“There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless, the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.” (Proverbs 19:21)
I CANNOT fully describe to you, beloved, the comfort that the latter part of this text has been to my soul for several days. I often find occasion to fall back upon principle; and this is a principle which you know has been dear to my heart for many years, that the counsel of the Lord shall stand. If I believed in the doctrine of contingencies, I should be the most miserable being in existence but as I believe that the hairs of my head are all numbered, as I believe that the bounds of my habitation are fixed, as I believe that I can not add a cubit to my stature, nor make a single hair white or black, as I believe that every atom which floats in the air is as much under Divine control as the mightiest empire in the world, I fall back upon my principles, and when the devices that are in man’s heart, however malicious and hollow they may show themselves, I say, Well “the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.” There I get comfort while I can not get it anywhere else God has appointed me perhaps, a few weeks longer to be His witness upon earth, and I do not mean to go out of the world with a regret that I have kept back any part of the testimony that He has entrusted to me. And, therefore, I shall take the liberty this morning of entering a little into the devices which are in man’s heart; so as to lay them as open, and naked and bare as I can, and then contrast them with that ordained counsel of Jehovah’s heart which man has nothing to do with, except to be a recipient of its operations. And then look at the certainty attached to it—for you know I am a man of certainties—“The counsel of the Lord, that shall stand”—devils cannot overthrow it.
If we come to glance at what poor human nature is under the fall, there is one great difficulty in our way, and that is, there is no language, in any vocabulary under heaven, strong enough to set it forth. It goes beyond all possible description; for my precious book says it is “deceitful above all things.” Well, then, if it is deceitful above all things, who is to describe it? “and desperately wicked.” Now, what the climax of deceit, and the desperateness of wickedness could accomplish if left to itself, who can guess? But when the counsel of the Lord comes in, and the thoughts of His heart are put forth, and the purposes of His mind effected, then follows a beautiful contrast, which we read at the commencement of this service: “The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought, and maketh the devices of the people of none effect.” (Ps. 33:10) “The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, and the thoughts of His heart to all generations.” There had never been a more deeply laid plot and conspiracy for the destruction of the Church of God than that of Haman, passing by Balaam’s and Ahithophel’s, and many others of a similar kind. In high favor with the king Ahasuerus, and really supposing that there was not a being upon earth whom the king would delight to honor so much as himself, and that he could get anything he asked for, he represents his petition in very Jesuitical terms: “There is a certain people scattered abroad, and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people.” A fine testimony this from an enemy—we know that our laws are diverse from all others—“Neither keep they the king’s laws, therefore it is not for the king’s profit to suffer them. If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed,” and I will pay a fine sum into the king’s treasury. “Very well, go and do so,” says the king. The letters are written, and signed with the king’s seal that they might not be reversed; and the plot is carried so far that the day is fixed for its execution—as it is now by old Nic. Crafty-man, for the destruction of old England. But what says God? “That poor fellow that sits at the king’s gate, shall be the deliverer.” God’s hand is put forth; and though the device in that poor wretch’s heart was carried to a hairbreadth of its execution, it was overruled, and the counsel of the Lord stood fast. Now such instances as this—and I could name a dozen from Scripture presently—are encouragements to my mind under existing circumstances; and, sure I am that what the counsel of the Lord has determined shall be carried out and effected, whether it be for the salvation or overthrow of my beloved country.
Now let us look, first of all, for a few moments, at the guile of man’s heart that is capable of such devices, then, the ordained counsel of God, that all man’s devices cannot conquer and overrule; then the Divine certainty stamped upon all—“shall stand.” There is a proclamation of infallible certainty.
I. I have been looking a good deal last week, when a little relief from pain would suffer me to think, at the one simple contrast and difference between the religion that we hold dear and that which is common in the world. Two, words mark all the difference. With them is contingency—with us is certainty; and the contrast between certainty and contingency makes up all the difference between truth and as, between the gospel of God and the gospel of man. And you must know to what a vast extent the accursed gospel of man has spread over our land in these days. Now we are going upon the ground of certainties, and we will first of all expose, as far as we can, what the guile, of man’s heart is. You are quite aware that this is out of my course, and I shall be brief upon it as I can. You are quite aware that I am accustomed to shun this line of things, under the appellation of “kennel-raking.” However, from my text I must say a little about it—for I do love to be a textuary, and keep to my text, say what it will.
