"Let such as love thy salvation say continually, Let God be magnified."—Psalm 70:4
These words occur at least three times in the book of Psalms, and therefore we may regard them as especially important. When God speaks once, twice, thrice, he doth as it were awaken us to peculiar attention, and call for prompt obedience to what he saith. Let us not be deaf to the divine voice, but let each one say, "Speak Lord, for thy servant heareth."
You will observe that in this, and in the fortieth Psalm, this holy saying is put in opposition to the ungodly speeches of persecutors. The wicked say, "Aha, aha," therefore let those who love God's salvation have a common watchword with which to silence the malicious mockeries of the ungodly; let them say, "LET GOD BE MAGNIFIED." The earnestness of the wicked should be a stimulus to the fervency of the righteous. Surely, if God's enemies do not spare blasphemy and profanity, if they are always upon the watch to find reasons for casting reproach upon the name and church of Christ, we ought to be more than equally vigilant and diligent in spreading abroad the knowledge of the gospel, which magnifies the name of the Lord. Would to God his church were half as earnest as the synagogue of Satan! Oh that we had, in our holy cause, a tithe of the indefatigable spirit of those Scribes and Pharisees, who compass sea and land to make one proselyte! Even the archfiend shames us by his preserving industry, for he goeth up and down in the earth seeking whom he may destroy!
The clause which we have selected for our text also follows immediately after another which may be looked upon as a stepping-stone to it. Before we can love God's salvation, we must be seekers of it; hence we read, "Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee." There is a duty peculiar to seekers, let them see to it; and then there follows a further obligation peculiar to those who have found what they sought for. Let joy and rejoicing be first realised by the seeker through his receiving personally the grace of God, and then let us go on to a stage further. The fresh convert has his business mainly within; it will be well for him if his heart can, in sincerity, be glad in the Lord. When believers are young and feeble they are not fit for the battle; therefore, let them tarry at home awhile, and under their vine and fig-tree eat the sweet fruits of the gospel, none making them afraid. We do not send our children to hard service; we wait till their limbs are developed, and then appoint them their share in life's labors. Let the newly called be carried like lambs in the Savior's bosom, and borne as on eagles' wings. "Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee." But when men have advanced beyond the earliest stage, when they are persuaded that Christ is theirs, and that they have been adopted into the family of God, then let them cheerfully accept active service. Let it not be now the main concern with them to possess a joyous experience on their own account, but let them studiously seek the good of their fellow creatures, and the glory of God. Strong men have strength given them that they may bear burdens and perform labors; light is this burden and blessed is this labor. Let them "say continually, Let God be magnified." I shall, therefore, hope that anything of earnest exhortation which shall be addressed to believers at this time, will come with double power to those of you who are advanced in the divine life. The more you know of God's salvation the more you will love it, and the more you love it the more are you bound to recognize the sacred duty and privilege of saying continually, "Let God be magnified." May each one of you here be willing to take up the obligation if you have enjoyed the benefit.
It may simplify our discourse this morning if we arrange it under three heads. Here is, first, the character: "They that love thy salvation. Here is secondly, the saying: "Let them say continually, Let God be magnified. And here is, thirdly, the wish, the wish of the psalmist and of the psalmist's master, that all who answer to the character shall use the watchword, and say continually, Let God be magnified."
I. We will begin, then, by discriminating THE CHARACTER.
The individuals here spoken of are those who love God's salvation. Then it is implied that they are persons who are saved, because it is not according to nature to love a salvation in which we have no part. We may admire the salvation which is preached, but we shall only love the salvation which is experienced. We may hold orthodox views as to salvation, though not ourselves saved; but we shall not have earnest affection towards it unless we are ourselves redeemed by it from the wrath to come. Saved ones, then, are meant here, and we may add that they are so saved as to be assured of it, and consequently to feel the warm glow of ardent, grateful love. They love God's salvation because they have grasped it; they possess it, they know they possess it, and, therefore, they prize it, and their hearts are wedded to it. Beloved, I hope that the large proportion of this congregation could say before the heart searching God, "We are saved; we have come all guilty and heavy laden to the foot of the cross; we have looked up, we have seen the flowing of the Savior's precious blood, we have trusted in him as our atoning sacrifice, and by faith we have received full pardon through his precious blood." Happy people who have this blessing and know it! May no doubts ever becloud your sky! May you clearly read your titles to the mansions in the skies, written legibly and indelibly in the precious blood of Jesus Christ your Savior. You are the persons to whom we speak to-day; you know, and therefore love the salvation of God.
