WITH such a passage in the Book--(and that book by no human author)--Jehovah's sovereign and unaltering Word--how is it possible to doubt--(and England is full of heresy)--the safety of the people of the Lord? We may doubt our interest, and at times we often do so; but the CHURCH is safe because the FATHER, SON, AND SPIRIT, the Holy Three in one, have eternally saved her. Nothing can damn "His own elect." No sin can send them to hell. Their sins are all done away; and, as I said just now, they are safe simply because God has saved them.
Now, my hearers, I have got a large text. It has been hanging about my heart today, and I cannot get away from it. It may be for somebody here--perhaps for all of you; but if it is only for two or three, there is my hire and I am paid. Well, now, we will take it under heads.
"This people." First of all this people,"--that is not the whole world. No Arminianism. Well, secondly, "This people have I formed for MYSELF." And then, thirdly, the effect--"They shall shew forth MY praise. Nothing can stop it.
I. "This people." Now, in a passage in the Old Testament--(the 32nd of Jeremiah)--we have, "they shall be MY people, and I will be their God." Ah, who can gainsay that?--"They shall be my people, and I will be their God. And I will give them one heart and one way that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them and of their children after them; and I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts that they shall not depart from me." (Jer. 32:38-40) There is the safety. Kent says:--
"Fenced with Jehovah's shalls and wills,
Firm as the everlasting hills."
Oh, the heresy of our day! But O! how blessed the Gospel in all its purity and all its power! As the apostle said, energized by the Holy Spirit--"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth." (Rom. 1:16) The power. And he says also in a following epistle, "For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power." How many are there here who understand the power--the power of the Gospel in a broken heart--God's Sovereignty?
But, the first point--"This people," "His own elect." "According as He hath chosen us." I say sometimes to you, my hearers, observe the grammar of the Bible--"He hath," it is done: it is past. It is not anything that God intends to do, but He has done it, the same as He has created the heavens and the earth. It is done! "According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him." (Eph. 1:4) That such a black hell-deserving sinner as I am in myself--that, if only I am chosen and set apart in Him--I am to stand before Him "holy and without blame"--blameless in the day of God--in myself as full of sin as the ocean is full of salt water, but sin is covered in Christ's Red Sea (if I may speak by a figure). "There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." (Rom. 8:1) Sin could not damn a dying thief. Why not save the other? Because he was not elect--not saved. What saved the favored female in Samaria at the well. What saved the poor sinner (as stated in the 8th of John) taken in the open act of adultery? "Neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more." Now, if there is any spy here, don't you say, as sometimes it is said, that there is a word said by me to encourage or hold out a handle to sin. If you do, you tell a lie. "Go and sin no more." There was the charge; and depend upon it that, after Jehovah the Son had sent pardon into her soul, the desire of her heart was, "Oh, keep me from all sin again!"
"This people." What harmony there is in those words! "They shall be my people, and I will be their God." Oh, is He mine? Is He yours? As I speak to you, one by one, have you any evidential test that you are saved? Kent touchingly says:--
"'Tis his own He dearly bought her,
What she cost He only knew;
Through the pains of hell He sought her,
Paid in blood her ransom too."
"This people." Well, there is text sufficient. I do not know why we take a text at all: it is only a custom. Christ is the text of every sermon in every pulpit occupied by a faithful minister. "This people." "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 pluck them out of My hand. My Father which gave them Me is greater than all, and none is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand. I and my Father are one." (John 10:27-30) In our English, they have added in--spoiling the force of it--the term "man"--"no man." It is not in the Greek. "None is able,"--nothing--no Satan, no self, no sin, no anything. "None shall pluck them out of My Father's hand. I and my Father are one." "This people."
Let me pause before I pass on to the other parts in this passage as they may be opened up to me--as I get (I hope) from heaven the opening of my mouth in the midst of you. "This people" were chosen before even Eve tempted her husband into sin, according to that statement in Paul's second epistle to Timothy, chap. 1 verse 9: "Who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling; not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." Now, see how those two words stand. "Who hath saved us." That stands first. "And called us." And so, as the Saviour said in John 3: "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Every saved sinner shall be called, and called just at the appointed time.
"The appointed time rolls on apace,
Not to propose, but call by GRACE."
Now, I ask myself, and I ask the persons hearing me: Have you and I the criterion test in our own hearts that we are called?
