"Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and doctrine." (2 Timothy 4:2)
What an unspeakable mercy it is that God raises up and sends forth men to preach, and what a mercy that poor sinners can come and go to hear it; for how many places there are where there is none to speak the word of life, and where thousands sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, not having any to preach it. What follows? What thousands we see in this state, if we look abroad from this favored land! "It is a people," says God, "of no understanding; therefore He that made them will not have mercy on them, and He that formed them will show them no favour." (Isa. 27:11) Blessed are your eyes if they see, and your ears if they hear. We find the apostles "assayed to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit suffered them not." (Acts 16:7) There were no poor sinners to call. "They were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia." Therefore it is a comfort and encouragement that when God sends the word there is some good to be done--some sinners to call, a people to be gathered together, and souls to be built up and encouraged. Therefore saith Paul to Timothy, "Preach the word." "But," says he, "who is sufficient for these things?" "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God." (2 Cor. 4:7) Then the meanness of the vessel does not detract from the treasure which is in it--it remains a treasure, though in an earthen vessel, and the word of God though spoken by dust and ashes. What a mercy, too, that God sends forth dust and ashes to speak it, because, being subject to infirmities, they can speak to men subject to the same things. Let an angel come and speak it, such would be his lofty theme, such would be the glorious character of the great Jehovah, the praise and the love he would contend for, that we should cry out with fear and trembling, "Alas, we have seen God, and shall die!"
Hence God says, "Preach the word;" though it is spoken by dust and ashes, it is still the word of God. How simple, at times, is the preaching of it! Yet God makes it effectual in the hearts of those that believe; it wants no acquired eloquence, it carries the stamp with it, and proclaims from whence it comes by the fruits that it brings forth. If you look in God's Word you will find Jonah is bidden to go to Nineveh, that great city that is sunk in abomination, and "Preach," says God, "the preaching that I bid thee." (Jonah 3:2) Away he goes. What preacher can humble the pride of king and nobles? He goes round the city, crying, "Forty days, and Nineveh shall be destroyed! Forty days, and Nineveh shall be destroyed!" (Jonah 3:4) Is that all? It is the word of God; it is the truth, it comes from the great Jehovah. It was effectual for the respite of these poor Ninevites from destruction; to prove it is not the vessel, it is the word of God that does the deed. So we find when Peter preaches, how simple is his preaching, as you may read in the Acts of the Apostles, yet we find that those bloodthirsty men, that could set their mouth against the heavens, and lay hold of the darling Son of God, and cry out, "His blood be on us and on our children," by the preaching of the Apostle were brought to cry out, "Men and brethren, what must we do to be saved?" (Acts 2:37) You can read that chapter when you return home, and see how simple the sermon was, but it was effectual in them that believed, because it was the word of God.
"Preach the word." What is the word? "Is not My word," says God, "like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?" (Jer. 23:29) Let a man be stouthearted as he may, it will conquer the proudest rebel, and the most inflexible will. How it will reprove poor sinners, how it will rebuke them, how it will make them tremble and cry for mercy! Have you received it so? Have you found it to be a hammer? Has it broken your hard heart in pieces? Has it conquered your stubborn will? Has it made your stiff knees to bend? Has it made your heart tremble and your ears tingle with reproof and rebuke? What a mercy if it has; if not, you do not know the power of it. Paul said to the Thessalonians, "Our gospel came not to you in word only, but also in power; (1 Thess. 1:5) it threw down your prejudice, conquered your enmity, and made you cry out, 'Lord, save me!'" There may be some before God that can say, "I have known what it is to tremble at the word of God. How it has entered into my heart, and made me see and feel wherein I have done wrong, and brought me at His feet, crying, Lord, teach me! Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" Blessed be God for it; it has wrought effectually in the heart of those that believe, and you have found it to be the word of God; it has wrought that in you that nothing else could have produced. "If," says Paul, "there comes one into your assembly unlearned, or an unbeliever, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: and thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth." That is how the man knows it to be the word of God, because it works something in his heart; so he knows the word to be as a hammer--under it he falls, and fears, trembles, and confesses before God. Blessed are you that have found it to be so; for if you notice, Paul tells the Hebrews that the word was preached in the old dispensation, but it did not profit them because it was not mixed with faith in them that heard it. (Heb. 4:2) Not only is it a hammer to break the soul, but what else? It is light. "Thy word," says David, "is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path;" (Ps. 119:105) "The entrance of Thy word giveth light." (Ps. 119:130) Wherever the word enters, it is such a light; what pride it discovers! The word of God "is the candle of the Lord, shining into the innermost parts of the belly." (Prov. 20:27) Paul tells us it was "a light that shone round about him and them that journeyed with him," and shone into his heart. When you have been sitting before God, how that word has come and discovered to you this sin or that sin. You say, "What a fool I have been, putting darkness for light, and bitter for sweet!" (Isa. 5:20) Now what does the man feel? That "God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth." (John 4:24) Now he finds that the word is a light which shineth into the inner man. "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Cor. 4:6) So the man finds it to be the word of God--he does indeed; it searches him, tries him, and makes him see and feel what many evil things there are in his heart.
