JCP Philpot Sermons

****PRIDE

(J. C. Philpot, excerpted from his "Reviews" 1853)

 

"I hate pride and arrogance." Pr 8:13

 

"The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished." Pr 16:5

 

Of all sins pride seems most deeply imbedded in the very heart of man. Unbelief, sensuality, covetousness, rebellion, presumption, contempt of God’s holy will and word, hatred and enmity against the saints of the Most High, deceit and falsehood, cruelty and wrath, violence and murder-these, and a forest of other sins have indeed struck deep roots into the black and noxious soil of our fallen nature; and, interlacing their lofty stems and gigantic arms, have wholly shut out the light of heaven from man’s benighted soul. But these and their associate evils do not seem so thoroughly interwoven into the very constitution of the human heart, nor so to be its very life blood as pride. The lust of the flesh is strong, but there are respites from its workings; unbelief is powerful, but there are times when it seems to lie dormant; covetousness is ensnaring, but there is not always a bargain to be made, or an advantage to be clutched. These sins differ also in strength in different individuals. Some seem not much tempted with the grosser passions of our fallen nature; others are naturally liberal and benevolent, and whatever other idol they may serve, they bend not their knee to the golden calf. Strong natural conscientiousness preserves many from those debasing sins which draw down general reprehension; and a quiet, gentle, peaceable disposition renders others strangers not only to the violent outbreaks, but even to the inward gusts of temper and anger.

 

But where lust may have no power, covetousness no dominion, and anger no sway-there, down, down in the inmost depths, heaving and boiling like the lava in the crater of a volcano, works that master sin, that sin of sins-pride! As Rome calls herself the Mother and Mistress of all the churches, so is Pride the Mother and Mistress of all the sins; for where she does not conceive them in her ever-teeming womb, she instigates their movements, and compels them to pay tribute to her glory.

 

The origin of evil is hidden from our eyes. Whence it sprang, and why God allowed it to arise in his fair creation, are mysteries which we cannot fathom; but thus much is revealed, that of this mighty fire which has filled hell with sulphurous flame, and will one day involve earth and its inhabitants in the general conflagration, the first spark was pride!

 

It is therefore emphatically the devil’s own sin; we will not say his darling sin, for it is his torment, the serpent which is always biting him, the fire which is ever consuming him. But it is the sin which hurled him from heaven and transformed him from a bright and holy seraph into a foul and hideous demon. How subtle, then, and potent must that poison be, which could in a moment change an angel into a devil! How black in nature, how concentrated in virulence that venom, one drop of which could utterly deface the image of God in myriads of bright spirits before the throne, and degrade them into monsters of uncleanness and malignity!

 

Be it, then, borne in mind that the same identical sin which wrought such fearful effects in the courts of heaven was introduced by the Tempter into Paradise. "You shall be as gods," was the lying declaration of the father of lies. When that declaration was believed, and an entrance thus made into Eve’s heart, through that gap rushed in pride, lust, and sinful ambition. The fruit of the forbidden tree was "pleasant to the eyes;" there was food for lust. It was a tree "to be desired to make them wise;" there was a bait for pride. "They would be as gods;" there was a temptation to sinful ambition. The woman tempted the man, as the serpent had tempted the woman; and thus, "by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." {Ro 5:12}

 

There are sins which men commit that devils cannot. Unbelief, infidelity, and atheism, are not sins of devils; for they believe and tremble, and feel too much of the wrath of God to doubt his threatenings or deny his existence. The love of money is a sin from which they are exempt, for gold and silver are confined to earth, and the men who live on it. The lusts of the flesh in all their bearings, whether gluttony, drunkenness, or sensuality, belong only to those who inhabit tabernacles of clay. But pride, malignity, falsehood, enmity, murder, deceitfulness, and all those sins of which spirits are capable, in these crimes, devils as much exceed men as an angelic nature exceeds in depth, power, and capacity a human one.

 

The eye of man sees, for the most part, only the grosser offences against morality; it takes little or no cognisance of internal sins. Thus a man may be admired as a pattern of consistency, because free from the outbreaks of fleshly and more human sins, while his heart, as open to God’s heart-searching eye, may be full of pride, malignity, enmity, and murder, the sins of devils. Such were the scribes and pharisees of old; models of correctness outwardly, but fiends of malice inwardly. So fearful were these holy beings of outward defilement, that they would not enter into Pilate’s judgment-hall, when at the same moment their hearts were plotting the greatest crime that earth ever witnessed-the crucifixion of the Son of God!

 

All sin must, from its very nature, be unspeakably hateful to the Holy One of Israel. It not only affronts his divine Majesty and is high treason against His authority and glory, but it is abhorrent to His intrinsic purity and holiness. It is, indeed, most difficult for us to gain a spiritual conception of the foul nature of sin as viewed by a Holy Jehovah; but there are, perhaps, times and seasons when, to a certain extent, we may realize a faint idea of it. It is when we are favored with the presence of God, see light in his light, and have the mind of Christ. Then how do we feel towards our base backslidings and filthy lusts? With what eyes does the new man of grace then view his sinful yoke-fellow-that base old man, that body of sin and death, that carnal mind in which dwells no good thing, that heaving reeking mass of all pollution and abomination, which he is compelled to carry about with him while life lasts? He views it, how can he but view it, except with loathing and abhorrence. But what is this, for the most part, short and transient, and, in its very nature, weak abhorrence of evil, compared with the enduring and infinite hatred of God against sin, though it may aid us in obtaining a dim and faint conception of it?

 

But among all the evils which lie naked and open before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do, pride seems especially to incur His holy abhorrence; and the outward manifestations of it have perhaps drawn down as much as, or more than, any other sin, his marked thunderbolts. His unalterable determination against it, and his fixed resolve to bring down to the dust every manifestation of it, is no where so pointedly or so fully declared as in that striking portion of Holy Writ which forms the second chapter of the Prophecies of Isaiah. And this is the theme of the whole, "And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low; and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day." {Isa 2:17}

 

But, besides these general declarations, the sacred record teems with individual instances of God’s anger against this prevailing sin. Pride cost Sennacherib his army and Herod his life; pride opened the earth to Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and hung up Absalom in the boughs of an oak; pride filled the breast of Saul with murderous hatred against David, and tore ten tribes at one stroke from the hand of Rehoboam. Pride drove Nebuchadnezzar from the society of his fellow-men, and made him eat grass as oxen, and his body to be wet with the dew of heaven, until his hairs were grown as eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws.

 

And as it has cut off the wicked from the earth, and left them neither son nor nephew, root nor branch, so it has made sad havoc even among the family of God. Pride shut Aaron out of the promised land; and made Miriam a leper white as snow; pride, working in the heart of David, brought a pestilence which cut off seventy thousand men; pride carried captive to Babylon Hezekiah’s treasure and descendants, and cast Jonah into the whale’s belly, and, in his feelings, into the very belly of hell. It is the only source of contention; {Pr 13:10} the certain forerunner of a fall; {Pr 16:18} the instigator of persecution; {Ps 10:2} a snare for the feet; {Ps 59:12} a chain to compass the whole body; {Ps 73:6} the main element of deceitfulness; {Jer 49:16} and the grave of all uprightness. {Hab 2:4} It is a sin which God especially abhors, {Pr 8:13; 16:5} and one of the seven things which he abominates; {Pr 6:17} a sin against which he has pronounced a special woe, {Isa 28:1} and has determined to stain it, {Isa 23:9} to abase it, {Da 4:37} to mar it, {Jer 13:9} to cut it off, {Zec 9:6} to bring it down, {Isa 25:11} and lay it low {Pr 29:23}

 

Pride was one of the crying sins of Sodom, {Eze 16:49} desolated Moab {Isa 16:6,14} and turned Edom, with Petra, its metropolis, into a land where no man should dwell, and which no man should pass through. {Ob 21,21,21; Jer 49:16-18}

 

But pride is not content with her dominion over the children of this world, {Job 41:34} her native born subjects and willing slaves, among whom she rules with lordly sway, at once their tormenting mistress and adored sovereign. Not only does she set up her worship in every family of the land, and reigns and rules as much among the low as the high, swelling the bosom of the blind beggar who holds his hat for a half-penny as much as of that high-born dame who, riding by in her carriage, will not venture to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness. Not only does pride subject to her universal influence the world of which Satan is god and prince, but she must needs intrude herself into the Church of Christ, and exalt her throne among the stars of God.

 

She comes indeed here in borrowed garb, has put off her glittering ornaments and brave attire, in which she swells and ruffles among the gay flutterers of rank and fashion; and with demure looks, and voice toned down to the right religious key, and a dialect modeled after the language of Canaan, takes her seat among the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty, much as Satan stood up among the sons of God. {Job 1:6} And as she has put off her apparel, so has she changed her title, assuming that which shall give her the readiest and most unquestioned passport. "Humility" is the name with which she has newly christened herself; and, slipping into the camp by the most lowly portal, she moves onward, aiming at no lower seat than the throne, and no less weapon than the scepter.

 

Some, however, of Zion’s watchmen, and no one more than the writer of the work before us, have lifted up her veil, found out her real character, and, having first branded her on the forehead, "SPIRITUAL PRIDE," have labored hard, though hitherto ineffectually, to cast her out of the congregation of the saints. But as all their labors have hitherto been ineffectual, and she still dwells in our midst, it may be well to describe some of the features of this dangerous intruder.

 

1. Ignorance, and that worst species of it-ignorance of one’s own ignorance-is evidently a main feature in her face. In this point she wonderfully resembles that stolid brother of hers who is so much in every company-worldly pride. We are all ignorant, sadly ignorant of everything that belongs to our peace; but the first step out of ignorance is to be conscious of it. No people are so thoroughly impracticable, so headstrong, so awkward to deal with, so deaf to all reason, so bent on their own will and way, so self-conceited, and so hopelessly disagreeable, as those unhappy people, whether in the world or in the church, who are ignorant of their own ignorance. Touchy, sensitive, quarrelsome, always grumbling and complaining, unable to lead and yet unwilling to follow, finding fault with everything and everybody, tyrannical where possessed of power, though abject enough where any advantage is to be gained, bungling everything they do and yet never learning to do any better, making up in a good opinion of themselves for the general ill opinion of them by others-such people are the plague of families, workshops, churches, and congregations. When people of this stamp become, as it is called, religious, being all the time really destitute of grace, their pride runs in a new channel, and with a strength in proportion to the narrowness of the banks. In them we see the disease at its height.

 

But there are many of the Lord’s people who exhibit strong symptoms of the same evil malady. Yet what can be more opposed to grace or to the spirit and example of Him who said, "Learn of me, for I am gentle and humble in heart?" Where the true light shines into the soul there is a discovery of the greatness and majesty of God, of his holiness, purity, power, and glory; and with this there is a corresponding discovery of our own nothingness, insignificance, sinfulness, and utter worthlessness. This divine light being accompanied by spiritual life, there is raised up a tender conscience as well as an enlightened understanding. Thus is produced self-abasement, which every fresh discovery of the holiness of God and of our own vileness deepens and strengthens. This lays the foundation for true humility; and when God’s mercy meets man’s misery, and Christ is revealed to the soul, it cannot too much abase itself before his blessed Majesty, nor lie low enough in the dust of self-loathing and self-abhorrence. Humility is the daughter of grace, as pride is the child of ignorance.

 

2. Another marked feature in this impostress, is her self-deceptiveness. She may not succeed in deceiving others, but she rarely fails in deceiving herself. Thus she usually hides her real character most from those who are under her special influence. They are ‘patterns of humility’ externally to others-and patterns of humility internally to themselves. Sweet is the incense which regales their nostrils from the admiration of others; but sweeter far is the odor of their own admiration of themselves. Other sins are not so self-deceptive, so self-blinding, so self-bewitching. Sensual thoughts, blasphemous or rebellious imaginations, anger, carnality, prayerlessness, deadness, coldness, unbelief-these and similar sins wound conscience, and are, therefore, at once detected as essentially evil.

 

But the swellings of spiritual pride, though not hidden from a discerning eye and a tender conscience, are much concealed from those very religious people whose ‘amazing humility’ and undeviating obedience are ever sending forth a sweet savor to delight their approving nostrils.

 

3. The grossness and universality of her appetite is a no less prominent feature. Other sins feed only on a limited and appropriate diet. Covetousness is confined to the love of money; sensuality, drunkenness, gluttony, to their peculiar gratifications. But pride is omnivorous! To her greedy appetite, no food comes amiss. Like the eagle, she can strike down a living prey; or, like the vulture, banquet on putrid carrion. Some are proud of their knowledge, others of their ignorance; some of their consistency, others of their freedom from all tight restraints; some of their gifts, others of their very graces; some of their ready speech, others of their prudent silence; some of their long profession, others of their deep experience; some of their Pharisaic righteousness, others of their Antinomian security.

 

The minister is proud of his able sermons; the deacon of his wise and prudent government; the church member of his privileges above the rest of the congregation. Some are proud because they attend to the ordinances, others because they are not tied up in the yoke of church discipline; some are proud of the world’s contempt, and others of the world’s approbation; some are proud of their sophistication and culture, and others of their vulgarity; some of their learning, and not a few of their lack of it; some of their boldness to reprove, and others of their readiness to forgive; some of their amiability, and others of their austerity; some because others think well of them, and others because nobody thinks well of them, but themselves.

 

Thus, as some weeds flourish in every soil, and some animals feed on every food, so does pride flourish in every heart, and feast on every kind of food. When an apostle was caught up into the third heaven, pride assailed him as soon as he came back to earth, so that it was needful for a thorn to be given him to rankle in his flesh for the remainder of his life, in order to let out its venom. Pride would have been too much even for Paul’s grace, but for this messenger of Satan daily to buffet him. Pride set the twelve disciples to argue who would be the greatest; and pride widened, if it did not originate, the breach between Paul and Barnabas.

 

Pride was the pest of the first Christian churches as well as of our own. The pride of gifts was the besetting sin of the Corinthian church; the pride of legal observances the sin of the Galatian church, the pride of vain philosophy of the Colossian church. Timothy was not to allow novices to preach, for pride was their besetment; and he is especially cautioned against those who will not consent to wholesome words as being "proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof comes envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness." {1Ti 6:4-5}

 

None are exempt from pride’s baneful influence. She works in the highest Calvinist as well as in the lowest Arminian; swells the bosom of the poorest, most illiterate dissenting minister, as well as puffs up the lawn sleeves of the most lordly bishop. And, what is far worse, even in those who know, love, and preach the truth, spiritual pride often sets brother against brother, friend against friend, minister against minister. She is full of cruel jealousy and murderous envy, greedily listens to the slanderous tales of whisperers and backbiters, drinks down flattery with insatiable thirst, measures men’s grace by the amount of their approbation, and would trample in the mire the most honored of God’s servants, that by standing upon them she might raise herself a few inches higher!

 

The very opposite to charity, pride is not patient, and is never kind. She always envies, and ever boasts of herself. She is continually puffed up, always behaves herself rudely, is ever self-seeking, is easily provoked, perpetually thinks evil of others, rejoices in the iniquity of others, but never rejoices in the truth. She never bears with others, believes nothing good in a brother, hopes nothing good for others, and endures nothing. She is ever restless and ever miserable, tormenting herself and tormenting others, the bane of churches, the fomentor of strife, and the extinguisher of love.

 

May it be our wisdom to see, our grace to abhor, and our victory to overcome pride!

 

"I hate pride and arrogance." Pr 8:13

 

"The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished." Pr 16:5

 

 

****THE FOOL-HIS CHARACTER, AFFLICTION, AND DELIVERANCE

Preached at Providence Chapel, London, on July 27, 1851, by J. C. Philpot

 

"Fools, because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted. Their soul abhors all manner of food; and they draw near unto the gates of death. Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses. He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions." Ps 107:17-20

 

The dealings of God with the souls of his people are similar, yet diversified; similar in substance, diversified in particulars. "All your children shall be taught of the Lord;" "When he has come, he shall convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment;" "This is life eternal, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent;" "He shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you." These, and many other texts of a similar kind, point to the uniformity of God’s teachings and dealings with the soul.

 

And yet, if we were to converse with God’s people, one by one, we should find, that though in many points there was in their experience a great similarity, yet in others there would be a great diversity. The Apostle Paul, speaking of the gifts of the blessed Spirit (and in these gifts we may include also his graces) mentions this similarity and diversity. "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines." {1Co 12:4-6,11}

 

Ps 107 is an epitome of Christian experience; an abstract, as it were, of the gracious dealings of God with the soul. And did time and opportunity permit us to run through the leading points of that Psalm, we would find these two features stamped upon it-diversity of experience in each case; with similarity in four things-distress, cry, deliverance, praise.

 

In this epitome of Christian experience, Ps 107, four characters stand prominently forth, which we may thus briefly characterize-

 

the Wanderer,

the {Ps 107:4-9} Rebel, {Ps 107:10-16}

the Fool,

 {Ps 107:17-22} and the Mariner. {Ps 107:23-32}

 

I shall with God’s blessing this morning, take up the character of the "FOOL," and, in looking at his experience as drawn by the pen of inspiration, I shall hope to consider,

 

First, his character.|&Secondly, his affliction, with its cause and consequences.

Thirdly, his cry.

Fourthly, his deliverance.

 

I The fool, his CHARACTER. We are forbidden to call one another "fools," but there is no Scripture against calling ourselves "fools." If I am not mistaken, there are those here (at least I know one) who have called themselves fools, and the worst of fools, a thousand times over, and sometimes many times a day. If, then, we have called ourselves "fools," you will not be offended if the blessed Spirit call you the same. It is only bearing his witness to what you have often borne against yourself.

 

"Fools," says our text, "because of their transgressions, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted."

 

What is a "fool?" naturally, I mean. He is one who has not the least regard for his own interest, whom everybody can dupe and deceive; who will barter gold and silver for sticks and stones; whom his best friends cannot manage, and whom his enemies can securely deride and ridicule. Such is a fool. And as there are fools naturally, so there are fools spiritually; and I may justly say, far greater fools spiritually, than the greatest fool that ever lived naturally.

 

But let us see, by a little closer examination, how far this portrait corresponds to what many a child of God feels himself to have been or to be.

 

Now you would not think that if the Lord had quickened a man’s soul into spiritual life, planted his fear in the heart, and made him sensible of the nature of sin, and given him repentance and godly sorrow for it; taught him to feel how dreadful and detestable all evil is; brought him to the feet of Christ-revealed to him the love of the Savior, and manifested a sense of mercy and goodness to his soul; you would not think that after the Lord had done thus much for him, he could ever trifle with, or in any way indulge, or caress this monster, sin, which had been shown to him in so hideous a light. And yet this is what this fool does. He can trifle in his imagination with sin, though he has seen what a detestable thing it is; he can, in his wickedness, indulge that evil which caused the dear Lamb of God such acute sorrow, and has at times caused his own soul sorrow also.

 

Again. Is not God our only Friend? Where shall we find such another? If he be our Friend, need we be fearful about any foe? If he be our foe, of what value is any friend? But if you had a friend who had been heaping benefit after benefit upon you, and you did everything to offend, to grieve, to distress, to pour contempt upon him, and if possible to alienate all his regard and affection from you, would not this be the height of folly? Yet who can say he is not guilty of this folly before God? Who can say he has not thus provoked his best, his only Friend, that Friend without whose friendship all is misery, and wretchedness, and woe? Who dare say that he has not grieved, offended, slighted, and neglected this Friend that sticks closer than a brother?

 

And for what? for what? For some vain gratification; for some foolish lust; for some base desire; for something which is not worth having when we have gotten it; for something from which our eyes should be turned away, rather than looked upon; for something evil which ought to be detested and abhorred. And yet, who that knows himself, the workings of sin in his fallen nature, and what a depraved imagination can do-who is not sensible that all this he has done, and perhaps is doing, daily?

 

"Have you not procured this to yourself?" says the Lord to his sinning Israel. Who dares say he has not by his sins; his carnality, pride, covetousness, worldly-mindedness, unbelief, foolishness, and rebelliousness, procured to himself many things that have grieved and distressed his soul? I do not believe that there is one child of God exempt, who knows himself. If indeed we take no notice of the sin that dwells in us; if we pass all by as a thing of nothing, and pay no regard to our thoughts, desires, words, and actions; if we keep evil at arm’s length, and take our stand on our own righteousness and holiness, we may refuse to believe that we are such vile sinners. But if we are compelled to look within, and painfully feel that sin is an indweller, a lodger, whom we are compelled to harbor; a serpent that will creep in and nestle in our heart, whether we will or not; a thief that will break through and steal, and whom no bolt nor bar can keep out; a traitor in the citadel who will work by force or fraud, and against whom no resolution of ours has any avail; if such be our inward experience and conviction, I believe there is not a man or woman here who will not confess "guilty, guilty; unclean, unclean!" ‘Lord I am that fool!’

 

II The fool, his AFFLICTION. I pass on to the affliction of the "fool." Does the Lord pass him by, and let him go on unchecked in his foolishness? "Folly," we read, "is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him." {Pr 22:15}

 

A. The CAUSE of affliction is sin. "Fools," we read, "because of their transgressions, and because of their iniquities are afflicted." The Lord does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men. We bring affliction upon ourselves; we procure suffering by our own transgressions, and by our own iniquities. But you will say, perhaps, these are very strong words-"transgression and iniquities." I grant their strength, but they are not one whit, according to my feelings, too strong. Must not the Psalmist, you will perhaps say, be speaking here of some very black and base transgressors, some ‘out of the way’ characters? Surely he was not fixing his eye upon any whose lives were consistent. He must have been dipping his brush into very black colors in order to depict some enormous backsliders. If the Lord should ever take the veil of unbelief and self-deception off your heart, and give you one little peep, one transient glimpse into the chambers of imagery, you will not find these words too strong. It is from lack of seeing what sin is, feeling its burden, knowing its guilt, and sorrowing under its misery, that men think only this, or the other ‘outward thing’ is "transgression" or "iniquity."

 

Thoughts, looks, words, desires, imaginations-are not all these evil? Are not these sinful? Are not these in the sight of God "transgressions and iniquities?" They are! The Lord tells us, "He who looks upon a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." "The thought of foolishness is sin." Iniquities and transgressions are internal as well as external. I know not your personal sins; but there is One in heaven that knows them wholly, and one on earth-his viceregent in the heart, that knows them partially. Let only that witness speak, let only CONSCIENCE open the pages of that long and black catalogue, let sin be seen and felt as sin, and I believe you will confess there are many "transgressions," many "iniquities;" more or less daily-daily transgressions; hourly-hourly iniquities, transacting in the chambers of imagery.

 

Now in order to show us these, the Lord has to afflict us. It is usually in the furnace of affliction that we come to see the depths of the fall, to learn the nature of sin, and to have some discovery of ourselves as sinners. Give a man health, strength, good spirits, and abundance of worldly prosperity, what a thick evil soon covers his heart! Sin is not seen as sin; carnality and self-indulgence are drunk down like water; one folly after another is played with, each opening a way for the next, and binding on a fresh cord, until the yoke of transgressions is wreathed round the neck.

 

Now what is to be done with this "fool?" Is he to be given up? No! "How shall I give you up Ephraim?" But he must be corrected in measure, and not left altogether unpunished. Hence the furnace.

 

When, then, the Lord puts the soul into the furnace of affliction, things before hidden, passed over in the whirl of business or the flurry of carnality, are discovered. Conscience first brings to light one sin, and then another, until the sum appears innumerable and the prospect indeed is dark and gloomy. For with the affliction comes a sense of God’s displeasure; and the poor fool reflects with sadness and remorse on his folly in bartering a sense of God’s approbation for something that has perished in the using.

 

B. But the CONSEQUENCE is twofold. 1. "Their soul abhors all manner of food;" 2. "they draw near unto the gates of death."

 

1. "All manner of food" their soul abhors. What food is this? Not merely food naturally, but also food spiritually; not only the food of the carnal mind, but the food of the spiritual mind-the things of the spirit, as well as of the flesh. The "fool" until he is afflicted and humbled, has gone out in desire after many foolish and hurtful lusts; has indulged in many things that would be hated and shunned under some trouble, or under warm impressions of grace; and while in this foolish course could eat "all manner of food." His natural meals were eaten with relish, through health and strength; and the carnal mind, not being held in due check, nor crucified, as it should have been, and denied, could and did much feed upon trash. But let the Lord afflict him, and put him in the furnace, and there begin to take away the dross, he begins to abhor "all manner of food." Nothing satisfies him now.

 

How pleased he was with his business; how his thoughts settled down on the shop or farm; his speculative mind could run in to various imaginary channels of advantage. Trade was to be increased in this direction, or profit gained in the other; and whatever check conscience might interpose, there was a secret power that overbore the opposition. But let the Lord afflict him in body or mind, and bring his soul down into trouble, what then is "all manner of food?" His shop is now a burden; his business a trouble; his farm or his employment only wearisome work. "All manner of food," which his carnal mind at one time so greedily fed upon, he now learns to abhor. There is no gratification to be found in anything. A dark pall of gloom and melancholy is drawn over the world. The things of time and sense fade out of his sight; and he sees that vanity and vexation of spirit, misery and sorrow, are stamped upon all earthly pursuits.

 

But not only does he abhor "all manner of food" in a natural sense, but even he abhors "all manner of food" in a spiritual sense; that is, his soul’s disease makes him turn away from the very food that is its only remedy. Do you always love spiritual religion? Do you always delight in your Bible? Do you always come with eagerness to the throne of grace? Do you always love secret meditation and Christian conversation? And do you always relish spiritual-mindedness, and to have your affections placed on things above? Come, be honest with yourselves. No disinclination ever for the word of God? No unwillingness ever to hear the word of truth? No idle excuse made on account of the weather or the fatigue of business? No excuse not to go to a throne of grace? No disinclination to take up the cross? No aversion to the company of the spiritually-minded? No dislike to the solemn realities of the things of God?

 

What? Is the enmity of your carnal mind all covered up? Is the veil of self-deception so drawn over what you are as a fallen sinner that it never peeps forth? O, if you know yourselves, you will be convinced that the carnal mind is and ever will be enmity against God, and that the carnal mind manifests its enmity by its disinclination to spiritual things.

 

Here, then, is the "fool." When he is struck, as it were, with soul sickness, has to reap the bitter reward of his folly, and has to mourn over what he has been and is, and the state of things he has brought himself into, he not only abhors "all manner of food" naturally, but he finds his soul sunk into such carnality and death that it abhors all manner of spiritual food; that he has not that delight in the word of God, nor that inclination to a throne of grace, nor that love after spiritual things, nor that relish in heavenly employments which he had in times past when the candle of the Lord shone upon him, and by his light he walked through darkness.

 

2. The next consequence is, that he "draws near unto the gates of death." This seems to be the worst symptom of his malady. There has been a time perhaps when the Lord afflicted him in body, or in circumstances, or in family, and it was borne with resignation and calmness, for the sweet consolations of the Lord comforted his soul and upheld his spirit. But O to be afflicted in various ways, and then not to have the presence of the Lord; not to enjoy the sweet consolations of his Spirit; not to have an appetite for the Word of God; not to feed upon heavenly food; not to drink in the milk of the promises; not to love a throne of grace; and not to feel a sweet union with the people of God-to be afflicted in body, soul, or circumstances, and yet to have the mind still carnal unto death-this it is that most deeply aggravates the affliction.

 

The affliction in itself is hard to bear; but the denial of the Lord’s presence, and a sense of his displeasure, makes it a thousand times worse; and when to all this is added, "All these things have I procured to myself;" this makes the knife cut deep. It is almost as if conscience laid hold of the sword when in the hand of God, and drove it in up to the hilt. ‘My worldly-mindedness, my pride, my covetousness, my carnality, my neglect of divine things, my rebelliousness, and recklessness, the snares I entangled myself in, and my various besetting sins’-’O,’ says the fool, ‘this it is which has provoked the Lord to afflict me so severely; and to make the affliction yet heavier, to withdraw his presence, and leave me, fool that I am, to reap the fruit of my own devises!’

 

Thus he draws near to the gates of death in his feelings spiritually, and, it may be, from an afflicted body naturally. As death seems to approach, he is almost overwhelmed with gloomy fears, yet knows not how to escape from the burdens and weights which so heavily oppress him.

 

Here, then, he is, as low as a poor soul can well be-in a pitiable plight, in a very sad and miserable condition. He can now say with Hart, and he never penned a truer verse-

 

"O what a fool have I been made,

Or rather made myself!

That mariner’s mad part I played

Who sees, yet strikes the shelf."

 

III The fool, his CRY. Well, is it all over? Is there no hope? Is all remedy gone? Must he sink away into despair and die? Shall Satan, with a yell of triumph, brandish his bleeding sword over the slaughtered victim? He would, he must, if God were not rich in grace, and abundant in mercy and goodness. We therefore find, that the Lord does not leave him in this pitiable case and miserable condition, but raises up and draws forth a cry in his soul. This cry is a blessed evidence of the life of God within, which all his folly could not utterly extinguish, and which all the miserable condition in which he is cannot wholly drown.

 

"Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble." A cry in the still depths of the soul! The blessed Spirit touches his heart with sacred grief and holy penitence-dissolves the eyes-takes away that hardness of spirit into which his folly had cast him-melts, moves, and stirs up the soul-raises up, and draws forth that cry which enters into the ears of the Lord Almighty!

 

Some people think that a Christian never can sink so low as not to feel a cry in his soul. I believe he may indeed. But I will appeal to a better authority than mine, which is, Bunyan, in his "Pilgrim’s Progress." We find Christian there shut up in the castle of Giant Despair. But it was only after he had been there a certain period that he and his fellow-prisoner began to cry, and sigh, and pray unto the Lord. Despair had stunned the cry in their soul before-it was only about midnight that they began to pray. So when this poor "fool" gets into trouble, such a flood of despairing thoughts rushes into his mind, and he seems so shut up in hardness of soul, that there is little or no cry to God in his heart.

 

But the Lord does not leave him! There is an attempt at a cry; but still the heart is hard. There is not yet that penitence, that grief, that godly sorrow, that tenderness, that pouring out of the soul-all which is implied in the expression "cry."

 

But when the Lord touches his heart with his gracious finger, so as to melt him down into real contrition, and sorrow for his folly, then with that spirit of penitence comes the spirit of grace and supplication; and then he cries, and that to a purpose. He cries, because he knows that none but the Lord can do him any good! He does not want man, nor the help of man. He knows that none but God can bless his soul. God must appear-he must help-he must deliver-he must bring him out into the enjoyment of his presence. Like Hezekiah, he turns his face to the wall, away from his courtiers, away from his flatterers, away from his friends, and looks only, wholly, and solely to the Lord. Or as poor Jonah, when he was in the belly of hell, with the weeds wrapped round his head, "Yet," he says, "I will look again toward your holy temple." Jonah did not cry when he was asleep in the bottom of the ship, nor when he was first thrown over-board. The ‘weeds’-fit emblem of his filth and folly-were first to be wrapped round his head, and he was to sink into the belly of hell. But when the Lord at last touched his heart with his gracious finger, then came the expiring cry, and the last longing, lingering look-and that cry, and that look came up into the ears and before the eyes of the Lord.

 

Prayer, true prayer, lies deep in the soul. It is at the bottom of a man’s heart-and therefore needs heavy weights and burdens to press out those few drops of real supplication that lie low down in its hidden depths. "Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble."

 

IV The fool, his DELIVERANCE. But is this cry heard? Yes! "He sent his word and healed them and delivered them from their destructions." He sent his word-nothing else would do. The poor "fool" might have examined his ‘evidences’, raked them together, and scraped them up-but O, they are all black and beclouded. Or he may have looked to the dealings of God with his soul in times past-but such a cloud of obscurity rests upon them that he cannot gather anything satisfactory out of them. His religion, and his profession of it, seem at times his greatest condemnation. Then what comfort can he get from it? In this pitiable plight, it is only a ‘word from God’ that can settle the matter. All that friends may say is of no avail-God must decide the case. And he does decide it in his own time and way by sending his word, applying his truth, bringing home some sweet, and precious promise, and making the word of his grace to drop like the rain, distill like the dew, and fall with a divine weight and power into the soul.

 

Now until this is the case, he cannot believe for himself what God says-he cannot mix faith with any promise however suitable, or any passage of Scripture however encouraging. But as soon as the Lord sends his word, and brings it home with heavenly power to the heart, immediately faith springs up and lays hold of the truth which God applies. As faith thus lays hold of the word, the word is brought into the soul. It penetrates at once into every corner of the heart-and as it diffuses itself, melts it, dissolves it, makes a way, and opens a channel for the mercy and grace of God to flow into.

 

What an effect a word from God can produce! Be it in reading, in hearing, on the knees, or in secret meditation-when a word drops from the Lord’s mouth with divine power into the soul-what a change it produces! And nothing but this divine power can ever bring the "fool" out of his miserable condition! When this comes, it does the work in a moment-it heals all the wounds which sin has made-and repairs all the breaches in the conscience that folly has produced. One word from God heals them all! The Lord does not come as it were with plasters to heal first one sore and then another. He heals now as in the days of his flesh. When he healed then, he healed fully, at once, completely. The earthly doctor heals by degrees; he puts a plaster on one sore, and a liniment on another; and heals one by one. But when the Lord heals, it is done in a moment! The balm of Gilead flows over ALL the wounds, heals them up, and makes them perfectly whole.

 

It is then with the soul as with "the woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years. She had spent everything she had on doctors and still could find no cure. She came up behind Jesus and touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped." This is healing. Any testimony from God, really from God, does it in a moment. If you can get but one word from God into your soul to make you believe you are a child of God, and are savingly interested in his pardoning love and mercy-every wound, though there be a million, yes, every wound will be healed instantaneously! This is the only healing worth having. To be healed by ‘evidences’ is like being healed by plasters. You need an evidence here, and an evidence there, as a man that has his body full of sores needs a plaster upon every wound. One word from God is the real panacea, the true, the only "heal-all"-and Jesus (Jehovah-rophi, "the Lord my healer")-the only true, infallible Physician. Would you be healed completely, you must look to the Lord, and not to man-be a Hezekiah, not an Asa.

 

Two blessed CONSEQUENCES follow. 1. "He saved them out of their distresses." The word of the Lord does three things; it heals, it saves, it delivers. "He saved them out of their distresses." Not in their distresses; but out of them. He lifted them up and out. And this is the only way to be saved out of our distresses-to be lifted out of them into the bosom of God. Just as a man fallen into a deep pit is not delivered while he is in the pit, but by being brought out-so when the Lord saves by some application of his precious truth to the soul, he brings it out of distress into his own bosom, into an enjoyment of his presence and mercy, and of a full, complete salvation.

 

2 "He delivered them from their destructions." O! how many things there are even to those who have the grace of God, which would, but for sovereign mercy, prove their destruction! Lawful things, but for the grace of God, might prove their destruction. Your shop, your business, your farm, your family, your worldly occupation, all might be your destruction-but for the goodness and grace of God. But consider, besides-your temptations, snares, besetting sins, the lusts of the flesh, the pride of your heart, the carnality of your mind, would not all these things be your destruction-but for the grace of God?

 

John Bunyan says, "One leak will sink a ship; and one sin will destroy a sinner"-that is, one MASTER sin. And who is there that has not some temptation, some besetting sin, some snare, some evil perpetually at work? Who is not, more or less, in the sieve of some powerful temptation which would prove-but for the grace of God-his destruction; and, as far as he could do it, has already destroyed his soul?

 

"O Ephraim, you have destroyed yourself!" not "Ephraim, if you do not take very great care, you will by and by destroy yourself." But, "O Ephraim, you have destroyed yourself" already! And so have we destroyed our souls over and over again. Here is this temptation, this snare, this besetting sin, this trap of the devil-all ready to entangle our feet-and would prove again, and again, and again our destruction. It would ruin both body and soul, and sweep us into hell without remedy-if the Lord did not intervene and interpose. Here, then, is the "fool"-having destroyed his soul.

 

All WE can do (it seems a dreadful thing to say-but I believe it is true) is to damn our own souls-that is all we can do, by nature. And what GOD has to do, is to keep us from is to keep us from damning ourselves! For our heart is so vile, our nature so corrupt-we are so bent upon backsliding, so deadly intent upon our idols, that God has to hold us back from hurling our own souls to the bottomless pit!

 

How manly are our "DESTRUCTIONS." And these "destructions" are like poison. We sip, and sip, and sip, not knowing there is poison in the cup. Its sweetness hides its venom. Arsenic is in every glass-the table is spread with wine-and to drink is to die! See how "the wine is the poison of dragons and the cruel venom of asps!" Look at our self-righteousness and pharisaic pride-is not that sufficient to destroy? Look at our carnality and worldly-mindedness, with all our reckless and vain thoughts-are not these sufficient to destroy? Look at our unbelief and infidelity-is not that sufficient to destroy? Look at the base lusts and sensual appetites-is there not enough of this poison in our heart to send a world to perdition? Look at the workings of despondency and despair-are not these sufficient to destroy?

 

Watch the movements of our heart in the various circumstances of life. Is not there a snare in everything? In business, in our occupation, at home, abroad, wherever we go, in whatever company we go-is not some secret snare hidden? And would not that snare entangle and destroy our souls-but for the sovereign grace and mercy of God?

 

A man does not know himself, nor the evil of sin, nor the wickedness of the human heart, nor the depth of the fall, who does not see and feel he has over and over again been entangled in things-which but for the grace of God would have been his eternal destruction! If he were to say he had not, I would not believe him, for I would know he either deceived himself or wished to deceive me-in other words, was an Antinomian, a Pharisee, or a hypocrite. For sure I am, if any one is acquainted with the depth of the fall, the wickedness and weakness of our Adam nature, and what a man can think, say, and do, when not upheld by the grace of God-he will say, "but for the grace of God I would again and again have rushed upon my own destruction!"

 

Then do not think me very hard this morning, if I have been calling you all "fools." I put myself into the catalogue. He who stands in the pulpit, and those who sit in the pew, all bear the same name, for they have the same nature. We are all "fools"-for folly is bound up in our hearts. If we possess one particle of the grace of God, or one grain of heavenly wisdom, we shall say, "Lord, I have been, am, shall be to my dying day a fool, if you do not give me wisdom, and keep me every moment of my life-yes, keep me as the apple of your eye."

 

Then you need not think yourself a very ‘unusual person’ as we sometimes do think ourselves-nor a very out-of-the-way wretch, since there are other "fools" in the world beside yourself. And if you are the character as traced here by the pen of inspiration, there may be something in it to lift up your head, and encourage you to believe there is something still of the good work of God upon your soul. Christ is our wisdom-and as we feel our folly, it may make us by his grace, perhaps, more cautious for the future. The burnt child dreads the fire. And if entangled in this or that snare we learn to deplore the consequences-it may produce a holy watchfulness. He is a wise man who knows himself to be a fool. The greatest fool is he who does not know his own folly. Such an one resembles certain very clever people, whom we used to meet with in the world. O, they knew everything-nobody could instruct them. They had not wisdom enough to see their own ignorance.

 

So in grace. He is a wise man who knows himself to be a fool. It is not every professor of Calvinism who has got as far as this. If a sense of our own folly makes us prize that ‘wisdom and teaching which comes from above’, it may not be our worst lesson. We may have had to bitterly regret our folly-but if it has brought down our pride and self-righteousness, made us hate and abhor ourselves in our own eyes, and opened a way for the free manifestations of God’s superabounding grace, mercy, and truth-it may have been for our spiritual good. At any rate, it is better than being a "fool" and not knowing it.

 

There are two kinds of fools. One that does not know his own folly-and he is the worst of fools. And there is another that does know it-and he is next door to becoming a wise man; for the deeper he sinks in a sense of his own folly, the higher he will rise into an apprehension of Christ as his wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

 

****THE MASTER’S BOUNTY, AND THE SERVANT’S OBEDIENCE

Preached at Zoar Chapel, London, on August 9, 1846, by J. C. Philpot

 

"Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word." Ps 119:17

 

What a fund of true and vital experience is contained in Ps 119! What simplicity and godly sincerity shine through it! What breathings after God’s presence and manifested favor! What desires to live to the glory of God! What fervent pourings out of the Psalmist’s heart, that he might be enabled to keep God’s precepts!

 

THREE FEATURES especially seem to my mind stamped upon this blessed portion of God’s word. The first is-a deep sense of the Psalmist’s sinfulness and helplessness. "My soul," he cries, "cleaves to the dust; quicken me according to your word." {Ps 119:25} "I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant; for I do not forget your commandments." {Ps 119:176} And indeed, what I may call the substratum of the whole Psalm is, "creature weakness and helplessness." This feeling lies under well-near every petition; and springing out of it, and built upon it, is David’s earnest cry that the Lord would supply his needs.

 

The second feature that strikes my mind as stamped upon this Psalm is-the desire of David’s soul to experience the quickening and reviving teachings and testimonies of God the Spirit in his heart. Being completely weaned from creature strength, and having felt from time to time the blessed teachings, guidings, and leadings of the Lord the Comforter, he here pours out his soul after those reviving influences and quickening manifestations. The Psalm is full of them-"Quicken me after your loving-kindness." {Ps 119:88} "I opened my mouth, and panted." {Ps 119:131} "I have longed for your salvation." {Ps 119:174} "Make your face to shine upon your servant." {Ps 119:135} "My eyes fail for your salvation." {Ps 119:123} And the third striking feature, which in fact shines through nearly every verse of the Psalm, is-the desire of David’s heart to understand and keep God’s word. The tender affection that he displays to the word of God; his fervent desires to have that word brought into his soul; and the breathings he pours forth, that he may speak, and act, and live in perfect conformity to its precepts-is a feature peculiarly stamped upon the whole Psalm.

 

In the text, we find, first, a petition-"Deal bountifully with your servant;" secondly, what David knew and felt would be the fruit and effect, if that petition were granted, "That I may live and keep your word."

 

I The PETITION-"Deal bountifully with your servant."

 

A. What is man in a state of nature? We are never to forget our base original; we are continually to look to the rock whence we were hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence we were dug. Israel was ever to say, "my father was a wandering Syrian, ready to perish." {De 26:5} We are, therefore, continually to look to the fall of man; for only so far as we are acquainted with the fall, can we experimentally know the remedy that God has provided for this desperate malady. What, then, is man in a state of nature?

 

1. He is, as the Apostle so emphatically describes in Ro 6:17 "the slave of SIN." Before, therefore, he can become the servant of God, as David in the text declares himself to be, a mighty revolution must take place in his soul. By nature we are slaves to sin; as the Apostle says, "We ourselves also were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving diverse lusts and pleasures." {Tit 3:3} We served them eagerly, we served them greedily-they were our willing masters, and we were their willing slaves. During the time that we are thus wearing the chains of servitude to the basest lusts, to the vilest sins, we are ignorant of our state as sinners before God. We did not know that "the wages of sin is death." We were hurrying on to the chambers of destruction; yet we know not, we care not, where we are rushing to.

 

2. But we are also, the slaves of SATAN. "When the strong man armed keeps his palace, his goods are in peace." This mighty conqueror has with him a numerous train of captives; this haughty master, the ‘god of this world’, has in his fiendish retinue, a whole array of slaves who gladly do his behests-him they cheerfully obey, though he is leading them down to the bottomless pit; for though he amuses them while here in this world with a few toys and baubles, he will not pay them their wages until he has enticed and flattered them into that ghastly gulf of destruction, in which he himself has been weltering for ages.

 

3. Again. In our natural state, we are the slaves of the WORLD. What the world presents, we love; what the world offers, we delight in. To please the world; to get as large a portion as we can of its goods; to provide in it amply for ourselves and our children; to obtain and to maintain a respectable station in it-this is the grand bent of man’s carnal heart.

 

4. And lastly, we are the slaves of SELF. Self in its various forms, proud self, lustful self, covetous self, righteous self-self in some shape or other, is the idol before whom all carnal knees bow, the master whom all carnal hearts serve.

 

See, then, the state into which every child of Adam is fallen and sunk-the slave of sin, the slave of Satan, the slave of the world, and the slave of self. He loves his master, hugs his chain, and delights in his servitude, little thinking what awful wages are to follow.

 

B. But if we look at the expression in the text, David calls himself God’s servant, "Deal bountifully with your servant." If, therefore, we are to be brought off from being slaves of sin and self, it must be by some change taking place in the soul; for the Lord says, "No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other; you cannot serve God and mammon." {Mt 6:24} We cannot serve sin and righteousness; we cannot serve the world and God; we cannot serve Satan and the Lord; we cannot serve self and Jesus. A mighty revolution must, therefore, take place in the soul, in order to bring us into that state and posture where David was, when he said, "Deal bountifully with your servant."

 

In what way, then, are we made God’s servants? It is true, that so far as the Lord has adopted us into his family, we are God’s sons; "heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ." But we are not only sons of God, so far as the Lord has begotten us unto eternal life, we are servants also. The one relationship does not destroy the other. It is often so naturally; the son will often be to the father as a servant. He shall assist him in his labors; he shall take a share of his daily toils. Jacob was Laban’s servant, though his son by marriage. "I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your cattle" was the complaint of the aggrieved patriarch. {Ge 31:41} Jacob’s own sons afterwards kept their father’s flock. And does not the Lord call himself Master as well as Father? "A son honors his father, and a servant his master-if then I be a Father, where is my honor? and if I be a Master, where is my fear?" {Mal 1:6} -one relationship not annulling the other.

 

No, the very angels who are called in Scripture "sons of God," {Job 1:6; 38:7} are yet called "servants of God;" as the angel said to John, "No, don’t worship me. I am a servant of God, just like you and your brothers the prophets, as well as all who obey what is written in this scroll. Worship God!" {Re 22:9} And thus we find the Apostles, when writing to the churches, call themselves "servants." For instance, "Paul and Timothy, servants of Jesus Christ." {Php 1:1} "James, a servant of God." {Jas 1:1} "Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ." {1Pe 1:1} As if their highest title, and their most blessed employment, was to be servants of the living Jehovah.

 

But how are we brought into this relationship? for the Lord finds us in the chains of slavery; the slaves of sin, self, and Satan. Must, then, not some mighty change take place before we can be made the servants of the living God? There must. The change takes place in this way.

 

1. First, the Lord, by casting divine light into the mind, and bringing his holy word with quickening power into the conscience, alarms, terrifies, deeply convinces the soul of its state by nature, as "serving diverse lusts and pleasures." This is the first stroke that God usually makes to loosen the chains of slavery off the hands, and the fetters off the limbs. By piercing and penetrating the conscience through the communication of light and life, sin is felt to be sin, and its wages are known to be death.

 

2. But this is not sufficient. This does not strike the fetters off the captive’s limbs. He may still clank his chains, though he clanks them in misery. Other processes are necessary before the manacles can be stricken off. One is, to make him sincerely sick of sin; not merely to arouse the soul, to awake the conscience, to alarm the mind by the convictions of the Spirit from the application of God’s law, but also to make him genuinely sick of sin, sick of the world, sick of Satan, and sick of self; to make him feel such bondage, such darkness, such wretchedness, and such miserable sensations, as to loathe those lusts in which he has been so cruelly entangled, to loathe the world which he has so gladly served, to loathe Satan who has so perpetually drawn him aside, and loathe himself as the vilest and worst monster of all!

 

3 But even this is not sufficient. By these means we are brought to hate our servitude; by these means our chains and fetters are somewhat unloosened, and the links are partially struck off the limbs. But still, we need something more before we can be servants of the Lord. "Your people," we read, "shall be willing in the day of your power." We need some manifestation of the Lord’s mercy, grace, and favor to our hearts; and when this is felt, we gladly leave the old servitude, and enlist ourselves, so to speak, under a better master, and yield our hearts, our affections, our bodies, our souls, our spirits, our all-we yield them all up into his hands who has made himself dear, near, and precious to our souls. This is to obey the counsel which the blessed Spirit gives the Bride, "Listen to me, O royal daughter; take to heart what I say. Forget your people and your homeland far away. For your royal husband delights in your beauty; honor him, for he is your Lord." {Ps 45:10-11}

 

4. But a fourth thing is necessary to complete it-to be crucified with Christ, entering by living faith into a knowledge of the sufferings of Jesus, his blood, and his righteousness; and thus being crucified and dying with him, to be killed to sin by virtue of his death. This is the point so beautifully set forth, Ro 6:2-6 "Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin." And this was Paul’s own blessed experience. "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." {Ga 2:20}

 

Thus, by these powerful operations of the Spirit of God upon the heart; first, awakening and alarming the conscience; secondly, sickening and glutting us completely with our fetters; thirdly, making Jesus dear, near, and precious by some discovery of his beauty and glory; fourthly, leading us into some fellowship with him in his sufferings, some knowledge of his death and resurrection-by these distinct operations of the Spirit of God upon the soul, are we brought to be his willing servants, to delight in serving him, to feel it to be our highest privilege and our chief pleasure to yield ourselves up unto the Lord that we may be eternally his, that he may mold us into his image here and take us to be with him in a glorious immortality hereafter.

 

David, then, was in this posture and state of soul, when he breathed forth the words, "Deal bountifully with your servant." He had been enlisted into the service of this blessed Master. He had been delivered from serving sin, the world, Satan, and self. He had been brought to yield up his heart’s affections into the hands of Jesus, to be his in life and in death, for time and for eternity.

 

But, like all other children of God, he felt, deeply felt, his own sinfulness, helplessness, and inability to bring forth in his own heart that which he longed to realize there. He therefore makes use of this as a plea before the mercy-seat. As though he would say, ‘I am your servant; it is my desire to live to your glory; I would serve you with singleness of eye; I would renounce everything incompatible with my service to you; I desire to be yours, yours only; and that you would "work in me to will and to do of your good pleasure." "Deal then bountifully with your servant, that I may live, and keep your word."

 

But what is it for the Lord to "deal bountifully" with the soul? All that the Lord does for his people, he does in a way of bounty. There is nothing to be gained by merit; there is nothing to be obtained by ‘creature service’. The servant of the Lord does not bring his own services to the foot of his Master, and thereby lay a claim to God’s goodness and favor. Whatever is communicated to him, is communicated as an act of mercy; whatever he receives, he receives as an act of grace. And yet feeling a desire after those bountiful mercies and favors which God has to bestow, he puts in his lowly plea. How earnestly and yet humbly he lays his petition at his Sovereign’s footstool, "Deal bountifully with your servant!"

 

But in what way does the Lord "deal bountifully?"

 

1. When he gives a sweet manifestation of the pardon of sin, he deals bountifully; for when the Lord pardons sin, he pardons completely; he makes no reserve; he pardons sins past, sins present, and sins to come; his forgiveness is extended to every thought of the heart, every look of the eyes, every word of the lip, every action of the hand-it is a complete, irrevocable pardon. Therefore the Scriptures use such declarations as these, "You have cast all my sins behind your back." {Isa 38:17} "You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea." {Mic 7:19} "I have blotted out as a thick cloud your transgressions, and as a cloud your sins." {Isa 44:22} "In those days, and at that time, says the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found-for I will pardon the remnant whom I preserve." {Jer 50:20}

 

When, then, a man’s conscience has contracted guilt-when he feels himself indeed to be one of the vilest wretches that crawls upon God’s earth-when temptations press his soul down-when there is little else felt but the workings of inward depravity, filth, and iniquity-does not he then long for the Lord to deal bountifully with him-freely to pardon, graciously to accept, mercifully to forgive him? to reveal this full pardon to the heart, to seal this entire forgiveness upon the conscience, and to bless the soul with a clear testimony that the Lord has put away all his iniquities and blotted out all his transgressions?

 

2. The Lord deals also bountifully when he opens up the treasures of mercy, grace, love, and salvation that are stored up in the Savior’s fullness. "It has pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell;" and therefore the Apostle John says, "Of his fullness have we all received, and grace for grace." Now, the Lord unfolds, from time to time, the riches of Christ’s grace to his waiting family. This is the covenant work of the blessed Spirit, "the Spirit will reveal to you whatever he receives from me." The blessed Spirit takes of the things of Jesus; and shows, at times, the glory of his justifying righteousness, and the balmy sweetness of his atoning blood and dying love. And as he unfolds these blessed things to the soul, he raises up in the heart earnest desires to experience them, to enjoy them, to realize them, and have them divinely shed abroad in the heart.

 

We are not satisfied with merely eyeing these blessings at a distance; that is but a Balaam’s view, "I shall see him, but not near." We are not contented with reading of them in the word; we are not contented with knowing that Jesus has this and that blessing to bestow; nor can we be satisfied with seeing, by the eye of faith, all the grace and all the glory stored up in his inexhaustible fullness. We want something more; we desire a "communication of these blessings to the heart." When the ground is parched and dry, it does not satisfy the farmer to see the clouds rolling over his head filled with rain, unless they let fall their rich showers upon his fields. It does not satisfy a hungry man to see the table loaded with a noble banquet, unless some of that plentiful food reaches his mouth.

 

No, the sight without the enjoyment raises up jealous feelings against the guests-if we see the table richly spread, and may not approach ourselves and feast. When, therefore, the Psalmist says, "Deal bountifully with your servant," it is as though he had said, "Lord, I see such grace and glory in the blessed Jesus; I view such mercies and blessings stored up in him; I behold in him a Savior so suited to my need; he so has and is everything that my poor lost soul can desire-O deal bountifully with your servant by satisfying my desires-by pouring into my heart some of those unspeakable riches, by bringing down into it a measure of those blessings, and communicating them with your bounteous hand to my needy, naked soul." All this seems comprehended in the petition, "Deal bountifully with your servant."

 

3. Again; the super-aboundings of God’s grace over the aboundings of sin, seems also implied in the petition put forth here. I am sure, if we watch the movements of our hearts-if we daily mark the various thoughts, desires, and workings that from time to time pass through our minds, we shall feel that sin indeed abounds in us. Pride, hypocrisy, covetousness, deadness in the things of God, selfishness, sensuality-a thousand evils are perpetually struggling and lifting up their heads in our souls! Who that knows himself does not feel-painfully feel-that sin is perpetually working and striving for the mastery in his heart? that evil in all its shapes, in all its subtle and various forms, is perpetually abounding in him?

 

What then does one thus taught want? Is it not to feel the super-aboundings of grace over the aboundings of these sins? Is it not to feel the superabounding grace of God freely blotting out, freely putting away, freely covering, freely justifying from, and freely spreading its divine glory over the aboundings of these inward and horrible iniquities? When, then, he says, "Deal bountifully with your servant," it is as though he said, "Lord, I sin with every breath that I draw-my eye, my hand, my tongue, every member of my body is continually committing some evil! But, Lord, where sin has thus abounded, there let your grace much more abound!"

 

But there is something, also, to my mind, very sweet and very experimental in the expression, "Deal bountifully." It is as though the Psalmist longed to experience some special and sensible dealings of God upon his soul. He wanted to feel the fingers of the Almighty in his conscience. He was not satisfied with merely reading or hearing about grace-he desired some manifestations and testimonies, some inward witness, some word applied with power, some smile from the Lord’s countenance, some gracious promise from his lips to cheer and encourage him.

 

And this is the feeling, more or less, of every living soul-and of none but a living soul. For by this the Lord’s family are distinguished from all others-that they, and they alone, have dealings with God, and God only has dealings with them-that to them alone the Lord speaks-in them only the Lord works-that to them only the Lord appears-and upon them only the Lord smiles. They are the favored of the Lord; he guides their steps, he directs their way, and guards them every moment; he keeps them as the apple of his eye. "In that day we will sing of the pleasant vineyard. I, the Lord, will watch over it and tend its fruitful vines. Each day I will water them; day and night I will watch to keep enemies away." {Isa 27:2-3}

 

The Lord’s people are, as it were, in a blessed circle, on which alone the sun shines, and on which alone the rain falls. All but the Lord’s garden, is left a barren wilderness! All but the Lord’s people are suffered to perish in their sins! All but the Lord’s family are left unprovided for in the economy of grace-unredeemed by the blood of the Son-unblessed by the work and witness of the Spirit. But when the Lord’s people are dark and dead, when their souls are barren and dry, when they can only see their vileness, and feel as though they had little to distinguish them from those dead in sin, they cannot but pour out a simple and sincere desire Godwards-"Deal bountifully with your servant!"

 

II But there were certain FRUITS and EFFECTS which David knew would follow, if the Lord would but "deal bountifully" with him-and it was these effects and these fruits which would be a proof to him of God’s bounteous dealings. It is not with the child of God, that so long as the Lord appears for him he cares for no gracious fruits to follow. He wants certain effects and fruits to be brought forth; and knowing his own deadness, feeling his own hardness, and being thoroughly convinced of his own helplessness, he is looking up to the Lord, as he enables him-that he would work in him-for he knows that if the Lord will but work in him, these blessed fruits and effects must follow. Two of these fruits are mentioned in our text-"That I may live, and keep your word."

 

A. "That I may live." David, no doubt, at times felt, as you and I so often and so painfully feel-great deadness of soul. Is not this one of the chief standing lamentations of God’s family? Go among the Lord’s family, the deepest taught, the most highly favored, and those whom we could envy most for the leadings and teachings of God upon their heart-and you will hear them lamenting their great deadness of soul, their darkness and barrenness in the things of God. And go to others who are not so deeply taught; who are less highly favored, and you will find them with the same language of complaint upon their lips-bewailing their coldness, deadness, and barrenness towards God. The saints of old felt this. Paul says, "Death works in us." The Psalmist cries, "My soul cleaves unto the dust."

 

But can the child of God rest contentedly in these feelings of deadness and darkness? Are they not sources of continual lamentation? Can we take no notice of these feelings? Can we say, they shall not be a burden to us? Can we wholly set them aside, and say, so long as we are savingly interested in Christ’s love and blood, it matters not how dead, dark, cold, and barren we are? Such language may suit those who know nothing of the vital teachings of God the Spirit in the heart; but a living soul cannot, dare not, use such presumptuous language. It is his lamentation, his grief, his complaint, that he is, day by day, so dead, so cold, so stupid, and so hard-hearted in the things of God.

 

But the very lamentation proves that there is a principle of life which feels the deadness-the very mourning and sighing show that there is a tender conscience which groans under it-the very desire to be delivered out of it proves there have been times and seasons when the light and life of God have been inwardly felt-and the very bondage and misery that these feelings create, manifest that there have been times when the Lord has been the light of our countenance, and liberty and love have been felt in the heart. It is the contrast, the painful contrast, between light and darkness, life and death, liberty and bondage, spirituality and carnality-it is this painful contrast that makes the soul so lament and mourn its darkness, deadness, and barrenness in the things of God.

 

But can the fallen creature help itself? Can the creature bring itself out of these wretched feelings of darkness, death, and bondage? No! it is utterly impossible for any child of Adam to quicken or keep alive his own soul. Therefore, the Lord, from time to time sends forth the blessed Spirit into the heart; and as he revives his work in the soul, the child of God pours out this simple petition-"Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live"-that I may not always be dead and cold-that I may not ever be dark and stupid; that I may not perpetually be in bondage and carnality-but that there may be those sweet revivings, those blessed renewings, those divine in-shinings, and those heavenly testimonies whereby the heart being enlarged, runs in the way of God’s commandments with perfect freedom. "Deal bountifully with me, that I may live!"

 

But in what way do we "live?" We can scarcely call it life when we are in that dead, cold, stupid, indifferent state where there is just enough life to feel our death, just enough light to see our darkness, just enough liberty to mourn over our chains. As to life, we cannot call it life, except there be some manifestations from the Lord, some revival of soul, some shining-in of the light of the Lord’s countenance, some bountiful dealings of God himself with the heart. But no sooner does God begin to "deal bountifully," no sooner does he begin to work with his own blessed Spirit upon the heart; no sooner do light and life, liberty and love, flow out of the fullness of Christ into the soul-than it lives-it lives!-it revives! New feelings are experienced; life flows in and life flows out; prayer comes in, and prayer flows forth; the Lord is endeared to the soul; what the Lord loves the soul loves, for he makes himself very precious; and this is living, living indeed! "Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live!"

 

But when we "live," we live by faith; as the Apostle says, "The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God." We live by faith when the Lord is pleased to communicate true faith-the precious gift of faith to the heart. Then indeed we believe. We then believe in Jesus, believe in his blood, believe in his righteousness, believe in his person, believe in his dying love. And as faith begins to lift up its drooping head in the soul, we begin to live a life of faith upon the Son of God.

 

And as we begin to live, we also begin to love. When we are in darkness, coldness, and barrenness, there is neither love to God nor man-the very ways of God are a total misery to us-the Bible is neglected-prayer is little attended to-under preaching we are cold, dead, and listless-the company of God’s people is forsaken-and the things of eternity seem to fade from our view.

 

But let the Lord revive his work upon the heart, let him bestow a gracious renewing, let him drop the unction of his Spirit, let the rain and dew of his grace fall, let him manifest himself with life and power-then the whole scene changes! It is like spring after a dreary winter-it is like the outpouring of the rain from heaven after a long season of drought, "You renew the face of the earth." There is a blessed change when the Lord himself is pleased to appear in the soul. Then it begins to live. There is life in prayer-life in the reading of God’s word-life in hearing the truth preached-life in conversing with God’s people. Life must ever be experimentally felt in the soul, when the Lord is pleased to deal bountifully with his servant.

 

And this life will manifest itself in various ways. While we are dead, prayer is a burden-when we have life, prayer is our very breath! When we are dead, the very thoughts of God are grievous-when we are alive, the thoughts of God are sweet and pleasant! When we are dead, our affections cleave to the things of time and sense-when we are alive, our affections mount upward! When we are dead, the world is our home, though it is but a miserable one-when we are alive, we are looking upward to heaven as the home of the soul, when time shall be no more.

 

But we are utterly unable to produce these feelings in our own soul. We feel our deadness, and mourn over it-we lament our barrenness, and cry unto the Lord, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" But to revive our own souls-to bring life and feeling into our own hearts-to lift ourselves up out of the pit of carnality-is beyond our power! We need sovereign grace to do this! We need almighty power put forth in our hearts, to bring about this blessed change! We need-a touch from the Lord’s finger-a smile from the Lord’s countenance-a manifestation of the Lord’s mercy! But when he deals bountifully with the soul-then it lives. And when he does not deal bountifully with it-then it droops and dies.

 

How different is this experience of a living soul from those ‘deceived and deceiving professors’, who think they can do something to revive their own hearts! Poor deluded creatures! they have not yet felt the ‘misery of slavery’! Poor deluded wretches! they have not yet learned this lesson, that in them, that is, "in their flesh, dwells no good thing." Poor blind creatures! they know not the depth of the fall into which man has sunk! Therefore, they may talk of doing this and doing that-of reviving their own souls-and of cultivating this or that grace. But the Lord’s people, who have felt both sides of the question, and know what it is sometimes to sink and sometimes to rise-sometimes to be miserable, and sometimes happy-sometimes to be in bondage and sometimes in liberty-sometimes shut up and sometimes able to come forth-sometimes dead and sometimes alive.

 

They know, painfully know, experimentally know, that no man ever quickened his own soul, and that no man ever kept alive his own soul-and if they are to live, if ever they are to have gracious revivals, if ever their soul is to enjoy the presence and favor of God, it must come as a gracious gift from him who deals bountifully with those whom he makes and manifests as his servants.

 

B. "And keep your word." David earnestly desired to keep God’s word. However men may slight and despise God’s word, or however little they may think about obeying it-David was not so minded. Read the 119th Psalm, and see what godly sincerity and simplicity run through it, what earnest desires, what fervent breathings, that he may keep God’s word. But he could not do it himself. He could not obey God’s precepts-he could not shape his life in conformity with God’s will-he could not for a single half hour keep his thoughts upon God-nor could he obey God’s revealed will except by the Lord’s grace! But he was not therefore satisfied with neglecting God’s word. He could not pack it off upon the "old man," or upon the devil, and say, "If I am one of the Lord’s people, it does not matter whether I keep God’s word or not."

 

He well knew that without God’s power he could not keep it-his inability and helplessness were too deeply wrought in his soul-he was too acutely sensible of the dreadful fall of man-and the carnality of his depraved nature to think of keeping God’s word unless he enabled him. But he was looking up to a higher power to help him to obey God’s precepts. Still there was that principle in his soul-that love of God-that holy fear-that tender conscience-that desire to please God and that dread to offend him-which made the real bent of his mind to desire to keep God’s word. Seeing, therefore, what a blessed thing it was to keep God’s word-but feeling his inability to do so-and yet desiring to have this obedience brought forth in his heart, in his lip, and in his life-he goes to the footstool of mercy, and pouring out his soul there in simplicity, he breathes forth this petition, "Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live, and keep your word."

 

But when do we KEEP God’s word?

 

1. We keep it when we feel any part of it to be very PRECIOUS to our soul. Is it not so in nature? We are very careful of that which we value-bank notes, gold, silver, jewels, precious stones-how carefully these are kept because a certain value belongs to them. So if the word of God is ever made precious to our souls, we keep it. It is with us like the Virgin Mary, she "pondered these things in her heart." They were kept by her-pondered over-diligently treasured-carefully stored.

 

2. But again. If the Lord has ever APPLIED any word to the conscience-if any portion of his blessed truth-has ever come home to our hearts-has ever enlightened our eyes-has ever been made sweet to our souls-has ever delivered us from temptations-has ever broken a snare-has ever made Jesus precious-has ever melted us at the footstool of mercy-that word is kept. It is God’s word; it has been made life and spirit to the soul, and it is kept because a high value is put upon it. When the Lord deals bountifully with his servant, it is, for the most part-by dropping a word into his soul-by opening up some precious Scripture to his heart-by giving him some manifestation from the revealed word of his goodness and love. And then, as this word drops from the mouth of God, it is caught up by the hungry and thirsty soul-lodged in the heart-stored and locked up in the treasure-house of his conscience.

 

3. But we also keep God’s word when we OBEY it, attend to it, act upon it-when it is our regulator and our guide. As the Psalmist says, "How shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to your word." If the Lord gives a check-to attend to it; if he drops an admonition-not to despise it; if he sends a reproof-to submit to it; if he brings a warning-to heed it. In this way we keep God’s word. The word is thus made life and spirit to the soul-it is brought with power into the heart-and the soul keeps it-because the Lord applies it with savor and unction to the conscience.

 

The Lord’s family are, more or less, all exercised in this way-and thus they can all, more or less, join with David in this petition at the footstool of mercy. Do not all the Lord’s family, for instance, feel at times their deadness and darkness? Do not they all sensibly mourn over their coldness and barrenness in the things of God? Is it not their daily complaint? Is it not sometimes their hourly burden? Is it not often a dark cloud that seems to depress and cast them down, and spread itself over every faculty of their soul? And when they feel this-they feel also that none but the Lord can remove it! How often they cry, sigh, beg, and groan, "Lord, O that you would remove this deadness! O revive my heart-strengthen my soul-shine upon me-lead me-guide me-hold me up-visit me-bring me out of this coldness, deadness, and darkness!"

 

And do not all the Lord’s people earnestly desire to keep God’s word? They have a holy fear of offending him-they have an earnest desire to please him-they know him to be a kind Father, a tender Parent-and the longing of their souls is to live according to his word. But they cannot do it! Their wicked heart draws them aside in one direction-and Satan drives them aside in the other direction! Sometimes lust entangles-sometimes pride inflates-sometimes hypocrisy seizes-sometimes presumption swells-sometimes one corruption, sometimes another so lays hold upon them, that they cannot obey God’s word. Then conviction comes, and guilt follows-their hearts are burdened, their souls are bowed down, and they desire again to keep God’s word-O that they could live to God’s glory! O that they could obey him always! O that their hearts, lips, and lives were all directed according to God’s revealed will and word!

 

But they cannot create these fruits in their own hearts, lips, and lives-and therefore, when the Lord brings them, as he does bring them, from time to time, to the footstool of mercy-they lift their hearts, if not in the very words, yet in the substance of this petition, "Deal bountifully with your servant! Lord, appear for me-give me some smile-melt my heart with some discovery of your mercy-bring a sense of your love into my soul-visit me with your salvation and the light of your countenance-and give me those sweet teachings and divine testimonies whereby I shall live and keep your word."

 

Thus the feeling sense of our own deadness becomes overruled to bring us more fervently to the footstool of mercy. And a feeling sense of our own sinfulness becomes divinely overruled to bring us more earnestly to the Lord that he would enable us to live to his glory. And thus the Lord takes occasion by our very complaints-our very mournings-our very lamentations-our very self-abhorrence and self-loathing-the Lord takes occasion by these things to manifest more of the riches of his sovereign grace, and to show us that where sin has abounded, grace does much more abound!

 

But can the Lord deal any way but bountifully with his servants? Why has he made you his servants? Why did he strike the chains of former slavery off your hands? Why did he bring you out of the service of sin, the world, Satan, and self? Why did he ever make himself precious to your heart-win your affections-and enable you to give yourselves wholly unto him? That he might cast you off? that he might mock your calamity? That he might trample you one day into hell? That he might leave you to yourself? That he might allow Satan to overcome you? That he might permit your lusts to destroy you-or allow your sins to be tied one day, like a millstone round your neck, to sink you into hell?

 

O, can our heart ever indulge thoughts so derogatory to sovereign grace? Was it not because the Lord had bounty in his heart towards you-that he first turned your heart towards himself? Was it not because the Lord had purposes of love towards you-that he first led your feet into his paths? Was it not because God first loved you-that he gave his Son to die for you? Now if he has taught you, led you, upheld you, kept you, all this time-is it to cast you off now-to let you sink at last? He cannot do so! He will not do so! Those whom he loves, he loves to the end! The good work which he has begun, he will accomplish, and bring to final perfection-and therefore, all the Lord’s acts are acts of bounty.

 

But your soul may say-"Why, then, am I so straitened? Why am I so imprisoned? why so dark? why so dead? why so deserted? If the Lord deals bountifully with his servants, and I am one of his, why does he leave me in all this carnality and wretchedness?" Why, the Lord has a purpose in so doing-he means to humble you more thereby-he means to lead you thereby more deeply into an acquaintance with the fall-he means, in the end, thereby to endear himself more to your soul-that you, sinking more and more deeply into nature’s wretchedness and ruin, may more bless his precious name when he appears on your behalf!

