Struggles of Conscience

By / Sep 23

Struggles of Conscience

 

"How many are mine iniquities and sins? make me to know my transgression and my sin."—Job 13:23

 

     There are many persons who long to have a deeper sense of their sinfulness, and then with a certain show of conscientious scruple, they make an excuse for the exercise of simple faith. That spiritual disease, which keeps sinners from Christ, assumes a different shape at different times. In Luther's day the precise evil under which men laboured, was this: they believed in being self-righteous, and so they supposed that they must have good works before they might trust in Christ. In our day the evil has taken another, and that a most extraordinary shape. Men have aimed at being self-righteous after quite a singular fashion; they think they must feel worse, and have a deeper conviction of sin before they may trust in Christ. Many hundreds do I meet with, who say they dare not come to Christ and trust him with their souls, because they do not feel their need of him enough; they have not sufficient contrition for their sins they have not repented as fully as they have rebelled. Brethren, it is the same evil, from the same old germ of self-righteousness, but it has taken another and I think a more crafty shape. Satan has wormed himself into many hearts under the garb of an angel of light, and he has whispered to the sinner, "Repentance is a necessary virtue; stop until you have repented, and when you have sufficiently mortified yourself on account of sin, then you will be fit to come to Christ, and qualified to trust and rely on him." It is with that deadly evil I want to grapple this morning. I am persuaded it is far more common than some would think. And I think I know the reason of its great commonness. In the Puritanic age, which was noted certainly for its purity of doctrine, there was also a great deal of experimental preaching, and much of it was sound and healthy. But some of it was unscriptural, because it took for its standard what the Christian felt and not what the Saviour said; the inference from a believer's experience, rather than the message which goes before any belief. That excellent man, Mr. Rogers, of Deadham, who has written some useful works, and Mr. Sheppard, who wrote The Sound Believer, Mr. Flavel, and many others, give descriptions of what a sinner must be before he may come to Christ, which actually represent what a saint is, after he has come to Christ. These good brethren have taken their own experience; what they felt before they came into light, as the standard of what every other man ought to feel before he may put his trust in Christ and hope for mercy. There were some in the Puritanic times who protested against that theology, and insisted that sinners were to be bidden to come to Christ just as they were; not with any preparation either of feeling or of doing. At the present time there are large numbers of Calvinistic ministers who are afraid to give a free invitation to sinners; they always garble Christ's invitation thus: "If you are a sensible sinner you may come;" just as if stupid sinners might not come;" and then they describe what that feeling of need is, and give such a high description of it that their hearers say, "Well, I never felt like that," and they are afraid to venture for lack of the qualification. Mark you, the brethren speak truly in some respect. They describe what a sinner does feel before he comes, but they make a mistake in putting what a sinner does feel, as if that were what a sinner ought to feel. What the sinner feels, and what the sinner does, until he is renewed by grace, are just the very opposite of what he ought. We always get wrong when we say one Christian's experience is be measured by the Word of God; and what the sinner should feel is to be measured by what Christ commands him to feel, and not by what another sinner has felt. Comparing ourselves among ourselves, we are not wise. I do believe there are hundreds and thousands who remain in doubt and darkness, and go down to despair, because there is a description given and a preparation for Christ demanded, to which they cannot attain—a description indeed which is not true, because it is a description of what they feel after they have found Christ, and not what they must feel before they may come to him. Now, then, with all my might I come this morning to break down every barrier that keeps a soul from Christ; and, as God the Holy Spirit shall help me, to dash the battering ram of truth against every wall that has been built up, whether by doctrinal truth or experimental truth, that keeps the sinner from Christ, who desires to come and to be saved by him.

     I shall attempt to address you in the following order this morning. First, a little by way of consolation; then, a little by way of instruction; a little more upon discrimination or caution; and in the last place, a few sentences by way of exhortation.

     I. First, beloved, let me speak to you who are desiring to feel more and more your sins, and whose prayer is the prayer of the text, "Lord how many are mine iniquities and my sins, make me to know my transgression and my sin." Let me try to COMFORT YOU. It ought to give you much solace when you recollect that the best of men have prayed this prayer before you. The better a man is, the more anxious is he to know the worst of his case. The more a man gets rid of sin and the more he lives above his daily faults and errors, the more does he cry "Search me, O God, and know my heart; O try me and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Bad men do not want to know their badness; it is the good man, the man who has been renewed by grace, who is anxious to discover what is his disease, that he may have it healed. Ought it not then be to some ground of comfort to you, that your prayer is not a prayer which could come from the lips of the wicked, but a prayer which has constantly been offered by the most advanced of saints, by those who have most grown in grace. Perhaps that is a reason why it would not be offered by you, who just now can scarcely hope to be a saint at all; yet it should be a matter of sweet rejoicing that your prayer cannot be an evil one, because the "Amens" of God's people, even those who are the fathers in our Israel, go up to God with it. I am sure my aged brothers and sisters in Christ now present, can say unanimously, "That has often been my prayer, 'Lord let me know my iniquity and my sin; teach me how vile I am, and lead me daily to Christ Jesus that my sins may be put away."'

     Let this reflection also comfort you—you never prayed like this years ago when you were a careless sinner. It was the last thing you would ever think of asking for; you did not want to know your guilt. No! you found pleasure in wickedness. Sin was a sweet morsel to you; you only wanted to be let alone that you might roll it under your tongue. If any told you of your evil, you would rather they let it alone. "Ah," said you, "what business is that of yours? no doubt I make some mistakes and am a little amiss, but I don't want to be told so." Why, the last meditation you would ever have thought of entertaining would have been a meditation upon your own criminality. When conscience did speak, you said, "Lay down, sir, be quiet!" When God's word came home sharp to you, you tried to blunt its edge—you did not want to feel it. Now, ought it not to be some comfort that you have had such a gracious change wrought in you, that you are now longing for the very feeling which at one time you could not endure? Surely, man, the Lord must have begun a good work in you, for you would not have such wishes and desires as these unless he had put his hand to the plough, and had begun to plough the barren, dry, hard soil of your heart.

     Yet further, there is another reason why you should take comfort; it is very probable you do already feel your guilt, and what you are asking for you already have in measure realized. It often happens that a man has the grace which he seeks for, and does not know he has it, because he makes a mistake as to what he should feel when he has the blessing. He has already got the boon which he asks God to give him. Let me just put it in another shape. If you are sorry because you cannot be sorry enough on account of sin, why you are already sorry. If you grieve because you cannot grieve enough, why you do grieve already. If it is a cause of repentance to you that your heart is very hard and that you cannot repent, why you do repent. My dear hearer, let me assure you for your comfort, that when you go down on your knees and say "Lord, I groan before thee, because I cannot groan; I cannot feel; Lord help me to feel;" why, you do feel, and you have got the repentance that you are asking for. At least you have got the first degree of it; you have got the mustard seed of repentance in tiny grain. Let it alone, it will grow; foster it with prayer and it will become a tree. The very grace which you are asking of God is speaking in your very prayer. It is repentance which asks God that I may repent more. It is a broken heart which asks God to break it. That is not a hard heart which says, "Lord I have a hard heart; soften my heart." It is a soft heart already. That is not a dead soul which says, "Lord I am dead, quicken me." Why, you are quickened. That man is not dumb who says, "Lord I am dumb; make me speak." Why, he speaks already; and that man who says, "Lord I cannot feel," why, he feels already. He is a sensible sinner already. So that you are just the man that Christ calls to him. This experience of yours, which you think is just the opposite of what it ought to be, is just what it should be. Oh, be comforted in this respect. But sit not down in it; be comforted enough to make you run to Jesus now,—just as you are. I take thee, sinner, to be just the man the minister is always seeking after. When we say that Christ came that there might be drink given to the thirsty, you are just the man we mean—you are thirsty. "No," you say, "I don't feel that I am thirsty, I only wish I did." Why, that wish to feel thirsty is your thirst. You are exactly the man; you are far nearer the character than if you said "I do thirst, I have the qualification;" then, I should be afraid you had not got it." But, because you think you have it not, it is all the clearer proof that you have this qualification, if indeed there be any qualification. When I say, "Come unto Christ all ye that labour and are heavy laden;" and you say, "Oh, I don't feel heavy laden enough," why, you are the very man the text means. And when I say, "Whosoever will, let him come," and you say, "I wish I were more willing, I will to be willing, "why you are the man. It is only one of Satan's quibbles—a bit of hell's infernal logic to drive you from Christ. Be a match for Satan now, this once and say "Thou lying fiend, thou tellest me I do not feel my need of a Saviour enough. I know I feel my need; and, inasmuch as I long to feel it I do feel it. Christ bids me come to him, and I will come—now, this morning. I will trust my soul, just as it is, in the hands of him whose body hung upon the tree. Sink or swim, here I am resting on him, and clinging to him as the rock of my salvation."
Take then, these words of comfort.

     II. I must now go on to my second point, and give a few words of INSTRUCTION.

     And so, my hearer, you anxiously long to know how many are your iniquities and your sins; and your prayer is, "Lord, make me to know my transgression and my sin." Let me instruct thee, then as to how God will answer your prayers. God hath more than one way of answering the same prayer; and though the ways are diverse, they are all equally useful and efficacious. It sometimes happens that God answers this prayer by allowing a man to fall into more and more gross sin. At our last church meeting, a brother, in giving his experience of how he was brought to God, said he could not feel his guilt, his heart was very hard; till it happened one day he was tempted to the utterance of an untruth, and no sooner had he uttered it than he felt what a despicable creature he was to tell a lie to another. So that one sin led him to see the deceitfulness and vileness of his own heart; and from that day he never had to complain that he did not feel his guilt enough, but, on the contrary, he felt too guilty to come to Christ. I believe many a man, who has been educated morally, who has been trained up in such a way that he has never fallen into gross sin, finds it very difficult to say, "Lord, I feel myself to be a sinner." He knows he is a sinner, and he knows it as a matter of fact, but he cannot altogether feel it. And I have known men who have often envied the harlot and the drunkard, because, say they, "Had I been like them, I should feel more bitterly my sin, and should feel I was one of those whom Jesus came to save." It may be, though I could hope it may not be so, that God may suffer thee to fall into sin. God grant it may never be so; but if thou ever shouldst, thou wilt then have cause to say, "Lord, I am vile; now mine eyes sees myself; I abhor myself in dust and ashes, because of this my great sin." Or possibly, you may not actually fall into sin, but be taken to the very verge of it. Did you ever know what it was on a sudden to be overtaken by some fiery temptation, to feel as if the strong hand of Satan had gripped you about the loins, and was pulling on, you knew not whither, nor why, nor how, but against your will, to the very verge of the precipice of some tremendous sin, and you went on and on, till, on a sudden, just as you were about to take a dive into sin, your eyes were opened, and you said, "Great God, how came I here,—I, who hate this iniquity?—I, who abhor it?—and yet my feet had almost gone, my steps had well-nigh slipped." Then in the recoil you say, "Great God, hold thou me up, for if thou dost not hold me up, I fall indeed." Then you discover that there is inbred sin in your heart only lacking opportunity to spring out; that your soul is like a magazine of gunpowder, only needing the spark, and there shall come a terrible catastrophe; that you are full of sin, grim with iniquity and evil devices, and that it only wants opportunity and strong temptation to destroy you body and soul, and that for ever. It happens sometimes that this is the way God answers this prayer.

     A second method by which the Lord answers this prayer is by opening the eyes of the soul; not so much by providence, as by the mysterious agency of the Holy Spirit. Let me tell thee, my hearer, if thou shouldst ever have thing eyes opened to see thy guilt, thou wilt find it to be the most awful sight that thou hast ever beheld. I have had as much experience of this as any man among you. For five years as a child there was nothing before my eyes but my guilt; thought I do not hesitate to say that those who observed my life would not have seen any extraordinary sin, yet as I looked upon myself, there was not a day in which I did not commit such gross, such outrageous sins against God, that often and often have I wished I had never been born. I know John Bunyan's experience when he said he wished he had been a frog, or a toad, rather than a man, so guilty did he feel himself to be. You know how it is with yourselves. It is as when a housewife cleans her chamber, she looks, and there is no dust; the air is clear, and all her furniture is shining brightly. But there is a chink in the window shutter, a ray of light creeps in, and you see the dust dancing up and down, thousands of grains, in the sunbeam. It is all over the room the same, but she cannot see it only where the sunbeam comes. It is just so with us; God sends a ray of divine light into the heart, and then we see how vile and full of iniquity it is. I trust, my hearer, that your prayer may not be answered as it was in my case, by terrible conviction, awful dreams, nights of misery, and days of pain. Take care; you are praying a tremendous prayer when you are asking God to show you your wickedness. Better for you to modify your prayer, and put it thus,—"Lord, let me know enough of my iniquity to bring me to Christ; not so much as to keep me from him, not so much as to drive me to despair; but only enough to be divorced from all trust in myself, and to be led to trust in Christ alone." Otherwise, Like Moses, you may be constrained to cry out in a paroxyism of agony, "O Lord, kill me I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favor in thy sight, and let me not see my wretchedness."

     Still, however, the practical question recurs, and you ask me again, "Tell me how I can feel the need of my Saviour." The first advice I give you is this: Particularise your sins. Do not say "I am a sinner;" it means nothing; everybody says that. But say this, "Am I a liar? Am I a thief? Am I a drunkard? Have I had unchaste thoughts? Have I committed unclean acts? Have I in my soul often rebelled against God? Am I often angry without a cause? Have I a bad tempter? Am I covetous? Do I love this world better than the world to come? Do I neglect prayer? Do I neglect the great salvation?" Put the yourself much more readily than by taking yourself in the gross as being a sinner. I have heard of a hypocritical old Monk who used to whine out, while he whipped his back as softly as he could, "Lord, I am a great sinner, as big a sinner as Judas;" and when some one said, "Yes that you are—you are like Judas, a vile old hypocrite," then he would say, "No I am not." Then he would go on again, "I am a great sinner." Some one would say, "You are a great sinner, you broke the first commandment;" and then he would say, "No I have not." Then when he would go on and say, "I am a great sinner," some one would say, "Yes, you have broken the second commandment," and he would say, "No I have not;" and the same with the third and the fourth, and so on right through. So it came to pass he had kept the whole ten according to his own account, and yet he went on crying he was a great sinner. The man was a hypocrite, for if he had not broken the commandments, how could he be a sinner at all? You will find it better not to dwell on your sins in the mass, but to pen them, count them over, and look at them individually, one by one.

     Then let me advise you next to hear a personal ministry. Sit not where the preacher preaches to you in the plural number, but where he deals with you as a man alone, by yourself. Seek out a preacher like Rowland Hill, of whom it is said that if you sat in the back seat in the gallery, you always had a notion that Mr. Hill meant you; or, that if you sat in the doorway where he could not see you, yet you were quite convinced he must know you were there, and that he was preaching right at you. I wonder indeed, if men ever could feel their sins under some ministers—genteel ministers, intellectual, respectable, who never speak to their hearers as if they did anything wrong. I say of these gentlemen what Hugh Latimer said of many ministers in his day, that they are more fit to dance a morris-dance than to deal with the souls of men. I believe there are some this day more fit to deliver smart lectures and bring out pleasing things to soothe carnal minds, than to preach the Word of God to sinners. We want the like of John the Baptist back again, and Boanerges; we want men like Baxter to preach,

"As though they might not preach again,
As dying men to dying men."

     We want men like John Berride, who have pulled the velvet out of their mouths years ago and cannot speak fine words—men that hit hard, that draw the bow and pull the arrow to its very head, and send it right home, taking deadly aim at the heart and the conscience of men, ploughing deep, hitting at the private lusts and at the open sins, not generalising but particularizing, not preaching to men in the mass but to men in the detail, not to the mob and the crowd, but to each man separately and individually. Grow not offended with the minister if he come home too close to you; remember that is his duty. And if the whip goes right round you, and stings you, thank God for it, be glad of it. Let me, if I sit under a ministry, sit under a man who uses the knife with me sometimes, a man who will not spare me, a man who will not flatter me. If there should be flattery anywhere, let it not be at any rate in the pulpit. He who deals with men's souls should deal with them very. plainly; the pulpit is not the place for fine words, when we have to deal with the solemnities of eternity. Take that advice, then, and listen to a personal, home-smiting ministry.

     Next to that, if thou wouldst know thy sins, study much the law of God let the twentieth chapter of Exodus be often before your eyes, and take with it as a commentary, Christ's sermon, and Christ's speech when he said, "He that looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery already with her in his heart." Understand that God's commandments mean not only what they say in words, but that they touch the thought, the heart, the imagination. Think of that sentence of David, "Thy commandments are exceeding broad." And thus, I think, thou wilt soon come to detect the heinousness of thy sin, and the blackness of thy guilt. And if thou wouldst know still more, spend a little time in contemplating the fatal end of thy sin, shouldst thou die impenitent. Dare to look downward to that fire which must be thy eternal doom, unless Jesus Christ save thee. Be wise, sinner, and look at the harvest which thou shalt surely reap if thou sowest tares; sometimes let these words ring in thy ears, "These shall go away into everlasting punishment." Open thy ears and listen to the end of this text—"Where there is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth." Let such a passage as this be chewed over in your soul, "The wicked shall be cast into hell with all the nations that forget God." These solemn thoughts may help you. Such books as Allaine's Alarm, Baxter's Call to the Uncoverted, Doddridge's Rise and Progress, may have a good effect on your mind, in helping you to see the greatness of your guilt, by making you meditate upon the greatness of its punishment. But if thou wouldst have a better, and more effectual way still, I give thee one other piece of advice. Spend much of your time in thinking upon the agonies of Christ, for the guilt of thy sin is never so clearly seen anywhere as in the fact that it slew the Saviour. Think what an evil thing that must be which cost Christ his life, in order to save thee. Consider, I say, poor soul, how black must be that vileness which could only be washed out with his precious blood! how grievous those offences which could not be expiated unless his body were nailed to the tree, his side pierced, and unless he died in fever and in thirst, crying, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Go thou to the garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives, and see the Saviour in his bloody sweat! Go thou to Pilate's hall, and see him in his shameful accusations! Go thou to the hall of Herod's praetorian guard, and see there how the mighty men set Christ at nought! And go then, last of all, to Calvary, and see that spectacle of woe, and if these do not show thee the blackness of thy sin, then nothing can. If the death of Christ do not teach thee thy need of a Saviour, then what remedy remains for a heart so hard, for a soul so blind as thine?

     Thus have I given you words of instruction. Forget them not; put them into practice. Be ye not hearers only, but doers of the word.

     III. And now, very briefly indeed, a few sentences by way of DISCRIMINATION.

     Thou art longing, my hearer, to know thy great guilt and to feel thy need of Jesus. Take care that thou dost discriminate between the work of the Spirit and the work of the devil. It is the work of the Spirit to make thee feel thy self a sinner, but it never was his work to make thee feel that Christ could forget thee. It is the work of the Spirit to make thee repent of sin; but it is not the work of the Spirit to make thee despair of pardon; that is the devil's work. You know Satan always works by trying to counterfeit the work of the Spirit. He did so in the land of Egypt. Moses stretched out his rod and turned all the waters into blood. Out came Jannes and Jambres and by their cunning and sleight of hand, they have a large piece of water brought, and they turn that into blood. Then Moses fills the land with frogs—the ungracious sorcerers have a space cleared and they fill that with frogs; thus they opposed the work of God by pretender to do the same work; so will the devil do with thee. "Ah!" says God the Holy Spirit; "Sinner thou canst not save thyself" "Ah!" says the devil, "and he cannot save thee either." "Ah!" says God the Holy Spirit "thou hast a hard heart, only Christ can soften it." "Ah!" says the devil, "but he wont soften it unless thou dost soften it first." "Ah!" says God the Spirit "thou hast no qualification, thou art naked, and ruined, and undone." "Yes," says the devil, "it is no use your trusting Christ, because you have no good in you, and you cannot hope to be saved." "Ah!" says God the Spirit, "thou dost not feel thy sin; thou art hard to repent, because of thy hardness." "Ah!" says the devil, "and because thou art so hard-hearted Christ cannot save thee." Now do learn to distinguish between the one and the other. When a poor penitent sometimes thinks of destroying himself, do you think that is the Spirit's work? "It is the devil's work; 'he was a murderer from the beginning." One sinner says, "I am so guilty, I am sure I can never be pardoned." Is that the Spirit's teaching—that lie? Oh! that comes from the father of lies. Take heed, whenever you read a biography like that of John Bunyan's Grace Abounding, as you read, say, "that is the Spirit's work, Lord send me that"—"that is the devil's work, Lord keep me from that." Do not be desirous to have the devil tearing your soul to pieces; the less you have to do with him the better, and if the Holy Ghost keeps Satan from you, bless him for it. Do not wait to have the terrors and horrors that some have, but come to Christ just as you are. You do not want those terrors and horrors, they are of little use. Let me remind you of another thing; I ask you not to acquaint yourself with your sins so as to hope to know them all, because you cannot number them with man's poor arithmetic. Young, in his Night Thoughts, says, "God hides from all eyes but his own that desperate sight—a human heart." If you were to know only the tenth part of how bad you have been you would be driven mad. You who have been the most moral, the most excellent in character, if all the past sins of your heart could stand before you in their black colours, and you could see them in their true light, you would be in hell, for indeed it is hell to discover the sinfulness of sin. Do you mean to say that you would go down on your knees and ask God to send you to hell, or drive you mad? Be not so foolish; say, "Lord, let me know my guilt enough to drive me to Christ; but do not gratify my curiosity by letting me know more; no, give me enough to make me feel that I must trust Christ, or else be lost, and I shall be well content if thou givest me that, though thou deniest me more.

     Once again, my dear hearers, listen to this next caution, for it is very important. Take care thou dost not try to make a righteousness out of thy feelings. If you say, "I may not go to Christ till I feel my need of him"—that is clear legality; you are on the wrong track altogether, because Christ does not want you to feel your need in order to prepare for him; he wants no preparation, and anything which you think to be a preparation is a mistake. You are to come just as you are—today, as you are, now—not as you will be, but just now, as you now are. I do not say to you, "Go home and seek God in prayer; I say come to Christ now at this very hour;" you will never be in a better state than you are now, for you were never in a worse state, and that is the fittest state in which to come to Christ. He that is very sick is just in the right state to have a doctor; he that is filthy and begrimed is just in the right state to be washed; he that is naked is just in the right state to be clothed. That is your case. But you say, "I do not feel my need." Just so: your not feeling it proves you to have the greater need. You cannot trust your feelings, because you say, you have not any. Why, if God were to hear your prayers arid make you feel your need, you would begin to trust in your feelings, and would be led to say, "I trust Christ because I feel my need;" that would be just saying, "I trust myself." All these things are but Popery in disguise; all this preaching to sinners that they must feel this and feel that before they trust in Jesus, is just self-righteousness in another shape. I know our Calvinistic brethren will not like this sermon—I cannot help that—for I do not hesitate to say, that Phariseeism is mixed with Hyper-Calvinism more than with any other sect in the world. And I do solemnly declare that this preaching to the prejudice and feelings of what they call sensible sinners, is nothing more than self-righteousness taking a most cunning and crafty shape, for it is telling the sinner that he must be something before he comes to Christ. Whereas the gospel is preached not to sensible sinners, or sinners with any other qualifying adjective, but to sinners as sinners, to sinners just as they are; it is not to sinners as repentant sinners, but to sinners as sinners, be their state what it may, and their feelings whatever they may. Oh, sinners, Mercy's door is wide open flung to you this morning; let not Satan push you back saying, "You are not fit;" You are not fit! that is to say, you have all the fitness Christ wants, and that is none at all. Come to him just as you are. "Oh," says one, "but you know that hymn of Hart's?

'All the fitness he requireth
Is to feel your need of him.'

     I cannot get that." Let me counsel you then, never to quote part of a hymn, or part of a text: quote it all:—"All the fitness he requireth

Is to feel your need of him;
This he gives you,
'Tis his Spirits rising beam."

     Come and ask him to give it to you, and believe he will give it you. Do believe my Master is longing to save you: trust him, act on that better, sinner, and you shall be saved, or else I will be lost with you. Do but believe that my Master has got a loving heart, and that he is able to forgive, and that he has a mighty arm and is able to deliver you. Do him the honour now of not measuring his corn with your bushel. "For his ways are not your ways, neither are his thoughts your thoughts. "As high as the heaven is above the earth, so high are his ways above your ways, and his thoughts above your thoughts." To-day he says to you, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." Sinner, if thou believest and art not saved, why God's Word is a lie, and God is not true. And wilt thou ever dream that to be the case? No, sinner; close in now with the proclamation of this gospel, and say,—

"I'll to the gracious King approach,
Whose sceptre mercy gives;
Perhaps he may command my touch,
And then the suppliant lives.

"Perhaps he will admit my plea,
Perhaps will hear my prayer;
But if I perish, I will pray,
And perish only there."

     Thou canst not perish trusting in Christ. Though thou hast no good works and no good feelings, yet if thine arms are round the cross, and if the blood be sprinkled on thy brow, when the destroying angel shall pass through the world, he shall pass over thee. Thus is it written:—"When I see the blood, I will pass over you;"—not "when I see your feelings about the blood,"—not "when I see your faith in the blood," but "when I see the blood, I will pass over you." learn to discriminate between a sense of sin which would humble thee, and a sense of sin which would only make thee proud; when thou hast come to say, "I have felt my sin enough, and therefore I am fit to come to Christ," it is nothing but pride dressed in the garb of humility.

     Let me tell the one more thing before I have done with thee on this point. Anything which keeps thee from Christ is sin, whatever though thou hast which keeps thee from trusting Christ to-day is a sinful thought; and every hour thou continuest as thou art, as unbeliever in Christ, the wrath of God abideth on thee. Now why shouldst thou be asking for a thing which may help to keep thee from Christ all the longer? You know now that you have nothing good in you; why not trust in Christ for all? But you say, "I must first of all feel more." Poor soul, if you were to feel more acutely, you would find it all the harder to trust Christ. I prayed to God that he would show me my guilt; I little thought how he would answer me. Why I was such a fool that I would not come to Christ unless the devil dragged me there. I said, "Christ cannot have died for me, because 1 have not felt miserable enough." God heard me, and, believe me, I will never pray that prayer again; for when I began to feel my guilt, then I said, "I am too wicked to be saved," and I found the very thing I had been asking for was a curse upon me, and not a blessing. So, if thou shouldst feel what thou askest to feel, it might be the cause of they condemnation. Be wise, therefore, and listen to my Master's voice; stay not to gather together the fuller's soap, and the refiner's fire, but come thou and wash now in Jordan, and be clean; come, and stop not till thy heart be turned up with the plough, and thy soul hewn down with the axe. Come as thou art to him now. What man! wilt not thou come to Christ, when he has said, "Whosoever will, let him come?" Wilt thou not trust him when he looks down and smiles on thee and says, "Trust me, I will never deceive thee?" What, canst thou not say to him, "Master, I am very guilty, but thou hast said, 'Come now, and let us reason together, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.' Lord, this mercy is too great, but I believe it, I take thee it thy word; thou hast said, "Return, ye backsliding children, and I will forgive your iniquities." Lord, I come to thee, l know not how it is that thou canst forgive such an one as I am, but I believe thou canst not lie, and on that promise do I rest my soul. I know thou hast said, "All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men;" Lord, I cannot understand how there can be power in the blood to wash away all manner of blasphemy, but thou hast said it, and believe it. It is thy business to make thy own word true, not mine, and thou hast said, "Whosoever will, let him come;" Lord, I am not worthy, but I do will to come, or if I do not will, yet I will to will, therefore will I come, just as I am, I know I have no good feeling to recommend myself to thee, but then thou dost not want good feeling in me, thou wilt give me all I want.

     Oh my dear hearers, I feel so glad I have such a gospel as this to preach to you. If you have not received it, I pray God the Holy Ghost to send it home to you. It is so simple that men cannot believe it is true. If I were to bid you take off your shoes and run from here to York and you would be saved, why you would do it at once, and the road to York would be thronged; but when it is nothing but the soul-quickening words, "Believe and live," it is too easy for your proud hearts to do. If I told you to go and earn a thousand pounds and endow a church with it, and you would be saved, you would think the price very cheap; but when I say, "Trust Christ and be saved," you cannot do that—it is too simple. Ah, madness of the human heart! strange, strange, besotted sin, when God makes the path plain, men will not run in it for that very reason; and when he sets the door wide open, that is the very reason they will not come in. They say if the door was half a-jar and they had to push it open, they would come in. God has made the gospel too plain and too simple to suit proud hearts. May God soften proud hearts, and make you receive the Saviour.

     IV. Now I come to, my last point, which I have already trenched upon, and that is by way of EXHORTATION.

     Poor sinner, seven years ago you were saying just what you are saying now, and when seven more years shall have some, you will be saying just the same. Seven years ago you said, "I would trust Christ, but I do not feel as I ought." Do you feel any better now? And when another seven years are come you will feel just as you do now. You will say, "I would come, but I do not feel fit—I do not feel my need enough." Ay, and it will keep going on for ever, till you go down to the pit of hell, saying as you go down, "I do not feel my need enough," and then the lie will be detected, and you will say, "It never said in the Word of God, 'I might come to Christ when I felt my need enough,' but it said 'Whosoever will, let him come.' I would not come as I was, therefore I am justly cast away." Hear me, sinner, when I bid thee come to Jesus as thou art, and give thee these reasons for it.

     In the first place, it is a very great sin not to feel your guilt, and not to mourn over it, but then it is one of the sins that Jesus Christ atoned for on the tree. When his heart was pierced; he paid the ransomed price for your hard heart. Oh! sinner, if Christ had only died that we might be forgiven of other sins except our hard hearts, we should never go to heaven for we have, all of us, even we who have believed, committed that great sin of being impenitent before him. If He had not died to wash that sin away as well as every other sin, where should we be? The fact that thou canst not weep, nor sorrow as thou wouldst, is an addition to thy guilt; but did not Christ wash you from that sin, black though it be? Come to him, he is able to save you even from this.

     Again, come to Jesus, because it is He only who can give you that heart for which you seek. If men were not to come to Christ till they feel as they should feel, they would never come at all. I will freely confess that if I had never trusted Christ until I felt I might have trusted him, I never could I trusted him, and could not trust him now. For there are times with me when after I have preached the gospel as plainly as I could, l have returned to my own chamber and my heart has been dead, lumpish, lying like a log within my spirit, and I have thought then if I could not come to Christ as a sinner, I could not come anyhow else. If I found in the text one word before that word "sinner"—"Jesus Christ came into the world to save"—and then an adjective, and then "sinners," I should be lost. It is just because the text says, "sinners" just as they are, that "Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners," that I can hope he came to save me. If it had said Jesus Christ came into the world to save soft-hearted sinners, I should have said, "Lord, my heart is like adamant." If it had said Jesus came into the world to save weeping sinners, I should have said, "Lord, though I press my eyelids, I could not force a tear." If it had said Jesus came into the world to save sinners that felt their need of him, I should say, "I do not feel the need of it; I know I do need thee, but I do not feel it." But, Lord, thou camest to save sinners, and I am saved. I trust thou camest to save me, and here I am, sink or swim, I rest on thee. If I perish, I will perish trusting thee; and if I must be lost, in thy hands it shall be; for in my own hands I will not be in any respect, or in any degree whatever. I come to that cross, and under that cross I stand; "thy perfect righteousness my beauty is—my glorious dress."

     Come sinner to Christ, because he can soften thine heart, and thou canst never soften it thyself. He is exalted on high to give repentance and remission of sins; not merely the remission, but the repentance too. He gives his grace not merely to those who seek it, but even to those that seek it not. He gives repentance not to those who repent themselves, but to those who cannot repent. And to those who are saying, "Lord I would, but cannot feel;" "I would, but cannot weep;" I say Christ is just the Saviour for you—a Christ that begins at the beginning and does not want you to begin—a Christ that shall go to the end, and won't want you to finish—a Christ that does not ask you to say Alpha, and then he will be the Omega: but he will be both Alpha and Omega. Christ, that is the beginning and the end, the first and the last. The plain gospel is just this, "Look unto me, and be ye saved all the ends of the earth." "But, Lord, I cannot see anything." "Look unto me." "But, Lord, I do not feel." "Look unto me." "But, Lord, I cannot say I feel my need." "Look unto me, not unto thyself; all this is looking to thyself." "But, Lord, I feel sometimes that I could do anything, but a week passes, and then I am hard of heart." "Look unto me." "But Lord, I have often tried." "Try no more, look unto me." "Oh, but Lord thou knowest." "Yes. I know all things. I know everything, all thine iniquity and thy sins, but look unto me." "Oh, but often, Lord, when I have heard a sermon I feel impressed, yet it is like the morning cloud and the early dew; it passes away." "Look unto me," not to thy feelings or thy impressions, look unto me." "Well," says one, "but will that really save me, just looking to Christ?" My dear soul, if that does not save thee I am not saved. The only way in which I have been saved, and the only gospel I can find in the Bible is looking to Christ. "But if I go on in sin," says one. But you cannot go on in sin; your looking to Christ will cure you that habit of sin. "But if my heart remains hard?" It cannot remain hard; you will find that looking to Christ will keep you from having a hard heart. It is just as we sing in the penitential hymn of gratitude,—

"Dissolved by thy mercy I fall to the ground,
And weep to the praise of the mercy I've found."

     You will never feel as you ought until you do not feel what you ought; you will never come to Christ until you do not feel that you can come. Come as thou art; come in all thy poverty, and stubbornness, and hardness, just as you are now, take Christ to be your all in all. Sound your songs ye angels, smite your golden harps ye redeemed ones; there are sinners snatched from hell to-day; there are men who have trusted Christ this morning. Though they scarcely know it, their sins are all forgiven; their feet are on the rock; the new song shall soon be in their mouth, and their goings shall be stablished. Farewell, ye brethren, turn to God this morning; God shall keep you, and you shall see his face in glory everlasting. Amen.



A Single Eye and Simple Faith

By / Sep 16

A Single Eye and Simple Faith

 

“The light of the body is the eye; if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness.”—Matthew 6:22-23. 

 

THIS sentence has in it the nature of a proverb. It is well worthy of frequent quotation, as it is applicable to such various circumstances. It is one of the most pithy, sententious utterances of our Saviour. So full of meaning is it, that it would be utterly impossible for us to draw out all its analogies. It is capable of adaptation to so many different things, that the ablest commentators despair of being able to give you the whole of its fulness. But remark, that very much of the meaning is to be discovered by the use; as the varieties of our personal experience, furnish varieties of practical reflection. For example, we may interpret the passage of conscience as the eye of the soul,—conscience must be clear and simple. If the conscience, which is the candle of the Lord, and which searcheth the secret parts of the belly, be not light but darkness, how great must the darkness be! If a man has not enough conscience to know dark ness from light and light from darkness, and he puts bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter; if that only power, on which seem to tremble some rays of the ancient light of manhood, be darkened,—if the lighthouse be quenched, if the windows be sealed up,—how great, indeed, must be the darkness of man ! We cannot wonder, when once a man has a depraved and seared conscience, that he runs into iniquity willingly, commits sin with both hands, and goes from step to step till he obtains the highest seat in the scale of sin. The symbol of the eye here may also refer to. the understanding, taken in a yet broader sense than as the conscience; for, I suppose, that conscience is, after all, but the understanding exercised about moral truth. If the understanding of man be dark, how dark must be man's soul! If that which judges, and weighs, and tests; if that which is to us the teacher, the recorder of the town of Mansoul; if that be amiss, if the recorder make wrong entries, if the understanding hath bad scales and useth divers weights, how gross, indeed, must be the ignorance of man! What! Seal up the windows of the house; surely the thickness of the walls will not so much keep away the light as the sealing up of the windows. Let but the understanding be enlightened, and the rays will diffuse themselves, and illuminate every faculty of the whole man: but, ah, if it be darkened, man is in darkness as respects all his powers. Yet again, the term “eye” may also respect the heart; for, in some sense, the heart is the eye of the soul. The affections turn the man in a certain direction, and whither the affections go the eye is turned. There is such a connection between the heart and the eye of man, that well might this text have such a reference. If the affections be pure, the man will be pure; but if the affections themselves be perverted, debased, degraded, need not marvel that the man's whole life should be degraded, debased, and filthy too. You see the aptness of the proverb by the numerous moral truths it may serve to illustrate; but time will only allow me to take it in more than one or two aspects, and may God bless what I shall have to say to all our hearts. 

     I shall regard our text as having to do, first, with the eye of our faith; and, secondly, with the eye of our obedience.

