"For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even also ye do." (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11)
What an unspeakable mercy to be among those that God has not appointed unto wrath, but to be among those that have found favor in His sight. Blessed indeed is that man and woman that is in such a case, the lines have fallen to them in pleasant places, they have got a goodly inheritance; a portion in God, an interest in Jesus Christ, a place in His heart and affections. Clothed in the righteousness of God's dear Son, born of His Spirit, and bound for eternal glory, that is the blessed portion of the man and woman whom God has not appointed unto wrath. If God has not appointed you to wrath you may know it by this, if your desires are after Him. The man that He has not appointed unto wrath has got desires to be with Him; there is that in his soul which is after God and for God, and wanting to be like unto His dear Son, there is the Spirit of the Son in his heart. Paul says, "God hath not appointed us to wrath." How did he know that these Thessalonians were included? Because he says, "Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God; for our gospel came not to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance." (1 Thess. 1:4,5) Think for a moment what the wrath of God is. It is said, "The wrath of a king is as the roaring of a lion;" (Prov. 19:12) then what is the wrath of God? It is said, "His fury is poured out like fire; and the rocks are thrown down by Him." (Nahum 1:6) The Holy Ghost says by David, "Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little." (Ps. 2:12) See it kindled but a little, and He sweeps the world into destruction by a flood. Let it be kindled but a little, it will consume Sodom, Gomorrah, and the other cities of the plain. Let it be kindled but a little, and He will cast the Jewish nation into Babylonian captivity, and scatter it over the earth to be a by-word, a reproach, and a proverb. What the wrath of God is, the devils and the damned only know. May we only know what it is to hear of it, and never know what it is to feel it. When the Son of God is speaking of it, He says, "Their worm dieth not, and the fire is never quenched." Therefore it is said, "Who can stand when He appeareth?" (Mal. 3:2) "The great day of His wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?" (Rev. 6:17) They cry to the rocks and to the hills, saying, "Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb." (Rev. 6:16) God declares, when speaking of the wicked, "I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend Mine arrows upon them." (Deut. 32:23) The old divines have tried, again and again, to set forth the wrath of God, the anguish, the misery, and the duration of it. It is said, "The wrath of God comes upon those who hold the truth in unrighteousness." (Rom. 1:18) Now what is it to hold the truth in unrighteousness? It is to sin that grace may abound; to take liberty from the longsuffering and mercy of God, and to say, "O, God is merciful, let us have but five minutes ere we die to say, 'God be merciful to us sinners,' that will do; the thief was saved at the last." "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven," (in His Word) as Paul tells us, "against all unrighteousness of men; who hold the truth in unrighteousness." Paul says in another place, "What if God, willing to show His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction; and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory?" (Rom. 9:22,23) This endurance and longsuffering of God is towards the vessels of wrath. While they sin that grace may abound, what they want is to follow after the things of the flesh and the world, and when they come to die, to say, "God be merciful to us," and then go to heaven. Heaven would be no heaven to them. What would an unrighteousness man do in heaven along with holy saints, a holy God, and a holy Jesus? The saints are "made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light." If God had not appointed you to wrath there is a meetness in your heart, there is a desire in your soul to be like Him, to serve Him, to fear Him, to walk in His ways, and a delight in his truth. If God has not appointed you to wrath, Christ is dear and precious to your soul, and you want to be like Him. If God has not appointed you to wrath this is just the feeling of your heart,--
"Come, Holy Spirit, come,
Let Thy bright beams arise;"
"Kindle a flame of sacred love
In this cold heart of mine."
"O yes, I can really say that," say you. Then God has no wrath against you; you will not be among the damned. During last week I felt I could be happy in a chimney corner with the meanest fare, with Christ in my heart. I will go a step further, I could not be happy in heaven without Him. "Well," say you, "I know what that is, I can say, 'Give me Jesus, let me be where I may, I am a happy man.'" I am persuaded, my friends, that such will never be found under the wrath of God; no; God has dropped the earnest of His Spirit in their hearts. God says, "You may present this at the court of heaven, I have got no wrath against you; as a proof thereof I will give you a token and a testimony." What a mercy it is to have anything from God, whereby we are assured that we have passed from death unto life. God has made us "meet for the inheritance of the saints in light," in that He has made us partakers of the Spirit of His Son.
