A Loving Entreaty
“Put me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified.”— Isaiah xliii. 26.
WE shall mainly dwell upon the first invitation of the text: “Put me in remembrance.”
If you will cast your eye upon the Scripture itself you will be struck with its singular position. It makes a paradox of the most striking kind if you read it in connection with the preceding clause: “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. Put me in remembrance.” This looks like a contradiction; but, as a wise teacher will win attention by dark sayings, so doth the word of God abound in expressions by which thought is excited, and the lesson is more deeply impressed upon the mind. Many are the paradoxes of the prophets, and of the Lord and leader of all the prophets. Who can read without attention two such sentences as these in succession— “I will not remember thy sins”; “Put me in remembrance”? The use of such paradoxes in Scripture needs no sort of apology. Man is a living riddle. Does any man understand himself? He may think he docs, but by this conceit lie betrays his ignorance. The sinner is a paradox, and the saint is a double paradox. I say it is meet and right that the Holy Spirit should thus use paradoxical expressions, because those whom he addresses have paradoxes lying deep in their nature, and so the speech is congruous to the listener.
In this verse man is invited to draw near to God. Those same men of whom God saith that he was weary of them are bidden to plead with him. “Thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities;” and yet it is evident that in another sense the Lord was not weary of them, for he calls upon them to come to a conference with him, saying, “Put me i n remembrance: let us plead together.” This approach to God is the way of our salvation. The first thing that must be done with some men is to make them think of God at all, and the best thing that can be done with any man is to draw him nearer and yet nearer to the great Father of spirits. “It is good for me to draw near to God,” said one who knew right well what he was speaking of; and every man who does not yet understand such an utterance will find it to be true if he will test it. Here is a commandment with promise:— “Draw nigh to God, and lie will draw nigh to you.” Here is another,— “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Nearness to God is evidently the hope of the seeker. For the prodigal in the distant country the most essential thing was that he should arise and go unto his father. It would have been of little use for him to have washed himself from the filth of the swine-trough, or to have broken off his acquaintance with the citizens of that country; he could never be right while he dwelt so far from his father’s house. The most sober and secluded life in the far country would not have satisfied the cravings of his heart, any more than the husks would have filled his belly: true, it would have been some improvement upon spending his living riotously, but it would have wrought no change in his soul, and given no rest to his heart. The remedy is the father’s kiss, the father’s bosom, the father’s house, the father’s love. Understand my text, then, however paradoxical it may seem, as being a genuine invitation on the part of a gracious God to the most provoking of men. Though they have acted so wickedly that he may well be tired of them, he presses them to hold converse with him. If anything has been charged upon them in error, he is willing to hear their complaints,— only he longs that they will not keep at a sullen distance. God grant that the invitation may be accepted by those of you to whom it will this morning be addressed.
We shall regard our text thus:— First, it is a humbling challenge,— “Put me in remembrance: let us plead together.” Secondly, as we cannot answer the challenge, we will put another sense upon the words and accept it in an amended version; such as penitence can carry out; and, thirdly, we shall sec in it a practical suggestion; perhaps more than one. May the Holy Ghost enable us to learn the lessons and carry out the suggestions!
I. First, then, our text appears before us as A HUMBLING CHALLENGE. God had punished Israel on account of sin. Israel was not penitent, but in self-righteousness judged that the Lord was harsh and severe. “Come, then,” says God, “come and plead your suit with me. Put me in remembrance of any virtues on your part which I may be supposed to have overlooked. If I have misjudged you, if you have not really been neglectful of my service and worship, let the matter be rectified. If really you have a righteousness of your own, put me in remembrance of it.”
On looking back we find that the Lord had charged his people with neglect, of prayer: “But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob.” This is the charge which we are compelled to bring against all unconverted men and women: you do not call upon God, you live without sincere and fervent prayer. Perhaps you offer a form of prayer; but that is nothing if your heart goes not with the words. This is rather to mock God than truly to call upon him. But come now; it there be any mistake in this charge, disprove it! If you have earnestly called upon the Lord through Christ Jesus, if you have been diligent in seeking his face, and yet he has turned his back upon you— testify against him. It will be a new thing under the sun to find a praying heart rejected at the throne of grace. I know you cannot deny the accusation of prayerlessness. If you are Christless you are prayerless. If you have received no mercy it is because you have not sought it at the mercy-seat.