"Preach the word." I am as sure as that I am a living man, if the word of God has wrought anything effectually in your heart, it has wrought some of these things I have spoken of; if not, you may acknowledge it to be the word of God, because you have been taught it, but to you it is no more than black and white letters. The man that has found it to be the word of God, has found it to do something no other book ever did; no other book has conquered his spirit as the word of God has done; no book has convinced him of what is in his heart as the word of God has. "I have read many books," he says, "but they never conquered my heart, never enlightened my heart, nor showed me my state." If I were to go from pew to pew in this chapel, I should find, no doubt, that some of you have read the Word of God only as a duty, and you have not found it to do you more good than other books which you have read. The child of God finds it to be "a lamp to his feet, and a light to his path." Again, "Is not My word," says God, "like a fire?" What a consuming thing! When it comes into the heart it will burn up a man's righteousness clean; it is such a fire, it consumes all the dross and all the tin; it burns up his strength, it burns up human merit, and burns the man up as far as regards help and power in himself, and brings him into this place--"God be merciful to me, a sinner." (Luke 18:13) So the soul comes to understand what God saith of Joshua, "Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?" (Zech. 3:2) The man finds it to be a fire to consume his dross and tin. Have you found it so? "Ah," say some before God, "that I have! It has so burned up everything that I have many fears that I shall burn in hell." Never, sinner, never! "It has burned up everything that I trusted in," say you, "and it has brought me sensibly to see that I am undone." It has burned thee to drive thee out of hiding-places into which you have been driven by the craft of the devil. When Noah was sent forth to preach, the people would not believe; he told them that God would destroy the world, but they thought it an idle tale, till the flood came and destroyed them all. What is said in Scripture? Noah believed it, so by faith he "prepared an ark to the saving of his house;" the good old man believed what God had said, so he set about preparing a house of safety. People will not believe while they have health and strength; so says the Holy Ghost, "Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, with all longsuffering and doctrine"--never spare till death stops thy breath, "for in doing this thou shalt save thyself and them that hear thee." Noah preached, and the people mocked; till at last he went into the ark, and they believed to their consternation and woe. So it was with Lot; he went out, and told his neighbors Sodom would be destroyed, but they ate, they drank, they married, and were given in marriage, till Lot left Sodom, then the wrath of God came down and destroyed the cities of the plain. No doubt I am to many as one that mocks. "Nay, nay," say they, "it is not so;" but it is so. Wherever the word comes in the power and reality of it, the soul always believes it. No doubt some before God can say this is true. Then God says, "As many as were ordained to eternal life believed," (Acts 13:48) while, as I just said, to others it is only as the word of man. "Preach the word." This is the word, this is what it produces, this is what it effects, this brings the man as a helpless sinner to the feet of the Son of God; if it has not done this for you, you have not found it to be a fire.