 

If you are his, he must deal bountifully with your soul. Let us never entertain such niggardly thoughts of God-so as to think that he can deal in any way but bountifully. He has a princely heart, he has a royal hand-and he therefore never has dealt, and never can deal in any way but bountifully with those that are his! Did not bounty move him to give up his only begotten Son? Did not bounty lead him first to deal with your conscience? Did not bounty induce him first to bless and deliver your soul? Did not bounty move him to keep you every step of the way? And will not bounty lead him to take you safely home?

 

It is high treason against the Majesty of heaven to think he can deal niggardly, sparingly, scantily with his people. It is treason against his princely hand and his royal heart. He declares of himself, "I am God and not man"-and being God and not man, he therefore deals bountifully with all his servants. They live upon his bounty here, and they will live upon his bounty hereafter. He admits them to a seat at the table below, that they may sit at his table above! And thus he gives to his people all the comfort-and gets to himself all the glory!

 

***THE ETERNAL SONSHIP OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST **(PREFACE)

WHEN I was first led to advocate the true, proper and eternal Sonship of our most blessed Lord in the pages of the "Gospel Standard," and thus, as far as ability was given me, to "contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints," I little anticipated two consequences which have mainly sprung out of my attempt to set forth truth and to beat down error: 1. The long, angry, and widely-spread controversy to which it has given rise; 2. That I should publish my papers on the subject in their present form. On these two points, therefore, I wish to offer a few words of explanation, as my readers may be thus, perhaps, better prepared to enter upon the perusal of the following pages.

 

1. As regards, then, the first point-the controversy which has thence arisen in the churches-let us take, as far as we can, an impartial view of all the circumstances of the case, not a narrow, one-sided glance of a part, but a full and fair consideration of the whole. I know that there are some who are so for peace at any price, that they would sooner almost surrender truth itself than see the churches vexed with strife. How far such are "valiant for the truth upon earth" I must leave others of keener sight and sounder judgment than I possess to determine; but, as far as regards peace principles, and that they are to be paramount to every other consideration, I read that the Lord Himself has said, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace on the earth, but a sword" Mt 10:34 And I am sure that if the good soldiers of Jesus Christ wield aright that indispensable part of the whole armour of God, "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God," it must needs cut, and that sharply too, both error and those who hold it; for "the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" Heb 4:12 and if it be all this, it may well pierce even to the dividing asunder of churches, and be a discerner of the thoughts and intents of both members and ministers. Of what use is a sword which will neither pierce nor cut? A blade that has neither point nor edge may as well be kept in the scabbard. If, then, we take but a partial, one-sided view of the question, and letting the sword fall out of our hands, rather weep over the miseries of war than fight with holy zeal for the honour and glory of God, we may grieve that this controversy has harassed churches, divided ministers, and separated chief friends. I can make full allowance for the feeling, for with all my "acerbity of temper" and "bitter spirit," so freely and, I must say, so unjustly imputed to me, I frankly confess that when I saw the effects of the contention, and how it was disturbing the peace of a church in London to which I was much united, not to mention others, I did myself; feel a measure of this grief. But that feeling has passed away, and I now rather rejoice that the controversy has arisen, for I fully believe that great and lasting good will come out of it. Before, then, we give way to what may prove to be mere fleshly feeling, should we not first ask ourselves as well as others, "Has not a bold declaration of truth always produced contention and division? Has it not always caused confusion and strife? And can it ever be otherwise? Must truth never speak because error takes offence?" The lovers of peace at any cost may say, "O thou sword of the Lord, how long will it be ere thou be quiet? Put up thyself into thy scabbard, rest, and be still" Jer 47:6 But what must be the answer? "How can it be quiet, seeing the Lord hath given it a charge against Ashkelon, and against the seashore? There hath He appointed it." Jer 47:7 If the Lord, then, has given the sword a charge against error, how can it be quiet, or rest, and be still in the scabbard? Has there not been a cause for this controversy? I believe there has, and a strong one, too. This controversy has made it evident to me, and doubtless to many others besides myself, that a vast amount of error has been secretly covered up in the churches professing the doctrines of discriminating grace. "Baldness was come upon Gaza" Jer 47:5 "Grey hairs were here and there upon Ephraim, and he knew it not" Ho 7:9 and this baldness, and these grey hairs, which before had escaped notice, have now been brought to light. I had been long persuaded in my own mind, from various indications which had come before my eyes, that there was much error in the churches professing the distinguishing doctrines of grace concealed from view; but I honestly confess, I was not prepared to find such an amount of it, that so many were tainted by it, or that it had taken such deep root in their minds. A storm is sometimes needed to clear the troubled sky, a hot furnace to separate the dross, and a sharp war to settle a lasting peace; and thus even a warm controversy may sometimes be beneficial to the church of God. In fact, the walls of our spiritual Zion have only been built as were in ancient days the walls of Jerusalem. "For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded. And he that sounded the trumpet was by me" Ne 4:18 Had all the Lord’s servants been "fearful and afraid," like two-thirds of Gideon’s army Jg 7:3 truth would have long ago been surrendered, without even a show of battle, into the hands of the Midianites. But whoever "being armed and carrying bows turn back in the day of battle" Ps 78:9, truth will suffer no defeat.

 

Pure gold need fear no flame; thorough honesty need fear no detection, and heavenly truth need shrink from no examination. A doctrine which has stood more than 1,800 years, and withstood all the assaults of men and devils; a great and glorious truth which God has written as with a ray of light in the inspired Scriptures, and revealed by His Spirit and grace to thousands of believing hearts, is not likely to be overturned in these latter days by the tongue or pen of a few Baptist ministers, whatever natural ability they may possess, and however angrily they may preach or write. Neither their arguments nor their spirit will much move those who have received the love of the truth, and to whom Jesus has revealed Himself as God’s beloved Son, in whom He is ever well pleased. One of their leading men may call it "a figment" and "a piece of twaddle," and may pronounce it "effete and ready to vanish away"; but it will live when both he and they are in their graves, and be new and thriving when their very names are forgotten. What hosts of errors and heresies have passed away! but truth lives and flourishes in immortal youth. So will it be with this present controversy. When we shall all have passed away from this present scene; when the places where we have lived our little span of life, where we have preached, and written, and argued, and contended, shall know us no more, Jesus will still be what He ever was, the Son of the Father in truth and love, and will still have a people on earth who will believe in, and love Him as the only begotten Son of God. But should a time ever come, which God in His infinite mercy forbid, when the churches of truth in this land shall abandon their faith in the eternal Sonship of Jesus, it needs no prophet to foretell their doom. Judgment will soon be at the door, for the salt will have lost its savour, and will be cast out to be trodden under foot of men, and the candlestick having ceased to shine will be removed out of its place.

 

2. And now for a few words why I send forth this little work. It is because I wish to leave on record my living and dying testimony to the true and real Sonship of Jesus, and that in a more convenient and permanent form than could be the case were it confined to the pages in which it first appeared. It is a truth which has for many years been very precious to my soul, and one which I trust I can say the Lord Himself on one occasion sealed very powerfully on my heart. From the very first moment that I received the love of the truth into my heart, and cast anchor within the veil, I believed that Jesus was the true and real Son of God; but rather more than sixteen years ago God’s own testimony to His Sonship was made a special blessing to me. It pleased the Lord in November, 1844, to lay me for three weeks on a bed of sickness. During the latter portion of this time I was much favoured in my soul. My heart was made soft, and my conscience tender. I read the Word with great sweetness, had much of a spirit of prayer, and was enabled to confess my sins with a measure of real penitence and contrition of spirit. One morning, about 10 o’clock, after reading, if I remember right, some of Dr. Owen’s "Meditations on the glory of Christ," which had been much blessed to me during that illness, I had a gracious manifestation of the Lord Jesus to my soul. I saw nothing by the bodily eye, but it was as if I could see the blessed Lord by the eye of faith just over the foot of my bed; and I saw in the vision of faith three things in Him which filled me with admiration and adoration: 1, His eternal Godhead; 2, His pure and holy Manhood; and 3, His glorious Person as God-Man. What I felt at the sight I leave those to judge who have ever had a view, by faith, of the Lord of life and glory, and they will know best what holy desires and tender love flowed forth, and how I begged of Him to come and take full possession of my heart. It did not last very long, but it left a blessed influence upon my soul; and if ever I felt that sweet spirituality of mind which is life and peace, it was as the fruit of that view by faith of the glorious Person of Christ, and a the effect of that manifestation. And now came that which makes me so firm a believer in the true and real Sonship of Jesus; for either on the same morning, or on the next-for I cannot now distinctly recollect which it was, but it was when my soul was under the same heavenly influence-I was reading the account of the transfiguration of Jesus Mt 17, and when I came to the words, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him," they were sealed with such power on my heart, and I had such a view of His being the true and real Son of God as I shall never forget. The last clause, "Hear ye Him," was especially sealed upon my soul, and faith and obedience sprang up in sweet response to the command. I did indeed want to "hear Him" as the Son of God, and that as such He might ever speak to my soul. Need anyone, therefore, who knows and loves the truth, and who has felt the power of God’s Word upon his heart, wonder why I hold so firmly the true and real Sonship of the blessed Lord? and if God indeed bade me on that memorable morning "hear Him," what better authority can I want than God’s own testimony, "This is My beloved Son"? For, "If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God, which He hath testified of His Son." "He that thus believeth in the Son of God hath the witness in himself" 1Jo 5:9-10 But if he has not this inward witness, and for the want of it listens to carnal reason, need we wonder if he make God a liar? Truly did the blessed Lord say in the days of His flesh, "All things are delivered unto Me of My Father; and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and He to whomsoever the Son will reveal him" Mt 11:27 It has long been a settled point in my soul, "That a man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven" Joh 3:27 and therefore, if the Son of God has never been revealed with power to their heart, how can they receive Him as such? Happy are they who can say by a sweet revelation of Him to their soul, "And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life" 1Jo 5:20 May I ever hear Him and Him only, and may He speak not only to me,  but through me, to the hearts of His dear family; and as He has enabled me thus far to defend His dearest title and worthiest Name, may He now smile upon the attempt to give it a more enduring form; and to Him with the Father and the Holy Ghost, Israel’s Triune God, shall be all the glory.

 

J.C. PHILPOT.

Stamford, Dec. 21st, 1860.

***THE ORDERING OF THE CAUSE BEFORE THE MERCY-SEAT Job 23:3-4

Preached at Gower Street Chapel, London, on Lord’s Day Evening, 29th July, 1866.

“Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.”- Job 23:3-4

THERE was a reality in Job’s religion. It was not of a flimsy, notional, superficial nature; it was not merely a sound Calvinistic creed, and nothing more; it was not a religion of theory and speculation, nor a well-compacted system of doctrines and duties. There was something deeper, something more divine in Job’s religion than any such mere pretence, delusion, imitation, or hypocrisy. And if our religion be of the right kind, there will be something deeper in it, something more powerful, spiritual, and supernatural, than notions and doctrines, theories and speculations, however scriptural and correct, merely passing to and fro in our minds. There will be a divine reality in it, if God the Spirit be the Author of it; and there will be no trifling with the solemn things of God, and with our own immortal souls.

But, before we enter into the text, let us look a little at the character of Job, the speaker here. Not that I mean to enter at any length into the spiritual character of Job, for that would take up the whole of the discourse; but just to drop a few hints, so as to throw, if God enable me, some little light upon the words of the text.

Job, then, had been a highly favoured child of God, and had known divine consolation in his soul, previous to this period. Upon that favoured state he looked back with fond regret, when he said “O that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me; when his candle shined upon my head, and when by his light I walked through darkness; as I was in the days of my youth, when the secret of God was upon my tabernacle.” Job 29:2-4 But those consolations and those sweet visitations Job had lost. And how came he to lose them? The Holy Ghost has, if I may use the expression without irreverence, admitted us behind the scenes to explain this mystery.

In the first and second chapters of Job, we find out how he lost all those precious consolations that his soul had once enjoyed. Up to the time of the circumstances recorded there, he had known but little of his own heart; the awful depth of nature’s depravity had not been opened up to him; and he knew little of the temptations of Satan, and of the fiery darts which he throws into the carnal mind. We, therefore, find Satan taunting God respecting him: “Doth Job,” he asks, “fear God for nought? Hast not thou made a hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side?” Job 1:10 This hedge, set up by the favour of God, kept off the fiery darts which Satan would otherwise have shot into his soul. But when the hedge was removed, we find Job believing that all the dreadful things his soul was exercised with, came from himself; and all the rebellion, blasphemy, and enmity that worked in his heart, he, not knowing that Satan was the secret author of them, took as his own. The Lord too having testified, as he thought, his displeasure against him by visiting him with calamities so great, with stroke upon stroke, and blow upon blow, he felt deserted by God and man. Where his religion was, what and where he himself was, and how he stood, he knew not, for “he walked in darkness, and had no light:” all his evidences were obscured and he could not tell what to make of himself. Now it was in this darkness, this horrible darkness, that fell upon him, that he poured forth his soul in the words of the text. “Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.”

Job, then, had found the Lord, and Job had lost him too. And you may depend upon it, it is a solemn truth that none but living souls ever find the Lord, and none but living souls ever lose the Lord; that none but those whose hearts God has touched ever feel the Lord’s presence, or ever mourn the Lord’s absence; and that none but God’s children ever walk in the light of his countenance, or in such thick darkness, as not to see a single evidence, or trace out a solitary waymark.

But the desire of Job’s soul was, to find the Lord. And if he could but find him, O, then he would pour out his very heart before him, and tell him all that he wanted. I can conceive bear with me a conclave of ministers sitting upon Job’s case. When a patient is very ill naturally, you know there is often a consultation of physicians; and I can picture to myself a consultation of ministers on Job’s case, with the various opinions they would give, and the various remedies they would propose. Here is the poor patient, and he keeps crying out, “O that I knew where I might find him!” The chief Rabbi of the Pharisees would say, “Kneel down Job, and say your prayers; is not that sufficient?” The Puseyite clergyman would urge, “Hear the voice of the only true Church; attend daily upon her admirable Liturgy; come to the altar, and partake of the flesh and blood of the Lord.” The Wesleyan minister would cry, “Up and be doing; try your best; exert your free will, and shake off this gloom and despondency.” The general Dissenter would advise “cheerful and active piety, to subscribe to Societies, and exert himself in the Lord’s cause.” And the dry doctrinal Calvinistic minister, with a look of contempt, would say, “Away with your doubts and fears, Job; this living upon frames and feelings, and poring over yourself. Do not gloat over your corruptions; look to Jesus; you are complete in him; why should you fear? you are quite safe.” But the sick patient would still groan out, “Oh that I knew where I might find him!” He would say, “You may all be very wise men, but to me you are ‘physicians of no value.’ ‘Oh that I knew where I might find him!’”

And this will be the feeling of every God-taught soul. Men may say, “Away with your doubts and fears;” but he cannot away with them at the exhortation of letter ministers. They may cut down frames and feelings, and yet the poor soul who has frames and feelings knows that all his religion consists in them. They may tell him to look to Jesus: but, as Bunyan says in his experience, “they might as well tell him to reach the sun with his finger.” After all, the poor soul would still groan out in darkness and sorrow, “Oh that I knew where I might find him!” “If I could but once find him whom my soul loveth, there would be an end to all my darkness.” But it is in the possession of these feelings of light and darkness, life and death, the Lord’s presence and the Lord’s absence, the finding of Jesus and the losing of Jesus, that “the secret of the Lord” which “is with them that fear him” Ps 25:14 consists: and those that know these things have the Lord in their hearts and will be with him in glory when the world is in a blaze.

But with God’s blessing, we will look a little more closely at the words. We find, first, Job breathing out his desire after a certain object which he was earnestly pursuing; and that is couched in the two first clauses of the text-“Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat!” And then he tells us what he would do, if the Lord would so favour his soul-“I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.”

Let us look at these two distinct portions of the subject. This desire of Job to obtain a certain object-and, what he would do, when that object was attained.

I.-The first object that he desired was this-“Oh that I knew where I might find him!” But how was it that Job could not find him? Job must have known what it was to find the Lord, or he would not have desired now to find him in his soul’s experience. He must have tasted, felt, and known something of the Lord’s presence, or he would not so sadly have mourned over the Lord’s absence. He must have walked in the light of God’s countenance, to make him feel what the darkness was when the Lord forsook him.

(i)   This, then, is the grand goal toward which every runner in the heavenly race strains every nerve and sinew: this is the grand object of every quickened soul-to find the Lord. The Lord himself creates these desires in the heart; and certifies in every awakened conscience that the soul must find him by a living faith and by a divine revelation, or eternally and inevitably perish. Now, it is this conviction, thus fastened by God himself upon the conscience, that there is such a reality as finding the Lord, that so winnows out false religion from a man’s heart. O what heaps of chaff are there in our hearts when God first takes us in hand! What mistakes, what blunders we make as to what true religion is! And though, wherever the fear of the Lord is, the heart is right in the main, yet we are continually mistaking the way.

But in spite and in the midst of all these blunders and mistakes, there is this conviction created by the power of God in the soul, that it must feel something, know something, enjoy something, and have something let down from heaven; must experience dew, savour, unction, power, love, blood and salvation. Thus when the Lord leads the soul under the law, and reveals his wrath in the covenant of Mount Sinai, what refuge can it find in the works of righteousness? The hailstones come down, the waterflood rises, and these drive the soul out of its refuges of lies. And thus, its own righteousness being beaten to pieces by the sentence of inward condemnation from a fiery law, the soul knows that unless pardon, mercy, and justification are sealed upon the conscience by the power of God the Spirit, it will live and die in its sins.

Wherever this conviction is fastened on the conscience, the soul, sooner or later, must come right; it cannot be deluded long; it cannot hide its head for any length of time in false refuges: it cannot take up with mere empty or insufficient evidences. Being hunted out of false refuges, it is brought to this solemn, deep, and inward conviction, that there is no peace but what the Lord speaks with his own voice to the soul; no pardon but what springs out of his atoning blood sprinkled upon the conscience; and no justification except in the application of Christ’s righteousness, received and put on by a living faith. And you may depend upon it, if God the Spirit has wrought that conviction with power in a man’s conscience, he never can be fully nor finally deceived; he will never long call evil good, nor good evil; he will never mistake darkness for light, nor light for darkness; he will never put bitter for sweet, nor sweet for bitter. He cannot be plastered over with untempered mortar; he will not let man or woman sew pillows under his armholes; he cannot be satisfied with the opinions of men, nor daubed over with an empty profession of religion; because he feels that he must have the light, the life, the power, and the witness of God in his conscience. The soul that knows this, knows something of the experience which Job breathed out from his soul-“Oh that I knew where I might find him!”

But some might say, “Is there not a Bible to read! Cannot you find him there?” Another might say, “Is there not a mercy-seat! Cannot you find him there?” Another might say, “Is there not such and such a chapel! Cannot you find him there?” Another might say, “Is there not such a duty! Cannot you find him there?” Another might say, “Is there not such a doctrine! Cannot you find him there?” Another might say, “Is there not such an ordinance! Cannot you find him there?” Another might say, “Is there not such a gospel church! Cannot you find him there?” But the poor soul still groans out, “Oh that I knew where I might find him!” for I have tried all these things; and I cannot find him in these doctrines, duties, privileges, ordinances, in hearing, reading, or in talking. “Oh that I knew where I might find him!” though at the very ends of the earth, though through flames of persecution, or through the waters of affliction, though it were inside the walls of a Union Workhouse! “Oh that I knew where I might find him!” says the poor sorrowing, groaning soul. “If I could but find the Lord in my heart and conscience, if I could but taste his blessed presence in my soul, I should want no more, but be certain of going to heaven; glory would be begun, and the first-fruits of heaven be realised.”

Now, such a one is perfectly safe, though he has not arrived at the desired enjoyment; the Spirit is secretly guiding him right by stripping him of all lying refuges, pulling the down out of the pillows sewed to the armholes, and digging the trowel into the untempered mortar that so many servants of Satan are plastering souls with. Eze 13:15,18 The soul is safe that is here; for none ever breathed out these sighs, groanings and cries into the bosom of the Lord, and said, “Oh that I knew where I might find him!” that did not find him sooner or later, and embrace him in the arms of faith and affection as the “altogether lovely.”

(ii)  But this experience which I have endeavoured to trace out is not exactly that of the text, because Job had known something of the Lord’s presence. The secret of the Lord had been upon his tabernacle; the dew of the Lord had rested upon his branch; and by the light of the Lord he had walked through darkness. Job 29:3-4 But the Lord had withdrawn himself; and a cloud in consequence had come over his soul, through which neither prayer nor faith could pierce. He looked “backward” to see the path in which he had been led, but darkness rested upon it; he could not run back to his past experience, and find the Lord there. He looked “forward,” but he could not see any gleam of light there; dark clouds so hovered over his soul that he could not see the face of the Lord. If he looked “to the left hand” to see if he could trace out the Lord’s hand in providence, he could not behold him through the cloud of his afflictions; and if he turned “to the right hand” where once he had set up his Ebenezers, they were all effaced. And therefore, not knowing which way to go, backward or forward, to the left hand or to the right, he could only sigh out, “Oh that I knew where I might find him!” What he wanted was, the sweet presence of the Lord in his soul, access unto him by faith, some testimony from the Lord’s lips, some sweet and precious discoveries of the Lord’s grace, mercy and peace. And satisfied I am in my conscience, that nothing but what Job wanted can ever satisfy one that fears God.

(iii) But there is another clause of the text in which Job breathes out the fervent desire of his heart- “That I might come even to his seat!” The Lord, we read, “waits to be gracious.” There is a mercy-seat where he sits to receive the petitions of his people. This was beautifully prefigured by the mercy-seat in the temple, that golden covering of the ark, where the Shechinah, the glory of God, was manifested, which hid the broken tables of the law, and which once a year, on the day of atonement, was sprinkled with the blood of the sin-offering. This was typical of the mercy-seat above, where mercy, grace, pardon, peace and salvation shine forth with glory and lustre, far beyond the Shechinah of the Tabernacle, in the Person, love, blood and work of Jesus. It was to this seat that Job desired to come. He wanted to be indulged with nearness to the Lord, with some sense that He was looking upon him, and with some testimony and inward witness that He was listening to and accepting his requests.

What a different thing is this spiritual access from mere wordy prayer! People talk about the duty of prayer, and how right it is and it is right, it is my daily privilege to bend the knee morning and evening before the Lord. But to bend my knees, and use words, is not necessarily to come near to the mercy-seat. I may bend my knees, and use words, may have my mind engaged in what I am saying, and be free from wandering thoughts. I may tell the Lord what I honestly want; I may confess my sins, and seek for mercy; I may ask for all the blessings that my soul really stands in need of; and yet not come in faith to the mercy-seat, have no sense of access, no enlargement of heart, no melting down of soul, no felt presence of God in my conscience, no sweet testimony that my prayers are heard and answered, no inward witness and token of the indwelling Spirit.

You may depend upon it, a living soul can never be satisfied with mere wordy prayer; I mean by the expression, words and no more. O, true prayer is something deeper than this! it is to have the groans, sighs, pantings, breathings, longings, hungerings and thirstings of a believing heart. Nor do these satisfy a living soul; he is glad to have them, and he is condemned when he has them not. But he can never put hungering instead of eating; nor thirsting instead of drinking; nor running instead of winning the race; nor wrestling instead of gaining the prize. To come in faith to the mercy-seat, to see it sprinkled with the blood of the Lamb, to view the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, to receive atoning blood into the conscience, and to enjoy the sweet witness and testimony of acceptance in the heart-this is what Job wanted to feel, and nothing but this can really satisfy a heart made honest and tender in God’s fear.

How few know what prayer is! How little they know of the secret intercourse that a living soul carries on with the Lord! How few we hear at a prayer-meeting whose prayers drop into our conscience! and, though I am a minister myself, yet, I must say, there are very few men who stand up in the pulpit whose prayers seem indited by the Holy Ghost in their souls. They appear to have no reverence for the great God to whom they draw near; no pantings and longings for his felt presence; no hungerings and thirstings after the dew of his Spirit on their branch: but round and round they travel through their usual form, as though they were speaking to man, and not to the Lord of heaven and earth. But Job did not want any such mere wordy prayer. He knew there was something deeper, something higher, something more real, something more blessed, something more spiritual in coming to the mercy-seat than in any mere words that may come out of the lips; he wanted to be drawn by the Holy Ghost, to feel his power in the heart, to come near to the throne of grace, and there in all filial boldness and sweet confidence, with divine access, to breathe out his wants and petitions.

II.-But we pass on to consider what Job declared he would do, if the Lord would thus indulge him. You see, Job would not have been satisfied with merely drawing near; he wanted to have something done for him and in him. What this was, with God’s help, I shall endeavour now to trace out.

(i)   The first thing he would do, if the Lord would but indulge him with access to his seat would be this “I would order my cause before him!” But did not Job all this time feel pantings and longings after the Lord? Did not his soul groan out its desires through a sense of felt necessity, and was he not really pleading with the Lord all the time? But still he had not a sense of access in his soul; he could not tell the Lord all that was in his heart; he could not pour out his soul before the Lord. How much there is in that expression! Shall I use a familiar figure to illustrate it, as sometimes familiar figures are best adapted to that purpose? Look at a sack of corn: you know, when the mouth of the sack is tied up, there is no pouring out its contents; but let the sack be opened and thrown down, and then its contents are immediately poured out, and the rich grain falls upon the floor. Our hearts are sometimes like the sack with the mouth tied; there are desires, pantings, and longings; there are wants, and these urgently felt; but we cannot give them utterance. As we read, “I opened my mouth and panted.” Ps 119:131

But the Lord in mercy at times opens the mouth; and then when the mouth is opened, the heart can pour out its desires, just as the rich grain is poured out of a sack when the mouth is untied. But must not the sack be full before the grain is poured out? If there are but a few grains at the bottom, or only half-a-pint of wheat in one corner of the sack, though you open the mouth, there is no pouring out of the rich grain. So with our hearts. If the heart be not full; if there be no vehement desires struggling for utterance, we may open the mouth, but there is no pouring it out in pantings and longings. This is to pour out the soul before the Lord. If you want a scriptural instance of it, read the first chapter of the first book of Samuel, where you will find a gracious woman, Hannah, so agitated, and so discovering the state of her mind by the convulsive movements of her frame, that the High Priest charged her with being drunken; but though her heart was so full that her lips quivered, and her very features betrayed what was passing within, yet she meekly replied to his chiding speech, when he bade her to put away her wine, “No, my lord, I am a women of a sorrowful spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord.1Sa 1:15 That was something like prayer! And we know what a blessed answer the Lord gave her, and how the Holy Ghost has recorded her triumphal song.

If Job, then, were thus enabled by the Holy Ghost to come to the mercy-seat, he says, “I would order my cause before him!” The eternal work of the Spirit of God on the heart is sometimes compared in Scripture to a cause, or law-suit. For instance, “Let my sentence come forth from thy presence” Ps 17:2; where the Lord is requested, as a judge, to pronounce the decision in his favour. So, “Stir up thyself, and awake to my judgment even unto my cause, my God and my Lord.” Ps 35:23 “I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and the right of the poor.” Ps 140:12 So in Mic 7:9: “I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me.”

The Lord is often spoken of as an Advocate, who pleads the cause of his people; and thus the work of grace in the heart is compared to a cause to be decided, and, the soul hopes, in its favour. Job therefore says, if he were but privileged and enabled to come before the mercy-seat, he would “order his cause” before the Lord; that is, he would spread it out before the divine tribunal in all its bearings. He would tell the Lord that there was a great cause to be tried, a law-suit to be decided, a judgment to be passed; and what he wanted was, to lay before him all that was going on in the court of conscience. He “would order his cause;” he would draw it out, in regular order, like a brief; would spread before the Lord all the pros and cons; would explain it thoroughly, and tell Him all that was for, and all that was against him, and draw it out that the Lord might decide upon it.

Now, you may depend upon it, that when the Lord makes a man honest by His grace, he will have a cause; and when He brings him before His mercy-seat, he will “order that cause before Him.” It will not be just a word of confession, and then all passed over; but everything will be raked up from first to last; all the exercises of his mind, all the perplexities of his soul, all the temptations he has been harassed by, all the snares his feet have been caught in; -in short, the whole work of God on his conscience, in all its puzzling points, mysterious turnings, and intricate workings, will the soul order before the Lord, and spread out before His mercy-seat.

If a man is heir to an estate, and yet be kept out of it because he cannot establish a legal title, he will go to a lawyer, and when he gets his attention, how he will keep dinning into his ears all the particulars of his case; how he will bring out his pedigree, and weary the man by telling him how this is in his favour, and that is in his favour; and how he fears this point may be against him, and that may be against him; and how he considers this or that will turn the scale. He will “order his cause,” and spread it out in all its intricacies and all its bearings, all its difficulties and niceties, and endeavour to make it out as plain as he can. And why? Because he is deeply interested in it; the point at stake is so valuable, that he wants a decision in his favour to put him in possession of the property.

The man who feels the importance of eternal things will be like the person I have just described as wanting to get the estate. He cannot be satisfied with telling the Lord a few things about his soul; but he will spread out the whole case before the Lord, from the beginning to the end, that all that is for him and all that is against him may be examined and looked at in their various lights, and weighed up in the balances of the sanctuary.

Are there not some here who make a great profession of religion, and perhaps are members of churches, who have never done this in their lives? Are there not those who have never weighed up their religion, never been tried about it, never have had doubts and fears to shake them to the very foundation, never turned the whole work over from first to last, never examined how the Lord dealt with them, when the work began, how it was carried on, where they are now, and what state their souls are in? Are there not some before me at this present moment, confident of their state, who have yet never spent half-an-hour in their lives in looking over their religion, in examining it from the very foundation, and scanning it through with all the anxiety that an heir to an estate examines the documents, and looks over the title-deeds to establish his title.

Why, surely, if your souls are at stake, and you feel the solemn importance of the things of eternity, there will be times and seasons when you will be examining how your souls stand for another life: you will be looking over all the work of grace from the beginning, at all its weak points and all its strong points. When a general knows the enemy is about to besiege a fortified town, he minutely examines all the works; and as he goes over them he sees there is a weak point here; and a strong point there; here the curtain needs to be defended, there the bastion needs to be fresh armed; he looks over all the fortress, and sees where the enemy can come in, and where he can be kept out. So an honest man before God will look at his religion; here is a weak point in his experience; it had not a striking beginning; here the enemy may come in; he has not been led deeply enough into a knowledge of his own heart. But here is a strong point, a clear manifestation.

Thus he will review his religion as a skilful general looks over a fortress, and examines every weak point, and every strong point, to see how the weak may be strengthened, and the strong be confirmed: for he knows, unless this is done, if the enemy come against him, he will be more than a match for him. When we come to look at religion in this way, and bring it to the test of God’s word, what a mere shallow pretence to vital godliness satisfies most ministers, most hearers, and most congregations! How they take up with the flimsiest evidences of the work of grace, not considering their immortal souls are at stake! But that would not do for Job, nor will it do for me; nor will it do for anyone that fears God.

(ii)  But there is another clause of the text, in which Job declares what he would do if the Lord would indulge him with access to his presence; “I would fill my mouth,” he says, “with arguments.” What! could not Job pray without access? No; prayer is a supernatural thing, the gift and work of God the Spirit in the heart. We cannot pray whenever we please; we may use words, may bend our knee, and utter a number of expressions; but we cannot pray spiritually except the Lord the Spirit help our infirmities; for “we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered.” Ro 8:26.

Job, then, says, if the Lord would but enable him to come before his mercy-seat, he would “fill his mouth with arguments.” He could not do so till the Lord enabled him. But if he could but find the Lord, if he could but have access to his gracious Majesty; if he could but be indulged with one glimpse of his countenance: if he could but feel the drawing of his Spirit; if he could but know his ear was open; he “would fill his mouth with arguments” to move the divine clemency. What arguments, think you, would he make use of? Let us look at them. When a Counsellor stands up to plead a cause, he must have, you know, some arguments, or it is of no use to take up the time of the Court. So when the soul comes before the Lord, it must make use of some argument to move the bowels of divine compassion.

But what arguments would he make use of? Would he tell the Lord what great things he had done for him; The scores of pounds and shillings he had spent in his cause, the many Societies he subscribed to, the quantity of tracts and Bibles he had dispersed abroad, the number of sermons he had heard, the numerous times he had knelt at the sacrament or sat down to the ordinance, the regularity of his private and family prayer, and the duties civil and religious that he had so faithfully discharged? The Court will not hear such arguments; the King of kings will not listen to such pleas; not one of them is valid in the Court above. None but Jesus’ merits and righteousness are pleadable there. If a man comes into that court with his own doings and duties, he will meet with no acceptance; he has not an argument that the Judge will listen to.

When, then, the spiritual petitioner fills his mouth with arguments, there will not be one taken from his own piety, consistency, or sincerity. For, mark you, he goes as a petitioner, not as a claimant. Talk of claiming spiritual favours! A condemned felon in Newgate might as well claim a pardon, as a sinner claim God’s mercy; a bankrupt lawyer might as well claim to be Lord Chancellor, as a poor insolvent, who has nothing to pay, claim heaven and glory. What can men know of themselves, and of the God they profess to serve, who set up this presumptuous notion of claiming spiritual blessings? What is given to us is given on the footing of mercy, not on the footing of claim. If we claim anything, it is hell and damnation; we can claim nothing else. But as to claiming mercy, pardon, love, blood, salvation, and glory, a man who knows what he is by divine teaching will never dare to do it before a throne of mercy. I do not say, that good men have never used the term; Hart says,

“Brethren, by this your claim abide;”

but he means, not your claim upon God, but your claim against Satan; these are very different things.

But let us look at the arguments that Job’s mouth would be filled with. All the arguments he would make use of, may be divided into two classes. One class would be taken from his own misery, and the other from God’s mercy; all spiritual arguments are included under these two heads.

(i)   He would tell, then, the Lord what a filthy creature, what a vile sinner, what a base backslider he was; that, in a thousand instances, he had deserved eternal wrath and indignation; that he had never done any one thing spiritually good; that he was a rebel and a wretch, and had done everything to provoke the Majesty of the Most High. This class of arguments is made up of mourning, sighing, groaning, and bemoaning our lost, ruined, and helpless condition. O, these are very prevailing arguments with the divine clemency!

Look at what the Lord himself sets forth in that wonderful chapter, Eze 16! What was the moving argument o! the Lord to spread his skirt over the child left to perish in the wilderness? Why, the wretched, lost, and ruined condition of that child. There was no eye to pity the perishing outcast; but its helpless state moved the divine clemency. And is not that too a prevailing argument with us? When we see a man clothed in rags, starving with hunger, cold, emaciated by sickness, and misery painted in all his features-is not that a moving argument to give him relief? A beggar must not come to our house if he wants to get anything, looking hale and hearty, well-clothed and well-fed. Nor must a beggar go before the throne of the Lord well-clothed, well-shod, and his eyes standing out with fatness; he will never so move the bowels of divine clemency. A beggar need not speak; his rags and sores speak for him. Or look at a mother with her infant; the very helplessness of the child is the moving argument for her tender care. The cry of the child is the moving argument for her to give the nutritious breast. The-nakedness in which the child comes into the world is the moving argument why the clothes should be got ready, and the child dressed in them. Ye mothers, are not these the arguments that move your tender bosom?

So when a poor soul comes before the Lord, he fills his mouth with similar arguments. His helplessness, sinfulness, wretchedness, misery; his lost, ruined, and desperate condition; his inability to do good, his headlong proneness to evil; his filth, his guilt, his rags; -O what a class of arguments to move the divine clemency with! If enabled to come before the mercy-seat, his mouth will be filled with these arguments. And shall we not tell the Lord what base backslidings we have committed? Shall we not confess what inconsistencies we have fallen into? Shall we not catalogue before him the various slips and falls we have been guilty of? Shall we not tell him that nothing but his mercy can save such hell-deserving wretches?

These are very humbling arguments for a man to fill his mouth with. It is a very humbling place for a sinner to take. I am not surprised we have so many bold claimants. It is much pleasanter to go to a gentleman’s front door, and give a double knock as an equal, than tap at the back door as a beggar. To go into a banking house, present a draft, and say, “Pay me that!” is much less humbling than to beg for a halfpenny in the street. That is the very reason why there are so many bold claimants in the visible church. They cannot bear to be humbled under a sense of wretchedness, helplessness, and misery; they cannot endure to be beggars and paupers; so they rush on the bosses of God’s buckler with a presumptuous claim. I am sure of this, if God the Spirit bring such to his mercy-seat, he will effectually cut up their presumption, root and branch, and will bring them as needy petitioners-not to claim, but to beg -not to rush presumptuously on, but to wait till the Lord bids them approach.

(ii)  But there is another class of arguments which the poor soul will make use of; such as are drawn from God’s mercy in the face of Jesus Christ. And as the first class of arguments is drawn from creature helplessness, creature ruin, and creature misery; so the second class of arguments is drawn from God’s superabounding grace in the Person, face, blood, and work of Jesus. And I may add, that the first class of arguments taken from our misery will have no prevalence in his holy court, unless there was mercy, pardon, and salvation laid up in the Person and work of the Son of God. Our ruin and misery do not of themselves move the divine clemency; but because Jesus has made a way for pardon through his atoning blood, so that it flows freely through him; and God now can be “just, and yet the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus;” therefore, it is that man’s helplessness, ruin, and misery are pleadable in the court of heaven.

One grand argument of this latter class that the soul makes use of, is the promises that God has made. Has he not, for instance, promised to hear and answer prayer? Has he not said, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out?” Joh 6:37 Has he not said, “Ho every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat, yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price?” Isa 55:1 Has he not said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest?” Mt 11:28 The soul that comes to the mercy-seat employs as arguments these promises in the Word.

He also rakes over what God has done in times past for him. Has not the Lord delivered and blessed me? Has not the Lord shewn himself merciful and gracious? Will he not appear again? “Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies?” Ps 77:7-9. So the soul takes occasion from the past to ask for the future; and uses all those arguments that his mouth is filled with, in order to prevail upon divine compassion to bestow mercy, peace, and salvation, and manifest Himself once more.

Sometimes the spiritual petitioner takes occasion from what God has done for others. He cannot always trace out clearly the work of grace in himself, but looks at what the Lord has done for others, especially at what he has done for those recorded in the Word. He sees an adulterous and murderous David restored, a bloody Manasseh pardoned, a backsliding Peter reclaimed, and a persecuting Saul called by divine grace. And he sees how in repeated similiar instances grace has superabounded over sin. Is there not, too, some brother or sister, some wife or husband, some parent or child, some friend and companion, whose experience is commended to his conscience, to whom the Lord has shown mercy blessed and delivered?

All these are made use of, because his mouth is to be “filled with arguments;” yes, with as many as ever it can bring. Will not a pleading soul make use of every argument that it can think of, to move the divine compassion? How piteously will a man in want plead to have his necessities relieved! How he will try to touch the string that most vibrates in our natural heart! How the poor blind beggar in the streets of the metropolis will cry, “Remember the blind!” because he knows what a string it touches! Even the imposters, of which this great city is full, use a whining tone to tell their pretended misery, because they know there is something in our heart that vibrates at the accents of woe. So with the spiritual beggar. If the Lord do but give him access to Himself, I know he will fill his mouth with arguments. O what a mercy it is to have a soul panting after the Lord, and not to be satisfied except with the presence of the living God!

What a mercy to lie upon our bed, and instead of having every vile thought working in the mind, every base imagination passing through our heart, to be crying to the Lord for the sweet manifestations of his mercy and grace! And as we sit at home, what a mercy it is, instead of being full of ill-humour and worldliness, to have the soul sighing and breathing after the Lord that he would appear! I dare say, you gracious fathers and mothers, when all is still, and your children are in bed, and you sit up a little while after them, you know what it is now and then to pant after the Lord’s presence and the manifestations and revelations of his goodness in your heart. I know something of this matter. I know it is very sweet, when all is still and quiet, to have the soul going out after the Lord in earnest breathings after his manifested presence, to feel the dew of his favour upon our branch, and enjoy nearness of access and approach unto him. Then is the time when we fill our mouth with arguments. Why, sometimes it is as hard to leave off, as at others it is hard to begin. Sometimes the soul can no more help praying, breathing, and panting after the Lord, shall I say half-an-hour, an hour, or two hours together, than at other times, it cannot breathe out a single petition, or feel a single desire after the living God.

Now, was not Job here, the old patriarch, whose experience is recorded for our strength and consolation? Was not Job in the same spot where we often are? Why, if the old patriarch had not known something of access and of pouring out his very soul before the mercy-seat, he would not have wanted to order his cause before the Lord, and fill his mouth with arguments.

Are there not many here this evening, in whose ears I have uttered nothing but enigmas, and who know no more spiritually and experimentally of what I have been speaking than if I had been talking in Arabic or Hebrew? We must get into these spots, into these circumstances, before we can know anything of these things in soul experience. If this aged patriarch had not known what it was to be shut up in his mind, harassed, and distressed, and well-nigh overwhelmed with the attacks of the wicked one, he would not have said, “Oh that I knew where I might find him; that I might come even to his seat; I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments!” Job 23:3-4 Has that ever been, is it now, the genuine feeling, the real experience of your soul?

Do look into your heart, you that fear God. Do look for a moment, if you have never looked before, at the work of grace, and where are you, if you have never looked at it? and consider if you know any of these matters. Did you ever, in a feeling of darkness, gloom, bondage, and distress of soul cry, I do not say the words, it is the feelings we want, let the words go, “Oh that I knew where I might find him!” “Lord I do want to find thee; my soul longs after thee; I want a taste of thy blessed presence; I want to embrace thee in the arms of my faith; I want the sweet testimonies of thy gracious lips; ‘Oh that I knew where I might find thee!’ I would not care what I went through.”

If so, then these very things shew that you have the fear of God in your souls, and the teaching of the Spirit in your hearts. You are where Job was; and know ten thousand times more than all the dry Calvinists, and all the presumptuous claimants that swarm in this metropolis. There is more true religion in a poor tried, exercised, tempted soul, who most deeply feels the power of unbelief, and is pressed by mountains of guilt; there is more of vital godliness, more of divine teaching in such a man, than in a whole chapel full of presumptuous claimants, who have never known God or themselves; who have never found God by a discovery of Himself to their consciences, who have never known anything of the horrible depths of nature’s evil, nor groaned under the workings of inward corruption.

I say then, if you know something of what Job speaks here, “Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat!”-if that is the desire of your soul, you have Job’s affliction in this matter, and you will have Job’s deliverance, Job’s joy, Job’s peace, and Job’s salvation. Job’s God is your God, and you will be where Job now is, bathing your ransomed soul in all the glory of the Lamb.

It is a mercy to know by heart experience what the Holy Ghost has revealed here; and it is better, if it be the will of God, to be groaning out, “Oh that I knew where I might find him!”-it is a thousand times better to be groaning out this in darkness, solitude, heaviness, and misery, through mourning and sorrowing, than to have a name to live while dead, and the form of godliness, while you inwardly and outwardly deny the power of it. For this is divine teaching, this is the work of grace, this is the life of God in the soul, this is the kingdom of God in the heart. And those who know these things by divine teaching will one day mount up and be where Christ is, be with the Lord of life and glory, and enjoy his blessed presence for ever.

There are many persons present who perhaps will not hear my voice again, as this is the last Lord’s day that I speak here. I leave this testimony, therefore, to the blessing of God, and may he apply it to your conscience. What you know of this heart-felt experience, and of these dealings of God in your soul, the Lord enable you that fear him to look at and examine; and may he give us sweet testimonies that we do know these things by his divine power. In his hands, then, do I leave it; and God grant, that the “bread cast upon the waters may be found after many days.” I have endeavoured to deliver my own conscience, and to speak the truth in all faithfulness as far as I know it, neither seeking to please, nor fearing to offend; but leaving the matter simply in the Lord’s hands that he may apply it powerfully, and seal it upon the hearts of his own people, whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear.

King Hezekiah lay diseased,

With every dangerous symptom seized,

Beyond the cure of art;

With languid pulse, and strength decayed;

With spirits sunk, and soul dismayed,

And ready to depart.

      His friends despair; his servants droop;
      The learned leach can give no hope:
      All signs of life are fled!
      When, lo! the seer Isaiah came,
      With words to damp the expiring flame,
      And strike the dying dead!

    Entering the royal patient’s room,
He thus denounced the dreadful doom:
Of flattering hopes beware!
God’s messenger, behold, I stand;
Thus saith the Lord: Thy death’s at hand;
Prepare, O king, prepare! 

 

     Where is the man, whom words like these,

 (Though free before from all disease)

 Would not deject to death?

 Favourite of heaven! in thee we see

 The miracles of prayer, in thee

 The omnipotence of faith!

 Methinks I hear the hero say;

 And must my life be snatched away,

 Before I’m fit to die?

 Can prayer reverse the stern decree,

 And save a wretch condemned like me?

 It may; at least I’ll try.

       Ye damps of death, that chill me through,
       God’s prophet and prediction too,
       I must withstand you all;
       Both heaven and earth awhile begone:
       I turn me to the Lord alone,
       And face the silent wall.

 He said; and weeping, poured a prayer,

 That conquered pain, removed despair,

 With all its heavy load;

 Repelled the force of death’s attack,

 Brought the recanting prophet back,

 And turned the mind of God!

       Joseph Hart.

**BALM IN GILEAD

 

Preached on Tuesday Evening, 27th July 1852, at Eden Street Chapel, Hampstead Road.

 

"Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?"- Jer 9:22

 

A PREGNANT question! and asked by the prophet under very peculiar and painful feelings. What read we in the preceding verse? "For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt; I am black; astonishment hath taken hold on me." Whence sprang these convulsive pangs, this deep and overwhelming astonishment, which worked so powerfully in the mind of the prophet as actually to distort his features and make his face appear livid and black? Why was he hurt and wounded in spirit? What was he astonished at? At three things, First, at the hurt of the daughter of his people, at the deep and desperate wounds under which Zion lay languishing; secondly, at the greatness of the remedy which God had provided; and, thirdly, as the malady was so desperate and the remedy so great, why the health of the daughter of his people was not recovered?

 

In endeavouring, then, to open up the words of the text, I shall, with God’s blessing, attempt to show from them,

 

I. The desperate state of the daughter of God’s people.

 

II. The remedy which God has provided for her desperate condition.

 

III. Answer the prophet’s question, "Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?"

 

I. Sin is a damnable thing; and every one of God’s people is made, has been made, or will be made, to feel it so. And the more that they see of sin, know of sin, feel of sin, the more damnable will sin appear in their eyes, and with greater weight and power will its dreadful guilt and filth lie upon their conscience. Now there are but few, comparatively speaking, who have any clear sight or any deep feeling of what sin really is; and the reason, for the most part, is because they have such a slight, shallow, superficial knowledge of who and what God is. But let them once see the purity of God by the eye of faith, let them once have a manifestation of His justice and holiness, majesty and greatness to their soul, and let them, seeing light in His light, have a corresponding sight and sense of the deep and desperate state in which they are as fallen children of a fallen parent, then will they no longer have slight, superficial feelings of the nature and evil of sin, but will so see and feel its hideous and damnable character as to make them cry out with Isaiah in the temple, "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts". Isa 6:5

 

But if we look at the words of our text, it would seem as if the daughter of God’s people, that is, the Church of God ("the daughter of God’s people" being a Hebrew idiom for God’s people), was suffering under wounds so as to need balm, and under a complication of diseases, so as to require a physician. There was work for the surgeon as well as for the physician; deep and desperate wounds which needed balm, and an inward destructive malady which required internal remedies. This is just what sin has reduced the family of God to. God has described His Zion as "full of wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores." When the Church of God fell in Adam, she fell with a crash which broke every bone and bruised her flesh with wounds which are ulcerated from top to toe. Her understanding, her conscience, and her affections were all fearfully maimed. The first was blinded, the second stupified, and the third alienated. Every mental faculty thus became perverted and distorted. As in a shipwrecked vessel the water runs in through every leak, so when Adam fell upon the lee-shore of sin and temptation, and made shipwreck of the image of God in which he was created, sin rushed into every faculty of body and soul, and penetrated into the inmost recesses of his being. Or to use another figure; as when a man is bitten by a poisonous serpent the venom courses through every artery and vein, and he dies a corrupted mass from head to foot, so did the poison-fang of sin penetrate into Adam’s inmost soul and body, and infect him with its venom from the sole to the crown. But the fearful havoc which sin has made is never seen nor felt till the soul is quickened into spiritual life. O what work does sin then make in the conscience, when it is opened up by the Spirit of God! Whatever superficial or shallow views we may have had of sin before, it is only as its desperate and malignant character is opened up by the Holy Spirit that it is really seen, felt, grieved under, and mourned over as indeed a most dreadful and fearful reality. It is this sword of the Spirit which cuts and wounds; it is this entrance of life and light that gashes the conscience; it is this divine work which lacerates the heart and inflicts those deep wounds which nothing but the "balm in Gilead" can heal. And not only is a poor convinced sinner cut in his conscience, inwardly lacerated and gashed by sin as thus opened up by the Spirit of God, but, as the prophet speaks, "the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint." He is thus labouring under a complication of diseases. Every thought, word, and action is polluted by sin. Every mental faculty is depraved. The will chooses evil; the affections cleave to earthly things; the memory, like a broken sieve, retains the bad and lets fall the good; the judgment, like a bribed or drunken juryman, pronounces heedless or wrong decisions; and the conscience, like an opium-eater, lies asleep and drugged in stupified silence. When all these master-faculties of the mind, the heads of the house, are so drunken and disorderly, need we wonder that the servants are a godless, rebellious crew? Lusts call out for gratification; unbelief and infidelity murmur; tempers growl and mutter; and every bad passion strives hard for the mastery. 0 the evils of the human heart, which, let loose, have filled earth with misery and hell with victims; which deluged the world with the flood, burnt Sodom and Gomorrah with fire from heaven, and are ripening the world for the final conflagration! Every crime which has made this fair earth a present hell, has filled the air with groans, and drenched the ground with blood, dwells in your heart and mine.

 

Now, as this is opened up to the conscience by the Spirit of God, we feel indeed to be of all men most sinful and miserable, and of all most guilty, polluted, and vile. But it is this, and nothing but this, which cuts to pieces our fleshly righteousness, wisdom, and strength, which slays our delusive hopes, and lays us low at the footstool of mercy, without one good thought, word, or action to propitiate an angry Judge. It is this which brings the soul to this point, that, if saved, it can only be saved by the free grace, sovereign mercy, and tender compassion of Almighty God. These are painful lessons to learn. How trying is bodily illness! To be parched by fever, racked by internal pain, with nerves unstrung, temples throbbing, limbs tottering, appetite gone, are heavy afflictions. Wounds also festering, abscesses gathering, ulcers spreading, cancers eating-what a catalogue of ills this poor flesh is heir to! Yet these are but types of the maladies and wounds which the fall has brought into the soul. But as it is one thing to read of disease in books and another to be sick oneself, one thing to walk through the wards of a hospital and another to lie there a dying patient; so it is one thing to know the fall by theory and another to feel it by experience. This miserable state, brought upon us and into us by the fall, all the people of God must in some measure feel. It is of no use mincing the matter and saying that a person can be saved by the grace of God and the blood of Christ, without knowing anything of the depth of misery and wretchedness into which he is sunk as the fallen child of a fallen sire. We must go down into the depths of the fall to know what our hearts are and what they are capable of; we must have the keen knife of God to cut deep gashes in our conscience and lay bare the evil that lies so deeply imbedded in our carnal mind, before we can enter into and experience the beauty and blessedness of salvation by grace.

 

How the saints of old were led down into these depths! See the tears with which David watered his midnight couch; mark the lamentations of Jeremiah out of "the low dungeon;" hear the groans of Heman "in the lowest pit, in the darkness and the deeps;" listen to the roarings of Job, "poured out like the waters." Were not all these choice and eminent saints of God? And whence their dolorous cries? Was it not sin which forced them from their heaving, labouring breasts? But if this will not satisfy you and show you what sin is as laid on the conscience, see the co-equal Son of God agonizing in the garden and on the cross, and then say whether sin be a slight thing, or its burden light or small.

 

Now it was seeing and feeling this which made the prophet cry, "I am black; astonishment hath taken hold on me." When he saw himself so polluted and vile; when he viewed the Church of God pining and languishing with the sickness of sin, his very features gathered blackness; he seemed amazed that man should be what he is; his very soul trembled within him at a sight and sense of God’s majesty and holiness; and he could only burst forth in the language of awe-struck wonder, "I am black; astonishment hath taken hold on me." And so it will take hold upon us, when, under divine tuition, we look into our hearts and see the lusts and passions, the unbelief and infidelity, the worldly-mindedness and carnality, the pride and covetousness, with all the hosts of evils that lurk and work, fester and riot, in the depth of our fallen nature. Well may we lift our hands with astonishment that the heart of man can be capable of imagining such depths of baseness, and that sin can so stride over the soul and trample down every promise of a crop.

 

But you will say, perhaps, "You are too hard upon us; you make us out too bad; and you use such exaggerated language, as if we were all fit only for Newgate." I admit I use strong language, because I feel strongly; but not exaggerated, because it is impossible to exaggerate the evils of the heart or the depths of the fall.

 

II. But it would seem that whilst the prophet was thus almost overwhelmed with a sight and sense of sin, he had brought before him a view of the remedy. He therefore cries out, "Is there no balm in Gilead?" Is the case desperate? Must the patient die of the disease? Must the poor sinner sink under his sins? Is there no hope for him? Say that he has wandered far away from God, forgotten Him, neglected Him, repaid all His favours with base ingratitude, requited all His bounties and mercies with carnality and folly-is there still no remedy? Must he perish under the load of his iniquities and crimes? "Is there no balm in Gilead?" Is the supply exhausted, or has its value ceased?

 

(i) But what did this balm in Gilead literally signify? Gilead was a country beyond Jordan, in which certain trees grew of great value and rarity, from the trunk and branches of which there distilled a highly odoriferous gum, which was said to be of sovereign efficacy in healing wounds. We find that the Ishmaelitish merchants to whom Joseph was sold by his brethren were taking some of this balm to Egypt; and when Jacob would propitiate the chief lord of Egypt, whom he knew not then to be Joseph, he bade his sons "take a little balm" with them, as a suitable and acceptable offering. It thus became celebrated for its healing properties; and its very scarcity, the trees growing in no other soil or climate, and consequent dearness, gave it a still higher reputation. The prophet, therefore, viewing on the one hand Zion’s desperate case, and on the other God’s own divinely-contrived and appointed remedy, asks this pregnant question, "Is there no balm in Gilead?" He looked at the hurt of the daughter of his people, and saw her pining away in her iniquities; the veil being taken off his own heart, he saw her like himself, beyond description black and base. But was there no hope for him or her? Must she go down to the chambers of death? Must she sigh out her heart without any manifestation of pardon and peace? "Is there no balm in Gilead?" Why, the very question implies that there is balm in Gilead; that God has provided a remedy which is suitable to the desperate malady; and that there is more in the balm to heal than there is in guilt to wound; for there is more in grace to save than there is in sin to destroy. Why, then, should Zion so languish? Why is she so sick and sore? Why so bleeding to death? Why does her head so droop, her hands so hang down, her knees so totter? Why is her face so pale, her frame so wasted, her constitution so broken? What has done all this? Whence this sickness unto death? "Is there no balm in Gilead?" From that far country does now no healing medicine come? Has the balm-tree ceased to distil its gum? Is there none to gather, none to bring, none to apply it to perishing Zion?

 

But spiritually viewed, what is this precious balm? Is it not the Saviour’s blood-that precious, precious blood, of which the Holy Ghost testifieth that it "cleanseth from all sin?" Look at the words; weigh them well; they will bear the strictest, closest examination. "All sin;" then sins before calling, sins after calling, sins of thought, sins of word, sins of deed, sins of omission, sins of commission, sins against light, sins against life, sins against love, sins against the law, sins against the gospel, sins against God in every shape, in every form, of every name, every kind, every hue, every blackness, one sin only excepted-the sin against the Holy Ghost, which a believer can never commit. "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth," not from some sins, not from many sins, not from a thousand sins, not from a million sins, but "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin." This is indeed the balm, when the conscience is cut and gashed, bleeding and sore, to allay the smart, to soothe the pain, to bring together the edges of the wound and to make it kindly heal. Is there any other remedy? Search the whole round of duties; run through the wide catalogue of forms and ceremonies; examine every cell and nook of the monastery, the convent, and the confessional; weigh every grain of human merit and creature obedience; tithe with the utmost nicety the anise, mint, and cummin of self-imposed observances; hold up the hair shirt, the bleeding scourge, the jagged crucifix, the protracted fast, the midnight vigil, the morning prayer, and the evening hymn, and see whether all or any of these can heal a wounded conscience. But why do I mention these things? Are there Papists or Puseyites before me? No. But because there really is no medium between faith in Christ’s blood and full-blown Popery. As between grace and works, Christ’s blood and human merits, there is no real medium, so there is no standing ground between experimental religion and Popery, between absolution by Christ and absolution by the Pope. The Pope’s real "see" is the human heart. To drive out this Antichrist and bring in Christ is the main work of the Spirit, the grand aim and end of the gospel.

 

This is the reason why the Lord, in His wonderful dealings with the soul, makes it sink so deeply and feel so acutely. It is to drive out heart-popery. Where was the sword forged which "wounded one of the heads of the beast as it were to death?" In the cell of an Augustine monk. Popery was first driven out of Luther’s heart by the law and temptation; and then smitten down by Luther’s hand. But thousands are Papists in heart who are Protestants in creed. How many, for instance, there are who would fain heal themselves-some by duties, some by doctrines, some by resolutions, some by promises, some by vows, some by false hopes, some by ordinances, some by the opinion of ministers, some by church membership! What is this but a subtle form of Popery? How many heal themselves in this slight way! and every one will do so till the wound is opened up and deepenedby the Spirit of God. Then all these vain and inefficacious remedies are seen in their true light. They do not speak peace to the conscience; they bring no sense of pardon to the soul; the love of God does not accompany them; the fear of judgment is not taken away; the grave has still its terrors, and death has still its sting. All these remedies, therefore, are found in the case of the child of God to be utterly inefficacious, because they cannot heal the wounds, the deep wounds, that sin has made.

 

(ii) But the question is also asked, "Is there no physician there?" We want a physician as well as balm, and one who can fully enter into the very state of the case. Now, a physician naturally ought to be a man of deep skill and large research, of thorough knowledge and great tenderness. He should understand, and rightly appreciate every symptom, and know exactly what remedies to apply. But, spiritually, what a physician we need! We are afflicted throughout with disease! "The whole head is sick and the whole heart faint!" We want, therefore, a physician who knows all our secret maladies, who is perfectly acquainted with heart disease and head disease, who sees all our backslidings in lip and life, our various misgivings, doubts and fears, coldness and deadness, helplessness and inability, with all the workings of unbelief and infidelity, and the desperate aboundings of our filth and folly. We want a physician who can look into our hearts, and perfectly understand all these aggravated symptoms, and yet deal with us with the greatest tenderness, as well as the deepest wisdom and the most consummate skill. There is this almighty Physician; and if we are enabled by grace to put ourselves into His hands, or rather, if He take us and put us into His own hands, He will deal with us in the most tender and gentle, and yet the most efficacious manner possible. Still, it will at times be very painful to be under His hands, for He will touch the sore places, and probe the deep wounds, and some of His remedies will be very severe, bitter, and pungent. Yet with all this apparently rough handling, He will display the most infinite wisdom, the most consummate patience, and the tenderest love.

 

III. When the prophet, then, had taken this solemn view of the hurt of the daughter of his people, and had seen, too, by faith, "the balm in Gilead and the physician there," he asks, "Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?" clearly implying that although there was balm in Gilead, and a blessed Physician there, yet the health of the daughter of his people was not recovered. And is not this the case with many of God’s people now? They are cut, wounded, lacerated by sin, though they know, at least in their judgment, that there is balm in Gilead, and that there is a Physician there. They are not seeking salvation by the works of the law, they are not trusting to their own righteousness, they are not halting between two opinions, they know that there is no hope but in the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. And yet their wounds are not healed, nor their sickness relieved. But if there be balm in Gilead, and if there be a Physician there, why is not their health recovered?

 

But let us not here impeach either the reality of the malady or the sufficiency of the remedy. It is certain that the balm of a Saviour’s blood has healed thousands, and that there is salvation in no other name and by no other way, for "without shedding of blood there is no remission." It is equally certain that this great Physician has cured the most desperate diseases, diseases past all human help; it is also certain that this blood is never applied in vain, and that this Physician has an ear to hear, a heart to feel, and a hand to relieve.

 

Yet still there may be certain wise and sufficient reasons why this balm may not be immediately applied or this Physician not at once stretch forth His healing hand.

 

(i) The patient may not have sunk deep enough into the malady. Some of God’s people are often wondering why they do not know more of pardoning love, and of the application of the blood of the Lamb to their conscience; why they have not a clearer testimony and a more unwavering assurance of their interest in the everlasting covenant; why they have so much bondage and so little liberty, and, with a clear sight of the remedy, enjoy so little of its application. They clearly see that there is balm in Gilead, and that there is a Physician there. Still their "wounds stink and are corrupt because of their foolishness," and still the Physician delays to come. But may not this be the reason.-that they have not sunk deep enough, nor got yet into the incurable ward? In many living souls there lurks a spirit of self-righteousness, and a secret unacknowledged dependence on the creature. Till that is purged away, the balm in Gilead is not fully suitable, nor do they apply with all their heart and soul to the great Physician. "And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart". Jer 29:13

 

(ii) Or it may be that the due time is not come. "Humble yourselves," says the apostle, "under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time". 1Pe 5:6 There is "a set time to favour Zion," and till that time is run out the Lord does not manifest His favour. Abraham had to wait twenty-five years for a son; Joseph two years in prison for deliverance; David seven years to sit on the throne of Saul. It is "through faith and patience that we inherit the promises." "The vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak and not lie; though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry". Hab 2:3 When this set time is come, the balm will be applied, the skill of the Physician experienced, and the health recovered.

 

(iii) Or there may be certain hindrances in themselves of another kind why the balm in Gilead and why "the Physician there" are not more deeply and experimentally known. They may not yet have been made willing to part with all their idols; they may still hug their sins; they may cleave to their own ruin, and play with the serpent that bites them. Or they may be half-hearted, may be drawn aside by pride or covetousness; the world may have fast hold of their heart, and their affections may be too much after earthly things. Such was Ephraim’s case: "His heart was divided, and thus he was found faulty." And what was the consequence? "When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, then went Ephraim to the Assyrian, and sent to King Jareb; yet could he not heal you, nor cure you of your wound". Ho 5:13 Or it may be that the wound has been slightly healed, and therefore has broken out worse than before. A relapse, we know, is often worse than the original disease, and an old wound harder to heal than a fresh one. The Lord Himself condemns the prophets who "healed the hurt of the daughter of His people slightly." The wound, therefore, must needs break forth again, and the cure be thus put further off. Or there may be some secret yet powerful temptation, under the power of which the soul is lying. Or some darling lust which holds fast, and will not let go, and in the baseness of the heart would rather go on with. Or it may be sucking what sweetness it can out of backsliding rather than be purged and cleansed by God’s searching hand. What a proof is this of the deceitfulness, the desperate deceitfulness, the wickedness, the deep and desperate wickedness, of the human heart! There is something in sin which so bewitches, something in carnality which so deadens, something in the world which so engrosses, and something in sensual gratification that so hardens the conscience, that where these things are pursued and indulged, the life and power of godliness are as if buried and suffocated. The soul, indeed, may at times cry and roar under this load of carnality and death, but its half-heaved cries do not penetrate the vault of heaven, nor enter into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.

 

May not this throw light on the experience of some of God’s people? How many seem to be at no clear point! They hope, they fear; sometimes they seem to have a testimony and sometimes none; and thus they go on perhaps for years, and many even almost to a death-bed, before there is any clear decided work in their consciences to slaughter and kill, or any sweet manifestation of the mercy and love of God to heal and save them. It is true that these, with all other matters, we must eventually trace up to the sovereignty of God. The final answer to all inquiries why misery and mercy were so long deferred, and came only just in time, must still be, "The Lord will have it so." And yet however sovereign the dispensations of God are, no one who fears His great name should so shelter himself under divine sovereignty as to remove all blame from himself. When the Lord asks, "Hast thou not procured this to thyself?" the soul must needs reply. "Yea, Lord, I surely have." This is a narrow line, but one which every one’s experience, where the conscience is tender, will surely ratify. Though we can do nothing to comfort our own souls, to speak peace to our own conscience, to bring the love of God into our hearts, to apply the balm of Gilead to bleeding wounds, and summon the great Physician to our bedsides, we may do many things to repel one moment what we would seem to invite the next. We cannot bring ourselves near to God, but we can and do put ourselves far from Him; we cannot advance into the warmth and brightness of His beams, but we can wander into regions of cold and frost; we cannot make to ourselves a fountain of living waters, but we can hew out a broken cistern; we cannot live to God’s glory, but we can live to our own; we cannot seek God’s honour, but we can seek our own profit; we cannot walk after the Spirit, but we can walk after the flesh; we can be carnal, worldly-minded, reckless, thoughtless, careless about our souls, though we cannot be spiritually-minded, heavenly, holy, with hearts and affections at God’s right hand; we cannot make ourselves fruitful in every good word and work, but we may, by disobedience and self-indulgence, bring leanness into our souls, barrenness into our frames, deadness into our hearts, coldness into our affections, and in the end much guilt upon our consciences. No man knows better, I believe, than myself, that we cannot do anything of a spiritual nature to bring us near to God, but I am equally sure that we can do many things that set us very far from Him. Let all the shame and guilt be ours; all the grace and glory are God’s. Every drop of felt mercy, every ray of gracious hope, every sweet application of truth to the heart, every sense of interest, every blessed testimony, every sweet indulgence, every heavenly smile, every tender desire, and every spiritual feeling, all, all are of God. If ever my heart is softened, my spirit blessed, my soul watered, if Christ is ever felt to be precious, it is all of His grace-it is all given freely, sovereignly, without money and without price. But can it be denied? I for one cannot deny it, that by our carnality, inconsistency, worldly- mindedness, negligence, ingratitude, and forsaking and forgetting the God of our mercies, we are continually bringing leanness and barrenness, deadness and darkness into our own souls. Thus we are forced to plead "Guilty, guilty!" to put our mouth in the dust, acknowledge ourselves to be vile, and confess ourselves indeed "of sinners chief, and of saints less than the least." Yet thus does God, in His mysterious dealings, open up a way for His sovereign grace and mercy to visit the soul. The more we feel ourselves condemned, cut off, gashed and wounded by a sense of sin and folly, backslidings and wanderings from God, the lower we shall lie, the more we shall put our mouth in the dust, the more freely we shall confess our baseness before Him. And if the Lord should be pleased, in these solemn moments, to open our poor blind eyes to see something of the precious blood of the Lamb, to apply some sweet promise to the soul, or to bring to the heart a sense of His goodness and mercy, how sweet and suitable is that grace, as coming over all the mountains and hills of our sin and shame.

 

There is, then, balm in Gilead, and there is a Physician there. This is, and must ever be, our only hope. If there were no balm in Gilead, what could we do but lie down in despair and die? For our sins are so great, our backslidings so repeated, our minds so dark, our hearts so hard, our affections so cold, our souls so wavering and wandering, that if there were no balm in Gilead, no precious blood, no sweet promises, no sovereign grace, and if there were no Physician there, no risen Jesus, no Great High Priest over the house of God, what well-grounded hope could we entertain? Not a ray. Our own obedience and consistency? These are a bed too short and a covering too narrow. But when there is some application of the balm in Gilead it softens, melts, humbles, and at the same time thoroughly heals. Nay, this balm strengthens every nerve and sinew, heals blindness, remedies deafness, cures paralysis, makes the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb to sing, and thus produces gospel fight, gospel heating, gospel strength, and a gospel walk. When the spirit is melted, and the heart touched by a sense of God’s goodness, mercy, and love to such base, undeserving wretches, it produces gospel obedience, aye, a humble obedience, not that proud obedience which those manifest who are trusting to their own goodness and seeking to scale the battlements of heaven by the ladder of self-righteousness, but an obedience of gratitude, love, and submission, willingly, cheerfully rendered, and therefore acceptable to God, because flowing from His own Spirit and grace.

 

It is the application of this divine balm which purifies the heart, makes sin hateful and Jesus precious, and not only dissolves the soul in sweet gratitude, but fills it with earnest desires to live to God’s honour and glory. This is the mysterious way the Lord takes to get honour to Himself. As He opens up the depth of the fall, makes the burden of sin felt, and shows the sinner that his iniquities have exceeded, He brings the proud heart down, and lays the head low in the dust; and as He makes him sigh and cry, grieve and groan, He applies His sovereign balm to the soul, brings the blood of sprinkling into the conscience, sheds abroad His mercy and love, and thus constrains the feet to walk in cheerful and willing obedience. This is obeying the precept from right motives, right views, right influences, under right feelings, and to right ends. This is the true Christian obedience, obedience "in the spirit and not in the letter," an obedience which glorifies God, and is attended by every fruit and grace of the Spirit. Thus, wondrous to say, the more we see and feel of the depth of the malady, the more do we prize, as God is pleased to show it, the height and blessedness of the remedy; the lower we sink in self, the higher we rise in Christ; the more we see of nature, the more we admire the grace of God; the more we are harassed, and tried, and distressed, the more suitable and precious, and God- glorifying is the gospel of the grace of God. So that the more we sink into the ruins of the fall, the higher we rise experimentally into the knowledge of the gospel of the grace of God; and all this attended, when it is genuine, by the fruits of the Spirit, a spiritual obedience, a glorifying God, a separation from the world, and as the Lord enables, a glorifying Him in body, soul, and spirit, which are His.

