"For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ." (2 Corinthians 2:17)
The Holy Ghost saith, "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way, by taking heed thereto according to thy Word," (Ps. 119:9) for it is "a lamp to his feet, and a light unto his path." (Ps. 119:105) This light "shineth in a dark place," (2 Pet. 1:19) and it is this light that reveals to us the things of God, whereby we understand them, and are at a point about them. In His Word God hath revealed to us everything to make us wise unto salvation; (2 Tim. 3:15) everything relating to Himself, His Son, ourselves, heaven and hell, as well as this world and all that is in it; everything to guide our erring feet in the way of peace; so that we may say of the Word of God as David said of the sword of Goliath, when Abiathar, the priest, said, "I have nothing here to give thee but the sword of Goliath." O, how it brought his weakness to mind, and the power of God in defending him; the protecting hand of God toward him, and the faithfulness of God respecting him! Hence he cried out, "Give it me, there is none like it;" (1 Sam. 21:9) and in a day like the present, when infidelity abounds and sways its scepter over the earth; when man's wisdom is set up in the place of God's wisdom; when the truth is despised, and human reason and science are set up in its place, it behoves us to stand fast by the Word, to cleave to it, and to say of any feeling that may arise in the leastwise in opposition to it, "Bow down sense and reason, faith only reigns here." One deviation from the Word of God in any one of its truths is like letting in a little thief into the house, who opens the door to let in more; one step downwards from the truth of God is like rolling down hill, we know not where we may stop; it behoves us, therefore, to seek wisdom from above; and, however the Word of God may at times surpass our reason, and we feel, "How can these things be?" It is not for us to argue and try to find them out, for in so doing we are trespassing on holy ground; but it is enough for us to fall before the Word of God and say, "God hath said it:"
How many have stumbled at this one Scripture, where it is said that "God prepared a whale to swallow up Jonah;" why, as a good woman once said to me, who I have no doubt is now in heaven, if the Word of God had said that Jonah had swallowed the whale I would have believed it; but God did not say so, and we, therefore, are not required to believe it; God speaks truth, and that only. He does not tell us what was not done, but what was. By simply cleaving to the Word, resting, depending, and falling upon it, what heavenly moments I have enjoyed; what sweet moments, what blessed feastings I have had in meditating on its truth! So that I have found "wisdom's ways to be ways of pleasantness, and all her paths peace." (Prov. 3:17)
Now, as there are many who corrupt the Word of God, we will let it speak its own language, declare its own truth in its simple, unvarnished, and unmistakable facts; and all those who resist and oppose it will find it to be a hammer to crush them, while it is a breast of consolation to simple, sincere men and women who believe it because God hath proclaimed it, and receive it as the testimony of God by feeling the power and truth of it in their hearts and souls. You may be ready to say, "We do not question the truth of God, therefore you need not tell us of what it speaks about;" but Peter said, to the Church to whom he wrote, "I will not be negligent to put you in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth." (2 Pet. 1:12) John also, in writing to the Church says, "I have written unto you, not because ye have not known the truth, but because ye do know, and that no lie is of the truth;" (1 John 2:21) that in the simple things, however simple they may seem to be, it is the work, the power, the revelation of the mind and will of God upon which our souls depend: therefore it behoves us to be well established in the truths of God, to be confirmed and settled therein, so as not to be "moved about by every wind of doctrine, by the cunning craftiness of men, whereby they lay in wait to deceive; (Eph. 4:14) and mystify our hearts through the infidelity that is in our hearts; for there is enough in us to question, argue, and contend against the very things that proceed out of the mouth of God. The infidelity that stalks abroad and is published in our streets on every hand by the lies of men in their preaching, or by the works they may send forth to the world at large, should be a warning to every child of God to take heed to his steps, especially when we have great dignitaries in the Church, and men who wear miters, who deny the inspiration of the Scriptures; when we have our great doctors in our congregational bodies, men standing high in the Dissenting community, telling us the time is come when men must form their own opinions; that there are things in the Word of God that are not compatible with common sense, then it becomes every simple-hearted child of God, every man or woman who has any idea about salvation and as to how matters stand between him and God, and what God says respecting him in His Word, to look well to his ways, so as to be able to feel from day to day, "My heart is fixed, my heart is fixed; I will sing and give praise;" (Ps. 57:7) to be able to say, as David said, "I have more understanding than my teachers, because I have observed thy statutes;" (Ps. 119:99) "thou, O God, hast taught me from my youth;" (Ps. 71:17) "thy words are very pure, therefore thy servant loveth them;" (Ps. 119:140) "O, how I love thy word!" However it may seem to clash with carnal reason and the bold infidelity of our mind. The great apostle tells us, "We are not as many who corrupt the word." No, we let it speak its own language, putting no blot upon it by human wisdom, or the pride of men who twist it to make it answer their own purpose, framing it according to their own