But, more than this, to sustain and bring to perfection in the renewed heart an ardent affection towards the divine salvation of a sort that will continue, and become practically fruitful, there must be an intelligent consideration, and an instructed apprehension as to the character of this salvation. It is a great pity that so many professors have only a religion of feeling, and are quite unable to explain and justify their faith. They live by passion, rather than by principle. Religion is in them a series of paroxysms, a succession of emotions. They were stirred up at a certain meeting, excited, and carried away, and let us hope they were really and sincerely converted: but they have failed to become to the fullest extent disciples or learners. They do not sit at Jesus' feet, they are not Bereans who search the Scriptures daily to see whether these things be so: they are content with the mere rudiments, the simple elements: they are still little children and have need to be fed with milk, for they cannot digest the strong meat of the kingdom. Such persons do not discern so many reasons for admiring and loving the salvation of God, as the intelligent enlightened Spirit-taught believer. I would to God that all of us, after we have received Christ, meditated much upon his blessed person, and the details of his work, and the various streams of blessings which leap forth from the central fount of Calvary's sacrifice. All Scripture is profitable, but especially those Scriptures which concern our salvation. Some things lose by observation, they are most wondered at when least understood; but the gospel gains by study: no man is ever wearied in meditating upon it, nor does he find his admiration diminished, but abundantly increased. Blessed is he who studies the gospel both day and night, and finds his heart's delight in it. Such a man will have a steadier and intenser affection for it, in proportion as he perceives its excellence and surpassing glory. The man who receives the gospel superficially, and holds it as a matter of impression and little more, being quite unable to give a reason for the hope that is in him, lacks that which would confirm and intensify his love.
Now, let me show you, beloved, what it is in salvation that the thoughtful believer loves; and I may begin by saying that he loves, best of all, the Savior himself. Often our Lord is called Salvation, because he is the great worker of it, the author and finisher, the Alpha and the Omega of it. He who has Christ has salvation; and, as he is the essence of salvation, he is the center of the saved ones' affection. Have you, beloved, carefully considered that Jesus is divine, that he counts it not robbery to be equal with God, being our Creator and Preserver, as well as our Redeemer? Do you fully understand that our Lord is infinite, eternal, nothing less than God; and yet for our sakes he took upon himself our nature, was clothed in that nature with all its infirmities, sin alone excepted, and in that nature agonized, bled, and died, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. Oh, marvel of marvels, miracle of miracles! The immortal Lord stoops to death; the Prince of glory bows to be spit upon. Shame and dishonor could not make him start back from his blessed purpose, but to the death of the cross he surrendered himself. O, you who are saved, do you not love Christ, who is your salvation? Do you not feel a burning desire to behold him as he is? Is not his presence, even now, a nether heaven to you? Will not a face to face view of his glory be all the heaven that your utmost stretch of imagination can conceive? I know it is so. Your heart is bound to Jesus, his name is set as a seal upon it; therefore, I charge you to say continually, "Let God be magnified." Glory be to the Father who gave his Son, to the Son who gave himself, to the Spirit who revealed all this to us. Triune God, be thou extolled for ever and ever.
But you love not only the Savior's person, but I am sure you delight in the plan of salvation. What is that plan? It is summed up in a single word—substitution.
"He bore, that we might never bear,
His Father's righteous ire."
