“And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of Him that spake to me.” (Acts 22:9)
It would be impossible for me, my hearers, not to feel a something of more than common ministerial interest in the people that are assembled together in this house of prayer—where I come not as a mere casual preacher, but (and I am sure my brother in the desk will allow me to say so) with the pastoral interest of a monthly pastor. And I desire, while I now for a passing hour occupy this pulpit, that the God whom I serve would give me grace so to bring the message before you, and so to declare His blessed gospel, that it may not be as sermons often are, like the morning cloud, or the early dew, merely passing away; but that it may be a word fixed on and in your hearts—a word for a dying bed, and for a day of judgment.
Accustomed as I am, week after week, to stand up and preach the gospel, yet there is something so tremendous in finding my own tongue addressing the ears and (if it please God) the hearts of my fellow-men, that I can only pray, and that in all the intensity of earnest prayer (and not in the mere form of it), that I may now, tonight, be made a messenger to the church of God, to those who hear me, to myself, to my brother H. in the desk, and to you.
Now, the word that I have taken for my text, or rather the word that I feel has been applied with power to my own heart, and which we churchmen commonly call a “text”, is full of interest. May the word come with power to you—that as I stand here (and there is no labor like the labor of the pulpit) and try and labor to impress its subject upon you, it may be with power and with unction to your hearts.
Now, to any man who understands and knows the Bible, I have no occasion to state that this verse forms a portion of a context that gives us a kind of syllabus, a history of the wonderful conversion of the great archbishop of the gentiles, the great but the world-hated Apostle Paul. Now, I will just read the context. We are told that he had been (as every minister often is) falsely accused—that he had been arraigned; and at the last verse in the chapter immediately preceding that in which my text stands, we read—”And when he had given him license, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saving Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you. (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith), I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. As also the high priest doth hear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished. And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me. Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And He said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.” (Acts 21:40; Acts 22.1-8) And then comes the text, giving a description of his wonderful conversion; and it is that subject that I desire now tonight to put before you with discriminating power, with distinguishing grace, if it be the will of God that I should do so. I feel that in these days of evangelical profession, the true ministers of the church must allow no middle course. It is now the fashion to be religious, and the devil avails himself of it; but I should be a disgrace to the pulpit in the established church, if I truckled to such a system as that. I must be, and I do desire to be, faithful. I would preach the full free gospel of distinguishing grace. Like your own Romaine, or the faithful Dr. Hawker, or the honored Augustus Toplady. And yet understand me, I would not set up, neither would I follow, any human standard. I only contend for the truth—for that glorious gospel which they were made to preach. And, at the same time, I warn you against all those, who have got the mere form, but are wholly, destitute of the power. And now I would call your specific attention, while you are hanging (as it were) on my tongue, to the wonderful conversion of the man, Paul, picked out so specially by God, not only as a sinner saved himself, but so signally chosen to be a minister of the gospel to the gentiles.
