God's Foreknowledge of Man's Sin
“Yea, thou heardest not; yea, thou knewest not; yea, from that time that thine ear was not opened: for I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously, and wast called a transgressor from the womb.” — Isaiah xlvtii. 8.
THE ancient people of God were most vexatiously stolid; and although the Lord taught them very plainly and repeatedly, line upon line and precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, yet they would not understand his will. More especially, in order to convince them that Jehovah was the only true God, and that the gods of the heathen were no gods, he was pleased to send them prophets to foretell things to come; and when those events transpired which had been so plainly predicted, one would have thought that ordinary sense and reason would have led them to adore the God who thus proved his existence and his foreknowledge. But even this powerful proof did not convince them; they still paid more respect to the gods of the heathen than to the one only living God, and their souls hankered after the idols of the nations. The Lord rebukes them for this folly in the verse before us. “Yea, thou heardest not,” though I spoke so plainly that the deaf might hear, yet thou wouldst not listen to my voice. Though taught by God-sent prophets, yet the people refused to be instructed. “Yea, thou knewest not,” though thine own internal consciousness might have taught it to thee, apart from any voice, yet thou wouldst neither learn from without nor consider within. Nothing can exceed the obstinate stupidity of the unrenewed heart; it will not learn, let the teaching come as it may. “From that time that thine ear was not opened,” for thine ear had become as though sealed up, impervious to sound, thine heart had become so black with iniquity as to be incapable of feeling. And this was not because the Jewish people were foolish or naturally devoid of intelligence, for, as we all know, to this very day there is no sharper generation under heaven than the sons of Judah; and yet, in the days of Isaiah and until the captivity, they proved themselves to be most arrant fools, in that they still went after the idols which had brought them no blessing, and forsook the Lord who alone could benefit them.
As in a looking glass, let us see ourselves. Let the unconverted man see his own picture. God has spoken quite as pointedly to you as ever he did to the seed of Israel. He has called you by providences of different kinds. His mercies have wooed you to the worship of a God so generous. Afflictions have called you to kiss the hand that smote you, and to turn unto the Lord, who smites us out of mercy to our souls. Providence has spoken to you with many tongues, with singular patience, and persevering tenderness. As for the Bible, which is open before you, and in all your houses, has it not often addressed you with a voice most clear and simple, “Turn ye, turn ye; why will ye die?” There are not wanting express texts of Scripture to assure you that the way of sin is not the path of peace, and that only the path of obedient repentance and trust in the Lord Jesus can lead you to happiness here and hereafter. You have some of you been called by the admonitions of affectionate and godly parents, who perhaps from the skies are beckoning you this morning in spirit to follow them to paradise; you were further invited to the path of holiness by loving friends in the Sabbath-school — the recollections of whose earnest warnings have not quite faded from the tablets of your memory. Frequently the voice of God’s minister has bidden you to come to Jesus from the pulpit; and conscience, a nearer pleader still, if you would but hear his voice, has often echoed the voice of God, setting its seal to the testimony of God’s word, bidding you turn from your evil way, and acquaint yourself with God, that you might be at peace. Aud yet up till now it may be said of many of you, “Yea, thou heardest not; yea, thou knewest not; yea, from that time that thine ear was not opened.” As yet the plough has been driven upon a rock which has not felt its power; the bread has been cast upon the water, and after many days there is no return.
Three times a yea is put in our text, as if to show God’s wonder at man’s obstinacy, and the certainty that such was the state of the heart. It was certainly so. You heard, but it went in at one ear and out at the other; you heard and heard not; you heard as stocks and stones might hear, or as cold, insensible steel. You knew not though the knowledge was before your eyes, and you might have known it. You are, I fear, many of you, among the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf people who have ears, who refuse to use their eyes, and fast close their ears through wilful ignorance. Thou knowest not what thou mightest have known. The very birds of the air know their time, and the fishes of the sea obey the laws of the world’s great Governor, but ungodly men are more stolid and foolish than irrational creatures. The net is spread before us, and yet we fly into it; the lure is laid before our very eyes, and yet we wilfully are ensnared. This accusation which God brought against the Jews, he can this day bring against the Gentiles, and who shall dare deny it?