opinion. God, "who searches the heart and tries the reins," knows that I have never tried to bend, twist, or move the Word according to any preconceived opinions of my own; what the Word plainly speaks and clearly shows, I would say to it all, "Thy will be done." What a mercy, poor sinner, to have God's Word for our banner and our guide! Therefore in the few things I may say this day (God sparing my life) I can appeal to God for the sincerity of it; for, "in the sight of God speak I it." Upon these things which I have handled and felt, I feel I can venture my eternal salvation. Then, you will say, there must be some sincerity in it; yea, for I have had forty years' experience, and, blessed be God, the things He revealed to me, and made me believe, receive, and acknowledge at the first, He has never suffered me to move one iota from, or to doubt or question the reality and truth of; but I can say, with the apostle, "I neither received of men, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." (Gal. 1:12) In the words of my text he lets God speak His own Word, and declares the truth as God had revealed it to him:--
"We are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ." First, "By faith we believe that the world was formed by the word of God;" (Heb. 11:3) "that all things that are made were not made of things which do appear." (Heb. 11:4) "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Then there was nothing before; the beginning is the first, so, then, the lies of some geologists are not to be listened to, we must begin where God begins. All this appears to me very similar to those over-wise builders of the Tower of Babel, who, according to their human reason, thought they should pierce into the very heavens; but how God soon made them know that they were treading on holy and forbidden ground! I have ever found this to be true, and would have you to be guided by this simple fact; in sincerity I tell you, in love and affection I tell you, and may you abide fast by it! Where the Scriptures have no mouth in anything, never you have any ear or give heed; if the Scriptures do not say anything, may you say, "I will not receive it, it is not from God." Never listen to any man where the Word of God is silent. I have ever found comfort by it, blessedness by it. God has not said it, I will not believe it; I have no ear to hear what God has not spoken. By listening to the devil our first parents brought mischief in which we are involved. As soon as he got Eve's ear he dropped the seeds of unbelief and infidelity into her heart, and instantly it germinated there, and brought forth death. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Then they did not exist before. "God said, Let the dry land appear." Then there was no heaven nor no earth till God made them; and when the work was done it is said it was "in the beginning," so all that you hear of as before then, shut thine ears against; have nothing to do with it, for it only springs from the brains of mortals. "He made the sun to rule by day and the moon by night: he made the stars also." Then we are told plainly what they were for, "To give light upon the earth." God does not say they were to be inhabited by man and beast. God made the sun to rule by day and the moon and stars by night, for times and seasons whereby we may know days from weeks, weeks from months, and months from years; but not for men and women to live in; so anything above and beyond these simple, yet sublime, truths do not listen to. "O," say you, "there is no fear of that;" well, "I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance." (2 Pet. 3:1) Some are trying to persuade you to receive errors, and I stir up your minds, not because you do not know the truth, but because you do know; and that you may have these things fast in your remembrance when I am gone--that you may recollect what your pastor, according to the revelation God gave him, enforced, insisted upon, and entreated you to abide by; and if you then believe that God taught him, and that he is gone to heaven, you will have good ground to rest upon. Again, "We are not as many, which corrupt the word of God"--we are clear as to having any opinion of our own, or having advanced anything according to our likes or dislikes. God said to Jeremiah, "He that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? said the Lord. Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?" (Jer. 23:28,29) How I have admired that Word often--"Not by might, nor by power;" (Zech. 4:6) and to prove to us that the Word of God is sufficient for everything in the great work of salvation, when Peter is giving a simple statement as to what men are by nature, and what the Son of God came to do in order to save sinners, as he is declaring all the truth of God, what a savour of life unto life (2 Cor. 2:16) it is made to many thousands who cry out, "Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved?" (Acts 2:37) "The Word" wanted nothing added to it, you see; no persuasion of man. Again, when Stephen stands before the council, what does he say or do? Why, he simply rehearses the truth from the time of Abraham down to the day on which he was speaking; and, hearing those simple, plain truths, they were "cut to the heart, and gnashed upon him with their teeth; and, stopping their ears, they ran upon him with one accord and cast him out of the city and stoned him;" thus proving "the Word" to be to them "a savour of death unto death." (2 Cor. 2:16)
