THE children of God are very glad to find their features traced out in the scriptures of truth, as we frequently observe them in the book of psalms; and I think the longer a child of God travels in the divine life, he will be more and more conversant with this precious book of psalms, for he will find the breathings of his soul similar to those of the psalmist.
What cause the church has to bless God for the account of the experience of the saints recorded in the word. It is not intended we should build upon them. We are not to build upon another man's foundation, the scripture says; but "whatsoever was written aforetime was written for our learning (whether it be doctrine, instruction, exhortation, or admonition), that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." Therefore the troubled, exercised, tempted soul is very glad to see in the word of God words which are akin to his feelings. Now in the book of psalms the divine life, from its commencement, is set forth; for we gather there the lowest evidence, as we cannot come lower than a desire; and how many a child of God has been glad to hear that "he will fulfil the desire of them that fear him." And then again the highest assurance: "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" We gather, then, in the book of psalms, the lowest evidence up to the highest assurance. The Lord's people do not grow six feet in a few hours; they go step by step up Jacob's ladder before they can say the Lord is their God. Nevertheless, their safety is as great in their doubts and fears as when they are blessed with the full assurance of faith.
Now when the psalmist penned this psalm, he was under the anointings of the Holy Ghost. Some may say, "Was not the psalmist always under the operations of the Holy Ghost?" Why, my friends, the Holy Ghost operates as he will. David had to say, "I go mourning all the day; so that sometimes the children of God are in a mourning state, down in the deep, while at other times hope springs up in the love of God. "Why art thou cast down, 0 my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God." Again, he comes into a state of felt poverty and wretchedness that he cannot tell what to do with himself. He says, "My heart is sore pained within me, and the terrors of death are fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me." So that the psalmist was not always under the sweet anointings of the Holy Spirit. No. But the Lord is pleased to make his people's face to shine at times. When the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts, then they feel this blessed anointing, enlightening their eyes. The heart, which before was contracted, is opened and expanded, and there comes forth the new man of grace. They that know what these sweet influences of the Holy Ghost are know they are of various operations.
The psalmist begins the psalm thus: "It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name. 0 Most High." 0 friends, one of the most delightful exercises of a child of God on earth is that of rendering praise, of giving God thanks. Some may say, "Cannot they always give God thanks?" Poor dear souls! Glad would they be if they could; but they feel that they have no more power to create a thankful heart than they have to create a world. One of the most painful parts of their experience is to see how the Lord opens his hand from day to day, and deals out his bountiful mercy in temporal things, as well as in the gift of life, which he puts into their souls, and yet to feel how little true gratitude they have; for if he puts not the grace of gratitude into exercise, they have it not. Though the Lord is pleased to put every grace of his Spirit into the soul at regeneration, yet the child of God has no power to bring those graces into operation. No, no.
The psalmist says, "My soul cleaveth unto the dust." And what is this dust? Why, worldly things, carnal things, sensual things; and the poor soul cannot get away from them; he cannot lift up himself. And you will find Hannah saying the same things: "He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory."
Now I believe I am speaking tonight to some such poor needy souls, who not only talk about these things, but really feel them to be painful things. God's people love to feel God at work in their hearts. They cannot fold their arms and be content without this. They cannot do this. No, no.
It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, 0 Most High; to show forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night." When the Lord is pleased to give us a sweet view of his tender mercies, how good it is to speak of them, and to show forth that we are debtors to his grace and mercy. If the church of God were more favored with the sweet tokens of the love of God, we should find their spirits more like Christ's; we should find their lives more separated from the world and worldly professors; for there is nothing that so separates a child of God from sin and sinners as a sweet experience of God's love.
The psalmist goes on to say, "Upon an instrument of ten strings." Now, I have thought this instrument of ten strings is the ten graces of God the Holy Ghost. And when the Holy Spirit is pleased to breathe on, and put this instrument in tune, then the soul can say, as Watts says,
"O may my heart in tune be found, Like David's harp of solemn sound."