Next the Lord charged it upon Israel that they had not delighted in him— “Thou hast been weary of me, O Israel.” Is not this a charge which cannot be denied? You men and women who are not regenerate and have never received the pardon of your sin, is it not true that you are weary of God? You readily enough grow tired of a sermon in which we try to speak of him, though you would listen for hours to a silly tale. You become tired of the Sabbath-day. What a weariness it is! You are weary of the Bible; how little do you read it! a foolish novel suits you better. If you hear Christians talking wisely and seriously of the things of Christ, you have no liking for their words; you would rather listen to a comic song. To you the house of God is the temple of dulness, and the worship of God is bondage. As for God himself, you will not allow yourself to remember him, he is not in all your thoughts. You sometimes think that even heaven itself would be a weary place for you if it were full of the praising and adoring of God, and communion with him. Can you deny this? If you can, you are invited to state your innocence before the Lord. But I know that in truth you cannot raise the question; for there is within your mind an unquestionable aversion to the service of God; in fact, you would feel happier if there were no God, and if thoughts of eternity never intruded themselves. Take heed lest your aversion become mutual, and God should say, “My soul lothed them, and their soul also abhorred me.”
The Lord had also said that these people did not honour him— “Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings; neither hast thou honoured me with thy sacrifices.” It may be you have presented no tokens of love to the Lord at all; or, on the other hand, you may have brought sacrifices, but you have not honoured God by them. You have given that you might be known to give, or because others did so, but not with the view of honouring God. You come and sit with his people and join in their songs, but you do not seek the glory of God thereby; nor is this the main object of your daily life, you know it is not. Yet if it be so, if any unconverted man can say that whether he eats or drinks, or whatsoever he does, he seeks to do all to the glory of God, this ought to be known. It would be a new thing under the sun. In truth, it would prove that the man was converted, and had been renewed in the spirit of his mind by the grace of God. But it is not so,— you have not honoured the name of your Creator and Benefactor, you have robbed him of the glory due unto his name.
Moreover, the Lord charged Israel that they did not love him— “Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices.” No token of love had been presented, but they had made the Lord to serve with their sins. The purchase of calamus with money had not come into their thoughts. They could not afford it, they said; but when they were worshipping their false gods they could find money enough— “They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance.” So there are men who cannot afford to give anything to the cause of God or Christian charity, but for their sinful pleasures they can waste their substance. No sacrifice is too expensive for a man’s lusts: he will do anything that he may live a merry life, which merry life consists in rebellion against God. This proves that man has no love in his heart to God. O sinner! didst thou ever feel a tear start to thine eyes at the thought of God’s being dis honoured? Didst thou ever humble thyself before God because thou hast thyself dishonoured him? Is his word dear to thee? Is there music in the sweet name of Jesus to thine ear? Nay, it is not so; Thou knowest thou art dead to all this. He challenges thee to plead thine innocence if thou canst. Darest thou take up the glove? Prove that thou hast loved him. Put him in remembrance of thy kindly deeds and zealous acts. Thou hast none to bring to remembrance. Thy heart has had no delight in the Lord thy God.
The Lord again challenges them upon the charge that they had not obeyed him: “Thou hast made me to serve with thy sins”— thou hast made me a very slave with thy waywardness. “Thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities,”— God’s patience was tried to the utmost with their wanton wickedness. Is not this charge true— sadly true of many? Oh, you that have never accepted Christ, nor cast yourselves at his dear feet, you have by this wilful refusal of love insulted the mercy of the Lord. You have had no respect to his law, you have not checked yourself because you were likely to offend, you have not stirred yourself up to please the Lord. Ah no! you have lived as if you were your own masters. If it be not so, you are now challenged to vindicate your characters. Do not set up a lying defence, but speak the truth. “Put me in remembrance,” saith he. If you have abounded in prayer, if you have delighted in God, if you have sought his honour, if you have loved him, if you have obeyed him, then set out your righteousness before the sun, and be not afraid. But you are not innocent before the Lord. Therefore humble yourselves, confess your guilt, and cover your face before the Lord. The Lord would thus humble you that you may repent, and that he may fulfil his word to you,— “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.”
