Grace Reviving Israel

By / Jun 22

Grace Reviving Israel

 

"I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon."—Hosea 14:5-7

 

     In reading this passage, does it ever fail to charm you? How full of beauty, and how full of poetry it is! Every word is a figure. Fair flowers that adorn, and corn that enricheth the fields; the olive tree, and the vine; the scent of the wine of Lebanon, and all rich things are here gathered and clustered together, to set forth the beauty of Israel under the reviving influences of God's favor. And as this one portion of Sacred Writ is full of poetry, the like holds good of all the Word Of God. There is no book so poetic in its character as the Book of Inspiration. We had rather for poetry's sake, lose all the books that have ever been written by all the poets that ever lived, than lose the sacred Scriptures; yea, if a collection could be made of all the gems of all the noted books; could they all be bound into one volume, there could not be found so many beauties as lie here, some of them hidden, and others of them manifest, in this most blessed volume of Revelation. Altogether apart from the sublimity of the matters treated, and the glory of the doctrines, the style itself is enough to make the book precious to every reader. It is a wondrous book; it is the book of God: yea, as Herbert says, "The god of books." It is a book full of stars; every page blazes with light, from almost every sentence there beams forth some beautiful metaphor, some glorious figure.

     In expounding the words of the text, we shall observe, first, the promise of grace made to Israel, notwithstanding, Israel's sin: "I will be as the dew unto Israel." Secondly, the influences of divine grace sweetly set forth in divers metaphors; and thirdly, the effect of divine grace upon those around: "they that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon."

     I. Here is A PROMISE OF GRACE MADE TO THE CHRISTIAN: "I will be as the dew unto Israel." I need not remind you that the Christian, (under the similitude of Israel, as I shall presently show you,) is here compared to a plant, a plant which cannot be watered by any water that is to be found on earth, a plant which needs heavenly watering, even the dew from above. Hypocrites may be watered by natural religion. Formalists may get their supply from the wells and springs of earth; but the Christian is a plant which can only be supported by dew from heaven. He feels that though the river of Egypt might be turned to his roots, he could not grow; though all the water in its floods, and though the ocean itself might be brought to irrigate him, yet he could get no genial moisture, no true growing power, from all that could be had on earth. He needs to have his dew from heaven. "Well," says God to Israel, "thou art of thyself dewless, and sapless, and motionless, and thou hast no moisture. Thou canst not obtain any of thine own, nor can mortals give it thee; but do thou stand still where I have planted thee, and I will water thee every moment. I, the Lord will keep thee, I will be as the dew unto thee." That Eastern figure, dew—for it is essentially Eastern, and not so well to be understood in this country—has in it several beauties.
You will notice, first of all, that grace, like the dew, often comes down imperceptibly into man's heart. When did the dew tell us that it was about to fall? Who ever heard the footsteps of the dew coming down upon the meadow grass? Who ever knew when it was descending? We see it when it has fallen; but who saw it come? And so with Christianity: it is very often imperceptible in its operations. True it is sometimes like the rattling hail, pelting on the windows: the sinner knows when it comes by stormy convictions, and by troubled feelings within, but quite as often the work of grace in man's heart is like the "still small voice," which few hear, and of which even the man himself is partially unconscious, not as to its operation perhaps, but as to its nature, feeling that there is a something in his heart, though not positively sure that it really comes from God. Christian! despise not spiritual things, because thou hearest not a sound therewith. Much that God doeth, he doeth in silence. There is a plant which bursts with the sound of a trumpet; but full many a flower called beautiful, openeth in silence, and no man heareth the sound thereof. There be some Christians who seem bound to make a noise in the world, they were made for that purpose; but there be far more who have to blush unseen whose glory it is not to "waste their sweetness," though to perfume "the desert air," and to make it sing and blossom like the garden of the Lord. Beloved, you may perhaps fancy that you have not grace, because it has not come upon you in terrible excitements and in awful convictions. I beseech you, do not distrust the power of grace, because it has stolen imperceptibly into your hearts. Mark the promise: "I will be as the dew unto Israel,"

     Again, if the dew is sometimes imperceptible, it is always sufficient.If God waters the earth with dew, foolish would be the man who should go afterwards, to water after his Maker. And God's grace, when it comes upon man's heart, is all-sufficient. What he giveth unto Israel, his own chosen people, is always enough for them. They sometimes think they want something more; they never really do, and what else they want, or think they want, it is better for them still to want. God is sufficient.

     And the dew, too, when it is required, is constant. God may, if he pleases, withhold the dew, that he may make a nation fear before him, but he usually sendeth the dew in its appointed time, and each morning beholdeth the pearly drops shed forth from the hand of God; and do, Christian, God will be thy dew. As thou wantest grace; so shalt thou find it.

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

     But it is superfluous for me to tell you what is the meaning of this figure. You all know it ten times better than I do, or at least you ought, for I am sure this text has been preached from times enough, and you are always hearing the metaphor used. Like many of God's metaphors it is so simple, so glorious, it arrests our attention at first sight—"I will be as the dew unto Israel." Instead of explaining, therefore, allow me to question you concerning it. Are you, my dear friends, of the number here mentioned who belong to Israel? You ask me what is meant by Israel. I reply, that historically Israel means God's elect, his chosen ones: "Israel have I loved, but Esau have I hated." But as you cannot tell that you are God's elect, except by signs and marks, I must tell you another meaning of Israel. Israel means a man of prayer. The name of "Israel" was given to Jacob, because he "wrestled with the angel, and prevailed." Are you a man of prayer? Come now, answer the question, each one of you for yourselves. Are you men of prayer, and women of prayer? Alas! some of you may use a form of prayer, but it hath no life in it. You ask, do I object to forms of prayer? I answer, no. I believe that sometimes forms of prayer, moulded according to the mind of the Spirit, are offered up with the vital breath of the same Spirit of God. Far be it from me to say, that because you use a form of prayer, therefore you do not pray at all; this however I remind you, your form of prayer is merely a vehicle, that moveth not except as it is drawn. Of itself it is like a steam engine, motionless till the furnace is heated; or rather, it is like the carriage which is drawn by the steam engine, being linked thereto with chains. A form of prayer is a heavy material thing, which prayer has to drag after it. It is no help to prayer, but rather a burden to it. There may be prayer with the huge cumbrous thing called the form attached but the form is distinct in every sense from the power. The prayer is the spirit, the life, the desire, the wish, the agonizing panting with God to obtain the blessing I ask you not whether you use a form of prayer, or whether you utter extempore prayers; for you may speak extemporaneously in prayer, and talk as much nonsense, ay, and a great deal more than you would if you used a prescribed form; you may avoid formality, and become frivolous. It is not uttering spontaneous words that is prayer any more than repeating a litany. But I ask you, do you pray? If you are prayerless, then you have no right to call yourselves God's elect. God's people are a praying people. They are an Israel, a wrestling race; and unto them the promise is made—"I will be unto them as the dew unto Israel."

     Yet one more hint: Israel may represent those who have chosen a better portion, who have given up the mess of pottage, who have sold that to "the men whose portion is in this life," and are looking to the recompense in another world. Art thou, my hearer, one of those who are content with a mess of pottage? Is it enough for thee if thy dish be filled with dainty meat, thy wine-cup full, thine income steady, and thy back clothed with goodly raiment; and dost thou then care nothing for the things to come? Is thy whole soul set on the things of earth? Then I warn thee. Though thou mayest talk about being elect, thou art none of God's elect unless thou hast set thine affections on things above and not on things on the earth. If thou art trying to make the best of things in this world, rejecting or even slighting that one object which ought to be three only one, to make the best of the next world, and dost not leave this in God's hand for him to take care of, thou art none of his. Unless thou hast renounced the pottage, and taken Christ to be thine all and heaven thy portion, thou hast no well-founded hope, and thou hast no right to take this promise to thyself—"I will be as the dew unto Israel." But thou who abhorrest the world, thou who spendest thy time in prayer, thou mayest take this to thyself; and in thy most barren and dry moments, thou mayest urge this at the mercy-throne—"I will be as the dew unto Israel."

     II. THE INFLUENCE OF DIVINE GRACE IN THE SOUL ARE HERE SET FORTH IN METAPHOR—"I will be as the dew unto Israel." What is the effect? Although grace is imperceptible in its coming, it is discernible enough in its fruits.
The very first effect of grace in the heart is, that it makes us grow upward. We shall "grow as the lily." This refers to the daffodil lily, which on a sudden, in a night, will spring up. There may have been no lilies at all in a field, but after a shower of rain the lilies may be seen springing up everywhere and the ground will appear perfectly covered with their yellow hue. Mark, that is what grace does in a man's soul. Wherever grace comes, its first operation is to make us grow up. It is a remarkable fact, that young Christians grow upward faster than any other Christians. They grow upward in their flaming love, mighty zeal, ardent hopes and longing expectations. Sometimes indeed our old friends step in and say, "Ah! young man, you are growing a great deal too fast; you are springing too rapidly upward; you will have a bitter frost to nip you a little presently." Very well, that is true enough; but that frost will come quite soon enough, without any of your frosty breath going before it. Let the young grow when they can do not give them a piercing nip with your freezy fingers. Let them thrive while they can. You may tell us we shall hurt our constitutions, and by-and-bye we shall not be so zealous; nevertheless, let us alone till our constitutions are hurt, suffer us to be zealous while we can. You know very well, with all your prudence, you would give a king's ransom if you could to-morrow have your juvenile ardor over again; and yet you quarrel with us because we grow upward. Why it is the effect of grace to grow upwards. The very first thing that grace does for us is to make us grow upward in love. Oh! what sweet love that is that we have in the early morning of life! There is not a prayer-meeting, but we are there; there is not a lecture, but oh how sweet it is to us; there is scarce a good deed to be done, but we must be engaged in it; we are so earnest, we are growing so fast. "They shall grow as the lily;" that is the promise. So when you see the promise fulfilled, my dear aged friends, do not be peevish or rebuke the young people, because they grow up and flourish in the courts of the Lord's house.

     There is a second effect. After they have been growing upward, they have to grow downward. While "he shall grow as the lily," he shall "cast forth his roots as Lebanon" likewise. God will not have his people all flower and foliage, he wants them also to take deep root and throw out strong fibres. After a few years, when we have been growing up in ardent piety, it usually happens that some doubt crosses the mind, or some affliction comes, which, if it does not chill our ardor, yet sometimes checks our energy, and we do not grow so fast as we should. Well, what is the effect? Are we really hurt or injured thereby? I trow not. Growing down is quite as good as growing up. I will not say it is better. The most blessed growth in grace is to be growing up and growing down—to be rooted in humility, And yet growing up in zeal; but usually the two do not come together. Sometimes we grow up, and at other times we grow down. We are such poor mortals, we cannot attend to two things at once. So sure as ever we take to shooting up, the devil comes and tries to prevent us growing down; and if we are growing down, he generally keeps us from growing up. Well, if we cannot do two things at once, what a mercy it is that we can do one at a time, by God's grace! After having grown up. the Christian grows down; "he casts forth his roots as Lebanon;" that is, he gets less in his own esteem. He was nothing once, but he now begins to be less than nothing. He thought humbly of himself before; but now he thinks worse of himself than ever he did. If you ask him now what is his character, although he said he was "a poor sinner and nothing at all" before; now he will tell you, that he thinks he is the poorest of sinners, for he has not grown one atom the richer all the time he has served his Lord. He is still poor in spirit, and perhaps poorer than ever he was. Blessed is it to grow downward!

     And let me remind you, my dear friends, that growing downward is a very excellent thing to promote stability. Perhaps that is the exact meaning of the passage. When we are first brought to God, we are like the lily, wafted about by the wind, afterwards we grow downwards, and become firm. I am fully convinced that the prevailing lack of this age is not so much in respect to growing upwards as growing downwards. Whenever I look abroad on the aggregate assemblies of religious people, I am obliged to hold a large number of my hearers in supreme contempt. Are you not one day crowding to hear me preach what I think the truth, and another day cramming a place where a man is preaching the very opposite to what I hold to be true? The fact is, some of you have no idea of what fundamental truth in theology is. The popular cry is for liberality of sentiment, and if a man happens to say a hard word against anything he thinks essentially wrong, he is accounted a bigot directly. Many of you shrink from the imputation of bigotry, as if it were more awful than heresy in regard to the faith. You would as soon be called a common informer as be called a bigot. I beseech you, do not be appalled at a taunt. Do not be a bigot, but do not be ashamed of being called one. A man ought to have stable principles, and not be ever shifting about from one set of opinions to another. He ought not to be hearing a Calvinistic minister in the Morning, and saying, that is good, and then going in the evening to hear an Arminian minister, and saying, that is good. We are often told by some ministers in their drawing rooms, that God will not ask in the day of judgment what a man believed, for if his life has been correct, it will not much matter what doctrines he held. I am at a loss for the authority on which they base such laxness. I wonder who told them that was the truth. I have read my Bible through, and I have never found a text that could absolve my judgment from its allegiance to my Maker. I hold, that to believe wrongly is equally as great a sin in the sight of heaven as to act wrongly. Error is a crime before God, and though there is liberty of conscience, so far as man and man are concerned, there is no liberty of conscience with God. You are not free to believe truth, or to believe error just as you like. You are bound to believe what God says is truth, and on your soul's peril be it, that you believe two things that are contrary, or confound the positive and the negative, where faith is the evidence of justification, and unbelief the seal of a sinner's doom. Methinks God will say to you at last, "Man, I gave thee brains; I endowed thee with reason; how couldst thou suppose thyself less responsible for the use of thy brains than for the use of thy tongue?" One man says, "Yes;" another says "No," and because it is the fashion to call out "Liberality, liberality, liberality," thou dost assent to both, and joining the crowd thou art sincere in neither. Thou oughtest rather to say, "I believe that what I hold is true, and if I did not, I should not avow it, and believing it to be true, I cannot hold that the opposite is true, nor can I be continually going to hear one doctrine at one time and another at another; my conscience demands that I distinguish between things that differ."

     My dear friends, do try to grow down; strive to get a good hold of the rocky doctrines of free grace; do not give them up; keep fast hold of them. When you believe a thing upon genuine conviction, do not shrink from the avowal, because an ill name is applied to it; say rather,

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

     Well, what next? After Christian has become confirmed in his doctrine, and has received the truth in the love of it, what next? Why the next thing is, he makes a profession. "His branches shall spread." He has been a lily straight up, with no branches at all; but now his roots have struck deep into the ground, like the cedars of Lebanon; and the next thing he does is to send forth branches. He says, "I am a Christian; I cannot keep it a secret, I must let somebody know I am a child of God." He goes to a prayer-meeting, and he is asked to pray. There is one branch spread. He goes to join a church; there is another branch. He sits down to the Lord's supper: there is another branch. And so the little lily, which was at first but a tiny plant, now grows into a tree, and his branches spread. That is a blessed effect of grace, believe me, when it leads you to come forth from your obscurity, and let the world know what you are. I have no patience with some of you who talk about being secret Christians. I should think a man a deserter if he were to say, "Well, I am a soldier, but I do not like anybody to know it." I should think that he did not belong to one of our good regiments surely, or he would not be ashamed of his colors. But there are many now-a-days that you scarce know whether they are Christians. Shall I tell you why? The awful fact is, that they are not Christians. "No man lighteth a candle and putteth it under a bushel." You know what the consequence would be if he did,—it would burn a hole through so sure as it was a candle; and no man can have grace in his heart, and keep it a secret. I am sure it must come out; it is one of the things that cannot be concealed. You shall not tell me you can walk into worldly company, and never let it be known that you are a Christian; that you can live for months in a house, and keep it dark that a Christian is living there. If that is the case, I tell you the angels do not know it; for it is not a fact. He that is a child of God will be discovered; his conduct will be different from the rest of men. "Thy speech betrayeth thee," said the maid to Peter. And our speech will betray us, if we are disciples. I beseech you, let me stir you up, my young friends, to make a more open profession of your faith. The Savior has done much for you; do not be ashamed of him, I implore you, but begin to make a profession of Christ Jesus, your Lord.

     Having joined the church and made a profession, what is the next effect of grace for the believer then? Why it is to make him beautiful as "the olive-tree." The most beautiful thing in the world is a Christian. Shall I tell you what kind of beauty he has? His beauty is the beauty of an olive tree; and that consists, first, in its fruitfulness. The most beautiful olive tree a man can grow is the one that bears the most; and the most beautiful Christian in the Church is the one that abounds most in good works. Besides, the olive is an evergreen, and so is the Christian. He has an olive-green beauty. 'He has a beauty which does not fade away, as it does from other trees, but lives for ever. Ah! my friends, we sometimes put one of our members before others because of his wealth, and at times we show a little partiality to another because of his eloquence, and to another because of his talents, but I take it that God ranks us all according to our fruitfulness. The most beautiful tree in a garden is the one that bears the most fruit: and there is a promise given to a Christian that after his branches have spread, his beauty shall be as the olive tree; that is, he shall grow and be laden with fruit.

     The olive tree, I have told you before, is evergreen; and so is the beauty of the Christian. Alas for the beautiful Christians we have in some of our places of worship on Sunday! Glorious Christians! Oh! if they could be packed up and sent to heaven just as they are, or provided their appearances were true indications of their state, what a blessed thing it would be! But alas, alas! on the Monday they have not the same sort of dress they had on Sunday, and therefore they have not the same kind of actions. Oh! dear friends, there is so much more Sunday religion in these days! Now, I like a Monday religion, and a Tuesday religion, and a Wednesday religion, and a Thursday religion, and a Friday religion, and a Saturday religion. I do not think the religion of the pulpit, or the religion of the pen, is to be relied upon. I think it is the religion of a draper's shop, the religion of a corn exchange, religion in a house, religion in the street, and the religion of a fireside, that proves us to be God's children. But how would some of you come off if you were weighed in these balances? Fine fellows, with your feathers on, on Sunday; but poor creatures when you are in your undress, in your religious dishabille on Monday! Ye are not well arrayed then; but ah! if ye were Christians, ye would be always well arrayed: yea, you would be always beautiful as the olive tree.
Again, "His smell shall be as Lebanon." Now, I take it, the smell means the report which will go out concerning a man. As you walk up Lebanon, it is said that the flowers of the aromatic herbs there cast up a most delicious perfume. You need not touch a flower—you can smell it at a distance. And so with the true Christian. Without seeking for it, he will obtain a blessed name among his brethren, and some name also amongst the world. "His beauty shall be as the olive tree."

     Once more, "His smell shall be as Lebanon." Did you ever know a flower at all concerned about its odour, or about what people would think of it? Did you ever hear a rose have a law-suit with a thorn, because the thorn said the rose did not smell sweetly? No certainly not. The rose went silently on, casting up its perfume, and left Mr. Thorn alone. Now, at times, with all ministers and with all Christians, there will be all manner of reports and hard sayings; but I have found a great gain by letting the fellows alone. When they are tired, they will have done, I dare say; and I am sure they will not much hurt us. If there be anything amiss in us, we are much obliged to them, and we will try and mend it; but if they have lied about us it is a satisfaction to us, as far as we are concerned, to know that they are liars, and we pray God that they may not have a portion in "the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone." Beloved, you never need be very much concerned what men shall say of your character; only take care that in the midst of reproach you are without guile or guilt. Live, live, live,—that is the way to beat all slanderers and all calumniators. Keep straight on with what you think is right, and in due time your light shall burst forth as the morning, and your brightness as the sun in his strength. "His beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon." Wherever the Christian goes he will cast a perfume about him; and when he is gone he will leave some savor behind which will be remembered.

     III. Thus far we have spoken concerning the benefits of grace to the Christian himself: more briefly I will now address you CONCERNING THE BENEFITS OF GRACE TO OTHERS.

     The text says, "they that dwell under his shadow shall return." I am sure, my dear friends, if you have Christian principle in your heart, you will not like a selfish religion. Though you will hold it to be a duty continually to examine yourself; and to see that you also are sound in the faith, you will not confine your religion to yourself. You may perhaps take the maxim that Christianity should begin at home, but you will never think of improving on it by thinking that it ought to end there. I like an expansive religion. I should not like to attend a chapel where all the preaching was meant for me—where all I heard comforted me. I should not like to go where there was not a scrap for me, but all for my brethren; nor where there was not something for the poor sinner. I could not afford to attend a place where I should always hear that which was exclusively for the saint, or exclusively for the sinner. If a man left half his congregation without a word, I should doubt whether he would give me the right one. But there are some people so selfish that, provided they go to heaven, it is enough—they are in the covenant. They are the dear people of God—generally dear at any price; a peculiar people—awfully peculiar they are, certainly: they are so different from other people,—there is no doubt about that. They say it is equal whether God ordains man's life or man's death. They would sit still to hear men damned, and I do believe they would sing a song over hell itself and hail its jubilee. They seem to have no feeling for anyone but themselves. They have dried the heart out of them by some cunning sleight of hand, they have taken away the marrow from the bones of godliness, and wrapped themselves entirely up in self. But true Christianity will be expansive and care for others.

     Come, then, ye men of generous hearts, ye of glowing charity, here is a promise for you—you have some who dwell under your shadow. Are you a ministers your people sit under your shadow on the Sabbath. Are you a father? your children come and dwell under your shadow. Are you a master? your workmen dwell under your shadow; you have often prayed for their salvation; you have often yearned for the conversion of their souls. Mother! you have often pleaded for the deliverance of a daughter from her sin. "They that dwell under his shadow shall return." If you want to do good to your neighbors, and to bring them to Christ, put your own heart much upon the Savior. The more of Christ a man has, the more useful will he be in his day. If you were to look at all the ministers that have been useful, you will not find they were distinguished by great talent so much as by great grace. God can bless a poor unsophisticated countryman to the salvation of hundreds if he has grace; and a man ever so learned may preach in vain, with great periods and stupendous sentences, if he has none. Do you, then, seek to prove that promise—"I will be as the dew unto Israel," and so doing, you will get this other promise fulfilled—"They that dwell under your shadow shall return, shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon."

     I have no time to dwell upon these points—"they shall revive as the corn," or "they shall return;" but I must just make a remark upon that sweet thought—"they shall grow as the vine." We will transplant the Eastern metaphor into Western soil. Vines, with us, grow up by the side of walls, they could not grow up themselves if there were not some prop against which they could lean for support. Now, I have often thought this is an explanation of that text—"Train up a child in the way he should go." Do you try all you can by God's grace to train up your child like you would a vine; and here is the promise. "It shall grow as the vine." Oh! I have thought, what a pretty sight it is to see an aged Christian, who, in his youth, was a Sabbath-school teacher, still a member of the Church; and there are nine or ten young men in the Church, perhaps, and they walk up and down the chapel, and go and talk to him, and comfort him. Do you not see how that is? Why, when the young man was a strong oak, he let those pieces of ivy grow around him; and those young Christians entwined and grew around him like the vine, and now he has become an old man the wind would come and blow the oak down, but the ivy that is twisted around it shields him from the blast and keeps him upright. So with aged Christians, when they have served their God well in their day and generation they shall have comforts from others who have grown around them like the vine, and shall be sheltered by them in their old age. May those of us who are young always seek to cheer the aged! Let us never despise them; let us try as much as we can to grow around them, that we may tower upwards by their means and that they may be comforted by our adherence. "They shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine."

     Lastly, "The scent thereof shall be as Lebanon." The Christian man shall not allow others to grow up by him, but by a godly conversation, he shall spread the sweetness of perfume wherever he goes. I know some dear saints of the Lord who, if they come to my house for five minutes, leave a refreshing savor behind them for five weeks. They come and talk to me of the things of the kingdom, and I have not forgotten their sweet influence on my spirit for a long time after they have gone. It is said of the wine of Lebanon, that if you pour some into a glass the flavour of it will remain for a long time after the wine is gone. And you know of old wine casks, that it is long before the taste of the wine departs out of them. So with the old Christian; he has got a savoury conversation, he talks of the things of the kingdom, and leaves a perfume behind him which lasts for weeks afterwards and you say, "Oh how I wish that man of God would come to my house again; what a sweet savor there was about him!" This is not the case with every one. Many of you, when you go and see your friends, sit and tittle tattle all the afternoon, and on the Lord's day you break the Sabbath as much as if you had sought diversion in the park, although you cry out so much against those who go there. How many there are who utterly waste their time by unprofitable chat in their own houses! Let me solemnly warn you concerning this—"They that feared the Lord spake often one to another"—not about one another. When you meet together, there is too little talk about Christ Jesus, the glory of his kingdom, and the greatness of his power. Ministers come in for their share of fulsome praise or offensive scandal, but brethren, these things ought not to be so.

     Beloved, if you are true Christians—that is the point—you will leave a scent behind you in your conversation; and when you are dead, there will still be a sweet savor left. Ah! there was good old wine in this pulpit once; there was good old wine in this house of God once, and I can see the stains of it here now. Yea, there is the perfume of holy Whitfield in this place to-night; I am sure there is. I can fancy his shade looking down this evening upon this hallowed spot. I am sure he rejoices to see the multitude keeping holyday here; and there is to me, somehow, a kind of solemn awe throughout this place. I wonder how I dared to come here, to stand where he once stood, "whose shoes latchet I am unworthy to unloose." Oh! dear friends, it is something to leave a scent behind you as long as he has done. You may all do it in a measure. In one of Whitfield's sermons, (I like to read them continually, for I can find none like them), he speaks of some young man who said, "I will not live in my old father's house, for there is not a chair or a table there but smells of his piety." That is what you should endeavor to do, to make your house so smell of piety, that a wicked man cannot stop in it; to make it so holy, that without obtrusively telling your sentiments, it should make ungodly men uncomfortable in it; you should so live, that your name in your private circles, if not elsewhere, may be mentioned with honor, and it may be said of you, "Ah! he was one who reflected his Master's image, and who sought to adorn the doctrine of God his Savior in all things."

     I may have spoken to you in what you may think an odd style to-night, but I have spoken earnestly, right on I never pretend to preach to you eloquently, but I have only thrown out thought; I wish you to remember, and God grant that you may find them to your profit.

     But I am well aware that I am preaching to a great many who know nothing about the things of which I have been speaking. What shall I say to them? Oh! my dear hearers, I should like to strike beneath the floor of this pulpit, and get Whitfield to rise up and preach to you for five minutes. How he would plead with you! how he would stretch forth his hands, the tears rolling down his cheeks, and how he would cry out in his usual impassioned manner "Come, sinners, come; God help you to come to Jesus Christ!" and then he would go on to tell you how the heart of Christ is big enough to take big sinners in, and how the blackest and the filthiest—the devil's castaways even, are welcome to Christ. And I think I see him pressing the poor convinced sinners into the fold. I think I see him doing as the angels did with Lot, taking them by the shoulders, and saying, "Run, run, for your life; look not behind you, stay not in all the plain!" I cannot do it as he could; but, nevertheless, if these lips had the language which the heart would speak, I would plead with you for Jesus' sake, that you would be reconciled to God. I have, I trust, some here who are crying for a Savior; they feel they want him; God has brought them to this states they feel their need of him. Sinner! if thou wantest Christ, Christ wants thee; if thou hast a desire after Christ, Christ has a desire after thee. What sayest thou, poor soul, wilt thou take Christ just as he is? Come! bundle out all thy righteousness. come! pack up all thy goodness and cast it out of doors. Take Jesus, Jesus only, to be thy salvation; and I tell thee, though thou wert black as night, and filthy as a demon, while thou art yet in the land of the living, if thou dost now take Christ as thy Savior, that Christ will be enough for thee, enough to clothe thee, enough to purge thee, enough to perfect thee, and enough to land thee safe in heaven. But if you are self-righteous, I have no gospel for you except this,

"Not the righteous, not the righteous,
Sinners, Jesus, came to save."

     Sinners, of all sorts and sizes! sinners black, sinners blacker, sinners blackest! sinners filthy, sinners filthier, sinners filthiest! sinners bad, sinners worse, sinners worst! all ye who can take to yourselves the name of sinners! all of you who can subscribe to that title! I, in God's name, preach to you that "he is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by him;" and if by faith and prayer you are enabled to come to him this night, there is not a sinner who feels his need of a Savior who may not this night have that Savior. God has given him first, and he will not deny him second. He who is freely proclaimed in revelation, is freely commended to you in ministration.

"True relief and true repentance,
Every grace that brings you nigh;
Without money,
Come to Jesus Christ, and buy."

     Oh! save souls! O God! save souls! Amen! Amen!



Preaching! Man’s Privilege and God’s Power!

By / Nov 25

Preaching! Man's Privilege and God's Power

 

"For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly."—Mark 6:20

 

     The preaching of the Word hath exceeding power. John commenced his ministry as an obscure individual, a man who led an almost hermit life. He begins to preach in the wilderness of Judea, but his cry is so powerful, that ere he has spoken many days, multitudes wait upon his words. He continues, clothed in that shaggy garment, and living on the simplest of food, still to utter the same cry of preparation for the kingdom of heaven—Repent! repent! repent! And now, not only the multitude, but the teachers, the respectable part of the community, come to listen to him. The Scribes and Pharisees sit down by Jordan's banks to listen to the Baptist's word. So powerful is his preaching that many of all ranks—publicans, sinners, and soldiers,—come unto him and are baptized by him in Jordan confessing their sins. Nay, the Scribes and Pharisees themselves seek baptism at his hands. Boldly, however, he repulses them; tells them to bring forth fruits meet for repentance, and warns them that their descent from Abraham does not entitle them to the blessings of the coming kingdom of the great Messiah. His word rings from one end of Judea to the other. All men wonder what this can mean, and already there begins to be a feeling in the hearts of men that Messiah is at hand. Herod himself hears of John, and now you behold the spectacle of a cruel and unrighteous king sitting humbly to listen to this stern reformer. The Baptist changes not his preaching. The same boldness which had made him rebuke the common people and their teachers, now leads him to defy the wrath of Herod himself. He touches him in his most tender place, strikes his favourite sin, dashes down his idle lust to the ground, counts it his business not to speak of truth in generals but in particulars. Yea, he tells him to his very face, "It is not lawful for thee to take to thyself thy brother's wife."

     Oh, what a power there is in the Word of God! I do not find that the Pharynx with all their learning had moved Herod. I discover not that the most mighty of the Grecian philosophers, or of the Gnostics who were then in existence, had any power to reach the heart of Herod. But the simple, plain preaching of John, his declaration of the Word with all honesty and simplicity, had power to pin Herod by the ear, to vibrate in his heart and to awaken his conscience, for sure we are it was awakened; if the awakening did not end in his conversion, at any rate it made him troubled in his sins so that he could not go on peaceably in iniquity. Ah, my dear friends, we want nothing in these times for revival in the world but the simple preaching of the gospel. This is the great battering ram that shall dash down the bulwarks of iniquity. This is the great light that shall scatter the darkness. We need not that men should be adopting new schemes and new plans. We are glad of the agencies and assistances which are continually arising; but after all, the true Jerusalem blade, the sword that can cut to the piercing asunder of the joints and marrow, is preaching the Word of God. We must never neglect it, never despise it. The age in which the pulpit it despised, will be an age in which gospel truth will cease to be honored. Once put away God's ministers, and you have to a great extent taken the candle out of the candlestick; quenched the lamps that God hath appointed in the sanctuary. Our missionary societies need continually to be reminded of this; they get so busy with translations, so diligently employed with the different operations of civilization, with the founding of stores, with the encouragement of commerce among a people, that they seem to neglect—at least in some degree—that which is the great and master weapon of the minister, the foolishness of preaching by which it pleases God to save them that believe. Preaching the gospel will effectually civilize, while introducing the arts of civilization will sometimes fail. Preaching the gospel will lift up the barbarian, while attempts to do it by philosophy will be found ineffectual. We must go among them, and tell them of Christ; we must point them to heaven; we must lead them to the cross; shall they be elevated in their character, and raised in their condition. But by no other means. God forbid that we should begin to depreciate preaching. Let us still honor it; let us look to it as God's ordained instrumentality, and we shall yet see in the world a repetition of great wonders wrought by the preaching in the name of Jesus Christ.

     To-day, I shall want your attention to a subject which concerns us all, but more especially those, who being hearers of the Word, are hearers only, and not doers of the same. I shall first attempt to show the blessedness of hearing the Word of God; secondly, the responsibilities of the hearer; and then, thirdly, those accompaniments which are necessary to go with the hearing of the Word of God, to make it effectual to save the soul.

     I. First of all, my dear friends, let us speak a little about THE BLESSEDNESS OF HEARING THE WORD.

     The prophet constantly asserts, "Blessed are the ears which hear the things that we hear; and blessed are the eyes which see the things which we see." Prophets and kings desired it long, but died without the sight. Often do the seers of old use language similar to this, "Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound, they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance." Godly men accept it as an omen of happy times when their eyes should see their teachers. The angels sang the blessedness of it when they descended from on high, singing, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Behold, we bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be unto you and to all people." The angels' song is in harmony with the seers' testimony. Both conjoin to prove what I assert, that we are blessed in having the privilege of listening to God's Word.

     Let us enlarge upon this point. If we reflect upon what the preaching of the Word is, we shall soon see that we are highly privileged in enjoying it. The preaching of the Word is the scattering of the seed. The hearers are the ground on which the good seed falls. Those who hear not the Word are as the arid desert, which has never seen a handful of the good corn; or as the unploughed waves of the sea which have never been gladdened with the prospect of a harvest. But when the sower goes forth to sow seed, he scatters it broadcast upon you that hear, and there is to you the hope that in you the good seed shall take root and bring forth fruit a hundred fold. True, some of you may be but wayside hearers, and evil birds may soon devour the seed. At least, it does fall upon you, nor is it the fault of the seed, but of the ground, if that seed does not grow. True, you may be as stony-ground hearers, who for awhile receive the Word and rejoice therein, but having no root in yourselves, the seed may wither away. That again, I say, does not diminish your privilege, though it increases your guilt, inasmuch as it is no fault of the seed nor of the sun, but the fault of the stony ground, if the fruit is not nourished unto perfection. And you, inasmuch as you are the field, the broad acres upon which the gospel husbandman scatters the precious grain, you enjoy the privilege which is denied to heathens and idolaters.

     Again, the kingdom of heaven is likened unto a net which is cast into the sea, and which gathers of divers kinds. Now you represent the fish of the sea, and it is happy indeed for you that you are where the net is thrown, for there is at least the hope that you may be entangled in its meshes, and may be drawn out of the sea of sin, and gathered into the vessels of salvation. If you were far, far away, where the net is never cast, there would be no hope of your being caught therein. But here you are gathered round the fisherman's humble boat, and as he casts his net into the sea, he hopes that some of you may be caught therein,—and assuredly gracious is your privilege! But if you be not caught, it shall not be the fault of the net, but the fault of your own wilfulness, which shall make you fly from it, lest you be graciously taken therein.

     Moreover, the preaching of the gospel is very much in this day like the mission of Christ upon earth. When Christ was on earth he went about walking through the midst of sick folk, and they laid them in their beds by the wayside, so that as Jesus passed by, they might touch the hem of his garment and be made whole. You, to-day, when you hear the Word, are like the sick in their beds where Jesus passes by. You are like blind Bartimaeus sitting by the wayside begging, in the very road along which the Son of David journeys. Lo, a multitude have come to listen to him. He is present wherever his truth is preached: "Lo, I am with you always, even to the ends of the world." You are not like sick men in their chambers, or sick men far away in Tyre and Sidon, but you are like the men who lay at Bethesda's pool under the five porches, waiting for the moving of the water. Angel of God, move the waters this day! or rather, O Jesus, give thou grace to the impotent man that he may now step in.

     Yet further, we may illustrate the privilege of those who hear the Word by the fact that the Word of God is the bread of heaven. I can only compare this great number of people gathered here to-day to the sight which was seen upon the mountain in the days of Jesus. They were hungry, and the disciples would have sent them away. But Jesus bade them sit down in ranks upon the grass, as you are sitting down in rows here, and there were but a few barley loaves and five small fishes (fit type and representation of the minister's own poverty of words and thoughts!) But Jesus blessed the bread, and blessed the fishes, and brake them; and they were multiplied, and they did all eat and were filled. So you are as these men. God give you grace to eat. There is not given to you a stone instead of bread, nor a scorpion instead of an egg; but Christ Jesus shall be fully and freely preached to you. May you have appetites to long for the Word, faith to partake of the Word, and may it be to you the bread of life sent down from heaven.

