hands; I sought to praise my Master; ye have laid the praises at my door; go, lay them at his, and not at mine. Do ye scorn me? Do ye despise me? Thrice happy am I to bear it. If ye will not scorn and despise him!" And if ye will, yet know this, that he is beyond your scorn; and, therefore, smite the soldier for his Captain's sake; ay, strike, strike; but the King ye cannot touch—he is highly exalted—and thou ye think ye have gotten the victory, ye may have routed one soldier of the army, but the main body is triumphant. One soldier seems to be smitten to the dust, but the Captain is coming on with his victorious cohorts, and shall trample you, flushed with your false victory, beneath his conquering feet. As long as there is a particle of selfishness remaining in us, it will mar our sweet rejoicing in Christ; till we get rid of it, we shall never feel constant joy. I do think that the root of sorrow is self. If we once got rid of that, sorrow would be sweet, sickness would be health, sadness would be joy, penury would be wealth, so far as our feelings with regard to them are concerned. They might not be changed, but our feelings under them would be vastly different. If you would seek happiness, seek it at the roots of your selfishness; cut up your selfishness, and you will be happy. I have found that whenever I have yielded to the least joy when I have been prepared to feel acutely the arrows of the enemy; but when I have said of the praises of men, "Yes, what are ye? worthless things!"—then I could also say of their contempt—"Come on! come on! I'll send you all where I sent the praises; you may go together, and fight your battles with one another; but as for me, let your arrows rattle on my mail—they must not, and they shall not, reach my flesh." But if you give way to one you will to another. You must seek and learn to live wholly in Christ—to sorrow when you see Christ maligned and dishonoured, to rejoice when you see him exalted, and then you will have constant cause for joy. Sit down now, O reviled one, poor, despised, and tempted one; sit down, lift up thine eyes, see him on his throne, and say within thyself, "Little though I be, I know I am united to him; he is my love, my life, my joy; I care not what happens so long as it is written, 'The Lord reigneth.'"

     II. Now, briefly upon the second point. Here also is the very fountain and well-spring of joy, in THE REASON OF CHRIST'S EXALTATION. "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him." Why? Because, "he being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and because obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him." This of course relates to the manhood of our Lord Jesus Christ. As God, Christ needed no exaltation; he was higher than the highest, "God over all, blessed for ever." But the symbols of his glory having been for a while obscured, having wrapped his Godhead in mortal flesh, his flesh with his Godhead ascended up on high, and the man-God, Christ Jesus, who had stooped to shame, and sorrow, and degradation, was highly exalted, "far above all principalities and powers," that he might reign Prince-regent over all worlds, yea, over heaven itself. Let us consider, for a moment, that depth of degradation to which Christ descended; and then, my beloved, it will give you joy to think, that for that very reason his manhood was highly exalted. Do you see that man—

"The humble Man before his foes,
The weary Man and full of woes?"

     Do you mark him as he speaks? Note the marvellous eloquence which pours from his lips, and see how the crowds attend him? But do you hear, in the distance, the growling of the thunders of calumny and scorn? Listen to the words of his accusers. They say he is "a gluttonous man and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners;" "he has a devil, and is mad." All the whole vocabulary of abuse is exhausted by vituperation upon him. He is slandered, abused, persecuted! Stop! Do you think that he is by this cast down, by this degraded? No, for this very reason: "God hath highly exalted him." Mark the shame and spitting that have come upon the cheek of yonder man of sorrows! See his hair plucked with cruel hands; mark ye how they torture him and how they mock him. Do you think that this is all dishonourable to Christ? It is apparently so; but list to this: "He became obedient," and therefore "God hath highly exalted him." Ah! there is a marvellous connection between that shame, and spitting, and the bending of the knee of seraphs; there is a strange yet mystic link which unites the calumny and the slander with the choral sympathies of adoring angels. The one was, as it were, the seed of the other. Strange that it should be, but the black, the bitter seed brought forth a sweet and glorious flower which blooms for ever. He suffered and he reigned; he stopped to conquer, and he conquered for he stooped, and was exalted for he conquered.

     Consider him further still. Do you mark him in your imagination nailed to yonder cross! O eyes! ye are full of pity, with tears standing thick! Oh! how I mark the floods gushing down his checks! Do you see his hands bleeding, and his feet too, gushing gore? Behold him! The bulls of Bashan gird him round, and the dogs are hounding him to death! Hear him! "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" The earth startles with affright. A God is groaning on a cross! What! Does not this dishonour Christ? No; it honours him! Each of the thorns becomes a brilliant in his diadem of glory; the nails are forged into his sceptre, and his wounds do clothe him with the purple of empire. The treading of the wine-press hath stained his garments, but not with stains of scorn and dishonour. The stains are embroideries upon his royal robes for ever. The treading of that wine-press hath made his garments purple with the empire of a world; and he is the Master of a universe for ever. O Christian! sit down and consider that thy Master did not mount from earth's mountains into heaven, but from her valleys. It was not from heights of bliss on earth that he strode to bliss eternal, but from depths of woe he mounted up to glory. Oh! what a stride was that, when, at one mighty step from the grave to the throne of The Highest, the man Christ, the God, did gloriously ascend. And yet reflect! He in some way, mysterious yet true, was exalted because he suffered. "Being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name." Believer, there is comfort for thee here, if thou wilt take it. If Christ was exalted through his degradation, so shalt thou be. Count not thy steps to triumph by thy steps upward, but by those which are seemingly downward. The way to heaven is down-hill. he who would be honoured for ever must sink in his own esteem, and often in that of his fellow-men. Oh! think not of yon fool who is mounting to heaven by his own light opinions of himself and by the flatteries of his fellows, that he shall safely reach Paradise; nay, that shall burst on which he rests, and he shall fall and be broken in pieces. But he who descends into the mines of suffering, shall find unbounded riches there; and he who dives into the depths of grief, shall find the pearl of everlasting life within tis caverns. Recollect, Christian, that thou art exalted when thou art disgraced; read the slanders of thine enemies as the plaudits of the just; count that the scoff and jeer of wicked men are equal to the praise and honour of the godly; their blame is censure, and their censure praise. Reckon too, if thy body should ever be exposed to persecution, that it is no shame to thee, but the reverse; and if thou shouldst be privileged, (and thou mayest) to wear the blood-red crown of martyrdom, count it no disgrace to die. Remember, the most honourable in the church are "the noble army of martyrs." Reckon that the greater the sufferings they endured, so much the greater is their "eternal weight of glory;" and so do thou, if thou standest in the brunt and thick of the fight, remember that thou shalt stand in the midst of glory. If thou hast the hardest to bear, thou shalt have the sweetest to enjoy. On with thee, then—through floods, through fire, through death, through hell, if it should lie in thy path. Fear not. He who glorified Christ because he stooped shall glorify thee; for after he has caused thee to endure awhile, he will give thee "a crown of life which fadeth now away."

     III. And now, in the last place, beloved, here is yet another comfort for you. THE PERSON who exalted Christ is to be noticed. "GOD also hath highly exalted him." The emperor of all the Russians crowns himself: he is an autocrat, and puts the crown upon his own head: but Christ hath no such foolish pride. Christ did not crown himself. "GOD also hath highly exalted him." The crown was put upon the head of Christ by God; and there is to me a very sweet reflection in this, —that the hand that put the crown on Christ's head, will one day put the crown on ours; —that the same Mighty One who crowned Christ, "King of kings, and Lord of lords," will crown us, when he shall make us "Kings and priests unto him for ever." "I know," said Paul, "there is laid up for me a crown of glory which fadeth not away, which God, the righteous judge, shall give me in that day."

     Now, just pause over this thought—that Christ did not crown himself, but that his Father crowned him; that he did not elevate himself to the throne of majesty, but that his Father lifted him there, and placed him on his throne. Why, reflect thus: Man never highly exalted Christ. Put this then in opposition to it—"God also hath highly exalted him." Man hissed him, mocked him, hooted him. Words were not hard enough—they would use stones. "They took up stones again to stone him." And stones failed; nails must be used, and he must be crucified. And then there comes the taunt, the jeer, the mockery, whilst he hangs languishing on the death-cross. Man did not exalt him. Set the black picture there. Now put this, with this glorious, this bright scene, side by side with it, and one shall be a foil to the other. Man dishonoured him; "God also exalted him." Believer, if all men speak ill of thee, lift up thy head, and say, "Man exalted not my Master; I thank him that he exalts not me. The servant should not be above his master, nor the servant above his lord, nor he that is sent greater than he that sent him."

"If on my face for his dear name,
Shame and reproach shall be;
I'll hail reproach and welcome shame,
For he'll remember me."

     God will remember me, and highly exalt me after all, though man casts me down.

     Put it, again, in opposition to the fact, that Christ did not exalt himself. Poor Christian! you feel that you cannot exalt yourself. Sometimes you cannot raise your poor depressed spirits. Some say to you, "Oh! you should not feel like this." They tell you, "Oh! you should not speak such words, nor think such thoughts." Ah! "the heart knoweth its own bitterness, and a stranger intermeddleth not therewith,"—ay, and I will improve upon it, "nor a friend either." It is not easy to tell how another ought to feel and how another ought to act. Our minds are differently made, each in its own mould, which mould is broken afterwards, and there shall never be another like it. We are all different, each one of us; but I am sure there is one thing in which we are all brought to unite in times of deep sorrow, namely, in a sense of helplessness. We feel that we cannot exalt ourselves. Now remember, our Master felt just like it. In the 22nd Psalm, which, if I read it rightly, is a beautiful soliloquy of Christ upon the cross, he says to himself, "I am a worm, and no man." As if he felt himself so broken, so cast down, that instead of being more than a man, as he was, he felt for awhile less than man. And yet, when he could not lift finger to crown himself, when he could scarce heave a thought of victory, when his eye could not flash with even a distant glimpse of triumph, —then his God was crowning him. Art thou so broken in pieces, Christian? Think not that thou art cast away for ever; for "God also hath highly exalted him" who did not exalt himself; and this is a picture and prophecy of what he will do for thee.

     And now, beloved, I can say little more upon this text, save that I bid you now for a few minutes meditate and think upon it. Oh! let your eyes be lifted up; bid heaven's blue veil divide; ask power of God—I mean spiritual power from on high, to look within the veil. I bid you not look to the streets of gold, nor to the walls of jasper, nor to the pearly-gated city. I do not ask you to turn your eyes to the white-robed hosts, who for ever sing loud hallelujahs; but yonder, my friends, turn your eyes,

"There, like a man, the Saviour sits;
The God, how bright he shines;
And scatters infinite delight
On all the happy minds."

     Do you see him?

"The head that once was crowned with thorns,
Is crowned with glory now;
A royal diadem adorns
That mighty Victor's brow.

No more the bloody crown,
The cross and nails no more:
For hell itself shakes at his frown,
And all the heavens adore."

     Look at him! Can your imagination picture him? Behold his transcendent glory! The majesty of kings is swallowed up; the pomp of empires dissolves like the white mist of the morning before the sun; the brightness of assembled armies is eclipsed. He in himself is brighter than the sun, more terrible than armies with banners. See him! See him! O! hide your heads, ye monarchs; put away your gaudy pageantry, ye lords of this poor narrow earth! His kingdom knows no bounds; without a limit his vast empire stretches out itself. Above him all is his; beneath him many a step are angels, and they are his; and they cast their crowns before his feet. With them stand his elect and ransomed, and their crowns too are his. And here upon this lower earth stand his saints, and they are his, and they adore him; and under the earth, among the infernals, where devils growl their malice, even there is trembling and adoration; and where lost spirits, with wailing and gnashing of teeth for ever lament their being, even there, there is the acknowledgment of his Godhead, even though the confession helps to make the fire of their torments. In heaven, in earth, in hell, all knees bend before him, and every tongue confesses that he is God. If not now, yet in the time that is to come this shall be carried out, that ever creature of God's making shall acknowledge his Son to be "God over all, blessed for ever. Amen." Oh! my soul anticipates that blessed day, when this whole earth shall bend its knee before its God willingly! I do believe there is a happy era coming, when there shall not be one knee unbent before my Lord and Master. I look for that time, that latter-day glory, when kings shall bring presents, when queens shall be the nursing mothers of the church, when the gold of Sheba and the ships of Tarshish, and the dromedaries of Arabia shall alike be his, when nations and tribes of every tongue shall

"Dwell on his name with sweetest song,
And infant voices shall proclaim
Their early blessings on his name."

     Sometimes I hope to live to see that all-auspicious era—that halcyon age of this world, so much oppressed with grief and sorrow by the tyranny of its own habitants. I hope to see the time, when it shall be said, "Shout, for the great Shepherd reigns, and his unsuffering kingdom now is come"—when earth shall be one great orchestra of praise, and every man shall sing the glorious hallelujah anthem of the King of kings. But even now, while waiting for that era, my soul rejoices in the fact, that every knee does virtually bow, though not willingly, yet really. Does the scoffer, when he mouths high heaven, think that he insults God? He thinks so, but his insult dies long ere it reaches half-way to the stars. Does he conceive, when in his malice he forges a sword against Christ, that his weapon shall prosper? If he does, I can well conceive the derision of God, when he sees the wildest rebel, the most abandoned despiser, still working out his great decrees, still doing that which God hath eternally ordained, and in the midst of his wild rebellion still running in the very track which in some mysterious way before all eternity had been marked as the track in which that being should certainly move. "The wild steeds of earth have broken their bridles, the reins are out of the hands of the charioteer"—so some say; but they are not, or if they are, the steeds run the same round as they would have done had the Almighty grasped the reins still. The world has not gone to confusion; chance is not God; God is still Master, and let men do what they will, and hate the truth we now prize, they shall after all do what God wills, and their direst rebellion shall prove but a species of obedience, though they know it not.

     But thou wilt say, "Why dost thou yet find fault; for who hath resisted such a will as that?" "Nay, but O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory." Who is he that shall blame him? Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! He is God—know that, ye inhabitants of the land; and all things, after all, shall serve his will. I like what Luther says in his bold hymn, where, notwithstanding all that those who are haters of predestination choose to affirm, he knew and boldly declared, "He everywhere hath sway, and all things serve his might." Notwithstanding all they do, there is God's sway, after all. Go on, reviler! God knoweth how to make all thy revilings into songs! Go on, thou warrior against God, if thou wilt; know this, thy sword shall help to magnify God, and carve out glory for Christ, when thou thoughtest the slaughter of his church. It shall come to pass that all thou dost shall be frustrated; for God maketh the diviners mad, and saith, "Where is the wisdom of the scribe? Where is the wisdom of the wise?" Surely, "Him hath God exalted, and given him a name which is above every name."

     And now, lastly, beloved, if it be true, as it is, that Christ is so exalted that he is to have a name above every name, and every knee is to bow to him, will we not bow our knees this morning before his Majesty? You must, whether you will or no, one day bow your knee. O iron-sinewed sinner, bow thy knee now! Thou wilt have to bow it, man, in that day when the lightnings shall be loosed, and the thunders shall roll in wild fury: thou wilt have to bow thy knee then. Oh! bow it now! "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little." O Lord of hosts! bend the knees of men! Make us all the willing subjects of thy grace, lest afterward, we should be the unwilling slaves of thy terror; dragged with chains of vengeance down to hell. O that now those that are on earth might willingly bend their knees lest in hell it should be fulfilled, "Things under the earth shall bow the knee before him."

     God bless you, my friends, I can say no more but that. God bless you, for Jesus' sake! Amen.



The Duty of Remembering the Poor

By / Sep 25

The Duty of Remembering the Poor

 

"Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do."—Galatians 2:10

 

     Poverty is no virtue; wealth is no sin. On the other hand, wealth is not morally good, and poverty is not morally evil. A man may be a good man and a rich man; it is quite certain that very frequently good men are poor men. Virtue is a plant which depends not upon the atmosphere which surrounds it, but upon the hand which waters it, and upon the grace which sustains it. We draw no support for grace from our circumstances whether they be good or evil. Our circumstances may sometimes militate against the gracious work in our breast, but it is quite certain that no position in life is a sustaining cause of the life of grace in the soul. That must always be maintained by divine power, which can work as well in poverty as in riches; for we see some of the finest specimens of the full development of Christianity in those who are the very meanest in temporal circumstances; far outshining those whom we should have imagined, from their position in society, would have had many things to assist their virtues and sustain their graces. Grace is a plant which draws no nourishment from the wilderness in which it grows; it finds nothing to feed upon in the heart of man; all it lives upon it receives supernaturally. It sends all its roots upwards, none downwards; it draws no support from poverty, and none from riches. Gold cannot sustain grace; on the other hand, rags cannot make it flourish. Grace is a plant which derives the whole of its support from God the Holy Spirit, and is therefore entirely independent of the circumstances of man. But yet, mark you, it is an undeniable fact, that God hath been pleased for the most part to plant his grace in the soil of poverty. He has not chosen many great, nor many mighty men of this world, but he hath "chosen the poor of this world—rich in faith—to be heirs of the kingdom of God." We should wonder why, were we not quite sure that God is wise in his choice. We cannot dispute a fact which Scripture teaches, and which our own observation supports, that the Lord's people are, to a very large extent, the poor of this world. Very few of them wear crowns; very few ride in carriages; only a proportion of them have a competence; a very large multitude of his family are destitute, afflicted, tormented, and are kept leaning, day by day, upon the daily provisions of God, and trusting him from meal to meal, believing that he will supply their wants out of the riches of his fullness.

     Now, to-night, we shall first of all mention the fact that God has a poor people; secondly, the duty—we should remember the poor; and then, thirdly, the obligation for us to perform this duty; for there are sundry reasons why we ought to be specially mindful of the poor of the Lord's flock.

     I. First, then, THE LORD HAS A POOR PEOPLE—a fact notorious to us all, which daily observation confirms. Why does the Lord have a poor people? This is a question that might suggest itself to us, and we might not at all times find it easy to answer it, if we were poor ourselves. God could make them all rich if he pleased; he could lay hags of gold at their doors, he could send whole rivers of supplies, where now it is a desert, he could scatter round their houses abundance of provisions; as once he made the quails lie in very heaps round the camp of Israel, so now he could rain bread out of heaven to feed them. There is no necessity that they should be poor, only as it pleases his own sovereign will. "The cattle upon a thousand hills are his," he could supply them; he could make the rich men of this world give up all their wealth, if he so pleased to turn their minds; he could make the richest, the greatest, and the mightiest, bring all their power and riches to the feet of his children, for the hearts of all men are in his control. But he does not choose to do so; he allows them to suffer want, he allows them to pine in penury and obscurity. Why is this? I believe that is a question we should not find it easy to answer, if we were in the circumstances, but seeing that many of us are out of the affliction, we may perhaps hint at one or two reasons why the Lord God has had, has, and always will have, a poor people in this world.

     1. I think one reason is, to teach us how grateful we should be for all the comforts he bestows on many of us. One of the sweetest meals I think I have ever eaten was after beholding a spectacle of penury which had made me weep. When we see others wanting daily bread, does not our loaf at once taste very sweet? It may have been very dry; but we saw some one begging for bread in the streets, and we thanked God for what we had that day, when we knew that others wanted. When we take our walks abroad and see the poor, he must be but a very poor Christian who does not lift up his eyes to heaven and thank his God thus—

"Not more than others I deserve,
But God has given me more."

     If we were all made rich alike, if God had given us all abundance, we should never know the value of his mercies, but he puts the poor side by side with us, to make their trials, like a dark shadow, set forth the brightness which he is pleased to give to us in temporal matters. Oh! ye would never thank God half so much if ye did not see your cause for thankfulness by marking the needs of others. Oh! ye dainty ones, that can scarcely eat the food that is put before you, it would do you good it you could sit down at the table of the poor. Oh! ye discontented ones, who are always murmuring at your households, because all kinds of delicacies are not provided for you, it would do you good if you could sit down for a while to workhouse fare, and sometimes eat a little less than that, and fast a day or two, to find your appetites. Ay, ye who never sing a song of praise to God, it would be no small benefit to you, if you were for mice made to want his bounties, then you might be led to thank God for all his abundant supplies. Even Christian men want a spur to their thankfulness. God gives us a great many mercies we never thank him for Day by day his mercies come, but day by day we forget them. His mercies lie

"Forgotten in unthankfulness,
And without praises die."

     Put you out in the cold some winter's night, and would you not thank God for the fire afterwards? Make you thirst for a little while, and how grateful would be the crop of water! Now, if God has not exposed us in this way, it is at least an instance of his wisdom, that he has placed others in that position, to teach those of his family who are more highly favored in temporal matters, how thankful they ought to be for the gifts of his providence.

