"Thus saith thy Lord, the LORD, and thy God that pleadeth the cause of His people." (Isaiah 51:22)
How majestic are these appellations; and if we mark the variation of the appearance of the word "Lord," it opens to our view at once a fund of information and comfort which would be lost if that were overlooked. The first time the word is used, thy "Lord," you perceive the translators have given it to us in small letters, simply signifying a sovereign ruler and governor. The second time they have given it in capital letters, which method they adopted to distinguish the word "Jehovah," from the word "Adonai," or Lord. When the word "Jehovah" presents itself to our view, we are at once filled with a consciousness of the presence of a self-existent Being, giving being to all, deriving being from none, with all worlds at His command, and all creatures under His sway. And then to have the sovereign governor, the self-existent Deity, presented to our view in His covenant character as "thy God," is peculiarly sweet. There is a sevenfold preciousness in this introduction which Jehovah gives of Himself to the notice of His people, and that, too, under circumstances particularly affecting; because what the Lord was about to say to them was just called for by the exigencies in which they were placed. They had "drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling and wrung them out;" and were led, like some people in the present day, to say, in their experience, there was none to guide them. I think this most strikingly applicable to the degenerate time in which we live, when such an effort is made to manufacture ministers, and to bring forth the sons of the clergy, and ministers qualified by man only, while there is none qualified to guide God's Church, except to guide them to hell by forms, and ceremonies, and superstitions. "There is none to guide her among all the sons whom she hath brought forth; neither is there any that taketh her by the hand of all the sons that she hath brought up." Then the Lord goes on to speak of their being "full of the fury of the Lord," and "as a wild bull in a net." What an awfully appalling description, which relates first of all to the sorrows and afflictions of Jerusalem in her captivity, while her enemies were persecuting and oppressing her; and next to the degenerate state of the professing Church of Christ down to the end of time, and never more applicable than in the days in which we live. In all this distress and affliction, and after the drinking of the "cup of her fury" to the very dregs, Jehovah steps in and introduces Himself as her Advocate that pleadeth her cause, calling Himself "thy Lord," thy ruler, thy governor, thy absolute sovereign--Jehovah, the self-existent being, thy guide in covenant relationship. This portion of Holy Writ appeared to me very suitable to follow the solemn subjects which have been under discussion for several Lord's days, of the sufferings, the triumphs, and the resurrection of our blessed Lord, of whom it is now written, "If any man sin, we have as Advocate" on high to plead our clause, "Jesus Christ the righteous;" and there He ever lives to intercede. He contends with them that contend with His Church, and saves all His children without the possibility of losing one, and gets a revenue of praise continually brought to His glorious name.
My purpose this morning is, first, to say a little upon the appellations "thy Lord," Jehovah, "thy God;" then upon our claim to an interest in them, as warranted by Scripture; and I trust my hearers will be able to lay the hand of faith on this little "thy," and if they are but able to paraphrase it to "my," they may go away with their souls full of comfort. Then, when I have spoken of the claim and its appropriation, I shall be led on to the transaction with which the text concludes--the pleading of the cause of His people. O Holy Ghost, help me to speak the words of truth and soberness, and apply them with power Divine to many hearts.
I. First of all, let us say a little upon the appellations that are employed, and we will take them in order as they stand. "Thy Lord." Yes, the fealty is asserted, and the submission claimed. Thy Jehovah has a sovereign right to order all that relates to the persons, the positions, and the prospects of His people; and our submission, our homage, is demanded by Him as our Sovereign Ruler. I know this doctrine is not a pleasant one to carnal reason. I know that it mightily offends the proud Pharisees. But it is that which you will have to meet at the day of judgment. Thy Sovereign Ruler, who doeth what seemeth Him good in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth, has surely a right to dispose of thy person and thy position while in this world, and thy prospects in another, according to His absolute sovereignty. To whom do you owe it that your person is formed without disproportion, and with powers and faculties as well as limbs capable of performing all the functions of life. You cannot trace it anywhere but to the sovereignty of God, "thy God." Nay, more; if we look at the fact of the persons of the Lord's people being distinguished from the world, being separated as the sheep from the goats, predestined to eternal life before all worlds, and that Jehovah should say concerning them, "those have I loved and those have I hated."--to what can we trace it? Not to either good or evil, seen or forseen, but simply to the fact of His being "the Lord." Dare any of His creatures to say, "What doest thou?" Who shall call this in question? The pride of man will rebel. But, "hearken, ye that follow after righteousness." Look to Abraham, thy father, and remember how God called him alone, leaving all the rest of the Chaldeans in their gross idolatry, and blessed, increased, and multiplied Him. When you have considered that, come to a later posterity, and your own present existence, and ask who made you to differ, who put you in possession of spiritual life, who caused you to forsake Satan's drudgery, and flee from Egypt, and set out for the land of Canaan? Was it proud free will? I trow not. Was it human persuasion? No, certainly not. It was the mighty power of the grace of God. And what shall I say of His sovereignty in the position we occupy? Whether it be amidst the wealthy or amidst the poor--whether it be in rank and renown, or in obscurity and unknown--who placed thee in that position? I am sweetly satisfied that I am just what God made me, and just where God put me. I rejoice in Him that, in His absolute sovereignty, He not only gave me faculties, but marked the sphere in which I should use them, "fixed the bounds of my habitation," (Acts 17:26) orders every step, and counts every hair on my head. He is my Lord, and I must look to Him as such.
