WHOSE language is this? It is the language of Rebekah. Of whom, is she typical? Of the church. It is not only the language of Rebekah literally, but also the language, more or less, of every regenerated soul, of every soul that is married to Christ. To whom was she related? To Isaac. Of whom was Isaac typical? He was typical of our spiritual Isaac, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Bridegroom of his people.
Here is a conception spoken of. Rebekah had conceived. What do we see in this, and what does this set forth? It sets forth the church of God, or a child of mercy, that has received grace in his heart from the Lord himself. Here there is an internal commotion; here is a struggling going on. And what is to be gathered from it? What does it set forth? The strugglings, my brethren, that are felt and known by the Lord's children, who have received the seed of grace in their heart. Under this feeling and exercise, what do they pass through?
There is in the text an inquiry. She did not go to man, but went and inquired of the Lord, where all the Lord's tried children go. After they have been driven out of every hole, corner, and resting-place, they are compelled to go to the Lord for help,—compelled to go and inquire of the Lord. What was the answer She received? "Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels." How is it with the Lord's people that are born again of the Spirit? It is not all nature; it is not all flesh. But there is spirit, inasmuch as there is life received; there is grace within, the seed of God; and yet there is old nature, there is flesh, the old man. I am satisfied from experience that there is a struggle between the two. Isaac was a sweet and precious type of the Lord the Lamb. Remember, he was a child of promise. Abraham's faith had been kept waiting, though, at times, he had many difficulties to contend with, and clouds sometimes passing over. After waiting ten or twenty years, yet the promise was to be fulfilled. Ishmael was not to be the heir. It must not be the son of the bond-woman, but the child of the free-woman. The heir was Isaac; in him the promise must be fulfilled; and the promise of the Lord was fulfilled respecting this child.
Does not this point to the greatest promise of all respecting our spiritual Isaac, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was set up from everlasting, and said to be the Child born and the Son given? This Child, my brethren, was promised in the first promise by the Lord in the Garden of Eden: "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head." So the promises run, one after another. Then, as Isaac was a child of promise, so was the Lord Jesus. Was Isaac a son earnestly desired? So was Christ. He was the promised Son, earnestly desired. He was the Desire of all nations; and the promise states: "The Desire of all nations shall come." Here, then, was the promise made, the desire after the fulfillment, and the promise fulfilled. Abraham had a promise; he desired the fulfillment of it, and waited with longing expectation to see the fulfillment, the accomplishment of the promise. The saints of old not only desired the accomplishment of the promise respecting the Messiah's coming, but they earnestly desired it.
How has it been with one before me who has had a promise from the Lord? "Ah!" say you, "but how am I to be satisfied that the promise came from heaven?" You notice the effect. If the promise came from heaven, it will draw up your soul to heaven, whence the promise came. The Lord has spoken to my soul before now, and these words have come with power, and I have felt and known a little of the sweetness of them, and what it is to suck honey out of the rock: "My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." Here is the promise; now for the fulfillment of it. The promise here is the desire of the soul. You may be kept waiting, longing, and desiring before that promise is fulfilled in an experimental manner; yet you cannot give it up. There is a secret cleaving to the Lord till the Lord is pleased to come to liberate and deliver the soul. "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life." So, my brethren, when it comes, "the desire accomplished is sweet to the soul." Have you not found that the desire accomplished is sweet to the soul?
As the promise was made to Abraham, so the Lord Jesus Christ was promised to our forefathers, the patriarchs and prophets; and also, in an experimental manner, to such poor desiring, seeking, longing souls who are waiting and longing after a manifestation of these things. Isaac was a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, inasmuch as he opened the wells of his father, that were shut up by the Philistines. Does not the Lord Jesus Christ dig certain wells, that is, in a manifestive manner, in the hearts of his redeemed ones? I am satisfied the Lord Jesus is the well of all blessings. He is the Well-spring of life, and in him all fullness dwells, it is said that "of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace." Satan and his emissaries may try and try again to shut up these wells, so that there shall be no water for the thirsty soul; yet they cannot do it. The Lord will open them himself by his own power, in a manifestive way, to his needy poor. Here is a Magdalene sinner brought into needy circumstances, like Mary, brought down to feel a sense of her sinnership at the Lord's footstool. And the well of salvation was opened to Mary: "Her sins, which are many, are all forgiven." Then, turning to Mary, he said unto her, "Thy sins are forgiven." Was not that opening the well of God's everlasting love in a sweet and precious manner to Mary's heart?
