“Submit yourselves therefore to God.” — James iv. 7.
THIS advice should not need much pressing. “Submit yourselves unto God”— is it not right upon the very face of it? Is it not wise? Does not conscience tell us that we ought to submit? Does not reason bear witness that it must be best to do so? “Submit yourselves unto God.” Should not the creature be submissive to the Creator, to whom it owes its existence, without whom it had never been, and without whose continuous good pleasure it would at once cease to be? Our Creator is infinitely good, and his will is love: to submit to one who is “too wise to err, too good to be unkind,” should not be hard. If he were a tyrant it might be courageous to resist, but since he is a Father it is ungrateful to rebel. He cannot do anything which is not perfectly just, nor will he do aught which is inconsistent with the best interests of our race; therefore to resist him is to contend against one’s own advantage, and, like the untamed bullock, to kick against the pricks to our own hurt. “Submit yourselves unto God”— it is what angels do, what kings and prophets have done, what the best of men delight in— there is therefore no dishonour nor sorrow in so doing. All nature is submissive to his laws; suns and stars yield to his behests, we shall but be in harmony with the universe in willingly bowing to his sway. “Submit yourselves unto God”— you must do it whether you are willing to do so or not. Who can stand out against the Almighty? For puny man to oppose the Lord is for the chaff to set itself in battle array with the wind, or for the tow to make war with the flame. As well might man attempt to turn back the tide of ocean, or check the march of the hosts of heaven as dream of overcoming the Omnipotent. The Eternal God is irresistible, and any rebellion against his government must soon end in total defeat. By the mouth of his servant Isaiah the Lord challenges his enemies, saying, “Who would set the briars and thorns against me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them together.” God will be sure to overthrow his adversaries: he may in his infinite patience permit the rebel to continue for a while in his revolt, but as surely as the Lord liveth he will compel every knee to bow before him, and every tongue to confess that he is the living God. “Submit yourselves unto God.” Who would do otherwise, since not to submit is injurious now, and will be fatal in the end? If we oppose the Most High, our opposition must lead on to defeat and destruction, for the adversaries of the Lord shall be as the fat of rams, into smoke shall they consume away. For the man who strives with his Maker there remains a fearful looking for of judgment and the dread reward of everlasting punishment. Who will be so foolhardy as to provoke such a result?
“Submit yourselves unto God” is a precept which to thoughtful men is a plain dictate of reason, and it needs few arguments to support it. Yet because of our foolishness the text enforces it by a “Therefore,” which “Therefore” is to be found in the previous verse, – “He resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God.” His wrath and his mercy both argue for submission. We are both driven and drawn to it. The Romans were wont to say of their empire that its motto was to spare the vanquished, but to war continually against the proud. This saying aptly sets forth the procedure of the Most High. He aims all his arrows at the lofty, and turns the edge of his sword against the stubborn; but the moment he sees signs of submission his pity comes to the front, and through the merits of his Son his abounding mercy forgives the fault. Is not this an excellent reason for submission? Who can refuse to be vanquished by love? Who will not say as our hymn puts it—
“Lord, thou hast won, at length I yield;
My heart, by mighty grace compell’d,
Surrenders all to thee;
Against thy terrors long I strove,
But who can stand against thy love?
Love conquers even me.”
If resistance will only call forth the omnipotent wrath of God, but true submission will lead to the obtaining of his plenteous grace, who will continue in arms? I shall not tarry to carry the argument further, but aim at once to press home this precept upon you as God the Holy Ghost may enable me. I believe it to be addressed both to saint and sinner, and therefore I shall urge it home first upon the child of God, and say to all of you who love the Lord, “Submit yourselves to God and then we shall take a little longer time to say in deep solemnity to those who are not reconciled to God by the death of his Son, “Submit yourselves to God” if ye would be saved.