The challenge before us is occupied not only with the ways of man, but with the ways of God; for the Lord here asserts of himself, “I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense.” That is to say, God is no hard taskmaster, he is not an austere man, gathering where he has not strawed. The commandments of God are essential justice: you could not improve upon them: no law could be more for our benefit than that which he has given us. The service of God is no bondage. Ask his children how they find it. When they take his yoke upon them and learn of him, they find rest unto their souls. His ways are ways of pleasantness, and all his paths are peace. Perfect obedience is heaven. It God has created you like slaves, if he has exacted of you more than his right, it he has made your heart heavy with endless labours, then say so, and state your grievance in solemn converse with God. Only do speak with him. But who that is in his senses will say that the service of God is anything but liberty? O beloved! when God forbids ns anything it is because he knows it would be for our harm; and when God commands us to do anything it is because lie knows that it is for our soul’s welfare and eternal good. The moral law is the mirror of right: the will of the Lord as therein revealed commends itself so thoroughly to the conscience of man that he cannot wage an honest warfare with it: it is “true and righteous altogether.” If we are upright in our judgments our desire will be, “Oh that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!” If we offend against the law it is not because it is unreasonable, unjust, or unkind. His yoke is easy, and his burden is light. It is so, most surely so. Though I feel myself quite unable worthily to plead the cause of God as I would desire, I could stand here and weep because of the manner in which his creatures treat him. I feel ashamed of myself that I can so coldly vindicate his cause, which deserves a far better advocate than I can be. But have ye not, ye that are ungodly, have ye not treated the Lord shamefully? Have ye not forgotten him who never forgets you? Have you not turned your backs on your Benefactor and your Friend? Have you not refused the service which would have afforded your souls a deep delight? Have you not quarrelled with your mercies, and fought against heaven itself? It is surely so. If you have anything to plead to the contrary, argue it with your Maker; only do not continue to keep away from him. Turn unto him and answer his appeal, “Put me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified.”
II. I hope you will be prepared to follow me while our penitence suggests AN AMENDED VERSION; I do not mean an alteration of the words, but of the sense. Let us take the text as our consciousness of guilt desires to read it. There are certain things which God in great love invites us to bring before his memory. What are these? Let me tell you. If you cannot take up his challenge, and prove your personal righteousness, let the charges stand, with your silence as an assent to them; and now plead with him and put him in remembrance of matters which may serve your turn, and lead to your forgiveness.
First, put the Lord in remembrance of that glorious act of amnesty and oblivion which in sovereign grace he has proclaimed to the sons of men in the preceding verse. Come, now, all guilty and defiled, and say to him, “Lord, though my iniquities testify against me, I rest upon thy forgiving word, ‘I, even I, am he that blotteth out thine iniquities for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.’” Remember that God has not forgotten to be gracious, neither has he changed a single declaration of his mercy. Still, he would have you remind him of them as earnestly as if he had forgotten them. It is not for the refreshment of his memory, but of yours, that he wishes you now to put him in remembrance. Never will you find a safer position as a sinner than kneeling at the mercy-seat, pleading such words as these— “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” “I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” At once, with tears and broken language. put the Lord in remembrance of his gracious promises, and say, “Remember thy word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope.” Cry to him after this fashion, “Lord, do as thou hast said. Here is one who is full of iniquity. I pray thee cleanse me. If I had no transgressions thou couldst not blot them out; but here they are; I beseech thee blot them out according to thy word! Behold, I put thee in remembrance of thy word. O Lord, let me hear thee say— ‘Thy sins, which are many, are forgiven.’”
That done, proceed to put the Lord in remembrance of your sins. Make an open unreserved acknowledgment unto the Lord. Tell him that you have transgressed. Say, with the returning prodigal, “I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.” Hide nothing, for nothing can be hid: conceal nothing, for it cannot be concealed. Be sure your sin will find you out; therefore, find out your sin, and surrender it into the hand of the great God, that he may deal with it. Especially put the Lord in remembrance of this— that you have sinned against one who has continued to pardon you, and therefore you have sinned in a most cruel and ungrateful manner. It puts an exceeding heinousness into sin, that it is an offence against one who so freely forgives it. The Lord might long ago have cast us into hell, and yet he spares us— shall we find in this a liberty to offend yet more? “He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities;” and this fact makes perseverance in rebellion a scarlet sin.
