Fear Not

By / Mar 9

Fear Not 

 

“Fear not.”— Revelation i. 17.

 

“FEAR not” is a plant which grows very plentifully in God’s garden. If you look through the lily beds of Scripture you will continually find by the side of other flowers the sweet “Fear nots” peering out from among doctrines and precepts, even as violets look up from their hidingplaces of green leaves. “Fear nots” bloomed in the old time, at the feet of Abraham, when he returned from fighting with the kings. Melchisedek blessed him, and the Lord comforted him. The patriarch might have been half afraid that he would always lead a troubled life, now that he had once drawn the sword; but the Lord came to him in vision, and said, “Fear not, Abram. I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” If he had to undergo a soldier’s toils, he should have a soldier’s shield and a soldier’s pay, and both should be exceeding great, for he should find them both in God. After you have been fighting battles for Christ you may feel weary and worried, and then your great Melchisedek will refresh you with bread and wine, and whisper in your ear “Fear not.”  

     A “Fear not” was spoken to Isaac when he had dug wells, and the Philistines strove for them, and he, like the meek soul that he was, gave them up one by one to avoid a conflict. At last he settled down at Beersheba, and there the Lord appeared unto him, and said, “Fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee.” He was a feeble man, and therefore the Lord dealt tenderly with him. If any of you are meek and quiet spirits, and rather apt to tremble exceedingly, may the Lord often give you a blessed “Fear not” to wear in your bosoms, that its fragrance may comfort your hearts. Then there was Jacob. You know how troubled his life was, but when he heard that his beloved son whom he thought was dead was alive in Egypt, and was clothed with glory, and that he had sent for him to go down to see him, he was afraid to go till the Lord said to him, “Fear not to go down into Egypt,” and gave him this encouraging promise, “I will go down with thee into Egypt.” If any of you are making a great change in life and moving, perhaps, to the very ends of the earth, “fear not to go down into Egypt.” Should God command you to go to the utmost verge of the green earth, to rivers unknown to song, yet if he bids you go, fear not to go down into Egypt, for certainly he will be with you.

     The Israelites at the Red Sea were afraid of Pharaoh, and then the Lord said to them, “Fear not, stand still and see the salvation of God.” If you are brought to a pass to-night, and know not what to do, take the advice of Holy Scripture, and “Fear not”; but “stand still and see the salvation of God.” As we observe the Scriptures we perceive that “Fear nots” are scattered throughout the Bible as the stars are sprinkled over the whole of the sky, but when we come to Isaiah we find constellations of them. When I was a boy I learnt Dr. Watts’s catechism, and I am glad I did. One of its questions runs thus, “Who was Isaiah?” And the answer is, “He was that prophet who spake more of Jesus Christ than all the rest.” Very well, and for that very reason— that he spoke more of Jesus Christ than all the rest— he is richest in comfort to the people of God, and continually he is saying, “Fear not.” Here are a few of his antidotes for the fever of fear: “Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not.” “Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God.” “Fear not, I will help thee.” “Fear not, thou worm Jacob.” “Fear not, I have redeemed thee.” “Fear not, for thou shalt not be ashamed; neither be thou confounded, for thou shalt not be put to shame”; and so on, I was going to say, “world without end.” So abundant are these “Fear nots” that they grow like the king-cups and the daisies, and other sweet flowers of the meadows, among which the little children in the spring-time delight themselves. As to gathering them all, no one would attempt the task. The bank that is fullest of these beautiful flowers is that which Isaiah has cast up; go there and pluck them for yourselves.

     Now I gather from the plentifulness of “Fear nots,” even in the Old Testament, that the Lord does not wish his people to be afraid, that he is glad to see his people full of courage, and especially that he does not love them to be afraid of him. He would have his children treat him with confidence. Slavish fear may be thought to be congenial to the Old Testament, and yet it is not so, for there the Lord cries to his chosen, “Fear not.”

     When we come into the New Testament, there we see God coming more familiarly to men than ever before; not descending upon Paran with ten thousand flaming chariots, setting the mountain on a blaze, but coming down to Bethlehem in an infant’s form, with angels chanting the joyful lay, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” The genius of the New Testament is drawing near to God: ceasing to tremble and beginning to trust, ceasing to be the slave and learning to be the child. Though in the precise form of it the words of my text were not very often spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ, yet his whole life was one long proclamation of “Fear not.” I think I shall give you to-night most of the instances in which our Lord himself expressly said “Fear not,” and as each one I shall give you will either come from the lip of Christ, or else from Christ’s own angel, sent to comfort one of his servants, I pray that it may come fresh from God to every tried and troubled believer, and that all of us together may receive for our different fears this one same solace from the mouth of the Eternal, “Thus saith the Lord unto thee, fear not.”

     I. Our first text you will kindly look for if you have your Bibles with you. I hope you all have them, for I love to hear the rustling of Bibleleaves as we do in Scotland, but not often in England. Turn to the Book of the Revelation, the first chapter, and the seventeenth verse, and there you will read that John beheld the Saviour in his glorious array, and he says,

     “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last.”

     Our first “Fear not” MEETS THE DREAD OCCASIONED BY THE MAJESTY OF OUR SAVIOUR’S PERSON. You that know him hold him in deepest reverence, even as John did when at the sight of his divine Lord he fell at his feet as dead. Did you ever think of Jesus as divine, and try to form some idea of his grandeur, his triumph, and his exaltation above the thrones and principalities of heaven? As your soul has extolled him, and your mind has been expanded with high thoughts of the all-glorious Son of God, has it not occurred to you to say within yourself, “How dare I think that he is my Beloved, and that I am his? Could such majesty meet such misery? Could such glory bring itself into union with such insignificance as mine?” I know you must have experienced that feeling; and yet you must not yield to it, for our Lord Jesus, although he loves to see your holy awe, would not have that reverence freeze into a chill reserve or a slavish trembling. No, though he be divine, he invites you to approach him without dread. Great as he is, you may dare to be free with him.

“Let us be simple with him then, —
Not backward, stiff, or cold,
As though our Bethlehem could be
What Sinai was of old.”

Let your Lord be glorious to you, but still let him be near you. Exalt him on his throne, but remember that you sit there with him. However glorious he may be, he has desired that you may behold his glory, and be with him where he is. To you hath he given to overcome, and to sit upon his throne even as he has overcome, and has sat down with the Father upon his throne.

     If you have studied the matchless purity of his character with adoring admiration, you must have been amazed at the absolute perfection of his manhood, and the glory of his moral and spiritual character. At such times, if you have had a true sense of your own position, you have been ready to sink into the dust, and you have exclaimed, “Shall he wash my feet? Shall he give himself for me? Can it be that he could have loved one so stained and polluted, so mean and so beggarly, so altogether unworthy even to live, much less to be loved by such an altogether lovely one?” But I pray you always to remember, when you think of his perfection, that he has perfection of mercy as well as of holiness, and perfection of love to sinners as well as perfection of hatred of sin; and that, guilty as you are, you must never doubt his affection, for he has pledged you in his heart’s blood, and proved his love by his death. Albeit that you are conscious of being less than nothing and vanity, and know that Jesus is absolute perfection, yet regard him not with timorous dread, but draw near to him as confidently as a child to its parent, or a wife to her husband. It is one of Satan’s temptations to make us afraid of Christ. Let us not be ignorant of his devices. Why should you be afraid of Jesus when he tells you not to be? Why dread the Lamb of God? He says, “Fear not.” It is not the preacher who cries “Fear not,” but it is Jesus himself who whispers to his poor servant, fallen as dead at his feet, “Fear not: fear not.” It will be disobedience, then, to be afraid. When those lips, which are as lilies, dropping sweet-smelling myrrh, say to me, “Child of mine, fear not,” how can I be afraid? Your safety lies, remember, dear friend, in trusting Jesus, and not in being afraid of him. There was never a soul yet saved by being afraid of Christ: there was never a prodigal that found forgiveness yet by being afraid of his Father. This kind of fear wants casting out, for it hath torment. Jesus, our Lord, is great and good, but then he has chosen to become the Saviour of sinners, and we need not fear to approach him, for “this man receiveth sinners.” A host that entertains at his table the poorest of the poor and the lowest of the low, and bids them welcome, is not one to be feared. Remember that if you are honestly afraid of Jesus, you should be afraid of grieving him by being afraid of him. When the physician sees the patient shrinking from his knife he does not wonder, but when Jesus sees you shrinking from that hand which does not wound, but cures by its own wound, he looks with eyes of sorrow upon such fear. Why shrink from him? The little children ran into his arms. Why shrink from him? Nothing cuts him to the quick more than the unkind, ungenerous thought that he is unwilling to receive the guilty. If he meant to keep you at a distance he would have stopped in heaven; his coming here cannot mean anything else than love to the perishing: therefore do not grieve him by being afraid of him. Remember that his truthfulness forbids the rejection of any that ever come to him, since he has pledged his word that he will in no wise cast them out. You need not therefore be afraid that you especially may not come. I had a letter but this week, in which one poor soul says, “I believe that I am the worst person that ever lived: though not in outward appearance, yet in heart. I believe that all other sorts of people feel more than I do, or have some one point in which they are better than I am, but I am the worst of all, and I fear that Jesus will never look on me.” Downcast soul, there is no true ground for such a suspicion. If you had a devil in you, you might still come to Christ; and if there were a legion of devils in you— and I do not quite know how many made up a legion; but if there were so many that you could not count them— yet you might come with all the devils in hell in you and he still would not frown upon you, but he would cast the devils out of you. Oh, be not afraid to come to him whose wounds invite you. The blessed Saviour who receiveth sinners loves not that you should stay away through fear.

     I know what some of you are doing: you are trying to get to heaven by a roundabout road. The late Emperor of Russia, when the railway was to be made between Moscow and St. Petersburg, employed a great number of engineers in making plans. He looked over many of their maps, and at last, like the practical man that he was, he said, “Here, bring me a ruler.” They brought him a ruler: he took a pencil, and drawing a straight line he said, “That is the way to engineer it: we want no other plan than one straight line.” There are a great many ways of engineering souls to heaven; but the only one that is worth considering is this:— Draw a straight line to Christ at once. Did I hear one awakened soul say, “I should like to talk to Mr. Cuff”? By all means talk to him, but do not stop at that, nor stop for that. Go to Christ first. “Oh, but I should like to talk with a good woman— a dear Christian lady.” I recommend you to go to Jesus Christ at once, and see the lady afterwards. It is all very well to have an enquiryroom, and I have not a word to say against it, but the best enquiryroom in the world is your own bedroom. Go and enquire of Christ straight away. We may make our Christian workers and leaders into little priests if we do not mind what we are at. There must be nobody between a soul and Christ. Blind souls will never get their eyes opened by all the kind hands of all the good people in Shoreditch, or in all London. Christ’s hands can give sight, and only his; and you may get to Christ to-night. “Which way?” say you. By no movement of your body, but by a motion of your mind. Turn your thoughts towards him, your desires towards him, your trust towards him. Look to him and live. May the Holy Ghost lead you to trust him now, and he will save you.

     Thus have I tried very briefly to set forth the fear which arises from the majesty of the divine person of Christ, for which he prescribes this cure: “Fear not, I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth and was dead; and behold I am alive for evermore.” Do not be afraid of Jesus because of his glory, nor stand back because of your unfitness. You do want a Mediator between your soul and God; but you do not want a mediator between your souls and Christ. You may come to him straight away just as you are.

“Come needy, and guilty, come loathsome and hare;
You can’t come too filthy, come just as you are.”

Draw a straight line,— remember that, a straight line from your lost condition to Christ, and let your resolve be: I, being lost, trust Jesus to save me, and I am saved.

     II. The second “Fear not” is equally precious. Turn to Luke, the eighth chapter and the fiftieth, verse, the chapter we were reading just now, and there you will find that Jairus had a little daughter, who was dead, and they said—

     “Trouble not the Master. But when Jesus heard it, he answered him, saying, Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole.”

     THIS MEETS THE FEAR ARISING OUT OF THE DESPERATENESS OF THE CASE IN HAND. The little girl was actually dead; and yet Jesus said, “Fear not.” Here is comfort as to others. Dear friend, if you have been praying for a long time about anyone who is near and dear to you, and you have been longing for that person’s salvation, and your prayer has not been answered, and that person has even gone from bad to worse, I want you not to give up praying. “Oh, but,” you say, “I am getting very downcast, for they are plunging into deeper sin.” Well, there is cause for fear, but not while Jesus lives, for he can reach a soul so long as it remains this side the gates of death. Jesus can still save a man while he is yet out of hell. Continue to pray, and fear not. No case is absolutely hopeless while Jesus lives. Love will still prevail. We meet sometimes with amazing instances where prayer is heard at last. I have read of a woman who prayed long for her husband. She used to attend a certain meeting-house in the north of England, but her husband never went with her. He was a drinking, swearing man, and she had much anguish of heart about him. She never ceased to pray, and yet she never saw any result. She went to the meeting house quite alone, with this exception, that a dog always went with her, and this faithful animal would curl himself up under the seat, and lie quiet during the service. When she was dead, her husband was still unsaved, but doggie went to the meeting-house. His master wondered whatever the faithful animal did at the service. Curiosity made him follow the good creature. The dog led him down the aisle to his dear old mistress’s seat. The man sat on that seat, and the dog curled himself up as usual. God guided the minister that day; the word came with power, and that man wept till he found the Saviour. Never give up your husbands, good women, for the Lord may even use a dog to bring them to Christ when you are dead and gone. Never give up praying, hoping, and expecting. Fear not; believe only, and you shall have your heart’s desire. Pray for them as long as there is breath in your body and theirs. It is of no use praying for them when they are dead, but as long as they are here never cease to plead with God on their account. Persons have been converted to God under very extraordinary circumstances. Two base fellows thought to rob the house of a godly man, the vicar of the parish, who was accustomed on Sunday evening to gather his poor people together in his parlour and preach the gospel to them. This was a little extra work after the day’s services. The thieves thought that if they could get into the house with the people during the evening, and hide themselves away, they could rob the house easily during the night; and so they got into the next room to that in which the Word was preached. But they never robbed that house, for through the godly vicar’s address the Lord Jesus Christ stole away their hearts, and they came forth to confess their sin, and to become followers of the Saviour. You do not know how far the arrows of the conquering Saviour may fly. Never despair. Jesus Christ comforts you in reference to the souls of those for whom you are anxious, by saying “Fear not; believe only, and they shall be made whole.” Labour for them, pray for them, and believe that Jesus Christ can save them.

     Let the same truth be fully believed as to yourselves. O my dear hearer, you may think you are too far gone for salvation, but you are not. You may imagine that your case is altogether a lot out of the catalogue; but you are just the sort of person that Jesus Christ saves. If he never saved odd people he would never have saved me, for many men judge me to be a singular being. If you are another oddity, come along with me, and let us trust in him. If you are the one man that is a little over the line of mercy, you are the very man that Jesus Christ chooses to bless, for he loves to save extraordinary sinners. He is a very extraordinary Saviour; there never was another like him, and when he meets a sinner that is extraordinary, and never another like him, he often takes him, and makes him one of his captains, as he did Saul of Tarsus, who became Paul the apostle. I do pray you “fear not” on account of the greatness of your sin. Be humbled on account of it, but do not despair about it. Are you old in iniquity? Are you deeply ingrained in transgression by long practice in it? Still doubt not the Redeemer’s power. If your salvation rested on yourself you might despair, but the Lord has laid help on one that is mighty, even on his only-begotten Son, and he is able to save to the uttermost them that come to God by him. O poor condemned sinner, look up and hope. O thou who hast heard the clang of the iron gate, thou who art shut up in despair, have hope, have brave hope, for Jesus saith to thee, “Fear not, believe only, and thou shalt be made whole.” God grant that this gracious “Fear not” may be a comfort to some seeker here.

     III. Our third “Fear not” is taken from Luke fifth, and the seventh verse, and perhaps what I am about to say will suit Mr. Cuff and other successful ministers:

     “They came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.”

     THIS MEETS THE FEAR WHICH ARISES OUT OF THE GREATNESS OF HIS GOODNESS. If the Lord has made any one of you successful in his service, if you are made of the same stuff as I am, your success lays you low before his throne. Time was when everybody was abusing me, and then I rejoiced and gloried in God: I had happy days when my name was cast out as evil. But when the Lord in his great mercy gave me souls for my hire, and began to build up the church at the Tabernacle, I became subject thereupon to such sinking of spirits that I can scarcely tell you how crushed I have been under the weight of divine mercy. I should not wonder if my dear brother Cuff has gone home, after seeing a crowd at the Town Hall, and after seeing this great house full, and has said, “Lord, why hast thou been pleased to use me and to favour me?” If any of you are blessed in your work, as I trust you may be, you may also be made to feel the mysterious depression which takes the place of self-exaltation in those who know that every good gift comes from God alone.

     Fear because of the Lord’s great goodness also cornea in another shape: a person says, “I believe that I am saved for I have looked to Christ, and I am lightened. And yet can it be?” The thought suggests itself, “It is too good to be true.” Now, look you, sirs, if it were not supremely good it would not be true. It is because it is so excessively good that it is true. As one said of God’s mercy when his friend was astonished at it, “I am astonished too; but still it is just like him.” It is just the way of God, you know, to bless a poor sinner beyond all that he can ask or think. It is the way with God to astonish us with his grace. When the Lord sends his mercy it never rains, but it pours. He deluges the desert. He not only gives enough to moisten, but enough to drench the furrows. He makes the wilderness a standing pool of water, and the thirsty land springs of water. Do not, therefore, doubt the genuineness of his mercy because of its greatness.

     But some timorous professors say, “This is a great work which God is doing here, but it is too great to last.” Yes, that too I have heard, and the gathering of many to hear the gospel has been sneered at as “a nine days’ wonder.” Alas! our unbelief has said, “It cannot last”; and yet it has lasted. The path of faith to my mind is very like that of a man walking on a tight-rope high up in the air, and you always seem half afraid that he will fall; yet if the Lord placed us on a spider’s web as high as the Alps he would not let us slip. The walk of faith is like going up an invisible staircase. When you have climbed and climbed, you sometimes cannot see one single step before you. Each step seems to be upon the air, and yet when you put your foot down it is solid granite firmer than the earth itself. There are times when Satan whispers, “God will leave you. God will forsake you. He has done all this for you, and yet he will leave you.” Ah, but he never will, for his faithfulness never fails. We must not be like the countryman who, when he had to cross the river, said that he would wait till the stream was dry, for it could not run so fast as that long, but must all run away. We have feared that we should live till the river of God’s mercy had run dry; but it never has, and it never will. Some professors say when a great number of sinners are converted, “Oh, well, you see there are so many, they cannot be all genuine.” That is why I think the work to be real. When I see a little peddling work of one every now and then, I am far more inclined to say, “Well, I do not know. It may be of God, but it is not a very great affair, and he generally does great things when his Spirit is poured out.” But when I see him calling three thousand in one day, I say, “This is the finger of God. I am sure of it.” I would be the last to despise the day of small things, but I must also speak up for the day of great things. I have noticed that those who are added to the church at times of revival are people that hold on quite as well as others, and I think better than others. That is my experience; because at other times we are apt to say, “there are so few coming forward; we must not be quite so strict in examining them;” but when there is a great number we feel that we can afford to be particular, and we are naturally more strict. I do not justify this, but I am sure that the tendency exists. I believe in a great work; and when I see our Lord filling the net, I think I hear him saying to me, “Do not be afraid because the fish make the boat sink down to the water’s edge. Fear not. You shall get many more than these. Let down your net again.”

     Let us not doubt because it seems too wonderful that God should bless us to a great extent. It is wonderful, but let us have no doubt about it. Can the Lord use such poor worms as we are? He does use us. Do not ask how he can do it if he does do it. He is a God of sovereignty, and he uses whom he wills, and if he blesses you, give him the glory of it: but do not let the greatness of his grace cause you to mistrust. You have seen a painter with his palette on his finger, and he has ugly little daubs of paint upon the palette. What can he do with those spots? Go in and see his picture. What splendid painting! What lights! What shades! Where are those daubs of paint? They have been used up upon the picture. What! Did he make that picture out of those ugly spots of paint? Yes, that picture was made out of those little daubs of colour! That is the way with painters. In even a wiser way does Jesus act towards us. He takes us, poor smudges of paint, and he makes the blessed pictures of his grace out of us; for it is neither the brush he uses, nor the paint he uses, but it is the skill of his own hand which does it all, and unto his name be the praise. Now, poor worker, do not be afraid. The great Artist will take you in hand, and make something of you. I forget how much can be made out of a pennyworth of iron, but I do know that there are methods by which a pennyworth of iron can be so moulded, and wrought, and fashioned, that it can become worth a hundred times what it was before it came under the manufacturer’s hand. What the Lord can make of such poor creatures as we are, who shall tell? He says, “Fear not and I pray you do not fear. You who make up the church in Shoreditch, do not be afraid because the Lord fills this great house. Beckon to your partners that are in the other ships to come and help you. Help those round about to fill their boats, and may God send you a long and continued revival of religion in this whole region. Let not the old folks get frightened at the Lord’s glorious working: believe in it and rejoice! Why, if the Lord were to convert three thousand in one day in any place, there are numbers who would say, “I do not believe in it, for I never saw anything like it.” Many churches would say, “We do not think that we ought to take them in just yet.” At Pentecost they baptized the converts the same day. You see, the church was ready to baptize them: we have no church in England that would do that: I fear not one, and we have no Christian people who would approve of it if it were done, but they would as a rule murmur that it was rash enthusiasm, and an ill-advised haste. “I believe in the Holy Ghost” We say that, but do we practically believe it? God grant we may.

     IV. But now I turn to a fourth u Fear not,” which we find in the tenth of Matthew, the twenty-eighth verse. I will not turn to it, but I will just tell you of it because there are many of you here who need its comfort. “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: hut rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

     THIS IS MEANT TO REMOVE THE FEAR ARISING OUT OF SHARP PERSECUTION. In a region like this, when a working man is converted to Jesus Christ, his friends and his neighbours soon find it out, and I am sorry to say that working-men, as a rule, do not treat Christian men fairly. They used to say in America, “It is a free country; every man may whip his own nigger,” and so it is here: it is a free country, every man may swear at his fellow-workman for worshipping God. It is a fearful piece of meanness that men should molest their fellows for being godly. If you have a right to swear, I have a right to sing psalms; and if you have a right to break the Sabbath, I have a right to keep it, and I have a right to go in and out of the workshop without being called ill-names because I live in the fear of God. But the right is not always recognized. Some have to run the gauntlet from morning to night because they serve the Lord. Now, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, do not be afraid, though you are nothing but poor sheep, and you are sent out into the midst of wolves. Does it not seem as if our Lord could hardly have known what he was at when he said, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep among wolves.” Yet he made no mistake. Just think for a minute:— how many wolves are there in the world now? They have been eating up the sheep ever since they had a chance; but are there more wolves or more sheep alive at this day? Why, the wolves get fewer and fewer every day, till when a wolf comes down into the inhabited lands in France we have it reported in the paper, and we have not one animal of the kind in this country wild, though they used to abound here. The fact is, the sheep have driven out the wolves. It looked as if they would eat the sheep up, but the sheep have exterminated them. So it will be in the end with defenceless believers and raging persecutors; patient weakness will overcome passionate strength. Only be patient. You have an anvil in the shop: and you know how hard the hammer comes down on it. What does the anvil do? Why, bears it. You never saw the anvil get up and fight the hammer. Never. It stands still and takes the blows. Down comes the hammer. But now listen. How many hammers have been worn out to one anvil? Where it has stood for years, the old block of iron remains, ready to bear more strokes. The hammers will break, but not the anvil. Be you an anvil, brother. Be you the sheep, brother, still; for heavenly submission shall win the victory, and patient non-resistance shall come off more than a conqueror.

     Do not fear, I pray you, so as to conceal your testimony. Tell out for Jesus Christ what he has done for you, and the more they blaspheme and persecute you, be you the more determined by God’s grace that they shall not be able to find fault in your character, and that they shall know that you are a Christian man. Climb up the mast and nail the colours to it. Drive another nail to-night. Fix the colours to the mast-head. Say, “No, never by God’s grace will I be ashamed of being a Christian. I might be ashamed if I were a drunkard. I might be ashamed if I were a swearer; but I never will be ashamed that I am a follower of the crucified Son of God.”

     O poor men and women, who have for the most part to bear the brunt of the world’s assaults, God grant that you may not fear. Do not fall into doubt about your religion either. Do not be so afraid as to fall into questioning and unbelief. True religion never was in the majority, and never will be for many a year to come. You may rest assured that if we were to poll the world for any opinion, and if that opinion should be decided by a majority, it would be necessarily wrong. Now and then in one country the right prevails, but all the world over the seed of the serpent outnumber the seed of the woman. Blessed is he who can stand in a minority of one with God; for a minority of one for God is in the judgment of truth a majority. Count God with you, and you have more with you than all they that be against you.

     V. I must not keep you much longer, for the heat grows great, and I fear some of you are fainting. Therefore I want to say another word which I should like you all to hear. This is the fifth “Fear not.” You will find it in Luke xii. verse 32. Christ preaching to his disciples said,—

     “Fear not, little flock: for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

THIS IS MEANT TO PREVENT FEAR AS TO TEMPORAL THINGS. NOW, I know that this is a time in which many of God’s people are much tried, and they tremble lest they should not be provided for. Hearken to this,— Did you escape from poverty by being frightened about it? Did your fears ever make you any the richer? Have you not found it to be vain to rise up early and to sit up late, and to eat the bread of carefulness when you have had no faith in God? Have you not learned that? And do you not know that if you are a child of God he will certainly give you your food and raiment? Ah, I hear a heavy sigh from one,— “It has been a hard winter.” It is true, my friend, it has been a hard winter. I dare say that the birds have found it so, and yet on Sunday morning I noticed when I opened my window early that they were singing very sweetly; and this morning, too, they broke forth in a chorus of harmonious song. You know what the little bird sings when he sits on a bare bough with the snow all around him? He chirps out—

“Mortal, cease from toil and sorrow,
God provideth for the morrow.”

Learn the sparrow’s song, and try, if you can, to catch the spirit of the bird which has no barn or storehouse, and yet is fed. There is this to comfort you: “Your heavenly Father knoweth what things ye have need of.” He understands your wants. Is it not enough for a child that his father knows his needs? Rest in that, and be confident that verily you shall be fed. You will not have much in this world, perhaps; but you shall have the kingdom. Be of good cheer about that. Your inheritance is yet to come; you shall have the kingdom. You have even now a reversionary interest in eternal glory, and this involves present supplies: he who promises the end will provide for the way. Some of the Lord’s best people are those that have to suffer most, but it is because they can here glorify him most by suffering. I think the angels in heaven must almost envy a child of God who has the power and the privilege to suffer for Christ’s sake; for doubtless angels render perfect service to the heavenly King, yet not by suffering. Theirs is active and not passive obedience to the will of God. Methinks they will cluster round some of you in heaven, and say, “You lived down at Bethnal Green, or Shoreditch. Ah, yes.” The angels will say, “What sort of a place did you live in? One dark room? You were very poor: you were out of work: and did you trust God?” The angels will be pleased as you tell them, “Oh yes, we went to the heavenly Father still, and we said, ‘Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.’” That is the grandest thing that a man ever did say; at least, I think it is. Mr. Cuff says some fine things, but he never uttered a nobler sentence than that,— “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” The expression is sublime! When Job had lost everything, after being immensely rich, he sat on a dunghill, and scraped his sores, and he said, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither.” He was reduced to the most abject want, and yet he added— “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Ye cherubim and seraphim, in all your songs no stanza excels that heroic verse. Angels cannot rise to such a height of sublime devotion to the Invisible One as Job did when in his misery he glorified his God by abiding confidence. Oh, you that are brought very low, you have grand opportunities for honouring God if you will but trust him. “Fear not.” “Fear not.”

“Fear not the loss of outward good,
He will for his provide,
Give them supplies of daily food,
And all they want beside.”

     And he will give you spiritual food too. When God saves his people he gives them spiritual food to live upon till they get to heaven. God does not give us treatment like that which the Duke of Alva measured out to a city which had surrendered. He agreed to give the inhabitants their lives, but when they complained that they were dying of hunger he maliciously replied, “I granted you your lives, but I did not promise you food.” Our God does not talk so. He includes in the promise of salvation all that goes with it; and you shall have all you really want between here and heaven, wherefore fear not.

     VI. Lastly, time fails me: but I was going to close with that word in the twenty-seventh of Acts, the twenty-fourth verse, where the Lord sent his angel to his servant Paul in the time of the shipwreck, and said to him, “Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Cæsar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.”

     So I pray God that all perils in the future— all imminent ills and dangers which surround you now— may not cause you to fear, for the Lord will not suffer a hair of your head to perish, but he that has made you will bear you through, and make you more than conquerors too.

     Tried people of God, rest in the Lord, and your confidence shall be your strength. You have often heard of the boy on board ship in time of storm who was the only person that was not afraid. When they asked him why he did not fear, he said w Because my father is at the helm.” We have still better cause for casting away all fear, for not only is our Father at the helm but our Father is everywhere, holding the winds and the waves in the hollow of his hand. No trouble can happen to you or to me but what he ordains or permits. No trial can come but what he will restrain and overrule. No evil can happen but what shall certainly work for good to them that love God. Therefore be not afraid. What though the howling tempest yell, and the ship creak and groan as she labours among the waves, and you think that nothing but destruction awaits you, fear not! Let not fear linger for a single moment in the presence of the eternal Christ who says, “It is I. Be not afraid.” May God grant that his own “Fear not” may go home to the heart of every one here present in some form or other; and unto his name be glory, world without end. Amen.



Lovest Thou Me?

By / Feb 27

Lovest Thou Me?

 
“Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” — John xxi. 16.

 

THIS is a very short and simple text, and some would think it very easy to say all that can be said upon it, but indeed it is a very large text, and too full of meaning for me to attempt to expound it all. The words are few, but the thoughts suggested are very many; there are subtle meanings, too, in the original Greek well worth considering, and allusions which deserve to be followed out. I intend at this time to confine myself to one point, and to ask your consideration of one thought only. May the Spirit of God prepare our hearts for our meditation, and impress the truth upon them. My one point is this; our Lord asked Peter whether he had a love to his person. The inquiry is not concerning his love to the kingdom of God, or the people of God, but it begins and ends with his love to the Son of God. “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” He does not say, “Dost thou now perceive the prudence of my warnings when I bade thee watch and pray? Simon, son of Jonas, wilt thou henceforth cease from thy self-confidence, and take heed to my admonitions?” It is not even, “Do you now believe' my doctrines? Do you not trust in one whom the other day you denied?” Neither is it asked, “Are you pleased with my precepts? Are you a believer in my claims? Will you still confess me to be the Son of the Highest?” No, these matters are not brought under question, but the one inquiry is, “Lovest thou me? Hast thou a personal attachment for me, to my very self?” He calls him by his old, unconverted name, Simon, son of Jonas, to remind him of what grace had done for him, and then he asks only about his love. The question deals with personal attachment to a personal Christ, and that is my sole subject.

     Observe that our ever wise and tender Saviour questioned Peter about his love in plain set terms. There was no beating about the bush, he went at once to the point, for it is not a matter about which ambiguity and doubt can be endured. As the physician feels his patient’s pulse to judge his heart, so the Lord Jesus tested at once the pulse of Peter’s soul. He did not say, “Simon, son of Jonas, dost thou repent of thy folly?” Repentance is a very blessed grace, and very needful, but it was wiser to look at once to Peter’s love, because it is quite certain that if a disciple loves his master he will deeply grieve for ever having denied him. The Lord does not even ask his follower as to his faith, which might well have been put under question, for he had with oaths said, “I know not the man.” It would have been a highly important question, but it was answered when Peter avowed his love, for he who loves believes, and no man can love a Saviour in whom he does not believe. The Lord left every other point out of consideration, or perhaps I ought rather to say concentrated every other point into this one inquiry — “Lovest thou me?” Learn from this fact that one thing is needful; love to Jesus is the chief, the vital point to look to.

     This question the Lord asked three times, as if to show that it is of the first, of the second, and of the third importance; as if it comprised all else, and therefore he would again, and again, and again insist upon it, as orators dwell with repetitions and emphatic sentences upon topics which they would urge home upon their auditors. This nail was meant to be well fastened, for it is smitten on the head with blow after blow. With unvarying tone and look the Lord enquired, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” It shows what weight our Saviour attached to the matter of his love, that he asked him about that, about that only, and about that three times over. When you are examining yourselves look mainly to your hearts, and make thorough inquisition into your love. Is Jesus really loved by you? Have you a deep attachment to his person? Whatever else you trifle with, be earnest here.

     Remember that the Lord Jesus himself asked the question, and he asked it until he grieved Peter. So long as he was but recognised as a disciple Peter must have felt ready to receive the severest possible rebuke, and think himself gently done by; therefore it was not easy to grieve him. Our Lord also was slow at all times to cause pain to any true heart; yet on this occasion, for wise reasons, he reiterated his inquiry till he touched Peter’s unhealed wounds and made them smart. Had he not made his Master’s heart bleed, and was it not fit that he should feel heart-wounds himself? A threefold denial demanded a threefold confession, and the grief he had caused was fitly brought to his memory by the grief he felt. Now, this morning, if I press this question until I grieve some of you, till I grieve myself also, I shall not be censurable for having done so. To comfort you would be a good work, but sometimes it maybe better to grieve you. Not always is sweet food the best thing we can bring you, bitter medicine is sometimes more requisite. I shall not have pushed the question beyond its legitimate sphere if I should so present it as to stir your hearts even to anguish. True love has more or less of pain about it; only the mere pretender passes through the world without anxious inquiry and heartsearching. Better far that you should be grieved to-day, and be found right at last, than that you should presumptuously feel yourselves secure, and be deceivers in the end.