     I. First, with THE EYE OF OUR FAITH. Faith to the spiritual man is his eye. It is with that he looks to Christ —looks unto him whom he hath pierced, and weeps for his sin. It is by faith that he walks; not by natural sight, but by the sight which is yielded to him by his spiritual eye—his faith. It is by this faith that he sees things not as yet visible to the eye of sense; realizes the unseen, and beholds the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things which the natural eye cannot discern. Faith is to the Christian an eye both quick and sharp, an eye which discovers sin, an eye which discerns the Master's will, an eye which looks forward, and down a lengthy racecourse to the reward which awaits all those who so run as to receive the prize, looking unto Christ Jesus. Faith peers across the stream of death, and descries the rest which remaineth for the people of God. Faith hath indeed, so sharp a vision, that it seeth the glories which God hath prepared for them that love him; beholds the face of the crowned Redeemer in bliss, and meekly bows before him in adoration. Faith, then, is the eye of the believer's soul. Any diseases, therefore, in our faith will bring disease into the entire man. If our faith be weak, then the light in our entire spirit will be very hazy. He who staggers at the promise, through unbelief, will stagger in other places besides his faith, he will stagger on his knees, his hands will become weak, and his heart will often palpitate. He who can see well with the eye of faith, can do all things. If our faith be the measure of our strength, he that is strong in faith, is strong to do mighty exploits. By his God shall he break through a troop; in the name of his God shall he leap over a wall. But he who is afraid of the promise, staggering at its greatness, instead of adoring the greatness of the giver,—he who looks at the blessing, and trembles because of his unworthiness, forgetful of the graciousness of him who giveth gifts to the undeserving,— he must be a weak and sorrowful man. Little faith is safe, but he is seldom happy. It is very rarely that Ready-to-halt halt can dance upon his crutches. Miss Much-afraid is usually of a sorrowful countenance. But Great-heart is a man whose face is anointed with fresh oil; and Faithful is he who can look into the midst of the fires, and fear not their fury; while Hopeful is one that can pass through the river Jordan itself and cry, “Fear not, I feel the bottom, and it is good.” Diseases, I say, in our faith will bring disease into the whole spiritual man; and weakness here will make us weak everywhere. If our faith also be variable, if it hath its uphills and its downhills, its ebbings and its flowings, then it will in every ebb and flow, affect the whole spiritual being. When faith is in its flood-tide, the soul floats joyously above every rock, nor fears even the thought of a quicksand. But when faith is at its ebb, then—though blessed be God the tide never goes so low as to wreck the vessel—yet sometimes she seems to bump upon the sands, or the rocks grate against her keel. It is hard sailing with Little-faith. It is difficult travelling on the road to heaven when faith varies and is unstable as water. That Christian cannot excel whose faith is of an inconstant character. But, my brethren, there is one disease of faith which will not merely bring disease into the soul, but positive death; there is one sickness of our faith which is mortal, which must bring the man who labours under it inevitably to destruction: and that is a want of singleness in our faith, the want of simplicity in it. He who has two grounds of trust is lost. He who relies upon two salvations, and cannot say of Christ, “He is all my salvation, and all my desire,” that man is not only in danger of being lost, but he is condemned already; because in fact he believeth not on the Son of God. He is not alive to God at all, but rests partly on the cross, and then in some measure on something else. He only is the quickened and living child of God whose faith is “fixed on nothing less than Jesu's blood and righteousness.”

     It is with this disease of faith I have to deal this morning. Be it so, that the light of thy body is the eye of thy faith, therefore when thy eye be single, when thou seest but one object, and lookest unto Jesus alone, thy whole body shall be full of light. There shall be the light of peace and joy in Christ Jesus. But if thy eye be evil, and it must be evil if it is not single, if it be divided between two objects, know that thy whole body shall be full of darkness; doubt and despondency shall cast its thick shadows over thee now, and yet worse thou shalt be presently overtaken with the Egyptian darkness of despair, when God shall cast thee away. For hear me, thou who art trusting to two things—trusting partly in Christ, and partly in thy good works, or in ceremonies, or in almsgiving, or in prayer, or in thy experience, or thy doctrinal knowledge, all or any of these as objects of confidence, do but treacherously cast a slur upon the name of Jesus, the Saviour of men. What, sirs! and is not Jesus able enough to save with his own right hand, that thou must come and seek some assistance for him? Why, man, thou makest him to be less than omnipotent, for omnipotence can do all things without assistance. And yet thou wouldst intermeddle with him, and think that he has not might enough to save, unless thou shall supplement his strength by the addition of thy own. What would have been said to the brighest angel if he had stepped forward with impertinent audacity to assist his Maker in the creation of the world? Or, what would be said of Gabriel himself, if he should offer to bend his shoulders that he might assist the Eternal One in bearing up earth's huge pillars, and sustaining the arches of heaven? Surely, such impertinence would be punished with the direst doom! And yet were his sin less blasphemous than thine, thou that thinkest Christs blood is not enough to ransom thee, and thou must bring thy own gold and silver, and precious stones? What have I said? Nay, thou must bring thy dross and dung to eke out the Saviour's redemption. Thou sayest his cross is not high enough, and the transverse beam not broad enough to bear thee up and lift thee up to heaven, and so thou wouldst add thy puny strength to the strength of him who is God's equal, who is the eternal God himself, though he bear our sins in his own body on the tree! Oh, soul, have done with such pride, I pray thee; for such pride must sink thee lower than the lowest hell. It was by less pride than this that Satan fell; and surely thou wilt not escape. Christ will never let thee enter heaven whilst thou dost blot, and blur, and stain, and smear the escutcheon of his omnipotence. Be done, then, with seeking to have two objects for thy trust. 

     Besides, let me ask you now with whom it is that thou wouldst yoke the Son of God? Art thou about to yoke him to thyself? Shall the eternal God plough with thee, a puny worm, a creature of to-day—one that knows nothing, that is, and yet is not, that is gone before the breath of the morning gale? What! wouldst thou yoke Leviathan with a worm, or seek to put a gnat to the chariot with an elephant? If thou didst, the disparity would not so shut out every semblance of reason as to put thyself in conjunct with Jehovah's Christ. To yoke an angel with a fly were absurd enough, but to put thyself side by side with the Lord's Anointed, that thou mayest do a part, and he may do the rest—oh man, be not so mad. Let go the absurd idea, and know that Jesus is Saviour alone, he will have no helper, no compeer, no assistant. He will do all, or he will do nothing; for when thou puttest another with him thou dost dishonour and degrade him. Is thy baptism to assist his blood? drops of water on an infant's brow to save its soul? or a bath in which thou art immersed to help thee wash away sins which no mortal’s blood could purge? What! and is the eating of bread and wine to be the means of saving a soul because Christ's own flesh and blood could not suffice to save? I love both of these sacred ordinances, both Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, but if you bring them as part-saviours, and rest on them, I say, away with them! away with them! away with them! An antichrist, even when made of gold, is as damnable an antichrist as when made of dross; and even God’s own ordinances, if they are put as helpers to Christ, or if observed with a sense of merit, must be met with the cry, “Away with them! Away with them!" for they cannot save, and they may destroy. "He that eateth and drinketh unworthily,” and he doth so who trusteth to them, “eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.” They may condemn; they cannot save apart from Christ. And wilt thou add thy almsgiving to Christ? What! and is thy paltry dirt to buy a heaven which Christ's blood is not enough to buy? What! and wilt thou add thy prayers? Are thy prayers to have a merit in them which his strong crying and tears have not already? Pray earnestly and constantly, I beseech thee; give of thy alms abundantly; but, oh, rest not in these things; for good as they be, they will certainly exclude you from heaven, if they in any measure whatever make a part of the foundation of your hope.  

 

"None but Jesus, none but Jesus,

Can do helpless sinners good.” 

 

     Oh thou whose eye is not single, let me remind you of another thing. Dost thou not know, O man, that thy idea of mixing thy merits or thy doings up with Christ betrays an utter ignorance of what thou art, and of what thy good works are? Your good works are stained with sin. Your best performances need to be washed in blood. When you have prayed you have need to ask forgiveness for your prayer. Though you should give your body to be burned, and spend your whole life in the service of Christ, yet at last you will have to confess you were but an unprofitable servant. You will have to be saved by grace, or not at all. It is thy ignorance, man, that makes thee think thou canst help Christ, for thou art naked, and poor, and miserable. Thou mayest chink thy counterfeit merits in thy hand, and say, “I am rich and increase in goods thou mayest look upon thy spangled cob-web robe, and say, as the dew drops hang on it, “I am adorned with diamonds, and clad in needlework and fine linen.” But ah, soul, it is but spider-web, and only thy ignorance maketh thee think otherwise. Oh that God the Holy Ghost may enlighten thee. That eye which sees anything good in the creature is a blind eye; that eye which fancies it can discern aught in man, or aught in anything he can do to win the divine favour, is stone blind to the truth as yet, and needs to be lanced and cut, and the cataract of pride removed from it. Yet, again, O sinner, thou sayest, “My merits and my doings will help Christ.” Why, man, is not this contrary to all precedent? Who has helped Christ as yet? When he stood in the Eternal Council with his Father, who gave him wisdom? Who was prompter to our divine representative and put words of wisdom into his lips? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him? Did he not ordain the covenant alone? And when he came to build the heavens and arch the skies, wast thou with him then? When he laid the pillars of earth, when he weighed the clouds in scales and the hills in balances, was there any to be his counsellor? Wast thou one of the king's cabinet? Oh thou audacious worm! to counsel him and to help him in redemption, when thou couldst not help him in the planning of redemption, nor in his creation work. Who was with him when he routed the enemies of his people, and redeemed their souls with blood? Hear him: “I have trodden the winepress alone, and of the people there was none.” The blood upon his garment is his own blood, not the blood of any of his fellow comrades. His disciples forsook him and fled. He looked and there was no man: he wondered that there was no man to save. His own arm brought salvation, and it is his own righteousnesss which upheld him. And do you think after he has fought the battle alone that he needs you to be his ally and save you? Does he want your strength to back up his eternal might? Stand back, and lay thy finger upon thy mouth, and say, “Lord I am vile! Thou hast finished the work which thy Father gave thee to do, and I cannot interfere therein. Thou hast done it, thou hast done it all, and I accept thy finished righteousness, thy complete redemption. I am willing to be anything, that thou mayst be all in all; I take thy grace as a free gift; I come to thee naked to be clothed, helpless to be helped, dead to be made alive; I come to thy merit without pretence of any; I come, although without any fitness, without any qualification, with a hard heart, with a stubborn will; yet I come to thee just as I am. Lord, do the work from beginning to end; work in me to will and to do of thy good pleasure, and then help me to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling.” 

     Sinner, with divided hope, a solemn thought I have to suggest to thee on the terribleness of thy delusion; remember, if thou trustest in any measure to thy works thou art under the law, and as many as are under the law are under the curse. Oh, what multitudes of professed Christians might be thundered at by that text. It is true they would not say that they hoped to be saved by legal works; but then they hope to be saved by certain works which they regard as being the works of the Christian dispensation. Now, remember, there never were three covenants, but only two. One is the covenant of works. If any man is to be saved by that, he must keep the covenant and never break it; but inasmuch as every man has already broken it, whosoever is under that covenant is accursed. He is accursed by the law. The ten great commandments utter ten solemn curses upon him. The other covenant is a covenant of grace. There is no covenant half of works and half of grace. The covenant of grace is a covenant of free gift, in which Christ gives to all those who willingly receive, but asks nothing of them, albeit, that afterwards he worketh in them all that his Spirit loves and maketh them to serve him out of gratitude; not that they may be saved, but because they are saved; not to win salvation, but because they have obtained it, and wish to let that salvation manifest and develop itself in all their daily acts. Many professing Christians, I believe, imagine that there is a remedial covenant, a sort of sincere-obedience covenant, in which if a man does as much as he can he will be saved by that. Oh, sinner, God will never take a composition of thee. There is no court of heavenly bankruptcy where so much in the pound may be accepted, and the debtor then discharged. It is all or none. If you come to pay, it must be to the uttermost farthing. Agree with thine adversary quickly, therefore, and take the receipt of thy debt freely from his loving hand; for if not, and thou attemptest to pay, thou shalt never be let out of prison until all is paid—and that will never be, though thou swelter in the pains of hell for ever and ever. I know that people labour under the idea that going to church and chapel, taking the sacrament, and doing certain good deeds that pertain to a respectable profession of religion, are the way to heaven. It is the way to hell, believe me. Although it is strewn with clean gravel, and there be grassy paths on either side, it is not the road to heaven for all that. You know how I have insisted in reading the chapter this morning, upon the certainty of good works. I have told you that it is only by this that you can be known, and that you are not Christians unless you produce good works. But at the same time, beloved, if you rest on anything but Christ, or on anything with Christ—if you try to prop up his grace—if you try to add to the perfect robe of his righteousness,—you are under the law, and you are under the curse; and you shall find that curse in the daily trembling of your conscience, and meet with it in its fulness at the awful day of God, when the Lord shall curse every soul that is under it.

     But one remark more, and I will leave this point, of the singleness of the eye of faith. If thou canst be saved by two things, then the glory will be divided. A quaint minister once said, if sinners went to heaven of their own works and their own will, they would throw up their caps and say, “glory be unto myself,”—men would take the honour, and certainly the praise, if they contributed any part to their own salvation. The song would not be, “Unto him that loved us,” but, “unto him and myself,” or “with my works and my merits.” Think you, sirs, that Christ died to win divided homage and share a divided throne? Did he come from heaven's highest glories and stoop to the cross of deepest woe that his name might be sung in conjunction with your poor name? Oh, no! God forbid that we should indulge in so profane a thought. He must be all; he must have all the crown, and every jewel in it shall be his own. “Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name be all the honour and glory and majesty, for ever and ever.” Every syllable of every song, every shout of every angel, every cry of every redeemed one, must bear the same sacred burden, and must rise up to the same divine throne; and we ought, we must go, bow, and ascribe to him, and him only, “Glory, honour, and majesty and power, and dominion and might, for ever and ever. Amen.” Suffer this word of exhortation. Poor sinners, trust Jesus Christ now. Just as you are, come to him now. Bring nothing with you; come empty handed. Robe not yourself; come naked, Wash not yourself; come filthy. Seek not to soften your heart; come with it hard as it is. Try not to get a little comfort; come desparingly. Thou canst come no how else. But come now to his cross. He was naked when he bought thee, and thou must be naked when he wins thee. He was in shame when he served for thee, and thou must be ashamed when he shows his love to thee. He drank the wormwood when he redeemed thee, and if the wormwood of despair be in thy mouth, yet come thou to him now, and say to him now, “Heal my backslidings, receive me graciously, and love me freely and when thou hast said it,“ venture on him, venture wholly”; throw thy arms about his cross; and be this the spirit of thy faith—sink or swim, here I must abide. I know I perish if I withdraw; I cannot perish here. Jesus let thy pitying eye look down on me. I do believe, I will believe that thou hast power to save even me. I trust thee with my all for ever. If thou canst say that, sinner, then you are saved, your sins are forgiven you; go in peace. Take up your bed and walk thou palsied man. “In the name of Jesus of Nazareth I bid thee stretch out thy hand, thou with the withered arm.” Awake ye, arise and live. He that believeth is justified from all things. Your sins are gone; your soul is accepted. You are saved this morning, and you shall see his face, and sing his love in glory everlasting. 

     II. Now I come to my second point.

     It is a singular fact, that to obey and to believe is in the sacred language very much the same, so that truly to believe Christ is to give security for a willing obedience. As soon as ever we believe him we obey him. In fact, Christ does not promise to save us if we disobey his laws. But his promise is this, if we trust him he will save us; but, then he has his way of saving us, and he will only save us in his own way, and if we really trust him we shall yield to his ways and be willing to be obedient to his commands. The eye of obedience, however, sometimes in the Christian is not single—I mean in the professed Christian. Really that word has been so dishonoured that I often use it without meaning the true child of God thereby; and sad that I should be compelled too often to apply the term “Christian,” to those that are not of Christ, and who have never learned his love nor lcnown his name. There are many professors whose eye of obedience is not single. They live in this world they say “for Christ,” but really no one can believe them. If you can judge them by their fruits, they seem to live for almost any other object than Christ. At any rate, if they do give Jesus their allegiance, they seem to give him but half their heart, and serve him with a love that is neither cold nor hot, but lukewarm. Sometimes they are zealous for Jesus, and at other times just as eager after the things of this world. Nay, I must confess that even true Christians do not always keep the eye single; the mote gets into it, if not the beam; and there are times when even God's minister has to bow his knee, and with bitter weeping to confess that he cannot keep his motives always single. I have often to mourn over this myself. I can say from my inmost heart that I love my Master’s cause, but I have to ask myself this, “Dost not thou love to see thy Master's cause prosper by thee better than by another?” Oh that wicked thought, that ever it should cross our hearts! And yet, what minister of Christ is there that has not to confess it, if he but examine himself. I do feel that when we are in our right state, we would as soon souls were saved by anybody body else as ourselves, and just as lief that God should bless another as us. For it can make no difference to us, if we really love the Master, who it is by whom he honours himself. Our honour, our standing, ought to be less than nothing—yet it will creep up. One serves Christ at times very earnestly, but then gets the fly into the sweet pot of ointment—the wishing to serve Christ that self may share in the pleasure of doing good. We must be content to do good and have no self gratulations to indulge; content to serve Christ and know no reward; content to serve our generation, though our names should be cast out; content, though we should only hope to hear the “Well done” when we shall be in our Master's presence.

     Well, now, let me say a few things about having a single eye. Professors, I speak to you at large, whether you be Christians or no. Get rid of that evil eye which looks asquint and cross way, looking one way at the world and the other way at the cross, not straight forward at any object, but is turned here, and there, and everywhere. Remember, this is the worldling's eye. The worldling thinks he can serve God and Mammon, and wilt thou think the same, thou professed follower of Christ? Wilt thou try to serve two masters who are at deadly enmity to one another? I tell thee, man, when God will say to thee, “Take no thought for the morrow, be careful for nothing;” Mammon will say to thee, “Look ahead, be careful for everything;” and when God saith to thee, “Give of thy substance to the poor;” Mammon will say, “Hold it tight, it is that giving that spoils everything;” and when God will say unto thee, “Set not thy affections on the things of earth;” Mammon will say, “Get money, get money, get it anyhow;” and when God saith, “Be upright;” Mammon will say, “Cheat thy own father if thou canst win by it.” Mammon and God are at such extreme ends of the earth and so desperately opposed, that I trust, Christian, thou art not such a fool, such an arrant fool as to attempt to serve them both. If thou dost thou hast the worldling's eye, and thou art a worldling thyself. Remember, too, if thou triest to do this we may suspect thee of having the hypocrite's eye. As Matthew Henry says, “The hyprocrite is like the waterman; he pulls this way, but he looks that. He pretends to look to heaven, but he pulls towards his own interest. He says, ‘he looks to Christ,’ but he is always pulling towards his own private advantage. The true Christian, however, is like a traveller; he looks to the goal and then he walks right straight on to it; he goes the way he is looking.” Be you then not like the hypocrite, who hath this double eye, looking one way and going the other. An old Puritan said, “A hypocrite is like the hawk; the hawk flies upward, but he always keeps his eye down on the prey; let him get up as high as he will, he is always looking on the ground. Whereas, the Christian is like the lark, he turns his eye up to heaven, and as he mounts and sings he looks upward and he mounts upward." Be you one of God’s own larks. Be an honest lark, looking and going in the same direction with a single purpose, for your double purpose will make the world suspect you of hypocrisy. Yet further, remember, Christian, unless you have a single eye your usefulness will be entirely ruined. This has been the spiritual death of many a man, who bade fair to do good in the world, but who did not live with one object. I have known ministers preach a sermon, in which they wished to profit all, but they wished to please the deacon in the green pew too, and the sermon fell dead to the ground. We have known men too, anxious to win sinners, but at the same time they were equally anxious that they should be thought well of in their oratory, so that they should not say a course rough word, for fear of degrading their standing among the eloquent of the age. It is all over with the usefulness of such. A Christian minister, above every man, must have no object in life but to glorify his God, and whether it be fair weather or foul weather it should be nothing to him. He should be a man who looks for fights and expects storms; and in proportion to his faithfulness he will be sure to meet with both. He must be one who girds up his loins and makes ready for the battle; let him understand it is to be battle; and make no preparation for the flesh. And, Christian, if you would do good in this world, you must live for that simple object, and not live for anything else If you run after two objects, you will not come upon either; or rather, the world will get the mastery over you. When Christians have two aims they are like two rivers which flow near the city of Geneva, the Arve and the Rhone. The Rhone comes flowing along, a beautiful blue—a blue which painters give to Italian skies, and to the rivers of Switzerland. It is no exaggeration, they are as blue as they are painted. The Arve comes down from the glacier, a chalky, dirty white. I stood sometime ago at the place where these two rivers join. It was not long before the Arve had quenched the Rhone; all that beautiful blue had fled away and nothing but white was seen. “Evil communications corrupt good manners.” If your life is made up of two streams, worldliness running in like the Arve, and you hope to have spirituality running in like the blue Rhone, you will soon be mistaken. Your spirituality, if their be such a thing, will become a stalking horse to your worldliness; your religion will be swallowed hp, for you cannot serve two masters; cannot serve either of them well, and you cannot serve Christ at all, if you are divided in your aims.

     And then, further than this, Christian, do you not know that if you have divided aims you will be an object of contempt to the world? The world comes to despise the Church at this very period, because she perceives that the Church is not chaste to her husband, Christ. Ah, I love not to say what I am going to say, but really when I have looked on some professing Christians, a thought I do not like to indulge, has crossed my mind, I have seen them so worldly, so sharp in their business, so mingled with the world, that you could not tell which was worldling, and which was Christian, and I have thought, did Christ shed his blood to make such a thing as this? Is the only thing that Christ’s redemption can produce a thing no better than nature can bring forth? For I have seen worldly men better than such Christians, in many virtues excelling them. And I have thought, “What! is it worth while making all this noise about redemption that does not redeem these men any more than this, but leaves them slaves to the world?” And I have looked at them, and the tear has been in my eye as I have thought, “Is this the Holy Ghost's work? and was there any Holy Ghost necessary here at all? would they not be as good men without the Holy Spirit, as they seem to be with him? Is this the best thing heaven can produce? Has heaven been in labour and brought forth this mouse? Is this all the gospel has to give?” Now, judge ye, whether I be not warranted in such thoughts; and if they cross my mind, think how often such thoughts must flit across the mind of the worldling. Oh, says he, “this is your religion is it? Well, it is no such mighty thing after all, I bought such goods at such a shop, and I was fairly taken in. This is your Christianity is it?” I worked for such a master,” says another, “he is a deacon, he is a skinflint too. This is your Christianity.” “Ah,” says a labourer, “I am employed by So-and-so, and he is just as proud and domineering in his behaviour to his workmen, as if he were a Pharaoh, and not a follower of Christ. This is your Christianity, is it?” Indeed, the worldling has good ground for saying something like it. How hath the fine gold become dim! How hath the glory departed! The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, how have they become as earthen pitchers, the work of the hands of the potter! Oh Zion! thy Nazarites were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk, but their face is become black as a coal, and their skin is tarnished with mire. Thy sons lie in the corners of the street like a wild bull in the net. Thy strong men faint, and thy valiant ones fail, because thy glory is departed from thee. Would to God we were all Christians who profess to be Christians, and that we lived up to what we profess. Then would the Christian shine forth “clear as the sun, fair as the moon and what besides, think you?—why, “terrible as an army with banners.” A consistent church is a terrible church; an honest, upright church would shake the world. The tramp of godly men is the tramp of heroes; these are the thundering legions that sweep everything before them. The men that are what they profess to be, hate the semblance of a lie, whatsoever shape it wears, and would sooner die than do that which is dishonest, or that which would be degrading to the glory of a heaven-born race, and to the honour of him by whose name they have been called. O Christians! you will be the world's contempt, you will be their despising and hissing unless you live for one object. I know the world will pat you on the back and flatter you, but it will despise you all the while. When I am abused, I know what it means. I look at it in the right spirit and say, “Be it so; it is the highest compliment the world can pay me.” If I am serving my God, I must not expect to be honoured of men; but if I am not serving – my God, I know I shall be despised of men. So will it be with you. Get a single solitary thought in your mind, and that thought the precious love of Jesus, and go and live it out, and come what may, you will be respected though abused. They may say you are an enthusiast, a fanatic, a fool, but those names from the world are titles of praise and glory. The world does not take the trouble to nickname a man unless he is worth it. It will not give you any censure unless it trembles at you. The moment they begin to turn at bay, it is because they feel they have a man to do with. So it will be with you. Be men, each one of you, stand up for Christ, and the word you believe, and the world will respect you yet. I met with a coachman some time ago, who said to me, “Do you know the Rev. Mr. So-and-so?” “Yes, I do know him very well,” “Well,” said he, “he’s the sort of man I like; he's a minister, and I like him very much; I like his religion.” “What sort of a religion is it?” I said, for I was anxious to know what sort of a religion it was he could like. “Why,” said he, “you see this box seat; well, he has ridden on this box seat every day for this six months, and he's the kind of man I like, for he has never said anything about religion all the while.” That is the sort of Christian the world likes, and that is the sort they despise. They say, “Ah, we will not speak against him, he is one of our own.” And if he were to come out one day and speak about religion, what would they say? “He does not mean it, let him alone; he was silent as a man, and when he speaks, he speaks in his official capacity.” There is no respect for that man, for it is not the man in the office, but it is the office that overpowers the man for the time being. Let it not be so with you, tread the world under your feet, and serve God with all your heart, for you may never expect to have peace in your conscience until you have turned all the idols out of your soul. Live for Christ alone, for where your consecration ends, there your peace ends, too. Christian, you can never hope to stand accepted before God, while you only serve him with half your heart; you can never hope to enter into heaven triumphantly when you have only used part of your manhood hood in the service of your Redeemer. 

     I speak vehemently when I come to this point. I do pray you my dear hearers by your hope of heaven, by your hope to be delivered from the devouring fire, and to enter into a glory and bliss, either serve God or Mammon. Whichever you do, do it with all your heart; but do not try to do both, because you cannot. Oh, if ye be Christians live with all your might for Christ. Keep not back part of the price, like Ananias and Sapphira, but give Jesus all— 

 

“All your goods, and all your hours,

All your time, and all your powers,

All you have, and all you are,”

 

and you will be a happy, blessed, honoured, useful man. Divide your allegiance, and you shall be a hissing reproach to sinners; you shall be a pain to yourself, you shall be a dishonour here, and you shall be held up to shame and everlasting contempt when Christ shall appear in the glory of his Father and all his holy angels with him. Charge, Christians, in the name of Christ, charge against the embattled marks of sin! But do it with one heart. Break not your rank; hold not out the flag of truce to the world with one hand, and draw the sword with the other. Throw away the scabbard. Be the sworn enemies for ever of everything that is selfish and sinful; and trusting in the precious blood of Christ, and wearing the cross in your hearts, go forward conquering and to conquer, making mention of your Master's name, preaching his word, and triumphing in his grace alone. God grant, if we must have two eyes, that they may be both clear ones, one the eye of faith wholly fixed on Christ, the other the eye of obedience equally and wholly fixed on the same object.



Man’s Weakness, and God’s Annointing

By / Sep 9

Man's Weakness, and God's Anointing

 

"And I am this day weak, though anointed king; and these men the sons of Zeruiah be too hard for me." – 2 Samuel 3:39

 

     You will remember that David was secretly anointed king over Israel by Samuel, but he waited many a weary year before the crown actually rested upon his head. For a long time he was an exile from the very country of which he was afterwards to be the sovereign. He was hunted about by the remorseless cruelty of Saul till he became like a partridge upon the mountains, and the feet of the wild roe were not more used to flight than those of David. A band of men gradually gathered round him, over whom he became the captain, and he lived the life of an adventurer, the leader of heroic soldiers, who at once protected their country from its foreign foes, and sheltered its disaffected subjects. At last Saul fell in battle upon Mount Gilboa, and Jonathan, the heir-at-law to the throne, fell also upon that dewless mountain. David was assured of the death of Saul by the fact that the head of the king was brought to him by an Amalakite, whose crime he punished with death, though he hoped to have been rewarded with abundance of treasure.

     David’s own kinsmen at once recognized him as the leader of their clan, and he, in Hebron began to reign over Judah and the south of the country; but still the mass of the nation had not yielded to him, and Abner, the commander-in-chief of Saul’s standing army, fearful lest he might lose his influence and be supplanted by Joab, who naturally would become commander-in-chief under David, set up Ishbosheth as the successor of Saul, and so there became two kingdoms, — David, the acknowledged head of the one, and Ishbosheth, the master of the larger part of the territory. Abner was playing king-maker, and he soon showed the he felt his power and meant to use it; for having engaged in a quarrel with Ishbosheth, on account of Abner’s desire to take to wife a concubine of Saul, he at once resented the inference of Ishbosheth, and determined to put down the king whom he himself had put up. He came to David, therefore, and made terms with him, upon which he would give him up the kingdom, and Ishbosheth should cease to be his rival. Joab hears of this, and not wishing to be supplanted, and perhaps seriously believing that Abner was not honest, follows after him, entices him back, and just outside the walls of Hebron, the city of refuge, slays him in cool blood, — a most dastardly and treacherous murder! David had nothing to do with it; he did his best to exonerate himself from it, and pronounced an awful curse upon Joab the murderer, and upon all his posterity. He had not, however, the manly courage to summon Joab to the bar as a murderer. David was afraid of him; the man had all the army at his back; and instead of being, as in his youthful days, fearless of man, David became for awhile a time-server, and permitted the guilty to escape. He prepared a glorious funeral for Abner, and made Joab himself walk as mourner in the train, accompanied by his king, who sang a poetic and mournful dirge over the bleeding corpse. Then said David to his courtiers and friends, “I am this day weak, though anointed king; and these men the sons of Zeruiah be too hard for me. The men who have been my bravest comrades, and stood by me in the darkest hour, have been too hard for me; they have compelled me to submit to an action which my soul detests; they are criminals whom I cannot punish The sons of Zeruiah be too hard for me.”

     It was necessary to state these historical particulars, in order to set me text in its connection, and now I wish to show how this passage in sacred history is but the transcript of what has occurred many and many a time in the history and experience of all the people of God.

     I. The first remark I shall make will be this. We may be anointed, and yet weak. Every believer is an anointed king. He was really anointed in the covenant of election before the world was. When Jesus Christ was set up from everlasting, his people were really set up in him. When he was proclaimed king, and when his Father promised to him glorious honours as the result of what he should do, his people were really constituted a royal priesthood in the person of their representative and covenant head. Every child of God also was actually anointed when Jesus Christ ascended on high, and led captivity captive and received gifts for men. When Jesus took his seat at the right hand of the Eternal Father, amidst the songs of angels and the shouts of cherubim, all his elect in him did virtually take their thrones. “For he hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly place in Christ Jesus.” But in our souls, our anointing time comes in that hour when, being called by grace and washed from sin, we begin to reign over sin, self, the world, death and hell, by virtue of our union with Christ. Every believer is a king to-day. It may be that he does not wear his crown, but lives beneath his dignity; yet he is a king by right divine. He is of a kingly, nay, of a divine race: he is sprung from the loins of the King of kings, and he is soon to enter upon his full dominion; for when Jesus shall appear, then being like him, he shall reign with him for ever and ever.

     The Christian is then to-day, in many more sense than I can now stay to enumerate, an anointed king; and yet it is quite possible that he may be groaning out, “I am weak;” for weakness and Divine Anointing may stand together. You may be the object of God’s grandest purposes; and yet in yourself, you may be the meanest of men. God may yet intent to accomplish by you the greatest marvels, and it may be needful that, as a prelude to these wonders, you who are God’s anointed should be compelled to feel very deeply your utter weakness.

     God’s children are often very weak in faith: they stagger at the promise through unbelief. It is not always in their power to “set to their seal that God is true.” They always have the seal of God on them; but they acnnot always set their seal to God’s promise. There are times when the strength of the flesh through sin has overcome the powers of  the soul, — when we can get no further than to cry, “I would, but I cannot believe; I do not doubt his love to his people, but it is a grave question with me, whether I am one of his people at all.” Christians have ebbs of faith as well as floods; they have winters as well as summers; they have times of drought, and years of famine. Sometimes they are diminished and brought low through oppression, affliction and sorrow; the eye of their faith grows dim, and the light of God’s countenance being withdrawn from them, it is a woeful day for them, and they sigh, and cry, and groan, and scarce can call their lives their own. “Oh!” cries one, “that is my condition, but I thought I could not be a child of God, for I said, ‘If it be so, why am I thus?’” Oh! this is a common failing with the Lord’s people. Think not that thy name is cut out of the register because of the weaknesses of thy faith; for there be many in heaven whose names on earth were Little-Faith, and Ready-to-Halt, and Despondency, and Much-Afraid. You may be an anointed king, and yet exceedingly weak in your faith.

     The weakness of a Christian’s faith may also affect all his other graces. It must do so; for when faith is strong, every other grace is strong; when that is weak, all things else decline. It may be to-day that your hope has become very dim; you are in bondage through fear of death, and see not the mansions in the skies. You have forgotten that you are in Christ, and now you no more look for his appearing. Your hope declines, and all your comfort dies. All this is possible, and yet you may be an anointed king. Pluck up heart, my brother; when thou canst not read thy title, they inheritance is just as sure; when thou canst not feel thy union with Christ, the union is none the less a fact; and when thou darest not hope, even then, if thou art Christ’s, thy soul is in his hand, and thou shalt never perish, neither shall any pluck thee from him. Let me add again, that when the Christian grows weak in his faith and hope, it is no wonder that he is feeble in all his efforts to serve his master. “Oh,” says one, “I preach now, but have no power in preaching; I pray, but it is not prayer; I totter on the knees which should be strong. I, who could once prevail and bid defiance to earth and hell now tremble like Peter before a little maid, and am downcast and abashed by the smallest threat or calumny from the lips of my meanest foe.” Oh, but Christian, all this is possible too, and yet you may be an anointed king; for there is a sad difference between the estate of God’s people now and their glory by-and-bye, ay, and a wondrous difference now between the privileges to which they have a right, and the privileges to which they have the power to attain. Sure, if they were what they might be, and what they should be, they would be on earth well nigh as happy as in heaven. God hath given them power to tread on serpents and to defy the violence of flames; he hath girded them with a majesty unrivalled and unequalled; he hath put a crown of pure gold on their heads, even now, he hath shod them with badgers’ skins, and clothed them with blue and purple and fine linen; he hath made them kings and priests unto God, even this day, and they dwell in the curtains of Solomon; they have his providence for their provision; they have his angels for their servitors; they have his heaven for their last resting place, and his bosom for their reposing place to day; and yet are they often weak, and often cast down by reason of sore trouble and the strength of the flesh and the perversity of their corrupt hearts. “I am this day weak, though anointed king; and these men the sons of Zeruiah be too hard for me.”

     My dear brethren, let me remark that David at this special time felt his weakness, more particularly because he was in a new position. David had been an adventurer in the cave, so long that he had grown used to it , and you never find him saying when he hid himself in Engedi, “I am this day weak.” No; after the first season of bitterness I believe he came to love Adullam’s dreary grot; and the bleak mountains were dear to him; but he has come into a new place – nations are at his feet – men bow before him; it is a new position, and he says “I am this day weak, though anointed king.” Whenever you make a change in life; whenever God calls you to another set of duties, you will surely find out what perhaps you do not now believe – that you are weak, though anointed king.

     Here, too, David had come into new temptations. The arrows had been shot at him before, from one direction alone, now the storm ceases on one side, and begins on the other. If men knew that the storm would always come to one side, and begins on the other. If men knew that the storm would always come to one side of the house they would repair and strengthen it, and then they would not fear the blast; but if on a sudden it whirled round and took the other corner, how would they be prepared for that? Take care. Christian men and women, how you change your position; for often it is a remove for the worse; the arros may not fly on the right, but they will meet you on the left, and perhaps that may be your weakest side, and there will you be smitten in the tenderest part. David had now no more the temptations which beset a venturer, but those which cluster thick around the throne; for where there is the honey of royalty, there will surely be the wasps of temptations. High places and God’s praise do seldom well agree; a full cup is not easily carried without spilling, and he that stands on a pinnacle needs a clear head and much grace.

     And then further, David had now come into new duties. It was his duty to have taken Joab and have made him suffer the full penalty of the law for having killed Abner. A king must defend the oppressed and avenge the murdered, but David fails to perform the new duty, for he feels that he is too weak.

     Brothers and sisters, I shall leave this point when I have only conjured you to remember, that whether you know it or not, whether new circumstances shall have discovered it to you or not, you are this day weak, though anointed kings. You are never more mistaken than when you think yourselves strong. You are never nearer the truth than when you have the very lowest views of your self. When you are stripped, and emptied, and poured from vessel to vessel, it is then that you are where you ought to be; when you can say “I can do nothing apart from Him,” and yet can feel that you can do everything with him: then you are on the point of safety, you are on the eve of triumph and honour. God is with you, and will greatly bless you so long as you know where your great strength lieth.

     II. The second head. It was but little wonderful that David’s kingdom was weak, for it was but newly gained; and it is but little marvel if we also are very weak in the beginning of our spiritual life. When a king has had time to set himself down upon his throne, and to sweep away before him this party and that, either by politics or by the power of the sword, and so to put down every rival, then his throne becomes confirmed. But here is David, a man who is not descended from the royal race, — and who, apart from the divine anointing, which the sons of Belial would never recognize, had no right to the throne whatever; and it is not much wonder that the house of Saul should be troublesome to him, and that his old comrades, taking too much upon themselves because of their past services, should be too strong for him to manage. Young Christian, it is no wonder that you are weak, when the good work has only lately begun wit you. See the lambs in the fold: it is well that they have been shorn in good weather, for what would become of the shorn lamb in the untampered wind? Shall we suppose that the young sapling shall stand as firmly as the oak with its gnarled roots and its hoary branches, which have been twisted together by many a storm? What! Shall a babe fight a battle? Shall a new-born infant go forth to war? Do you wonder because the new creature is weak? Wonder rather at its power than at its weakness. Does Satan triumph over you, and do you marvel that old Satan is more than a match for a young Christian? Does the old world sometimes oppress your heart, and are you astonished that an old world, with a thousand arts, should be too much for a babe like you? Does your old heart within – that old Adam of yours that is forty years old – seem too strong for that new Adam which is new created in you? Why, you need not marvel. The old man has had time to gather up his strength – time to learn the arts of war, and the new man is unaccustomed, as yet, to fight. It is true I have infant grace in the new creature heart more strong than Hercules who strangled serpents in his cradle. We have seen the newly-converted sinner strangling in his sins and conquering his lusts, but we cannot expect that he should always be the master of his fears, so as to overcome doubts, answer questions, and confound gainsayers. No, young Christian, trust thou in the Lord thy God, for though shalt go from strength to strength, until in Zion thou shalt appear before God. I meet with many young Christians who are greatly troubled because they have not reached the attainments of older converts. Do you expect children to carry heavy burdens, or to be skillful in the arts, or learned in the sciences? No; we wait for riper years and greater maturity, and we expect but little from the boy as school; even so in babes in grace; it were an idle folly to look for the attainment of the perfect man in Christ Jesus. Some Christians, as the old Puritan says, are born with beards; some young Christians get experience very early, and God calls them to hard fights and great enterprises while they are yet but lambs: but our Master does not usually make captains of his drummer boys. No, no; he picks the man for the place. He will have his veterans for the front ranks, and put lads behind for a little while; yet sometimes they step forwards, and like David bring down Goliath; and occasionally the babes and sucklings have accomplished greater works than the veteran saints; yet that is not the rule, nor must you sigh and cry if the young kingdom of grace in your soul is as yet apparently weak, and sometimes appears to tremble in the scales.