Well, here is a skeleton sketched out before you on the first part of my subject--"This people." I have shown you who the people are. I asked God on Sunday, in my own church, that I might come up here without the fear of man--that I might preach distinguishing irresistible grace--that I might separate between professors and possessors--that I might discriminate between gossips and smooth chin'd hypocrites, and the true born sons and daughters of JEHOVAH; and I again pray to Him to give me power to do so now. Well, there is the first point "This people." And, as I understand the secret of the pulpit--though I know what it is to be abused and talked over for preaching dangerous high doctrines--yet the secret of preaching forth fully the WHOLE Gospel is that it sets sinners to seek as to their own interest in Christ's blood. Are you, and am I, interested on this point? Do we ask ourselves, Am I one of "this people?" There is no antinomianism so bad as Arminianism! But when we are brought to see that there is a people distinctly the people of Jehovah, then if the Spirit has touched our hearts, we are anxious to ascertain the point for ourselves: Am I one? Mr. Hart says:--
"Though God's election be a truth,
Small comfort there I see;
Till I am told by God's own mouth,
That He hath chosen me."
"Charity begins at home," my hearers; and it would be a trial to my own soul, after the toil of this pulpit-time is over, if I could not cling to a hope, though I could go no higher up in the scale of evidence, that I was chosen in Christ (sinner as I am) before the foundation of the world. Well, now I leave that first point. It is not half preached out. I only give, as it were, a skeleton of it. May the Holy Ghost give you power to fill it up, and realize your own safety through the finished work of Jesus Christ.
II. Now the second point is what Jehovah says He has done: "This people have I formed for Myself." It is God who created the heavens and the earth--I am the Almighty God--and can anything frustrate His purpose? We have it in Ephesians that it is "according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Eph. 3:11) And how establishing it is to those who feel their own sins--to those who know the power of sin in themselves (without tossing stones at others as some are so apt to do) when we can hope that we are formed for Himself! Christianity is a personal thing--"Thou art the man!" (as in the case of Nathan and the poor sinning Psalmist after his open fall). "And the Jehovah"--we have it emphatically in Samuel--"And the Jehovah sent Nathan unto David." If He had not sent him, Nathan would have been a powerless teacher to David. Just so here, if God has not sent me here, this will be a barren hour--a barren Tuesday evening. Nathan spake by a parable. At first, David fired up in his old Adam nature--"The man that hath done this shall surely die;" and Nathan said to David, "Thou art the man." "Thou art the man," that word was applied with power. And what was the consequence of it? The confession of sin! "I have sinned against the Jehovah." And then, see: "And Nathan said unto David, The Jehovah hath put away thy sin. Thou shalt not die." (2 Sam. 12:1-13) God had formed him for Himself. His sin could not destroy the safety of his soul. And just so the dying thief. "Remember me when Thou comest into thy kingdom." (Luke 23:42) "This people have I formed for myself." I feel that if I had a thousand tongues in my head, I could not preach this text out fully. He who formed the heavens above our heads--He who created the earth that we stand on--He by whose power it is that I have power to hold up my hand to my head, He, it is, who says: "This people have I formed for MYSELF!"
I hope that there are several here, really poor, whatever your station be--"And I will leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord." (Zeph. 3:12) "They shall." He does not put it to their option. "They shall trust;" and there is the Church. Whatever may happen in our day, whoever may be in power in the Government, either a Gladstine or a D'Israel--nothing can upset, nothing can disestablish the one saved Church of God. Cabinets and Parliaments are powerless here! "Upon THIS rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matt. 16:18) There is a Church established upon the one foundation-stone that no earthly power can upset nor Parliament disestablish; and the point is whether you and I stand based upon the foundation-stone, for as the apostle says, "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Christ Jesus," and as the Psalmist says in Psalm 11: "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Ps. 11:3)--emphatically. "This people have I formed for myself." Do I get into your hearts? Do I succeed in sifting you? "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith. Prove your own selves. Know ye not, your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be"--what? "Reprobates." (2 Cor. 13:5) Those are apostolic statements. "Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith. Prove your own selves. Know ye not, your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" But I trust ye shall know that we are not reprobates. "This people have I formed for MYSELF."
III. Thirdly, "They shall" (that "shall" ought to be spelt in capitals)--"They SHALL show forth My praise." Now, that word "praise," I understand to signify power, or sovereignty, or virtue; and I put by the side of it a sister passage in the first epistle of Peter, chap. 2, verse 9: "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar [or a purchased] people; that ye should show forth the praises [or virtues] of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light: which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God, which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy." "That ye should show forth the praises of Him!" Now, there is the same word in the Greek in that passage in Peter as there is in the Hebrew in the passage I am speaking on in Isaiah. "Which in time past were not a people." Always a people in purpose, but now a people in the experience of their own hearts--raised to a hope. "Which in time past was not a people." Was it not once just so with us?
