Fragments of Sermons,
with the following additions:
A SHORT BIOGRAPHY BY JOHN GADSBY
THE LAMENTATION OF A NEWBORN SOUL
GADSBY'S QUESTIONS ABOUT THE LAW
J. C. PHILPOT ON GADSBY
THE GLORY OF GOD'S GRACE
AN EVERLASTING TASK FOR ARMINIANS
WILLIAM GAD SBY
Memoirs of the Principal Hymnwriters and Compilers, 1855
WILLIAM GADSBY was born in the village of Attleborough, Warwickshire, about Jan. 3rd, 1773. As his parents were poor, he had little or no education. When 13, he was apprenticed to a ribbon weaver, but was subsequently compelled to leave that trade, in consequence of a tenderness of the chest; and he then became a stocking weaver. In 1790, he went to see men hung, and the horrid spectacle had such an effect upon his mind that he was never afterwards like the same youth; for the thoughts of eternity preyed much upon his spirits. The lengths of folly into which he ran prior to this time were often related by him in his ministry; but as perhaps nearly every one whose eye this may meet will have read the Memoir of him which was published shortly after his death, I shall not give the account here, nor yet of his experience, his call to the ministry, &c.1 Suffice it to say, that, in 1793, he was baptized, and joined Mr. Butterworth's church at Coventry. In 1796 he received his dismissal from that church, and joined a few people who met in a barn at Hinckley. The first time that he stood up and took a text was on Whit-Sunday, 1798, in an upper room in a yard at Bedworth, Warwickshire. His text was 1 Pet. ii. 7. In 1800, a chapel was built for him at Desford, Leicestershire, and he at the same time often preached in the barn at Hinckley. The word is said to have been greatly blessed. In 1802, a chapel was built at Hinckley. In 1805, he removed with his family to Manchester, to the chapel in which a Mr. Sharpe formerly preached, in St. George's Read, now called Rochdale Road, where he remained until his death, Jan 27th, 1844.
1 For the particulars of my father's life, I must refer to the Memoir already alluded to. I could not do justice to him in less than or 20 pages, and this space I cannot possibly spare here. His last words were, "I shall soon be with him, shouting, Victory, victory, victory," (raising his hand) "for ever." * * * "Free grace, free grace, free grace t" He died without a struggle, without moving hand, or foot, or head.
While over the church at Manchester, he traveled for preaching more than 60,000 miles, `(railways were unknown during many of his earlier years,) and must have preached nearly 12,000 sermons. In the "Gospel Magazine" for 1824, there is an account of the laying of the foundation stone of Mount Zion Chapel, Plymouth Dock, (Devonport) when an address from 1 Cor. iii. 11, was delivered by Mr. Gadsby, in the presence of upwards of 6,000 persons." His Selection of Hymns, to which this little work is designed as a "Companion," was first published in 1814. In 1838, a new edition was issued with a Supplement, now called the "First Supplement," many of Mr. G's original hymns being curtailed to make room for it. In 1846-7, (that is, after his death,) the whole of Hart's hymns which did not already appear in the Selection, were added thereto, making the total number of hymns in the book 882. In 1849-50, in consequence of a fire at my premises in London having destroyed the stereotype plates of the hymn book, the Second Supplement, by Mr. Philpot, of 256 hymns, was added, increasing the total number to about 1130, several of Hart's being omitted, as not suitable for general use. My father also published a Selection of Hymns for Sunday Schools.-Many of his own hymns were inserted in various volumes of the "Gospel Magazine," signed "A Nazarene," which was in deed his usual signature in that magazine. These hymns, with many other originals, were published by him in a separate volume, under the title of "The Nazarene's Songs." His signatures in the "Gospel Standard" were, "An Old Soldier," "A Lover of Zion," &c. He was buried in the vault No. 1450 in the Rusholme Road Cemetery, Manchester, Mr. Kershaw, of Rochdale, Officiating, and several thousand persons being present.
IT is one of the griefs of my life that I had not more of my dear father's sermons taken down. It is true that in his day sermon-reporting did not flourish as it did afterwards. With two or three exceptions, none of his sermons in Manchester were ever reported. A few "Scraps" I took down in 1835 and one or two following years; and that was nearly all. When he visited London, Mr. Justins, Mr. Paul, and others took a few; and all these I have, excepting one from Isa 63:1, which I once had, and for which, as is well known, I have offered £5; but it is not to be had. Thinking I could easily meet with another copy, I sent it, with a lot of others of which I had duplicates, to Mr. Brider, Soldiers and Sailors' Mission, Salisbury.
It is a wonderful blessing to the church of God that Mr. Philpot was not only frequently reported in London, but that one of his hearers at Stamford was a reporter, and took down numbers of his sermons.
The two main features of my father's ministry were the depths of the Fall and the depths and heights of Sovereign Grace,—the Two Deeps, as he termed them (see page 426); the laying of the sinner and his self-righteousness in the dust and the exalting of a precious Redeemer. Few, if any, were ever enabled to live a more exemplary and Christian life than he, or, at the same time, experienced more of the depravity of the human heart. As Mr. Philpot said of him, "One point we have often admired in his ministry,—he would touch upon such spots as no other minister that we know ever dare approach; and this he did in a way peculiar to himself." But I must refer to his Memoir for particulars. There may be expressions here and there which some, in this polite age, might have wished had been toned down; but as I do not belong to that class, I have given the sermons as I found them, or heard them. The word "piety" was so much used by professors as the foundation of their religion, that he hated the very sound of it, and whenever he used it in his ministry it was to show its utter unmeaningness and absurdity. This in why I have put the word as a quotation. (See page 332.)
The apostle Paul was evidently not what the world would call an orator; for the people said his speech was contemptible; but 0 how weighty are his epistles! It was somewhat otherwise with my father. His preaching was more effective than his writings. "His voice," as Dr. Halley, the Principal of the Congregational College, London, said of him, "was wonderful." He heard him, on one occasion (about 8,000 persons being present), and he says, "The voice of the old man, though seeming to speak in a pleasant, conversational tone, rolled like an equable wave of sound, and filled every ear."
But it was not merely his voice. The sermons were from his heart, what he had himself tasted, handled, and felt of the good word of life. In reading them, very little idea can be formed of the power attending the preaching of them. His heart went, as it were, direct into the hearts of the Lord's people. I now and then meet with some good old friends who testify to the truth of this, they having many times heard him.
As dear John Newton said of Whitefield, "Many may say the same things; but they cannot say them in the same way. If I were asked who is the second-best minister I ever heard, I could not say; but if I were asked who was the best, I should say Whitefield." And as another good man said: "Whatever these sermons were, some of those few spirits which you found in hearing will be missing in the reading of them. It is as easy to paint fire with the heat, as with pen and ink to commit that to paper which occurs in preaching."
His prayers, too, were singularly his own,—from his very heart; unlike those of any other man I ever heard, and I have heard many. I must mention also, he never quoted verses of hymns in his prayers. Far be it from me to say it is wrong to do so, as some good men do. I merely state the fact.
It is not unlikely that in the sermons there may be repetitions; that is, sometimes in one sermon there may be figures, illustrations, or sentiments which also appear in others; but in no such case will any be found misapplied or strained.
Of some of the "Fragments of Sermons" I had two manuscript copies and of others even three. One was by Mr. T. Player, a minister and reporter, and another by Mr. W. Hudson, but who the other was I could not discover.
I have, however, worked up all into one, as far as I was able, as one manuscript gave some portions of the sermons and another other portions. This was particularly the case with Isa 1:18; La 1:12; Mal 1:6. Yet, after all, they, as well as most in the volume, are only "Fragments."
As sermons from the following texts appear in my father's "Works," 2 vols., I shall not insert them here. They are also published separately: Ps 86:15; Isa 33:20; Mt 5:32; Lu 18:13; Eph 1:6.