Moreover, let us dwell a moment on the prospects of the people of God. He is their absolute Sovereign. He points out to them the views of futurity by Divine teaching, gives them faith's telescope to look through and discover the joy, the bliss, the glory, the happiness, the rest, awaiting the people of God--the "rest that remains for the people of God"--the prospect of advancing and growing in grace, knowledge, love, light, liberty, life, until we shall obtain everlasting joy, and "sorrow and mourning shall flee away." Who unfolds this prospect? Thy Lord, the LORD, has settled it. How soon thou shalt reach it, by what means thou shalt get it, what thou shalt be capable of enjoying; the crown, the harp, the song, the company, the bliss, the rest, the glory, are all prepared by "thy Lord."
We must now glance at the next appellation--Jehovah. And here I have an object of worship presented to my view. Nothing about saints in it--nothing about Mary in it--nothing about pictures and images in it. It is Jehovah. The Lord thy God, one Lord, one Jehovah; and there is no such thing (I pray you mark this) as real worship that can be acceptable before the throne but that which is emphatically daily going on between the soul and God, and between God and the soul. And the object of worship must be known, must be understood, or "this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." (John 17:3) The heathen are said not to know God, to be utter strangers to Him, to be ignorant of Him. But all the Lord's people taught from on high, know Him to be the only object of pure worship, and consequently idols are cast to the moles and to the bats, all terrene things are laid aside. Wherever there is faith, under whatever forms a man may worship, this is his grand point--I must know the being I desire to praise, love, and trust, and I must have all the powers of my soul brought under the operation of His Spirit's graces to be engaged with Himself, or I am not a true worshipper. Now in order to know this glorious Jehovah, we must search His word to see how He has revealed Himself, and we shall come at this threefold description of the object of worship--Triune, transcendent, and true. Neither of these things can be said of any other gods. Their truth is a lie, their transendency is a smattering, a smearing of gilded toys; and as to being Triune, it is out of the question. God is revealed as the "Three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these Three are One." (1 John 5:7) I come, therefore, before His footstool to worship, having my eye fixed by the Spirit's anointing touch, upon the second person of the glorious Trinity, and the medium of access, for no man cometh unto the Father but by Him; upon the throne of my covenant God and Father as the climax of anticipation in my approach, and I can say with the apostle, "through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father." (Eph. 2:18) And he only is the happy man who, moved by the invisible and invincible unction of the Holy Ghost, presents all his praises and desires in the name of the merits and righteousness of Jesus, and by Him and in Him finds access to the throne, to deal with Jehovah as the child deals with the parent. To thy Lord, Jehovah, the glorious Holy One of Israel equal worship, equal praise belongs to the distinction of personalities in the one undivided essence; so that whoever honors the Father more than the Son, or the Father and Son more that the Holy Ghost, or either person more or less than the other, becomes at once an Infidel, and there is no true worship offered by him to God at all. I must love the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost with an equal love; and adore with the same height of adoration, praise with the same ecstasy of gratitude, confide with the same confidence and assurance in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
I dwell on this point with the greater interest because I believe that the doctrine of the Trinity is hardly believed in the present day. It seems almost as if its former professors had abandoned it; and their acts of worship and preaching, and their theology, appear to be a flat contradiction of what they have admitted in the words of their creed. Come then, a moment, to the test, beloved; glance a little more closely at the object of worship. He is not only self-existent, incomprehensible, the one glorious, undivided Jehovah, but I have said He is transcendent. "No man can see my face and live," says Jehovah. His transcendent glories are so great, that there is no approaching Him but by a Mediator, and that Mediator must possess the nature of the Being He approaches. Jehovah is so transcendent, that He is the terror of devils and lost souls--so transcendent, that even angels veil their faces with their wings as they bow before Him crying, "Holy, holy, holy Lord God of Hosts"--so transcendent, that the conception of mortals, especially in the present unripe state of our faculties, must acknowledge Him incomprehensible; and yet, though so transcendently glorious, the believer in Jesus knows what it is to find access to His presence. What, beloved, have you never felt some of those mighty meltings and invincible drawings which only the third person in the glorious Trinity is accustomed to put forth upon the souls of sinners? Have you never felt that overpowering love, that enrapturing of the soul when Jesus manifests Himself, and you are obliged to shout, "He is my Lord and my God?" What, have you never been embosomed in eternal love, and brought into sweet, certain, vital union and communion with all the persons in the Trinity?
