"They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: (For the redemption of their souls is precious, and it ceaseth for ever)." (Psalm 49:6-8)
WE are told that there is a scarlet thread that runs through every rope that is used in the Royal Navy, and in every rope that may be used by Alpine climbers in climbing mountains; it is a guarantee of its worthiness and of its strength.
There is a scarlet thread which runs through the whole of the Scriptures, from the beginning of Genesis to the end of the Revelation; that scarlet thread will be found in almost every chapter, the scarlet thread of redemption. It is the great topic of every book in the Bible. There is one topic that is the great joy and delight of the inhabitants of heaven, and that is the topic of redemption. And that is the topic of our text. And if it is not a delightful one to us we can scarcely believe that our religion can be like the religion of the Bible, or that our joys can be anything like the joys of heaven. No, my friends, like will lead to like, and therefore, if our delights are like those of the saints in heaven, and the saints of the Bible, we shall cleave to those things that are their delight and their joy.
Arising from our text there are five points in respect to redemption to which I wish to call your attention. I will not burden your minds with the whole five at once, but one by one I will endeavor to unfold what appears to be in them.
You observe that the Psalmist here first looks at the wealth of which some are possessed; then he looks at the fact of the great interest that a man may be supposed to have for his brother, and then he goes on to say that neither the wealth that a man may possess, nor the interest that he may put forth on behalf of his brother, can ransom his soul, "For the redemption of his soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever."
Now the first point to which I will call your attention is this--that the redemption of the soul is MOST NEEDFUL.
MOST NEEDFUL.--The Lord Jesus Christ said, "But one thing is needful," and the redemption of the soul is that one thing needful. How continually this need was brought before the Old Testament church. It was not simply in the passover, once a year, that they had this need brought before them. It was not simply on the Sabbath day that it was brought before them, but twice a day, by the morning and by the evening lambs that were offered. It would proclaim to every Israelite the need of redemption. Moreover, every firstborn that was born into the family was, as it were, under the sentence of death except the half-shekel was paid as the redemption price, and thus to every member of the household was brought home the great need of redemption by that half-shekel when the child was born. Yea, even though it should be that a little ass was born in the homestead, and the young folk might with pleasure think of the enjoyment that that little creature might be to them, it had come into the world under sentence of death; the firstborn of the ass might not live unless it was redeemed by a lamb. And thus, at every turn, were the Israelites reminded of their need of redemption.
But, my friends, what was their need is our need. Our first parents plunged us all into death, they fastened the chains upon us, and by our own actual transgression we have riveted those chains upon us. If "the thought of foolishness is sin," how great must be the sum of our sins; and if God has such pure eyes that He charges even the angels with folly, "How foul and black must we appear, most holy God, to Thee."
Now, seeing that sin and Satan himself, and our first parents, have all conspired to plunge us into the great gulf of sin, under the great demands of God's holy law, oh, how needful that there should be some way of redemption, some means by which the great debt may be cleared, God's frown turned into a smile, and a deserved hell exchanged for a delightful heaven.
But, do we feel the need? do we realize the need? If we were in debt for a hundred pounds, and were honorable sort of people, it seems to me that that hundred pounds would hang like a millstone about our necks. We should not like to meet that creditor. If we knew he would come up one street, we should take particular care to go down another. We should have that millstone round our necks when we went to bed, it would be our burden, it would seem to spoil all our home joys, and all our interest in life.
You remember how William Gadsby wanted twenty pounds to clear a debt, and I do not think that he had twenty pence. How that twenty pounds went to bed with him, and got up with him, and everywhere he went there was this twenty pounds. And he had to come up with this text, "Lord, help me," and there was someone present who was the executor to a will which left Mr. Gadsby twenty pounds, and thus he got his twenty pounds. And, my friends, if this is so, how much greater burden is the redemption of our souls! O, how exceedingly needful! The salvation of the soul is most needful. May God carve it upon our hearts.
But the second point with regard to our subject is this--the redemption of the soul is MOST DIFFICULT.
