"Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:13,14)
MY brethren, who profess to fear God, and hope that you are in the narrow way that leads to glory, are you not often exercised about what your evidences are of a real religion? and when you read the epistles, you are obliged to acknowledge, what a peculiar people are described, that they are particular in doctrine, experience, and practice, so that many in these dark days of profession have the name without the power.
Paul in this epistle addresses the people of God as having a very decided religion, for he says, 'To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse.' They were what they were by grace. Such a religion comes from heaven, and will take them to heaven. If you wish to be called 'saints and faithful brethren in Christ,' you should be able to speak of convictions by the Spirit of God, and of a knowledge of the Lord Jesus by the revelations of the Spirit; you could not prove that you were such highly-favored characters without knowing the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost. Paul says of the union of Christ with the Ephesians, 'In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.' He also says to the Corinthians, 'Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.' Grace made this great change in these ungodly Corinthians; Paul says, 'Such were some of you,' he acknowledged how they were washed, sanctified, and justified. My brethren, you that want ministers to encourage you, can you speak of such an experience? How very many who receive the Lord's supper in churches and chapels are satisfied with the form of godliness, and do not want to hear about the particular religion described in the epistles, as well as in the other parts of the Bible, when we find only Lot in five cities, when the world was destroyed only eight in the ark, when you read the ninth chapter of Ezekiel, how all were to be destroyed that had not the mark, and they only were to have the mark who sighed and cried for all the abominations that be done in the midst of Jerusalem. What a searching chapter for the God-fearing people in England, as there is so little real religion, and so few spiritual worshippers who can tell what God has done for their souls, compared with the great bulk of mere professors.
Paul, in writing in his own name and also Timothy's, says, 'We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints;' he speaks of the gospel coming to them, and bringing forth fruit, since the day they heard it, and knew 'the grace of God in truth.' What a very great mercy to know 'the grace of God in truth,' and to have a faith that works by love, as the fruits of the Spirit! How many are satisfied with their talking about religion; a time will come, when it will be made manifest, when Christ will say, 'I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.' The apostle says, 'Giving thanks unto the Father, who hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.' Paul might exhort them earnestly to be thankful for such divine blessings. My brethren, did you, who profess to love and fear God, ever acknowledge such blessings with hearts full of gratitude? How David could bless God in the 1O3rd and 116th Psalms, as well as in many parts of the Psalms. God says, 'Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me.'
When we consider this 13th verse of Colossians, 'Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son,' how God's power is fully set forth, and testifies strongly against all free-will profession of religion. How God's power alone is exalted. If Paul and Timothy with the Colossians could acknowledge this great change to be of God, are we willing that God should be robbed in ascribing anything whatever to sinful, vile, and guilty man? The power of darkness shows us how we were ' serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.' All are dead in trespasses and sins till God quickens their souls. We are servants of the devil, but when we are 'delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of his dear Son,' we are the servants of Christ. 'By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him; for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.' What a great change is wrought now! When the blind are enlightened to see what they were by nature, and what they are by grace. If ye are not dead in your sins and amongst the lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, grace has caused you to differ, and may grace have the praise for calling, keeping, and renewing your souls.
'From the power of darkness.' How few you can find that know that blessed deliverance in soul experience, and the translation into the kingdom of God's dear Son. David knew that the children of Israel had no cause for boasting in being brought from under the power of Pharaoh, 'For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them: but thy right band, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favour unto them.' For the same reason, you, my brethren, that fear God, are 'delivered from the power of darkness, and are translated into the kingdom of his dear Son.' Godly people are scattered and few. Many people are ungodly, and very many are infidels and awful scorners. We know God to be long-suffering. Peter says, 'Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?' What a difference there is between the righteous and the unrighteous, and those in the service of Satan and those called out and 'translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son!' Those in whose souls the good work is begun, in due time, will be in heaven as surely as Enoch is. They will not be 'delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son,' without proving the final perseverance of the saints. Those interested in God's love are very much favored, and know it by precious faith. It is not justifiable in them to be angry and displeased about trifles; and how can they complain of their trials, crosses, and sufferings like those who know nothing and care nothing about being blest with such a great favor?
"Blest with this faith, then let us raise
Our hearts in love, our voice in praise;
All things to us must work for good,
For whom the Lamb has shed his blood.
Trials may press of ev'ry sort;
They may be sore, they must be short;
We now believe, but soon shall view,
The greatest glories God can show."
If you are delivered like the Colossians, and 'translated into the kingdom of his dear Son,' you are favored like them.
In John xvii, Christ says, 'Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me; for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.' Those who really believe, know Christ is precious to their souls, and they wish to have more and more of that great and precious gift, love.
The I4th verse: 'In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.'
