"Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away." (Isaiah 51:11)
When we look at this world, and at the men and women upon it, with the sins that have overspread it, and they are infected by, we may indeed cry out, "O Adam, what hast thou done?" It is said, the tree was pleasant to the eye, good for food, and a tree to be desired to make one wise; therefore we find Adam partook thereof, and, but for matchless grace, had damned his own soul and all the world besides, for God had forbidden him to eat of it. "By one man's disobedience many were made sinners." (Rom. 5:19) "Sin entered, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." (Rom. 5:12) Thus he sold us into the hands of the Devil. We may indeed say, in the salvation of the millions that are saved, in the brands that have been plucked from the fire, (Zech. 3:2) and in the salvation of each and all that get to heaven, "Lord Jesus, what hast Thou not done?" to leave a glorious throne, and climb a shameful cross, to save us from that hell which our sins deserved. Therefore say the words of my text, "The redeemed of the Lord." So there is a redemption whereby they are brought back. We sold ourselves for naught, for it was for an fruit, but we are redeemed "without money and without price." (Isa. 55:1)
Now it is declared, "No man can redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him," (Ps. 49:7) therefore it ceased for ever. Now unless the blessed Son of God is God as well as man, there is no more hope of you and me going to heaven than there is of devils; but, blessed be the name of the Lord, He has declared when speaking of Himself, "It is I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save;" (Isa. 63:1) "Mine own arm hath brought salvation unto Me; and My fury it upheld Me." (Isa. 63:5) Therefore Peter says, "Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ," (1 Peter 1:18,19) God's eternal and everlasting Son ("I and My Father are one") the co-eternal, co-equal Son of the everlasting and eternal God. Therefore says the Holy Ghost by Paul, "Feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood." (Acts 20:28) God and man are so blessedly and mysteriously united, that while God had no blood to shed, God and man are so united in one Person, that it is said to be the blood of God; stamping such virtue on it that one drop of that blood can cleanse millions of sins. "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all our sins." (1 John 1:7) God hath declared, "This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him." (Matt. 17:5) What a redemption! What a sandy foundation, what a ruinous building, do all Socinians and Unitarians rest on! "On this Rock will I build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matt. 16:18) See what the redemption is; "not redeemed with corruptible things," they would not touch it; sin is against God, it touches His majesty. Therefore, "ye are not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot;" for it is said, "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) Therefore the Psalmist says, "O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy endureth for ever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy." (Ps. 107:2) They must; if they did not say so, the very stones would cry out against them. "And gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south." (Ps. 107:3) This made David break out in such joyful feelings, "Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies." (Ps. 103:4) Then John, in the book of Revelation, tells us that he heard a song, and he says, "None could sing that song, but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth." (Rev. 14:3) What was the song? "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, to Him be glory, might, majesty, and dominion." (Rev. 1:5,6) None could sing it but they; His love had run towards them. Therefore you see redemption is no longer than election; the length is the same as the breadth; this city is foursquare. Therefore says Paul, "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) What a blessed change! How certain are the things of God! no chance here. You will see redemption reaches to the whole line of election. You hear the blessed Son of God say, "Behold, I and the children whom God hath given Me; (Heb. 2:13) not one of them is lost, but the son of perdition;" "All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out." (John 6:37) Look at the certainty of the thing. My text speaks Divine certainties; I should have no desire nor heart to preach if it were not so. I know that sin has got such a hold upon men's hearts, that nothing short of redeeming power and boundless mercy will break the cord and set them free. We find a Divine certainty in my text, "Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return."
Now it is said, "He shall redeem their souls from deceit and violence, and precious shall their blood be in His sight." (Ps. 72:14) As I said just now, they sold themselves for naught, but they shall be redeemed without money and without price. "He shall redeem their souls from deceit." This is the deceit every man and woman is held with. I was held with this; I thought God was so merciful that if at any time I turned to Him, and said, "Lord, have mercy on me," that He would save me, so I had no regard to His justice and holiness. Now He is a just God as well as a Saviour; therefore, His justice must be satisfied before mercy can flow. Sin has so captivated our hearts, it has brought such hardness of spirit, and we are born in and live in unbelief, that the Son of God has got to redeem us from these things; to redeem us from sin, to take away the veil of ignorance from our understanding, to work faith in our souls, and to overcome us in this way.
"This heart I bought with blood, He says,
And now it shall be Mine."