Sin was not pardoned absolutely, else justice had been dishonored; but sin was transferred from the guilty to the innocent One. "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." When our iniquity was found upon the innocent Lamb of God, he was "smitten of God and afflicted," as if he had been a sinner; he was made to suffer for transgressions not his own, as if they had been his own; and thus mercy and justice met together, righteousness and grace kissed each other. Alas! there are many who fight against this plan, but I rejoice that I am surrounded by warm hearts who love it, and would die for it. As for me, I know no other gospel, and let this tongue be dumb rather than it should ever preach any other. Substitution is the very marrow of the whole Bible, the soul of salvation, the essence of the gospel; we ought to saturate all our sermons with it, for it is the life-blood of a gospel ministry. We must daily show how God the Judge can be "just, and yet the justifier of him that believeth." We must declare that God has made the Redeemer's soul a sacrifice for sin, making him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. Our plain testimony must be, that "he was made a curse for us;" that "he his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree;" that "he was once offered to bear the sins of many;" and that "he was numbered with the transgressors, and he bare the sin of many." About this we must never speak with bated breath, lest we be found unfaithful to our charge. And why, brethren, should we not joyfully proclaim this doctrine? for is it not the grandest, noblest, most divine, under heaven. The plan so adorns all the attributes of the Godhead, and furnishes such a safe footing for a trembling conscience to rest upon, such a fortress, castle, and high tower for faith to rejoice in, that we cannot do otherwise than love it. The very way and plan of it is dearer to our souls than life itself. Oh, then let us always say, "Let God be magnified," since he devised, arranged, and carried out this Godlike method of blending justice with mercy.
But, beloved, we also love God's salvation when we consider what was the object of it. The object of it towards us was to redeem unto Christ a people who should be zealous for good works. The sinner loves a salvation from hell, the saint loves a salvation from sin. Anybody would desire to be saved from the pit, but it is only a child of God who pants to be saved from every false way. We love the salvation of God because it saves us from selfishness, from pride, from lust, from worldliness, bitterness, malice, sloth, and uncleanness. When that salvation is completed in us we shall be "without spot or wrinkle or any such thing," and shall be renewed in holiness after the image of Christ Jesus our Lord. That its great aim is our perfection in holiness is the main beauty of salvation. We would be content to be poor, but we cannot be content to be sinful; we could be resigned to sickness, but we could not be satisfied to remain in alienation from God. We long for perfection and nothing short of it will content us, and, because this is guaranteed to the believer in the gospel of Christ, we love his salvation, and we would say continually, "Let God be magnified."
I might thus enlarge upon every part of this salvation, and say that it endears itself to us under every aspect, and from every point of view.
We love his salvation because of one or two characteristics in it which especially excite our delight. Foremost is the matchless love displayed in it. Why should the Lord have loved men, such insignificant creatures as they are, compared with the universe? Why should he set his heart upon such nothings? But more, how could he love rebellious men who have wantonly and arrogantly broken his laws? Why should he love them so much as to give up his only begotten? These are things we freely speak of, but who among us knows what is their weight. "God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." I believe that even in heaven, with enlarged faculties, it will be a subject of perpetual wonder to us that ever God could love and save us. And shall we not love the salvation which wells up from the deep fount of the Father's everlasting affection? O brethren, our hearts must be harder than adamant, and made of hell-hardened steel, if we can at once believe that we are saved and yet not love, intensely love the salvation which was devised by Jehovah's heart.
We love his salvation, again, because, in addition to the display of wondrous love, it is so safe a salvation, so real, so true: we have not given heed to cunningly devised fables; we have not chanced our souls upon a fiction. We run no risk when we trust the Savior. Though one of our hymns puts it:—
"Venture on Him, venture wholly,
Let no other trust intrude."
This is only a condescension to the feelings of trembling unbelievers, for there is no venture in it; it is sure and certain. Did God lay on Christ my sin? Was it really punished in him? Then there cannot exist a reason why I should be condemned, but there are ten thousand arguments why I should for ever be "accepted in the beloved." "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." Substitution is a basis for intelligent confidence; it satisfies both the demand of the law and the fears of conscience; and gives to believers a deep, settled, substantial peace, which cannot be broken. We love this salvation because we feel that it places a foundation of granite beneath our feet instead of the quicksand of human merit. Justice being satisfied is as much our friend as even mercy herself; in fact, all the attributes unite to guarantee our safety.
