A Day to be Remembered
“And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house.” — Luke xix. 9.
OBSERVE, dear friends, that our Lord spoke this sentence to Zacchaeus. Some of us may have fancied that he said it to the objecting people, but he did not. They may have heard it, and their objection may have been answered by it, but the main purpose of our, blessed Lord, in uttering those words, was not to answer objectors, but to comfort one who might feel dispirited by their murmuring remark. Therefore, “Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house.”
It is always better to comfort believers than to answer cavillers. The cavillers scarcely deserve a reply, for they are pretty sure to find fault again; it is according to their nature to do so. But as for the poor distressed people of God, who gladly receive the truth, and yet have to endure unkind observations, let these be cheered, for has not the Lord himself said, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people”? Now, what could give Zacchaeus greater consolation than for the Lord Jesus Christ to bear witness to the fact of his salvation? “Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house.”
I fancy that I can hear some of you say, “We should count it the happiest day in our lives if the Lord Jesus would come and tell us that salvation had come to us.” But, beloved, you cannot have him come, in the flesh, to say that to you, for he has gone away, to carry on his service elsewhere; among other things, he has gone to prepare a place for you who believe in him. But his Spirit is equally divine, and he is with us always; and you may have the Spirit of God bearing witness with your spirit that you are the children of God. Nay, I trust that you not only believe that you may have this witness, but that you actually have had it, — you have had that secret, silent, inward evidence which no man understands but the one who receives it; and you know, in your own soul, that you have passed from death unto life, because the Holy Spirit has sealed that truth upon your heart. Therefore, dear friend, be joyful; yea, be exceedingly glad. If anything can make a man leap for joy, it ought to be the assurance of his eternal safety. If salvation has come to your heart, you ought to be as happy as an angel; I think that there are some reasons why you should be even happier, for an angel cannot know, by personal experience, the bliss of having his sins forgiven. You, who have realized this wondrous blessing, ought to cause the wilderness and the solitary place to resound with the melody of your thanksgiving, and with the music of your grateful delight you should make even the desert to rejoice and blossom as the rose. Oh, what bliss it is to be assured by the Holy Spirit himself that you have passed from death unto life, and that salvation has indeed come unto you! May many of you enjoy that bliss from this very hour!
Now let us come directly to the text. “This day,” says Christ, “is salvation come to this house.” You will not forget the outline of the sermon, for it is very simple, and one that can be easily remembered First, This day, — what? Secondly, This day, — why? Thirdly, This day, — why not?
I. First, THIS DAY, WHAT? What about this day?
Christ says, “This day is salvation come to this house.” He seemed to cut that day out of all the rest of time, and to say concerning it, “This day, — this particular day, — on this very day, — is salvation come to you.” Then, let this day be a holy day, and let it be a holiday; let it be remembered for many a year; yea, let it be recollected throughout all time and throughout eternity, too: “this day.”
You know that there are some people who observe certain days which God has not ordained to be kept in any special manner. The Galatians did so, and therefore Paul wrote to them, “I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.” We do not judge those who act in a similar way to-day; but, still, like Paul, we are afraid of them; that is to say, we fear they are mistaken in what they do. But there are some days which God commanded to be observed.
The first was, the day when the work of creation was finished, concerning which we read, “On the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” The completion of the creation, when “God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good,” deserves to be remembered. And does not the new creation also deserve to be remembered? When the Lord creates in a man a new heart and a right spirit, shall we not say, one to another, “This day— this joyful day— this divine day— this new creation day— is a day to be observed very specially”?
It is clear, from the practice of the apostles, that the Lord intends us to observe the first day of the week, because that was the day of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, the day of the completion of our redemption; and well may we commemorate the complete redemption even more than the complete creation, Shall not each saved man specially celebrate the day when he was redeemed from sin? Shall he not count it worthy to be observed, with holy rites of preaching, praise, and prayer, and to be had in grateful remembrance as long as he lives? Each believer can say of the Lord’s day, “This day, the Lord redeemed my soul out of the hand of the enemy, and set me free for ever.” God has appointed but one day to be kept sacred above all others; that is the Lord’s day. Your Christmas days, and your Good Fridays, and all such seasons, are only observed by man’s ordinance; but the Sabbath is ordained of God, and that is to be observed as the emblem of rest. Now, surely, when a man comes into rest, and “we which have believed do enter into rest,” then that day should be specially observed by him. It should become a Sabbath unto the Lord throughout the man’s whole life, — that happy day in which salvation came to him. Let, then, “this day” stand as a special day in your calendar; mark it with a red line, if you like; or mark it with a golden seal, and let it be had in remembrance evermore.
