"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. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? And your labor for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear and come unto me; hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David." Isa. 55:1-3
The wise man saith, "Doth not wisdom cry and understanding put forth her voice? She standeth in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths...Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of men," (Prov. 8:1,2,4). So our text is the voice of wisdom. She stands at the top of a high eminence, that is, the mountain of God's everlasting love, and her words show the greatness and fullness there is in grace for those that come and receive it. If we saw a number of people perishing with all kinds of diseases and wants, with a heap of infallible remedies in their reach, and almost every one taken up with all sorts of things but these, we should conclude at once they were fools. Well, we may say so of this world. But the great thing is, has grace opened our eyes and hearts? It is easy enough to find a fool, but not to find one who sees himself a fool and has grace to acknowledge it. Paul says, "If any man will be wise, let him first become a fool." I do not believe a man has a particle of wisdom in anything but he has been a fool in that very thing. If he has not, his wisdom is all on the surface; he will fall away in temptation. Not so the humble soul who knows his foolish heart; "nothing shall offend them." It is a mercy when the Holy Ghost in his unctuous teaching goes to the bottom of the heart. We should think charitably of all those moral, consistent people who come under the gospel. In the chapter I read, (Mark 4), four kinds of hearers came under the sound of the gospel, the real seed of the kingdom was sown, and sown by the lips of truth, by him who spake as never man spake; and only one character in four was right. You cannot hear discriminating truths and receive them into your affections by nature; the heart rises against them. "Do ye think that the Scripture saith in vain, the spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy, (James 4:5)?" The carnal heart is enmity against God, (Rom. 8:7), against Christ, against truth and holiness; and the deceitfulness of the heart, the subtlety of the serpent as an angel of light, and legal works in the flesh are all against God, his truth, and ways, and are wrapped up in a covering not of his Spirit. They are not known unless the Spirit enlightens the eyes.
"Trust not to joyous fancies,
Light hearts or smooth behavior;
Sinners can say, and none but they,
How precious is the Saviour!"
"To see sin smarts but slightly;
To own with lip confession
Is easier still, but O, to feel
Cuts deep beyond expression."
Saving truth makes deep incisions and impressions. We had far better groan under the pangs of guilt and the convincing power of the Holy Ghost than walk with the giddy multitude of professors that are destitute of his teaching and full of confidence. "Vain man would be wise, though man be born like a wild ass's colt." But, "with the lowly is wisdom."
We will make a few remarks, if the Lord help, (I). On the character in the text: "Every one that thirsteth." If I were to preach indiscriminately to all that have a thirst for religion, "Come ye to the waters," I should say what God's Word does not say, and should go home guilty. Suppose a man has a great thirst for gold, and everything else is worth nothing to him; he will deny himself necessary food to treasure up gold. If you invite him to a feast of wine and keep gold from him, you will not satisfy his thirst. People thirst after different commodities in this world. If I were to say, "Every one that has a thirst, come ye," and all that thirsted came to these waters, they would say, "We do not want them." Therefore it is the adaptation of the thing to those that want it that these words signify.
In speaking of these thirsty persons, we must first bring a few characters that seem the right one; then try to show what real thirst comes from; and that may help your soul to hang a little on this fountain of waters. We read, "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." This is the living fountain in the text; it is nothing but the Lord Jesus Christ. His grace is as free as the air we breathe; it flows as freely as the beams of the sun upon the earth. The earth does not cause the sun to shine, or merit it, but rather sends out fogs and vapors to come between; but that does not stop it shining. No more will all the vapors in our hearts stop Jesus from sending forth his own divine savour. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is as free and impossible to be merited as the rays of the sun. All that are under his beams are welcome to them, but there must be an adaptation in the heart to them.