The Word of God tells us that "God created man in his own image (Genesis 1:27,) in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." (Verse 31) "And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good;" but as we see man now he is not what he was as he came forth from the hand of his Creator, for he was "created in righteousness, and true holiness," (Eph. 4:24) with will, power, and ability to stand and to do God's bidding; to walk in His ways; to observe His commands; and to love Him with all his heart. Then do you think that such a being as this would descend from a monkey! as some would have us believe, passing on from one to another until he arrives at his present shape and condition? Believe no such lie as that, my friends. God declares--and "we are not as many, which corrupt the word;"--God declares that man came from the dust, and that He Himself made him by His all-creating Word; (verse 26) "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness;" and it was so; and, moreover, as we observed before, "behold it was very good!" So, whatever you hear that is opposed to the plain statement of the Word of God, both as regards what man was originally and what he now is, you may depend upon it, is a lie. Do not listen to it; believe what God has said; He is a God of truth; abide by His Word; do not listen to the carnal, false reasonings of men, for their fallacious reasonings and science, so called, will all crumble and fall before the Word of God; as "the Word" justifies us we shall stand, and as it condemns we shall fall. It is not by the opinion of mortal men, or what they may say, that we shall be judged, but by the unerring Word of God; and if we abide simply by that Word, and cleave to it, we shall find it "a lamp to our feet, and a light to our path," (Ps. 119:105) and it will bring some heavenly refreshings, and some sweet consolations to our heart. The least letting in of sin--as we see by our first parents--is like the letting in of water. We know the beginning of sin, but who knows the issue of it, or where it may at last carry our feet if we follow any ignis fatuus of the mind, or intellect, or science of men? There never was a time when the child of God had more cause to abide by the simple, unerring Word of God than at this present day--this bold, blaspheming, infidel day--in which the truth of God is traduced, and man's wisdom set up in the place of God. The Scriptures say that, "By the disobedience of one man many were made sinners;" (Rom. 5:19) "By the offence of one we became dead to God;" (Rom. 5:17) sin entered, and death by sin; "so death passed upon all for that all have sinned:" (Rom. 5:12) this the Word of God declares, and Paul spake it in sincerity; and every one of God's sent servants will speak the same honest, plain truth, "whether men will hear or whether they will forbear." (Ezek. 2:5,7; 3:11) We are not a little gone only, not fallen a little, but dead; as dead, spiritually, to God as any corpse in our cemetery is dead naturally: "Neither is it in man that walketh to direct his steps;" (Jer. 10:23) he cannot lift up his eyes, spiritually, Godward any more than he can lift up his heart in desire. The Scriptures say that when grace takes possession of the heart we are from that moment passed from death unto life: "You hath he quickened who were dead." (Eph. 2:1) Does death mean anything then, or does it mean nothing? If it means anything, it is that we are dead towards God through the entrance of sin: "As in Adam all die," (1 Cor. 15:22) both temporally and spiritually, "the law entered that the offence might abound; but where sin abounded, grace doth much more abound." (Rom. 5:20) Here, then, is the solemn truth: men are dead in sin, so dead as not to have one holy desire, nor the least breath of anything spiritual moving in the soul towards God, until, born again of the Spirit and made anew in Christ Jesus. Thus, all our works, the giving of alms, the helping of our fellow mortals who may be in distress, in whatever way our charity may run, however commendable it may be between man and man, when brought in contact with the truth of God, all "partakes of the nature of sin." While in our state, by nature, all our works are but the works of dead men and women, and, as such, are corrupt and abominable and cannot be pleasing in the sight of God--"they that are in the flesh cannot please God;" (Rom. 8:8) all our prayers are nothing but sin; all our righteousness are but as filthy rags; (Isa. 64:6) and by reason of our union to Adam "we are children of wrath, even as others." (Eph. 2:3) Some of your spirits may rise up against this and say, "This is a hard saying, who can hear it?" (John 6:60) But it is the Word of God:--
"Say, Christian, wouldst thou thrive
In knowledge of the Lord?
Against no Scripture ever strive,
But tremble at His Word."
May this never be thy state and condition!
Again, "We are not as many, which corrupt the word of God" to please the pride of men, or to flatter them in any way; but let God speak, He has given us the revelation of His Holy Will and Word, and says, "He that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully," although men may find fault with it, and want it softened down; "If thou take forth the precious from the vile thou shalt be as my mouth." (Jer. 15:19) God has not to come with compliments to us; He does not ask us whether we like it or no; whether it falls in with our reason or suits our convenience; whenever God speaks His Word is with authority: "I am the Lord thy God; thus saith the Lord;" it never comes with a "preface," as men send out their books, by way of recommendation. O, no; God speaks out the plain, solemn, unmistakable truth, however offensive it may be to our proud minds, or however our carnal hearts may wince under it, and we may wish to put another face upon it.
Most folks go to the Word of God with some notion of their own, and you will find it difficult to take the Word in all its simplicity before God and say, "Now, Lord, I desire to know, to feel, to receive, and believe Thy Word just as it is, in all that it sets forth." But if you are enabled to do this, you will find it a saving Word to you, and it will carry you to heaven; not all in this chapel can go in this simplicity and honesty of heart and appeal to God; then there must be something wrong. Mr. Hart says--
"Lord, send Thy Spirit down on babes that long to learn,
Open our eyes, and make us wise, Thy body to discern."
