WE have before us a vast and mighty--a gracious and glorious subject--or rather, a series of glorious subjects to those brought by the Holy Ghost into a spiritual understanding of God's mind contained in this very blessed epistle. I have frequently directed your attention to it, for it is a portion of Holy Scripture which, I may say, God has made peculiarly mine. He has used it, and that by the power of His Spirit, in dispersing much ignorance and darkness from my mind, and in dispensing His own knowledge and light. Still further than this, He has given me to know by blessed experience that the knowledge I have is His, and the light I possess is Himself. What He is to me is irrespective altogether of my state and condition--my trials and changes here below, for whatever changes there may be in me, blessed be His holy name, there are none in Him. Many times my soul has been refreshed with the confidence of the patient patriarch, "But He is in one mind, and who can turn Him? and what His soul desireth, even that He doeth. For He performeth the thing that is appointed for me: and many such things are with Him." (Job 23:13,14) With this knowledge I can sing with the spirit and with the understanding also, with a heart crumbled into nothingness before Him,
"My soul through many changes goes
His love no variation knows."
In the immutability of the God I love and worship I find the sheet-anchor of my soul. In the everlasting love of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost I find a cable which can never snap--never give way--whatever strain may be brought to bear upon it by the powers of hell and the craft of Satan. It is a blessed privilege for me to know that in the cleft of the Rock of eternal truth--and that Rock is Christ--in that cleft the anchor of hope holds firm, and come what will, He will see to it that all is well. In the felt assurance of this I can well say to those of you who are one with me in these things, the words of dear Henry Fowler which have been the joy of my heart a thousand times,
"They may on the main of temptation be toss'd;
Their sorrows may swell as the sea;
But none of the ransom'd shall ever be lost,
The righteous shall hold on his way."
We will look at this glorious chapter as a whole. It is one in which a sound and experimental Trinitarian may revel. God, Three in One and One in Three is blessedly set forth. In the first part the will of the Father, His everlasting and undisturbed purpose is revealed. In the second part there is the accomplishment of the Father's will and the fulfillment of His purpose in every point and particular by God the Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. In the third part we have the Revealer of all this--God the Holy Ghost. There is nothing the Father has purposed for me, but the same is held in undisturbed security by the Son, and in the set time of favor is made experimentally mine by the witness and seal of God the ever-blessed Spirit. And yet, when we notice the chapter as a whole, we see that the Father is not confined to the first part, nor the Son to the second, nor the Holy Ghost to the third. No, for we know that wherever the Father is, there is the Son, and there is the Spirit also. And wherever the Son is, there is the Father and the Spirit. And wherever the indwelling, witness and seal of the Spirit are enjoyed, there the Father is, in His sovereign election, manifesting His unceasing concern and care over His church and people, and there is the Son graciously dispensing those gifts and graces committed to Him by the Father in the covenant of grace before all worlds, and which He so lovingly holds Himself responsible to communicate to each and to all interested therein, without exclusion, in the times of the Father's appointing.
The will of the Father is blessedly revealed in this instructive chapter. I like the way in which it is revealed. I admire the order--all of God--perfect--unique--not to be improved upon. In the fifth verse we see it referring to childship--"Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will." Never read those two words with indifference--"to Himself." This is not merely predestination to a call by grace--to agreement with the doctrines of grace--to a church--to a cause, a system, a confederacy, a clique, or to a community styling its members the dear people of God--not that; but "to Himself." No, nothing short of that will do for those who are born again--born from above--born of God. All coming short of that, it matters not what it may be, is mere sham, delusion, and hypocrisy. Anything short of God in Christ by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost--however great, grand, or good it may be, will prove worthless in the hour of death and in the day of judgment. When we come to lay our heads upon our dying pillows, and every cherished hope eludes our grasp--when all natural comforts and bosom friends are receding from our view--then, neither priest, pastor, deacon, or any other creature will be of any avail. O no, in that dread moment, when flesh and heart shall fail, God Himself must be the Strength, Rock, and Confidence of our heart. If He be so now, He will be so then, and through eternal ages He will so remain.
