"For there are Three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these Three are One." (1 John 5:7)
BELOVED OF THE LORD,
THROUGH an infinite variety of changing scenes, our ever-to-be-adored covenant God has brought us thus far. The various troubles that we have had to grapple with in the past year only leave their number less. We shall never have to wade through them again; and if God the Holy Ghost has sanctified them to our souls they have done us no real harm. If we have learned through them, as instruments in the hands of our glorious Teacher, more of the emptiness of this vain polluted world, and been made, by a precious faith in Christ, to sit looser to all creature-joys and cling closer to our blessed Christ, let us not for a moment regret that we have been visited with them, but rather praise and adore our glorious Lord that he has taken the advantage of them to confirm our souls in the immutability of his love, by proving himself to be our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Honors crown his brow for ever! Nothing shall induce him to forsake his dear blood-bought family. He may chastise, and for a small moment appear to forsake us, but with everlasting kindness will he have mercy upon us; so that his chastenings are but momentary, whilst his lovingkindness is everlasting. (Isa. 54:8-10)
Another year has rolled round, and here we are, the monuments of God's mercy, met together to commemorate the wonderful kindness of our covenant God towards us; and with deep humility to confess our vile ingratitude towards him, our best, our faithful Friend. May we begin the year in the blessed Spirit of the Lord, and may it not only be the beginning of a new year but may it prove in deed and in truth the Lord's day to our souls. O for a sweet enjoyment of our glorious Alpha and Omega. Then we shall have another confirming proof that our glorious Christ is an almighty Friend. The Lord grant that we may this morning approach our blessed Triune Jehovah by a living faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and sit under his precious vine with a conscience consecrated with the blood of the Lamb, under the divine anointing and blessed teaching of God the Holy Ghost.
Since the last year commenced some of our friends have taken flight, and gone to their eternal home. Well, beloved, "Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord, for they rest from their labours." Soon, very soon, we shall follow them. This may be the last year, yea, the last day, that our adorable God has designed us to live in this polluted world. May the few remaining swift-flying minutes of our natural life be spent in the faith, fear, and love of God. May we be thankful for mercies already received; and, in sweet confidence in the immutable promise and oath of our unchanging God, may we trust him for all that is to come.
Few and evil have the days of the years of our life been, and to us belong confusion of face; but adored be our blessed Jehovah, to the Lord our God belong mercies and forgiveness. Though we have rebelled against him, yet, thanks be unto God, Jehovah himself, Father, Son, and Spirit, in the glorious economy of redemption, is our salvation. "For the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song, he also is become my salvation." (Isa. 12:2) Blessed Spirit, thou divine Comforter and Sealer, condescend to lead our souls into this glorious truth, and cause us to begin the year with a sweet and solemn realization of its immortal contents, and then, with a triumphant faith in the glorious strength of our God, we shall cheerfully welcome the whole of thy sovereign will, well knowing thou art too wise to err and too good to be unkind. The precious enjoyment of our glorious Christ, under thy sweet unction, will afford us more solid joy, peace, and rest than all the boasted pleasures, riches, and honors this world can give to its most exalted sons. It is true they may glut and intoxicate themselves with their luxurious dainties, imagine they are abundantly blessed, and, with what they call their full bumpers, may wish each other a happy new year, but their mistaken joys must end in pain and distress. But, beloved, our banquet is prepared by infinite wisdom and immutable love, and is sure to produce indescribable pleasure and solid bliss. (Prov. 9:1,2) Nor will it leave behind it any guilt of conscience or heart-rending pains, for "The blessing of the Lord maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it." (Prov. 10:22) This banquet consists in the sure mercies of David, and contains all the blessings of the house of God's glory. Here the poor and the needy are welcome to eat and drink abundantly, and let the soul delight itself in fatness. (Isa. 25:6; 55:1-3) Well might the Psalmist say, "There be many that say, Who will show us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us. Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased. I will both lay me down in peace and sleep, for thou, Lord, only makest me to dwell in safety." (Ps. 4:6-8) Happy state, blessed sinner, who, under the divine anointings of God the Holy Ghost, can banquet with, rest in, and recline upon the bosom of Christ.
Such is the matchless grace of our God, that while he is our glorious rest and portion for ever, he rests in us.
"The King himself comes near,
And feasts his saints today;
Here we may sit and see him here,
And love, and praise, and pray."
Beloved, it is not my intention this morning to take a text, and give you a long string of divisions and subdivisions on the same; but, in the name and fear of the Lord, to address you upon a few branches of God's blessed truth, and I shall quote a part of the Lord's solemn address to the angel of the Church at Sardis as a kind of motto: "Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die." (Rev. 3:2)
Solemn charge! Some men of God have thought that we live in the very eventful times to which the Lord immediately alludes in this address; but be that as it may, we cannot err, under the blessed teachings of God the Holy Ghost, in taking it to ourselves. The church of God in every age has been and is God's special care; and both ministers and people have an awful and solemn responsibility laid upon them. It therefore becomes each of us to be upon our watchtower, and, in this day of blazing profession, to ask our consciences upon what ground we stand for eternity.
The religion of the God of Israel is a religion of most glorious realities. It stands not in the wisdom of man, but is in direct opposition to it, and has its standing in and its bounds fixed by the sovereign, infinite mind of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The declarative glory of God is the first grand object had in view; and next to, and in union with that, the certain and eternal welfare of the objects of his everlasting, electing love; and the eternal decree of God has settled the accomplishment of this grand object. It is true "there are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless, the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand." (Prov. 19:21) We have a striking proof of Jehovah's determination to glorify himself in the open manifestations of his grace, recorded in Isa. 2:10-17: "Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty. The lofty looks of man shall be humbled," etc. From which we learn that when Jehovah is determined to make an open manifestation of his own glory, all the loftiness of men must give place to that; and there is nothing in which the glory of God shines so conspicuously as in the salvation of the elect. All the religion of nature, be it of what kind soever it may, must give place, fall back, yea, sink to nothing, when the glorious majesty of God, in his Trinity of Persons, is clearly and openly revealed in the gospel of salvation. For the glorious day of the open manifestation of Jehovah's infinite love to his people, in and by the finished work of Christ, and the glorious ministry of the gospel of his grace, shall infinitely outshine all creature excellences; and the lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.
Though man may have a vast share of imaginary goodness, till he lifts up himself in a vain conceit of his fleshly perfection, and, like a tall cedar of Lebanon, out tops all around him in supposed goodness, and boastingly says, "I am the perfect man; I am the good man; I am the holy man; yea, I am as perfect as God himself;" though he may appear to stand firm, and spread his branches like a sturdy, wide-spreading oak; though he may appear to be deep-rooted, and lifted up like solid mountains and high hills; though he may have been at great cost, pains, and care, to exalt himself like a high tower, or to fence himself like a fenced wall; and though he may have carried on a great trade in all the art of fleshly religion, and has sent his cargo forth like a swift sailing ship of Tarshish, and supposes he has gained and secured to himself great honors and glory thereby, till he appears both in his own eyes and in the eyes of his admirers like a splendid, pleasant picture, that calls forth the admiration of its beholders; the whole must fall before the glorious majesty of God, in the blessed and open manifestation of God's glory, in the person and work of Christ. For the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. "For the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together." (Isa. 40:5) Blessed be our glorious Three-One God, for a full and free salvation, in the which his own honor is eternally secured, while all creature-boasting is for ever excluded. Our glorious Lord shall build the temple of the Lord; "even he shall build the temple of the Lord, and he shall bear the glory." (Zech. 6:12,13)
Nothing is so dear to Jehovah as his own glory. Whatever his blessed Majesty gives to others, he keeps his own glory sacred to himself. And O, beloved, how blessed it is that our glorious Lord has inseparably connected our everlasting felicity with his own glory: "But I had pity for mine holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the heathen whither they went. Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God, I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake." (Ezek. 36:21-32 Read the whole.) Blessed Lord! and will such a glorious display of sovereign grace lead us to self-loathing and self-abasement? Then grace is not only free, but efficacious!