Our Lord said to Zacchaeus, “This day is salvation come to this house.” From these words I learn, first, that salvation is a speedy blessing. It can come to a house in a day; nay, more, it can take possession of a man’s heart in a day; nay, to go further, this great work can be accomplished in a single moment. I suppose that the new birth is actually a thing which requires no appreciable period of time; — a flash, and it is done. If a man be dead, and he is restored to life there may be, in certain respects, a gradual operation upon that man, and some time may elapse before he is able to walk; but there must be a certain instant in which there is life in the man, whereas, a moment before, there was no life in him. The actual quickening must be a thing that is instantaneous, so that the working of salvation in a man may not only be performed this day, or this hour, or this quarter of an hour, but this minute, or even this second. Between light and darkness there is usually a period of twilight, and so there is in the soul; but, even in twilight, there is a measure of light, and there must be a moment when the first real beam of light begins to smite the ebonite darkness. So there must be a moment when grace first enters the soul, and the man, who before was graceless, becomes gracious. I think this is a good point to be remembered. You poor deluded souls, who hope to save yourselves by your own works, will have to keep on throughout your whole lives at that useless occupation, and even when you lie dying, you may be sure that you are not saved if you have been trusting to your own works. But he that believes in Christ Jesus is saved there and then, and he can joyfully sing, —
“’Tis done! the great transaction’s done;
I am my Lord’s, and he is mine.”
This is a blessed fact, — that salvation can come to a soul this very hour; nay, as I have already reminded you, long ere the hand of that clock shall have reached the end of this hour, salvation may have entered into many hearts that are in this place, as truly as it entered into the house of Zacchaeus.
Next, I learn from our text that salvation is a discernible blessing: “This day is salvation come to this house.” Christ could see it, so that it was something which could be seen. Ay, and salvation was also seen by Zacchaeus himself, and the fruits of it were soon seen by those who were in the house with him. Do not suppose that a man can be saved, and yet know nothing about the great change that has been wrought in him. It is not every man who can say for certain that he is saved, for faith is a thing of growth, and assurance may not come at once; but when a man is really and completely saved, he has but to use the proper means, and he may become absolutely certain of it. God the Holy Spirit is willing and waiting to give the full assurance of faith and of understanding to those who seek it at his hands.
Next, salvation is a perfect blessing: “This day is salvation come to this house.” Well, but only as late as yesterday, that man had not even seen Jesus. Half an hour ago, he was climbing a tree, like a boy might have done, with no wish but just to get a sight of Jesus; and, now, is that man saved? “Yes,” says Christ, “this day is salvation come to this house.” “But, surely, you don’t talk as positively as that concerning a man who came here to-night unsaved, and who has just trusted in Jesus. You must mean that he has reached a hopeful stage in his experience, and that, after several years, he may perhaps come to be really assured that he is a saved man.” I mean nothing of the sort; I mean just what the text implies, which is that, the moment the Lord Jesus Christ crossed the threshold of the house of Zacchaeus, his sins were forgiven him, his heart was renewed, his spirit was changed, and he was a saved man. “But,” someone asks, “is anybody ever saved before he dies?” Yes, certainly. Were those persons dead of whom Paul wrote, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” They were living men and women, yet the apostle said that they were saved, and so they were. And, at the present moment, there are hundreds of thousands of believers in Jesus, upon the face of this earth, who are as truly saved now as they will be when they stand before the burning throne of God “without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.” In God’s judgment, by virtue of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ on whom they are resting by faith, they have been delivered from condemnation, they have escaped from the dominion of sin, and, in a word, they are saved. So, you see, dear friends, that salvation is a perfect blessing.
Notice, next, that it is a much-containing blessing. A man who believes in Christ is saved directly, but he does not fully know how much that word “saved” means yet. It is like a big box that comes into the house, and you begin to open it, and to take out first one thing and then another. “There,” you say, “that is all.” “Oh, no!” says somebody, who looks more carefully, “here is another packet.” “Well, then, that is surely all; there is nothing but straw now at the bottom of the box.” You put your hand in, and you cry, “Why! there is something more, and something more; what a boxful it is!” And what a boxful salvation is! You have no idea what there is in it, — not only the pardon of sin, but justifying righteousness; not only that, but regeneration, a new heart, and a right spirit; not only that, but sanctification, adoption, acceptance, power in prayer, preservation, perseverance, victory; — yea, we are to be more than conquerors through him that hath loved us; — and all that is in the box. Ay, and more too; for we are to have a safe and happy departure out of this world, and an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of God our Father. All that is in the box; and all that had come into the house of Zacchaeus when the Lord Jesus Christ came there; and you also have all that if you have Christ, for it is all in Christ. You know how he said, “All things are delivered unto me of my Father;” and Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “All things are your’s: whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye arc Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.” You will never get to the bottom of that box which bears the name “salvation.” However great your needs may be, you may keep on taking out of it all that you require, and still there shall be more left; or, to change the figure, salvation is a springing well, from which the more you draw the more there is remaining, for drawn wells are always the sweetest, and usually the fullest. So, bring your buckets to this great well of gospel grace that is springing up at your very feet. Thus, you see that salvation is an all-containing blessing.
