"Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God. Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is; which keepeth truth for ever." (Psalm 146:5,6)
In these days when there is so much error rampant around us, it is a great and distinguishing mercy to have a single eye to see, and a broken heart to receive, the blessed truth of the gospel, and to know that Christianity is a personal and an individual thing.
Now, without further preface, I would go, in dependence on the Holy Spirit's teaching and power, to this text that I am now attempting to preach on.
In its first branch (and on that branch I would speak first), it speaks of three things--three things that have been impressed on my mind to preach on. First of all it speaks of "Happiness;" secondly, it speaks of "The God of Jacob;" and thirdly, it speaks of "Help." Now, dear people, bear those three points in your memories, and may they go into your hearts as I endeavor to expound to you the word of God from them.
First of all, the text speaks of "Happiness"--of individual happiness-of personal happiness--"Happy is he." Is not that drawing the thing into a focus? coming, as it were, as Nathan did to David, with "Thou art the man." O that as I stand preaching the truth of God to you, it may come with power and unction. Doctrine will not do alone. Many a man may preach doctrine as straight as a line--there may not be a jarring note to it; but if it be unaccompanied with the power of God and the unction of the spirit, it will do no good to souls. Doctrine, whenever and wheresoever preached by a minister of God, sent from God to be a blessing to the people, must be accompanied with unction, and with power--there must be the anointing!
Now the first point before us is "happiness;" and there is only one place to find happiness; and the text puts this subject before us as a personal and an individual matter. "Happy is he"--that is, any man, referring, observe only to the elect of God when effectually called by irresistible and sovereign grace.
Now, secondly (I shall refer to that point about "happiness" afterwards), I will speak of "The God of Jacob." Unless our preaching be distinguishing--unless our ministry be discriminating--unless we are gifted by our Master to separate between the church and the world--between the professor and possessor--between the sheep and the goats; and then, to take a deeper point, unless we open up to the new-born child of God, the distinction between the old man and the new man, we are useless in our pulpits. It will be a great mercy to me, though I may know nothing of it, if I send one soul out of this church tonight, really seeking earnestly to know his or her personal interest in this "God of Jacob." But see how discriminatingly these words put God before us--"the God of Jacob." Why, he is God over all, blessed for ever; but this brings God before us in a covenant point of view, as emphatically "The God of Jacob." How sweetly this verse of the apostle, opens up my text--"Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." There is discriminating grace! and so here the psalmist speaks; and the psalmist did not speak what he had not really felt; and you and I can know nothing of the real intrinsic meaning of "The God of Jacob," if we have not tasted felt, and known something of this glorious God, and of his grace to us. Now, He is emphatically the God of the elect. He is the God in everlasting covenant with his own redeemed people--that people for whom alone he sent His son, and for whom Christ died; and let me mark here emphatically before you, the doctrine of Particular Redemption, as distinguished from the abominable Arminian scheme--worse then popery--of universal redemption. Now, there can be no mistake about this. So here, these words, "The God of Jacob," pointedly and distinguishingly set before us that he is a covenant God to his own dear people. Now, what has he done for Jacob? I take Jacob here to stand for the whole election of grace--the whole church of God. I am not straining the point I think. I might read you the 17th Article of my own church, I might quote scripture after scripture to prove the great, the blessed, and the glorious doctrine of election. We hold that doctrine as a rock on which all other doctrines stand. Christ speaks--and, oh! how lovingly, and, may I not say, exultingly--he speaks of the church, when in the New Testament he calls her "His own elect?" Now, pause with me for an instant, and contemplate (if you can) on this "God of Jacob." Think, O think of what He has done for Jacob. Think of the great doctrine of the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, three persons, one everlasting God. The Father electing his people in Christ, giving his elect to Christ, and giving Christ to them, Christ willingly, graciously, lovingly, undertaking to die for them (and mark me here), only for them. Let us have no unsound doctrine--only for them.