We read, a great man sent his servants to call those that were bidden to the wedding. They had followed the sound of the gospel, for it is said they were bidden; and they all with one consent began to make excuse. One said, "I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it." Another, "I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them." And another, "I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come." Those three kinds set forth and enclose every obstacle that stands in your way of receiving the gospel of the blessed God. You feel, "If it were not for so-and-so, I could receive it; now I cannot. I pray thee have me excused." This is the thing. Has grace moved that out of your heart? You cannot, any more than you can make a world. As sure as you come under the gospel, these things will be a obstacle in your way by nature; and you will know when grace removes them. This wisdom is from the Lord, to move away every obstacle; and he never prepares the heart for the gospel but he puts it in. To others who hear the sound of it he says, "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? And you labor for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me;" as if he said, "You think you have my meaning; but you have not." The person who takes things for granted is the most likely to be deceived.
I have a great desire that no person under my preaching should be deceived; you will never die so if I can help it. You recollect when those that were bidden would not come, the king said, "They shall not taste of my supper." I have thought of Moses. Because he provoked the Lord at the waters of Meribah, he never went into the promised land. You cannot trifle with God and truth and be clear; that you cannot. If you do and you belong to the Lord, you will have his rod as sure as you breathe; and if you do not belong to him, it will be a solemn matter with you indeed. You cannot treat his word with contempt and be innocent. God knows the motives in your heart when you come to hear, and he says, "All the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts, and I will give unto every one of you according to your works." He knows your motives when you talk to your friends, and whether it is clean for his honor and the welfare of his church.
Then the king sent his servant, and a great company was brought in of the poor, the maimed, the halt, and the blind; and the servant said, "Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room." And the king answered, "Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled." Then the king came in to view the guests, and he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment. "What," he said, "is not my truth, my house to be held in honor, that you come in here with a common suit on, common, carnal ways?" And he commanded his servant, "Take him, bind him hand and foot, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." You see it is not our thirsting after religion ourselves, nor being brought in by friends; but it is being in the things of the gospel according to the King's invitation. This is not my doctrine, but God's. Hear his word: "Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me; hear, and your soul shall live;" as much as to say, "Your soul is at stake; there is death before you; and unless you hear what I say, your soul will be swallowed up in that great gulf of death.
If you read the 50th Psalm, you see how diligent the people were to offer sacrifices and serve God in the ordeal he commanded year after year. "I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices or thy burnt offerings, to have been continually before me;" but he says, "Will I eat the flesh of bulls and drink the blood of goats? Offer unto God thanksgiving, and pay thy vows unto the Most High." "I will reckon nothing of what you do while your heart is privily in the world, in self, and your own ways." "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? And your labor for that which satisfieth not?"
There are various things religious people spend their time and money to obtain, and seem to be satisfied in them; but it is like a hungry man who dreams he eats, and when he awakes, his soul is empty. Jude calls these "filthy dreamers;" and millions of them do not wake up till the soul quits the body. It is a solemn thing for a man's thirst to be slaked short of the blood of Christ. Eternity is close at hand, and O to be saved. There are many in the church of God who live on things short of Christ, and are quiet and satisfied all the year round. The foolish virgins were just like that, and had no thought or discernment of any lack, till the Bridegroom came. They had the truth in their sentiments and in their walk, but no oil, and when the Judge of quick and dead came, their lamps went out. If any one says, "I will not be so particular," I would not be in your place for a million worlds. "He that hateth reproof shall die."
Now the true character, "every one that thirsteth." The apostle shows it at once when he says, "And you hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1). Spiritual thirst attends that quickening power; light attends that, poverty, and want. "Which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God(John 1:13). The ever blessed Spirit takes up his residence in the heart as the Spirit of light, of power, and of a sound mind; and as soon as he does, the man cannot live on the externals of religion. He will feel,
"Lord, in thy house I read there's room,
And venturing hard, behold, I come;
But can there, tell me, can there be,
Among thy children room for me?"
That is one that thirsts. Hear what wisdom says to such: "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and ye that have no money," not a fraction to bring with you, not as much as a good thought of your own, "come ye, buy and eat; yea, come; buy wine and milk without money and without price." At the beginning of this thirst, the soul stands at the entering of the gates, and O to get in! I believe this is a solemn fact, that none ever enter savingly into the truth but by the Holy Ghost. If you do not mind about being taught by him, yours is a hollow religion. These are poor, because they have no money; and we call them poor that have a great want and nothing to buy with.