     Yet often in Scripture we find the Word of God compared to a light. "The people that sat in darkness saw a great light." "Unto them that dwell in darkness, and in the valley of the shadow of death, has a great light arisen." Those who hear not the Word are men that grope their way not only in a fog, but in a thick Egyptian darkness that may be felt. Before your eyes to-day is held up the flaming torch of God's Word, to shew you your path through the thick darkness. Nay, to-day there is not only a torch, but in the preaching of the Word the Sun of Righteousness himself arises with healing beneath his wings. You are not they that grope for the wall like blind men; you are not as they who are obliged to say, "We see not the path to heaven; we know not the way to God; we fear we shall never be reconciled to Christ." Behold, the light of heaven shineth upon your eyeballs, and, if ye perish, ye must perish wilfully; if ye sink into hell, it will be with the path to heaven shining before you, if damned, it will be not because you do not know the way of salvation, but because you wilfully and wickedly put it from you, and choose for yourselves the path of death. It must even be then a privilege to listen to the Word, if the Word be as a light, and as bread, and as healing, as a gospel net, and as divine seed.

     Once more let me remind you, there is yet a greater privilege connected with the Word of God than this—for all this were nothing without the last. As I look upon a multitude of unconverted men and women, I am reminded of Ezekiel's vision. He saw lying in the valley of Hinnom multitudes of bones, the flesh of which had been consumed by fire, and the bones themselves were dried as in a furnace, scattered hither and thither. There with other bones in other charnel-houses, lying scattered at the mouths of other graves; but Ezekiel was not sent to them; to the valley of Hinnom was he sent, and there alone. And he stood by faith, and began to practice the foolishness of preaching, "Ye dry bones hear the word of the Lord; thus saith the Lord, ye dry bones live." And as be spoke there was a rustling, each bone sought its fellow; and as he spake again, these bones united and stood erect, as he continued his discourse the flesh clothed the skeleton; when he concluded by crying, "Come from the winds, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live," they stood upon their feet an exceeding great army. The preached Word is like Ezekiel's prophecy; life goes forth with the word of the faithful minister, when we say, "Repent!" We know that sinners cannot repent of themselves, but God's grace sweetly constrains them to repent. When we bid them believe, it is not because of any natural capacity for faith that lies within them, but because the command "Believe and live," when given by the faithful minister of God, hath in it a quickening power; as much as when Peter and John said to the man with the withered hand, "In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, stretch out thy hand," and it was done. So do we say to the dead in sin—"Sinner, live; repent and be converted; repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of the Lord Jesus." Owned of God the Spirit, it becomes a quickening cry, and you are made to live. Blessed are the dry bones that lay in a valley where Ezekiel prophecies; and blessed are ye that are found where Jesus Christ's name is preached, where his power is invoked by a heart which believes in its energy; where his truth is preached to you by one, who despite of many mistakes knows this one thing—that Christ is both the power of God and the wisdom of God unto every one that believeth. This consideration alone then—the peculiar power of the Word of God, might compel us to say, "That indeed there is a blessedness in hearing it."

     But, my dear friends, let us look at it in another light. Let us appeal to those who have heard the Word and have received good in their own souls by it. Men and brethren, I speak to hundreds of you, who know in your own soul what the Word of God is. Let me ask you—you who have been converted from a thousand crimes—you who have been picked from the dunghill and made to sit among the princely children of God—let me ask you what you think of the preaching of the Word. Why, there are hundreds of you men and women, who if this were the proper time and occasion, would rise from your seat and say, "I bless God that ever I listened to the preached Word. I was a stranger to all truth, but I was enticed to come and listen, and God met with me." Some of you can look back to the first Sunday on which you ever entered a place of worship for twenty years, and that place was this very hall. Here you came an unaccustomed worshipper to tread God's hallowed floor. You stood and knew not what you were at. You wondered what the service of God's house could be. But you have reason to remember that Sabbath-day, and you will have reason to remember it to all eternity. Oh that day! it broke your bonds and set you free; that day aroused your conscience and made you feel your need of Christ. That day was a blessed turning point in your history, in which you were led to escape from hell, turn your back on sin, and fly for refuge to Christ Jesus. Since that day let me ask you, what has the Word of God been to you? Has it not been constantly a quickening word? You have grown dull and careless during the week; has not the Sabbath sermon stirred you up afresh? You have sometimes all but lost your hope, and has not the hearing of the Word revived you? Why I know that some of you have come up to the house of God as hungry men would come to a place where bread was distributed, you come to the house of God with a light and happy step, as thirsty men would come to a flowing well, and you rejoice when the day comes round: you only wish there were seven Sabbath days a week, that you might always be listening to God's Word. You can say with Dr. Watts,

"Father, my soul would still abide within thy temple, near thy side.
And if my feet must hence depart, still keep thy dwelling in my heart."

     Personally I have to bless God for many good books. I thank God for Dr. Doddridge's Rise and Progress of Religion; I thank God for Baxter's Call to the Unconverted; for Alleyne's Alarm to Sinners; I bless God for James's Anxious Enquirer; but my gratitude most of all is due to God, not for books, but for the living Word—and that too addressed to me by a poor uneducated man, a man who had never received any training for the ministry, and probably will never be heard of in this life, a man engaged in business, no doubt of a menial kind during the week, but who had just enough of grace to say on the Sabbath, "Look unto me and be ye saved all ye ends of the earth. "The books were good, but the man was better. The revealed Word awakened me, it was the living Word saved me, and I must ever attach peculiar value to the hearing of the truth, for by it I received the joy and peace in which my soul delights.

     But further, my dear hearers, the value of the Word preached and heard may be estimated by the opinions which the lost have of it now. Hearken to one man, it is not a dream nor a picture of my imagination which I now present to you, it is one of Jesus Christ's own graphic descriptions. There lies a man in hell who has heard Moses and the prophets. His time is passed, he can hear them no more. But so great is the value he attaches to the preached Word, that he says, "Father Abraham, send Lazarus, for I have five brethren, let him testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment." He felt that if Lazarus could speak—speak personally his own personal testimony to the truth, that peradventure they might be saved. Oh! what would the damned in hell give for a sermon could they but listen once more to the church-going bell and go up to the sanctuary! Ah, my brethren, they would consent, if it were possible, to bear ten thousand years of hell's torments, if they might but once more have the Word preached to them! Ah! if I had a congregation such as that would be, of men who have tasted the wrath of God, of men who know what an awful thing it is to fall into the hands of an angry God, oh, how would they lean forward to catch every word, with what deep attention would they all regard the preacher, each one saying, "Is there a hope for me? May I not escape from the place of doom? Good God! may this fire not be quenched and I be plucked as a brand from the burning?" Value then, I pray you, the privilege while you have it now. We are always foolish, and we never value mercy till we lose it. But I do adjure you cast not aside this folly, value it while it is called to-day, value that which once lost will seem to us to be priceless beyond all conception,—estimated then at its true worth, invaluable, and precious beyond a miser's dream.

     Let me again ask you to value it in a brighter light—by the estimation of the saints before the throne. Ye glorified ones, what think ye of the preaching of the Word? Hark to them! Will they not sing it forth—"Faith came to us by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. It was by it that we were led to confess our sins; by it we were led to wash our robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb?" I am sure they before the throne think not lightly of God's ministers. They would not speak with cold language of the truth of the Gospel which is preached in your ears. No, in their eternal hallelujahs they bless the Lord who sent the Gospel to them, as they sing—"Unto him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his blood, unto him be glory for ever and ever." Value, then, the preaching of the Word, and count yourselves happy that you are allowed to listen to it.

     II. My second head deals more closely with the text, and I hope it will likewise appeal more closely to our consciences—THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE HEARER OF THE WORD.

     Herod, you will perceive, went as far as very many of us, perhaps farther than some, and yet was lost. Our responsibilities concerning the Word do not end with hearing it. Herod heard it, but hearing is not enough. Ye may sit for fifty years in the sanctuary of God hearing the gospel, and be rather the worse than the better for all you have heard, if it end in hearing. It is not the Word entering into one ear, and coming forth out of the other ear which converts the soul but it is the echoing of the Word down in the very heart, and the abiding of the truth in the conscience. I know there are very many who think they have fulfilled all their religion when they go to their church or chapel. Let us not deceive you in this thing. Your church-going, and your chapel-going, though they give you great privileges, yet involve the most solemn responsibilities. Instead of being in themselves saving, they may be damning to you unless you avail yourselves of the privileges presented to you by them. I doubt not that hell is crammed with church and chapel-goers, and that there are whole wards in that infernal prison house that are filled with men who heard the Word, but who stopped there, who sat in their pews, but never fled to Christ; who listened to the call, but did not obey it. "Yes," saith one," but I do more than simply hear the Word, for I make choice of the most earnest preacher I can find." So did Herod, and yet he perished. He was not a hearer of a man with a soft tongue, for John did not speak as one clothed in fine raiment, John was not a reed shaken with the wind; he was a prophet, "Yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet;" faithful in all his house, as a good servant of his God. There was never a more honest and faithful preacher than John. And you too, may with care have selected the most excellent minister, not for his eloquence, but for his earnestness; not for his talent, but for his power of faith, and you may listen to him, and that too with attention, and after all may be a cast-away. The responsibilities involved in listening to such a man may be so weighty, that like a millstone about your neck, they may help to sink you lower than the lowest hell. Take heed to yourselves, that you rest not in the outward Word, however fitly spoken, or however attentively heard; but reach forward to something deeper and better. "Yes," saith a third, "but I do not only hear the most earnest preacher, but I go out of my way to hear him. I have left my parish church, for instance, and I come walking five or six miles—I am willing to walk ten, or even twenty, if I can but hear a sermon—and I am not ashamed to mingle with the poor. I may have rank and position in life, but I am not ashamed to listen to the earnest preacher, though he should belong to the most despised of sects" Yea, and Herod did the like, Herod was a king, and yet listened to the peasant-prophet. Herod is clothed in purple, and yet listens to the Baptist in his shaggy garment. While Herod fared sumptuously every day, he who ate locusts and wild honey reproves him boldly to his face; and with all this, Herod was not saved. So, also, you may walk many a mile to listen to the truth, and that year after year, but unless ye go further than that, unless ye obey the Word, unless it sinks deep into your inmost soul, ye shall perish still—perish under the sound of the Word—the very Word of God becoming a death-knell to your soul, dreadfully tolling you down to deep destruction. But I hear another object. "I, sir, not only take the trouble to hear, but I hear very gladly. I am delighted when I listen. I am not a captious, critical hearer, but I feel a pleasure in listening to God's Word. Is not that a blessed sign? Do you not think that I must be saved, if I rejoice to hear that good sound?" No, my friend, no; it is a hopeful sign, but it is a very uncertain one, for is it not written in our text, that Herod heard the Word gladly? The smile might be on his face, or the tear in his eye while the Baptist denounced sin; there was a something in his conscience which made him feel glad that there was one honest man alive; that in a time of enormous corruption, there was one fearless soul that dare with unblanched cheek, to correct sin in high places. He was like Henry the Eighth, who when Hugh Latimer presented him on New Year's day with a napkin, on which was embroidered the words, "Whoremongers and adulterers God will judge;" instead of casting the preacher into prison, he said, "He was glad there was one man who dared to tell him and he stands up for you and defends you, but he is as bad a man as there is living." Oh sirs! I am glad you listen to me; I do hope that the hammer may yet break your hearts but I do conjure you, give up your sins. Oh! for your own soul's sake, do not abide in your transgressions, for I warn you, if I have spoken faithfully to you, you cannot sin so cheaply as other men. I have never prosed away to you; I have never been too polite to warn you of perdition, I speak to you in rough and earnest terms—I may claim that credit without egotism. If you perish, sirs, it will little boot you that ye stood up in my defense; it will little serve you that ye tried to screen the minister from slander and from calumny. I would have you think of yourselves, even though ye thought less of me and my reputation. I would have you love yourselves, and so escape from hell, and fly to heaven while yet the gate of mercy stands on the jar, and the hour of mercy is not passed for ever. Think not, I say, that hearing the Word gladly is enough; you may do so and yet be lost.

     But more than that. "Ah," says one, "you have just anticipated what I was about to say. I not only listen gladly, but I respect the preacher. I would not hear a man say a word against him." It was so with Herod. "He observed John," it is said, "and he accounted him a just man and a holy," and yet though he honored the preacher, he was lost himself. Ah! what multitudes go to our fashionable places of worship, and as they come out they say to one another, "What a noble sermon!" and then they go to their houses, and sit down and say, "What a fine turn he gave to that period! what a rich thought that was! what a sparkling metaphor!" And is it for this that we preach to you? Is your applause the breath of our nostrils? Do you think that God's ministers are sent into the world to tickle your ears and be unto you as one that plays a merry tune on a goodly instrument? God knows I would sooner break stones on the road than be a preacher for oratory's sake. I would never stand here to play the hypocrite. No, it is your hearts we want, not your admiration. It is your espousal to Christ, and not your love to us. Oh that we could break your hearts, and awake your consciences, we would not mind what other results should follow. We should feel that we were accepted of God, if we were but felt with power to be God's servants in the hearts and thoughts of men. No, think not that to honor the preacher is enough. Ye may perish praising the minister in your dying moments.

     Yet further. Some one may say, "I feel I am a better man through hearing the minister, and is not that a good sign?" Yes, it is a good sign, but it is not a sure one for all that. For Herod they said did many things. Look at the text. It is expressly said there, "He observed him, and when he heard him, he did many things." I should not wonder after that, that Herod became somewhat more merciful in his government, somewhat less exacting, a little more outwardly moral, and though he continued in his lasciviousness, yet he tried to cover it up with respectable excuses. "He did many things." That was doing a very long way, but Herod was Herod still. And you sirs, it may be, have been led to give up drunkenness, through the preaching of the Word: to shut up the shop that used to be opened on a Sunday. You cannot now swear; you would not now cheat. It is good, it is very good; but it is not enough. All this there may be, but yet the root of the matter may not be in you. To honor the Sabbath outwardly will not save you, unless you enter into the rest which remaineth for the people of God. Merely to close the shop is not enough. The heart itself must be shut up against the love of sin. To cease blasphemy is not sufficient, though it is good, for there may be blasphemy in the heart, when there is none upon the tongue. "Except ye be converted and become as little children ye shall in nowise enter the kingdom of heaven." For "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." The Lord grant that you may not rest with outward cleansing, with moral purification, but strike deeper into the root, and soul, and marrow of these blessings, the change of your heart, the bringing of your soul into union with Christ. One thing I must also remark about Herod, with the Greek text in view "He did many things," will allow me to infer that he felt many doubts. As a good old commentator says, "John smote him so hard, that he could not help feeling it. He gave him such home blows that he could not but be bruised every now and then, and yet though his conscience was smitten, his heart was never renewed." It is a pleasant sight to see men weep under the Word—to mark them tremble; but then we remember Felix. Felix trembled. But he said, "Go thy way for this time; when I have a more convenient season I will send for thee. Happy the minister who hears the people say, "Almost thou persuadest us to be Christians." But then, we remember Agrippa—we remember how he returns to his sins, and seeks not the Savior. We are glad if your consciences are awakened, we rejoice if you are made to doubt and question yourselves, but we mourn because your doubts are so transient, because your goodness is as the morning cloud, and as the early dew.

     I have tracked some of you to your houses. I have known of some who after a solemn sermon, when they got home could scarcely eat their meal. They sit down, leaning their head on their hand. The wife is glad to think that her husband is in a hopeful state. He rises from his seat; he goes up stairs; he walks about the house he says he is miserable. At last he comes down and sets his teeth together, and says "Well, if I am to be damned I shall be damned; if I am to be saved I shall be saved, and there's an end of it." Then he rouses himself, saying, "I cannot go to hear that man again: he is too hard with me. I must either give up my sins, or give up listening to the Word; the two things will not exist together." Happy, I say, are we to see that man troubled; but our unhappiness is so much the greater when we see him shaking it off—the dog returning to his vomit, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. O God, save us from this, let us never be men who spring up fairly, but wither away suddenly and disappoint all hope. O God, let us not be as Balaam, who prayed that his last end might be with the righteous, but returned to defy Israel, to provoke the Lord God, and to perish in the midst of his iniquity.

     And now I hear many of you say, "Well if all these things are not enough, what is it that is expected of the hearer of the Word?" Spirit of God! help us so to speak that the Word may come home to all! Believer in Christ, if you would hear the Word to profit, you must hear it obediently. You must hear it as James and John did, when the Master said "Follow me," and they left their nets and their boats and then followed him. You must do the Word as well as hear it, yielding up your hearts to its sway, being willing to walk in the road which it maps, to follow the path which it lays before you. Hearing it obediently, you must also hear it personally for yourselves, not for others, but for yourselves alone. You must be as Zacchaeus, who was in the sycamore tree, and the Master said, "Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, to-day I must abide in thy house." The Word will never bless you till it comes home directly to yourself. You must be as Mary, who when the Master spoke to her she did not know his voice, till he said unto her, "Mary!" and she said, "Rabboni." There must be an individual hearing of the truth, and a reception of it for yourself in your own heart. Then, too, you must hear the truth penitently. You must be as that Mary, who when she listened to the Word, must needs go and wash the feet of Jesus with her tears, and wipe them with the hairs of her head. There must be tears for your many sins, a true confession of your guilt before God. But above all you must hear it believingly. The Word must not be unto you as mere sound, but as matter of fact. You must be as Lydia, whose heart the Lord opened; or as the trembling jailer, who believed on the Lord Jesus with all his house and was baptized forthwith. You must be as the thief, who could pray, "Lord, remember me," and who could believe the precious promise given, "To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise." God give us grace so to listen, and then shall our responsibilities under the Word be cleared up receiving the power of the Word into our conscience, with demonstration of the Holy Spirit, and fruits agreeable to our profession.

     III. Now to conclude. I want your serious attention to THE NEEDFUL ACCOMPANIMENTS OF HEARING THE WORD.

     There are many men who get blessed by the Word through God's sovereign grace without any of the accompaniments of which I am now about to speak. We have, connected with us, as a Church, a brother in Christ, who came into this place of worship with his gin bottle in his pocket one night. A chance hit of mine—as some would have thought it, when I pointed to the man and told him of it, not knowing aught but that the feeling that I was moved thereunto—was the man's first awakening. That man came without any preparation, and God blessed the word. Numerous have been the instances, which those who have not proved them deem utterly incredible, in which persons have absolutely come to me after a sermon, and begged me not to tell anybody about them, being firmly persuaded from what I said that I knew their private history, whereas I knew no more about them than a stranger in the market. But the Word of God will find men out. Preach the gospel and it will always find the man out and tell him all his secrets, carrying the lamp of the Lord into the hidden recesses of the heart.

     But to you as a mass I speak this. If you will be blessed under the Word, would that you would pray before you come here. You sometimes hear of preparation for the Lord's Supper—I am sure if the Word is to be blessed, there ought to be a preparation for hearing it. Do you, when you come up to this house, pray to God before you come, "Lord, give the minister words; help him to speak to me to-day; Lord, save me to-day; may the Word to-day be a quickening word to my poor soul?" Ah! my friends, ye would never go without the blessing, if ye come up prayerfully looking for it, having asked it of God. Then after prayer, if you would be blessed under the Word, there should be an expectation of being blessed. It is wonderful the differences between the same sermon preached in different places, and I do not doubt that the same words uttered by different men would have different effects. With some men the hearers expect they will say something worth hearing; they listen, and the man does say something worth hearing; another man might say just the same; nobody receives it as other than common-place. Now if you can come up to the house of God expecting that there will be something for you, you will have it. We always get what we angle for. If we come up to find fault, there always will be faults to find. If we come up to get good, good will be gotten. God will send no man empty away; he shall have what he came for. If he came merely for curiosity, he shall have his curiosity gratified; if he came for good, he shall not be disappointed. We may be disappointed at man's door; we never were at God's. Man may send us away empty, but God never will. Then while listening to the Word with expectation, it will naturally come to pass that you will listen with deep attention. A young boy who had been awakened to a sense of sin, was remarked to be exceedingly attentive to sermons, and when asked why it was, he said, "Because I do not know which part of the sermon may be blessed to me, but I know that whichever it is, the devil will do his utmost to take my attention off then for fear I should be blessed;" so he would listen to the whole of it, lest by any means the Word of life should be let slip. So do you, and you will certainly be in the way of being blessed by the Word. Next to that, all through the sermon be appropriating it, saying to yourselves, "Does that belong to me?" If it be a promise, say, "Is that mine?" If it be a threatening, do not cover yourselves with the shield of hard-heartedness, but say, "If that threatening belongs to me, let it have its full force on me." Sit under the sermon with your breasts open to the Word; be ready to let the arrow come in.

     Above all, this will be of no avail unless you hear with faith, Now faith cometh by hearing There must be faith mingled with the hearing. But you say, "What is faith? Is faith to believe that Christ died for me?" "No, it is not. The Arminian says that faith is to believe that Christ died for you. He teaches in the first place that Christ died for everybody, therefore, he says, he died for you; of course he died for everybody, and if he died for everybody he must have died for you. That is not faith at all. I hold, on the other hand, that Christ died for believers, that he died for no man that will be lost, that all he died for will be saved, that his intention cannot be frustrated in any man; that if he died to save any man, that man will be saved. Your question to-day is not whether Christ died for you or not, but it is this;—the Scripture says, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.'' And what is it to believe? To believe is to trust it is the same word, though believe is not so plain a word as trust. To trust Christ is to believe. I feel I cannot save myself, that all my doings and feelings cannot save me; I trust Christ to save me. That is faith; and the moment I trust Christ, I then know that Christ died for me, for they who trust him, he has surely died to save, so surely he died to save them that he will save them, so finished his work that he will never lose them, according to his own Word—"give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand" "But may I trust it!" says one. May! You are commanded to do it. "But I dare not." What! dare not do what God bids you! Rather say—"I dare not live without Christ, I dare not disobey. God has said—"This is the commandment, that ye believe on the Lord Jesus Christ whom he hath sent." This is the great commandment which is sent to you. To-day trust Christ and you are saved; disobey that command, and do what you will you are damned.

     Go home to your chamber, and say unto God, "I desire to believe what I have heard; l desire to trust my immortal soul in Jesus' hands. Give me genuine faith; give me a real trust. Save me now, and save me hereafter." I dare avow it—I never can believe that any man so hearing the Word can by any possibility perish. Hear it, receive it, pray over it, and trust Christ through it, and if you are lost, there can be none saved. If this foundation give way, another can never be laid. If you fall, we all fall together. If trusting in Christ you can perish, all God's prophets, and martyrs, and confessors, and ministers, perish too. You cannot. He will never fail you; trust him now.

     Spirit of God! incline the hearts of men to trust Christ. Enable them now to overcome their pride and their timidity, and may they trust the Savior now, and they are saved for ever, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.



All-Sufficiency Magnified

By / Nov 18

All-Sufficiency Magnified

 

“I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me.”— Philippians 4:13

 

     THE former part of the sentence would be a piece of impudent daring without the latter part to interpret it. There have been some men who, puffed up with vanity, have in their hearts said, “I can do all things.” Their destruction has been sure, and near at hand. Nebuchadnezzar walks through the midst of the great city; he sees its stupendous tower threading the clouds; he marks the majestic and colossal size of every erection, and he says in his heart, “Behold this great Babylon which I have builded. ‘I can do all things.’” A few hours and he can do nothing except that in which the beast excels him; he eats grass like the oxen, until his hair has grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws. See, too, the Persian potentate; he leads a million of men against Grecia, he wields a power which he believes to be omnipotent; he lashes the sea, casts chains upon the wave, and bids it be his slave. Ah, foolish pantomime. — “I can do all things!” His hosts melt away, the bravery of Grecia is too much for him; he returns to his country in dishonour. Or, if you will take a modern instance of a man who was born to rule and govern, and found his way upwards from the lowest ranks to the highest point of empire, call to mind Napoleon. He stands like a rock in the midst of angry billows; the nations dash against him and break themselves; he himself puts out the sun of Austria, and bids the star of Prussia set; he dares to proclaim war against all the nations of the earth, and believes that he himself shall be a very Briarius with a hundred hands attacking at once a hundred antagonists. “I can do all things,” he might have written upon his banners. It was the very note which his eagles screamed amid the battle. He marches to Russia; he defies the elements; he marches across the snow and sees the palace of an ancient monarchy in flames. No doubt as he looks at the blazing Kremlin, he thinks, “I can do all things.” But thou shalt come back to thy country alone; thou shalt strew the frozen plains with men; thou shalt be utterly wasted and destroyed. Inasmuch as thou hast said, “I propose and dispose too,” lo! Jehovah disposes of thee, and puts thee from thy seat, seeing thou hast arrogated to thyself omnipotence among men. And what shall we say to our apostle, little in stature, stammering in speech, his personal presence weak, and his speech contemptible, when he comes forward and boasts, “I can do all things?” O impudent presumption! What canst thou do, Paul? The leader of a hated sect, all of them doomed by an imperial edict to death! Thou, thou, who darest to teach the absurd dogma that a crucified man is able to save souls, that he is actually king in heaven and virtually king in earth! Thou sayest, “I can do all things.” What! has Gamaliel taught thee such an art of eloquence, that thou canst baffle all that oppose thee! What! have thy sufferings given thee so stern a courage that thou art not to be turned away from the opinions which thou hast so tenaciously held? Is it in thyself thou reliest? No, “I can do all things,” saith he, “through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Looking boldly around him, he turns the eye of his faith humbly towards his God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and dares to say, not impiously, nor arrogantly, yet with devout reverence and dauntless courage, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” My brethren, when Paul said these words, he meant them. Indeed, he had to a great measure already proved the strength, of which he now asserts the promise. Have you never thought how varied were the trials, and how innumerable the achievements of the apostle Paul? Called by grace in a sudden and miraculous manner, immediately — not consulting with flesh and blood — he essays to preach the gospel he has newly received. Anon, he retires a little while, that he may more fully understand the Word of God; when from the desert of Arabia, where he has girded his loins and strengthened himself by meditation and personal mortification, he comes out, not taking counsel with the apostles, nor asking their guidance or their approbation; but at once, with singular courage, proclaiming the name of Jesus, and protesting that he himself also is an apostle of Christ. You will remember that after this, he undertook many difficult things; he withstood Peter to the face— no easy task with a man so bold and so excellent as Peter was; but Peter might be a time-server: Paul never. Paul rebukes Peter even to the face. And then mark his own achievements, as he describes them himself, “In labours more abundant, in stripes above measure “in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in penis among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.” Ah! bravely spoken, beloved Paul. Thine was no empty boast. Thou hast indeed, in thy life, preached a sermon upon the text, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” 

     And now, my dear friends, looking up to Christ which strengtheneth me, I shall endeavour to speak of my text under three heads. First, the measure of it; secondly, the manner of it; and thirdly, the message of it. 

     I. As for THE MEASURE OF IT. It is exceeding broad; for it says, “I can do all things.” We cannot, of course, mention “all things,” this morning; for the subject is illimitable in its extent. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” 

     But let me notice that Paul here meant that he could endure all trials. It matters not what suffering his persecutors might put upon him; he felt that he was quite a 1 le through divine grace to bear it; and no doubt though Paul had seen the inside of almost every Roman prison, yet he had never been known to quake in any one of them; though he understood well the devices which Nero had invented to put torment upon Christians; though he had heard doubtless in his cell of those who were smeared with pitch and set on fire in Nero’s gardens to light his festivities; though he had heard of Nero’s racks and chains and hot pincers, yet he felt persuaded that rack and pincers, and boiling pitch, would not be strong enough to break his faith. “I can endure all things,” he says, “for Christ’s sake.” He daily expected that he might be led out to die, and the daily expectation of death is more bitter than death itself; for what is death? It is but a pang, and it is over. But the daily expectation of it is fearful. If a man fears death, he feels a thousand deaths in fearing one. But Paul could say, “I die daily;” and yet he was still stedfast and immovable in the hourly expectation of a painful departure. He was ready to be offered up, and made a sacrifice for his Master’s cause. Every child of God by faith may say, “I can suffer all things.” What though to-day we be afraid of a little pain? Though perhaps the slightest shooting pang alarms us, yet I do not doubt, if days of martyrdom should return, the martyr-spirit would return with martyrs’ trials; and if once more Smithfield’s fires needed victims, there would be victims found innumerable— holocausts of martyrs would be offered up before the shrine of truth. Let us be of good courage under any temptation or suffering we may be called to bear for Christ’s sake; for we can suffer it all through Christ who strengtheneth us. 

     Then Paul meant also that he could perform all duties. Was he called to preach ? He was sufficient for it, through the strength of Christ; was he called to rule and govern in the churches— to be, as it were, a travelling over-looker and bishop of the flock? He felt that he was well qualified for any duty which might be laid upon him, because of the strength which Christ would surely give. And you, too, my dear brother, if you are called this day to some duty which is flew to you, be not behind the apostle, but say, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” I have seen the good man disappointed in his best hopes, because he hath not won the battle in the first charge, laying down his arms and saying, “I feel that I can do no good in this world; I have tried, but defeat awaits me; perhaps it were better that I should be still and do no more." I have seen the same man too for a while lie down and faint, because, said he, “I have sown much, but I have reaped little; I have strewed the seed by handfuls, but I have gathered only here and there an ear of precious grain.” O be not a craven: play the man. Christ puts his hand upon thy loins to day, and he saith, “Up and be doing and do thou reply, “Yea, Lord, I will be doing, for I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me.” I am persuaded there is no work to which a Christian can be called for which he will not be found well qualified. If his master should appoint him to a throne, he would rule well; or should he bid him play the menial part he would make the best of servants: in all places and in all duties the Christian is always strong enough, if the Lord his God be with him. Without Christ he can do nothing, but with Christ he can do all things. 

     This is also true of the Christian’s inward struggles with his corruptions. Paul I know once said, " O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death.” But Paul did not stay there; his music was not all in a minor key; right quickly he mounts the higher chords, and sings, “But thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I may be addressing some Christians who have naturally a very violent temper, and you say you cannot curb it. “You can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth us.” I may be speaking to another who has felt a peculiar weakness of disposition, a proneness to be timid, and yielding. My brother, you shall not disown your Lord, for through Christ that strengtheneth thee, the dove can play the eagle, and thou who art timid as a lamb can be mighty and courageous as a lion. There is no weakness or evil propensity which the Christian cannot overcome. Do not come to me and say, “I have striven to overcome my natural slothfulness, but I have not been able to do it.” I do avow, brother, that if Christ hath strengthened you, you can do it. I don’t believe there exists anywhere under heaven a more lazy man than myself naturally; I would scarce stir if I had my will; but if there be a man under heaven who works more than I do, I wish him well through his labours. I have to struggle with my sloth, but through Christ who strengtheneth me, I overcome it. Do not say thou hast a physical incapacity for strong effort; my brother, thou hast not; thou canst do all things through Christ who strengtheneth thee. A brave heart can master even a sluggish liver. Often do I find brethren who say, “I hope I am not too timid or too rash in my temper, or that I am not idle; but I find myself inconstant, I cannot persevere in anything.” My dear brother, thou canst. You can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth you. Do not sit down and excuse yourself by saying, Another man can do this, but I cannot; the fact is, I was made with this fault, it was in the mould originally, and it cannot be got rid of; I must make the best I can of it.” You can get rid of it, brother; there is not a Hittite or a Jebusitein all Canaan that you cannot drive out. You can do nothing of yourself, but Christ being with you, you can make their high walls fall flat even as the walls of Jericho. You can go upon the tottering walls and slay the sons of Anak, and although they be strong men, who like the giants had six toes on each foot and six fingers on each hand, you shall be more than a match for them all. There is no corruption, no evil propensity, no failing that you cannot overcome, through Christ which strengtheneth you. And there is no temptation to sin from without which you cannot also overcome through Christ which strengtheneth you. Sitting one day this week with a poor aged woman who was sick, she remarked that oftentimes she was tempted by Satan; and sometimes she said, “I am a little afraid, but I do not let other people know, lest they should think that Christ’s disciples are not a match for Satan. Why, sir,” said she, “he is a chained enemy, is he not? He cannot come one link nearer to me than Christ lets him; or when he roars never so loudly I am not afraid with any great fear of him, for I know it is only roaring— he cannot devour the people of God.” Now, whenever Satan comes to you with a temptation, or when your companions, or your business, or your circumstances suggest a sin, you are not timidly to say, “I must yield to this; I am not strong enough to stand against this temptation.” You are not in yourself, understand that; I do not deny your own personal weakness; but through Christ, that strengtheneth you, you are strong enough for all the temptations that may possibly come upon you. You may play the Joseph against lust; you need not play the David; you may stand steadfast against sin – you need not to be overtaken like Noah — you need not be thrown down to your shame, like Lot. You may be kept by God, and you shall be. Only lay hold on that Divine strength, and if the world, the flesh, and the devil, should beleaguer and besiege you day after clay, you shall stand not only a siege as long as the siege of old Troy, but seventy years of siege shall you be able to stand, and at last to drive your enemies away in confusion, and make yourselves rich upon their spoils. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” 

     Though I despair of explaining the measure of my text, so as to classify even the tenth part of all things, let me make one further attempt. I have no doubt the apostle specially meant that he found himself able to serve God in every state. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” Some Christians are called to sudden changes, and I have marked many of them who have been ruined by their changes. I have seen the poor man exceedingly spiritual-minded; I have seen him full of faith with regard to Divine Providence, and living a happy life upon the bounty of his God, though he had but little. I have seen that man acquire wealth, and I have marked that he was more penurious; that he was, in fact, more straitened than he was before; he had less trust in God, less liberality of soul. While he was a poor man he was a prince in a peasants garb; when he became rich, he was poor in a bad sense— mean in heart with means in hand. But this need not be. Christ strengthening him, a Christian is ready for all places. If my Master were to call me this day from addressing this assembly to sweep a street-crossing, I know not that I should feel very contented with my lot for awhile; but I do not doubt that I could do it through Christ that strengtheneth me. And you, who may have to follow some very humble occupation, you have had grace enough to follow it, and to be happy in it, and to honour Christ in it. I tell you, if you were called to be a king, you might seek the strength of Christ, and say in this position too, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” You ought to have no choice as to what you shall be. The day when you gave yourself up to Christ, you gave yourself up wholly to him, to be his soldier, and soldiers must not be choosers; if they are called to lie in the trenches, if they are bidden to advance under a galling fire, they must do it. And so must you, feeling that whether he bid you do one thing or another, in all states and in all circles, you can do what God will have you do, for through him you can do all things. 

     To conclude upon this point, let me remind you that you can do all things with respect to all worlds. You are here in this world, and can do all things in respect to this world. You can enlighten it; you can play the Jonah in the midst of this modern Nineveh; your own single voice may be the means of creating a spiritual revival. You can do all things for your fellow-men. You may be the means of uplifting the most degraded to the highest point of spiritual life; you can doubtless, by resisting temptation, by casting down high looks, by defying wrath, by enduring sufferings; you can walk through this world as a greater than Alexander, looking upon it all as being yours, for your Lord is the monarch of it. “You can do all things.” Then may you look beyond this world into the world of spirits. You may see the dark gate of death; you may behold that iron gate, and hear it creaking on its awful hinges; but you may say, “I can pass through that; Jesus can meet me; he can strengthen me, and my soul shall stretch her wings in haste, fly fearless through death’s iron gate, nor fear the terror as she passes through. I can go into the world of spirits, Christ being with me, and never fear. And then look beneath you. There is hell, with all its demons, your sworn enemy. They have leagued and banded together for your destruction. Walk through their ranks, and as they bite their iron bonds in agony and despair, say to them as you look in their face, “I can do all things;” and if loosed for a moment Diabolus should meet you in the field, and Apollyon should stride across the way, and say, “I swear by my infernal den that thou shalt come no further, here will I spill your soul,” — up at him! Strike him right and left, with this for thy battle-cry, “I can do all things,” and in a little while he will spread his dragon wings and fly away. Then mount up to heaven. From the lowest deeps of hell ascend to heaven; bow your knee before the eternal throne; you have a message; you have desires to express and wants to be fulfilled, and as you bend your knee, say, “O God, in prayer I can prevail with thee; let me wonder to tell it; I can overcome heaven itself by humble, faithful prayer.” So you see in all worlds— this world of flesh and blood, and the world of spirits, in heaven and earth and hell — everywhere the believer can say, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” 

     II. Thus have I discussed the first part of our subject— the measure; I shall now talk for awhile upon THE MANNER. 

     How is it that Christ doth strengthen his people? None of us can explain the mysterious operations of the Holy Spirit; we can only explain one effect by another. I do not pretend to be able to show how Christ communicates strength to his people by the mysterious inflowings of the Spirit’s energy; let me rather show what the Spirit does, and how these acts of the Spirit which he works for Christ tend to strengthen the soul for “all things.” 

