The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple." (Psalm 19:7)
WE read that "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be thoroughly perfected unto every good word and work;" (2 Tim. 3:16,17) we read, also, that "Holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost;" (2 Pet. 1:21) then we may depend upon the truth of what they wrote and spoke of, that it is "yea and amen." Every man and woman will find the truth of what they wrote and spoke about, either to their eternal comfort or their everlasting shame and confusion. May what is written be found to be on our side! for this is true--"Let the Potsherds strive with the potsherds of the earth, but woe unto him that striveth with his maker;" (Isa. 45:9) you may gnash your teeth in discontent, rebellion, and pride against the Word of God, but it will laugh at you, and at last damn your soul, take you by the neck and cast you into the pit of hell, unless you are made to receive the truth in the love of it. The Word of God breathes blessings upon the head of the righteous, while it peals forth thunders and lightning flashes of wrath upon every stiff-necked and rebellious sinner; and it is just as possible for you or me to move a mountain as to frustrate or alter, or set aside, one word of the great Jehovah when once "the word has gone forth out of his mouth." The Holy Ghost, speaking by David, saith, "For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven;" (Ps. 119:89) and that word is made known to the sons of men in His written Word, this blessed Bible. Again, He saith, by David, "Thy words are very pure;" and they must be so, they come from a Holy God who has no need to flatter or to exaggerate; "he is a God of truth;" "without iniquity, just and true is he." Yea, He speaks truth, without any varnish; He declares things as they are. He needs nothing of us, we are debtors to Him; and, as I just said, He tells us things as they are; from Him we have the plain, honest truth, whether we like it or not. The Son of God said, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free;" (John 8:32) and one of the prophets saith, "They that have erred in judgment shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine." (Isa. 29:24) "The words of the Lord are pure words, as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times:" (Ps. 12:6) O, here is purity indeed! not the least alloy, no mixture, no deception here; truth shines, and is so plain! yea, plainer than the natural sun that is now shining so brightly: so, in the words of my text, "the law of the Lord"--that is, "The doctrine of the Lord," as it reads in the margin: O this blessed text! the doctrine, that is, the Word, the truth of the Lord, "the law of the Lord is perfect!" You can add nothing to it, nor can anything be taken from it; there it is, emanating from the perfect Jehovah; it is perfect in its own perfection, declaring the thing just as it is. Now, what a mercy it will be for us if, as we travel along, we can see that this law of the Lord is so perfect and feel our souls to echo a ready amen to it! feel that we know it is true as far as we have come; that we have found it so, and can set to our seal that it is true; feeling and believing just as the Samaritans did, "Now, we believe," not because the parson declares it, not because it may be a doctrine of his--no, nor yet because it is revealed in the Word of God merely; but because we have felt it; we know it is true by the effects it has produced, we have "heard him for ourselves." Why, His Word has searched and tried us, it has shown us our state and case as plainly as we have seen our face in a glass; and none can depict it thus, none can show it us thus, but the great Jehovah. Every man or woman that realizes the truth of my text is at a point that it is true, and whether, at times, it condemns or lifts up, so they know, according to the Word, they must stand or fall; they know that if that Word which is so perfect stands against them in judgment, whatever men may say in their favor will be of no use to them; but if that Word should be on their side, they care but little what men may say; they have this unerring Word, the witness of God in their hearts, and "if we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater;" and if you have the witness of God in your heart, you have thanked God and taken courage; you have feared neither man nor devils; you have been as persuaded, at times, in your soul of going to heaven as though you were already there.