MOST DIFFICULT. Hear what the Psalmist says. "They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches. None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him." Then how exceedingly difficult is the redemption of the soul. However wealthy a man may be, however many times a millionaire, he cannot redeem one brother, and not only so, but he cannot even redeem one sin. Therefore is it not exceedingly difficult?
It has been often said that a golden key will open any door, and a golden key will move any heart. That may be so naturally. But no golden key has ever yet opened the door of redemption, and no golden key has ever yet touched the heart of God.
O it is exceedingly difficult, and yet how many there are who do not understand either the burden of their sin, or the guilt of their transgression, while they think if they give so much to the Missionary Society, so much to building a church, so much to a hospital, that this will be the means of making their peace with God, and getting Him to look upon them with favor when they come to die. What a terrible delusion! Where is the wealth that does not belong to God? where are the houses and lands that are not His already? Then how foolish to think we can bring those things, and put them down as a price for redemption. Oh, the redemption of the soul is most difficult. No wealth of money can buy it or procure it; and, my friends, we might go further, and say no wealth of good deeds, morality, or religious ceremonies will ever pay for the redemption of one soul or one sin.
How many there are that think that with all their supposed good deeds and good works, and reading, and praying, and chapel-going, or attending to ordinances, that they are heaping up riches, and that those riches will help to redeem their souls. They do not know what the poet knew when he said--
"My best is marred and stained with sin,
My whole is nothing worth."
All the forms of service which are so much esteemed will never redeem a soul.
There are many who think that by a wealth of suffering they shall redeem their soul. We have all read of the poor Hindoo who will stand with a knife through his tongue, or lie upon spikes. And what is all this wealth of suffering for? With the idea that it is going to redeem their souls, to make them holy, and to bring about the favor of God. Oh, the redemption of the soul is most difficult. I well remember in my younger days realizing the greatness of one sin, and the need of the favor of God. I used to have this feeling, "Well, if the times of the martyrs were to come again, and I could go and be burnt at the stake, well, then I should be sure of heaven." This was my ignorance, but it used to haunt me, until one day I heard a minister give out that text, "Though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." Then all my wealth of supposed suffering fell down; I saw that no wealth of money or suffering could ever atone for one sin, let alone all our sins. Therefore you see the Psalmist brings before us very powerfully how difficult, most difficult, is the redemption of the soul. It is past all the wealth that man can bring, in order to procure it.
Thirdly, the Psalmist also tells us that the redemption of the soul is MOST PRECIOUS.
MOST PRECIOUS. "They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him; for the redemption of the soul is precious." Ah, it is indeed precious!
Now we will just touch on this preciousness in a threefold manner. First of all the redemption of the soul is precious in respect to its cost. If a thing costs a great deal to procure, and because of its rareness, it will be looked upon as very precious. I suppose the most precious thing at this time is radium, which, we are told, costs about ten thousand pounds for what seems like a little speck, it is so exceedingly precious. But not all the radium of the world, and not all the wealth of the world, can by any means procure redemption.
That is a wonderful figure that the prophet Isaiah uses, where he says, "Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof for a burnt offering." (Isa. 40:16) Now take that figure for a moment. The great mountain range of Lebanon for an altar. What a momentous altar! At that time it was densely covered with magnificent cedars. All the cedar trees for fuel upon the altar; round about the shoulder of Lebanon numberless flocks and herds for the sacrifices. And yet that great altar, and that great multitude of victims, can by no means atone for the sins of one sinner, and therefore it needs a greater price than man can possibly give. "Shall I go before the Lord with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" (Micah 6:6,7) God will not accept that. "I will show thee, O man, what is good; to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God." (Micah 6:8)
We take the words of the Apostle that we have just now read: "Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation...But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish, and without spot." (1 Peter 1:18,19)
"Not all the blood of beasts
On Jewish altars slain,
Could give the guilty conscience peace,
Or wash away the stain.
