I NEED your prayers this evening, my friends, for I shall not forget coming into Sussex in the month of March, for some time to come, if I live. But the Lord knows what is best for us, and all things that he gives "work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." And we must believe that God's purposes will stand for ever and for ever, in spite of everything which may oppose; for his promises cannot be broken or altered. Job says, "He performeth the thing that is appointed for me, and many such things are with him." He has appointed and fixed the bounds of our habitation. He has also appointed every affliction, every cross, and every trouble; and he weighs them all out, for "he weigheth the path of the just." David lived and died to prove this; and so shall all the election of grace, from the first until the last that is called cries, "Grace, grace unto it."
David commences this psalm thus: "Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul." He felt that his soul could not live upon the perishing things here below, and he felt also that there was a supply of everything that his soul needed treasured up in the Lord Jesus Christ; and he had nowhere else to lift up his soul to but unto him. Therefore he says, "O my God, I trust in thee." What a blessed soul is that who can say from his heart, "My God." It is very easy to say it with the tongue, but it is not so easy to learn it experimentally with the heart. A soul must have the spirit of adoption before he has any right to call God "Father." David not only said, "My God," but he said, "I trust in thee." What a favor it is to that man or woman that is taught by God the Holy Ghost to feel that they trust in him; for they must first know him before they can trust in him. Therefore David could say, "O my God, I trust in thee. Let me not be ashamed." And in Ps. 119. he says, "Let me not be ashamed of my hope." David very frequently feared that he should be ashamed of himself; and I believe that this is very often felt by God's family and by them only, because it cannot be felt without divine grace in the soul. And there is one thing that the psalmist continually felt before God: "Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions." Now, David remembered them himself, and therefore he sometimes was fearful that the Lord remembered them; and he wanted to know whether they were buried out of God's sight. Sometimes they rise up in the soul, though the soul cannot feel as once it did when transgression was sealed home in his heart.
Then David goes on: "According to thy mercy, remember thou me, for thy goodness' sake, O Lord." And we find he goes on through this psalm, turning out his experience and showing up the Lord's dealings in a very sweet way and manner; and then he comes to my text: "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will show them his covenant."
Now, it is evident a secret must lie between at least two parties, or it cannot be shown. Sometimes one says to the other, "Can you keep a secret?" And perhaps the other answers, "Yes." But I never dare say so, because I am sure to speak of it. But there is this one secret spoken of in my text which my soul must keep. But then this secret often flies to one and another of the dear children of God, and we find that this secret is frequently spoken of. You know that when the angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah and his wife, Manoah said to him, "What is thy name, that when thy sayings come to pass we may do thee honour?" And the angel of the Lord said unto him, "Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret?" So you will find this secret is spoken of in different ways.
Now, you will find in the Lord's sermon on the mount that he has blended in a very sweet way and manner his blessings and the characters to whom those blessings belong, and he tells them (nine times, I think it is) that they are blessed; and in the psalm I have read to you, David says, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile." And in another place, the Lord says, "When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." So then we see religion is a secret between God and the soul: "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him." The children of God cannot impart this secret to another, because it would be second hand; and if the Lord makes use of any one to impart this secret, they say, "It is not the man or woman who has done it, but it is the Lord." So we will try and find out those dear souls that are in this secret, because you will find that it is very often a secret even to them. Hence they say, "Surely if the Lord's secret was with my soul, I should never be so blind, so hard, so dead, so barren in my soul." But, my friends, this secret lies in a very small compass very often. But we must not despise small things, because there may be but a very small piece of gold; but gold is gold, though it may be small or lie buried in dust, and until the dust is cast away, it cannot be seen. So this secret cannot be seen unless God the Holy Ghost brings it to light. But "the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him."
Now the characters are traced out, because God the Holy Ghost is very particular, and he will not "give that which is holy unto the dogs," neither will he "cast his pearls before swine." This secret is with them that fear God. Therefore, we will try to find out this fear of God in our hearts. We read of it in the Bible; but that alone will not do, because it must be in the child of God's heart, and the fruits of it must be in a man's life, conduct, and conversation. We read that it is "a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death." And why? Because a fountain rises up, and the higher it rises the farther it drops around when it falls; for a fountain does not drop in one place, but it drops all around. And we know that the children of God are watched all around. "Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh after, but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded." So you see God's dear children are particular characters.
Again. We read that "the fear of the Lord is to hate evil." "Pride, arrogance, and every evil way, and the froward mouth do I hate," says the dear Lord. When I was a young man, I do not believe that any of God's people had as much pride as myself; but the fear of the Lord, which he has put into my heart, has made it a poison, an abominable thing; and the fear of the Lord hates it, sets it aside, and flees from it as it would from a serpent.
The Holy Ghost tells us that it is also to depart from evil; for "the fear of the Lord is to depart from evil," as well as to hate it. Now, the devil can never make a poor child of God hate sin and love the Lord. I am sure of it; and, therefore, we find it is a secret made known by the Lord alone.
The Lord has also said, " The fear of the Lord is clean." So, mark, there is no filth in it; there is no uncleanness in it; natural fear can never touch it, never mar it, never poison it; because the Lord says it is "clean, enduring for ever;" and Hart says it is
"An unctuous light to all that's right,
A bar to all that's wrong."
Now, look what a secret it is. There is an outward difference in these characters; hut some cannot make them out. "They never associate with others," say they; "they never seem to carry their heads so high as other people." And why? Because the Lord has brought down high looks, and laid the haughtiness of men low; and so they cannot.