The Lord's people know when their hearts are tuned with God's praises that it is from himself; for "the preparations of the heart of man, and the answer of the tongue is of the Lord." David further says, "I will sing a new song unto thee, 0 God; upon a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee." These musical instruments that were used in the temple service were symbolical of the melody the Holy Ghost makes in a sinner's soul, when he is pleased to shed abroad his love there. The apostle says, "Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your hearts unto the Lord." 0 friends, there are such seasons, though I believe that after the sweet day of espousals is passed they are but rare; yet the Lord is pleased from time to time to give songs in the night, in the dwellings of Jacob.
But to come to my text: "For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work. I will triumph in the works of thy hands." Here you see there is no free-will; all is ascribed to the power of God, to the grace of God. "I will triumph in the works of thy hands,"—works in the plural. And there are two works of which I shall endeavor to speak. Not that I mean to imply that there are only two operations of God the Holy Ghost, but there are two especial ones that concern the church of God. I know that the works of God are manifold, and they are great. God's works as a God of creation, 0 how great they are, and how they bespeak his infinite wisdom, power, majesty, and goodness! Why, the earth is filled with his goodness, and all his works praise him; yes, and the saints shall bless him.
The two works which I intend speaking upon, by the help of
God, tonight, are,
I. The work which the Lord Jesus Christ has done for his church and people; and
II. The work which the Holy Ghost is doing in the hearts of his people. And, my dear friends, if we are saved, if we get to heaven, we must be brought to be acquainted with both these works. There must not only be the work done for us, but there must be the work done in us. Now I know that a young Christian, generally speaking, is looking more for the work done in him than for the work done for him. His mind is not much occupied with the doctrinal part of the word; but he is very much occupied with his heart, whether he is under the teachings of God the Holy Ghost.
I. I must first speak a little of the work done for us. Now what is this work which the Lord Jesus Christ has really done? Mind, it is not to be done; this work is done. And in Rev. 21, the Lord said unto John, "It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end." And when our blessed Lord expired upon the cross, what did he say? "It is finished!" And he speaks also of this work, in the Gospel by John, as a finished work: "I have glorified thee on the earth. I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." And this work was the redemption of his church, to bring back God's banished ones, "to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness. In 2 Cor. 5:19-21, we read, "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." Now this work of redemption far exceeds all God's other works. The glorious Worker here made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all things which are therein. "All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made." "By him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers. All things were created by him and for him; and he is before all things, and by him all things consist." And he is spoken of as "upholding all things by the word of his power." And yet this work of redemption infinitely exceeds every other work of his hands. I admire Dr. Watts's words:
"God in the person of his Son
Has all his mightiest works outdone."
I know that men may be much taken up with the works of creation, and yet their hearts never rise to the glorious Maker of it all. We often read in the present day that Nature has done this or that, as though Nature could act apart from the God of nature. There is a God of nature and there is a God of salvation.
Well, what is the work done? And what was it that was necessary to be done, to do that work? It was a work which must be done by Jehovah Jesus, and that not abstractedly in his deity, but in taking into union with his divine Person the nature of man. Now, here is a work. And what for? John says, "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested" (was brought forth), "that he might destroy the works of the devil. What was the work of the devil? Why, he destroyed God's image in man, and put his own devilish likeness in him. It is said, "God created man in his own image;" but this image was lost by the fall. And then it is said Adam begat a son in his own likeness, after his image. Satan overcame our first parents in the garden of Eden, and so destroyed God's image in them that there was nothing good left. God's image was life. "In him was life," John says, "and the life was the light of men." But after the fall, instead of life in their nature, their nature became death. "In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." The church of God, though chosen in Christ, blessed in Christ before the foundation of the world was laid, yet they were in Adam when he fell. Therefore the apostle says, "And were by nature the children of wrath, even as others." The church fell in Adam, who forfeited divine life. But in infinite mercy the Son of God came into the world to stand in the law room, place, and stead of his people, who must otherwise have sunk down into everlasting woe. I say, friends, what a work this is. Hart speaks very blessedly upon this subject:
"The Lord of life experienced death.
