"Is Ephraim my dear Son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: Therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord." (Jeremiah 31:20)
You might say, "Why an old text?" Because I could not get another; but good food served on an old dish will be acceptable to a hungry man.
My object is to see if I can encourage poor sinners to hope in God's mercy; and if you feel the better for coming you will be thankful for it.
"I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus: Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God." The word Ephraim implies one that bears fruit, or that grows. All regenerate souls are fruitful toward God more or less, and are united to Christ, the living Vine. How unspeakable the mercy of being capable of bringing forth fruit unto God!
"When on the boughs rich fruit we see,
'Tis then we cry a goodly tree."
Christ said, "Ye shall know them by their fruits." Do we manifest what grace produceth in our spirits, lives, and conduct? Do others take knowledge of us we have been with Jesus and learned of him who is meek and lowly in heart? What are the fruits of the Spirit? "Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance," And "against such there is no law."
"Ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life." Fruitless professor, the axe is at the root, "And every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit"--fruit produced in union to the Lamb--"is cut down and cast into the fire."
"One that bears fruit, or that grows." Why all the blessedness we have ever had in religion is in being fervent and fruitful in every good work, working out as God worketh in.
When the gospel gale blows upon the soul how the spices flow out! "Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits." As I was thinking this morning--let God appear for his child in providence, how he begins to bemoan he should ever have hard thoughts of God. How he proves once again the care and love of God over and toward him. It is the goodness of God leadeth us to repentance. Oh! that we could more abound, by receiving from his grace, in every good and perfect work. Oh! may he work in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
"The Christian works with all his power,
And grieves that he can work no more."
"Wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead." "As the body without the Spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."
Sometimes I get so low I begin to have fears in my mind about becoming an apostate at last. What! bring a reproach upon God, upon his Son, upon his truth? If I cannot be of use in the things of God I don't want to be a hindrance.
Only yesterday I felt as if I had not one atom of faith in God or his Christ. I feel at times "twice dead, plucked up by the roots." And yet "the Lord knoweth our frame, and remembereth that we are dust;" and, "like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him."
"One that bears fruit." Oh! to be fruitful to all eternity in the haven of eternal rest and peace.
Sin and the carnal mind is a full blown flower in this life; and grace only in the bud. And when does the bud open a little? By the dew from heaven, and the rays of the Sun of righteousness; but it will be a full blown flower in everlasting bliss. What a mercy to possess the root of the matter--eternal life.
"One that bears fruit, or that grows." But "grow in grace." How do we do that? Growing in self-knowledge by divine teaching, that brings us to need grace, and the Lord fulfills his promise to supply our needs; and as our needs are supplied out of his fullness we rejoice in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh.
"Grow in grace;" we love that grace, God the Author of that grace, and what that grace teacheth; "to deny ungodliness, and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee."
"One that bears fruit, or that grows." It is said of the twins, Jacob and Esau, setting forth the two principles in the believer, that they struggled in the womb. Rebekah went to inquire why. "Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels: and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger." By and bye she was delivered, and the boys grew. Poor believer, "the boys grew;" There is a growth in grace, in a knowledge of thyself, and of Christ and, salvation by him.
"The boys grew;" and Esau was "a cunning hunter" a man of the field, a man of the world. What are we by nature? Part brute and part devil. And what are we religiously concerned? "Enmity against God." Then what a mercy to differ from that state, to have any proof we are born again of God's Spirit. Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage: and to this day the Esau's love the world, and the things of the world. "For ye know how that afterward when he would have inherited the blessing he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully, with tears."
"And Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents." I have thought not long since--you let a worldly company be in one room, whether a debauched set or merely a worldly set, like a dog who goes where his inclination leads when his chain is taken off, so will they. You can tell by their employments whom they serve. Find a few poor sinners met together to talk of God's goodness, to read his word, call upon his name; how different the spirit! How different those things in which the two companies delight. Put the saints with sinners, they cannot agree; and put the sinners with the saints, they cannot agree. You cannot make the wicked rejoice in the things of God: and you cannot get the saints to be hand and heart with the things of time and sense. Now which company do you belong to? Are you likely to be gathered with the saints? Your companions in this world will be your companions in eternity. I thought solemnly this morning,--how many people have come to this chapel that have passed into eternity: and they that are in eternal bliss don't want to come back to us; and those in the pit cannot step back into time. Their state is fixed: and they know how it is fixed; and it never can be altered.
