The Essence of Simplicity
“Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when ho had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?” — John ix. 35, 36.
THIS text is from the story of the blind man to whom Jesus had given sight. His narrative of the cure provoked the anger of the Jews and their rulers; and, as the man could not be brought to see with them that one who had opened his eyes could also be a bad man, they cast him out of their assembly, and by that act signified to him that he would be, or already was, cast out of the Jewish Church, set aside from the synagogue, and made the victim of the greater excommunication. This was one of the most fearful calamities that could befall a Jew, and I do not doubt but what the man considered it to be so. Now, it is not at all likely that any person here is feeling the same trouble, but many may be suffering from something similar. It may be that you have excommunicated yourselves. Within the court of your own bosom conscience has held a solemn court, and pronounced upon you a sentence which continually rings in your ears. You scarcely dare mingle with those who assemble in the house of God, for you feel yourselves unworthy to be among them. Up till lately you were upon the best of terms with yourselves, and reckoned that all was right with God. You hoped that you stood on as good a footing, at any rate, as other men, and perhaps were somewhat better than many around you; but now a process of enlightenment has come over your mind— practices have been seen to be seriously evil which before were regarded as trifles, and Bin itself has worn another aspect than any which it bore in former times. Does such a person stand here this morning? Then let me assure him that his state of mind is well known to me, for I knew its horrors by the space of many months together. I, too, felt that I was cut off from the congregation of the hopeful, and must not hope for mercy from God. I dared not lift so much as mine eyes towards heaven, but complained to the Lord as Jonah did — “I am shut out of thy sight.” Hence with brotherly sympathy I speak to any man who reckons himself a castaway, shut out from the house of the Lord.
The man in the narrative, most happily for him, at the time when the sentence began to cast its gloom over him, was met by the Lord Jesus Christ, who at once proceeded to afford him the necessary cordial. Christ has come as the consolation of Israel, and where he finds that men are burdened in spirit he commences his gracious work: but, observe, he brings but one cordial, and prescribes but one way by which its efficacy can be realised. He spoke to the oppressed man concerning the Son of God and personal faith in him, for this is the master-consolation for broken hearts, this is the surest and best means of bringing joy to souls which sit in the dungeons of despondency. Our Lord began by saying to the cast-out one, “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” Now, if any here present are in the state which I have thus hurriedly sketched, feeling themselves guilty before God, with spirits ill at ease, with hearts alarmed at coming and deserved judgment, I would come in Christ’s name to them this morning with words of comfort, but they will be no other than those which Jesus uttered of old. I have nothing to speak to you by way of comfort but concerning the Son of God, and concerning him only, by demanding that ye believe on him, for only as you receive him by faith will he be to you a relief from sorrow. He that believeth on the Lord Jesus shall not be ashamed, but without faith you are without salvation.