     There is no doubt whatever that Jesus Christ makes his people strong by strengthening their faith. It is remarkable that very many poor timid and doubting Christians during the time of Mary 's persecution were afraid when they were arrested that they should never bear the fire; but a singular circumstance is, that these generally behaved the most bravely, and played the man in the midst of the fire with the most notable constancy. It seems that God gives faith equal to the emergency, and weak faith can suddenly sprout, and swell, and grow, till it comes to be great faith under the pressure of a great trial. Oh! there is nothing that braces a man’s nerves like the cold winter’s blast; and so, doubtless, the very effect of persecution through the agency of the Spirit going with it, is to make the feeble strong.  

     Together with this faith it often happens that the Holy Spirit also gives a singular firmness of mind— I might almost call it a celestial obstinacy of spirit. Let me remind you of some of the sayings of the martyrs, which I have jotted down in my readings. When John Ardley was brought before Bishop Bonner, Bonner taunted him, saying, “You will not be able to bear the fire; that will convert you; the faggots will be sharp preachers to you.” Said Ardley, “I am not afraid to try it; and I tell thee, Bishop, if I had as many lives as I have hairs on my head, I would give them all up sooner than I would give up Christ.” That same wicked wretch held the hand of poor John Tomkins over a candle, finger by finger, saying to him, “I’ll give thee a taste of the fire before thou shalt come there;” and as the finger cracked and spurted forth, Tomkins smiled, and even laughed in his tormentor’s face, being ready to suffer as much in every member as his fingers then endured. Jerome tells the story of a poor Christian woman, who being on the rack, cried out to her tormentors as they straitened the rack and pulled her bones asunder, “Do your worst; for I would sooner die than lie.” It was bravely said. Short, pithy words; but what a glorious utterance! what a comment! what a thrilling argument to prove our text! Verily, Christians can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth them. 

     And not only does he thus give a sort of sacred tenacity and obstinacy of spirit combined with faith; but often Christians anticipate the joys of heaven, just when their pangs are greatest. Look at old Ignatius. He is brought into the Roman circus, and after facing the taunts of the emperor and the jeers of the multitude, the lions are let loose upon him, and he thrusts his arm into a lion’s mouth, poor aged man as he is, and when the bones were cracking, he said, “Now I begin to be a Christian.” Begin to be a Christian: as if he had never come near to his Master till the time when he came to die. And there was Gordus, a martyr of Christ, who said when they were putting him to death, “I pray you do not spare any torments, for it will be a loss to me hereafter if you do; therefore inflict as many as you can.” What but the singular joy of God poured down from heaven— what but some singular vials of intense bliss could have made these men almost sport with their anguish? It was remarked by early Christians in England, that when persecution broke out in Luther’s days, John and Henry, two Augustine monks, — the first who were put to death for Christ in Germany— died singing. And Mr. Rogers, the first put to death in England for Christ, died singing too— as if the noble army of martyrs marched to battle with music in advance. Why, who would charge in battle with groans and cries? Do not they always sound the clarion as they rush to battle, “Sound the trumpet, and beat the drums, now the conquering hero comes,” indeed— comes face to face with death, face to face with pain; and surely they who lead the van in the midst of such heroes should sing as they come to the fires. When good John Bradford, our London martyr, was told by his keeper, that he was to be burned on the morrow, he took off his cap and said, “I heartily thank my God;” and when John Noyes, another martyr, was just about to be burned, he took up a faggot, and kissed it, and said, “Blessed be God that he has thought me worthy of such high honour as this and it is said of Rowland Taylor, that when he came to the fire he actually, as I think Fox says in his Monuments, “fetched a frisk,” by which he means, he began to dance when he came to the flames, at the prospect of the high honour of suffering for Christ. 

     But in order to enable his people to do all things, Christ also quickens the mental faculties. It is astonishing what power the Holy Spirit can bestow upon the mind of men. You will have remarked, I do not doubt, in the controversies which the ancient confessors of the faith have had with heretics and persecuting kings and bishops, the singular way in which poor illiterate persons have been able to refute their opponents. Jane Bouchier, our glorious Baptist martyr, the maid of Kent, when she was brought before Cranmer and Ridley, was able to non plus them entirely; of course we believe part of her power lay in the goodness of the subject, for if there be a possibility of proving infant baptism by any text in the Bible, I am sore I am not aware of the existence of it; Popish tradition might confirm the innovation, hut the Bible knows no more of it than the baptism of bells and the consecration of horses. Put, however, she answered them all with a singular power— far beyond what could have been expected of a countrywoman. It was a singular instance of God's providential judgment that Cranmer and Ridley, two bishops of the Church who condemned this Baptist to die, said when they signed the death-warrant, that burning was an easy death, and they had themselves to try it in after days; and that maid told them so. She said, “I am as true a servant of Christ as any of you; and if you put your poor sister to death, take care lest God should let loose the wolf of Rome on you, and you have to suffer for Cod too.” How the faculties were quickened, to make each confessor seize every opportunity to avail himself of every mistake of his opponent, and lay hold of texts of Scripture, which were as swords to cut in pieces those who dared to oppose them, is really a matter for admiration. 

     Added to this, no doubt, also, much of the power to do all things lies in the fact, that the Spirit of God enables the Christian to overcome himself. He can lose all things, because he is already prepared to do it; he can suffer all things, because he does not value his body as the worldling does; he can be brave for Christ, because he has learned to fear God, and therefore has no reason to fear man. A healthy body can endure much more fatigue, and can work much more powerfully than a sick body. Now, Christ puts the man into a healthy state, and he is prepared for long injuries, for hard duties, and for stern privations. Put a certain number of men in a shipwreck; the weak and feeble shall die, those who are strong and healthy, who have not by voluptuousness become delicate, shall brave the cold and rigours of the elements, and shall live. So with the quickened yet feeble professor; he shall soon give way under trial; but the mature Christian, the strong temperate man, can endure fatigues, can perform wonders, can achieve prodigies, because his body is well disciplined, and he has not permitted its humours to overcome the powers of the soul. 

     But observe that our text does not say, “I can do all things through Christ, which has strengthened me;” it is not past, but present strength that we want. Some think that because they were converted fifty years ago they can do without daily supplies of grace. Now the manna that was eaten by the Israelites when they came out of Egypt must be renewed every day, or else they must starve. So it is not your old experiences, but your daily experiences; not your old drinkings at the well of life, but your daily refreshings from the presence of God that can make you strong to do all things.

     III. But I come now to the third part of my discourse, which is THE MESSAGE OF THE TEXT. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. 

     Three distinct forms of the message: first, a message of encouragement to those of you who are doing something for Christ, but who begin to feel painfully your own inability. Cease not from God’s work, because you are unable to perform it of yourself. Let it teach you to cease from yourself, but not from your work. “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils,” but cease not to serve your God; but the rather in Christ's strength do it with greater vigour than before. Remember Zerubbabel. A difficulty is in his path, like a great mountain; but he cries, “Who art thou, great mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain.” If we did but believe ourselves great things, we should do great things. Our age is the age of littlenesses, because there is always a clamour to put down any gigantic idea. Every one praises the man who has taken up the idea and carried it out successfully; but at the first he has none to stand by him. All the achievements in the world, both political and religious, at any time, have been begun by men who thought themselves called to perform them, and believed it possible that they should be accomplished. A parliament of wiseacres would sit upon any new idea— sit upon it indeed— yes, until they had destroyed it utterly. They would sit as a coroner’s inquest, and if it were not dead they would at least put it to death while they were deliberating thereon. The man who shall ever do anything is the man who says, “This is a right thing; I am called to do it; I will do it. Now, then, stand up all of you— my friends or my foes, whichever you will; it is all the same; I have God to help me, and it must and shall be done.” Such are the men that write their records in the annals of posterity; such the men justly called great, and they are only great because they believed they could be great believed that the exploits could be done. Applying this to spiritual things, only believe, young man, that God can make something of you; be resolved that you will do something somehow for Christ, and you will do it. But do not go drivelling through this world, saying, “I was born little of course you were, but were you meant to be little, and with the feebleness of a child all your days do little or nothing? Think so, and you will be little as long as you live, and you will die little, and never achieve anything great. Just send up a thought of aspiration, oh thou of little faith. Think of your dignity in Christ— not of the dignity of your manhood, but the dignity of your regenerated manhood, and say, “Can I do all things, and yet am I to shrink first at this, then at that, and then at the other?” Be as David, who, when Saul said, “Thou art not able to fight with this Goliah,” replied, “Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them and he put his stone into the sling and ran cheerfully and joyously, so Goliah fell; and he returned with the bloody dripping head. You know his brothers said at first, “Because of thy pride and the naughtiness of thy heart, to see the battle art thou come.” All our eider brethren say that to us if we begin anything. They always say it is the naughtiness of our heart and our pride. Well, we don’t answer them; we bring them Goliah’s head, and request them to say whether that is the effect of our pride and the naughtiness of our heart. We wish to know whether it would not be a blessed naughtiness that should have slain this naughty Philistine. So do you my dear brothers and sisters. If you are called to any work, go straight at it, writing this upon your escutcheon. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me; and l will do what God has called me to do, whether I am blessed or whether I am left alone.” 

     A second lesson is this — Take heed, however, that you get Christ’s strength. You can do nothing without that. Spiritually in the things of Christ you are not able to accomplish even the meanest thing without him. Go not forth to thy work therefore till thou hast first prayed. That effort which is begun without prayer will end without praise. That battle which commences without holy reliance upon God, shall certainly end in a terrible rout. Many men might be Christian victors, if they had known how to use the all prevailing weapon of prayer; but forgetting this they have gone to the fight and they have been worsted right easily. O be sure Christian that you get Christ’s strength. Vain is eloquence, vain are gifts of genius, vain is ability, vain are wisdom and learning; all these things may be serviceable when consecrated by the power of God, but apart from the strength of Christ they shall all fail you. If you lean upon them they shall all deceive you. You shall be weak and contemptible, however rich or however great you may be in these things, if you lack the all-sufficient strength. 

     Finally, the last message that I have is this: Paul says, in the name of all Christians, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” I say, not in Paul’s name only, but in the name of my Lord and Master Jesus Christ, How is it that some of you are doing nothing? If you could do nothing you might be excused for not attempting it; but if you put in the slightest pretence to my text, you must allow my right to put this question to you. You say, “I can do all things in the name of reason I ask why are you doing nothing? Look what multitudes of Christians there are in the world; do you believe if they were all what they profess to be, and all to work for Christ, there would long be the degrading poverty, the ignorance, the heathenism, which is to be found in this city? What cannot one individual accomplish? What could be done therefore by the tens of thousands of our churches? Ah professors! you will have much to answer for with regard to the souls of your fellow men. You are sent by God’s providence to be as lights in this world; but you are rather dark lanterns than lights. How often are you in company, and you never avail yourself of an opportunity of saying a word for Christ? How many times are you thrown in such a position that you have an excellent opportunity' for rebuking sin, or for teaching holiness, and how seldom do you accomplish it? An old author named Stuckley, writing upon this subject, said, “There were some professed Christians who were not so good as Baalam’s ass; for Baalam’s ass once rebuked the mad prophet for his sin; but there were some Christians who never rebuked any one all their lives long. They let sin go on under their very eyes, end yet they did not point to it; they saw sinners dropping into hell, and they stretched not out their hands to pluck them as brands from the burning; they walked in the midst of the blind, but they would not lead them; they stood in the midst of the deaf, but they would not hear for them; they were where misery was rife, but their mercy would not work upon the misery; they were sent to be saviours of men, but by their negligence they became men’s destroyers. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” was the language of Cain. Cain hath many children even at this day. Ye are your brother’s keeper, If you have grace in your heart, you are called to do good to others. Take care lest your garments be stained and sprinkled with the blood of your fellow men. Mind, Christians, mind, lest that village in which you have found a quiet retreat from the cares of business, should rise up in judgment against you, to condemn you, because, having means and opportunity, you use the village for rest, but never seek to do any good in it. Take care, masters and mistresses, lest your servant’s souls be required of you at the last great day. “I worked for my master; he paid me my wages, but he had no respect to his greater Master, and never spoke to me, though he heard me swear, and saw me going on in my sins.” Mind, I speak, sirs, to some of you. I would I could thrust a thorn into the seat where you are now sitting, and make you spring for a moment to the dignity of a thought of your responsibilities. Why, sirs, what has God made you for? What has he sent you here for? Did he make stars that should not shine, and suns that should give no light, and moons that should not cheer the darkness? Hath he made rivers that shall not be filled with water, and mountains that shall not stay the clouds? Hath he made even the forests which shall not give give a habitation to the birds; or hath he made the prairie which shall not feed the wild flocks? And hath he made thee for nothing? Why, man, the nettle in the corner of the churchyard hath its uses, and the spider on the wall serves her Maker; and thou, a man in the image of God, a blood-bought man, a man who is in the path and track to heaven, a man regenerated, twice created, –art thou made for nothing at all but to buy and to sell, to eat and to drink, to wake and to sleep, to laugh and to weep, to live to thyself? Small is that man who holds himself within his ribs; little is that man’s soul who lives within himself; ay, so little that he shall never be fit to be a compeer with the angels, and never fit to stand before Jehovah’s throne. 

     I am glad to see so large a proportion of men here. As I always have a very great preponderance of men— therefore, I suppose I am warranted in appealing to you, — are there not here those who might be speakers for God, who might be useful in his service? The Missionary Societies need you, young men. Will you deny yourselves for Christ? The ministry needs you — young men who have talents and ability. Christ needs you to preach his Word. Will you not give yourselves to him? Tradesmen! Merchants! Christ needs you, to alter the strain of business and reverse the maxims of the present day— to cast a healthier tone into our commerce. Will you hold yourselves back? The Sabbath-school needs you; a thousand agencies require you. Oh! if there is a man here to-day that is going home to his house, and when he gets there will say this afternoon— “Thank God I have nothing to do and if to-morrow when you come home from your business, you say, “Thank God I have no connexion with any church; I have nothing to do with the religious world; I leave that to other people; I never trouble myself about that,”— you need not trouble yourself about going to heaven; you need not trouble yourself about being where Christ is, at least until you can learn that more devoted lesson, “The love of Christ constraineth me; I must do something for him; Lord, show me what thou wouldst have me to do, and I will begin this very day, for I feel that through thee, Christ strengthening me, I can do all things.” 

     God grant the sinner power to believe on Christ— power to repent— power to be saved; for Christ strengthening him, even the poor lost sinner, “can do all things,”—  things impossible to fallen nature can he do, by the enabling of the Spirit and the power of Christ resting on him. 



Self-Sufficiency Slain

By / Nov 11

Self-Sufficiency Slain

 

“Without me ye can do nothing.” — John 15:5

 

     CONSCIOUS of this truth in my own case, I would earnestly seek the help of God’s Spirit in preaching as in every other spiritual exercise, for, without Him I can do nothing. It is a remarkable fact that all the heresies which have arisen in the Christian Church have had a decided tendency to dishonour God and to flatter man. They have always had for their covert, if not for their open aim, the exaltation of human nature, and the casting down of the sovereignty of divine grace. Robbing God of the glory which is due unto his name, these false prophets would shed a counterfeit lustre upon the head of the rebellious and depraved creature. On the other hand, the doctrines of the gospel, commonly known as the doctrines of grace, are distinguished for this peculiarity above every other, namely, that they sink the creature very low, and present the Lord Jehovah before us as sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up. So true is this, that the most uneducated Christian may, even if he is incapable of refuting an erroneous discourse, always be able to discover its untruthfuluess, if it glorifies man at the expense of God. The merest babe in grace may carry this test with him: in the midst of the diversities of opinion with which he is surrounded, he may always judge, and judge infallibly too, of the truth or falsehood of a doctrine by testing it thus— “Does it glorify God?” If it be so, it is true. “Does it exalt man?” Then it must be false. On the other hand, does it lay man very low, and speak of him in terms which tend to make him feel his degradation? Then doubtless it is full of truth. And does it put the crown upon the head of God, and not upon the head of man's free- will, or free-agency, or good works? Then assuredly it is a doctrine according to godliness, for it is the very truth of the Lord our God. My text— the very word of Christ, contains in it a doctrine which belongs to the class of those which speak against the vaunting of humanity, casting down its high hopes— and scorning its proud looks; and just to the same degree this sentence honours Christ, and lifts him up in the estimation of all his people. 

     This morning I shall speak of my text thus: — Jesus said, “Without me ye can do nothing.” First, this is true of his saints in matters relating to themselves; secondly, this is even more manifestly true of unconverted and unregenerate men; and, thirdly, it will be found by experience to be equally a fact if we look at saints in relation to sinners; without Christ the most earnest saint can do nothing whatever for the conversion of the sinner. 

     I. To begin then with THE SAINT IN RELATION TO HIMSELF.

     Jesus said to the Apostles, and if to them certainly as strongly if not more so to us, “Without me ye can do nothing.” Let us explain this; then try to support it; and then draw the practical lessons from it. 

     1. Child of God, — Jesus Christ speaks to thee personally this morning, and he saith to thee, “Without me thou canst do nothing.” Dost thou understand this? Mark how decisively it speaks! I borrow from Augustine much of the exposition which follows. He observes that this sentence seems to have been written to put an end to the impudent impostures of the Pelagians, for the text does not say, “Without me ye can hardly do anything; it will be with extreme difficulty that ye will be able to accomplish a good work or to achieve a holy purpose.” No, it lays the axe far more decisively to the root. It says, “Without me ye can do nothing” — absolutely, positively nothing at all. What, not if I seek and strive, if I bring all my energies to a single point; concentrate all my faculties to the purpose— can I not then do it? If I be extremely watchful; if I be intensely earnest; if I be sincerely prayerful — can I not then accomplish something, even if the Spirit’s influence be withheld? It may be it shall cost me much difficulty; it may be hard rowing against the stream; but may I not with my own unaided power, if I strain it to the utmost! may I not speed at least a little in the things of God? “No,” saith the Lord Jesus, “no; without me ye can do nothing.” Strive as ye might— struggle as ye could— your striving and your struggling would be strength misapplied; they would not speed you towards the goal: they would but sink you the deeper into the mire of desperation or of presumption. Mark, further, the text does not say “Without me thou canst not do some great things; some special acts of piety; some high and supernatural deeds of daring— of self-denial and self -sacrifice.” No; “Without me ye can do nothing.” Including in the sentence, as you will clearly perceive, those little acts of grace — those little deeds of piety — for which, perhaps, in our proud self-conceit, we think ourselves to be already sufficiently equipped. Ye can do nothing; not only is the higher duty beyond your power, but the lesser duty too. The lowest act of the divine life you are not capable of performing, except as you receive strength from God the Holy Spirit. And surely, my brethren, it is generally in these little things that we find out most of all our weakness. Peter can walk the waves of the sea, but he cannot bear the jest of a little maid. Job can endure the loss of all things, but the upbraiding words of his false friends, though they be but words, and break no bones— make him speak far more bitterly than all the sore boils and blains which were in his very skin. Jonah said he did well to be angry, even unto death, about a gourd. Have you not often heard that mighty men who have outlived hundreds of battles have been slain at last by the most trivial accident? And has it not been so with professed Christians? They stood uprightly in the midst of the greatest trials; they have outlived the most arduous struggles, and yet in an evil hour, trusting to themselves, their foot has slipped under some slight temptation, or because of some small difficulty. John Newton says: “The grace of God is as necessary to create a right temper in Christians on the breaking of a china plate as on the death of an only son.” These little leaks need the most careful stopping. The plague of flies is no more easy to be stayed than that of the destroying angel. In little as well as in great things the just must live by faith. In trifles as well as in nobler exercises the believer should be conscious of his own inability, — should never say of any act, “Now I am strong enough to perform this; I need not go to God in prayer about this; this is so little a thing; it is beneath the dignity of God, and I am quite sufficient for it of myself.” No, believer, you are sufficient for nothing at all; without Christ you can do nothing that is good, nothing that is right. “We have not sufficiency of ourselves to think anything of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God.” “We know not what to pray for as we ought.” We do feel each day that to will is present with us, but how to perform that which we would, we find not. Our strength is not only weakness but perfect weakness; weakness even for little things; weakness for ounces as truly as for tons; weakness in drops of grief as well as of seas of sorrow; weakness for splinters of trial as well as for the terrible darts of the Evil One. In everything, Christian, thou art powerless apart from the Lord who is thy strength and thy salvation. Learn, then, the meaning of this text, “Without me ye can do nothing.” 

     In further explaining the meaning of this passage, let me remark that Christ did not say “Without me ye can perfect nothing;” but “Without me ye can do nothing.” The Pelagian might perhaps admit that the Christian could not complete the good work unaided; but then he might do much towards it. Saith he, “If he do not finish, he may begin; if he be not the Omega, he may at least be the Alpha; if he cannot bring out the glorious top-stone, and crane it up to the sublime height in which it is to stand for ever and ever, he may at least dig out the foundations, and lay in the first hidden stone." No,” saith Christ, “Without me ye can do nothing.” As in that last glorious leap when the believer shall vault from his dying bed into the land of the living, all his strength must be of God; so must it be in that first trembling step when as a penitent he comes to Christ, and rests his soul on him. Do not say, if you are about to undertake some enterprise, “I will begin this, and then God will give me grace, to make up my deficiencies, but I will trust in myself as far as I can." Ah! thou foolish one, thy trowel is covered with untempered mortar, thou dost build with wood, and hay, and stubble. So far from its being thine to do much apart from the Spirit of God, thou canst do nothing whatever. Thou canst neither lift finger, nor stir hand in this spiritual work, apart from God. Thou canst not put on the white robe of glory— nay more, thou canst not unwrap thyself from the cere-clothes of thy death; even this must be done for thee, from the beginning to the end. 

     And yet still further, to put the meaning in a forcible light. There might be some who would say, “Well, while the text may be understood to say the believer cannot commence any good thing, yet possibly he may be after it is commenced of great assistance to God the Holy Spirit in his own salvation; he may do something apart from the Spirit.” Ah! my brethren, when the Spirit of God is with us we do much; when he is in us he makes us the instrument of our own deliverance; but let the Spirit of God be taken away from the Christian man, albeit that he is renewed, albeit that he has a new heart and a right spirit, yet would he retain that new heart and right spirit not one single hour, nay, not the tithe of a second, if the Spirit of God were once withdrawn from him. There is no support for the new life to be found in the natural soil of manhood. Every grain of mould with which the sweet flower of Paradise is nourished in our heart had to be brought there from heaven, for naturally our heart is a rock too barren to yield any subsistence to the plants of Paradise. If in our soul there flows a river of the water of life, its rise is in the mountains of God’s eternal purpose; the river finds no tributary springs in our heart. Flesh can yield no aid to spirit. Unrenewed nature, can be a huge impediment to grace, but assistance it can never be. The Apostle Paul never found the old man a help to the new man. If it had been so, he would not have cried out— “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death.” He would have shaken hands with that body of death, and thanked it for its assistance if it yielded any; but he felt it was of no more use to him than would a dead, rotten, corrupt, filthy noxious carcase be to a living man if he had it chained side by side with him. When we shall get rid of self and self’s power, then we shall be strong; but all the strength of nature is but a weakness to grace, and all the power and energy of the flesh is but an hindrance to the Lord and not a help to him. Without him— in the widest sense in which the language can be possibly understood— we can do nothing. 

     2. And now, having thus sought to explain the text in regard to the Christian, let me try to support it. I would support it first of all by the common consent of all believers in all ages. With the exception of ancient Pelagians and their modern offspring, I do not know that the Church has afforded any instance of any professors who have doubted the inability of man apart from God the Holy Spirit. Our confessions of faith are nearly unanimous upon this point. But I hear some one say — “Do not the Arminians believe that there is natural strength in man by which he can do something?” No, my brethren, the true Arminian can believe no such thing. Arminius speaks right well upon this point. I quote his words, as I have them in a translation: — “It is impossible for free- will without grace to begin or perfect any true or spiritual good. I say, the grace of Christ, which pertains to regeneration is simply and absolutely necessary for the illumination of the mind, the ordering of the affections, and the inclination of the will to that which is good. It is that which operates on the mind, the affections, and the will; which infuses good thoughts into the mind, inspires good desires into the affections, and leads the will to execute good thoughts and good desires. It goes before, accompanies, and follows. It excites, assists, works in us to will, and works with us that we may not will in vain. It averts temptations, stands by and aids us in temptations, supports us against the flesh, the world, and Satan; and in the conflict, it grants us to enjoy the victory. It raises up again those who are conquered and fallen, it establishes them, and endues them with new strength, and renders them more cautious. It begins, promotes, perfects, and consummates salvation. I confess, that the mind of the natural and carnal man is darkened, his affections are depraved, his will is refractory, and that the man is dead in sin." Richard Watson, who among modern Arminians is considered to be a standard divine, especially in the Wesleyan denomination, is equally clear upon this point. He fully admits that “The sin of Adam introduced into his nature such a radical impotence and depravity, that it is impossible for his descendants to make any voluntary effort (of themselves,) towards piety and virtue;” and then he quotes with great approbation an expression of Calvin’s, in which Calvin says that “Man is so totally overwhelmed, as with a deluge, that no part is free from sin, and therefore, whatever proceeds from him is accounted sin.” It is very satisfactory to have these testimonies to the common doctrine of the Church. I know that some Arminians are not so sound even as Arminius or Richard Watson. I know that some of them do not understand any creed at all , not even their own, for in all denominations there are men so ignorant of all theology, that they will venture upon any assertion whatever claiming to be Arminian, or Calvinistic, without knowing what either Calvin or Arminius taught. Arminians would be much better even if they were as good as Arminius. Much as he swerved from the faith in some respects, he was not one-half so grave a heretic as multitudes of his followers, but in many points would be as stern and unflinching a defender of the faith as John Calvin himself. 

     But my dear friends, instead of dwelling upon this point any longer, let me make one or two other remarks. Suppose for a moment that the doctrine of our text were not true, and that Christians had power in themselves to do something; takedown your Bibles when you get home and see what a great many promises of the Word of God would be without any value to you. God never made a promise which was not necessary; now if I have strength of my own, God certainly will not need to make me a promise of giving his strength to me. But inasmuch as there are scores of promises in which it is written, “Unto him that hath no might, he increaseth strength inasmuch as we are often told that “young men do faint and are weary, and the youths do utterly fail, but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength,” I think you see that the very fact of these promises prove that they are needed, and if needed, it must be because man is weak. But again, what should we make of the praises of the saints? Have ye not heard them all through Holy Scripture ascribing their strength and their power to God? Did they not all, from the first even to the last, confess that all their fresh springs were in him; that he, the Lord Jehovah, was their strength and their song, and had become their salvation? Did they not unanimously confess that their sufficiency was of God; that when they were weak then were they strong; that in themselves they were nothing? I say, what make you of these praises? What are they? Are they not mere empty wind, if these men, really had in themselves strength and power to do good? And what are the songs before the throne— those eternal cries of “Salvation be unto our God that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb?” How can they ascribe power, and dominion, and might, to him for ever and ever, if their power was of themselves? Must there not be a mingled strain; and while they sing the power of grace, must there not be some interludes in which they will chant the power of nature too? If they came to heaven partly by God and partly by themselves, must not some of the sacred harpers sing to grace, but others of them vary the strain, at least at intervals, to the praise of him who by his own strength did snap the fetters of his sin, and by his own watchfulness did preserve himself unto eternal life? ’Tis blasphemy to think thus. Oh! no, my brethren, it is because they had no power on earth but that which God gave to them, that they have no song in heaven except the song which exalts and praises God! 

     Other arguments I suppose are unnecessary, but yet let me mention one other. If it were so, that man had power in himself, what were the need of the Holy Spirit’s office at all? The office of the Holy Ghost becomes at once a useless sinecure if man can do anything and everything. What need to quicken men by the Spirit if they can take the first step towards quickening themselves? What need to strengthen us with might according to his Spirit in the inner man, if the inner man be already strong enough in its own natural power? What need that the Spirit should daily teach God’s people if they can instruct themselves? What need that I should pray “Hold thou me up,” if I can hold up myself? Prayers for spiritual aid are prayers for mercies that are unneeded, if we have strength of our own. I do aver that, if man has grace enough to keep himself one single hour from sin, it is not necessary for him to pray, at least during that hour. Why should he want more strength than he needs? Should he have it to spend it upon his lusts? If it be possible for me to perform any one holy action apart from the Lord Jesus, then let me at least perform that one action independently of him. Let me for that time dispense with the Holy Spirit. But you revolt from such an idea. I see your blood would curdle if I should continue to talk thus. “No,” say you, “day-by-day we have need to pray; hour by hour we have need to trust. ‘My soul, wait thou only upon God, for my expectation is from him.'” I am compelled to feel each day I can no nothing without him; my strength is wholly thine. The very fact that the offices of the Holy Spirit are needed, by our experience, proves that we can do nothing without him. 

     3. Now let us improve this doctrine. We see here a reason for the deepest humility. Art thou proud, believer, because thou hast done some little service to the Church and to thy times? Who maketh thee to differ, and what hast thou which thou hast not received? Hast thou shed a little light upon the darkness? Ah! who lit thy candle; and who is it that keeps thee still shining and prevents thee from being extinguished? Hast thou overcome temptation? Hang not up thy banner; do not decorate thine own bosom with the glory; for who made thee strong in the battle? Who made thy sword sharp and enabled thee to strike home? Remember, thou hast done nothing whatever of thyself, if thou be this day a vessel unto honour, decorated and gilded, — if now thou art a precious vase, filled with the sweetest perfume, yet thou didst not make thyself so. Thou art the clay, and He is the potter. If thou be a vessel unto honour, yet not a vessel unto thine own honour, but a vessel unto the honour of him that made thee. If thou standest among thy fellow-men as the angels stand among the fallen spirits— a chosen one, distinguished from them, yet remember, it was not any goodness in thyself that made thee to be chosen, nor has it been any of thine own efforts, or thine own power, which has lifted thee out of the miry clay, and set thy feet on the rock, and established thy goings. Off with thy crown from thy proud head, and lay down thine honours at the feet of him who gave them to thee. Come with cherubim and seraphim and vail thy face and cry, “Not unto us, not unto us, but unto his name be all the glory for ever and ever.” 

     And when thou art thus bowed down with humility, be thou prepared to learn another lesson, namely, — never to depend on thyself again. If thou hast aught to do, go not forth to do it leaning on an arm of flesh. First bow thy knee and ask power of him who makes thee strong, and then thou shalt come hack from thy labour rejoicing. But if thou goest in thine own strength, thou shalt break thy ploughshare on the rock; thou shalt sow thy seed by the side of the salt sea upon the barren sand, and thou shalt look upon the naked acres in years to come, and they shall not yield thee so much as a single blade to make glad thy heart. “Trust ye in the Lord for ever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength;” but that strength is not available to you so long as you repose in any strength of your own. He will help you if you be but as a worm; but if you be strong in yourself, he will take away his own power from you, and cause you to stumble and to fall; and happy shall it be if you stumble not to be broken into pieces. Learn then the grace of depending daily upon God, and do this constantly with proper humility. 

     Ah. my brothers and sisters, I would speak very earnestly here ere I turn from this point, for this is a common vice with us all— to wish to grow independent. We get a little stock of grace on hand, and we think we will spend our pocket money before we will go again to our Father’s treasury. We have a little faith, our Master honours us with enjoyment of his presence; and we grow so great that we cry, “My mountain standeth firm; I shall never be moved.” Ah! there is always a trial near at hand. Do we not make most of our trials through our boasting, and do we not kindle our own furnace with the fuel of our pride? If we were more childlike, resting more simply on the Spirit’s power, should we not be more happy? Does not God our Father hide his face, because to see his face too much might make us exalted above measure? Does not that thorn tear our flesh because otherwise we should lie upon the bed of carnal security and sleep all day long? Oh! we might be always on the mountain-top if we had not such dizzy heads and such slippery feet. We might always have our mouths full of sweetness if it were not that we are so weak that we cannot bear these sweet things always, and must have a draught of wormwood that we may be brought back again by a bitter tonic into a healthy state of soul. I pray you seek to lie flat on the ground before our God, for every inch we rise higher than that, is an inch too high; not an inch heavenward, but an inch hellward. Every grain of self -strength we gain is a grain of weakness, and every particle of self-reliance is but a new particle of poison infused into our veins. From all reliance upon self, and all carnal security, good Lord deliver us! 

     II. I now turn to the second part of the discourse, upon which I shall dwell briefly but earnestly. “Without me ye can do nothing.” If this be true of the saint, we affirm that it is equally, if not even more forcibly true of THE SINNER. 

     Instead of dividing didactically here, as I have done under the first head, let me at once speak to the conscience. Sinner, the child of God who has been quickened and renewed, feels that without Christ he can do nothing. How much more must this be true of thee, for thou art absolutely dead in trespasses and sins. When the branch is in the vine, and has been grafted into the good olive, it can tjien bring forth no good fruit without the stem. How much less, then, canst thou hope to do anything, for thou art not even grafted in, but thou belongest to the wild olive— how canst thou bring forth fruit? If when the Christian’s face has been made white he cannot keep it so, how much more shall the Ethiopian— such as thou art— change his skin, or the leopard his spots? If when healed of his leprosy the believer feels that the leprosy would break out day-by-day, were it not for the constant miraculous power of the good physician, how much less canst thou, all over defiled with the leprosy of sin, make thyself clean? Sinner, it is true of thee that unless visited by the Holy Spirit, unless united to Christ, thou canst do nothing. We do not assert that thou art physically incapable; thou canst perform natural acts. Thou canst go to the house of God; thou canst read God’s Word; thou canst do a thousand things, which only need thy arms, and legs, and eyes. Nor art thou even mentally incapable. Thou canst discern between good and evil; thou canst judge of truth and error, and in choosing the false and rejecting the true thou art verily guilty. We speak now of thy actions spiritually, not morally. Of all spiritual acts thou art as totally incapable as the dead in the graveyards, or as the dried bones after they have passed through the fire. There remaineth in thee no spiritual life, no spiritual power with which to help thyself. Thou art utterly ruined, entirely undone; and in thyself thou art beyond the reach of all hope and of all human help. Yet remember, I pray thee, that this incapacity of thine is a sinful one. It is not one which is thy misfortune, but thy sin. Thou art incapable of righteousness, but thou art capable enough of iniquity, and thy very incapacity is in itself a deadly and a damning sin. Yet again, thy incapacity does not deliver thee from thy duty. Though thou canst do nothing, it is equally thy duty to do everything which God commands. Though thou canst not pay the debt, for thou art utterly bankrupt, it is still thy duty to pay it. God has not remitted his law because thou hast lost power to obey. Nay, even the gospel itself does not take back one of its precepts because thou canst not fulfil them in and of thyself. Still doth God demand of thee that thou shouldst “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy strength;” though thou canst no more do this than thou canst fly. Still doth he demand of thee that thou turn from sin, and that thou believe in the Lord Jesus with all thy heart, though thou canst no more accomplish this than a stone can transform itself into an angel, or silent rocks chant forth the hallelujahs of eternity. Thus, thou seest sinner, in what a state thou art. Thou hast a Lord to demand of thee, but thou hast nothing wherewith to pay. Thou hast the same claims upon thee, as Adam had in the garden, but thou hast lost all capacity to fulfil the demand. Oh, sinner! what a lost thing thou art! what a lost thing thou art! 