     2. That, however, I take it, is but a very low view of the matter. There are other and higher, and better reasons. God is pleased always to have a poor people, that he may display his sovereignty in all he does. If there were no poor saints, we should not so strongly believe the doctrine of the sovereignty of God, or, at least, if the saints believed it, as they always must and will, yet the wicked, and those who despise it, would not have so clear an evidence of it, and would not sin against such great light, which shines upon their poor dark, blind eyeballs from evident displays of sovereignty in salvation. Those who deny divine sovereignty, deny it in the face of all testimony certainly in the teeth of Scripture, for it is there positively affirmed, and God, in order that there may be something besides Scripture, has made his providence bear out the written word, and has caused many of his children to be the despised among the people. "I take whom I please," save God. "Ye would have me choose kings and queens first; I choose their humble servants in their kitchens before I choose their masters and mistresses in their banqueting halls. Ye would have me take the counsellor and the wise man; I take the fool first, that I may teach you to despise the wisdom of man. I take the poor before the rich, that I may humble all your pride, and teach you there is nothing in man that makes me choose him, but that it is the sovereign will of God alone which creates men heirs of grace." I bless God that there are poor saints, for they teach me this lesson, that God will do as he pleases with his own. They show me manifestly, that however much men may deny the sovereignty of God, they cannot rob him of it, that he will still exert it to the very last, long as this earth shall stand, and mayhap find ways of exerting it, even in future ages. Certainly the existence of a poor people in the world is proof positive in the mind of the saint, and a plain and bold affirmation to the most obtuse intellect of the sinner, that there is a sovereignty of God in the choice of men.

     3. Again: God has a poor people, I take it, that he may display more the power of his comforting promises, and the supports of the gospel. If all God's saints were well-to-do in this world, and never lacked, we should scarcely realize the value of the gospel half so much, Oh! my brethren, when we find some that have not where to day their heads, who yet can say, "Still will I trust in the Lord;" when we see some who have nothing but bread and water who still glory in Jesus; when we see them "wondering where the scene shall end," seeing that "every day new straits attend," and yet having faith in Christ, oh, what honor it reflects on the gospel! Let my rich friend there stand up and say, "I have faith in God for to-morrow with regard to my daily bread;" you would say, "My dear friend, I do not at all wonder at it, for you have plenty of money at home to buy your bread with, and a salary coming in on such a day; there is not much opportunity for faith in your case." But when some poor Habakkuk rises and exclaims "although the fig-tree shall not blossom neither shall there be fruit in the vine," and so on, "Yet will I trust in the Lord." Ah! then that shows the power of all-supporting grace. You know we hear of a great many different inventions that will never stand a trial. One man advertises a swimming belt; a fine thing it would be for dry land, but when it is tried at sea, I fear it will not exactly answer the purpose, and really we cannot know the value of an invention unless we test it, and put it through all the trials when it is supposed to be able to endure. Now, grace is tested in the poverty of believers—that they are still in a great degree an uncomplaining and unmurmuring race—that they bear up under every discouragement, believing that all things work together for their good, and that out of all their apparent evils some good shall ultimately spring—that their God will either work a deliverance for them speedily, or most assuredly support them in the trouble, as long as he is pleased to keep them there beloved, this is no doubt one reason why God puts his people in poor circumstances. "There," says the architect, "this building is strong." Ay, sir, but it must be tester!: let the wind blow against it. There is a lighthouse out at sea: it is a calm night—I cannot tell whether the edifice is firm; the tempest must howl about it, and then I shall know whether it will stand. So with religion, if it were not on many occasions surrounded with tempestuous waters, we should not know that the ship was staunch and strong, if the winds did not blow upon it, as they do on our poor tried brethren, we should not know bow firm and secure it is. The master-works of God are those that stand in the midst of difficulties—when all things oppose them, yet maintain their stand; these are his all-glorious works, and so his best children, those who honor him most, are those who have grace to sustain them amidst the heaviest load of tribulations and trials. God puts his people into such circumstances, then, to show us the power of his grace.

     4. Then, again: God often allows his people to be a tried and a poor people, just to plague the devil. The devil was never more plagued in his life, I think, than he was with Job. As long as Job was rich, Job caused much envy in Satan, but he never made him so angry as when he was poor. It was then that Satan was the most incensed against him because, after all his trials, he would not curse God and die. You know, if a man thinks he can do a thing, he will always wrap himself up in his self-complacency, till he tries to do it and then fails. So Satan thinks he may overthrow one or other of God's children. "Now, Satan," says God, "I will give thee an opportunity of trying thy skill: one of my children is very poor; I will cut off his bread and water, I will give him the water of affliction to drink, and the bread of bitterness to eat; he shall be exceedingly tried; take him, Satan, drag him through fire and water, and see what thou canst do with him." So Satan tries to starve out the divine life from his soul; but he cannot do it, and he finds, after all he has done, that he is defeated, and he goes away plagued and vexed, and feeling another hell within himself, though miserable enough before, because he was foiled in all his attempts to tread out the spark of life in the heart of God's child. God often allows Satan to test the Lord's work. It is marvellous that the crafty devil should continue to work when it all tends to the glory of God after all, but he is a devil all over, and will ever continue so. He always will keep on meddling with God's children; he will persevere even to the last moment; till every saint is safe across the Jordan, he will still be plaguing and vexing God's beloved. Ah! then let us rejoice, God will deliver us, and bring us off safe at last, yea, "more than conquerors, through him that loved us."

     5. Furthermore, the design of our heavenly Father in allowing a poor people in this world, and keeping his people poor, when he might make them rich, is possibly to give us some living glimpse of Christ. A poor man is the image of Jesus Christ, if he be a Christian. All Christians are the image of Jesus Christ, for the sanctifying influence of Christ exerted on them has made them in some degree like their Master. But the poor man is like his Master, not only in his character, but in his circumstances too. When you look on a poor saint, you have a better picture of Jesus than you have in a rich saint. The rich saint is a member of Christ; he has the image of his Master stamped upon him, and that image shall be perfected when he shall arrive in heaven; but the poor saint has something else; he has not only the most prominent feature, but the back-ground, and the fore-ground, and all in the picture. He has the circumstances of it. Look at his brown hands, hardened by toil; such were his Saviour's once; look at his weary feet, blistered with his journeyings; such were his-Saviour's many a time. He sits upon a well from weariness, as did his Lord once; he hath nowhere to rest, nor had his Master; foxes had holes, and the birds of the air had nests, but he had not where to lay his head He is fed by charity, so was his Master; others supplied his wants. See! he sits down at an invited table, so did his Master; he had not one of his own. Thou seest Christ, then; thou seest as much of Christ as thou wilt see just yet, until thou art taken up where thou shalt be like him, and see him as he is. He would have us always remember the Saviour's poverty: "How he was rich, and yet for our sakes became poor." And just as, on some memorable day, they strike medals which bear the impress of its hero, so I look upon every poor saint as being a medal struck from the mint divine, to be a memento of the existence of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is to make me remember my Lord, to bid me meditate upon that wondrous depth of poverty into which he stooped, that he might lift me up to light and glory. Oh! blessed Jesus, this is wise, for we oft forget thee—wise that thou hast given us some opportunity to remember thee.

     6. But now one more reason, and I have done with this part of the subject. The Lord, has a poor people in the midst of us, for this reason, that he determines to give us opportunities of showing our love to him. Now, we show our love to Christ when we sing of him and when we pray to him; but if there were no poor people in the world we should often say within ourselves, "Oh I how I wish there were one of Christ's brethren that I could help; I should like to give Christ something; I should like to show my Master that I loved him, not by words only but by deeds too." And if all the poor saints were taken clean away, and we were all well-to-do, and had abundance, there would be none to require any assistance, and I think we might begin to weep, because there were no poor saints to help. It is one of the most healthy things in the world to help a saint; it is a great blessing to our own souls; it is a healthy exercise of the mind to visit the poor of the Lord's flock, and distribute as we are able of our substance to their necessities. Let us look upon it, not as a mere duty, but as a delight and privilege; for if we were not able to give something of our substance to Christ, we should have to go down on our knees to ask him to give us some opportunity of showing our love to him. Take away the saints, and one channel wherein our love might flow is withdrawn at once. But that shall never be, for the poor we always shall have with us, and there are some reasons why we always shall have them.

     II. The second thing we shall endeavor to speak of is THE DUTY here alluded to: "They would that we should remember the poor." "Remember the poor;" that word "remember" is a very comprehensive word.

     We ought to remember the poor in our prayers. I need not remind you to offer supplication for the rich, but remember the poor; remember them and pray that God would comfort and cheer them in all the trials of their penury, that he would supply their wants out of the riches of his fullness. Let the angel touch you on the arm, when you have nearly finished your prayer, and say, "Remember the poor; remember the poor of the flock." Let your prayers always go up to heaven for them.

     Remember the poor, too, in your conversation. It is remarkable that all of us remember the rich. We talk about all men being equal, but I do not believe there is an Englishman who is not silly enough to boast, if he has happened to be with a lord in his lifetime. To have seen a live lord is a most marvellous thing, and there is scarcely one of us that could resist the temptation of talking about it. We may say what we like about believing in the equality of mankind; so we do, till we happen to get a little elevated, then we don't believe it any longer. We are all ready enough to pull others down when we are in humble circumstances; but when we get a little elevated, we foolishly think it only a child's fancy that we indulged in, and that after all there are more differences than we imagined. We always remember the rich. You see a man respectable in church; you always know him, don't you? You are on the exchange, or walking down the street; you never find any difficulty in recognising him. Somehow or other, your memory is very treacherous in remembering the poor, but very strong in remembering a rich man. Let me remind you to "Remember the poor." It is singular enough that there, is no command to remember the rich; I suppose because there is no necessity for it, for we usually remember them. But there is a command for us to remember the poor. Now, the next time you see a poor brother coal-heaver, bricklayer, hodsman, or whatever he may be, do know him, if you please; and if you see him in all his dirty garments still know him; do not forget him; try and recollect him. Next sacrament Sunday look him if the face as though you remembered him; for the last twenty times you have seen him you have appeared as if you did not remember him, and the poor man's mind has been hurt as much as if it were same slight on your part, because he was a poor brother. I will not say that it was so, but I am rather afraid it was in some degree. Now, when you see him in the street, say, "Well, brother, I know you," and if he comes up to speak to you, do not think it will lower you to be seen speaking to him in the street. If he is your brother, acknowledge him; if he is not tell no lie about it, but leave the church, and make no false professions. But if you believe it, carry it out.

     Now, often, when you are walking home from the house of God, you do not remember the poor, do you. If they should require to speak to you, however important their errand, they would not get attended to very frequently. If Mr. So-and-so, who is a respectable gentleman, wanted you, "Oh! yes, sir, I can stop a moment and have a little conversation with you;" but if a poor person wants you, "Oh! I am in such a hurry; I must go home;" and you are sure to go off directly. Now, for the future, just reverse your habit. When you see a rich man, do just what you like about attending to him; I know what you will like to do; but when you see a poor man, just make it a point of conscience that you attend to him. I was very much pleased with the conduct of a brother who is here present. He may remember the circumstance, and bless God that he gave him grace to act as he did. A short time ago there stood in the aisle near his pew door, a gentleman and a poor fellow in a smock frock. I thought to myself, "He will let one in I know, I wonder which it will be." I did not wait long, before out he came, and in went the smock frock. He thought very rightly, that the gentlemen would stand a chance of getting a seat out of some of you, but he thought it best to remember the poor; and it was likely that the poor man was the most tired, for he had no doubt had a hard week's work, and probably a long walk, for there are not many smock frocks near London. Therefore he gave in reality to the most necessitous. I say, again, "Remember the poor." There is no necessity to tell you to remember the rich—to be very respectful, and to speak very kindly and lovingly to those who are above you; you will take care of yourselves on that point; but it is the poor you are disposed not to attend to, and therefore I will press on you this commandment, that you remember the poor.

     But this especially means, I think, that in the provision for their necessities, we ought to remember the poor. Some of us have pretty good need to remember the poor. I am sure I have, for I have about ten times as many poor people come to me every day as I can possibly relieve. If I were as rich as the Mayor of London, or Her Majesty the Queen, I could scarcely accede to the immense requests sometimes made to me. There is scarcely a poor man that is hard run by his creditors, or a poor woman that cannot make up her rent, but they write to the minister. All the poor souls come to him; and I think to myself, "What can I do with you? I have really done as much as I can, and here are three or four more coming." So I am obliged to send them away, and can only pity, but cannot assist; and this must be the case, unless some one shot a waggon load of gold before my door. Still, we must "remember the poor." Some think it very hard to have so many calls on them; I do not; I only think it hard when I cannot help them; if I could, I would think it a great blessing to assist them all. If I were put in possession of great wealth, I do not say what I would do, for very frequently people's hearts get smaller when their means get greater; but where God has given us wealth, I am sure where there are necessitous children of God, we ought to remember them directly. How much of the superfluities might be given to their necessities! How many of our lavished luxuries might be bestowed on that which they crave for their very existence. Ye know not how poor this world is. You ride through one part of this magnificent city, and you say, "Talk of poverty! There is no such thing." You ride through another part, and you say, Talk of riches! There is no such thing. The world is poor." Some of you should, now and then, go and search out poverty. Place you above it, and your movements in life seldom bring you into contact with it. If you would have your hearts enlarged, visit the poor; follow them into their dens, for they are but little better in some cases; go up their creaking staircases; see the straw in the corner of the room where they sleep, ay, see worse than that—see a chair whereon a man has been for the last five years, not able to sit without being propped, obliged to be fed by others, and yet living on four or five shillings a week, with nothing to support him properly, or give him sufficient bodily nutriment. Go and see such cases, and if you do not put your hands in your pockets, and help the aged pilgrims, I am afraid there is not much Christianity in you, or if you do not help the one that you see has the greatest need, I am afraid the love of God dwelleth not in you. It is a duty we owe to the poor of the Lord's flock, and we reap many advantages we should not have if we had not to remember the poor.

     III. Now, allow me to press home THIS OBLIGATION: why should we remember poor? I shall not urge it upon the ground of common philanthropy and charity, that were a too mean and low way of addressing Christian men, although even they perhaps might be benefited by it. I shall urge it in another way.

     "Remember the poor," because they are your Lord's brethren. What! do you not feel, like David, that you would do anything for Jonathan's sake? and if he hath some poor sick son, some Mephibosheth, lame in his feet, wilt thou not seat him at thy table, or give him a maintenance, if thou canst, seeing that Jonathan's blood is in his veins? Remember, beloved, the blood of Jesus runs in the veins of poor saints they are his relatives, they are his friends, and if that move thee not, remember they are thy friends too. They are thy brethren if thou art a child of God; they are allied to thee; if they are sons of God, so art thou, and they are brethren of thine. What! let thy brother starve? If thou canst, wilt thou not relieve thy brother's necessity, not shield him from the cold, not ward off hunger, not provide for his needs? Oh! I know thou lovest Jesus I know thou lovest the friends of Jesus and I know thou lovest thine own family and, therefore, thou wilt love thy poor brethren, wilt thou not? I know thou writ, thou wilt relieve them. Remember, too, that thou thyself mayst be like thy poor brother ere long, therefore, take heed that thou despise him not, for some one will despise thee. Oh! think thee that all thou hast God has lent thee, he may take it all from thee if he pleases, and if he seeth that thou makest an ill use of it, perhaps he will take it from thee now. Full many a man has lost his wealth by God's righteous judgment for his misuse of it. Thou art God's steward, wilt thou cheat him? He has given thee his wealth to distribute to the poor; wilt thou not supply their needs out of what he hath given thee? Yes, surely thou wilt; I cannot believe thou wilt turn them away, so long as thou hast aught wherewith to relieve them, but wilt share what thou hast with them. Remember, if thou dost not relieve them, thou givest great and grave suspicion that thou lovest not Christ, for if ye love not Christ's people, how can it be that ye are his disciples, since it is the mark, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another;" and how can ye love, where ye have, and give not where God hath made you rich, and yet you do not bestow? Gravely ye give cause to doubt that the love of God is in you, if the love of the brethren is not in you also. Oh! remember, when thou givest, God can give thee more. Thou hast lost nothing! thou hast put it in another purse, and God may hand it back to thee in larger measure yet. Men lose nothing by what they give to God's saints. It would often be a heavenly investment if they bestowed it upon God's family; but if they retain it, God hath other means to make them poor, if they will not give to his cause. John Bunyan tells of a man who had a roll of cloth, and the more he cut from it, the more he had; and he says, in his rhyming way, —

"A man there was, though some did count him mad,
The more he cast away, the more he had."

     He was not much of a madman, after all, if he had more the more he gave away. But that is a very selfish view; remember, it thou never hast it back again, it is no small honor to give it to Christ; and remember, what thou givest to his children thou puttest into his palm; and if Christ should stand at the door as thou passest the plate, how wouldst thou put thy money in to please him! Remember, his poor believing family are his hand; give into his hand, then, as ye can at all times and seasons. Remember the poor; ye shall always have the poor to remember.

     Well, now, I beg leave to commend to your attention and notice to-night, the Aged Pilgrims' Friend Society, as being an especially excellent institution, because it will enable you to remember the poor. Those who are relieved by it are, in the first place, all Christians, as far as man can judge; they are all examined beforehand as to their experience of a change of heart, and the existence of a divine life within them, and none are received into the society but those who are really the members of Christ's mystical body, and give evidence of the work of grace in their hearts. In the next place, the funds which are given to them are distributed by Christian men, who visit them once a month; and when they visit them, I do not suppose they leave them without praying with them and endeavoring to cheer their hearts. I know they do not. They often spend a season of prayer, and have a kind conversation with them concerning their souls. And, last of all, they are all over sixty. They have a double claim on us, because they are the Lord's aged people, as well as the Lord's poor people; and none of them have anything without they absolutely and really require it. I will just read you this very short paper to tell you what they have done: —

"The Society was established in 1807 for the relief of the aged Christian pool, above sixty years, irrespective of denominational distinction, both male and female in town and country; it has extended its valuable aid to 1650 aged disciples of the Lord Jesus, among whom have been distributed upwards of 50,000.

 "The following is a brief account of its present state, in reference both to the number relieved, and the amount of income and expenditure. There are—

45 Pensioners who receive 10 guineas per annum, or 17s. 6d. per month.

245             ditto         5          ditto           or   8s. 9d.       ditto.

130 Approved Candidates who receive 4s. Per month.

———

Total 420 Amongst whom are distributed, monthly, at their own habitations, 172.

———

 "The income arising from Annual Subscriptions, etc., does not exceed 1550 while the expenditure is upwards of 2000, leaving a deficiency, annually of 450 and upwards, which the Committee have to make up by obtaining collections in various churches and chapels, wherever they can. Donations and Annual Subscriptions will be thankfully received by the Treasurers or Secretaries at any time. Every department is filled gratuitously. Also, legacies will, at any time, be very thankfully received."

     Our friends had no business to have said anything about legacies, for we do not wish you to die just yet; we always wish to have your subscriptions. We are very thankful to receive legacies, but do not keep the money to leave us in the shape of legacies. We would rather have your annual subscriptions for ten years; for then we should have your living prayers, your living sympathy, and your living help. Well, if you do not think this a good society, do not give anything; but if you do, just put it on its merits. People very often give to an object just what others give, because there is a collection: but just put this upon its own merits and your ability, and give as you think the society deserves to receive, and as you believe yourselves able to bestow. May God give a blessing to you in remembering the poor.



Christ in the Covenant

By / Aug 31

Christ in the Covenant

 

"I will give thee for a covenant of the people."—Isaiah 49:8

 

     We all believe that our Saviour has very much to do with the covenant of eternal salvation. We have been accustomed to regard him as the Mediator of the covenant, as the surety of the covenant, and as the scope or substance of the covenant. We have considered him to be the Mediator of the covenant, for we were certain that God could make no covenant with man unless there were a mediator—a days-man, who should stand between the both. And we have hailed him as the Mediator, who, with mercy in his hands, came down to tell to sinful man the news that grace was promised in the eternal counsel of the Most High. We have also loved our Saviour as the Surety of the covenant, who, on our behalf, undertook to pay our debts; and on his Father's behalf, undertook, also, to see that all our souls should be secure and safe, and ultimately presented unblemished and complete before him. And I doubt not, we have also rejoiced in the thought that Christ is the sum and substance of the covenant; we believe that if we would sum up all spiritual blessings, we must say, "Christ is all." He is the matter, he is the substance of it; and although much might be said concerning the glories of the covenant, yet nothing could be said which is not to be found in that one word, "Christ." But this morning I shall dwell on Christ, not as the Mediator, nor as the surety, nor as the scope of the covenant, but as one great and glorious article of the covenant which God has given to his children. It is our firm belief that Christ is ours, and is given to us of God; we know that "he freely delivered him up for us all," and we, therefore, believe that he will, "with him, freely give us all things." We can say, with the spouse, "My beloved is mine." We feel that we have a personal property in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and it will therefore delight us for a while, this morning, in the simplest manner possible, without the garnishings of eloquence or the trappings of oratory, just to mediate upon this great thought, that Jesus Christ in the covenant is the property of every believer.

     First, we shall examine this propertyone precept, which may well be affixed upon so great a blessing as this, and is indeed an inference from it.