O! what a vast doctrine is this--the doctrine of the ever blessed Trinity--it puzzles our greatest scholars, they cannot grasp it, neither can they understand it; whereas, on the contrary, some poor cottage peasant who has never been to school, except to the school of God! can understand in his own experience, and in his broken heart, the blessed realities of that mysterious and glorious doctrine, three Persons, one everlasting God. Look at the love, and look at the purpose of God. Paul calls it, "According to the eternal purpose, which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Eph. 3:11) Your sins cannot frustrate that purpose, they cannot do it. "Sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but under grace." (Rom. 6:14) Is not that good news? "As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so good news from a far country." (Prov. 25:25) That is good news; and it is good news that I want to bring to this people tonight. Here is the doctrine of the Trinity, and our church well says, in one of her litany petitions, "Oh, holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, three persons and one God, have mercy upon us, miserable sinners." Now, here is the everlasting God in Christ. In the 31st chapter of Jeremiah, it is said, "Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." Why drawn? because I have loved thee! Can God be a disappointed God? Man can be disappointed; you may be disappointed day after day, hour after hour, but can God be disappointed? He! who in the after part of my text is said to have "made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that therein is." Is not that preaching to you a God of power, which even your natural senses can understand? "who made heaven and earth?" By what power is it, that I can raise my hand, or hold up my finger? Do I do it in my own strength? No such thing. The man with a withered hand could only stretch if forth when God commanded him to do so. Here then is a God of power. I must preach to you out of this blessed doctrine, the Godhead of the Incarnate Redeemer, one of the most sweet, and blessed, and establishing doctrines that the Church of God can hear. Dear Hart has a graphic verse upon this:--
"That Christ is God! I can vouch;
And for His people cares;
For I have prayed to him as such,
And He has heard my prayers."
Is not that coming to positive proof? You and I have only to go to "The God of Jacob" through the Incarnate Son, and as we go to our God and Father in Christ, is it not sweet to feel that we have a Mediator and Intercessor in Him, to gain us a hearing? One who "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin, one who pleads our cause, and who, as God, can command for us a hearing and a blessing. Oh! is there one poor sinner before me now who is overcome by sin? Is there one child of God amid the range of these pews, or in this church, who is now under a feeling sense of his own backsliding sinfulness? Listen to me then while I read you these words out of John's Epistle--"If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and He is the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 2:1,2) Is not that sweet, dear people; you and I in ourselves are made up of sinfulness! As one of my own hearers in Sussex, said to me a short time ago, "Why, it seems that people expect so much of a Christian!" "Why," said he, "you know a Christian is but a sinner still!" O! how true it is that he can do nothing, except as God works in him "both to will and to do of his good pleasure." The desire of the Christian is to glorify God in word, work, and conversation; but such is the depravity of our nature, such is the desperate corruption of the old Adam state (for there is no such thing as an improvement of the old man), that we are all miserable sinners still; and is it not a mercy to know that, as the sinfulness of our nature in the old Adam state remains the same, and that we all are weak and vile, yet that we have an advocate (that the world has not), and that that advocate is "The God of Jacob?" I should like, if I had time (but it would fail me), to turn to that glorious chapter in the book of Genesis--chapter twenty-seven, where the venerable Patriarch gives Jacob the blessing: the contrast there between Jacob and Esau. One thought strikes me: that after the father had sent Esau to hunt, and Jacob came in before Esau returned, the father's enquiry is, "How is it that thou has found it so quickly, my son?" What was the answer? "Because the Lord thy God brought it to me." Hart speaks of the blessing:--
--"By Jacob's kids,
And not from Esau's bow."