Now, first of all, I will read this context—”Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you. (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith), I am verily a man, a Jew, born in Tarsus, in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel,” (Acts 22:1-3) a great scholar, you observe. We do not undervalue human learning. We like, and estimate, human learning, when it does not become a snare or a trap to heaven teaching. It may be so, and often is so. But when as in this case of the Apostle Paul, it takes the second place to God’s teaching, then we value human learning, and bless God for it. Now Paul was “brought up at the feet of Gamaliel,” “and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous towards God as ye all are this day.” (He had then got the zeal, but it was not “according to knowledge.”) He was a “zealous man,” as we hear people say—(so much the worse if it is not according to godliness). “And I persecuted this way unto the death.” That is a sure mark of a worldling—to persecute the church. “If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” “And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring them, which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished.” (Now, you observe, grace makes a man honest. This is no pretended confession, when grace has taken possession of the heart). Here was true and honest, and sincere confession. Paul confessed his sin not to man; but to the eternal God. And he declares the wonderful way in which omnipotent grace wrought a work in his soul—when he was on the high road to persecute the church, to bring those he could find at Damascus, who believed in Christ, bound to Jerusalem, in order that they might be persecuted and put to death. Now, mark the simple way in which he gives a description of his conversion to God—“And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And He said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.” (Acts 22:6-8). And now comes in the text—“And they that were with me saw indeed the light and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of Him that spake to me.” And it is on these words that I desire to preach the experimental gospel—the gospel in its doctrine—gospel in its experience, and the gospel in its practice. I do not understand men preaching doctrines without practice and experience. I cannot understand a man taught and sent of God preaching doctrinal sermons without experience. I cannot understand how a man can be fit for the pulpit, fit to be a teacher of men, fit to be “a fisher of men” (to use New Testament words), I cannot understand a man being fit to stand in the place that I now occupy, and to preach the Gospel to his fellow men, who does not preach doctrine correctly, experience correctly, practice correctly! I do not understand dividing these! It must not be a yea and nay Gospel. It must be a whole Gospel, a full Gospel. The Church is hungry, the Church is thirsty; the Church cannot do, and she will not do without having a meal. She wants to be satisfied to the full; and if she cannot obtain what she requires from one man, she will go where she can find what she wants.
But to the text. Now (though I own I would prefer a man, who professes nothing, to a man who does profess but is destitute of God’s Holy Spirit within him,) yet I take this passage in its first branch as simply applicable to the professing and possessing church of God. You have heard the account which the apostle has set before you of his own wonderful conversion to God. And here I pause to preach to you what I consider the truth, and I can only preach as I am taught of God—not taught at Cambridge—not taught at school—not taught when I took my degree—not taught by any theological professor—but taught by Him who teaches no error, as we read in the fifty-fourth of Isaiah, “All thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of thy children.”—That is the teaching and the only teaching I desire to have. I believe that the doctrine of conversion, founded upon the doctrine of the Trinity, is the grand foundation doctrine of all really (using the word in a true sense) evangelical truth. Our Lord, in the third of John, distinctly tells Nicodemus, and to my mind this is a most forcible and striking point, He tells, mark me, a man of rank, a man of position, a man of parts and scholarship, “a master in Israel,” that “except a man” (speaking by the indefinite article, and, therefore, applying the point to Nicodemus himself) “except a man”—now the force of that in grammar is, except any man—except all the men and women now in All Saints Church are “born again” you cannot understand the gospel. “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” And the kingdom of God means the gospel. So that, when the Lord says—”Except a man be born again he cannot see into the kingdom of God,” I am not straining the Bible when I say it means this—except a man be born from above—unless a man receives a new heart—he cannot understand the gospel. And so it was with Saul of Tarsus. In order to teach this man full of venom against the church of God—this man who persecuted the poor saints—this man who went out armed with authority and power to bind them and put them to death—for this man there was a set time when his venom against the church was to be stopped—when he was to receive a new heart, and to be made a new creature in Christ Jesus. We do not, as I said before, undervalue human scholarship, nor human learning, we esteem them in their proper place, but, “except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
And here we have, as it were, in a picture before us, the great scholar of that day—Gamaliel’s pupil—and who was also the celebrated persecutor of the church—on his very embassy of persecution, felled to the ground—stopped in his mad career—and the work of God’s wondrous conversion done.—And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And I answered, who art thou, Lord? And He said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. And they that were with me saw indeed the light and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of Him that spake to me.” (Acts 22, 7-9). And here I want to show the distinction between light and life. He had companions with him in that memorable journey—”And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of Him that spake to me.”