As surely as "God has not appointed us to wrath," so surely has He appointed us to "obtain salvation." Then the man or woman is as sure to obtain it as there is a God in heaven; it cannot be disannulled. He appointed the sun and the moon in their seasons, they go their rounds; "day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge;" they have never failed. He appointed the seedtime and harvest, and summer and winter; and, notwithstanding all the disturbances among kingdoms and nations, they still continue, there is no overturning them. There is something else there is no overturning, "It is appointed unto men once to die." (Heb. 9:27) We call in this or the other clever man, but let them be who they may, physicians extraordinary or any other, there is no preventing death. The entreaties of the wife, the sobbings of the children, the distress that the death will cause, the chasm it will make in the family, the friends, relations, and all around the bed, crying, "Spare, spare!" avails nothing. "It is appointed unto men once to die." So in my text, "God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation." Then how sure it will be! you cannot miss it, cannot die before you have it, nor be damned with the devil. How Satan may look, long, and desire to wreak his vengeance upon you, but, "Hitherto shalt thou come, and no farther." Job knew something about God's appointments, therefore he says, "All the days of my appointed time will I wait, until my change come;" (Job 14:14) "Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass." (Job 14:5) He has settled it by such an irreversible decree that nothing can change it. Therefore says the Apostle Paul in the Acts, "He has determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of our habitation." (Acts 17:26) I love to have to do with a God that is fixed in His purpose, and none can turn Him. If God had not appointed our salvation we should never have had it. Notwithstanding that salvation is so great, glorious, and blessed, our flesh does not desire it, for it is a holy thing; nature cannot rise so high, there is nothing in our flesh that wants to do with God. Our flesh says to God, "Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways." (Job 21:14) If God had not appointed salvation for us we should have had no desire for it or love towards it; it is God's appointment that has settled it; as I said just now, there is no altering that. Abraham's servant, being brought up in Abraham's house, knew something of the ways and things of God. When he went to take a wife for Isaac, he said, "O Lord God, I stand here by the well of water; when I say to the damsel, Give me, I pray thee, a little water to drink; and she says to me, Drink thou, and I will also draw for thy camels; let the same be the woman whom the Lord hath appointed for my master's son; now let me know all Thy appointment." So he said, "When Rebekah came, and I said, Let me drink a little water of thy pitcher, and she said, Drink, and I will draw for thy camels also; I bowed my head, and worshipped the Lord, and blessed the Lord God of my master Abraham, which had led me in the right way to take my master's brother's daughter unto his son." What a mercy if God has not appointed us to wrath, but to something glorious and blessed. If I had a hundred tongues and a voice of iron, I could not tell out what God's salvation is, it is above and beyond all that mortals can tell. We must die to know what it is, though we have a little taste of it here. Not one of Adam's race, from his fall to the present moment, whom God appointed to salvation, ever missed or came short of it. In spite of sin, the devil, the evil of their hearts, and the world too all against them, they all obtain it, because God appointed it. What is this salvation? It is to be saved from sin. Who can tell what the pardon of sin is, but those that have felt and realized it? To be able to lift up our eyes with our heart to God in the heavens, and feel, "God is my light and my salvation, of whom shall I be afraid?" (Ps. 27:1) To be able to look at our sins without fear, to look death in the face without dread, to look at the judgment day without trembling, and when the archangel's trump shall sound, to feel, "This is my God, I have waited for Him, and now He is become my salvation."
"Sinners can say, and none but they,
How precious is the Saviour."
It is the man who is convinced of his sin, who is cursed by the law, and is fearing the worst, that longs and pants for God's salvation. Also it is said the meek shall have this salvation. "To him that ordereth his conversation aright" (or as it will read in the margin, "To him that disposeth of his way," that loves God's way, that turns to God's way) "will I shew the salvation of God." Has God turned your feet to His testimonies and ways? Are you upright in your conversation? "None but Jesus can do my helpless soul good; Christ is all and in all to me." That is the man that orders his conversation aright; that man will surely get salvation. As the prophet saith, "The vision is for an appointed time; though it tarry, wait for it; at the end it shall speak, and not lie." (Hab. 2:3) It is sure to come to the man or woman that is convinced of sin, that is longing for it, and is not satisfied till he finds it. It is said, "Salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks." (Isa. 26:1) When Paul is writing to these Thessalonians, he tells them in the second chapter, "But we are bound to give thanks alway for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth." (2 Thess. 2:13) Now if God has appointed you to salvation you have been sanctified by the Spirit. He has brought you out of the world in heart and affection; you may be in it all day long, yet you can say, though in it, you are not of it; you can say,--
"Let worldly minds the world pursue,
It has no charms for me."