And it was so with the thief on the cross, who reviled the Lord Jesus Christ, the same as the one on the other side; the Lord was pleased to open his heart and put the grace of life within, and to put a cry into his soul. Therefore he breathed out his desires to the Lord: "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom." "Verily I say unto thee, to-day shalt thou be with me in paradise." Was not that an opening of the wells?
In that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness." In what day shall it be opened, experimentally? It is said that there shall be a mourning first, before it is opened: "And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart," &c. There is a solemn mourning before God, on account of sins committed. And in that day, the day of God's power; in that day, the day of the revelation of mercy; in that day, the day of breaking up to his soul; in that day, the day of the opening of his heart in a manifestive manner; in that day is the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness, for poor desiring, seeking souls. It is the opening of the wells, in an experimental manner, to the poor needy soul who has been longing for and desiring salvation through blood. Sometimes the poor soul is ready to think that there is no water of life in his well, no water of life and of grace in his heart, on account of such and such feelings, or such and such exercises. Yet there is water there, even when he feels dry. Why? Because Christ is there, the living Spring within.
Isaac was also a type of Christ, inasmuch as he carried his cross. "And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac said, Behold the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering." Jesus Christ, my brethren, "was led as a lamb to the slaughter; and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth." What was the cause? Did he not bear the load? Did he not carry the weight in his own precious body? Did he not bear all the burdens of his people, and carry all their sorrows? Was he not stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted? "He was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities." Why did he bear our griefs and carry our sorrows? My brethren, there was a needs be that he should suffer and endure, be taken to Calvary, and there nailed to the tree, in order to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself; and he did it in an honorable way. This is the Bridegroom of his bride, the church.
"Whom did Isaac marry? Whom did the Lord Jesus Christ marry? Upon whom were his heart and affections set? Upon his church, his Hephzibah. The marriage was eternal; his lore was set upon his people before time. He brings each one in time; and they all come in the Lord's appointed way, and in his time. But never one turned to the Lord Jesus Christ, to have wine and milk and the best robe, without being sent for. They are drawn by his power. Rebekah, you are aware, was not, respecting this marriage, first in the matter. She was sent for, otherwise she would not have come. Then, it appears, Rebekah was at a distance. All the Lord's Rebekahs are at a great distance by nature; they have no thought of coming to Christ, and they have no desire to come. You and I and all, in a state of nature, are the same. The Lord is to us, then, as a root out of a dry ground, having no form or comeliness in him. Never should you and I have had any delight towards the Lord Jesus Christ, had it not been for the effectual power of his almighty arm in bringing us out. If he had not led us by his special and peculiar grace, we never should have come. Do you not know that Abraham sent his servant for Rebekah, and that this servant was one who was sworn to be true? This servant went with certain things that had been put into his own hands by Abraham to go and spread them before Rebekah. There were camels laden with jewels of silver, jewels of gold, and precious things; so that her heart was won. This is the case with all the Lord's servants, his sworn ones, such as are ordained in heaven before all worlds, and who, in time, are brought to the Lord by sovereign grace, and qualified to be the messengers of grace to others. The Lord puts a word in the mouth of his servants, what they shall say; though sometimes they may be like Jeremiah, and say, "Ah! Lord God, I cannot speak, for I am a child. But the Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child; for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee; and whatsoever I command thee, that thou shalt speak." It is the Lord who prospers him in his way
The Lord appeared for Abraham's servant; he went before him, and went with him. What is it the Lord's arm cannot do, or his power accomplish? He can remove every obstruction at his own good pleasure, in his own time. The servant went and spread the jewels before Rebekah. In like manner the Lord is pleased to send those he has anointed by his Spirit with the precious things of heaven, not with creature things, creature doings, or creature works; creature comeliness, or creature holiness; but with the glory of Christ, the beauty of Christ, the comeliness of Christ, and the righteousness of Christ. Paul says, "For we preach not ourselves; but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake." How many of the Lord's Rebekahs, who have been blessedly brought down by God's power under a preached gospel, are here met together this morning, whose hearts and affections were once turned another way?