These companions “saw the light, and were (mark this well) were afraid.” This is the first point I desire to preach on to you. I would do so with discriminating power, not in a bigoted, nor a harsh spirit; but with all the love of a faithful ambassador of Christ. May it comfort saved persons, heal broken-hearted ones, and bring others to a knowledge of Him who alone can save! With the text as my authority, I desire to distinguish between those persons who were with Paul, and what occurred to the apostle himself. And they that were with me saw indeed the light”—so it is with numbers in our own day! “they see the light”—but is the voice heard? “They saw the light, and were afraid”—and so it is now! Are there no clever theologians? no learned divines? Are there not amongst us in our day, men who have the Gospel at their tongues end, but whose hearts are not touched by the grace of God? Who have not heard “the voice!” Are there not men sound in doctrines who have no life—the hidden life of Christ within? Do not you citizens of London—intelligent as you generally are—do you not know the fact of the movement here and the movement there as to the profession which indicates light and knowledge, but where no “voice” has ever yet come?—where no light is as yet felt and known? “They see the light, and are afraid.” And this is so with every mere professing man—he can discern doctrines! but knows nothing of the hidden life within—in the heart! And what is the test of life within? As far as I am taught, it is this—having a cry from an exercised and broken heart.—”Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.” All external formalists may indeed see “the light,” but as Hart says—
“No big words of ready talkers,
No dry doctrine will suffice.
Broken hearts and humble walkers,
These are dear in Jesus’ eyes.
Tinkling sounds of disputation,
Naked knowledge all is vain,
Every soul that gains salvation
Must and shall be born again.”
“Tinkling” is a word peculiar! and expresses its own meaning. The man who makes a tinkling sound may get a great many followers; so one professor may make a great many others; but mark the test—
“Every soul that gains salvation
Must and shall be born again.”
This is Gospel truth! Every elect man must be “born again.” There is no doubt on this point. It is fixed and registered in the decree of God—nothing can hinder it—nothing can hasten the moment of it—nothing can put it off. I do not understand the anxiety which some have, and the attempt they would make to hasten on the time for this.
But my first point on this text is—”And they that were with me saw indeed the light.” Now bear with my plain speaking. Addressing, as I am, this crowd of persons, I may be speaking to some who only “see the light.” But let me tell you that will not do. You may see the doctrine of Christ as I point them to you tonight, but what is the effect of it—you are “afraid,” you are terrified out of your senses! and it must be so—so it was with them that were with Paul!
Now, having thus glanced at the first portion of the text, I come to the second part, and that is the chief subject I desire to preach on, because it is so full of Gospel truth—“But they heard not the voice of Him that spake to me.” We must discriminate in the pulpit. We must insist upon individual experience—we cannot preach to congregations as a whole. I remember on one occasion, being expostulated with afterwards in the vestry by a rather Traotarian clergyman because I had not addressed the whole congregation as a baptized Church. But we must in our preaching discriminate, as I would do tonight in this church between the people of God and the people of the world—between those who have only got the truth in the head, and those who have the truth in the heart—between such as have seen indeed the light only, and those who have heard the voice. And here we come to the great point in the text before me—“But they heard not the voice of Him that spake to me.” The voice then spake to Paul. Now, what is that voice? It is the voice of the living God! It is the voice, and the only voice, that can reach the sinner dead in trespasses and sins. It is the voice of the Lord; but remember—”The Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.”
My hearers, I ask you individually, have you heard the voice? Listen—”My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” (John 10:27,28). There is “the voice,” and it is the voice of the living God, it is the voice of a loving Father through a glorious Saviour, by the Holy Spirit’s power speaking to His child— “Come unto me.” Paul heard that voice, but his companions did not, and hence I gather from this that God does not save in clusters. I place no confidence in that which is making a great noise with a certain party, those Revivals in America and elsewhere. I believe it is much in imagination. But I do believe in the revival of individual souls, when the living God speaks as He did to Paul in the text before me, and makes that man a witness of God’s power in his own heart.