Oh! sinner, what is likely to become of you in another world? Is there any growth in grace? Are there any proofs thou art a living branch of Christ, the living Vine;--one that bears fruit and that grows,--grows in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, ripening for glory; while others are fitting themselves for hell by their sins? Boasting is for ever excluded.
"I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus." It is a rare case to find mortals, even professing mortals, in a bemoaning state before God. I have told you their state by nature; their heart is a stone, says the Word. Who is sensible of it? Who laments it? Who is uneasy on account of it? Who see their danger? Where is anything the matter? Where are the signs of flying from the wrath to come, as warned by God;--fleeing to Christ for refuge?--You can see no more of it than in a beast in the bulk of professors. Now God's poor children you can seldom meet with them but you find them in a complaining state. The formal professor goes his rounds, is pleased with his duties and with himself. When do you find him complaining? Go to his house; can you find him with spiritual complaints? He does his duty, pays his way, and if he is not right who can be? Can you find him bemoaning his state one hour in the year? There is no complaining where there is no life, you cannot have much to do with a living soul, or with yourself, if a living soul, but you find something to lament.
"I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus." You say "Is it right to complain?" What do the regenerate complain of? Of themselves and their sins. When do you find the formalist complaining of himself and his sins? It does not matter what are his notions, or whether he goes to chapel or church. When do you find a dead professor complaining of himself or his sins?
The poor child of God, you cannot often find him but he is complaining; he complains of his hasty spirit, his nimble tongue, his stony heart. How long has he known he had a stony heart? Ever since God took away the stone and gave him a heart of flesh. The more you know of the soft heart by the bedewing of the Lord the more you will bemoan your hard heart.
"What when prayer meets no regard!
Still repeat it often,
But I feel myself so hard,--
Jesus will thee soften.
But my enemies make head,
Let them closer drive thee,
But I'm cold, I'm dark, I'm dead,
Jesus will revive thee."
Sinner, don't talk too fast: look at your words--
Look at the dead professors: they say their prayers; do they look for answers? And yet the child of God says "my prayer meets no regard." "When I cry and shout he shutteth out my prayer." Formal professors, Churchmen and Dissenters, say their prayers and never expect answers; and what they ask for with their mouths they don't need; they mock God with a lie. "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."
Oh! poor sinner! What! is that your complaint? What! do you want answers to your prayers? Are you looking out for the blessings of a God?
They told the man in the gospel to hold his peace, but he cried the more a great deal.
Did you do so when dead, when you had nothing in possession but a stony heart? Do you long for a soft heart? Do you know
"There's something yet can do the deed
And that dear something much you need;
Jesus will thee soften."
Do you mean to say He never did? well he will do it again. "I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you." If he has made thy heart soft he will do it again.
What makes thee feel the hardness is, he is absent; thou canst not get at Him.
Who are your enemies? The world, the flesh, the devil. Was it so when dead to God? Was the devil thine enemy when dead in his kingdom? Those enemies of thine that bruise thy heel, that drive thee from necessity to the Lamb of God for peace, safety, and salvation.
"Let them closer drive thee,
But I'm cold, I'm dark."
When totally dark you did not trouble about it, "I'm cold. Did you ever know a corpse complain of being cold? Sinner, do you not tremble to say you are dead? Dare you lie at this rate? "Well: I feel dead: say you." Did you ever know a dead man feel dead? And they that feel dead are not dead in sin but living branches in Christ the living Vine. No: there is nobody so full of complaint as the regenerate: and it is that sort of complaint as the unregenerate never mentions. It is with them, what shall we eat? what shall we drink? "For after all these things do the Gentiles seek." But as for spiritual infirmities, wanting to pray and cannot, wanting to love and cannot, wanting to get to God and cannot, wanting to trust in Christ to the soul's peace and cannot, I say, none but the regenerate have spiritual complaints and spiritual infirmities. How it proves life!
You meet with God's poor children, and perhaps nine times out of ten they have something to complain of: and nothing so much as themselves and their sins. "Oh!" say they, "I am so buried in anxious care, as if I had no God to care for me; and what a poor unhappy thing I am." Sometimes you will find them bowed down with unbelief. As yesterday when I could not feel I had one atom of faith in God, or in Jesus Christ; and sometimes we think all we have trusted in is a delusion.
But God's people meet together and they complain of themselves: and sometimes they have to complain of what their tongues have brought them into; and sometimes of being worried by the devil: and sometimes because they have hardly any discernible faith.
