MY friends, it has been my lot during the last 24 hours to pass through some very trying things, to witness the death of one of our members. I attended upon her the greater part of yesterday, and at 20 minutes to 11 last evening her immortal spirit departed. During the day my mind was much exercised through not having a text; but in the night this portion (as above) of the word of God was brought to me. Truly, my dear friends, death is a solemn circumstance. Death it is that awaits you and me; and however kind friends or physicians may try to ward off the blow, fall it will upon us. As the word of God declares, so shall we experience it, however reluctant we may be to submit to it or acknowledge the truth. Depend upon this, as it is written in this book, so it will be with each one of us: "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment," so we shall find this is what awaits us. The question then is, "Are we prepared for it?" It is a solemn question. May it fall sharp upon us; may it, under the teaching of the blessed Spirit, have its due effect upon each of us. Are we prepared for death, for a final separation of body and soul, the body to the earth and the soul to God, into an awful solemn eternity? What is our feeling before the Lord regarding the dreadful malady, the dire contagion of sin? What do we know of the remedy God has provided for that malady, the malady of sin? Are we so acquainted with the precious Person, blood, and obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ that we can say with the apostle, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain?"
It would appear that the psalmist was in a blessed state of mind when he uttered the language of the text. In the verse before the text he says, "Blessed be the Lord who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation." In the verse preceding that, he shows us whence the church looked for and expected salvation. The church never has had but one object upon which her faith has been fixed; it is bent on one glorious object, the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, what has been revealed, and what is to come. While the church in her day rejoiced in the prospect of a crucified Christ and an ascended Christ, a risen Christ, her faith, her hope, her love, were yet on a Christ that is to come, who would restore all things. We shall find the church looked forward, had a faith that was genuine. My friends, is your faith and mine genuine? If so, we have no occasion to care for fancies. If our faith is genuine, it will look to and embrace the Person of a precious Christ. Christ the object, Christ the subject, Christ the sum and substance of our faith. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.
In the 18th verse of this psalm the church is looking forward to the precious truth of a risen Saviour, an ascended Christ. Mark you, in the day in which it hath pleased God that we should live, there is a great declension from the faith, the faith of God's elect. But the church in the psalmist's day was so strengthened that she looked forward and grasped the precious truth of her risen Christ, though Christ was not then revealed in the flesh; Christ was not manifested as he was afterwards, yet she embraces him as her risen Christ. She says, "Thou hast ascended up on high, thou hast led captivity captive, thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them." While she views the Person and glorious work of the glorious Mediator, Christ, she cannot but be joyful and rejoice; therefore she breaks out into the language: "Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation." Then, referring to the God of her salvation, she says, "He that is our God is the God of salvation." Who is our God? We have had gods many, and lords many; but who is now the God we worship? Who is the God our souls adore? Who is the God our souls trust in, believe in, fear, and reverence? Who is the God our souls desire to obey? The church here speaks in the language of confidence, and says, "He that is our God is the God of salvation." The church had a knowledge of God as her covenant God: "Our God." Who is this God, the church's God? How is he the God of the church, but by an everlasting covenant? Has he not in his precious word declared, "I will be their God, and they shall be my people?" According to the covenant of his love and grace, he declares, "I will be unto them a God, and they shall be to me a people." No less a covenant will ever satisfy an immortal soul that is brought solemnly and sensibly in feeling to know the real state and condition in which he stands towards God, one who has a view of an awful eternity before him.
He that is the God of salvation is our God. There is the covenant relationship. Here it is made known and revealed through the Person of the eternal Son of God, the glorious Messiah, the Mediator Christ. Because, being taught by the Spirit of God, are led to the word of God, and there we are, by the Holy Ghost, led to understand the matter. We read our God and Father, in, through, and by the Lord Jesus Christ, has made himself known. Here is the ground of the covenant relationship, here, wherein and whereby God has made himself known as he really stands in relationship to his dear people in the Person of his dear Son; so that without Christ, my dear friends, there is no manifested union.