     III. An now another parallel. Let us remark that David was weak only in the flesh, and that the Christian truly is only weak there. Why was David weak? “Because,” said he, “the sons of Zeruiah are too hard for me. I cannot subdue them; I cannot keep them under; I cannot manage any kingdom whilst such turbulent spirits as these interfere and intermeddle with everything.” Ah! David, and didst thou not know this before? How different is this from thy language when thou wast but a lad! Did not the Philistine say to thee, “Come to me, and I will give thy flesh to the fowls of heaven;” didst thou know thyself to be weak then? And yet thou sadist, “Thou comest to me with a sword and with a spear, but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied!” Ah! what a fall is there. David! oughtest thou not now to have said the same? “Joab, I come to thee in the name of the Lord God of hosts, and though all the hosts of Israel are at thy beck and command; I will do equal justice to strong and weak, and thy murderous spirit shall die, and suffer because of what thou hast done in this my kingdom.” Oh, that David’s virgin-throne should have been stained with the unavenged blood of a murdered an! Here was want of faith, you see. David has a strong a God as ever; but he was weak in the flesh; and that, my brethren, blessed be God, is the only weakness a Christian can know. We are never weak in our God, we are always weak in ourselves. Whenever you are in the midst of a difficulty, and you sit down and say, “I cannot do this,” who ever though you could? You ought to have known that you could do nothing. But if your difficulty be never so severe, and your position never so trying, is the everlasting arm too weak for your defence? Is the eternal eye unable to see through the difficultly? Or has eternal love failed you? “Oh, but I am so weak!” Of course thou art, and the weaker thou art the better. But Jehovah is not weak; the Eternal One fainteth not, neither is he weary; there is not searching of his understanding. David was weak, because he lived by sight; if he had lived as in the days of his youth, by faith in the covenant God who had anointed him, he never would have complained of weakness, but would have done his duty, even should heaven itself totter about his ears. Christian, have done to-day with talking of what you are, and of what you are not; remember the Christian’s  standing-place is not on the shifting sand of creature weakness, but on the immovable rock of divine confidence. The reason why the Church of these days is such a poor trembling thing is because she always looks to man, and seldom looks to God. If the world is to be evangelized, we examine our funds; we look down the lists of our subscribers; we count our missionaries. Oh! if we counted and reckoned on our God, and looked to him first, and only, we might yet say to dead nations, “Live,” and the voice of faith should make them live, and means, apparently inadequate, should soon suffice, if once our faith sufficed to challenge, and to plead the promise of our God. I am sure of this, my brethren, that there are very few Christians on the face of the earth who live by faith as they should do; yea, we are all at times pestered with that leprosy of the flesh, that looking to means, to circumstances, to that which is before our eyes, instead of ever seeing that which is invisible, and resting on that mighty arm which, when we cannot see it, is still at work, and which, when we cannot feel it, still feels for us, and upholds all things by its power.

     IV. I said that we were weak only in the flesh, and now I want you to observe in the fourth place, that it is where the flesh is strong that we are weak. Why was not David strong? Why, because of the sons of Zeruiah, yet these sons of Zeruiah were his greatest strength. What could he have done without Joab and Abishai – Joab the man who smote the garrison of Jebus, and Abishai who slew three hundred in single-handed fight. What could he do without these? These were David’s mighty men, those who always led the van, and with a tremendous shout dashed among the Philistines, and scattered the uncircumcised. These were David’s glory. Often, I do not doubt, as he walked in the midst of his companions in Engedi, he would look on Joab and Abishai, and say, “What noble helpers! What men! How trained in the daring deeds of war! With feet leaping from crag to crag like the wild roe; with eyes piercing through the clouds of the battle; with arms whose crash is as the tempest; with faces terrible as lions making the stout-hearted tremble!” These were David’s pride, his glory, his strengths, ay, and they were his weakness. So is it with us. Whatever is our strength in the flesh is sure to be our weakness in the spirit. Let me give you an instance. Jacob was a man whose strength was in his cunning. He was a wise business man; he was a shrewd calculator; he was wise as the children of this generation. Yes, but that cunning was Jacob’s weakness. It was that which always brought him into trouble. He in cunning first of all with his poor old father Isaac. Instead of leaving the matter to God, he must needs deceive his father with a lie, and as the result of it, he is driven from the house of which otherwise he would doubtless, by the divine will, have become a peaceful possessor. He goes to Laban. Here no doubt he looked well to himself in the bargain about Rachel, and as he did not trust his father-in-law, his father-in-law did not trust him, and he find Leah instead of the beloved one. Then it comes to point of wages, and Jacob is very wise there. Laban is hard with him, and then he is very crafty with Laban. Laban first says he shall have the ring-streaked sheep, and then those rods in the drinking-trough show what a wise man Jacob was. His wages are changed, and changed, and changed again, but Jacob outwits Laban. The whole history of that good man is of one strong in his wits, but weak in his faith; always a supplanter and therefore being always supplanted. Thus the wisdom of man is rather an impediment than an assistant to the purpose of God. Whenever we are raised up by God to do any work for him, we must not sit down and say, “Well I think I am qualified for the work, because I have such and such gifts.” It is just these very things which you possess which will be the heavy hindrances and not the successful assistants of your labour. Remember that your sons of Zeruiah will be hard to manage. They will be too strong for you. Our Welsh brethren are the best men in the world for preachers, qualified by God for it by their fiery spirit, it is just that which causes him to make shipwreck of his church by quarrels and divisions. A Scotch brother is qualified for theological studies by the coolness of his temperament, and yet it will often happen that the very coolness of temperament palsies his life and cripples him as a minister of the Word. I believe the strength of God’s ministers generally lies in the points where they are the weakest, and their weakness usually lies in their strength. That is to say, natural strength will be toned down by spiritual weakness, and a natural weakness will be exalted and be made the vehicle and channel for spiritual strength. It has often been so. The very physical appearance of Paul, his personal presence which was said to be weak and contemptible, becomes to him the subject of glorying. He glories in his infirmity, for it  is the means of giving honour to God.

     “This is strange logic,” says one. It is, sir; God’s logic is strange. Gideon fears the Midianites because of the slender number of his soldiers, but the Lord says, “the people are yet too many for me.” The king of Judah on another occasion hires for himself with so many hundred thousand talents a number of mercenary troops from the king of Israel. “Now,” says he, “I shall win the battle?” but before the battle begins, the prophet bids him send these men back. God can do better without means that he can with means that are audacious enough to think themselves necessary. The Lord will always throw the sword away from his hand when that sword begins to boast itself. Assyria is his axe to cut down the cedars, but if the axe glories the axe itself must be cast away; and so will it be with you if you set down any good thing you have ever done to yourself, God will bring you down. Learn instead thereof to be wise, and if you have any excellency or any power pour contempt upon it; and if you have any weakness and any infirmity, glory in it because the power of God shall rest upon you.

     V. And now one other remark, and may God bless the Word to the comfort of all his people. It is this. We are anointed kings and yet we are weak; but our weakness shall not prevent our reigning by-and-by. David’s kingdom did not shake, even when his heart failed him; and it would have stood just as fast if he had knocked away Joab and Abishai, who seemed to be the props that supported it. God had sworn that David should sit upon the throne: David’s strength lay in God’s truthfulness, not in Joab’s valour. It was David’s business to believe that come what may God’s purpose must stand, and God will do all his pleasure. It is just the same with you, Christian, to-day. However weak you may be, and whatever means may have failed you, remember God hat said it – you shall be saved; he has promised that you shall be glorified in Christ; and so you must be, come fair, come fou. Whatever betide, God must be as good as his word. There are some professed Christians who believe that God’s people may fall away and perish everlastingly. I don’t know whether they think it is the weak Christian or the strong; but they believe that there are some who, though they serve God for years, may yet in a dark and evil hour forsake the Lord their God, and may ultimately be cast away. Brethren, we reject, renounce, and abhor that doctrine, as being not the truth of God, but an insinuation of Satan. We believe that every child of God, from the least to the greatest; every man who has put his trust in Jesus, is as safe now from finally perishing as though he were in glory. We do uphold and teach, and it is our joy to believe, that all who have given themselves to Christ, and who have been saved by his love, shall be kept safely in the hour of temptation, and presented at last without spot or wrinkle or any such thing before his Father’s face. It is on this doctrine I am about to dwell a minute, while I say that we shall reign. Weak as we are, we shall regn in heaven by-and-bye, and I shall attempt to show you why. For, in the first place, if we do not, God’s attributes will every one of them suffer an eclipse. Where is the power of God, if he cannot keep the people whom he has bought with his blood, and whom he has called by his Spirit? Is the power of sin greater than the power of God? And is man’s free will to be omnipotent, and God’s purpose to fail, because men will not let God succeed? I say that God’s omnipotence would be blotted and blurred if he suffered the very meanest of his chosen ones to fall away and perish. Or where were his love? If Christ can keep his spouse and does not, where is his affection? If Jesus can save his people and will not, where is his love, and what is its vaunted value? It is either in God’s power to keep a man from going down to hell, or it is not: if it is not, then God is not omnipotent; if it be in his power, but not in his love, his love – I say it with reverence to his name – is not the everlasting love of which Scripture saith so much. And then, his wisdom, too, would not that suffer? If his anointed sons shall not reign, why did he anoint them? Why doth a wise God begin a work he doth not carry on? Has God purposed anything which he finds to be an error, and therefore forebears to execute it? God forbid we should indulge in such blasphemy. And where, my brethren, where is divine truth? What truth would there be in a passage like this, — “I give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hands.” If one of them should perish, that passage were not true. And again, those words of the apostle Paul, — “If when we were enemies we were reconciled unto God by the death of his Son, how much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life;” where would be the reasoning there? Where is the truth of God in those statements, if his people are not saved by Jesus’ life? And then the apostle Paul was deceived when he said, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Then God did not mean it when he said, “The mountains may depart, and the hills be removed, but the covenant of my love shall not be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy upon thee.” Where is the meaning of that divine assurance, — “Can a woman forget her suckling child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will not I forget thee?” I say, beloved, that the Bible is like the husks of the winepress, when the generous juice has been pressed therefrom, if you take the doctrine of final perseverance out of it. If God can change, if his purpose can fail, if his love can be taken away from one on whom it was ever set, I am not a Christian, nor would I think it my boast and my honour to serve God, if he were such a faithless one as this free-will theology makes him to be.

     But futher than this, if every one for whom Jesus shed his blood, and every one who believeth on God through Jesus be not saved, then God’s Son is dishonoured. He is a head, but he is the head of a mangled body; he is a king, but he is like the King of Naples, a king without a territory; he is a husband, but he is a husband withoua  spouse, or with a spouse that is only half there, half his and half the devil’s. And then again, if God’s people be not saved, and if his Davids do not reign, then you have to accept the blasphemous alternative that God is defeated by man. Here it is. God wills to save me; but I am told that my free will may master God. Out on your free will! Is free will to be God? If it be a God fall down and worship it, and be an idolater as base as the worshippers of Baal. But I know that God is master of man, and that man’s will shall never match with God. but God will have his way. I ask now, in the name of reason and of Scripture, what there is that can hinder God from saving the man whom he has promised to save. Why, his hard heart can hinder him! Yes, but he had that hard heart when God began with him, and God overcame that bad heart, and can he not overcome it to the end? Oh! but the man may not be willing! Yes, and he was not willing at the first; but God made him willing, and he that mastered his will then may master it still. Oh, but Satan may overcome him! And is Satan to make the purpose of God of more effect? And is a child of God to be a child of hell to morrow — alive to day, dead to morrow, and then alive again. O miserable doctrine. Where is now our strong consolation if this be our portion!  

     In presenting such as the everlasting gospel I feel confidence, because it is worth your having. Trust your souls with Christ to day and you are saved. “He that believeth on Christ Jesus shall be saved.” “No,” say our antagonists, “he shall not; he may be or he may not be; he may believe on Christ, but whether he is saved or not depends upon his own will.” Sir, thou liest against God and Scripture. “He that believeth shall be saved,” come what may. “Yes, if he keeps on believing." Sir, it says no such thing; it says “He that believeth shall be saved.” He shall, he must, keep on believing. Where God begins the work he will carry it on. Let me quote again that passage — "I give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hands." "Ah," said a foolish minister once, "but they may pluck themselves out.” A pretty idea! “No man shall pluck them out of his hands,” and they may pluck themselves out as if they were not men. Or, says another, they may slip between his fingers. But then what becomes of that passage, “They shall never perish?” If one of his sheep shall ever perish, that word of God is either false or else had no meaning in it. I was riding lately with a good brother in Christ who did not believe in final perseverance. He said, “I don’t believe that many Christians ever fall away; I don’t think one in a thousand does, perhaps not one in a million: but it is possible, just possible, and I think we ought to say it is.” “But,” I said, “one in a million does not improve your case at all; because, if one in a million, why not you? why not me? why not the rest? why not all? If some for whom Christ died may perish, why not all? and then a Christian may die, and never ‘see of the travail of his soul.’ If some that believe may fall away and perish, why not all? Then how shall the promise stand if they believe and yet were not saved. If Christ may lose a part of his Church why may he not lose all? and then he may come to heaven without a church. Besides,” I said, “I should feel that if one child of God may fall, certainly it must be me. But why should one fall more than another?” “Because one is more wicked than another?” “What is this but the old covenant of works? Their standing depends not on themselves, but on God. How shall they be prevented falling?” “By God’s grace, I suppose.” “Well, then, if God’s grace can keep one, it can keep another; and if it cannot keep one Christian from going into sin, how am I to hope it will keep another? And if some Christians persevere and come to heaven, why may not others? What is the reason why?” “Because some are better than others.” “Then off with the crown from Jesu’s head, and put it on the head of the law, and sing ‘Hallelujah!’ to our good works after all.” No, my brother; when your soul is given up to Christ, it is Christ’s business to save it, not yours. When you have committed yourself into Jesu’s hands,

“His honour is engaged to save
The meanest of his sheep;
All that his heavenly Father gave,
His hand securely keeps.

Nor death nor hell shall e’er divide
His darlings from his breast;
In the dear bosom of his love
They must for ever rest.”

     Fly into his bosom, sinner; fly now; and thou shalt rest therefor ever; and neither sin, nor Satan, nor self, shall ever pluck thee thence; for he that believeth is saved. He that believeth in Christ, “out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” The water which he shall give him shall be in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life. God grant you the blessing of perseverance, for Jesu’s sake!
Amen.



Three Homilies from One Text

By / Sep 2

Three Homilies from One Text

 

“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And his fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them. And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond Jordan.”—Matthew iv. 23-25. 

 

THE ministry of our most blessed Lord bears upon its own countenance the stamp of truth. “He taught as one having authority, and not as the Scribes.” Whatever ever his enemies might lay to his door, I do not find they were ever able to summon audacity enough to impeach his correctness, or suspect his sincerity. We believe that Jesus Christ's sermons were their own witnesses; the words he uttered had in them so much power to convince the conscience, that there would have been wilfulness sufficient for the condemnation of the men who rejected his ministry, even though it had not been attended with supernatural credentials. Nevertheless, our Lord and Master,—that unbelievers might have no cloak for their sin,—was pleased to supplement his doctrines with his miracles, so that the works which he did, as well as the words which he spake, might bear witness of him that he came forth from God. Those miracles were to the men of that generation, the sign, and seal, and warrant, that Jesus was really sent of the Father. 

     Let us mark here, my brethren, how very different were the seals of Jesus' ministry from those which were given by Moses. When it was demanded of Moses to prove whether he was sent of God or not, he took the wonder-working working rod in his hand, and achieved prodigies; but if you will remember, they were all miracles of judgment—not of mercy. Did he not turn their rivers into blood and slay their fish? Did he not bring a thick darkness over all the land, even darkness which might be felt? Did he not smite their first-born born—ay, and bring the waters of the Red Sea upon the chivalry of Egypt, and so sweep them all away? And afterwards in the midst of the children of Israel, though there were miracles of mercy, yet for the most part were they not miracles of judgment, and did not the people see divers plagues, and divers wonders among them, even when they were in the wilderness? I repeat it—Moses, the type of the law, has his credentials in judgment. How different with Jesus; he is full of grace and truth, and the seals of his ministry must be works of benificence, acts of mercy and kindness. He turns not the water into blood, but he turns the water into wine; he slays not their fish, but multiplies a few small fishes, and feeds thousands therewith; he does not smite their wheat with hail, and break their sycamore trees with his thunderbolts, but instead thereof, he multiplies the bread, he gives them many blessings. He sends no disease, and boils, and blains, but he heals their sicknesses. Instead of striking the first-born dead, he heals the dying, and rescues from the grasp of death some who had even gone down to the grave. This must be ever a hopeful sign to the poor, trembling conscience. Jesus comes with deeds of mercy—these are indeed deed the warrants of his mission: "And why should he not come to me with deeds of mercy?” Let the poor disconsolate heart ask; “Why should he not work a wonder of mercy in me? If I had to deal with Moses, he might find it needful to smite me with death, to prove himself sent of God; but if Jesus will still prove himself to be full of grace and truth, may he not work a wonder of mercy in washing away my sins, in saving my poor soul, clothing it with his robe of righteousness, and making me at last stand among the glorified?”

     Having thus prefaced my text, permit me now to come more nearly and closely to it; and I think it will suggest three short homilies, three brief sermons, which I will endeavour to utter, and may God bless them. 

     And first, it seems to me, in my text there is a brief homily for ministers upon the work of faith; then a lecture to saints upon their labour of love; and yet again, a longer sermon full of encouragement to poor trembling sinners.

     I. My text seems to me to contain A BRIEF AND PITHY HOMILY TO MINISTERS OF THE GOSPEL;—“Jesus Christ went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom.” Doth it not say to us, my brethren in the ministry, that we should be instant in season and out of season, preaching the Word? Doth it not suggest to us, that perhaps we might preach more frequently; and that we might do more good if by journeying about from place to place we commanded a different audience, and so brought more hearers under the sound of the Word, and more hearts under the influence of the truth? Do ministers of the gospel preach as often as they might? Is there any precedent in Scripture for preaching two sermons on the Sabbath, and one during the week, and doing no more? Ought we not to be more fully given up to our ministry? Should we not often be preaching the Word, and would it not be well with us if we could say with John Bradford, “I count that hour lost in which I have not either with tongue or with pen said something for the world's good and for my Master's honour.” Might we not be less particular about bout our preparation? Oh how much there is of worldly flesh-pleasing, in our pruning up our sentences, and trying to polish our periods! Might not that time which is spent in studious elaboration be much more profitably spent in public exhortation? and might we not get more power by practising the ministry than we can by sitting still and endeavouring to catch the sacred spell from books, though written by the wisest of men! Is it not after all the fact, that the blacksmith’s arm is made strong, not by studying a book upon nerves and upon anatomy, but by using his hammer; and is not the minister to achieve power in his ministry rather by the exercise of it than by any learning or teaching that he can ever procure? Might it not be, perhaps, less for our honour, but more for our Master's glory, if we preached more frequently and itinerated more widely; and here and there, and everywhere preached the word of Jesus? I know some brethren who have remained in one place so long without having ever gone from it that the people know the very tones of their voice, and they go to sleep under it almost necessarily. If these brethren without giving up their charge, would spend many week days in going abroad to preach in the streets, in the highways and hedges, to preach under God’s blue sky, it would do their very voice good. Oh there is no place like it, when you have a little hillock for your pulpit, ten or twenty thousand people gathered around you, and the heavens for your sounding board! Whitfield used to call it his throne, and well indeed he might; for there is a marvellous power which thrills through the soul of a man when—there unshackled and free—he stands with thousands of earnest eyes gazing upon him, to proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ. If I can only convince ministers that the work to which they are called is not restricted to their pulpits, but that they ought to come out of their pulpits and preach the gospel to every creature—I shall feel that this short homily has been worthy of being expounded. I do not believe if we preach in our own pulpits from the first of January to the last of December, that we shall clear our heads from the blood of men, provided that is we have voice and strength equal to the labour. You are not to sit still and expect sinners to come to you. Soldiers of Christ are not everlastingly to lie in the trenches. Up, men, and at them—up, and charge upon your foes! If you would win souls, you must seek them. The sportsman knows that his game will not come to the window of his house to be shot. The fisherman knows that the fish will not come swimming up to his door. Do they not go abroad and seek their prey? And so must you and I. If we would win souls we must not stand for ever in one place, but wherever there is found opportunity—be it in an uncanonical place, ay, be it in a place that has been desecrated to the service of Satan—even there let us preach the name of Jesus, and we shall see greater things than it is ever possible for us to behold by going on in our old way of routine—standing in our square hut of a thing called a pulpit, and hoping to win souls by prophesying there. I sometimes wish that some of our congregations were without chapels, or that they might be driven out of them, for some of them have stuck inside their own doors down a court, till nobody knows there is a church there at all, and when good might have been done to the neighbourhood they have been content to dwell there with spiders and cobwebs, and never to come forth to make a stir in the world. Why, if the hundred and fifty Baptist churches of London, let alone all the members of other denominations, did but feel that they are not to be bounded within four walls, and that their work is not to be done in regular spheres, but everywhere,—surely there would be better days for London, and we should have to rejoice that God had made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the people. 

     II. And now I turn to my second homily, which is not for ministers particularly, but FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD IN GENERAL. We read in the twenty-fourth verse:—“And they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.” 

     Let the emphasis rest upon those few words, “They brought unto him all sick people.” We have here assembled my brethren, a very large number of persons who know the truth as it is in Jesus, and who love it in their own hearts, for they have felt its power, and they bless God that they know it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. To you I speak, men and brethren. Now that you are yourselves redeemed and converted, there is a great work laid upon you. Ye are the salt of the earth; ye are the light of this world; ye are a city set upon a hill that cannot be hid. Your business is from this time forth to do battle against the powers of darkness, and to seek, as much as lieth in you, to pluck sinners as brands from the awful burning. I would stir up your pure minds, by way of remembrance, upon this solemn duty. Do you exercise it as you should? Are you all of you longing to be the winners of souls? Have you all the laudible ambition of being fathers and mothers in Israel, by bringing others to that cross which is so precious to you? 

 

“D’ you gladly tell to sinners round,

What a dear Saviour you have found?”

“Point them to his redeeming blood,

And say, ‘Behold the way to God?’”

 

Some of you can say, “Yes,” but none of us can say that we have done as much, and as well as we ought to have done. Permit me to give you a thought which may perhaps help you, my Christian brethren, henceforth in your work of faith, and labour of love, for the redemption of the souls of men. Let me tell you that, if you would have souls saved, you must bring them to Jesus. “But,” say you, “they must come themselves.” Yes, I answer, they must if they shall ever be saved, but before they will ever come themselves, you must bring them. You notice in the text, those men who had the palsy could not walk to Christ, but others brought them. Many of those poor demoniacs would not come, but they bound them hand and foot and made them come. Doubtless, some of the lunatics struggled very hard not to be brought, but they would bring them. And people that were very near death's door, who could not stir hand or foot, and were unconscious, they were brought too. The loving earnestness of their friends supplied the lack of strength in themselves; they could not come, but their friends could bring them. And now you say you have little power to do good, but I think in this matter you have far more power than you dream of. You can bring sick souls to Christ. Do you ask me how? I answer, first by prayer. If you should select some one person, and lay his case specially before God in prayer, and never cease your supplications till you were heard for that one, you will have reason to attest that God is verily one that heareth and that answereth prayer; and if you should have sufficient faith to carry five or six, nay, to carry a whole family on the loving arms of your prayer up to the mercy seat of God, you will find that, in answer to your fervent cry, they will assuredly be saved. Oh! there are many of us here who were brought to Christ by our mothers. We knew it not, but they were carrying our names, like the high priest of old, upon their breasts before the Lord, while we were living in sin and indulging in iniquity. There are men here that were converted to God instrumentally by their sisters; for when they were going on in all their gaiety and frivolity, a loving sister was weeping for them, or pleading with God both night and day, that her brother might live. And I do not doubt hundreds of you have been brought to God by your minister, because your minister has made you the object of prayer, and has pleaded with God for you. And many of you by the elders of the church—by the deacons, or by others, who, looking upon you as a congregation, have fixed their eye on some one and said, “That interesting young man, I will make him a matter of prayer—that intelligent father of a family who has stepped in, but who only comes occasionally, he shall be the subject of my petition.” In fact, I think it probable that when the records of eternity shall be unfolded, it shall be found that every soul that came to Christ, was brought instrumentally by some other—not perhaps, by any visible means—but some other person praying for that man, and God heard that prayer, and so that soul was saved. Have you any sick in your house? Bring them out on the bed of prayer to Christ. Mother, bring out your sick son, and your sick daughter! Wife, bring out your demoniacal husband who seems as if he were possessed of the devil. I say to one and another among you, bring out that friend of your's who acts as if he were mad with sin, like a very lunatic. Bring them all out as they did of old, and plead this day with Christ for their salvation. I think I see that day when Jesus walked through the streets of Capernaum. No sooner did he rise in the morning, than, stepping abroad, he saw a bed here, and a mattress there, and a couch there; multitudes assembled writh all manner of sick folks—some of them leaning on crutches, and saying, “When will the morning come?”—and there was a good deal of struggling as to who should get the best place, and who should be nearest to him as he came abroad. At last, you would hear if you were half a mile from the house were Jesus is residing, you would hear a buzz—“He is coming out! He is coming out!” And then he would come forth from his house, and touching some lunatic, he would cool his fevered brain, and the man would fall at his feet and begin to kiss him; but, ere he could pay his homage, Christ would have touched some palsied or paralytic man, and he would be cured; and going onwards, dropsies, fevers, devils, all fly before him. And then you would see a great crowd as they all came behind him, some of them waving the crutches they no longer required; some blind man holding up in the air the bandage he used to wear to conceal that horrid eye of his, out of which he could not see, yea, and all of them crying, “Blessed be the name of the Son of David; blessed be his name!” Oh, I am sure had you been there that day, if you had a sick daughter, you would hire any help to bring her out; you would say, “Let her be brought out, and he will heal her.” And so it is to-day. Jesus is here this morning, and here you be—sick upon beds—the beds of your indifference and carelessness; here you are subject to many sins, and lusts, and passions. The Master walks among you—“Now Christians! now Christians! lift up your prayers; now bear upon your arms of faith, these poor cripples, lame, deaf, dumb souls, and cry, “Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on them.” And his walk of love of old, shall be eclipsed in the grandeur of his walk of loving-kindness and tender mercy which he shall exercise to-day. 

     In addition, however, to the arms of prayer, take care that you bring your relatives to Christ on the arms of your faith. Ah! faith is that which puts strength into prayer. The reason why we do not receive the answer to our supplications is, because we do not believe we shall be heard. You remember my sermon the other sabbath morning from the text, “Whatsoever things ye shall desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them and ye shall have them.” If you can exercise faith for a dead soul, that dead soul shall be quickened and receive faith itself. If you can look to Christ with the eye of faith for a blind soul, that blind soul shall have sight given it and it shall see. There is a wonderful power in vicarious faith—faith for another. Not that any one of you can be saved without faith yourself; but that when another believes for you and on your account, and quotes the promise before God for you, you may be unconscious of it, but God hears and answers that faith, and breathes on your soul, and gives you faith to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. I do not think Christians exercise enough this power. They are so busy with faith about their troubles, faith about their sins, faith about their personal experience, that they have not time to exercise that faith for another. Oh but surely that gift was never bestowed upon us for our own use merely, but for other people. Try it, Christian man; try it, Christian woman; see whether God is not as good as your faith when your faith is exercised concerning the soul of thy poor neighbour, of thy poor drunken kinsman, or of some poor soul who hitherto has defied every effort to reclaim him from the error of his ways. If we can bring souls by faith, Jesus Christ will heal them. 

     And I might add here, that in the ministry of the gospel there is great need that ministers should bring souls to God by faith. How often you hear the question put, “What is the reason of such-and-such -and such a man's power in preaching?” I will tell you what is the reason of any man's power if it is worth having. It is not his retentive memory, it is not his courage, it is not his oratory, but it is his faith. He believes God is with him, and acts as if it were so. He Relieves that his preaching will save souls, and preaches as if he believed it. He staggers not at the Word himself, and doth not mince and try to prove what he says, but speaks out boldly what God has sent him to speak, knowing that what he says is true and must be received. And then he believes that the Word will be blessed and it is blessed, and then men wonder and say, “Why is it?” It is faith. That is the secret of any man's success. I refer you, if you want proof, to the lives of all those that God has ever blessed. Look at Paul or Peter in the canon of Scripture; look at such men as Martin Luther and John Calvin in the annals of church history. Why you could not catch them doubting at any moment. Look at Luther when he comes up into the pulpit. He is a man that has no neck. He has got his head set right down on his shoulders. He believes with his heart and speaks with his mouth. His convictions and his utterances are in the closest alliance. Then people say, “What a dogmatist he is!” Of course, and a man must be if he would do any good. Hear how he preaches! He knows he is right, and he does not allow a momentary doubt upon it. He talks to men as if he were sure that God had given him a message for them, and the people believe that God has given him a message, and it is proven that it is so. But some other of the reformers might have come and occupied his place, and the reformation would have been a failure; because with more wisdom and perhaps more love than he had they would have had less faith, and their preaching would have had less effect. The fact is we want to feel within our ministry that the power lies very much in the faith which is exercised in it. I do believe that the true minister of Christ, though he cannot heal the sick, ought to preach with as firm a faith in the authority and power of his ministry through the Holy Ghost, as did Peter and John when they said, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” Some ministers dare not say this. They cannot preach to dead sinners. They do not like to exhort them, because, say they, “The sinner has not any power.” Whoever thought he had? But there is power in your ministry to make them live if God sent you. Your business is to say, “Ye dry bones live?” not because there is power in your voice, but because your voice is the echo of Jehovah’s voice. Speak Jehovah’s truth by the high warrant of Jehovah himself, and you must believe that those dry bones will live, for live they must; before the power of faith nothing is impossible. Earnestly would I pray for all of us who preach the Word that we may have this power to bring souls before Jesus, not looking to their free will, not looking to their soft hearts, above all not looking to our own power of speech, but looking to the power of the gospel, as we speak it, and believing that there is in it a power still to cast out devils, still to quicken the dead, and still to heal the sick, and we shall find it to be so. Oh, my brethren, think not that the preaching of the Word is on a level with mere lecturing or talking upon subjects that may be of thrilling interest. The moment a man preaches God's truth, if God has sent him, he is gifted with a power which no learning or eloquence can confer upon another man whom God has not called. A man preaches with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; his every word is a thunder stroke—one tremendous lightning blast amongst the sons of men—and God owns him, and God blesses him; or, if God does not own him and does not bless him, he has good reason to believe that God never sent him—that he is not a servant of God—that the Lord has not raised up nor qualified him for the salvation of the souls of men. My homily then just is this, that it should be the business of every Christian man—of ministers, perhaps, in particular—but of all in their measure, to bring those who won’t come to Christ, and to bring them to Christ by their prayers, by their faith, and by their authoritative and believing preaching knowing that God ever has sanctioned prayer for others, and has accepted faith and heard that faith, and in reply to it, has given faith to the unbelieving one. Is there any one here of so cold a heart that he is saying “Whom shall I bring to Christ?” I hope not; for whenever a man asks what he shall do, I feel I could say with Pharoah, “Ye be idle, ye be idle.” There is so much to be done that the question should be, “What out of a hundred things shall I do?” not “Where shall I find something to do?” Are all your children saved—all of them—every one? If not, bring them in your arms before God in prayer. Are you happy enough to have every child of yours bound up in the covenant of the Lord? Bring them all, your relations, your aged father, your ungodly mother, if such you have. Bring them before Christ. You cannot heal them, but Christ can. Your business is to lay their case before Jesus Christ, and to feel that Jesus Christ is looking on them, and that if it be his gracious will, he will save them; and if you have brought these, are there no inmates of your house still ungodly that you can bring to him in prayer? And if you be so happy as to have a church in your house, and not one in it who is not saved, bring then, I beseech you, your neighbourhood—those who live in the same street, or court, or alley— bring those who sit in the same pew with you on Sunday, or dwell in the same part of this great city. And—oh if it should ever come to pass!—that all these be saved, look across the sea, and bring before God in prayer those teaming myriads of souls that as yet sit in darkness, and in the valley of the shadow of death. Plead with God for sinners who are under Popish night, or have but the moonlight of Mahommedanism, or those who are in blacker darkness still, bowing down before their gods of wood or of stone. O church of God! if thou hadst but faith to bring out thy sick, what wonders might be wrought! Oh, if the church could but lay China and India before her Lord, believing that he had power to save,—if she would bring out Italy, and France, and Spain, and lay them, as it were, like sick men in their beds before Jesus Christ, earnestly believing in his power to heal them! Alas! we have not power to believe in Christ yet, but when we have power to believe, we shall never find Christ's power to do inferior to our power to believe him. May the Lord yet increase his people's confidence, until their prayer shall extend for the conversion of the islands of the sea, until they shall bring the whole world, with all its hideous deformities and infirmities, and lay it there like a poor paralytic on his couch, and in one tremendous cry say, “O Lord, let thy kingdom come, and let thy will be done on earth, even as it is in heaven,” and it shall be done. Faith shall achieve it. God shall own the cry of faith, and the world shall yet become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ. 

     III. I have now some little time reserved for my main business this morning, and oh, may God make the last part of the sermon very, very useful, to those who hitherto have been strangers to him. The last part of my text is A SERMON ADDRESSED BY WAY OF ENCOURAGEMENT TO POOR SINNERS to those who never have undergone a change of heart—have never been regenerated, and passed from death to life.  

 

 

     May God now add his own blessing, and may Jesus walk among us still to heal, for his own name's sake. Amen. 



Reigning Grace

By / Aug 26

REIGNING GRACE

 

“That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto
eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”— Romans 5:21

 

     I SHALL not pretend to enter into the fulness of this text, but merely select that topic, “Grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”

     Our apostle represents man as being subject to two great kings. Sin is the grim tyrant, to whom, in the first place, man has bowed his willing neck. The reign of sin is a reign of terror and delusion; it promises pleasure, but being full of all manner of deceivableness, of unrighteousness, it gives pain even in this world, and in the world to come, death eternal. An awful contemplation is that of the reign of sin. Permitted to come into this world as an usurper— having mounted its throne upon the heart of man by flattering blandishments, and crafty pleasantries, it was not long ere it fully developed itself. Its first act was to smite Eden with blast and mildew by its breath; its next act was to slay the second child of man and that by the hand of the eldest-born. Since then, its reign has been scarlet with blood, black with iniquity, and fraught with everything that can make the heart of man sad and wretched. Oh sin, thou tyrant monster, all the demons that ever sat upon the throne of Rome, were never such as thou art; and all the men, who, from the wild north, have come forth as the scourges of man, the destroying angels of our race, though they have waded up to their knees in the blood of mortals, have never been so terrible as thou art. Thou hast reigned unto death, and that a death eternal— a death from which there shall be no resurrection — a death which casts souls into an eternal grave— a grave of fire.

     Our apostle now changes the subject, and represents man under the gracious state, as rejoicing in another government, ruled by another king. Just as sin has reigned, and with despotic and irresistible power has ground his subjects in the very dust, and then cast them into the flames, so doth grace with irresistible goodness, constrain the chosen multitude to yield obedience, and thus prepares them for eternal bliss. See it lifts up the beggar from the dunghill, and makes him to sit among princes. Mark its shining course, and behold it blessing the sons of man wherever it stretches out its silver sceptre, chasing away the misery of night, and giving the gladsomeness of gospel day; sending back the fiends of discord and of cruelty to the dens from which they once escaped, and bidding the angels of mercy keep perpetual watch and ward over the sons of Adam who have given themselves up to its sway of the kingdom of grace.

     My business this morning is not with sin, but with grace— a pleasing and a glowing theme. May God fill our souls, and touch our tongue, that we may speak of those things which we may have made touching the king, and may God greatly bless what shall be said to each of our hearts.

     I shall invite you, first of all, to see grace in its reigning acts, and then I shall bid you come with joy and wonder, and behold grace as it sits upon its throne.

     I. First, then,I shall need your attention to a series of pictures, in which you shall see grace manifesting its REIGNING POWER, and reigning, too, in places the most unlikely ever to have yielded to its power. Come with me then, men and brethren, and I will take you in spirit to the Valley of Vision. See, strewn there amongst the rugged rocks, the bleached and dried bones of the house of Israel— a skull there and the arm which once was allied to it, scattered so far apart that human wisdom could not bring them bone to bone, much less could human strength clothe the bones with flesh. Death reigns there— that irresistible all-subduing power, before whom monarchs and all their armies, though they be numberless as the host of Xerxes, must bow themselves. O Death! we come this day to see thee defeated, to see thee cast from thy throne. But who shall do it? Come forth, ye ministers of Christ, and see what ye can do. Here are souls spiritually dead— nay, dry— as far away from hope as the bones of the charnel-house are from life. Come, ye ministers, attune your eloquence and see what ye can do. Behold, Chrysostom speaks, the golden-mouthed John showers forth his marvellous sentences, but the bones stir not; and now Whitfield speaks with seraph voice as though he would move heaven and earth, but there is not a motion amongst those crisp particles that once might have lived, but which live no more. Come, Esaias, and let us hear thy thundering appeals, or thou Jeremy, cannot thy tears bedew these bones with the circulating drops of life? Come thou Ezekiel, with thy eagle eye and with thy soaring wing, or thou Daniel, with thy fiery words piercing through the thick clouds of the future, and exposing, as with lightning fire, the glory that is to come. I hear them speak, and seer follows seer in noble emulation of earnest utterance, but the dry bones move not; they are locked in the fell embrace of death, and life cometh not to them even by these living words. Alas 1 eloquence, and human might and wisdom, and rhetoric and logic, aye, and zeal and earnestness, and God-given passion cannot wake the soul of the spiritually dead. Though all the men whom God hath chosen to be his representatives from the beginning of the reign of grace even to the end thereof, — though all should strive and persuade, and plead with eloquence that might move a rock, yet souls dead in trespasses and sin could not and would not live by power so weak as this. Come, ye apostles and confessors, Paul, and Peter, and John, and all the holy brotherhood of inspired ambassadors; come, I say, and spend your strength in vain, for apart from divine grace, ye cannot charm the dull cold ear of death, or stir the torpor of a spirit dead in sins. And now Moses, thou who didst smite the firstborn of Egypt, the chief of all her strength, come thou forth and lift up the fiery tables of stone, and bid these men live by the works of the law. But no, he declines the futile task; he knows that he is of no power to deal with souls that are dead. But hearken, the voice Divine exclaims with trumpet voice, “Almighty grace, arise and quicken these dead souls,” and behold, grace stands before you, in angel form, — nay, better in the form of man, or rather incarnate God, and I hear him say, “Thus saith the Lord, Ye dry bones live.” Hark to the rustling as every bone hastens to its fellow; see how the skeleton starts upright, and how the flesh grows on the frame. “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live!” It is done, and in the place of a charnel-house you see an army and what once seemed to be the rubbish and sweepings of a tomb now stands before you a great host as the host of God, a host of men full of life, and who shall soon be clothed with glory. “Grace reigns unto eternal life.” 