     I. In the first place, then, here is a GREAT POSSESSION—Jesus Christ by the covenant is the property of every believer. By this we must understand Jesus Christ in many different senses; and we will begin, first of all, by declaring that Jesus Christ is ours, in all his attributes. He has a double set of attributes, seeing that there are two natures joined in glorious union in one person. He has the attributes of very God, and he has the attributes of perfect man; and whatever these may be, they are each one of them the perpetual property of every believing child of God. I need not dwell on his attributes as God; you all know how infinite is his love, how vast his grace, how firm his faithfulness, how unswerving his veracity; you know that he is omniscient; you know that he is omnipresent; you know that he is omnipotent, and it will console you if you will but think that all these great and glorious attributes which belong to God are all yours. Has he power? That power is yours—yours to support and strengthen you; yours to overcome your enemies, yours to keep you immutably secure. Has he love? Well, there is not a particle of his love in his great heart, which is not yours; all his love belongs to you; you may dive into the immense, bottomless ocean of his love, and you may say of it all, "it is mine." Hath he justice? It may seem a stern attribute; but even that is yours, for he will by his justice see to it, that all which is covenanted to you by the oath and promise of God shall be most certainly secured to you. Mention whatever you please which is a characteristic of Christ as the ever glorious Son of God, and O faithful one, thou mayest put thine hand upon it and say, "it is mine." Thine arm, O Jesus, upon which the pillars of the earth do hang, is mine. Those eyes, O Jesus, which pierce through the thick darkness and behold futurity—thine eyes are mine, to look on me with love. Those lips, O Christ, which sometimes speak words louder than ten thousand thunders, or whisper syllables sweeter than the music of the harps of the glorified—those lips are mine. And that great heart which beateth high with such disinterested, pure, and unaffected love—that heart is mine. The whole of Christ, in all his glorious nature as the Son of God, as God over all, blessed for ever, is yours, positively, actually, without metaphor, in reality yours.

     Consider him as man too. All that he has as perfect man is yours. As a perfect man he stood before his Father, "full of grace and truth," full of favour; and accepted by God as a perfect being. O believer, God's acceptance of Christ is thine acceptance; for knowest thou not, that that love which the Father set on a perfect Christ, he sets on thee now? For all that Christ did is thine. That perfect righteousness which Jesus wrought out, when through his stainless life he kept the law and made it honorable, is thine. There is not a virtue which Christ ever had, that is not thine; there is not a holy deed which he ever did which is not thine; there is not a prayer he ever sent to heaven that is not thine; there is not one solitary thought towards God which it was his duty to think, and which he thought as man serving his God, which is not thine. All his righteousness, in its vast extent, and in all the perfection of his character, is imputed to thee. Oh! canst thou think what thou hast gotten in the word "Christ?" Come, believer, consider that word "God," and think how mighty it is; and then meditate upon that word "perfect man," for all that the Man-God, Christ, and the glorious God-man, Christ, ever had, or ever can have as the characteristic of either of his natures, all that is thine. It all belongs to thee; it is out of pure free favour, beyond the fear of revocation, passed over to thee to be thine actual property—and that for ever.

     2. Then, consider believer, that not only is Christ thine in all his attributes, but he is thine in all his offices. Great and glorious these offices are; we have scarce time to mention them all. Is he a prophet? Then he is thy prophet. Is he a priest? Then he is thy priest. Is he a king? Then he is thy king. Is he a redeemer? Then he is thy redeemer. Is he an advocate? Then he is thy advocate. Is he a forerunner? Then he is thy forerunner. Is he a surety of the covenant? The he is thy surety. In every name he bears, in every crown he wears, in every vestment in which he is arrayed, he is the believer's own. Oh! child of God, if thou hadst grace to gather up this thought into thy soul it would comfort thee marvellously, to think that in all Christ is in office, he is most assuredly thine. Dost thou see him yonder, interceding before his Father, with outstretched arms? Dost thou mark his ephod—his golden mitre on his brow, inscribed with "holiness unto the Lord?" Dost see him as he lifts up his hands to pray? Hearest thou not that marvellous intercession such as man never prayed on earth; that authoritative intercession such as he himself could not use in the agonies of the garden? For

"With sighs and groans, he offered up
His humble suit below;
But with authority he pleads,
Enthroned I glory now."

     Dost see how he asks, and how he received, as soon as his petition is put up? And canst thou, darest thou believe that that intercession is all thine own, that on his breast thy name is written, that in his heart thy name is stamped in marks of indellible grace, and that all the majesty of that marvellous, that surpassing intercession is thine own, and would all be expended for thee if thou didst require it; that he has not any authority with his Father, that he will not use on thy behalf, if thou dost need it; that he has no power to intercede that he would not employ for thee in all times of necessity? Come now, words cannot set this forth; it is only your thoughts that can teach you this; it is only God the Holy Spirit bringing home the truth that can set this ravishing, this transporting thought in its proper position in your heart; that Christ is yours in all he is and has. Seest thou him on earth? There he stands, the priest offering his bloody sacrifice; see him on the tree, his hands are pierced, his feet are gushing gore! Oh! dost thou see that pallid countenance, and those languid eyes flowing with compassion? Dost thou mark that crown of thorns? Dost thou behold that mightiest of sacrifices, the sum and substance of them all? Believer, that is thine, those precious drops plead and claim thy peace with God; that open side is thy refuge, those pierced hands are thy redemption; that groan he groans for thee; that cry of a forsaken heart he utters for thee; that death he dies for thee. Come, I beseech thee, consider Christ in any one of his various offices; but when thou dost consider him lay hold of this thought, that in all these things he is THY Christ, given unto thee to be one article in the eternal covenant—thy possession for ever.

     3. Then mark next, Christ is the believer's in every one of his works. Whether they be works of suffering or of duty, they are the property of the believer. As a child, he was circumcised, and is that bloody rite mine? Ay, "Circumcised in Christ." As a believer he is buried, and is that watery sign of baptism mine? Yes; "Buried with Christ in baptism unto death." Jesus' baptism I share when I lie interred with my best friend in the selfsame watery tomb. See there, he dies, and it is a master work to die. But is his death mine? Yes, I die in Christ. He rises. Mark him startling his guards, and rising from the tomb! And is that resurrection mine? Yes, we are "risen together with Christ." Mark again, he ascends up on high, and leads captivity captive. Is that ascension mine? Yes, for he hath "raised us up together." And see, he sits on his Father's throne; is that deed mine? Yes, he hath made us, "sit together in heavenly places." All he did is ours. By divine decree, there existed such an union between Christ and his people, that all Christ did his people did: and all Christ has performed, his people did perform in him, for they were in his loins when he descended to the tomb, and in his loins they have ascended up on high; with him they entered into bliss; and with him they sit in heavenly places. Represented by him, their Head, all his people even now are glorified in him—even in him who is the head over all things to his church. In all the deeds of Christ, either in his humiliation or his exaltation, recollect, O believer, thou hast a covenant interest, and all those things are thine.

     4. I would for one moment hint at a sweet thought, which is this, you know that in the person of Christ "dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." AH! believer, "and of his fulness have we received, and grace for grace." All the fulness of Christ! do you know what that is? Do you understand that phrase? I warrant you, you do not know it, and shall not do just yet. But all that fulness of Christ, the abundance of which you may guess of by your own emptiness—all that fulness is thine to supply thy multiplied necessities. All the fulness of Christ to restrain thee, to keep thee and preserve thee; all that fulness of power, of love, of purity, which is stored up in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, is thine. Do treasure up that thought, for then thine emptiness need never be a cause of fear; how canst thou be lost whilst thou hast all fulness to fly to?

     5. But I come to something sweeter than this; the very life of Christ is the property of the believer. Ah! this is a thought into which I cannot dive, and I feel I have outdone myself in only mentioning it. The life of Christ is the property of every believer. Canst thou conceive what Christ's life is? "Sure," you say, "he poured it out upon the tree." He did, and it was his life that he gave to thee then. But he took that life again; even the life of his body was restored; and the life of his great and glorious Godhead had never undergone any change, even at that time. But now, you know he has immortality: "he only hath immortality." Can you conceive what kind of life that is which Christ possesses? Can he ever die? No; far sooner may the harps of heaven be stopped, and the chorus of the redeemed cease for ever; far sooner may the glorious walls of paradise be shaken, and the foundations thereof be removed; than that Christ, the Son of God, should ever die. Immortal as his Father, now he sits, the Great Eternal One. Christian, that life of Christ is thine. Hear what he says: "Because I live ye shall live also." "Ye are dead; and your life"—where is it? It is "hid with Christ in God." The same blow which smites us dead, spiritually, must slay Christ too; the same sword which can take away the spiritual life of a regenerate man, must take away the life of the Redeemer also; for they are linked together—they are not two lives, but one. We are but the rays of the great Sun of Righteousness, our Redeemer, —sparks which must return to the great orb again. If we are indeed the true heirs of heaven, we cannot die until he from whom we take our rise dieth also. We are the stream that cannot stop till the fountain be dry; we are the rays that cannot cease until the sun doth cease to shine. We are the branches, and we cannot wither until the trunk itself shall die. "Because I live, ye shall live also." The very life of Christ is the property of every one of his brethren.

     6. And best of all, the person of Jesus Christ is the property of the Christian. I am persuaded, beloved, we think a great deal more of God's gifts than we do of God; and we preach a great deal more about the Holy Spirit's influence than we do about the Holy Spirit. And I am also assured that we talk a great deal more about the offices, and works, and attributes of Christ than we do about the person of Christ. Hence it is that there are few of us who can often understand the figures that are used in Solomon's Song, concerning the person of Christ, because we have seldom sought to see him or desired to know him. But, O believer, thou hast sometimes been able to behold thy Lord. Hast thou not seen him, who is white and ruddy, "the chief amongst ten thousand, and the altogether lovely?" Hast thou not been sometimes lost in pleasure when thou hast seen his feet, which are like much fine gold, as if they burned in a furnace? Hast thou not beheld him in the double character, the white and the red, the lily and the rose, the God yet the man, the dying yet the living; the perfect, and yet bearing about with him a body of death? Hast thou ever beheld that Lord with the nail-print in his hands, and the mark still on his side? And hast thou ever been ravished at his loving smile, and been delighted at his voice? Hast thou never had love visits from him? Has he never put his banner over thee? hast thou never walked with him to the villages and the garden of nuts? Hast thou never sat under his shadow? hast thou never found his fruit sweet unto thy taste? Yes, thou hast. His person then is thine. The wife loveth her husband; she loveth his house and his property; she loveth him for all that he giveth her, for all the bounty he confers, and all the love he bestows; but his person is the object of her affections. So with the believer: he blesses Christ for all he does and all he is. But oh! it is Christ that is everything. He does not care so much about his office, as he does about the Man Christ. See the child on his father's knee—the father is a professor in the university; he is a great man with many titles, and perhaps the child knows that these are honourable titles, and esteems him for them; but he does not care so much about the professors and his dignity, as about the person of his father. It is not the college square cap, or the gown that the child loves; ay, and if it be a loving child it will not be so much the meal the father provides, or the house in which it lives, as the father which it loves; it is his dear person that has become the object of true and hearty affection. I am sure it is so with you, if you know your Saviour; you love his mercies, you love his offices, you love his deeds, but oh! you love his person best. Reflect, then that the person of Christ is in the covenant conveyed to you: "I will give thee to be a covenant for the people."

     II. Now we come to the second: FOR WHAT PURPOSE DOES GOD PUT CHRIST IN THE COVENANT?

     1. Well, in the first place, Christ is in the covenant in order to comfort every coming sinner. "Oh," says the sinner who is coming to God, "I cannot lay hold on such a great covenant as that, I cannot believe that heaven is provided for me, I cannot conceive that the robe of righteousness and all these wondrous things can be intended for such a wretch as I am." Here comes in the thought that Christ is in the covenant. Sinner, canst thou lay hold on Christ? Canst thou say,

"Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling?"

     Well, if thou hast got that, it was put in on purpose for thee to hold fast by God's covenant mercies all go together, and if thou hast laid hold on Christ, thou hast gained every blessing in the covenant. That is one reason why Christ was put there. Why, if Christ were not there, the poor sinner would say, "I dare not lay hold on that mercy. It is a God-like and a divine one, but I dare not grasp it; it is too good for me. I cannot receive it, it staggers my faith." But he sees Christ with all his great atonement in the covenant; and Christ looks so lovingly at him, and opens his arms so wide, saying, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest," that the sinner comes and throws his arms around Christ, and then Christ whispers, "Sinner, in laying hold of me, thou hast laid hold of all." Why, Lord, I dare not think I could have the other mercies. I dare trust thee, but I dare not take the others. Ah, sinner, but in that thou hast taken me thou hast taken all, for the mercies of the covenant are like links in the chain. This one link is an enticing one. The sinner lays hold of it; and God has purposely put it there to entice the sinner to come and receive the mercies of the covenant. For when he has once got hold of Christ—here is the comfort—he has everything that the covenant can give.

     2. Christ is put also to confirm the doubting saint. Sometimes he cannot read his interest in the covenant. He cannot see his portion among them that are sanctified. He is afraid that God is not his God, that the Spirit hath no dealings with his soul; but then,

"Amid temptations, sharp and strong,
His soul to that dear refuge flies;
Hope is his anchor, firm and strong,
When tempests blow and billows rise."

     So he lays hold of Christ, and were it not for that, even the believer dare not come at all. he could not lay hold on any other mercy than that with which Christ is connected. "Ah," saith he, "I know I am a sinner, and Christ came to save sinners." So he holds fast to Christ. "I can hold fast here," he says, "my black hands will not black Christ, my filthiness will not make him unclean." So the saint holds hard by Christ, as hard as if it were the death-clutch of a drowning man. And what then? Why, he has got every mercy of the covenant in his hand. It is the wisdom of God that he has put Christ in, so that a poor sinner, who might be afraid to lay hold of another, knowing the gracious nature of Christ, is not afraid to lay hold of him, and therein he grasps the whole, but ofttimes unconsciously to himself.

     4. Again, it was necessary that Christ should be in the covenant, because there are many things there that would be nought without him. Our great redemption is in the covenant, but we have no redemption except through his blood. It is true that my righteousness is in the covenant, but I can have no righteousness apart from that which Christ has wrought out, and which is imputed to me by God. It is very true that my eternal perfection is in the covenant, but the elect are only perfect in Christ. They are not perfect in themselves, nor will they ever be, until they have been washed, and sanctified, and perfected by the Holy Ghost. And even in heaven their perfection consists not so much in their sanctification, as in their justification in Christ.

"Their beauty this, their glorious dress,
Jesus the Lord their righteousness."

     In fact, if you take Christ out of the covenant, you have just done the same as if you should break the string of a necklace: all the jewels, or beads, or corals, drop off and separate from each other. Christ is the golden string whereon the mercies of the covenant are threaded, and when you lay hold of him, you have obtained the whole string of pearls. But if Christ be taken out, true there will be the pearls, but we cannot wear them, we cannot grasp them; they are separated, and poor faith can never know how to get hold of them. Oh! it is a mercy worth worlds, that Christ is in the covenant.

     4. But mark once more, as I told you when preaching concerning God in the covenant, Christ is in the covenant to be used. There are some promises in the Bible which I have never yet used; but I am well assured that there will come times of trial and trouble when I shall find that that poor despised promise, which I thought was never meant for me, will be the only one on which I can float. I know that the time is coming when every believer shall know the worth of every promise in the covenant. God has not given him any part of an inheritance which he did not mean him to till. Christ is given us to use. Believer, use him! I tell thee again, as I told thee before, that thou dost not use thy Christ as thou oughtest to do. Why, man, when thou art in trouble, why dost thou not go and tell him? Has he not a sympathising heart, and can he not comfort and relieve thee? No, thou art gadding about to all thy friends save thy best friend, and telling thy tale everywhere except into the bosom of thy Lord. Oh, use him, use him. Art thou black with yesterday's sins? Here is a fountain filled with blood; use it, saint, use it. Has thy guilt returned again? Well, his power has been proved again and again; come use him! use him! Dost thou feel naked? Come hither, soul, put on the robe. Stand not staring at it; put it on. Strip, sir, strip thine own righteousness off, and thine own fears too. Put this on, and wear it, for it was meant to wear. Dost thou feel thyself sick? What, wilt thou not go and pull the night-bell of prayer, and wake up thy physician? I beseech thee go and stir him up betimes, and he will give the cordial that will revive thee. What! art thou sick, with such a physician next door to thee, a present help in time of trouble, and wilt thou not go to him? Oh, remember thou art poor, but then thou hast "a kinsman, a mighty man of wealth." What! wilt thou not go to him and ask him to give thee of his abundance, when he has given thee this promise, that as long as he has anything thou shalt go shares with him, for all he is and all he has is thine? Oh, believer, do use Christ, I beseech thee. There is nothing Christ dislikes more than for his people to make a show-thing of him and not to use him. he loves to be worked. He is a great labourer; he always was for his Father, and now he loves to be a great labourer for his brethren. The more burdens you put on his shoulders the better he will love you. Cast your burden on him. You will never know the sympathy of Christ's heart and the love of his soul so well as when you have heaved a very mountain of trouble from yourself to his shoulders, and have found that he does not stagger under the weight. Are your troubles like huge mountains of snow upon your spirit? Bid them rumble like an avalanche upon the shoulders of the Almighty Christ. He can bear them all away, and carry them into the depths of the sea. Do use thy Master, for for this very purpose he was put into the covenant, that thou mightest use him whenever thou needest him.

     III. Now, lastly, here is A PRECEPT, and what shall the precept be? Christ is ours; then be ye Christ's, beloved. Ye are Christ's, ye know right well. Ye are his by your Father's donation when he gave you to the Son. You are his by his bloody purchase, when he counted down the price for your redemption. You are his by dedication, for you have dedicated yourselves to him. You are his by adoption, for you are brought to him and made one of his brethren and joint-heirs with him. I beseech you, labour, dear brethren, to show the world that you are his in practice. When tempted to sin, reply, "I cannot do this great wickedness. I cannot, for I am one of Christ's." When wealth is before thee to be won by sin, touch it not; say that thou art Christ's, else thou wouldst take it; but now thou canst not. Tell Satan that you would not gain the world if you had to love Christ less. Are you exposed in the world to difficulties and dangers? Stand fast in the evil day, remembering that you are one of Christ's. Are you in a field where much is to be done, and others are sitting down idly and lazily, doing nothing? Go at your work, and when the sweat stands upon your brow and you are bidden to stay, say, "No, I cannot stop; I am one of Christ's. He had a baptism to be baptised with, and so have I, and I am straitened until it be accomplished. I am one of Christ's. If I were not one of his, and purchased by blood, I might be like Issachar, crouching between two burdens; but I am one of Christ's." When the syren song of pleasure would tempt thee from the path of right, reply, "Hush your strains, O temptress; I am one of Christ's. Thy music cannot affect me; I am not my own, I am bought with a price. When the cause of God needs thee, give thyself to it, for thou art Christ's. When the poor need thee, give thyself away, for thou art one of Christ's. When, at any time there is ought to be done for his church and for his cross, do it, remembering that thou art one of Christ's. I beseech thee, never belie thy profession. Go not where others could say of thee, "He cannot be Christ's;" but be thou ever one of those whose brogue is Christian, whose very idiom is Christ-like, whose conduct and conversation are so redolent of heaven, that all who see thee may know that thou art one of the Saviour's and may recognise in thee his features and his lovely countenance.

     And now, dearly beloved hearers. I must say one word to those of you to whom I have not preached, for there are some of you who have never laid hold of the covenant. I sometimes hear it whispered, and sometimes read it, that there are men who trust to the uncovenanted mercies of God. Let me solemnly assure you that there is now no such thing in heaven as uncovenanted mercy; there is no such thing beneath God's sky or above it, as uncovenanted grace towards men. All ye can receive, and all you ever ought to hope for, must be through the covenant of free grace, and that alone.

     Mayhap, poor convinced sinner thou darest not take hold of the covenant to-day. Thou canst not say the covenant is thine. Thou art afraid it never can be thine; thou art such an unworthy wretch. Hark thee; canst thou lay hold on Christ? Darest thou do that? "Oh," sayest thou, "I am too unworthy." Nay, soul, darest thou touch the hem of his garment to-day? Darest thou come up to him just so much as to touch the very skirt that is trailing on the ground? "No," sayest thou "I dare not," Why not, poor soul, why not? Canst thou not trust to Christ?

"Are not his mercies rich and free?
Then say, poor soul, why not for thee."