     We remarked that the question was put by our Lord himself. What if the Lord Jesus should meet you to-day, and should say to each one of you, “Lovest thou me?” If the question came at the end of one of our sermons, or just as we had done teaching, I should not wonder if it startled us. Found, as we are, in his house, having just sung sweet hymns in his honour, having united in prayer, and heartily joined in his worship, it would seem strange to be questioned as to our love to him, and yet it would not be unnecessary. Imagine, then, that your Lord has found you quite alone, and is standing before you; think of him touching you with his hand, and gently enquiring, “After all, lovest thou me?” How would you feel under such a question? Would you not be struck with it, and perhaps with shame begin to tremble and think over a dozen reasons why such a searching question was suggested to you just now. And if the Lord were to repeat it three times, and each time put it distinctly to you, and to you only, would you not feel great searchings of heart? Yet would I have you so receive the question. Let it come to you now as from Jesus. Forget that it is spoken by the minister, or written in the text. Hear it only as spoken by Jesus, by that same Jesus who has redeemed you from death and hell by his most precious blood. He addresses it to you rather than to others, — is there not a cause? Singling you out of the company, he gazes on you fixedly, and says, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” — you know why there is such cause to question you. Answer for yourself alone, for he puts the enquiry only to you. Never mind Nathanael now, nor Thomas, nor the two sons of Zebedee — “Lovest thou me? Really, truly does thy heart beat true towards Jesus of Nazareth? Come, Peter, yes or no? Thou sayest ‘Yes,’ but is it so? Is it so? Is it so?” I want the enquiry to come to my own soul and to yours this morning, as if Jesus really stood before each one of us, and again said, “Lovest thou me?” May the Lord grant us grace to make solemn enquiry as to this matter, to bear honest witness, and to give a true deliverance, which shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

     I. Our first observation shall be this — LOVE TO THE PERSON OF CHRIST MAY BE A BSENT FROM OUR BOSOMS. Unhappy thought, and yet most certainly true! Even in our hearts there may be no love to Christ! I know of nothing which can screen any one of us from the necessity of the question. Our gifts and apparent graces may prevent our fellow creatures questioning us, but nothing should prevent our questioning ourselves, for certainly there is nothing which will prevent the Lord himself from putting the enquiry to us.

     No outward religiousness renders this enquiry needless. Are we professors of religion, are we very constant in attending to outward forms of worship? Do we enter very heartily into all the public exercises of God’s house? Yes, but there are thousands who do that, hundreds of thousands who do that every Lord’s-day, and yet they do not love Christ! My brethren, are not multitudes wrapped up in forms and ceremonies? If the service pleases the eye and the ear are they not quite content? Love to the person of Christ has not occurred to the mass of avowed worshippers of Jesus. We know others to whom the end-all and be-all of religion is an orthodox statement of doctrine. So long as the preaching is according to the confession of faith, and every word and act is piously correct, they are well pleased; but no love to Jesus ever stirs their bosoms; religion to them is not an exercise of the heart at all — it is mere brain work, and hardly that. They know nothing of the living soul going out towards a living person, a bleeding heart knit to another bleeding heart, a life subsisting on another life and enamoured of it. We know brethren who carry this very far, and if the preacher differs from them in the merest shade, they are overwhelmed with pious horror at his unsoundness, and they cannot hear him again: even if he preach Christ most preciously in all the rest of his discourse, it is nothing, because he cannot sound their “Shibboleth.” What is orthodoxy without love, but a catacomb to bury dead religion in. It is a cage without a bird; the gaunt skeleton of a man out of which the life has fled. I am afraid that the general current of church life runs too much towards externals, and too little towards deep burning love to the person of Christ. If you preach much about emotional religion, and the heart-work of godliness, cold-blooded professors label you as rather mystical, and begin to talk of Madame Guyon and the danger of the Quietist school of religion. We would not mind having a little spice of that, even if we were blamed for it, for after all the realizing of Christ is the grand thing. The faith which is most blessed is faith which deals most fully with the person of Jesus Christ, the truest repentance is that which weeps at a sight of his wounds, and the love which is most sweet is love to the adorable person of the Well-beloved. I look upon the doctrines of grace as my Lord’s garments, and they smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia. I look upon his precepts as his sceptre, and it is a rod tipped with silver; and I delight to touch it and find comfort in its power. I look upon the gospel ordinances as the throne upon which he sits, and I delight in that throne of ivory overlaid with pure gold; but oh, his person is sweeter than his garments, dearer than his sceptre, more glorious than his throne; he himself is altogether lovely, and to love HIM is the very heart’s core of true religion. But perhaps you may not love HIM after all. You may have all the externals of outward religiousness, and yet the secret of the Lord may not be with you. It will be vain to reverence the Sabbath if you forget the Lord of the Sabbath, vain to love the sanctuary but not the Great High Priest, vain to love the wedding-feast but not the Bridegroom. Do you love HIM? that is the question. “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?”

     Nor, brethren, would the highest office in the church render it unnecessary to ask the question. Peter was an apostle, and not a whit behind the very chief of them. In some respects he was a foundation stone of the church, and yet it was needful to say to him, “Lovest thou me?” For there was once an apostle who did not love the Lord; there was an apostle who coveted twenty pieces of silver, — a goodly price was that at which he sold his Master. The name of Judas should sound the death-knell of all presumptuous confidence in our official standing. We may stand very high in the church and yet fall to our destruction. Our names may be in the list of religious leaders and yet they may not be written in the Lamb’s book of life. So, my brother minister, deacon, or elder, it is needful to put to ourselves the question, “Lovest thou the Lord?”

     The enjoyment of the greatest Christian privileges does not render this question unnecessary. Peter and James and John were the three most favoured of all the apostles: they witnessed certain of our Lord’s miracles which were done in secret, and beheld of no other human eyes. They beheld him on the mount of transfiguration in all his glory, and they saw him in the garden of Gethsemane in all his agony, and yet, though thus favoured, their Lord felt it needful to ask of their leader, “Lovest thou me?” Omy brother, you have had high enjoyments, you have been on Tabor, illuminated with its transporting light, and you have also had fellowship with Christ in his sufferings, or at any rate you think you have. You are familiar alike with inward agonies and spiritual joys: you have been the familiar of the Lord and eaten bread with him, and yet remember there was one who did this and yet lifted up his heel against him, and therefore it is needful to say to you, my brother, “ Lovest thou the Lord ? ” Dost thou really love him after all? for it is not certain that thou dost so because of what thou hast seen and enjoyed. It is easy to invent a remarkable experience, but the one thing needful is a loving heart. Take heed that ye have this.

     Nor, my dear brethren, does the greatest warmth of zeal prevent the necessity of this question. Peter was a redhot disciple. How ready he was both to do and to dare for his Master. How impetuously he cried when he was on the lake of Galilee, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come to thee on the water.” What daring! Whatfaith! What vehement zeal! And here, too, in the narrative before us, when the Lord was by that selfsame sea of Tiberias, Peter, in his headlong zeal, cannot wait until the boat touches the shore, but he girds on his fisher’s coat and plunges in to meet the Master whom he loves; and yet, with that headlong zeal before him, the Lord says, “Lovest thou me?” Yes, young man, you are earnest in the Sunday-school, you have sought the conversion of the little ones and succeeded above many; you encourage others and give impetus to every movement in which you engage: and yet you need to enquire whether you do in very deed love the Lord or no. Perhaps, my dear brother, you stand up in the comers of the streets, and face the ungodly throng and delight to talk of Jesus, whether men oppose or no; yet are you sure you love Jesus? My sister, you visit the poor and care for the needy, you lay yourself out to do good to young people, and are full of warmth in all things which concern the Redeemer’s cause,. We admire you, and hope your zeal will never grow less; but for all that, even to you must the question be put, “Lovest thou the Lord Jesus?” For there is a zeal which is fed by regard to the opinions of others, and sustained by a wish to be thought earnest and useful; there is a zeal which is rather the warmth of nature than the holy fire of grace: this zeal has enabled many to do great things, and yet, when they have done all, they have been as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal, because they did not love Jesus Christ. The most zealous actions, though they naturally lead us to hope that those who perform them are lovers of Jesus, are not conclusive evidence thereof, and therefore we must still enquire, “Lovest thou the Lord?”

     Ay, dear friends, and I will go a little further; the greatest selfdenial does not prove it. Peter could say, “Lord, we have left all and followed thee.” Though it was not very much, yet it was all Peter had, and he had left it all for the good cause, without having gained any earthly good in return. He had been frequently abused and reproached, for Jesus’ sake, and he expected to be reproached still more, yet was he loyal, and willing to suffer to the end: yet the Lord, knowing all that Peter had sacrificed for his sake, nevertheless said to him, “Lovest thou me?” For sadly, strangely true it is, that men have made considerable sacrifices to become professed Christians and yet have not had the root of the matter in them. Some have even been put into prison for the truth, and yet have not been sincere Christians, and it is not for us to say, but it is to be feared that in the martyr days some have given their bodies to be burned, yet because they had not love, it profited them nothing. Love is essential. Nothing can compensate for its absence. And yet this precious thing may not be in your hearts! O God, I tremble as I remember that perhaps it is not in mine. Let each one hear the question “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?”

     I must press the point still a little further. It is often necessary for us to put this question, because there are other points of religion besides the emotional. Man is not all heart, he has a brain, and the brain is to be consecrated and sanctified. It is, therefore, right that we should study the Word of God and become well instructed scribes in the kingdom of heaven. Peter went to college three years, with Jesus Christ for a tutor, and he learned a great deal, as who would not from so great a teacher? But after he had been through his course, his Master, before he sent him to his life-work, felt it needful to inquire, “Lovest thou me?” Brother, you may turn over the pages of your book, you may digest doctrine after doctrine, you may take up theological propositions and problems, and you may labour to solve this difficulty and expound that text, and meet the other question, till, somehow or other, the heart grows as dry as the leaves of the volume, and the book-worm feeds on the soul as well as the paper, eating its way into the spirit. It is, therefore, a healthy thing for the Lord to come into the study and close the book, and say to the student, “Sit still a while, and let me ask thee, ‘Lovest thou me?’ I am better than all books and studies; hast thou a warm, human, living love to me?” I hope many of you are very diligent students— if you teach in the Sunday-school you ought to be, if you preach in the streets or in cottage meetings you ought to be. How shall you fill others if you are not full yourselves? But at the same time look most of all to the condition of your heart towards Christ. To know is good, but to love is better. If thou wilt study, thou canst solve all problems; yet, if thou lovest not, thou hast failed to comprehend the mystery of mysteries, and to know the most excellent of sciences. Knowledge puffeth up, but love buildeth up. Look well, then, to the question, “Lovest thou me?” Much of Christian life also ought to be spent in active labour. We are to be up and doing. If there was anything to do, Peter was the man to do it. He had gone forth to preach the gospel, and even the devils had been subject to him ; Peter had wrought marvels in Jesus’ name, and he was ordained to work yet greater wonders. Yet, despite all that Peter had done, his love needed to be examined. Even though those feet of Peter’s had walked the sea, which no man’s feet had done besides, yet Peter must be asked, “Lovest thou me?” He had just dragged that huge net to the shore with all that host of fishes, a hundred and fifty and three. With great skill and mighty effort he had drawn the whole shoal on shore, yet this did not prove his love. There are preachers of the gospel among us who have dragged a full net to shore, the great fishes have been many; they have been great and successful workers, but this does not prevent its being needful for the Lord to examine them as to their hearts. He bids them put by their nets for awhile and commune with him. Shut up the church book; fold up the roll of membership and have done counting your fishes. Come into your chamber apart. Jesus means to ask you something. “In my name you have cast out devils, but did you love me? You cast the net on the right side of the ship, as I told you, but did you love me? You drew to shore that shoal of fishes, but did you love me?” Brethren, this is the solemn fear, “Lest after having preached to others I myself should be a castaway.” Lest after bringing others to Jesus, and serving God well in the school, or in some other sphere, you should, nevertheless, make a dead failure of it, because you have not loved Jesus himself. I must press the question again and again, and I do pray the Holy Spirit to let its power be felt by every one of us.

     Possibly we may have been called to contend earnestly for the faith, and we may have been battling with the King’s enemies on this side and on that, and standing up for the truth even as for dear life. It is well to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ, for this age wants men who are not afraid to bear reproach for speaking out the truth, with strong, stern words; but to this spirit it is more than ever important that the question should come, “Lovest thou me?” A man may be a very firm Protestant, but may not love Christ; he may be a very earnest advocate of divine truth, but he may not love him who is the truth itself; he may maintain Scriptural views as to baptism, and yet he may never have been baptised into Christ. A man may be a staunch Nonconformist, and may see all the evils against which Nonconformity is a protest, but still he may be conformed to the world, and be lost notwithstanding all his dissent. It is a grand thing for every Christian warrior to look well to this breastplate, and to see that he can promptly reply to the question, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?”

     Putting all together, let me say to you, — Beloved, however eminent you may be in the church of God, and however distinguished for services or for suffering, yet do not evade this question. Bare your bosoms to the inspection of your Lord. Answer him with humble boldness while he says to you again and again, even till he grieves you, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?”

     II. We will now turn to a second head. WE MUST LOVE THE PERSON OF CHRIST, OR ALL OUR PAST PROFESSIONS HAVE BEEN A LIE. It is not possible for that man to be a Christian who does not love Christ. Take the heart away, and life is impossible. Your very first true hope of heaven came to you, if it ever did come at all, by Jesus Christ. Beloved, you heard the gospel, but the gospel apart from Christ was never good news to you; you read the Bible, but the Bible apart from a personal Christ was never anything more than a dead letter to you; you listened to many earnest entreaties, but they all fell on a deaf ear until Jesus came and compelled you to come in. The first gleam of comfort that ever entered my heart flashed from the wounds of the Redeemer; I never had a hope of being saved until I saw him hanging on the tree in agonies and blood. And because our earliest hope is bound up, not with any doctrine or preacher, but with Jesus, our all in all, therefore I am sure, even if we have only lately received our first hope, we must love Jesus, from whom it has come. Nor do we merely begin with him, for every covenant blessing we have received has been connected with his person, and could not be received apart from him. You have obtained pardon, but that pardon was through his blood. You have been clothed in righteousness, but he is the Lord your Righteousness, he is himself your glory and your beauty. You have been cleansed from many sins by conversion, but it was the water from his riven side which washed you. You have been made the child of God, but your adoption has only made you feel more akin to the Elder Brother, through whom you are made heirs of God, The blessings of the covenant are none of them separate from Christ, and cannot be enjoyed apart from him, any more than light and heat can be divided from the sun. All blessings come to us from his pierced hand, and hence if we have received them we must love him; it is not possible to have enjoyed the golden gifts of his unbounded love without being moved to love him in return. You cannot walk in the sun without being warmed, nor receive of Christ’s fulness without being filled with gratitude.

     Every ordinance of the Christian church since we have been converted has either been a mockery, or else we have loved Christ in it. Baptism, for instance, what is it but the mere washing away of the filth of the flesh and nothing more, unless we were buried with Christ in baptism unto death; that like as he also rose from the dead by the glory of the Father even so we also might rise to newness of life ? The Lord’s Supper, what is it? What but a common meal for the eating of bread and the drinking of wine, unless Christ be there? But if we have come to the Lord’s Supper as true men, and not as false-hearted hypocrites, we have eaten his flesh and drunk his blood, and is it possible to have done that and not to love him? It cannot be. That communion with Christ which is absolutely essential to ordinances is also sure to produce in the heart love towards him with whom we commune. And so, beloved, it has been with every approach we have made towards God in all the long years of our Christian life. Did you pray, my brother? did you really speak with God in prayer? You could not have done it except through Jesus the Mediator, and if you have spoken to God through the Mediator, you cannot remain without love to one who has been your door of access to the Father. If you have made a profession of religion, how can it be a true and honest one unless your heart burns with attachment to the Great Author of salvation. You have great hopes, but what are you hoping for? Is not all your hope wrapped up in him? Do you not expect that when he shall appear you shall be like him? You are hoping to die triumphantly, but not apart from his making your dying bed soft as a pillow of down. You are hoping to rise again, but not apart from his resurrection, for he is the first fruits of the resurrection harvest. You expect to reign upon earth, but it is with him; you do not expect a millennium apart from the King. You expect a never-ending heaven, but that heaven is to be with Jesus where he is, and to behold his glory. Since, then, everything that you have obtained — if indeed you have received it of the Lord at all — has Christ’s name stamped on it, and comes to you direct from his pierced hand, it cannot be that you have received it unless you love him. Now, when I put the question, recollect that upon your answer to it hangs this alternative — a hypocrite or a true man, a false professor or a genuine convert, a child of God or an heir of wrath. Therefore answer the enquiry, but answer it with deliberation, answer it conscientiously, as though you stood before the bar of him who now so tenderly enquires of you, but who will then speak in other tones, and look with other glances, even with those eyes which are like a flame of fire. “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?”

     III. Our third consideration is this — WE MUST HAVE LOVE TO THE PERSON OP CHRIST, OR NOTHING IS RIGHT FOR THE FUTURE. We have not finished life yet— much of pilgrimage may possibly lie before UB. Now, all will go right if we love Christ, but nothing can proceed as it should do if love to Jesus be absent. For instance: Peter is called to feed the lambs and feed the sheep; but for a true pastor the first qualifiction is love to Christ. I gather from this incident, and I am sure I do not press it unduly, that Jesus Christ, meaning to make Peter a feeder of his lambs and sheep, acts as a trier to see whether he has the proper qualifications, and he does not so much inquire about Peter’s knowledge or gifts of utterance, as about his love; for the first, second, and third qualification for a true pastor is a loving heart. Now, mark you, what is true of a pastor is true of every useful worker for Christ. Love is essential, my dear friend; you cannot work for Christ if you do not love him. “But I can teach in the school,” says one. “No, not as school should be taught, without love to Jesus.” “But I am connected with an interesting society, which is doing much good.” “But you are not glorifying God unless you are connected with that society because you love Jesus Christ.” Put down your tools, for you cannot work profitably in my Lord’s vineyard unless your heart loves him; his vines had better be untrimmed than be pruned by angry hands. Let the lambs alone, sir, you will never rear them if your heart is hard and ungentle. If you do not love the Master, you will not love his work, or his servants, or the rules of his house, and we can do better without you than with you. To have an unloving worker grumbling about the Lord’s house and vineyard would be distressing to the whole family. Love must be in the heart, or true service cannot come from the hands.

     Then, again, perhaps suffering lies before you: and if your heart is not true to Christ, you will not be able patiently to endure for his name’s sake. Before long, the time came for Peter to glorify God by death. Peter has to be girded and to be taken whither he would not. Now Peter cannot be fit for martyrdom if he does not love Jesus. Tradition says that he was crucified with his head downwards, because he felt it too much honour to be put to death in the same position as his Lord. It may be so; no doubt he was put to death by crucifixion, and it was his strong deep love which made him more than a conqueror. Love makes the hero. When the Spirit of God inflames love he inspires courage. See then, O believers, how much you need love for the future. Young Christian, you will have to run the gauntlet before you enter heaven. I do not mind what sphere of life you occupy, you are very particularly favoured if somebody does not mock at you, and persecute you. Between here and heaven you will be tried, and peradventure your foes will be the men of your own household. Many will watch for your halting, and even place stumbling-blocks in your way: to walk securely you will need to carry the fires of love in your heart. If you do not love Jesus intensely sin will get the mastery over you. Self-denials and humiliations which would be easy with love will be impossible without it. Rightly to work or to suffer, or to die, we must love Jesus with all our hearts.

     Look you, my brethren, if we have no love for Jesus Christ’s person our piety lacks the adhesive element, it fails in that which will help us to stick to the good old way to the end, and hold out to the end. Men often leave what they like, but never what they love; men can deny what they merely believe as a matter of mental conviction, but they will never deny that which they feel to be true, and accept with heartfelt affection. If you are to persevere to the end, it must be in the power of love.

     Love is the great inspiriting force. Many a deed in the Christian life is impossible to everything but love. In serving Christ you come across a difficulty far too great for judgment, far too hard for prudence, and unbelief sits down and weighs and calculates, but love, mighty love, laughs at the impossibility and accomplishes it for Jesus Christ. Love breaks through troops, love leaps over walls, and hand-in-hand with faith she is all but omnipotent; nay, through the power of God which is upon her, she can do all things for Jesus Christ her Lord. If you lack love your energy is gone; the force which nerves the man and subdues his foes is lacking.

     Without love, too, you are without the transforming force. Love to Christ is that which makes us like him. The eyes of love, like windows, let in the Saviour’s image, and the heart of love receives it as upon a sensitive plate, until the whole nature bears its impress. You are like that which you love, or you are growing like it. If Christ be loved you are growingly becoming like him; but without love you will never bear the image of the heavenly. O Spirit of God, with wings of love brood over us, till Christ is formed in us.

     My brethren, there is one other reflection — without love to Christ we lack the perfecting element. We are to be with him soon; in a few more weeks or months, none of us can tell how few, we shall be in the glory. Yes, you and I; many of us shall be wearing the white robes and bearing the palm branches. We shall only buy two or three more almanacs, at the outside, and then we shall keep no more reckoning of days, for we shall be where time, with its little eddies and currents, shall be forgotten in the eternal flow of the ages. But if we have not love to Jesus we shall not be where he is. There are none in heaven that have not first learned to love him here below. So we must have love to Jesus, the future imperiously demands it, and therefore I put the question with all the greater seriousness and vehemence, “Simon, Son of Jonas, lovest thou me?”

     IV. But now I will suppose I have received an answer from you, and you are able to say you do love Jesus; then my fourth and closing head must be, IF WE DO LOVE HIM, WHAT THEN? Why then, if we do love him, let us do something for him directly, for Jesus Christ replied to Peter the moment he said, “Thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee,” — “Feed my sheep.” Very kind it was the Saviour, because he knew from his own heart that wherever there is love there is a desire for activity. Because Jesus loved so much therefore it became his meat and his drink to do the will of his heavenly Father. So thinks Jesus — “Peter loves me, and his heart will ache if I do not give him something to do. Go and feed my lambs, go and feed my sheep.” Brother, sister, if you love Christ, do not idle away this Sunday afternoon. If you love Christ, get to work. What are you doing? Attending the means of grace and getting a good feed. Is that all? Well, that is doing something for yourself. Many people in the world are very busy at feeding, among the most active with knife and fork, but I do not know that eating a man’s bread is any proof of love to him. A great many professing Christians give no proof of love to Christ, except that they enjoy sermons. But now, if you love Jesus Christ as you say you do, prove it by doing good to others — “Feed my sheep.” I see a company of brethren met together to hold a conference and to grow in grace. Very excellent indeed: grow away brethren as fast as ever you can — I like to see you as a flower garden, all a-growing, all a-blowing. But when you have done all that, I pray you do not congratulate yourselves as though you had done a mighty fine thing, because there is nothing in it unless it leads you to work for others. To publish accounts of such happy gatherings is like telling the poor people of Whitechapel that the Lord Mayor and Aldermen had a fine banquet of turtle soup. Suppose I read that you have had a splendid series of meetings; well, I am glad you enjoyed yourselves; but the point is this — if there is anything in it, get to work. If you love Christ, feed his sheep and lambs. If it is not all talk, if it is not all much ado about nothing, if it is not all fuss, get to soul winning, get down among the poor and needy, get down among the lost and wandering, get down among the dark and ignorant, and hold forth Jesus Christ as the Balm of Gilead and the Saviour of sinners. After all, this is the test of how much you have grown in grace — this is the test of your higher life, this is the proof of how much you have become like Jesus. What will you do for him? for if you do not go now and feed his sheep, and feed his lambs, it does not matter what you say or what you think you enjoy, you do not give that proof of love which Jesus asks for.

     I put it in this final word; — when next you teach your classes, or your own families, do it for love of Jesus. Say to your heart, “I do love Christ, and now I am going to teach for love of him.” Oh, there will be a grand class this afternoon, my sister, you will get on mightily if you teach for love of him, every word you say will be powerful since it is suggested by love of him. That girl who makes so much noise, and troubles you so much, you will bear with for love of him. That restless young urchin, you cannot get the truth into him, — you tell him many tales, and when you have done he wants another; you will patiently give him another, for the love of Christ. When you pray with the little ones, pray because you love them for Christ’s sake. You are going to preach, do the preaching for love of Christ. We sometimes do it because it is our turn to do it, but it should never be so. You know how delightfully servants will wait upon you if they do it for love. You have been out for a few weeks, and at last you come home. Look at the room! What a welcome is before you! They have half devastated the garden to bring in the flowers to make the table look nice for you. That supper — well, it is just the same supper that any Mary or Jane would have cooked, but see how it is put upon the table! Everything seems to say it is done for love of master and mistress, to show our affection and respect for them, and you enjoy it indescribably, because it tells of love. Now, to-morrow, and as long as ever you live, do everything out of love to Christ. It will spread flowers over your work, and make it look beautiful in his eyes. Put love’s Angers to work, love’s brains, love’s eyes, love’s hands; think with love, pray with love, speak with love, live with love, and in this way you will live with power, and God will bless you for Jesus’ sake. Amen.



The Loved Ones Chastened

By / Nov 22

The Loved Ones Chastened

 

"As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; be zealous therefore, and repent."—Revelation 3:19

 

     The dealings of God towards the sons of men have always puzzled the wise men of the earth who have tried to understand them. Apart from the revelation of God the dealings of Jehovah towards his creatures in this world seem to be utterly inexplicable. Who can understand how it is that the wicked flourish and are in great power? The ungodly man flourishes like a green bay tree; behold, he stretcheth out his roots by the river: he knoweth not the year of drought; his leaf withereth not; and his fruit doth not fall in an untimely season. Lo, these are the ungodly that flourish in the world; they are filled with riches; they heap up gold like dust; they leave the rest of their substance to their babes; they add field to field, and acre to acre, and they become the princes of the earth. On the other hand, see how the righteous are cast down. How often is virtue dressed in the rags of poverty! How frequently is the most pious spirit made to suffer from hunger, and thirst, and nakedness! We have sometimes heard the Christian say, when he has contemplated these things, "Surely, I have served God in vain; it is for nothing that I have chastened myself every morning and vexed my soul with fasting; for lo, God hath cast me down, and he lifteth up the sinner. How can this be?" The sages of the heathen could not answer this question, and they therefore adopted the expedient of cutting the gordian knot. "We can not tell how it is," they might have said; therefore they flew at the fact itself, and denied it. "The man that prospers is favored of the gods; the man who is unsuccessful is obnoxious to the Most High." So said the heathen, and they knew no better. Those more enlightened easterns, who talked with Job in the days of his affliction, got but little further; for they believed that all who served God would have a hedge about them; God would multiply their wealth and increase their happiness; while they saw in Job's affliction, as they conceived, a certain sign that he was a hypocrite, and therefore God had quenched his candle and put out his light in darkness. And alas! even Christians have fallen into the same error. They have been apt to think, that if God lifts a man up there must be some excellence in him; and if he chastens and afflicts, they are generally led to think that it must be an exhibition of wrath. Now hear ye the text, and the riddle is all unriddled; listen ye to the words of Jesus, speaking to his servant John, and the mystery is all unmysteried. "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent."

     The fact is, that this world is not the place of punishment. There may now and then be eminent judgments; but as a rule God does not in the present state fully punish any man for sin. He allows the wicked to go on in their wickedness; he throws the reins upon their necks; he lets them go on unbridled in their lusts; some checks of conscience there may be; but these are rather, as monitions than as punishments. And, on the other hand, he casts the Christian down; he gives the most afflictions to the most pious; perhaps he makes more waves of trouble roll over the breast of the most sanctified Christian than over the heart of any other man living. So, then, we must remember that as this world is not the place of punishment, we are to expect punishment and reward in the world to come; and we must believe that the only reason, then, why God afflicts his people must be this:—

 

"In love I correct thee, thy gold to refine,

To make thee at length in my likeness to shine."

 

     I shall try this morning to notice, first, what it is in his children that God corrects; secondly, why God corrects them; and thirdly, what is our comfort, when we are laboring under the rebukes and correctings of our God. Our comfort must be the fact that he loves us even then. "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten."

     I. First, then, beloved, WHAT IS IT IN THE CHRISTIAN THAT GOD REBUKES? One of the Articles of the Church of England saith right truly, that, naturally, "man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated; whereby the lust of the flesh, called in the Greek, phronema sarkos, which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire, of the flesh, is not subject to the Law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized, yet the Apostle doth confess, that concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin," and because evil remains in the regenerate there is therefore a necessity that that evil should be upbraided. Ay, and a necessity that when that upbraiding is not sufficient, God should go to severer measures, and after having failed in his rebukes, adopt the expedient of chastening. "I rebuke and chasten." Hence God has provided means for the chastisement and the rebuking of his people. Sometimes God rebukes his children under the ministry. The minister of the gospel is not always to be a minister of consolation. The same Spirit that is the Comforter is he who convinces the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment; and the same minister who is to be as the angel of God unto our souls, uttering sweet words that are full of honey, is to be at times the rod of God, the staff in the hand of the Almighty, with which to smite us on account of our transgressions. And ah! beloved, how often under the ministry ought we to have been checked when we were not? Perhaps the minister's words were very forcible, and they were uttered with true earnestness, and they applied to our case; but alas! we shut our ear to them, and applied them to our brother instead of to ourselves. I have often marveled when I have been preaching. I have thought that I have described the cases of some of my most prominent members. I have marked in them diverse sins, and as Christ's faithful pastor, I have not shunned to picture their case in the pulpit, that they might receive a well-deserved rebuke; but I have marveled when I have spoken to them afterward, that they have thanked me for what I have said, because they thought it so applicable to such another brother in the church, whilst I had intended it wholly for them, and had, as I thought, so made the description accurate, and so brought it out in all its little points, that it must have been received by them. But alas! you know, my friends, that we sit under the sound of the Word, and we seldom think how much it belongs to us, especially if we hold an office in the Church. It is hard for a minister when he is hearing a brother minister preach, to think, it may be, he has a word of rebuke to me. If exalted to the office of elder or deacon, there groweth sometimes with that office a callousness to the Word when spoken to himself; and the man in office is apt to think of the hundreds of inquirers unto whom that may be found applicable, and of the multitudes of the babes in grace to whom such a word comes in season. Ay, friends, if we did but listen more to the rebukes of God in the ministry, if we hearkened more to his Word as he speaks to us every Sabbath day, we might be spared many corrections, for we are not corrected until we have despised rebukes, and after we have rejected those, then out comes the rod.

     Sometimes, again, God rebukes his children in their consciences, without any visible means whatever. Ye that are the people of God will acknowledge that there are certain times, when, apparently without any instrumentality, your sins are brought to remembrance; your soul is cast down within you, and your spirit is sore vexed. God the Holy Spirit is himself making inquisition for sin; he is searching Jerusalem with candles; he is so punishing you because you are settled on your lees. If you look around you there is nothing that could cause your spirits to sink. The family are not sick; your business prospers; your body is in good health; why then this sinking of spirit? You are not conscious at the time, perhaps, that you have committed any gross act of sin; still this dark depression continues, and at last you discover that you had been living in a sin which you did not know—some sin of ignorance, hidden and unperceived, and therefore God did withdraw from you the joy of his salvation, till you had searched your heart, and discovered wherein the evil lay. We have much reason to bless God that he does adopt this way sometimes of rebuking us before he chastens.

     At other seasons, the rebuke is quite indirect. How often have I met rebuke, where it never was intended to be given! But God overruled the circumstance for good. Have you never been rebuked by a child? The innocent little prattler uttered something quite unwittingly, which cut you to your heart, and manifested your sin. You walked the street, may hap, and you heard some man swear; and the thought perhaps struck your mind, "How little am I doing for the reclaiming of those who are abandoned!" And so, the very sight of sin accused you of negligence, and the very hearing of evil was made use of by God to convince you of another evil. Oh! if we kept our eyes open, there is not an ox in the meadow, nor a sparrow in the tree, which might not sometimes suggest a rebuke. There is not a star in midnight, there is not a ray in the noon-day, but what might suggest to us some evil that is hidden in our hearts, and lead us to investigate our inner man, if we were but awake to the soft whispers, of Jehovah's rebukes. You know, our Saviour made use of little things to rebuke his disciples. He said, "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. Behold the fowls of the air, how they are fed!" So he made lilies and ravens speak to his disciples, to upbraid their discontent. Earth is full of monitors: all that we need are, ears to hear. However, when these rebukes all fail, God proceeds from rebuke to correction. He will not always chide; but, if his rebukes are unheeded, then he grasps the rod, and he uses it. I need not tell you how it is that God uses the rod. My brethren, you have all been made to tingle with it. He has sometimes smitten you in your persons, sometimes in your families, frequently in your estates, oftentimes in your prospects. He has smitten you in your nearest and dearest friend; or, worse still, it may be he has given you "a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet you." But you all understand, if you know anything of the life of a Christian, what the rod, and the staff, and the covenant are; and what it is to be corrected by God. Let me just particularize for a few minutes, and show what it is that God corrects in us.