More painful still is it to remember, that in a certain degree the same accusation may be laid at the door of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ; Even those who have received grace to become the sons of God, have not such a degree of spiritual sensibility as they should have. Alas! my brethren and sisters, we may well bewail ourselves that we do not hear the voice of God as we ought. God often speaketh in the heart of man, but man regardeth him not. There are gentle motions of the Holy Spirit in the soul which are unheeded by us: there are whisperings of divine command and of heavenly love in our souls, which alike are unobserved by our leaden intellects. God speaketh to us in the silent shadows of the night; but when we lie awake we are not with him, though he is with us. How often do we shirk a duty clearly Revealed to us as a duty! How constantly do we postpone obedience to precepts which are only to be fully obeyed by being kept at once! How constantly are we in the habit, when a command becomes disagreeable, even though we know it to be right, of ignoring it, forgetting it, and finding apologies for neglect! How little is there of the little child about us, and how much of the wilful man! We are riot like the sheep that follows close at the shepherd’s hand, but, I fear me, we are more like the bullock unaccustomed to the yoke, which kicketh against the pricks. Whether you have to make the same confessions in private that I have to make, I do not know, but verily I must say, “Guilty,” if the Lord saith to me, “Yea, thou hast not heard;” “Yea, thou hast not known.” There are matters within which we ought to see, corruptions which are making headway unobserved, sweet affections which are being blighted like flowers in the frost, untended and uncared for by us, gleams of heavenly sunlight which would enter if we did not shut them out, glimpses of the divine face which might be perceived if we did not wall up the windows of our soul; but we have not known. It is marvellous how little of introspection there is with many of God’s people, how little they look within, how little they look after their own vineyard and the garden of their own souls. I am afraid most of us would have to say, “It is so, “It is so,” if it were said,” “Yea, thou hast not known;” for, alas! though our ears are open, yet naturally they soon close themselves; they need to be cleansed again and again. Sanctification had need to be in us, my brethren, a perpetual work, a daily work. If ever we are to be sanctified wholly, spirit, soul, and body (as we thank God we shall be), we shall need to have the blood of Jesus applied every day, to go continually to him and ask that the Holy Spirit would manifest in us the cleansing influence of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for still we do not hear and know as we should hear and know, nor is our ear opened as we should desire.
Having thus reminded you, dear friends, of your sin, trusting we may be led to confess it with deep humility, I have now an encouraging truth to tell to you this morning, a very simple one, leaving no room for any of the graces of oratory, but one which to my mind has been exceedingly refreshing, and I trust may be to yours. It is this, that all this folly and ignorance, and obstinacy, and rebellion on our part, was foreknown by God, and notwithstanding that foreknowledge, he yet has been pleased to deal with us in a way of mercy. That one truth is the subject of this morning’s discourse. We read it in these words, “For I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously, and wast called a transgressor from the womb.” The same truth is stated in the fourth verse, “Because I knew that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass.” First, we shall endeavour to address this truth to the believer, and secondly to the unbeliever.
