"Let the sighing of the prisoner come before Thee; according to the greatness of Thy power preserve Thou those that are appointed to die." (Psalm 79:11)
There is something blessedly experimental in these words, and to every man and woman "born from above," quickened by the Holy Ghost to know anything of the truth as it is in Jesus; and who has had deposited within him by God a desire to seek after Jesus, and to ascertain his own personal interest in the Atonement made for sin--to such as long to have some criterion test in order to discover whether they are saved by blood and love--I cannot imagine any words throughout the whole Book of Psalms more suited to the case of such a man than the one on which I am now endeavoring to preach, for the glory of God, and the edification of your souls and mine.
Now, if we look at the verses of which this Psalm is composed, we find that the Psalmist is in a complaining state; complaining of the desolation of Jerusalem; praying for speedy deliverance, and making a vow of thankfulness when the deliverance should be granted.
I am taking the verse before me in an experimental sense--every word of it so suits the child of God.
FIRST. "The sighing."
THEN, "The prisoner"--why he sighs.
THEN, the petition--"Let the sighing of the prisoner come before Thee."
AND THEN--"According to the greatness of Thy power preserve Thou those that are appointed to die."
Now, in the day in which we live profession is the great snare which Satan is employing to further his own cunning designs; there is all the form, the attending churches--the crowded chapel! and this throughout the land. But, mark me, there is but one body of men, and that body compared to a "little flock," that are really worshipping God in spirit and in truth; and these men and women are each and all brought to experience the meaning of the text before me. They are brought into prison, shut up in bondage, and all mere external profession without a feeling sense of this is nothing but professing cant and methodistical delusion. The work of the Holy Ghost when He begins it in a sinner, in an elect man--"Chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world," (Eph. 1:4) will realize this--there must be, there will be an imprisonment, a feeling sense of bondage! I am well aware that this is not a popular style of preaching; but I am ambitious to be made a useful preacher to poor and exercised sinners. David was a keeper, a feeder of his father's sheep, and I wish to feed the sheep of Christ, to guard you, and warn you against the monstrous errors, the many dogmas of our day--and I cannot imagine a sweeter test or evidence that you are one of Christ's sheep, than your knowing the fact experimentally, that you are either shut up now in prison and sighing there, or that having been so shut up you have been brought out now into Gospel liberty. "Let the sighing of the prisoner come before Thee; according to the greatness of Thy power preserve Thou those that are appointed to die."
One of my hearers told me lately that my loved and honored brother, John Wallinger, gave out this short test the other day at Hastings--"A daughter of Abraham." Now, in the account recorded of that daughter of Abraham in Luke 13, (and some of you lately heard me read that chapter in the service of the day), we find that she was "bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself." Here is a striking picture of the church, for we find that this woman was bent double, helpless, and could do nothing. Such was her bodily state! What a real figure of the people of God!--(in a spiritual sense)--we can in no wise lift up ourselves till Jesus comes, and looses us from our infirmity, or as in another Scripture says--"Loose him and let him go." (John 11:44) So David prays in Psalm 142:7--"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." This must be so, we are not to be caught by mere profession, we are not to be deceived by persons who get up their creeds from other people or from books. Christianity is in the heart, it is the work of God in the inner man, or it will never, and can never stand the test of a dying bed, and a dying hour!