We shall this morning labour to bring you all to the point in hand. There shall be between the doctrine of the gospel and your soul this morning, O thou who art not yet a believer, a direct encounter. Thou shalt come up this morning and face the gospel, whether thou spurn it or accept it. Thou shalt know, if the plainest words can tell it thee, that if thou believest in Christ Jesus thou shalt be saved, and it shall be put to thee whether thou wilt do this or not, and thou shalt either believe on the Son of God or incur anew the sin of putting from thee the only name given under heaven among men whereby thou canst be saved. I say thou shalt be brought to this if words can bring thee to it, and then I must leave the work of deciding you in the hands of God the Holy Ghost. I entreat you who love the Lord, and have prevalence in prayer, to aid me with your supplications, that the result of bringing the sinner face to face with the gospel may be that he may decide to believe in Jesus, that faith may be given him, that the Son of God may become the object of his soul’s confidence, and that in no case the hearer may be left to continue in unbelief, and to reject the Son of God. You have seen at the mouth of the coal pits how the full wagons as they run down the incline draw the empty ones up to the pit’s mouth that they also may be filled: I would to God that you who have grace may exert the power God has given you with himself; and so by prevalent intercession you may draw others to the Saviour. While we are preaching do you be praying, and God will work by us both. Look upon the unsaved around you with an eye of pity, then look to Christ, your exalted Saviour, with the eye of faith, and say to him, “Jesu, thou who hast redeemed myriads by thy blood, now work by thine eternal Spirit, and redeem also by power. Let the Spirit that rested on thine own ministry, the Spirit that was with thy servants at Pentecost, the Spirit that has converted ns also to thy truth, work mightily among the congregation this morning, that all these may be led to obey thee. When thy cross is lifted high, let it bring life to the dead throughout the camp, and be to the awakened a lighthouse of safety, to the despairing a pillar of hope”
I. The run of our discourse this morning being solemnly practical, we shall, in the most distinct manner, lay down and define THE MATTER IN HAND. With thee, my anxious friend, the greatest and weightiest business that can concern thee is that thou find salvation. Thou hast it not at present, thy conscience tells thee that; and though thou art well aware that thou must obtain it, or be for ever lost, yet thou hast as yet but small prospect of ever finding it. Thou hast sinned, and punishment awaits thee; neither canst thou escape! The point above all points with thee is that thou be saved, and if thou be really awakened thou desirest to be saved from sin as well as from its punishment; thou wouldst not only escape from the consequences of doing wrong, but from the propensity to do wrong; from the constant power and defilement of past sin, and from the tendency to sin again. Thou desirest also to be forgiven, and by forgiveness to be set clear from the anger of a justly offended God, and to be rendered acceptable to the Most High; and if thou be in thy right mind thou desirest that all this should be done really and truly, not in pretence or fiction, but in deed and in truth. God forbid that thou shouldst ever be content with the name of being saved, with an external and professional salvation of outward rites and ceremonies, while your heart remains unpurified and your nature uncleansed. In some other departments we may be deceived and not be very great losers, but in soul matters we must make all things sure; for if we are deceived there, it is all over with us indeed. Let me be cheated with base metal instead of gold, if you will, but not with falsehoods in the place of saving truth, or deceptive notions in lieu of gracious operations. Let me be deceived as to the food I eat, and find every morsel of it adulterated, if so it must be; but not in the life-bread eternal, which my soul craves after. Be true to my soul, if all else be a lie!
Do you, my hearer, desire salvation from the power and guilt of sin, and do you desire it to be thorough and real? Do you not also long for it now? If God has at all quickened you, you long to be saved at once, and tremble at the idea of delay. Sin is bitter to you now, it is a present plague. The matter before us now is present salvation, personal salvation to be realised for your own self. If there be such a thing as looking up to the smiling face of a reconciled Father in heaven, you desire to enjoy it now: if it be possible for the load of sin to be rolled from off a mortal’s shoulders for ever, you desire to be quit of that burden at this instant: if there be, indeed, a fountain in which, if a man be washed, every stain shall disappear, you long to plunge beneath its cleansing flood at once, and be made whiter than the driven snow. If your soul is so far awakened I bless God indeed, for there is nothing beneath the sun— and, indeed, there is nothing above it— that can rival in importance your soul’s salvation.
