Dwell Deep, O Dedan!
“Dwell deep, O inhabitants of Dedan.” — Jeremiah xlix. 8.
WE do not quite know who these inhabitants of Dedan were, but in all probability they were some Arabian tribe or tribes. Perhaps they were descendants of Keturah. This Arabian tribe probably dwelt in the rock city of Petra, and were mingled with the Edomites. The prophet warned them that God was about to destroy the Edomites: “For I have sworn by myself, saith the Lord, that Bozrah shall become a desolation, a reproach, a waste, and a curse; and all the cities thereof shall be perpetual wastes.” And the text intends one of two things — either to inform these inhabitants of Dedan, that, however, deep in the cavernous rocks they should hide themselves, they would certainly be destroyed; or else it was a gracious warning to remove from Edom, strike their tents, and retreat into the depths of the wilderness, and so escape from the invaders. I find the marginal reference of my Comprehensive Bible says, “This is an allusion to the custom of the Arabs, who, when attacked by a powerful foe, withdraw into the wilderness. Always on their guard against tyranny, on the least discontent that is given them they pack up their tents, lade their camels with them, ravage the country, and, laden with plunder, they retire into the burning sands where none can pursue them, and so “dwell deep.” We will take our text in the two senses I have indicated. “Dwell deep, O inhabitants of Dedan.” This may be understood sarcastically and instructively: let us pray that to us, in both senses, it may be instructive. From ancient warnings let us gather present benefit.
I. Let us take it SARCASTICALLY. It is as though the prophet said to these Edomites, and those that dwelt with them: “You think you never can be destroyed, for your city is situated in a rocky defile, where a handful of men can hold the pass. You suppose that the mightiest armies will fail to conquer you, and therefore you are very proud; but your pride is vain.” “Thy terribleness hath” deceived thee, and the pride of thine heart, O thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, that holdest the height of the hill: though thou shouldest make thy nest as high as the eagle, I will bring thee down from thence, saith the Lord.” That word has been terribly fulfilled, for the ancient rock-city stands as a wonder to all travellers, and when they ride through it, which is not often, for it is with great difficulty that you reach the place at all, they find the city standing, but the houses desolate, and without inhabitants. Edom is a perpetual desolation, because of her sins. Though they carved their houses into the solid rock, and their city seemed out of the spoiler’s reach, God has laid his hand upon it, and its life, as well as its beauty, is gone for ever. Thus said the Lord, and so it has come to pass, “also Edom shall be a desolation: every one that goeth by it shall be astonished, and shall hiss at all the plagues thereof. As in the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the neighbour cities thereof, saith the Lord, no man shall abide there, neither shall a son of man man dwell in it.”
From the text I hear a cry, like the stern voice of Elias, to every profane sinner who thinks that he will ultimately escape the wrath of God. Thou mayest dwell deep, O transgressor, but God shall find thee out. Thou sayest, “How shall he reach me?” The hand of death has only to be stretched out, and thou art his captive at once: and a little thing will do it— the wind has but to pass over thee, and thou art gone. A drop of blood may go the wrong way, a valve may refuse to open, a vessel may burst, a band may snap, and there thou liest, beneath God’s avenging hand, like a stag smitten by the hunter. Thou art dust, and a breath will scatter thee to the four winds. Thy spirit will be equally unable to escape from God. When it leaves this body, whither will it fly? It finds itself naked — disembodied; and straight before it is the throne of God, and the seat made ready for judgment. Devils shall drag the guilty spirit down to hell, and bind it with links of infinite despair. And when the day of judgment shall have fully come, and the body shall have risen, and the entire man shall stand before God, there will be no escape for the sinner! The eye of Christ will look into the face of every man of woman born that shall stand upon the earth and upon the sea in the dread day of wrath, and that look will ensure the eternal condemnation of all the unbelieving. No one will be in so far-off a country that the Judge will not see him, nor will he be able to find a cavern or deep mine wherein he shall be able to conceal himself from the face of him that sits upon the throne. Then will the ungodly bitterly desire to dwell deep; they will call to the rocks to hide them, and to the hills to fall upon them, but all in vain; for thus saith the Lord: “Though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down: And though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out thence; and though they be hid from my sight in the bottom of the sea, thence will I command the serpent, and he shall bite them.” Darkness will not be able to conceal you; the glance of the Judge’s eye shall shrivel up the vesture of night, and lay all things bare. O, guilty, Christless soul! there is no escape from God. Though thou dwell deep as hell — even there would he find thee. In the days of the old Roman empire, the whole world was so completely under the Imperial sway, that if a man once transgressed against Caesar he was imprisoned already, for all the nations were but one great Roman prison. If a man fled to the uttermost ends of the earth, he would still find the Roman legionary to arrest and the Roman lictor to punish him. Behold, the universe is thus surrounded by Jehovah’s Imperial forces! Earth, hell, and heaven, are the Lord’s; whither then canst thou fly? Do what thou wilt, thou art always before his eye, and always within reach of his hand. “Dwell deep, O inhabitants of Dedan,” but in vain shall be all your craft and cunning concealments, for God will assuredly find you out.