Then glance at the other statement I made, that our Jehovah is true. I dwell upon the latter word. Faithful and true is often repeated in the Scriptures; and it is said in the Revelations, He that sat on the white horse was called Faithful and True. (Rev. 19:11) Now a very large portion of our modern divinity makes God out to be false. You must bear with this strong phraseology; for I am accustomed to hear such strange things put forward by the free-will party, that I cannot help speaking strongly and boldly on this point. Jehovah saith "the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head." (Isa. 51:11) Modern divinity says, "No, that is not true; for many of the redeemed of the Lord have gone down to hell, and many more are going there." This is literally the upshot of their doctrine, that the redeemed of the Lord includes all Adam's posterity, Cain, and Esau, and Jezebel, and Judas. God says the redeemed shall come; man says they do not. This is literally saying God is a liar. I would put it in stronger language if I could, for I am out of patience with that free-will system. "They shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away." (Isa. 51:11) How blessed are these shalls. Again, God says in so many words, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." (Rom. 9:15) "No," says proud blasphemy, "God shall have mercy upon those who will accept of it, upon those who will turn themselves into sheep to be fit for it;" making God a liar again. Now mark the apostle's statement, and don't charge me with using language too strong; "he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar." (1 John 5:10) The Holy Ghost has said this before me. Beware lest ye be turned aside to believe in lies. Come to the precious statement in God's word, and listen to what Peter says of the family of God; "Elect, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit" (1 Pet. 1:2)--they are redeemed by the blood of sprinkling, and called by sovereign grace. All is God's doing, and not man's; and yet men say they must complete it. I could as soon shut the Bible and adopt Mahomet's Koran, as believe such a doctrine as that. My soul will exult while it is proclaimed on earth, and Israel too will exult in heaven, that salvation is all of grace from first to last; that the creature is only the recipient, and is made willing to be that by omnipotent grace, or he never would be.
For a moment I must detain you to mark the relationship that is implied. The appellations close up with "thy God." Now God regards all the Church as His, just agreeably to that Scripture, in which, after speaking of bringing the third part through the fire, and refining them as silver is refined, and trying them as gold is tried, He says, "I will say it is my people, and they shall say, the Lord is my God." (Zech. 13:9) Now look at the phrase; it is not, "I will say it is my people, if they will say it is my God." He does not deal in these ifs; and how men can believe in the Bible and make such statements, is to me perfectly astonishing. I beseech you to mark, that while Jehovah claims the Church as His own, He will surely know the extent of it. He is a wise God, the incomprehensible Jehovah, and knows the number, and names, and positions of His saints, as He Himself has appointed them; nor will He leave one behind. There are no vacant seats in heaven, no unstrung harps before the throne, no unemployed crowns near to Jesus. There would be an eternal scene of distress in the heavenly regions, if such a thing could be there. Glory to Jesus who says, "All that the Father giveth Me shall come unto Me, and him that cometh to Me I will in nowise cast out." (John 6:37) He also says, "This is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:40) We come to this conclusion then in winding up the first head of our discourse, that the Lord Jehovah, thy God, hath a Church specially His own; their number is not known to us, but familiar with Him; and that every one redeemed by His precious blood must be called by God's grace, and trained up and brought to glory, and seated with their covenant Head.