Confess this also, that you have continued by your sins to go away from him who invites you to return, and promises you a welcome reception. Remember, if you are still out of Christ it is not because God has made you so. He takes an oath, “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” He will not have your damnation laid at his door. He saith expressly, “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself;” and the tender Saviour cries, “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” Own the truth of this. Though you may have foolishly boasted of your free will aforetime, now be humbled about that wicked will of yours which threatens to be your destruction. On your knees cry to the Lord for the pardon of offences against his mercy, and the forgiveness of provocations against his long-suffering. He invites you to do it; therefore he saith, “Put me in remembrance.”
When you have done this, if your spirit is much depressed, and your heart is driven to despair by a sense of your guilt, then I would advise you to put the Lord in remembrance of the extraordinary reason which he gives for pardoning sin:— “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake.” Say unto him thus: “Lord, there is no reason in me why thou shouldst spare me, but do it for thine own sake— for thy love’s sake, for thy mercy’s sake. Thou hast said that thou delightest in mercy; Lord, delight thyself in having mercy upon me. It is to thy glory to pass by transgression: it makes to the Lord Jesus Christ a great name when he puts away the guilt of men; Lord, I pray thee now for thine own sake, for thy Son’s sake, to cast a veil over all my former iniquities, and let me be reconciled unto thee by the death of thy Son.” I fear, dear hearers, that I do not speak this as I ought to speak it. I wish I could weep over you while I plead with yon. I implore you at once honestly and affectionately to obey the exhortation of the text. Come, I beseech you, hear your Father say, “Put me in remembrance: let us plead together.”
Put the Lord in remembrance of his sovereign grace, and of his all sufficient power to bless. Put him in remembrance that he has taken the vilest of the vile and washed them in the blood of Jesus; that he has taken the hardest and most obdurate hearts, and softened them to the praise of the glory of his grace; and then add, “Lord, do all this in me, that I too may magnify thy gracious name!”
When you have gone as far as that in putting God in remembrance, I would with much affection advise you to plead the Lord’s purpose and intent revealed in the twenty-first verse: “This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.” Say, “Lord, I am thy poor creature. Thou hast made me; even my very body is fearfully and wonderfully made; and the mysterious thing which dwells within me which I call my soul, is also the creature of thy power. Hast thou not made me for thyself? Wilt thou not have a desire to the work of thine own hands? Lord, come and bless me! Sinner as I am, and utterly undeserving, yet I am thy creature; do not fling me upon the dunghill. If thou wilt forgive me, Lord, might I not praise thee? Is there not room somewhere for me to give thee thanks? In earth, or in heaven, may I not yet render to thee some little service, and magnify thy name? Now, Lord, I do dishonour thee while I live in sin, but I shall glorify thee if thou make me holy, I am as a worthless vessel, only fit to be cast with the broken potsherds, of no use to God or man, and scarce of use even to myself, but in my person 1 beseech thee fulfil thy word, ‘This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.’” This is good arguing. After this fashion obey the word— “Put me in remembrance: let us plead together.”
If that does not ease yon, go a little further back in the chapter till you come to the nineteenth verse— “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.” Plead that published declaration! Say, “Lord, thou hast said, “I will do a new thing:’ it will indeed be a new thing if I am saved. I am driven to such self-abhorrence, that if ever I am saved I shall be a leading wonder among thy miracles of grace.
“Saved!— the deed shall spread new glory
Through the shining realms above!
Angels sing the pleasing story,
All enraptured with thy love!”