I can appeal to the Searcher of all hearts, and may you do so too, that He has seen me hundreds of times upon my knees beseeching and supplicating, with streaming eyes. "Good God," I have said, "I am willing to learn, I have no notion of my own; I would have no will or thought but Thine; make Thy way plain before me;" and I believe if God brings you there, you will go to heaven; God has persuaded me, while I have been upon my knees, that there was something in my heart that was pleasing in His sight, and that is better than all the approbation of mortals; and as to the contempt of fools, it is but as the passing wind in comparison of the testimony of God. I want you to be walking in the truth, my friends, and that you may be found therein to the last; this will make you happy when you come to die, and it will be to my joy as I draw near to the grave; it will make your dying bed easy, and enable you to fall into the hands of God, and say, "Now, Lord, what wait I for? Truly my hope is in thee;" (Ps. 39:7) and, "Into thy hands I commit my spirit, for thou hast redeemed me, Lord God of truth." (Ps. 31:5) The Word of God declares that "we are earthly, sensual, and devilish," and in such a state nothing can be pleasing to God. Do not listen, then, to anything that would in the least respect place man before you as in a better condition, or that any of his works can bring him into favor with God; or that his prayers, reformation, education, refinement, or abstinence can be anyhow pleasing to God. These things are better for society, I admit; moral, upright, honest, consistent men and women are certainly more praiseworthy than immoral, profligate, vicious, bad-living men and women, but this is only between man and man; we are all on a level in the sight of God. Say you, "This is hard to say," but it is nevertheless true. I myself would much rather live near and have to do with a man who, as a neighbor, is honest, and whose word could be taken, than next a lying, cheating, vile, swearing, wicked, blaspheming one; but in the sight of God they are on a level, they are both alike, "dead to God," and the works of the one are no more acceptable and pleasing to God than of the other, in respect of salvation; nor will all a man's works and performances, nor all he may acquire from the teaching of his parents, produce one real desire Godward, or render him acceptable on that account. I dare say some of you may be ready to reply, "Then it matters not how men and women live." I have told you the truth of God, in the sight of God, and in all sincerity, and the things I speak I could die for, and should not fear that God would say I had spoken falsely in His name. O what a mercy to have the testimony of God in one's conscience; the Word of God clenched in one's soul, backing us up as we speak, as though it proceeded straight out of the mouth of God Himself!
Again, "We are not as many, which corrupt the word of God;" "By grace ye are saved," (Eph. 2:5,8) and this grace, my friends, is none other than God's election; it is the eternal love of God flowing forth to the guilty sons and daughters of Adam, who are dead in sin, cursed and damned by the law. Peter says, "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father;" (1 Pet. 1:2) and Paul says, "Whom he did foreknow them he also did predestinate," (Rom. 8:29) etc.; hence he tells us, "There is then at this present time"--as there ever was from the beginning and ever will be to the end of time--"a remnant according to the election of grace," and, "if it is of grace, then it is no more of works;" otherwise, "grace is no more grace." (Rom. 11:5,6) Put but one scruple, one grain, of man's work into it, and grace would fall down at once; all the noble structure of God becomes marred; the building of mercy, the glory, the richness, the fullness of God, would become defaced and spoiled, and fall about our ears in a minute. The apostle never minced it; he knew that men did not like it, but that did not alter his preaching; when he comes to show the absolute dominion and power of God in His choice, "Hath not the potter," saith he, "power over the clay to make one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour?" and what if God willing that it should be so, He will have it so? (Rom. 9:21,22) "I am that I am;" I will do what I will among the armies of heaven and the inhabitants of the earth, and none shall stay my hand, or say unto me, "What doest thou?" (Dan. 4:35) "What if God willing"--it pleased His divine Majesty, it is according to His divine sovereignty, His eternal will and purpose--"what if God willing to shew his wrath on the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction, or to make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory?" (Rom. 9:22,23) Then comes proud reason, the carnal man, flesh and blood, and dashes himself against this mountain of brass, crushing himself beneath the iron will and power of God. "Why doth he yet find fault?" "Nay, but, O man," I tell you the plain truth, the plain matter of fact, I have not corrupted the Word, or falsified it, or varnished it over; I tell you the mind, the purpose, the revelation of the Great Jehovah: "Who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay to make one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour?" (Rom. 9:19-21) God is my witness, my friends; I can say, with the apostle, "We are not as many, which corrupt the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ." The children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God, according to election, might stand; not of works, but of Him that calleth, it was said, "The elder shall serve the younger; as it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." (Rom. 9:12,13) Oh, what a stumbling-stone and rock of offence this is to thousands, and how many endeavor in the present day to pull all this to pieces and to alter the truth of God! But His Word shall stand, and they will find that proud, haughty man, with all his boasted sense and reason, must bow down under it, while faith only reigns here. Stand fast, therefore, poor child of God; in sincerity, as in the sight of God, I beseech you, stand fast by the truth of God, and you shall find "the truth to make you free," to warm your heart and cause you at times to rejoice in hope of the glory of God. But we must leave it for the present, and, God willing, take up the subject again in the evening.