I. To THE PEOPLE OF GOD, Submit yourselves unto God.” He is your God, your Father, your friend, yield yourselves to him. What does this counsel mean? It means, first exercise humility. We do well to interpret a text by its connection: now the connection here is “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble,” and therefore the submission here meant must include humility, even if it be not the chief thing intended. Brothers and sisters, let us take our right place before God. And what is that? Is it the highest seat in the synagogue? Is it the place of those who thank God that they are not as other men are? I scarcely need reply, for you who are the children of God will not dream of occupying such a position. If by reason of temporary foolishness you ever boast, I am sure, my dear friends, when you think over it in the watches of the night you are very much ashamed of yourselves, and would be glad to eat your own words. A pardoned sinner boasting! A debtor to sovereign grace extolling himself! It is horrible. Nothing can be more out of place than boasting upon the lips of a child of God. If I heard Balaam’s ass speak I should impute it to a miracle that it should use the language of man, but that a man of God should use the braying of vanity is a miracle another way, not of God but of Satan. Is it not one of the fundamental truths of our faith that we are saved by grace? And what says the apostle? “Where is boasting then? It is excluded.” The word “excluded” means shut out. Boasting comes to the door, it knocks, it pleads for admission, but it is excluded. Possibly through our unwatchfulness it gains a momentary entrance, but as soon as ever the grace of God within us ascertains that the intruder is within our gates it ejects him, shuts the door in his face, and bars him out, and in answer to the question “Where is boasting then?” free grace replies, “It is excluded, by the law of grace.” If all the good we have has been given to us freely by divine favour, in what can we glory? If we possess the highest degree of spirituality, if our life be perfectly clear from any open fault, and if our hearts be wholly consecrated unto the Lord, yet we are unprofitable servants; we have done no more than it was our duty to have done. But, alas, we fall far short of this, for we have not done what it was our duty to have done, and in many things we fail and come short of the glory of God. The right position of a Christian is to walk with lowly humility before God, and with meekness towards his fellow Christians. The lowest room becomes us most, and the lowest seat in that room. Look at Paul, who knew far more of Christ than we do, and who served him far better. It is edifying to notice his expressions. He is an apostle, and he will by no means allow any one to question his calling, for he has received it of the Lord; but what does he say? “Not meet to be called an apostle.” What can be lowlier than this? But we shall see him descending far below it. He takes his place among the ordinary saints, and he will not give up his claim to be numbered with them, for he has made his calling and election sure; but where does he sit among the people of God? He styles himself “less than the least of all saints.” There is no small a descent from “not meet to be called an apostle” to “less than the least of all saints but he went lower yet, for at another time he confessed himself to be still a sinner, and coming into the assembly of sinners where does he take his position? He writes himself down as “the chief of sinners.” This is submission to God, the true surrender of every proud pretension or conceited claim. If, my brethren, the Lord has called us to be ministers, let us ever feel that we are not worthy of so great a grace: since he has made us saints, let us confess that the very least of our brethren is more esteemed by us than we dare to esteem ourselves; and since we know that we are sinners, let us look at our sins under that aspect which most reveals their heinousness, for in some respects and under certain lights there are evils in our character which make us guiltier than the rest of our fellow sinners. The stool of repentance and the foot of the cross are the favourite positions of instructed Christians.
Such humility is not at all inconsistent with believing that we are saved, nor with the fullest assurance of faith, nay, not at all inconsistent with the nearest familiarity with God. Listen to Abraham: “I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, I that am but dust and ashes.” He has drawn very near to the Lord, and speaks with him as a man speaketh with his friend, and yet he says “I am but dust and ashes.” His boldness did not destroy his humbleness, nor his sense of nothingness hinder his near approach to the Lord. My dear brethren, we know that in Christ we are accepted, we know that we are dear to God and loved with an everlasting love, we know that he hears our prayers and answers us continually, we know that we walk in the light of his countenance; but still our posture should always be that of deep humiliation before the Lord, and in the attitude of complete submission we should sit at the Master’s feet and say, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” May the Holy Spirit work this gracious submission in every regenerated soul.
Let us next observe that our text bears a second meaning, namely, that of submission to the divine will: that of course would strike you in the wording of the verse— “Submit yourselves therefore to God.” Beloved Christian friends, be willing to accept whatever God appoints. Let us each pray to be
“Simple, teachable and mild,
Awed into a little child;
Pleased with all the Lord provides,
Wean’d from all the world besides.”