When the Holy Spirit comes, one of the first movings in the heart is thirst after God's mercy. You will thirst in the night season sometimes, beg and cry for mercy, and can no more lay hold of the gospel when it is preached than make a world. Some, if they have not heard the truth, will wander to and fro, and nothing meets their case. Others brought up under the truth have the same thirst. "Have mercy upon me, O God." "According to the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions." David was brought up under sound doctrine and consistent teaching in Jesse's household; yet when grace laid hold of him, he became a praying man and sighed after mercy. How many of you know what that is? Has your heart thirsted after free mercy to put away your sins and make you one of his people? Dead folk never pray in spirit, never have spiritual wants.
Now we have found the character, we may be universal. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters." If every one in the chapel had this thirst, I should be as sure you would all get to heaven as I preach; for God has not opened this divine, ever-flowing spring in vain. "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power." He has put his power into the will and into the heart, and that makes it thirst after God's mercy.
Another thing his people thirst after is spiritual life. One says,
"Daily we groan and mourn
Beneath the weight of sin;
We pray to be new-born,
But know not what we mean;
We think it something very great,
Something that's undiscover'd yet."
This is thirsting after the waters of life. The prophet Ezekiel saw a river whose waters issue forth from the sanctuary, and whithersoever they came, everything had life. Our text moves towards that poor sinner who has this thirst: "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters." It is like a great gliding river, flowing close to your door. See the waters come to you, and what you want is but a venturing faith to leap in. That is to venture to be naught, sink or swim.
My late friend at Maidstone told me that the day before the Lord brought peace and pardon to this: "Lord, if thou send me to hell, thou art righteous. I have tried to make my heart better, and cannot; and now I fall into thy hands, Lord. Here I am; do with me what thou wilt." And he said divine peace and love broke directly, and he could not get his guilt back again. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters."
Another thing these have a particular thirst after is wisdom. If you thirst after that, it shows you have lost your own; and you will want wisdom to direct you in all things. If you are employed in any matter, you will cry, "Lord, do give me wisdom to do this." You will want wisdom to walk among men, among your friends and relatives; yes, and before him too. When Solomon was anointed king of Israel, the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying, "Ask what I shall give thee." And Solomon said, "Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart, to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad." Well, the religious world would say, "Any fool may know that." Not a soul knows good from bad unless he is taught by the Holy Ghost. I am speaking now of spiritual discernment, not of moral. If your religion does not go further than moral good, it is of no use for eternity. Every living soul wants wisdom to perform what he has to do consistently with God, and to walk before him. Sometimes he feels he wants wisdom to speak to his children or to his wife, for he does not know what to say. He feels like David, "If I speak thus, behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children." It is said, "Seek righteousness; seek meekness;" and where meekness is, the man wants wisdom.
"Give wisdom to direct our way,
And strength to do thy will."
Another thing he thirsts after is righteousness. "O," saith the soul, "I would be holy." We read, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness;" showing that those who are spiritually taught are destitute of it altogether and of any power to work out a righteousness; and being in a dry and thirsty land, they hunger and thirst after it. "They shall be filled." "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."
Milk is very nutritious and suitable for babes; and hence this invitation takes in all God's family, little children as well as those of matured age, as they walk through this vale of tears, where no water is. "Buy wine and milk." The Lord said to Peter twice, "Feed my sheep," and again, "Feed my lambs." You see he gave him two admonitions to feed his sheep. Some say, "I feed the lambs, but I let the sheep alone; they are sure to get on." That is not according to the gospel. If the old sheep are not on good pasturage, the flock is sickly all through. But where the old sheep are looked after, the lambs always do well; there is a thriving flock, and the sheep bring forth nice lambs. We must not forsake the lambs. They are to be dandled on the knees and comforted; but the sheep of Christ, the flock of slaughter, must be fed with the finest of the wheat. We read, "Open thy mouth for the dumb." "Plead the cause of the poor and needy." And, "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby" (1 Pet. 2:2).