Again. We find that David, by God the Holy Ghost, has written about this fear of the Lord very sweetly in Ps. 103. He says, "The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children.
But some of the children of God may say, "O! I wish I could believe; but I cannot." Ah! I know they cannot; but by and by the truth comes to them and is put into their hearts by the testimony of the blessed Spirit, and that makes wise the simple; and David says, "Thy testimonies are my delight and my counsellors," and the Lord is said to be a Counsellor, the "Mighty God." And as it is so, they want to feel that they have an interest in the Redeemer's love and blood; and they want to know this over and over again. They never grow weary of the Lord showing them this covenant. If they have been lifted up to the top of the rock, they have to be let down again into the deep, and then their soul is melted because of trouble. Then they reel to and fro and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' end; and then they feel as if they are far worse than any child of God can be, because here they find rebellion and peevishness working, and their soul shut up in hardness and darkness, and they cannot come forth. And how do they know they cannot? Because they are shut up in darkness, and they cannot see their way out. But by and by the blessed Spirit shows them again that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life; and then they want to have the Saviour's love and blood shed upon their conscience; for it is the application of that blood which was shed in the garden and on Calvary's cross that the soul lays hold of by faith.
The apostle says, "Add to your faith virtue." Now the poor woman that came in the press behind Jesus said, "If I may but touch his clothes I shall be healed." Well, by and by she got near enough to touch him, and she felt in herself she was healed. But the Lord had first touched her heart, or she had never come to him. And it is said, "Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes? And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee; and sayest thou, Who touched me? And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing. But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth."
Again. This experience is when the Holy Ghost works; for he it is that does it all; for the Lord Jesus Christ says, "He shall glorify me, for he shall receive of mine and shall show it unto you;" "All things that the Father hath are mine; therefore said I, He shall take of mine and shall show it unto you." I dare say there are some of you here that have been many years in the way, and yet are mourners in Zion; but the Lord says, "I appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness."
There is a vast difference between Mount Zion and Mount Sinai; but none will ever know what Mount Zion is until they have been led up into Mount Sinai. Some of you, I dare say, do not like to be searched; but David said, "Search me, O God, and know my heart." Not but that David knew much of the evil of his heart; but he was very fearful that he should fall one day by the hand of a Saul. And I can tell you, my friends, that I am more jealous over my heart than anything else.
Again. When the Lord is pleased to show his children his covenant, he says, "The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God." And then the Lord says in connection, "To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes." Sometimes all God's dear people's religion seems to have gone to ashes, and they can find no fire in it whatever. No; for God the Holy Ghost must blow away the ashes, and then they will find the sparks; and this is not a fire of their own lighting, or sparks of their own kindling, which will end in sorrow; for they shall have the oil of joy instead of mourning and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." And if God the Holy Ghost ever gives you this garment of praise, you must praise him as Isaiah did: "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness." So that God's people are constrained to praise him. But the flesh sometimes gets before the children of God and blocks up the way; and then they cannot praise him. Infidelity, too, sometimes hides God's face, and then Little Faith cannot look up for a moment; but you cannot leave Little Faith behind, for the Lord holds up Little Faith hard and fast; and as the Lord holds up Little Faith, Little Faith will not let the Lord go, because Little Faith is of the same father as Great Faith; and what the Lord gives us stands fast for ever and for ever; for he says, "My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips."
Come, then, Little Faith, look up. "Ah!" says the poor soul, "I know that the Lord's word will stand good, but have I an interest in it?" Well, what did the Saviour say? "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth," and "I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world. Thine they were and thou gavest them me, and they have kept thy word, for I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me, and they have received them." Therefore, poor sinner, if you have received his word into your heart, that word has entered for ever. David sings, "For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven." No changing! No. "Whatsoever God doeth it shall be for ever. Nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it, and God doeth it that men should fear before him."
When poor Israel of old was so fearful, what did the Lord say to him? "I am the Lord; I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." "Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation." "Ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded, world without end." Now, that winds up the matter. These little words, are, and ye, and us, and they, and them, and shall, and will, we once passed over; but now we see they are marrow and fatness; and how they back up the word of God altogether. "Blessed are ye that are persecuted for righteousness' sake. Happy are ye." Ah, poor thing! You don't think so sometimes. You want to give blow for blow, and have eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. But the Gospel goes beyond the Law in this matter; for it is said, "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men;" "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you." So you see, the Gospel goes beyond the Law; and it is said, "As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse." The blessings are in the covenant of grace; the curse is found in the law to bring the poor sinner in guilty, but the purposes of peace are in the gospel.
There are many parents who would be glad to carry out their wills in their families; but the children are too self-willed to allow them to do so. But not so with our heavenly Father; for it is said, "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." See how safe these poor things are in the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ.
You that have had a word of comfort spoken home to your heart, when you lose the power of it you think it all delusion; it appears to be all gone; and the sweetness, the unction, the dew of it may be; but God's word shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure; and by and by, when God the Holy Ghost shows you all the way the Lord has led you, then you can raise your hill Mizar, and set up way marks and make high heaps, and rejoice in God's salvation.
The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will show them his covenant. "Jesus is the same (honors crown his brow!) yesterday, to-day, and for ever." He has the same fullness of love, power, and virtue. His garments of salvation surround all the election of grace. He is a crown of glory to cover their heads, and underneath are his everlasting arms. And what a foundation is this for the poor tempest-tossed child of God to build upon! Amen.