     But I hear some one say, “Preaching like this will paralyse men’s exertions, and make them say, ‘I can do nothing.’” Ah, my friends, it is just this which we wish to make them say. We wish to paralyse their exertions; we wish to strike them with a sense of their inability. Do not think I would deny or shrink from the consequences of this truth upon the sinner’s conscience; it is just this I wish to bring him to. The Arminian seeks to bring men to activity; I seek to bring him to no such thing at first, but to a sense of his inability; for then, when he has come to know his inability, then God the Spirit worketh in him, and then shall the activity begin. But activity apart from a sense of inability, is but putting the sinner on a path which seems to lead to heaven, but which will really lead to hell. I care not though it should be said, thousands have been converted by a preaching contrary to this. The conversion of most of these has been a fallacy. I have been lately in a district where a most excellent brother in Christ had worked a very great revival. It was said, that nearly every person in the town had been converted, and the town is as drunken, as profane, as blasphemous at this day, as it was before. I am persuaded that much of the excitement and fanatical ravings, which have disgraced the true revival movement, are no more the work of God than the work of Satan himself. I would discern between the precious and the vile. God has made bare his arm, multitudes have been converted during the last few years by true revival work. But that excitement which has attended some of these revivals is nothing more than the excitement of the passions of men; making men weep about their parents, but not about their sins; making them cry about their children, but not about their souls; making them tremble for the moment, but not reaching their inmost heart. We shall need to have the Master come again, with a fan in his hand, thoroughly to purge his floor. I may state an unpalatable truth, but the floor is getting heaped with chaff now, and preachers are receiving into churches men that will need to be cast out again. They may be received with sound o trumpet, but they will have to be thrust out by the back door with the noise of weeping, because they were not savingly converted to God. I feel in my own conscience that were not clear of man’s blood unless I did aver that any conversion which does not bear in it a consciousness of man’s total loss and ruin— any conversion which does not teach man the fact that he can do nothing, is a conversion from which he needs be converted, and a repentance which needs to be repented of. Still, I hear another say, “It must be an ill thing to bring men to feel that they can do nothing." It is no ill thing; I would to God that every sinner felt it in his own soul. “But," says one, “I knew a man who used to say he could do nothing, therefore, he would not try.” My friend, what that man said is one thing; what he felt was another. I venture to affirm that that man did not believe what he said, or he would not have added the last sentence. He thought in his own heart that he could believe, and could repent, and could be saved when he liked. He still treasured up in his soul the fallacy that one of these fine days, when he had a more convenient season, he would come to Christ. That was his inmost thought. What he said was but a mere pretence to screen his conscience from your rebuke. Why, men and women, if you could be made to feel that you were so lost, so ruined, that you could do nothing, it would fill you with trembling and with self-despair; and then you would cry out in the midst of your horror, “Lord save, or I perish.” “God be merciful to me a sinner.” I say again, it is because you do not feel it; but only say you do. You therefore make your saying it an excuse for a want of feeling. I pray God the Spirit strike you now with a sense of powerlessness, that at once you may fall flat on your face, and feel in your inmost heart that your salvation lies in Christ’s hands and not in your own; and that if you are saved, it must be the work of grace in you, and of grace for you. It cannot be your own work since you have no power to do it, in and of yourself. 

     If I could only bring you there! Oh, my God, bring the sinner there! I pray thee bring him there! If thou art come there already poor sinner, God has begun a good work in thee. I tell thee if thou art come to know this truth really in thy very heart, God the Spirit has begun to save thee, and the work of his own hand he will never leave. Do not misunderstand me. If you merely say, “I can do nothing, — (any man can say that)— that is not the Spirit’s work. But if you feel you can do nothing, then that is the Spirit’s work. Is not this doctrine very unpalatable? There are many of my hearers who do not like it now; perhaps they will go away and say, “This is a hard saying, who can bear it I do not expect the natural man to receive a spiritual truth. If you have received it, I thank God for it. He that strippeth you will clothe you. He that has killed you this morning will quicken you. He that has made you feel that you can do nothing, will give you strength to do all things. If you could see the bottom of your own treasury that there is not a farthing left in it, if you could feel your own emptiness, I am sure you would soon see Christ’s fulness, and would discover that he is able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by him; that though we can do nothing he can do all things; that though we can neither begin nor end, “He is Apha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the author and the finisher of our faith.” 

     III. I now close with the third head, “Without me ye can do nothing.” This is true of THE SAINT ON THE SINNER’S ACCOUNT.

     Brethren, I sometimes hear of men called Revivalists, and I suppose it is imagined that there is some power in them or about them to create a revival. I should be sorry to wear the title lest I should be thought to arrogate any power to myself. I know, too, that people sometimes plan to have a revival at a certain time. As if the Spirit of God were at their disposal; as if they could make the wind, which bloweth where it listeth, and when it pleaseth, to come at their beck and at their command. I think all that is beginning at the wrong end. Instead thereof we ought to hold meetings for prayer, to confess our inability. If we began by feeling we could not do anything, we should do everything; but when we begin by thinking we can do everything, we shall end in doing nothing. The Church of to-day needs more and more to have this fact driven right into her heart. Church of God thou art powerless; thou hast no strength, no might to convert a single soul apart from the Spirit of God. Have any of you proved this to be true in your own experience? Perhaps, I look upon a father now who has many children. He says, “There is one of my sons who completely confounds me. I have prayed for him, I have talked with him. I have sought to instruct him; but I can only go up to my chamber and on my knees feel that unless God puts to his hand, that boy will never be saved.” It is a good thing that you should feel this, for now you will go to work in the right way, using not your own tools, nor your own power, but upon the strength of God. And I, too, come up into the pulpit and I feel I may preach— ay, with the tongues of men and of angels may I preach— not I alone, but all my brethren in the ministry, we may all of us preach vehemently, earnestly, but there will be no power whatever in our preaching for the winning of a single soul, apart from that Spirit of God who goeth forth with the Word. We want ministers always to feel that it is not the mere adaptation of the sermon to the salvation of souls, but the application of that sermon to the soul. It is not the mere fact that we are earnest, but the energy of the Spirit going with our earnestness, to quicken the heart and arouse the conscience. Sunday-school teachers, you want to feel this. It will not unnerve you, it will not paralyse you, it will make you strong, for when we are weak then we are strong. You want to feel that you could no more convert a child in your class than create a world; that you could no more change a heart than make an ocean blaze, or compel the solid granite to mount in watery fountains to the sky. You know that this is in God’s hand, not in yours. Yours it is to use the means, but God's to work the result. Go, then, each of you, beloved of your God, to your separate works, casting aside all your own trust, and depending simply, wholly, and entirely upon God. 

     I do believe there would be much more good done in the world if some of those who try to do good looked less to their own carnal power to do it. I mean by this, if they had less apparent power they would have more strength. There is a story told by Toplady of a Doctor Guyse, a very learned man. He was in the habit of preparing his sermons very carefully, and he used to read them very accurately. He did so for years, but there was never known to be a sinner saved under him — never such a wonder! The poor good man— for he was an earnest man, and wished to do good— was one day at prayer in the pulpit, praying to God that he would make him a useful minister. When he had finished his prayer he was stone blind. He had sufficient self possession to preach the sermon extempore, which he had prepared with notes. People did not notice his blindness, but they never heard the doctor preach such a sermon as that before. There was deep attention; there were souls saved. He found his way from the pulpit and began to express his deep sorrow that he had lost his eyesight, when some good old woman who was present, said, perhaps a little unkindly, but still very truthfully, — “Doctor, we have never heard you preach like this before; and if that is the result of your being blind, it is a pity you were not blind twenty years ago, for you have done more good to-day than you have done in twenty years.” So I do not know whether it would not be a good thing if some of our fine sermon readers were struck blind. If they were compelled to be less elaborate in the preparation of their sermons; to lose some half-dozen hard words, which they always write down as soon as they meet with them, and use them as stones in the middle of the sermon; if, when they came up into the pulpit, though condemned by critics as speaking vulgar language, they talked of commonplace things such as poor people could appreciate— if they were only to do this, God being with them, the absence of their mental power would be the means of more spiritual power, and we should have reason to thank God – that the man had become less, and that God did shine out with greater resplendence. For what are many learned men after all but stained glass windows to keep out the light? Oh that we had more men who were as the plain glass of the poor man’s cottage, to let the light of God shine through them. Let the Church feel that her power is not mental power, but spiritual power. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.” She might then use all her learning, all her education, and all her eloquence. She would use them well too if she did but feel that these were not her weapons in the hand of God for the pulling down of strongholds. 

     May God add his blessing for Jesus Christ’s sake.



Tender Words of Terrible Apprehension

By / Nov 4

Tender Words of Terrible Apprehension

 

"The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God."— Psalm 9:17

 

     MANY of God’s ministers have been accused of taking pleasure in preaching upon this terrible subject of “the wrath to come” We were, indeed, strange beings if so doleful a subject could afford us any comfort. I should count myself to be infinitely less than a man, if it did not cause me more pain in delivering myself of the impending sentence of condemnation, than it can possibly cause my hearers in the listening to it. God’s ministers, I can assure you, if they feel it to be often their solemn duty, feel it always to be a heavy burden to speak of the terrors of the law. To preach Christ is our delight; to uplift his Cross is the joy of our heart; our Master is our witness, we love to blow the silver trumpet, and we have blown it with all our might. But knowing the terror of the Lord, these solemn things lie upon our conscience, and while it is hard to preach of them, it were harder still to bear the doom which must rest upon the silent minister; the unfaithful watchman, who did not warn the sinner, and who must, therefore, eternally bear the sinner’s blood upon his head, because he warned him not. Think not this morning that I am about to expatiate upon the terrors of the world to come. I shall not do so. I shall but open the subject by making one or two remarks which may, in some measure, shield us from the enmity of those who accuse us of harshness of spirit when we lay bare these predicted woes. You must confess, my dear hearers, that Jesus Christ was the most tender-hearted of men ; never was there one of so sympathetic a disposition ; but not all the prophets put together— though some of them be stern as Elijah, though many of them seemed commissioned expressly to dwell upon terrible things in righteousness— not all of them put together can equal in thunder-shocks the sound of that still voice of him, who albeit he did not cry nor lift up his voice in the streets, spoke more of hell and the wrath to come than any that preceded him. The loving lips of Jesus have furnished us with the greatest revelations of God’s vengeance against iniquity. None ever spake with such terrible emphasis, no preacher ever used figures of such glaring horror, as did Jesus Christ the Son of Man, the friend of publicans and sinners. Let me remind you, that the wrath of God and the judgment of the day of the Lord cannot be a trifling matter. How emphatically are we told in Scripture, that it is “a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Upon such a subject we cannot afford to trifle. Besides, the mystery of Calvary indicates to us that sin must deserve at God’s hand a terrible penalty. Did Jesus suffer so bitterly to save men, and will not the unsaved endure bitterness indeed? Must the eternal and holy Son of God, upon whom sin was only an imputed thing— must he bleed, and die, and offer up his life, with his soul exceedingly heavy even unto death — and is the world to come a thing about which men can afford to sport or idly dream? Foreshadows have fallen on our path, from which we dismally recoil. Ye know that sin, even in this world, is a tormentor of unequalled cruelty. How miserable are some men when they are chased by conscience, when the furies of sin have been let loose upon them even in this world! Some of you may know, if you are not given up to hardness of heart, what it is to be conscious of guilt, and to be hunted about in every place, whether you sleep or whether you wake, with a consciousness of your trangression. Many a man has hurried himself to a premature grave, has sought to end his misery by the knife or by the halter, not because he was enduring hell, but only of the present penalty of sin. What, then, must be “the wrath to come!”

     Again, I say, it cannot be a theme at which any but fools would presume to jest, nor can it be such that we can any of us afford to be regardless of its trumpet-tongued warning. That dread sentence in our text ought to ring like a death knell in your ears, if ye be among the wicked. “The wicked shall be cast into hell”— the drunkard, the swearer, the fornicator, and such like, shall receive their well-deserved portion in the bottomless pit. God will not treat them with leniency; he will not wink at their follies; he will not pass over their sins, as though they were but mistakes, or little errors; he will mete out condign punishment for such serious offences. But observe the companions of the wicked, those who are to be the sharers with these profane ones in their eternal punishment. They are such as forget God. If I mistake not, I am addressing a very large number of those who forget God. It may be I have a few here of the outwardly wicked; let them hear the text in all its fulness; but, doubtless, I have many hundreds who come under the second description— they forget God. Oh, let them feel the full force of such a text as this; they must be companions hereafter with those whom they would not associate with now; they must have the destiny of men, whom, perhaps, they now look down upon with contempt; they must be cast into hell with the wicked, with those who are infidels in the sight of God, and demoralized among men. 

     Now, this morning, I shall first endeavour, as God’s servant, to charge this sin upon the consciences of men; secondly, to unmask the real reasons for this forgetfulness of God; thirdly, to refute such excuses as any heart may make; and then, come lovingly and earnestly to persuade you to repentance of this sin. 

     I. First, let me CHARGE THIS SIN UPON YOU.

     I wish not now to preach to you in the mass, but to each man as an individual. You can each judge in your own conscience how far what I say is applicable to you. If the fear of God and the love of Jesus be in your hearts, these accusations belong not to you; occupy yourself with earnestly praying that the Word may go where the reproof is needed; that the arrow may reach its mark. Ye who have faith in Christ, lift up your souls and pray, “O Lord, send home thy arrow in the heart that is forgetful of thee.”

     Sinner! I charge thee with forgetting God, for sure I am, thou forgettest his infinite majesty. Dost thou know what it is to be overawed with a sense of the glory of God? Hast thou ever thought of him, before whom the angels veil their faces with their wings, and solemnly cry, “Holy, holy, Lord God of hosts.” Why, you know very well, that the glory of God is to you as much a mere matter of speculation, as the glory of some great eastern prince. As you are never affected with the splendour of the Persian Court, so are you just as little subdued and overawed by the splendour of the King of heaven. Do you not walk about this world as though God had no throne, or as if the throne of the universe were entirely vacant. To Him you give no songs; before Him you offer no prayers; to Him you have made no confession of your littleness, and unto Him you have ascribed no songs of praise for his greatness. You are unconscious of his majesty; the thought never strikes you; it never humbles you, never casts you down. If now and then, when you behold the starry heavens, you are a little subdued by the power which the mighty works of God will certainly have upon your intellect— if sometimes in the midst of thunder and lightning your spirit bows before the awful majesty of God; these are but as fits and starts in the slumber of your habitual forgetfulness; this is not your abiding condition of soul, ’tis but a spasm; the spirit of your heart is not adoration of his majesty, but forgetfulness of his glory.

     Remember, too, oh sinner, that thou hast forgotten God in his mercies. Day after day thou hast fed at the table of his bounty; he has supplied thy means of livelihood, and thou hast lacked nothing; but how seldom hast thou ever thought of thanking him. Thou hast ascribed thy wealth to thine own prudence; thy competence to thine own industry. If thou hast a god at all, that god is thy strong self. Thou thankest thyself for the clothes that are upon thy back, and for the meat which cheers thy spirit; and all this while thou knowest not that the breath in thy nostrils cometh from him; that without him there were no marrow in thy bones— no power in thy nerves— without him thou wouldst fall back to thy mother dust, and crumble to the earth which brought thee forth. Why, thou dost not praise him! Thou hast songs for thy lusts, but none for thy God. Thou hast praise for thine earthly friends, and thanks for those who help thee here; but he is as much forgotten by thee as he is by the beasts that perish. Thou callest not thy family about thee; thou sayest not unto thy little ones, “Come, bless thy father’s God.” Thou liftest not holy hands over thy table, thanking God for every mercy that is thereon; but thou livest as though these things came to thee by chance. God is not in all thy thoughts; and though he draws thy curtain every night, and sheds light upon thee every day: though it is his earth upon which thou treadest; his air of which thou breathest; his water of which thou must drink— yet he is as much forgotten by thee as though he were dead, and had ceased to be.

     Consider how constantly thou dost forget his laws. When there is an action proposed to thee, how seldom dost thou pause and say, “Is this right in the sight of God?” Thou art careful of the laws of men, but the laws of God are waste paper to thee. Thou wouldst not cheat thy neighbour; thou wouldst not rob thy companion; but how often will men rob God! Men who are scrupulously honest in giving to man his due, and in “rendering unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s,” give not, “unto God that which is God’s. Man is proud and self -willed; he loves to be his own master and to haye his own way, and he cries, “Let me break his bands asunder, and cast away his cords from me."’ He finds that the easiest way to do this, is to ignore the fact that God ever made laws— or that he is the world’s moral governor— or that he will reward and punish. So the sinner goeth on in his iniquity; God is not in all his thoughts. I charge this home upon many, many of you now present. Look to your own heart, and see if the accusation be not just. Surely many of you must plead guilty to it. You forget his majesty, as though he were not “King of kings, and Lord of lords.” You forget his mercies, as though he were not the giver of every good and perfect gift; and you forget his laws, as though he had not a right to your service— as though his service were not freedom, and obedience to his laws a delight. The wicked forget God.

     And oh how often do you forget his 'presence too! In the midst of a crowd, you are conscious everyone of you, of the presence of man, but perhaps this very moment you are ignoring the fact that God is here. In your shop on the morrow how carefully you will take heed that your conduct is circumspect if the eye of your fellow-man be observant of you. But before the presence of God, with the Eternal eye upon you, you can presume to practice the paltry tricks of trade, or to do that which you would not have revealed to mortals for all the world; careful to shut-to the door, and draw the curtain, and hide yourselves in secret from men; strangely forgetting that when the curtain is drawn and the door is shut, God is there still. No walls can shut him out; no darkness can conceal the deed from his eye; he is everywhere and seeth us in all things. Why, my hearers, we are all guilty in this respect in a measure; we forget the actual presence and the overlooking eye of God. We talk as we dare not talk if we were thinking that he heard us. We act as we would not act if we were conscious that God was there. We indulge in thoughts which we should cast out if we could but bear in perpetual remembrance the abiding presence of God, the Judge of the whole earth. Forgetting God is so common a sin, that the believer himself needs to repent of it, and ask to have it forgiven, while the unbeliever may solemnly confess this to be his crying sin, a piece of guilt in respect to which he dare not profess innocence — God is not in all, peradventure not in any of your thoughts.

     And, O sinner! how forgetful thou hast been of God's justice! How seldom dost thou set before thine eyes—

“The pomp of that tremendous day, when he with clouds shall come.”

     Thou sinnest as though sin were a thing of to-day, and would not be thought of tomorrow. Thou goest to thy follies and thy pleasures as though God had no book of remembrance in which to write down thy sins, and no tablets of brass on which to engrave, as with an iron pen, all thy iniquities. Why, if sin were but a mistake; if iniquity never could be punished; if hell had resolved itself into a few dying embers, if the throne of God were shaken; if the balances were dashed from his hand; if his sword had grown blunt, men could not be more callous, or more careless than they now are. What is it but forgetfulness of God who has sworn that he will by no means clear the guilty; what is it but obliviousness of the fact that God avengeth and that he will surely give to every transgression its just recompense of reward— what is it but this that leads men to sin with both hands greedily, and to go on in their iniquities as quietly and as peaceably as though they were serving God with all their hearts, and hoping to stand before him accepted in their own righteousness? If a heathen were to come and walk among us would he ever suspect us of having a God at all? In the old days of the Spaniards, when the Spaniards had invaded Mexico, a large number of Indians had fled to Cuba for shelter. One of them, the chief of the tribe, gathering together his companions, assured them that the Spaniards’ god was gold, and having a chest of it, he thought that it would be best for them to propitiate the Spaniards’ god that they might be no more subject to the Spaniards’ cruelty; they accordingly offered sacrifice before this box of gold, and danced around it till they had wearied themselves, and then fearing the presence of so great a god in their* midst, they cast it into the depths of the sea, that it might not in future disturb them even if they had made a mistake in their prayers. Sensible heathens those! very sensible heathens Indeed! for surely, if they should walk through London among many men, they might make the same mistake, and it would be very little of a mistake either, it were as near the truth as possible. Their wealth, their substance, their worldly business, as it were painted on their retina— always before their eyes, but the God to whom they build their temples, being behind their backs, utterly and entirely forgotten!

      Why, sirs, if God were taken away – if there were no God – it would be but a very little loss to some of you; you would not be like Micah of old, who, when the sons of Dan stole his seraphim, ran after them crying, “They have taken away my gods.” No surely, you love not the true God as much as he loved the false one. Were God taken away you might clap your hands for very joy, for you would say, “He was never a person whom I esteemed; I never had any reverence for him; I can do better without a God than I could do with one, I can feel vastly more comfortable in my course of life without God to pry into all my ways, weigh all my actions, and declare that he will award to me at last a recompense for all me sins.” I charge home then upon your consciences this guilt, that you belong to the number of those who forget God. If it be not so with you, thank God and rejoice before him; but if you do forget God, let this great trumpet sound in your ears like the trump of the day of doom, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.”

     II. Now I want to UNMASK THE REASONS OF THIS FORGETFULNESS OF GOD.

     Sinner, thou who forgettest God. I tell thee that the reason of thy forgetfulness of him is as great a sin as the forgetfulness itself, for in the first place, thou dost not remember him because the thought of him makes thee afraid. Thou knowest that thou hast offended him; thou art conscious that thou canst not meet him with joy and peace, and, therefore, thou art like Adam, when he hid himself among the trees of the garden, and God hath need to cry unto thee, “Adam, where art thou?” If thou hadst not sinned, nothing would give thee greater delight than the society of God as the Father from whom thou didst derive thy being. And if thy sin were now washed away, and thy heart renewed by the Spirit, instead of dreading the thought of God it would be full of delight to thee; thou wouldst say “As the hart panteth after the waterbrooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God; when shall I come and appear before God?” It is your sin that makes you dread the presence of your judge. He who knows that he is innocent, though he may lay in gaol, longs for the day when the sessions shall come round, or when the assizes shall be held, and if he hears the trumpet in the street proclaiming that the judge has come, he is glad, for saith he – “Now shall I have deliverance;” but the guilty man always dreads the eye of the judge. But is this wise on your part? Remember, while you forget him he does not forget you. You may cover your head, but you cannot escape by merely hiding from yourself the thought of your doom. The foolish ostrich when driven by the hunter buries its head in the sand and fancies it is safe, whereas it is all the more certain to meet with death. ‘Tis so with you; you shut your eyes upon a doom which is certain. ‘Twere greatly wise if you would but open your eyes. It were the most prudent act that you could do, instead of shunning your God to sit down solemnly and think of him. Let his justice impress your heart; let his mercy encourage you to seek his face, and his love, working in your spirit, shall renew your soul. Forgetfulness of God is profound folly, but remembrance of God is to the soul her highest wisdom. Thou dreadest God, oh sinner! And, therefore, it is that thou forgettest him.

     Besides, the thought of God is irksome to thee. It affords thee no joy. Were I to make thee sit down for ten minutes, and think of nothing but God, thou wouldst impatiently look at the clock till the ten minutes were passed. Even now, though I speak in earnest, thou wouldst rather I were speaking upon some other theme. Thy heart revolts. Thou sayest, “Why should I think of God? It will not make my heart dance within me, nor my eyes sparkle.” And why? Because thou dost not love God; we seek the company of those whom we love, and if thou didst love God, thou wouldst like to hear of him; thy spirit would long to get nearer and nearer to him, and thy desire would be to be like him, and at last to see him face to face. Thou lovest not God. ‘Tis a solemn charge to bring against thee; but as long as thou forgettest him, I cannot help accusing thee.

     Yet another sin underlies the fact that you do not like to have God in your thoughts. Your real reason is because you find that thinking of God, and going on in sin, are two things that are incompatible with one another. Say you, “I cannot go to the theatre and carry God in my heart with me there. I cannot sit down at the ale-house with the profane, and have a thought of God’s presence with me there. It is not easy for me to go to any haunt of vice or sin, and still carry with me the recollection o the Omniscient eye.” No, sinner, dishonest in business, thou knowest thou couldst not practice the arts of thy trade, if thou didst always keep God before thine eyes. Thou art conscious that the two things will not suit each other. Thou art quite certain that these are two principles that will not more mix than fire and water, or light and darkness. So thou preferrest thy sins before God; thou lovest the lusts of the flesh, and the delights thereof, the sins before God; thou lovest the lusts of the flesh, and the delights thereof, the sins of this world, and the reward thereof, better than thou lovest him who made thee, and who, if thou lovest him, will take thee up to dwell with himself for ever. Sin once hated, God is loved; but sin loved, God is abhorred. When a man knows that he has been stealing something, and has a parcel of goods about him which is not his own, he will take care not to go on the same side of the street with the policeman. And when a man has been doing something wrong, he is quite certain not to go near his God, for he wishes not to be discovered; he desires not to be detected. He is like Adam in his nakedness; he would sew fig-leaves together, and run from the presence of God, because he knows that he is naked, and cannot stand before his Maker’s face.

     These are solemn considerations. Let them sink deep into your heart. Steel not your conscience against them. If they be true let them have full weight with you; and who knoweth while I thus speak but the arrows of conviction may be piercing our heart? And what are they? Are they not gracious weapons by which God slays us first, in order that he may afterwards renew us with the divine life.

     III. Oh that I could SLAY EVERY EXCUSE WHICH ANY OF YOU MAY BRING FOR FORGETFULNESS OF GOD!

     “But,” say you, “is not a man excusable for forgetting God if he has not had enough in early youth to impress God upon his memory!” Ah, sir, then some among you in this respect are inexcusable indeed. Thou canst remember that one of the first sounds thine ear ever heard was the name of Jesus. One of the first sights thine infant eye ever beheld was thy mother, with her lips moving in silent prayer while tears were falling upon thy infant brow; she was praying then that thou mightiest by dedicated to God. Dost thou remember that family-meeting which was held each morning, when the big Bible was opened and thy father read from holy scripture the words of truth! Hast thou forgotten the prayers which he then put up for thee, when he said, “Oh that Ishmael might live before thee! Oh Lord, save the kindred of thy servant. May they all be bound up in the bundle of life with the seal of the Lord my God.” Have you forgotten your mother’s personal appeal to you! the Bible in which she wrote your name with that prayer – and you little knew how well she meant that prayer—that prayer in the beginning of the book, that you might know him whom the Bible had revealed? Have you forgotten that earnest charge your father gave you when you first came to London to be bound apprentice, or to take a situation in some large shop – how he conjured you by the living God not to be led astray? Not to fall into sin? And now grey hairs are on your head, and your children are grown up too, and, perhaps, the grandchild may sit upon your knee, but your father’s prayers have not dwindled from your memory; nor have your mother’s tears been utterly blotted out. I say, if you remember not God, you cannot plead the excuse of the heathen; even if they are without excuse – for God is to be seen in the visible world – you are without any cloak for your sin, for you have had the name, the person, the being of God represented to you by those who could best reach your heart, and best enlist your attention. If some of you – and I may be speaking to such – if some of you have ceased to attend the house of God – if you have given up even the outward observances of religion, at least lest this be on your mind – that in the last great day you cannot look your father in the face and say, “Sire, thou who didst bring me forth, my blood is on they head;” nor canst thou look on her that bare thee, and say to her – “Woman, I curse the breast on which I hung, because the heart beneath it yielded no sympathy for my eternal state, and never beat with anxious prayers that I might be saved.” I strip you of this excuse; what other have you now to make?

     Or, may be, you tell met hat to think of God always and not forget him is very hard. Be it so, but let me ask you – have you ever made the attempt? – have you ever tried to think of God? No; you know that instead thereof you have often striven to thrust the thought out of doors; and when it has come into your hearts you have looked upon it as an intruder, and you have either said to it with the politeness of Felix, “Go thy way for this time, when I have a more convenient season I will send for thee;” or else with the harshness but honesty of Ahab you have said, “Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?” You know right well that you do not check yourself in the middle of a speech with the thought – “But I am forgetting God;” you do not correct yourself in the very centre of an action and turn from it because you are conscious that you are permitting the Word of God to slip from your memory. No sir, you have tried to remember a thousand things, but you never tried to remember your God. You make memoranda of your business; take out from your pocket that little ivory tablet now, and see how the engagements for the next week are scored there that they may not be forgotten. Do you ever make any such memoranda with regard to God? Did you ever say to your soul, “My soul, be thou fixed, and abide hard and fast near to God this week?” Didst thou ever charge thy spirit, saying, “Keep the Lord always before thee, and set him at thy right hand?” Whatever you have tried at, you have never even made the attempt to think on God. How then do you know that it is hard work? And if it be hard, what excuse is it for you when you have not even made the attempt? But, further, you tell me that you cannot; but even if you could not, you are still guilty, for I put it thus to you: Did you ever weep because you had forgotten God? "

     Though you have found it hard to remember him, the least thing you could have done would be to have been sorry because you could not do it. Did you ever charge your eyes to weep because you have forgotten him who gives them light? Did you ever bid your heart dissolve with anguish because it would not cleave to him who made it beat?  Oh no, sirs, you know that sin is sweet to you, and forgetfulness of God is a dainty morsel to you, and you roll it under your tongue. Oh! were it bitter to you, then indeed, you would soon be cured of it. If once forgetfulness of God became a burden and a plague, then you would seek grace that you might escape it. But instead thereof, it sits so sweetly upon your shoulder, it is not like a chain of iron but rather like a chain of gold; it is not like a yoke, but like a pleasant burden which you are too glad to carry. I charge this on you, that you do wilfully and wickedly forget the Lord your God; for if it were not wilful and wicked you would repent, and be sorry that you had forgotten him.  

     Oh sirs! vain are your excuses, while in forgetting God you have indeed to strain yourselves and divert your attention to do it. If you would but let the world speak to you it would make you remember him. There is not a star in the sky which would not look out of heaven and whisper to you — "Man, remember him who lives above the skies." There is not a blade of grass in the meadows which would not speak to you and say, "Consider, consider the God who has made you as the grass, and before whom you must soon wither away." Oh! if you would only hear, the very mountains and the hills would break out before you— preaching to you of their God; and the very trees of the field would clap their hands in adoration. Besides, go to your own house — look into the eye of your child; sit down to your fable; eat your bread and that which God has added thereunto; go to your bed and dream; wake up and find yourself alive, and see if all these things do not tell you of God. Why God’s name is printed on every part of your habitation; God’s name is written on the very streets along which you walk. Doth he not fill heaven and earth, and is he not everywhere.  Surely if you forget him you are without excuse.  

     What warnings moreover some of you have had! You have been at sea, and the timbers of the ship have creaked, and she seemed to be as an egg-shell in a giant's hand; and then you thought you would never forget God again. When the thunderclap made you deaf for a moment with horror, and the lightning-flash seemed to blind you with dismay, you thought then that you could never forget God. Remember too, that little room and the fever; think of the street you live in, and the cholera as it stopped at door after door and it passed you by. Think, I pray you, of the many times you have been exposed to instant or sudden death, and say, — has not God spoken to you, not only once but twice? Has consumption begun its deadly work with thee, fair maid? ’Tis God’s solemn voice to thee — “Prepare to meet thy God.” Has some disease taken a deep root in thy frame, O strong man! Has the Physician warned thee that it may carry thee off and that right suddenly? Has he said, thy heart is so diseased that thou mayest fall dead in the streets? God has spoken to thee.  Shall the Eternal find thee turn a deaf ear. Oh! no; I conjure you now, however much you have forgotten him— forget now all the world besides and think of him. Better to have no memory and no thought for the most important things of time, than to give all your attention to this present world of shadows, and to forget the world of substances, and the God who gives solemnity thereunto. God bless these my words, and pluck your excuses away from you, and rend them in pieces before your eyes.  

     IV. May Goa now give you a heart to listen while I seek to PERSUADE YOU TO REPENTANCE. This is my closing task.

     Thou who hast forgotten God! thou art standing self-condemned and convicted this morning! I have two arguments to ply thee with— two great truths which I would force home upon thy conscience; but, alas! it is not I who can do it. Only God the Holy Spirit can bless the Word.  

     Well, forgetter of God, I would first plead with thee by the terror of the law; “Knowing, therefore, the terrors of the law, we persuade men.” Thou wilt soon be forced to remember God; thou shalt lie upon thy dying bed, and the thought of a God so long neglected, whose gospel has been rejected, whose Son has been defied, shall then be as gall unto thee. The remembrance which might be sweet to thee now, shall be as gravel-stones in thy mouth then, to break thy teeth in sunder. Thou shalt lie upon thy bed and toss from side-to-side with a pain which physic cannot cure. Thou shalt know anguish to which even sleep itself can give no respite. Many such have I seen, and fearful has been the sight, — men whom nothing could pacify, whose pain drugs could not allay, whose peace utterly departed, their bodies and souls seemed as if they were rent in pieces of lions— as if they were set on fire of hell before their time. Nor wilt thou be able to forget him at the day of judgment, when thy soul shall come up from the place of its separate existence, when thy body shall spring up from the grave, and the two shall be re-united. Thou wilt see the Lord, whom thou hast despised, sitting upon a throne of glory, and what wouldst thou give if thou couldst shut thine eyes then, or if thou hadst never shut thine eyes upon him before. How wilt thou say, “Would to God I had now a time of respite; would that mercy could again be proclaimed to me; that there was still found some minister of Christ, some open Bible, some sanctuary, some space for repentance, some pleading terms, some praying ground on which I might yet stand hopefully before my God!” But, no! all through the time  of the preparation of that judgment, the trumpet waxing exceeding loud and long,  shall ring destruction in your ears, the black darkness shall blot out hope from you,  and the ever-flashing lightnings shall slay your pride and your pretensions, and when  the sentence is pronounced, when Christ has discharged the awful volleys of his wrath  against you, you will not be able to forget him then. In hell the thought of God shall be as a dagger in your soul— a viper nestling in your bosom, poisoning the fountains of your life, and sending hot venom through all your veins. “Son, remember!”  That was the cry of Abraham from heaven, and doubtless an awful cry to Dives in hell:  — “Son, remember!” ’Tis the voice of mercy to-day. “Son, remember!” — it shall be the voice of judgment to-morrow. Son, remember! Son, remember! Son, remember the invitations neglected; son, remember the warnings despised; son, remember that solemn Sabbath-day, when the minister preached,

“As though he ne’er might preach again, a dying man to dying men.”

     “Son, remember” the open Word of God, remember thy mother’s prayers, thy father’s exhortations. Son, remember thine oaths, thy blasphemies, thy sins, thy follies, thy laughings at the Word, thy despisings of Christ. It will tear your hearts asunder only to look back, with that sounding ever in your ears— “Son remember, son remember.” I conjure you then, by the terrors of the law, to repent of this great sin of having forgotten God. Oh, Spirit of God, grant repentance now! Will you make your bed in hell, will you abide with everlasting burnings? I pray you be not foolhardy; there are other ways of being a fool besides damning your soul. Come, dress in motley attire, paint your face and play the clown if you must be a fool, but damn not your soul to prove yourself full of folly; dash your head against a wall; spend your money for that which is not bread; hurl your purse into the sea, but do not destroy yourself. Is there no happiness in this world except the happiness of entailing eternal torment? Oh, could I plead with you as my heart longs to do; could I speak to you as my Master would speak if he were here this morning, sure I might reach your hearts. Ah but unless the sacred Spirit be here, vain are the most earnest entreaties, vain the sternest attacks against the barricades and bulwarks of a hard and iron heart.  Oh, Lord, do thou the sinner turn, and by the terrors of the law drive him to thyself!

     But now to use perhaps a more forcible argument. God send it home.

     By the mercies of God, sinner, I conjure thee to forget him no more. He is not a   hard taskmaster, or an austere God. His own words are, “As I live saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, but had rather that he should turn   unto me and live.” He is stern— justly so. He is severe— he must be so; to be   judge of all the earth he must do right. But this is the day of grace; this is the time   of mercy. You are not shut up in hell; the gates of the grave have not yet enclosed   you; the iron door is not fast bolted yet. There is hope— hope even for the negligent; hope for the despiser of Christ. And let me tell thee— that hope lies not in anything that is in thee, but in Christ Jesus. “Whosoever calleth upon the name of   the Lord shall be saved.” “Whosoever seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it   shall be opened.” If thou shalt come to thyself this morning as the prodigal did in   the midst of the swine, and if thou shalt say— “I will arise and go to my Father, and   will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and am no   more worthy to be called thy son then, sinner, God will rejoice to see thee come to him.   He will have eyes of mercy for thee to see thee afar off; he will have feet of mercy to   run and meet thee; he will have arms of mercy to receive thee; he will have kisses of   mercy to cheer thee; he will have depths of mercy to wash thee; garments of mercy   in which to clothe thee; jewels of mercy with which to adorn thee; and feasts of   mercy and music of mercy wherewith to make thee glad. If I to-day had made my   father angry with me, if I had left his house voluntarily, and spent his substance, I   might be afraid to come back to my father’s house. “Lo,” I might say, “he will   never forgive me; I fear he is a stern man.” But if a messenger should come from   him and say to me, “Young man, your father’s bowels yearn to press you to his   bosom, he does not wish you to be a stranger to him any longer. He bade me tell you   to come to him just as you were— rags and ulcers, sores and filth— just as you   are.” Why I think I can say that the sight of my father’s messenger, especially if it were my own brother, who with tears in his eyes should say to me, "Brother, come back, come back, our father loves us still. I was like you once, and father received me — come, and he will do the same for you." I think I would put my unreluctant hand into his, and say, "My brother, I will go with you to my father's house, and I will fall upon my knees and confess my folly and my fault, and — 

“Perhaps he will admit my plea ; perhaps will hear my prayer?”

     In the name of God our Father I plead with you. As vile as any of you have I been, but I know I am forgiven. I bear him witness he hath blotted out my sins; he   will do the like with you. Is there no brother here who will say, “I’ll go with you   to Jesus; at his cross I’ll bow, and at my Father’s face offer my prayer?”   