What a blessed cluster of solemn declarations of undeserved mercy and free grace are here! Blessed, thrice blessed art thou, O Israel. Thy God, (O the wonders of his love!) thy God has connected his own glory and thy well-being together; so that though thy froward heart has led thee to profane his name among the heathen; and though there be nothing in thee, nor of thee considered in thyself, but what is awfully disgusting, the regard thy glorious God has to the honor of his own name, and thy inseparable connection with his honor, binds his blessed Majesty, by all the ties of infinite love to thee, and by all that is dear to himself, to do thee good.
Brethren, beloved of the Lord, read the account. Pause as you read, and stand astonished at the matchless methods the Lord takes of making known his love and loveliness unto you; and with deep humility say, Dear and blessed Lord, shall I still insult such matchless love as this? Shall I still mix with the men of the world, and make them my chief companions? and shall the things of the world be the principal objects of my pursuit, and I thus profane thy great and glorious name among the heathen? God forbid. Let the honor of thy name and the greatness of thy love lead me to love, worship, and adore thee; and may it be my great concern from henceforth to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, being assured that all other things shall be added unto me. O thou Fountain of blessedness, make me more watchful, prayerful, and thankful; and enable me to stand fast in the glorious liberty of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Beloved, it is the church's blessedness that Jehovah has inseparably connected his glory with her real good. While his blessed Majesty regards his own honor, he cannot, he will not forsake or neglect his dear people. This is a blessing big with infinite importance. O that we were able at all times, under the blessed teaching of God the Holy Ghost, to fix a right estimate upon this glorious truth; then we should find that in the greatest straits and difficulties, and even when our own worthlessness and sinfulness appear in their deepest hue, we have every encouragement to come boldly to the throne of grace,--mark that! the throne of Grace!--that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help us in time of need.
The church of Christ is called the city of our solemnities, and it is one of the solemn acts of faith to plead with God for his own name's sake. David, the man after God's own heart, put in his plea upon this sacred ground. "For thy name's sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great." (Ps. 25:11) But he not only pleaded for himself, but for the whole church, upon this blessed ground. "Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name, and deliver us, and purge away our sins for thy name's sake." (Ps. 79:9) And under the glorious teachings of the same blessed Spirit, Jeremiah goes upon the same sure ground: "O Lord, though our iniquities testify against us, do thou it for thy name's sake; for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against thee." (Jer. 14:7)
But, beloved, though the Lord has, in infinite love, determined to bestow the greatest blessings of his heart upon his people, he has made it their duty and privilege to ask these blessings at his hands. Hence, in connection with that matchless cluster of blessings promised in the 36th chapter of Ezekiel, he says, "Thus saith the Lord God, I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them."
Do I hear some poor sensible sinner say, Alas for me! I am such a poor, sinful, wretched creature, that I fear Jehovah would consider his solemn Majesty insulted were I to crave a single blessing at his hands. I have awfully backslidden from him, and have given the professed enemies of God cause to blaspheme his holy name, and what can I expect but the doom of those who trample under foot the Son of God, and who do despite to the Spirit of Grace. Wretch that I am! I am more beastly than any man! Come, come poor desponding soul, Sink not into despair. Thy base proceedings cannot make the Lord cease to regard his own glory. That is as dear to him as ever; and this should encourage thee to plead with the Lord. "Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord God, be it known unto you; be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel." (Ezek. 36:32) So that God puts within his people a new heart, and a right spirit, and cleanses them from their idols and their filthiness, yea, he puts his own Spirit within them, and causes them to walk in his statutes; and, in fact, bestows upon them every real blessing, for his own name's sake. Therefore fear not, poor, distressed, tried, cast down soul. Though thy backslidings are many and great, God's honor is infinitely greater. The precious blood of Jesus Christ, in which Jehovah's honor is secured, cleanses from all sin. Our glorious Christ has "finished transgression, made an end of sin, and brought in everlasting righteousness." (Dan. 9:24) Yes, beloved, Jehovah caused all the sins of his people to meet upon Christ, and he has put them away by the sacrifice of himself. (Heb. 9:26) Matchless grace, unparalleled love! O blessed Comforter, condescend to give thy poor, sinful, backsliding children faith to put in their plea upon the consecrated ground of the glory and honor of thy name, as made manifest in the glorious person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. In him "mercy and truth meet together, righteousness and peace kiss each other."
When Israel had awfully sinned against the Lord, and Jehovah appeared to be very wroth with them, both Moses and Joshua took their stand upon this solemn ground, and pleaded with the Lord: "What wilt thou do unto thy great name?" (Num. 14:13-21; Josh. 7:9) The prayer of faith must prevail, let what will stand in the way. It is one of faith's eminent acts to press through the crowd of sin and wretchedness to Christ, and draw cleansing virtue from him. When the poor woman with her issue of blood was blessed with faith to believe in the power of Christ to heal, she pressed through the crowd and was healed. Had she been left to consult all the circumstances connected with her almost hopeless case, she would have been ready to reason thus within herself: "I have a dreadful uncleanness upon me, which I have had for twelve years, and, according to the law, whoever touches me is unclean. My case having been so long standing, and attended by so many physicians, must be known; therefore, if I press into the crowd I shall breed a riot, for the people will be all up in array against me. But where the Lord gives faith, and draws it into lively exercise, in the person, love, and name of Christ, it stumbles at no law, nor stops at any mountain that carnal reason puts in the way, but marches on to the object of its pursuit, and there makes its stand, and pleads with God and prevails.
We have another precious encouraging text in Isa. 48:9,10. Hear it, beloved: "For my name's sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee that I cut thee not off. Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction." Let what difficulties may stand in the way, when the believer by faith pleads the honor and glory of the name of God, he must prevail; and the glorious name of God, in all its majesty, is in Christ. Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord. What can our ever-blessed Lord say more for our encouragement? "Happy art thou O Israel; who is like unto thee, O people, saved by the Lord?"
What are all the glories of this vain, polluted world, compared with the bliss and blessedness secured to the family of God? Vanity, nothing but vanity and vexation of spirit. (Eccle. 1:14) And shall we in very deed neglect those things which contain in them an eternal weight of glory, and spend the greatest part of our time and talents in pursuing vanity and vexation of spirit? What! the heirs of glory forget their high calling and exalted privileges, and mix with and roll themselves in mud? O, blessed Comforter, forbid it! Suppose, by all our toil, we make ourselves great works, and build houses, and plant vineyards, and make ourselves fine gardens and orchards, and plant in them trees of all kinds of fruit, and make pools of water, and get men servants, and maid servants, and great possessions of great and small cattle, and gather silver and gold like dust, and, to keep up our fatigued spirits, we get men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, musical instruments, and that of all sorts, and rise to what the world calls great respectability and eminent greatness, what are they all when compared with the glorious gospel of the blessed God? Verily, a solemn blank, nay, worse than that, vanity and vexation of spirit.
Do we not see with our own eyes, ah! and feel in our own hearts, that an over-anxious care after the things of this polluted world brings barrenness of soul and misery of mind, together with ten thousand perplexing disappointments? and shall we turn our back upon the best of friends, and the best of blessings, and incessantly toil for straws? Unerring truth has said, "Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content; but they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil; which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." Is this the case? Yes, in very deed, it is. The fact is too obvious to be for a moment denied.