     Ah! do ye understand this parable? Has this act ever been performed in you? Oh! there are some of you over whom a mother wept and for whom a father prayed; and many a time have these eyes wept for you too, and I have longed for your soul’s salvation, and sought out goodly words which might move your heart. But you were like the deaf adder, you would not hear nor be charmed, — charm we never so wisely. Ah! but glory be to God, you heard at last. How was it? How was it, I say? Speak! Speak! ye that have been brought out from spiritual death, how was it accomplished? By the might of the creature? by the power of the law? by the energy of nature? “No, unanimously you cry, ‘grace hath done it, grace hath reigned in us unto eternal life.’” 

     Rest awhile, and now come with me and behold another scene. The man is alive; he has been quickened, — but no sooner is he quickened than he feels the terrible bondage of sin. See him yonder. I see him now in vision before my very eyes. He is a man who has been a drunkard, a swearer, and all else that is vile? All manner of sins has he committed, but now he feels that this mode of life will surely end in eternal death, and he therefore longs to escape. But see how he is bound with a hundred chains, and held in bondage by seven devils fierce and strong! See him yonder! The hot sweat is on his brow while he strives to free his right arm of one huge bloated devil, called drunkenness, who seeks to hold him down and rivet the fetters about his wrist. See how he struggles with foot and hand, for he is a prisoner everywhere, like Laocoon of old, whom the serpents enfolded from head to foot, although he strove to rend away those awful folds, and to escape the jaws which stained his holy fillets with their venom. Shall that man ever be delivered? Can that slave of lust snap fetters so strong, which have for years been about him till they have grown into his very flesh and become part of his nature? Shall that lip be freed from the propensity to swear? Can that heart be delivered from pride? Shall that foot be so turned from all its paths that it shall hate the road of wickedness; and shall that eye no longer be filled with lust and crime, but shall it flash with purity and joy? Come hither, sirs, ye that are wise. Ye who understand how to reform mankind — come and ply your arts upon him and see what ye can do. The man sincerely longs to be delivered, but when he thinks he has pulled off one coil of the old serpent, lo! like a huge constrictor it hath foldeth itself again. He goes back again, like the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. There seems for him no deliverance. His nature still is vile, and though he longeth to be free, yet that nature hath the mastery over him. Oh, some of you know what this means. You know how you took the pledge, perhaps a score times, but you broke it as often. You know how you promised yourself you would never curse God again, but in a moment of passion you were overpowered, and again the oath came trembling from your tongue. All these things— all your resolutions and your vows were powerless. They could not deliver you; they could not set you free. But, grace come hither, and see what thou canst do. Grace speaks the word, and says, “Get thee hence, Satan— avaunt ye fiends— let the man be free;” and free he is, no more to be a slave. Now he hates the things which once he loved. Now he abhors the vice in which he once indulged. Now to be holy is not hard to him; it would be harder far to make him live in sin as once he did. His nature is changed. Grace has so entirely new-created the man that he is a new creature in Christ Jesus, and he runs with delight and joy in all the paths of holiness. Grace hath done it. Grace reigns unto eternal life. 

     But now come with me to another scene. There in the prison-house of conviction, bound in affliction and iron — there sits a miserable wretch. The walls of his dungeon are of solid granite, and the door thereof is of brass, with many bolts most fast and firm. The captive sits both day and night with tangled hair, weeping, weeping, weeping. Ask him why and wherefore, and his answer is, ‘I have sinned— I have sinned, and I cannot look up. Beneath me there is the yawning gulf of death, and deeper still a devouring hell; above me there is an angry God, and a judgment-seat blazing with vengeance; within me there is an accusing conscience, the foretaste of the wrath to come.” “But is there not hope for thee?” “No,” saith he, “none; I am righteously bound, and ’tis only longsuffering mercy which spares me yet a little while, for if I had my due deserts I should be taken out to execution and that at once.” Oh, come hither, ye sons of mirth, and see what ye can do for this poor prisoner. Can your music and your dancing open yonder gates, or shake those adamantine walls. Come hither, ye that are masters of the art of consolation, see what ye can do. But as one that singeth songs to a sad heart, and as vinegar upon nitre, so are ye. In vain even the minister himself, knowing the blessings of the gospel, sets before that man the grace of Christ and the riches of his love; all that the minister can say, though sent of God, seems but to plunge him deeper in the mire. “Ah,” groans the mourner, “Christ is merciful, but I have no part in him. Yes, I know lie is able to save the chief of sinners, but not such an one as I am; my heart is too hard, too vile.” He pats from him the way of salvation, and goes back again to his cold stony state, weeping, weeping, weeping, both by night and day. Grace, come and see if thou canst reign even here. I see him come, and bearing in his hand the cross, he speaks to the prisoner and cries, “Look hither, look hither,” and oh! let us wonder to tell it, when the prisoner lifts his eyes he sees a Saviour bleeding on the tree, and in a moment a smile takes the place of his sorrow; he receives the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. “Rise, rise,” saith grace, “thou art free, thou art free; shake thyself from the dust, pluck off thy sackcloth, and put on thy beautiful garments, lo,” saith he, “see what I have done.” And he breaks the gates of brass, and cuts the bars of iron in pieces. As the walls of Jericho fell down before the blast of the trumpet, so fall the walls of the dungeon, and the man finds himself rejoicing, and glad, and free; an heir of heaven, a child of God, his feet are set upon a rock, and his goings are established. Oh! grace divine, what hast thou done? — thou art indeed triumphant, O reigning grace, where despair itself had triumphed. 

     Thus have I painted you three pictures. O that I had the hand of those mighty masters who could depict these things until they stood out visibly before your eyes. I shall want your patience this morning— I know I shall have your attention, as 1 take you from place to place, and show you how grace reigns. And now, the sinner set free both from the chains of his old lusts, and of his old despairings, says within himself— 

“I’ll to the gracious king approach,
Whose sceptre mercy gives;
Perhaps he may command my touch,
And then the suppliant lives.”

     I see him journeying towards a palace exceeding fair and beautiful to look upon; as he enters the gate, he hears a whisper in his heart which is, “This is the palace of justice, thou wilt be driven forth with shame from these walls for thou art too vile to have an audience here.” Ah! but saith he 

“I can but perish if I go,
I am resolved to try;
For if I stay away I know
I must for ever die.”

     He traverses the passages of the house with beating heart, until at last he comes to the audience chamber, and there, enthroned on light, he beholds a glorious king. The sinner dares not so much as look up, for he knows not whether he shall feel devouring fire, or whether mercy shall speak to him with her silver voice. He trembles° he all but faints; when lo, reigning grace who sits smiling upon a throne of love, stretcheth out its sceptre and says, “Live, live.” At that sound the sinner revives; he looks up, and ere he has fully seen the wondrous vision, he hears another voice — “Thy sins which are many are all forgiven thee; I have blotted out like a cloud thine iniquities, and like a thick cloud thy sins; I have chosen thee and not cast thee away,” And now, the sinner, bowing low before the throne of mercy, begins to kiss its feet with rapture and delight, and mercy cries, “Rise, rise, my beloved one; I have put a lair jewel upon thy neck; I have clothed thee with ornaments; I have decked thee with pearls and precious stones as a bridegroom decketh out his bride. Go then, and rejoice, for thou art my son who was lost, but art found, who was dead, but is alive again. Never, perhaps, does grace seem more glorious than when, with the silver scepter in her hand, she touches the despairing, fainting sinner, and cries, “Live.” My soul remembers that glad hour. I speak from out of the fulness of my heart. Oh, thou golden moment, thou shalt never be forgotten, when mercy said, “Son, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee.”

     But we must pass on. The man has now become a forgiven one – a saint; but grace has not ceased to reign, nor has he ceased to need its reign. ‘Tis after sin is forgiven that the battle begins. If we had only grace enough to transform us from sinners into saints, it were not worth having, because saints would soon return to their sins, unless grace were constantly bestowed. And now let me show you a saint after he has been renewed by grace. There he stands, sir; and did you ever see a man in such a position as that! You have heard of battles, and you have sometimes read the story of some valiant hero around whom the battle made a fearful centre; who had to fight with horses slain beneath him, standing on heaps of bodies which he had slain. Behold his ardour, his courage, his burning valour, as he finds that he is the target for all arrows, that all the battle-axes and the spears are dashed and thrust against his person; that every son of wrath is thirsting for his blood. See now he hurls about him a hail of iron blows. Right, left, and all around, his sword sweeps in awful circle. Now such is the true Christian – such and yet more solemn is his position. There has never such a fight been seen on earth as that man must wage who hopes to enter into the kingdom of heaven, for no sooner are we converted than at once hell is alive against us, and earth is on fire with anger, and we have both earth and hell to dispute our salvation. Young Christian, dost thou tremble? Let me do with thee as Elias did with his servant of old. Young man, thou seest horses and chariots that are innumberable; come with me, and I will pray for thee, and touch thine eyes. What seest thou now? “Oh!” saith he, “I see the mountain, full of horses of fire and chariots of fire that are round about Elijah!” Blessed be his name; ‘tis no vision – ‘tis the very truth, “More are they that are for us than all they that be against us,” and if the fray thickens, angels shall rush to the valley with their good swords to drive back the foe, and the standard-bearer shall not fall, though fall full well he may. The soldier of Christ shall stand, for underneath him are the everlasting arms; he shall tread upon his enemies and shall destroy them, in the words of Deborah of old, “Oh my soul, thou hast trodden down strength.” So then, grace reigns in the thick battle of temptation, and makes those who are the subjects of its kingdom more than conquerors through him that hath loved them. 

     To push further still. The man, begin kept in temptation, has a work to do for his Lord, and I have often felt that there is no case where grace reigns more powerfully than in the use which God makes of such poor, infirm, feeble, decrepit creatures as hi servants are. Let me show you a picture of grace reigning. Do you see Petere there in the hall afraid of a little maid? He denies his Master, and with oaths and curses he says, “I know not the man.” Wait awhile. Some six or seven weeks have passed, and there is a great crowd in the streets; there is a multitude gathered from all countries – Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia. Who is to preach to them – who shall be the minister? Grace, – to  thine honour let it be told–  thou didst not select John who stood at the foot of the cross, nor he who was surnamed Zelotes, because of his zealousness– no, Peter who denied his Master, must come forth to own him afresh. And here he comes. Methinks I see him. Perhaps as he ascends the place where he is to speak his heart whispers to him, “Simon, son of Jonas, what doest thou here?” The cock crows Simon, and it reminds thee that thou didst deny thy Lord; what doest thou here? And then conscience seemed to say, “Art thou the man to be a preacher– thou! Give place; canst thou hope to do any good, or to save immortal souls, such a feeble head-strong, presumptuous worm as thou art?” But grace is with him. Grace has touched his lip, and the cloven tongue is like a sword of fire within his mouth; he comes forward, – and he begins to speak. Soon the heavenly fire descends from him upon the multitude, and that day, three thousand baptisms tell what God can do, and how grace can reign in the feeblest instrumentality. I am the living witness that God can make use of the weakest means to accomplish the mightiest results. In that day when you shall review the sling of David, and the ox-goad of Shamgar, when you shall have to look back upon Jael’s nail, and these little things which have done great exploits, then shall I beg you to write down my name as that of one by whom many souls have been saved, but who, himself has wondered more than ye all, whenever God has blessed him, and whenever a soul has been saved by such an unworthy one. Grace, grace, thou canst prevail; thou hast don’t it; thou canst make use of the meanest instruments to produce the grandest effects, and to increase thy glory among men. 

     I must still trespass upon you while I take you to another spot, to show you how grace can reign where you little think it would ever live at all. The sea is agitated with a great storm, and a man has just been thrown into the sea, it is Jonah. A fish has swallowed him; that fish dives into unfathomable depths, till the ocean has covered up both fish and prophet. The earth with her bars is about him for ever; the weeds are wrapped about his head. As the creature sucks in mouthful after mouthful of its food, there lies this man, and yet he lives. Grace is there preserving his life; grace was there, even when the fish was led to swallow him. But can that man ever find deliverance? Is he not in trouble too great, and cast out from the very presence of God? Hear! he groans out of the darkness of that living prison, he begins to cry, towards the temple of God. Grace, grace, come forth – she divides the sea – she speaks to Leviathan – he comes up upon the dry land, he vomits forth the prophet, and he lives. Have you ever seen the like of that in your own case? Have you ever been in a strait and a trouble so difficult that you imagined there was no deliverance? If you ever have, I turn you to your own history as an illustration of how grace can reign in redeeming you out of the most terrible trials. I tell you brethren, if all the troubles that ever came from heaven, all the persecutions that ever came from earth, and all the afflictions that ever arose from hell, could meet on your poor devoted head, the reigning grace of God would make you master of them all. You have never need to fear. Storms are the triumph of his art, and grace can steer the ship the better for tempestuous waves. Trust in the Lord, and do good; rest thou on his grace, and hop thou in his mercy. When the water is very deep he will put his hand beneath thy chin, so that thou shalt not lose thy breath, or if thou shalt sink, he will sink with thee; and if thou shouldest go to the very bottom, he will be at the very bottom with thee. Where’er thou goest, he will be thy companion, saying to thee “Fear not, I will help thee; I will be with thee; when thou goest through the waters thou shalt not be drowned, and when thou goest through the fire thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” 

     I have thus shown you grace reigning in the midst of spiritual death, spiritual bondage, spiritual despair; grace reigning in the court of judgment, grace in the battel of temptation, grace in the quagmires of infirmity, and grace triumphant also in the midst of our direst afflictions. I shall need to give you but one other picture, grace reigning in the hour of death, and triumphing in the moment of our entrance into heaven. Last Friday evening, as I lay upon my bed, having been much tossed about, and tempted, and tried, it pleased God to visit his servant and give him some what to cheer him. And among many sweet thoughts which gladdened my mind, I fell into a dose, half sleeping and half waking, and I thought I saw an angel who came from the upper skies, and who had in his hand a crown. He said to me “Thou hast fought the good fight, behold thy reward.” And I waved my hand and said, “No, no, I cannot receive it, I am not worthy of it; I cannot take it.” He said “Heaven lies before thee – enter.” And I said “No, I cannot; I deserve it not. I have no claim to any reward, no right to any rest, though it will be given to the children of God.” And he looked at me, and he said “It is of grace, and not of merit.” Then I thought I would take the crown, but lo! I awoke and the dream was over. Ay, and I mused on that long, long while, and I thought, if heaven were by merit, it would never be heaven to me, for if I were even in it I should say, “I am sure I am here by mistake; I am sure this not my place; ‘tis not my heaven; I have no claim to it.” I should walk among the redeemed with their golden harps, and say, “No, no, you have what you have fought for, and have won, but I am an intruder here.” I should be afraid of losing an inheritance to which I had no title, and of being cast out at last from a portion which I had no right to have obtained. But if it be of grace and not of works – why then we may walk into heaven with boldness. We may receive the crown with gladness, and sit down with the redeemed with joy and confidence. I protest I never could enter heaven, even if I might, if it were not of grace. I dare not in common honesty enter. Neither you nor I could claim a reward, or could ever dare to take it as a merited recompense. It must be given simply of God’s free love and covenant faithfulness, or else indeed when given we should seem like robbers who had taken to ourselves what was not ours, and should always feel that the possession was not safe, because the title was not sound. It is of grace, then. And so, beloved, when you come to die, grace shall bear you up in the midst of Jordan, and you shall say, “I feel the bottom, and it is good.” When the cold waters shall chill your blood, grace shall warm your heart. When the eye gathers the death-glaze, and the light of earth is being shut out from you for ever, grace shall lift the curtains of heaven, and give you visions of eternity; and when at last the spirit leaps form time into eternal space, then grace shall be with you to conduct you to your Father’s house. And hwn the judgement throne is set, grace shall put you on the right hand; grace shall robe you about with Jesu’s righteousness; grace shall make you bold to stand where sinners tremble, and grace shall say to you, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” 

“It lays in heaven the topmost stone.
And well deserves the praise.”

     And now I have conducted you into the many scenes, or rather into a few of them, where grace reigns. I want you now if you can before we close, to take by faith a view of GRACE SITTING ON ITS THRONE.

     Begone vain thoughts; far removed by every worldly imagination now. We are about to come into an awful presence, and well may we cry, “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” Methinks I see the throne of grace. ‘Tis but through a glass darkly, but these eyes behold it. The throne is placed upon the eternal hills of God’s immutable purpose and decree. Deep settled in unfailing wisdom and unswerving love these mountains never move. There they stand; while nature changes they move not, and though the sun may rise and set, they abide for ever and for evermore the same. The throne itself, standing upon those lofty hills, has for its pedestal divine fidelity, divine faithfulness, and the eternal will of God. Didst ever see such a throne as that? The thrones of monarchs rock and reel, but this is settled and abideth for ever in God’s faithfulness and truth. ‘Tis true that the throne of many a dynasty has been cemented by blood, and so is this indeed, but not with the blood of murdered men, or of soldiers slain in battle. To make this throne secure it is cemented with the precious blood of the Son of God, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. Nay, as if this did not suffice, this throne is settled by the eternal oath. God swears by himself because he can swear by no greater, that by two immutable things wherein it was impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation who have fled for refuge to Christ Jesus our Lord. Oh! grace – I see thy throne; I mark its solid base. A faithful and unchanging God lays the foundation of the throne in oaths and promises, and blood. And now look upward. Do you see the shining steps? The throne is of pure white alabaster, and every step is of solid light. The steps are the divine openings of providence as he gradually developes his mighty scheme. And see on either side – as on the throne of Solomon there were lions that did lie upon the steps – so on either side of the steps of the throne of grace I see two lions ready to guard and protect it. And who are these? Their names are Justice and Holiness. Let any attempt to assail that throne, and Justice will devour them, and Holiness with its fiery eyes will utterly consume them. Oh! glorious thought, Christian! That very justice which once seems to stand in the way of grace is one of the lions which guard the throne; and that very holiness which seemed once to put a barrier between thy soul and bliss, now stands there as a mighty one to guard the seat and throne of sovereign grace.

     Now look upward if your eyes can bear the light. You cannot see the full form and visage of the Lord of Grace – the King; but if ye can dimly discern it – I see upon that throne one who

"Looks like a lamb that has been slain,
And wears his priesthood still."

     Ay, though ye cannot see him, yet he sees us, and that Divine image is scattering mercies upon us now. The eyes of grace are the suns of the spiritual universe; the hands of grace scatter lavish bounties throughout all the church of the firstborn, and those lips of grace are uttering continually those once unspoken decrees which speak when they are fulfilled are carried out in gracious providences. But come hither and look upward. Bow thyself in that presence before which the angels cry “Holy, holy, holy,” and veil their faces with their wings. See above the throne, and above the image and likeness of him that sits thereon, – above that throne of grace, behold, behold, THE CROWN. Was ever such a crown? Nay, ‘tis no one, ‘tis many: there are many crowns and many jewels in each of the many crowns. And whence came these crowns of grace? Oh! they are crowns that have been won in fields of fight; they are crowns, too, that have been given by grateful hearts. And there, as I gaze, methinks I see many a soul that was once black with sin, made bright and sparkling, and there it is in the crown of grace, glittering like a diamond. And, my soul, shalt thou be there? Shalt thou be one of those ever-glittering, undimmed jewels? Shalt thou be in that crown? Oh! glorious day, when shalt thou come, when I shall be a real jewel in the crown of Jesus? But are ye not there now, men and brethren? Have you not crowned Jesus Christ already, some of you? Have not you in yours songs, and in your lives, felt that you must crown him? And often, as we have sung that hymn, could you not sing it again? – 

“All hail the power of Jesu’s name,
Let angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown him Lord of all.”

     Jesus, we crown thee, we crown thee. All hail ! all hail ! thou King of kings— thou God of love. Behold thy church bows herself before thee

“With vials full of odour sweet,
And harps of sweeter sound.”

     The elders chant before thy presence, and we, even we adore thee. Though silver of angelic praise, and gold of perfect melody we cannot boast, — yet such as we have we give thee. Unto him that sitteth upon the throne— unto him that liveth and was dead — unto grace in the person of the Lord Jesus be glory, and honour, and majesty, and power, and dominion, and might, for ever and ever. Amen.



The Proceedings of the Great Meeting in the Metropolitan Tabernacle

By / Aug 21

The Proceedings of the Great Meeting in the Metropolitan Tabernacle

 

     Portion of a hymn having been sung, the Rev. B. DAVIES, of Greenwich, offered prayer.

     Mr. COOK, the Hon. Secretary, then read the Financial Statement, from which it appeared that there had been received by donations and subscriptions to the present time, £22,196 19s. 8d. of which £4,800 17s. 10d. remains in hand. £8,000 was yet wanted to cover the cost of the undertaking.

     The CHAIRMAN said: My friends, I deem it no small honour to be called to this position upon this occasion. I congratulate you upon your being present with me in the largest place of worship in Great Britain for the use of Nonconformist Christians. I am told that my text for the few observations I shall deem it my duty to make, will be found upon the card— that we give devout thanks to God for the success of the undertaking, and that we earnestly attempt to raise the needed funds in order that it may be opened free from debt. If we take a retrospective view of two or three centuries back, how great is the contrast between the scenes which then occurred and the religious liberty which we now enjoy. Another and a brighter era was inaugurated about a century ago, not far from this place of worship, when the late Rowland Hill erected Surrey Chapel. All honour to his memory! We well know the effect that his character and his exertions had upon this immediate neighbourhood. Perhaps we may consider this to be a fit successor to that occasion. We have indeed to congratulate ourselves that we are the first under the roof of this unfinished building, to join in the hosannas in which it has been our privilege to engage, and in the prayer which has been offered up to God to sanctify our efforts. We are all so united together, that although we do not all happen to be of the same denomination as your esteemed and talented pastor, we can with the greatest possible pleasure give him the right hand of fellowship, and I have much pleasure in being permitted to have this privilege ; because I believe that our denominational differences are of such minor importance that if we could be brought under one denomination, I for one should be most happy to see that event transpire : at all events, whether in close communion or separated, we have the same pure Word of God, and I trust we have the same desire to gather in from the highways and hedges of this densely populated neighbourhood, those who have hitherto been resisting the councils of God, and refusing to have him to reign over them. We hope that many such will be brought into this enormous temple and hear those truths which will raise them from their depressed condition, which will bring them from darkness to light, and from ignorance and sin to a knowledge of the Saviour.

     Rev. C. H. SPURGEON: My dear friends, I propose to make a short speech now, and defer my lecture until after five o’clock. Although I am not Chairman, I will just give you an outline of the Meeting. I have no doubt our Chairman will first call upon our dear, respected, and well-beloved brother, the Reverend Hugh Allen to speak, and I am happy to find his life has been spared, although he has certainly in the opinion of the Puseyites been guilty of high treason. Pie has not been capitally executed, and is prepared to commit the same crime again. If it be vile to mingle with God's people, I believe he purposes to be viler still. After that, we shall call upon our deeply respected and venerated friend Dr. Campbell to speak as representing the religious press— the right side of the religious press. Then the Chairman will request our brother Jonathan George, as representing our immediate neighbourhood to address us. Dr. Arthur will represent the Wesleyans, and our friend Mr. Charles Stovel will say a few words on behalf of the Baptists. Now, my dear friends, you may perhaps guess the joy with which I stand before you to day, but no man but myself can fathom its fulness, and I myself am quite unable to express it. “Bless the lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name.”

     Much as I wish to express my gratitude, I must go at once to my business, and first say a few words about the structure itself. If our brethren who are now upon the platform have never been baptized, if the floor were to give way, they would find themselves in the baptistry; and at any time when they shall wish to be immersed in obedience to their Master’s command, they will always find a willing servant in me. The baptistry, will be usually uncovered, as we are not ashamed to confess our belief in believers’ baptism. On the occasion of the administration of the Lord’s Supper, the table will also stand here, and there are steps on each side which the Deacons will descend to distribute the memorials of the Saviour’s death. You will see above us the pulpit which might hold well nigh one hundred persons, but I cannot stand like a statue when I preach, and prefer a wide range both of thought and action. The pulpit is convenient for public meetings, so that there will be no expense of erecting platforms. Concerning this vast chapel, I believe it is the most perfect triumph of acoustics that has ever been achieved. If it had been a failure at present, I should not have been at all disappointed, because the walls have yet to be covered with boarding, so that not a particle of brickwork is to be exposed ; it being my theory that soft substances are very much the beat for hearing, having proved that in a great number of buildings stone walls are the main creators of an echo, and having seen hangings put up to break the reverberation, and give a hope of being heard. I do not think any one completely understands the science of acoustics as yet, or will for some time. I have no theory on the subject, I have only a matter of fact to go upon. We shall also have abundance of light, as you will perceive by the lanterns in the roof, and the abundant windows on each side. It has been remarked by a great many as they entered, that the building was not so large as they expected, and I was pleased to hear it, for it showed me that it was in proportion, and did not look huge and unsightly. To look very large, a building must be generally out of proportion, for when there is proportion, the idea of size is often lost. If you went down below, you would find one large room, about the same area, or rather larger than New Park Street Chapel; then you would find a schoolroom larger in its area than the venerable chapel in which my brother Dr. Campbell long preached the word— I mean the Tabernacle, Moorfields. I believe that four chapels like the one at Moorfields could be put into the area of this building; two resting on the basement would only just fill up the same area, and then two more on the top. Now, perhaps, you may get some idea of the size. With regard to the appearance, I have this much to say. I think the appearance is highly creditable to the architect. I do not care about the exterior a single farthing; the omission of the towers has deprived the architect of much of the effect which he hoped to produce by his design, and is perhaps the reason why the roof seems to rise too much, but they will never be erected as long as I am here. I will have no ornament which has not an object, and I do not think those towers could have had any object except mere show. As for the front elevation, it is not surpassed by anything in London. The building has no extravagance about it, and yet at the same time it has no meanness. True the roof rises to a very great height above the portico, and does not present a very architectural appearance from the causeway, but we must recollect this much— those who look at it from the outside have not subscribed anything towards it. I have just remarked that there is beneath this platform a large room the size of New Park Street Chapel, that is for the Church Meetings; it is rendered fully necessary, as we have now more than 1500 members. The other large room is a school-room which will contain I should think 1500, if not 2000 children. There are large class-rooms which will be used on the sabbath-day for classes, and on the week-days for my students. I have no doubt my friend, Mr. Rogers, who has so long been my excellent helper in that work — and to whom very much credit is due— will feel himself more comfortable when he has proper rooms in which all his young men can be taught in every branch which will be necessary to give them a complete education for the ministry. There is a very fine room for the ladies’ working meetings, which will also be available for a library— a place where the works of all our former pastors will be collected and preserved, for you must know that of old our Church has ever been prolific of good works. We have the almost innumerable works of Keach — so many that one does not know where to find them all— the chap-books which used to be hawked about the country printed on bad brown paper in worn-out type, yet containing right good sound theology, adorned with odd illustrations which I have no doubt interested the villagers and greatly impressed the public mind at the time. We have then the ponderous tomes of Gill, the tractates and hymns of Rippon, and the works of those who since their day have served us in the Lord. Well, then, the pulpit of my glorious predecessor, Dr. Gill, will be brought here and placed in the vestry below, that we may retain our ancient pedigree. It is said to have had a new bottom, and some of the four sides are new, yet I affirm it to be Dr. Gill’s pulpit. I am as certain that it is such, as that I am the same man as I was seven years ago, though all the component parts of my body may have been changed in the mean time. Higher still there are three magnificent rooms; in the centre is the minister; right and left the elders and deacons — the officers of the army, lying on either side of the captain so that they may be ready to go forward at the word of command. Then above that, on the third story, there are three other excellent rooms, to be used for tract depositories and Bible depositories, and for other schemes, which we hope the Church will undertake. I have thus tried to explain the structure of the building to you. I do not think that anything else remains to say to you, except I draw your attention to the staircases by which you ascend to the galleries, each gallery having a distinct entrance and staircase, so that there is no fear of any overcrowding. I will only say that a design was never carried out with more fidelity by any builder than this has been. There have been improvements made as we have gone on, but they always have been improvements to which if they did not seem absolutely necessary the builder has objected lest he should have any extras; and where we have compelled him to make them, he has done them as cheaply as possible. He is a man of whom I am proud that he is at once a member of the Church, a member of the building committee, and the builder of this house of God. Mr. Higgs, besides being a magnificent donor, gives us in solid brick and stone far more than he has done in cash. If I had ten thousand buildings to erect, I would never look to anybody else; I would stick to my first love, for he has been faithful and true. And now I come to another point, namely, the present position of this project. We have pushed beyond the era of objection to it. Now, those very wise friends, (and they were very wise,) who said the building ought not to be built, it would be too big— cannot undo it. The only thing they can do is to help us through with it, for so much money has been spent already that we cannot propose to pull it down, however absurd the structure may be. Some of our brethren said, “When Mr. Spurgeon dies who will take his place?” As if God could not raise up servants when he would, or as if we ought not to do our duty and not neglect it because something may happen in fifty years’ time. You may say, “You give yourself a long lease, fifty years.” I don’t know why I should not have it; it may come to pass, and will, if so the Lord ordains. I am cheered by an augury about this. Dr. Gill was chosen pastor of this church when he was nineteen, and he was more than fifty years its minister; Dr. Rippon was chosen at the same age, and he was fifty-eight or more; I was nineteen too, and is it not possible that I also, by divine grace, may serve my generation for a long period of time? At any rate, when I am proposing a plan, I never think whether I shall live to see it finished, for I am certain if it is God’s plan he will surely finish it, even if I should leave the work undone. I say this project has gone beyond the realm of objections. It has even passed beyond the realm of difficulties. We have had a thousand difficulties. The ground was as much given us by divine providence, as if the Lord had sent an angel to clear it for us. The money has been given and that beyond our hopes, and we have had it from quarters where we should least expect it. All the Christian Churches have contributed their portion, and almost all the ends of the earth have sent their offerings. From India, Australia, America, everywhere have we received something from God’s people to help us in this work. We hope now we shall go on even to the end of it without feeling any diminution of our joy. Now, I come to my closing point, that is, we earnestly desire that we may open this place without a farthing of debt upon it. You have heard that again and again. Let me repeat it; and I pray that our brethren here, who have the command of the public press, will try and repeat it again for me. It is not because a small debt would weigh upon this Church too much. We are not afraid of that; it is just this, we think it would tell well for the whole body who rely upon the voluntary principle, if this temple can be completed without a loan or a debt. Our place has been spoken of in the House of Commons, and mentioned in the House of Lords, and as everybody happens to know of it, as it stands conspicuously, we want to do our utmost, and we ask our brethren to give us their help, that this forefront of Nonconformity for the time being, may have about it no failure, no defeats to which anyone can point and say, “Your own voluntaryism failed to carry the project through.” I believe in the might of the voluntary principle. I believe it to be perfectly irresistible in proportion to the power of God’s Spirit in the hearts of those who exercise it. When the Spirit of God is absent, and the Church is at a low ebb, the voluntary principle has no power whatever, and then it becomes a question with many carnal wise men, whether they shall not look to Egypt for help and stay themselves on horses. But, when the Spirit of God is shed abroad, and men’s hearts are in the right state, we find the voluntary principle equal to every design of the Church. Whenever I see any denomination turn a little aside, and begin to take so much as a single halfpenny from the hand of the state, I think they do not believe in their God as they ought, and the Spirit of God is not with them in all its power. Only give us a ministry preaching Christ, and a people who will serve their God, and feel it to be their pleasure to devote themselves with their substance to his cause, and nothing is impossible. Well then, I ask you to prove this to all men, and I appeal not only to those present, but to the Christian public at large to help us in the last struggle to wipe off that remnant of £8,000. I believe we shall have a good and hearty response, and that on the day of opening we shall see this place filled with a vast multitude who will complete the last stroke of the work, and leave not a shilling unpaid. We pledge ourselves to the Christian public that they shall be no losers by us. While this work has been going on we have done as much as any other Church for all other agencies— as much at least as it was possible for us to do. We hope to help other places, by first giving to our young men education when God has called them to the ministry, and afterwards helping them when they are settled. We wish to become a fruitful mother of children, and pray that God may make this place a centre, out of which many rays of truth, and light, and glory, may be dispersed through the darkness of the land. We will not be an idle Church. We do not ask to have our load taken away, that we may eat, and drink, and play, but only that we may go straight on to do God’s work. Of all things, I do abhor a debt. I shall feel like a guilty sneaking sinner if I come in here with a hundred pounds debt upon it. “Owe no man anything” will stare me in the face whenever I try to address you. I do not believe that Scripture warrants any man in getting into debt. It may stimulate the people to raise more money; but after all, attention to the simple Word of God is infinitely better than looking at the end which may be obtained by the slightest deviation from it. Let us not owe a farthing to any living soul; that when we come in here we may find that all has been paid.

     Rev. HUGH ALLEN. — I consider this a most important day. It is a day in which we celebrate a very important fact, a fact with which I hold the great success of Mr. Spurgeon’s preaching in London to be immediately connected, namely, that we have arrived by the grace of God at a period when the masses of the people are not unwilling to hear the gospel, and when the whole gospel may be preached in its fulness by those who have hitherto been ashamed of it,— who have hitherto been too careful about the prejudices of the world,— forgetting that if the gospel be preached in love and affection you cannot preach it too fully. There is also in connection with the movement which God has caused through my beloved brother’s ministry another important fact— the people of God draw nearer one to the other. I am bold to affirm that considering my brother’s more than ordinary faithfulness in preaching all the points of the gospel, there has resulted such a drawing towards him of love and esteem, and approbation, that is truly remarkable; and as a direct result of my beloved brother’s ministry, there has of late been realised that wonderful statement which was made with regard to the primitive church, “See how these Christians love one another.”

     Rev. C. H. SPURGEON: I thank my brother, the Rev. Hugh Allen, for coming here to -day. I know the opposition he has met with, and I know he cares about as much for it as a bull when a gnat settles on his horn. He shall have my pulpit any time he likes— I am quite sure he will commit no offence, if it is a sin for a clergyman to preach in a licensed place, there are one hundred clergymen who are great sinners, for I licensed Exeter Hall as a place of dissenting worship, a few years ago, and it stands on the bishop’s book yet. About one hundred clergymen have since preached there.

     Dr. CAMPBELL said: I do not know, Mr. Spurgeon, that I shall address the meeting, but I am sure I can look at it, and I am sure I can love it. For a long time I have been accustomed from want of voice to decline all public speaking, but there are seasons when a man ceases to be voluntary. Notwithstanding what Mr. Spurgeon has said about being voluntary, he sent me a note some two or three days ago, and said, “Do come to our meeting next Tuesday if you can, and come whether you can or not.” There is no dealing with a man of this description, so to cut the matter short I simply submitted. I came to-night for the special purpose of congratulating our friend Mr. Spurgeon on his safe return from the land of popery and superstition. I know he will tell us very good things to-night, when he shall come to compare his own native land with those in which he has lately travelled. I do unite with you all in giving thanks to God for the extent to which you have advanced in your magnificent undertaking. You may say in verity, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” God has been with Mr. Spurgeon, and made him the instrument of turning a multitude of you from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. We come— I am sure I may speak for all— to congratulate you and to rejoice with you, and with our whole hearts to bid you God-speed. The work is a mighty one, I confess I came to see it some three or four months ago; I had seen no such structure before, and I rejoice to be living in a period when such a structure has been brought into being. Our desire for our dear brother is that he may be spared to labour for fifty years more. I think by that time he will be prepared with me for garrison service, and I think you will be prepared to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant, retire to thy rest and to thy glory.”

     The CHAIRMAN then called upon the Reverend Jonathan George to address the meeting as the representative of the immediate neighbourhood.

     Rev. JONATHAN GEORGE said: Dear Christian friends, I am not the man to address you at very great length, for public speaking is not my forte, and extreme weakness will prevent me from saying much to you. I did not, however, throw myself in the way of this engagement, but I was solicited to come, and could not say no. The card of invitation which I hold in my hand says that the object of the meeting is “to render devout thanksgiving to God for granting this enterprise so much success.” I am sure your hearts must be gladdened in seeing, what you thought perhaps Utopian, at last succeed. It is now clearly demonstrated that the work has begun and must go on in spite of all its foes. It would be well for us all to remember when God blesses us with any measure of prosperity, that prosperity is very hard to bear. How is that? Cannot Christianity, or the grace of God bear it? No, it is because of the extreme carnality and pride of our hearts. Here is a portion of Scripture we should all recollect— “They shall fear and tremble for all the prosperity that I send.” It is a blessing when God has succeeded our poor efforts and poured out a blessing on us if we are jealous of our own hearts, and fear and tremble. Oh! God, how rich, how beneficent thou art! Let us not lose thy full blessing by our own pride; by pointing to some second cause and saying— “It was I; it was us; it was our ministers.” On! go on fearing and trembling, and the Lord Jehovah will bless you. I am requested to be considered as the representative of the ministers and friends in this neighbourhood. I am happy to say that I can safely represent the hearts and feelings of most of the ministers in this locality, more especially through the extent of Walworth, Camberwell, and Clapham. I am associated with a conference of the ministers of these districts, (irrespective of the denominations to which they belong) who meet at the house of our esteemed and worthy friend Dr. Steane. I can, therefore, come to you in the name of my fellow-ministers, and offer you our congratulations for God’s blessing on your ministry, on this undertaking, and on the gathering of to-day.