In the morning we noticed that "By faith we understand that the worlds were formed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear;" and we found that it is well to abide fast by the unerring Word of God, which is too pure to deceive the simple; it can make no mistake in directing us; it is unalterable in its counsels, and faithful in its threatenings as well as its promises; and although infidelity abounds, and the pride and carnal reason of man are set up and made to rule in thousands of instances instead of the Word of God, yet it is by that Word we must stand or fall, and as that Word affects our state and condition so we shall find it, whether to our condemnation or our justification and salvation. We throw overboard the science of men as to the formation of the world, and cast aside the geology of some mortals as to the world's beginning, desiring to keep close to the unerring Word of God, saying, "Bow down, sense and reason, faith only reigns here." As regards the formation of man, too, we abide by the account which God has given us, namely, that man was made in the image of God, "in righteousness and true holiness," (Eph. 4:24) and that as God looked upon all His works which He had made He pronounced them "very good." We noticed, also, that by man's disobedience death entered, spiritually, temporally, eternally, and not partially only: "By the offence of one many are become dead;" "By the offence of one many are made sinners; death hath passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." Such is the death that has passed upon every living creature that has sprung from Adam, that not one of them can move an eye towards God in spiritual things, neither can they stretch forth a finger in anything that is holy, nor take one step God-ward: so emphatically does the Word of God declare this, "You hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins;" and what I understand by that is, that we are as vile and corrupt, and as abominable, as a dead body in all its filth and corruption. I do not wish to varnish it; I am speaking in the sight of God, before whom I must shortly stand and render up my account; in sincerity I declare, from what God has revealed to my heart, from the plain Scriptures of truth, that what I have stated is the true meaning and state of the case: we shall find both professor and profane meet at last in the pit of hell, without any distinction; Pharisee and publican are both alike before God. Then, as man is dead in sin, utterly unable to move in the least God-ward, as dead spiritually as any corpse in our cemetery is literally, what a state and condition sin has brought us into, has it not?
Then the Word of God declares that Almighty power is needed to raise such dead sinners; O what a sweet, comforting Word is that! "By grace ye are saved, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast;" (Eph. 2:8,9) and we noticed, in the morning, that this grace is the free flowing out of God's eternal love to the sons and daughters of men, "whom he had afore prepared unto glory;" as it is said, "I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy; I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious," Pharisee or publican, whether walking consistently and circumspectly before men or, like Magdalene, living in every abomination and sin; as Paul says, "The children not being yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God, according to election, might stand;" "He worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will." (Eph. 1:11) Your heart may revolt and your proud spirit may heave up against it, so that you may hardly know how to contain yourself under the solemn, mighty truth of God, but that will not alter it; you may kick, rage, and rebel in the stoutness and pride of your heart, but all this will be only as a china vase dashed against a rock, and yet the truth of God will stand, "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,"--no mistake about it; men may try to soften it down, or to fritter it away, but God will say, "What hast thou to do to take my covenant in thy mouth?" "My counsel shall stand, I will do all my pleasure;" (Isa. 46:10) "There is therefore a remnant according to the election of grace;" and, "Unless the Lord had left us a remnant, we had been like Sodom, and been made like unto Gomorrah;" (Isa. 1:9) yea, but for "an election of grace: we had all been left as these two cities, dead in our sins, and to have lived and died in that state, O how solemn! But O what a mercy if there be a real desire in the heart for God! If your heart has been broken in sorrow for sin, and a penitent tear has fallen from your eyes, it springs from grace, it flows from the eternal love of God toward thee: the dead know nothing; they feel nothing; neither can they, as we said, in their state by nature move at all God-ward in desire, in longing, in real sorrow or repentance: "Every good thing cometh from above;" "Of his own will begat he us by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures." (James 1:17,18) But for election there would be no salvation; being dead in sin and corrupt in the sight of God; everything men and women may do, until quickened by the Holy Ghost, "born again of the Spirit," and made "new creatures in Christ Jesus," (2 Cor. 5:17) partakes of the nature of sin; it is only done in the flesh, and, we are told, "they that are in the flesh cannot please God;" even the very prayers of those that are in this condition are sin in His sight, for "who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?" (Job 14:4) Then, as this is the case, what a mercy it is that there arises a light shining out of this dark cloud, showing us that God has an elect, a "number that no man can number out of every nation, kindred, tribe, and people," (Rev. 5:9) whose number and names are all known unto God, and are all written in the Lamb's book of life; while those whose names are not written therein will be cast into the lake that burneth with fire, and, although proud man, with his fleshly, carnal reason, may call in his wisdom, his buts and ifs and hows, his wherefore and his why, he will find the Word of God strong and powerful enough to crush it all to dust. Now, did you ever feel any desires going out after God? Is there anything of a saving nature in your heart? Is there an honesty of heart before God? Any sincerity of spirit, uprightness of mind? Any simplicity, any teachableness of spirit? Are there