The point before us, first of all, is the prison, and the prisoner! It is a peculiar prison, and it is the King's prisoner. "Let the sighing of the prisoner come before Thee." This is the poor man that has been taken captive by law and justice. As in England, no policeman dares to take any man without some charge being laid against him--a charge of felony, or of burglary--so in a spiritual sense in the case of sinners, there is the heavy charge against us of guilt and sin, a broken law, you and I are guilty, and when the Holy Ghost takes us captive, when there is the conviction of sin in the heart, and God's law brings in its charge, when guilt is felt and truly known there must be a feeling sense of imprisonment, and out of this prison there is no escape except by the power of Him who missioned the angel to liberate Peter from his prison cell. Now, something of this prison must be known, and the sighing of distress in bondage. It is not merely saying, that one is a churchman, and another, that he is a dissenter--but the test is, as to whether or not the work of God has been begun in the soul. What do we know about the Spirit of God shutting us up in prison?--and bringing us under condemnation there? It is one thing to talk, it is another thing to feel. It is one thing to profess the Gospel, to have it merely in the head, or on the tip of the tongue, it is another thing to know the Gospel in a broken heart. Here is the test! Now what is the experience of the prisoner in this prison? Distress under the condemnation of guilt and sin! hence "the sighing of the prisoner." "Let the sighing of the prisoner come before Thee." In God's ear there is music in a sigh, it was so when the Publican cried--"God be merciful to me a sinner!" In that is reality! It is the sigh of distress! It is the sigh of desire! There is a sweet petition in the service of the Church well suited to every poor sinner's case--"O God, merciful Father, that despisest not the sighing of a contrite heart, nor the desire of such as be sorrowful; mercifully assist our prayers that we make before Thee in all our troubles and adversities,--whensoever they oppress us; and graciously hear us, that those evils, which the craft and subtlety of the devil or man worketh against us, be brought to nought; and by the providence of Thy goodness they may be dispersed; that we Thy servants, being hurt by no persecutions, may evermore give thanks unto Thee in Thy holy church, through Jesus Christ our Lord." How many of my hearers could feelingly repeat that blessed prayer in honest faithfulness just now? I could! Could you? "The desire of such as be sorrowful." Hannah was a woman of a "sorrowful spirit," and under the exercise of that spirit of sorrow it is graphically written--"she poured out her soul to the Lord." It is so in the prison cell with every prisoner! I believe that some now ranged before me in these pews know something of imprisonment, and that the sighing and cry from many a broken heart goes up without the tongue uttering a word to that God who hears and answers prayer! "The sighing of the prisoner!" the desire of the broken hearted. O! my hearers! experience has made me believe that some of the best prayers, some of the most heaven-penetrating cries are often those heard and accepted by God when the tongue never utters a word. The heart! the broken heart! the contrite heart pours itself out and up to Him, and He who sees and knows the heart, hears and answers "the sighing of the prisoner." "Let the sighing of the prisoner come before Thee."
I have endeavored to show you something of the prison and of the prisoner, and of the work of God on his soul. Now mark the petition--"Let the sighing of the prisoner come before Thee!" What satisfaction is there in all our worship, in all our offering up of prayer, or in taking the Hymn Book and attempting the work of praise, unless this goes before our God! A lip-service may do very well in a ritualistic church, but it will not do here. Our desire must be this, and the test of our discipleship must be this, that our sighing and our cry goes before the living God. In this is satisfaction! and whether our sighing be answered speedily or not, the hope that it is before God is enough. It shall be answered at the appointed time! The sighing of the prisoner comes before God, and the prison door shall be opened at the right moment. What was the first hymn we sung just now? I found it very sweet, and a reality! It was that Jesus Christ might be revealed in me! And nothing will satisfy the prisoner shut up in bondage, but having Christ Jesus manifested and revealed in the soul. When I go home tonight, what satisfaction shall I feel after preaching here, unless I have a test in my own soul that I know something of Him, that, as a poor prisoner, I can sigh out all my hard cases and all my sins, and all my cares into His ear, with a hope that I do know that salvation is all in Him? Nothing else will ever satisfy an heir of heaven but this! I have some before me now who know something of these things! My hearers, you may be despised! Never mind that. You may be cast out as evil! Never mind that. Worldly men, and professing men particularly, may be shy of you, but all this is a blessed test, a token for good--"Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake." Now, mark well what I say, and whether I speak to old Christians, or to worldlings; whether I speak to those who have long been in a profession of "the truth as it is in Jesus," or to others who know nothing about it--Whether I were here addressing the aristocracy of the country or speaking to the honest round-frocked peasant--to whomsoever I am preaching, I proclaim from this pulpit top as a minister of the everlasting Gospel, that the sighing, the cry of distress in prayer tests the fact of a work of God in the inner man. This may be--it is, unpopular and the natural man will not, yea, cannot, receive it, but whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear, it is the solemn truth of the Eternal Jehovah!