Now the matter which I must press upon you is this. If you are ever to be saved, God has declared that salvation must come to you as a gift of his grace, as an act of his free favour, and can only be received by you through your believing in his Son. As Christ consoled the man in the temple by saying to him, “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” so to-day there is no consolation, much less salvation for thee, except through believing in God’s own Son. A hundred times have you heard the story of God’s only begotten Son, who is the lover of men’s souls; but we must tell it you yet again. God will not save men on the ground of their merits; indeed, if they have any merits they do not require saving. If God owes you anything, produce the account and you shall have it. If there be any obligations on God’s part towards you, say what they are, and if they can be proved to exist, God will never give you less than you can justly claim. Alas! my friend, if you are lodged where you deserve to be, where will it be but in the pit of hell? It were well for you then to have done with all claims and demands. God will only save you as a guilty person who deserves to be destroyed, but whom he saves because he chooses to save him — because he resolves to manifest in him the abundance of his mercy. “By grace are ye saved,” is the immutable purpose of heaven; and it is further decreed, that this grace shall be received by men through the channel of faith, and by that channel only. God will save only those who trust in his Son. Jesus Christ the Lord came into this world and took upon himself our nature, as we taught you last Sabbath Day, and being found in fashion as a man, he took the transgressor’s place; the transgressions of his people were numbered upon him, imputed to him, charged to his account, and he suffered for them as if they had been his own sins. He was scourged, tormented, crucified, and slain; the stripes he bore were the chastisments due to human sin, and the death he endured was the death threatened to transgressors; and now, whosoever will trust in Jesus shall participate in the result of all the Redeemer’s substitutionary agonies, and the case shall stand thus — the sufferings of Christ shall be instead of the believer’s suffering, and the merits of Christ shall be instead of the obedience which man ought to have rendered. Faith in Jesus makes us righteous through the righteousness of another; it causes us to be accepted in the Beloved, perfect in Christ Jesus. As by the first Adam we fell, so by the second Adam we rise again. Now the way to partake in the benefits of the death of the Lord Jesus is simply by believing in him. Here let it be understood that believing in Jesus is not a mysterious and complex action. It does not require a week to explain what faith is. Faith believes what God has revealed concerning Christ, and it therefore trusts in Christ as the divinely-appointed Saviour. I believe that Jesus was God’s Son, that God sent him into the world to save sinners, that to do so he became a substitute to justice for all those who trust him, and, as I trust him, I know that he was my substitute and that I am clear before God. Since Jesus died for me, God’s justice cannot put me to eternal death for whom Jesus my substitute has died; God’s truth cannot demand a second time the debt which has already been fully paid on my behalf. The rationale of the whole thing is as plain as possible, and whoever in this world, old or young, Jew or Gentile, literate or illiterate, rich or poor, debauched or moral, will trust in Jesus shall be saved— nay he is saved the moment he does so; but whosoever of woman born refuses to trust m Jesus is condemned already, because he hath not believed on the Son of God. Let a man’s character be what it may, if in that character there be no faith, he is a lost soul; but on the other hand, let that character have been what it may, if now he cometh to the cross and believeth in Jesus, he beginneth from that moment a new life; God will give to him all the graces and excellencies of character which will adorn his faith, and his faith shall save him. Trusting in Jesus, believing in Jesus, that is the matter. I want to bring my hammer down upon this anvil at every stroke, and if the Lord will be pleased to place before me some heart that he has melted in the furnace of conviction, the strokes will tell, if the Eternal God will lay to his almighty arm and smite with energy divine. If any soul be but brought to faith in Jesus the work is done; to believe in the Son of God is the point, and nothing else.