How it was done we can't discuss;
But this we know, 'twas done for us."
The Lord Jesus Christ took up a life, to be able to die. The scripture says, "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same, that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil." What a work this is. And it goes on to say, "And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." And then look, friends. "He took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of his people." Look at it, friends: "To make reconciliation for the sins of his people. For in that he had suffered, being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren." And it is further said, "He gave his life a ransom for many." Again, "The Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost." And he says, "All that the Father giveth to me shall come to me, and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out:"
My text says, "I will triumph in the works of thy hands." Well, what was this work? Why, it was to satisfy law and justice in behalf of his church. The church had broken God's law, and entailed upon itself the curse of that law. And, my friends, divine Justice will exact all that the law demands, at the hands of the sinner or his Surety. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." And, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." Here the church was exposed to the curse and wrath of God. But the Lord Jesus Christ is pleased to come into this world to stand in the place of his church. And what does the apostle say? "God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that they might receive the adoption of sons." Christ was circumcised, and thus became debtor to do the whole law. For the apostle says, "If ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ has become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace." "The Lord Jesus Christ was made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law." And he says, "I will ransom them from the power of the grave, I will redeem them from death. 0 death, I will be thy plagues; 0 grave, I will be thy destruction. Repentance shall be hid from mine eyes." So you see, the Lord Jesus Christ engaged with his Father to be the redemption of his church and people. And the word says, "The redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing, and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." For "their Redeemer is strong; the Lord of Hosts is his name." He shall thoroughly plead their cause. "And in that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not; and to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack. The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save thee; he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love; he will joy over thee with singing." There was an everlasting union between Christ and his church. The church was the gift of the Father to his dear Son from everlasting. "Thine they were, and thou gavest them me." And he was set up from everlasting to be the glorious Head of his church; for she is his bride, "the Lamb's wife." "Thy Maker is thy Husband; the Lord of Hosts is his name." So that there was a marriage union between Christ and his church from everlasting. The church did not fall out of his love when she fell, nor was that eternal bond of love ever broken. And it was in this glorious relationship that he became responsible for her. Here we see his love:
"This was compassion like a God,
That when the Saviour knew
The price of pardon was his blood,
His pity ne'er withdrew."
He knew from everlasting the dreadful ruin into which his bride Would go.
"He saw her ruin'd in the fall,
But loved her notwithstanding all."
O friends, look at this love, this self-moving love, this self-originating love. And because he loved her he gave himself for her.
In the epistle to the Ephesians it is said, "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." 0 friends, I like to look at God's eternal purposes of grace in the Lord Jesus Christ, towards his church and people, in the eternal counsel of peace; and I have often looked at the wonderful mercy and goodness of God, in thus making provision before man fell, not after his fall; for redemption and salvation in the purpose of God were done before man's fall.
Well; this was the work of the Son of God, to bruise the serpent's head. Look at the first promise given. The Lord said to the serpent, "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." 0, bless his holy name, the Lord Jesus Christ bruised the serpent's head, by suffering, bleeding, and dying. He took away the curse, and removed death and destruction out of the power of the devil. But how did he do this? By enduring all the wrath of God due to sinners: "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed." His sufferings were so great that he sweat great drops of blood, falling down to the ground. Of his sufferings Hart says:
"Much we talk of Jesus' blood;
But how little's understood;
Of his sufferings so intense,
Angels have no perfect sense.
Who can rightly comprehend
Their beginning or their end?'
'Tis to God, and God alone,
That their weight is fully known."
This the work. 0 what a work to bring his church, to purchase his forfeited church; for the Lord Jesus Christ bought his church. And what was the price? His blood. Look at the value paid for the church,—the blood of the dear Son of God. Yes; he paid down the utmost price; and to prove that the debt was completely paid, he could not see corruption, but must rise from the dead, as a testimony that the debt was paid; that the church was redeemed. Look, friends, at what Paul says in Rom. 8: "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God; who also maketh intercession for us. What shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Only look at this work, for God's work is perfect. All his ways are judgments: "A God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he." The whole of the church is redeemed, not a hoof left behind. There is no peradventure here; there is no possibility of their sinking to hell. They will every one get to heaven. And the prophet Isaiah speaks of it as it will be at the last: "Behold I and the children which God has given me."