     Two little parables by way of further encouragement, and I have done. There may   be one here who says, “Sir, I don’t know how to pray; I don’t know how to find my   way to Christ, for I have learned the language of sin so well that I cannot speak the   language of grace.” Oh! but sinner, if thou only knowest what it is thou wantest, and hast a desire to find it, thou shalt find it. I compare thee to a woman whom   I met last Friday. We were walking up the lane near where I live, and there was   a poor woman, who accosted us. She spoke in French. This poor soul had some   children at Guildford; she was wanting to find her way to them, but did not know a   single word of English. She had knocked at the doors of all the gentlemen’s houses   down the lane, and of course the servants could do nothing for her, for they could not   understand a word she said. So she went from one place to another, and at last she   did not know what would become of her. She had some thirty miles to walk, she did   not mind that, but then, she did not know which way to go; so I suppose she had   made up her mind she would ask everybody. All she knew was, she had written on a   piece of paper, the word “Guildford,” and she held it up and began to ask in French   the road. She had met with someone who could tell her the path, and beautifully did   she express her distress. She said she felt like a poor little bird who was hunted about, and did not know how to find her way to the nest. She poured a thousand blessings on us when we told her the way. And I thought— how much this is like the sinner when he wants to find the way to heaven. All he knows is, he wants Christ. That is all   he knows; but where to get to him and how to find him, he does not know; and he knocks at one door and then at another door; and perhaps the minister at the place of   worship, does not understand the language of human sympathy. He cannot understand the sinner’s need, for there are many servants in my Master’s house, I am sorry   to say, who do not understand the language of a sinner’s cry. Oh! sinner, thou shalt   surely find Christ though thou knowest not how to find him. He will say to thee," Whom   seekest thou?” and thou wilt say, — “I seek Jesus,” and he will say, — “I that speak   unto thee am he.” I am much mistaken this morning, if he who speaks in your heart   is not the very Jesus whom thou seekest. His speaking in thy heart is a token of his   love. Trust him, believe in him, and thou shalt be saved.   

     There is a story told concerning Thomas a Becket— a story connected with his   parentage. His father was a Saxon gentleman, who went into the crusades, and was   taken prisoner by the Saracens. While a prisoner among the Saracens, a Turkish lady   loved him, and when he was set free and returned to England, she took an opportunity   of escaping from her father’s house— took ship, and came to England. But she knew   not where to find him she loved. All she knew about him was, that his name was   Gilbert. She determined to go through all the streets of England, crying out the   name of Gilbert, till she had found him. She came to London first, and passing every   street persons were surprised to see an Eastern maiden, attired in her Eastern costume, crying, “Gilbert, Gilbert, Gilbert.” And so she passed from town to town, till one   day as she pronounced the name, the ear for which it was intended caught the sound, and they became happy and blessed.   

     And so, sinner, to-day thou knowest little perhaps of religion, but thou knowest the name of Jesus. Take up the cry and go to-day, and as thou goest along the streets, say in thy heart, "Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!" and when thou art in thy chamber say it still, "Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!" continue thy cry, and it shall reach the ear for which it is meant. If thy relations laugh, say, "Ah, I did not call for you;" if thy friends say that thou art mad, reply, "Ah, it may seem so; the riddle is always foolish till you know the meaning of it." But if you should cry, "Jesus," till Jesus shall answer you, oh happy shall it be! There shall be a marriage between him and your soul, and you with him shall sit down at the marriage supper in the glory of the Father, and dwell with him for ever and ever. God add his own blessing for Jesus' sake. Amen.



A Basket of Summer Fruit

By / Oct 28

A Basket of Summer Fruit

 

"Thus hath the Lord God shewed unto me: and behold a basket of summer fruit. And he said, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, a basket of summer fruit. Then said the Lord unto me, the end is come upon my people of Israel; I will not again pass by them any more."—Amos 8:1-2

 

     In reading through the prophetical books, you must have been struck at their singular variety. On looking a little more closely, you have at once perceived that every prophet has a manner and style peculiarly his own. Although God speaketh through them all, yet they lose not their individuality or originality of character. The breath which causes the music is the same, but no two of the instruments give forth precisely the same sound. It is true they all utter the words of God; but each voice has its own special cry, so that though God is pre-eminently seen, yet the man is not lost. You do not find in searching through the prophets that Jeremiah copies the language of Isaiah. The herdsman Amos writes not like the wise counsellor Daniel; nor does Jonah borrow the notes of Malachi. Every man speaks after his own order. Whatever he was when God called him to be a prophet, that he remains. God consecrates what is already there, and doth not re-cast the man into a new mould. I believe this is an excellent lesson to all the ministers of Christ in these times. How much more useful might many men be if they would speak according to their own character, after their own style. But instead thereof, the young minister attaches himself to some eminent model, and copies, not only the expressions, but the very tones, the action, nay the whims and absurdities of the master whom he venerates. But if each man, instead of seeking to be another, would be himself; if he would consecrate his powers and talents to God as they are, and bring them out in their native simplicity whether they be polished or rough, the world would be conscious that a man had arisen who was in earnest, and not a mere player, an imitator of another. God himself, I doubt not, will speak more clearly through a man who speaks out of the fullness of his heart, than he will through another who cannot let the stream of divine influence come through him naturally, but must needs seek to turn it into the artificial current of some other man's form of eloquence. I am led to make these observations, because this is specially the case with regard to Amos. Amos was a herdsman, a keeper of cattle, and all through his book you find him continually alluding to his peasant life. He seems to have been an honest, homely countryman, and he talks to us about sheep which have been rent in pieces by the lions of the kine of Bashan, of the cart full of sheaves, of sifted corn, and plowmen and vine-dressers. He does not mount to the sublimity of Isaiah, he has no golden mouth like that Chrysostom among the prophets. He never soars to the height of Daniel, he lacks Ezekiel's eagle wing, and the weeping eye of Jeremiah, but he dashes out before you in his first chapter like some untamed irresistible being, and begins—"The Lord will roar from Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem, and the habitations of the shepherds shall mourn, and the top of Carmel shall wither." And then through the first two chapters he flings firebrands about him with both his hands; he has a flame for Syria, and another for Gaza; he flashes lightning upon Tyrus in a few sentences, and pours a vial of wrath upon Edom; he darts his sacred ire on Ammon, and devours the palaces of Moab. He stabs his foes in short abrupt sentences, not aiming at eloquence, but speaking always like a herdsman. As Shamgar slew the Philistines not with the sword of Goliath, but with his own ox-goad, so does Amos come out against the sins of his times with no polished shaft taken out of the quiver of the noble, but with his own ox-goad, and right gloriously doth he lay sin dead at his feet.

     And now look at my text in the light of what I have already said. It appears that Amos was a skillful man, and able to turn his hand to other useful employments. There was one occupation which was usually given to men who had delicacy of hand and skill, that was the culture of the sycamore fig-tree. You will find that Amos is called in one of the chapters of his own book, "a gatherer of sycamore fruit;" a more correct translation might be a bruiser, a trainer or preparer of sycamore fruit, the sycamore fruit being like a fig, though not quite so excellent in flavour. It was believed in the East that it would never ripen except it was a little bruised, so that some person was employed with an iron comb to scratch and wound the skin. Unwounded the fruit, even when ripe, was too bitter to be eaten, but after it had been wounded, it ripened rapidly, and became sweet, and was not an objectionable article of diet. Now the good man had been wont to be employed by his neighbors, at certain seasons of the year, in bruising their figs that they might become ripe. And now, in one of the visions which God gives to him, he sees neither the seraphim of Isaiah, nor the cherubim of Ezekiel, but he sees a basket of summer fruit, a vision suited to his capacity, and harmonising with his occupation.

     There is no need for any labored disquisition; there are no hard words in a herdsman's language, and no great mysteries in a herdsman's vision. There is a basket of fruit which is so ripe that it has been gathered, and it is a sort of fruit—summer fruit—which will not keep, which will not lay by unto the winter, but which must be eaten at once. Amos sees at once that God's purposes were now ripe with regard to his people Israel, and that the nation itself had become ripe in its sin, so ripe that it must be destroyed. It teaches to us in these modern times, that there is a ripeness of men as well as of summer fruit; there is a ripening in holiness till we are gathered by the hand of Jesus for heaven, and a ripening in sin till we are swept away with the rough hand of death, and are cast away into the rottenness of destruction.

     I. I shall use my text then, in three different ways; the first remark being that GOD'S PURPOSES HAVE A RIPENESS.

     God always times his decrees. He is never before his time, and he never is so much as a single hour behind. Many men are wise too late; God is always wise, and always proves his wisdom, not only by what he doeth, but by the time when he doeth it. Let us notice two of God's greatest acts, and notice the ripeness of them.

     There was the first advent of the Lord Jesus Christ. God had promised to our forefather Adam in the garden that a mysterious seed of the woman should be born and should bruise the serpent's head. In mysterious signs he had shown to his people that a Messiah was coming, by many of his prophets had he spoken of Immanuel, God with us. But for thousands of years the Lord came not, although sin was rampant and the darkness dense, nothing could excite the Lord to an unwise haste. Nor on the other hand did he stay beyond the proper hour, for when the fulness of time was come God sent fourth his Son, born of a woman made under the law. In heaven we shall probably discover that Christ came to die for our sins precisely at the only fitting moment, that in fact redemption's work could not have been so wisely accomplished at the gates of the garden of Eden as on Calvary; and that the reign of Herod and the Roman Caesar afforded the most fitting era for the sacrifice of the Cross.

     And so shall it be with regard to the second advent of our blessed Lord and Master, we are apt to say, "Why are his chariots so long in coming. Do not the virgins sleep because the bridegroom tarrieth, the wise as well as the foolish, have they not all slumbered and slept." And many be the servants who say in their heart, "My Lord delayeth his coming," and are ready therefore to beat their fellow-servants, to drink and to be drunken; but cheer your hearts ye who look for his appearing, he will not come too hastily, for why should the sun arise until darkness has had its hour. Nor will he delay his appearing one moment beyond the proper time, for should not the sun beam forth in the morning? We know and are persuaded that when he shall stand a second time upon the earth, it shall be as much the fullness of times for him to come, as it was the fullness of time when he came at first. When his feet stood on Calvary they stood there in good time, and when they shall stand on Olivet, and when he shall judge the nations in the valley of Jehoshaphat, then too shall he come at his proper time and his proper season. Watch then, beloved, watch and wait earnestly, be not discouraged or cast down; "One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years are but as one day." He shall come, and you shall behold him in his glory, and shall be partakers of the splendor of his reign.

     And now I shall wish for a moment to apply this great truth of the ripeness of God's purposes to your own personal affairs. You believe that the advents of Christ are well-timed. Indeed, beloved, so is every act of God. The time when you were called by grace was the proper time for you to be converted. That hour when Jesus looked on you with an eye of love, when you were dead in sin, was a time of love, and it was a time of wisdom too. God did not wait too long, else you might have been driven to despair or to desperation in sin. He did not come too soon. You may have wished that he had come before, but doubtless he had some end to serve, that in permitting you to learn more fully the lesson of your own sinfulness, you might be the better prepared to adore the infinite, matchless, sovereign grace, which has now plucked you as a brand from the burning. Your calling, I say, was well timed. It came to you not as unripe fruit shaken from the tree, or beaten off by hailstones, but as fruit that was gathered in its season. So, mark you, shall it be with all that occurs to you in life. Your trials always come to you at the right moment. Do you doubt it? Do you say that troubles always follow troubles? that they are not equally enough distributed, and that you generally receive one severe blow just when your strength and patience have been exhausted by the endurance of another? Ah, this is the language of your reason, but the language of your faith should be "Great God, I leave my times and seasons in thy hand, for well I know if thou smitest me again and again, and again, it is that thou mayest multiply to bless me, that my manifold trials may produce in me manifold blessings." So be of good cheer, my hearer. I know that in looking back thou hast seen that thy troubles have come to thee in the right time. Have they not always come just when thou hadst strength to bear them, or else, have they not come just when they were required to wean thee from this world, to deliver thee from carnal security into which thou hadst well nigh fallen; or to wake thee up from some deadly slumber of indifference, which might have destroyed thee. And mark thee, as thy trials so thy deliverances. Thou wantest deliverances now. God will not give it to thee in thy time, but in his. He will not send to thee his mercies before their date. Thou shalt wait until the tribulation hath had its perfect work, by producing patience; and then the hour of thy extremity shall be the hour of God's opportunity. He knoweth when thy strength is spent, and thou art ready to perish, then shall the Sun of Righteousness arrive with healing beneath his wings. Thy deliverances from trouble shall always come to thee in time enough; but they shall never come too soon, lest thou be proud in thy heart. Learn, thou believer, to be resigned to God's will. Learn to leave all things in his hand. 'Tis pleasant to float along the stream of providence. There is no more blessed way of living than the life of faith upon a covenant-keeping God—to know that we have no care, for he careth for us, that we need have no fear, except to fear him, that we need have no troubles, because we have cast our burdens upon the Lord, and are conscious that he will sustain us. And oh how sweet is it to look forward to the day of our death in this way; to feel that "Plagues and death around us fly," but "Till he please we cannot die;" that we may walk among a thousand graves, but no grave shall open its mouth for us; that we may stand where pestilence is blazing forth and devouring the nations as the fire devours the stubble, but we must lie secure. We are immortal till our work is done. God's purpose for our death shall not be fulfilled till that purpose is ripe, and surely we would not have him wait longer than his appointed time.
I take this first head by way of cheering my own heart and yours; for I am persuaded that the doctrine of predestination,—the blessed truth of providence—is one of the softest pillows upon which the Christian can lay his head, and one of the strongest staffs upon which he may lean in his pilgrimage along this rough road. Cheer up, Christian! Things are not left to chance: no blind fate rules the world. God hath purposes, and those purposes are fulfilled. God hath plans, and those plans are wise, and never can be dislocated. Oh trust thou in him and thou shalt have each fruit in its season, the mercy in its time, the trial in its period, and the deliverance in its needed moment.

     II. And now I turn to the second point—that NATIONS HAVE THEIR RIPENESS, AND THAT WHEN THEY COME TO THEIR RIPENESS THEY MUST BE DESTROYED.

     We may see in this basket of summer fruit a picture of them. In the case of these summer fruits there was a need that they should be at once eaten. And there is a need when a nation has become ripe in sin that it should be given up to destruction. There are such things as national sins, and there are consequently such things as national punishments. In looking back upon the history of the world, though skeptics might entertain a doubt as to individual transgression and personal punishment, they must confess that there have been such things as national judgments sent from the hand of God. If I could take you to-day to the dreary wilderness of Babylon, I would bid you listen to the hooting of the owl, and shiver amid the lonely ruins. I would remind you that this was the throne of one of the greatest monarchies. You ask, "And why were these people swept from off the face of the earth? Why has the palace been consumed with fire, and the beautiful city become desolate?" We can give you but one answer, that the sin of this people at last became so intolerable that from the very force of its own rottenness it crumbled to decay. We take you again to Greece, and bid you stand among the fallen pillars of its glorious temples; we show you the broken memorials of its ancient idolatry; we point to the fact that all the glories of Alexander, of Macedon, have long since been eclipsed; and if you should ask the same question as you did at Babylon, "Who slew all these and gave their cities for a prey?" it would not be a sufficient answer to assure you that the tooth of time had devoured these palaces, or that passing ages and the natural shifting of the focus of civilisation had made those things totter to their fall. It was the sin of the Grecian state that brought upon it its ruin. If it had not been given up to inordinate luxury; if its hero soldiers had not degenerated into robbers; if its statesmen had retained their early integrity; if the nation had been as manly, as pain-enduring, as upright, as they were in days gone by, Greece had not ceased to exist; the Roman iron could not have been a match for the Corinthian brass; the battle would have lasted long, and Spartan valor would have driven back the Roman legions. Had they been free in heart they would have been free from the iron yoke. They had enslaved themselves long before the Western empire had subdued them. So was it with old Rome. Long did God endure with it. Emperor succeeded Emperor—or rather, let me correct myself—fiend succeeded fiend. It seemed as if hell strove to outdo itself by sending forth a greater monster than the last; all of them brutish, with but few exceptions, most of them cruel, every one of them capricious. And God bore long with the sin of the old palaces of Rome, long did he endure her base idolatries, and her cup that was filled with the blood of the saints. But at last he spoke, and it was done. The northern swarms soon swept away the flimsy remnants of an empire, whose moth had been its own corruption. We believe that it is the same with Rome at present—the Popedom. Iniquity had been heaped upon iniquity, worse than even Pagan Rome was guilty of. The persecutions of Pagan Rome against God's saints have been excelled by Popish Rome. If there were fiends in Rome before, I know not how to describe these men who have persecuted God's saints in days gone by, and yet could claim to be vicars of God. Oppression has been heaped upon oppression, blood hath followed blood, iniquity hath cried unto iniquity, and lo, the sword of God is at the gate of Rome. Lo, God, even now in the thunder-cloud hangs over the palace of the Vatican. And if for awhile the judgment shall be withheld, it is because the iniquity is not yet full. Another Perugia, another slaughter of innocent men, another attack upon the gospel, another attempt to burn the Scriptures, and Rome shall have consummated her guilt, and then shall the nations of the world eat her flesh, and devour her as with fire, and a great cry shall go up from earth, "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, is fallen!" and then shall be heard the song in heaven, "Hallelujah, hallelujah, for the smoke ariseth for ever and ever, and the Lord God omnipotent reigneth."

     Let us not, however, in our self-righteousness, fancy that this fact has no relationship to us. We as a people have been verily guilty. I trust it cannot be said of us that our iniquity is full, but much, very much of sin hath there been. Has not drunkenness run down our street? Hath not infidelity had its favored haunts in all our towns? Has not Sabbath-breaking been a continual and a crying sin? Hath not England grievously offended God in thrusting her poisonous drugs upon an Empire which sought them not? Have we not often been the aggressors, and in our lust for the extension of empire in the East hath not many a deed been done for which an Englishman might blush? We have all good need when we are making intercession for the nation, to repent before God for our national sins. We are a proud people; no nation upon the earth can match us for boasting. We have larger words to speak concerning our own dignity than any other race of men. It were well for us if we had humbler words before the throne of God. I believe we are a more highly favored nation than even Israel of old. God hath done more for Britain, or certainly as much, as he did for Abraham's race, and even if we have not rebelled and revolted as often as did Israel in the wilderness, yet our little rebellions, if they were so, would be great because of the greatness of God's goodness. Oh Christians! be in earnest, that this land may be filled with grace; be earnest in prayer, that the torrent of our iniquities may be dried up, lest haply that supposition of a great historian should at last become a fact, and the New Zealander should yet sit on the broken arch of London Bridge, wondering that so great a city could have passed away. We are not sure that Nineveh and Babylon were as great as this metropolis, but they certainly might have rivalled it, and yet there is nothing left thereof, and the dragon and the owl dwell in what was the very center of commerce and civilization. And may it not be so with us, and may not the name of Anglo-Saxon be blotted out, unless we repent, unless we seek God and pray that this nation may be in covenant with him and may abide faithful to him, even till the Lord Jesus Christ shall come and absorb all monarchies into his own great empire which shall extend from sea to sea, and from the river even unto the ends of the earth.

     III. I shall now pass to that which is the main business of this morning's work. May God help me therein, and give both physical and spiritual strength. I now come to deal with each man before me. The basket of summer fruit which Amos saw before him, I would now bring before your own eyes. You see it—the basket full of fruits—quite ripe and requiring to be eaten. Here is the picture of what some of us are, and what all of us must be.

     In the first place, with the righteous man there is a time of ripening. In one sense the moment a man is converted he is fit for heaven; in another sense he is not fit; otherwise God would take him at once to himself. The Christian, when first converted, is but a bud upon the tree, a mere blossom. There is need that he grow unto perfection, and that that fruit should become ripe fruit. Christians are every day ripening by the perfecting energy of the Holy Ghost, without whom they can never advance in the divine life. But the Holy Spirit uses means, and upon these I shall enlarge. Believers are each day ripening by the care of God, the great husbandman who looks for fruit from men, and walks among the trees each day, and bids the sunshine of his love and the dew of his kindness fall upon them, that they may bring forth much fruit. They are ripened by every providence which passes over them. The cold wind ripens them; even winter's frost, which might destroy our fruit, ripens that which grows in the garden of the Lord. The sorest tribulation which ever exercises a believer is a ripening dispensation, and is making him ready to stand in the full development of his grace before the glory of his Father's throne. In fact, without affliction no Christian ever can ripen. He is like the sycamore fig of Amos, there must be the scratching of the rind of the fruit; there must be a bruising with the iron comb, or else ripe the Christian will not become. We may grow in some things by prosperity; but true ripeness in grace can only be obtained in adversity. Our cares, our losses, our crosses, our depression of spirits, our temptations from without and from within,—these are all ripening dispensations, they are making us ready for the time when our beloved Lord shall come and gather us into the basket, like apples of gold in baskets of silver. We are being ripened each day, I trust, by what we hear under the ministry, and by what we read in God's Word. The means of grace co-act with God's dealings in providence. Our prayers ripen us; the blessed Supper of our Lord helps to ripen us; our seasons of fellowship with Jesus—the sweet promises which are every day fulfilled; the assistances which are rendered necessary by the incidents of each day—all these things work together for good to them that love God. They are dividing us each day from the earth: loosening our roots; cutting the strings which bind us here below; pluming our wings for the last great flight—when, leaving earth with all its ties behind us we shall enter into the realities of the bliss which remaineth for the people of God.

     But you ask me in what respect the Christian is ripening. I reply he is ripening in knowledge, he is learning each day what he knew not before. He begins now to spell over the heavenly alphabet, and there be some of the words of the celestial tongue which he can speak most plainly. He begins to comprehend with all saints what are the heights and depths and lengths and breadths, and he knows the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge. Things which were mysterious to him once are plain enough now, and riddles are become simplicities. He is no more a child in knowledge, but is become a man in understanding. He shall ripen in knowledge until he shall know even as he is known. So does he advance each day in experience; that experience of his which was but as a little unripe fruit, has now swelled out into the full orb of the ripening pomegranate. He has felt, and tasted, and handled of the good Word of God. Religion is not a theory to him now; it is a matter of fact. He knows whom he has believed, and he is persuaded that he is able to keep that which he has committed to him. And increasing thus in knowledge and experience he ripens also in spirituality. He becomes less worldly, he shakes off more and more the cares which once were chains to him. He bears his trials more easily than he once did. A great wave would have drowned him now merely washes his loins with its foamy crest. He is not afraid of evil tidings, his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord. He is not now grasping after this world's wealth, he seeks to fill a treasury into which the moth cannot enter, and where thieves cannot break through and steal. And as he ripens thus in spirituality, he ripens in savour, his conversation becomes more full of marrow; he is not now like Pharoah's lean kine, nor like the ears of corn that were dried and shrivelled in the east wind. He is an instructor of the ignorant and a teacher of babes. You listen to him, you watch his daily walk and conversation. He is one from whom you may learn much, a person who is to be imitated, for there is a sweet smelling perfume of fellowship with Christ about him in all that he saith and all that he doth. He is a ripe Christian, ripening for heaven; and you may add to this that he now becomes more kind in spirit than he was before. The asperities of his youth give way to cordial kindness in his old age. He learns to overlook faults which irritated him when he was younger; he learns to bear with the young and with the silly, for he remembers that he was once young and foolish too. He has compassion for those that are out of the way, and a kind and encouraging word for the distressed, and he goes about with a beaming countenance, looking indeed like a ripe fruit with a rich bloom upon it, a pleasant sight for the great husbandman.

     If, brethren and sisters, this is accompanied with old age, it is indeed a fair vision to see a Christian fully ripe. I think if I needed an illustration of one who as often as I saw him, always seemed to be fruit fully ripe, and whose recent death thoroughly well justifies my belief, I might refer to that venerable and excellent servant of God, Dr. Fletcher. He had in his youth sharp and severe trials and troubles, but they helped to ripen him. He had to bear up continually with arduous labor, always sweetened with unusual success. My acquaintance with him was only in the declining years of his life. He was always as I knew him, an example of a ripe Christian. He had always a kind word ready upon his tongue, and never wanted a generous thought bubbling up in his heart. If an enemy spoke against you, he would say, "Never mind them, let them write until they wear the nibs from their pens, and do not answer them." If he suspected that others thought harshly of you, he would always have an excuse for the young beginner, or if he did not make an excuse in your presence, yet he would give you a word of encouragement. Ah! I dare say many of you have seen him during this last year or two. That noble countenance, that fatherly expression, that overflowing love, were all signs that he was getting ready for the hand of the blessed Master to take him to himself. God forbid we should have wished him to be here longer! Was he not ripe? Let him then be taken home, God forbid we should have desired that he had gone earlier; he would not have been ripe, but when fully ripe the Master removed him. I cast my eye round upon some of you, dearly beloved; some of you whose heads are bald, and others of you who wear that crown of glory, woven of grey hairs, and I do trust it will be so with you, that each day shall be making you more and more meet for your Father's presence. So when the silver cord shall be loosed and the golden bowl shall be broken, when they that look out of the windows shall be darkened, and when the pitcher shall be broken at the cistern, and the wheel shall be broken at the fountain, may your spirit return in gladness to God who gave it, that you may rejoice in him for ever and for ever. I do not like to see a Christian die like a boy who leaves his play because he is tired of it, and I do not on the other hand, like to see a Christian go from this world like a boy who is flogged out of his play and who is sorry to leave it. I like to see him like a fair ship which has all its cargo on board and all its passengers on deck, the flags are flying and the pennants streaming in the gale, and all the canvas is fully stretched, and it waits till it is just high tide, the tide begins to roll out towards the sea, and it sails on the head of the tide with the wind bellying out the sails, and so hath the soul an abundant entrance into the joy of its Lord. May it be yours and mine, as many years as we shall live, to be each of us ripening for the "rest which remaineth for the people of God."

     Lastly, and very solemnly, now, may God the Holy Ghost bless what I shall have to say concerning a ripeness with which the sinful and ungodly, all of you who are unconverted, are ripening. You are being ripened from within; the depravity of your own heart is developing itself every hour, and though the heart can grow no worse, yet will the outward life grow worse by a ripening process from within. The fermentation of your own depravity shall prepare you for destruction. Satan too is daily busy with you, to try and make you grow in vice. He is an apt teacher, for well is he skilled in it, and he will leave no stone unturned to make the young beginner in sin sit in the chair of Belial, and become a very Doctor of Damnation. Yea, as a creature planted in the field of Providence you are daily ripening in sin. Are you prosperous—do you not become proud? Do things go amiss with you—do you not murmur against God? And are not your pride and murmuring each a species of ripening for the great day of God's wrath? Ah! and I speak to some to-day, who are getting ripe in sin by being taught and instructed in evils which they never knew before? Young man, have you been lately taken into a firm where you have been taught by other young men, more advanced than yourself, some new folly, some new iniquity which you never knew in your country home? You are being ripened for hell. Old man, have you just come to that period in life when you are able to teach others iniquity, and guide others into sin? You are not as Amos, who could ripen fruit for God, but you are become a bruiser of sycamore fruit for Satan; helping Satan to ripen the fruit in his own diabolical garden. I speak to some here this morning who have strolled into this Hall from curiosity, who are growing very ripe in sin. You look back upon the days of your boyhood now, with wonder—wondering, as you say, that you could ever have been "so green," so foolish as you then were. Ah! but what is your wisdom now? Has it not been an advancement in guilt? Have you not looked upon sin so long that you are being changed into its image, from iniquity unto iniquity, as by the very work of Satan himself. Are not some of you conscious that you know things now that you did not know years ago and that you can indulge with hardness of heart in crimes that would have startled you in days gone by? Oh, look back I beseech you, upon the hours of your comparative innocence, and mourn over the thought that you are growing riper, and riper, and riper each day, and everything that happens to you is conspiring to make you rotten-ripe. Ere long you will fall from life's spreading tree and utterly perish.

     And do you ask me in what it is that the sinner ripens? I could not give you particulars in such a case as this, but certainly most sinners ripen in knowledge of sin; they ripen in love to sin, and they ripen also in the hardness of heart which enables them to commit sin with impunity. And with some, sin has attained such a ripeness that they dare to blaspheme God. They have grown so rotten ripe, that they will even dare to say there is no God, or think that he is blind, or ignorant, and will not see and punish sin in the sinner. It is an awful sign of nearness to hell when a man begins to think that he can doubt the existence of a God. I consider that time is lost in controverting with men upon this point. We are not to controvert but to denounce. I should not expect to teach a serpent to change its hissing for music, nor do I think that while men are unregenerate it is of much use to teach them to change their in infidelity for formality. God himself must convert those who have gone into infidelity with his own word, for our reasonings are powerless. We must pray for them; yet must they be left in his hands, for it is a deep ditch, and the abhorred of the Lord do fall therein.

     I may have in my presence, too, some who have become so rotten-ripe that they will not only curse God themselves, and despise religion, and violate every precept of it, but they will not tolerate religion near them. They cast slander upon every godly action; they persecute their relations who fear the Lord. Ah, sirs, ye do but show what spirit ye are of. Your actions do but discover the inward baseness and depravity of your hearts. Take heed to yourselves—take heed. When ye see the ripe fruit upon the tree ye expect it shall soon be gathered, and when I hear of those ill-deeds of yours, I may well expect that your damnation shall not long tarry, but that the pains of death shall soon close themselves upon you. Ye are ripening, sinners, ye are ripening, and unless God change your hearts, your gathering time shall soon come. And for what are you ripening? You are ripening for death—ripening for eternal judgment, and ripening for the wrath of God. Will you take this fact home with you? If I cannot speak to you this morning as I would, at any rate I will speak to you as I can. Oh unconverted men and women, I conjure you take this with you, you are ripening for hell. And some fruits ripen very quickly, and those that ripen slowly ripen surely, and the gathering time shall come. The righteous shall be gathered, and be as apples of gold in baskets of silver; and you shall be gathered and be an grapes of Gomorrah and be cast into the winepress of divine wrath to be trodden in his indignation. Does the prospect please you? Are you prepared to make your bed in hell, and to lay down in everlasting burnings? Oh, remember, if you take the road, you must take the end; if you will have your ripening time of sin, then your rotting time must be a time of damnation. "Be not deceived, God is not mocked." He will not change his dispensations for you. "He that goeth on in his iniquity, hardening his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed and that without remedy." Oh, my dear hearers, I could stand and weep over some of you. My soul weepeth now at the thought of the many who have been in this hall and have gone away to despise the Word which has been preached, and to be ripened in their sin by the very efforts which have been made to turn them away from their iniquity. And shall it be so with you? Shall Sabbath after Sabbath only ripen you for the flames? Sirs, shall earnest warnings only supply faggots for your burning? Shall the tender heart of one who would die to save you only increase the guilt which you acquire by despising that earnestness? Oh, what multitudes in this hall have been changed, renewed, converted, and some of them were the rotten-ripe ones. When I look over the Church-book we have to record those who have been added to our fellowship, containing the history of their conversion, I often clap my hands with delight, for there are those in the Church now who were not simply drunkards and swearers, but who were the worst of drunkards and vilest of blasphemers. We have some who were not content with being damned themselves, but did their best to turn wife and children from the way of truth, and hated and scorned that which was good. Many a man has come to me when he was about to be added to the Church, and his first speech has been, "Will you ever forgive me, sir?" I have said, "Forgive what;" "Why because," said he, "there was no word in the English language that was bad enough for you, and yet I had never seen you in my life, and I had no reason for speaking like that. And oh if I have cursed God's people, and said all manner of evil of them, will you forgive me?" My reply has been, "I have nothing to forgive? I am sure if you have spoken against me I am heartily glad that you are ready to confess the sin to God, but as far as I was concerned there was no offense given and none taken." And oh how glad have I been when that man has said that his heart was broke and that he repented of all his sins, and Christ had put away all his iniquities, and that he wished to follow the Lord and make confession of his faith. May that be my happy lot this morning; or instead thereof, must I, the minister of this congregation, behold some of you in perdition? Must I, my hearers, if I be saved myself, stand and look upon you cast down into perdition by the eternal God? I cannot bear the thought. I know not whether it is pleasing to you—but surely it cannot be. Do you wish for ever to be cast away from God?—for ever! for ever! for ever! Are you so mad as to dash yourself against the point of Jehovah's spear! Say what pleasure is there in casting yourself upon the bosses of his buckler? Why will you cast yourself into an oven of devouring wrath! What need is there, sinner, that thou shouldst rend thyself in pieces, and be thine own tormentor? And yet every sin is a mixing of the poison that destroys thy own soul, every act of lust is a kindling of the fire that shall consume thee. Oh! I conjure thee, turn!

     O Lord do thou the sinner turn. O Spirit of God come down and work with the most obdurate and hardened of men; and let sinners who are ripened for destruction now be renewed in heart, that they may become fruits of grace, and at last be ripened for eternal glory.



The High Priest Standing Between the Dead and the Living

By / Oct 21

The High Priest Standing Between the Dead and the Living

 

"And Aaron took as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the congregation; and behold, the plague was begun among the people: and he put on incense, and made an atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed."—Numbers 16:47-48

 

     We have attentively read the passage which contains the account of this transaction. The authority of Moses and Aaron had been disputed by an ambitious man belonging to an elder branch of the family of Levi, who had craftily joined with himself certain factious spirits of the tribe of Reuben, who themselves also sought to attain to power by their supposed rights through Reuben the firstborn. By a singular judgment from heaven, God had proved that rebellion against Moses was a mortal sin. He had bidden the earth open its mouth and swallow up all the traitors, and both Levites and Reubenites had disappeared, covered in a living grave. One would have imagined that from this time the murmurings of the children of Israel would have ceased, or that at least even should they have daring enough to gather in little mutinous knob, yet their traitorous spirit never would have come to so great a height as to develops itself in the whole body openly before the Lord's tabernacle. Yet so was it. On the very morrow after that solemn transaction, the whole of the people of Israel gathered themselves together, and with unholy clamours surrounded Moses and Aaron, charging them with having put to death the people of the Lord. Doubtless they hinged this accusation upon the fact, that whenever Moses prayed God heard him; then would they say, "Had he prayed upon this occasion the people would not have been destroyed; the earth would not have opened her mouth, and they would not have been swallowed up." They would thus attempt to prove the charge which they brought against these two great men of God. Can you picture the scene now in your mind's eye. There is the infuriated mass of people; the spectacle of such a crowd as I see before me in this hall is overpowering, and were all this multitude in tumult against two men, the two might have sufficient cause for trembling, but this would be but as a grain of sand compared with that inconceivable number who were then gathered. A large part of those three millions would come up in one vast tumultuous host; whatever was proposed by any leader of the mob would no doubt have instantly been carried into effect, and had it not been for the awful majesty which surrounded the person of Moses, no doubt they would have torn him to pieces on the spot. But just as they are rushing up like the waves of the sea, the cloudy pillar which hung above the tabernacle descends, and envelopes in its fold, as with a protecting baptism, the whole of the sacred place. Then in the center of this cloud there blazed out that marvellous light called the Shekinah, which was the indication of the presence of Him who cannot be seen, but whose glory may be manifest. The people stand back a little; Moses and Aaron fall upon their faces in prayer; they beg of God that he would spare the people, for they have heard a voice coming out of the excellent glory, saying, "Get thee up from this people, that I may destroy them in a moment." This time God's blow goes forth with his word, for the destroying angel begins to mow down the outer ranks of the vast tumultuous host, there they fall one upon another; Moses with his undimmed vision, looking over the heads of the people, can see them begin to fall beneath the scythe of death. "Up," saith Aaron, up, and take with thee thy censer; snatch fire from off the holy altar, and run among the people, for the plague has begun." Aaron, a man of a hundred years of age, fills his censor, runs along as if he were a youth, and begins to swing it towards heaven with holy energy, feeling that in his hand was the life of the people; and when the incense is accepted in heaven, death stops in his work. On this side are heaps upon heaps of corpses slain by God's avenging angel, and there stand the crowd of living people, living only because of Aaron's intercession; living simply because he had waved that censor and burned that incense for them; otherwise, had the angel smitten them all, they would all have lain together as the leaves of the forest lie in autumn—dead and sear.

     I think you can now in your imaginations picture the scene. I desire to use the picture before us as a great spiritual type of what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for that erring multitude of the sons of men, who "like sheep have gone astray, and have turned every one to his own way." We shall look at Aaron this morning in a five-fold character. The whole scene is typical of Christ; and Aaron, as he appears before us in each character is a most magnificent picture of the Lord Jesus.

     I. First, let us look at Aaron as the LOVER of the people. You know who it is to whom we give that name of "Lover of my Soul." You will be able to see in Aaron the lover of Israel; in Jesus the lover of his people.