 

Here, then, is the answer to the prophet’s question, "Is there no balm in Gilead?" Yes, there is, blessed be God; the blood of Jesus and the sweet promises of the gospel. "Is there no physician there?" Yes, blessed be God, there is, a wise, a mighty, yea, an Almighty, an all-sufficient One. "Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?" If not recovered, it is only delayed and delays are not denials. The time will come, the appointed season will roll round, and then every hindrance will be removed. If it be the world, some affliction will be sent to wean the heart from it. If an idol, the hand of God will take it away or destroy its power. If it be a temptation, God will deliver from it, or make a way of escape that the soul may be able to bear it. If unbelief prevail, He will overcome it, and give faith a victory over it. If there be any lust indulged, He will purge the heart from its power and prevalence. So that our wisdom and mercy alike are to fall into His compassionate hands, to renounce our own righteousness, to acknowledge that we have nothing in ourselves but filth and folly, and thus to seek His face, to call upon His name, to hope in His mercy, and rest in His goodness; and, as He may be pleased to shine upon the soul, to thank and praise His holy name for the mercy He displays in Christ to the vilest of the vile.

 

Here, then, is the answer to this important question, "Is there no balm in Gilead; Is there no physician there?" Blessed be God, there is both one and the other. "Why then is not the health of the daughter of God’s people recovered?" It is already accomplished in the mind of God, and will be made experimentally manifest in His own time and way.

 

**THE HEIR OF HEAVEN WALKING IN DARKNESS AND THE HEIR OF HELL WALKING IN LIGHT

“Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of His servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God. Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow” Isa 50:10-11.

THE WORD OF GOD appears to me to resemble a vast and deep mine, in which precious metals of various kinds lie concealed. The rocks and mountains and the general surface of the ground above the mine, every eye may see; but “the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places” Isa 45:3 that lie beneath, are known to but few. And thus many letter-learned professors and wise doctors may understand the literal meaning of the Scriptures, and explain very correctly the connection and the historical sense of the text, who are as ignorant of the rich vein of experience that lies beneath the surface of the letter, as the mules in South America are of the nature and value of the silver which they draw up from the bottom of the mine. “Surely there is a vein for the silver, and a place for gold where they fine it... The stones of it are the place of sapphires, and it hath dust of gold. There is a path” that, namely, which lies through the mine “which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture’s eye”-that is, the keen-sighted, but unclean professor Le 11:14; Isa 35:8—“ hath not seen” Job 28:1,6-7.

In this deep mine do God’s spiritual labourers work, and as the blessed Spirit leads them into different veins of experimental truth, they bring forth “the precious things of the lasting hills,” to the comfort and establishment of His people. Thus, to one of Christ’s ambassadors is given a clear light upon the doctrines of grace, which have been riveted in his soul, and a door of utterance communicated to set them forth with unction and power. On another sent servant of the Lord is bestowed a divine acquaintance with the depths of his own inward depravity, under which he groans, being burdened, and a tongue like the pen of a ready writer to unfold the secret recesses of a deceitful and desperately wicked heart. Whilst to another spiritual Laborer is given a heavenly light into the difference between natural and supernatural religion, and utterance bestowed to open up the various delusions whereby Satan. transformed into an angel of light, deceiveth the nations.

According, then, to the line which God the Holy Ghost has distributed to each of His own sent servants 2Co 10:13,16, does He usually lead them to such parts of the Word as fall in with their own experience, and shine with the same light that has shone into their souls. Thus, they “see light in God’s light,” and as the blessed Spirit of all truth is pleased to shine upon a text, a peculiar light is thrown upon it, a peculiar entrance is given into it, a peculiar unction and savour rests upon it, a peculiar beauty, force, truth and power seems to shoot forth from every part of it, so that every word appears dipped in heavenly dew, and every expression to drop with honey.

Whenever a text has been thus opened to me, I have seen a ray of light shine as it were all through it, and it has seemed clothed with divine beauty and power. The words have perhaps been in my mind for days and have been bursting forth continually from my lips. I have seen a fullness and tasted a sweetness in them, which carried with it its own evidence, that they were the words of the ever-living God; and when I have gone with them into the pulpit, I have usually had a door of utterance set before me to unfold what I have seen in the text, and power has generally accompanied the word to the hearts of God’s people. Whilst at other times, and those much more frequent, the same text, as well as every other, has been hidden in darkness, and I have groped for the wall like the blind, and groped as if I had no eyes.

But if my eyes have been opened to perceive anything aright, or to see wondrous things out of God’s law, it is, I believe, to discover somewhat of the difference between natural and spiritual religion. And thus, as you have probably perceived, I find myself led from time to time to speak from such texts as that which I have read, in which the strong line between what is of God and what is of not, what is of the Spirit and what is of the flesh, is clearly drawn.

In the two verses of the text, we find two distinct characters traced out by the hand of the blessed Spirit-the one, a child of God, the other, a child of the devil. The one an HEIR OF HEAVEN, the other an HEIR OF HELL. One of these characters is said “to walk in darkness, and to have no light-,” the other, “to compass himself about with sparks of his own kindling.” One is encouraged “to trust in the name of the LORD, and to stay upon his God,” against the other it is threatened that “he shall lie down in sorrow.”

Now I by no means assert that the one character represents all the family of God, any more than that the other character represents all the offspring of Satan. But it has pleased the blessed Spirit to bring together two opposite characters, to set them side by side, and so place them in strong contrast with each other. And thus I feel myself led to unfold as God shall enable me, these two different characters: first, because I believe the one represents the experience of many children of God during well-nigh the whole, of some during a part, and of all during one period or other of their spiritual life-, and, secondly, because I believe the other character traces out the beginning, middle and end of thousands of dead professors in the present day.

But as none can reasonably object, if I describe a character, to my giving him a name, that we may know him again, I shall call the one THE HEIR OF HEAVEN WALKING IN DARKNESS, and the other THE HEIR OF HELL WALKING IN LIGHT.

The HEIR of HEAVEN

The text opens a very striking and solemn way. It begins with a question, an appeal, as it were, to the consciences of those to whom it is addressed, “WHO IS AMONG YOU THAT FEARETH THE LORD?” Now the very form in which this striking question is put to the HEIR OF HEAVEN, when compared with the mode of address employed in the next verse to the heirs of hell, seems to show that the first of these characters is very rare, the second very frequent.

Thus, the question, “Who is there among you” is worded as if the blessed Spirit were selecting one person out of a crowd, as if He were pointing out a solitary character amidst a numerous company. Whilst the word “you”-“Who is there among you”-seems to show that this company is a troop of professors, the same who are afterwards addressed, “Behold, all ye that kindle a fire.” We have, then, a character pointed out by the finger of God Himself, separated by His distinguishing hand and sealed with His own divine mark as belonging to Himself. This living soul, this gracious character, this heir of heaven, whom God has here singled out, is stamped by the blessed Spirit with three marks. The first is, that “he fears the Lord;” the second, that “he obeys the voice of God’s servant,” the third, that “he walks in darkness, and has no light.” We will, with God’s blessing, then consider these three remarks separately.

1.   He Fears God. The first mark, then, of that heir of heaven whose character we are endeavoring to trace is, that “HE FEARS GOD.” “Who is among you that feareth the Lord?” But here the question at once arises: What sort of fear is this which the Holy Ghost has thus stamped with His divine approbation? “Is it of heaven or of men?” To err here is to stumble at the very outset, and to throw the whole into confusion. We must therefore, at the very threshold of our inquiry, lay it down as a positive principle, that the fear here spoken of is not a fruit of the flesh, but the work of the Spirit; not a product of nature, but the offspring of the Holy Ghost. And this distinction needs to be drawn, and to be insisted on, with greater carefulness, because there is a natural fear of God as well as a spiritual one.

 

The very devils believe and tremble. The children of Israel whose carcases fell in the wilderness, feared God when they heard “the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud” Ex 19:16, “so that all the people that were in the camp trembled.” Saul feared God when that awful sentence fell upon his ear: “Tomorrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me,” and “he fell straightway all along on the earth, and was sore afraid, because of the words of Samuel” 1Sa 28:20. Felix feared God when “he trembled, as Paul reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and “judgment to come”Ac 24:25. “Terrors are upon the hypocrite,” said Zophar Job 20:23,25 when God casteth forth the fury of His wrath upon him, and the glittering sword cometh out of his gall.” And “terrors,” saith Bildad Job 18:11, “shalt make the wicked afraid on every side, and shall drive him to His feet.” The fear of the Lord, then, spoken of in the text is no natural dread of God, no fleshly alarm of a guilty conscience, no late remorse of an enlightened judgment, trembling at the wrath to come. Nor, again, is it any such fear of God as is impressed upon the mind by what is called “a religious education.” Against this the Lord especially directs a sentence of condemnation: “Their fear toward Me is taught by the precept of men.” Isa 29:13.

The fear of God, then, which He has in the text and elsewhere stamped with His divine approbation, is that which He Himself implants with His own hand in the soul. As it is written, “I will put My fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from Me” Jer 32:40. This is the fear which is called “the beginning of wisdom” Pr 9:10; and is said to be “the fountain of life,” “the strong confidence” Pr 14:26-27, and “the treasure” Isa 33:6 of a child of God, and that which “endures forever” in his heart Ps 19:9.

But how is this divine fear, this godly awe, this holy trembling, produced in the soul? It is not sufficient to say: “It is implanted by the hand of God,” and so leave it. The question arises: How does the blessed Spirit work it in the soul? To this I answer, that in producing it God works by certain means. A spiritual man is not a steam-engine, or a piece of machinery, driven round and round by cogs and wheels in a certain mechanical course, without feeling and without consciousness. The grace of God indeed works invincibly and irresistibly upon the soul, and produces certain effects in it; but not in the same way as a weaver’s loom makes a piece of cloth, or as a spinning ‘jenny makes cotton thread. God works, then, by means. But by means I do not understand what are usually called “means of grace,” such as preaching, praying, reading the Word, etc., which many persons speak of, as though, if made use of by carnal men, they would bring grace into their hearts almost as necessarily as a water-pipe carries water into a cistern. No. For though prayer and hearing the Word, etc., contain in them blessings for the spiritual, thousands have used what are called “the means of grace,” who have lived and died without grace; for “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” “Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for, but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.” By “means,” then, and “God’s working by means,” I understand not means on our part, but means on God’s part. I intend by “the Word,” those gracious and powerful operations of the blessed Spirit on the soul, which produce a certain effect and create a certain experience within.

Thus the means which God employs to raise up a holy fear of His great name in the soul, is to cast into it a ray of divine light out of the fulness of the Godhead. “God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness,” says Paul 2Co 4:6, “hath shined in our hearts.” “In Thy light,” says David Ps 36:9, “we see light;” and again: “The entrance of Thy words giveth light” Ps 119:130. Until, then, this supernatural light out of the fulness of God enters into the soul, a man has no knowledge of Jehovah. He may say his prayers, read his Bible, attend preaching, observe ordinances, “bestow all his goods to feed the poor, and give his body to be burned;” but he is as ignorant of God as the cattle that graze in the fields. He may call himself a Christian, and be thought such by others, may talk much about Jesus Christ, hold a sound creed, maintain a consistent profession, pray at a prayer meeting with fluency and apparent feeling, may stand up in a pulpit and contend earnestly for the doctrines of grace, may excel hundreds of God’s children in zeal, knowledge and conversation; and yet, if this ray of supernatural light has never shone into his soul he is only twofold more the child of hell than those who make no profession-“The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.” But the same ray of supernatural light which reveals to us that there is a God, manifests also His purity and holiness, His universal presence, His abhorrence of evil and His heart-searching eye. And this it manifests not as a mere doctrine, to form an article of a creed or a part of a system, but as a mighty truth, a divine conviction, lodged and planted in the depths of the soul, which becomes, so to speak, a part of ourselves, so as never more to be sundered from us or lost out of the heart.

But it may be asked, how are we to know whether we possess this spiritual and genuine fear of God, and how are we to distinguish it from all counterfeits? Like all other graces of the blessed Spirit, it must be seen in its own light, tasted in its own savour, and felt in its own power. But wherever this divine fruit of eternal election grows, it will be manifested by the effects which it produces. And thus, those children of God, who have not faith to believe, nor spiritual discernment to see, nor divine unction to feel, that they are true partakers of this heavenly fear, may have it manifested to their consciences that they really possess it, when they hear its effects and operations traced out, and have an inward witness that they have experienced the same. And this is the grand use of experimental preaching, against which so many proud professors shoot out their arrows, even bitter words; that, under the Spirit’s unction, it sheds a light on the path of those that walk in darkness, removes stumbling stones out of the way of those that are ready to halt, strengthens the weak hands, and confirms the feeble knees. To see the sun shining in the mid-day sky and to feel its cheering beams is the surest evidence that he is risen; but to see him reflected in the trembling waters of a brook, or to trace him dimly through clouds and mists, is a proof also that it is day.

And thus, those dear children of God, who cannot behold the beams of the Sun of Righteousness, nor feel His warmth in their souls, may see Him reflected in the experience of their trembling hearts, or trace His work within through the mists of unbelief. A child of God may not be able to see the fear itself, yet may feel that he has experienced its effects and operations, when he hears them traced out by a minister of Christ, who speaks out of the fulness of an exercised heart.

One evidence, then, of our being partakers of this godly fear is the INWARD FEELING OF GUILT and the SENSE OF OUR EXCEEDING VILENESS which always accompanies it. The same ray of divine light which manifests Jehovah to the soul, and raises up a spiritual fear of Him within, discovers to us also our inward depravity. Until we see heavenly light we know not what darkness is, until we view eternal purity we are ignorant of our own vileness, until we hear the voice of inflexible, Justice we feel no guilt; until we behold a heart- searching God we do not groan beneath our inward deceitfulness; and until we feel that He abhors evil we do not abhor ourselves.

Thus all supernatural communications from God and manifestations of Him show us, at the same moment and in the same light, a holy Jehovah and a fallen sinner, heavenly purity and creature vileness, God on the throne of light and a worm of the dust, a righteous Judge and a leper on the dunghill. The regenerate soul looks with the spiritual eye which the Holy Ghost has planted ‘in it, first up unto God, then down into itself. So it was with Moses, when he heard “the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words” and said, “exceedingly fear and quake” Heb 12:19,21. Thus was it with Job, when he said: “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth Thee, wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” Job 42:5-6. Isaiah, on a similar vision of the glory of the Lord cried out: “Woe is me! for I am undone” Isa 6:5. Daniel’s “comeliness was turned in him into corruption” Da 10:8, and John “fell at Christ’s feet as dead” Re 1:17. If you have never felt guilt, nor abhorred yourself in dust and ashes, you may depend upon it that you have never “seen God” 3Jo 11-, and if you have never seen God with the spiritual eye of a living faith, you are dead in sins, or dead in a profession. As Job says: “Your excellency may mount up to the heavens, and your head reach unto the clouds” Job 20:6; but if you have never felt in your mouth “the wormwood and the gall,” have never groaned, being burdened, nor roared for very disquietness of heart; if you have never cried as a criminal for mercy, nor put your mouth into the dust-you are a dead branch, a rotten hypocrite, an empty professor. You may talk about the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, be one of those “prating fools that shall fall” Pr 10:10; but if the plague of leprosy has never broken out in you, and that “deeper than the skin” Le 13:25; and if you have never as a loathsome wretch, a monster of inward pollution and iniquity, had your clothes rent, your head bare, and a covering upon you Le 13:45, you have never tasted the love, nor felt the atoning blood of the Saviour. He is to you a name, not a person; an idea, not a reality; a Saviour in the letter, not a Saviour in the Spirit; a Christ in your Bible, not a Christ in your heart; an Immanuel of whom you have heard, but not an Immanuel whom you have seen. and who is “God with you.”

Another evidence of the reality and genuineness of the fear of the Lord in the soul is THE WAY IN WHICH WE APPROACH GOD IN SECRET PRAYER. Until we see God in the light of His own manifestations, we cannot worship Him in spirit and in truth. We may utter prayers in public or in private, written or unwritten, taught in childhood or learned in age, repeated from memory or suggested at the moment; and yet, if we have never seen God in the light of His holiness, we have never prayed to Him in our lives. Some of you in this congregation may have had family prayers, and others of you may have prayed at prayer meetings, and been so pleased with your own gift and the applause of empty professors as to think yourself fit for the ministry, and have got your foot almost on the steps of a pulpit. And what advantage have you reaped by your fleshly prayers? Are you nearer to heaven or more acceptable to God’? No. But on the contrary, to the long, black catalogue of your sins you have added that blackest of all-presumption.

Instead of pleasing God, you have offended Him; instead of worshiping, you have mocked Him; and instead of taking so many steps nearer and nearer to heaven, you have only been taking so many steps nearer and nearer to hell. “Your new moons and your appointed feasts My soul hateth, they are a trouble unto Me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide Mine eyes from you; yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear” Isa 1:14-15. “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers, therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation” Mt 23:14. Now the only cure for this awful presumption and hypocrisy is the fear of God planted by His own divine hand in the soul. He that is blessed with godly fear, as an internal, abiding principle, cannot mock God. He cannot offer Him the dead sacrifice, the stinking carcase of formality, superstition, tradition, hypocrisy and self-righteousness. He cannot go on, year after year, to mock the ever-living Jehovah to His face, as thousands do in the Church of England, and out of it, by confessing grief for sins for which they never felt sorry, asking for blessings which they never desired, and thanking God for mercies for which they have no gratitude. His soul will be, more or less deeply, and more or less frequently, penetrated with such an inward reverence, such a holy awe, such a realizing sense of the solemn presence of the great holy God of heaven and earth that he will confess his sins, not out of a Prayer Book, but out of the depth of a contrite heart; will beg for mercy, not as a child repeats his A B C, but as a sinking criminal at the bar of ‘judgment; and will cry for the light of God’s countenance, not as a Parish Clerk mumbles forth, “Hear us, good Lord,” but as one in whom “the Spirit itself maketh intercession with groanings that cannot be uttered.”

2.   He Obeys The Voice Of His Servant

 

But that “he fears God” is not the only mark given in the text of that heir of heaven, whose path we are endeavoring to trace.

He is said also “TO OBEY THE VOICE OF HIS SERVANT.” To discover whom the Holy Ghost means in this place by “the Servant of God” is perhaps not a matter of much difficulty. It is a name and an office which the adorable Redeemer Himself condescends to bear. “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold, Mine Elect in whom My soul delighteth” Isa 42:1, was the title by which He was addressed by God the Father more than seven hundred years before He appeared upon earth. Again, it is said of Him Isa 53:11: “By His knowledge shall My righteous Servant justify many-,” and not to multiply instances, the promise runs Zec 3:8: “Behold. I will bring forth My Servant, the Branch.’ Thus the voice of God’s Servant in the text may justly be explained to refer to that ever-blessed Mediator, who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a Servant, and was made in the likeness of men” Php 2:6-7.

But what sort of voice is this? Is it the mere voice of Christ in the Scriptures? Is it the naked precept, the naked promise, or the naked invitation? No. What is the Bible more than any other book when it is not clothed by the Spirit with almighty power and irresistible energy? The Bible is nothing without the Spirit. It is in itself a mere list of words and syllables, an assemblage of vowels and consonants, a collection or printers’ types and inks, which, without the Spirit’s divine application, can no more convey life and light into the soul than a letter sent by the post can communicate its contents to the eyes of a man born blind. Unless the Eternal Spirit give a voice to the dumb letter, and take truth out of the Bible, and rivet it in our hearts, the Bible is no more to us than another book. If your religion is only in the Bible, and has no existence out of the Bible in your own soul, which is the case with thousands who are considered great Christians, the same fire that will at the last day bum up the Bible will bum up your religion with it. No, my friends, we must have the truths of the Bible, which were written there by the finger of the Holy Ghost, taken out of the Bible, and written by the same Holy Ghost upon our hearts. To have the truth in the Bible only is like having the Ten Commandments written up at the east end of a church, which, with their gilt letters and flourished capitals, mightily please the eye of a Pharisee, but which differ as much from “the commandments’s coming” with power Ro 7:9 as the prayer of a dead formalist differs from the cries and groans of a broken-hearted saint.

The Bible is a mighty magazine, a vast reservoir of blessed truth, but the precepts and promises of the Bible have no more power in themselves to convince or comfort the soul than the swords and muskets ‘in the Tower of London have power to start from their places and kill the spectators. Both are merely dead instruments, lifeless weapons. and need a mighty hand and an outstretched arm to give them power and efficacy. “The words that I speak unto you,” says the Redeemer Joh 6:63, “they are spirit and they are life;” “Written not in tables of stone,” says Paul 2Co 3:3, “but in fleshy tables of the heart.” Thus, “the voice of God’s Servant,” which those in the text said to “obey,” is not the mere voice of Christ in the Scriptures, but such a voice, “powerful and full of majesty,” as called Lazarus forth out of the tomb. This voice, heard by the sheep alone Joh 10:27, raises up the dead in sins Joh 5:25; penetrates the conscience Heb 4:12; casts a flood of light within, and carries conviction into the inmost recesses of the soul. Not that I mean any voice is heard by the outward ear; the voice that I speak of is the voice of Christ in the Scriptures, applied with divine authority and power to the soul by the Holy Ghost.

Thus, to some He applies by His Spirit a word of encouragement suited to their case. “Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give, you rest,” may be the voice of God’s Servant to a burdened child. The suitability of the invitation to the wants of the weary soul, the tender kindness of the Speaker, the sweetness that distills from every word of the passage, all meet at once with hope springs up in the heart, strength is communicated to believe, a spirit of prayer rises up from the very bottom of the soul, and strong desires after the enjoyment of Christ within, pour themselves forth in wrestling cries. But whatever be the word of encouragement which the voice of Jehovah’s Servant speaks to him that fears God, the effect is one and the same.

That voice is as powerful, and as full of majesty now Ps 29:4, as when it said, “Let there be light, and there was light.” But though it never speaks in vain, for “He spoke, and it was done: He commanded, and it stood fast” Ps 33:9; yet the different degrees of strength in which this voice speaks to the soul vary as much as the loudest voice from the feeblest whisper, or the strongest wind from the gentlest breeze. And just according to the strength in which that voice speaks to the soul will there be all the different degrees of encouragement and consolation, from the feeblest, faintest glimmering of hope to the full blaze of the assurance of faith. But promises are not the only parts of the Word which the voice of Christ addresses to those that fear God. The threatenings and warnings contained in the Scriptures He speaks home to the soul as well as the promises. The shepherd drives his flock at times before him, as well as draws them at others by going before them. The wise parent chastises his child when needful as well as fondles it. There is much presumption, pride, hypocrisy, deceit, delusion, formality, superstition, will-worship and self-righteousness to be purged out of the heart; and “as the blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil, so do stripes the inward parts of the belly” Pr 20:30. I look upon the road to heaven as a narrow path that lies between two hedges, and that on the other side of each hedge is a bottomless ditch. One of these ditches is despair, and the other is presumption. The hedge that keeps the soul from falling into the pit of despair is that of the promises; and the hedge that keeps the soul from sinking into the abyss of presumption is that of warnings, precepts and threatenings. Without the spiritual application of the promises the soul would lie down in despair, and without the spiritual application of the precepts and warnings it would be swollen with arrogance, puffed up with pride, and ready to burst with presumption.

But the voice of God’s Servant that speaks to him that fears the Lord uses the precept not only in the way of conviction, as I have just described, but also ill the way of direction. It not only accuses the soul for any breach of the precept, but also applies the precept itself with power, and enables the soul to obey it. Time will not allow me to mention all the various precepts which the voice of Christ applies to the conscience, but there is one above all others which He invariably speaks, sooner or later, to everyone that fears God so that I cannot pass it by, and that is, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate” 2Co 6:17. The people of God are often for a long time, but more especially in their spiritual infancy, when their faith is weak and their judgment ill-formed, mixed up with ungodly systems. On this point I can speak feelingly and experimentally-, for how long was I, to my shame, buried in the corrupt, worldly system of the Church of England; and how many struggles and difficulties had I within before I could snatch myself from her!

When divine light enters into the soul, it finds some, as in my case, in the Establishment, others it finds amongst the Wesleyans, others amongst the General Dissenters, but all wrapped up, more or less, ‘in some outward form, and mixed up with dead professors. Now, the very first entrance of divine light actually and really separates the heir of heaven from the herd of professor, , with whom he is mingled. But as Lot “lingered” in Sodom, after “the angels hastened him, saying, Arise;” so do new-born souls often linger in ungodly systems, under dead ministers, and amidst a dead people, before they have strength given them to take up the cross, go without the camp, and bear the reproach of Christ. Some are prejudiced against God’s people, others view with a kind of undefined suspicion Christ’s sent ministers, others are afraid of the doctrines that they preach, and most cleave very close to their own dear reputation, and fear lest to be in “the outcasts of Israel” should injure their business, offend their customers, incense their relations, or tarnish their self-righteousness. But sooner or later every quickened vessel of mercy hears the voice of God’s Servant speaking in the name and with the authority of the Father, and bidding him to come out and be separate from all that He hateth.

The soul is now enlightened “to know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogues of Satan” Re 2:9. The soul is taught “to try the spirits whether they are of God” 1Jo 4:1, and “to try them which say they are apostles, and are not, and finds them liars” Re 2:2.

A little intercourse with the children of God dispels every prejudice and melts the soul into union with them. A few times hearing the experimental ministers of Christ makes him say, “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace;” and the sweet kindlings of life within, amidst a living people and under a living minister, show him as with a ray of light the whited sepulchers-the dead people and the dead priest, amongst whom he has hitherto been walking. Thus his carnal fears about his good name and his worldly ‘interests are scattered to the winds, and he says to the spiritual Israel, as Ruth of old said to Naomi, “Whither thou goest, I will go-, and where thou lodgest. I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” Ru 1:16.

3.   He Walketh In Darkness and Hath No Light

 

But there is a third mark with which the blessed Spirit in the text has stamped that heir of heaven whose character we are endeavoring to trace. “HE WALKETH IN DARKNESS, AND HATH NO LIGHT.” This may well at first sight strike us with surprise. “is it possible,” reason asks, “that one who fears God, and obeys the voice of His Servant, should be in this condition’?” “Obedience brings light, disobedience is the only cause of darkness,” sounds from a thousand pulpits.

“Live up to your privileges, cultivate holiness, be diligent in the performance of your duties, if you would enjoy the pleasures of a cheerful piety,” cry aloud a thousand task-masters. Without denying that disobedience produces darkness of soul, for the experience of every believer testifies that ‘sin separates between him and his God’ Isa 59:2, we cannot allow that it is the only cause, or that obedience necessarily produces light. To speak so is to go point blank against the text, is to ascribe merit to the creature, is “to sacrifice to our own net, and bum incense to our own drag,” and to boast like him of old: “By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom, for I am prudent” Isa 10:13. We must go higher, then, than the creature, and trace it up to the sovereign will of the Creator, even to Him who says: “I form the light and create darkness” Isa 45:7.

Here, then, is a character whom God Himself declares to fear His great name, and to obey the voice of His Servant, and yet he is one “who walketh in darkness, and hath no light.” Two things, we find, are here said of him:

1 That he walketh in darkness.

2 ‘That he hath no light. We will consider each separately.

To Walk In Darkness:

“To walk in darkness” implies something habitual. It is not that he feels darkness occasionally, that he is immersed in it for an hour or a day at a time, or that he has long seasons of it chequered with days and weeks of light. The expression “to walk” in Scripture always implies something continual, something habitual, something prolonged through a considerable space of time. Thus, some are said “to walk in pride,” others “in a vain show,” others “after their ungodly lust,” others “after the flesh;” in all which places it means some habitual conduct, some course of action spread through a long period. The expression, therefore, of the text, “to walk in darkness,” implies a long, unvaried, unbroken continuance in it. The figure is taken from a man journeying by night, who has neither moon nor stars to shine upon his path.

But the word “darkness” needs explanation likewise. It is not the darkness then of the unregenerate that is here meant, such as David speaks of: “They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness” Ps 82:5. Neither is it the darkness of sin, such as Paul speaks of: “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” Eph 5:11. But it is a darkness of feeling, a darkness of inward experience, the darkness of a regenerate soul, and such as is peculiar to the elect. There are TWO KINDS OF DARKNESS. One such as has never given place to light, like the darkness of a deep cave or mine, into which the rays of the sun have never penetrated. The other a darkness produced by the absence or withdrawal of light. Thus the long, long night which brooded over the earth when “it was without form and void,” before God said, “Let there be light,” is an instance of the first kind of darkness. The first night which fell upon the earth when the sun set for the first time is an instance of the second. The first resembles the darkness of the ungodly, the second the darkness of the regenerate.

There was neither fruit, nor flower, nor beauty, nor ornament in the dark waters of chaos, as there is neither grace nor anything lovely in the dead soul. But after beauty had covered the earth under the creating hand of Jehovah, it was there still, though unseen and covered with darkness, when the new-born sun left for the first time his seat ‘in the heavens. Thus after light has sprung up in the soul, and the hand of God has created it anew, though its faith and hope are hidden in darkness, still they are there. And this is the grand distinction between the darkness of the heir of heaven and the darkness of the heir of hell. Light has never visited the one, it is the withdrawal of light which causes the darkness of the other.

Thus spiritual darkness is only known to those who have enjoyed spiritual light, as the absence of God is only felt by those who have tasted His presence.

“To walk in darkness,” then, is to feel light removed, hope faded away, faith at its last gasp, love withered out of the heart, God absent, salvation despaired of, evidences lost, ancient landmarks gone, anchorage failed, comfort changed into mourning, and peace into despondency. To walk ‘in darkness is to find the Bible a sealed book, prayer a burden, ordinances a weariness, spiritual conversation a task, and all religion an enigma. It is to be tossed up and down on a sea of doubts and fears, and to wander here and there amidst fogs of confusion and mists of perplexity. It is to feel ignorant of everything that we have once known, and to be at a loss what to think either of ourselves or of God, of His present dealings or past mercies, and to find one black night of confusion fallen upon our path, so that “if we go forward, God is not there, or backward, but we cannot behold Him; He hideth Himself on the right hand that we cannot see Him” Job 23:8-9. And as when God maketh darkness and it is night, all the beasts of the forest do creep forth. Ps 104:20, so in this darkness of soul do doubts and fears, jealousies and suspicions, temptations and lusts, vile passions and all the hidden filth and obscenity of the heart, enmity and rebellion, blasphemy and infidelity, atheism and despair, fretfulness and inward cursing, devilism and all the monsters as well as all the crawling reptiles of the carnal mind, all creep forth to harass and torment the soul.

To Have No Light

But the blessed Spirit has added another expression to denote the experience which we are endeavoring to trace, “he hath no light.” I cannot say that I am fond of alluding to the original Hebrew or Greek of the Bible, or of finding fault with the translation, as such petty criticism is much more often employed to display one’s own half-knowledge than to edify the Church of God, and has often the evil effect of unsettling the minds of Christ’s people, and of opening a door to the assaults of the enemy. I should not therefore take any notice of the true meaning of the word “light” in the text, if the force and beauty of the passage had not been much obscured by an imperfect translation. The word then translated “light” in the text means something more than mere light, and signifies rather brightness or shining. It is thus translated: “the shining of a flaming fire” Isa 4:5; “until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness” Isa 62:1; “the court was full of the brightness” Eze 10:4; “His brightness was as the light” Hab 3:4. Thus, when it says of the heir of heaven in the text, that “he hath no light,” it means that he hath no shining light, no brightness, no radiancy. He has indeed light, yea, divine and supernatural light, and by this heavenly light he has seen God and has seen himself, knows good and evil. The veil upon his heart has been rent in twain from the top to the bottom. His “eyes have been opened, and he has been turned from darkness to light” Ac 26:18.

If he literally and actually had no light, he would be dead in his sins. “Ye are all.” says Paul-that is, babes as well as fathers-“ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day” 1Th 5:5. “Ye were sometimes darkness, but now ye are light in the Lord” Eph 5:8. “Who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light” 1Pe 2:9.

This heir of heaven, then, has light but not SHINING LIGHT. He has light to see sin and holiness, guilt and judgment, iniquities that reach unto heaven, and the flaming sword of justice stretched out against them; but he has not the brightness of divine manifestations. He has twilight, but not sunlight. But who knows not that the first glimmer of twilight which dawns upon the dark world comes from the sun, and is a part of the same beams which blaze in the midday sky? ‘Me sun himself indeed is yet hidden beneath the earth, but his rays are refracted by the air, and bent down out of their course to enlighten the world, long before he himself rises in the east. And so the child of God, who has no sweet view of Jesus as his Saviour, is still enlightened by His beams; and as sure as “the day star has arisen in his heart” 2Pe 1:19, will “the Sun of Righteousness” one day arise upon him “with heating in His wings.” Thus the heir of heaven in the text has light to see the evil of sin, but not brightness to enjoy the pardon of it. He therefore sees and feels the curse of the law, but not its removal out of the way; the pollution of all his thoughts, words and actions, but not the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness; the leprosy, but not the cleansing of the leper; the malady, but not the remedy; the wound, but not the oil and the wine; the justice of God, but not His mercy; his own total insolvency, but not the frank forgiveness of the debt; that God is his Master, but not that God is his Father Mal 1:6. Thus: “He is led, and brought into darkness, but not into light” La 3:2; “sits desolate on the ground” Isa 3:26, and not “with Christ in heavenly places;” mourns sore like the dove, but mounts not up with wings as eagles; feels himself black as the tents of Kedar, but not comely as the curtains of Solomon Song 1:5; sighs as a prisoner Ps 79:11, but does not leap as “a hind let loose” Ge 49:21; is lost and driven away and broken and sick, but is not yet sought out, brought back, bound up, and strengthened Eze 34:16.

But what do I mean when I say that the heir of heaven has light to see guilt and wrath and condemnation, but not mercy, love and pardon? Do I mean that he merely sees these things as certain revealed truths, as a system of dry doctrines, just as our DEAD CALVINISTS that swarm through the country see everything and anything but their own ignorance’? No. I am speaking here not of a brain-religion, or head-knowledge, or tongue-work, or that miserable, dry, barren, marrowless, moonlight acquaintance with tile doctrines of grace which hardens the heart, sears the conscience, and lifts up the soul with presumption, to dash it down into the blackness of darkness for ever. The heir of heaven in the text is not one of those graceless professors who, like the caricatures that we sometimes see in the picture shops, are all head and no body, and who have neither a heart to love Christ, nor bowels of compassion to melt into godly sorrow, nor hands to touch Him, nor feet to run the way of His commandments. The heir of heaven has too much going on at home, too much soul-trouble, too much indoors work, too many temptations, difficulties and conflicts, to allow him to furnish his head with empty notions. He wants to have the gold, silver, and precious stones within, which the fire will not bum, and leaves to dead Calvinists the wood, hay and stubble of dry doctrines, vain contentions and unprofitable disputes. This is the character, then, whose experience we have endeavoured to trace, an heir of heaven walking in darkness. But we must not leave him here. God has not left this tried child of His without a word suitable to his case. He has addressed to him an exhortation, which in fact is a promise: “LET HIM TRUST IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, AND STAY UPON HIS GOD.” Now this exhortation is not addressed to this heir of heaven, as if he had any strength or power of his own to do that to which he is exhorted. If he could trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God, his darkness would well nigh cease. His trouble, in these seasons of inward darkness is, that he cannot believe, that he cannot trust, but that unbelief, and doubt, and despondency so press him down that he cries, “I am shut up, and I cannot come forth” Ps 88:8. “But you ought to believe, you ought not to doubt, you ought not to give way to your unbelief,” says one of those who sit in Moses’ seat, one of those physicians of no value, who know the disease by theory only, and have never felt the malady for which they are prescribing. As well might they say to the criminal in the condemned cell, hand-cuffed and double-ironed, “You ought to come out;” or to a man up to his neck in a slough, “You ought not to give way to sinking,” as lavish their oughts and ought-nots upon one who walks in “darkness and has no light.”

God does not so mock one of His children, nor when he asks for bread does He give him a stone. But does not He say in the text, “Let him do this and that”? He does; but with the exhortation HE GIVES POWER to do what the exhortation bids. A king does not send his general to take a town without giving him soldiers to take it with. Thus the King of Zion, when He gives a precept, and exhortation, or an invitation, gives to His people ability to perform what He commands. “Where the word of a king is, there is power.” It is ignorance of this truth in their own experience that makes so many letter-ministers lay heavy burdens on men’s shoulders, which they themselves never touch with one of their fingers. It is the Lord, who in the text bids this child of His to trust in His Name, secretly but powerfully works this very trust in him to which He exhorts. There is ‘in the midst of his darkness at times a WAITING for light. There is a secret resting upon the eternal arms which are underneath. What keeps the heir of heaven from the razor, the halter, or the pond, to which the devil and his own despairing heart would at times drive him? What preserves him from the ate-house, the gambling table, or the brothel’? What holds him up in a consistent walk, day after day, in the midst of floods of temptation, when lust and passion fill every comer of his heart, and seem ready every moment to boil over and drown him in destruction and perdition?

What makes him sigh and groan, and hold on his way, with a tender conscience mid unblemished life’? Is there no faith here in operation? Is there no trusting in the Lord, and staying upon his God in the midst of his temptation’? Is it nature, mid unbelief, and a work of the flesh, and a delusion of the devil that hold him up’? Who that has eyes to see, and a heart to feel does not perceive that this heir of heaven, walking in darkness and having no light, has the same faith in exercise which Peter had when he walked upon the sea?

His faith is indeed hidden in the bottom of his heart, mid struggling for life and liberty, under the weight of temptations and trials, as the seed under the clods is pushing its roots downwards and its blade upwards, though pressed on every side with the stiff clay. I remarked that this exhortation contained a PROMISE suitable to the case of this tried soul. This promise is not expressed ‘in so many words, but is wrapped up as it were, In the bosom of the exhortation. It is contained, I believe, in a little word of great meaning, in the little pronoun of three letters, “HIS.” “Let him stay upon His God.” It is by these little pronouns, overlooked by teamed doctors and heady professors, that salvation is sealed upon the soul, and made an eternal reality: “Who loved me,” says Paul, “and gave himself for me.” “I have loved thee with an everlasting love.” How many years of temptation, doubt and fear will often roll heavily on before “THEE” is sealed upon the heart, and before “ME” and “MINE” can drop from the lips! My Father, My Saviour, My God, hundreds of living souls cannot pronounce. “My” falters from the tongue, and dares not come forth, because “I have loved thee, I have redeemed thee, thou are Mine,” and such similar testimonies, have not been yet spoken by the mouth of God to the soul. How different is this godly fear, this tender conscience of a living soul, from the pealing voices that sound “Our Father,” through the aisles of the Parish Church, speaking of the Holy Ghost who sanctifies them; and from the loud burst, “My Jesus hath done all things well,” that swells in bass, tenor, and treble from the pews and galleries of the Independent Chapel. These presumptuous mockers will find on a dying pillow, when “their lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness,” that it is one thing to call God their Father and Christ their Saviour out of a Prayer Book or a Hymn Book, and another thing “to receive the spirit of adoption,” whereby living souls cry, “Abba, Father.”

God, then, seals this heir of heaven as a son, by saying to him, “Let him stay upon his God;” as though He said to him; “Though thou canst not call Me thine, I call thee Mine; I am still thy God though thou canst not call Me, Father.” He is thus encouraged to stay upon his God, and to hope in His mercy. Almost invisibly to himself, and in a deep, mysterious, incomprehensible manner, he is “holpen with a little help” Da 11:34, and though he continually falls, he is not utterly cast down. “Though faint, he still pursues-,” though weary, he holds on his way; though often defeated by sin and Satan, he does not surrender; though foiled again and again, he still perseveres; though God gives no answer, he ceases not to cry; though “plunged again and again in the ditch” of heart-evil Job 9:31, he cannot lie there, but struggles forth into the light of day; and though he expects that his corruptions will one day break forth to destroy him utterly, and sweep him away into despair beyond the mercy of God and beyond the pity of His people, he is still checked and restrained as if by an invisible hand. Sometimes he obtains a respite from his besetments just when they seem ripened into action; at others, providential interpositions restrain the outbreakings of inward temptations, when opportunity favours them most.

Conscience works at one time, the fear of man at another. Godly sorrow keeps him in this instance, and a sense and sight of the evil of sin in that. Now the fear of God, and now inward feelings of uprightness and integrity; at one moment the weight of guilt, and at another, fear of bringing a reproach on the cause of Christ; today, a sense of God’s goodness and mercy; to-morrow, earnest desires to live to His glory-these and similar workings, which none but gracious souls know, act as a counterpoise to the vile inquiries that seem pent up in his heart as water in a mill dam.

Thus he seems always working and counter-working, doing and on going, fighting and yielding; raging with inward passions, and softened into contrition; diving into all the pollution of a fallen nature, and rising up into the presence of a holy God; hating sin, and loving it; longing after the vilest iniquities, and pained at an idle word; feeding upon the filthiest garbage, and eating manna; revelling in a train of past sins, and abhorring himself as the vilest monster that crawls upon the earth. At times he feels earnestly desirous never to sin more, and would fain be as holy as an angel; at other times he feels as if the sins of thousands were pent up in his bosom, and as if his vile heart could lie down and wallow in all the abominations which have ever been conceived by the mind, uttered by the lips, or acted by the man.

But mark, my friends, that all these are INWARD workings, not outward actions; God forbid! And forget not that all these hidden sins are locked up in the saint’s own bosom, and though they roar and swell there, are kept down by the hand of God, as boiling water is kept by the top of the cauldron. God forbid that we should encourage sin, or lead anyone to think lightly of that abominable thing which God hateth. No.  In his right mind a living soul would sooner die than that his corruptions should break forth into action, and his burden is that he feels such powerful workings of sin within. But all these things keep him low, mar his pride, crush his self- righteousness, cut the locks of his presumption, stain his self-conceit, stop his boasting, preserve him from despising others, make him take the lowest room, teach him to esteem others better than himself, drive him to earnest prayer, fit him for an object of mercy, break to pieces his free-will, and lay him low at the feet of the Redeemer, as one to be saved by sovereign grace alone.

Thus, the only wise God shows His children enough of themselves to keep them, and enough of His goodness to preserve them from despair. When the gale of free grace blows, the ballast of corruption keeps the vessel from pitching over; and when the storms of temptations arise, the anchor of hope holds her head from driving on the rocks of destruction. Thus the heir of heaven “sings of mercy and judgment;” has a thorn in the flesh, as well as manifestations of God; is kept as a wayfaring man in the highway of the redeemed, with “his eyes right on and his eye-lids straight before him” Isa 35:8-9; Pr 4:25. And though for the most part he walks in darkness, and has no light, he is yet encouraged and enabled “to trust ‘in the name of the Lord and stay upon his God.” Thus have I laid open, as far as God hits enabled me, the experience of a living soul. Who here can say, “It is mine”? Who can “subscribe with his hand” Isa 44:5 that such things have passed within, in the secret depths of his heart betwixt him and God? But mark well, my friends, lest we have no shuffling, no taking up on one side and not on the other, no setting up a “vile” experience instead of a “precious one” Jer 15:19, no resting upon inward workings as marks of grace, unless they be such as “accompany salvation.” Many will set up their sins, their fretfulness, their evil temper, their unbelief, their hardness of heart and deadness of soul as evidences. Now, I feel all these things as evidences against me, and not for me, and to make them witnesses in my behalf is like a criminal’s making the evidence of his crimes so many witnesses in his favour. It is not sin, but the workings of grace under sin; it is not unbelief, but the strugglings of filth against unbelief-, it is not inward evil, but sorrow for it; it is not iniquity, but the pardon of it; It is not lust, but deliverance from the power of it; it is not pride, but humility; it is not hardness of heart, but contrition; it is not deadness, but life; it is not man’s rebellion, but God’s mercy felt within, -that is the TRUE EVIDENCE of a work of grace. You are proud, you confess, but so is Satan; unbelieving, but so is the atheist; murmuring, but so are the reprobate Isa 8:21; covetous, but so is the worldling; doubting, but so is the hypocrite; despairing, but so was Judas; prayerless, but so are the carnal; hardened, but so was Pharaoh; fearful, but so are the lost Re 21:8; pierced with guilt, but so was Cain.

Let us take up the other side. Do you ever loathe yourself like Job, turn to the wall as Hezekiah, weep like Peter, put your mouth in the dust as Jeremiah, fear God as Joseph, pant after Him as David, find Him the strength of your heart as Asaph Ps 73:26, cry, “Woe is me!” as Isaiah Isa 6:5, have a tender heart as Josiah, wrestle with God as Jacob, are of a sorrowful spirit like Hannah, and obey the voice of the Lord’s Servant as the heir of heaven in the text? You may find on a dying pillow, when conscience grasps you by the throat, that neither doubts nor fears are able to save, but the revelation of Christ to the soul, the sprinkling of His blood, and the manifestation of His righteousness.

II. But we now have to draw a different picture, the fearful picture of AN HEIR OF HELL WALKING IN LIGHT. Our materials for this sketch for, of a character so various, so intricate. So ever-changing, so branching out into a thousand shapes and a million hues. Our description can only be a very feeble sketch must be drawn from three sources:

1 From Scripture.

2 From observation of others.

3 From what I know of the deceitful workings and delusions of my own heart.

To some who know neither their own deceitfulness and hypocrisy, nor the awful delusions of the devil as an angel of light, I may appear harsh, bitter, severe, bigoted, narrow-minded, and to deserve every other term of reproach which self-seekers and flesh-pleasers heap upon those who fearlessly hunt out their refuge of lies. To preach the gospel in our days is to preach to PLEASE EVERYBODY AND OFFEND NOBODY, to starve the children, and feed the bastards, to beat the heir, and caress the dog, to call the children of God antinomians, and to call empty formalists decided Christians; to style opening up Satin’s delusions “preaching in a bad spirit;” and wrapping up hypocrites, impostors, Pharisees, and self-deceivers in their delusions, “not preaching in the spirit of the gospel.” This turning of things upside down, this calling good evil and evil good, and putting bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter, may God ever keep me from, and may He enable me to speak boldly and faithfully, whether men will hear or forbear, that by manifestation of the truth I may commend myself to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.

I called your attention in the beginning of this discourse to the different form of the address to the heir of heaven and the heirs of hell. The first, I observed, was singled out by the hand of God as a solitary individual out of a numerous company by the expression, “Who is there among you?” etc.; whilst the latter were stamped as an immense troop by the differently worded phrase, “Behold, all ye that kindle a fire,” etc. The road to heaven is “strait and narrow, and few there be that find it;” whilst “wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat” Mt 7:13-14. Thus the heir of heaven is represented as a solitary traveller, a lonely pilgrim, journeying on amidst darkness and sorrow; but the heirs of hell as a merry troop, with their blood boiling high with confidence, and their spirits undismayed with fear.

The blessed Spirit, then, calls our attention by the expression, “Behold I” “Behold, all ye that kindle a fire,” etc. Usually, I believe, whenever we find the word “Behold!” or the similar word “Lo!” prefixed to a passage of Scripture, it introduces something that is weighty and important. If a man says to us, “Look here or there!” we, of course, expect there is something strange, something worth seeing, something not of everyday occurrence. And thus the blessed Spirit seems in the text to call our attention to a strange sight, to something we should not expect to see, and which we might not observe, unless our notice was especially directed to it. And what is this strange sight, this spectacle, to which the Holy Ghost calls our particular attention? It is to “a generation pure in their own eyes, and yet not washed from their filthiness” Pr 30:12.

I may very simply arrange all that is said of the heirs of hell in the text under two heads:

1.   Their conduct.

2.   Their sentence.

1.   We will consider, then, as God shall enable us, their CONDUCT first, that we may understand their crime before we hear their sentence. The catalogue of their offences is a very short, but it is a very black one. The sum total of their crimes is stated in a few words, but it is heavy enough to sink them down into hell. To give their complicated offences a single name, we will call it “HIGH TREASON AGAINST JEHOVAH;” this is to say, high treason, first, against God the Father, in presuming to call themselves His children, when He has never elected them. Secondly, against God the Son, in calling Him their Saviour, when He never redeemed them. Thirdly, against God the Holy Ghost, in walking in a light which He has not kindled, and resting in a confidence which He has not inspired.

 

The charge against them consists of two heads-the bill of indictment, so to speak, contains two counts: First, that “they kindle a fire.” Secondly, that “they compass themselves about with sparks.” The one is the origin of their crime, the other the continuation; the first is the bud, the second the fruit. The first accusation is, that “lust conceives and bringeth forth sin;” the second accusation is, “sin when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” Let us trace up their crimes then to the fountainhead. They “kindle a fire.”

This implies their taking hold of religion without religion taking hold of them; that they come to the law without the law coming with power to them. But here ties the core of their offence, this is the turning point of their case, that they take up a counterfeit religion and call it the true one; that they kindle a false fire and say that it came down from heaven.

It would be a crime if the forgers of money were to coin gold and silver into sovereigns and shillings. It would be “an iniquity to be punished by the judge,” to be guilty of such daring presumption as to stamp the king’s head and superscription on coin that never came out of his mint. But to coin the king’s head upon lead and copper, to gild or plate over these base imitations, so as to represent the gold and silver coins of the realm, to utter and pass them off as genuine, in order to defraud honest men, this multiplies the offence a hundred-fold.

According to the ancient laws of this land, therefore, the crime of forgery is high treason, and the punishment death.

Apply this to the crime of false professors. If it were possible for these forgers to procure for themselves the right religion, which they can never do, for God keeps that in His own hands, they would still be guilty of the most awful presumption in calling their religion the religion of God. But when, as is the true state of the case, their religion is nothing but a base counter-felt, nothing but, “a potsherd covered with silver dross” Pr 26:23, it multiplies the offence a thousand-fold. Let us, however, enter more clearly into their case, that Scripture may be fulfilled: “Reprobate silver shall men call them, for the Lord hath rejected them,” and again, “Whose hatred is covered with deceit, his wickedness shall be showed before the whole congregation.” But as examples are more striking than mere assertions, and as it is better to describe living characters than hint a little here and a little there, which hints the right persons are never sure to take, I will, with God’s help, try to sketch out a few likenesses, who may, if they have a mind, see their faces in the looking-glass which I shall hold up before their eyes.

I might point then, first, if I were minded so to waste my breath and your time, to the heathen, the Jew, the Roman Catholic, and the Socinian, as all instances of men who “kindle a fire, and compass themselves about with sparks,” and shall at last “lie down in sorrow.” But I am not fond of shooting my arrows where they are not likely to hit, and prefer coming a tittle closer home. To preach so is to beat the air, and imitate the high-church ministers of the Establishment, who are wonderfully severe against the Pharisees and Sadducees of old, and the Papists and the Unitarians of present times, and know not that they themselves equal the Pharisee for self-righteousness, the Sadducee for unbelief, the Roman Catholic for superstitious ceremonies, and the Socinian for hatred and contempt of the doctrines of grace and the mysteries of vital godliness.

We will leave, then, such false religions as Popery and Socinianism to the righteous -judgment of God, who says of all such delusions: “Is not this laid up in store with Me, and sealed up amongst My treasures? To Me belongeth vengeance and recompense; their foot shall slide in due time” De 32:34-35. Let us rather pass on to such delusions as occur daily before our eyes. And I know not with whom we had better begin than the corrupt ministers of a carnal establishment. These take high ground, and put themselves forward as the only successors of the apostles, as the only ministers of Christ, the only stewards of the mysteries of the kingdom of God. I once heard a minister of this stamp declare, in a sermon preached at Oxford before the Bishop and his assembled clergy, that there was no hope of salvation whatever for any man who wilfully separated or dissented from the Church of England. And this is, I believe, the received opinion amongst such clerical bigots. But what is all their religion made up of from the first to last? It is nothing else but a tissue of forms and ceremonies of man’s invention. This is the fire which they have kindled, and these are the sparks with which they compass themselves. Their boast, for instance, that they receive their ministry in a direct line from the apostles, what is it but a spark of fire which they have kindled to warm themselves into a persuasion that they are the true ministers of Christ?

The distinguishing mark of all false religion is, that It commences with man and not with God. “Behold, all ye that kindle a fire,” etc. So Aaron made the golden calf, so Nadab and Abihu offered false fire, so Korah, Dathan and Abiram took each man his censer, so Balak built seven altars and offered a bullock and a ram on every altar, so Gideon made an ephod in Ophrah, so Micah had a Levite for his priest, so Saul offered the burnt-offering Jeroboam set up the calves in Bethel, and the women wept for Tammuz at the door of the Lord’s house Eze 8:14.

Every form or system, therefore, which is based upon FREEWILL and the power of the creature is stamped at once as false fire. But where shall we find the power of the creature more daringly asserted than amongst the Ranters and Wesleyan Methodists! Their creed is, that man can turn to God of himself, can make himself a new heart, can come to Christ, cap believe, hope, and love of his own free-will, and by the exercise of that natural strength which they assert that all men possess. Thus, free-will kindles a fire and presumption blows up the coals. So that all their religion, so far as it is the work of the creature, is nothing but a counterfeit of the work of the Holy Ghost in the hearts of the elect. Natural belief supplies with them the place of supernatural faith creature confidence the place of divine assurance, cob-web hopes the place of a good hope through grace, fleshly convictions the place of godly sorrow, noise in prayer the place of the Spirit of supplications, and groans and shouts of “Amen” and “Lord, hear.” the place of communion with God. Shouting to the top of the voice is with them preaching with power, singing hymns to ballad tunes is praising God, free-will exhortations to dead sinners is preaching the gospel, working a reformation in the life is conversion to Christ, fiery zeal against the doctrines of grace is earnestness ‘in the cause of God, and going out of the world with a seared conscience is dying triumphantly in the full assurance of faith.

I once visited one of their converts, who was proclaimed all over the country as triumphing over death. He certainly had no fears of dying; but when I began to sound the foundation of his hope, I found him ignorant of himself, ignorant of the curse of the law, ignorant that he deserved to be sent to hell; and therefore, though he talked about Jesus Christ, he was yet ignorant of the blood of sprinkling and the revelation of a justifying righteousness. Like all self-deceivers, he could not bear the probe. but after a few questions, turned away from me and returned no answer. Thus they begin in delusion, are trained up in it, and mostly die in it. The weekly confessional of the class-meeting kindles the fire of hypocrisy, each member not wishing to be behind another in experience. The love-feast, the watch night, by the excitement of lights, late hours and singing, the bawling of the preacher, and the groans and Amens of the hearers, kindle a fire which passes off for the love of God. The impassioned rant of a preacher, calling upon the wicked to turn to God, lights up a spark of natural feeling which they gladly seize as the meltings of the blessed Spirit. Zeal for John Wesley, or the cause of the Primitive Methodists, raises a fire within which blazed forth in the support of new chapels, local preachers, Arminian writings, and a thorough hatred of unconditional election, particular redemption, and imputed righteousness.

I remarked that false religion took a thousand different shapes and colors, and therefore we need not wonder if it sometimes clothes itself in a form the direct opposite to Arminianism. It matters little to Satan how the fire is lighted up, so long as the hand of God does not kindle it. DEAD CALVINISM is as good a kind of fuel with which to light up the flame of false religion as the rotten sticks of free-will and creature merit. Thus, a sound creed kindles the flame of pride over those whose judgments are not so well informed-, notions in the head light up the sparks of presumption; election floating in the brain sets on fire a false confidence; distinguishing mercy, received as a doctrine in the head and not felt as a truth in the soul, blows up the coals of arrogance; and sovereign grace itself, learned in a mechanical way like the lesson of a parrot, instead of melting the heart with flames of divine love, only hardens it like a piece of clay into stone.

Now all these dead Calvinists, these bastards and not sons, these children of the bond-woman and not the children of the free, however they may differ in their creed from the Arminians, resemble them in this-that they kindle a fire. It is not God that gives them either light or heat. They teach themselves the doctrines of grace, and do not receive them from heaven; and believe in election, particular redemption, imputed righteousness and final perseverance, not because any one of these truths has been sealed upon their hearts, but because they read of them in the Bible or hear them from the pulpit.

These, then, “kindle a fire,” for I am sure if God had kindled one in their hearts, and “shut it up in their bones” Jer 20:9, it would soon burn them out of a carnal establishment. “The Articles of our venerable Establishment, our incomparable Liturgy, the wisdom and piety of the Reformers, the apostolic succession Bishops, the admirable mean between Popery on the one hand and enthusiasm on the other, the eminent men that have been ministers in the Church of England, the judicious Hooker, the holy Leighton, the spiritual Hervey, the evangelical Romaine, the sound Scott, the pious Newton”-who has not heard all these sparks rushing from the fire kindled and blown up by the mouth of evangelical preachers? These are the sparks at which they warm themselves, when any damp, chilling convictions of the badness of their cause arise in their minds; and with the same embers do they kindle a fire in the bosoms of their hearers. But who that has a spark of spiritual light does not see that all these pleas and excuses are a false fire, and that the question at the last day will be, not whether Newton, Romaine, or Hawker remained in a carnal system, but what warrant had their apologists to do evil that good might come, or refer to the example of men instead of the standard of truth given by the ever-living God?

But I should omit a large section of fire-kindlers if I did not take notice of another class of religious professors, namely, the General Dissenters. These call themselves Calvinists, but are really Arminians, profess free grace, but actually are advocates for freewill. Sunk in carnality, buried in worldliness, steeped up to the lips in an empty profession, destitute of the life of God, these do indeed require the tinder-box of nature, the flint and steel of human exertion to procure some sparks of false fire. The Sunday morning prayer of the dead minister, furnished with overflowing supply of choice words and elegant phrases, and set off with a handsome gown and bands, easy action, soft manners, and a gold ring on each little finger, has a wondrous efficacy in lighting up the fire of natural religion which the busy week has well nigh quenched.

The spark being thus kindled, the nicely divided sermon proceeds to blow up the reviving embers by a lecture on the duty of believing, well seasoned with thunders from Mount Sinai, warnings against Antinomianism, and cautions against enthusiasm, and thoroughly spiced with human arguments, academic eloquence, appeals to reason, and quotations from authors. The drowsy prayer meeting, the monthly ordinance, the weekly lecture, the daily chapter, the formal family prayer, the legal author, the religious chit-chat, picked up by gossiping from house to house-all serve to blow up the dying spark of natural religion; and where these fail, aid is borrowed from the excitement of politics and the spirit of party, or burning zeal against what are called high doctrines, and the narrow-minded bigots that hold them. Thus a burning-glass is never wanting to kindle a fire, and bellows are always at hand to blow up the flame.

Now all these characters, however in other respects they differ, yet resemble each other in this particular, that they begin with God instead of God’s beginning with them. Thus their religion is not of heaven, but of earth; not the work of the Holy Ghost, but the hard labor of the creature; not the fruit of free grace, but the offspring of free-will; not a heavenly principle born of God, but a spurious imitation, born of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man.

But the characters we are describing are not only said to kindle a fire, but “to compass themselves also about with sparks.” These sparks, of course, rise from the same fire which they have kindled, and come out of the flame when blown up to its due height. With these sparks they are said “to compass,” that is, to surround themselves. Thus they stand in the midst of the flame, and the sparks that fly out of the fire on every side completely encircle them. But what is the effect of this fiery circle with which they are surrounded? It, of course, cuts off all view of everything beyond it. The sparks that fly up in every direction as the fire is blown, allow the kindlers of it to see nothing but the flame from which they proceed; and in proportion as the fuel bums and the sparks fly, does the blazing pile throw everything into darkness but itself and those on whom it glares.

Thus, all false religion, just in proportion as it seizes hold of the mind, blinds it to the truth, fills it with prejudice, sears the conscience, hardens the heart, inflames it with party zeal, and makes every faculty boil over with hatred, fury and bigotry against all that see not as it sees, and act not as it acts. Zeal for the false religion of the Church of Rome kindled the Smithfield fires in the days of bloody Mary, and zeal for the Church of England now inflames almost as violently the hearts of thousands against Dissenters. Zeal for the doctrines of Methodism warms some, zeal for moderate Calvinism, as it is termed, fires others. Each false sect has its own bonfire, and the light which comes from it, each is fully persuaded is the blaze of heavenly truth. ‘Me heat which is thrown out as the sparks fly upward increases the delusion by supplying a false warmth, a fiery zeal to put into action the erroneous persuasions which the light has kindled in the mind.

So that herein lies the counterfeit whereby false religion imitates the true. In true religion there is light to see and warmth to feel. In false religion there are just the same two properties. Does God cast a light into the hearts of the heirs of heaven? So does Satan cast a light into the heads of the heirs of hell. Does God communicate warmth, together with light, to make the hearts of His people bum within them? So does Satan, by the sparks of natural religion, ‘inflame ‘into bigotry, heat and zeal, the carnal minds of his children. Does the one see? So does the other. Does the one act from feeling? So does the other. Is the one convicted of truth? So is the other equally convinced of error. And does the one act from a desire to please God? So does the other think that by persecuting the saints he does God service. Thus, the more conscientious a man is, the greater enemy will he be to the Church of Christ if he compass himself about with sparks of false fire. The more that he acts from principle, the more determined will be his attacks; and the more that he is heated with false zeal, the more violent will be his opposition to the truth of God. Thus professors are far more bitter against the children of God than the profane; and those who have a false religion are much more violent against the truth than those who have no religion at all. Priests, therefore, have always been the greatest enemies of true religion in every age; and its greatest foes now are the corrupt priests in the Establishment and the false priests amongst

2.   I said that I should consider, first, the conduct of the heirs of hell, and then their SENTENCE. Their sentence, then, as pronounced by the mouth of God in the text, is twofold. The first part is contained in the words. “Walk ye in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled.” To be given up to judicial blindness is one of the most awful sentences that can issue from the mouth of God. And such is the first part of the punishment awarded against those who kindle a fire, and compass themselves about with sparks. It is as though the mouth of the Judge of the whole earth spoke to them thus: “You have chosen to deceive yourselves; I will not undeceive you. You have kindled a false fire; I will not extinguish it that I may give you the true one. No. Walk in the light of your fire. Enjoy your false confidence, rest securely on your delusive hopes, foster your presumptuous faith, comfort yourselves with your rites, forms, and ceremonies, and be fully persuaded of the truth of your false doctrine. ‘I also will choose your delusions’ Isa 66:4. Thus go on to fill up the measure of your iniquities, to call evil good and good evil, and to put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter, until you have neither eyes to see the one, nor taste to discern the other.”

 

This, then, is the sentence of God against those heirs of wrath who are wrapped up in the delusions of false religion. And as is the sentence, so is the execution. The effects we see every day passing before our eyes, and taking place in well-nigh all the churches and chapels of the land. Thus the professor of natural religion walks in the light which he himself has kindled. Divine wrath in his soul against sin and the curse of the law in his conscience have never roused him from his dream of creature merit and fleshly righteousness. Carnal security holds him fast in her iron arms. Vain confidence has drugged him asleep with her opium dose. Neither guilt nor terror, doubt nor fear, ever disturbs his repose. Like the Dead Sea, there is in him the utter absence of life and motion. Pleased with himself, and charmed, like a youthful beauty, with the reflection of his own face, he glides securely on through life without cutting conviction, one piercing thought, one staggering doubt whether he be going to heaven. Or if such doubts should for a moment arise, the consistency of his past life, his attention to what he calls “the duties of religion,” his kindness to the poor, and a thousand other such friendly suggestions, rise up in a body to expel the intruding doubt from his mind. He is cheerful, as having no trouble nor sorrow, and that is christened by the name of “cheerful piety.” He is good tempered, and that is called “Christian meekness.” He is friendly to all, and that is named “the spirit of a true Christian.” He attends church or chapel, kneels at the sacrament, or sits at the ordinance, and that is considered “the essence Of religion.” He has no doubt of his state, and that is called “enjoying a full assurance.” He is liberal to the poor, and that is termed “love to Christ,” He condemns nobody. and thinks well of everybody, and that is considered “walking in the spirit of the gospel.” He reads the Bible much, and religious authors more, and that is called being “a most advanced Christian.” He remembers texts and sermons for half a century back, and by repeating them continually passes Current as “a most established believer.”

Thus all these sparks of natural virtue and fleshly religion furnish light and heat by which he walks, and at which he warms himself. “He is not in trouble as other men”-that is, Christ’s men-“neither is he plagued like other men” Ps 73:5. He never feels cold, for his fire always burns; nor dark, for his sparks always give light. He never mourns, for he feels no sins to mourn for; nor is burdened with guilt, because his conscience was never made tender. He never grieves for the absence of God, because he has never felt His presence; nor cries that he may know Christ, for he thinks that he knows Him enough already. He never groans beneath temptation, because he has no new principle within to feel its load. The devil does not harass him, for he has him safe already; nor do the terrors of the Lord alarm him, for God has given him up to judicial blindness. Thus surrounded with prosperity, and furnished with more than heart can wish, “his house is safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon him; he sends forth his little ones like a flock, and his children dance; he takes the timbrel and harp, and rejoices at the sound of the organ” Job 21:9-12.

But there is a second part of their sentence which remains to he considered: “This shall ye have of Mine hand, ye shall lie down in sorrow.” Of this sentence part is executed in this life, but sometimes its whole weight is deferred until the life to come. Thus, in some cases, the delusion which is spread over the heart is rent asunder on a dying pillow. The flattery of professors, the self-deceit of the heart, the delusions of Satan, all which had buoyed up the soul with empty hopes, vanish into air at the approach of the king of terrors. One flash of eternal fire in the conscience dissolves the dream into which he had been cheated. The sparks of Tophet ordained of old, which “the breath of the Lord like a stream of brimstone doth kindle” Isa 30:33, bum up the wood, hay and stubble accumulated for years. The reality of death, the certainty of eternity, the stern justice of God, the impossibility of escape, the recollection of the past, the terror of the future, the clamor of a guilty conscience, rush in like a flood, and sweep away into despair all the refuge of lies so long sheltered in. Free-will snaps asunder, “as the thread of tow is broken when it toucheth the fire” Jg 16:9; human merit disappears, “as the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney” Ho 13:3; natural faith withers away “as the streams of brooks when it is hot are consumed out of their place” Job 6:17-, and despair swallows up vain hopes, as “drought and heat consume the snow waters.”

He who thought that he was a great Christian now finds that he is no Christian at all. He who fondly imagined himself on the road to heaven, finds himself suddenly at the gates of hell. And now he learns that these doctrines are true which he either denied or held in unrighteousness. The iron gates of election, the deep impassable gulf of God’s decrees, the brazen bars of that reprobation which lie once disbelieved and fought against, but which is now borne witness to by his gnawing conscience, the irreversible purpose of Jehovah “to have mercy on whom He will have mercy,” and on them alone-all, all shut out hope, and drive the soul down fathoms deep into the agony of despair. “God now laughs at his calamity, and mocks when his fear cometh” Pr 1:26. He calls upon the Lord, but “He answers him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets” 1Sa 28:6. Thus, “he is brought into desolation as in a moment, and is utterly consumed with terrors” Ps 73:19. So it was with Ahithophel, with whom David once took sweet counsel, and walked to the house of God ‘in company, who “when his counsel was not followed, gat him home to his house and hanged himself” 2Sa 17:23. So it was with Saul, when the Lord departed from him and became his enemy 1Sa 28:16, and “he took a sword and fell upon it” 1Sa 31:4. So it was with Judas, when he hanged himself in an agony of despair, and falling headlong his bowels gushed out. So it was with Francis Spira, at the time of the Reformation; and so have I known it myself in the death-bed of several professors.

But it is not always in this life that God executes this sentence, “Ye shall lie down in sorrow,” against the heirs of hell. On the contrary, in the majority of cases, the criminal is respited and the execution of the sentence deferred. This so stumbled Asaph, and made his steps well nigh to slip, that he saw the ungodly not only prospered in the world and increased in riches, but that even when they came to die, “there were no bands [that is, terrors] in their death,” but even in that solemn hour that “their strength was firm.” And thus it is continually now. Hundreds of professors die like lambs, whose everlasting portion will be amongst the goats.

“Our departed friend” says a paragraph in some religious periodical “could not boast of great manifestations. He was indeed on principle opposed to those death-bed displays of which some think so highly. But he was a consistent character, an affectionate father, a kind husband, a warm supporter of the church,” or “a steady friend to dissent,” as the case may be, “and he is doubtless gone to his reward.” “So they wrap it up” Mic 7:3. When the real state of the case is that he began ‘in delusion, continued in it, and died in it. The veil was not rent off his heart until the invisible state disclosed to him for the first time the awful reality that he had died with a lie in his right hand. Still the sentence is true, and executed to the letter, though deferred for a while. “This they have at God’s hand, they lie down in sorrow:” if not on a bed of death, on the flaming pillows of eternal fire.

But none of the heirs of heaven shall lie down in sorrow. There may be gloom, doubts, and fears for a time on a death-bed, mid if there has been a previous manifestation of pardoning love and the inward revelation of Jesus, there may not be triumphant joy, but there will be a hope that anchors within the veil, a faith that rests on the finished work of the Saviour, and a love that goes out after God. “The end of the upright is peace;” “they rest on their beds,” “have hope in their death” Pr 14:32, and find the rod and the staff of God to comfort them as they walk through the dark valley.

I have drawn two opposite characters their beginning, progress and end. Which are you? If an empty professor, unless grace prevent, your sentence is recorded, that you shall lie down in sorrow. If a living soul, though now you are walking in darkness, and have no light, you shall one day behold the face of God with joy.

 

*001. JOSEPH CHARLES PHILPOT (1802-1869)

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

JOSEPH CHARLES PHILPOT was born at Ripple, Kent (where his father was rector) on September 13th, 1802. Educated at Oxford University, he was elected a fellow of Worcester College, and appeared to have a brilliant scholastic career before him. But the Lord’s purposes being otherwise, he was brought into solemn concern spiritually and led into a deep and gracious understanding of the truth.

He first preached in the Established Church at Stadhampton (Oxfordshire). In 1835, however, he was constrained, for the truth’s sake, to sever his connection with the Church of England and to resign his curacy and his fellowship. The letter to the provost stating his reasons was published and went into several editions. The same year, he was baptized by John Warburton at Allington (Wilts).