Is it indeed so with us? Are you not some of you very far from it? Are you quite sure that you are submissive to the divine will as to your rank in society? Have you accepted your position in the scale of worldly wealth? Are you satisfied to be sickly, obscure, or of small ability? Are God’s appointments your contentments? Too many professors are quarrelling with God that they are not other than they are. This is evil, and shows that pride is still in their hearts, for were they conscious of their own deserts they would know that anything short of hell is more than we deserve, and as long as we are not in the pit of torment gratitude becomes us. It is a happy thing when the mind is brought to submit to all the chastisements of God, and to acquiesce in all the trials of his providence.. Knowing as we do that all these things work together for our good, and that we never endure a smart more than our heavenly Father knows to be needful, we are bound to submit ourselves cheerfully to all that he appoints. Though no trial for the present is joyous, but grievous, yet ought we to resign ourselves to it because of its after results. Even the beasts of the field may teach us this. I read the other day of an elephant which had lost its sight: it was brought to the surgeon, and he placed some powerful substance upon the eye, which caused it great pain, and of course the huge creature was very restless during the operation. After a while it began to see a little, and when it was brought the next day to the operator it was as docile as a lamb, for it evidently perceived that benefit had resulted from the painful application. If such a creature has enough intelligence to perceive the benefit, and to accept the pain, how much more should we! Since we know that we owe infinite blessings to the rod of the covenant we ought to be willing to bare our own back to the scourge, and let the Lord do as he wills with us. Yea, I go beyond this, even if we did not know that good would come of it, we ought to submit because it is the Lord’s will, for he has a right to do whatever he wills with us. Can you subscribe to this? As a true child can you make a complete surrender to your Father’s good pleasure? If not, you have not fully learned the mind of Christ. It is a great thing to have the soul entirely submitted to God about everything, so that we never wish to have anything in providence other than God would have it to be, nor desire to have anything in his Word altered: not one ordinance of the church of God, not one doctrine of revelation, not one precept or warning other than it is. We shall never be at rest till we come to this. It is essential to our happiness to say at all times, “Nevertheless, not as I will but as thou wilt.” Brothers and sisters, ought it not so to be? Who ought to rule in the house but the Father? Who should govern in the body but the Head? Who should lead the flock but the Shepherd? We owe so much to Jesus, and so entirely belong to him, that even were it put to the vote, all of us would give our suffrages so that the Lord Jesus should be King, Head and Chief among us; for is he not the Firstborn among many brethren? Submit, then, my brethren. Beseech the Holy Spirit to bow your wills to complete subjection. You will never be happy till self is dethroned. I know some of God’s children who are in great trouble only because they will not yield to the divine will. I met with one, I believe a good sister, who said she could not forgive God for taking away her mother; and another friend said he could not see God to be a good God for he had made him suffer such terrible afflictions. Their furnace was heated seven times hotter by the fuel of rebellion which they threw into it. So long as we blame the Lord and challenge his rights, our self-tortured minds will be tossed to and fro. No father can let his boy bend his little fist in defiance, and yet treat that child with the same love and fondness as his other children, who submit themselves to him. You cannot enjoy your heavenly Father’s smile, my dear brother or sister, till you cease from being in opposition to him, and yield the point in debate; for he has said that if we walk contrary to him he will walk contrary to us. It will be wise for you to cry, “My Father, my naughty spirit has rebelled against thee, my wicked heart has dared to question thee; but I cease from it now: let it be even as thou wilt, for I know that thou doest right.” So the text means first humility, and then submission to the Lord’s will. Lord, teach us both.
It means also obedience. Do not merely passively lie back and yield to the necessities of the position, but gird up the loins of your mind, and manifest a voluntary and active submission to your great Lord. The position of a Christian should be that of a soldier to whom the centurion saith “Go,” and he goeth, and “Do this,” and he doeth it. It is not ours to question, that were to become masters; but ours it is to obey without questioning, even as soldiers do. Submission to our Lord and Saviour will be manifested by ready obedience: delays are essentially insubordinations, and neglects are a form of rebellion. I fear that there are some Christians whose disobedience to Christ is a proof of their pride. It may be said that they do not know such and such a duty to be incumbent upon them. Ay, but there is a proud ignorance which does not care to know, a pride which despises the commandment of the Lord, and counts it non-essential and unimportant. Can such scorn be justifiable? Is that a right temper for the Lord's servant to indulge? Can any point in our Lord’s will be unimportant to us? Can the wish of a dear friend be trivial to those who love him? Has Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” and shall I treat them as matters of no moment? No, my Lord, if it were the lifting of a stone from the road, if it were the moving of a sere leaf, or the brushing away of a cobweb, if thou ordainest it, then it becomes important straightway,— important to my loving allegiance, that I may by my prompt obedience show how fully I submit myself to thee. Love is often more seen in little things than in great things. You may have in your house a servant who is disaffected, and yet she will perform all the necessary operations of the household, but the loving child attends to the little details which make up the comfort of life, and are the tests of affection. Let your love be shown by a childlike obedience, which studies to do all the Master’s will in all points.
