"Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called: Mercy unto you, and peace, and love be multiplied." (Jude 1,2)
I frequently lament the state of mankind: and, of all the truths in the Bible, what a solemn truth it is that "The wicked shall be turned into hell with all the nations that forget God." (Psalm 9:17) It was publicly stated lately that there are in London four million inhabitants; (eighty years ago there were but one million) and, out of the four million, only half a million attend church or chapel: only one in eight attend public worship in London. Many in this town neither go to church or chapel. You read old divines, and you will see how they all lament how much profession, how little possession. If we have obtained mercy of the Lord it is a humbling thought. A remnant shall be saved: it is compared to the gleaming of the vintage. I asked the other day how the apples were getting on, and was told that many fall off. Now, where there is no blossom, there never can be fruit: but, where there is blossom, by and bye the fruit forms, but many of the apples drop off under the tree: and some might come apparently to perfection, show a fair outside and be rotten at the core.
Now I never get any light or teaching in my soul but it tends to "few there be that find it." If I were to tell the people we were all going to heaven together they would be pleased: but, as we are to take the precious from the vile, what can a man expect but to be secretly hated by the children of men? Poor Jonah was to go and declare, "Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown." He made up his mind not to go; so he paid his fare to Tarshish; and God sent out a wind, and there was a tempest: the mariners were afraid, and awoke him and asked him who he was. "I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord." And, though he had to be cast in the sea, his God provided a fish to swallow him and take him safe to land, that he might say to the glory of God, "Salvation is of the Lord." And so it is, let men or devils say what they will.
"Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ." It will be a mercy to be found a servant of Jesus Christ. It is said of some that they "serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by good words and fair speeches, deceive the hearts of the simple." (Rom. 16:18) Oh! what an honor to be a servant of Jesus Christ! "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." (Rev. 2:10) Let us look at a man's aim: is it the glory of God and the welfare of his saints?
To whom does Jude dedicate his short epistle? "To them that are sanctified by God the Father." "This is the will of God, even your sanctification," (1 Thess. 4:3)--your separation. In God's eternal mind, by his everlasting decree, he separated and loved and chose his church and people in Christ his Son, before the world began. "Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called," (Rom. 8:29,30) by effectual calling: whom he called to see and feel their lost state, them he will justify freely by his grace: "and whom he justified them he also glorified." You see, it is God's work: predestination is of God, calling is of God, justification is of God, glorification is of God.
"'Tis all of grace; let no man boast,
For Jesus came to save the lost,"
"What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31) None. Sinner, if God be for thee at death and judgment to come, who can destroy thee? But if God be against us when we come to die, who can save us? "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth?" (Rom. 8:32-34) Christ shall stand at the right hand of his people to save them from them that condemn their souls. "It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 8:34-39) "Happy is that people that is in such a case; yea, happy is that people whose God is the Lord."
"To them that are sanctified by God the Father,"--separated, preordained, appointed to eternal glory, as vessels of mercy afore prepared for the Master's use. "As many as were ordained to eternal life believed." (Acts 13:48) "The election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded." (Rom. 11:7) "I am the Good Shepherd, and know my sheep." (John 10:14) How unspeakable the mercy to be interested in the Father's everlasting love! By the spirit of adoption, I have been sweetly constrained to call him, "Father," and he has owned me as his child. "If children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ." (Rom. 8:17)
Poor sinner, think of it,--from everlasting to everlasting "preserved in Jesus Christ." What an unspeakable mercy! "There is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit." (Rom. 8:1) Well might Paul and millions more be anxious to be found in him, not having their own righteousness, but the righteousness which is of God by faith. Poor sinner; what! is thy character set forth in Holy Writ as a bruised reed, a poor ready-to-perish transgressor, a poor backsliding sheep? How unspeakable the mercy to be preserved from everlasting to everlasting in Christ Jesus! How can the Trinity-in-Unity ever be content that one of the children should perish? It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish." (Matt. 18:14)
"Preserved in Jesus Christ;"--in his life in the wilderness, tempted of the devil, persecuted by mortals,--in his life, death and ascension. And now God in our nature fills the throne of heaven. The church ever was and ever will be "preserved in Jesus Christ." Oh! what a blessed thing to be preserved in Jesus Christ! Why, sinner; in life, and when death comes to summon thee from earth to heaven, where wilt thou be found? Why, preserved in Jesus Christ, the Abolisher of death who brought life and immortality to light by the gospel. Death can never come to a believer at the wrong time. Where will death find you? At the great day of assize, where will the church be found? Why, preserved in Jesus Christ. And where shall we be found to all eternity? Why, one with Christ, to walk with him in white, with palms of final victory in our hands and heartily willing to ascribe the glory of our salvation to the Lamb. Oh! to be preserved in Jesus Christ, living, dying and for ever! At times it seems to me as if we were left in this world like "the blind, groping for the wall:" and something says, How do we know we are right? Why, "let God be true, and every man a liar."