Well; this is one of the works. "I will triumph in the works of thy hands," says the psalmist.
Now I must observe, there are very many who can understand this work of Christ's which I have just attempted to set forth, and can set it forth much more clearly than I have done; yet if you come to ask them what they know of this work in themselves, they would be at a loss to tell you.
II. Then, for the sake of poor tried souls, I will endeavor to speak a little of the second work, the work the Holy Ghost is doing. Friends, the work which I am about to speak of has a beginning; for it is a work wrought in the heart, and it cannot be fully wrought there, and the sinner be ignorant of it. He will be able to tell to other poor sinners what God has done for his soul, and what he has done in his soul. You that have this witness in your spirits do know that the work has a beginning. Now the apostle says, "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." Then again, "We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
How is this work begun? It is called a new birth, plainly implying it had not an existence before. You know we do not make ourselves as creatures; and this second birth, where does it come from? The Lord tells Nicodemus, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh nor whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit." All who are the subjects of this blessed birth, this regeneration, the Holy Ghost comes and shows that they are ruined, lost, and undone, that they are blind, helpless and naked. He shows them their need of Christ, and brings them to seek and beg for Christ. You may say, "If the church is everlastingly saved in Christ, where is the necessity of their being shown their guilt and iniquity?" I reply, they must be made meet for heaven. Heaven would be a hell to the unregenerate soul. He does not love holiness, purity, and righteousness. But this new birth is a holy nature communicated, a holy spirit infused into the sinner's soul. It is life imparted from the Spirit of life. And what does the word say? "When he, the Spirit of truth, is come" (when he comes to the conscience), "he shall convince the world of sin." That is, the elect world, the world for whom Christ died,—a world within the world. "He shall convince the world of sin." And so they know that they are sinners. But did they not know they were sinners before this? They have just as much knowledge of this as is given them by a natural conscience. But when the spirituality of God's law is seen in the heart, in the desire, in the affections, when the iniquity of them all is brought to light, this is the teaching of God the Holy Ghost, as Hart says:
"Lord, when thy Spirit descends to show
The badness of our hearts,
Astonish'd at the amazing view,
The soul with horror starts."
You may say, "Does the Holy Ghost teach that?" Yes; for "whatsoever makes manifest is light." "When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall convince the world of sin, of righteousness," &c.; of their need of righteousness; because all taught by God the Holy Ghost will feel they are not only sinners, but that they must have a perfect righteousness, that the law of God requires such a righteousness, and that they cannot stand before God without it. Then where is that righteousness to be got? The poor sinner sets to work. He vows, he resolves to do this and to leave undone the other, in order to make a righteousness; but, like Samson's withs, they all give way, and the Lord's right hand tears them to pieces from time to time. Yet the poor soul returns to it again and again, until at last he is brought to see there is no righteousness but that which the Lord Jesus Christ has wrought out that will do to stand in before God. 0 friends, how long it was before I was stripped before God, and brought to stand in Christ's righteousness.
Well; the Holy Ghost convinces the sinner that he needs that righteousness. It is the bride's wedding garment, and she cannot stand before the King without it. The psalmist says, "The king's daughter is all glorious within; her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the King in raiment of needlework." Now, that needlework was the righteousness of Christ, every stitch of it. And, poor child of God, if thou art able to believe it, and to live upon it, thou wilt have peace.
Now, where do you get the victory over sin? Do you know what it is to feel that sin presses you down? And how are you to get deliverance from it, but by faith in the doing and dying of Christ? 0! How I have tried to curb sin; how I have tried to run away from it! I have tried to mortify myself; but Sin was stronger than all. And I could never get the victory over it until I got it from Calvary's cross, and Christ will give you not only the power to trample it down, but to get the victory over it. But you may say, "I cannot get the victory." Can you say you are engaged in the battle? If so, Christ will work for thee, and in thee, and he will help thee to trust in him; for "the battle is the Lord's." He will help thee to the precious promises there are in the word for those who are toiling to get the victory over sin and the world."