The same solemn warning may be applied to those who are selfrighteous, and who think that they are forming a hiding-place for themselves. I would turn to them, and say, You think that you will save yourselves by your works. Ah! labour mightily; for hard must be your toil if you think to finish a righteousness of your own. In the very fire must you labour. You would make a dwelling for yourself as secure as the Rock of Ages? You had need build anxiously. I do not wonder that you are ill at ease. I wonder you have any peace, for the labours which you propose are more stupendous than those of Hercules! You would work miracles without the God of miracles! Vanity of vanities, all is vanity! Like Babel’s tower, self-righteous efforts will end in failure, and abide only as a monument of folly. I could fain, if I were in that humour, speak to the self-righteous with bitter irony, as did Elijah to the false prophets, when he said of Baal, “Cry aloud: for he is a god!” If, indeed, there be salvation by works, wear your fingers to the bone, and your bodies to skeletons. Weep out your eyes with penances, and furrow your backs with chastisements. Ye plough the desert sand and sow the salt sea. Plough on, sow on, ye fools and dotards! Rest ye in your sacraments, and your priests! Be born again in sprinkling, be confirmed by episcopal hands, and then eat your breaden god! Get ye up at the daily tinkling of your bell to adore the flour and water, which ye both worship and swallow! Go on your knees and repeat your Paternosters, and your Aves, and count your beads; fast not only on Fridays, but on all days of the week, and put on your hair shirts, and wear a girdle of spikes. You had need do many such things, for no little matters will quiet conscience and give the soul peace. To fill a bottomless tub with water, is nothing to the labour of self-salvation! To build a house with bubbles, twist a rope of sand, or weld an anchor of spray, were easier far. Fools! can sinners keep a perfect law? Can finite effort satisfy infinite justice? Can a bankrupt, without a penny, put his creditor under obligations? Can a vile worm deserve at the hands of the thrice Holy God? But, ah, ’tis folly altogether! “By the works of the law there shall no flesh be justified.” “By the law is the knowledge of sin,” and nothing more. All the efforts that a man can make to earn heaven, must end in disappointment and despair. “Ye must be born again;” ye must believe in Christ Jesus; ye must be saved through his great salvation. There is no hope for you, O ye who are dwelling deep in your own works. It is a sorry, sorry dwelling. I will not use the text to you sarcastically, as I might, but I will rather say, fly from your good works as you would fly from your sins. Have no more confidence in your goodness than in your badness; for if you rely on what you do that is good, you will be as surely lost as if you had depended upon your sins. Whether the sand be white or red is of small consequence; in either case it is a bad foundation. You need a better basis, even that which was laid of old by God in the covenant of grace, even Christ Jesus, the Rock of our salvation.