The candidate who at a county election wishes to be at the head of the poll must be popular, but the minister of the Gospel must be faithful, though "hated of all for Christ's sake." And, mark me, my hearers, say not, that this refers only to myself and to my brother minister sitting at the communion table. Be not deceived, we are not--Ministers are not to bear all the brunt of the battle--true it is, that as the ensigns in the regiment we carry the colors and may be conspicuous for a mark; but where are the other soldiers in the ranks?--where are the sergeants, the corporals, the privates? My hearers, we must together bear the heat and the trials of the battle, we have to encounter and to contend against a common enemy, the world, the flesh, and the devil! Hence our trials, our temptations, our various crosses; and groaning as we do under a body of sin and death, we look to the same God and the same precious Saviour for protection! comfort! victory! "Let the sighing of the prisoner come before Thee." A prisoner of Jesus Christ. One word again on that! A prisoner for His sake! Shut up because of sin! To be set free when God's appointed moment comes. The solemn question now comes--Have you been arraigned? Is there the charge of sin and guilt, actual and personal against you? Is there any indictment against you? Do you plead guilty? According to our English law every prisoner when placed in the dock must plead "not guilty," he is forced to do so, or the trial cannot proceed--he says, "not guilty." But with the prisoner I am preaching of it is not so, through Omnipotent grace guilt is confessed, and felt, and known.
"Grace will complete what grace begins,
To save from sorrows and from sins."
"Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." (Phil. 1:6) God will finish His work. The Arminians hold a contrary doctrine--but the Gospel declares that when and where God begins a work He will finish it. We are saved by grace, not by creature doings! Now, my hearers, in those three petitions that we have today offered up in our Litany, we have prayed--"O! God the Father, of heaven, have mercy upon us miserable sinners." "O! God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy upon us miserable sinners." "O! God the Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, have mercy upon us miserable sinners." We have enunciated those words before God! We have confessed ourselves before Him to be guilty sinners--now the man that has really felt all this must have realized the fact--"the sighing of the prisoner"--and even those that have experienced liberty may be again and again brought into bondage! shut up and imprisoned--hence David's cry--"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"--sin, temptations, depravity, iniquity, abominable tempters imprison continually. Christ is the liberty of His people--but when He hides His face, when He withdraws His presence, then we are in darkness and know what a prison means. A blessed Christ! a glorious Christ is our liberty! In our service this morning we have heard Him proclaimed in the second chapter that was read--"I am the Living Bread which came down from heaven"--and in one particular passage that struck me very forcibly--"And this is the will of Him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:40) Mark this, my hearers! "every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him!" Have you seen Him? then you must know something of Him! You heard the words read in the Service--"Every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day." Now, the seeker wants to know this, longs to realize this. 'Do I know anything of Him?' 'Has Christ been revealed in me?' Paul, in Hebrews 2 says--"But we see Jesus!" And I cannot imagine a sweeter test of discipleship than a seeing of the Son, and believing on Him--for when a sinner sees Jesus, and believes on Him, he then has everlasting life. This is the will of God! Seeing Jesus and believing on Him is the work of grace, and God's grace is sufficient for us, and it is this which compels us to see and believe on the Eternal Son of God whom Jehovah has set apart, appointed for the salvation of His people, so that those words are true which you heard just now read in the Service--"All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me, and him that cometh to Me I shall in no wise cast out." (John 6:37)