When Laban said, "Wilt thou go with this man?" She replied, I will go." Laban may typify the world. Though the world may allure, and try and strive to keep back the soul from the Lord Jesus, that heart that is drawn towards Jesus Christ by His power is somewhat like Ruth, as well as Rebekah, and says, "I will go," though her mother-in-law might entreat her to go back. Ruth said, and this is the language of every heaven-born soul, "Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me." This shows that there must have been love and strong affections in the heart of Ruth, not like the people of the world, who, as Orpah, walk a little way, and then kiss and leave. But God's children are like Ruth; they cleave close to the truth. And as Rebekah cleaved to the servant, so all the Lord's dear children cleave to the Lord Jesus, who is pleased to call them by his Spirit and power, and work grace and faith in their hearts. The Gentile woman cried after the Lord; and though he seemed as if would put her off, she would not be denied, but still cried after him. The poor woman with the issue of blood pressed towards him, persuaded that if she might but touch the hem of his garment she would be healed. What is this? It is faith, my brethren. Though there may be many difficulties in the way, the poor child of God will not give up. There will be pressing earnest desires, and a secret longing of heart. If I can but lay hold, if I can but touch the hem of his garment, I shall receive virtue, and be manifestively healed of the malady.
It is precious and blessed to the soul, when it has a manifestation of the precious Bridegroom's love to his soul, by faith, in the intercession, in the doing and dying, the suffering, death, and blood-shedding of the Lord Jesus; when he is pleased to say to the heart "I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." The soul is all alive as soon as ever the Lord is pleased to speak with power to the heart, "I have loved thee." The soul will then reply, "Lord, I love thee too."
"What are the evidences of a state of grace?" Say you, "I am placed somewhat like Rebekah after Isaac had entreated the Lord for her." So we read in the word of God of the seed of God, of the divine nature, of a holy principle, of the new man of grace? What is it? It is the seed of God. "He that is born of God cannot sin, because his seed, heavenly seed, remaineth in him." "Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." I am satisfied, if we are born of God, that we have heavenly seed; if born of the Spirit, we have holy seed. You have pure seed, the seed of God, in you. "Marvel not," said our Lord to Nicodemus, "that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. Except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven." Without this seed, this divine change, this spiritual birth, it is impossible to enter the kingdom of eternal bliss. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit." You cannot see the wind; yon cannot tell whence it cometh, or whither it goeth. Though we cannot see the wind, we can feel it blow, which is an evidence that it is there. We have sometimes seen the sudden effects of the wind, and how in its power it has rooted up trees; and so is the operation of the Spirit. The Spirit within you opens up and turns up things you never could have conceived were there; and the very sight and feeling of these things are evidences that the Spirit has been blowing. The stragglings and desires of the soul to know what is the new birth are evidences that such a one is born of God. The wind of the Spirit is moving them. Such are brought to say and feel with Newton:
"'Tis a point I long to know;
Oft it causes anxious thought;
Do I love the Lord, or no?
Am I his, or am I not ?"
Methinks I hear you say, in answer, I want to know that I am born of God, and that I am an heir of everlasting bliss. Is this the point you long to know? "Yes," you reply; "it is a point essential to my peace, to know that he has loved me with an everlasting love, and that I am born of God." Then, if so, this is a proof you have this seed of heavenly love in your heart.
The Lord Jesus Christ says, "I give unto my sheep eternal life." The springing up of that seed which appeared dead before it was put into the ground is an evidence that it was and is alive. If we look upon a cornfield, where good seed has been put in, harrowed in, and covered over, we shall see it spring up, first the blade, then the ear, and afterwards the full corn in the ear. That is an evidence that such good seed was put in. So, when we discover the breath of prayer coming from a really and truly broken heart, it is a proof that the seed of life is there, seed put in, nothing but the seed of God, pure and holy. And from this seed springs and rises every holy desire, every holy thought, every holy and pure longing after heavenly communications of eternal things. The seed of God is really and truly in your heart. The soul asks, Am I a partaker of this grace? and is ofttimes compelled to go to a throne of grace to have the question settled, But such a soul has often to say, with the poet:
"If I pray, or hear, or read,
Sin is mix'd with all I do.
You who love the Lord indeed,
Tell me, is it thus with you?"