"The law of the Lord is perfect;" now, wherein is it so? What is the doctrine of God? Why, it declares to men just what they are; it makes no mistake about the matter; it does not flatter; it requires nothing of us, but God tells us the plain truth, however humbling and mortifying it may be to our pride; it declares this truth, that "our heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked;" (Jer. 17:9) that "the imaginations of our heart is evil, only evil, and that continually from our youth up;" (Gen. 8:21) "that in us"--that is, in our flesh--"there dwelleth no good thing." (Rom. 7:18) What, not after all the whitewashing of it? all the reformation? all our prayers and circumspection? not after all our good resolutions, our pious endeavors, and all our almsgiving? No, "in our flesh dwells no good thing;" but, alas! "we are earthy, sensual, and devilish." It is sound doctrine that Paul tells us, in 2 Timothy 4:3; and he knew the truth of this as well as any: "The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts they shall heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears." But what does he say in another place? (second chapter, fifteenth verse) "Study to shew thyself approved unto God; a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth," "whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear," for the time will come! "O, tush! we are not such base mortals! we are something better than such lustful creatures, such lumps of dirt as these!" And, my friends, we find plenty of preachers now-a-days who stand up and tell the people this; plenty of parsons, kind, nice sort of gentlemen, brought up at Church or Dissenting colleges, taught, we may say, like Paul, at the feet of Gamaliel; they would not think of insulting folks by telling them they were such vile, sinful lumps of corruption. O dear no, they are too gentlemenly in their manners to tell their hearers that they are as bad as the devil and sin can make them; they would not be so immodest as to tell the people that, "from the crown of the head to the soles of the feet they are full of wounds, bruises, and putrifying sores," (Isa. 1:6) not they indeed! Nay, rather than pollute their lips with such language, they would "deceive the simple and sell their souls for a piece of bread;" and the people "love to have it so," heaping up to themselves teachers like these, "having itching ears." But these teachers do not "hold forth sound doctrine," because theirs are not "pure words;" there is something of self put in, something or other of the creature; "From such, therefore, turn away." John says, in his epistle, if any man come to you, bringing unsound doctrine, not speaking exactly as God gives it, do not receive him into your house; be not a partaker of his evil deeds, (2 John 10,11) for such are wolves in sheeps' clothing. Young Elisha says, "Shall I speak deceitfully for God?" No; and why? for when the Holy Ghost comes He seals home the truth to the heart, and the man will feel, although it is to his condemnation, and brings thousands of fears into his heart, yet it is true, and it brings him to cry out, "Woe is me, I am undone!" "I am the man." Hence you will find generally that when the Holy Ghost convinces a man of sin, he thinks there is not such a vile creature in the parish as he; swarming alive as he is with all those things the Word of God speaks of; and he considers himself a reprobate, and the Almighty will take him and shake him to pieces. So, when God describes our state and condition as "from the crown of the head to the soles of our feet we are full of wounds, bruises, and putrifying sores," you may depend upon it, it is true; "the law of the Lord is perfect." How many of you can, by felt experience, set to your seal that it is true! "ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord." If God were, as by the sound of a trumpet, to call from the heavens, and say, "Stand forth, all ye who know this to be true; painfully so; solemnly, I ask, is it true or no?" I must come forth, as a witness, and say, "Good God, I am on Thy side; it is true, Lord, painfully, solemnly true!" "Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord;" and these folks will take sides with God; and I would rather be on God's side, though all the parish were against me, because I know that God speaks truth, and requires nothing but truth: He loves them that love truth, and calls them "children that will not lie;" (Isa. 63:8) and what will He do for these? Why, "Therefore He is their Saviour;" He will stand by them for ever. "The law of the Lord is perfect," just and true and right; it tells men and women where they are, by nature, in the sight of God; it holds up a glass to them and says, "Look at your picture and likeness;" and this will make them cry out, "Behold, I am vile;" "I have heard by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye sees and my heart feels these things." "The law of the Lord is perfect." Now, I will tell you another thing, and God will either make you believe it in this life, or you will have to learn the painful truth in the pit of hell, it is this: "Without me, ye can do nothing;" (John 15:5) "From me is your fruit found." (Hosea 14:8) We are just like a reed, shaken to and fro of the wind. Now, to show us our helplessness, see how sin runs in our mind, springs up in our thoughts, so that we cannot stop it at all! Then, again, thoughts of poverty, disgrace, contempt, or reproach; see how these things will shake us! the very thought of them, also, makes us as a reed shaken to and fro. Yea, if God intends to take you to heaven, you have been brought to join with Paul and say, "Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift;" but if you have not come here, you will not prize "free grace;" you will not adore Jesus Christ and "crown him all in all;" you will not rejoice in this blessed truth, that "he is made of God unto us, wisdom and righteousness; sanctification and redemption." (1 Cor. 1:30) You may have some notion of Jesus Christ in your brains, but He does not sit upon the throne of your heart; your notional religion is a cheat, for what Mr. Hart says is true--
and again he says--
"To see sin smarts but slightly;
To own with lip confession is easier still;
But O to feel, cuts deep beyond expression!
Then, trust not to joyous fancies,
Light hearts or smooth behaviour,
Sinners can say, and none but they,
How precious is the Saviour."