Now, my hearers, amid the stillness and solemnity of this house of God let me ask each of you whether you have heard the voice of which I am attempting feebly to preach; whether you have heard God’s voice in thunder from Sinai’s law? Have you heard the voice of God in the law? That voice brings condemnation to every one of you who hear it; that voice fastens the sentence of condemnation upon each one assembled in this church, whether elect or non-elect. The voice of condemnation—”the killing law.” Well, have you ever heard the voice of God in the law? If so, you will get no rest, no peace, till you have heard His melting voice, His soothing voice, His peace speaking voice, His pardoning voice, in the gospel saying, Come unto me all that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Now, you will find ninety-nine men out of a hundred take that scripture as a general invitation. It is no general invitation at all. There is no general invitation in the gospel. There is no invitation either in the Old Testament or in the New without a qualification. I will take that—“All that labour and are heavy laden.” These are the characteristics—those who labour and who suffer under a sense of sin. If there are any labouring and heavy, laden ones here tonight, and I hope there are several, it is to you that the invitation is addressed. Who is it that makes a man labour under a sense of sin? The Holy Ghost. Again, I take another passage, “Ho, every one that thirsteth come ye to the waters.” That is no general invitation. We allow no standing ground to Arminians, we allow no loophole to free will. “Ho, every one that thirsteth.” Who is it gives the power to thirst? Remember that sweet hymn of Cowper’s—
“I thirst, but not as once I did,
The vain delights of earth to share,
Thy wounds, Immanuel, all forbid
That I should seek my pleasures there.
It was the sight of thy dear cross
First weaned my soul from earthly things,
And taught me to esteem as dross
The mirth of fools, and pomp of kings.
Now look, he wanted something—
“I want that grace that springs from thee,
That quickens all things where it flows,
And makes a wretched thorn like me
Bloom as the myrtle or the rose.”
When a man is brought to that, nothing will quench his thirst but blood, the blood of the Lamb! The people of God are a desperate people. They are in a desperate disease, and blessed be God they have a desperate remedy in the salvation that is in Christ Jesus their illustrious Head and Lord!
“Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
See Him dying on the tree;
‘Tis the Christ, by man rejected;
Yes, my soul, ‘tis He, ‘tis He.”
Have you heard His voice in the law? I believe that no man knows anything of the gospel, who has not under gone a law-work! I do not believe in the Christianity of any man who has not undergone a law-work. And hence I admire the wisdom of the Church of England in ordering the ten commandments to be read in our morning service. And when I hear that responsive petition after each—“Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.”—I see, I hear, and I feel the condemnation of that law passed upon my guilty and law-breaking soul; and feeling this and knowing this, I am driven to listen to that voice which I have heard—which arrested me some time after I occupied a pulpit in the church—the voice, not of Moses in the law, but the voice which said—“Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.” (Isa. 45:22) Have you, my hearers, heard that same voice? I quoted, just now, the text—”My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10)
Some one has well observed on that Scripture (and I quote it because the charge against us who preach the doctrines of the gospel fully is, that we are Antinomians, that we are Calvinists. They say so of my brother in the desk; they say the same of me)— I say some one has well observed on that Scripture in John, “The sheep of Christ have two marks—they have an ear mark, and they have a foot mark also; they hear His voice and they follow Jesus.” And I feel that many of you are listening to hear that voice. I feel that I have listeners here who desire to hear the voice and follow Christ. I am satisfied that you would not attend my ministry, except from a feeling sense of this—that at times the one voice does speak through this feeble tongue, and has been with power to your own souls.