Again, "Preach the word." The poor thing finds it not only a reproving and rebuking word, but he finds it a comforting word. He finds the word of God brings such comfort in his heart at times that nothing else can. At times when he is sinking in fear, and cast down with difficulties, it will bring such peace and joy in his heart that he will feel, "The lines have fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage;" (Ps. 16:6) "I found Thy word, and did eat it, and it was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart." (Jer. 15:16) He knows it to be the word of God. Let a man be in fear respecting his state and condition, he may take all the newspapers in the world, but they will do him no good; he may take all the literature of the day, and it will do him no good, it is all chaff, rubbish and vexation. Now if God has taught you, and you are going to heaven, you have found the word of God with such sweetness when in the midst of your dumps at times (to use John Bunyan's expression,) that it has brought you out of your trouble, and made you rejoice in the Almighty. "At times," say some of you, "I have been perplexed with fear whether it is the work of God in my heart; sometimes I have been so cast down about the troubles of the way, and God has dropped His word in my soul, and I have cast my care on the Almighty, and felt that He cared for me." Now God says, "Comfort ye, comfort ye My people: speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins." (Isa. 40:1,2) So God has comforted them by His word. Thus the sinner has found what it is to be cast down by the word, and comforted by the word; so he has found that word do for him what no other word could do, and it has made him say, as David said of the sword of Goliath (when Ahimelech told him, "There is no weapon here but the sword of Goliath,") "Give it me, there is none like that."
"Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, with all longsuffering and doctrines." That is what will do poor sinners good, and they will find it to be the word of God in life and in death, and prove the blessing and comfort of it to all eternity. What a blessing if thy heart can say, "Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth." I would say in simplicity, Do you know something of these things? "Yes," say some, "I am sure I do." Then hear what God's word saith concerning thee: "All Thy saints are in Thy hand; they sit down at Thy feet; every one shall receive of Thy word." (Deut. 33:3) Then say you, "I have received it in such a way as you have said." Then as sure as God liveth, before whom I stand, thou art a saint. You that have never heard it to be so, I will tell you what you will do; you will pull away the shoulder, and stop the ear, and will not receive the word in truth, faith, and affection. If I could show you what a light now shines in my heart, in the comfort of those that receive it, and the woe of those that never felt it in the way I have described. "They come," says God, "as My people come; thou art to them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words but they do them not: their heart goeth after their covetousness;" (Ezek. 33:31,32) it produces nothing, there is no fruit. "Therefore they have ears and hear not, lest they should be converted, and I should heal them," (Acts 28:27) saith the Lord. Blessed are your ears if they hear; it is a proof of being ordained to eternal life.
"Preach the word." What do we find in preaching the word? Christ is the sum and substance of the word. "We preach not ourselves," says Paul, "but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Christ's sake." (2 Cor. 4:5) The Son of God was preached in the Old Testament. God preached Him from heaven, when he said, "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head," (Gen. 3:15) and our first parents believed it, and found the comfort of it. When God proclaimed this blessed truth, up sprang hope in their hearts their faith laid hold of Him, and their expectation was looking out to receive Him. He was preached, too, by Abel in the lamb that was slain, as it is said, "Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." (Rev. 13:8) If you notice, although Abel thus preached Him, Cain would not hear it; how his heart rose against it; his heart did not receive it as the word of God, he did not find that word come to him "in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance." (1 Thess. 1:5) He was preached, too, by Moses, as the Son of God tells us, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:14,15) Therefore says Paul to Timothy, "Preach the word." "Well," as if Timothy would say, "how am I to preach Christ?" "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief." (1 Tim. 1:15) This is the word; here is mercy, comfort, and blessing. Christ came to save sinners; this is the word; He will fulfill what He has declared. "I came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." (Matt. 9:13) Therefore He says, "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." (Isa. 1:18) Where is the sin-sick sinner, the cast-down sinner, the devil-tormented sinner? That is the man or woman.
"Preach the word." What, tell such poor sinners as these (that are destitute, wretched, helpless, and hopeless, as far as regards themselves) that the Son of God will save them, and people heaven with such. "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; exhort them with all longsuffering and doctrine." Here is comfort, sinner; here is mercy, sinner; this is the word. If you look into the Word of God, you will see it set forth. When Peter preached the word in the way he did, there were some thousands cried out, their hands dripping, so to speak, with the blood of the Son of God, whose stains were hardly washed from their flesh. While Peter was preaching, their evil deeds stared them in the face, while the law in its curse rent their souls, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Did he tell them anything about absolution or mending themselves? No; he said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and ye shall be saved." This is the word: Christ came to save the guilty, lost, helpless, and undone. If you look into your heart, you will see, although you esteem the word of God, yet how little you believe it.
"Not the righteous,
Sinners Jesus came to call."