Esau was not to have the blessing, Jacob was. O these words only, "The God of Jacob," would be text enough for all my sermon tonight--"the God of Jacob." Is He your God? If He is, happy are you! But I must pass on; for my own mind (while I was deeply exercised for a text to preach on tonight), dropped upon the subject of the blessedness, and the happiness of him, who has "The God of Jacob" for his help. There are many people here before me; how many of you know--REALLY know--your own helplessness? how many of you have had your Arminianism burnt out of you? O that wretched Arminianism that fancies itself a God helper! helpers of God! O! heresy of the worst kind: God wants none of your help! "I have laid help upon One that is mighty," saith the God of Jacob. Now then, follow me upon the subject of the creature's helplessness, and see how this brings out the vividness of the words before me. You must know your own helplessness; you must know that you have no power, that you have no will, that you have nothing in yourselves but sin. Dear Toplady says (what a right creed he had!):--
"Nothing in my hand I bring--
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die."
The man who could write that hymn, knew what it was to be helpless, and he must also have known what it was to have had "The God of Jacob for his help." He came with nothing, and you must come with nothing. A passage occurs to me, if I can turn to it in the book of Judges (my point, remember, is the helplessness of the creature)--"Then went Samson down with his father and his mother to Timnath, and came to the vineyards of Timnath, and, behold, a young lion roared against him" (not a very pleasant situation to be in), "Behold, a young lion roared against him. And the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and nothing in his hand." There is the power of God--"And nothing in his hand: but he told not his father or his mother what he had done." You and I cannot tell all our feelings, especially when we have had a melting season, but when God has blessed us with some signal mercy and benefit, the heart is so full that we cannot tell father or mother, no one, what we have done. And now, my hearers, I am going to try to preach to you of the helplessness of man. "Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help." And out of that state of helplessness you will see by the contrast (by the grace of God in you), the blessing of the first part of the text!
Now, without going back to the fall, or the consequences of the fall, viewing ourselves utterly, wholly depraved, not even having a good thought within us, listen to what the Apostle Paul says, in one of the largest verses in all the Bible--"The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor. 2:14) Then it is not the natural man's own fault! He cannot do it! he has no power to do it! How foolish it is, then, to call upon man indiscriminately to believe the gospel! How foolish is it to set dead men and dead women to pray! 'Why don't you pray?' 'Why don't you believe?' The honest answer is, "Because we cannot." "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God." How can any man really pray? Only by the Spirit. How can any man repent? Only by the Spirit. There are two kinds of repentance; but I am speaking of spiritual repentance. Judas repented, and hung himself; but Iscariot had not spiritual repentance. Peter, blessed with God's power, did repent, and went out and wept bitterly. That was the effect of power. Look at the utter helplessness of man; he has no will, no power. You want a scripture for it; and you shall have one, the 44th verse of the 6th chapter of John--"No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me, draw him." (John 6:44) In Zechariah, it is written, "Not by might nor by power, but my My Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts." (Zech. 4:6) What a mercy to know our helplessness! Look at the Apostle Paul--"Oh wretched man I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7:24) "No man can come to me" saith the Saviour, "except the Father which hath sent me draw him." But listen to another verse in the sixth of John, "All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me." There is the God of Jacob speaking!
"Fenced with Jehovah's shalls and wills,
Firm as the everlasting hills,"
"All that the Father giveth me shall come to me and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out." (John 6:37) It is here on this truth--the doctrine of election, that the poor sinner alone can rest; this is the only pillow to fall back on. But remember this doctrine of election--blessed as the doctrine of election is--is of no comfort, in the highest sense, except I see my own election in Christ Jesus.
"Though God's election is a truth,
Small comfort there I see,
Till I am told by God's own mouth,
That He has chosen me."
That is coming to the point--the experimental point; and until a man really knows his own helplessness--till he has been taken into that place which John Berridge speaks of, into the "Stripping Room," he will know nothing. It is only the poor beggar who has nothing of his own, who is nothing, and who experimentally knows that he can do nothing, that will really come to the throne of grace. This is the way that God draws us. Hence we must be emptied of self. "Every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him, and he became captain over them." (1 Sam. 22:2) How was it with the prodigal in the 15th of Luke. The word tells us that he "began to be in want." That was the way in which he was exercised and schooled before he came home. God makes us want everything before we go to Him. Why, you know what you were, when you were (what all naturally are)--when you were an Arminian; you tried everything before you came to God; your own works, your own doings, and you were as proud as Satan himself; but when you had been taught your entire helplessness, then you came to Him. Is not that a sweet idea of Toplady:
"Naked, come to thee for dress;
Helpless, look to thee for grace."