     Rev. Dr. ARTHUR, as the representative of the Wesleyan denomination, addressed the meeting, and expressed his cordial sympathy with the undertaking, hoping that

“When on Zion’s height
The hosts of God appear,
May thousands, thousands, reign in light,
Who found salvation here.”

     The subscriptions were then brought forward, and Mr. Spurgeon stated that more than a million had contributed to the erection of this place of worship, chiefly in small sums.

     Rev. C. H. SPURGEON said: I am astonished at Dr. Campbell for not knowing that the word Tabernacle involves a religious doctrine, namely, that we have not come to the temple-state here, we are now passing through the Tabernacle-state. We believe this building to be temporary, and only meant for the time that we are in the wilderness without a visible King. Our prayer is, “Thy kingdom come.” We firmly believe in the real and personal reign of our Lord Jesus Christ, for which we do devoutly wait. That is the reason why it is called a tabernacle, not a temple. We have not here the King in person, the Divine Solomon; till he come, we call it a tabernacle still. As to the word Metropolitan, it is too long, and I could fairly give it up, but I will keep it now in spite of the Doctor. I will always concede to him, I am sure, the chief seat; he and I will never quarrel for any precedence; his is a most mighty pen. He may have the kingdom of the pen if he will let me keep some part of the kingdom of the tongue. His pen is sharper and more mightier than Ithuriel's spear; it has detected many of the toads of heresy, and transformed them to their right shape, and I have no doubt it will find out a great many more yet.

 

     An interval of half-an-hour took place, after which, a hymn having been sung, the Rev. S. K. BLAND engaged in prayer.

 

     Rev. CHARLES STOVEL: Of all the addresses received by us this afternoon, that by my friend Mr. George pleased me by far the most, and deserved, as I think, the most prayerful consideration. I have watched two or three times (opportunities having been given during the progress of your work of coming in amongst the workmen) the arrangement of your structure. I have in every case been greatly pleased with the whole business, and seem to realize my own expectation as the building advances now to completeness, both in respect to the acoustics, and the sight and command which the speaker may have when accustomed to it over so large an assembly as is required to fill the place. It appears to me to have been guided by great wisdom, and that your plans well formed have been with equal skill and accuracy carried out. I think, respecting the place itself, I am not so much pleased, nor do I feel so glad respecting the structure as I do when I think of the combination of mind, and the operation on moral feeling and principle presented in the movements of your Society. I rejoice much in being permitted to see the advancement of your pastor to the present moment, and at the same time gathering up all my recollections of the past, in which it has happened to me to hang upon the lips of any teacher advancing to anything like the popularity now enjoyed— in no case have I been permitted to witness the ripening of years and the termination of days without some fearful lesson — some solemn and humbling circumstance. Let that fact lie before you, — not to discourage, certainly, but to humble, — and especially to keep your minds from anything like self-confidence in the thing which you yourselves have done. God is pleased to employ earthly agencies to accomplish great purposes, but he is pleased to make the agencies he employs feel that it is not the sword nor the instrument of any work that accomplishes it, it is the hand that wields the sword; it is the operator. It is the operator which conducts the instrument, and when the operator withdraws his mind, the instrument is as feeble as the sword without a hand. I would present this simply as a guide to that thought, which lies, as I think, at the basis of all the operations developing through the prosperity of your church. Who, let me ask you, when your congregations, as I hope they soon will, shall have crammed you to your ceilings; when from every one of these seats, glowing eyes shall look down upon this centre of address; when up to yon roof the crowded assembly shall gaze with lighted eye and listen to the holy word ; when school upon school shall be at work ; visitors following visitors; then when the tendency of human nature to lag and to let go their hold shall present itself, when anything shall occur to break or jar the machinery of our great work— who then shall be your guide? Let me tell you, you will learn then at that moment what the blessed Redeemer said to his disciples when he launched his great operation upon the world, “Without me ye can do nothing.” Be sure of this, that at such points, (and such points will come, for though I hail and greet you in your work, I cannot flatter you), I tell you, my brethren the more you lie humble in the dust the sweeter it will be for you in after-life. Let us remember we hold every gift from above, as stewards enriched and blessed that we may be made blessings, and honour and serve the God we trust and love. My earnest wish and prayer is, that from this night you may advance in closer fellowship with God through that personal Saviour and that personal Spirit. You will soon forget the peculiar dogmas of Calvin, and of all the rest; you will take the truth which comes to you from any man, not because the man has spoken it, but because it comes from God. You will feel that salvation is treasured up in Christ; that Christ is proclaimed to man; that man enjoys salvation by embracing Christ, and thousands led to him shall be your honour and reward. May God grant it beyond all your thoughts and hopes for Christ's sake.

     The Rev. C. H. SPURGEON then came forward to give some account of his continental tour: — I have been requested by two well-known and deservedly eminent publishers to print some notes of my journey on the continent; but I went there for rest and recreation, and certainly the toil of writing notes at the end of each day is not a pleasant task to me, though I have no doubt it is quite a luxury to a great many young ladies who travel on the continent, for I have always seen them on board boat, and elsewhere, taking notes of everything they saw. I never knew what was in the notes, of course, but I am afraid they were not of so much value as those which have helped to make up the sixty pounds. I went abroad to re-string my nerves, to give rest to my brains, and repose to the whole mental man; and I felt that this most sacred purpose could never be attained if I chained myself to the drudgery of book-writing. My congregation would have been disappointed if I had come home as tired as I went, and I could have had no solid excuse for ceasing my daily preaching if I had not really rested my weary soul. I believe, moreover, that the narrative of my journey will be far more valuable to me as a fountain of fresh illustrations and suggestions, than if I could pour it all out into a book. Will it not be better to retain my pearl and let it glitter every now and then, than to melt it into one small draught, too shallow to satisfy the public thirst? I shall hurry through a few of the matters which I observed, and I would have my friends remember that this is not a solemn service of worship, but a mere lecture at which I shall use great freedom of speech, and give you full license to laugh. I went from St. Katherine’s docks down the river, accompanied by my well-beloved deacons and several of my friends. At Gravesend, my friends left me with the kindest wishes, and with many a prayer to God for my safety. I assure you the journey was rendered abundantly pleasant by the evening which we spent together in prayer and fellowship before I departed; for I never heard such kind words and such loving prayers uttered, concerning any human being, as I heard that night concerning myself. There was nothing like fulsome flattery, all the glory was given to God; but every brother’s heart invoked such blessings upon my head that I went away with a rich cargo of joy, knowing that a full wind of prayers was following behind. I had an Essex captain to go with, and as all Essex men have a high opinion of their countrymen, we soon found ourselves in full talk upon the excellencies of our native county. Many were our anecdotes, and swiftly flew the time. Mine I have told so many times, I dare say you know them. Some of the captain’s tales were new and original. I shall give you one, because it tends to illustrate the town in which I landed — Antwerp. Antwerp, you must know, is so full of Virgin Marys, that you can’t turn the corner of a street but there is a Blessed Virgin, sometimes under a canopy of many colours, arrayed in all manner of pretended jewellery, and at other times in a neat little niche which seems to have been picked out of the wall for her ladyship’s special accommodation. Sometimes she is represented by an ugly black doll, and at other times by a decent respectable statue. Well, so many of these Virgin Marys are there, that the sailors may be excused for imagining every image which they see to be a Virgin Mary. A sailor who landed there, went to buy some tobacco, and when he returned to the ship, one of them said, “That is very good tobacco, Jack, where did you get it?” “Oh!” he said, “you will know the shop, for there is a Virgin Mary sitting over the door, smoking a pipe.” I don’t wonder at the man’s mistake, for one gets so accustomed to see that excellent lady in all manner of shapes, that you may easily mistake a Turk in his turban for the Virgin and her crown. I am sure they think vastly more of her than of our Lord Jesus Christ; for, though we saw many crucifixes and many images of Him, yet even in their image-work it seemed to me that the Virgin Mary was cent. per cent. beyond the Lord Jesus Christ. It happened, the very day we landed at Antwerp, that there was a grand procession just streaming in its full glories out of the Cathedral, an old and venerable building. There were priests in their robes, beadels resplendent in their livery, and a great number of men, whom I supposed to be penitents, carrying huge candles, certainly I should think two inches in diameter. These men walked two and two along the streets. Whether that burning of the candles typified the consumption of then- sins, the melting of their Church, or the illumination of soul which they so greatly needed, I do not know. There were also carried great lamps of silver, or electro plate, very much like our own street lamps, only of course not quite so heavy and these, too, when the sun was shining brightly, and there was not need of the slightest illumination; and this was not in the dark cathedral, but in the open streets. In all solemnity they marched along with trhese candles and lanterns, blazing and shaming the sunlight. They told me they were taking the most blessed and comfortable sacrament to some sick people; but what the candles had to do with the sacrament, the sacrament with the candles, or they with the sacrament, I do not know. I noticed two little boys, very handsomely dressed, walking in the middle of the procession, who were throwing flowers and oak leaves before the priests as they walked; so that as they went along, their holy feet scarcely needed to touch the soil, or to be polluted with the stones. The presence of those little ones full of infantile joy relieved the soul for a moment, and bade us pray that our little ones might take part in a nobler celebration when the Lord himself should come in the glory of his Father. Almost every house had just before the window a little place for holding a candle, and as soon as they heard the procession coming along, the candles were lighted. I noticed, that the moment it passed, the thrifty housewives blew out the lights, and so they saved their tallow, I doubt they did not save their souls. I enquired, and was informed— and I think on good authority— that even some of the Protestants in Antwerp, burn these candles in the front of their houses lest it should hinder their trade if they did not conform to the customs of the rest of the people. I am sure it is an unutterable disgrace to them if they do, and it is very much akin to that which our brother Stovel was saying, being charitable with what is not our own by being conformed to this world, and seeking to win either profit or applause by giving up our own peculiar sentiments. I would like to have seen Martin Luther with a candle before his door! Unless, indeed, he had burned the Pope’s bull before their eyes. He would have sooner died than have paid respect to a baptized heathenism, a mass of idolatries and superstitions. I do not think that the Romish religion has any very profound effect upon the morals of the people, for I observed publicly exposed for sale in the window of an old shop under the eaves of the cathedral, in fact, in a part of the cathedral itself, articles which I dare not describe to you, and which I almost need to blush for having seen, for they were so horribly indecent. The things themselves, the religion, is not accountable for, but how they allow their sale within the holy precincts, I cannot tell. Never did I feel my Protestant feelings boiling over so tremendously, as in this city of idols, for I am not an outrageous Protestant generally, and I rejoice to confess that I feel there are some of God’s people in the Romish Church, as I shall have to show you by-and-bye. But I did feel indignant when I saw the glory and worship which belongs to God alone, given to pictures, and images of wood and stone. When I saw the pulpits magnificently carved, the gems set in the shrines, the costly marbles, the rich and rare pictures upon which a man might gaze for a day, and see some new beauty in each face, I did not marvel that men were enchanted therewith. But, when I saw the most flagrant violation of taste, and much more of religion in their Calvarys and cheap prints, my spirit was stirred within me, for I saw a people wholly given unto idolatry. I believe Antwerp to be the most religious place on the face of the earth in a bad sense— the most superstitious— for everywhere, all over the continent, we were compelled to say, “Well, this does not come up to the glory of Antwerp.” There the people dive into the very depths of formalism, they seem as if they could not live without Mary the Virgin, and without continually paying reverence and adoration to her.

     I found throughout Belgium, what I was not sorry to see, a hearty dislike of the Emperor Napoleon. A salutary dread of that man may prevent his future attempts at aggrandisement, it may unite the weak until they shall be strong enough to become a useful check to the strong. When I was at an inn in Belgium, I heard some persons Baying, “Ah, if they come here, they will never go back again.” Now, I knew they were afraid. Whenever I hear a man brag of what he is going to do, I always know he is frightened. The man said, “If they were once to come to Belgium, they would never go back again.” I doubt they would stop there, and that the goodness of their quarters would be the only reason why they would not go back; for the small force that Belgium can command I am afraid would interpose a very small barrier to the ambition of that mighty lord of a warlike people. I remarked throughout Prussia the utmost distrust of him. I cannot say that I found a very good opinion of the English in Prussia. Talking with intelligent Prussian gentlemen, I found that many felt very coldly towards us; as we had quietly permitted Buonaparte to annex Savoy and Nice, they felt persuaded he would never rest quiet until he had added Switzerland, and rectified the borders of the "Rhine. The German jocular publications, similar to our Punch, represent Napoleon as setting the boundaries straight with a ruler, and as trying to climb a ladder, one round of which, marked Savoy, he has just reached, and is preparing for one or two longer steps. The Prussians I know feel exceedingly full of suspicion and distrust as to what future events will be, and I said to them, “Do not you think if the Emperor should touch any of your provinces on the Rhine, that England certainly would speak out?” “No,” said one gentleman. “Your nation never speaks out except it touches your commerce, you are a people that care for nothing except cotton and Manchester.” It was no easy task to controvert his opinion, for many acts of government certainly wear that aspect. I am a peace man myself, and a very great lover of everything that may tend to peace, but there are times when we cannot afford to vacillate. I believe that Oliver Cromwell was the best peace maker that could be found, because he just said, “You may have peace if you will behave yourselves, but do not trifle with me, or expect me to wink at your oppressions, or you shall soon see my cannon at your doors.” Kings and potentates felt they had a firm bold man to deal with, not a man who could truckle and tremble, but who would most resolutely defend the right. I would not say a word that would provoke in any man a warlike feeling, but I cannot bear that our Prussian brethren should mistrust us, for they are our natural allies; it is to them we must look for true alliance in times of disaster, we must look to a Protestant country to stand by us, and not to a Romish land. I do not like that a country that is married to England’s fairest daughter, should entertain any suspicion but that we would stand by them in their struggle, and expect them to stand by us. The fact is, it is only a combination of free and Protestant states that can be of lasting use, and a cordial alliance with Romish and despotic powers is a dream and a delusion.

     We journeyed from Antwerp to Brussels. I cannot say that Brussels interested me much. I am never interested in great towns in which there is nothing but fine buildings and museums. I had much rather see an odd, old-fashioned town like Antwerp with its sunny memories of Rubens, Quintin Mastys, and other princes in the realms of art. It was the first place I saw; and I think its singular houses, its old-fashioned costumes, and its ancient streets, will never die out of my memory. In Brussels I heard a good sermon in a Romish church. The church was crowded with people, many of them standing, though you might have a seat for a halfpenny or a farthing. But I stood too. And that good man— for I believe he is a good man— preached the Lord Jesus with all his might. He spoke of the love of Christ, so that I, a very very poor hand at the French language, could fully understand him. and my heart kept beating within me as he spoke of the beauties of Christ and the preciousness of his blood, and of his power to save the chief of sinners. He did not say justification by faith, but he did say, “Efficacy of the blood,” which comes to very much the same thing. He did not tell us we were saved by grace and not by our works, but he did say that all the works of men were less than nothing when they were brought into competition with the blood of Christ, and that that blood was in itself enough. True there were objectionable sentences, as naturally there must be, but I could have gone to that man and could have said, “Brother, you have spoken the truth;” and if I had been handling that text myself, I must have done it in the same way, if I could have done it as well. I was pleased to find my own opinion verified in that case, that there are some, even in the apostate church, who cleave unto the Lord; some sparks of heavenly fire that tremble amidst the rubbish of old superstition, some lights that are not blown out, even by the strong wind of Popery, but still cast a feeble gleam across the waters sufficient to guide the soul to the rock Christ Jesus. I saw in that church a box for contributions for the Pope, and his empty exchequer may well require the consideration of the faithful. Peter’s pence were never more needed than at the moment when the patrimony of his pretended successors is likely to be delivered from their paternal protection. The Pope will never grow rich with what I put into the box. I have seen money-boxes on the continent for different saints, — Sancta Clara, San Francisco, San Dominic, and another box for the Virgin, and another for the poor. Now I never could make out how the money got to the Virgin, and to Dominic, and to the rest of them; but I have a notion that if you were to find out how the money gets to the poor, you would find out how it reaches the Saints. On board our ship, from London to Antwerp, there were a considerable number of Irishmen, who were going out to be a part of the Popish Legion. I hope they were not fair specimens of the bulk. There is such a dash of chivalry about that enlistment of these brave crusaders, that I looked for fine noble fellows. This company could by no means warrant me in giving such a description. I felt exceedingly grateful to the Pope for finding some occupation for such a company. The captain said, “There ain’t but one man among them, sir, as would cut up for a mop and first appearances seemed to justify the opinion, whatever that expressive phrase may mean. They were the most irregular set of regular troops I had ever seen. Their luggage was the least expensive that ever the captain carried, for out of the whole batch, I was told that, no man had more luggage than he could carry in a pocket handkerchief. As they were going along, they were down on the deck playing at cards— I suppose that was to qualify them for the service of his holiness; but as soon as the ship began to roll they played quite other cards. What this new occupation was I leave to your imagination.

     After going from Brussels, and getting a distant glimpse of the lion mound of Waterloo, we hurried down to Namur and steamed along the Meuse, — that beautiful river the Meuse, which is said to be an introduction to the Rhine, but which to my mind is a fair rival to that noble river. It quite spoiled me for the Rhine. Everywhere, on each side, there were new phases of beauty, and sweet little pictures which shone in the sunshine like small but exquisite gems. It was not one vast Koh-i-Noor diamond; it was not sublimity mingling its awe with loveliness such as you would see in Switzerland with its majestic mountains, but a succession of beautiful pearls, threaded on the silver string of that swiftly flowing river. It is so narrow and shallow that as the steamboat glides along it drives up a great wave upon the banks on either side. In some parts along the river there were signs of mineral wealth, and the people were washing the iron stone at the river’s brink to separate the ore from the earth. And one thing I saw here I must mention, as being a type of a prevailing evil in Belgium. When there were barges of iron-stone to unload, the women carried the heavy baskets upon their backs. If there were coals or bricks to be carried, the women did it; they carried everything; and their lords and masters sat still and seemed to enjoy Seeing them at work, and hoped it might do them good, while they themselves were busily engaged in the important occupation of smoking their pipes. When we came to a landing-place, if the rope was to be thrown off so that the steamboat might be secured, there was always a woman to run and seize the rope, and there stood a big-looking fellow to give directions as to how she should do it. We joked with each other upon the possibility of getting our wives to do the like, but indeed, it is scarcely a joking matter to see poor women compelled to work like slaves, as if they were only made to support their husbands in idleness. These poor women were fagged and worn; but they looked more fully developed than the men, and seemed to be more masculine. If I had been one of those women, and I had had a little bit of a husband sitting there Smoking his pipe, if there is an act that gives a woman two months for beating her husband, I fear I should have earned the penalty. Anyhow, I would have said to him, “No; I am very much obliged to you for doing me the honour of marrying me, but at the same time, if I am to work and earn your living and mine too, you will smoke your pipe somewhere else.” The fact is, my dear friends, to come to something that may be worth our thinking about, employment for women is greatly needed in our country, and the want of it is a very great evil, but it is not so much to be deplored as that barbarity which dooms women to sweep the streets, to till the fields, to carry heavy burdens and to be the drudges of the family. We greatly need that watchmaking, printing, telegraphs, bookselling, and other indoor occupations should be more freely open to female industry, but may heaven save our poor women from the position of their Continental sisters. The gospel puts woman where she should be, gives her an honourable position in the house and in the Church, but where women become the votaries of superstition they will soon become the burden-bearers of society. Our best feelings revolt at the idea of putting fond, faithful, and affectionate woman to oppressive labour. Our mothers, our sisters, our wives, our daughters are much too honourable in our esteem to be treated otherwise than as dear companions, for whom it shall be our delight to live and labour.

     We went next to a sweet little village called Chaufontaine, surrounded with verdant hills, and so truly rural, that one could forget that there was such a place as a busy, noisy, distracting world. Here we found the villagers at work making gun barrels with old-fashioned tilt hammers, which I understand have not been used in England for fifty years. Here it was for the first time we saw industrious men. Talk about long hours in England! these blacksmiths rise at four o’clock in the morning, and I do not know when they leave off; only this I know, that we passed by them very late and found them at it still, and that too, hard at work at the blazing forge, hammering and knocking away at the old-fashioned way of making gun barrels, welding one piece of iron into a tube, working almost without clothing, the sweat pouring down them, mingling with the black and soot of their faces. The real workers on the continent seem to be always working, and never appear to stop at all, except at dinner time. Then you may go to the shop and knock until your arm aches, and there is never a man to sell you anything; they are all having their dinner. Dinner is a respectable operation, and they do not like to come out even to wait upon a customer. I waited a long time at a door in Zurich where I wanted to buy a print, but no, no, I must wait. Where has the man gone? He has gone to dinner; I must wait till the dinner is done. That breaking up of the day, I have no doubt tends, after all, to shorten the hours of labour, but I think there is work to be done in the villages of the continent by the Early Closing Association, — it will be well if they can persuade people that they can do quite as much work if they work fewer hours. In the country villages science appears to be very backward. My friend declared he saw the linchpin of a waggon which weighed two pounds; I never saw such a huge linchpin anywhere else. And as to the carts and waggons, they were like racks put on a couple of pair of wheels, and in every case five times as heavy as they need be; and thus the horses have a load to begin with before the cart is loaded. On the continent I think they have in some towns and cities made progress superior to our own, but in the villages and in the rural parts of any one country you like to choose throughout the whole continent you would find them far behind our rural population. The intelligence of those countries is centered in the large towns, and it does not radiate forth and spread its healthy influence in the rural districts so swiftly as in our own beloved land. It is well to see advance even in these social matters, because, as men advance in social discoveries, in arts and commerce, it often happens that they are brought into contact with other lands and so the word of God becomes more widely known. I believe every steam-engine, every railroad, every steamboat, and every threshing-machine, to be a deadly enemy to ignorance, and what is ignorance but the corner-stone of superstition? Let but the light go forth mentally, and the way will be prepared for the light divine.

     At Aix-la-Chapelle I saw another batch of the Pope’s guards— they were very carefully looked after, and required it I do not doubt. They were the right sort for fighting, if all accounts be true, and although I thus speak of them, I feel indignant at the abominable manner in which they have been treated. True hearts have been rejected by the chief -priest, but the day will soon come when he would give all Rome to get a few hundred of such true fellows as these Irish lads. Beyond a question, their motive entitled them to the best of treatment from those whom they volunteered to serve. It has been a sad, sad affair. I pray God the day may come when Ireland, the real Emerald Isle, first gem of the ocean, may shake off the cloud that now hangs so heavily upon her; and when her brave sons — for brave they are— may find better work than to uphold a rotten throne, which I pray may fall; and may Garibaldi be the means of shaking it!

     As everybody when they go on the continent visits Cologne, so did we; but I must say of Cologne, I have a more vivid recollection of what I smelt than of what I saw. The Cologne odour is more impressive than the Eau de Cologne. I had heard Albert Smith say he believed there were eighty-three distinct bad smells in Cologne, and in my opinion he underrated the catalogue, for every yard presented you something more terrible than you had ever smelt before. Better to pay our heavy taxes for drainage than live in such odours. Our filthy friend, the Thames, is as sweet as rose-water when compared with Cologne or Frankfort. Hear this, ye grumblers, and be thankful that you are not worse off than you are. We went down the Rhine, and it was just a repetition of what we saw down the Meuse, with the addition of castles and legends. My want of taste is no doubt the cause of my disappointment upon seeing this river. The lakes of Westmoreland and Cumberland, and the lochs of Scotland, fairly rival the Rhine, and are much of the same character. Go and see it yourselves and you will not repent it. We went across to Frankfort and Heidelberg, and then to Baden. Let me say a few words about Baden. I went to see the gaming table. It is, without exception, the most mournful sight I ever put my eyes on. The Conversation house at Baden is a gorgeous building. Wealth could not make it more splendid than it is. All the luxuries that can be gathered from the farthest ends of the earth are lavished there. It is a fairy palace, more like the gorgeous creation of a dream than sober substantial fact. You are freely admitted; no charge is made; whilst the most beautiful music that can be found waits to charm your ear. The most excellent performers are there, and if there is a special concert it is always free. The theatres are free; every place of amusement is free; even the public library is free, and nothing has to be paid for. You ask me how all this is supported? To the left of the building there are two rooms for gaming. There is a long table, and a great crowd standing round it. The table is as full as it will accommodate, and there sit four men in the middle with long rakes, pulling money this way and that way, and shoving it here and there. I hardly ever saw such a mass of money, except upon a banker's counter. There are long rolls of gold done up in marked quantities, and then there are heaps of silver money. You see a young man come in; he looks around him; but does not seem like a gambler. He puts down half a Napoleon as a mere joke. You watch him: in a minute it is shovelled away; he has lost his money. He walks round again, and puts down another. This time he wins and he has two. By-and – bye he will play deeper, and the day will probably come when he will stake his all and lose it. You see women sitting there all night playing high stakes. Some people win, but everybody must lose sooner or later, for the chances are dreadfully against any man who plays. The bank clears an enormous sum every year. I am afraid to mention the amount lest I should bethought to exaggerate What staring eyes, what covetous looks, what fiery passions I saw there! And what multitudes go into that place happy, and return to curse the day of their birth! I had the sorrow of seeing some fools play. I saw young men who put down money and spent so much that they had hardly enough to take them back to England. Such was the infatuation that I am not surprised when spectators are carried away by the torrent. There are some who defend the system. I hold it to be fraught with more deadly evils than anything that could be invented, even by Satan himself. I saw an old respectable looking man come there and put down ten pounds. He won. He receives twenty. He puts down the twenty. He wins, and he has forty. Again he puts down the forty, and receives eighty. He puts down the eighty and takes up one hundred and sixty. Then he took it all up, put it in his pocket, and walked away as calmly as possible. Now that man will lose money by that, because he will come back to-morrow, and that man will probably play so deep, he will sell the house that is to cover his children’s heads, and pawn the very bed from under his wife. The worst thing that can happen to a man who plays is to win. If you lose, it serves you right, and there is hope that you will repent of your folly; if you win the devil will have you in his net so thoroughly, that escape will be impossible. I charge every young man. here— for there are such temptations now in London, though not well known — I charge you above all things never have anything to do with games of chance. If you desire to make your damnation doubly sure, and ruin your body and soul, go and do it; but if not, avoid it, pass by it, look not at it for it has a basilisk’s eye and may entice you, and then it has the sting of an adder, and will certainly destroy you. I repeat what I said before of Baden-Baden, it is a bewitching place, and well worth a visit from the man who would see evil in its finest robes. But let not the weak and frivolous venture to touch the gilded bait here so temptingly displayed, or his ruin will be near and his remorse most bitter.

     We went from thence to Freburg, and afterwards to Schaffhausen. There for the first time we saw the Alps. It was a wonderful sight, though in the dim distance we hardly knew whether we saw clouds or mountains. We had to hold a sort of controversy with ourselves, — Is that solid— that glittering whiteness, that sunny glitter that I see there? Is it a bank of white mist? Is it cloud, or is it a mountain? Soon you are assured that you are actually beholding the everlasting hills. If a wan does not feel like praising God at that moment, I do not think there is any grace in him. Sentimental tears I never indulge in, but I will aver that if there be anything like piety in a man’s soul when he sees those glorious works of God, he will begin to praise the Lord, and magnify his holy name. We soon passed into Switzerland. We went from Schaffhausen to Zurich. Everywhere there was something to delight us. The magnificent falls of the Rhine, the clear blue waters of the Zurich lake, the distant mountains, the everchanging costumes of the people, — all kept us wide awake, and gratified our largest love of novelties. All nature presented us with a vast entertainment, and every turn of the head introduced us to something new and beautiful.

     At Zurich I saw in the great fair what I also saw at Baden-Baden, a sight which gave me pleasure, namely, the little star of truth shining amid the darkness. Opposite the house at Baden, where Satan was winning souls at the gaming table, there was a little stall at which an agent of the Bible Society was selling Bibles and Testaments. I went up and bought a Testament of him, and felt quite cheered to see the little battery erected right before the fortifications of Satan, for I felt in my soul it was mighty through God to the pulling down of the stronghold. There in the midst of the fair at Zurich where they were selling all manner of things, like John Bunyan’s Vanity Fair, there stood an humble looking man with his stall, upon which there were Bibles, Testaments, and Mr. Ryle’s Tracts. It is always a great comfort to me to see my sermons in French and other languages sold at the same shops as those of that excellent man of God. There is the simple gospel in his tracts, and they are to my knowledge singularly owned of God. How sweet it is to see these dear brethren in other churches, loving our Lord, and honoured by him. At Lucerne we stopped and spent our third Sabbath-day, and of all days in the year, Sabbath-days on the Continent are most wretched, so far as the means of grace are concerned. This, however, was spent in quiet worship in our own chamber. Our first Sabbath was a dead waste, for the service at church was lifeless, spiritless, graceless, powerless. Even the grand old prayers were so badly read, that it was impossible to be devout while hearing them, and the sermon upon “The justice of God in destroying the Canaanites,” was as much adapted to convert a sinner, or to edify a saint, as Burke’s Peerage, or Walkers dictionary. There was nothing, however, in the service puseyistical or heretical. Far worse was our second Sunday in Baden, which effectually prevented my attending Episcopal service again, until I can be sure of hearing truthful doctrine. The preacher was manifestly a downright Puseyite, an admirer, doubtless, of Mr. Bryan King, because during one part of the service he must needs go up to the Roman Catholic altar, and there bow himself with his back to us. The images and idols of the Church were not concealed as they should have been by some proper hangings. There they were in all their open harlotry, and I must say they were in full keeping with the sermon which was inflicted upon us. The preacher thought he would give us a smart hit, so he began with an attack upon all who did not subscribe to baptismal regeneration, and sacramental efficacy He did not care what we might say, he was certain that when the holy drops fell from the fingers of God’s ordained minister, regeneration there and then took place. I thought, well that is coming out, and the man is more honest than some of the wolves in sheep’s clothing, who hold baptismal regeneration but will not openly confess it. The when sermon through, he treated us to sacramental efficacy, and made some allusion to St. George’s riots, saying that it was an awful thing that the servants of God were subjected to persecution, and then he let fly at us all, and told us we had not sufficient respect for our ministers, that the real ordained successors of the apostles were trodden down as mire in the streets. Who could blame the poor man for thus trying to honour himself, for I am afraid no other would be able to endure, much less to honour him. I abstained from going to Church after that, and if I were to continue for seven years without the public means of grace, unless I knew that a man of kindred spirit, with Mr. Allen, Mr. Cadman, Mr. Ryle, and that holy brotherhood of evangelicals would occupy the pulpit, I never could or would enter into an Anglican Church again. These Puseyites make good Churchmen turn to the Dissenters, and we who already dissent, are driven further and further from the Establishment. In the name of our Protestant religion, I ask whether a minister of the Church of England is allowed to bow before the altar of a Popish church? Is there no rule or canon which restrains men from such an outrage upon our professed faith, such an insult to our constitution? This, I know, in no other English denomination would such a thing be tolerated, and I beseech some clergyman of the Church of England to ask the question whether this is to be permitted and allowed. In the Church at Lucerne I think they had the head of St. John the Baptist, with some of the blood in a dish, and other relics innumerable. And yet I was expected to go on Sunday and worship there. I could not do it, for I should have kept thinking of John the Baptist’s head in the corner. Though I have a great respect for that Baptist and all other Baptists, I do not think that I could have controlled myself sufficiently to worship God in the midst of such fooleries as that. In this case I believe the idols are covered, and the truth is preached, but I did not know this till the time was past. But my time will utterly fail me, therefore let me pass on. We went up the Righi, as everybody must do, toiling up, up, up, some nine miles, to see the sun go to bed, and then we were awakened in the morning with a most dreadful blowing of horns, to get up and see the sun rise. Out we went, but his gracious majesty, the sun, would not condescend to show himself, or at least he got up and we were staring half-an-hour before we knew it; so we all went down again, and that was the end of our glorious trip. It was worth while to go up that five thousand five hundred and fifty-five feet, as I think they made it the last time, for the guides can make it what they like, for as we went up we could see the snowy mountains all around us, and it was a view which might make an angel stand and gaze, and gaze again. The various mountains with either sharp or rounded peaks and snowy heads, are all worthy of the toil which brings them into view.

     The circular panorama seen from the Righi Culm is perhaps unrivalled. There is the lake of Zug, and yonder a strip of Zurich, and there the long arms of Lucerne, and yonder the Pilatus mountains, and further yet the Black Forest range. Just at your feet is the buried town of Goldau, sad tomb in which a multitude were buried by a falling mountain. The height is dizzy to unaccustomed brains, but the air is bracing, and the prospect such as one might picture from the top of Pisgah, where the prophet of Horeb breathed out his soul to God.

     We went here, there, and everywhere, and saw everything that was to be seen, and at last, after a long journey we came to Geneva. I had received the kindest invitation from Geneva. By the way there is a very officious brother, who very much teases and vexes me, and certainly on no occasion more than when he brought out a pamphlet in my glory and honour. For once the Dial Newspaper spoke right, good, sound truth and logic. Of all things, I dislike the most that fawning at one’s feet, and licking the dust off the soles of one’s boots into which that poor man has fallen. However well-intentioned the thing may be, it makes my blood boil at it; I cannot endure it. But I went to Geneva, not by the invitation of one who would play the showman for me, but by the invitation of our esteemed and excellent brother, Mr. D’Aubigne. He came to meet me at the station, but, I did not come by that train, and therefore he missed me. I had to run about all over the town to find him. I met a gentleman in the street and told him I was Mr. Spurgeon. He then said, “Come to my house, — the very house where Calvin used to live.” I went home with him; we went all over the city to find Mr. D’Aubigne, and Pastor Bard. I was taken to the house of Mr. Lombad, an eminent banker of the city, and a godly and gracious man. I think I never enjoyed a time more than I did with those brethren—real true-hearted brethren. There are, you know, two churches there—the Established and the Free; and there has been some little bickering and some little jealousy, but I think it is all dying away; at any rate, I saw none of it, for brethren from both these churches came, and did me every kindness and honour. I think I must be a little proud, notwithstanding Mr. Stovel’s advice to the contrary, for I was allowed to stand in the pulpit of John Calvin. I am not superstitious, but the first time I saw this medal bearing the venerated effigy of John Calvin I kissed it, imagining that no one saw the action. I was very greatly surprised when I received this magnificent present, which shall be passed round for your inspection. On the one side is John Calvin with his visage worn by disease and deep thought, and on the other side is a verse fully applicable to that man of God. He endured as seeing him who is invisible. That is the very character of the man. That glorious man, Calvin! I preached in the cathedral. I do not think half the people understood me in the Cathedral of St. Peter’s; but they were very glad to see and join in heart with the worship in which they could not join with understanding. I did not feel very happy when I came out in full canonicals, but the request was put to me in such a beautiful way that I could have worn the Pope’s tiara, if by so doing I could preach the gospel the more freely. They said, — “Our dear brother comes to us from another country. Now, when an ambassador comes from another country, he has a right to wear his own costume at Court; but, as a mark of very great esteem, he sometimes condescends to the manners of the country which he visits, and wears the Court dress.” “Well,” I said — “yes, that I will, certainly, if you do not require it, but merely ask it as a token of my Christian love. I shall feel like running in a sack, but it will be your fault.” But it was John Calvin’s cloak, and that reconciled me to it very much. I do love that man of God, suffering all his life long, enduring not only persecutions from without but a complication of disorders from within; and yet serving his Master with all his heart. Now, I want to ask your prayers for the Church at Geneva, and in their name I speak to you. That little Republic of Geneva stands now like an island as it were, on each side shut in by France, and I can assure you there are no greater Anti-Gallicans in the whole world than the Genevese. Without knowing that I trod upon tender ground, I frequently said, “Why, you are almost French people!” At last they hinted to me that they did not like me to say so, and I would not say it any more. They are afraid of being Frenchified; they cannot endure it; they know the sweets of liberty, and cannot bear that they should be absorbed into that huge monarchy. Mr. D’Aubigne charged me with this message, “Stir up the Christians of England to make Geneva a matter of special prayer. We do not dread the arms of France, nor invasion, but something worse than that—namely, the introduction of French principles.” There is a French population constantly crossing the border. They bring in infidelity and neglect of the Sabbath day, and Romanism is making very great advances. The brethren said, """" Ask the people to pray for us, that we may stand firm and true. As we have been the mother of many churches, desert us not in the hour of our need, but hold us up in your arms, and pray that the Lord may still make Geneva a praise throughout the earth.” The Evangelical Alliance is to be held there next year. I heartily wish I could go there, though our friends will say I must not run away again. I should like to go to the Evangelical Alliance, to mingle with those beloved brethren once more, for it is as the days of heaven upon earth, when in foreign lands we see brethren in Christ and commune with them. To my dying day I shall remember those servants of Jesus Christ who greeted me in my Master’s name, and loved me for my Master’s sake. Hospitality unbounded, love unalloyed, and communion undisturbed, are precious pens with which the brethren in Geneva wrote their names upon my heart. At last we got away from Geneva, and went off to Chamouni. What a glorious, place that Chamouni is! My heart flies thither in recollection of her glories. The very journey, from Geneva to Chamouni fires one’s heart. The mind longs to climb the heavens as those mountains do. It seemed to sharpen my soul’s desires and longings, till like the peaks of the Alps, I could pierce the skies. I cannot speak as I should if I had one of those mountains in my view. If I could point out of the window, and say: “There! see its frosted brow! see its ancient hoary head,” and then speak to you of the avalanches that come rattling down the side — then I think I could give you some poetry. Here we went up the Mer de Glace on mules. I had the great satisfaction of hearing three or four avalanches come rolling down like thunder. In descending, I was alone and in advance, I sat down and mused, but I soon sprang up, for I thought the avalanche was coming right on me, there was such a tremendous noise and rushing. We crossed many places where the snow, in rushing down from the top, had swept away every tree and every stone, and left nothing but the stumps of the trees, and a kind of slide from the top of the mountain to the very valley. What extraordinary works of God there are to be seen here! We have no idea of what God is. As I went among these valleys, I felt like a little creeping insect, wondering what the world could be, but having no idea of its greatness. I sank lower and lower, and growing smaller and smaller, while my soul kept crying out “Great God, how infinite art thou! what worthless worms are we!” After leaving Chamouni we came at last to what was to be the great treat of our journey, namely, the passage of the Simplon. The passage of that mountain is an era in any man’s life. That splendid road was carried over the Alps by Napoleon, not for the good of his species, but in order that he might transport his cannon to fight against Austria. “It stands there,” says James Macintosh, “the noblest work of human skill.” There are other works which may contain more genius, and some which may seem to be more grand; but this, in the midst of the rugged stern simplicity of nature seemed to say, ‘Man is little, but over God’s greatest works man can find a pathway, and no dangers can confine his ambition.’ Where the rock was so steep that the road could not be carried by any other means, workmen were hung down from the top in cradles, and they chipped a groove, and thus carried the road along the precipitous face of the rock. Frequently too, it was carried through a huge tunnel cut in the solid rock, and on and on we went up the enormous height until we came to the region of perpetual frost and snow. There one could play snowballs in the height of summer, and gather ice in abundance. On the top of the mountain stands the hospice into which we entered. There are some four or five monks who came out and asked us to enter; we did so, and would honour the religious feeling which dictates such constant hospitality. We were shown up into a very nice room, where there was cake and wine ready, and if we had chosen to order it, meat, soup, and anything we liked to have, and nothing to pay. They always feed four hundred people gratuitiously every day, and sometimes even twelve hundred. They entertain any traveller, and he is expected to pay nothing whatever for his refreshment; of course, no one who could do such a thing would go away without putting something into the poor-box. It pleased me to find that they were Augustine monks, because next to Calvin I love Augustine. I feel that Augustine was the great mine out of which Calvin digged his mental wealth, and the Augustine monks in practising their holy charity seemed to say, “Our master was a teacher of grace, and we will practise it, and give without money and without price to all comers whatsoever they shall need.” No other monks are so worthy of honour. There they are spending the best and most noble period of their lives on the top of a bleak and barren mountain, that they may minister to the necessities of the poor. They go out in the cold nights and bring in those that are frost-bitten; they dig them out from under the snow, simply that they may serve God by serving their fellow-men. I pray God bless the works of the Augustine Order, and may you and I carry out the spirit of Augustine, which is the true spirit of Christ, the spirit of love, the spirit of charity, the spirit which loves truth, and the spirit which loves man, and above all, loves the man Christ Jesus. We never need fear with our strong doctrines, and the spirit of our Master in us that we shall be much led astray, or much carried away by heresies which continually arise, and which would deceive, if it were possible, even the very elect. I wanted to talk to you about Venice to-night, but time fails me. Some other occasion will offer for me to speak to my friends about that. If any of you can save up money any how— after this Tabernacle is paid for— to go to Switzerland, you will never regret it, and it need not be expensive to you. If you do not feel your head grow on both sides, and have to put your hands up and say, “I feel as if my brains are straining with their growth,” I do not think you have many brains to spare. Really, sir, as I have stood in the midst of those valleys, I have wished I could carry you all there. I cannot reproduce those thoughts to you in this darkness; I cannot talk about those storms we saw below us, when we were on the top of the hill. I cannot tell you about those buried villages, about the locusts that came in clouds and devoured everything before them, for time would utterly fail to tell all the wonders of God which we saw in nature and in providence. One more thing and I have done. If you cannot travel, remember this sweet verse: —

“God, in the person of his Son,
Hath all his mightiest works outdone.”

