One More Cast of the Great Net
“And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.”— Joel ii. 32.
I THOUGHT within myself, “What shall be the topic for the last sermon before I depart to my quiet resting-place?” Peradventure my sermons for the last day of this long stretch of work may be my last altogether, for life is very frail. When I hear of first one and then another in strong health being suddenly taken away, I am made to know the uncertainty of life in my own case. It were wiser to trust a spider’s cobweb than the life of man. Brethren, we live on the brink of eternity, and had need behave ourselves as men who will soon face its realities. We may have to do so far sooner than we think. So I said within myself, “Shall I feed the flock of God in the rich pastures of choice promise?” Truly it would have been well to have done so; but then I bethought me of the stray sheep; must I not go after them? The ninety and nine are not in the wilderness, and, therefore, I shall not be leaving them in any danger. They are well folded, and the Chief Shepherd will not forget them. God has given them to have life in themselves, and the green pastures are with them in plenty; they can afford to be let alone better than the perishing ones. But as for the wandering ones, can I leave them among the wilds and wolves? I have tried to bring them to the great Bishop and Shepherd of souls, but they have not yet returned; how can I forget them? How can I endure to think of their being lost for ever?
So I thought I would go out once more after the lost ones hoping that the Lord would help me to find them, even now, and bring them to himself! I earnestly ask your prayers that a very simple gospel address may be blessed of God to the immediate conversion of those among us who have long halted, and are hesitating even unto this day. I could not have chosen for such a purpose a more suitable text: it is one of the broadest declarations of gospel doctrine that could be found in Holy Scripture.
I shall handle it in the plainest manner. In a book of practical surgery you do not look for figures of speech; all is plain as a pike-staff; such will my sermon be. I hand out the bread of heaven, and you do not expect poetry from a bakehouse.
When the apostle Peter was preaching what I may call the inauguration sermon of the evangelical era, he could do no better than go to Joel for his text. See the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. He explained the wonders of the Pentecost by a reference to this prophetic passage. When Paul, in his famous Epistle to the Romans, would set out the gospel in all its plainness, he could not do better than quote in his tenth chapter, at the thirteenth verse, this same text: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” If apostles found this passage so suitable for the expression and confirmation of their gospel message, what can I do but follow their wise example? How greatly do I hope that a blessing will rest upon all here present while I preach upon this precious portion of Scripture; even as a blessing rested upon the motley crowd in Jerusalem when Peter spoke to them! The same Spirit is with us, and his sacred power is not in the least diminished. Why should he not convert three thousand now, as he did on that occasion? If there be a failure, it will not arise from him, but from ourselves.
Look at the connection of our text in Joel, and you will find that it is preceded by terrible warnings: “I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come.” Nor is this all; this broad gospel statement is followed by words of equal dread. “Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great. The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.” It was true of the prophets as of the apostles that, knowing the terrors of the Lord, they persuaded men. They were not ashamed to use fear as a powerful motive with mankind. By the prophet Joel the diamond of our text is placed in a black setting, and its brilliance is thereby enhanced. As a lamp is all the more valued when the night is dark, so is the gospel all the more precious when men see their misery without it. To remove from men’s minds the salutary fear of punishment for sin is to draw up the flood-gates of iniquity. He who does this is a traitor to society. If men are not warned of the anger of God against iniquity, they will take license to riot in evil.
Certain modern teachers pretend that they are so delicate that, if they believed in the Scriptural doctrine of eternal punishment, they could never smile again. Poor sufferers! One is therefore led to suppose that they are persons of superior piety, who are so deeply in love with the souls of men that they weep over them day and night, and labour to bring them to repentance. We should expect to see in them a perpetual agony for the good of their fellows, since they judge themselves to be so qualified to instruct others in the art of compassion. But, my brethren, we have not been able to discover in these sensitive persons any very hallowed sympathy with the ungodly; nay, we have heard of their having communion with the worldly in their sports rather than in their sorrow for sin. I have not seen in these men who forswear the use of the terrors of the Lord any remarkable powers of attracting men to Jesus by love. I have not noted any special zeal in them for the conversion of men, either by tender arguments, or by any other means. I question if they believe in conversion at all. On the other hand, the seraphic evangelists who have journeyed around the earth to preach the gospel, and have worn themselves down with evangelical earnestness, are, in all cases, men who feel the pressure of the wrath to come. These, though sneered at by the superfine delicates, have shown a tender love to which their judges are strangers.