The same text, in the same way, might be applied to those who are hypocrites, and are practising secret sins while they yet wear the name of Christ, and are numbered amongst his people. They maintain a creditable position in the church, and yet indulge privately in evil habits. This class is the great trial of the ministry; and in every church there are some of them. They profess to love the Lord Jesus, but they are traitors in the camp. They are fair apples, but rotten at the core! Gilded cheats, painted shams, counterfeits, impostors! O, it is a horrible thing to find a man coming to the communion table, who worships the bottle and goes to bed intoxicated. He talks about the love of Christ, and yet he is a drunkard; he partakes of the cup of the Lord, and dotes upon the cup of devils! And there is another who is, perhaps, temperate in diet and liberal to the church; but, at the same time, he is dishonest in his transactions abroad. He can never be trusted — he pays no one, except by compulsion. He has no sense of honour, and yet he has an uppermost seat in the synagogue. Nor is this all, for, alas! we have known some who could talk very loudly about what they knew of personal religion and divine grace, who at the same time were raking in the very lowest kennels of vice. How can I bear to think of such beings! O, Paul! I do not wonder at thee, when I hear thee say, “I now tell you, even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ.” Such base deceivers are the enemies of the cross of Christ above all others. The Trojans were safe inside, and the legions of the Greeks could do them but little harm so long as they were outside, the walls; but when the wooden horse was brought in, with the Greeks concealed inside, the city was taken. The enemies inside the church do her the most serious damage — she suffers most from those fearfully presumptuous sinners who are not satisfied with sinning in the King’s kingdom, but must needs sin in the King’s palace, who dare to bring their filthinesses even to his own table, and pollute it. If any of you who are hypocrites hope to escape, you need dwell deep indeed! Where are the deep places which can afford refuge to religious pretenders? Where shall liars conceal themselves? O, hypocrite! it may be you have planned your sin so cleverly that the wife of your bosom does not know it: your scheme is so admirably cunning that you carry two faces, and yet no Christian sees other than that Christian mask of yours. Ah, sir! but you are a greater fool than I take you for, if you think you can deceive your God. Your own conscience must be very uneasy. Hypocrites are the devil’s martyrs; they endure a life-long martyrdom of constraint and fear. I have seen, when I was a boy, a juggler in the street throw up half-a-dozen balls, or knives and plates, and continue catching and throwing them, and to me it seemed marvellous; but the religious juggler beats all others hollow. He has to keep up Christianity and worldliness at the same time, and catch two sets of balls at once. To be a freeman of Christ and a slave of the world, at the same time, must need fine acting. One of these days you, Sir Juggler, will make a slip with one of the balls, and your game will be over. A man cannot always keep it up, and play the game so cleverly at all hours; sooner or later he fails, and then he is made a hissing and a by-word, and becomes ashamed, if any shame be left in him. O, “dwell deep, ye inhabitants of Dedan,” if you think to escape from God’s eye and from the revealing power of his providence. Better were it for you to come right out, and throw away your cloaks, and be deceivers no longer. Cast off your double-mindedness. “Cease to do evil, learn to do well,” for it is time to seek the Lord, and may God grant you his effectual grace that you may do so at once, ere he condemn you to the lowest hell.
II. But now we will use the text INSTRUCTIVELY, in which view, the first and natural sense would be, that the prophet warns the tribe of Dedan, who had come to live among the Edomites, to go away from them, and dwell in the depths of the wilderness; so that when the destroyer came, they might not participate in Edom’s doom. It was the warning voice of mercy, separating its chosen from among the multitude of the condemned.
Now this suggests to me one observation: The people of God, like the tribes of Dedan, to some extent, dwell in Edom. Your business, your duty, is to come out from among them. “Be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing.” I often marvel how some who really love the Lord, and believe his truth, can put up with the errors of the churches with which they are connected. There are churches which preach doctrine that is far other than the gospel of Christ; such, for instance, as the doctrine that unconscious infants are made members of Christ and children of God, by the sprinkling of a little water. God will plague such a church as surely as he is God. Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her plagues! I love the saints in the Church of England, but I marvel at their abiding in such company! It is our duty to flee as far from error as possible, and enter into no confederacy with falsehood. There are Nonconformist churches where the gospel is not preached, and intellect is put in the place of faith; I charge you separate yourselves from such. What fellowship has light with darkness? How can you love the Lord, and be in league with those who despise his word? While some cry out for unity, I would say a word for truth. Unity, indeed! What have we to do with that, while Ritualism and Rationalism with their abominations defile the land? I dare no more be a member of a church which did not hold the pure truth of God in the love of it, than I dare join a band of pirates. Our Lord entered into no covenant with Scribe and Pharisee, Sadducee or Herodian; but remained “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.” Better go to heaven alone, than to hell in company. Better be true to God, with Abdiel, “faithful among the faithless found,” than win the applause of the crowd by great liberality and equal inconsistency.