     Very frequently, God corrects inordinate affection. It is right of us to love our relatives—it is wrong of us to love them more than God. You, perhaps, are yourselves to-day guilty of this sin. At any rate, beloved, we may most of us look at home when we come to dwell on this point. Have we not some favored one—perhaps, the partner of our heart, or the offspring of our bosom, more dear to us than life itself? Have I not heard some man whose life is bound up in the life of the lad, his child?—some mother, whose soul is knit into the soul of her babe—some wife, some husband, to whom the loss of the partner would be the loss of life? Oh, there are many of us who are guilty of inordinate affection toward relations. Mark you, God will rebuke us for that. He will rebuke us in this way. Sometimes he will rebuke us by the minister; if that is not enough, he will rebuke us by sending sickness or disease to those very persons upon whom we have set our hearts; and if that rebuke us not, and if we are not zealous to repent, he will chasten us: the sickness shall yet be unto death. The disease shall break forth with more fearful violence, and the thing which we have made our idol shall be smitten, and shall become the food of worms. There never was an idol that God either did not, or will not pull out of its place. "I am the Lord thy God; I am a jealous God;" and if we put any, however good and excellent their characters may be, and however deserving of our affection, upon God's throne, God will cry, "Down with it," and we shall have to weep many tears; but if we had not done so, we might have preserved the treasure, and have enjoyed it far better, without having lost it.

     But other men are baser than this. One can easily overlook the fault of making too much of children, and wife, and friends, although very grievous in the sight of God; but alas! there are some that are too sordid to love flesh and blood; they love dirt, mere dirty earth, yellow gold. It is that on which they set their hearts. Their purse, they tell us, is dross; but when we come to take aught from it, we find they do not think it is so. "Oh," said a man once, "if you want a subscription from me, Sir, you must get at my heart, and then you will get at my purse." "Yes," said I, "I have no doubt I shall, for I believe that is where your purse lies, and I shall not be very far off from it." And how many there are who call themselves Christians, who make a god out of their wealth! Their park, their mansion, their estate, their warehouses, their large ledgers, their many clerks, their expanding business, or if not these, their opportunity to retire, their money in the Three per Cents. All these things are their idols and their gods; and we take them into our churches, and the world finds no fault with them. They are prudent men. You know many of them; they are very respectable people, they hold many respectable positions, and they are so prudent, only that the love of money, which is the root of all evil, is in their hearts too plainly to be denied. Every one may see it, though, perhaps, they see it not themselves. "Covetousness, which is idolatry," reigns very much in the church of the living God. Well, mark you, God will chasten for that. Whosoever loveth mammon among God's people shall first be rebuked for it, as he is rebuked by me this day, and if that rebuke be not taken, there shall be a chastisement given. It may be, that the gold shall melt like the snow-flake before the sun; or if it be preserved, it shall be said, "Your gold and silver are cankered; the moth shall eat up your garments, and destroy your glory." Or else, the Lord will bring leanness into their souls, and cause them to go down to their graves with few honors on their heads, and with little comfort in their hearts, because they loved their gold more than their God, and valued earthly riches more than the riches that are eternal. The Lord save us from that, or else he will surely correct us.

     But this is not the only sin: we are all subject to another crime which God abhors exceedingly. It is the sin of pride. If the Lord gives us a little comfort, we grow so big that we hardly know what to do with ourselves. Like Jeshurun of old, of whom it is said, "Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked." Let us for a little time enjoy the full assurance of faith; self-conceit whispers, "You will retain the savor of that all your days;" and there is not quite a whisper, but something even fainter than that—"You have no need to depend upon the influence of the Holy Spirit now. See what a great man you have grown. You have become one of the Lord's most valued people; you are a Samson; you may pull down the very gates of hell and fear not. You have no need to cry, 'Lord, have mercy upon me.' " Or at other times, it takes a different turn. He gives us temporal mercies, and then we presumptuously say, "My mountain standeth firm; I shall never be moved." We meet with the poor saints, and we begin to hector over them, as if we were something, and they were nothing. We find some in trouble; we have no sympathy with them; we are bluff and blunt with them, as we talk with them about their troubles; yea, we are even savage and cruel with them. We meet with some who are in deep distress and faint-hearted; we begin to forget when we were faint-hearted too, and because they cannot run as fast as we can, we run far ahead, and turn back and look at them, call them sluggards, and say they are idle and lazy. And perhaps even in the pulpit, if we are preachers, we have got hard words to say against those who are not quite so advanced as we are. Well, mark, there never was a saint yet, that grew proud of his fine feathers, but what the Lord plucked them out by-and-by. There never yet was an angel that had pride in his heart, but he lost his wings, and fell into Gehenna, as Satan and those fallen angels did; and there shall never be a saint who indulges self-conceit, and pride, and self-confidence, but the Lord will spoil his glories, and trample his honors in the mire, and make him cry out yet again, "Lord, have mercy upon me," less than the least of all saints, and the "very chief of sinners."

     Another sin that God rebukes, is sloth. Now I need not stop to picture that. How many of you are the finest specimens of sloth that can be discovered! I mean not in a business sense, for you are "not slothful in business;" but with regard to the things of God, and the cause of truth, why, nine out of ten of all the professors of religion, I do hazard the assertion, are as full of sloth as they can be. Take our churches all around, and there is not a corporation in the world, however corrupt, that is less attentive to its professed interest, than the church of Christ. There certainly are many societies and establishments in the world that deserve much blame for not attending to those interests which they ought to promote; but I do think the Church of God is the hugest culprit of all. She says that she is the preacher of the gospel to the poor: does she preach it to them? Yes, here and there: now and then there is a spasmodic effort: but how many are there that have got tongues to speak, and ability to utter God's Word that are content to be still! She professes to be the educator of the ignorant, and she is so in a measure: there are many of you who have no business to be here this morning—you ought to have been teaching in the Sabbath-school, or instructing the young, and teaching others. Ye have no need of teachers just now; ye have learned the truth and should have been teaching it to other people. The church professes that she is yet to cast the light of the gospel throughout the world. She does a little in missionary enterprise; but ah! how little! how little! how little compared with what her Master did for her and the claims of Jesus upon her! We are a lazy set. Take the church all round, we are as idle as we can be; and we need to have some whipping times of persecution, to whip a little more earnestness and zeal into us. We thank God this is not so much the case now, as it was even twelve months ago. We hope the church may progress in her zeal; for if not, she, as a whole, and each of us as members, will be first rebuked, and if we take not the rebuke, we shall afterwards be chastened for this our great sin.

     I have no time to enter into all the other reasons for which God will rebuke and chasten. Suffice it to say that every sin has one twig in God's rod appropriated to itself. Suffice it to say, that in God's hand there are punishments for each particular transgression; and it is very singular to notice how in Bible history almost every saint has been chastened for the sin he has committed by the sin itself falling upon his own head. Transgression has been first a pleasure, and afterward it has been a scourge. "The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways," and that is the severest punishment in all the world.

     Thus I have tried to open the first head—it is that God rebukes and chastens.

     II. Now, secondly, WHY DOES GOD REBUKE AND CHASTEN? "Why," says one, "God rebukes his children because they are his children; and he chastens them because they are his children." Well, I will not go the length of saying that is false, but I will go the length of saying it is not true. If any one should say to a father, after he had chastened his child, "Why is it you have chastened the child?" he would not say, it is because I am his father. It is true in one sense; but he would say, "I have chastened the child because he has done wrong." Because the proximate reason why he had chastened his child would not be that he was his father, though that would have something to do with it as a primary reason; but the absolute and primary cause would be, "I have chastened him because he has done wrong, because I wish to correct him for it, that he might not do so again." Now, God, when he chastens his children, never does it absolutely; because he is his father; but he does it for a wise reason. He has some other reason besides his fatherhood. At the same time, one reason why God afflicts his children and not others, is because he is their Father. If you were to go home to-day and see a dozen boys in the streets throwing stones and breaking windows it is very likely you would start the whole lot of them; but if there is one boy that would get a sweet knock on the head it would be your own; for you would say, "What are you at, John? What business have you here?" You might not be justified, perhaps, in meddling with the others—you would let their own fathers attend to them; but because you were his father, you would try to make him remember it. Certain special chastisements are inflicted on God's children, because they are his children; but it is not because they are his children that he chastens them at any one time, but because they have been doing something wrong. Now, if you are under chastisement, let this truth be certain to you. Are the consolations of God small with thee? Is there any secret thing with thee? Art thou chastened in thy business? Then what sin hast thou committed? Art thou cast down in thy spirit? Then what transgression has brought this on thee? Remember, it is not fair to say, "I am chastened because I am his child;" the right way to say it is, "I am his child, and therefore when he chastens me he has a reason for it." Now, what is it? I will help you to judge.

     Sometimes God chastens and afflicts us, to prevent sin. He sees that the embryo of lust is in our hearts; he sees that that little egg of mischief is beginning to hatch and to produce sin, and he comes and crushes it at once—nips the sin in the bud. Ah! we cannot tell how much guilt Christians have been saved from by their afflictions. We are running on madly to our destruction, and then some dark apparition of trouble comes, and stretches itself across the way, and in great fright we fly back astonished. We ask, why this trouble? Oh! if we knew the danger into which we were rushing we should only say, "Lord, I thank thee that by that direful trouble thou didst save me from a sin, that would have been far more troublous and infinitely more dangerous."

     At other times God chastens us for sins already committed. We perhaps have forgotten them; but God has not. I think that sometimes years elapse between a sin and the chastisement for it. The sins of our youth may be punished in our gray old age; the transgression you did twenty years ago, those of you who have grown old, may this very day be found in your bones. God chastens his children, but he sometimes lays the rod by. The time would not be seasonable perhaps; they are not strong enough to bear it: so he lays the rod by and he says, as surely as he is my child, though I lay the rod by, I will make him smart for it, that I may at last deliver him from his sin, and make him like unto myself. But mark, ye people of God, in all these chastisments for sin there is no punishment. When God chastises you he does not punish as a judge does, but he chastens as a father. When he lays the rod on, with many blows and smart ones, there is not one thought of anger in his heart—there is not one look of displeasure in his eye; he means it all for your good; his heaviest blows are as much tokens of his affection as his sweetest caresses. He has no motive but your profit and his own glory. Be of good cheer, then, if these be the reasons. But take care that thou dost fulfil the command—"Be zealous, therefore, and repent."

     I read in an old Puritan author the other day a very pretty figure. He says, "A full wind is not so favorable to a ship when it is fully fair as a side wind. It is strange," says he, "that when the wind blows in an exact direction to blow a ship into port, she will not go near so well as if she had a cross wind sideways upon her." And he explains it thus: "The mariners say that when the wind blows exactly fair it only fills a part of the sails, and it can not reach the sails that are ahead, because the sail, bellying out with the wind, prevents the wind from reaching that which is further ahead. But when the wind sweeps sideways, then every sail is full, and she is driven on swiftly in her course with the full force of the wind. Ah!" says the old Puritan, "there is nothing like a side wind to drive God's people to heaven. A fair wind only fills a part of their sails; that is, fills their joy, fills their delight; but," says he, "the side wind fills them all; it fills their caution, fills their prayerfulness, fills every part of the spiritual man, and so the ship speeds onward toward its haven." It is with this design that God sends affliction, to chasten us on account of our transgressions.

     III. And now I am to conclude by noting WHAT IS OUR COMFORT WHEN GOD REBUKES AND CHASTENS US?

     Our great comfort is, that he loves us still. Oh! what a precious thing faith is, when we are enabled to believe our God, and how easy then it is to endure and to surmount all trouble. Hear the old man in the garret, with a crust of bread and a cup of cold water. Sickness has confined him these years within that narrow room. He is too poor to maintain an attendant. Some woman comes in to look to him in the morning and in the evening, and there he sits, in the depths of poverty. And you will suppose he sits and groans. No, brethren; he may sometimes groan when the body is weak, but usually he sits and sings; and when the visitor climbs the creaking staircase of that old house, where human beings scarcely ought to be allowed to live; and when he goes into that poor cramped up room that is more fit to accommodate swine than men, he sits down upon that bottomless chair, and when he has seated himself as well as he can upon the four cross pieces of it he begins to talk to him, and he finds him full of heaven. "Oh! sir," he says, "my God is very kind to me." Propped up he is with pillows, and full of pain in every member of his body, but he says, "Blessed be his name, he has not left me. Oh! sir, I have enjoyed more peace and happiness in this room, out of which I have not gone for years,"—(the case is real that I am now describing) "I have enjoyed more happiness here than I ever did in all my life. My pains are great, sir, but they will not be for long; I am going home soon." Ay, were he more troubled still, had he such rich consolation poured into his heart, he might endure all with a smile and sing in the furnace. Now, child of God, thou art to do the same. Remember, all thou hast to suffer is sent in love. It is hard work for a child, when his father has been chastening it, to look at the rod as a picture of love. You cannot make your children do that: but when they grow up to be men and women how thankful they are to you then! "O father," says the son, "I know now why it was I was so often chastened; I had a proud hot spirit; it would have been the ruin of me if thou hadst not whipped it out of me. Now, I thank thee, my father, for it."

     So, while we are here below we are nothing but little children; we can not prize the rod: when we come of age, and we go into our estates in Paradise, we shall look back upon the rod of the Covenant as being better than Aaron's rod, for it blossoms with mercy. We shall say to it, "Thou art the most wondrous thing in all the list of my treasures. Lord, I thank thee that thou didst not leave me unafflicted, or else I had not been where I am, and what I am, a child of God in Paradise." "I have this week," says one, "sustained so serious a loss in my business, that I am afraid I shall be utterly broken up." There is love in that. "I came here this morning," says one, "and I left a dead child in the house—dear to my heart." There is love in that. That coffin and that shroud will both be full of love; and when your child is taken away, it shall not be in anger. "Ah!" cries another, "but I have been exceedingly sick, and even now I feel I ought not to have ventured out; I must return to my bed." Ah! he makes your bed in your affliction. There is love in every pain, in every twitch of the nerve; in every pang that shoots through the members, there is love. "Ah!" says one, "it is not myself, but I have got a dear one that is sick." There is love there, too. Do what God may, he cannot do an unloving act toward his people. O Lord! thou art Omnipotent; thou canst do all things; but thou canst not lie, and thou canst not be unkind to thine elect. No, Omnipotence may build a thousand worlds, and fill them with bounties; Omnipotence may powder mountains into dust, and burn the sea, and consume the sky, but Omnipotence cannot do an unloving thing toward a believer. Oh! rest quite sure, Christian, a hard thing, an unloving thing from God toward one of his own people is quite impossible. He is kind to you when he casts you into prison as when he takes you into a palace; He is as good when he sends famine into your house as when he fills your barns with plenty. The only question is, Art thou his child? If so, he hath rebuked thee in affection, and there is love in his chastisement.

     I have now done, but not until I have made my last appeal. I have now to turn from God's people to the rest of you. Ah! my hearers, there are some of you that have no God; you have no Christ on whom to cast your troubles. I see some of you to-day dressed in the habiliments of mourning; I suppose you have lost some one dear unto you. Oh! ye that are robed in black, is God your God? Or are you mourning now, without God to wipe every tear from your eye? I know that many of you are struggling now in your business with very sharp and hard times. Can you tell your troubles to Jesus, or have you to bear them all yourself—friendless and helpless? Many men have been driven mad, because they had no one to whom to communicate their sorrow; and how many others had been driven worse than mad, because when they told their sorrows their confidence was betrayed. O poor mourning spirit, if thou hadst, as thou mightest have done, gone and told him all thy woes, he would not have laughed at thee, and he would never have told it out again. Oh I remember when once my young heart ached in boyhood, when I first loved the Saviour. I was far away from father and mother, and all I loved, and I thought my soul would burst; for I was an usher in a school, in a place where I could meet with no sympathy or help. Well, I went to my chamber, and told my little griefs into the ears of Jesus. They were great griefs to me then, though they are nothing now. When I just whispered them on my knees into the ear of him who had loved me with an everlasting love, oh! it was so sweet, none can tell. If I had told them to somebody else, they would have told them again; but he, my blessed confidant, he knows my secrets, and he never tells them. Oh! what can you do that have got no Jesus to tell your troubles to? And the worst of it is, you have got more troubles to come. Times may be hard now, but they will be harder one day—they will be harder when they come to an end. They say it is hard to live, but it is very hard to die. When one comes to die and has Jesus with him, even then dying is hard work; but to die without a Saviour! Oh! my friends, are you inclined to risk it? Will you face the grim monarch, and no Saviour with you? Remember, you must do it; you must die soon. The chamber shall soon be hushed in silence no sound shall be heard except the babbling watch that ever tells the flight of time. The physician shall "Hush!" and hold up his finger, and whisper in a suppressed voice, "He can not last many minutes longer." And the wife and the children, or the father and the mother, will stand around your bed and look at you, as I have looked at some, with a sad, sad heart. They will look at you a little while, till at last the death-change will pass o'er your face. "He is gone!" it shall be said; and the hand uplifted shall be dropped down again, and the eye shall be glazed in darkness, and then the mother will turn away and say, "O my child, I could have borne all this if there had been hope in thine end!" And when the minister comes in to comfort the family, he will ask the question of the father, "Do you think your son had an interest in the blood of Christ?" The reply will be, "O sir, we must not judge, but I never saw anything like it; I never had any reason to hope: that is my greatest sorrow." There, there! I could bury every friend without a tear, compared with the burial of an ungodly friend. Oh! it seems such an awful thing, to have one allied to you by ties of blood, dead and in hell.

     We generally speak very softly about the dead. We say, "Well, we hope." Sometimes we tell great lies, for we know we do not hope at all. We wish it may be so, but we cannot hope it; we never saw any grounds that should lead us to hope. But would it not be an awful thing if we were honest enough to look the dread reality in its face—if the husband were simply to look at it, and say, "There was my wife; she was an ungodly, careless woman. I know at least, she never said anything concerning repentance and faith; and if she died so, and I have every reason to fear she did, then she is cast away from God." It would be unkind to say it; but it is only honest for us to know it—to look dread truth in the face. Oh! my fellow-men and brethren, oh! ye that are partners with me of an immortal life! We shall one day meet again before the throne of God; but ere that time comes, we shall each of us be separated, and go our divers ways down the shelving banks of the river of death. My fellow-man, art thou prepared to die alone? I ask thee this question again—Art thou prepared to arise in the day of judgment without a Saviour? Art thou willing to run all risks and face thy Maker, when he comes to judge thee, without an advocate to plead thy cause? Art thou prepared to hear him say, "Depart ye cursed!" Are ye ready now to endure the everlasting ire of him who smites, and smiting once, doth smite forever? Oh! if ye will make your bed in hell, if you are prepared to be damned, if you are willing to be so, then live in sin and indulge in pleasures;—you will get your wish. But if ye would not; if ye would enter heaven, and ye would be saved, "Turn thee, turn thee, why will ye die, O house of Israel?" May God the Holy Spirit, enable you to repent of sin and to believe on Jesus; and then you shall have a portion among them that are sanctified: but unrepenting and unbelieving, if ye die so, ye must be driven from his presence, never to have life, and joy, and liberty, as long as eternity shall last.

     The Lord prevent this, for Jesus, sake.



Awake! Awake!

By / Nov 15

Awake! Awake!

 

"Therefore let us not sleep as do others; but let us watch and be sober."—1 Thess. 5:6

 

     What sad things sin hath done. This fair world of ours was once a glorious temple, every pillar of which reflected the goodness of God, and every part of which was a symbol of good, but sin has spoiled and marred all the metaphors and figures that might be drawn from earth. It has so deranged the divine economy of nature that those things which were inimitable pictures of virtue, goodness, and divine plenitude of blessing, have now become the figures and representatives of sin. 'Tis strange to say, but it is strangely true, that the very best gifts of God have by the sin of man become the worst pictures of man's guilt. Behold the flood! breaking forth from its fountains, it rushes across the fields, bearing plenty on its bosom; it covers them awhile, and anon it doth subside and leaves upon the plain a fertile deposit, into which the farmer shall cast his seed and reap an abundant harvest. One would have called the breaking forth of water a fine picture of the plenitude of providence, the magnificence of God's goodness to the human race; but we find that sin has appropriated that figure to itself. The beginning of sin is like the breaking forth of waters. See the fire! how kindly God hath bestowed upon us that element, to cheer us in the midst of winter's frosts. Fresh from the snow and from the cold we rush to our household fire, and there by our hearth we warm our hands, and glad are we. Fire is a rich picture of the divine influences of the Spirit, a holy emblem of the zeal of the Christian; but, alas! sin hath touched this, and the tongue called "a fire;" "it is set on fire of hell," we are told, and it is so evidently full often, when it uttereth blasphemy and slanders; and Jude lifts up his hand and exclaims, when he looks upon the evils caused by sin, "Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth." And then there is sleep, one of the sweetest of God's gifts, fair sleep

 

"Tired nature's sweet restorer, balmy sleep."

 

     Sleep God hath selected as the very figure for the repose of the blessed. "They that sleep in Jesus," saith the Scripture. David puts it amongst the peculiar gifts of grace: "So he giveth his beloved sleep." But alas! sin could not let even this alone. Sin did over-ride even this celestial metaphor; and though God himself had employed sleep to express the excellence of the state of the blessed, yet sin must have even this profaned, ere itself can be expressed. Sleep is employed in our text as a picture of a sinful condition. "Therefore let us not sleep as do others; but let us watch and be sober."

     With that introduction, I shall proceed at once to the text. The "sleep" of the text is an evil to be avoided. In the second place, the word "therefore" is employed to show us that there are certain reasons for the avoiding of this sleep. And since the apostle speaks of this sleep with sorrow, it is to teach us that there are some, whom he calls "others," over whom it is our business to lament, because they sleep, and do not watch, and are not sober.

     I. We commence, then, in the first place, by endeavoring to point out the EVIL WHICH THE APOSTLE INTENDS TO DESCRIBE UNDER THE TERM SLEEP. The apostle speaks of "others" who are asleep. If you turn to the original you will find that the word translated "others" has a more emphatic meaning. It might be rendered (and Horne so renders it) "the refuse,"—"Let us not sleep as do the refuse," the common herd, the ignoble spirits, those who have no mind above the troubles of earth. "Let us not sleep as do the others," the base ignoble multitude who are not alive to the high and celestial calling of a Christian. "Let us not sleep as do the refuse of mankind." And you will find that the word "sleep," in the original, has also a more emphatic sense. It signifies a deep sleep, a profound slumber; and the apostle intimates, that the refuse of mankind are now in a profound slumber. We will now try if we can explain what he meant by it.

     First, the apostle meant, that the refuse of mankind are in a state of deplorable ignorance. They that sleep know nothing. There may be merriment in the house, but the sluggard shareth not in its gladness; there may be death in the family but no tear bedeweth the cheek of the sleeper. Great events may have transpired in the world's history, but he wots not of them. An earthquake may have tumbled a city from its greatness, or war may have devastated a nation, or the banner of triumph may be waving in the gale, and the clarions of his country may be saluting us with victory, but he knoweth nothing.

 

"Their labor and their love are lost,

Alike unknowing and unknown."

 

     The sleeper knoweth not anything. Behold how the refuse of mankind are alike in this! Of some things they know much, but of spiritual things they know nothing; of the divine person of the adorable Redeemer they have no idea; of the sweet enjoyments of a life of piety they can not even make a guess; toward the high enthusiasms and the inward raptures of the Christian they can not mount. Talk to them of divine doctrines, and they are to them a riddle; tell them of sublime experiences, and they seem to them to be enthusiastic fancies. They know nothing of the joys that are to come; and alas! for them, they are oblivious of the evils which shall happen to them if they go on in their iniquity. The mass of mankind are ignorant; they know not; they have not the knowledge of God, they have no fear of Jehovah before their eyes; but, blind-folded by the ignorance of this world, they march on through the paths of lust to that sure and dreadful end, the everlasting ruin of their souls. Brethren, if we be saints, let us not be ignorant as are others. Let us search the Scriptures, for in them we have eternal life, for they do testify of Jesus. Let us be diligent; let not the Word depart out of our hearts; let us meditate therein both by day and night, that we may be as the tree planted by the rivers of water. "Let us not sleep as do others."

     Again, sleep pictures a state of insensibility. There may be much knowledge in the sleeper, hidden, stored away in his mind, which might be well developed, if he could but be awakened. But he hath no sensibility, he knoweth nothing. The burglar hath broken into the house; the gold and silver are both in the robbers hands; the child is being murdered by the cruelty of him that hath broken in; but the father slumbereth, though all the gold and silver that he hath, and his most precious child, are in the hands of the destroyer. He is unconscious, how can he feel, when sleep had utterly sealed his senses! Lo! in the street there is mourning. A fire hath just now burned down the habitation of the poor, and houseless beggars are in the street. They are crying at his window, and asking him for help. But he sleeps, and what wots he, though the night be cold, and though the poor are shivering in the blast? He hath no consciousness; he feeleth not for them. There! take the title deed of his estate, and burn the document. There! set light to his farm-yard! burn up all that he hath in the field; kill his horse and destroy his cattle; let now the fire of God descend and burn up his sheep; let the enemy fall upon all that he hath and devour it. He sleeps as soundly as if he were guarded by the angel of the Lord.

     Such are the refuse of mankind. But alas! that we should have to include in that word "refuse" the great bulk thereof! How few there are that feel spiritually! They feel acutely enough any injury to their body, or to their estate; but alas! for their spiritual concerns they have no sensation whatever! They are standing on the brink of hell, but they tremble not; the anger of God is burning against them, but they fear not; the sword of Jehovah is unsheathed, but terror doth not seize upon them. They proceed with the merry dance; they drink the bowl of intoxicating pleasure; they revel and they riot, still do they sing the lascivious song; yea, they do more than this; in their vain dreams they do defy the Most High, whereas, if they were once awakened to the consciousness of their state, the marrow of their bones would melt, and their heart would dissolve like wax in the midst of their bowels. They are asleep, indifferent and unconscious. Do what you may to them; let every thing be swept away that is hopeful, that might give them cheer when they come to die, yet they feel it not; for how should a sleeper feel anything? But, "Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober."

     Again: the sleeper cannot defend himself. Behold yonder prince, he is a strong man, ay, and a strong man armed. He hath entered into the tent. He is wearied. He hath drunken the woman's milk; he hath eaten her "butter in a lordly dish;" he casteth himself down upon the floor, and he slumbereth. And now she draweth nigh. She hath with her her hammer and her nail. Warrior! thou couldst break her into atoms with one blow of thy mighty arm; but thou canst not now defend thyself. The nail is at his ear, the woman's hand is on the hammer, and the nail hath pierced his skull; for when he slept he was defenseless. The banner of Sisera had waved victoriously over mighty foes; but now it is stained by a woman. Tell it, tell it, tell it! The man, who when he was awake, made nations tremble, dies by the hand of a feeble woman when he sleepeth.

     Such are the refuse of mankind. They are asleep; they have no power to resist temptation. Their moral strength is departed, for God is departed from them. There is the temptation to lust. They are men of sound principle in business matters, and nothing could make them swerve from honesty; but lasciviousness destroyeth them; they are taken like a bird in the snare; they are caught in a trap; they are utterly subdued. Or, mayhap, it is another way that they are conquered. They are men that would not do an unchaste act, or even think a lascivious thought; they scorn it. But they have another weak point, they are entrapped by the glass. They are taken and they are destroyed by drunkenness. Or, if they can resist these things, and are inclined neither to looseness of life nor to excess in living, yet mayhap covetousness entereth into them; by the name of prudence it slideth into their hearts, and they are led to grasp after treasure and to heap up gold, even though that gold be wrung out of the veins of the poor, and though they do suck the blood of the orphan. They seem to be unable to resist their passion. How many times have I been told by men, "I can not help it, sir, do what I may; I resolve, I re-resolve, but I do the same; I am defenseless; I can not resist the temptation!" Oh, of course you cannot, while you are asleep. O Spirit of the living God! wake up the sleeper! Let sinful sloth and presumption both be startled, lest haply Moses should come their way, and finding them asleep should hang them on the gallows of infamy for ever.

     Now, I come to give another meaning to the word "sleep." I hope there have been some of my congregation who have been tolerable easy whilst I have described the first three things, because they have thought that they were exempt in those matters. But sleep signifies also inactivity. The farmer cannot plow his field in his sleep, neither can he cast the grain into the furrows, nor watch the clouds, nor reap his harvest. The sailor cannot reef his sail, nor direct his ship across the ocean, whilst he slumbereth. It is not possible that on the Exchange, or the mart, or in the house of business, men should transact their affairs with their eyes fast closed in slumber. It would be a singular thing to see a nation of sleepers; for they would be a nation of idle men. They must all starve; they would produce no wealth from the soil; they would have nothing for their backs, nought for clothing and nought for food. But how many we have in the world that are inactive through sleep! Yes, I say inactive. I mean by that, that they are active enough in one direction, but they are inactive in the right. Oh how many men there are that are totally inactive in anything that is for God's glory, or for the welfare of their fellow creatures! For themselves, they can "rise up early, and sit up late, and eat the bread of carefulness;"—for their children, which is an alias for themselves, they can toil until their fingers ache—they can weary themselves until their eyes are red in their sockets, till the brain whirls, and they can do no more. But for God they can do nothing. Some say they have no time, others frankly confess that they have no will: for God's church they would not spend an hour, whilst for this worlds pleasure they could lay out a month. For the poor they cannot spend their time and attention. They may haply have time to spare for themselves and for their own amusement; but for holy works, for deeds of charity, and for pious acts they declare they have no leisure; whereas, the fact is, they have no will.

     Behold ye, how many professing Christians there are that are asleep in this sense! They are inactive. Sinners are dying in the street by hundreds; men are sinking into the flames of eternal wrath, but they fold their arms, they pity the poor perishing sinner, but they do nothing to show that their pity is real. They go to their places of worship; they occupy their well-cushioned easy pew; they wish the minister to feed them every Sabbath; but there is never a child taught in the Sunday-school by them; there is never a tract distributed at the poor man's house; there is never a deed done which might be the means of saving souls. We call them good men; some of them we even elect to the office of deacons; and no doubt good men they are; they are as good as Anthony meant to say that Brutus was honorable, when he said, "So are we all, all honorable men." So are we all, all good, if they be good. But these are good, and in some sense—good for nothing; for they just sit and eat the bread, but they do not plow the field; they drink the wine, but they will not raise the vine that doth produce it. They think that they are to live unto themselves, forgetting that "no man liveth unto himself, and no man dieth unto himself." Oh, what a vast amount of sleeping we have in all our churches and chapels; for truly if our churches were once awake, so far as material is concerned, there are enough converted men and women, and there is enough talent with them, and enough money with them, and enough time with them, God granting the abundance of His Holy Spirit, which he would be sure to do if they were all zealous—there is enough to preach the gospel in every corner of the earth. The church does not need to stop for want of instruments, or for want of agencies; we hare everything now except the will; we have all that we may expect to give for the conversion of the world, except just a heart for the work, and the Spirit of God poured out into our midst. Oh! brethren, "let us not sleep as do others." You will find the "others" in the church and in the world: "the refuse" of both are sound asleep.

     Ere, however, I can dismiss this first point of explanation, it is necessary for me just to say that the apostle himself furnishes us with part of an exposition; for the second sentence, "let us watch and be sober," implies that the reverse of these things is the sleep, which he means. "Let us watch." There are many that never watch. They never watch against sin; they never watch against the temptations of the enemy; they do not watch against themselves, nor against "the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, and the pride of life." They do not watch for opportunities to do good; they do not watch for opportunities to instruct the ignorant, to confirm the weak, to comfort the afflicted, to succor them that are in need; they do not watch for opportunities of glorifying Jesus, or for times of communion; they do not watch for the promises; they do not watch for answers to their prayers; they do not watch for the second coming of our Lord Jesus. These are the refuse of the world: they watch not because they are asleep. But let us watch: so shall we prove that we are not slumberers.

     Again: let us "be sober." Albert Barnes says, this most of all refers to abstinence, or temperance in eating and drinking, Calvin says, not so; this refers more especially to the spirit of moderation in the things of the world. Both are right; it refers to both. There be many that are not sober; they sleep because they are not so; for insobriety leadeth to sleep. They are not sober—they are drunkards, they are gluttons. They are not sober—they cannot be content to do a little business—they want to do a great deal. They are not sober—they cannot carry on a trade that is sure—they must speculate. They are not sober—if they lose their property, their spirit is cast down within them, and they are like men that are drunken with wormwood. If on the other hand, they get rich, they are not sober: they so set their affections things on earth that they become intoxicated with pride, because of their riches—become purse-proud, and need to have the heavens lifted up higher, lest their heads should dash against the stars. How many people there are that are not sober! Oh! I might especially urge this precept upon you at this time, my dear friends. We have hard times coming, and the times are hard enough now. Let us be sober. The fearful panic in America has mainly risen from disobedience to this command—"Be sober;" and if the professors of America had obeyed this commandment, and had been sober, the panic might at any rate have been mitigated, if not totally avoided. Now, in a little time, you who have any money laid by will be rushing to the bank to have it drawn out, because you fear that the bank is tottering. You will not be sober enough to have a little trust in your fellow-men, and help them through their difficulty, and so be a blessing to the commonwealth. And you who think there is anything to be got by lending your money at usury will not be content with lending what you have, but you will be extorting and squeezing your poor debtors, that you may get the more to lend. Men are seldom content to get rich slowly, but he that hasteth to be rich shall not be innocent. Take care, my brethren—if any hard times should come, if commercial houses should smash, and banks be broken—take care to be sober. There is nothing will get us over a panic so well as every one of us trying to keep our spirits up—just rising in the morning and saying; "Times are very hard, and to-day I may lose my all; but fretting will not help it; so just let me set a bold heart against hard sorrow, and go to my business. The wheels of trade may stop; I bless God, my treasure is in heaven; I cannot be bankrupt. I have set my affections on the things of God; I cannot lose those things. There is my jewel; there is my heart!" Why, if all men could do that, it would tend to create public confidence; but the cause of the great ruin of many men is the covetousness of all men, and the fear of some. If we could all go through the world with confidence, and with boldness, and with courage, there is nothing in the world that could avert the shock so well. Come, I suppose, the shock must; and there are many men now present, who are very respectable, who may expect to be beggars ere long. Your business is, so to put your trust in Jehovah that you may be able to say, "Though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea, God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble; therefore will I not fear;" and doing that, you will be creating more probabilities for the avoidance of your own destruction than by any other means which the wisdom of man can dictate to you. Let us not be intemperate in business, as are others; but let us awake. "Let us not sleep"—not be carried away by the somnambulism of the world, for what it is better than that?—activity and greed in sleep; "but let us watch and be sober." Oh, Holy Spirit, help us to watch and be sober.