He who speaks honestly concerning the judgment to come is the man of the tenderest heart. He who pleads with sinners, even to tears, usually does so because he believes that they will be everlastingly ruined except they repent. I do not believe that this modern zeal to conceal the justice of God and hide the punishment of sin is accompanied by an overflowing compassion for souls; I fear that, on the contrary, it is little other than an incidental form of a flippant unbelief which treats all doctrines of God’s Word as antiquated notions, deserving to be jested at by men of advanced views. My brethren, the love of Jesus did not prevent his warning men of future woe. He cried aloud, amid a flood of tears, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together!” and he did not withhold the dreadful fact— “Your house is left unto you desolate.” The knowledge of the coming destruction of the city aroused his sympathy; and he showed his pity, not by concealing the dreadful future, but by warning men of it. I venture to say that, so far as I have observed, no man ever preaches the gospel at all unless he has a deep and solemn conviction that sin will be punished in a future state in a manner most just and terrible. Preachers gradually get further and further away from the gospel, and its atoning sacrifice, in proportion as they delude themselves with the idea that, after all, sin is a small matter, and its punishment a questionable severity. Those also who look for a future opportunity for the impenitent may well consider it to be of small consequence whether men now believe in Jesus, or remain in unbelief. Such a taking of things easy cannot suggest itself to me, for I believe in everlasting punishment. O my hearers, if you do not fly to Jesus, you will be eternally lost, and this urges me to entreat you to be saved! That blood and fire, that darkening sun and crimsoned moon, of which Joel speaks, arouse me to exhort you to seek deliverance. That great white throne, and the dread sentence of him that shall sit upon it, when he shall say, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels,” all move me to persuade you to flee to Jesus. Therefore it is my delight to come to you with a free, broad, blessed, gospel promise, in the earnest hope that those of you who are now in danger may at once escape for your lives, and flee from the wrath to come.
With that preface I come to the handling of my text, moved by a burning desire that God may bless it. First notice that it contains a glorious proclamation— “It shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered.” But this is accompanied with an instructive declaration, to which we shall give a measure of attention as time permits— “In mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.”
I. Listen, first, to THE GLORIOUS PROCLAMATION. As we have no time to spare, we will proceed at once to our theme.
The blessing proclaimed in our text is precious.— “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered,” or “shall be saved.” Salvation is a very comprehensive blessing; it is, in fact, a constellation of favours: a mass of mercies condensed into a word. It is a boon which reaches from the door of hell to the gate of heaven. The salvation which we have to preach to you at this time is salvation from sin in all senses of that term. It is a diamond with many facets. You who dread the eternal consequences of iniquity will be glad to learn that there is salvation from the punishment of sin— complete and eternal salvation. This is no small matter to a soul crushed beneath a consciousness of guilt, and the certainty that the necessary consequences of sin must be overwhelming. The results of sin are not to be thought of without trembling. Verily, dismay may well take hold of the stoutest heart while reflecting upon the judgment to come. We preach salvation from the unutterable woe which follows on the heels of sin. Whatever may be the terrors of that tremendous day, for which all other days were made, we proclaim in God’s name salvation from them all. Whatever may be the gloom of that bottomless abyss, into which the guilty shall sink for ever, we are enabled to proclaim complete deliverance from that endless fall— salvation for every soul that believeth in Jesus Christ the Lord. No form of accusation shall be drawn up against the believer. No sentence of condemnation shall ever be uttered against him. Salvation sends the prisoner out of court completely cleared. All the penal consequences of all sin shall be turned aside from all who by divine grace are led to call upon the name of the Lord.
Salvation also delivers from the guilt of sin. The Lord is able to justify the ungodly so that he shall be numbered with the righteous. Through the blood of Jesus he makes the filthy whiter than the snow.