I have no doubt there are some before God feel they are sinners, know they are sinners, yet they cannot believe that Christ will pick up such, and take such to heaven. See how little faith you have got in the very word of God. "O could I but believe!" How the soul finds that faith is the gift of God. God says, "Come, let us reason together; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool, for I will pardon them whom I reserve." (Isa. 1:18; Jer. 50:20) "Preach the word." What does God say? "Thou hast brought Me no sweet cane; thou hast not filled Me with sacrifices; but thou hast made Me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied Me with thine iniquities." (Isa. 43:24) What will God do with such a people as this? "I, even I, am He that blotteth out your iniquities, and will no more remember your sins;" (Isa. 43:25) Then, as dear Hart says,
"Venture on Him, venture wholly,
Let no other trust intrude;
None but Jesus
Can do helpless sinners good."
"Preach the word," show it by the word. Paul was assured that God would perform all that He has said of Himself, and that the Holy Ghost would perfect all God said; therefore he says, "Preach the word," for it has such heights, lengths, depths, and breadths, that human reason cannot scan, and flesh and blood cannot comprehend. "Unto you God, having raised up His Son Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities." (Acts 3:26) Then to preach the word to tell the earnest, sin-bitten soul, "Christ came to save you; that He is the Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus." (1 Tim. 2:5) May the blessed Spirit work faith in your heart to believe it, then you will find it is so. Just look into God's Word, there you will find it so; may you realize it to your heart's comfort and joy. After this word had broken down the pride and prejudice of the great Apostle, burned up all his righteousness as filthy rags, and he lay prostrate in the dust, crying for mercy, Ananias came to him, and said, "Brother Saul, the Lord that appeared unto thee in the way hath sent me unto thee, that thou mayest receive the forgiveness of thy sins, and be filled with the Holy Ghost." Now Paul went directly and preached "Christ is the wisdom of God, and the power of God."
"Preach the word"--tell them the Son of God looks for nothing, expects nothing from them, receives them graciously, and loves them freely. "Ah!" say you, "I think it ought to be mixed a little, hemmed in and barred round a little; not so free." I will tell thee with all the freeness and completeness of it, poor sinners feel they cannot get at it, they cannot venture on it, they find stumbling-blocks enough without my laying anything before them. If you look into the Word of God you will find John says, "He showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal" (not a grain of the creature in it,) "proceeding out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb." (Rev. 22:1) Wilt thou mend it with thy fist? Pollute it with thy feet? Blush to think that thou art wiser than God; while God sends His gospel to poor sinners, to think that you would thus tie their hands that they should not get it. Poor sinner, if thy heart waters after it, if thy poor soul desires to embrace it but fears to presume, never reason more about it, believe, poor thing. May the blessed Spirit work faith in thy heart to believe it, then you will find it to be the word of God, and that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, to day, and for ever." (Heb. 13:8) If the blessed Spirit were to work faith in thy heart to receive it, you would find there is such completeness in Christ that you would say, "The one half has not been told me." Poor thing, thou that hast been brought to believe and receive it; now, says Paul, "Preach the word"--not only reprove and rebuke, but exhort in doctrine; tell these poor sinners that God, having given them grace, will give them glory, and that He will carry the work through, and take them to heaven. "If you tell people this," say some, "it will make them careless, indifferent, and stupid; it will make them very supine in hearing, reading, and in all other good works." Paul did not think so. What does he say? "The grace of God that bringeth salvation teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lust, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present evil world." (Titus 2:11,12) "Preach the word." If that word drops in their hearts it will make them such sober Christians, and will make them look wholly to God. Tell those poor sinners that have found and felt the word to be what I have declared it, that God will never leave nor forsake them; tell them, if there is a good thing in their hearts towards the Lord God of Israel, they shall come to their graves in peace. Can any of you feel there is something wrought in your hearts, that there is a longing after the Son of God, that there is a felt sense of your sin? What then? Hear from the mouth of the great Jehovah, from the mouth of His own servant, that you shall come to your grave in peace, that He will never leave you, and that He that has begun a good work in you, will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ; having wrought this grace in your heart, He will crown it with eternal glory. It is the word of God. "Ah," say you, "this seems too good to be true." Having wrought something in you, God will prove it true to you when your poor soul bursts through this body of death, and breaks forth to shout and sing, "Salvation to God and the Lamb!" "O the fears and sinkings that I have that I shall never find this to be true," say you. Thousands upon thousands now in glory, if they could but come and speak, would say, "O what fears, what sinkings had we, seeing and feeling what we were, that we should not get to glory! For the work was so feeble we thought it never could endure, but we are in heaven to prove it." Thousands with one voice would proclaim it in your ears and mine, if God permitted them to do so; but God says, "I have sent forth My servants to proclaim it, and you have My word for it, and you shall find it to be true; he that believes it shall be saved, and all that reject and despise it will find it to be true in their eternal damnation." May you and I find it to the joy of our hearts, and know it is the word of God.