I have now before me a letter from Mr. Hudson, dated "Manchester, Aug. 8th, 1870," in which he says, "I was hearing Mr. Taylor last night, and opening my uncle John Greenhough's Bible in their pew, I read the following, written in the margin opposite Isa 43:2, and marked Jan. 21st: ' Mr. Gadsby preached this sermon with very great fervor, but with very great difficulty of breathing, especially in the evening, when it took him four minutes to ascend the pulpit, having to stop upon every step. But the Lord was very gracious to him in supporting his mind, although suffering in body. He was got home with much difficulty, and kept getting worse until Jan. 27th ; when he fell asleep in a precious Jesus.'
But, though dead, he yet speaketh; and may the Lord bless his printed speeches to the hearts of His people for generations to come.
Oct 17th, 1884. J. GADSBY.
I have in my possession a list of various texts from which my father preached in 1840, 1, 2, 3, and Jan., 1844. They are in his own handwriting; and it is not a little remarkable that even the last from which he preached (Isa 43:2) is given in the list, with the verse in full; and the writing quite equal to any I ever saw him write.
Tuesday evening, Nov. 14, "read part of Ac 2., and baptized five men." His usual plan was to baptize on the Lord's day morning, after sermon; but at this time his strength was not equal to it; so he took the Tuesday evening.
Lord's day, Nov. 19th, morning, 2Co 6:2; evening, Isa 33:23. Tuesday, 21st, (2Co 12:9) -26th, morning and evening, (2Co 6:2). -28th, Ps 63:1-2.—Dec. 3rd, morning and evening, (Hab 3:4).-5th, Ps 63:1-2, continued.-10th, morning and evening, (Ps 17:8).-12th, Ps 63:1-2, concluded.-17th, "at Saddleworth."-24th, morning and evening, 1Ti 3:15 (latter part), 16.-26th, 1Ti 3:16, concluded.-31st, 1Pe 4:7.
1844, Jan. 2nd, (Heb 13:8).-7th, morning and evening, (2Co 5:1).— 9th, (Heb 13:8), concluded.-14th, morning and evening, (Isa 43:1). -16th, (Tit 2:1). -21st, morning and evening, (Isa 43:2).
MR. WILLIAM GADSBY
THE GREAT THINGS GOD HAS DONE FOR HIS PEOPLE.
Preached on Tuesday Evening, Sept. 13th, 1838, in Jewry Street Chapel, London, on Behalf of the Aged Pilgrims' Friend Society.
"The Lord hath done great things for Us, whereof we are glad."
THERE are three things in the great mysteries of salvation that many professors of religion seem almost alarmed at. One is that God really saves sinners. If a minister of Jesus Christ is led to describe a sinner half as he really is, for to the bottom of him he never can, he shocks their delicate minds, and they are almost paralyzed, and call it the high road of licentiousness to suppose that 'rod saves such naughty sinners as those; whilst a poor soul under the quickening, enlightening, teaching energy of God the Spirit, fears that his case is desperate, and if God sends a minister of truth, who hits upon such a desperate case, and points it out as one that the Lord has in hand, the poor creature is astonished, and wondered where he has been; for he never heard that. Another branch of truth that men seem almost alarmed at, is the method that God takes in saving those sinners. If we come to trace salvation to its spring-head, God's electing love—" 0! This is horrifying. We must not talk about election in these polite days. If we believe in it, we must put other words for it, and say, ' The Lord's people," and 'The Lord's family,' and 'The pious;' but never talk about ' election;'" and thus the doctrine of God's discriminating, electing love is discarded. And then another branch
of divine truth, that men seem alarmed at, is the power of God the Spirit in making this salvation known to the conscience, and bringing it with divine power and majesty to the heart and maintaining it there as the poor sinner sojourns in this wilderness. Some people are alarmed at all the three, and some only at the last; some of them -will chatter about election till their tongues almost cleave to the roof of their month; but if you insist upon vital godliness, the power of God the Holy Ghost in the conscience producing a corresponding conduct, they will call you an enthusiastic legalist. And thus divine things are set at naught on one hand or the other. But God will vindicate his own honour, and "make bare his arm," and bring his loved ones at some period or other to adopt the language of our text: "The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad."
No doubt the psalmist had in view, in the first instance, God delivering Israel out of a dreadful national captivity; and here we are told of them that they were "like them that dreamed," and they began in wonder to "laugh" in the sweet enjoyment of God's dealings with them. But Israel of old being a typical nation and God's spiritual family being amongst that nation, the Lord has something more in view than this; he has in view a spiritual captivity, that his people are delivered from; and when delivered from it, and brought feelingly and experimentally to know it, then they sing, "The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad."
Now from this passage, as far as God shall assist me, I shall consider,
I. Who the us are, who have any right to adopt the language of our text, and say, "The Lord hath done great things for its."
II. Point out some few of the great things that God has done for them.
III. Endeavour to notice that whenever God makes manifest these "great things," or a measure of them, in their hearts, it is sure to
make them glad. " The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad."
I. Now what persons are these? Who are the us? They are God's spiritual Zion—that family he has predestinated to eternal life, "predestinated to the adoption of children," "predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son," and brought, by his spiritual power and grace, to know their own ruined condition and the mercy of God in Christ Jesus towards them—who have felt themselves in captivity and felt themselves brought out of it. Some people tell us that there is no cause now-a-days for a sinner to have "the letter" brought into the conscience, no cause for a law-work, and that many go to heaven who never had a law-work in their hearts. But that is a heaven that was invented in Italy; it is not God's heaven, it is a kind of purgatorial heaven. For God has solemnly declared that "the law was given that every mouth might be stopped and all the world become guilty before God." And if God's law does not stop your mouth, is not brought to your conscience, does not destroy all your false projects, and bring you in guilty and condemned at the feet of the Lord—if you never feel that, I believe you will be damned, as sure as God is in heaven. Let your profession be what it may, let you be as tall as you may in a profession of' religion, you will never enter into God's blessed place above, if you have never been brought to know your ruined condition below. Why, you might as well talk about a man praising a physician, as one who had cured him of a disease, when he never had an illness in his life; you might as well talk about a man speaking of a skilful surgeon, who had set his bones, when he never had a broken bone since he drew breath. "The whole need not a physician, but they that are sick." I do not mean that all God's people are led into the same depth in this. Here the Lord works as a sovereign; but the law must stop their months, the law must bring them in guilty, the law must make them feel that they are in bondage, that they are "under tutors and governors," and under such tuition that they are bound by the ties of the law either to fulfill it or be damned by it, and that they cannot fulfill it, and that therefore they can feel no ground of hope upon law principles.
Now when the Lord the Spirit brings a poor soul to this, he finds himself in dreadful captivity. I cannot exactly say how it is in London; but I know in our way we have a great many who begin in election, and go on with election, and never get one step either below or above high-seasoned election; and if you ask them what they know about "the plague of their own hearts," or what they know about "the sentence of death," "0! They do not meddle with such low things as that; they live upon high ground." Ah! And the devil will never disturb you there. If God does not, you will find that such an arrogant presumptuous profession is nothing more nor less than the devil's chariot to carry men to hell in delusion; and, if God does not upset them and bring them to know their ruined condition, they will never enter into the mysteries of God's blessed kingdom, that kingdom that stands in God's own power. But now; when a poor sinner feels the bondage of the law and feels "the sentence of death," he finds himself in a captivity, from which he cannot deliver his own soul. He feels himself without might and without power, and feels the truth of what God says, that he is "not Sufficient of himself' so much as "to think" a good thought, or to pray; as says the apostle, "We know not what to pray for as we ought." I often think, why what fools the disciples and apostles were to the great men of our time; for they have found out how to pray for themselves and to make prayers for other folks for a thousand years to come; but the disciples asked the Lord to teach them how to pray, and the apostle was brought to confess that he. was "not sufficient of himself' and did not know even how to pray "as he ought." And so God's people will be brought to this, when the Lord brings them to know their spiritual bondage and captivity. And then, when he brings peace to the conscience and pardon to the heart, and sets the soul at liberty, then they are the people that can say, "The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad."