II. I trust by this time some of my hearers are anxious to come at the claim; because the statement that "the Lord is thy God," looks very personal, and you may be quite ready to inquire, "How may I know that He is mine?" I meant to have investigated this point as a distinct head of discourse, because it is a subject which continually comes before me; and in one letter which I have received this week from a great distance, it is said, "I know there is an election of grace--I cannot read my Bible without seeing that; but I do not know that I am called!" Of course I have written a lengthy epistle to this seeking soul. Now there are many others in a similar position; and not a few with whom I have met have stumbled at the text, "Many are called, but few chosen." (Matt. 22:14) I therefore must come closer to the point, to show how the claim is to be understood, and what it is. That Divine calling which is according to God's purpose, is distinct from the public call or proclamation of the gospel. The text I last cited points to the public proclamation of the gospel, just as in the Proverbs, "Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of men." (Prov. 8:4) In this sense, the call of the gospel, that is, the public proclamation, is to be unto all the world, to every creature. But that text which says, "All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose," (Rom. 8:28) points to another sort of calling; they are called according to His purpose, out of darkness into His marvelous light--out of Egypt, to journey through the wilderness, with Canaan in view. That makes all the difference. Man never made choice of God, but God makes choice of man; and of those who are called according to God's purpose, no one can fail of heaven, because every one of such is the elect of God.
Having given a cursory exposition of the claim, thy Lord and thy God, I will now refer to the infinite perfections of the Deity to be claimed by the poor worm of the earth. What, I, a poor worm of the earth, be allowed to claim Omnipotence, Omniscience to watch over me, Omnipresence to be my company, Immutability to be my security, eternity the open prospect before me? What, I, a poor worm of the earth, view all the perfections and attributes of the Deity, such as His justice, His holiness, His truth, His mercy, His faithfulness, everlastingly pledged for my salvation? This is something solid. Away with your ifs, buts, peradventures, and may be's; here is something to rest upon. When I come to the simple claim, "my God;" how I should like to go round from pew to pew, and say, "He is thy God, expect everything from Him"--"He is thy God, let every act of worship be addressed to Him"--"He is thy God, cast your idols to the moles and the bats." Is not this enough? The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, in all the self-existent glory of the Divine perfections and attributes in covenant relationship with me; as if I were graven upon His heart and the palms of His hands; and so claiming me that He would not count heaven occupied and peopled if I were absent; and my soul authorized so to claim Him that nothing can constitute my heaven without His presence! Oh the blessedness of coming to this claim! "My Lord and my God," said Thomas. The preciousness of reaching this standing is beyond what any can conceive, but those who have been mercifully favored with it.
Let us next inquire a little diligently what is requisite to prove the claim; because I should not like to advise my hearers to anything presumptuous. I would not advise them lightly to paraphrase the little word "thy" into "my" for themselves, without substantial ground, good authority, and sufficient proof. And you will find sufficient proof nowhere but in spiritual life imparted to the soul. If you have not that, do not say "my God." He may be your moral Governor and your sovereign Judge; but in the covenant sense I have been naming, which allows every believer in Jesus to claim an everlasting interest in all the perfections and attributes of Deity--dare not to say that, unless spiritual life has been communicated to your soul. Do not tell me of your education, and of your morality; I prize them in their places; but you may have them and yet possess no Christianity. Do not tell me of your creed; that may be sound, but only add to your condemnation. Do not tell me of your companions; they may be dignified and prosperous, but you may depart from Christ and go to hell, and take them with you there. There is nothing will warrant your saying, "my God" in this covenant sense but spiritual life in the soul. You may indulge your fleshly appetites, and banish thoughts of godliness, but it will come upon you like a hurricane by-and-bye, when it may be too late. If thou hast any value for thy soul, and for eternal happiness, simply inquire now. Do I possess the life of God in my soul? Have I a spiritual existence? Hath regeneration done for me what a drop of water could not do, and brought me into the new world? Do I really possess what the apostle calls the Divine nature, "being made partakers of the Divine nature?" (2 Pet. 1:4) There is no proof of His being your God without this. You have no authority to claim an interest either in heirship with God or joint heirship with Jesus Christ, or a title to the covenant blessings without the possession of spiritual life. That must be the criterion. Look well to it. Spiritual life will feast spiritually, spiritual life will rise and aspire above mere carnal fleshly worldliness. Give all that is due to the