Was there not a time when we had "no hope," and were "without God in the world?" "But are now"--practically and in the experience of it--"the people of God; [hopefully so] which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy." Well, by the side of it, I put verse 7 in this 43rd of Isaiah: "Everyone that is called by My name, for I have created him for My glory; I have formed him; yea, I have made him." There is the same thought exactly: "I have created him for My glory!" And see the 6th verse: "I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back bring My sons from far, and My daughters from the ends of the earth; everyone that is called by My name, for I have created him for My glory; I have formed him, yea, I have made him." And now hear that commanding word: "Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears." (Isa. 43:8) That is a paradox to an unconverted man--"Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears." And compare that with the passage in Peter: "Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God; which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy." Now, there may be some here, perhaps, who hate me for everything that I have said; and, although you may now be as blind as the seat you sit on, yet you may have eyes, and if so, God has a set time to open them, and when He opens them, you will say like the young man in John 9: "One thing I know: whereas I was blind, now I see." Oh, if I catch you in the Gospel--if I now am made an instrument to bring you out of darkness, you may hate me now, and curse me now; but oh, how you will bless me if I am made your spiritual father! "One thing I know: whereas I was blind, now I see." "They shall show forth My praise." Now that, my hearers, is the special point that has been applied with power to my own heart. And how do we show forth His praise or His power? That is the practical part of it which nobody can understand--preacher or hearer--but only the sinner who is taught of God; and as we have it in Isaiah 54:13, "And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children." There is not a dunce in His school. No "plucking," as we say, there. They SHALL all pass and take a high degree. Poor dying thieves! harlots at the well! Marys out of whom seven devils have been cast!--"They SHALL show forth My praise."
I cannot stop till I have taken that third part of the passage I am speaking on to pieces. First of all, how does a sinner show forth God's praise or power? By feeling his own sins. The power of sin! God schools His people under the Ten Commandments. That is the teaching: "The law was given by Moses; grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." (John 1:17) And again Paul says, "The law was our schoolmaster unto Christ." (Gal. 3:24) They have added in "to bring." It is not in the Greek; it spoils it. "The law was our schoolmaster unto Christ"--till we fled to Him for refuge. And, oh, didn't we once try to build a Babel of our own! How good we were! How painstaking we were; what Arminians to the very bone! But, as Kent says:--
The law revealed my desperate case,
And DOWN my Babel fell."
Well, that is the first point in which "They shall show forth MY praise." Secondly, that praise or power is shown forth by the confession of sin. They shall come and confess their sins--not like that hateful fellow in the parable, the papist of old, in the 18th of Luke, who had the impudence to come into the temple, and say, "God, I thank thee that I am not as other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican." (Luke 18:11) Yes, there is always the finger of scorn pointed at the poor child of God--"Even as this publican." How he singled him out! "I fast twice in the week,"--Popery! "I give tithes of all that I possess,"--well, that was only honest, and if he had not, he could have been forced to do so. "And the publican standing afar off, would not lift up so much as eyes unto heaven, but smote his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner." The breast--where the enemy lay, where the sin lay. "Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts," etc. "Smote upon his breast." He knew where the enemy was. Now, what said the Saviour? "I tell you this man"--pointing at him in another spirit--"I tell you this man went down to his house justified than the other." They have added in, and spoiled the force of it, the word "rather." "This man went down to his house justified than the other. Take it exactly as it stands: "For everyone that exalted himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted,"--showing that the Pharisee was not a justified man. The Saviour distinctly states that the publican went down to his house justified.
Well the point is, "They shall show forth MY praise." There is God's sovereignty. Now, I have endeavored to show you one way in which they show forth His praise or power (for I take that term to signify power or virtue, the same as in the passage in the Epistle of Peter) and that is by feeling the power of our own sins, and then confessing them to God! Again, they are brought under condemnation because of the guilt of sin. "What must I do to be saved? "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." But then, you know, as Hawker said, "God commandings are enablings." You and I cannot obey a command till God gives power. No Arminianism! We have no free will. We have no power but that spoken of in that striking passage in the opening of John--"But as many as received Him to them He gave power to become the sons of God, to them that believe on His name." (John 1:12) "To them gave He power"--what? "To become the sons of God" practically. Sons from eternity, but practically, in time, made to realize our sonship or daughtership in Him. "Which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:12) There, then, is another evidence of showing forth God's praise when we feel condemned under our own sin. You know when a sinner is first called, he sets to, to toil and work. The do do system. But oh, my hearers, when a man really feels self-condemned because of the guilt and power of sin, he then shows forth the praise or sovereignty of God!
"Here self condemned, behold he lies,
Nor dares to heaven lift up his eyes,
While down his cheeks in torrents roll
The deep contrition of his soul.