We love God's salvation, too, because it is so complete. Nothing remains unfinished which is necessary to remove sin from the believer and give him righteousness before God. As far as atonement for sin is concerned, the expiation is most gloriously complete. Remember that remarkable expression of the apostle, where he describes the priests as continually standing at the altar, offering sacrifice year by year, and even day by day, because atonement by such means could never be finished. Such sacrifices could never take away sin; therefore must they be perpetually offered, and the priest must always stand at the altar. "But," saith the apostle, "this man (our great Melchisedec), after he had offered one sacrifice for sin for ever, sat down (for the work was accomplished), sat down at the right hand of God." Jesus has performed what the Aaronic priesthood, in long succession, had failed to do. Though streams of blood might flow from bullock, and from goat, like Kishon's mighty river, and though incense might smoke till the pile thereof was high as Lebanon, with all her goodly cedars, what was there in all this to make propitiation for sin? The work was but shadowed, the real expiation was not offered; it was a fair picture, but the substance itself was not there. But, when our Divine Lord went up to Calvary, and on the cross gave up his body, his soul, his spirit, a sacrifice for sin, he finished transgression, made an end of sin, and brought in everlasting righteousness. Herein, my brethren, we have strong consolation, the immutable things wherein it is impossible for God to lie, his word and oath, are our immovable security. By the atonement we are infallibly, effectually, eternally saved, for he has become the "author of eternal salvation, unto all them that obey him." How we love this salvation! Our inmost heart rejoices in it! I rejoice to preach it, brethren, and I delight to muse upon it, appropriating it to myself by faith in solitary thought. How it makes the tears stream down one's cheeks with joy, to think "He loved me, and gave himself for me: he took my sins, and he destroyed them, they have ceased to be, they are annihilated, they are blotted out like a cloud, and like a thick cloud have they vanished." Surely, we should have lost sanity, as well as grace, if we did not love this salvation, beyond the choicest joys of earth.
II. Thus I have described the character, and now, secondly, we will meditate on THE SAYING. Every nation has its idiom, every language has its shibboleth, almost every district has its proverb. Behold the idiom of gracious souls, listen to their household word, their common proverb,—it is this, "Let God be magnified! Let God be magnified!"
Let us proceed at once to the consideration of it, I trust it belongs to us, it certainly does if we love his salvation.
Observe that this is a saying which is founded upon truth and justice. "Let God be magnified," for it is he that saved us, and not we ourselves. We trace our salvation not to our ministers, nor to any pretentious priesthood. None can divide the honors of grace, for the Lord alone hath turned our captivity. He decreed our salvation, planned it, arranged it, executed it, applied it, and secures it. From beginning to end salvation is of the Lord, therefore, let God be magnified. Moreover, the Lord wrought salvation that he might be magnified thereby. It was God's object in salvation to glorify his own name. "Not for your sakes do I this, O house of Israel." Truly we desire that the Lord's end and purpose should be fully subserved, for it is his well-deserved due. O thou who hast bled upon the cross, may thy throne be glorious! O thou who wast despised and rejected of men, be thou extolled, and be thou very high. Thou deservest all glory, great and merciful God. Such a gift, such a sacrifice, such a work; thou oughtest indeed to be lauded and had in honour by all the intelligent universe. The saying is settled deep in truth, and established in right.
This saying is naturally suggested by love. It is because we love his salvation that we say, "The Lord be magnified." You cannot love God without desiring to magnify him, and I am sure that you cannot know that you are saved without loving him. For here is a wonder, a central wonder of wonders to many of us, that ever we in particular were saved. I do not think I could be so wonder-struck and amazed at the salvation of you all as at my own. I should know it to be infinite mercy that saved any one of you, or all of you, I say I should know it, but in my own case I feel it is an unspeakable and inconceivably great mercy which has saved me; and I suppose each brother here, each sister here will feel a special love to Christ from the fact of being himself or herself an object of his love. We never sing, I am sure, with warmer hearts any hymn in our hymn-book than that one—
"What was there in us that could merit esteem,
Or give the Creator delight?
Twas even so Father, we ever must sing,
For so it seemed good in thy sight."
The Lord might have left as he has left others to carry out their own wills, and wilfully to reject the Savior, but since he has made us willing in the day of his power, we are for ever beyond measure under obligations to him. Let us say continually, "The Lord be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servants."
Moreover, this saying of our text is deeply sincere and practical. I am sure David did not wish to see hypocrites multiplied; but such would be the case if men merely said, "Let God be magnified," and did not mean it. No doubt there is a great deal among professors of mere expression without meaning; it is sadly evident that much godly talk is only talk, but it ought not so to be. You know, how often charity is assumed, and men say to the naked and hungry, "Be ye warmed, and be ye filled;" but they give nothing to the poor, except vain words, which cannot profit them. So, too, often professors will sing:—
"Fly abroad, thou mighty gospel,
Win and conquer, never cease;
May thy lasting wide dominion
Multiply and still increase."
and so on; but there it ends; they have said it, but they have done nothing for it. Now, as he is condemned as a hypocrite who merely utters words of charity without deeds, so is he who shall say, "Let God be magnified," but who does not put forth his hand and throw in all his energies to promote that which he professes to desire. The wish must be, and oh! if we are saved by grace, it will be sincere, intense, and fervent in every believing heart.