     II. Thus I have occupied a great deal of time in explaining the first point—What was the sleep which the apostle meant? And now you will notice that the word "therefore" implies that there are CERTAIN REASONS FOR THIS. I shall give you these reasons; and if I should cast them somewhat into a dramatic form, you must not wonder; they will the better perhaps, be remembered. "Therefore," says the apostle, "let us not sleep."

     We shall first look at the chapter itself for our reasons. The first reason precedes the text. The apostle tells us that "we are all the children of the light and of the day; therefore let us not sleep as do others." I marvel not when, as I walk through the streets after nightfall, I see every shop closed and every window-blind drawn down; and I see the light in the upper room significant of retirement to rest. I wonder not that a half an hour later my footfall startles me, and I find none in the streets. Should I ascend the staircase, and look into the sleeper's placid countenances, I should not wonder; for it is night, the proper time for sleep. But if, some morning, at eleven or twelve o'clock, I should walk down the streets and find myself alone, and notice every shop closed, and every house straitly shut up, and hearken to no noise, should say, "'Tis strange, 'tis passing strange, 'tis wonderful. What are these people at? 'Tis day-time, and yet they are all asleep. I should be inclined to seize the first rapper I could find, and give a double knock, and rush to the next door, and ring the bell, and so all the way down the street, or go to the police station, and wake up what man I found there, and bid them make a noise in the street; or go for the fire-engine, and bid the firemen rattle down the road and try to wake these people up. For I should say to myself, "There is some pestilence here; the angel of death must have flown through these streets during the night and killed all these people, or else they would have been sure to have been awake." Sleep in the daytime is utterly incongruous. "Well, now," says the apostle Paul, "ye people of God, it is day time with you; the sun of righteousness has risen upon you with healing in his wings; the light of God's Spirit is in your conscience; ye have been brought out of darkness into marvelous light; for you to be asleep, for a church to slumber, is like a city a-bed in the day, like a whole town slumbering when the sun is shining. It is untimely and unseemly."

     And now, if you look to the text again, you will find there another argument. "Let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love." So, then, it seems, it is war-time; and therefore, again, it is unseemly to slumber. There is a fortress, yonder, far away in India. A troop of those abominable Sepoys have surrounded it. Blood thirsty hell-hounds, if they once gain admission, they will rend the mother and her children, and cut the strong man in pieces. They are at the gates: their cannon are loaded, their bayonets thirst for blood, and their swords are hungry to slay. Go through the fortress, and the people are all asleep. There is the warder on the tower, nodding on his bayonet. There is the captain in his tent, with his pen in his hand, and his dispatches before him, asleep at the table. There are soldiers lying down in their tents, ready for the war, but all slumbering. There is not a man to be seen keeping watch there is not a sentry there. All are asleep. Why, my friends, you would say, "Whatever is the matter here? What can it be? Has some great wizard been waving his wand, and put a spell upon them all? Or are they all mad? Have their minds fled? Sure, to be asleep in wartime is indeed outrageous. Here! take down that trumpet; go close up to the captain's ear, and blow a blast, and see if it does not awake him in a moment. Just take away that bayonet from the soldier that is asleep on the walls, and give bin a sharp prick with it, and see if he does not awake." But surely, surely, nobody can have patience with people asleep, when the enemy surround the walls and are thundering at the gates.

     Now, Christians, this is your case. Your life is a life of warfare; the world, the flesh, and the devil; are hellish trinity, and your poor flesh is a wretched mudwork behind which to be intrenched. Are you asleep? Asleep, when Satan has fire-balls of lust to hurl into the windows of your eyes—when he has arrows of temptation to shoot into your heart—when he has snares into which to trap your feet? Asleep, when he has undermined your very existence, and when he is about to apply the match with which to destroy you, unless sovereign grace prevents? Oh! sleep not, soldier of the cross! To sleep in war-time is utterly inconsistent. Great Spirit of God forbid that we should slumber.

     But now, leaving the chapter itself, I will give you one or two other reasons that will, I trust, move Christian people to awake out of their sleep. "Bring out your dead! Bring out your dead! Bring out your dead!" Then comes the ringing of a bell. What is this? Here is a door marked with a great white cross. Lord, have mercy upon us! All the houses down that street seem to be marked with that white death cross. What is this? Here is the grass growing in the streets; here are Cornhill and Cheapside deserted; no one is found treading the solitary pavement there is not a sound to be heard but those horse-hoofs like the hoofs of death's pale horse upon the stones, the ringing of that bell that sounds the death-knell to many, and the rumbling of the wheels of that cart, and the dreadful cry, "Bring out your dead! Bring out your dead! Bring out your dead!" Do you see that house? A physician lives there. He is a man who has great skill, and God has lent him wisdom. But a little while ago, whilst in his study, God was pleased to guide his mind, and he discovered the secret of the plague. He was plague-smitten himself, and ready to die; but he lifted the blessed phial to his lips, and he drank a draught and cured himself. Do you believe what I am about to tell you? Can you imagine it? That man has the prescription that will heal all these people; he has it in his pocket. He has the medicine which, if once distributed in those streets, would make the sick rejoice, and put that dead man's bell away. And he is asleep! He is asleep! He is asleep! O ye heavens! why do ye not fall and crush the wretch? O earth! how couldst thou bear this demon upon thy bosom? Why not swallow him up quick? He has the medicine; he is too lazy to go and tell forth the remedy. He has the cure, and is too idle to go out and administer it to the sick and the dying! No, my friends, such an inhuman wretch could not exist! But I can see him here to-day. There are you! You know the world is sick with the plague of sin, and you yourself have been cured by the remedy, which has been provided. You are asleep, inactive, loitering. You do not go forth to

 

"Tell to others round,

What a dear Saviour you have found."

 

     There is the precious gospel; you do not go and put it to the lips of a sinner. There is the all-precious blood of Christ; you never go to tell the dying what they must do to be saved. The world is perishing with worse than plague: and you are idle! And you are a minister of the gospel; and you have taken that holy office upon yourself; and you are content to preach twice on a Sunday, and once on a weekday, and there is no remonstrance within you. You never desire to attract the multitudes to hear you preach; you had rather keep your empty benches, and study propriety, than you would once, at the risk of appearing over-zealous, draw the multitude and preach the word to them. You are a writer; you have great power in writing; you devote your talents alone to light literature, or to the production of other things which may furnish amusement, but which cannot benefit the soul. You know the truth, but you do not tell it out. Yonder mother is a converted woman: you have children, and you forget to instruct them in the way to heaven. You, yonder, are a young man, having nothing to do on the Sabbath-day, and there is the Sunday school; you do not go to tell those children the sovereign remedy that God has provided for the cure of sick souls. The death-bell is ringing even now; hell is crying out, howling with hunger for the souls of men. "Bring out the sinner! Bring out the sinner! Bring out the sinner! Let him die and be damned!" And there are you, professing to be a Christian, and doing nothing which might make you the instrument of saving souls—never putting out your hand to be the means in the hand of the Lord, of plucking sinners as brands from the burning! Oh! May the blessing of God rest on you, to turn you from such an evil way, that you may not sleep as do others, but may watch and be sober. The world's eminent danger demands that we should be active and not be slumbering.

     Hark how the mast creaks! See the sails there, rent to ribbons. Breakers ahead! She will be on the rocks directly. Where is the captain? Where is the boatswain? Where are the sailors? Ahoy there! Where are you? Here's a storm come on. Where are you? You are down in the cabin. And there is the captain in a soft sweet slumber. There is the man at the wheel, as sound asleep as ever he can be; and there are all the sailors in their hammocks. What! and the breakers ahead? What! the lives of two hundred passengers in danger, and here are these brutes asleep? Kick them out. What is the good of letting such men as these be sailors, in such a time as this especially? Why, out with you! If you had gone to sleep in fine weather we might have forgiven you. Up with you, captain! What have you been at? Are you mad? But hark! the ship has struck; she will be down in a moment. Now you will work, will you? Now you will work, when it is of no use, and when the shrieks of drowning women shall toll you into hell for your most accursed negligence, in not having taken care of them. Well, that is very much line a great many of us, in these times too.

     This proud ship of our commonwealth is reeling in a storm of sin; the very mast of this great nation is creaking under the hurricane of vice that sweeps across the noble vessel; every timber is strained, and God help the good ship, or alas! none can save her. And who are her captain and her sailors, but ministers of God, the professors of religion? These are they to whom God gives grace to steer the ship. "Ye are the salt of the earth;" ye preserve and keep it alive, O children of God. Are ye asleep in the storm? Are ye slumbering now? If there were no dens of vice, if there were no harlots, if there were no houses of profanity, if there were no murders and no crimes, oh! ye that are the salt of the earth, ye might sleep; but to-day the sin of London crieth in the ears of God. This behemoth city is covered with crime, and God is vexed with her. And are we asleep, doing nothing? Then God forgive us! But sure of all the sins he ever doth forgive, this is the greatest, the sin of slumbering when a world is damning—the sin of being idle when Satan is busy, devouring the souls of men. "Brethren, let us not sleep" in such times as these; for if we do, a curse must fall upon us, horrible to bear.

     There is a poor prisoner in a cell. His hair is all matted, over his eyes. A few weeks ago the judge put on the black cap, and commanded that he should be taken to the place from whence he came, and hung by the neck until dead. The poor wretch has his heart broken within him, whilst he thinks of the pinion, of the gallows, and of the drop, and of after-death. Oh! who can tell how his heart is rent and racked, whilst he thinks of leaving all, and going he knoweth not where! There is a man there, sound asleep upon a bed. He has been asleep there these two days, and under his pillow he has that prisoners free pardon. I would horsewhip that scoundrel, horsewhip him soundly, for making that poor man have two days of extra misery. Why, if I had had that man's pardon, I would have been there, if I rode on the wings of lightning to get at him, and I should have thought the fastest train that ever run but slow, if I had so sweet a message to carry, and such a poor heavy heart to carry it to. But that man, that brute, is sound asleep, with a free pardon under his pillow, whilst that poor wretch's heart is breaking with dismay! Ah! do not be too hard with him: he is here today. Side by side with you this morning there is sitting a poor penitent sinner; God has pardoned him, and intends that you should tell him that good news. He sat by your side last Sunday, and he wept all the sermon through, for he felt his guilt. If you had spoken to him then, who can tell? He might have had comfort; but there he is now—you do not tell him the good news. Do you leave that to me to do? Ah! sirs, but you cannot serve God by proxy; what the minister does is nought to you; you have your own personal duty to do, and God has given you a precious promise. It is now on your heart. Will you not turn round to your next neighbor, and tell him that promise? Oh! there is many an aching heart that aches because of our idleness in telling the good news of this salvation. "Yes," says one of my members, who always comes to this place on a Sunday, and looks out for young men and young women whom he has seen in tears the Sunday before, and who brings many into the church, "yes, I could tell you a story. He looks a young man in the face, and says, "Haven't I seen you here a great many times?" " Yes." "I think you take a deep interest in the service, do you not?" "Yes, I do: what makes you ask me that question?" "Because I looked at your face last Sunday, and I thought there was something at work with you." "Oh! sir," he says, "nobody has spoken to me ever since I have been here till now, and I want to say a word to you. When I was at home with my mother, I used to think I had some idea of religion; but I came away, and was bound apprentice with an ungodly lot of youths, and have done everything I ought not to have done. And now, sir, I begin to weep, I begin to repent. I wish to God that I knew how I might be saved! I hear the word preached, sir, but I want something spoken personally to me by somebody." And he turns round; he takes him by the hand and says, "My dear young brother, I am so glad I spoke to you; it makes my poor old heart rejoice to think that the Lord is doing something here still. Now, do not be cast down; for you know, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.'" The young man puts his handkerchief to his eyes, and after a minute, he says, "I wish you would let me call and see you, sir." " Oh! you may," he says. He talks with him, he leads him onward, and at last by God's grace the happy youth comes forward and declares what God has done for his soul, and owes his salvation as much to the humble instrumentality of the man that helped him as he could do to the preaching of the minister.

     Beloved brethren, the bridegroom cometh! Awake! Awake! The earth must soon be dissolved, and the heavens must melt! Awake! Awake! O Holy Spirit arouse us all, and keep us awake.

     III. And now I have no time for the last point, and therefore I shall not detain you. Suffice me to say in warning, there is AN EVIL HERE LAMENTED. There are some that are asleep, and the apostle mourns it.

     My fellow sinner, thou that art this day unconverted, let me say six or seven sentences to thee, and thou shalt depart. Unconverted man! unconverted woman! you are asleep today, as they that sleep on the top of the mast in time of storm; you are asleep, as he that sleeps when the water-floods are out, and when his house is undermined, and being carried down the stream far out to sea; you are asleep, as he who in the upper chamber, when his house is burning and his own locks are singeing in the fire, knows not the devastation around him; you are asleep—asleep as he that lies upon the edge of a precipice, with death and destruction beneath him. One single start in his sleep would send him over, but he knows it not. Thou art asleep this day; and the place where thou steepest has so frail a support that when once it breaks thou shalt fall into hell: and if thou wakest not till then, what a waking it will be! "In hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torment;" and he cried for a drop of water, but it was denied him. "He that believeth in the Lord Jesus Christ, and is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned." This is the gospel. Believe ye in Jesus, and ye shall "rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory."



The First and Great Commandment

By / Nov 8

The First and Great Commandment

 

"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and will all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment."—Mark 12:30

 

     Our Saviour said, "This is the first and great commandment." It is "the first" commandment—the first for antiquity, for this is older than even the ten commandments of the written law. Before God said, "Thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal," this law was one of the commands of his universe; for this was binding upon the angels when man was not created. It was not necessary for God to say to the angels, "Thou shalt do no murder, thou shalt not steal;" for such things to them were very probably impossible; but he did doubtless say to them, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart;" and when first Gabriel sprang out of his native nothingness at the fiat of God, this command was binding on him. This is "the first commandment," then, for antiquity. It was binding upon Adam in the garden; even before the creation of Eve, his wife, God had commanded this; before there was a necessity for any other command this was written upon the very tablets of his heart—"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God."

     It is "the first commandment," again, not only for antiquity, but for dignity. This command, which deals with God the Almighty must ever take precedence of every other. Other commandments deal with man and man, but this with man and his Creator. Other commands of a ceremonial kind, when disobeyed, may involve but slight consequences upon the person who may happen to offend, but this disobeyed provokes the wrath of God, and brings his ire at once upon the sinner's head. He that stealeth committeth a gross offense, inasmuch as he hath also violated this command; but if it were possible for us to separate the two, and to suppose an offense of one command without an offence of this, then we must put the violation of this commandment in the first rank of offences. This is the king of commandments; this is the emperor of the law; it must take precedence of all those princely commands that God afterwards gave to men.

     Again, it is "the first commandment," for its justice. If men can not see the justice of that law which says, "Love thy neighbor," if there be some difficulty to understand how I can be bound to love the man that hurts and injures me, there can be no difficulty here. "Thou shalt love thy God" comes to us with so much Divine authority, and is so ratified by the dictates of nature and our own conscience, that, verily, this command must take the first place for the justice of its demand. It is "the first" of commandments. Whichever law thou dost break, take care to keep this. If thou breakest the commandments of the ceremonial law, if thou dost violate the ritual of thy church, thine offence might be propitiated by the priest, but who can escape when this is his offence? This mandate standeth fast. Man's law thou mayest break, and bear the penalty; but if thou breakest this the penalty is too heavy for thy soul to endure; it will sink thee, man, it will sink thee like a mill-stone lower than the lowest hell. Take heed of this command above every other, to tremble at it and obey it, for it is "the first commandment."

     But the Saviour said it was a "great commandment," and so also it is. It is "great," for it containeth in its bowels every other. When God said, "Remember to keep holy the Sabbath-day;" when he said, "Thou shalt not bow down unto the idols nor worship them,"—when he said, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain," he did not instance particulars which are all contained in this general mandate. This is the sum and substance of the law; and indeed even the second commandment lies within the folds of the first "Thou shalt love thy neighbor," is actually to be found within the center of this command, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God;" for the loving of God would necessarily produce the loving of our neighbor.

     It is a great command, then, for its comprehensiveness, and it is a great command for the immense demand which it makes upon us. It demands all our mind, all our soul, all our heart, and all our strength. Who is he that can keep it, when there is no power of manhood which is exempt from its sway? And to him that violateth this law it shall be proven that it is a great command in the greatness of its condemning power, for it shall be like a great sword having two edges, wherewith God shall slay him. It shall be like a great thunderbolt from God, wherewith he shall cast down and utterly destroy the man that goeth on in his willful breaking thereof. Hear ye, then, O Gentiles, and O house of Israel, hear ye, then, this day, this first and great commandment: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength."

     I shall divide my discourse thus—first, What saith this commandment unto us? secondly, What say we unto it?

     I. And in discussing the first point, WHAT SAITH THIS COMMANDMENT UNTO US? we shall divide it thus. Here is, first, the duty—"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God;" here is, secondly, the measure of the duty—"Thou shalt love him with all thy heart, mind, soul, strength;" here is, thirdly, the ground of the claim, enforcing the duty—because he is "thy God." God demandeth of us to obey, simply upon the ground that he is our God.

     1. To begin, then. This command demands a duty. That duty is, that we should love God. How many men do break this? One class of men do break it willfully and grievously; for they hate God. There is the infidel, who gnashes his teeth against the Almighty; the atheist, who spits the venom of his blasphemy against the person of his Maker. You will find those who rail at the very being of a God, though in their consciences they know there is a God, yet with their lips will blasphemously deny his existence. These men say there is no God, because they wish there were none. The wish is father to the thought, and the thought demands great grossness of heart, and grievous hardness of spirit before they dare to express it in words; and even when they express it in words, it needeth much practice ere they can do it with a bold, unblushing countenance. How this command beareth hard on all them that hate, that despise, that blaspheme, that malign God, or that deny his being, or impugn his character. O sinner! God says thou shalt love him with all thy heart; and inasmuch as thou hatest him thou standest this day condemned to the sentence of the law.

     Another class of men know there is a God, but they neglect him; they go through the world with indifference, "caring for none of these things." "Well," they say, "It does not signify to me whether there is a God or not." They have no particular care about him; they do not pay one half so much respect to his commands as they would to the proclamation of the Queen. They are very willing to reverence all powers that be, but he who ordained them is to be passed by and to be forgotten. They would not be bold enough and honest enough to come straight out, and despise God, and join the ranks of his open enemies, but they forget God; he is not in all their thoughts. They rise in the morning without a prayer, they rest at night without bending the knee, they go through the week's business and they never acknowledge a God. Sometimes they talk about good luck and chance, strange deities of their own brain; but God, the over-ruling God of Providence, they never talk of, though sometimes they may mention his name in flippancy, and so increase their transgressions against him. O ye despisers and neglecters of God! this command speaks to you—"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul."

     But I hear one of these gentlemen reply, "Well, sir, I make no pretensions to religion, but still I believe I am quite as good as those that do; I am quite as upright, quite as moral and benevolent. True, I do not often darken the door of a church or chapel, I do not think it necessary, but I am a right good sort; there are many, many hypocrites in the church, and therefore I shall not think of being religious." Now, my dear friend, allow me just to say one word—what business is that of yours? Religion is a personal matter between you and your Maker. Your Maker says—"Thou shalt love me with all thine heart:" it is of no use for you to point your finger across the street, and point at a minister whose life is inconsistent, or at a deacon who is unholy, or to a member of the church who does not live up to his profession. You have just nothing to do with that. When your Maker speaks to you, he appeals to you personally; and if you should tell him, "My Lord, I will not love thee, because there are hypocrites," would not your own conscience convince you of the absurdity of your reasoning? Ought not your better judgment to whisper "Inasmuch, then, as so many are hypocrites, take heed that thou art not; and if there be so many pretenders who injure the Lord's cause by their lying pretensions, so much the more reason why thou shouldst have the real thing and help to make the church sound and honest." But no, the merchants of our cities, the tradesmen of our streets, our artisans and our workmen, the great mass of them, live in total forgetfulness of God. I do not believe that the heart of England is infidel. I do not believe that there is any vast extent of deism or atheism throughout England: the great fault of our time is the fault of indifference; people do not care whether the thing is right or not. What is it to them? They never take the trouble to search between the different professors of religion to see where the truth dies; they do not think to pay their reverence to God with all their hearts. Oh, no; they forget what God demands, and so rob him of his due. To you, to you, great masses of the population, this law doth speak with iron tongue—"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

     There are a class of men who are a great deal nobler than the herd of simpletons who allow the sublimities of the Godhead to be concealed by their carking care for mere sensual good. There are some who do not forget that there is a God; no, they are astronomers, and they turn their eyes to heaven, and they view the stars, and they marvel at the majesty of the Creator. Or they dig into the bowels of the earth, and they are astonished at the magnificence of God's works of yore. Or they examine the animal, and marvel at the wisdom of God in the construction of its anatomy. They, whenever they think of God, think of him with the deepest awe, with the profoundest reverence. You never hear them curse or swear: you will find that their souls are possessed of a deep awe of the great Creator. But ah! my friends, this is not enough: this is not obedience to the command. God does not say thou shalt wonder at him, thou shalt have awe of him. He asks more than that; he says, "Thou shalt love me!" Oh! thou that seest the orbs of heaven floating in the far expanse, it is something to lift thine eye to heaven, and say—

 

"These are thy glorious works, Parent of good,

Almighty, thine this universal frame.

Thus wondrous fair; thyself, how wondrous then!

Unspeakable, who sit'st above these Heavens

To us invisible, or dimly seen

In these thy lowest works; yet these declare

Thy goodness beyond thought, and power divine."

 

'Tis something thus to adore the great Creator, but 'tis not all he asks. Oh! if thou couldst add to this—"He that made these orbs, that leadeth them out by their hosts, is my Father, and my heart beats with affection towards him." Then wouldst thou be obedient, but not till then. God asks not thine admiration, but thine affection. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart."

     There are others, too, who delight to spend time in contemplation. They believe in Jesus, in the Father, in the Spirit; they believe that there is but one God, and that these three are one. It is their delight to turn over the pages of revelation, as well as the pages of history. They contemplate God; he is to them a matter of curious study; they like to meditate upon him; the doctrines of his Word they could hear all day long. And they are very sound in the faith, extremely orthodox, and very knowing; they can fight about doctrines, they can dispute about the things of God with all their hearts; but, alas! their religion is like a dead fish, cold and stiff, and when you take it into your hand, you say there is no life in it; their souls were never stirred with it; their hearts were never thrown into it. They can contemplate, but they cannot love; they can meditate, but they cannot commune; they can think of God, but they can never throw up their souls to him, and clasp him in the arms of their affections. Ah, to you, cold-blooded thinkers—to you, this text speaks. Oh! thou that canst contemplate, but canst not love,—"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart."

     Another man starts up, and he says, "Well, this command does not bear on me; I attend my place of worship twice every Sunday; I have family prayer. I am very careful not to get up of a morning without saying a form of prayer; I sometimes read my Bible; I subscribe to many charities. Ah! my friend, and you may do all that, without loving God. Why, some of you go to your churches and chapels as if you were going to be horsewhipped. It is a dull and dreary thing to you. You dare not break the Sabbath, but you would, if you could. You know very well, that if it were not for a mere matter of fashion and custom, you would sooner by half be anywhere else, than in God's house. And as for prayer, why, it is no delight to you; you do it, because you think you ought to do it. Some indefinable sense of duty rests upon you; but you have no delight in it. You talk of God with great propriety, but you never talk of him with love. Your heart never bounds at the mention of his name; your eyes never glisten at the thought of his attributes; your soul never leapeth when you meditate on his works, for your heart is all untouched, and while you are honoring God with your lips, your heart is far from him, and you are still disobedient to this commandment, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God."

     And now, my hearers, do you understand this commandment? Do I not see many of you seeking to look for loop-holes through which to escape? Do I not think I see some of you striving to make a breach in this divine wall which girds us all. You say, "I never do anything against God." Nay, my friend, that is not it: it is not what thou dost not do—it is this, "Dost thou love him?" "Well, sir, but I never violate any of the proprieties of religion." No, that is not it; the command is, "Thou shalt love him." "Well, sir, but I do a great deal for God; I teach in a Sunday school, and so on." Ah! I know; but dost thou love him? It is the heart he wants, and he will not be content without it. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God." That is the law, and though no man can keep it since Adam's fall, yet the law is as much binding upon every son of Adam this day, as when God first of all pronounced it. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God."

     2. That brings us to the second point—the measure of this law. How much am I to love God? Where shall I fix the point? I am to love my neighbor as I love myself. Am I to love my God more than that? Yes, certainly. The measure is even greater. We are not bound to love ourselves with all our mind, and soul, and strength, and therefore we are not bound to love our neighbor so. The measure is a greater one. We are bound to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

     And, we deduce from that, first, that we are to love God supremely. Thou art to love thy wife, O husband. Thou canst not love her too much, except in one case, if thou shouldst love her before God, and prefer her pleasure to the pleasure of the Most High. Then wouldst thou be an idolater. Child! thou art to love thy parents; thou canst not love him too much who begat thee, nor her too much who brought thee forth; but remember, there is one law that doth override that. Thou art to love thy God more than thy father or thy mother. He demands thy first, and thy highest affection; thou art to love him "with all thy heart." We are allowed to love our relatives: we are taught to do so. He that doth not love his own family is worse than a heathen man and a publican. But we are not to love the dearest object of our hearts so much as we love God. Ye may erect little thrones for those whom ye rightly love; but God's throne must be a glorious high throne; you may set them upon the steps, but God must sit on the very seat itself. He is to be enthroned, the royal One within your heart, the king of your affections. Say, say hearer, hast thou kept this commandment? I know, I have not; I must plead guilty before God; I must cast my self before him, and acknowledge my transgression. But nevertheless, there standeth the commandment—"Thou shalt love God with all thy heart"—that is, thou shalt love him supremely.

     Note, again, that from the text we may deduce that a man is bound to love God heartily: that is plain enough, for it says, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart. Yes, there is to be in our love to God a heartiness. We are to throw our whole selves into the love that we give to him. Not the kind of love that some people give to their fellows; when they say, "Be ye warmed and filled," and nothing more. No: our heart is to have its whole being absorbed into God, so that God is the hearty object of its pursuit and its most mighty love. See how the word "all" is repeated again and again. The whole going forth of the being, the whole stirring up of the soul, is to be for God only. "With all thy heart."

     Again: as we are to love God heartily, we are to love him with all our souls. Then we are to love him with all our life; for that is the meaning of it. If we are called to die for God, we are to prefer God before our own life. We shall never reach the fullness of this commandment, till we get as far as the martyrs, who rather than disobey God would be cast into the furnace, or devoured by wild beasts. We must be ready to give up house, home, liberty, friends, comfort, joy, and life, at the command of God, or else we have not carried out this commandment, "Thou shalt love him with all thy heart and with all thy life."

     And, next we are to love God with all our mind. That is, the intellect is to love God. Now, many men believe in the existence of a God, but they do not love that belief. They know there is a God, but they greatly wish there were none. Some of you to day would be very pleased, ye would set the bells a-ringing, if ye believed there were no God. Why, if there were no God, then you might live just as you liked; it there were no God, then you might run riot and have no fear of future consequences. It would be to you the greatest joy that could be, if you heard that the eternal God had ceased to be. But the Christian never wishes any such a thing as that. The thought that there is a God is the sunshine of his existence. His intellect bows before the Most High; not like a slave who bends his body because he must, but like the angel who prostrates himself because he loves to adore his Maker. His intellect is as fond of God as his imagination. "Oh!" he saith, "My God, I bless thee that thou art; for thou art my highest treasure, my richest and my rarest delight. I love thee with all my intellect; I have neither thought, nor judgment, nor conviction, nor reason, which I do not lay at thy feet, and consecrate to thine honor.

     And, once again, this love to God is to be characterized by activity; for we are to love Him with all our heart, heartily—with all our soul, that is, to the laying down of our life—with all our mind, that is mentally; and we are to love him with all our strength, that is, actively. I am to throw my whole soul into the worship and adoration of God. I am not to keep back a single hour, or a single farthing of my wealth, or a single talent that I have, or a single atom of strength, bodily or mental, from the worship of God. I am to love him with all my strength.

     Now, what man ever kept this commandment? Surely, none; and no man ever can keep it. Hence, then, the necessity of a Saviour. Oh! that we might by this commandment be smitten to the earth, that our self-righteousness may be broken in pieces by this great hammer of "the first and great commandment!" But oh! my brethren, how may we wish that we could keep it! for, could we keep this command intact, unbroken, it would be a heaven below. The happiest of creatures are those that are the most holy, and that unreservedly love God.

     3. And now, very briefly, I have just to state God's claim upon which he bases this commandment. "Thou shalt love him with all thy heart, soul, mind, strength." Why? First, because he is the Lord—that is, Jehovah; and secondly, be cause he is thy God.

     Man, the creature of a day, thou oughtest to love Jehovah for what he is. Behold, him whom thou canst not behold! Lift up thine eyes to the seventh heaven; see where in dreadful majesty, the brightness of his skirts makes the angels veil their faces, lest the light, too strong for even them, should smite them with eternal blindness. See ye him, who stretched the heavens like a tent to dwell in, and then did weave into their tapestry, with golden needle, stars that glitter in the darkness. Mark ye him who spread the earth, and created man upon it. And hear ye what he is. He is all-sufficient, eternal, self-existent, unchangeable, omnipotent, omniscient! Wilt thou not reverence him? He is good, he is loving, he is kind, he is gracious. See the bounties of his providence; behold the plenitude of his grace! Wilt thou not love Jehovah, because he is Jehovah?

     But thou art most of all bound to love him because he is thy God. He is thy God by creation. He made thee; thou didst not make thyself. God, the Almighty, though he might use instruments, was nevertheless the sole creator of man. Though he is pleased to bring us into the world by the agency of our progenitors, yet is he as much our Creator as he was the Creator of Adam, when he formed him of clay and made him man. Look at this marvelous body of thine. see how God hath put the bones together, so as to be of the greatest service and use to thee. See how he hath arranged thy nerves and blood vessels: mark the marvelous machinery which he has employed to keep thee in life! O thing of an hour! wilt thou not love him that made thee? Is it possible that thou canst think of him who formed thee in his hand, and molded thee by his will, and yet wilt thou not love him who hath fashioned thee?

     Again, consider, he is thy God, for he preserves thee. Thy table is spread, but he spread it for thee. The air that thou dost breathe is a gift of his charity; the clothes that thou hast on thy back are gifts of his love; thy life depends on him. One wish of his infinite will would have brought thee to the grave, and given thy body to the worms; and at this moment, though thou art strong and hearty, thy life is absolutely dependent upon him. Thou mayest die where thou art, instantly: thou art out of hell only as the result of his goodness. Thou wouldst be at this hour sweltering in flames unquenchable, had not his sovereign love preserved thee. Traitor though thou mayest be to him, an enemy to his cross and cause, yet he is thy God, so far as this, for he made thee and he keeps thee alive. Surely, thou mayest wonder that he should keep thee alive, when thou refusest to love him. Man! thou wouldst not keep a horse that did not work for thee. Would you keep a servant in your house who insulted you? Would you spread bread upon his table, and find livery for his back, if instead of doing your will and good pleasure he would be his own master, and would run counter to you? Certainly you would not. And yet here is God feeding you, and you are rebelling against him. Swearer! the lip with which you cursed your Maker is sustained by him; the very lungs that you employ in blasphemy are inspired by him with the breath of life, else you had ceased to be. Oh! strange that you should eat God's bread, and then lift up your heel against him; Oh! marvellous that ye should sit at the table of his providence and be clothed in the livery of his bounty, and yet that you should turn round and spit against high heaven, and lift the puny hand of your rebellion against the God that made you, and that preserves you in being. O, if instead of our God we had one like unto ourselves to deal with, my brethren, we should not have patience with our fellow-creatures for an hour. I marvel at God's long-suffering toward men. I see the foul-mouthed blasphemer curse his God. O God! how canst thou endure it? Why dost thou not smite him to the ground? If a gnat should torment me, should I not in one moment crush it? And what is man compared with his Maker? Not one half so great as an emmet compared with man. Oh! my brethren, we may well be astonished that God hath mercy upon us, after all our violations of this high command. But I stand here to-day his servant, and from myself and from you I claim for God, because he is God, because he is our God and our Creator—I claim the love of all hearts, I claim the obedience of all souls and of all minds, and the consecration of all our strength.