"But Christ, the heavenly Lamb,
Takes all our sins away;
A sacrifice of nobler name,
And richer blood than they."
Ah, can some of us say--
"My faith would lay her hand
On that dear head of Thine,
While like a penitent I stand,
And there confess my sin?"
Ah, dear friends, look for a moment or two at the preciousness of that redemption:
"The diamond that's for thousands sold
Our admiration draws;
For dust men seldom part with gold,
Or barter pearls for straws.
"Then what inestimable worth
Must in those crowns appear
For which the Lord came down to earth,
And brought for us so dear!
"The Father dearly loves the Son,
And rates His merits high;
For no mean cause He sent Him down
To suffer, grieve, and die."
"Dearly we're bought, highly esteemed;
Redeemed, with Jesus' blood redeemed!"
O look what it cost; look at the dignity of the great sacrifice.
I have often thought of the little dumb boy that Charlotte Elizabeth had so great an influence over, by God's blessing; how that when he began to have a little apprehension of sin and its punishment, he became anxious to know about redemption, about any way in which sinners can be saved. And she took two pictures; one in which many were going into a fire, another picture in which one was dying upon a cross; and then she showed him that by reason of that death those who were going into the fire were all saved. And in his dumb language he said, "One--many; one--many." And she understood in a moment what he meant--"How can one, the dying of one, save many?" She looked up for direction how she should put it to him, and she took a gold ring from her finger, and she put it down. Then she took a number of leaves, and put them in a little heap, and she said, "One--many; one--many." And the boy accepted the figure in a moment, and he realized that the worth of that One's suffering was of more value than all those who would otherwise have perished.
Oh, in looking at that redemption, what a price it was! That God's dear Son should exile and banish Himself into this world of sin and sorrow, take upon Himself a nature like unto His people; and how He was able to meet with Satan at every turn, and how the prince of this world came and had nothing in Him. And how it all led up to that great sacrifice!
And then, dear friends, what a dreadful death, what a painful death it was! I suppose, of all painful deaths, crucifixion--hanging by the hands and feet upon a cross--is the most painful. Yet He hung in that terrible pain. And what a lingering death it was; and what a shameful death--the death of a malefactor, of one not good enough to live! Yet that death He was willing to bear: "He made Himself of no reputation." (Phil. 2:7) I have often thought it was one of the greatest things He did, for we are proud of our reputation; we say, "Don't touch my reputation, whatever you do." But He made Himself of no reputation.
And then, friends, it was a lonely death. "Ah," we say, "when death comes I hope I shall not be alone; I hope I shall not be among strangers; I hope I shall have the presence and comfort of my dear ones." But He died alone. Of His friends there was not one with Him, and His Father hid His face from Him. O was it not a cost!--was it not a price! And then He could say, "It is finished! It is finished!" Ah, the redemption of the soul is precious because of its mighty cost.
It is precious, secondly, by the blessing that it bestows, the security that it bestows. When the children of Israel were sheltered behind that rainbow of blood, "Oh," we think they would say, "how precious is this blood! It makes me so secure. The destroying angel cannot touch me, for I am behind that sprinkled blood." Noah and his family in the ark must have said, "How precious is this security! We are in the ark, shut in by God, and protected by His word. How precious is this security! Nothing else can secure us from this flood and vengeance."
That scarlet cord that hung from that house in Jericho, what a security and comfort it gave to those who were behind it! They felt the most precious thing in Jericho was that scarlet cord, because it gave them security. And, my dear friends, whatever we may have in this world, we are beggars, we are poor, if we are not behind that scarlet cord. But how safe if we are behind it!