More important still, however, is the separation of every Christian from worldly habits, customs, and ways. Wherever you are, dear friend, though you must be in the world, take care that you be not of it. “Come ye out from among them: be ye separate, saith the Lord, touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” It is only in the lonely path of the true disciple of Christ, who follows the Lamb whithersoever he goeth, that you can realise your adoption, and cry, Abba, Father. Come out from the world: confess yourself to be on the Lord’s side, and then your fellowship with God shall be sweet beyond degree! Range yourself under the divine banner and by God’s grace remain a separatist from the world until life’s latest hour. So shall you, like Abraham, be a sojourner with God. “Dwell deep, O inhabitants of Dedan,” right away from the world’s customs and sins, and above all from its selfish spirit and grovelling aims! Dwell deep in the solitudes where Jesus dwelt — in the lonely holiness which was fostered on the cold mountain’s side, and then shone resplendent amid temptation and persecution! Commit yourself unto no man; call no man master; lean on no arm of flesh; walk before the Lord in the land of the living, and so dwell deep, as did your Lord.
But I do not wish to enlarge upon that point. The practical matter I am aiming at lies in another direction. My earnest desire is that every saved soul among you may dwell deep, that is to say, that none of you may be superficial Christians, but that you may be deep believers, well rooted plants of grace, thorough, downright, out-and-out Christians — that you may not only dwell in the Rock of Ages, but dwell deep in it. To this let me call your attention.
It is highly important, beloved, that every one of us should have a deep sense of sin, and a profound horror of it. Those who have but slight convictions, if those convictions bring them to the Saviour, are safe; but such persons should pray the Lord to deepen in them their sense of the evil of sin. Slight thoughts of sin lead to slight thoughts of grace, and what can be worse? Nothing is more to be dreaded than a flimsy religion, frail as the spider’s web, unsubstantial as the air. Lord, give me deep repentance. Teach me to know my sin, and all the evils which lurk in it; make me to shudder at it, and dread it as a burnt child dreads the fire. Do not, dear friend, be like those people who jauntily confess, “yes, we are sinners,” but who merely intend thereby, to chime in with a general form of speech. Such false speeches are a mockery of God. Thank God, if you have been laid low under the law. Bless God, for deep subsoil ploughing and trenching. I desire to feel, every day, that sin is an exceeding bitter thing, a deadly evil, a moral poison, the essence of hell. O, to loathe iniquity and see with self-abhorrence its heinous character; for so shall we prize the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love which thought it, the blood which bought it, and the grace which wrought it out!
Should your convictions of sin be already deep, then seek to dwell deep as to your faith in Jesus Christ. Much of the faith which passes current in the world is not faith: it is mere talk. We say we believe, but do we believe? We say “Yes, I trust,” but do we trust? Is it a real trust? Is it such a trust as will stand the test of the dying hour? Are we really divorced from our self-confidences and in very deed married to our Lord Jesus Christ as our only confidence? O, to have solid faith — the faith which will survive the removal of all things outlive the general fire! O, brethren and sisters, ask the Lord to deepen your faith, to confirm, establish, and perfect it. And you who are now coming forward to confess your faith in Jesus — if you have only a grain of mustard seed of faith, it will save you, blessed be God; but I exhort you to seek for larger degrees of it.
O you who in these regions profess to abide in the Lord, may you dwell deep in Christ. When you get upon the rock of Christ Jesus you are safe, but when you get into the rock then you are happy. A man on the rock will be subject to the wind and to the rain, to the damp of dews, and to the heat of the sun; but, O! a man in the rock — it does not matter to him what weather it is — whether it blows or shines, he is sheltered. O! to get fully into Christ — to have a deep experience of our union with him, and a solemn conviction deepening into a full assurance of our exaltation in him! Beloved, this is indeed to dwell in the Goshen of Christianity. This is to drink the choice wines of the kingdom. The nearer to Jesus the more perfect our peace. The innermost place of the sanctuary is the most divine.
So would I have you, beloved friends, dwell deep in the matter of Christian study. He who knows himself a sinner, and Christ a Saviour, is certainly justified; but we desire to be something more than saved. The babe in grace is the Lord’s child: but we do not wish to be always infants; there is a time when we should be no more children. Christ’s babes should grow up to be men in Christ Jesus; and my earnest entreaty to all professors, both young and old, is, “Let us seek deeply to study the word of God, that by feeding upon it we may grow.” An instructed Christian is a more useful vessel of honour for the Master, than an ignorant believer. I do not say that instruction is all, far from it; there is much in zeal, and, with but slender knowledge, a man full of zeal may do a great deal; but if the zealous man has knowledge in proportion, how much more will he achieve? Dig deep in your researches into the Scriptures, beloved friends. I am always afraid lest any of you should take your doctrinal views from me, and believe doctrines merely, because I have taught you to do so. I charge you, if I preach anything that is not according to the Lord’s word, away with it! — and though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel than the gospel of Jesus Christ, away with it! — do not regard our persons for a moment, in comparison with divine authority. Study the character of Christ. Do not merely know that he is Christ, but who he is — whose Son he is, and what he is, and what he did, and what was meant by what he did, and what he is doing, and what he will do, and all the glorious hopes which cluster around his first and his second advent — all the precious truths of the covenant of grace, and the glorious attribute of eternal love. Do not be afraid of what are called the “deep things of God.” I do not mean that you young beginners are to give your thoughts to them, to the exclusion of the simplicities of the gospel; but at the same time, when you know the Lord savingly, go on to know yet more and more. Comprehend with all saints, what are the depths and heights. Entrench yourselves in the precious truths of God’s word — no bulwarks are so strong.