Beloved, does this solemn portion of God's word prove a Nathan to any of our consciences? Let us not kick against the message of God, but with deep humility fall at his footstool, and, like David, confess we have sinned against the Lord, and fervently cry, "Quicken me, O Lord, for thy name's sake; for thy righteousness sake bring my soul out of trouble." (Ps. 143:11)
"Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, which are ready to die." May we watch over our own hearts, thoughts, and ways, and daily watch the hand of God in the dispensations of his providence and grace. If God the Holy Ghost enable us steadfastly to watch the goings of the Lord in his glorious sanctuary, we shall never be at a loss for a subject of wonder, admiration, and praise; and we shall invariably find that his blessed Majesty makes all providences, however trying they are to flesh and blood, work for our real good. Earthly prospects of riches and honor may, for a moment, make a very enticing and glaring appearance, but the present trying circumstances in the commercial world are another proof that all their glare is but a mere flash in the pan. Riches take to themselves wings and fly away; they are altogether uncertain. Let us not trust in them. But they that trust in the Lord shall never be confounded. Blessed be God! eternal realties are eternally certain. The promise, the oath, the blood, the name, and the glory of God, with all the perfections of his glorious Majesty, unite to make them sure. Happy is the man whose God is the Lord.
But, beloved, we will just glance at a few of those important things which remain, which are ready to die. To me it appears that by these things we are to understand the discriminating truths of the glorious gospel of Christ, not in themselves, for they yet remain, nor can they ever die, but they appear to be ready to die in the ministry of them. There is a very great want of becoming fervency and zeal in the open vindication of them, even in many who profess to believe them. The spirit of Antichrist is gone forth into the world under the guise of charity. True charity rejoices in the truth; but the charity of this day of blasphemy and rebuke shuns the truth and rejoices in almost anything but the truth; and, sad to relate, many who some few years ago would not have allowed their ears to have been insulted with the flesh-pleasing, God-dishonoring, Christ-despising, Holy Ghost-insulting mongrel system of the day, are now taken captive, and appear to sit at ease in Babylon. Time was when it appeared to be their great concern to be spiritually acquainted with and enjoy God's blessed truth in all its glorious discriminating branches; but, alas! alas! How is the fine gold become dim. Truth is not palatable to the fashionable professing world. Most of the rich and opulent despise it, and substitute something else in its stead. Paul's address to the Galatians is very applicable to many in the present day. (Gal. 3:1-3) So ensnaring was this mongrel system in the days of Paul, that he compared it to witchcraft: "Who hath bewitched you?" said he; and the flesh-pleasing system of this day is very captivating to the fleshly mind, and therefore may well be called witchcraft, for its advocates are very numerous, and, in the sight of the world, very respectable too; and it is wonderfully calculated to ingratiate itself into the mind of the unwary and the inexperienced. We have to do with God and truth, and it is our exalted privilege to live upon the truth by a precious faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Things wear a gloomy aspect when professors of the glorious truths of God's discriminating grace can content themselves in sitting under and supporting that which can never deliver their souls out of trouble nor induce them to give God the glory due to his name.
I believe this is an hour of temptation which is come upon all the world to try them that dwell upon the earth; and it is one branch of the believer's duty and privilege to keep the word of God's patience. When this is done under the unction of God the Holy Ghost, it is a blessed fence against the errors of this trying hour, having the blessed promise of the Lord connected with it: "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation." (Rev. 3:10)
Beloved of the Lord, it is high time to awake out of sleep, for now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed: "Be watchful, therefore, and strengthen the things which remain, which are ready to die." If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth." Let not the real believer in Christ forget his high calling, nor the glorious realities he is called to enjoy, but count all things but loss and dung for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus the Lord. O, beloved, let it be your great concern to be found in him, not having your own righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith; that ye may know him in his glorious person, work, offices, characters, names, relationship, fullness, promise, oath, blood, love, and loveliness, and the power of his resurrection, in sweetly raising you above sin, the curse of the law, the world, devils, errors, death, and every foe, and up to the sweet enjoyment of the blessed Trinity in Unity, that, by a living vital faith, you may daily live in God and with God, as your own covenant God, and experience that he dwells in you, and that you are inseparably united to him, and can blessedly say, "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son the Lord Jesus Christ." Let Christ be all and in all. Vindicate the glorious honors of your ever-blessed God in all times and under all circumstances, to endeavor to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace, striving together, not for worldly toys, nor for the mastery, nor to have your own way in the church of God, but for the glorious faith of the gospel, and for the mutual edification of each other. Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made you free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. If you have any real regard for the honor of God, the welfare of Zion, and the prosperity of your own souls, beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. (Phil. 3:2) Do not forget this solemn injunction, this threefold Beware.
"God is a spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." (John 4:24) All worship short of spiritual worship is but solemn mockery. I address you, brethren, as the people of my charge. We are fast hastening to the solemn moment when the curtain of time will be thrown back, and eternity opened to our view, in grandeur and glory indescribable. But such of you before me as are strangers to the Lord Jesus Christ, so dying, eternity will open to your view with unutterable horrors. O the blessedness of being one with Christ, and standing complete in him. "Let us who are of the day be sober, and hope to the end;" for our most blessed and glorious Lord has assured us that the Son of man cometh at an hour when we think not. What a solemn lesson his glorious Majesty has delivered unto us, as recorded by Luke. Hear it, and God grant it may sink deep into each of our hearts: "Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning: and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching. Be ye therefore ready also; for the Son of Man cometh at an hour when ye think not." (Luke 12:35-40) If we are indifferent in our minds what we hear and how we hear, we shall be careless about our own spiritual enjoyment of the truth of God, and cannot be considered as watching and waiting for the coming of the Lord. O that it may be our happiness to be of the number of those servants who are found watching when our dear Lord comes. Be assured, brethren, that a spiritual acquaintance with divine truth and an unctuous enjoyment of it will always be accompanied with a tender regard for it, and a becoming zeal in supporting and vindicating its glorious realities, as far as the Lord gives talent and opportunity.
It is a proof of awful apathy, when those who profess to believe in the discriminating truths of God can content themselves with hearing the word of life preached once a week, while they have every opportunity of hearing it three or four times. When the world and the things of the world engross almost all their time and talents, and the means of grace must give place to their worldly concerns, and when almost any trifling circumstance is considered a sufficient excuse for sitting on their chair or couch at home, even on the Lord's Day, instead of assembling with the family of God, and attending the means of grace and the ordinances of God's house; I say, beloved, when this is the case, where is there any real proof of intercourse with God? And who can be surprised at such people complaining of darkness or deadness when they do attend? Jehovah has said, (and every word of God is true,) "If ye walk contrary to me, I will walk contrary to you." May we esteem it as the word of God, and not as the word of man.
My dear brethren, whom I highly esteem in the bowels of a dear Redeemer, believe me it is your real welfare I have in view. This, connected with the glory of God and the awful responsibility that lies upon me as a minister of Christ, compels me thus to deal faithfully. Should anything I may say appear to be personal, and give any of you pain of mind, receive it as the wound of a friend who seeks your eternal Good, and wishes you real prosperity both in body and soul. The Lord enable us all to search the word of God, and bring conscience to that unerring standard.
Let us for a moment just glance at part of that wholesome lesson given to the Hebrew church by Paul: "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for he is faithful that promised; and let us consider one another, to provoke unto love and to good works; not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another; and so much the more as ye see the day approaching." (Heb. 10:25) The old way of works, by reason of sin, is rendered impassable for poor sinners; but this glorious, new, and living way is just suited to our circumstances; and blessed is that sinner who, under the glorious teachings of God the Holy Ghost, lives and walks in Christ by a vital faith. But men give poor proof of enjoying the glorious blessings contained in the former part of this portion of God's word, while, instead of holding fast the profession of their faith without wavering, they are paying more attention to worldly concerns and worldly respectability than they are to the truth of God; or while they can in a great measure forsake the assembling of themselves together, and thus slight the truth of God and the means of his grace. "Be watchful, therefore, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die."