II. But having thus gone over this description, let us look now at some of the great things that God has done for us.
And we must take into the account each glorious Person in the one undivided Jehovah,—God the Father, God the Son, and God the
Holy Ghost. For in the "great things," that the eternal Trinity has done for the church of God, each distinct Person has a solemn part, a part that redounds to the glory of all and the blessedness of them that are brought to trust in God. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, as one blessed Triune Jehovah, hath entered into a solemn covenant before all worlds to bring an infmite number of mortals to immortal glory. In this solemn contract, this covenant of grace, the eternal Trinity took a survey of all their sins, and all their weaknesses, and all their misgivings, and all their backslidings, and all their temptations, and all their besetments, and all their slips, and all their falls, and all their tumblings, that this body would have from the beginning to the end of time; and in this immortal covenant God made provision to meet it all, and so to meet it as to be glorified in saving them all from all the horrors and consequences of sin. Now is that not a "great thing?" Why, if we make a provision, as we think, for our children, and make it over to them, one gets proud and profligate, sets up to be a gentleman, and soon destroys the provision; and the others do the same thing iii some other way; so that by and by the mistaken provision we made for them has been a kind of means of leading them into deeper ruin than they would have been in if they had been obliged to work for every penny they have. But our God made no mistake of that nature. one "great thing" he did in his council and covenant was to make the provision sure—"the sure mercies of David; "certain mercies," ordered in all things." Why, he saw all thy temptations, before ever thou didst. When he gave thee to Christ, he saw all thy besetments, all thy bewilderments, all thy hard-heartedness, all thy darkness, all thy coldness, all thy barrenness; and in the eternal purpose of his grace, he made such a provision for thee that it is not possible for Satan himself to drive thy poor bewildered soul into any place where God's provision will not reach thee and be sufficiently powerful to bring thee out. Is not this a "great thing," a matchless thing? It was this that made David so sweetly and solemnly sing, "Although my house be not so with God, yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure." David's house "not so with God!" Not how? Why, if you read the context, he is speaking about
a "morning without clouds," without anything that seems gloomy, when the sun arises upon it, and about the "tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after the rain;" and he says, "My house is
not so." Poor creature! He felt clouds and darkness, and often sharp biting frosts that seemed to nip the tender herb. There seemed no sweet going forth of faith, of love, of prayer, of thanksgiving; there seemed a bewilderment in the conscience. But, says he, this is my salvation and all my desire—new covenant blessings stand sure, "ordered in all things (not in one thing only) and sure." This is the strength of divine grace, when God is pleased to give it to a poor sinner to realize such immortal blessings; and this is one of the "great things" that God the Eternal Trinity in Unity has done for his people.
But we must come to retail it out a little. I am a kind of retail preacher; as a friend of ours, who lived in a country place, used to say, "I like to hear our friend, when he retails it out. Sometimes our parson wholesales it, and we poor folks cannot go to a wholesale shop; it suits me to have it retailed out, for those are the shops we poor folks can go to." And so the people of God are continually brought into such a state that they want to have it retailed out in little parcels, as we may say, that God may be glorified and themselves made glad through his grace.
1. Then if we endeavour to look a little at this blessed covenant, we first of all notice that "herein is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and gave his Son, and chose us in his Son;" so that in the purpose and councils of God, God fixed Christ and the church in his eternal heart together, the church in Christ and Christ in the church, and God in Christ and Christ in God. And thus the church was made the special charge and care of God the Son before the world was; and, I speak with reverence, God the Father looked to Christ to bring them all to heaven. "Thine they were and thou gayest them me." And "all that the Father giveth me shall"—shall what? Have a chance of coming? No, not so. Have an offer of mercy? No, not so. Have conditions proposed to them—easy terms? No, nor so
either. Well, then, how is it? "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me." Unbelief says they shall not, and pride says they shall not, and the devil says they shall not, and their hearts say they will not, for they love sin, and after it they will go; but God has taken his stand and Christ has taken his stand upon eternal fixtures, and God and Christ have said, "They shall come." Yes, poor souls! And when he comes with invincible power to the heart, he will make them glad to come as poverty-stricken sinners, and be glad to be made partakers of the riches of his Son; and "him that cometh," says Christ, "I will in no wise cast out." This is the reason why the apostle so sweetly sums up: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places,"—where? "In Christ." When God created man, he created him holy, in his own image; and it appears he put man in the care of this holiness and this image; he gave the key into his own hands, and man unlocked the door of his heart and let the devil in and all that was holy out, and God will never trust to man again while the world stands. No; he has secured all spiritual blessings "in Christ," and given him the key of the house; and he opens and no man shuts, and shuts and no man opens. "It pleases the Father that ALL fulness" should be there; and therefore there is nothing but emptiness anywhere else. And he is said to he "full of grace and truth;" and "of his fulness we receive, and grace for grace." So then the Father, in his great part in this solemn economy of salvation, gave his Son to be the Head and Representative of the church, the grand repository of heaven; and. God locked up his honour, his truth, his grace, and "all spiritual blessings" in the heart of Christ, and Christ pledged his honour to save all securely, and to magnify all the honours of God in making this mystery known by the power of his Spirit to the hearts and consciences of his people. And this is a "great thing," that God has done for them.
2. But it will not do to enlarge, and therefore we will proceed to notice what Christ has done for them. There is a great deal said about Jesus Christ in our day. "What a merciful Christ he was," they say, "to come and die for sinners!" But some people tell us that such is the nature of his death, that after all it may he the means of
damning us deeper than we should have been damned if he never had died. Why, what an awful thing that is to say! I recollect a minister saying to me some years ago, "You do not love sinners as you ought to do, or else you would preach to them universal offers and universal proffers." "Indeed," said I. "Let me ask you one thing. Will any sinner that ever gets to heaven be saved by your universal offers and universal proffers?" "No," he said, for he was a sort of a Calvinist, "they will not." "Well, what will become of the rest?" "Ah!" said he; "they will have a deeper damnation, because they rejected the offers of mercy." "So that is the method you take," said I, "to show you love sinners; as if they could not be damned deep enough, but you will damn them the deeper by your universal offers, when you admit that they cannot be saved the more for your preaching to them? What an awful way that is! It is not according to the riches of God's grace that he has ordained in the salvation of the church."
Now the Lord Jesus Christ, in his rich mercy, undertook to stand accountable and responsible, as the Surety of the family of God, and to have all laid upon him that was chargeable to them; and he bore it, and will communicate to them all that can flow from his blood and love, that can crown God's brow and honour his name; and thus he stood the glorious Head and Representative of the church of the Most High, to the honour of God and the blessedness of all them that are brought by rich grace to believe. But he mast be something in his own person beside essential Godhead; for essential Godhead could not accomplish this. The law demanded blood for blood; essential Godhead could not bleed. "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth;" essential Godhead could not do that. Essential Godhead could not shed blood, could not die; yet "without shedding of blood there is no remission of sin." And yet such is the measure of the "great things," that the Lord Jesus Christ has done for his people, that it is emphatically called "his dying," and his blood the blood of God. "Yes," say you, "but I do not believe it was the blood of God." Well I do in my very soul believe it; not that Godhead could bleed, but that the Person who did bleed was God and man, and therefore the Godhead in union with the manhood made the one Person
Immanuel, and it was his blood. If you want a simple argument upon the subject, suppose, when I go home to night, some person was to stab me, and I was to be bleeding in the street, you would say, "Why, yonder lies Gadsby bleeding." Now my soul could not bleed, you know, and that is what makes the person, is it not? But then you take me as a man, and cry, "He is bleeding;" all that can suffer and bleed is suffering and bleeding. And as it respects Immanuel, the God-man Mediator, all that could suffer and bleed and agonize and die in him did suffer, bleed, agonize, and die; and the Godhead gave immortal validity to the atonement, so that it is emphatically called the blood of God: "God purchased the church with his own blood. "
The Lord Jesus Christ, then, the Second Person in the glorious Trinity, in order to accomplish this "great thing" that he was going to do, took up a life to be able to die, took our nature into union with his personal Godhead, and became really man, truly and verily man as well as truly and verily God, that he might be able to wade through all the miseries that sin and the devil had heaped round his elect, and to go after them, and bear their gins in his own body and soul on the tree, that they might be set for ever free. And thus his sacred Majesty stooped to bear their weakness and infirmities, and to take their sins upon him. Hence it is said he was "made sin for us." Why, that is a strange saying, for he was "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners," and "guile was not found in his mouth." "Made sin?" Aye, he was made murder, and made adultery, and made fornication, and made theft, and made treason. "Shocking!" say you. "How can that be, if he was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners?" Because he was made so by solemn contract and solemn transfer. The murder, the adultery, the fornication, and the abominations of David, and Solomon, and Peter, and all God's elect were transferred and placed to his account, and he acknowledged the debt. "Sacrifice and offering thou wouldst not," said he; these things would not do,—were not sufficient. "Then said I, Lo I come to do "—what sacrifices could not do—"to do thy will, 0 God." And Paul tells us roundly that "we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all." And this was a "great thing" that Jesus Christ came to die. Look at him as
the Babe of Bethlehem; look at him as a traveler without house or home; look at him hunted by Satan forty days and forty nights in the wilderness under all the iron tyranny that devils could inflict upon him, when he had too much work to do, too much solemn engagement with all the powers of hell to have a moment's time either to eat, drink, or sleep for those forty days and forty nights; and this was all in espousing the cause of the church, in doing a great work for his people. He fought their battle manfully, he vanquished all their foes; but at length his blessed Majesty was brought to be in a solemn agony, and he said, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." Good John Berridge has a solemn view upon this subject:
"How his eyes astonished are!