Rebellion against God is inherent to man. I know there are persons who talk about inherent holiness. I will give them every farthing I possess, and everything that is dear to me, if they will show me any one instance of any human being, from an hour to a hundred years old, in which inherent holiness exists. I know it is not to be found in mortals. The race of Adam were all ruined in the fall, but men do not believe it. The sentence went forth, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die;” but men have thought proper to alter and ameliorate it a little, and to say, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt be a little ill, but thou mayest, by little effort and a little medicine of thine recover thyself.” Now my Bible says, “Thou shalt surely die,” dying thou shalt, die. The apostle takes it up and says, “Death”—not merely disease, but—“death entered into the world by sin, and so death hath passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) I beseech you to mark particularly this all-important fact, for it lies at the foundation of all the guile, and wickedness, and artifice, and devices that are in the heart of man. The ruin of the fall is such that man is undone, that he has not a particle of spirituality left, that he died to everything that is excellent. It is true he has an animal life—it is true he has a mental life—but the sentence of death has passed upon him. What is the result? Why, in consequence of the ruin of the fall, which rendered man quite incapable of loving God, or serving God, or trusting God, he goes astray as soon as he is born; and then the Psalmist was directed to set it down in so many words, “They go astray from the womb, speaking lies.” (Ps. 58:3) And even the people of God, the election of grace, are included in the same ruin; and therefore the prophet Isaiah was directed to set it down: “All we like sheep (though sheep really of His fold, and really to be ransomed by His blood, yet) all we like sheep have gone astray, and turned every man to his own way (none to God’s way), no not one.” (Isa. 53:6)
Now there is one humbling fact that I want to set before you in this part of our subject. I mean to lay poor ruined man as naked and bare as I can, and discover the foundation even to the neck, as the prophet has it. Men talk and boast about their freewill and there being free agency and the like; a greater falsehood never existed. There is no such thing; for the matter of fact is, that every child of Adam is either ruled and reigned over by sovereign grace or by the prince of the power of the air, who is said to work and rule the hearts of the children of disobedience. Now do not let me hear anymore about the stuff and nonsense of free will. There is no such thing; every child of Adam is under the sovereign sway of either God or the devil. I was asked in a letter the other day, amongst other thing (I have all sorts of odd things asked me) if I could explain how far the devil has influence over the minds and bodies of men. I was not long in writing something very positive upon that subject. Now I will state it as positively, that there is not a child of Adam on the face of the earth, from an hour to a hundred years old, but is under the sovereign sway, of either omnipotent grace or the old serpent. Talk of free will, and man ruining himself. What ridiculous nonsense! Why the very term “will” indicates an inclination. Picture to yourself an inclined plane, and set a boy that is playing at marbles to put one at top of it. “Now I will give you your free will to go which way you like,” the boy says to the marble. It runs down to the bottom—that is its will, its inclination. “Now,” he says, “run up again.” He might talk to it till doomsday, it would not go up till it had some moving power to force it up. Now man is under the power of Satan, under the ruin of sin, and is running down to hell as fast as the marble can run down the inclined plane, and nothing can save him but omnipotent grace. Will you bear with this familiar illustration? I confess this is not a favorite point with me, but I must say a little on it because my text contains it.
Then, observe, that enmity and pride are the ruling passions of the human mind. Perhaps you will think me severe when people are so fond of talking about the loveliness and amiableness of good dispositions and temperatures, and the like—I know this is very fashionable, and if I could find them out I would talk about them—but I cannot. I know “the carnal mind is enmity against God,” because my Bible says so, and that “it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:7) while it is the carnal mind—and I know that pride is the ruling passion in the whole human race. One is proud of his position in society—another is proud of his literature—another is proud of his money—another is proud of prosperity in his business—there is pride at the bottom of all—and the enmity against God as rooted in the hearts of the human race, coupled with the pride that will, exalt the creature, are the ruling passions amongst men. I do not wonder at the many devices that we shall presently have to touch upon. How else is it that man is so earth-bound—so that “what shall we eat and what shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed?” is preferred to the inquiry, “How shall we be saved?” How is it that proud free-will is to be exalted against the sovereignty of God and the sovereignty of God’s appointments? How is it that under all these accumulated evils and scenes of trial that have come upon human nature by the fall, error is everywhere, preferred to truth, and there is nothing that gives such offence to the carnal mind as the truth of God in its fullness and its purity.