"The end of all things is at hand; be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer." (1 Pet. 4:7,8; see also 2 Tim. 3:16,17; Prov. 15:32)
May God the Holy Ghost engrave the following solemn injunction upon each of our hearts; and may we each be deeply concerned to act as it becomes us; "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief; for that is unprofitable for you." O thou blessed Spirit, let us not shrink back from thy truth, nor act under the influence of our fleshly feelings; but enable us to watch, and stand fast in the faith; and quit ourselves like men, and be strong. We must not expect uninterrupted ease in this world. This is a time-state, and a state of warfare. The church of Christ and every real believer is the envy of hell, and must expect to meet with enemies, external, internal, and infernal. May we ever view them as enemies, and not nurse them in our bosoms as friends. "The friendship of the world is enmity with God." Though our enemies are numerous and inveterate, we have no cause to fear. If we can only trust in the Lord, we shall find all is well. Bless his precious name, we are sheltered by Christ, the Rock of Ages, defended by the omnipotent arm of Jehovah, guided by his wisdom and counsel, succoured by matchless love and grace, and finally secured by all that is dear to our ever-blessed Three-One God. Well might David triumphantly sing, "The Lord is my light and my salvation," etc.
The Lord has various ways of trying his people, and of making himself known unto them, as their help in time of trouble. If we are left to be off our watch tower, we shall sometimes mistake the Lord's design, and, in reality, unite with the foe. It is very blessed to be enabled to see the Lord riding upon every storm, and managing all things for his own glory and our good. Should heresies rise up amongst us, be not alarmed at the matter; it is one proof of the truth of the Bible: "For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be manifest among you;" (1 Cor. 11:19) "Also of your ownselves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." (Acts 20:30) In this case, brethren, as well as in all others, it behooves us to make our stand upon the word of God, and not let our conduct be governed by natural attachment, fleshly union, or worldly connections. I have witnessed some very disgraceful circumstances, sanctioned by members of the church of Christ, purely because the parties were united together by worldly circumstances, or a fleshly connection. But these things ought not to be; and if any of us have been left to fall into such a snare, may we be humbled on the account of it, and in future make the word of God the fixed standard of our conduct; for by that unerring rule we must act, or smart for it. The truth of God, the order of his house, and the peace and well-being of his family, should lie near our hearts, and ought to be dearer to us than any worldly connection, or self-pleasing gratification whatever. When we act with decision and firmness, our conduct may be disapproved of, and heartily condemned by self-seeking men; but while the word of God will bear us out, we have nothing to fear, neither from open foes nor pretended friends, no, nor from mistaken real friends either. "Now, I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple." (Rom. 16:17,18) Avoid them! Mark that! Let not their good words and fair speeches deceive you. Be not so simple. The fairer the speech, when there are artful designs and rottenness at the bottom, should put us so much the more upon our guard. Truth does not stand in need of artful disguise; nor should God's saints be captivated with smooth words and fair speeches. The solemn injunctions of Jehovah are pointed and decisive: "Now we command you, brethren," (observe, God speaks with a commanding authority,) "in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us." (2 Thess. 3:6)
It becomes each of us to give proof that the glorious truth of God, in all its bearings, is dearer to us than any natural ties; yea, than our hearts blood. Have we erred? May we never be above confessing our errors to God and to one another, and may it be our concern in all things to walk and act as it becomes the gospel of Christ. It is nothing but the hateful pride of the heart that keeps God's children, for a time, from humbly confessing their faults. Let us not forget that "pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." "Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die."
But, to proceed. The glorious doctrine of the Trinity, or three distinct persons in one undivided Jehovah, is a doctrine of the greatest moment in the Christian religion; but in this day of blasphemy and rebuke, it is much upon the decline, in the ministry of it, though it contains the very pillar of our hope. To deny this grand truth, is in reality to deny the very existence of the true God. Men may form a view of a God suited to their own carnal conceptions, for there are gods many, and lords many; but the God of Israel necessarily exists in three distinct persons, in one blessed undivided Jehovah, and it is of infinite moment to have right views of this all-important truth. God has solemnly declared that all his children shall be taught of the Lord; and it is one of the great blessings promised in the new covenant, that they shall all know the Lord, from the least of them even to the greatest of them. (Isa. 54:13; John 6:45; Jer. 31:34; Heb. 8:11)
Now, beloved, either those who believe in the glorious Trinity or those who deny that doctrine must be strangers to the Lord; that is, one or the other do not know the Lord; therefore, the God they worship is not the true God; so they must, of course, be idolaters; and unerring truth says, "No idolater shall inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor. 6:9) I do not mean to say that the people of God are free from temptations on this subject. There is no branch of divine truth that the grand enemy will not tempt them to disbelieve, and make use of their carnal reason to aid him in his infernal projects; and often, very often, he may be permitted for wise ends to fill them with great confusion and horror of mind; but laboring under temptation, and being settled and at rest in the matter, are very different things. Christ himself was tempted to question his own sonship. "If thou be the Son of God." ("O what an if was there!") But when men preach, write, or deliberately dispute against the glorious doctrine of the Trinity, they appear to be settled in the errors, and are anxious to bring others into the same awful snare.
Beloved, I have, through the kind providence of God, been pastor of this church more than twenty years; and I am not aware of anything that has been a source of greater trouble to the church of Christ here than that of (directly or indirectly) opposing the glorious doctrine of the Trinity. This, together with the self-gratifying ways of some who put themselves into the ministry, and have never given proof that they were called of God to the work, has been a cause of great trouble amongst us. The glorious doctrine of the Trinity has been openly opposed by some and artfully opposed by others among ourselves; and in each case it has proved a cause of distress. It therefore behooves us to be watchful, very watchful, upon a subject of such moment. It is in itself a subject that needs no covering, nor any artful explanations; therefore be upon your guard.
If any of us have exercised a false charity towards those who have opposed this grand truth, let the past be sufficient wherein we have thus wrought the will of the Gentiles; and as the enemy makes further advances, may we be able to detect his designs; and, in the strength of the Lord, stand up for the truth of our blessed God. Some of us have felt the dreadful weight not only of an open denial of this glorious truth, but of artful nibblings about it; therefore we should be the more upon our guard, and take care that we are not captivated with good words and fair speeches, and artful explanations.
I can never believe that any person who is capable of conveying his views can heartily believe in the Trinity, while he objects to the solemn term, God the Holy Ghost, and while he objects to give divine homage to each glorious Person distinctly. Should you meet with any cunning, artful reasoners upon this subject, do not suffer yourselves to be entangled with their reasonings. Ask them these important questions: Do you believe in three distinct persons in one undivided Jehovah? and do you believe it becomes the people of God to say, God the Father, God the Son, (or Word,) and God the Holy Ghost, both in vindicating the doctrine and in your solemn addresses to Jehovah? and do you believe it is the duty and privilege of the believer to worship each glorious person distinctly? If they shrink from any part of this, they cannot firmly believe in the glorious doctrine of three glorious persons in one undivided Jehovah. There are men who may say, "Though I object to part of the above statement, I could converse with a number of the members of this church, and make them agree with my views, though they profess to agree with you upon the subject." Be it so; such men only give the greater proof of being wolves in sheep's clothing, who would, if it were possible, deceive the very elect. But such things should be a means of teaching the sheep to watch and pray, that they enter not into temptation. It is dangerous for little children to play with razors.
You will perceive, brethren, that, on the present occasion, I cannot enter into a large vindication of this glorious truth; but it will be enough for you who believe in, love, and fear the Lord, by the blessed teachings of God the Holy Ghost, to find it recorded in God's word. That there is a plurality of persons in the one undivided Jehovah, will readily appear from the following portions: "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." (Gen. 1:20) And again: "The Lord God said, Behold the man is become as one of us." (Gen. 3:22) And again: "Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send? and who will go for us?" (Isa. 6:8) Thus we find that the glorious one undivided Jehovah speaks of himself in the plural pronouns, us and our. Many more portions of God's word to the same import might be quoted, but the above shall suffice for the present.