     O people of God, I need not speak to you. You know that God is your God in a special sense; therefore you ought to love him with a special love.

     II. This is what the commandment says to us. I shall be very short indeed upon the second head, which is, WHAT HAVE WE TO SAY TO IT?

     What hast thou to say to this command, O man? Have I one here so profoundly brainless as to reply, "I intend to keep it, and I believe I can perfectly obey it, and I think I can get to heaven by obedience to it?" Man, thou art either a fool, or else willfully ignorant; for sure, if thou dost understand this commandment, thou wilt at once hang down thine hands, and say, "Obedience to that is quite impossible; thorough and perfect obedience to that no man can hope to reach to! Some of you think you will go to heaven by your good works, do you? This is the first stone that you are to step upon—I am sure it is too high for your reach. You might as well try to climb to heaven by the mountains of earth, and take the Himalayas to be your first step; for surely when you had stepped from the ground to the summit of Chimborazo you might even then despair of ever stepping to the height of this great commandment; for to obey this must ever be an impossibility. But remember, you cannot be saved by your works, if you cannot obey this entirely, perfectly, constantly, for ever.

     "Well," says one, "I dare say if I try and obey it as well as I can, that will do." No, sir, it will not. God demands that you perfectly obey this, and if you do not perfectly obey it he will condemn you. "Oh!" cries one, "who then can be saved?" Ah! that is the point to which I wish to bring you. Who then can be saved by this law? Why, no one in the world. Salvation by the works of the law is proved to be a clean impossibility. None of you, therefore, will say you will try to obey it, and so hope to be saved. I hear the best Christian in the world groan out his thoughts—"O God," saith he, "I am guilty; and shouldst thou cast me into hell I dare not say otherwise. I have broken this command from my youth up, even since my conversion; I have violated it every day; I know that if thou shouldst lay justice to the line, and righteousness to the plummet, I must be swept away for ever. Lord, I renounce my trust in the law; for by it I know I can never see thy face and be accepted. But hark! I hear the Christian say another thing. "Oh!" saith he to the commandment, "Commandment I can not keep thee, but my Saviour kept thee, and what my Saviour did, he did for all them that believe; and now, O law, what Jesus did is mine. Hast thou any question to bring against me? Thou demandest that I should keep this commandment wholly: lo, my Saviour kept it wholly for me, and he is my substitute; what I can not do myself my Saviour has done for me; thou canst not reject the work of the substitute, for God accepted it in the day when he raised him from the dead. O law! shut thy mouth for ever; thou canst never condemn me; though I break thee a thousand times, I put my simple trust in Jesus only, his righteousness is mine, and with it I pay the debt and satisfy thy hungry mouth."

     "Oh!" cries one, "I wish I could say that I could thus escape the wrath of the law! Oh that I knew that Christ did keep the law for me!" Stop, then, and I will tell you. Do you feel to-day that you are guilty, lost, and ruined? Do you with tears in your eyes confess that none but Jesus can do you good? Are you willing to give up all trusts, and cast yourself alone on him who died upon the cross? Can you look to Calvary, and see the bleeding sufferer, all crimson with streams of gore? Can you say

 

"A guilty, weak, and helpless worm,

Into thine arms I fall;

Jesus, be thou my righteousness,

My Saviour and my all!"

 

Canst say that? Then he kept the law for you, and the law cannot condemn whom Christ has absolved. If Law comes to you and says, "I will damn you because you did not keep the law," tell him that he dares not touch a hair of your head, for though you did not keep it, Christ kept it for you, and Christ's righteousness is yours; tell him there is the money and though you did not coin it Christ did; and tell him, when you have paid him all he asks for, he dares not touch you; you must be free, for Christ has satisfied the law.

     And after that—and here I conclude—O child of God, I know what thou wilt say; after thou hast seen the law satisfied by Jesus thou wilt fall on thy knees and say, "Lord, I thank thee that this law can not condemn me, for I believe in Jesus. But now, Lord, help me from this time forth for ever to keep it. Lord, give me a new heart, for this old heart never will love thee! Lord, give me a new life, for this old life is too vile. Lord, give me a new understanding; wash my mind with the clean water of the Spirit; come and dwell in my judgment, my memory, my thought; and then give me the new strength of thy Spirit, and then will I love thee with all my new heart, with all my new life, with all my renewed mind, and with all my spiritual strength, from this time forth, even for evermore."

     May the Lord convince you of sin, by the energy of his divine Spirit, and bless this simple sermon, for Jesus' sake! Amen.



The Security of the Church

By / Nov 1

The Security of the Church

 

"As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even for ever."—Psalm 125:2

 

     The changes of society may well illustrate the immutability of God. In the days of David, Jerusalem was looked upon as an impregnable fortress. It is surrounded by a natural rampart of hills; and appears to lie in the center of an amphitheatre raised purposely for its defense. By the ancient Jew it was considered to be an impregnable citadel. How changed now are the manners of war! A small troop could easily take the city, and it must indeed be a strong army that would be able to garrison it in its present condition. Yet whilst Jerusalem is changed, and the figure has become inappropriate, Jerusalem's God remains, for with him is "no variableness, neither shadow of turning." We must this morning consider the text, not as we should understand it in our day, but as we should have understood it in David's time. David looked upon the city of Jerusalem, and he thought within himself, "No army can ever be able to surprise this city, and however numerous may be the invading hosts, my people will always be able to hold their own in the midst of a city so firmly fortified both by nature and by art." In his time, indeed, and in the time of his son Solomon, I suppose it would have been utterly impossible for any enemy, possessed only of the tactics of ancient warfare, to have scaled those mighty ramparts of earth which God had piled about the city. And therefore, when David said in his day, "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people;" he meant this—"As Jerusalem is fortressed by the mountains, so are God's people castled in the covenant, fortressed in the Omnipotence of God, and therefore they are impregnably secure. We shall thus understand the text, and endeavor this morning to work out the great thought of the security of God's people in the arms of Jehovah their Lord.

     We shall consider the text, first, as relating to the Church as a whole, and then we shall endeavor to note how it applies to every individual in particular.

     I. FIRST, THE CHURCH AS A WHOLE is secured by God beyond the reach of harm. She is ably garrisoned by Omnipotence, and she is castled within the faithful engagements of the covenant. How often has the Church been attacked; but how often has she been victorious? The number of her battles is just the number of her victories. Foes have come against her; they have compassed her about, they have compassed her about like bees, but in the name of God she has destroyed them. The bull of Bashan and the dog of Belial, the mighty and the insignificant, have all conspired to overthrow the Church; but he that sitteth in heaven hath laughed at them, the Lord hath had them in derision, and his church hath been as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but which abideth for ever. Turn ye now to the roll of history and read how the Church has been fortressed by God, when fiercely attacked by men.

     1. Persecution has unsheathed its bloody sword, and sought to rend up the Church by its roots, or fell it with its axe. Tyrants have heated their furnaces, have prepared their racks, have erected their stakes, the martyrs of Christ have been dragged by thousands to a terrible death, the confessors have had to stand forth at the risk of their lives, protesting the gospel of God against the dominant of the times. The little flock has been scattered hither and thither, and the dogs of persecution have worried them in every corner whither they have fled. Into every nation of the earth have they wandered; in sheepskins and goatskins have they been clothed; their houses have been in the rocks and their sleeping places in the caves of the earth. Like the stag pursued by the hounds, they have not had a moment's space for so much as to take their breath. But has the Church been subdued? Has she ever been overcome? O God, thou hast proved the invincibility of thy truth; thou hast manifested the power of thy Word, for thou hast not only preserved thy Church in the time of greatest trouble, but, blessed be thy name thou hast made the hour of her peril the hour of her greatest triumph. You will find that whenever the Church has been the most persecuted she has been the most successful. The heathen Pro-consuls wondered when they saw the many who were prepared to die. They said, "Surely a madness must have seized upon mankind, that they cannot be content to commit suicide, but are so fond of death that they must come to our bar and plead that they are lovers of Christ as if they sought to compel us to execute them." God gave grace for the moment and in the day of persecution he braced the nerves of his people, and made them mighty to do or die, as God would have it. But, surely, had not Christ's Church been surrounded by the mountains of God's Omnipotence, she must have fallen a prey to her numerous enemies.

     2. But by-and-bye the devil grew wiser. He saw that overt persecution would not suffice for the putting down of God's Church, and he therefore adopted another measure not less cruel but more crafty. "I will not only slay them," said he, "I will malign them." Did you ever read in history the horrible reports which were set afloat in the early ages of Christianity concerning the Christians. I dare not tell you with what vices the early Christians were charged in their private assemblies. It is certain that they were the purest and most virtuous of men, but never were men so fearfully belied. The very heathens who revelled in vice, despised the followers of Jesus on account of crimes which the voice of the liar had laid to their charge. A few years elapsed and the mud which had been cast upon the snow-white garments of Christ's Church fell off from them, leaving them whiter than before, the clouds that sought to obscure the light of the heaven of the gospel were blown away, and "fair as the moon and clear as the sun" the innocence of Christ's Church shone forth again. But the devil has adopted the same plan in every period. He has always sought to slander any race of Christians who are the means of revival. I would not believe any minister to be eminently successful, if I were informed that everybody praised him. I am certain that such a case would be an exception, a glaring exception to all the rules of history. You remember what was said of Whitfield in his day. He was charged with crimes that Sodom never knew; and yet a more pure and heavenly man God never sent to tread this wicked earth. And it ever must be so. The Church struggling with sin and wickedness, must through the enmity of the evil one find herself bespattered and besmeared with slander. The wicked when they can do nothing else against the righteous, will spit falsehood on them. But has the Church suffered through their slander, or hath ever a solitary Christian lost aught by it? No, the Lord God who set the mountains round about Jerusalem has so put himself about his people, that no weapon that is formed against us shall prosper, and every tongue that riseth against us in judgment we shall condemn. This is the heritage of the people of the Lord. Fear not, O Church of Christ, the slimy serpent of slander for even in thy cradle, like Hercules, when the snakes of slander came against thee thou didst slay them in thine infantile grasp, more than a conqueror through him that loved thee. And now that God is with thee, and the shout of a king in thy midst, fear not, though all men should speak against thee, thy Master will yet honor thee, and thou wilt come up from the pool of slander like a sheep from the washing, the fairer for thy black baptism, the more admired, the more lovely for all the scorn and ignominy that men have cast upon thee.

     3. Again, Satan learned wisdom, and he said, "Now inasmuch as I cannot destroy this people, neither by sword nor slander, lo, this will I do, I will send into their midst wolves in sheeps, clothing, I will inspire divers heretics, carried away with their own lusts, who shall in the midst of the church promulgate lies and prophecy smooth things in the name of the Lord. And Satan has done all this with a vengeance. In every era of the church there have been numberless bands of heretics. Only a small company have in certain times adhered to the truth, whilst the mass of professing Christians have gone aside and have perished in the gainsaying of Korah. Look at the earliest days of Christianity. Scarcely were the apostles in their graves, and their souls in paradise, than there sprang up men who denied the Lord that bought them—some who did evil that good might come, whose damnation was just. Heresies of all kinds began to spring up, even in the first fifty years after the departure of our Master. Since that time the world has been very prolific of every shape and form of doctrine except the truth, and down to these modern times heresies have prevailed. Now behold how Satan seeks to quench the light of Israel. There is the heresy of Rome, she that sitteth upon many waters seeketh as far as she can to delude the Church, and to draw the rest of the world aside from the truth of God. She, with all the craft of hell, seeketh to proselyte where'er she may from those who are the professed followers of the truth; she will change her shape in every land; in her own dominions she will build the dungeon, and practice intolerance—in a land of freedom she can plead for liberty, and pretend to be its warmest friend. Base harlot that she is, her whoredoms have not yet ceased, nor is the cup of her fornications full. She seeketh still to devour the nations and swallow them up quick. There is her sister the Puseyism of the Church of England, I speak nothing now concerning my evangelical brethren. God Almighty shield them and bless them! My only marvel is, that they do not come out altogether, and touch not the unclean thing. But, alas, Puseyism is seeking to eat out the very vitals of our godliness, telling the masses that the priest is everything—putting down Christ and exalting the man, putting baptismal water in the place of the influences of the Divine Spirit, and exalting sacraments into the place which is only to be held by the Lord our God. Truly this dangerous and deceptive, beautiful and foolish system of religion is much to be feared, although we know that the true Church of God must ever be safe, for against her the gates of hell shall not prevail.

     Alas! that we should have to say something else! and this concerning those who are commonly called evangelical, who have a form of error more insidious and evil still. Alas that I should have to "cry aloud and spare not," concerning these matters. These are days when a false charity would have us hold our tongues against the evils that we hate. My brethren, in the midst of our dissenting churches especially there is a system which does not deserve the name of system, except from its systematic desire to crush every system. There is a system springing up which takes out of the Gospel every truth that makes it precious plucks every jewel out of the crown of the Redeemer, and tramples it under the foot of men. In a large number of our pulpits at this time you will not hear the Gospel preached by a month together. Anything else you like you may hear preached: Anti-state Churchism, political affairs—these are the current staple of the day; Christ and him crucified may go to the dogs for them. Polities fill up the pulpits, and philosophy stands in the place of theology. And when there is a little theology, what say they? Instead of exalting the Holy Spirit as the first and prime agent, they are ever exhorting men to do what only God's Spirit can do for them, and not reminding them that the effectual grace of God is necessary; the covenant, the "everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure" is sneered at the banner once held so manfully by Calvin, who took it from the hand of Augustine leaping over centuries to grasp it, who again received it from the hand of the apostle Paul—the banner of the old fashioned truth is to a great degree furled, and we are told that these old doctrines are effete and out of date. Puritanical divinity, they say, is not the divinity for these times; we must have a new gospel for a go-a-head era. We must have sermons preached which, if they be not absolute denial of every doctrine of the gospel, are at least sneers at them all. The man effects to be so supremely wise, that he in his own brain can devise a gospel better, fairer than the ancient gospel of the blessed God, Now, this is one of the attempts of the enemy to put down the truth, but he will never be able to do it, for "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even for ever."

     I will not be hard, but I must say a word to many of my brethren of the denomination to which I belong. There are many of you call yourselves Particular Baptists, by which you mean that you are Calvinists, and yet, gentlemen, your consciences are easy, and some of you have never preached upon election since you were ordained. The peculiarities of "the five points" are concealed. These things, you say, are offensive. And so, gentlemen, you would rather offend God than you would offend man. But you reply, "These things, you know, are high doctrines; they had better not be preached: they will not be practical." I do think that the climax of all man's blasphemy is centred in that utterance. Will you dare to say, "There are some parts of God's truth that we do not want to preach to the people." Tell me that God put a thing in the Bible that I am not to preach! You are finding fault with my God. But you say, "It will be dangerous." What! God's truth dangerous? I should not like to stand in your shoes when you have to face your Maker on the day of judgment after such an utterance as that. If it be not God's truth, let it alone; but if you believe the thing, out with it. The world will like you just as well for being honest, and if the world does not your Master will. Keep back nothing; tell the whole gospel out. Tell out man's responsibility: do not stutter at it. Tell out divine sovereignty: do not refuse to talk of election, use the word, even if they sneer, tell men that if they believe not the blood is on their own heads, and then if the high people turn against you, snap your finger in their face; tell them you do not care—that to you it is nothing, nothing at all to please man; your Master is in heaven, and him will you please, come fair, come foul. This done, Satan would be balked and defeated; but at the present moment, he is mightily striving thus to overthrow the church by ill doctrine.

     4. The craftiest invention of the devil, with which he seeks, in the last place to put out the church, is a device which has amazed me above every other. "Now;" says Satan, "If I can quench the church, neither by persecution, nor slander, nor heresy, I will invent another mode of destroying her." And I have often marveled at the depths of deceit which are centred in this last invention of Satan. Satan seeks to divide the church, to set us apart from one another, and not allow those who love the same truth to meet with each other and to work together in love, and peace, and harmony. "Now," says the devil, "I have it. Here is one body of good men—they are very fond of one part of God's truth. Now, there are two sets of truths in the Bible. One set deals with man as responsible creature, the other class of truths deals with God as the infinite Sovereign, dispensing his mercy as he pleases. Now these dear brethren are very fond of man's responsibility: they will preach it, and they will preach it so that if they hear the brother over the other side of the street preach God's sovereignty, they will be very wroth with him. And then I will make the brethren who preach divine sovereignty forget the other part of the truth, and hate the brethren that preach it." Do you not see the craft of the enemy? Both of these good men are right; they both preach parts of truth; but they each so set their part of truth at the top of the other that a rivalry commences. Why, I have stepped in and heard a godly brother preach a sermon that sent my blood through my veins at a most rapid rate, whilst he earnestly preached of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment to come but he spoilt all his sermon by indirectly hinting—"Now, take care you don't hear Mr. So-and-so, because he will contradict all this, and tell you that you are saved by grace, and that it is not of yourself but it is the gift of God." I went, of course, and heard the good man, because I was told not to go. Well, he was preaching that "it is not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God," and I thought he handled the text very manfully, when he showed that God was the author of all salvation; only in a parenthesis he told us not to go to that work-mongering shop on the other side of the road. Why, they were both right, but they had each got different parts of the truth; one, that truth which dealt with man as responsible; the other, that which deals with God as a Sovereign; and the devil had so perverted their judgment that they could not see that both things were true, but they must go fighting each other just to make sport for Satan. Now, I wonder that the church has not been utterly destroyed by this last device, for it is the craftiest thing, I believe, that Satan has yet brought under our notice, though without doubt his depths are too deep for our understanding. But, brethren, despite all this, let bigotry rave, let intolerance rail till it goes mad, the church is just as secure, for God hath set himself round about her, "even as the mountains are round about Jerusalem, from henceforth even for evermore."

     And now just notice, before we leave this point, that as the Church always has been preserved, the text assures us she always will be, henceforth even for ever. There is a nervous old woman here. Last Saturday night she read the newspaper, and she saw something about five or six clergymen going over to Rome: she laid down her spectacles, and she began crying, "Oh! the Church is in danger, the Church is in danger." Ah! put your spectacles on; that is all right; never mind about the loss of those fellows. Better gone; we did not want them; do not cry if fifty more follow them, do not be at all alarmed. Some church may be in danger, but God's Church is not. That is safe enough; that shall stand secure, even to the end. I remember with what alarm some of my friends received the tidings of the geological discoveries of modern times, which did not quite agree with their interpretation of the Mosaic history of the creation. They thought it an awful thing that science should discover something which seemed to contradict the Scriptures. Well, we lived over the geological difficulty, after all. And since then there have been different sets of philosophic infidels, who have risen up and made wonderful discoveries, and poor timid Christians have thought, "What a terrible thing! This surely will be the end of all true religion; when science can bring facts against us, how shall we be able to stand?" They just waited about another week, and on a sudden they found that science was not their enemy, but their friend, for the Truth though tried in a furnace like silver seven times, is ever a gainer by the trial. Ah! ye that hate the church, she shall ever be a thorn in your side! Oh! ye that would batter her walls to pieces, know this, that she is impregnable, not one of her stakes shall be removed, not one of her cords shall be broken. God hath fixed her where she is, and by divine decree established her on a rock. Do you hate the Church? Hate on: it will never be moved by all your hate. Do you threaten to crush it? It shall crush you, but you shall never injure it. Do ye despise and laugh at it? Ah! the day is coming when the laugh shall be on the other side. Wait a little while, and when her Master shall suddenly come in his glory, then shall it be seen on whose side is the victory, and who were the fools that laughed.

     Thus we have disposed of the first point; THE CHURCH impregnably secure, fortressed, and castled by God.

     II. What is true of the mass is true of the unit. The fact which relates to the Church includes in it EVERY MEMBER OF THE CHURCH. God has fortressed his people; so that every believer is infallibly secure. There are in the world certain people who teach that Christ gives grace to men, and tells them, "Now, you shall be saved it you will persevere; but this must be left to yourself." This reminds me of an old Puritanical illustration, "The Duke of Alva having given some prisoners their lives, they afterwards petitioned him for some food. His answer was, that, 'he would grant them life but no meat.' And they were famished to death." The deniers of final perseverance represent the Deity in a similar view. 'God promises eternal life to the saints if they endure to the end,' but he will not secure to them the continuance of that grace without which eternal life cannot be had! Oh! surely if that were true, eternal life were not worth a fig to any of us. Unless our God who first saves us did engage to keep us alive and to provide for all our necessities, of what use were eternal life at all? But we bless his name,

 

"Whom once he loves he never leaves,

But loves them to the end."

Once in Christ, in Christ for ever,

Nothing from his love can sever."

 

     The Christian is fortified and secured from all harm. And yet, O child of God, there be many that will seek to destroy thee, and thy fears will often tell thee that thou art in the jaws of the enemy. Providence will often seem against thee, thine eyes shall be seldom dry; it may be funeral shall follow funeral; loss shall follow loss; a burning house shall be succeeded by a blasted crop. The Christian in this world is not secured against the perils which happen to manhood. Oh! child of God, it may seem that all things are against thee; perhaps all God's waves and billows will go over thee; thou mayest know what hunger, and nakedness, and thirst do mean; thou mayest be found in this world houseless, friendless, fatherless, motherless, but oh! remember, that neither famine, nor hunger, nor poverty, nor sickness, nor weakness, nor contempt, can separate thee from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus thy Lord. Thou mayest sink ever so low, but thou canst never sink lower than the arm of God can reach. Thy poor ship may be drifted before the gale, but it shall never go so fast but God can keep her off the rocks. Be of good cheer, the trials of this mortal life shall work out for thee "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."

     Again, you may be tempted by the world! traps may be set for you on every hand, you may be tempted by your flesh, your corruptions may have great power over you, and often stagger your faith, and make you tremble, lest you should be utterly overthrown, and the devil may set upon you with fiery darts, he may pierce you with foul insinuations, he may almost make you blaspheme, and with terrible suggestions he may drive you well-nigh to despair. But oh! remember,

 

"Hell and thy sins obstruct thy course,

But hell and sin are vanquished foes;

Thy Jesus nailed them to his cross

And sang the triumph when he rose."

 

     And thou mayest, too, be overcome by sin. Thou mayest fall. God grant thou mayest not; but though thou be kept eminently consistent and extremely virtuous, thou wilt sin and sometimes that sin will get such a head against thee that thou canst scarcely stem the torrent. Conscience will whisper, "How couldst thou be a child of God, and yet sin thus?" And Satan will howl in thine ears, "He that sinneth knoweth not God." And so thou wilt be ready to be destroyed by thy sin. But do thou then, in the hour of thy dark distress, read this verse—"As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even for ever." Be thou confident in this, that even sin itself shall not be able to cut the golden link which joins thee to thy Saviour.

     Have you never heard the sermons of those people who believe in the apostacy of the saints? Have you not heard them very pathetically enlarge on the dangers of Christians? They say, "Yes, you may serve God all your life, but perhaps in the last article of death your faith may faint, sin may prevail, and you may be destroyed." And they illustrate their very beautiful and comfortable idea by the figure of a ship foundering just as she reaches the harbour. Now, many wooden ships, I doubt not, do founder, and many ships built in free-will dockyards founder too; but the chosen vessels of mercy are insured against perishing, and were never known to be shipwrecked yet. As an old divine says, there are no wrecks to be seen on the sea which rolls between Jerusalem on earth and Jerusalem above. There are many tempests, but never any shipwrecks. Bishop Hooker sweetly says "Blessed for ever and ever, be that mother's child whose faith hath made him the child of God. The earth may shake, the pillars thereof may tremble under us, the countenance of the heavens may be appalled, the sun may lose his light, the moon her beauty, the stars their glory, but concerning the man that trusted in God, if the fire have proclaimed itself unable as much as to singe a hair of his head; if lions, beasts ravenous by nature and keen by hunger, being set to devour, have, as it were, religiously adored the very flesh of a faithful man; what is there in the world that shall change his heart, overthrow his faith, alter his affections towards God, or the affection of God to him?" Oh, when we once believe this doctrine and receive it in our hearts as true, what a tendency it has to make the spirit buoyant in the deep waters, to enable us to sing in the midst of the fierce billows. Who need fear, if our salvation is made secure by the covenant of God?

     And now for a few moments, without detaining you too long, I will try to show some reasons why it is quite certain that the believer cannot by any possibility perish. I want to do this, because I have a multitude of letters from this large congregation every week, and I have to say to the glory of God, there are many of those letters that make me so glad I can scarcely contain myself, whilst others arouse all the anxiety of my heart. Among them is one something like this. "Sir, I know that I was once a child of God; many years ago I had such delightful feelings, and such ecstacies, that I cannot doubt but what if I had died then I should have gone to heaven; but now, sir, I am in such distress that I am quite sure if I were to die now I should be lost." Now, my brother, I know you are here. You may take it to yourself. There are only two solutions to your mystery. If you were a child of God then, you are a child of God now, and if you would have gone to heaven then you will go to heaven now, be you what you may; if you ever were regenerated, regeneration is a work that is never done but once, and if it has been done once for you, it has not lost its efficacy—you are a child of God yet. But I am inclined to think you never were a child of God: you had a few fine ecstacies; but you never knew the plague of your own heart; I am afraid, young man, you were never taken into God's stripping room, never were tied up to the halberts, and never had the ten-thonged whip of law on your back. But, anyhow, do not tell me any more that you were converted once but not now, because if you were converted to God, God would have kept you. "The righteous shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall wax stronger and stronger."

     And now shall I tell you why it is certain a believer cannot perish? In the first place, how can a believer perish if that Scripture be true, which saith, that every believer is a member of Christ's body! If you will only grant me my head afloat above the water I will give you leave to drown my fingers. Try it: you cannot do it. As long as a man's head is above the flood you cannot drown him—it is clean impossible—nor yet drown any part of his body. Now, a Christian is a part of Christ, the Head. Christ, the head of the body, is in heaven, and until you can drown the head of the body, you cannot drown the body, and if the head be in heaven, beyond the reach of harm, then every member of the body is alive and secure, and shall at last be in heaven too. Dost thou imagine, O heretic, that Christ will lose a member of his body! Will Christ dwell in heaven with a mangled frame? God forbid! If Christ hath taken us into union with himself, though we be the meanest members of his heavenly body, he will not allow us to be cut away. Will a man lose a arm, or a leg, or an hand, whilst he can help himself? Ah! no, and whilst Christ is omnipotent, nought shall pluck his children from his body, for they are of "his flesh and his bones."

     But again: how can a believer perish, and yet God be true? God has said "When thou passest through the rivers I will be with thee, and the floods shall not overflow thee." Now, if they should overflow us, how can God be true? "When thou passest through the fires thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." Then if we could ever find a believer consumed, we could prove God's promise broken. But we cannot do that. God is with his children, and ever will be. Besides has he not said, "I give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hands?" Ay, beloved, how can God be God, and yet his people plucked out of his hand? Surely he were no God to us, if he were unfaithful to a promise so oft repented and so solemnly confirmed. Besides, mark ye this. If one saint should fall away and perish, God would not only break his word, but his oath, for he hath sworn by himself, because he could swear by no greater, "that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us." No, an oath-breaking God, a promise-despising Jehovah, were an impossibility; and therefore a perished child of God is alike impossible.

     But we need not fear, beloved, that we shall ever perish, if we love the Saviour for the last reason is all potent. Will Christ lose that which he has bought with his own blood? Yes, there are men with judgments so perverted, that they believe Christ died for those that are damned, and bought with his own blood men that perish. Well, if they choose to believe that, I do not envy them the elasticity of their intellects; but this I conceive to be but an axiom, that what Christ has paid for so dearly with his own heart's blood he will have. If he loved us well enough to bear the excruciating agonies of the cross, I know he loves "well enough to keep us to the end." If when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more being reconciled we shall be saved by his life." For I am persuaded that he that spared not his own life, but delivered it up for his people, will not withhold aught that Omnipotence can "ire.

     And now I close by addressing myself for a moment or two to ungodly persons present. Thinking persons they must be, or else what I say will not be likely to be noticed by them. When I was a boy I remember having a meditation something like this: "Now, I should not like to be a thief or a murderer, or an unclean person." I had such a training that I had an abhorrence of sin of that sort. "And yet," thought I to myself, "I may be hung yet; there is no reason why I should not turn out a thief," because I recollected there were some of my schoolfellows, older than I was, who had already become very eminent in dishonesty; and I thought, "why may not I?" No one can tell the rapture of my spirit, when I thought I saw in my Bible the doctrine that if I gave my heart to Christ he would keep me from sin and preserve me as long as I lived. I was not quite sure of it—not quite certain that was the truth of the Bible, though I thought so; but I remember when I heard the minister of some small hyper chapel utter the same truth. Oh! my heart was full of rapture; I panted after that gospel. "Oh!" I thought, if God would but love me, if I might but know myself to be his!" For the enchanting part of it was, that if I were so he would keep me to the end. That made me so in love with the gospel, that boy as I was, knowing nothing savingly about the gospel, it made me love the thought of being saved, because, if saved, God would never turn me out of doors. That made the gospel very precious to me in my childhood; so that when the Holy Spirit showed me my guilt and led me to seek a Saviour, that doctrine was like a bright star to my spirit. I always looked forward to that. I thought, "Well, if I can once look to Christ, and cast myself on him, then he will grant me grace that I shall to the end endure." And oh! that doctrine is so precious to me now, that I do think if anybody could possibly convince me that final perseverance is not a truth of the Bible, I should never preach again, for I feel I should have nothing worth preaching. If you could once make me believe that the regeneration of God might fail of its effect, and that the love of God might be separated from his own chosen people, you might keep that Bible to yourself; between its cover there is nothing that I love, nothing that I wish for, no gospel that is suitable for me. I count it to be a gospel beneath the dignity of God, and beneath the dignity of even fallen manhood, unless it be everlasting, "ordered in all things and sure."

     And now poor trembling sinner, thou that knowest thy sins, believe on Christ this morning, and thou art saved, and saved for ever. Do but this moment look to him that died upon the tree, and, my brother, my sister, give me thine hand, and let us weep for joy that thou believest, and let our joy accumulate when we remember that the pillars of the heavens may totter, the solid foundations of the earth may reel, the countenance of the heavens may be astonished, the sun may be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, but nought shall pluck thee from the strength of Israel's hands. Thou art, thou shalt be infallibly secure. Come, O Holy Spirit, bless these words; for Jesus sake. Amen.



Light at Evening Time

By / Oct 25

Light at Evening Time

 

"It shall come to pass that at eveing time it shall be light."—Zechariah 14:7

 

     I shall not stay to notice the particular occasion upon which these words were uttered, or to discover the time to which they more especially refer; I shall rather take the sentence as a rule of the kingdom, as one of the great laws of God's dispensation of grace, "that at evening time it shall be light." Whenever philosophers wish to establish a general law, they think it necessary to collect a considerable number of individual instances; these being put together, they then infer from them a general rule. Happily, this need not be done with regard to God. We have no need, when we look abroad in providence, to collect a great number of incidents, and then from them infer the truth; for since God is immutable, one act of his grace is enough to teach us the rule of his conduct. Now, I find in this one place it is recorded that on a certain occasion, during a certain adverse condition of a nation, God promised that "at evening time it should be light." If I found that in any human writing, I should suppose that the thing might have occurred once, that a blessing was conferred in emergency on a certain occasion, but I could not from it deduce a rule; but when I find this written in the book of God, that on a certain occasion when it was evening time with his people God was pleased to give them light, I feel myself more than justified in deducing from it the rule, that always to his people at evening time there shall be light.

     This, then, shall be the subject of my present discourse. There are different evening times that happen to the church and to God's people, and as a rule we may rest quite certain that at evening time there shall be light.

     God very frequently acts in grace in such a manner that we can find a parallel in nature. For instance, God says, "As the rain cometh down and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, even so shall my word be, it shall not return unto me void, it shall accomplish that which I please, it shall prosper in the thing whereto I have sent it." We find him speaking concerning the coming of Christ, "He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass, as showers that water the earth." We find him liking the covenant of grace to the covenant which he made with Noah concerning the seasons, and with man concerning the different revolutions of the year—"Seed-time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease." We find that the works of creation are very frequently the mirror of the works of grace, and that we can draw figures from the world of Nature to illustrate the great acts of God in the world of his grace toward his people. But sometimes God oversteps nature. In nature after evening time there cometh night. The sun hath had its hours of journeying; the fiery steeds are weary; they must rest. Lo, they descend the azure steeps and plunge their burning fetlocks in the western sea, while night in her ebon chariot follows at their heels God, however, oversteps the rule of nature. He is pleased to send to his people times when the eye of reason expects to see no more day, but fears that the glorious landscape of God's mercies will be shrouded in the darkness of his forgetfulness. But instead thereof God overleapeth nature, and declares that at evening time instead of darkness there shall be light.

     It is now my business to illustrate this general rule by different particulars. I shall dwell most largely upon the last, that being the principal object of my sermon this morning.