It may be you can say— “Lord, I have been sighing, and crying, and groaning now by the month together, and I can find no peace. Oh, if thou wilt but put a new song into my mouth, the dragons and the owls that saw me in my gloom shall open their eyes and be astonished, and honour the Lord God of Israel!” You have come to be familiar in your gloom with strange company, comparable to the dragons and the owls; therefore cry unto your Redeemer, “Lord, save me, and the owls will hoot no longer, or if they do, they will hoot to thy praise; and the very dragons that all men dread shall become comfortable things, and begin to magnify thy name, as said the Psalmist, ‘Praise him ye dragons, and all deeps.’” I know some who might say, “Lord, it will fill all the workshop with wonder if I shall rejoice in Jesus. All ray friends and companions will wonder that I should become happy and holy through sovereign grace. I am the very last person they would have thought to see converted. Then will they know what thine arm can do, and confess that this is the finger of God. Men that could not open their mouths except to blaspheme the Lord, shall stand awe-struck and astonished as they see what a brand is plucked from the burning.”
You see I have tried to help you in obeying this word— “Put me in remembrance;” but I cannot do the work for you. Dear unconverted hearers, you must yourselves make confession and plead for your lives. This pleading must be wrought in you by the Spirit of God; and if it be, I could almost wish to be a mouse in your chamber, that I might listen to you while you are putting the gracious Father in remembrance of his promises, and of the glory which will come to his name if he will save you. Specially should I like to hear you begin thus— “Lord, remember thine only-begotten Son. Hast thou not declared that it is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners? I am a sinner; Lord, save me! Oh, remember Gethsemane, remember Calvary, remember the bloody sweat, remember the wounds of thy Well-beloved, remember the cry, ‘It is finished!’ and give him to see of the travail of his soul in me! Give me as a spoil to the Risen One, that in me he may see the reward for his pains!” That is the style of pleading. This will ere long bring you rest and ease. God help you not only to hear me now with attention, but to go and see to the doing of it. I fear and tremble lest my labour should be lost through your failing to come to the mark. In vain do you listen if you do not obey.
III. So this brings me to the last point, which is this: our text affords us some PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS.
If the Lord says to us, “Put me in remembrance,” then, in the first place, it is very clear that we ought to remember these things ourselves. We cannot put another in remembrance of a thing which we ourselves forget. Come, then, let us for a time remind ourselves of certain matters which we are prone to cast behind us. Going over the same ground which I have traversed before, I shall make no apology, since my desire is that God’s Spirit may impress it on your hearts.
Oh, you that are not saved, remember the years in which you have lived without prayer! What a wonder that you have been permitted to live at all! Morning light and evening shade, and yet no prayer! Mercies on the table, mercies in the family, mercies to your body, mercies to your soul, and yet no prayer! Sermons heard, exhortations given, gentle entreaties all thrown away, for still there has been no prayer! “Thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob.” It is not good to take our sins in the lump, but to set them out in detail one alter the other. Here is a God ready to pardon, and we would not even ask for forgiveness. Here is a God waiting to be gracious, and we have kept; him waiting these forty years. Here is mercy’s door before ns, and we will not knock, though there is a promise that it shall be opened to every knocker. Here is Jesus himself knocking at our door till his head is wet with dew, and his locks with the drops of the night, and yet we will not open! Remember that! Let this transgression come before us, and cause us deep repentance and self-humiliation.
Remember next, for your own humbling, how weary you have been of Cod. I went over that just now; but think of it! Here is a creature that cannot endure to think of its creator. Here is one that has daily fed at the table of a friend, and yet he never gives that friend a good word. Living where God’s works arc all around you so that you cannot help but see them, when even the night doth but unveil a new scene of wonder as it shows to you the stars that were hidden by day, yet you can look upon all that wondrous scene and yet refuse to see your God! You were tired of God, did not want to hear about him, wished there were no God and no eternity, and that you could just enjoy yourself like as the beasts do who live only in the present. Ah me! Think of this, and so let your sin come to remembrance— you have been willing rather to be a beast than to serve God, and be like the angels.