These things, beloved, are demonstrations that man’s heart is full of guile, and as he is ruined under the fall, he is only, capable of such devices as are hateful to God and obnoxious in His sight. Oh! if I had a voice loud as ten thousand thunders—if I had a congregation, that should compass the length and breadth of the earth, and could reach them—if I had the powers of angel hosts or glorified spirits to address them, I would ring it in the ears of every created being, “Man is a ruined rebel against the God that made him.”
Again, come for a few moments to the phraseology of my text. It exactly agrees with Solomon’s conclusion that I was reading the other morning in the Ecclesiastes. After he had accumulated wealth, established his kingdom, stored his mind with learning, education, and wisdom, and got singing men and singing women, and beautiful musical instruments of every sort and kind, and every possible luxury and indulgence that man could contrive or, that could be found in creation, he turns round and says, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, saith the preacher,” and he sums up with these remarkable words, “This only have I found, that God made man upright, but he has sought out many inventions.” Now my text calls them devices—it is the same meaning—inventions or devices, opposed to the mind of God. Now this will lead me to the point that I want to impress upon your mind, however unwelcome. There are inventions amongst mortals, or as my text calls them, devices, of a very impious kind, because they are idolatrous, and stand up against God. Now what devices, but the devices of a guileful devil-ruled heart, could invent the worship of a woman, the worship of a wafer, the worship of wood, or stone, or gold, or silver? They are all opposed to and are all enmity against God. Now if you cast your eye over the habitable globe you will discover that millions of Pagans are acting thus at the present moment, and millions of Papists, far more vile than the Pagans, because they brand their idolatry with the name of Christ. If they would forego the name, we could partially forgive them their idolatry, but to borrow it from Paganism, and then to brand it with the name Of Christianity, is blasphemy more vile than the devil himself could put forth if he had not the heart of man to assist him. I grieve to say, that in this beloved country there are at this hour, tens of thousands of idolaters mocking God and offering incense at His throne from the devices of their own hearts, while we are attempting to worship God. I must deliver my conscience. We shall get to a more pleasing side of the subject presently, but do have patience with me whilst I clear my conscience on this part of the subject. Not only are these devices going on in our midst, but the very creatures who put them forth are striving for power to make us do the same, or else destroy our lives—and the time is near at hand.
Just mark, a little further, the devices of man’s heart that are inimical to Zion’s welfare. It was while I meditated on this point that a text of Scripture in the book of Micah fell upon, my spirit with peculiar weight. Because it is applicable to existing circumstances, I shall turn to it and read it, that I may give it you correctly. It is in the 4th chapter, the 11th and 12th verses, and you only want to put the word England to it to understand clearly what it means. “Now also, many nations are gathered against thee, that say; Let her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion.” Now, mark, the second head of our discourse which we shall presently come to “But they know not the thoughts of the Lord, neither understand they His counsel.” The fact that many nations are gathered together against us, and that they mean to overthrow us, a man must be an arrant fool not to perceive. People have not believed my warning for many years, but they are obliged to believe it now, because things have come to a crisis. But here lies my only hope which I am about to enter upon—“They know not the thoughts of the Lord, neither, understand they His counsel.” My humble hope is that the thoughts of the Lord still towards England and towards His Zion are thoughts of peace, according to His specific statement. And when I review such circumstances as have named—such as Haman, and Balaam, and Ahithophel and Sennacherib—and the deliverance that God wrought for His, people, I have still a clinging hope, though I confess it is rather a faint one—and that hope is chilled by many of you, though it is kept alive, by the Holy Ghost in my soul, because I have the spirit of prayer about it publicly and privately—it is chilled by you because you do not choose to pray for it. You will not often come to our prayer meetings, and when you do you will not offer a prayer for the safety of our land and nation. This chills my hope exceedingly. “But they know not the thoughts of the Lord, neither understand they His counsel.” Their design is to annihilate vital godliness—but what our God means is a different thing. Why, those very wicked infernal devices set a-going the Zoological G1ass-house, and all the clubs that are in existence in London on republican principles, and all the secret plots and plans that are aiming at everything awful, and devilish. But in the midst of all these things, “they know not the, thoughts of the Lord, neither understand they His counsel,” and my soul clings still to the faithfulness of the faithful covenant God of Israel.
One word more. The devices of man’s heart which are opposed to the mind of God may be carried out to an awful extent; but He has put a chain upon them, that they may go no further.