There is something above all this world that your heart is set upon and after. He has not only separated you from the world, but He has separated you from mere professors, He has made you to differ from those that have a name to live and are dead.
will not satisfy you; it is Christ you are after, salvation you are set upon. "He has chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit;" so you are peculiar men, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation. Paul says, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate," (2 Cor. 6:17) from mere professors as well as from a world of ungodliness. Can you see these marks in your heart? "I know one thing," say you, "though I seem taken up with the world all the week, I can say in my right mind, I am not happy in it, it cannot content me." I can say, "Lord, lift upon me the light of Thy countenance." I believe a word or a look from Him would do me more good than having the best day's business I ever had in my life. You may depend upon this, my friends, God has not appointed you to wrath. He has appointed you to salvation. "I can say this, too" say you, "many folks are satisfied with that which would not satisfy me; I want something that comes into my heart, and clinches there. I want to be sure that God is mine, and I want to have the witness of the Holy Ghost in my soul that I am a son of the Lord Almighty." You may depend upon this, God has set you apart, distinguished you from others. Not only so, but He has given you a holy principle. "The Lord has set apart him that is godly for Himself." There is that in you which is never more happy than when you are trying to please God; when you can get in a corner, or behind the door, or out in the fields with God, telling Him what is in your heart, and what you desire to be. You are never more happy than when you have five minutes' fellowship with the Almighty, and can feel, "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His dear Son;" (1 John 1:3) and when you are able to rise above all that is within, and worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." You are never more happy than when in His house you can feed upon the Word, and say,
"My willing soul would stay
In such a frame as this."
If it be so, God has chosen you to salvation, let the devil say what he may, I know he will never speak well for you. If you are chosen to salvation, he will say, "If you are set apart for God, how is it you are so and so?" As dear Hart says--
"Buts, ifs, and hows are hurled
To sink us with the gloom
Of all that's dismal in this world,
Or in the world to come."
It is not what the devil or unbelief may say, it is what God says in His Word will stand; He has appointed us to obtain salvation. Paul said he was bound to give thanks because God had from the beginning chosen these Thessalonians to salvation; "Here is a proof of it," he says, "God has set His seal upon it, He has chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth." There is receiving the truth in the love of it; you believe that by nature all are sinners, cursed by the law; you believe that, "Not by works of righteousness which you have done, but according to God's mercy He saved you;" (Titus 3:5) and you believe this truth, "That in you, that is, in your flesh, dwells no good thing." "Yes, I believe that," say you, "I have an everyday proof of it; I have such a proof of it that it makes me grieve and mourn before God; it makes me cry out, 'Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me; (Ps. 51:10) cleanse the very thoughts of my heart.' I do believe that by one man's disobedience many were made sinners. I do believe that unless we are born again we shall never get to heaven. I do believe that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I do believe that nothing but His blood can justify us, and that we cannot stand before God without His righteousness and obedience being imputed to us. I do believe it is 'by grace we are saved, through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God.'" (Eph. 2:8) Do you not only believe that, and a great more that might be said, but do you receive it in your heart? Do you love and embrace it? The Thessalonians received it in their hearts and affections, they received the truth in the love of it. I will come a little closer. Can you say, "I not only believe it in the love and truth of it, but though I should be damned I will confess it?" You will never be damned, God has appointed you to salvation. When this is felt, loved, and received in any of your hearts, I will tell you honestly, I can say before God, "I thank God on your behalf." I have no more doubt that I shall meet you in heaven, and that we shall sing, "To Him that loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood," than I doubt the truth of His blessed Word, because it is "Yea, and Amen." This is why Paul was so sure that God had not appointed these Thessalonians to wrath. As I just said, those souls who are sanctified by the Spirit receive the truth in the love of it, and shall surely obtain salvation. See what a salvation it is which they will have. Salvation from sin, salvation from hell, salvation from destruction, salvation from everything that they fear. Nothing but God's salvation will do for such as these. David says, "I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also 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; many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord." (Ps. 40:1-3)