Thus you can easily see if you have a right religion or not. "The law of the Lord is perfect;" it tells you the plain truth, whether your flesh likes it or not; it does not pander to our appetites, it does not ask us what we like or what we dislike; God has no interest to serve; our life and breath are in His hands, either to take us to heaven or to send us to perdition. "By grace we are saved" (if saved at all), "and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God:" (Eph. 2:8) how plainly the Holy Ghost draws the line! separating as pointedly as possible, showing us that "if it is by grace, then is it no more of works; but if of works, then it is no more of grace." (Rom. 11:6) But it is by grace; and why is it by grace, Paul? Or I might go higher, and inquire, Why by grace, Thou great Jehovah? Because, as it is said again by Paul--"because the promise might be sure to all the seed;" "not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham;" (Rom. 4:16) so it is of faith, that it might be by grace, that the promise might be so sure that not one of them shall miss, fall, or come short, seeing that it rests in the power and will, and the eternal and unchangeable love, of the great Jehovah, to bring men and women to heaven. Now, the present system is just to bring in a little of the creature; just a something he must do; nay, in fact they make it, now-a-days, the one great thing. But Paul tells us, it is either by grace or by works; if by works, then grace has nothing to do with it; but if by grace, then works have nothing to do with it; it all hinges here; it must be one or other, it cannot be both together. O what thousands upon thousands are taught a lie today, made to believe a lie; to trust a lie; and, unless God in mercy undeceives them, they will be damned in that lie, "because they receive not the truth in the love of it!" (2 Thess. 2:10) How solemn that scripture, "God will send them strong delusions, that they should believe a lie, that they all might be damned that obey not the truth!" (2 Thess. 2:11,12) They turn their back upon God, and He gives them up, this is what we hear in the present day; and what thousands upon thousands will be taught and told it today! "Come now," "believe now," "receive the truth now," "be pardoned now," "and get peace at once and for ever, now;" but all this is only creature-work; it is only carnal; it is of the earth, earthy. How they lose sight of this fact, "By grace ye are saved!" "As the rain cometh down from heaven and returneth and thither, but watereth the earth, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth; it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and prosper in the thing whereto I send it." (Isa. 55:10,11) It must come down; then it is of no use for men to tell poor creatures to believe. Why, one would think that, by the way they offer these things, and tell sinners to believe this and that, they had these blessings to bestow instead of God; but "every good and perfect gift cometh from above, from the Father of lights;" "of his own will begat he us;" (James 1:17,18) it is not in the power of the creature; man has no more power to move it than to create a new sun in the firmament; grace, and grace alone, is that which saves men and women from a burning pit and brings them to heaven; but so little is this grace known, that the prophet Isaiah cries out, "Who hath believed our report?" (where will you find men and women that know anything of it, and that it is all of grace?) "and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" (Isa. 53:1) where is it to be seen? so you can see, my friends, how they are "blind leaders of the blind." (Matt. 15:14)
"The law of the Lord is perfect;" and how glad it made my heart when I thought of it this morning before I came here! I felt I did believe, base and bad as I was; with all my shortcomings, infirmities, unprofitableness, and the many and various things I daily see and feel, and have to mourn over, and for which I so hate myself; yet, with all this amount of evil, which makes me loathe myself, at times, before God, saying, "Behold, I am vile"--yet I did feel that there was a particle of grace in my soul; that I was made a partaker of the Spirit of God; that God had quickened my soul to eternal life; that I had received out of the fullness of Christ "grace for grace;" that I have had some touches of His mercy, that I had known, and did then know, what it was to say, "I love the Lord;" I dared not deny it, and I believe I had the witness of the Holy Ghost in my soul that it would be, by grace, to the end, that the promise might be sure to all the seed. O how sure I felt that I should go to heaven! and my eye and heart ran directly towards you as a people, and I felt how sure are these men and women to go to heaven also! poor, fearing, doubting folks as they are, many of them, yet they too are safe for heaven, because they have been made partakers of the same grace. How glad I was that it is "by grace we are saved!" and I felt that our God would neither deceive us nor flatter us in the matter, for "the law of the Lord is perfect," it is the mind and truth of God: and then this came to back it up--if ever you have had a grain of grace in your heart; if ever your spirit has melted before God in humility, and your heart has poured out confession to Him, being grieved for your sins; if ever you had a hope spring up in your heart that "with the Lord there is mercy, and with him there is plenteous redemption," (Ps. 130:7) or a real desire running out of your heart after Jesus Christ, which has been above and beyond everything else to you, then you will go to heaven. "Where sin abounds grace doth much more abound;" (Rom. 5:20) it goes beyond that all that sin can do; and "although sin has reigned unto death, yet