When He laid hold of the great Apostle, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" He said, "Go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do." He said to Ananias, "Go to Saul, for he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles." If God by His grace and power has laid hold of your heart, you read that there is a "time to favour Zion;" (Ps. 102:13) when that time comes He girds His sword on His thigh, and goes forth conquering and to conquer. O the pity in the blessed Son of God to our cursed souls, as we lay under the law! The law holds us fast, and sin has got such a hold on us; God's love and pity move his heart, so the blessed Spirit comes, opening our eyes. The man brings to say, "What a bad place I am in!" As he sees he has sinned against a holy God it fills him with sad forebodings; then he finds a hard heart, unbelief lays hold of him, and these things bring fear and trouble in his heart. Now I would ask you, has the blessed Son of God laid hold of your heart by His grace and power redeemed you from the delusions in which you were, and brought you out from the love and practice of sin? This is what He redeems us from; if He has not redeemed you from these, you are not redeemed by Him. He will redeem you from the love of sin, from the power of sin, and from the practice of sin. We are sold under sin. Now when the blessed Spirit comes, in the day of the Lord's power, to redeem us, He delivers us from the love of sin, and shows us the evil there is in it. Sin has got something in it so pleasing and taking to a natural man; there are such pleasures, profits, and gains in it. If there are any here before God that the Son of God has not laid hold of, not all the ministers in the world could make such turn their backs to sin. I have seen men shed tears when I have talked to them of the fearful consequences of sin, and of the blessedness of getting to heaven and shining among the angels, yet they could not leave their sins. I have seen men walk up and down in my own house in fear and trembling, crying out, "I shall be damned;" but they never left their sins. There is something so fascinating, so winning, and alluring in the world, to a carnal man, that he cannot let it go. These are his thoughts: when he cannot serve these things any longer, then he means to love God; he has no desire in his natural state to be hold till his bones are cold. Now if the blessed Son of God has laid hold of your heart, He has delivered you from the love of the things you were pleased with before; He has delivered you from the power of the things which held you captive, and he has turned your feet another way. If the blessed Son of God has redeemed you, and it is made manifest, you are not the man you were, you have different views of yourself; at times you stink in your own nostrils, you have such a sight of yourself that you think your sins are worse than other folks', and if they knew as much about you as you know of yourself they would have a very different opinion of you to what they now have. Your cry is, "Keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me." You cannot sit with drunkard, nor lie with the jester, nor swear with a trooper; you are spoiled for that. If there is nothing done for you, wherein do you differ from the rest of the world?
"The redeemed of the Lord." It is said, "They shall call them The holy people, the redeemed of the Lord; and thou shalt be called, Sought out, a city not forsaken." (Isa. 62:12) See what names they have! Now what a mercy thus to be redeemed from sin, to realize the forgiveness of sin, and that "with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption." (Ps. 130:7) I do not care what you have been, if you have been as vile as the thief, or as full of filth like Mary Magdalene, if the blessed Spirit lays hold of your heart, you will sing, "To Him that loved me, and washed me from my sins in His own blood." (Rev. 1:5) See what we are redeemed from. It is from sin, from death, from hell, from destruction! "No man can redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him." What it cost the blessed Son of God thus to redeem us! You will find wherever the blessed Spirit applies that peace-speaking blood to your heart, you will say, "Good God, I am clean." When the Son of God died He "put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself," and brought in an "everlasting righteousness, which is to all and upon all them that believe." Christ is "made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption." (1 Cor. 1:30) You can look for a minute at what it cost; turn your eyes to the garden of Gethesemane, and there see God's Eternal Son:--
"Backwards and forwards thrice He ran,
As if He sought some help from man;
Or wished, at least, they would condole
('Twas al they could) His tortured soul.
What'er He sought for, there was none;
Our Captain fought the field alone;
Soon as the Chief to battle led,
That moment every soldier fled."