Look here! there is not a grace of the Spirit but there is a member of the old man to fight against it. "When I would do good evil is present with me." "How to perform that which is good I find not." Sinner what a paradox! And yet this is the state of all the regenerate more or less, made to differ from the unregenerate by the power of the Holy Ghost. Where there is true faith there will be unbelief set over against it; and where there is felt unbelief there is faith.
A soul afflicted by felt unbelief possesses faith that will
"Stand fast while devil's roar,
And love that lasts for evermore."
Is it felt? is it bemoaned with, "Lord, increase my faith?"
I felt a little propped up this morning with the consideration that none but the regenerate ever feel the special power of God;--none but those united to Christ and interested in all the blessings of the fullness it pleased the Father should dwell in his Son, Jesus Christ. "Thine is the kingdom;" the kingdom of God is within you;--"and the power, and the glory."
Sinner, we must lie if we were to say we had never felt the power of God. But who can feel it but the living? Ask the unregenerate if they ever felt spiritual power in their souls, and they don't know what you mean. "Thine is the kingdom," the husbandry, the new creation, and "thine the power, thine the glory." What is there in a sermon to encourage thee except power attend it? You have heard me say, I have been in dejection, everything as dark as pitch, and yet the Lord has sent his word, and healed me, and delivered me from my destructions; and, though things in themselves remained outwardly precisely the same, the power of God has filled my heart with rejoicing and my lips with praise. What, never desire the putting forth of that power! Who knows the putting forth of His power but those born of his Spirit; others rest in the form; the heaven-born soul needs, desires, and is glad to feel the putting forth of the power of Almighty God. And the glory must be his for ever and ever. Amen.
When God's people meet, they might say something about the past Sabbath. "Oh!" says one, "I did not rise up against what was said, but I could not feel it come home; I was as hard as the seat," It is not always so, is it? Are you not sorry when it is so? But it is not always so. Say you, "I am glad to feel the power when it comes; I know when it comes by the effect it produces." And so you complain of yourself, of your sins, of your lack of faith, of love, of patience. Say you, "I find when trouble comes thick and fast, all the patience runs out as through a sieve." Sometimes the Lord shuts out the cry of the child, and then he has something to lament: and he must feel something of the operation of God really to receive anything vitally, from the fullness of a precious Christ. How true it is "Without me ye can do nothing."
Sometimes the poor soul is so cast down because he knows so little of himself, and less of Jesus Christ; the work in him is so shallow; and as to the little he receives, if it be God's mercy, why it is
"Scarce enough for the proof
Of his proper title."
"I can hear others talk of it," he says, "and I cannot touch it; I am a bruised reed." Well there is a promise to such.
Often when I want a text, I want something to set my soul on fire with the love of God: then I think I could preach. "I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus." Look at the difference between false and living faith--false zeal and true zeal. Look at the notionalist, he has nothing to lament, nothing to confess, nothing for God to forgive. Such all have a Father in heaven, can always rejoice in Christ Jesus: they can always delight in the word of God, and in their forms and ceremonies. Poor old Berridge used to say (and it was a favorite verse with my late wife),
"They love the men that decent are,
The tombs that show a whitewash fair,
With such they walk and kindly prate,
But hearts renewed by grace they hate."
The carnal mind in thy breast will hate the life of God in thy soul: and thy relations will hate the life of God in thy regenerate soul.
When we consider how the God of this world hates us, and his children hate us, and we have ourselves, poor sinner, is there not something to lament and be ashamed of, and lay us low? Look at the notionalist; how he can always triumph, always have a Father in heaven; and yet the poor child of God is a poor disconsolate sinner.
Perhaps I get as much on my bed, to keep me on as a parson, as anywhere; and though sometimes I get a little sweetness from God's Word, it is astonishing perhaps five minutes do not pass over before all manner of rubbish comes into my head." "What a singular character you must be" say you. Ah! I am.
"I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus,"--that he cannot lift up a hand to God, and that he needs Jesus Christ to say "Stretch forth thy hand:"--that he is destitute of everything divine, and possessed of everything noxious in the sight of God.
"Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised." Sinner, did he ever love thee well enough to bring the rod on the fool's back? I must come in with the children here. When passing through affliction enough to wring a man's heart something has said, "Do you understand it?" Yes. "Have you anything to say?" No. I was dumb; I opened not my mouth because thou didst it. I have seen my first wife raving mad. "Do you understand it?" Yes: the rod of my Father for my hearts sins. "Have you anything to say?" No, no, brought to the place of stopping of mouths.