II. This being the matter in hand, we will make an advance, in the second place, to notice that there is A QUESTION IN OUR TEXT WHICH INVOLVES THE WHOLE BASIS OF FAITH. The man said to Jesus, “Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?” This man all through the narrative proves himself to be a very shrewd fellow. I do not know that holy Scripture gives us an instance of a more common-sense man than this man whose eyes were opened; and so, when he is told that he must believe in the Son of God, he comes to the point at once, and says, “Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?” as if that was all he wanted to know — “Who is he?” and then the faith would surely come. When a soul is seeking faith, this question is the main point; the hinge of the whole matter lies there. This man did not say, “Lord, who am I that I should believe?”— not at all; that would have been wide of the point. If I read a story in the newspapers, about the truthfulness of which there is a question, I do not begin asking what my own character is, as though that had anything to do with it, but I ask who the authority for the story may be. I do not look within, but I look to the person claiming belief. The story is true or not, whatever I may be. My character does not concern the truth or falsehood of the statement, I must enquire into the statement itself. So this man did not make any remarks about what he might have been or might still be, but he hung the issue on this nail— “Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?” So now, dear hearer, all the arguments for thy faith lie within the compass of that question, “Who is he, Lord, that I should believe in him?” Thou needest not say, “Who am I that I should believe? I have lived a life that has been defiled with sin; I have gone from one transgression to another; I have resisted conscience; I have stood out against the gospel; I have defiled myself by sins against light and knowledge.” It mattereth not. There thou standest, with all thy defilement taken for granted, and God says to thee, “Whosoever believeth on the Lord Jesus Christ hath everlasting life.” That is the saving matter; that, and nothing more nor less. Wilt thou believe in the Lord Jesus or not? What thou art is nothing to the point. If God’s witness be true, it is true whether thou be black or white, whether thou be a big sinner or a little sinner; and if it be false it will not be any the truer, whether you be good or bad, worthy or unworthy. If Jesus be able to save he ought to be trusted: and if he be not able none ought to rely upon him— the whole question turns on that.
Neither raise any quibbles as to your present condition. You say, “But I at this moment feel myself so hard of heart; I cannot weep as some can; repentance is hid from my eyes; prayer is heavy, groaning work with me; even while I am listening to the gospel this morning my attention is not riveted as it ought to be upon the truth which I know to be vital; I am destitute of every good point; I am empty of everything that can recommend me to mercy.” I answer, what of that? Suppose I tell a man that the sum of ten thousand pounds has been left him in a will, is it anything to the point if he shows me his rags, his empty cupboard, and his wretched bed? Does his poverty make me a liar? Why does the man introduce such extraneous matter into the good news? Either it is true or it is not; his condition has nothing to do with the truth or falsehood of my declaration. If the man were wrapped in scarlet and fine linen, that would not make my statement any the truer; and if the dogs lick him as they did Lazarus, that does not give him a right to deny my truthfulness when I tell him a fact. So, O sinner, your condition has nothing to do with the question whether Jesus is to be trusted or not. “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Will you believe in him? Will you trust the Lord Jesus? If you desire to trust him the subject for enquiry is, “Is he worth trusting?” But it is a question far away from the point to say, “I am this,” or “I am that.” Is not this so? I appeal to your own common sense.
“But still, as to the future,” says one; “I might go back to my old sins. I cannot trust myself, I have made some reformations before, and they have been but poor ventures; my ship has gone out to sea, and foundered in the first gale; I cannot expect with such temptations as will await me, that 1 shall bear up and enter heaven.” Now, what has the question of believing in Jesus to do with thy good resolutions, or thy miserable failures? Whosoever trusts Christ shall be saved. If thou be lost trusting him in the future, God’s word will not be true. The question is, Canst thou trust Christ? and that turns on that other “is he worthy to be trusted?” No other question can be admitted for a single moment. The case is something like that of a man in yonder sea; his ship is wrecked; she is breaking to pieces; her decks have been swept; he barely retains his hold on a floating spar. See! the life-boat comes up close to his side, and is ready to take him on board. Now, if there be a question in that man’s mind about getting into that life-boat in order to be saved, the only rational one that I can conceive is, “Will the boat carry me to shore? Is she sea-worthy? Will she outlive the breakers? Can she reach the land safely?” You cannot conceive the poor fellow’s saying, “I quiver too much with ague to be rescued by that boat,” or “The sea has washed the last rag from off my back, the boat will not suit me,” or “Another time I may be wrecked on the coast of Africa, and there may be a life-boat.” No, no. Man alive, there is the boat! Is she sea-worthy? That is the question. If so, get into her. If Christ be not worth trusting, do not trust him; and if he be worthy of all confidence, then have done with idle questions and cast yourself upon him. “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John v. 9— 12).