Sure they witness huge despair!
On his face what sadness dwells!
Bare he feels a thousand hells!"
Aye he did—a million hells. Poor child of God! All the hell thy sins have merited was poured into his soul, and all the hell that all the millions of the elect of God ever merited was poured into his holy soul. And had he not been God as well as man, humanity could not have sustained the load and rolled it over. But immortal Godhead supported humanity under the weight of wrath; his holy soul endured it, and he died "the Just for the unjust to bring us to God," and so to accomplish a salvation, rich and free, as extensive as the necessities of his people, as deep as their miseries can possibly be. Has he not done "great things" for us?
And all to give them a chance of being saved,—according to some people. I do not know that I hate any thing more in my soul than to hear that. It makes Jesus Christ so little, that ho should do so much, and after all only get us a chance of being saved. Why, if a man is set up in business, you see how often it happens that he fails in it; and if man cannot manage the paltry things of time and sense without being insolvent, what will he do with eternal realities? And if you come a little closer, when God "made man upright" and he had no sinful nature, what did he do with his innocence? Why, he
lost it all. And yet poor presumptuous man has the vanity to think you and I could manage the chance of being saved. What an insult it is to the Lord Jesus Christ, to fix the eternal honour of God upon chance, and that chance to be managed by a poor sinful creature who is tumbling into half a dozen holes every hour of his life. No, no. Thanks be to God for immortal realities and certainties. What is said concerning what Christ has done? He has "put away sin by the sacrifice of himself;" be has "finished transgression and made an end of sin;" he has "redeemed us from all iniquity;" he has "redeemed us from the curse of the law,"—from destruction and from the power of the devil; he has "obtained eternal redemption for us;" he has "redeemed us to God." To the honour of the Eternal Trinity, it is said, not that the redeemed shall have a chance, but that the redeemed shall "come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy shall, be upon their heads, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." The Lord Jesus Christ has done this "great" work, and he is gone to heaven, shouting "Victory;" for "God is gone up with a shout; the Lord with the sound of a trumpet." He rose from the grave as a demonstrative proof that sin was destroyed, law satisfied, God honoured, his people eternally and everlastingly saved. And the immortal honours of God unite in their salvation; and therefore he ever lives at the right hand of the Father to make intercession.
And in order that there might be this great work and this great wonder carried on manifestively, Christ is manifested as the Shepherd to gather his sheep in and to feed them when they are in; as the Captain, to fight their battles for them; and as the High Priest to plead their cause, bear them upon his shoulders and present them before God with the plate of "Holiness to the Lord" as they stand complete in him and he is their Surety ever to represent them before God; as it is said, "He is entered into heaven now to appear in the presence of God for us" in his Surety capacity. He is a Prophet, to teach and instruct us, as well as our Priest, to atone for and to bless ns; and he is a Husband, to sympathize with ns, and (as it is written so it stands firm) as a Husband he "gave himself' for his wife, "that he might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, and that he might present her to himself a glorious church, not
having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; and he is the Rearward, to bring up the rear. I have often thought good John Bunyan made a little mistake when he said there wan no armour for the back, because then the enemy would soon get behind and shoot between our shoulders; but, while our Jesus has provided weapons for us to meet the enemy with, he is the Rearward to look after the scouting foe; and he watches over the church night and day, and waters her every moment; and he solemnly declares that he will be "her God and her guide even unto death." What "great things" these are!
3. But God the Holy Ghost is also engaged in this solemn work of doing "great things." There are two things that God the Spirit keeps his eye upon—the enrolment of God, and the sinner enrolled there. And at the time specified in God's enrolment, when that sinner shall be taken and made willing, the Spirit comes with his power and does it. If it is a Zaccheus in the tree, he must come down. If it is a Peter, busy among his nets and his fish, he must come. If it is a Philippian jailer, lulling his conscience to sleep because he has been giving the apostles a good hearty drubbing, for he thought he had plague enough without being plagued with such fanatics, and he would make them remember coming there, and 80 he "made their feet fast in the stocks,"—but at midnight the time is come, God puts the cry into his heart, the Holy Ghost makes no mistake, he must cry, "What must I do to be saved?" If it is a Magdalene, who has been a kind of devil's show box carrying through the streets to delude you, she must come. Of Blessed "be God. The Spirit of God laid hold of her heart, and brought her to weep at the feet of Jesus and cry for mercy. And so if it is the dying thief and he is upon the cross, he must come.
And now let us come a little nearer; where were you, and where was I, and what were we doing? Perhaps there is some poor sinner in this assembly to-night who has come here on purpose to have some little ridicule when he gets away, and is pleasing himself with the idea of having a little fun with some of his wicked companions. 0! If this is the day of God's power, may the Holy Ghost send an almighty message to your presumptuous heart! Where are you? WHERE ARE
YOU? May God the Spirit pursue you, and bring you to know your ruined condition and perishing state before a heart-searching God! If it is the Lord's time, he will; for the hour cometh and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live." The Holy Spirit keeps his eye both upon God's secret enrolment Mid the sinner enrolled there, and he never loses sight of him; no, not even if he is going to Damascus with letters to persecute the church. When the set time is come, down he must fall. 0 that the Lord would quicken some of your dead souls, bring you this night to feel what cursed wretches you are in the sight of God, and make you cry to him as perishing sinners; and then eventually you will know some of the "great things" that God has done for you.
Well, when the Holy Ghost has quickened the dead soul to feel, and enlightened the dark soul to see, then the poor creature sets about amendments. He finds, in some measure, that he is in an awful state, and he begins to try to amend it. He shakes off perhaps his companions in drink, he will begin to be dutiful to his master, and he will set about pleasing God and doing something to
* We have heard the dear man thus exclaim, with a voice ao powerful and rolling it has run through oar very bones and made the walls of the chapel to ring again.
make amends for the bad things he has done before. But, strange to tell! Everything that he does God the Spirit discovers to be empty, and vain, and wretched; discovers it to be evil, discovers it to be sin; and all the man's doings, and all his sayings, and all his attempts to help his own soul only make him so much the worse in his state and in his own feelings before a heart-searching God. And then the poor creature thinks he has missed it here and he has missed it there; he will try again, and may do better the next time; but he misses it again. "Well," says some poor soul, "that is the way I have been going on from month to month, and I have always missed it yet, but I hope to manage better soon." I tell you, you will never be right till you have lost that hope. "Lost that hope I What! Must I lose that hope? Why, man, you will drive one mad! What! Mast that go—that hope of being able to manage it better?" Yes, that it must. That must
go, and you must sink with it; and when that is gone—when all hope is gone, not only that you have not saved yourself, but that you never can, then Christ is preached by the Holy Spirit in the conscience, and the soul is brought to know something of "the hope of Israel," instead of the hope of flesh and blood. And this is a "great thing" that the Lord does for the poor sinner, to strip him of false hope and false confidence and all that would lead him astray, that he may lead him, as a perishing sinner, to the Lord Jesus Christ and magnify the riches of God's grace in his soul.