     I. To begin, then, "At evening time it shall be light." The first illustration we take from the history of the church at large. The church at large has had many evening-times. If I might derive a figure to describe her history from anything in this lower world, I should describe her as being like a sea. At times the abundance of grace has been gloriously manifest. Wave upon wave has triumphantly rolled in upon the land, covering the mire of sin, and claiming the earth for the Lord of Hosts. So rapid has been its progress that its course could scarce be obstructed by the rocks of sin and vice. Complete conquest seemed to be foretold by the continual spread of the truth. The happy church thought that the day of her ultimate triumph had certainly arrived, so potent was her word by her ministers, so glorious was the Lord in the midst of her armies, that nothing could stand against her. She was "fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners." Heresies and schisms were swept away, false gods and idols lost their thrones; Jehovah Omnipotent was in the midst of his church, and he upon the white horse rode forth conquering and to conquer. Before long, however, if you read history, you find it always has happened that there came an ebb-tide. Again the stream of grace seemed to recede, the poor church was driven back either by persecution or by internal decay; instead of gaining upon man's corruptions it seemed as if man's corruptions gained on her; and where once there had been righteousness like the waves of the sea, there was the black mud and mire of the filthiness of mankind. Mournful tunes the church had to sing, when by the rivers of Babylon she sat down and wept, remembering her former glories, and weeping her present desolation. So has it always been—progressing, retrograding, standing still awhile, and then progressing once more, and falling back again. The whole history of the church has been a history of onward marches, and then of quick retreats—a history which I believe is, on the whole, a history of advance and growth, but which read chapter by chapter, is a mixture of success and repulse, conquest and discouragement. And so I think it will be even to the last. We shall have our sunrises, our meridian noon, and then the sinking in the west; we shall have out sweet dawnings of better days, our Reformations, our Luthers and our Calvins; we shall have our bright full noon-tide, when the gospel is fully preached, and the power of God is known; shall have our sunset of ecclesiastical weakness and decay. But just as sure as the evening-tide seems to be drawing over the church, "at evening time it shall be light." Mark well that truth all through the sacred history of the church. In the day when every lamp of prophesy seemed to have ceased, when he who once thundered in the streets of Rome was burned at the stake and strangled; when Savanarola had departed, and his followers had been put to confusion, and the black clouds of Popery seemed to have quenched the sunlight of God's love and grace upon the world; in those dark dim ages when the gospel seemed to have died out, no doubt Satan whispered in himself, "The church's sunset is now come." It is evening time with her. Only a few rays are struggling from the sun of righteousness to cheer the darkness. Satan thought, mayhap the world should lie for ever beneath the darkness of his dragon wing. But lo! at evening time it was light. God brought forth the solitary monk that shook the world; he raised up men to be his coadjutors and helpers; the sun rose in Germany; it shone in every land, nor have we ever had an even-tide so near to darkness since that auspicious time. Yet there have been other seasons of dark foreboding. There was a time when the church of England was sound asleep, when the various bodies of Dissenters were quite as bad, when religion degenerated into a dead formality, when no life and no power could be found in any pulpit throughout the land, but when an earnest man was so rare that he was almost a miracle. Good men stood over the ruins of our Zion, and said, "Alas, alas, for the slain of the daughter of my people! Where, where are the days of the mighty puritans who with the banner of the truth in their hand crushed a lie beneath their feet? O truth! thou hast departed; thou hast died." "No," says God, "it is evening time; and now it shall be light." There were six young men at Oxford who met together to pray those six young men were expelled for being too godly; they want abroad throughout our land, and the little leaven leavened the whole lump. Whitfield, Wesley, and their immediate successors flashed o'er the Land like lightning, in a dark night, making all men wonder whence they came and who they were; and working so great a work, that both in and out of the Establishment, the gospel came to be preached with power and vigor. At evening time God has always been pleased to send light to his church.

     We may expect to see darker evening times than have ever been beheld. Let us not imagine that our civilization shall be more enduring than any other that has gone before it, unless the Lord shall preserve it. It may be that the suggestion will be realized which has so often been laughed at as folly, that one day men should sit upon the broken arches of London Bridge, and marvel at the civilization that has departed, just as men walk over the mounds of Nimroud, and marvel at cities buried there. It is just possible that all the civilization of this country may die out in blackest night; it may be that God will repeat again the great story which has been so often told—"I looked, and lo, in the vision I saw a great and terrible beast, and it ruled the nations, but lo, it passed away and was not." But if ever such things should be—if the world ever should have to return to barbarism and darkness—if instead of what we sometimes hope for, a constant progress to the brightest day, all our hopes should be blasted, let us rest quite satisfied that "at evening time there shall be light," that the ends of the worlds history shall be an end of glory. However red with blood, however black with sin the world may yet be, she shall one day be as pure and perfect as when she was created. The day shall come when this poor planet shall find herself unrobed of those swaddling bands of darkness that have kept her luster from breaking forth. God shall yet cause his name to be known from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof,

 

"And the shouts of jubilee,

Loud as mighty thunders roar,

Or the fullness of the sea,

When it breaks upon the shore,

Shall yet be heard the wide World o'er."

 

     "At evening time it shall be light."

     II. This rule holds equally good in the little, as well as in the great. We know that in nature the very same law that rules the atom, governs also the starry orbs.

 

"The very law that molds a tear,

And bids it trickle from its source,

That law preserves the earth a sphere,

And guides the planets in their course."

 

     It is even so with the laws of grace. "At evening time it shall be light" to the church; "at evening time it shall be light" to every individual. Christian let us descend to lowly things. Thou hast had thy bright days in temporal matters: thou hast sometimes been greatly blessed: thou canst remember the day when the calf was in the stall, when the olive yielded its fruit, and the fig-tree did not deny its harvest; thou canst recollect the years when the barn was almost bursting with the corn, and when the vat overflowed with the oil; thou rememberest when the stream of thy life was deep, and thy ship floated softly on, without one disturbing billow of trouble to molest it. Thou saidst in those days, "I shall see no sorrow; God hath hedged me about; he hath preserved me; he hath kept me; I am the darling of his providence; I know that all things work together for my good, for I can see it is plainly so." Well, Christian, thou hast after that had a sunset; the sun which shone so brightly, began to cast his rays in a more oblique manner every moment, until at last the shadows were long, for the sun was setting, and the clouds began to gather; and though the light of God's countenance tinged those clouds with glory, yet it was waxing dark. Then troubles lowered o'er thee; thy family sickened, thy wife was dead, thy crops were meager, and thy daily income was diminished, thy cupboard was no more full, thou wast wondering for thy daily bread; thou didst not know what should become of thee, mayhap thou wast brought very low; the keel of thy vessel did grate upon the rocks; there was not enough of bounty to float thy ship above the rocks of poverty. "I sink in deep mire," thou saidst, "where there is no standing; all thy waves and thy billows have gone over me." What to do you could not tell; strive as you might, your strivings did but make you worse. "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it." You used both industry and economy, and you added "hereunto perseverance; but all in vain. It was in vain that you rose up early, and sat up late, and ate the bread of carefulness; nothing could you do to deliver yourself, for all attempts failed. You were ready to die in despair. You thought the night of your life had gathered with eternal blackness. You would not live always, but had rather depart from this vale of tears. Christian! bear witness to the truth of the maxim of the text! Was it not light with thee at evening time? The time of thine extremity was just the moment of Godly opportunity. When the tide had run out to its very furthest, then it began to turn; thine ebb had its flow; thy winter had its summer; thy sunset had its sunrise; "at evening time it was light." On a sudden by some strange work of God, as thou didst think it then, thou wast completely delivered. He brought out thy righteousness like the light, and thy glory as the noonday. The Lord appeared for thee in the days of old: he stretched out his hand from above; he drew thee out of deep waters; he set thee upon a rock and established thy goings. Mark, thou then, O heir of heaven! what hath been true to thee in the years that are past, shall be true to thee even till the last. Art thou this day exercised with woe, and care, and misery? Be of good cheer! In thine "evening time it shall be light." If God chooseth to prolong thy sorrow, he shall multiply thy patience; but the rather, it may be, he will bring thee into the deeps, and thence will he lead thee up again. Remember thy Saviour descended that he might ascend: so must thou also stoop to conquer; and if God bids thee stoop, should it be to the very lowest hell, remember, if he bade thee stoop, he will bring thee up again. Remember what Jonah said—"Out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest me." Oh! exclaim with him of old, who trusted his God when he had nothing else to trust: "Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation." Do thou so, and be blessed; for "at evening time it shall be light."

     III. But now we seek a third illustration from the spiritual sorrows of God's own people. Godly children have two kinds of trials, trials temporal and trials spiritual. I shall be brief on this point, and shall borrow an illustration from good John Bunyan. You remember John Bunyan's description of Apollyon meeting Christian. Bunyan tells it figuratively, but it is no figure: he that hath ever met Apollyon will tell you that there is no mistake about the matter, but that there is a dread reality in it. Our Christian met Apollyon when he was in the valley of humiliation, and the dragon did most fiercely beset him; with fiery darts he sought to destroy him, and take away his life. The brave Christian stood to him with all his might, and used his sword and shield right manfully, till his shield became studded with a forest of darts, and his hand did cleave unto his sword. You remember how for many an hour that man and that dragon fought together, till at last the dragon gave Christian a horrible fall, and down he went upon the ground; and woe worth the day! at the moment when he fell he dropped his sword! You have but to picture the scene: the dragon drawing up all his might, planting his foot upon Christians neck, and about to hurl the fiery dart into his heart. "Aha! I have thee now," saith he, "thou art in my power." Strange to say, "at evening time it was light." At the very moment when the dragon's foot was enough to crush the very life out of poor Christian, it is said, he did stretch out his hand; he grasped his sword, and giving a desperate thrust at the dragon, he cried, "Rejoice not over me, O mine enemy; for when I fall I shall arise again;" and so desperately did he cut the dragon that he spread his wings and flew away and Christian went on his journey rejoicing in his victory. Now, the Christian understands all that! it is no dream to him. He has been under the dragon's foot many a time. Ah! and all the world put on a man's heart at once is not equal in weight to one foot of the devil. When Satan once gets the upper hand of the spirit, he neither wants strength, nor will, nor malice, to torment it. Hard is that man's lot, that has fallen beneath the hoof of the evil one in his fight with him. But blessed be God, the child of God is ever safe, as safe beneath the dragon's foot as he shall be before the throne of God in heaven. "At evening time it shall be light." And let all the powers of earth and hell, and all the doubts and fears that the Christian ever knew, conspire together to molest a saint, in that darkest moment, lo, God shall arise and his enemies shall be scattered, and he shall get unto himself the victory. O for faith to believe that. O! for confidence in God never to doubt him, but in the darkest moment of our sorrows, still to feel all is well with us. "At evening time it shall be light."

     IV. Bear with me whilst I just hint at one more particular, and then I will come to that upon which I intend to dwell mainly at the last. To the sinner when coining to Christ this is also a truth. "At evening time it shall be light." Very often when I am sitting to see inquirers, persons have come to me to tell me the story of their spiritual history; and they tell me their little tale with an air of the greatest possible wonder, and ask me as soon as they have told it whether it is not extremely strange. "Do you know, sir, I used to be so happy in the things of the world, but conviction entered into my heart, and I began to seek the Saviour; and do you know that for a long time, sir, when I was seeking the Saviour I was so miserable that I could not bear myself? Surely sir, this is a strange thing." And when I have looked them in the face, and said, "No, it is not strange; do you know I have had a dozen to-night, and they have all told me the same; that is the way all God's people go to heaven," they have stared at me as if they did not think I would tell them an untruth, but as if they thought it the strangest thing in all the world that anybody else should have felt as they have felt. "Now, sit down," I say sometimes, "and I will tell you what were my feelings when I first sought the Saviour." "Why, sir," they say, "that is just how I felt; but I did not think any one ever went the same path that I have gone." Ah! well, it is no wonder that when we hold little acquaintance with each other in spiritual things our path should seem to be solitary; but he who knows much of the dealings of God with poor seeking sinners, will know that their experience is always very much alike, and you can generally tell one by another, while they are coming to Christ. Now, whenever the soul is truly seeking Christ it will have to seek him in the dark. When poor Lot ran out of Sodom, he had to run all the way in the twilight. The sun did not rise upon him until he got into Zoar. And so when sinners are running from their sins to the Saviour they have to run in the dark. They get no comfort and no peace, till they are enabled by simple faith to look for all to him who died upon the cross. I have in my presence this morning many poor souls under great distress. Poor heart! my text is a comfort to thee. "At evening time it shall be light." You had a little light once, the light of morality; you thought you could do something for yourself. That is all put out now. Then you had another light: you had the wax taper of ceremonies, and you thought full sure that it would light you; but that is all out now. Still you thought you could grope your way a little by the remaining twilight of your good works, but all that seems to have gone now. You think "God will utterly destroy such a wretch as I am! O sir! O sir!

 

'I the chief of sinners am.'"

 

     There never lived a wretch so vile; or if there ever lived such an one, surely God must have cast him into hell at once; I am certain there is no hope for me. Why, sir, do what I may, I cannot make myself any better. When I try to pray I find I can't pray as I should like; when I read the Bible it is all black against me; it is no use, when I go to the house of God the minister seems to be like Moses, only preaching the law to me—he never seems to have a word of comfort to my soul. Well, I am glad of it, poor heart, I am glad of it; far be it from me to rejoice in thy miseries as such, but I am glad thou art where thou art. I remember what the Countess of Huntingdon once said to Mr. Whitfield's brother. Mr. Whitfield's brother was under great distress of mind, and one day when sitting at tea, talking of spiritual things, he said, "Your ladyship, I know I am lost, I am certain I am!" Well, they talked to him, and they tried to rally him; but he persisted in it, that he was absolutely undone, that he was a lost man. Her ladyship clapped her hands, and said, "I am glad of it, Mr. Whitfield, I'm glad of it." He thought it was a cruel thing for her to say. He knew better when she explained herself by saying, "For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost; so then, he came to seek and to save you. Now, if there be any here who are lost, I can only say, I am glad of it too, for such the mighty Shepherd came to rescue. If there are any of you who feel that you are condemned by God's law, I thank God you are; for those who are condemned by the law in their consciences shall yet be pardoned by the gospel.

 

"Come, guilty souls, and flee away

To Christ, and heal your wounds;

This is the glorious gospel day,

Wherein free grace abounds."

 

     Nay, this very hour, when you have no day in your heart, when you think the evening time has come, and you must perish for ever—now is the time when God will reveal himself to you. Whilst thou hast a rag of thine own thou shalt never have Christ; whilst thou hast a farthing of thine own righteousness, thou shalt never have him; but when thou art nothing, Christ is thine; when thou hast nothing of thyself to trust to, Jesus Christ in the gospel is thy complete Saviour; he bids me tell thee he came to seek and to save such as thou art.

     V. And now I am about to close, dwelling rather more largely upon the last particular—"At evening time it shall be light." If our sun do not go down ere it be noon, we may all of us expect to have an evening time of life. Either we shall be taken from this world by death, or else, if God should spare us, ere long we shall get to the evening of life. In a few more years, the sere and yellow leaf will be the fit companion of every man and every woman. Is there anything melancholy in that? I think not. The time of old age, with all its infirmities, seems to me to be a time of peculiar blessedness and privilege to the Christian. To the worldly sinner, whose zest for pleasure has been removed by the debility of his powers and the decay of his strength, old age must be a season on tedium and pain; but to the veteran soldier of the cross, old age must assuredly be a time of great joy and blessedness. I was thinking the other evening, whilst riding in a delightful country, how like to evening time old age is. The sun of hot care has gone down; that sun which shone upon that early piety of ours, which had not much depth of root, and which scorched it so that it died—that sun which scorched our next true godliness, and often made it well nigh wither, and would have withered it had it not been planted by the rivers of water—that sun is now set. The good old man has no particular care now in all the world. He says to business, to the hum and noise and strife of the age in which he lives, "Thou art nought to me; to make my calling and election sure, to hold firmly this my confidence, and wait until my change comes, this is all my employment; with all your worldly pleasures and cares I have no connection." The toil of his life is all done, he has no more now to be sweating and toiling, as he had in his youth and manhood; his family have grown up, and are now no more dependent upon him; it may be, God has blessed him, and he has sufficient for the wants of his old age, or it may be that in some rustic alms-house he breathes out the last few years of his existence. How calm and quiet! Like the laborer, who, when he returns from the field at evening time casts himself upon his couch, so does the old man rest from his labors. And at evening time we gather into families, the fire is kindled, the curtains are drawn, and we sit around the family fire, to think no more of the things of the great rumbling world; and even so in old age, the family and not the world are the engrossing topic.

     Did you ever notice how venerable grandsires, when they write a letter, fill it full of intelligence concerning their children? "John is well," "Mary is ill," "all our family are in health." Very likely some business friend writes to say "Stocks are down," or, "the rate of interest is raised," but you never find that in any good old man's letters; he writes about his family, his lately married daughters, and all that. Just what we do at evening time; we only think of the family circle and forget the world. That is what the gray-headed old man does. He thinks of his children, and forgets all beside. Well, then, how sweet it is to think that for such an old man there is light in the darkness! "At evening time it shall be light." Dread not thy days of weariness, dread not thine hours of decay, O soldier of the cross; new lights shall burn when the old lights are quenched; new candles shall be lit when the lamps of life are dim. Fear not! The night of thy decay may be coming on, but "at evening time it shall be light." At evening time the Christian has many lights that he never had before; lit by the Holy Spirit and shining by his light. There is the light of bright experience. He can look back, and he can raise his Ebenezer, saying, "Hither, by thy help I've come." He can look back at his old Bible, the light of his youth, and he can say, "This promise has been proved to me, this covenant has been proved true. I have thumbed my Bible many a year; I have never yet thumbed a broken promise. The promises have all been kept to me; 'not one good thing has failed.'" And then, if he has served God he has another light to cheer him: he has the light of the remembrance of what good God has enabled him to do. Some of his spiritual children come in and talk of times when God blessed his conversation to their souls. He looks upon his children, and his children's children, rising up to call the Redeemer blessed; at evening time he has a light. But at the last the night comes in real earnest; he has lived long enough, and he must die. The old man is on his bed; the sun is going down, and he has no more light. "Throw up the windows, let me look for the last time into the open sky," says the old man. The sun has gone down; I cannot see the mountains yonder; they are all a mass of mist; my eyes are dim, and the world is dim too. Suddenly a light shoots across his face, and he cries, "O daughter! daughter, here! I can see another sun rising. Did you not tell me that the sun went down just now? Lo, I see another; and where those hills used to be in the landscape, those hills that were lost in the darkness, daughter, I can see hills that seem like burning brass; and methinks upon that summit I can see a city bright as jasper. Yes, and I see a gate opening, and spirits coming forth. What is that they say? O they sing! they sing! Is this death?" And ere he has asked the question, he hath gone where he needs not to answer it, for death is all unknown. Yes, he has passed the gates of pearl; his feet are on the streets of gold; his head is bedecked with a crown of immortality; the palm-branch of eternal victory is in his hand. God hath accepted him in the beloved.

 

"Far from the world of grief and sin,

With God eternally shut in,"

 

     he is numbered with the saints in light, and the promise is fulfilled, "At evening time it shall be light."

     And now, my gray-headed hearer, will it be so with thee? I remember the venerable Mr. Jay once in Cambridge, when preaching, reaching out his hand to an old man who sat just as some of you are sitting there, and saying, "I wonder whether those gray hairs are a crown of glory, or a fool's cap; they are one or else the other." For a man to be unconverted at the age to which some of you have attained is indeed to have a fool's cap made of gray hairs; but if you have a heart consecrated to Christ, to be his children now, with the full belief that you shall be his for ever, is to have a crown of glory upon your brows.

     And now, young men and maidens, we shall soon be old. In a little time our youthful frame shall totter; we shall need a staff by-and-by. Years are short things; they seem to us to get shorter, as each one of them runs o'er our head. My brother, thou art young as I am; say, hast thou a hope that thine even-tide shall be light? No, thou hast begun in drunkenness; and the drunkard's eventide is darkness made more dark, and after it damnation. No, young man; thou hast begun thy life with profanity, and the swearer's even-tide hath no light, except the lurid flame of hell. Beware thou of such an even-tide as that! No; thou hast begun in gayety; take care lest that which begins in gayety ends in eternal sadness. Would God ye had all begun with Christ! Would that ye would choose wisdom; for "her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace." Some religious men are miserable; but religion does not make them so. True religion is a happy thing. I never knew what the hearty laugh and what the happy face meant, till I knew Christ; but knowing him I trust I can live in this world like one who is not of it, but who is happy in it. Keeping my eye upward to the Saviour, I can say with David, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name." and bless him most of all for this, that I know how to bless him. Ah! and if ye in your prime, in the days of your youth, have been enabled by the Holy Spirit to consecrate yourselves to God, you will, when you come to the end, look back with some degree of sorrow upon your infirmities, but with a far greater degree of joy upon the grace which began with you in childhood, which preserved you in manhood, which matured you for your old age, and which at last gathered you like a shock of corn fully ripe into the garner. May the great God and Master bless these words to us each, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

CAUTION.

     A spurious and very incorrect edition of Mr. Spurgeon's Sermons having appeared, persons regularly purchasing the "New Park Street Pulpit" are cautioned against purchasing any Sermons without the heading "New Park Street Pulpit," which is the only authorized edition.



The True Christian’s Blessedness

By / Oct 18

The True Christian's Blessedness

 

"We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."—Romans 8:28

 

     I. WE have here the description of a true Christian, and a declaration of that Christian's blessedness. We have him first very succinctly, but very fully described in these words—"Them that love God, them who are the called according to his purpose." These two expressions are the great distinguishing marks whereby we are able to separate the precious from the vile, by discovering to us who are the children of God.

     The first contains an outward manifestation of the second—"Them that love God." Now, there are many things in which the worldly and the godly do agree, but on this point there IS a vital difference. No ungodly man loves God—at least not in the Bible sense of the term. An unconverted man may love a God, as, for instance, the God of nature, and the God of the imagination; but the God of revelation no man can love, unless grace has been poured into his heart, to turn him from that natural enmity of the heart towards God, in which all of us are born. And there may be many differences between godly men, as there undoubtedly are; they may belong to different sects, they may hold very opposite opinions, but all godly men agree in this, that they love God. Whosoever loveth God, without doubt, is a Christian; and whosoever loveth him not, however high may be his pretensions, however boastful his professions, hath not seen God, neither known him for "God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him." True believers love God as their Father; they have "the spirit of adoption, whereby they cry Abba, Father." They love him as their King, they are willing to obey him, to walk in his commands is their delight; no path is so soft to their feet as the path of God's precepts, the way of obedience thereunto. They love God also as their Portion, for in him they live and move and have their being; God is their all, without him they have nothing, but possessing him, however little they may have of outward good, they feel that they are rich to all the intents of bliss. They love God as their future Inheritance, they believe that when days and years are past they shall enter into the bosom of God; and their highest joy and delight is the full conviction and belief, that one day they shall dwell for ever near his throne, be hidden in the brightness of his glory, and enjoy his everlasting favor. Dost thou love God, not with lip-language, but with heart-service? Dost thou love to pay him homage? Dost thou love to hold communion with him? Dost thou frequent his mercy-seat? Dost thou abide in his commandments, and desire to be conformed unto his Image? If so, then the sweet things which we shall have to say this morning are thine. But if thou art no lover of God, but a stranger to him, I beseech thee do not pilfer to-day and steal a comfort that was not intended for thee. "All things work together for good," but not to all men; they only work together for the good of "them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."

     Note the second phrase, which contains also a description of the Christian—"the called according to his purpose." However much the Arminian may try to fritter away the meaning of this 8th chapter of the Romans we are obliged as long as we use terms and words to say, that the 8th chapter of the Romans and the 9th, are the very pillars of that Gospel which men now call Calvinism. No man after having read these chapters attentively, and having understood them, can deny that the doctrines of sovereign, distinguishing grace, are the sum and substance of the teaching of the Bible. I do not believe that the Bible is to be understood except by receiving these doctrines as true. The apostle says that those who love God are "the called according to his purpose" by which he means to say two things—first, that all who love God love him because he called them to love him. He called them, mark you. All men are called by the ministry, by the Word, by daily providence, to love God, there is a common call always given to men to come to Christ, the great bell of the gospel rings a universal welcome to every living soul that breathes; but alas! though that bell hath the very sound of heaven, and though all men do in a measure hear it, for "their line is gone out into all the earth and their Word unto the end of the world" yet there was never an instance of any man having been brought to God simply by that sound. All these things are insufficient for the salvation of any man; there must be superadded the special call, the call which man cannot resist, the call of efficacious grace, working in us to will and to do of God's good pleasure. Now, all them that love God love him because they have had a special, irresistible, supernatural call. Ask them whether they would have loved God if left to themselves, and to a man, whatever their doctrines, they will confess—

 

"Grace taught my soul to pray,

Grace made my eyes o'erflow,

'Tis grace that kept me to this day

And will not let me go."

 

I never heard a Christian yet who said that he came to God of himself, left to his own free-will. Free-will may look very pretty in theory, but I never yet met any one who found it work well in practice. We all confess that if we are brought to the marriage-banquet—

 

"'Twas the same love that spread the feast

That gently forced us in

Else we had still refused to taste,

And perished in our sin."

 

Many men cavil at election; the very word with some is a great bug ear; they no sooner hear it than they turn upon their heel indignantly. But this know, O man, whatever thou sayest of this doctrine, it is a stone upon which, if any man fall, he shall suffer loss, but if it fall upon him it shall grind him to powder. Not all the sophisms of the learned, nor all the legerdemain of the cunning, will ever be able to sweep the doctrine of election out of Holy Scripture. Let any man hear and judge. Hearken ye to this passage in the 9th of Romans! "For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand not of works, but of him that calleth; It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid! For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy." "Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? for who hath resisted his will? 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 honor, and another unto dishonor! What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering 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. Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles." These are God's words; if any man doth cavil at them, let him cavil; he rejecteth the testimony of God against himself. If I promulgated the doctrine on my own authority, I could not blame you if you should turn against me, and reject it; but when, on the authority of Holy Scripture, I propound it, God forbid that any man should quarrel therewith.

     I have affirmed, and I am sure most Christians will bear witness, that what I said was the truth, that if any man loveth God he loves him because God gave him grace to love him. Now, suppose I should put the following question to any converted man in this hall. Side by side with you there sits an ungodly person; you two have been brought up together, you have lived in the same house, you have enjoyed the same means of grace, you are converted, he is not; will you please to tell me what has made the difference? Without a solitary exception the answer would be this—"If I am a Christian and he is not, unto God be the honor." Do you suppose for a moment that there is any injustice in God in having given you grace which he did not give to another? I suppose you say, "Injustice, no; God has a right to do as he wills with his own; I could not claim grace, nor could my companions, God chose to give it to me, the other has rejected grace wilfully to his own fault, and I should have done the same, but that he gave 'more grace,' whereby my will was constrained." Now, sir, if it is not wrong for God to do the thing, how can it be wrong for God to purpose to do the thing? and what is election, but God's purpose to do what he does do? It is a fact which any man must be a fool who would dare to deny that God does give to one man more grace shall to another; we cannot account for the salvation of one and the non-salvation of another but by believing, that God has worked more effectually in one man's heart than another's—unless you choose to give the honor to man, and say it consists in one man's being better than another, and if so I will have no argument with you, because you do not know the gospel at all, or you would know that salvation is not of works but of grace. If, then, you give the honor to God, you are bound to confess that God has done more for the man that is saved than for the man that is not saved. How, then, can election be unjust, if its effect is not unjust? However, just or unjust as man may choose to think it, God has done it, and the fact stands in man's face, let him reject it as he pleases. God's people are known by their outward mark: they love God, and the secret cause of their loving God is this—God chose them from before the foundation of the world that they should love him, and he sent forth the call of his grace, so that they were called according to his purpose, and were led by grace to love and to fear him. If that is not the meaning of the text I do not understand the English language. "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."

     Now, my hearers, before I proceed to enter into the text, let the question go round. Do I love God? Have I any reason to believe that I have been called according to his purpose? Have I been born again from above? Has the Spirit operated in my heart in a manner to which flesh and blood never can attain? Have I passed from death unto life by the quickening agency of the Holy Ghost? If I have, then God purposed that I should do so, and the whole of this great promise is mine.

     II. We shall take the words one by one, and try to explain them.

     1. Let us begin with the word "work." "We know that all things work." Look around, above, beneath, and all things work. They work, in opposition to idleness. The idle man that folds his arms or lies upon the bed of sloth is an exception to God's rule; for except himself all things work. There is not a star though it seemeth to sleep in the deep blue firmament, which doth not travel its myriads of miles and work; there is not an ocean, or a river, which is not ever working, either clapping its thousand hands with storms, or bearing on its bosom the freight of nations. There is not a silent nook within the deepest forest glade where work is not going on. Nothing is idle. The world is a great machine, but it is never standing still: silently all through the watches of the night, and through the hours of day, the earth revolveth on its axis, and works out its predestinated course. Silently the forest groweth, anon it is felled; but all the while between its growing and felling it is at work. Everywhere the earth works; mountains work: nature in its inmost bowels is at work; even the center of the great heart of the world is ever beating; sometimes we discover its working in the volcano and the earthquake, but even when most still all things are ever working.

     They are ever working too, in opposition to the word play. Not only are they ceaselessly active, but they are active for a purpose. We are apt to think that the motion of the world and the different evolutions of the stars are but like the turning round of a child's windmill; they produce nothing. That old preacher Solomon once said as much as that. He said—"The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose. The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits." But Solomon did not add, that things are not what they seem. The world is not at play; it hath an object in its wildest movement. Avalanche, hurricane, earthquake, are but order in an unusual form; destruction and death are but progress in veiled attire. Everything that is and is done, worketh out some great end and purpose. The great machine of this world is not only in motion, but there is something weaving in it, which as yet mortal eye hath not fully seen, which our text hinteth at when it says, It is working out good for God's people.

     And once again, all things work in opposition to Sabbath. We morally speak of work, especially on this day, as being the opposite of sacred rest and worship. Now, at the present moment all things work. Since the day when Adam fell all things have had to toil and labor. Before Adam's fall the world kept high and perpetual holiday; but now the world has come to its work-days, now it hath to toil. When Adam was in the garden the world had its Sabbath: and it shall never have another Sabbath till the Millennium shall dawn, and then when all things have ceased to work, and the kingdoms shall be given up to God, even the Father, then shall the world have her Sabbath, and shall rest; but at present all things do work.

     Dear brethren, let us not wonder if we have to work too. If we have to toil, let us remember, this is the world's week of toil. The 6,000 years of continual labor, and toil, and travail, have happened not to us alone, but to the whole of God's great universe; the whole world is groaning, and travailing. Let us not be backward in doing our work. If all things are working, let us work too—"work while it is called to-day, for the night cometh when no man can work." And let the idle and slothful remember that they are a great anomaly; they are blots in the great work-writing of God; they mean nothing; in all the book of letters with which God has written out the great word "work," they are nothing at all. But let the man that worketh, though it be with the sweat of his brow and with aching hands, remember that he, if he is seeking to bless the Lord's people, is in sympathy with all things—not only in sympathy with their work, but in sympathy with their aim.

     2. Now, the next word, "All things work together." That is in opposition to their apparent confliction. Looking upon the world with the mere eye of sense and reason, we say, "Yes, all things work, but they work contrary to one another. There are opposite currents; the wind bloweth to the north and to the south. The world's barque, it is true, is always tossed with waves, but these waves toss her first to the right and then to the left; they do not steadily bear her onward to her desired haven. It is true the world is always active, but it is with the activity of the battle-field, wherein hosts encounter hosts and the weaker are overcome." Be not deceived; it is not so; things are not what they seem; "all things work together." There is no opposition in God's providence; the raven wing of war is co-worker with the dove of peace. The tempest strives not with the peaceful calm—they are linked together and work together, although they seem to be in opposition. Look at our history. How many an event has seemed to be conflicting in its day, that has worked out good for us? The strifes of barons and kings for mastery might have been thought to be likely to tread out the last spark of British liberty; but they did rather kindle the pile. The various rebellions of nations, the heavings of society, the strife of anarchy, the tumults of war—all, all these things, overruled by God, have but made the chariot of the church progress more mightily; they have not failed of their predestinated purpose—"good for the people of God." I know my brethren, it is very hard for you to believe this. "What!" say you? "I have been sick for many a day, and wife and children, dependent on my daily labor, are crying for food: will this work together for my good?" So saith the word, my brother, and so shalt thou find it ere long. "I have been in trade," says another, "and this commercial pressure has brought me exceedingly low, and distressed me: is it for my good?" My brother, thou art a Christian. I know thou dost not seriously ask the question, for thou knowest the answer of it. He who said, "all things work together," will soon prove to you that there is a harmony in the most discordant parts of your life. You shall find, when your biography is written, that the black page did but harmonize with the bright one—that the dark and cloudy day was but a glorious foil to set forth the brighter noon-tide of your joy. "All things work together." There is never a clash in the world: men think so, but it never is so. The charioteers of the Roman circus might with much cleverness and art, with glowing wheels, avoid each other; but God, with skill infinitely consummate, guides the fiery coursers of man's passion, yokes the storm, bits the tempest, and keeping each clear of the other from seeming evil still enduceth good, and better still; and better still in infinite progression.