The rest of his life was spent labouring among the Strict Baptists. For 26 years, he held a joint pastorate at Stamford (Lines.) and Oakham (Rutland). Though of a weak constitution, he also preached to large congregations throughout the country, especially in London and in Wiltshire. His preaching was marked by clear views of gospel truth; an ability to set forth the deepest truths in a simple manner; a wealth of similes from nature to open up and explain the things of God; and a clear discernment of the vital distinction between a mere profession of Christ and a true saving knowledge of Him. For over twenty years, he was editor of "The Gospel Standard", where many of his sermons first appeared. Here he ably contended for truth and refuted error, and in his reviews, addresses and meditations maintained a remarkably high standard, both literary and spiritual.

Ill health made necessary his removal to Croydon for the last five years of his life. Here he died on December 9th, 1869, and was buried in Croydon Cemetery by his friend, Francis Covell.

PREFACE

Ever since the Fall of Adam, God has raised up in succession throughout the various ages of the world, men who should be His ambassadors to declare to their fellowmen His eternal truth and unfold His "counsels of old."  Isa 25:1 Immediately after the Fall, God came Himself and declared to our sorrowing first parents that the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head, and this was the first discovery of His everlasting gospel to sinful mankind and the now-benighted and stricken world. Not only was the way of salvation thus disclosed, and to be declared throughout the ages to come by men chosen for the purpose; but the sinful and guilty state of mankind, and the solemn consequences of the Fall, were also to be set forth. Hence we soon find Enoch, "the seventh from Adam" who walked with God, prophesying against the abounding wickedness and saying, "Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of His saints to execute judgment."  Jude 14-15 Then followed Noah, Moses, and the Prophets of the Old Testament, preaching the wrath of God against iniquity and the coming of the promised Messiah; who also, when He came in the fullness of time, began to preach the Gospel and sent forth His apostles for the same purpose.

So it has pleased God throughout the ages "by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe," 1Co 1:21 and the Lord Jesus, now exalted on high and having received gifts for men, has to the present day, in varying measures according to His own will, "given prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." Eph 4:8-12 Men taught by the Holy Spirit and sent by Him into the work, have preached to their fellow-men the solemn condition of fallen mankind and the only remedy and way of escape in the Person and work of Immanuel, the Son of God in their nature.

It has been so in our favoured land, perhaps more than in any other nation upon the face of the earth. O the thousands of faithful sermons that have been preached within the coasts of Britain! Yet how sad and solemn this makes the present backsliding condition of the nation; "for unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required; and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more." Lu 12:48

What a fearful state we have fallen into, upon whom so much preaching of the truth has been expended! How many pulpits in the land from which the truths of the everlasting gospel were proclaimed in days past, are now become the means of disseminating grievous errors! How many pulpits from which the Bible was once held forth as being fully and verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit, are now invaded by Modernism with its destructive criticism, which is nothing better than religious infidelity! How many pulpits in the Church of England from which the blessed truths of the gospel were at one time expounded, are now made the medium of reintroducing much of the erroneous teaching of Rome from which they were largely purged at the Reformation! How many pulpits also from which the truth is still in a measure declared, have sunk into formalism and lack of power of the Spirit that accompanied the word in days gone by! If we add to these evils, the increasing return to popery, the prevalence of infidelity, and the consequent immorality and crime which abound in the land, we may well say, Woe, woe to England, to Britain, except she repent and turn again to the Lord!

Well, in such a day as this, it is encouraging to know there is yet a little remnant who appreciate and desire to possess faithful sermons preached by the true servants of God in better times. We place high among these the recorded sermons of the late Mr. J. C. Philpot, who was brought to a saving knowledge of the truth in his early days, and being called to the work of the ministry by the Holy Spirit, was blessed with the particular gift of clearly opening up the Scriptures. A gracious experience of the truth in his own soul led him to insist upon the necessity of a similar experience in his hearers, and his sermons were highly prized by the people of God who were favoured to hear him. They have since at various times been published and have been greatly esteemed by the lovers of truth in succeeding generations.

We therefore welcome this new serial issue of such valuable expositions of truth, and trust that they may yet be given a wide circulation and be made a blessing to many in this day of abounding error and evil. We are indebted to Mr. Watts for undertaking the labour of publishing a new edition in such a time as this, and pray that the power of the Holy Spirit may attend the reading of the sermons in the hearts of many.

S. F. PAUL. October 1965.

To enable these sermons to be issued as individual booklets and subsequently to be bound together in volumes, it has been necessary to follow the printer’s instructions regarding the number of pages allotted to each sermon. This has necessitated slight abridgements in some instances, and in others the insertion either of a hymn (as after Sermons Nos. 3 and 4) or an extract from another sermon (as after Sermon No. 5).

*A BELIEVER'S COLLOQUY WITH HIS SOUL

Preached at Gower Street Chapel, London, on Lord’s Day Evening, 19th July 1868.

 

"Why art thou cast down, 0 my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God."- .Ps 42:11

 

WHAT a proof it is of the truth and inspiration of the word of God, that no sooner is the Lord pleased to quicken our souls into spiritual life, than we find the Bible to become our companion, counsellor, and friend. True, we might possibly before that time, from a sense of duty or out of custom, have read the Scriptures, and that diligently. We might have been taught them from childhood, and committed large portions to memory; or even have been able so far to understand them as to speak fluently upon the truths contained in them, and contend for the doctrines of grace against opponents. But though we might have done all this, and much more than this, for who can say how far nature may go?-yet for the most part, how listlessly and languidly was the word of God read by us; how little was its spiritual meaning understood; how much less were the solemn realities revealed in it believed or acted upon.

 

We might not have doubted the inspiration of the Bible, and might have regarded it with a degree of reverence as the word of God; but with all that outward respect, there was no real faith in our heart either to fear the threatenings, or to receive the promises. We never obtained through it any well-grounded hope in the mercy of God; we never felt from it any spiritual love to his name, or to any truth connected with the Person and work of Christ. Nor did it ever work in us any humility of mind, brokenness of heart, contrition of spirit, or any obedience to God’s will, or create any earnest desire to please or solemn fear to offend him. And thus, as regards what the word of God was to us, as to any saving or sanctifying effect upon our hearts or upon our lives, it was a perfect blank to us, and we as great a blank to it.

 

But 0 what a change takes place in the soul’s feelings towards the word of God when God is pleased to quicken it into divine life! Nor indeed need we wonder why there is such a marked revolution in our feelings toward it; for it is by the power of God’s word upon the heart, that this wondrous change is effected. "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." Jas 1:18 "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." 1Pe 1:23 "This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me." Ps 119:50 By that same word we were convinced of our sins; "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Heb 4:12 By the power of that word also upon our consciences, we were, in due time, enabled to believe in the Son of God; for it is through his word applied to the heart with a divine power, that faith is raised up to believe in his name; and then it is, as the Lord said to his disciples, "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life." Joh 6:63 And this spirit and life are the spirit and life of faith, and specially of that faith which embraces Him as the Son of God; for when he is pleased to apply his precious word to the heart, and in the power of that word to manifest himself, faith is raised up to receive his testimony, and thus his word is made Spirit and life to the soul. This made Jeremiah say: "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart." Jer 15:16 In a similar way, when the soul is cast down by reason of the many difficulties of the way, that word becomes its support. "My soul fainteth for thy salvation: but I hope in thy word." Ps 119:81 When we are in difficulties or perplexities, that word becomes our counselor; as David found it: "Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counselors." Ps 119:24 And again, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." Ps 119:105 And the counsel it gives us is good counsel, for it tells us how to act and what to do: bids us cast our care upon the Lord, for that he will sustain us; bids us be still and know that He is God; warns us not to fight our own battles, or go forth to meet the enemy in our own strength; but to watch, and pray, and wait for the Lord to appear.

 

If we are persecuted by our enemies as David was by Saul, when he was hunted like a partridge upon the mountains, it is by the power and support of that word we get strength to bear their cruel accusations and to stand firm against their attacks. This made David say, "They had almost consumed me upon earth: but I forsook not thy precepts." Ps 119:87 If Satan come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord by the power of his word lifts up a standard against him. If we slip and start aside from the strait and narrow way, the word comes to restore us: "He restoreth my soul". Ps 23:3 for it is by believing God’s promise of freely forgiving all iniquity, transgression, and sin, that our backslidings are healed and our souls brought back from bondage, carnality, and death. In fact it is by the power of his word upon our heart, that the whole work of grace upon the soul is carried on from first to last. By its promises we are drawn, by its precepts we are guided, by its warnings we are admonished, by its reproofs we are rebuked, by its rod we are chastened, by its support we are upheld; in its light we walk, by its teachings are made wise, by its revivings are renewed, and by its truth are sanctified. Not that the word of God can of itself do all or any of these things in us and for us; but in the hands of the Spirit, who works in and by it as his effectual instrument, all these gracious operations are carried on in the soul.

 

Now can we say this, or anything similar to this, of any other book? Other books may instruct or amuse: they may feed the intellect, charm the imagination, and cultivate the mind. But what more can they do? I do not mean by this to despise or set aside every other book but the Bible; for without books society itself, as at present constituted, could not exist; and to burn every book would be to throw us back into the barbarism of the Middle Ages. Let, then, books have their place as regards this life: but what can they do far us as regards the life to come? What can our renowned authors, our choice classics, our learned historians, our great dramatists, or our eloquent poets do for the soul in seasons of affliction and distress? Can they heal a wounded conscience? Can they put away a sense of God’s wrath? Can they restore the joys of salvation, when, through guilt and fear, they seem well nigh gone? Can they support a dying man upon his bed of sickness? Can they take away the sting of death and snatch victory from the grave? How powerless all human writings are in these circumstances. Is it not as Mr. Hart well says?

 

What balm could wretches ever find

In wit, to heal affliction?

Or who can cure a troubled mind

With all the pomp of diction?

 

Now here is the blessedness of the word of God, that when everything else fails, that comes to our aid under all circumstances, so that we never can sink so low as to get beyond the reach of some promise in the word of truth. We may come, and most probably shall come, to a spot where everything else will fail and give way but the word of God which for ever is settled in heaven. Then the word of grace and truth which reaches down to the lowest case, the word of promise upon which the Lord causes the soul to hope, will still turn towards us a friendly smile, and still encourage us under all circumstances to call upon the name of the Lord, and to hang upon his faithfulness who hath said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." Mr 13:31 Thus, under circumstances the most trying to flesh and blood, where nature stands aghast and reason fails, there the word of God will come in as a counsellor to drop in friendly advice, as a companion to cheer and support the mind by its tender sympathy, and as a friend to speak to the heart with a loving, affectionate voice. We need not wonder, then, how the word of God has been prized in all ages by the family of God; for it is written with such infinite wisdom, that it meets every case, suits every circumstance, fills up every aching void, and is adapted to every condition of life and every state both of body and soul.

 

These thoughts spring up in my mind in connection with my text. What that connection is may perhaps be more evident as I unfold it; but is not this a wonderful circumstance, that if your soul is cast down within you and your mind disquieted, and yet you are hoping in God and expecting him to appear, you have a companion in the word of God; and that our text assures you that there was one before you walking in the same path, and in whose heart the Spirit of God wrought feelings and desires similar to yours? Let us, then, see whether, as you compare the things that you pass through with the word of truth, you will not find a reflection of your experience, and an echo of your voice in the words of the Psalmist now before us.

 

We see in them a pathetic colloquy which David carries on with his soul; and that from this colloquy he gathers up hope and encouragement for himself. I shall, therefore, simply follow the order in which the words present themselves to our view, and shall

 

I. First, address myself to the consideration of David’s pathetic inquiry to his soul: "Why art thou cast down, 0 my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me?"

 

II. Secondly, I shall consider the encouraging admonition, which he addresses to his soul as thus cast down and disquieted: "Hope thou in God."

 

III Thirdly, the confident expectation, which he gathers up in this colloquy, that the dark cloud will pass away and the time come when he shall praise Him who was "the health of his countenance and his God".

 

I. Observe the tender and familiar way in which David converses with his own soul, as a tender and sympathising bosom companion.

 

(i) But how few, speaking comparatively, know that they have a soul which they can thus talk to. Indeed, I may say, that it is really a very great discovery when a man discovers, for the first time, that he has a soul in his breast. The great bulk of mankind, may we not indeed say, all who are destitute of divine life, do not really and truly know that they have a soul. This may seem harsh doctrine, but at any rate they act as if they had none. In fact, a man never really and truly discovers that he has a soul till he discovers that there is a God, nor does he ever discover that there is a God until a ray of divine light shines out of the fullness of God into his heart. I do not mean to say that men actually in so many words deny either the existence of the soul or the existence of God. But we must judge men from their actions; and if they act as if they had no soul to be saved or lost, and as if there were no God who would bring them into judgment, we must conclude that they do not believe either in heart, though they may not boldly and positively deny it in lip.

 

But a man never knows really and truly that he has a soul till there is life put into it; for a dead soul makes no movement in his breast, and is therefore not known to be there. It is like a stillborn child, which gives no sign or movement of life, and therefore is to its mother as if it were not. We need not wonder the child does not cry if it be dead; we need not marvel it does not move a limb if stillborn. How does the child make its existence known but by the cry and the movements of life? Thus it is in grace: we never know really that we have a soul till it is made alive unto God and cries unto him. Then we begin find for the first time, that we have a soul by the cry of life; and then our soul becomes a matter of the deepest interest to us; for we find that, according to the word of God, it must either be eternally saved or lost; and as we cannot separate enduring happiness or misery from the soul which is the seat of both, it becomes to us the most important thing that we have ever had to deal with. This brings us into an intimacy and a sympathy with it.

 

0 what a tender part of a man his soul is, when God has put life and feeling into it; what a valuable part, in fact, the only valuable part, for it alone can never perish, it alone is the immortal part of man. Being, then, so tender and so valuable, lying so deeply hidden in the breast, and yet ever present and ever ready to speak and be spoken unto, an intimate friendship and a tender sympathy springs up between a man and his soul. Intimate is the friendship between brother and brother, between sister and sister, between friend and friend, and more intimate still between man and wife. But what is the intimacy, even of man and wife, the nearest, tenderest, of all relationships, compared with the intimacy that a man has with his own soul? How a man can talk to his soul, reason with it, comfort it, chide it, encourage it, remonstrate with it; and how the soul can talk again with him, listen to his words, re-echo them and answer them; how, sometimes, it will give heed to his counsel, at others, obstinately refuse even lawful comfort; as David speaks, "My soul refused to be comforted." Ps 77:2

 

We need not, then, wonder that David and his soul talked together, both in our text and elsewhere, nor that he should seek to cheer it up; for if his soul were cast down, he was cast down. The sorrows of his soul were his sorrows, as the joys of his soul were his joys; the pangs his soul felt were his pangs, and its distress was his distress; and felt all the more because it touched such a tender and valuable part as the dear friend that dwelt in his breast. Not that I mean to separate a man from his soul, as though the soul was one thing and his consciousness of having a soul was another. Nor shall I plunge into the depths of metaphysics, or bring forward speculative ideas and imaginative notions. I wish to avoid all such vain ideas and foolish speculations, and merely take the broad ground that God takes here in bringing before us the language of David; for he evidently is set before us in the word of truth as talking with his soul, and asking it why it is cast down.

 

But, following out the analogy and carrying on the figure, the soul may be considered as answering his question; for if David said, "Why art thou cast down, 0 my soul?" we may well conceive the soul may return him some answer, or else there could be no mutual converse or affectionate and sympathising colloquy between them. Now, if we may be allowed to listen to what the soul says, or if I, as an interpreter, may interpret to you its language, we may conceive it speaking thus: "I will tell thee David, why I am cast down; for I know that in thee I shall have a sympathising friend; I will not, therefore, keep back why I am cast down and why I am disquieted, for it will relieve me and may help to comfort you."

 

(ii) I shall, therefore, speaking as it were for the soul, endeavour to show various causes why it is often cast down and disquieted, and thus may be able to return some answer to David’s anxious enquiry, which I will assume is often your own.

 

"One thing," says the soul, "which casts me down, is guilt upon the conscience"

 

The very idea of being cast down is that of a person thrown down from a high into a low place. Thus the soul had stood in pride and self-righteousness. It had no knowledge of the majesty or holiness of God, nor of the demands of his righteous law. But the entrance of God’s word giving light, and the power of his grace giving life, the holiness of God is seen and the demands of the law are felt. Now the effect of this is to cast down the soul from its vain-confident, hypocritical, presumptuous security; and nothing casts it down so much as a load of guilt which is thus laid upon the conscience. I may be addressing myself, even now, to some individual who at this moment is suffering under distress of conscience, who knows the burden of guilt, and is cast down through the recollection of some sin or sins which he has committed, and the guilt of which has brought him into much distress and anxiety of mind.

 

Now, may I not say to such a one, "Why art thou cast down, 0 soul? Is there no remedy for thee in this cast-down state? Has not the Lord Jesus Christ shed his precious blood to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself? Is there not in him a sufficiency, and with him, as the Scripture speaks, ‘plenteous redemption?’ Is there not in His blood an efficacy which cleanseth from all sin, and in His righteousness a fulfillment of the law, which perfectly justifies?" "Ah," says the soul, "there is, I know there is. On that point I am well satisfied. I do not doubt the efficacy of Christ’s blood and righteousness. But what I want to feel is the application of that precious blood, the pardon-speaking voice of the Lord himself, the inward whisper, the sweet testimony, the gracious assurance, and the word from the Lord’s own lips, that shall heal my guilty conscience, and pour oil and wine into my troubled spirit."

 

But let us hear the soul speaking again; for it has other things which cast it down: "What casts me down is finding so much sin working in my carnal mind, and manifesting itself in my fleshly members to bring forth fruit unto death. 0 that I could be holy, walk tenderly in the fear of God, get the better of besetting sins, never be entangled in, or overcome by, the power of temptation, so that I might live more as becometh a Christian, have more of the life and fear of God in my soul, and find less inward conflict, less opposition, and less evil, with a more abundant measure of the love of God shed abroad in my heart!" "Well, cast-down soul, thou art only cast down as most, if not all, of God’s people have been in all ages, and are at the present time. It is the body of sin and death that we have to carry about with us, the depravity of our fallen nature, the lusts and abominations that lurk and work in our vile imagination, if they go no further, which give us all this trouble. How many are continually sighing and mourning because they have so little of the image of Christ stamped upon them, so little of the holiness of God made conspicuous in them, so little of that blessed sanctification of body, soul, and spirit, that we see in the word and strive after, and yet find so little carried on and carried out in ourselves."

 

But the soul speaks again, and says, "What casts me down is the temptations of Satan, the hurling in of his fiery darts, and the stirring up of every vile abomination in the depths of my wicked nature; so that I seem at times to be worse than the devil himself. Where can the fear of God be in my heart, the life of Christ in my conscience, or the teaching and testimony of the Holy Ghost within, to be so subject to these temptations and to find them so stir up the corruptions of my vile nature?"

 

But the soul has yet to speak, "0, how long have I been praying for a manifestation of Christ! How I have seen one after another delivered from bondage, doubt, and fear; and yet here I am, after long years of profession, much in the same spot. 0 I do not seem to get one step forward in the things of God, or get on as I see others do! 0 how my soul longs for a word from the Lord, if it were but one word; one smile, if it were but one faint smile; one turning of the Lord’s face toward me; one breaking in of the light of his countenance; one manifestation of his mercy and love to my heart; one drop of his blood upon my conscience; one discovery of him so as to know that he is mine!"

 

But as the soul is still free to speak, and can almost say with Elihu, "I will speak that I may be refreshed," Job 32:20 we will hear its voice speaking again: "I have great troubles in Providence, heavy trials in my family, am much exercised in my business, for all things seem against me, and this casts me down, for I think God is angry with me, and therefore his hand is gone out against me."

 

But let us hear its voice once more, and let it speak it may be for you, lest you should think yourself left out; "Do what I will, I cannot be what I would. I try to read the word, but seem neither to understand nor to believe it; I bend my knee before the throne, but have little access to the throne of grace; I come to hear, and often go away as I came, without any power, life, or feeling under the word to my heart; I talk to the people of God and hear them speak how the Lord appears for them here and there; but my mouth is silent, for I have nothing to tell them in return."

 

(iii) But what is the effect of the soul being, in these various ways, cast down? Disquiet. For David says, still addressing his soul, "And why art thou disquieted within me?" "0," the soul says, "there is no rest in my bosom! I cannot get that solid peace which I am looking for, and which Christ has promised he will give to his disciples as his own peace, his abiding legacy. But instead of feeling sweet peace, a holy calm of mind, producing submission to the will of God, reconciling me to the path of affliction, bowing my back to every chastening stroke, making me to rejoice even in tribulation, and conforming me to the suffering image of Christ; instead of this, I find rebellion, restlessness, disquietude, so as rarely to know a moment’s solid rest or peace."

 

Somewhat in this way, then, in answer to the question, "Why art thou disquieted within me?" we may suppose the soul to say, "I have told you the things that cast me down; do they not afford sufficient reason to explain why I am disquieted within me?"

 

But let me now apply this more particularly to your case. Does not all this disquietude teach you that there is no solid rest nor peace except in the Lord?, Out of him all is disquiet, confusion, restlessness, and uneasiness. Now it is life within which makes us feel all this; and therefore, if you, or any of you, are thus cast down and your soul is thus disquieted within you, do not think you are traveling a path unknown to the family of God, or that yours is a solitary case. Depend upon it, you have many companions in this road besides the companionship of your own soul. And do you not see, that David traveled in the same path before you, and that God has left upon record the exercises of his soul, that they might encourage others who are similarly dealt with? Why should David have talked the matter over with his soul ages ago; and why should the Holy Ghost have left upon permanent record his conversation with his bosom friend? Why should he have removed the veil, which at the time hung over David’s inmost thoughts and feelings, and brought to light his secret communing with his bosom friend, except to cheer, comfort, and encourage those who should afterwards travel by the same path?

 

II.-But this brings us to the next point, in which I proposed to show how David admonished and encouraged his castdown and disquieted soul: "Hope thou in God".

 

It is as if he had said, "Well, soul, thou hast told me thy mournful ale; thou has breathed thy sorrowful complaints in my ear;" I know all that concerneth thee; for there is not a secret pain which I do not see and feel too. If thou art cast down, so am I; and if thou art disquieted, I am disquieted with thee; for we are one in life, death, time, and eternity. And yet, 0 soul, it is all for thy benefit. Listen with me to the word of God and see if we cannot gather up thence some strength and support. Let me, then, give thee a word of exhortation, that thou shouldst not be so cast down or disquieted as to renounce thy hope. Satan would gladly, if he could, drive thee to the borders of despair; he would soon rob thee of every grain of hope, and fill thee with his own misery. But 0 my soul, thou must not listen to the enemy’s subtle temptations, nor even to thine own distressing fears; for, by so doing, thou rather sidest with Satan than resistest him.

 

If cast down, remember this, that to be cast down, is not to be cast away. For his own wise purposes; God often suffers his people to be cast down; but he never casts them away. Has he not promised, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee?" Heb 13:5 Has he not said, "I have engraven thee on the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me?" Isa 49:16 It is expressly declared: "The Lord will not cast off his people, neither will he forsake his inheritance." Ps 94:14 We may doubt and fear, and even say with David in the very Psalm before us, "Why dost thou cast me off?" or even plead with him, "0 God, why hast thou cast us off for ever?" The Lord still answers: "I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God." Le 26:44

 

Thou mayest be disquieted and have many reasons why sorrow fills thy heart, but thy very disquietude shows signs of life. Whence comes thy craving after God, thy panting after him, as the hart after the water brooks? Are not these the movements of divine life in thy bosom? Thus, thy very restlessness, like a child’s disquietude after its mother in her absence, manifests that thou canst find no rest except in the bosom of the Lord. "Hope thou then in God." Do not give way to this casting down, as though thou wert sunk to rise no more; and be not so disquieted as to give up thy hope: for that is given thee to be thy anchor, sure and steadfast, to ride out this storm. Nothing is got by despondency but rebellion or self-pity; and these the Lord will never approve of or smile upon. Does he not say "The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord." La 3:25-26 And surely if it be good to hope, it must be bad to despond.

 

But as, according to our exposition, the soul told David why it was cast down, so we may in the same way assume David as giving the soul reasons why it should hope. We may thus listen to their secret colloquy; and it seems but fair, as we have heard one side of the question, that we should also hear the other. Let us, then, listen as if we heard David now speak: "Well, my soul, I have heard thy melancholy tale. I know it is all true, for I feel every word of it." But now listen to me, as I have listened to thee. And as thou hast poured thy mournful complaints into my ear, see if I can pour some comforting word into thine. As Thou hast told me that thou art so cast down as not to be able to rise, and so disquieted that thou canst get no rest, now let me tell thee how thou mayest, with God’s help and blessing, stand upon thy feet and get rest and peace. I will not set thee a hard task to do in thine own strength, nor preach thee a long sermon on creature ability and the duty of faith. It shall all be summed up in four words, "Hope thou in God." "Well," the soul may answer, "that is good advice; for I know by experience a little of the cheering sensations of hope; but must there not be some ground of my hope? for at present my eyes are so dim that I can scarcely see any," But David answers, "Let me, then see for thee, 0 soul, and, like Jethro in the wilderness to the children of Israel, be to thee ‘as eyes.’" I think I can give thee some good ground for thee to hope; and this shall be the first—

 

(i) That thou art alive. Now, consider who made thee alive, O soul, which art thus cast down, and when thou wert first thrown down from thy former standing. Wert thou so cast down in days past? Was sin thy burden in times gone by? Was thy mind disquieted for want of the blood of sprinkling, of a revelation of Christ, of a shedding abroad of God’s love, of a manifestation of mercy? What, then, has made thee to be disquieted? Thou wert not always so, but found pleasure and happiness, in the world. Must it not be, then, because thou hast life within; and if God gave thee life as his own free gift, if he had compassion upon thee when thou wert dead in sin and far from him by wicked works, will he leave thee now when, he has taught thee to fear his great name, and to worship him in spirit and truth?

 

He sees it good thou shouldst be cast down. Thou wert getting very proud, 0 soul. The world had got hold of thy heart. Thou wert seeking great things for thyself. Thou wert secretly roving away from the Lord. The Lord has sent thee these trials and exercises and allowed these temptations to fall upon thee, to bring thee down from thy state of false security. Thou wert too much lifted up in self. The high tree had to come down, that the low tree might be exalted; the green tree to be dried up, that the dry tree might be made to flourish. Therefore, 0 soul, thou needest not wonder that these dispensations should have come upon thee in providence or in grace to cast thee down. Rather bless his name that thou art cast down; for when there is casting down there will be lifting up. It is a good thing to bear the yoke in one’s youth: for if never cast down, thou wilt never be exalted. Write not, therefore, bitter things against thyself, 0 soul, because thou I art cast down and disquieted. These are the teachings of God in thy conscience; and therefore, "Hope thou in God."

 

(ii) Besides this, 0 soul, let me give thee another ground of hope. Has not the Lord appeared for thee in days past? Canst thou not remember that signal opening in providence when thou wert so exercised and scarcely knewest how matters would be with thee, but didst pray to the Lord in thy distress and he appeared for thee in a very conspicuous way? Hast thou forgotten all that, O soul? And canst thou not remember when the Lord applied some promise to thee, when sinking and fainting, and ready to despair: gave thee power to look and live; power to believe and find support; so as to receive out of his fullness grace for grace? Then is he not the same God now as he was then? And has he not given thee a sure pledge thereby that he can do as much and more, for thee again now? Should not this encourage thee to hope?

 

(iii) But let me give thee another ground on which thou mayest hope. Dost thou forget, 0 soul, that the way to heaven is a very strait and narrow path-too narrow for thee to carry thy sins in it with thee? Dost thou not know there is a fire to try every man’s religion, of what sort it is? And canst thou expect never to go into the furnace in which God has chosen his Zion? If thou art to walk in the strait and narrow path, must thou meet with no trials and temptations there? If thou art come out of the world and livest godly in Christ Jesus, will not the world persecute and hate thee? Art thou to have a different path from that in which the Lord Jesus himself has walked before thee? Then hope in God. Do not cast away thy confidence, which hath great recompense of reward, but cast thy anchor boldly within the veil, and hope in God.

 

If thou wilt foolishly ever be looking at thy miserable self and seeking to extract some comfort thence, thou wilt be ever disappointed. Instead then of looking at thyself and at all thy badness, vileness, sin, guilt, and misery look up and hope in God. Has he not given us a thousand encouragements to do so? See his tender pity and compassion for the poor and needy. See what rivers of mercy, grace, and love are in him. See his all-seeing eye, ever watching over thee and knowing the worst of thy case and all thy misgivings. View his all-powerful hand, ever ready to be stretched out on thy behalf. And now, my soul, when thou hast taken this view of God by faith, as manifesting himself in his dear Son, hope thou in him.

 

But now, leaving for a moment this assumed address of David to his soul, let me speak in my own language to you who can sympathise with what I have just laid before you, from a feeling experience of it. May I not upon this point ask you if you do not feel the benefit of this advice of David? Have you not proved, again and again, that when you are enabled to look out of your sinkings and sorrows, castings down and disquietude, and cast anchor within the veil, you find a secret and sacred support given unto you? What does the sailor do when he comes to a lee shore and the wind is blowing hard and strong upon it, so that in a short time his ship might be upon the rocks? Does he say, "0 I never shall get over this storm; I shall certainly be shipwrecked?" What does he do? Why, instead of wringing his hands in despairing misery, he lets the anchor go, and it at once takes hold of the ground and holds the ship up in the storm.

 

Now if ever you have known anything of hoping in God, you have an anchor on board. God’s own gift to you, and meant not for ornament, but for use. Indeed, it is by the possession of this anchor, that the good ship built, owned, and chartered by God is distinguished from the man-built bark which, concerning faith, makes shipwreck. Now if you are enabled by the power of God’s grace to cast your anchor thus within the veil, you will find a secret strength communicated thereby which will enable you to ride out, every storm. I am not speaking in the language of free will, as some might think who cannot distinguish sounds, but of free grace, the language of solid, spiritual experience, and what every child of God knows more or less by the teaching and testimony of the Holy Ghost. Such know what a blessed relief a good hope through grace gives, when, as an anchor of the soul, it is cast within the veil.

 

But I shall return to our colloquy between David and his soul; for it now begins to receive the word from his lips. The soul, had told David its complaint, and David, like a wise counselor, had bidden it hope in God. And now the soul cheered and comforted by his encouraging word, begins to answer him: "Well, David, I feel great comfort from your words; for they drop with sweet power into my inmost spirit; and I do believe you are a true prophet, for I have a witness within that they are agreeable to the word of truth, as well as to my own experience."

 

Now as the soul thus encourages its hope, for there is an encouraging of faith and hope, as well as a damping of them, then comes with it a measure of confidence, so that it says, "Well, after all I believe that I shall praise Him: I begin to feel almost as if I could bless and praise him now. I feel so lifted up; I feel the anchor to be so firm, and my heart seems so strengthened and comforted, that really, David, it is as though I must begin to bless and praise the Lord already. There I was so cast down and disquieted, as if nothing could raise me up; but thy words have come with such sweetness and savour into my breast, that I do believe I shall yet praise him. And I am sure that none in heaven or earth, as I often tell him, will have such cause as I."

 

Now tell me whether you have not been in this spot sometimes? You have gone upon your knees so cast down, so tried and distressed in your mind, almost as if there was not a grain of hope in your soul; but you have poured out your complaints before the Lord, and shown him all your troubles: and to your surprise and astonishment did there not come, almost suddenly, a sweet movement of life and grace upon your soul? In looking back to the days gone by, a blessed promise which was once given you came over the secret depths of your heart and raised up such a sweet hope, that it seemed as if you must burst out in blessing and praising the Lord. How these things, in their various changes, these ups and downs, ins and outs, sinkings and risings, chilling fears and encouraging hopes, ever keep the life of God warm and tender, living and stirring, in a man’s breast. By these alternations of sun and shade, these vicissitudes of summer and winter, for the Lord has made both , Ps 74:17 these storms and calms, these nights and days, the plant of divine life grows and thrives in the soul.

 

What would a river be unless it were ever flowing? What would the sea itself be unless it were continually agitated by the restless tide and ever-moving waves? A mass of corruption, giving forth, instead of healthy exhalations which, distilled in clouds, water the earth, noxious steams, breathing disease and death. So what would the soul become if there were no movement of divine life, no castings down or liftings up, no mourning or rejoicing, no hopes or fears? What would it be? A stagnant pool, in which there would be nothing but a mass of weeds and rank vegetation; like a village pond mantled over with duck-weed. But these castings down, this disquietude, these movements of God upon the spirit, these various exercises, trials, and temptations, keep the soul sweet, preserve it from becoming stagnant and stinking, and maintain the life of God in its vigour and purity.

 

There is reason, therefore even to praise God for being cast down, for being disquieted. How it opens up parts of God’s word which you never read before with any feeling. How it gives you sympathy and communion with the tried, exercised children of God. How it weans and separates you from dead professors. How it brings you in heart and affection out of the world that lieth in wickedness. And how it engages your thoughts, time after time, upon the solemn matters of eternity, instead of being a prey to every idle thought and imagination, and tossed up and down upon a sea of vanity and folly. But, above all, when there is a sweet response from the Lord, and the power of divine things is inwardly felt, in enabling us to hope in God, and looking forward to praise his blessed name, then we see the benefit of being cast down and so repeatedly and continually disquieted.

 

III.-But I shall pass on to David’s confident expectation: "For I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God."

 

These sudden turns as we may call them, from the lowest despondency to the highest confidence, from the depths of disquietude to the fullest assurance, are very frequent in the Psalms. And perhaps the very history of David’s life, with such sudden and marked alternations of adversity and prosperity in providence, may help to account for a similar experience in grace. But be it so or not, the fact is plain, that a distinguishing feature in David’s experience was the sudden changes which came over his soul.

 

But you will observe, that in his confidence, he is rather looking forward to the future than enjoying it at the present. And is not this the very nature of hope? "Hope that is seen," says the Apostle, "is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?" Ro 8:24 Though not yet fully blessed or delivered, he therefore looked forward in faith and hope to the time when he should be so, and be enabled to praise God. He could not do it then; but he firmly believed the time was coming when he both could and would.

 

But observe, also, the expression, "Who is the health of my countenance." By this we may understand the restoration of his soul to the enjoyment of God’s manifested favour and presence, which always communicates such happiness and peace as proclaims itself by the very countenance itself. Disease is always marked in a man’s countenance. No man can have organic, or even ordinary disease, without his face showing it to the experienced eye, and even often discovering the very nature of the complaint itself. "How well you look!" "How ill you look!" These common expressions show how health and sickness manifest themselves in a man’s countenance, even to ordinary observation.

 

When God is pleased then, to drop his word with power into a man’s heart, and restore his soul so as to enable him to bless and praise his holy name, God becomes the health of his countenance. The former sickliness of his soul manifested itself in his very face. He could not smile, and sometimes could hardly lift up his head. Feeling himself such a guilty wretch, it seemed to him as if everybody could read his sins in his countenance. Full of doubt and fear, he was often scarcely able to look up before God and man; and his heavy eye, and drooping eyelid, betrayed the feelings of his soul. We see how even natural joy bespeaks itself in the face. How it gives freshness and animation to the cheek and lustre to the eye; but how much more is this true of spiritual joy for as that gives inward health of soul, it manifests itself in a man’s natural countenance, and his happiness overflows as it were into his eyes, and features, and face.

 

But we may take the words as applicable to a man’s spiritual countenance; for your soul, like your body, has its diseases that cast a sickly hue over its face. Sometimes your soul is very sick, languid, and feeble, unable to take any exercise, almost loathing food, and much deprived of rest. Now this will soon begin to tell upon your soul’s countenance. Spiritual eyes can read it in your appearance, spiritual ears hear it in your prayers and lamentations, spiritual hearts can feel it and sympathise with you, as knowing themselves what it is to be similarly afflicted. And you yourselves, as knowing so intimately what is the matter with your own soul, need no one to tell you that it is in a sickly state; that you are not as you were in time past, full of life and vigour in the things of God, but have got into a languishing, unhealthy condition. Now, this casts you down and makes you disquieted.

 

But by and by, when a healing word comes, it removes this sickness out of your soul; it brings, as the Lord promises, "health and cure;" and the soul once more begins to walk with life and vigour in the ways of God. Being thus renewed and revived, it reads and understands the word of God with more life and feeling; hears it with more savour, unction, and power; knows more of sweet access to the throne of grace, and enjoys the things of God more experimentally and believingly. It is in this way, that God is the health of our countenance; for it is his grace and his blessing that gives health to the sickly soul. He therefore said of himself, "I am the Lord that healeth thee." Ex 15:26 And David well knew this, when he said: "Bless the Lord, 0 my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases." Ps 103:2-3 A healthy soul is a greater blessing than a healthy body. Perhaps, the greatest of all temporal troubles, is an unhealthy body; and the worst of all spiritual troubles, is an unhealthy soul. And conversely, the greatest of temporal mercies is a healthy body, and the greatest of spiritual mercies is a healthy soul.

 

And then come those few and simple words which crown all, "And my God." What, when you have been so cast down, when so disquieted, when so ready to abandon all hope -what, will you ever be able to say, "My God?" Yes, for he is your God when cast down and disquieted; your God when you could scarcely feel any persuasion of interest in his love; your God in all the changing scenes through which you have passed; and your God so as never to leave or forsake you for his name’s sake. How this sums up every thing, "My God;" for if he is your God, all he has and all he is yours.

 

Now, what mercies these are to embrace, and what blessings these are to enjoy. May I not well say: "0 what is all that earth calls good and great, compared with being able to believe that God is your God; your God in life, your God in death; your God in time, and your God in eternity! 0 this is a religion that will do to live and die by; for if you only have God for the health of your countenance, and the Holy Ghost seals that home with power upon your heart, have you not every reason to praise God, even now, for every dispensation of his providence and grace, and every ground of confident expectation that you will for ever bless him when time itself shall be no more?"

 

Dialogue between a Believer and his Soul.- Ps 42:11

 

Believer:

COME, my soul, and let us try,

For a little season,

Every burden to lay by;

Come, and let us reason.

What is this that casts thee down?

Who are those that grieve thee?

Speak, and let the worst be known;

Speaking may relieve thee.

 

Soul:

0, I sink beneath the load

Of my nature’s evil!

Full of enmity to God;

Captived by the devil;

Restless as the troubled seas;

Feeble, faint, and fearful;

Plagued with every sore disease;

How can I be cheerful?

 

Believer:

Think on what thy Saviour bore

In the gloomy garden.

Sweating blood at every pore,

To procure thy pardon!

See him stretched upon the wood,

Bleeding, grieving, crying,

Suffering all the wrath of God,

Groaning, gasping, dying!

 

Soul:

This by faith I sometimes view,

And those views relieve me;

But my sins return anew;

These are they that grieve me.

0, I’m leprous, stinking, foul,

Quite throughout infected;

Have not I, if any soul,

Cause to be dejected?

 

Believer:

Think how loud thy dying Lord

Cried out, "It is finished!"

Treasure up that sacred word,

Whole and undiminished;

Doubt not he will carry on,

To its full perfection,

That good work he has begun;

Why, then, this dejection?

 

Soul:

Faith when void of works is dead;

This the Scriptures witness;

And what works have I to plead,

Who am all unfitness?

All my powers are depraved,

Blind, perverse, and filthy;

If from death I’m fully saved,

Why am I not healthy?

 

Believer:

Pore not on thyself too long,

Lest it sink thee lower;

Look to Jesus, kind as strong

Mercy joined with power;

Every work that thou must do,

Will thy gracious Saviour

For thee work, and in thee too,

Of his special favour.

 

Soul:

Jesus’ precious blood, once spilt,

I depend on solely,

To release and clear my guilt;

But I would be holy.

 

Believer:

He that bought thee on the cross

Fully purge away thy dross;

Make thee a new creature.

 

Soul:

That he can I nothing doubt,

Be it but his pleasure.

 

Believer:

Though it be not done throughout,

May it not in measure?

 

Soul:

When that measure, far from great,

Still shall seem decreasing?

 

Believer:

Faint not then, but pray and wait,

Never, never ceasing.

 

Soul:

What when prayer meets no regard?

 

Believer:

Still repeat it often.

 

Soul:

But I feel myself so hard.

 

Believer:

Jesus will thee soften.

 

Soul:

But my enemies make head.

 

Believer:

Let them closer drive thee.

 

Soul:

But I’m cold, I’m dark, I’m dead.

 

Believer:

Jesus will revive thee.

 

Joseph Hart (Hymn 780-Gadsby’s selection)

 

*A BOLD CHALLENGE, BUT A COMPLETE ANSWER

Preached at Gower Street Chapel, London, on July 15, 1866, by J. C. Philpot

"Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, yes rather, who is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us." Ro 8:33-34

You find me again in the Epistles. I cannot say that as a minister I would wish to be always found in the epistles; but I can say that as a Christian I never wish to be found out of them. Let me explain my meaning. I would be very unwilling so to tie up my ministry with my own hands as to confine myself to any one portion of God’s word, however precious; yet, when I consider the glorious doctrines, heavenly truths, encouraging promises, and holy precepts which shine forth so clearly and so conspicuously in the epistles, I could wish ever to live and at last to die in the enjoyment of them. Not but what other parts of God’s word contain the same truths; but they are not developed with that clearness, nor set forth in that full and bright light which is shed over them as from a heavenly sun in the epistles of the New Testament. Indeed it could not be well otherwise. They are, excepting the Apocalypse, which is a prophetic book, the last revelation which God has given to the Church, much of which could not have been afforded to it at an earlier period.

The gospels give us the miracles, parables, closing scenes of the life, the suffering death, and glorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. There they stop. As historical records, inspired accounts of the days of our blessed Lord upon earth, and containing the only authentic testimony of his gracious words and actions when here below, they have a place in the word of unspeakable value and preciousness.

But the epistles, as a fuller revelation of the truth of God, bring before us the blessings and benefits which are consequent upon his life, death, and resurrection. These blessings demanded a special revelation which was committed to the epistles as written by inspired apostles to the churches and individuals; and when there were gradually collected together into one volume, they assumed their present shape as an integral portion of the New Testament. As such how blessed they are as containing everything which can serve to build up the Church on her most holy faith. Where else do we find such glorious truths as salvation by free, sovereign, super-abounding grace, justification by an imputed righteousness, pardon through atoning blood, sanctification by the operations and influences, work and witness of the blessed Spirit, full liberty of access to the throne of God through the Mediator at his own right hand, and a certain assurance that at the great day this corruptible body shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality?

It is true that we have the elements and rudiments of all these glorious truths in the gospels; but all rudiments are necessarily imperfect; and therefore if I prefer the fuller to the scanty, the bright and clear to the comparatively dim and faint revelation, who shall blame me? We may love the epistles without ceasing to love the gospels. Both have an equal place in our heart. Do we love Joh 14 less because we love Ro 8? Is there any rivalry between the teaching of the Lord and the teaching of Paul; between the parable of the prodigal son and the doctrine of super-abounding grace? In the gospels we have the doctrines of grace in the bud, in the epistles in the bloom; but as the rosebud is the same flower and grows on the same branch as the full-blown rose, so truth in the gospels is the same as truth in the epistles, and falls little short of it in either beauty or fragrance.

But there is another reason why I speak much from the epistles. Ministers usually are most at home in those parts of God’s word into which they have been specially led. That is the circle in which they range with the greatest ease and comfort to themselves, and generally speaking with the largest amount of profit to their hearers. Now if there be any part of God’s word into which I have been specially led, and which I have chiefly read and studied, it is the epistles. There are three things in those who have made them my favorite study. First, I find that in them, that which so satisfies my intellect. I hope the Lord has enlightened the eyes of my understanding by his grace, and has thus given me a spiritual intellect; and having cultivated it for many years by reading, prayer, study, and meditation, I want something in the word of God to satisfy my intellect thus graciously given. Do not misunderstand me. I mean my sanctified intellect, my spiritual understanding, for I am not speaking of my natural intellect, which can understand only natural things but cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God, but of that wisdom which comes from above, that anointing which teaches of all things, and is truth, and is no lie. Now I find in the epistles that which abundantly satisfies and feeds my sanctified intellect, and fully and graciously commends itself to my enlightened understanding.

What a fund of instruction is therein for a mind enlightened from above. Take, for instance, the Epistle of Paul to the Romans. With what force of gracious reasoning, with what strength of clear and scriptural, and one might almost say solid logical argument, has the apostle opened up the counsel of God in the free and full justification of a sinner by an imputed righteousness, and proved every point in a manner so masterly in itself, from its harmony with the Scriptures which he has advanced, and so satisfactory to an enlightened understanding, that sometimes as we follow his arguments, every word seems to carry with it the demonstration of the Spirit and of power. Few people, even ministers, speaking comparatively, study the epistles. They read them and doubtless get benefit from them; but they do not see the clear, connected arrangement of every link in one chain of sustained argument, and that the doctrinal portion of the epistle to the Romans is not only a most blessed revelation of heavenly truth, but even, viewed intellectually, is one of the greatest and most masterly compositions which were ever penned by the hand of man.

But secondly, I find in the epistles, that which approves itself in the highest degree to my conscience. There I find the blood of Christ held forth most clearly to my faith, as cleansing from all sin; there I find the way whereby God justifies a sinner set forth in the fullest and brightest light, so as to bring peace to the soul; there I see the love of God in the gift of his Son gloriously exalted and magnified; and there I behold, set before my eyes, the "new and living way which the Lord Jesus has consecrated through the veil, that is to say, his flesh." These blessed truths approve themselves to my conscience, as obtaining no relief but by being sprinkled with the blood of the Lamb.

And I find in them, thirdly, that which approves itself to my spiritual affections. I love the epistles because I love the truths contained and revealed in them; and as I receive the love of the truth set forth in them, it draws up my affections to where Jesus sits at the right hand of God. I must therefore speak well of that part of God’s word, though not to the exclusion of other parts equally precious, equally inspired, which so specially commends itself to my sanctified intellect, to my approving conscience, and to my renewed and heavenly affections.

But I have another reason still why I preach so often to you from the epistles. In speaking to you, I address myself to a people who are, or should be, an established people. It is about twenty-three years since I first came among you, in my annual visit to the metropolis. Many of you have been a considerable number of years in the way, and therefore you do not stand in a position requiring the mere elements of truth. The epistles were written to churches, to those who were established in the faith. They are therefore a part of God’s word which is especially suitable to a church and congregation not made up of novices, weaklings, and beginners, but of those who are in some degree matured and established in the faith as it is in Jesus.

But in fact my preaching so much from the epistles, either here or elsewhere, needs no apology. I merely explain why it is, that this morning, as on other occasions, I come before you with a portion out of the epistles of the New Testament. Let the words of our text speak for themselves. They need no apology, though they may need a little explanation.

What, then, do I see in them, just to lead my own mind into an orderly consideration of the subject, and to assist your memory? I think I see these three things in them- An inquiry, an answer, and a climax.

First, I see an inquiry, double in form, though but one in substance. "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?" "Who is he who condemns?"

Secondly, I see an answer to that inquiry; like the inquiry double in form, but double also in substance. "It is God who justifies;" "It is Christ who died."

Thirdly, I see a climax, or a rising up, as the word means, like a ladder, from one grand truth to another- "Yes, rather, who is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us."

I The INQUIRIES. It seems almost as if the apostle in our text took his stand upon a kind of spiritual Pisgah. As Moses stood on Pisgah’s top, and thence surveyed the whole length and breadth of the land which God gave the children of Israel for an inheritance, so Paul seems here to stand upon a spiritual Pisgah, and takes a survey of the goodly inheritance with which God has blessed his people. Like Balaam, though not a Balaam, for that false prophet loved the wages of unrighteousness- but as Balaam stood upon the high places of Baal, and thence surveying the tents of Israel, cried out in a prophetic rapture, "He has not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither has he seen perverseness in Israel;" so Paul standing, as the man of God, where Balaam stood the man of the devil, sees the family of God as Balaam saw the tents of the children of Israel; and holding up his hand and opening his mouth that all might hear, cries aloud, as with trumpet tongue, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?" A bold challenge, and yet a challenge which he can meet at every point; a war note, a trumpet of defiance, a gauntlet thrown down by the king’s champion, and yet one for which he will do battle even unto death, being assured of perfect victory for the cause which he so boldly undertakes to maintain, were he even to die in its behalf.

Let us then examine this inquiry- let us see how the king’s champion approves himself in this combat. You and I, and all who love the truth are ranged upon the same side; and though we doubt not the outcome, yet we will watch every turn of the fight.

A. But what word meets us at the outset of this inquiry? A word very offensive to some, but a word very precious to others; a note of war to enemies, a note of peace to friends. The word "ELECT" meets us at the very gate, and stands on the threshold of the inquiry. We cannot, then, pass it by, ignore it, smother it over, evade it, or beat it down. With what holy boldness the apostle holds it when he cries aloud, almost with a defiant voice, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?" But why should men’s bristles rise, why should men’s nostrils dilate with anger, why should men’s eyes almost flash fire when the word "elect" or "election" sounds in their ears? Is it so awful a word- so terrible a term? Why should a man be a marked man who uses the word and boldly proclaims his belief in the doctrine which it enforces? Why is the doctrine itself so much objected to, for after all it is the doctrine not the word which is so particularly obnoxious?

The main ground of objection is, that it is unjust that God would have chosen some unto eternal life and passed by others, thus leaving them to eternal woe. Now let us look a little at this formidable objection, for time will not admit of my noticing others which make, as some think, an equally forcible array against the doctrine of election, especially as they may be easily disposed of by the same answer.

I will assume, then, that you are an opponent to the doctrine of election. Now let me ask you the following questions- May you choose your own house, or must another choose it for you? "Well," you say, "I certainly think I have a right to choose my own house- nobody can know what sort of a house I want so well as myself." Do you think that anybody may choose for you your friends, associates, and companions? "No," you answer; "I think I ought to have liberty to choose my own friends and companions, or those chosen for me might be very disagreeable or unsuitable associates." Do you think that anybody has a right, if you are unmarried, to fix upon a wife for you and say, "You must take this woman for your partner in life, whether you like her or not?" "No," you say; "I think it is part of our liberty as men to choose our own wives."

Now apply my figures to the point in hand. May not God upon similar grounds choose his own house? Is not the Church God’s house- the temple in which he dwells; and has he not a perfect right to choose his own habitation? Do we not read, "The Lord has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his habitation?" Had he not a right to choose Zion rather than Sinai, and inhabit Jerusalem rather than Samaria? Had not Christ a right to choose his friends and companions for all eternity? Had he a right, for instance, to choose his own disciples? Should you think it right to have let Judas choose them for him? that our Lord should not have had any will in the matter to choose Peter, John, and James, but that Judas should choose such men as he pleased, men of the same stamp as himself, and say to the Lord, "These men must be your disciples, friends, and associates on earth?" Does not the very idea shock your mind and chill your blood? Yet you are not shocked nor does your blood run cold when you would choose this or that man to be the companion of Christ to all eternity, and say it is unjust if the Lord has a choice of his own, and does not accept yours.

And had not the Lord a perfect right to choose his own bride, his own spouse? Was any spouse to be put upon him, and he accused of injustice if he would not take her for time and eternity? So if you as a man are at liberty to choose your own house, your own associates, your own wife, do allow the Lord as much liberty in eternal matters, as you claim for yourself in temporal maters.

But you say, "Those are mere temporal matters, and do not involve such important consequences. I must say still, it seems to me unjust to take some to heaven and let others go to hell." But by so speaking, you seem altogether to lose sight of the broad fact that all men are criminals and justly condemned already by their own deeds, and that there is no injustice in punishing the guilty. Take the case, for instance, of a pirate crew, like the old West Indian buccaneers, of whom we have read such tales of bloodshed and massacre in the days of our boyhood, which has been committing unheard-of atrocities, wading in blood up to the knees, and ravaging the sea in all directions. At last, after a bloody combat, the ship is captured by an English frigate. Now every one of these pirates, with the captain at their head, deserves to be hung at once. But suppose that only half of them are hung, or only every tenth man executed. It may seem to fall very hard upon the victims; but is it an unjust sentence when all equally deserve to be hung? Is it unjust to spare some and hang others? So none can complain of God’s injustice if all were sent to perdition. Those who are spared are spared by grace, and those who perish, perish by justice. "The Judge of all the earth must do right," as much when he burns up a guilty Sodom as when he rescues a righteous Lot from the overthrow, or freely justifies a believing, though once idolatrous, Abraham.

But I need not take up time and attention by dwelling upon points so obvious to a spiritual mind. As to convincing those who set themselves obstinately against the doctrine of election, it is, for the most part, labor in vain to make even the attempt. But whether men believe it or disbelieve it, one thing is certain, that the word of God which has declared it will stand forever, and that as no opposition to it can disannul, so no adherence can make it more certain.

But there is one important consideration, both for those who receive God’s word as he has revealed it and those who oppose it, that the word "elect," according to our text, embraces and comprehends all whom God justifies, all for whom Christ died and rose again. It will, therefore, be our wisdom and mercy not to cavil at and criticize the doctrine of election, nor mutter and murmur against God’s sovereignty in choosing some and passing by others, but rather to ask ourselves this one simple question, "Am I one of the elect? Have I any good ground to believe that God has justified me freely by his grace, and that for me Christ died and rose again?"

B. But the apostle takes a prominent stand when he asks so boldly the question, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?" What then? Does no one lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? Yes, certainly, many do. That is an every-day fact. Publicly and privately many things are laid to their charge. The apostle, therefore, does not mean that nothing is laid to their charge, but that no charge shall so stand against them as to be eventually their downfall. These charges we may briefly class under two heads- false and true.

There are then FALSE charges laid to the account of God’s elect, and these have to be fully met and answered that their state and standing, honor and reputation may be clearly and fully established. I doubt not that many, if not most of you, at some time or other of your life have been subject to false charges. Few things are more galling indeed to our feelings or more mortifying to our mind than to be subjected to false accusations, for though we know them to be false, yet many will believe them to be true; and thus we may deeply suffer in our reputation, or a wound may be inflicted upon the cause of God. But what a mercy it is when they are false; when before the face of God you stand clear of the charge, and whatever may be laid against you, you have the verdict of a good conscience that of that accusation you are innocent. So in the things of God there are false charges brought against his living family, not merely as regards their personal character and reputation but simply because they believe and receive God’s truth.

1. How often, for instance, it is charged against God’s people that the doctrines which they profess to believe are DANGEROUS and lead to licentiousness. This is a false charge, and one which can be met by them without fear. They know perfectly, from the testimony of the word of truth and the approving verdict of their own conscience, that the doctrines of grace lead to exactly contrary effects, and that so far from leading to licentiousness, they have, when spiritually received and experimentally enjoyed, a most blessed and sanctifying influence upon their hearts, their lips, and their lives.

2. Again, it is frequently laid to their charge that what they call their experience is visionary, enthusiastic, comes from a brain-sick imagination, or is but the sporting and wandering of a deluded mind. How often relations bring such charges against members of their own family, where the work of grace, to them unknown, is going on in any one who comes under their daily observation. How frequent is the insinuation that it springs from a degree of insanity, or is some strange hallucination or delusive idea which has possessed their mind. That is a false charge, because we, who have experienced a work of grace on the heart, know that the mind is never really sane or sober until enlightened from above; that until we have some experience of the life, power, and presence of God in our own souls we are madmen, and that it is by the grace of God we have become sound and sane. Does not the apostle expressly say, "For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind?"

{2Ti 1:7} Festus said to Paul, "You are beside yourself; your much learning makes you mad." But what was the noble answer of the apostle, though in bonds before his tribunal? "I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness." {Ac 26:25}

Thus we may turn the tables upon our accusers. It is we who are of sound mind, and they insane; theirs is the hallucination, theirs the enthusiasm, theirs the fanaticism, to dream of going to heaven without a change of heart or life. We see them maddened by the love of sin and the world, and feel for ourselves that we, as taught of God, for the first time in our lives, have right views, right thoughts, right intentions, right words, and right actions.

3. Another false charge laid to God’s elect is that they abstain from open sin just to get a name, or for fear of disgrace, yet love to walk privately in all ungodliness; that if they can only just keep a fair outside they think very little of the inside, whether it be clean or unclean. This is a false charge. The Lord’s people desire to live free from all sin, secret as well as open, because they carry daily and hourly in their bosom a conscience which testifies against all ungodliness, private or public, open or secret, committed in thought, committed in word, or committed in action.

4. Another false charge is that they are a poor, moping, miserable people, who know nothing of happiness, renounce all cheerfulness, mirth, and gladness, hang their heads down all their days like a bulrush, are full of groundless fears, and nurse the gloomiest thoughts in a kind of musing melancholy, grudging all around them the least enjoyment of pleasure and happiness, and trying to make everybody as dull and as miserable as their dull and miserable selves. Is not this a false charge? Do you not know that you never had any real happiness in the things of time and sense, that under all your ‘pretended gaiety’ there was real gloom, that every sweet was drenched with bitterness, and vexation and shame stamped upon all that is called pleasure and enjoyment; and that you never knew what real happiness was, until you knew the Lord, and were blessed with his presence and some manifestation of his goodness and mercy?

But then there are TRUE charges; and true charges cut very deep. If you were guilty of anything naturally that was laid to your charge, if you had committed some crime or done something manifestly wrong, your head must droop, your countenance fall, and you feel full of inward confusion and shame. So, distinct and apart from false accusations, there are true charges brought against the elect of God in the court of conscience.

1. Moses, for instance, brings true charges. He says, "You have not kept my law in thought, word, or deed; you have broken every commandment, and brought yourself under its curse." Now what can we say in answer to this charge? Have we kept the law, or have we not? Have we loved God with all our heart, and soul, and mind, and strength, and our neighbor as our self, or have we not? Let conscience give the verdict, guilty or not guilty? What does conscience say? "Guilty, my Lord- I have not loved the Lord my God with all my heart, and soul, and mind, and strength; I have not loved my neighbor as myself; I have sinned in thought, in word, in action; I have brought myself under the stroke of God’s law; I am justly condemned by its curse." Here, then, is a true charge, and one which must be met and answered, or we shall perish without hope under the curse and condemnation of the Law.

2. Sometimes conscience also will bring a true charge. And, O, who can stand before the charges of a guilty conscience when it must own that the accusation is true? You may stand before a false charge and lift up your head boldly before the face of the greatest accuser if his accusation be groundless; but when your own conscience bears its inward testimony to the truth of any charge against you, at once you drop. Now conscience must register many things against us- mine does, I am sure, and that almost continually. Can you pass a single day of your life without conscience registering some sin against you? You are kept, I trust, from open evil; you are preserved, as I hope I am preserved, from doing anything outwardly of which you are ashamed, or that will bring reproach upon the cause of God; but the inward workings of your depraved heart, the bubbling, springing up, and oozing forth of that corruption which is innate in us- who can stand against the verdict of his own conscience when it testifies against the inward evil that is ever discovering itself? We must fall under that charge and acknowledge it is true.

3. Satan also will often accuse us, for he is called "the accuser of the brethren." And O what charges Satan can bring against us; what a memory the prince of darkness has. How he will take his stand, as Bunyan represents Apollyon straddling across the whole way, with his fiery darts, and bring to mind this or that sin committed, this or that slip or fall, this or that backsliding; and each fiery dart would strike through your liver had you no shield of faith with which you could quench it. Some of his charges are false, and some of his charges are true; but so confused often is our mind, that we often cannot distinguish the true from the false.

Has he never represented to you that your sins were unpardonable, or that you have committed the unpardonable sin itself? Has he never told you that your backslidings are too great to be forgiven, that no partaker of the grace of God ever sinned like you, and that though there might be hope for others who had not sinned so desperately and with so high a hand, there could be no mercy for you? Has he not stirred up your mind by every vile suggestion, and then tried to persuade you that all these base and vile thoughts were your own, and that by them you have provoked God beyond all patience and endurance? He thus so mixes together true charges and false, that we scarcely know what to say, think, or do.

But I must not dwell farther on this part of our subject. Take all these charges in the aggregate- charges false, charges true, what shall we say to them? We cannot fully answer them; we therefore fall down before them; we dare not a word to say in our own defense; like the woman taken in adultery, we have not a plea with which to silence our accusers.

II The ANSWERS. Now God steps forth. The apostle, as his mouthpiece and ambassador, speaks in behalf of the guilty criminal in those magnificent words, those heart-thrilling accents which have sounded with the sweetest melody to thousands of troubled hearts and afflicted consciences- "It is God who justifies."

A. "It is God who justifies." What CHARGE need we then apprehend, if it is God who justifies? What has filled you, what may even now fill you with guilty dread? Not your sins against man, but your sins against God. Against his dread majesty, before his heart-searching eye you have sinned; his law you have broken; his commandments you have trampled under foot; his revealed will you have slighted- his precepts you have neglected; the sins of your heart, of your lips, of your life, have all been personal sins against a holy, pure, and righteous God.

We may have sinned, and doubtless have done, against our fellow creatures, and would, if we could, repair any damage which they may have sustained at our hand. Some, perhaps, are dead whom we may have wronged, and others may have forgiven or forgotten what we have done or said against them. If we have wronged them in money, that we have repaired, or can repair; and for other offences, which can not be well repaired, we have felt inward grief, and confessed them before the Lord.

If, then, God, against whom we have so sinned, comes forward and himself freely and fully justify us, that is a full answer to the inquiry, to the bold challenge- "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?" That is a full reply to every accusation, a full indemnification for every demand, and a full receipt for every debt. But it must be God who justifies us- not we justify ourselves. Only he against whom we have sinned can justify us from our sins.

But I wish you to observe the scriptural meaning for it is full of blessedness, of the word, "justify." To justify is not simply to pardon or acquit. It is something far more than to acquit, for it gives me a righteousness which I could not have by simple acquittal. To explain this a little more clearly, let us just cast a simple glance at the proceedings of our law courts. Look at a criminal arraigned for an imputed crime. Some years ago there was in Scotland a remarkable poisoning case, and the jury returned what is called a Scotch verdict- "not proven." They did not say the person charged was not suspiciously guilty; they did not say there was not a measure of proof against the criminal, but they held that the whole amount of proof brought forward was not sufficient to justify them in bringing in a clear verdict of guilty. The alleged crime was "not proven;" or, as we say, proved. I have often thought that it would be good if in our law courts it is permissible to return the same verdict, for it would often more satisfy the public mind, and relieve the conscience of the jury. "Not proven," therefore, is only just an escape from "guilty," and is the very lowest form of acquittal.

But there is a step, what I may perhaps call a rise from this, as in our courts of justice, where the criminal, when acquitted, is said to be "not guilty," the jury declaring their belief that he has not been guilty of the crime laid to his charge.

But in some courts, as in a court martial, there is another rise "honorably acquitted," where the accused is not only acquitted, but acquitted in a honorable manner; or as we sometimes read, even in a criminal report, "he leaves the court without a stain upon his character."

Thus you see in earthly courts there may be several degrees from "not proven" to "honorably acquitted;" but even that falls short of justification. A judge does not say, "Take that man and put a royal robe upon him." The Queen does not bid her prime minister honor him, as King Ahasuerus bade Haman honor Mordecai- "Let the royal apparel be brought which the king uses to wear, and the horse that the king rides upon, and the royal crown which is set upon his head."

{Es 6:8} No man, however honorably acquitted, was ever thought worthy of an honor like that.

But when God justifies a man, he not only acquits him, and honorably acquits him- but puts on him a robe of righteousness, a royal robe, in which he stands before God as holy as an angel of light, spotless in the obedience, the glorious obedience of God’s own dear Son. Nor will even the royal crown be withheld; for, for him is prepared "a crown of righteousness," and like the four-and-twenty elders whom John saw sitting, he will be clothed, not only in white clothing, but have on his head a crown of gold, for the Lamb has made him a king and a priest by redeeming him to God by his blood.

{Re 4:4; 5:9-10}

O, what glory there is in this heavenly truth, that you and I, if we believe in the Son of God, though in ourselves poor, guilty criminals, are not only "not guilty" in God’s sight, are not only "honorably acquitted," but are freely and fully justified by the imputation of Christ’s own glorious, immaculate righteousness, and so stand before the eye of God without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. Such a stupendous mystery may well fill our minds with holy wonder, and as it surpasses all creature thought may seem too great to be true. But nothing else could satisfy God, and, I may add, nothing less than this could satisfy our own conscience.

I would think that a criminal who went out of court with a verdict of "not proven" against him, must hang his head down somewhat before the gazing multitude, nor would he like to meet afterwards in the street any of the jurors. Even when the verdict is "not guilty," he must go out of court with some degree of shame if the evidence bears strongly against him. No, even if "honorably acquitted," there might be still some suspicion left in the mind of people that there was some evidence kept back which might have been brought forward, and he himself might have felt stung with some part of the accusation as more than half true.

But to be covered with a robe of righteousness and stand before a holy God as his dear Son stood- without spot or wrinkle or any such thing- how this surpasses all thought of men or conception of angels; yet, I repeat it, nothing but this can satisfy God, and nothing but this can satisfy conscience. Were there but a ‘wrinkle of sin’ in your person you could not stand accepted before God; His holy eye would rest on that wrinkle as an imperfection, and you could not be admitted to his glorious presence while that spot was upon you. Nor can conscience be satisfied with anything short of that which fully satisfies God, for it is his viceregent and speaks in his name.

B. "It is Christ who died." But the apostle asks also another question, which I shall answer at the same time with the present part of my subject. He had asked, "Who is he who CONDEMNS?" Now to condemn is to go a step further than to lay a charge; for to condemn implies an actual bringing in of the criminal as guilty. A charge might have been laid, but not sustained; but a sustained charge brings him in condemned, and if a murderer, shuts him up in the condemned cell, there to abide until brought forward for execution. Now God’s people not only have charges laid against them, some false and some true, but they are condemned, and justly condemned, by the verdict of the law and by the verdict of their own conscience.

Still the apostle, unmoved, unshaken, stands upon the same glorious height, and cries aloud, "Who is he who condemns? Look around, find the man if you can who can justly condemn, effectually condemn, eternally condemn, in God’s sight condemn so that there shall be no reverse, any one of God’s elect." Men may condemn their dangerous doctrines, (as they consider), men may condemn their experience, men may condemn their bigoted views, men may condemn their uncharitable ways, men may condemn their gloomy lives, and even condemn their very souls to perdition, as our Christian poet said of Whitefield: "The world’s best comfort was, his doom was passed; Die when he might, he must be damned at last."

But the question after all is, Does God condemn them? Does he condemn the doctrines which he has himself revealed, condemn the experience which his Spirit has wrought, condemn the life which they live as a life of faith in the Son of God, condemn them for walking in his way, and preferring his will to the will of man or to their own, and will he in the end adjudge their souls to hell? Or if they be justly condemned, as they are condemned by a holy law and a guilty conscience, even that shall not stand.

Why not? Because Christ has died! That is the answer, and the all-sufficient answer. The apostle, you see, never lays the least stress upon works, beginning or end. He has but two answers. To those who lay anything to the charge of God’s elect his answer is, "It is God who justifies." To those who condemn, his answer is, "It is Christ who died."

But O! how much is involved in this simple answer! How it meets every charge, and if it cannot silence every accuser it effectually quashes in the court of God every accusation.

III The CLIMAX But this brings us to what I have called the climax. The term climax is a Greek word, which literally means a ladder, and it is used to signify that peculiar feature and striking figure in oratory whereby the speaker keeps gradually rising in ideas and language, mounting as it were from one summit to another in sublimity of thought and expression, and carrying his audience with him. Now Paul, who was by natural endowment a man of consummate ability, of highly cultivated mind, as well as eminently taught of God and writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has given us in his epistles some beautiful instances of this figure of oratory. The end of this chapter is a noble instance of the power and beauty of climax. "I am persuaded"- see how he rises- for to be persuaded is a step above simple belief- "I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers"how he keeps rising from one point to another; first, "death," then "life," then "angels," then "principalities," then "powers," each one stronger than the other, "nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature"- how he mounts! how he takes us to the top of the ladder, the summit of the climax, "shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

So in our text we have a climax, a spiritual ladder rising higher and higher, its foot placed on the ground, but its top lost amid a blaze of heavenly glory. What are the steps? The first step is "Christ who died;" the second is, "That is risen again;" the third is, "Who is even at the right hand of God;" and the fourth is, "Who also makes intercession for us." It is as if he would crown the whole of his argument with this beautiful climax- to give our conscience thorough peace, and impart to us the blessed assurance that whoever shall lay a charge, no charge shall be sustained; whoever shall condemn, that condemnation shall fall to the ground, and not for a moment be listened to in the courts of heaven.

A. He begins, "It is Christ who DIED," as if that were enough to answer every charge and silence every condemning tongue. For what does the death of Christ imply? It implies a sacrifice; and a sacrifice implies that the victim stands in the place of the person who offers the victim. Blood-shedding and death were integral parts of a sacrifice. "Without shedding of blood is no remission;" without the death of the victim the sacrifice would not be complete. Thus the words, "It is Christ who died," carry with them these two things- 1, The shedding of his blood to put away sins; and, 2, the laying down of his precious life, that by one offering he might ‘perfect’ forever those who are sanctified.

The Holy Spirit expressly declares that "Christ once in the end of the world has appeared to put away sins by the sacrifice of himself." There was no other way whereby sin could be put away. Nothing short of the blood-shedding, sufferings, and death of the Son of God could be such a propitiation for sin as God could accept. He came to do the will of God; and that will was that he should offer up his body and soul as a sacrifice for sin. He finished the work which his Father gave him to do; nor did he bow his sacred head in death until he could say with expiring breath, "It is finished." There is no other relief but this for a guilty conscience; no other answer but this to the condemning sentence of a holy law, or the accusations of the accuser of the brethren. Now, if the sacrifice is complete, that is a sufficient answer to the inquiry, "Who is he who condemns?"