But then I should also say that this redemption is precious by reason of the peace of mind that it brings to the soul. Sometimes in the family the daughter is ill; the doctor is sent for. "My daughter is very depressed; her face is very pale; what can be the matter with her, do you think? She seems to be becoming very ill." The doctor examines her, questions her, and presently he says, "This is none other than sorrow of heart; she has got some great trouble; no medicine of mine will touch her. Unless you can find something that will touch the trouble, and bring peace to her mind, I cannot benefit her." How many times does a minister have to do with a troubled soul, troubled on account of sin! The great redemption, they feel, will not be theirs. And how the minister often feels that it is beyond his skill. But when the Lord is pleased, He who has the tongue of the learned to speak a word in season to him that is weary; when He is pleased to drop some precious word into that poor sinner's soul--ah, how it takes away the burden! It leads the soul to know something of the preciousness of redemption, the peace of God which passeth all understanding.
Now there are some of us here who have been favored to know a little of that peace of God which passeth all understanding. I remember sitting one night in one of those seats at the Ordinance. Many times I have felt hard, and as if I ought not to be there. But that night this hymn was the very language of my soul:--
"Hark, my soul, it is the Lord,
'Tis thy Saviour, hear His word;
Jesus speaks, and speaks to thee--
'Say, poor sinner, lov'st thou Me?
"'I delivered thee when bound;
And when wounded, healed thy wound;
Sought thee wand'ring, set thee right,
Turned thy darkness into light.'"
O how sweet that hymn was! It was a peace that made me dread Monday morning, and wish it was always going to be the Lord's day. But we must not tarry here longer. Remember also that this redemption of the soul is MOST LASTING.
MOST LASTING. "For the redemption of the soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever." Once redeemed, redeemed for ever. If we owed some money to a creditor, and that should be paid for us, we should be cleared, yet we might get into debt again, and we should need another clearing; there has never been but one creation; God created everything when He created the world, so there has never been but one redemption. And when the Lord Jesus Christ paid down the redemption price, it was for the sins of all His Church that were past, that were living, and would live to the end of time. And so, you see, it is a lasting redemption. But the experience of it is the soul may be repeated, and is repeated, many times. As the Holy Spirit takes of the redemption that is in Christ, and reveals it to the soul, he sees no new redemption; no, it is the redemption that is on Calvary.
Well, but--you may say, that is if you are not rightly instructed--if you tell people that Jesus came to Calvary for their sins, past, present, and to come, won't that make them careless? because they will say, "Well, if I am redeemed, I am redeemed, whatever sins I commit." Well, those who talk so certainly show an antinomian spirit.
Well, the redemption of the soul is most needful, it is most difficult, it is most precious, it is most lasting, and it is also MOST FRUITFUL.
MOST FRUITFUL. The redemption of the soul is most fruitful in the heart where it is realized. The slave serves from fear, the hireling serves because of the wages, but the son serves because he loves, and that will be the best service. Some boys once said to another boy, "You go and pick the cherries off your father's tree, your father is too kind to hurt you." "Yes," said the boy, "I know he is too kind to hurt me, and that is why I cannot grieve him." There was the service of love, and that was a stronger bond in that boy's heart than the fear of the stick.
Well, dear friends, if we ever know anything of the love of Christ in redemption shed abroad in our hearts, we shall want to live without sinning against Him again, and grieving Him again. If you want to see sin and hate it, you may go to the cities of the plain that were destroyed by fire and brimstone, you may go to the Red Sea, and see the Egyptians buried in the waters, and your heart will be made as hard as a stone--"Law and terrors do but harden, All the while they work alone." But go to Calvary, see what it cost Jesus Christ to put away sin, realize that by that mighty suffering all thy sins were put away; thou wilt never see sin so black, or hate it so much as thou wilt when thou seest it in the light of Calvary. Therefore you see the redemption of the soul is precious and most fruitful in bringing about a hatred of sin.
The world may come and want to tempt you to go into it, but nothing will kill you to the world like a sight and sense of redemption. Take the words of the Apostle Peter, "Ye are not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold...But ye are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ." That is it, friends; nothing will make us more patient in tribulation and trial, and make us love the Saviour more, and serve Him better, than a sight and sense of redemption.
"Did I love my Lord before,
I would love Him ten times more;
Drop into His sea outright,
Lose myself in Jesus quite."