How the word of God proclaims its Author to be divine; how different to all other books! It makes no preface, it offers no apology, it pays no respect to persons, but it comes with this divine authority, either in its commands or in its consolations, "Thus saith the Lord." We noticed this morning some of the solemn effects it produces wherever it comes in power. You may be ready to say, "Seeing it is the word of God, how is it that it does not do more execution than it does, as you and others speak it?" My friends, a sword in the hands of a child would do but little execution; but put that sword in the hands of a giant or a strong man, and see what destruction it will do. So with the word of God; in the hands of men it is as a sword in the hands of a child; but when the blessed Spirit wields it, breathes upon it, and makes it speak what it really is, the word, heart, mind, and truth of God, then what follows? As we noticed this morning, how it conquers the proudest heart; what a word of reproof and rebuke it is. How it will reprove a man for foolish talking, how it will rebuke him for tricky ways that none know about, and the man falls before it, and feels, "Thy word is truth." As we noticed, the word is not only a hammer, but it is a lamp to the sinner's feet, and a light to his path. The word of God is as a looking-glass, in which at times the sinner reads his heart, and he reads the mind of God in that word; this brings him to say,
As we noticed, too, this word is as a fire; how it burns up the false notions, of sinners, how it burns up all their self-righteousness and pride, free-will, and creature doings, and makes ashes of them. I am persuaded, sinner, that if the Bishop of Natal (Colenso) had found and felt in the conviction, reproof, and rebuke what I have in my heart by that word, he would never have doubted the authority and inspiration of it, but he would have set to his seal, "Let God be true;" and he would have felt it to be the word of God.
"Preach the word." As we noticed, the word of God sets forth "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and for ever;" it sets forth He came to save sinners. Paul was not afraid to tell Timothy he knew it to be so, so he says, "I charge thee before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing; preach the word," tell poor, ruined, and distressed sinners Christ came to save them. He will do it; tell them though of sinners they are chief, He will do it; though they may be cast out of men, He will do it. Though they have made God to serve with their sins, and wearied Him with their iniquities, yet being brought to see and confess it, Christ will save to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him; (Heb. 7:25) it is true, and will be found to be so at His appearing. What a mercy for us! Now we will pass on with our subject.
"Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and doctrine." Let them know all about it, practice, experience, and doctrine. Therefore he says, "Preach the word, and tell those poor sinners that have fled for refuge to Jesus Christ, that having loved His own which were in the world, He will love them unto the end." (John 13:1) Why? Because these poor things will stand in need of comfort; tell them though they backslide in heart, He will receive them graciously, and love them freely; though they may say, "It is too good to be true," tell them it is true, and they will find it to be so. Tell them if they have fallen among thieves that have robbed and wounded them, that the blessed Samaritan will come by and heal them, and pour in oil and wine. Tell them, if like the prodigal they have wandered far and wasted their substance in riotous living, they are sons and daughters still; tell them, "doubting God is their Father, though Abraham be ignorant of them, and Israel acknowledge them not. O Lord, Thou art our Father, we are the clay and Thou our Potter, and we are all the work of Thy hand."
