"Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast." (Isaiah 26:20)
Though the kind providences of God, I have enjoyed better health since I was here last than I have done for some years. But today a bad cold has laid hold of me, and quite upset my moral frame. Should it be the will of God that it should end in my death, O how blessed to look forward, under the sweet influences of God the Spirit, to this hiding-place: "Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast."
We may notice from these words:
I. The Lord has a special people dedicated to himself; and that people shall show forth his praise.
II. These people are hid from the indignation of the Lord.
I. We notice, 1st, that the one undivided Jehovah has a special property in these people. The Father says they are his portion. The Son says this is his spouse; he loved and redeemed her, "that he might present to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle." (Eph. 5:27) And the blessed Spirit has separated them from this world; he lays a sovereign claim to them, constantly keeping his eye on the sovereign purpose of God. Wherever they are, when God's time is come to call them by grace, the Holy Ghost will quicken the dead soul, communicate divine life, and bring them to a saving acquaintance with Christ. All things were made for Christ and his church. Hence it is said, "For all things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." (1 Cor. 3:22) Nothing shall alter the security of the people of God. The blessed Three-One-God lays a claim to this people, by ways and means suited to his own purpose of grace. Hence the Father, when speaking of them, says, "They shall be willing in the day of my power." (Ps. 110:3) "I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known." (Isa. 42:16)
Proud man gets schemes and plans for himself; but God opposes all his schemes, and solemnly declares he will bring down the loftiness and greatness of man, "and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day." (Isa. 2:11) What proud, pompous work it is for poor dying worms to puff up their minds with the empty vanity,--that if God do his part, they will do theirs! Why, I am an old man, nearly 70 years of age, and I have no more hope of being saved on such ground as that than I have of pulling the Almighty from his throne. I have tried doing my part many times; it has invariably undone me, and brought me feelingly and sensibly to ruin. This the Lord is determined to do,--to bring down the loftiness of man, and the greatness of man, that the Lord alone may be exalted in that day. You have no scriptural proof of being one of God's people if you do not know something of this,--of God cutting up all your vows, all your promises, all your prayers, all your repentance, and all your holiness, laying you low, and making you, in your own feelings, as wretched as the devil. If the Lord never brings you, in a measure, here, you will never go to heaven, with all your prettiness. You may foster up your mind with your self-prettiness and your own strength; but our God "giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increaseth strength." (Isa. 40:29) Besides, it is written, "The lame take the prey." (Isa. 33:23)
Thus God the Father, in his discriminating power, has a distinct separate people from the rest of mankind, and has solemnly said, "These people have I formed for myself; they shall show forth my praise." (Isa. 43:21) When this truth comes with power to the conscience, how cutting it is! It brings the poor sinner, in his feelings before God, to lie on a level with Manasseh, Magdalene, or with bloody, persecuting Saul; cuts up all his fine ideas and makes him ashamed of himself; so that he is obliged o cry, "God be merciful to me, a sinner!" (Luke 18:13) "But," say you, "you do not suppose they are the people of God that are thus crying?" Yes; this is the solemn method that God takes to distinguish them from the self-righteous world. All their loftiness is brought down and they are bowed before God.
This people is the property of Christ; for he espoused their cause before all worlds. He has betrothed them to himself; "He hath betrothed them to himself for ever, in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies, and in faithfulness." (Hos. 2:19) He has also entered into such an engagement, that when he viewed the elect of God in their sins and blood, his heart was fixed upon them; he engaged to redeem them, to wash them from all their filthiness, and to present them before God unblameable in love. Hence Paul says, "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish." (Eph. 5:25-27) But who besides the Son of God would have engaged to accomplish this work for such sinners? He saw the end from the beginning; he saw their hardheartedness, their impenitence, their blindness, and their determination to insult their Lord. Had the Lord allowed them to go on in their own way, not a soul would have been saved, but all would have gone to the bottomless pit. Not one of them would have left their idols, but after them would have gone. Therefore, the Lord Jesus Christ engaged to espouse their cause, to satisfy the claims of Justice, to honor the Father, to redeem them from all iniquity, and to make them, by the power of his Spirit, a holy people, zealous of good works.
Has there any power come to your conscience to separate you from the world, and to separate you from yourself? It appears far easier to be separated from the world than to be separated from self. "What!" say you; "separated from pious self! holy self! patient, meek self! Must these have no place in the matter?" No. You must, by the power of God, be separated from all, be enabled to give up all, and be brought to feel your awfully guilty state before God.