grace shall reign through righteousness unto eternal life;" (Rom. 5:21) it goes beyond it--sin throws our poor bodies into the dirt and mire, but grace reigns to cleanse from all unrighteousness. The gift of God is eternal life, and that He gives to all His children. The prophet Ezekiel tells us that "If the prince give a gift unto any of his sons, the inheritance thereof shall be his sons'; it shall be their possession by inheritance. But if he give a gift of his inheritance to one of his servants, then it shall be his to the year of liberty; after it shall return to the prince; but his inheritance shall be his sons' for them. (Ezek. 46:16,17) Now, God gives gifts (natural gifts) to men and women in this life: to some He gives the gift of knowledge; to some the gift to understand the mysteries of science and art; to some the gift to transact the affairs of business; some have the gift of music, others, again, of singing; various are the gifts that God bestows; some may even have the gift to understand the doctrines of grace, and to preach them; but these are all gifts that God gives "to servants," and they all return to the Prince again: look, for instance, at our great statesmen, whether a Gladstone or a Disraeli, or any other such men, what gifts they have! but they will all return to the Prince at the day of death. But what a wonderful difference between all these gifts and the gift that God gives to His sons, which is "eternal life;" this gift "shall be theirs for ever," it will carry them through death into heaven, and will be theirs to all eternity. You read of the man that had the "one talent," the "one gift" (whether it was for statesmanship, making money, or whatever else it might be), of whom his Lord said, when He found he had made no use of it, "Take it from him and give it unto him that hath ten talents; for unto every one that hath shall be given, but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he seemeth to have;" it returns to the Prince; but unto those who had "the gift" He said, "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." Now, has God blessed you with any grace? can you trace out, can you come to any satisfactory, any solemn point, that God has wrought anything savingly in your never-dying soul? I do not ask you what you have been; for, mind this, grace is free; it knows nothing of what you have been; it has no regard to that; if you had been good you might look up and think you had some claim upon God; but grace knows nothing about claims; grace is as free as this:--just for the sake of illustration, suppose I was walking across the fields and, seeing a poor blind man, I drop something into his hand; the man did not ask me for anything, and if I had not given him anything he would not have expected it. So here are we; we do not ask God for His grace, because we do not feel our need of it; but, as we are hastening on toward the pit of hell, God drops His grace in our heart; and this works something in our soul sooner or later, just like the seed that falls into the earth, how it begins to germinate, how it begins to spread! it makes the man consider his ways; think over what he has been, and wonder why God should ever have regarded such a one as he is: now, he kneels before God in confession and sorrow: "Pardon mine iniquity," he cries, "for it is great!" the words of his mouth, now, are the feelings of his heart: "O to go to heaven! Lord Jesus, save my never-dying soul!" This, my friends, is grace; grace that will live for ever, and that will bring you by-and-by to heaven. "He fulfilleth the desire of them that fear Him; the Lord also will hear their cry, and will save them: that the promise might be sure to all the seed." God says, I will carry on the work: "The Lord will give grace, and he will give glory" (He will give them both), "and no good thing will withhold from them that walk uprightly." The apostle says, in writing to the Philippians (and he knew full well that "the law of the Lord is perfect"), "Being fully persuaded of this very thing, that he that hath begun the good work in you will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ:" how sure he was about it! and if I can see that God has softened your heart; that He has humbled you by His grace, and wrought a saving desire in your soul, how sure I should be in my mind that He that hath begun this good work in you will eternally save your soul from the burning pit! because I should know by this feeling in your heart, that, as "the promise is to be sure to all the seed," so "grace shall reign in you, through righteousness, unto eternal life;" and that not all the delusion, the sin, and the abounding errors in the world at this present time; nor all the power and craft of the devil, should frustrate the eternal truth of God; He declares it to be "sure to all the seed;" that it would be by grace; grace began the work, therefore grace must complete it--
"He shall bring forth the top-stone with shoutings of grace, grace unto it." Paul says (and see how he throws himself aside), "By the grace of God I am what I am." O what a comforting and blessed doctrine is "the Grace of God!" and for God to reveal it, confirm our hearts by His Word, what a blessing! So here, in the words of my text, He speaks to us as by a voice from heaven, saying, "The law of the Lord is perfect" (nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it); it is perfect, "converting the soul"--not by halves, but wholly, completely, entirely. "The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple." God Almighty grant, then, that you and I may be found amongst the simple ones!--But we must leave the subject for the present, as I have promised that, having kept you so long lately, I would try and mend my manners. May the Lord add His blessing! Amen.