I will triumph in the works of thy hand." This is the triumph of faith. But faith has many operations. There is little faith, weak faith, and strong faith. I used to think that I could not have faith if I had not joy; but I have learnt that faith has to fight; faith has to resist, faith has to oppose, and faith has to stand. Paul bids us "fight the good fight of faith," and to "resist the devil," and he will flee from us; and we are exhorted to stand still and see the salvation of the Lord." The enemies faith has are sin, the world, the flesh, and the devil; and those who are enabled to stand against these enemies are acquainted with God the Father in Christ. Look at what John says: "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." Again: "If we say we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin." And the apostle, speaking to the church of Corinth, says, "God is faithful, by whom ye were called into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ." So those for whom Christ died will be brought to know Christ, to love Christ, to trust in him, rest upon him, and live a life of faith and dependence upon him, both within and without, in temporals and spirituals. This is the new life. It is God working in you, "Christ the hope of glory."
I was, my friends, for many years looking for some particular work in me, and when I could see that I had a little faith, a little hope, and a little love, then I thought I was in a good state, and perhaps I should get to heaven; but when I could not feel any faith, hope, or love, I thought I was wrong; so that I was placing my faith and hope in myself, without looking to the finished work of Christ. Now, I believe there are multitudes of living souls that are looking to their frames and feelings; and if they do not come up to what they think they ought to be, they fear they are wrong. You may say, "Are you going to do away with frames and feelings?" Yes, I am, as the ground of acceptance before God. "Then what are we to rest upon?" Why, upon the finished work of Christ. The work is done, and done for ever. And I can tell you from personal experience that you will find no resting-place until you get here. I was tossed up and down without any certainty about my state for years, until the Lord was pleased to show me that Christ's righteousness alone justified me, that his blood alone cleansed me, and that God the Father accepted me in the Beloved, and that all my hope must be in Christ, all my joy must come from Christ, that I must look where God the Father looks, and trust where God the Father trusts. You sing Hart's hymns, and I admire them very much; but I did not understand the meaning of one part some years ago. He says,
"Righteousness within thee rooted,
May appear to take thy part;
But let righteousness imputed
Be the breastplate of thine heart."
Now, friends, I found when I was brought into a fiery trial that I had not this breastplate. Why? Because I had never been led into the knowledge of Christ's righteousness; therefore, when Satan came in the night, I had no breastplate; but when the Lord was pleased to deliver me, he led me into that blessed doctrine of the imputation of Christ's righteousness; and then I saw that when I was down in the deeps in my feelings, or when I apprehended death and destruction, my state was as secure as when I was upon the mount of holy communion.
Now this is a fundamental article of faith and doctrine of grace; and I believe it was one of the doctrines your dear minister (Mr. Fenner) experienced and preached; but it is only to be realized by the teaching of the blessed Spirit."
I will triumph in the works of thy hands." Now, though these two works are perfectly distinct, yet they are beautifully blended together. There are multitudes clear in the doctrine, but where is their experience? "0," say some, "if I really believed that Christ would save me, then I might live in licentiousness." 0 friends, this is a most dreadful slur upon this most blessed doctrine. Why, if a child of God could live and be as he would, he would be holy as God is holy, and live more and more to Christ's honor and glory. This doctrine is a most blessed doctrine. Christ has justified thee, his blood has cleansed thee, and his Spirit sanctifies thee. 0! I love to know the Father in his love and grace; I love to know the Lord Jesus Christ in his glorious work of redemption; and I love to know the blessed witness of God the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost's office is to bring the church to the knowledge of their sonship and heirship. Here is the Trinity in unity,—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, in behalf of the church. 0 how blessed! But your time is gone. May the Lord be pleased to grant his blessing, for Christ's sake. Amen.