And, next, it is a spreading blessing, for salvation had come to the house of Zacchaeus, — not to himself only, but to his wife, his children, and his servants, I hope it means. I never like to have the servants left out, though I am afraid that they often are. You servants who live in Christian families, mind that you do not get left out; for, remember that Noah, although he was a good man, did not get one servant into the ark with him and his family. Recollect Lot also; he was a good man of a very poor sort, and he only got his two children out of Sodom, and no servant went with them. It is a sad thing when you live and labour in the midst of Christian people, and yet you yourselves remain unsaved. I hope and believe that, in the case of Zacchaeus, all in his house were saved when salvation came there.
But, once more, the salvation which had come to the house of Zacchaeus, was an abiding blessing, for I never read that it went away again. If salvation comes to a man’s house, it comes to stay there, as Christ said to Zacchaeus, “I must abide at thy house.” I can never believe in a man being saved for a time, and then falling from grace, and having to begin all over again. If he does not hold on his way to the end, it is clear that he never was really saved at all. As I have often told you, I can understand a man being regenerated, that is, being born again; but then some people tell us that it is possible for him, afterwards, to fall away from grace. But what is to become of him the next time? Why, I suppose that he must be re-regenerated, — born again and again; but I never read, in Scripture, anything of the kind. A man may be born again once, but he cannot be born again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again. That cannot be; when the work of regeneration is done once, it is done for ever. The work of man comes to an end, but the work of God fails not. That which is born of God is as immortal as God himself; the new life, that comes into the converted man from God, cannot die. How often do we ring in the ears of our friends those glorious words of our Lord, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” Happy is the man to whose house salvation comes, for it comes to stay world without end.
That must suffice for the first head, This day, — what?
II. Now, secondly, we are to think of another aspect of the subject, that is, THIS DAY, WHY? Why had salvation come to the house of Zacchaeus that day?
I answer, — because, that day, Zacchaeus was called by effectual grace; and whenever effectual grace comes to anyone, it brings salvation. “Wherefore, brethren,” as Peter says, “give diligence to make your calling and election sure,” for these are the “things that accompany salvation.” If you are sure that you are called of God, you may be quite certain that you are saved, for “this day” — the day in which a man is effectually called by grace, — this day does salvation come to his house. Look, dear friends, God chose his people in his everlasting purpose, but salvation did not come to their houses that day. They knew nothing of it at that time, for they were not then born. Christ redeemed his people when he died on the cross, but salvation did not come to their houses that day, for the most of them were not then in existence. But, in the fulness of time, the gospel was preached to them, and they heard it; yet, in all cases, salvation did not come to their houses that day, for though they heard it, they refused it. But the moment that effectual grace says to anyone, “To-day I must abide at thy house,” that grace at once gains admission, and salvation comes there and then to that man’s house. You remember how the apostle Paul wrote to the Romans: “Whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” These great blessings are joined together, like the links of a chain, and you cannot pull them asunder. There is the calling that fits into the justification, and the chain is so made that the two links never can be separated. And then justification fits into glorification in such a way that you cannot possibly part them. It is no use for anyone to try to separate them. The devil may pull and hammer as much as ever he likes, but all his efforts will be in vain. I have sometimes likened that passage in Romans to a vast suspension bridge between earth and heaven: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” If you get your foot firmly resting on that great plank of effectual calling, you may be quite sure that you will be able to cross all the rest of the bridge, and will most certainly reach the other side, and be “for ever with the Lord.”