     Aaron deserves to be very highly praised for his patriotic affection for a people who were the most rebellious and stiffnecked that ever grieved the heart of a good man. You must remember that in this case he was the aggrieved party. The clamor was made against Moses and against Aaron, yet it was Moses and Aaron who intercede and saved the people. They were the offended ones, yet were they the saving ones. Aaron had a special part in the matter, for no doubt the conflict of Korah especially was rather against the priesthood, which belonged exclusively to Aaron, than against the prophetical dispensation which God had granted to Moses. Aaron must have felt when he saw Korah there and the two hundred and fifty men, all of them with their censors, that the plot was against him; that they wished to strip from him his mitre, to take from him his embroidered vest, and the glittering stones that shone upon his breast; that they wished to reduce him to the position of a common Levite, and take to themselves his office and his dignity. Yet, forgetting himself, he doth not say, "Let them die; I will wait awhile till they have been sufficiently smitten." But the old man with generous love hastened into the midst of the people, though he was himself the aggrieved person. Is not this the very picture of our sweet Lord Jesus? Had not sin dishonored him? Was he not the Eternal God, and did not sin therefore conspire against him as well as against the Eternal Father and the Holy Spirit? Was he not, I say, the one against whom the nations of the earth stood up and said, "Let us break his bands asunder, and cast his cords from us." Yet he, our Jesus, laying aside all thought of avenging himself, becomes the Savior of his people.

"Down from the shining seats above,
With joyful haste he fled;
Entered the grave in mortal flesh,
And dwelt among the dead."

     Oh! generous Christ, forgetting the offenses which we have committed against thee, and making atonement by thine own blood for sins which were perpetrated against thine own glory!

     Well, you note again, that Aaron in thus coming forward as the deliverer and lover of his people, must have remembered that he was abhorred by this very people. They were seeking his blood; they were desiring to put him and Moses to death, and yet all thoughtless of danger, he snatches up his censer and runs into their midst with a divine enthusiasm in his heart. He might have stood back, and said, "No, they will slay me if I go into their ranks; furious as they are, they will charge this new death upon me and lay me low." But he never considers it. Into the midst of their crowd he boldly springs. Most blessed Jesus, thou mightest not only think thus, but indeed thou didst feel it to be true. Thou didst come unto thine own, and thine own received thee not. Thou didst come into the world to save a race that hated thee, and oh, how they proved their hatred to thee, for they did spit upon thy cheeks; they did cast calumny and slander upon thy person; they did take the heir, and said, "Come, let us kill him that the inheritance may be ours." Jesus, thou wast willing to die a martyr, that thou mightest be made a sacrifice for those by whom thy blood was spilt. Jesus transcends Aaron; Aaron might have feared death at the hands of the people, Jesus Christ did actually meet it, and yet there he stood even in the hour of death, waving his censer, staying the plague, and dividing the living from the dead.

     Again, you will see the love and kindness of Aaron, if you look again; Aaron might have said, "But the Lord will surely destroy me also with the people, if I go where the shafts of death are flying they will reach me." He never thinks of it; he exposes his own person in the very forefront of the destroying one. There comes the angel of death, smiting all before him, and here stands Aaron in his very path, as much as to say, "Get thee back! get thee back! I will wave my incense in thy face; destroyer of men, thou canst not pass the censor of God's high priest." Oh thou glorious High Priest of our profession, thou mightest not only have feared this which Aaron might have dreaded, but thou didst actually endure the plague of God, for when thou didst come among the people to save them from Jehovah's wrath, Jehovah's wrath fell upon thee. Thou wast forsaken of thy Father. The plague which Jesus kept from us slew him, "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." The sheep escaped, but, "his life and blood the Shepherd pays, a ransom for the flock."

     Oh, thou lover of thy church, immortal honors be unto thee! Aaron deserves to be beloved by the tribes of Israel, because he stood in the gap and exposed himself for their sins; but thou, most mighty Savior, thou shalt have eternal songs, because, forgetful of thyself, thou didst bleed and die, that man might be saved!

     I would again for one moment, draw your attention to that other thought which I have already hinted at, namely, that Aaron as a lover of the people of Israel deserves much commendation, from the fact that it is expressly said, he ran into the host. I am not just now sure about Aaron's age, but being older than Moses, who must have been at this time about ninety years of age, Aaron must have been more than a hundred, and probably, a hundred and twenty, or more. It is no little thing to say that such a man, clad no doubt in his priestly robes, ran, and that for a people who had never shown any activity to do him service, but much zeal in opposing his authority. That little fact of his running is highly significant, for it shows the greatness and swiftness of the divine impulse of love that was within. Ah! and was it not so with Christ? Did he not haste to be our Savior? Were not his delights with the sons of men? Did he not often say, "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished." His dying for us was not a thing which he dreaded. "With desire have I desired to eat this Passover." He had panted for the moment when he should redeem his people. He had looked forward through eternity for that hour when he should glorify his Father, and his Father might glorify him. He came voluntarily bound by no constraint, except his own covenant engagements,; and he cheerfully and joyfully laid down his life—a life which no man could take from him, but which he laid down of himself. While I look with admiration upon Aaron, I must look with adoration upon Christ. While I write Aaron down as the lover of his race, I write down Jesus Christ as being the best of lovers—the friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

     II. But I now pass on to take a second view of Aaron as he stands in another character. Let us now view Aaron as THE GREAT PROPITIATOR.

     Wrath had gone out from God against the people on account of their sin, and it is God's law that his wrath shall never stay unless a propitiation be offered. The incense which Aaron carried in his hand was the propitiation before God, from the fact that God saw in that perfume the type of that richer offering which our Great High Priest is this very day offering before the throne.

     Aaron as the propitiator, is to be looked at first as bearing in his censer that which was necessary for the propitiation. He did not come empty-handed. Even though God's high priest, he must take the censor, he must fill it with the ordained incense, made with the ordained materials, and then he must light it with the sacred fire from off the altar, and with that alone. With the censer in his hand he is safe; without it Aaron might have died as well as the rest of the people. The qualification of Aaron partly lay in the fact that he had the censer, and that that censer was full of sweet odours which were acceptable to God. Behold, then, Christ Jesus as the propitiator for his people. He stands this day before God with his censor smoking up towards heaven. Behold the Great High Priest! See him this day with his pierced hands, and head that once was crowned with thorns. Mark how the marvellous smoke of his merits goeth up for ever and ever before the eternal throne. 'Tis he, 'tie he alone who puts away the sins of his people. His incense, as we know, consists first of all of his positive obedience to the divine law. He kept his Father's commands; he did everything he should have done; he kept to the full the whole law of God, and made it honorable. Then mixed with this is his blood—an equally rich and precious ingredient. That bloody sweat—the blood from his head, pierced with the crown of thorns, the blood of his hands as they were nailed to the tree; the blood of his feet as they were fixed to the wood; and the blood of his very heart—richest of them all—all mixed together with his merits—these make up the incense—an incense incomparable—an incense peerless and surpassing all others. Not all the odours that ever rose from tabernacle or temple could for a moment stand in rivalry with these. The blood alone speaketh better things than that of Abel, and if Abel's blood prevailed to bring vengeance, how much more shall the blood of Christ prevail to bring down pardon and mercy! Our faith is fixed on perfect righteousness and complete atonement, which are as sweet frankincense before the Father's face.

     Besides that, it was not enough for Aaron to have the proper incense. Korah might have that too, and he might have the censor also. That would not suffice—he must be the ordained priest; for mark, two hundred and fifty men fell in doing the act which Aaron did. Aaron's act saved others; their act destroyed themselves. So Jesus, the propitiator, is to be looked upon as the ordained one—called of God as was Aaron. Settled in eternity as being the predestinated propitiation for sin, he came into the world as an ordained priest of God, receiving his ordination not from man, neither by man, but like Melchisedec, the priest of the Most High God, without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, he is a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Stand back, sons of Korah, all of you who call yourselves priests. I can scarce imagine that any man in this world who takes to himself the title of a priest, except he take it in the sense in which all God's people are priests,—I cannot imagine that a priest can enter heaven. I would not say a thing too stern or too severe; but I do most thoroughly believe that an assumption of the office of priest is so base an usurpation of the priestly office of Christ, that I could as well conceive of a man being saved who called himself God, as conceive of a man being saved who called himself a priest; if he really means what he says, he has so trenched upon the priestly prerogative of Christ, that it seems to me he has touched the very crown jewels, and is guilty of a blasphemy, which, unless it be repented of, shall surely bring damnation on his head. Shake your garments, ye ministers of Christ, from all priestly assumption; come out from among them; touch not the unclean thing. There are no priests now specially to minister among men. Jesus Christ, and he only is the priest of his Church, and he hath made all of us priests and kings unto our God, and we shall reign for ever and ever. If I should have any person here so weak as to depend for his salvation upon the offerings of another man, I conjure him to forego his deception. I care not who your priests may be. He may belong to the Anglican or to the Romish church. Ay, and to any church under heaven. If he claimeth to be anything of a priest more than you can claim yourself—away with him—he imposes upon you; he speaks to you that which God abhors, and that which the Church of Christ should abhor and would detest, were she truly alive to her Master's glory. None but Jesus, none but Jesus; all other priests and offerings we disdain. Cast dirt upon their garments, they are not and they cannot be priests; they usurp the special dignity of Jesus.

     But let us note once more in considering Aaron as the great propitiator, that we must look upon him as being ready for his work. He was ready with his incense, and ran to the work at the moment the plague broke out. We do not find that he had need to go and put on his priestly garments; we do not find that he had to prepare for performing the propitiatory work; but he went there and then as soon as the plague broke out. The people were ready to perish and he was ready to save. Oh, my hearer, listen to this, Jesus Christ stands ready to save thee now; there is no need of preparation; he hath slain the victim; he hath offered the sacrifice; he hath filled the censor; he hath put to it the glowing coals. His breastplate is on his breast; his mitre is on his head; he is ready to save thee now. Trust him, and thou shalt not find need for delay. Rely upon him, and thou shalt not find that he hath to go a day's journey to save thee; "He is able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." Ye who know not Christ, hear this! Ye are lost and ruined by the fall. Wrath is gone out from God against you. That wrath must consume you to the lowest hell, unless some one can propitiate God on your behalf. You cannot do it. No man can do it; no prayers of yours; no sacraments, nay, though you could sweat a bloody sweat, it would not avail; but Christ is able to make propitiation. He can do it, and he alone; he can stand between you and God, and turn away Jehovah's wrath, and he can put into your heart a sense of his love. Oh, I pray you, trust him, trust him. You may not be ready for him, but he is always ready to save, and indeed I must correct myself in that last sentence, you are ready for him. If you be never so vile, and never so ruined by your sin, their needs no preparation and no readiness. It was not the merit of the people that saved them, nor any preparation on their part; it was the preparedness of the high priest that saved them. He is prepared. He stands on the behalf of those who believe on him. Would that thou wouldst now believe on him and trust thy soul in his hands; and oh, believe me, thy sins which are many shall be all forgiven; the plague shall be stayed, nor shall God's wrath go out against thee, but thou shalt be saved.

     III. Let me now view Aaron as THE INTERPOSER.

      Let me explain what I mean. As the old Westminster Annotations say upon this passage, "The plague was moving among the people as the fire moveth along a field of corn." There it came; it began in the extremity; the faces of men grew pale, and swiftly on, on it came, and in vast heaps they fell till some fourteen thousand had been destroyed. Aaron wisely puts himself just in the pathway of the plague. It came on, cutting down all before it, and there stood Aaron the interposer with arms outstretched and censor swinging towards heaven, interposing himself between the darts of death and the people. "If there be darts that must fly," he seemed to say, "let them pierce me; or let the incense shield both me and the people. Death," saith he, "art thou coming on thy pale horse? I arrest thee, I throw back thy steed upon his haunches. Art thou coming, thou skeleton king? With my censor in my hand I stand before thee; thou must march over my body; thou must empty my censer; thou must destroy God's High Priest, ere thou canst destroy this people." Just so was it with Christ. Wrath had gone out against us. The law was about to smite us the whole human race must be destroyed. Christ stands in the forefront of the battle. "The stripes must fall on me," he cries; "the arrows shall find a target in my breast. On me, Jehovah, let thy vengeance fall." And he receives that vengeance, and afterwards upspringing from the grave he waves the censer full of the merit of his blood, and bids this wrath and fury stand back. On which side are you to-day, sinner? Is God angry with thee, sinner? Are thy sins unforgiven? Say, art thou unpardoned? Art thou abiding still an heir of wrath and an inheritor of death? Ah! then would that thou wert on the other side of Christ. If thou dost believe on Christ, then let me ask thee, dost thou know that thou art completely saved? No wrath can ever reach thee, no spiritual death can ever destroy thee, no hell can ever consume thee, and why? What is thy guard, what thy protection? I see the tear, glistening in thine eye as thou sayest, "There is nothing between me and hell save Christ? There is nothing between me and Jehovah's wrath save Christ? There is nothing between me and instant destruction save Christ? But he is enough. He with the censor in his hand—God's great ordained Priest—he is enough." Ah, brothers and sisters, if you have put between you and God, baptisms and communions, fastings, prayers, tears and vows, Jehovah shall break through your refuges as the fire devours the stubble. But if, my soul, Christ stands between thee and Jehovah, Jehovah cannot smite thee; his thunderbolt must first pierce through the Divine Redeemer ere it can reach thee, and that can never be.

     My dear hearers, do you perceive this great truth, that there is nothing which can save the soul of man, save Jesus Christ standing between that soul and the just judgment of God? And oh, I put again the personal enquiry to you, are you sheltered behind Christ? Sinner, are you standing to-day beneath the cross? Is that thy shelter? Is the purple robe of Jesus' atonement covered over you?

     Are you like the dove which hides in the clefts of the rock? Have you hidden in the wounds of Christ? Say, have you crept into his side, and do you feel that he must be your shelter till the tempest be overpast? Oh, be of good cheer; he for whom Christ is the intercessor, is a rescued man. Oh, soul, if thou art not in Christ, what wilt thou do when the destroying angel comes? Careless sinner, what will become of thee when death arrests thee? Where wilt thou be when the judgment trumpet rings in thine ears, and sounds an alarm that shall wake the dead? Sleepy sinner, sleeping to-day under God's Word, will you sleep then, when Jehovah's thunders are let loose, and all his lightnings set the heavens in a blaze? I know where then you shall seek a shelter! You shall seek it where you cannot find it, you shall bid the rocks fall upon you, and ask the mountains to hide you, but their stony bowels shall know of no compassion, their hearts of adamant shall yield you no pity, and you shall stand exposed to the blast of vengeance and the shower of the hot hail of God's fury, and nothing shall protect you, but as Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed from off the face of the earth, so must you be destroyed, and that for ever and ever, because ye believed not on Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

     IV. But we cannot tarry longer here; we must again pass to another point. We have viewed Aaron in three characters—as the lover, the propitiator, and the intercessor; now, fourthly, let me view him as THE SAVIOR.

      It was Aaron Aaron's censor, that saved the lives of that great multitude. If he had not prayed the plague had not stayed, and the Lord would have consumed the whole company in a moment. As it was, you perceive there were some fourteen thousand and seven hundred that died before the Lord. The plague had begun its dreadful work, and only Aaron could stay it. And now I want you to notice with regard to Aaron, that Aaron, and especially the Lord Jesus, must be looked upon as a gracious Savior. It was nothing but love that moved Aaron to wave his censor. The people could not demand it of him. Had they not brought a false accusation against him? And yet he saves them. It must have been love and nothing but love. Say, was there anything in the voices of that infuriated multitude which could have moved Aaron to stay the plague from before them? Nothing! nothing in their character! nothing in their looks! nothing in their treatment of God's High Priest! and yet he graciously stands in the breach, and saves them from the devouring judgment of God! Oh! brothers and sisters—if Christ hath saved us he is a gracious Savior indeed. Often as we think of the fact that we are saved, the tear falls down our cheek; for we never can tell why Jesus hath saved us.

"What was there in you that could merit esteem!
Or give the Creator delight?
'Twas 'Even so, Father!' you ever must sing
'Because it seem'd good in thy sight.'"

     There is no difference between the glorified in heaven and the doomed in hell, except the difference that God made of his own sovereign grace. Whatever difference there may be between Saul the apostle and Elymas the sorcerer, has been made by infinite sovereignty and undeserved love. Paul might still have remained Saul of Tarsus, and might have become a damned fiend in the bottomless pit, had it not been for free sovereign grace which came out to snatch him as a brand from the burning. Oh, sinner, thou sayest "There is no reason in me why God should save me," but there is no reason in any man. Thou hast no good point, nor hath any man. There is nothing in any man to commend him to God. We are all such sinners, that hell is our deserved portion; and if any of us be saved from going down into the pit, it is God's undeserved sovereign bounty that doth it, and not any merits of ours. Jesus Christ is a most gracious Savior.

     And then again, Aaron was an unaided Savior. Even Moses did not come with Aaron to help him. He stood alone in the gap with that censer—that one solitary stream of smoke dividing between the living and the dead. Why did not the princes of Israel come with him? Alas! they could have done nothing, they must have died themselves. Why did not all the Levity come with him? They must have been smitten if they had dared to stand in the place of God's High Priest. He stands alone, alone, alone! and herein was he a great type of Christ, who could say, "I have trodden the winepress alone, and of the people there was none with me." Do not think, then, that when Christ prevails with God, it is because of any of your prayers, or tears, or good works. He never puts your tears and prayers into his censor. They would mar the incense. There is nothing but his own prayers, and his own tears, and his own merits there. Do not think that you are saved because of anything that you have ever done or can ever do for Christ. We may preach, and we may be made in God's hand the spiritual fathers of thousands of souls, but our preaching doth in no way help to turn away the wrath of God from us. Christ doth it all, entirely and alone, and no man must dare to stand as his helper. Sinner, dost thou hear this, thou art saying, "I cannot do this or that." He asks thee not to do anything, thou sayest, "I have no merits." Man, he does not want any, if thou wouldst help Christ thou wilt be lost, but if thou wilt leave Christ to do it all, thou shalt be saved. Come now, the very plan of salvation is this, to take Christ to be thine all in all; he will never be a part-Savior; he never came to patch our ragged garments; he will give us a new robe, but he will never mend the old one. He did not come to help build the palace of God, he will quarry every stone and lay it on its fellow, he will have no sound of hammer, or help in that great work. Oh that this voice could ring through the world while I proclaim again those words, the deathblow of all Popery, legality, and carnal merit, "Jesus only, Jesus only." "There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Nor doth he need a helper; "He came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." "He is able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by him."

     He was, then, you will perceive, a gracious Savior, and all unaided one; and, once more, Aaron as a Savior was all-sufficient. Death came up to the very feet of Aaron; there lay a dead man, there lay a mother, a child, a prince, a hewer of wood, a drawer of water,—there they lay. There stood a strong man in his agony, and implored that he might not die, but he fell backward a corpse. There stood up a prince of Israel and must he die? Yes, he must fall. All-devouring death, like a hungry lion, came howling onward, amidst the screams and shrieks of the people, but there he stood; that censer seemed to say, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further." What a miracle that the censer should stop the reign of death. Up to this mark the waves of that shoreless sea are flowing; there men stand on the terra firma of life. Aaron stands, and as God's High Priest with that censer alone, he puts back grim death; the whole host of Israel, if they had been armed and had carried bows, could not have driven back the pestilence; nay, all the hosts of armed men that ever stained the earth with blood could not have driven back God's plagues. Death would have laughed at them, yea, he would have trodden in among their ranks and cut them in pieces, but Aaron alone is enough, fully sufficient, and that through the burning of the incense. Oh sinner, Christ is an all-sufficient Savior, able to save; you cannot save yourself, but he can save you. Oh sinner, all sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; it mattereth not how base and vile you may have been, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." Though the remembrance of thy sin bring scarlet into thy face, dost thou blush to think what a wretch thou hast been, has thy life been foul adultery, has it been blasphemy, lying, hatred of God's people, and what not,—I add to this another, if thou wilt,—or lasciviousness, debauchery, murder,—if all these crimes were there, the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, would be able still to cleanse thee from all sin. Though thou had committed every crime in the catalogue of iniquity, sins which we cannot mention, yet "Though thy sins be as scarlet, they shall be as wool; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as white as snow." And thou sayest, "How can I partake of this?" Simply by trusting Christ with thy soul. "He that believeth on the Lord Jesus Christ shall be saved he that believeth not shall be damned." This was Christ's commission to the apostles, he bid them go forth and preach this great truth, and again I proclaim it, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not must be damned." He that believeth not shall be damned, be his sins never so few, he that believeth shall never be lost, though his skis may have been never so many. Trust thou thy soul with Christ, and thy sins are at once forgiven, at once blotted out.

     V. And now I come to my last point, and that is, Aaron as THE DIVIDER—the picture of Christ.

     Aaron the anointed one stands here; on that side is death, on this side life; the boundary between life and death is that one man. Where his incense smokes the air is purified, where it smokes not the plague reigns with unmitigated fury. There are two sorts of people here this morning, we forget the distinction of rich and poor, we know it not here there are two sorts of people, we forego the distinction of the learned and unlearned we care not for that here; there are two sorts here, and these are the living and the dead, the pardoned, the unpardoned, the saved, and the lost. What divides the true Christian from the unbeliever? Some think it is that the Christian takes the Sacrament, the other not. It is no division, there be men who have gone to hell with sacramental bread in their mouths; others may imagine that Baptism makes the difference, and indeed it is the outward token, the baptismal pool is the means by which we show to the world that we are buried in Christ's grave, in type that we are dead to the world and buried in Christ; we rise up from it in testimony that we desire to live in newness of life by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. He who is baptized does in that way cross the Rubicon, he draws the sword and throws away the scabbard, he is the baptized one, and has a sign that can never be eradicated from him. He is dedicated through that baptism to Christ, but it is but an outward sign, for many have there been who have been baptized with water, who not having the baptism of the Holy Ghost, have afterwards been baptized in the fiery sufferings of eternal torment. No! no! the one division, the one great division between those who are God's people and those who are not, is Christ. A man in Christ is a Christian; a man out of Christ is dead in trespasses and sins. "He that believeth on the Lord Jesus Christ is saved, he that believeth not is lost." Christ is the only divider between his people and the world. On which side, then, art thou to-day, my hearer? Come, let the question go individually to you. Young man, on which side are you? Are you Christ's friend and servant, or are you his enemy? Old man, thou with the grey head yonder, thou hast but a little while to live, on which side art thou? Art thou my Master's blood-bought one, or art thou still a lost sheep? And thou matron, thou who art busied, perhaps, even now in thy thoughts upon thy children, think not of them for a moment, on which side art thou? Hast thou believed, hast thou been born again, or art thou still in the gall of bitterness and the bonds of iniquity? Ye that stand yonder, let the question penetrate your thick rank now, where are you? Can you take the name of Christ upon your lips, and say, "Jesus, I am thine, and thou art mine, thy blood and righteousness are my hope and trust;" for if not, my hearer, thou art among the spiritually dead, and thou shalt soon be among the damned unless divine grace prevent, and change, and renew thee.

     Please remember, brothers and sisters, that as Christ is the great divider now, so will he be in the day of judgment. Do you never think of that, he shall divide them the one from the other, as the shepherd divideth the sheep from the goats. It is the Shepherd's person that divideth the sheep from the goats. He stands between them, and in that last day of days for which all other days were made, Christ shall be the great divider. There the righteous clad in white, in songs triumphant glorified with him; and there the lost, the unbelieving, the fearful, the abominable. What divides them from you bright host? Nothing but the person of the Son of Man, on whom they look, and weep, and mourn, and wail because of him. That is the impenetrable barrier that shall shut out the damned from eternal bliss. The gate which may let you in now will be the fiery gate which shall shut you out hereafter. Christ is the door of heaven; oh, dreadful day when that door shall be shut, when that door shall stand before you, and prevent you entering into the felicity which you shall then long for, when you cannot enter into it.

     Oh! on which side shall I be, when all these transitory things are done away with, when the dead have risen from their graves, when the great congregation shall stand upon the land, and upon the sea, when every valley, and every mountain, and every river, and every sea, shall be crowded with multitudes standing in thick array? Oh! when he shall say, "Separate my people, thrust in the sickle, for the harvest of the world is ripe;" my soul, where shalt thou be? Shalt thou be found among the lost? Shall the dread trumpet send thee down to hell, while a voice that rends thine ear, shall call after thee "Depart from me, depart from me, ye workers of iniquity into everlasting fire in hell, prepared for the devil and his angels." Oh, grant that I may not be there, but among thy people may I stand. So may it be; may we be on the right hand of the Judge to all eternity, and remember that for ever and ever Christ will be the divider, he shall stand between the lost and the saved, he shall interpose for ever between the damned and the glorified. Again I put it to you, give me your ears just for one moment while I speak. What say you, sirs, shall this congregation be rent in twain? The hour is coming when our wills and wishes shall have no forge. God will divide the righteous from the wicked then, and Christ shall be the dread division, I say, are we prepared to be separated eternally? Husband, are you prepared to renounce to-day your wife for ever, are you prepared when the clammy sweat gathers on her brow to give her the last kiss, and say, "Adieu, adieu, I shall never meet with thee again." Child, son, daughter, are you ready to go home and sit down at the table of your mother, and ere you eat, say, "Mother, I now forswear you once for all, I am determined to be lost and as thou art on the side of Christ, and I will never love him, I will part with you for ever." Surely the ties of kinship make us long to meet in another world, and do we wish to meet in hell? Do you wish all of you to meet there—a grim company to lie in the midst of the flames. Will you abide in the devouring fire, and dwell in everlasting burning? No, your wishes are that you may meet in heaven, but you cannot unless you meet in Christ, you cannot meet in Paradise unless you meet in him. Oh that now the grace of God were poured upon you, that you might come unto Jesus.



“Magnificat”

By / Oct 14

"Magnificat"

 

"Awake, awake, Deborah; quake, awake, utter a song; arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam."—Judges 5:12

 

     Many of the saints of God are as mournful as if they were captives in Babylon, for their life is spent in tears and sighing. They will not chant the joyous psalm of praise, and if there be any that require of them a song, they reply, "How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" But, my brethren, we are not captives in Babylon; we do not sit down to weep by Babel's streams; "the Lord hath broken our captivity, he hath brought us up out of the house of our bondage. We are freemen; we are not slaves; we are not sold into the hand of cruel taskmasters, but we that have believed do enter into rest:" Hebrews 4:3. Moses could not give rest to Israel; he could bring them to Jordan, but across the stream he could not conduct them; Joshua alone could lead them into the lot of their inheritance, and our Joshua, our Jesus, has led us into the land of promise. He hath brought us into a land which the Lord our God thinketh on; a land of hills and valleys; a land that floweth with milk and honey; and though the Canaanites still be in the land, and plague us full sore, yet is it all our own, and he hath said unto us, "All things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come, all are yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's:" 1 Corinthians 3:21-23. We are not, I say, captives, sold under sin; we are a people who sit every man under his own vine and his own fig-tree, none making us afraid. We dwell in "a strong city, salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks:" Isaiah 26:1. We have come unto Zion, the city of our solemnities, and the mourning of Babylon is not suitable to the palace of the great King, which is beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth. "Let us serve the Lord with gladness, and come before his presence with singing:" Psalm 100:2. Many of God's people live as if their God were dead. Their conduct would be quite consistent if the promises were not yea and amen; if God were a faithless God. If Christ were not a perfect Redeemer; if the Word of God might after all turn out to be untrue; if he had not power to keep his people, and if he had not love enough with which to hold them even to the end, then might they give way to mourning and to despair; then might they cover their heads with ashes, and wrap their loins about with sackcloth. But while God is Jehovah, just and true; while his promises stand as fast as the eternal mountains; while the heart of Jesus is true to his spouse; while the arm of God is unpalsied, and his eye undimmed; while his covenant and his oath are unbroken and unchanged; It is not comely, it is not seemly for the upright to go mourning all their days. Ye children of God, refrain yourselves from weeping, and make a joyful noise unto the Rock of your salvation; let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and show ourselves glad in him with psalms.

"Your harps, ye trembling saints,
Down from the willows take;
Loud to the praise of love divine,
Bid every string awake."

     First, I shall urge upon you a stirring up of all your powers to sacred song. "Awake, awake, Deborah; awake, awake, utter a song." In the second place, I shall persuade you to practice a sacred leading of your captivity captive. "Arise, Barrak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam."

     I. First, then, A STIRRING UP OF ALL OUR POWERS TO PRAISE GOD, according to the words of the holy woman in the text, "Awake, awake,"—repeated yet again "Awake, awake."

     1. WHAT is there that we need to awaken if we would praise God? I reply, we ought to arouse all the bodily powers. Our flesh is sluggish; we have been busy with the world, our limbs have grown fatigued, but there is power in divine joy to arouse even the body itself, to make the heavy eyelids light, to reanimate the drowsy eye, and quicken the weary brain. We should call upon our bodies to awake, especially our tongue, "the glory of our frame." Let it put itself in tune like David's harp of old. A toilworn body often makes a mournful heart. The flesh has such a connection with the spirit, that it often boweth down the soul. Come, then, my flesh, I charge thee, awake. Blood, leap in my veins? Heart, let thy pulsings be as the joy-strokes of Miriam's timbrel! Oh, all my bodily frame, stir up thyself now, and begin to magnify and bless the Lord, who made thee, and who has kept thee in health, and preserved thee from going down into the grave.

     Surely we should call on all our mental powers to awake. Wake up my memory and find matter for the song. Tell what God has done for me in days gone by. Fly back ye thoughts to my childhood; sing of cradle mercies. Review my youth and its early favors. Sing of longsuffering grace, which followed my wandering, and bore with my rebellions. Revive before my eyes that gladsome hour when first I knew the Lord, and tell o'er again the matchless story of the "Streams of mercy never ceasing," which have flowed to me since then, and which "Call for songs of loudest praise." Awake up my judgment and give measure to the music. Come forth my understanding, and weigh his lovingkindness in scales, and his goodness in the balances. See if thou canst count the small dust of his mercies. See if thou canst understand the riches unsearchable which he hath given to thee in that unspeakable gift of Christ Jesus my Lord. Reckon up his eternal mercies to thee—the treasures of that covenant which he made on thy behalf, ere thou wast born. Sing, my understanding, sing aloud of that matchless wisdom which contrived—of that divine love which planned, and of that eternal grace which carried out the scheme of thy redemption. Awake, my imagination, and dance to the holy melody. Gather pictures from all worlds. Bid sun and moon stay in their courses, and join in thy new song. Constrain the stars to yield the music of the spheres; put a tongue into every mountain, and a voice into every wilderness; translate the lowing of the cattle and the scream of the eagle; hear thou the praise of God in the rippling of the rills, the dashing of the cataracts, and the roaring of the sea, until all his works in all places of his dominion bless the Lord.

     But especially let us cry to all the graces of our spirit—"awake." Wake up, my love, for thou must strike the key-note and lead the strain. Awake and sing unto thy beloved a song touching thy well-beloved. Give unto him choice canticles, for he is the fairest among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely. Come forth then with thy richest music, and praise the name which is as ointment poured forth. Wake up, my hope, and join hands with thy sister—love; and sing of blessings yet to come. Sing of my dying hour, when he shall be with me on my couch. Sing of the rising morning, when my body shall leap from its tomb into her Savior's arms! Sing of the expected advent, for which thou lookest with delight! And, O my soul, sing of that heaven which he has gone before to prepare for thee, "that where he is, there may his people be." Awake my love—awake my hope—and thou my faith, awake also! Love has the sweetest voice, hope can thrill forth the higher notes of the saved scale; but thou, O faith—with thy deep resounding base melody—thou must complete the song. Sing of the promise sure and certain. Rehearse the glories of the covenant ordered in all things, and sure. Rejoice in the sure mercies of David! Sing of the goodness which shall be known to thee in all thy trials yet to come. Sing of that blood which has sealed and ratified every word of God. Glory in that eternal faithfulness which cannot lie, and of that truth which cannot fail. And thou, my patience, utter thy gentle but most gladsome hymn. Sing to-day of how he helped thee to endure in sorrows' bitterest hour. Sing of the weary way along which he has borne thy feet, and brought thee at last to lie down in green pastures, beside the still waters. Oh, all my graces, heaven-begotten as ye are, praise him who did beget you. Ye children of his grace, sing unto your Father's name, and magnify him who keeps you alive. Let all that in me is be stirred up to magnify and bless his holy name.

     Then let us wake up the energy of all those powers—the energy of the body, the energy of the mind, the energy of the spirit. You know what it is to do a thing coldly, weakly. As well might we not praise at all. You know also what it is to praise God passionately—to throw energy into all the song, and so to exult in his name. So do ye, each one of you, this day; and if Michal, Saul's daughter, should look out of the window and see David dancing before the ark with all his might, and should chide you as though your praise were unseemly, say unto her, "It was before the Lord, which chose me before thy father, and before all his house, therefore will I play before the Lord:" 2 Samuel 6:21. Tell the enemy that the God of election must be praised, that the God of redemption must be extolled,—that if the very heathen leaped for joy before their gods, surely they who bow before Jehovah must adore him with rapture and with ecstacy. Go forth, go forth with joy then, with all your energies thoroughly awakened for his praise.

     2. But you say unto me, "WHY and wherefore should we this day awake and sing unto our God?" There be many reasons; and if your hearts be right, one may well satisfy. Come, ye children of God, and bless his dear name; for doth not all nature around you sing? If you were silent, you would be an exception to the universe. Doth not the thunder praise him as it rolls like drums in the march of the God of armies? Doth not the ocean praise him as it claps its thousand hands? Doth not the sea roar, and the fullness thereof? Do not the mountains praise him when the shaggy woods upon their summits wave in adoration? Do not the lightnings write his name in letters of fire upon the midnight darkness? Doth not this world, in its unceasing revolutions, perpetually roll forth his praise? Hath not the whole earth a voice, and shall we be silent? Shall man, for whom the world was made, and suns and stars were created,—shall he be dumb? No, let him lead the strain. Let him be the world's high priest, and while the world shall be as the sacrifice, let him add his heart thereto, and thus supply the fire of love which shall make that sacrifice smoke towards heaven.

     But, believer, shall not thy God be praised? I ask thee. Shall not thy God be praised? When men behold a hero, they fall at his feet and honor him. Garibaldi emancipates a nation, and lo, they bow before him and do him homage. And thou Jesus, the Redeemer of the multitudes of thine elect, shalt thou have no song? Shalt thou have no triumphal entry into our hearts? Shall thy name have no glory? Shall the world love its own, and shall not the Church honor its own Redeemer? Our God must be praised. He shall be. If no other heart should ever praise him, surely mine must. If creation should forget him, his redeemed must remember him. Tell us to be silent? Oh, we cannot. Bid us restrain our holy mirth? Indeed you bid us do an impossibility. He is God, and he must be extolled; he is our God, our gracious, our tender, our faithful God, and he must have the best of our songs.

     Thou sayest, believer, why should I praise him? Let me ask thee a question too. Is it not heaven's employment to praise him? And what can make earth more like heaven, than to bring down from heaven the employment of glory, and to be occupied with it here? Come, believer, when thou prayest, thou art but a man, but when thou praisest, thou art as an angel. When thou asketh favor, thou art but a beggar, but when thou standest up to extol, thou becomest next of kin to cherubim and seraphim. Happy, happy day, when the glorious choristers shall find their numbers swelled by the addition of multitudes from earth! Happy day when you and I shall join the eternal chorus. Let us begin the music here. Let us strike some of the first notes at least; and if we cannot sound the full thunders of the eternal hallelujah, let us join as best we may. Let us make the wilderness and the solitary place rejoice, and bid the desert blossom as the rose.

     Besides, Christian, dost thou not know that it is a good thing for thee to praise thy God? Mourning weakens thee, doubts destroy thy strength; thy groping among the ashes makes thee of the earth, earthy. Arise, for praise is pleasant and profitable to thee. "The joy of the Lord is our strength." "Delight thyself in the Lord and he will give thee the desire of thine heart." Thou growest in grace when thou growest in holy joy; thou art more heavenly, more spiritual, more Godlike, as thou gettest more full of joy and peace in believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. I know some Christians are afraid of gladness, but I read, "Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King." If murmuring were a duty, some saints would never sin, and if mourning were commanded by God they would certainly be saved by works, for they are always sorrowing, and so they would keep his law. Instead thereof the Lord hath said it, "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice;" and he has added, to make it still more strong, "Rejoice evermore."