My brethren, how we must know a divine calling, before we can rightly know our election. How we need bringing forth from an ungodly world, before we can be translated or brought amongst God's dear children. In the 12th chapter of Luke, what a particular account we have, to show us that we cannot serve two masters. Christ, in speaking of what temporal things we need, says, 'For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.' It is the little flock who are to have the kingdom. It is also a little flock now scattered, who are to have such a blessed experience, as being 'delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of God's dear son.' What a very great mercy to be blest with such an experience, as to be enabled to say, ' In Christ we have redemption through his blood: even the forgiveness of sins!' Who are so favored amongst you as to be enabled to use such language? Some may be anxious to be blest with such an experience, earnestly desiring to know their sins are forgiven. You, my brethren, who are blest with true repentance will pray earnestly for soul prosperity, and to enjoy divine realities. 'Christ hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.'
"Ye that die without repentance,
Ye must rise when Christ appears;
Rise to hear your dreadful sentence,
While the saints rejoice in theirs."
In what an awful state those are, who are not exercised in their minds, whether they have a real repentance. We are glad to find mourners in Zion, sensible sinners, crying for mercy. Where there is the good work begun in the soul, there will be signs of life, they will wish to be among the godly. 'For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou. mayest be found.'
"How high a privilege 'tis to know
Our sins are all forgiven;
To bear about this pledge below,
This special grant of heaven!"
For all that Christ died, the Spirit will quicken, and all will be in glory. Christ says of his sheep, 'I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.' What strong language we have in God's word, to show how safe and secure all are that Christ redeemed. If he has died for your sins, and is your risen Saviour, you will be with him in glory. 'Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.' 'Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.'
My brethren, you are blest with a right sort of religion to be enabled to say, 'In Christ we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.' 'Without shedding of blood is no remission.' As the apostle says of Christ, 'Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.' What a great mercy to be enabled to say with the apostle, 'And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.'
"Exposed by sin to God's just wrath,
We look to Christ, and view
Redemption in his blood by faith,
And full redemption too."
In Zechariah 13:1, 'In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.' In the former chapter we read that the spirit of grace and of supplications was poured upon them. This is a very particular blessing, not known by many. Cowper bears testimony to the blessed experience:
"Dear dying Lamb! thy precious blood
Shall never lose its power,
Till all the ransom'd church of God
Be saved, to sin no more.
"E'er since by faith, I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die."
My brethren, who can testify that you have no hope whatever of being in heaven, except you are washed in Christ's blood and clothed in his righteousness, Isaiah bears testimony to the same precious faith: ' I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.' (Isa. 61:10) What a very great mercy to have a knowledge of salvation through the remission of sins! If you have not been blest with the pardon of your sins in your conscience, can you say that you wish to know 'the forgiveness of sins?' The Church of England people profess to believe in it, but how seldom is it preached in their churches. In the 13th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles we find the doctrine preached: 'Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.'
"Law and terrors do but harden,
All the while they work alone;
But a sense of blood-bought pardon
Soon dissolves a heart of stone."
Many have waited a long time for the pardon of their sins sealed on their hearts. I professed to have been a seeker and a sensible sinner in 1827, yet my soul was not set at liberty till 1843. I had been blest in my soul many times, and blest in speaking in the Lord's name, but did not know that blessed deliverance till the first baptism at Abingdon; then my cup ran over, the promises were applied to me, and they were to me like a full breast to a fasted suckling. I used to think I should know more than I did before I went to heaven. My heart was full of gratitude, and my tongue was full of praises. I have often been tried about it, and have found it a great comfort and consolation to find what Hart says,
"This promise oft I call to mind,
As through some painful paths I go;
And secret consolation find,
And strength to fight with ev'ry foe.
"And ofttimes when the tempter sly,
Affirms it fancied, forg'd, or vain,
Jesus appears; disproves the lie;
And kindly makes it o'er again."
My brethren, some of you can tell how you have been brought to know your redemption through Christ and the forgiveness of your sins. If you have been blest with such a proof of God's lovingkindness, you value it more than you expected and could conceive. Did God ever say, 'Son, be of good cheer; thy sins are forgiven thee?' or 'I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee?' 'Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.' You who can speak in any small degree of a work of grace on your souls, cannot value such a blessing too highly. Who among you can say, that you pray earnestly to grow in grace, and to know more of yourselves as vile sinners, and more of Christ as a precious Saviour? May the last verse in Isaiah 62 apply to you: 'And they shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the Lord: and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken.' May those among you who are really fit for the great change, be blest with gratitude. 'My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.'
"Glory to God the Holy Ghost,
Who to our hearts this love reveals:
Thus God Three-One, to sinners lost,
Salvation sends, procures, and seals."