According to the good pleasure of His will we are predestinated to all eternal good, and those of us who have an intelligent apprehension of His will toward us, read that ninth verse with glowing approbation and appreciation--"Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure, which He hath purposed in Himself." Has He made known to us the mystery of His will? That is the question? Yet this is not good enough for God's dear children. Is it not? say you. No, it is not; for an All-Wise Father knows what things are good for His poor and needy children, who feel their emptiness, experience their poverty, know that they are pensioners of His bounty, and dependents upon His grace. In the eleventh verse we see the provisions of the will carried out. "In Whom." I like these two words. They were made precious to me over two years ago, from chap. 3:12, and their savour abides with me still. "In Whom we have boldness, and access with confidence by the faith of Him." Look at this! Here we are before God--I in this pulpit--you in those pews, and this is the truth concerning us--we are either in Christ or out of Christ. Which? If in Christ, how blessed! If out of Christ, how terrible! Some of you may not think so, or feel this matter as I do. "O God, Thou art terrible out of Thy holy places." (Ps. 68:35) Are we in Christ the Truth? Is Christ the Truth in us? Am I in Christ or out of Christ? That is the point. I know it is not meet for me to be occupied with others before I know where I am myself. O, what marvelous grace that took a poor vile sinner like me and brought me near to a gracious God and Father in the bonds of covenant relationship and sweet spiritual experience. He my Father--I His son. Satan and his fraternity would say, O, but see what a sinner you are, and how unbecoming your behaviour has been of late. To these I say--Quite true: I am conscious of worse things than you know of me. You look at home, and use your broom for your own doorstep. I was long enough at the world's swine troughs and held in embracings which I now loathe in the sorrow of my heart. Yet I can look up through tears of God's own giving, and say, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in Thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called Thy son." (Luke 15:21) Last night, with none to see or hear me but Himself, I felt,
"Thy mercy is more than a match for my heart,
Which wonders to feel its own hardness depart;
Dissolved by Thy goodness, I fall to the ground,
And weep to the praise of the mercy I found."
Well, we are either in or out. As "members of His body, of His fresh, and of His bones" we enjoy the loving sympathy of our exalted Head. As branches of the True Vine we yield the fruit of the Spirit in His season. As living stones in the Spiritual Temple we feel our dependence upon Him and our establishment in grace. As held in the embraces of our adorable and loving Husband, we enjoy His affection and unwearied attention.
But let us not pass over that eleventh verse, "In Whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will." In this we prove our sonship, for "the Spirit beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God; and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ." (Rom. 8:16,17) "We have obtained," that is, by allotment" an inheritance"--an everlasting portion--an inalienable heritage. Satan will try to persuade us out of it, but our Solicitor--you know His name--Jesus Christ the Righteous, Whom we frequently consult and Whoever speaks for us in the court of heaven, and speaks to be heard and obeyed, keeps the entail eternally secure. He came as the Righteous Servant of the Father--He served the Father faithfully, and from the Father He received His righteous reward. Now the Father is ever ready to wait upon the Son, and--marvelous truth--the Father and the Son are ever waiting upon the Spirit. This is the Spirit's day and dispensation. You will notice that there is no persecution worthy the name now because of the name of Jesus. You may mention the name of Jesus wherever you like, or talk about salvation by Jesus, and no one will be offended with you or your Jesus. Some may pity you and think you weak minded to talk about such things. But mark well, if you begin to speak about the Holy Ghost, the necessity of His work and the sovereignty of His will, you will discover that this is His day. As it was in the days of our Lord Jesus Christ, when those who followed Him and spoke well of His name were harassed and persecuted, so now, those who by God's grace are bound to contend for the personality and sovereignty of the Holy Ghost, are not only found fault with and derided, but hounded out of respectable religious society. Thank God we can bear it all. I can generally thank such people for this badge of honor thrust upon me, for, bless God, I can get along very well without their company. The society I love is that where the Spirit of the living God is known, felt, and enjoyed in His sovereign operations as the Glorifier of the Father's Christ and the Revealer of covenant secrets--where He is honored, worshipped, and glorified with the Father and the Son in the spiritual intelligence and service of those whom He has created anew.