But how do we know that Zacchaeus was really called? I answer in such a way that you may know whether you also are called or not. The call of Zacchaeus was an effectual call, first, because it was a personal call. He was up in the sycomore tree, and he heard Christ call, “Zacchaeus.” “Why!” he said to himself, “That is my name; he is calling me.” “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down.” “Then he can see that I am up here; his description exactly fits my case.” Now, when you come and hear me preach the gospel, I try to put the truth before you in a clear and very pointed manner. Some people say that it is wrong to be personal in preaching, but I always try to be as personal as ever I can. Yet I know that many of my hearers pass on to their neighbours and friends what I say to them. “Oh! that just fits Mrs. So-and-So,” says somebody. No, my dear sir, — it is meant for you, but you will not take it home to yourself. But when the Lord Jesus Christ himself calls, then the man says, “Dear me! I do not believe that the preacher can see me right away here, yet he is speaking straight at me; I am sure that he is. How singular! He just mentioned something that cannot have occurred to anybody but me; he has exactly described my case.” Those are the times when God is about to bless the soul, — when the man feels himself picked out from the rest of the congregation, and the gospel sharpshooter is just covering him with his rifle of grace. I pray that the blessed bullet of the gospel may find its billet in the very centre of your heart, and bring you down at the feet of Jesus as a weeping penitent. “Zacchaeus!” The Lord knew that was the name of the man up the sycomore; and he also knows your name and your character; and when he means to call you by his effectual grace, he will hold your photograph up, and make you say, “Yes, that is my portrait; there is nobody else exactly like that.”
Next, it was a royal call. Jesus said to Zacchaeus, “To-day I must abide at thy house.” One of our proverbs says, “Must is for the king;” and when the King speaks, he must be obeyed. We who are his ministers try to be very pressing and urgent; but when the Master himself utters the call, where the word of that King is there is power. I hope he is saying to someone here, “To-day I must abide in thy heart.” Now you have come to the point when you also will have to say, “I must.” There must be no turning back now, dear friend; you must not say to Christ, “Go thy way for this time.” No; but you must say, “This time present is the time when I also will say ‘must’ as Christ says it to me.” That is an effectual call when it comes as a royal mandate, a warrant from the King: “I must.”
Then, next, it was a call which produced immediate obedience. The Lord said to Zacchaeus, “Make haste, and come down;” and we read, “He made haste, and came down.” I think I see him coming down that tree a great deal faster than he had gone up; he had not moved at such a rate as that for a long while; but he scurried down, for he was told to make haste by One whose command compelled him to obey. When the Lord Jesus Christ calls any of you effectually, you will not put off your decision till the next morning; you will not say, “I will wait till I can get home and pray;” you will not even say, “I will wait till the end of the service, and then talk with a Christian person;” but your prayer will be, “Lord, help me to look to Jesus now. I yield myself up to thee this very instant. I am in a hurry about it. Lord, I am making haste to get to thee; make haste to come and save me. I would not delay a single second longer. I want to be thine alone, and thine at once.” That is a mark of effectual calling, when immediate obedience is given to the call.
Another mark in the case of Zacchaeus was, that it was joyful obedience; “He made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.” Oh, the joy of the heart that receives Christ when Christ himself does really come to the soul! The moment I believed in Christ, I wanted to shout “Hallelujah”; and if I had done so, I think that I might have been forgiven. The moment one believes in Christ, and knows that his sin is all gone, what extravagance would be extravagant under such circumstances? Is not the man justified in being joyful when at length his iniquity is blotted out, and his transgression is covered? It is a mark of effectual calling when we receive Christ joyfully.
In the case of Zacchaeus, observe that his obedience was complete, for Christ said, “To-day I must abide at thy house;” and “he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully” at his house, for the people murmured because Christ had gone to be his guest. Now, dear friends, will you also receive Christ? That is the point. Are you willing to let him come unto you, and be your salvation? Are you eager that he should come? Do you beg him to come? Depend upon it, he will come to you when you are ready to receive him; but mind you do not trust for salvation to anything else or anyone else but Christ. Be satisfied with nothing but the ever-living Saviour to be your Saviour from first to last.
There was yet one more mark of the effectual calling of Zacchaeus, and that was, that he received Christ in a spiritual sense, for he did not only take him into his house, but he took him into his heart. I know that he did so because he began at once to purge his heart by driving out covetousness. That was a splendid way of getting rid of it when he said, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor.” Then he began to drive put his former grasping habit, for he said, “And if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” That was clear evidence that he meant to receive Christ, in all his holy, gracious teaching, not merely as a man and a stranger; but, spiritually, as his Master, his Ruler, his Teacher, his Guide, — in a word, as his Saviour.
III. Now, lastly, THIS DAY WHY NOT?
And now I change the day altogether, for I mean this very day when I am speaking to you, this first of October in the present year of grace 1882. “This day.” This day, — why not? Why should we not, “this day,” give ourselves to Christ? I have tried to think of any reason why a man should not give himself up to the Lord Jesus Christ this day, and I cannot find one. Then, why should he give himself to Christ this day, on this particular day? I think I know several reasons why he should do so.