Some I would earnestly urge to remember long years of neglect of God’s service, with all their niggardliness to the cause of God, all their want of love to God, all the many times in which they have hardened their hearts, stopped their cars, and refused the warnings and invitations of their Saviour. Such memories might be used of the Holy Spirit for their conviction. Oh, dear, unconverted hearers, am I speaking the truth about you or not? God forbid I should bring a false accusation against any man! I am not charging you now with the blacker and more open sins, for perhaps you are innocent of them, but yet this is the sin of sins— forgetfulness of God, weariness of his service, refusal to receive the salvation of his Son. “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light.” You think of your business, and yet the great business of your salvation causes you no concern. Think of that: you put your dying body before the immortal soul. You are full of care and anxiety about matters which relate only to a span of time, and yet you care not for your eternal interests. Can you justify this? Are you in your senses? Why do you act so foolishly? There is a God whose smile is heaven and whose frown is hell, and yet you ignore his existence, and neither seek him nor serve him. I know I plead but badly, but my cause is a good one, and if you are right at heart you will feel its force. Ought not the wrongs clone to God to be owned and forsaken? Say, dear hearer, “I do remember my faults this day, and remembering them I will arise and go unto ray Father, and put him in remembrance that I may be forgiven.” My faith secs the Lord standing here blotting out the debts of all who will bring them to his remembrance. Come, bring your bills! Hand in the record of your debts to justice! Spread them now before the face of the Lord, not that he may condemn you for them, but that he may stamp them with the atoning blood and say, “I have blotted out thy sins.” Do not hesitate to put the Lord in remembrance of them, for then he promises to forget them. I am sure if I could stand here to-morrow and exercise the power to remit all debts by giving a receipt in full for them all, if the one condition were that each debtor would produce his schedule of debts, no one would be backward in doing so. You who owe anything would search your files, rake out your drawers, and look in every place to find out every unpaid account, so as to have them all blotted out. I pray you do so in this spiritual business. Bring your sins to remembrance by humble acknowledgment and penitent confession, for “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” O Spirit of God, support this appeal to these my hearers, and send it home to the hearts of thy chosen, that they may confess their iniquities unto thee and be saved this day!
A second practical suggestion is this: since the text says, “Put me in remembrance: let us plead together,” it is time that we should now begin our pleading with God. He saith, “Come now, and let us reason together”; let us not be so unreasonable as to refuse. I am once more going over the same ground, just as schoolmasters do with their pupils, teaching the same lesson over again that it may be thoroughly learned. I do so long for the troubled sinner to find the way of peace at once, that I would beseech him to begin pleading with God at this moment. Plead thus: “Lord, there stands thy word, ‘I am he that blotteth out thy transgressions’: I entreat thee make that word true to me!” Appealing to the faithfulness of God is a grand argument. To lay hold of God by his promise is the main part of the art of wrestling in prayer. No grip of the covenant angel is half so sure as that which faith gets when she seizes a promise. This is, as it were, the skirt of Jehovah’s robe; blessed is he that can hold it; for it will never rend away. He that holds a promise holds the God who gave it, and he shall not trust the promise in vain. “Hath the Lord said, and will he not do it?” Plead it, then:— “Lord, thou hast said that thou dost forgive sin, I pray thee forgive mine. Hadst thou never promised pardon, I could never have dreamed of gaining it; but since thou hast promised it, I dare not doubt thy word. My blackest, foulest, filthiest sins can be washed away, for thou tellest me that all manner of sin and of blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men. I urge thine own word as my sole claim. I implore thee to carry out thine own word.” We read that out of Christ’s mouth there goeth a two-edged sword; may not his word of promise be to us as a sword with which we may overcome even mercy itself, conquering heaven by heaven’s own weapons? Oh that you may have faith enough to try this at once!
Be sure you do not forget to use in your pleading that verse about God’s being honoured by the dragons and the owls. Say, “Lord, this very room in which I have cried to thee of late for mercy bears witness to my sighs and groans and deep sorrows; but if thou wilt grant me grace it shall ring with thy praises. I have dwelt spiritually with owls and dragons, but if thou wilt forgive me these shall honour thee. Lord, if thou do but set me free thou hast won a new singer for the choirs of earth and for the orchestra of heaven. Oh, my Saviour, I know my poor praises cannot make thee more glorious, for thou art divinely great, but still such as they are they shall be laid at thy feet.”