Yes, my friends, see Him prostrate in the garden; see God's Eternal Son, who held up heaven and earth, who is the song of angels and the joy of the saints, hear Him saying, "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. (Matt. 26:39) all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels;" (Ps. 22:14) Had He been spared we must have fallen. To show how complete redemption is, He cried on the cross, "It is finished," and gave up the ghost. (John 19:30) "Who was delivered up for our offences, and was raised again for our justification." (Rom. 4:25) and in His good time He sends the blessed Spirit to those His blood has redeemed, to bring them over to Himself. "He shall redeem their souls from deceit and violence." (Ps. 72:14) What violence? Why, from the devil who holds us fast. All your efforts to release yourself are of no effect; therefore, the Son of God says, "I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children." (Isa. 49:25) The strong man armed keepeth possession; he was, or is now, in possession of every one of us. "When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace; but when a stronger than he cometh upon him, he bindeth the strong man, and spoileth his goods." (Luke 11:21) How does He spoil his goods? By showing the man the vanity of them, and He binds him by conviction. Thus He redeems our souls from deceit and violence, and plucks us out of the hands of him that is stronger than we. I will tell you how you may know if the Son of God has laid hold of your heart: "Every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire. For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given." (Isa. 9:5,6) If the Son of God by His grace and power has laid hold of your heart, there has been a conflict going on in your heart; you will say, "What is all this? What will become of me?" I will tell you what it will do; it will bring you to the house of God to know what it all means. There will be such confusion that you will want some one to make things plain. "Can I be redeemed by Jesus Christ, be made a partaker of His Spirit, and yet have all this evil working in me? Is this the mark of God's elect?" These things will open your ears to hear, and give you understanding in the truth of God. The devil wants to hold us, but the Son of God will display His grace and power. "Sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but under grace." (Rom. 6:14) The devil will try to keep possession, but when a stronger than he cometh He will spoil the house. "Unto us a child is born." Christ is formed in our hearts, "the hope of glory," "and the government shall be upon His shoulder." (Isa. 9:6; Col. 1:27) Therefore, "The Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob." Therefore it is said, "Their Redeemer is mighty; He will plead their cause," (Prov. 23:11) delivering them from the hand of him that is stronger than they, and brings them to feel at times they are not under the law, but under grace; "Other lords have had dominion over us, but by Thee only now will we make mention of Thy name." (Isa. 26:13) This is what the Son of God will do for them and in them.
So the words of my text say, "Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return." Wonder, O heavens, and be astonished, O earth; what a turn! "Turn you at My reproof; behold, I will pour out My Spirit upon you." (Prov. 1:23) Are there any before God that know what it is by the power of His grace and Spirit to turn from the world, from their sins and evil ways, and to feel, "Behold, we come unto Thee, for Thou art the Lord our God?" What a sight! The angels of God rejoice over one sinner that repenteth. Has God the Holy Ghost set thine eyes and thine heart upon God, His Christ, and His salvation? O the song of angels, as they sing in heaven, "Behold, he prays!" Is there a turning towards God in any of your hearts as you are now before Him? O the smiles of God as He welcomes and looks upon such! Sinner, turn thine eyes for a minute to the prodigal son. Look at the rebel that had served his lusts and sins as long as he could; now he has come to himself, God the Holy Ghost has breathed eternal life in his heart, now he says, "There is bread enough in my father's house, and to spare, while I perish for hunger; I am willing to be anything if I can get there." While he is a great way off the father sees him (O the love and pity wherewith He redeemed us!) and he runs to meet him, and says, "This is my son; he was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found; bring forth the best robe, the ring, and the fatted calf." What a turn this is, for a man to turn his back on his companions, his sweet sins, and his darling lusts, to turn his back on the things the world is going after and is pleased with, and to come to this feeling, "Come, and let us return unto the Lord; for He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten, and He will bind us up." Is there a turning towards Him in the desire, the love, and feeling of thy soul? Is there something like this in your heart, "Take away all iniquity, receive us graciously (and love us freely;) so will we render the calves of our lips?" Do you know something of that feeling in your heart? If you do, neither sin, death, hell, nor the devil shall ever vanquish or overcome you. Perhaps your poor heart is saying, "I am sure I know what it is to go after God, I want to be saved by Him, my heart is towards Jesus Christ, my thoughts are on heaven and salvation, I am sick of my sins and evil ways, and the prayer of my heart is, "Save me, Lord; pardon mine iniquity, for it is great." (Ps. 25:11) Hearken, "The Redeemer shall come to Zion, to them that turn from ungodliness in Jacob;" He has redeemed your soul from deceit and violence, you