Still, we will keep to this point— Jesus is worth trusting, worthy of the sinner’s unwavering faith. He is worth trusting, O sinner, because first of all he on whom thou art bidden to rely this day by the command of the gospel, is God himself. Thou hast offended God, and it is God who came into the world to save sinners. Against Christ thy sins were launched as arrows from a bow, but he against whom those bolts were shot has come in the fulness of his power and the infinity of his mercy to save them that believe. Canst thou not trust thyself in almighty hands— almighty to save? Is anything impossible with God? An angel could not save thee, but surely God himself can? How canst thou limit the Holy one of Israel? How canst thou set bounds to boundless love, or limits to limitless grace? If Jesus were man and not God, unbelief would have good excuse; but if the Saviour be divine, where can distrust find a cloak for itself?
I feel this morning as if I could not help believing in Christ now that I know him to be divine. Faith has grown to be a necessary act of my mind. Save me! Who shall persuade me that he cannot? Come forth ye devils with your arguments and plead with me, and ye cannot inject a doubt into my soul while I know him to be God; he can shake the heavens when he pleases and make the earth to tremble; he bears up the universe upon his shoulders; cannot he save my poor soul? Ay, that he can. “Who is he that I might believe on him?” He is divine, and therefore I believe.
But next, the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom the sinner is bidden to trust, is commissioned by God to save. He came into the world as a Saviour, not alone on his own account, but as Messiah sent of God. He has the full concurrence of the sacred Trinity. It is the will of the Father, it is the will of the Holy Spirit, as well as the will of the Son, that whosoever believeth in Jesus should be saved. He was anointed of the Lord for his peculiar work. Now, I feel as if this was a special ground for trust in him. If Christ were an amateur Saviour who had taken up the trade of saving on his own account, there might be a question; but if God has divinely commissioned him to save, O soul, why canst thou doubt any more? Warranted of God, authorised of the Eternal, O heart, rest thou in him.
Then, mark, the Lord Jesus Christ has actually done all that is necessary for him to do for the salvation of all who trust him. Years ago, before Jesus Christ came into the world, if I had been sent to preach the gospel, I must have cried “Jesus will take upon him the sins of believers and laydown his life for his church,” but now I have a more encouraging message;— Jesus has carried his people’s sins away for ever, he has suffered on their behalf all that was required to make an end of their transgressions. Whatever was demanded by the justice of God as a recompense for the injured honour of the law he has rendered. The equivalent for all the sufferings of all the elect in hell for ever Christ has suffered to the utmost: everything that was necessary that God might be just, and yet the justifier of him that believeth, Christ has endured. The cup of vengeance is not full, and to be drained; it is empty, and turned bottom upwards, Jesus has drank it dry. The labours needful for our redemption, superlatively greater than the labours of Hercules, have all been accomplished. Christ has gone into the grave, has gone out of the grave, and gone up to his glory. He has entered heaven because his work is done; and now he sits down at the right hand of the Father in the posture of rest and honour, because he has perfected for ever all those who put their trust in him. Now, soul, how canst thou refuse to believe in Jesus? To me the argument seems impossible to be resisted. If it be so, that Christ hath died, the just for the unjust, and that all who trust him shall be saved, I will also trust him, and I shall find peace through his blood.
Moreover, soul, the point we trust God’s grace is bringing thee to is this — Jesus deserves to be trusted, and trust him we will— for he is full of power to save, for he is now upon the throne, and all power is given him in heaven and in earth. He is full of power to save we know, because he is saving souls every day. Some of us are the living witnesses that he can forgive sin, for we are pardoned, accepted, and renewed in heart; and the only way in which we obtained those boons was this — we trusted him, we did nothing else but trust him. If any soul here that believes in Jesus should perish, I must perish with him. I sail in that boat, and if it sinks I have no other to fly to, I avow before you all that I have no other confidence; I have not so much as the shred of a reliance in any sacrament I have undergone or enjoyed, in any sermon I have ever preached, in any prayer I have ever prayed, in any communion with God I have ever known. My hope lies in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ; and I shake off as though it were a viper, into the fire, as a deadly thing only fit to be burned, all pretence of relying on anything I may be, or can be, or ever shall be, or do. “None but Jesus,”— this is the settled pillar upon which we must build; it will bear us up, but nothing else can. Now, since by the authority of infallible Scripture, we know that Jesus has this power, wherefore is it that souls seeking rest do not obey the command, and rest themselves freely upon him. This is the climax of human depravity, that it rejects the witness of God himself, and chooses to perish in unbelief.