He will not merely put away the sin itself, but all the defilement that has come of it to your moral manhood. O my hearer, all the injury which you have already inflicted upon yourself by sin, the Lord can repair! Sin, even if it led to no penal consequences, is a disease which destroys the beauty of your manhood, and makes us loathsome to the eye of God— ay, and shocking to the view of our own conscience, when we see ourselves by the light of God’s Spirit in the glass of his Word. O ye, on whose foreheads the leprosy is white, we preach perfect healing for you, a salvation which shall renovate your nature, and make your flesh even as the flesh of a little child; as Naaman’s was when he came up from the washing, having been obedient to the prophetic command. Brethren, the salvation of the Lord removes every injurious result of sin upon heart and mind. Is not this a joy?
We also preach salvation from the power of sin. Sin finds a nest in the carnal nature, but it hides there as a thief; it shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under law, but under grace. O slaves, whose fetters clank in your ears, at this moment you may be free! Whether the bonds be those of drunkenness, or licentiousness, or worldliness, or despair, the Lord looseth the prisoners. Jesus has come to break the manacles from your wrists, the fetters from your feet. If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed. He has come to set you free for holiness, for purity, for peace, for love. He will bless you with newness of life: he will cause grace to reign in you unto eternal life. Salvation from the power of evil is a gift worthy of a God. This is the salvation that we preach: we proclaim immediate deliverance from the curse of sin, present rescue from the power of sin, and ultimate freedom from the very being of sin. To every man of woman born is this salvation proclaimed, provided they will obey the gospel command, which saith— look unto Christ, and live. “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Happy herald who has such a proclamation to make! The boon is incalculably precious.
Further, notice, in the next place, that the time of this proclamation is present; for Peter tells us that the time spoken of by the prophet Joel began at Pentecost When the rushing, mighty wind was heard, and the flaming tongues sat upon the disciples’ heads, then was the gospel dispensation opened in all its freeness. The Holy Ghost, who then came down to earth, has never returned; he is still in the midst of the church, not working physical wonders, but performing moral and spiritual miracles in our midst, even to this day. To-day, through his power, full remission is preached to every repenting sinner; to-day is complete salvation promised to every one that believeth in Jesus. This day the promise stands true, “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
I put aside as altogether unscriptural the notion that the day of grace is past for any man who will call upon the name of the Lord. If you will call, you shall be heard, be the day what it may; yea, though it wane to the eleventh hour. The day of grace is never past to any soul that lives, as long as it is willing to believe in Jesus. I am not told to go and say there is grace for men up to a certain point, and beyond that point there is none. No, there is no limit set to the willingness or ability of Christ to save those who call upon his name. Who dares to limit the Holy One of Israel in the deeds of his grace? As long as faith is possible, salvation is possible. I have my Master’s order to preach the gospel to every creature. He has said to his servants, “As many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.” We are bound to say to every one, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Whether you are a child of ten, or a man of fifty, I have the same message for you. If you have lived to be a hundred, the gospel promise still holds good, despite the lapse of years. The times of your ignorance God has winked at; but he now commandeth all men everywhere to repent. He graciously declares of all who seek him, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Day of grace past, indeed! It is a whisper of Satan. Have nothing to do with that falsehood; for still the Saviour bids you come to him and live. Even at the ebb of life he cries, “Come now, and let us reason together.”
“Life is the time to seek his face:
Through life he freely gives his grace,
And while that lamp holds out to burn,
The vilest sinner may return.”
Whoever returns to the Father’s house shall find a glad reception. If this very day, this 14th of November, you will call upon the Lord, you shall be saved. God speaks by ray mouth to you at this moment, and declares that to-day, if you will hear his voice, your soul shall live. The proverb saith, “there is no time like time present,” and it speaks the truth. The present moment is the best moment in your possession. What other moment have you? Whosoever, at this passing hour, calleth upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. This is a gospel well worth the preaching: blessed are our ears that we hear the joyful sound!