If there be more than one person in the glorious Jehovah, as there undoubtedly are, it might be asked, How many persons are there? Let unerring truth give the reply: "There are Three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one." (1 John 5:7) If there were not another passage in the Word of God to prove the glorious doctrine of the Trinity, real vital faith would say, "This is enough." Some will say, Yes, there are three characters, not persons. But if characters are all that are intended, why confine them to three? The Lord has made himself known by scores of different characters in the great economy of salvation, such as King, Captain, Man of War, Rock, Hiding place, Refuge, Stronghold, Prophet, Priest, Husband, Shepherd, Shield, Buckler, High Tower, Horn of Salvation. But his persons are three, only three.
Beloved of the Lord, I can assure you, as far as my poor limited labors go, I can adopt the language of inspired Paul, "For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; that their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ." (Col. 2:1,2) Here we find the Holy Ghost is emphatically called God, and is spoken of as distinct from the Father and Christ, yet not separate. No, our blessed God is but one Jehovah. "Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord; and there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God that worketh all in all." (1 Cor. 12:4-6) Thus you see, the very person in the Godhead who is called the Spirit in verse 4, is called Lord in verse 5, and God in verse 6. "Now the Lord is that Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." (2 Cor. 3:17) Some eminent men of God tell us, that this text should be translated, "Where the Lord the Spirit is, there is liberty." Well, this blessed Lord the Spirit is to abide with the church for ever: "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever." (John 14:16, 26) Here, beloved, we have I, He, and Another; and this blessed I, He, and Another, is our most glorious Three-One God.
The solemn ordinance of baptism is a standing proof of this blessed truth. God's people are to be baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. (Matt. 28:19) A solemn emblem of their interest in the eternal, immutable, redeeming, sanctifying love of the adorable Trinity; and of their being heirs to all the bliss and blessedness couched in the glorious name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, as the one blessed, covenant God of Zion.
"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen." (2 Cor 13:14) In this text the Father is called God, distinct from the Lord Jesus Christ, and from the Holy Ghost.
Well, beloved, which of the glorious persons in the Godhead can you feel in your heart willing to part with? Can you part with the Father? Hear the word of the Lord: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." (Eph. 1:3) Let the Christian recollect, that here, as well as in other portions of God's word, divine homage is distinctly given to the Father. But what says the real believer? Can he feel willing to give up the interest he has in the glorious person of the Father? No, no! The very thought would sink his soul a thousand fathoms in a moment. What! Part with that glorious divine Person who has chosen me in Christ before the foundation of the world, who has predestinated me to the adoption of a child by Jesus Christ unto himself, who has blessed me with all spiritual blessings in Christ, who has made me accepted in the Beloved, and who has secured both my holiness and eternal happiness in Christ? What! Give his glorious Majesty up, or with a careless indifference hear his personal Godhead denied? God forbid! Rather let me part with all the honors and pleasures of this life, and die in a dungeon, or suffer all the tortures that man can invent, than part with my blessed God and Father, the Father of all my mercies and God of all my comfort.
Well, beloved, and can you part with the personal Godhead of the Lord Jesus Christ,--that glorious person of whom the Father says, "And let all the angels of God worship him," (Heb. 1:6) and of whom Thomas with a believing and an adoring heart, said, "My Lord and my God?" (John 20:28) Let it be remembered that here, as well as in other places, the Son is worshipped distinctly. This is the glorious person spoken of by Isaiah: (Isa. 54:6) "Thy Maker is thy Husband; the Lord of Hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel, the God of the whole earth shall he be called." Here, poor, tried, tempted child of God, thy Maker is declared to be thy Husband; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel, the Lord of hosts, and the God of the whole earth. We are sure that our Redeemer is the Lord Jesus Christ; for Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. (Gal. 3:13) "We are redeemed from our vain conversation, and unto God, by the precious blood of Christ." "We have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins; according to the riches of his grace." (Eph. 1:7) And that Christ is the church's Husband will evidently appear if we consult Eph. 5:23 to the end: "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church; and he is the Saviour of the body. Therefore, as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything." Compare the above with Rom. 7:4, and it will clearly appear that Christ is our glorious Husband, and that his blessed Majesty will present his spouse to himself, a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing. Bless his precious name, he loves his wife as he loves himself, and will be sure to nourish and cherish her. Now this glorious Husband and Redeemer is, in his own person, the Lord of hosts and the God of the whole earth.
Well, believer, canst thou give up the personal Godhead of thy Christ? Would a mere man be sufficient to redeem thee? No, says the true Christian, my Redeemer and Husband must be the Lord of hosts. He is the Lord my righteousness and strength. He knows my frame, and remembers that I am but dust. It is well for me that he is the unchanging God, and that he loves at all times and under all circumstances; yea, that he cannot love himself without loving me. Honors crown his brow for ever, he is both my heart-searching and rein-trying God; and my tender-hearted, ever-loving Husband. I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways and according to the fruit of his doings." (Jer. 17:10) If we look at Revelation 2:23, we shall find that this heart-searching God is the Lord Jesus Christ: "And all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts, and I will give unto every one of you according to your works."
This blessed Christ is the life of his people, and because he lives they shall live also. He will not reign in heaven and leave them behind. He will receive them to himself, that where he is, there they shall be also. Abhorred be the thought and cursed be the spirit that would strip my glorious Christ of his personal Godhead. Let such a detestable principle be dressed in as fine a garb as man can invent, may my soul view it and abhor it as the spawn of hell.
Well, dear child of God, canst thou part with the personal Godhead of the Holy Ghost? If you will look over the 95th Psalm, you will find the Lord spoken of as the great God, and the great King above all gods, having in his hands the deep places of the earth and the strength of the hills; and as having made the sea and formed the dry ground; yea, it is further added, "O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker." Now, beloved, Paul, in his epistle to the Hebrews, solemnly declares that this glorious Lord is the Holy Ghost. (Heb. 3:7-11) Thus we see the Holy Ghost is to be worshipped and kneeled down unto as the Lord our Maker. Perhaps some may say, Was not Christ tempted in the wilderness? Yes, verily; and who can tempt, scorn, and abhor one glorious person in the undivided Jehovah, and love, worship, and abdore the other? "He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father which hath sent him;" (John 5:23) and no less honor is due to the Son than to the Father: "That all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father; he that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father which hath sent him." And we find Paul prayed distinctly to the Holy Ghost. "The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for of Christ." (2 Thess. 3:5) Now it is the Holy Ghost which is to search the deep things of God, and take of the things of Christ and show them unto us; and it is his glorious Majesty who sheds abroad the love of God in our hearts. (Rom. 5:5) The Holy Ghost is therefore a distinct object of worship. It is the blessed Spirit that quickeneth our dead souls, and gave us spiritual life. (Eph. 2;1; 2 Cor. 3:6) This blessed Spirit helps our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but God the Spirit makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And his blessed intercession is according to the will of God. (Rom. 8:26,27) Bless his ever to be adored name, it is he that convinces us of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment; and it is his blessed Majesty who is to guide us into all truth; and as a proof that he is a distinct person of Christ, he is not in this case to speak of himself, but shall show us things to come, and glorify Christ, by taking of the things which are Christ's and showing them unto us. It is his glorious person who is to abide with us for ever, as the blessed Comforter and the Spirit of truth, to preserve us from all errors. (John 14:15,17) Yea, he is our sure teacher and glorious remembrancer; (John 14:26) and he both does and will testify of Christ, as suited to our every need, and as our sure friend at all times, and under all trying circumstances. (John 15:26) It is the glorious person of God the Holy Ghost that bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God; and is the blessed Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father; (Rom. 8:15,16) and who dwells in us as the blessed earnest of our inheritance. (2 Cor. 1:22) He is the blessed anointing which teacheth us all things, and is truth and is no lie. (1 John 2:27) He is the Holy Spirit of promise which has sealed us unto the day of redemption. (Eph. 1:13; 4:30) It is this precious Comforter that consecrates the conscience, by the washing of regeneration, (Titus 3:5) and by the blessed application of the blood of Christ, (Heb. 9:14) and the transforming manifestations of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. 3:18; 4:6)
What could such poor bewildered creatures as we do without the glorious teachings of God the Holy Ghost? God's blessed book contains glories surpassing the understanding of the wisest men in the world; for the world by wisdom know not God. The glorious deep things of God contain mysteries which the angels desire to look into; and it is the blessed work of the glorious Spirit to search these deep things and to reveal them to the children of God, and so make known unto us the things that are freely given unto us of God. (1 Cor. 2:9-12) All the liberty any of God's family have, in the blessed realization and enjoyment of any branch of these glorious deep things of God, and all the freedom and intercourse any of them have with the blessed Trinity, through Christ, is by the Holy Ghost. (2 Cor. 3:17; Eph. 12:13) Therefore the glorious person, work, and blessed company of God the Holy Ghost is indispensable; and yet, in this day, how often may it be said, at the close of a sermon. "We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost?"