Again, another hymn:--
"All my help from thee I bring."
"I have laid help upon One that is Mighty." (Ps. 89:19) Have you been taught your helplessness, as a sinner? Have you been taught that you can do nothing of yourself? That is helplessness. Does not Christ tell us in the fifteenth chapter of John, "Without me ye can do nothing." Then look at the mercy of God in having "laid help upon One that is Mighty." Now, you get a key to the first part of the text that I am speaking on--"Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help." There is no help anywhere, and no real comfort anywhere, but in the living God of Jacob. You will find everything else a broken cistern. There is a sweet experimental passage in the Book of Micah--"Trust ye not in a friend. Put ye not confidence in a guide. Keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom." We must learn all this. It is hard to learn; but we must be taught it. We learn it in the school of God. "For the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man's enemies shall be the men of his own house." We must learn that, depend on it. But what is the climax of it all? "Therefore I will look unto the Lord. I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me." (Micah 7:5-7) Then how he rose up in confidence--"My God will hear me." O how "happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help." I believe, in one sense, that the nearest, the dearest, and the very tenderest ties must be snapped asunder; and I believe every Jacob must be schooled to dwell alone, before he will ever get to that blessed climax of the prophet, "Therefore I will look unto the Lord. I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me." You may have to wait; but Solomon says--"He that waiteth upon his master shall be honoured." Then how blessed the confidence and hope of the man who trusts in "The God of Jacob." "My God will hear me." Have you found out the secret, that it is "through much tribulation that we must enter into the kingdom of God?" That is the only place--"TRIBULATION"--that we learn the truth. It is there, too, we learn the happiness of having "The God of Jacob for our help." I believe it is learnt nowhere else.
"Trials make the promise sweet,
Trials give new life to prayer,
Trials bring me to His feet,
Lay me low, and keep me there."
Nothing else will do that. It is God's schooling--learnt only in His school. "In the world ye shall have tribulation." There is sovereignty in that word--"Ye shall have tribulation." The word of God distinctly tells us that we must have tribulation. Again, another passage occurs to me--"Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried, and ye shall have tribulation ten days." (Rev. 2:10) This is a specific time. Some may have a longer time than others--"Ye shall have tribulation: but, be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." Then it is only the poor soul, that has been there, and shut up, who can tell anything of a deliverance mercy. Peter had been in prison, and he had been shut up securely, as Herod thought; "For when Herod WOULD HAVE, brought him forth."--Look at the "would have"--Herod "would have" done something, but he could not. He was like a dog chained to a kennel, and he could only go as far as the chain extended.
"The burning bush was not consumed
While God remained there;
The three, when Jesus made the fourth,
Found fire as soft as air."
"The mount of danger is the place
Where God displays delivering grace."
Herod was scheming and planning against the captive apostle. "And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison."
Why sleeping? His troubles did not keep him awake, and he was sleeping--and sleeping quietly. "Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help." Peter realized that, and Peter felt and knew its power. "He was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands."
The God of Jacob was his help; and it was that God who opened the prison doors, and set the poor and helpless Peter FREE. The poor soul who knows what bondage is cries, "Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name. The Righteous shall compass me about: for thou shalt deal bountifully with me." (Ps. 142:7) Who was it that David had faith to feel should compass him about? It was the Righteous God himself. But you must be in prison to realize that. You must say--"I am shut up, and cannot come forth." You must be in bonds--in trouble, needing help, or you can never enter into these realities. O, trials will thicken like fogs in the marsh--no sooner out of one trouble, than another comes on; and this in order to draw you nearer to God--nearer, nearer to Him who is mighty to save." We read of Peter--"And Peter followed afar off"--a bad spot for a child of God; and yet he could not have then been any nearer; but this was afterwards to bring him nearer to God; and you and I can only do as God gives us power. Is it not a blessing to know something of these things? Is it not a blessing to know that our help is not of self, but all of God? that we are nothing--know nothing--can do nothing? "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure." (Phil. 2:13) "Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help." This is a personal matter, and we can never understand the blessing and the reality of this great fact till we have been schooled in God's school, and been taught our utter weakness.