     "I dare not come; I am so unworthy," you say. Hear, then; my Master bids you come, and will you be afraid after that? "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Why dare you not come to Christ? Oh, you are afraid he will turn you away! Hark ye, then, what he saith; "Whosoever cometh unto me, I will in nowise cast out." Thou sayest, "I know he would cast me out." Come, then, and see if thou canst prove him a liar. I know thou canst not, but come and try. He has said "whosoever." "But I am the blackest." Nevertheless, he has said "whosoever:" come along, blackest of the black. "Oh, but I am filthy." Come along, filthy one, come and try him, come and prove him; recollect he has said he will cast out none that come to him by faith. Come and try him. I do not ask thee to lay hold on the whole covenant, thou shalt do that by-and-bye; but lay hold on Christ, and if thou wilt do that, then thou hast the covenant." "Oh, I cannot lay hold of him," saith one poor soul. Well, then, lie prostrate at his feet, and beg of him to lay hold of thee. Do groan one groan, and say, "Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!" Do sigh one sigh, and say, "Lord, save, or I perish." Do let thy heart say it, if thy lips cannot. If grief, long smothered, burns like a flame within thy bones, at least let one spark out. Now prayer one prayer, and verily I say unto thee, one sincere prayer shall most assuredly prove that he will save thee. One true groan, where God has put it in the heart, is an earnest of his love; one true wish after Christ, if it be followed by sincere and earnest seeking of him, shall be accepted of God, and thou shalt be saved. Come, soul, once more. Lay hold on Christ. "Oh, but I dare not do it." Now I was about to say a foolish thing; I was going to say that I wish I was a sinner like thyself this moment, and I think I would run before, and lay hold on Christ, and then say to you, "Take hold too." But I am a sinner like thyself, and no better than thyself; I have no merits, no righteousness, no works; I shall be damned in hell unless Christ have mercy on me, and should have been there now if I had had my deserts. Here am I a sinner once as black as thou art; and yet, O Christ, these arms embrace thee. Sinner, come and take thy turn after me. Have not I embraced him? Am I not as vile as thou art? Come and let my case assure thee. How did he treat me when I first laid hold of him? Why he said to me, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." Come, sinner, come and try, If Christ did not drive me away, he will never spurn you. Come along, poor soul, come along—

"Venture on him, (tis no venture,) venture wholly,
Let no other trust intrude;
None but Jesus
Can do helpless sinners good."

     He can do thee all the good thou wantest: oh! trust my Master, oh! trust my Master; he is a precious Lord Jesus, he is a sweet Lord Jesus, he is a loving Saviour, he is a kind and condescending forgiver of sin. Come, ye black; come, ye filthy; come, ye poor; come, ye dying; come, ye lost—ye who have been taught to feel your need of Christ, come all of you—come now for Jesus bids you come; come quickly. Lord Jesus, draw them, draw them by this Spirit! Amen.



To-Morrow

By / Aug 25

To-morrow

 

"Boast not thyself of to-morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth."—Proverbs 27:1

 

     God’s most holy Word was principally written to inform us of the way to heaven, and to guide us in our path through this world, to the realms of eternal life and light. But as if to teach us that God is not careless concerning our doings in the present scene, and that our benevolent Father is not inattentive to our happiness even in this state, he has furnished us with some excellent and wise maxims, which we may put in practice, not only in spiritual matters, but in temporal affairs also. I have always looked upon the book of Proverbs with pleasure, as being a book not only teaching us the highest spiritual wisdom, but as also more especially speaking on the "now"—the time that is present with us—giving us maxims that will make us wise for this world, and that will instruct us in conducting our affairs whilst we are here amongst our fellow-men. We need some temporal wisdom as well as spiritual illumination; it need not always be that the children of the kingdom should be more foolish than the children of darkness. It is well that we should be wise to order our common affairs aright, as well as to set out house in order for the grave; and hence we find in Scripture maxims and teachings for them both. Since God has been pleased thus to instruct us in the avocations of life, I shall not, then, be out of place, if I use my text, in some degree, in a merely temporal manner, and endeavour to give advice to my friends concerning the business of this life. Afterwards, I shall dwell upon it more spiritually. There is first, the abuse of to-morrow forbidden in the text; in the second place, I shall mention the right use of to-morrow.

     I. First, then, there is THE ABUSE OF TO-MORROW mentioned in the text; and we shall look upon it first in a worldly point of view, and yet, I trust, in a way of wisdom. "Boast not thyself of to-morrow." Oh! my brethren, whoso'er ye be, whether ye be Christians or no, this passage hath a depth of wisdom in it for you. "Boast not thyself of to-morrow," and this, for many very wise reasons.

     First of all, because it is extremely foolish to boast at all. Boasting never makes a man any the greater in the esteem of others, nor does it improve the real estate either of his body or soul. Let a man brag as he will, he is none the greater for his bragging; nay, he is the less, for men invariably think the worse of him. Let him boast as much as he pleases of anything that he possesses, he shall not increase its value by his glorying. He cannot multiply his wealth by boasting of it; he cannot increase his pleasures by glorying in them. True, to be content with those pleasures, and feel a complacency in them, may render them very sweet; but not so with such a treasure as this, for it is a treasure which he has not yet, and, therefore, how foolish is he to glory in it! There is an old, old proverb, which I dare not quote here; it is something to do with chickens. Perhaps you can recollect it; it bears very well upon this text, for to-morrow is a thing that we have not yet obtained, and, therefore, not only if we had it would it be foolish to boast of it, but because we have it not, and may never have it, it becomes the very extremity of foolishness to glory in it. Glory, O man, in the harvest that may come to thee next year when thy seed is sown; but glory not in to-morrow, for thou canst sow no seeds of morrows. Morrows come from God; thou hast no right to glory in them. Glory if thou wilt, O fowler, that the birds have once flown to thy net, for they may come again; but glory not too soon, for they my find another decoy that shall be better to their taste than thine, or they may rove far off from thy snare. Though many a day has come to thee, think not that another will certainly arrive. Days are not like links of a chain; one does not ensure the other. We have one, but we may never see its fellow; each may be the last of its kind. Each springs of a separate birth. There are no twin days. To-day hath no brother, it stands alone, and to-morrow must come alone, and the next and the next, also, must be born into this world without a brother. We must never look upon two days at once, nor expect that a whole herd of days shall be brought forth at one time.

     We need not boast of to-morrow, for it is one of the frailest things in all creation, and, therefore, the least to be boasted of. Boast of the bubbles on the breaker, boast of the foam upon the sea, boast of the clouds that skim the sky, boast of what thou wilt, O man, but boast not of to-morrow, for it is too unsubstantial. To-morrow, it is a fleeting thing. Thou hast not seen it; why dost thou boast of it? To-morrow, it is a fleeting thing. Thou hast not seen it; why dost thou boast of it? To-morrow, it is the cup which the idiot dreams lieth at the foot of the rainbow. It is not there, nor hath he found it. To-morrow—it is the floating island of Loch Lomond; many have talked of it, but none have seen it. To-morrow—it is the wrecker's beacon, enticing men to the rock of destruction. Boast not thyself of to-morrow; it is the frailest and most brittle thing thou canst imagine. Not glass were half so easily broken as thy to-morrow's joys and thy to-morrow's hopes; a puff of wind shall crush them, while yet they seem not to be full blown. He said, good easy man, full surely my greatness is a ripening, but there came a frost—a killing, frost which nipped his shoot and then he fell. Boast not of to-morrow; thou hast it not. Boast not of to-morrow; thou mayest never have it. Boast not of to-morrow; if thou hadst it, it would deceive thee. Boast not of to-morrow, for to-morrow thou mayest where morrows will be dreadful things to tremble at.

     Boast not thyself of to-morrow, not only because it is extremely foolish, but because it is exceedingly hurtful. Boasting of to-morrow is hurtful to us every way. It is hurtful to us now. I never knew a man who was always hoping to do great things in the future, that ever did much in the present. I never knew a man who intended to make a fortune by-and-bye, who ever saved sixpence a week now. I never knew a man who had a very great and grand hopes on the death of some old grandmother, or the coming-in of some property from chancery, or the falling to him of something because his name was Jenyns, I never saw him very prosperous in the mean time. I have heard of a man going to be rich to-morrow, and boasting of it; but I never knew him do much. Such men spend so much time in building castles in the air, that they have no stones left wherewith to build so much as a cottage on the ground. They were wasting all their energies on to-morrow, consequently they had no time to reap the fields of the present, for they were waiting for the heavy harvests of the future. The heavily laden boats of to-day come in with abundance of fish from the depths of time; but they said of them, "They are nothing; there will be heavier draughts to-morrow; there will be greater abundance then. Go away, little ships; an argosy shall come home to-morrow—a very fleet of wealth;" and so they let to-day's wealth go by because they expected the greater wealth of to-morrow; therefore, they were hurt even for the present.

     And worse than that. Some men were led into extraordinary extravagance from their hopes of the future. They spend what they are going to have, or rather what they never will have. Many have been ruined by the idle dream of speculation; and what is that but boasting of to-morrow? They have said, "True, I cannot pay for this which I now purchase; but I shall to-morrow, for to-morrow I shall roll in wealth, to-morrow, perhaps, I shall be the richest of men. A lucky turn of business (as they term it) will lift me off this shoal." So they keep still, and not only do they refuse to toil, to push themselves off the sand, but worse than that, they are throwing themselves away and wasting what they have, in the hope of better times coming in the future. Many a man has been made halt, and lame, and blind, and dumb, in the present, because he hoped to be greater than a man in the future. I always laugh at those who say to me, "Sir, rest a while; you will work all the longer of it. Stay while, lest you waste your strength, for you may work to-morrow." I bid them remember that such is not the teaching of Scripture, for that says, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might;" and I would count myself worse than a fool, if I should throw away my to-days in the expectation of to-morrows, and rest upon the couch of idleness to-day, because I thought the chariot of to-morrow would make up for all my sloth. No, beloved, if we love our God, we shall find enough to do, if we have all our to-morrows, and use all our to-days too. If we serve our God as we ought to serve him, considering what he has done for us, we shall find that we shall have more than our handsfull, let our life be spared as long as Methuselah's—enough for every moment, enough for every hour, long as life may be. But hoping to do things in the future takes away our strength in the present, unnerves our resolution, and unstrings our diligence. Let us take care that we are not hurt in the present by boasting of to-morrow.

     And, remember, that if you boast of to-morrow, it will not only hurt you to-day, but hurt you to-morrow also. Do you know why? because, as sure as you are alive, you will be disappointed with to-morrow, if you boast of it before it comes. To-morrows would be very good things if you did not give them such a very good character. I believe one of the very worst things a minister can possess is to have anybody to recommend him; for the people say, "Here comes a man, how he will preach, how eloquent he will be!" The poor creature cannot come up to their expectations, and so they are disappointed. So with to-morrow; you give him such flattering enconiums; "Oh! he is everything; he is perfection." To-days—they are nothing; they are the very sweepings of the floors; but to-morrows—they are the solid gold. Todays—they are exhausted mines, and we get little from them; but to-morrows—they are the very mines of wealth. We have only to get them, and we are rich, immensely rich. The to-morrows are everything; and then the to-morrows come laden with mercy and big with blessings of God; but, notwithstanding, we are disappointed, because to-morrow is not what we expected it to be, even when to-morrow is marvellously abundant. But sometimes to-morrow comes with storms, and clouds, and darkness, when we expected it to be full of light and sunshine, and oh, how terrible is our feeling then, from the very reason that we expected something different. It is not at all a bad beatitude, "Blessed is the man that expecteth nothing, for he shall never be disappointed."

     If we know how to practise that, and expect nothing, we shall not be disappointed, it is certain; and the less we expect, and the less we boast of our expectations, the more happy will the future be; because we shall have far less likelihood of being disappointed. Let us recollect, then, that if we would kill the future, if we would ruin the to-morrows, if we would blast their hopes, if we would take away their honey, we must press them in the hand of boasting, and then we shall have done it. "Boast not thyself of to-morrow;" for thou spoilest the to-morrow by boasting of it.

     And then, remember, what disastrous circumstances have occurred to men in this life after to-morrow had gone, from boasting of to-morrows. Ay, there is many a man that set all his hope upon one single thing; and the to-morrow came which he did not expect—perhaps a black and dark to-morrow, and it crushed his hopes to ashes; and how sad he felt afterwards! He was in his nest; he said, "Peace, peace, peace;" and sudden destruction came upon his happiness and his joy. He had boasted of his to-morrow by over security, and see him there, what a very wreck of a man he is, because he had set his hope on that; now his joy is blasted. Oh! my friends, never boast too much of the to-morrows, because if you do, your disappointment will be tremendous, when you shall find your joys have failed you, and your hopes have passed away. See there that rich man; he has piled heaps on heaps of gold; but now for a desperate venture, he is about to have more than he ever possessed before, and he reckons on that to-morrow. Nothingness is his; and what is his disappointment? because he boasted of imagined wealth. See that man! his ambition is to raise his house, and perpetuate his name; see that heir of his—his joy, his life, his fulness of happiness. A handful of ashes and a coffin are left to the weeping father. Oh! if he had not boasted too much of the certainty of that son's life, he had not wept so bitterly, after the to-morrow had swept over him, with all its blast and mildew of his expectations. See yonder, another; he is famous, he is great; to-morrow comes a slander, and his fame is gone, and his name disgraced. Oh! had he not set his love on that, he had not cared whether men cried, "crucify," or "hallelujah;" he had disregarded both alike. But believing that fame was a stable thing, whereas its foot is on the sand, he reckoned on to-morrows; and mark how sad he walks the earth, because to-morrow has brought him nothing but grief. "Boast not thyself of to-morrow."

     And I would have you remember just one fact; and that I think to be a very important one; that very often when men boast of to-morrow, and are over confident that they shall live, they not only entail great sorrow upon themselves, but upon others also. I have, when preaching, frequently begged of my friends to be quite sure to make their wills, and see to their family affairs. Many are the solemn instances which should urge you to do so. One night a minister happened to say, in the course of his sermon, that he held it to be a Christian duty for every man to have his house set in order, so that if he were taken away, he would know, that as far as possible, everything would be right. And there was one member of his church there, who said to himself, "What my minister has said is true. I should not like to see my babes and my wife left with nothing, as they must be if I were to die." So he went home. That night he made his will and cleared up his accounts. That night he died! It must have been a joyful thing for the widow, in the midst of her sadness, to find herself amply provided for, and everything in order for her comfort. Good Whitfield said he could not lie down in bed of a night, if he did not know that even his gloves were in their place; for he said he should not like to die with anything in his house out of order. And I would have every Christian very careful, to be so living one day, that if he were never to see another, he might feel that he had done the utmost that he could, not only to provide for himself, but also for those who inherit his name and are dear to him. Perhaps you call this only worldly teaching; very good; you will find it very much like heavenly teaching one of these dark days, if you do not practise it. "Boast not thyself of to-morrow."

     II. But now I come to dwell upon this in a spiritual manner, for a moment or two. "Boast not thyself of to-morrow." Oh! my beloved friends, never boast of to-morrow with regard to your soul's salvation.

     They do so in the first place, who think that it will be easier for them to repent to-morrow than it is to-day. Felix said there would be a more convenient season, and then he would again send for Paul, that he might hear him seriously. And many a sinner thinks that just now it is not easy to turn and to repent, but that by-and-bye it will be. Now, is not that a very string of falsehoods? In the first place, is it ever easy for a sinner to turn to God? Must not that be done, at any time, by divine power? And again, if that be not easy for him now, how will it be easier in after life? Will not his sins bind fresh fetters to his soul, so that it will be even more impossible for him to escape from his iron bondage? If he be dead now, will he not be corrupt before he reaches to-morrow? And when to-morrow comes, to which he looks forward as being easier for a resurrection, will not his soul be yet more corrupt, and, therefore, if we may so speak, even further from the possibility of being raised? Oh! sirs, ye say it is easy for ye to repent to-morrow; why, then, not to-day? Ye would find the difficulty of it, if you should try it; yea, you would find your own helplessness in that matter. Possibly you dream that on a future day repentance will be more agreeable to your feelings. But how can you suppose that a few hours will make it more pleasant? If it be vinegar to your taste now, it shall be so then; and if ye love your sins now, ye will love them better then; for the force of habit will have confirmed you in your course. Every moment of your lives is driving in another rivet to your eternal state. So far as we can see, it becomes less and less likely (speaking after the manner of men) that the sinner should burst his chains each sin that he commits; for habit has bound him yet faster to his guilt, and his iniquity has got another hold upon him. Let us take care, then, that we do not boast of to-morrow, by a pretence that it will be so much easier to repent to-morrow; whereas, it is one of Satan's lies, for it will only be the more difficult.

     He boasts of to-morrow, again, who supposes that he shall have plenty of time to repent and to return to God. Oh! there are many who say, "When I come to die, I shall be on my death-bed, and then I shall say, 'Lord, have mercy upon me a sinner.'" I remember an aged minister telling me a story of a man whom he often warned, but who always said to him, "Sir, when I am dying, I shall say 'Lord, have mercy on me;' and I shall go to heaven as well as anybody else." Returning home from market one night, rather "fou" with liquor, he guided his horse with a leap right over the parapet of a bridge into the river; the last words he was heard to utter, were a most fearful imprecation; and in the bed of the river he was found dead, killed by the fall. So it may be with you. You think you will have space for repentance, and it may be that sudden doom will devour you: or, perhaps, even while you are sitting there in the pew, your last moment is running out. There is your hour-glass. See! it is running. I marked another grain just then, and then another fell; it fell so noiselessly, yet methought I heard it fall. Yes! there it is! The clock's tick is the fall of that grain of dust down from your hour-glass. Life is getting shorter every moment with all of you; but with some the sand is almost out; there is not a handful left. A few more grains. See, now they are less, two or three. Oh! in a moment it may be said, "The is not one left." Sinner! never think that thou hast time to spare! thou never hadst; man never had. God says, "Haste thee," when he bids men flee from Sodom. Lot had to haste; and depend upon it, when the Spirit speaks in a man's heart, he doth always bid him haste. Under natural convictions, men are very prone to tarry; but the Spirit of God, when he speaks in the heart of man, always says, "to-day." I never knew a truly anxious soul yet, who was willing to put off till to-morrow. When God the Holy Ghost has dealings with a man, they are always immediate dealings. The sinner is impatient to get deliverance; he must have pardon now; he must have present mercy, or else he fears that mercy will come too late to him. Let me beseech you, then, (and may God the Holy Spirit grant that my entreaty may become successful in your case) let me beseech every one of you to take this into consideration—that there is never time to spare, and that your thought that there is time to spare, is an insinuation of Satan; for when the Spirit pleads with man, he pleads with him with demands of immediate attention. "To-day, if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation."

     "Boast not thyself of to-morrow," O sinner, as I doubt not thou art doing in another fashion. "Boast not thyself of to-morrow," in the shape of resolves to do better. I think I have given up resolutions now; I have enough of the debris and the rubbish of my resolutions to build a cathedral with, if they could but be turned into stone. Oh! the broken resolutions, the broken vows, all of us have had! Oh! we have raised castles of resolutions, structures of enormous size, that outvied Babylon itself, in all its majesty. Says one, "I know I shall be better to-morrow; I shall renounce this vice and the other; I shall forsake this lust; I shall give up that darling sin; true, I shall not do so now—a little more sleep and a little more slumber; but I know I shall do it to-morrow." Fool! thou knowest not that thou shalt see to-morrow. Oh! greater fool! thou oughtest to know, that what thou art not willing to do to-day, thou wilt not be willing to do to-morrow. I believe there are many souls that have been lost by good intentions, which were never carried out. Resolutions strangled at their birth brought on men the guilt of spiritual infanticide; and they have been lost, with resolutions sticking in their mouths. Many a man has gone down to hell with good resolution on his lip, with a pious resolve on his tongue. Oh! if he had lived another day, he said he would have been so much better; if he had lived another week, oh, then he thought he would begin to pray. Poor soul! if he had been spared another week, he would only have sunk the deeper into sin! But he did not think so, and he went to hell with a choice morsel rolling under his tongue—that he should do better directly, and that meant to amend by-and-bye. There are many of you present, I dare say, who are making good resolutions. You are apprentices: well, you are not going to carry them out till you get to be journeymen. You have been breaking the Sabbath: but you intend to leave it off when you are in another situation. You have been accustomed to swear: you say, "I shall not swear any more when I get out of this company, they try my temper so." You have committed this or that petty theft: to-morrow you will renounce it, because to-morrow you will have enough, and you can afford to do it. But of all the lying things—and there are many things that are deceptive—resolutions for to-morrow are the worst of all. I would not trust one of them; there is nothing stable in them; you might sooner sail to America across the Atlantic on a sere leaf, than float to heaven on a resolution.

     It is the frailest thing in the world, tossed about by every circumstance, and wrecked with all its precious freight—wrecked to the dismay of the man who ventured his soul in it—wrecked, and wrecked for aye. Take care, my dear hearers, that none of you are reckoning on to-morrows. I remember the strong but solemn words of Jonathan Edwards, where he says, "Sinner, remember, thou art at this moment standing over the mouth of hell upon a single plank, and that plank is rotten; thou art hanging over the jaws of perdition by a solitary rope, and lo! the strands of that rope are creaking—breaking now, and yet thou talkest of to-morrows!" If thou wert sick, man, wouldst thou send for thy physician to-morrow? If thine house were on fire, wouldst thou call "fire" to-morrow? If thou wert robbed in the street on thy road home, wouldst thou cry "stop thief" to-morrow? No, surely; but thou art wiser than that in natural concerns. But man is foolish, oh! too foolish in the things that concern his soul; unless divine and infinite love shall teach him to number his days, that he may apply his heart unto true wisdom, he will still go on boasting of to-morrows, until his soul has been destroyed by them.