'Tis but to teach him every day
From self to JESUS turn away;
His very falls they make him wise,
And teach him where his victory lies."
That victory is out of himself--in his Eternal Head, the co-equal, co-eternal Son of God. Another thing teaches the child of God. It may be very strong food for some who hear me, but it is true food. Sin teaches the child of God. Sin taught the Psalmist, and he was humbled under it, and grieved and sorry for his sin, he penned the 51st Psalm and the 32nd Psalm. Sin in Peter taught him how to be ashamed of himself, and to go out and weep bitterly. But this does not hold out the least handle to sin--mind that? for "how shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" But let us not blink the fact:--
"His very falls they make him wise,
And teach him where his victory lies."
Poor old Kent! Do you know the history of his hymns? His is a choice hymn-book: not a random thing. I understand that he used to hear Dr. Hawker. He was a poor uneducated laborer in the dockyard at Plymouth; and, whenever he heard Dr. Hawker with power, he afterwards at his own home penned a hymn on the subject. Now, look at this sweet passage. I think I hinted at it just now:--
"'Tis His own, He dearly bought her,
What she cost He only knew;
Through the pains of hell He sought her,
Paid in blood her ransom too."
The Church is purchased--as in that passage in Peter. We have it in our English, "a peculiar people," or "a purchased people." As the apostle says to the Church at Corinth: "Ye are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God's." (1 Cor. 6:20)
But, before I stop, I want to sketch out two or three thoughts for you here. I don't want to tire you with a long sermon. I don't want to keep on, as Paul did, till midnight. But I want to sketch out three or four evidences for you to take home, if applied with power, about the point--"They shall show forth MY praise." Sin, the conviction of sin, the confession of sin, a feeling sense of being condemned under the power of it; then the bondage of the law--We must be shut up in prison before we can understand anything of that passage: "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32) And what sets us free but the TRUTH? Oh, where should I get to if it was not for the truth?
Bondage--that sets forth the praise or power of Jehovah. Then freedom; then practical pardon: "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee." We will take a case of it. I will turn to the 8th of John. Take the case of the poor female taken in adultery: in the very act. It was not a case of scandal. It was not a tittle-tattle talk. Taken in the very act! And now mark the conduct of the gossiping hypocrites--of the Pharisees in her day who accused her--"Now, Moses in the law commanded us that such should be stoned; but what sayest thou?" There is the contrast--"What sayest thou?" This they said tempting Him that they might have to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground. So when they continued asking Him, He lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you"--there is a home thrust--"He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. And they which hatred, being convinced by conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest unto the last." And here comes one of the most touching passages in all the Bible: "And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst." Two solitary characters; the others had all gone out. "When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, He said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee. Go, and sin no more." There was love and mercy; free unconditional pardon!
Now, before I stop, I want just to turn to a passage in Psalm 106:4,5. It seems to stand as a sister passage to the one that I am speaking on:--"Remember me, O Lord, with the favor thou bearest unto thy people. O visit me with thy salvation. That I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance." Grant that to me! And then, what follows? "We have sinned with our fathers; we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedly." But yet, "Remember me with the favor THOU bearest unto THY people." Now, in Psalm 86:2, we have it: "Preserve my soul, for I am holy. O thou, my God, save thy servant that trusteth in THEE." David did not intend to say that he was holy. He knew he was anything but holy in himself. But, as it ought to be in the Hebrew: "Preserve my soul, for I am one whom THOU favorest." "Remember me, O Lord, with the favor THOU bearest unto THY people." "They shall show forth MY praise."
Well, my hearers, the time has come for me to stop. The time always goes on too fast in the pulpit here. Now, here is another Tuesday evening! As a person said to me in the vestry: "How these Tuesday evenings seem to speak to us!" How they come round quickly--milestones. A last Tuesday will come. I have been here for some time now; shall I say toiling before you. No, not toiling--serving you, I hope. Do you feel unction and power? Are these Tuesdays sanctified lessons? A last Tuesday must come; and while the world goes on its stated course, what a mercy it is, my hearers, if you are brought seriously and earnestly to ask ourselves with regard to that vast statement in the hymn:--
"'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?
"If I love, why am I thus?
Why this cold, this lifeless frame?
Hardly, sure, can they be worse,
Who have never heard His name."
And you poor ones! who are really poor--I mean poor in spirit and broken in heart--what a mercy if you are "rich" in faith and heirs of the kingdom." "And I will leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord." (Zeph. 3:12)
My subject beats me. May it get into your hearts. "This people have I formed for MYSELF. They shall show forth MY praise," or power. May God bless His people, and bless the GOSPEL, for Jesus Christ's sake! Amen.