any longings after salvation? Any desires for mercy from a felt sense of sin? Is there any thirsting for or panting after Jesus Christ? Is there any real sorrow and contrition because of your shortcomings, failings, and misdoings? Then these are all from the movings and breathings of God's good Spirit in your heart, flowing from grace; for it is "out of his fulness we receive, and grace for grace;" (John 1:16) and not a drop of it ever did, or ever will, flow toward any but "the election of grace:" (Rom. 11:5) then what cause for comfort and consolation, and what a sure foundation for hope, has that man or woman who has been made a partaker of this grace in any small degree! It takes its rise in the will and Word of the great Jehovah; it flows to such through the blood of the Son of God, and is brought into the heart by the blessed Spirit, thus assuring them and confirming them that they are "the election of grace." I trust there are many present, before God, who dare not say but that they have felt this grace in some small measure; who have felt its power in "teaching them to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live godly and soberly in this present evil world:" (Titus 2:12) it has wrought something in their heart towards God that they never possessed in their natural state; and, although they cannot say much, there is something in their heart that no mortal man can dispute them out of; they still cleave to the truth of God, and are still saying, "Who can tell? peradventure God will have respect unto me." Ah, my friends, "he will never quench the smoking flax;" (Isa. 42:3; Matt.12:20) you may not be a bright and shining light, but the least particle of grace is a sure evidence that you are within the compass of God's everlasting love, and that neither the world, the devil, nor your own abominable heart and nature will ever be permitted to be your ruin. Some may say, this is indeed encouraging men and women in very small evidences of salvation. Well, we will see; I only want to show you that if you are made partaker of this grace it is "because God will be gracious;" it is "not by might or by power, but by God's Spirit," (Zech. 4:6) who has wrought in your heart, and He is "of one mind, and none can turn him;" (Job 23:13) "He will perform the thing that concerns you," and if He has blessed you with one particle of grace, He will crown that grace with eternal glory. Men may try to corrupt it, saying that it requires man's perseverance, and that ingenuity and a variety of other things must be found in the creature before he reaches the courts of bliss; but the apostle says, "We do not corrupt the word of God," and we say that--
"Grace will complete what grace begins,
To save from sorrows and from sins:
The work that wisdom undertakes,
Eternal mercy ne'er forsakes."
You can see there is everything in God's Word to encourage you, man; what can be more encouraging, or more strengthening to the weakest knees? or what can be more supporting or reviving, or cause greater diligence than to see the truth of God and feel a spot of grace in your heart? It will enable you to say, "I shall hold out and on; God has been merciful to me; God has chosen me amongst 'the election of grace;' I had a place in His heart 'ere the morning stars sang together'--
And this is better ground, and more solid, than all the free-will notions of men; yea, than all the false reasonings and judgment of mortals. God placed His Church upon a better bottom than these; better is it to build an house on a rock, however poor, weak, and mean the materials, than to build with the most costly, even with gold and silver, on the sand. It is declared that "the foundation of God standeth sure; the Lord knoweth them that are his;" (2 Tim. 2:19) and all that are His are called by Him; "Whom he did foreknow he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son:" (Rom. 8:29) he makes them partakers of His grace, and stamps holiness upon their hearts; "Christ formed in the heart the hope of glory;" (Col. 1:27) "Moreover whom he did predestinate them he also called, and whom he called, them he also justified, and whom he justified, them he also glorified." (Rom. 8:30) Then says the apostle, "What shall we say to these things?" Say to them! I think some, before God will be ready to reply, "What shall we say to them? Why, we will not have them." No, not they indeed; but others will bless God for the "things," and rejoice in the truth of them, seeing that there is "hope in Israel concerning them," although they may feel to be the vilest of men. So, you see, it is not by works, but by grace, and grace knows nothing of conditions in man or of the state of man, it picks up the vilest and worst as well as the cleanest and best. You can see this plainly enough, for it is said, "Unto Abel and his offering God had respect, but unto Cain he had not respect." (Gen. 4:4,5) How many of the wise and learned did the Son of God pass over, but He "must needs go through Samaria" to save a woman who lived in idolatry and wickedness, and pluck her as a brand from the fire, to show forth the freeness and richness of His grace; although she insults Him to His very face; but that mattered not to Him, her name was found amongst the number that Jesus must redeem. I have no opinion of my own, and I can honestly say before God I do not wish to have any opinion; but what the Word of God declares I am willing to abide by; what it declares I am willing to speak; and on that Word I rely; on it I rest and venture the salvation of my soul. The Word of God is more to me than all the world; I venture my soul upon the truths I advance, for if all the world were to be saved and I lost, what would it profit me? Now, can you say that you abide by the Word of God? is it "a lamp to your feet and a light to your path." (Ps. 119:105)