These are they who have obtained an inheritance in Christ by the witness of the Spirit, according to the purpose of the Father Who worketh all things after the council of His own will, that they should be to the praise of His glory, trusting and hoping in Christ. This trusting is always produced by the word of truth, which is the gospel of salvation to every Spirit-quickened, believing sinner. All such are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. What a blessed privilege it is to know that we are amongst God's sealed ones! Something of this is seen in the sealing of the one hundred and forty-four thousand recorded in the seventh chapter of the book of The Revelation. Wherever there is sealing there must be heat and fire. There must be melting, for without it an impression from the seal cannot be made. There can be no melting without the fire, as all God's children can testify who have been chosen in the furnace of affliction. (Isa. 48:10) Turn with me to Zech. 13:9, "And I will bring the third part through the fire." The third part of what? Many think this means the third or the least part of mankind. I do not believe this is the meaning at all. Then what is the meaning? Go through the whole of this paragraph commencing with the seventh verse, "Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, and against the Man that is My Fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn My hand upon the little ones." These were predestined to the wilderness pathway, and must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. Notice God's gracious care for them, "And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver as refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on My Name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is My people: and they shall say, the LORD is my God." O what a wondrous joy is experienced in the heart of a regenerate sinner when Jesus Christ appears in the midst of the seven-times-heated furnace, and His love-looks speak to the heart the precious truth--For you I suffered the dread wrath of a sin-hating God--for you I experienced the pangs of soul-travail, through which heaven is filled with unceasing joy. Here the Father is satisfied with His child in Christ and with His Christ in His child. I am satisfied and delighted with Jesus, my Brother--Redeemer--God. The Holy Ghost is satisfied with me as a child of the Father and a brother of Jesus Christ. To me and to my brethren in tribulation He says, "It is My people," to which we joyfully respond, "The LORD is my God."
Now to the text--"Which is the earnest of our inheritance." What is the earnest? See 2 Cor. 1:22, Who hath sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." The Holy Spirit of promise, as the Sealer of God's redeemed and of God's promises in the redeemed, is the Earnest of our full possession of our inheritance of grace and glory in God. And earnest is a portion of a whole in advance; a pledge and assurance of the remainder to come; like the first fruits, it is the assurance of the coming of all like good. So the Holy Ghost in His indwelling, witnessing and sealing, is the Earnest of the inheritance to be spiritually received and blessedly enjoyed by all God's elect and redeemed people. "Our Inheritance?" And what is our inheritance? Searching through God's blessed Book we see that God is the Inheritance of His people, and this very chapter reveals to us the marvelous fact that the people of God are God's inheritance. For many a long year I have considered the eighteenth verse to be the tallest portion of Divine inspiration--"The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints." Do you notice that? "The riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints." The saints in Christ ever appear richly glorious in the eyes of their God, the Father of glory. An innumerable multitude of poor lost sinners, saved by sovereign grace, washed in atoning blood, clothed in spotless righteousness, and adorned by the graces of the Spirit, form that glorious inheritance in which God takes eternal delight. Paul seems here, and that by the Holy Ghost, to pile up, as it were, word after word, sentence after sentence, truth after truth, figure after figure, to show forth the fullness of the Father's delight in His eternally-loved, blood-bought, and Spirit-taught people, and for whom He would rather sacrifice everything else. Will He? Listen! Who "overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea: for His mercy endureth for ever." (Ps. 136:15) For whom? His people--His chosen heritage. Particularly notice this--"For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Since thou wast precious in My sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life." (Isa. 43:3,4) Yes, God will part with anything, but not with His people. He will not be defrauded of His inheritance! He will not be deprived of His glory! He will not be disappointed of His delight! God and His people will enjoy an eternity of mutual companionship, communion, and joy.