I. First, THE BELIEVER.
The latter port of our text mentions a mournful fact, “I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously, and wast called a transgressor from the womb.” Believer, here then is this sorrowful truth, thou hast dealt very treacherously! Does not the very mention of this bring the tears into thine eyes? Ah! if thy heart was not hard, it would be so. Thou hast dealt very treacherously. Let me sound those two words again, “treacherously,” “very treacherously.” Thou art the beloved of heaven, redeemed by blood, called by grace, preserved in Christ Jesus, accepted in the beloved, on thy way to heaven, soon to be with God, and yet “Thou hast dealt very treacherously;” very treacherously with God, thy best friend; very treacherously with Jesus, whose thou art; very treacherously with the Holy Spirit, by whom alone thou canst be quickened unto life eternal! That word “ treacherously,” is one which a man would not like to have applied to himself in the common transactions of life; he would feel it to be very galling, and, if there were truth in it, very degrading, and yet I question whether it will produce the same effect upon our minds when it is applied to us in relation to unfaithfulness to God. We have dealt with him very treacherously. Come, let me refresh your memories, my beloved in the Lord. How treacherous you and I have been to our own vows and promises when we were first converted! Do you remember the love of your espousals, that happy time, the springtide of spiritual life, when the rain was over and gone, and the voice of the turtle was heard in your soul? Oh, how closely did you cling to the skirts of your Master then! You heard some of the older saints complaining that their souls were cleaving to the dust: you wondered at them, for you said within yourself, “The blessedness I know in finding Christ will continue with me for ever: he shall never have to charge me with indifference; my feet shall never grow slow in travelling the way of his service; I will not suffer my heart to go wandering after other loves. White and ruddy is my beloved with all human excellencies and divine glories combined; farewell, all ye meaner creatures, for in him is every store of sweetness ineffable. I give all up; I renounce all for my Lord Jesus’ sake so? But now, has it been so? Charge your collection — has it been so? Conscience, what sayst thou to this? Alas! If conscience speak, it will say, “He who promised so well has performed most ill. Prayer has oftentimes been slurred – it has been short, but not sweet; it has been brief, but not fervent. Communion with Christ has been forgotten by the day, nay, by the week together. Instead of a heavenly mind, there have been carnal cares, worldly vanities and thoughts of evil. Instead of service, there has been disobedience; instead of fervency, lukewarmness; instead of patience, petulance; instead of faith, confidence in an arm of flesh. We have, if we look at what we thought we should be and at what we are, reason to confess that we have dealt very treacherously. Look at this picture, and on that: look at what we vowed to be, and at what we have been, and truly none among us will be able to say, “Not guilty,” but we must confess that we have been traitors to the Most High!
This is not all. It is not merely that we have failed in promises which were made in a period of excitement, but we have been treacherous to obligations which were altogether apart from voluntary vows on our part; we have been treacherous to the most blessed relationships which mercy could have instituted. Know ye not that ye are redeemed men and women, and therefore the property of the Lord Jesus? “Ye are not your own,” says the apostle, “For ye are bought with a price.” “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold but with the precious blood of Jesus.” I ask you, my brethren in Christ, most solemnly, have you not lived as if you were your own ? Have you not found yourselves full often spending your strength for self and for the world, and robbing Jesus of that which he purchased at so dear a price? Treachery to the blood of Jesus! what words shall I use in denouncing it? Words would little avail: let our penitent thoughts execrate the sin which is so surely in us. Treacherous to thy wounds, O Jesus, oh! forgive us, and let us not be further guilty of it! How shameful to be treacherous to him who never forgets us, but who this day stands with our names engraven on his breastplate before the eternal throne.
Remember, that we are soldiers of Christ, soldiers enlisted, sworn in for a life-long campaign. As soldiers, by cowardice, disobedience, and desertion, we have been treacherous to a very shameful degree. You know what the military doom is of a treacherous soldier on earth! truly, if we had been accused, and condemned by court martial, and ordered to be shot forthwith, we should have been dealt with most righteously. We have been armed, and carried bows, and have turned back in the day of battle. When we ought to have fought we have fled, when we should have stood fast we have swerved, and when we might have conquered we have basely surrendered. We have been treacherous also as disciples of Christ; we were taken into his school to be taught and trained; we engaged to sit at his feet, and learn his word; we engaged to imitate his example, to abide by his precepts. Who among us has not played the Peter, and sometimes denied him? Who among us can say that he has not forsaken Christ, and fled in some sharp hour of persecution? Beloved, as disciples, we are not worthy of the name. If the Master should discharge us for ever from his sacred school of holy learning, and say, “Ye have been false friends; ye have eaten bread with me, and lifted up your heel against me; ye have only followed me in the day of sunshine, but have gone from me in the day of storm,” should we not have to bow our heads before him, and say, “Lord, it is even much so”?