     But I ask you one other question, believer. Thou sayest, "Why should I awake, this morning to sing unto my God?" I reply to thee, "Hast thou not a cause?" Hath he not done great things for thee, and art thou not glad thereof? Hath he not taken thee out of the horrible pit, and out of the miry clay; hath he not set thy feet upon a rock and established thy goings, and is there no new song in thy mouth? What, art thou bought with blood, and yet hast thou a silent tongue? Loved of thy God before the world began and yet not sing his praise! What, art thou his child, an heir of God and joint heir with Jesus Christ, and yet no notes of gratitude? What I has he fed thee this day? Did he deliver thee yesterday out of many troubles? Has he been with thee these thirty, these forty, these fifty years in the wilderness, and yet hast thou no mercy for which to praise him? O shame on thy ungrateful heart, and thy forgetful spirit; come pluck up courage, think of thy mercies and not of thy miseries, forget thy pains awhile and think of thy many deliverances. Put thy feet on the neck of thy doubts and thy fears, and God the Holy Ghost, being thy Comforter, begin from this good hour to utter a song.

     3. "But," smith one, "WHEN shall I do this? When shall I praise my God?" I answer, praise ye the Lord all his people, at all times, and give thanks at every remembrance of him. Extol him even when your souls are drowsy and your spirits are inclined to sleep. When we are awake there is little cause to say to us four times, "Awake, awake, awake, awake, utter a song;" but when we feel most drowsy with sorrow and our eyelids are heavy, when afflictions sore are pressing us down to the very dust, then is the time to sing psalms unto our God and praise him in the very fire. But this takes much grace, and I trust brethren you know that there is much grace to be had. Seek it of your divine Lord, and be not content without it; be not easily cast down by troubles, nor soon made silent because of your woes; think of the martyrs of old, who sang sweetly at the stake; think of Ann Askew, of all the pains she bore for Christ, and then of her courageous praise of God in her last moments. Often she had been tortured, tortured most terribly; she lay in prison expecting death, and when there she wrote a verse in old English words and rhyme,

"I am not she that lyst
My anker to let fall,
For every dryslynge myst;
My shippe's substancyal."

     Meaning thereby, that she would not stop her course and cast her anchor for every drizzling mist; she had a ship that could bear a storm, one that could break all the waves that beat against it, and joyously cut through the foam. So shall it be with you. Give not God fine weather songs, give him black tempest praises; give him not merely summer music, as some birds will do and then fly away; give him winter tunes. Sing in the night like the nightingales, praise him in the fires, sing his high praises even in the shadow of death, and let the tomb resound with the shouts of your sure confidence. So may you give to God what God may well claim at your hands.

     When shall you praise him? Why, praise him when you are full of doubts, even when temptations assail you, when poverty hovers round you, and when sickness bows you down. They are cheap songs which we give to God when we are rich; it is easy enough to kiss the hand of a giving God, but to bless him when he takes away—this is to bless him indeed. To cry like Job, "though he slay me yet will I trust in him," or to sing like Habukkuk, "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 flocks shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet will I rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation." Oh Christian, thou askest me when thou shalt rejoice, I say to-day, "Awake, awake, O Deborah, awake, awake, utter a song."

     4. Yet once more, you reply to me, "But HOW can I praise my God?" I will be teacher of music to thee, and may the Comforter be with me. Wilt thou think this morning how great are thy mercies. Thou art not blind, nor deaf, nor dumb; thou art not a lunatic; thou art not decrepid; thou art not vexed with piercing pains; thou art not full of agony caused by disease; thou art not going down to the grave; thou art not in torments, not in hell. Thou art still in the land of the living, the land of love, the land of grace, the land of hope. 'Even if this were all, there were enough reason for thee to praise thy God. Thou art not this day what thou once wert, a blasphemer, a persecutor and injurious; the song of the drunkard is not on thy lips, the lascivious desire is not in thy heart. And is not this a theme for praise. Remember but a little while ago, with very many of you, all these sins were your delight and your joy. Oh! must not you praise him, ye chief of sinners, whose natures have been changed, whose hearts have been renewed. Ye sons of Korah, lead the sacred song! Bethink you of your iniquities, which have all been put away, and your transgressions covered, and none of them laid to your charge; think of the privileges you this day enjoy; elect, redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, adopted, and preserved in Christ Jesus. Why man, if a stone or rock could but for a moment have such privileges as these, the very adamant must melt and the dumb rock give forth hosannas. And will you be still when your mercies are so great! Let them not lie—"Forgotten in unthankfulness, and without praises die." Bethink thee yet again how little are thy trials after all. Thou hast not yet resisted unto blood striving against sin. Thou art poor, it is true, but then thou art not sick; or thou art sick, but still thou art not left to wallow in sin; and all afflictions are but little when once sin is put away. Compare thy trials with those of many who live in thine own neighborhood. Put thy sufferings side by side with the sufferings of some whom thou hast seen on their dying bed; compare thy lot with that of the martyrs who have entered into their rest; and oh I say, thou wilt be compelled to exclaim with Paul, "These light afflictions which are but for a moment are not worthy to be compared to the glory which shall be revealed in us." Come, now, I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, be of good cheer, and rejoice in the Lord your God, if it were for no other reason than that of the brave-hearted Luther. When he had been most slandered—when the Pope had launched out a new bull, and when the kings of the earth had threatened him fiercely—Luther would gather together his friends, and say, "Come let us sing a psalm and spite the devil." He would ever sing the most psalms when the world roared the most. Let us today join in that favourite psalm of the great German, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will we not fear, though the earth be removed and though the mountains be carried in the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof."—Psalm 46:I say, then, sing to make Satan angry. He has vexed the saints; let us vex him.

     Praise ye the Lord to put the world to the blush. Never let it be said that the world can make its votaries more happy than Christ can make his followers. Oh, let your songs be so continual, and so sweet, that the wicked may be compelled to say, "That man's life is happier than mine; I long to exchange with him. There is a something in his religion which my sin and my wicked pleasures can never afford me." O praise the Lord ye saints, that sinners' mouths may be set a watering after the things of God. Specially praise him in your trials, if you would make the world wonder—strike sinners dumb, and make them long to know and taste the joys of which you are a partaker.

     "Alas!" said one, "but I cannot sing; I have nothing to sing of, nothing without for which I could praise God." It is remarked by old commentators that the windows of Solomon's temple were narrow on the outside, but that they were broad within, and that they were so cut, that though they seemed to be but small openings, yet the light was well diffused. (See Hebrew of 1 Kings 6:4.) So is it with the windows of a believer's joy. They may look very narrow without, but they are very wide within; there is more joy to be gotten from that which is within us than from that which is without us. God's grace within, God's love, the witness of his Spirit in our hearts, are better themes of joy than all the corn and wine, and oil, with which God sometimes increases his saints. So if thou hast no outward mercies, sing of inward mercies. If the water fail without, go to that fons perennis, that perpetual fountain which is within thine own soul. "A good man shall be satisfied from himself." Proverbs 14:14. When thou seest no cheering providence without, yet look at grace within. "Awake, awake, Deborah! awake, awake, utter a song."

     II. I now turn to the second part of my subject, upon which very briefly. I know not whether you feel as I do, but in preaching upon this theme, I mourn a scantiness of words, and a slowness of language. If I could let my heart talk without my lips, methinks with God's Spirit I could move you indeed with joy. But these lips find that the language of the heart is above them. The tongue discovereth that it cannot reach the fullness of joy that is within. Let it beam from my face, if it cannot be spoken from my mouth.

     And now the second part of the subject. "ARISE, BARAK, AND LEAD THY CAPTIVITY CAPTIVE, THOU SON OF ABINOAM."

     You understand the exact picture here. Barak had routed Sisera, Jabin's captain, and all his hosts. She now exhorts Barak to celebrate his triumph. "Mount, mount thy car, O Barak, and ride through the midst of the people. Let the corpse of Sisera, with Jael's nail driven through its temples, be dragged behind thy chariot. Let the thousand captives of the Canaanites walk all of them with their arms bound behind them. Drive before thee the ten thousand flocks of sheep, and herds of cattle which thou hast taken as a spoil. Let their chariots of iron, and all their horses be led captive in grand procession. Bring up all the treasures and the jewels of which thou hast stripped the slain; their armor, their shields, their spears, bound up as glorious trophies. Arise, Barak, lead captive those who led thee captive, and celebrate thy glorious victory."

     Beloved, this is a picture which is often used in Scripture. Christ is said to have led captivity captive, when he ascended on high. He led principalities and powers captive at his chariot-wheels. But here is a picture for us—not concerning Christ, but concerning ourselves. We are exhorted to-day to lead captivity captive. Come up, come up, ye grim hosts of sins, once my terror and dismay. Long was I your slave, O ye Egyptian tyrants; long did this back smart beneath your lash when conscience was awakened, and long did these members of my body yield themselves as willing servants to obey your dictates. Come up ye sins, come up for ye are prisoners now; ye are bound in fetters of iron, nay, more than this, ye are utterly slain, consumed, destroyed; you have been covered with Jesus' blood; ye have been blotted out by his mercy ye have been cast by his power into the depths of the sea, yet would I bid your ghosts come up, slain though ye be, and walk in grim procession behind my chariot. Arise, celebrate your triumph, oh ye people of God. Your sins are many, but they are all forgiven. Your iniquities are great, but they are all put away. Arise and lead captive those who led you captive—your blasphemies, your forgetfulness of God, your drunkenness, your lust, all the vast legion that once oppressed you. They are all clean destroyed. Come and look upon them, sing their death psalm, and chant the life psalm of your grateful joy; lead your sins captive this very day.

     Bring hither in bondage another host who once seemed too many for us, but whom by God's grace we have totally overcome. Arise my trials; ye have been very great and very numerous; ye came against me as a great host, and ye were tall and strong like the sons of Anak. Oh! my soul, thou hast trodden down strength; by the help of our God have we leaped over a wall; by his power have we broken through the troops of our troubles, our difficulties, and our fears. Come now, look back, and think of all the trials you have ever encountered. Death in your family; losses in your business; afflictions in your body; despair in your soul; and yet here you are, more than conquerors over them all. Come, bid them all walk now in procession. To the God of our deliverances—who has delivered us out of deep waters—who has brought us out of the burning, fiery furnace, so that not the smell of fire has passed upon us—to him be all the glory, while we lead our captivity captive.
Arise and let us lead captive all our temptations. You, my brethren, have been foully tempted to the vilest sins. Satan has shot a thousand darts at you, and hurled his javelin multitudes of times; bring out the darts and snap them before his eyes, for he has never been able to reach your heart. Come, break the bow and cut the spear in sunder; burn the chariot in the fire. "Thy right hand, O Lord, thy right hand O Lord, hath dashed in pieces the enemy; thou hast broken, thou hast put to confusion them that hated us; thou hast scattered the tempters, and driven them far away "Come, ye children of God, kept and preserved where so many have fallen, lead now this day your temptations captive.

     I think that you as a church, and I as your minister, can indeed lead captivity captive this day. There has been no single church of God existing in England for these fifty years which has had to pass through more trial than we have done. We can say, "Men did ride over our heads." We went through fire and through water, and what has been the result of it all? God hath brought us out into a wealthy place and set our feet in a large room, and all the devices of the enemy have been of none effect. Scarce a day rolls over my head in which the most villainous abuse, the most fearful slander is not uttered against me both privately and by the public press; every engine is employed to put down God's minister—every lie that man can invent is hurled at me. But hitherto the Lord hath helped me. I have never answered any man, nor spoken a word in my own defense. from the first day even until now. And the effect has been this: God's people have believed nothing against me; they who feared the Lord have said often as a new falsehood has been uttered, "This is not true concerning that man; he will not answer for himself, but God will answer for him." They have not checked our usefulness as a church; they have not thinned our congregations; that which was to be but a spasm—an enthusiasm which it was hoped would only last an hour—God has daily increased; not because of me, but because of that gospel which I preach; not because there was anything in me, but because I came out as the exponent of plain, straight-forward, honest Calvinism, and because I seek to speak the Word simply, not according to the critical dictates of man, but so that the poor may comprehend what I have to say. The Lord has helped us as a church; everything has contributed to help us; the great and terrible catastrophe invented by Satan to overturn us, was only blessed of God to swell the stream; and now I would not stay a liar's mouth if I could, nor would I stop a slanderer if it were in my power, except it were that he might not sin, for all these things tend to our profit, and all these attacks do but widen the stream of usefulness. Many a sinner has been converted to God in this hall who was first brought here, because of some strange anecdote, some lying tale which had been told of God's servant, the minister. I say it boasting in the Lord my God, this morning, though I become a fool in glorying, I do lead in God's name my captivity captive. Arise! arise! ye members of this church, ye who have followed the son of Barak, and have gone up as the thousands at his feet; arise and triumph for God is with us, and his cause shall prosper; his own right arm is made bare in the eyes of all the people, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.

     As it is in this single church, and in our own individual sphere, so shall it be in the church at large. God's ministers are all attacked; God's truth is everywhere assailed. A terrible battle awaits us; but oh! Church of God, remember thy former victories. Awake, ministers of Christ, and lead your captivity captive. Sing how the idols of Greece tottered before you. Say, "Where is Diana? Where now the gods that made glad Ephesus of old?" And thou, O Rome, was not thine arm broken before the majesty of the Church's might? Where now is Jupiter; where Saturn, where Venus? They have ceased to be. And thou Juggernaut—them Bramah—ye Gods of China and Hindostan—ye too must fall, for this day the sons of Jehovah arise and lead their captivity captive. "Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth. He breaketh the bow, he cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariots in the fire. Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the heathen; I will be exalted in the earth." Church of God, come forth with songs, come forth with shouting to your last battle. Behold the battle of Armageddon draweth nigh. Blow ye the silver trumpets for the fight, ye soldiers of the cross. Come on, come on, ye leagured hosts of hell. Strong in the strength of God most High, we shall dash back your ranks as the rock breaketh the waves of the sea. We shall stand against you and triumph, and tread you down as ashes under the soles of our feet. "Arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam."

     Would to God that the joy of heart which we feel this morning may tempt some soul to seek the like. It is to be found in Christ at the foot of his dear cross. Believe on him, sinners and thou art saved.



The Sons of God

By / Oct 7

The Sons of God

 

"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God; and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together."—Romans 8:16-17

 

     My brethren, what a contrast there is between the present and future estate of the child of God! The believer is here the brother to the worm; in heaven he shall be next of kin to the angels. Here he is covered with the sweat and dust which he acquired by Adam's fall; there his brow shall be bright with the immortality which is conferred upon him by the resurrection of Christ. Here the heir of heaven is unknown; he is in disguise, full often clad in the habiliments of poverty, but there his princely character shall be discerned and acknowledged, he shall be waited upon by angels, and shall share in the admiration which the universe shall pour upon the glorified Redeemer. Well said our poet just now,

"It doth not yet appear, how great we must be made."

     I think I need not remind you of your condition here below; you are too conversant with it, being hourly fretted with troubles, vexed with your own infirmities, with the temptations of Satan, and with all the allurements of this world. You are quite conscious that this is not your rest. There are too many thorns in your nest, to permit you to hope for an abiding city below the skies. I say, it is utterly needless for me to refresh your memories about your present condition; but I feel it will be a good and profitable work if I remind you that there are high privileges of which you are possessors even now; there are divine joys which even this day you may taste. The wilderness has its manna; the desert is gladdened with water from the rock. God hath not forsaken us; the tokens of his goodness are with us, and we may rejoice in full many a gracious boon which is ours this very day. I shall direct your joyous attention to one precious jewel in your treasury, namely, your adoption into the family of God.

     There are four things of which I shall speak this morning. First, a special privilege; second, a special proof of it, the Spirit bearing witness with our spirit; then thirdly, a special privilege, that of heirship; and fourthly, the practical part of the sermon and the conclusion shall be a special manner of life demanded of such persons.

     I. First, then, my brethren, a SPECIAL PRIVILEGE mentioned in the text. "We are the children of God." And here I am met upon the very threshold by the opposition of certain modern theologians, who hold that sonship is not the special and peculiar privilege of believers. The newly discovered negative theology, which, I fear, has done some damage to the Baptist denomination, and a very large amount of injury to the Independent body—the new heresy is to a large degree, founded upon the fiction of the Universal Fatherhood of God. The old divines, the Puritans, the Reformers, are now in these last days, to be superseded by men whose teaching flatly contradicts all that we have received of our forefathers. Our old ministers have all represented God as being to his people a father, to the rest of the world a judge. This is styled by our new philosophers as old cumbersome scheme of theology, and it is proposed that it be swept away—a proposition which will never be carried out, while the earth remaineth, or while God endureth. But, at any rate, certain knight-errants have set themselves to do battle with windmills, and really believe that they shall actually destroy from the face of the earth that which is a fundamental and abiding distinction, without which the Scriptures are not to be understood. We are told by modern false prophets, that God in everything acts to all men as a father, even when he cast them into the lake of fire, and send upon them all the plagues that are written in his book. All these terrible things in righteousness, the awful proofs of holy vengeance in the judge of all the earth, and successfully neutralized in their arousing effect, by being quietly written among the loving acts and words of the Universal Father. It is dreamed that this is an age when men do not need to be thundered at; when everybody is become so tender-hearted that there is no need for the sword to be held "in terrorum" over mortals; but that everything is to be conducted now in a new and refined manner; God the Universal Father, and all men universal sons. Now I must confess there is something very pretty about this theory, something so fascinating that I do not wonder that some of the ablest minds have been wooed and won by it. I, for my part, take only one objection to it, which is that it is perfectly untrue and utterly unfounded, having not the lightest shadow of a pretence of being proved by the Word of God. Scripture everywhere represents the chosen people of the Lord, under their visible character of believers, penitents, and spiritual men, as being "the children of God," and to none but such is that holy title given. It speaks of the regenerate, of a special class me as having a claim to be God's children. Now, as there is nothing like Scripture, let me read you a few texts, Romans viii. 14.—"As many are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." Surely no one is so daring as to say, that all men are led by the Spirit of God; yet may it readily enough be inferred from our text, that those who are not led by the Spirit of God are not the sons of God, but that they and they alone who are led, guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit, are the sons of God. A passage from Galatians iii. 26.—"For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus," declaring as it seems to me, and rightly enough, that all believers, all who have faith in Christ are the children of God, and that they become actually and manifestly so by faith in Christ Jesus, and implying that those who have no faith in Christ Jesus, are not God's sons, and that any pretence which they could make to that relationship would be but arrogance and presumption. And hear ye this, John i. 12.—"To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God." How could they have been the sons of God before, for "to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name, who were born not of blood,"—then they were not make the sons of God by mere creation—"nor of the will of the flesh," that is to say, not by any efforts of their own "but of God." If any text can be more conclusive than this against universal sonship, I must confess I know of none, and unless these words mean nothing at all, they do mean just this, that believers are the sons of God and none besides. But listen to another word of the Lord in the first epistle of John, iii. 1-.—"In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth no righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother." Here are two sorts of children, therefore all are not the children of God. Can it be supposed that those who are the children of the devil are nevertheless the children of God? I must confess my reason revolts against such a supposition, and though I think I might exercise a little imagination, yet I could not make my imagination sufficiently an acrobat to conceive of a man being at the same time a child of the devil, and yet a real child of God. Hear another, 2 Corinthians, vi. 17.—"Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." Is not that "coming out" necessary to sonship, and were they his sons, were they his daughters, had they any claim or right to call him Father, until they came out from the midst of a wicked world, and were separate? If so, why doth God promise them what they have already. But again, Matthew v. 9.— "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." A fine title indeed if it belongs to every man! Where is the blessedness of the title, for they might be lovers of strife, and yet according to modern theologians they might still be the sons of God. Let us mark a yet more positive passage, Romans ix. 8.—"The children of the flesh, these are not the children of God." What then is to be said to this, "These are not the children of God." If any man will contradict that flatly—well, be it so. I have no argument with which to convince the man who denies so strong and clear a witness. Listen to the divine apostle John, where in one of his epistles he is carried away in rhapsody of devout admiration, "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God." And then he goes on giving a description of those who are the sons of God, who could not mean any but those who by a living faith in Christ Jesus, have cast their souls once for all on him. As far as I can guess, the main text on which these people build the doctrine of the universal Fatherhood, is that quotation which the apostle Paul took from a heathen poet—"As certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring." The apostle endorses that sentiment by quoting it, and against that endorsement we can of course have no contention; but the word there used for "offspring," expresses no idea of Fatherhood in the majestic sense of the term, it is a word which might be used as appropriately for the young of animals, the young of any other creature, it has not about it the human sympathies which belong to a father and a son. I know, besides this, nothing which could support this new theory. Possibly they fancy that creation is a paternal act, that all created things are sons. This is too absurd to need an answer, for if so, horses and cows, rats and mice, snakes and flies are children of God, for they are surely creatures as well as we. Taking away this corner-stone, this fancy theory tumbles to the ground, and that theory which seemed to be as tall as Babel, and threatened to make as much confusion, may right soon be demolished, if you will batter it with the Word of God. The fact is, brethren, that the relationship of a son of God belongs only to those who are "predestinated unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of the Father's will:" Ephesians I.

     5. The more you search the Bible, the more sure will you be that sonship is the special privilege of the chosen people of God and of none beside.

     Having thus, as far as I can, established my point, that the privilege of our text is a special one, let me dwell upon it for a moment and remark that, as a special one, it is an act of pure unmistakable grace. No man has any right to be a son of God. If we are born into his family it is a miracle of mercy. It is one of the ever-blessed exhibitions of the infinite love of God which without any cause in us, has set itself upon us. If thou art this day an heir of heaven, remember, man, thou wast once the slave of hell. Once thou didst wallow in the mire, and if thou shouldst adopt a swine to be thy child, thou couldst not then have performed an act of greater compassion than when God adopted thee. And if an angel could exalt a gnat to equal dignity with himself, yet would not the boon be such-an-one as that which God hath conferred on thee. He hath taken thee from the dunghill, and he hath set thee among princes. Thou hast lain among the pots, but he hat made thee as a dove whose wings are covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold. Remember that this is grace, and parentage,—look back to the hole of the pit whence thou art digged, and the miry clay whence thou wast drawn. Boast not, if thou art in the true olive. Thou art not there, because of thine original, thou art a scion from an evil tree, and the Divine Spirit hath changed thy nature, for thou wast once nothing but a branch of the vine of Gomorrah. Ever let humility bow thee to the very earth while thine adoption lifts thee up to the third heaven.

     Consider again, I pray you, what a dignity God hath conferred upon you—even upon you in making you his son. The tall archangel before the throne is not called God's Son, he is one of the most favoured of his servants, but not his child. I tell thee, thou poor brother in Christ, there is a dignity about thee that even angels may well envy. Thou in thy poverty art as a sparkling jewel in the darkness of the mine. Thou in the midst of thy sickness and infirmity art girt about with robes of glory, which make the spirits in heaven look down upon the earth with awe. Thou movest about this world as a prince among the crowd. The blood of heaven runs in thy veins; thou art one of the blood royal of eternity—a son of God, descendant of the King of kings. Speak of pedigrees, the glories of heraldry—thou hast more than heraldry could ever give thee, or all the pomp of ancestry could ever bestow.

     II. And now I press forward to notice that in order that we may know whether we are partakers of this high—this royal relationship of children of God, the text furnishes us with a SPECIAL PROOF—"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. You will notice here, my beloved, that there are two witnesses in court—two who are ready to prove our filiation to the eternal God. The first witness is our spirit; the second witness is The Spirit, the eternal Spirit of God, who beareth witness with our spirit. It is as if a poor man were called into court to prove his right to some piece of land which was disputed. He standeth up and beareth his own faithful testimony; but some great one of the land—some nobleman who lives near—rises, stands in the witness box, and confirms his witness. So is it with our text. The plain, simple spirit of the humble-minded Christian cries, "I am God's child." The glorious Spirit, one with God, attests the truth of the testimony, and beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.

     Let us notice in the first place, how it is that our spirit is able to bear witness; and as this is a matter of experience, I can only appeal to those who are the true children of God; for no others are competent to give testimony. Our spirit bears witness that we are the children of God, when it feels a filial love to God. When bowing before his throne we can boldly say "Abba Father."—"Thou art my father," then our spirit concludes that we are sons, for thus it argues, "I feel to thee as a child feeleth to its parent, and it could not be that I should have the feeling of a son if I had not the rights of a son—if I were not a child thou wouldst never have given to me that filial affection which no dares to call thee "Father."

     Sometimes, too, the spirit feels that God is its Father not only by love but by trust. The rod has been upon our back and we have smarted very sore, but in the darkest hour we have been able to say, "The time is in my Father's hands; I cannot murmur; I would not repine; I feel it is but right that I should suffer, otherwise my Father would never have made me suffer." He surely doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of man for nought; and when in these dark gloomy times we have looked up to a Father's face, and have said, "Though thou slay me, yet will I trust in thee; thy blows shall not drive thee from me; they shall but make me say, "Show me wherefore thou contendest with me, and purge me from my sin."" Then our spirit beareth witness that we are the children of God.

     And are there not times with you, my dear friends, when your hearts feel that they would be emptied and void, unless God were in them. You have perhaps received an increase to your wealth, and after the first flush of pleasure which was but natural, you have said, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity; this is not my joy." You have had many mercies in your family, but you have felt that in them all there was a lack of something which could satisfy your heart, and you have felt that that something was God. My God, thou art my all in all—the circle where my passions move, the centre of my soul. Now these longings—these pantings for something more than this world can give you—were but the evidences of a child-like spirit, which was panting after its Father's presence. You feel you must have your Father, or else the gifts of his providence are nothing to you. That is, your spirit beareth witness that you are the child of God. But there are times when the heir of heaven is as sure that he is God's child as he is sure that he is his own father's son. No doubt can make him question. The evil one may whisper, "If thou be the son of God." But he says, "Get thee hence, Satan, I know I am the son of God." A man might as well try to dispute him out of the fact of his existence as out of that equally sure fact that he has been born again, and that by gracious adoption he has been taken into the family of God. This is our witnessing that we are born of God.

     But the text, you see, furnishes us with a higher witness than this. God that cannot lie, in the person of the Holy Ghost, graciously condescendeth to say "Amen" to the testimony of our conscience. And whereas our experience sometimes leads our spirit to conclude that we are born of God, there are happy times when the eternal Spirit from off the throne, descends and fills our heart, and then we have the two witnesses bearing witness with each other, that we are children of God. Perhaps you ask me, how is this. I was reading a passage by Dr. Chalmers the other day, in which he says, that his own experience did not lead him to believe that the Holy Spirit ever gave any witness of our being the children of God, apart from the written Word of God, and his ordinary workings in our hearts. Now, I am not sure that the doctor is perfectly right. As far as his own experience went I dare say he was right, but there may be some far inferior to the doctor in genius, who nevertheless were superior in nearness of fellowship with God, and who could therefore go a little farther than the eloquent divine. Now, I do believe with him this morning, that the chief witness of God the Holy Spirit lies in this—the Holy Spirit has written this book which contains an account of what a Christian should be, and of the feelings which believers in Christ must have. I have certain experiences and feelings; turning to the Word, I find similar experiences and feelings recorded; and so I prove that I am right, and the Spirit bears witness with my spirit that I am born of God. Suppose you have been enabled to believe in Jesus Christ for your salvation; that faith has produced love to Christ; that love to Christ has led you to work for Christ; you come to the Bible, and you find that this was just the very thing which was felt by early believers; and then you say, "Good Lord, I am thy son, because what I feel is what thou has said by the lips of thy servant must be felt by those who are thy children." So the Spirit confirms the witness of my spirit that I am born of God.

     But again, everything that is good in a Christian you know to be the work of God the Holy Ghost. When at any time then the Holy Spirit comforts you—sheds a sweet calm over your disturbed spirit; when at any period he instructs you, opens to you a mystery you did not understand before; when at some special period he inspires you with an unwonted affection, an unusual faith in Christ; when you experience a hatred of sin, a faith in Jesus, a death to the world, and a life to God, these are the works of the Spirit. Now the Spirit never did work effectually in any but the children of God; and inasmuch as the Spirit works in you, he doth by that very working give his own infallible testimony to the fact that you are a child of God. If you had not been a child he would have left you where you were in your natural state; but inasmuch as he hath wrought in you to will and to do of his own good pleasure, he that put his stamp on you as being one of the family of the Most High. But I think must go a little further than this. I do believe that there is a supernatural way in which apart from means, the Spirit of God communicates with the spirit of man. My own little experience leads me to believe that apart from the Word of God, there are immediate dealings with the conscience and soul of man by the Holy Spirit, without any instrumentality, without even the agency of the truth. I believe that the Spirit of God sometimes comes into a mysterious and marvellous contact with the spirit of man, and that at times the Spirit speaketh in the heart of man by a voice not audible to the ear, but perfectly audible to the spirit which is the subject of it. he assures and consoles directly, by coming into immediate contact with the heart. It becomes our business then to take the Spirit's witness through his Word, and through his works, but I would seek to have immediate, actual, undivided fellowship with the Holy Ghost, who by his divine Spirit, should work in my spirit and convince me that I am a child of God.

     Now let me ask my congregation, do any of you know that you are God's children? Say not, "In my baptism, wherein I was made a member of Christ, and a child of God." There are not many in England, I think, who believe those words. There may be a few who do, but it has never been my misfortune to meet with them. Every one knows that it is a disgrace to a matchless prayer-book, that such words should be permitted to stand there-words so infamously untrue that by their gross untruthfulness they cease to have the destructive effect which more cunning language might have produced, because the conscience of man revolts against the idea that the sprinkling of drops of water upon the infants's brow can ever make it a member of Christ, and a child of God. But I ask you, does your spirit say to-day "I am God's child." Do you feel the longings, the loves, the confidences of a child? If not, tremble, for there are but two vast families in this world. They are the family of God, and the family of Satan— their character how different—their end, how strangely divided! But let me say again to thee, hast thou ever felt that the Holy Ghost has borne witness with thy spirit in his word, and in his work, in thee; and in that secret whisper has he ever said to thee, "Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee." I conjure thee, give no sleep to thine eyes, no slumber to thine eyelids, till by this divine mysterious agency, thou art new made, new born, and new begotten, and so admitted not only nominally but really into the living family of the living God.

     III. I shall now pass on to my third point. If it be settled in our mind by the true witness—the spirit within us, and the Spirit of God,—that we are God's children, what a NOBLE PRIVILEGE now appears to our view. "HEIRS OF GOD, and joint heirs with Christ." It does not always follow in human reasoning "if children, then heirs," because in our families but one is the heir. There is but one that can claim the heir's rights, and the heir's title. It is not so in the family of God. Man as a necessary piece of political policy, may give to the heir that which surely he can have not more real right to in the sight of God, than the rest of the family—may give him all the inheritance, while his brethren, equally true born, may go without; but it is not so in the family of God. All God's children are heirs, however numerous the family, and he that shall be born of God last, shall be as much his heir as he who was born first. Abel, the protomartyr, entering alone into heaven, shall not have a more secure title to the inheritance than he who, last of woman born, shall trust in Christ, and then ascend into his glory. In heaven's logic it is true, "if children, then heirs."

     And see what it is that we are heirs of. The apostle opens with the grandest part of the inheritance first—heirs of God—heirs not of God's gifts, and God's works, but heirs of God himself. It was said of king Cyrus, that he was a prince of so amiable a disposition, that when at any time he sat down at meat, if there were aught that pleased his appetite, he would order it to be taken away and given to his friends with this message, "King Cyrus found that this food pleased his palate, and he thought his friend should feed upon that which he enjoyed himself." This was thought to be a singular instance of his affability, and his kindness to his courtiers. But our God doeth more than this, he doth not send merely bread from his table, as in the day when man did eat angel's food; he doth not give us merely to drink the wines on the lees well refined—the rich wines of heaven—but he gives himself himself to us. And the believer is to be the heir, I say, not merely of God's works, not simply of God's gifts, but of God himself. Talk we of his omnipotence?—his Allmightiness is ours. Speak we of his omniscience?—all his wisdom is engaged in our behalf. Do we say that he is love?—that love belongs to us. Can we glory that he is full of immutability, and changes not?—that eternal unchangeableness is engaged for the defence of the people of God. All the attributes of divinity are the property of God's children—their inheritance entailed upon them. Nay, he himself is ours. Oh what riches! If we could say this morning, that all the stars belong to us; if we could turn the telescope to the most remote of the fixed stars, and then could say with the pride of possession, so natural to man, "That star, a thousand times bigger than the sun, is mine. I am the king of that inheritance, and without me doth not a dog move his tongue." If we could then sweep the telescope along the milky way, and see the millions upon millions of stars that lie clustered together there, and could cry, "All these are mine," yet these possessions were but a speck compared with that which is in the text. Heir of God! He to whom all these things are but as nothing, gives himself up to the inheritance of his people.

     Note yet a little further concerning the special privilege of heirship,—we are joint heirs with Christ. That is, whatever Christ possesses, as heir of all things, belongs to us. Splendid must be the inheritance of Jesus Christ. Is he not very God of very God, Jehovah's only begotten Son, Most High and glorious, though he bowed himself to the grave and became the Servant of servants, yet God over all, blessed for ever. Amen.

     Oh! what angelic tongue shall hymn his glory? What fiery lips shall ever speak of his possessions, of his riches,—the unsearchable riches of God in Christ Jesus. But, beloved, all that belongs to Christ belongs to Christ's people. It is as when a man doth marry. His possessions shall be shared by his spouse; and when Christ took his Church unto himself he endowed her with all his goods, both temporal and eternal. He gives to us his raiments, and thus we stand arrayed. His righteousness becomes our beauty. He gave to us his person, it has become our meat and our drink; we eat his flesh and drink his blood. He gave to us hi inmost heart; he loved us even to the death. He gave to us his crown; he gave to us his throne; for "to him that overcometh will I give to sit upon my throne, even as I have overcome, and have sat down with my Father upon his throne." He gave to us his heaven, for "where I am, there shall my people be." He gave to us the fulness of his joy, for "my joy shall be in you, that your joy may be full." I repeat it, there is nothing in the highest heaven which Christ has reserved unto himself, "for all things are yours, and ye are Christ's and Christ is God's."

     I cannot stay longer on that point, except just to notice, that we must never quarrel with this divine arrangement. "Oh," say you, "we never shall." Stay, stay, brother; I have known you do so already, for when all that is Christ's belongs to you, do ye forget that Christ once had a cross, and that belongs to you? Christ once wore a thorny crown, and if you are to have all that he has, you must bear the thorny crown too? Have you forgotten that he had shame and spitting, the reproach, the rebuke of men, and that he conceived all those to be greater riches than all the treasures of this world? Come, I know as you look down the inventory, you are apt to look a little askance on that cross, and you think, "Well, the crown is glorious, but I love not the spittle, I care not to be despised and rejected of men." Oh! you are quarreling with this divine arrangement, you are beginning to differ with this blessed policy of God. Why, one would have thought you would rejoice to take your Master for better or for worse, and to be partaker with him, not only in his glories but in his sufferings. So it must be, "If so be that we suffer with him that we also may be glorified together." Is there a place into which your Master went that you would be ashamed to enter? If so, methinks your heart is not in a right state. Would you refuse to go with him to the garden of his agony? Believer, would you be ashamed to stand and be accused as he was, and have false witness born against you? And would you blush to sit side- by-side with him, and be made nothing of as he was? Oh, when you start aside at a little jest, let your conscience prick you, and say, "Am I not a joint heir with Christ, and am I about to quarrel with the legacy? Did he not say, "In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world?" And oh, would you be ashamed to die for Christ; methinks, if you are what you should be, you will glory in tribulations also, and count it sweet to suffer for Christ. I know the world turns this into ridicule and says, "That the hypocrite loves persecution;" no, not the hypocrite, but the true believer; he feels that though the suffering must ever be painful, yet for Christ's sake, it becomes so glorious that the pain is all forgotten.

     Come, believer, will you be partaker with Christ to-day in the battle, and then divide this spoil with him? Come, will you wade with him through the deep waters, and then at last climb up the topless hills with him? Are you prepared now to be despised and rejected of men that you may at last ascend up on high, leading captivity captive? The inheritance cannot be divided; if you will have the glory, you must have the shame. He that will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution. Come, men, put your face against all weathers; be ready to come up hill, with the snow blowing in your face, be ready to march on when the tempest howls, and the lightnings flash over head, and the snow becomes knee-deep; nay, be ready to go into the crevasse with him, and perish, if need be. Who quarrels with this sacred regulation? Certainly no true child of God; he would not have it altered, even if he might.