have escaped; He will plead your cause, and bring you forth. Is this your feeling, "Turn Thou me, Lord, and I shall be turned; for Thou art the Lord my God?" (Jer. 31:18) Hear what God says of such: "Is Ephraim My dear son? is he a pleasant child? Since I spake against him I do earnestly remember him still; therefore My bowels are moved for him." (Jer. 31:20) See the heart of God moving towards a sinning wretch like you because you are coming after Him, grieving for thy sins, willing to let them go, and to be saved with everlasting salvation. The blessed Lord Jesus is coming to receive you; the whole Word of God is coming to meet you. It is said in the Scriptures, "He will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back; bring My sons from far, and My daughters from the ends of the earth: even every one that is called by My name." (Isa. 43:6,7) "They shall come with weeping, and with supplication will I lead them." I am persuaded, if the good Spirit has laid hold of your heart there has been at times some weeping, some supplication of spirit, and coming after Him in chains. You will find, if it be so, "I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn." (Jer. 31:9) This is how "the redeemed of the Lord shall return." No question about it. It was not left to the option of any one of us who have been brought after Him. "I will pour out My Spirit upon them, and they shall return." There is a divine certainty. I am as sure as I am that the Scriptures are true, if it did not rest upon the Eternal will, not a soul would get to heaven, but there is no fear of any missing. There may be some before God that have no real concern about their souls, nor thoughts of God; as soon as they are out of the chapel they think no more about these things; they do not want God. If I put it close to you, you do not want to leave your sins; you are fond of the glass and taking more than you should; you do not want to give it up; you are an unchaste man and do not want to be chaste; or perhaps you are in love with the world, and do not want to part with it. Say you, "That is hitting one close, but it is true; to put it in plain language, I do not want to be a saint. I esteem these people, and I should like to have their religion when I die, but I do not want it now." Unless my text were true, you would be damned as sure as you are men and women. "Are we better than they? No, in no wise, for we have before proved, both Jew and Gentile, that they are all under sin."
Therefore, my text says, "The redeemed of the Lord shall return." That is your security, that God will lay hold of your heart at some time, and make you eat your own words, and cause you to say, "Wretch that I was, I wanted nothing of God, His Christ, nor His salvation; unless such grace and mercy had prevented I should have damned my soul. God has now put His fear in my heart, brought me after Him with weeping and sighing, and brought me towards Him. If there is any real desire moving in your heart, any real looking after Jesus, with such feelings as you never had before working in your heart, "Good God, wilt Thou look upon me? wilt Thou save me? Behold, I come to Thee!" the whole Word of God encourages thee, and tells thee that "the bruised reed He will never break, and the smoking flax He will not quench;" (Isa. 42:3) "He will fulfil the desire of them that fear Him." I am persuaded, my friends, you will find a loving Lord Jesus to accept you, a loving Father's heart and arms to embrace you, all the angels will rejoice together, and if the saints knew it they would sing and be glad also.
"Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return." No "if" or uncertainty in the matter, nor does it matter what they have been. If you turn to the Word of God you can see what characters some of them were when grace laid hold of their hearts. You hear the rabble crying out against the Son of God, "Away with Him, crucify Him!" "Why, what evil hath He done?" said Pilate. "Give us Barabbas, away with Jesus!" They will have none of Him. "His blood be on us, and on our children; let it fall on us for ever for what we care." While their hands are stained with His blood, so to speak, Peter comes and preaches to these people, and says, "You have killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be holden of it." "Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved?" they cried. Here is a turn! "Can there be hope in Israel concerning us?" "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and ye shall be saved." As many as believed and were baptised found repentance unto life.
Just once more to show you that whatever you have been is no bar. If there is a turning in your mind, if the blessed Spirit is moving you towards Him, then I tell you there is hope in Israel concerning you, bad and base as you may feel. When the Son of God hung on the cross in His anguish, sufferings, and bitter agonies, the rabble cast this in His teeth, "If Thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross, and we will believe in Thee;" and, it is said, the thieves cast the same in His teeth. But one of them was redeemed of the Lord, and ere the lamp of life goes out he turns and cries out, "Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom." O the loving arms of the Christ of God in a minute! Angels sang, all heaven rejoiced, as the Son of God proclaimed, "Today thou shall be with Me in Paradise." What a turn! "Take away all iniquity, receive us graciously (and love us freely), so will we render the calves of our lips." Then what follows? "I will heal their backslidings, I will love them freely, for Mine anger is turned away from them." (Hos. 14:4) So say the words of my text, "Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away."