Above all things, and beyond all things, would I earnestly impress upon my beloved friends the need of deep living unto God. There is such a thing as flimsy living, in which you pray, and pray, — yes, but it is a superficial, routine exercise. O, how I bless God when I can pray deep dwelling prayers — when my heart groans unto God, and pours out her very self into his bosom! And how delightful it is to sing one of the deep songs, when the innermost heart praises and magnifies God; and how delightful to get into deep fellowship with Jesus Christ, till the Lord himself is revealed in you, and you eat his flesh, drink his blood, and have his life in you! Dwell deep, beloved! Those who dwell upon the preacher do not dwell deep; but those who feed upon the Master himself, are strong and joyous. Those who live only upon outward ordinances, and do not practice private devotion, and are not abundantly with God in secret communion — those do not dwell deep.
Get to the roots of things. The gold mines of Scripture are not in the top soil, you must open a shaft; the precious diamonds of experience are not picked up in the roadway, their secret places are far down. Get down into the vitality, the solidity, the veracity, the divinity, of the word of God, and seek to possess with it all the inward work of the blessed Spirit. It is of small use to learn a doctrine, unless, in the most emphatic sense, you learn it by heart. John Bunyan intended this when he said that the truths which he learned were burnt into him. No man in very deed knows a truth till it has forced its way into him, and permanently impressed its image upon him. You may have a doctrine hammered into your head by argument till you are quite convinced, and yet no practical result will follow; but, O, if it is stamped into your heart with divine energy, the consequences will be very different. I am not a Calvinist by choice, but because I cannot help it. The truths I preach are in me, part and parcel of myself: I do not carry my creed, but my creed carries me. It should be so with us as to all we know of divine truth. This deep knowing, deep feeling, deep living — this it is that makes sound work lasting work for eternity! In one word, as the Lord is bringing in many recruits into this church — and we are glad to receive the rawest among you — my anxious desire is that they may be trained to be good soldiers of Christ, able to endure hardness in years to come. We want you new plants to have good roothold, so that you may grow up into Christ in after years, and bring forth fruit to his name. We are anxious that you should make a sound beginning; for, if a man is about to build a house, if he is unused to building he may think he is doing well if he sets to work upon the ground as it is, and runs up several courses of bricks; but every man who is an experienced builder knows that instead of doing well he is wasting his time, since every brick must come down again. If there be no foundation, all he builds will be worthless, and the higher he goes the greater his loss. O, for a good foundation! — to be emptied right out by repentance, and digged deep by conviction, and the rubbish of self-thrown out of you — this is a great blessing; for the deeper the foundation the higher the tower can be carried, and the deeper our sense of sinfulness and nothingness the greater is the possibility of our being built up into the fulness, and strength, and perfection of Jesus Christ our Lord.
If any enquire what are our reasons for bringing forward at this time such an exhortation as this, I will briefly answer them.