My hearers! the Christian man would ever hear the voice and follow Christ in all things. You men of London! in your business, your counting-houses, in your shops, in your mercantile transactions, the man of God is distinguished from the carnal worldling; the godly merchant is distinguished from the worldly merchant; the godly tradesman is distinguished from the carnal tradesman. In the counting-house or behind the counter, he will carry with him, when grace is in exercise, the desire to hear that voice which proclaims, “This is the way, walk ye in it.” My hearers I feel that this is so, and hence I feel that I have, a tremendous subject—one that I would fearlessly proclaim upon the housetops—and mark this, that it is a personal subject. Nathan preached faithfully to David—and, like the Saviour, He preached by a “parable”. He drew the pictured two men, one rich, the other poor; that the rich man oppressed the poor man—”And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man’s lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him. And David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die.” David fired up at this, and exclaimed—”The man that hath done this shall surely die.” But mark what follows:—“And Nathan said to David—“Thou art the man.” What was the effect of this? David confessed his sin. “I have sinned against the Lord.” This was real confession, a better confession than the confessing to a priest; better than confessing to any man. And Nathan said unto David, “The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.” “He that confesseth and forsaketh his sin shall find mercy.” “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Now the Arminian would say there is a condition here, “If we confess.” I deny that. I will not allow the Arminian any ground whatever to stand upon. There is no condition. Confession is an evidence of pardon. When a man is made to confess his sins it is an evidence that God has pardoned him. That has often been a comfort to my own soul in many a trying moment, when—
When I have been under self-condemnation, when I have been struggling on my knees and too proud to confess the particular sins I may have been guilty of, if only but in thought, and God has not allowed me to cease my wrestling till I had confessed the particular sin, and cried for pardon and forgiveness, and then the burden on the conscience has been removed. Every saved sinner must be brought to confess his sins, and so to realize experimentally his pardon. The voice of God speaks in the law. The voice of God speaks in the gospel. The voice of God speaks when (after guilt has been felt and the sin has been groaned under, and confession made) pardon has been applied with power. You remember the case of the two debtors; the one owed five hundred pence, the other fifty. “There was a certain creditor which had two debtors; the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me, therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And He said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. And He turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet; but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gayest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.”
Now, observe! Christ said that to Simon of her! And, hence, no comfort to her till the voice was addressed with power to her own soul—He said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven!” She heard for herself then—she went away in peace then—for the-voice was commanded into her soul then—”And He said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee: go in peace.”(Luke 7:50) Now, I ask you, how far have you been enabled to follow me in the distinction I have drawn between the merely seeing “the light” and the hearing “the voice?” Light is not life! A man may have all the gospel in his head and yet be lost; but when a man has once heard the voice spoken to him, then—
“More happy, but not more secure,
Are glorified spirits in heaven.”
The voice once spoken, then the work is begun. Follow out the wonderful history of Paul, and you will see the truth of this. When Christ was on earth, He used to advert to subjects and things passing around Him at the time to illustrate His preaching. I would refer here to that wonderful spectacle which is now visible in the heavens—I mean the comet. I read the other day, when I was at home, of you Londoners; that you were crowding your bridges and there hiring, one for a penny, and another for two pence, telescopes to look through, in order to gaze on that wonderful meteor now charioting his way through the heavens, astonishing and amazing the eyes of men. Astronomers know nothing satisfactory about this. But mark? you can gaze on that comet, wondering what it is, and admiring the sight. But do you remember the description in the Bible of another appearance that shall be seen in the heavens—“When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.” (Matt. 25:31,32) Or, as described by another evangelist—”And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” (Luke 21:25-27) Now, are you prepared for that sight? Behold I come as a thief in the night? “At midnight” shall the cry be made—”Watch, therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.” (Matt. 25:13) Have you heard His voice arresting you—calling you away from world, flesh, and devil—making you feel and know that “in your flesh dwelleth no good thing?” Has the “new heart” been given? Some preach about a “change of heart.” That is not a scriptural term; it is a “new heart.” And hence the conflict in every believer—”For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” (Gal. 5:17) “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” (Rom. 7:19) This conflict is the effect of having heard the voice. There is a remarkable