If the Lord help us, we will go a little further into the blessed admonition we found in the text this morning. We said these waters were particularly adapted to a certain kind of thirst, not all kinds; that there must be a spiritual thirst in the soul under the teaching and exercise of the Spirit of God, and where there is not his teaching, there is no real thirst after them. None saith, "Where is God my Maker?" In the desire of his soul; none have spiritual desires for God but by the Holy Ghost. And we spoke of our need of this caution: "Hearken diligently unto me;" do not take things for granted and say, "I know them." I used to think my heart was in unison with the doctrines of eternal predestination and election; but it had never been tried on those points. An untried faith is an unsound faith; as gold that has never been in the furnace is not pure. We read, "The trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth." There is such a knowledge of the truth in the professing church that has never been tried, such a flow of preaching and resting on nominal things, many think, "I can endorse this and that." You do not know; I would not encourage you. Do you think God would take pains to try the grace he puts in your heart, if it did not signify whether it is tried or not? We read, "He shall sit" that is, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Jehovah, "as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he shall purify the sons of Levi;" and you know the figure is taken from a furnace. Now, really, it is a foolish man who says, "It does not signify whether my faith is put in the furnace at all; neither do I want to be tried." Your heart charges the most wise God with folly. May the Lord save us from such a presumptuous act. "Though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ," not before. God never intended that you and I should have any of this honor till Christ comes. Then when you receive it, you will palm it all on his holy head, and say, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy and for thy truth's sake."
"Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness." Then it will not be in the works or wisdom of creatures, of angels or archangels. "There is none good but one," essentially so, "that is, God." Then we may say out of this good God fatness flows, and nowhere else. So the man who has nothing to do with God in his religion has not any of it. He cannot delight himself in fatness, for he has none.
There are three things still to notice in the text: 1.) The Person who is spoken of under the figure of waters, what we understand by this, and how these waters are put within the reach of the most weak, feeble, and frail individual that has a heart for them; that none shall seek in vain, but shall obtain. The first thing is the Lord Jesus Christ and all covenant blessings in him. Then, 2.) The exhortation: "Incline your ear and come unto me; hear and your soul shall live;" evidently showing it is not hearing with the outward ear, because thousands hear the sound of the gospel that never have life. And, 3.) A few words about the "sure mercies of David," or the condition of those persons who have the covenant performed in their hearts, which is "ordered in all things and sure."
I.) The Lord Jesus Christ, being the covenant Head of his people, is the great fountain whence all mercies flow to sinners. Here we must glance at the doctrine couched in the text. Before man fell, this holy covenant was made between the Father and Son, and ratified and witnessed by the Holy Ghost. Hence we read, "There are Three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these Three are One." These Three bear record of the eternal covenant, yes, from age to age, and will when all the election of grace are brought safe home to glory. Not a jot or tittle of it can be made null or void, but will certainly be accomplished in all its grace and power in every individual concerned in it. Now the covenant in the text made with you and me flows from this great covenant made by the Eternal Three. As it is made with us it is a finished covenant, a sealed covenant, an applied blessing, an absolute promise, called a covenant with us because through it we receive the Lord Jesus and surrender heart and soul to him. In the 50th Psalm it is said, "Gather my saints together unto me, those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice;" and Paul writes, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice," not under the sentence of death in the covenant of works, but "a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God," purged from dead works. And mark, no saving power ever comes into a sinner's heart but through the covenant transaction between these Three sacred Persons. Every particle of saving grace comes out from that covenant into our hearts, and is a changeless blessing. It has all the grace, power, and wisdom of the Three-One God to continue it to the end of time, till soul and body are safe in heaven.