Upon what are your hopes, thoughts, feelings, and faith fixed? Is it on the Person of the Lord Jesus? Because without faith in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ you have no manifested union to him. Is it not said, "Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus?" So, where there is a knowledge of this relationship, there is a knowledge of Christ, and a knowledge of Christ is by a manifestation of his mercy to the soul in the forgiveness of sin. Do you not think this morning or labor under the mistake that I am treating of anything non-essential. If we are not interested in these things, if this God is not our God, we must be damned to all eternity. No salvation out of Christ, no salvation out of God in Christ, no salvation out of God in an everlasting covenant, God, in his glorious relationship in and through a precious Christ. You and I will soon have done with all things here below. Mark you, since the last day's sun went down, the last act of kindness has been done for a dear sister of this church. Her eyes have been closed in death. Therefore, let this remind us that we are traveling to a solemn eternity. Where shall we appear? I shall be glad to meet you again, all at the right of God; but it must be through a relationship to a covenant God, through a knowledge of a precious Christ, as the God of our salvation. Where God is, if you and I be mistaken upon this solemn matter,—where God is we never can come; and if we cannot go where God is, where must we go? If not to heaven, where? Why, to hell. My fellow-sinners, my fellow- travelers to an eternal world, it is a solemn thought that heaven or hell will be the eternal destiny of every precious immortal soul.
Now what hope have you of meeting in endless glory? What hope of salvation have you? Have you been brought into this solemn position before God, to feel your lost state and condition by nature, that as to obtaining salvation by anything you can do you are utterly powerless? Depend upon this, that the church in her confession experienced this solemn feeling of her lost state and condition; therefore she says, "He that is our God is the God of salvation." Never is one soul raised to salvation until he is brought to feel his lost state and condition.
I shall never forget one circumstance; it is very vivid before my eyes. I was entering a cottage; the husband was in conversation with his wife; the subject was religion. His talk did not appear agreeable to her. She said, "You know nothing about the matter. I am lost, lost!" The words fell on my mind with pleasure. "With pleasure?" you say. Yes, they fell on my very heart and soul with pleasure. I said to the poor woman, "I am glad to hear you say that." "What do you mean, man? Do you mean to mock me in my misery?" "Not for a moment. If you truly and sincerely feel you are lost, I have a precious message for you. I can declare unto you, in the name of the Lord, that 'Jesus Christ came to seek and save that which was lost.' I shall never forget the poor woman. She clung to my arm, and would not let me go till I had preached a sermon about Jesus Christ. The last time I saw her she was happy in the enjoyment of the love of God. She could rejoice in a precious Christ. I visited her several times, and she could rejoice in her soul's salvation, adopting the language of the text as hers: "He that is our God is the God of salvation."
What an amazing word! Heaven rings with the sound, the glorious sound of salvation. Not only heaven rings with the sound, but such is the everlasting bliss and the profound depth of the wisdom, love, and grace of God in the salvation in which a Triune Jehovah is everlastingly concerned, that the redeemed on earth are obliged to confess that it is so wonderful that it passeth all created knowledge. Sinner, can you believe it? Can you receive it? Whether you believe it or receive it, this is as great a fact as that the sun is now in the heavens, or that you and I are here present, that God from everlasting was concerned in the salvation of his church and people. He that is brought solemnly to receive this glorious truth, as the church here receives and understands it, is led by the Spirit in some measure to receive this solemn mystery; the more he is led into it, the more glorious it appears; so that it is too profound a mystery for carnal reason or your finite mind to comprehend. Have you more wisdom than Paul, who was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel,—more knowledge of philosophy and science than he had? He tells us that, "without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness." Bow down, carnal reason! Be still; do not rise. Some people think a great deal of the great I, and the little you. They will not say with Paul, "Not I, but the gracious power of God to salvation." It was in this his precious soul delighted. Here it is. This God, our God, is the God of salvation.
Salvation from what? From that which our sin deserved,— eternal banishment from his presence and the glory of his power. Reconciled to him, we who were sometimes afar off, enemies by wicked works, in a state of enmity to God, neither loving nor fearing him, rebelling against his word, were brought nigh by the blood of his cross. But such was the fearful, awful picture of our character, as it is drawn by the eternal pen of inspiration: "The carnal mind is enmity against God. It is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be."
Sinner, exercised, trembling, anxious, fearing believer, redeemed child of God, who has been on your knees at the throne of grace this morning, supplicating for mercy and favor on your precious soul, how different to what you once were. There was a time you neither loved nor feared him. Like Gallio, you cared for none of these things. But he hath saved you from a careless, prayerless, indifferent, unconcerned, sinful, state. He hath saved you by communicating light and life by his Spirit to your soul; so that you cannot sin as you once did, not go on as you once could. What a mercy! What a salvation! No thanks to you, not one of you. No thanks to the man that stands in the pulpit, that we ever had a love for God or his precious word. "Not unto us, not unto us, 0 Lord, but unto thy name, for thy mercy and truth's sake, be all the glory."