And now, before I pass on to the other points before us, listen to me!--I know well that what I am preaching will only suit and only be received by the people of God--those I mean who have been taught the reality of these things--but mark me! there may be many here now hearing me who are the Elect of God in His "eternal purpose"--"blind people that have eyes!"--but who are as yet still "dead in trespasses and sins"--to be (mark me!) brought out at Jehovah's appointed time! and it is this which makes me earnest, which gives me encouragement in preaching. We cannot tell who the Elect are, for aught I know every one in this church now may be elect!--"who can tell?" hence the command--"Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." I say, you may be every one of you Elect in Jehovah's purpose--but, but the test of it will be by the Spirit's work on your hearts, and I cannot give you a surer test of "your election of God" individually, than having in yourselves an experimental sense of that earnest sighing in solemn solitude before God, set forth in the text--"Let the sighing of the prisoner come before Thee; according to the greatness of Thy power preserve Thou those that are appointed to die." No mere professor can pray so--it is the sigh of the broken in heart, the cry of the repenting mourner, the prisoner's petition that tests the reality of the work of God the Holy Ghost in and on the soul. This is not mere doctrine! it is practical! experimental! My hearers, the points I am preaching before you are--"the sighing of the prisoner, and why he sighs"--then the desire that that sighing may come before God--and then the solemn petition, showing the state of the prisoner--"According to the greatness of Thy power preserve Thou those that are appointed to die"--in this we see the condition of the poor prisoner--"appointed to die." Now, first of all, as to the word "appointed." We know the meaning of being appointed to anything, to this office, or to the other, the appointment of a Lord Chancellor, the appointment of a Bishop--but mark the text--"Appointed to die!" My hearers! in discharging the solemn and tremendous office to which I am appointed, and as I am now preaching, and you listening, the desire of my inmost soul is to be allowed of God to touch your hearts--(I say allowed, for it is God alone that can touch any heart)--and whilst I have preached to you of the prison, and the prisoner, and the sufficient, and subject enough had I stopped at the first colon in the verse--yet such a vast, such a mighty subject bursts out before me in its last clause, that I feel constrained, yea, compelled to go on--"according to the greatness of Thy power preserve Thou those that are appointed to die!" Now, "appointed to die." I take this as it stands, both in its letter meaning and in its spiritual signification also. We are appointed, every one of us, you and I, to die. Some of you may be, and I suspect are, just entering into life, and as you suppose into all its so-called happiness! Its "color de rose!" Domestic life, and pleasures here, and these painted by the imagination flit (as it were) in the fairest colors before you; but, remember! despite the checkered scenes of life--remember the point I am preaching on before you--"Appointed to die!" It was the faithful reply of a Bishop of our Church in Ireland, when asked by a nobleman in that country who had just been building a family mansion, what motto should be used to commemorate the work--"My Lord, put on it, TO BE BURNT." And is it not so? This earth will be burnt up by fire. Now, mark the word! "appointed to die!" "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:" (Heb. 9:27)--Like the convicted felon, in the condemned cell, in the Old Bailey, the judge has passed on him the fearful sentence of the law, and he therefore in that sense is "appointed to die!" so you and I condemned by sin have heard the sentence--"and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." (Rom. 5:12) Man is to die then--man is to be laid in the silent grave--and as death leaves us, so judgment finds us. That touching petition in our Litany strikes me here--"In all time of our tribulation, in all time of our wealth, in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment, good Lord deliver us." Do not say that I make you melancholy, that I frighten you by preaching thus.
I would not paint a dismal picture before you. I tell you the truth--you are "appointed to die." And, mark me, unless you are all made to believe in Christ, as your only salvation, you will be damned for ever. Hear God's word--"he that believeth not shall be damned." (Mark 16:16) Now, knowing this appointment, knowing that we shall die, listen to the portion of the text I am preaching on--"according to the greatness of Thy power preserve Thou those that are appointed to die." It has been well said, "Dying grace for dying hours;" and in the Bible it is written in promise to the church--"As thy days, thy strength." And here comes the solemn question--Are we each, you and I, raised from a death of sin? David says, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." (Ps. 116:15) A remarkable Scripture that! In Ephesians 1:19-21--"And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come." Observe! the same greatness of power, of God's power! which raised up Christ from the dead--that same power can alone raise the sinner from a death of sin to newness of life in Christ Jesus! And hence--(knowing this, and believing this)--with all the love of a faithful minister, I ask each one of you--Have you been raised up from the death of sin? Each one of you has been "born in sin," "shapen in iniquity;" but the point is, Has the greatness of God's power been wrought in you? Raising you individually up from death, the fearful death in trespasses and sins?