The blessed Spirit makes manifest his sovereign claim to the Lord's people, by thus quickening their dead souls, enlightening their dark understandings, and cutting them off from all creature holiness. It is very painful work. Sometimes the Lord's people, when first brought to know something of their ruined condition, have many pleasing ideas about them and think they can do well. But I can tell you that you will find the contrary to be the case, if you belong to God. "O, you are an Antinomian," say some, "and want us to live a life of licentiousness; we can do many things for God. No. God's Spirit teaches his people to deny ungodliness, yet brings them feelingly to know that if they were damned this moment, they cannot put a finger to the work; they cannot help themselves; but "the Lord giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increaseth strength."
Has the Lord brought you here? Perhaps some poor soul says, "But I cannot conceive this to be a proof that I am one of the Lord's people; for I am told that if I am one of the Lord's chosen ones, I should be very zealous in doing my part, by helping the blessed Spirit in saving my soul." Well; have you tried to do anything? "Yes," say you, "I have." What have you done? What have your doings produced? Have they not brought guilt, confusion, and bondage? Have you not been obliged in the end to say, "Lord, save me, or I perish?" "Yes," say you, "I have." Bless the Lord for it. It is the Spirit's testimony that he does not design you to be your own eternal ruin; therefore he stops you from all self hope, and will eventually reveal Christ in you the hope of glory, and make you sensibly feel that salvation is of the Lord.
My dear brethren, if you are the people of God manifestively, you know something of this; if the Lord has called you by his grace, and made manifest that you are one of his people, he has brought you to feel something of what we have been talking about,--to bow at his footstool, to be willing to be nothing so that you may be one of his, and constrained feelingly to cry to God to make bare his arm to save your soul with an everlasting salvation. Do I hear some poor soul say, "That is where I am, really and feelingly?" Are you? Then you are one of the Lord's people. "Really," say you, "I cannot believe it, I am so dark, in bondage through the fear of death, and so gloomy." He "will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; he will lead them in paths that they have not known; he will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight." (Isa. 42:16) These things he does unto them, and will not forsake them. Though heaven and earth are made for the honor of his blessed Majesty, nothing is so dear to the Father, so dear to the Son, so dear to the Spirit, and nothing occupies the mind of God so much (if I may be allowed so to speak) as this people. This people "shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation." (Isa. 45:17) Blessed people! They know the joyful sound.
Now, before we proceed, have you ever been rooted up in your feelings? Have you ever been brought to stand before God, loathsome and guilty in your own feelings, and being in such a state that you could not possibly help yourselves? By and by, he speaks to you as he speaks to his people in this prophecy, where his blessed Majesty says, "Thy tacklings are loosed; they could not well strengthen their mast, they could not spread the sail. Then is the prey of a great spoil divided." (Isa. 33:23) Who ran away with it? These poor mariners, who were all in confusion and disorder, could neither spread the sail, nor put the tacklings in order, nor strengthen the mast. Thus the Lord brings them to know they are his people, and shall show forth his praise. "This people have I formed for myself, they shall show forth my praise."
"Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee; hide thyself, as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast." What is this indignation? The Lord going forth, cutting up and cutting down the pride of man. He has made up his mind, as it were, that no flesh shall glory in his presence. All who expect to go to heaven singing the wonders they have done for God will be deceived, if they die in that state. The Lord brings all his people to know that there is neither might, power, nor help in themselves. The indignation of the Lord must be endured. The revelation of God's wrath against sin is contained in his law. What a deal of pains are taken by men to keep the law! How often they say, "Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law!" If ever the Lord leads you to feel his indignation, he makes you feel that, do what you will, the law curses you. All your own obedience, vows, and promises will only bring upon you the curse of God in a broken law. The voice of the law is, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them;" (Gal. 3:10) "He who offendeth in one point is guilty of all." (James 2:10) Now, sinner, where are you? There is not a soul here but what, on law grounds, is justly and righteously condemned. Rather than God could repeal his law, says one, he would sooner damn the whole world. "For we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God."