IN the morning we noticed the purity and perfection of the Word of God; it knows not how to give flattering titles to men, nor to speak in the leastwise deceitfully; it never panders to the pride or the humor of mortals, but is a revelation of the mind and will of God to His creatures; it is unerring in its truthfulness, unchangeable in its doctrines, and faithful in its promises as well as its threatenings: it goes straight to the man; it knows nothing of distinctions amongst men; it declares the truth just as it is, whether men will receive it or whether they will reject it. It speaks plainly and unflichingly of what man is by nature; it opens up, shows, and makes bare his inside. The Word declares how men are saved; it points out most positively and decidedly that they can do nothing; and proves most undeniably and most evidently that "from God all their fruit is found." It declares that men and women are saved by rich, free, and sovereign grace alone; and wherever this grace takes possession of a man or woman's heart, it accomplishes its own work in bringing him or her ultimately, sooner or later, to heaven: not all the obstacles it meets with in the way--of which there are sure to be many--not all the impediments to obstruct their path in their way to the kingdom, nor all the subtleties and craft of the devil, can overthrow or bring to nought the work that God has once begun. See, my friends, how straight is the line it draws--if it is of grace, then man has nothing whatever to do with it in respect of his salvation; but if it be by works, then grace has nothing to do with it; but "that it may be sure to all the seed," that they may be certain of eventually going to heaven, it is entirely and alone by the grace of God. And I would venture to say, although I would say it with reverence, that God could neither see nor divine any other way whereby we could be saved; and because He will have all the glory, He will have no mortal put a finger to His almighty work. Does He not say Himself, "My glory I will not give to another, nor my praise to graven images?"
Now, to pass on. "The law of the Lord is perfect," in declaring that "the Son of God by his one offering hath for ever put away sin, by the sacrifice of himself," and by that "one offering" He hath "for ever perfected them that are sanctified:" (Heb. 10:14) they are set apart by God Himself, and, however great and many may have been the sins of His people, however base may have been their lives, whatever dark lines may have marked their course, yet "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin;" (1 John 1:7) God was pleased to lay upon His dear Son "the iniquity of us all;" and when the Son of God declared, with His dying breath, "It is finished," He meant what He said, that it was true: therefore, Mr. Hart, knowing and feeling the force and power of it, writes, very sweetly,--
"Holy Ghost, repeat that word,
There's full salvation in it."
O yes, so complete is the work of Christ that "he hath brought in an everlasting righteousness," by it, "which is to all and upon all them that believe;" seeing that "by the deeds of the law no flesh living can be justified," it is by the perfect work, obedience, and death of the Son of God, that "many shall be made righteous, for he shall bear their iniquities." When the Son of God expired, He "drowned all the sins of his people in the depths of the sea, so that when sought for they shall never be found." It declares that a man or woman brought to believe, however weak their faith may be, if brought to hang upon the Son of God, or to fall, just as they are, into His arms, crying, "Save, Lord, or I perish"--brought to believe in Him simply and singly--can never be lost or sent to perdition. This is the whole truth; it is "perfect;" nothing can be added to it, nor must anything be taken from it. "He went to the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth," (Rom. 10:4) and this faith, wrought in the soul by the blessed Spirit, will lay hold, sooner or later, of the Christ of God and bring peace into the conscience, and enable the man or woman to say, "I know in whom I have believed, and that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day (2 Tim. 1:12)--
And of those who are brought into this place the Scriptures declare, whatever men may say, that they shall be saved with an everlasting salvation; though their lives may have been never so base, and although they may have wallowed in sin all their past time--yea, "though their sins be as scarlet, they shall be as wool; though they be red like crimson, they shall be white as snow"--because they are "freely justified from all things." (Acts 13:39) "To him that worketh not but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted to him for righteousness." (Rom. 4:5) Jesus Christ has done all; satisfied the law completely; fulfilled all its jots and tittles; nothing can be found upon the man or woman; no, not even a "spot, or blame, or any such thing." (Eph. 5:27) "I have not beheld," says God, "iniquity in Jacob, nor perverseness in Israel." (Num. 23:21) So, whatever we may think of ourselves, we stand justified before God: Christ has completely and entirely put away thy sins and mine, so that they shall never appear against us at the Judgment Day. If He put them not all and every one away, He did nothing: the thoughts of foolishness that run up and down in my mind; the sins that run out of my eyes; the perverseness of my heart; the evil of my tongue--yea, every, sin of thought, word, or deed; yea, He has put them all away. O, what was wrapped up in that solemn cry, "It is finished!" I am not afraid to publish these things, not I, because they are the truth of God: the Son of God saith, "Ye shall know the truth;" and what will it do? Why, "it shall make you free," it shall deliver you from all trammels, and enable you to throw your guilty, helpless soul on the Christ of God, entirely and alone, for salvation, and bring peace and joy into your heart. As the Holy Ghost works faith in our soul, so we have "joy and peace in believing;" being "strong in faith, giving glory to God;" and "if the Son shall make us free, we shall be free indeed."