The Lord Jesus is called the Covenant of his people: "I will preserve thee, and give thee for a Covenant of the people" (Isa. 42:6). This shows there was a great breach between them and a holy God, but not on God's part. He never left them, but they left him in the Fall of Adam. They left this blessed God, their Creator and Sovereign; and in leaving him became in league with the devil, and served God's foes instead of him. This was a great breach; but it never altered God's covenant. "Well," you say, "that must be an unutterable mercy for a holy God to make a covenant in respect of sinners and transgressors, and their sins never to have stopped him."Man was created in fellowship with his Creator, and all the while Adam held his primitive state, his delight was to walk with God, and for God to walk with him. His nature was holy, for he was made in the image of God; and who dare say that the image of God was not holy? Adam was holy and every way equipped and qualified to walk in fellowship with his Maker. But when sin entered, all was defiled; he lost God's image and took Satan's' his mind was blinded, and he was alienated from the life of God through ignorance, chose darkness rather than light, to flee from God instead of going to him, to hate him instead of loving him. "The carnal mind is enmity against God, and is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8:7). It was in view of this state the blessed covenant was made; and to accomplish this great design, to bring all his chosen people to eternal glory, it pleased the Father that in his Son, Jesus Christ, should all fullness dwell. First, that in him should dwell "all the fullness of the Godhead bodily," or essentially; secondly, that all counsels, decrees, purposes, and holy wisdom, abstractly, fully so, should be placed in him; and thirdly, that all the bowels of mercies, compassions, gentleness, kindness, grace, pity, love, righteousness, that ever angels or mortals knew, should be all in him. All the things the great covenant consists of are in him; therefore he is called the Covenant, and he is everything to the church.
Then that person that does not make the Lord Jesus everything has made a mistake. Is not that true? Look about in your heart, and see if you make him everything. If you do, you have this, a jealous suspicion of your own heart and ways; you will not think much of either of them. But if you do not make him everything, you have some love for your own ways; though you may profess not to have.
"How stands the case, my soul, with thee?
To For heaven are thy credentials clear?
Is Jesu's blood thy only plea?
Is he thy great Forerunner there?"
And this is the point:
"Is thy proud heart subdued by grace
To seek salvation in his name?
There's wisdom, power, and righteousness
All centering in the worthy Lamb."
That is a true criterion of a man's faith. Even weak faith will make the Lord everything. The Lord Jesus makes everything he is over to that soul; and that soul by living faith, though trembling, makes him everything. See what a blessed jointure and union there is between the holy Father and the Lord Jesus, the Friend of sinners, and the operations of the Holy Ghost in the sinner's heart. These things fit in like tenon and mortise, and make a holy unison as set forth in the building of the temple.
Now having spoken of his blessed Majesty as the covenant fullness of his people, the Lord help us to look at his Person in human flesh. I have something in my heart that so delights to speak of his Person, Immanuel, God with us.
"Could we his Person learn to prize,
We more should prize his grace."
"'Tis no wild fancy of our brain,
No metaphor we speak;
The same dear Man in heaven now reigns
Who suffer'd for our sake."
Living faith is the "substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." It is a reality, for it brings Christ into the heart, the Hope of glory, God's co-equal, co-eternal Son. The conditions of the covenant hang on his shoulders, on his power and unchanging ability. If that fail, certainly the covenant will never be carried out; if that does not fail, it certainly will be. For myself, I believe he never will fail in any of the jots or tittles; neither do I believe this holy covenant hangs on the wills and contingencies of poor, sinful mortals at all. But as the Lord has fulfilled his work of atonement for millions of mankind, the Holy Ghost will bring it into the heart and practice of every one; and all religion that is not of the Holy Ghost is deception.
You say, "If that is true, you place us entirely at God's disposal." I wish I could in your hearts; I wish you were brought there with a cry, "Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation." I have known the time when I did the best I could to keep a good conscience. You say, "Don't you do it now?" Yes, but on a different footing. I do not count myself to have a good conscience unless something comes in from God, a little touch of his power, a sprinkle of his atonement. If I walk in rectitude and do not feel guilt all day, but have no access or touch of his grace, I do not go to bed with a good conscience. One glimpse of Christ does more good than all moral walking. I would keep that in its place; but never let it jostle out a precious Christ and his merits and atonement. We read, "The Gentiles which followed not after righteousness have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but, as it were, by the works of the law" (Rom. 9:30-32). If it came by the law, Christ would profit you nothing. You jostle Christ out of the heart altogether, and lose all. This made Hart say with great meaning:
"Thy whole dependence on me fix;
Nor entertain a thought
Thy worthless schemes with mine to mix,
But venture to be naught."
