THE apostle says in this chapter, by the Holy Ghost, that the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but unto them that are called it is the power of God. Some are to be lost, some to be saved. What is likely to become of us? I have been thinking much in the past week of the awful consequences of sin. Nothing could atone for it but God in our nature. He must die in our law-place, room, and stead. He must suffer the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. He must satisfy divine justice, endure the curse of the law, pour out his heart's blood, and his soul unto death, before you and I could obtain eternal redemption. It is a solemn thing to think about; and if you are taught of God, the matters of eternity will be solemn things to your soul. If Christ had not been delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification, how would it have been possible to escape the damnation of hell? What a solemn thought!
The prophet, speaking by the Holy Ghost, says, "The sinners in Zion are afraid." (He says nothing about the poor carnal world that does not meddle with religion.) Fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites." Think of that, white-washed Pharisees! "As Bunyan says, "God will damn hypocrites because they are hypocrites." You may deceive yourselves and your fellow- mortals, but not God. If you expect to go to heaven, you must not expect to have the best of it here. "Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?" See what the Lamb of God suffered, see what transgressors have to suffer, and then think of sin. What a hateful, abominable, and damnable thing it is, and yet where do you find many people afraid of sin, troubled because they have sinned against God, and exposed themselves to his wrath? You can hardly find a professor afraid of sin; and yet none can make atonement for sin, but God in our nature; and if that atonement be not extended to thee, thou must perish. "Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire?"
I have been surprised again and again how God in his word sets forth the effects and fruits of the fall; and it is no small mercy to be brought to feel the truth of it. I want to know how we can do without His blood, to be delivered from it. The groundwork of all false religion is self-ignorance, or ignorance of self. For 45 years I have known myself as a sinner; and how can such a poor sinner do without salvation by Christ? For "the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but unto us that are saved it is the power of God." Man's proud nature looks upon Christ crucified as the low, despised mystery of a crucified man, but unto you, his saints, it is given to believe in Christ. You know the mystery of iniquity, and how can you get along without the mystery of godliness? You deeply feel the fall, and how can you do without the fountain? If you can, I cannot. "Unto you it is given;" and if it is given to thee to know the mystery of iniquity, God designs to open up to thee the mystery of godliness, "God manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory." I say, Man, know thyself. If you know nothing of sin, you may be deceived by the father of lies. I tell thee, the living soul will hunger for the bread of life, will long for Christ; and "he satisfieth the longing soul."
Reprobation implies to be passed by of God; and what a miracle that he has not left thee in thy sins. It is not that thou art any better than those that go into hell: "What have we that we have not received?"
"The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness." What foolishness they set up instead of it. Look at their worship. What lies, what mocking of God! And yet they fancy this is the way to glory. I tell thee, sinner, that there is nothing so unreasonable as God's way of saving sinners. Reason says we should do our best, and to turn the scale in our favor there is Jesus Christ. "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." But that will not do for a man that hath his eyes opened; you cannot wrap him up in such nonsense. "The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness;" and the worst of it is that you and I should have a reasoning mind to side with the devil and with lies. There is the misery of it. You look at it. "One shall be taken and the other left." "Why," says the man, "I won't believe that, that one shall be chosen before the foundation of the world, and the other left." I tell thee, nothing can truly bring thee to the place of stopping of mouths but to feel the fall. Then it will appear a wonder that God should adopt any, and especially a monster like thee; but reason will cavil while ignorant of the fall. Sinner, come to the place of stopping of mouths, if so be there may be hope. Come into that place where nothing can reach thee but the blood of the Lamb; no salvation but by the degradation, death, and suffering of God in our nature; no other escape from, hell; no other admittance into heaven. Nothing but Christ cursed in our stead, and he our Righteousness, and he our Advocate above, can save from hell and bring thee to heaven. Bold reason; Martin Luther said you must dash its brains out; but no sinner can do that. I believe the stronger the faith in the incarnate mystery, the more the devil and reason will oppose it. You may have it in your judgment, and what does the devil care? But a grain of faith in the Son of God, and the devil will oppose it. It does bring such cloudy days to have reason cavil at God's eternal truth. " What!" say you. "To be washed by another, to shine forth in borrowed robes? What! To have all my good deeds go for nothing, and no way but by being washed in the blood of Immanuel?" O sinner, you must be taught of God if ever you believe in these things savingly; and carnal reason will oppose it; but "grace shall reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord."