Now, in the next branch of our text, David states this great fact--"whose hope is in the Lord his God." There are two hopes in the Bible: there is the hope of the hypocrite, and that shall perish; (Job 8:13) but there is another hope in the Bible, and that is this--"But we glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, then experience, then hope. See where hope stands. What is the hope of the hypocrite? He may gain a good character, he may gain the applause of men; but he is a hypocrite; and what is the good of it, when God takes away his soul, and sends it to hell? But the hope of God's elect, is the hope that grows out of trouble; it is a hope that grows out of patience; that springs out of experience. It is thus spoken of in the word of God--"Hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us." (Rom. 5:5) The hope of the soul is the work of the Holy Ghost. Now, we are told in the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you;" and we have no power but then. And it is the Holy Spirit of God, the third person in the Trinity, that works hope in our souls. Now, is it not a mercy (and I may be speaking to some such here), to be conscious, by a hope in our souls, that we are of those for whom Christ died? Is it not a mercy to have such a hope kindled in us by the power of grace, for nothing else can drop true hope there? Is it not a blessed thing to have a hope in our soul that we shall never be damned with the reprobate world? But, as dear Hart says, "Who can give us hope?" Only God. You cannot buy hope, as you can go into a shop and buy anything. You cannot get hope of your own free will, you must wait till God gives it you, and the God who gives you hope, will kindle hope in you till it burn into a brighter and a brighter flame, "till faith shall become sight," (as some one says), and "hope shall be fruition." Oh! when we get to heaven, all hope will be gone; we shall not want hope or faith there; but what shall we have? The apostle says, "Now abideth faith, hope, charity; these three, but the greatest of these is charity." And why? because love exists from everlasting to everlasting. God is love. Heaven is love. When I get to heaven, if ever I do (and I hope I shall), and hope seems to kindle in me; I think I shall, I feel certain I shall; then I shall want no faith there, no hope there. Love will be in the occupation of every heart; and where does love center? God is love; it centers in his blessed self. "Whose hope is in the Lord His God?" Look at the little word in; it is a great word in the bible; a great word in truthful theology; "Whose hope is in the Lord his God?" Where is your hope? "Truly my hope is even in Thee," says David, in another psalm. Is it not a blessed thing to have been brought away from all false hopes, to be brought entirely and wholly to a hope in "The God of Jacob?" Let me read you a verse or two that follows the text, and see how it brings the subject forth in much more vivid colors than I can preach to you.--"Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is; which keepeth truth for ever; which executeth judgment for the oppressed." Is there an oppressed soul here? Is there an oppressed man or woman here? Then look at "The God of Jacob," and at what He does. "He executeth judgment for the oppressed." "Vengeance belongeth unto me: I will repay saith the Lord," therefore leave your enemies in the hands of God. "He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of his eye." (Zech. 2:8) He repayeth. You may be a marked man, hated, cast out as evil, never mind; God knows all about it; he will fight your battles for you. "This God is our God for ever and ever, He will be our guide unto death."