And now I would refer to the spiritual and experimental meaning of these words--"according to the greatness of Thy power preserve Thou those that are appointed to die." Every saved man must be brought to this--he must know the prison-house, and the condemned cell in that prison, and be "cast for death" by law, sin, and conscience--be made to sigh and cry under the law's condemning power, to cry for pardon, for liberty, for life. There is something dreadful in the appearance of the condemned cell--in that gloomy prison of Newgate, and that particular part of it where felons doomed to die are placed. O! what a scene of horror! death seems written on its very walls, and the pale faced convict, the clanking chain, and the everything there--my tongue cannot describe the vivid realities of such a place. But, my hearers, the prison, and the prisoner, that I am preaching about--(as furnished me by the text)--O! there is in the spirituality of it, as keen a reality in this, as in the other. Guilt and sin lay at the bottom of it all! and in this prison-house, death seems appointed to the poor soul condemned and bondaged there. And yet it is a sweet test that the sinner shall not die eternally--a criterion that we are of the Lord's family when we know and feel the condemnation of guilt and sin, of the killing power of God's holy and righteous law! Ah, says the needy soul, if I could only feel that! Such is the average experience of the church.
And here my mind recurs to those who used to listen to me in this Church, and whose bodies (some of them) now lie outside the door. My fellow-laborer, now sitting at the Communion Table, and who has read the service for me this morning, forcibly reminds me of his honored father-in-law, who used to sit by that pillar yonder listening to the Gospel Sunday after Sunday--now, I believe, he rests for ever safe in glory with my honored Lord! He well knew, when here in life, the things which I am now declaring. How often has he said to me--"Christians are shy and timid"--and under the influence of such a feeling it was his custom to sit by that pillar in this venerable church, worshipping, and listening to the Gospel (as it were) unseen. Another too, a godly farmer, who ran well, and firmly with me to the end of his course, in heart-union while on earth, and now not in death divided--he knew well the sighing of the prisoner, the cry of distress, and the trials of the narrow pathway--and in these things consist the reality of heart, and Christian union, and communion. Such a union is only felt, and such communion can only be experienced amongst such as have been fellow prisoners shut up together in "the place where the king's prisoners are bound"--who have there been made to sigh and to cry from the same heartfelt inward sense of helplessness and need. How different the case with all other persons, those who profess much, and speak great things. I have had all sorts of such here, "enduring but for a time." But, my hearers, the being "appointed to die" teaches reality. The hypocrite knows not this. It is this which makes the soul cry out for preservation, for keeping, for deliverance! Bondage and the prison make men feel the truth, and long for the greatness of the power of Him who alone can help the needy sinner! Hence the cry, and here is the test; 'preserve me,' 'keep me,' "Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe." And without that preservation, where should we be? Profession is one thing. Light is not life. It is written--"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) "They saw the light and were afraid"--"but they heard not the voice of Him that spake" to Paul. Men may and do see the light, and it makes them tremble, as Kent says--
"Damnation 'tis an awful sound,
But not unjust to them."
But how different the case of such as hear the voice, such as are condemned by sin and the law, "appointed to die" experimentally; such an one will say, 'Can I be a child of God? I am so vile, so sinful'--it has been said, that it is easier to have faith for another than for oneself. And so it is, unless God give you that saving faith which is His own special and sovereign gift! All is easy then! Paul knew the reality of this--"without fightings, within fears." The pathway of the church is that of trial, temptation, exercise! and hence her cry is for preservation. Toplady says--"God's preservation is the Christian's final preservance." I know this--it is one of the mercies of God to me that He keeps me, preserves me, yea, also one of the greatest mercies of my life that He enables me to see the truth, and makes me preach the truth--that He preserves me in that truth--not allowing men nor devils to induce me to compromise that truth. I know the exercise of feeling the terrors of the law, the heavy burden of sin, and the dismal temptations of the prison; but there is a greatness of power which preserves in the midst of all these. Hope--(it may be but feeble)--but hope given by the Great Preserver, cheers and solaces, and soothes; and vile as we are, black as we are, sinful as we are, we look to the blood and to the love that shed it, and can then grasp hold on Christ, and in the triumphant wording of the prophet Isaiah exclaim--"In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified and shall glory." (Isa. 45:25)