When my poor daughter, seventeen years ago, was sorely afflicted, I went on the Warren, where none could hear or see me, to roar it out before my God. And I begged God to give me one word--one smile--to appear for me; and the heavens appeared as brass. When I got near home up stepped Satan, wanting to stir me up against God, suggesting he takes no notice of you. But I said, Yes; he has been a good God to me. There was no business to be done then.
"Tho hast chastised me, and I was chastised." I heard of a man the other day inquiring why the Lord afflicted him; I said, I never make that inquiry; I know why. I don't wonder at His rod, but at His goodness; at his regarding such a wretch. "I was chastised as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke." Afflictions and trials, in themselves, what do they do? Stir up the mud of our hearts. "I do well to be angry." Why died I not from the womb?" Oh! sinner learn thyself. Afflictions in themselves will only bring up the dross; it is the Lord's mercy subdues the tempest, and brings us to say, with a calm in our souls, "What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?"
"As a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke." Oh! what plunging,--what kicking,--laying down, and then having to go at last. How about self-knowledge? God will bring thee under the law. I believe it is profitable to have a deep law work:
"The needy know it must be so,
It is the way."
Oh! what a sight I have daily of the fall! I don't go back to Adam and Eve; I feel it, and, through grace, from time to time, bemoan it; and seek him that alone can save me from it. "The law entered that the offence might abound. The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ." (Rom. 5:20; Gal. 3:24) Hath God brought thee to grope out naked and flee to the Rock. "Where sin abounded," grace, love, pity does "much more abound" to the vilest of the vile. For, more or less, the Lord will lead his people like a flock by the hand of Moses, the law-giver, and Aaron, he that can speak well, and hath magnified the law.
"Turn thou me, and I shall be turned, for thou art the Lord my God." Cannot you turn yourselves? No. Cannot you save or help yourselves? No. Cannot you look to Jesus? No. Cannot you believe in God, and come out of your trouble? No, no more than you can make a world out of nothing. "Without me ye can do nothing." (John 15:5) And yet Christ, by the putting forth of his power, and his Spirit, can enable thee to run through a troop or leap over a wall.
In our text and its connection, there are three "surelys:" "I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself." "Surely after that I was turned, I repented." "I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord."
All the regenerate are fruitful toward God, and all lament they are not more so; but, "from Me is thy fruit found." The regenerate grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ: (2 Pet. 3:18) for,
"The work that wisdom undertakes,
Eternal mercy ne'er forsakes."
"I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus." Where there is never any felt complaint, it is because there is death in the soul. A dead babe does not come crying into the world, but a living one does; and where there is life there is feeling; and where eternal life is implanted that soul can never perish, "neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand."
God's regenerate children are often full of complaints; they complain of themselves, of their state and condition, and of their sins in the sight of God: but, where the soul is afflicted by unbelief there is real faith and eternal life. What does the affliction prove? How often it is the case, that the moment I think of Christ, that moment I am tempted to disbelieve his divinity. It afflicts me: I would part with the coat from my back to get rid of it; I am so afflicted that at times I despair even of life, and question whether my past transgressions will ever be forgiven; and these slavish fears afflict my soul. And what does this felt affliction prove, but that I am born of God and united to his Son?
"Turn thou me, and I shall be turned, for thou art the Lord my God." Do we ever need this turning? Do we ever prove it? Does he turn our captivity as the streams in the south? Sinner, how soon he can make crooked things straight, darkness light, and rough places plain; and these things He has promised to do, and never to forsake His people.
The man felt he could not do these things himself; "Lord, turn me;" thou canst send thy word, and heal me, and deliver me from my destructions. Work; and I shall have the blessed effect. Then he comes out in full assurance of faith, "for thou art the Lord my God." What! a man to feel like "a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke;"--to have things to be ashamed of before God,--and such a man to say in the full assurance of faith; "for thou art the Lord my God." What can a man say more than this, by the witness of the Holy Ghost, in this fallen world?
"Turn thou me:" then the scene will be changed; I shall have faith in Thy dear Son, and can come up out of the wilderness leaning all my weight upon a beloved Christ. How many of God's dear people, regenerated, and united to his Son by vital union, and living faith, would be glad to say with this man, "my Lord and my God." Oh! that word "my God," but,
Many a child does not know its father, and cannot call him father; but the father loves the child; and the youngest often has the warmest place in the affections of the parent. Now do you long for it, seek it? And does he ever turn your captivity? If so, what a proof he is the Lord thy God!