In the morning we took a little notice of redemption, and we found that we had sold ourselves for nought, but we were redeemed without money and without price. We noticed that no man could redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him; none less than God's Eternal Son could redeem us from destruction, sin, death, and hell. We also noticed that we were "not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish, and without spot." We then took a little notice of what we were redeemed from; we noticed that we were redeemed from the deceit of sin. Whatever deceitfulness that had practiced on us in superstition, false devotion, Pharisaic pride, a self-sufficiency, Christ would redeem our souls from all that, and from the alluring ways of the world. Also we noticed He would redeem us from violence, out of the hands of the devil; for we found that He would contend with them that contended with us. Therefore we found "the Lord redeemeth the soul of His servants, and none of them that trust in Him shall be desolate." We noticed that this redemption was just as long as election; it runs along the line of it; the length, the breadth, the depth, and the height of it are equal; all that were chosen by the Father were redeemed by the Son, and called by the Holy Ghost; so the city is foursquare. Redemption runs to the lowest, least, and meanest of all those that were predestinated to eternal life. We then noticed what this redemption would do; it would redeem us from all evil, from the power and practice of sin, and would reach to the life and conversation. Then we noticed that "the redeemed of the Lord should return." We noticed what a turn it was. "Turn you at My reproof," says God, "and I will pour out My Spirit upon you." As the poet says,--
"There is a period known to God
When all His sheep, redeemed by blood,
Shall leave the hateful ways of sin,
Turn to the fold, and enter in."
"Turn, O backsliding children, for I am married unto you; and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and will bring you unto Zion." (Jer. 3:14) "Where the word of a king is there is power." (Eccle. 8:4) His biddings are enablings. "Behold, we come unto Thee, for Thou art the Lord our God; take away all iniquity, receive us graciously (and love us freely), so will we render the calves of our lips." Then God says, "I have heard Ephraim bemoaning himself, Turn Thou me, and I shall be turned;" "after I was turned I repented, and after I was instructed I smote upon my thigh; I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth." Then we found what followed upon thus returning, what joy there was in heaven. Such is the worth of a sinner's salvation, such honor does it bring to God, such glory to Jesus Christ, confounding the devil and bruising his head, that the angels of God rejoice. We noticed how God the Father looked, and loved, and smiled, and how the blessed Son declared, "All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me." We noticed how it would make the saints of God also rejoice to see a man or woman brought from the error of their ways to the ways and things of God, in heart and in truth. Now I am persuaded of this, there is not anything would make your heart more glad than to hear and know that God had laid hold of any poor sinner's heart today. It would put gladness in your soul if you could see and know that God had made them earnest about their souls, put a cry in their heart for mercy, and set their heart after Jesus Christ. None know that sweet, precious feeling, but those that have tasted God's grace. Other people do not know what it is; it would be just as a tale that is told; but if you were to see and know it, it would bring tears out of your eyes, and your heart would be glad. "How glad I should be," say some of you; "I would not mind what I did to encourage such an one; God Almighty bless them, and keep them close." God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and you can all rejoice together. "Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return." No "if" about it, they "shall return." "They shall come with weeping, and with supplication will I lead them;" in spite of all the power of the devil, the carnality of their minds, and the enmity of their hearts, they shall come and bow to the scepter of the Son of God. Then say you, "It is against their will." O no; there is such sweetness in the work of God in the heart, that they would sooner be overcome by God than conquerors of the world; there is such Divine power in the constraining power of the God of heaven.
"Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion;" for it is said, "They shall sing in the ways of the Lord." Therefore the Psalmist says, "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise; be thankful unto Him, and bless His name." I will tell you something they will sing about, as David does: "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits; who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who rdeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies." Let God bless you with the witness of His Spirit in your heart, that you are a son or a daughter of the Lord God Almighty, or if the good Spirit drops this word in your heart, "Son (daughter), thy sins are forgiven thee," you will sing; the very stones will cry out if you did not. God makes His people joyful in His house of prayer; "praise is comely for the upright." David said, "He brought me up out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings; and He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God." "Therefore," it is said by the prophet, "they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the Lord, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd; and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all." This is the song; for it is said, "The Lord will do good in His good pleasure to Zion." Therefore the prophet Zechariah says, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; behold thy King cometh unto thee; He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass." (Zech. 9:9) I know what it is to sing that; I expect that many here do also. When God dropped His love and mercy in your heart, and pardoned your sins, you thought you should never be miserable any more; you "eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart," and said, "Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what He hath done for my soul." You did sing then in the ways of the Lord. How you sang as you came up to God's house, "Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands." What is all the singing of fools to that? Why, the wise man says, "I said of laughter, it is madness; and of mirth, What doeth it?" God puts our souls in tune to sing His praises. "This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth My praise." (Isa. 43:21) "They shall return, and come with singing unto Zion." They do not go to the alehouse to sing, no, no! nor yet to other places of vanity, either to sing or to hear the singing. If God has redeemed you, and has made it manifest, then you have come to Zion; if you have come to Zion you will sing, sooner or later. You shall sing in the ways of the Lord. Notwithstanding all the darkness that God's people have, they find this to be true, "Wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness, and paths of peace." "That is a note too high for me," say you.