Therefore it is said in another place, "Salvation is of the Lord; Thy blessing is upon Thy people." Jacob said, "I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord." Whoever waited for it and was disappointed of it? Whose heart ever longed for it but what found it? What God has appointed must come to pass; all He has appointed to salvation will be sure to say, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Joseph." (John 1:45) If you look into God's Word you will see a good man that was appointed to obtain salvation; what fears he had he should never have it, that is, Simeon. It was told him by the Holy Ghost that he should not die till he had seen the Lord's Christ. "Aye, but that was never told me," say you. Yes, it has been. Say you, "O, if it was told me as God told him, I would wait till the end of my days for it." God has told you in His Word, you have go His bond, that He has appointed to salvation those who receive the truth in the love of it; He has said to you, "You shall not die till Christ has been revealed to you as your salvation." The Church cried out, "Behold, God is my salvation; though Thou wast angry with me, Thine anger is turned away, and Thou comfortedst me." (Isa. 12:1) Dear Old Simeon was just ready to drop in the grave, but he was led by the Spirit--everything is so sure, the very hairs of our head are all numbered, respecting our salvation, as well as all other things. Simeon is led to the temple, they brought in the child Jesus, who is the salvation of Israel, without pomp or ceremony, but "He could not be hid." As they brought Him in, to do for Him after the custom of the law, Simeon's faith fastens on Him, and he takes Him in his arms, and says, "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation; lie in my arms, let me lie in Thy heart." Anna spake of Him "to all that looked for redemption in Israel." This is the salvation God has appointed us to. Paul tells us how certain it is, "The election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded." (Rom. 11:7) Then we may say, "Blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear." What a mercy that our salvation belongeth to the Lord, and that God has appointed it, therefore there is no missing or coming short of it. I know that once cried out, "Mine eyes fail with looking upward; (Isa. 38:14) I have looked and longed, but it has not come;" yet it did come, it came when he least expected or looked for it. He said, "Like a crane or a swallow so did I chatter. (Isa. 38:14) I reckoned till morning, that, as a lion, so will He break all my bones." (Isa. 38:13) God's reckoning and ours is so different. Then he says, "Thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption; for Thou hast cast all my sins behind Thy back. The living, the living, he shall praise Thee as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known Thy truth." (Isa. 38:17,19) We look for death, He brings us life. We know what we deserve, we expect that we shall meet it, instead of which God comes in with His salvation; which made dear old Jonah say, "Salvation is of the Lord." It comes over all our unworthiness and misdoings, because God has appointed it, then the thing is sure.
May God give you the grace to wait, and patience to hold out, and so realize what Abraham did, as you will, if you are among these characters I have hastily drawn: "After he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise." (Heb. 6:15) If God has appointed you to obtain salvation you will obtain the promise, and will be able to say, "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace; God has promised it, I have had plenty of unbelief to question it, but He is faithful that promised. As there is an appointed time for man to receive it, I feel this is my appointed time. This is my God; I have waited for Him, and now He is become my salvation." Then you will rejoice in the words of my text, "God has not appointed us to wrath," and you will see there is no damnation or hell for you. All your best is to come, to obtain salvation in its fullest meaning. As you swim in God's love, bask in His smiles, and walk the golden streets with a crown on your head, and a palm in your hand, you will understand fully what salvation is. "God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do."
We took a little notice in the morning of what an unspeakable mercy it is to be found among those who have found favor in God's sight, that He had not appointed to wrath; so there was no fear of sinking into perdition, or falling into condemnation, for the matter was sure and certain. "God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation." Therefore, as we noticed, there is no fear of missing. Notwithstanding we were born in sin, with our backs to heaven and our faces to hell, God, having appointed us to obtain salvation, "He is in one mind, and none can turn Him." (Job 23:13) Wherever we might be, we were sure to find, before we died, that salvation which would bring us to heaven. This appointment being of God, there is no frustrating it. Not all the sins in our heart, not all the delusions of the world nor the craft of the devil could prevent the least of us obtaining this salvation. We noticed what a salvation it was; it was an everlasting salvation, it saved us from sin, from hell, from destruction; it was all and everything to make us happy and do us good in this life, it enabled us to finish our course with joy, and see the face of God with comfort. O what a great thing to be saved! How many of you, on your knees in secret, have felt the greatness and importance of it, so as to cry out, "What must I do to be saved?" How many of you have felt, "What shall it profit me if I gain the whole world, and lose my own soul?" (Mark 8:36) Who has seen and felt the evil of sin, where it is likely to throw them if they live and die in an unpardoned state? To be banished from God, and sent with the devil and his angels. Fearing the consequences of sin, have you run to God in secret, crying, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" Who knows the greatness of this salvation, and the worth of it? Who has been brought to see and feel that all things under heaven are not to be compared with God's salvation? O to be saved from sin, reconciled to God by the death of His Son, God and you to walk together in peace, and you to fear neither death, the law, nor dangers! "The Lord is my light and my salvation; of whom shall I fear?" (Ps. 27:1) Have you found it? Is your heart set upon it? Will anything make up for it? Can you see and truly feel that one thing is needful? Do you see the greatness of salvation so as to feel, "Give me Christ, or else I die?" These are the folks that He has not appointed to wrath. How many of you can say that, if God would but say to thy sin-bitten, law-cursed, devil-hunted soul, "I am thy salvation," it would make thee a happy man, and you would sooner have that than a monarch's crown?