What a mercy to think that God fights the battle for his people. "Which executeth judgment for the oppressed; which giveth food to the hungry." Is there a hungry soul here? Is there one here hungering for the bread of life? Have you come to church, as all really poor sinners do come, hungry for the bread--not the bread that perisheth, but the bread of everlasting life? Look at this text: "which giveth food to the hungry." He will give you food. He may be giving you food now by my preaching; and may it be so, for his own glory's sake. Again: "The Lord looseth the prisoners." Is there one poor soul here in bondage? Bondage is the first work. Is there one here just called out from the grave of death, with a "Lazarus come forth?" "The Lord looseth the prisoners." Are you sitting, at the graves edge in bondage, bound hand and foot, and cannot help yourself? The Lord looseth such as you, but you must wait for him! You cannot burst the bondage; you will never get out of it till He opens the door. "He openeth, and no man shutteth, He shutteth, and no man openeth." (Rev. 3:7) "Lazarus come forth," he was commanded from death to life; but he was bound--bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his head bound about with a napkin. There was life in the man, but he was in bondage. How many are there here before me in this congregation now quickened into life? How many Ruth's are there here now in Boaz's corn-field? How many are there that drop on their faces as she did? "Then she fell on her face and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him: Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger." Then you have distinguishing grace. You must be in bondage, that is the work of the Holy Ghost upon the soul that has been quickened into life! But see--"The Lord looseth the prisoners." Look at Lazarus! he was bound up, but life was given in him, and it was not till the words "Loose him, and let him go," were said, that he was at liberty. "Where the word of a king is, there is power." We hear a great deal said in these days about liberty: it is a blessed word! Englishmen love the word! Our own country is, I suppose, the freest country on the face of the earth. Liberty is the very watchword of Englishmen. But what is the watchword of the Christian Englishman? What is the liberty of the Christian?
"He is the freeman whom the TRUTH makes FREE,
And all are slaves beside."
"If the Son therefore shall make you FREE, ye shall be free indeed." (John 8:36) Again, "And ye shall know the TRUTH, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32) But I know from experience that you must sit bound up in bondage till He comes to set you free. You cannot undo your chains. Can the prisoners in Newgate get through the walls? No such thing; nor can quickened man be got out of bondage till the king comes and commands--"Loose him, and let him go." Is not that sweet? To be sure it is. "The Lord looseth the prisoners." Then, if there is but one prisoner here, this is a word of encouragement. You must be brought into bondage, before you are able to say as Thomas did: "My Lord and my God." (John 20:28) But if you are in bondage, you are a child of God, and God will set you free. Again, look at what this God of Jacob does: "He openeth the eyes of the blind." We are all born blind. In the 9th chapter of John, what was the testimony of the man that was born blind? We must have a testimony: "One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see." Now, perhaps I am preaching here to some persons who are dead in sin; the minister of the gospel is to preach to all sorts and conditions of men; the command is, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." (Mark 16:15) That is our commission. "Preach the gospel to every creature"--the full gospel, the free grace gospel, leaving it to God to apply it. The application of truth is the alone work of God! and this reminds me of that sweet verse which some of us, in days gone by, used to sing together at the end of our service:--
"We have listened to the preacher,
Truth by him has now been shown;
But we want a Greater Teacher
From the Everlasting Throne.
Is the work of God alone."
Now, here, amongst you there may be some who are dead in sin--dead in sin now, but who are in God's eternal purpose to be quickened into life. We have a sweetly encouraging word in Isaiah--it is a COMMAND from the "God of Jacob:" "Bring forth the blind people that have eyes," (Isa. 43:8) and you, some of you who are now perhaps in a state of nature's darkness, blind and cannot see, are now to be taught, and it may be, to be brought out, and the command is to be issued and obeyed--"Bring forth the blind people that have eyes." The Lord openeth the eyes of the blind." Ask the Christian who opened his eyes; he will tell you it was God alone! Another sweet word in Isaiah 42:16, "And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that 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."
O my brethren, these are new paths for the Christian--paths you have never yet been in; and the days of darkness, they shall be many; but ponder over the promise, "I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight; these things will I do unto them, and not forsake them." Another great and glorious passage occurs to me in Isaiah 42:18,19: "Hear, ye deaf; and look ye blind, that ye may see. Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger I sent? Who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the Lord's servant?"