When the Lord reveals his law, in its spirituality and purity, to the conscience of a sinner, it is the day of God's indignation. The law condemns the sinner, and he feels obliged to acknowledge the condemnation. This is where the Lord brings most of his people, even after they are called by divine grace, into severe trials, crosses, and difficulties of mind. I remember that when the Lord was first pleased to reveal his love to my poor soul, I was very happy, and thought I should be so all the days of my life; I expected no other. But, by and by, sin revived and I died. The Lord revealed a measure of his indignation in my conscience, as a wretched backslider against his solemn Majesty, and as one who had broken his law. Have you felt this? Perhaps some of you may say, "Sometimes I do wrong; and when such is the case, I begin to think about it, simply believe that God loves me, do my duty, and all is set right again." If you can live in that religion, and you die in it, you are living to be damned, and you will find it so at the great day of God. The Lord will reveal his indignation against all your righteousness, and you will be brought to know, sooner or later, that you are as an unclean thing, and all your righteousness are as filthy rags. When this is the case, you will find that, unless you have a better religion than nature can produce, you will sink into hopeless despair.
Do you know anything of this? Have you ever had your pious vows and promises, even your Amen promises, though made when you called God to witness them, broken to pieces? And have you ever been cut up, root and branch, and been without help and without hope? "No," say you, "and I hope I never shall." You might as well say you hope you shall not go to heaven. If the Lord means to take you to heaven, he will root up all these; for his solemn indignation will be against all your righteousness, and you will know the truth of that declaration, "We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags." (Isa. 64:6) When this day of indignation comes on, the poor sinner trembles before God, and wonders where the scene will end. Say some, "I think I know a little of that; I know what it is to be plagued with unbelief, and groan by reason of a tempting devil and the hidings of God's countenance; to feel also the naughtiness of my nature, and the plague of my heart, and sometimes to feel as if I had nothing but my plague to cry about, nothing but my plague to bring." "But then," say you, "surely you would not suppose there was any hope for such a sinner as that!" Yes, there is. God says to such a poor soul, "Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee." What! This poor sinner,--this loathsome sinner?
"A sinner is a sacred thing,
The Holy Ghost hath made him so."
If thou art brought to feel thou art such a sinner as the Lord says thou art, and brought to confess that feeling and to groan under it, thou art a vessel of mercy. God will save thee in the Lord with an everlasting salvation. "Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee."
II. We come now to notice these chambers and what is meant by shutting the doors. The Lord tells us in one place, "He is a refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." (Ps. 46:1) One cries out, "Thou art my refuge; therefore will I hope in thee." These chambers were typified under the law by that solemn ordinance that the Lord instituted for Israel in Egypt, when he told them to take a lamb, and slaughter it, according to their families; and to shut the door on them, sprinkling the blood of the lamb on the door-posts. So when the destroying angel came to destroy the firstborn in Egypt, they were hid, shut up. The blood shut the door, and the wrath revealed by the Lord could not enter there. So the people of Israel slaughtered the lamb, by appointment of God; they stood with their loins girt about them; and it was eaten with bitter herbs. Now, mind you, it was roasted; all was eaten; none was thrown away. Well, what does this show? That the Lamb of God was roasted in God's wrath, with all the damnable propensities of his people. O the matchless wonders of his discriminating grace! He was made sin, really made sin; not in his nature, for he was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners; but he was made sin in covenant contract, as the Head and Representative of his people. Poor tempted child of God, poor believer, thy blindness, thy hardness, thy pride, thy lust, thy unbelief, and the plague of thy heart, were all imputed to Christ; he bore the blame, and put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. When we are brought in faith feelingly to realize the atonement, to enter into the atonement, and rely on it, the door of atoning blood is shut about us; and there is not a devil in hell or man on earth can bring us in guilty. Thus, we say, "There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit; for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death; for what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." (Rom. 8:1-4) "Yes," says some poor child of God; "but I fear my walking is after the flesh; for I feel such deadness, darkness, and wretchedness that I dare not trust my prayers, my tears, my vows, my promises, nor my duties; none of these dare I venture to trust." I don't think this is walking after the flesh. Let us hear what the Lord says. When Solomon dedicated the temple, being the representative of Israel, he said, "What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house, then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive." (1 Kings 8:38,39) The Lord knew none would turn to him till they knew the plague of their own hearts. When they know this, they seek the Lord; and he, in the riches of his grace, saves them in himself with an everlasting salvation. Thus, beloved, they are hid, hid with Christ in God.
Our Lord, when speaking of those chambers, gives us to understand that it is here where his people are hid: "One thing have I desired of the Lord, and that will I seek after; that I might dwell in the house of the Lord, and that will I seek after; that I might dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and enquire in his temple;" (Ps. 27:4) "For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion, in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me." (Ps. 27:5) Now, where is God's pavilion, the secret of his tabernacle? The heart of Christ. There God secludes himself, there he meets his people, there his blessed Majesty stands in the heart of Christ, and says to his poor mourning, broken-hearted people, "Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers; hide thyself in the blessed atonement, the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ." And here it is the Lord's people are savingly hid. It is an indescribable mercy that their hiding-place can never be broken down.