"Preach the word to them," Paul says. "Do not be afraid, Timothy," as if he would say, "it will lead them to carelessness of life, and make them supine in the ways and things of God, because the grace of God that drops in their hearts will teach them to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts; the time past of their life will suffice them to have wrought these things." If there is a longing desire after the Son of God, tell them if they love His appearing, if they love to find Him in prayer, if they love to see His goings in His house, if they love His appearing in any way, tell them there is a crown of glory laid up not for me only, but also for all them that love His appearing. Therefore I charge thee before God that thou preach the whole truth, and then, he saith, thou wilt both save thyself and them that hear thee. You will prove yourself a servant of God if you tell the people honestly, for God says, "He that hath My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? Saith the Lord." (Jer. 23:28) As if Timothy would say, "But they will not hear me." "I know the time will come," says Paul, "when men will not endure sound doctrine; I charge thee before God that thou move not from it. Preach the word, whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear." "For the time will come," he says, "when they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears, but endure thou hardness as a good soldier, and preach the word, and it will be a comfort. You will save yourself from reproof and confusion when you come to die, and it will be a blessing to them that receive it. Preach the word, and contend that where God begins a work He perfects to the day of Jesus Christ." Here is a blessed truth, this is the word of God, which is yea and amen, and
"Our gospel," says Paul, "is not yea and nay, but yea and amen, to the glory of God by us." (2 Cor. 1:20) "Preach the word." Now in preaching the word Timothy was to contend for what the Son of God said, "Unless a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (John 3:3) That is as plain in the Word of God as that two and two are four. This is what Paul contended for when he said to Timothy, "We were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures." That is what every one of you were or are now; now mark, living and dying in that state, where God is you never can come, as sure as God's word is true. "Verily, verily," says the Son of God, "you cannot see the kingdom of God unless you are born again." "But," says Paul, "after the lovingkindness of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly."(Titus 3:4-6) Now says he, "Preach that word that men must be renewed by the blessed Spirit, for if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." (Rom. 8:9) My friends, what a mercy that while that word is to be preached, for you and me to set to our seals that we have felt it; we know it to be so, because in our natural state there is no meetness for heaven; we are made "meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." (Col. 1:12) We have nothing about us but what is carnal, and the carnal mind is enmity against God; (Rom. 8:7) then we have got no faith, no real humility, no love, no grace of any sort or kind. When a man is born again, he is brought to love God with all his heart. Now before he is born again, he sees no beauty in Christ that he should desire Him; He is as a root out of a dry ground. (Isa. 53:2) But when quickened, blessed, and taught by the Spirit of God, Christ is the one thing needful; and the poor soul is brought to say in feeling, "Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth I desire beside Thee." (Ps. 73:25) He is then "the chiefest of ten thousand, and the altogether lovely." (Songs 5:10,16) In our natural state we will not have this Man to reign over us, we will follow our own ways and do our own will; but when a man is born again, God's love is shed abroad in his heart. Now love being in the heart as a root, you need not tell that man--when his heart is filled with the love of God--what to do, and what to leave undone. O my friends, love will dictate to him, it will delight to please and gratify the object loved; this love in the heart will be just like a fire, it will put the soul upon such doings--it will indeed. The man now loves Jesus Christ above everything. Now he believes what God says of Himself, of His Son, and of His Word. Before pride compassed him about as a chain; now he knows what it is to take a low place, so he sits down to receive of God's Word, blessed with a simple mind and a sincere heart; so he has got some humility.
"Preach the word," and tell them the time past of their life will suffice them to have wrought the will of the Gentiles; they were foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures; but after the lovingkindness of God our Saviour rested on them by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, there was a blessed change wrought in their hearts, and so they were made plants of God's right hand planting. Now tell these poor things that they will have flesh and Spirit, unbelief and faith, coldness and love, up and own in their hearts all their days. Has the word thus wrought effectually in you? Has that word come to you as a savour of life unto life? (2 Cor. 2:16) Have you found the truth of that word brought into your heart, and thus felt that "God is Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth?" (John 4:24) Do you know what it is to be born again? The word declares that you must be; if you do, then you set to your seal that it is true. "O," say you, "I am sure now that if I had died in the state in which I was born, I should have gone to hell." How you try to show others by the word of God that there must be a change. Why? Because you feel it. As Timothy was to preach it, others were to find the truth, and so they will. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God;" (Rom. 8:14) and, "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of Him;" (Rom. 8:9) "they that are in the flesh cannot please God." (Rom. 8:8) What, not with all they do, in that they are circumspect and laborious? They cannot please God. Tell them without love they are a stink in God's nostrils, and a fire that burneth all day. What will follow? They will not believe nor receive it. What a mercy, my friends, if you and me are brought to receive the truth in the love of it! As we noticed in the morning, Paul said to the Thessalonians, "The word wrought effectually in you that believe." As sure as God liveth, as many as are ordained to eternal life believe it, receive it, and find it to be so.