Brethren, it is well for us to dwell deep, because trials will surely come. Presumest thou, O young beginner, that thy warfare is finished now thou hast enlisted? Ah! simple child, “let not him that putteth on his armour boast as though he put it off.” You have come up to the starting-point, and you already think the prize your own. O man, thou hast but commenced running, and thy life is the length of the race! Thou wilt have to run and run till thou shalt lay down thy race with thy body; thou wilt never have finished till then. “What! But when I am saved, surely I shall have no more fightings.” Hearken: the moment thou art saved the fightings will begin. “But shall I feel an evil heart after I am born again?” Yes, and more than ever; for the new life that is in you will hate the old nature, and the old Adam will hate the new Adam. There will be a conflict in your soul, such as you never knew before, and it will be perpetual. Do not think that Christ has come to send peace into your soul of the sort you look for; he makes no peace with evil, but draws the sword. There will be fightings and wars within your spirit until you die. Now, you must have deep work, or else these inward trials will offend you. You remember John Bunyan’s wise picture, in “Pilgrim’s Progress,” of Christian and Pliable? Christian read his book, and told Pliable of a beautiful city to which he was going, where there were streets of gold, and harps of the richest music; and, says Pliable, “I will go with you: I would gladly be there.” When he told him all about how Evangelist had instructed him, and when he read to him the roll, “Oh,” said Pliable, “this is very pleasant; the hearing of this is enough to ravish one’s heart. Come on, let us mend our pace.” But, as they went on, the road became very muddy, by-and-by their feet began to slip, and after awhile they were both up to their necks in a slough. “Oh,” says Pliable, “is this that happiness you have told me of? If we have such ill speed at our first setting out, what may we expect between this and our journey’s end? May I get out again with my life, you shall possess the brave country alone for me!” And with that he gave a desperate struggle or two, and got out of the mire on that side of the slough which was next to his own house, and Christian saw him no more. O! if it is not a work of grace when you get a little soul-trouble you will say, “Ah! I will have none of this. I thought it was going to be all ‘ hallelujahs’ and ‘ bless the Lord!’ I did not look for depressions and bewilderments.” Now, when I hold up my Master’s colours and invite recruits, I am by no means eager to enlist cowards. I want those who for God’s sake and by his Spirit will go through the Slough of Despond, resolved to escape from the City of Destruction. You must “dwell deep,” then, or inward trials will send you back to the world again.
There will be outward trials, too; for when a man puts on the name of Christ the world soon raises a hue-and-cry against him, and they say, “Here is another of your Methodists,” or “another of your Presbyterians,” and they straightway bring forth some of their old stock epithets, hoping that to give a dog an ill name may go a long way towards hanging him. They have a fine name for some of you who belong to this church, and they daub you over with it as plentifully as Noah pitched his ark. If the work of grace be not deep in the heart of a ridiculed professor, he will say, “I don’t see why I should be laughed at. I wish to be respectable, and cannot afford to be lowered for religion’s sake.” Ah! yours is a poor religion if a set of grinning sinners can laugh you out of it. Only a plant in stony soil will be dried up by the heat of persecution; if you are grounded and settled, no trials of cruel mockings, or any other assaults of the enemy will overturn you.
Again, there is a necessity that you should dwell deep, beloved, for in these days many errors have gone abroad in the world, and many teachers of heresy and infidelity; and if you do not dwell deep, they will shake you terribly. When a soul is once established in Christ, and has eaten bread with him, and seen the things of the kingdom as they are revealed in him, why, if all the infidels in the world were to come to such a person, and object, and object, and object, their efforts would not be worth a farthing, for they would not turn him the breadth of a hair! Even though such a man may be in other respects ignorant and weak, yet, if he has been with Jesus, he will be wise and strong. Communion with Christ braces up the spirit. He who has been plunged into the sea of divine fellowship is invulnerable. A certain sceptic had often troubled an aged Christian woman about many things, and upon many points he had ridiculed her. At last, she ended the fight by a declaration of faith, which cleared all the ground at once. He said to her, “Why, you are not such a fool as to believe that a great fish swallowed Jonah. You cannot believe such a monstrous fable.” “Man,” said she, “God’s Word says it, and if the Lord had said that Jonah swallowed the whale, I would have believed him.” Her faith in the veracity of God explained all difficulties, and as she was immoveably settled upon that matter, there was no use in arguing against her. Men call this blind faith, but I call it faith with her eyes open looking alone to God. When faith dwells thus deep, the heaviest shells that our foes can hurl from the Krupp guns of their logic are no more injurious to the fortifications of our comfort than so many paper pellets thrown by a schoolboy. No;
“Should all the forms that men devise
Assail my soul with treacherous art,
I’ll call them vanity and lies,
And bind the gospel to my heart.”
But you must dwell deep to be able to do that; otherwise, arguments with sceptics and papists will be your terror and your danger, and difficulties will arise which will greatly mar your peace. May you have grace to dwell so near to God that it shall be impossible for evil insinuations to enter into your spirit.