Now I will quit this at once, for I confess it is a solemn and gloomy part of the subject to my mind; yet I felt that as I did not know from one week to another whether I should lift up my voice for God any more, that I must deliver it all.
II. Now we will turn to the ordained counsel of our covenant God, and we have a “nevertheless” to introduce it— “Nevertheless,” however crafty their devices, “the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.” What am I to understand by the counsel of the Lord? Three things, which I mean a little to enlarge upon. His gracious enactments of old, when the counsel of peace was between the persons of the Trinity; nature and Providence arranged and superintended infallibly thereby, and the sovereignty of God maintained therein. “O come,” say you, “this is a little more pleasing. I am glad we have got away from the other side of the subject.” So am I. It is no welcome task to me, I can assure you; but I could not refrain from letting out what I have, to lay bare and naked the enmity of the carnal mind against God.
What am I to say of the gracious enactments of the counsel of God? My Bible tells me that He ordereth all things after the counsel of His own will. Well, then, there was a counsel, an ancient counsel, a covenant settlement, positive arrangement, fixed decrees, unalterable purposes, predestinating enactments; and all must go on according to those enactments. Who would have thought that the apostle Peter, in his sermon on the day of Pentecost, would have been sufficiently taught to put forth the expression he did, when the things of the most appalling description respecting the person of Christ had just been witnessed? He is seized by the ruffian mob, He is dragged to Pilate's hall, He is spit upon, He is scourged, He is crowned with thorns, He is murdered at last. Who would have thought that the counsel of God should stand? These were the devices of men’s hearts. What saith Peter under the teaching of the Holy Ghost? Why, says he, “Herod and Pontius Pilate, and the people of the Jews, were gathered together to do what thy hand and thy counsel have determined of old to be done. (Acts 4:27,28) And they could do neither more nor less. That is the key we have to God’s grand secrets. Well, if I might for a few moments give you a little epitome, as far as God has revealed it to me, of these gracious transactions in the counsel of peace, I should say gifts, government, and glorification, will make it all up.
Gifts. Why, there is the gift of Christ to His Church in that very counsel. There is the gift of the Church to Christ, the same security. There is the gift of salvation and eternal life in Him. Now you know these are not original with me; I get them from my Master, and His own words run thus. Appealing to His Father, He says, “Thou hast given Me power over all flesh, that, I should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given Me.” (John 17:2) Now there is His gift to His Church, and His Church’s gift to Him, and eternal life in Him for the Church. Oh come, here is something a little better than the first half of discourse; at all events, there is something to cheer us a little here. “The counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.” Well, then, the gifts shall never be recalled; the Saviour Himself shall never be withdrawn; the Church shall never be plucked out of his hands; the eternal life that is in Him can never be withheld. “He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life,” (1 John 5:12) Glance a moment at these three precious gifts, for I feel if I had just leaped out of a kennel, or out of a dungeon, and gone for a walk.
The gift of Christ. “God so loved the world that He gave His; only begotten Son.” My God, didst thou give Him to me? Is He mine? What! a precious Christ, in all the glory of His Godhead, in all the purity of His manhood, in all the perfection of His attributes, in all the adaptation of His offices and relations—given to me? Why having Christ, I possess all things. “He that withheld, not His only—begotten Son, but freely gave Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” So that the gift of His beloved Son secures everything. Well, should you like to know whether the Father has indeed given Christ to you? Perhaps some timid soul will say, “I would give a thousand worlds to know this, that Jehovah has given His dear Son to me.” Why, then I will tell you. If you have accepted of Him in the exercise of faith, the fact is proved. “As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord,” it is said, you know the determination of those poor guileful deluded beings that I have been speaking of is this—“We will not have this man to reign over us.” Well, will you have Him? You know when the question is put at a wedding, “Wilt thou have, this man to be thy wedded husband?” the bride very generally says, “I will.” Well, will you have this glorious God-man Christ Jesus, to be thine Head, thine Husband, thy Saviour, thy Portion, and thy All? Beloved, if thou art made willing to accept of Him, I am sure that God the Father has given Him to you, and given you a will to accept of Him too. “My people shall be willing in the day of my power.” (Ps. 110:3)
Just go on to mark the gift of the Church. “As many as thou hast given Me.” “All that the Father hath given Me shall come to Me.” Well, then, if you want to know this matter of fact, whether you are given to Christ in covenant security and responsibility from everlasting just ask whether you have come to Him. “All that the Father hath given Me shall come to Me. If you have come to Him as a guilt-burdened sinner, with deep repentance, with believing confidence—at least, believing expectations to have salvation wholly in His person; the Father gave you to Him, or you would never have come to Him, you would never have dropped at His feet, or bowed before Him in adoration and love.