"Preach the word." Another part of the word Timothy was to preach was not a very pleasant one. "Tell them, through much tribulation they must enter the kingdom." As if Timothy were to say, "This will drive them back, this will not be the way to entice, to draw, and to win." "Preach the word; let God take care of His own truth," as if Paul would say. What did Paul do? It is said he went round confirming the churches that it was through much tribulation they must enter the kingdom. (Acts 14:22) He did not go round and say, "Now you will have it all sweet, the devil will be bruised under your feet, the world will smile on you, and you will find it so easy and pretty"--no, no. Would not that be the way? "No," says he, "preach the word; try their faith and love." This is what will try it. Tell the man he will have thorns, briars, troubles, and tribulation in some way or other; tell them, "All that will live godly shall suffer persecution," then it will try their sincerity; others, said he, will turn away to fables. Now, my friends, in preaching the word I am to tell you that all that live godly shall suffer persecution; and the more godly you live, the more the world will hate you. If we were more consistent in talk, more godly in our ways, more heavenly and spiritually-minded, we should have more persecution from a carnal and professing world than we do. Tell the man he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow the Son of God through evil and through good report; reprove him where he comes short, exhort him in the ways that are right. When the word is thus preached, that through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom, how it will try a man's sincerity! What dost thou say now? As this is the word, "Narrow is the way which leadeth unto life," (Matt. 7:14) and all these things are in the way, are you ready to say, "Lord, I will follow Thee to prison or to death?" Are you willing to have nothing but Christ and His cross, take Him just as He is? The world cannot do that; mere professors will not have that. But, my friends, hear what God's people say. Agabus took up Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, "Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem do unto the man that owneth this girdle." "Don't go to Jerusalem," said the people to Paul. "What mean ye," he says, "to weep and to break mine heart? I am ready, not only to be bound, but to die for the name of the Lord Jesus." (Acts 21:10-13) Now says Paul to Timothy, "Preach the word; tell them that this is the case." Again: "The Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city that bonds and afflictions await me." (Acts 20:23) Will you have Christ, Paul, with nothing but bonds and afflictions? "The love of Christ constraineth me," (2 Cor.5:14) he says. "Now, Timothy," says Paul, "you will try the sincerity of folks' faith; tell them what they may look out for, and will find; if they are frightened and fall back, it will prove they are not of them that believe to the saving of the soul, but it will prove they are of them that draw back unto perdition (Heb. 10:39)--they will not have a religion of this sort." Mind, he says, "I charge thee before God to preach it." If you notice, by faith Moses saw it, so it is said, "he esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt, for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward;" (Heb. 11:26) he saw something above and beyond all this world. Just look, my friends, at the honors, riches, and pleasures of this world; how soon they leave us, or we leave them, but this treasure is more than our hearts can hold. Our heart is big enough to hold riches or pleasures, but it is not big enough for this treasure. Now Moses saw this; therefore "he esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt." What an unspeakable mercy if while I thus simply drop a few hints of what you may expect--tribulation of some sort or other, trials, vexations within and without--you are able to say in heart and feeling, "Lord, I will leave all, and follow Thee." Then the word has wrought effectually in you that believe. What, not daunted with these things! What, will you have it so, and esteem the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt! Blessed be God, my friends, if you have got such a faith and love as this; yours is the right kind, the true sort; you love not your lives unto death. When John had a view of the company that loved the word, and walked it out; when he saw them in heaven, the angel said, "Who are these, and whence came they?" John said, "I cannot tell whence these came, or where they sprang from." The angel said, "These are they that came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb; now they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple." (Rev. 7:13-15) O my friends, to be able to follow the Son of God through evil report and through good report; while the word insists that strait is the way, and you must find tribulation, to feel in your heart, "Lord, this does not offend me." Then says the Son of God, "Blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in Me." (Matt. 11:6) I have no doubt there are some ready to say, "If we are going to have trouble and tribulation, I will not have this religion till I come to die. Soul, take thine ease; eat, drink, and be merry; I will think on this when I am lying on a sick bed." God has not told thee that thou shalt lay there; if He hold His tongue when you make this vow, all your vows will stand. God in mercy prevent it. I will tell you what you will find--He will come in a day when you least expect Him, and say, "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee; then whose shall those things be that thou hast provided?" So then you will find that poor Lazarus has got the best of it, for though he had the evil things, now he is comforted and you are tormented.