Now I tell thee, sinner, if it is not all this in your soul's estimation before you die, you will never have it. God will make us know and feel it is the one thing needful, and will make a man willing, as the Son of God says, "to lose his life that he may find it." If you can say truly, if ever you did so, in faith and in love in secret before God, in the substance of it, "Lord, I would sooner have Paul's grace than a monarch's crown," you may depend upon it you are not appointed to wrath, you may depend upon it God will never say to you, "Depart, ye cursed." He has called you by His gospel. Therefore Paul says, when speaking of himself, "I obtained mercy because I did the things which I did in ignorance and unbelief." If your heart is set upon it, you see more worth, greatness, and blessedness in it than in all other things under heaven. You may depend upon it you will find God has appointed you to have it, you will find His Word true, that He will "appoint unto them that mourn in Zion beauty for ashes;" (Isa. 61:3) He has appointed salvation for walls and bulwarks for such. At times you may be ready to give up in fear and hopeless despair, on account of what you see and feel within; but, my friends, you will be able to say some time or other, perhaps when closing your eyes in death, "I have waited for Thy salvation; behold, God is my salvation." God declares, "I never said to the seed of Jacob, Seek ye Me, in vain;" (Isa. 45:19) "My people shall be satisfied with My goodness." (Jer. 31:14) There is nothing can satisfy a sensible sinner but the pardon of his sins; give him what you may there is still something wanting. "That which is wanting cannot be numbered."
Therefore God says, "For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul;" (Jer. 31:25) "I will fulfil the desire of them that fear Me; I also will hear their cry, and will save them." (Ps. 145:19) Has God heard you crying for it in the silent hours of the night, when under your bedclothes, "O that the salvation of Israel were come to my poor heart! O that God would put the great question out of question!" Has He heard you, amidst your busy concerns, saying, "O that God would say to me, Thy sins are forgiven?" You may look round on your wife, husband, or family, and see you are blessed with many comforts and favors, but you say, "Dear Lord, this is not Jesus Christ, this is not the salvation of my soul." Do you feel that you could not be put off with other things? "O yes, that I do, indeed," say you; "I thank my God for meaner things, I wish I was more grateful and thankful, but that is not what I want, it is something beyond these things. What would profit me if I should gain the whole world, and lose my own soul?" Does that weigh with weight upon you? Is it a great concern to you? "God that searcheth all hearts knows that it is at times," say you; "I wish it was so always, I wish sometimes that it lay heavier, that I was more anxious and more suing, so that God could take no denial, and that I could so follow after Him as to feel, Lord, I cannot be put off." God has not appointed you to wrath; no, my friends, your salvation is quite sure, that it is. I would not build you up with a false hope, God forbid. I trust that I know not how to give flattering titles to men; I should fear in so doing my Maker would soon take me away. But if these are some of the desires of your soul I believe this will be true concerning you, as the Son of God said to His disciples, "I appointed unto you a kingdom, even as My Father hath appointed unto Me a kingdom." (Luke 22:29) You may depend upon it they now inherit it and are enjoying it, because He had appointed them to it; they have entered into the joy of the Lord. You may depend upon this, as He has thus set thy face after Him and thine heart upon Him, and this is the one thing needful you want to possess, He will appoint to you a kingdom. He has not appointed you to wrath, but to obtain salvation, and you surely will. The election will obtain it, however sinful they may be, and however they may be hoodwinked by the devil. "The election hath obtained it, and the rest are blinded." They never see the worth of it, never desire it, prize it, or are brought to feel what a ruined state they are in without it.
Therefore says my text, "God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation." Then He tells us how, "Through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us." Here is a glorious truth, a glorious revelation! How certain is the salvation of God's elect. Paul tells us "Christ gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world." (Gal. 1:4) He gave Himself; soul for soul, body for body, God and man in one glorious Person, Immanuel God with us. No man can redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him; "for the redemption of the soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever;" (Ps. 49:8) therefore Christ gave Himself. Therefore the poet saith,
"Well might the sun in darkness hide,
And shut his glories in,
When God, the mighty Maker, died
For man, the creature's sin."