     Just one hint to the child of God. Ah! my beloved brother or sister, do not, I beseech thee, boast of to-morrow thyself. David did it once: he said, "My mountain standeth firm, I shall never be moved." Do not boast of your to-morrows. You have feathered your nest pretty well; ay, but you may have a thorn in it before the sun has gone down, and you will be glad enough to fly aloft. You are very happy and joyful, but do not say you will always have as much faith as you have now—do not be sure you will always be as blessed. The next cloud that sweeps the skies may drive many of your joys away. Do not say you have been kept hitherto, and you are quite sure you will be preserved from sin to-morrow. Take care of to-morrows. Many Christians go tumbling on without a bit of thought; and then, on a sudden, they tumble down and make a mighty mess of their profession. If they would only look sharp after the to-morrows—if they would only watch their paths instead of star-gazing and boasting about them, their feet would be a great deal surer. True, God's child need not think of to-morrow as regards his soul's eternal security, for that is in the hand of Christ and safe for ever; but as far as his profession, and comfort, and happiness are concerned, it will well become him to take care of his feet every day. Do not get boasting; if you get boasting of to-morrow, you know the Lord's rule is always to send a canker where we put our pride. And so if you boast of to-morrow, you will have a moth in it before long. As sure as ever we glory in our wealth, it becomes cankered, or it takes to itself wings and flies away; and as certainly as we boast of to-morrow, the worm will gnaw its root, as it did Jonah's gourd, and the to-morrow under which we rested shall, with dropping leaves, only stand a monument to our disappointment. Let us take care, Christian brethren, that we do not waste the present time with hopes of to-morrow—that we do not get proud, and so off our guard, by boasting of what we most assuredly shall be then, as we imagine.

     III. And now, in the last place, if to-morrows are not to be boasted of, are they good for nothing? No, blessed be God! There are great many things we may do with to-morrows. We may not boast of them, but I will tell you what we may do with them if we are the children of God. We may always look forward to them with patience and confidence, that they will work together for our good. We may say of the to-morrows, "I do not boast of them, but I am not frightened at them; I would not glory in them, but I will not tremble about them."

"What may be my future lot,
Well I know concerns me not;
This doth set my heart at rest,
What my God appoints is best."

     We may be very easy and very comfortable about to-morrow; we may remember that all our times are in his hands, that all events are at his command; and though we know not all the windings of the path of providence, yet He knows them all. They are all settled in his book, and our times are all ordered by his wisdom; whether they be

"Times of trial and of grief;
Times of triumph and relief;
Times the tempter's power to prove,
Times to taste a Saviour's love:
All must come, and last, and end,
As shall please my heavenly Friend."

     And, therefore, we may look upon the to-morrows as we see them in the rough bullion of time, about to be minted into every day's expenditure, and we may say of them all, "They shall all be gold; they shall all be stamped with the King's impress, and, therefore, let them come; they will not make me worse—they will work together for my good."

     Yea, more, a Christian may rightly look forwards to his to-morrows, not simply with resignation, but also with joy. To-morrow to a Christian is a happy thing, it is one stage nearer glory. To-morrow! It is one step nearer heaven to a believer; it is just one knot more that he has sailed across the dangerous sea of life, and he is so much the nearer to his eternal port—his blissful heaven. To-morrow, it is a fresh lamp of fulfilled promise that God has placed in his firmament, that the Christian may hail it as a guiding star, in the future, or at least as a light to cheer his path. To-morrow, the Christian may rejoice at it; he may say of to-day, "O day, thou mayest be black, but I shall bid thee good-bye, for lo, I see the morrow coming, and I shall mount upon its wings, and shall flee away and leave thee and thy sorrows far behind me."

     And, moreover, the Christian may await to-morrow with even more than simple hope and joy; he may look forward to it with ecstacy in some measure, for he does not know but that to-morrow his Lord may come. To-morrow Christ may be upon this earth, "for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh." To-morrow, all the glories of millennial splendour may be revealed; to-morrow, the thrones of judgment may be set, and the King may summon the people to judgment. To-morrow, we may be in heaven; to-morrow, we may be on the breast of Christ; to-morrow, ay, before then, this head may wear a crown, this hand may wave the palm, this lip may sing the son, this foot may tread the streets of gold, this heart may be full of bliss, immortal, everlasting, eternal. Be of good cheer, oh, fellow-Christian; to-morrow can have nothing black in it to thee, for it must work for thy good, but it may have in it a precious, precious jewel. It is an earthen pitcher, and it may have in it some dark black waters, but their bitterness is taken away by the cross. But mayhap, also, it may have in it the precious jewel of eternity; for wrapt up within to-morrow may be all the glories of immortality. Anoint thine head with fresh oil of gladness at the prospect of each coming day. Boast not of to-morrow, but often comfort thyself with it. Thou hast a right to do so; it cannot be a bad tomorrow to thee; it may be the best day of thy life, for it may be thy last.

     And yet, another hint. To-morrow ought to be observed by Christians in the way of providence. Though we may not boast of to-morrow, yet we may seek to provide for the morrow. On one occasion I pleaded for a benefit society, and not knowing a more appropriate text, I selected this, "Take no thought for the morrow, for to-morrow shall take thought for the things of itself." Some of my hearers, when I announced my text, feared the principle of it was altogether hostile to anything like an insurance, or providing for the future, but I just showed them that it was not, as I looked upon it. It is a positive command that we are to take no anxious thought concerning to-morrow. No, how can I do that? How can I put myself into such a position that I can carry out this command of taking no thought for the morrow! If I were a man struggling in life, and had it in my power to insure for something which would take care of wife and family in after days, if I did not do it, you might preach to me all eternity about not taking thought for the morrow; but I could not help doing it, when I saw those I loved around me unprovided for. Let it be in God's word, I could not practise it; I should still be at some time or other taking thought for the morrow. But let me go to one of the many of the excellent institutions which exist, and let me see that all is provided for, I come home and say, "Now, I know how to practise Christ's command of taking no thought for the morrow; I pay the policy-money once a year, and I take no further thought about it, for I have no occasion to do so now, and have obeyed the very spirit and letter of Christ's command." Our Lord meant that we were to get rid of cares; now it is apparent that those distressing cares are removed, and we are able to live above anxiety by that single process.

     Now, if that is so, if there is anything that enables us to carry out Christ's commands, is it not in the very bowels of the commandments to do that? If God has pleased to put into the hearts of wise men to devise something that should in some way ameliorate the misfortunes of their kind, and relieve them from the distresses and casualties of God's providence, how can it but be our duty to avail ourselves of that wisdom which, doubtless, God gave to men, that we might thereby in these times be enabled to carry out in the fullest extent the meaning of that passage, "Take no thought for the morrow." Why, if a man says, "I shall take no thought for the morrow, I will just spend all I get, and not think of doing anything or taking any thought for the morrow," how is he going to pay his rent? Why, the text could not be carried out, if it meant what some people think. It cannot mean that we should carelessly live by the day, or else a man would spend all his money on Monday, and have nothing left for the rest of the week; but that would be simple folly. It means that we should have no anxious, distressing thought about it. I am preaching about benefit societies; I would not attempt to recommend many of them, and I do not believe in the principles of half of them; I believe a great deal of mischief is done by their gatherings in alehouses and pothouses; but wherever there is a Christian society, I must endeavour to promote its welfare, for I look on the principle as the best means of carrying out the command of Christ, "Take no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for itself." Allow me to recommend this Asylum to your liberality as a refuge in adversity for those who were careful in prosperity. It is a quiet retreat for decayed members of Benefit Societies, and I am sorry to inform you that many of its rooms are vacant, not from want of candidates, but from a lack of funds. It is a pity that so much public property should lie unemployed. Help the committee then to use the houses.

     And, now, in concluding, let me remind the Christian that there is one thing he has not do, and that is, he has not to provide salvation, nor grace, nor sustenance, nor promises for the morrow. No, beloved; but we often talk as if we had. We say, "How shall I persevere through such and such a trial?" "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." You must not boast of to-day's grace, as though it were enough for to-morrow. But you need not be afraid. With to-morrow's difficulties there will be to-morrow's help; with to-morrow's foes, to-morrow's friends; with to-morrow's dangers, to-morrow preservations. Let us look forward, then, to to-morrow as a thing we have not to provide for in spiritual matters, for the atonement is finished, the covenant ratified, and therefore every promise shall be fulfilled, and be "yea and amen" to us, not only in one to-morrow, but in fifty thousand to-morrows, if so many could run over our heads.

     And now just let us utter the words of the text again, very solemnly and earnestly. O young men in all your glory! O maidens in all your beauty! "Boast not yourselves of to-morrow." The worm may be at your cheeks very soon. O strong men, whose bones are full of marrow! O ye mighty men, whose nerves seem of brass, and your sinews of steel! "Boast not of to-morrow." "How, fir tree," for cedars have fallen ere now; and though you think yourselves great, God can pull you down. Above all, ye grey heads, "Boast not yourselves of to-morrow," with one foot hanging over the unfathomable gulf of eternity, and the other just tottering on the edge of time! I beseech you do not boast yourselves of to-morrow. In truth I do believe that grey heads are not less foolish on this point than very childhood. I remember reading a story of a man who wanted to buy his neighbour's farm next to him, and he went to him and asked him whether he would sell it. He said, "No; I will not;" so he went home, and said, "Never mind, Farmer So-and-so is an old man; when he is dead, I shall buy it." The man was seventy, and his neighbour sixty-eight; he thought the other would be sure to die before him. It is often so with men. They are making schemes that will only walk over their graves, when they will not feel them. The winds shall soon howl across the green sward that covers their tomb, but they shall not hear its wailing. Take care of the "to-days." Look not through the glass of futurity; but look at the things of to-day. "Boast not thyself of to-morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth."



The Comer’s Conflict with Satan

By / Aug 24

The Comer's Conflict with Satan

 
"And as he was yet a coming, the devil threw him down, and tare him. And Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child, and delivered him again to his father."—Luke 9:42

 

     This child possessed with an evil spirit, is a most fitting emblem of every ungodly and unconverted man. Though we be not possessed with devils, yet by nature we are possessed with devilish vices and lusts, which if they do not distress and vex our bodies, will most certainly destroy our souls. Never creature possessed with evil spirit was in a worse plight than the man who is without God, without Christ, and without hope in the world. The casting out of the unclean spirit was moreover a thing that was impossible to man and only possible to God; and so is the conversion of an ungodly sinner a thing beyond the reach of human ability, and only to be accomplished by the might of the Most High. The dreadful bellowings, foamings, and tearings caused in this unhappy child by the unclean spirit, are a picture of the sins, iniquities, and vices into which ungodly men are continually and impetuously hurried; and a type of that sad and terrible suffering which remorse will by-and-bye bring to their conscience, and which the vengeance of God will soon cause to occupy their hearts. The bringing of this child to the Saviour by his parents teaches us a lesson, that those of us to whom the care of youth is entrusted, either as parents or teachers, should be anxious to bring our children to Jesus Christ, that he may graciously save them. The devout desire and compassion of the father for his child is but a pattern of what every parent ought to feel for his offspring. Like Abraham, he should pray, "O that Ishmael might live before thee;" and not only put up the prayer, but also strive in the use of the means to bring his child to the Pool of Siloam that haply the angel may stir the stream, and his son may step into the water and be made whole. The parent should place his offspring where the Saviour walks, that he may look upon him and heal him. The coming of the child to Christ is a picture of saving faith, for faith is coming to Christ, simply believing in the power of his atonement. And lastly, the casting down and tearing which is mentioned in my text is a picture of the comer's conflict with the enemy of souls. "As he was yet a coming, the devil threw him down and tare him." Our subject this morning will be the well known fact, that coming sinners, when they approach the Saviour, are often thrown down by Satan and torn, so that they suffer exceedingly in their minds, and are well nigh ready to give up in despair.

     There are four points for our consideration this morning. That you may easily remember them I have made them alliterative: the devil's doings, designs, discovery, and defeat.

     I. First, THE DEVIL'S DOINGS. When this child came to Christ to be healed, the devil threw him down and tare him. Now this is an illustration of what Satan does with most, if not all sinners, when they come to Jesus to seek light and life through him; he throws them down and tears them. Allow me to point out how it is that the devil causes those extraordinary pangs and agonies which attend conversion. He has a multitude of devices, for he is cunning and crafty, and he has divers ways of accomplishing that end.

     1. First of all he does this by perverting the truth of God for the destruction of the soul's hope and comfort. The devil is very sound in divinity. I never suspected him of heterodoxy yet. I believe him to be one of the most orthodox individuals in creation. Other people may disbelieve the doctrines of revelation, but the devil cannot, for he knows the truth, and though he will belie it often, he is so crafty that he understand that with the soul convinced of sin his best method is not to contradict the truth, but to pervert it. Now I will mention the five great doctrines which we hold to be most prominent in Scripture, by the perversion of each of which the devil tries to keep the soul in bondage, darkness, and despair.

     First, there is the great doctrine of election—that God hath chosen to himself a number that no man can number, who shall be holy, since they are ordained to be a peculiar people, zealous of good works. Now the devil agitates the coming soul upon that doctrine. "Oh," saith he, "perhaps you are not elect. It is of no use your coming, and struggling, and striving; you may sit still and do nothing, and yet be saved, if you are to be saved; but if your name is written among the lost, all your praying, seeking, and believing cannot save you." Thus the devil begins preaching sovereignty in the sinner's ear, to make him believe that the Lord will assuredly cut him off. He asks, "How can you suppose that such a wretch as you can be elected? You deserve to be damned, and you know it. Your brother is a good moral man, but as for you, you are the chief of sinners; do you think God would choose you?" Then if the tempted one is instructed that election is not according to merit, but of God's free will, Satan opens another battery, and insinuates, "You would not feel like this if you were one of God's elect; you would not be allowed to come into all this suffering, and pray so long in vain." And again he whispers, 'You are not one of his;" and thus attempts to throw the soul down and tear it in pieces. I would just like to have a blow at his schemes this morning by reminding our friends that when they come to Christ they never need puzzle themselves about the doctrine of election. No one, in teaching a child the alphabet, makes him learn Z before he has learned A; so a sinner must not expect to learn election until he knows faith. The text with which he has to do is this: "He that believeth on the Lord Jesus shall be saved;" and when the Lord has enabled him to learn and believe that, he may go on to this: "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father through sanctification of the Spirit unto the obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus." But if he cannot shake off the subject from his mind, he needs not do it, for he may remember that every penitent is elect, every believer is elect. However great the sinner, if he does but repent, that is a proof that he is elect; if he does but believe on Christ, he is as certainly elected as his faith is genuine. I cannot tell that I am elected before I know whether I believe in God. I cannot tell a thing unless I see its effects. I cannot tell whether there is a seed in the ground unless you enable me to stir up the soil, or to wait till I see the blade shooting from under the earth; so I cannot tell whether you name is written in the Lamb's book of life until I see God's love manifested in you in the stretching out of your hearts toward God. I cannot disembowel the deep rocks of obscurity to find out that hidden thing, unless evidences and effects furnish me with spade and mattock. There is a newspaper in Glasgow called the Christian News, alias, the Un-Christian News, or Christian Wasp, and the editor says of me, that I am not fit to preach God's word because I do not know (can you guess what it is?) who God's elect are. He writes words to this effect, —"According to his own confession, the young man does not know who God's elect are until he has asked them questions, and knows their character." Well, if I did, I should be marvelously wise indeed. Who does know them apart from those signs, and marks, and evidences, in the heart and life which God always vouchsafes to his elect in due time? Shall I unlock the archives of heaven and read the rolls, or, with presumptuous hand unfold the Lamb's book of life, to know who are God's elect? No; I leave that for the editor of the Christian News to do, and when he publishes a full and correct list of the elect, no doubt it will be bought up tremendously, and the printer will speedily make a fortune by it. Let not the soul be distressed about election, for all who repent and believe do so, as the effect of their election.

     The next doctrine is that of our depravity—that all men are fallen in Adam, that they are all gone aside from the truth, and that moreover by their practice they have become full of sin; that in them dwelleth no good thing, and that if any good thing shall ever come there, it shall be put there by God; for there is not even the seed of goodness in the heart, much less the flower of it. The devil torments the soul with that doctrine, and he says, "See what a depraved creature you are; you know how dreadfully you have sinned against God; you have gone astray ten thousand times. See," he says, "there are your old sins still crying after you;" and he waves his wand, and gives a resurrection to past iniquities, which rise up like ghosts and terrify the soul. "There, look at that midnight scene; remember the deed if ingratitude; hark! do you not hear that oath echoed back from the walls of the past. Look at your heart; can that ever be washed? Why, it is full of blackness. You know you tried to pray yesterday, and your mind roved to your business before you were half through your prayer; and since you have been seeking God you have only been half in earnest, knocking at the door sometimes, and then afterwards giving it up. It is impossible you should ever be forgiven; you have gone too far astray for the shepherd to find you; you are altogether become filthy; your heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, and you cannot be saved." Many a poor soul has had a most terrible tearing with that doctrine. I have felt something of it myself, when I have verily thought that I must be rent in pieces by the dread remembrance of what I had been. The devil throws the sinner down and pulls him almost limb from limb, by persuading him that his guilt is heinous beyond parallel, and his iniquities are far beyond the reach of mercy, and his death-warrant is signed. Ah! poor soul, get up again; the devil has no right to throw you down. Your sin cannot be too great for God's mercy. It is not the greatness of sin that can cause any man to be damned, if there be not a want of faith. If a man has faith, notwithstanding all the sins he ever may have committed, he shall be saved; but if he have but one sin without faith, that one sin shall utterly destroy him. Faith in the blood of Christ destroys the sting of sin. One drop of the Saviour's precious blood could extinguish a thousand flaming words if God should will it, much more put out the burning fears of your poor heart. If thou believest in Christ, thou shalt say to the mountain of thy guilt, "Be thou removed far hence, and cast into the depths of the sea."

     Then, there is the doctrine of effectual calling, that God calls his children effectually; that it is not the power of man which brings us to God, but that it is the work of God to bring man to grace; that he calls those whom he would save with an effectual and special call which he vouchsafes only to his children. "There now," says the evil one, "the minister said there must be an effectual call; depend upon it yours is not such a call; it never came from God; it is only a few heated feelings; you were excited a little under the sermon, and it will all be gone directly, like the morning cloud or the early dew. You have strong desires sometimes, but at other seasons they are not half so vehement; if the Lord drew you, you would be always drawn with the same power; it will be over soon, and you will be all the worse for having been inclined to go to God under these legal convictions, and then, afterwards, running away from him." Well, beloved, tell Satan that you don't know whether it is an effectual call, but you know this, that if you perish you will go to Christ and perish only there; tell him you know it is so effectual that you cannot help going to Christ; that whether it is to last or not you cannot say, that you will let him know by-and-bye; but that you are resolved (for this is your last defence), if you perish, to perish at the cross of Christ; and so by the help of God you may by such means overcome him when he throws you down on that doctrine.

     The devil will also pervert the doctrine of final perseverance. "Look," says Satan, "the children of God always hold on their way: they never leave off being holy; they persevere; their faith is like the path of the just, shining more and more unto the perfect day; and so would ours be if you were one of the Lord's. But you will never be able to persevere. Don't you remember—six months ago, when you were lying on a sick bed you resolved to serve God, and it all broke down? You have vowed many times that you would be a Christian, and it has not lasted a fortnight. It will never do; you are too fickle; you will never keep fast hold on Christ; you will go with him a little while, but you will be sure to turn back; therefore, you cannot be one of the Lord's, for they never do turn back." So he tries to pull and tear the poor soul on that great and comforting doctrine. The same nail on which a sinner must hang his hope the devil tries to drive into the very temples of his faith, that he may die like Sisera in the tent of Jael. Oh, poor soul, tell Satan that thy perseverance is not thine, but that God is the author of it; that however weak thou art thou knowest thy weakness, but that if God begins a good work he will never leave it unfinished. And repelling him thus, thou mayest rise up from that throwing down and tearing which he has given to thee.

     Then there is the doctrine of redemption

"His grace is sov'reign, rich and free,
And why, my soul, why not for thee?"

     One of the hymns in Denham's selection, and it ought to have been in Rippon's, as well as I can remember, ends thus, —

"He shed his blood so rich and free,
And why, my soul, why not for thee?"

     That is just the question we never put to ourselves. We say, "Sure, my soul, why not for anybody else but thee." Up, poor soul! If Satan is trying to tear thee, tell him it is written, "He is able to save to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him;" that "whosoever cometh he will in no wise cast out;" and it may be that thus God will deliver thee from that desperate conflict into which, as a coming sinner, thou hast been cast.