"The law" (or doctrine) "of the Lord is perfect;" that is what was preached from the very beginning. "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head." (Gen. 3:15) Jesus Christ it is that bruises the serpent's head; He it is that saves poor sinners--Jesus Christ, "the same yesterday, today, and for ever;" O, what a blessed doctrine is this! full of comfort and godly consolation to poor sinners brought to see and feel they can do nothing but "embrace the rock for want of a shelter;" (Job 24:8) that "Rock that is higher than they." We have thousands of fears when we look at our sins; O, when we look at our daily transgressions, what mountains they appear to be! how black and how filthy! but though they appear thus to us, they are for ever blotted out before God. When we read that "He hath for ever blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us," (Col. 2:14) it does not say that we have not committed these things--just the same as though you may run an account with a person and become indebted to him, it may be, in a large sum; suppose some kind friend comes forward and pays it for you; then the man blots it out, he crosses the book through; but observe, the man did not say you did not owe him the money, or that you were not liable to be arrested if it were not paid; no, he has it, or rather, he had it in the book against you, but, through the kindness of your friend, it is "blotted out;" or, it may be, through the kindness and liberality of his own heart he crosses it off the books and forgives you the debt. So the Son of God, when He died upon the cross, "blotted out the handwriting," "took it away;" and the law will never find it; nor will the devil ever find it, because "it is drowned in the depths of the sea, so that when sought for it shall never be found." How do these doctrines suit you? can you say "Amen" to them? are they a "breast of consolation" to you? do you see and feel that if it were not true there is no hope for you? and if there be but one jot to pay you are a lost, a ruined man? Now, you know that the religion of the present day, and especially just now, sets all this aside; they say that "the law of the Lord" is not perfect, it needs somewhat of our works and performances; it is all done but one thing. But, I tell you what, my friends--if that one thing is not done, we are all eternally lost, to a man; but, let them say as they like, it will not make God's Word of none effect; but such is the doctrine of the present day, which thousands receive and believe. May God Almighty undeceive them ere they die! "The statutes of the Lord are true and righteous altogether;" they tell men that they are "without faith;" that they are "children in whom is no faith;" they tell them that this faith is wrought in the heart by God, the Holy Ghost; in proof of which Jesus said, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me: and him that cometh I will in no wise cast out:" (John 6:37) that is the doctrine of the Lord; it declares the complete work, atonement, and redemption by Christ Jesus, apart and distinct from all creature doings, and brings salvation into the heart. Then it is a salvation worthy of God; it glorifies Christ, and puts honor upon the Holy Ghost for working this faith in the heart. Now, the Word of God by itself can do nothing--not that I would speak lightly of the Word of God; O dear no! I would rather say--
what a light it is to my path; what a "breast of consolation" to my poor sin-sick soul, bringing life and peace and comfort, setting me up when I have been down, making me cry out, many a time, "Blessed be God for His Word!" but the Word of God, by itself, just its black letters, will do nothing; or that Word spoken by the mouth of the preacher will do nothing; it is the blessed Spirit speaking in and through the Word that makes it what it is to the heart. There are many who have come to this chapel and have heard the Word spoken again and again by godly men that have preached the Word plainly and truthfully, as far as God has enabled them, but there they are still in that unregenerate state they were in twenty years ago; just the same men and