Again, what does the Word of God set forth? That "in the fulness of time God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." (Gal. 4:4,5) Then He was God's Son before He sent Him forth: the Word of God plainly declares it, but there are some in these days who say, and would have us believe, that Jesus was not a son until He was conceived by the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin. But we will not corrupt the Word of God in that way, for we say that He was the Son of God from everlasting: all through the Word of God it is declared that Christ was "the eternal Son of God," one with the Father; "I and my Father," said He, "are one." (John 10:30) Then He must be eternal; this is the truth of God, and all that you hear contrary to this reject. John, speaking of Him, says, "This is the true God and eternal life;" (1 John 5:20) "Little children, keep yourselves from idols." "In the beginning the Word was with God, and the Word was God; without him was not anything made that was made; in him was life, and the life was the light of men." (John 1:1-3) "He came unto his own, but his own received him not; but to as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God." (John 1:11,12) Now this Word of God requires no twisting; it declares that, "Unto us a son is born;" it needs no turning, and will have no perverting. He was always the Son of God from before time: "Unto us a child is given," and the name whereby He shall be called is "Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of peace." (Isa. 9:6) So, read the Word as you may, it speaks its own language, and tells us that He is the Son of the Father in truth and love; "The express image of his person;" (Heb. 1:3) and how could He be all this unless He were eternal? O how God blinds the eyes of those overwise ones, that they shall not see or understand how He is the express image of His person, upholding all things by the word of His power! "There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one." (1 John 5:7) So, whatever men may say, or however they may endeavor to lower the dignity of the "eternal sonship" of the eternal Son of God, do not listen to them for one moment. God has told us who and what He is, and do not you listen to any corruption of the Word by the cunning craft or ingenuity of men; abide by the unerring Word of God; remember that it is the revelation of the mind and will of the Most High, revealing the purpose and the mind of God in all things relating to our eternal salvation. So, if you find any questioning Christ's divinity, stumbling at His Sonship--if in any way they attempt to mystify or make the Word of God speak according to their carnal reasoning, do not listen, I say, for one moment. The apostle says, "That we may come to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God; he does not tell us that he is going to make it plain--it is "the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ"--read Colossians 2, especially 8th, 9th and 10th verses; also 1 Tim. 3:16: "And without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory," from whence He came. He came to redeem them that were under the law, and He never ceased to work until He cried out upon the cross "It is finished," (John 19:30) thus "putting away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." (Heb. 9:26) "It pleased the Lord to bruise him," (Isa. 53:10) "laying upon him the iniquity of us all," (Isa. 53:6) and "by his own offering he that for ever perfected them that are sanctified," (Heb. 10:14) so that when our sins are sought for they shall never be found. (Jer. 50:20) Then all the sins of thought, word, or deed, of the whole election of grace, were for ever put away by the sacrifice of Christ. "He died for our sins, and rose again for our justification." (Rom. 4:25) Who shall lay anything, then, to the charge of God's elect? it is God that justifieth (Rom. 8:33)--upon what ground? "It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again," (Rom. 8:34) and I would say, with reverence and holy solemnity, that if He did not put away all sin of thought, word, and deed, He did nothing. But, all honor to His holy and blessed name! He did put them all away, and for ever "blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us." (Col. 2:14) "All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way, but the Lord hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all;" (Isa. 53:6) and He carried it all away into the land of forgetfulness. (Levit. 16:22) "I have not seen iniquity in Jacob, nor perverseness in Israel;" (Num. 23:21) "Thou art all fair, my love, there is no spot in thee." (Songs 4:7) Paul saith, "That he may present his Church holy and without blame before God in love, not having any spot, wrinkle, or blemish, or any such thing;" (Eph. 5:27) holy and complete in Him. What a blessing that "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to all them that believe." (Rom. 10:4)
But this is what is preached now-a-days, that Christ Jesus, by His offering and death, has brought us into a "salvable state; but if it is nothing more than that, His death would be worth nothing to us, my friends: for bringing us into a "salvable state" does not work any faith in our hearts. "That," they say, "is opening the way, and we must follow it up; Christ has done His part, and now we must do ours." This is the current doctrine of the day, through the false reasoning of men. Christ died, and put away sin so far, while you are expected to believe and work out the remainder by your own merit and performances. But, to bring us into a salvable state, and there leave us, is preposterous; "he that believeth not shall be damned," (John 3:18,36) and if Christ died for all sin, he died for the sin of unbelief, which is a cursed, vile, and damning sin to thousands; but if He did not die for that sin as well as the rest, but only brought us into a salvable state, leaving it to us to believe, then it is just the same as saying to a man who is frenzied, "If you become a sane man I will cure you," just that much, and no better: Christ has brought you so far, now you must work faith in your own heart, and then He will save you. This is what they tell us now-a-days. But we say that Christ died for sin, and, "to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is accounted to him for righteousness." (Rom. 4:5) Grace is the gift of God, and if we have a grain of grace, it proves that we belong to the "election of grace," and faith is amongst the graces that the blessed Spirit works in the hearts of God's elect, whereby they are assured of salvation, because it causes them to believe in the Christ of God. The Lord Jesus Christ died for all sin, we say, the sin of unbelief amongst the rest; then unbelief can never damn your soul; the grace of faith flows from the covenant of grace for His children; so, if sin was not put away once for all, I ask, when will it be put away? The next time He comes it will be without sin, unto salvation, to be admired in all them that believe." (2 Thess. 