Well then, I will come down to where you are. I ask you, at times when you have come up to the courts of the Lord's house, has not a good word made you glad, as God by His Spirit has wrought a lively hope in your heart? Have you not sat and sung in your soul, "There is hope in Israel concerning me; I am made a partaker of God's grace; as sure as God's Word is true, my sins will never be my ruin; if I were at home, how I would sing?" Have you never felt something like that? The great apostle says, "I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also." You sang with the spirit and understanding; your heart sang to God, therefore in your feelings you would play on an instrument of ten strings. David touched all the strings; you cannot touch them all, but you touch some of them. Mind this, the strings that you touch make no discord with David's music; it is all in harmony; you touch the right strings as the blessed Spirit moves your heart. I know when you have sung, as God declares by the prophet, "When the waters break out in the wilderness, then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing." Perhaps you come to chapel heavy enough, thinking, "I might as well be at home;" but whatever state you are in, my friends, may God always enable you to attend His house. God says, "I will be waited upon, and be waited for." On one occasion Thomas was not with the other disciples, and the Son of God came and breathed on them, and told them some blessed things. When they told Thomas it put him in such a pet that he said, "I will not believe, except I see the prints of the nails in His hands and feet." At another time Thomas was there; in came the Darling of heaven with salvation in His looks, peace and pardon in His words, and He said, "Peace be unto you; Thomas, see My hands and My feet; reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side." "My Lord and my God," said Thomas. So it is a trick of the devil, which just suits our flesh, to make us think, "What a state I am in! I will stop at home." It suits our slothful flesh, but there is not much good likely to come out of it. "I can read," you may say. So you can, but it has "pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe;" that is God's ordinance and way. You will find that where one gets any little comfort or a lively hope by reading, fitly get it in the house of God, and in waiting on Him; so they come and sing in Zion.
What is Zion? God's people, either individually or collectively when God displays His power. "Where two or three are met together in My name, there am I in the midst of them, and that to bless them." That is Zion; any place set apart for God's worship; whether it is a barn, a room, a chapel, or a church, we do not care, so that the saints of God are there. Wherever this may be, God says, "There will I meet with you, and bless you." God will save Zion, and will build up the walls of Jerusalem. "They shall come with singing unto Zion." Have you not had some singing? Can you say you have attended the house of God for five or ten years, and God has never put a new song in your mouth? Have you not been glad at times that you have been there, and said, "My soul, hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise Him, who is the help of my countenance, and my God?" It has done you more good than the increase of the corn and wine of the wicked does them. Sometimes we come up on our sulks, because we have called on God, and He has taken no notice of us. "O," say you, "what sort of people do you make God's people?" I never can make them so bad as God's Word makes them. The Son of God gives an epitome of what is in a man's heart; He says, "Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies; these are the things which defile a man." Sometimes the man comes to the house of God with these things working in him; he can feel at times,
"To good and evil equal bent,
I'm both a devil and a saint."
If you have not learned that, you have got something yet to learn; when you have learned that, you will know what it is to sing, "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." They shall "sing in the ways of the Lord," not in their own ways. So, as the soul comes up to the house of God where the truth is preached under the teaching of the blessed Spirit, God speaks the word into his heart, and works a grain of faith with that word, and he feels, "I believe;" his doubts are gone, his fears are removed, and he says, "Lord, increase my faith." What singing there is when he believes. He finds joy and peace in believing, then he cannot help singing. I am as sure as I am that the Scriptures are true, if God should work faith in your heart, while I am now speaking, you would find joy and peace in your soul; you would "be strong in faith, giving glory to God," and would say, "'Sing, O heavens, for the Lord hath done it;' I believe a poor creature like I am in the ways of the Lord." "Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy heart; let him drink and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more." (Prov. 31:6,7) "Corn makes the young men cheerful, and new wine the maids." (Zech. 9:17) I will tell you what else they will sing, too; let God shed abroad His love in the heart, then how they will sing,--
"I love the Lord with mind and heart,
His people and His ways."