"Well," says some poor creature, "I think I have been a lost helpless thing in my own feelings for many a month, and yet I do not enjoy God's salvation." I should question whether you are brought to this. Now is there not a little bit of something, a little secret lurking something at the bottom, that still gives you some hope that a favourable moment will come when you shall manage it a little better? Now just ask your conscience, whether it is not so. ("Yes," say you, "it is.") That must go. I know you will cling to it as long as ever you can. I know you will. It is like a man giving up his life, it is like a man giving up every thing, to give up this; but the Holy Ghost will make you give it up at last, or else you are none of his.
And when he has done this, will he leave you to destruction? "Why," say you, "really I am afraid he will; for I have been tempted many times to put an end to my existence. Once, the Lord knows, I had the instrument in my hand, and I think if he had not taken care of me, 1 should have done it." Well, he will take care of you; though he his hunting you out of all props, and all self, and all false comfort, he will administer true comfort. I have often thought of one occurrence that took place, connected with my own ministry, some years ago. A poor woman in very great distress thought she could go on no longer, and she would know the worst of it; and so she appointed a time in her own mind when she would drown herself; and when the time came she went to the river; but just as she was going to plunge in, it occurred to her, "Why, if I drown myself now, the folks at home will not know where I am, and they will hunt everywhere to find me, and they will waste so much time in looking
after me that I shall add to my other sins that of bringing my family to poverty. I will go back and bring my little girl with me another day, and then she can tell them where I am." And so the Lord overruled it for that time. Well, she went again accordingly, and took the child with her, and was just going to plunge in, when she thought, "Why my poor little girl will be so frightened that she will jump in, and I shall drown her too. I will go back, and take some other method of doing it." Well, after this she came to the place where I preached, and God set her soul at liberty, and she was brought to know the blessings of salvation. 0! How carefully the Holy Spirit looks after the flock of the Lord! How carefully he guards them, when they have neither power nor intention to guard themselves! So great is his love, so great his compassion, so great his care, that he does these "great things" for them, and eventually they "are glad."
Well, then, this is one of the "great things" he does in the end—he reveals pardon; but it is one thing for people to talk about believing in Christ and having pardon, and it is another thing for them to believe and for them really to have pardon. The Holy Ghost comes and brings into the soul the pardoning love of Christ, removes bondage, gives a sweet quiet in the conscience, and gives the happy song, "In the Lord have I righteousness and strength;" "In the Lord have I mercy; in the Lord I am free." Well, by-and by the poor creature is brought to think, "Now it will be comfortable all the days of my life." But I tell you, if you live long, the Lord will teach you more of Christ. If any one was to ask you what is intended by Christ in all his offices, in all his relations, in his oath and promises, in all his fulness, you would be ready to say, "0! I do not understand all those divisions and subdivisions. I believe he has pardoned my soul, I believe he has loved me, I feel that I love him, and that is enough for me." 0 no. You must know more than that; and therefore you shall be brought into straits and difficulties which shall make the offices and relations, the oath and promise and fulness, of Jesus Christ, just suited to your condition. You shall see that what is said about Christ is not like titles of honour given to our noblemen—mere puffs of empty air— but that every thing which is said about
Christ is essential, real, suited to the honour of God. God will bring his people more or less, to the solemn feeling of necessity—of knowing that they need such a Christ; and then the blessed Spirit makes him manifest to the conscience us "a very present help in time of need." He reveals Christ in the conscience, and goes on from the first moment of his quickening energy, and carries us through this vale of tears, and lands us in ineffable bliss, redeemed through the Lord Jesus Christ, decorated in his righteousness, robed with his salvation, dignified with his honour, and having the dignity of God's glory stamped upon our character, in which we shall shine for ever and ever, to the praise and glory of God's grace. The Lord does these "great things" for sinners—poor, ruined, helpless sinners. "The Lord has done great things for us, whereof we are glad."
And now let me ask you, Do you know anything of this yourself? I will tell you one "great thing" that the Spirit of the Lord will do for a poor sinner who knows anything of these things in reality. There will be times and seasons when you really cannot pray. I do not mean when you cannot say your prayers. God the Spirit will bring you to know that saying prayers and praying are very different things. Your mouth will be so completely stopped sometimes, that, when you are praying, conscience, enlightened and quickened by the Holy Ghost, will say, "You do not feel that," and, "You do not feel that. What a hypocrite you are! You are speaking things to God, and you do not feel them." So that you are completely shut up and confounded, and feel as if you could say nothing but this sentence, "Lord, I am vile!" and you do not feel that, and you so confess before the Lord. Now the Lord sometimes brings a poor sinner to this very point, and the poor creature thinks he can never pray again; but he does pray again. If he lives in the country, he goes moping about the fields, and if he lives in the city, he goes about his work, and sometimes he is looking for some instrument that he wants for his employer, and perhaps he has it in his hand all the time, and he is so bewildered and confused that he feels fit for nothing. Satan tells him he his going mad, and he looks in the glass to see whether he is looking wild; and he thinks there is not another mortal so wretched as himself. Well; when this is the case, and all things seem so
gloomy, the Holy Spirit comes, and comes as a Spirit of prayer, humbles him, and puts a cry into his month, till he really feels a majesty in prayer, and a power in prayer; and anon he is drawn forth into energy in prayer, and he can feel that God is owned of him, and he is owned of God, and he says, "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me." 0! What a delightful thing it is, when God the Spirit puts such a word into the mouth of the poor worm of the dust! This is one of the "great things" that he does at times; and THEN "the kingdom of heaven suffers violence" indeed. There is THEN a solemn might and violence in prayer to storm Satan's strongholds, and a great blessing comes through the power and energy of the Holy Ghost. But none but the Spirit of the Lord can produce this in the heart of a sinner; and when a sinner is brought here, he knows something eventually of God "having done great things for him."
But I must conclude; my strength tells me that I must.
III. When the Lord makes this manifest in us, it is sure to make us GLAD. Then we can say, joyfully, sweetly, and blessedly, "The Lord is my rock and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God my strength, in whom I will trust, my buckler, and the horn of my salvation and my high tower"—my ALL. What gladness in the heart when Jesus is thus revealed, and when our souls can sweetly and blessedly triumph in him! "He hath done great things for us whereof we are glad."
May the Lord the Spirit lead you and me to know more of the Gospel of Christ, and to show especial concern for the poor and needy, for his mercy's sake.
GOD'S PEOPLE LED BY HIM IN HIS PATHS.
Preached on Tuesday Evening, May 21st, 1839, in Gower Street Chapel, London.
"Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not."
ONE difference betwixt the presumptuous professor and a child of God, blessed with a tender conscience, is this: the presumptuous professor seems anxious to know how far he may go without being particularly criminal, what steps it is possible for him to take in pleasure or in vice without bringing himself in as false and vile; but the child of God, with a tender conscience, is constantly praying, "Hold up my goings in thy paths." He is not wanting to know, "Can I do such a thing that is pleasing to flesh and blood, and yet not be criminal?" But he wants to be preserved tenderly walking in the fear of God, and giving proof that there is a solemn vitality in the religion of the cross of Christ. I do not mean that he will never be tempted to some evil thing; but that is not his home, that is not his element, that is not his joy.