Moses condemns; but now Moses, viewing the dying Son of God, says, "I am satisfied; I required a perfect, unwavering obedience- it has been paid. To my law was attached a solemn and tremendous curse; the Son of God has borne that curse. I am satisfied; I have all that I called for. I have now no charge to lay; I have now no condemnation to bring; I am thoroughly and fully satisfied." Justice is next asked, "What do you say, Justice? Are you content?" "Yes; I am fully satisfied," answers Justice. "How so?" "All has been rendered that I could claim. An obedience was necessary, an active obedience and a passive obedience, that my demands would be fully satisfied. I have got both in the Person of the Son of God, as suffering, bleeding, and dying. His merits are infinite, for his Person is infinite as the Son of God. I am, therefore, well satisfied, and I have no further charge to bring."

"Now, Conscience, what do you say? Are you at peace; are you at rest; have you felt the application of atoning blood, and received it as from God as cleansing from all sin?" Conscience answers. "I am satisfied- all guilt is taken away; it is removed by the blood of the Lamb- I have no charge now to bring."

"Satan, what do you say?" But he does not wait to answer. He has skulked off long ago. The prince of darkness slinked away as soon as the question was put, and has not a word to mutter from his infernal den.

Ask, therefore, Moses, ask justice, ask conscience, ask Satan; all are mute before a dying Christ, a bleeding Lamb, all are silenced by a finished work, an atoning blood, and an accepted sacrifice!

B. But the apostle does not leave us there- he goes on with the climax, steps up another round of the ladder. "Who has RISEN again."

Christ’s resurrection was God’s attesting seal to the truth and certainty of Christ’s mission and to his divine Sonship. If Christ had not risen, there would have been no external, visible, manifested proof that he was the Son of God. The apostle therefore testifies that he was "declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead." This, therefore, has made Christ’s resurrection to be such a grand cardinal feature of our most holy faith; for upon it rests the grand and glorious fact, that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God. And if he was the Son of God, all that he did he did as the Son of God; all that he suffered he suffered as the Son of God. His blood is the blood of the Son of God; his obedience that of the Son of God; his work the work of the Son of God; and all that he now is, and all that he now does, he is and does as the Son of God. But how do we know this? How can we prove it? What is our evidence? It is all proved to a demonstration by his resurrection from the dead.

If it be blessed to view a dying Christ, it is also blessed to view a risen Christ. "He was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification." This secures our own spiritual and eternal life, as the apostle beautifully argues- "Knowing that Christ being risen from the dead dies no more; death has no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once; but in that he lives, he lives unto God."

{Ro 6:9-10}

Highly do we prize, closely do we cling to the cross of Christ. As we view him by the eye of faith bearing our sins in his own body on the tree, we gather up the sweet persuasion that those sins will not be laid to our charge. But when we view him rising from the dead as a mighty conqueror over sin, death, and hell, then our faith embraces him in the power of his resurrection as justifying as well as in the meritorious efficacy of his death as atoning.

C. But the apostle goes on to rise another step in the spiritual climax; he would take our thoughts one flight higher still- "Who is even AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD." He takes us from earth to heaven, lands us within the veil where our great and glorious High Priest entered by virtue of his own blood, and shows us the glorious Son of God at the right hand of the Father. The right hand of God means the right hand of power, of dominion, of authority, and of acceptance. When our blessed Lord went back to the courts of bliss, and the gates of heaven lifted up their heads, and the everlasting doors were lifted up, and the King of glory went in, he sat down at once at the right hand of the Majesty on high. But what did this place of preeminence imply? It certified to principalities and powers, and the whole bright and glorious throng of angelic hosts, that God had accepted his work and given him for his reward that exalted place of power, of honor, and of dignity.

For remember this, that our gracious Lord went up to heaven and sat down at the right hand of God in his human nature. He did not go up to heaven as he came down from heaven- only as the Son of God. He went up to heaven as the Son of Man as well as the Son of God. He went up to heaven in a human nature united to the divine, and therefore entered the courts of bliss as the God-Man, Immanuel, God with us. It is a point of the greatest importance, and to be ever borne in mind by every spiritual worshiper and by every true believer in the Son of God- that our blessed Lord sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high in the same human body which he wore upon earth- glorified indeed beyond all thought or utterance, but the same pure, spotless, holy, and immortal humanity which he assumed in the womb of the Virgin, and which he offered as a sacrifice upon the cross.

To this point the apostle would specially direct our thoughts, and bring it before us as the object and food of our faith. And what an object of faith it is, for, as viewing Jesus at the right hand of God, we see there a mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; we see an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; we see a brother, a friend, a husband enthroned in glory, there- ever living, ever reigning, ever ruling, until God shall have put all enemies under his feet. He would thus encourage us if we feel guilty of charges brought against us and the stings of a condemning conscience, to look out of them all and beyond them all, and say to all our accusers, "It is Christ who died; what have I to do with your accusations, your charges, your condemnation? I have got one who will answer you!"

Does conscience lay a guilty charge
And Moses much condemn,
And bring in bills exceeding large?
Let Jesus answer them!
I have one who can answer for me- it is Christ who died!

But this is not all; it is he who is risen again; no, more, it is he who is even at the right hand of God to plead my cause, to take my case in hand, to meet my accusers, to sprinkle my conscience with his blood, to shed abroad his love in my heart, to assure me that none of these charges shall stand against me, and none of these accusations shall ever be sustained for my full and final overthrow." O, it is a faith in these divine realities which brings us into immediate contact, into some sweet communion with this glorious Mediator at the right hand of the Father. This brings us out of ourselves with all our miseries to look to him with all his mercies; and gives us to see there is more in Christ to save, than there can be in sin to condemn.

But for whom is all this? For believers. "For by him all who believe are justified from all things, from which we could not be justified by the law of Moses." I shall have occasion, I hope, in the evening to speak from a text which has some reference to the intercession of Christ, and I shall therefore not detain you longer this morning by dwelling upon the last step of the ladder. It is equally beautiful and equally blessed; but I shall defer the consideration of it to the next assembling of ourselves together in the name of the Lord.

*A COMPASSIONATE HIGH PRIEST AND A THRONE OF GRACE

Preached at Eden Street Chapel, Hampstead Road, London, on Tuesday Evening, July 27, 1847

 

"For we have not a High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities: but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."- .Heb 4:15-16

 

WHAT reason the church of Christ has to bless God for the epistles that issued from Paul’s inspired pen! And though it may seem scarcely right to select one epistle more than another as pregnant with heavenly instruction, yet, I think, we may safely say, that the epistle to the Romans, to the Galatians, and to the Hebrews, have, of all the epistles, been most signally blessed to the church of the living God. And when for a moment we contrast their author, Paul the Apostle, with Saul of Tarsus, O how striking, how miraculous was the change that grace made in him!

 

Let us take our thoughts backward to three particular seasons in the life of Saul of Tarsus. View him, first, at the feet of Gamaliel imbibing from his lips that traditionary law, that code of rites and ceremonies, which forms at the present day the religion of Israel. Had it then been whispered in his ear, ‘The time will come when you will declare these things to the "weak and beggarly elements," trample them under your feet, and scatter them to the four winds of heaven.’ Would not that youth have said, ‘Perish the thought!’

 

Move a step further in the life of Saul of Tarsus. View him working out his own righteousness, striving to set up a religion whereby he could please God, and force his way to heaven. Had one then whispered in his ear, ‘The time will come when all your hope will rest upon justification by the obedience of another,’ he would have said, ‘That time never will come; the sun may as well cease to rise as for me to look to another’s righteousness whereby to be justified.’

 

Take one step further, and view him keeping the clothes of the witnesses, who had stripped themselves lest their loose garments might encumber them, while they were, according to the Mosaic law, to throw the first stone at Stephen. Had one then whispered in his ear, ‘The time will come when you will believe in Jesus of Nazareth and die for his name.’ would not the thought of his heart have been, ‘Let me rather die first than that such an event should ever come to pass?’ But, doubtless, these very circumstances in Paul’s life were mysteriously overruled for the profit of the church of God. For he, having been in these states, has been able to trace out with clearer evidence and more powerful argument the truth as it is in Jesus, from having experimentally known both sides of the question.

 

The grand object of the Epistle to the Hebrews is to set forth the high priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Into that subject we cannot now fully enter; and yet our text leads us (and may the Lord lead us by the text) into some attempt to shew who this High Priest is, of whom the apostle here speaks. And I think the simplest, and therefore the best division of the subject will be, to shew, as the Lord may enable, in the first place, the mind of the Spirit in the 15th verse , Heb 4:15 "We have not a High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin:" and secondly,  the exhortation which flows from, and is based upon the priesthood of Immanuel, "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."

 

I. -I need scarcely take up your time by shewing at any length in what way the high priest under the law was a type and figure of the Lord Jesus Christ. And yet, there are certain points of resemblance, and certain points of difference, which it will be desirable to enter into, in order to illustrate and set forth more clearly the mind and meaning of the Holy Ghost in the words before us.

 

There were three points of resemblance (there were more, but I confine myself to three) between the high priest under the law and the great "High Priest over the house of God." The first was, that the high priest offered sacrifices; the second, that he made intercession for the sins of the people on the great day of atonement, by taking incense beaten small, and, putting it on the coals which were taken off the brazen altar, with it entered into the most holy place :Le 16:12-13 and the third, that he blessed the people .Nu 6:23

 

Now, in these three points did the high priest under the law beautifully resemble and set forth the great "High Priest over the house of God." But O, how feeble the resemblance! how dim the type! how shadowy the figure! The high priest under the law could only offer the blood of bulls and goats, which can never take away sin; the great "High Priest over the house of God" offered himself -his own body and his own soul -that precious, precious blood, which "cleanseth from all sin." The high priest under the law could only offer incense upon the coals taken from off the brazen altar; the great "High Priest over the house of God" is offering daily the virtue of his sacrifice by "making intercession for us." The high priest under the law could only pronounce the blessing in so many words; he could not give or communicate that blessing to the soul; the great "High Priest over the house of God" can and does bless the soul with the sweet manifestations of his lovingkindness and tender mercy.

 

But again. There are points of difference,  as well as points of resemblance,

 

i. The high priest under the law was but a man; the great "High Priest over the house of God" is God-man, "Immanuel, God with us," the eternal "Son of the Father, in truth and love," having taken our nature into union with his own divine and glorious Person.

 

ii. The high priest under the law died in course of years, and was succeeded by a high priest as mortal as himself ; Heb 7:23 but the great High Priest above liveth for evermore to "make intercession for us."

 

iii. The high priest under the law might be (and the apostle seems to make some allusion to the circumstance here) one who had no sympathy nor fellow-feeling for the infirmities and sins of those for whom he made sacrifice; he might be like some of our priestly Dons who seem all holiness, and have no tender heart to feel compassion for backsliders, and those that are out of the way: but the great "High Priest over the house of God," the apostle here says, is one that is "touched with the feeling of our infirmities."

 

iv. The high priest under the law might be, or might not be, tempted: he might be, or he might not be, a man who knew the plague of his own heart and the workings of his fallen nature, and therefore might not be "tempted in all points" like unto those for whom he might sacrifice: but the great "High Priest over the house of God" was "tempted in all points like as we are." and therefore can have, and has a fellow feeling for the tempted,

 

v. The high priest under the law was a sinner: but the great "High Priest over the house of God" is spotless, without sin, "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens." But the two points to which the apostle here refers, and on which I shall, with God’s blessing, now more especially enlarge, are:

 

1. First,  that our great High Priest, Jesus, is one that is "touched with the feeling of our infirmities," and therefore divinely suitable to us who are encompassed with infirmities. Here lies the grand distinction betwixt the child of God quickened into a sense of his deeply-fallen condition, and a self-righteous pharisee. The child of God, spiritually taught and convinced, is deeply sensible of his infirmities, yea, that he is compassed with infirmities, that he is nothing else but infirmities: and therefore the great High Priest to whom he comes as a burdened sinner -the Lord Jesus, to whom he has recourse in the depth of his extremity, and at whose feet he falls overwhelmed with a sense of his helplessness, sin, misery, and guilt, is so suitable to him as one "touched with the feeling of his infirmity."

 

We should, if left to our own conceptions, fancy naturally that Jesus is too holy to look down in compassion on a filthy, guilty wretch like you and me. ‘Surely, surely, he will spurn us from his feet; surely, surely, his holy eyes cannot look upon us in our blood, guilt, filth, wretchedness, misery, and shame; surely, surely, he cannot bestow one heart’s thought, one moment’s sympathy, or feel one spark of love towards those who are so unlike him.’ Nature, sense, and reason would thus argue, I must be holy, perfectly holy, for Jesus to love; I must be pure, perfectly pure, spotless and sinless, for Jesus to think of.’ But that I, a sinful, guilty, defiled wretch -that I, encompassed with infirmities -that I, whose heart is a cage of unclean birds -that I, stained and polluted with a thousand iniquities -that I can have any inheritance in him, or that he can have any love or compassion towards me -nature, sense, and reason- religion, natural religion in all its shapes and forms, revolts from the idea.

 

And therefore, to set forth the difference betwixt this compassionate, loving, merciful, tender-hearted High Priest, and such a stoical priest as passed by the bleeding one who had fallen among thieves, and would not turn his eyes lest he should be polluted by seeing blood in the path -to contrast, I say, this tender-hearted High Priest with such an unfeeling, religious stoic as this (and many such proud, religious stoics have we in the pulpit and in the pew) the apostle says, "We have not a High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities." It is as though he would thereby specially address himself to the poor, burdened child of God who feels his infirmities, who cannot boast of his own wisdom, strength, righteousness, and consistency, but is all weakness and helplessness. It seems as if he would address himself to the case of such a helpless wretch, and pour a sweet cordial into his bleeding conscience. It is almost as if he said, What! thinkest thou, dear friend, that the great "High Priest over the house of God" will spurn thee away because he is so holy? No; we have not such a High Priest as this.’ There is the negative. ‘Let others have them, if they will; let others rejoice in such priests as they may; let them have all the comfort they can get from them.’ ‘Not so with us, dear brethren,’ he would say. ‘We, the children of God; we, that know each his own plague and his own sore; we, who carry about with us day by day a body of sin and death, that makes us lament, sigh, and groan; we who know painfully what it is to be encompassed with infirmities: we, who come to his feet as being nothing and having nothing but sin and woe; "we have not a High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities:" but One who carries in his bosom that sympathizing, merciful, feeling, tender, and compassionate heart that he carried here below.’

 

There is no change in him; for he is "the same yesterday, today, and for ever;" one and the same Jesus that wept when he saw the tears running from the eyes of the Jews who would comfort Martha and Mary; the same Jesus who did not reject the woman with the issue of blood when she crept through the crowd to touch the hem of his garment: the same Jesus who listened to the cry of the Syrophenician woman, and heard her prayer: the same Jesus who went about doing good. and had tears to weep over human misery and sorrow: the same tender-hearted, merciful, and compassionate Jesus is now at the right hand of God: therefore "touched" -how sweet the word! Do we not know something experimentally of it, when some one comes to us with a tale of woe: and we see the tear, not of the hypocrite, but of unfeigned sorrow, trickling down the cheek? or when a child of God comes to us, tells us how he is burdened with sin and guilt, and sets forth in sincerity and godly simplicity the exercises of his heart -are we not "touched"? Is there not a melting of the soul? a breaking down of heart? He may have come into our company, and we sat stern and unfeeling; we may have looked with a suspicious eye upon him, and doubted whether he had any grace at all in his heart; but let him open his mouth, let grace be clearly manifested in him, are we not "touched"? Is not our heart melted and softened? and is there not a sweet union felt betwixt him and us?

 

Carry this, spiritually, into the idea of our text. This compassionate High Priest is "touched," when we come with our sins, sorrows, infirmities, and complaints, and confess those things which from time to time burden and distress our minds. We have not to deal with an unfeeling, hard-hearted, stoical high priest, who scorns us, turns his eye away from us, and says, ‘Until you are very much holier, I can have nothing to do with you.’ But his heart is touched, and softened "with the feeling of our infirmities." There are some who have the abominable presumption to say, ‘Away with your frames and feelings!’ These presumptuous wretches might as well say, ‘Away with Jesus! away with the great "High Priest over the house of God!" as to say, ‘Away with feeling!’ For is he not "touched with the feeling of our infirmities"? Destroy feeling! and you do all that lies in your power to destroy the great "High Priest over the house of God."

 

Take away feeling out of my heart! you do all in your power to deny there is feeling in the heart of Immanuel. Shall he be "touched with feeling," and you and I never be touched with feeling? Shall frames and feelings be ridiculed, and contempt poured out upon them, when the Holy Ghost here sets forth Immanuel as "touched with the feeling of our infirmities"? Blessings be upon his name: immortal honours crown his brow, that he is "touched with the feeling of our infirmities," that he is not that stoical High Priest which some would set him forth: but that he has a tender heart, which melts, moves, and yearns over our infirmities and sorrows. And I am bold to say, that we can have no communion with the Lord Jesus Christ except we know he is "touched with the feeling of our infirmities." When I go to a man, and tell him my infirmity and sinfulness, if he assume a stern look, as though he were so holy that I must not go into his presence, does not that daunt me? Can I tell out the feelings of my soul -can I open the secrets of my heart to one that has no sympathy? As Hart says,

 

A faithful friend of grief partakes:

But union can be none

Betwixt a heart like melting wax

And hearts are hard as stone:

Betwixt a head diffusing blood,

And members sound and whole;

Betwixt an agonizing God

And an unfeeling soul.

 

There can be no true union and communion with the Lord Jesus Christ except so far as we know that he is "touched with the feeling of our infirmities;" that we have his ear, and can pour into his ear the feelings of our soul; that we have his heart, and when we tell him what we suffer, his heart too is "touched with the feeling of our infirmities." But O how numerous are these infirmities! The whole evening might be taken up with but a slight description of them; infirmities in faith, in hope, in love, in prayer, in reading the word, in preaching, in hearing -infirmities all the day long, so far as we are left to ourselves. And yet this blessed, merciful, compassionate High Priest can be "touched with the feeling of our infirmities."

 

2. But we pass on to consider the second point which the Holy Ghost has here brought forward, connected with this compassionate High Priest -that he was "in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." I feel that I tread here upon very tender ground. I must move cautiously, very cautiously, lest I be betrayed into confusion and error. The Holy Ghost seems to me to have marked out the road by boundaries on each side: and as long as we keep within these boundaries, we keep to the mind of the Holy Ghost. What is one boundary? We must not pass it: "tempted in all points like as we are." What is the other boundary’? "Yet without sin." Between these two boundaries we may safely walk.

 

Are you tempted? Then you may see for your comfort, if the Lord is pleased to apply it to your soul, that Jesus was "tempted in all points" like as you. But then, there is this difference betwixt the blessed Immanuel and you and me, that when we are tempted it is not without sin. But he was "tempted in all points," like as we are, "yet without sin." Sin never touched him; it recoiled, if I may use the expression, from his holy, sinless, spotless nature. Sin charged upon him was the grief of his soul; but sin never found an entrance into his holy, spotless nature. Satan might hurl his darts against him; but "the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me." But it is not so with us. When temptation comes, there is that in our heart which responds to it. And this makes temptation to be such a dangerous and painful thing to a child of God, that there is that in his fallen nature which answers to the temptation; there is that in him which temptation suits, meets, and intertwines with; so that only by the grace of God is he kept in every hour of temptation.

 

Now, I believe firmly, that every child of God will have to endure temptation. James says, "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations:" and he adds, "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation" .Jas 1:2,12 Peter says, "Though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations" .1Pe 1:6 And when Paul was recounting, in the eleventh chapter of the epistle before us, the sufferings of the noble army of worthies, he says, "They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted,  were slain with the sword" .Heb 11:37 Thus these saints of God, in their day and generation, were tempted: and you and I, so far as we are saints, and children of God, must be tempted too. But how numerous and various are our temptations! Some of these temptations are carnal: "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life:" with all those base workings of our deeply-fallen nature, which are better alluded to than described. Then there are temptations to infidelity, temptations to error and heresy, temptations to deny the truth of God, temptations to doubt the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, the doctrine of the Trinity, the personality of the Holy Ghost: in fact, there is not one branch of truth against which the most subtle temptations do not easily find an entrance into the carnal mind, yea, temptations too base to name, too horrible even to hint at.

 

Now here is the difference betwixt the Lord Jesus Christ and us- that these temptations fell upon his holy and spotless nature, but never entered into it: but these temptations do find access to us. ‘But if that be the case,’ one may say, ‘how can the Lord Jesus Christ feel a sympathy for a poor tempted sinner like me? The Son of God was spotless, holy, harmless, undefiled: and I am sinful, evil, and wicked. I feel something within me that closes in with temptation. I have never heard of an error in which I have not found something for my heart to lay hold of. I never hear of a sin without there being something in my heart that seems at once to close in with it. Heresy cannot come abroad without there being something in me that is ready to fall in with it. If the Lord Jesus Christ, then, were tempted like as we are, what is the difference between him and us in this matter?’ I would ask you, what is it in us that makes us feel temptation and groan and cry beneath its weight? What is it that makes us hate sin, abhor heresy, and cleave to the truth -which makes us look to the Lord to deliver us from the power of sin, and trample temptation under our feet? The grace of God in the soul; is it not? The Holy Ghost, we would fain hope, having raised up, through mercy, in our hearts a spiritual and new nature that sees the temptation, feels the temptation, hates the temptation, groans under the temptation and flees unto God to deliver us from the temptation.

 

Now, if temptation is painful to us, it is only painful so far as we are partakers of grace. Temptation is not painful to the ungodly: it creates no agonizing feelings in the dead sinner; but those whose consciences are made and kept alive, those who desire in their heart and soul to love God and live to his glory, and to hate with perfect hatred everything that he hates: they, and they alone, feel, groan, sigh, cry, and lament deeply under the power of temptation.

 

Now if we who know and feel so little, find temptation a weight and burden, let us look at the Lord Jesus Christ. How his holy, spotless human nature must have felt, groaned, grieved under, and recoiled from the arrows of hell shot by the infernal king of darkness! How his holy soul must have shuddered at those things, which were presented to that spotless human nature which he took into union with his own divine Person! Thus, though the Lord Jesus Christ was "tempted in all points, like as we are" -so that there is not a single temptation, trial, or painful feeling which we may experience, that he has not experienced before us -yet through mercy, infinite mercy, he was "without sin;" without one spot, or speck, or tinge of the slightest evil. He stood spotless amid the darts of hell, spotless amid the temptations that were shot like hail against his holy human nature. It is this that so fitted him to become a High Priest -that he is thereby "touched with the feeling of our infirmity." When we go to the Lord Jesus Christ, and tell him how tempted we are, what a burden sin is to our soul, what snares are laid for our feet, how our mind is exercised with this and the other feeling; how we long after a deliverance from the gins, traps, and snares spread for our feet -we go not to one who knows nothing of these things through internal experience. He was "tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin." O what two sweet features in the blessed Jesus -perfect holiness, and yet thorough acquaintance with temptation! And how these features mutually harmonizing draw forth from time to time the affections of our soul unto him! If he were not "tempted in all points like as we are," we should not go to him with our temptations; if he were not "without sin," he could not be the great "High Priest over the house of God."

 

Thus we see in the Lord Jesus Christ a union of two apparently conflicting things -a perfect acquaintance with temptation in all its shapes and forms -a thorough experimental knowledge of it, the only true knowledge -and an entire exemption from sin. Do men decry experience? It is no less than taking the crown off the mediatorial brow: it is doing what is in their power to dethrone Jesus from his high priesthood. Had He not an experimental acquaintance with temptation? Did he look down upon temptation as something he had no acquaintance with, no experience of? something seen in theory, something beneath his feet, but which his holy soul never entered into? No: he had a personal, deep experience of it: and therefore, so far as we have a deep and personal experience of temptation, how it seems to draw forth the feelings of our soul and the affections of our heart, that, tempted as we are, we can go to him as one who has been tempted!

 

And, on the other hand, when we can see his spotless holiness shining through all, this very holiness of his draws forth the reverence of our soul toward him, and the tenderest affection and love of our heart. So that, just as the union of the Godhead and of the manhood in one glorious Immanuel, draws forth the affection and reverence of our soul towards him as God-Man: so the union of perfect holiness and thorough acquaintance with temptation, draws out the sympathy and tenderness of our heart towards him, and draws forth too the sympathy and tenderness of his heart toward us.

 

Thus, the apostle says, "We have not a High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities." Was Paul a man who knew infirmities? Yes, deeply. He tells us that he gloried in them, that the power of Christ might rest upon him .2Co 12:9 Was Paul’s faith, or hope, or love ever weak? Did he feel helplessness, and mourn and sigh beneath sin? Deeply, deeply. Did he get upon some lofty pinnacle, far away from human infirmity, helplessness, and misery? No; he descended more deeply into it than you or I. Was he a man who stood apart and away from temptation, clear from "the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life"? Were the darts of hell never shot against him with infernal fury? "Tempted in all points like as we are." Strike out that word "we." It cannot be "our infirmities," if Paul had none; it cannot be "tempted like as we are," if Paul never was tempted. If he had stood upon some lofty spot, far away from infirmities, far away from temptation, he would have written a lie, had he said "our infirmities," and "tempted like as we are."

 

But Paul could look on the whole church of God, in their infirmities, and say, ‘Like you, dear brethren, I am full of infirmities: I am tempted, dear brethren, as you are.’ And I may say more: if we have none of these infirmities and temptations, these words will not suit us. Men may speak great swelling words about the Christ of God: but I am bold to say, they have got far away from Christ who have got far away from temptations and infirmities. It is through felt infirmity that we go to the great High Priest who is "touched with the feeling of our infirmities:" it is through felt temptation that we come into a personal knowledge of our divine and spiritual union with that great High Priest who was "tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin."

 

I would add one word more. The more we are compassed with infirmity, the more we shall come to him: and the more we are tempted, the more, as the Spirit leads us, shall we have sweet and blessed communion with him. Hard hearts, unfeeling consciences -what communion have these with such an Immanuel as the scriptures set forth? But God’s poor, needy, tried, and exercised family, burdened with infirmities, and assailed with a thousand temptations, through those very infirmities and temptations come to have union and communion with the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

II.- The apostle, therefore, adds, "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." Observe the word "therefore." What is the meaning of that word? It implies a connection with the preceding verses. What had been his drift in the preceding part of the text? "We have not a High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; let us" -What us? proud us? presumptuous us? unfeeling us? dead, dry, notional, Calvinistic us? O no; no such us as that. But we whose minds are exercised, we whose souls are labouring under burdens and difficulties, we who feel ourselves to be lost, ruined, undone sinners, we who are acquainted with the desperate evils of our fallen nature, we that know, painfully know, what infirmities and temptations are -"let us," none else -"let us come." Why? Because we have infirmities? because we have temptations? Not so; but because we have a great High Priest who is "touched with the feeling of our infirmities;" because we have a great High Priest who has been "tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin."

 

That is the foundation of the "therefore." Our infirmities, our temptations are not a sufficient warrant. We must indeed have infirmities, otherwise we cannot go to him who is "touched with the feeling of our infirmities:" we must have temptations, or we cannot know him who has been tempted like as we are tempted. But besides this, we must have faith given us to see this great High Priest: we must have hope given us to cast anchor within the veil: we must have love given us that our heart’s affection may flow forth towards him. We must therefore feel the leadings of the Spirit drawing us to his blessed feet; we must have our eyes anointed with divine eyesalve to see his beauty and glory, and our hearts touched by the blessed Spirit to feel the power of his love and blood.

 

Thus these two things combined -our misery and his mercy, our infirmities and help laid upon One that is mighty, our temptation and the succour he affords to us in our temptation, our wounded spirit and his tender heart -when these two things are combined and felt in our soul’s experience, then we are drawn to a throne of grace. And this is the foundation of the "therefore;" the reason, the spiritual reason, why we should come, and why we do come.

 

1. But he says, "boldly." What does that mean? Presumptuously? God forbid! Recklessly? Never let us entertain the thought. Self-righteously! Perish the supposition. In myself? No; let myself ever be a mass of ruin. What does boldness, then, imply? Holy boldness, spiritual boldness: not reckless daring, not pharisaical presumption, not self-righteous ignorance of God’s perfections, and thus rushing upon the thick bosses of his buckler. But that boldness which is consistent with the deepest reverence of the holy God; that union of godly fear and spiritual confidence which is raised up in the soul by a sense of what I am and of what Jesus is to me. "Let us come boldly," in opposition to slavish fear; "let us come boldly," in opposition to an apprehension that because he is so holy he will spurn me from his footstool. So that to come "boldly," is to come not with daring hardness, not with self-righteousness, not with ignorance; but to come under the sweet drawings of the blessed Spirit confidently, and yet not presumptuously -boldly, and yet not recklessly; the ground of our boldness being, not what we are in ourselves, but what the "great High Priest over the house of God" is to us.

 

2. But where are we to "come?" To "the throne of grace." How much this word is used! but it is to be feared how little its sweet and solemn import is understood! Look at the words. We use words sometimes till we use them like parrots: without knowing or feeling their divine meaning. "A throne of grace!" What does it mean? Let us analyse the expression. Grace is here represented as sitting enthroned: in other words, grace as a king, as the apostle elsewhere says, "reigning through righteousness unto eternal life." Grace embodied in the Person of Immanuel is "the throne of grace." Then, where grace sits embodied in the Person of Immanuel, where grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life, where grace superabounds over the aboundings of sin, where grace wins the day in spite of guilt, sin and shame; where grace sits like a monarch upon his throne, swaying his sceptre over his willing subjects -there is "the throne of grace."

 

Now, look at it in this way. Perhaps you fall upon your knees before you go to bed; and call this ‘going to a throne of grace,’ when all the time you are upon your knees there is not one feeling in your soul that grace is reigning through righteousness to justify, pardon, and bless you. A mere dropping upon your knee, a mere stuttering out of a few formal petitions is called ‘going to a throne of grace.’ So ministers will use a set of mill-horse petitions, and call it ‘going to a throne of grace,’ when they are ignorant what "a throne of grace" is, and never think when they run their unmeaning round of senseless words, what "a throne of grace" really and virtually means.

 

To come to "a throne of grace" is to come to that spot where grace reigns, where grace wields its blessed sceptre, where grace flows out of the fulness of Immanuel, as the rays of light and heat flow out of the sun -and flows into the heart of sinners to pardon their sins, heal their backslidings, save their souls, and deliver them from the bottomless pit. To come thus feelingly to "a throne of grace," how different, O how different from falling upon our knees and tumbling out a few senseless petitions with our mind’s eye at the very end of the earth! To feel our souls encompassed with infirmities, assailed with a thousand temptations, and yet by faith to catch a view of the great "High Priest over the house of God;" to see and know that he is "touched with the feeling of our infirmities," and was "tempted in all points like as we are," for the very purpose that grace might reign through righteousness, that grace might be manifested in his blood and obedience, that grace might deliver our souls from the bottomless pit, that grace might flow into our hearts and comfort our cast-down spirits, that grace might reign triumphant in us -so to come (but O, how rarely we come so) is really to come to "a throne of grace."

 

But we can only come thus when labouring under the burden of infirmities. It is my infirmities that make "the throne of grace" precious. The more temptations I have, the more grace I want: the more infirmities I feel, the more the superaboundings of grace are needful for my soul. The connection, therefore, between my infirmities and temptations and "the throne of grace," is the closest imaginable. We come that these infirmities may be pardoned, and we strengthened under them; that we may be delivered from these temptations, and supported under them while they are working together for our spiritual good.

 

3. "That we may obtain mercy." What "we? We find mercy!" Surely the apostle slipped in a wrong word here. Had he not obtained mercy? Had he not found pardon and peace? Had not the Lord Jesus been made precious to his soul? Yet he says, "that we may find mercy." What says Mr. Hart? "Begging mercy every hour." O yes. The man that knows he is a sinner, who feels sin deeply and daily, cannot be satisfied with having found mercy once in his life, with having once tasted the mercy of God in his soul. I will tell you those who are so satisfied -those who are not compassed with infirmities, those who are not tempted nor tried.

 

But those who are compassed with infirmities, who find themselves little else but one mass of infirmity, and are tempted with a thousand temptations -their sins are so great, their backslidings are so many, their inward iniquities and enormities are of such an aggravated cast, that they want mercy, mercy, mercy. Mercy for every unclean desire, mercy for every foolish, trifling word, mercy for every angry or unbecoming expression, mercy for every look, mercy for every thought, mercy for every prayer; and if ministers, mercy for every sermon: for sin, wretched sin, is so mingled with all we think, say, or do, that we want mercy again and again, again and again, to be manifested and revealed to our souls. But what makes us want it? and where are we to go to get it? Why, it is infirmity and temptation that make us want it, and we must go to "a throne of grace" to obtain it. When then we can look to Jesus, see him with mercy in his hands and love in his heart, find his glorious grace triumphant over a thousand sins and backslidings, reigning through righteousness unto eternal life, and rising with its mighty tide over all the workings of our filthy nature, and receive it into our hearts -this is going to "a throne of grace that we may obtain mercy."

 

4. And not only "obtain mercy," but to "find grace to help in time of need." What! had not the apostle got beyond "time of need?" Surely he must have learnt his lesson very imperfectly. Had he not the ‘five points’ all well established in his creed? O yes; but he had his "time of need." And how often was that? Once a year? once in two years? or once in ten years? I am bold to say, that his "time of need" never outstretched a day. I should not go too far, if I were to say his "time of need" never outstretched an hour. What is a "time of need"? Every time that we feel infirmity, every time that we are exercised with temptation. If I feel my infirmities, and know I shall be carried away by them unless grace prevent; if I have temptations, and find they will swallow me up unless grace be in counteraction to overcome them, and deliver me from them, it will be with me "a time of need." So that, the more I am encompassed with infirmities, and the more I feel the weight and power of temptation, the more multiplied my "times of need" are.

 

But is not this drawing a vast revenue of grace out of Christ Jesus? Those whose "times of need" are very rare do not want much grace. If they have very few infirmities and very few temptations, it is a contradiction in terms to say they want "grace to help." But in proportion to the multiplication of our infirmities, and in proportion to the multiplication of our temptations, will be our want of "grace to help in time of need."

 

So that would we prize, deeply prize, the sweetness of mercy, we must walk in the midst of infirmity, and be compassed with temptation. Would we find grace, the sweetness of grace, the power of grace, the blessedness of grace, we must have "times of need," in order to bring us to "a throne of grace." Are there not (to our shame be it spoken) many times when we seem to need nothing? No exercises of soul, no temptations, no trials, no inward going out of the heart after the things of God? When there are these seasons (and they are too, too many) there is no going to "a throne of grace." therefore, there is no "obtaining mercy," no "finding grace to help in time of need." But, on the other hand, when we are compassed with infirmities, exercised with temptations, these are "times of need." Here is a snare I shall fall into, if grace do not prevent: there is a temptation that will carry me away, if grace do not help; here are my sins opening their jaws to swallow me up, if grace do not save me; Satan is alluring me in a thousand forms, and grace alone can deliver me from his wiles. So that I draw forth grace out of the compassionate High Priest, just in proportion to my spiritual knowledge of infirmities, and my spiritual acquaintance with temptation in its various shapes and forms.

 

Who, then, are the people who really know Jesus, and have union with him? The proud, presumptuous, unexercised, light, trifling, hard-hearted, dry Calvinists, with a clear, well-defined scheme in their head, but as devoid of grace as the white of an egg is of taste? No; they may talk about Jesus with great swelling words. Christ may be first, Christ may be last, and Christ may be their whole theme; yet an unknown Christ, an unfelt Christ, an unapplied Christ, an unenjoyed Christ; because it is through infirmities alone that we can have fellowship with him who is "touched with the feeling of our infirmities," and it is through temptation alone we come to know him who was "tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin." But would not you, many a time, have for ever done with infirmities, your greatest plague, and with temptation, your sorest pain? Would he not be your greatest friend who would take away all your infirmities, and keep temptation from ever coming into your soul? Your friend, your friend! And have you not thought sometimes you would get under such a ministry, where infirmities and temptations were never touched upon? Your friend, your friend! -your greatest enemy, your greatest enemy!

 

Take away infirmities, take away temptation, and you take away coming to "the throne of grace:" you take away sweet union to the great High Priest who is "touched with the feeling of our infirmity." Take away your trials, your afflictions, your various inward exercises, and you take away prayer out of your soul, sighing and groaning to the Lord, breathing after his presence within, and sweet communion with him. Take away your infirmities and your temptations, and you take away a good part of your religion. Not that religion consists in these things; but the comings in of the mercy and grace of God are so blended with infirmities and temptations, that if you take away the one, you take away the other.

 

Now do we not see a little of the sweet connection of our text? Here we have the great "High Priest over the house of God," "touched with the feeling of our infirmities," and "tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin;" and though we are thus infirm, and thus tempted, the Holy Ghost invites and bids us, and at times sweetly draws us, to come to this "throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." So that, while on the one hand, there is every encouragement for the poor, needy, helpless, tried, and tempted, there is not the shadow of a shade of encouragement for those who are at ease in Zion, and have a name to live while dead.

 

The Lord encourage us from time to time who know these things in our soul’s experience to come to "a throne of grace." Though separated in body, we can meet there in spirit. And sure I am, from personal experience, the more we know of these infirmities and temptations, the more we shall go to "a throne of grace." And when from time to time we "obtain mercy and find grace to help," we can bless the Lord God Almighty that ever there should be such "a throne of grace," and such a merciful, loving, compassionate High Priest seated upon it, to comfort, save, and bless our never-dying souls.

*A CONFESSING SINNER AND A FORGIVING GOD

Preached at Zoar Chapel, London,

on August 9, 1846, by J. C. Philpot

 

"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1Jo 1:8-9

 

Perfection in Christ the Scriptures are full of; perfection in man the Scriptures know not. The whole testimony of God in his word is to perfection in Christ. Every Scripture that speaks of his Godhead declares his perfection—for what is there but perfection in Godhead? And every passage that speaks of his humanity declares his perfection—for if he had not had a perfect human nature, he could not have offered that nature a sacrifice for sin. As the Lamb of God, without spot, or blemish, or any such thing, he is "holy; harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens." (Heb 7:26.) If there is any perfection in the church, it is only found in Christ; by her having an eternal and vital union with him.

 

But as to man, that fallen creature, the whole testimony of God's word is to the depth of his apostasy. The Scripture positively declares, "There is none righteous, no, not one—there is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God—they are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one." (Ro 3:10-12.) "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." (Jer 17:9.) And lest we should fancy, that when the blessed Spirit had regenerated and taken possession of a man, making his body his temple, then there was some perfection to be found in his heart, the Scripture brings before our eyes the awful falls and sad departures of God's most highly favored saints—Noah, Lot, Abraham, Moses, David, and Solomon. These blots are recorded against God's eminent saints, to put down that false notion, that there is anything like perfection in the creature.

 

And yet there are those who indulge in the wild dream of human perfectibility. There are those who even boast that they have attained to perfection. And there were such doubtless in John's day. There were, in his time, proud, ignorant, blind, deluded wretches, who said that they had cleansed their heart from all evil, that perfection dwelt in them, and that sin was no more to be found in them. Some of these were Pharisees, completely ignorant of the requirements of God's holy law, thoroughly unacquainted with the depth of man's fall. And others were dry doctrinalists, who could speak much about Christ; but, knowing nothing of the workings of depravity in their own nature, overlooked all the heavings and boilings of the corrupt fountain within; and because they read of the church's perfection in Christ, claimed unsinning perfection to themselves.

 

Against these characters John deals this heavy blow; against those who claim this perfection he brings out this sharp sword, and cuts them down with this overwhelming stroke, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." Talk about your Christianity—talk about your religion—talk about your standing—and say, "I have no sin," you are a deceiver, John boldly declares—"so far from being, as you think you are, a perfect Christian, the very truth is not in you; you are nothing but a deceived, awfully deceived character." But he brings out, with the other hand, consolation for the people of God, who feel distressed on account of their inward guilt and sin. Thus while, on the one hand, he cuts down the perfectionist, legal or evangelical—on the other, he raises up the poor, condemned, drooping saint, who is bowed down with a sense of his guilt and shame; and opening the rich cordial of gospel consolation, says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

 

These, then, with God's blessing, will be the two leading features of my subject this evening.

 

I. John's declaration—"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."

II. That comforting cordial for poor, bowed down, guilty creatures—"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

I. John's declaration—"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." Man, in a state of nature, whether he be in profanity or in a profession, knows nothing of the real character of sin. God indeed has not left himself without witness in the human heart; natural conscience, where it is not seared as with a hot iron, bears testimony against sin. But its hideous nature, its awful depths, its subtlety, its workings, its movements, its cravings, its lustings; the heights to which it rises, the depths to which it sinks—no man is vitally and experimentally acquainted with sin thus, except that man into whose heart light has shone, and into whose conscience life has come. There is a veil over man's heart by nature—a veil of ignorance, of delusion, of unbelief, of self-deception; and as long as that "veil remains not taken away in the reading of the Old Testament," as the apostle speaks, (2Co 3:14,) nothing is seen of the purity and perfection of God, or of the spirituality and breadth of his holy law, and nothing is known of the deep sinfulness and corruption of the creature.

 

But when the Lord the Spirit takes a man really and vitally in hand; when he truly begins his sovereign work of grace upon the soul, he commences by opening up to the astonished eyes of the sinner something of the real nature of sin. I do not mean to say, he discovers to the sinner at first the whole depth of the malady; he rather deals with him as the wise physician deals with his patient. The patient comes with an incurable disease; the physician sees in a moment the nature of the malady; he knows that death has laid hold of him, and that a few months will close his mortal career. But he does not tell him so at first; he begins to open up the case, wears a solemn countenance, hints to him his condition; but reserves his deeper admonitions for a future occasion, that he may gradually let him into the awful secret, that he may by degrees unfold to him that he is on the borders of the grave, and that the green turf will soon close over his bones.

 

Thus the blessed Spirit, in his first dealings with the sinner's conscience, does not open up to him the depth of the malady. He makes him indeed feel that the whole head is sick, the whole heart faint; he discovers to him the purity of God, the breadth and spirituality of the law, and, correspondingly, a sense of iniquity in himself; he brings upon his conscience outward transgressions, and lays upon it the guilt of those sins which are open to the eye, and which are the more conspicuous branches that spring out of so deep a root. But, after a time, he begins to take him, as he took the prophet Ezekiel, into "the chambers of imagery," and shows him greater things than these. He not only shows him the huge, high, wide-spreading branches of sin, but bids him look down and see how deeply-rooted sin is in his very being; that sin is not an accident, a faint blot that may soon be washed out; a something on the surface, like a skin disease, that may be healed by a simple plaster, or gentle ointment. He shows him that sin is seated in his very bones; that this deep-rooted malady has taken possession of him; that he is a sinner to his very heart's core; that every thought, every word, every action of man's whole being is one mass of sin, filth, and pollution.

 

And if he attempts, as most awakened sinners do attempt, to purify himself, to ease his guilt, by lopping off a few outside branches; if he attempts to wash himself clean from iniquity, the Spirit will teach him the meaning of Job's words, "Though I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands ever so clean; yet shall you plunge me in the ditch, and my own clothes shall abhor me." (Job 9:30-31.) Until at last God brings him to this spot, that he is a sinner throughout; yes, that he is the chief of sinners; that every evil lodges in his heart, and the seed of every crime dwells in his fallen nature.

 

When a man is brought here, he is brought to the place of the stopping of mouths—his own righteousness is effectually cut to pieces; his hopes of salvation by the works of the law are completely removed from under him. Those rotten props, those vain buttresses are cut away by the hand of the Spirit from the sinking soul, that he may fall into himself one mass of confusion and ruin. And until he is brought here he really can know nothing of a free-grace salvation, of the super-aboundings of grace over the aboundings of sin, of God's electing love, of Christ's substitution and suretyship, of his atoning blood, his justifying righteousness, and dying love; he can know nothing of the rich provisions of almighty power and eternal mercy that are lodged in the fullness of a covenant Head. He has no eyes to see, no ears to hear, no heart to feel, no arms to embrace a whole Christ, a precious Christ, a Savior from the wrath to come; who has stood in the sinner's place and stead, made full atonement for sin, fulfilled the law, brought in everlasting righteousness, and justified the ungodly. He cannot receive this precious Savior who "of God is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption," until he has fallen and been buried in the ruins of guilt and shame.

 

Now, such a character as this will never say, "I have no sin. A man taught by the Spirit, who has a living conscience, who feels the workings of godly fear, who has seen an end of all perfection, who knows the breadth of God's law, never dares to mock God, never dares so deceive himself, as to say, "I have no sin; I have cleansed my heart from iniquity; there remains no more pollution in me; I am pure every whit." No such presumptuous language as this can ever pass out of that heart which God has circumcised to fear his name. None can utter such language but that "generation who are pure in their own eyes, and yet who are not washed from their filthiness" (Prov. 30:12); or such as resemble that wretch, of whom we read, "such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eats, and wipes her mouth, and says, I have done no wickedness." (Pr 30:20.)

 

Can we say, then, that "we have no sin" in thought? Is not every thought sinful, except such as come immediately from God? Must not everything which springs from my polluted heart be polluted? If there be a fountain that casts forth salt water, must not every drop of that fountain be briny and salt? If my heart is altogether a mass of sin, then every thought that proceeds from that heart must be deeply tainted with sin. Therefore, we cannot say, "I have no sin," in that sense, when every thought is full of sin.

 

Nor can we say, "we have no sin" in word. Who ever speaks without some sin attending the utterance of his lips? We may speak upon worldly things; is not sin mixed with it? We speak on divine things, does not sin attend it? We talk to sinners, sin is mingled with our speech; we talk to saints, sin is mingled with our words.

 

Can we say, we never sin in deed—we, that have made a profession, some ten, some twenty years—can we say, that we have never sinned in deed in action? The Lord may have kept us from falling into very great and grievous sins; but who dare say (I dare not), he has not sinned in action? Who has not walked upon the very brink of evil, if he has not actually stumbled and fallen into it? Who can lift up his head before God and before his people, and say, "Since the Lord quickened my soul I have never done any one thing I am ashamed of?" If we say, we have never so sinned, it is to be feared we come under John's condemnation, "we deceive ourselves."

 

Can we say, we have no pride? when we find it continually working. Can we say, we have no hypocrisy? when it is continually manifesting itself. Can we say, we have no presumption? when it is continually intruding its hateful head. Can we say, we have no rebellion? when the feeblest trial will stir up its proud waves. Can we say, we have no covetousness? when our heart is often going after the things of time and sense. Can we say, we have no peevishness? when a mere trifle will sometimes stir up our evil temper. Can we say, our eyes have no sin? when they are gathering iniquity with well-near every look. Can we say, our ears are free from sin? when nearly every thing that passes through them contaminates the conscience, and works upon our depraved nature. Can we say, our lips are free from sin? when they are continually uttering that which is not for the glory of God. Can we say, our hands are free from sin? Can we say, our feet are free from sin?

 

Can we say of ourselves, in any shape, in any form, that "we have no sin?"—when it gets up with us as we rise in the morning, and to our shame and sorrow is with us all the day—when it lies down with us, and often accompanies us in the night season? Can we say, with this daily, hourly, momently experience of sin continually defiling our conscience with its filthy streams, can we ever be among those who say, "we have no sin?" If we say so, we would have a lie in our right hand. If we said so, we should do violence to our own convictions, and speak against the testimony of God in our own conscience.

 

It is, then, a mercy to have a negative evidence, if you have not a positive one. It is a mercy, if you feel that you are sinners. Look at those who say they have no sin, who are perfectly free, who have cleansed their hearts, and reformed their lives, and have lopped this wide-spreading tree down to the very ground. What is the testimony of the Holy Spirit concerning them? They "deceive" themselves; they are deluded; they are blinded by the god of this world; they know not God; they know not themselves; they know not the evil of their hearts; they know not the workings of their fallen nature; they are altogether under the power of Satan as an angel of light, and there is no truth in them. They know nothing of the power of God, of the truth as it is in Jesus, of salvation by grace, of the Spirit's work upon the heart, or of the dealings of God upon the enlightened conscience.

 

II. That comforting cordial for poor, bowed down, guilty creatures—"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." But, on the other hand, as this bright sword in the hand of the Spirit cuts down all fleshly perfectionists, and lays low in the dust as deceived creatures those who boast they have cleansed themselves from all impurity, how it smiles upon the poor mourning pilgrim here below! While it turns its face clothed with frowns, and menaces wrath and destruction against all self-deceivers who say they have no sin, what a smiling countenance does the same text turn to the poor mourners in Zion, who feel painfully they are sinning every moment, and are sighing and crying by reason of the plague of their heart! To them we turn; for to them especially does the second branch of our subject speak in words of sweet consolation, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

 

This is addressed to God's people; those who know the depth of the fall, who are mourning and sighing by reason of indwelling sin, and upon whose conscience it often presses as a burden too heavy to be borne. Now look at the difference between these two characters. We will suppose them seated this evening in the same pew. Here is one, who says, "I have no sin;" he knows nothing of the evil of the heart, of the workings of his own corruptions; he sees nothing of the purity of God's character; he knows nothing of the condemnation of the holy law; he thinks himself bound for heaven, and has no doubt of safely arriving there—a vessel fraught for its destined harbor, and never concerning faith to make shipwreck; congratulating himself he is not so bad as others; casting an eye of disdain upon those whom he sees laboring under sin, and the evils of their heart; and flattering himself that he stands high in God's favor because he is so like God. That man, whoever he be, is a deceived wretch; and so far as being on the road to heaven, he is traveling fast down to the chambers of death.

 

But, by his side, hanging his head, drooping in spirit, cast down in soul, is one whose heart God has touched; into whose conscience the blessed Spirit has brought light and life; one who has had the veil taken off his heart; one who knows himself by divine teaching to be a sinner before God. And what are his feelings? "O my sins, my sins! What a burden they are to my conscience! Shall I ever have them taken off? Shall I ever hear the sweet words proclaimed to my soul, 'Go free?' Will my soul ever be landed in glory? Will my sins be forever a mill-stone around my neck; or will they be cast into the depths of the sea, that when sought for they shall never be found?"

 

Look at these two characters. One all joy, the other all sorrow; one all presumption, the other all unbelief; one all confidence, the other all doubting; one all risings, the other all sinkings; the one growing day by day higher and higher, until at last, like Job's hypocrite, his head reaches the clouds, and the other sinking, sinking, sinking in his feelings, growing day by day viler and viler, guiltier and guiltier, worse and worse. Which is the sinner? which is the saint? Which is the heir of heaven? which is the heir of hell? Which is the child of God? which is the child of the Wicked One? Which is the tare? which is the wheat? Which is the sheep? which is the goat? I leave it to conscience to decide. I know well on which side of the line that poor bowed down sinner stands; that he is on the right side of the line of mercy, and will one day stand at the right hand of the good and great Shepherd, when he shall separate the sheep from the goats.

 

But for his comfort the Lord speaks by his Apostle John in these words, "If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." But is it so very easy to put this in practice? Very easy in theory, very easy by the lips; but with the heart, O, how difficult, O, how impossible, except God himself is pleased specially to work with divine power in the soul!

 

A. There are several things that keep a man, though he feels sin, from confessing it to God.

 

1. One is, hardness of heart. The Lord's family have often to feel very painfully hardness of heart—the law cannot soften it, guilt cannot melt it, the very pangs of hell in a man's conscience cannot dissolve or break it down. They only harden it. His conscience may bleed with guilt, and his heart be hard as adamant; and therefore this hardness, (and O what a wretched feeling it is for a child of God to be so hard Godwards, so impenitent, so unfeeling, so unable to melt down at the feet of his dread Majesty) this hardness will seal and shut the mouth against confession.

 

2. Another thing that keeps the mouth from uttering the language of confession is despondency. Wherever despondency lays hold of a child of God, he cannot fully nor freely confess—he may feel miserable through sin; he may have the pangs of hell in his soul; but there is no free discharge; there is no flowing forth; his heart is shut up and closed by this stone on the well's mouth; and this stops confession.

 

3. Unbelief—that God does not or will not hear his cries. Doubts and fears of being rejected, and all the sad misgivings, fears, and terrors of an awakened conscience—these are often a great bar against confession of sin; for unbelief stops the mouth, as well as the utterance of the feelings of the soul.

 

B. But yet the Lord does bring his people to confess. Is it not his own promise? "They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them." (Jer 31:9.) So that the Lord (and the Lord alone) can make the soul really confess its sins before him. And when is that?

 

1. Why, sometimes the Lord presses this confession out of the sinner's lips by the very weight of guilt that he puts upon him. He feels so guilty, so full of shame and sin, that he must confess; he can bear the burden no longer. It is so in nature. How many felons, at the gallows foot, have been compelled by the testimony of conscience to confess their crimes? How many a hidden murderer has been obliged by the weight of his sin to come forward and deliver himself into the hands of justice? Shall natural conscience force confession; and shall spiritual conscience not force it forth? So that when guilt lies very heavy upon a man's conscience, confession flows, because confession is forced out of it.

 

2. But still, another thing is needed, and that is, that confession should be drawn out of him, as well as driven. Is not this true in nature? If you have a child, and believe that child has done something wrong, you can sometimes draw confession out of him when you cannot drive. Hard speeches, taking down the rod, and threatening him with punishment, will only shut his mouth; but take him on your knee, and you will then find that you can draw out of his bosom that confession which the fear of the rod only kept closer in his own breast. Is it not so in grace? Does not the Lord draw sometimes confession of sin out of our bosom? Does not the Lord sometimes by the sweet and secret operations of his grace upon the soul draw us to his footstool? Does he not show us the mercy-seat? and does he not draw forth, by the sweet enkindlings of light and life, the confession of those sins by which our conscience has been burdened and guilty?

 

3. But still, there is something more needed to bring it fully out, to lift it out of the very depths of the heart. Driving may bring out some, drawing may bring out more; but still there is some remaining, like water at the bottom of a well, which neither driving nor drawing will completely bring forth. Yet there is one thing that can do it, that goes down to the very depth of the well, that sinks into the very feelings of a man's innermost conscience; that is, some discovery of a bleeding, suffering, agonizing Redeemer. And when there is some sight to the eye of faith of a bleeding, agonizing, suffering Jesus, then confession comes out of the very bottom of a man's heart. There is not a single secret that is kept back; there is no reserve made; the heart is emptied down to the very bottom.

 

But, "if we confess our sins;" that is, if we are enabled under these feelings to tell the Lord that we have transgressed, that we have backslidden, that our idolatrous heart, that our adulterous eye, that our covetous spirit, that our wicked nature has broken forth on the right hand and on the left; if we are enabled thus to "confess our sins," God has revealed for our comfort this blessed promise.

 

But some may ask this question, "What! am I to confess every sin I have committed?" How can you? How many have you committed? How many millions of moments have you lived?—so many millions of sins you have committed. How many times have you drawn breath into your lungs? How many times has your pulse beat since you came into this mortal state?—so many times has sin been committed by you. And therefore how can we confess all our sins? We might as well think, when we walk at midnight, and look up to the bright sky, of counting every star; we might as well dream, when strolling by the sea-shore, of counting every sand, or numbering every pebble, as think of telling the Lord every sin we have committed.

 

But those that lie upon the soul, those that are manifested in the light and life of God's teaching, those which are deeply felt, and which honest conscience bears witness to; those which the Spirit discovers—these we are to confess, these we shall confess, and these we must confess, as God gives us the power. O! however painful, may the Lord ever give you and me, who desire to fear his name, power to confess our sins to him. I am sure we must, if the conscience is made tender. We cannot go to him with lip service; we may sometimes bend our knee before him, and attempt to confess. But it is hard work; mere labor with the lip that tends to poverty. But there will be times and seasons when the Lord will so lay the guilt of our numerous transgressions upon our conscience, that we must bewail, cry, groan, and tell him with shame and confusion of face that we are the vilest of transgressors, and of sinners the chief.

 

Whatever be your confidence of going to heaven, whatever your strong assurance, whatever your knowledge of the doctrines of grace, whatever be the opinions you have formed of yourselves, or the opinion that others have formed of you, I would not pick up your religion if it lay before me in the street, if it know nothing of honest confession of sin. I would as soon think of taking up the dung that lies in the road, or some cast-off shoe, such as we see lying in the canal; I should as soon think of picking up some dirty rag that lies in the street, and putting it into my bosom, as take up a religion that knows nothing of confession before God or honesty before man.

 

C. But what a gracious promise the Lord gives to those who confess! "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins."

 

1. "He is FAITHFUL." Why would John select this attribute? Why would not John say, "He is merciful"—"He is gracious"—"He is kind?" Why would John lay this stress upon God's faithfulness? I will tell you—because he desires to lay it upon a very broad foundation. If I wish to erect a very noble, commanding and lofty superstructure, I must have a foundation, a basis, equally broad equally strong, for that building to stand upon. Now God's faithfulness is, if I may use the expression, that broad attribute in the divine majesty on which everything rests. As the Apostle says, "Let God be true, and every man a liar." Faithfulness—in other words, truth—is the very character of God. He might not be merciful, but he must be faithful. The mercy of God was not known until man fell. Ages had rolled away before the mercy of God was known; but God's faithfulness was ever known, and must be known, to the creatures of his hand. It is the very foundation of the Godhead. If he could cease to be faithful, he would cease to be God.

 

And, therefore, when the Apostle would lay a very broad foundation for the poor sinner to stand upon, he does not build it upon God's mercy, though so great; nor upon God's grace, though superabounding; nor upon God's love though everlasting; but he places it upon a greater, wider, stronger, broader foundation than these; and that is, God's eternal faithfulness—the veracity, the truthfulness, the very character of Jehovah, as he who cannot lie.

 

But in what way, and in what sense is God's attribute of faithfulness manifested? In this—God has promised to pardon repentant sinners; God has promised to forgive those who come to him, confessing their transgressions against him. Now it would impugn the divine veracity, it would cast a shade over God's holy character, if there were any repentant sinner whom God rejected; if there were any broken heart which God did not heal; if there were any spiritual confession that did not enter into the ears of the Lord almighty. And therefore, John builds up the soul, not on God's mercy (though all pardon flows from God's mercy), but on God's faithfulness, because what he has said, he will fulfill to the very letter.

 

2. But this is not the only attribute of God's character that John brings forward. He says, "He is faithful and JUST." O what a word is that! There is scarcely to my mind such a word in the Bible as that; so great, so glorious, so comforting—"He is faithful and just." "Just?" say you, "Why I know that God's mercy and God's grace can pardon sinners; but how can God be just, and pardon transgressors? Does not God's justice demand the punishment of sin? Does not God's justice blaze forth in eternal lightnings against the soul that transgresses his holy law? How, then, can it be true, that God can be just, and yet forgive a confessing sinner? But it is true—divinely true—blessedly, eternally true. And in it is locked up that grand mystery of redemption by the blood and obedience of God's co-equal Son. It is locked up in this one word—"just."

 

But how? it may be asked. In this way. The Lord of life and glory became a security and substitute for those whom his Father gave to him. He entered into their place and stead. He endured the punishment that was due to them. For them he fulfilled the whole law by his doings, and by his sufferings. For them he bled, and for them he died. For them he rose again, and for them ascended up to the right hand of the Father. And now justice demands the sinner's pardon, and puts in its righteous plea. And see the difference. Mercy begs, justice demands—mercy says, "I ask it as a blessing;" mercy, as a part of God's character, looks down with pity and compassion on the mourning criminal—but justice says, "It is his due; it is his right; it belongs to him; it is his because the Redeemer has discharged his debt, because the Surety has stood in his place, because the Savior has obeyed that law for him which he could not obey in his own person." So that when we can receive this blessed and glorious truth—that to those who confess their sins, "God is faithful," and not merely "faithful," but also "just to forgive them their sins,"—how it draws out of the bosom of Jehovah a full, free, and irrevocable pardon of all transgressions, and especially of those transgressions that the sinner confesses at his footstool!

 

Has the Lord made sin your burden? Has he ever made you feel guilty before him? Has he ever pressed down your conscience with a sight and sense of your iniquities, your sins, your backslidings? And does the Lord draw, from time to time, honest, sincere, unreserved confession of those sins out of your lips? What does the Holy Spirit say to you? What has the blessed Spirit recorded for your instruction, and for your consolation? "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins." Not merely on a footing of mercy; still less because you confess them. It is not your confessing them, but it is thus—your confessing them is a mark of divine life; your confessing them springs from the work of grace upon your heart. If, then, you possess divine life, if you have grace in your soul, you are a child of God; and if a child of God, Jesus obeyed for you—Jesus suffered for you—Jesus died for you—Jesus has put away your sin. And, therefore, you being a child of God, and Jesus having done all these things for you, God is now "faithful" to his promise that he will receive a confessing sinner; and "just" to his own immutable and veracious character. And thus, from justice as well as mercy, from faithfulness as well as compassion, he can, he will, and he does pardon, forgive, and sweetly blot out every iniquity and every transgression of a confessing penitent.

 

D. "And cleanse us from all unrighteousness." He cleanses our conscience from the guilt of sin, cleanses our heart from the filth of sin, and cleanses our soul from the power of sin; for these three comprehend the cleansing operations of the Spirit upon the heart. We mourn under the guilt of sin; we sigh and groan under the power of sin. Now if the Lord can cleanse by his blood from the guilt of sin; can wash away, by the application of that holy fountain, the filth of sin; and by the power of his grace can deliver and keep from the power of sin; what more do we need? If the guilt, the filth, and the power of sin, is this three-headed monster, this three-fold malady, this thrice-twined cord that holds a poor sinner, then there is blood to purge away its guilt, a fountain to wash away its filth, and grace to deliver from its power. What more do you want? You have all that God can give, all that a living Mediator can freely and graciously bestow.

 

Look, then, what a frowning aspect upon some, what a smiling aspect upon others, this text in God's holy word casts. What is your state? What is your condition? What are the workings of your heart? Unhumbled, unexercised, unplagued, unsorrowing, unconfessing? O what a frowning aspect do these words of God present to you! The cherubim, with their flaming swords, guarding Paradise, were not more fearful to the terrified sons of Adam, than such a text displaying its awful blazing lightnings, against the self-righteous pharisee, against the Arminian perfectionist, against all, whoever they be, in a profession, or without a profession—in the church, or outside of the church—against all who have never, by divine teaching, felt the ruins of the fall, and have never had their conscience enlightened and enlivened to see and feel sin, and have never known themselves lost, ruined and undone.

 

On the other hand, what a smiling countenance, what open arms, what a tender bosom, what a sympathizing heart, does the text open to God's own mourning sighing, heart-broken, and penitent family! What is your greatest grief? That your worldly circumstances do not flourish? That you cannot prosper in the world as you would? That your body is not healthy and strong? Trifles; trifles! Mere scars! Mere flesh wounds, superficial sores! not a deep-rooted malady; not that which penetrates into the very core of a man's being. Sin; the plague of the heart, the corruption of our fallen nature, the evil that dwells in us, the pride, the hypocrisy, the presumption, the unbelief, the infidelity, the rebellion, the blasphemy, the carnality, the desperate wickedness of our depraved heart—is not this the greatest trial that you daily feel?

 

Take your other burdens—all of them—tie them together—make a bundle of them. Put this bundle on the scale—and put on the other side, the plague of your heart, the evil of your nature, the hidings of God's face, the workings that pass, day by day, in your chambers of imagery. Does not the one scale, the temporal scale, kick the beam? and does not the other, the spiritual scale, sink as low as the balance can fall? It does; it does, I am sure it does when the heart is made honest, and when the conscience is made tender and alive in God's fear.

 

But yet, how the text smiles upon such; or rather, how the Lord, the God of all grace, who revealed it (blessings be upon his name!) how he smiles! how he wins! how he embraces in the arms of his mercy and love those who feel the evil of sin, who sorrow, grieve, and groan because of their transgressions; and who, in sadness of heart and sincerity of mouth, are enabled, from time to time, to confess their transgressions at the footstool of mercy and grace! there is free pardon for all such; complete forgiveness; the Lord blots out all their sins; they shall no more be brought against them; and they will one day bless God, that ever they felt their guilt, were ever enabled to confess them, and were ever led to believe that God had freely pardoned and received them, not for anything in themselves, but for his name's sake, whom they desire eternally to love, admire, and adore.

*A MERCIFUL AND SYMPATHIZING HIGH PRIEST

Preached at North Street Chapel, Stamford, on April 17, 1859, by J. C. Philpot

"Therefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to support those who are tempted." Heb 2:17-18

We have in the book of Genesis a brief, but a very beautiful account of the sacred communion which existed between God and man in the garden of Eden, when man stood before his Maker in all the purity and uprightness of his native innocency. Sin and death had not yet invaded Paradise; and thus without any infringement of his dignity or glory God could, as he was used, come down to commune with man in the cool of the day when all nature was hushed in calm. Being then without sin or shame, unconscious of evil and of its inseparable companion, guilty fear, man held with his Maker the sweetest communion which a finite creature could enjoy with his Creator.

The foundation of this communion was, however, not so much man’s native innocence, as that God had created him "in his own image, after his likeness." This likeness to God consisted mainly in four things-

First, in the immortality of man’s soul; for we read, that though God formed man’s body out of the dust of the earth, he "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul." Thus while his body was earthy, for "the first man was of the earth, earthy," {1Co 15:47} his soul was heavenly-breathed into him from the very mouth of God, and thus immortal. The immortality of man’s soul is thus a reflex image of the everlasting existence of God.

Secondly, as created in God’s moral image, which is righteousness and truth, purity and love.

Thirdly, as created in what I may perhaps call God’s intellectual image; that is, made capable of thought, reason, memory, reflection, and discourse.

And fourthly, as created in what I may term God’s anticipated or future image, for as the Son of God was in due time to assume a perfect human body and a perfect human soul, the body and soul which Adam wore were a representation beforehand of the nature which the Lord Jesus Christ would afterwards assume into union with his own divine Person.

When God then had thus created man in his own image, after his likeness, he placed him in Paradise, in a garden which he had planted with his own hand for man’s recreation and delight. There he caused every tree that was pleasant to the sight to spring up, and every tree that was good for food; so that man could look round and not only see himself the object of God’s bounty, but could enjoy everything which his nature was capable of as adapted to that state of innocency and happiness. The beautiful trees and shrubs of that fair Paradise gladdened his eyes; the murmuring river charmed his ears; the cool shade refreshed his spirits; the sweet fruits delighted his palate and nourished his frame; and, above all, communion with God enlarged, expanded, and fed his soul.

But, alas! how soon a dark and gloomy cloud, fraught with destruction and death, came over this beauteous scene! How soon, by the permission indeed of God, but through the craft and malice of Satan, sin invaded this Paradise-this garden of God! And what was the consequence? I need not take up your time and attention this morning by enlarging upon the fall and its dreadful consequences. I will name but two, which became at once and immediately manifest-guilt and shame. Man no longer came forth as before to meet his God. He shrank from his sacred, and now for the first time dreadful, presence. He knew that he had wilfully and deliberately, not deceived as the woman, but with his eyes open, {1Ti 2:14} broken and trampled upon the express prohibition of God. He therefore sought to hide himself, with his guilty partner, amid the trees of the garden.

But could the trees, however dense, hide him from the heart-searching eye of God? Could the leafy foliage give him shelter from the hand that had made, and could now with equal ease destroy him? Ah, no. He was called forth, and he came full of shame, guilt, and confusion into the presence of his justly offended Judge to hear his expected sentence of death. That, however, in a moral sense had already taken place and could not be reversed; for "God is not a man that he should lie; neither the son of man that he should repent." He had said, "In the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die." And thus he had already morally died.

But though he spared his forfeited natural life, yet to show his righteous wrath he cursed the very ground for his sake, declaring that "in sorrow he should eat of it all the days of his life," and should return unto that dust out of which he had been originally taken. Still with the curse he gave a blessing, for then and there, in the very garden where man sinned and fell, the Lord bestowed upon the woman that gracious promise which contained, as it were, in its bosom the germ of all future promises concerning the Messiah-that "the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head."

By this promise, full of truth and grace, God revealed to the Church that most blessed truth, that his own Son would in due time come into the world, assume of the seed of the woman, the flesh and blood of the children, in order that he might die, and by dying destroy "him that had the power of death, that is, the devil," who by his subtlety had brought in such a flood of sin and woe; and not only so, but save thereby an innumerable multitude of sinners then in the loins of Adam.

But, besides this promise, the gracious Lord instituted at the same time the rite of sacrifice, as a standing type of the atonement which in due time was to be made by the Son of his love; for we read that "he made coats of skins" and clothed therewith our first parents, which no doubt were the skins of the sacrifices then offered by Adam, and a representation of that imputed righteousness clothed in which alone they could stand without spot or blemish in his sight. In consequence then of, and ever since the fall, man has never been able to stand before God except through a mediator. Sin thoroughly and effectually broke off that communion of which I have spoken as existing between God and man in the days of his native innocency; and now man can no longer approach his Maker, at least with any hope of acceptance, any true faith, or any holy confidence, except through the mediator of God’s own choice and appointment. Thus we see the necessity that there should be a high priest over the house of God, who in the days of his flesh offered for sin an availing sacrifice, and now lives at God’s right hand, not only to intercede for the heirs of promise, but to make his love, blood, and grace experimentally and effectually known to their hearts.

Those thoughts may serve as an introduction to the subject before us, where we have mention made of the priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the benefits and blessings which spring out of it. The text contains a deep mine of heavenly truth, which at the best I can but imperfectly handle; but, looking up to the Lord for his help and blessing, I shall-

I First, endeavor to bring before you the nature and necessity of the great High Priest over the house of God.

II Secondly, how God the Father chose and qualified the Son of his love to undertake this important work, and to become this great and glorious High Priest.

III Thirdly, what are the four qualifications of which our text speaks. The first is, "to make reconciliation for the sins of the people." The second, to be a "faithful high priest in things pertaining to God." The third, to be "merciful." And the fourth, to be sympathizing-"for in that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to support them those who are tempted." I The nature and necessity of the great High Priest over the house of God. If there were no sin we may safely assume there would be no need of a sacrifice, or of a high priest to offer it. The very circumstance that what the apostle calls "the blood of bulls and of goats" was necessary under the law was in itself a standing representation of the necessity of a sacrifice being offered for sin. But the rite of sacrifice was only a representation, deriving all its value from God’s appointment; for as the apostle argues, "it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins." But its object was to teach the ancient church by daily and visible sign and figure that no sinner, as a sinner, can approach unto God except through atoning blood.