comforts of fleshly existence (and I thank God for bestowing them); we are not forbidden to use them so far as nature requires; after all they are but what the brute creation have; they can eat, and drink, and sleep, and rise again. And if that is all man is to have in passing through the wilderness, what is it worth? Then I come to the matter of fact that in the soul of every real Christian, every regenerated child of Adam, there exists a spiritual, deathless, holy, Divine principle, a new creation, and this is known by its abhorrence of sin; and when I make the discovery of this spiritual existence within my soul, then I say, "He is my God." I may say, "My Lord, Jehovah my God," and lay the hand of faith upon all the privileges of heirship with Jehovah, and enjoy all He communicates to me with an everlasting blessedness. You who have been led on thus far, let me caution you not to allow unbelief to rob you of this. It is always trying. Sometimes we hear of real Christians being so happy and blessed, but after a few weeks, or months, it is all gone, and they will say, "All our hopes are departed; all our evidences are fled." They are living upon self instead of Christ Jesus. Oh, watch against that bitter and cruel foe unbelief, and if Jehovah gives you but one proof of relationship in having spiritual existence, claim Him as thy God. When the promise is ratified in the soul, the result will be reliance upon the intimacy with Him. Ah! These are two things much more easily spoken of than realized. My soul is panting after God and relies upon Him. What, is Jehovah, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost my God? Then, surely, I may rely upon His faithfulness, wisdom, wealth, power, and love. He can do nothing, nor suffer anything to be done, contrary to His glory and my welfare. But I want this implicit reliance, this sacred trust. I want to have this satisfaction kept up in my soul, not in bright days merely, not when everything appears according to my wishes, but in the dark fog, in trying circumstances, in adverse scenes, in cruel treatment, in bitter persecution, in frightful conflicts. If my soul is panting after this attainment in the midst of all these things, then nothing shall disturb me, I shall be able to say, as Paul did, "None of these things move me." That is what I call reliance, resting implicitly with confidence upon God. This will lead on to intimacy. Oh, beloved, you want more of this too.
It is sweet fellowship and communion with the Father and the Son that constitutes the heaven of the soul now, and as long as we keep alive the privilege of calling Him our God, we, by our intimacy, at least by our aspirings after it, shall become something like unto what the Psalmist was when He said, "My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God." (Ps. 42:2) It is considered a privilege and comfort to have friends on earth, but what friend can you have like God, the friend of sinners? And shall we not seek for intimacy, to see Him often, commune with Him often, lean upon Him often, constantly tell Him all our secrets, open our very bosom to Him, and get at the "secret of the Lord," which "is with them that fear Him." Oh, the blessedness of reaching such attainment!
III. I will now proceed to the latter part of the subject--the transaction referred to. "That pleadeth the cause of His people." Now, let us first glance at the Divine, the sacred office assumed, as stated in the text we have cited so often--"And if any man sin we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." (1 John 2:1) He is the propitiation for our sins. That glorious Advocate is wise, faithful, condescending, and affectionate. He is so wise, that He knows the entire merits of the cause that He pleads; so faithfully, that He never betrayed a cause He took in hand; so condescending and affectionate, that no sinner's cause is too bad for Him to take up. Now you cannot say that of any other advocate. You cannot say of any advocate you employ besides, he is so wise he cannot be mistaken in any one point in the cause; but Christ, your Advocate, is the wisdom of Jehovah, the power of God. You cannot say of any other advocate, he is so faithful that no bribe, no temptation of any sort or kind, can move him from doing justice to the cause; but of Christ, your Advocate, it is said, "And righteousness shall be the girdle of His loins, and faithfulness the girdle of His reins;" (Isa. 11:5) He that sits on the white horse is "faithful and true." Nor can we say of any other advocate, he considers no cause beneath him. Some advocates of great note consider a matter too little or trifling to meddle with it, or too bad and too glaring. Your Advocate declines on neither of these pretences. The smallest iota of circumstances in existence He will take in hand and manage for you; and the most desperate sins, the filthiest case ever brought before Him, He never rejects; but the blessed Jesus clears to the uttermost them that come to God by Him. Oh, how shall we sufficiently adore this glorious Advocate! Oh high, on earth, in the sinner's conscience, through time, at the day of judgment, He is always at His post, He never abandons it. He is never taken by surprise, and never negligent in the suit. His eye is watching perpetually His whole Church. Her cause is His own, dear to His heart, adopted as though deeply interested in it, and never, never will He suffer the soul (trembling sinner! Think of that) never will He suffer the soul that can commit its all into His hands to fall, or perish, or be lost.