"The poorer the wretch, the welcomer here;
Come needy, come guilty, come loathsome and bare,
You can't come too filthy, come just as you are."
He is a "merciful and faithful High Priest," to make reconciliation for the sins of the people, by his covenant blood; as one says,
"There is a fountain fill'd with blood,
Drawn from Immannuel's veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains."
They are all gone, and it is a lasting cleansing. We read the Lord said to Peter, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common or unclean" (Acts 10:15,28). It is as pure as God is pure, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, not in creature ability, but in the name and merits of Christ.
Now the Lord Jesus, being this fountain fullness in his own Person by the eternal counsel, was the Creator of all things, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. He spoke all things into being out of nothing. Hence it is said, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1). "And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). His glorious and eternal Majesty is the Second Person in order of revelation, not inferior, but the Son of the Father in truth and love before all worlds. The Father is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; but there never existed the everlasting Father in the Trinity before the Son; not one before or after another. If it were not so, we should believe in a changeable God, which the Scriptures deny and my faith denies, and I hope yours too. Christ is the holy manifestation of the Trinity in Unity, in order that glory may redound to the sacred Trinity from poor saved sinners' hearts that deserve nothing but hell. This Second Person took upon him human nature in the womb of the virgin; as it is said, "A body hast thou prepared me." Therefore it was his own body, prepared for him, and never existed but in union with his eternal Deity, any more than our souls ever existed before they were in union with our bodies. I say the perfect humanity of the Lord Jesus was made in all things like unto his brethren, sin excepted. A poor fallen woman, a daughter of Adam by nature, bore this holy humanity which the Son of God took; as we read, "That holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." His gracious Majesty in this body was hungry, weary, sleepy, at one time we read he was asleep in the hinder part of the ship, "touched with the feeling of our infirmities," "in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin," holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners."
This glorious Person, as he came into the world, was by the eternal predestination and finger of God made under the law, lay under our guilt, under our condemnation, our judgment, our wrath, our darkness, our distress, under it all, without a murmuring word or once repining or regretting his great undertaking. In this capacity, as Immanuel, God with us, he really did fulfill all the jots and tittles of the law we had broken, and made it honorable. A broken law is not honored; it must be carried out to make it honorable. He fulfilled it perfectly, and then suffered all the penal wrath due to transgressors. God the Father poured it on him without any mitigation. He made all our sins to meet on him; and at that particular juncture the floodgates of wrath were opened. Hear him say, "All thy waves and thy billows are gone over me" (Ps. 42:7). "Mine iniquities are gone over mine head; as an heavy burden, they are too heavy for me" (Ps. 38:4). In this wrath his holy soul was wrung with all those agonizing tortures due to us. We are poor creatures; we can see his body suffering on the cross by faith, but who can contemplate the millioneth part of the sorrows of his holy soul? I have been in excruciating pain in terrible, spiritual anguish; and I can say that pains of body are nothing to the agonies of the soul. Spiritual afflictions are afflictions indeed. Therefore the greatest afflictions of the Son of God were in his soul; and O, the destructions, the deaths, the hells, his holy soul went into the bowels of, not locally, but experimentally.
"Hell was our just desert,
And he that hell endured;
Guilt broke his guiltless heart
With wrath that we incurr'd.
We broke his body, spilt his blood,
And both became our heavenly food."
Hear him on the cross utter this blessed exclamation, "It is finished!" And he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
What we want to infer is this. God's people hold fast by faith that this sacrifice of Jesus is all-sufficient to save a soul, without any works or merits added to it. It is the fountain of waters for the thirsty soul, "without money and without price." Our forefathers died martyrs in this hope. "Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works." "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin," though a polluted worm truly in himself. Our forefathers had this blessing of imputed righteousness proclaimed in their hearts. Who dare say it is not sufficient to sanctify a man? Who dare say it is not a reality? Certainly it is. As sure as this doctrine gets into a heart, it will produce its own fruits. What is it that shows the distinction between this and all other supposed righteousness? It brings forth fruit unto holiness and the end, everlasting life. A good tree will bring forth good fruit, and a corrupt tree will bring forth evil fruit. "A good understanding have all they that do his commandments;" but unless God puts his holy, covenant grace and Spirit into the heart, a man will never do them; he is too far fallen. Abraham could obtain Ishmael by his own contrivance. So you may get bastards by your own faith, or bear fruit after the flesh in the shape of religion; but it will be of no use, and bring nothing but trouble. But if you have one grain of faith through this covenant in your heart, O, I say, blessed man. What an endless blessing God has given you. I would encourage you to live to him, to honor him, to fall flat into his hands to commit your troubles to him, let him be all, and surrender yourself to him to be crucified; and he will accept you as you surrender yourself by precious faith altogether to him, and fall flat on his Person and merits.