He that is our God is the God of salvation." Who hath saved us from that state in which we were born, the state into which sin had plunged us? What would have been the consequences of dying in that state, my friends? How fearfully solemn. What a fearful curse is denounced against Adam and his posterity: "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." There has never been since that day one of the posterity of Adam who ever had a desire to return to seek God till the Lord the Spirit wrought that desire in his soul. What, then, I ask you, and every free-wilier, or every one that contends for works of creature righteousness, every one who thinks there is some power in the creature to do something to merit God's mercy, what, I would ask you, did your father or mother for you? Your father Adam and your mother Eve, what did they themselves? After eating the forbidden fruit, they found out that they were naked, and made themselves fig-leaved aprons; yet they were not satisfied. They heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they were afraid, and hid themselves among the trees. Now, who was it went after them? Did they first go after God, or God go after them? Let us think. Do not let us be deceived in such a solemn, momentous thing as eternity. It is an awfully solemn thing to be deceived in things connected with soul matters. Better be a poor bankrupt, a pauper, a beggar, be stripped of all your worldly substance, than be deceived in this, in matters connected with eternity; you had better become an inmate of a workhouse or gaol than be deceived in soul matters. I ask you, then, how it was when man fell, whether he first went after God, or God searched him out. My friends, look at these matters. They are what you are deeply interested in. You will either be saved or lost. We cannot speak too solemnly, or too frequently. You and I must meet either in heaven or in hell, or there will be a separation between us. It will be an eternal one. Therefore look at it.
He that is our God is the God of salvation." He saves from all the fearful consequences of sin. What these fearful consequences are we cannot fully tell. Though we have known somewhat what it is to be under the cursing, condemning power of God's righteous law, from that he saves us; yea, from all the awful, fearful, tremendous curse and wrath due to sin. From the power of sin he saves us. He it is, our God, who is the God of salvation,— salvation from sin, salvation from the penal consequences, salvation from the curse of sin and wrath of the law, salvation from the power of inbeing sin. Bless his precious name! My friend on the verge of Jordan said, "Praise him! Praise him! Shout! You do not shout loud enough!" Then shout forth the praises of him who hath saved us from wrath, curse, and condemnation, from death, from an everlasting, never-ending eternity of punishment, of torment under the wrath and curse of a holy and righteous God.
He that is our God is the God of salvation." As we have spoken of a salvation from, we will now speak of a salvation to. May the holy and blessed Spirit enable us to show not only what we have been saved from, but what we are saved to. What is it? What it is I cannot fully describe. You must help me to explain the matter. You have, at times, in your experience, known what it is to feel your heart and soul blessedly melted down, under the power of the precious blood of sprinkling applied to your heart and conscience. You have sweetly felt the cleansing efficacy of that blood. It made you feel you were healed, and you have blessedly had this promise fulfilled in your soul's experience: "I have seen his ways and will heal him." 0 to feel the healing power of Jesus' precious blood! Has it not made your heart dance? I was conversing with a man last Saturday, and I asked him if he ever danced. Not he! Why, man, did you never go forth in the dances of them that make merry? Yes, many times. When the Lord blessed his soul, it caused his heart to dance. Could he have had his will, he would never have been without a solemn sense of God's love and mercy, and a sweet foretaste of heaven, and a manifestation of Christ the hope of glory. That hymn of Toplady's is suited to us. I wish we could more frequently enjoy the language:
"If such the sweetness of the streams,
What must the fountain be,
Where saints and angels draw their bliss
Immediately from thee?"
Do you not want to get there? I do. So that we prove the truth of the word of God: "There is a river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God." That river is full, ever flowing from the fullness, the ocean of God's everlasting love. Where the poor weary soul can bathe in seas of heavenly rest. No more storms, no more trials, no more troubles, no more pains, no more disappointments. Saved to what? Stop a moment. Just hearken to the song of the redeemed, to the glorified ones, as expressed by Watts:
"Once they were mourning here below,
And wet their couch with tears;
They wrestled hard, as we do now,
With sins, and doubts, and fears."
What, then, is the song? "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his blood, to him be glory for ever and ever." "Who hath redeemed us to God;" not only redeemed us from wrath, sin, law, the world, death, and hell; but to God. The God of salvation saves from, saves to.