Moreover, remember also that Jesus Christ this morning is by no means unwilling to save sinners, but on the contrary, he delights to do it. You have never to drag mercy out of Christ, as money from a miser, but it flows freely from him, like the stream from the fountain, or the sunlight from the sun. If he can be happier, he is made happier by giving of his mercy to the undeserving. When a poor wretch who only deserves hell, comes to him, and he says, “I have blotted out thy sins,” it is joy to Christ’s heart to do it. When a poor blasphemer bows his knee, and says, “Lord, be merciful to me a sinner,” it makes Christ’s heart glad to say, “Thy blasphemies are forgiven: I suffered for them on the tree.” When a poor little child, by her bedside, cries, “Gentle Jesus, teach a little child to pray, and forgive the sins which I have done;” the Saviour loves to say, “Suffer these little children to come to me, for this also is a part of my recompense for the wounds I endured in my hands, my feet, and my side.” When any of you come to him and confess your transgressions and trust yourselves in his hands, it will be a new heaven to him; it will put new stars into his ever bright and lustrous crown; it will make him see of the travail of his soul and give him satisfaction. Have we not here also arguments to prove that Jesus is worthy to be trusted?
III. This leads us in the third place to say, by all these answers to the question,— “Who is he? EVERY SINNER IN THIS TABERNACLE IS SHUT UP THIS MORNING TO THE ALTERNATIVE OF FAITH OR UNBELIEF. You are shut up either to trust in Christ, in whom God commands you to trust, or to refuse to trust him. I am not sent to preach to some of you this morning, but to every one who has ears to hear. I have never learned to preach a restricted gospel to a part of a congregation; the commission received by every true minister of Christ is, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature: he that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned.” As you are all creatures, the gospel is hereby preached to all of you; sensible or insensible, spiritually dead or spiritually alive, so long as you are able to hear the gospel, one message comes to you all out of the excellent glory. “Whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely.” “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” But I know what will be your course of action unless the Spirit of God prevent it. Many of you will try to decline the alternative between believing and not believing, which I have put so nakedly before you. You will not like to say, “I will not trust Christ,” and yet you will not trust in him. What, then, will you do? Why, you will ring the changes on the old bells, “But I am such a sinner. I am so unworthy!” I have already shown that the plea is not relevant and ought not to be thrust into the business. The question is one and indivisible, “Wilt thou believe on the Son of God?” Why then do you raise another question about yourself which has nothing to do with it. Yet I will take you on your own ground and answer you. Granted that you are a special and abominable sinner: then of all men in the world you are the man who should trust Christ, because it is written, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” You have been a drunkard, a fornicator, an adulterer, a thief, in fact, a devil of a man; well then, you have been a sinner;— that is all it comes to, and Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners; therefore instead of being shut out by your character, you are shut in by it. You are the sort of man that Christ came to save. You cannot run away and say, “He did not come to save me because I am not a sinner.” You dare not do that.