Now, of whom does that scripture speak? Who is meant by "my servant?" Is it not Christ? And he is said to be blind--and how is this? He is the all-seeing God. It is said that He is about my path, and about my bed, and spiest out all my ways; that He sees all, and that He knows everything; without Him not even a sparrow can fall to the ground; how, then, is He blind? Why, to the faults of His elect--to the sins of His church. He will not see them--He is blind to the sins of His church. "Love covereth all sins," and so He cannot see them--they are all and each covered and hid--covered in love and blood. O is it not sweet to know something really savingly of "The God of Jacob!" Is there one here--a spy--come to spy out the nakedness of the land (if I may so speak)? Do not you (if such there be), go away, and dare to say that I have said a word to encourage sin. O! No! Sin is the grief, and the shame, and the burden of the Christian; but "there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1)--Christ is blind to the sins of his elect? Lister to God's word--"He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel. (Num. 23:21) The Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a king among them."
Again hear scripture! "Who is a God like unto Thee that pardoneth iniquity? What words these are when felt and known--that pardoneth iniquity!" Who is a God like unto Thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He retaineth not His anger for ever, because He delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, He will have compassion upon us; He will subdue our iniquities: and Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which Thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old." (Micah 7:18-20) "He will subdue our iniquities: and Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea"--that particular part of the sea where the tide has no power to wash them back again. If you cast anything into the sea, only a certain distance out, the tide coming in will wash it up again on shore; not so with the sins of the church. "He wilt cast all their sins into the depths," where the ebbing and the flowing of the tide have no power whatever. Thus David says, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven--whose sin is covered." (Ps. 32:1) O what sweet encouragement to the child of God. "Sin," my brother, "shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but under grace." (Rom. 6:14) O, is not that a sweet word?
And now I find that it is time to come to an end. Have you felt, as I have been preaching the word to you, "in weakness, in fear, and (in one sense), in much trembling"--Have you felt its power? Has the word been accompanied with unction? You may be going home, some of you to a wretched home--you may be going home perhaps to persecution, or something else; but is "The God of Jacob" your own God? Then how happy are you!
Happiness consists in our union with this blessed Redeemer; having been raised to a hope in our souls that we belong to the election of grace. "And if by grace, then is it no more of works, otherwise grace is no more grace; but if it be of works, then is it no more grace, otherwise work is no more work." (Rom. 11:5,6) Can anything be clearer? Now, "happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God." One word in finishing; the Holy Spirit refers us (at the end of the text), to the power of God, "Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is." He appeals to our senses to show us His power--"Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is." It is only He who can make a new creation in Christ. It is a new creation, and there is (mark me), no such thing as a change of heart. We hear a great deal said about a change of heart. There is no such thing: the old heart is never changed at all--a new heart is given! "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you." (Ezek. 36:26) The old man remains as bad as ever, but a new principle is put into the Christian; and when that holy and perfect principle is put within us, we can say, with the apostle John, in these striking words--"Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, for his seed remaineth in him; and he (or it), cannot sin, because he (or it), is born of God." Here then are two distinct systems within us--the old man and the new; and nothing but the battle and conflict that is incessantly going on between these two antagonistic principles will realize to us the blessedness and the happiness of having "The God of Jacob for our help." David, in the passage I have been speaking upon, speaks of happiness; and Paul, in another place, speaks of wretchedness. David says, "Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God." Paul says, "Oh, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7:24) That made Paul wretched; but wherein did Paul's happiness consist? Even in this, "I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord." There was his happiness, and here is his deduction--"So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit." (Rom. 8:1)
There is then no perfection in the flesh, no improvement of the old man; but blessed be God, the God of all grace, "there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit," "for the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me FREE from the law of sin and death." And here, believer, I take up my text, and finish, and may we be able exultingly to say with personal and individual interest, felt and known within us--"Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God: Which made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepth truth for ever."
May our God own and bless his holy word, and apply it with his own power and unction, for Jesus Christ's sake, our Lord, Amen. Amen.