If the Holy Ghost has called you out of darkness into marvelous light it is because you were sanctified by God the Father and preserved in Jesus Christ. Poor sinner, look this thing in the face: is there any visible point in our lives where we have been "made to differ" by the life-giving power of the Holy Ghost? Did you ever know one of your old companions in sin and wickedness called by effectual calling? Has God in his mercy called you? Can you point to one other made to differ by the grace of God? What a marvel! "One shall be taken and the other left." And oh! that ever you or I should be the one to be taken!
Now, we must come to the fruit and effects of effectual calling. Can mortals with whom you are connected or among whom you are thrown discover at any time any special work of godliness passing on your soul? Now, in my case; placed, an orphan, with those that attended the Established Church, I went with them, but, by and bye, was stopped; my eyes were opened to a sense of where I was, and I asked the master to let me go to chapel. Truth was not constantly preached in the neighborhood, but there was a place opened for reading and prayer: so I went there. What could make a poor young creature leave the rest of the family and assemble with a few poor people? What could make this youngster so serious about his soul? Why does he get off to his bedroom to seek God? Why does he drop his former pursuits? Why does he sit solitary as the pelican or an owl of the desert? Why does he not bounce about with the rest? He is anxious, restless; he is in danger; he has a soul to be lost or saved; he wanders in solitude and pours out his heart to God. What has brought it about? Effectual calling. Why does the sinner not go back into the world? Because he cannot. The Lord brought him out and keeps him out. If God has opened his eyes, he cannot shut them: if God has convinced him that, if he lives and dies graceless, he will be damned, all the men in the world cannot hinder him from seeking God. I recollect that once on Marlborough Common I felt grateful to God he spared me out of hell nineteen years,--that he had not sent me to hell from my mother's womb. Oh! how few there are brought to feel what their desert,--what their condition is, and that they must be freely saved by Jesus Christ or perish in their sins.
"And called." Sinner, where are thy former companions? Are any of them called? Have any of them got their eyes open? Have any of them felt the power of the Holy Ghost turning "their eyes another way, to Jesus and his blood?" Can you return to them? Can they come to you? If, on your knees, you besought them with tears, you could not open their eyes, or give them an appetite for Christ, the Bread of Life. "Beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed:" it is as deep as hell, as high as heaven:--fixed, unalterably fixed by the determinate decree of Almighty God; so that the goats can never go over to the sheep, nor the sheep to the goats. "Remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things," (Luke 16:25)--not God's good things; you did not want them; but "thy good things,"--to be clothed in purple an fine linen and fare sumptuously every day. "And likewise Lazarus evil things,"--running sores: "but now he is comforted and thou art tormented."
Poor sinner, amidst all our fears, temptations, blasts from hell, hurricanes to hurry us into something or other, see the care, the power, the pity, the preserving mercy of our God toward us. "And called." "Called out of darkness into his marvellous light." (1 Pet. 2:9) See what a marvelous hell hell is, and what a marvelous sinner you are before God, and what a marvelous redemption is that of Jesus Christ, the Righteous, and what marvelous place heaven is, and what a marvelous song is the song of heaven.
"And called." Hath the Lord need of thee? If so, he will bring thee to need him. And,
"All the fitness he requireth,
Is to feel your need of him,
This he gives you,
'Tis his Spirit's rising beam."