women; no change whatever; and if I were to ask them closely and individually, "What do you know savingly, truly, powerfully, of the things you have heard from year to year?" I have no doubt, if they spoke truly, they would answer, "We know nothing; we believe those things that are spoken are true, but we cannot say we ever felt their divine power; or that they have changed our hearts; we are just the same as we ever were." The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;" that is what it will do in the hands of the blessed Spirit. I know that men may bring others over to their views and their system, but that is not converting--O dear no! they may bring men over to their views, their system, their sect, or party, but that is a far different thing to "converting the soul." O, my friends, the Word of God converts very differently from this! Why, there was a minister I knew, who had been in the Church of England for some years, and the only conversion he said he ever knew of was to bring a man over from Romanism to his Church; that is what I call bringing him away from the mother to the daughter; as far as I can judge, that is about the relationship in which they stand to each other; I cannot see any bettermost between them. The Pope, as you all know, is the head of the Church of Rome; then he has his cardinals, priests, and so forth; and the Church of England has the Queen at her head; and under her are the archbishops, bishops, priests, etc, just the same as the Church of Rome; and you need only turn into plenty of the "established churches," and there you will see the daughter arraying herself in all the clothes of her mother, the Romish Church; yea, and in many places out-vicing her mother in the gaudiness of her attire, dressing herself up and trying to pass herself off as something in the eyes of the people. The Papists may bring people over to their system, but at most they do but make them Roman Catholics; the Church of England, in like manner, can only make men "churchmen;" the Wesleyans may induce men to become "free-will thinkers," but they are only "Wesleyans;" so, also, the Plymouth Brethren, and so we Baptists--indeed, whatever "denomination" we may name, it matters not, it is only gaining men over from one system to another. But where the "Word of the Lord" lays hold of a sinner's heart and changes it, it does not convert him to any certain system or any particular sect or party. When the Holy Spirit breathes eternal life into a man's heart and brings him from "darkness to light," he has something else to think about than what sect he will join, or what system he will conform to; he is awakened to his state before God, and what concerns him now is the salvation of his never-dying soul. Where the Scriptures lay hold of a man or woman's heart, there you will see the impress of the Scripture upon the heart and mind. Now, you will see what the Scriptures contend for and what they enforce evidenced by and in this man or woman: "Whom he did foreknow, them he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his son;" (Rom. 8:29) yea, the man is now "conformed to the image of Christ;" he was walking in darkness and loved darkness, but now he is in the light, and loves the light; he was "the servant of sin," but now he is the "servant of Jesus Christ:" now he is really changed in heart; not merely changed in notion and opinion; no, it is passing from death unto life, it is transforming him into a new life: now he grieves at sin, now he loves holiness; now he loves Jesus Christ; now he loves to be in the company of the saints of God. It is "the grace of God" that has converted him: the grace of God, which hath brought salvation, has taught him that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, he should, now from henceforth, live godly, soberly, and righteously in this present evil world. "Why," say you, "that is a Bible man, indeed!" Well, then you see in him the image of God; it is stamped upon his heart; the Spirit of God is now evident in his life, walk, conduct, and conversion: now, "the time past of his life sufficeth him to have wrought the will of the Gentiles."