If it be so said Rebekah, "why am I thus?" And the living soul asks, "If I am a partaker of this grace, this seed, this love of God, if I have an interest in God's salvation, why is it thus with me? Why am I tried in the way I am? Why this working? Why this trouble in my heart?" Rebekah went to inquire of the Lord. Say you, "Does not this soul that has this heavenly seed feel and find that it is all good and no bad? Whereas in me something appears to be wrong, something appears to be bad." So it is with every one of God's children, with all who are born of the Holy and ever-blessed Spirit. They find that there is not only the spirit within, but flesh also; that there is not only spirituality, but also carnality. I am satisfied of this, that a child of God, who has this spiritual seed, has also a carnal heart as vile as ever it was,—the same as it was before the seed of divine grace was implanted, not any better nor any worse, though the soul appears to get worse, because he feels this struggling, this striving, and the working of sin more and more. Therefore, in his own estimation, he gets worse and worse, yea, more vile than ever. But it is not so. It is the same carnal heart, the same carnal nature, and the same carnal working. There is the mystery of iniquity already at work. The child of God has no need to go to the Pope of Rome, or far away from home, to know what the mystery of iniquity is. He has a pope in his own bosom, the mystery of iniquity already at work. "Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, false witness, thefts, blasphemies." What! Has that soul who is a partaker of the love and grace of God all this about him? Yes. "How can it be?" says the soul. "If I am a partaker of the love and grace of God, how can it be? For the Scripture reads thus: 'Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.' But I sin every day; why is it thus? How can it be?" "Two nations are in thy womb," said the Lord to Rebekah. I am as sure as I am of my own existence that it is so with every new-born soul. There is a Jacob and an Esau. "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." One is of the wicked seed; the other of the good seed. It must be so; because the Lord says, "For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." The new man of grace is loved; it is a holy seed; the new man of grace is a pure seed. Esau, which represents the old man of sin, is hated. It is carnal, it is sinful, it is polluted; it may well be called "the mystery of iniquity." As Esau was a hunter, hunting after to distress his brother Jacob, so surely the flesh is ever hunting after something to bring you and me into bondage, in order to distress our minds. So it is with the workings, desires, and motions of the flesh; when you and I strive to keep them down, we strive and groan. And the more we try to stop this evil in our own strength, to keep down this mystery of iniquity, the more it seems to bubble and rise up; till at last we are obliged to go to the Lord with it, and ask him to do it, for we cannot. "Do thou for me, O God the Lord. Keep down these abominations and evils. The power of unbelief has so distressed me; and on account of my own weakness and impotence, thou, Lord, must do it for me." The poor soul is so distressed on account of his own weakness that he is quite bewildered. These are the temptations of Satan working within, trying to draw the poor creature away; and if Satan can by any means by his insinuations, draw the soul away from Christ, what does he do? He turns accuser. "What!" says Satan; "thou a partaker of such and such things? If thou hadst had them, thou wouldst never have been here; thou wouldst never have done this." "Ah!" says the soul, "what shall I do? After all, I have deceived myself. I cannot be a partaker of divine grace, that holy precious seed. O Lord, have mercy upon me! "He sends up a cry to the Lord to help him; and the Lord will surely appear for his help.
It is the wicked that have no changes, no bands in their death. The Lord's children have changes; and by these changes they know a little of what it is to feel the Workings of nature and the workings of the Spirit; the workings of the carnal part and the workings of the spiritual part; which are as opposite as light from darkness. O man, dead in sin, if there are any here this morning, the Lord knows you are all carnal, all flesh; but those who are made alive, with ever so little grace, ever so little faith, ever so little hope, ever so little desire, that desire, if real, is the working of God in the soul. But it is very different in the carnal man, "dead in trespasses and sins."
The man who has a little desire says, "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." Could we cry out against sin, from a real feeling of hatred against it, if not alive? No, my friends. Would you, could you do as you did when you were in nature's ruin? No. You then rolled sin as a sweet morsel under your tongue. Some people say of us that we are Antinomians, though they do not know the meaning of the word;—that we live in sin that grace may abound. This is false. The child of God dares not. His prayer and heart's desire to God is, "Keep thou me from secret faults; keep thou me from sinful desires. O Lord, keep me, if thy blessed will, not only from outward acts, but from secret desires and secret sinful thoughts." He desires to be kept night and day. His desire is not to be left to fall into sin; but to follow hard after his Lord and Master. Sin is so terrible that it made David cry out, "Deliver me from blood-guiltiness." What then was David's desire? That he might never do it again. It is no matter, say some, what you do; you will get to heaven if elected. If you are interested in God's love it does not matter what sin you commit. Is that the language of a heaven-born soul, with the love of God in his heart? It is not, my brethren. Though the Lord's children may be branded with this mark, it is not their real character, not the character of those under the sweet influence and power of the Holy Ghost. Antinomians in one sense they may be; that is, they do not depend upon the law for life; they will not have it as a guide for life. I am satisfied that the Lord's children who are working after that rule will find it, instead of a rule of life, a rule of death. But in the end all the Lord's people become dead to the law by the body of Christ; they are delivered from it through the precious obedience and blood-shedding of the Lord Jesus, their glorious Bridegroom, by whom they are delivered from the old covenant of works as a husband, and married to Christ by precious faith. As they have received Christ, so they walk in him.