Is this the case my beloved brethren? Then what must we think of such men as deny the personal Godhead of the Son, and the personal Godhead of the Holy Ghost? Can we for a moment believe that they are spiritually acquainted with the deep things of God? And is it possible to believe that God the Holy Ghost has called men to the ministry who avowedly deny his personal Godhead and the personal Godhead of Christ? If so, then may men gather grapes of thorns and figs of thistles; for let it be remembered, that a real spiritual call to the ministry is the glorious act of God the Holy Ghost in union with the Father and the Son: "As they ministered unto the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them." (Acts 13:2) Now, beloved, observe, the Holy Ghost in this place speaks directly as a person, "Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them." And can we with these things before our eyes, and the witness of the Spirit in our hearts, feel union of soul to men who are incessantly nibbling at the glorious Trinity, by saying we ought not to say God the Holy Ghost, and ought not to pray distinctly to the Holy Ghost? Impossible. The nearer men approximate to the truth, while on the one hand they openly maintain such awful errors and on the other evidence such artful nibblings against the truth, the more dangerous they are; for they are so much the more likely to deceive. Read the solemn admonition given by the Lord of the house: "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits." (Matt. 7:15-23)
God's ministers are to preach God's truth in honesty and sincerity; for what is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord; and if the glorious truths of God be withheld or denied in the ministry, all the external fruit in the world is but a vain show. It is a mistake to suppose that wolves in sheep's clothes are openly profane men, who avowedly deny the whole of revelation. There is no danger of those deceiving the elect; their character is too clear for any real believer to be deceived by them even for one hour. But when men preach many grand truths, and yet artfully deny the very spring head and glorious consummation of our blessed salvation, we have a right to view them as wolves. "If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed, for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds." (2 John 10,11) Be watchful, therefore, and mind who you hear, how you hear, and what you hear; and may God the Holy Ghost dwell in us as the Spirit of truth, to preserve us from error; and may we enjoy much of his glorious unction, being filled with all the fullness of God. Then we shall feel a solemn pleasure in worshipping the Trinity in Unity, and adore each glorious person in the Godhead in his own blessed personality, and feel ourselves sweetly engaged in contemplating the honors of our ever to be adored Three-One Jehovah.
Ye saints of the most high God, with what transporting pleasure you may join the church of old and say, "This God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even unto death." And when death is swallowed up in victory, he will ever be your God and your glory. (Isa. 60:19) Endeavor to realize by faith the matchless blessings bestowed upon and secured unto you, in an everlasting and well-ordered covenant. Remember, there is not one blessing contained in the glorious manifestations of the infinite love of your ever to be adored Three-One God, that you have not a blessed share in; therefore pore not over your supposed miseries. What are all the toils and afflictions of this vain world, compared with the blessings you have in a covenant God? The heaviest of them are but light, and the most durable but for a moment; and even these must work out for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
We are naturally prone to magnify our troubles, and forget our high calling and the glorious weighty blessings we have in Christ. Could we but live more by faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, we should find but little cause of complaint. When faith looks directly from self to a covenant God, she beholds a fund of indescribable blessings, more rare, rich, and glorious than the holy angels can enjoy; nor can we in our right minds envy the state of those glorious beings.
"If sinless innocence be theirs,
Redemption all is ours."
We often increase our sorrows with our over-anxious concern about worldly things. We run over in our mind our various supposed or real troubles, and act in our feelings as if we had nothing to be thankful for, and thus bring upon ourselves barrenness of soul and hardness of heart. My dear brethren, those things ought not to be.
We are brought to the commencement of another year. Let us pause, and ask ourselves a few solemn questions, in the fear of the Lord. How much of our past time, even since we knew the Lord, have we spent in the neglect of our best interest? What a great portion of our time every day has been taken up in our worldly concerns, saying nothing of the time we sleep in our beds! and, what is still worse, how much of the precious time we have had has been spent in fretting and fuming against God, because he has destroyed our gourds, or has not acted just as we thought right! With what carelessness and indifference have we addressed his glorious Majesty in our prayers and songs of praise? Nay, have we not often neglected calling upon him at all? and at times, though we have assembled with his family, whilst his holy word has been preached, have not our hearts been in the world, so that we knew not what we heard, or, at least, had no feeling sense of its glory? What unhallowed thoughts have we given vent to, and peevishly rebelled against our best Friend? Have we not great reason to say, "O Lord our God, our iniquities testify against us, for our backslidings are many?" And yet, beloved, here we are, the monuments of God's grace. O the wonders of sovereign, immutable love! "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness." (Lam. 3:22,23)
Well, and after all our insulting speeches and ways against God, is he still our God and portion? Yes, beloved, our God still; and faith may in very deed, under the sweet unction of God the Holy Ghost, push through all this vile crowd of evils, and blessedly exclaim, "The Lord is my portion, saith my soul, therefore will I hope in him. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life."
If the blessed Spirit guide our hearts into the perfect love of God and the manifest mercies we have received at his hands, our troubles will be lost in a sea of unutterable love, and our joyful lips will express the feeling of our hearts in the sweet language of the Psalmist: "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name."