Nor can any one now draw near unto him who, in his purity, justice, and holiness, is a consuming fire, except through a Mediator; for the Lord himself has said "No man comes unto the Father but by me;" {Joh 14:6} and the Holy Spirit expressly declares that "there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." {1Ti 2:5} Now it is absolutely necessary that this Mediator should be such a one as can effectually and acceptably mediate between the two opposing parties. He must therefore possess in himself sufficient dignity, worth, and glory in the eyes of God to stand near and commune face to face with him; and yet he must partake of the nature of those for whom he mediates that he may have a follow-feeling with them. As Job beautifully speaks, he must be an arbitrator that can lay his hand upon them both.

But where can such a one be discovered? If God had looked round (so to speak) the courts of heaven, to see whom he could find adequate to sustain this mighty office, where could he be found? What created being, however highly exalted, what holy angel, what burning seraph, in a word, who among the hierarchy of heaven could have ventured to approach unto God, to intercede for man’s guilty race, or to mediate between the justice of God and their deserved doom? Who among the morning stars that had sung together, or of all the sons of God who had shouted for joy when the foundations of the earth were laid, {Job 38:7} could offer to bear up a sinking world, when, by the shock of the fall, "all the foundations of the earth were out of course?"

Surely only he, who, when "the earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved" can say, "I bear up the pillars of it.;" {Ps 75:3} surely none but the Son of God had sufficient dignity, weight, power, or influence to come forward to undertake so mighty a task. For what created being, however pure, high, or holy, could approach the Majesty of heaven, to offer an obedience available for others, when God could claim from him as a creature the whole? None, none but the Son of God. God’s co-equal, co-eternal Son, his "fellow," as he calls him by the mouth of the prophet, could stand forward with sufficient dignity and glory to empower him to undertake such an office as to mediate between God and men.

Let this then be fixed as a firm foundation of our most holy faith, that it is the eternal possession of this divine nature as the Son that qualified the Lord Jesus to mediate between God and us. If this foundation be destroyed, what can the righteous do? We must never, therefore, let it go, for it is our very life. Being his only begotten Son, and therefore of the same glory and power, he can as equal with the Father stand up in our name before him, when the angels must veil their faces. In his hands the glory of the Father is safe. All the perfections of Godhead shine forth in him, who is the brightness of his Father’s glory and the express image of his Person, and these, therefore, can suffer no tarnish or diminishing in or by him.

And as loved by the Father with an everlasting love, he is able to plead with him as one who loves God and as one whom God loves. The Deity and Sonship, therefore, of our great and glorious high priest are essential to his sustaining such a character as the Mediator between God and men; for you know that mediation is an essential feature of the priestly office, as Aaron showed when he took a censor at the command of Moses, and ran into the midst of the congregation, and offered incense for the people. Take away the Deity and Sonship of our great high priest, and you blot the Sun of righteousness out of the sky. The light of the church is gone and darkness covers the scene-that darkness which is the pledge and forerunner of the blackness of darkness forever.

But again-he must be of the same nature as those for whom he mediates. The apostle speaks very blessedly on this point in the chapter before us-"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same." And again-"For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham." Had he died for angels, he must have taken angelic nature. As he died for men, he must take human nature. This is the sum of the apostle’s argument, and most conclusive it is.

Thus by virtue of his essential deity and Sonship, he was able to mediate with God; and as taking our nature into union with his own divine Person, he was able to mediate with man. Being as his eternal, only-begotten Son, "in the form of God, he thought it not robbery," that is, an unhallowed, an unallowed claim, "to be equal with God;" {Php 2:6} and by taking upon him the form of a servant and "being made in the likeness of men," he became man’s friend and man’s brother. The words of our text are very expressive upon this point-"In all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren."

He was made in all things like unto his brethren; and yet in many things he was very unlike them. The apostle, therefore, does not say he was made as his brethren, but like unto them, as he speaks elsewhere of his being "in the likeness of sinful flesh;" {Ro 8:3} and yet we know that it was not sinful flesh, for if his flesh had been sinful he could not have been "a lamb without blemish and without spot." Likeness is not the same thing as identity. A person may be like me, and yet not be altogether as I Here, then, lies the main difference between him and us as regards his humanity, that the Lord Jesus Christ did not assume a fallen, but an unfallen nature. There was in that pure flesh which he assumed in the womb of the Virgin not only no sin, but no liability to, no possibility of it; there was in it no mortality, no sickness; no seeds of disease or death. It was the nature of Adam before he fell-not the nature of Adam after the fall; and yet differing from the nature of Adam in this, that it could not fall as Adam did, not being a person like him, but taken as "a holy one" into union with the person of the Son of God at the very instant of its conception under the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit.

Our blessed Lord never was ‘in Adam’; for had he been, he must have fallen with him, and been a partaker with the whole human race in his guilt and crime. Thus the apostle makes a distinction between Adam and the Lord Jesus; the distinction being that Adam was our natural, federal head, but the Lord Jesus Christ our new Covenant Head. Therefore he says-"For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all," that is, all the elect of God, "be made alive." And again, "The first man Adam was made a living soul; and the last man Adam was made a quickening spirit." And to show us more clearly still the difference between the two covenant heads, he adds, "Howbeit that was not first, which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterwards that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven." {1Co 15:22,45,47}

Here the Lord Jesus Christ, as our new covenant head, is set in opposition to Adam, our natural, federal head, Adam being, at the very best, in his first creation, but "a living soul," the Lord Jesus, as the divine giver of spiritual and eternal life, "a life-giving spirit;" Adam being earthy, as formed out of the dust of the earth, and the Lord being heavenly, not only as coming down thence, but as assuming a nature which was of heavenly birth and origin, as produced not by natural generation but by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus though the blessed Lord was "in all things made like unto his brethren," yet he took into union with his own divine Person, not a fallen, frail, and peccable human nature, such as is theirs; but a nature pure and unfallen; and though conceived in the womb of a sinful woman and made of her flesh, yet as being produced, by the supernatural operation of the Holy Spirit, of her substance, it was formed and brought forth without the least taint of sin, sickness, or mortality. And yet, with this exception, "in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren."

He had a body like theirs; he had a soul like theirs; a body of flesh and bones and blood; a soul that could reason and think and feel; believe, hope, and love; suffer and rejoice; be sorrowful even unto death; be grieved for the hardness of men’s hearts; and have compassion for the weariness and faintness of a famishing multitude. In partaking, then, of the nature of the children, he partook of all its sinless infirmities. Do they hunger? So he hungered, as in the wilderness and at the barren fig tree {Mt 4:2; 21:18-19} Do they thirst? So he thirsted, when on the cross he cried aloud, "I thirst." {Joh 19:28} Do they suffer weariness? So did he, as at Samaria’s well. Do they sleep? So did he, for he was "asleep on a pillow" when the ship was in danger from the waves. At the grave of Lazarus he "groaned in the spirit, was troubled, and wept;" before he opened the deaf man’s ears, "he looked up to heaven and sighed;" and in the garden he prayed, and agonized, and sweat great drops of blood. Thus, in all their sorrows and sufferings, he was made like unto his brethren; and we may well suppose that his holy body and soul, not being like ours blunted and hardened by the fall, not only felt more keenly the sufferings of our common humanity, but were pained more readily by them, and suffered more exquisitely from them.

What heart can conceive, or tongue express, the infinite depths of the Redeemer’s condescension in thus being made like unto his brethren-that the Son of God should assume a finite nature, subject to the sinless infirmities necessarily connected with a time state and a dwelling on earth; that he should leave the bosom of his Father in which he had lain before all worlds, and should consent to become an inhabitant of this world of tears; to breathe earthly air; to eat human food; to associate with human beings; to be an eye-witness of, and himself share in human sorrows; to have before his eyes the daily spectacle of human sins; to be banished so long from his native home; to endure hunger, weariness, and thirst; to be subject to the persecution of men, the flight of all his disciples, and the treachery of one among them whose hand had been with him on the table; not to hide his face from shame and spitting, but to be mocked, struck, buffeted, and scourged, and at last to die an agonizing death between two malefactors, amid scorn and infamy, and covered, as men thought, with everlasting confusion and disgrace! O, what infinite condescension and mercy are displayed in these sufferings and sorrows of an incarnate God! The Lord give us faith to look to him as suffering them for our sake! II But I pass on to show how God chose and qualified him for the work which, according to the eternal purpose and counsel of the three-one Jehovah, he undertook to perform. He did not assume this office himself unchosen, uncovenanted, unqualified, for "no man takes this honor to himself, but he whom is called of God, as was Aaron. So also Christ glorified not himself to be a high priest; but he that said unto him, You are my Son, today have I begotten you." {Heb 5:4-5} He was chosen from all eternity for this special work. We therefore read-"Behold my servant, whom I uphold; my elect, in whom my soul delights." {Isa 42:1} He is the "living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious." {1Pe 2:4} And why did God choose him for the work but because he was so eminently qualified to sustain it? there being no other in heaven or earth, who was in a position to undertake the work, or who had power to carry it through. For not only his eternal Deity, but his being made like unto his brethren, adapted him in every way to be such a high priest as they needed.

A bleeding sacrifice had to be offered. God as God could not do this. The divine nature is not susceptible of suffering. Deity cannot bleed or die. And yet atonement must be made. The demands of justice must be paid. The law could not be broken with impunity. The perfections of God jarred, and needed to be reconciled; so that, though God, as God, could not suffer, bleed, die, or offer sacrifice, yet it was needful that one who was God should do all this. A sacrifice that an angel might offer would not be meritorious, would possess in it no efficacy for the work of atonement.

Angelic shoulders could not bear the crushing weight of imputed sin. If they rendered to God a pure and holy obedience, it was what he could claim justly at their hands. If a seraph burned before the throne of God in flames of seraphic love, it was no more than he could demand as having created him a burning seraph. If the highest angel flew upon his swiftest pinions to obey God’s commands-be it to smite the host of Sennacherib, or convey Lazarus to Abraham’s bosom-he would be doing that which God could justly require at his hands. He had no excess obedience to offer; there was no meritorious task of which he could say to God "This I do over and above what I am required to do. Accept this at my hands for guilty man, and impute it to him for righteousness." The highest angel could not use such language before the throne of the Most High.

But the eternal Son of God could use such language. Therefore God the Father chose him for the work in his own eternal mind, and prepared for him a body in and by which he could execute it-as we read-"A body have you prepared me." {Heb 10:5} By this body we are to understand the whole of his pure humanity, for the expression takes in not only his body but his soul, which, we know, had a large part in the work of redemption; for we read, not only of the precious blood which his body shed, but of his seeing "of the travail of his soul." {Isa 53:11}

When, then, the blessed Lord had been chosen of his Father to do this important work he gladly and willingly accepted the office. His heart burned with love to the children of men; for even in eternity, when he was by his Father "as one brought up with him, and was daily his delight rejoicing always before him;" even then "he rejoiced in the habitable part of his earth; and his delights were with the sons of men." {Pr 8:30-31} His bride, the Church, was then presented to him by his heavenly Father, and he betrothed her forever to himself; yes "he betrothed her in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies." {Ho 2:19} So that she became his Hephzibah, for his delight was in her. {Isa 62:4}

And his heart shrank not from the task, nor from the suffering however great. He cheerfully consented to accept the task, to finish the work which the Father gave him to do; and though he could only do it by sacrificing himself, yet so full was his heart of love and pity, that he said to his heavenly Father, "Lo, I come to do your will; your law is in my heart." Thus Deity and humanity, love to God and love to man, zeal for God’s glory and pity and compassion for the wants and woes of the objects to be redeemed, with strength to suffer and power to save, all met and met alone in the person of Immanuel; and thus was he qualified to be such a High Priest as could glorify God, and rescue his people from the depths of the fall. III But let us now consider the four important particulars, by which the Lord Jesus Christ was so eminently and specially qualified, to be the great high priest over the house of God. 1. The first qualification which I named was to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. We can form little idea in our minds of what sin is as viewed by the eyes of an infinitely pure and holy God. There may be times and seasons in our breasts when our conscience is made tender in God’s fear, and sin lies hard and heavy as a burden which we can scarcely bear. At such seasons we may have some feeble, faint conception of what sin is as viewed by the eyes of infinite purity. If ever, too, we have seen by faith the darling Son of God groaning and agonizing in Gethsemane, or suffering and bleeding upon the cross, we may have felt with grieved heart and weeping eyes what sin must be to cause him such sorrows. But these are with most believers but few and favored moments. For the most part, we breathe such an atmosphere of sin that we scarcely feel the evil that surrounds us without or dwells with us within. In this we are like a person who has spent the night in a small and confined bedroom-he is not aware while he is in it of the closeness of the apartment; but let him go forth in the summer’s early morn into the pure and clear air, and then return to his apartment of which the window has been kept down, how sensible is he at once of its close atmosphere, and he wonders how he could have slept and risen without perceiving it. So we naturally breathe such an atmosphere of sin, that we have, as it were, become insensible to it.

I have understood that people who are afflicted with fever, smallpox, and other diseases most offensive to all who attend them, are themselves almost insensible to the reeking smell of the room in which they lie, and of which they are themselves the cause; so man, eaten up by the cancer of sin, fevered with every raging lust, covered with the loathsome leprosy of evil breaking forth in every part, though a monster in the sight of a holy God, is insensible to his own filth and foulness; it being the very nature of man to deceive himself, and not see sin as God sees it. But when light from above enters into our mind, and life with light, and we begin to see and feel what sin is, as committed against a God so pure and bright and holy-what a dreadful thing it is to have broken his law as we have done again and again; what a terrible curse is entailed on those who do break it; what an opening hell awaits those who die without pardon and reconciliation to a justly offended God-then we begin feebly and faintly to have some conception of what sin is in the eyes of a holy and pure Jehovah.

Before we feel this, we cannot enter into the nature and necessity of a high priest like Jesus Christ; we cannot understand why it should have been necessary for the Son of God to come down to earth to bleed and to die. We think that sin might surely have been wiped off at a cheaper rate; that tears and prayers, and alms-deeds, and repentance, and sacraments, and good works of various kinds, surely might have been put into the opposite scale. We cannot and do not naturally think that sin is so evil a thing as God declares it is. We are like Lord Nelson, who said almost in his dying moments, "I have not been a great sinner, Hardy;" though he had forsaken his own wife and lived in adultery for years. I have named it with reluctance, and merely to show how sin so blinds the mind and sears the conscience, that a brave, noble-hearted man, the idol of his country, may live in open infringement of the laws of God and man, and yet lull himself in a dying hour with the thought that he has not been so great a sinner as many others.

But when God comes near to judgment he searches the heart, tries the thoughts, lays guilt upon the conscience as a load grievous to be borne, pierces and wounds the soul with the stings of guilt and remorse, that he may thus bring it down to his feet to cry for mercy. It is cutting, killing work, but love and grace are wrapped up in it; for when the soul is ready to sink under the intolerable load of sin, then is the usual time that faith is given to view the bleeding God-Man as revealed to the heart by the power of God. By this teaching we experimentally learn, how needful it was that Godhead should have been united to manhood in the Person of Christ, for we see and feel that nothing short of blood divine can wash away sins of so deep a dye, of so aggravated a stamp, of so black a hue, as we feel ours to be.

No man can have a light view of sin who has seen it either as reflected in a holy law, or in the sufferings of Immanuel, God with us. When then we have been feelingly exercised with a sight and sense of our dreadful sins against a holy and just God, and I may add, against the sufferings and sorrows of his incarnate Son, we begin to see a little into the meaning of the words, "to make reconciliation for the sins of the people," that is, to atone for them. And yet, with all our exercises, guilt, or distress, we really learn but little of what sin is, as God sees it. But whether we learn little or much, it is a lesson which we must be taught in our own bosom. It is indeed a lesson that is passed over by many who stand high in a profession of religion; but it is one that must be learned sooner or later by every saved soul.

A man never becomes a scholar-I mean a true scholar in the school of Christ-if he passes over the rudiments. He is in grace, what some people are in nature-they have never learned the elements of the language or science which they profess to know; they have been imperfectly taught; they passed over the rudiments through idleness or bad teaching, and were pushed on into a higher class before they had mastered the first principles; and therefore during all the rest of their lives they never know any one language or any one science truly and perfectly. Or, to use another figure, they resemble a building reared upon a sandy soil, which has no firm or solid foundation, because that which should have been rock is but sand. Thus, if a man is not well grounded in the beginning of religion, he cannot be expected to have a middle or an end of any worth or value.

It is a great thing then to begin right. It is a great thing to have a good, solid, and deep foundation laid in the heart and conscience by the hand of God at the first setting out. As the Lord himself says, "It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth." {La 3:27} It is a good thing for God to begin with us before we begin with God; for God to give us religion before we profess it; for God to take us in hand before we take the truth of God in hand; and for the Lord to work by his own grace in our heart before we speak of that grace, or take that great and holy name into our lips. But when we are exercised by the hand of God bringing us to the light, and thus by seeing light in his light, come to learn, at least in some measure, what sin really and truly is, our eyes get opened, which before were closed, to see also the necessity and nature of a priesthood like that of Jesus, "to make reconciliation for the sins of the people;" for we feel these two things, that we ourselves as sinners need to be reconciled to God, and that this reconciliation can only be made by one who is able to effect it.

Have you then ever seen an angry God; ever felt his wrath in your conscience; ever trembled at the judgment to come, and feared what your dreadful doom will certainly be, unless he be pleased to have mercy in a sovereign and most undeserved way upon your soul? It is impossible to say how many veils are taken off the heart, how many false refuges are hurled to the ground, and how much self-deception and self-righteousness are broken up by a discovery of sin to a guilty conscience and by some manifestation of a sin-avenging God. This the Lord speaks of by his prophet as done by himself. "Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet." He lays it and not we; for if we laid it, we would hold the line wrong, and tamper with the plummet. And what is the consequence of his laying it, or rather what next follows? "And the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding-place." {Isa 28:17}

As, then, the refuge of lies is swept away and the hiding-place overflowed, we feel a need of a truer refuge and of a safer hiding-place. And when our eyes are graciously opened to see that a reconciliation has been already made by the blood of the Lamb, we desire to have a saving interest in that precious blood. We see with believing eyes that atoning blood has been shed, a sacrifice offered, an obedience rendered, and that through this a guilty sinner may be freely pardoned, accepted, and saved.

But still our life may hang in doubt. We may believe that there is a Savior, without believing that he is our Savior. We may see the atoning blood at a distance, without having it sprinkled upon our heart; we may hear of pardon without enjoying it; may read of salvation without experiencing it; may view the sympathy and compassion and love of Jesus, and yet be strangers to them all in joyful experience.

But in every quickened soul there is a yearning for reconciliation to God. He cannot bear to live at enmity with him. He has been an enemy of God long enough. Sufficient has been the time he has spent in things that God abhors. He desires to be experimentally reconciled, pardoned, and accepted, and to feel that God is his Father and his friend. Now Jesus has "made reconciliation for the sins of the people" that are thus taught and exercised; but only as this reconciliation comes into their conscience are they feelingly and experimentally reconciled to God. For bear in mind, that reconciliation in scripture has two aspects-there is a reconciliation of our persons, and a reconciliation of our hearts and consciences. The apostle says, "We pray you in Christ’s stead, be you reconciled to God." {2Co 5:20} He does not there speak as if their persons had not been already reconciled by the blood of the atonement; nor as if they were enemies, who needed to be brought near by the blood of the Lamb; but he desires that they, in their own soul, by receiving the atonement, by experiencing the pardoning love of God, by knowing the blood of sprinkling for themselves, might be inwardly and spiritually reconciled to God by receiving the sentence of justification in their own hearts. A man may view the atoning sacrifice at a distance, but this is not enough; it must be brought near. He may see the atoning blood as an Egyptian might see the blood of the Paschal lamb sprinkled upon the lintel and side-posts of the children of Israel; but it was upon the door of the true Israelite. The Holy Spirit must apply it for us and to us, and when we know the blood of sprinkling savingly by his application of it, we not only know that the Lord Jesus Christ has "made reconciliation for the sins of the people," but has also personally reconciled us unto God. 2. But a second qualification named in our text is faithfulness; that he should be a "faithful high priest in things pertaining to God." Faithfulness, we know, is an indispensable requisite to the right discharge of every undertaken office. It is required in stewards, we read, "that a man be found faithful." {1Co 4:2} If, for instance, you are a man of property or business, and employ any person either himself to do or to overlook others in doing what requires care or skill, you naturally expect him to be faithful in what he undertakes. He requires indeed a certain degree of intelligence and skill to know what he is about, and to superintend others; but you require not merely ability, but faithfulness, uprightness, honesty, and integrity of heart and hand; and this not by fits and starts, but unwavering and undeviating. So God required not only one who was able and willing to become his servant to do the work appointed, but one who would be faithful in the execution of it. Jesus is that faithful one, according to the ancient promise, "I will raise up a faithful priest that shall do according to that which is in my heart and in my mind." {1Sa 2:35} "Righteousness was to be the belt of his loins and faithfulness the belt of his thoughts" {Isa 11:5} and thus he was faithful to him that appointed him; not merely as Moses as a servant in the house, but as a Son over his our house. {Heb 3:2,6}

O the faithfulness of Jesus! How implicitly can we rely upon it. How can he be otherwise than faithful? Is he not the true God? Has he not in himself all the perfections of Godhead? And are not truth and faithfulness among the glorious perfections, not only of his divine, but of his human nature? Faithfulness to his Father as his only begotten Son; faithfulness to his covenant engagements; faithfulness to his assumed office as the Father’s servant; faithfulness to the Bride whom he had betrothed to himself; faithfulness to every promise, rite, type, sacrifice, and prophecy which foreshadowed him; faithfulness unbending to every temptation, unbroken by any violence; how needful, how indispensable, and yet how great and glorious is this faithfulness of our great High Priest!

Knowing this faithfulness, God entrusted to him his own glory. He committed not only the care of the Church, with the salvation of all the elect, into his sacred hands; but he entrusted him with what was dearer to him and nearer still-his own glory. Therefore, Jesus could say at the end of his mission, "I have glorified you on the earth; I have finished the work which you gave me to do;" {Joh 17:4} which was not only to save the Church, but to glorify the Father by his obedience unto death. God gave the persons of the elect into the hands of his dear Son, as Jacob committed Benjamin into the hands of Judah; and as Judah accepted Benjamin, so Christ accepted the Church and undertook to bring it unto God, or he himself would bear the blame forever. But how this faithfulness was tried! Men tried it; devils tried it; God tried it; but it came gloriously through all. Yet what loads were laid upon it! How the very knees of Jesus, so to speak, staggered beneath it! How, as Hart says, he had "Strength enough and none to spare?"

How he had to sustain the curse of the law and the load of imputed sin! How he had to drink up a very hell of inward torment! How he had to be agonized in body and more than agonized in soul! What bloody sweat in the garden, what tears, what painful amazement, what heaviness of spirit, what sorrowfulness even unto death; what pangs of body upon the cross, what grief of mind, what distress of soul, did the holy Lamb endure in being faithful unto God! How he might have prayed, and his Father would have sent him twelve legions of angels! He had but to speak, and he might have soared to heaven and left the cross and all its shame and suffering behind. But he was faithful to God and to the work which he had undertaken. Six weary hours he hung upon the cross. Six weary hours he endured the wrath of God, and that most cutting stroke of all, reserved to the last as the bitterest drop in the whole cup, the hiding of his Father’s countenance, which wrung from his bosom that cry such as neither earth nor heaven had heard before-"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" And yet not until he had finished the work did he give up the spirit. So he was faithful "in all things pertaining to God."

And he is faithful, too, in all things pertaining to man. He could say to the Father, "Of all whom you have given me"-save the son of perdition, Judas-he had no charge to save him from death and hell; but of all the others of whom he had received as his Father’s gift, he could say "I have lost none." Thus he was faithful while he was on earth.

And how faithful he is now! The High Priest under the law had two offices to execute-he had to offer sacrifice for the people, and to offer prayer and intercession for them. Upon earth Jesus fulfilled the first; in heaven he fulfils the second, as there making by virtue of his presence continual intercession for us. 3. But he is a merciful high priest, which is the third qualification the apostle mentions. And how suitable this is for us! We need a high priest, not merely one who offered a sacrifice upon the cross; not merely one who died and rose again; but one who now lives at the right hand of God on our behalf; and one of that tender, merciful, and compassionate heart with whom we can carry on from time to time sacred communion; whom we can view with believing eyes as suitable to our case, and compassionating our wants and woes; in whom we can hope with expecting hearts, as one who will not turn away from us; and whom we can love, not only for his intrinsic beauty and blessedness, but as full of pity towards us. If I may use the expression, we need not a dead but a living, not an absent but a present; not a once but a now Jesus; we want a friend at the right hand of God at the present moment; an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, and yet a compassionate and loving Mediator between God and us; an interceding High Priest, Surety, and Representative in our nature in the courts of heaven, who can show mercy and compassion to us now upon Earth"whose heart is touched with tenderness, Whose affections melt with love."

Our needs make us feel this. Our sins and sorrows give us perpetual errands to the throne. This valley of tears is ever before our eyes, and thorns and briars are perpetually springing up in it that rip and tear our flesh. We need a real friend. Have you not sometimes tossed to and fro upon your weary couch, and almost cried aloud, "O that I had a friend!" You may have received cruel blows from one whom you regarded as a real friend-but you have been cruelly deceived. You feel now you have no one to take care of you or love you, and whom you can love again; and your heart sighs for a friend who shall be a friend indeed. The widow, the orphan, the friendless, the deserted one, all keenly and deeply feel this. But if grace has touched your heart, you feel that though all men forsake you, there is the friend of sinners, a brother born for adversity, a friend who loves at all times, who will never leave or forsake you. And how it cheers the troubled mind and supports the weary spirit to feel that there is a friend to whom we may go; whose eyes are ever open to see; whose ears are ever unclosed to hear; whose heart is ever touched with a feeling of pity and compassion towards us.

But we need this friend to be almighty, for no other can suit our case-he must be a divine friend. For who but God can see us wherever we are? What but a divine eye can read our thoughts? What but a divine ear can hear our petitions? And what but a divine hand can stretch itself forth and deliver? Thus the Deity of Christ is no dry, barren speculation, no mere Bible truth, but an experience wrought powerfully into a believer’s inmost soul. Happy soul! happy season! when you can say with the Church, "This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem." {Song 5:16} Thus the very wants of the soul instinctively teach us that a friend, to be a friend, must be a heavenly friend; that his heart and hand must be divine, or they are not the heart and hand for us. This friend, whose bitterest reproach on earth that he "was the friend of sinners," is his highest glory in heaven, is the blessed Jesus, our great high priest in the courts above. We find him at times to be very merciful, very pitiful, and very compassionate. And I am sure that we need all the compassion of his loving breast; for we are continually in states of mind when nothing but his pure mercy can suit, when nothing but his rich and boundless compassion is adapted to our case. 4. But there is one more qualification in our great high priest, the fourth and last remaining to be noticed; which is-sympathy. This is opened up very sweetly in the last verse of our text-"For in that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to support them that are tempted." You are tempted, are you not? Is not sin ever at work in your carnal mind? Are not snares every day spread in your path? Can you leave your home for the business of the day without finding traps and snares at every step to entangle your feet? Can you eat, drink, or sleep; speak or keep silence; read, or think, or pray; be at home or abroad, in the church or in the world, without meeting some temptation to evil? Does not the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, or the pride of life start up at every corner, and present continual occasions of temptation? Who can deliver you out of temptation; the guilt produced by it; the sorrow it occasions; the shame, confusion, darkness, and bondage which it creates?

Surely, none but the friend of sinners, whose blood cleanses from all sin. He alone is able to support those who are tempted. But you need one who can sympathize as well as support. We often are in states when we need sympathy. But who can sympathize with us in trouble but those who are or have been in similar trouble? The rich cannot sympathize with the poor; the healthy with the sick; the strong with the weak; the Pharisee with the tax-collector; those who are at ease in Zion with the mourners in Zion. We must have been or now be in certain spots in soul experience, before we can sympathize with those who are in them now. So the blessed Jesus is able not only to support, but to sympathize with those who are tempted.

But what makes him able? Not merely his ability as God, but his having suffered as man; for we read in our text, "In that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to support them that are tempted," where his ability is connected with his own suffering and is said to spring out of it. It is then his having been man as well as God; his having experienced temptation in his own person; his having been assaulted by sin and Satan. Though neither sin nor Satan had any place in him, yet he knew all the temptations to which we are subject by personal experience; and his having suffered under and from them renders him able to sympathize with those that are so tempted. You are tempted to doubt God, the word and truth of God, or your own sonship. Were not these temptations brought before the mind of our sympathizing high priest, when the tempter came to him and said-"If you are the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread?" Nor was he tempted to doubt his Sonship only, but to doubt God’s providence, and that he might be left in the desert to die of hunger. And have you not been tempted to doubt God’s providence too? How he was tempted to doubt God’s protecting hand, when he was invited to cast himself from the pinnacle of the temple! How he was tempted to turn aside from the path of suffering and sorrow to enjoy all the glory of the kingdoms of this world; and toward the close of his suffering life how, doubtless, he was tempted by the desertion of his friends and the withdrawing of the light of his Father’s countenance, to doubt God’s compassion and pity, when he left him, so to speak, in the hands of his enemies!

Every temptation you are subject to the dear Redeemer experienced in his own person, for "in all points he was tempted like as we are." Therefore he is able to sympathize with you in and under all, for he suffered in and under them. Now how encouraging this is to those who not only know what temptation is, but who suffer acutely from it, that our blessed high priest "suffered, being tempted." Temptation was not to him like the sea dashing against a rock, which repels it without feeling it. Jesus repelled it, and was no more polluted by it than the rock by the waves of the sea beating over it; but he felt it, though he repelled it. It grieved his holy soul; it pained his righteous spirit; it was so contrary to every sacred feeling of his pure breast, that though his heart did not give way in the slightest degree to the temptation presented to it, yet it was a cause of painful and poignant suffering. As Lot, in a much lower sense, did not partake in the abomination of Sodom, yet they vexed his righteous soul day by day as he saw them; so the holy soul of Jesus was grieved by the temptation in which he took no share, and which could not stain or defile his sacred spirit.

As taught then and blessed by the Holy Spirit, we see these four glorious qualifications meeting in our great high priest-first, we see him making reconciliation for the sins of the people, putting away their iniquities by the sacrifice of himself. We see him, secondly, faithful to God, and therefore not only to have executed the work with which he was charged, but to have finished it in a way whereby every perfection of God was glorified, and every attribute harmonized. Thirdly we see him merciful, so as to have compassion upon poor sinners, who, without that mercy being revealed, cannot live or die; and, fourthly, we see him sympathizing, so as to pity as well as support those who are tempted. Need I say how encouraging all this is to every saint who feels his need of this compassionate, faithful high priest? Need I urge any other motive to embolden us to present our needs before him, that from time to time we may receive his love, and blood, and grace into our heart, and live more and more to his praise, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is worthy of it all for time and for eternity?

*A PECULIAR PEOPLE

 

1Pe 2:9

 

Preached on Lord’s Day Evening, 11th July, 1841, at Zoar Chapel, Great Alie Street, London.

 

A peculiar people.- 1Pe 2:9

 

WHAT an involuntary testimony do ungodly persons often bear to the truth of the Scriptures! What, for instance, is more common in the world, and amongst those who are lying dead in a profession, than language of this kind: What an odd kind of people there are at such a chapel! what particular notions they have! what peculiar sentiments they entertain! There is only a set of peculiar books suited to them, and there are only a few peculiar preachers whom they will hear; and in all their words and actions they manifest an exclusiveness, a bigotry, a narrow- mindedness which is very different from what you witness at other places!

 

Is not this bearing a testimony to the truth of God’s Word? Does not truth unwillingly fall here from the lips of enemies? Has not God Himself said that they are a peculiar people? Then this very peculiarity which is stamped upon them, and which the keen eye of the world discovers, is an evidence that they are those, of whom God has said that they are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that they should show forth the praises of Him who hath called them out of darkness into His marvelous light. This peculiar people has existed through all ages from the days of the first promise, and will exist until the final consummation of all things.

 

Abel was one of this peculiar people; and the peculiar blessings that God favoured him with, drew down upon him the wrath of his murderous brother. Noah was one of this peculiar people, whom God directed to build the ark, as typical of Christ Jesus the Lord, in whom His dear people find a refuge from the deluging waves and showers of God’s wrath. Lot in Sodom was one of this peculiar people, who vexed his righteous soul from day to day by witnessing their ungodly deeds. Abraham in the land of the Canaanites, Isaac his son, Jacob his grandson, were the ancestors of a peculiar people, upon whom God had set his own stamp that He had separated them from the nations of the earth, as typical of a people foreordained to eternal glory.

 

The separation of the Jews, the lineal descendants of Abraham, from all nations, typified the separation of the elect from all the people that dwell upon the face of the earth; and the enmity that was manifested against that peculiar people was but a manifestation of the enmity which exists in the heart against the people of God -the development of that enmity which God said He would Himself put between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. Ge 3:15. When they were in Egypt, their being a "peculiar people" called forth the enmity of that "King that knew not Joseph." After the captivity, when they were dispersed through various lands, they called forth the enmity of Haman. He therefore went to the King his master and said, "there is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people, neither keep they the king's laws: therefore it is not for the Kings profit to suffer them. If it please the king let it be written that they may be destroyed; and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the hands of those that have the charge of the business, to bring it into the Kings treasuries." (Es 3:8-9)

 

Here was the discovery of the venom that ever dwells in the heart of the reprobate against the elect; here was the manifestation of that hidden enmity, which exists in the world against the peculiar family of Jehovah. These manifestations, then, of enmity are marks and testimonies, not merely to the truth of revelation, but in favour of those people against whom these envenomed arrows are shot. And depend upon it, friends, if you and I have never been aimed at by the bitter shafts of contempt, if we have never experienced persecution, if our fair fame has never been tarnished by the malicious slander of the world, if we have never been held up to scorn and execration as having such a peculiarity stamped upon us as the world hates, we carry with us no evidence that we are of the number of that peculiar people whom God has chosen in Christ, and blessed with all spiritual blessings in Him.

 

There is a peculiar people,  then; and the desire of every heart that God has touched with His finger is sweetly breathed forth in the language of Ruth, when she said, "Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God". Ru 1:16 "Yes", says the living soul whom God has quickened into a new and spiritual existence -"yes, they are the people of God; my heart cleaves to them with affection, I desire to be one with them; may my lot and portion be among the living family of God. Though there are in them many things which grieve me, though there are in them many divisions, though there is much lacking in them which I desire to see present, and much present in them which I desire to see absent, yet with all their failings and all their imperfections and all their infirmities, they are the people of the living God. With them I desire to live, and with them I desire to die." Then, friends, if you and I are walking in the strait and narrow path that leads to eternal life, we shall carry about with us some stamp, some evidence, that we belong to this peculiar people;  we shall bear with us some marks that God has separated us, by a work of grace upon our souls, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth. Ex 33:16

 

But this people are a peculiar people in several points of view. They are a peculiar people by the original separation of them in the eternal councils of the Three-one God. They were chosen in Christ before all worlds, that they might be a people in whom the Lord Jesus might eternally delight, and in whom He might eternally be glorified. Their fall in their first parent was foreseen and foreprovided for. The Lamb of God was slain,  in the mind of God the Father, before the foundation of the world,  and they stood eternally one with Christ, justified in His glorious righteousness, holy in His spotless innocency, perfect in His perfection, and comely in His comeliness.

 

And thus this peculiar people were blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, Eph 1:3 before time had an existence; before this world had a being; before the all- creative voice of God made the sun and stars shine in the skies; when eternity alone existed, and the Three-one God dwelt alone in sacred communion, without any one object of Their creative hand. This people had a being then in the mind of God; and in virtue of this original being, they are brought forth first in time (each according to the moment that God has foreordained) and then in God’s appointed season, are brought forth by the quickening operations of the Holy Ghost into a new and spiritual existence.

 

But how, as a matter of individual inquiry, shall we know that we belong to this peculiar people? Shall we turn over the leaves of our Bible, and read, Eph 1:1 or, Ro 8:1 and seeing there that God has an elect people, at once conclude that we belong to them? Shall we turn to the first epistle of John, and reading there The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin,  therefore conclude that our iniquities are pardoned? Shall we cast our eyes on the text Who is he that condemneth? it is God that justifieth; - and by reading that text of Scripture, without further ado, believe in our own personal justification? No; this may do for a dry professor, for one dead in a form; but it will never do for a living soul, whose conscience God has touched with His own finger. Before he can realize his interest in those blessings, wherewith God has blessed His people before all worlds, he must have a personal manifestation and revelation of those blessings to his own soul, under the operations of the Holy Spirit; and if they are not sealed upon his conscience, and evidenced to his heart, by the witness of the Holy Ghost, he can never be satisfied that he is a sharer in those blessings that are stored up for the elect in Christ Jesus.

 

But there are certain marks and evidences, which fall short of the manifestation of Christ with power to the soul; there are testimonies which do not amount to a full and complete satisfaction; and when a child of God is in deep poverty and strong exercises of soul, he will be glad to accept a little token when he cannot get a greater. The beggar in the street will take a copper coin; he does not turn away from that with contempt; his hunger and his poverty make the smallest gift acceptable. A man in good circumstances would turn away from such a pitiful donation, and think it an insult; but he that is deeply sunk in poverty is glad to have anything that may relieve his pressing want. Many times, when the Lord lays poverty as a deep and galling load upon the souls of His dear family, He makes them glad to get hold of those little coins (I mean apparently such, for no coin is little that comes from heaven’s mint), which proud professors despise.

 

We will, then, with God’s blessing, endeavour to trace out a few of the peculiar marks that are stamped upon this peculiar people; and if the Lord shall be pleased through my mouth to convey from the courts of heaven one of these coins into your heart, He will lock it up safe in that treasury; He will sometimes bring it out for you to look upon; and thus you will have at times a sweet evidence that you are interested in that love which knows no bounds.

 

1. The peculiar people, then, have peculiar exercises. No man knows anything of spiritual exercises, except he is a spiritual man. He may have convictions, it is true; he may have passing doubts and fears; he may have some dim and dismal apprehensions of the wrath to come; but as to spiritual exercises, he knows them not, for they are peculiar to spiritually taught people.

 

But all God’s family, each according to their measure, have spiritual exercises. Sometimes, for instance, they are powerfully exercised with unbelief; that is, the unbelief of their hearts so powerfully works in their carnal mind, as to obscure every evidence, hide every testimony, and deface every inscription that the Holy Ghost has engraved upon their souls. But it is not the mere existence of unbelief, that manifests a child of God, for unbelief reigns and rules in the hearts of the reprobate; it is the exercise of the soul under unbelief, that shows the existence of spiritual life; it is the conflict, the opposition, the struggle, that is carried on in the bosom; for this implies a counteracting principle, the existence of the company of two armies. Song 6:13

 

To be shut up in unbelief is no testimony of being a living soul; but to find in our hearts a counteracting principle which discovers unbelief, which fights against unbelief, which groans under unbelief as a burden, which longs to be delivered from the power of unbelief- here we trace the existence of a living principle, by the opposition which that living principle carries on against the unbelief which rises up in the carnal mind. The grand thing which I want to come at in my own soul, and which I want to come at in yours, is this -the existence of the life of God, and I desire to trace out in your consciences this hidden life, in some of its bearings and its workings. But in order to do that, I must go into those exercises of soul, wherein the life of God is manifested.

 

If I were to say, "Every one who has unbelief is a child of God," I should build up a false evidence, because there are hundreds and thousands and millions, who have unbelief, who are not children of God; and therefore I must come to the grace of God in the soul, the work of the Spirit in the heart, the existence of a living principle which works and manifests itself under this mass of unbelief that seems to press it down. But, again, I want something more than that. Suppose you were in Derbyshire, and a person were to say to you, "There is a river here, the river Dove, which buries itself in a certain spot close by, and runs underground for a considerable distance." You would say, "I think I can hear it rushing along, but I certainly should prefer ocular evidence; and if I cannot see where the river first buries itself, I should like to see it in some part of its subterraneous course." Now if that person could take you to some deep dell or rocky chasm, where the earth parted, and you, looking down into the deep fissure, saw as well as heard the river rushing along, you would say, "I can believe it now;" and yet all the time this river had been running underground, but when you saw its waters through the chasm in the earth, then you had ocular evidence that the river was there.

 

So it is with faith in our heart. Faith in the soul runs like a hidden river under the superincumbent mass of unbelief. But how am I to know that it is there? I know it sometimes by the strugglings, the upheavings, the attempts of this river to rise to the light of day. But if sometimes there is a chasm made -if rocky unbelief be parted asunder, and I can discern the actings, breathings, and workings of living faith, and it sparkles up as it catches a beam from the Sun- then I have another and a far brighter evidence that I have the faith of God’s elect. Thus, in tracing out the work of faith upon the soul, we must not only discover faith in its conflicts, but we must sometimes see faith in its victories. We must see and feel faith, not merely as heaving itself up under the mass of unbelief, but we must sometimes see that blessed grace springing forth into lively exercise, so as to realize the things of God in Christ. The peculiar people have faith; and this faith is sometimes called forth into blessed exercise, and is drawn up by the Spirit of God, so as to rise up to the light of day, and glisten and shine beneath the Sun of Righteousness.

 

Again; another exercise of the living soul, is its conflict under that carnality, deadness, earthliness, and barrenness, which seem at times to clasp it down to the earth. But am I to say, that carnality, barrenness, coldness, and deadness are evidences? I say not. But the evidence is, when I find something of a different nature working up in them and counteracting them, and manifesting the power and strength of the Spirit’s work in the midst of them. If I say, "I am carnal, I am dead, I am cold, I am stupid, I am unfeeling, I am lifeless, therefore I am a child of God," what do I but build up that which is the work of the flesh, and say of it that it is the work of the Spirit? Again; do I say, "I am always spiritual and heavenly minded, I am always enjoying the presence of Christ as my soul-satisfying portion, I am never dead nor stupid nor barren;" durst I say such things (I dare not say them, for I should have a lie in my right hand), it would be distressing the poor, burdened and exercised family, and not casting up the highway in which the redeemed walk.

 

But the path of the just is one in which spirituality at times breathes forth out of carnality, life at times enjoys blessed deliverance out of death, fruitfulness at times overcomes barrenness, light at times bursts forth out of darkness, mercy at times overcomes guilt, love at times casts out fear, and hope at times repels despondency. Here we come to that which is peculiar to the quickened elect; we touch upon peculiar workings, peculiar traces; here we begin to discern the stamp of the Holy Ghost, as distinct from all the religion of the flesh, and all the delusions and deceits of the wicked one. But those who have no grace are very glad to hide themselves under the wing of a minister; and when they hear him speak of deadness, carnality, barrenness, unbelief, and doubt -"Ah!" say they, "he is tracing out my experience now; oh! I can come in there; there is a little nibble for me". But what is he tracing out? Not the work of God in the soul, not the work of the Spirit upon the conscience; but that carnality, barrenness, and death, which all men have -merely the work of the flesh, and not the work of the Spirit of God.

 

But God’s people have also peculiar exercises under temptations. To have temptations is no mark of being a child of God, because men in the world have temptations. What makes the pick-pocket dip his fingers into the coat of the passer-by? Temptation to theft. What makes the drunkard steal into the gin palace? The love of drink. What brings the felon to the gallows? Temptation to murder.

 

Therefore the existence of temptation and the power of temptation is no proof of being a child of God; but the proof of being a child of God is what are the feelings and exercises of the soul under temptations, how the living principle is manifested by working against and under temptations. Is there any pain? Does temptation cause distress? Is there a sigh and cry to God for deliverance? Does the renewed spirit groan and heave exceedingly beneath the heavy weight of it? Are there occasional deliverances from it? Is mercy manifested in pardoning the soul that has been entangled in it? Is the grace of God blessedly glorified in healing the backslidings that temptations have caused? Is there a stretching forth of the arms of faith to embrace the cross of Christ as the only refuge from temptation? Now we come to life. But if you conclude yourself to be a child of God because you are tempted, it is but a deceiving of yourself. It is an awful delusion of the devil to set up temptation as an evidence of grace, without the exercises of the soul under temptation, without the burdens of temptation, without the bitter sighs and cries under temptation, without deliverance out of temptation. To set up temptations in themselves as way-marks is nothing else but to obscure the road which the Holy Ghost has traced out in the Word of God, and which the Holy Ghost traces out in the consciences of the living family.

 

2. But again, the peculiar people have peculiar deliverances. And after all, friends, say what we may about doubts and fears, and convictions, and distresses, and sore temptations, and painful exercises, I am well convinced that the grand soul-satisfying evidence is deliverance. Does the prisoner, when he is confined in the dark cell, feel an evidence that he shall come abroad by looking at the prison bars? Does the trembling criminal standing upon the gallows, and reaching forth his anxious eyes over the crowd, if he can see the king’s messenger riding at full speed with a pardon in his hand, conclude that he shall be respited because he feels the halter pinching his neck? No; it is deliverance which is the testimony; it is the king’s pardon which sets him free; it is the unrolling of the document signed by the hand of the sovereign, that detaches the noose from his neck, and sends him forth once more among his fellows as a living man.

 

And so it is with a child of God that is exercised with distressing fears, that feels the agonizing throes of despair in his soul, that seems suspended over eternity by a hair. He wants deliverance, he wants pardon, he wants a testimony, he wants the manifestation of God’s mercy to his soul. "Well," but say some, "if this be the case, if there is no evidence to be traced in doubts and fears, if sin and corruption and temptation are not marks of grace, what in the world makes you and other ministers preach them? Why do not you leave them all alone, and exalt a glorious Christ? and why not have done with all these temptations and corruptions?" I will tell you why. Suppose that I had lost my way in going to a place which I very anxiously wished to reach, and I inquired of a person whom I can trust which is the road to it. He tells me, and he says, "I will give you a mark to know the road by; it is very hilly, it is very rough, it is very rugged and stony; there are many pits and sloughs in it, and above all the road is very dirty". I listen to his instructions; I thank him for his intelligence, and I start forth. But I come to a road as smooth as a bowling- green; I find not one stone on the road bigger than M’Adam himself would allow; everything is easy to my feet. "Come," say I to myself, "this cannot be the road; I was told the road had stones in it, and hills and pitfalls, and mud and mire- surely I must be out of the road". But if I find at last a road which is very hilly, and very rough and rugged, and I now and then sink up to my shoes in the mud and mire, and everything which I find in the road tallies with the description which my informant has given me, I say, "I am in the road now; it is just as I was told; here I am in the right road".

 

Well, the Word of God has traced out the road to heaven as a road of this nature, a rough and thorny road, full of difficulties, exercises, straits and temptations; and if you read the Heb 11 eleventh chapter of Hebrews you will have a description of the travellers there -what exercise and temptations they pass through. The, mark this -the mud, the mire, the stones, the hills, the valleys, are not the road, but they lie in the road. Could they be swept away, the road would be the same; but they are there, and we must travel through them. So with the mud and mire of my heart, the unbelief, and pride, and presumption, and hypocrisy of my fallen nature, the sharp arrows that Satan shoots, the temptations that the world spreads, the opposition of professors, the persecution of the world, the doubts and fears of my own mind -if I am to walk in the strait and narrow path that leads to eternal life, I must pass through these.

 

These are not evidences, but still they are so inseparable from the road, that though they are not the road itself, they so lie in the road that if I walk in that road I must walk through them. Then that is the reason why those who desire to take the stumbling-blocks out of the way of God’s people, and to be sons of consolation to the poor in Zion, talk of doubts, and fears, and exercises, and temptations, and griefs, and sorrows; that they may strengthen the living family who are struggling in this rough and miry road, for a living foot will toil on though in the mud, when a dead carcass would sink in it without a struggle.

 

For after all, deliverance is the grand evidence. To be sweetly blessed with a view of Jesus; to have the pardon of sin sealed upon the soul; to catch a sight of that glorious robe which covers and shrouds the guilty criminal; to have one’s eye open to see Jesus; to look into His bosom; to see His tender heart beating with compassion; and to feel the atoning drops of His blood falling into our conscience, to purge it and to cleanse it from all guilt and sin- that is the evidence, that is the soul-satisfying testimony, and that which brings into the heart the peace of God which passeth all understanding.

 

None but the elect can ever have this evidence, and I will tell you another thing, none but the elect ever desire to have it. I cannot believe in my conscience that anyone but a vessel of mercy that is quickened by the Holy Ghost ever pants with unutterable pantings after the sweet visitations of the love of God, after the revelation of Christ’s presence, and the applications of His atoning blood. I am sure I never dreamt of such things, or cared for such things, and would have derided them as enthusiasm, and trampled them under foot, as nothing but the fanaticism of bigoted minds, until the Lord led me into these feelings, as I trust, by His own powerful and blessed teaching in my soul.

 

3. But again: this peculiar people will have peculiar marks stamped upon them externally, as well as have peculiar marks internally. They will be separate from the world; they will have no intercourse beyond what business requires with the men of this life, who have no fear of God in their heart, no grace of God in their soul. They will be separated, as God from time to time calls them, from the dead profession of the day; they will have no real fellowship or communion except with the spiritually taught family; they will bear an honest testimony against error of every shape and form; and they will obey strictly that precept, Come out from among them, and be ye separate saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing. 2Co 6:17

 

That is what I have been obliged to do from compulsion; not carnal compulsion, but from inward spiritual compulsion. Who has been wrapped up in stronger folds than I? cradled as it were in everything contrary to the truth of God, swathed round with the strongest swaddling bands of prejudice, steeped up to the lips in worldliness, pride, and ignorance; wrapped round with as many grave-clothes of death as an Egyptian mummy, so that nothing but the hand of God could tear away these folds upon folds, and bring me into anything like uprightness and integrity of heart, and separate me from all that I was entangled in, and from all that I was connected with. I know, then, from personal experience, that there is an inward power communicated, whereby we obey the precept, Come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing,  and prefer the reproach of Christ to all the riches of Egypt. In my right mind, I would rather have the testimony of God in poverty and obscurity, than have the testimony of man with all that the world can bestow.

 

Again, in the peculiar people there will be honesty, uprightness, and integrity. I am ashamed to say it (for it is a blot upon the professing Church), but say it I must, that I myself have known much more honesty and worldly integrity, a nicer sense of honour, more uprightness in worldly dealings, stricter punctuality and straightforwardness in all pecuniary matters, in men of the world who make no profession, than in some of those who pride themselves upon being the people of God. But I believe, wherever the grace of God is in a man’s heart, it will make him honest, not merely before God, but honest before men. No shuffling, no evasion, no swindling, no cheating, can ever exist in a regenerate heart.

 

There is honesty, implanted by God Himself, who searches the heart and tries the reins in every conscience which He has made alive by breathing life into it out of Christ’s fullness. It is a black mark against you to be a shuffler. Meanness, trickery, and evasion come not from God. He that dwelleth in the light which no man can approach unto,  will communicate to your soul some measure of His own uprightness. Let us have common honesty, friends; let us have integrity. Let not the world say, "These professors of religion will cheat us if they can". Let us have something like honour and something like uprightness, that we may not bear the stigma which the world would be glad to throw upon us.

 

4. Again: where God Himself has stamped us as His "peculiar people," there will be marks visible to the church of God; there will be a gentleness, a tenderness, a meekness, a contrition, a softness of spirit. There will not be a pouring forth of the venom and enmity of our carnal mind against all that oppose us; there will be no clambering to get to the topmost seat; there will be no elbowing and thrusting persons here and there, that we may be admired and bowed down to; but there will be a humility, and a meekness, and a contrition, and a yielding submission and tenderness of spirit, whereby we are willing to be anything so long as we are dear children. And we shall come sometimes to David’s spot, when he said he would rather be a door-keeper in the house of the Lord, than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

 

Here is the mirror. Look into it. Can you see your features? Say you, "I have no doubt of election?" Probably not. But has God certified you of your own? Say you, "I believe all the doctrines you preach; my father was a Calvinist; I was always brought up to Dissent, and I have received the doctrines of grace from infancy?" Very likely. But did God Himself ever seal and apply these truths with power to your soul? Those that are born of the Spirit, we read, are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. Joh 1:13 Has He stamped His own mark upon your spirit, engraved His own likeness upon your soul, brought you into any measure of conformity to the Son of His love, and raised up in your heart some resemblance to Himself?

 

I believe many of God’s people, if not most have much ado to make their calling and election sure. 2Pe 1:10 They are not a people to take things for granted; they cannot sit at ease and say, "I have no doubt that I am a child of God"; they want something powerful, something applied, something spoken by the mouth of God Himself, and short of that they must be exercised with doubts and fears as to their state before Him. Now let conscience speak; let us turn over the leaves of conscience. What says that faithful witness? Has God spoken with power to your soul? Has He pardoned your sins? Has He given you a sweet testimony of your interest in the Son of His love? Say you, "Why, I do not know that I can say all that, I do not know that God has pardoned my sins". Well we will come a little lower then: if you cannot say that, we will take a little lower ground; can you say that you are sighing and groaning and crying at times -not always, but as the Lord works in you, for the sweet manifestations of the love of Jesus to your souls? Here is a door open for you -the door of hope in the valley of Achor. Can you come in here? Well, these are marks of being one of God’s peculiar people. But you cannot be satisfied, short of God Himself making it known to you: you want an immediate testimony from His blessed mouth, and nothing but that can satisfy you; and when He sheds abroad His love in your soul, it will give you peace and comfort, and nothing short of that can.

 

But remember, there is no middle place. How glad thousands would be if there were a place betwixt heaven and hell! O! could they but find purgatory to be true, and have some medium spot! "They are not good enough," say they, "for heaven; but surely they are not bad enough for hell!" O, could they but find some place betwixt the two! But there is none. There is a great gulf fixed Lu 16:26 between Abraham and Dives: there is no intermediate spot. It is either a peculiar people ordained to eternal glory, or a people foreordained to everlasting perdition; it is either being interested in the love and blood of the Redeemer, or it is being under the tremendous wrath and curse of God to all eternity; it is either standing complete in Christ, wrapped up in His righteousness and washed in His blood, or it is to howl in torments through endless ages; it is either to be blessedly caught up into the bosom of God, or thrust down into the habitations of the damned.

 

And therefore, there being such a tremendous gulf betwixt the one and the other, it will make the child of God quake at times, and fear, and tremble to the centre, whether he has an evidence that God is his Father, that Christ is his Elder Brother and that the Holy Ghost is his Teacher. But he will never get any solid satisfaction till God Himself drops a testimony from His own mouth, gives him the spirit of adoption to cry Abba, Father,  unveils His face in Christ Jesus, and seals blood and love in his conscience. Then he enters into his rest, and feels the peace of God which passeth all understanding, Php 4:7 he is sealed as an heir of God and joint heir with Christ, Ro 8:17 and when he dies he will for ever be with Him whom his soul loves.

 

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*AN ACCEPTABLE PRESENT TO THE LORD OF HOSTS 1846

Preached at Providence Chapel, Cranbrook, Kent, on Wednesday Evening, August 19, 1846.

"In that time shall the present be brought unto the Lord of hosts of a people scattered and peeled, and from a people terrible from their beginning hitherto: a nation meted out and trodden under foot, whose land the rivers have spoiled, to the place of the name of the Lord of hosts, the mount Zion." -Isa 18:7

WHEN presents are made, there is usually a correspondence between the present and the person to whom it is given. An ample present for a beggar would be an insult to a nobleman. But especially when presents are made to kings, must the offering be worthy of the royal personage to whom the gift is made; otherwise he would consider it an affront rather than a present. And this more particularly in ancient times and eastern climates, where no one ever thinks of approaching a sovereign or man in power, without laying at his feet a suitable present. Thus the queen of Sheba, when she came to see and consult Solomon, brought the richest presents her country could produce.

The Lord of hosts is said in the text to have a present: "In that time shall the present be brought unto the Lord of hosts." And what present shall he have? Shall it be gold and silver, that object of almost universal idolatrous worship’? Shall it be diamonds, and pearls, and precious stones’? Shall it be noble buildings, and fretted aisles, and pealing organs, and chanting voices, and the fumes of incense’? He that was born in a stable and cradled in a manger, can never look with acceptance upon such offerings as these. Shall it be then the best that nature can present? Shall it be such as the heart of man can lay at his feet as its primest offering? Shall it be creature piety’? Shall it be natural religion? Shall it be human righteousness? Shall it be anything or everything that the creature may produce? The eye of eternal purity can never look upon the works or the words of man, except with abhorrence, for all, all are tainted, polluted, and deeply stained with original sin; and therefore, an offering entirely unacceptable in the eyes of infinite purity.

What shall he then have? What offering is fit for him, for his worth? The text tells us what the present is, that is to be brought to the Lord of hosts; what that offering is, which he will look upon with acceptance, and which he will graciously receive. "In that time shall the present be brought unto the Lord of hosts of a people scattered and peeled, and from a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden under foot, whose land the rivers have spoiled, to the place of the name of the Lord of hosts, the mount Zion."

With God’s blessing, this evening, and looking up to him, as I am compelled, from time to time, from real soul necessity, that he would inspire thoughts, and dictate words, and crown with power what shall be spoken-I shall, in considering the subject, treat it under two heads.

I. -First, show the nature of the present which is made to the Lord of hosts;

II. -The place to which the present is brought, and the way in which the present is received.

I. -If we look at the present made to the Lord of hosts, it is declared by the Holy Ghost in our text to be "a people:. In that time shall the present be brought unto the Lord of a people." You will observe, that the "people" is the present which is brought to the Lord of hosts. But what "people" is this? It is the elect people of God-those that were chosen in Christ before all worlds; as the Lord speaks so clearly and emphatically, Joh 17:6 "Thine they were, and thou gavest them to me." "All mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them". Joh 17:10 The people, then, who are to be brought as a present to the Lord of hosts, are the elect of God; that people for whom Christ died; that people whom he hath formed for himself, and in whom he will show forth his praise.

But the Holy Ghost in the text describes the character of the people who are thus brought. The text does not speak of the people of God merely as elect, merely as redeemed, merely as quickened by the blessed Spirit; but the Holy Ghost has selected certain marks, which are stamped upon this people, and which distinguish them from all other people upon the face of the earth. And here we see much beauty and much wisdom. If there were no description in the word of truth of the characters of God’s people, many of the Lord’s family would want evidences and testimonies that they belong to the election of grace.

Many of the Lord’s people fully and firmly believe that there is an election of grace, but they are often tried in their minds as to whether they are personally interested in this election. They do not cavil and fight against God’s sovereignty, and the doctrines of grace as revealed in the word of truth; their minds are bowed down to receive them, and they firmly believe them to be "the truth as it is in Jesus."

But the trying point with many-shall I say, the majority? of the Lord’s people is, -their own personal, individual interest in these precious doctrines. These are the points which often try their minds; not whether God has an elect people, but whether their names, as individuals, are in the Book of Life. And therefore, that we may be able to distinguish them, and that they may be able, as the blessed Spirit shines upon their evidences, to trace out in their own hearts some decisive marks that they are of the Lord’s family, the Holy Ghost has described their character, and pointed out those peculiar things which are to be found in them, and in them alone. These we shall, this evening, with God’s blessing, endeavour more fully to enter into.

1. The first mark given of this people who are brought as a present to the Lord of hosts is, that they are scattered. Now, if we look at the election of grace generally, this word is most true of them. They are a scattered people. Look at this present congregation. Is it not made up of people from many different towns and villages? Cranbrook alone has not contributed its population to the large assembly that fills this chapel. It is then literally true, that the Lord’s people are a scattered people; dispersed far and wide; dwelling in the towns and villages where God has placed them, that they may be so many living testimonies for God’s truth, and witnesses of God’s grace. But there is something deeper than that. The Lord’s people are not merely scattered as regards their local habitation, but they are scattered in an experimental sense; and this we shall see better, by viewing their state as contrasted with the case of formal, dead professors. Their religion lies altogether; their piety, their holiness, their goodness, their strength, and their wisdom lie all in one heap; and the more they accumulate, and the more they get together, the more collected and compact is their strength, their wisdom and their righteousness.

But not so with the Lord’s family. God’s children differ completely from them in this point, that they are scattered internally, as to their own feelings, and as to the experience of their own hearts, just as much as they are scattered locally up and down this ungodly world. They are "strangers, dispersed" in their feelings, as well as strangers dispersed in the midst of a wicked and crooked generation. Jas 1:1; 1Pe 1:1-2

Whence springs this scattering? Have you not seen sometimes on a barn floor the wheat and chaff lying together in one confused heap; but the barn doors are thrown open, a strong wind blows through, and what is the immediate consequence? A scattering: the strong breeze blowing through begins to scatter what before lay together in one confused heap. Is not this true spiritually and experimentally in the hearts of God’s people, through the gales of the Spirit? The Lord himself compares the operations of the Spirit to the wind.

When these breezes blow upon the heart, is not their effect immediately to scatter? Here was a man, before the Lord was pleased to work upon his soul with power, dead in sin or dead in a profession. There was no scattering then going on in his heart; there was no separation then in his soul of that which was of God and that which was of man, that which was of flesh and that which was of the Spirit. But when the Lord the Spirit begins to blow upon a man’s heart, immediately a scattering takes place. His righteousness, which before he had got together with great pains, and looked upon in the same way as a miser often views his accumulated treasure-when the anger of God was made manifest in his conscience, and the breadth and spirituality of his holy law were revealed with power, this righteousness which he had so painfully and so laboriously accumulated was scattered to the four winds of heaven.

His wisdom, in which he once so gloried over other men; his clear knowledge of the doctrines in the letter, his acquaintance with God’s word, and the good opinion that he had of himself as a wise and understanding man-no sooner does the breath of the Lord begin to blow upon the sinner’s conscience, than all this wisdom is scattered before the wind; all his head knowledge, all his empty profession, all the vain confidence which he once got together, and once could build upon, are scattered and dispersed, and he stands before God a perfect fool.

His prayers which once he could repeat so collectedly, his thoughts which were so little confused, and his hearing which from time to time he could give with such attention, when the breath of the Lord begins to blow upon the heart, all become scattered. His prayers, instead of being collected forms, are now broken fragments of sighs and cries; his hearing, instead of being a matter of criticism, becomes this, ‘0 that the Lord would apply one word to my poor heart!’ His strength which once he could bring forward to support himself against temptation, to overcome sin, and to crucify the flesh-when the breath of the Lord begins to blow upon the soul, he finds to be perfect weakness.

The vain hopes, which once he could gather together, all are scattered when the wrath of God is made known in his conscience, and the purity of Jehovah is revealed in his soul; and all his confident expectations are dispersed when the breath of the Lord blows upon his heart, and scatters them to a thousand pieces.

So that the Lord’s people who are brought as a present, and laid at the feet of Jesus, the Lord of hosts, are not merely a scattered people as regards their habitations, dwelling separate from the world, separate from professors, and separate from evil, as God the Spirit enables them; but in their feelings, in their experience before God are they thus scattered and divided, so as to be unable to get anything together that they can look upon with pleasure and admiration.

2. The next mark that is given of this people that are brought as a present to the Lord of hosts, is, that it is a "peeled" people. There is one text in the Scripture which I think is a key to this expression. Some of you will, perhaps, remember the promise made to Nebuchadnezzar by the mouth of the prophet Ezekiel, Eze 29:18 where the Lord tells him that he would give him Egypt in recompense for the hard service he served at Tyre, when "every head was made bald, and every shoulder peeled;" that is to say, his soldiers had been so long engaged in the siege of Tyre that their very heads had become bald through the number of years, and they carried such heavy burdens upon their shoulders, they so wielded the mattock and shouldered the spade, that the very flesh of their shoulders peeled off and became raw.

This, I think, is the Scripture key to the expression in the text, "of a people being peeled." It is as if the blessed Spirit would bring before us a heavily burdened people. If you were to carry a burden a considerable distance upon your shoulder with a stick, would not your shoulder soon become raw, and the flesh peel off? Thus the expression seems to point out the burdens which the Lord’s people have to carry, so heavy and so long, that their very flesh peels off through the load. For instance,

There is the burden of sin; and wherever the Lord takes a soul in hand, he makes it feel more or less of the burden of sin. There is also the burden of unbelief and infidelity, that many of the Lord’s people have so long and so much to groan under. There is the burden too of a hard heart- a dark, stupid, stony, unfeeling heart, that will not relent and melt down at the footstool of mercy. There are also many temporal, as well as spiritual burdens which the Lord’s people have to carry; afflictions in providence, afflictions in body, afflictions in circumstances, afflictions in family. All these make up so many burdens that they have to bear upon their shoulders.

But the word "peeled" directs us to this idea-not merely that they have burdens, for we may carry a burden upon our shoulders for a time, and that burden not peel the skin off; but it points to the length of time during which it is carried. A little burden, comparatively speaking, carried on the shoulder for a long time, will cause the skin to peel. And thus the Spirit seems to guide our thoughts to the duration of time during which the Lord’s people are burdened; that they have to carry them so far, and have to carry them so long, that spiritually they are, as a man is naturally, "peeled" by the weight they endure, and the time they carry it.

How many burdens have you had to carry during the time you have made a profession of godliness? If they are heavy, and you have carried them long, they have produced a peeled shoulder. The Lord aims, by laying burdens on, to bring us to his feet.

I have thought sometimes spiritually of an old punishment, which was in force in this country. If a prisoner refused to plead guilty, he was taken to a dungeon and stripped, he was fastened down on his back, and a weight was placed upon his chest. If he still continued obstinate, the next day an additional weight was placed. If on the third day he continued perverse, and the plea of "guilty" still refused to escape from his lips, an additional burden was put upon him; until at last, if he persevered in his obduracy, burdens were added till his chest was crushed to pieces.

This may show, in a spiritual point of view, how the Lord deals with his people. He puts a burden upon them: that burden does not at first bring them down. He puts on another: that they carry for some time in their own strength. But the Lord’s purpose is to bring them down, to force the plea of ‘Guilty, guilty!’ out of their lips. And thus the Lord brings our sins to mind; lays upon our consciences, from time to time, our secret iniquities; suffers powerful temptations to seize, harass, and distress our souls; all to bring us to this point, by putting burden upon burden, at last to force the cry and plea of ‘Guilty, guilty!’ out of our lips.

When once that cry comes out of our heart, then the Lord puts forth his hand, and takes the burden off the breast. But until that cry comes out of the very depths of a broken heart-until it comes with simplicity, humility, and godly sincerity from a contrite spirit-burdens will be put on, until at last the soul cries, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner!’

Some of the Lord’s people seem to require heavier burdens than others. There is in some, an unyielding spirit; in others, a self-justifying temper; in a third, a proud, rebellious, perverse disposition; in a fourth, lightness and frivolity of mind; so that, some of the Lord’s people seem to require heavier burdens than others. But whether we require heavier burdens or lighter, to one spot, to one point, must every child of God come-to bow down, as a poor guilty sinner, at the footstool of mercy, there to receive the manifestations of mercy to his soul. As we read, "He brought down their heart with labour: they fell down; and there was none to help." Now comes the effect-"then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses" . Ps 107:12-13

3. The next thing said of this people is, that it is "from a people terrible from their beginning hitherto." The word "from" means, I think, the same thing as the word "of;" as though it ran thus: "In that time shall the present be brought unto the Lord of hosts of a people scattered and peeled, and of a people terrible from their beginning hitherto." In other words, it is a mere repetition of the preceding preposition "of." And that this is the meaning of the expression, seems to me clear from the second verse of the chapter-"Go, ye swift messengers, to a nation scattered and peeled, to a people terrible from their beginning hitherto." Not a people taken out of a people, but this being the character of all that people.

But in what sense is this peculiar people, thus brought as a present to the Lord of hosts, "terrible from their beginning hitherto?" The words seem to my mind to bear this spiritual meaning-the Lord’s people who have clearly a work of grace upon their souls are a terror to their neighbours. The very world can see something in them which distinguishes them from the great mass of mankind. The very professor can see something in them which distinguishes them from others. And though they hate the image of Christ in them, though they abhor to see the features of grace, yet there is that in them which makes them terrible to empty professors, because of the conviction in their conscience, that they are destitute of those things which they see in them.

Those that are dead in sin, and those that are dead in a profession, are no terror to their neighbours. A man may have the soundest doctrines in his head, but if his life be worldly, inconsistent, and ungodly, he is a terror to nobody; the Lord’s people justly shun him, the world deservedly scorn him, and professors cast out his name as evil. But wherever there is a real work of grace upon the heart; wherever the blessed Spirit has touched the conscience with his almighty finger, and planted the fear of God as a living principle within; wherever there is a separation from the world buried in sin or in profession, a living in the fear of the Lord, in uprightness of heart, simplicity, and godly sincerity-every such man, be he in a town or be he in a village, is a secret terror to all, and more especially to those who have a name to live while dead.

If you can be as the great majority of professors are; if you have a Sunday religion, that you can put on when you take your Sunday clothes from the coffer, no one will be afraid of you. But if you have a religion in your heart, lip, and life, carried out in your walk and conversation, you will be one of those people who have been "terrible from their beginning hitherto." The Lord points this out as a characteristic mark of his people, distinguishing them from those who have the form without the power-that "from their beginning," from the very first implantation of divine life in their soul, from their first convictions, from their first cry and sigh, from their first separation from the world, from their first profession of the truth in the power of it, they were a terror.

And not only so, but "hitherto," up to the very time when they are brought to the footstool of mercy as a present to the Lord. They are terrible in conviction, and they are terrible in consolation. They are terrible when under the law, and they are terrible when under the gospel. They are terrible when almost a terror to themselves, and more terrible when the image of Christ is seen more clearly and distinctly in them.

Let them speak of convictions; their very convictions carry with them a weight of evidence which is a terror to those who have never felt convictions. Let them speak of consolations; their very speech, thus "seasoned with salt," is a terror to those who have never felt any genuine consolation. Let them speak of their trials, exercises, fears, doubts, sinkings, and misgivings; they are a terror, if they are on this dark side. Let them speak of the whispers of lovingkindness and tender mercy; let them speak of smiles from the Lord, and the manifestations of his favour; they are a greater terror on the bright side than they were on the dark. And thus the Lord’s people have this mark stamped upon them, that they are terrible from their beginning hitherto.