The soul that is seeking Christ, the poor child of God, has strong desires after Christ, and follows hard after him; yet he has much to discourage him. Sometimes in prayer, when in difficulties and in trouble, he comes mourning before the Lord, fearing he shall have to give all up. When he has been wrestling before the Lord in prayer, a cloud comes up over him, and he says, "Why am I thus? Truly, if I were a child of thine, it would not be so." Sometimes he is tried in this way: "Truly I cannot be a vessel of mercy; I am tried so much." Dear friends, the Lord hath tried me; but when I look into his Word, I see it says, " The Lord trieth the righteous." There is a needs-be for it. Though in the furnace the Lord's children are, and ofttimes are tried in the fire, yet they are never left by the precious Bridegroom. He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver; and he will not forsake them. He has put his holiness, his fear, his seed, and his own work into their hearts; and, therefore, he says, "I will never leave thee; I will never forsake thee." We may be ofttimes in darkness, so that we cannot see; we look this way and that way; we are like the blind that grope for the wall; we grope as if we had no eyes, as if we were in an obscure place; everything seems obscure; nothing is clear; our election is not clear, our adoption and the new birth are not made clear to us; "We walk in darkness, we grope like the blind;" we seem in such a position, state, exercise, and feeling that we want to lay hold of the wall of God's salvation; and we are not satisfied without laying hold of these things. Thus the child mourns; he is plagued with the old man, the workings of the flesh, the temptations of the enemy, the power of unbelief, evil thoughts, evil desires. But this is an evidence that he does not love it; an evidence of the opposition against it. Sin is in me, and lives in me; but that is the reason of the struggle. If sin were dead there would be no struggling. If grace were dead there would be no struggling. A struggling implies that there are two armies, two parties. "What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies,"—sin and grace; one working in opposition to the other. In this way you may have toiled for many years; some have toiled more, others less. You and I and every child of God are plagued with it, and plagued on account of it as long as we are here below.
"How long, dear Lord, how long,
Deliverance must I seek,
And fight with foes so very strong,
Myself so very weak?
"I'll bear the unequal strife,
And wage the war within;
Since death, that puts an end to life,
Will put an end to sin."
When the Lord is pleased to come, even when in the arms of death, and say, "I come quickly," the soul is sure to respond, and say, "Even so; come, Lord Jesus." Then sin will be forever and ever put away; and the soul will be no more plagued with it. Though uncertain as to the time when death will come, yet we are looking forward to it. Some of the Lord's children are brought into the banqueting house, and God's banner over them is love, and they seem happy; you, probably, are mourning, being plagued on account of death, and how it will be at that solemn moment. Fear not, brethren; he will bring you through the flood of death. "He was manifested to deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." You will at last be delivered, if your souls are in earnest about a manifestation of interest in the things of heaven. The Lord says, "My grace is sufficient for thee." "As thy days, so shall thy strength be." The greater the trial the greater measure of grace the soul stands in need of. Those that are in a sharper trial than you and I have no more grace than needed; in proportion as their trials, so grace and strength are given according to the trials and difficulties of the way. David at one time was brought to say, "I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." Thy presence, O Lord, constitutes our heaven here, and our happy moments. If we get Jesus himself for our staff, for our support in the hour of death, then we shall break out, and sing Victory! O! How sweet to die resting in the strength, power, mercy, salvation, and grace of the Lord!
If you are of those who thus think, well, the time will soon come. But some poor trembling soul may be saying, "What shall I do, who have had no manifestation, like many, of my interest in God's salvation? The Lord has not revealed himself to me as he has to some of his children. I have petitioned his blesssed Majesty many times." Well, poor soul, all your prayers be answered at once in God's time. It is said of Daniel that he made supplication, and petitioned time after time; but the Lord sent to deliver him, and told him that his petitions were heard from the very first putting up. Even if the time of thy deliverance shall be put off till death, who can tell but the Lord will appear? I have sometimes thought, when standing by the bed-side of one breathing his last, Who can tell what is passing through this soul? Who can tell but the Lord is now breaking in at the present moment, answering the soul to the joy of his heart, just as the spirit is bursting forth to enter the wished-for Canaan to be ever with the Lord?
May the Lord make more manifest to you, day by day, this heavenly seed, this holy seed, this precious grace of God in your heart. Amen.