     2. But Satan is not very scrupulous, and he sometimes throws the coming sinner down and tears him by telling horrible falsehoods. Some of you may not have known this, and I thank God if you do not understand some of the things of which I am about to speak. Many a time when the soul is coming to Christ, Satan violently injects infidel thoughts. I have never been thoroughly an unbeliever but once, and that was not before I knew the need of a Saviour, but after it. It was just when I wanted Christ and panted after him, that on a sudden the thought crossed my mind, which I abhorred but could not conquer, that there was no God, no Christ, no heaven, no hell; that all my prayers were but a farce, and that I might as well have whistled to the winds or spoken to the howling waves. Ah! I remember how my ship drifted along through that sea of fire, loosened from the anchor of my faith which I had received from my fathers. I doubted everything, until at last the devil defeated himself by making me doubt my own existence, and I thought I was an idea floating in the nothingness of acuity; then startled with that thought, and feeling that I was substantial flesh and blood after all, I saw that God was, and Christ was, and heaven was, and hell was, and that all these things were very truths. I should not be astonished if many here have been upon the very verge of infidelity, and have doubted almost everything. It is when Satan finds the heart tender that he tries to stamp his own impress of infidelity upon the soul; but, blessed be God, he never accomplishes it in the truly coming sinner. He labours also to inject blasphemous thoughts, and then tells us they are ours. Has he not sometimes poured in most vehement torrents of blasphemy and evil imaginations into our hearts, which we ignorantly thought must be our own? Yet not one of them perhaps belonged to us. I remember I had once been alone musing on God, when on a sudden it seemed as if the floodgates of hell had been loosened; my head became a very pandemonium; ten thousand evil spirits seemed to be holding carnival within my brain; and I held my mouth lest I should give utterance to the words of blasphemy that were poured into my ears. Things I had never heard or thought of before came rushing impetuously into my mind, and I could scarce withstand their influence. It was the devil throwing me down and tearing me. Ah! poor soul, thou wilt have that perhaps; but remember it is only one of the tricks of the arch-enemy. he drives his unclean beasts into your field and then calls them yours. Now, in old time, when tramps and vagrants troubled a parish, they whipped them and then sent them on to the next parish. So when you get these evil thoughts, give them a sound whipping and send them away; they do not belong to you if you do not indulge them. But if you fear that these thoughts are your own, you may say, "I will go to Christ, and even if these blasphemies are mine I will confess them to the great High Priest, for I know that all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men."

     3. Then if the devil cannot overcome you there, he tries another method; he takes all the threatening passages out of God's Word, and says they all apply to you. He reads you this passage, "There is a sin unto death; I do not say that ye should pray for it." "There," says the devil, "the apostle did not say he could even pray for the man who had committed certain sins." Then he reads, that "sin against the Holy Ghost shall never be forgiven." "There," he says, "is your character: you have committed sin against the Holy Ghost, and you will never be pardoned." Then he brings another passage: "Let him alone; Ephraim is joined unto idols." "There," says Satan, "you have had no liberty in prayer lately; God has let you alone; you are given unto idols; you are entirely destroyed;" and the cruel fiend is to be lost. But do not believe him my dear friends. No man has committed the sin against the Holy Ghost as long as he has grace to repent; it is certain that no man can have committed that sin if he flies to Christ and believes on him. No believing soul can commit it; no penitent sinner ever has committed it. If a man be careless and thoughtless—if he can hear a terrible sermon and laughed it off, and put away his convictions—if he never feels ay strivings of conscience, there is a fear that he may have committed that sin. But as long as you have any desires for Christ, you have no more committed that sin than you have flown up to the stars and swept cobwebs from the skies. As long as you have any sense of your guilt, any desire to be redeemed, you cannot have fallen into that sin; as a penitent you may still be saved, but if you had committed it, you could not be penitent.

     II. Let me dwell for a moment or two upon the second point—the DEVIL'S DESIGN. Why does he throw the coming soul down and tear it?

     First, because he does not like to lose it. "No king will willingly lose his subjects," said Apollyon to Christian when he stretched himself across the road, "and I swear thou shalt go no farther; here will I spill thy soul." There he stood vowing vengeance at him because he had escaped from his dominion. Do you suppose that Satan would lose his subjects one by one, and not be wroth? Assuredly not. As soon as he sees a soul hurrying off to the wicket gate, with his eyes fixed on the light, away go all hell's dogs after him. "There is another of my subjects going; my empire is being thinned; my family is being diminished:" and he tries with his might and main to bring the poor soul back again. Ah! soul, don't be deceived by him; his design is to throw you down; he does not tell thee these things to do thee good, or to humble thee, but in order to keep thee from coming to Christ, and decoy thee into his net, where he may utterly destroy thee.

     Sometimes, I believe, he has the vile design of inducing poor souls to make away with themselves before they have faith in Christ. This is an extreme case, but I have met with not a few who have been thus tempted to take away their lives, and rush before their Maker with their hands red with their own blood; for Satan knows full well that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. But he never accomplished his design in the soul of one elect sinner yet.

     Then Satan has another motive. When the soul is coming to Christ he tries, out of spite, to worry that soul. Satan's heart is made up of that which is just the opposite of benevolence—malevolence; he hates everything, and loves nothing; he hates to see any creature happy, any soul glad; and when he sees a soul coming to Christ, he says, "Ah! I have nearly lost him; I shall never have an opportunity of bringing thundering condemnation into his ears, and dragging him about in the flames of hell as I thought; and now before he is gone I will do something; the last grip shall be a hard one; the last blow shall be dealt with all my power;" and down he comes upon the poor soul, who falls wallowing upon the earth in despair and doubt; then he tears him, and will not leave him until he has worked as much of his way with him as the Lord will let him. Don't be afraid, child of God. "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you;" and even though he may cast you to the ground, remember that the righteous falleth many times, but he riseth up again; and so shalt thou, and the designs of the enemy shall be frustrated, as it is written, "Thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee."

     III. In the third place, there is the DEVIL'S DISCOVERY. I do not think the devil would be able to throw one poor sinner to the ground if he came as the devil; but it is seldom he does that. He presents himself as an angel of light, or even as the Holy Spirit. He knows that the Holy Spirit does all the work of salvation, and therefore he tries to counterfeit the operations of the Holy Ghost. He knows it is the Holy Spirit's work to take away pride from man, and to humble the soul. Well, Satan counterfeits that blessed work, and takes away hope from man as well as pride. Under the pretence of humbling the poor sinner, and telling him that he ought to lie lower in the dust, he not only humbles the poor soul, but puts it down so low that he dishonors God too in the sinner's estimation, by telling him that God himself cannot save him. Satan will try, if he can, to mar God's work, while it is yet upon the potter's wheel, by putting on his own instrument while the clay is whirling round upon the wheel, that it may not assume the Holy Ghost's shape, but that there may be some marks of the devil's workmanship in the article. Sometimes you ask God that you may be able to agonize in prayer. "That is right," says Satan, "agonize in prayer; but remember you must now receive the mercy, or you are lost." So he glides in and adds a little piece to the truth, making you believe it is an impulse of the Holy Spirit, while it is, after all, a deception of the Father of Lies. The Holy Ghost tells you that you are a lost sinner, and undone; "Ah!" says the devil, "you are, and you cannot be saved;" and thus again under the very garb of the Spirit's operations he deceives the soul. It is my firm belief that very much of the experience of a Christian is not Christian experience. Many Christians experience things that have nothing to do with Christianity, but more to do with demonology. When you read the convictions of John Bunyan, you may think that all that terror was the fruit of the Holy Spirit; but be assured it was the fruit of Satanic influence. You may think it is God's Holy Spirit that drives sinners to despair and keeps them shut up in the iron cage so long. Not at all. There was God's Holy Spirit, and then Satan came in to mar the work if he could.

     Now I will give the poor sinner a means of detecting Satan, so that he may know whether his convictions are from the Holy Spirit, or merely the bellowing of hell in his ears. In the first, place, you may be always sure that that which comes from the devil will make you look at yourselves and not at Christ. The Holy Spirit's work is to turn our eyes from ourselves to Jesus Christ, but the enemy's work is the very opposite. Nine out of ten of the insinuations of the devil have to do with ourselves. "You are guilty," says the devil—that is self. "You have not faith"—that is self. "You do not repent enough"—that is self. "You have got such a wavering hold of Christ"—that is self. "You have none of the joy of the spirit, and therefore cannot be one of his"—that is self. Thus the devil begins picking holes in us; whereas the Holy Spirit takes self entirely away, and tells us that we are "nothing at all," but that

"Jesus Christ is all in all."

     Satan brings the carcass of self and pulls it about, and because that is corrupt, tells us that most assuredly we cannot be saved. But remember, sinner, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that is the instrument—it is Christ's blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Christ, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Christ, the author and finisher of thy faith; and if thou dost that, ten thousand devils cannot throw thee down, but as long as thou lookest at thyself, the meanest of those evil spirits may tread thee beneath his feet.

     You may discern the devil's insinuations in another way, they generally reflect upon some attribute of God. Sometimes they reflect upon his love, and tell you that God will not save you; sometimes upon his long suffering, and they tell you you are too old, and that God won't save you; sometimes upon his sovereignty, and they tell you that God does not choose as he wills, but that he has respect to characters, and takes men according to their merits; sometimes they reflect upon God's truth, and they tell you that he will not keep his promise; ay, and sometimes they reflect upon the very being of God, and tell you that there is not such a one. But O poor trembling soul, Satan shall not get an advantage over thee; but take care—detect him; and when thou hast found out the devil, thou hast frustrated his aims as far as thou art thyself concerned.

     IV. Now, in the last place, we have to consider the DEVIL'S DEFEAT. How was he defeated? Jesus rebuked him. Beloved, there is no other way for us to be saved from the castings down of Satan but the rebuke of Jesus. "Oh," says one poor soul, "many months and years have I been distressed for fear I should not be saved; I have gone from place to place in hopes that some minister might say something which should rebuke the evil spirit." Sister, or beloved brother, have you not been doing wrong? Is it not Jesus who rebukes the evil spirit? Or perhaps you have been trying to rebuke the evil spirit yourself; you have tried to argue and dispute with him; you have said that you are not so vile as he described you to be. Beloved, have you not been doing wrong. It is not your business to rebuke Satan "The Lord rebuke thee," that is what thou shouldst say. Oh! if you had looked to Jesus and said, "Lord, rebuke him," he had only need say, "Hush!" and the demon would have been still in a moment, for he knows how omnipotent Jesus is, since he feels his power. But you get striving to pacify your own heart when you are under these temptations, instead of remembering that it is Jesus only who can remove the affliction. If I had one here who suffered the most from this ailment—the possession of Satan, I would say to him, beloved, sit down; remember Jesus; go to Gethsemane, and depend upon it the devil will never stay there with you; think on the agonies of your Saviour covered with his blood; the devil cannot bear Christ's blood—he goes howling away at the very thought of it. Go to the pavement where Christ endured the accursed flagellation; the devil will not stay long there with you; and if you sit at the foot of his cross and say—

"Oh! how sweet to view the flowing,
Of his ever precious blood,"

     you will not long find the devil vexing you. It is no use to get praying simply. Prayer is good in itself, but that is not the way to get rid of Satan—it is thinking of Christ. We get saying, "Oh, that I had stronger faith! Oh, that I had love to Jesus!" It is good for a Christian to say that, but it is not enough, the way to overcome Satan, and to have peace with God is through Christ, "I am the way;" if thou wouldst know the way, come to Christ. "I am the truth:" if thou wouldst refute the devil's lies come to the truth. "I am the life:" if thou wouldst be spared from Satan's killing, come to Jesus. There is one thing which we all of us too much becloud in our preaching, though I believe we do it very unintentionally—namely, the great truth that it is not prayer, it is not faith, it is not our doings, it is not our feelings upon which we must rest, but upon Christ, and on Christ alone. We are apt to think that we are not in a right state, that we do not feel enough, instead of remembering that our business is not with self, but Christ. Our business is only with Christ. O soul, if thou couldst fix thy soul on Jesus, and neglect everything else—if thou couldst but despise good works, and aught else, so far as they relate to thy salvation, and look wholly, simply on Christ, I tell thee Satan would soon give up throwing thee down, he would find it would not answer his purpose, for thou wouldst fall on Christ, and like the giant who fell upon his mother, the earth, thou wouldst rise up each time stronger than before. Have I then within hearing one poor tried, tempted, devil-dragged soul? Has Satan been pulling you through the thorns, and briers, and thickets, until you are scarred and bruised? Come now, I have tried to preach a rough sermon to you because I knew I had rough work to do with roughly used souls. Is there nothing here, poor sinner, that thou canst lay hold upon? Art thou so locked up that not one ray of light comes through the iron bars? What! art thou so chained that thou canst not move hand or foot? Why, man, I have brought thee a pitcher and a piece of bread to-day even in thy dungeon. Though thou art cast down, there is a little here to comfort thee in what I have said: but oh! if my Master would come he would bring more than that, for he would rebuke the unclean spirit, and it would immediately depart from thee. Let me beseech thee, look only to Christ; never expect deliverance from self, from Satan, from ministers, or from means of any kind apart from Christ; keep thine eye simply on him; let his death, his agonies, his groans, his sufferings, his merits, his glories, his intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the morning look for him; when thou liest down at night look for him. Oh! let not thy hopes or fears come between thee and Christ; seek only Christ; let the hymn we sang be thy hymn and thy prayer, —

"Lord, deny me what thou wilt,
Only ease me of my guilt,
Prostrate at thy feet I lie,
Give me Christ, or else I die."

     And then, even though the devil throw thee down and tear thee, it were better he should do so now than that he should tear thee for ever.

     I have some here, however, who will laugh at what I have been preaching this morning. Ah! sirs, you may do so; but bitter though my text may be, I wish you had it in your mouths. Though sad be the experience of being torn when coming to Christ, I had rather see you so than see you whole, away from Christ. It is better to be rent in pieces coming to the Saviour, than to have a sound, whole heart away from him. Tremble, sinner, tremble, for if thou comest not to Christ, he shall rend thee at last; his eye shall not pity, neither shall his hand spare thee. He hath said, "Beware ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces and there be none to deliver." Sirs, within another hour, and some of you may know this; certainly, before long there are some who will be torn in pieces by the wrath of God. Why will ye die? Why will ye die? You cannot answer the question, I think; but let it rest upon your hearts. What profit will you have in your own blood? What will you profit if you gain the whole world and lose your own soul? Remember, Jesus Christ can save even you. Believe on his name, ye convinced sinners, believe on Christ. The Lord bless you, for Jesus' sake! Amen.



False Professors Solemnly Warned

By / Aug 24

False Professors Solemnely Warned

 

"For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things."—Philippians 3:18-19

 

     Paul was the very model of what a Christian minister should be. He was a watchful shepherd over the flock; he did not simply preach to them, and consider that he had done all his duty when he had delivered his message; but his eyes were always upon the Churches, marking their spiritual welfare, their growth in grace, or their declension in godliness. He was the unsleeping guardian of their spiritual welfare. When he was called away to other lands to proclaim the everlasting gospel, he seems always to have kept an eye upon those Christian colonies which he had founded in the midst of heathen darkness. While lighting up other lamps with the torch of truth, he did not fail to trim the lamps already burning. Here you observe he was not indifferent to the character of the little church at Philippi, for he speaks to them and warns them.

     Note, too, that the apostle was a very honest pastor—when he marked anything amiss in his people, he did not blush to tell them; he was not like your modern minister, whose pride is that he never was personal in his life, and who thus glories in his shame, for had he been honest, he would have been personal, for he would have dealt out the truth of God without deceitfulness, and would have reproved men sharply, that they might be sound in the faith. "I tell you," says Paul, "because it concerns you." Paul was very honest; he did not flinch from telling the whole truth, and telling it often too, though some might think that once from the lip of Paul would be of more effect than a hundred times from any one else. "I have told you often," says he, "and I tell you yet again there are some who are the enemies of the cross of Christ."

     And while faithful, you will notice that the apostle was, as every true minister should be, extremely affectionate. He could not bear to think that any of the members of the churches under his care should swerve from the truth, he wept while he denounced them; he knew not how to wield the thunderbolt with a tearless eye; he did not know how to pronounce the threatening of God with a dry and husky voice. No; while he spoke terrible things the tear was in his eye, and when he reproved sharply, his heart beat so high with love, that those who heard him denounce so solemnly, were yet convinced that his harshest words were dictated by affection. "I have told you often, and I tell you, even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ."

     Beloved, I have a message to deliver to-night which is to the same effect as that of the Apostle Paul, and I am afraid it is as necessary now as it was in his time. There are many now among us, as there were then, who walk in such a manner that we recognise them at once as the "enemies of the cross of Christ." I do fear that the evil, instead of having decreased, has multiplied and grown in danger. We have more profession now than there was in the age of Paul, and consequently we have more hypocrisy. It is a crying sin with our churches that there are many in their midst who never ought to be there, who would be fit members of an ale-house or any favourite resort of the gay and frivolous, but who never ought to sip the sacramental wine or eat the holy bread, the emblems of the sufferings of our Lord. We have—O Paul, how wouldst thou have said it to-night, and how wouldst thou have wept while saying it! —we have many in our midst who are the "enemies of the cross of Christ," because "their God is their belly, they mind earthly things," and their life is not consistent with the great things of God.

     I shall endeavour, for a short time to-night, to tell you the reason of the apostle's extraordinary sorrow. I never read that the apostle wept when he was persecuted. Though they ploughed his back with furrows, I do believe that never a tear was seen to gush from his eye while the soldiers scourged him. Though he was cast into prison, we read of his singing, never of his groaning. I do not believe he ever wept on account of any sufferings or dangers to which he himself was exposed for Christ's sake. I call this an extraordinary sorrow, because the man who wept was no soft piece of sentiment, and seldom shed a tear even under grievous trials. He wept for three things: he wept on account of their guiltthe ill effects of their conducttheir doom.

     I. First, Paul wept on account of the GUILT of those persons who, having a name to live, were dead, and while uniting themselves with a Christian church, were not walking as they should do among men and before God. Notice the sin with which he charges them. He says, "Their God was their belly;" by this I understand that they were sensual persons. There were those in the early church who, after they sat at God's table, would go away and sit at the feasts of the heathen, and there indulge in gluttony and drunkenness; others indulged in lusts of the flesh, enjoying those pleasures (so miscalled) which, afterwards, bring unutterable pain even to the body itself, and are disgraceful to men, much more to professors of religion. Their God was their belly. They care more about the dress of their body than the dress of their soul; they regarded more the food of the outward carcass than the life of the inner man. Ah! my hearers; are there not many everywhere in our churches who still bow before their belly-god, and make themselves their own idols? Is it not notorious, in almost every society, that professing men can pamper themselves as much as others? —I mean not all, but some. Ay, I have heard of drunken professors; not men who positively reel through the street, who are drunken in mid-day or intoxicated before their fellow-men, but men who go to the very verge of drunkenness in their social parties; men who take so much, that while it would be an insult to their respectability to call them intoxicated, it would be equally an insult to the truth to call them sober. Have we not some men in our churches (it is idle to deny it) who are as fond of the excesses of the table and surfeit in the good things of this life as any other class of men? Have we not persons who spend a very fortune upon the dress of their bodies, adorning themselves far more than they adorn the doctrine of their Saviour; men whose perpetual business it is to take good care of their bodies, against whom flesh and blood never had any cause to complain, for they not only serve the flesh, but make a god of it? Ah! sirs, the church is not pure; the church is not perfect; we have scabbed sheep in the flock. In our own little communion, now and then, we find them out, and then comes the dread sentence of excommunication, by which they are cut off from our fellowship; but there are many of whom we are not aware, who creep like snakes along the grass, and are not discovered till they inflict a grievous wound upon religion, and do damage to our great and glorious cause. Brethren, there are some in the church (both established and dissenting)—let us say it with the deepest sorrow—"whose god is their belly."

     Another of their sins was that they did mind earthly things. Beloved, the last sentence may not have touched your consciences, but this is a very sweeping assertion, and I am afraid that a very large proportion of Christ's church are verily guilty here. It is an anomaly, but it is a fact, that we hear of ambitious Christians, although Christ has told us that he who would be exalted must humble himself. There are among the professed followers of the humble Man of Galilee, men who strive to gain the topmost round of the ladder of this world; whose aim is, not to magnify Christ, but to magnify themselves at any hazard. It had been thought at one time that a Christian would be a holy, a humble, and contented man; but it is not so now-a-days. We have (Oh, shame, ye churches!) mere professors; men who are as worldly as the worldliest, and have no more of Christ's Holy Spirit in them than the most carnal who never made a profession of the truth. Again, it is a paradox, but it stares us in the face every day, that we have covetous Christians. It is an inconsistency. We might as well talk of unholy seraphim, of perfect beings subject to sin, as of covetous Christians; yet there are such men, whose purse strings were never intended to slide, at least at the cry of the poor; who call it prudence to amass wealth, and never use it in any degree in the cause of Christ. If you want men that are hard in business, that are grasping after wealth, that seize upon the poor debtor and suck the last particle of his blood; if you want the men who are grasping and grinding, that will skin the flint, and take away the very life from the orphan, you must come—I blush to say it, but it is a solemn truth—you must come sometimes to our churches to find them. Some such there are amongst the highest of her officers, who "mind earthly things," and have none of that devotion to Christ which is the mark of pure godliness. These evils are not the fruits of religion, they are the diseases of mere profession. I rejoice that the remnant of the elect are kept pure from these, but the "mixed multitude" are sadly possessed therewith.