Next, notice that, as the boon is precious, and the time is present, so the range of this proclamation is promising. It is full of good cheer to all who hear me this day. “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Whosoever! I am afraid lest anything I should say to express the width of this word should only narrow it; just as the man who tries to explain eternity always makes it seem much shorter than we thought it to be, and so defeats his own purpose. “Whosoever.” There is in this word no fence, or ditch, or boundary line. You are out upon the open mountains of grace. In riding through Switzerland you will find gates put up here and there along the road, for no reason that I could see but to tax and worry travellers: many of the limits which are set to the gospel proclamation answer no other purpose. Down with these toll-bars on the road to heaven! We cannot and dare not discourage any man from calling on the name of the Lord: the promise is to you, and to your children; but it is also to all “that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” In this matter there is no difference between Jew and Gentile. “Whosoever” includes the slum people, even the poorest of the poor; but it does not exclude the carriage people, not even the richest of the rich. “Whosoever” beckons to the educated, and looks favourably upon the cultured and the refined: but none the less does it invite the illiterate, to whom all learning is an unattainable mystery. “Whosoever” has a finger for babes, and an arm for old men; it has an eye for the quick, and a smile for the dull.
Young men and maidens, whosoever offers its embrace to you! Good and bad, honourable or disreputable, this “whosoever” speaks to you all with equal truth! Kings and queens may find room in it; and so may thieves and beggars. Peers and paupers sit on one seat in this word. “Whosoever” has a special voice for you, my hearer! Do you answer, “But I am an oddity”? “Whosoever” includes all the oddities. I always have a warm side towards odd, eccentric, out-of-the-way people, because I am one myself, at least so I am often said to be. I am deeply thankful for this blessed text; for if I am a lot unmentioned in any other catalogue, I know that this includes me: I am beyond all question under the shade of “whosoever.” No end of odd people come to the Tabernacle, or read my sermons; but they are all within the range of “whosoever.”
“Alas!” cries one, “I am dreadfully desponding, I am too low-spirited to be intended by the promise of grace!” Are you? I do not believe it. “Whosoever” goes to the very depths of despair, and up to the heights of glory. “Alas!” murmurs another, “I am not sad enough on account of my sin. I am of too frivolous a nature!” Very likely, but “whosoever” includes you; if you call on the Lord, you shall be saved. You may go round the whole Tabernacle this morning, and “whosoever” will include all the thousands in it: after that you may hasten down the streets, and tramp from end to end of London’s mighty area, and never find one left out. You may then take a tourist’s ticket, and travel through Europe, Africa, and Asia, till you have even traversed China and Japan. You may sweep the southern seas, and search Australia, and then come home by way of San Francisco, and in all that circular tour you will not have met man, woman, or child, whether white, or black, or red, or yellow, or blue, or green, but what is encompassed by the circle of this word “whosoever.” “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” I hope I have not diminished the range of the text; certainly I have not intended to do so. Mind that none of you shut the door in your own faces. I want each one to come in, and find salvation at once. For the time being you may forget the Negro, the Red Indian, and the heathen Chinese but I beseech you do not forget to come to Jesus yourself. Come, for you may come, you should come, you must come.
“None are excluded hence but those
Who do themselves exclude;
Welcome the learned and polite,
The ignorant and rude.
While grace most freely saves the prince,
The poor may take their share;
No mortal has a just pretence
To perish in despair.”
There is the text “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered,” or “saved.” Believe it, and obey it. It is a gracious gift; take it, and be rich for ever.