You could not keep them quiet. The first time that I heard the truth preached in all its fullness and purity was many years ago, in Gower Street Chapel, by Mr. Gadsby, from these words, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." (Rom. 8:28) As he described what it was to be called of God, I felt that I was the character, and thought I must call out, "I am called." I thought I sat quietly enough, but some years afterwards, when I had been preaching there, a good man waited on me after I had concluded, and said, "Do you remember anything particular occurring here?" "Yes," I said, "I have been many times blessed here in hearing different good men." "But do you remember any time in particular?" he said. "Yes, I do," I said, "I was very much blessed on one occasion when hearing Mr. Gadsby." "That was the time I mean," he said. "You could not sit still. I thought, That man has certainly got a blessing, and directly you got in the pulpit today I recognized you as being the same person." I did go singing in my heart all along Gower Street, and feared neither death, dangers, troubles nor difficulties, and was almost tempted to ask God to put me into trouble. Some time after that I was going to preach at that chapel, and my poor afflicted son had been very trying, and had caused me some tears and sorrow about that time. As I was on my way down Gower Street to preach in the evening, feeling very low, I cried out in my feelings, "Have pity on me, O Lord." God seemed to bring this to my mind, "Are you not the man who some years ago was willing to have any trouble, and pass through anything, knowing that 'all things shall work together for good?'" I said, "Yes, Lord, I am." Then these words dropped in my heart: "The Lord taketh pleasure in His people; He will beautify the meek with salvation." (Ps. 149:4) That turned my sorrow into joy, and made me go singing, in my feelings, to preach.
"They shall return, and come with singing unto Zion." God's people have something to sing about; at times they feel if they did not sing and praise God the very stones would cry out. God says by the Psalmist, "Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast Thou perfected praise, that Thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger." (Ps. 8:2) Again: at times God's people get into a bad place, a carnal and worldly spirit; they wander from the ways of Zion, profits and pleasures lay hold of them. There is no singing then. You may try to be cheerful, yet there is no singing but in the ways of the Lord; all other is like the crackling of thorns under a pot. You may go with the ungodly, but there is a smiting conscience at night; there is no singing when you go to bed; you get into bed and want to go to sleep as soon as you can. Now it is said, "When the Lord turned the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream." (Ps. 126:1) God's people are taken captive by the world sometimes, their foolish hearts run after its gains; but, my friends, "Godliness with contentment is great gain." When we get into this place, like David in the land of the Philistines, you hear no singing.
"Your harps, ye trembling saints,
Down from the willows take;
Loud to the praise of Christ our Lord
Bid every string awake."
When, on account of their sins and folly, the Israelites were in Babylon, the people said to them, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion." This was giving them gall to drink, so to speak. "How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" said they; it was not Zion. If you have been drawn away by the pride of your heart, or by a captivating and enticing world, there will be no singing. When you have come to the house of God at such times you have said, "Woe is me, I am undone." You have looked at this or that man, and have thought, "O that it were with me as in days past, when I knew what it was to sing, when I heard God's truth, read His Word, or when I poured out my soul in prayer at times; but these singing times are over." Nay, not so. "When God turned our captivity, we were like them that dream." "Is it possible that God can regard and bring such as us up again?" O yes; David says, "He brought me up out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings (made me to see and feel He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy), and put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God." "Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, "The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad." See what you have got to sing about--bringing you up from the places into which the world and sin has driven you. Look where Samson's sins brought him, to grind in the prison, with his eyes put out; he was not in the ways of Zion when he laid his head in the lap of Delilah.
"Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion, and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads." It is said, "In Thy presence is fulness of joy, and at Thy right hand are pleasures for evermore." We are also told what produces this joy; "With joy they shall draw water out of the wells of salvation." (Isa. 12:3) The Father's love, the blood of His Son, and the witness of the good Spirit are wells of salvation. When the blessed Spirit works faith in the heart to believe, then the soul has everlasting joy on his head. "The joy of the Lord is our strength." If God ever drops a drop of joy into your heart, it is a foretaste of everlasting joy. Though you may lose the comfort and sensible feeling of it, yet that joy will never wither nor decay. If you notice, David grievously sinned, and continued in that sinful state for some time. The prophet Nathan comes to him, brings him to books on account of it, and brings out a solemn and heartfelt confession from him. Then he says to him, "God has put away thy sin." Now David says, "Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation"--he had salvation, but he had not got the comfort of it--"Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and uphold me with Thy free Spirit." I have known what this is, my friends; I have had salvation, I have not feared I should go to hell, but as to sensible comfort I have been as barren as the ground I might be walking on, or the floor I knelt on. I remember once getting into a very dark, dead, miserable place, and as I walked up the London Road these words came out of my heart, "Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and uphold me with Thy free Spirit," and then it echoed back in my heart, "How could you ask God to restore unto you the joy of His salvation, if you never had it?" What joy and peace flowed into my soul! What a different man I came home to what I was when I started out. Now the joy of the hypocrite is but for a moment; your joy has proceeded from something God has dropped in your heart. "A man has joy by the answer of his mouth." Have you not known at times what it is to seek the face of God, and something has dropped in your heart that has given you joy? Have you not said, "Thy Word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my soul?" Has that Word never done you good, like a medicine? You have found it to be both food and physic. "He sent His Word and healed them." At times you have called on God, and He has answered you to the joy of your heart; that is the beginning of that joy which will never end, it is the seed of it; a little of the Dayspring from on high hath visited you, and though you may lose the comfort for a time, it will spring up again.
"So though our cup seems filled with gall,
There's something secret sweetens all."
God's people have singing days and joyful days, as well as sighing, mourning, and dark days, that they have. They can sing,
"Boast not, ye sons of earth,
Nor look with scornful eyes;
Above your highest mirth
Our saddest hours we prize."
I know that God's people at times will keep their sweet and comforting things to themselves. I will tell you what they will do sometimes, if you ask them respecting their souls. "It is very dark," they will say; or ask them about their faith, their love, or their hearing times, they will say, "It is seldom I have anything." They will make you believe they never know what it is to sing the Lord's song, it is all darkness, bitterness, sorrow, and death. Yet with all this they find such sweetness in God's ways, such joy and peace in believing, such singing times, that they would not give up, nor turn their backs upon Zion for all that this world could give them. They eat their morsel alone, they act like hypocrites, though not wickedly, nor deceitfully. Push them close, say, "Did God never cause your heart to sing? Do you mean to say that you have waited on God for many years, and He has never put a new song in your mouth? Do you mean to say that you have never found a joy that the world could not give, and that has made you more glad than the wicked ever were?" Then they have said, "We must say that we have had something." If you happened to touch the spring they would tell you what it was that made them sing. "I certainly heard such a man well at such a time," they would say.
"Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and mourning shall flee away." They shall find sorrow and mourning as well as gladness and joy, but it shall flee away. They will sorrow about that which the world knows nothing of. They will sorrow at times on account of straitness in prayer, coldness of heart, wandering of mind, and unbelief of heart. They will mourn an absent God. Sometimes they will sorrow on account of the difficulties and trials they find in the way. You will find that Hezekiah knew what it was to sorrow and mourn. Dear old Jacob knew what it was to sorrow and mourn. The children of Israel knew what it was to sorrow and mourn. Esther and Mordecai knew what it was to sorrow and mourn. Jeremiah knew what it was to sorrow and mourn. These all sorrowed and mourned on account of the difficulties they found in the way. The hand of God seemed against them; as poor Job said, "I look backward and forward, but I cannot perceive Him; on the left hand, where He doth work, but I cannot behold Him: He hideth Himself on the right hand that I cannot see Him." Though God's people may have sorrow and mourning, yet they shall obtain gladness and joy; God will appear on their behalf, He will "make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight." He will at times make His goodness pass before them, and "they shall flow together to the goodness of the Lord." As He makes His goodness pass before them in providence they will obtain gladness and joy. You call on Him in sorrow, "Lord, how shall I get on? pray appear for me;" then, as He appears there will be gladness and joy. So also when He shines in thy soul, making darkness light and crooked things straight, what gladness and joy will follow. "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy." "I will see you again," says the blessed Son of God, "and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy shall no man take from you." Paul knew what it was to sorrow, but he says, "God, who comforts those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus." So if there are any here before God that are sorrowing on account of the straitness of their spirit, the little fervency they feel, the little love they find, and the coldness of their heart, you will find God will come over all this, and you will find joy and gladness; then you will forget all your sorrow, and you will make your boast in the Lord. "Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion." No doubt about it. You can see what the end will be, "Everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and mourning shall flee away." May God bless you with patience to wait, faith to trust, and enable you to realize that "faithful is He that hath promised, who also will do it." (Heb. 10:23)