2.) This leads us to the other side of the text, the exhortation: "Incline your ear, and come unto me; hear, and your soul shall live;" showing that a sinner convinced by the Holy Ghost still has a proneness to labor to make himself better and please God under the covenant of works. That is not from faith. Supposing you did practice all, till you had not a particle of guilt, Christ would profit you nothing. You must be strong enough to say, "I can get to heaven without him," or else be a poor, penitent sinner, fall at his feet, and lie there till he saves you. I have more confidence in that sort of religion than in moving about in our own strength; for I have proved it. The Lord brought me to a state of insolvency after thirteen years waiting; and I lay at his disposal with a thousand fears he would frown me to hell, but he did not; and I never knew what his smile and pardoning love were till then.
"'Tis perfect poverty alone
Which sets the soul at large;
While we can call one mite our own,
We have no full discharge."
Then see the necessity and the mercy, too, of the teaching of the Holy Ghost. Take this for an instance. If you have a little soft feeling on a Lord's day, and look back and see how dull, lifeless, and prayerless you have been in the week, as soon as you feel a freshness and moving in your soul you may think, "Next week I will be more careful and watchful." That is good in its place, but do not rest on it. One says:
"I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesu's name."
Instead of nursing that sort of feeling," Next week I will be very diligent, and give myself to reading and prayer," say, "Lord, do keep me. 'Let thine hand help me; for I have chosen thy precepts.' 'Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not.'" That would be more orthodox, and honor him; and "them that honor me I will honor." Do not rest on anything short of the Lamb and his blood. If I get through a day without guilt, I examine it at night. "What has made your conscience so quiet today? Is it the virtue and merits of Jesus?" And if I cannot find that, I do not listen to my quiet conscience, but sigh,
"Convince me of my sin,
Then lead to Jesu's blood,
And to my wondering view reveal
The secret love of God."
The heart is full of inward sins, temptations, and evils. Time is very short, and to be tantalized by a legal spirit, a proud heart, to rest on things that are not saving, I say it is waste of time, of life, and all. We read, "Redeeming the time, because the days are evil." We need the Holy Spirit that we may flee to the blood of Christ, and let nothing quiet us but the atonement.
3.) "The sure mercies of David." The covenant God makes with us I understand to be this. When you and I are brought to the Lord Jesus by precious faith in the simple way I have described, to let him be All in all, that is the Lord making an everlasting covenant with us, even the sure mercies of David. It is a covenant of free grace and atoning blood; there is perfect atonement in it for all sin, perfect justification from all unholiness, and the Spirit of adoption is brought into the heart with it. There is many a seeking soul who has not yet had it made with him; but when it is ratified by the Holy Spirit in the heart, he will say, "My Lord and my God."
"O my Jesus, thou art mine,
With all thy grace and power;
I am now and shall be thine,
When time shall be no more."
This covenant made with a sinner is individual and particular. How many of us have had it made with us? As sure as it is made, the fruits of it will follow. If you have it in your heart, you have chosen him for your Lord, your Advocate, your Guide, your good Physician, your All. You will be his by a living faith, and he will be yours by his gracious atonement and pardon. He will dwell with you, and you with him; and nothing can make it null and void. "If children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." That is the consummation of it all.
"The sinner that by precious faith
Has felt his sins forgiven,
Is from that moment pass'd from death,
And seal'd an heir of heaven.
"Though thousand snares enclose his feet,
Not one shall hold him fast;
Whatever dangers he may meet,
He shall get safe at last."