     We must understand the word "together," also in another sense. "All things work together for good:" that is to say, none of them work separately. I remember an old divine using a very pithy and homely metaphor, which I shall borrow to-day. Said he, "All things work together for good; but perhaps, any one of those 'all things' might destroy us if taken alone. The physician," says he, "prescribes medicine; you go to the chemist, and he makes it up; there is something taken from this drawer, something from that phial, something from that shelf: any one of those ingredients, it is very possible, would be a deadly poison, and kill you outright, if you should take it separately, but he puts one into the mortar, and then another, and then another, and when he has worked them all up with his pestle, and has made a compound, he gives them all to you as a whole, and together they work for your good, but any one of the ingredients might either have operated fatally, or in a manner detrimental to your health." Learn, then, that it is wrong to ask, concerning any particular act of providence; is this for my good? Remember, it is not the one thing alone that is for your good; it is the one thing put with another thing, and that with a third, and that with a fourth, and all these mixed together, that work for your good. Your being sick very probably might not be for your good only God has something to follow your sickness, some blessed deliverance to follow your poverty, and he knows that when he has mixed the different experiences of your life together, they shall produce good for your soul and eternal good for your spirit. We know right well that there are many things that happen to us in our lives that would be the ruin of us if we were always to continue in the same condition. Too much joy would intoxicate us, too much misery would drive us to despair: but the joy and the misery, the battle and the victory, the storm and the calm, all these compounded make that sacred elixir whereby God maketh all his people perfect through suffering, and leadeth them to ultimate happiness. "All things work together for good."

     3. Now we must take the next words. "All things work together for good." Upon these two words the meaning of my text will hinge. There are different senses to the word "good." There is the worldling's sense: "Who will show us any good?"—by which he means transient good, the good of the moment. "Who wilt put honey into my mouth? Who will feed my belly with hid treasures? Who will garnish my back with purple and make my table groan with plenty?" That is "good,"—the vat bursting with wine, the barn full of corn! Now God has never promised that "all things shall work together" for such good as that to his people. Very likely all things will work together in a clean contrary way to that. Expect not, O Christian, that all things will work together to make thee rich; it is just possible they may all work to make thee poor. It may be that all the different providences that shall happen to thee will come wave upon wave, washing thy fortune upon the rocks, till it shall be wrecked, and then waves shall break o'er thee, till in that poor boat, the humble remnant of thy fortune thou shalt be out on the wide sea, with none to help thee but God the Omnipotent. Expect not, then, that all things shall work together as for thy good.

     The Christian understands the word "good" in another sense. By "good," he understands spiritual good. "Ah!" saith he, "I do not call gold good, but I call faith good! I do not think it always for my good to increase in treasure, but I know it is good to grow in grace. I do not know that it is for my good that I should be respectable and walk in good society; but I know that it is for my good that I should walk humbly with my God. I do not know that it is for my good that my children should be about me, like olive branches round my table, but I know that it is for my good that I should flourish in the courts of my God, and that I should be the means of winning souls from going down into the pit. I am not certain that it is altogether for my good to have kind and generous friends, with whom I may hold fellowship; but I know that it is for my good that I should hold fellowship with Christ, that I should have communion with him, even though it should be in his sufferings. I know it is good for me that my faith, my love, my every grace should grow and increase, and that I should be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ my blessed Lord and Master." Well, Christian, thou hast got upon the meaning of the text, then. "All things work together," for that kind of good to God's people. "Well!" says one, "I don't think anything of that, then." No, perhaps thou dost not; it is not very likely swine should ever lift their heads from their troughs to think aught of stars. I do not much wonder that thou shouldst despise spiritual good, for thou art yet "in the gall of bitterness and the bonds of iniquity;" a stranger to spiritual things, and let thy despising of spiritual things teach thee that thou art not spiritual, and therefore thou canst not understand the spiritual, because it must be spiritually discerned. To the Christian, however, the highest good he can receive on earth is to grow in grace. "There!" he says, "I had rather be a bankrupt in business than I would be a bankrupt in grace; let my fortune be decreased—better that, than that I should backslide; there! let thy waves and thy billows roll over me—better an ocean of trouble than a drop of sin, I would rather have thy rod a thousand times upon my shoulders, O my God, than I would once put out my hand to touch that which is forbidden, or allow my foot to run in the way of gainsayers." The highest good a Christian has here is good spiritual.

     And we may add, the text also means good eternal, lasting good. All things work together for a Christian's lasting good. They all work to bring him to Paradise—all work to bring him to the Saviour's feet. "So he bringeth them to their desired haven," said the Psalmist—by storm and tempest, flood and hurricane. All the troubles of a Christian do but wash him nearer heaven; the rough winds do but hurry his passage across the straits of this life to the port of eternal peace. All things work together for the Christian's eternal and spiritual good.

     And yet I must say here, that sometimes all things work together for the Christian's temporal good. You know the story of old Jacob. "Joseph is not, Simeon is not, and now ye will take Benjamin away; all these things are against me," said the old Patriarch. But if he could have read God's secrets, he might have found that Simeon was not lost, for he was retained as a hostage—that Joseph was not lost but gone before to smooth the passage of his grey hairs into the grave, and that even Benjamin was to be taken away by Joseph in love to his brother. So that what seemed to be against him, even in temporal matters, was for him. You may have heard also the story of that eminent martyr who was wont always to say, "All things work together for good." When he was seized by the officers of Queen Mary, to be taken to the stake to be burned, he was treated so roughly on the road that he broke his leg; and they jeeringly said, "All things work together for good, do they? How will your broken leg work for your good?" "I don't know," said he, "how it will, but for my good I know it will work, and you shall see it so." Strange to say, it proved true that it was for his good; for being delayed a day or so on the road through his lameness, he just arrived in London in time enough to hear that Elizabeth was proclaimed queen, and so he escaped the stake by his broken leg. He turned round upon the men who carried him, as they thought, to his death, and said to them, "Now will you believe that all things work together for God?" So that though I said the drift of the text was spiritual good, yet sometimes in the main current there may be carried some rich and rare temporal benefits for God's children as well as the richer spiritual blessings.

     4. I am treating the text as you see, verbally. And now I must return to the word "work"—to notice the tense of it. "All things work together for good." It does not say that they shall work, or that they have worked; both of these are implied, but it says that they do work now. All things at this present moment are working together for the believer's good. I find it extremely easy to believe that all things have worked together for my good. I can look back at the past, and wonder at all the way whereby the Lord hath led me. If ever there lived a man who has reason to be grateful to Almighty God, I think I am that man. I can see black storms that have lowered o'er my head, and torrents of opposition that have run across my path, but I can thank God for every incident that ever occurred to me from my cradle up to now, and do not desire a better pilot for the rest of my days, than he who has steered me from obscurity and scorn, to this place to preach his word and feed this great congregation. And I doubt not that each of you, in looking back upon your past experience as Christians, could say very much the same. Through many troubles you have passed, but you can say, they have all been for your good. And somehow or other you have an equal faith for the future. You believe that all things will in the end work for your good. The pinch of faith always lies in the present tense. I can always believe the past, and always believe the future, but the present, the present, the present, that is what staggers faith. Now, please to notice that my text is in the present tense. "All things work," at this very instant and second of time. However troubled, downcast, depressed, and despairing, the Christian may be, all things are working now for his good; and though like Jonah he is brought to the bottom of the mountains, and he thinks the earth with her bars is about him for ever, and the weeds of despair are wrapped about his head, even in the uttermost depths all things are now working for his good. Here, I say again, is the pinch of faith. As an old countryman once said to me, from whom I gained many a pithy saying—"Ah! sir, I could always do wonders when there were no wonders to do. I feel, sir, that I could believe God; but then at the time I feel so there is not much to believe." And he just paraphrased it in his own dialect like this—"My arm is always strong, and my sickle always sharp, when there is no harvest, and I think I could mow many an acre when there is no grass; but when the harvest is on I am weak, and when the grass groweth then my scythe is blunt." Have not you found it so too? You think you can do wondrous things; you say,

 

"Should earth against my soul engage,

And hellish darts be hurled,

Now I can smile at Satan's rage,

And face a frowning world."

 

And now a little capful of wind blows on you and the tears run down your cheeks, and you say, "Lord, let me die; I am no better than my fathers." You, that were going to thrash mountains, find that molehills cast you down.

     It behoveth each of us, then, to comfort and establish our hearts upon this word "work." "All things work." Merchant; though you have been sore pressed this week, and it is highly probable that next week will be worse still for you, believe that all things even then are working for your good. It will cost you many a pang to keep that confidence; but oh! for thy Master's honor, and for thine own comfort, retain that consolation. Should thine house of business threaten to tumble about thine ears so long as thou hast acted honourably, still bear thy cross. It shall work, it is working for thy good. This week, mother, thou mayest see thy first-born carried to the tomb. That bereavement is working for thy good. O man, within a few days, he that hath eaten bread with thee may lift up his heel against thee. It shall work for thy good. O thou that art high in spirits to-day, thou with the flashing eye and joyous countenance, ere the sun doth set some evil shall befal thee, and thou shalt be sad. Believe then that all things work together for thy good; if thou lovest God, and art called according to his purpose.

     5. And now we close by noticing the confidence with which the apostle speaks. "A fiction!" says one; "a pleasant fiction, sir!" "Sentimentalism!" says another; "a mere poetic sentimentalism." "Ah!" cries a third; "a downright lie." "No," says another, "there is some truth in it, certainly; men do get bettered by their afflictions, but it is a truth that is not valuable to me, for I do not realize the good that these things bring." Gentlemen, the apostle Paul was well aware of your objections; and therefore mark how confidently he asserts the doctrine. He does not say, "I am persuaded;" he does not say, "I believe;" but with unblushing confidence he appears before you and says, "We" (I have many witnesses) we know that all things work together." What Paul are you at? So strange and startling a doctrine as this asserted with such dogmatic impudence? What can you be at? Hear his reply! "'We know;' In the mouth of two or three witnesses it shall all be established; but I have tens of thousands of witnesses." "We know," and the apostle lifts his hand to where the white-robed hosts are praising God for ever.—"These," says he, "passed through great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb: ask them!" And with united breath they reply, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God." Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Daniel, all the mighty ones that have gone before, tell out the tale of their history, write their autobiography, and they say, "We!" It is proven to a demonstration in our own lives; it is a fact which runs like a golden clue through all the labyrinth of our history—"All things work together for good to them that love God." "We," says the apostle again—and he puts his hand upon his poor distressed brethren—he looks at his companions in the prisonhouse at Rome; he looks at that humble band of teachers in Rome, in Philippi, in all the different parts of Asia, and he says, "We!" "We know it. It is not with us a matter of doubt; we have tried it, we have proved it. Not only does faith believe it, but our own history convinces us of the truth of it." I might appeal to scores and hundreds here, and I might say, brethren, you with grey heads, rise up and speak. Is this true or not? I see the reverend man rise, leaning on his staff, and with the tears "uttering his old cheeks, he says, "Young man it is true, I have proved it; even down to grey hairs I have proved it; he made, and he will carry; he will not desert his own!" Veteran! you have had many troubles, have you not? He replies, "Youth! troubles? I have had many troubles that thou reckest not of, I have buried all my kindred, and I am like the last oak of the forest, all my friends have been felled by death long ago. Yet I have been upheld till now, who could hold me up but my God!" Ask him whether God has been once untrue to him and he will say, "No; not one good thing hath failed of all that the Lord God hath promised; all hath come to pass!" Brethren, we can confidently say, then, hearing such a testimony as that, "We know that all things work." Besides, there are you of middle age, and even those of us who are young: the winter has not spared our branches, nor the lightnings ceased to scathe our trunk; yet here we stand; preserved by conquering grace. Hallelujah to the grace that makes all things work together for good!

     O my hearer, art thou a believer in Christ? If not, I beseech thee, stop and consider! Pause and think of thy state; and if thou knowest thine own sinfulness this day, believe on Christ, who came to save sinners, and that done, all things shall work for thee, the tumbling avalanche, the rumbling earthquake the tottering pillars of heaven, all, when they fall or shake, shall not hurt thee, they shall still work out thy good. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and be baptized, and thou shalt be saved," for so runneth the gospel. The Lord bless you! Amen.



Instability

By / Oct 11

Instability

 

"Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel."—Genesis 49:4

 

     Perfect stability has ceased from the world since the day when Adam fell. He was stable enough when in the garden he was obedient to his Master's will, but when he ate of the forbidden fruit he did not only slide himself, but he shook the standing places of all his posterity. Perfect stability belongs alone to God he alone, of all beings, is without variableness or shadow of a turning. He is immutable; he will not change. He is all-wise; he need not change. He is perfect; he cannot change. But men, the best of them are mutable, and therefore to a degree, they are unstable, and do not excel. Yet it is remarkable that, although man has lost perfect stability, he has not lost the admiration of it. Perhaps there is no virtue, or, rather, no compound of virtues, which the world more esteems than stability of mind. You will find that, although men have often misplaced their praise, and have called those great who were not great, morally, but were far below the level of morality, yet they have scarcely ever called a man great who has not been consistent, who has not had strength of mind enough to be stable in his principles. I know not how it is, but so it is, whenever a man is firm and consistent, we always admire him for it. Though we feel certain that he is wrong, yet his consistency in his wrong still excites our admiration. We have known men whom we have thought to be insane, they have conceived a design so ridiculous that we could only laugh at them, and despise their idea; but they have stuck to it, and we have said, "Well, there is nothing like a man standing to a thing," and we have admired even the senseless, brainless idiot, as we have thought him, when we have seen him pertinaciously insisting that his idea would at last triumph, and persevering in futile endeavors to realize his wish. The weathercock man is never admired, as a politician or as anything else he will never succeed; he must be one thing or another, or the world will never respect him.

     Now, my brethren, if it be so in earthly things, it is so also in spiritual. Instability in religion is a thing which every man despises, although every man has, to a degree, the evil in himself, but stability in the firm profession and practice of godliness, will always win respect, even from the worldly, and certainly will not be forgotten by him whose smile is honor and whose praise is glory, even the great Lord and Master, before whom we stand or fall. I have many characters here to-day whom I desire to address in the words of my text. "Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel." I propose, first, briefly to notice, the common and unavoidable instabilities, which necessarily attach themselves to the best of Christians. I shall then note the character of a Christian who is noted for glaring instability, but who, notwithstanding, has sufficient of godliness to bid us hope that he is a child of God, I shall then have to do with the mere professor, who is "unstable as water," and cannot excel in any way whatever; and then I must deal with the unstable sinner who, in any pretensions he may ever make to better feelings, is always like the early cloud and the morning dew.

     I. First, then, to ALL Christians, permit me to address myself. Our father Adam, spoilt us all; and, although the second Adam has renewed us, he has not yet removed from us the infirmities, which the first Adam left us as a mournful legacy. We are none of us stable as we should be. We had a notion when we were first converted, that we should never know a change; our soul was so full of love that we could not imagine it possible we should ever flag in our devotion; our faith was so strong in our Incarnate Master, that we smiled at older Christians who talked of doubts and fears; our faces were so stedfastly set Zionward that we never imagined Bye-path Meadow would ever be trodden by our feet. We felt sure that our course would certainly be "like the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day." But, my brethren, have we found it so? Have we not this day to lament that we have been very changeable and inconstant, even unstable as water? How unstable have we been in our frames? To-day we have climbed the top of Pisgah, and have viewed the heavenly landscape over by the eye of faith; to-morrow we have been plunged in the dungeon of despair, and could not call a grain of hope our own; to-day we have feasted at the banquetting table of communion; to-morrow we have been exclaiming, "Oh! that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even unto his feet." At night I have said, "I will not let thee go except thou bless me," to-morrow has beheld my grasp loosened, and prayer neglected until God has said "I will return unto my rest, until thou hast acknowledged thy transgressions, which thou hast committed against me." High frames one day, low frames the next. We have had more changes than even this variable climate of ours. It is a great mercy for us that frames and slings are not always the index of our security, for we are as safe when we are mourning as we are when we are singing; but verily, if our true state before God had changed as often as our experience of his presence, we must have been cast into the bottomless pit years ago.

     And how variable have we been in our faith! In the midst of one trouble we have declared, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him;" We have courted the jeer, we have laughed at the scorn of the world, and have stood like rocks in the midst of foaming billows, when all men were against us; another week has seen us flying away, after denying our Master, because, like Peter, we were afraid of some little maid, or of our own shadow. After coming out of a great trouble, we have resolutely declared "I can never doubt God again," but the next cloud that has swept the sky, has darkened all our faith. We have been variable in our faith.

     And have you not also, at times, my friends, felt variable in your love? Sweet Master, King of heaven, fairest of a thousand fairs! my heart is knit to thee—my soul melteth at the mention of thy name; my heart bubbleth up with a good matter, when I speak of the things which I have made touching the King.

 

The strings that bind around my heart,

Tortures and racks may tear them off;

But they can never, never part,

The hold I have of Christ, my love."

 

Sure, I could die for thee, and think it better than to live, if so I might honor thee. This is the sweet manner of our spirit when our love is burning and fervent: but anon we neglect the fire, it becomes dim, and we have to rake among the ashes even for a spark, crying,

 

"'Tis a point I long to know,

Oft it causes anxious thought,

Do I love the Lord or no?

Am I his, or am I not?"

 

How unstable we are! At one time we are quite certain we are the Lord's; though an angel from heaven should deny our election, or our adoption, we would reply that we have the witness of the Spirit that we are born of God, but perhaps within two minutes we shall not be able to say that we ever had one spiritual feeling. We shall perhaps think that we never repented aright, never fled to Christ aright, and did never believe to the saving of the soul. Oh! it is no wonder that we do not excel, when we are such unstable creatures. Alas! my brethren I might enlarge on the inconsistencies of the mass of Christians. How unfaithful we have been to our dedication vows! how negligent of close communion! How unlike we have been to holy Enoch! how much more like Peter, when he followed afar off! I might tell how one day, like the mariner, we mounted up to heaven, and how the next moment we have gone to the lowest depths when the waves of God's grace have ceased to lift us up. I wonder at David, at Jacob, and at every instance we have in Scripture of excellent men. Marvel! O ye angels, that God should ever make such bright stars out of such black blots as we are. How can it ever be that man, so fickle, so inconstant, should nevertheless be a pillar in the house of his God, and should be made to stand "steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord!" How is it, O our God, that thou couldst have steered a vessel so safely to its port which was so easily driven by every wind and carried away by every wave! He is a good marksman who can shoot so crooked an arrow straight to its target. Marvel not that we do not excel—marvel that we do excel in anything unstable as we are.

     II. And now leaving these general remarks I have to single out a certain class of persons. I believe them to be TRUE CHRISTIANS but they are Christians of a singular sort. I would not be so harsh as to condemn them, though I must certainly condemn the error with which I am about to find fault. I doubt not that they have been converted in a genuine manner, but still they are often a mystery to me, and I should think they are a mystery to themselves. How many Christians have we in our churches that are unstable as water! I suppose they were born so. They are just as unstable in business as they are in religion; they open a grocer's shop, and shut it in three months, and turn drapers, and when they have been drapers long enough to become almost bankrupts, they leave that and try something else. When they were boys they could never play a game through, they must always be having something fresh, and now they are just as childish as when they were children. Look at them in doctrine: you never know where to find them. You meet them one day, and they are very full of some super-lapsarian doctrine, they have been to some strong Calvinist place, and nothing will suit them except the very highest doctrine and that must be spiced with a little of the gall of bitterness, or they cannot think it is the genuine thing. Very likely next week they will be Arminians; they will give up all idea of a fixed fate, and talk of free-will, and man's responsibility like the most earnest Primitive Methodist. Then they steer another way. "Nothing is right but the Church of England. Is it not established by law? Ought not every Christian to go to his parish church?" Ah! ah! Let them alone, they will be at the most gross schismatical shop in the metropolis before long. Or if they do not change their denomination they are always changing their minister. A new minister starts up; there is no one, since the apostles, like him; they take a seat and join the church; he is everything to them. In three months they have done with him, another minister rises up some distance off, and these people are not particular how far they walk; so they go to hear him. He is the great man of the age; he will see every man's candle out, and his will burn on. But a little trouble comes on the church, and they leave him. They have no attachment to anything; they are merely feathers in the wind or corks on the wave. They hear a sermon preached, and they say, "I think it did me good" but they do not venture to be sure till they speak to some great man who is a member of the church, and he says "Oh! there was nothing in it." "Ah! just so," they say, and cannot make up their minds whether it was a good sermon or not. They are unstable; they could easily be talked into anything or out of anything, they never had any brains in their head, I suppose, or if they ever had any they gave them to somebody else to muddle as he liked. They believe the last man they hear, and are easily guided and led by him.

     Now, if the matter ended there it would not be so bad; but these poor people are just the same with regard to any religious enterprise they take in hand. There is a Sunday-school, they are enchanted with the thought. What a lovely thing it must be to sit on a form and try to teach half-a-dozen boys the way to heaven. They go to the Sunday-school and are alarmed the very first day, when they hear all the boys talking louder than the teachers. After about ten minutes they think it is not quite so nice as they thought. Perhaps they think it is that particular school they do not like, and they try another, and at last they give up all Sunday-school teaching, and make up their minds that it is not a good thing, at least not for them. Then there is a Ragged-school. What a divine enterprise! They will be Ragged-school teachers, and off they go with their hearts full of fire, and their eyes full of tears over these poor ragged-school children they are going to teach. Ah! how soon is their zeal withered and all their glory departed! Hear them talk about Ragged-schools a month afterwards: they shake their heads and say it is a very arduous enterprise. They do not think they had a call to it, they will try something else, and so they keep on to the end of the chapter, they are "everything by turns, and nothing long." There are some brethren in the ministry very much of the same sort. They never preach in one pulpit long, (though some say they preach there too long, for they ought never to have preached there at all) but I sometimes think that if they had had a little more courage, and bore a little more of the brunt of the battle, they might have done good to some of the villages where they were placed. But they are unstable as water, and everybody sees that they cannot excel. The same instability men will carry out in their friendships; they meet a person one day, and are as friendly as possible with him; they meet him the next day, he does not know what he has done to offend them, but they turn their head another way. And some carry their instability a little farther; they carry it into their moral character. I shall not deny their Christianity, but they are a queer sort of Christians. For these people will sometimes, at least, stretch the cords of godliness a little too far, and though they certainly do act in the main conscientiously, yet their conscience is a large one, and it admits a great many things which tender-hearted people would think were wrong. We cannot find out any crime for which we could excommunicate them, yet in our hearts we often say, "Dear me! what a sad disgrace so-and-so is to the cause; we could do far better without him than with him, for he casts such a slur on the name of Christ."

     Now, do not think I am drawing a fancy picture. I beg to inform you I am not; there are persons here who are furnishing me with the model; and if they choose to think me personal I shall be obliged to them, for I intend to be. These persons are to be found in all churches and among all denominations. You have met them everywhere. They are as unstable as water; they do not excel.

     Now, let me address these persons very earnestly. My brother, I would be far from dealing in a censorious manner with thee, for I am inclined to think that thine instability is a little owing to some latent insanity. We are no doubt all of us insane to a degree; there is some little thing in us, which if we saw in another we should regard as being a little madness. I would therefore, my brother, deal very leniently with you, but at the same time let me very solemnly address you as a Christian minister speaking to a professedly Christian man. My brother, how much moral weight you lose in the church, and in the world by your perpetual instability. No one ever attaches any importance to your opinion, because your opinion has no importance in it, seeing that you yourself will contradict it in a very short time. You see many persons growing up in the church who have an influence over their neighbor for good; you sometimes wish that you too could strengthen the young convert, or reclaim and guide the wanderer. My brother you cannot do it, because of your inconsistency. Now is it not a fearful thing that you should be throwing away the whole force and weight of your character, simply because of this insane habit of yours of being always unstable? I beseech thee, my brother, recollect that thou art responsible to God for thine influence; and if thou canst have influence and dost not get it thou art as sinful as if, having influence, thou hadst misused it. Do not, I beseech thee, suffer this instability to continue, lest thou shouldst become like the chaff which the wind driveth away—of no account to the world at all. Remember, my brother, how your instability ruins your usefulness. You never continue long enough in an enterprise to do good. What would you think of the farmer who should farm just long enough to plough his ground and sow his wheat, but not long enough to get a harvest? You would think him foolish; but just so foolish are you. You begin time enough to be overworked before you have well commenced. My brother, review your history, what have you done? You have made hundreds of futile attempts to do something, but a list of failures must be the only record of your labors. What do you think will be your distress of mind when you come to die, when you look back upon your life, and see it all the way through, a host of blunders? Do you not think it will stuff the pillow of your dying bed with thorns, to think that you were so wayward in disposition, so unstable in heart, that you were unable to accomplish anything for your Master, so that when you lay your crown at his feet you will have to say, "There is my crown, my Master but it has not a solitary star in it for I never worked long enough for thee in any enterprise to win a soul; I only did enough to fail and to be laughed at by all." And I would have thee think also, my brother, how canst thou be a growing Christian, and yet be so changeable as thou art? If a gardener should plant a tree to day, and take it up in the course of a month, and transfer it to another place, what crop would he have when autumn came? He would not have much to repay his toil. The continual changing of the tree would put it into such a weakly condition, that if it did not actually die, it would certainly produce nothing. And how can you expect to grow in knowledge when you have no steadfast principle? The man who espouses one form of doctrine, and does it honestly, will, though it be a mistaken form, at least understand it, but you do not know enough of Calvinism to defend it from its opponents, or enough of Arminianism to defend it from the Calvinists. You are not wise in anything, you are a rolling stone, you gather no moss. You stay in one school only long enough to read through the curriculum, but you learn nothing. You are smiling I see. And yet some of those who smiled are just the men we smile at. They are here. But alas! I have noticed one sad thing respecting these people, they are generally the most conceited in all the world; they are excellent men they think; they are at home everywhere. If they are in error they know they can get right to-morrow, and then if some one else will again convince them they are in error, they know no difference between error and truth, except the difference which other people like to point out to them. O ye unstable Christians, hear ye the word of the Lord! "Unstable as water thou shalt not excel." Your life shall have little of the cream of happiness upon it: you shall not walk in the midst of the king's highway, in which no lion shall be found, but you shall walk on the edge of the way, where you shall encounter every danger, feel every hardship and endure every ill. You shall have enough of God's comfort to keep you alive, but not enough to give you joy in your spirit and consolation in your heart. Oh, I beseech you ponder a little. Study the Word more, know what is right, and defend what is right. Study the Law more, know what is right, and do what is right. Study God's will more, know what be would have you do, and then do it. For an unstable Christian never can excel.

     III. But now there is another class of persons whom we dare not, in the spirit of the widest charity admit to be true Christians. They are PROFESSORS they have been baptized, they receive the Lord's Supper, they attend prayer meetings church meetings, and everything else that belongs to the order of Christians with which they are connected. They are never behindhand in religious performances; they are the most devout hypocrites, they are the most pious formalists that could be discovered, range the wide world o'er. Their religion on the Sabbath day is of the most superfine order; their godliness when they are in their pews cannot be exceeded. They sing with the most eloquent praise, they pray the longest and most hypocritical prayer that man could utter; they are just up to the mark in every religious point of view, except on the point which looks to the heart As far as the externals of godliness go there is nothing to be desired. They tithe the anise, the mint, and the cummin; they fast twice in the week; or if they do not fast, they are quite as religious in not fasting, and are just as godly in not doing it, as if they did it.

     But these people are unstable as water, in the worst sense; for whilst they sing Watts's hymns on Sunday, they sing other songs on Monday, and whilst they drink sacramental cups on Sabbath evenings, there are other cups of which they drink too deep on other nights; and though they pray most marvellously, there is a pun on that word pray, and they know how to exercise it upon their customers in business. They have a great affection for everything that is pious and devout; but alas! like Balaam, they take the reward of wickedness, and they perish in the gainsaying of Core. "These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots. Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever." They bring a disgrace upon the cause which they profess: not the vilest profane swearer brings more dishonour on God's holy name than they do. They can find fault with everything in the church, whilst they commit all manner of wickedness, and are, as the apostle said, even weeping "enemies of the cross of Christ, for their God is their belly, and they glory in their shame." O hypocrite, thou thinkest that thou shalt excel, because the minister has been duped, and gives thee credit for a deep experience, because the deacons have been entrapped and think thee to be eminently godly, because the church members receive thee to their houses, and think thee a dear child of God too! Poor soul! mayhap thou mayest go to thy grave with the delusion in thy brain that all is right with thee; but remember, though like a sheep thou art laid in thy grave, Death will find thee out. He will say to thee, Off with thy mask, man! away with all thy robes! Up with that whitewashed sepulcher! Take off that green turf; let the worms be seen. Out with the body; let us see the reeking corruption! and what wilt thou say when thine abominably corrupt and filthy heart shall be opened before the sun, and men and angels hear thy lies and hypocrisies laid bare before them? Wilt thou play the hypocrite then? Soul, come and sing God's praises in the day of judgment with false lip! Tell him now, while a widow's house is in your throat, tell him that you love him! Come, now, thou that devourest the fatherless, thou that robbest, thou that dost uncleanness! tell him now that thou didst make thy boast in the Lord! tell him that thou didst preach his word, tell him that thou didst walk in his streets! tell him thou didst make it known that thou wert one of the excellent of the earth! What! man, is thy babbling tongue silent for once? What is the matter with thee? Thou wast never slow to talk of thy godliness. Speak out, and say "I took the sacramental cup; I was a professor." Oh how changed! The whitewashed sepulcher has become white in another sense, he is white with horror. See now; the talkative has become dumb; the boaster is silent; the formalist's garb is rent to rags, the moth has devoured their beauty; their gold has become tarnished, and their silver cankered. Ah! it must be so with every man who has thus belied God and his own conscience. The stripping day of judgment will reveal him to God and to himself. And how awful shall be the damnation of the hypocrite! If I knew that I must be damned, one of my prayers should be, "Lord, let me not be damned with hypocrites," for surely to be damned with them is to be damned twice over. Conceive of a hypocrite going into hell. You know how one of the prophets depicted the advent of a great monarch into hell, when all the kings that had been his slaves rose up and said, "Art thou become like one of us?" Do you not think you see the godly Christian deacon, so godly that he was a liar all his life? Do you not think you see the eminent Christian member that kept a bank, took the chair at public meetings, swindled all he could, and died in despair? Do you not think you see him coming into the pit? There is one man there that was a drunkard all his life. Hear his speech, "Ah! you were a sober man! you used to talk to me, and tell me that drunkards could not inherit the kingdom of heaven. Aha! and art thou become like one of us?" Says another, "About a month ago, when we were on earth, you met me and rebuked me for profane swearing, and told me that all swearers should have their portion in the lake. Ah! there is not much to choose between thee and me now, is there?" And the profane man laughs as well as he can laugh in misery at his desperately religious adviser. "Oh!" says another—and they look round at one another with demoniac mirth; as much mockery of joy as hell can afford—"The parson here? Now preach us a sermon; now pray us a long prayer! Plenty of time to do it in!" "No!" says another, "there is no widow's house to eat, here, and he only prayed on the strength of the widow's house."

     This is a hard scene for me to describe; but I doubt not of its truthfulness. It may be given to you in rough language, but it needs far rougher to make you know the dread reality. And what a solemn thought it is! there is not one man nor one woman in this place who has not need to ask, "Is it so with me?" Many have been deceived—I may be—you may be, my hearer. "I am not deceived," says one, "I am a minister." My brethren, there are many of us who are preachers who are like Noah's carpenters; we may help to build an ark, and never get in it ourselves. Says another, "I shall not endure such language as that; I am a deacon." You may be all that, and yet, after having ministered, instead of earning to yourself a good degree, you may be cast from the presence of God. "No," says another, "but I have been a Christian professor these last forty years, and nobody has found fault with me." Ah! I have known many a rotten bough to have stopped on a tree forty years, and you may be rotten and yet stand all that time; but the winds of judgment will crack you at last, and down you will fall. "Nay," says another. "I know I am not insincere I am sure I am right." I am glad that you think so, but I would not like you to say it. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." There have been many great bubbles that have burst ere this, and your piety may be one of them. "Let not him that putteth on the harness boast as though he put it off." It will be time enough for you to be quite sure when you are quite safe. Yet blessed be God, we hope we can say, "O Lord, if not awfully deceived we have given our hearts to thee! Lord thou knowest all things; thou knowest that we love thee, and if we do not, Lord thou knowest we pray this prayer from our hearts: 'Search me, O God, and try my ways, prove me and know my heart, and see if there be any evil way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.'" May God the Holy Spirit strengthen and settle each of us.

     IV. And now I have the last word to address to those who MAKE NO PRETENSION TO RELIGION whatever. I have heard hundreds of persons in my short life excuse their sin by saying, "Well, I make no profession," and I have always thought it one of the strangest excuses, one of the most wild vagaries of apology to which the human mind could ever make resort. Take an illustration, which I have used before. To-morrow morning, when the Lord Mayor is sitting, there are two men brought up before him for robbery. One of them says he is not guilty, he declares that he is a good character, and he is an honest man in general though he was guilty in this case. He is punished. The other one says, "Well, your worship, I make no profession; I'm a down right thorough thief, and I don't make any profession of being honest at all." Why you can suppose how much more severe the sentence would be upon such a man. Now, when you say I do not make any profession of being religious, what does that mean? It means that you are a despiser of God and of God's law; it means that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity. You that boast of making no profession of religion, you are boasting you know not what of. You would think it a strange thing for a man to boast that he made no profession of being a gentleman, or no profession of being honest, or no profession of being sober, or no profession of being chaste. You would shun a man who did this, at once. And you who make no pretensions to religion, just make your trial the more easy for there will be no need for any dispute concerning you. When the scales of justice are lifted up at last you will be found to be light weight, and that upon your own confession. I cannot imagine you urging such a plea as that when God shall judge you. "My Lord, I made no profession." "What" saith the King, "did my subject make no profession of obedience?" "O Lord, I made no profession." "What!" saith the Creator, "make no profession of acknowledging my rights?" "I made no profession of religion." "What!" saith the Judge, "did I send my Son into the world to die, and did this man make no profession of casting his soul upon him? What! did he make no profession of his need of mercy? Then he shall have none. Does he dare tell me to my face that he never made any profession of faith in Christ, and never had anything to do with the Saviour? Then insomuch as he despised my Son, and despised his cross, and rejected his salvation, let him die the death;" and what that death is with its everlasting wailings and gnashing of teeth, eternity alone can tell.

