As you all know, this is a sentence from that glorious song of praise which the blessed Hannah sang in thankfulness to God for having heard her prayer for a son. And oh, what a song was that! How few mothers can sing that song! How few even of so-called good and religious mothers can sing it! And why? Because they are not taught by the Holy Ghost as Hannah was taught; they do not believe as Hannah believed. What work this song makes with the free-willers and the workers! What a lesson does it read our great divines and theologians! How it cuts up by the roots the pride and presumption of man! But how it comforts the Lord's quickened people. Oh that we all could sing it with the spirit and the understanding also! You to whom it is familiar know that its burden is the sovereignty of God. That great, that wondrous, that solemn attribute of God, by which He does as He wills with His creatures, and gives no account of His matters. How any man can read this song, and acknowledge its divine teaching, and yet hold by free-will, I do not understand. There certainly must be obliquity of reason in such a one, a blindness only to be accounted for by the enmity of the human heart against all that is venerated. Let men declare that Hannah was a simpleton, raving in enthusiasm after her confinement; or let them confess she gave utterances to the Lord's teachings. If they are bold enough to maintain the first, then we shall know who they are and what they are. If they acknowledge the second, then away for ever with free-will.
I. I would discuss the question, Who are the saints?
II. To what extent does the guardianship promised reach?
III. What the saints are called upon to do.
I. Who are the saints?--Whoever they are, it is well to be they; for there are many promises made to them, and a security guaranteed them that is heart-cheering to think upon. Just let me refresh your memories upon these points by referring to a few passages of Scripture: "O love the Lord, all ye His saints: for the Lord preserveth the faithful;" (Ps. 31:23) "O fear the Lord, ye His saints: for there is no want to them that fear Him;" (Ps. 34:9) "Ye that love the Lord hate evil: He preserveth the souls of His saints; He delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked;" (Ps. 97:10) "He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of His saints." (Prov. 2:8) These are a few passages out of many of a similar kind that speak to the point. The Lord watches over His saints with a peculiar care, and has assured us not only that He keeps them, but that He will for ever keep them. But who are these saints? Much misunderstanding is abroad upon this subject. The ungodly world employs the term saints as a term of reproach, for it thinks that the saints imagine themselves holier than other men, and everybody but themselves as reprobates. And even professingly-religious people fancy that the saints are only those who are preeminently holy. No; the saints are nothing but men and women of like passions with other men and women, subject to the same infirmities, the same temptations, the same tempers, the same nature as others. You will not find a single saint on the earth but who is ready to say with Paul, "In me [in my flesh] dwelleth no good thing." (Rom. 7:18) Oh, it is a great mistake to suppose that the saints think anything of themselves; and it is a great mistake for men to look for an eminent degree of holiness from any saint. Some really seem to expect that a man professing to be a saint ought to be an angel; ought to be far above the ordinary temptations of the flesh. This is simple ignorance, and is very unfair dealing with the poor saints.
"But who are the saints?" I reply, If you will turn to two or three passages in the Epistle to the Romans and the Epistle to the Corinthians, you will have a correct answer to the question: "Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: to all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ;" (Rom. 1:6,7) "Unto the Church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours." (1 Cor. 1:2)
Now, from these passages it is clear that the saints are they who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. So that every man who does so is a saint. But as there have always been professors and possessors of Christianity, and will be to the end of time, we must inquire what the apostle means by calling on the name of the Lord. We have the answer in Rom. 10:9-13. And who is this Lord? See Romans 10:3. Now you have the scriptural answer to the question, Who are the saints? They are they who confess with their mouth and believe in their heart that the Lord Jesus is "the end of the law for righteousness" to them. Who amongst us believes thus and does thus, we are saints, and we are they whom God keeps, and is pledged to keep.
My fellow-saints, lose not sight of this precious truth. Some of us are too apt to look upon ourselves and our sins, and to come to the conclusion we are not saints. But I tell you, for God tells you, whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord, who is "the end of the law for righteousness," is a saint, and God has promised to keep him. The question is not, What attainments have you acquired in the Christian life? to what degree of Christianity have you arrived? what is the depth of your experience? but, Do you call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ who is "the end of the law for righteousness?" do you believe in Him with your hearts? Then you are saints. And mark you, you are not in your own keeping--you are in God's keeping; and not only in God's keeping, but you are holy and unblameable and unreprovable in God's sight, for you stand before Him in the righteousness of Christ, for you are sanctified in Him. If you are saints, you are all right, for you are holy as Christ is holy, and God sees no spot in you.