1:10) If He had not put it all away then, it remains on thy head and mine; but, blessed be God, I believe it is gone, and that for ever; and that Christ is made to me "Wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption." (1 Cor. 1:30) He brought in an "everlasting righteousness, which is to all, and upon all them that believe." (Dan. 9:24; Rom. 3:22) God's electing love to His children is not the cause of sin in your nature; neither does it work any evil in your heart; not in the least. Salvation flows to them from eternal, everlasting love, in blessing them with grace which they had no claim to, nor any power to obtain of themselves; God, in His infinite mercy brings it into their hearts, and saves them because He will save them; as it is written, "I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy." (Rom. 9:15) Men read the Word with their own preconceived judgment and opinions, and make it speak according to their notion; they do not read it prayerfully, and, looking to the Lord for wisdom, say, "I am willing to learn in meekness; impress upon my heart Thy mind and will as regards Thy own truth." This is all thrown aside, and, as I said, they exercise their own depraved judgment, turning and twisting the Word to suit their own opinion; but this does not alter the truth of God; there it stands like a bulwark, to the confusion of mortals, turning the wisdom of men backwards, confounding and humbling their proud and haughty spirit. What a mercy it is for you and me, sinner, that all our sins are gone! as completely and eternally gone as though they never existed; so that "when sought for they shall never be found;" (Jer. 50:20) "He died for our sins, and rose again for our justification." Thus, we see, how "God can be just and the justifier of the ungodly" (Rom. 4:5) who believe in Jesus. "The government is upon his Shoulders:" (Isa. 9:6) "God has prepared his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom ruleth over all." (Ps. 103:19) How beautifully the poet describes this! (Gadsby, Hymn 64)--
"Sov'eign ruler of the skies,
Ever gracious, over wise;
All my times are in Thy hand,
All events at Thy command."
"His decree who formed the earth
Fix'd my first and second birth;
Parents, native place, and time,
All appointed were by Him."
How God showed His sovereignty in sending Nebuchadnezzar amongst the beasts of the field, until he "knew that the heavens do rule;" "By me kings reign, and princes decree justice;" (Prov. 8:15) "He setteth up one, and bringeth down another." (Ps. 75:7) Read, for instance, Watt's beautiful hymn on the sovereignty of God. (Gadsby 4, 5th verse)--
"Here He exalts neglected worms, to sceptres and a crown;
And there, the following page, He turns, and treads the monarch down.
Not Gabriel asks the reason why; nor God the reason gives;
Nor dares the favourite angel pry between the folded leaves."
We hear the Psalmist saying, "All my times are in thy hand;" (Ps. 31:15) and Job knew something of this--"He hath appointed my days" (said he) "that I cannot pass; and minutes that I cannot go over, seeing my days are determined by him." (Job 14:5) Yea, so fixed and determined are they, that our Saviour said, "Not a sparrow falls to the ground without his notice." (Matt. 10:29) One of the vilest things that ever was or ever can be done is said to be "according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God," (Acts 2:23) Namely, the crucifixion of His son; although the apostle told the Jews that they had taken and slain Him "by wicked hands;" (Acts 2:23) he does not excuse or palliate their malice and spite. What a mercy, then, it is for us that God rules and manages all our concerns, even the most minute! Now, just look; Caesar Augustus decrees that all the world shall be taxed; accordingly "Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered; and she brought forth her firstborn son." (Luke 2) "Then Herod sought the young child to destroy him, but the angel of the Lord warned Joseph in a dream; and he arose and took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt; and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. Then Herod, seeing that he was mocked of the wise men, sent forth and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and on the coasts thereof, from two years old and under. Then when Joseph heard that Herod was dead, he arose and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel; but hearing that Arhelaus reigned in Judea, in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, so he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, he shall be called a Nazarene." (Matt. 2) Again, after the crucifixion of Jesus, "the soldiers came and brake the legs of the first and of the other that was crucified with him; but when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they braken not his legs; but one the soldiers pierced his side with a spear; and these things were done that the Scriptures might be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken;" and again another Scripture, "They shall look on him whom they pierced." (John 19) And all this proves to us how everything takes place according to the Word and will of God. The apostle James says, Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and buy, and sell, and get gain: whereas ye know not what will be on the morrow; for he ought to say, If the Lord will we shall live, and do this or that." (James 4:13-15) Thus we see that the government is upon His shoulders; and when, and where, and how we shall die are all settled by His fixed decree. "Who is he that saith and it cometh to pass when the Lord commandeth it not?" (Lam. 3:37) How often we hear people say, "Ah, if such and such had been done; if we had but tried this or that remedy;" but the Holy Ghost saith, "There is a time to die as well as a time to be born." (Eccle. 3:2) How near was the Psalmist to death at times, when Saul plotted and planned against him, and hunted him from place to place; but he could not take his life. It is not, as some people say, "O, if we had but exercised a little more wisdom, or if our friends had only helped us, we might have got over this or that trouble;" the Word of God says, "Shall there be evil in the city and the Lord hath not done it?" May you and I then be enabled to drop ourselves and all that concerns us into His Almighty, loving, everlasting arms, and depend upon it we shall realize the truth of His own blessed Word, "Say ye to the righteous, it shall be well with him." (Isa. 3:10) Amen.