Moreover, it must not only be sincere, but it must be paramount. I take it that there is nothing which a Christian man should say continually, except this, "Let God be magnified." That which a man may say continually is assuredly the master-thought of his mind. Listen to the cherubim and seraphim; they continually do cry, "Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord God of Hosts!" Why cry they thus continually? Is it not because it is their chief business, their highest delight? So should it be with us; our end and aim should ever be to glorify him who redeemed us by his most precious blood. You are a citizen, but you are more a Christian. You are a father, but you are more a child of God. You are a laborer, but you are most of all a servant of the Most High. You are wealthy, but yet more enriched by his covenant. You are poor, but you are most emphatically rich if Christ is yours. The first, chief, leading, lordly, master-thought within you must be this, "Let God be magnified."
And, brethren, the text tells us this must be continual. How earnest you feel about the cause of Christ when you have heard an inspiriting sermon, but how long does it last? Ah, those old days of mission enterprise, when Exeter Hall used to be crowded because missionaries had interesting stories to tell of what God was doing—what enthusiasm there used to be—where is it now? Where is it now? Echo might well answer "where is it now?" To a great degree it has departed. The zeal of many rises and falls like a barometer. They are hot as fire, and cold as ice, in the shortest space; their fervor is as transient as the flame of thorns, and hence it is very hard to turn it to any practical account. Oh, for more of the deep-seated principle of intense love to God's salvation, steady and abiding, which shall make a man say continually, "Let God be magnified." We would desire to wake up in the morning with this on our lips. We would begin with the enquiry, "What can I do to magnify God this day?" We would be in business in the middle of the day, and yet never lose the one desire to magnify God. We would return to our family at night, urged by the same impulse, "How can I magnify God in my household?" If I lie sick, I would feel that I must magnify God by patience; if I rise from that bed, I would feel the sweet obligation to magnify him by gratitude; if I take a prominent position, I am doubly bound to magnify him who makes me a leader to his dock, and, if I be unknown and obscure in the church, I must with equal zeal magnify him by a conscientious discharge of the duties of my position. Oh, to have one end always before us, and to press forward towards it, neither turning to the right hand nor to the left. As though we were balls shot out of a rifled cannon we would rush on, never hesitating or turning aside, but flying with all speed towards the center of the target. May our spirits be impelled by a divine energy towards this one only thing. The Lord be magnified! whether I live or die, may God be glorified in me!
According to the text, this saying should be universal among the saints. It should be the mark of all those that love God's salvation, pertaining not to a few who shall be chosen to minister in public, but to all those whom grace has renewed. All of us, women as well as men, illiterate as well as learned, poor as well as rich, silent as well as eloquent, should after our own ability say, "Let God be magnified." Oh, would to God we were all stirred up to this! Our churches seem to be half alive. It is a dreadful thing to read of the punishment practiced by ancient tyrants when they tied a living man to a corpse, and he had to go about with this corpse strapped to him, and rotting under his nostrils, and yet that is too often the condition of the living ones in our churches: they are bound by ties of church union to a portion of the church which is spiritually dead, though not so manifestly corrupt as to render it possible for us to cut it off. The tares, which we may not root up, hamper and dwarf the wheat. O God, the Holy Ghost, make the church alive right through, from the crown of its head to the sole of its foot, so that the whole church may cry continually, "Let God be magnified."
You will notice that the cry is an absolute one. It does not say, let God be magnified by me if he will please to make me successful in business, and happy, and healthy, but it leaves it open. Only let God be magnified, and he may do what he wills with me. As a poor soldier in the regiment of Christ, I only care for this that HE may win the day, and if I see him riding on his white horse and know that he is conquering, though I lie bleeding and wounded in a ditch, I will clap my hands and say, "Blessed be the name of the Lord." Though I be poor, and despised, and reproached, this shall compensate for all, if I can only hear that "him hath God highly exalted, and given him a name that is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." I would close my eyes in death, and say, my soul is satisfied with favor and hath all she wants if Jesus be exalted. Remember how David put it: when he had said "Let the whole earth be filled with his glory," he added, "Amen and amen. The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended." He desired no more than that; that was the ultimatum of his wishes. Beloved, I trust it is the same with us.