If David were like us, we cannot wonder at him charging his soul not to forget all the Lord's benefits. For often, when our glorious Lord is chastening us for our real profit, we mistake his design, and in our feelings insultingly say, "Am I a sea, or a whale, that thou settest a watch over me? (Job 7:12) Whereas, all his chastenings spring from immutable love. (Heb. 12:6) God is jealous of his honor, and when our idolizing hearts wander from him, he is determined to sicken us of ourselves and bring us back to himself, and in the end set our affections on things above, sealing in our conscience this blessed truth, that the sure mercies of David are for ever sure. Our frames and feelings may change, and our outward circumstances vary, but we have an unchanging God, whose love to, and care for his people is for ever the same. The goodness of the Lord should make us ashamed of our own ways, and lead us to real repentance. Bless his precious name, "he redeemeth the soul of his servants, and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate." (Ps. 34:22) In the triumph of precious faith may we be enabled to say, "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God." (Isa. 61:10)
If some of our outward circumstances wear a gloomy aspect, and though as it relates to them we may say, "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vine," even this cannot affect our best interest. All things work together, not only for good, but for the best to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. We have the infinite love, wisdom, power, truth, and faithfulness of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, as one undivided Jehovah, to provide for, protect, support, defend, and succour us; and his blessed word abounds with exceeding great and precious promises, which are in Christ Jesus yea, and in him amen, confirmed by his solemn oath that he will surely do us good, that his presence (or persons) shall go with us, and that he will give us rest. We have already had an infinite variety of demonstrations of his love to and care for us. Has he not provided for us every real good in Christ, and borne with our perverse ways a thousand times, and instead of giving us our deserts, has taken the advantage of our wretchedness for the greater manifestations of his lovingkindness? Is not that notable passage in Isaiah in a great measure applicable to us? "But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel?" (Isa. 43:22-25)
Well, beloved, what a fathomless abyss of free grace, unsought for, undeserving mercy is here! Well may the Lord say, "I was found of those that sought me not, I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me." And shall we still rebel against and disbelieve his faithful word, and start back at the prospect of a few short-lived troubles? Blessed Lord, forbid it! The strongest troubles we have are but asthmatical, and cannot breathe long; and if by faith we can flee to and rest upon Christ, we shall perceive them struggling for breath by the way side. O for more of the blessed Spirit of Christ, to enable us to be watchful, and to stand fast in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
But we proceed to observe, that another important truth, which is ready to die in the ministry of it, is the glorious truth of eternal, absolute, and unconditional election. We are told that this is a day of great revival in religion; that the partition-wall is now broken down, that all parties can meet together and unite in one good cause. But what is this partition-wall that has been so offensive, and at last is cleared out of the way? Whoever visits religious public meetings, and attends to the various speeches delivered there, will soon perceive that this frightful wall is the doctrine of discriminating, electing love. Even those men who profess to maintain it take good care to keep it out of sight; and most of their speeches, whether from the stage, the pulpit, or the press, are more calculated to bury it in oblivion than vindicate it as a truth of God. We are told that the open publication of this truth, especially on public occasions, would offend many pious, zealous minds, and be a means of unnerving the cause of real prosperity, and so hinder the progress of the cause of God. So then! The truth of God must give place to the imaginary piety and false zeal of man, and God must be insulted for the purpose of promoting his cause upon the earth! All this may seem pleasing enough to the fleshly self-seeking mind of man; but what says eternal truth? "Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God." (Luke 16:15) The Pharisees of old had a zeal of God, but it was not according to knowledge; for they, being ignorant of the nature, necessity, and design of the righteousness of God, zealously went about to establish their own righteousness, and did not submit themselves to the righteousness of God. Their activity being founded on self, it only tended to feed their pride, and was one means of leading them to discard that glorious Christ, who is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes. But, whether men like it or not, God's truth must be preached: "He that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord." (Jer. 23:28) No less striking is the solemn admonition of the Lord by Paul, in his Second Epistle to Timothy 4:1-5: "I charge thee, therefore, before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom, preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when men will not endure sound doctrine." What an awful charge! and who is sufficient for these things? O Lord, strengthen thy ministers, faithfully to do the work of evangelists; nor suffer them for a moment to shrink from thy truth. May such a worthless worm as I, and may all thy ministers, ever feel the importance of this solemn charge; and, under the teachings of God the Holy Ghost, act in conformity thereto.
O my dear brethren, recollect, that while it is your ministers' important duty and high privilege faithfully to dispense the word of God at all times, and under all circumstances, in the face of all opposition, it is your incumbent duty and privilege to support them in it, by all the means and powers you possess: 1. By attending upon their ministry. (Acts 2:42) 2. And by praying for them: "With all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication, for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel." (Eph. 6:18,19; 1 Thess. 5:25; Col. 4:3) 3. And by obeying them in the ministry of God's truth, and in enforcing the laws of Christ. (Heb. 13:17; 1 Cor. 11:2) 4. And by esteeming them highly in love for their works sake. (1 Tim. 5:17; Phil. 2:29; 1 Thess. 5:12,13) 5. And by uniting with them in the vindication of the glorious truths of the gospel, and in putting the laws of Christ into execution. (Jude 3; Phil. 1:27; 2 Thess. 3:6,14; Rom. 16:17,18) 6. And by walking worthy of the high vocation wherewith ye are called; and by endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph. 4:1-3) 7. And by providing for their necessities in the things of this life, as far as in you lies. (1 Cor. 9:11-14) 8. And by being cautious how you receive an ill report of them. (1 Tim. 5:19).
As heirs to the same grace, and in union to the same glorious Head, Christ, "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong." (1 Cor. 16:13).
That the glorious doctrine of election ought faithfully to be preached, is clear from the very ministry of Christ himself. His glorious Majesty thanked the Father for hiding the truth from some and revealing it unto others; and this, too, because it seemed good in God's sight. Yea, and the Holy Ghost tells us, that at that time Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and thanked the Father. He also told his disciples that he spoke in parables, because unto them it was given to know the mysteries of the kingdom, but unto others it was not given. Once he had a congregation of very pious pharisees, who, for a while, appeared to wonder at the gracious words that fell from his lips; and though he knew all hearts, and knew this doctrine would give them great offence, yet he preached it; and they rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill whereon the city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. You will perceive, beloved, that the Lord considered the truth of God of infinitely more importance than that of keeping a company of respectable pharisees in good humor. On one occasion he told some of his hearers that they believed not because they were not his sheep; and he assured his real disciples that the reason they were not of the world, and that the world hated them, was because he had chosen them out of the world. (John 15:16-19; 6:37,65; 10:26-29; 17:9,10)
Thus we see that the Lord Jesus Christ made no secret of this important truth, but, as it were, published it upon the house tops, and that, too, in the very face of opposition, when he knew he should, by so doing, stir up the enmity of those who called themselves pious and zealous for God.
The same solemn truth runs through the whole Bible, as might easily be shown. The Lord sent Paul and Barnabas to preach the gospel at Antioch; and though the Jews raged against it, and blasphemed, yet as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. (Acts 13:48) At one time, Paul and Timothy were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word at Asia. (Acts 16:6) Now had there been any of God's people to be called by grace at that time, by the ministry of the gospel, the Holy Ghost would not have forbidden them to preach it; for we find when Paul was at Corinth, the matter was quite different: "Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace; for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee; for I have much people in this city." (Acts 18:9,10)
Where the Lord has a people, and when the time is come to call them by grace through the ministry of the word, he will see to it that the word shall be preached; and that blessed truth shall be verified, "For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth; it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." (Isa. 55:10,11) Blessed be the Lord, there is nothing uncertain in the salvation and glorification of God's elect. All goes upon a solid, and sure basis. All the devices of the heart of man shall never overturn the council of the Lord. "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." (Isa. 46:10)
But, beloved, I cannot stop to say more on this subject at present, only that it is a truth much discarded and abhorred, and that it becomes us, who from real necessity believe it, and heartily thank God for it, to be upon our guard, and use all the means in our power to strengthen that which remains that is ready to die. Compare the following portions of God's word with what have already been referred to: (Rom. 8:28,29; Rom. 9; Rom. 11:1-8; Eph. 1:1-11; 1 Thess. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:9) Whoever can read the above portions of God's word, with others of a similar nature, and yet deny the glorious doctrine of election, they are by no means in an enviable situation, however high they may exalt themselves, or be exalted by others. I should be sorry to purchase all the honors and riches of the world at so dear a rate.