4. Another mark stamped upon them is, that they are "a nation meted out." The word "meted" means measured. "With what measure ye mete, it shall be meted to you again." Mt 7:3. The present brought to the Lord in the text, is a people inwardly "meted out" in their hearts. How are they measured? Is it not by the Lord himself setting up a just balance in their souls? Are not the Lords people measured out in their own experience before God? Depend upon it, if we have never been measured up in our feelings before God, the Lord himself has not put a just balance into our soul.

But what is this meting out? It is when the Lord is pleased to bring us to the bar of judgment; then are we measured. It is when the Lord is pleased to send home some powerful passage of his word to the heart; then there is a meting out. When we hear the experience of God's people and find our own fall short of it; then there is a meting out. When we see our deficiencies, feel our short-comings, have a sense of our imperfections, remember our backslidings, and mourn over our continual idolatries; then there is a meting out. When we look at what the Lord does for others, the sweet smiles, the heavenly testimonies he bestows upon his people, and feel ourselves to come short in these things; then there is a meting out. When we see some of the Lords people walking closely with God, having much of his manifested favor, living a consistent life, a life of devotedness to the Son of God, and putting us to shame by their uprightness, consistency, and inward close communion with Jesus; then there is meting out.

And this ever will be the verdict of a tender conscience. A man who has nothing but a name to live while dead, the doctrines of grace in his head without any tender feeling in his soul, is never measured up, never meted out. He has no tender conscience, no godly fear, no sense of God's purity and holiness, no trembling at God's word, no discovery of God's holy law, no knowledge of his own wickedness and sinfulness before him.

But the Lords people carry in their bosom that fear of God which is "the beginning of wisdom." The Lords people have in their breast a conscience made tender and alive. And this conscience that the Lords people have, falls under the power of truth, bends before the word of God, submits to that which is commended to their heart and comes with divine weight, authority, and power attending it.

Thus the Lords people, from time to time, are "meted out," by having their experience brought forth and tested by God's unerring word; by having, from time to time, deep exercises whether what they hope God has done for their souls is in strict consistency with the experience of the saints, whether their hopes and expectations are really such as will meet with the divine approval.

And this is the intent, and this is the profit of a heart-searching ministry. God from time to time send such ministers among you! The child of God, whose conscience is tender, when he hears a heart-searching ministry, does not sit in criticizing judgment. He looks inward. He wants to know whether the sentence of conscience is in his favor; whether he has a sweet testimony, that he himself has passed through these vital things in his soul. Where he falls short, he desires the Lord will accomplish what he has not fully experienced. What he has experienced, he blesses God for; where he is deficient, he cries, "what I know not, teach thou me."

Thus under a heart-searching ministry, he bares his bosom, and compares the work of God as traced out in the ministry with what God has done for him. Where it is lacking, he feels a fear; where there is a mark, he feels a sweet hope. So that the Lords people are distinguished from all people on the face of the globe, by being thus experimentally "meted out" by the Spirit of God shining with divine light into their heart, and holding up this balance, in which are weighed up their thoughts, words, and actions, their profession and possession, in the court of conscience.

But those that are dead in sin, or dead in a profession, know nothing of this weighing up. They are offended by an honest testimony. They rise up in resentment and rebellion against those who "take forth the precious from the vile". They cannot bear to hear the teachings and operations of God the Spirit upon the heart set forth, for they are condemned thereby. One whose conscience is made tender in God's fear, desires to hear the operations of the Spirit traced out, that he may have some testimony that God is with him of a truth. And if he can find his experience sweetly unfolded, if light be cast upon his path, blessed sensations spring up in his heart of thankfulness to God, that such feelings have passed through his soul, and he praises God, that ever he has looked upon him in mercy and love..

But all others resent it; they cannot bear to hear the life-giving power of the Spirit insisted upon, because it unmasks their hypocrisy, and shows the emptiness of their profession.

5. "And trodden underfoot." This is another mark of the Lord's people, who are brought as a present to the Lord of hosts, they are "trodden under foot." How scorned, despised, and contemned are the Lords people! This is the mark and stamp the Lord the Spirit has fixed upon them. By this they are known from others, they are  "trodden under foot," despised by men, rejected and cast out, as their Master was before them; "trodden under foot," as too contemptible to be thought of, as though they were the very dung and off-scouring of the earth. Let a man be ever so respectable, as it is termed, in life, if he has the grace of God in his soul, he will be "trodden under foot."

Let a minister only contend for the teachings and operations of the Spirit upon the heart, he will be "trodden under foot." Let a child of God come forward, in simplicity and honesty of soul, to speak of the Lord's dealings with him, he will be "trodden under foot." All will despise him, except the people of God, who will feel sweet communion with him. All will pour contempt upon him, scorn his profession, and hate his religion, because he makes the creature nothing, and makes God all in all; because he feels and says, that he has nothing but what God gives, knows nothing but what God teaches, feels nothing but what God inspires, and brings forth nothing but what God creates.

This is a sound most irksome to human ears. They can listen with approbation to the dignity of man and the doings of the creature. But the dealings of the Holy Spirit with broken hearts and contrite souls, the riches of Christ's grace to the poor and needy, they despise, and ever will despise; and the more a man has of the likeness and image of Christ in his soul, and the more he is manifested as one of God's own family, the more will he be "trodden under foot."

But this is not all, there is a keener stroke than this. You and I can bear the contempt of man, if we have the solemn approbation of God in our soul. We can bear the sneer, jeer, and scorn of mortal worms, who shall die, and whose breath is in their nostrils, if we have a testimony in our souls that the Lord is our God

But to come to this painful point, to be "trodden under foot" of ourselves; not merely to be "trodden under foot" of men, that we can bear; but to be trodden under "foot" of ourselves; to see and feel ourselves to be beyond description, the vilest of the vile, the filthiest of the filthy; to feel ourselves dung indeed before God, the off-scouring of all things, everything hateful and loathsome before his pure and holy eyes, this is trying.

But it is these feelings that make us also tread upon all that nature so highly prized before. We tread upon our own wisdom, our own strength, our own attainments, our own qualifications; we tread upon them all, as mean and despicable in the eyes of a heart-searching God.

But what is more cutting still, many of the Lords people have to fear, deeply and painfully to fear, lest they should be also "trodden under foot" of God; feeling themselves so vile, base, abject, and despicable, as to fear lest the divine foot should trample them into hell.

Thus there is a three-fold meaning in this "trodden under foot", "trodden under foot" of men, "trodden under foot" of ourselves, and sometimes fearing lest we should be "trodden under foot" of God, and the last the keenest and most cutting stroke of all.

6. ("Whose land the rivers have spoiled." They had a land then once, and a beautiful land it was, if not in reality, at least in imagination. Upon this land they could look, as a wealthy land-owner sometimes walks up and down the length and breadth of his estate; or as Nebuchadnezzar contemplated the city he had built for himself with self-complacent admiration.

Who of us has not had a land that he has admired and idolized as his own estate? His property, his children, his reputation, his worldly prospects, his fancied paradise, the little Eden set up in imagination, though he never had it in possession? But this "land the rivers have spoiled."

We cannot enter into the full force of this expression, because the rivers in our country are so different from the rivers in Palestine. There torrent's rush with violence from the mountains, and carry devastation before them. The rivers in our level country rather fertilize than destroy; but in that mountainous country they come down with such force, and bring with them such a series of stones, mud, and earth, that instead of fertilizing, they spoil the land over which they rush. This, then, is the figure the Spirit has used, "whose land the rivers have spoiled;" that is, these unexpected mountain streams (for they come down suddenly) rush upon the land, and spoil its smiling produce, so laboriously and assiduously cultivated. The fields were expected to bring forth a rich harvest, but now the rivers have spoiled them.

Has it not been so with the land in which you once so delighted? When you were young, you looked forward to a life of happiness; you were to be married, and you and your family were to enjoy an imaginary paradise. But your land the rivers have spoiled. Some dear object of creature affection has been torn from your embrace; and thus the land that once smiled like the garden of Eden has been spoiled by the sudden rolling down of a mountain river.

Perhaps you had been calculating how you would get on in life, laying your plans, and drawing your schemes, expecting to be very comfortable and respectable in worldly circumstances. Alas, the river has rushed down, and spoiled and desolated the land!

When, too, you began to think about religion, you thought you would cultivate your heart, bring forth faith, hope, and love, and all the fruits of the Spirit, by due attendance on the means of grace. But this land also the rivers have spoiled. Look at your worldly schemes now, look at your heart, and the image it presents now. The once fancied fertile land, the mountain rivers and torrents have flowed over it, and covered it with earth, dirt and stones. Has it not been so? Have you not felt that the rivers have spoiled it? That your earthly paradise, your fancied Eden, is devastated? Are you not now distressed in soul, cast down in spirit, tempted by Satan; and those very things from which you expected to reap a rich harvest of joy and consolation have now become a plague and torment to you?

Who would have thought that such a people as this should be presented to the Lord of hosts, a people that nobody else would take? Who would not have thought, viewing the subject in a natural light, that the Lord would take the rich, the noble, the learned, the respectable, the well-educated, the pious, the religious, and the holy; those who have never sinned against him, like the elder son in the 'Prodigal'? Who would not think, that if the Lord looked upon any people at all, he would look upon such? But the Lord's thoughts are not our thoughts, nor his ways our ways. The people whom he takes as a present to himself, or a people universally despised and hated, and by none so much despised and hated as by themselves.

My friends, can any of you find these marks meeting in your soul's experience? Here we have the inspired word of God giving us a spiritual description of the people who are to be brought as a present to the Lord of hosts. Let me read once more their character:, "in that time shall the present be brought unto the Lord of hosts of a people scattered and peeled, and from a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out, and trodden under foot, whose land the rivers have spoiled."

As I have gone through the text, so far as the Lord has enabled me to trace out the marks the blessed Spirit has given, has there been a solemn echo in your soul? Has there been a secret "Amen" in your heart's experience that you, through mercy, are one of the people thus experimentally described?

II. (As these, then, are to be brought as a present unto the Lord of hosts, where is this present to be received?, "To the place of the name of the Lord of hosts, the Mount Zion." There it is the present is to be brought; and this casts a light upon the reason why the Lord accepts this people. It is only in Mount Zion that they can be accepted; that is, in the gospel, which Mount Zion signifies.

It is out of Zion that the law was to go forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem; it was in Zion that the Lord commanded the blessing. Here her saints shout aloud for joy; here the great mystery is unraveled; here the enigma is solved. The holy God could not look upon this people with acceptance viewed as they are in nature's rags and ruin. But when the blessed Spirit brings this people, with all their guilt and wretchedness to mount Zion (as the Apostle says, "But ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, the general assembly and church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven," Heb 12 verse twenty-two, when the blessed Spirit brings this people described by these characters, "scattered, peeled, meted out, and trodden under foot, whose land the rivers have spoiled"-brings them all poor and needy, brings them all tatters and rags, brings them all wretchedness and ruin to mount Zion, there they receive a precious Jesus into their heart, in the sweet, unctuous teachings of the Holy Spirit.

Thus coming to mount Zion, God can receive them as a present, all broken and shattered though they are, because he receives them in the Person, love, blood, and righteousness of his dear Son. And this solves the mystery. How could you and I, all filthy and defiled as we feel ourselves to be-how could we dare to present ourselves before the footstool of omniscient purity in our native rags and creature ruin? We cannot; we dare not. But when there is a spiritual discovery to the conscience of "the Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus", faith receives the atonement; the soul feels Jesus near, dear, and precious; there is a sweet melting sensation under the dewy teachings of the blessed Spirit whereby he is received into the heart and affections as "of God made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption".

And thus the Father indeed can smile upon this wretched people, and thus indeed can the present be acceptably brought to the feet of the Lord of hosts at mount Zion. Jesus presents them to his Father, clothed with his righteousness, washed in his blood, without spot, or blemish, or any such thing.

Thus have I, however feebly, endeavoured this evening to describe the character of the Lord’s people as a present made, and the way in which this present is received.

What are we presenting from time to time when we come before the footstool of mercy? When we visit a throne of grace, what do we lay down there? Our own righteousness? our promises? our vows? our resolutions? what we have been? what we intend to be? Can we insult the Majesty of heaven by going to his feet, and offering him this? No; we cannot; we dare not.

If we have a discovery of God’s holy character; if we have a sense of our guilt and ruin before him-as the text describes God’s people-we shall come poor and needy, having nothing and being nothing, lying low at the footstool of mercy, deserving God’s eternal displeasure, and yet looking up to the Mediator between God and man, and embracing, as the Spirit gives faith and power, the crucified Jesus, as all our salvation and all our desire.

But how different this is from the ways and works of man! "Make yourselves better, reform your lives, lop off the branches of sin, give up bad habits, forsake old companions, make yourselves new hearts." Is not this the language of the day? Do not these words sound from a thousand pulpits? And what is the fruit of all this lip labour? To make the proud prouder, and the hard harder; to drive farther from God those who are already far from him.

The Lord the Spirit does not teach his people thus. He teaches the people of God what they are; he leads them to the hole of the pit whence they were digged, makes them feel their ruin and wretchedness, and shows them, and that effectually, what they are-guilty, vile, lost, perishing, and undone. Thus he opens a way to receive Jesus, as of God made unto them all he is to the church.

When I feel my helplessness, it makes me come unto him on whom help is laid. When I feel my poverty, if I see his boundless riches, it makes me highly prize them. If I feel my guilt, and the blessed Spirit reveal his blood, how suitable to my guilty conscience! If I see my nakedness, how suitable is his glorious righteousness! If I feel sinking, how suitable to have the everlasting arms upholding my drooping soul! These are the qualifications that the blessed Spirit works in the hearts of God’s people; which are not required once only, but are continually needful; for only so far as these qualifications are wrought and brought forth in our hearts, can we see any glory, any beauty, any preciousness, or any suitability in Jesus.

Have then you and I ever felt him precious? I hope I have at times felt him precious to my soul. But when has it been? When we have been wise, holy, righteous, religious, and doing something for him? No; not so. When we were poor and needy; when smitten with guilt and shame; when bowed down with the guilt of sin; when sunk into the ruins of self; when we had nothing and were nothing but rags and wretchedness. Then it is that the Lord of life and glory makes himself precious to the perishing sinner by opening up the riches of his dying love to the broken and contrite heart. This is the way, the only way, to grow up as he is; and this is the way, the only way, to grow up into Christ when received.

My friends, your own wisdom, your own strength, your own righteousness, your own religion-away with it! It is not worth a straw in the things of God. But the deeper you feel your need, the more suitable Jesus is. The more empty, the more room to be filled; the more stripped, the more room to be clothed; the more cast down, the more room to be raised up.

And thus, when opened up in the Spirit’s light, we see what a suitable present this is for the Lord. Is it not a monarch’s highest boast and prerogative to be free and bountiful? Is not this glorifying to the regal dignity of the Son of God-to receive nothing, but to bestow everything? What! shall I give him my righteousness as an equivalent? Shall I present him my good and holy life to purchase his dying love? It is worthless. But when I come as having nothing and being nothing but a mass of depravity and rags, and he is pleased to discover to my needy, naked soul his suitability and preciousness, what a sweet union there is between a poor sinner and a complete Saviour, betwixt a broken heart and a precious Jesus, betwixt a soul in its feelings of guilt and shame and him who is mighty to save, "God over all, blessed for ever."

Do you hope-do any of you hope-that you will one day face to face see the Lord as he is? that you are among this present which is to be brought to the Lord of hosts, to appear on mount Zion, with eternal glory on your heads, when sorrow and sighing flee away? Is this your hope? Do you look up sometimes with a good expectation that you will one day be safe before the throne? But can you find any mark I have described in your experience? To know this, is to know the whole case: for if you are received and presented on mount Zion here below, you will be presented hereafter and stand on mount Zion above.

It is a mercy to feel any marks of grace written by the finger of God upon your heart and conscience. It is not because you are very holy, very spiritual, very consistent, though these are good when they come from the work of the Holy Spirit, and are his blessed fruits and graces. But we are not to bring these things, and lay them at the footstool of mercy, as though we could exchange them for "gold tried in the fire". No, the Lord will teach us that we are indeed poor and needy; that we are nothing and have nothing; that what we have is his gift, and what we are is his work.

Have I then had this evening a witness in some hearts, that they do know these things by vital experience? However tried, tempted, and cast down they may be, may God give them this sweet consolation that all their trials and exercises are for this one purpose-to lay them low and keep them low-to bring them a present to the Lord of hosts, and to endear him to their hearts in his covenant grace and dying love.

*AN IMMUTABLE GOD AND A STRONG CONSOLATION

Heb 6:18-19

Preached at Gower Street Chapel, London, on Lord’s Day Evening, July 8, 1866

“That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil.” Heb 6:18-19

WE live in a mutable world. The revolutions of the seasons; the vicissitudes of day and night; the alternations of weather from heat to cold and from dry to wet; the growth of our own bodies from childhood up to youth and manhood, and in some cases on to advancing old age; the alterations which take place in our own minds, in our thoughts, in our views, in our feelings, and in our varied exercises, both natural and spiritual, all stamp change and mutability upon everything here below. The departure of friends one after the other-how many well-known faces of attached hearers do I miss from the congregation now before me!-tells us also how change is stamped upon the life of men. Family bereavements, vicissitudes in business, change of friends into enemies, separation by distance or local habitation from those with whom we have walked in sweet fellowship, with the forming of new acquaintances and the rising up of fresh friends, these all manifest mutability as a part of the life we live in the flesh, as regards our connection with others.

As regards ourselves, and more especially our inward feelings, the movements of our spirit God-ward, and all that we hope and believe is a part of, or closely connected with, the life of God in our soul; how subject that is to change also. If blessed one day with the light of God’s countenance, we have to walk in another in thick sensible darkness; if brought out for a time into sweet liberty, then are we again shut up, it may be for a long space, in cruel bondage; if relieved for a little while from the weight of afflictions and trials, then again we have to put our neck under the yoke and be exercised as much by them as before; if favoured sometimes with sweet access to a throne of grace, and blessed with holy liberty to pour out our heart before God, then again are we shut up in miserable dryness, deadness, coldness, sloth and indifference, so as scarcely to feel a movement of real prayer within.

Thus, whether we look at the world without or the world within, whether we fix our eyes upon men and circumstances as they pass before us, or regard the movements of divine life in our own breast, change and mutability we see stamped upon all. But them is a greater change to come than any which we have yet experienced, when the eyelids will droop in death, when the pallor of our last sleep will overspread the face, when life itself will have fled and the warm body be reduced to a heap of cold clay, to be consigned to the silent tomb, there to await the last and greatest change of all in the resurrection morn, when the Lord will change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself. Php 3:21

But what an unspeakable mercy it is amidst all these changes to have to do with One who is unchanging and unchangeable; One who says, “I change not, therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed;” One “with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning;” One who is “the same yesterday, today and for ever;” One who rests in His love and whose purposes, like Himself, stand fast for evermore. This is that foundation both of faith and hope, which the apostle brings before our eyes and heart in the words of our text, encouraging us to hold fast our profession upon the ground of God’s immutability. “That by two immutable things in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.”

In opening up these words, I shall, as the Lord may enable, direct your attention,

I.- First, to the characters spoken of: They are those “who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before them.”

II.- Secondly, the strong consolation, which God has provided for them.

III.- Thirdly, the pillars, the two pillars on which this strong consolation rests; the two immutable things in which it was impossible for God to lie.

IV.-And, lastly, the nature of the hope which they have laid hold of: That it is “an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and entereth into that within the veil.”

I.-The main object of the apostle in this chapter, as very much generally all through the epistle, is to strengthen and confirm the faith and hope of those whom he calls the “heirs of promise.” And I may observe here, by the way, that one special feature of the epistles of the New Testament is to comfort and encourage the living family of God. They are not addressed to the world, nor was it the primary intention of the inspired apostle in writing them to call sinners out of darkness into God’s marvellous light. It should be fully and clearly understood that they were written to those already called: members of the church of Christ by spiritual regeneration, and members of visible churches by profession. But being in many points imperfectly instructed, they needed to be built up on their most holy faith. They had also to endure what the apostle calls in this epistle “a great fight of afflictions.” They had to be made a gazing stock or public spectacle in the reproaches and indignities cast upon them, and even to take joyfully the spoiling of their goods, as knowing in themselves that they had in heaven a better and an enduring substance. They therefore needed in every way to be strengthened and encouraged, that they might not cast away their confidence, which had great recompense of reward.

Now there was no ground of strength and encouragement more suitable for those thus situated than the faithfulness of God. It is for this reason, therefore, that the apostle is continually bringing before the church the promises made to Abraham, and God’s faithfulness in fulfilling them. Thus he speaks of “Abraham being the father of all them that believe, whether Jew or Gentile,” and of our “walking in the steps of his faith, to the end that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.” Ro 4:16  Now what was the peculiar character of Abraham’s faith? It was this, that “he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully persuaded that what He had promised He was able to perform.” Ro 4:20-21  He would therefore encourage the heirs of promise to rest upon the security and stability of God’s everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure, and thus manifest that they were blessed with all the blessings which were given to Abraham.

But in order to guard the subject well, to preserve the professing church of Christ from the shoal of presumption, as well as the quicksand of despair; while he would on the one hand strengthen faith and hope, and yet not encourage arrogance, boasting and vain-confidence, he takes care to point out very clearly who the characters are to whom the blessings of the gospel belong. It is this peculiar feature of describing characters, and not restricting promises to persons, which establishes a connection with us and them, and I may add, between us and the Scriptures of truth; for if we find and feel in our own bosom the characters, as I may term them, of spiritual and eternal life stamped there by the hand of God, we may take courage to believe that all the blessings of the gospel are ours, that we are true children of Abraham, and, as such, heirs of promise, and as being heirs of promise, are blessed with all the blessings of our father Abraham.

The character, then, here specially pointed out in our text, as if by the finger of God is of one who has fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before him. Let us seek, as the Lord may enable, to open and elucidate this character, for it is very descriptive as well as very comprehensive. It commences with the very beginning of the work of grace upon the soul, and follows it up almost to its completion. And admire with me the wisdom of the apostle in not setting up a high standard of experience and divine teaching, but with great condescension coming down so low as to embrace all in whom the good work is begun, and who are taught and led by the blessed Spirit out of sin and self to embrace the Lord of life and glory as set forth and revealed in the gospel.

But there are two points in the characters, which will demand our special notice:

1.   their fleeing;  

2.   their laying hold.

I.    The first point is that they have fled for refuge. What is it thus to have fled? and how is it a description of those in whom the Lord the Spirit has begun a gracious work? The expression is evidently metaphorical and figurative. We cannot then do better than to adopt the same mode of explaining it, and by using simple figures and illustrations, which often cast a clear and broad light upon Scriptural subjects, to explain and elucidate what we may understand by the expression, that you who have fled for refuge may find light from the sanctuary streaming upon your path, raising up a sweet confidence in your own bosom that you are amongst these blessed heirs of promise.

1.      The first illustration which I shall adopt is taken from the walled or fortified cities of which we read so much in the Old Testament. You will recollect how the spies sent by Moses to explore the land brought back word that “the cities in it were great and walled up to heaven.” To understand the reason for these fortified cities, we should know a little of the peculiarities of the holy land at all periods of its history.

Now Palestine had this peculiar character, that it was not all mountain nor all plain, nor were the mountains very high, or the plains, with one or two exceptions, very wide. This mixture of hill and plain made it available for a vast population, the plains and valleys affording pasture for large flocks of sheep and cattle as well as arable soil for crops of corn, and the hills, which were cultivated to the very top, yielding terraces which in that warm climate produced abundance of oil and wine from the olive trees and vines which occupied every inch of ground.

But the feature to which I wish to call your attention, as illustrating our text is this. The whole land, except a narrow strip on the sea-coast, was surrounded on almost every side by wandering tribes of predatory habits, known to us under the Scripture names of Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites, etc., with whom we find the children of Israel continually at war, besides the more settled and inveterate Philistines. Now it was the habit of these predatory tribes, as is the case at the present time with the Bedouin Arabs, to make sudden raids or incursions into this cultivated territory, sweep away flocks and herds and trample down or carry off the corn, besides slaughtering all the defenceless people, with the women and children, on whom they could lay their violent hands. To guard their persons, then, where they could not secure their property against these wandering tribes, who might burst in at any moment, the people built upon the hills and mountains fortified cities, so that when an alarm was sounded that the land was threatened to be swept over by any of these predatory incursions, they might flee for refuge to these fortified towns, where they with their wives and children were safe for a time until their enemies had dispersed and gone back to the desert. A knowledge of this circumstance will explain many allusions in the Word of truth to hills and fortified places, strong towers and the like. Thus we find David frequently saying, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress;” and again, “Thou hast been a strong tower to me from the enemy.” So Isaiah speaks, “There shall be upon every high mountain, and upon every high hill, rivers and streams of water in the day of the great slaughter when the towers fall.” Isa 30:25  Solomon declares that “the name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it and is safe.” This custom, therefore, of fleeing to these hills, forts and strong towers which were built upon the mountainous parts of Palestine may serve as an elucidation of the meaning of the expression in our text-fleeing for refuge to the hope set before us.

We spiritually are much like the children of Israel naturally. On every side are hosts of enemies ever invading our souls, trampling down every good thing in our hearts, accompanied by a flying troop of temptations, doubts, fears, guilt and bondage sweeping over the plain of our soul like those wandering tribes over the plains of Palestine, carrying off, burning and destroying everything on which they can lay their hands; and we, as regards our own strength, as helpless against them as the children of Israel were at many points of their history against the Philistines, the Ammonites and Moabites, and other such surrounding enemies. But there is a refuge set before us in the gospel of the grace of God. The Lord Jesus Christ, as King in Zion, is there held up before our eyes as the Rock of our Refuge, our strong Tower, our impregnable Fortress; and we are encouraged by every precious promise and every gospel invitation when we are overrun and distressed by these wandering, ravaging, plundering tribes to flee unto and find a safe refuge in Him.

2.      Take another idea; for I wish to explain things and make them as clear as I can for your instruction and comfort. It is not so scriptural as the last but as vividly true, and may well serve as an illustration of the same truth. We read sometimes of harbours of refuge, and attempts have been often made in Parliament to obtain a large grant of public money to construct them; for indeed much needed they are.

For instance, all along our eastern coast there stretches a long line where there is no harbour of refuge for the innumerable ships, which sail along it, or no haven but what is difficult of access. Now when, as is often the case in spring, strong easterly winds blow across the German Ocean, for want of harbours of refuge on this lee shore great loss of ships and lives occurs. Here is, for instance, a large fleet of coasters, London bound, colliers, fishing boats, and other craft on a calm day setting their sails in every direction, studding the whole horizon for many leagues. On a sudden there gathers in the east a dark cloud; the heavens become black with storm; the gust blows with increasing violence. Now what is the consequence? They cannot stand out to sea through the violence of the wind dead against them. But were there harbours of refuge at various points along the coast they could make for them, and by running into them obtain safety.  But for want of these harbours of refuge many every year are driven upon the lee shore where they are wrecked with great loss of life and property.

Now take this as a figure and apply it spiritually. Here is a soul sailing calmly upon the sea of life, bound upon some voyage of business or pleasure; and whilst the wind is fair and the weather calm little danger is apprehended as to the issue. A dark cloud begins to gather in the sky, at first no bigger than a man’s hand; but it gradually increases till it seems to cover the heavens, and out of it bursts an unexpected storm. This storm is some manifestation of the anger of the Almighty in a broken law, which beats upon the soul with irresistible violence, and threatens to drive it upon the lee shore amidst the breakers and the rocks, there to make awful shipwreck. O to find in that awful moment a harbour of refuge to which we may run and obtain shelter from every storm! Kent has a beautiful hymn upon the subject, for he had seen with his own eyes, if I remember right, near seventy ships strewn upon the rocks at Plymouth for want of a breakwater at the entrance of the Sound. The hymn, you will recollect, begins:

How welcome to the tempest-tossed

Amidst the storm’s career,

While horror spreads from coast to coast;

Is some kind haven near!

But now see how the Christian poet applies the figure:

But far more welcome to the soul

Is that secure abode,

(When terrors o’er the conscience roll,)

The Rock prepared of God.

3.   But take now a Scriptural figure: the city of refuge provided for the manslayer. There was no city of refuge provided under the law of Moses for the wilful murderer. For him even the altar was no protection: “If a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour to slay him with guile, thou shalt take him from mine altar that he may die.” Ex 21:14  But if a man were accidentally guilty of what our law calls manslaughter; if for instance, he went into a wood to cut down a tree, and his axe-head came off and struck a man at work with him; or if he shot an arrow at a mark and the wind carried it in a different direction and pierced a bystander, he could not legally be put to death as a wilful murderer.

But there had grown up a custom amongst the people from ancient times which made such casual homicide to carry with it the penalty of death from the nearest relative of the slain man as a species of legitimate revenge, and he was warranted in killing him wherever he could find him. This blood revenge subsists in the east to the present day. This was not, you will observe the law of God but the law of man. It was a cruel and unjust custom, but had become so inveterate that God chose rather to deal with it as it stood than wholly abrogate it. To mitigate, then, the severity of that rigid law and to make it comparatively harmless, God commanded Moses to set apart six cities of refuge-three on one side Jordan and three on the other - to which the manslayer might flee. But in order to guard against these cities becoming an asylum for wilful murderers, the congregation were to judge the cause between the slayer and the avenger of blood, and if they found that it was a case of manslaughter and not of murder, he was to be rescued out of the hand of the avenger and live in peace in the city of refuge.

Several things are mentioned in connection with these cities by Jewish writers into which I need not enter, such as that they were to be of easy access; that once every year the magistrates were to inspect the roads to see that they were kept in good condition and that there were no impediments in the way; that at every division of the road there was to be a direction post on which was written, “Refuge, Refuge;” that the cities were to be well supplied with water and provisions; and that no warlike weapons were allowed to be made there. All these features might be pressed into the service of the figure, but not being exactly scriptural I shall not enter further into them. One remarkable point I must however mention, that the manslayer was to continue in the city until the death of the high priest. Now our High Priest never dies; and therefore if we have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us in the gospel, we are safe as long as our great High Priest lives.

But let us now seek to apply this figure. The true, the only refuge of the soul is the Lord Jesus Christ, who receives into His bosom sinners with a load of guilt upon their conscience, as the city of refuge received with open arms the manslayer flying from his avenging foe. And O how suitably does this feature describe the soul that flees for refuge to Jesus. Look at the unhappy manslayer. What danger dogged every step. What fear, alarm and terror would haunt him like his shadow when the axe-head struck with death his fellow workman, or his ill-shot arrow had killed a bystander. Two things would be present in his mind; fear and hope-fear of the avenger, hope of escape to the city of refuge.

But these things must meet in the same person to constitute him one who has fled for refuge. And is not the same remark applicable also to my other figures? Do not two ideas meet in them all? There might be a storm and no harbour of refuge; or there might be a harbour of refuge and you not need it. Without the first there would be no felt danger; without the second no fleeing for safety. The weather is fair, the wind calm, you go boldly along your voyage; were there twenty harbours of refuge along the coast you would not need one of them, but would go sailing on. Or take my first figure. Your crops are not spoiled by wandering tribes; you lose neither ox nor sheep; you are in no peril of your own life or of those near and dear to you; you therefore want no hill-fort to shelter you from the incursions of these predatory bands, who, after robbing and spoiling you of all you had, would next turn their sword against your bosom. So with my third figure, if you have no guilt upon your conscience; if no avenger of blood is pursuing your steps, you need no city of refuge. Thus, to make a complete whole you must put two features together: first, alarm, fear, terror, urging and prompting speedy flight for security; then a refuge already provided, seen by the eye far or near, but in either case fully suitable to the case, resorted unto with all the strength given, reached before perishing, entered into as a last hope, and then full safety found and enjoyed.

But to make these two points a little more clear as well as a little more personal, cast a retrospective glance upon the dealings of God with your soul, and without dwelling upon needless minutiae, see if you can find these two features in any way impressed upon them. If ever there was in your experience a season never to be forgotten of alarm, of fear, of terror, of guilt, of apprehension; and then when you scarcely knew what to do, think, or say, there was a view opened up to you of a refuge in the Person and work, blood and righteousness of the Lord the Lamb; if as driven or drawn you fled to it, were kindly received, and found safe harbourage from guilt and doubt and fear, then you surely know what it is to have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before you. It is these, and these only, who are heirs of promise; and therefore how important it is to have had some personal experience of these things.

How are we to know whether we possess the life of God in our soul, the grace of God in our heart, unless there has been some such fleeing and some such laying hold? Do see, then, if you can trace these two things in your breast: first, if there ever was a season with you when you feared and trembled at the wrath to come, and were compelled to flee for refuge from it. But, secondly, finding no refuge in self, and that all your own righteousness was a bed too short and a covering too narrow, you fled to Jesus as your only hope; and as there was a sweet opening up to the eye of your faith of a refuge provided in the Lord the Lamb, you were enabled to take hold of Him in His covenant characters and blessed relationships, and found in Him rest and peace. If, then, you can find these two features of divine life in your soul, you are one of the characters of whom our text speaks: you have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before you; which leads me to show you what laying hold is.

II.  I much admire the wisdom and condescension of the apostle, or, to speak more correctly, the wisdom and condescension of the Holy Ghost by him, in not taking very high ground in describing the features of the heirs of promise. There were indeed special reasons for His thus dealing with them. It is very evident from the internal evidence of this epistle that the Hebrew converts, to whom it was written, were not very far advanced in the faith of God’s elect. Their old Jewish views and inveterate prejudices, imbibed from their former Rabbinical teachers, stuck very closely to them; and these were sad hindrances both to their spiritual knowledge of, and their experimental profession in the truth of the gospel. They were also exposed to great and grievous persecutions, arising chiefly from their brethren after the flesh, who then, as now, loathed with the deepest abhorrence all who renounced Judaism for Christianity; and, viewing them as the worst and vilest of apostates, did not spare any degree of violence or insult.

Being, then, very weak in faith, they were much borne down by the violence of the storm, and were almost ready to turn their backs upon the gospel. The apostle, therefore, though he deals with them very earnestly and faithfully, yet mixes with his powerful warnings and urgent exhortations much tenderness and affection, however much their wavering, vacillating ways might try and grieve his spirit. They were also very weak and childish as regards an inward knowledge and experience of the blessed truths of the gospel. He therefore gently chides them that, “when for the time they ought to be teachers, they had need that one should teach them again the first principles of the oracles of God, and were become such as had need of milk and not of strong meat.”

I have named these things to explain why the apostle so deals with them as with children in understanding and experience, and why he takes, speaking comparatively, such low ground-ground so different from the way in which he addresses the Ephesians, Colossians, Thessalonians and other members of the New Testament churches. Thus, in the words before us to suit their case, he comes down to a hope; but keeping strictly upon Scriptural ground, such a hope only as is set before us in the everlasting gospel. Well he knew that all other hope was delusive and vain, and would prove in the day of trial a broken reed and a spider’s web.

But as what he said to them may also suit us, I will now endeavour to show you what this hope is, that each may see for himself how far he has laid hold of it.

Now a little difficulty meets us here at the very outset; for it is not at first sight very clear whether he means the object of hope, or the grace of hope. It would seem, however, that his words comprehend both these significations, but that the primary meaning is the object of hope, and the secondary meaning the grace of hope, the two being so closely connected that what he says first of the one he transfers to the other-the former being true in doctrine, the latter true in experience. Let me explain this, and, first, as to the object of hope.

1.   Every grace of the Spirit must have an object, that is, something to which it may look and with which it may deal. Christ Himself in His Person and work is the object of every grace, but more especially of faith, hope and love. He is therefore called “the hope of Israel”; Jer 17:13 and “our hope.” 1Ti 1:1 But as faith and love deal more specially with the Person of Christ, hope deals more particularly with the word of Christ. “My soul fainteth for thy salvation; but I hope in Thy word.” “Remember Thy word unto Thy servant, upon which Thou hast caused me to hope.” The hope, then, here spoken of is the word of promise; for this is that unto which the soul flees, and on which it hangs.

But this hope, in order to be firm, must have a foundation; and this is nothing less than the faithfulness of God in the fulfilment of His promises. “Sarah judged Him faithful that had promised.” Heb 11:11 This sustained her hope; and when she held in her arms the new-born Isaac, her hope made her not ashamed. When then the apostle would encourage us to hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, he adds, “For He is faithful that promised.” Heb 10:23

Now where are these promises but in the gospel of Jesus Christ? All of them are made sure in Him; for “all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” 2Co 1:20 The word of promise then in Christ is “the hope set before us;” for when we flee for refuge from the wrath to come, we flee to the promises as opening their arms to receive us. They are thus like the elders of the city of refuge, who take us within its walls all trembling at the avenger of blood, loaded with guilt, and soiled with dust, and give us safe harbourage, so that he cannot slay us.

2.   But having shown you that the hope is as an object, I shall now show you what hope lays hold of as a grace.

The main thing embraced by hope is eternal life, according to those words of the apostle: “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” Tit 1:2 But as Christ is “the life,” and as He alone gives eternal life, He, as held forth in the word of promise, is the chief object of hope, and, therefore, when experimentally made known to the soul, is said to be formed in us “the hope of glory.” As long, therefore, as guilt, doubt and fear press upon the conscience, our hope must be very faint, if it exist at all. But when we flee for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us in the gospel, which is the promise of eternal life in Christ, there is a springing up of spiritual and therefore eternal life in the heart. The Lord says, “I give unto them” (that is, “My sheep”) “eternal life”; Joh 10:28 not “I will give them in the life to come;” but I will give it unto them now. We therefore read, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life”-has it now, as a present, felt and enjoyed possession. This life is given manifestly when Christ reveals Himself to the soul; for eternal life is then received out of His fulness as an enjoyed possession.

All, then, who have truly fled for refuge, to lay hold of the hope set before them, embrace in so doing eternal life. They live, as being manifestly in Christ, for He is “our life;” and as they embrace it in Him they feel its sweet movements in their breast, in the joy it communicates, in the peace it imparts, in the prospects it opens, in the doubts it removes, in the fears it disperses.

Thus, in real religion, there is something, if I may so speak, tangible-something to be laid hold of; and this distinguishes a good hope through grace from every other hope which is delusive, enthusiastic, or visionary. Depend upon it, there is a reality in vital godliness-a possession for eternity, which, therefore, kills and deadens the living child of God to a perishing world, and the fading things of time and sense. Whenever we get a view of Christ, there is a view of eternal life in Him; for He is the eternal Son of God, and when He makes Himself known to the soul as such, He shows us that all our life is in Him. The work that He accomplished is for eternity; He lives Himself for ever and ever; and those whom He has redeemed by His blood, justified by His righteousness and sanctified by His grace, will live for ever and ever in His glorious presence. It is the eternity of His love which stamps it with its main value and blessedness; for this life being eternal, secures not only perpetuity, but immutability-prevents it from any change in time as well as from any change in eternity, and secures it firm and stable to all the heirs of promise. As then they lay hold of eternal life in laying hold of Him who is the life, and as the sweet movements of hope spring up in their breast, it opens before their eyes a vista of immortal joy.

II.-But to pass on to our next point, “strong consolation” which God has provided for these heirs of promise, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before them.

As God does nothing in vain, so He provides nothing in vain. These heirs of promise fully need all the consolation, which God can give, and strong consolation too. The fleeing for refuge is but the first act of their spiritual life. They are not yet safe at home or landed in their eternal rest. Under the violence of their first storm, they have fled to the harbour of refuge. This is however but the beginning, not the end of the voyage. The harbour was provided to give them a temporary shelter; but they have again to put out to sea, to encounter fresh storms, and be exposed to fresh perils. He that fled to the hill fort from the Moabites and Ammonites had to come down again to the plain there to plant and sow, and there to expect fresh attacks from the same robber bands. The manslayer who fled to the city of refuge was again exposed to the fatal stroke of the avenger of blood, if he ever left the city to which he had fled.

Thus, to have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us does not insure to us security against future foes or fears; indeed only prepares us the better to meet them. This is why the heirs of promise need strong consolation. Their afflictions are great, their trials heavy, their temptations numerous, their foes strong, and their fears often stronger than their foes. They have also, for the most part many painful vicissitudes and changes: reverses in providence, bereavements in family, afflictions in circumstances, trials of body, trials in the church and trials in the world. God often hides His face from them; Satan harasses them with his fiery darts; fears of death often bring them into bondage, besides all the guilt, which they bring upon their own consciences through their backslidings, and all the chastening strokes, which they procure for their own backs through their folly.

Thus they need consolation, and strong consolation too, that there may be balm for their wounds, cordials to cheer their fainting spirits, wine to strengthen their heart and oil to make them of a cheerful countenance. God not only knows best what we are, but knows best also what we want, for His wisdom and His goodness are alike infinite. He has, therefore, beforehand provided strong consolation for all who need it, for weak consolation would not do for strong trials, feeble deliverances for powerful temptations, and little drops and sips for sharp exercises. It may do for those who have not to wade through perplexing circumstances, or who in grace have no powerful discoveries of the holiness of God, no clear apprehension of His dread Majesty, no strong sense of the evil of sin, and no deep acquaintance with the strength of human corruption and the weakness of our nature to withstand temptation. But where a man is let into the mysterious secrets of a body of sin and death, the strength of internal corruptions, the overwhelming power of lust, pride and covetousness, when he is not upheld by the special grace of God; the snares of Satan spread for the unwary feet; and his assaults as the prince of darkness, as well as his temptations as an angel of light; when, I say, a man is led into these internal mysteries whereby he learns the depth of the fall, he will find his need not only of consolation, from the mouth of God, but strong consolation too.

When, too, he comes, as we all must come, to the closing scene, and has to look back, it may be, upon many things in his past life which may sadly grieve his spirit, if not painfully wound his conscience in the bitter recollection, and if in that trying hour the Lord should suspend the light of His countenance and withdraw His gracious presence-though we hope it may not be so with us, and that He who has borne us up through every trial will bear us up through our last, and He who has never forsaken us will not forsake us then -yet should these things come upon him or come upon us, we shall surely need strong consolation to face the gaunt king of terrors and grapple with our last enemy. Die we must; but who can say when, and who can say how? Every year snatches from us one or another of our dearest friends. As death has come to them, so surely will it come to us; and though we know not how any of us shall die, yet I am sure of this, that if our senses are preserved unto us and we look with open eyes into eternity, we shall then need all the support and consolation which God can give.

Now God has provided, already provided strong consolation for these heirs of promise, for all who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before them. I shall now, therefore, endeavour to show you what is the foundation of this strong consolation.

III.-It rests, then, upon two immutable pillars, as the apostle beautifully speaks. “Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.” Heb 6:17-18

You will observe that it is the immutability, that is, the unchanging character of His counsel, viz., His eternal purpose, which God was willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise. The counsel or purpose of God is immutable in itself; but God wished to show its immutability to the heirs of promise, that out of it might flow strong consolation to their troubled hearts. He, therefore, gave them two immutable things in which it was impossible for Him to lie. What, then, are these two immutable things, these unremovable pillars on which it rests? God’s word in the promise, and God’s oath in its confirmation. These are the two immutable things, which I shall now, therefore, more fully open.

1.   The word of God’s promise is essentially immutable. Whatever God promises stands as firm as the very being of God himself. His own eternal throne is not firmer than the word of His mouth, as expressed in the promise. But what the apostle chiefly refers to is the word of promise made to Abraham. Now if you will observe, when God first made a promise to Abraham, there was no oath given with it. God simply said to him, “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing; and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” Ge 12:2-3 I need not enter into all the promises made to Abraham, but this is the chief one as regards us: “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed,” for this promise takes us poor Gentiles in. As the apostle argues, “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.” Ga 3:8-9 The promise thus given flowed out of and ratified the everlasting covenant, for when God gave it He said to Abraham, “As for Me, behold My covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations:” that is, their spiritual father, for they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. I need not tell you, that this seed in whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed, is Christ. “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ.” Ga 3:16

This, then, is the word of promise made to Abraham; and if we by faith in Christ Jesus are children of Abraham, then are we blessed with faithful Abraham, and the word of promise secures us in the possession and enjoyment of every blessing of the new covenant. This made the apostle cry out, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” Eph 1:3 And observe how he adds as the richest and primest blessing: “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” Eph 1:7 Now is not this calculated to give strong consolation to the heirs of promise who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before them, that they are blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus?

2.   The other immutable thing, is God’s oath which He gave to Abraham after He had tried his faith by bidding him offer up his only son Isaac. Then it was that the Angel of the Lord (Jehovah-Jesus), “called out of heaven the second time and said, By Myself have I sworn, saith the Lord.” Ge 22:15-16 God, so to speak, was not satisfied with merely speaking to Abraham in the word of promise. That, indeed, would have been enough for Abraham’s faith; he did not require the oath: he gave obedience to God’s word, without asking anything more when He bade him offer up his son. But to confirm his faith and give ground for the strong consolation which was to be afforded throughout all time to the heirs of promise, He confirmed it by an oath, or, as it is in the margin, “interposed Himself,” that is, put Himself between the promise and faith. Now God could swear by no greater, and therefore sware by Himself; and these were the words of the oath: “Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.” The blessing was that in his seed, that is, Christ, all the families of the earth should be blessed, and that his seed, spiritual and natural, should be multiplied as the stars of heaven.

Thus the everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure, made fast with our Lord in eternity, and in due time with Abraham, from whose loins the promised seed should come, rests upon these two immutable pillars, the promise of God and the oath of God. These two immutable things, then, in which it was impossible for God to lie, form the foundation of the strong consolation which God pours into the breast of the heirs of promise. Whatever change they may endure, whatever mutability in self or in others, God changeth not; His promise and His oath stand fast for evermore.

But how does this give them strong consolation? In this way. Am I an heir of promise? Do I believe in the Son of God? Do I walk in the steps of the faith of Abraham? Have I the same faith, the same hope? Then I have the same ground for confidence. On what did his faith rest? Was it not upon God’s promise and God’s oath? But how shall I know that my faith rests upon these two immutable pillars? I have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before me in the gospel of Jesus Christ; I have embraced the promise of eternal life made in Christ; I have rolled my guilty soul upon the blood of the atonement in the promised Seed; I have found and felt refuge in Him; I have come out of all false hopes, vain confidences and creature expectations, and built all my hope and all my confidence on the finished work of the Son of God. He has more or less made Himself known to my soul by some manifestation of His glorious Person, atoning blood and dying love. This stamps me as one of the characters to whom the promise is made, for have I not “fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before me?” Have I any other refuge, help, or hope? Do I want any other Saviour or any other salvation? It is an experience of these things, which marks me as an heir of promise. Then I am blessed with the faith of Abraham; then the covenant made with Abraham was made with me as a son of Abraham; I, having Abraham’s faith, have Abraham’s blessing, and Abraham’s God is my God, because I believe in the same God that Abraham believed in.

This is the way in which faith is enabled sometimes to argue, yea, to fill its mouth with arguments against the accusations of law, conscience, sin and Satan. And may I not apply these arguments to your case? Have you as a poor, self-condemned, guilty sinner fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before you in the gospel? Have you embraced in the arms of a living faith the Son of God, and felt and found Him precious to your soul? Then you are one of the heirs of promise, and God has secured your inheritance by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for Him to lie. Men may lie, for all are liars from the womb. We carry in our bosom a lying heart and live in a lying world; but it is impossible for God to lie; and whatever men may say, think, or do, He remains the same, immutable in His glorious perfections; unchanging, unchangeable; for with Him is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Here we rest our hope.

IV.-And now let me endeavour to show what this hope is as a grace of the Spirit,  its nature, and its character, how it works and operates, and the blessings which attend it: “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil.”

I intimated that by hope in our text we were to understand two things:

1.   the object of hope;

2.   the grace of hope.

The first is, as I have explained, the word of promise; the second is that peculiar grace of the Spirit, which acts upon it. And the reason why both are thus comprehended is because they are so closely connected.

When those who flee for refuge embrace the promise of eternal life in Christ Jesus, this raises up a good hope through grace. They may not have very strong consolation or be blessed with a very great deliverance; but they find peace, acceptance and a sweet sense of tranquillity stealing over their breast so far as they are favoured with a living faith in the Son of God, and He makes Himself in any measure precious to their soul.

Now this hope is their anchor, which holds them fast amid every storm. Many are the storms, which beat upon these vessels of mercy. Storms without and storms within; storms in providence and storms in grace; storms in the world, storms in the church, storms from friends and storms from foes. But they have that which enables them to outride every storm, and that is the good hope through grace which God Himself has dropped into their breast from His own heavenly throne, that it may keep them fast and firm to covenant settlements and hold them up in every trying hour.

But of what use is an anchor except against the dangers of a lee shore? Were there no lee shore, no breakers, no rolling surf, no strong wind and no apprehension of shipwreck, the anchor would hang at the bow merely an ornament, if not a dead weight to the ship. But when a lee shore is in sight and the white surf shows the breakers ahead, and as the sounding line is dropped, and fathom after fathom is called out as decreasing in depth, and danger is at hand, the command is given, “Let the anchor go.” The word is obeyed. The anchor sinks into the sea; it takes firm hold of the sand; it brings up the ship; and as long as it holds there is no danger of the vessel being driven upon a lee shore, however the surf may roll over the rocks. It is both “sure and stedfast.” First it is “sure,” that is, it will never break; and, secondly, it is “steadfast,” that is, no violence of wind or wave can make it lose its hold. Now these are the very two things required in an anchor. It-might break from badness of material, or it might not hold fast the ship through badness of the ground. But this anchor of the soul is so strong that it cannot break, and the ground is so good that it must ever hold fast.

For where is this anchor fixed? “Within the veil.” Who is there? Jesus at the right hand of God. The anchor of a ship will sometimes what is called “come home;” the sand or gravel does not hold the fluke firm, and the anchor drags along the ground and thus becomes practically useless. Or the wind might be so strong as to break the cable. The hawser might part, or, if a chain cable, one of the links might break, and all the precautions taken by the most skilful seamen prove ineffectual. But not so with our anchor: that is “sure.” The stock can never break, the chain never part. And it is “steadfast,” so that it can never move. Why? Because it is within the veil, takes fast hold of heavenly ground, and, I hardly like to use the expression lest I should drop anything derogatory to His divine Person, it takes hold of the Lord Himself, so that He Himself must be dragged from His eternal throne before the anchor can fail to hold the ship.

But this anchor may still be there and yet not always be seen. The anchor of a ship when down in the sea is never seen; even the cable itself is hidden by the waves. But ever and anon the sun breaks forth and shines upon it; and though it be dripping with the brine, yet how the bright ray manifests when it shines upon the links that there the anchor still is and holds the ship firm. So our anchor is in heaven and cannot be seen, and the cable that holds on to the anchor is sometimes so deep in the brine of a storm-tossed heart as to be scarcely visible. But let the Sun of righteousness shine upon it; then how one ray out of His glorious fulness lights up the chain that holds the anchor firm; and then we not only feel the goodness of the ground and the goodness of the anchor, but we see also that which connects the anchor and the ship, even the grace that God shines upon as being His own gift and work. Now this anchor will never fail you in any difficulties. Whatever storms may beat upon your heart or threaten your destruction, if you have this good hope through grace, this anchor of your soul both sure and steadfast, it will certainly hold out to the end.

How careful therefore we should be to see whether we have this anchor; whether it is in the right place; whether it was made by heavenly hands; whether it was let down by the hand of God into our soul, and whether the whole of it, every part of the anchor and every part of the cable were all manufactured in the court of heaven. No earthly anchor will ever stand the storm that will one day blow. Earthly manufacture will not endure divine storms. Cables wrought by human hands will part when the winds blow and the waves rise, and the anchor itself will be sure to come home when we want it most. Ships never go to sea with unproved anchors. They are all proved in the strongest way before the safety of the ship and crew is entrusted to them. How foolish then for any one to embark upon a profession if he has not proved his anchor. What can he expect but shipwreck? But if he has an anchor that God Himself has, so to speak, welded by His divine hand, let down into his soul by His own heavenly power, and fastened at both ends, the ship and the anchorage, he will stand every storm and live at last. Well I am persuaded that no other anchor will ever hold up the vessel as it rides over the sea of life and preserve it safe from every storm, till at last it enters with swelling sail into the haven of endless rest, where storms blow no more.

God grant me this evening to have spoken a word to the heirs of promise, to those here present who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before them, and in whose breast there is any divine testimony that God has wrought a work upon their souls. Look to that, dear friends. Cast away, as God enables, all creature hopes; they will never profit you in the day of need. Vain expectations and ill-grounded hopes will be as spiders’ webs in the day of trial. Prove your anchor; look at it with both your eyes, and see the true seal of God upon it, marked in heaven’s armoury, and given out of God’s word into your soul; and if you can trace anything real, spiritual, gracious, experimental in your heart, bless God for it. It is not the size of the anchor. A boat has not the same anchor as a three-decker. Your anchor may be a small anchor, and yours a little boat, yet still chartered by the great Owner of souls; and your anchor may be as good, if not as large; as efficient, if not as strong, as the anchor of the most experienced believer in this assembly. It is the reality of a thing we want; and if there be reality, though the work be feeble, the hope faint, and the faith small-if the reality be there, there is eternal life.

*DELIVERANCE FROM THIS PRESENT EVIL WORLD

Ga 1:4-5

Preached at North Street Chapel, Stamford, on Lord’s Day Morning, October 13, 1861.

“Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father. To whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen.”—Ga 1:4-5

WHAT an amount of sorrow and misery beyond all calculation, and indeed beyond all conception, there is in this wretched world, this vale of tears, as it is so often justly called, in which our present earthly lot is cast! Not a house, not a family, not a heart is there which does not sooner or later taste more or less deeply of this most bitter cup. How many, for instance, this morning have risen from their lowly beds, or rather their miserable floors, sunk into such poverty that they scarcely know where to get a morsel of bread to eat, or the poorest, meanest raiment to put on! How many, if not sunk into the same depths of absolute want, yet, like a drowning man in a deep and rapid stream, can scarcely keep their head above water in their daily struggle for the means of existence! How many are now mourning over family bereavements, the delight of their eyes being taken from them at a stroke, or by lingering illness! How many youthful hearts, just in the first opening dawn of life, are bleeding under the deepest wounds inflicted upon their tenderest and warmest affections! How many are lying upon their beds of pain and languishing, and some at this very moment struggling and gasping in the agonies of death, and leaving this world without hope!

Thus, as we cast our eyes around us, or frame in our own minds a faint conception of the sorrows heaped upon the sons of men, we may almost say of this wretched world, that it is like Egypt when the angel passed through the land and smote the first-born. “There was a great cry in the land, for there was not a house in which there was not one dead.” Ex 12:30 Or like the inhabitants of Ekron, when God smote them for their sins, and “the cry of the city went up to heaven” 1Sa 5:12 Or like Ezekiel’s roll, which was “written within and without; and there was written therein lamentations, and mournings, and woe.” Eze 2:10

But there is something still worse behind. Is there not a cause for all this sorrow and misery? Does God afflict willingly the sons of men? Would there be such an amount of human wretchedness, unless there had been some provocation on the part of man, to bring down all these chastisements upon his guilty head? There is something then in this world, and something too in the heart of man worse than sorrow. There is sin. When we look at the stream of misery which runs down this wretched world and examine it a little more closely, we see that it is not a stream of pure un-mingled sorrow. It is rather a sewer of corruption than a flowing river of unmixed grief, for ever and anon out of this sewer of corruption, there surge to the top such sad exhibitions of human wickedness and crime, as must appall the mind which is not altogether deadened to every moral and religious feeling.

Look, for instance, at the crimes of the present day. What murders, suicides, deeds of violence, robberies, and hideous acts of uncleanness continually come to light; and how these in some instances, almost accidental discoveries, show what depth of corruption is really working and festering in the heart of man. As the leprosy which broke forth upon the forehead of King Uzziah only revealed the disease itself that had taken possession of his body 2Ch 26:19 so these open crimes that come from time to time to light, are merely marks and tokens of the deep-seated leprosy, that works underneath in the fabric of society as well as in the corrupt nature of man.

But in what a desperate, what a deplorable state should we be if there were no remedy for this misery and wretchedness, which has disjointed earth, and, like a mighty earthquake passing over it, made all its foundations out of course. Ps 82:5 What less than a present hell would it be if there were nothing in this world but sin and sorrow; if we had just for a few short weeks, or months, or years, to drain deep the cup of affliction, to be immersed in the floods of sin, to go down mourning to our grave, and then to open our eyes in endless misery! But O look up, ye mourning saints, who are often bowed down with worldly grief and sorrow, and much more frequently and much more heavily by the deep corruptions of your heart, look up and see that ray of heavenly light which even now seems to shine across this black gloom, this dense darkness, as a beam of sun sometimes in a moment lights up the face of the earth. “Through the tender mercy of our God, the day-spring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Lu 1:78-79

Can you not hear, as it were a voice from God that speaks to the guilty sons of men, even such a voice as the shepherds heard when the heavenly choir sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill towards men?” Can you not see how mercy appears coming forth, as from the bosom of God, with angel form? How she speaks as with an angel voice to the sons of men, and tells them that there is a balm for all their woes, a cure for all their diseases’? Can you not see a hand which, points to the atoning blood and the justifying obedience of the Son of God, and says, “This is the remedy, the only remedy, which God has provided for all the sin and sorrow which are in the world.” Were it not so why need I preach? Why need you hear? If there were no mercy for the sinner; if there were no cure for the sick; if there were no salvation for the lost; if there were no door of hope for the despairing, why need I this morning stand before you, and why need you sit to hear what I may speak in the Lord’s name? Our text opens up very sweetly and blessedly the remedy which God has provided for all this misery, the healing balm which he has brought to light in the sufferings, blood-shedding, and death of his dear Son as the way of pardon and peace to all who deeply and spiritually feel themselves to be poor, sinful, guilty transgressors.

The apostle in the verse immediately preceding our text, breathes forth his desire for the benefit and blessing of the Churches of Galatia, in his usual prayerful, yet tender and affectionate salutation. “Grace be to you, and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ.” And then, as if the very mention of grace and peace touched his heart as with holy fire, and opened his mouth to set forth salvation by atoning blood of the Lamb, he breaks forth in the words of our text, “Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God our Father: to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen.”

Let us, with God’s blessing, approach these words; let us come near to this stream that breaks forth in the desert, and see whether we can, with God’s help, draw some living water from this well of salvation, which may refresh our spirit, cheer our mind, and comfort our heart. In attempting to do this. I shall, as the Lord may enable,

I.— First,  show you how and why this is an evil world.

II.— Secondly,  how our blessed Lord gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from it.

III.— Thirdly,  that this was in accordance with the will of God and our Father.

IV.— Fourthly,  that this will produce an eternal revenue, of praise: “To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

I.-The present is an “evil world:” that is God’s testimony of it. You may say, “It is a beautiful world, a glorious world; and I mean as long as I live to enjoy all the happiness which I can possibly get out of it. It is all cant and nonsense to talk about it being such a miserable world. It is true there may be some unhappiness in it; but that is man’s own fault. Did not God make it a beautiful world, and can we think that he meant it to be an unhappy one, or that we should be poor unhappy creatures in it?” Such is the language of many a heart, the utterance of many a lip. But whose testimony will stand, God’s or man’s?

If God has pronounced this to be an “evil world,” not all man’s vain reasonings, not all man’s plausible speeches will alter God’s testimony. Man may call evil good, and good evil; man may put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter; man may call darkness light, and light darkness. But man’s testimony does not alter God’s reality. If the mouth of God has declared the present world to be “evil,” not all the lies of Satan nor all the plausibility of man put together can ever make it to be good.

But what is the world! What does the Holy Spirit mean by the expression, which so often occurs in the New Testament? Does he mean the material world, that wide and spacious earth which we see with our bodily eyes, and upon which our feet tread? Does he mean the mountains and valleys, rivers and brooks, meadows and fields, wooded hills and smiling landscapes, all which proclaim with loud voice their great and bountiful Creator? No. In a sense, it is true, earth literally, materially partakes of the curse of the Fall; for on the day when man fell God cursed the ground for man’s sake, and in sorrow he was to eat of it all the days of his life. Thorns and thistles was it to bring forth unto him, and in the sweat of his face was he to eat bread, till he returned unto the ground out of which he was taken. Ge 3:17-18

But “the world” here does not mean the material, literal world daily spread before our eyes, but the men and women who dwell in it; for the material world, though it does partake of the curse of the Fall, is not in itself evil, that is, not sinful as the heart of man is who dwells upon it. It is perfectly true that the sin of man has corrupted every spot where it has fallen and carried misery in its train, so that in a sense “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together” under the burdens which the sin of man has laid upon it. But the term “world,” as used by the Holy Spirit in the word of truth, signifies not so much material creation, though it may in a measure embrace that meaning, as the men and women who are inhabitants of it, and especially as distinguished in the mind of God from his own chosen family.

But was man always evil? Did not God create him in his own image, after his own likeness? And when he had thus created him, did he not look down from heaven upon the work of his hands as with holy approbation and pronounce that it was “very good?” Evil, then, though man may be, he did not come evil from the hands of his Maker. It was not possible that a good God could create an evil man, and that a pure Jehovah could create an impure being. Job asks the pregnant question, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?” But may we not reverse the inquiry, and say, “Who can bring an unclean thing out of a clean?” No; an enemy hath done this. It was with the Fall, as we read in the parable of the tares in the field. The sower sowed wheat; but whence came the tares? Not from him who sowed the wheat; but “while men slept an enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.” Mt 13:25 Satan was the enemy who sowed tares in the wheat field; and Satan it was that sowed sin in the heart of man; for he was permitted, in God’s wise, unerring providence, to deceive the woman; she was permitted to entangle the man and draw him into her transgression; and thus “by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that, or in whom [margin] all have sinned.” Ro 5:12 That is the source of all the evil which, is now, or ever has been in the world, for that one sin introduced every other sin with it. It brought in its train every iniquity that ever has been conceived by the imagination, uttered by the lips, or perpetrated by the hands of man.

Thus as the acorn contains in its tiny shell the whole oak with all its branching foliage; so that one sin conceived in the mind of our first parent contained in itself all those branches of sin which have covered the world with their lurid shadow, as the oak spreads its shade over the grass beneath. Every faculty of man fell in the fall from its primitive purity and strength. It was as though in the midst of a bright day the sun had in a moment gone down and darkness fell upon the scene; it was as if an earthquake had rent the solid foundations of the earth; or as if a mighty volcano had suddenly opened its mouth in the soil to pour forth clouds of sulphurous smoke and streams of boiling lava. In a moment, as if by a sudden shock, man’s whole nature underwent a change, stricken down by sin as by palsy or leprosy. His understanding became darkened, his judgment corrupted, his conscience deadened, his affections alienated, and all that warm current of purity and innocency which once flowed in a clear stream towards God, became thickened and fouled with the sin that was poured into it from the mouth of Satan, and was thus diverted from its course of light, love, and life to run into a channel of darkness, enmity, and death. Thus the fountain was corrupted at its very source, and from this spring-head have all the streams of evil flowed which have made the world a very Aceldama, a field of blood.

This is the fountain whence have issued all that misery and wretchedness which in all ages and in all climates have pursued man from the cradle to the grave; which have wrung millions of hot tears from human eyes; which have broken, literally broken, thousands of human hearts; which have desolated home after home, and struck grief and sadness into countless breasts. But. Oh! this fountain of sin in the heart of man has done worse than this; it has peopled hell; it has swept and is still sweeping thousands and tens of thousands into eternal perdition. Let us, then, not be juggled into a vain persuasion by the prince and god of this world that it is either a good or a happy world. This is a part of his witching wiles whereby he deceives the hearts of men by vain shows. He must not speak ill of his own principality or of his own dominion, though, like himself, it is full of darkness and despair. Let us not believe Satan’s lies but God’s truth; and this we certainly shall do if we have the teaching and testimony of God himself in our consciences.

Let this, then, be firmly settled in your heart and mine by the testimony of God in the word, and by the corresponding witness of the Spirit in our breast, that is an “evil world.” The world, however large, is but an aggregate of human hearts, -for as in water face answers to face so the heart of man to man; and as my heart is but a copy of your heart, and your heart but a copy of every other man’s heart, we carry in our own bosom, if our eyes are enlightened to see what really and truly takes place there, a conviction that it is an evil world, because we find the evil of the world alive and rife in our own breast. But we shall see more of this when we come to show how Jesus gave himself for our sins that he might deliver us from this present evil world. I shall therefore pass on to our second point,

II.-Which consists of two branches:

I.    First, the giving of himself for our sins;

 

2. The object and purpose for which the Lord thus gave himself, that he might deliver us from this present evil world.

1.   There is something to my mind inexpressibly sweet and precious in the expression, “gave himself.” We find the same words used of our blessed Lord elsewhere in Scripture, as, for instance, where it is said that “Christ loved the Church and gave himself for it”; Eph 5:25 and where the apostle speaking of his living a life of faith on the Son of God adds, “who loved me and gave himself for me.” Ga 2:20 So also when the apostle has bidden us to be “followers of God as dear children and walk in love,” he adds this prevailing motive, “As Christ also hath loved us and hath given himself for us.” Eph 5:2

1.   But in opening up this heavenly mystery, it will be desirable to cast a glance beyond this time-state, and to direct our contemplation to what Jesus was before he voluntarily gave himself for our sins; for if we would spiritually and experimentally enter into this solemn mystery, we must have a view by faith of what he was in the courts of bliss before he thus gave himself. A spiritual contemplation of the glory which he had with the Father before the world was, will prepare our mind to see a little of the breadth and length and depth and height and to know something of that love of Christ which passeth knowledge; for love was the moving cause of his giving himself, and therefore dwelt in his bosom before he thus freely surrendered himself to sufferings and death.

 

We must, therefore, view him as a Person in the glorious Trinity, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Ghost; for “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” We must, then, with God’s help and blessing, raise up believing eyes and believing hearts to view him as one with the Father in nature and essence, as the second Person in that glorious Trinity in which there are three Persons and but one God. We must also by the eyes of faith view him as the Son of the Father in truth and love, his own true, his own proper, his own eternal Son. We must look at him as lying in the Father’s bosom from all eternity, as ever his delight and rejoicing always before him. And we must endeavour, as far as the Lord may enable, to look with believing eyes at the love of the Father toward the Son and the love of the Son toward the Father, and so raise up in our souls some contemplation of the intimate and yet ineffable fellowship and union, enjoyed between the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost in the glorious courts above before time existed or creation was known. It is true, most true, that we cannot comprehend these heavenly mysteries, though they are the food of living faith; nor indeed can we raise up our thoughts to their spiritual contemplation; and yet unless we have some gracious knowledge of them and some living faith in them we shall not be able to enter into the heavenly mystery of the love of Christ.

Unless we see by the eye of faith something of the glory which, the Son of God had with the Father before the foundation of the world, how can we enter into the solemn mystery of his giving himself to suffer, bleed, and die? Our Lord, therefore, speaking of his disciples, said, “The glory which thou gavest me I have given them” Joh 17:22 that is, the knowledge and enjoyment of it. So John speaks of those “which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God: And we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Joh 1:13-14 Does not also the apostle give this as a mark of regenerating grace? “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2Co 4:6

We must, then, see his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, before we can see his humiliation in condescending to be for us a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. The height of his glory shows us the depth of his condescension. To view what he was in the courts of bliss prepares us to see what he was when he hung upon the cross. This is all the difference between the eye of faith and the eye of sense. The eye of sense merely saw him hanging in shame and agony between two thieves; but the eye of faith sees him as the beloved Son of God bearing our sins in his own body on the tree.

But it may be asked, “When did the Son of God first give himself for our sins? You have told us that it was in eternity before time was. But was sin then known?” No, for creation was then unknown also. But the Church was loved in the mind of God from all eternity, for he himself declares, “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love.” Jer 31:3 As, then, all things lay naked and open before the eyes of the omniscient Jehovah, the sin and misery into which she could sink were foreseen and provided for; and thus we may say that the Son of God gave himself for our sins in eternity, in the everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure.

It seems from the testimony of Holy Writ, that there was a solemn council held in heaven between the Three Persons of the sacred Godhead; for we read of “the counsel of peace being between them both”-that is, the Father and the Son. Zec 6:13 We also read, “Then thou spakest in vision to thy Holy One, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty;” and that this was the result of a covenant seems plain from the words in the same Psalm. “My covenant will I not break nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.” Ps 89:19-34 This council, it appears, was how the Church, sunk into sin and therefore justly amenable to divine wrath, could be saved in strict accordance with the justice and purity of God. This was the mystery to be solved; this was the enigma which, no finite intellect could unravel.

To devise a plan so as to reconcile every attribute of God in full harmony with the salvation of man; to determine a method how justice and mercy could meet together; how peace and righteousness could kiss each other; how justice could obtain its fullest demands, and yet mercy descend to embrace with its loving arms the guilty sons of men, was indeed a task beyond the utmost faculties of the brightest seraph or the highest archangel. The plan of salvation, therefore, is always represented in the Scripture not only as the greatest display of God’s love, but also as the deepest manifestation of his wisdom. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God.” Ro 11:33 “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world unto our glory.” 1Co 2:7 This enigma, then, was solved by the coming forward of the Son of God in the eternal covenant to give himself for our sins. In those solemn councils of heaven he freely offered himself to suffer, bleed, and die for guilty man’s sake. But this he could only do by himself becoming man, and by taking the flesh and blood of the children and offering up that pure and holy humanity which he should take in the womb of the Virgin, and put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

He could thus obey the rigorous demands of God’s inflexible justice, endure, and by enduring remove the curse of the law, and thus work out and bring in a perfect and complete righteousness in which his people might stand justified before the throne of God. Thus could he save his people in the strictest conformity to the justice of God, and harmonise every jarring attribute of Deity. In this sense he gave himself for our sins before time itself had birth. He is, therefore, said to be “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” and even then to have had “a book of life,” in which the names of his chosen people were written. Re 13:8

2.   But we may now look at the carrying out of this eternal plan of redeeming love, and view how in pursuance of his giving himself in the eternal covenant, when the time came -God’s appointed time-he gave himself for our sins by assuming flesh in the womb of the virgin Mary. There is an expression in the Book of Common Prayer, I think in the Te Deum, which I have often much admired: “When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man, thou didst not abhor the virgin’s womb.” There is to my mind great beauty in the idea that he did not abhor the womb of the virgin; for who was it that lay there but the eternal Son of God. What a conspicuous view it gives of his infinite grace and unspeakable mercy that he could assume our nature into union with his own divine Person in the womb of the virgin!