Well, then, look at the gift of eternal life—”That He should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given Him.” Here indeed are generous purposes, gracious counsels; and they shall stand fast too. “The counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.” Oh the importance of viewing eternal life as a gift. “The gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Now poor proud rebellious man will have it to be a bargain, an offer, an overture, a purchase, an auction sale; the highest bidder to be the purchaser. My hearer, this is rebellion in the heart of man; this is amongst the awful devices that man’s heart furbishes up and brings forth. Remember, eternal life is a free gift; and he who lives and dies refusing to have it as a gift, must perish beneath eternal vengeance and wrath. Sinner, you must have pardon, and justification, and eternal life, as the free gift of God, without any purchase or merit of yours, or you will sink from gulph to gulph, in the caverns of despair, and I am clear of your blood. Oh that God may fasten this solemn truth upon your heart! It must be a gift, or it cannot be possessed.
Then again, the counsel of the Lord includes government. We are very apt to find fault with governments, and frequently with great ignorance. We had better let them alone for the most part; only bear in mind that the government is on the shoulders of Christ—“The government shall be upon His shoulders. Ay, whether it be the good of the Church, or the world, or both. He governs the Church; nor is there a single hill of Zion planted in this world but by His counsel, His order, His direction. If the seven churches in Asia had been planted by men’s sagacity, men would not have huddled them altogether in the one little province of Lydia, or close to it; but they would have been for planting them east, and west, and north, and south, all over the world. But God’s counsel had fixed that the seven churches that were then to be the glory of the earth, and where His truth should be maintained, should be all clustered together, forming a kind of nucleus in that little province of Asia Minor, while all the, rest of the world was for the time being left in darkness. It was the Lord’s counsel. And when He would have the churches in Judea, He sent and implanted them there. And when He wanted Christianity to be implanted in England, He sent and implanted it here. How long it will be before He removes the candlestick out of its place, I cannot tell; hut I pray God to preserve it amongst us. The government of the Church with regard to all her officers, especially all the ambassadors of Christ, the ministers of God. They are all made ministers by the dispensation of the grace of God, according to His counsel. Just as Paul set it forth in his day, under divine direction, divinely qualified, and divinely supported. Moreover, the government of the world is in His hands, and rules all nations as He pleases; He putteth down the mighty from their seats, and exalteth the humble and the needy. Kingdoms and empires, thrones and crowns, governors and rulers, are all under His control; and if He permits them to err, if He permits them to betray their land into the hands of Papists, His Own counsel is at the bottom of it all, and it is only to accomplish His own designs: and when He has suffered His witnesses to be slain, they shall not be buried, but shall arise after three years a half, and ascend to God in great glory. Then shall go forth the declaration, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ.”
The glory of His own name, and the glorifying of His own Church, are in His counsels. “The Lord God will give grace and glory;” and who, shall prevent Him? “And no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.” The Father has so determined in His counsel, that His Son shall “see His seed,” shall see the travail of His soul,” shall have “the heathen for His inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession.” The Son hath determined and declared even while ministering on earth, His own sovereign demand concerning it—“Father, I will that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am, to behold My glory.” (John 17:24)
Moreover, it is the Holy Spirit’s work to glorify Christ in, the soul, and to train up the souls of His redeemed for the enjoyment of glory with Himself, so that if we suffer with Him, we shall reign with Him, and if we be afflicted and persecuted with Him, we shall be glorified with Him in the realms of everlasting bliss. “To him that overcometh,” He says, “will I give to sit on My throne, even as I have overcome, and sat down with My Father on His throne.” These are among the counsels of God that “shall stand.”
Let us now just mark, that Creation and Providence are arranged in the counsels of our God. Ah! if you and I were living according to our principles in this respect, we should soon bid adieu to all our fretfulness, and all our naughtiness, and all our murmuring and complainings against God, either with regard to nature or Providence. I am as fully convinced as I am of the existence of a God, that the distressing sufferings which He has suffered to fall upon my poor body for this twelvemonth past, are arranged in His counsel and in His infinite wisdom; and in my right mind I would not complain of them. I am quite aware that all nature, with its seasons and its produce, are in His counsel, for He “doeth what He will in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.” (Dan. 4:35) He makes His sun to shine, and His rain to descend on the evil and on the good; and He so exercises His sovereignty, that He will bid it rain on this piece of ground, and not rain on that, and it shall wither.