There are people in the world who, if they speak of the workings of their inbred corruption, speak of them rather as a virtue than a vice, as if they were to be nursed and cherished and delighted in; but God's people, when in their right minds, have to speak of them with abhorrence, to detest them, to loathe them. And there are professors in the world who, if you give a description of a part of the workings of the human heart (for you can only give a part; give us much as you will, you will never get to the bottom); and if you point out the preciousness of Christ to such sinners, those call you corruption-preachers. They know nothing about the matter; they are like Jonathan's lad, they are not in the secret. If ever God. in the riches of his grace, had taught them the plague of their own heart, the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and the preciousness of Christ as suited to such sinners, they would have a better opinion of such preaching. Such men will talk very soundly upon the letter of doctrines, and go swimmingly on; but they have never had any loggers tied to their heels; they never had their sore laid open: they have never been brought into God's hospital. And till God brings them there, they will know nothing about the preciousness of a cure. They cannot understand what the Lord spiritually means when he says, "The whole need not a physician, but they that are sick."
We read this portion as a text last Tuesday evening, and promised, first, to make a few remarks upon God's paths; secondly, to speak a little of God's people's goings in those paths; thirdly, their liability to slip in those paths; and lastly the nature and necessity of this prayer, "Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not."
I. Now as to God's paths we noticed:
1. That solemn path that is laid down in God's own infinite mind the counsel and purpose of his grace, by the which and according to which he moves in all the bearings of the great economy of salvation.
2. Next we consider that glorious path, the Person, blood, and obedience of Christ, by which the eternal God comes down to sinners, in which he leads sinners to him, and in which God and sinners meet—the Lord Jesus Christ, in his blessed love, blood, and obedience.
3. Now we come next to a path that is not very pleasant to any, and much set at naught by many,—the path of tribulation.
"But," say you, "is that one of the Lord's paths?" God has said that it is "through much tribulation ye shall enter the kingdom." And there is one solemn portion of God's Word that has been at times very blessed to my own soul, and that is, "Tribulation worketh patience." It does so in two ways. It fmds patience something to do. Men talk about being very patient, who have nothing to try their patience. They know nothing about whether they have any patience, for they have had nothing to put it to the test. But let God, either by his permission or in the dispensation of his providence, suffer or bring his people into this path of tribulation, and that tries their patience and finds patience something to do. And then eventually it produces patience, as they are brought by the Holy Spirit to know something of the power of God overruling their crosses and trials, to the glory of his name and the blessedness of their own soul. And this tribulation is one of the Lord's paths. "By these things men live."
But what are we to understand by tribulations! I might take up the whole evening with this, and yet say but little about it. However, I will just notice that, as it respects troubles, God's people have all things in common with other men; such as poverty, disappointments, worldly difficulties, worldly trials; but then each real spiritual believer in the Lord Jesus Christ has conflicts peculiar to himself, and which the world knows nothing of. As Hart very beautifully observes in one of his hymns,—they all have to suffer "martyrdom within." God sends tribulation into their souls, dries up almost every spark of light, every drop of love, every particle of life that God communicates to their souls; and through an infmite variety of chequered scenes they are brought to such an internal conflict as to be "at their wit's end" almost, and wonder where the scene will end; and they are ready to conclude that God has given them up and will have no more to do with them, and that these things are come as evidences that they are not his children. I was going to say I do not believe God takes such pains with any but his children; he lets others nurse up themselves in their delusions and go comfortably on; but he sends tribulation to his children which seems to dry thorn up, and to bring them from all false confidences, false comforts, false evidences, and false joys, and appears, at times, as if he was burning all up. But he only burns up the hay and the stubble; for whatever you may think of yourselves, if you have known much of the working of nature, I am certain you have been building up, at times, some tolerably high heaps of hay and stubble, and you have looked at them and thought they looked so very pretty, and you have said, "Aye, we are going to get on a little now." But God sent a storm, or sent a fire, and set it alight and burnt it up, and you were "saved, but so as by fire." Thus you have known something feelingly and spiritually of the path of tribulation. There is no such thing as a child of God missing it; for the Lord says, we "must enter into his kingdom through much tribulation." Yet what pains have we taken to make a better road, what pains to smooth the path, what pains to lay a fine carpet all the way, that we may go to heaven without any difficulties or trials! But God has determined that his people shall have conflicts within and such conflicts that nothing short of the Lord himself can support them in and deliver them out of; and thus they must walk through the path of tribulation.
4. Another path of the Lord is the path of walking into the various branches of God's revealed truth in the glorious doctrines and promises of the Gospel.
If you are a child of God, and have been brought to know something experimentally of the power of divine truth on your conscierce and at the same time have a tolerable acquaintance with the doctrines of truth (such as the doctrine of God's eternal election, the inseparable union betwixt Christ and the church, the glorious pardon of sin through the atonement, the free justification of the sinner by the righteousness of Christ imputed, the fulness of Christ to supply all our needs, the final perseverance of the saints, and the ultimate glory of all God's people); and if you never really got at them through the path of tribulation, they will make you giddy and you will walk very unsteady, and by and by all your stock will appear to fail you, and you will have to get at every particle of these divine mysteries through hot fires and deep waters, and then you will find they are solemnly sweet and solemnly precious to your soul, and you will be led to glorify God even for crosses. It was so with myself at any rate; and every one has a right to talk of the road he has gone. I recollect I believed the doctrine of election naturally, as far as nature goes. I had not been taught it, but I used to reason with myself, when a youth, that as to supposing God did not know who will be saved and who lost, why we might as well say he is no God at all. And I think so still; at least he cannot be the God of heaven, who "sees the end from the beginning." Why, precious soul, if he is a God that does not know that, you might as well worship that pillar. But the child of God may get a knowledge of these things in the judgment, and by and by be brought into such a fierce conflict that all will tend to weigh him down, rather than give him any support or consolation. But when he is brought by the Spirit of God to walk in these things, to enter into these truths, what a blessed immortal mine opens to him, what solemn lettings down there are! He can take a survey of the purposes of God in the settlements of heaven, in the gifts of Christ, in the blessed work of the Spirit, in the building up of his people in fear and love, propping up their souls in storms, and at last leading them triumphantly to glory. A solemnly sweet matter it is, whenGod the Spirit leads us with vital faith to walk in this path. John speaks very highly of the elect lady's children, who "walked in the truth." But mind, it is consecrated ground; it is not to walk with levity, with lightness, with indifference. He must be no light frothy professor, that is "carried about with every wind of doctrine." He will feel a solemn weight in his soul, in his sense of the importance of these doctrines.
5. Lastly, the Lord leads his children also in the path of his precepts.
I know some people say, when you start that, "0! It is legal; I have nothing to do with precepts." Why, they are in the Word of God, and if the perceptive part of the law of Jesus, as King of Zion and Head of the church, is too trifling for your notice, surely you cannot be much attached to the Lord of the house. His blessed Majesty says, "If ye love me, keep my commandments;" and therefore it is an awful look-out, when professors can slight them.
Now we can only mention here a few of the things which God enjoins upon his children. That they "love one another." Then they must not be proud, consequential, above the poor brokenhearted child of God. If we say we love the Lord and love not his poor mourning child, we deceive ourselves; for he is a member of Christ, a limb of Christ, a part of Christ. He says so himself. You and I should remember every one of these is a limb of our blessed Christ and a part of ourselves, for it is one blessed body, and there can be no separation betwixt Christ and his mystical members.
Then another branch of Christ's precepts is "not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together." It becomes the child of God to meet with God's dear family, to hear and for prayer; and their united prayer, under the inditing of God the Holy Ghost, is more powerful than a million armies of men.
Another branch of the Lord's precepts is to "contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints," and not to consider any branch of divine truth of little moment, but to remember God has connected his honour with it. It is not that we are to be quarrelling; but we are to maintain divine truth in the meekness and love of Christ.