 

In this voluntary surrender of himself to endure all the miseries and sorrows of his life here below, we see the greatness of the Lord’s love; for “he bare our griefs and carried our sorrows” as well as our iniquities. Isa 53:4,11 Thus, as giving himself for our sins, he bore them from the manger to the cross. When, then, by the eye of faith we see him going about doing good; when we hear the gracious words which ever dropped from his lips: when we see the mighty miracles wrought by his hands, we still view him as our sin and burden bearer.

3.   But it is especially in the last scenes of his suffering life that we see him freely giving himself for our sins. When, then we follow him into the gloomy garden, where, under the overwhelming pressure of sin and sorrow, he sweat great drops of blood; thence to the Jewish council and Pilate’s judgment-hall; and thence to the cross of Calvary where, as the height of indignity, he was crucified between two thieves; in these last scenes of his suffering life and obedient death, we see more especially what the blessed Lord endured when he gave himself up to be made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. For in giving himself for our sins, he took upon himself all their guilt, their penalty, and their punishment. He bare our sins in his own body on the tree as if they had been his own; for having voluntarily put himself into the sinner’s place, he stood as the Surety, from whom justice exacted the utmost mite.

 

Thus, not only did he endure the contradictions of sinners against himself, but what was far harder to bear, he suffered under the intolerable wrath of God, when his Father hid his face from him, when anguish drank up his spirit, and when as made a curse for us, he hung between heaven and earth as a spectacle for men and angels. God the Father accepted this substitution, for it was according to his own eternal will and good purpose that the Son of his love should thus give himself for our sins, that he might put all their guilt and condemnation away, cast them behind God’s back, wash them out in the fountain of his atoning blood, and blot them out for ever as a cloud from the face of the heavens. Where should we be, what should we be, what hope could we have of escaping the wrath to come except for this blessed fact. this solemn, divine reality, that the Son of God gave himself for our sins, and thus for ever put them away?

But could this stupendous miracle of mercy and grace have been accomplished but by the Lord’s free and voluntary gift of himself? Who could have brought him from heaven? Who could have asked him to come down? What angel or seraph could have whispered the word on high. “Let the Son of God give himself for guilty man?” What human heart could have conceived such a thought, or what human tongue, if such a thought had been conceived, could have breathed the word up to the courts of bliss, “Let the Son of God come down and bleed for us vile polluted sinners?” What! that God’s co-equal, co-eternal Son, the brightness of his Father’s glory and the express image of his Person; that he in whom the Father eternally delighted; he who was worshipped and adored by myriads of angels, -that he should leave this glory, come down to earth, be treated as the vilest malefactor, have nails driven through his hands and feet, and expire on the cross in ignominy and shame! Could such a thought have entered angelic or human breasts?

And yet this was the eternal thought of God; this was the sovereign purpose of the Triune Jehovah; and to accomplish this glorious plan of eternal wisdom and love, the Son of God freely gave himself for our sins. There is a sweet figure of this voluntary gift of himself in the burnt offering spoken of in the first chapter of Leviticus. This sacrifice was entirely voluntary on the part of the offerer, and as such was wholly burnt upon the altar. So our blessed Lord came of his own accord; it was his free, voluntary act; and thus as the burnt offering was wholly consumed in the flames of the altar, no one part being reserved, so our blessed Lord was wholly consumed in the flames of God’s wrath and consumed also in the flames of his own self-sacrificing love. “He gave himself for our sins.”

Have you ever seen your sins? Look at the words: how expressive they are! Did you ever have a sight of your sins? Were they ever laid as a load of guilt upon your conscience? Did you ever see their blackness, their enormity, their aggravated nature, their innumerable multitude, and how every one of them deserved an everlasting hell? Did the wrath of God ever fall into your conscience on account of your sins? Did his anger ever drink up your spirit? Was his hand ever heavy upon you night and day, so that your moisture was turned into the drought of summer? Did the curse of the law ever sound in your conscience? Did your iniquities ever appear more in number than the hairs of your head, so that you almost sank into despair under the apprehended wrath of God?

If the Lord has ever wrought anything of this experience with power in your conscience, you will see and feel too something of what it is for Christ to have given himself for your sins, those abominable sins of yours, those black and horrible crimes that have so grieved your conscience, so distressed your soul and made you often fear lest hell should be your everlasting abode. Now until a man has realized something of the guilt of his vile and abominable sins, and they have been laid as a heavy weight upon his heart and a burden upon his conscience, he cannot enter into the solemn mystery of the Son of God giving himself for them. He does not know what sin is; it has not been opened up to him in its real character and awful magnitude; its guilt and filth and bitterness have not been discovered to him by the teaching of the blessed Spirit. He therefore knows little or nothing of the solemn mystery of dying love and atoning blood. He cannot fully and clearly justify God in the gift of his Son, nor can he properly appreciate the love of Christ in coming into such extreme circumstances of shame and suffering that he might bear his sins, and put them away by his atoning blood.

We must, therefore, know something of the guilt and filth of sin in our own conscience, something of its weight and burden, that we may appreciate the solemn mystery, as well as spiritually and experimentally enter into the sweet and sacred blessedness of that heavenly truth that the Son of God freely gave himself for our sins. And when we look not only at our own, but at the innumerable sins which God’s people have committed in all ages and in all places, and see that Jesus must have borne them all in his own body on the tree, under all this intolerable load of guilt must not the holy Lamb of God have sunk utterly crushed, broken and overwhelmed by the wrath of God, the demands of Justice, and the curse of the Law, unless he had been supported by indwelling Deity; unless he had been upheld by the mighty power of God; unless he had been sustained and strengthened by the eternal Spirit, through whom he offered himself without spot unto God?

2.   But to pass on to the object for which our gracious Lord gave himself: “that he might deliver us from this present evil world.” We live in an evil world, and sooner or later every child of God will by deep and painful experience learn the truth of God’s testimony concerning it. Its evil character may be glossed over by plausible speeches; the prince and god of this world may by his magic incantations cast a veil over its foul and ugly features, or transform this worn-out and withered beldame into a pure and innocent maiden in all the charming flush of youth and beauty. But though a veil may conceal deformity, it cannot remove it. Paint and rouge cannot make an old cheek young. The thin sheet spread over a corpse may hide the ghastly face, shrunken features, and stiffened limbs, but it does not turn it into a living man. The plaster over an ulcer may hide the gory matter from view, but it does not make it sound flesh. So Satan by his enchantments may cast a veil over the real character of this evil world, and may hide out of view the deep ulcers which are eating into the very core of man’s corrupt nature; but sooner or later they are discovered by a seeing eye and a believing heart under the light, life, and power of the blessed Spirit, and the real state of the case is opened up to a tender conscience.

 

But the Lord gave himself for our sins that he might deliver us from this present evil world. It would little benefit us to see and feel the malady were there provided no efficacious remedy. Many a dying man feels his mortal disease; but he knows to his sorrow, that a sense of illness can no more cure him, than it can turn pain into ease or sickness into health. Deliverance, deliverance is that which is wanted. Let us see, then, what the blessed Lord came to deliver us from when he gave himself for our sins.

1.   First, he gave himself to deliver us from the condemnation of this present evil world. Men are not willing to believe the solemn fact that this world lies under a sentence of condemnation from the wrath of God. But such is the Scripture testimony. “We know that we are of God,” says John, “and the whole world lieth in wickedness” {1Jo 5:19} and if “in wickedness,” in condemnation, unless we think that God justifies wickedness.

 

Paul, therefore, speaking of divine chastisement says, “For if we would judge ourselves we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.” {1Co 11:32} But does not this testimony expressly declare that the world lies under condemnation? If, then, you and I are found at the last great day in the world, we shall be found under the condemnation of the world. When the deluge came, when the fountains of the great deep were broken up and the windows of heaven were opened, every one who was in the world was drowned by the flood; none were saved but those who were in the ark. When God burnt up the cities of the plain, all the men, women, and children that were found in them were destroyed by the brimstone and fire, which the Lord rained out of heaven. At the last siege of Jerusalem, when Titus destroyed that city, all found within its walls were put to the sword, burnt in the fire, which destroyed the city and the temple, or dragged into captivity.

Now so it will be with you if you are found at death to be one with and in the world; you will be condemned with it, as being found in it and of it, as were those who were drowned in the flood, burnt up in Sodom, and slaughtered in Jerusalem. If you are found on a dying bed in the world, what can you expect but that the same sentence of condemnation will fall upon you in the day of judgment, as that which will be pronounced upon the world by the Judge of the quick and dead? O, the unspeakable mercy of being delivered from that condemnation by a living faith in his blood, who gave himself for our sins that he might save us from the wrath to come!

2.   But there is something more than the condemnation of the world from which Christ came to deliver us by giving himself for our sins. There are the people of the world, the men and the women by whom we are surrounded and with whom we are so closely connected in the daily transactions of life. Mixture with them, to a certain extent, is unavoidable, as the demands of business indispensably require it. But there is a limit beyond which we must not go. We must not make the men and women of this world our friends and companions.

 

If I am found amongst transgressors, walking with them as my chosen friends and intimates, I shall have to endure the same punishment that falls upon them; for “a companion of fools shall be destroyed.” {Pr 13:20} We often see this literally and naturally fulfilled. A companion of drunkards often kills himself with strong drink. A companion of thieves, as approving of their deeds, and connected with them in their employment, if he himself is not actually a pick-pocket, yet is liable to be imprisoned as a vagabond. Why is he in such company-why is he aiding them in their nefarious pursuits if he is not an accomplice? Just so it will be with us if we are found in life and death friends and associates with the world: we shall be shut up in hell with those who are actually guilty of the crimes perpetrated in the world, even though we ourselves have not sinned as they have. As our company is, so will be our judgment. If we walk in the counsel of the ungodly and stand in the way of sinners, we shall be judged with them; if on the other hand, from love to the Lord and to his people, we keep company with them, we shall have a share in their blessings.

Let us never forget that the Lord Jesus Christ came to deliver us from all company with his enemies, and to bring us into union with himself and his friends. Indeed I believe that one of the first marks of the grace of God in the soul, is the separation which it produces between us and those who have hitherto been our chief friends and associates. The work of God upon the heart is decisive work. It tolerates no half measures; it allows no compromise. It creates, from the very first, a gulf between the world and us that we never want to bridge over, never wish to be filled up, but are only desirous that the gulf should be daily wider and wider, and the separation greater and greater. I hope I can truly say, for my part, that I neither have nor wish to have one worldly friend or associate. May I ever be separate from all such, and may I live and die in the sweet and sole fellowship of the saints of God.

3.   But there is a deliverance also from the customs and maxims of the world. And Christ gave himself for our sins that he might deliver us from the power and prevalence of these maxims and customs, for they are altogether evil. What are they but the advancement of self? “Let me rise, whoever sinks”-is not this the world’s motto? As in a crowded place when there is a sudden alarm of fire and men are struggling for life, the strong will trample down the weak to save themselves: so in the grand struggle of life, the spirit of the world is to trample down all and any that may stand in its way in order to advance itself. “Self! Self! Self!” is the world’s battle cry. “Let me swim, I care not who sinks. Let me rise, I care not who falls. Let me get safe to shore, and those who cannot swim, let the tide sweep them away; it will be all the better for me.” Men may not be so daring as to utter these expressions but they embody the secret thoughts of every worldly heart.

 

Now to deliver us from such ungodly maxims and such selfish ways, Christ gave himself; for in giving himself for our sins, the purpose of his heart was not merely to save but also to sanctify. He came to deliver us from the world within as well as the world without, that through his dying love and atoning blood, a new heart and a new spirit might be communicated to us, so that we might not be ever seeking the advancement of self, might not be ever bent upon gratifying our pride, ambition, and covetousness; but that the profit of our soul should be to us of far deeper importance than the profit of our bodies, the prosperity of our circumstances or the advancement of our families; that we should hate and abhor that spirit of selfishness which is the very life blood of a worldly heart; that the salvation and sanctification of our soul, should be our first concern; and next to that, as far as we can, to do good to the bodies and souls of our fellow-men.

4.   Our Lord, therefore, gave himself for our sins that he might also deliver us from the spirit of the world. And where is that spirit? In our own bosom we need not dread the company and maxims of the world without, if we had not so much of the spirit of the world within. It is because we carry so much combustible material in our bosom, that we are justly afraid of fire. If I could live in a fire-proof house, I need not fear my neighbour’s house being in flames; but if mine be a thatched cottage I may well tremble when the flame draws near my habitation. So it is in grace. If I were perfectly holy, had no evil heart, knew nothing of sin in the flesh, I need not dread contact with the world. But because I carry in my bosom that world within which is but the counterpart and image of the world without, I need dread the influence, and as it were the very breath of the world upon me: for the spirit of the world, if it once catch my thoughts and affections, may soon set on fire every evil in my heart.

 

But our blessed Lord gave himself for our sins that he might deliver us from the spirit of the world by giving us a new spirit, making us partakers of a divine nature whereby we escape the corruptions which are in the world through lust. We should ever bear in mind that our blessed Lord in giving himself for our sins that he might deliver us from the present evil world, did something more than merely rescue us from death and hell, or merely save us from the worm that dieth not and the fire that is not quenched. Salvation from the wrath to come is something more than a mere escape from hell. This might have been done, and yet had nothing else been accomplished grace would have fallen very far short of our deep necessities.

But Jesus died and rose again that he might bring us near to his own bosom, conform us to his own image, make us partakers of his own grace, give us to drink of and into his own Spirit, that we might receive those communications out of his own fulness which will make us meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.

It was God’s eternal purpose that the spouse and bride of his dear Son should not only be rescued from all the sins and miseries of the Adam fall, but should be exalted far beyond what she was in her primeval creation. She is to shine forth one day in the eternal glory of his own dear Son, as he said in his intercessory prayer for his disciples, “The glory which thou gavest me I have given them that they may be one even as we are one.” {Joh 17:22} This glory is twofold-present and future. The present glory is to be conformed to his suffering image, and by beholding him to be changed into it by the power of the Spirit, as the Apostle speaks, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” {2Co 3:18} Future glory is to be perfectly conformed to his present glorified image in body and soul.

But as we shall only be glorified with him hereafter if we suffer with him here, so there must be an inward conformity to his suffering image upon earth, that there may be a perfect conformity to his glorified image in heaven. Calvary then is the source whence these healing streams flow; for Jesus is of God made unto us “sanctification” as well as “righteousness and redemption.” The king’s daughter is “all glorious within” as well as without in “her clothing of wrought gold” {Ps 45:13} The inward glory consists in the transforming efficacy of the blessed Spirit in the heart, through which, being delivered from conformity to this world, we are transformed by the renewing of our mind, that we may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

III.-But now comes our next point, which is to show that the whole of this work of Christ upon the cross, whereby he gave himself for our sins that he might deliver us from this present evil world, is “according to the will of our God and our Father.” It is a blessed contemplation of a believing heart to see and feel how the whole work of Christ, in saving and sanctifying his redeemed people, harmonises with the eternal and sovereign will of God; for this foundation truth is deeply engraven upon every regenerate heart, that nothing can take place in heaven or earth but what is in accordance with the sovereign will of Jehovah. He is the supreme arbiter of all events, and doeth according to his will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.

It is sweet, then, to see by faith that the Son of God giving himself for our sins that he might deliver us from this present evil world, was in full accordance with the will of God. The will of the Father and the will of the Son must be one; but it is sweet to see that he against whom and before whom we have sinned, should be so well pleased with the sacrifice which Jesus has offered for our sins, and that all this was settled in eternal covenant. It mightily strengthens faith, hope, and love to be graciously persuaded that our Lord did not, so to speak, drag the pardon of our sins out of God’s bosom; did not prevail with his heavenly Father by tears and supplications to let him come down from heaven to save guilty man, but that in this wondrous scheme of redeeming love, as in everything else, the will of the Father and of the Son were one.

To think that Jesus wrung the gift of eternal life out of God’s unwilling breast would be to introduce contradiction into the courts of bliss, to make a schism between the Father and the Son, and to overthrow the whole fabric of the covenant of grace. It was the Father’s good pleasure, it was the Son’s good pleasure, it was the Holy Spirit’s good pleasure; for these three, though distinct in Person, are one in essence. What pleased the Father, well pleased the Son, and what pleased the Son well pleased the Spirit; so that the whole of this wondrous scheme of salvation was in harmony with the will and purpose of God and our Father as our Father in Christ. “The gift of God is eternal life,” and though this is “through Jesus Christ our Lord,” that is, through the suffering, bloodshedding, and death of Jesus, this very channel through which it comes only enhances the greatness of the gift. A view of this by faith opens a door in the valley of Achor for every poor, desponding child of God; and, as viewed by faith, discovers a most suitable and blessed way of access to God himself.

You feel yourself to be a poor, vile, miserable sinner, you see yourself surrounded with evil within and without, as having your lot cast in an evil world; you long for an escape from all wrath and fear, doubt, terror, and torment; but you lift up your eyes and scarcely know where to look; you stretch forth your hands and scarcely know whom to grasp; you move forward, but scarcely know where to direct your steps. Now look up once more and see whether you cannot see a light from heaven that even now shines upon your mind. Listen with outstretched ears if you cannot hear a voice from heaven itself that even now speaks to your heart. And what does that voice say? “The Son of God gave himself for your sins, that he might deliver you from this present evil world; and this is according to the will of God and our Father.” Here, then, is a guiding light that shines upon the pilgrim’s path; here is a directing voice that leads his footsteps into the ways of peace and truth. It is true that we must not expect to see an actual light or hear a real voice; but we see light in God’s light when we believe, and we hear his voice when faith is mixed with his word.

When, then, as led by the blessed Spirit, we go to the blessed Redeemer that he may deliver us from this present evil world, by the application of his blood and the communication of his love, we go to him thus in accordance with the will of God and our Father. This is our heavenly warrant. If we believe in his name, it is in accordance with the will of God and our Father. If we hope in his mercy, if we love him with a pure heart fervently, if we cast our soul upon him, if, distrusting our own strength and righteousness we hang entirely upon his, we are acting according to the will of God and our Father; we are complying with the dictates of sovereign wisdom, listening to the voice of sovereign mercy, and walking in the ways of eternal truth and peace.

Thus, that the whole work of Christ with all its blessed fruits and effects, should be “according to the will of God and our Father,” casts a blessed and glorious light upon the original gift of the Son by the Father. The whole is thus seen to be one grand, glorious, and complete scheme of eternal wisdom and love. As thus enlightened by the blessed Spirit and renewed in the spirit of our mind, we see that God has designed and executed a way whereby we may be delivered from this present evil world.

Is it to you an evil world? Do you “sigh and cry” like those spoken of in Ezekiel, {Eze 9:4} “for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof” not only in the evil world without, but in the worse evil world within? There is a way of escape for you; there is a door of hope open in the very dome of heaven. Mercy whispers to you from the seat of heavenly bliss, “The Son of God gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God.” When this message of mercy and truth is received into a believing heart, and the inmost spirit begins to soften and melt under the sweet sound of pardoning love, it will bring out of the heart and lip our fourth and last point which is,

IV.— “To whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen.” Is he not worthy of all glory? O, what a glorious scheme to save guilty man as contrived in heaven and accomplished on earth! O, what a glorious plan of infinite wisdom to harmonise all the jarring perfections of Deity in the salvation of wretches so forlorn, of sinners so thoroughly lost! O, glorious contrivance, that mercy and truth should meet together in a suffering Immanuel, that peace and righteousness should kiss each other over Calvary’s cross; that God should be just and yet the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus; and all this that grace might reign through righteousness unto eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord; that sin might be pardoned and the sinner go free, and yet God’s justice not be tarnished, but rather shine forth with re-doubled lustre. Is not then a triune Jehovah worthy of all the glory that myriads of saved sinners can render to his holy name?

Can that heart ever have tasted of his grace-can that soul ever have seen his glory, that withholds this triumphant note and denying him the glory due to his name, says, “Glory to myself; glory to my own wisdom, my own righteousness and my own exertions?” Is that a note to be heard in heaven? Will self-righteousness ever chant its discordant sounds in the heavenly choir? No; as in the temple, when “the trumpeters and singers were as one to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord” {2Ch 5:13} so will it be in the courts of bliss when ransomed souls assemble round the throne and cry, “Glory, glory, glory, for ever and ever, to Father, Son and Holy Ghost;” and heaven’s vaults will re-echo with the universal cry “Amen.”

*DIVINE ENLARGEMENT AND SPIRITUAL OBEDIENCE

 

Preached at Zoar Chapel, Great Alie Street, London, on Lord’s Day Morning, August 10, 1845.

 

"I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart." (Ps 119:32)

 

I was endeavouring to show on Thursday evening a connection between the precept and the promise; and I observed that, whenever the precept and the promise are linked together, if we are enabled to perform the precept, God is sure to fulfil the promise. But there is a connection of another kind between them—that namely betwixt the precept itself, and the power to perform it. The word of God is full of precepts, but we are totally unable to perform them. We can no more, without divine operation, perform the precept, (that is, with a single eye to the glory of God, from heavenly motives, and in a way acceptable to the Lord), than we can, without special power from on high, believe on the name of the only begotten Son of God. We need a peculiar power to be put forth in our hearts, a special work of God the Spirit upon the conscience, in order to fulfil in the slightest degree the least of God’s precepts spiritually. The way in which we perform the precept, when we do perform it at all, is set forth in the words of the text, "I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart."

 

In taking up the subject this morning, I shall endeavour to unfold it according to the two clauses of the text; but in so doing I shall invert their order; and, with God’s blessing, I shall endeavour, first,  to trace out the mind and meaning of the Spirit in the words, "When thou shalt enlarge my heart;" and, secondly, "I will run the way of thy commandments."

 

I.—Before we come to examine the subject closely, it will be desirable to give a little explanation of two points—. What is intended by the Holy Ghost by the expression "heart;" and, as things are best seen by their contrast, to explain what it is to have a contracted heart, in order that by the contrast we may understand the better what it is to have an enlarged heart.

 

1. By the word "heart" in the Scriptures, the Holy Ghost means more than one thing. Sometimes, for instance, He means by it that corrupt, depraved principle, which we derive from Adam. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." (Jer 17:9) God saw "that every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil, continually." (Ge 6:5) "A heart," Solomon says, "that deviseth wicked imaginations." (Pr 6:18) In all these passages, the expression, "heart," means that corrupt nature which we derive from a fallen progenitor. There is another signification which the Holy Ghost has attached to the word, which I may define in one short sentence, "the feelings of the soul Godward." It is, therefore, sometimes taken for the understanding. Thus we read, that God gave Solomon "largeness of heart, as the sand upon the sea shore." Here it means wisdom and understanding. Sometimes it means affections,  the tender affections of the soul, as in numerous passages where David speaks of his heart "inditing a good matter," "panting after the Lord; __ rejoicing in his salvation," or else sorrowing, mourning, or cast down. And sometimes, it signifies conscience,  as where God said of Josiah, "Because thine heart was tender." 2Ki 22:19

 

2. This heart, then, or new nature, is susceptible sometimes of contraction,  and sometimes, as divinely wrought upon, of expansion. The heart of a child of God, viewed spiritually, is a tender exotic; it is not a hard, rough, native plant, that stands every storm, which no frost nips and no drought burns. It is a foreign plant; for it comes down from heaven, the abode of eternal purity, and dwells in a man’s bosom, with all the tenderness of a plant from a warm country. Now these tender feelings Godward are susceptible of contraction. They resemble a hot-house plant. Open the windows, expose it to the chilling blasts of this cold, inclement, northern clime, it shrinks, the tender buds refuse to expand, and the whole plant droops and dies. But let the windows be closed; let the bright sun pour his warm rays through the glass roof upon it, and the same plant, which so contracted, shrivelled, and withered away under the blast, opens its tender bosom and sends forth its sweet fragrance. So with the new-born soul. There is that which shuts it up, and that which opens it; that which makes it shrink sensitively into so small a compass as scarcely to be seen, and that which draws it forth and causes it to send abroad its heavenly odours.

 

We will look then, with God’s blessing, at some of those things that contract, straiten, and shut up the heart, before we look at the causes and nature of what expands and enlarges it. The new heart of grace is exceedingly tender. And therefore there are many things that will cause this tender heart to shut up and contract itself.

 

i. One is guilt. Whenever guilt lies upon a man’s conscience, it shuts him up altogether in his feelings Godward; it narrows, it contracts his heart. There is no room in his soul for divine enjoyments; there are no divine consolations shed abroad, no inshinings of divine light, no incomings of heavenly love.

 

ii. Another is unbelief. O what a narrowing, contracting, and shutting-up power is there when unbelief works powerfully in a man’s carnal mind! How the tender plant of faith shrinks into a small compass before its chilling blasts! How unable then are we to receive the truth in the love of it—unable to act upon the perfections of the Lord of life and glory—unable to come forth into the light of His countenance, unable to enjoy any one testimony of His manifested favour; unable to realise a single mark, or testimony of the grace of God being in the heart!

 

iii. Darkness of mind is another thing that contracts and shuts up a man’s heart Godward. Many flowers, when night comes on, hide themselves as it were from it; their petals gather up and close over the bosom which, during the day, expanded itself to the warm rays of the sun, defending it from the cold dews and chilling breaths of the night. So spiritually. How darkness of soul (and all the Lord’s people are brought to mourn and sigh under felt darkness) contracts the heart! How it closes up every gracious feeling! How it checks every going forth of the soul in the actings of faith, hope, and love! What a veil it spreads over the hidden man of the heart! So that there is nothing good or gracious apparently in exercise.

 

iv. Deadness, coldness, torpidity of feeling Godward,  that wretched state in which many of God’s people are so continually, — how this shuts up, contracts, and narrows the heart Godward! How unable a man is in this dead, cold, torpid state, to enlarge his own soul! Does he attempt to pray? He has no power to pour forth a single desire. Does he attempt to read? He can scarcely get through half-a-dozen verses without wandering. Does he come to hear? There is scarcely anything that even his outward ear receives. He is unable to fix his thoughts and affections, unable to realize the presence, love, and power of God in his soul. Does he attempt to converse? He has scarcely a word to say, shut up in his feelings toward the family of God, shut up in his feelings toward the Lord Himself.

 

We must know by painful experience what it is to have these narrow, contracted, shut-up hearts, that we may by the contrast know what it is to have an enlarged, expanded heart. We cannot know the one except by knowing the other. It is this miserable feeling of contraction, which makes us know the difference betwixt these painful sensations and of an enlarged, expanded heart.

 

II.—This leads me to enter more fully into what it is to have an enlarged heart. What is the meaning of the word enlarged? The idea is this—the making of an opening,  so as to give a wide space. Thus, the Lord promised to the children of Israel that He would "enlarge their border;" that is. He would give them more ample room; that they should not be confined to a narrow space in which their population should exceed its limits; but that He would so extend their boundary as to give them ample width for their increasing numbers! Thus the word conveys the idea of an expansion, a removal of all that is narrowed up and contracted, by giving a wider coast. a more ample border.

 

Now none but the Lord Himself can enlarge the heart of His people, can give them spiritually what Jabez prayed for "O that thou wouldest enlarge my coast!" 1Ch 4:10 None but the Lord can expand their hearts Godward, and remove that narrowedness and contractedness in divine things which is the plague and burden of a God-fearing soul.

 

Having seen what is meant by an enlarged heart, let us look at the way whereby God is pleased to enlarge it.

 

1. It is by the special operation of God the Spirit upon the soul that there is ever felt any enlargement of heart Godward. For instance; when he applies any portion of His word with power, that enlarges the heart; "the entrance of thy word giveth light." The very nature of divine light is to expand the heart into which it comes. As darkness shuts up, so light opens; as darkness freezes, so the word of God sealed with power melts. "He sendeth out his word, and melteth them." Ps 147:18 Truth revealed to the soul has a liberating power. "Ye shall know the truth; and the truth shall make you free."

 

2. A sensible realization of the Lord’s presence enlarges the heart. When the Lord is absent, when He hides His lovely face, when He does not draw near to visit and bless, the heart contracts. There is no going out to Him, no coming down of, sweet communications from Him; the heart is shut up in itself, contracted in its own narrow compass. But when the Lord is pleased to favour the soul with His own gracious presence, and bring Himself near to the heart, His felt presence opens, enlarges, and expands the soul, so as to receive Him in all His love and grace. To use a figure I have before alluded to, the heart is often like a flower beaten down by the rain, prostrated by the wind, surcharged with moisture, overpowered by the dews of the night, unable to lift itself up, dropping downwards, with all its petals contracted. But let the sky clear up, let the beams and rays of the glorious orb of day shine forth, the flower, whose petals before were closed, expand themselves to receive the warmth of the mid-day sun. So it is with the God-fearing soul. When the dew of night rests upon it, when darkness covers, when the cold blast beats, when the rain drifts upon it, there is no unfolding, no enlarging. But when the Sun of Righteousness breaks forth, the drooping heart then expands all its bosom to the warm rays, and lifts its bending head, which before had been sunk down by the cold mists.

 

3. The unction, savour, and power of the Holy Spirit,  whenever felt in the soul, produce an enlargement of heart. The absence of the dew of the Holy Ghost leaves the heart shut up in its own darkness. But when dew, savour, and power rest upon the soul, they immediately by their secret, penetrating, unctuous influences expand and enlarge the heart; they soften its rigidity; they melt down its harshness. Whereas before it was narrowed and contracted, so as not to open itself to any one divine feeling; no sooner does the softening dew and melting unction of the Holy Ghost touch a man’s heart than it enlarges, opens, melts and expands itself before the Lord.

 

I have hinted that the word "heart" in Scripture has more than one signification. Sometimes it means understanding,  sometimes conscience,  and sometimes the affections. Now whenever the heart is enlarged by the internal operations of God the Spirit, it is enlarged in these senses.

 

i. The understanding is enlightened;  we read, "Then opened he their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures." Lu 24:45 And we find David pleading earnestly, "Give me understanding and I shall live." Ps 119:144 It is a great blessing to have an understanding heart; not to be tossed to and fro with every wind of error; not to be caught with every delusion of Satan; but to have a sound mind, established in the truth as it is in Jesus. But when the Lord is pleased to enlarge the heart, He opens the understanding; He gives an insight into the Scriptures of truth; He shews us the mind of Christ; He brings a sweet light into our soul, whereby we read the Scriptures with the same light and in the same spirit by which they were inspired. Thus we enter into the meaning of passages we never knew before; we understand mysteries, which before we were unacquainted with; we feel our minds to open, expand, and receive the truth as it is in Jesus in greater simplicity and godly sincerity.

 

ii. But there is also an enlarging of the conscience. If our heart is contracted, our conscience is not sensitive nor tender. Have you not observed, that when your mind was contracted, your affections toward God cold and dead, that your conscience was not sensitive, that sin was not that burden to you as at other times—that you could play with it, walk upon the borders of it, venture upon forbidden ground, dally with evil, did not feel this and that thing to be inconsistent with the will and word of God, which you felt to be so at other times? Now when your heart has been enlarged, when your soul has felt the power and operations of the Spirit, your conscience becomes more sensitive—as it is said in Isaiah of the human nature of Christ—"of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord." Sin is more seen to be sin; evil is described in things where we did not see it before; the "exceeding sinfulness of sin" is more deeply felt; the worldliness and carnality of others that did not when we were cold and dead much affect us, now that we are under the inshinings of God the Spirit, become irksome and burdensome. Thus, as the understanding is enlightened to see, the conscience is made more sensitive: as we get a deeper insight into the Person, work, and blood of Jesus, the conscience takes a wider range, and is made more alive and more tender than it was before.

 

iii. Besides this, there is an enlargement of the affections. Our affections will waver in the same way as our understanding and our conscience. When our understanding is dark, and our conscience is hard, then our affections are cold; but when the Lord is pleased by the entrance of His word to give light in our understanding, and to make the conscience more tender and sensitive, then there is an enlargement also of the affections.

 

Have you not felt at times as though you had not a single grain of love towards the Lord of life and glory? Has not your heart often been as an adamant, which neither judgment nor mercy, threatening nor love could move? And have you not been, when in that state, unable to love God’s truth or His people—yea, rather felt your heart filled with the most fearful hardness, and enmity towards them? But when the Lord is pleased to enlarge the heart, these affections, which before had been shut up, expand, breathe themselves forth, and flow out and flow into the Lord of life and glory. There is a clasping Him in the arms of tender affection, and a desire to live and die in His embrace.

 

4. When God enlarges the heart He enlarges every grace and fruit of the Spirit.

 

i. For instance. There is faith. Faith in the soul sometimes sinks down to the very lowest ebb; there seems at times to be scarcely one grain of it left. We have not a single spark of faith in living exercise. The hand which should take hold of Christ’s strength is as if paralysed; there is no putting it forth to receive strength out of His gracious fulness. But when God the Spirit, by His secret power and unction enlarges the heart. He enlarges faith: as the Apostle says. "We are bound to thank God always for you. brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly." 2Th 1:3

 

This is an enlargement of faith; and just in proportion to the enlargement of faith, do we take in the object of faith. When our faith is very weak, it is like the hand of a little child. Its tiny fingers can only grasp little objects, and can scarcely hold them when grasped. So when faith is small it is unable to take hold of great things; and if it take them, it is unable to hold them. But when the hand of the child is increased to the brawny fingers of a man, then the same hand, which before was unable to grasp little substances is now enabled to lay hold of great burdens. So with faith in the heart; it is in some as the hand of the child, it is in others as the hand of the adult. The hand in the one case is weak, in the other strong. But the hand of the child differs only in size and strength from the hand of the man. When then the Lord enlarges the heart, He enlarges the fingers of the hand; as we read of Joseph, "His bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob." Ge 49:24 So when the Lord enlarges the heart, He enlarges the sinews and muscles of living faith, and presenting Christ before it, enables it firmly to embrace His Person and work, His atoning blood, His justifying righteousness, all that He is and has for God’s poor needy family.

 

ii. So also, when God enlarges the heart, He enlarges hope.

 

Anchors, you know, are made different sizes. You may walk in the Queen’s dockyard, and there you may see anchors for a boat, and anchors for a three-decker. Yet all anchors are made in the same way, and are designed for the same purpose; and the little anchor that holds the boat is as useful and as much an anchor as that which holds the three-decker, so spiritually. There is hope in the heart of the babe. But the hope in the heart of a babe is but as the anchor of a boat; yet it holds that babe as firmly as the anchor holds the boat to which it is moored. But as the Lord increases hope, He increases the size of the anchor; and as the vessel and its anchor always bear a proportion to each other, so when He enlarges the size of the anchor He increases the size of the ship. Nay more, as He increases the size of the ship, He increases its burden: for these two are proportionate. He increases a man’s trials, perplexities, difficulties, and sorrows. And thus, ship, anchor, and burden are all enlarged together.

 

Thus, when He enlarges the heart He enlarges a man’s hope. It takes a more vigorous hold within the veil; it enters more deeply into the presence of God; it takes a firmer grasp of covenant engagements, electing love, the immutability of God’s purposes, and the unchangeable nature of the great eternal I AM. Have you not felt at times your hope sweetly enlarged, so that it almost attained to the "full assurance of hope?" Scarcely a cloud remained between you and God; and you believed you should ride triumphantly into the haven of bliss and peace? and having these blessed sensations in your heart, you could part with life itself at that moment to fall into the embrace of your God. Now this was a sweet enlargement of your hope.

 

iii. In the same way when the Lord enlarges the heart, He enlarges its love towards Himself and His people. How cold are our hearts too often toward the Lord! and, as a sure and necessary consequence, how cold towards the brethren! Sometimes we seem even to dislike their company; and if we see them coming down one street, we would gladly take another turning in order to avoid them. How averse too from the Lord’s ways! How cold in prayer, cold in reading, cold in hearing, and cold in doing anything to the glory of God! How backward, how opposed to every thing holy, heavenly, and spiritual! But when God in mercy enlarges the heart, He also enlarges the affections to love the Lord, to love His word, to love His people, to love all that savours of the precious name of Jesus.

 

iv. There is also an enlargement of the mouth. "My mouth is enlarged over mine enemies, because I rejoice in thy salvation." {1Sa 2:1} It is out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. "The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips." Pr 16:23 When your heart is contracted, when your soul is shut up, when your affections are chilled, there is no enlargement of the mouth, especially if you have any tenderness of conscience. Hypocrites and dead professors can talk about religion at all times. "But a prating fool shall fall" whereas the Lord’s people are often shut up. and have not a word to say upon divine things. If there be no sweet enlargement of the heart, there is no enlargement of the mouth; and when there is no life nor feeling in the soul enabling it to speak of the things of God, to speak of them at all is but a burden to them. But when the Lord enlarges the heart, then there is an enlargement of the mouth. The lips speak freely, simply, with savour, dew, and unction, of the things that God has done and is doing in the soul.

 

v. There is also an enlargement of the steps,  as David says. "Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip." Ps 18:36 This is a strengthening of the feet, so that they are enabled to take longer steps. Sometimes from weariness we stumble, can scarcely drag one limb before another, get so faint and tired that we seem unable to move one step further in the ways of God. But when the Lord enlarges and strengthens a man’s feet and steps, He enables him to move more actively forward, and to run more eagerly in the way of His commandments.

 

III.—This leads me to the second part of the text, the connection of the precept with the power given to perform it: "I will run the way of thy commandments when thou shalt enlarge my heart." David was no legalist: he was no Arminian perfectionist; he was not drawing upon the strength and wisdom of the creature, but he was looking up to the Lord to work a certain work upon his soul. When that certain work was wrought upon him, then, and not till then, would he, or could he perform the precept. How often have you seen the precept handled in the way of which the Lord speaks as done by the scribes and Pharisees of old! "For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers." Mt 23:4 Nothing is more easy than to take a bundle of precepts into the pulpit, and tie them round the necks of the Lord’s people like an iron collar. But how many of them does the minister perform out of it? Every child and servant of God taught by the Spirit knows that he cannot perform one precept except as the Lord enlarges his heart. This deep sense of our helplessness does not foster sloth, nor lead to licentiousness; for guilt and condemnation are felt from the non-performance of the precepts; and our desire and prayer, when we are in our right mind, are, that the Lord would enlarge our heart, for we love to run the way of His commandments.

 

What are these commandments? And how do we run in the way of them? I will endeavour to show you.

 

The Lord in His word has given several commandments; and these commandments we perform when the Lord enlarges our heart. For instance.

 

1. The Lord commands us to believe in the name of His dear Son,  as the Apostle John writes, "This is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ." 1Jo 3:23 But we cannot believe in the name of Jesus, any more than we can make a world, until God enables. Believe in Jesus! receive Him by precious faith into my heart! feel the efficacy of His atoning blood in my conscience! bathe my blissful soul in the sweet enjoyment of His dying love! I do this? Before I can, of myself, do this, I must be able to say, "Let there be light, and there shall be light." But when the Lord by His grace and Spirit enlarges the heart; when He drops His dew, unction, and savour into the soul; when He draws near to it, and makes it draw near to Him; when this blessed Sun of Righteousness shines forth through the dark cloud, and warms the cold dark soul, then it can no more not believe in Him than before it could believe in Him. We can no more refuse to believe when faith comes into the heart, than we can believe before faith does come. When God enlarges the heart, and draws forth the affections, then we run in the way of this commandment. We do not believe as a duty; we do not believe as a precept; nor do we believe even as a privilege. But we believe as a blessing. We believe as we see an object with our eyes. We open our eyes, and we cannot but see. So when faith opens its eyes, it sees Jesus; nay, it cannot but see Him.

 

2. Another commandment is, to repent. "God commandeth all men everywhere to repent." What! repent! Have the heart broken with contrition! feel godly sorrow! experience the flowings forth of grief towards a crucified Lord! Can I do this? It is utterly beyond my reach. I may shed crocodile tears. I may work myself up into fleshly excitement; I may fall upon my knees, lacerate my back, refuse to eat my meat, and lie upon the ground. But to feel a broken heart, melted down into compunction and godly sorrow—the man that feels what an adamant he carries in his bosom knows well that it is the pure grace of God alone that can give him repentance. I believe the Lord brings all his people to that spot of which Mr. Hart speaks—when the question was not whether he would repent, but whether God would give him repentance; no longer whether I will do this for the Lord, but whether the Lord in mercy and grace will do this for me. The great I sinks then into absolute insignificance; and the creature is brought down to its true spot—abasement and helplessness. But when the Lord enlarges the heart, with this enlargement is there not the grace of penitence? Is there not the tearful eye, the convulsive sob, the inward grief of soul? Is there not real gospel repentance and sorrow felt in a broken and tender heart? I am sure there is this.

 

3. God commands us "to love one another." "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another." {Joh 13:34} Can I of myself feel this love? I may pretend to do so; I may do as one of old did, who came to his brother with a very fraternal salutation, "Art thou in health, my brother?" and then smote him under the fifth rib with a sword. I may say, ‘Brother this,’ and ‘Sister that’—’how I love you!’—’what affection I feel for you!’ I might, if God did not keep me honest, play this part of a varnished hypocrite. But I cannot feel, nor create this true love, without a special work of the Spirit on my soul. But when He enlarges the heart, and melts the soul at his footstool, He gives love to Himself: and with that love, He gives love to His people, pure affection: not a feigned, but real desire for their spiritual welfare; not a few canting phrases, but a true feeling of brotherhood; not a mere expression of ‘brother’ on the lip, but brotherly affection in the heart.

 

When He enlarges the heart, we do not want to go amongst our brethren to say, ‘Brother,’ or ‘Sister;’ we feel them in our very soul; when we are alone with God there is a tender affection flowing forth out to them of our heart, an embracing of them in our soul. Nay more, we can forgive our enemies when the Lord enlarges our heart. If we can see them in the right spot, where we would see them, we can forgive them, though they have been most unkind to, and cruelly treated us. I have felt, that when the Lord is pleased to enlarge the heart, anger, enmity, prejudice, bitterness, malevolence—those unclean birds all take flight, and simplicity, tenderness, humility and love all live in the soul.

 

4. The Lord commands us to deny ourselves, take up the cross, put off the old man, and walk as becometh the gospel. Can we do this? We cannot. We may affect a popish austerity; we may put on a hypocritical visage; we may look all sanctity and holiness; we may cleanse the outside of the cup and platter, and put an extra coat of whitewash on the sepulchre. But as to that inward crucifixion, that inward deadness to the world, that inward putting off of the old man and putting on of the new, which the word of truth speaks of, we cannot attain to, except God the Spirit work in us both the will and the power. But when God enlarges the heart, then there is no burden in God’s ways; His precepts are not grievous; it is a pleasure to walk in them; and there is a sweet gratification in obeying them.

 

"I will run the way of thy commandments." Not lag, nor loiter, not turn aside, not faint, not falter. "I will run" eagerly, actively, as a lover runs to his beloved bride—"I will run" cheerfully the way of thy commandments, when thou hast enlarged my heart.

 

5. So with the ordinances,  the ordinances of the Lord’s house— baptism and the Lord’s supper. These are not grievous; they are not burdensome, when the Lord enlarges the heart. When we are narrowed up, shut up, contracted, these ordinances of the Lord’s house are burdensome to us. We hate the very sight of the table spread with the emblems; we have the most horrible feelings of rebellion against the ordinance of baptism; yea, we feel every infernal sensation that Satan can stir up in our minds. But when the Lord enlarges our heart, there is no burden then; whatever be the precept, whatever be the ordinances, we can run in that way with cheerfulness, freedom and liberty.

 

6. So with respect to every precept of the gospel. whatever it be, we can run in the way of God’s commandments when He enlarges our heart. There is no running in any other way. All other service is legality; all other obedience is but the froth and spawn of free-will, nothing but the mere natural obedience of the creature, not the spiritual obedience of the child of God. But let us look at this. Is it our happiness, is it our pleasure when we cannot run the way of God’s commands? Do we lay the inability upon God, or pack it upon the old man? and say, It does not matter, I cannot obey them: but when God gives me the power, I shall. This is the very essence of antinomianism, the very spawn of licentiousness, the worst abuse of gospel grace.

 

The Christian is in one of these two spots for the most part; sometimes shut up, contracted, cold, dead, torpid. But this is his grief and misery. In this state of feeling, he cannot run the way of God’s commandments. But is he pleased with being a loiterer? No: it is his grief and trouble that he cannot run in the way of God’s commandments. This evidences the work of God the Spirit upon him; he would do it, but he cannot—"the good that he would, he does not." But it is the will being on the side of God which proves the reality of grace; it is the heart and conscience being enlisted on the side of the Lord that proves God is at work on his soul.

 

On the other hand, the children of God are sometimes in this state. Their hearts are enlarged, their souls strengthened, and their feet are enabled to run the race that is set before them. This is their joy, their happiness, and their delight.

 

Now can you trace out these two things in your conscience? What is the use of my standing here to speak these things? Is it merely to amuse you? Is there not something deeper wanted than that? You have a soul to be saved or damned; you are a child of God or not; the grace of God is in your heart, or it is not; you are on the broad road to hell, or on the narrow road to heaven. Have you no concern about it? What! stand upon the brink of eternity, and have no anxiety respecting it! If you are a child of God, you will have this deep concern at times in your bosom.

 

Can you trace out in your soul the distinct existence of the two things I have endeavoured to handle? Do you know what it is to be shut up, cold, dead, and stupid? Is this your grief and burden? You say, it is. It is a good thing if you can say so with an honest heart. Look at the converse. Did you ever know what it was to have an enlarged heart? Did mercy, grace, peace, blood, and salvation ever cast out these grievous enemies of your soul? If so, it enlarged your coasts, it strengthened your borders. Did you ever experience what is said of the church, that she shall "fear" (rather flutter, or palpitate) "and be enlarged?"

 

Did your soul ever experience the unutterable sensations of divine enlargement? When this came into your heart, did it produce sensible expansion Godward, enlargement of understanding, conscience, and affections; so that you walked at liberty, and had sweet testimonies that God was your God? And how do you feel as to the precepts of God’s word? Are they sometimes burdensome? Are they sometimes pleasant and delightful? They will be burdensome when we are shut up; and they will be delightful when we are enlarged. When shut up, nothing so difficult; when enlarged, nothing so easy. When shut up, nothing so painful; when enlarged, nothing so pleasing. When shut up, afraid to look at them; when enlarged, able to enter into their length, breadth, and meaning. When shut up, seeing no beauty in them, and only viewing them as a task-master; when enlarged, contemplating them as the will and word of a kind parent, and desiring to obey them, because God has so graciously and plainly revealed them. Thus, by these distinct ebbings and flowings, these distinct sensations in your conscience—by tracing out the work of the Spirit therein, we may at times come to some decision whether God the Spirit has begun and is carrying on the work of grace in our conscience, or whether we are dead in an empty profession.

 

The Lord clear up the difficulty (where it is felt to be a difficulty) in the hearts of His trembling ones. The Lord decide the doubtful case; and shew them, that their spot is the spot of God’s children—that they are walking in the footsteps of the flock—that their God is with them, and will be with them, to lead them in a right way, and to bring them to "a city of habitation."

 

*DIVINE SEPARATION

Preached at Eden Street Chapel, Hampstead Road, London, on Lord’s Day Morning, 13th August, 1843.

"For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth." —Ex 33:16

I THINK the transaction recorded in this chapter is the most remarkable of any that we find in the history of the children of Israel. Consider the circumstances and what preceded this divine interview betwixt Moses and God. It was after the children of Israel had made and worshipped the golden calf, after they had so sadly provoked the Lord by their base idolatry, that he suffers himself to be prevailed upon by the prayers of Moses, the typical Mediator, to shew forth his mercy and grace; and not, as he speaks, to "consume them in the way".

What was it, then, which peculiarly called forth these words from the mouth of Moses? The Lord had said to him: "Depart, and go up hence, thou and the people which thou hast brought up out of the land of Egypt, unto the land which I sware unto Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob" Ex 33:1

The Lord put, as it were, by this speech, the children of Israel into the hand of Moses. It is as though he had thus spoken: "I will indeed fulfil my promise. I said I would take them into the land of Canaan; I will do so; but I will do no more; I renounce the direct charge of them; they have so provoked me to anger that, though I will fulfil my promise, so that none shall call me an unfaithful God, yet I will do no more than I have promised to Abraham. Do thou take them up; do thou lead them; do thou receive this charge at my hands; for I relinquish it." Now this was the most cutting stroke that God could have given to Moses: for his soul was so deeply penetrated and possessed, as every child of God’s is, with a sense of his own helplessness and nothingness, that such a speech as this from the mouth of the Lord seemed a death-blow to all his hopes; and it was this, therefore, that led him to plead so earnestly with the Lord that he would do more than barely fulfil his promise by taking them to the land of Canaan. He says, "If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence", as though he would sooner stay where he was, and die in the wilderness, without moving a single step forward; as though he would rather God did not fulfil his promise at all, than deny them his presence, and not go up with them.

And thus Moses, as the Psalmist says, "stood before him in the breach". Ps 106:23 He was the typical Mediator; and the Lord condescended to hear his prayer, and assured him that "His presence should go with him, and that he would give him rest". This sweet promise led Moses to put up the prayer contained in the text, that affectionate and powerful plea with Jehovah. "Wherein," he says, "shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth."

I think, in these words, we may find four distinct steps of divine leading poured out.

I.-The original source and fountain of all the blessings the soul enjoys in time or eternity, "finding grace in God’s sight".

II.-The fruit of finding grace-that the Lord, by his presence, goes up with the soul.

III.-The knowledge of the Lord’s manifest presence, both in the souls of those that receive it, and in the consciences of others. "Wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight."

IV.-The fruit and effect of God’s manifested presence— separation. "So shall we be separated,  I and thy people,  from all the people that are upon the face of the earth."

I. We will look, then, with God’s blessing, first,  at the original source and fountain of every spiritual blessing that the soul receives in time or for eternity. It is all couched in that one expression, "finding grace in God’s sight". It was said of Noah, "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord". Ge 6:8 The rest of the world did not find that grace. It does not say that Noah obtained acceptance with God on the score of merit, or on the footing of his own good works. The only reason why Noah and his family were preserved in the ark, whilst the rest of the world were swallowed up in the waters of the deluge, was this, that "Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord".

(i) But the very expression itself will bear to be analysed, for there is a sweet vein of truth in every word of it. First, then, the word grace. What is "grace"? It is the free, unmerited favour of God in the person, blood, and righteousness of Jesus, manifested to the vessels of mercy. There is nothing, indeed, more easy than to pick up a few sound notions about grace;  and perhaps there are few persons in this chapel who are wholly ignorant in their judgment of what "grace" means; but when we come to a vital experience of it, to a real spiritual knowledge of it, as brought into the heart by the power of the Holy Ghost, then we see a wide distinction betwixt a mere notional acquaintance with grace in the judgment, and a spiritual and supernatural reception of grace into the soul.

The seat of free-will is not so much a man’s head as a man’s heart; and, therefore, a few notional opinions about grace in the head can never touch the seat of the disease. If I have a wound in my head, there is no use putting a plaster on my arm; if I have an affection in my heart, there is no use prescribing for a pain in my head; we must have the remedy just where the malady is. Now that wretched spawn of free-will, that proud opinion of merit, that miserable self-righteousness, which is the very element of creature religion, has its seat in the heart; and, therefore, out of the heart does it continually pour forth its poisonous breath. In order, then, to give a mortal stab to this self-righteousness, in order to pluck up by the very roots, and pull away the quivering fibres of this wretched free-will, which is interwoven with every nerve, vein, and artery of our nature, we must have the power of God to come into our heart. In order then, to understand, feel, and appreciate what grace is, we must first learn the depth of our ruin, we must know the plague and leprosy of sin, and thus come into that spot of which the Lord speaks by his prophet-"The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint; from the sole of the foot even unto the head, there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores". Isa 1:5-6 To stand before God a mass of filth and corruption; to feel that it is almost impossible that God can ever look down with pity and love upon such a wretch; to believe that there would be as much mercy for Satan himself, if there were not a Mediator who has taken our flesh into union with himself-to have some of these painful feelings wrought into his heart will teach a man his need of grace.

Now, till a man has grace in his heart, there is no use putting a few notional opinions about grace into his head. His heart will still be fortified in free-will and self-righteousness, until a firm stab is made at the conscience, and until there is a real home-thrust by the sword of God himself into the soul, so as to cut asunder the very nerves and sinews of creature merit, and delusive hopes.

It is then no longer a mere parrot sound with him but it is the very marrow of vital godliness lodged in his soul, and sweeter to him than honey or the honey-comb. And if a man does not get hold of grace in this way, he had better be an Arminian at once, and stand forth in his true colours, a free-willer in head as he is a free-willer in heart, a Pharisee to the backbone, without the mask of a Calvinistic professor.

(ii) Now this grace is "found." It is not earned, nor merited, nor worked into; but it is found;  and if a man never "found" it, he never had it. It is stumbled upon, so to speak, as the Lord sets forth in the parable of the man who found the treasure hid in a field. Mt 13:44 The man was not thinking about the treasure. He was, we may suppose, ploughing in the field. He had no idea that there was gold beneath the clods. But he finds it all on a sudden, in the most unexpected and unlooked-for manner, and for joy thereof "goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field". So it is with the way in which grace is found. It comes so suddenly, so unexpectedly, and so sweetly into a man’s soul, that when it comes he is like a man who has found something which he had no conception of till he had found it. He had no idea what it was, nor how it was to be got, nor whence it was to be had; but when it came into his heart he found that he had a treasure there. The treasure which the man found in the field was much sweeter to him, because unexpectedly found, than if he had earned it penny by penny. Its coming in so peculiar a way, from the surprise and joy produced, doubled and trebled the value of the money. Thus, when grace visits the earth in an unexpected moment, and drops down like the dew of heaven into the soul, it is valued much more than if laboriously earned penny by penny. The sweetness of the gift is doubled by its unexpectedness, and by its coming in such a marvellous and miraculous manner.

(iii) The expression, too "in God’s sight," adds great sweetness to the word "find;" as though God’s eyes never could see anything but grace on behalf of his people; as though, when he looks upon his elect, he does not look upon them as they often look upon themselves, but as they stand in Christ. When we look upon ourselves, we often see ourselves the most stupid, the most ignorant, the most vile, the most unworthy, the most earthly and sensual wretches that God can permit to live; at least, that is the view we take of ourselves when we are really humbled in our own eyes.

But God does not so view his people; they "have found grace in his sight"; he views them as they stand in the covenant of grace, "complete in Christ", accepted in the beloved "without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing". Though he sees, so far as to chastise their sins and backslidings, yet, in viewing their persons, he beholds them as they stand in the holiness and righteousness of their Covenant Head. And thus they "find grace in his sight" the eyes of the Father being so taken up with the beauty and glory of his only-begotten Son, that his eyes being perpetually fixed upon Him, they are perpetually fixed upon his people as they stand in Him. And thus he does not see his people as they often see themselves, full of wounds, and bruises and putrefying sores but clothed in the perfection, beauty, and loveliness of their head and husband; and thus "they find grace in his sight".

II.-But what is the fruit and consequence of finding "grace in God’s sight", as stated in the text? It is this- that God goes up with them-"For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? Is it not in that thou goest with us?" Moses was not satisfied with the doctrine that he and the people had found grace in God’s sight. If Moses could have been contented with the mere doctrine of justification: if he had been a dry doctrinal Calvinist, we never should have had this prayer from his lips; he would have said "O, all is right; the everlasting covenant stands ordered in all things and sure:’ God’s people can never come short of the promised inheritance: they are all sure to get safe to Canaan; for God’s promises must ever stand". But as he was not a dead, dry doctrinalist, he was begging and crying for the presence of God in his soul. He was nor satisfied with a notional opinion about God’s presence, nor a doctrinal sentiment about finding grace in his sight- that would not do for his poor cast-down soul: but he cried, "If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence". As though he had said, "Let me die where I am, rather than go forward, if thy presence does not go with me".

And then he says, "Wherein shall it be known?" What proof will there be, what testimony, that we have found grace in thy sight? For, Lord, it does not satisfy our souls that thou tellest us we have found grace in thy sight, unless thou dost something more? Thou must go up with us". He appeals to the Lord himself, and asks him the very question, "Is there any other way whereby it can be known that we have found grace in thy sight? Is not this the grand manifestation of it? Is not this the way that it is opened up and made known to our consciences, in "that thou goest up with us?" You may depend upon it, then, that every soul taught by Moses’ God, and blessed with the same spiritual power and presence which he was blessed with will never be satisfied with the mere notion, with the bare knowledge, that God’s people have "found grace in his sight", unless the Lord specially manifest it in his heart and conscience, so as to go up with him experimentally in his soul.

But see where Moses and the children of Israel had to go to, and what a path they had to walk in, to get there. A waste howling wilderness lay before their eyes, where were fiery flying serpents, and perpetual drought, with a burning sun above, and a scorching sand beneath, in which they must inevitably and speedily perish unless the Lord gave miraculous supplies. All therefore-their very existence-depended wholly and solely upon this point, whether the Lord went up with them; if he did not go with them, no manna would fall from heaven, no water would gush out of the rock, and Jordan could not be passed, nor the promised land won. So God’s people, whose eyes are spiritually enlightened, to see their own helplessness, feebleness, and wretchedness, are brought to feel, the Lord must go with them every step of the way, and lead them, and shine upon them, or, with all they have known and experienced, they must utterly faint by the way.

What a death-blow does such a text as this give to all dead notional assurance! Who had ever seen the power of God so signally and miraculously displayed as these children of Israel? What an experience they had to look back upon! Can any notional professor in our day bring forward an equal or similar one? Brought out of Egypt with a high hand; carried by a miracle through the Red Sea, their enemies overwhelmed in its deep waters before their eyes; fed by daily supplies of manna, and drinking day by day miraculous draughts out of "the rock that followed them", might they not have folded their arms and said, "We are sure to get to Canaan. Why do we want the Lord’s presence to go up with us? Our past experience is enough; and surely, we can rest upon the doctrine". No; Moses could not rest upon a doctrine, however true. He must have the Lord’s felt presence to accompany him, or he would rather die, and not go a step further. And thus whatever God’s people may have experienced in times past; if the Lord leave them, down they sink into all the deathliness, carnality, and wretchedness which they felt before. He must appear as much to their souls now for every fresh difficulty as he appeared to their souls before in former difficulties; nor can they take a single step aright unless he work in them "to will and to do of his good pleasure".

This going up of the Lord, experimentally with the soul, is in some sense a feeling of his presence, some clear testimony that the Lord is upon its side. But how was this brought about in the experience of the children of Israel? By one continual tissue of miracles it was that the Lord manifested his presence among them. It was not trifles that called forth his power, but such difficulties as nothing but a miraculous interposition could remove. And what a wisdom there was in God’s leading his people through the wilderness! If they had gone through a cultivated land, where they could have sown and reaped their harvests, and lived on their flocks and herds, would God’s miraculous interposition have been continually required? But their being led through the wilderness, "a land that was not sown," Jer 2:2 made them want a miracle at every step. So it is with God’s people spiritually and experimentally during their earthly pilgrimage. Could their own wisdom find out, or their own strength enable them to walk in God’s way when found, they would not want to have miracles displayed on their behalf. Free-will, indeed, infidelity and unbelief, reject miracles as matters of spiritual experience. Their way is a reasonable way; but the way by which God takes his people to heaven is an unreasonable way. The way in which free-will and self-righteousness walk is a natural way; the way in which God leads his children is a supernatural way. The road which sense and reason treads, is a common-place, every-day, turnpike road; but the path into which God guides his people is an out-of-the-way, hidden path, which the vulture’s eye hath not seen, and so beset with difficulties, that well nigh every step of their journey requires a miracle to be performed. I do not mean an external miracle, such as Christ wrought in the days of his flesh, but an internal miracle in soul experience. There are, for instance, blind inward eyes to be opened, deaf hearts and ears to be unstopped, paralytic soul-joints to be strengthened, spiritual enemies to be overcome, powerful temptations to be subdued, a heart of stone to be taken away, and a heart of flesh given; and God’s mercy and grace to superabound over all the aboundings of sin. The people of God find every step they take so beset with exercises and trials, and they have such a dead, stupid, unfeeling, unbelieving, proud, ignorant, self-righteous heart, that, though they may see the way in which they should walk, they cannot, in their own strength, take a single step in it; and thus they find and feel that, before they can take a single step forward, God must give their feet and ankle-bones strength Ac 3:7

Before they can see an inch before their eyes, the Lord must give them spiritual eyesight; so that if they feel any softening, or melting down of spirit, or any sense of God’s gracious presence, it is as much an internal miracle wrought in their heart as when God opened the windows of heaven, and dropped down the miraculous supply of manna for the children of Israel. Feeling, then, as all God’s people do feel, what an intricate, dark, mysterious path they have to walk in, and how unable they are to take a single step forward, except as God takes hold of their foot, and puts it down for them in the road; and how helpless to lift up a hand, except as the everlasting arms lift it up for them; they are absolutely as unable to go forward in the life and walk of faith, without the Lord’s going up with them, as the children of Israel would have been in the wilderness, had the supply of manna and of water been suddenly withheld.

III.-But we pass on to consider the knowledge of this. "Wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight". Moses pleads with the Lord upon this footing-"how shall it be known?" We find Moses often making use of this argument, as Ex 32:12, "Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains", as though-I speak it with reverence-he would touch God’s honour; as though he would say, "Lord, think of thine own character; consider thine own glorious name. What will be said against thee, and against thy faithfulness, if thine anger be hot against them, and thou consume them as thou hast threatened?" He appeals to God’s jealousy for his own glory and honour; so that we may paraphrase his words thus, "Lord, thou hast brought us out of Egypt; hast divided the Red Sea into parts; hast led us step by step up to this moment. Now, Lord, if we never reach Jordan, and never enter the land of promise, but pine and die in the wilderness, because thou wilt no longer go up with us, what will be said by thine and our enemies? How shall it be known that thou art our God? Egypt and Canaan will rejoice when they learn that we have perished by the way".

Now, I believe this is the way in which God’s people sometimes plead with him. "Lord, what will the enemies of truth say if thou leavest me when I need thy special succour? If, when I come to die, for instance, thou dost not then support my soul, dost not smile upon my heart, dost not enable me to leave a blessed testimony behind, if I die in the dark, will not the enemies of truth rejoice!" Or, "Lord, if a temptation assail me, and I am suffered to fall; or if my besetting sin attack me, and I am overcome by it, will it not disgrace thy name and cause?" 0, how the soul will sometimes plead with the Lord upon this footing, that it will be, so to speak, a stab at God’s honour, and open the mouths of his enemies if he do not this and that for the soul.

Such was Moses’ plea in the text. "For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? Is it not in that thou goest up with us?" The manifested presence of the Lord in their midst was the only satisfying testimony that they had found grace in his sight. And may we not apply this to ourselves? And I am sure that, if you are the Lord’s, nothing but his testimony can satisfy your souls. I am sure nothing can ever satisfy me, either as a Christian or as a minister, but the Lord’s own testimony in my conscience.

And this, too, is the way by which it is known, not only to yourselves but to others. For when Moses pleaded with the Lord he was not merely speaking of the personal enjoyment of God’s presence in his own conscience, or of the manifestation of it in the hearts of God’s people among the children of Israel; he was looking at it in a wider and more general point of view even than that, "Wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? Is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth"; that is generally and universally to friend and foe, Egyptian and Canaanite, as well as to the children of Israel. Why the enemies of truth themselves are to have an evidence in their consciences that God is with this people; an unwilling evidence I admit; an evidence in spite of themselves. They must see, by the Lord’s crowning the word with his blessing, by his building up to himself a church that walks in all the ordinances of his house blameless, which speaks, lives, and acts in the fear of his great name, and adorns the doctrine in all things; by your love to each other; by the image of Christ stamped upon your hearts, lips, and lives-I say, even our enemies must be silenced, if not satisfied, if such testimony of God’s favour and presence are found among you. As David said of old, "Shew me a token for good; that they which hate me may see it, and be ashamed; because thou, Lord, hast holpen me, and comforted me". Ps 86:17 And, again-"The wicked shall see it, and be grieved; he shall gnash with his teeth, and melt away: the desire of the wicked shall perish" Ps 112:10

IV.-But what is the grand manifested effect of all this work in the conscience? Separation. "So shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth". The effect, then, of the Lord’s going up with the soul, is separation-and, mark, universal separation-"from all the people that dwell upon the face of the earth". And what is the cause of this separation? Not only because they believed doctrines different from what the Egyptians believed; not merely because they outwardly worshipped Jehovah when the people of Egypt worshipped bulls, monkeys, birds, and serpents; not only because they had the tabernacle, and the sacrifices, and the ark of the covenant. These were, indeed, reasons for separation, but not the chief; not the one which Moses brings prominently forward in the text. That was the going up of God with them, his manifested presence in their assemblies, and in the hearts of his people. It is these alone which can effectually or vitally separate us from the profane and the professing world. Persons may, indeed, and do separate on other grounds. Some, for instance, separate from a place and people, because the doctrine preached by the minister does not suit them. It is a good ground of separation where God has not caused his own blessed doctrine of grace and truth to drop as the rain, and distil as the dew into the heart of the minister, and therefore he cleaves to Arminianism and free-will. But to separate merely for the sake of doctrine is what a man may do and be still dead in a profession.

Many separations and schisms, again, arise solely from party spirit. A church falls to quarrelling upon no point of truth or conscience, but on some unimportant trifle, or perhaps malicious report; and they become so embroiled that reconciliation is out of the question; and so the next step is separation; God’s glory never sought, his honour never considered, but a wretched party spirit splitting asunder the church, and forming the only ground of separation. But this is, indeed, a most miserable ground. A separation to be upon good grounds must be a separation for truth and conscience; and not merely for truth and conscience, but also for the power of the gospel. Truth and conscience are, indeed, a good ground of separation if a church walk disorderly, or if it slight and despise either of the ordinances of the gospel; but, to make the ground thoroughly firm and sure, and satisfy the soul completely, we must have something more spiritual and experimental even than that. The power and presence of God must have left the place before we can comfortably leave it. And this conclusion will not be hastily come to in a tender conscience. The fault will be again and again charged upon self before it is laid anywhere else. But when, after repeated trials, and after continual crying to the Lord that he would bless the word to our souls, and when, after going again and again, we find that no power or unction rests upon the ministry, but that all is barrenness and death, that will be a sufficient ground for separation from any ministry whatever.

And this is the way in which God’s people, for the most part, are separated from dead professors. He brings powerful convictions of sin into their consciences, and creates a hungering and thirsting after felt pardon and peace, and a feeling of discontent and dissatisfaction with everything short of the power of the gospel in the conscience. They are thus usually internally before they are externally separated; they are often wretched and miserable as craving what they cannot obtain, and for a long time perhaps lay the charge on themselves before their eyes are open to see where the fault really lies.

But to separate will often be a hard conflict; and I confess I like to see a sharp struggle, for I know I had a strong contest about it myself. In these hard struggles we are brought to see and feel things which we never saw or felt before; and when, at last, the cord is effectually cut, you are much surer of your man, and the work is clearer in his conscience than if it had been done in a hurry. I have compared some people’s change of religion to a man going to a river to bathe; he stands hesitating awhile upon the bank, and, having mustered sufficient resolution, at length jumps into the water; but he finds it very cold. And what does he do? Why, he sneaks out again, and crawls back upon the bank. So it is with many persons in respect of religion. They jump out of the world into a profession, or out of Arminianism into Calvinism, or out of the Church into Dissent; and when they have jumped in, they find it is not altogether what they expected. Trials, persecutions, temptations assail them; the thing is not so agreeable as they anticipated, and what do they but sneak out again, and stand cold and dripping upon the bank. But, if a man has been led on by degrees, having had "line upon line, and precept upon precept," fastened in his conscience; if the power of truth has been worked into him, grafted into him, planted in him by the hand of God, so as to take a vital root in his soul, he is much more likely to stand in the day of trial than if it had been a thing which he had received in a few hours, a few days, or a few weeks. The religion of the one is like a flower that has a root to it, and which grows in the natural soil; the religion of the other is like a cropped flower, a nose-gay which soon withers away, and is then only fit for the dunghill. "The root of the matter" is in the one, being watered with dew from heaven; and, the God of all grace communicating increase; he will "revive as the corn, and grow as the vine". This religion will not be a deception, like some of the flowers sold in the streets of London; but there is a root to his religion, and therefore it will not be dried up by the sun of temptation, but, being planted in the house of the Lord, will flourish for ever in the courts, of his God.

We ought, then, to weigh well what is the ground of our separation, whatever it be, and feel well convinced that it is God’s work on the conscience, and has sprung from His own teaching in the soul. Persons have said of me sometimes, "0, he will go back; So-and-so has returned after seceding as he has done, and he will do so too". I have sometimes used a homely figure in reply; I have said, "Did you ever see a stagecoach horse, who has been yoked to a coach for some years, until he has been quite broken down, and unable to do his work any longer- did you ever see him voluntarily leave his pasture, where he has been turned out to graze, and yoke himself to the old machine which has worn out his strength?" When a man has had a thing wrought into his conscience with divine power he does not easily forget those lessons. When what he has learnt has been flogged into him, such instruction abides with him, and he is no more able to get that truth out of his heart which God has lodged there, than he is able to get his heart out of his body. If planted there by a miraculous hand, it will abide there by the same miraculous hand keeping it there; as the Lord says, "I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment; lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day" Isa 27:3

Wherever, then, there is a true