And now, before I finish this, my morning sermon, let me quote the solemn words of the Apostle Paul--"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation." "It is appointed unto men once to die"--then what follows?--"and after this the judgment;" then comes the declaration--"So Christ was offered to bear the sins of many"--"of many," (not of all). Observe this deeply! and then the blessed promise to the longing and expecting soul--"Unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation." He, the Lord Jesus, has come once--He is coming again--He is to appear "a second time without sin!" But what means this? He never had sin! He is Himself the Holy God--"That Holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." What are we to understand then by the words, "He shall appear the second time without sin unto salvation?" It is this! that at His second coming, when He appears the second time, He cometh not to atone for the sins of the Church, not to shed His precious blood again. Redemption work was finished when He came the first time; blood was shed then. He comes again without blood, without having to make atonement by blood again! He comes like a triumphant hero to gather together the rewards of His victory, the trophies of His love, to collect His redeemed church, to proclaim the conquests of His own blood; His work was finished at His first advent, and He comes the second time to assert and to claim the rightful glories of His crown. And hence, on the authority of this great Scripture the church is safe, because saved; all the sins of the Elect have been and are atoned for by the complete atonement of the cross, and the moment (listen to me!) is approaching when Christ will come and receive His people to Himself--"without sin unto salvation!" This is a great! an overwhelming thought! The Church is pardoned, the Elect are all forgiven, Christ has borne the burden of their sins--"Cast them all into the depths of the sea!" and His righteousness is, by imputation her's--"Ye are complete in Him." (Col. 2:10) "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) And as "there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus," so also there is, and can be no separation from Him! But remember! what is the token that we understand the reality of these things, that we are saved, that we are pardoned?--"unto them that look for Him"--"shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation." "Them that look for Him!" O! that looking! and mark me, looking for Him! In this we have a test! It is an everlasting union! and which nothing can destroy! "This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the Church!"
"I sing the everlasting love,
Of Jesus to His Bride,
The bond of union formed above,
Which none can put aside.
He loved and chose her for His own,
Amazing act of grace!
She loves and bows before His throne,
When He reveals His face!
Yes! He betrothed His church in love,
And will not change His mind;
Nor can He once unfaithful prove,
He's ever just and kind.
Delightful union! Happy bride!
Christ and His Church are once;
'Tis His to cherish and provide,
Her life is Christ alone."
No change in God. The love of Christ is ever the same, an everlasting, love! He has made eternal provision for His Church! It is fixed, settled, decreed! and she as the weaker vessel looks up entirely for everything to Him! "Prisoners of hope" hear! and attend to these things!
Now, in finishing this great subject, remember the experimental part of it, and which the text sets before us--"Let the sighing of the prisoner come before Thee: according to the greatness of Thy power preserve Thou those that are appointed to die." Man, Elect in Christ must be brought to know this experimentally--"appointed to die"--condemned, and so to cry for preservation. And I must die, you must die, naturally! instances are continually occurring of these things. Before another Sunday, it may be said of some of us, 'He is gone.' Let me read you a stirring Scripture, as I conclude, in 2 Thess. 2:11,12--"And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." I am reading these words slowly on purpose, for it is one of the most tremendous passages in the Word of God, and is a solemn warning to the world. And now, at verse 13, (turning to the Church)--"But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: whereunto He called you by our Gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work." Such is God's word. Let me put it solemnly before every thinking man and woman. This is not written in any human book. Mark me! It is God's word! and O! how it separates between the Church and the world, between the Elect and non-elect, between the everlastingly saved and the everlastingly lost. May this subject be blessed of God to you. May it be sealed home on and in our hearts. May the realities of the prison-house be experimentally felt and known. May the sighing and the cry, the prayer of every poor prisoner come before God. May He in mercy manifest "the greatness of His power," and so deliver in His own time and way each captive soul "appointed (as it were) to die," and bring them out into the liberty of life and peace. Such poor souls alone can and do say--
"'Tis a point I long to know
Oft it causes anxious thought,
Do I love the Lord or no!
Am I his or am I not?"
I shall read the text and finish. May God make it a great blessing. "Let the sighing of the prisoner come before Thee: according to the greatness of Thy power preserve Thou those that are appointed to die."
May God bless the Word for Christ's sake. Amen.