II. To what extent does the guardianship of the promise reach?--Some poor silly people fancy that this keeping extends to every act and every step and every thought and every providence and every circumstance in the lives of the saints. Well, so it does in a sense; but it is not true that God's guardianship of His saints implies that they shall never fall, never sin. Our common sense must tell us this much; for, if it were otherwise, the saints of old were not kept, and you and I have not been kept, for we have many a time sinned in thought, word, and deed. But I take God's keeping to mean a keeping unto salvation, a keeping through ups and downs, joys and sorrows, trials and temptations, struggles and vicissitudes and falls--a keeping of the soul unto salvation. The apostle Peter evidently means this when he speaks of the saints being kept: "To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." (1 Pet. 1:4,5) God's guardianship is promised chiefly to the soul. I think a passage in the Psalms throws light here: "O bless our God, ye people, and make the voice of His praise to be heard: which holdeth our soul in life, and suffereth not our feet to be moved. For Thou, O God, hast proved us: Thou hast tried us, as silver is tried. Thou broughtest us into the net; Thou laidst affliction upon our loins. Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water: but Thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place." (Ps. 66:8-12) You see, then, that there was great trial, great affliction, ay, and great triumph, of the enemy; but the Lord was true to His promise, He kept the soul of His servants. Look at a saint of God in a workhouse. Why, a superficial reader of the promise might say God has not kept him. But I ask, Did God ever promise that His saint should never come to poverty? I answer, Never. God promised to keep his soul, to keep him unto salvation. And has He not been as good as His word? Surely so; for that poor tried saint still calls upon the name of the Lord. Look at a saint of God in affliction as in a prison. A superficial reader of the promise might say God has not kept him. But I ask, Did God ever promise that His saints should never be afflicted or be in prison? Nay, never. On the contrary, He has told us, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous;" and "when I was [His saints] in prison ye visited me." But God promised to keep His saint's soul; and has He not been as good as His word? Surely so; for the poor afflicted or imprisoned saint still calls upon the name of the Lord. O my fellow-saints, depend upon it the day will come when poor Job will thank God for his dunghill, and Jeremiah will praise God for his dungeon, and you and I will glorify Him for our very weaknesses.
Talking of Job, that is a remarkable passage quite to the point: "He putteth no trust in His saints." (Job 15:15) And I, for one, thank God that He does not, for where would my poor soul be if He did? Oh, what need there is for God's keeping; for what treachery there is in the heart, what struggling for the mastery of the flesh is there in every saint. Why is it you and I have not cursed God long ago? How is it that we have not gone back to the world to wallow in its mire? How is it that we have not discarded the truth of God, and taken up with a lie? It is because we have been kept by God. Ay, if it were not so, we should sink to the lowest hell. And, what a blessed reflection is it, it is as certain that we, God's saints, shall be kept unto the end, as that the Lord is on His throne. The oath, the covenant, the faithfulness, the power, the love and wisdom of Jehovah are all engaged in keeping the feet of His saints.
III. What are the saints called upon to do?--There is a deal of rubbish spoken and written upon the responsibility of the saints, which when we come to examine would positively involve us in a covenant of works for our salvation. Now, I say distinctly that the responsibility of the saints salvation rests wholly upon the Lord Jesus Christ; they have nothing to do with it, and a blessed thing it is they have not. The responsibility of sinners is a very different thing; for every sin they commit will they be brought into judgment for. But I will tell you what saints are called upon to do.
First. They are called upon to witness for God. But oh, how many cowards are there amongst the saints! The fear of man keeps them from showing their colors. This ought not to be. I have many a time blushed with shame for my cowardice in this matter.
Secondly. They are not only called upon to witness for God by the enunciation of the truth, but in their lives, their walk, and conduct. We ought not to associate with unbelievers. Oh, for grace to follow the exhortation of the noble Paul, "Stand, brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might." (Eph. 6:10) A storm is coming that will shake the dead leaves from the tree.