passage—”Return, return, 0 Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon thee. What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies.” (Song of Sol. 6:13) “Return, return, O Shulamite, that we may look upon thee;” that I take as the call of God to His child. The Shulamite answers in fear and under exercise, frightened as it were, “What will ye see in the Shulamite?” She knows her sin, her depravity, and vileness. But now mark God’s reply—”As it were the company of two armies.” “Two armies;” that is, the old Adam as bad as ever, and the grace within, which causes the conflict and the warfare. That conflict will never cease; that warfare can never terminate. It will go on, day by day, hour by hour, till death causes it to cease, and the Christian has arrived at that blessed spot where—”The wicked cease troubling; and there the weary be at rest.” (Job 3:17) Perhaps these things may be too searching for some of you. Is it so? But what would you say of a surgeon who did not apply the proper remedy? who hesitated to cut off the limb when it was necessary to do so to save life? What would you say in that case? And ministers of the gospel must preach the gospel. We must “lay the axe unto the root of the trees;” we must preach “the voice,” and not the mere “light.” To illustrate this, suppose this gas to be turned off. I might go on preaching; you would hear the voice—we often hear the voice that I am preaching about—in the darkness, in the midnight of the soul—”With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” (Isa. 26:9) “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee O Lord.” (Psa. 130:1) And there is a remarkable passage—“And I will bring the blind by a way they knew not; I will lead them in paths they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.” (Isa.42:16) Oh! what a mercy in that promise. We are so blind, we cannot guide nor direct ourselves; we fear to take a step alone; we long to hear the voice. See how practical the truth is! Is this Antinomianism?. Is this Calvinism? May those who thus scandalize us and our preaching be forgiven. But, though men and devils roar against us, God will defend His truth and fight our battles.
Now the time is come that I must stop preaching. May I have succeeded in impressing on your minds, first, the great fact, as set forth in the text, of Paul’s conversion to God, by the power of His own grace; and also that without this conversion to God, a man may be moral, a man may be amiable, a man may be what is commonly called “a good man,” a man may see the “light,” but except the voice which penetrated the soul of Saul of Tarsus, is heard with power, no man can ever enter into the kingdom of God.” But mark! every elect man, every redeemed man, must be, and shall be, converted by grace, brought to see the evil of sin, to feel the awful depravity of his own nature, and to loathe himself because of his own iniquities! And hence we shall be made weary with all worldly things! The temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil, will harass and annoy! The voice once heard with power cannot be silenced. It will have a winning effect on the heart. This voice will separate and call us away from the things of time and flesh. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27) In the case of Saul of Tarsus, remember, his companions “saw indeed the light.” “And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of Him that spake to me.” (Acts 22:9) It was a personal, an individual matter with Paul. He heard the voice! Where the word of a king is, “is power.” One evidence of sonship is fear—to fear God. In the text it is said that they who were with Paul “saw the light indeed, and were afraid,” that is, they were terrified, affrighted; but those, who have heard the voice fear before God in another sense. It is a fear, an earnest, longing of soul, to know whether we are God’s children.
“‘Tis a point I long to know,
Oft it causes anxious thought,
Do I love the Lord or no?
Am! His, or am I not?”
Nothing can satisfy the seeking, longing soul on this point but the voice with power. Mere “light”, mere head knowledge will not do for this.
“I ask’d the Lord that I might grow
In faith and love, and every grace,
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek more earnestly His face.”
Could there be a more earnest desire than that? “Let the sighing of the prisoner come before thee; according to the greatness of thy power preserve thou those that are appointed to die.” (Psa.79:11) In the text, then, that I have been preaching on; conversion from a state of death in sin to one of life in Christ by the power of the one voice is the great subject set forth, and this will always drive out the cry, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” That cry is a sign of life, and when I look to Calvary and see there those three crosses, and hear from the dying thief that earnest prayer, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom,” (Luke 23:42) I see another instance of one, and him a guilty sinner, who had also heard the voice with power. See how that thief owned the divinity of Jesus Christ. “Lord!” May God in mercy bless to you and to me this great text and subject. May we not have been here gathered together in vain. May the preaching be crowned with a blessing. May it be made the means now of bringing many to know, to see, and to feel what they may never have known, seen, or felt before; and may the church be built up more firmly than ever in the doctrines and discipline of God’s most holy Word. May the one voice have been heard here. Such is the desire of my heart. I will now simply read the text. “And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of Him that spake to me.” God command the blessing, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen. Amen.