I am afraid there are some who do not obey the Master because they are proud enough to think that they know better than he does; they judge the Lord’s will instead of obeying it. Art thou a judge of the law, my brother? Art thou to sit on the judgment-seat and say of this or that statute of the law, “This does not signify,” or, “That may be set aside without any loss to me”? This is not according to the mind of Christ, who did his Father’s will and asked no questions. When next you pray, “Thy will be done in earth, even as it is in heaven,” remember how they do that will before the throne of God, without hesitation, demur, or debate, being wholly subservient to every wish of the Most High. Thus, dear brethren, “Submit yourselves to God.”
The expression, however, is not well worked out unless I add another explanation, and perhaps even then I have not brought out its meaning fully. “Submit yourselves to God” by yielding your hearts to the motions of the divine Spirit: by being impressible, sensitive, and easily affected. The Spirit of God has hard work with many Christians to lead them in the right way; they are as the horse and the mule which have no understanding, whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle. There is the stout oak in the forest, and a hurricane howls through it, and it is not moved, but the rush by the river yields to the faintest breath of the gale. Now, though in many things ye should be as the oak and not as the rush, yet in this thing be ye as the bulrush and be moved by the slightest breathing of the Spirit of God. The photographer’s plates are rendered sensitive by a peculiar process: you shall take another sheet of glass and your friend shall stand before it as long as ever he likes, and there will be no impression produced, at east none which will be visible to the eye; but the sensitive plate will reveal every little wrinkle of the face and perpetuate every hair of the head. Oh, to be rendered sensitive by the Spirit of God, and we can be made so by submitting ourselves entirely to his will. Is there not a promise to that effect?— “I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.”
Sometimes the Spirit of God whispers to you, “Retire to pray.” At such times enter your closet at once. Remember how David said, “When thou saidst unto me, Seek ye my face, my heart said unto thee, Thy face Lord will I seek.” The Spirit of God will sometimes impel you to a duty which involves self-denial, which will take up much of your leisure, and will bring you no very great honour as a reward. Be not disobedient to his call, but go about your work speedily. Say with the Psalmist, “I made haste and delayed not to keep thy commandments.” The Spirit will at times urge us to deep repentance on account of faults in which we have been living, he will rebuke us for some ugly temper which we have indulged, or for some hard word which we have spoken against a brother, or because of the worldliness of mind into which we have fallen. Oh, brother, bestir thyself at such times, and examine and purge thy soul. Let a hint from the Holy Spirit be enough for thee. As the eyes of the handmaiden are towards her mistress, so let your eyes be to your Lord. The handmaid does not require the mistress to speak: it will often happen when she is waiting at table, and there are friends, the mistress nods or puts her finger up, and that is enough. She does not call out “Mary, do this or that,” or speak to her loudly a dozen times, as the Lord has to do to us, but a wink suffices. So it ought to be with us; half a word from the divine Spirit, the very gentlest motion from him, should be enough guidance, and straightway we should be ready to do his bidding. In this matter it is not so much your activity as your submission to the Holy Spirit which is needed; it is not so much your running as your willing to be drawn by him. There is to be an activity in religion: we are to wrestle and to fight; but side by side with that we are to yield ourselves to the Spirit’s impulse, for it is he that worketh in us to will and to do of his own good pleasure; he striveth in us mightily, and if we will but resign ourselves, and no longer be obstacles in his divine way, he will carry us to greater heights of grace, and create in us more fully the likeness of Christ. “Submit yourselves unto God.” Learn the sweetness of lying passive in his hand, and knowing no will but his: learn the blessedness of giving yourselves up entirely to his divine sway, for in so doing you will enter into heaven below.