What is our inheritance? God in Christ, with all that He has in covenant, is the inheritance of His people. Christ, with all that He holds as Mediator, is the Portion of His redeemed. The Holy Ghost, with all the glories He has to reveal, is the heritage of the gathered children of the Father. Attend to this--"He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Rom. 8:32) You may ask, All what things? Here you have the answer: "All things that pertain unto life and godliness." (2 Pet. 1:3) Pay marked attention to this inventory of the saint's possessions--"All things are your's; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours, and ye are Christ's and Christ is God's." (1 Cor. 3:21-23) Notice again, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with Whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." (James 1:17) He does not give in the morning, repent at noon, and take back at night. That is not the character of our God, "For His gifts and calling are without repentance." (Rom. 11:29) That word repentance means, a change of mind. "No change of mind our Jesus knows."
"Unchangeable His will,
Whatever be my frame;
His loving heart is still
Eternally the same;
My soul through many changes goes,
His love no variation knows."
But let us not lose sight of the Earnest of our Inheritance--the Holy Ghost. We enjoy the Earnest now, and the Inheritance we shall hold in full, undisturbed possession in the day of full redemption, when we enter into the glory and joy of our Lord, indicated in the words of our glorious Shepherd-King, "Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." (Matt. 25:34) Do you notice that? "Prepared for you," not preparing for you, nor your preparing for the kingdom. The kingdom is prepared for you, and you are prepared for the kingdom, but it is all in the person, purity, and perfections of Jesus Christ. Now I pause, because I do not wish any of you to think that I am speaking in the heat of spasmodic feeling, or using words expressive of more than I know, feel, or can prove on the clear warrant of Holy Scripture. If we could live to the age of Methuselah we should not be more fit to enter into God's glorious kingdom than we are at this moment with a God-given knowledge of Paul's creed and confidence recorded in 1 Cor. 1:30, "But of Him," that is God the Father, "are ye in Christ Jesus," that is God the Son, "Who of God," that is God the Holy Ghost, "is made unto us Wisdom, and Righteousness, and Sanctification, and Redemption, and GLORY." What more, what more do we want? Nothing more, but the blessed and hallowed enjoyment of it by the anointing of the Holy Ghost.
What a rich and unspeakable mercy to be blessed with the earnest of the Spirit, and by His witness and seal to know that all I need for salvation, life, and glory, God has given me in Christ Jesus. Once I thought that by the Spirit given to me, and my proper use of Him and the truths He revealed to me, I should grow into a better man, with a sweeter disposition, become more holy, and thus ripen for glory. Now I know that will not do. The Holy Ghost has been given to reveal the humbling truth that in my old nature there is a depth of depravity and corruption that hell itself cannot beat. Jesse Fowler was quite right when he said that he might as well look for holiness in hell as to seek for it in the flesh. It cannot be found there. Sin I find in all my thoughts--in all I do. Sin in all I do? That is not strong enough, for all I do is sin, and here before God and this congregation I take my place with the Redeemed Atheist, who could say in the intensity of sanctified conviction,
"Vain toad, too filthy to be damned,
Else in his face the Judge had slammed
The door of darksome hell;
He feared the vile infernal crew
Back to the earth this wretch would spue,
Too black with them to dwell."
The vileness of human nature is a terrible sight for a newly awakened sinner. It is a marvelous experience to be taught "that in me--that is, in my flesh--dwelleth no good thing," (Rom. 7:18) that my "carnal mind is enmity against God." (Rom. 8:7) Also to be continually learning that my natural mind can only look upon the wisdom of God as the rankest folly, and that no change for the better can ever take place in the carnal mind--the natural man--the deceitful heart. But a new heart and a right spirit has been given, and in the light of the glory of God I see myself a poor, vile sinner indeed, and feel my inability to do anything right before God, or to produce anything by which I can find access to His presence, or secure the enjoyment of His company and counsel. Here I am brought to the conclusion that I must possess the Spirit of God when my heart showeth me the wickedness of the ungodly, and my spiritual experience is one with those honored saints whose histories are recorded in the pages of Divine revelation.