     O sinner! thou hast some part and lot in my text Thou art "unstable as water." Let me remind thee that though thou makest no profession of religion now, there was a time when thou didst. Strong man! you are laughing now: I repeat it, there was a time when you did talk about religion; it is not quite gone from your memory yet. You lay sick with fever for six weeks: do you recollect when the delirium came on, and they all thought that you must die? Do you recollect when your poor brain was right for a moment how you asked the physician whether there was any hope for you, and he would not exactly say "NO," but he looked so blank at you, that you understood what it meant? Do you recollect the agony with which you looked forward to death? Do you recollect how you groaned in your spirit, and said, "O God, have mercy upon me?" Do you recollect that you got a little better, and you told your friends that if you lived you would serve God? "Oh! it is all over now," you say, you were a fool! Yes, you were a fool, that is true, you were a fool, to have said what you did not mean and to have lied before God. You do not profess religion! But you remember the last time the terrific thunder and lightning came. You were out in the storm. A flash came very near you. You are a bold man, but not so bold as you pretend to be. You shook from head to foot, and when the thunder clap succeeded, you were almost down on your knees, and before you knew it you were in prayer. "Please God I get home to-night," you said, "I shall not take his name in vain again!" But you have done it. You are unstable as water. You went sometime ago to a church or a chapel—I mind not which: the minister told you plainly where you were going. You stood there and trembled; tears ran down your cheeks, you did not knock your wife about that Sunday, you were a greet deal more sober that week, and when your companion said you looked squeamish, you denied it, and said you had no such thoughts as he imagined. "Unstable as water." Oh! and there are some of you worse than that still: for not once, nor twice, but scores of times you have been driven under a faithful minister, to the very verge of what you thought repentance, and then, just when something said in your heart, "This is a turning point," you have started back, you have chosen the wages of unrighteousness, and have again wandered into the world. Soul! my heart yearns for thee! "Unstable as water thou shalt not excel." No, but I pray the Lord to work in thee something that will be stable; for we all believe—and what I say is not a matter of fiction, but a thing that you believe in your own hearts to be true—we all believe that we must stand before the judgment bar of God, and ere long give account of the things done in the body, whether they be good or whether they be evil. Friend, what account wilt thou give of thy broken vows, of thy perjured soul? What wilt thou have to say why judgment should not be pronounced against thee? Ah! sinner, you will want Christ then! What would you give then for one drop of his blood? "Oh! for the hem of his garment! Oh, that I might but look to him and be lightened. Oh, would to God that I might hear the gospel once again!" I hear you wailing, when God has said, "Depart ye cursed!" And this is the burden of your song "Fool that I was, to have despised Jesus, who was my only hope, to have broken my promise, and gone back to the poor vain world that deluded me, after all!" And now I hear him say "I called, but ye refused, I stretched out my hand, but no man regarded; now I will laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh." I always think those two last sentences the most awful in the Bible. "I will laugh at your calamity." The laugh of the Almighty over men that have rebelled against him, that have despised him, and trodden his gospel underfoot! "I also will laugh at your calamity I will mock when your fear cometh." Rail at that if you like, it is sure, sirs. Remember that all your kicking at God's laughter will not make him leave it off; remember that all your rebellious speeches against him shall be avenged in that day, unless ye repent, and that speak as ye will against him your blasphemy cannot quench the flames of hell, nor will your jeers slay the sword of vengeance: fall it must, and it will fall on you all the more heavily because you did despise it.

     Hear the gospel, and then farewell. Jesus Christ the eternal Son of God was born of the Virgin Mary and became a man, he lived on earth a life of holiness and suffering; at last he was nailed to the cross, and in deep woe he died. He was buried; he rose again from the deed, he ascended into heaven. And now God "commandeth all men everywhere to repent;" and he telleth them this—"Whosoever believeth on the Son of God shall not perish, but have eternal life." And this is his gospel. If you this day feel yourself to be a sinner, if that be a feeling wrought in you by the Holy Spirit and not a casual thought flashing across the soul, then Christ was punished for your sins; and you cannot be punished; for God will not punish twice for one offense. Believe in Christ; cast your soul on the atonement that he made; and although black as hell in sin, you may this day find yourself, through the efficacious blood of Christ, whiter than the snow. The Lord help thee, poor soul, to believe that the Man who died on Calvary was God, and that he took the sin of all believers upon himself—that thou, being a sinner and a believer, he has taken thy sins, and that therefore thou art free. Thus believe, and by faith thou wilt have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom also we have received the atonement.



Fast-Day Service

By / Oct 7

Fast-Day Service

 

     O God, the God of heaven and of earth, we do this day pay Thee reverence, and meekly bow our heads in adoration before Thine awful throne. We are the creatures of Thine hand; Thou hast made us, and not we ourselves. It is but just and right that we should pay unto Thee our adoration. O God! we are met together in a vast congregation for a purpose which demands all the power of piety, and all the strength of prayer. Send down Thy Spirit upon Thy servant, that he, whilst trembling in weakness, may be made strong to preach Thy Word, to lead forth this people in holy prayer, and to help them in that humiliation for which this day is set apart. Come, O God, we beseech Thee; bow our hearts before Thee; instead of sackcloth and ashes give us true repentance, and hearts meekly reverent; instead of the outward guise, to which some pay their only homage, give us the inward spirit; and may we really pray, really humiliate ourselves, and really tremble before the Most High God. Sanctify this service; make it useful unto us and honorable to Thyself. And O Thou dread Supreme, unto Thee shall be the glory and the honor, world without end. Amen.

     Let us now praise God by singing the first Hymn. I shall read it through; and then, perhaps, you will be kind enough to sing it through.

 

BEFORE Jehovah's awful throng,

Ye nations bow with sacred joy;

Know that the Lord is God alone;

He can create and he destroy.

His sovereign power, without our aid,

Made us of clay and form'd us men!

And when like wand'ring sheep, we stray'd,

He brought us to his fold again.

We are his people, we his care,

Our souls and all our mortal frame;

What lasting honors shall we rear,

Almighty Maker to thy name?

We'll crowd thy gates with thankful songs,

High as the heavens our voices raise;

And earth with her ten thousand tongues,

Shall fill thy courts with sounding praise.

Wide as the world is thy command;

Vast as eternity thy love;

Firm as a rock thy truth must stand,

When rolling years shall cease to move.

 

EXPOSITION.

 

DANIEL 9:1-19.

 

     "In the first year of Darius the Son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans;

     "In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.

     "And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:

     "And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments;

     "We have sinned, and have committed, iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments:

     "Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.

     "O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee.

     "O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee.

     "To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him."

     There is the first bright star which shines in the midst of the darkness of our sins. God is merciful. He is just—as just as if he were not merciful. He is merciful—as merciful as if he were not just, and in very deed more merciful than if he were too lenient; instead of blending a wise severity of justice with a gracious clemency of long-suffering. My brethren, we should rejoice that we have not this day to address the gods of the heathens. You have not to-day to bow down before the thundering Jove; you need not come before implacable deities, who delight in the blood of their creatures, or rather, of the creatures whom it is pretended that they have made. Our God delights in mercy, and in the deliverance of Britain from its ills. God will be as much pleased as Britain; yea, when Britain shall have forgotten it, and only the page of history shall record his mercies, God will still remember what he did for us in this day of our straits and our difficulties. As to the hope that he will help us it is a certainty. There is no fear that when we unite in prayer God will refuse to hear. It is as sure as that there is a God, that God will hear us; and if we ask him aright, the day shall come when the world shall see what Britain's God has done, and how he has heard her cry, and answered the voice of her supplications.

     "Neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.

     "Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him.

     "And he hath confirmed his words, which he spake against us, and against our judges that judged us, by bringing upon us a great evil: for under this whole heaven hath not been done as hath been done upon Jerusalem.

     "As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn front our iniquities, and understand thy truth.

     "Therefore hath the Lord watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for the Lord our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth: for we obeyed not his voice.

     "And now, O Lord our God, that hast brought thy people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast gotten thee renown, as at this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly."

     The prophet in his prayer pleads what God has done for them, as the reason why he should make bare his arm; he tells how God delivered Israel out of Egypt; and he therefore prays that God would deliver them from their present trouble. And, my brethren, not Israel itself could boast a nobler history than we, measuring it by God's bounties. We have not yet forgotten an armada scattered before the breath of heaven, scattered upon the angry deep as a trophy of what God can do to protect his favored Isle. We have not yet forgotten a fifth of November, wherein God discovered divers plots that were formed against our religion and our commonwealth. We have not yet lost the old men, whose tales of even the victories in war are still a frequent story. We remember how God swept before our armies the man who thought to make the world his dominion, who designed to cast his shoe over Britain, and make it a dependency of his kingdom. God wrought for us; he wrought with us; and he will continue to do so. He hath not left his people, and he will not leave us, but he will be with us even to the end. Cradle of liberty! Refuge of distress! Storms may rage around thee, but not upon thee, nor shall all the wrath and fury of men destroy thee, for God hath pitched his tabernacle in thy midst, and his saints are the salt in the midst of thee.

     "O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us.

     "Now, therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord's sake.

     "O my God, incline thins ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies.

     "O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name."

     And now for a few moments let us endeavor to pray:—

 

PRAYER.

 

     "Our Father, which art in heaven," we will be brief, but we will be earnest if Thou wilt help us. We have a case to spread before Thee this day. We will tell out our story, and we will pray that Thou wouldst forgive the weakness of the words in which it shall be delivered, and hear us, for Jesus' sake. O Father, Thou hast smitten this our land, not in itself, but in one of its dependencies. Thou hast allowed a mutinous spirit to break out in our armies, and Thou hast suffered men who know not Thee, who fear neither God nor man, to do deeds for which earth may well blush, and for which we, as men, desire to cover our faces before Thee. O Lord God, Thou couldst not bear the sin of Sodom; we are sure Thou canst not endure the sin which has been committed in India. Thou didst rain hell out of heaven upon the cities of the plain. The cities of Inde are not less vile than they, for they have committed lust and cruelty, and have much sinned against the Lord. Remember this, O God of Heaven.

     But, O Lord our God, we are not here to be the accusers of our fellow-men; we are here to pray that Thou wouldst remove the scourge which this great wickedness has brought upon us. Look down from heaven, O God, and behold this day the slaughtered thousands of our countrymen. Behold the wives, the daughters of Britain, violated, defiled! Behold her sons, cut in pieces and tormented in a manner which earth hath not beheld before. O God, free us, we beseech Thee, from this awful scourge! Give strength to our soldiers to execute upon the criminals the sentence which justice dictates; and then, by Thy strong arm, and by Thy terrible might, do Thou prevent a repetition of so fearful an outrage.

     We pray Thee, remember this day the widow and the fatherless children; think Thou of those who are this day distressed even to the uttermost. Guide the hearts of this great multitude, that they may liberally give and this day bestow of their substance to their poor destitute brethren. Remember especially our soldiers, now fighting in that land. God shield them! Be Thou a covert from the heat! Wilt Thou be pleased to mitigate all the rigours of the climate for them! Lead them on to battle; cheer their hearts; bid them remember that they are not warriors merely, but executioners; and may they go with steady tramp to the battle, believing that God wills it that they should utterly destroy the enemy, who have not only defied Britain, but thus defiled themselves amongst men.

     But, O Lord, it is ours this day to humble ourselves before Thee. We are a sinful nation; we confess the sins of our governors and our own particular iniquities. For all our rebellions and transgressions, O God have mercy upon us! We plead the blood of Jesus. Help every one of us to repent of sin, to fly to Christ for refuge and grant that each one of us may thus hide ourselves in the rock, till the calamity be overpass, knowing that God will not desert them that put their trust in Jesus. Thy servant is overwhelmed this day; his heart is melted like wax in the midst of him; he knoweth not how to pray. Yet Lord if Thou canst hear a groaning heart which cannot utter itself in words, thou hearest his strong impassioned cry, in which the people join. Lord save us! Lord arise and bless us; and let the might of Thine arm and the majesty of Thy strength be now revealed in the midst of this land, and throughout those countries which are in our dominion God save the Queen! A thousand blessings on her much-loved head! God preserve our country! May every movement that promotes liberty and progress be accelerated, and may everything be done in our midst, which can shield us from the discontent of the masses, and can protect the masses from the oppression of the few. Bless England, O our God. "Shine, mighty God, on Britain shine;" and make her still glorious Britain, "beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth." Lord accept our confessions; hear our prayers, and answer us by Thy Holy Spirit! Help Thy servant to preach to us; and all the glory shall be unto Thee, O Father, to Thee, O Son, and Thee, O Holy Spirit; world without end. Amen and Amen.

 

     Let us now sing the second hymn. It is made up of verses selected from different psalms, which I thought to be appropriate to the occasion

OUR God, our help in ages past,

Our hope for years to come,

Our shelter from the stormy blast,

And our eternal home.

Under the shadow of thy throne,

Thy saints have dwelt secure

Sufficient is thine arm alone,

And our defense is sure.

Our foes insult us, but our hope

In thy compassion lies

This thought shall bear our spirits up,

That God will not despise.

In vain the sons of Satan boast

Of armies in array;

When God has first despised their host,

They fall an easy prey.

Our God, our help in ages past,

Our hope for years to come

Be thou our guard while troubles last,

And our eternal home.

 

     Hoping to receive help from God's Holy Spirit, I shall now proceed to address you from a part of the 9th verse of the 6th chapter of Micah:—

 

SERMON.

 

"Hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it."—Micah 6:9.

 

This world is not the place of punishment for sin; not the place; it may sometimes be a place, but not usually It is very customary among religious people, to talk of every accident which happens to men in the indulgence of sin, as if it were a judgment. The upsetting of a boat upon a river on a Sunday is assuredly understood to be a judgment for the sin of Sabbath-breaking. In the accidental fall of a house, in which persons were engaged in any unlawful occupation, the inference is at once drawn that the house fell because they were wicked. Now, however some religionists may hope to impress the people by such childish stories as those, I, for one, forswear them all. I believe what my Master says is true, when he declared, concerning the men upon whom the tower of Siloam fell, that they were not sinners above all the sinners that were upon the face of the earth. They were sinners; there is no doubt about it; but the falling of the wall was not occasioned by their sin, nor was their premature death the consequence of their excessive wickedness. Le me, however, guard this declaration, for there are many who carry this doctrine to an extreme. Because God does not usually visit each particular offense in this life upon the transgressor, men are apt to deny altogether the doctrine of judgments. But here they are mistaken. I feel persuaded that there are such things as national judgments, national chastisements for national sins—great blows from the rod of God, which every wise man must acknowledge to be, either a punishment of sin committed, or a monition to warn us to a sense of the consequences of sins, leading us by God's grace to humiliate ourselves, and repent of our sin.

     O, my friends, what a rod is that which has just fallen upon our country! My poor words will fall infinitely short of the fearful tale of misery and woe which must be told before you can know how smartly God hath smitten, and how sternly he hath chidden us. We have to-day to mourn over revolted subjects, for to-day a part of our fellow-countrymen are in open arms against our government. That, of itself, were a heavy blow. Happily the government of this land is so constituted that we know little of revolutions except by name; but the horrors of anarchy, the terrors of a government shaken to its foundations, are so great, that should I preach alone upon that subject, you might hear the rod, and cry aloud beneath its strokes. But this is as but the letting forth of water. A flood succeedeth. The men that have revolted were our subjects, and I challenge all the world to deny what I am going to say: they were our subjects rightly. Whatever the inhabitants of India might be (and undoubtedly that people have grave faults to find with us), the Sepoys had voluntarily given themselves up to our dominion, they had themselves taken oaths of fealty to Her Majesty and their officers, and they have no cause to murmur if they are made to endure the sentence uttered by a government of which they were the sworn and willing supporters. They were always petted, always dandled upon the knee of favoritism. Their revolt is not the revolt of a nation. If India had revolted, history might perhaps have taught us that she had patriots in her midst, who were delivering her from a tyrannical nation; but in the present cave it is only men who are impelled by a lust and ambition for empire, who have risen against us. And, ah I my friends, what crimes have they committed! Not to-day shall I detail their acts of debauchery, bloodshed, and worse than bestiality—this tongue will not venture to utter what they have dared to do. Ye would rise from your seats and hiss me from the pulpit which I now occupy, if I should but dare to hint at the crimes which have been done of them, not in secret, but in the very streets of their cities.

     And, again, equally as painful, we have now rebels to be executed. I look upon every gallows as a fearful chastisement. I regard every gibbet as being a dreadful visitation upon our land; and I think that whenever the arm of the ruler is outstretched for the punishment of death, it must always be looked upon by the country as a serious affliction to it. Just as the father thinks it a high affliction to chastise his child, so should a country ever esteem it to be a visitation when they have to punish, especially with the punishment of death. Now, these men must be punished; both heaven and earth demand it. I am no soldier, I love not war; I do not believe that this is a war at all, in the proper sense of the term. We are not fighting with enemies; our troops are going forth against revolted subjects—against men who, by their crimes, by their murder, and by other unmentionable sins, have incurred the punishment of death; and as the arrest of a murderer by authority of the law is not war, so the arrest of Indian Sepoys, and their utter destruction is not war—it is what earth demands, and what I believe God sanctions. But it is a horrible necessity. It is a dreadful thing to think of taking away the lives of our fellow-subjects; we must look upon it as being an affliction: and, to-day, amongst the other evils that we bemoan, we must bemoan this—that the sword must be taken out of its sheath, to cut off our fellow-subjects by their thousands. The rod, the rod, THE ROD hath indeed fallen heavily; no mortal tongue can tell the anguish it hath caused, nor perhaps can we yet dream where its ill effects shall end.

     Remember, however, the words of my text. It is a rod; but it is an appointed rod. Every deed that has been done against us has been appointed by God. God is most fully to be cleared from the sin of it, but it is undoubtedly true that he has overruled and permitted it. The rod was ordained of God. I myself see God everywhere. I believe that "the foreknown station of a rush by the river is as fixed as the station of a king, and the chaff from the hand of the winnower as steered as the stars in their courses." And I see God in this war. The wheels of providence may revolve in a mysterious manner, but I am certain that wisdom is the axle upon which they revolve, so that at last it shall be seen that God, who ordained the rod, only permitted it that greater good might follow, and that his name might be exalted through the earth. The sin is man's own deed, but the affliction that we suffer through it, God hath ordained. Let us bow before it, and let us now hearken to the exhortation of the text—"Hear ye the rod, and him that hath appointed it."

     I shall have your attention whilst as briefly as I can I endeavor to bid you hear this rod of God.

     First, let me remark, it would have been as well if we had heard this rod BEFORE IT FELL upon us. God's rod by the wise man may be heard before it smiteth. He that understandeth God's moral government, knows that sin carries punishment in its bowels. A wise man believing revelation, could have prophesied that God would visit us. The sins of the government of India have been black and deep. He who has heard the shrieks of tormented natives, who has heard the well-provoked cursing of dethroned princes, might have prophesied that it would not be long before God would unsheath his sword to avenge the oppressed. With regard to India itself, I am no apologist for our dominion there; with regard to the Sepoys, they are our voluntary subjects, they deserve the utmost rigour of the law. From their own oath they were our subjects; and if they have revolted let them suffer the punishment of their treason. But had it been the Indian nation that had revolted, I would have prayed God that they might have been brought under British rule again, for the sake of civilization, but I would not have preached a crusade against them, lest haply we should have been smiting patriots who were but delivering an oppressed country. My brethren, I say it would have been as well if the rod had been heard before it fell. If in the midst of sin the Indian government had paused, and endeavored to undo the evil, it would have been well for them—if instead of following the policy of creed they had followed the policy of right, they might have looked for divine support. They never ought to have tolerated the religion of the Hindoos at all. I believe myself (for it in no way infringes the law of right) entitled to my religion; but if my religion consisted in bestiality, infanticide, and murder, I should have no right to my religion, unless I were prepared to be hanged for it. Now, the religion of the Hindoos is neither more nor less than a mass of the rankest filth that ever imagination could have conceived. The gods they worship are not entitled to the least atom of respect. Had they given a decent character to their demons, we might have tolerated their idolatry; but when their worship necessitates everything that is evil, not religion, but morality must put it down. I do not believe that in this land there ever ought to have been any toleration for the Agapemone, a place of lust and abomination, where sin is committed before which God's sun might blush, never ought to be tolerated. Any religion that does not infringe upon morality is beyond the force of legislature. But when once religious teachers teach immorality, and when once a religion compels men to sin, down with it; no toleration to it. It is impossible that there should be any quarter strewn to vice, even though embellished with the name of religion. If it be any man's religion to blow my brains out, I shall not tolerate it. If it be any man's religion to meet me as the Thugs do, and garotte me, and murder me, I shall not tolerate his Thugism. If it be a man's religion to commit bestial acts in public, I for one would touch his conscience, but believing that he has none, I would touch him somewhere else. Such a religion as the religion of the Hindoo, the Indian Government were bound, as in the sight of God, to put down with all the strength of their hand. But they have allowed it, in some cases they have even aided and abetted their filthy deeds; and now God visits them; and, I repeat, it would have been well if they had heard the rod before it fell; they might have perhaps avoided all this evil, and certainly they would have avoided the remorse which some of them must feel in having thus brought it upon themselves.

     But it has fallen. The rod has smitten; the scourge has ploughed deep furrows upon India's back. What then? "Hear ye the rod" that has fallen. Now, it is an opinion published by authority—and who am I, that I should dispute the great authorities of England?—that one part of the reason for this dreadful visitation, is the sin of the people of England themselves. We are exhorted this day to humble ourselves for sin. Granting me that as being a truth—and mark, I am not the originator of it; it is in the Proclamation—who am I, that I should dispute such a high authority as that?—it is our sin that has brought it us, so they say—what, then, are our sins? Now, I will be honest with you—as honest as I can, and I will try and tell you. What are the most glaring sins for which, if it be true that God is now punishing us, are the most likely to have brought this visitation upon us?

     First, there are sins in the community that never ought to have been allowed. O Britain, weep for deeds which thy governors have not yet strength of mind to stop. We have long been allowing the infamous nuisances of Holywell-street; bless God they are pretty well done for! But now what do I see every night? If I return from preaching in the country, in the Haymarket and in Regent-street, what stares me before my eyes? If there be a crime for which God will visit England, it is the sin of allowing infamy to walk before our eyes thus publicly. I do not know whose fault it is—some say it is the fault of the police: it is somebody's fault, that I do know, and against that somebody I do now most solemnly protest. It is a most fearful thing that those who are honest and moral cannot walk the streets, without being insulted by sin in the robes of the harlot. My voice perhaps this day may reach some who have power to repeat this protest powerfully and successfully. I see before me gentlemen who are the representatives of the press. I believe they will do their duty in that matter; and if they will sting as some of them can sting, right sharply, they perhaps may be able to sting a little virtue into some of our governors, and that will be a good thing. But I do protest that this has been one of the causes why God has visited us, if indeed our sins have brought this evil upon us, as I verily believe. Look ye too, men and brethren, at some of those amusements of yours, in which ye are wont to indulge. God forbid I should deny you those of your amusements which are innocent, but I must maintain that they should be always moral; when we know that lords and ladies of the land, have sat in playhouses, and listened to plays that were a long way from decent, it is time that some voice should be lifted up against them. These are glaring sins. I am not raking now for private faults; we have had these things before our eyes, and there have been some that have dared to protest against them long ago. I say, these sins of the community in part have brought the rod upon us.

     But, my friends, I am inclined to think that our class sins are the most grievous. Behold this day the sins of the rich. How are the poor oppressed! How are the needy down-trodden! In many a place the average wage of men is far below their value to their masters. In this age there is many a great man who looks upon his fellows as only stepping-stones to wealth. He builds a factory as he would make a cauldron. He is about to make a brew for his own wealth. "Pitch him in." He is only a poor clerk, he can live on a hundred a year. Put him in! There is a poor time-keeper: he has a large family; it does not matter; a man can be had for less: in with him! Here are the tens, the hundreds, and the thousands that must do the work. Put them in; heap the fire; boil the cauldron; stir them up; never mind their cries. The hire of the laborers kept back may go up to heaven: it does not matter, the millions of gold are safe. The law of demand and supply is with us, who is he that would interfere? Who shall dare to prevent the grinding of the faces of the poor? Cotton-lords and great masters ought to have power to do what they like with the people: ought they not? "Ah! but ye great men of the earth, there is a God, and that God has said he executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed. And yet the sempstress in her garret, and yet the tailor in his den, and yet the artizan in his crowded factory, and yet the servants who earn your wealth, who have to groan under your oppression, shall get the ear of God, and he will visit you. "Hear ye the rod." It is for this the rod falleth on you.

     Mark, again, the sins of merchants. Was there ever an age when the merchants of England had more fallen from their integrity? The mass of them, I believe, are honest to the core; but I do not know who among them are so. We can trust none in these times. Ye heap up your companies, and ye delude your myriads; ye gather the money of fools; ye scatter it to the winds of heaven, and when the poor call upon you ye tell them it is gone: but where? O! England, thou wast once true, upright, honest; men could not rightly call thee, then, "Perfidious Albion;" but now, O Britain, alas! for thee! Unless thou dost recover thyself, who can trust thee? God will visit the nation for this, and it shall be seen that this alone is one of the things which God would have us hear, when we hear the rod.

     There are many of you that are poor. I saw you smile when I spoke to the rich. I will have at you also. If we are to humble ourselves this day as a nation, ye have cause also to humble. Ah, my God, what multitudes there are of men who deserve but little of their employers, for they are eye-servers, men-pleasers, and do not with singleness of heart serve the Lord. Were men better workmen, their masters would be better. There are hundreds of you that are here to-day who are the best hands in all the world to prop up walls, when you ought to be busy at your own work—who, when your time is bought and paid for, steal it for something else. And how many there are in what are called the lower ranks—and God forgive the man that invented that word, for we are none of us lower than the other before the Judge of all the earth—how many are there that do not know what it is to look up to God, and say, "Though he has made me a servant, I will discharge my duty, and I will serve my master and serve my God with all my might." Many are the sins of the poor. Humble yourselves with the rich; bow your heads and weep for your iniquities; for these things God doth visit us, and ye should hear the rod.

     It is impossible for me to-day to enter into all the sins of illiberality, of deceit, of bigotry, of lasciviousness, of carnality, of pride, of covetousness, and of laziness which infest this land. I have tried to indicate some of the chief, and I pray God humble us all for them.

     And now, "Hear ye the rod." O church of God, the rod has fallen, and the church ought to hear it. I am afraid that it is the church that has been the greatest sinner. Do I mean by "the church" that established by law? No, I mean the Christian church as a body. We, I believe, have been remiss in our duty; for many and many a year pulpits never condescended to men of low estate. Our ministers were great and haughty; they understood the polish of rhetoric, they had all the grandeur of logic; to the people they were blind guides and dumb dogs, for the people knew not what they said, neither did they regard them. The churches themselves slumbered; they wrapped themselves in a shroud of orthodoxy, and they slept right on; and, whilst Satan was devouring the world, and taking his prey, the church sat still, and said, "Who is my neighbor?" and did not arouse herself to serve her God. I do hope that we have already seen the beginning of a revival. The last year has seen more preaching than any year since the days of the apostles. We are stirring in ragged schools, and in various efforts for doing good; but still the church is only half awake; I fear she still slumbers. O church of God! awake! awake! awake! for verily the rod has fallen for thy sake. "Hear thou the rod, and him that hath appointed it."

     We have had many rods, friends; we have had many great afflictions, and we did bear them for a time; and now I close my sermon by saying, "Hear ye the rod, when the rod SHALL AGAIN BE STILL." We trust that in a little while our soldiers will carve us out peace and victory with their triumphant swords; we trust that, perhaps this very day a great fight is being fought, and a great victory being won. I seem to hear to-day the shout of the triumphant warrior; I think I hear the trump of victory even now. The hour of prayer is often the hour of deliverance. At any rate, we hope that ere long this black cloud will be overblown, and then I fear you will all forget it. You will pray to-day: will you pray when victory comes? You will buy some fireworks, will you not? That is how you will thank God! You had a victory over a potent enemy, and peace was established: your votive offerings consisted of rockets and illuminations—grand offerings to the Dread Supreme! If a heathen were here he would say, "Their God is the God of humiliation, not the God of victory: their God is a God of trouble, certainly not the God of blessings, for they forget him when they receive deliverance." I remember, when last time the cholera swept through your streets, ye hurried to your churches, and ye prayed; terror sat upon your countenances, and many of you cried aloud for deliverance. It came. What did you do? Alas! for your piety! It was as the morning cloud, and as the early dew it passed away. It will be so again. It is but as the lashing of the water; it is smitten, but it soon recovers itself, and all marks are effaced. It is so with this land; I fear it is so with each of us to a degree. How often have you and I been laid upon our beds with cholera, or with fever, or with some other disease which threatened to take us away! We prayed; we sent for the minister; we devoted ourselves to God; we vowed, if he would spare us, we would live better. Here thou art, my hearer, just what thou wast before thy sickness. Thou hast forgotten thy vow; but God hath not forgotten it. Thy resolutions were filed in heaven, and in the day of judgment God shall take them forth, and say, "Here is one solemn covenant broken; here is another vow forgotten, another resolution made in sickness broken after recovery!" I do think that to-day will be a most solemn mockery if our humiliation ends to-day. With some of you it will not even begin to-day, and, therefore, it will not end, for it is not begun. But the mass who will pray to-day, will they pray in a week? Not they; they will go their way, to heap again the faggots of their sins upon the pile of vengeance, and still stand by and weep, because the fire is burning, the fire which they themselves have kindled. Oh! my hearers, permit me to charge home to your hearts; and would God that he would make the charge of my language against your consciences as heavy as the charge of British soldiery against the enemy! How many of you have been awakened, convinced of sin, of righteousness, and of judgement! How many times have you vowed you would repent! How many times have you declared that you did hear the rod, and that you would turn to God! And yet you have been liars to the Almighty; you have defrauded the Most High; and whilst the bill is due it still stands dishonored. Tremble! God may smite you yet; and if to-day you are despisers of Christ, remember, you have no guarantee that you will be in this world another hour. You may before this sun is set stand before your Maker's bar. What then? what then? what then? To perish for ever is no light matter; to be cast into the flames of hell is no little consideration. "Turn ye, turn ye, turn ye; why will ye die, O house of Israel!" Repent! "The times of your ignorance God winked at, but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent." And remember that when he gives repentance and faith he has appended the blessing to them. "Jesus Christ of the seed of David" was nailed to a cross; he died that we might not die, and to every believer heaven's gate is open, to every penitent the path to paradise is free. Sinner I dost thou believe? If so, Christ hath blotted out thy sin. Be happy! Soul! dost thou repent? Thou art safe. God has helped thee to repent, and inasmach as he hath done that, he hath proved that he loves thee.

     Oh! if I might but have some souls won to Christ to-day, what would I give? What is all this great gathering to me? It is an extra labor, that is all. For this I do not labor. God is my witness, I sought you not; never once have I said a thing to court a smile from any man. When God first sent me to the ministry he bade me fear no man, and I have not yet met the man to whom I have feared to tell of God's truth. Nor you have I sought to please, nor you have I sought to gather here. I would preach the gospel; may God give me some souls as my reward! And if but one poor sinner shall look to Jesus, clap your wings, ye angels! enough is done, for God is honored.

     I have done my sermon, but I want to make an appeal to you to give liberally.

     Lives there a man in England who will this day refuse his help to those of his countrymen who have suffered? No; there does not live such a man—not such a Briton. Is there a miserable miscreant without a heart, who will, when God has given him enough, shut up his bowels of compassion against those whose sons and daughters have been murdered, and who themselves have escaped as by the skin of their teeth? No, I will not slander you by such a supposition. I cannot think that I have such a monster here. When the box shall pass round. give—give as you can afford; if it be a penny, let the working man give. You that are rich must not give pence, however. Many a man has said, "There is my mite." He was worth a hundred thousand pounds, and it was not a mite at all; if he had given a thousand it would only have been a mite to him. Give as ye can afford it; may God be pleased to grant a liberal spirit.

 

     The following Chorus was then sung—

 

GLORY, honor, praise, and power,

Be unto the Lamb for ever;

Jesus Christ is our Redeemer,

Hallelujah, Amen.

 

After which, the benediction having been pronounced, the service terminated.

 

     There were upwards of 24,000 persons present at this service; and the amount collected towards the Indian Relief Fund amounted to nearly £500, of which £25 was given by Miss Nightingale. The Crystal Palace Company contributed £200 in addition—making a total of nearly £700.

 

"To God be all the glory."