Again, Paul says, "I have delivered also unto you that which I have received, how that Christ (God's co-eternal, co-equal, co-essential Son) was crucified for our sins, according to the Scriptures." No less a Person than God's Eternal Son could do it.
"When I by faith my Maker see
In weakness and distress,
Brought down to that sad state for me,
Which angels can't express;
"When that great God to whom I go
For help, amazed, I view
By sin and sorrow sunk as low
As I, and lower too;
"For all our sins we His may call,
As He sustained their weight;
How huge the heavy load of all,
When only mine's so great!"
The lower Christ sank, the more He debased Himself, the higher He rises in the estimation of saved souls; these are the souls that put the crown on His head, saying,
"And why, dear Saviour, tell me why,
These thus would'st suffer, bleed, and die?"
Have you ever washed His feet with your tears, lost in wonder, and melted in grief in the belief of it, and blessed God for the gift of His Son? The Scriptures say, "When we were without strength (not a thought about Him, or wish for Him, should have been all damned sooner than ask God to send Him; without any love to Him, or faith in Him,) in due time Christ died for the ungodly." (Rom. 5:6) That is the comfort, my friends; if He had not died for the ungodly He would have been of no use to me, not a whit. As by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so His blood makes them saints, washes them white. When the Holy Ghost convinces us of sin, we think we must first make ourselves saints, and then Christ will receive us. The Son of God will find you a sinner and make you a saint, His righteousness must justify you. Christ died for our sins; that is a glorious and blessed truth, it is the marrow of the gospel, it is the joy of poor sinners who want to know how they are to please God and get to heaven. He died for our sins, every sin, past, present, and to come. If there were one sinful thought unatoned for, unpardoned, passed by and forgotten, so to speak, we should be damned. No wonder, then, that He cried out, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" As our sins, atheism, blasphemy, ungodly thoughts, words, and deeds came rolling on Him, He cried out, "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels." (Ps. 22:14) What must it be when blood forced through the skin, and He sweat as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground! How He fulfilled what the prophet said about Him, "Wherefore art Thou red in Thine apparel, and Thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with Me." (Isa. 63:2,3) Unless He had been God over all and blessed for ever, He would have sunk beneath the weight. Notwithstanding His innocency in His conception, birth, life, and death, if He had not been God as well as man it would not have reached the case. His sinless life and all the things that He suffered would not have satisfied Infinite Justice, magnified the law, or brought in an everlasting righteousness. His Godhead is the altar which sanctifies both the gift and the Giver. His sufferings were the sufferings of God; it was the blood of God which He shed which gives it virtue and merit, which makes the sacrifice. Therefore Hart saith respecting this,--
"How wondrous are the works of God,
Displayed through all the world abroad!
Immensely great! immensely small!
Yet one strange work exceeds them all!"
What is that?
"Almighty God sighed human breath!
The Lord of life experienced death!
How it was done we can't discuss,
But this we know, 'twas done for us."
Mr. Hart was no novice, he had been well disciplined in the things of God, he knew and felt what he wrote, and he found the comfort and joy of the same. Peter said to the multitude, "You have killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead." (Acts 3:15)
"How it was done we can't discuss."
"Bow down, sense and reason, faith only reigns here."
That is the comfort. The great Apostle joins in, saying, "Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world." (1 Tim. 3:16) That is a mystery, for a poor sensible sinner to look upon his dying God. What! He who created all things by the word of His power, by whom all things were made that are made, "who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." (Phil. 2:6-8) Now for you and I, as well as those that looked on, to see the Christ of God, the Creator of heaven and earth, hanging as a servant under a curse; for "Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree," (Gal. 3:13) and for our faith to fasten there, and feel, "He is my Lord and my God." Great is the mystery of godliness;" He is believed on in the world. Has thy faith fastened on Him? Can you say, as you look at Him stretched on the cross, "That is my Maker hanging there, that is He whom angels rejoice in, devils tremble at, God the Father lifts up and says of Him, 'This is My beloved Son,' and that all our salvation centers in the dying Christ?" I do not wonder at all that Socinians, Atheists, Arians, and other deceived and deceivable folks cannot receive this doctrine; it wants something more than reason.