Worst of all is the fact that we have been treacherous to our Lord in a relationship where fidelity constitutes the very essence of bliss, I mean in the marriage bond which exists between our soul and Christ. There is not one among us who would not blush or feel indignant if the slightest accusation could be brought against our conjugal fidelity to those who are dear to us on earth; but there is a marriage which has been consummated between us and a nobler Bridegroom than this earth can find, and here — ah, where are your blushes! – let your cheeks mantle as ye confess the unpardonable indidelity – we have been unfaithful to the Well-beloved, the infinitely glorious Husband of our souls. We are one with him, by eternal union one, and yet we treat him ill! Never did he have a thought towards us that was unkind, never one faithless wandering of his holy immutable mind; but as for us, we have thought of a thousand lovers, and suffered our heart to be seduced by rivals, which were no more to be compared with Christ than darkness is to be compared with the blaze of noon. It is said of Israel that although they had the manna from heaven to eat, and God-given water to drink, and the divine presence resplendent in the night in the pillar of fire, and comforting by day in the shadowy pillar of cloud, yet they did remember the leeks, the garlic, and the onions of Egypt. Bah! what foolery is this, that God all glorious is to be despised, and the rank ill scented garden stuff of Egypt — leeks, and garlic, and onions, to be put in the place thereof! And yet such is our case. Thrice glorious Lord Jesus, we must confess in thy presence, that we have behaved very treacherously, and gone after worthless trifles when our soul should have been set on thee alone.
I shall not enlarge upon a subject so painful, because I trust I may have sufficiently revived your memories to bring you into a state of humiliation. We pass on to the divine statement of the text, that all this was known: “Thou hast behaved very treacherously, and I knew that thou wouldst do so.” It was all known. The Lord foreknew all the original corruption of his people —
“He saw them ruined in the fell,
Yet loved them nothwithstanding all”
It was no secret that we were transgressors from the womb. God knew it: he chose us as such; he saw us depraved, debased sons of Adam, with judgment unhinged, conscience darkened, affections polluted, and wills perverted; he saw the neck as an iron sinew, and the brow of brass, and yet he chose us who from the birth were full of sin. As the Lord foreknew the fountain of sin, so he knew all the streams which would gush from it. There is not a sin which a child of God has committed, or ever shall commit, which was not clearly foreseen to the prescient eye of God Most High from all eternity. You deny him to be God if you deny that, for it enters into the very essential of Deity that he should know everything. There are no unblown things to God. He fills his own eternal now: man only occupies the present, which is ever fleeting; but the past, the present, and the future, are all as one moment with God. A thousand years in his sight are but as yesterday when it is past. Therefore all the actual transgressions of his people were conspicuous before his eternal mind —
“Long ere the sun’s refulgent ray
Primeval shades of darkness drove.”
And all the evil thoughts which have gone with these evil actions were foreknown to him. If there be mixed up with the sin some motive blacker than the crime itself; if unexpressed and unknown to man there should lurk in our breast some passion more pernicious than malice ever produced; if there should be a thought more devilish than Satan's vilest deed; if there should be known to us some cursed imagination so diabolical that we dare not whisper it in the ear of our most tender friend, yet all was well known in heaven ages before. God knew that the root of all evil was in your heart, and foresaw how it would shoot and spread, and bear its horrid fruit. Perhaps there is some one here who is recollecting in his mind some gross sin of fearful name into which he fell in bygone years, but which he never will forget let him live for centuries. God has forgiven him, but he never can forgive himself. Some of the old bones of former feasts with Satan will stick in our throat. It matters not though we have humbled ourselves a hundred times for them, we still have need to say with David, “Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions.” Let us here again recall to our minds the fact that all our sinfulness and the development of it, and all the thought and evil imagination that went with that development, and all and sundry the aggravations of our sin, whatever they may have been, must clearly have been known to God, and nothing has come out of us which God did not know would come out of us. We never have surprised the Most High; we never have brought him to such a position that he could say, “I did not know this.” We have never gone into any sin of which it could be said concerning God, that he did not know that it would so be wrought by us.
Now, methinks I hear impatient minds enquiring clamorously, what purpose is there in the preacher’s repeating to us this statement? he puts it over and over again in very simple terms; what is he aiming at? Wherein is the edification to the people of God? In the first place, herein is the edification. Seeing that this is most certain and sure, I want you to adore the amusing grace of God. Do you see, then, that knowing and foreknowing, God nevertheless chose us, elected us though he saw us covered from head to foot with sin! When election’s eye fell upon us, we were regarded as the helpless infant in Ezekiel, cast out unwashed and unswaadled to perish in our filth, but then, viewing us as such, the divine heart loved us. “His great love,” says the apostle, “wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses and sins.” We were, as Kent puts it,
“Loved when a wretch defiled with sin,
At war with heaven, in league with hell,
A slave to every lust obscene,
Who, living, lived but to rebel.