O beloved, what a matchless blessing it is to be an object of God's everlasting, electing love. Its glories surpass the utmost stretch of imagination. Let every high thought fall at the footstool of Jehovah's sovereignty; and with adoring hearts may we say, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory." (Ps. 115:1)
But to proceed. Another branch of divine truth which is ready to die in the ministry of it, is the eternal indissoluble union of the elect to Christ, their glorious Head. A union which may take place today and be broken off tomorrow is most palatable to a fleshly professor who is so in love with self as to put more dependence in his own supposed faithfulness to God's grace than he does in all the love, works, promises, oaths, power, truth, and faithfulness of the glorious Trinity. He thinks he is rich, and increased in goods. But, beloved, we have not so learned Christ. Adored be the name of the blessed Three-One God, his people were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, and in him were blessed with all spiritual blessings. Union to Christ is the foundation of communion with the Father, with the Son, and with the Holy Ghost; nor do we possess one particle of spirituality but as we stand in union to Christ and derive it from him. When the Lord calls his children by grace, there is a manifestative union takes place, and the Holy Ghost proves what their real character is, namely, members of Christ and one with him. They are united to him as a branch to the vine, and derive all their sap and nourishment from him, and thus become fruit-bearing branches, and the Father purges them that they may bring forth more fruit. (John 15:1,2) But without union to him they cannot bring forth fruit. They must therefore trace all spiritual blessing up to Christ, and derive all from him. "My God will supply all your need according to his riches in glory, by Christ Jesus." (Phil. 4:19) We are bone of Christ's bone, flesh of his flesh, and life of his life. "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular;" and in this glorious body a schism can never take place. (1 Cor. 12) We are the spouse of Christ, and he has betrothed us unto himself for ever. "Yea, he has betrothed us unto him in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies, and in faithfulness." (Hos. 2:19)
In the blessed day of our open espousals to Christ, we were made one spirit with him, and we have a hearty welcome to all the compassions and tenderness of his sympathetic bowels. The marriage covenant of Christ is an everlasting one; and till the righteousness of Christ can change its glorious hue and cease to be the Lord our righteousness and strength; till his infinite knowledge and understanding fail him, and he gives up right judgment in his new covenant proceedings; till his lovingkindness and tender mercies can turn to inveterate hatred; till he cease to be faithful and becomes unrighteous; and, in fact, till he forgets to love himself and hates his own flesh, this blessed marriage union can never be broken. But righteousness is the girdle of his loins, (Isa. 11:5) and faithfulness the girdle of his reins, and his mercy towards his people is from everlasting to everlasting.
Ye highly favored children of God, examine the rich fund of blessings secured to you in Christ your ever-living and ever-loving Head. Here is a bank that can never fail. There is no such a thing as real faith making too large a run upon it. If faith present a note of promise, be its contents as large as they may, the bearer shall not have to return with a dejected countenance, and a mortified, disappointed mind. Let our real needs be what they may, we have the authority of heaven to draw upon our bank for supplies. "Seek, and ye shall find. Ask, and it shall be given unto you." Yes, says the glorious Cashkeeper and Paymaster of this immortal firm, "All things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive." (Matt. 21:22) All accounts kept with this blessed bank will be honorably settled, and all bills drawn upon it, by the hand of faith, will be duly honored.
"This bank, a sure exhaustless store,
Contains all real good;
And every blessing is made sure,
By promise, oath, and blood."
No insolvency or ruin can take place here. No, no; they that trust in the Lord shall never be confounded. "All things are yours, for ye are Christ's and Christ is God's." (1 Cor. 3:23) The unnumbered blessings secured to you in Christ your Head baffle the calculation of the glorious angels above, which things they desire to look into. (1 Peter 1:12) "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure, for if ye do these things ye shall never fall; for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 1:10,11) Let worldlings toil for, and boast of their stores,
"If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise;" "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ."
There is not a blessing couched in the declarative glory of our Triune God, but what the real believer is heir to as he stands in union to Christ, his glorious Head and Representative. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:2)
Well, brethren, is this our blessed case? and are we still restless and dissatisfied? Then have we great cause to be ashamed. Rather let us exclaim, "O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together." Blessed Spirit, grant us more of thy sweet unctions, and enable us to set our affections on things above, and not on things on the earth. May we realize the blessedness of this glorious truth, that union to Christ secures to us every real good; and may we be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die.
Beloved of the Lord, to me it appears that every branch of divine truth connected with these things is much upon the decline, as it relates to the ministry of them, and something else, more pleasing to the pride of man, is being substituted in their stead. The real nature, design, and certain efficacy of the atonement of Christ is discarded, and an atonement spoken of that gives all men a chance of being saved, and leaves it possible for those who are interested in its contents to perish everlastingly; so that the active and passive obedience of Christ may (at least in a great measure) be made void by the puny arm or feeble mind of man. Universal exhortations, and unlimited invitations with offers, proffers, winnings, and wooings, together with what are called moral obligations and man's natural power to believe in Christ, are, in a great measure, substituted for the glorious work of God the Holy Ghost. Creature holiness, or a few external pious acts, are set up in lieu of the impartation of the divine nature by the almighty energy of the blessed Spirit and the glorious righteousness and holiness of Christ; and duty, or natural faith and repentance, are substituted for that vital faith which is the fruit of the Spirit and works by love and that repentance unto life which Christ is exalted as a Prince and a Saviour to give unto Israel. The glorious liberty wherewith Christ has made his people free, is called licentiousness; and unlimited latitude to the supposed powers of man's free will is called the liberty of the gospel. The divine application of the glorious truths of the gospel to the conscience, by the almighty power of God the Holy Ghost, is called enthusiasm; and doing our duty, and taking the comfort of the promises to ourselves, is considered sterling experience. Describing the conflict that God's people have between flesh and spirit, the law in their members and the law in their mind, and pointing out the certainty of complete victory at last through our Lord Jesus Christ, is called encouraging sin, and fleshly perfection is considered Christian holiness. The fleshly wisdom and contrivances of men, which things have, indeed, a show of wisdom in will-worship and humility and neglecting of the body, not in any honor to the satisfying of the flesh, (Col. 2:23) are substituted for the manifold wisdom of God, Those glorious divine mysteries which are according to God's eternal purpose in Christ Jesus the Lord, (Eph. 3:2) must be discarded and set at nought, to throw open a wide door for the exertions of the fleshly wisdom of man.
This is a day of religious invention, but whatever mechanical contrivances are exhibited to public view on the appointed days of exhibition, the glorious, sovereign, discriminating truths of God must not appear. No, these things are too mortifying to the pride of man to be allowed to show their face. To speak of the sovereign, discriminating acts of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, in the great economy of complete salvation, would almost paralyze the whole company, and put a stop to the machine. Other gods may be exhibited to view, to afford the theatrical speaker an opportunity of displaying his talents in that flesh-pleasing science, and to raise a thundering burst of applause from the multitude, and in this case the machine works well, and all things go on in a direct course of creature honor. But, beloved, how different this mode of proceeding is the method taken by Paul, when sent of God to preach the gospel among the Gentiles. Read at your pleasure 1 Cor. 2, and there you will perceive that the grand object of Paul's ministry was Christ crucified, as arising from, connected with, and being a glorious branch of, the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world unto our glory; and though Paul was a great and learned man, he did not preach with excellency of speech, or with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that the faith of the regenerated child of God might not stand in the wisdom of man but in the power of God.
O blessed Comforter, enable us to be upon our guard, and watch and pray that we enter not into temptation. Teach us to sit loose to the world, and the things of the world; and may the glorious realities of the kingdom of God be our constant pursuit. Here we shall find a rich fund of eternal blessings, in the which all the honors of God are displayed, and in which our eternal blessedness is secured. May we daily live by faith in our glorious Christ, and experience that in him we have all things and abound; and when clouds hang heavy over our heads, and storms and tempests in tremendous hurricanes burst, and discharge their contents on every hand, may we be still, watch the hand of God, and commit the whole of our concerns into his care, remembering that he rides upon every storm, and spurs and curbs them at his pleasure, that they must obey his sovereign command, and end in our real welfare.
Thus, beloved, may we be still, and know that he is God. Amen.