Get a view of Christ, and you have seen more than mountains, cascades, and valleys, and seas can ever show you. Thunders may bring their sublimest uproar, and lightnings their awful glory; earth may give its beauty, and stars their brightness; but all these put together can never rival HIM;

“For in his looks a glory stands,
The noblest labour of thy hands;
God in the person of his Son,
Hath all his mightiest works outdone.”

It was announced that £1,050 had been collected in the course of the day. The doxology was then sung, and the proceedings terminated.



Christ’s First and Last Subject

By / Aug 19

Christ's First and Last Subject

 

"From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand"—Matthew 4:17
"And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem"—Luke 24:47

 

     It seems from these two texts that repentance was the first subject upon which the Redeemer dwelt, and that it was the last, which, with his departing breath, he commended to the earnestness of his disciples. He begins his mission crying, "Repent," he ends it by saying to his successors the apostles, "Preach repentance and remission of sins among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." This seems to me to be a very interesting fact, and not simply interesting, but instructive. Jesus Christ opens his commission by preaching repentance. What then? Did he not by this act teach us how important repentance was—so important that the very first time he opens his mouth, he shall begin with, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Did he not feel that repentance was necessary to be preached before he preached faith in himself, because the soul must first repent of sin before it will seek a Saviour, or even care to know whether there is a Saviour at all? And did he not also indicate to us that as repentance was the opening lesson of the divine teaching, so, if we would be his disciples, we must begin by sitting on the stool of repentance, before we can possibly go upward to the higher forms of faith and of full assurance? Jesus at the first begins with repentance,—that repentance may be the Alpha, the first letter of the spiritual alphabet which all believers must learn; and when he concluded his divine commission with repentance, what did he say to us but this—that repentance was still of the very last importance? He preaches it with his first, he will utter it with his last breath; with this he begins, with this he will conclude. He knew that repentance was, to spiritual life, a sort of Alpha and Omega—it was the duty of the beginning, it was the duty of the end. He seemed to say to us, "Repentance, which I preached to you three years ago, when I first came into the world, as a public teacher, is as binding, as necessary for you who heard me then, and who then obeyed my voice, as it was at the very first instant, and it is equally needful that you who have been with me from the beginning, should not imagine that the theme is exhausted and out of date; you too must begin your ministry and conclude it with the same exhortation, 'Repent and be converted, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'" It seems to me that nothing could set forth Jesus Christ's idea of the high value of repentance, more fully and effectually than the fact that he begins with it, and that he concludes with it—that he should say, "Repent," as the key-note of his ministry, preaching this duty before he fully develops all the mystery of godliness, and that he should close his life-song as a good composer must, with his first key-note, bidding his disciples still cry, "Repentance and remission of sins are preached in Jesus' name." I feel then that I need no further apology for introducing to your solemn and serious attention, the subject of saving repentance. And oh! while we are talking of it, may God the Holy Ghost breathe into all our spirits, and may we now repent before him, and now find those blessings which he hath promised to the penitent.

     With regard to repentance, these four things:—first, its origin; secondly, its essentials; thirdly, its companions; and fourthly, its excellencies.

     I. Repentance—ITS ORIGIN.

     When we cry, "Repent and be converted," there are some foolish men who call us legal. Now we beg to state, at the opening of this first point, that repentance is of gospel parentage. It was not born near Mount Sinai. It never was brought forth anywhere but upon Mount Zion. Of course, repentance is a duty—a natural duty—because, when man hath sinned, who is there brazen enough to say that it is not man's bounden duty to repent of having done so? It is a duty which even nature itself would teach. But gospel repentance was never yet produced as a matter of duty. It was never brought forth in the soul by demands of law, nor indeed can the law, except as the instrument in the hand of grace, even assist the soul towards saving repentance. It is a remarkable fact that the law itself makes no provision for repentance. It says, "This do, and thou shalt live; break my command, and thou shalt die." There is nothing said about penitence; there is no offer of pardon made to those that repent. The law pronounces its deadly curse upon the man that sins but once, but it offers no way of escape, no door by which the man may be restored to favour. The barren sides of Sinai have no soil in which to nourish the lovely plant of penitence. Upon Sinai the dew of mercy never fell. Its lightnings and its thunders have frightened away the angel of Mercy once for all, and there Justice sits, with sword of flame, upon its majestic throne of rugged rock, never purposing for a moment to put up its sword into the scabbard, and to forgive the offender. Read attentively the twentieth chapter of Exodus. You have the commandments there all thundered forth with trumpet voice, but there is no pause between where Mercy with her silver voice may step in and say, "But if ye break this law, God will have mercy upon you, and will shew himself gracious if ye repent." No words of repentance, I say, were ever proclaimed by the law; no promise by it made to penitents; and no assistance is by the law ever offered to those who desire to be forgiven. Repentance is a gospel grace. Christ preached it, but not Moses. Moses neither can nor will assist a soul to repent, only Jesus can use the law as a means of conviction and an argument for repentance. Jesus gives pardon to those who seek it with weeping and with tears; but Moses knows of no such thing. If repentance is ever obtained by the poor sinner, it must be found at the foot of the cross, and not where the ten commandments lie shivered at Sinai's base.

     And as repentance is of gospel parentage, I make a second remark, it is also of gracious origin. Repentance was never yet produced in any man's heart apart from the grace of God. As soon may you expect the leopard to regret the blood with which its fangs are moistened,—as soon might you expect the lion of the wood to abjure his cruel tyranny over the feeble beasts of the plain, as expect the sinner to make any confession, or offer any repentance that shall be accepted of God, unless grace shall first renew the heart. Go and loose the bands of everlasting winter in the frozen north with your own feeble breath, and then hope to make tears of penitence bedew the cheek of the hardened sinner. Go ye and divide the earth, and pierce its bowels with an infant's finger, and then hope that your eloquent appeal, unassisted by divine grace, shall be able to penetrate the adamantine heart of man. Man can sin, and he can continue in it, but to leave the hateful element is a work for which he needs a power divine. As the river rushes downward with increasing fury, leaping from crag to crag in ponderous cataracts of power, so is the sinner in his sin; onward and downward, onward, yet more swiftly, more mightily, more irresistibly, in his hellish course. Nothing but divine grace can bid that cataract leap upward, or make the floods retrace the pathway which they have worn for themselves down the rocks. Nothing, I say, but the power which made the world, and digged the foundations of the great deep, can ever make the heart of man a fountain of life from which the floods of repentance may gush forth. So then, soul, if thou shalt ever repent, it must be a repentance, not of nature, but of grace. Nature can imitate repentance; it can produce remorse; it can generate the feeble resolve; it can even lead to a partial, practical reform; but unaided nature cannot touch the vitals and new-create the soul. Nature may make the eyes weep, but it cannot make the heart bleed. Nature can bid you amend your ways, but it cannot renew your heart. No, you must look upward, sinner; you must look upward to him who is able to save unto the uttermost. You must at his hands receive the meek and tender spirit; from his finger must come the touch that shall dissolve the rock; and from his eye must dart the flash of love and light that can scatter the darkness of your impenitence. Remember, then, at the outset, that true repentance is of gospel origin, and is not the work of the law; and on the other hand, it is of gracious origin, and is not the work of the creature.

     II. But to pass forward from this first point to our second head, let us notice the ESSENTIALS of true repentance. The old divines adopted various methods of explaining penitence. Some of them said it was a precious medicine, compounded of six things; but in looking over their divisions, I have felt that I might with equal success divide repentance into four different ingredients. This precious box of ointment which must be broken over the Saviour's heard before the sweet perfume of peace can ever be smelt in the soul—this precious ointment is compounded of four most rare, most costly things. God give them to us and then give us the compound itself mixed by the Master's hand. True repentance consists of illumination, humiliation, detestation, and transformation.

     To take them one by one. The first part of true repentance consists of illumination. Man by nature is impenitent, because he does not know himself to be guilty. There are many acts which he commits in which he sees no sin, and even in great and egregious faults, he often knows that he is not right, but he does not perceive the depth, the horrible enormity of the sin which is involved in them. Eye-salve is one of the first medicines which the Lord uses with the soul. Jesus touches the eye of the understanding, and the man becomes guilty in his own sight, as he always was guilty in the sight of God. Crimes long forgotten start up from the grave where his forgetfulness had buried them; sins, which he thought were no sins, suddenly rise up on their true character, and acts, which he thought were perfect, now discover themselves to have been so mixed with evil motive that they were far from being acceptable with God. The eye is no more blind, and therefore the heart is no more proud, for the seeing eye will make a humble heart. If I must paint a picture of penitence in this first stage, I should portray a man with his eyes bandaged walking through a path infested with the most venomous vipers; vipers which have formed a horrible girdle about his loins, and are hanging like bracelets from his wrists. The man is so blind that he knows not where he is, nor what it is which he fancies to be a jewelled belt upon his arm. I would then in the picture touch his eyes and bid you see his horror, and his astonishment, when he discovers where he is and what he is. He looks behind him, and he sees through what broods of vipers he has walked; he looks before him, and he sees how thickly his future path is strewed with these venomous beasts. He looks about him, and in his living bosom looking out from his guilty heart, he sees the head of a vile serpent, which has twisted its coils into his very vitals. I would try, if I could, to throw into that face, horror, dismay, dread, and sorrow, a longing to escape, an anxious desire to get rid of all these things which must destroy him unless he should escape from them. And now, my dear hearers, have you ever been the subject of this divine illumination? Has God, who said to an unformed world, "Let there be light," has he said, "Let there be light" in your poor benighted soul? Have you learned that your best deeds have been vile, and that as for your sinful acts they are ten thousand times more wicked than ever you believed them to be? I will not believe that you have ever repented unless you have first received divine illumination. I cannot expect a blind eye to see the filth upon a black hand, nor can I ever believe that the understanding which has never been enlightened can detect the sin which has stained your daily life.

     Next to illumination, comes humiliation. The soul having seen itself, bows before God, strips itself of all its vain boasting, and lays itself flat on its face before the throne of mercy. It could talk proudly once of merit, but now it dares not pronounce the word. Once it could boast itself before God, with "God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are"; but now it stands in the distance, and smites upon its breast, crying, "God be merciful to me a sinner." Now the haughty eye, the proud look, which God abhorreth, are cast away, and the eye, instead thereof, becomes a channel of tears—its floods are perpetual, it mourneth, it weepeth, and the soul crieth out both day and night before God, for it is vexed with itself, because it has vexed the Holy Spirit, and is grieved within itself because it hath grieved the Most High. Here if I had to depict penitence, I should borrow the picture of the men of Calais before our conquering king. There they kneel, with ropes about their necks, clad in garments of sackcloth, and ashes cast about their heads, confessing that they deserve to die; but stretching out their hands they implore mercy; and one who seems the personification of the angel of mercy—or rather, of Christ Jesus, the God of mercy—stands pleading with the king to spare their lives. Sinner, thou hast never repented unless that rope has been about thy neck after a spiritual fashion, if thou hast not felt that hell is thy just desert, and that if God banish thee for ever from himself, to the place where hope and peace can never come, he has only done with thee what thou hast richly earned. If thou hast not felt that the flames of hell are the ripe harvest which thy sins have sown, thou hast never yet repented at all. We must acknowledge the justice of the penalty as well as the guilt of the sin, or else it is but a mock repentance which we pretend to possess. Down on thy face, sinner, down on thy face; put away thine ornaments from thee, that he may know what to do with thee. No more anoint thine head and wash thy face, but fast and bow thy head and mourn. Thou hast made heaven mourn, thou hast made earth sad, thou hast digged hell for thyself. Confess thine iniquity with shame, and with confusion of face; bow down before the God of mercy and acknowledge that if he spare thee it will be his free mercy that shall do it; but if he destroy thee, thou shalt not have one word to say against the justice of the solemn sentence. Such a stripping does the Holy Spirit give, when he works this repentance, that men sometimes under it sink so low as even to long for death in order to escape from the burden which soul-humiliation has cast upon them. I do not desire that you should have that terror, but I do pray that you may have no boasting left, that you may stop your mouth and feel that if now the judgment hour were set, and the judgment day were come, you must stand speechless, even though God should say, "Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire in hell." Without this I say there is no genuine evangelical repentance.

     The third ingredient is detestation. The soul must go a step further than mere sorrow; it must come to hate sin, to hate the very shadow of it, to hate the house where once sin and it were boon companions, to hate the bed of pleasure and all its glittering tapestries, yea, to hate the very garments spotted with the flesh. There is no repentance where a man can talk lightly of sin, much less where he can speak tenderly and lovingly of it. When sin cometh to thee delicately, like Agag, saying, "Surely the bitterness of death is past," if thou hast true repentance it will rise like Samuel and hew thy Agag in pieces before the Lord. As long as thou harbourest one idol in thy heart, God will never dwell there. Thou must break not only the images of wood and of stone, but of silver and of gold; yea, the golden calf itself, which has been thy chief idolatry, must be ground in powder and mingled in the bitter water of penitence, and thou must be made to drink thereof. There is such a loathing of sin in the soul of the true penitent that he cannot bear its name. If you were to compel him to enter its palaces he would be wretched. A penitent cannot bear himself in the house of the profane. He feels as if the house must fall upon him. In the assembly of the wicked he would be like a dove in the midst of ravenous kites. As well may the sheep lick blood with the wolf, as well may the dove be comrade at the vulture's feast of carrion, as a penitent sinner revel in sin. Through infirmity he may slide into it, but through grace he will rise out of it and abhor even his clothes in which he has fallen into the ditch (Job 9:31). The sinner unrepentant, like the sow, wallows in the mire; but the penitent sinner, like the swallow, may sometimes dip his wings in the limpid pool of iniquity, but he is aloft again, twittering forth with the chattering of the swallow most pitiful words of penitence, for he grieves that he should have so debased himself and sinned against his God. My hearer, if thou dost not so hate thy sins as to be ready to give them all up—if thou art not willing now to hang them on Haman's gallows a hundred and twenty cubits high—if thou canst not shake them off from thee as Paul did the viper from his hand, and shake it into the fire with detestation, then, I say, thou knowest not the grace of God in truth; for if thou lovest sin thou lovest neither God nor thyself, but thou choosest thine own damnation. Thou art in friendship with death and in league with hell; God deliver thee from this wretched state of heart, and bring thee to detest thy sin.

     There lacks one more ingredient yet. We have had illumination, humiliation, and detestation. There must be another thing, namely, a thorough transformation, for—

"Repentance is to leave
The sins we loved before,
And show that we in earnest grieve
By doing so no more."

     The penitent man reforms his outward life. The reform is not partial, but in heart, it is universal and complete. Infirmity may mar it, but grace will always be striving against human infirmity, and the man will hate and abandon every false way. Tell me not, deceptive tradesman, that you have repented of your sin while lying placards are still upon your goods. Tell me not, thou who wast once a drunkard, that thou hast turned to God while yet the cup is dear to thee, and thou canst still wallow in it by excess. Come not to me and say I have repented, thou avaricious wretch, whilst thou art yet grinding thine almost cent, per cent, out of some helpless tradesman whom thou hast taken like a spider in thy net. Come not to me and say thou are forgiven, when thou still harboureth revenge and malice against thy brother, and speaketh against thine own mother's son. Thou liest to thine own confusion. Thy face is as the whore's forehead that is brazen, if thou darest to say "I have repented," when thine arms are up to the elbow in the filth of thine iniquity. Nay, man, God will not forgive your lusts while you are still revelling in the bed of your uncleanness. And do you imagine he will forgive your drunken feasts while you are still sitting at the glutton's table! Shall he forgive your profanity when your tongue is still quivering with an oath? Think you that God shall forgive your daily transgressions when you repeat them again, and again, and again, wilfully plunging into the mire? He will wash thee, man, but he will not wash thee for the sake of permitting thee to plunge in again and defile thyself once more. "Well," do I hear you say, "I do feel that such a change as that has taken place in me." I am glad to hear it, my dear sir; but I must ask you a further question. Divine transformation is not merely in act but in the very soul; the new man not only does not sin as he used to do, but he does not want to sin as he used to do. The flesh-pots of Egypt sometimes send up a sweet smell in his nostrils, and when he passes by another man's house, where the leek, and garlic, and onion are steaming in the air, he half wishes to go back again to his Egyptian bondage, but in a moment he checks himself, saying, "No, no; the heavenly manna is better than this; the water out of the rock is sweeter than the waters of the Nile, and I cannot return to my old slavery under my old tyrant." There may be insinuations of Satan, but his soul rejects them, and agonizes to cast them out. His very heart longs to be free from every sin, and if he could be perfect he would. There is not one sin he would spare. If you want to give him pleasure, you need not ask him to go to your haunt of debauchery; it would be the greatest pain to him you could imagine. It is not only his customs and manners, but his nature that is changed. You have not put new leaves on the tree, but there is a new root to it. It is not merely new branches, but there is a new trunk altogether, and new sap, and there will be new fruit as the result of this newness. A glorious transformation is wrought by a gracious God. His penitence has become so real and so complete that the man is not the man he used to be. He is a new creature in Christ Jesus. If you are renewed by grace, and were to meet your old self, I am sure you would be very anxious to get out of his company. "No," say you, "no, sir, I cannot accompany you." "Why, you used to swear"! "I cannot now." "Well, but," says he, "you and I are very near companions." "Yes, I know we are, and I wish we were not. You are a deal of trouble to me every day. I wish I could be rid of you for ever." "But," says Old Self, "you used to drink very well." "Yes, I know it. I know thou didst, indeed, Old Self. Thou couldst sing a song as merrily as any one. Thou wast ringleader in all sorts of vice, but I am no relation of thine now. Thou art of the old Adam, and I of the new Adam. Thou art of thine old father, the devil; but I have another—my Father, who is in heaven." I tell you, brethren, there is no man in the world you will hate so much as your old self, and there will be nothing you will so much long to get rid of as that old man who once was dragging you down to hell, and who will try his hand at it over and over again every day you live, and who will accomplish it yet, unless that divine grace which has made you a new man shall keep you a new man even to the end.

     Good Rowland Hill, in his "Village Dialogues," gives the Christian, whom he describes in the first part of the book, the name of Thomas Newman. Ah! and every man who goes to heaven must have the name of new-man. We must not expect to enter there unless we are created anew in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. I have thus, as best I could, feeling many and very sad distractions in my own mind, endeavored to explain the essentials of true repentance—illumination, humiliation, detestation, transformation. The endings of the words, though they are long words may commend them to your attention and assist you to retain them.

     III. And now, with all brevity, let me notice, in the third place, the COMPANIONS of true repentance.

     Her first companion is faith. There was a question once asked by the old Puritan divines—Which was first in the soul, Faith or Repentance? Some said that a man could not truly repent of sin until he believed in God, and had some sense of a Saviour's love. Others said a man could not have faith till he had repented of sin; for he must hate sin before he could trust Christ. So a good old minister who was present made the following remark: "Brethren," said he, "I don't think you can ever settle this question. It would be something like asking whether, when an infant is born, the circulation of the blood, or the beating of the pulse can be first observed"? Said he, "It seems to me that faith and repentance are simultaneous. They come at the same moment. There could be no true repentance without faith. There never was yet true faith without sincere repentance." We endorse that opinion. I believe they are like the Siamese twins; they are born together, and they could not live asunder, but must die if you attempt to separate them. Faith always walks side by side with his weeping sister, true Repentance. They are born in the same house at the same hour, and they will live in the same heart every day, and on your dying bed, while you will have faith on the one hand to draw the curtain of the next world, you will have repentance, with its tears, as it lets fall the curtain upon the world from which you are departing. You will have at the last moment to weep over your own sins, and yet you shall see through that tear the place where tears are washed away. Some say there is no faith in heaven. Perhaps there is not. If there be none, then there will be no repentance, but if there be faith there will be repentance, for where faith lives, repentance must live with it. They are so united, so married and allied together, that they never can be parted, in time or in eternity. Hast thou, then, faith in Jesus? Does thy soul look up and trust thyself in his hands? If so, then hast thou the repentance that needeth not to be repented of.

     There is another sweet thing which always goes with repentance, just as Aaron went with Moses, to be spokesman for him, for you must know that Moses was slow of speech, and so is repentance. Repentance has fine eyes, but stammering lips. In fact, it usually happens that repentance speaks through her eyes and cannot speak with her lips at all, except her friend—who is a good spokesman—is near; he is called, Mr. Confession. This man is noted for his open breastedness. He knows something of himself, and he tells all that he knows before the throne of God. Confession keeps back no secrets. Repentance sighs over the sin—confession tells it out. Repentance feels the sin to be heavy within—confession plucks it forth and indicts it before the throne of God. Repentance is the soul in travail—confession delivers it. My heart is ready to burst, and there is a fire in my bones through repentance—confession gives the heavenly fire a vent, and my soul flames upward before God. Repentance, alone, hath groanings which cannot be uttered—confession is the voice which expresses the groans. Now then, hast thou made confession of thy sin—not to man, but to God? If thou hast, then believe that thy repentance cometh from him, and it is a godly sorrow that needeth not to be repented of.

     Holiness is evermore the bosom friend of penitence. Fair angel, clad in pure white linen, she loves good company and will never stay in a heart where repentance is a stranger. Repentance must dig the foundations, but holiness shall erect the structure, and bring forth the top-stone. Repentance is the clearing away of the rubbish of the past temple of sin; holiness builds the new temple which the Lord our God shall inherit. Repentance and desires after holiness never can be separated.

     Yet once more—wherever repentance is, there cometh also with it, peace. As Jesus walked upon the waters of Galilee, and said, "Peace, be still," so peace walks over the waters of repentance, and brings quiet and calm into the soul. If thou wouldst shake the thirst of thy soul, repentance must be the cup out of which thou shalt drink, and then sweet peace shall be the blessed effect. Sin is such a troublesome companion that it will always give thee the heartache till thou hast turned it out by repentance, and then thy heart shall rest and be still. Sin is the rough wind that tears through the forest, and sways every branch of the trees to and fro; but after penitence hath come into the soul the wind is hushed, and all is still, and the birds sing in the branches of the trees which just now creaked in the storm. Sweet peace repentance ever yields to the man who is the possessor of it. And now what sayest thou my hearer—to put each point personally to thee—hast thou had peace with God? If not, never rest till thou hast had it, and never believe thyself to be saved till thou feelest thyself to be reconciled. Be not content with the mere profession of the head, but ask that the peace of God which passeth all understanding, may keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.

     IV. And now I come to my fourth and last point, namely, the EXCELLENCIES of repentance.

     I shall somewhat surprise you, perhaps, if I say that one of the excellencies of repentance lies in its pleasantness. "Oh"! you say, "but it is bitter"! Nay, say I, it is sweet. At least, it is bitter when it is alone, like the waters of Marah; but there is a tree called the cross, which if thou canst put into it, it will be sweet, and thou wilt love to drink of it. At a school of mutes who were both deaf and dumb, the teacher put the following question to her pupils:—"What is the sweetest emotion"? As soon as the children comprehended the question, they took their slates and wrote their answers. One girl in a moment wrote down "Joy." As soon as the teacher saw it, she expected that all would write the same, but another girl, more thoughtful, put her hand to her brow, and she wrote "Hope." Verily, the girl was not far from the mark. But the next one, when she brought up her slate, had written "Gratitude," and this child was not wrong. Another one, when she brought up her slate, had written "Love," and I am sure she was right. But there was one other who had written in large characters,—and as she brought up her slate the tear was in her eye, showing she had written what she felt,—"Repentance is the sweetest emotion." And I think she was right. Verily, in my own case, after that long drought, perhaps longer than Elisha's three years in which the heavens poured forth no rain, when I saw but one tear of penitence coming from my hard, hard soul—it was such a joy! There have been times when you know you have done wrong, but when you could cry over it you have felt happy. As one weeps for his firstborn, so have you wept over your sin, and in that very weeping you have had your peace and your joy restored. I am a living witness that repentance is exceeding sweet when mixed with divine hope, but repentance without hope is hell. It is hell to grieve for sin with the pangs of bitter remorse, and yet to know that pardon can never come, and mercy never be vouchsafed. Repentance, with the cross before its eyes, is heaven itself; at least, if not heaven, it is so next door to it, that standing on the wet threshold I may see within the pearly portals, and sing the song of the angels who rejoice within. Repentance, then, has this excellency, that it is very sweet to the soul which is made to lie beneath its shadow.

     Besides this excellency, it is specially sweet to God as well as to men. "A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." When St. Augustine lay a-dying, he had this verse always fixed upon the curtains, so that as often as he awoke, he might read it—"A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." When you despise yourselves, God honours you; but as long as you honour yourselves, God despises you. A whole heart is a scentless thing; but when it is broken and bruised, it is like that precious spice which was burned as holy incense in the ancient tabernacle. When the blood of Jesus is sprinkled on them, even the songs of the angels, and the vials full of odours sweet that smoke before the throne of the Most High, are not more agreeable to God than the sighs, and groans, and tears of the brokenhearted soul. So, then, if thou wouldest be pleasing with God, come before him with many and many a tear:

"To humble souls and broken hearts
God with his grace is ever nigh;
Pardon and hope his love imparts,
When men in deep contrition lie.
He tells their tears, he counts their groans,
His Son redeems their souls from death;
His Spirit heals their broken bones,
They in his praise employ their breath."

     John Bunyan, in his "Siege of Mansoul," when the defeated townsmen were seeking pardon, names Mr. Wet-eyes as the intercessor with the king. Mr. Wet-eyes—good Saxon word! I hope we know Mr. Wet-eyes, and have had him many times in our house, for if he cannot intercede with God, yet Mr. Wet-eyes is a great friend with the Lord Jesus Christ, and Christ will undertake his case, and then we shall prevail. So have I set forth, then, some, but very few, of the excellencies of repentance. And now, my dear hearers, have you repented of Sin? Oh, impenitent soul, if thou dost not weep now, thou wilt have to weep for ever. The heart that is not broken now, must be broken for ever upon the wheel of divine vengeance. Thou must now repent, or else for ever smart for it. Turn or burn—it is the Bible's only alternative. If thou repentest, the gate of mercy stands wide open. Only the Spirit of God bring thee on thy knees in self-abasement, for Christ's cross stands before thee, and he who bled upon it bids thee look at him. Oh, sinner, obey the divine bidding. But, if your heart be hard, like that of the stubborn Jews in the days of Moses, take heed, lest,—

"The Lord in vengeance dressed,
Shall lift his head and swear,—
You that despised my promised rest,
Shall have no portion there."

     At any rate, sinner, if thou wilt not repent, there is one here who will, and that is myself. I repent that I could not preach to you with more earnestness this morning, and throw my whole soul more thoroughly into my pleading with you. the Lord God, whom I serve, is my constant witness that there is nothing I desire so much as to see your hearts broken on account of sin; and nothing has gladdened my heart so much as the many instances lately vouchsafed of the wonders God is doing in this place. There have been men who have stepped into this Hall, who had never entered a place of worship for a score years, and here the Lord has met with them, and I believe, if I could speak the word, there are hundreds who would stand up now, and say, "'Twas here the Lord met with me. I was the chief of sinners; the hammer struck my heart and broke it, and now it has been bound up again by the finger of divine mercy, and I tell it unto sinners, and tell it to this assembled congregation, there have been depths of mercy found that have been deeper than the depths of my iniquity." This day there will be a soul delivered; this morning there will be, I do not doubt, despite my weakness, a display of the energy of God, and the power of the Spirit; some drunkard shall be turned from the error of his ways; some soul, who was trembling on the very jaws of hell, shall look to him who is the sinner's hope, and find peace and pardon—ay, at this very hour. So be it, O Lord, and thine shall be the glory, world without end.



True Prayer- True Power!

By / Aug 12

True Prayer—True Power!

 

"Therefore I say unto you, what things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive and ye shall have them."—Mark 11:24

 

     This verse has something to do with the faith of miracles; but I think it hath far more reference to the miracle of faith. We shall say at any rate, this morning, consider it in that light. I believe that this text is the inheritance not only of the apostles, but of all those who walked in the faith of the apostles, believing in the promises of the Lord Jesus Christ. The advice which Christ gave to the twelve and to his immediate followers, is repeated to us in God's Word this morning. May we have grace constantly to obey it. "What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." How many persons there are who complain that they do not enjoy prayer. They do not neglect it, for they dare not; but they would neglect it if they dared, so far are they from finding any pleasure therein. And have we not to lament that sometimes the chariot-wheels are taken off, and we drive right heavily when we are in supplication? We spend the time allotted, but we rise from our knees unrefreshed, like a man who has lain upon his bed but has not slept so as to really recover his strength. When the time comes round again conscience drives us to our knees, but there is not sweet fellowship with God. There is no telling out of our wants to him in the firm conviction that he will supply them. After having gone again through a certain round of customary utterances, we rise from our knees perhaps more troubled in conscience and more distressed in mind than we were before. There are many Christians, I think, who have to complain of this—that they pray not so much because it is a blessed thing to allowed to draw near to God, as because they must pray, because it is their duty, because they feel that if they did not, they would lose one of the sure evidences of being Christians. Brethren, I do not condemn you; but at the same time, if I may be the means of lifting you up this morning from so low a state of grace into a higher and more healthy atmosphere, my soul shall be exceeding glad. If I can show you a more excellent way; if from this time forth you may come to look at prayer as your element, as one of the most delightful exercises of your life; if you shall come to esteem it more than your necessary food, and to value it as one of heaven's best luxuries, surely I shall have answered a great end, and you shall have to thank God for a great blessing.

     Give me then your attention while I beg you, first, to look at the text; secondly to look about you; and the, to look above you.

     I. First, LOOK AT THE TEXT. If you look at it carefully, I think you will perceive the essential qualities which are necessary to any great success and prevalence in prayer. According to our Saviour's description of prayer, there should always be some definite objects for which we should plead. He speaks of things—"what things soever ye desire." It seems then that he did not put it that God's children would go to him to pray when they have nothing to pray for. Another essential qualification of pray is earnest desire; for the Master supposes here that when we pray we have desires. Indeed it is not prayer, it may be something like prayer, the outward form or the bare skeleton, but it is not the living thing, the all-prevailing, almighty thing, called prayer, unless there be a fulness and overflowing of desires. Observe, too, that faith is an essential quality of successful prayer—"believe that ye receive them." Ye cannot pray so as to be heard in heaven and answered to your soul's satisfaction, unless you believe that God really hears and will answer you. One other qualification appears here upon the very surface, namely, that a realizing expectation should always go with a firm faith—"believe that ye receive them." Not merely believe that "ye shall" but "ye do" receive them—count them as if they were received, reckon them as if you had them already, and act as if you had them—act as if you were sure you should have them—believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." Let us review these four qualifications, one by one.

     To make prayer of any value, there should be definite objects for which to plead. My brethren, we often ramble in our prayers after this, that, and the other, and we get nothing because in each we do not really desire anything. We chatter about many subjects, but the soul does not concentrate itself upon any one object. Do you not sometimes fall on your knees without thinking beforehand what you mean to ask God for? You do so as a matter of habit, without any motion of your heart. You are like a man who should go to a shop and not know what articles he would procure. He may perhaps make a happy purchase when he is there, but certainly it is not a wise plan to adopt. And so the Christian in prayer may afterwards attain to a real desire, and get his end, but how much better would he speed if having prepared his soul by consideration and self-examination, he came to God for an object at which he was about to aim with real request. Did we ask an audience at Her Majesty's court, we should be expected to reply to the question, "What do you wish to see her for?" We should not be expected to go into the presence of Royalty, and then to think of some petition after we came there. Even so with the child of God. He should be able to answer the great question, "What is thy petition and what is thy request, and it shall be done unto thee?" Imagine an archer shooting with his bow, and not knowing where the mark is! Would he be likely to have success? Conceive a ship on a voyage of discovery, putting to sea without the captain having any idea of what he was looking for! Would you expect that he would come back heavily laden either with the discoveries of science, or with the treasures of gold? In everything else you have a plan. You do not go to work without knowing that there is something that you designed to make; how is it that you go to God without knowing what you design to have? If you had some object you would never find prayer to be dull and heavy work; I am persuaded that you would long for it. You would say, "I have something that I want. Oh that I could draw near my God, and ask him for it; I have a need, I want to have it satisfied, and I long till I can get alone, that I may pour out my heart before him, and ask him for this thing after which my soul so earnestly pants" You will find it more helpful to your prayers if you have some objects at which you aim, and I think also if you have some persons whom you will mention. Do not merely plead with God for sinners in general, but always mention some in particular. If you are a Sunday-school teacher, don't simply ask that you class may be blessed, but pray for your children definitely by name before the Most High. And if there be a mercy in your household that you crave, don't go in a round-about way, but be simple and direct in your pleadings with God. When you pray to him, tell him what you want. If you have not money enough, if you are in poverty, if you are in straits, state the case. Use no mock-modesty with God. Come at once to the point; speak honestly with him. He needs no beautiful periphrasis such as men will constantly use when they don't like to say right out what they mean. If you want either a temporal or spiritual mercy, say so. Don't ransack the Bible to find out words in which to express it. Express your wants in the words which naturally suggest themselves to you. They will be the best words, depend upon it. Abraham's words were the best for Abraham, and yours will be the best for you. You need not study all the texts in Scripture, to pray just as Jacob and Elias did, using their expressions. If you do you will not imitate them. You may imitate them literally and servilely, but you lack the soul that suggested and animated their words. Pray in your own words. Speak plainly to God; ask at once for what you want. Name persons, name things, and make a straight aim at the object of your supplications, and I am sure you will soon find that the weariness and dullness of which you often complain in your intercessions, will no more fall upon you; or at least not so habitually as it has heretofore done.

     "But," saith one, "I do not feel that I have any special objects for which to pray." Ah! My dear brother, I know not who you are, or where you live, to be without special objects for prayer, for I find that every day brings neither its need or its trouble, and that I have every day something to tell to my God. But if we had not a trouble, my dear brethren, if we had attained to such a height in grace that we had nothing to ask for, do we love Christ so much that we have no need to pray that we may love him more? Have we so much faith that we have ceased to cry, "Lord increase it?" You will always, I am sure, by little self-examination, soon discover that there is some legitimate object for which you may knock at Mercy's door and cry, "Give me, Lord, the desire of my heart." And if you have not any desire, you have but to ask the first tried Christian you meet, and he will tell you of one. "Oh," he will reply to you, "If you have nothing to ask for yourself, pray for me. Ask that a sick wife may be recovered. Pray that the Lord will lift up the light of his countenance upon a desponding heart; ask that the Lord would send help to some minister who has been labouring in vain, and spending his strength for nought." When you have done for yourself, plead for others; and if you cannot meet with one who can suggest a theme, look on this huge, Sodom, this city like another Gomorrah lying before you; carry it constantly in your prayers before God and cry, "Oh that London may live before thee, that its sin may be stayed, that its righteousness may be exalted, that the God of the earth may get unto himself much people out of this city."