But look at the confession made in every parish church today, and in quoting it we thank God that there are thousands of spiritual worshippers in the Establishment who find a heart-searching power in the words, "There is no health in us." Who believes this? I do. This is a personal matter with which we have to do in the presence of Infinite Purity. For sinners thus taught, the Holy Ghost is the Earnest of the Inheritance of the saints in light--of all the blessings with which God has blessed me in Christ--of all the gifts secured to me in the everlasting covenant--of all the privileges He has conferred upon me, and of all the glory entrusted to Christ for me when He swore by Himself that they should be eternally mine. The Holy Ghost has been given to teach me that all I am and have acceptable to the Father is in Christ Jesus. What a blessing to have such a Teacher as the Spirit of Truth. Sometimes I am assailed with fits of unbelief which I do not like, and I try to believe. Do you? Many an exercised child of God would answer, Yes, sometimes, I try to believe, and find believing hard work. To this I reply, No, believing is not hard work, but trying to believe is hard work indeed. Believing by trying is harder work than any sinner can accomplish. Believing is not hard work. It is the work of God--a gracious gift--the fruit of the Spirit. When the Spirit of God takes of the things of Christ and shows them to me, do I object? Do I reject them? Do I cast them from me? No, bless you, I cannot. As He reveals to me the gifts of the Father in the hands of Christ for me, I see in each a plea to ask Him still for more. This is an evidence of the possession of the Earnest.
Sometimes I try to pray. I do. Then I want to express myself in proper and becoming language, to be handed in by my Representative at court. But my state is exactly described in Rom. 8:26, "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." The words of true devotion from the Spirit-moved heart of Paul Gerhardt are very precious to me:--
"And when in lonely places,
A fearful child, I shrink,
He prays the prayer within me,
I cannot ask or think.
The deep, unspoken language
Known only to that I Love
That fathoms this heart's mysterious
From the throne of light above.
In these sweet lines we trace the inward working of the blessed Spirit. "What is prayer?" asked dear William Parks, of Openshaw, and thus answered his own question: "Prayer is the inward movement of God the Holy Ghost in the heart of elect sinners, creating longings and desires for those blessings which God afore designed to give." This is another evidence of the indwelling of the Earnest.
Sometimes I try to raise a little hope in my exercised heart, but I cannot. No, I cannot create a ray of hope in my heart. Yet in the darkest dispensations, when hope deferred has made my heart sick, the God of hope has made me "abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost." (Rom. 15:13) Dear John Kershaw once did me good; stopping suddenly, he laid his hand on my shoulder, and said, "Oh, my dear friend, it is a great mercy to be raised up even to a little hope." That is a sweet indication of the presence of the Earnest--it speaks of the indwelling of the Holy Ghost.
Sometimes I try to preach when I feel as dead as the pulpit I stand in. Yet I am not dead, for I feel my deadness, and the dead feel not at all. I mourn over my leanness, and long to preach the word with power. In weakness I learn where my great strength lies, and that the Gospel can only be preached to the hearts of the people "with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven." (1 Peter 1:12) Peter proved this on the day of Pentecost. I have proved it many times, and glory in the fact that the Holy Ghost is the Earnest of our Inheritance, by Whom we are sealed unto the day of redemption.
Look at those words, "until the redemption of the purchased possession." Our time is gone. Just look at the marginal references, Rom. 8:23, "And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit"--faith, hope, love--"even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." The indwelling of the Earnest and the lovely exercise of His graces, however faint and feeble these may be, are blessed pledges that, with all our groanings under the burden of the body of death, we shall one day form part of "the purchased possession"--the blood-bought church--the Bride of the Lamb--the body of Christ--the family of the Father--the temple of the Holy Ghost, without a blot or a blemish, a sin or a sorrow, a doubt or a fear. Here we can sing,
"Yes, I to the end shall endure,
As sure as the Earnest is given;
More happy, but not more secure,
The glorified spirits in heaven."
Here we have this vile body. There we shall have a glorious body. Here, O wonder of wonders! the Spirit of purity, in the midst of a mass of sin and corruption, makes a temple for Himself, in which He will be worshipped and glorified. Our body is His temple to the praise of His glory, in which He inspires our songs of electing and redeeming love.
To Him increasingly be ascribed honor, power, might, majesty, and dominion. Amen.