Nor is there any limit as to place or persons. My heart says, "Let God be magnified among the Wesleyans! The Lord be magnified among the Independents! The Lord be magnified among the Episcopalians! The Lord be magnified among the Baptists!" We pray very earnestly, "Let God be magnified in the Tabernacle," but we would not forget to cry, "Let God be magnified in all parts of London, in all counties of England, and Scotland, and Ireland." We desire no restriction as to race—let God be magnified both in France and in Prussia; in Turkey and in Italy; in the United States and in Australia; among any and every people! So that God's name be magnified, what matters it how or where? We know no politics but this, "Let God be magnified." All nationalities sink before our relation to our God. Christians are cosmopolitan; we are burgesses of the New Jerusalem—there is our citizenship; we are freemen of the entire new creation. What is all else to God's glory! So long as the Lord is glorified, let the empires go and the emperors with them; let nations rise or fall, so long as he comes whose right it is to reign; let ancient dynasties pass away, if his throne is but exalted. We would never dictate to the God of history; let him write out as he pleases the stanzas of his own august poem, but let this always be the close of every verse, "The Lord be magnified! The Lord be magnified! The Lord be magnified!" This is the continual saying of all them that love his salvation.
III. We had much to say under our second head, but time will not tarry for us; therefore we must proceed to the last, which is THE WISH. Holy David, and David's perfect Lord both wish that we may say, "Let God be magnified." This wish is promoted by an anxiety for God's glory; it is a most holy wish, and it ought to be fulfilled. I shall ask your attention only for a minute or two to the reasons of the wish. Why should it be wished?
First, because it always ought to be said, "Let God be magnified." It is only right, and according to the fitness of things, that God should be magnified in the world which he himself created. Such a handiwork deserves admiration from all who behold it. But when he new-made the world, and especially when he laid the foundation of his new palace in the fair colors of Jesus' blood, and adorned it with the sapphires of grace and truth; he had a double claim upon our praise. He gave his Son to redeem us, and for this let his praise be great and endless. Things are out of joint if God the Redeemer be not glorified. Surely the wheels of nature revolve amiss, if God the loving and gracious be not greatly magnified. As every right-hearted man desires to see right and justice done, therefore does he wish that those who love God's salvation may say continually, "Let God be magnified."
But, we wish it next, because it always needs saying. The world is dull and sleepy, and utterly indifferent to the glory of God in the work of redemption. We need to tell it over and over and over again, that God is great in the salvation of his people. There are many, Who will rise up and deny God's Glory; revilers of all sorts abound in rage; but over and above their clamor, let the voice of truth be heard, "Let God be magnified." They cry, "the Bible is worn out." They doubt its inspiration, they question the deity of Christ, they set up new gods that have lately come up, that our fathers knew not. Let us confront them with the truth, let us oppose them with the gospel, let us overcome them through the blood of the Lamb, using this one only war-cry, "Let God be magnified." Everywhere in answer to all blasphemy, in direct conflict with profanity, let us lift up this voice with heart and soul. "Let God be magnified."
And, again, we desire this, because the saying of this continually does good to the sayers. He who blesses God blesses himself. We cannot serve God with the heart without serving ourselves most practically. Nothing, brethren, is more for your benefit than to spend and be spent for the promotion of the divine honor.
Then, again, this promotes the welfare of God's creatures. We ought to desire to spread the knowledge of God, because the dark places of the earth will never cease to be the habitation of cruelty till they become the temple of the Lord of hosts. Myriads are dying, while we are sitting complacently here souls are passing into eternity unforgiven. The wrath of God is abiding still upon the sons of men, for they know not Christ. What stronger motive could there be for desiring that God's name should continually be magnified. I have been told, and I believe it is the general impression, that at this particular time there is a great cessation of the zealous spirit which once ruled among Christians. We have passed over the heroic age, the golden period of missions, and we have come to the time in which the church rests upon her oars, takes matters quietly, what if I say regards them hopelessly? Very few young men are now coming forward, at least in our denomination, to offer themselves for missionaries; the funds are barely sustained and nothing more. I fear there is among those who conduct the affairs of missions too little of faith, and too much of bastard prudence, which last had better be banished to the bottomless pit at once, for it has long been the clog upon the chariot wheels of the gospel. Faith is too much cast into the background, and the work is viewed in a mercantile light, as though it were a rule of three sum—so much money and so many men, and then so many conversions, whereas it is not so. God worketh not according to arithmetical rules and calculations. There is, I fear, on the whole, a general backsliding from the right state; and what a sad thing it is that it should be so, since at our best we were never too zealous. Few can bring the charge of fanaticism against the English Baptists: we have been too solid, if not stolid, for that. I almost wish it were possible for us to err in that direction, for if an evil it would at any rate be a novelty, if not an improvement.