Now look at the order of His Providence, ordering the bounds of our habitations; giving power to get wealth, and giving it wings that it may fly away, appointing friends, and suffering them to turn into enemies; marking out the order of our steps, supplying our wants giving bread and water sure and certain; fixing not only the bounds of our habitations, but the occupation of our lives: and every feature of His Providence that shall engage our attention, all under His own sovereign arrangement. So that I want to be still, and know, that He is God; to be sweetly passive in His hands, and let Him do what He will both with me and mine.
Be it observed that nations and individuals are alike interested in this sovereign counsel of His, which shall stand sure. When He, as by His prophet Jeremiah, gives the order to build up, or to pull down nations, it must be done. It is only for Him to say, “Babylon is destroyed,” and it is gone. It is only for Him to say, “Nineveh shall exist no longer”, and it is annihilated. It is only for Him to say, “England is doomed to destruction,” and it is done. My God! say not this. Everything looks like it; but this is our comfort, that national affairs are ordered according to His counsel, and so are our personal and individual affairs. “Lo, O Lord, there is not a thought in my heart but thou knowest it altogether.” There is not a step I can take but it is ordered; and whatever devices there may be in my heart, “the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.” I wonder how many of us can really pray that prayer which our Lord taught us, “Thy will be done.” Suppose that will is contrary and opposed to our fleshly desires, can we really pray, “Thy will be done?” I would be brought to that—” the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.” Glory to His name, that nature and providence are under His own control; that nations and individuals are alike at His command—that nothing is contingent.
Dwell a moment upon that last thought, that nothing is contingent. Introduce the word contingency into my vocabulary, and I lie down in despair. Introduce the word contingency into the scheme of gospel grace, and all mankind are utterly and eternally ruined. Introduce the word contingency into the scheme of grace and salvation, and Christ is dethroned, Deity is annihilated, the devil is the conqueror, and ruin pervades the universe. Oh that hateful word contingency! I have long turned it out of my vocabulary, and never mean to admit it any more—all is certainty with God. I know there are contingencies enough with man, but there are none with God.
Now glance at what you know is a favorite topic with me—the sovereignty of God is maintained.
“There’s not an angel round about His throne
But waits His voice, when He commands to go,
And hosts are struck by powerful arms unseen;
But ministers to Jesus’ Church on earth,
And flies to satisfy the saints’ desires.”
What! the armies of angels under His sovereign control! What! the hosts of glorified, ransomed souls, that are taken home, and put within their circle immediately before the throne, receiving all their bliss from the sovereign hand of God! What! the affairs of mortals, of nations, of empires, of worlds, all moved by His nod, swayed by His word, and must accomplish the purposes of His own will! What a fine specimen of faith in this doctrine was that which the centurion gave to Christ. He said, “I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof;” “now do act as a sovereign, only “speak the word, and my servant shall be healed.” And he gives an illustration, “I also am a man under authority; I say unto this man, Go, and ho goeth and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.” He does not ask why—it is a sovereign word—” Go, and he goeth; Do this, and be doeth it.” Just showing out this grand doctrine which Jesus was so uncommonly delighted with, “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” “Thou canst, Lord, without taking another step towards my house, say to my servant, Be healed, and he shall be healed; thou art the Sovereign of health, thou art the Sovereign of wealth, thou art the Sovereign of all creatures, thou art the Sovereign of all worlds.” Jesus said, “Go thy way, thy servant is made whole.” He would have the honor of His absolute sovereignty which was put upon Him. Now, my hearer, I have often pleaded with God upon this very ground, even with regard to personal relief from agonizing suffering: “Speak the word, Lord, and thy servant shall he healed; and I confidently expect that one day He will speak it. Look accurately into all the affairs of your own life, your family circles, your business affairs, matters pertaining to individual interest, and then to public life, and see how Jehovah with a touch manages, and orders settles, and overrules everything. He subdues every enemy, He conquers every foe. If a great mountain is in His way, Zerubbabel makes it a plain with one word. He bruises Satan under the feet of His saints, and vanquishes even the very corruptions and sins that exist in a believer’s heart, and cause him so much conflict. Glory His name that His sovereignty can never be yielded. It is maintained, not only by the subduing of every enemy, but by the following out, accomplishing, fulfilling of all the purposes of His love, and the supply of all the wants of His people.