Another branch of the precepts is this (it comes very close, God help us to walk in it): "Endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." What is the "bond of peace?" Why, love and blood. In the bond of the love and blood of the Godman Mediator, may we be concerned to show ourselves one blessed family, born from above and bound for the world of ineffable glory, where "God shall be all in all." And if there were time, I could go over the preceptive parts of divine truth enjoined upon the members of Christ, according to the office they fill in the world, the church, or the family, as masters or servants, husbands or wives, parents or children. In your station, be concerned to know the will of Jesus concerning you, and to walk in obedience to it under the divine anointing of his Spirit.
II. We pass on to notice next the "goings" of God's people in his paths.
Now one of the first paths that we move in, with peace and joy, is that path which God moves in to come to us and draw us to him. Ah! How sweet and precious it is, when the Holy Ghost draws the sinner from self to Christ, and leads him, by faith and in feeling, to walk in the Redeemer as the Lord his righteousness and strength! God the Spirit draws his feet up to heaven, to walk in the "fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness." He is plunged in that immortal flood, loses his guilt from his conscience, and feels a solemn enjoyment of interest in the Lord the Lamb, more prizeable than a thousand worlds. Well then, he looks and finds his own emptiness; and God the Spirit draws him by faith to walk by faith in the fulness of Christ, who is "full of grace and truth."
Perhaps there is some poor soul here to-night, just upon the threshold of this road, and yet he cannot take a step in it. I have often seen a poor sinner standing at the borders of the fulness and glory of Christ as suited to him, and he has looked, and, as we commonly say, he has longed. It is like a poor famished creature looking through a window and seeing a table richly and wonderfully loaded with the bounties of providence, but he dare not hope to be the partaker of a crumb; and there he stands, thinking and quaking. Perhaps here is some soul in this state to-night. Some people tell you, "0! You must venture in." Ah! It is pretty talking; but doing is another thing. Perhaps now he is sure there is every thing his soul needs; but he thinks there is certainly nothing for him. But by and by the dear Lord comes, and, by the sweet power and blessed energy of his Spirit, he draws the soul in to walk into the glorious mysteries of the love of Christ; he lets down a sense of the fulness of Christ into his heart, and says, "Eat, 0 friend, and drink, yea, drink abundantly, 0 beloved; and let your heart delight itself in fatness." And as his blessed Majesty thus speaks, he gives an enlarged heart to receive, and thus fills it from his own heart; and thus brings the soul, by faith and in feeling, to walk in the Lord Jesus Christ. Do not you recollect what the Lord says by the mouth of the apostle: "As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him?" He would not have said So, if he had not known that his people are very prone to forget that. Why, sometimes they walk round and round Christ, and look and look, and yet, poor souls! they cannot walk one step into him, So as to bring the power of his blood and fulness into their hearts. But when the blessed Spirit leads them to walk in, then they have holy liberty. And sweet work it is, when Christ and the soul sit together, and there is an immortal union and communion at the banquet, which the world knows nothing of.
And so, again, when a poor soul feels a load of guilt; how is he to get rid of it?" "0!" say some people, "Begin to do your duty; and when you have done a little duty, then you are to take the comfort of the Bible." I believe it is the devil's trap, to insult the Spirit of God and to deceive sinners. "Why," say you, "you would not encourage them not to do their duty?" Nay, that is another thing. It becomes them to walk in the precepts of God and practice all what are called duties; but that will not do for a ground of comfort and happiness. If ever we feel guilt, and if God the Spirit does not apply the atonement and bring us to walk into the efficacy of the blood of the God-man Mediator, and we get rid of guilt without it, it is the devil deceiving our souls and we have wrapped up ourselves in some sad delusion. Nothing but that can
bring solid peace to the conscience and clear our sky of clouds. That is what makes matters straight with God, and he crowns our faith with divine apprehensions, and faith crowns him with all the glory. And thus there is a solemn coming and going betwixt the soul and the Lord, when God the Spirit is pleased to lead us by faith to walk in this way. But we shall find we only walk there as "necessity is laid upon us" and God the Spirit draws us. We may talk about the fitness of things, as if it were a matter that we could get at because it was a fit matter. It is no such thing. It is as God the Spirit draws us, and leads us, and guides us, and fills our souls with his heavenly dew and his divine love; and then we are brought to walk in this path, which God himself has laid down.
Well; by and by we get into the path of tribulation; and we must walk there. The first branch of my walk in the path of tribulation I cannot forget. After I had had the bondage of guilt for a few months and the Lord had delivered me, I went cheerfully on for a few more months, and thought I should be happy all the days of my life. But at length I was brought into such gloom, such darkness, such wretchedness, such rising up of sin, such teeming or oozing up of filth, pollution; misery, unwholesomeness, that I really could not compare myself to any thing better than a walking devil, and imagined that I was enough to breed the plague upon earth and that I carried a pestilence about with me. I dreaded, at the time, meeting any one that I thought a child of God, for I was afraid the moment I met him he would find out what a monstrous hypocrite I was; and as I knew every one that lived in the village where I then was and they knew me, I thought if one of them found out what I was and came to tell the people, I must run away and leave the country, for they would point at me and jeer me and hoot me,— I was such a wretched monster. "Aye," some will say, "you are joking, man; you never thought you were such a vagabond as that." Yes, indeed I did; and I think I am not much better now; for when I look at the corruption that there is within, I feel that nothing but Christ's blood can give me rest, and nothing but his Almighty power can bring me safe along. However, by and by, God, in the dispensations of his providence, made this a path to lead me into the mysteries of his kingdom. I believe there is more in that text than many of his people think of: "Through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom." We do not merely enter the kingdom of heaven through much tribulation, but we really enter feelingly and spiritually into the kingdom of his manifested grace in the soul through tribulation; and as we are brought to have tribulation upon tribulation, the Lord appears, and blesses our souls with the unction of this truth, and we begin to walk blessedly into it.
I will just tell you how it was with me. When in this state, I made up my mind to keep out of the company of all God's people. But on one occasion a poor woman, who is now gone to glory, saw me come and called me by my name, and said, "Are you going to Coventry?" which was about eighteen miles from where I lived. I said, "Yes, I am." "0! Stop a moment then," said she; "for my John is going there." Now I had rather it had been a bear; for I am pretty swift of foot and I might have outrun a bear; but I knew this John was a child of God. "Now," thought I, "I shall be found out, and I shall be just like Cain, going about with a brand upon me.' I must take care that John does not talk to me about religion. I will talk to him about trade and polities all the way to Coventry. I will take care we have nothing about religion." And so, when he came up, I begun about those things; but he cut the matter short, and took me up at once: "I want to know why you go to the meeting-house?" "Ah!" I thought. "This is cutting me up at once. Do not ask me," said I. "But I must know," he said. "I really cannot tell you." "Well, what do you think of yourself?" said he. "What are your feelings?" "I dare not tell you," said I. "Do not ask me, for really I dare not." "Nay," said he; "but let me have a little of it;" and so he began pumping and supping (I think he had a tolerably good sup of me), and he got one little bit and then another, till at last he began to smile. And then I thought, "Ah! He has found it out, and he is laughing at my calamity, and mocking while my fear is coming." But at length he said, "Now who do you think taught you this? Nature never taught it." And he began to point out the Word of God as suited to such a condition, and showed how it was the state that God led all his people into, from time to time. God sweetly brought it to my heart, set my soul at liberty, and the Bible became a new Bible to me. It seemed to unfold mysteries that I never knew before. And thus my poor soul was led to walk in the truth of God while I was walking in this path of tribulation. And then I began to talk about the blessed enjoyment given me of God's revealed truth, and the people called me an Antinomian. Why, they might as well have called me a Pagan; for I did not know what an Antinomian was. But I never since have got off this ground, and I trust I never shall, of having Christ all and self nothing. And I believe through this path, however trying it may be to us, God teaches his people, by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, a tolerable measure of divine truth. We learn through our own fickleness the necessity of God's immutability; we learn through our own weakness the necessity of God's strength; we learn (for the blessed Spirit teaches us) through our own emptiness the necessity of the fulness of Christ; through our own foolishness the necessity of the wisdom of Christ; through our own unholiness the necessity of the holiness of Christ; and through the channel of our own degradation the necessity of the glory of Christ. God the Spirit leads us into this blessed channel of divine truth, through the path of tribulation. And thus the Lord glorifies himself in the hearts and consciences of his people, and glorifies truth in them too; and so leads them sweetly and blessedly to know that God's kingdom stands in God's power and does not consist in the observation of men. And thus we "walk in the truth."