Now in few words. There were two disciples going to Emmaus, and they talked together, reasoned, and were sad. (And if ever a believer begins to reason and cavil it will make him sad; it will indeed.) What did that sadness prove? It proved the love of God, it proved union to the Lamb, because they feared their hope was removed. Reason stumbled, and it made them sad. They were loth to let Jesus go. How often reason makes you and me sad. Tom Paine was an infidel. What he went into hell with, you and I are grieved about. Now look here,—one wallowing in it, and in hell, and you and I grieve about it. Why? Because we are loth to let him go. Reason says, "Is it likely that God saves sinners alone by Jesus Christ? Is it likely that the Babe of Bethlehem is the Son of God?" And then we are sad. "To whom shall we go? For thou hast the words of eternal life." And how often it comes into the mind that religion is all a fudge; and thus reason will get thee to look at the infirmities of the saints. And so, poor sinner, when reason gets the better of thee, and baffles thy faith, it makes thee sad. That is the time for Jesus to join thee. He wanted to know what the two disciples were talking about; and they said, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people; and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him; but we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel; and besides all this, today is the third day since these things were done." "We trusted it should have been he that should have redeemed Israel;" but now their hope seemed rooted up. Jesus says, "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken; ought not Christ to have suffered?" If he had not suffered, where had we been? And then he begins to open the things concerning himself. What did that do? It kindled love and union and fellowship to the Redeemer of men, and they said, "Did not our heart burn within us while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?" Have not you and I had the heartburn? Miserable one minute, and happy in Christ the next? And then they were loth to let him go. "He vanished." How he will sometimes appear and refresh us as he does not the world, and by and by he vanishes. We can only see him as he anoints our eyes with eye-salve. What a mercy to know these things.
O, sinners, sinners! "The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness;" and it will be foolishness to thy reason, and the devil will tell thee many lies about it. "But to them that are saved it is the power of God." And you may depend upon it, people that know the power of unbelief and temptation, know something of the power of God, and I will defy them to deny it.
"Unto them that are called it is the power of God." Have not you and I been wretched and miserable, with everything dark around us, and ere we were aware hath he not made our souls like the chariots of Amminadib?
Look again at the two disciples. What a pitiful tale they tell! But Jesus comes, and as he preaches, faith in their soul embraces what he preaches, and by and by they would have held him and not let "him go;" but "he vanished."
O, sinner, sinner! "Twice have I heard this, that power belongeth unto God." All saving religion begins in the power of God, is maintained by the power of God, and the soul is landed in heaven by the power of God; and nothing is done in thy Soul savingly but by the power of God. "I give unto my sheep eternal life." And, as Hart says,
Reason,—what can you do with this? "Though we believe not, yet he abideth faithful. He cannot deny himself." These words once turned my captivity. Let God put forth power, and it will revive every grace; and nothing short of the mighty power of God can ever quicken thee; and amidst all the hurricanes and terrors, why, poor sinner, "having obtained help of God, you continue unto this day." And what have you to say? Why, "By the grace of God I am what I am."
Think of the power of God, that he should quicken thee when dead. Nothing but his power could ever have convinced thee of sin, and where God puts thee thou canst not get away from it. You could not make me believe that I am anything but what God sets forth in his word. The fact of what I am is burnt into my soul. And O, sinner, think of it; what but the power of God could make thee long, pant, sigh for the blood and righteousness of the Son of God?
My object is to encourage living sinners. Can you pant for him and desire to know him without the power of God? "No man can quicken or keep alive his own soul." And the most blessed, most established Christian in the world, the most established in the truth, knows this: "Without me ye can do nothing." You cannot set your souls panting after him without and when he puts forth his power you cannot help yourselves. If I could come to the point that there is nothing in religion, I would never preach again. Once I almost came to that point. Well, do you know, when I could see nothing, and believe nothing, and almost came to the point that I was an infidel, you cannot think how the blessed Spirit revived his work in my soul, and I felt such longings as I do not often feel; and I said, "Devil, there is a God, and I am born of God." But what is the use of my talking to you unless God apply it? "Twice have I heard this, that power belongeth unto God." What can we do without it? What God does he will have the glory of.
Poor sinner, dost thou know anything about being saved? It will be a horrible thing to be lost. Is it from time to time thy prayer, couched in a sigh, "Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation?"
"Unto them which are called it is the power of God." When it pleased God first to reveal his Son in me, I felt in a ready-to- perish state. I now deeply feel the fall, and that is why you hear so much about it; and the most powerful thing that has ever rejoiced my soul has been God revealing his dear Son in me. Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ, and for power to believe in the atoning blood of his dear Son.
"Well," say you, "after this, then, it is a great shame ever to doubt him again." I tell thee, I have been more ashamed of my unbelief than of anything else. I loathe and abhor myself more than a toad.
There is no perishing if you know anything spiritually of the power of God in saving you. You cannot desire the sincere milk of the word without the power of God; you cannot have strength in your jaws to take the breast without the power of God. All you can do without the power of God is a job of your own; and what does the devil care about that? There is no case so monstrous, so weak, as my case; and I have been sensible of it for 45 years, and cannot get away from it. I am thankful to be kept tender in word and deed among men, and I would rather die than bring reproach upon God's name; and yet to see the infamy that goes on in my heart; it is enough to shock any one. Seven years this month I had, but not for the first time, the blood savingly applied to my soul. What is it saves? Why, the extension of the atonement. Not that the atonement ever extends beyond the church; but it was extended to save a wretch like me.
But perhaps I had better leave it.