Furthermore, the requirement is very plain. “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord.” You do not need a library to explain to you how you can be saved. Here it is— “Call on the name of the Lord.” This is “The Plain Man’s Pathway to heaven.” You will not need to go to the Sorbonne at Paris, nor to the University of Oxford, to be tutored in the art of finding salvation. Believe and live. Is not that plain enough? “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” What does calling upon the name of the Lord mean? To call on the name of the Lord means, first, to believe in God as he reveals himself in Scripture. His revelation of himself is his “name.” If you make a god of your own, you have no promise that he will save you: on the contrary, if you make him, he will be good for nothing, for he will be less than yourself. If you are now willing to come to the light, and see the Lord as he displays himself in his own Word, then you shall know a great God and a Saviour. You are not merely to believe in a god, but in the living and true God: in Jehovah, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. If you accept him as being what he states himself to be, in him you shall find salvation. The pity of it is that the most of people in these days worship a god or their own invention. They do not make an image of clay, or of gold, but they construct a deity in their minds according to their own thoughts. They proudly judge as to what God ought to be, and they will not receive God as he really is. What is this but a god-making as gross as that which is performed by the heathen? What can be more wicked than to attempt to imagine a better god than the one true and living God? As the deity of your fancy has no existence, I would not recommend you to trust in him. There is one living and true God, and that living God has revealed himself in the two Books of the Old and New Testament. In these he is more clearly seen than in his works of creation or of providence. In this God you must trust; and if you trust him, he will not deceive you. “Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” If you trust in “thought,” or “progress,” or any other deity of your own making, you will perish; but if you rely upon the living God, he will not, cannot, forsake you. Trust in Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and you shall be delivered. “He that believeth on him shall not be confounded.” A simple, child-like trust in God as he reveals himself in his Word, and especially as he unveils himself in the blessed person of the Lord Jesus Christ, will save you. In the Lord Jesus dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily; trust in him, and you are saved.
To call on the name of the Lord also means to pray. That is the idea which naturally arises to the mind at the first sound of the word. You are lost in a wood. What are you to do? You are to call for help. “O God, hear my cry! Deliver me, for my trust is in thee!” If I compare you to a wandering sheep, what can you do? You cannot find your way back to the fold; the brambles hold you fast, and tear your flesh. Well, you can bleat, and thus call for the Shepherd. Prayer,— real, sincere, believing prayer will never fail. The Lord has said, “Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee.”
I recollect, in the time of my soul-trouble, how I lived on this text for months. It only looks like a lozenge, but it is made of the essence of meat, and it will sustain life for many a day. Try the power of it. “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” I said to myself,— “I do call on his name, and I will continue to call on his name: yea, if I perish, I will pray, and perish only there!” Nor did I call upon the Lord in supplication in vain. He heard me, and saved me. Blessed be his holy name! Praying, believing, trusting, none can fail of salvation. The requirement is very plain,— “Trust and pray.”
And when you have done this, then remember that to call upon the name of the Lord means also to confess that name. We read in the Old Testament, “Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord.” Not that they then first prayed, but they then began to meet together avowedly to worship Jehovah. They came out from among men, and named the sacred name as that of their God and Lord; declaring that, whatever others did, they would serve him. The Lord requires all saved ones to do this. You must confess that the Lord is your God, and Jesus is your Saviour. You must say, “This God is our God for ever and ever.” Our Lord put it, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Paul saith, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” You must, in some way or other, confess your faith; and the best way is that which the Lord has himself ordained, saying, “Thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” No longer wishing to live without God, no longer trusting to what you can see, and hear, and do, you must henceforth place your whole reliance upon God alone, and own the Lord as your God and Father. No man doing this shall be left to perish. Out of temporal and eternal troubles you shall be delivered. God will help you all your life long if you trust him. “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust, his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.” Whosoever trusts, prays, and avows himself to be on the Lord’s side, shall be saved.
This requirement is simple enough, and I do not see what less could be asked of any man. Would you have a man saved who will not trust his God? Would you have a man forgiven who will not obey his Lord? Has Christ come into the world to pander to our sin, and save us while we continue in rebellion? God forbid! His grace is manifested to make us own God in everything, and walk before the Lord in the land of the living. This also the Holy Ghost works in us to will and to do.