Very likely you will turn round upon me and say, “My reason for unbelief is that I do not feel as I should.” I again say the plea ought never to be urged. Because I feel a pain in my foot this morning, is that a reason why I should not trust in an honest man, or believe a statement which comes to me upon good authority. I will, however, take you on your own ground. You are so sinful that you are, in all respects, undeserving; well, then, Jesus came to save his people from their sins. Clearly, you are one of the very sort of persons whom he came to save, for you are full of sins. His salvation is all of grace, and since you have no good thing about you whatsoever, you are a most fit case for mercy, free mercy, great mercy! Salvation, all of grace, exactly suits you. You are an empty vessel, then it is clear you want to be filled; you are a filthy vessel, then you need washing; and Jesus proposes both to cleanse and fill. His overtures are exactly adapted to your circumstances. You are the very man for grace to bless.
“Ah, but,” says another, “I feel myself lost, utterly lost.” What! are we first to do battle with some of you because you feel too little, and then with others because they feel too much; then we must come back to our one fixed point, and remind you again that both excuses are wide of the mark, and that the one point is— will you, or will you not, believe in the Lord Jesus, whom God has set forth to be the Saviour of men? But still if you are crushed with sorrowful feelings, there are special reasons for your attending to the gospel call, since some invitations are especially directed to you, such as, “Ho everyone that thirsteth come ye to the waters,” and “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.” If there are special messages of grace for you who are somewhat awakened to a sense of need, then I entreat you, hasten to accept the testimony of God that so your souls may live.
The one question for every unconverted sinner here is, Wilt thou believe on Jesus Christ? But I hear you saying, “Well, I must do better in the future; I think after all I may perhaps, by some exertions of my own, get into a better condition.” How can you hope so? Have you not made a pretty mess of it up till now? You had better give up the vain attempt. If you have done so badly in the past, you have little encouragement to try the future. Let despair drive you to faith. The worst of your conduct is you are going clean contrary to God’s plan. God says, “I will not save you on the ground of merit, for you have none.” That is really a gracious declaration of his, for it only shuts out false hopes, since “ by the works of the law shall no flesh living be justified.” Now, if you say, “I will seek salvation on the ground of works,” you are flying in God’s face. Is this wise? I should far rather recommend you to accept at once what he so freely gives. Follow the course of action adopted by a person the other day in dealing with another. He wanted to purchase something of his brother. His brother had asked him a certain amount for it, and he said, “I will give you half.” “No,” said the brother, “sooner than take so small a price I will give it to you.” “Thank you; I will have it,” was the immediate reply. That is what I would have you do. Do not offer your petty price to God, when he is ready to give the blessing without money and without price! I never knew such fools as men are about the things of God. If they can get a good thing for nothing, all the world over they will have it without pressing, and yet they rebel against free grace. Years ago we paid twenty millions to set free the slaves in Jamaica, but before the bill was carried there were no end of objections raised in the House of Commons and elsewhere. Many persons pleaded their objections, but I never heard of a negro appearing at the bar of the house to urge objections on behalf of the slaves. No black man came forward to say that the blacks were unworthy and undeserving, neither did the slaves propose that a part of the money should be paid by themselves. O no, it is not in human nature to request others to encumber their free gifts in that fashion; yet here we are so false to all that is reasonable that wo want to encumber sovereign grace. When God says, “I will blot out your transgressions now and save you once for all; only trust my dear Son;” ’tis strange, ’tis passing strange, ’tis madness at its consummation, that men should invent objections, and plead for a gospel with conditions and hard terms.