Some people tell us we may be in Christ today, and fall away tomorrow and go to hell after all. I don't envy them. Go on, make the best way; but as sure as God is God, if you go on that ground, at the end you will be cursed, and sink into black despair. The Lord brings all his children to know they have no hiding-place but Jesus, and they are brought feelingly to say, "Thou art my hiding-place." The Lord God says he is a very present help in trouble; "therefore will we not fear, though the earth be removed and the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea." (Ps. 46:2) Christ is this refuge, this hiding place. The Lord God Almighty secures his church in the midst of all the storms that may come upon them, and brings them safe through to glory, to be with him when time shall be no more.
"Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee." But, say some, how does the poor sinner enter this chamber? By the door of hope, the door of faith. He that believeth shall never be confounded, shall never be put to shame, and shall never be forgotten. Poor sinner, thy Jesus has entered heaven on this ground himself. The Shepherd has entered by the door into the sheepfold. And when he comes by the power of his Spirit, he draws thee into the atonement, into the sweet enjoyment of the mysteries of his love. He says, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me." Some people say they will not, unless they are made. But the Lord says they shall. But then, say you, how is it they do not? "No man can come to me, except the Father, who hath sent me, draw him." (John 6:44) Do you feel the need of the Lord to draw you into the blessed efficacy of the blood of the Redeemer, the atonement of Christ? When you feel your need of the Lord to open the door and draw you in, he will do so. Whoever climbs up any other way is a thief and a robber. (John 10:1) The Lord hide me in his great burning day! There is hope, poor child of God; for in Scripture there is a door called "the door of hope." We will just see where the Lord opens this door: "I will give her the valley of Achor for a door of hope; she shall sing there as in the days of her youth." (Hos. 2:15) Do you know what the valley of Achor was? It was the valley where Israel was when Achan stole the golden wedge and the Babylonish garment. When they had just passed over Jordan, their enemies pursued them; they seemed as if they must be defeated; the Lord sent his indignation against them; and they fell before their enemies. The Lord then commanded that they should cast lots, that they might see who had done this wicked thing, and the lot fell on Achan, who had stolen the Babylonish garment and the golden wedge; and God brought solemn trouble on the family of Achan, and he was destroyed. How kind the Lord is; for after this he tells the children of Israel that he will give them the valley of Achor for a door of hope! Is there a poor sinner here who knows something of this, who has had his idols taken away, and felt that the Lord has tumbled all his imagined holiness and "piety" about his ears, and stripped him of his golden-wedge idol? Is so, the Lord is about trying you with fire, bringing you into the furnace. How burnt up you are in your feelings! Go bow before the Lord as a guilty sinner; for his gracious Majesty gives this as a door of hope, to enter into the mysteries of his love; so the valley of Achor proves a door of hope. "Come, my people." Art thou in Achor, found out, stripped of God? Art thou upset? Remember, he is stripping and bringing thee to a door of hope in the valley of Achor, where thou shalt sing as in the days of old. He will give vineyards--what! In this desert? Yes, he will give vineyards for such guilty sinners; they shall go into the mysteries of his love.
There is the door of faith. When the Lord is pleased to draw forth faith in exercise, however great the storm may be, he shuts this door; that is, faith in Christ encloses them, hope in Jesus encloses them, and the soul is ready to say, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him." Come, poor soul, are you in the valley of Achor? Has all your fruitfulness been burnt up? Has God sent you out here? He opens a door of hope. The Lord the Spirit brings the poor soul to hope in the mercy of Christ, and, feeling this hope as an anchor, sure and stedfast, enters within the vail.
"Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee." The Lord is pleased to shut them up in love. Christ sheds abroad his love in the heart of a poor sinner; love embraces him; God is felt and enjoyed; the mysteries of redeeming love enters into the soul; the man is feelingly and solemnly hid with Christ in God; and when Christ, who is his life, shall appear, then shall he also appear with him in glory. (Col. 3:4) "Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee; hide thyself, as it were, for a little moment" in the atoning blood and obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord will rest in his love. If any of you, my friends, feel yourselves to be poor wretched sinners, I would say to such,
What a blessed salvation it is that our God has appointed for poor, lost, ruined man! May the Lord bless you with a feeling sense of your interest in it. And may he bless these few broken hints to your consciences, lift you into Christ and his salvation, and enable both you and me to live to his glory.