Do you not admire the marvellous sovereign grace which could have chosen you in the sight of all this? I can understand God’s choosing me if he had not known my sinfulness, or if he had known only a part of it, but that he should choose me when he had an infinitely clearer sense of my sin than I ever can have, is indeed wonderful. I do know something of my sins at times, and am horrified at them, vet I never did have such a clear estimate of my sinfulness as God has, for the least sin is hateful to God, and God looks upon it as worthy of the eternal fires of hell. Yet we, in whom there is not only to be found little sin, but multitudes of great iniquities, were chosen from before the foundation of the world 1 Child of God, does not this make you admire electing love?
Further, recollect that in consequence of your election you were redeemed. Come hither, and wonder at the price that was paid for you, a traitor! You have dealt very treacherously, and yet you were redeemed not with silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, when Christ knew what you would be. “What say you to this? Does not that thought make your eyes swim in tears as you think that he who hangs bleeding there, foresaw you as being unbelieving, backsliding, cold of heart, indifferent, careless, lax in prayer, and yet he said, “I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life”? O redemption, how wondrously resplendent dost thou shine when we think how black we are!
And then, dear friends, recollect that you have been adopted into the Lord’s family as well as redeemed. Now, when a man adopts a child, he supposes that he shall have an obedient child, that the child will be of a plastic temper, and he shall be able to rule and govern it. But by-and-by perhaps it turns out to be a very sorry specimen of the race. It grieves the generous spirit much to experience its ingratitude to him. Then he complains to himself, “If I had known what this child would have been, I should never have adopted it; I would have looked somewhere else.” See, beloved, God knows what his children will be, that they will deal very disobediently, and yet for all that he says, “I will put them into the family.” I might thus enumerate all the marvellous works which grace hath wrought in us and for us, and I think they would all shine very abundantly in the simple light of God’s having known what we should be, and having done, with this knowledge, all that he has done for us.
Furthermore, I think this truth is very important to us, because in the light of it our security is clearly manifest. I cannot understand how we can be perplexed with the thought that God will cast us away now we are his people, if it be true that all the sins we have committed since conversion were all present before his mind; for surely if there be a reason in our sin for God casting us away now, since he foreknew that sin, it would have been an equally valid reason for his never loving us at all. A man undertakes mining operations in such-and-such a place, he says, “I shall dig for iron.” Well, he meets with great difficulties, hard rocks to bore through, and so on. He comes to this conclusion, “If I had known of this labour, and of the expense, I should not have sought for the metal here.” But suppose the man to be well aware of everything, and that he meets with nothing but what he foresaw, then, you may depend upon it that the man means business, and having commenced operations, he will continue working till he obtains that which he seeks after. Now, our God can never be obstructed by a circumstance in us which can create surprise in his mind or throw his course out of his reckoning. He knew that we should be what we are, and he determined to save us in the teeth of all our rebellion; and, my brethren, I am persuaded that since the divine determination was wisely made, the cost was all counted, and every circumstance taken into consideration, there can be no shadow of a fear that he will ever turn aside from his eternal purpose. Has he found me, as his child, to be exceedingly wilful? — will that tempt him to drive me from the family? He knew I should be wilful. It might have prevented his beginning to love, but, seeing he has begun, how can it operate to make him cease from blessing? Oh! let this be a comfort to you, when the evil of sin weighs most heavily upon your faith. Your soul is married to Christ. Now, when a man takes a wife, it is for better or worse; and I can imagine that a man with a very base wife might say, “Had I known this woman better, had I known how she would constantly make my house unhappy, there certainly would have been no marriage tie between us.” But no husband could say that unless he was an arrant fool, if he was able beforehand to see as in a glass all that would happen between him and his spouse in his married life, and if he with his eyes open made the choice. Surely he could never repent it without confessing his folly in running into the snare. If he has wisely done he will stand to his engagement, and prove the power of his love. So it is between our condescending Lord and his elect. He has taken all our sins into the estimate when entering into marriage bonds with us, and he says, “I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness; and thou shalt know the Lord.” “The Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away.” He has foreknown all their faults, and yet ordained them unto eternal life. Therefore are his people safe.