III. My strength is exhausted, but I must try and say a few words upon the other particular, very briefly. The declaration of its certainty, “The counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.” Let it be remembered, that the name and honor of Jehovah, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, stand pledged to it. “Shall stand.” Now you cannot conceive of anything more disreputable to say of a fellow-worm, than that he is not a man of his word. If your neighbor or friend give you his word for anything that is at all interesting to you, and he is not a man of his word, and does not stand by his word, you have only one question to ask, Could he do what he told me he would do? If he had it not in his power, you pity him—if he had it in his power, and would not do it, you despise him. I speak with reverence. If my God could not do what He has promised, I would pity Him—if He would not do what He has promised, I should despise Him, and turn Atheist tomorrow. His name and honor are pledged, and though heaven and earth pass away, not a jot or tittle of His word shall fall. “All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof as the flower of grass; the grass withereth, and the flower thereof fadeth, but the word of our God standeth for ever.” (Isa. 40:6-8) “The counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.”
Oh! think for one moment of the frightful insult offered to Jehovah by the bare supposition, that anything He has promise can fail—that anything can be contingent upon creatures. Is He a God? Elijah mocked the worshippers of Baal, and he might mock our God the same if he liked, if he had the same ground for it. He said to Baal’s worshippers, you know, mockingly, “He is a God, cry aloud, do not give it up, for you say he is a god; perhaps he is asleep, or perhaps be is on a journey, cry aloud.” Now this was a piece of mockery; and Elijah might mock our God the same if he had cause for it. But He never sleeps nor slumbers; He is never on a journey, for He is omnipresent; He is everywhere at the same moment, and “He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. Consequently, we will rejoice in the fact, that “the counseI of Lord, that shall stand.”
Again, observe, that omnipotence is employed to carry it out. “God hath spoken once, and twice have I heard this, power belongeth unto God.” (Ps. 62:11) That power is employed to accomplish the designs of His love; and, what is most delightful to the mind of the believer, that power, if I may say in a limited sense, is at our command. “Ask, and ye shall receive.” It is only to ask, it is only to plead for it, and omnipotence is put forth.
Now contrast all this with what we read and hear about human counsels and decretals, which profess authority, and employ fire and sword to enforce that authority. I must confess that, from all I know of them, they met in the air of superstition—that carnal men made up their assemblies—that pride was their ruling principle—that their decisions were always anti-scriptural, for the devil was their chairman, personated by the Pope. But what saith the Scripture? “The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought, He maketh the devices of the people of none effect. The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, and the thoughts of His heart to all generations.”
One thought more, and I close. While our covenant God maintains the counsel of His own will, He is carrying into effect all His purposes of love. The support of His Church, the supply of His Church, and the ultimate glorification of His Church is ever dear to His heart; and if she passes through floods, or through flames, if she is yet to endure the blast of persecution, which I feel fully convinced she must, her home is secure, and she is as secure of it as if she were there. How she shall get to it does not concern you or me, but it is with her God, whose counsel must stand for ever; and so sure as His name is Jehovah not a jot or tittle of His word or purpose shall fail, all shall be fulfilled, and all His elect family, chosen in the Lord, secure in Christ, shall get safely to everlasting bliss.
Beloved, let these Divine realities cheer your hearts and strengthen your faith while passing through a world of mysteries; and encourage your anticipations of joining in the triumphant shout, “Not one good thing has failed us of all that the Lord our God spake unto us; all is come to pass.” (Joshua 21:45)
May our covenant God command a blessing upon these things, and His name shall have all the glory.
“The Eternal Three a council held
Ere time began, or man rebell’d;
And, in unchangeable decrees,
Enroll’d the covenant of peace.
“Jesus, the sinner’s Friend, stood forth,
Engaged to bear His Father’s wrath;
His people’s mighty debt discharge,
And set their captive souls at large.
“‘Twas love this peaceful cov’nant will’d,
And Christ its various parts fulfill’d;
In Him ‘twill stand for ever sure,
When hills and mountains are no more.
“This covenant sweet peace imparts
To humble souls and broken hearts;
Nor can its sacred bonds be broke,
Though devils rage, and sins provoke.
“Its sacred blessings shall extend
From age to age, and never end;
The Church below, and Church above,
Live on Jehovah’s cov’nant love.”