Now, what will men do if driven out of this? I have often seen the sinner in the next place turn to downright falsehood and say, “It is too late,” though he knows right well it never can be too late; for the gospel says, “He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved.” It does not say, if he believes when he is twenty-five years of age, or thirty-five, or fifty-five, or one hundred and five, but it stands the same for all ages. It is never too late to believe a truth, and that is the point. — “Wilt thou believe on the Son of God? Then the sinner will say that he feels within himself that there is no hope, and so because he happens to believe a lie he will make out that God’s truth also is a lie, and refuse to believe that which God solemnly declares, namely, that there is salvation in Jesus Christ! But I cannot stay to mention all these falsehoods, nor indeed to run into all the subterfuges of men who seek to escape from their own mercies. I saw in Pompeii, on a shop door, the motto, “Eme et Habe bis” — “Buy and you shall have,” and I could not but think that if I were walking the streets of the New Jerusalem, I should have seen a very different device, “Come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price.” Now if there could be a shop opened in London in which all the goods were to be had without money and without price, would you quarrel with the shopkeeper, and petition for an Act of Parliament to shut his shop up, and say it was wicked, because you would rather go on the old terms and pay for all you have? Not a bit of it. Yet why is it you stand out against free grace’s golden motto, “Trust in Christ and you shall have.” Here is instantaneous pardon, perfect pardon, everlasting pardon, sonship through Christ, safety on earth, glory in heaven, and all for nothing, all for nothing;— the free gift of a gracious God to undeserving sinners, who trust in Jesus! Never angel had a more gracious, more god-like message of mercy than I have, how I wish I could glow with a seraph’s zeal, and cry with a cherub’s voice while proclaiming it. Would God that men would leave their foolish reasonings, and believe in Jesus Christ.
IV. Lastly, on this alternative, this day, may hang EVERLASTING THINGS TO MANY OF YOU. I remember well, for the anniversary of the season has almost come round, when I was placed in a similar condition to many now present, when I knew myself to be ruined and undone, and heard, for the first time truly to understand it, that word, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth.” I know how it stood that morning. I was like Naaman by the Jordan’s brink. There flowed the flood. The old nature said, “Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them and be clean?” Human nature said, “I want to feel something; I want to have John Bunyan’s experience; I want to have my mother’s experience; I want to feel a broken heart; I want to groan more bitterly; I want to be kept awake so many more nights; and all that sort of thing.” Suppose I had resisted still; if God’s grace had not come in and made all that wicked pride of mine give way, I might have been at this hour I know not where, if still living among men. I might have been in hell, gnawing my tongue to think I should ever have heard a plain gospel sermon, and should have put far from me the gospel when it was proclaimed, and all because I would not believe what is indisputably true, and would not trust in him whom no one ever trusted in vain. This morning I know there are some in my condition here, in whom the good Spirit will say, “Wash and be clean and the soul will sigh, “It seems too good to be true:” but the good Spirit will reply, “Are not my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts?” Unbelief will say, “Your sins are many,” but the good Spirit will answer, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Then the heart will suggest, “But I have rebelled against thee, O God, so long;” and the sweet Spirit of God will whisper, “I have blotted out thy sins like a cloud, and like a thick cloud thine iniquities: Return unto me, for I am married unto thee, saith the Lord.” And I do trust that now, at this very moment, many a heart will say, “I will, then, simply rest my soul’s salvation upon Christ the Son of God, who is the only Saviour of the lost: I will never from this day hope to be a self-saved man, nor look to anything but to him who on the bloody tree endured the wrath of God in the behalf of as many as believe on him.” Soul, if thou dost so trust Jesus, as surely as thou livest thou art saved! Go in peace. Not I speak these words only this morning from these poor lips of clay, but he who was nailed on the tree, whom all heaven adores, speaks this morning through me— and he saith to one, “Daughter, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee;” and to another, “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee: take up thy bed and walk.” O forgiven one, I charge thee do it, and as thou goest out of this house this morning, saved, and full of joy, tell others about it; never leave off telling about it, and live to love him who has saved thee! I saw the other day a picture by Rubens, in which he has painted Mary Magdalene kissing the feet of Christ while still they are gushing with founts of blood on the cross. It was a strange picture, but I felt if I had been there I would have kissed them too, though they had been crimson with his gore. O blessed feet! O blessed Saviour! O blessed Father who gave his Son to be so blessed a Saviour! O blessed Spirit of the blessed God that led our wicked, proud hearts into obedience and trust in Jesus: yea, blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath begotten us unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The Lord bless you. Amen.