Now, my friends, has the Word of God wrought this change in your heart? "The tree is known by its fruit," and this is how you may know whether the man or woman is really "converted:" if it has touched your heart, it has brought you, in some measure, to feel that "whereas you were blind, now you see." It is said of the great apostle, that when they heard that Paul was about to join himself to the disciples, oh, they were all afraid of him! but Barnabas took him by the hand and brought him to them, and declared to the disciples what God had wrought in him; and then how glad they were! I do trust some of you can look within and find that grace has wrought such a change in your heart and soul that you are not what you once were. I remember reading, about one of "the Fathers," when God laid hold of his heart and wrought a change there, the Papists taunted him with his former life, and, as we say, threw his old sinful practices in his teeth--"What a vain life he had lived!" "What sin and folly he had committed!" "But," said he, "it is not because these things trouble you--what I did formerly, how I wrought folly, and lived in sin; this does not trouble you, but you hate the grace that God has given me." That is it, my friends, grace had, by the Word of God, it has done the same for you; and if you profess that it has, then I shall say, "Let me look at your image and likeness;" because, you know, we say, "Like priest, like people." If God is the Author of your salvation, then you will be transformed into His image, His likeness; if the Holy Ghost has wrought a saving change, then there will be the fruit and effect of His work, "Christ formed in your heart the hope of glory;" then I shall see the things of God flow out from your heart, lip, and life. "Be not deceived, God is not mocked; whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap," whether to the flesh or to the spirit. Nothing can convert the soul but the glorious truths of God; the saving grace and the work of the Son of God; the almighty power of God the Holy Ghost: then there is the image of God in this converted man; and he himself is favored at times to see his likeness in the Word of God, and in the preaching of that Word too: when it is held up like a glass before him, the man says, "It is I; why, I can see my likeness and the image and work of God in the effects it has produced; why, surely I have the fruits of the Spirit such as these, love, joy, meekness, temperance, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith; and against such there is no law." (Gal. 5:22,23) Paul says, "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Gal. 2:20) O what a mercy to know something of the Word of God! it produces what no "system" can produce; no Pope or Papist, no church or chapel parson can produce; nor is it bringing the man from one system to another, but it is "forming him anew;" and if it has not done this for you, in some measure, it has done nothing--"you are yet in your sins;" but if the Word has indeed laid hold of your heart, it has changed you; you are not now the man or woman you once were.
"The testimonies of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple." Yes, they are sure indeed. "By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him; for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God." (Heb. 11:5) Now, have you such a testimony, that you please God? I should be very sorry if I had none--such a poor, barren creature as I am, and so unprofitable as I feel myself to be, with such a bad heart as mine is; yet I do believe I know of the testimonies of the Lord, that they are sure. David says, "Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever; they are the rejoicing of my heart:" (Ps. 119:111) these I can abide by; hold fast to, cleave to: I have the testimony and witness of the Holy Ghost in my heart; I have a hope in the mercy of God; a faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; it has been wrought and confirmed in my heart, and this testimony is my heritage for ever. Hearken! "Thy testimonies do I love:" I do not wonder at it, David; how I love these testimonies! O to have a little bright shining, a little softening, a little comforting, a little faith running out, bringing something in--a sweet feeling that God has wrought something in my soul! Yea, I believe I love God's testimonies as much as ever David did; and you will love them just the same if the salvation of your soul is everything to you. Again, David says, "Thy testimonies are my delight; they are my counsellors:" now, I will listen to what they say; they speak well to me; they are my counsellors. These testimonies are very sure; they will not lead you astray; you may listen to them; you may bring them to God, to have them confirmed in your soul. O, these things must be made so plain! "The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour:" there was a testimony, but poor Gideon was so oppressed by unbelief and fear that he wanted it clenched in his soul--"If the Lord be with me." O what a different religion to that of the present day! Those who are just now making such a stir about faith, about accepting salvation and becoming happy once and for all, would not have moved poor Gideon. You go to them and tell them what you feel. "O," they would say, "we want no more of your words." Ah, my friends, they have never been convinced of unbelief, or they would not mock poor souls by telling them to do what they cannot do; by telling them to pay when they have no money to pay with. "Wherewith shall I save Israel? if thou wilt save them by mine hand, let me have a sure testimony. David said, "Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope;" (Ps. 119:49) and, without my going further into the subject, you know how many times he wanted, as we may say, "the fleece to be wet, and the fleece to be dry." O these testimonies, they are so sure, rejoicing the heart! Now, my friends, you look to it; you turn it over again and again, and if you can feel that it is from God, that it is the finger of God, the work of God in your heart, I tell you it will stand fast; not all your unbelief can move it; not all the lies and power of the devil can destroy it. The hope that God has wrought in your soul, whatever God has spoken to your heart, is as a "nail in a sure place;" (Isa. 22:23) God has done it "that you may fear before him." "I know," said the Preacher (Eccelsiastes 3:14)--I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever; nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him." And nothing will satisfy your heart but to have the power of God felt within; and let the testimony of God shine in your soul, it will show you more in five minutes than you can learn of mortals in as many years--yea, it will show you the grace of God, the way that God saves sinners and all the things that appertain to the kingdom of God, far more clearly, fully, sweetly, and blessedly, than ever you could learn in all the colleges in the world all the days of your life. Therefore, say the words of my text, "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple." God grant, in mercy, that you may prove it so! Amen.