II. Now we come to that part of our discourse in which we must earnestly pray God the Holy Spirit to help us doubly. I desire now to address myself TO THOSE WHO ARE NOT SAVED, but have some desire to be so. I am thankful to God that there should be even the faintest wish of the kind. May it grow at once into an impetuous longing; yea, may that longing be fulfilled this very morning, and may you go out of this house saved. You tell me that you have been anxious about your soul for some time, but have made no headway. You have been putting forth great efforts, you have been very diligent in attending the means of grace, in searching the Scriptures, and in private prayer, but you cannot get on. It is very possible, my clear friend, that the reason is this, that you have not submitted yourself to God; you are trying to do when the best thing would be to cease from yourself, and drop into the hand of the Saviour who is able to save you, though you cannot save yourself. For a proud heart the very hardest thing is to submit. Do you find it so? “No surrender” is the stubborn sinner’s motto. I have known men who would give their bodies to be burned sooner than yield to God. Their high stomach has stood out long against the Most High, and they have been little Pharaohs till the Lord has brought them to their senses. “Must I yield, must I bow at his feet?” — they could not brook such humiliation. If the gospel had tolerated their pride and given them a little credit they would have rejoiced in it; but to be tumbled in the dust, and made to confess their own nothingness they could not bear. “Submit” is wormwood and gall to haughty sinners, yet must they drink the cup or die. Hear then, ye stout-hearted, you can never be saved unless you submit, and when you are saved one of the main points in your salvation will be that you have submitted. I desire to whisper one little truth in your ear, and I pray that it may startle you: You are submitting even now. You say, “Not I; I am lord of myself.” I know you think so, but all the while you are submitting to the devil. The verse before us hints at this. “Submit yourselves unto God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” If you do not submit to God you never will resist the devil, and you will remain constantly under his tyrannical power. Which shall be your master, God or devil, for one of these must? No man is without a master: some power or other is paramount within us, either good or evil is supreme in our hearts; and if we will not be mastered by the good, the evil has already gained the sway.
“How then am I to submit?” says one: “To what shall I submit, and in what respects?” Well, first, submit thyself, if thou wouldest be saved, to the Word of God. Believe it to be true. Believing it to be true, yield thyself to its force. Does it accuse thee? Confess the accusation. Does it condemn thee? Plead guilty. Does it hold out hope to thee? Grasp it. Does it command thee? Obey it. Does it guide thee? Follow it. Does it cheer thee? Believe it. Submit thyself to him who in this blessed page proclaims himself the Saviour of all such as will throw down the weapons of their rebellion and end their futile war by relying upon his power to save them.
Yield thyself, next, to thy conscience. Thou hast quarelled with thy conscience, and thy conscience with thee. It- persists in speaking, and thou desirest it to be quiet. After dissipation, in the lull which comes after a storm of evil pleasure, a voice is heard saying, “Is this right? Is this safe? Will this last? What will the end of this be? Would it not be better to seek some better and nobler thing than this?” God speaks often to men through the still small voice of conscience. Open thine ear, then, and listen. Thy conscience can do thee no hurt; it may disturb thee, but it is well to be disturbed when peace leads on to death. He was a fool who killed the watch dog because it alarmed him when thieves were breaking into his house. If conscience upbraid thee, feel its upbraiding and heed its rebuke It is thy best friend; faithful are its friendly wounds, but the kisses of a flattering enemy are deceitful.
God also sends many messengers. To some of you he has sent the tenderest of monitors. Hearken to their admonitions and regard their kind warnings, for they mean good to thy souk Is it hard, O son, is it hard to submit when the message comes by a mother’s loving lips, when her tears bedew each word she speaks? It must have been difficult for some of you in your young days to stand out against a mother’s entreaties when she not only pointed you to heaven, but led the way; not only spoke of Jesus, but reflected his love in her daily walk and conversation. You have a sister, young man, whom you love and respect: you could hardly tell how much an object of admiration she is to you. How, that letter of hers, which you turned into a joke; you did feel it, after all. Yield to its pathetic pleadings, yield to its tender entreaties. Remember, God has other messengers whom he will send if these loving ones do not suffice. He will soon send thee a sterner summons. If thou listen not to the gentle word, the still, small voice, he can send to thee by the rougher messengers of disease and death. Be not so foolish as to provoke him so to do.