I will spend a minute or two in reminding you that, as the requirement is plain, so the assurance of blessing is positive. “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered,” or “saved.” In this there are no provisos and peradventures. The text is not a bare hope, but a solemn assertion. If thou believest, poor soul, though thou art altogether a mass of sin, thou shalt be saved! Do you not see how sure it is? God, who cannot lie, pledges his word to you: risk your soul on it. Indeed, there is no risk. The only hope I have this day is in the promise of my faithful God which he makes to those who call upon his name. I dare not rest anywhere else, but on his bare word I gladly venture my eternal all. How can it be that a sincere trust in God’s own promise can ever be rejected of the Lord? Sitting by the bedside of a dying man, who was resting in Christ even as I am, I said to myself— Suppose we, who trust alone in Jesus, should perish, what then? Why, it would be to the everlasting dishonour of the Lord in whom we trusted. We should lose our souls certainly, but he would lose his honour. Think of one of us being able to say in hell, “I trusted in the boasted Saviour’s aid, and rested myself on God, and yet I am lost.” Sirs, heaven itself would be darkened, and the crown jewels of God would lose their lustre, if that could once be the case! But it cannot be. If you trust in the Lord God Almighty, he will save you as surely as he is God. No one shall ever think better of God than he is. Open your mouth as wide as you will, and he will fill it.
And now, to wind up as to the proclamation: remember that, although it is so far-reaching as to embrace a wide world of believers, yet it is a personal message to you at this hour. “Whosoever” includes yourself; and if you see it from the right angle, it peculiarly looks at you. You, calling upon God, shall be saved; you, even YOU! Friend, I do not know your name, nor do I need to know it; but I mean this word for you. You shall be saved if you call upon the name of the Lord. “Ah!” you say, “I wish my name was written down in the Bible.” Would it comfort you at all? If it were written in the Scripture, “Charles Haddon Spurgeon shall be saved,” I am afraid I should not get much comfort out of the promise, for I should go home, and fetch out the London Directory, and see if there was not another person of that name, or very like it. How much worse would it be for the Smiths and the Browns! No, my brethren, do not ask to see your name in the inspired volume; but be content with what you do see, namely, your character! When the Scripture says, “Whosoever,” you cannot shut yourself out of that. Since it is written, “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved,” call on that name, and grasp the blessing. Despair itself can scarcely evade the comfort of this blessed text. O Holy Spirit, the Comforter, seal it upon each heart!
But perhaps you have not called upon the name of the Lord. Then begin at once. Cry, “Lord, have mercy upon me!” and cry after that sort immediately. If you have never prayed, pray now. May God the Holy Spirit lead you to call upon the name of the Lord at this exact moment, without waiting to go home, or to get into another room! Though you have never believed in the Lord Jesus before, believe in him now. If this be the first breath of faith that you have ever breathed, the promise is as sure to you as it is to those of us who have known the Lord these forty years. “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved,” is a word to a careless fellow who has never prayed in his life.
O my hearer, the text speaks to you. How I wish I could get at you, and take you by the hand, and hold you till I had made you think! I remember when Mr. Richard Weaver preached at Park Street Chapel, in his younger days, he came down from the pulpit, and ran over the pews to get at the people, that he might speak to them individually, and say, “you,” and “you,” and “you.” I am not nimble enough on my legs to do that, and I do not think I should try it if I were younger; but I wish I could, somehow or other, come to each one of you, and press home these glad tidings of great joy. You, my dear old friend, it means you! You, young woman, over there to the right, it means you! You, dear child, sitting with your grandmother, it means you! “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” O Lord, bless this word to every unconverted person to whom it comes!
II. I could almost wish to close with this soft music, but I dare not maim a text. I will deal with the second part of it with exceeding brevity, but I dare not silence it altogether. The second portion of the text contains AN INSTRUCTIVE DECLARATION. “It shall come to pass that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered.” That was abundantly fulfilled at Pentecost, for on that day a great multitude believed, and were baptized, and were saved: thus those who called on the name of the Lord were delivered. But listen, “In mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance.” This also was literally true: the first preaching of the gospel was to the Jews at Jerusalem itself. Salvation came to mount Zion, and to the city of the great King. The fountain for sin and for uncleanness was opened at Jerusalem.
There is something about that fact which strikes me very solemnly this morning; for though this deliverance came to some, yet the city was totally destroyed. The kingdom of heaven came near them, but they put it away, and they were overthrown with a fearful destruction. The Jews had long been outwardly the Lord’s chosen people, but in a measure he had cast them off, for the Romans ruled the land, and they in their wilful blindness crucified their King. The favoured nation nailed the Messiah to the tree; and yet to Jerusalem sinners, salvation was first preached. Salvation was of the Jews, and by Jews it was brought to us Gentiles. Sad calamity that they should bring us life, and yet as a nation sink down to spiritual death!