God's religion is a religion of faith; so to speak, reason says, "I cannot go there;" then faith says, "Get on my back, I will take you there." God has said it, so faith believes it. "What is not possible with men is possible with God." "God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation;" that it might be sure Christ died for our sins. As I before said, His Godhead is the altar which sanctifies the gift and the Giver, it became a sacrifice well pleasing to God. There was no giving up till every iota of the Scriptures was fulfilled. He said, "I thirst," that the Scripture might be fulfilled. Then He cried--not as we, when dying, just whisper, can scarcely speak, all our strength is gone; sometimes the voice is so faint we put our ear down close, and say, "I can hardly hear him." Not so with the Christ of God, He went to the very "end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth," (Rom. 10:4) and cried with a loud voice, "It is finished," and gave up the ghost. He went to heaven with a shout, and the Lord with the sound of a trumpet, and proclaimed an eternal jubilee for sensible sinners who are brought to receive Him in love and in truth, who are brought to feel, "This God is my God for ever and ever;" "Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth I desire beside Thee;" and look to Him alone for salvation. So He fulfills what He said, "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth fruit." (John 12:24) Had He remained in heaven, not a soul would have entered therein; the law would have damned us all, and swept us into the pit of destruction; but He "died for our sins, and rose again for our justification." (Rom. 4:25) This made the great Apostle say, "Being justified by faith (faith that lays hold of Christ) we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Rom. 5:1) When Paul is rejoicing in the salvation of God's people, and how clear they are from all charges, he says, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" (Rom. 8:33) Satan, men, law, justice, heaven, all speak! But there has not been one from that time to the present who has said that they could. Heaven has never said it could. Angels have never said they could. The devil has never said he could; he has worried them, and said, "It is not for you;" that is where he treads us down, and fills us with sad forebodings. He has never said, "Christ's blood is not sufficient to cleanse and atone;" he says, "It is sufficient for Paul, Mary, or Manasseh, but you are not the character interested in it." We feel that we have no ground to expect it, we fall in with his lies, till the blessed Spirit comes and makes the matter sure in our souls; then we call the devil a liar, and bless God that it is for us.
Therefore the great Apostle, with a trumpet-like voice, cries out, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" and neither God, Satan, law, angels, nor justice have brought a charge. Then Paul says, "On what grounds are they thus justified, that none can bring a charge against those who feel at times from head to toe they are full of evil; who feel that they are earthly, sensual, and devilish, they are as bad as sin and the devil can make them?" "It is God that justifieth." Upon what grounds can He justify them? "It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again." "He died for our sins, and rose again for our justification;" there is the receipt. He is risen again, and is even at the right hand of God." Poor sinners will give Him a welcome into their hearts. He has got a room in your heart if He has brought you to see what you are, and what there is in hearts. Only those for whom He died can find a place for Him in their hearts. You find He went into the country of the Gergesenes; He got no civility from them; they begged Him to depart out of their coasts. Some were a little more civil to Him, like Simon the Pharisee; he asked Him to dine with him, but he gave Him no kiss, nor any water to wash his feet. Are you like this? Can you come a little further? Are you like Martha, Mary, and Lazarus? Have you got a house to receive Him, and a heart to take Him in? "Yes," say you, "I know I have a heart to receive Him; I know He would be welcome to come into my house. At times I am glad to receive any that bear His image. Lord Jesus, come into my heart." You may depend upon this, if you have got no room for Him in your heart in this life, He has got no room for you in heaven; you and He are not friendly enough. He said to His disciples, "Henceforth I call you not servants, but friends." (John 15:15) If you have room for Him, He will receive you unto Himself, for He says, "Where I am, there ye shall be also."