Moreover, submit yourselves to God, since he has, perhaps, already sent his messengers in sterner shapes to you. It was but a few days ago that you lost your old friend. Many a merry day you have spent together, and many a jovial night too; he was in as good health as yourself, apparently, but he was struck down, and you have followed him to the tomb. Is there no voice from that new made grave to you? Methinks your friend in his sudden end was a warning to you to be ready for the like departure! You have also yourself suffered from premonitory symptoms of sickness; perhaps you have actually been sick, and been made to lie where your only prospect was eternity; a dread eternity, how surely yours. You trembled to gaze into it, but the very tones of the surgeon’s voice compelled you to do so. You feared that you would have to leave this body, and you could not help saying to yourself, “Whither shall I fly? My naked spirit, whither must it go when once it leaves the warm precincts of this house of clay?” It is not my business one-tenth as much as it is yours — but I charge you, hear the voice of these providences; listen to these solemn calls. The angel of death has stood at your bedside and pointed to you and said, “Young man, it is the fever this time and you may recover, but the next time you will never rise from the bed on which you lie: or, you have been rescued now from a dreadful accident, but the next time there will be no escape for you. Because I will do this, prepare to meet thy God.”
Above all, I pray you submit yourselves, if you are conscious of such things, to the whispers of God’s Holy Spirit. God’s Holy Spirit does not strive with every man alike. Some have so grieved him that he has ceased to strive with them, or does so very occasionally and then they so resist his strivings that they are never very long continued. The worst man that lives has his better moments, the most careless has some serious thoughts; there are lucid intervals in the madness of carnal pleasure. At such times men hear what they call “their better selves.” It is hardly so. I prefer to call it the general reprovings of God’s Spirit in their souls. He says to them, “Is this right? Is this wise? This trifling, this time-killing, this depraving of the soul by allowing the bodily appetites to rule, this lowering of the man to the level of the brute, can this be right? Is there no eternity? Is there no immortality, no God, no judgment to come?” The Holy Spirit sometimes opens the man’s eyes as he did the eyes of Balaam, and makes him see the certainty of the judgment day and the nearness of its approach. The man is led to anticipate the trumpet’s sound which heralds the assize, the coming of the Judge upon his great white throne, the gathering of the multitudes of quick and dead, the opening of the books, the dividing of the throng, the driving away of the goats to their everlasting punishment, and the reception of the righteous to their everlasting joy. Oh, when you are made to feel all this, I pray you submit yourself to it. It costs some men a great deal of trouble to be damned. Many a man who blasphemes and talks infidelity, merely does so to conceal his inward struggles. Like the boy who whistles as he goes through the churchyard to keep his courage up, they talk blasphemy to divert their mind from its own fears. He who is most fierce in the utterance of his disbelief is not the greatest disbeliever. When the heathen offered children to Moloch they beat their drums to drown the cries of the victims, and even so these men make a great noise to drown the voice of conscience. The man knows better, and I charge him to let that better knowledge come to the front and lead him to his God and Father. It will be a blessed thing for him if it shall be so even this day. “Submit yourselves to God.”
If you ask me again, “In what respect am I to submit myself?” I answer as briefly as I can, first submit yourself by confessing your sin. Cry peccavi. Do not brazen it out and say “I have not sinned.” You will never be pardoned while that is the case. “He that confessed his sin shall find mercy.” Sinner, choose between one of two things; judge yourself, or be judged of God. If you will judge yourself and put in a plea of guilty, then will the Great Judge grant you forgiveness, but not else. Condemn yourself and you shall not be condemned. Confess the indictment to be true, for true it is, and to deny it is to seal your doom.
Next, honour the law which condemns you. Do not persevere in picking holes in it and saying that it is too severe, and requires too much of a poor fallible creature. The law is holy, and just, and good. Put thy lips down and kiss it, though it condemn thee, and say, “though it charges me with guilt and convicts me of deadly sin, yet it is a good law, and ought not to be altered, even to save me.”