     Equally necessary is it with the definite object for prayer that there should be an earnest desire for its attainment. "Cold prayers," says an old divine, "ask for a denial." When we ask the Lord coolly, and fervently, we do as it were, stop his hand, and restrain him from giving us the very blessing we pretend that we are seeking. When you have your object in your eye, your soul must become so possessed with the value of that object, with your own excessive need for it, with the danger which you will be in unless that object should be granted, that you will be compelled to plead for it as a man pleadeth for his life. There was a beautiful illustration of true prayer addressed to man in the conduct of two noble ladies, whose husbands were condemned to die and were about to be executed, when they came before. king George and supplicated for their pardon. The king rudely and cruelly repulsed them. George the first! it was like his very nature. And when they pleaded yet again, and again, and again, they could not be gotten to rise from their knees; they had actually to be dragged out of court, for they would not retire until the king had smiled upon them, and told them that their husbands should live. Alas! they failed, but they were noble women for their perseverance in thus pleading for their husbands' lives. That is the way for us to pray to God. We must have such a desire for the thing we want, that we will not rise until we have it—but in submission to his divine will, nevertheless. Feeling that the thing we ask for cannot be wrong, and that he himself hath promised it, we have resolved it must be given, and if not given, we will plead the promise, again, and again, till heaven's gates shall shake before our pleas shall cease. No wonder that God has not blessed us much of late, because we are not fervent in prayer as we should be. Oh, those cold-hearted prayers that die upon the lips—those frozen supplications; they do not move men's hearts, how should they move God's heart? they do not come from our own souls, they do not well up from the deep secret springs of our inmost heart, and therefore they cannot rise up to him who only hears the cry of the soul, before whom hypocrisy can weave no veil, or formality practice any disguise. We must be earnest, otherwise we have no right to hope that the Lord will hear our prayer.

     And surely, my brethren, it were enough to restrain all lightness and constrain an unceasing earnestness, did we apprehend the greatness of the Being before whom we plead. Shall I come into thy presence, O my God, and mock thee with cold-hearted words? Do the angels veil their faces before thee, and shall I be content to prattle through a form with no soul and no heart? Ah, my brethren! we little know how many of our prayers are an abomination unto the Lord. It would be an abomination to you and to me to hear men ask us in the streets, as if they did not want what they asked for. But have we not done the same to God? Has not that which is heaven's greatest boon to man, become to us a dry dead duty? It was said of John Bradford that he had a peculiar art in prayer, and when asked for his secret he said, "When I know what I want I always stop on that prayer until I feel that I have pleaded it with God, and until God and I have had dealings with each other upon it." I never go on to another petition till I have gone through the first." Alas! for some men who begin "Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name;" and before they have realized the adoring thought—"hallowed be thy name,"—they have begun to repeat the next words—"Thy kingdom come;" then perhaps something strikes their mind, "Do I really wish his kingdom to come? If it were to come now where should I be?" And while they are thinking of that, their voice is going on with, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven;" so they jumble up their prayers and run the sentences together. Oh! stop at each one till you have really prayed it. Do not try to put two arrows on the string at once, they will both miss. He that would load his gun with two charges cannot expect to be successful. Discharge one shot first, and then load again. Plead once with God and prevail, and then plead again. Get the first mercy, and then go again for the second. Do not be satisfied with running the colours of your prayers into one another, till there is no picture to look at but just a huge daub, a smear of colours badly laid on. Look at the Lord's Prayer itself. What clear sharp outlines there are in it. There are certain definite mercies, and they do not run into one another. There it stands, and as you look at the whole it is a magnificent picture; not confusion, but beautiful order. Be it so with your prayers. Stay on one till you have prevailed with that, and then go on to the next. With definite objects and with fervent desires mixed together, there is the dawning of hope that ye shall prevail with God.

     But again: these two things would not avail if they were not mixed with a still more essential and divine quality, namely, a firm faith in God. Brethren, do you believe in prayer? I know you pray because you are God's people; but do you believe in the power of prayer? There are a great many Christians that do not, they think it is a good thing, and they believe that sometimes it does wonders; but they do not think that prayer, real prayer, is always successful. They think that its effect depends upon many other things, but that it has not any essential quality or power in itself. Now, my own soul's conviction is, that prayer is the grandest power in the entire universe; that it has a more omnipotent force than electricity, attraction, gravitation, or any other of those secret forces which men have called by names, but which they do not understand. Prayer hath as palpable, as true, as sure, as invariable and influence over the entire universe as any of the laws of matter. When a man really prays, it is not a question whether God will hear him or not, he must hear him; not because there is any compulsion in the prayer, but there is a sweet and blessed compulsion in the promise. God has promised to hear prayer, and he will perform his promise. As he is the most high and true God, he cannot deny himself. Oh! to think of this; that you a puny man may stand here and speak to God, and through God may move all the worlds. Yet when your prayer is heard, creation will not be disturbed; though the grandest ends be answered, providence will not be disarranged for a single moment. Not a leaf will fall earlier from the tree, not a star will stay in its course, nor one drop of water trickle more slowly from its fount, all will go on the same, and yet your prayer will have effected everything. It will speak to the decrees and purposes of God, as they are being daily fulfilled; and they will all shout to your prayer, and cry, "Thou art our brother; we are decrees, and thou a prayer; but thou art thyself a decree, as old, as sure, as ancient as we are." Our prayers are God's decrees in another shape. The prayers of God's people are but God's promises breathed out of living hearts, and those promises are the decrees, only put into another form and fashion. Do not say, "How can my prayers affect the decrees?" They cannot, except in so much that your prayers are decrees, and that as they come out, every prayer that is inspired of the Holy Ghost unto your soul is as omnipotent and as eternal as that decree which said, "Let there be light, and there was light;" or as that decree which chose his people, and ordained their redemption by the precious blood of Christ. Thou has power in prayer, and thou standest to-day among the most potent ministers in the universe that God has made. Thou has power over angels, they will fly at thy will. Thou hast power over fire, and water, and the elements of earth. Thou hast power to make thy voice heard beyond the stars; where the thunders die out in silence, thy voice shall wake the echoes of eternity. The ear of God himself shall listen and the hand of God himself shall yield to thy will. He bids thee cry, "Thy will be done," and thy will shall be done. When thou canst plead his promise then thy will is his will. Seems it not my dear friends, an awful thing to have such a power in one's hands as to be able to pray? You have heard sometimes of men who pretended to have a weird and mystic might, by which they could call up spirits from the vasty deep, by which they could make showers of rain, or stop the sun. It was all a figment of the fancy, but were it true the Christian is a greater magician still. If he has but faith in God, there is nothing impossible to him. He shall be delivered out of the deepest waters—he shall be rescued out of the sorest troubles—in famine he shall be fed—in pestilence he shall go unscathed—amidst calamity he shall walk firm and strong—in war he shall be ever shielded—and in the day of battle he shall lift up his head, if he can but believe the promise, and hold it up before God's eyes and plead it with the spell of unfaltering reliance. There is nothing, I repeat it, there is no force so tremendous, no energy so marvellous, as the energy with which God has endowed every man, who like Jacob can wrestle, like Israel can prevail with him in prayer. But we must have faith in this; we must believe prayer to be what it is, or else it is not what it: should be. Unless I believe my prayer to be effectual it will not be, for on my faith will it to a great extent depend. God may give me the mercy even when I have not faith; that will be his own sovereign grace, but he has not promised to do it. But when I have faith and can plead the promise with earnest desire, it is no longer a probability as to whether I shall get the blessing, or whether my will shall be done. Unless the Eternal will swerve from his Word, unless the oath which he has given shall be revoked, and he himself shall cease to be what he is, "We know that we have the petitions that we desired of him."

     And now to mount one step higher, together with definite objects, fervent desires and strong faith in the efficacy of prayer there should be—and Oh may divine grace make it so with us!—there should be mingled a realising expectation. We should be able to count over the mercies before we have got them, believing that they are on the road. Reading the other day in a sweet little book, which I would commend to the attention of you all, written by an American author who seems to know the power of prayer thoroughly, and to whom I am indebted for many good things—a little book called The Still Hour, I met with a reference to a passage in the book of Daniel, the tenth chapter I think, where, as he says, the whole machinery of prayer seems to be laid bare. Daniel is on his knees in prayer, and Michael the archangel come to him. He talks with him and tells him that as soon as ever Daniel began to set his heart to understand, and to chasten himself before God, his words were heard, and the Lord had dispatched the angel. Then he tells him in the most business-like manner in the world, "I should have been here before, but the Prince of Persia withstood me; nevertheless the prince of thy nation helped me, and I am come to comfort and instruct thee." See now. God breathes the desire into our hearts, and as soon as the desire is there, before we call he begins to answer. Before the words have got half way up to heaven, while they are yet trembling on the lip—knowing the words we mean to speak—he begins to answer them, sends the angel; the angel comes and brings down the needed blessing. Why the thing is a revelation if you could see it with your eyes. Some people think that spiritual things are dreams, and that we are talking fancies. Nay, I do believe there is as much reality in a Christian's prayer as in a lightning flash; and the utility and excellency of the prayer of a Christian may be just as sensibly known as the power of the lightning flash when it rends the tree, breaks off its branches, and splits it to the very root. Prayer is not a fancy of fiction; it is a real actual thing, coercing the universe, binding the laws of God themselves in fetters, and constraining the High and Holy One to listen to the will of his poor hut. favoured creature-man. But we want always to believe this. We need a realizing assurance in prayer. To count over the mercies before they are come! To be sure that they are coming! To act as if we had got them! When you have asked for your daily bread, no more to be disturbed with care, but to believe that God has heard you, and will give it to you. When you have taken the case of your sick child before God to believe that the child will recover, or if it should not, that it will be a greater blessing to you and more glory to God, and so to leave it to him. To be able to say, "I know he has heard me now; I will stand on my watch-tower; I will look for my God and hear what he will say to my soul." Were you ever disappointed yet, Christian, when you prayed in faith and expected the answer? I bear my own testimony here this morning, that I have never yet trusted him and found him fail me. I have trusted man and have been deceived, but my God has never once denied the request I have made to him, when I have backed up the request with belief in his willingness to hear, and in the assurance of his promise.

     But I hear some one say, "May we pray for temporals?" Ay, that you may. In everything make known your wants to God. It is not merely for spiritual, but for everyday concerns. Take your smallest trials before him. He is a God that heareth prayer; he is your household God as well as the God of the Sanctuary. Be ever taking all that you have before God. As one good man who is about to be united with this Church told me of his departed wife, "Oh," said he, "she was a woman that I could never get to do anything till she had made a matter of prayer of it. Be it what it might, she used to say, 'I must make it a matter of prayer;'" Oh for more of this sweet habit of spreading everything before the Lord, just as Hezekiah did Rabshekah's letter, and there leaving it, saying, "Thy will be done, I resign it to thee!" Men say Mr. Muller of Bristol is enthusiastic, because he will gather seven hundred children and believe that God will provide for them; though there is nothing in the purse he is only doing what ought to be the commonplace action of every Christian man. He is acting upon a rule at which the worldling always must scoff, because he does not understand it; a system which must always appear to weak judgment of sense, not upon common sense, but upon something higher than common sense—upon uncommon faith. Oh that we had that uncommon faith to take God at his word! He cannot and he will not permit the man that trusteth him to be ashamed or confounded. I have thus now, as best I could, set forth before you what I conceive to be four essentials of prevailing prayer—"Whatsoever things ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them and ye shall have them."

     II. Having thus asked you to look at the text, I want you now to LOOK ABOUT YOU. Look about you at our meetings for prayer, and look about you at your private intercessions, and judge them both by the tenour of this text. First, look about you at the meetings for prayer; I cannot speak very pointedly in this matter, because I do honestly believe that the prayer-meetings which are usually held among us, have far less of the faults which I am about to indicate, that any others I have ever attended. But, still they have some of the faults, and I hope that what we shall say, will be taken personally home by every brother who is in the habit of engaging publicly in supplication at prayer-meetings. Is it not a fact, that as soon as you enter the meeting, you feel, the case of many praying men (to speak hardly perhaps, but I think honestly) lies in having a good memory to recollect a great many texts, which always have been quoted since the days of our grandfather's grandfather, and to be able to repeat them in good regular order. The gift lies also in some churches, especially in village churches, in having strong lungs, so as to be able to hold out, without taking breath for five and twenty minutes when you are brief, and three quarters of an hour when you are rather drawn out. The gift lies also in being able not to ask for anything in particular, but in passing through a range of everything, making the prayer, not an arrow with a point, but rather like a nondescript machine, that has no point whatever, and yet is meant to be all point, which is aimed at everything, and consequently strikes nothing. Those brethren are often the most frequently asked to pray, who have those peculiar, and perhaps, excellent gifts, although I certainly must say that l cannot obey the apostle's injunction in coveting very earnestly such gifts as these. Now, if instead thereof, some man is asked to pray, who has never prayed before in public; suppose he rises and says, "Oh Lord, I feel myself such a sinner that I can scarcely speak to thee, Lord, help me to pray! o Lord, save my poor soul! O that thou wouldst save my old companions! Lord, bless our minister! be pleased to give us a revival. O Lord, 1 can say no more; hear me for Jesu's sake! Amen." Well, then, you feel somehow, as if you had begun to pray yourself. You feel an interest in that man, partly from fear lest he should stop, and also because you are sure that what he did say, he meant. And if another should get up after that, and pray in the same spirit, you go out and say, "This is real prayer." I would sooner have three minutes prayer like that, that thirty minutes of the other sort, because the one is praying, and the other is preaching. Allow me to quote what an old preacher said upon the subject of prayer, and give it to you as a little word of advice—"Remember, the Lord will not hear thee, because of the arithmetic of thy prayers; he does not count their numbers. He will not hear thee because of the rhetoric of thy prayers; he does not care for the eloquent language in which they are conveyed. He will not listen to thee because of the geometry of thy prayers; he does not compute them by their length, or by their breadth. He will not regard thee because of the music of thy prayers; he doth not care for sweet voices, nor for harmonious periods. Neither will he look at thee because of the logic of thy prayers; because they are well arranged, and excellently comparted. But he will hear thee, and he will measure the amount of the blessing he will give thee, according to the divinity of thy prayers. If thou canst plead the person of Christ, and if the Holy Ghost inspire thee with zeal and earnestness, the blessings which thou shalt ask, shall surely come unto thee." Brethren, I would like to burn the whole stock of old prayers that we have been using this fifty years. That "oil that goes from vessel to vessel,"—that "horse that rushes into the battle,"—that misquoted mangled text, "where two or three are met together, thou wilt be in the midst of them," and that to bless them,"—and all those other quotations which we have been manufacturing, and dislocating, and copying from man to man. I would we came to speak to God, just out of our own hearts. It would be a grand thing for our prayer meetings; they would be better attended; and I am sure they would be more fruitful, if every man would shake off that habit of formality, and talk to God as a child talks to his father; ask him for what we want and then sit down and have done. I say this with all Christian earnestness. Often, because I have not chosen to pray in any conventional form, people have said, "That man is not reverent!" My dear sir, you are not a judge of my reverence. To my own master, I stand or fall. I do not think that Job quoted anybody. I do not think that Jacob quoted the old saint in heaven,—his father Abraham. I do not find Jesus Christ quoted Scripture in prayer. They did not pray in other people's words, but they prayed in their own. God does not want you to go gathering up those excellent but very musty spices of the old sanctuary. He wants the new oil just distilled from the fresh olive of your own soul. He wants spices and frankincense, not of the old chests where they have been lying until they have lost their savour, but he wants fresh incense, and fresh myrrh, brought from the ophir of your own soul's experience. Look well to it that you really pray, do not learn the language of prayer, but seek the spirit of prayer, and God Almighty bless you, and make you more mighty in your supplications.

     I have said, "Look about you." I want you to continue the work, and look about at your own closets. Oh, Brethren and sisters, there is no place that some of us need to be so much ashamed to look at as our closet door. I cannot say the hinges are rusty; they do open and shut at their appointed seasons. I cannot say that the door is locked and cobwebbed. We do not neglect prayer itself; but those walls, those beams out of the wall, what a tale might they tell! "Oh!" the wall mighty cry out, "I have heard thee when thou hast been in so vast a hurry that thou couldst scarcely spend two minutes with thy God, and I have heard thee, too, when thou wast neither asleep nor awake, and when thou didst not know what thou wast saying." Then one beam might cry out, "I have heard thee come and spend ten minutes and not ask for anything, at least thy heart did not ask. The lips moved, but the heart did not ask. The lips moved, but the heart was silent." How might another beam cry out—"Oh! I have heard thee groan out thy soul, but I have seen thee go away distrustful, not believing thy prayer was heard, quoting the promise, but not thinking God would fulfil it." Surely the four walls of the closet might come together and fall down upon us in their anger, because we have so often insulted God with our unbelief and with our hurry, and with all manner of sins. We have insulted him even at his mercy seat, on the spot where his condescension is most fully manifested. Is it not so with you? Must we not each confess it in our turn? See to it then, Christian brethren, that an amendment be made, and God make you more mighty and more successful in your prayers that heretofore.

     III. But not to detain you, the last point is look upward, LOOK ABOVE. Look above. Christian brethren and sisters, and let us weep. Oh God, thou hast given us a mighty weapon, and we have permitted it to rust. Thou hast given us that which is mighty as thyself, and we have let that power lie dormant. Would it not be a vile crime if a man had an eye given him which he would not open, or a hand that he would not lift up, or a foot that grew stiff because he would not use it. And what must we say of ourselves when God has given us power in prayer, and yet that power lies still. Oh, if the universe was as still as we are, where should we be? Oh God, thou givest light to the sun and he shines with it. Thou givest light even to the stars and they twinkle. To the winds thou givest force and they blow. And to the air thou givest life and it moves, and men breathe thereof. But to thy people thou hast given a gift that is better than force, and life, and light, and yet they permit it to lie still. Forgetful almost that they wield the power, seldom exercising it, though it would be blessed to countless myriads. Weep, Christian man. Constantine, the Emperor of Rome, saw that on the coins of the other Emperors, their images were in an erect posture—triumphing. Instead thereof he ordered that his image should be struck kneeling, for said he—"That is the way in which I have triumphed." We shall never triumph till our image is struck kneeling. The reason why we have been defeated, and why our banners trail in the dust, is because we have not prayed. Go—go ye back to your God, with sorrow, confess before him, ye children of Ephraim, that ye were armed, and carried bows, but turned your backs in the day of battle. Go to your God and tell him that if souls are not saved, it is not because he has not power to save, but because you have never travailed as it were in birth for perishing sinners. Your bowels have not sounded like a harp for Kir-haresh, neither has your spirit been moved, because of the defenses of the tribe of Reuben. Wake up, wake up, ye people of Israel; be astonished, ye careless ones; ye who have neglected prayer; ye sinners that are in Zion's own self, and that have been at ease. Wake up yourselves; wrestle and strive with your God, and then the blessing shall come—the early and the latter rain of his mercy, and the earth shall bring forth plenteously, and all the nations shall call him blessed. Look up then, and weep.

     Once more look up and rejoice. Though you have sinned against him he loves you still. Ye have not prayed unto him nor sought his face, but behold he cries to you still—"Seek ye my face;" and he saith not "Seek ye me in vain." Ye may not have gone to the fountain, but it flows as freely as before. Ye have not drawn near to God, but he waiteth to be gracious still, and is ready to hear all your petitions. Behold, he says unto you, "Enquire of me concerning things to come, and concerning my sons and daughters, command ye me." What a blessed thing it is that the master in heaven is always ready to hear! Augustine has a very beautiful thought upon the parable of the man who knocked at his friend's door at midnight, saying, "Friend, give me three loaves." His paraphrase of it runs something like this—I knock at mercy's door, and it is the dead of night. "Will not some of the servants of the louse come and answer me?" No; I knock, but they are asleep. Oh! ye apostles of God—ye glorified martyrs—ye are asleep; ye rest in your beds; ye cannot hear my prayer. But will not the children answer? Are there not children who are ready to come and open the door to their brother? No; they are asleep. My brethren that have departed—with whom I took sweet counsel, and who were the companions of my heart—ye cannot answer me for ye rest in Jesus; your works do follow you, but you cannot work for me. But while the servants are asleep, and while the children cannot answer, the Master is awake,—awake at midnight too. It may be midnight with my soul, but he hears me, and when I am saying "Give me three loaves," he comes to the door and giveth me as much as I need. Christian, look up then and rejoice. There is always an open ear if you have an open mouth. There is always already hand if you have a ready heart. You have but to cry and the Lord hears; nay, before you call he will answer, and while you are speaking he will hear. Oh! be not backward then in prayer. Go to him when you reach your home; nay, on the very way lift up you ears silently; and whatever your petition or request may be, ask it in Jesu's name, and it shall be done unto you.

     Yet, again, look up dear Christian brethren, and amend your prayers from this time forth. Look on prayer no loner as a romantic fiction or as an arduous duty; look at it as a real power, as a real pleasure. When philosophers discover some latent power, they seem to have a delight to put it in action. I believe there have been many great engineers, who have designed and constructed some of the most wonderful of human works, not because they would be renumerative, but simply from a love of showing their own power to accomplish wonders. To show the world what skill could do and what man could accomplish, they have tempted companies into speculations that could never remunerate apparently, so far as I could see, in order that they might have an opportunity of displaying their genius. O Christian men, and shall a great Engineer attempt great works and display his power, and will you who have a mightier power that ever was wielded by any man apart from his God—will you let that be still? Nay think of some great object, strain the sinews of your supplications for it. Let every vein of your heart be full to the brim with the rich blood of desire, and struggle, and wrestle, and tug and strive with God for it, using the promises and pleading the attributes, and see if God does not give you your heart's desire. I challenge you this day to exceed in prayer my Master's bounty. 1 throw down the gauntlet to you. Believe him to be more than he is; open your mouth so wide that he cannot fill it; go to him now for more faith than the promise warrants; venture it, risk it, outdo the Eternal if it be possible; attempt it. Or as I would rather put it thus, take your petitions and wants and see if he does not honor you. Try whether if you believe him he doth not fulfill the promise, and richly bless you with the anointing oil of his Spirit by which you will be strong in prayer.

     I cannot refrain from adding just these few syllables as you go away. I know there are some of you that never prayed in your lives. You have said a form of prayer, perhaps, many years, but have never prayed once. Ah! poor soul, you must be born again, and until you are born again you cannot pray as I have been directing the Christian to pray. But let me say this much to you. Does your heart long after salvation? Has the Spirit whispered, "Come to Jesus, sinner, he will hear you?" Believe that whisper, for he will hear you. The prayer of the awakened sinner is acceptable to God. He heareth the broken in heart and healeth them too. Take your groanings and your sighs to God and he will answer you. "Ah," but says one, "I have nothing to plead." Well, but plead as David did—"Pardon my iniquity, for it is great." You have that plea—say, for his dear sake who shed his blood," and you shall prevail, sinner. But do not go to God, and ask for mercy with thy sin in thy hand. What would you think of the rebel, who appeared before the face of his sovereign and asked for pardon with the dagger sticking in his belt, and with the declaration, of his rebellion on his breast? Would he deserve to he pardoned? He could not deserve it in any case, and surely he would deserve double his doom for having thus mocked his master while he pretended to be seeking mercy. If a wife had forsaken her husband do you think she would have the impudence, with brazen forehead, to come back and ask pardon for leaning on the arm of her paramour? No, she could not have such impudence, and yet it is so with you—perhaps asking for mercy and going on in sin—praying to be reconciled to God, and yet harbouring and indulging your lust. Awake! awake! and call upon thy God, thou sleeper. The boat is nearing the rock, perhaps to-morrow it may strike and be shivered, and thou be cast into the unfathomable depths of everlasting woe. Call on thy God, I say, and when thou callest upon him, cast away thy sin or he cannot hear thee. If thou lift up thy unholy hands with a lie in they right hand, a prayer is worthless on they lip. Oh, come unto him, say unto him, "Take away all iniquity, receive us graciously, love us freely," and he will hear you, and you shall yet pray as prevailing princes, and one day shall stand as more than conquerors before the starry throne of him who ever reigns God over all, blessed for evermore.



Vessels of Mercy,-A Sermon of Self-Examination

By / Aug 5

VESSELS OF MERCY,— A SERMON OF SELF-EXAMINATION

 
“And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had
afore prepared unto glory. Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the
Gentiles?”— Rom. ix. 23, 24

 

     IT is with no view to controversy that I have selected this text, but for a far higher and more practical purpose, namely, that by this truth, many of us may search ourselves, and that we may be able to discover whether we have any of the marks of the vessels of mercy which God hath afore prepared unto glory. We must take the next verse to complete our text— “Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles.” 

     The context invites us to visit the potter’s house. There, in the workshop you perceive sundry vessels in process of formation. The wheel is revolving, and from it you see continually taken, vessels of an ignoble sort, fitted only for the very meanest purposes, and on the other hand, from the same clay you see produced, vessels that might grace the palace of a king, vessels of honour fit for honourable purposes. We now conduct you to a greater workshop, to the great potter’s house of Providence. Continually revolving is the wheel of circumstances; men, like masses of clay are placed upon it, but they are not all fashioned alike. There are some men who are evidently to the casual observer, vessels not adapted for the high and honourable occupations of heaven and glory. There are men who, every time the wheel revolves, become worse in character, and more depraved in mind; there are men who, by the very providence which is blessed to others, become more complete adepts in iniquity, and masters in crime. On the other hand, with pleasure you may perceive that on the same wheel there are some vessels, which, touched by the skilful hand of the great potter, are being daily more and more finished and completed, and you can soon perceive that they are not of the same sort as those we have just now passed by; but they are intended for higher uses and nobler purposes. In fact, they are preparing to stand at last, in the midst of paradise, the glorious trophies of the skill and power of the great Maker. 

     As my sermon is intended to be practical and not controversial, I shall solemnly invite each hearer to tremble lest he should belong to the reprobate and abandoned vessels of wrath. I speak with the deepest sorrow when I ask the question, with the probability, nay, the almost certainty that it must be answered in the affirmative— Are there not some of you here present, who are being fitted for destruction? God is not fitting you, you are fitting yourselves, by daily developing and indulging the depravity of your heart. You are seeking out every new pleasure, and every new sin, and though often warned to turn from your course of evil, are there not some of you who are rushing headlong to destruction? Are not many of you by a course of sin and folly, ripening yourselves for the great harvest of the Lord? Are you not making yourselves ready to be as stubble fully dried, cast into the oven of his wrath? This is not to be laid to the charge of God, but at your own door the guilt must lie. If you perish any one of you, on your own head shall be your blood. The eternal God is not guilty of the murder of men’s souls, they that die and sink in hell are suicides; they have rejected mercy, they have despised the Saviour, they have chosen sin and hated holiness. As was their choice, such is their portion; as was their rebellious will on earth, such must be their tormented destiny for ever. Oh, could I see with an infallible glance, the hearts and consciences of all present, might I not as I cast my eye along these seats, say of such an one, and of such an one, even in the judgment of charity, that man is preparing for destruction, his crimes demand punishment, his spirit is of such a character that he requires to dwell for ever at a distance from God. His will is so headstrong, his intentions so obstinate, his passion so desperate, that every one may see with half an eye, that he is preparing to dwell for ever, where bliss, and even hope, are everlasting strangers. O my dear brethren, what shall I say to you, how shall I preach to you? You are filling up the measure of your iniquity, and preparing with all diligence to be fitting companions for the devils in hell. It needs a tender heart, and an earnest voice, to address such as you are. Permit me to speak to you in the language of Scripture. Why will ye die, O house of Israel, why will ye hug the pleasures of sin— pleasures which ye know must be followed by the torments of eternity? Why will you put from you the hope of life? Why will you reject the Saviour? It will be an awful thing, ye that are vessels of mirth, when you shall be filled with wrath; ye that are now vessels of pleasure, and vessels of pride, it will be a dreadful thing when God shall fill you to the brim with misery, and you shall be overflowing with his anger. Oh Lord, we beseech thee, undo the sinner’s work. Great Potter, reverse the wheel, re-mould the clay, break thou in pieces the old vessel that is preparing to be a drinking cup for Satan, and do thou again melt it down, and re-fashion it, and bring it forth again upon the wheel, and touch it with thine own hand, and make it yet a vessel for honour, fitted for the Master’s use! 

     And now I have a more pleasing task of turning immediately to our text, and considering the character of those who on the other hand are the “vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory. Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles.” There are three things we will look at this morning; first, the vessels; secondly, the potter at his work; and then, the potter' s stamp which is set upon the vessels, — the stamp of divine calling, which marks them as being the vessels of mercy. 

     I. First, then, let us look upon the saints of God as here described, under the title of VESSELS OF MERCY. 

     1. And the first thing we here observe is, that as vessels of mercy it is distinctly said that they are made of the same lump as the vessels of wrath. The same piece of clay from which the vessel of wrath is fashioned may be used by God to make also a vessel of mercy. Oh, dear brother! thou who hast hope of heaven hereafter, and a foretaste of it even now; look back to the hole of the pit whence thou wast digged, to the miry clay whence thou wast drawn! There was nothing in thee by nature better than that which is found in any other man. Thou didst lie in the impure mass of fallen creatureship, and if God hath made thee a vessel of mercy it was not because there was anything in thee that could merit esteem, there was no fitness, no natural adaptation in thee to become what thou art; thou art a miracle of his love and of his distinguishing grace. Had he left thee to thyself, thou hadst been as base and vile as others in thy life; thou hadst been as despairing and as Christless as others in thy death; thou wouldst have been as surely damned in eternity as the man who has descended into the pit, red with the blood of many a murdered one. Remember, thou wast in the loins of Adam, in the loins which begat a Judas; thou art a son of the same mother Eve, who conceived and brought into the world Cain the murderer, and of Demas who forsook the Lord, and of Judas who sold him for thirty pieces of silver. Thou knowest, too, in thine own experience, that thy temper is as evil, thy disposition as vile, and thy tendency as hellish, as that of any man who has perished upon the gallows tree. If there be a difference in thee, the difference is of grace and not of nature; for this very morning thou hast had in thine own soul a proof that thou art taken from the old block, and art but a shred from the leprous rag of fallen humanity. My dear hearers, have you learned this truth in your own souls? I know there are some who will not believe that they are depraved; they cannot be brought to think that they are as fallen as the worst of men, but they set themselves up with pride, pretending to believe that there is something in them better than is to be found in the criminal or the profligate. I give you but little hope that you are a child of God if you have never learned this truth. I find that God’s elect here are of the same lump as the chief of sinners, and if you are of a different lump it augurs that you are not one of the chosen people of God. All God s people must learn, as surely as ever grace teaches them, that they are vile. Christians may differ in a thousand doctrines, but they never differ in this one point. We all believe, and we are all constrained to confess, that our nature is vile from its original, evil, only evil, and that continually. If there be any good in any of us, we all acknowledge it is the work of divine grace, and not the fruit of creature strength, nor an emanation from our depraved hearts. I pray God that you may learn this lesson; and if you have learned it, let it not discourage you, but rather give you hope. As you look upon yourselves and say, “I see that I am of the old stock,” lift up your eye to the God of all grace and cry, “O great Potter! though I be of the old clay, yet fashion me by thy grace, and make me a vessel of mercy prepared unto glory.” 

     2. Further, it appears both from the text and the context that these vessels of mercy were as much as any other portion of the clay, entirely in the potter's hand. Had the potter willed to leave that mass of clay alone, and let it revolve upon the wheel untouched by his gracious hand, or surrendered to the tools of Satan and his craft; if, I say, the great potter had left you or me who are vessels of mercy to ourselves, we should have been vessels of wrath most surely. Jehovah might have done this if he had willed to do so, and there would have been no power in us to fit ourselves for heaven. Hell’s thistles grow self-sown, but God’s wheat needs a husbandman. Vessels of mercy fit themselves for destruction, but grace alone can prepare a soul for glory. There is no reason in the world why any man should be saved apart from the sovereign and distinguishing grace of God. If the Lord had permitted the whole human race to perish he would have been infinitely just, and throughout eternity the angels must have hymned him in songs of adoration. If he had chosen to spare a few of mankind, the sparing of but a few would have been an act of surprising mercy, and mercy and judgment would have constituted the two elements of the eternal song. Inasmuch, however, as he hath taken so much of the clayey mass, and hath been pleased to make vessels of mercy innumerable as the stars of heaven, unto his name be all the glory for ever and ever. Take heed that when you think of the number of the redeemed you do not mar the idea that God is a sovereign still. Had he saved but one, you would have said it was an instance of absolute sovereignty, though he has saved tens of thousands the sovereignty is just as absolute as it was before. Had the Lord left thee to become all that thine evil nature and Satan could have made thee, thou couldst not have murmured. If he had permitted thee to go on in thy drunkenness without sending the gospel to thee, and if he had allowed thee to reject that gospel as thou wouldest have done unless he had constrained thee to receive it, thou couldest not have impugned his justice, even though thou mightest have murmured at it. Thou hast been made what thou art, not as the result of any compulsion of merit demanding a debt from the Lord, nor by any effort of thine own, but thou art what thou art as the effect of the sovereign discriminating love of God the Father in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

     Now let me ask my hearers again, have you learned this truth; have you learned how entirely you lie in God’s hand? Hast thou ever been brought my hearer to believe, that if saved it must be his will that saves thee, though if lost it is thy will that damns thee? Hast thou ever been stripped so naked, so thoroughly naked, that thou hast said, “I have no claim upon God. If he save me, it must be mercy, pure mercy, unmingled mercy?” Oh! if thou hast never been brought here I tremble for thee. I pray the Lord to bring thee to this spot, for it is the very threshold of the door of grace; and when a man is brought here, he is not far from the kingdom of God. Be it so with each of us, that we may acknowledge the sovereignty, and then admire grace in the sovereignty. 

     3. But to proceed. The text speaks of God’s chosen ones as being “vessels.” Now as we all know, a vessel is nothing but a receiver. A vessel is not a fountain, it is not a creator of the water, but a container and holder of that which is poured into it. Such are the redeemed of God. They are not fountains by nature, out of whom there springeth up anything that is good; they are simply receivers, and receivers only. At one time they are full of themselves, but grace empties them, and then as empty vessels they are set in the way of God’s goodness, God fills them to the brim with his lovingkindness, and so are they proved to be the vessels of his mercy. Sinner! remember all that God asks of thee in order to thy salvation is, that thou wouldst be a receiver, and this he gives thee — even the power to receive. Thou mayest receive from him who giveth all. He asks thee not to do anything, but to hold out thine empty hand and take all thou wantest. He doth not ask thee to come with thy mouth full as one that is fat and filled with bread, but to open wide thine empty mouth, and he will fill it with his salvation. He doth not bid thee store thy granaries and become rich, but he bids thee simply confess thy poverty and open the doors of thy empty chambers that he may pour thee out a blessing such as thou shalt scarcely find room to receive. The elect of God, to repeat again my text, are vessels and vessels only. They may as vessels afterwards give out to others, but they can only give out what God has put in them; they may work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, but they cannot work it out unless God worketh in them both to will and to do of his good pleasure. They may run over with gratitude, but it is only because God has filled them with grace; they may stream forth with holiness, but it is only because the Lord keeps the supply overflowing. They are receivers and receivers only. 

     And now let me ask, hast thou ever learned this truth my hearer? Hast thou come to live as a receiver at the hand of God? Hast thou stood at mercy’s gate as a ragged beggar crying for his bread? Hast thou ever been compelled to say, 

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

     In God’s name I assure thee, if thou hast never become a vessel of mercy, if thou hast never yet been willing to take from God instead of giving of thine own doings to him, if thou art not willing to be a recipient of his own gratuitous goodness, thou art a total stranger to everything like the gospel of Christ. The Romanist who brings his prayers, the formalist who brings his ceremonies, the hypocrite who brings his profession — all these men have mistaken the gospel. The gospel is a scheme not of giving to God, but of taking from God. It is not of bringing something to the Eternal Jehovah, but it is taking from his fulness, drinking from his well, receiving from his storehouse. Thou hast not yet begun to spell out salvation, unless thou hast learned first of all that thou canst do nothing and be nothing, except God makes thee something and enables thee to do something in his cause.

     4. But furthermore and lastly upon this first head, the children of God are called vessels, but they have this added by way of distinction, they are “vessels of mercy” In order that they may be vessels of mercy it is certainly necessary that they should be sinful and that they should be miserable. Pity may be given to the miserable, but mercy must be bestowed upon the sinful. For a judge to talk of mercy to those who never had offended would be to insult them; and for the philanthropist to offer pity to the man who knows no sorrow, would be but to mock him. The only qualifications that a man can have for being a vessel of mercy, are the qualifications of being sinful and of being sorrowful— two qualifications, which I doubt not many of you now possess, although because you have them, you think that you never can be a child of God. O rejoice in this thought, that in order to being filled with grace the qualification is emptiness; in order to being clothed with righteousness, the indispensable qualification is nakedness; in order to being washed in Jesus’ blood, all that is wanted of thee is, that thou shouldst feel thy need of that washing. The redeemed of God are not vessels of merit but vessels of mercy; they are sinful men and women who have felt their sin and have mourned over their iniquity, and have hence become sorrowful and miserable. Then it is, that God shows to them that they are vessels of mercy. If I could wander through this hall and read each heart, I should find some, I doubt not, who have come here saying, “I am the chief of sinners. I feel that if all the world were saved there is no room for me, for there is not one good trait in my character '; my sin is so aggravated; I have heard the gospel so often, and yet I have rejected it; conscience has stirred me so many times, and yet I would not listen to its admonitions. I am sure, I am certain, that I am in the most hopeless plight, and I am fearfully miserable upon this account. Oh! that there were mercy to be had in heaven, and that God would have pity upon such an one as I am!” Soul, soul, there is comfort for thee in this text. Have I not told thee, and dost thou not believe it, that the vessel must be empty before it can be filled. And thou art empty. There is hope then that God will save thee. The vessel must be black with sin before it can be washed with mercy. And thou art black. There is hope then, that thou shalt be cleansed. A vessel must be filled with misery before it can be filled with mercy, thou art filled with misery, and full of sorrow. Oh! be of good cheer; bring this vessel of thine, full of misery though it be, and empty it all at the foot of the cross; and I tell thee sinner, my words are true, he will fill thy vessel with the richest mercy that ever he gave to the brightest of his saints, or to the boldest of his apostles.