"Think what the blood of Christ can buy,
Well might Luther say, "One drop of it is worth more than a thousand worlds." O the guilty, filthy, black sinners it has made white, without spot, blame, or any such thing! God has opened a fountain for sin and for uncleanness; therefore He says, "They shall look on Him whom they pierced and mourn." (Zech. 13:1; Zech. 12:10) There is a fountain in the blood of the Son of God that washes filthy sinners white, and nowhere else but there. Therefore John said, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." (John 1:29) If you look for a minute, you will see when God created man he was an angel. See what sin did; made him a devil in the world. See what grace will do; you will see him a saint in the church. Again look; you will see him a king in heaven. See what Christ's blood does. I do not wonder that the song rings in heaven, "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, to Him be glory, majesty, and dominion." (Rev. 1:5,6) How I long to get there to join that chorus, that I do, and to cast my crown at His feet, and indeed to sing, "He loved me, and gave Himself for me." (Gal. 2:20)
"Now," says the great Apostle, "seeing that God spared not His own Son, but freely gave Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Rom. 8:32) You need not fear but that you will be well cared for. We have unbelieving minds, full of cares, but the words of my text say, "God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ." If He spared not His own Son, but gave Him to spare us from a burning pit, you need not fear you will be starved. Faith fears no famine. Some before God may say, "You cannot tell what restless hours I have when things go crooked and trying." That is unbelief: faith lays hold of the power and mercy of God: faith fears nothing. God makes us prove where that comes from. I have no doubt, at times when you are seeking the help and guiding hand of God, it seems as if a little faith springs up, and you say, "I shall not want, God will see to and take care of me." In less than an hour all that feeling is gone again, and you are all doubt, fear, and perplexity; that proves that our faith stands in the power of God. When faith is in exercise I will tell you what it will do, it will remove mountains; they are great things, are they not? I will tell you what else it does; it makes crooked things straight, and rough places plain, and makes a man say, "I believe;" then he fears no famine. At such times, he would sooner God should keep the purse than keep it himself. That is the difference between God's people, in a general way, and the men of the world. God gives the world the purse, and they keep it; God keeps the purse of His children, and they are willing it should be so, though at times they wish that He would give them a little more to spend. Now you will see when God trusted His people with a little more to spend it did not work well. First, see them poor. Look for a moment at Hezekiah, see him in a low and humble place. Look at David, poor and needy, and hunted by Saul. God gives them a little more spending money, so to speak, and what does it do? Jeshurun waxes fat, and kicks. Hezekiah shows all his treasures to the Babylonish princes. Isaiah says to him, "Who are these men, and what have they seen in thy house?" He says, "They have come from a far country, even from Babylon, and I have showed them all my treasures." "All those things shall go to Babylon," said God. Then look at David. God gives him ease and quiet, all his enemies are quiet round about him, he has everything that heart could wish; see where it leads him; I need not tell you where. I will venture to say he would sooner have been on a bed of affliction, with poverty looking in at the door, than on that bed of state, with guilt on his conscience. Hear his sorrowful cry, "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions." O my friends, how the blood of Uriah lay on his poor head, how it went through him; O the pangs and distress! Hearken to him again, "Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation." God had better keep the purse than we, had He not? I know what our proud hearts are; I know your heart by mine. We should like to be kings, so to speak; we do not like this poverty-stricken, dependent state; but if God blesses us with salvation, a hope in His mercy, faith in His dear Son, and has not appointed us to wrath but to heaven, He will pay the way to it. He will answer all charges and clear all demands. When we die we shall say, "No good thing has He withheld from them that fear Him;" we shall have to say, "We were in great fear where no fear was." How we shall have to say, "O, our unbelieving hearts! To think God should give us Christ, and not give us clothes for our bodies; that He should justify us freely from the law, and not give us wherewith to maintain our way, and carry us through the world."
"Thus the Christian's often toss'd,
And his best endeavours cross'd;
Thus the plague of unbelief
Fills the inmost soul with grief;
But the Lord still rules above,
Faithful, true, and full of love;"
notwithstanding all that, and comes and says to us by the mouth of His dear Son, "O thou of little faith, wherefore dost thou doubt?" When He said, "Take heed, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees," the disciples said, "Ah, it is because we have got no bread." He said unto them, "When ye had five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? When the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up?" Now hearken: "Seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness." "If we look too much after this," say some of you, "we shall lose our business, and we are likely to come to want. If that is the one thing needful, what will be the end? We shall go to the workhouse." "Seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all other things shall be added unto you." He means what He says; He is too good to deceive us or to forget us; He is too just to be bribed. Therefore you will find it to be true,
"His promise is Yea and amen,
And never was forfeited yet."
"All other things shall be added unto you;" all your wants, all your needs, all that concerns you in business or in your family. Hearken: "Faithful is He that has promised, who also will do it." Say you, "I wish I could believe it; how happy I should go home and lay down on my bed. How different I should rise tomorrow to what I am afraid of. It seems too good to be true. I can't believe it will be." "Though we believe not, yet He abideth faithful; He cannot deny Himself." (2 Tim. 2:13) Thus it will be done all the same. Therefore say the words of my text, He "died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him." Then there will be no parting us; we shall not have to accuse Him that anything has failed. "Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do."