First, it is late enough. Surely you do not want to wait any longer. How old did you say you are, friend? Seventy-six? Eighty-six? What! as old as that, and not yet saved? You do not need one like me, so much younger, to urge you to speedy decision. Or did you say that you are not more than my own age, — not yet fifty? Well, I find it is quite late enough for me. There are certain influences and sensations creeping over me, which make me realize that I am somewhat different from what I used to be, and I expect it is the same with you. I think it is getting rather late in life for you to be still undecided. Perhaps some younger person says, “But I am only one-and-twenty.” Well, that is late enough to be without Christ; it is a thousand pities that the devil should have had one-and-twenty years of your life. I was converted to the Lord Jesus Christ when I was fifteen, but I wish it could have been fifteen years before. Oh, that I had known and loved him as soon as I knew anything, and had lisped his name with the first words I ever uttered! I think every Christian will say the same. Whatever our age is, the time past may well suffice to have wrought the will of the flesh. Do not you think so, my friend? Have not you had quite enough of sin? What profit have you ever received from it? It is surely quite late enough for you to receive Christ as your Saviour.
And, further, it is late enough in the year. It seems to me, when the leaves are falling all around you, as if they all said to you, “We all do fade as a leaf.” Is it not fully time to seek the Lord? I know of no season that seems more suited for pensive thought than just now when the year seems to be weeping itself into its tomb, and burying itself amid falling leaves. Now is the time to yield yourself to the Lord; there cannot be a better period than just now, — ere yet the year is fully gone.
The mercy is, dear friend, that, though it is quite late enough, it is not too late for anybody here. There is yet time for you to seek the Lord. It is a pity to have put the Lord off until you yourself have got into the sere and yellow leaf; but yet there is time to turn unto him. What! have you reached the eleventh hour of life? It is late, it is very late; but, still, it is not yet too late. It is not yet too late even if you are to die this week; and there are some out of this great company who will, I suppose, pass into the unseen world this week. Dear friend, I know not who you are, but you who stand nearest to your eternal destiny, it is not yet too late even for you. I pray you, clutch at once at the great mercy now offered to you. God help you so to do!
Every week, I have to hear of some out of our number who have passed away. There have been some this last week, and some whom I certainly thought we might have had with us for a long time. They were, apparently, in good health, yet now they are to be buried at the beginning of the week, for they have gone from us quite suddenly. And why may not some of you be the next to be taken? Do not postpone your decision any longer; I would that we could say to-night, “This day, October 1st, some soul did receive salvation. Let the recording angel mark it down.” The harvest is not quite over, though I thought it was. We down south have almost forgotten it, but there is a farming friend up with us to-day, who said to me, “We have not finished our harvest, for we have not got the beans in yet.” So, you see, the harvest is not quite over, but I do not want you to have to say, “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” I would like to get some of you to come in with the beans, just with the last crop. Oh, that you might be brought to Christ just at this fag end of the harvest! The Master is willing that you should come to him even now, so do not delay. “To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” “Behold, now is the accepted time: behold, now is the day of salvation.”
Remember, also, that to-day is gospel time. Still is Christ preached unto you, still is the door of mercy set open before you, still is the cry “Come” uttered by the Spirit, and the bride, the Lamb’s wife, echoes it, “Come.” Still the water of life is freely flowing for all who are willing to receive it.
Recollect, too, that this is praying time. You are still on praying ground; a prayer will find God yet. A traveller tells us that, when he was in the East, he saw the procession of a Sultan passing through a certain city. The monarch was there, all bedizened with gems and every kind of barbaric ornament, and surrounded by his guards. There was a poor wretch who wanted to get a petition to the Sultan, and he did not know how to manage it. He had no money with which to bribe the officials, and he could not force his way through the armed men ; so, in his desperation, he got near enough to throw the petition down at the monarch’s feet, but one of the soldiers stuck a spear through it, and he held it aloft, and that was the end of it, for the Sultan took no notice of the incident, he was much too great a man to attend to the petition of his poor way rejoicing. subject. It is never so with God. Cast your petition, how you may, at his dear feet, he will answer it, and send you on your way rejoicing.
You are not only on praying ground, for to-night seems to me to be a very auspicious season, for it is communion time. God’s people are presently coming together around his table to remember Christ. Will not you also remember him? We are about to receive Christ spiritually through the emblems of bread and wine which will set him forth to us. Why should not you also receive Christ, in a spiritual fashion, by faith, as your Saviour? Oh, that you would press through the throng, and bow at the feet of Jesus Christ, our Lord! If you do so, he will accept you, and again it shall be said, “This day is salvation come to this house.” God grant it, for Christ’s sake! Amen.