Next plead with the Lord that he will have won thy heart by Ins grace. He evidently desires it, for he complains, “Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices.” Does God care for calamus? Does he delight in burning fat? Ah no! but he does care to see his people making a selfsacrifice, to prove their love, by presenting something to their Lord which cost them dear. He condescends to accept at their hands their love-tokens, and he takes much pleasure therein. Now tell him, “Lord, I am not worthy of thine acceptance, but still, if thou wilt but save me, I will be all thine own, and all that I have shall be laid upon the altar. Lord, I must love thee! I have nothing whereof to glory in that love, for how can I help it? I am under constraint to love thee, because thou hast first loved me. I am a captive to grace; I am bound hand and foot by the cords of thy love. When I have dared to entertain a hope that thou wouldst look upon me in mercy, I have felt my stony heart dissolve, and my soul has gone out after thee with strong desire. If thy great love will indeed stoop to me, and to the putting away of all my sin, then my whole heart shall be bound to thee for ever, and I will magnify thy name as long as I have any being.” This is good pleading; be sure you use it with deep sincerity and true humility.
Then plead the argument which lies in the word “for mine own sake.” Cry, “Lord, do save me for the glory of thine own name, that men may know how gracious thou art. There is room in me for the display of all the wonders of thy love, for I have been one of the chief of sinners. O Lord, prove the power of the cleansing blood of Jesus by washing me, that I may be whiter than snow. I have shown a harder heart than most of my fellows. Oh that thy Spirit would display the energy of his operations by turning this stone to flesh! Lord, I have been unbelieving, yea, desperately full of doubt and unbelief, Oh, demonstrate in me the truth that faith is the gift of God! If thou savest all the world beside me and save not me, there will be a note lacking in the music of thy mercy; for in some respects I stand alone, a special sinner. But, Lord, if thou save me thou wilt put thy finger on a string that will give forth a note such as can come from no other string in all the universe. Thou wilt have saved the most worthless of all, the one who can do least for thee in return. Thou wilt have shown how gratuitous is thy mercy by bestowing it upon one who has no past merit, no present worth, no future hope of doing great things for thee.” Thus plead with God, and may the 'Wonderful, the Counsellor direct thy pleading till thou dost prevail.
Finish all pleadings with the argument of the precious blood, for that shall prevail where all else is driven back. “I believe in the forgiveness of sins”: thousands say this when they repeat the creed; they do not feel that they are sinners, and therefore they find it very easy to believe in forgiveness. But, believe me, when a man knows and feels that he is in very deed a sinner before God, it is a miracle for him to believe in the forgiveness of sins; nothing but the omnipotence of the Holy Ghost can work this faith in him. When you really know what it is to be lost and condemned, so that you receive sentence of death in your own conscience, then it is a brave thing to believe in pardoning grace. Some of us remember when it seemed like mocking us for people to say, “Believe, Believe!” for we felt that it was one thing to say “I believe,” and quite another thing to possess the faith of God’s elect. When God the Holy Ghost comes to reveal Jesus to us, and the poor empty sinner is plunged into Christ’s fulness, then there is glory to God both from the sinner’s faith, and from the object of that faith. God is magnified in the work of grace, for it is his from top to bottom. In the heart of the saved one is heard the voice, “I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour.” Lofty looks are laid low, and boasting is excluded. Humility rules the mind, and obedience walks hand in hand with it. Then do renewed hearts cry, “O Lord our God, other lords beside thee have had dominion over us: but by thee only will we make mention of thy name.”
Thus have I tried to plead with you for the Lord, wishing only your good and his glory, I am very conscious of my own weakness, much more so, perhaps, than ever I was in my life, but yet I expect to succeed with many of you. What am I apart from the Spirit of all grace? What am I but as a sounding brass and as a tinkling cymbal? And yet I am not feebler than other servants of God in this respect, for we are all nothing apart from the Spirit.
“Till God diffuse his graces down,
Like showers of heavenly rain,
In vain Apollos sows the ground,
And Paul may plant in vain.”
Blessed be God we shall not plant in vain, for he is with us! Some of you have received the message, and I shall hear from you soon. Let it sink into the spirits of all of you. Do you feel any degree of softness creeping over you? Yield to it. It is the blessed Spirit now inclining, you to relent, making you feel serious and thoughtful, and anxious and desirous. Bow before his heavenly breath as the rush by the river yields to the wind! Yours shall be the benefit, but to the sweet Spirit of love, together with the Father and the Son, shall be glory for ever and ever. Amen, and Amen.