Now when God the Spirit has brought the poor child of God sweetly and solemnly thus to walk in his paths, what a solemn mystery is unfolded, when God comes to make known his own path of eternal purpose and counsel, by which the Lord walks in all his dispensations! Have you ever felt it? Have you ever seen it by faith? Has God the Spirit drawn you to walk, by faith and in feeling, in this path,—to trace (notwithstanding all your uncertainty, unsteadiness, fickleness, wanderings, foolishness, vanity, and wretchedness, which have burdened and oppressed you) the stability, and firmness, and glory of God's eternal counsel? Has he brought you, in heart and soul, to walk out of your own fickleness into God's eternal fixtures, and find there a settledness, more blessed than a thousand worlds? If God the Spirit thus leads us, we then, in some blessed measure, walk in God's paths, and know what it is to hold converse with the Father, and with the Son, and with the blessed Spirit.
I am sure, when this is the case, it will be no task to walk in the path of obedience. To "run in the way of God's commandments" will be no burden then; no, not even if the Lord brings us so into the path of obedience as to expose us to the scorn and derision of men. We then know something of the blessedness which Moses felt, when by faith he esteemed even "the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt." What an idea! Why, if the reproach of Christ was greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, what is the glory? What is the blessedness? Come, come. Let us sum up with some of God's gems. It is an honour put upon the Lord s people to suffer for the Lord's sake, and the Lord crowns it with his own promises; and so we are led sweetly to walk in that path, we find a solemn pleasure in yielding obedience to the Lord, and showing forth the Lord's praises as taught of him
Now do you know anything of this? It is very easy to talk about this thing being the best, and that thing being the best. There is a great deal of talk among men about a variety of things of an external nature; but the kingdom of God has an immortal mystery in it. It stands in God's power, God's truth, God's justice, God's holiness, God's pity, God's compassion, all in divine harmony; and the mystery of godliness is for God to let out his heart as a covenant God into our hearts, and to bring our hearts into his heart, and thus lead us sweetly and spiritually into the glorious mysteries of his kingdom. May the Lord the Spirit lead you and me to walk in his paths, and to be moving on; for he tells us we are to "grow up into Christ in all things," and not to grow up in pride and self-conceit in our own ability and our own knowledge and our own way. The most blessed and spiritual walking that we can enjoy in the world is when God the Spirit leads us to sicken at all self-pretensions and to walk out of self into the Lamb of God, and stand before God sweetly and solemnly in the mysteries of the cross; and so to glorify him with our bodies and souls, which are his.
III. But we observe, in the next place, there is a possibility of our footsteps slipping. "Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not."
There is one blessed thing, we shall never depart entirely out of his paths. The Lord will invariably so order it that his people shall move on in some way or other. But we know there is a possibility of slipping. We may temporarily slip as to the doctrines of the Gospel. How was it with the Galatians? Paul says, "Ye did run well; what hath hindered you?" Ah! Their feet had slipped. And if you mind, he calls the men who had been the means of leading them to slip, wizards, because it must be a wizard or a witch which had bewitched them." That is the name he gives to the Humanizing teachers, the men who had seduced them from the truth. And I will tell you how they did it. If they happened to be a little bewildered in their mind, up comes one of the religious wizards (and God knows there are plenty of them in our day), and says, "I fear you have been turning Antinomian, I fear your minds have been entangled with some notions about particular feelings and particular points of doctrine. "Now mind," says he, "the religion of Christ is a holy religion, and what you have to do, is to mind to be holy, and to walk holily. I wish to preach Christ," he says; "but then you must have your own holiness as well. That must be maintained, and the law must be your standing rule, and you must yield obedience to it, or you cannot be saved." Well, this seems very right; and sometimes the poor creature begins to say, "Why, Sir, I really felt so; but when the glorious Gospel of Christ came with power to my heart, I found it had every thing in it of precept and life and power, and it seemed to fit my soul well." "0!" answers he; "that is Antinomianism." Thus they try to get the old veil over the poor creature's eyes; and if they succeed in that, he gets bewildered, and cannot tell what he is about. Now you mind what the apostle says about that: "Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made you free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." Why, if there is this "entanglement," who in the name of conscience, can walk straight? With a veil over his eyes, or an entanglement upon his heart, he is sure to make some slip, and be brought into such a state of mind as to cry out, as my text does, "Hold up my goings in thy paths," for he finds himself slipping a great deal from "the simplicity that is in Christ," and this brings bondage and entanglement into his conscience.
Well; there is a possibility of this slipping in precept; and that is an awful thing. Solomon slipped; and perhaps some here have solemnly slipped, though it has been hid from the world. If Telltale Truth were to write your slips on parchment upon your foreheads, where would you put your heads? But Tell-tale Truth will come to your conscience some day or other, if you are a child of God, read you your own souls, and make you feel your awful state, however you may cover it for awhile from the world. And I am sure, if you have a tender conscience and feel the natural proneness that there is to slip into practical sin, as well as to wander from the simplicity of the Gospel, you will send up this prayer, day after day.
IV. And that will lead us just to say a word as to the nature and necessity of this prayer: "Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not."
For my part I can say I really dare not trust myself. Sometimes when I enter a little into the world and have not felt suspicious of myself nor been enabled to commit myself to God's care, I have been brought to stand amazed, and say, "Lord! What a presumptuous arrogant monster I am! What a wonder it is that thou hast not let me slip!" I solemnly declare that I wonder, at times, that God has not let my feet slip into some awful labyrinth which would have disgraced my character; it is a wonder of wonders, that by the grace of God I stand. 0 the wonders of the love of God! Perhaps some high-towering professor here says, "0! I feel no danger!" Why, you do not know your sore, poor creature; you never had your heart laid open; and the worst wish I have for you is that God would lay it open and make you feel and see what you are. I should not like you to stay there long, for it would drive you mad if there were nothing else. But when a poor soul has laid open to his view what an awful sinner he is and he feels how prone he is to slip, then he comes with all his heart to this prayer: "Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not."
Now is this your prayer? Perhaps there is some professor in this assembly who makes a glaring show and is thought very highly of, yet is living in practical guilt in a scandalous way every day of his life, only it is concealed. Perhaps he has a plan now, before he reaches home, to practice some unhallowed crime. "Be sure your sin will find you out." May the Lord have mercy upon you, strip you of your presumption and bring you to know something of your lost condition, that you may be led, as a perishing sinner, to the Lord Jesus Christ. Whilst you can live in the practice and delight of these things, you do not know what it is to use this prayer; you do not come with it daily to the Lord, as a pauper and a pensioner. If you feel now and then a few qualms of conscience, you want to drown them and get rid of them; you want to have a little more elbow-room for the practice of the unhallowed feelings of your hearts. This is the work of the flesh; and may God the Spirit cut up your false hopes, and bring you to cry vehemently before him, "Holdup my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not." And as you are led to pray, you will find, at times, the necessity of being in an agony, as it were, with the Lord. It will not be a mere tale; it will not be a mere formal prayer; there will be such plans laid to catch your feet, such suggestions and temptations of Satan, the world, and yourself, that it will really be an agonizing crying, "Lord, hold me up." You will feel as if you were that moment sinking and wanting present aid and present power; and it will be a vehement crying to the Lord, "Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not." For the children of God will certainly wish to live as witnesses for God, to crown the brow of the Lord, and to prove that God's truth produces holiness in the conscience and leads a man to walk in the life and power of the truth of God. May the Lord bless you and me with a vital concern for his honour, and lead us to walk in his paths, spiritually and blessedly, for his own name's sake. Amen.