     IV. And now I come to my last point, upon which briefly but I hope interestingly. The SPECIAL CONDUCT naturally expected from those who are partakers of the peculiar privileges of being the children of God. In the golden age of Rome, if a man were tempted to dishonesty, he would stand upright, look the tempter in the face, and say to him, "I am a Roman." He thought that a sufficient reason why he should neither lie nor cheat. It ought to be ten times more than sufficient answer to every temptation, for a man to be able to say, "I am a son of God; shall such a man as I yield to sin?" I have been astonished in looking though old Roman history at the wonderful prodigies of integrity and valour which were produced by idolatry, or rather, which were produced by patriotism, and that principle which ruled the Romans, namely, love of fame. And I say it this morning, it is a shameful thing that ever idolatry should be able to breed better men than some who profess Christianity. And I think I may stand firmly while I argue here, that if a Roman, a worshipper of Jupiter or Saturn, became great or glorious, a Son of God ought to be nobler far. Look ye, sirs, at Brutus; he has established a republic, he has put down tyranny, he sits upon the judgment seat; his two sons are brought before him, they have been traitors to the commonwealth. What will the father do? He is a man of a loving heart and loves his sons, but there they stand. Will he execute justice as a judge, or will he prefer his family to his country? He covers his face for a moment with his hands, and then looking down at his sons, and finding that the testimony is complete against them, he says, "Lictors, do your work." They bare their backs, the rod scourgeth them. "Complete the sentence, lictors;" and their heads are smitten off in the father's presence. Stern justice swayed his spirit, and no other feeling could for a single moment make him turn aside. Christian men, do you feel this with regard to your sins. When you have been sitting on the judgment bench; there has been some favourite sin brought up, and you have, oh, let me blush to say it, you have wished to spare it, it was so near your heart, you have wished to let it live, whereas should you not as the son of God have said, "If my eye offend me, I will pluck it out and cast it from me, if my right hand offend me, I will cut it off, rather than I should in anything offend my God." Brutus slays his sons; but some Christians would spare their sins. Look again at that noble youth, Mutius Scoevola. He goes into the tent of King Pyrrhus with the intention to put him to death, because he is the enemy of his country; he slays the wrong man; Pyrrhus orders him to be taken captive. A pan of hot coals is blazing in the tent; Scoevola puts out his right hand and holds it; it crackles in the flame; the young man flinches not, though his fingers drop away. "There are 400 youths," says he, "in Rome as brave as I am, and that will bear fire as well; and tyrant," he says "you will surely die."" Yet here are Christian men, who, if they are a little sneered at, or snubbed, or get the cold shoulder for Christ's sake, are half ashamed of their profession, and would go and hide it. And if they are not like Peter—tempted to curse and swear to escape the blessed imputation—they would turn the conversation, that they might not suffer for Christ. Oh for 400 Scoevolas, 400 men who for Christ's sake would burn, not their right hands, but their bodies, if indeed Christ's name night be glorified, and sin might be stabbed to the heart. Or, read you that old legend of Curtius, the Roman knight. A great gulf had opened in the Forum, perhaps caused by an earthquake, and the auspices had said that the chasm could never be filled up, except the most precious thing in Rome could be cast into it. Curtius puts on his helmet, and his armour, mounts his horse and leaps into the cleft, which is said to have filled at once, because courage, valour, and patriotism, were the best things in Rome. I wonder how many Christians there are who would leap like that into the cleft. Why, I see you, sirs, if there is a new and perilous work to be done for Christ, you like to be in the rear rank this time; if there were something honourable, so that you might ride on with your well caparisoned steeds in the midst of the dainty ranks ye would do it; but to leap into certain annihilation for Christ's sake—Oh! heroism, where is it fled—whither has it gone. Thou Church of God, surely it must survive in thee; for to whom should it more belong to die and sacrifice all, than to those who are the sons of God. Look ye again at Camillus. Camillus had been banished from Rome by false accusations. He was ill-treated, abused, and slandered, and went away to retirement. Suddenly the Goths, the old enemies of Rome, fell upon the city. They surrounded it; they were about to sack it, and Camillus was the only man who could deliver it. Some would have said within themselves "Let the caitiff nation be cut off. The city has turned me out; let it rue the day that it ever drove me away." But no, Camillus gathers together his body of followers, falls upon the Goths, routs them and enters in triumph into Rome though he was an exile. Oh Christian, this should ever be your spirit, only in a higher degree. When the Church rejects you, casts you out, annoys, despises you, still be ready to defend her, and when you have an ill name even in the lips of God's people, still stand up for the common cause of Zion, the city of our solemnities. Or look you at Cincinnatus. He is chosen Dictator, but as soon as ever his dictatorship is over he retires to his little farm of three acres, and goes to his plough, and when he is wanted to be absolute monarch of Rome he is found at his plough upon his three acres of land and his little cottage. He served his country, not for himself, but for his country's sake; and can it be that you will not be poor yet honest for Christ's sake! Will you descend to the tricks of trade to win money? Ah, then, the Roman eclipses the Christian. Will you not be satisfied to serve God though you lose by it; to stand up and be thought an arrant fool, because you will not learn the wisdom of this world; to be esteemed a mad fanatic, because you cannot swim with the current. Can you not do it? Can you not do it? Then again, I say to you, "Tell it not in Gath and publish it not in Askelon, then has a heathen eclipsed a Christian." May the sons of God be greater than the sons of Romulus. One other instance let me give you. You have heard of Regulus the Roman general; he was taken prisoner by Carthagenians, who anxiously wished for peace. They told him to go home to Rome, and see if he could not make peace. But his reply was, "No, I trust they will always be at war with you, for Carthage must be destroyed if Rome is to prosper." They compelled him, however, to go, exacting from him this promise, that if the Romans did not make peace he would come back, and if he came back they would put him to death in the most horrid manner that ever cruelty could invent. Regulus returns to Rome; he stands up in the senate and conjures them never to make peace in Carthage, but to his wife and children, and tells them that he is going back to Carthage, and of course the tell him that he need not keep faith with an enemy. I imagine that he said, "I promised to go back, and though it is to pangs indescribable, I will return." His wife clings to his shoulder, his children seek to persuade him; they attend him to the waters' edge; he sails for Carthage; his death was too horrible to be described. Never martyr suffered more for Christ than that man suffered for his word's sake. And shall a Christian man break his promise? shall a son of God be less true than a Roman or a heathen? Shall it be, I say, that integrity shall be found in heathen lands and not be found here? No. May you be holy, harmless, sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. I used this argument; I thought it might be a new one; I am sure it is a forcible one. You cannot imagine, surely, that God is to allow heathens to eclipse his children. Oh! never let it be so. So live, so act, ye sons of God, that the world may say of you, "Yes, these men bring forth the fruits of God; they are like their Father; they honour his name; they are indeed filled with his grace, for their every word is as true as his oath; their every act is sincere and upright; their heart is kind, their spirit is gentle; they are firm but yet they are generous; they are strict in their integrity, but they are loving in their souls; they are men who, like God, are full of love; but like him are severely just. They are sternly holy; they are, like him, ready to forgive, but they can by no means tolerate iniquity, nor hear that sin should live in their presence." God bless you, ye sons of God, and may those of you who are strangers to him, be convinced and converted by this sermon, and seek that grace by which alone you can have your prayer fulfilled:—

"With them numbered may we be,
Now and through eternity."



Love to Jesus

By / Sep 30

Love to Jesus

 

“O thou whom my soul loveth.”—Solomon's Song 1:7. 

 

IF the life of a Christian may be compared to a sacrifice, then humility digs the foundation for the altar; prayer brings the unhewn stones and piles them one upon the other; penitence fills the trench round about the altar with water; obedience lays the wood in order; faith pleads the Jehovah-jireh, and places the victim upon the altar; but the sacrifice even then is incomplete, for where is the fire? Love, love alone can consummate the sacrifice by supplying the needful fire from heaven. Whatever we lack in our piety, as it is indispensable that we should have faith in Christ, so is it absolutely necessary that we should have love to him. That heart which is devoid of an earnest love to Jesus, is surely still dead in trespasses and sins. And if any man should venture to affirm that he had faith in Christ, but had no love to him, we would at once also venture to affirm as positively, that his religion was vain. Perhaps the great want of the religion of the times is love. Sometimes as I look upon the world at large, and the Church which lieth too much in its bosom, I am apt to think that the Church hath light, but lacketh fire; that she hath some degree of true faith, clear knowledge, and much beside which is precious, but that she lacketh to a great extent, that flaming love with which she once, as a chaste virgin, walked with Christ through the fires of martyrdom ; when she showed to him her undefiled, unquenchable love in the catacombs of the city, and the caves of the rock; when the snows of the Alps might testify to the virgin purity of the love of the saints, by the purple stain which marked the shedding of blood in defence of our bleeding Lord,—blood which had been shed in defence of him whom, though they had not seen his face, “unceasing they adore." 

     On looking at my text, I shall come to regard it thus: First, we shall listen to the rhetoric of the lip as we here read it in these words, “O thou whom my soul loveth.” We shall then observe the logic of the heart, which would justify us in giving such a title as this to Christ; and then come in the third place, to something which even surpasses rhetoric or logic, the absolute demonstration of the daily life; and I pray that we may be able to prove constantly by our acts, that Jesus Christ is He whom our soul loveth. 

     I. First, then, the loving title of our text is to be considered as expressing RHETORIC OF THE LIP. The text calleth Christ, “Thou whom my soul loveth.” Let us take this title and dissect it a little.

     One of the first things which will strike us when we come to look upon it, is the reality of the love which is here expressed. Reality, I say; understanding the term “real,” not in contradistinction to that which is lying and fictitious, but in contrast to that which is shadowy and indistinct. Do you not notice that the spouse here speaks of Christ as of one whom she knew actually to exist; not as an abstraction, but as a person. She speaks of him as a real person, “Thou whom my soul loveth.” Why, these seem to be the words of one who is pressing him to her bosom, who sees him with her eyes, who tracks him with her feet, who knows that he is, and that he will reward the love which diligently seeketh him. Brethren and sisters, there often is a great deficiency in our love to Jesus. We do not realize the person of Christ. We think about Christ, and then we love the conception that we have formed of him. But O, how few Christians view their Lord as being as real a person as we are ourselves,—very man—a man that could suffer, a man that could die, substantial flesh and blood—very God as real as if he were not invisible, and as truly existent as though we could compass him in our minds. We want to have a real Christ more fully preached, and more fully loved by the church. We fail in our love, because Christ is not real to us as he was to the early Church. The early Church did not preach much doctrine; they preached Christ. They had little to say of truths about Christ; it was Christ himself, his hands, his feet, his side, his eyes, his head, his crown of thorns, the sponge, the vinegar, the nails. O for the Christ of Mary Magdalene, rather than the Christ of the critical theologian; give me the wounded body of divinity, rather than the soundest system of theology. Let me show you what I mean. 

     Suppose an infant taken away from its mother, and you should seek to foster in it a love to the parent by constantly picturing before it the idea of a mother,—and attempting to give it the thought of a mother's relation to the child. Indeed, my friends, I think you would have a difficult task to fix in that child the true and real love which it ought to bear towards her who bore it. But give that child a mother; let it hang upon that mother's real breast; let it derive its nourishment from her very heart: let it see that mother; feel that mother; put its little arms about that mother's real neck and you have no hard task to make it love its mother. So is it with the Christian. We want Christ—not an abstract, doctrinal, pictured Christ—but a real Christ. I may preach to you many a year, and try to infuse into your souls a love of Christ ; but until you can feel that he is a real man and a real person, really present with you, and that you may speak to him, talk to him, and tell him of your wants, you will not readily attain to a love like that of the text, so that you can call him, “Thou whom my soul loveth.” I want you to feel, Christian, that your love to Christ is not a mere pious affection; but that as you love your wife, as you love your child, as you love your parent, so you love Christ; that though your love to him is of a finer cast, and a higher mould, yet it is just as real as the more earthly passion. Let me suggest another figure. A war is raging in Italy for liberty. The very thought of liberty nerves a soldier. The thought of a hero makes a man a hero. Let me go and stand in the midst of the army and preach to them what heroes should be, and what brave men they should be who fight for liberty. My dear friends, the most earnest eloquence might have but little power. But put into the midst of these men Garibaldi—heroism incarnate; place before their eyes that dignified man—who seems like some old Roman newly arisen from his tomb, they see before them what liberty means, and what daring is, what courage can attempt, and what heroism can perform; for there he is, and fired by his actual presence, their arms are strong, their swords are sharp, and they dash to the battle at once; his presence ensuring victory, because they realise in his presence the thought which makes men brave and strong. So the Church needs to feel and see a real Christ in her midst. It is not the idea of disinterestedness; it is not the idea of devotion; it is not the idea of self-consecration, that will ever make the Church mighty: it must be that idea incarnate, consolidated, personified in the actual existence of a realised Christ in the camp of the Lord’s host. I do pray for you, and pray you for me, that we may each one of us have a love which realises Christ, and which can address him as “Thou whom my soul loveth.” 

     But again, look at the text and you will perceive another thing very clearly. The Church, in the expression which she uses concerning Christ, speaks not only with a realisation of his presence, but with a firm assurance of her own love. Many of you, who do really love Christ, can seldom get further than to say, “O thou whom my soul desires to love! O thou whom I hope I love!” But this sentence saith not so at all. This title hath not the shadow of a doubt or a fear upon it: “O thou whom my soul, loveth!” Is it not a happy thing for a child of God when he knows that he loves Christ ? when he can speak of it as a matter of consciousness?—a thing out of which he is not to be argued by all the reasonings of Satan?—a thing concerning which he can put his hand upon his heart, and appeal to Jesus and say, “Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee?” I say, is not this a delightful frame of mind? or, rather, I reverse the question, Is not that a sad miserable state of heart in which we have to speak of Jesus otherwise than with assured affection? Ah, my brethren and sisters, there may be times when the most loving heart may, from the very fact that it loves intensely and loves sincerely, doubt whether it does love at all. But then such times will be times of distress, seasons of great soul-searching, nights of anguish. He who truly loves Christ will never give sleep to his eyes, nor slumber to his eyelids, when he is in doubt about his heart belonging to Jesus. “No,” saith he, “this is a matter too precious for me to question as to whether I am the possessor of it or no; this is a thing so vital that I cannot let it be with a 'perhaps,’ as a matter of hap-hazard hazard. No, I must know whether I love my Lord or no, whether I am his or not.” If I am addressing any this morning who fear they do not love Christ, and yet hope they do, let me beg you, my dear friend, not to rest contented in your present state of mind; never be satisfied till you know that you are standing on the rock, and until you are quite certain that you really do love Christ. Imagine for a moment, one of the apostles telling Christ that he thought he loved him. Fancy for a moment your own spouse telling you that she hoped she loved you. Fancy your child upon your knee saying, “Father, I sometimes trust I love you.” What a stinging thing to say to you! You would almost as soon he said, “I hate you.” Because, what is it? Shall he, over whom I watch with care, merely think he loves me? Shall she who lieth in my bosom, doubt, and make it a matter of conjecture, as to whether her heart is mine or no? O God, forbid we should ever dream of such a thing in our ordinary relations of life! Then how is it that we indulge in it in our piety? Is it not sickly and maudlin piety? is it not a diseased state of heart that ever puts us in such a place at all? is it not even a deadly state of heart that would let us rest contented there? No, let us not be satisfied till, by the full work of the Holy Spirit, we are made sure and certain, and can say with unstammering tongue, “O thou whom my soul loveth.” 

     Now, notice something else equally worthy of our attention. The Church, the spouse, in thus speaking of her Lord, thus directs our thoughts not merely to her confidence of love, but to the unity of her affections with regard to Christ, She hath not two lovers, she hath but one. She doth not say, “O ye on whom my heart is set!” but “O thou!” She hath but one after whom her heart is panting. She has gathered her affections into one bundle, she hath made them but one affection, and then she hath cast that bundle of myrrh and spices upon the breast of Christ. He is to her the “Altogether Lovely,” the gathering up of all the loves which once strayed abroad. She has put before the sun of her heart a burning-glass, which has brought all her love to a focus, and it is all concentrated with all its heat and vehemence upon Christ Jesus himself. Her heart, which once seemed like a fountain sending forth many streams, has now become as a fountain which hath but one channel for its waters. She hath stopped up all the other issues, she hath cut away the other pipes, and now the whole stream in one strong current runs toward him, and him alone. The Church, in the text here, is not a worshipper of God and of Baal too; she is no time-server, who hath a heart for all comers. She is not as the harlot, whose door is open for every wayfarer; but she is a chaste one, and she seeth none but Christ, and she knoweth none whom her soul desireth, saving her crucified Lord. The wife of a noble Persian having been invited to be present at the wedding feast of King Cyrus, her husband asked her merrily upon her return whether she did not think the bridegroom-monarch arch a most noble man. Her answer was, “I know not whether he be noble or not; my husband was so before my eye that I saw none beside him; I have seen no beauty but in him.” So if you ask the Christian in our text, “Is not Such-an-one one fair and lovely?” “No,” she replieth, “my eyes are fully fixed on Christ, my heart is so taken up with him that I cannot tell if there be beauty anywhere else; I know that all beauty and all loveliness is summed up in him.” Sir Walter Raleigh used to say, “That if all the histories of tyrants, the cruelty, the blood, the lust, the infamy, were all forgotten, yet all these histories might be re-written out of the life of Henry VIII.” And I may say by way of contrast, “If all the goodness, all the love, all the gentleness, all the faithfulness that ever existed could all be blotted out, they could all be re-written out of the history of Christ.” To the Christian, Christ is the only one she loveth; she hath no divided aims, no two adored ones; but she speaketh of him as of one to whom she has given her whole heart, and none have aught beside. “Oh thou whom my soul loveth.” 

     Come, brethren and sisters, do we love Christ after this fashion? Do we love him so that we can say, “Compared with our love to Jesus, all other loves are but as nothing.” We have those sweet loves which make earth dear to us; we do love those who are our kindred according to the flesh, we were indeed beneath the beasts if we did not. But some of us can say, “We do love Christ better than husband or wife, or brother or sister.” Sometimes we think we could say with St. Jerome, “If Christ should bid me go this way, and my mother did hang about my neck to draw me another; and my father were in my way, bowing at my knees with tears entreating me not to go; and my children plucking at my skirts should seek to pull me the other way, I must unclasp my mother, I must push to the very ground my father, and put aside my children, for I must follow Christ.” We cannot tell which we love the most till they have come into collision. But when we come to see that the love of mortals requires us to do this, and the love of Christ to do the reverse, then shall we see which we love best. Oh, those were hard times with the martyrs; with that good man for instance, Mr. Nicholas Ferrar, who was the father of some twelve children, all of them but little ones. On the road to the stake his enemies had contrived that his wife should meet him with all the little ones, and she had set them in a row kneeling down by the roadside. His enemies expected that surely now he would recant, and for the sake of those dear babes would certainly seek to save his life. But no! no! He had given them all up to God, and he could trust them with his heavenly Father; but he could not do a wrong thing even for the felicity of covering these little birds with his wings and cherishing them beneath his feathers. He took them one by one to his bosom, and looked, and looked again; and it pleased God to put into the mouth of his wife and of his children words which encouraged him instead of discouraging him, and ere he went from them his very babes had bidden the father play the man and die boldly for Christ Jesus. Ay, soul, we must have a love like this which cannot be rivalled, which cannot be shared; which is like a flood tide—other tides may come up very high upon the shore, but this cometh up to the very rocks and beats there, filling our soul to the very brim. I pray God we may know what such a love to Christ as this may mean. 

     Furthermore, I want to pluck you one more flower. If you will look at the title before us, you will have to learn not only its reality, its assurance, its unity; but you will have to notice its constancy, “O thou whom my soul loveth’ Not, “did love yesterday;” or, “may begin to love to morrow;” but “ thou whom my soul loveth,”—“thou whom I have loved ever since I knew thee, and to love whom has become as necessary to me as my vital breath or my native air.” The true Christian is one who loves Christ for evermore. He doth not play fast and loose with Jesus; pressing him to-day to his bosom, and then turning aside and seeking after any Delilah who may with her witcheries pollute him. No, he feels that he is a Nazarite unto the Lord; he cannot and he will not pollute himself with sin at any time or in any place. Love to Christ in the faithful heart is as the love of the dove to its mate; she, if her mate should die, can never be tempted to be married unto another, but she sitteth still upon her perch and sigheth out her mournful soul until she dieth too. So were it with the Christian; if he had no Christ to love he must e'en die, for his heart has become Christ's. And so if Christ were gone, love could not be; then his heart would be gone, too, and a man without a heart were dead. The heart, is it not the vital principle of the body? and love, is it not the vital principle of the soul? Yet, there are some who profess to love the Master, but only walk with him by fits, and then go abroad like Dinah into the tents of the Shechemites. Oh, take heed, ye professors, who seek to have two husbands; my Master will never be a part-husband -husband. He is not such a one as to have half of your heart. My Master, though he be full of compassion and very tender, hath too noble a spirit to allow himself to be half-proprietor of any kingdom. Canute, the Danish king, might divide England with Edmund the Ironside, because he could not win the whole country, but my Lord will have every inch of thee, or none. He will reign in thee from one end of the isle of man to the other, or else he will not put a foot upon the soil of thy heart. He was never part-proprietor in a heart, and he will not stoop to such a thing now. What saith the old Puritan? “A heart is so little a thing, that it is scarce enough for a kite's breakfast, and ye say it be too great a thing for Christ to have it all.” No, give him the whole. It is but little when thou weighest his merit, and very small when measured with his loveliness. Give him all. Let thy united heart, thy undivided affection be constantly, every hour, given up to him. 

 

"Can ye cleave to your Lord? can ye cleave to your Lord,

When the many turn aside?

Can ye witness he hath the living Word,

And none upon earth beside?

And can ye endure with the Virgin band,

The lowly and pure in heart,

Who, whithersoever their Lamb doth lead,

From his footsteps ne'er depart?

Do ye answer, 'We can?' Do ye answer, ‘We can,

Through his love's constraining power?’

But ah remember the flesh is weak,

And will shrink in the trial-hour?

Yet yield to his love, who round you now,

The bands of a man would cast;

The cords of his love, who was given for you,

To the altar binding you fast.” 

 

May that be your lot, constant, still to abide in him who has loved you. 

     I will make but one more remark, lest I weary you in thus trying to anatomize the rhetoric of love. In our text you will clearly perceive a vehemence of affection. The spouse saith of Christ, “O thou whom my soul loveth.” She means not that she loves him a little, that she loves him with an ordinary passion, but that she loves him in all the deep sense of that word. Oh, Christian men and women, I do protest unto you I fear there are thousands of professors who never knew the meaning of this word “love,” as to Christ. They have known it when it referred to mortals; they have felt its flame, they have seen how every power of the body and of the soul are carried away with it; but they have not felt it with regard to Christ. I know you can preach about him, but do you love him? I know you can pray to him, but do you love him? I know you trust him—you think you do—but do you love him? Oh! is there a love to Jesus in your heart like that of the spouse when she could say, "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his lips, for his love is better than wine.” “No,” say you, “that is too familiar for me.” Then I fear you do not love him, for love is always familiar. Faith may stand at a distance, for her look is saving; but Love comes near, for she must kiss, she must embrace. Why, beloved, sometimes the Christian so loves his Lord, that his language becomes unmeaning to the ears of others who have never been in his state. Love hath a celestial tongue of her own, and I have sometimes heard her speak so that the lips of worldlings have mocked, and men have said, “That man rants and raves—he knoweth not what he saith.” Hence it is that Love often becomes a Mystic, and speaks in mystic language, into which the stranger intrudeth not. Oh! you should see Love when she hath her heart full of her Saviour's presence, when she cometh out of her chamber! Indeed, she is like a giant refreshed with new wine. I have seen her dash down difficulties, tread upon hot irons of affliction and her feet have not been scorched; I have seen her lift up her spear against ten thousand, and she has slain them at one time. I have known her give up all she had, even to the stripping of herself, for Christ; and yet she seemed to grow richer, and to be decked with ornaments as she unarrayed herself, that she might cast her all upon her Lord, and give up all to him. Do you know this love, Christian brethren and sisters? Some of you do I know, for I have seen you evince it in your lives. As for the rest of you, may you learn it, and get above the low standing of the mass of Christ's Church at the present day. Get up from the bogs and fens and damp morasses of lukewarm Laodiceanism, and come ye up, come ye up higher, up to the mountain top, where ye shall stand bathing your foreheads in the sunlight, seeing earth beneath you, its very tempests under your feet, its clouds and darkness rolling down below in the valley, while you talking with Christ, who speaks to you out of the cloud, are almost caught up into the third heaven to dwell there with him.

     Thus have I tried to explain the rhetoric of my text, “Thou whom my soul loveth.” 

     II. Now let me come to THE LOGIC OF THE HEART, which lies at the bottom of the text. My heart, why shouldst thou love Christ? With what argument wilt thou justify thyself? Strangers stand and hear me tell of Christ, and they say “Why shouldst thou love thy Saviour so? My heart, thou canst not answer them so as to make them see his loveliness, for they are blind, but thou canst at least be justified in the ears of those who have understandings; for doubtless the virgins will love him, if thou wilt tell to them why thou lovest him. Our hearts give for their reason why they love him, first, this: We love him for his infinite loveliness. If there were no other reason, if Christ had not bought us with his blood, yet sometimes we feel if we had renewed hearts, we must love him for having died for others. I have sometimes felt in my own soul, that setting aside the benefit I received from his dear cross, and his most precious passion, which, of course, must ever be the deepest motive of love, “for we love him because he first loved us yet setting aside that, there is such beauty in Christ's character—such loveliness in his passion—such a glory in that self-sacrifice, that one must love him. Can I look into thy eyes and not be smitten with thy love? can I gaze upon thy thorn-crowned head, and shall not my heart feel the thorn within it? Can I see thee in the fever of death, and shall not my soul be in a fever of passionate love to thee. It is impossible to see Christ and not to love him; you cannot be in his company without at once feeling that you are welded to him. Go and kneel by his side in Gethsemane's garden, and I am persuaded that the drops of gore as they fall upon the ground, shall each one of them be irresistible reasons why you should love him. Hear him as he cries “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Remember that he endures this out of love to others, and you must love him. If you ever read the history of Moses you believe him to be the grandest of men, and you admire him, and look up to him as to some huge colossus, some mighty giant of the olden times. But you never feel a particle of love in your hearts towards Moses; you could not; his is an unloveable character; there is something to admire, but nothing to win attachment. When you see Christ you look up, but you do more, you feel drawn up; you do not admire so much as love; you do not adore so much as embrace; his character enchants, subdues, o'erwhelms, and with the irrisistible impulse of its own sacred attraction—it draws your spirit right up to him. Well did Dr. Watts say—

 

“His worth, if all the nations knew,

Sure the whole earth would love him too.” 

 

     But still, love hath another argument why she loveth Christ, namely, Christ's love to her. Didst thou love me Jesus, King of heaven, Lord of angels, Master of all worlds, didst thou set thy heart on me? What, didst thou love me from of old, and in eternity choose me to thyself? Didst thou continue to love me as the ages rolled on? Didst thou come from heaven to earth that thou mightest win me to be thy spouse, and dost thou love me so that thou dost not leave me alone in this poor desert world; and art thou this very day preparing a house for me where I shall dwell with thee for ever? A very wretch Lord I should prove had I no love to thee. I must love thee, it is impossible for me to resist it; that thought that thou lovest me hath compelled my soul to love thee. Me! me! what was there in me; couldest thou see beauties in me; I see none in myself; my eyes are red with weeping, because of my blackness and deformity; I have said even to the sons of men, “Look not upon me, for I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me.” And dost thou see beauties in me? What a quick eye must thou have, nay, rather it must be that thou hast made my eyes to be thy looking-glass, and so thou seest thyself in me, and it is thy image that thou lovest; sure thou couldst not love me. That ravishing text in the Canticles, where Jesus saith to the spouse, “Thou art all fair my love, there is no spot in thee.” Can you imagine Christ saying that to you; and yet he has said it, “Thou art all fair my love, there is no spot in thee,” he hath put away thy blackness, and thou standest in his sight as perfect as though thou hadst never sinned, and as full of loveliness as though thou wert what thou shalt be when made like unto him at last. Oh brothers and sisters, some of you can say with emphasis, “Did he love me, then I must love him.” I run my eye along your ranks, there sits a brother who loveth Christ who not many months ago cursed him. There sits a drunkard—there another who was in prison for crimes; and he loved you, even you; and you could abuse the wife of your bosom, because she loved the dear name, you were never happier than when you were violating his day, and showing your disrespect to his ministers, and your hatred to his cause, yet he loved you. And me! even me!—forgetful of a mother's prayers, regardless of a father's tears, having much light, and yet sinning much, he loved me, and has proved his love. I charge thee, oh my heart, by the roes and by the hinds of the field that thou givest thyself wholly up to my Beloved, and that thou spend and be spent for him. Is that your charge to your heart this morning? Oh! it must be if you know Jesus, and then know that Jesus loves you. 

     One more reason does love give us yet more powerful still. Love feels that she must give herself to Christ, because of Christ's suffering for her. 

 

                   “Can I Gethsemane forget?                              “When to the cross I turn mine eyes,

                   Or there thy conflict see,                                   And rest on Calvary,

                   Thine agony and bloody sweat,                       O Lamb of God! my sacrifice!

                    And not remember thee?”                                 I must remember thee.”      

 

My life when it shall ebb out may cause me to lose many mental powers, but memory will love no other name than is recorded there. The agonies of Christ have burnt his name into our hearts; you cannot stand and see him mocked by Herod's men of war, you cannot behold him made nothing of, and spit upon by menial lips, you cannot see him with the nails pierced through his hands and through his feet, you cannot mark him in the extreme agonies of his awful passion without saying, “And didst thou suffer all this for me, then I must love thee, Jesus. My heart feels that no other can have such a claim upon it as thou hast, for none others have spent themselves for me as thou hast done. Others may have sought to buy my love with the silver of earthly affection, and with the gold of a zealous and affectionate character, but thou hast bought it with thy precious blood, and thou hast the richest claim to it, thine shall it be, and that for ever.”

     This is love's logic. I may well stand here and defend the believer's love to his Lord. I wish I had more to defend than I have. I dare stand here and defend the utmost extravagancies of speech, and the wildest fanaticisms of action, when they have been done for love to Christ. I say again, I only wish I had more to defend in these degenerate times. Has a man given up all for Christ? I will prove him wise if he has given up for such an one as Christ is. Has a man died for Christ? I write over his epitaph that he surely was no fool who had but the wisdom to give up his heart for one who had his heart pierced for him. Let the Church try to be extravagant for once; let her break the narrow bounds of her conventional prudence, and for once arise and dare to do wonders—let the age of miracles return to us—let the Church make bare her arm, and roll up from her the sleeves of her formality, let her go forth with some mighty thought within her, at which the worldling shall laugh and scoff, and I will stand here, and before the bar of a scoffing world, dare to defend her. Oh Church of God, thou canst do no extravagance for Christ. Ye may bring out your Marys, and they may break their alabaster boxes, but he deserves the breaking well. Thou mayst shed thy perfume, and give to him livers of oil, and ten thousands of the fat of fed beasts, but he deserves it well. I see the Church as she was in the first centuries, like an army storming a city—a city that was surrounded with a vast moat, and there was no means of reaching the ramparts except by filling up the moat with the dead bodies of the Church's own martyrs and confessors. Do you see them? A bishop has just now fallen in; his head has been smitten off with the sword. The next day at the tribunal there are twenty wishing to die that they may follow him; and on the next day twenty more; and the stream pours on till the huge moat is filled. Then, those who follow after, scale the walls and plant the blood-red standard of the cross, the trophy of their victory upon the top thereof. Should the world say, "Why this expense of blood?” I answer, he is worthy for whom it was shed. The world says, “Why this waste of suffering? why this pouring out of an energy in a cause that at best is but fanatical?” I reply, “He is worthy thy, he is worthy, though the whole world were put into the censer, arid all men's blood were the frankincense, he is worthy to have it all sacrificed before him. Though the whole Church should be slaughtered a hecatomb, he is worthy upon whose altar it should be sacrificed. Though every one of us should lie and rot in a dungeon, though the moss should grow upon our eyelids, though our bodies should be given to the kites, and the carrion crows, he is worthy to claim the sacrifice; and it were all too mean a gift for such an one as he is.” Oh Master, restore unto the Church the strength of love which can hear such language, and feel it to be true. 

     III. Now I come to my last point, upon which I must dwell but briefly. Rhetoric is good, logic is better, but A POSITIVE DEMONSTRATION is the best. 

     I sought to give you rhetoric when I expounded the words of the text. I have tried to give you logic now that I have given you the reasons for the love in the text. And now I want you to give—I cannot give it—I want you to give, each for himself, the demonstration of your love for Christ in your daily lives. Let the world see that this is not a mere label to you—a label for something that does not exist, but that Christ really is to you “him whom your soul loves.” You ask me how you shall do it, and I reply thus: I do not ask you to shave your crown and become a monk, or to cloister yourself, my sister, alone, and become a nun. Such a thing might even show your love to yourself rather than your love to Christ. But I ask you to go home now, and during the days of the week engage in your ordinary business; go with the men of the world as you are called to do, and take the calling which Christ has given to you, and see if you cannot honour him in your calling. I, as a minister of course, must find it to some degree less honourable work to serve Christ than you do, because my calling doth as it were supply me with gold; and for me to make a golden image of Christ out of that is but small work, though God wotteth I find it more than my poor strength could do apart from his grace. But for you to work out the image of Christ in the iron, or clay, or common metal of your ordinary conversation,—Oh, this will be glorious indeed! And I think you may honour Christ in your sphere as much as I can in mine ; perhaps more, for some of you may know more trouble, you may have more poverty, you may have more temptation, more enemies; and therefore you, by loving Christ under all these trials, may demonstrate more fully than ever I can, how true your love is to him, and how soul-inspiring is his love to you. Away, I say, and look out on the morrow, and the next day, for opportunities of doing something for Christ. Speak up for his dear name if there be any that abuse him; and if you find him wounded in his members, be you as Eleanor, Queen of England's king, suck the poison out of his wounds. Be ready to have your name abused rather than he should dishonoured; stand up always for him, and be his champion. Let him not lack a friend, for he stood thy friend when you had none beside. If thou meet with any of his poor people, show them love for his sake, as David did to Mephibosheth out of love to Saul. If thou knowest any of them to be hungry, set meat before them; thou hadst as good set the dish before Jesus Christ himself. If thou seest them naked, clothe them; thou dost clothe Christ when thou clothest his people. Nay, do thou not only seek to do this good temporally to his children, but seek thou evermore to be a Christ to those who are not his children as yet. Go among the wicked and among the lost, and the abandoned; tell them the words of him; tell them Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners; go after his lost sheep; be thou shepherd as he was a shepherd, so wilt thou show thy love. Give what thou canst to him; when thou diest, make him heir of some of thy estate; I should not think I loved my friend, if I did not sometimes make him a present; I should not think I love Christ if I did not give him somewhat, some sweet cane with money, some fat of my burnt sacrifices. I heard the other day a question asked concerning an old man, who had long professed to be a Christian. They were saying he left so much and so much, and one said, “But did he leave Christ anything in his will?” Some one laughed and thought it ridiculous. Ah! so it would be, because men do not think of Christ as being a person; but if we had this love it would be but natural to us to give to him, to live for him, and perhaps if we had ought at last to let him have it,—that so even dying we might give our friend in our dying testament a proof that we remembered him, even as he remembered us in his last testament and will. Oh brothers and sisters—what we want more of in the Church is, more extravagant love to Christ. I want each of you to show your love to Jesus, sometimes by doing something the like of which you have never done before. I remember saying one Sabbath morning that the Church ought to be the place of invention as much as the world. We do not know what machine is to be discover covered yet by the world, but every man wit is at work to find out something new. So ought the wits of the Church to be at work to find out some new plan of serving Christ. Robert Raikes found out Sabbath-schools; John Pounds the Ragged-school: but are we to be content with carrying on their inventions? No; we want something new. It was in the Surrey Hall, through that sermon, that our brethren first thought of the midnight meetings that were held,—an invention suggested by the sermon I preached upon the woman with the alabaster box. But we have not come to the end yet. Is there no man that can invent some new deed for Christ? Is there no brother that can do something more for him than has been done to-day, or yesterday, or during the last month? Is there no man that will dare to be strange and singular and wild, and in the world’s eye to be fanatical—for that is no love which is not fanatical in the eye of man. Depend upon it, that is no love that only confines itself to propriety. I would the Lord would put into thy heart some thought of giving an unwonted thank-offering to him, or of doing an unusual service, that so Christ might be honoured with the best of thy lambs, and that the fat of thy bullocks might be exceeding glorified by your proof of love to him.

     God bless you as a congregation. I can only invoke his blessing, for O these lips refuse to speak of love which I trust my heart knows, and which I desire to feel more and more. Sinner, trust Christ before thou seek to love him, and trusting Christ thou art saved.