"Mercy unto you." Think, and then thee think again;--what were you in your ignorance, what have you been since, what will you be to your latest hour? And then think of what the Holy Ghost says, "Sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ" unto effectual calling;--"Mercy unto you." Let thy sins, past, present, and to come, rise up against thee, let the devil tempt and accuse thee, let all things "shew a mighty fitness" to bring thee to destruction, and what does God say to all his poor children? "Mercy unto you." David, when the Sun of righteousness shone on his soul, said, "Surely (he did not doubt about it) goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever." We shall need his goodness and mercy to save us when we come to the last breath, and then we shall go to glory to adore a God of mercy in the heights of Zion to all eternity. "Happy is that people that is in such a case; yea, happy is that people whose God is the Lord."
Now, could you ever have brought this good work upon you? Were you inclined to stop in your way? Is not your carnal mind a carnal mind still? I recollect, when a boy, I was bent upon the pleasures of this ungodly world. I thought if I had my father's money, I would see all the shows in the fair. That was the feeling of my heart. I only wanted power to carry it out. And to think God, of his mercy, should put a death on these things! Is there not a marked difference between you and your companions? Were you not for years one? And now God has quickened you into life, and brought you to lift your longing eyes to Jesus, while they are still pursuing death in the error of their ways. "Boasting is excluded." "By the grace of God, I am what I am." (1 Cor. 15:10)
"Mercy unto you." Does he mean this to all the children? Yes; if he did not, woe be to them. I am glad for nothing but mercy through blood to reach me. There is necessity and blessed suitability in the matter: I glory in the mercy of God in saving a wretch like me; I glorify God, the Author of that mercy, and I will praise and love him for ever in heaven. David says, "Remember not the sins of my youth," (Ps. 25:7) I have to look back fifty years, with remorse, and have reason to put up the same petition, "Remember not the sins of my youth." If the Lord did remember them, how could we escape the damnation of hell? "Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions" since I have feared thy name; "according to thy mercy remember thou me." David comes to God as God would have him come. Had he been as black as hell, if God brought him according to his mercy, he would get through, would he not? How king David, as God brought him, and the Holy Ghost taught him (and that is the way that suits my soul) says, "Have mercy upon me, O God." If brought to death this very day, that prayer exactly suits my soul. Don't tell me about anything but mercy through blood; for all beside is a stench to my soul. Mercy is what my text says God designs and will manifest. Poor sinner, backsliding sinner, mercy be to you. Oh! that promise! (how it suits my soul!) "I will be merciful to their unrighteousness." (Heb. 8:12) Can anything suit thee like that? It is God's absolute, everlasting promise of mercy to every child of his. He does not say we are not unrighteous, because he knows we are, and we feel it to be so.
"That we're unholy needs no proof,
We sorely feel the fall;
But Christ has righteousness enough,
To sanctify us all."
God does not say to his child, "You have no sin," but, "your sins," though scarlet, and the bubblings up of devilism in your wicked heart, "will I remember no more." It suits me exactly.
"This Saviour suits me well,
And I'll his grace adore."
"Peace by his cross the Saviour made,
The church's everlasting Head."
There is no peace with God but by the blood of sprinkling: and if ever we have felt peace with God it has been by the blood of sprinkling: and what an evidence of the love of Jesus to us! God the Father says, "When I see the blood I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you when I smite the land of Egypt." (Exod. 12:13) "My peace I give unto you." (John 14:27) And when he giveth peace who then can make trouble? I say, peace by the blood of sprinkling applied to thy soul by the Holy Ghost is the one thing needful.
"And love be multiplied." The very mention of the word, "love" makes one think about wonderful clusters of grapes over one's head out of reach. "I am afraid," say you, "that all I ever felt does not amount to divine love." Why, it is the very essence of love to feel in thy soul no company, no employ, no song so suitable to thy very soul as that of the ransomed before the throne of God and the Lamb. Why does your soul secretly go to God's people,--to desire their welfare,--to bless God that there is no uncertainty with him, but the ransomed shall return and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away? (Isa. 51:11) Why do you esteem the saints and long to cast in your lot among them? What is this love to the brethren but love to Christ because he loved thee and gave himself for thee? I say, poor sinner, why this esteem for God's truth and desire to have Christ exalted? What is it but love? What is this hatred to evil and love to the dear Redeemer but the good work of God upon thee? Every one that loveth is born of God. And,
"Love shall still remain,
Its wonders never cease,
No other change shall it sustain,
Save only to increase."
With the living child there is love in the bud; by and bye it will be love in the blossom. "Every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love." (1 John 4:7,8)