     Another character which the Apostle gives of these men is that they gloried in their shame. A professing sinner generally glories in his shame more than any one else. In fact, he miscalls it. He labels the devil's poisons with the names of Christ's medicines. Things that he would reckon vices in any other man are virtues with himself. If he could see in another man the selfsame action which he has just performed—if another could be the looking-glass of himself, oh! how he would thunder at him! He is the very first man to notice a little inconsistency. He is the very strictest of Sabbatarians; he is the most upright of thieves; he is the most tremendously generous of misers; he is the most marvellously holy of profane men. While he can indulge in his favourite sin, he is for ever putting up his glass to his eye to magnify the faults of others. He may do as he pleases; he may sin with impunity; and if his minister should hint to him that his conduct is inconsistent, he will make a storm in the church, and say the minister was personal, and insulted him. Reproof is thrown away on him. Is he not a member of the church? Has he not been so for years? Who shall dare to say that he is unholy? O sirs, there are some of your members of churches who will one day be members of the pit. We have some united with our churches who has passed through baptism and sit at our sacramental tables, who, while they have a name to live, are dead as corpses in their graves as to anything spiritual. It is an easy thing to palm yourself off for a godly man now-a-days. There is little self-denial, little mortification of the flesh, little love to Christ wanted. Oh, no. Learn a few religious hymns; get a few cant phrases, and you will deceive the very elect; enter into the church, be called respectable, and if you cannot make all believe you, you will yet smooth your path to destruction by quieting an uneasy conscience. I am saying hard things, but I am saying true things; for my blood boils sometimes when I meet with men whom I would not own, whom I would not sit with anywhere, and who yet call me "brother." They can live in sin, and yet call a Christian "brother." God forgive them! We can feel no brotherhood with them; nor do we wish to do so until their lives are changed, and their conduct is made more consistent.

     You see, then, in the Apostle's days there were some who were a disgrace to godliness, and the Apostle wept over them because he knew their guilt. Why, it is guilt enough for a man to make a God of his belly without being a professor; but how much worse for a man who knows better, who even sets up to teach other people better, still to go on and sin against God and against his conscience, by making a solemn profession, which is found in his case to be a lie. Oh! how dreadful is such a man's guilt! For him to stand up and say,

"'Tis done; the great transaction's done.
I am the Lord's, and he is mine,"

     and yet to go and sin like others; to use the same conversation, to practise the same chicanery, to walk in as ungodly a manner as those who have never named the name of Christ—ah! what guilt is here! It is enough to make us weep if we have been guilty ourselves; ay, to weep tears of blood that we should so have sinned against God.

     II. But the Apostle did not so much weep for them as for THE MISCHIEF THEY WERE DOING, for he says, emphatically, that they are, "The enemies of the cross of Christ." "The enemies;" as much as to say, the infidel is an enemy; the curser, the swearer, the profane man, is an enemy; Herod, yonder, the persecutor, is an enemy; but these men are the chief soldiers—the life-guards in Satan's army. "The enemies of the cross of Christ" are Pharisaic professors, bright with the whitewash of outside godliness, whilst they are rotten within. Oh! methinks there is nothing that should grieve a Christian more than to know that Christ has been wounded in the house of his friends. See, there comes my Saviour with bleeding hands and feet. O my Jesus, my Jesus, who shed that blood? Whence comes that wound? Why lookest thou so sad? He replies, "I have been wounded, but guess where I received the blow?" Why, Lord, sure thou wast wounded in the gin-palace; thou wast wounded where sinners meet, in the seat of the scornful; thou wast wounded in the infidel hall. "No, I was not," saith Christ; "I was wounded in the house of my friends; these scars were made by those who sat at my table and bore my name, and talked my language; they pierced me and crucified me afresh, and put me to an open shame." Far worst of sinners they that pierce Christ thus whilst professing to be friends. Caesar wept not until Brutus stabbed him; then it was that he was overcome, and exclaimed, "Et tu, Brute!" And thou, "Hast thou stabbed me?" So, my hearers, might Christ say to some of you. "What! thou, and thou, and thou, a professor, hast stabbed me?" Well might our Saviour muffle up his face in grief, or rather bind it in clouds of wrath, and drive the wretch away that has so injured his cause.

     If I must be defeated in battle, let me be defeated by mine enemies, but let me not be betrayed by my friends. If I must yield the citadel which I am willing to defend even to the death, then let me yield it, and let my foes walk over my body; but oh! let not my friends betray me; let not the warrior who stands by my side unbar the gate and admit the foemen. That were enough to break one's heart twice—once for the defeat, and the second time at the thought of treachery.

     When a small band of Protestants were striving for their liberties in Switzerland, they bravely defended a pass against an immense host. Though their dearest friends were slain, and they themselves were weary, and ready to drop with fatigue, they stood firm in the defence of the cause they had espoused. On a sudden, however, a cry was heard—a dread and terrible shriek. The enemy was winding up a steep acclivity, and when the commander turned his eye thither, O how his brow gathered with storm! He ground his teeth and stamped his foot, for he knew that some caitiff Protestant had led the blood-thirsty foe up the goat track to slay his friends. Then turning to his friends, he said "On!" and like a lion on his prey, they rushed upon their enemies, ready now to die, for a friend had betrayed them. So feels the bold-hearted Christian, when he sees his fellow-member betraying Christ, when he beholds the citadel of Christianity given up to its foes by those who pretended to be its friends. Beloved, I would rather have a thousand devils out of the church, than have one in it. I do not care about all the adversaries outside; our greatest cause of fear is from the crafty "wolves in sheep's clothing," that devour the flock. It is against such that we would denounce in holy wrath the solemn sentence of divine indignation, and for such we would shed our bitterest tears of sorrow. They are "the enemies of the cross of Christ."

     Now, for a moment, let me show you how it is that the wicked professor is the greatest enemy to Christ's church.

     In the first place, he grieves the church more than any one else. It any man in the street were to pelt me with mud, I believe I should thank him for the honor, if I knew him to be a bad character, and knew that he hated me for righteousness sake. But if one who called himself a Christian should injure the cause with the filthiness of his own licentious behaviour: ah! that were more injurious than the stakes of Smithfield, or the racks of the Tower. The deepest sighs the Christian has ever heaved, have been fetched from him by carnal professors. I would not weep a tear if every man should curse me who was a hater of Christ; but when the professor forsakes Christ, and betrays his cause: ah! that indeed is grievous; and who is he that can keep back the tear on account of so vile a deed?

     Again: nothing divides the church more. I have seen many divisions in journeying through the country, and I believe almost every division may be traced to a deficiency of piety on the part of some of the members. We should be more one, if it were not for cants that creep into our midst. We should be more loving to each other, more tender-hearted, more kind, but that these men, so deceptive, coming into our midst, render us suspicious. Moreover, they themselves find fault with those who walk worthily, in order to hide their own faults against God, and against justice. The greatest sorrows of the church have been brought upon her, not by the arrows shot by her foes, not by the discharge of the artillery of hell, but by fires lit in her own midst, by those who have crept into her in the guise of good men and true, but who were spies in the camp, and traitors to the cause.

     Yet again: nothing has ever hurt poor sinners more than this. Many sinners coming to Christ would get relief far more quickly, if it were not for the ill lives of false professors. Now let me tell you a story, which I remember telling once before: it is a very solemn one; I hope to feel its power myself, and I pray that all of you may do the same. A young minister had been preaching in a country village, and the sermon apparently took deep effect on the minds of the hearers. In the congregation there was a young man who felt acutely the truth of the solemn words to which the preacher had given utterance. He sought the preacher after the service, and walked with him. On the road, the minister talked of every subject except the one that had occupied his attention in the pulpit. The poor soul was under great distress, and he asked the minister a question or two, but they were put off very coolly, as if the matter was of no great importance. Arriving at the house, several friends were gathered together, and the preached commenced very freely to crack his jokes, to utter his funny expressions, and to set the company in a roar of laughter. That, perhaps, might not have been so bad, had he not gone even farther, and uttered words which were utterly false, and verged upon the licentious. The young man suddenly rose from the table; and though he had wept under the sermon, and had been under the deepest apparent conviction, he rose up, went outside the door, and stamping his foot, said, "Religion is a lie! From this moment I abjure God, I abjure Christ; and if I am damned I will be damned, but I will lay the charge at that man's door, for he preached just now and made me weep, but now see what he is! He is a liar, and I will never hear him again." He carried out his threat; and some time afterwards, as he lay dying, he sent word to the minister that he wanted to see him. The minister had removed to a distant part, but had been brought there by providence, I believe, purposely to chasten him for the great sin he had committed. The minister stepped into the room with the Bible in his hand to do as he was accustomed—to read a chapter and to pray with the poor man. Turning his eyes on him, the man said, "Sir, I remember hearing you preach once." "Blessed be God," said the minister, "I thank God for it," thinking, no doubt, that he was a convert, and rejoicing over him. "Stop," said the man, "I do not know that there is much reason for thanking God, at any rate, on my part. Sir, do you remember preaching from such-and-such a text on such-and-such an evening?" "Yes, I do." "I trembled then, sir; I shook from head to foot; I left with the intention of bending the knee in prayer, and seeking God in Christ; but do you remember going to such-and-such a house, and what you said there!" "No," said the minister, "I cannot." "Well, then, I can tell you, and mark you! through what you said that night my soul is damned, and as true as I am a living man I will meet you at God's bar and lay it to your charge." The man then shut his eyes and died. I think you can scarcely imagine what must have been the feeling of that preacher as he retired from the bedside. He must carry with him always that horrid, that terrible incubus, that there was a soul in hell who laid his blood to his charge.

     I am afraid there are some in the ranks of the church who have much guilt at their doors on this account. Many a young man has been driven from a solemn consideration of the truth by the harsh and censorious remarks of Scribes and Pharisees. Many a careful seeker has been prejudiced against sound doctrine by the evil lives of its professors. Ah! ye Scribes and Pharisees, ye enter not in yourselves, and them that would enter in ye hinder. Ye take the key of knowledge, lock up the door by your inconsistencies, and drive men away by your unholy living.

     Again, they are "the enemies of the cross of Christ," because they give the devil more theme for laughter, and the enemy more cause for joy, than any other class of Christians. I do not care what all the infidel lecturers in the world like to say. They are very clever fellows, no doubt, and good need they have to be so, to prove an absurdity, and "make the worse appear the better reason;" but we care little what they say; they may say what they like against us that is false, but it is when they can say anything that is true about us that we do not like it. It is when they can find a real inconsistency in us, and then bring it to our charge, that they have got stuff to make lectures of. If a man be an upright Christian, he never need fear what others say of him; they will get but little fun out of him if he leads a holy, blameless life; but let him be sometimes godly, and at other times ungodly, then he may grieve, for he has given the enemy cause to blaspheme by his unholy living. The devil gets much advantage over the church by the inconsistency of professors. It is when Satan makes hypocrites that he brings the great battering ram against the wall. "Your lives are not consistent"—ah! that is the greatest battering ram that Satan can use against the cause of Christ. Be particular, my dear friends, be very particular that you do not dishonour the cause you profess to love, by living in sin and walking in iniquity. And let me say a word to those of you who, like myself, are strong Calvinists. No class of persons are more maligned than we. It is commonly said that our doctrine is licentious; we are called Antinomians; we are cried down as hypersus then, not as Christians only, but as being a peculiar class of Christians, take care that we give no handle to the enemy, but that our lives are so consistent, that we do nothing to disgrace that cause which is dear to us as our lives, and which we hope to maintain faithfully unto death.

     III. Lastly, Paul wept, BECAUSE HE KNEW THEIR DOOM: "Their end is destruction." Mark you, the end of a professing man who has been a hypocrite will be emphatically destruction. If there be chains in hell more heavy than others—if there be dungeons in hell more dark than others—if there be racks that shall more fearfully torment the frame—if there be fires that shall more tremendously scorch the body—if there be pangs that shall more effectually twist the soul in agonies, professing Christians must have them if they be found rotten at last, I had rather die a profligate than die a lying professor. I think I had rather die the veriest sweeping of the street than die a hypocrite. Oh, to have had a name to live, and yet to have proved insincere. The higher the soar the greater the fall. This man has soared high; how low must he tumble when he finds himself mistaken! He who thought to put to his mouth the nectared cup of heaven, finds when he quaffs the bowl, that is the very draught of hell. He who hoped to enter through the gates into the city finds the gates shut, and he himself bidden to depart as an unknown stranger. Oh! how thrilling is that sentence, "Depart from me, I never knew you!" I think I had rather hear it said to me, "Depart, accursed, among the rest of the wicked," than to be singled out, and to have it said, after exclaiming, "Lord, Lord," "Depart from me; I know you not; though you ate and drank in my courts; though you came to my sanctuary, you are a stranger to me, and I am a stranger to you." Such a doom, more horrible than hell, more direful than fate, more desperate than despair, must be the inevitable lot of those "whose god is their belly," who have "gloried in their shame," and "minded earthly things."

     Now I dare say most of you will say, "Well, he has stirred the churches up to-night; if he has not spoken earnestly, he has spoken harshly, at any rate." "Ah!" says one, "I dare say it is very true; they are all a set of cants and hypocrites; I always thought so; I shall not go amongst them; none of them are genuine." Stop a bit, my friend, I did not say they were all so; I should be very wicked if I did. The very fact that there are hypocrites proves that all are not so. "How is that?" say you. Do you think there would be any bad bank notes in the world if there were no good ones? Do you think anyone would try and circulate bad sovereigns if there were no really good ones? No, I think not. It is the good bank note that makes the bad one, by prompting the wicked man to imitate it and produce a forgery. It is the very fact that there is gold in the world that makes another try to imitate the metal and so to cheat his neighbour. If there were no true Christians, there would be no hypocrites. It is the excellence of the Christian character which makes men seek after it, and because they have not the real heart of oak, they try to grain their lives to look like it. Because they have not the real solid metal, they try to gild themselves to imitate it. You must have a few brains left, and those are enough to tell you that if there be hypocrites, there must be some who are genuine. "Ah!" says another, "quite right; there are many genuine ones, and I can tell you, whatever you may think, I am genuine enough. I never had a doubt or fear. I know I was chosen of God; and though I do not exactly live as I could wish, I know if I do not go to heaven, very few will ever have a chance. Why, sir, I have been a deacon the last ten years, and a member twenty; and I am not to be shaken by anything you say. As for my neighbour there, who sits near me, I do not think he ought to be so sure; but I have never had a doubt for thirty years." Oh my dear friend, can you excuse me? I will doubt for you. If you had not doubt yourself, I begin to doubt. If you are quite so sure, I really must suspect you; for I have noticed that true Christians are the most suspicious in the world; they are always afraid of themselves. I never met with a truly good man but he always felt he was not good enough; and as you are so particularly good, you must excuse me if I cannot quite endorse your security. You may be very good, but if you will take a trifle of my advice, I recommend you to "examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith," lest, being puffed up by your carnal fleshly mind, you fall into the snare of the wicked one. "Not too sure," is a very good motto for the Christian. "Make your calling and election sure," if you like; but do not make your opinion of yourself so sure. Take care of presumption. Many a good man in his own esteem has been a very devil in God's eyes; many a pious soul in the esteem of the church has been nothing but rottenness in the esteem of God. Let us then try ourselves. Let us say, "Search us, O God, and try our hearts; see if there be any wicked way in us, and lead us in the way everlasting." If you shall be sent home with such a thought, I shall bless God that the sermon was not altogether in vain. But there are some here who say that it does not matter whether they are in Christ or no. They intend to go on trifling still, despising God, and laughing at his name. Mark this, sinner: The cry that does for one day won't do for ever; and thou you talk of religion now as if it were a mere trifle, mark ye men, you will want it by-and-bye. You are on board ship, and you laugh at the life-boat, because there is no storm; you will be glad enough to leap into it if you are able when the storm shall come. Now you say Christ is nothing, because you do not want him, but when the storm of vengeance comes, and death lays hold upon you, mark me, you will howl after Christ, though you will not pray for him now; you will shriek after him then, though you will not call for him now. "Turn ye, turn ye; why will ye die, O house of Israel." The Lord bring you to himself, and make you his true and genuine children, that you may not know destruction, but that you may be saved now, and saved for ever!


     The tongue of the wicked has assailed Mr. SPURGEON with the most virulent abuse and lying detraction. His sentiments have been misrepresented, and his words perverted. His doctrines have been impugned as "blasphemous," "profane," and "diabolical." Nevertheless, the good hand of the Lord has been upon him, and he has not heeded the falsehoods of the ungodly.
     In order that all men may know for a certainty what are the doctrines of Mr. SPURGEON, we beg to remind the readers of The New Park Street Pulpit that we have published a "CONFESSION OF FAITH" which that gentleman edited, and which he has put forth as the articles of his own creed. Price—In Paper Covers, 4d. Cloth, 8d. Roan, gilt edges, 1s.
PASSMORE & ALABASTER, Publishers, 18, Paternoster Row.


Pride and Humility

By / Aug 17

Pride and Humility

 

"Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honor is humility."—Proverbs 18:12

 

     Almost every event has its prophetic prelude. It is an old and common saying, that "coming events cast their shadows before them;" the wise man teaches us the same lesson in the verse before us. When destruction walks through the land, it casts its shadow; it is in the shape of pride. When honor visits a man's house, it casts its shadow before it; it is in the fashion of humility. "Before destruction the heart of man is haughty;" pride is as surely the sign of destruction as the change of mercury in the weather-glass is the sign of rain, and far more infallibly so than that. "Before honor is humility," even as before the summer, sweet birds return to sing in our land. Everything hath its prelude. The prelude of destruction is pride, and of honor, humility. There is nothing into which the heart of man so easily falls as pride, and yet there is no vice which is more frequently, more emphatically, and more eloquently condemned in Scripture. Against pride, prophets have lifted up their voices, evangelists have spoken and teachers have discoursed. Yea, more; the everlasting God has mounted to the very heights of eloquence when he would condemn the pride of man; and the full gushing of the Eternal's mighty language has been most gloriously displayed in the condemnation of the pride of human nature. Perhaps the most eloquent passage of God's Word is to be found toward the conclusion of the book of Job, where, in most splendid strains of unanswerable eloquence, God hides pride from many by utterly confounding him; and there is another very eloquent passage in the 14th chapter of Isaiah, where the Lord's holy choler seems to have risen up, and his anger to have waxed hot against the pride of man, when he would utterly and effectually condemn it. He says concerning the great and mighty king of Babylon, "Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us? Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations? For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms." Mark how God addresses him, describing hell itself as being astonished at his fall, seeing that he had mounted so high; and yet declaring, assuredly, that his height and greatness were nothing to the Almighty, that he would pull him down, even though, like an eagle, he had built his nest among the stars. I say there is nothing more eloquently condemned in Scripture than pride, and yet there is no trap into which we poor silly birds so easily flee, no pitfall into which, like foolish beasts of the earth, we so continually run. On the other hand, humility is a grace that hath many promises given to it in the Scripture. Perhaps most promises are given to faith, and love is often considered to be the brightest of the train of virtues; yet humility holds by no means an inferior place in God's word, and there are hundreds of promises linked to it. Every grace seems to be like a nail on which precious blessings hang, and humility hath many a mercy suspended from it. "He that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted;" "Blessed are the poor in spirit;" and in multitudes of other passages, we are reminded that God loveth the humble, but that he "bringeth down the mighty from their seats, and exalteth the humble and meek." Now, this morning, we shall have a word to say concerning pride and humility. May the Holy Spirit preserve us from the one, and produce in our hearts the other.

     I. In the first place, we shall have something to say concerning the vice of PRIDE. "Before destruction the heart of man is haughty." Pride, what is it? Pride, where is its seat? The heart of man. And pride, what is its consequence? Destruction.

     1. In the first place, I must try to describe pride to you. I might paint it as being the worst malformation of all the monstrous things in creation; it hath nothing lovely in it, nothing in proportion, but everything in disorder. It is altogether the very reverse of the creatures which God hath made, which are pure and holy. Pride, the first-born son of hell, is indeed like its parent, all unclean and vile, and in it there is neither form, fashion, nor comeliness.