"Surely after that I was turned, I repented." See what marvels it produces in a heaven-born soul. We can no more repent, or be sorry for our sin, or feel self-loathing on account of it;--neither can we love the Lord our God till he produces these things by the power of his grace and Spirit in our souls. The nigher we get to heaven the more the stamp of humility will be upon us.
"After that I was instructed I smote upon my thigh." What! you see now, sinner, God's wisdom and your folly? Can you see now how he can set crooked things straight? Yes; and bless his name for doing it. Can you see that good is his will concerning you; and that all things work together for good to them that love him, and are the called according to his purpose? (Rom. 8:28) Yes; and am humbled on account of it.
"After that I was turned, I repented" of all my hard thoughts, my doubts, my fears, my unbelief. "After that I was instructed I smote upon my thigh." The publican smote upon his breast, there lay the malady; and this man smote upon his thigh. Oh! the holy indignation, the self-loathing we feel at our hard thoughts against a good God--wonder at this longsuffering compassion, and desire to be kept in future from having hard thoughts of so good a God.
"After that I was instructed," and saw things aright, in their true and proper colors. I smote in holy indignation upon my thigh. "I was ashamed, yea, even confounded because I did bear the reproach of my youth." What a vein of Christian experience! Does it speak forth ours?
Many a time has God appeared for me, and turned my captivity; and what has been the consequence? I have repented--loathed my sins. You have heard me say once in particular how I went to bed ashamed and confounded of my hard thoughts of my God; he appeared for me unexpectedly as it dropped from the clouds. He had brought my business to nothing; I wanted a little cash to meet creditors; as unexpectedly as possible a man gave me twenty pounds. It brought me to handle this text, and feel that Ephraim and I were brothers. I felt as if I could give my bare back to be lashed, that ever I should have hard thought of God. In June I saw a man in London who has known me for years; he said to me "that man preaches a great Saviour for great sinners." When I went to Stamford, many years ago, to supply, he had got it in his heart to give me five pounds--put it in a letter to give me--but did not do so because he thought he should offend me. Then he could not keep it, and had to send it. What a merciful God is our God! At that same time a man at Ely put five pounds in my hand. Just about that time a man wrote to me, "I know nothing of your circumstances; I have sat under you for years; as a token of esteem I send you five pounds." And another man sent twenty pounds. Once in particular things had got almost to a distracting pass; and as unexpectedly as if it dropped from the skies, a man sent one hundred pounds.
I told the people once "if you want anyone to speak well of God, you send for me." "He hath known my soul in adversities;" once, when nearly swamped, I began to be afraid God would leave me to make a public example. He appeared in his providence, it removed my trouble; so I do know what the man says. "Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh; I was ashamed; yea, even confounded" when God's goodness and my badness met together.
"Because I did bear the reproach of my youth." Oh! sinner, hast never been ashamed of the sins of thy youth." It was not present transgressions last night that brought that affliction. It did not say: "Your transgressions cannot be forgiven, but will not be forgiven." This gives me such sympathy for sinners. Sometimes good men speak unguardedly; they draw the cord so tight it strangles me, if it is true; and what is to become of other poor sinners like me? "Is Ephraim my dear Son?" Look at him, at different times, under different dispositions. What is he under the chastising till it is sanctified? He tells us, "a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke." What an ungainly thing! how it kicks! How blows and bruises come thick on its back, and the poor beast has to go quiet down the furrow after all. This is what Ephraim says till he is turned. Well might David say (I love prayers that suit my case): "Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions," (Ps. 25:7) since I ought to have known better, "according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness sake, O Lord." And when He comes his own way, what does it produce in the child?
"Is Ephraim my dear Son?" It is a great thing to be a son. "If children, then heirs, heirs of God; and joint-heirs with Christ." (Rom. 8:17) No more a servant but a son; and, "because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." (Gal. 4:6) I have been sweetly constrained to call him Father, and could not help it. "Is Ephraim my dear son?" Look at the relationship. "Is he a pleasant child?" What was he but now? A rebel rising in rebellion against God's dispensations, satisfied with nothing, repining at everything, even with blessings in his hand; he could not have everything to his mind, and just like a child, kicked up such a rabble. But what is he now? "Is he a pleasant child?" Yes, all is love and joy.
What makes the change?
"When Jesus, with his mighty love,
Visits my troubled breast,
My doubts subside, my fears remove,
And I'm completely blest.
"I love the Lord with mind and heart,
His people and his ways:
Envy and pride, and lust depart,
And all his works I praise.