Then how were they saved? As he is the God of salvation, the church's God, she is saved by the wonderful condescension of the glorious Person of a precious Redeemer, the God of our salvation, and not only in the purpose, grace, and covenant through and by the glorious condescension of a precious Christ. Thank, bless, and praise him. 0 for grace to trust in him, hope in him, rejoice in him! He is worthy of confidence. They sing in heaven, "Worthy is the Lamb!" They place the crown upon his head; so will every poor convinced, pardoned sinner. Our friend who departed last evening, a poor doubting, fearing thing all her life, when it came to the last conflict with the last enemy, she said, " Praise him! Worthy is the Lamb! "She seemed to be brought into that state of harmony with the very glorified spirits before the throne; so that in the swellings of Jordan this poor feeble-minded one was enabled by the blessed Spirit of God to shout, "Worthy is the Lamb!"
Then this God is our God, the God of salvation. How, then, is the sinner saved? He is saved by grace, through the amazing, everlasting, rich, free, and condescending love of God. How is it? Through the glorious Person and precious work of a dear Redeemer. How is it? By the illuminating power of God the eternal Spirit making you and me sensible of our need of salvation. He brings us to feel that we are under the condemning power of God's holy and righteous law. By his teachings we are brought to see how we are delivered by the blood and obedience of a precious Christ, through the glorious finished work of Immanuel, who from everlasting determined to save, everlastingly prepared to save his people. God set up his eternal Son to be the Saviour of his church. The church was given to Christ and Christ to the church in the bonds of the everlasting covenant; not for anything we can do on our part, but it is according to his mercy; and the mercy of the Lord is, we read, from everlasting to everlasting on them that fear him.
"He that is our God is the God of salvation." Why does he save us? I asked you these questions, From what we are saved, to what we are saved, how we are saved. Now, why are we saved? I will just refer you to one portion in Ps. 106.: "Nevertheless, he saved them for his name's sake." Why, then, are we saved? We must ascribe it to the Lord. Bless him, it is all for his name's sake. Whatever he has done, it is for his name and mercy's sake. Turn to Eph. 1. There you will see that whatever has been done was done to the praise and glory of his grace, being done for his name's sake. Therefore he that is our God by covenant, by gift, by revelation, is the God of salvation. From what? From hell, wrath, and death, to heaven, Christ, and everlasting glory. How? Through him, the glorious Person of a precious Immanuel.
Is it right? Is it true? Yea, this will blessedly and everlastingly do for poor lost sinners who feel their need of salvation; no peradventure of sinking to hell. "He that is our God is the God of salvation." It is such a blessed and glorious truth that we may stake our soul's eternal all upon it. Stand it will when the world is in a blaze. I would not wish to bring any superficial or airy flights before you. You and I may never meet again, or look one another in the face. Now can you go away and say, "All that the man has been talking about is all foolishness?" I would appeal to your conscience that it is true, that you and I shall there stand or fall at the bar of God according to our standing and faith in Christ, in the truth of God, and in the salvation of God. "To God the Lord belong the issues from death." It was said to our father Adam, "In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Adam died, for he transgressed the command. What death was it? Spiritual death. The consequence of that was eternal death, as to himself and his posterity, without a Saviour,—death and endless misery. "Dying, thou shalt die." We have sometimes seen people as it were by the troubles and trials of this life driven to desperation, the thought that has made life miserable. If I should die out of Christ,—a death to be dreaded. What! To be damned, to die and for ever remain under the curse of God, ever remain under the wrath, under the vengeance of eternal fire? Know that this is called eternal death, eternal condemnation, according to the righteous ordination of a holy God, in his divine appointment. You are fearful you shall go to hell; you know you deserve it. "Yes," say you; "I know hell is my just desert; but can you give me any hope, any word of encouragement? I want to be saved from that guilt, curse, and condemnation." Do you? Then attend to what I say. Where are you looking for salvation? How do you expect to be saved? You cannot save yourself. "That," say you, "I am fully persuaded of; yet if the Lord Jesus Christ will but have mercy on my precious soul, save me, pardon me, and take me to heaven, then I shall be happy." My friends, if God has brought you solemnly to feel and desire these things, you must know that it is by his power that he will finish and perform the good work he has begun, that you shall be delivered from the issues of death through his precious blood.