     In the first place, pride is a groundless thing. It standeth on the sands; or worse than that, it puts its foot on the billows which yield beneath its tread; or worse still, it stands on bubbles, which soon must burst beneath its feet. Of all things pride has the worst foothold; it has no solid rock on earth whereon to place itself. We have reasons for almost everything, but we have no reasons for pride. Pride is a thing which should be unnatural to us, for we have nothing to be proud of. What is there in man of which he should glory? Our very creation is enough to humble us; what are we but creatures of to-day? Our frailty should be sufficient to lay us low, for we shall be gone to-morrow. Our ignorance should tend to keep pride from our lips. What are we, but like the wild ass's colt which knoweth nothing? And our sins ought effectually to stop our mouths, and lay us in the dust. Of all things in the world, pride towards God, is that which hath the very least excuse; it hath neither stick nor stone whereon to build. Yet like the spider, it carrieth its own web in its bowels, and can, of itself, spin that wherewith to catch its prey. It seems to stand upon itself, for it hath nothing besides whereon it can rest. Oh! man, learn to reject pride, seeing that thou hast no reason for it; whatever thou art, thou hast nothing to make thee proud. The more thou hast, the more thou art in debt to God; and thou shouldst not be proud of that which renders thee a debtor. Consider thine origin; look back to the hole of the pit whence thou wast digged. Consider what thou wouldst have been, even now, if it were not for Divine grace. And, consider, that thou will yet be lost in hell if grace does not hold thee up. Consider that amongst the damned, there are none that would have been more damned than thyself, if grace had not kept thee from destruction. Let this consideration humble thee, that thou hast nought whereon to ground thy pride.

     Again, it is a brainless thing as well as a groundless thing; for it brings no profit with it. There is no wisdom in a self-exaltation. Other vices have some excuse, for men seem to gain by them; avarice, pleasure, lust, have some plea; but the man who is proud sells his soul cheaply. he opens wide the flood-gates of his heart, to let men see how deep is the flood within his soul; then suddenly it floweth out, and all is gone—and all is nothing, for one puff of empty wind, one word of sweet applause—the soul is gone, and not a drop is left. In almost every other sin, we gather up the ashes when the fire is gone; but here, what is left? The covetous man hath his shining gold, but what hath the proud man? He has less than he would have had without his pride, and is no gainer whatever. Oh! man, if thou wert as mighty as Gabriel, and had all his holiness, still thou wouldst be an arrant fool to be proud, for pride would sink thee from thine angel station to the rank of devils, and bring thee from the place where Lucifer, son of the morning, once dwelt, to take up thine abode with hideous fiends in perdition. Pride exalts it head, and seeks to honor itself; but it is of all things most despised. It sought to plant crowns upon its brow, and so it hath done, but its head was hot, and it put an ice crown there, and it melted all away. Poor pride has decked itself out finely sometimes; it hath put on its most gaudy apparel, and said to others, "how brilliant I appear!" but, ah! pride, like a harlequin, dressed in thy gay colours, thou art all the more fool for that; thou art but a gazing stock for fools less foolish than thyself. Thou hast no crown, as thou thinkest thou hast, nothing solid and real, all is empty and vain. If thou, O man, desirest shame, be proud. A monarch has waded through slaughter to a throne, and shut the gates of mercy on mankind to win a little glory; but when he has exalted himself, and has been proud, worms have devoured him, like Herod, or have devoured his empire, till it passed away, and with it his pride and glory. Pride wins no crown; men never honor it, not even the menial slaves of earth; for all men look down on the proud man, and think him less than themselves.

     Again, pride is the maddest thing that can exist; it feeds upon its own vitals; it will take away its own life, that with its blood may make a purple for its shoulders: it sappeth, and undermineth its own house that it may build its pinnacles a little higher, and then the whole structure tumbleth down. Nothing proves men so made as pride. For this they have given up rest, and ease, and repose, to find rank and power among men: for this they have dared to risk their hope of salvation, to leave the gentle yoke of Jesus, and go toiling wearily along the way of life, seeking to save themselves by their own works, and at last to stagger into the mire of fell despair. Oh! man, hate pride, flee from it, abhor it, let it not dwell with thee. If thou wantest to have a madman in thy heart, embrace pride, for thou shalt never find one more mad than he.

     Then pride is a protean thingcan do, and will not allow that we are lost, fallen, debased, and ruined creatures, as we are. It hates divine sovereignty, and rails at election. Then if it is driver from that, it takes another form; it allows that the doctrine of free grace is true but does not feel it. It acknowledges that salvation is of the Lord alone, but still it prompts men to seek heaven by their own works, even by the deeds of the law. And when driven from that, it will persuade men to join something with Christ in the matter of salvation; and when that is all rent up, and the poor rag of our righteousness is all burned, pride will get into the Christian's heart as well as the sinner's—it will flourish under the name of self-sufficiency, teaching the Christian that he is "rich and increased in goods, having need of nothing." It will tell him that he does not need daily grace, that past experience will do for to-morrow—that he knows enough, toils enough, prays enough. It will make him forget that he has "not yet attained;" it will not allow him to press forward to the things that are before, forgetting the things that are behind. It enters into his heart, and tempts the believer to set up an independent business for himself, and until the Lord brings about a spiritual bankruptcy, pride will keep him from going to God. Pride has ten thousand shapes; it is not always that stiff and starched gentleman that you picture it; it is a vile, creeping, insinuating thing, that will twist itself like a serpent into our hearts. It will talk of humility, and prate about being dust and ashes. I have known men talk about their corruption most marvellously, pretending to be all humility, while at the same time they were the proudest wretches that could be found this side the gulf of separation. Oh! my friends, ye cannot tell how many shapes pride will assume; look sharp about you, or you will be deceived by it, and when you think you are entertaining angels, you will find you have been receiving devils unawares.

     2. Now, I have to speak of the seat of pride—the heart. The true throne of pride everywhere, is the heart of man. If, my dear friends, we desire, by God's grace, to put down pride, the only way is to begin with the heart. Now let me tell you a parable, in the form of an eastern story, which will set this truth in its proper light. A wise man in the east, called a dervish, in his wanderings, came suddenly upon a mountain, and he saw beneath his feet a smiling valley, in the midst of which there flowed a river. The sun was shining on the stream, and the water as it reflected the sunlight, looked pure and beautiful. When he descended, he found it was muddy, and the water utterly unfit for drinking. Hard by he saw a young man, in the dress of a shepherd, who was with much diligence filtering the water for his flocks. At one moment he placed some water into a pitcher, and then allowing it to stand, after it had settled, he poured the clean fluid into a cistern. Then, in another place, he would be seen turning aside the current for a little, and letting it ripple over the sand and stones, that it might be filtered, and the impurities removed. The dervish watched the young man endeavouring to fill a large cistern with clear water; and he said to him, "My son, why all this toil? —what purpose dost thou answer by it?" The young man replied, "Father, I am a shepherd; this water is so filthy that my flock will not drink of it, and, therefore, I am obliged to purify it little by little, so I collect enough in this way that they may drink, but it is hard work." So saying, he wiped the sweat from his brow, for he was exhausted with his toil. "Right well hast thou laboured," said the wise man, "but dost thou know thy toil is not well applied? With half the labour thou mightest attain a better end. I should conceive that the source of this stream must be impure and polluted; let us take a pilgrimage together and see." They then walked some miles, climbing their way over many a rock, until they came to a spot where the stream took its rise. When they came near to it, they saw flocks of wild fowls flying away, and wild beasts of the earth rushing into the forest; these had come to drink, and had soiled the water with their feet. They found an open well, which kept continually flowing, but by reason of these creatures, which perpetually disturbed it, the stream was always turbid and muddy. "My son," said the wise man, "set to work now to protect the fountain and guard the well, which is the source of this stream; and when thou hast done that, if thou canst keep these wild beasts and fowls away, the stream will flow of itself, all pure and clear, and thou wilt have no longer need for thy toil." The young man did it, and as he labored, the wise man said to him, "My son, hear the word of wisdom; if thou art wrong, seek not to correct thine outward life, but seek first to get thy heart correct, for out of it are the issues of life, and thy life shall be pure when once thy heart is so." So if we would get rid of pride, we should not proceed to arrange our dress by adopting some special costume, or to qualify our language, by using an outlandish tongue, but let us seek of God that he would purify our hearts from pride, and then assuredly if pride is purged from the heart, our life also shall be humble. Make the tree good, and then the fruit shall be good; make the fountain pure, and the stream shall be sweet. Oh! that God might grant us all, by his grace, that our hearts may be kept with diligence, so that pride may never enter there lest we be haughty in our hearts, and find that afterwards cometh wrath.

     3. This brings me to the other point, which is, the consequence of price—destruction, a fact which we can prove by hundreds of instances in Scripture. When men have become proud, destruction has come upon them. See you yon bright angel chanting the loud anthem of praise before his Maker's throne? Can anything tarnish that angel's glory, rob him of his harp, despoil him of his crown? Yes, see there enters a destroyer whose name is pride. He assaults the angel, and his harp-strings are snapped in twain. His crown is taken from his brow, and his glory is departed, and yon falling spirit descending into hell is he who once was Lucifer, son of the morning. He has now become Father of nights, even the Lord of Darkness, Satan, the Fallen one. See you again that happy pair walking in the midst of luscious fruits, and flowery walks and bowers of Paradise? Can aught spoil Eden, and ruin those happy beings? Yes, pride comes in the shape of a serpent, and asks them to seek to be as gods. They eat of the forbidden fruit, and pride withers their paradise and blasts their Eden. out they go to till the ground, whence they were taken, to beget and to bring forth us who are their children—sons of toil and sorrow. Do you see that man after God's own heart, continually singing his Maker's praise? Can aught make him sad? Can you suppose that he shall ever be laid prostrate on the earth, groaning, and crying, and asking "that the bones which God hath broken may rejoice?" Yes, pride can do that. it will put into his heart that he will number his people, that he will count the tribes of Israel, to show how great and mighty is his empire. It is done, and a terrible pestilence sweeps o'er his land on account of his pride. Let David's aching heart show how destruction comes to a man's glory when he once begins to make a god of it. See that other good and holy man who, like David, was much after God's own heart. He is rich and increased in goods. The Babylonian ambassadors are come, and he shows them all he has. Do you not hear that threatening, "Thy treasures shall be carried away, and thy sons and thy daughters shall be servants to the king of Babylon?" The destruction of Hezekiah's wealth must come, because he is proud thereof. But for the most notable instance of all, let me show you yonder palace, perhaps the most magnificent which has even yet been built. In it there walks one who, lifting up his head on high, as if he were more than mortal man, exclaims, "See ye this great Babylon that I have builded?" Oh! pride, what hast thou done? thou hast more power than a wizard's wand! Mark the mighty builder of Babylon creeping on the earth. Like oxen he is devouring grass; his nails have grown like birds' claws, his hair like eagles' feathers, and his heart has gone from him. Pride did all that, that it might be fulfilled which God hath written, "Before destruction the heart of man is haughty."

     Is thine heart haughty, sinner, this morning? Dost thou despise God's sovereignty? Wilt thou not submit thyself to Christ's yoke? Dost thou seek to weave a righteousness of thine own? Art thou seeking to be or to do something? Art thou desirous of being great and mighty in thine own esteem? Hear me then, sinner, destruction is coming upon thee. As truly as ever thou exaltest thyself, thou shalt be abased; thy destruction, in the fullest and blackest sense of the word, is hurrying on to overwhelm thee. And oh! Christian, is thine heart haughty this morning? Art thou come here glorying in thy graces? Art thou proud of thyself, that thou hast had such high frames and such sweet experiences? Mark thee, brother, there is a destruction coming to thee also. Some of thy proud things will be pulled up by the roots, some of thy graces will be shattered, and thy good works, perhaps, will become loathsome to thee, and thou wilt abhor thyself in dust and ashes. As truly as ever thou exaltest thyself, there will be a destruction come to thee, O saint—the destruction of thy joys and of thy comforts, though there can be no destruction of thy soul.

     Pride, you know, is most likely to meet with destruction, because it is too tall to walk upright. It is most likely to tumble down, because it is always looking upward in its ambition, and never looks to its feet. There only needs to be a pitfall in the way, or even a stone, and down it goes. It is sure to tumble, because it is never contented with being where it is. It is always seeking to be climbing, and boys that will climb must expect to fall. Pride is foolhardy, and will venture upon scaling any rock. Sometimes it holds on by a brier, and that pricks it; sometimes by a flint, and that cuts it. There it goes, toiling and laboring on, till it gets as high as it can, and then, from its very height, it is likely to fall. Nature itself tells us to avoid high things. Who is he that can stand upon an eminence without a reeling brain, and without a temptation to cast himself down? Pride, when most successful, stands in slippery places. Who would choose to dwell on a pinnacle of the temple? That is where pride has built its house, and verily it seems but natural that pride should down if pride will up. God will carry out this saying, "Before destruction, the heart of man is haughty." Yet beloved, I am persuaded that all I can say to you, or to myself, can never keep pride from us. The Lord alone can bolt the door of the heart against pride. Pride is like the flies of Egypt; all Pharaoh's soldiers could not keep them out; and I am sure all the strong resolutions and devout aspirations we may have cannot keep pride out unless the Lord God Almighty sends a strong wind of his Holy Spirit to sweep it away.

     II. Now, let us consider briefly the last part of the text, "BEFORE HONOR IS HUMILITY." So then, you see our heavenly Father does not say that we are not to have honor. He has not forbidden it; he has only forbidden us to be proud of it. A good man may have honor in this life. Daniel had honor before the people; Joseph rode in the second chariot, and the people bowed the knee before him. God often clothes his children with honor in the face of their adversaries, and makes the wicked confess that the Lord is with them in deed and in truth. But God forbids our making that honor a cloak for pride, and bids us seek humility which always accompanies as well as precedes true honor.

     1. Now let us briefly enquire, in the first place, what is humility? The best definition I have ever met with is, "to think rightly of ourselves." Humility is to make a right estimate of one's-self. It is no humility for a man to think less of himself than he ought, though it might rather puzzle him to do that. Some persons, when they know they can do a thing, tell you they cannot; but you do not call that humility? A man is asked to take part in some meeting. "No," he says, "I have no ability;" yet, if you were to say so yourself, he would be offended at you. It is not humility for a man to stand up and depreciate himself and say he cannot do this, that, or the other, when he knows that he is lying. If God gives a man a talent, do you think the man does not know it? If a man has ten talents he has no right to be dishonest to his Maker, and to say, "Lord, thou hast only give me five." It is not humility to underrate yourself, Humility is to think of yourself, if you can, as God thinks of you. It is to feel that if we have talents, God has given them to us, and let it be seen that, like freight in a vessel, they tend to sink us low. The more we have, the lower we ought to lie. Humility is not to say, "I have not this gift," but it is to say, "I have the gift, and I must use it for my Master's glory. I must never seek any honor for myself, for what have I that I have not received?" But, beloved, humility is to feel ourselves lost, ruined, and undone. To be killed by the same hand which, afterwards, makes us alive, to be ground to pieces as to our own doings and willings, to know and trust in none but Jesus, to be brought to feel and sing—

"Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling."

     Humility is to feel that we have no power of ourselves, but that it all cometh from God. Humility is to lean on our beloved, to believe that he has trodden the winepress alone, to lie on his bosom and slumber sweetly there, to exalt him, and think less than nothing of ourselves. It is in fact, to annihilate self, and to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ as all in all.

     2. Now, what is the seat or throne of humility? The throne of humility must be the heart. I do hate, of all things, that humility which lives in the face. There are some persons who always seem to be so very humble when you are with them, but you can discover there is something underneath it all, and when they are in some other society, they will brag and say how you told them your whole heart. Take heed of the men who allow you to lay your head in their lap and betray you into the hands of the Philistines. I have met with such persons. I remember a man who used to pray with great apparent humility, and then would go and abuse the servants, and make a noise with all his farming men. He was the stiffest and proudest man in the church, yet he invariably used to tell the Lord, in prayer, that he was nothing but dust and ashes, that he laid his hand on his lip, and his mouth in the dust, and cried, "Unclean, unclean." Indeed he talked of himself in the most despairing way, but I am sure if God had spoken to him, he must have said, "O, thou that liest before my throne, thou sayest this, but thou dost not feel it; for thou wilt go thy way and take thy brother by the throat, exalt thyself above all thy fellow-creatures, and be a very Diotrephes in the church, and a Herod in the world." I dislike that humility which rests in outward things. There is a kind of oil, sanctimonious, proud humility, which is not the genuine article, though it is sometimes extremely like it. You may be deceived by it once or twice, but by-and-bye you discover that is a wolf dexterously covered with sheep's clothing. It arrayeth itself in the simplest dress in the world; it talks in the gentlest and humblest style; it says, "We must not intrude our own peculiar sentiments, but must always walk in love and charity." But after all, what is it? It is charitable to all except those who hold God's truth, and it is humble to all when it is forced to humble. It is like one of whom, I dare say, you have read in your childish books, —

"So, stooping down, as needs he must
Who cannot stand upright."

     True humility does not continually talk about "dust and ashes," and prate about its infirmities, but it feels all that which others say, for it possesses an inwrought feeling of its own nothingness.

     Very likely the most humble man in the world won't bend to anybody. John Knox was a truly humble man, yet if you had seen him march before Queen Mary with the Bible in his hand, to reprove her, you would have rashly said, "What a proud man!"

     Cringing men that bow before everybody, are truly proud men; but humble men are those who think themselves so little, they do not think it worth while to stoop to serve themselves. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were humble men, for they did not think their lives were worth enough to save them by a sin. Daniel was a humble man; he did not think his place, his station, his whole self, worth enough to save them by leaving off prayer. Humility is a thing which must be genuine; the imitation of it is the nearest thing in the world to pride. Seek of God, dear friends, the gift of true humility. Seek to have that breaking in pieces by the Holy Spirit, that breaking in the mortar with the pestle which God himself gives to his children. Seek that every twig of his rod may drive pride out of you, so that by the blueness of your wound, your soul may be made better. Seek of him, if he does not show you the chambers of imagery within your own heart, that he may take you to Calvary, and that he may show you his brightness and his glory, that you may be humble before him. Never ask to be a mean, cringing, fawning thing: ask God to make you a man—those are scarce things now-a-days—a man who only fears God, who knows no fear of any other kind. Do not give yourselves up to any man's power, or guidance, or rule, but ask of God that you may have that humility towards him, which gives you the noble bearing of a Christian before others. Some think that minister are proud when they resent any interference with their ministry. I consider they would be proud if they allowed it for the sake of peace, which is only another word for their own self-seeking. It is a great mercy when God gives a man to be free from everybody, when he can go into his pulpit, careless of what others may think of him. I conceive that a minister should be like a lighthouse-keeper; he is out at sea, and nobody can suggest to him that he had better light his candles a little later, or anything of the kind. He knows his duty, and he keeps his lamps burning; if he were to follow the opinions of the people on shore, his light might be extinguished altogether. It is a merciful providence that they cannot get to him, so he goes on easily, obeys his regulations as he reds them, and cares little for other people's interpretation. So a minister should not be a weathercock, that is turned by the wind, but he should be one who turns the wind; not one who is ruled by others, but one who knows how to stand firm and fast, and keep his light burning, trusting always in God; believing, that if God has raised him up, he will not desert him, but will teach him by his Holy Spirit, without the ever-changing advice of men.

     3. Now, in the last place, what comes of humility? "Before honor is humility." Humility is the herald which ushers in the great king; it walks before honor; and e who has humility, will have honor afterwards. I will only apply this spiritually. Have you been brought to-day to feel, that in yourself you are less than nothing, and vanity? Art thou humbled in the sight of God, to know thine own unworthiness, thy fallen estate in Adam, and the ruin thou hast brought upon thyself by thine own sins? Hast thou been brought to feel thyself incapable of working out thy own salvation, unless God shall work in thee, to will and to do of his own good pleasure? Hast thou been brought to say, "Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner?" Well, then, as true as the text is in the Bible, thou shalt have honor by-and-bye. "Such honor have all the saints." Thou shalt have honor soon to be washed from all thy guilt; thou shalt have honor soon to be clothed in the robes of Jesus, in the royal garments of the King; thou shalt have honor soon to be adopted into his family, to be received amongst the blood-washed ones who have been justified by faith. Thou shalt have honor to be borne, as on eagles' wings, to be carried across the river, and at last to sing his praise, who has been the "Death of deaths, and hell's destruction." Thou shalt have honor to wear the crown, and wave the palm one day, for thou hast now that humility which comes from God. You may fear that because you are now humbled by God, you must perish. I beseech you do not think so; as truly as ever the Lord has humbled you, he will exalt you. And the more you are brought low, the less hope you have of mercy; the more you are in the dust, so much the more reason you have to hope. So far from the bottom of the sea being a place over which we cannot be carried to heaven, it is one of the nearest places to heaven's gate. And if thou art brought to the very lowest place to which even Jonah descended, thou art so much the nearer being accepted. The more thou knowest thy vileness; remember the blacker, the more filthy, the more unworthy thou art in thine own esteem, so much the more right hast thou to expect that thou wilt be saved. Verily, honor shall come after humility. Humble souls, rejoice; proud souls, go on in your proud ways, but know that they end in destruction. Climb up the ladder of your pride, you shall fall over on the other side and be dashed to pieces. Ascend the steep hill of your glory; the higher you climb the more terrible will be your fall. For know you this, that against none hath the Lord Almighty bent his bow more often, and against none has he shot his arrows more furiously than against the proud and mighty man that exalteth himself. Bow down, O man, bow down; "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him."