Why is this, and whence comes it? Years ago our fathers compassed this Jericho, they passed round it according to the Master's bidding, and are we about, after having done the same these many years, to relinquish the task, and lose the result? Do we fear that the walls will never fall to the ground? Brethren, I believe it is the duty of the Christian church to go on working quite as earnestly and zealously and believingly, if there be no conversions, as if half the world were transformed in a twelve month. Our business is not to create a harvest but to sow the seed; if the wheat does not come up, if we have sown it aright, our Master does not hold us responsible. If missions had been an utter failure it would be no sort of reason why we should give them up. There was a great failure when the hosts of Israel, on the first occasion, went round Jericho; a dreadful failure when they marched round the city twice, and the walls shook not; it was an aggravated failure when they had compassed it four times; it was a most discouraging defeat when they had tramped round it five times; and, on the whole, a breakdown, almost enough to drive them to despair, when they had performed the circuit six times and not a single brick had stirred in the wall. Yes; but then the seventh day made amends, when the people shouted and all the walls fell flat to the ground. Brethren, it is not yet time to shout, but we must continue marching and say, "Let God be magnified." The longer the walls stand, and the longer we wait, the louder will be our shout when they lie prostrate before us, as they shall; for, "Verily, verily, I say unto you there shall not be one stone left upon another that shall not be cast down." Remember the Greeks when they attacked old Troy: ye have the record in ancient story. They waited many years till their ships had well nigh rotted on the seas, but the prowess of Hector and the armed men of Troy kept back the "King of men," and all the hosts of the avengers. Suppose that after nine years had dragged along their weary length, the chiefs of the Greeks had said, "It is of no avail, the city is impregnable! O Pelasgi, back to your fair lands washed by the blue Aegean, you will never subdue the valor of Ilium." No; but they persevered in the weary siege, with feats of strength and schemes of art, till at last they saw the city burned and heard the dire lament: "Troy was, but is no more"
Let us still continue to attack the adversary. We are few, but strength lies not in numbers. The Eternal One has used the few where he has put aside the many. In our weakness lies part of our adaptation to the divine work; only let us gather up fresh faith, and renew our courage and industry, and we shall see greater things than these. "Pshaw," says one, "Protestant Christianity is in a miserable minority, it is ridiculous to suppose it will ever be the dominant religion of the world." We reply, that it is ridiculous, nay blasphemous, to doubt when God has sworn with an oath that "all flesh shall see the salvation of God." God's oath is better evidence than appearances; for, in a moment, if he wills it, he can give such an impetus to the Christian church, that she shall in her enthusiasm spread the gospel, and at the same time he can give such a turn to the human mind, that it shall be as ready to accept the gospel as the church is to spread it. Observe how the church grew during the first few centuries. After the apostles had died you do not find in the next century the name of any very remarkable man, but all Christians then were earnest, and the good cause advanced. They were mostly poor, they were generally illiterate, but they were all missionaries, they were all seeking to glorify God, and, consequently, before long, down went Jupiter, Saturn lost his throne, even Venus was abjured, and the cross, at least nominally, became supreme throughout all Europe. It shall be done again. In the name of the Eternal, let us set up our banners. Oh, ye that love the Lord and his salvation, vow it in your souls, determine it in your hearts, and, God the Holy Spirit being with you, if you have but faith in him, it will be no empty boast, no vain vaunting. God shall speak and it shall be done. The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge; and such being the case, nothing is impossible to us.
May the Lord stir us up with these thoughts, and fling us like firebrands into the midst of his church and the world, to set both on a blaze with love through the love that burns in our hearts. "Let God be magnified." Amen and Amen.