Notice that the prophet says, “In mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said.” He promised deliverance, and he sent it according to his word: if they would not have it, he sent it as he said, and their blood was on their own heads when they refused it. The Lord went to the full length of his mercy in sending salvation to those leaders of iniquity, who with wicked hands had crucified their own Messiah.
As a result of the Lord’s goodness, a remnant was saved. Notice it, “and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.” A remnant did call upon the Lord and live. Those eleven that stood up at Pentecost, and bore witness to the resurrection, were all Jews; and those who met in the upper room, when the Holy Ghost came down, were Jews: this was the remnant. But the solemn thought is that it was only a remnant of God’s favoured people. Centuries of visitations, prophets, miracles; yet only a remnant saved! God’s Shekinah shining out among them; and yet only a remnant obedient! The very Christ of God born of their nation; and yet only a remnant saved! To this day we utter the truth when we sing—
“Ye chosen seed of Israel’s race,
A remnant weak and small.”
The Jewish church is a very insignificant portion of the Jewish people. The apostle tells us that “at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace”; and Isaiah says, “Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.” Poor Israel, poor Israel! Most favoured for many an age, and yet only a remnant brought to call upon the saving Lord! Many come from distant lands, and sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God; but the children of the kingdom are cast out into outer darkness,— all but a mere remnant.
To my mind it is most instructive to notice that even that remnant never called upon the name of the Lord until the Lord called upon them,— “The remnant whom the Lord shall call.” We all of us need a miracle of grace to make us perform the simple act of calling upon God. This was manifestly true in the case of Israel, for as a nation it rejected Jesus of Nazareth, and only a few were converted by the power of the Holy Ghost. But whether Jews or Greeks, we are similarly depraved; and unless effectual calling shall call us out of our natural state, the very last thing that we shall ever do will be to come to Jesus, and to rest in him. Unhappy condition, to refuse the highest good!
Believing Jews are a remnant to this day, and only here and there is one called by grace. You say, “What have we to do with that?” We have much to do with it. Let us pray for our Lord’s own countrymen. Let us labour for them. This also let us do: let us learn from their fall. O you that are children of godly parents, you that habitually attend places of worship, you who sit in this house of prayer year after year— you are much in the same position as Israel of old! Yours are the outward privileges, will you reject the hopes which they
set before you? My fear is lest you should get so accustomed to hearing the gospel that you should think that mere hearing is enough. I tremble lest you should grow so habituated to the externals of religion that you should be dead to all the internal parts of it, and only a remnant of you should be saved. Think of the multitudes in England who hear the gospel, and of the comparatively few who are called by grace to come and believe in Jesus Christ. It is sorrowful to think of the breadth of gospel grace and the narrowness of man’s acceptance of it. The feast is great; the guests are few. I see an ocean of mercy without a shore; and on it there floats an ark wherein but few are saved. Shall it be always so? Oh, come, and receive the gift of free grace! Alas! I see men sunk in the darkness of unbelief, and only a remnant rising to the light of faith! Altogether, in this London, out of four or five millions, we have not half a million at worship at any one time! Out of that half million, how many do you think are real Christians? Truly, it is a remnant still. Oh, that you and I may be of that remnant!
Let us further pray the Lord to gather in the multitude, and so to accomplish speedily the number of his elect. Oh, that he would not only magnify the sovereignty of his grace, but reveal the largeness of it! Oh, that he would give the well-beloved Jesus to see of the travail of his soul till he is satisfied! O Lord, the oxen and the fatlings are killed, and all things are ready; let it not be again reported that those who are bidden are not worthy! Or, if it be so, enable us to go out into the highways and hedges and compel the outcasts to come in, that the wedding may be furnished with guests! Go forth, ye messengers of Christ, into all the world! Rise up, my brothers and sisters, from this service, and go forth, every one of you, to call in as many as you find; yea, to compel them to come in! May the Lord cause that in London, and in Britain, there may be deliverance; yea, may his salvation be made known unto the ends of the earth! Amen.