"Preach the word, Timothy; it will shake them, and try them, and many will turn their backs upon you. Preach the word; do not spare for their crying, nor listen to their flesh and blood arguments, will, and way. In preaching the word, tell poor, tried, cast down souls that my God shall supply all their needs out of the abundance of His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." "What!" Poor Timothy might be ready to say, "are you sure this will be true? What! Tell poor things that have not sufficient bread from day to day, that have got the world and so many things against them, that my God shall supply all your needs out of the abundance of His riches in glory by Christ Jesus? They may live for thirty or forty years, what? Tell them that God will clothe them, and give them something to eat and drink?" "I charge thee before God to do it," says Paul. The righteous are bold as a lion; no yea or nay about it. As if Timothy would make a sort of stand about it, as when God said to Moses, "You tell the children of Israel that they shall have flesh to eat for a whole month." "Lord," says Moses, "dost Thou not know that the people among whom I dwell are a hundred and fifty thousand, and Thou hast said, I will give them flesh to eat for a whole month? Are all the fishes to be gathered together, or all the herds to be slain?" God never drew back His word one iota; He speaks, and it is done. "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" (Num. 11:18-23) David seemed to have a right idea of it; he did not make any haggle when Nathan told him of the greatness and riches he should possess. He came before God, and said, "O Lord God, Thou art that God, and Thy words be true; Thou hast promised Thy servant it shall be done, now let it be done according to Thy word." Now poor thing, here is a mercy for thee--that "the young lions do lack and suffer hunger, but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." (Ps. 34:10) Therefore the Son of God proclaimed the same, and said to His disciples, "Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? If you cannot do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap, which neither have storehouse nor barn, and God feedeth them; how much more are ye better than these?" (Luke 12:24) Now says Paul to Timothy, "Preach the word; tell the people God will feed them, and clothe them, and supply all their needs." He did not tell him to say that they should have their pockets full of gold, and money in the bank. He says, "I charge thee before God to do it, for God has made me realize it;" for when he was brought into close places, how God appeared for him, and sent him the things he needed again and again. He was not fearful that his words would fall to the ground, and might say as Job did, "Who will make me a liar, and make my speech nothing worth?" He had not the least fear about that. Why had not he? Did he speak presumptuously? Are we sure that he was not carried away with a false zeal? O dear no; holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost; the Holy Ghost made him speak it, because He knoweth the mind of God, for He searcheth all things, and knows the deep things of God. Having searched the mind of God, He worked this blessed truth and consolation into Paul's heart, so he spake as he was moved by the Holy Ghost. Therefore he says, "I am not fearful, Timothy, for any poor child of God; however low he may come, however his feet may be pushed this side or that side, whatever loss and affliction may await him and abound on every hand--preach the word, and tell him God shall supply all his need; I charge thee to do it. May God work faith in your heart to believe it, and comfort your heart with it." Ah," some may say, "I wish I could believe it; how easy I should lay on my pillow tonight believing it is true, to cast my burden on the Lord, feeling that He would sustain me; but I cannot believe it, I can see poverty, distress, and affliction await me on every side." "Though you believe not, yet God abideth faithful; He cannot deny Himself." You shall find when you come to die that goodness and mercy has followed you all the days of your life; you will speak well of God. As sure as you are a child of God, you will find when you come to the end "not one thing has failed of all that God promised; all has come to pass." "Preach the word"--that is the word; so--
Therefore he says to Timothy, "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and doctrine."
May you be enabled to realize the comfort, instruction, and blessings of it, and bless God that He ever made known His mind and will to you. God might have all these kind feelings towards you and me, and yet not have let us know it. He might have intended to do us good, yet kept us in darkness of mind to the end of our days; but God has been mindful of us, so He has remembered that we are dust, and made known His mind to us; so He says: "I have opened My heart, and told you My thoughts." Then God says, "He that has My word, let him speak My word faithfully; for what is the chaff to the wheat? Saith the Lord." (Jer. 23:28) Then saith He, "Cursed is he that doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully." What is to follow? "And all the people shall say, Amen;" they will say, "He deserves it," and will then bless God for His goodness towards them.