"Nothing but Jesus I esteem,
My soul is then sincere,
And everything that's dear to him,
To me is also dear.
"But ah! when these short visits end,
Though not quite left alone,
I miss the presence of my Friend,
Like one whose comfort's gone."
"As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man." "Is he a pleasant child?" Yes, and a "little child." Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 18:3) He is a little child, little in his own eyes, and God's grace toward him is immense and unsearchable.
"But ah! when these short visits end,
Though not quite left alone,
I miss the presence of my Friend,
Like one whose comfort's gone."
"For since I spake against him." Here is God's fatherly correction, rebuking his poor child for the iniquities of his heart. How shall we get out the next sentence? "I do earnestly remember him still." What! a monster, a sinner that has had hard thoughts, questioned the Being of a God and snapped at everything! Well, I will rebuke him for it, and then make known my mercy.
"I do earnestly remember him still." Oh! sinner, people love their children, but not their crooked ways. But you cannot dissolve the union, and their trouble more or less becomes ours, and it gives us pleasure to help them when we can. But our God will help and deliver.
"Though I spake against him," poor crazy creature. When things go contrary to his flesh, his rebellion is such, I am constrained to lay on the rod, but, notwithstanding all this, "I do earnestly remember him still."
This is what the Trinity-in-Unity ever did, and ever will feel toward every child of his. What! when condemned by the law,--when ready to perish, when a backslider, when got among the thorns and briars; when on his back and cannot get on his feet again. Since I rebuked him for his folly, "I do earnestly remember him still." Is it not marvelous? It would not be here in the Bible if it were not what God feels to poor sinners. "I do earnestly remember him still," a vessel afore prepared for glory; I adopted him, chose him in my Son, sent my Son to redeem, and he is entered into heaven for him. "My bowels are troubled for him." My late wife had a very trying cough; I never knew any cough try me as hers did; it was because of my love to her. "My bowels are troubled for him," roll up and down toward him: bowels of lovingkindness.
Then he ties up the bundle in a wonderful way, "I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord." He is an object of my mercy,--a poor giddy-headed sinner with many infirmities,--a backslider in heart, lip, and life, a transgressor from the womb, and the worst, since he should have known better. He has sinned against love and mercy, and I have rebuked him,--brought the rod on a fool's back, and smartly too; nevertheless, he shall take the blame to himself; for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember thee still," a child still--adopted and chosen in Christ Jesus still: therefore my tender bowels of mercy roll over toward him. "I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart, and with my whole soul." (Jer. 32:41)
"My bowels are troubled for him," in grace infinite and compassion unspeakable. And then He ties up all the children, "I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord," "I will be with him in six troubles," in life, in death, and underneath him shall be my everlasting arms.
What does He say next? What He has enabled some of us to do. "Set thee up waymarks. And here I could stand by the hour, and tell you of these waymarks. "Hitherto hath the Lord helped me." "Set up," my child, "set thee up waymarks, make thee high heaps." (Jer. 31:21) Poor sinner, how about these high heaps? How many a time you have heard me speak of my waymarks, and high heaps. How many times have I "remembered thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar." What! nothing to speak to the glory of thy God.
"Speak thou my soul, for thou canst tell
How grace divine broke up thy cell
And loosed thy native chains;
And still from that auspicious day,
How oft 'art thou constrained to say
That grace triumphant reigns.'
"When call'd to meet the king of dread
Should love compose my dying bed
And grace my soul sustain,
Then, ere I quit this mortal clay,
I'll raise my fainting voice, and say,
Let grace triumphant reign."
Child "set thee up waymarks, make thee high heaps, set thine heart toward the highway;"--and who is the Highway to eternal glory but a precious Christ? "His heart is fixed," says the Psalmist, "trusting in the Lord."
"And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein." (Isa. 35:8)
"Set thine heart toward the highway, even the way which thou wentest." Poor sinner,--the way to glory and God, that cast-up way in a precious Christ; "set thine heart toward the highway, even the way which thou wentest,--turn again O virgin of Israel." What! to be presented as a chaste virgin to Christ! "Turn again to these thy cities." "Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following. For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death." (Ps. 48:12-14) "Turn again O virgin of Israel, turn again to these thy cities." "In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah." (Isa. 26:1) "We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks." It is built on Christ, the Eternal Rock; Christ has cast salvation round it; her "gates are praise." Never was a citizen lost yet, and never can be while Jesus is mighty to save.