But I want for a little time to dwell upon the extraordinary nature of the cause of God's people--"that pleadeth the cause of His people." Now I do not understand much about law, but so far as it appertains to my glorious Advocate, and the manner in which He brought me into court, I think I know a little about it. I shall first of all intimate on the general state of the case or cause, that it is the cause of ruined sinners, to be recovered and saved. A very desperate thing, is it not, the cause of ruined sinners to be pleaded. But how is this to be pleaded? If the sinner has ruined himself--if he is deeply insolvent, and has shamefully brought it upon himself--if he is a traitor, and all his traitorous acts have been committed willfully--if the sinner be pennyless and obscure, and can do nothing in the matter himself--how is such a cause to be pleaded? Nay, the cause is more than all that, and yet it has been pleaded successfully. Precious Advocate! How I desire to love thee.
There are three points in the pleading of the cause that must be kept in view. "The Lord, thy Lord; "Jehovah, "thy God that pleadeth the cause of His people"--that pleadeth the cause of His people for the honor of God for all the treason that has been committed. God pleads thy cause. Precious, precious Advocate! I must keep an eye upon thee, otherwise how shall I find the holiness of God vindicated and pleaded for; yea, embraced, and proclaimed, and published in the matter of the ruined sinner's recovery and salvation? Where is the holiness of God? It is found in the person of Christ, in the imputed righteousness of Christ, in the obedience and sufferings of Christ, in the Advocate's own bosom, in His own doing; it is His own wealth, His own treasure. All is embraced, and all is published and proclaimed by the saints around the throne; and you and I, as we enter with them, shall cry, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty." There is something delightful in the prospect of this to the child of God, because holiness is the attribute by which he has sworn. If it were possible for the ruined sinner to get to heaven at the expense of Divine holiness, heaven would be no heaven to him. He would feel that he had robbed Jehovah. But when we come to the glorious Advocate who brought all the glory and honor to the Deity by producing a perfect sinless righteousness, the holiness of Jesus, He pleads the cause successfully. "Look upon the face of thy anointed," (Ps. 84:9) each may now plead, "and behold our shield, and thou wilt see holiness enough in Him to sanctify all the election of grace, all the redeemed of the Lord."
Moreover, He hath to plead for His people among the heathen; and this is implied in the text. When the people of Israel of old transgressed by idolatries and superstitions, by departures from God and mingling with the heathen, Jehovah sent them into captivity, allowed their enemies to break in upon them, and to desolate their city and temple. And the heathens mocked them. "Where now is your God? Where is the God you serve? Do you think the King of glory can regard such beings as you?" But Jehovah pleads His own cause, and vindicates His own honor among the heathen. This was Joshua's argument when the Lord threatened to annihilate them. "No," says Joshua, "it is thy people whom thou hast promised to save, to bring into Canaan; and if thou destroy them in the wilderness, the heathen will environ them around, and they will reproach thy name as well as thy people." Joshua was successful; and he was like our great Pleader on high, "that pleadeth the cause of His people." But there is a worse feature relative to the cause, and that is rebellion in the heart of His own people. They are "conceived in sin, and shapen in iniquity." (Ps. 51:5) They are a rebellious household, as the Lord told Ezekiel again and again to designate them. And when I look at the fact of a sinner being complimented, by a parcel of deceivers saying that he can repent and pray, I am surfeited with such abominable insults to God and man. Instead of complimenting man's dignity in this way, I must come to this conclusion, that he is capable of nothing but rebellion in his fallen state. It may be a profane rebellion or a religious rebellion, but it is a rebellion as regards God's moral government, God's sovereignty, and God's way of saving the sinner; and in every case when God comes forth to plead, it is to subdue that rebellion, to conquer that hostility, to make His people willing, to bring them down to His feet, to draw, constrain, and command them that they may live. He will not allow them to bring anything to recommend themselves; but the victory He will effect. I have known instances in which this has been carried to a great length before the sinner has been brought down. God has allowed the process to be somewhat long. The sinner has tried to stifle conviction. He has been pleaded with in sore afflictions, and has tried to get medical aid or comforters, so as to get through them. I have known some tried with adverse circumstances. God pleaded with them. "From all your idols I will cleanse you." (Ezek. 36:25) God pleadeth with them, subdues their hostility, and makes them willing to exclaim, "O Lord our God, other lords besides thee have had dominion over us; but by thee only will we make mention of thy name." (Isa. 26:13)