Next, own the justice of the penalty. Thy sins condemn thee to hell: do not say “God is too severe; this is a punishment disproportionate to the offence.” Thou wilt never be pardoned if thou thinkest so, but God will be justified in thy condemnation: the pride of thy heart will be a swift witness against thee. Confess with thy heart, “If my soul were sent to hell it is no more than I deserve.” When thou hast confessed the guilt, and honoured the law, and acknowledged the justice of the penalty, then thou art nearing the position in which God can be merciful to thee.
Submit yourself, sinner— I pray you do it now— submit yourself to God as your king. Throw down your weapons; lower your crest and cast away those robes of pride. Surrender unconditionally and say, “Lord God, I own thee now to be king; no longer like stout-hearted Pharaoh will I ask, ‘Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice?’ but like one brought to his senses I yield as reason and grace suggest.” It will go well with you when you make a full capitulation, an unconditional surrender. Fling wide the gates of the city of Mansoul, and admit the prince Emanuel to rule as sole sovereign in every street in the city. Dispute no longer his sovereignty, but pray to be made a loyal subject, obedient in all things. Thou shalt find grace in the sight of the Lord if thou wilt do this.
Furthermore, submit yourself to God’s way of saving you. Now God’s way of saving you is by his grace, not by your merits; by the blood of Jesus, not by your tears and sufferings. He will justify you by your simply trusting Jesus now. Your proud heart does not admire the Lord’s way of salvation; you stand up and say, “How is this consistent with morality?” As if you were the guardian of morality, as if the King of Heaven and earth could not take care of the moralities without assistance from you. Who are you to be all on a sudden the champion of morality? How dare you dream that the thrice holy God will not take care of that? He bids you trust his Son Jesus; will you do so or not? If you will not, there is no hope for you; if you will, you are saved the moment that you believe,— saved from the guilt of sin by trusting Jesus.
You must also surrender yourself at discretion to his method of operating upon you. One says, “I would believe in Jesus, sir, if I felt the horror and terror which some have experienced on account of sin.” What do you demand of God that he should drag you through horrors and terrors before you will believe? Submit yourself to be saved in a gentler way. “But I read of one,” says another, “who had a dream: I would believe if I saw a vision too.” Must God give thee dreams? Must he play lackey to thee, and save thee in thy way? He tells thee plainly, “If thou believest on the Lord Jesus Christ thou shalt be saved.” Wilt thou believe or no? For if thou dost not, neither dreams, nor visions, nor terrors, nor anything else can save thee. There is God’s way, sinner: I ask thee, and perhaps thy answer will settle thy fate for ever, wilt thou follow that way or not? If thou wilt not, thou hast chosen thine own destruction; but if thou wilt have it, and wilt submit thyself to be saved by believing in Jesus Christ, it is well with thee. I know there are some in this place who feel ready to burst, for their broken hearts are saying, “I yield at once. Oh, if he would but save me.” How glad I am to hear you say so, for “he giveth grace unto the humble.” I recollect the time when I have stood and cried to God, “O God, if I must lie on a sick bed till I die, I care not if thou wilt but have mercy on me; if thou wilt but conquer my proud will, and make a new man of me, thou mayst do whatever thou pleasest with me; only save me from the guilt, the power of sin.” It was when the Lord brought me down there that he enabled me to see life and salvation in Jesus Christ; and if he has brought you down to that point, sinner, then you have nothing to do but simply trust the Lord Jesus Christ, and you are assuredly saved. When he brings you to submit he has given you his grace. Submission to his divine will is the essence of salvation. Now, who will yield? Who will yield at once? The Master has come among us, the King himself is here, your Maker, your Redeemer: see the marks of his wounds, see the scars in his hands and feet and side! He asks of you, “Will you yield to me? Will you throw down your weapons? Will you end the war? Will you surrender at discretion?” If so, he gives you his hand and says, “Go in peace; there is peace between me and thee.” Kiss the Son lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, while his wrath is kindled but a little. I prayed the Lord to give me many souls, and I believe I shall have them this morning. I feel sure of it. Grant me this favour: if you submit yourselves to Christ let me hear of it, and do not delay to unite yourselves with those who rejoice to be led in triumph as the captives of his grace.