Dwell deep, dear friends, for there are seasons coming when all your grace will be wanted. I have never heard of a man coming to mischief through having too much grace. I never heard yet of any person falling into danger through living too near to God; nor do I think most men suffer through being too careful in self-examination or too anxious to be right. Presumption brings a thousand evils, but holy carefulness brings very few, if any. You will have to die, beloved, soon; and, though you may rejoice in the prospect of being with Christ, death, after all, is no child’s play. He who would die triumphantly, will need God’s arm to bear him up. The river is in itself a deep and chilling river, and if the Lord, who is immortality and life, be not with us it will be a drowning river; but if we have solid faith we shall pass over safely. But, mark you, no sham faith will help you then. If you are in your senses, and honest, all the bladders of self-confidence will fail you then. What do those poor souls do who have dreamed of heaven, and discover when they are dying that their hope is a mere dream? O, what will false church members do? What will the hypocritical deacon do? Above all, what will the unfaithful minister do, who, when he comes to die, finds that he has preached to others, and has no part nor lot in this matter himself? When it is too late to take to another ship, to have all shipwrecked for ever! What horror this must be! God grant it may not be so with any of you, and, therefore, beloved, in fair weather look to your vessel. It was a shameful thing, say what anyone will, to send the ship to sea we have been reading of lately, that was all worm-eaten, and her iron, even her iron, quite rusted through. It would have been infinitely better to have had her well examined, and not to have sent an unworthy ship out at all. But you see they ran on a beach, and happily saved all the crew; but if you go to sea spiritually in a leaky ship like that, there is no saving you. You are lost, and lost forever! O, if you have got into this professional barque, which is rotten, get out of her, though you lose all your comfort, and see all your experience go down. Let it go down, if if be a lie. It is better that a man be a beggar and be true, than be a prince and be a liar. What care I for the gewgaw tinsel crown, that men put on who strut upon the boards of a theatre? Shall I esteem the mimic sovereigns, and bow down to them, as if they were true kings and princes? No; the poorest man who is himself, is better than the grandest man who is a sham. God grant that we may stand the test of dying. But there is a still more terrible test than dying, for some sleep quietly through death, but, oh, the judgment! I see two ponderous scales, huge as hemispheres of this great globe, and there I see the weights — the standard weights of eternal justice. Into yonder scales every one of us must go, and what if there should be heard the dreadful sound, “Mene, mene, tekel?” “Thou art weighed in the balances, and found wanting!” There will be no hope then, of making up the short weight or of coming up to the standard. Lost then, we shall be cast away for ever. O, if you only get an inch towards heaven, let it be a safe inch; for a safe inch is better than a counterfeit yard, and one drachm of grace is better than a million tons of profession. One genuine tear is better than a sea-full of washing your hands in outward ceremonies. Let your religion be real, dear friends. “Dwell deep.”
And I will give this other reason — dwell deep; because those who live near to God, and are substantial in godliness, are the happiest of people. The top of the cup of religion may be bitter, but it grows sweeter the deeper down you drink. The cup at Satan’s banquet is sweet upon the brim, where the bubbles glow like rainbows, but, ah, the horrid dregs of it! The cup that Christ gives has no dregs, but it has at its bottom the sweetness of the wines on the lees, well refined. And, O, the inexpressible sweetness when you get to the bottom of all — where there is no bottom indeed — when you get a drink of eternal joys and never ending blessings!
While this deep living gives a man more happiness, it also endows him with more strength. Some single Christians of my acquaintance are worth twenty ordinary ones, because they enter into the very marrow of religion, and then impress others with the reality of it. I know at this moment Christian women, who are worth fifty ordinary professing women. I would not say the others are not very good, too, in their way, but they are superficial compared with these deep-taught daughters of Zion. O God, if the church is to be strong, it must be through those that dwell deep!
And so, beloved, let me close by saying here, dwell deep, for you will glorify God most. The nearer you get to the sun, the brighter you will be. The nearer you live to Christ, the more like him you will be. Dwell deep, beloved. Beware of levity in godliness: beware of superficiality: beware of skimming. Seek to enjoy the deep, the blessed, the true reality! The Lord grant it to you for his name’s sake. But still let me say to any who have not begun the divine life, this is not for you just now. I talked to you last night and the night before, and you know I bade you come to Christ just as you were; and so I do now, for saving work is coming and touching even the hem of the Redeemer’s garment. If you have touched the hem of his garment, do not be satisfied with that; go on to know him more, and long, like Simeon, to take him up in your arms, and say, “This Christ is mine — the blessed Christ — mine for ever and for ever.” God bless you, beloved friends!