I have left myself but a few minutes to dwell upon the legal process. Here, if I were a lawyer, I might say something relative to technicalities; but I will try to avoid them. The only great mark of the legal process is for God's holiness to be vindicated. Then the process must be by exacting or by surety; and it must be by His life of obedience and His death of ignominy. If the legal process be pleading with the poor, guilty, ruined sinner, there are two or three things I shall just name. The first is, that he is acquitted. Acquitted, but he is condemned first. Now the process God takes in pleading with the sinner (My God, begin with some now, if it be thy will!) Is, first, that he is apprehended. Paul says, "I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which I also am apprehended of Christ Jesus." (Phil. 3:12) He was a rebel. He rebelled against Christ. He thought he did God service in persecuting saints even unto death. He hated the very name of Jesus; and all his persecutions were directed against Him, as he Himself said; pursuing his high career under great authority for the very purpose of apprehending and hauling men and women to prison; and while he was apprehending the saints, the Lord Jesus apprehended him as a sinner, discovered him near the gates of Damascus, spake to him, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" Laid His hand upon him, and down he fell, took fast hold of him, and never quitted His grasp. And has He done so by you? Every one is born rebellious, and nothing will subdue that rebellion but Christ's apprehending you, and taking fast hold of the sinner's heart and conscience, Well, then, He is accused; and that accusation Paul fell under. The first feature of it is, "Why persecutest thou me?" The second is the appeal to Jehovah, by Ananias, "Lord, I have heard, by many, how much evil he hath done to thy saints." But mark, there is a stronger accusation against you and me, as there was against Him. He spoke of it in the seventh of Romans. More than twenty years after the journey to Damascus, He recapitulates it to the Romans, and says, "I was alive without the law once, but the commandment came," and that apprehended me. Now to apprehend any man it must be under legal authority, or else it is an assault. To apprehend, the officer must have authority so to do. Saul was apprehended under the law. "The commandment came, sin revived, and I died." (Rom. 7:9) This is his own statement. He had thought the law to be a law unto life, but he found it to be unto death. When the law came, and was brought home to him, it killed--it slew him. What! Is this the process that God carries on with His people? He makes them know and feel the extent of the law, brings home the accusation, makes the sinner feel himself guilty, and fall under the condemnation of the law. What! I thought he was to be acquitted. Yes, but not until all demands are met. Jehovah proceeds with the legal process. Having apprehended the sinner, having laid the accusation upon his heart and conscience until he has pleaded, "Lord, I am vile," and owned himself guilty, as Paul did, then comes the acquittal, "I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins." (Isa. 43:25) His is acquitted. The ransom is paid. The blood of atonement is produced. The Advocate pleads his merits. Jesus' death is held sufficient. He is accepted before the throne, and then the poor soul is able to say, "There is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." (Rom. 8:1)
Now I cannot conceive a case more blessed to muse upon than that of the poor sinner who has passed through this law process. He has been apprehended, and felt himself powerless. He has been brought to own the justice of the accusation, and to plead guilty before God. He has been forced to look at the sentence of death as that which he deserves, and then, when least expected, he has received forgiveness, obtained the Divine pardon, had the condemnation removed, the threatened destruction taken away, and his soul made to rejoice in the Lord and in the God of his salvation. Oh! May your glorious Advocate thus plead for you; and may we, while listening to His pleadings, repeat them until we obtain the sweetest assurance that our cause is heard, that the verdict is passed, that God has pronounced it, and that life, and salvation, and eternal glory, are ours as the free gift of God.
Suffer me, before I close, to appeal to your experience, and to ask what you know of this legal process, and of the success of this great Advocate on your behalf? Condemnation you must experience, sooner or later; and if you are not brought under it in this life by the convincing power of the Holy Ghost, so as to relinquish all false pleading and all false pleaders, and employ the only Advocate on high, "Jesus Christ the righteous," you can never be acquitted, justified, and saved; but the final, fatal condemnation awaits you at the bar of God, where no advocate can plead your cause, or avert the dreadful sentence, "Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire." (Matt. 25:41)
But to you who have committed your cause to Jesus, our only interceding Priest and all-prevalent Advocate, I would say, "Fear not, though earth, hell, and conscience accuse, the plea of precious blood presented for you before the throne, cannot fail to obtain your pardon, seal your peace, and secure heaven to you."
May thy Lord, Jehovah, thy God, plead thy cause and mine, and His name shall have all the glory.