     What a glad and joyous hour it is, when God for the first time fills the vessel with his mercy. My soul cannot help going back to the hour in my own experience, when the first flood of mercy brimmed this poor empty vessel. Filled to bursting with wormwood and gall had that vessel been for many and many a day. Often had it seemed as if the vessel must be shivered with the workings of inward sorrow, but at last the hour had come, Jehovah said, “Look unto me and be ye saved all the ends of the earth.” This eye looked, this heart believed, and in a moment that vessel, emptied of self, and emptied of misery, was plunged into the sea of mercy and fully submerged. I thought I should have a little hope at first, and then a stronger confidence, but no; my sun arose in the fulness of his strength, the stream came not by slow degrees, but in an instant was the vessel covered, swallowed up, and lost in joy and love. The gladsomeness of that hour, I can remember, but I cannot tell. Then I knew my sins forgiven; I could dance for mirth. Then 1 knew my name inscribed in the Lamb’s fair Book of Life, and nothing that earth could have afforded; could give a drop of joy that was comparable to the bliss of that hour. Oh! may it not be so with some of you this morning. Men, brethren, fathers, mothers, and sisters— may it not be so with you – Turn, I beseech you, your tearful eyes to Jesus hanging on the cross, and it shall be so now. Come, bring your empty vessels, for the fountain flows. Break not your pitcher with despair, but come and fill it with the hand of faith. There is room for thee here at the marriage feast, thou shivering beggar, clothed with the rags of sin; come, the voice of mercy bids thee: the arms of Jesus are outstretched to woo thee; thou art not rejected; mercy’s door is not shut: come and welcome. It is the eleventh hour — the twelfth hour, though it has struck on earth, has not struck in heaven — there is time yet; thy noon-time of mercy is not passed. The hour of grace still lasts, and even now thou mayest read thy name as a vessel of mercy fully prepared unto eternal glory.

     II. We have cast our eye upon the vessels, let us now pause a little while and see THE POTTER AT HIS WORK.

     When a potter is about to make a vessel you must not imagine that he takes up the mere clay and puts it on the wheel and then leaves it to chance as to what shall be made of it. No, he has his plan. Before he sits down to the labour, he knows what kind of vessel he is about to make. So it is with our Divine Potter who is in heaven. He takes the poor sinner as a mass of clay; he puts him on the wheel, and as that wheel revolves the potter looks and sees in that clay a future something which does not appear to the vessel, but which only appears to the great Workman’s eyes. We may truly say of each of us who know the Lord, that “it doth not yet appear what we shall be;” and what we shall be never will appear until we shall see Christ as he is, and be like him. The Potter, however, knows what we are to be. Our Father who is in heaven will not be deceived at last as to what he will make of his people. He has a plan, and that plan I think 1 may read to you in these few words— “He will present us without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.” Sweet and blessed consideration! God intends to make of every sinner that believes on him a spotless, perfect vessel, full of glory. He does not intend to leave a single sin unpardoned, or to let a single evil principle remain in your soul. He means to tear up your iniquity by the roots, and make us totally free from the very being and indwelling of sin. He means to wash you so completely in the blood of Christ, that both the power and the guilt of sin shall all be taken away; and he means as the completion of all to make you in the image of Christ Jesus— as fair and lovely as that spotless and perfect Lamb of God. Oh! Christian, doth not this rejoice thy heart— thou shalt yet be like Christ? Oh! sayest thou, “I am as much like the devil sometimes as I can be, and I often have to mourn that there is so much of the old Adam in me.” Yes, but rejoice; it doth not yet appear what thou shalt be. Every mark of Satan shall yet be put away from thee; every tinge of the old depravity shall yet be cleansed; and when thou shalt be taken into heaven as a vessel thoroughly finished, thou wilt be a theme of wonder to all the angels and the glorified spirits, who shall gather round about thee to see the matchless skill and grace of God as it is manifested in thy character and in thy nature. The Lord grant that we may ever have an eye to the great plan of the Potter, so that when sharp afflictions make us whirl upon the wheel, we may rejoice that the plan is being accomplished, and that we shall come forth perfect from the hand of the maker.

     And now while we are stopping here to notice the potter at his work, having glanced at the plan, let us observe that like every potter he first of all makes the outlines in the clay. You may have seen the man at work executing designs in glass. Perhaps at the very first moment you may form a rough guess of what the whole thing is to be, though the ornament and elaboration which constitute the main part of the beauty you cannot yet discover. Certain it is, that the moment a man begins to be prepared for heaven by the grace of God in his soul, you may see the outlines of what he is to be, although it is but the bare outlines. Shall I tell you what those outlines are? There is first of all in him — faith in Christ; a simple, child -like trust in him that did hang upon the tree. There is next in him another mark of the potter’s hand— that is love to Christ — a love that is strong as death, though sometimes it seems to be feeble as a worm. There is in him also a hope that maketh not ashamed, and a joy which makes glad his countenance. It is but the bare outline, as I have said, for the glory which excelleth is not there. The vase is only in its embryo, but yet sufficiently developed to give a prophecy of its finished form; but as for the pictures that shall be inlaid, as for all the divers colours that shall be spent upon it, you cannot guess as yet, nor could you, unless you could climb to the potter s seat and see the plan upon which he looks as the clay revolves upon the wheel.

     Dear brothers and sisters, have you anything in you as yet of the great outlines? Can you say in truth, “I do believe on the Lord Jesus?” Fear not then, my hearer, thou art a vessel of mercy; not a finished vessel, but one that shall be finished. Canst thou say,

“O yes, I do love Jesus,
Because he first loved me?”

     If that be true, thou art not yet what thou shalt be, but thou art a vessel of mercy for all that. And does thy hope sometimes tell thee that through Jesus thou shalt stand among the glorified? Then be glad; the potter has begun with thee and he will never leave thee. He mars no vessel on the wheel, or if it be marred he will re-make. He casts not away the clay which he has once taken in his hand. He will complete what he has begun. He knows no failures and no disappointments. Thou shalt yet be all that he would have thee be, and filled with glory thou shalt glitter in heaven at last.

     But to proceed— as the potter goes on with his work, you may perceive the gradual completion of the article which he manufactures. And so, dear brethren, if you be vessels of mercy, there will not always be in you the bare outline, but as time goes on there will be some of the beautiful lines and filling-up. It is always a joy to me that such a large proportion of grey-headed Christians always attend here, and it is a theme of wonder also as well as of joy, because I can scarcely understand what they can learn from me. The Lord must have taught them so much more in these many years; he must have been engraving them and using the tool of affliction upon them so long that they must be getting ready, they must be getting nearer to that glorious readiness which prepares the people of God for entrance into eternal life. I am not among those who think that a Christian is a thing that stands still. He is a vessel, but he is a vessel on the wheel; he is clay, but he is clay in the potter’s hand gradually being formed. I should question whether there is any of the life of God in a man if that life does not germinate and grow, for life is a thing that will grow and you cannot prevent it. You may seek to bind up the branch of a tree or to restrain it, but if it cannot grow in one direction it will in another; if it cannot swell in one place where you have bandaged it, although it will often burst the tightest bond you can put around it, if it cannot swell there it will surely grow somewhere else. So is it with the life of God in the Christian— it will grow. The Christian will be getting more and more like his Master. You sometimes seem to think you are going backward, yet if you are the children of God there is a constant going forward after all. There may be occasional backslidings, but the tenor of your life will be progress. You may slip, ay and fall, but still “Onward” will be the true motto of your course. You will be progressing in the divine life, and I do not think brother that you are a vessel of mercy, if after twenty or thirty years of union with Christ’s Church there has been no growth in you; if you do not know more of your Lord’s faithfulness; if you do not feel more of your own weakness and depravity better; if your faith has not become more unstaggering, and more confident in him that is faithful and true; if you have not more longings after Him, and more will to be spent in his cause, I should begin to question whether you are a vessel on the Master’s wheel. I do not think he would lose five and twenty years over you; that he would let you be spinning round on the wheel of providence all that while and yet never have touched you, and never have made you more meet to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light. In fact, it is just this growth of grace that is one of the evidences of life, and though you may not be able at all times to discover it, yet it is there. If you are a vessel of mercy you are getting nearer towards completion; nearer to the day when with everlasting songs you shall be presented before the Father’s face.

     Oh, brethren, if we can only see here on earth, vessels getting ready for perfection, and if those vessels have so much beauty in them as the children of God really have, what must they be when at last they shall be finished. Jehovah, how glorious shall be thy workmanship in this thy second creation. If this world be fair, how much fairer shall the new world be: if in this thine old creation, thou hast made such beauties that the admiring angels may come down to view them, and the morning stars may find in them subjects for song, what shall thy new creation be: if that rough work which thou didst but speak from thy mouth, be so marvellously beautiful, what must be that work to accomplish which thou hast sat down to the potter’s wheel, to perform which thou hast shed thine own blood, and to perfect which thou hast not spared the treasures of heaven, but emptied them out that thou mightest complete those vessels which shall be for thy glory. Oh, the songs! oh, the hallelujahs that shall greet Jehovah’s workmanship, when all shall be completed, when all the vessels shall be brought home, when heaven’s tables shall be loaded with the richest of all ware, when souls shall be filled with the red wine of bliss, and all the glorified shall rejoice in God. "What songs, I say, what hallelujahs shall make the courts of heaven echo and re-echo throughout eternity for ever and ever.

     III. And now I shall come to my last point, upon which I shall be somewhat brief, but I hope, thoroughly in earnest. The last point was THE POTTER'S MARK UPON HIS VESSELS.

     In all manufactories of costly wares there is always some trade-mark peculiar to the firm that has manufactured the article, — a mark which is not to be imitated, and without which no vessel is the genuine production of the professed maker. Brethren, you. may know to-day whether you are a vessel of mercy; you may know by the Master’s mark upon you. That mark, the apostle tells you, is calling. Have you been called? for if you are called you are elected. Has Divine grace called you out of darkness into marvellous light? for if so, it is not a matter of question as to whether you are ordained to eternal life. You may rest assured that, without a doubt, your name was in the Lamb’s book of life from before the foundations of the world, if you have in time been called from sin unto righteousness. Mark, then, the distinguishing mark of the great Potter upon his vessels of mercy is effectual calling. And I would here remark that that is a mark which no man can put upon you. It is one which God alone can impress. We can call you, but we cannot call you effectually. The earnest minister may cry aloud and spare not, and bid sinners come to the marriage supper of the Lamb, but it is in vain calling to deaf ears, and such are the ears of all men by nature. The Lord alone can so speak, that the deaf, nay, the dead, must hear. Hast thou ever, then, felt a calling which is not of man, neither by man? Has the voice of mercy ever spoken to thy soul, and said, “Come to Jesus?” and has it so spoken that thy heart has said, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek?” Oh, my dear hearers, you have been called times enough by me, so many times that if you perish, your blood must lie at your own door, God is witness that over the most of you these eyes have wept many and many a time. The Lord knows how earnestly I have called to you, how I have pleaded with you as though it were my own soul that was at hazard, and as though I pleaded for my own life. If you have rejected these callings, be prepared to answer for it at the last great day. But alas, these callings you may have, and they may only sink you lower than the lowest hell. Have you ever received the irresistible calling of the Holy Ghost? Has he said to thee, “Mary,” and hast thou said, “Raboni?” Has he cried to thee, “Zaccheus make haste and come down,” and hast thou come down and received him into thine house. None but a call from Christ’s own lips shall ever compel such stubborn hearts as ours to follow him. Hast thou had that call, for if so, thou hast the mark of the potter upon thee. Thou art not a vessel of wrath fitted to destruction, but a vessel of mercy prepared unto glory. I would further remark, that as this is a mark which no man can put upon you, so blessed be God, it is one which no man can take away from you. If God has called you, that calling is without repentance, God will not repent and take back the gift which he hath given thee. If he hath called thee by his grace to repentance, he will call thee to faith, and then from faith to love, from love to patience, and to hope, and onwards till at last he whispers, “Come up hither,” and he calls thee unto glory. I do not believe in that gospel which teaches that a man may be effectually called and yet may perish, that a heart may be thoroughly renewed and yet may go back to its old state, that in fact God’s work may melt away like “the baseless fabric of a vision that his new creation is but froth and foam; that it only lives by the will of a creature, and it dies if that creature hath a will that it should do so. Nay, my brethren, if the Lord has put heaven’s light in you once it is there for ever, and not death nor hell can quench it, but in your soul it must and will burn. “Ah!” but says one, “If I indulge in sin.” Yea, but thou shalt not indulge in sin, the Lord will preserve and keep thee so that the Wicked One toucheth thee not. “But if I go back and sin as I used to do.” Ay, but thou canst not do it; that grace which has changed thy nature, will hold thee to the end, thou shalt walk in light till thou comest to walk in glory. “Thy path shall be as the shining light which shineth more and more unto the perfect day,” and if thou goest back, we will say of thee, “ He went out from us because he was not of us, for if he had been of us, he doubtless would have continued with us. The dog has returned to his vomit, because he was a dog; and the sow that was washed hath returned to her wallowing in the mire, because she was a sow.” But had the natures been changed they would never have returned to their old propensities; had they been made new creatures in Christ Jesus that new creation could never have been undone, God’s tapestry could not have been unravelled. His work could not have been consumed. It is eternal and must abide; it must last even to the perfection in glory. Be of good cheer then, the Lord has put his mark upon thee, the devil cannot wash it out.

     And then, to conclude, let me remark, if thou hast had the seal of calling put upon thee, that seal is sure and certain. There never was a man yet called out of darkness into light by mistake, there never was a man who repented and then found he was not an elect one. Never a man went to Christ and then found he had not a right to come and must go back. “Whosoever cometh unto me I will in nowise cast out.” God has never made mistakes in the callings of his grace. The right man is called at the right time and the right place; he goes to Christ and finds that what is a fact in time was a purpose in all eternity. Between calling and election there is a indissoluble union. If thou hast the link of calling in thy hand, depend upon it that is fastened, though thou canst not see it, unto the other golden link of divine decree.

     Thou couldest not have come to Christ unless the Father had drawn thee, and the Father would not have drawn thee unless he had intended to draw thee, and that intention is election’s decree. Be thou, then, quite certain that if thou comest, it was intended that thou shouldest come; and thou wast chosen of God from before the foundation of the world. Am I but certain that I am regenerate? I cannot allow a dispute about whether I am elected or not. Am I sure that

“My faith is fixed on nothing less,
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness?”

     I may be as sure of my election, as if I could climb to heaven and turn over the red roll and read my name in letters of gold. The Lord has given thee a test which never did fail yet, and never will. Thou shalt not meet, either in time or in eternity, a single penitent, who found that he had repented and believed through error. Oh! no. The fruit proves the life of the tree, and the fact that thou hast mercy, proves that God intended to give thee the mercy; and what is that but all that we mean by the doctrine, that God hath, from the beginning, chosen unto salvation them that believe in Christ Jesus.

     And now, ere I send you away, let me say one or two earnest words. It makes glad my heart to see what work the Lord is doing in our day everywhere. 1 do not think these are times over which God’s people ought to sorrow. There is more doing in London now than has been accomplished for the last twenty years. The people of God are earnest in prayer. There are men raised up to preach in simple language the truth as it is in Jesus; and I do hope that whatever good we have seen in the past is about to be quite eclipsed and outdone by greater things that are on their way. But, my brothers and sisters, who can shut his eyes to the sad fact, that in days of revival there are some who are unblessed? I am anxious about you, that while God is working on the right hand and on the left, you should not escape without receiving the blessing from on high. Oh! to be like Gideon’s fleece— dry when the floor is wet! To remain in a barren spot of ground when all the earth is filled with fertility! And yet, my dear hearers, this is the case with some of you. You are still becoming more and more fitted for destruction. Oh! I would solemnly warn you. That fitness for destruction will certainly end in destruction. Sin and Hell are married unless Repentance proclaim the divorce. As you sow you must reap. It is of no use your looking into mysterious doctrines to find anything which can contradict this truth. As your life is such must your end be; and if your course be out of Christ your end shall be out of Christ, and your eternal home shall be out of hope and far away from eternal happiness. But oh! I pray that instead thereof, the Lord in his infinite bounty may call you effectually by his grace. I pray that the Holy Spirit may descend, but how shall we obtain that Holy Spirit? Only by the conjoined and united prayers of the Church of Christ. My dear friends, let us pray more earnestly. Not only our own comfort, but the salvation of sinners lies in the hands of God. We cannot save them; we cannot awaken them. Let us cry— “Oh! Lord, take thou the work in hand;" and from this hour let every Christian in our midst resolve that he will give the Lord no rest, until he send down the showers of his grace, and revive his work in the midst of our Church and throughout every land. Let me dismiss you with just a word of prayer to that effect.

     Oh! Lord, revive thy work we pray thee. We are feeble and weak; we can do nothing. But come thyself and achieve triumphs, and let victories be won. Come and break the hard heart, and subdue the stubborn will. Lord, save the unsaved. Especially wilt thou be pleased to awaken those here present who are dead in sin, and let the vessels of mercy whom of thy sovereign good pleasure thou hast chosen out of the mass of mankind be filled with mercy till they overflow with gratitude and joy. Oh! Lord, hear us, and let the feeble effort of this morning be crowned with richer success than we can ask or even think, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.



Sin Slain

By / Jul 29

Sin Slain

 

"And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him. Come, and I will shew thee the man whom thou, seekest. And when he came into her tent, behold, Sisera lay dead and the nail was in his temples."—Judges 4:22

 

     If the story of the world's sufferings under different tyrants could all be written, there would be no man found who would be capable of reading it. I believe that even the despots themselves, who have committed the atrocities to which I refer, would not be sufficiently cold-blooded to sit down and read the account of the agonies which their own victims have endured. I have been struck in passing through many lands with the horrible sufferings which in the olden times were endured by the poor at the hands of the rich kings and lords who were their oppressors. In almost every town in which you enter, you either have shown to you the rack, the dark dungeon, the thumb-screw, or the infernal machine, or instruments too horrible to describe—that make one's blood run chill at the very thought and sight of them. Verily, O earth, thou hast been scarred; thy back has been ploughed with many a furrow; from thy veins have gushed forth plenteous streams of blood, and thy sons and thy daughters have had to suffer agonies extreme! But oh! my brethren, I speak in sober earnestness when I declare that all the sufferings that have ever been exercised upon man have never been equal to the tyranny which man has brought upon himself—the tyranny of sin. Sin has brought more plagues upon this earth than all the earth's tyrants. It has brought more pangs and more miseries upon men's bodies and souls than the craftiest inventions of the most cold-blooded and diabolical tormentors. Sin is the world's great Despot. It is the serpent in whose subtle folds earth's inhabitants are crushed. It is such a tyranny that none but those whom God delivers have been able to escape from it. Nay, such a tyranny that even they have been scarcely saved; and they, when saved, have had to look back and remember the dreadful slavery in which they once existed; they have remembered the wormwood and the gall; and at the remembrance the iron has entered into their souls. We have before us, in this chapter, a picture of the children of Israel attacked by a very wicked and powerful king—Jaban, the king of Canaan. It is but a faint emblem, a very indistinct picture of the oppression which sin exercises upon all mankind—the oppression which our own iniquities continually bring upon us.

     I want to picture to you to-night, if I can, three acts in a great history—three different pictures illustrating one subject. I trust we have passed through all three of them, many of us; and as we shall look upon them, whilst I paint them upon the wall, I think there will be many here who will be able to say, I was in that state once;" and when we come to the last, I hope we shall be able to clap our hands, and rejoice to feel that the last is our case also, and that we are in the plight of the man with a description of whom I shall conclude.

     First, I shall picture to you the sinner growing uneasy in his bondage and thinking about rebellion against his oppressors; secondly, the sinner putting to rout his sins and seeking their entire destruction;and, thirdly, I shall seek to bring to you that notable picture of the open door, and I shall stand at it and cry to those who are seeking the life of their sins—"Come hither, and I will show you the man whom ye seek; here he lies—dead; slain by the hammer and the nail; held not in the hand of a woman, but in the hand of the seed of the woman—the man Christ Jesus."

     I. First, then, let us try to picture THE SINNER GROWING UNEASY UNDER THE YOKE OF HIS SINS, AND PLANNING A REVOLT AGAINST HIS OPPRESSORS.

     It is said that when a man is born a slave, slavery is not near so irksome as when he has once been free. You will have found it, perhaps, in birds and such animals that we keep under our control. If they have never known what it is fly to and fro in the air from tree to tree, they are happy in the cage; but if, after having once seen the world, and floated in the clear air, they are condemned to live in slavery, they are far less content. This is the case with man—he is born a slave. The child in the cradle is born under sin, and as we grow up we wear our manacles and scarcely know that they are about us. Use, we say, is second nature, and certainly the evil nature we have received makes the usages of sin seem as if they were not so slavish as they are. Nay, some men have become so used to their bonds, that they live with no true idea of liberty, and yet think themselves free. Nay, they take the names of freedom, and call themselves libertines, and free-thinkers, and free-doers, when they are the very worst of slaves, and might hear their chains rattle if they had but ears to hear. Until the Spirit of God comes into the heart—so strange is the use of nature—we live contented in our chains; we walk up and down our dungeon, and think we are at large. We are driven about by our task-masters, and imagine that we are free. Once let the Spirit of God come into us—once let a word of life and liberty sound in our ears—once let Jehovah Jesus speak, and we begin to be dissatisfied with our condition. Now the chain frets us; now the fetter feels too small; now we long for a wider march than we had before, and are not content to be fettered for ever to a sinful lust. We begin to have a longing for something better, though we know not what it is. Now it is that the man begins to find fault with what he at one time thought was so passing excellent. He finds that now the cup which seemed to be all honey has traces of bitter in it; the cane once so sweet and palatable has lost its lusciousness, and he says within himself "I wish I had some nobler food than these swine's husks; this is not fit food for me." He does not know that God has begun to kindle in him new life and a diviner nature; but he knows this, that he cannot be content to be what he was before. He frets and chafes like the lion in bonds that longs to range in the forest and wilderness. He cannot endure it. And now, I say, it is that the man begins to act. His first action is the action of the children of Israel; he begins to cry unto the Lord. Perhaps it is not a prayer, as we use the term in ordinary conversation. He cannot put many words together. It is a sigh—a sigh for he knows not what. It is a groan after something—an indescribable something that he has not seen or felt, but of the existence of what he has some idea. "Oh God," saith he, "deliver me! Oh God, I feel I am not what I should be; I am not what I wish to be; I am discontented with myself." And if the prayer does not take the actual shape of "God be merciful to me a sinner," yet it means all that, for he seems to say "Lord, I know not what it is—I know not whether it be mercy or grace, or what the name of it may be; but I want something. I am a slave. I feel it all. Oh that I could be free! Oh that I could be delivered!" The man begins now, you see, to look for something higher than he has seen before. After this prayer comes action; "Now," says the man," I must begin to be up and doing." And if the Spirit of God is truly dealing with him, he is not content with prayer; he begins to feel that though it is little enough that he can do, yet he can do at least something. Drunkenness he forsakes; at one blow he lays that enemy in the dust. Then there is his cursing and his swearing—he tries to overcome that enemy, but the oath comes out when he leasts expects it. Perhaps it gives him weeks of struggling, but at last that too is overcome. Then come the practices of his trade—these, he feels, hurt his conscience. Here is another chain to be filed off—another rivet to be torn off. He toils, he strives still crying evermore to God, and at last he is free, and that enemy is overthrown. He is like Barak; the Lord is helping him, and his enemies flee before him. Oh my brethren, I speak from experience now. What a struggle that was which my young heart waged against sin! When God the Holy Ghost first quickened me, I scarcely knew of that strong armour whereon my soul could venture. Little did I know of the precious blood which has put my sins away, and drowned them in the seas for ever. But I did know this, that I could not be what I was; that I could not rest happy unless I became something better—something purer than I felt; and oh how my spirit cried to God with groanings—I say it without any exaggeration—groanings that could not be uttered! and oh! how I sought in my poor dark way to overcome first this sin and then another, and so to do battle in God's strength against the enemies that assailed me, and not, thank God, altogether without success, though still the battle had been lost unless he had come who is the Overcomer of sin and the Deliverer of his people, and had put the hosts to flight. Have I not some here to-night who are just in this position? They have not come to Mount Zion yet, but are fighting with the Amalakites in the wilderness. They have not come to the blood of sprinkling, but somehow or other—they don't know exactly what condition theirs is,—they are fighting up hill against a dread something which they would overcome. They cannot renounce the struggle; they sometimes fear they will be vanquished in the end. Oh, my brother or sister, I am glad to find the Lord has done so much for thee. This is one of the first marks of divine life when we begin to fight against sin.

     Then courage, brethren! There shall be another picture painted soon, and that shall be thy picture too, when thou shalt be more than a conqueror, through him that hath loved thee. But I dare say this is not the picture of all here. There are some of you who say you are not slaves, and, therefore, you do not wish to be freed. But I tell you, sirs, if any earthly potentate could command you to do what the Devil makes your do, you would think yourselves the most oppressed beings in the world. If there should be a law passed in Parliament, and there should be power to put it into execution, that you should go and sit several hours of the nigh until midnight, and drink some vile poisonous stuff that would steal away your brains, so that you have to be wheeled home, you would say, "What vile tyranny! to force men to destroy their souls and bodies in that way;" and yet you do it wilfully of yourselves. And of the one blessed day of rest—the only one in seven that we have to rest in—if there were an enactment passed that you should open your shops on that day, and pursue your trade, you would say," This is a wretched land, to have such tyrants to govern it;" you would declare you would not do it and yet the devil makes you, and you go and take down your shutters as greedily as if you would win heaven by your Sunday trading. What slaves do men make of themselves when they most think themselves free! I have seen a man work harder and spend more money in seeking pleasure in that which makes him sick and ill—which makes his eyes red and his whole body feverish—than he would have done if a thousand acts of parliament had tried to drive him to do so. The devil is indeed a cruel tyrant with his subjects, but he is such a tyrant that they willingly follow him. He rivets on them his chains, and whilst they think they are going of their own free will, he sits grinning all the while and thinking how when their laughter will change to bitterest tears, they shall be undeceived in the dread day in which hell's fire shall burn up their delusion, and the flames of the pit shall scatter the darkness that has concealed the truth from their eyes. Thus much, then, concerning the first picture—the sinner discontented and going to war with his sins.

     II. And now we have the second picture—THE SINNER HAVING GONE TO WAR WITH HIS OWN SINS, HAS, TO A GREAT EXTENT, BY GOD'S GRACE, OVERCOME THEM; but he feels when this is done, that it is not enough—that external morality will not save the soul. Like Barak, he has conquered Sisera; but, not content with seeing him flee away on his feet, he wants to have his dead body before him. "No," says he, "it is not enough to vanquish, I must; destroy; it is not sufficient to get rid of evil habits, I must overcome the propensity to sin. It is not sufficient to put to flight this sin or the other; I must trample the roots of corruption beneath my feet, that sin itself may be slain." Mark, my dear hearers, that is not a work of the Spirit which is not a radical work. If you are content merely to conquer your sins and not to kill them, you may depend upon it, it is the mere work of morality—a surface work—and not the work of the Holy Spirit.

     Sirs, be not content with driving out thy foes, or they will come back again to thee; be not satisfied with wearing the sheep's skin; be not content till thy wolfish nature is taken from thee, and the nature of the sheep imparted. It is not enough to make clean the outside of the cup and the platter, it must be broken and a new vessel must be given; be not satisfied with whitewashing the tomb. The charnel house must be empty, and where death reigned, life must reign. There is no mistake perhaps more common in these dangerous times than to mistake externals for internals, the outward sign for the inward grace, the painted imitation of mortality for the solid jewels of spirituality. Up, Barak! Up, thou son of Abinoam! thou hast routed the Sisera of thy drunkenness; thou hast put the hosts of thy sins to flight: but this is not enough. Sisera will return again upon thee with twice nine hundred chariots, and thou shalt yet be overcome. Rest not content till the blood of thine enemy stain the ground, until he be crushed and dead, and slain. Oh, sinner, I beseech thee never be content until grace reign in thy heart, and sin be altogether subdued. Indeed, this is what every renewed soul longs for, and must long for, nor will it rest satisfied until all this shall be accomplished. There was a time when some of us thought we would slay our sins. We wanted to put them to death, and we thought we would drown them in floods of penitence. There was a time, too, when we thought we would starve our sins; we thought we would keep out of temptation, and not go and pander to our lusts, and then they would die; and some of us can recollect when we gagged our lusts, when we pinioned their arms, and put their feet in the stocks, and then thought that would deliver us. But oh, brethren, all our ways of putting sin to death were not sufficient; we found the monster still alive, insatiate for his prey. We might rout his myrmidons, but the monster was still our conqueror. We might put to flight our habits, but the nature of sin was still in us, and we could not overcome it. Yet did we groan and cry daily, "Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" It is a cry to which we are accustomed even at this day, and which we shall never cease to utter, till we can say of our sins, "They are gone," and of the very nature of sin, that it has been extinguished, and that we are pure and holy even as when the first Adam came from his Maker's hands.

     Well, I have some here, I have no doubt, who are like Barak pursuing after Sisera, but who are faint-hearted. You are saying, "My sin can never be forgiven, it is too great, it must escape from me, and, even if it were put to flight it never could be overcome; I am so great a stinner, a sinner of such a double dye, a scarlet sinner I must always be. I was born in sin, and I have grown up in it; and as the twig is bent the tree is inclined. Who can make straight such a gnarled oak as I am? Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? if so, I, who am accustomed to do evil, may learn to do well." You begin to think that rivers might sooner run up-hill, than you could run to God and righteousness. You are tired of the battle, and ready to lay down your arms and die. But you cannot, you must not go back to be the drunkard and the swearer that you were before, and die in despair of ever overcoming the sin within; nor must you think, "Oh, I have entered upon a fight that is too much for me, I shall yet fall by the hands of mine enemy."

     III. Come hither, I bring you to the third picture. I stand at THE DOOR today, not of a tent, but of a TOMB, and as I stand here I say to the sinner who is anxious to know how his sins may be killed, how his corruption may be slain, "Come, and I will show thee the man whom thou seekest, and when you shall come in, YOU SHALL SEE YOUR SINS LYING DEAD, AND THE NAILS IN THEIR TEMPLES."

     Sinner, the sin thou dreadest is forgiven, thou hast wept sore before God, and thou hast cast thyself on Christ and on Christ alone. In the name of him who is the Eternal God, I assure thee that thy sins are all forgiven. From the book of God's remembrance they are blotted out. They are as clean gone as the clouds that floated through the sky last year, and distilled their showers on the ground. Thy sins are gone; every one of them; the sin over which thou hast wept, the sin which caused thee many a tear is gone, and is forgiven.

     Further—dost thou ask where thy sin is? I tell thee thy sin is gone, so that it never can be recalled. Thou art so forgiven that thy sins can never have a resurrection. The nail is not driven through the hands of thy sins, but through their temples. If thou shouldest live twice ten thousand years no sin could ever be laid to thy charge again if thou believest in Christ Jesus. Thou hast no conscience of sin left. "As far as the east is from the west," so far hath he removed thy transgressions from thee. God hath spoken and said,—"Be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee," and it is done; none can reverse the sentence. He has cast thy sins into the depth of the sea, and they can never be found again. Nay, further, sinner, for thy peace and comfort, thy sins are not only forgiven and killed so that they cannot rise again, but thy sins have ceased to be.Their dead bodies, like the body of Moses, are brought where they never can be found. More than this, they do not exist. Again, O child of God, there doth not remain so much as a shadow of sin: "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?"—much less prove it against them. What dog can wag his tongue to accuse?—much less, what witness shall rise up to condemn? God hath justified thee, O sinner! if thou believest; and if thou art so justified, thou art as much accepted in God's sight as if thou hadst never sinned. Had thy life been blameless and thy path been holy even to perfection, thou hadst not been more pure in the eyes of Divine justice than thou art to-night if thy faith is fixed on the cross of Christ. Right through the brain of all thy sins, the hammer has driven the nail of Christ's grace. The spear that pierced the Saviour's heart, pierced the heart of thine iniquity; the grave in which he was buried was the tomb of all thy sins; and his resurrection was the resurrection of thy spirit to light and joy unspeakable. "Come, and I will show thee the man whom thou seekest." This is a refreshing sight, even to the child of God, who has seen it long ago, and it will ever be solemn for us to contemplate the sin. It must ever be a direful spectacle; for an enemy, even when dead, is a ghastly sight. The head of Goliath, even though it makes us smile when it is cut off, is yet the head of a grim monster, and he is a monster even when he is slain. God forbid we should ever glory in sin, but it is a theme for joy to a Christian when he can look upon his sins drowned in the blood of Jesus,

"Plunged, as in a shoreless sea;
Lost, as in immensity."

     My soul looks back to the days of my youth, and remembers her former transgressions,—she drops a tear of sorrow; she looks to the cross, and sees them all forgiven, and she drops there tears of gratitude. My eye runs along the days of manhood, and observes, with sorrow, omissions and commissions innumerable; but it lights up with a smile most rapturous when I see the flood of Jesus' blood swelling over the sands of my sins till they are all covered and no eye can behold them. Oh! child of God, come and see the man whom thou seekest, here he lies slain before thee. Come and see all thy sins for ever dead; fear them not; weep for them; avoid them in days to come, and remember they are slain. Look at thy sins as vanquished foes, and always regard them as being nailed to his cross—to his cross who"Sang the triumph when he rose."

     But I hear you say, "Well, I have faith enough to believe that my sins are overcome in that way, and that they are conquered and dead in that respect; but O, sir, as to this body of sin within me—I cannot get it killed, I cannot get it overcome." Now, when we begin the divine life, we believe that we shall get rid of our old Adam entirely. I know most of you had a notion when you first started in the pilgrimage, that as soon as ever you received grace, depravity would be cast out—did you find it so, brethren? I have heard some preachers laugh at the theory of the two natures. I never answered them, for I dare say they would not have comprehended me if I had tried the experiment; but one thing I know—that the theory of the two natures in a Christian is no theory to me, but a truth which daily proves itself. I cannot say with Ralph Erskine—

"To good and evil equal bent,
And both a devil and a saint;"

but if that is not the truth it is very near to it; it is next door to it; and while on the one hand I am able to see sin perishing within, on the other hand I cannot fail to see the struggle which my soul has to wage against it, and the daily warfare and fightings that necessarily ensue. I know that grace is the stronger principle, and that it must overcome at last; but there are times when the old man seems for a little to get the upper hand—Ishmael prevails, and Isaac is cast to the ground; though this I know, that Isaac has the promise and Ishmael must be driven out. Well, child of God, if you have to look upon the Sisera of your sin still fleeing from you—be of good cheer; it is but the experience of all the people of God. Moreover, there have been many who have said they did not feel this; but my dear brethren, they did feel it, only that they did not use the same language as we do who have felt it. I know one or two good brothers who say they believe in perfection, but I find all the perfection they believe in is the very perfection that I preach. It is perfection in Christ, but they do not believe in perfection in themselves. Nor do I believe that any Christian who reads his own heart for a single day, can indulge the idea of being totally free from the risings of depravity, and the risings of the heart after sin. If there be such, I can only say, "I wish I could change places with thee, brother, for it is my hard lot to have wars and fightings day by day, and it seems difficult to say sometimes which way the matter will end, or how the battle will be decided." Indeed, one could not know it at all except by faith, for sight seems to lead to an opposite opinion. Well, be of good cheer, Christian. Though the old man is not slain in you, as you know personally yet I would have you remember that as you are in Christ, the old man is crucified. "Knowing that your old man is crucified with him." And know this, that the day shall come when the angels shall open wide the door, and ye that have been panting after your enemy, like Barak pressing after Sisera, shall hear the welcome Spirit say, "Come, and I will show thee the man whom thou seekest," and there shall lie thine old inbred lusts, and he who is the father of them, old Satan himself, all chained and bound and cast into the lake of fire. Then will you sing indeed unto the Lord, "Oh! sing unto the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; his right hand and his holy arm hath gotten him the victory." Till then, brethren, pursue after your sins. Spare them not, neither great nor small, and God speed you that you may fight valiantly, and by his aid utterly overcome them.

     As for thee, poor sinner, whom I lately reminded that thou canst not slay thy sins, nor work out thy salvation, thou canst not be thine own deliverer. Trust in thy Master. Put thy soul into the hands of him who is able and willing to preserve and keep it, and to protect it; and mark me, if to-night thou wilt have nothing to do with thyself, but wilt give thyself to Christ entirely, then to-night thou art saved. What if my Master should give me to-night some fishes at the first shaking of the net, and what if some poor sinner should say within himself—

"I'll go to Jesus, though my sin,
Hath like a mountain rose;
I know his courts, I'll enter in,
Whatever may oppose."

Come, sinner, come! Nay, do you say you cannot come? "My sins, my sins!" Come, and I will show thee thy sins nailed to the cross of Christ. "But I must not come," says one; "I have so hard a heart." Come, and I will show thee thy hard heart dissolved in a bath of blood divine. "Oh! but," still thou sayest, "I dare not come." Come, and I will show thee those fears of thine lulled into an eternal sleep, and thy soul resting on Christ shall never need to fear again, for thou shalt be his in time, his in life and death, and his in an eternity of bliss.

     May the Lord add his blessing now, for Jesus' sake. Amen.