This truth also, methinks. should tend very much to enhance mi tense of the fulness which is treasured up in Christ Jesus. The Lord our God has provided for us in Christ, for all the necessities that can occur, for he has foreknown all these necessities. “I knew that thou wouldst be this and that.” Oh, is your heart heavy this morning? God knew it would be: there is the comfort that your heart wants already treasured in the promise. Seek the promise, believe it and obtain it. Do you feel, this morning, that you never were so consciously vile as you are now? Behold, the crimson fountain is open still with all its former efficacy to wash your sin away. Never snail you come into such a position that Christ cannot aid you. No pinch shall ever come in your spiritual affairs in which Jesus Christ shall not be equal to the emergency, for it has all been foreknown and provided for in him. A man goes a journey across the desert, and when he has made a day’s advance and he pitches his tent, he discovers that he wants many comforts and necessaries which he has not brought in his baggage. “Ah!” says he, “I did not foresee this: if I had this journey to go again, I should bring these things with me, so necessary to my comfort.” But God has foreseen all the necessities of his poor wandering children, and when those needs occur, supplies will be found ready. “My grace is sufficient for thee.” “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.”
I think the truth is capable of being turned in many lights, but I must leave it with you. I believe the child of God will find that, simple as the doctrine of God’s foreknowledge is, it is remarkably full of comfort. Some, who know no better, harp upon the foreknowledge of our repentance and faith, and say that, “Election is according to the foreknowledge of God a very scriptural statement, but they make a very unscriptural interpretation of it. Advancing by slow degrees, they next assert that God foreknew the faith and the good works of his people. Undoubtedly true, since he foreknew everything; but then comes their groundless inference, namely, that therefore the Lord chose his people because he foreknew them to be believers. It is undoubtedly true that foreknown excellencies are not the causes of election, since I have shown you that the Lord foreknew all our sin: and surely if there were enough virtue in our faith and goodness to constrain him to choose us, there would have been enough demerit in our bad works to have constrained him to reject us; so that if you make foreknowledge to operate in one way, you must also take it in the other, and you will soon perceive that it could not have been from anything good or bad in us that we were chosen, but according to the purpose of his own will, as it is written, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” Herein God’s great power may be seen, and his decree is made to roll, in peals of thunder over the heads of rebellious men, that they shall hear it even though they gnash their teeth at it. So, then, “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but God that showeth mercy.”
II. And now, for a short time, as God shall help me, I have to use the text in its relation to UNCONVERTED PERSONS.
I shall hopefully believe, this morning, that there are some in God’s house, who, although they are unsaved, are, nevertheless, sufficiently aroused to desire eternal life, who have in them at least some sense of their guilt and their danger, and are anxious, if it may be, to find mercy. The doctrine of my text may afford them some comfort. My dear friend, you have discovered lately the natural vileness of your heart. If at one time any one had told you that your heart was deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, you would have been very angry, but you know it to be so now, painfully know it. You wish sometimes that you had never been born, sooner than that this should be the case. This day you have brought before your mind by your quickened conscience, your actual transgressions. There is no need that I should read the list, but the roll may well be written within and without with lamentations, for it is written within and without with iniquities. In addition to this, this morning, you have a deep 'regret for your long delay in seeking mercy, for you have been called by the gospel thousands of times, sometimes more than outwardly called, for conscience has been impressed and aroused, but your goodness “has been as the morning cloud, and as the early dew;” you have quenched the Spirit of God; you have resisted frequently the better volitions of your own spirit. You feel sorrowful that this is the case. And, this morning, you are willing to acknowledge that there have been special aggravations in your case: you have sinned against more light than usual, against more expostulations than ordinary, sinned with less excuse, with more fearful pertinacity. All this you acknowledge. Now, my dear hearers, the gospel of Jesus Christ is sent to you in the state in which you now are, to you as lost by nature, ruined by practice, and undone in a thousand ways. The gospel says to you, even to you, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Now, in order that you may get a hold on that gospel, despite the difficulties which your sins would raise, I would remind you of the truth of which we have been speaking. All these sins, delays, aggravations, and rebellions of yours, were all foreknown to God; therefore, since he has sent the gospel to you, I pray you be not slow to accept it, since it is not possible that your sins, whatever they may be, can at all militate against the fact that if you believe and receive the gospel, you shall be saved. For, let me remind you, that if God had not intended to save men upon believing, if their sins were so great that he did not intend to save them if they trusted in Jesus, why then, since he foreknew these things, he would never have planned the plan of salvation at all. If he stops now and refuses to be gracious, why did not he stay his hand in the very first stage of the business? You would not devise a scheme, surely, unless you meant to go further? Who sits down to make plans of a house, unless he has some notion of carrying them out? If God intended no mercy to such a sinner as you are, why did he devise a plan which is suitable to such a sinner as you are? Why invent a scheme by which a rebel might be saved, if he foreknew that on account of sin that rebel never could be pardoned? Let me ask you, do you think God would have gone farther — gone to the vast expense of providing a Saviour, if really the gospel were null and void? Jesus Christ hangs on the cross to die for sinners, sinners whose sins were all foreknown; do not therefore say that God does not intend to save, for if he had not intended to save, he would have stopped before he gave his Son for a sacrifice, and nailed him to the tree. “Ah! but,” you say, “mine is a particular and special case.” Then I remind you that, since God had known all that, if he intended to leave your case out, why did not he say so in the Bible? If this was something fresh that had arisen since the Scriptures were written, then I could understand that yours might be exceptional; but nothing is new with the Most High. Now, if the Lord intended to leave out a case, he would have mentioned it, and we should have found somewhere in the Bible, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature except such-and-such a one.” I do not find it so. “Preach the gospel to every creature:” here it is, “He that believeth, and is baptised, shall be saved.” He maketh not an exception. He biddeth us go and proclaim it east, west, north, and south. “Ah! but,” say you, “still mine is a very special difficulty.” Yes, but I tell you again, your God foreknew, and you may depend upon it, he provided for it in the plan of salvation. He says, “If thou believest, thou shalt be saved.” He says not, “Unless thou hast committed this or that;” he says, “If thou believest;” and God is not true unless he saves every soul that believeth in Jesus. Though a man had damned himself a thousand times with the blackest filth that ever came from hell, yet, if he believes in Jesus, God must be true to his solemn promise: it is not possible that the sin of man could justify God in flying from his promise or denying his own self. He declares frill pardon to every soul that trusteth in the Lord Jesus: I pray you slander not my Lord and Master by saying that this or that could make him take his words back, or break his covenant in Christ Jesus. Your blasphemies — he knew what oaths you would swear. Your lusts and evil deeds — he knew into what mire you would plunge. The imaginations of your wicked heart — he knew them; ay, they have been before his eternal mind every moment since the world began, and before it. He knew that you would be a sinner — he never ceased to know your sins. All things are present before God at every time, and your aggravating sins have been before God’s mind at every moment of eternity, if we may use the expression. And yet, notwithstanding that, he says, “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.” God knew you, sinner. He did not fall upon the penitent’s neck and kiss him, and think him clean and pure and chaste while he kissed him. He knew that be had spent his living with harlots. knew that he went to feed with the swine, and yet he took him into his house and heart, and fed him daintily. He knew what you have done in secret, in the darkness of the night, in the chamber where none may follow you, in the inner chamber of your soul, where you have rebelled worse than in your outward actions. He knew it all, and yet he says, “Let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” I do humbly and earnestly trust that the Lord, may lead some sinner, whose sins he has so clearly discerned, to perceive the suitability of Christ to his own case, to close with the proclamation of mercy, and to say,
“I’ll to the gracious King approach,
Whose sceptre pardon gives;
Perhaps he may command my touch,
And then the suppliant lives.
I can but perish if I go;
I am resolved to try;
For if I stay away, I know
I must for ever die.
But if I die with mercy sought,
When I the King have tried,
This were to die (delightful thought I)
As sinner never died.”